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The Thunder Tyrant

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  1. @jaistlyn So, there's two major approaches to getting your work published: independent and traditional publishing. I'll start with the latter because, while there's more people involved and more money being moved around, it's simpler from the author's perspective. In traditional publishing, you usually work with an agent. Agents serve two functions: as gatekeepers and as advocates for authors. Agents are the go-between; you polish your novel as best you can and send it to an agent, if they like your work they'll agree to represent you. Standard agreement is that they get 15% of advances/royalties in exchange for that representation. The agent takes your manuscript and sends it out to editors at publishing houses in an effort to pitch and sell your work to them. This is where the gatekeeping effect comes in: if your work is sent to an editor by an agent, that represents (supposedly) a requisite amount of quality because an agent wouldn't represent an author they didn't think capable of writing fiction that'll sell. Let's say your agent pitches the book to the head editor at TOR and they really like it. That's where the agent's other function kicks in, because now the editor and agent are going to haggle over the cost of the book's rights. A traditional publishing house will always want the English e-book and print rights* to your book and it's becoming more common for them to want the audio rights, too. They leave you the IP rights -- that is, the setting, characters, and story are still yours, and if someone wants to make a film or video game, they have to work with you and your agent, not the publishing house. Because the agent's 15% is predicated on how much you get, the agent will usually work to get you the best deal possible. Let's say the editor agrees -- and there's no guarantee that they will, even if they love your work, but let's say they do. You agree to an advance of 20,000 dollars and a 12% royalty rate. They give you 20,000 upfront (in three payments, spaced out according to checkpoints in the book's production) and then if you can make 20,000 dollars worth of sales** you'll receive 12% of every sale thereafter. Exceeding your advance in sales is called "earning out." Your agent takes 15% off of all of it but that's fine; the boiler-plate offer from publishers is usually 5,000 dollars and 10-12% rights so they got you a decent deal. The editor slots your book into their house's publishing schedule; the timeline varies but let's say they set your publication date at 18 months out from the agreement. The editor or one of the editors on their team will take your novel and start working in edits with you. They, along with a proofreader, will take you through successive edits to tighten your book up. Developmental editing (character and story), line editing (grammar, tone, sentence structure), and then finally proofreading; during proofreading they'll create mock-up copies of your books ("proofs") and you'll go through them line by line to try and catch any spelling or typographical errors. During this time, the publishing house has lined up the cover art of your book and their PR department has set up any promotional material or activities they've budgeted for you. Generally, you have no say over the cover art unless it's egregiously abhorrent to you. The book goes through the editing process and all the attendant work of putting together the proofs, compiling an ebook version, and the myriad of things going on in the background of a publishing house that we aren't privy to, like the interactions between publishers and distributors, wherein distributors (bookstores) decide how many copies of your book they want to stock. As the 18 months come close the end, the publishing house will put together some advanced reading copies -- ARCs for short, which usually come without art or the final front pieces (table of contents, forewords, etc). The publishing house will send these out to reviewers, news sites, or as parts of promotional giveaway. You can usually request ARCs and they'll give you some to hand out if you want to do your own PR or request reviews from specific sources. Once the eighteen months are up and the publication schedule has rolled over to your month and date, the book goes on sale. Copies are shipped to various outlets and distributors, put onto shelves, and put on Amazon and other digital retailers. You have about two years to earn out that advance they gave you if you want to see any royalties. More importantly, you have two years to earn out that advance if you want to get another deal from that publishing house, because they're giving you the advance on the pretense you'll make the money back for them and then some. The bigger the advance, the more weight they'll put behind you, but the bigger the pressure to match it in sales. Failure to earn out doesn't kill your career but it's not good, either. This explanation is a bit lengthy, but it's not really complicated, just stressful. You write the best book you can, hone it to a razor's edge. Ship it out to agents. If you get represented, the agent sends it to editors. If it gets an offer, the agent does the haggling and you sign the paperwork if you're amenable to the offer. After that, you work with the editors to get your book in its best shape and the publisher does everything else. To shorten the explanation of self-publishing: you take all the things the publisher does and you do it yourself at your own cost. You pay an editor to work on your book. You pay for cover art. You pay for marketing. You format the manuscript (or pay someone else to do it) for ebook and print publication and set up a print on demand with your printer of choice. You're almost certainly not going to see your book in a store because you don't have any relationship with a distributor or retailer, but you can put it up for sale in every format on the Kindle store, Apple store, Kobo, and so on. The downside? You're covering the costs of production, you won't have the same market penetration in fandom or in distribution, and you won't get the same industry pedigree. The upside? Instead of a 12% of the profits, you get 60-70%. In traditional, your 10 dollar book will net you 1.20. In indie, it'll net you 6 or 7 dollars. Your rate of production is also much faster. The fastest self-published authors I know can write, edit, and prep a book for sale in two months or less, compared to the 12-24 month time period of traditional publishing. For short fiction, you generally just find a market that buys your kind of fiction and follow their submission guidelines. Let's say I write some literary weird fantasy piece, maybe 5,000 words. My choice of market would probably be Clarkesworld or Beneath Ceaseless Skies. So I go to their website, check their submission guidelines. Format the story, shoot it to them. If they like it, they'll shoot me a contract. I sign, they send me my money (standard SFWA payrate is .08 cents a word, so 400 dollars) and then publish the story. Agents don't get involved in short fiction sales because it doesn't net them much of a profit since there's no royalties 99% of the time and the advance is usually between 100 and 800 dollars. *By "print rights" I specifically mean first print rights. So if you publish the whole book on your blog or on Medium, or via self-publishing, then you've voided your first print rights. It's extremely rare for someone to do this and still sell the print rights of their book. I can think of two or three indie authors who managed it, but it's a freakish outlier. Foreign language rights (every other language beyond English) is usually something you retain and that your agent will sell if they can. A literary agency often has someone dedicated to foreign rights sales. **This 20,000 isn't earned at retail price, it's earned at your royalty rate. If your book costs $10.00 and you get $1.00 in royalties, you'd have to sell 20,000 copies to earn out, not 2,000. That should cover most of the process of having your work published, without getting too deep into the details. It's more stressful than complex, a bit of a crapshoot, and most of the intricacies are handled off-stage by other people, many of whom you'll never see or interact with.
  2. @supernal I think there's value to having an author website, although that value has definitely waned with the rise of modern social media tools like Twitter. There's a few key reasons to keep a website around, though: -It's a form of social media that you have absolute control over. This, for my money, is the most valuable aspect of an author website. -It acts as a locus for a lot of publishing-adjacent material: conference/convention schedules, mailing lists, announcements, things like that. Mailing list is probably the big one here, though once upon a time several authors had fan-forums attached to their websites. -It allows for long-form writing and interaction that most social media platforms can't handle or don't handle with any particular proficiency. Facebook allows you to post stuff at length, but it's still a less-than-ideal blogging platform. -Easy way to draw together disparate projects if you work across multiple mediums. For example, if you have short stories published by an online magazine (say, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, and Galaxy's Edge) then those won't come up on Amazon but you can list them on your website with direct links. If you write for games, film, or television, you're not likely to get top-billing on Amazon or a news-site, but you can direct people to your work on your website. So, still valuable, but the exact degree of value is going to depend on the individual author. A website still rates highly for me because I like writing long-form discussions and interactions and I want to work across different mediums, so being able to cohere those different projects in a single place is especially useful.
  3. @Vansin I use a "launchpad" approach to prewriting. I'll world-build, character sketch, and outline until I feel like I have a sufficient mass of material, and then I start writing whether or not my outline is complete. If it is, great; if it isn't, I'll work off of what I have from that foundation and then complete the outline when the shape of the story reveals itself to me. My "complete" outlines are basically bullet-lists of scenes: a couple of sentences to describe each scene/story beat and nothing else. I can't quantify "sufficient mass" except that I know it when it happens because I'll lose interest in things like world-building and start thinking more about how I want to shape my prose. For short stories, I'll sketch an outline just to have my thoughts on paper and then go from there. I do all of my prewriting work in notebooks, even if I draft on a computer. It lets me write while at work and I tend to do a lot of visualization work (circling, line drawing, marginalia, etc). I've tried testing some of the prewriting methods other authors suggest -- like Ingermahson's snowflake approach -- but they never offer as much as working through my thoughts and ideas and letting the story take shape naturally. They might be more beneficial to writers who want to outline methodically, though, so I don't discount them.
  4. Not entirely apropos of nothing, I'm peeking my head back into Valucre for a short time to offer up this AMA for folks who are interested in writing or publishing -- whether you've considered pursuing the idea seriously or just find yourself curious about the inner workings. @supernal and I have talked about the topic on occasion, but with the publication of my most recent credit in this anthology I wanted to give people the opportunity to ask questions about writing as a profession and the attendant ups, downs, and quandaries of publishing. Which is an awkward segue into the question: why ask me when you can probably find answers from writers who are household names on Youtube, or Reddit? The answer is because I'm not one of those famous authors. I'm published as a professional (per SFWA standards) and I've won an award (Writers of the Future), but I'm still in the nascent stages of my career. The period that a lot of authors reminisce about is still part of my immediate frame of reference. Besides that, having come into the field much more recently, I'm much more aware of the ongoing changes in the publishing industry regarding things like independent/self-publishing versus traditional. Authors who have been established for ten or fifteen years predate the self-publishing explosion that came with Amazon's Kindle store and many of them have little interest in the most recent social media platforms (Twitch, Youtube, the gram). I'm also one of the only authors I know to transition from freeform roleplay to professional publication, so I know very well the strengths and weaknesses that freeform roleplay gives to a writer. In as short a biography as possible: I started roleplaying in 2006 and stopped in 2012, returned in 2015 and went on break again in 2017. I started writing with the goal of making it my career in 2014 after earning a history degree in 2013. I won Writers of the Future in 2017 and made my second pro-rate sale in 2019. I've written five novels (and going on six), so give or take one a year. I've written maybe two dozen short stories, which explains why I only have two credits with that medium: award or no, I don't write much short fiction. I've shared tables of contents with Brandon Sanderson*, Jim Butcher, Larry Niven, Tim Powers, Kevin J. Anderson, and others; I've also had the chance to talk directly with a lot of these authors (and more besides) about their own processes and approaches. I'm going to try and make regular checks on the site from now until Sunday and answer any/all questions I can. I might try to stretch my time a bit longer than that, but right now I'm somewhere between 3/5ths and 2/3rds into the rough draft of a novel, so after that I'll have to crawl back into the word-mines and get to work again. I'll try to answer every question; my only request is that you don't ask for critiques. At some point in the future I might offer to do critiques or beta-reads, but I don't have the time to do so now and it wouldn't be fair to anyone who asked. This AMA is "1.0" because I hope to have more iterations -- 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, and so on -- as I have more of my work published and claw and climb my way into something resembling a writing career. With a little luck, each successive AMA can chart the path I've taken into and through the industry for the community's edification. Ideally, it'll end with X.0, wherein I retire as a strange and reclusive hermit. (*Just because I have the image on hand: here's a picture of Brandon Sanderson getting my autograph at the Writers of the Future award ceremony. I'm inordinately proud of having that picture, even if I had to let someone dress my hair and knot a tie around my neck for it.)
  5. This anthology probably constitutes aetherpunk. Final Fantasy VI is also aetherpunk, imo. I'd say it's less steampunk + magic, and more steampunk + magic as a concrete force that can be harnessed and interfaced with. Magic in steampunk is usually more of an occult affair -- something along the lines of Theosophy or Lovecraft. In contrast, aetherpunk would see magic utilized as much as technology, either in combination (Final Fantasy VI) or in contrast (Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magicka Obscura). I don't think aetherpunk is really treated as distinct from steampunk, although in a lot of applications it really could be. For my money, I'd break them down as: 1. Steampunk generally uses the supernatural akin to how Gaiman does -- mystical, occult, and generally left as a mystery that slowly alters the story and dislocates it from reality. 2. Aetherpunk uses the supernatural more like Brandon Sanderson -- systemic, definable, and usable, as an accepted part of the world that is broadly known. The fact that they aren't treated as distinct probably comes from the fact that aetherpunk isn't really common. Magic is almost always occult or esoteric in settings where the technology is approaching or exceeding the modern world, and aetherpunk is a small slice of an already small spectrum. As for roleplay: I most enjoy fighting, slice of life and adventure -- my ideal roleplay milieu is basically a shounen anime.
  6. I'll work through this piecemeal as needed. For reference, I consider T1 as analogous to debate. I define it as a thought game of dialectic storytelling, where each player strives to propose a narrative with the information at-hand that is convincing to the other player, either in material information or in construction. T1 provides most of the same options that a debate does: we can refute, concede, counter-point, or some mixture thereof on a point-by-point basis. In that way, I think of T1 as being assertion-driven -- any given in-character post is a collection of interlocking assertions that contribute to an overall narrative goal. T1 is a chimeric hobby that grabs greedily at elements of debate, storytelling, and gaming. I find the resulting beast to be enjoyable when approached maturely but not everyone does. It doesn't stand in opposition to my assertion at all. To reiterate with a quote: My actual assertion isn't that "the beauty of T1 is that it is cooperative" nor is it even that "T1 promotes cooperation." My assertion is that T1 requires cooperation on a fundamental level in order to function as a thought game, and that assertion is true. Without some acknowledgment of each other's posts, we cannot have a T1 match, we can only post "past" each other. People who fail to cooperate tend to crash and burn as fighters. Look at the worst offenders in any community, and it will often be people who resolutely refuse to cooperate with their opponents. The fact that some people can and some people cannot cooperate doesn't speak to whether or not T1 requires cooperation, it speaks to the fact that some people fail to understand the game they're playing and play poorly. I will say that T1 does promote cooperation because it requires it, but it has a low threshold. So while this doesn't really oppose my assertion, you could argue that T1 doesn't promote cooperation as much as it should because, as you said, we've both seen people fail spectacularly to cooperate. I'd also agree with that sentiment, which is why it's something I've been working on intermittently over the years. Is that a flaw in the system? Yes, only in the sense that like all games, it suffers from two things: a point at which it breaks down, and a point at which it can be exploited. Do I think that it makes the system untenable? No, because I have found with repeated success that instituting extraneous measures tends to reduce the impact of the flaw. I don't consider people being in contention to be a problem; what I consider to be the problem is that people often express these points of contention in ways that are immature, toxic, and demeaning. This isn't intrinsic to T1. People will, if they feel it benefits them, behave poorly. That's true for any system, sport, or game. It's a personal and cultural issue that has to be addressed. You might think that the flaw does make the system untenable for any number of reasons. The barrier for exploitation isn't high enough. There isn't a sufficient means of reducing ambiguity. It requires cooperation but doesn't sufficiently promote it. These are perfectly valid opinions, I just don't share them. Any system has flaws but I don't find T1's flaws to be fatal. The fact that you can take the same actions in T1 and in NFS doesn't mean that NFS is the same kind of game or that it will appeal to the same people. As I described earlier, T1 promotes player choice via character behavior. NFS promotes player choice through prose writing. These aren't mutually exclusive but they are different from a gamification perspective, for lack of a better term. In T1, the elements of the "game" are whether or not my character behaves in a fashion that is going to be successful on a post by post basis. In NFS, the "game" is whether or not my writing is deemed better. T1's "game" is precluded entirely by the fact that the fights are have predetermined resolutions. In T1, the goal is to try and win the conflict, whereas in NFS the goal is to achieve the narrative goal, whether or not you win the conflict. These are two different games. In T1, whether my character throws a hook or a cross is contextually important to the assertions my opponent and I have laid out and my subsequent success or failure. In NFS, whether my character throw a hook or a cross is immaterial because the conflict's end will be the same, what's important is whether or not I wrote it well in the judge's opinion. I don't see how NFS can "engulf the potential" of T1 when it the metrics for success and what "success" even means are entirely different. That doesn't make it any less valuable of a system. I think a lot of people would enjoy playing under the NFS ruleset, but I think they would enjoy it for reasons that are wholly separate from why people enjoy T1. You're free to try and pitch NFS as a replacement for T1, but I think they're too different for that. I want to reiterate that when I say "NFS does something different" or "NFS won't replace T1" that these aren't criticisms. They're praise. I think the fact that NFS has different metrics and a different goal is good. Even though I enjoy T1, I've often felt that there needed to be a system that was geared differently to allow players who don't want to do T1 to still involve themselves in conflict-driven roleplay and to be rewarded for it. People can always agree beforehand to fight outcomes for narrative purposes, there usually hasn't been a reward at the end, separate from the outcome of the conflict. By disassociating a narrative reward from the conclusion of the conflict, you hand people the means of more readily impacting a story whether they win or lose. That could be an acceptable argument, but as I've said before, I consider that behavior to be social and personal, rather than intrinsic to the system. I'm not sure that NFS eliminates it, either. Rather, I think it avoids the expression of that behavior that's commonly found in T1 and might have it crop up in another guise. 1. The method of competition is different, as described above, and while it's valid, it may not be the form of competition that is going to appeal to the same people in the same way. 2. Your individual actions, strategies, and the quality of your ideas aren't what lead you to victory. First, by T1's metrics victory is already determined. Second, by NFS's metrics these things are only measured in one category. In NFS, the validity of strategy and individual action aren't the determinant factors for victory, it's the entertainment, creativity, fairness, and cunning. Cunning is where we score individual actions and strategies, but it only accounts for 3/16 of one's score, Numerically, these factors contribute minimally. It might be that creativity also takes these things into account, but the description of the category speaks more to writing of individual actions, rather than the strategic/tactical/logical merits thereof. Including logic as a category could help round that out, though, or mentioning that creativity accounts for more than enjoyment from reading. 3. NFS may eliminate the aspects, but that doesn't mean it eliminates the behavior. There are people who want their ego stroked, or who want to have the power fantasy of winning. If someone wins the coin toss, they can still run roughshod over their opponent and bully them. If someone loses the coin toss, they can still make the fight a nightmare for the other person, If Jim and John agree to have a match and the coin toss goes in Jim's favor, what does John do if Jim (intentionally or otherwise) plays in a way that is utterly nonsensical and shouldn't work? If none of his attacks and defenses make any particular sense, or if he just decides to take the anime protagonist "nothin' personnel, kid" path to winning? All of these things are utterly toxic and unenjoyable situations to play through. Can John go to the judge? What if Jim just doesn't care about the narrative goal and only wants to win the fight? What if a player feels wronged and disagrees with the judge's sentiments on writing? I think there is still potential for hostile and argumentative behavior here, it's just less so. I think it still has the potential to attract people who will be exploitative and toxic. Personally, I think those kinds of situations will be rare in NFS. I think the most likely form of toxicity you're going to suffer from is thin skinned writers who feel as though their egos weren't stroked enough. You may have the occasional player who sees a coin-toss win as an excuse to put their opponent over a barrel and give them no credit, though. I saw it happen in that SW:G system I referenced. Someone would win the coin-toss and proceed to make their character look like an action-hero badass without much thought to the other player's character. It wasn't overly common though, and the system generally worked for conflict resolution. I don't see any reason why NFS will suffer more than that system did, but it might be something to watch for. It's not a question of validity, it's a question of gameplay: what are the metrics of play and what is the goal? Under NFS, your descriptions are weighted more than my tactical considerations. In T1, the reverse is true. Under the NFS rules, the condition for victory in T1 is already established, so someone who is strictly interested in that win condition and its related metrics won't find their approach validated much at all in NFS. Not that it needs to validate their approach, in my opinion. T1 also doesn't require one player to disparage the other either, and under any system you can have toxic players who will disparage their opponents or the judges if they feel that they're not getting what they want. That's just human behavior. I've seen it in every hobby I've participated in, whether physical, intellectual, or otherwise. People get toxic about "You moved my dumbbells, bro" at the gym -- it's, unfortunately, not a wholly controllable attribute. Or, rather, it's not something we can control systemically. It's something we control communally via moderation and behavior modelling. Almost all rules are arbitrary in this hobby, including yours. The only core tenet to freeform roleplay is that the players take turns posting the actions of their characters. Beyond that, it's basically the an open-ended, minimal source-code. You can and should create whatever additional rules and limits of play that you think will generate a desired result. Preps aren't intrinsic to T1, for example. Never have been. They're a community preference here and in a handful of other communities and that's it. Nothing is set in stone; everything comes down to communal and personal preference and people ought to create rules to get what they want out of their time in the hobby. Freeform roleplay is very much like game design. We can homebrew or create almost any variation of rules and methodologies to suit our needs. There's no reason why we shouldn't. Freeform roleplay and all its myriad iterations are very much a "Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it" affair, to quote Lemmy. T1 doesn't preclude rules regarding player behavior. I don't balk at the idea of needing a system to tell someone how to behave, I balk at the idea that because T1 doesn't have one in its basic format, it somehow cannot be amended to include one. Keep in mind that because a system doesn't have something does not mean that it cannot. People have house-ruled tabletop games since time immemorial, every ruleset I know off the top of my head, including NFS, is essentially a home-brew in an effort to enhance the experience or manage player expectations in freeform play. I don't find T1 to be mutually exclusive to rules on player behavior, whether it be a code of OOC conduct or expectations regarding how one approaches competition. It's not that I don't think speed limits are unneeded, it's more that I don't believe their absence disallows us from setting them ourselves. This has long been a criticism of mine regarding the community on Gaia: we lacked the ability and/or the will to introduce boundaries or any sort of behavioral moderation and it was a long-standing detriment to the health of the community. I've seen it happen in other communities on Discord and abroad, too. When the administrators or moderators are too lax, inevitably the bad apples sour the good ones and people start leaving. It may have to do with the average player age being so low that there's not really many people in a position to take charge or institute codes of conduct. This is true, but not what I quoted. What you said was: And that, especially in the bold, is an opinion. As far as I'm concerned, the key matter in achieving victory has nothing to do with bullying your opponent, nor is having a more powerful character the predominant method of ensuring that you win. You're correct in that people wouldn't need to worry about power scale in NFS, but beyond that -- that bullying your opponent, or playing a powerful character are what really matter -- is an opinion and not one I agree with. NFS may account for balancing, but that doesn't mean that there aren't other functional methods of doing so. This is true, and per the post I linked in my prior one, it's one I agree with. However. . . Was the part I was more aiming for and it is an opinion. I apologize for not specifying, but I didn't want to chop up the quote too much. Again, you may divest yourself of this notion to whatever degree you find preferable, but we are not of one mind on the matter. I don't consider two people disagreeing with one another to be inherently toxic. I think it's a matter of course in any hobby. People debate about item builds in MOBAs. They disagree about dice rolls and whether a spell should be utilized RAW or RAI in tabletop games. The disagreement isn't toxic, what's toxic is how people choose to express their contention. The why (egotism, power-tripping, poor sportsmanship) and how (denigration, disrespect, bullying) are what make a person's disagreement toxic. I don't find those problematic hows and whys to be intrinsic to T1 in the least. I find them to be qualities of individuals and of communities that either allow these individuals to thrive through omission of behavioral moderation or promote that sort of behavior as being worthwhile. It has nothing at all to do with T1 in particular and everything to do with the quality of person involved. It isn't true, if by "it" we mean the implication that a specific mode of behavior is intrinsic to T1 rather than to individuals. You might feel otherwise, but I don't. Again, I think NFS is a good system. I think it provides a platform for people to resolve conflict in a way that is meaningful and allows them to contribute to stories beyond simply winning or losing a fight. I think it has its purpose and that it excels at that. I don't think, however, that its purpose is to replace T1 or to provide the same core experience of T1, and I don't find that most of the assertions about T1 in this thread are a) useful or b) true. I recently discussed some ideas for a roleplay setting/community with a few people, and one of the key things I decided on was that I wanted a coherent, tightly-focused project if I ever launched it. That means that I have to turn some demographics away. It means that what I offer might not appeal to them as other offerings will. The same is absolutely true for NFS. What I'm getting at in eliding these opinions or experiences away with my own is setting aside all of the things that Narrative Fighting isn't and getting at what it is, which is an entirely distinct, separate approach with its own independent goals that really has nothing at all to do with T1. I'm also illustrating a variation of the worst case scenario: when you pitch this to people off or on Valucre, they might spend more time arguing your opinions about T1 than considering the validity of your system and what benefits they could reap from using it. I'm not suggesting that T1 is some sacred cow that ought not to be criticized, but I do think a critique of T1 should be separate from NFS in order to keep discourse-happy people like me more on task. I've pitched a few different rules and ideas to players over the past couple of years and found that a narrow focus tends to work best. You might lose some people who are more interested in T1, but I don't think any critique of T1 would change their minds to begin with, so why bother arguing with them? It's easier to pitch a product by telling them what it is by telling them what it isn't. I can put together a list of roleplay Discords if you want to try and pitch NFS to people. Not to prove anything right or wrong, but because I think getting it out in front of people and letting them play under the rules is the best way to gauge their response. You already have this thread and Gaia is dead, but Discord abounds.
  7. I return again, to post another unnecessarily long essay on a topic! I'll break this down into a series if questions and answers because I think said questions are important in determining the what this system ought to do versus what it can do. The two don't necessarily coincide. 1. Do I think this system works? Yes. I think it's a viable tool for conflict resolution in general roleplay. The system works. It provides a basis for two players to amenably resolve character conflict. This is ideal for a whole host of reasons, least of all being that it simplifies things enormously. I used a similar system back in 2006-2009 in Star Wars: Galaxies. Some people, myself included, did freeform combat, but there was a dice-rolling system created to allow people write out their fights, rather than using the in-game PVP/duel function, which was flashy but didn't exactly contribute much to roleplaying atmosphere. The system differed somewhat, in that both players rolled dice/flipped coins at each turn. I wrote my post and we both rolled die. If I won, your subsequent post had to accept the attack. If I lost, you got to block/dodge successfully. Whatever ending action you took, if it was an attack, we rolled again. There were other variations, some of which rolled more or less often, but most variations worked. Purely in the context of providing a platform for play, NFS is perfectly fine. It or something similar ought to be the primary method of conflict resolution among players who aren't strictly interested playing out combat move by move. Because this system is largely reliant on a pre-decided outcome (or a series of pre-decided outcomes, if one were to use the SW:G system), it isn't necessary to detail one's posts to the degree often found in turnbased combat. I've written at length on the fact that roleplaying, especially turnbased combat, tends to warp a post's rhythm and pacing to the detriment of its prose. In some ways, NFS is conducive to smoother, easier writing. Not better, but easier and faster to work with. NFS provides a benefit of ease-of-play. 2. Do I think that it is competitive? Yes, but not in a way that allows it to act as an alternative to some variant of T1. T1 and NFS have completely different contexts for what it means to be competitive. In T1, the metric for competition is player choice via character behavior. The metric in NFS is based on writing. They're fundamentally different, and I think that means they will appeal to different mindsets. In my experience, people enjoy T1 because it gives their choices weight, much in the way that people feel a weight of choice when they lay down a Go stone or a chess piece. By deciding the outcome of the match beforehand, that lessens the impact of individual choices. One could argue that it moves the weight away from micro-choices ("What spell does my character cast?" or "How does he swing his sword?") and puts them on more macro-choices ("Should my character pursue this confrontation?") and that's fine. Simply put, I don't think NFS can be an alternative to T1 because it isn't made to provide the same experience. They're two entirely different contexts. Someone could enjoy both, but NFS couldn't replace T1 in function. This isn't a criticism or a flaw because I think that catering to a broader range of philosophies and desires is beneficial. The fact is, people shouldn't have to do T1 if they don't enjoy it. 3. Do I think T1 is inherently unworkable? No, and I've discussed at length in my last lengthy post on the topic. Most of the claims made in this thread along these lines, such as and not limited to these -- -- simply aren't factual, and to mirror your last point: if you weren't attempting to weight your own experience over those of other players, you would be forced to admit that none of these statements are prima facie regarding T1. I see no reason to lend your experiences more credence than my own, least of all because you insist upon it. You've had poor experiences with T1, and while I'm sorry that you've dealt largely with negative situations in the hobby, your experiences and mine differ markedly. I'm not going to treat your experiences as being more objective than my own. Whatever issues you've had were unfortunate, but I'm not going to pretend I suffered through them with you. To wit: none of the above match the dominant tone of my experience in T1. In matches where someone has put my character in a precarious or disadvantageous situation, I have rarely felt that they were being unfair; most often I've felt that they made a tactical or creative stroke that worked well and I acknowledged it. In fact, I have only ever felt that way once in twelve years. I have occasionally found myself in situations where a community was hostile or a player attempted to leverage communal weight against me, but that's more of a social issue than a gameplay flaw. I have seen rules to that effect, and mechanisms by which to enforce them. I have found it not only possible, but wholly plausible to balance characters in freeform because the phrase "freeform" is a reference to the lack of an independent operator for conflict resolution, rather than a lack of rules or limits as implied elsewhere in this thread. Overall, I've enjoyed T1 under a variety of rulesets, some moreso than others. I haven't been very active since 2012, but I still gravitate towards it, when I have time. Because I've discussed it previously, I won't rehash what I think needs to be done to fix T1, but I will provide a relevant counterpoint to what's been said in this thread: the overwhelming majority of the issues brought up are, in my experience, communal or personal, not mechanical. Toxicity and poor sportsmanship are not qualities that arise from the game itself, but rather, from particular pools of people who engage in it. I'm not sure that T1 attracts more toxic people than other competitive (or cooperative-competitive) endeavors, but if it does, I suspect it's probably because of the predominant age-group. I keep track of T1 in a loose sense; I'm on a few Discords and I have a couple of phone apps. I have the rough measure of probably a few thousand players. For my money, the most common ages are between fifteen and twenty-three, and without a strict officiating body, it tends to propagate a Wild West sentiment where people behave however they like. Does any of this mean I don't like the NFS idea? Not at all. Like I said earlier, I think it can be enormously beneficial -- not as an alternative to T1, but for people who don't want to do T1 at all. I don't think it's going to scratch the same itch or appeal to the same demographic as T1. I also don't consider that to be a flaw. The fact is, everyone comes to this hobby for a different reason. Some people want to play a game through text with others. Some want to tell stories. Some want a little of column A and a little of column B. I think this system has merit and can cater to roleplayers who enjoy what it's offering. Instead of pitching NFS as a replacement for T1, you should sell it as what it is: a system catering to a different mindset entirely. Honestly? Don't even market as competitive. Market it as creative and let the ball roll. I take full credit for him. I was the straw that broke the camel's back in 2011. Which brings me back to the topic of maturity or lack thereof in the age group that coheres around T1: I was twenty-one, and when I was twenty-one, I was neither terribly mature nor terribly nice. I was mostly just terrible. I don't think I was drawn to roleplay or turnbased fighting because of those sterling qualities, nor do I think it gave me a platform to put them on display. It just so happens that it's most often a young player's hobby and young players, without guidance or moderation, tend to err on the side of being less-than-well-behaved. Is RFS going to fix any of the issues of T1? No, I really doubt it. It's going to provide a vehicle of play for people who don't want to do T1 though, and that's just as valuable, as far as I'm concerned.
  8. My completed reading list from 2018. Stand-outs from the year: -Tracking Bodhidharma -- A sort of guided tour through the potential life and travels of the First Patriarch of Chan/Zen Buddhism, Bodhidharma. The writer visits several temples associated with Bodhidharma, his contemporaries, and his students, in an effort to construct a potential timeline and trail for his travels. -Nova -- Kind of a Moby Dick in space, one of the early-middle-career works from Samuel Delany. Sort of hits the point between his earlier, more traditional storytelling and his more literary, experimental stuff that came later. -Book of the New Sun & Urth of the New Sun -- BtNS is probably my favorite piece of speculative fiction, and Urth of the New Sun is a fairly good capstone for the story, albeit not as well-written as BotNS. -Hardwired -- Super 80s inflected cyberpunk with a lot more high soaring prose than I anticipated. Kind of a Neuromancer by way of Damnation Alley. -The Stars My Destination -- Probably one of the most underrated SF works from the Golden Age or immediately thereafter. Presages a lot of ideas found in later genres like cyberpunk, and has one of the most evocative ending sequences I've read in any piece of fiction. It's been influential on a huge swathe of writers, from New Wave SF writers like Delany (who read it five or more times) to Neil Gaiman (who wrote the foreword for the Kindle edition). -Dune & Dune Messiah -- Although I read the entire series, I think the first two stand out the most. They have the most stylistic issues because Herbert was finding his footing, but the storytelling is strongest in the first two works, as are the Zen influences. -Lord of Light -- I don't think anyone would claim that Zelazny had an especially deft grasp of Hinduism or Buddhism, but he manages to translate the historical struggle and continuity of Hinduism and early Buddhism into an excellent science-fantasy piece. Hyperion -- The entire series is excellent, but the first is far and away the best. It's essentially Canterbury Tales by way of space opera in the best way possible. Rendezvous with Rama -- Probably my favorite book from the trio of Golden Age giants (Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein). It's not especially long or complex, but there's so much in the book that colors subsequent science fiction. The Dying Earth -- While Vance's prose borders on the unwieldy throughout the quartet of collected Dying Earth stories, he's hard to beat as far as the interstitial space between science fiction and fantasy goes. Vance is also a direct influence on Gene Wolfe, whose BotNS is essentially Wolfe's take on the Dying Earth setting. All of the books on the list are reasonably good reads. There's two exceptions and one worth noting for reasons beside quality: Black God's Kiss -- In theory, I should have loved this. It's weird sword and sorcery with a gunslinger, and I really enjoyed Tidhar's Central Station. A recurring issue with his fiction, I've found, is that it doesn't go anywhere and it does it at a leisurely pace. In Central Station it was fine because that was centered around the interplay of family and migration and cities-as-communities. The same pace and lack of narrative momentum completely cripples BGK though. The novella preceding it, Gorel and the Pot Bellied God might be better because BGK is a collection of loosely-sequential short-fiction. Scar Night -- Kind of a Perdido Street Station before China wrote it, except not as good. Despite being written before PSS, it feels like a poor man's imitation. It's kind of weird, sure, and it's kind of steam-punk-magicka, but it's also very thin on characterization and the pacing felt chunky and uneven. I wanted to like it, and there were definitely parts that stood out -- nearer the end -- but it's a strange amalgam of steampunk, horror, and the occasional dose of YA angst that just fail to cohere into anything. Zen's Chinese Heritage -- I bring up this book not because it was bad, but because it's probably not going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's a list of koans, stories, and assorted bits and pieces of information about the Patriarchs of Chan/Zen Buddhism. I enjoyed it, but it took me quite a bit of time to work through it because a) it's organized by chronology and b) I don't have all of the necessary cultural contexts to grasp all of the stories. If you haven't read any other Zen/Chan work, then you really don't have a context for this work and it won't appeal to you. If you have read Zen stuff (especially Blue Cliff Record or The Gateless Gate and the Platform Sutra from Huineng) then you'll get more out of it. It's essentially a niche scholarly work, so if it's not in your field of interests then give it a pass.
  9. I return momentarily, like the Ghost of Christmas Past. I'll touch on a few points in the initial post where relevant, but otherwise talk in broad sweeps because rambling is preferable to trying to pare down my ideas into some sort of essay. First and foremost, I think it's important to recognize, as brought up by several people, that T1 isn't strictly a competitive hobby. The phrase I've found myself using in recent years to describe it is "cooperative-competitive." There are competitive elements, you're matching against another person, but it's based on a foundation of cooperation; unlike purely competitive pursuits, T1 requires both parties to acknowledge what occurs in order for the game to be played. To build off of what @desolate said, T1 doesn't have an independent operator as means of conflict resolution, conflict is resolved in agreement with the competing parties. Contrast this to combat sports: you can't simply refuse to acknowledge a punch. If someone picks my ankle and puts me in a heel hook, I can't simply ignore that. Either I get out or I don't. In tabletop gaming, we roll dice: the dice roll in your favor or they don't, either way it resolves the conflict. So, with that dependent operator (for lack of a better term), part of T1 being successful as a hobby is an acknowledgment that the two players are working together on some fundamental level, or will endeavor to do so, at any rate. That requires a shift in attitude away from the purely competitive and toward something more well-rounded, and that means doing away with a lot of the more toxic and less sportsmanlike behaviors. It goes without saying that I'm biased, but I've had a particular approach to T1 for years that has worked well in this regard. I've won nearly all of my matches, but more important are the other two results of this attitude: first, I've only had one breakdown of communication/significant argument in a match over the course of 11-12 years; second, everyone I've fought seems to genuinely enjoy playing against me and a lot of my opponents are happy to rematch with me. The wins are nice, but I consider the latter two consequences to be far more important and indicative of my position as a roleplayer. When I T1, I: -Never obfuscate/withhold information or write prose that is intentionally vague, unclear, or otherwise used to cloak information that ought to be readily discernible. -Never accept an OOC mistake as an IC mistake -- that is, a phrasing error or a misinterpretation in my favor won't be used; I'll inform my opponent and allow them to edit. -Make myself available OOC to discuss and resolve issues, and make an effort to be flexible in the resolution thereof. -Avoid winning by OOC fiat -- judge calls, time-outs, etc -- unless absolutely necessary. One of the key things is that this is a thought game, in effect. It's similar to playing speed chess in order to test opening strategies, or sparring to try and find the rhythm for a lead hook: sure, you want to do it competitively, but it's more of an exercise in thought and concept than it is a hard and fast, winner-take-all competition. My ideal outcome in T1, as a competitor, is that I want three things to happen: I want my opponent and I to be suitably challenged by the match-up; if I win, I want it to be at the amenable concession of my opponent, and I want my opponent to come away from the match thinking "I want to play against/with them again." As a purely competitive hobby, T1 has a future, but only by virtue of its adherents' misunderstanding of the game. So long as people freeform roleplay, there's going to be character conflict and people are going to find enjoyment in the thought game of "What happens when my character and your character cross swords?" I haven't found T1 to be phased out at all -- rather, I've found more turnbased fighters in the past year or so than I have in a long stretch of time. There's newer generations of players cropping up, and they're predominantly doing it via mobile apps. Apparently, there's been several years worth of T1 happening on apps like Kik, and in no small numbers, either. Discord is a platform that's growing in popularity too, I'm in a couple of roleplay Discords and all of them have "arena" or "fighting" channels that are varying degrees of active. I don't think T1 needs to be more competitive, and I think it does have a future. If I had more time, the question I'd devote my efforts to would be: how do I align people with the idea of this hobby as cooperative-competitive in a way that generates more interest without bringing in the unwanted baggage of hyper-competitive behavior? There's more than a few ways to skin that cat, and I suspect it requires a bit of a Swiss army knife. The obvious one is behavior moderation by enforcing a code of conduct on player. The other is reducing ambiguity wherever possible: as desolate mentioned, and as I've touched on in previous discussions, there's a lot of murky water in T1 when it comes to things like terminology. One of the key points for reducing ambiguity is to be as undogmatic as possible: in whatever community or group you play in, lay out your boundaries and your terminology, and then recognize that someone else is likely going to have different phrases or different definitions. Try to work towards mutual intelligibility wherever possible. Setting boundaries is key because it lets people hone in on what you're trying to accomplish, which is why I have to quote this phrase-- --because I disagree with the latter portion emphatically and completely in regards to creativity. Not only do rules and limitations not reduce creativity, limits and rules are intrinsic to being creative. Every word or phrase used to describe a character in a profile, and every word or phrase not used, is creating a limitation on that character. Specifically, a limitation in the form of contours, in the form of the very shape of that character. Any story is limited by what it tells, with everything it doesn't tell laying outside its boundaries. Every game is defined by its rules. To quote Alan Watts (and numerous Zen teachers), being creative without rules and limitations is like "trying to bite your own teeth" or "hear your own ears." You can't think outside the box without first having a box to delineate between the inside and outside. Freedom and creativity are only limited in the most abstract sense by rules and limitations, and that sense of limitation isn't really meaningful because the trade off is that you give up "absolute" creative choice for nuance, depth, and an increasingly granular expression of creativity within the limits of those rules. Rules and limitations, as described above, are shaping tools, and a shape contributes a great deal more to the creative process than a tabula rasa. By defining and limiting, we make a shape and we can explore that shape to the upmost that its limits allow, meaning that we've exchanged breadth (no rules) for depth (rules). In my experience, the latter tends to be considerably more satisfying as a creative. The abstract "loss of freedom" honestly doesn't matter, I think, and in my experience with pitching ideas for tournaments, settings, games, etc to people, I've found that freedom interests people a great deal less than concrete, clearly expressed ideas. An example of this is the creation of, and contribution to, lore here on Valucre. That's a limitation in the form of laying out the boundaries of the setting (X number of continents, Y approximate themes, so on and so forth) and then filling in the gaps within those boundaries (Z number of cities on X number of continents, umpteen player organizations, etc). There's also the fact that roleplaying in established canons with lots of rules and limitations -- Star Wars, for example -- is enormously popular, and not seemingly lacking in creativity. They're limited in the sense that, sure, they can't play characters from other canon settings, but that limitation isn't meaningful because they're allowed to be more nuanced and detailed in what they play within their own chosen context. Absolute freedom of choice in regards to being creative is overrated at best, and illusory at worst. Rules and limitations don't reduce creativity, but competition does: the higher you go in quality of competition, the fewer and fewer people you find who can execute strategies effectively. That's not really a concern for T1 because it's not purely competitive. The narrowing that occurs in T1 is generally based on communal preferences: most communities become dogmatic as a matter of course, and a key component of being dogmatic is becoming exclusive in approach. This is a problem that I think every single community has, when it comes to T1. To this day I've never seen one that didn't develop some degree of dogmatism. We absolutely need rules and limitations because these are necessary components of communicating how to play the game and of reducing ambiguity. The more times we can say "X means. . .", the more times we can reasonably reduce the chances of something being grossly misinterpreted. The more clearly we can set boundaries, the more readily we can expect people to operate within them. On the other hand, whatever approach we take to setting boundaries, we have to be aware that these are by and large preferential. There has to be some permissiveness, some permeability. Being inflexible on this element of the hobby is only going to reduce the number of potential players (and player communities) that can be interacted with. There has to be a definite sense of self-awareness. There's core rules to T1 that every community agrees on, I think, and I've tried to write those up a few months ago, but beyond that? I think it's purely community preference, and all that can be done there is working to maintain mutual intelligibility between different groups. To that end, the future of T1 is probably going to be largely what it's been for the past 15+ years. That being said, I think there is a possibility for T1 to be played in a way that promotes growth, and I think that requires rules, limits, and an acknowledgment that our competitive thought-game is based on cooperation. I doubt it'll be the whole future for T1, but I'd like to think that, at some point, it'll be part of the hobby's future.
  10. Henrietta's words might well have passed in one ear and out the other, for all of Tancred's technical knowledge. Context worked wonders for the ronin however, and he figured what she wanted him to shoot based on the description. The only question left was making the shot from a moving vehicle at another moving vehicle. Thankfully, the airship couldn't very well taxi off on any sharp turns, which meant that the van wouldn't be veering wildly any time soon, either. It wasn't exactly a small target, either. Tancred, for his part, didn't put much thought into the how and why of his current situation. Welandi, especially those in the warrior clans, generally stuck to the here-and-now issues; the more abstract questions could wait later. Once you drew the sword, you struck -- if you thought about why you drew it, or how you intended to use it, you were already too late. Tancred could mull the situation over later, when there weren't more immediate concerns. He pocketed his communication device and rolled down the van's window. He half-climbed out of the vehicle, leaning most of his upper body out and using the window's frame to steady himself while he drew his pistol up with both hands. The thunder-crack of Tancred's pistol was muted beneath the roar of the airship, a sharper clap amidst the dull roar of the turbines. A shower of sparks burst to life across the port where the bullet tore through the metal. A second shot soon followed, just to ensure that the job was done. Tancred ducked back into the van and popped open his pistol, jettisoning the spent rounds before slotting in two fresh ones. He expected to use several more before everything was said and done. Unfortunately, his moment of calm before the storm was rudely interrupted by the screeching of over-worked brakes as Sabiya slewed the vehicle to a halt. The ronin rebounded off of the front seat with a muted grunt as the breath was driven from his lungs. He bounced back against his seat, held in check by his seat belt. He shook himself out of the momentary daze and ran a hand across his face. Blood slicked his lips and chin and smeared across his cheek where he wiped his face. His nose wasn't broken, but it stung painfully. The Welander considered himself lucky that his pistol hadn't discharged during the abrupt stop -- a slip of his finger could have put a fist-sized hole in any one of his companions. Tancred saw the stilled plane ahead of them and threw open the van's door. He leaped out, drawing his shield and crouching down so that it, alongside the door, helped shield his body from any incoming fire. Crouched down behind the cover of his shield, Tancred rounded the door and began to advance, firearm at the ready. His chest ached dully from being smashed against the van's interior, but adrenaline buried the pain far below his other sensations -- the thud of his heart and the sights and sounds that laid before him.
  11. A small twitch of Tancred's features -- a flaring of nostrils, a quirk of his brow -- was the only sign of what he thought about Henrietta's situational analysis. Tancred was less of a tech-user and more of a tech-receiver; ever since he came to Hell's Gate a month prior, he had been the recipient of several bits and baubles of magitech. None of which he truly understood the inner workings of. The pistol he carried was something he understood, but that was largely mechanical and a far cry from the intricacies of thaumaturgy, computational or otherwise. Certainly anything Henrietta did was far beyond his grasp, so far beyond it that he couldn't rightly grasp its value or weight. A more vocal man might have made such points known, but Tancred saw no point. The situation was a little far gone to have considerations like that, at any rate. If Henrietta didn't trust any one in the van, then she ought to have left them in the garage. Meanwhile, Tancred continued tapping away at his comms, gaze flicking up occasionally to check their progress. Young, 10-16? Related to Henrietta. 6+ attackers. Armed, weapons + magic. Occurred within last hour. Reinforcements likely needed. Track this device, Henrietta tracking/following assailants. Over. Tancred bounced in his seat when they plowed through the chainlink fence and looked up to find them careening across an airfield towards a plane. Found assailants. Track device. Kidnappers trying to get airborne. Tancred pocketed the comms device and prepared himself for whatever Henrietta had planned.
  12. Tancred left the others to deal with whatever occupied the dead man's mortal coil. He turned 'round when he heard Henrietta approach. He hadn't expected her to come -- or, rather, he hadn't expected her to come alone. He supposed the security for the facility were busy rooting out any potential leads left behind, but he still expect at least a small coterie to accompany the woman. He listened to her explanation of what went wrong (most of it went over his head for lack of expertise) and to her plan. When she got into the van, the ronin followed wordlessly and took a seat that gave him access to a window, shouldering his shield over his back once more. If worst came to worst, he wanted to be able to draw a bead on someone with the hand-cannon that sat in his lap. He had never tested the upper limit of the pistol's destructiveness, but he expected that the weapon could put a dinner-plate-sized hole through the side of a motor vehicle without much issue. Once seated in the van, he drew out the communications device Miles gave him when he first came to Hell's Gate. He flicked his thumb across the crystal disc and began tapping out a message to the Contractor Liaison for Hell's Gate militia. Kidnapping at Monroe Foundation. Kidnappers in black van, headed to airship dock, possibly private. Took little girl. Pass message on to Guard, possibly preempt escape? The screen flashed after Tancred sent the message. He kept his pistol in his left hand and the magitech device in his right, waiting for a response from Miles.
  13. I'll have a post up some time today. Sorry for the wait.
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