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AAR writing (A newbie’s experience)

What possess a person to write an After Action Report about a little known game on an obscure web forum? Reading a few of them now and then, now that is understandable. A person might have a interest in a game and searching for more details about it leads them to the forum, and eventually AARland. Reading a few AAR’s will perhaps hook the prospective buyer on the game and another sale is made. But why are so many players compelled to write? What motivates them to continue to the AAR’s completion? Why on earth would some even have more than one AAR happening at the same time? Everyone that writes has their own answers to these questions but it is my purpose to give a little insight into the mind of a newbie.

What compelled me to write?

A desire to express creativity is perhaps one of the main reasons. I work eight hours everyday as a computer technician in a small hospital. I imagine that the title alone of my chosen profession leads you to see that creativity isn’t practiced too much on the clock. Days of rolling out new computer systems, pulling network wire (why aren’t we wireless yet?), and reviewing daily reports just doesn’t keep the mind firing on all cylinders. As I read AAR after AAR I wondered if I had the ability to “put pen to paper” and etch out an interesting tale for the masses. Was I creative or did my Mom always just say I was to make me feel good? I took the plunge into AARing because I had a desire to find out if I could write. I needed to know if I could create a believable set of characters and somehow attach the hearts of my readAAR’s to their lives. Was I successful? I think I was and still am. That leads us into the next question.

What motivates me to continue an AAR to its completion?

Touchy answer for me since I have yet to complete mine. I will key in on what keeps me going. To see my first AAR fall flat on its face with only a few views and no feedback would of probably sent me packing up shop and headed for the door. Thankfully, there were and are some folks out there that love to read. When I started my first AAR, I hadn’t the clue what style I was going to use. I picked the small island nation of Haiti and thought to try and make a serious history breaking story out of it. After the first post and a bit of thinking, I changed course and headed out into the realm of comedy. Now in my opinion, comedy has to be the hardest style to write. Here I am, typing away trying to be funny and all the while setting myself up for a mocking. My puns could be dry, and my humor only funny to me. That is dangerous ground for any new writer. Yet I wrote away, hoping to be received mercifully by the readers. Soon enough the compliments came in and the laughs of the readers were shared and made known to the author. THANKS! I’d say that feedback is the biggest thing that keeps me going. When I started I said, I’m going to do such a great job that my AAR is selected for the W.o.W award. Well, I got the award and the desire didn’t change. I had to write, not for award or recognition but rather to entertain the readers. Do I feel like quitting sometimes? Yes, but those that are faithful in leaving feedback are on my mind and I feel the desire to continue to completion. A big thank you to the readAAR’s but even a bigger to the postAAR’s!

Why on earth write more than one at a time?

Well, I am well into the first when the idea for a second AAR hits me like a ton of bricks. I could of just waited until my first one wrapped up but when an idea hits you like that big ton of bricks a person must move on it right then to avoid another hit. Perhaps if an idea was the same old comedy with a different country and character I could of waited. But since it was a different format and style my curiosity couldn’t wait. The next thing I know my idea has now turned into a new thread with it’s own life and I’m in the thick of another AAR. Two AAR’s at a time isn’t easy at all. In fact I find one getting neglected for the other on a regular basis. Facts are facts, I have a job, wife, kid, and two AAR’s. Priorities are set in a way that doesn’t leave much time for writing one, much less two. But alas, ideas that bubble in the mind must be let out so I now feel obligated to finish two AAR’s in a timely manner. To all of those that are reading I will warn you again. Don’t do two AAR’s unless you are asking for punishment or you aren’t planning on updating them frequently. Enough said.

Well, that’s been my story now what’s yours?
 

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Recommended Reading (Director)

Cyprus - The Last Crusade by Bismarck

Unfinished Symphony

There is something about an unfinished work of music that moves us in a powerful and subtle way. The story of Mozart’s uncompleted ‘Requiem’ is the stuff of legends and Schubert is perhaps better known for his ‘Unfinished Symphony’ than for his other nine. Unfinished art and sculpture do not attract such recognition; an incomplete sketch or half-chiseled statue simply does not evoke the same emotions as a melody left incomplete.

Why? My personal theory is that it is tied to the time-bound nature of music; one begins at the beginning and the music unrolls to fill a measure of time. There is a sense of tragedy when the point of interruption is reached, as if a traveler walked out on an unfinished bridge and stood staring into space where the roadway ended. Art and sculpture offer no comparable experience – it is difficult, without detailed examination, to determine the order in which brush-strokes and chisel-blows were laid down.

The best approximation of emotions we find to unfinished musical composition is uncompleted literary composition. And for this reason I have chosen to review Bismarck’s magnificent – and unfinished – ‘Cyprus - The Last Crusade’.



Premise
Let us begin with the premise: the ruler of Cyprus, a small island in the eastern Mediterranean, decides to make real his claim to be the heir of Guy de Lusignan, last ruler of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. This is not an extraordinary premise, but the disadvantages of this starting location make for an interesting situation. Too, there aren’t many AARs that feature this little island, so the rarity may appeal.

The opening statement from Bismarck includes a link to a trailer for the supposed epic, ‘Cyprus - the Last Crusade’. As a hook to get your attention, it is splendid and rarely emulated.

Format
The format is simple and rigorously followed in each post: a quote, a body of text describing a set of events, a summing up and a statement (‘cliffhanger’) that sets up expectations and foretells problems for the next episode.

Just as a musical symphony follows a certain form, indeed as a symphony is defined by its adherence to symphonic form, so Bismarck uses the constraints of his serial form to define his work. If we authors were free to write anything, in any way, most of us would wind up overwhelmed by the possibilities and end up writing nothing. Most of our writing decisions, I think, are involved with what to leave out. Deep characterizations, detailed historical knowledge and involved plots make for encyclopedic length when extended to a four-hundred-year span. As writers, we omit, cut, summarize and boil the remainder down to a length we can use.

What Bismarck has done here is adopt a form (like a march, or a symphony in music), follow it without fail, and use this freedom to concentrate on other aspects. It is a technique that works beautifully with the nature of this internet medium. The posts are almost always of similar length – fairly short – and yet all the pertinent events of the period are covered. With such a limit on length, Bismarck boils down his story to the most important points, often mentioning events in casual, throwaway fashion while he sketches his characters and their problems with bold, sure strokes.

Characters
The characters are mostly interesting and sympathetic. They are drawn with a sure but restrained hand – some merit only a few lines – but we know all we need to know about them. Bismarck avoids the usual trap of playing his people into cartoon figures; they are not caricatures or stereotypes, but believable people with believable problems.

Dialog
If you enjoy dialog, you will be disappointed to learn that there is none. The style is that of a chronicle or journal, not as dry as a history text nor as personal as a diary but somewhere in between. It is very – very – well told.

Plot
The ‘plot’ is a simple one: can tiny Cyprus survive and thrive in the dog-eat-dog Mediterranean world of EU2? The fact that the story reaches epic length should tell you that the little nation does indeed prosper, but it does so in unusual and interesting ways. Adding to the charm of the piece are the author’s occasional critical looks at his own gameplay and frank discussions of his options and decisions.

As stated above, each chapter ends with a look forward at the subplots that will complicate the next post. These subplots are interesting, involved, and unusual – not every author devastates his own nation with an earthquake – and they serve to keep the reader relentlessly hooked.

Spelling and Grammar
There are some errors in spelling and grammar, not many but increasing in frequency toward the end of the piece. These mishaps will not prevent anyone from enjoying the work but those with the most delicate of sensibilities.

Graphics
In addition to the opening ‘movie’ there are numerous maps and graphics, some animated. These add a lot to the quality of the piece and make understanding the battles and wars that much easier.

Factual Accuracy
Historically, the AAR is factual as far as I can tell. The author does have a lot of fun with the discovery of Australia and the wholesale adoption of aboriginal musical instruments in Europe.



For the generation that has come along in the past year, and especially for those who want to write an AAR but don’t quite know how, Bismarck’s ‘Cyprus’ will be a special treat: it is a virtual how-to template, ready to hand. For those of you who haven’t read it lately, a second look will be well repaid: I think you will find it is even better than you remember. I would not have chosen to review this AAR unless I could praise it enthusiastically, but even so I was continually astonished at the warm phrasings and the author’s deft use of words.

This work never won an OscAAR, solely I think because it remains unfinished. Like the traveler mentioned above, we can walk out on this magnificent span and see the beauty of the design, marred only by the fact that we cannot step across the final gap to reach the other shore. It is profoundly moving to read the last posts, followed by readers giving encouragement and requesting more… followed by silence.

In a way, I hope Bismarck never finishes it; if he does, it will be a great AAR – probably an award-winner – but not the Unfinished Symphony that our imaginations can conjure up for us. Here it stands, magnificent and incomplete and largely forgotten, a monument to the power of the interrupted word.



All efforts to contact Bismarck for this review proved fruitless; my PM’s were returned as undeliverable.



Recommended: ‘Who Killed Cologne?’ by Storey

For this issue, my ‘Recommended Reading’ is an unusual little number by an author who has won more OscAARs than any other and still doesn’t write nearly enough. Rather than a full AAR of an EU2 game, Storey’s ‘Who Killed Cologne?’ is actually a vignette taken from one incident in a longer game. The demise of the country of Cologne is told as if it were a hard-boiled detective story in the gritty style of Chandler and Hammett, with the various characters played by EU2 countries. Sounds complicated? It’s not.

This unusual, even bizarre, premise is carried along by elegant and flawless writing. Were he a jazz musician, Storey would be jamming riffs of terrific power and novelty while placing each note perfectly on pitch. It is simply an amazing work.

This piece is an excellent read and an inspiration to all of us who have ever had a crazy idea but lacked the confidence to set it down in writing. Pick it up and give it a look. This one’s a genuine treat.



Storey says: “Well its not finished but for the current stories out there I would recommend: ’VIVE L’EMPEREUR! Glory of the Eagles’ by TreizeV. I have difficulty believing that he is just graduating from High School.”



Next Up

And in our next issue, I’m going to dust off my never-before-seen review of Prufrock451’s ‘Great Game’, along with more Recommended Reading.

Also featured will be stnylan’s venture into the shell-pocked landscape of Hearts of Iron, to review… but that would be telling!
 

Director

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Recommended Reading - Part Two (Director)

Cyprus - The Last Crusade by Bismarck

When I realized that I could not reach Bismarck to get his comments on my review, I decided to contact Amric. Not only had he written an AAR based on Cyprus, but I thought I remembered him saying that Bismarck's opus had been part of the inspiration for it.

Amric very graciously agreed, despite other pressing demands on his time. I had hoped for a paragraph, perhaps only a few sentences. Instead, I got this gem and thought I would share it with you.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Amric:




Well, Director twisted my arm, and threatened me with that carnivorous book from his History Park story, that I felt I had no choice but to say a little something about Bismarck’s Cyprus: The Last Crusade and compare it to my own Cyprus: A Trail of Hope.

No, he asked nicely, and I told him I would see what I could do. The first thing that comes to mind is that I finished my story, whereas Bismarck kept saying he would finish his, but so far hasn’t done it.

This does not mean that my story is superior, only completed. He used a tremendous trailer for his story, and believe me, it was fantastic! He also used a ton of screenshots, something I did not do. I don’t use a lot of screenies. One of the reasons is that decadent monkeys seem more capable of hosting screenshots than I am. I have had horrible luck doing so and have relied on the kindness of Nalivayko and Anibal to host mine.

But Bismarck uses more than just EUII screenshots. He also used a few different maps of Cyprus, some from the net and others he made up. He also used a ‘map’ demonstrating the movements of his Cypriot armies and those of his enemies to show how the battle was progressing over time.

When it comes to grand spectacular screenies and movies, Bismarck is definitely better than I am. No contest.

Let us start at the very beginning of each story. Each of us used great characterization and good descriptions of people and places. I do think that in description of locations/places I did a tad better. His characters at the start I think were a bit better than mine.

When it comes to describing food, however, I like to think I am the king. I have gotten many many comments on how I have suddenly made people strongly desire food after reading one of my feast descriptions or just a dinner.

Bismarck chose the immediate conquest route, while I went for peaceful exploration and colonization. Well, peaceful in terms of not fighting Muslims or other European nations immediately.

In terms of monarchs, both of us tended to stay pretty closely together, at least until the event of the Cypriot Council running the nation. At that point, we diverged rather widely.

Don’t get me wrong, Bismarck DID colonize, but not until he had conquered Adana, Lebanon, and Alexandria. Which method is better? I think both are viable, and as is proven in both stories each of us managed our ‘empires’ pretty darn well, I think.

We BOTH started colonizing Western Africa. We both made our way to the new world. I got there earlier but that is because that was the direction I wanted to go, rather than trying to regain the Holy Land.

Both of us had great noble families that had much to do with the direction the nation of Cyprus went. In fact, my great family eventually took the monarchy. In many ways, the two stories parallel each other.

Bismarck described battles a certain way, which drew the reader into the world he was creating. I did much the same, but my greatest battle scenes were against natives while exploring. Except for the heart wrenching capture of Eric the Bloody’s pregnant fiancée.

Further into each story my characters became even more fully fleshed, finally, I think equaling the skill Bismarck shows in his story.

In the end, the biggest drawback to Bismarck’s wonderful tale is the fact that it is unfinished, and unlikely to ever become finished. Which is truly a shame. I started my own Cyprus tale to start and finish a story featuring it, since it hadn’t been finished by Bismarck. I swore I would tell a grand tale. I think I did.

What has this to do with Bismarck’s Cyprus story? Everything, really. It was his fantastic story that he didn’t finish that inspired me to write about Cyprus. In the end, I did take the Holy Land, and Constantinople. I destroyed the Turks. I also released vassals like mad. The Kingdom of Jerusalem, Bulgaria, Wallachia, Moldavia, Serbia, Duchy of Athens, et al.

I did it because there were those of my readers who really wanted me to mirror Bismarck a bit more closely with conquering the Holy Land. I had gotten bored with smacking around natives and the Spanish. The Turk was a worthy and difficult foe to defeat, especially since they had gotten so very powerful toward the end of my game.

But Bismarck set the bar with his story. I took a kernel of an idea and expanded it by trying to be different than Bismarck and yet be somewhat a ‘homage’ as well. I believe I was successful. I know my tale was very popular. Not as popular as Bismarck’s. His was a tremendous show of storytelling that is all so rare. High quality from start to finish. Even though he didn’t finish the story, it is still one of the greatest stories ever written on these forums. All I did was try to match it. To some extent I did it, but in the end, health issues caused my tale to suffer at the end. Which is just another way to say that Bismarck’s Cyprus tale is superior storytelling.

If you have NOT read it, what are you waiting for? It is well worth it, and you JUST might learn a thing or two along the way that you can use for your next story. It might germinate an idea for you. Either way, enjoy the story!
 

Judge

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Judge´s ambition (Judge)

The art of NOT falling apart

Being an AAR writer is not easy. Over the past years everything has gotten more and more sophisticated. Before you could write uncomplicated log style AARs and everyone was pleased. Nowadays you have to write excellent stories followed by advanced photo work to catch interest and don’t forget to spice your work with tons of jokes if you want many readers. However this is often not enough for a long term AAR. After the first honey moon where people you didn’t even know will drop by to encourage you as well as boost their post account, the real challenge begin; how to keep the interest up as well as keeping at least some readers?

Admittedly the number of readers is not a good measure of an AAR but face it, most of us are social individuals and keep writing for yourself can be rather boring in the end. In my experience it is easy to get people posting/reading during the first updates but just wait until your story grows a bit older. Now is this only to blame on faithless readers ready to jump in bed with the next AAR apprentice and then move on?

No, of course not. Many writers tend to be lazy, postponing their works (me), updating only occasionally (me) and even abandoning their works shortly after starting them (not me). I will give you no names but there are a couple of writers that are notorious when it comes to abandoning their works shortly after starting them. Admittedly I for one seldom find it of interest to even start looking at their work. Then there are the much feared writers block and the risk of the author loosing his own interest in his work; a feeling that I am sure we all have felt now and then.

So what to do? Well there are no easy answers I am afraid. However writing a story that YOU actually like yourself, have plan of where to go, and add some photos to make the story easier to follow should be a good start. Getting others involved in your story seem to be a trend these days and that is of course an interesting concept to keep the interaction between writer and reader alive. The downside is that most such projects fail after a while.

One major problem I have faced and would like to share is to know when to finish a story. When you start there is so much you want to describe and it is much too easy to make the story too detailed and complicated from the beginning. If you do and then after ten posts discover that the readers might not appreciate all those details it will be hard to go back to a smaller size later on.

Having a reasonable format and a good plan from the beginning and sticking to that plan should be of high priority. I have experienced the problem of not having a plan from the beginning when I wrote my Kingdom of Jerusalem AAR. Hence it took me over a year to finish that story. I tell you it was sometimes a real pain when I thought of how to end the story with dignity. Now I am experiencing the same thing with my Cum Deo story and I will have to spend the summer in agony of how to end that piece.

Next time I will set up a more exact plan. Perhaps decide early on to post a maximum of 20-30 chapters. On the other hand this is not science. James Joyce didn’t plan on letting his Odysseus get as long as it did and we all know how good that book is. Good luck with the writing!
 

Amric

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I’m sitting in the EUII bAAR again. I’m going to be interviewing one of the legends of AAR writing. I can hardly wait to talk to him. He’s written some amazing stuff, and pushed the high standards of writing even higher with his style, grace, and seemingly easy way of writing. A standard that is so high, even writers such as myself gasp at his skills. Ah, here he is now! Welcome Prufrock451! Glad you could make it! Let’s get started shall we?

You’ve written some of the greatest stories in the AAR forums. Whether it be EUI, EUII, HoI, or Vicky. How do you do it? I mean you write seemingly effortlessly, yet the quality is amazing. So how do you make it all look so easy?

Amric, this is way over the line! Stop it! Jeez! C’mon! I do have a pat answer, which is this- practice. Practice thinking about how different people react to different situations, practice thinking about how to get the most across in the least words. Hemingway and the pulp authors are excellent teachers in this sort of thing.

You’ve written some unforgettable characters What is your secret of bringing these characters to living, breathing, three dimensional life?

I’ll give you an example. One of the passages I’m most proud of in my writing is the scene in TSATN where President Laval meets Hitler at Munich. The first thing I did was stare at a picture of Hitler and thoroughly creep myself out. Every character a writer creates is basically themselves with a costume on, and once you’ve established the situation in a story, you have to basically imagine yourself as an actor going through that situation. If you were hunting a sniper, what details would you look for? If you were meeting with Hitler, how would you feel, what would make you angry or frightened?

You have shown yourself to be a master at describing battles. Whether it is with arrows and swords, or tanks and machine guns. How do you manage to do it without seemingly repeating yourself?

Actually, most of the battle scenes I’ve done involve Jean Gaspard, and so they’re not terribly realistic. :D

What I try to do is picture one guy, what he’s looking at, and what he’d come up with in a very short amount of time. I try to write my battle scenes as quickly as possible, so I don’t come up with anything terribly clever, and keep the sense of panicked improvisation. If you spend three days laying out a battle and devising new things for your characters to do, then your characters are going to do things no one on a battlefield would actually do.

Details, details, details. It’s been mentioned more than once in many places. Yet you are masterful at describing locations, places, and even small offices with a panache that seems incredible. How do you manage to convey such detail so easily, even when you use a small amount of words to do it?

The thing is, I’ve tried very hard not to focus on details. For example, the first time you meet Gaspard in TSATN, he’s “shifting the weight of his grease-blackened combat knife.” That tells you right away he’s a badass, that he’s fighting at night, that he pays attention to detail, that he’s about to sneak up on someone, and that he carries a big knife. The trick is finding the one detail that carries enough association to make the reader think they’re seeing lots of details.

You’ve come up with some very interesting ideas for stories, whether it be aliens in wAAR of the Worlds, or pirate in your short but outstanding AAR! A Pirates AAR. Where do you come up with your ideas anyway?

No one place. Usually, I’ll be in the middle of a game and something really interesting will happen, and that’s the genesis of the story. With my Hedjaz AAR, I started writing before I started the game, and look how that turned out. The best AARs just come naturally from what I’ve seen on the screen. Of course, WAAR of the Worlds was about bragging rights, since I was the first person to document a game as the Aliens. :D

You’ve won OscAARs and you are even writing a book now. Do you have any advice for budding writers?

Slight correction! I’ve landed second place three times now- with “The Great Game Redux”, with “WAAR of the Worlds”, and with TSATN, but I’ve never actually won. Always the bridesmaid.

As for the book (which will be imposingly titled “The Encyclopedia of American Autonomist and Secessionist Movements”), I actually first submitted my idea to a publisher in 1998. It wasn’t until I’d worked on my website for several years and built up some credibility that I was able to interest a publisher. Even then, it was my co-author who they were most interested in landing, and I was lucky enough to grab his interest while he was between projects.

So here’s the lesson you can draw from that: you will suffer rejection at first. Most of the time, that rejection will (this is harsh, yes) be deserved. Keep working. Keep practicing, and keep trying. While luck never hurts, practice is the most important thing. Never, never give up. The longer it takes, the readier you will be when it finally happens.

Well a silver OscAAR is nothing to be ashamed of! Let alone three of them! What kinds of stories most interest you in reading about personally?

History, mostly, and some science fiction. The best sci-fi, like the best history, is the story of people doing extremely interesting things in extremely interesting situations.

Do you have a favorite Paradox game?

It’s still EU2, although I have a hunch CK will topple it.

Since you have been so prolific and so many eagerly read every word you write….How often does someone ask you for advice about one of the stories they are writing?

Only occasionally, and that’s all to the good. I have strengths and weaknesses when I’m writing, just like anyone else. Everyone has their strong points, and the best thing they can do is look harshly at their own work and identify what needs work.

Do you have a favorite nation to play? In EU, EUII, HoI, and Victoria?

Ah, jeez. I don’t have favorites right now- I’ve played so many nations so many times… The new patches for EU2 and HoI make playing the majors much more interesting, so it’s fun to go back and see if I can match my previous accomplishments. The answer so far is a resounding “NO”, by the by- although I can still whip Germany as France in HoI nine times out of ten.

With CK now out there, have you already purchased the game? And can we ask a boon….Can you tell us what nation you will write about first for CK?

I’ve deliberately denied myself CK for the time being. Maybe in a few months when I’m closer to wrapping the book, but right now it’s dangerous. I’m looking forward to a Byzantine game. Maybe a Spanish minor. Anyway, something with Muslims nearby to annex.

You’ve written an AARticle for the Gazette. We’re certainly hoping that you would be willing to write more as time goes on. Any ideas on what you might write another AARticle about?

[oops! I never actually wrote that article…]

Well, in all honesty I wrote this some weeks ago and you were SUPPOSED to write one and submit it! And most importantly, who is Prufrock451?

Well, I’m a graphic designer. I live in Iowa. I read too much. I gave a much more in-depth answer when I got picked as Writer of the Week forever ago, and those of you who are really interested can hunt that down in the archives. :)

Thank you once again for doing this interview. It’s been fascinating and I am sure the readAARs will gain some wonderful insight that they might be able to use in their own stories.

Thank you. To everyone out there… Keep reading and keep writing. This community has been an incredible inspiration to me and to a lot of others. Help keep it great!
 

Amric

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The Eye of the Hurricane (Amric)



Warlord or Peacenik?​



Have I gotten your attention yet? No? Why not? Are you sleeping? Rub the sleep out of your eyes and pay attention! We aren’t in class here. Well, we COULD be, but we aren’t. But at least you might be entertained.

Warlord or Peacenik. What do I mean by this? It means are you a conquering hero type or a peaceful player. Simple as that. I am going to try and explain the advantages and disadvantages of both styles of play. We’ll start at the economy. The basis for everything you do in the game of Europa Universalis II. Without a decent economy you aren’t going to get very far.

Regardless of any nation you decide to play you need money. So you need to place your merchants carefully! Right at the very beginning, as I have stated in earlier AARticles, you do NOT want to place your merchants in an overly busy CoT. If you do, your merchants will be lost quickly. This is not so true if you are Venice, or Genoa. They each start with a CoT and have a trade advantage that other nations really don’t have.

Find a CoT you can dominate. This will depend on where you start, of course. But you will find one. Plus you want to have a pretty good amount of your treasury going into your Trade and Infrastructure DP sliders. Of course, depending on which nation you choose, you could already be rich, in a way.

You must have your economy on a strong footing. Some people forget that and get trapped in an endless cycle of bankruptcy that raises their inflation to unholy levels. Which makes building ships and raising troops ever so expensive. Yes, there are cheats that allow you to lower your inflation, but I’m not going to go there. There are also those wonderful deflation events. Which every player loves to get. It happens.

Trade Agreements. I am not a big fan of them, early on in the game. Why? Because there are plenty of nations who can outdo you with sending merchants. You could be at a distinct disadvantage by making trade agreements early. My suggestion is to wait until you are in a better position. I generally wait until I can have a monopoly and can trade embargo nations before I agree to any trade agreements.

Then I make sure I HAVE monopolies in certain CoT’s. Then I do Trade Agreements. Why? Because then I have a safe zone. The nations I have trade agreements with can’t boot me out of my monopoly position. It’s just smart business, in my opinion.

Royal Marriage is another way to do business. Just in a different way. Regardless of peacenik or warlord, RM’s are very useful. As a peacenik you can use them to keep from being overrun by nations near to you. As a warlord, you can use them to eventually annex them in a peaceful manner. In fact, you can still do this as a peacenik.

Royal Marriages are a diplomatic tool, which can be used in a variety of ways. Such as the one described above. Using it as a deterrent to war is useful when you are weak and incapable of defending yourself against powerful nations is wonderful. You don’t have to build your army to levels you can’t maintain.

They can also be used, in a way, as a secondary form of alliance. Even if you aren’t formally in an alliance with a nation you have a RM with, it can, in theory, keep other nations from attacking you. At least I have found it so, at times. Whether this is truly a game effect, or pure luck, I just don’t know. But it does seem to work.

For if you get a royal marriage with a nation, bring them into your alliance, and vassalized them, you can eventually annex them if your relations are good enough with them. Peacefully! This is a peaceful way to expand without using up resources such as troops and ducats to buy more troops to conquer your way to empire.

Of course colonization is another way to empire, which is relatively peaceful. For you. For the natives, it can be brutal, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Or in this case, heads. Still a peaceful way to expand into empire. Pretty much peaceful annexation and colonization are the only real ways to do a relatively peaceful game and be a peacenik.

It is almost impossible to go through an entire game without going to war. Unless you are the Dakota, or the Navaho and never go anywhere and stay isolated. Also boring. But it can be done that way.

Now let us look at the warlord. This can be effective, depending on a variety of things. Such as what nation are you playing, where you are located, and how many other nations are around you. Again, playing the Dakota is not the way to be a warlord. It can be done, but you will find it very very difficult to compete with European nations.

Early on, you really want Cavalry. You can’t assault cities anyway until you have level five land tech anyway. So why bother recruiting all that many infantry? I do get some, but I am more than ten to one in favor of cavalry. The shock value and speed is very important.

Now there is the tactics and strategy of the game. Strategy, let me see. Oh, that is where you decide what and how you are going to do when you fight another country. Tactics is where you put into motion your strategy and adjust to what your enemy is doing.

Make sure to take full advantage of terrain features, such as mountains, rivers, plains and so forth. Plains are great for cavalry, not so good for mountains. Infantry is better in mountains, swamps, that sort of place. Deserts and plains are best for cavalry.

Rivers. A much neglected terrain feature. Did you know crossing a river against a prepared enemy is a good way to lose? If not, now you do. The same is also true for your enemy. It can be very useful to have your enemy come to you, rather than advancing against them when a river is involved.

I have won, more than once, when outnumbered significantly, just by using rivers to my advantage. Leaders can help you, but we are going to go with the idea that you don’t have any. Since leader stats can be so varying it is better this way.

If you are small and want to take a chunk out of a larger nation…well be smart. Get allies. Wait until that nation is involved in another war. If you are REALLY lucky, they might already be involved in TWO wars! If you have a free CB, then use it! It keeps your stability up and that will allow you to recruit more.

Go in and grab quick. I like to throw my cavalry into the fray, whack the enemy, and leave a covering force while I go onward and do it again in another province. I call it my whack and cover technique. By covering the province, your enemy cannot recruit troops there, which is good for you.

One thing to be aware of…Beware of provinces that are different culture and even more importantly, different RELIGION. Take them if you want, but early on, when you just don’t have much money, it is best to stick with provinces that are of your same religion, and if possible, culture. Makes integrating them into your nation ever so much easier.

Allies. Be wary of them. They have a bad habit of opting out of the war early and leaving you in the lurch. Which can have devastating consequences for you, as your enemy now has more men to throw at you. Which can be unpleasant for you. My concept is to not count on much from my allies. Therefore I tend to run wild in my enemies nation.

I cover every province I can, destroying every army I can. So when my ally inevitably lets me down, I am not about to be overrun with enemy troops. I like to let my allies get pounded while I get the goodies. It is just good sense to let you ally take the shaft while you get things. They would do it to you if they were smart enough. Believe me.

You want to be concerned at some point with your Bad Boy. Of course, if you aren’t playing very hard/furious, that won’t matter much. But one of the ways to see your empire fail is to be unaware of your bad boy limit and who is around you, eagerly waiting for the time to gang pile on you and rip you to shreds.

How to avoid this? Don’t go over your BB limit, for one. Or be prepared for the firestorm that is the BB wars. How to do this? Well you COULD be smart and expand your empire in a way that keeps your borders relatively secure. Which means you want to expand in a way that puts the sea to your back. If you have a good navy, nobody is going to be landing there. Another is to have borders on rivers. Your enemies will have to cross over them, weakened and easy to kill.

Let them exhaust themselves pounding your defenses, then you pour over the borders like a tornado, covering provinces and moving on. If there are tiny nations opposing you as well, quickly take them out. Either by annexing or making them vassals. Whatever you prefer.

Make sure you have a LOT of troops and lots of manpower to fight with. This is where your economy is most important. If you have a very powerful economy, for a while, at least, you can afford to pay for more troops than you normally could afford. This is very important when you have a lot of countries vying to take you down, all at once.

World Conquest is possible, but very difficult, and generally only on the very hard/furious settings. I’ve done it. But to be successful you have to take care of your economy and your troops. You have to be smart, expand in ways that can be easily defended, and make sure you have allies that can be ‘trusted’ and capable of being helpful.

So you can have an empire. It is just your choice as to whether you do it by conquest or peacefully.
 

Amric

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From the Forge!<Ironfoundersson>

Myths of Playing MP Debunked​





There are few AARs written about MP campaigns. Partially because most MPers are not good at writing, myself included. Another reason is due to most AAR writers for some reason haven’t tried MP or quit after one or two failed sessions. And that’s a shame. Aside from the vastly improved game play, MP provides great AAR material.

Just look at Asia Awakening, Machiavelli: Europe Arising, or Tides of War as prime examples of great MP AAR writing. In the hope of gathering interest in those who write AARs into trying MP and thus getting more MP AARs, I have tried to come up with 10 of the most commonly cited reasons for not playing MP and tried to debunk those reasons.

1. I’m not good enough at this game! Nonsense! Yes there are those out there, such as Peter Ebbesen that will probably outwit, outgun, and outsmart a newbie at MP. Most of us, however, are just average players that enjoy improving their gaming skills through playing against humans.
As long as you use diplomacy to help you, and you are also aware that humans don’t act as predictably as the AI, you should be okay. The first time you might lose hard, but you can always plot revenge and come back on top in the end. It is a good idea to read some of the guides for the various games. I will put those at the bottom of this AARticle as well as the links for the earlier MP AARs.

2. It takes too much time! Most games are played once a week for three or four hours per session. Between sessions you need diplomacy, which might take an hour per session. As you will know beforehand when the sessions are going to be, you can allocate time for it. If you can’t play one session once in a while, it’s not too bad, as a sub can usually be arranged.

3. My Connection is not good enough! The connection you need to get a decent game without lag entirely depends upon the circumstances. Aside from your connection download speed, the host’s upload speed, the location of the host relative to you, the amount of players, and the location of all players all matter. Aside from that, there can be quirks. While some people can play perfectly well with a 56k modem with 8+ players, others have trouble with a decent DSL connection. The connection needed also depends on the game. In EU2 a lot less data needs to be transferred between host and players. While Victoria is a data heavy game that really requires higher connection speeds. And the host should be the one with the best connection, something that might take some trial and error. Slargos wrote an excellent guide to hosting, and I will be placing that link at the bottom of the AARticle as well. It’s written for EU2, but it is applicable for any Paradox games.

4. I can’t log into Valkyrienet/I have router or firewall problems/I have other technical issues! You are not the first to encounter this problem. There is a router/firewall guide FAQ that will help guide you through this thorny issue. It that doesn’t solve your problem, just post it in the forums and someone will very likely be able to help you pretty quickly.

5. I can’t join the game, and it says game versions are incompatible! All players need the same game version in order to play. The standard in most games is to play with the latest official or beta patch. The requirement of the same game version applies specifically to the .exe and the /db folder, any graphical mods that only change the graphics like the GUFSM for EU2, can be applied without problems.

6. I want to play with a mod/some modified events Playing with modified events is possible. Just make sure that everyone joining the game has exactly the same modifications to events/leaders/etc. Playing with one of the mods that use the moddir function is a bit more difficult. The moddir function is bugged and makes playing MP difficult. The major HOI mods; CORE, Super AI, etc, have released special MP versions of the mods that avoid this problem. The major EU2 mods; AGC/EEP and IES, don’t have a special MP release. If you follow the instructions from the AGC/EEP FAQ you should be okay. Because of a flaw in the way the moddir works, which keeps your original files from being touched, you will need to copy all of the .eug files from the AGC/EEP scenarios folder into the standard scenarios folder. Unfortunately, the same thing must be done for any save files, so it’s not just a one click thing when using the AGC/EEP for MP. Don’t let this discourage you! Mods that are set in a different time period than the vanilla game, such as the MES and the Great War, don’t use a moddir function. They can be played as is, provided that all players have the same version. Generally ask at the specific mod forum on how to play MP with a mod.

7. [iI don’t know anyone to play with[/i] Look around you, there is a whole forum dedicated to Paradox games, and most likely there are a few more souls out there that want to play a game. You can start a thread in one of the MP forums stating that you want to start a new game. State what you expect of other players <IE: Roleplaying, AARs, et al>, when you want to play, what the game setup is<mods, etc.>, and what the rules, if any, for the game is. You can also join an ongoing game. Most games regularly need a substitute for their games. Post in a game thread that you’d like to sub and probably they’ll contact you soon for a game. It’s a nice way to get some experience in MP and usually players are nice to a sub. Sometimes games need new players, and people will remember you from any subbing you did and might invite you. A lot of games are organized using a chat program. Most use ICQ. I suggest you get to organize games and do diplomacy between sessions.

HOI is a bit different, in that Paradox MP forum there is little activity. However there is a HOI Players Association website where lots of games are organized. What is the HOI Players Association? From it’s FAQ: Well it probably sounds like a group of people who play HOI, and it is. Nothing more, nothing less. A group of people who like the game, are dedicated, play honestly and are friendly.

Do you need to join the JOI PA and if so what are the benefits? Actually you join automatically by playing in a HOI PA game, although we’d like you to make at least one post in our forums to be ranked. The main benefit is that we’ll keep track of certain things, like the number of games played, win/loss record, punctuality, and attendance, and overall gamesmanship. That way it’s easier to set up games with good players, and finish them.

8. I’ve played an MP game once and I didn’t like it, people were rude Unfortunately, that sort of behavior can happen. You’re playing in a game against humans from all kinds of backgrounds, nations, and ages. Anything can happen. The best solution is to only play with people you know. This is not always possible, unfortunately. Look at the game threads to see the attitudes of the players participating in the games and assess if you like them. Something to look at is the EU2 MP etiquette, HOI MP etiquette. If you follow the guidelines in those threads you know you did the right thing and others were just being jerks.

9. How do you prevent people from using cheats/exploits? Cheating in MP is rare, but occasionally it happens. There is not much to do about players that cheat except not to play with them again. Exploiting, on the other hand, is common in MP. Everyone has a different definition of what are exploits but everyone has one or two tricks up their sleeve to bend the rules. Most games have some house rules that prohibit exploits explicitly or implicitly. HOI games usually have extensive sets of rules. In CK, Victoria, and EU2 a lot less rules are usually used. It usually depends on what kind of game you want. Look in the various game threads for examples of rules and cherry pick those you like.

10. Playing at below normal is boring/I can’t handle playing without pausing Speed in MP games are usually set to a level where everything can be done without pausing. In EU2, this is normal or below normal. At this speed most wars can be handled and exploration and colonization is still manageable. In times of major wars the speed is sometimes reduced.

If you want to practice playing with this speed in SP, try to play France in the Napoleon Ambition Scenario. Set the speed to normal and don’t pause no matter what. It gives you a good practice in how to handle warfare on multiple fronts. Another possibility is to play Portugal in the Age of Exploration playing at normal speed. Explore and colonize everything while you keep an eye on Europe and try to dominate the CoTs.

With all obstacles cleared away, you can happily play MP and more importantly, write great AARs about it. If you still have questions or problems, the MP forums are as friendly as the AAR forums so ask away.

A final note: We all know Paradox games can at times be plagued by crashes and have bugs. With MP crashes can be more common and you have several people connected to the game, all of which can crash. However if you follow the guidelines to Slargo’s Guide to Hosting, crashes can be kept to a minimum. Game specific causes of crashing and game breaking bugs are addressed below.

Bugs and crashes are now rare in EU2. Due to the excellent patching of Johan, most game crashing bugs are removed and most exploits are no longer available.

Memnon has the following to say on bugs and crashes in Victoria.

Memnon said:
The annexation bug: Whenever a civilized country that is in an alliance is annexed, the game will CTD in multiplayer. The country has to be both civilized and in an alliance when it is annexed for there to be a CTD. The annexation of some non allied country won’t do it, nor will annexing an uncivilized nation that is in an alliance. It has to be both civilized and in an alliance.

There are some bugs with missing or repeated invention firings. For example, guests in MP games<not the Host, I mean> often get ridiculous growth rates because inventions like Chemotherapy will fire several times, each time increasing your population growth rate. At the same time, however, some inventions may not ever fire, thought this is less of a problem because they tend to fire when you reload the game. So at worst you are a few years behind.

Sometimes, bonuses don’t register in the game. For example, if you get the 150 prestige for a cultural tech, it may not actually ward you the prestige. You have to go intot eh save and edit it to make the number correct. I’ve only seen this happy for inventions though, never with prestige in wars. Though I could have missed it.

There is one more very annoying bug, involving craftsmen and clerks. It seems that clerks of your non native cultures won’t be able to find employment in MP. They just sit there, unemployed, while factory slots are open. They are not aut assigned. This happens with non native culture clerks only, generally. But hopefully you wn’t have many of those, because that would be dumb. Craftsmen, whatever their culture, don’t seem to have the problem. On reloads though, they’re often fixed.

Another issue with factories is that rather than stop staffing them at their proper level, the game will stuff them. I’ve had a level on reg. clothes factory that had 27 craftsmen in it. I didn’t really mind as it meant I didn’t have to upgrade the factory, but it was a little annoying. When factories are stuffed, they produce what they would based on the number of workers, not on the size, so a 27 craftsman factory will produce the same, regardless of what level it is actually at. So this is a cheap way to make a ton of products without expanding factories if it happens to you, which if you play MP, it will.
Jarkko Suvinen has the following to say on stability in Crusader Kings.

Jarkko Suvinen said:
There are a few things to remember:

1. Games should be started on Slow or Very Slow. The AI is very active during the first days of a game, and if going even on a bit higher speed there will be immediate lag for almost everybody, and also possibly CtD’s.
2. The game seems to eventually crash in MP. This seems to happen at infrequent intervals, between 30 minutes and 3 hours. The average seems to be about 2 hours between crashes playing with five people who do not have ‘super computers’. Needless to say, the host should have the yearly autosave on. Crashes seemt o be more frequent when speed is above normal, so unless all players have supercomputers and playing over LAN <or other megabyte class connection> I would suggest to keep the speed at normal. This also means the speed is perfect for a ‘non pause’ game, which is how I think all MP’s should be played< IE: No pausing>




Bibliography

MP AARs:

Asia Awakening
Machiavelli: Europe Arising
Tides of War

EU2 Guides:

Archduke and Damocles Guide to Warfare and Diplomacy
Ryoken’s Economic Domination Guide
Ryoken’s Tactical Domination Guide

HoI Guides;

Soviet Strategic Study by Tomar
German Strategic study by Tomar

Victoria Guides:

Memnon’s Introduction to MP

Chat Program Locations:

www.icq.com

www.aim.com


HoI Players Association:
HOI Players Association


MP Etiquette:

EU2 MP Etiquette written by Jarkko Suvinen.

HoI MP Etiquette written by jgbaxter, redawn and Colonel Warden.

HoI Rules Check:

HoI Rules Check

Hosting Guide:

Slargos’ Guide to Hosting

Router/Firewall FAQ:

Router/Firewall FAQ
 

coz1

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The GenAARal Idea (coz1)

Into the Woods


Noticing how effective Director has been in his AARticles using analogies from years as a band teacher, I thought I might also try and utilize something I have a good deal of practice with to describe some feelings, issues and/or situations that can arise in either AAR writing or leadAARship situations in AARland.

As some of you may know, I have just returned from a hike in Virginia. A friend of mine and I spent 5 days backpacking along the Appalachian Trail (it runs up the East Coast of the US from Georgia to Maine.) While I was out there, my mind began to drift to how certain aspects of that effort seemed very familiar in some ways with my efforts here. I began to think that I might not be the only one, and thus the genesis of this AARticle.

In backpacking, for those of you who may not know, you basically carry everything on your back that you may need while you are away from civilization. Certainly the efforts required to do an AT (Appalachian Trail) hike are far less than say, cresting Mt. Everest, but the aspects remain very much the same. That’s a lot of weight to carry around on your back, typically 50 pounds or so.

Once the pack is on your back, you then set out towards your destination. In our case, it was some 90 miles away (though we did not make it all the way there – you can read about the experience at my blogsite if you are so inclined.)

There are three basic situations in hiking. Hiking uphill, hiking downhill and hiking on relatively flat ground, usually on a ridge crest or down in a valley. All of these can also be found here in AARland, both in writing and for someone attempting to lead by example.

Let’s tackle the first, and hardest up front. Hiking uphill is a battle of will with yourself. You have all that weight bearing down your legs as you attempt to gain altitude. Further, your breath support begins to wane the farther you go without taking a break. There are moments when you are struggling to simply take another step. It’s somewhat like doing your limit of pushups and then someone asking you to do them again right away. The muscles begin to give out. It seems almost impossible to carry on. Yet you must if you wish to complete your task.

Writing an AAR can be very much like this. You have begun the process and have a solid idea where you want your story to go. You start writing and get a decent ways into it and then all of the sudden, your level of commitment or interest tapers off, or the real world begins to call you away, or you become discouraged by a seeming lack of interest. It seems like a test of wills after some time if you are not careful. It may spur you on to complete the task, but it may also make you dread returning to the story. But if you want to complete your work, then you must continue. You must push on through the hardships to achieve that goal.

In trying to lead by example, you can become quite frustrated by a seeming disregard for your efforts, mystified by the lack of interest in what you are doing or downright angered by certain attitudes towards your commitment. Once again, you may begin to feel as though you are swimming up stream, or against the tide. It’s very much like trying to take that next step up the mountain. If you are out to achieve a certain goal and are acting in the interests of that, then you must simply persevere and put those other feelings out of your mind. Time and effort will eventually be rewarded, perhaps not to you personally, but as a benefit to the forum as a whole.

Of course, when I discuss leading by example, one must first come to such action without any true hopes of making change, but rather as an altruistic endeavor – the simple desire to do so. Your actions may never be copied or even noticed. But again, someone will and that someone will perhaps effect someone else’s actions. And so it goes.

Now to another state – going downhill. In hiking, you begin to gain momentum, sometimes one that seems unstoppable. It begins to push on your knees and ankles and eventually every step becomes a painful experience as that weight on your back is pushing you always onward until you reach the bottom. Slow and methodical, much like going up, is the way to tackle this.

In writing, this same phenomenon is sometimes encountered. I have seen some stories take on a life of their own that the writAAR never intended. Sometimes, the desire to pack as much information as you can may lead to page upon page of work without making any great distance in the story as a whole. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but can assist in overwhelming the beginning writAAR, and even the more experienced one. As in hiking, the only way to counter this is to take it slow. To recognize where you are going and try not to let to momentum take you, but rather allow yourself to pace your strides.

As well, leading by example can see unforeseen consequences of your actions. You make a point, or act a certain way, and suddenly the reaction to such is turned into something entirely unwanted. Perhaps you have tried to be provocative, as many of us here at the Gazette have done. The unintended consequences of that provocation lead to results, for whatever reasons, that were not planned for and certainly not desired. Yet the original thought surely remained. And the true end result cannot really be discovered immediately. Again, know where you are going and pace yourself. Don’t let these unwanted or frustrating circumstances dissuade you from the ultimate goal, whatever it may be.

And then, of course, there is the flat walk. Whether on a ridge (my favorite) or in a valley, it may become boring, tedious, never-ending or even difficult if you are out in the sun or walking over rocky terrain. But as above, pacing yourself and finding a nice rhythm in your walking cadence can assist greatly in reaching your destination.

Once again, this can also equate to writing. Sometimes you get on a roll and start to punch out page after page of material. Not a bad thing, but it can become daunting to the readAAR if they are unable to keep up with your frantic pace. I don’t suggest your spend too much time trying to explicitly cater to your fans, but at the same time, you must remain mindful of them if you wish to keep them around.

Also, you may find yourself bored with the material you are creating, or the research may become tedious to you. But as many have already suggested, try finding a good rhythm in your writing – perhaps three pages a day, or a certain amount of words per writing session. Try mixing in a bit of research and a bit of writing each day, or alternating them throughout the weeks and months you are working on your AAR. To repeat - know where you are going and always try and keep that in mind. You will eventually find that you have reached the endpoint.

And of course, the tedium that comes with trying to provide leadAARship or attempting to show others how it might be done can make your actions feel like a chore at times. But always try and remember why you are doing such. If it’s worth it, then there is really no reason to allow it to make you stop. The desired effect, other than the sense it gives you as a membAAR, will not be sudden or immediate. It will take much time to see things change in the manner you wish. But recognizing this and sticking to it will eventually find you in a place many months down the line that you originally envisioned.

Take our esteemed spiritual father, Lord Durham (if I may call him that). He set out as a membAAR of these forums a few years ago with an idea of what it might be. By tireless work, and many days of doubt along the way, he found a much different place upon his retirement. Now granted, some of that change over time might not have been what he desired, but over all, his idea was brought to fruition. He should be (and I think is) very proud of what he helped to create here. But it would not have happened if he allowed bumps to get in the way, or certain events that made him *sigh* keep him from carrying on with his work.

In fact, he said something one time in the SolAARium when discussing possible burnout and/or writer’s block:

Writer's block is a fact of life. Everyone suffers from it; no one is safe. People have developed different methods to overcome the dreaded malady and they all work to varying degrees. Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire cure.

However, if you have any desire to write for a living, the worst thing you can do is walk away for more than a day or two. That day or two will turn into three or four, then five or six, and so on...

Here's what I do if I get the dreaded block...

I keep writing.

Sound stupid? Too simple? Perhaps, but it works for me. The quality of prose may suffer because my heart's not in it, but once the desire returns I have something on paper that can always be improved.

Sometimes I'll take a break and watch TV, or take a walk, or research information on the subject matter at hand. If I watch TV I'll try to watch a movie or documentary that covers the period or genre that I'm writing about - many times that alone will re-spark my creative juices.

Regardless of how I feel, I try to write at least 500 words a day. It's not a lot when you think about it. This post alone is getting close to 500 words.

Avoiding pitfalls? Well, never sit in front of the monitor all day. Take regular breaks, give your brain a chance to relax. When you go back to the post chances are you will see it with new eyes (no, not Minority Report new eyes) and you can attack the story with fresh vigor. The same can be said if you are having trouble with wording. Taking a break will work wonders for that, too.

If you wish to pursue writing as a career, or at least a serious pastime, then burn out is NOT an option. The desire to write is in you, or it isn't...


Now if you take that advice and turn it towards the above, it still remains extremely valid, both in writing and in leadAARship. There was a reason why he became so beloved and respected around here.

In the end, no matter what you are doing, be it fighting an uphill battle, hurtling downwards, or simply trying to reach your destination on a long, flat and most likely hot road, you will find the journey there much more possible and rewarding if you find a steady pace, take deep breaths and know where you want to go. And remember that old cliché – it’s the journey that counts, not the destination. If you keep these in mind as you put forward effort in AARland, you will most likely find the entire experience less frustrating and far more enjoyable in the end. I know I do.
 

stnylan

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Recommended Reading (stnylan)

The long wait. A whodunnit AAR

A Rollercoaster Murder Mystery

What is it that is so intriguing about a mystery? Of course, it’s the mystery, but what about the mystery? I have absolutely no idea, yet a mystery has an enduring literary appeal. Perhaps it is the sense of the unknown, coupled with a sense of exploration, that excites and energises us to keep on going. A sense of greater rewards if only we turn the next page.

I like mysteries, and for that reason I have chosen to review one: The Long Wait, a Whodunnit, by Norgesvenn, written over a year ago now, when HoI was still relatively young, and Vicky was a very distant dream, and everyone was waiting for CK.


Premise
This is a narrative aar, based on a Norway Hearts of Iron game. It is set, in Oslo, in January 1961, so the game is very much in the background. Since this is a whodunnit there is a murder, and as the story unfolds light gets thrown back at what happened in the war, all those years ago. The ‘light’ in this case are the investigations of two police detectives into the aforementioned murder.

Format
This is very much a short story – just 34 updates, each relatively short (at most 2 pages of 12-point Word). Each chapter has its own heading, and for those who like chapter titles these are very good. Each chapter moves the story along another notch, and each ends with its own “hook”.

These “hooks” are some of the best I have ever read on these forums however, and the name does not do them justice. The moments for the chapter-breaks are chosen are devilishly enticing.

Characters
We see this tale from the point of view of our two police detectives, Jon Mold and Arvid Gjertsen. We get to know both of them quite well before the tale is done. The world we see is coloured by their vision. Norgesvenn defines their characters as much as by what they say, through dialogue, as by what they do. The result is that we are presented with two detailed portraits. These men are not angels, but people not unlike those we know.

The supporting cast is, of course, far less detailed. Those that have a greater impact on the lives of our characters during the story receive more attention. Many of the characters bear stock features of the genre (as indeed do the main two), but that does not lessen them. Rather it roots them more fully into the story.

Finally I should mention one character who, literally, haunts the story. That is of the murdered man. It is not easy to create a character that one only sees being killed, but as the story unfolds Norgesvenn manages also to craft a complete picture of the unfortunate.

Dialogue
There is plenty of dialogue in the tale. A good deal of the story gets conducted by it, and it is one of the main methods of characterisation. It is easy and unforced.

Plot
Since this is a whodunnit, mentioning too much of the plot would rather ruin the story. Like all good mysteries it depends on what the main characters, and therefore the reader, does not know. Also, in most stories, but perhaps especially in mysteries, you expect a few twists and turns along the way. In this tale, expect the odd hair-pin bend as well. The whole story flows from the murder as a roller-coaster does from the initial drop. One moment you're heading left, and then the next you're corkscrewing to the right before rising again for another plunge. It a wild ride of the story, and that of course is one of the very best things about it.

When the end comes, it does so abruptly. Herein lies my only real criticism, in that I find it too abrupt, leaving me feeling slightly unfulfilled. Perhaps that was Norgesvenn’s intention, and maybe he'll answer that if he decides to comment on this review.

Spelling and Grammar
There is relatively little in this aar to suggest that it is written by someone for whom English is not a first language. There are one or two somewhat awkward phrases here and there, and a few typos, but nothing to get excited about.

Factual accuracy
I really have no idea about the accuracy or not of this aar. However, it certainly “seems” factual, and the sense is of something taking place before the ‘Liberal Revolution’ of the 1960s. Leastways, there isn’t anything obviously anachronistic.

Graphics
There are no screenies, and no need for them given the nature of this aar. There are some pretty pictures of Oslo posted about half-way through.



Back when I initially read the Long Wait I described it as being something of a cross between “Fatherland” by Robert Harris, and the “Inspector Morse” series by Colin Dexter. It is a description by which I still stand. It is a cross the darker and the brighter, blending a most agreeable greyness. I have never watched any traditional film noir, but I would imagine this story also fits into the centre of that genre.



On a side issue, it is usually assumed that one reason why narrative aars receive, on average, fewer comments than the various non-narrative types is because readers do not really know who to say. Now, I don’t know if that is true or not, but the comments in this thread are very good examples of possible ways of commenting on narrative AARs. Some of them are pretty funny to boot.



I did manage to get hold of Norgesvenn, and he said he would not mind The Long Wait being reviewed, but I think here’s only here infrequently so he hasn’t had a chance to read this. Hoepfully he’ll add his own comments in the Comments thread.
 
Last edited:

coz1

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The GenAARal Idea (coz1)

AARland Survey Results


At last, the long awaited (I hope) results of the AARland Survey that I posted on June the 12th of this year. I had hoped that we might be able to discern a few trends or answers to issues through the results, and I think you will find some of what I have gathered to be interesting.

First, I would like to thank the following for contributing their thoughts to this effort: Hajji Giray I, Director, Machiavellian, Alexandru H., Amric, frogbeastegg, stnylan (glad to have you back), Valdemar, sliver legion, VPeric, J. Passepartout, Sultan of Swing, Anibal (we miss you), Estonianzulu, Seidita, zacharym87, Judge, Gaijin de Moscu, MAlexander06, AmbassadorBelgie, Lord G.Q. White, Morpheus506, Zeno of Cyprus, jwolf and Stroph1.

Your input has been most instructive, and each and every one of you should consider yourself the best of the best as far as membAARship may be concerned. It is people like you that make this forum what it is and continue to be what it will be for future generations of writAARs, readAARs and membAARs! I offer you my most sincere THANK YOU for your efforts!

Also, a few interesting statistics that might be of interest to you. The poll was open from June 12, 2004 to July 3, 2004. In that time, 26 people responded (myself included with the above.) Of those individuals, 8% were female and the other 92% male. The average age of responders was 25 years old. The average length of membAARship in the Paradox forums was 18 months, the oldest joining in September of 2001 and the newest joining in May of 2004 (obviously difficult to tell how long each had been a part of AARland itself.) The responders ranged from membAARs that only read other’s work to those that have written many a wonderful tale around here – in short, I think a decent sample size of AARland as a whole. I would have liked to see a few more people respond, especially a few older membAARs, but if they are no longer around to contribute, then they really do not reflect the current nature of this place, in truth.

So with that stated, I will post each question once again here and then provide the results of your answers. I will suggest my own thoughts regarding these in the midst of such and you may respond in kind in the Survey thread itself (linked at the bottom of this post – let’s try and keep any discussion devoted to the survey thread rather than the Gazette feedback thread for the moment.) I would very much like to see further discussion on any and/or all of the responses and results if the membAARs feel so inclined.


1. How often do you visit AARland and why?

First, from the responses, I tried to break this down to a percentage. Of the many answers received, I broke them out thusly:

Several times a day: 30%
Once or twice a day: 15%
Daily: 38%
A few times a week: 14%
Several times a month: 3%

As you can tell, most of our membAARs frequent this place quite a bit. 83% of those that responded visit AARland once a day or more. Now obviously those figures are slightly skewed in that those that frequent more often are more likely to participate (as in this survey). But nonetheless, we certainly do not lack in interested individuals. Even those that do not frequent the place on a consistent basis are able to see what is going on here and feel the desire to participate.

Of the responses given as to why, most stated because it was enjoyable with many different things to do, there were great stories to read, they had AARs to update and/or they liked the community. I think that about spells it out for why we all participate. Some suggested they simply liked to read and this offered them a great place to do such, others suggested it offered them a nice area to gain writing tips and one even suggested they had nothing better to do.

It certainly proves that AARland is something that offers much to the visitor. We seem to provide a wonderful place on the internet for people to get together, read and write great stories and spend time in general. But we all knew that, didn’t we?

I would add that there are few places on the WWW that allow for such educated and respectful discussion as this place. I would imagine most agree. I would also mention that these results suggest that we have many active readAARs in our midst who check back many times a day to see what has happened since the last time they visited. This would indicate that we offer something perhaps exciting or even addicting, as some suggested.


2. Where do you start when you visit AARland and why?
- a. Main Page - 56%
- b. Game Pages – 13%
- c. User CP/Subscribed list – 31%
- d. Other – 0% (not sure what that would have been – so why did I include it…?)

As you can see, most of our membAARs start at the main page of AARland. To answer a question asked in the results of the next question, the main page is the one that contains the link to the other AAR game areas. It houses the stickies for the Gazette, SolAARium, the Intro thread and other useful information. It is where you might find the Showcases if they are offered, and also includes threads that do not deal with game specific AARs or game specific issues. You most likely found this survey among those threads.

There were arguments made for each avenue of entry. For those that used the main page, our respondents mentioned that it held topics to improve AARland, that is was the gateway, that it was the place to see what was going on in AARland as a whole, and that it was the place to find special projects and initiatives.

As for using your User CP/Subscribed list, respondents suggested that it had everything they needed there, it helped them to keep track of what had been updated for tales that they had subscribed to, and it helped them to keep track of their own AARs.

And for the game pages, people mentioned that it was the game they were interested in and that it was the page they had bookmarked as a favorite.

I must admit, that after returning from a week long hiatus recently, I found the subscribed list to be most helpful in catching up. However, my own theory suggests that it is still not the best way to enter AARland, but I will save my explanation for the the next answer.


3. How often do you visit the Main Page and why?
- a. Every visit – 69%
- b. Sometimes – 31%
- c. Never – 0%

From these results, we can conclude that all of our membAARs visit the main page at least every so often. This is a good thing as they would miss out on an integral part of AARland if they did not.

Respondents suggested that they visited because it was the gateway, because they wished to remain current with new projects and ideas, because they felt it contained something of substance beyond what the game pages offered, and because it contained threads that dealt with topics that might improve the forum.

Those that did not visit as frequently suggested that they mainly used it to gain access to the specific AAR area for the game they were interested in, because it was not as active as these game areas or that they simply rarely had reason to look at this area.

In my own opinion, the main page of AARland is the best place to start your journey and the place to find everything not found in the game areas. If you do not visit this section, you will not see special projects, you will not see the rules area for AARland, you will not see the useful threads for links and tips and you will miss out on a good deal of interaction that AARland offers.

Going back to the previous question, if one begins in the User CP area, they will not see threads that have just begun as they have not yet had a chance to subscribe to them. By not being drawn to them immediately, they may miss a pertinent discussion or topical thread. Starting in the main page offers the membAAR the full chance to be involved in what is happening in AARland as a whole. Just visiting is not always enough to gain the full flavor. Start here and you are always on top of the latest information. Then move on to whatever game interests you. But this is my own opinion, to be sure.


4. How much time do you spend per visit to AARland?

This is one of those questions that is difficult to quantify. The answers varied, ranging between 5 minutes and 3 hours. The trend was that most membAARs spend a good deal of time each visit. Some spend more time than others, but it seemed that those that had time constraints on them would come back later and spend further time later in the day or week.

Not really a question that helped us gain much information, other than the fact that once logged in, we all tend to give the forum a good look see. Some times are better than others, and it seems that most try and devote a considerable amount of their time per visit. This bodes well for the size of AARland, for the most part, and this is a topic that will return as we move forward in this survey.


5. What effect has the combining of the fora had (and explain)?
- a. Good – 86%
- b. Bad – 4%
- c. Had no effect – 10%

Here is a question I think we are all interested in. As you can see from above, the bulk of our membAARs feel that it was a positive step. The largest reason given for this was that it helped create more crossover between each game. Next on the list was a greater sense of organization or centralization. People also felt that it assisted them in following more AARs (though this was also mentioned as a drawback mentioned below) and many people expressed joy at seeing new projects come about as a result. Overall, many felt a greater sense of community than was felt before.

But this also seemed to have some downsides. Some mentioned that with the amount of new AARs to read, they had a more difficult time keeping current. Another mentioned that it perhaps led to a lessor sense of uniqueness. One even suggested that it had been bad for community ideas because membAARs were not looking at other game areas.

For those that said it had no effect, they mentioned that crossover had not been improved or that it was simply something to get used to. For the most part, however, the general feeling was that though it presented challenges, it still had a positive effect on AARland as a whole.

As for myself, I cannot disagree with almost all of the opinions, good or bad. The combining of the fora has opened the community to a much larger subset, and this naturally presents obstacles. But I see far more cross-over than before, and I cannot say that more AARs equals something bad. It justs means that one must work harder to stay current. As it is now, it seems the best way to move about is to pick and choose. This may mean that some AARs get less attention than others, but is this really so different than what has happened before when presented with a huge influx of new talent?


6. How likely are you to read about a game you do not own (and explain)?
- a. Very likely – 54%
- b. Somewhat likely – 31%
- c. Not likely – 15%

And here we have one of those questions that I was most interested in. It truly represents one of the biggest hurdles that probably faces AARland. It’s a positive to see that over half of those that responded have no problem reading about a game they do not own. The two biggest reasons for doing so were to check and see if it was a game they wanted to buy, or simply because they liked reading a good story.

Others mentioned that they would if they knew the author, to check on writing styles, to comment on others that cross-over more or to simply understand the game itself. Those that had no interest suggested that they had no point of reference and one even said that some game areas lacked a sense of maturity for them to read.

In the end, I think this also bodes well for cross-over and certainly for Paradox Entertainment in terms of publicity. The number one answer given for reading about a game not owned was to determine if it was one they wanted to buy. I guess this means AARland is certainly no drain on the server space.


7. How many AARs do you usually read at any one time?

Answers here varied a great deal, ranging from 2 gazillion to 3 AARs at any one time. I took the liberty of trying to find an average. For those that said it varied, I used the most common answer given for the question, which was 10. For others, I tried to use an average for their own answer. The final result suggested that most membAARs (or at least those that answered this poll, which as stated renders a slightly biased result) is 11 AARs at a time, which works out to about approxamately 2 AARs per game forum.

Several people mentioned that they were reading less now than they used to due to current time constraints, and of course this is natural from time to time. I certainly hope those people return in full force in the future, but it seems that we cover our bases fairly well. I do not know the full number of folks that regularly visit AARland, but if each of them is reading at least 10 or 11 AARs at a time, then we should never lack views. Now if we can only get those people to comment on a consistent basis.


8. How much interest do you have in special projects/initiatives (and explain)?
- a. A great deal – 46%
- b. Some – 50%
- c. None – 4%

Here we see that exactly half of the respondents were only somewhat interested in special projects. However, this result was closely followed by those that were very interested at 46%. So 96% were either somewhat or very interested in special projects and initiatives. This bodes well, I think.

The most common reason given dealt with how fun and/or interesting these projects were. They also mentioned that it helped bring us together as a community, that they enhanced the forum or that they helped improve the respondent as a writer.

For those that were less interested, they mentioned that it depended on the project, that they did not always know about them or that there were too many time constraints on them to get involved. One even mentioned that most of them were directed mostly to writAARs and thus did not cater to them.

This last one made me think. Perhaps we should try and find projects that cater to other groups. I admit that I am at a loss right now as to what those might be, but surely we can come up with something to make this place as accessable to everyone as we can. However, for those that suggested that they did not know about them, I am rather mystified as to why. They are all clearly posted on the main page. If you do not know about them, then you are clearly not looking there enough. Tough answer, but true.

Also, I must mention again that this question only represents those that are interested enough to take their time out and assist or cooperate with such projects. If that is the case, however, then we should at least have 26 people that should be involved with most of our initiatives…or at least 12. But judging from some of the responses to things like G-T-A, the AARCON thread, the SolAARium, the Gazette feedback thread (or those interested in submitting AARticles) or the bAARs, I do not find even that many people responding. Either we need to find better ways to draw folks in, or some are simply not as interested as they claim to be.


9. How effective and/or useful have special projects/initiatives been (and explain)?
- a. Useful – 83%
- b. Harmful – 2%
- c. No effect at all – 4%
- d. Not sure – 11%

First of all, I added “Not Sure” to the above as we had a few respondents that had not been here long eneough to answer this question in all honesty. But for the rest of you, most felt projects to be useful. Several projects were singled out, but I will touch more upon those in later questions. But again, many people suggested that they were helpful for community spirit, helped suggest the attitude of AARland in general and opened up discussion further, helped in sharing game experiences and assisted in getting to know other people better.

Others suggested that these projects could be better through more interaction, that they are only useful for those that participate (and thus a good portion of those that inhabit AARland miss out) and even that some effects have been harmful, though this respondent did not suggest in what way. One even mentioned that they had no effect at all, but that was due to not taking advatage of them as the respondent explained.

Overall, I guess that means that those of us that utilize them or are active in them are doing something right. It certainly does not suggest that we should stop, and would even possibly suggest that more could be started, or that more people could try and utilize those that are currently offered.


10. How often do you utilize the librAARies, SolAARium, Gazette, the bAARs (and explain)?
- a. Often – 65%
- b. Sometimes – 35%
- c. Never – 0%

Here was another question that was slightly difficult to quantify only because of the different answers that were given. For the most part, 100% either used these things sometimes or often, some projects more than others.

Even though the next question deals with some of the same material, I found it interesting to look at what was specifically mentioned here. I simply chalked up which projects were mentioned in the different answers and came up with the following listing:

LibrAARies – 54%
bAARs – 35%
Gazette – 27%
SolAARium – 23%
Guess the Author – 4%
LD’s Corner – 4%
OscAARs – 4%

So it seems that people recognize what these projects are, and many utilize them often, especially the librAARies. If anything, it proves once again that we are doing something right. It certainly should make those that run said projects feel good that they take their time to do so. It is obviously appreciated.


11. What is your favorite special project/initiative and why?

This question is obviously more of the same from above, but when asked their favorite, it broke down like this:

Gazette – 27%
LibrAARies – 19%
Guess the Author – 12%
bAARs – 8%
SolAARium – 8%
Free Company – 4%
WritAAR of the Week – 4%
None – 8%
Not Sure – 10%

So once again, we can certainly feel good about our efforts if we are running such projects. They are certainly appreciated. But I am a little mystified by the 8% that said none. I suppose that is because they are not utilized, but it makes me wonder somewhat. For those that were not sure, these were folks that had not had enough time on the forum to really explore such things. But if you are not, you really should, judging by the answers given above.

For a few of the reasons why these were enjoyed, I should mention that the librAARies were singled out because of their assistance in helping people find AARs. The Gazette was mentioned because it helped build a sense of community, because it helped membAARs see what the mood of the forum was and that some were simply interested in the journalism of it (see question below for more.) The SolAARium was mentioned because it always had something new to think about and appreciate and because it provided good discussion. G-t-A was mentioned because it kept some people writing and because it assisted in interaction. And the bAARs were mentioned because they were undemanding and helped to build friendships.

Overall, I sense a wide variety of usefulness for each of these endeavors which indicates yet again that something good is coming from each and every one of them.


12. What effect has the Gazette had (and explain)?
- a. Helpful – 83%
- b. Harmful – 1%
- c. No effect at all – 4%
- d. Not sure – 12% (note that this answer was added as some newer membAARs had not read enough or felt they had not been around long enough to make an informed choice.)

Here was another question that was very important to me, as one of the founding editAARs. It seems that most of those that responded feel that the Gazette has been very helpful and a wonderful endeavor. The answers to the above questions suggest this as well.

The most common answer given as to why it was so appreciated was that it provided many useful tips, and I should mention that MacRaith’s series on screenshots was mentioned by several people. Others suggested that it has helped foster a better sense of community, that it was thought provoking and/or provoked discussion, and that people found it simply entertaining. It was mentioned that some appreciated that it dealt with more than just writing, and I myself still think it will be a wonderful repository for information down the line.

There were some that felt it could be better, and one even suggested that it expressed some horrendous views on AARland. This comment may, however, have been more directed towards the discussion thread of the Gazette, which was also mentioned indirectly in that there had been some “not so good” discussion there, particularly for one bad three day stretch.

I don’t want to theorize about the discussion aspect of the feedback thread. We all have our own views, and I have been pleased to see people sharing them, even if I do not always agree. However, the Gazette itself seems to have been embraced by AARland and this is good to know. It means that we have done some good for the forum, which was our goal from day one. I agree that it could be better in some aspects, particularly if more membAARs decided to share AARticles and such. And the game update section has been rather unexplored, and not updated regularly which I will touch on below.


13. How often do you read the weekly updates in the gazette (for EU1, EU2, HoI and Vickie; CK does not have this feature yet) (and explain)?
- a. Weekly – 23%
- b. Sometimes – 31%
- c. Never – 46%

This question was also rather important to me. It certainly solidified my view of this gazette feature. It seems the vast majority were not even sure what I meant when I asked about it. Several people assumed I was referring to the Gazette AARticles published every two weeks. Others simply had no idea what they were, with responses such as “There are weekly updates for each individual game?”, “I must be missing something. I thought the Gazette was overall and not specific to one game.”, and “Errr…”

First, let explain what I mean when I say “weekly updates.” When the Gazette was first envisioned, we decided to have two separate features. One would be the AARticles that you read every two weeks. The other would be game specific sections that mentioned things like helpful guides, new patches, recommended AARs and other information. Perhaps it was started off badly as the one for EU1 has never had a person update more than once, and CK has not yet had a bAARtender to begin this feature. MrT added the first one, but his was really more of an AARticle than what we had envisioned. (By the way, you will find all of them on the first page of the Gazette and accessable through the index.)

To be fair, the lack of attention is partly the editAARs fault for not advertising them enough and not keeping them updated near enough. Alexandru stated that he felt that no one read them since he never bothered to update his. This may very well be the case with all of them, as I know I do not take care of mine as often as I should and Amric has not been able to either as of late. From the responses above, it is clear that there are some that have looked at them, and perhaps gain some information from them, so I propose that we editAARs take a more active hand in maintaining their look and timeliness.

14. How is the state of AARland (and explain)?
- a. Good – 62%
- b. Bad – 0%
- c. Improving – 38%
- d. Getting worse – 0%
- e. No change – 0%

As I suspected, no one felt that the state of AARland was bad or getting worse. I had to add the possible answers simply out of fairnes and completeness just in case. Most membAARs felt that our health was good. And the rest felt that we were improving, mostly from a brief lull felt just after the forums were combined.

The three most common answers suggesting why we were in such a good state right now was the amount of new talent, the amount of great AARs, and simply the amount of new people. Others mentioned that AARland was spam free, that it offered good projects, that more people seemed to be taking initiative and that integration was succeeding.

There were those that suggested that we needed to reinstitute things like the WoW, and showcases, that we should try and use the bAARs more (especially to recommend other work), that the frequency of abandoned AARs was somewhat disturbing and that we could still use more crossover as it seemed that it was only a smaller subset of the full population doing so.

However, the biggest drawback mentioned by people was the sheer size of AARland. No one suggested it was a bad thing, but that it had made getting around to all of it’s parts much more difficult. People simply did not have the time to do so in one sitting as perhaps they used to. It was also mentioned that the size had taken away some of the closeness felt before in the smaller community.

It was suggested that there would always be small bumps to overcome when changing things around but that things were smoothing out. One comment I found particularly nice was, “It’s an amazing place, with a long and proud history of creativity.” Thank you Gaijin de Moscu, I believe you said it all with that. Overall, we are doing well and the fact that many took the time out of their schedules to participate in this survey proves that, especially with what was stated.

15. Do you have any other germane thoughts not addressed by the questions above?

Boy did you guys have fun with this question. First of all, it seems several people did not know what “germane” means, or chose to ignore the definition. Check the survey thread itself when you finish reading this, as I plan on gathering a few of the more choice answers in one place. They did make me laugh.

As for other answers given here, it was mentioned again that people would like to see the Showcase return. One person thought it good to measure the state of things to better improve AARland if we could. And one man mentioned that the size of the forum meant that an AAR had better be good to gain an audience as one could not wait too long for a piece of work to grow on the forum. And finally, I will end with some thoughts from jwolf (thank you for providing them), “ I really enjoy reading AARs…And I salute all the moderators for outstanding work on no pay!”

That sums it up for me as well. I wish to thank all of you once again for contributing, and also for perhaps reading through this (by now) rather long AARticle detailing those views mentioned in the results. We are doing well, folks. There are some things we can perhaps improve upon and I trust that in time we will hit upon a way to do that. For the sum total, however, AARland remains one of the best (if not the best) place to visit on the Internet. I am proud to be a membAAR of such a creative, intelligent and accomplished group.


*AARland Survey - Go here to read the responses and to discuss the findings (once the thread has been unlocked.)
 
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Amric

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EUII Thoughts​

As I sit here on Sunday morning, without a good idea for a aarticle I am thinking to myself, what happened to my drive and fire? I know where it went this last week. It got hammered away due to the major oral surgery I had. I had ten teeth taken out. So now I only have six front teeth on the bottom part of my mouth. And I have been in pain all week. It has been taking me a lot longer to heal than I had planned.

But it did remind me of something. It reminded me of how a story can sometimes lose it’s way. There are various reasons why a story will lose the focus and become a relatively mediocre story after having some brilliant premise.

One of them is writer burnout. You could be writing along so well and suddenly you have lost interest in the tale. Perhaps it is the amount of AARs you have written over the past few months, or if you are like me, you’ve written a great deal and you need a break. But you started a story and you really want to finish it off before giving up writing for while.

Sometimes it might be due to an idea you had from a respondent to you tale and you run with it only to find that it is taking you away from what you originally envisioned. Or perhaps you original vision is too grand for you to tackle at this time.

So what do you do? There are ways to fix, or solve this…..one is to stop writing the story. Either abandon, which I do not recommend, or put it on hiatus. Or you can do what Lord Durham has suggested at times, which is to write write write your way out of the dilemma.

If it is the fact that your scale is too grand in scope, you can scale it back to a more reasonable level that you can accomplish. Or it might be that you have accomplished the goals that you have arbitrarily set at the start of the game. I have had that happen to me before. I have asked my readers what I should do next. Invariably they come up with something else I can do to extend the game and the story.

Sometimes a guest author coming in can help ‘spice’ up your tale. Someone with a fresh, new perspective who just might spark a renewed interest in your story. I know, to an extent, I provided that for Nalivayko in his Cossack tale. But in the end, it wasn’t enough. The tale was abandoned in the end. A great story, but it was emotionally draining for him, and I understand why he finally gave it up.

Or sometimes you write yourself into a corner and you aren’t sure how to get out of it. Take my esteemed colleague, coz1. He kind of painted himself into a corner in his Into the West story. He has been writing a wonderful, compelling tale. One that I and many others had been reading with great interest and joy.

But I think he got caught up in the mechanics of ‘how’ his character was doing this and that, and forgot that certain inadequacies can be forgiven when the story is so great. He has been fumbling with the idea of time, and how his main character can get from one place to the next time wise.

In spite of numerous suggestions, not only from myself, but others, he hasn’t continued onward with the story. Why? Because he isn’t ready to go on. He has something in mind, but he hasn’t gotten it wrapped up in the way he wants. He is very concerned about the integrity of the story as well as the quality of it. Perfectly understandable, and I DO understand. But the great thing is that just this past week, he has started writing in it again. It's in the Victoria section of AARland. Not about EUII at all, really. Except as an example of writing difficulties.

I’ve been in that situation myself, and finally got out of it. But sometimes it takes a while to get it settled in your own mind. I’ve been hopped up on Vicadin, which has been making me fuzzy minded. I am afraid this whole thing has been a trial, and I think I have been aimlessly rambling with no real purpose.

My three kids are making this even more difficult, as they are running around like demented howler monkeys on speed. Which is something that can be a distraction for a writer. Real life. Whether it be a wife or girlfriend, children, work, family and friends. Most of whom cannot or refuse to understand your fascination with the forums and the stories that you read here, and the ones that you write.

I’ve heard from my own wife things such as, “ If you are going to write, why not write something that will make us some money?”

My response is thus, “ I am not good enough to be truly published yet. Think of it as a writer’s workshop where I can polish my skills and learn from those who are better at this than I am.”

“You’ve written a LOT in the last year,” She says,” Shouldn’t you have it down by now?”

“It doesn’t work that way,” I tell her,” Writing is a process. Something that takes a LONG time. Even the greatest writers didn’t just sit down and start writing stories that were immediately published.”

“Quit spending so much time there,” she tells me,” The kids need your attention. I need your attention.”

“I spend more time with the children than YOU do,” I tell her,” And do I have to be in your hip pocket 24/7?”

“Yes.”

Things like this can make writing very difficult, if not impossible for most people. They just really don’t understand. Usually because they don’t WANT to understand. I’ve shown her the forums and shown her the numerous and wonderful tales here. She doesn’t read a lot. She isn’t a big fan of reading anyway. So she just doesn’t get it. Doesn’t want to get it.

This is a fact that many of us have to deal with on a daily basis. Distractions of various types that eat up our valuable writing time. I know, that in my own case, I have virtually no time at all. I have spent hours trying to write this, what with dealing with children and my wife. And it has come out rather rambling and incoherent I am afraid. But it is the best effort I can manage at this time.

Hopefully next issue I will be back with a better topic and a more coherent aarticle.
 
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Recommended Reading(Director)
The Great Game Redux - Sibir by Prufrock451

Backing Into The Future

One thing you can say about Prufrock451 is that the man has ideas. I mean ideas. Or maybe that should be IDEAS. This fellow looks at the world from a somewhat tilted perspective. He sees the same things as the rest of us, but he looks at them in a very different way.

This, after all, the author of the first AAR for Pirates, the 'backwards in time' AAR reviewed herein and the first (and so far only) AAR with a truly Alien cast of characters. I won't list his AARs here - that IS what the LibrAARy is for - but suffice it to say that his ideas are intriguing.

And the writing? Top notch and getting better.

So! Let's set the Wayback Machine for the Spring and Summer of 2002. It's time to take a look at my first review, commissioned by Craig Ashley and never-before-published. It’s not very long… (from me, who would expect that?).


AAR Review: The Great Game Redux - Sibir
Author: Prufrock451
Date begun: April 26, 2002
Completed: July 5, 2002
Link: The Great Game Redux – Sibir

Why review an AAR?

Because we believe there are excellent AARs that deserve your attention but of which you may not be aware. Hopefully, if you are intrigued by the review, you’ll read the AAR. Possibly you’ll even look up others by the same author, or which are similar in style or country of origin.
Secondly, to get people thinking about the stories and discussing them. Most authors would like to have more readers – and more feedback – but especially informed, perceptive feedback. The general theory is that if you will be moved to think about and discuss this review, you may carry the habits of perception and positive criticism with you to other AARs.
Thirdly, there are authors who have requested a more detailed critique of their work. For these authors we will attempt to point out, in a constructive way, elements that might be improved and how to go about improving them.


Short review:
A light-hearted romp through the alternate histories of Siberia and Britain. The viewpoint character is Sir John Miffling-Hodgkins, a Victorian gentleman who is bitten at age 91 by the adventure bug. Tramping through Siberia in 1908 in search of frozen mammoths, he is struck by the Tunguska meteorite and propelled back into the Siberia of 1419.
Sir John is aided by a Capuchin monk who is conveniently at hand, and by the fact that he seems to be growing younger as the years go by. Thus, we will have the same viewpoint character for the 400 years of this story.
The ‘great game’ referred to in the title was the ‘cold war’ waged between Britain and Russia for control of central Asia, including Afghanistan and the approaches to India. This contest was carried out almost entirely by small groups of adventurers and agents who competed for the favor and allegiance of warlords, khans and tribesmen across the region. Britain’s great strategic fear during this time was that Russian control of central Asia would threaten her control of India and Iraq.
Sir John decides therefore to block the Russians from advancing into central Asia, and manages to put together a powerful Siberian state in the process.

Meanwhile, the Britain of this history has been partitioned and occupied, and has fallen to the lowest rank of powers. Sir John decides to go to Britain and help her recover – aided in this decision by a Siberian Mongol Khan who virtually expels him so that Siberia can go its own way.
Britain is then raised to the first rank of powers, aided by a Masonic secret society and a mysterious dynasty of secret agents, all of whom go by ‘Burugan, - Hajji – Burugan.” Yes, readers, Bond is back, though in a way his creator might never have imagined!
By the end of the story, all loose ends are gathered in by a diverse cast of characters that includes Sherlock Holmes, Winston Churchill and Ian Fleming. The story concludes with an amazing set of fake Googol documents on the rest of the history of this world-spanning British Empire.
The writing is generally excellent, the story line inventive and compelling and the style is lighthearted and witty. Though not long on character development or ‘you-are-there’ historic immersion, this AAR is very entertaining and deserving of your attention.

Rating: Highly recommended.



The more detailed critique to follow will be broken down into several topics, which will be discussed separately.

Writing technique: well done.
The author manages not to be preachy or long-winded and avoids awkward sentence structure, misspellings and bad grammar. The dialog is sometimes generic but there are numerous places where it is used effectively. The overall effect is that the story moves along nicely and without obvious effort. Particularly toward the end there are some passages of real power, like the Tale of Sirjan Sirjan.
Almost all of this story is narrated from the point of view of the main character. As the story unfolds the author seems surer of his craft and treats us to the thoughts and viewpoints of different characters, to great effect.

Inventiveness: quite high.
The basic idea of a main character who ages backwards is novel and the author uses the hero’s circumstances to good effect, as in the scene where a pre-pubescent hero finds that his followers are less and less likely to take him seriously.
The author uses a Terry-Pratchett-like style of borrowing ideas from other, easily recognized sources. The long-running-gag of ‘Hajji Burugan secret agent’ is one example, a classic scene from ‘Dracula’ another and the final tie-in to ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ yet another. Readers will delight in picking up all the ‘Easter Eggs’ strewn through the story.
An example of the author’s creative power and humor will be found at the end of the story. Supposedly the result of a Googol search performed by Winston Churchill, they are nearly flawless ‘fakes’, capturing the look and feel of web documents to perfection.

Historicity: low.
The author is skilled enough at juggling the plot twists and humorous situations to keep our eyes off the background, but upon examination the background seems pretty sparse. For this story, richness of historic detail is not a primary goal, but in truth there is little scenic detail, few descriptions and not much period ‘feel’, especially in the ‘exotic’ Muslim Mongol world of Sibir.
Let me say that, like a play staged with minimal props and scenery, the story does not necessarily suffer from this lack of historic detail, and I do believe the author concentrated on what was important to him – telling a cracking good tale. But if you are looking for insights into Mongol society and culture – or even the thoughts and habits of Victorian Englishmen – you will not find them here.
The ‘historic content’ and background detail seem to increase markedly when the story location moves to Britain, perhaps because the author was more comfortable with a British setting and because he was rapidly deepening his writing abilities.
There are also a few seemingly incorrect facts lying about, like the wine-drinking Muslim Mongol (surely Mongols drink kumis – fermented mare’s milk – if Islam allows them to drink anything alcoholic) and wooden ships with rivets, but they are fairly few and should not disturb the reader’s pleasure unless the reader is very easily offended.

Character Development: not a lot, but done well when attempted.
Deep character development was not a priority here, and as with the topic of historicity in the previous section, that’s not necessarily bad. The characters are well enough developed to carry the story line, and without exception they remain true to themselves and their values.
The story opens with a nice thumbnail autobiography of Sir John and how he came to be in Siberia on that fateful 30th of June, 1908. His character receives some development in the opening installments but is increasingly relegated to relating events. We hear little about what is important to him, or about what moves him emotionally.
Sir John’s character is more filled out in later episodes (after the story moves to Britain) but remains a person who relates events rather than one who invites us into his thinking. His character does not seem to change or evolve in any significant way.
The various Mongol ‘dukes’ and khans are briefly sketched, but not developed in any detail. Obder Khan, for example, is marked only by his boundless enthusiasms and use of the word ‘Bully!’ He is a comic character, but ultimately a caricature.
The Capuchin monk Brother Gerhard emerges as a sympathetic character, though surprisingly well educated and broadminded for medieval times.
Curiously, the most effective characterization is an extended and enthralling look at the great villain of the piece, Cardinal Tejon (also known as Sirjan Sirjan), who is capably developed into a character we can understand and care about, if not approve of. So, clearly, the author is capable of good character development when he wishes and the story requires.

Plot Development: never a dull moment.
The original idea is intriguing and the author keeps the plot twists coming. The plentiful use of ‘cliffhanger’ endings will keep you scrolling to the next installment.
The early, Siberian days are lightly skimmed over and – like all Grand Campaigns – the story runs a risk of repetition and staleness. The main character’s ‘exile’ to England, however, marks the point at which this story truly takes off. The change of location to an England in peril seems to inspire the author to new feats of invention. Admittedly, most of the ‘plot points’ are brought out for us to recognize and enjoy, rather than to be fully developed, but they are very nice plot points and the story is propelled along to a satisfying conclusion.
After the principal character becomes too young to be effective and disappears from the narrative, there is a very nice set of tension-building scenes before his ‘final’ fate is revealed.
One sure-to-be-favorite scene is the assassination attempt conducted by the villainous mastermind Cardinal Tejon and the ex-king James Stuart. Lots of action and adventure with a dash of derring-do.

Gameplay: quite fine.
Some details of game decisions and techniques of play are included in the narrative. Any player attempting Siberia would do well to keep the author’s model close to mind: lots of wars and no fear of inflation. His building Siberia into a power is an achievement. Rescuing a Britain on the verge of extinction and raising it to superpower status is a wonderful achievement. And then, when you look at the maps of later years and realize that Siberia is still a power and that even the AI hasn’t been able to wreck it… well, that’s a great achievement.


I did succeed in reaching Prufrock451 for permission and comment. He very nicely gave me the okay to print this, and he said:

"This review is spot on; I have to concur, especially with his
observation that the AAR didn't really get rolling until I'd spent
some time on it. This was my first AAR, and my first work of fiction,
and it took me a while to really trust myself enough to let go and
allow the narrative to move itself along. There's a lesson here for my
fellow aspiring authors; your characters and your situation will build
themselves, if you let them. Try to listen to your characters- they'll
tell you where they need to go."



Recommended: ‘To Stand Against the Night’ by Prufrock451

This is a fairly early HoI tale and one of the first to be written from the viewpoint of France. Confronting a resurgent Germany cannot be an easy task, even when the Wehrmacht is commanded by your PC, but Prufrock451 seems to manage. And in the process, he tells a gripping tale.

This one is written ‘straight out’, without the interesting conceptual twists of his earlier works. No aliens in Reanault tanks here… and you won’t miss them. Instead, he takes on the story with nothing but pure writer’s craft and native talent, and the result is more impressive than a victory over Nazi Germany by Republican France. The result is, in a word, awesome.

This one hasn’t gotten the rave reviews of other HoI tales. It may be a little dark, a bit too personal for mass appeal. But – in my opinion – if you pass this one by, you’re the poorer for it. Simply, it’s a superb piece by an author who has matured into a master. Here's the link.



Prufrock451 says: “Here's my Recommended Reading: Merrick's "Ayuthayya- The March of the Elephant".

Merrick's AAR is an excellent example of the classic AAR format; a straight-ahead, lively presentation of a fictional history, which uses the random game events to support a huge narrative. Dramatic, humorous, and never dull.”
 
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Amric

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Characters: Love Them or Hate Them, You Created Them​



I started this article due to the recent question posed in the SolAARium about characters and the discussion that has gone on about it. So what about it? Characters in your AARs that is, of course. Did you start with an outline? Or a character sheet ala the one Lord Durham was so kind to create and allow others to use as they willed? Or do you do it on the fly? Just wing it and see where the winds take him or her?

All valid questions and responses. But let us break it down somewhat. Having a character sheet can be very useful, and for those of us who have played Role Playing Games, such as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, or GURPS, or any of the other many types. It gives you a whole host of information at your fingertips that tells you pretty much everything you need to know.

Such as where your character was born, and when. Which would then tell you how old your character is at any given time in your story. What that person looks like. Tall or short. Fat or thin. Eye and hair color. Any identifying scars. Things of that nature.

Even such things as the names of your character’s parents, any siblings, and so forth of that nature. You would also have what your character does for a living. If you want to be really anal retentive about it<and I have been known to do this in RPG’s>you have the birth dates for your character’s parents and siblings as well. It might be integral to the story at some point, possibly and if you have it already down you don’t have to go back through your story to figure out what that date might be.

A bit of background, or character history, might be in order as well. Depending on the situation you might describe his or her childhood. Any schooling they might have had, or anything of that similar nature. Whether that person is a ‘hero’ or ‘villain’, and whether or not that person is supposed to STAY that way.

I’ve rattled on about the advantages of having a fully outlined character. But what about those who don’t fully outline their characters? I’ve rarely outlined my characters in my stories. In fact, I don’t know of a single time I have done so, save for the FC where I had a rather lengthy biography and fleshed it out nicely during the storyline. I did the same thing for Crusader Chronicles. But other than that, I have never really outlined them prior to writing them.

Why? Laziness I guess. Also, I have found that I get a set idea in my head, and then very frequently changing what happens to the character. Take my character from my Cyprus tale, Eric. He starts off as a nice fellow who desperately wants to become a soldier. He has to run away to do it. Fine so far, but then things get ever so much more complicated.

Over time, he becomes a general. A very SUCCESSFUL general. A Prince of the Blood who fights, and doesn’t do it from a sedan chair or deep in the back of the ranks. He fights from the front, and he is loved by his men. Falling in love, with I might add, what was intended as a throwaway character.

The love of Eric’s life was fully intended to have no more than one, perhaps two or three appearances, or installments. Nothing more. What happened? I had been following Judge’s Cum Deo story and wanted to try and write my own love scene without being as graphic as he has/had been. Just a sex scene. That’s it.

So what happened? I liked her. She was spunky. She was sassy. She was intelligent and strong in her own right. Not a typical female portrayed for the period of EUII. I’m not saying there aren’t strong female characters being written in the forums. Not at all. But the typical STORY outside the forums generally does NOT have strong female characters in the time period. She was even beautiful.

I killed her. Why? Because she wasn’t supposed to be so integral to the story! She was getting in the way of how I wanted to write the storyline. Eric was meant for greater things than just being a General. And I wanted to get him there. But she DID provide me for a reason for his later insanity.

Her death was gruesome, even though not graphically described. It warped Eric. Badly. It caused things that would be put into motion later on that would explain his cruelty and insane actions. He harbored deep hatred and resentments. He destroyed the Aztecs as a people. Conquering and annexing them totally and completely.

He forced them to convert from their bloody gods to the one true faith. Then he disappeared before returning some years later to wrest the crown of Cyprus and place it on his own head. Now why did I go into such a lengthy explanation? To show what happens when you get attached to a character. Is it wrong? No. Can it change how your story goes? Absolutely. Is that wrong? Not really. It can actually ENHANCE the story.

So what was supposed to be a simple sex scene and a throwaway character that would never be seen again became a person that dominated the scenes she was in and created such pathos and caring that when she died, it caused a major character to be completely changed.

There was an in game temporary insanity of Monarch event. I couldn’t figure out a way to incorporate it into the story. I even planned to ignore it. But when Eric<and myself> got caught up in what would be the love of his life, I knew how I could explain an insane monarch. I would like to think it was one of the most creative ways to explain the insanity of a king.

I’ve cared for many of the characters I have created. Some, more than others. Even some of the villains have been enjoyable rogues. But I have learned over the time I have written my AARs that no matter what you feel for a character, whether you love them or hate them, you created them and they are an integral part of your tale.

Some may start off as no more than a simple expendable character who somehow manages to worm his or her way further into the story to the point that they become a major force. Or a major character sometimes doesn’t seem to pan out the way you expect them to, so they get relegated to a minor supporting role and usually quickly disappear.

But here is something you SHOULD remember. Try to make your characters memorable. Even a throwaway character should have something that catches the reader’s eye. Even if it is no more than the NAME of the character. Again, I will use my Cyprus tale as an example. I use an old dowager by the name of Amethyst. I don’t really describe her at all, really. Yet you are left with the impression of a still attractive woman and very sharp. I don’t say what color her eyes are, or whether she is tall or short. Nothing really, but the name. Yet I defy anyone not to come to the same conclusion.

That is my point, really. She was a throwaway character. Used only once, and NEVER used again. ONCE. Yet I thought even without using any other description of her, that she turned out quite well. She isn’t even a favorite of mine. Yet I remember her QUITE well. There was nothing in the game that required her existence, just a way to let Eric know certain information.

Or Captain Olafsson in my newest tale of the Baltic Tribes. He was only going to be meant as a one off character. Nothing other than a plot device to explain why there was suddenly a massive influx of people to my little kingdom. But I grew to like him, and my readers seemed to have responded to him. I have an idea of where else to go with him, so a one off character is going to get a longer life than I had first intended! Again!

You can plot your character’s entire life, or you can roll the dice, as it were, and see where he or she goes depending on what you have already written and what has happened in the game that you wish to incorporate into your story. It is all up to you.

As I stated before and in the title of this article….

You created the character, and love them or hate them, they have a habit of having a life of their own. And there is nothing wrong with that. Caring for your characters shows in your writing, and your readers will pick up on the loving care you put into your telling of that character’s story within your ongoing AAR.

You can always tell when a writer has put his or her heart and soul into a project, and it is most definitely true about a character. Look at any really good quality writer, whether it is here in the forums, or in that place we call real life. The best characters live and breathe, seemingly on their own, despite or perhaps in spite of everything a writer throws at them.

Perhaps you save them from certain death because you can’t bear to let go of them yet. Or perhaps you throw them on the bonfire of your creative engine and sacrifice them early for the sake of the story line. You shed your tears, real or internal, when they die. And you go on. Your readers may shed their own tears, real or imagined, if you did your job correctly and they have come to love that character nearly as much as you do.

You are the father and the mother of each character you create. You are their judge, their jury, and in the end, their executioner. Whether they die a bloody death, or peacefully in bed at a ripe old age. Whether they wreak havoc, or a peacemaker always trying to help others, they are your children, as it were. A well crafted character is a child to be proud of. I know that I am proud of my characters and what I have asked and demanded of them. The heroism. The sacrifices. Whatever I ask of them, they do.

They have no choice, for I am their master and commander. But I bleed when they bleed. I die a little when they die. I share their joys and triumphs, their sorrows and defeats. For when you put that effort into your characters it comes back to you in the enjoyment of your readers. Simple as that. I feel that if you do NOT care for your characters, than you apparently don’t care about your story all that much. You are writing by rote, in that case.

A character is a treasure that must be spent. Whether quickly, or as miserly as necessary. So when you make a character, whether you plan him or her carefully, or you wing it, craft them lovingly. For they are your children, and they are your treasure. Use them wisely, and spend their lives wisely.

For a character driven story absolutely requires characters that the reader can love or hate. Characters that they can identify with on some level. People who seem just as real as you or me. You know you have done the job right when your readers comment on things your characters have done or said. They remember the characters and in enhances the story.

So all in all, I hope this helps some of you in some way to create, or continue to create, memorable characters that we can all enjoy reading about!

Bibliography:

Lord Durham's Character Sheet Template
 
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stnylan

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Britannic Thoughts (stnylan)

On detailed comments
or
The Importance of the word Why



The comment is one of my two main interests in these forums, other than the games themselves. Comments are fiendish things. Every writer craves them, and no matter how common each one is as precious beyond description. To know that someone out there in the there, hundreds or even thousands of miles away is reading something that we wrote, and is enjoying it, well, it is one huge boost to the ego. Likewise when no one comments we are left wondering, are we boring people to tears? People can get very emotional about comments and the lack of them, and no wonder. For no matter how many views one might receive, only comments seem “real”.

Any comment is welcome, but most writAARs would love to have more detailed comments than they get. Not that there is nothing wrong with the “good update” style of comment. Sometimes it is the only thing a reader has the time to write. However, I have seen it said several times by various readers in the time that I have been on the forums that they say something along these lines, though rarely as bluntly: I dare not suggest any criticism at this point as this is far above my own level of writing.

In a much earlier article coz1 has already established that there is most definitely a market for comments, and exhorted people to comment more. I hope to build on that article by perhaps offering a few pointers about how to offer more detailed comments. Although addressed generally, I have “aimed” it particularly at narrative AARs or those AARs with narrative elements. I will say that a great deal of this now seems to me to be fairly obvious, but then when I first started reading AARs I felt like a very small fish in awe-fully big sea. So in the hope that this will be of use to some people…

The very first thing that needs to be addressed is any feeling of inferiority, as typified by that quote above. I am fairly willing to bet most people who read Lord of the Rings before Peter Jackson released his films have various viewpoints on the scripting decisions in the films, on the actors, on the sets, indeed on just about everything. I am equally willing to bet nearly all of them have never been anywhere near a film studio in a film-making capacity. We offer critiques of various works all the time, and so we all are more than able to critique and comment on any AARs we read that catch our fancy.

So, how does one offer a more detailed comment? In brief, just think about what you like and dislike about the update, or the AAR in general. The key word here is why. Now, the chances are that you basically like the AAR you are reading – otherwise you would not be reading it – so rather than say “good update” if you have the time say what it was about that update the caught your attention. Was it a specific line or situation? What about it did your particularly like?

The same question can be extended to the characters of any story. Do you respond well or poorly to a particular character? It might require several updates for you to amass enough exposure of the character to form an opinion, but write about it. If your opinion of a character changes, write about that too. And remember, comment on why you hold that opinion, or why it is changing.

Again, the question can be applied to the plot. Has there been a development that has especially intrigued, amazed, or somewhat irritated you? This could well be something that only becomes apparent over then course of several updates. For that reason it is sometimes useful to “take stock” of a favourite AAR every few updates to see what has happened. But remember, say why you think what you do as well.

Perhaps a more important comment to make is if the author is confusing you. Is there something you simply do not get? Ask. It might well be that the author has slipped up somewhere, and believe me he or she will be more than grateful to know that someone is reading and kind enough to point any problems out! If you are uncomfortable with asking this in public send a Private Message. Comments might be like diamonds, but a PM is a rare treat.

Finally, there is one other fruitful way to comment, and that is to speculate! Do you have any thoughts on the direction a particular character might be heading? Or do you think you have an idea on the course of the plot? Maybe you’ve picked up a possible allusion. You might well give an author ideas, you might be completely off the mark, and sometimes you could be correct. The result however is far less important than the comment.

In essence those are the foundations of the more detailed comments, and the importance of the why? question cannot be overstated. Keeping asking yourself it, and then write out the answers.

However, there is another possible inhibition that I think particularly applies to more speculative comments. That is the hesitation induced by the fact one could very well be wrong. Personally I do not think that this matters at all, and that is especially true if one is drawing allusions about situations or characters. Indeed, I don’t know an author on these forums who is not interested in what people are thinking about their AARs, or what they are reading into them.

There is one word in all the above however that I have mostly managed to avoid, and that word is criticism. For various reasons I think the concept of criticism can carry negative connotations that it really does not warrant. All the above is criticism in various forms, and that includes a great deal of positive commentary.

However, a comment about something you dislike or think could be improved does not have to be negative. Here we enter into the realm of constructive criticism. The trick here is not simply to say, I don’t like such and such, but to say why you don’t like it, and perhaps to offer a few suggestions about other ways forward. This allows an author a greater picture. It may well be that the author had a particular reason to do something the way he or she did, something that you as a reader have not picked up on. However perhaps you will also help the author resolve a problem in the story. Again, if you are uncomfortable offering such comments in public then utilise the PM.

To finish off I would like to restate one thing, and no, its not the dreaded why. If there is something you do not understand, ASK! I think this is especially true given the number of non-native English speakers on these forums, or for that matter just the difference between differing English dialects. The same incidentally is true for all English speakers when some language other than English is used to add atmosphere. If you want to know what it means, ASK.

Hopefully I haven't bored anyone to tears, and hopefully some people will find this useful. And just remember, ask yourself - why?.
 

coz1

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The GenAARal Idea (coz1)

Step On Up To The bAAR


What is the bAAR? Where did it come from? And what is its purpose? In all truth, we really must ask these questions in the plural as there are now five of them, but my hope for this AARticle is to give the membAARs some background, limited as it may be due to my not being here for the beginning, and explain what the use and purpose of the various watering holes are. Further, I hope to perhaps spur some discussion about them and whether or not they should be combined into one bAAR or left as they are split between the various fora.

The original bAAR was a creation of our esteemed membAAR Rictus on August 5th, 2002 (with assistance provided by MrT and Lord Durham.) The title, as you can see if you look in the EUII forum, is The bAAR: A Place to Discuss and Recommend AARs. Notice the words “discuss” and “recommend.” These are key. Now allow me to reproduce the original post for those of you who may never have read it:


Descending into the pits of this subterranean lair, fighting aside great clouds of nicotine tinged smoke, ignoring the stares and glares from the resident patrons, you greet the bartender, complete with cigerette perched percariously from his lip.

"Welcome to the bAAR. Over to your far left is the Podium, where speakers can annouce their latest works, or endorse others - but please, keep the mentioning of your own AARs to a minimum. You can also ask around in here for advice and new ideas" He scratches his chin reflectively, "everyone's welcome here. Absolutely everyone. Feel free to wade in and start a conversation.

"There's probably a fair bit of banter going on between the regulars, as well. My names Norgesvenn, I'm the resident smoker and bartender, that's Lord Durham and MrT over there in the corner...Yeah, those two, by the hookers. You probably already know them. Sharur's the one trying to catch my eye for another - underage - drink. Rictus is the guy hanging around the Jukebox. Blame the music on him. See that bruiser over there? Thats Pruffie - but never call him that to his face. Shwang1's next door, probably decking the neighbours again as we speak. The guy with the six different types of vodka? That's Pan Zagloba. That's Warspite over there, yeah, the guy nominating everyone for awards, Ariel's over there discussing football and the finer points of conquering the French to his Privy Council. The fellow over there with the enormous ass and great floppy hat: Sgt. Bloomfield, and Lt Tyler's the guy nervously waiting in line for the Podium, while over there is Peter Ebbeson - with the map, planning world domination no doubt - he's also our bouncer. Hmmm, couple of new faces in here as well.

"As for rules, well, we don't have many, except try to keep in persona when you're in here. Teasing's allowed, but don't let it get out of hand.

So gentlemen, what can I get you?" he finishes.


First off, sorry if I missed you out above. Secondly, as a recap, this thread is a catch all for the following:

Annoucing your own new AAR (but keep it to a minimum)
Endorsing others AARs
Teasing/taunting (but watch it)
Advice and ideas

But please folks, keep in 'character'
This gives you the basic idea. It was begun to allow the membAARs of the very close-knit EUII AAR forum to discuss things on a more personal level and in the same place rather than spread out in various non-AAR threads and among AARs while they dragged the story itself terribly off-topic. Further, they wished to provide a place to recommend AARs to the masses.

The first posters tried to come in to the place in character and paid a great deal of attention to both creating an atmosphere and talking of the AARs they were reading. I assume this was in the hopes of talking up great work, helping some writAARs get more views, and thus comments, and just generally to enjoy hanging out with fellow membAARs and having a good time.

If you read through the initial posts, you will see that this was a success. Why? Because those involved had a good time doing it. It became a place to gather and do all that Rictus intially suggested.

Over time, however; the original spirit fell off some as membAARs gravitated away from the forum or AARland. New membAARs did not have a good framework to utilize the place, and in many ways it became a place to simply plug their own work.

Now this is not entirely against the original thought behind the bAAR, but it does take away somewhat from the orginal spirit. Allow me now to introduce to this mix the word of caution given by Lord Durham when he retired Ye Olde bAAR* and started a new thread (mostly because the old one had grown so large):


LD walks into the newly renovated bAAR. Standing with hands on hips he nods approvingly at the updated furniture, the wider selection of drink and food, the cheerful staff. Eochaid waves from behind the long, stand-up bar. Behind him the Plasma TV broadcasts the latest rugby match between New Zealand and Austrailia. LD strides over. "Beer me!"

Eochaid pours the perfect glass. "Place looks nice. It looks a lot cleaner."

"Agreed. We need to maintain the focus of this place. The bAAR is where we talk about AARs while in character, and is not about posting one-liners or using quotes."

"Ah, quotes. Have I ever told you how much I hate quotes?"

"Often. Anyway, do you need help, Eochaid? Rictus is gone, and Norgsvenn is very sporadic. Let me know if I should put up the 'help wanted' sign."

"I'll think about it."

"Good. Now, we have quite a few new faces here. With the new faces has come the old problem about feedback, or lack thereof. I've read the rumblings in some of the newer threads. So, hopefully the community will use this newly renovated place to promote and recommend their work and the work of others. The best way to receive feedback is to give it."

"Isn't that the truth. How about the non-AAR material and the casual one-liners?"

"If they are in character and contribute to the bAAR then they'll stay. If they don't, well, you know..." LD makes a cutting motion across his throat. "The original bAAR served its purpose, but it became too old and unstable." LD walks toward the front door.

"Where you going?"

"Why, to open up. The bAAR is back in business..."
It is here that we see that the campaign against the use of quotes come into the mix. The idea behind the banning of quotes is to help keep the bAAR from turning into private discussions and assisting in keeping with character, I assume. Regardless, it is sometimes forgotten or unknown by newer membAARs.

As we have grown to five games, we now find ourselves with five different bAARs. Each has it’s own flavor and it’s own regulars. Some cross over between them, and some stick to their favorite or current game. But what is the current purpose of them? Does this purpose remain from it’s original premise, or has the changing of time and membAARs either made them obsolete or no longer useful to us?

At present, the main focus of most people that stop by any bAAR is to announce their own work. There are some that try very hard to promote others, but time and time again we see people using them to say “hey, there is a new update on my AAR” or “Guys, I’ve started a new one. Check it out.”

Now these comments are not necessarily bad, but they do not help promote the work of others. In fact, many times it is blantent self-promotion without a thought towards the atmosphere of the place, or the possible needs of others who also need readAARs.

Now, it is understandable that if you desire readAARs of your own, you will want to advertise. However, the best advertisement is keeping your work flowing. Over time, people will see your seriousness and read your AAR if they find something in it interesting.

What we hope to provide with the bAARs is a closer sense of community, yes that dreaded word again. If you read something and enjoy it, don’t just tell that person. Come to the bAAR and tell everyone else. And if you take a moment and do it in character, not only will you help yourself in improving your characterization skills, but you will also assist a fellow writAAR in gaining some most likely well needed recognition.

Now this does not mean that simple conversation should be avoided. Quite the contrary. If the watering holes become a meeting place between membAARs, it can only assist us to get closer to one another. Just do it in character rather than throwing out one-liners or descending into spam hell. If done correctly, it will be a fun place to visit every so often. And while you are there, hopefully you will find a few titles that you have not read and take a look at them.

To foster a community spirit and assist your fellow writAARs gain recognition. That’s the goal. Simple. It worked for a time, but perhaps that was because the community was already close. Maybe we are beyond that now as there are so many membAARs spread across five different games. But does that mean that each game community cannot utilize their own bAAR? I think they can.

But what of the idea of a central bAAR? A place for the community as a whole. There have been arguments made that it might help cross-forum interest. It’s possible, but I think we have discovered that if one is adverse to reading about a game they do not own or are uninterested in, they won’t look at it no matter what is tried.

Also, there is an argument to be made that the uniqueness of the various watering holes might be lost if amalgamated into one central bAAR. But to lose uniqueness, you must have uniqueness. This I personally do not see at the moment, other than the AARs announced or recommended being from the specific game that the watering hole represents. If the “in character” idea was more focused, or better yet practiced, then I could agree with this position.

With either position, there are good arguments to be made. But do the membAARs care one way or the other? If you only use your bAAR to announce your own work, it really does not matter where it is. I suppose it might help announce to the group at large, but it is still self-promotion no matter how you look at it.

But if someone else announces your AAR to the group as a whole, then perhaps it might help gain interest in the work suggested, especially if it comes from a respected membAAR.

As well, if the idea of “in character” is not something the entire group wishes to practice, what does it matter where the bAAR is. It still won’t have a special flavor to it. It simply ceases to be a fun endeavor for the membAARs to participate in.

So what do we want, community? What can be accomplished? How can we assist them in being fun, worthwhile and/or useful to us as a group?

There is currently a lack of bAARtenders, mostly due to a sense of lacking long-standing membAARs for each group. However, Amric does a quite admirable job in the EUII bAAR and looks out for the MonAARchs Tavern as well from time to time. I try to keep current with the Tea Room and look in on all of the rest when I can to assist Valdemar and the other mods in policing them without overstepping my place.

The bAARtenders hold a certain duty in AARland outside of our bAARtending job, but only in that we help provide assistance to MrT, Stroph1 and Valdemar welcome new membAARs and show them the ropes if we can. Further, there are a whole group of long-standing membAARs without fancy titles that do likewise. None of us hope that you find any action taken mean-spirited, accusatory or out of line. But we do hope you will recognize, perhaps, our experience in certain matters.

Luckily, neither mod nor bAARtender must do too much policing since most AARland membAARs are well-educated and polite. But on occasion, it does happen. When it does, it is done to assist in keeping this place flowing smoothly, spam-free, on par educationally and entertainment wise with past encarnations and simply fun to visit.

So, with that in mind and hopefully the knowledge or history I have provided, let us start up a conversation on our future hopes for the bAARs, or central bAAR if that is what you advocate. There is a thread to voice such opinion*. Go there and tell the forum how you feel. Get invloved, and hopefully that in and of itself will assist you in becoming a voice in AARland for whatever the cause. This place only runs on the spirit of those that participate. Lend your spirit, and voice, and find that this place is a home – and a great one at that.

*Link to Central bAAR discussion

*Link to Ye Olde bAAR

 

Amric

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The Eye of the Hurricane<Amric>


Writing About Things That Happen Frequently​



Boring title, isn’t it? Perhaps I will think of a better one at some point. What do I mean though? Battles for one. I know, that in my own experience, that I have become somewhat jaded when it comes to portraying battles. Just how many times can you describe one?

Well that all depends on who you are fighting, and WHERE. I portrayed three different battles against natives in my Cyprus story. Each one pretty much ended the same. I won, they lost. But HOW I portrayed them is important. I made one group fierce fighters that hit and ran. And did it again. And again. Causing great casualties to me. Why? Because I lost a LOT of men pacifying them in the game.

Another group fought and died so quick it was astounding! I portrayed them as rather stupid people and in the end that is how the province of Moron got it’s name. I portrayed another group that fought hard and in the end killed themselves rather than submit to my rule. The end result of each one was the same, but how I GOT there was different.

I’ve described battle scenes in virtually every story I have written. Land battles and naval battles. Of paramount importance is to be as relatively realistic as possible. You aren’t using machine guns in EUII. In fact, there are no repeating guns of ANY type during the time period. That does NOT mean you cannot be creative! Use the weapons of the time. If you haven’t got guns yet, don’t use them in your story until you actually have them researched.

Swords and arrows kill people very effectively. In fact, for a long time AFTER guns were introduced archers still killed far more men than guns did. You could shoot far more arrows than you could shoot your gun. By the time you took your second shot, a good archer has already put a good ten shafts in the air. Probably more. There are catapults, trebuchets, rams, sows, screws, ballista, tunneling and so many other things that can be done to pound the walls of a city before you get the chance to assault it by reaching level 5 land tech.

Just as naval battles prior to guns were usually ships latching onto each other and the men fighting until one side or the other surrendered or were all killed. There is also the time honored tradition of ramming an enemy vessel using a galley and either a bronze headed or iron headed ram to punch a hole in an enemy vessel, causing it to sink. Use bronze, as only a fool would use iron on the sea. It rusts and can be a problem at some point. Bronze doesn’t rust and is cheaper by far. Something most naval officers would cherish. Effectiveness without astoundingly high cost.

There are even battles where ships have used small catapults to try and hurl rocks at an enemy vessel. Hoping to put a hole through it and sink it. But you COULD be creative and use a bunch of obsidian flakes, or flint and fling that at an enemy vessel. Think what it would do to sails. OR sailors for that matter!

Let us not forget archers. Whether they are feathering the enemy sailors or even worse, firing FIRE arrows at the enemy ship, they are a bane to the enemy. Or to you if your enemy has them! Even a catapult can throw flaming pitch at an enemy vessel.

Or using a fire ship. This is where you set one of your ships on fire and sail it at a cluster of enemy ships in the hopes that it catches some of them on fire. Usually a small boat is tethered to the ship so that those sailing the fire ship can jump ship, clamber into the small boat, and row away before they are charred. Or it could happen to YOU.

Chains across the mouth of a narrow harbor might rip the keels off enemy vessels, or even your own, causing great consternation. Creativity in naval battles can be just as much fun as in land battles. It is all in how you approach the subject!

How about death of a monarch. Happens a lot in the game. Sometimes rather frequently. How a monarch dies can be totally up to you. You can be completely historical as to how the man or woman dies, or you can dictate his or her death in whatever manner you choose. In bed, alone of old age. In bed romping with a young lady or man. In battle. Due to gout. Overeating or drinking to the point of no return. Falling from a horse during a hunt. Drowned in the bath. Falling off the battlements of the castle while peering down to look at some scantily clad ladies.

Poison. Assassination. Regicide. Heart attack. Leprosy. Hemophilia. Releasing bad humors from the brain after the ‘doctor’s drilled a hole too deep in the monarch’s skull. Appendicitis. Falling down the stairs. Tortured by a usurper. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Coronation of a monarch. I have portrayed this one a couple of times. There is pomp and circumstance of course with peers and guests from other nations attending. Or a brief ceremony attended by very few. Crowning oneself, or being anointed by the appropriate priest before the benediction and crowning. The ceremony can be somber, or frivolous. The choice is entirely yours.

Royal Weddings. Again, I have portrayed this one as well. I’ve done it with pomp and regal ceremony, and I have done it quick and ‘dirty’, as it were. Details can make or break the believability of the wedding. If you are going historical, check your facts first so that if the couple is being married at a certain place that such place actually EXISTS during the time of the wedding. If you are making it up, where it happens can still be somewhat historical.

You certainly aren’t going to have Louis VII of France being married at the Palace of Versailles. Can’t happen. Doesn’t exist at that time. If you make up the location, you can’t really be tripped up. It’s your story. They can be married wherever you want them to be. If you want them to get married in a shack, go for it. Might be a funny scene, actually. A simple pagan ceremony in a forest glade is also doable. If you are playing a pagan nation, that is….

Being warned by another nation/diplomatic insult. That is a diplomatic move and can be portrayed in any number of ways. As can the response! I’ve done it in a variety of ways. From serious to the response being brutal and unpleasant for the poor sucker who was sent to annoy me. Let your imagination go nuts here. If you are being warned by a nation far from you who can’t really attack you, your response is liable to be completely different if that nation is right next door and very powerful.

The first one is liable to receive little heed, the second is quite capable of cowing you. Or perhaps not. Perhaps you are spoiling for a fight anyway. How you handle it is up to you, but you can portray it rather than just saying you got a warning or a diplomatic insult. You can have just as much fun when YOU are the one issuing the warning or diplomatic insult! Take as an example the diplomatic insult I portrayed in the Guess the Author. It was pithy and very very insulting. It would very much be the cause of a war.

It could be subtle as well. Have fun with it. That is kind of the point of writing, isn’t it? I plan on portraying a warning issued to me by the Roman Empire as I play the Baltic Tribes. My response is going to be brutal and unpleasant. I can absolutely assure you that you will NEVER forget it. Would it cause a war? In reality, it could. But the Roman Empire is so far away that there is little risk of them actually declaring war on me. They warned me not to go to war with my neighbors. I ignored them, went to war, and they did nothing.

I refuse to be scared of nations that have no reasonable chance of hunting me down. Now if it had been a nation closer to me that did it, and they were capable of backing it up, then I might be concerned. Okay, who am I kidding? No AI scares me. I do as I want, when I want, and how I want. But I can portray it however I like to enhance the story.

That is part of my whole point. Telling a tale with details such as these, in a way that isn’t dry and boring. Entertaining our readers is important. But keeping our creative juices flowing by portraying the typical things that happen can add flavor and depth to your story that a dry rendition never can.

A subtle insult might be sending an ambassador guarded by boys who have never been in a fight and can’t even shave yet! A less subtle one is sending a female as an ambassador! Even less subtle than that is sending a doddering old woman guarded by women. Or you could do like Stroph1 did in his Brunei story and use a monkey as an ambassador in the story!

Claiming the throne. Usually the player is the only one who does this. Portray how you can reasonably expect to claim the throne of another nation. Perhaps there is a royal marriage currently or one from the relatively recent past that makes this feasible. Perhaps it is a nation that you have cores on and is considered a part of your nation, or it should be considered such. Or perhaps it is just sheer greed. You want it, and that is all there is too it!

Perhaps it is you who is sending the warning to another nation. You have taken some of that monarch’s family as hostages during a diplomatic mission and threaten to kill them if he goes to war with any of his neighbors. Or you do the horse head option as a dire threat of what COULD happen if he goes to war. Or you have his favorite horse killed as a reminder that he can be taken anywhere, and anyone or anything he loves can be taken out at your whim.

Or you capture a few of his naval ships, or curtail his shipping as a less than subtle hint that he had better mind his manners and behave or you’ll come down on him like the wrath of god. Or an orchard on royal lands could be put to the torch. Or a royal winery is destroyed. There are many ways to intimidate another monarch. If you want to be ruthless, do so. If you want gentle persuasion you could suggest that trade would suffer if he went to war.

Important things like coal might be withheld. Or iron. Or trees for him to build ships for his fleet. Or those wonderful wines he likes to import might no longer be available if he goes to war. It is all in what you want to do. Portrayal is your business. I am just trying to give you ideas to serve as hints for what you COULD do, and perhaps inspire you to think of others for yourself.

Sending personal/state gifts. Since the AI never seems to do this, it is something you can portray you doing for another nation you wish to support. Especially since the AI is so loath to accept loans even on the most lenient of terms, a gift is another good way to get money to a nation you wish to support financially in some manner.

Whether it be pure cash or goods of some kind, you can make it interesting in how you get it to your ‘friend’ of choice as well as WHAT it is you are sending. Perhaps it is a ship load of precious amber. Or luxury foodstuffs. Or even a caravan of weapons for that nation to use against it’s enemies. It’s all in what you can make of it to weave it into your story and make it interesting.

Even a personal gift might be precious stones. Or a jeweled goblet. Or a few cases of fine wine. Or a prize falcon or hawk. Or a brace of fierce guard dogs. Or a golden snuff box. Or intricately carved furniture. Or golden candle sticks. Or a spirited war horse. Or even a magnificent weapon of some sort, with a jeweled hilt and finely done scabbard<if it is a sword>. Or even song birds. The loan of a fine poet for a period of time.

Again, it is finding ways to portray the typical things that happen in every game in a way that entertains your readers. So don’t be afraid to be creative!
 

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Dirty Little Secrets (Secret Master)


The Great Conspiracies Against AAR Completion: Disinterest and Real Life


Psst. Hey you. Yeah, you, the one reading the gazette. We got to have a little chat. What about? Well, it’s about that dark and sinister topic whose specter looms over every AAR written on these boards.

Abandonment.

Yes, no matter who you are, what you’re writing, or how successful you are in life, you will have to deal with the possibility of abandonment of your AAR. While it is a complicated topic, there are only three general ways in which an AAR gets abandoned: technical difficulties, disinterest, and real life intrusions. I won’t waste your time discussing technical difficulties; we all know that a poorly timed crash or computer virus has prematurely ended more than one great AAR. May they rest in peace.

Instead, let us focus on the human element with disinterest and real life. Disinterest is a real bummer no matter how it comes about, whether it is reader disinterest or author disinterest. Author disinterest is nothing more than the author getting tired of his or her own AAR. At first, it may just be difficult to write good installments; however, after awhile, it just becomes tedious and boring. At a certain point, it just becomes more work than it’s worth to continue the project. At that point, an author may just abandon the whole thing. And, in all fairness, who can really blame the author? Sure, we might say that we wish the author would continue and at least finish the project, but because writing must always, in the end, be a labor of love, then it is understandable that a disinterested author would abandon a piece. It happens to real authors all the time. For example, Milton abandoned his idea of writing an Arthurian epic poem partly because of his own disinterest. He initially brainstormed and thought it was a good idea, but after some work, he found it just wasn’t interesting to him. Of course, he then wrote Paradise Lost, a poem whose quality could not have been equaled if he had instead poured his energy into a project that didn’t interest him.

Reader disinterest is the other side of the “disinterest” coin. In this case, the author finds that his readership is low or non-existent and decides to abandon the project. The reasons that the readers themselves would be disinterested are legion, but it is worth pointing out that you can be a great author and also suffer from this problem. Our very own beloved Lord Durham suffered from this problem in some of his own work, and by all accounts the work in question was by no means sub-par. Simply put, it was good writing, but the market for that particular style was just not there. As such, reader disinterest does not always equal bad writing; however, when there is lack of interest among the readers, it is no surprise that the AAR in question soon suffers an untimely and premature death. We write here so that we can share with others. If they don’t feel like sharing, then there is no point for us to write.

Then there is that thing we call “Real Life” interfering with AAR writing. It is indeed ironic that we refer to it as real life, because, in every sense I can think of, what we do here is just as real as anything else. You can take up embroidery, taxidermy, or writing as hobbies. That we write in the electronic medium is irrelevant; it is still a hobby. However, when the pressures of one’s life closes in, even beloved hobbies can fall by the wayside, whether it be writing AARs or cross-stitching. In fact, the pressures of our lives can conspire in the most indirect and unobtrusive ways to cause us to abandon a project. It might start with just a temporary break in the writing routine because of some minor problem. Then it becomes a longer break when it is not convenient to pick up the story again. Pretty soon, it’s three years later and you’re saying to yourself “I wonder what’s up with AARs these days?” This is what happened to me before I went on extended hiatus. At first, I had computer problems, which put me out of commission for a few weeks. Then I had some papers to finish for school. And then I said to myself “I’ll get back to writing once I get this last speech qualified for the national tournament.” Then I wanted to wait until I sorted out some stuff with the girlfriend…. You can see where this went. Before I knew it, it was several months later and I hadn’t even been to the forums once. No single one of these events directly caused my hiatus from writing. All of them conspired together to prevent me from coming back. If CK had fewer bugs in it, I might have been back even later, as I would have spent every waking moment playing CK while I was unemployed. (There are some silver linings to buggy products after all.)

But does abandonment signal the death knell of an AAR? Most of the time, yes. The LibrAARy threads can attest to this; however, it doesn’t have to be this way. Thanks to the fact that no one seems to delete old AAR threads, your project will never go away as long as Paradox hosts AAR forums on its servers. In fact, AARs that were completed years ago occasionally pop up and get commented on. So, unless you have a mod delete your AAR, it’s still sitting here, waiting for you to come back. But that’s not the best part. The best part is that it seems as if subscriptions to threads are forever. Which means that if you pick up where you left off, your devoted readers will know instantly that you have done so, because your AAR will appear back on the UserCP. (For those counting, this is also how we can tell if someone has commented on a long dead, but completed, AAR. It does happen.)

Now, at this point, I could start discussing ways to avoid abandoning your AAR, but I will do no such thing. Instead, let’s chat about some practical advice on picking your AAR up again. First, you should examine why you abandoned it in the first place.

1) Author Disinterest: You got bored with it the last time you were writing it. Are you itching to pick it up again? If so, then by all means crank up the ol’ keyboard and start typing. Your readers will likely come back and join your tale once again. Just make sure you reread your AAR first, just to keep it fresh in your head. This prevents embarrassing oversights when you are getting restarted. Also, something else to keep in mind. You might have gotten bored the last time because of some specific aspect to your own writing. If you figure it out, then change it. It might be a bit jarring to your readers, but it’s better than firing it back up for three weeks and then dropping it again because you are still bored with something.

2) Real Life: This is pretty simple. If you have the time to engage in your hobby of writing AARs once again, then sit down, collect your notes, and get started. Note that you should only begin again if you are really have the time to pick up your hobby. But be rest assured, if you do so, you will most likely get back your original readership. They obviously liked it the last time you were writing it, so you can count on at least some of them being supportive. In fact, you will also have a chance to pick up new readers, as the forum will have grown since you were last here.

3) Reader Disinterest: I’ve kept this one for last, because it’s the most sensitive. You abandoned the AAR last time because there didn’t seem to be any reader interest. Will there be reader interest this time around? Hard to say. You can always pick up with the story and try to write it better; however, I will be honest with you. You still might not get a lot of readers. As long as you are prepared for this possibility, there is no reason not to start again. Who knows, maybe the forum will be ready for your style this time around. Or perhaps you will not be overlooked. And, if it so happens that you still don’t get many readers, you can always say you tried and just label the project completed at the end of a chapter.

Second? Well, there is no second, really. The hardest part is deciding to pick up your writing burden again and keep going. Once that bridge is crossed, the rest is just the same as writing any AAR.

It is worth remembering that the people here are very friendly. You might be tempted to think that you will have to hang your head in shame and do penance upon return to your AAR because you abandoned it. This is not the case. At the worst, you might get a few joking remarks about how much you were missed and about how lazy you are. Other than that, it will almost be like you never left. In fact, for the inevitable new readers, it will be as if you never left, unless they take the time to check the date stamps on your posts…

I hope this helps. Just remember, you didn’t hear it from me. This article doesn’t exist, and niether do I.
 

Director

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Notes (Director)

May I have the envelop, please…

He looks uncertainly at the basket on the table. He stretches out his hand, hesitates and withdraws. Looking around the room, he sees nothing that will help, nothing that will serve as an excuse for delaying the inevitable.

He knocks the lid from the basket and looks down into a writhing coil of snakes.

Gathering all his courage he plunges an arm in – quickly, quickly! – and grasps one of the serpents behind the head, pulling it swiftly from its fellows.

The infuriated snake writhes in his grasp, mouth open and fangs displayed.




Relating everything to music (yes, this will all make sense eventually) is a convenience for me, a way of putting everything into a conceptual framework that is familiar to me. Before I can bring you good people into this conversation, I’ll have to give you a bit of background, define some terms as-it-were. Stay with me, here – this has serious implications for our beloved forum.

Instrumental music programs in the US – and we’re talking bands made of wind and percussion instruments here, not an orchestra – have developed a system of feedback so that they can get expert opinions, technical help and some feeling of accomplishment. Whether we’re talking about marching band, solo and small ensemble or a concert program, the system is the same. Your group (or you, if it is a solo effort) prepares some selections and performs them in front of a panel of judges. These judges give comments, offer corrections, and then give you a ‘rating’ – usually a number from 1 to 5 – that expresses their opinion of the quality of your performance. There are – in this system – no true ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Everyone performs and is judged and rated, not ranked. No ‘overall’ winner is determined.

In later years, the trend has been more towards numerical scores, a percentile estimate of how closely you can approach perfection. And some activities – like drum and bugle corps (see www.DCI.org) are completely competitive. Numerical scores are minutely calculated and rankings are fiercely contested. A winner is announced at every show (hundreds during the summer). It is truly a ‘musical sport’.



Our award – call it an OscAAR or by any other name – is based on the same system as the Oscar, Tony, Edgar, Golden Globe and many other awards in the arts. Works are nominated and voted on by peers in the industry (or by interested and presumably knowledgeable members of the public). To be nominated is an honor; to win is an accomplishment of a lifetime.

On closer examination, however, I think our way of awarding OscAARs no longer works. Here’s why.


Not so long ago or far away, the board was smaller, quieter and more intimate. There might be five or six really talented authors competing for an OscAAR; their works were read by the voters and their reputations were pretty well known, too. OscAARs were handed out for ‘Best AAR’ and for numerous sub-categories, and there weren’t that many competing works.

How many of you can say that you have actually read all of every AAR completed in the last six months? How many of you can say you have read at least one post of every AAR completed in the last six months? God bless you if you have: I for one don’t have the time.

I suspect that part of the reason for low voter turn-out at the OscAARs is honesty: we don’t want to choose between AARs we haven’t read, and we just can’t read them all anymore. And it wasn’t so very long ago that the ‘Best AAR’ award had to be split up into smaller groups because there were too many contenders for a single ballot. The thread was full of comments like, ‘I think all of these are terrific and it’s really hard to pick just one to vote for.’

So I’d like to encourage some brainstorming, get a dialog going. If we wind up saying that the OscAARs are terrific as-is and nothing needs to be changed, then I’m fine with that. I just think the time has come to re-examine what we may be taking for granted, and talk about whether we want to continue as we have.

Should we have ‘winners’ at all, or try a rating system? How detailed might it be? Who votes, and why? Should reviews become judgements? Most importantly, how do we encourage people to actually read the nominations (since that is I think the ultimate point of the OscAAR)? Should we reduce the field of nominees, establish firm categories, throw out the requirement that the AAR be completed? Can we expand the number of awards without diluting the honor?

Please keep in mind that our host – Paradox – has a vested interest in this, so any awards we give out should encourage readership and participation (and game play and purchase). Let’s try to be idealistic and fair and honest, and let’s hear some suggestions on how we can best encourage and not discourage our authors.

I have my own opinions on this, and I’m not going to give them here; I want dialog, not dictation. Mostly this little piece is about stirring up what may be a nest of snakes, about encouraging dialog and debate and controversy. Challenging one’s preconceptions is – I think – usually a good thing to do.



Given my equipment problems, I haven’t had the on-line time to do much reading. So there is no review or recommended reading from me in this issue. I’ll try to get back up to speed with that.
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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Recommended Reading (stnylan)

Orleans: A longer story

Tale of an underdog

There are very few certainties in life, but the fate of Orleans in the Grand Campaign of Europa Universalis II is quite possibly one of them. Usually sometime in the second half of 1419 the inevitable message pops up announcing their annexation to England or, more rarely, Burgundy. In this AAR thames, another of the Norwegian crew, strives to avert this regular fate with his first proper AAR, Orleans: A longer story.

thames was kind enough to make various comments on the review itself, on most of the sections covered. After some thought I have put them at the end - though I am unconvinced whether it would have been better to put them "in context". Thoughts?

Premise
This is an AAR that tells the story of Orleans’ initial survival and then rise to prominence. It lasts in total from 1419 to 1501, though most of the latter period is covered very quickly.

Format, Dialogue & Description
This is a narrative AAR, though written in a number of styles. The “main” style is the first-person perspective from our main character. We also get more typical third-person narration, letters, and also some history book interludes. Each update ends with a quick excerpt from the log that details the events covered. The updates are of quite variable length. In total the AAR lasts 14 pages.

There is a good bit of dialogue in this AAR. Mostly it flows quite naturally, but in places it does sound a little awkward. This is particularly true of the more explanatory passages, where a more descriptive tone takes over. The further in one goes however the more thames seems to settle down, and after about half-way through there are no more moments of awkwardness.

As for description thames does have a way with his words, and he effectively describes the scenes.

Graphics
There are various screenshots in this AAR, basic but effectively used. Some now appear to be dead links - but that might be just my tired old browser.

The Game
Although a narrative AAR the game is very up front in this AAR, so even if you are someone who is not a great fan of the narrative format I would urge you to check it out because you will learn a great deal about the game played. As for the game, it was an EU2 game played under 1.04. These days I would wager that Orleans would probably be an even harder feat.

Characters
Our main character in this story is Raphael de Coucy, wandering graduate who gets pressed into the service of the Duke of Orleans as his Seneschal. When we have the first-person narration it is from his viewpoint, and this he is the one we get to know the best. He begins of as a rather naïve young man, and we see him develop into someone with an iron sense of responsibility and whom Machiavelli might have used as a case-study, had he been so inclined.

Our next two characters are the Duke himself, and the wayward son of the Duke’s most notable noble, one Antoine Monet. These two characters are principally responsible for “educating” Raphael in what he needs to do to carry out his duties, and thus in turn impart a great deal of information to us, the readers. However neither are simply mere devices of the typist’s hand, but both are fully-fleshed in their own right. The Duke is a more distant character, Raphael’s master and therefore someone to be appeased and persuaded, as much a fact of existence as a person. Antoine on the other hand is younger, brasher, and we see a lot more of him. Like Raphael he too develops across the course of the story as he grows older and harsher.

Our initial cast is fleshed out by Antoine’s father, the Comte de Money. Father and son do not get along, and at first we see the Comte through the prism of this family conflict. So while he is certainly a “good guy” in the larger tale of Orleans struggling to survive, he is also an antagonist in the internal affairs of the Duchy. Also joining the merry throng is St John, and English knight with a rather prickly sense of honour that ends up with him fighting for Orleans against the Burgundians.

There are many other characters, but these are the principal ones within a few updates of the tale. Later on both Raphael’s and Antoine’s children put in appearances, as for various wives, friends, and enemies. Of note here is the character of Sir Thomas More, who is never actually “seen” in the game but we get an appreciation of him through various reports and letters about him.

Plot
The plot begins as simply a struggle to survive. It develops into a vendetta against Burgundy and ends with regal ambitions. In two sentences and twenty-one words, that is it.

Nice concise descriptions like the above, however, rarely do justice to the subject. The story can really be divided into three portions. The first portion covers the years 1419-1428, the period of that first titanic war. It is by far the most detailed section, and takes up eight whole pages on its own (out of fourteen pages overall). This is a war of ups and downs, victories and defeats. With the odds against Orleans however each success is especially precious, and each setback a disaster. Woven into this grand drama however are the more mundane matters of family concerns, like the father son feud between Antoine and the Comte mentioned above.

The second portion covers the years 1428 to 1453. This period sees Orleans rise to a position of prominence, and is dominated by the vendetta with Burgundy. It also sees a rather dramatic widening of the cast, and a great deal more third-person narration as we are introduced to the second generation and some notable opponents. Although these are hard fought struggles, especially with England always willing to put her oar in, there is never quite the “do or die” edge that so enlivens the first section.

Unfortunately it was at this point that thames lost interest in the AAR. Thankfully he did post a few updates covering the period 1453-1501, taking us up to the moment that Orleans actually becomes France. Although not intended this does however create the lovely effect of making the AAR basically a tale of the deeds of the first generation, and especially of Raphael de Coucy. The end summaries act as something of a eulogy to their success, a tribute to their glory, and a final chord of their great symphony.

Factual accuracy
thames has a very good habit of adapting and adopting period names and titles in his AARs. He quite happily reworked a contemporary description of a royal funeral at one point, and also included some contemporary verse. Where he parts from historical usage he makes this plain the comments. The result is one of an authentic atmosphere, if not always entirely and completely accurate in detail.

The lure of the underdog
This AAR has a great many things for it: a grand struggle, nail-biting battles, slow sieges that are actually races, all mixed up with wonderful characters. However, there is also one other quality that really I feel defines this AAR. That is the lure of the underdog. In all fields of competition, from the baseball park to the arena of international warfare, everyone loves an underdog. The side or nation that somehow defies the odds and gets ahead, despite having everything going against them, arouses sympathy and support in the way that the favourites never can.

If there ever were an underdog in EU2, it is Orleans. Sandwiched between and at war with England and Burgundy, both nations with large armies and crack leaders, it has the worse starting position in the Grand Campaign, bar none. For that reason alone this tale automatically has our sympathy, and we soon begin to cheer de Coucy and the rest of the gang along as they fight to avoid the fate of annexation.

Why does an underdog have such allure? I have no idea. But I know one when I see one. Unfortunately after the conclusion of the first war Orleans loses some of this aura, and that inevitably brings about a change in atmosphere. Entertaining as the second half of the AAR is, nothing quite matches the exhilaration of the first war, or the sense of triumph with the peace.

From the author
Alright – enough of me. Here are thames’ own comments to my review when I mailed it to him. At this point I really ought to thank him for catching a major editing issue I had missed. I’d like to think I’d have spotted it before I’d posted – but I’m just as happy not having to find out.

[On Dialogue]
Yes, I agree. English is not my mother tongue and this was not only my first real AAR, but also the first time I wrote anything in English longer than a paragraph or two, so it took awhile to get it "trained" to a certain level of sophistication.

[On Characters]
There is no question that Raphael de Coucy, the main character, to a certain degree represents ‘me’. I was rather naïve at the beginning of the story too – as a story writer. I had no idea how it would turn out and very little was planned apart from some vague notion that Orleans would become France at some point.

The characters were not pre-planned at all, so what little description you do find is almost always spur-of-the-moment. Fairly quickly I began to forget, so I had a small text file (notepad) with names, age, titles, descriptions (distinguishing marks etc) open next to me to use copy&paste. Strangely enough, as far as I can remember, for most of the writing of "Orleans" I used this little file. These days I’m using Excel sheets…

Even so, much of the background information and other stuff just known to me, is kept in memory – which means that the story must be worked at continuously. I cannot re-start it today simply because I’ve forgotten almost everything. I would probably not get the ‘mood’ correct either.

And who the hell was Sir Thomas More again? (See how much I’ve forgotten!)

[On Plot]
The first part is indeed the best. It was inevitable that any war after the first, could never hope to be as nerve-racking. The break between part 1 and part 2 was the first signs that all was well in the Duchy of Orleans. If I remember correctly, I took a summer vacation away from it, which is another reason why it changes slightly in ‘mood’ as well.

The widening of the cast was a mistake I think. It became too complicated. That is unfortunately a problem I have with all my stories – too many minor characters with a life of their own. Also, I was impatient to get to the point in the game where the save game was. That killed my second AAR as well – too little timeline progress. I have finally nailed that problem in my latest AAR – play three months -> write about in ONE update.

[On being the underdog]
Yes, I agree – and can’t quite explain either. I have played France more than any other nations in EU2, but I would never do an AAR about her. I have to admit though – Orleans position was so weak, I had to reload a few times to get the result "right"… It was a miracle she survived the first war, but from then on it’s a breeze. That was probably another reason why I lost interest.

Easy is not fun.

Links
So they you go. I cannot recommend this tale too highly - it was excellent having an excuse to read it again. But where to find it? If in doubt head to the librAARy, but for the time being:

Orleans: A longer story

And just now I'd like to direct attention to thames' HoI AAR The Commissar, which alas has also fallen by the wayside, but wherein he does the best portrayal of Stalin I have read on these boards; and his current Crusader Kings AAR The Palaeologi.

On a final note I must say that even the reloads that thames refers to are worked into the story on at least one very notable occasion. Enjoy.
 

coz1

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The GenAARal's LettAARs (coz1)

LettAARs II


This issue has seen a couple of “spotlight” AARticles about places in AARland, and I wanted to add one more. Hopefully it won’t be the last (and it won’t be – I assure you.) It’s not so much an AARticle but some gathered thoughts about EU1 from the folks that play and write about that game. Unfortunately, as the EU1 forum is rather small and because I had difficulty recruiting those that do reside there to speak up, I only have two such pieces to include here. However, both are very good. With that said, let’s take a look at how EU1 players and writers feel about the original, the one and only – Europa Universalis.

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Red Baron

While it is quiet and rather lonely in the Europa Universalis sub-forum these days there are still a few souls who remain. We all have our reasons for not moving on to playing Europa Universalis II. I have many a reason for not doing such, but one that rings most clearly above all others. It is plainly that the game is strategy at its best. With a more simplistic system of performing certain tasks than that of its counter part the game is easier to understand. Europa Universalis allows a player to concentrate on the finer points of a game rather than dealing with some of the micro-management in Europa Universalis II. Another point that should be noted is that with the latest patches the two games become very similar to each other in many ways.

Never would I say that Europa Universalis is a better game than its second generation, and justly like wise. What I will say is that Europa Universalis allows for a more simple, clear, and exceptionally fun game. While Europa Universalis two tends to deal more with management and less with some of grand strategy’s finest points.

Once I was queried upon why I chose to write an AAR in the EU forum rather that the larger Eu2 section. The answer is hard to place. To sum it up I would say, because the forum seems move friendly in reader attitudes, and because as an author I did not want to throw my work where a huge number of people were bound to read it before I was sure of its quality. Lord E's comment on my AAR stated one final point best. If you write in a place where not much is being written those who do see it are bound to read and comment. This is quite true of the EU AAR forum and its occupants. While the game seems to have waned in popularity it will never truly disappear from the public eye.

Current EU1 Project - Chronicles of the British Colonial Empire
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billy bob

Why I prefer EU1

The Reason I prefer EU over EU 2 is very simple. I prefer the vintage feel. Plus there are so many mods out I could never run out of scenarios. I also prefer how you can easily annex Austria as the Turk. One thing that sets them apart is the IGC. I love that.

If you don’t know what the IGC it stands for Improved Grand Campaign. Basically it’s the CORE or VIP for EU1. IGC adds new countries like Serbia, Korea, Greece, and Byzantium. It also allows you to pick those nations by selecting a program and that allows you to choose which nations should be major, where cots should be, should there be extra nations like Finland, you could choose unrest in nations like the Uzbeks.

Plus we have Yoghurt making many scenarios for us to the point that he overloaded his site. I only see what 3 EU2 scenarios by Yoggie while I see over a dozen for EU1.

Some of Yoggies mods are the Medieval Grand Campaign which allows you to play from 1192-1492 and that is a very good scenario. An uber-pope scenario which I helped build. A scenario where Austria and Spain are united and they have 2 capitols. And one other is The Caliphate has Risen Anew where you are Iraq, Mameluks, and the Hedjaz all put together and you must fight other nations that seek to kill you.

So what if EU 2 can play up to 1819 but we still are able to play from 1192-1492. Don’t forget we also have a WW2 mod and a WW1 coming out that will make me play for hours on end. I plan on making an AAR on my scenario when it comes out.

I really also like reading of the AARs by people like Morpheus or Languish among others. You have only seen me post in the EU2 forums what 3-6 times and that’s on one AAR. Some of the AARs I like are Morpheus’ Sibir one where he conquers the world by I think 1617. Try that with EU2. Another I like is Languish’s Byzantium one. One of my favorites though is Yoggie’s Persian one. Especially the ending.

Current EU1 Project - The House of Hapsburg: An Interractive AAR
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I decided to use the Letters format for these because I wanted to keep the spotlight on the two that sent me their thoughts. Go to the EU1 forum and look at their work (linked after their words.) And while you are there, take a good look around. It is amazing that a game that is now running on four years old, and has been totally remade in the second version is still going strong, and not just played, but written about as well. We must never forget what started all of this, and we should all try and make an effort to ensure that the good folks in EU1 feel like just as much a part of AARland as the rest of us. Thanks, and happy reading.
 
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