Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Secret Strength of Chaos

Every human society is dedicated to Law.  Okay, maybe not a fantasy setting, some might actively dedicate themselves to Chaos, but even they don't go full Chaotic.  There's always some amount of Law in a mortal society.  In the real world, though, I stand by my original statement.

Now, it's not necessarily the same Law that they're dedicated to.  Those heathens to the east of our homeland worship the wrong gods, and hold the wrong colors holy.  (Meanwhile, in the east, they're complaining that the savages to the west don't even know how to propitiate the rain gods and that's why they live in a damn desert.  Also their numerology is heretical at best, if not outright blasphemous.)  But every real world society (and even over 90% of fantastic societies) have ideas about who the gods are, what makes them happy, who you can marry, what you can eat, how you should dress, how different segments of society should interact with each other, et cetera, ad infinitum, and most of them are not very chill about it when one of these rules/customs/laws is broken.

And when two different Laws collide, whether it's religious Law, political Law, economic Law, or sometimes even simple customary Law, you get strife.  Wars, border raids, clan feuds, gang violence, any kind of us-vs-them you can imagine.  And while a horde of poor Chaotic saps would get ground down pretty quickly and easily (without overwhelming numbers), these are powers of Law we're talking about here.  These guys are going to take their chains of command, and supply lines, and strategically placed fortifications, and they're going to enter into a long, bloody war of attrition, and fight until one side is unable to continue, unless both sides wear down at about the same rate and the whole thing just peters out.

Chaos can't exist where there is effective Law.  But in all those in-between areas where one Law ends and another begins, Chaos lurks.  It's just like magic that way...lurking in the in-between areas, like midnight (not one day nor the next), like Samhain (not one year, but not yet the next).  Chaos lurks in between Laws, and when those Laws go to war, Chaos thrives.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Law is Discipline; Discipline is Strength

Some barely connected thoughts on alignment:

The most basic rule of the military is to know your place, both figuratively (within the chain of command) and literally.  If you're the squad leader, you know who your platoon leader (your immediate boss) is, and the company commander (his immediate boss) too.  You also know who your team leaders (your immediate subordinates) are, and all the soldiers they are in charge of.  If something happens to the platoon leader, one of the squad leaders will take charge of the platoon or the company commander will assign someone as the platoon leader.  If something happens to a team leader, one of the soldiers will take charge of the fire team or the squad leader will assign one of them as team leader.  A firm understanding of the chain of command allows the unit to keep fighting effectively even when suffering heavy casualties, because there is always someone in charge.

Looking at the literal side of things, soldiers knowing their place means there are no breaks in the camp perimeter for an infiltrator to sneak in through, and there are guards watching that perimeter to ensure that any attack is met with immediate resistance.  In battle, there are no breaks in the line, and shields form walls or fields of fire overlap into kill zones.  There are rules for who eats when, and how much, and there are rules for how to deal with equipment and how to deal with injuries and even, at times, when it is permissible to fight an enemy.  These rules have existed in some form or another since the dawn of civilization, and the closer an army (or any other branch of the military) adheres to them and to the discipline that such rules imply, the more powerful that army is.  The Roman army would march 20 miles in a day and build a fort at the end of the march, complete with walls and ditches, standardized streets and latrines.  They would fight in three established lines, using tactics designed to build on their strengths and cover their weaknesses.  Every soldier knew his place, and the Roman army regularly defeated armies of those who did not follow rules like these.

In fantasy RPGs, we often see a division of the game world into Law and Chaos. Those armies that most closely follow these types of disciplinary rules are by definition more Lawful.  And in our fantasy games as well as in literature and movies, we see a common trope of "small band of Lawful characters hold out against large horde of Chaotic monsters".  Sometimes, instead of a large horde of Chaos, there will be an equal or smaller number of Chaotic monsters, but each one is more powerful than a normal human.  Such battles usually end with Law victorious, and RPG campaigns usually progress with Law expanding into the wilderness, name-level PC stronghold by stronghold. 

Now, of course mere mortals rarely embody their own highest ideals, always falling short in some way.  A Lawful dwarf sentry might just fall asleep at his post, and Chaotic gnolls are rarely as free as they'd like unless they're the strongest in the pack or willing to strike out on their own.  But where mortal flesh is weak, the immortal spirits of the outer planes are mighty.

Everyone pretty much understands that the outer planes critters are more Good or more Evil than pretty much everyone on the material planes, but somehow this is often forgotten with regard to more Lawful or more Chaotic.  I mean, everyone agrees that the Seven Heavens and Twin Paradises are oh-so-good and no one there would ever be impolite in any way, and everyone knows that the Nine Hells and the Abyss are nasty places, and when they think about it the fact that modrons are very Lawful and slaadi are very Chaotic isn't a problem for anyone, but I've heard many people make the argument that the legions of the Abyss could roll right over all other planes combined.  To me this is completely forgetting the Law/Chaos aspect of alignment and the idea that denizens of the outer planes are exemplars of their alignment.

Sure, a horde of demons pouring from some vile portal would be devastating to the area they found themselves in, just from sheer numbers, but even at that, their Chaotic nature puts them at a disadvantage.  I don't doubt that the Dukes of Hell could call up every devil not immediately necessary for the regular day-to-day operations of Hell, get them organized into ranks and files, move them through a portal efficiently, and set about taking over strategic points in the invaded land.  If a powerful demon prince had a plan to open a portal capable of transporting a plane's worth of demons elsewhere, he almost certainly hasn't planned much past that.  It doesn't even matter how intelligent he is; he can see all sorts of nuances in a situation and come up with all sorts of stratagems to take advantage, and he will still be too impulsive to fully capitalize on his own plan, much less herd all those Chaotic cats it would take to make it happen. 

Oh yeah, big scary Demogorgon can whip them all into shape through fear...but Demogorgon can't be everywhere at all times, and when the cat's away the mice will play (to risk confusing cat metaphors).  Those lesser demons only fear Demogorgon when Demogorgon is in their face, and when he's off scaring the piss out of the last bunch of deserters, they'll end up slaughtering each other over a few baubles.  By the time he gets back to them, half will be dead and the other half will be scattered with their new-won treasures.  The best plan a demon prince can carry out is to herd a mess of demons through the portal, ignore the fact that a lot of them get left behind, and then let them do their thing once on the other side.  There will be no organized attack, just waves of disorganized yahoos going in all directions, not trying to take strategic positions, but trying to grab whatever catches their attention at any given time, and fighting among themselves as often as not.  Sheer numbers will sweep away resistance at first, but an organized defense will stop them cold at some point, and they will be powerless to overcome it.

And that's why the Bloodwar of 2nd Edition AD&D is not an entirely lop-sided cakewalk for the Abyss.  It was never a matter of nine planes versus 666, it was every bit of nine planes versus however many out of that 666 that happen to move in their direction at any given time, with the remainder working at cross purposes and in-fighting.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

New River Spreadsheet and a Note on Meanders

Ok, I said I'd make a spreadsheet to figure out the velocity of floodwaters, so here it is:

It's just a quick and dirty calculation, assuming a triangular river cross-section, and absolutely not taking into account that the slope of the riverbed at its normal height and the slope of the adjacent area might not be the same, but it'll get you close enough for game purposes. 

Note that if you already know the width, depth, and slope of a river, you can use the flood calculation pages to work out the velocity; just fill in the yellow areas and the green area will be your output.  It doesn't even have to a flooded river, just any flowing water with known parameters.  The other cells in the spreadsheet are really just intermediate calculations that I didn't bother hiding.  It's just easier that way.  Besides, this calculation is a lot more straightforward than the first two pages, so a couple of unimportant but visible cells isn't going to busy up the spreadsheet too bad.

All that said, I was going to write a post working out all the details of meandering rivers.  Meanders follow certain mathematical rules, and knowing them can help you draw more realistic rivers.  But I'm not going to, because this guy has already done it.  Thanks, Dave Richeson.

Monday, January 29, 2018


Entrenchment is the last major characteristic in the Rosgen classification system. It is expressed as a ratio, giving the new width of the river if it were to be twice as deep as normal (as might happen in a 50-100 year flood).  This, not coincidentally, helps describe the immediate area surrounding the river.

The lower the entrenchment number, the deeper the river is cut into the landscape.  The higher the number, the more it lies along the general surface, spreading wider during a flood event. 

 For example, in our sample river map we've been following for the last several posts, the river in hex 0306 is ~90 feet deep, ~1950 feet across, and is type F, which is a deeply entrenched river type.  We find the entrenchment ratio is 1.2, so during a major flood event, the river in hex 0306 will be (90x2 = 180) 180 feet deep and (1950x1.2 = 2340) 2340 feet across.  The velocity should also be recalculated...I guess I should add a flood page to the spreadsheet.

Looking closer at this info we just found, you can see that if you move directly away from the river (perpendicularly), assuming that the river spreads equally to the left and right as the floodwaters rise, the land rises 90 feet (the added flood depth) in the course of 195 feet (half the added width of the floodwaters), giving the land there a slope of (90/195 = .46) .46, a very steep grade.  Tributaries flowing into the river here could easily be type Aa+ (remember that this river type isn't randomly generated in this system), although if they run in at an oblique enough angle the steep slope might be mitigated.  Also, characters will have an extra hard time crossing the river here.  As steep as the slope is, there probably isn't a road running down to the river, so no ferries or bridges either; if they have to get across the river right here, it'll mean a climb down to the river, a long swim, and then a climb back up on the other side.

Also worth mentioning, a 50 year flood, by definition, has a 2% chance of occurring in any given year, and a 100 year flood has a 1% chance.  Therefore, if you are using an annual events table to shape your campaign, there should be a 1-2% chance of needing to use the entrenchment ratio each game year...

This is the last addition to the river generation table, which is as follows:

Die Roll Slope DA C E F D B G A Aa+
1 0.0001 x x x x x

placed as needed
2 0.0003 x x x x x

3 0.0007 x x x x x

4 0.0015 x x x x x

5 0.002 x x x x x

6 0.004 x x x x x

7 0.006
x x x x

8 0.01
x x x x

9 0.02

x x x

10 0.03

x x x

11 0.04

12 0.05

13 0.08


Sinuosity 1 Min 1.4* Min 1.5* Min 1.4* 1 Min1.2* Min 1.2* 1.0 – 1.2 1.0 – 1.1

WDR 2d20 (d10x2)+12 d12 (d10x2)+12 (d10x4)+40 (d10x2)+12 d12 d12 d12

Entrench. >2.2** >2.2** >2.2** (d4/10)+1 1 (d8/10)+1.4 (d4/10)+1 (d4/10)+1 (d4/10)+1

* For these river types, roll 1-6 d6, divide by 10, and add 1, for a total of 1.1 to 4.6.  If this result falls under the minimum listed, use the minimum instead.
** These river types are associated with floodplains. If obvious floodplain boundaries (hills, mountains, etc) are apparent on the map, the river will fill that area during a 50-100 year flood. If boundaries are not apparent for whatever reason, the entrenchment ratio can be simulated by rolling an “exploding” d6 (ie, if a 6 is rolled on d6, keep it and add another d6, continuing to add d6s as long as 6s are rolled), dividing by 10, and adding to 2.2 (or (d6X/10)+2.2)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

River Sample take 2

In the original river sample I ran, I used 50 inches of rain as the average per hex, which is a little on the high side.  In US terms, only the deep South and Pacific Northwest get that much in a year.  Thirty inches is the national average, and closer to Europe's average annual rainfall as well (although still a little high).  With that in mind, here is the river data with 30 inches of rain per hex.

hex flow slope river type wdr sinuousity adjusted slope depth width velocity
0109 93600 0.0003 D 60 1 0.0003 25.7 1542.7 4.7
0110 156000 0.0007 E 7 1.6 0.00044 65.5 458.5 10.4
0111 234000 0.0015 DA 20 1 0.0015 40.5 810.5 14.2
0212 280800 0.0001 DA 23 1 0.0001 68 1572 5.2

0601 93600 0.0015 D 76 1 0.0015 17.4 1322.4 8.1
0602 234000 0.004 C 28 2.7 0.00148 35.8 1002 13
0603 390000 0.0003 C 20 2.1 0.00014 49.7 994.4 15.8
0604 577200 0.0003 C 16 3.1 0.000097 103.4 1653.9 6.8
0704 702000 0.0001 E 12 2.6 0.000038 147.9 1775.3 5.3
0705 795600 0.0001 E 5 1.5 0.000067 196.5 982.7 8.2
0706 873600 0.0007 E 9 2.1 0.00033 119.6 1076.2 13.6
0707 951600 0.0007 C 14 1.7 0.00041 100.1 1401.4 13.6

0103 187200 0.0001 C 16 3.1 0.000032 83.4 1334.9 3.4
0104 249600 0.0001 DA 23 1 0.0001 65 1504 5
0105 312000 0.0001 DA 34 1 0.0001 61.4 2088.3 4.9
0206 374400 0.0001 F 14 3.3 0.00003 115.2 1612.8 4
0306 405600 0.0003 F 22 1.9 0.00016 73.1 1608.2 6.9
0407 499200 0.0007 C 20 2.2 0.00032 71.9 1438.6 9.6
0507 530400 0.0001 C 28 2.3 0.000043 94.4 2644.4 4.2
0607 546000 0.0003 E 6 3.3 0.00009 150 900 8.1
0608 592800 0.0001 C 28 1.8 0.00005 95.7 2680.1 4.6

0708 1638000 0.0003 F 24 1.7 0.00018 116.8 2803.1 10
0809 1716000 0.0007 DA 33 1 0.0007 81 2695 15.5
0810 1825200 0.0015 F 22 2.8 0.00054 102.3 2250.3 15.9
0811 1965600 0.0001 DA 13 1 0.0001 176 2287 9.7
0911 2028000 0.0007 C 14 2.6 0.00027 143.8 2012.9 14
0912 2137200 0.0015 DA 27 1 0.0015 83 2240 23

These are still pretty deep and wide, supporting my earlier observation that, on a 20 mile-per-hex map at least, if a river is marked, it is a major obstacle.  Bridges, ferries, or magic are needed to get across. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sample River Update

Going back to the sample river I've used to illustrate my thinking throughout this river project...

I'm going to start with this small river to the west.  So far, we know this much:

hex flow slope
0109 156000 0.0003
0110 260000 0.0007
0111 390000 0.0015
0212 468000 0.0001

None of the slopes dictate a river type for any of these hexes, and there are no terrain types that suggest a river type, so I'll roll randomly from among the possible types (DA, C, E, F, and D), and then determine the width-to-depth ratio and adjust the slope value due to sinuousity for each hex.

hex flow slope river type wdr sinuousity adjusted slope
0109 156000 0.0003 E 7 1.6 0.00048
0110 260000 0.0007 D 60 1 0.0007
0111 390000 0.0015 DA 20 1 0.0015
0212 468000 0.0001 DA 23 1 0.0001

So, we can see already that this river is going to go from a relatively narrow, deep river to a wider, shallower river and dropping a bunch of sediment.  I might have to go back and change this; it doesn't make much sense to drop sediment with the slope increasing.  If anything the river should speed up and erode more. For now we'll press forward and run these values through the spreadsheet.  Since I didn't work out every possible WDR outcome for the spreadsheet, I've just used the average of the results for WDR 22 and 24 to find the results for WDR 23 in hex 0212.  For what it's worth, the only significant difference it made was in the width.

hex flow slope river type wdr sinuousity adjusted slope depth width velocity
0109 156000 0.0003 E 7 1.6 0.00019 76.9 536.7 7.6
0110 260000 0.0007 D 60 1 0.0007 32.2 1930.6 8.4
0111 390000 0.0015 DA 20 1 0.0015 49.1 981.6 16.2
0212 468000 0.0001 DA 23 1 0.0001 82.9 1904.8 5.9

Looking at these final results, I'm going to go back and switch river types between hexes 0109 and 0110.  If the river speeds up, as it does here, there's no way for it to drop its sediment and form a type D stream in hex 0110.  Switching the two river types then gives us:
hex flow slope river type wdr sinuousity adjusted slope depth width velocity
0109 156000 0.0003 D 60 1 0.0003 31.1 1868.4 5.4
0110 260000 0.0007 E 7 1.6 0.00044 79.3 555.3 11.8
0111 390000 0.0015 DA 20 1 0.0015 49.1 981.6 16.2
0212 468000 0.0001 DA 23 1 0.0001 82.9 1904.8 5.9

All right then, moving on, here is the other major river, with its two main tributaries broken out separately as before.  At this point, I have two observations: 1) type D rivers show up more often than they should, given the circumstances required for their formation (you should either move them to a better position as I did for the small river above or just reroll the river type if type D comes up in an inappropriate spot); and 2) if you have a river marked on a 20 mile hex map, its probably impassable without a boat or a bridge.

hex flow slope river type wdr sinuousity adjusted slope depth width velocity
0601 156000 0.0015 D 76 1 0.0015 21 1601.7 9.2
0602 390000 0.004 C 28 2.7 0.00148 43.3 1213.7 15.1
0603 650000 0.0003 C 20 2.1 0.00014 92.7 1854.6 7.6
0604 962000 0.0003 C 16 3.1 0.000097 125.2 2003.1 7.8
0704 1170000 0.0001 E 12 2.6 0.000038 179.2 2150.1 6.1
0705 1326000 0.0001 E 5 1.5 0.000067 238 1190.1 9.4
0706 1456000 0.0007 E 9 2.1 0.00033 144.8 1303.5 15.4
0707 1586000 0.0007 C 14 1.7 0.00041 121.2 1697.3 15.4

0103 312000 0.0001 C 16 3.1 0.000032 101 1616.7 3.8
0104 416000 0.0001 DA 23 1 0.0001 79.3 1822.5 5.8
0105 520000 0.0001 DA 34 1 0.0001 74.3 2529.2 5.5
0206 624000 0.0001 F 14 3.3 0.00003 139.5 1953.4 4.6
0306 676000 0.0003 F 22 1.9 0.00016 88.5 1947.8 7.8
0407 832000 0.0007 C 20 2.2 0.00032 87.1 1742.3 11
0507 884000 0.0001 C 28 2.3 0.000043 114.3 3202.7 4.8
0607 910000 0.0003 E 6 3.3 0.00009 181.7 1090 9.2
0608 988000 0.0001 C 28 1.8 0.00005 115.9 3246 5.3

0708 2730000 0.0003 F 24 1.7 0.00018 141.5 3394.9 11.4
0809 2860000 0.0007 DA 33 1 0.0007 99 3266 17.7
0810 3042000 0.0015 F 22 2.8 0.00054 123.9 2725.5 18
0811 3276000 0.0001 DA 13 1 0.0001 213.6 2770.6 11.1
0911 3380000 0.0007 C 14 2.6 0.00027 174.1 2437.9 15.9
0912 3562000 0.0015 DA 27 1 0.0015 100.5 2712.2 26.2

Well, this is a pretty broad river by the time we get to the lower reaches on this map. Right around a half mile across.  This table was made using 50 inches of rain annually in each hex, which is kind of on the high side, apparently.  I'll recalculate all this with 30 inches of annual rain and see what difference it makes, leaving the river types and slopes unchanged.  But I'll do that in a later post...this one has waited too long as it is.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Excuses excuses

Well, between the holidays, out of town travel, a bout of the Captain Trips, and weather that's been too cold for normal life in this drafty old house, I haven't done anything here for a while.  That's not too unusual, I guess, since I tend to work pretty slowly churning out posts, but in this case I've worked zero for several weeks.  I'm getting back on it (although the house is still drafty, and it is still too cold for comfort), and should have a real post fairly soon.