Monthly Archives: January 2013

More odds and ends

(Note: this go-around, I’m not going to be linking to external sites. You’ll have to look them up yourself. Sorry. Just not feeling like doing it for you.)

So, the morning after I wrote the last post, I got inspired while in the shower. I’ve heard that J. M. Straczynski came up with his entire five-year arc for Babylon 5 in the shower one morning. I don’t know what it is about doing my thinking in the shower, but it seems to work. Mostly that day I was rethinking my history, incorporating some new elements I’ve been inspired to add. Those are kind of up for grabs, but I think they’ll work into the setting well. Basically, I’m thinking that there is something psycho-reactive in the StarSea that creates issues for those that live within it (i.e. everyone). This is more than just magic, potentially being something deeper. Whether that’s a direct impact or indirect is up in the air.

Some things I’ve been reading have made me decide to add a couple of minor elements to the descriptions of elements of the settings. One of those is the general level addition of expressing a theme and mood for the setting. Those two elements are something that almost every book that WWGS ever put out for the World of Darkness. I think these will be good things for keeping the focus of the setting and it’s feel.

I’m also looking at what the roles of the species in the game. “What do role do the Tau play in Warhammer 40K? How do they shape the players’ experience?” is the sort of questions I’m asking here. To answer that one, the Tau are the newcomers on the galactic stage. So, I’ll be asking that question of each race in the StarSea setting. Other companies have done it, trying to find unique play niches for different races (Wizards of the Coast commented on that in their 4e preview books, saying this was why gnomes weren’t included in the first Players Handbook). I think that is another one of those questions I need to keep focus in the setting. I can be prone to wander.

I’m also adding to the faction descriptions a statement of mandate or mission. Those are meant to demonstrate the direction that the faction should be taking; it’s sort of the theme of the faction. I’m also seeing the need to include information about the structure and society within the factions. For example, the Arcanists will have slaves and serfs as part of their society, which the Psionics won’t have. Those structural descriptions will also help shape the feel and mood of the factions.

I’ve also had some other thoughts on equipment, regarding how it’s carried. I’m still watching some of the Druaga anime, and I’m noticing in the second season that the hero, Jil, has a sword and shield that essentially pack themselves away when he’s not using them. I kinda like this idea. Outside of a DM being a turd, why should players have any reason to loose their weapons or armor? This is probably the reason I haven’t used rust monsters in a very long time in D&D. They just seem like a “neener-neener” sort of monster. I get that some DMs think they need to challenge their players by taking their gear in mindless fashion. I’d rather have the characters loose their gear because their opponents have best them, captured them and taken their gear, which they’ll then get back once they over come the enemy. Of course, the disarming attacks of villains such as Darth Vader and Rochefort are also infamous, but also more pleasing to the reader, as the weapon is rarely destroyed, just displaced, and the scene then more often becomes the hero’s attempt to recover his weapon. This line of thought is still a little nebulous to me. I think the pain to the player is why 4e removed the option, as what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and PCs are already in threat enough from the DM, so they went with the nuclear option there. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve seen the disarm in Savage Worlds, either, but I’ll admit I may have missed it. The original idea, that weapons in the StarSea are difficult to loose and frequently out of the charactes’ ways, is something I’m still thinking about, and may or may not exist. I doubt it’s even necessary, it’s simply a cool special effect I thought might have a place in the StarSea. Time will tell.

Well, that’s all I have for this week. Laters.

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Warma-Hordes and other thoughts

So, over the past couple of weeks, between prepping for my current game and getting more items on eBay, I’ve been doing some poking around at various odds and ends. I’ve been looking around at DeviantArt regularly, finding ideas for the appearance of things in the StarSea. I’m thinking a lot about presentation as it relates to the StarSea universe. Basically, I want to be able to show players what the universe they’re characters live in looks like, and have artifacts there from, or at least images of same. Some of this is also giving me ideas for how things they carry look and function. For example, around the time of my last post, I watched Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, based on the computer games. One of the villains carries shortsword-sized “gunblades” (as opposed to the monstrously large ones in FFVIII), which I found particularly intriguing, having also seen more reasonably sized examples in the Iron Kingdoms as well. These are things I’ve been thinking about including for a while, as I’ve seen the idea a few times. They work with a setting in which some kind of firearms exist alongside swords (even if those firearms don’t necessarily run on fire, or even use bullets).

I’ve also been looking at flying ship images out there on the Net. A lot of what I’ve seen isn’t especially interesting to me, but they’re a start. There are two factors I’m thinking will play into the design of ships that will make them flat horizontally, rather than the vertical that most people create from. I think most people start vertical because that’s how we’re used to seeing ships on Earth. The vertical, knife-like shape makes sense for going through water. That’s how most fish are shaped, and for good reason. But a flying ship, in my mind, should be flat horizontally, like a bird’s wings, to cut through the air better. As well, this allows for tactically friendly expressions of the decks of ships. Larger, flat spaces are much more entertaining than narrow hallways (although I can see the attraction occasionally, I wouldn’t want to use that configuration often).

Also, tonight I got a chance (or made time for, depending on your point of view) to play Warma-Hordes (as the nickname goes). This was nice, as I also more or less got a chance to see the Iron Kingdoms RPG in play, at least for combat, as both games use the same combat systems, by and large. It plays very quickly, and I like that.

Finally, the past couple of days I’ve manage to get a hold of an anime series called “The Tower of Druaga.” It seems based on a video game by the same name. The last couple of episodes gave me some ideas on how to handle villains, particularly solo Big Bads. In the series, like most video games of the arcade-ish variety, the villain Druaga had to be battled a couple of times while the heroes figured out how to beat him. I’ve now seen this a few times, in which you kick the crap out of the villain, then fight him again, in a different form before you finally defeat him (you see it a lot in Zelda games). While I don’t want the players in my game to feel they are banging their collective heads against a wall, the idea that the villain ends up transformed y his apparent defeat to be battled in a new form again before he is defeated in intriguing to me, and something I think would fit my current game. However, with 4e, I think I can work it out as a function of the bloodied system. I used a leveled up version of a creature from “Threats from the Nentir Vale,” Calystryx. Calystryx, to the uninitiated, is a three-headed red dragon, who once she’s reduced to X HP (I don’t remember if it’s bloodied or lower, she sprouts a fourth head which immediately attacks, and increases her number of attacks and opportunities to breath fire. I’m thinking something like that might work, but with a more pronounced transformation, and maybe a delay sufficient that the characters can take a short rest, if necessary. It’s something I only clicked into today after catching the final episodes, so it may take me a while to workout the mechanics, or it may be something I save for StarSea.

Well, it’s now late (or earlier, depending on your point of view), so I’m calling it for this post. Laters.

First post of the New Year

So, my last substantial post was on the 10th of December, and I reported on some progress on the StarSea and the translation into Epic Level of my current 4e game, which I’ve dubbed “Invasions.” There were a couple of other posts of somewhat less substance while the winter holidays raged around. Now that those are mostly over, I’m back to posting.

I did manage to go through my NaBloPoMo posts and index them where StarSea is concerned. Today, I started an outline of what I currently feel I need to cover and flesh out. It’s a couple of pages of subjects in a nice neat outline, thanks to the freebie OmniOutliner that came with my computer. Now I’ll be going through and comparing this with my hand notes and the NaBloPoMo index to fine tune it and start writing up things. Eventually I’ll export it and turn it into a campaign.

I did make some decisions on some of the setting elements. I’ve gone back to the idea that the worlds of the StarSea are encircled by a ringworld-like band that holds the sun and moon for each world in place. There will also be “beacons” that point to a limited number of worlds, so there will be a network or lattice in between worlds. I’m also thinking the player character races have colonized the rings to some extent. There will also be “ring giants,” creatures who seem to be caretakers of the suns, moons, and the beacons. There may be other critters on the rings as well. Pirates can easily settle on the farther parts as well.

I made this decision once I realized that one of my arguments against the rings was no longer valid. I had originally wanted eclipses and comets and other phenomenon that freaked out the ancients of Earth, but I realized that they would never hold the same mystery for starfaring races. That realization freed me up to change my mind. And after watching the Masks episode of Star Trek the Next Generation, I realized what function comets could serve, if not others.

*****

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a friend and we were discussing the stagnancy of the typical game world, as well as the lack of truly variant societies. Most worlds are based on European/Tolkien societies and leave it at that, and those societies rarely change. I’ve been thinking about that since, and some of my article readings have kind of pointed me to a reasoning. Beyond that most gamers are of European descent (not good or bad, simply so), the huge amounts of work it takes to build truly organic societies is mind-boggling, as I’m discovering. The amounts of research one would have to do is probably prohibitive.

Also, I believe part of it is simply so that everyone playing the setting is on the same page, and so that you have an easy bible for new writers to work from. Metaplots tend to get in the way, as I’m certain the Classic World of Darkness writers eventually figured out. (CWoD is what WWGS/Onyx Path is calling the setting now.) I have no doubt that for more casual CWoD players, the metaplot was a turn off. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I was a more dedicated player. I’m fascinated by the plot ideas I found in the planar books for 4e, but WotC wisely presented those ideas as plot seeds rather than a metaplot pushing the products.

*****

In the past few weeks, I’ve also been reading articles about other folks doing modern era and sci fi games with 4e. Most have chosen 4e for many of the reasons the OSR gamers don’t like it: ease of use, lack of accounting for everything, and character competence from 1st level. I’m find the article very interesting, and it’s making think again about systems. I’ve been thinking either 4e or Savage Worlds, or maybe the new Iron Kingdoms RPG, or a few others, mostly those that are cheap and easy to learn. These articles are putting more weight on the 4e side of the scale, but time will tell. My game group may be bored with 4e by then, or they may still be up for it. Either way, I’m more or less creating the setting system neutral (not agnostic, but neutral), and I’ll be able to fine tune it when I’m ready.

Well, there’s 750 words on what I’ve been up to for the past three weeks. I think that’s enough for now. Besides, my head is getting a little cotton-filled, so bed time approaches.

Happy New Year, Gentle Readers.