New Book: The Merchant Adventurer

By January 1, 2014Uncategorized

The Genesis of the Idea

In the same way that How to Succeed in Evil riffs on the superhero genre, the Merchant Adventurer riffs on fantasy. While working on Wasteland 2 I did a lot of thinking about storytelling in cRPGs. I was somewhat surprised to find that I had a deep knowledge about the genre. From Wizardry, Nethack, Ultima, Elder Scrolls, I’ve played them all. And, in my youth, I closed out the fantasy genre in both my local bookstore and library.

As I was writing dialog for many of the NPCs in WL2, I had this thought: What must a cRPG look like from the point of view of the guy who runs the shop?

For me, the archetypal shopkeeper is Boltac, the merchant in the first Wizardry. Boltac’s was the only place you could buy, sell or get things identified. He had no personality in the game, but he was absolutely ruthless with his pricing. Perfect arbitrage meant that you got no value from looting the dungeon. He charged exactly what something was worth to identify it! You couldn’t win with this guy.

So from Boltac’s perspective, all these half-assed adventurers come through, try to nickel and dime him, and then go off to defeat the Evil Wizard. And none of them succeed. And most of them get killed. In short, the Heroes are incompetent. “Yeah, yeah, kid, here’s your sword. Good luck, whattya want on your tombstone?”

So my question became, under what circumstances does the Merchant take matters into his own hands and save the day? How do you get that character off the sidelines and into the action? And further, how could the Merchant actually win?

The result is the kind of book Terry Pratchett might have written if he grew up in Brooklyn.

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Patrick

Author Patrick

I help organizations figure out what they stand for and how to communicate what they believe. I also write fiction.

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  • Jay Lofstead

    Any update on a release date? Audio version particularly?

  • PatrickEMcLean

    Any day now. File is hung up with the proofreader. She assures me it will be done before Christmas. Then I will drop ebook on Amazon. Then, once that has populated, the audiobook.

    No one is more frustrated than I (believe me) but thanks for hanging in there.

  • Chris Crook

    I just got done with The Merchant Adventurer. I’ll start by saying I have enjoyed your style of writing through the HtSiE series and I enjoyed this new IP. I hope it finds a level of success where you can continue expanding it if you feel there is more to tell. In particular, I enjoyed how you hint at the strange type of economy that inhabits the land and how you imply that (don’t want to spoil anything) certain characters may become more like other certain characters.

    Are you familiar at all with the anime Spice and Wolf? In that series they touch on some of the tricks of trading in a medieval setting. The second season of Spice and Wolf is much maligned for having far less of these “buy low, sell High” moments. Describing the shaving of coins early on led me to believe that Boltac’s merchant knowledge would play a more practical role (medieval trading) as opposed to fantasy role (the danger of magical items). Although you pulled it all together into an emotionally impactful story, Boltac can be so much more than a send up of the cRPG genre. For instance, the bag of holding would seem to make any single man capable of delivering an entire city’s trade output, so you can combine the real concerns of trade with the effects of magic on it. Furthermore, one of the major confrontations involves money when it would have impressed me more for Boltac to use his knowledge of trade routes considering the importance of his home city as a trade road. In short, I have many unanswered questions that make me both excited and uneasy; excited for the next installment or uneasy if this is a one shot deal.

    As a side note, “living rock” was a new expression for me; it wore out its welcome. I demand nothing from you or mean any offence. I want one of my favorite authors to know why I like their work and what pulls me out of the book. I like economics. I hate repetition like a snake eating its tail, eats poop made of tail (made by the snake eating its tail), hates eating its poop.

  • PatrickEMcLean

    Chris Crook You have a point about the trading, but it gets weird quick. For example, have you read Terry Pratchett’s “Making Money”? SPOILER ALERT:

    In it Moist von Lipwig (the main character) discovers 4,000 golden golems. Since golem are tireless automaton, they are used to power machines. But Lipwig concludes that releasing them into circulation would result in the collapse of the economy and orders them to march into the sea and bury themselves. This, of course, is the most horrible kind of economic thinking. It is nothing but a boon to society if more productive capacity is available. The logic is akin to saying, “We should destroy all these cars because they have depressed the livery stable business.” “We should get rid of all these refrigerators to stimulate the ice hauling business.”

    But that’s not really the point of Pratchett’s story. He’s telling a story about a character who makes a daring choice (sacrifice) based on what he believes is right for all. That it’s informed by a pernicious economic fallacy doesn’t change the emotional content of the choice. The only painful part is that this fallacy has been hurting man for centuries.

    What I found was getting into that kind of thing too much detracted from the simple, little story I wanted to tell. “What happens if the guy who runs the shop is called upon to be the hero?”

    In the larger context, I saw magic as representative of all manner of economic tomfoolery that seems like a good idea in the short term, but backfires in the end. Perhaps a poor analogy, but it’s what I had. I agree it can be more (and have some thoughts along those lines) but it would be more political economy — now that you’ve got the kingdom, how do you run it?

    > As a side note, “living rock” was a new expression for me; it wore out its welcome.

    Really? I just did a search, and it was in there all of three times. Pretty standard fantasy trope and it’s usage appears to date from the 14th century. http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/38489/carved-from-the-living-rock-since-when-was-rock-ever-alive

    Thanks for reading and your thoughtful comments. I really appreciate you taking them time. Keep them coming.

    • Chris Crook

      I started by reading the introduction and was primed for the type of story you wanted to tell. I was not disappointed in the slightest. You seem to be one of the only fantasy authors (I have read some discworld and like him for the same reason i like you) that doesn’t completely gloss over how these worlds actually function economically. I’m glad you brought up character motivations going against economic reason. Thinking back, I felt a strong sense that Boltac’s loses made him less of a trader and more of something else (I won’t spoil).

      I know the exact number of times the expression “living rock” is used in the book. Its novelty, to me, makes the phrase stand out. I loved encountering it for the first time but i don’t think of rock as “living”. In a fantasy world, rock might very well be alive. I guess I was waiting for the rock to “do” something because of my lack of familiarity with the expression. I don’t think anyone else even noticed. Just a minor issue I added because I honestly didn’t think you would respond at all. Color me pleasantly surprised.

  • Joe Geary

    The merchant adventurer is literally the best book I have ever read. Thank you for your work.

    • PatrickEMcLean

      Literally, *the best*. Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that before. Thank you. And you are welcome.

  • Joe Geary

    Any way of getting an autographed copy?

  • Larry

    Will hostile takeover ever be in a librivoix recording for free?