Monthly Archives: February 2014

Progress, Slow But Sure

So, I decided to basically re-read the Kobold Guide to World Building and doing my note-taking outside of work, and made some good progress. Of course, I’ve also found some areas that need some fine tuning. For example, I’ve been defining what magic is, in and of itself, but that’s led to a couple of questions. I’ve defined magic as a psycho-responsive energy, but it can be used as a power source for vehicles and other equipment in the universe I’m developing. How do these two ideas relate? Do engines and batteries emulate sentient minds, thus being more like computers than anything else? I’m still trying to reconcile these two ends of the spectrum into a cohesive whole. I may not need to, but I don’t want to hand-wave too many details.

I also started on a starmap. So far it’s just a hex map with a galaxy overlay, but it’s a start. It gives me a way to get the regularity to the planets’ spacing that I want (to represent the manipulation the Ür did of the world in the StarSea) as well ideas about density of the worlds within. One of the earlier iterations of the StarSea was called “the Twenty Spheres” (the spheres part referencing the crystal spheres of Spelljammer, which I was stealing from at that time), which is in my mind as I think on the setting. However, I recognize the value of having some portions of the map undefined, to allow players to fill in the details or develop their own stories. It’s a start.

Finally, the Boy and I finally played a little more of the game I’m cobbling together for him. We dealt with his first combat, and I have to say, while it worked for a one-on-one combat, I didn’t like the feel, and I don’t think it would work well with larger groups. The system I developed has each unit having a factor of 5 hit points (5, 10, 15, etc., …), and having a number of six-sided dice for melee and ranged combat. Roll the dice, do damage to hit points, after subtracting armor. The problem that I have is that tracking a large number of hit points for a large number of units might be a time sink later. I think I’ll be lifting more of the Warmaster combat system, which is a simplified version of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle system.

I also need to come up with a more complete tech tree for each of four races, encounter charts for the explorable regions, and the great enemies in the center of the map. I’m going to be stealing a lot from WarCraft III for all of this. Although the Boy through a wrench in some of my ideas when he decided his elves would be spider riders. “What, are your elves drow?” I said to him. “No, like The Hobbit,” says he. So he wants his elves to be a little like the Mirkwood elves of The Desolation of Smaug. My plan had been for the insectoid portion of the Scourge become the Big Bads of our game. Back to the drawing board on that one, I guess.

So, that’s it for now. Later.

Culture, Technology and Superhero Cartoons

This week has been somewhat topsy-turvey. My mother’s health went haywire again, I had an interview Thursday, D&D for Kids yesterday (at least from my point of view), and our regular D&D game (which I am thankfully no longer DMing). Mix in a couple of full days of work, some job hunting, and it’s been a pretty full week.

When I could get it in, my reading of The Kobold Guide to World Building got me to thinking about technology and culture in the StarSea, especially as those chapters were what I was reading at that moment. I’m beginning to feel like i need a physical copy of the book, as I’d like to be able to use it as a workbook and take some notes from it. Having pad, paper and Kindle in my hand while driving would be cumbersome to say the least.

I’ve done some of the kind of thinking suggested in those chapters, but not enough for my tastes. Or at least not to the detail discussed. The articles I’m thinking of break culture and technology down into categories. Some I’ve given some thought on, and some I’ve missed. I’m going to want to recover that chapter eventually. So, getting a physical copy of the book is more desirable. I’m not sure what author’s chapter I’m thinking of. One of the weaknesses of eBooks is not being able to create a mental map of the book, something I’m sure I mentioned before.

There was also discussion of repercussions of design decisions on other aspects of the world you’re building. That one struck home, as there are decisions I’ve made that I hadn’t considered some of the ramifications of. For example, I’m calling my elder race the Starborn. My initial thought was for them to live in space, living in mobile space stations that wander the StarSea. However, the repercussions of the wanderer idea are some I’m not happy with. Implications of the Starborn as aloof or arrogant, or too adapted to life in space. Both seem to make the Starborn unplayable (especially the physical mal-adaptation), at least in my mind. I need to consider some of my choices a little better, and I feel this particular series needs some additional thought to make a more playable race out of the Starborn. There are likely other decisions I’ll need to re-examine.

In regards to the game for the Boy, I didn’t really do much for that this week, other than taking the time to combine my notes. I had a computer document that has most of my notes regarding the rules, as well as a notebook with other notes. It’s where I’m documenting rules calls I’m making during play. I went through the two, compared them, and made the computer file the complete draft. I’ve got a long way to go to a final draft level, and that game is not a priority.

Finally, I picked up and watched the new DC Comics animated movie, Justice League: War. This one is a follow up to the Flashpoint movie they put out late last year, which was an adaptation of the series that closed out the “Old 52,” and set the stage for the “New 52.” Justice League: War” is based on the first six issues of the new version of the Justice League, and tells of the team’s formation. If you’re not a comic book person, the New 52 is DC Comics “reboot,” which seems to be an acknowledgement of Jim Lee’s partial ownership of the DC Comics line along with Dan DiDio. I’ve been less than enthusiastic about what I’ve seen of the New 52, and I stopped buying DC Comics well before this “reboot” was initiated.

As a little preface, I have enjoyed the DC Comics animated movies. The storytelling, with one exception, most of them have been stellar in the storytelling regards. There’s plenty of fighting in them all, but prior to this one, with the exception of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, the movies have generally been stellar. This one wasn’t so good. I even found the more or less heroes-cum-borderline villains of Flashpoint more compelling that the majority of the team in this one. Except Batman. Batman was handled just about perfectly. Green Lantern is handled well, but I think was just a little too much of an ass throughout. The New 52 version of Superman seems to have become an arrogant bully, Wonder Woman is written so one dimensionally as to be a joke. And the removal of Aquaman to be replaced by Captain Marvel (who calls himself “Shazam”) was a horrible choice, especially with the effort Geoff Johns has been making to turn the King of Atlantis into a solid character. At some point, I’d like to read the comics this movie was based on to see if they’re really as poorly written as this movie was.

And before this, I picked up a stealth release called JLA: Trapped in Time. This one is obviously a pilot for a new animated series. It was a horrible mismatch of characters and story lines, with no relation to other series that have borne the DC Comics logo. The JLA line up is an Aquaman short of being the Super Friends, and the Legionnaires chosen were a terrible mismatch to the JLA, and never appeared in the LSH Animated series. To boot, the Legionnaires chosen (Karate Kid and Dawnstar) have been redesigned to look like characters from the later seasons of Super Friends, the Samurai and the Indian Chief. As well, both were given additional powers. Karate Kid’s powers made sense (detecting weaknesses in the structure of his target), but Dawnstar’s new powers have nothing to do with the core of her character (of course, that might point to how weak her original concept was), but seem to be added into make her some sort of literal angel (lots of light and healing powers). I was disappointed with this release as well.

On the upside, it looks like the next movie, Son of Batman might be better. We’ll see, later this year. It’s also my understanding that later this year, Warner Bros. will be putting out an animated movie based on the Arkham Asylum video games. If they handle it right, it could be a winner as well. However, the DC Studio needs to get it together, I think, or they’ll lose this customer.

As a final note, I’ve also been binging on the Fox series, Fringe. I’m down to the final three episode of the final season. I’m really enjoying the storytelling, although I think there have been a couple of episodes that have had characterization issues, especially with the change of focus in the final season, away from Olivia Dunham and towards Peter Bishop. However, the story is strong otherwise, and as I said, I’m looking for the final episodes.

Well, I think the fork is pretty much stuck for tonight. See you all next time. Later.

It’s That Time, Again!

Honestly, it gets difficult coming up with titles for these things.

Anyway, here’s some talk about gaming!

Yesterday, we started playing the game I created for the Boy. I need to fill in some details, like encounter tables (i.e. what dangerous or cool things will the various civilizations encounter while exploring their space), and I need to tweak the resource acquisition rolls, as I don’t think they produce enough versus the costs of things. I’m basically using the tech trees and units from WarCraft III to simplify my thinking, so I don’t have to devote so much time on the design of this game. Why reinvent the wheel, especially when I don’t know how long the Boy’s interest will hold? He did want to do more and more turns, so we ended up playing five turns (between me looking up things and trying to determine costs for new units and such off the cuff, and running three other civilizations). He wanted more, so I may have something that will satisfy him for a while. This week, I’ll try to get some of my notes better integrated and complete some of my tweaks and charts so we can hit the ground running next weekend.

I got back to writing in the car while traveling this week. I discovered that I hadn’t written anything in my notebooks since early December, though. I think being sick affected things, as did getting a Kindle and focusing so much on reading FATE. I did write a little on races the past couple of days, as that was on my mind, and I’ve got a couple of sketches that I think will lead me to some decisions down the line. I’m going to continue this trend going forward, and write a page every work day before I read anything from the Kindle.

My current reading has been The Kobold Guide to World-Building. I’m pleased from my reading to discover that I’m pretty much ahead of the ball so far. There’s a little in the realm of business and marketing that was unknown to me, but the basics of world-building are something I seem to have a firm hold on at this point.

Something else I’ve realized I need to do is start transcribing my hand notes. After that long break, I had forgotten some of the decisions I’d made and dangling ideas I needed to work on. I think I can make them into a simple .mobi file with Calibre, which would allow me to reference them more easily than carrying around 4 notepads.

Well, I’ve spent most of the past hour trying to deal with memory problems with this laptop, so I’m going to call it for tonight. Later.

On Driving

Last time, I mentioned that the Boy wanted me to create a game for him. I got clarifications on some of his ideas, and I was correct in my assessment that he wants a board game version of WarCraft, with a little Minecraft mixed in. So I dug out my BradyGames strategy guide to WarCraft III and started looking at how the game works. I’ve never really played it. I played the previous two games, StarCraft, and the III demo, but I never took the time to dig into the actual WarCraft III game itself. However, I understand the basics. It’s economics control, basically, at least as far as the Boy will be concerned, especially as I’ll be avoiding trying to handle things as a real-time game. I’ll be doing turns, which we’ve agreed will be a month each. I may add in some seasonal rules, but I don’t know. He doesn’t seem to want a whole lot of simulation.

I was trying to use the free version of Hexographer to make a map for the game, but the random nature makes me hesitant. I know I could edit the result, but I’m not sure I like the results. I plan on taking some time to read the docs for the program, but ultimately, I think I’ll do my own. As implied by the program choice, I plan on using a hex map, and I already discussed this with the Boy. I’m probably also going to use a megahex system, too (That is, each hex on a big map will be represented by six smaller hexes on a more refined map). And eventually, I’m sure I’m going to have to make tokens and things for gold and wood and people (workers and soldiers). As well, I’m going to be working on three other races (he’ll be playing elves while I’ll be creating dwarves, humans and dragonmen) to vex the Boy with. However, I’ve already figured out that I’ll be building things as I need them, so I should be keeping myself from being overwhelmed too quickly.

I’ve started trying to complete the Savage Worlds Explorer Edition rulebook. I stalled out about the time Numenera came out last year. I need to start making characters for some of these games I’m explore. I did some for Bare Bones Fantasy, and I wasn’t especially enthusiastic about the results. Even though you can pretty freely mix-and-match classes (since classes are skills), I felt the results were pretty blah. I think it relates to the Old School mentality that PCs shouldn’t be especially skilled when the game begins. That also seems typical of percentile based games, and I’m not sure why that’s so. I remember my PCs in the old FASA Star Trek game weren’t especially skilled at creation, either.

I like that in many modern games, characters seem skilled. Our characters in our new 4e home campaign feel competent (even if my character did get KO’s last time). And I like that SW and FATE characters seem competent, too. I want that in my games now.

Which kinda brings me to driving. That’s what I do for a paycheck currently (note I did not write “living”). I’m a transporter for a major rental company. You can find out which one from the Facebook link in the upper right corner of the page. Driving is one of those things I feel fairly competent doing, even though I started driving fairly late (I was over 25 when I finally learned to drive). Most of the time, driving for work is just short hops around town, with plenty of traffic to dodge and no time to become engaged in the process of driving. You’re simply trying to get from one place to another.

But occasionally, we do a long haul on the right roads at the right time. Yesterday was one of those. We had to move a few cars down to Hanford. Our usual route is Freeway 99 to Highway 43. Yesterday at 9:00 AM, 43 was mostly clear once we got past Selma and the old man who was having difficulty figuring out where he was going. Then, the trip became almost magic.

This seems to happen on straight-aways for me. You get out on a straight-away with little traffic around. Our cars are pretty well maintained, especially the alignment. All of us use cruise control (typically), so really, all the driver is doing is making sure the car doesn’t hit something that causes it to weave in the lane, which is a pretty minimal load on the cranium stuffins. For some amount of time, you’re free to just let the car do it’s thing and let your mind relax and enjoy the passing of the countryside. I usually turn the radio on as soon as I’m in the car, listening to my favorite local channel most of the time, but occasionally turning on SiriusXM, which is in many of our cars, and listening to Channel 25, ClassicRewind. (An aside: They call their channel “Music from the second generation of rock legends,” and “the Cassette Era.” Makes you feel old when your high school music is now considered “classic.”) You end up just rolling along, enjoying the ride.

Until you encounter traffic again and your mellow gets harshed. No good thing can last forever, it seems. But it’s getting to drive around like this, on the company’s dime, that makes the job fun. If I were like the rest of the old guys that do this job, with an outside income, I think I’d just about have no complaints (except for the folks who can’t leave their religion or politics at home).

Well, it’s gotten late, and I’m pretty much done with these subjects for tonight. Later.