Email to the Advisory Group

July 4th, 2017

Well, we’ve certainly had a spirited discussion! I read an email, take time to mull it over, and then another email comes in, instigating more mulling. I think it’s time for me to address a few major points:

1. I will definitely prepare extensive documentation for the Storytron technology. 

2. Le Morte D’Arthur is an important part of the documentation: it demonstrates how the technology works. It also provides lots of working examples of how various tasks are handled. People will need to see examples of the various scripts. 

3. I will release the source code, but I will release it along with the documentation. Without documentation it is useless. 

4. The topic of the storyworld is definitely Arthurian, but everybody has their own notion of what comprises the King Arthur story. That’s a testament to its deep appeal and plasticity. It was originally a set of social-training myths (The Mabinogeon). Then it was used as a tale of group redemption (the Breton versions). The French made it into a tale highlighting the ideals of French chivalry (Le Morte D’Arthur). Then Tennyson made a noble and boring poem. Mark Twain used it for social satire (knights on bicycles???) Disney made it into a cartoon; Lerner and Loewe made it into a romantic triangle; Marion Zimmer Bradley did a feminist version; and John Boorman made one of the best movies on it. But everybody had a different take on it.

Some people want to make it rather like “Game of Thrones”. I would love to do it as a semi-historical piece, but I know that the historical version is too depressing to use fully. Most people think of knights in plate armor mighty steeds tilting at each other with long lances, Camelot as a medieval castle, Lancelot & Guenivere as illicit lovers, dragons, and Merlin with his magic. 

Some of this offends me because it has become so cliched. "Rully now, dahling, dragons? How utterly vulgar!” Indeed, I want to shun that whole pile of overdone dreck. However, I must admit that it’s popular, and I don’t want to steer off into the mists of Artorious, Gaius (Kay), and Gwenhwfar (Guinevere). These legends go back at least 4,000 years, and the old versions are almost unrecognizable as Arthurian. 

Still, I gotta have Merlin providing magic; that’s just too useful in terms of game design. I want to have The Dragon as an invisible symbol, as in Excalibur; see for a one-minute summary.

Yes, there will be knights, but I will call them “Katerfaks” after the Byzantine cataphracts that probably were the basis for European knights. They will have chain mail but not plate mail; ride horses and use lances; they will be the core of Arthur’s army and its elite. The loss of even one Katerfak will be a serious blow.

Yes, there will be lords and ladies, but it will be difficult coming up with enough ladies to balance the lords. Each one will control a chunk of land somewhat smaller than an English county. The primary source of wealth is cattle, and the most common form of violent conflict is the cattle raid, to which Arthur must respond by intercepting the rustlers before they can get back home with the slow-moving herd. Each lord/lady is the head of a family; marriage between a lord and lady tends to bind the two families together. 

The divisions of land are as follows:
Kingdom: the area ruled by a king, consisting of his own shires plus those of his lords.
Shire: the area ruled by a lord. The size of the shire determines how many men-at-arms he can support.
Cantref: the smallest administrative unit. A shire is composed of a number of cantrefs. If “cantref” is too alien a term, I suppose we can use the dull term “district”. 

Arthur can gain cantrefs by winning a major battle with Saxon, or by confiscating cantrefs from lords as punishment for misdeeds. He can also award cantrefs to lords as a reward for service. 

Arthur will begin the game unmarried. He should marry for political reasons at the opportune time.