Monthly Archives: September 2014

Time Off – Week 1

Today, I had a lot of downtime as I took my car in to get a recall issue resolved. I sat in a McDonalds’ down the street from the dealership that is handling the issue, riding the free Internet. I was in that area from 8AM until 2:30PM. I tried to make the day productive…

After last week’s post, I spent a lot of time at work. Except for having Wednesday off, I was at work and behind the wheel all week. In that time, I managed to catch up on my favorite podcast, Major Spoilers’ Critical Hit. Now I’ve started in catching up on others I haven’t listened to since I lost my iPod Nano in 2012. I’ll miss hearing the CH crew everyday when I am driving around the state. I’ve subscribed to a couple of Numenera-oriented podcasts, but now that I’ve lost interest in d20-based games, I’m having difficulty figuring out why I should keep listening to those. I’ll be shuffling my lists around soon, I think.

I did managed to get more RAM for my laptop from my sister’s dead machine. This has been a big help. My laptop can now run a bit smoother, and I’m not cursing at it as much any more. This is a good thing, as you can imagine.

Thursday, while driving, I got hit with a concept for a replacement D&D 4e character for Living Forgotten Realms. This weekend, I started on character creation, and promptly built something other than my concept. My concept was for a character like Jhary-a-Conel, the Eternal Companion to the Champion. Jhary is the guy who understands the Multiverse and the gods and the Cosmic Balance, and sees it as his job to make sure the Champion succeeds at his. I had envisioned a half-elf or Deva Bard, using the Cunning Bard build (basically focused on ranged attacks through a wand) who would be social and be aiding the party through his skills and healing. What I built was an Eladrin Bard who was focused on the wand, but not particularly social. Once I got home tonight, I rebuilt the character as a half-elf Valor bard, using the Half-Elf Emissary paragon path. I think this build will work much better than what I had before. I just need to verify what level I’m coming in at.

This week’s thoughts on the StarSea

(Completely separate note: The WordPress for iPad app pretty much sucks. It freezes up if you add certain tags within your text. I hate plain text. I’m a graphic artist, ferfuck’ssake!)

Artificers – conniving neutrals or faction specialists or both?

So, my thinking on these guys is: Is being an Artificer just a job, like being a healer or a warrior, and therefore just something folks in every faction can learn to do, or is it a group of secretive guildies who control all wyrdtech separate from the factions, and in fact vying with them for power? The first option is the simpler, easier route, as it’s simply a skill/mode choice for players (more on Modes in a minute). The second is more complicated, as I have to figure out these guys’ place in the political system, determine what resources, if any, they control, create a new faction to back them, etc., etc. Those choices could make or break the setting not only for myself, but for other folk who might want to buy my setting. So, I think I’m going to try a middle ground. Instead of a controlling guild that wields power equal to the knightly orders, there is instead a collegium that trains artificers to work in the realms of the factions. Those artificers have their own loyalties to their factions, and only rarely does the Collegium interfere in politics. That way, if a GM chooses, he can make the Collegium a more sinister group, or he can simply make it a place for PCs to gain a special set of aspects and skills/modes.

I think I need to take this mindset to the ideas of kingdoms and empires as well. Making things a little more flexible will be a better selling point, I think. To clarify, I’m debating whether or not A) the orders are governments in an of themselves, B) there is an overarching government that is stable and moderates the internecine strife of the orders, C) there is an unstable government that cannot stop the orders from fighting, such as a kingdom that’s recently lost its ruler or a republic with a senate that’s completely inept. I need to figure out which option works best as a default, and which ones can be used as directions a GM could take that is swaying one way or another, as with the Collegium above.

Orcs – yea or nay?

So, this weekend I got directed to the previews for the next expansion of World of WarCraft, called Warlords of Draenor. In them, the orcs are depicted as the baddest warriors of the multiverse, each warlord being shown as how he became the badass he is. And why Vindicator Maraad is so obsessed with defeating them. All are reasonably well done, storywise, and the art is pretty good. But it got me to thinking about the StarSea and races. At this point, I don’t have orcs or goblins. Well, I’m considering goblins as Corrupted gnomes. My thoughts to present have been that creatures appearing in the StarSea should be mythical Earth creatures. Orcs don’t qualify, at least not directly as we know them now. According to the word origin info on Wikipedia (see here), it’s an extremely generic word that we get through Tolkien more than anything else. In fact, the word is more the origin of the word/monster “ogre” mythologically.

But there is a certain draw to these monsters in gaming. I need to decide if I want them in my setting, or if I just stick with ogres and have done with it. Ogres would be small giants, and the giants are a creation of the Ür. Does the iconic status of the orc trump my intended mythology?

Dwarven funeral rites

I had a brief thought on dwarves and how they might view their dead. Remember, my idea at this point is that dwarves are spirits inhabiting a body of stone and wood.

One of my thoughts was that, as part of their creation, a gemstone develops in their chest analog that is the seat of their souls. (Yes, very spiritual in concept.) The thought that occurred to me was that the dwarves collect these “heartstones” (is that too close to the name of the WoW online card game?) and bring them together somewhere, like their homeworlds. These reliquaries would have a more temple-like feel than a sepulcher feel.

Anyway, it’s a thought. I kinda like it, but somehow, it seems incomplete.

Fate Core and “Modes”

One of the features of Fate is the flexibility of the system. Recently, I picked up and skimmed the Atomic Robo RPG. I noticed the use of modes in character creation. It looked interesting, and was explained in a different way that the use of modes in the Fate System Toolkit. I didn’t look into it any deeper at that moment, but a recent couple of messages on the FateRPG Yahoo Group got me to re-examine the Toolkit presentation. Now that I understand the system a little better, I get the Modes idea present therein a bit better.

Here is a point I will depart of the other system I was thinking of drawing from, the Freeport Fate Companion. That book makes a noble attempt to offer a D&D 3.5 conversion to Fate, but as 3.5 doesn’t codify characters the same way as 4e (my basis for ideas), it doesn’t really work as a character creation system for me.

In the StarSea, I think there will be two or three sets of modes, and each character will choose from each of them. One set of modes will be Species, one set will be Philosophy (AKA 4e‘s power sources), and one will be Function (AKA 4e‘s Roles). That should get me the same feel as 4e, which I want. I realize that this will likely commit me to a full skill list, as opposed to the Freeport/D&D-style ‘attributes are skills” system, which is more like FAE than Fate Core.

Tales of the Dragons

Yesterday, as I was driving around the last car of the day, I got this spark of a story this involves the eldest dragon, and his sacrifice to create the dragon elves. This story idea includes hints as to the creation of humanoid life in the StarSea, as well as prophesies for the future. I’d simply dictate it into Dragon Dictation, but that requires an Internet connection and a quiet environment to dictate in, which I don’t have right not, and didn’t have in the car yesterday. Maybe later.

That’s all I’ve got for this week. Later.

“30, with 21 years of experience…”

This weekend was my 51st birthday. The lead up to it from the last post was spent mostly preparing for a trip out of town as celebration, combined with an event for the Girl. So, little got done for the StarSea. After typing up some of the notes therein, I read through Notepad 3 again, noticing how much I wrote on August 28th last year, and how little I “wrote” after that. More of that notepad is artwork after that point, as I was trying to work out some my design ideas. August 28th was a day at an office, and I had a lot of downtime, so I ended up writing quite a bit. Now I need to retype it all.

Wednesday, I came to the conclusion I need to retire my LFR character, and take some time off from that game. Time off for personal reasons I won’t go into, and total frustration with the character build and dice rolling for another. I’ve commented on this before. I “benched” my warlord/wizard character a few weeks ago, after months of lousy rolls. I cam to the conclusion that the character was cursed, and tried something else. In the interim, I played a fighter. The rolls came up fairly medium while playing the fighter, and I managed to turn crappy rolls into hits, due to the build. In the last three weeks, I went from stellar, to middling, to absolute shit last week. I’m done fighting the build. I could go into details, but it’s a level of gamespeak I would actually like to avoid tonight. Suffice it to say, I’m finding that the build I’ve been using is too diversified to effectively use the powers I’ve got, or to turn bad dice rolls into success. So, I’m going to take some time to build a better character.

As my sister’s birthday is the day before mine, my brother came down after my plans had been made. So, I spent my Thursday chatting with him, while I wasn’t at work. Friday, I got some things done here at home, and then went to work to rent a van for the weekend.

I spent the night at the Smalls’, my best friends and their children (whom I refer to as the Boy and the Girl). We got a mid-morning start and headed out. First was Carmel, as the Girl is in Fourth Grade and it’s Mission time. In California, our “colonial history” is tied up in the Spanish Missions that line the Pacific Coast. The Girl chose the Carmel Mission. A couple of years ago, we went to Santa Clara for the Boy’s Mission report. Carmel is a strange combination of San Francisco hilliness and rural narrow roads through woods. It’s a pretty expensive place to live, and I can understand why.

The Mission was a mission. Lots of adobe buildings and gardens. After the Boy really looked at a large crucifix with Jesus wounded, I had to run down the story of the Crucifixion as I know it, so he can at least know the story. Afterwards, we went downtown and had an early dinner at Forge in the Forest. Good food, but I tried avoiding foods I know trigger my cough. I’m still nursing that much of my cold. I have quite a bit of post-nasal drip (likely from the smoke in the air from all the local fires), and a lingering cough. Nothing I’m expelling is colored, so I know I’m not still sick (contrary to what one of my co-workers squalled at me today). Just dirty air and my body holding on to the symptoms to protect itself from the lingering crap in the air.

After dinner, we walked around downtown, window shopping. In fact, I keep remembering at bad times that the Peanut Butter Maltballs that were purchased for me are still at the Smalls’. Lots of art galleries in Carmel, as well as other boutique-style shopping. Definitely a tourist trap. We returned to our van and changed our clothes therein. That’s when I got the confirmation of what I’ve been suspecting: I’ve gained at least an inch around the waist. I couldn’t get the slacks I brought with to button. So, I desperately need to start getting some exercise and get some of the weight I’ve been gaining off. Too much fast food any more, thanks to my job.

Then we were off to the play. Oh, I haven’t mentioned that. We went to go see our friend, Scott McQuiston, play the part of Farquaad in Shrek: the Musical. He says the role is the most physically demanding he’s ever done, as he does the entire play on his knees. Shrek and Fiona are played by actors who are a couple in real life, so they had good chemistry as the star-crossed lovers. There were some cute and clever adaptations of other aspects in the movie story, and my only real criticism was that I could see the mikes on some of the actors’ foreheads, which was a distraction for me. I’m likely one of the few people in the world who might say such a thing, so I’ll give it a pass.

After a late night snack, we returned to our hotel room and crashed. Sunday we went into Monterey and did some wandering. We stopped at the local game store Scott had directed us to, Mythic Games. I was fairly disappointed with them. The stock was mostly MTG and WH40K, with a smattering of RPGs, board games, and other minis games (but no RPG minis). Most of the people in the store were playing the new MTG release, and a few were in the back painting minis. The main gaming floor was dark, which made seeing what stock there was difficult.

From there, we went to the Robert Louis Stevenson House, which he never actually owned, but lived in for three months while he courted a married woman and got inspiration for Treasure Island. The docent there directed us to a church by the beach which was supposed to be the original site of the Carmel Mission, but we couldn’t find it later.

We ended our trip on the Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf and nearby beaches. More tourist-y stuff. We then made our way home. Both kids got a game at Mythic Games, and both were played either on the way home or once we arrived. I made my way home so that I could work today.

So, that’s what I did last week. This week, I’ll be working on a new character for my Wednesday night game, as well as trying to work some more time in to get some more typing done. I’m beginning to think, after some discussion with Rob, the kids’ dad, that I’ve actually got a pretty clear idea of many aspects of my world, I just need to start compiling things, and not letting my notes derail me. We shall see.



I caught one of those contemptible summer colds this week. Late Monday night, I started getting sore tonsils, and things went downhill from there. Thursday as I was leaving work, the office manager subbing for the area manager asked me if I wanted to work Friday. I said “no.” Just as I got my car in the driveway, the lead driver called with the same question. I gave the same one-word answer. He was kinda surprised, but accepted it and let me go. I went to be around midnight and slept until 12:45 PM Friday afternoon. I felt hungover the rest of the day, likely because of the lack of liquid while I slept. I even cancelled the D&D for Kids I do at the FLGS, partly because I felt bad, and partly because most of the parents cancelled, and the rest didn’t respond.

By yesterday morning, though, I was feeling much better, but I coughed a lot. Today, I’ve felt pretty good, coughed less, but there have been some side effects that I’ve been unhappy with. Hopefully, even that will be gone by tomorrow, as I’ve agreed to work. Tomorrow might get real interesting…

I went in to the FLGS Wednesday to pick up  Mindjammer, only to find out the one copy the store had sold two hours before I walked through the door. So, I put it on order, but was told there weren’t more at the distributor, so I might have a wait. I then went about my Living Forgotten Realms way. Apparently, the owner had the foresight to order more copies, and I picked it up on Saturday. I haven’t dug into it much, but I did look at the new version of the plot damage mechanics. I like this version better than the version in Legends of Anglerre. It’s a bit more clear, and has better examples of how it works.

I like the setting, except that psionics are limited to VR, which is not going to work in my game. That’s okay. I want to build my own.

I’ve also been reading through Diaspora. I’ve gotten through system development, and while it’s interesting, I don’t think I’d ever use the linkages system. While they provide an example of a system that connects in a fashion other than a straight line, I can’t see there being to many variations, considering you always work through the systems (one for each player) in a linear fashion.

On the other hand, the ratings system, especially after the sidebar at the end of the chapter, sparked some ideas. I just need to figure out what I would rate the worlds of the setting on. Diaspora uses technology, environment and resources, which aren’t bad, but in my mind, currently, all of the worlds of the StarSea are easily habitable, or relatively so. There may be desert worlds, ice worlds, or water worlds, but no vacuum worlds, or hostile atmospheres, etc. Settings like that, while challenging, only creates accounting problems (air supplies, suit integrity, etc.) and a certain “bean-counter-y” feel I really like not having to worry about.

Along that lines, I started giving the nature of the StarSea some thought. In fact, it’s really a mix of some of the ideas I’ve established in my own head combined with some small amount of expansion. The StarSea is like the real world space, a seeming void speckled with matter. However, the Wyrd (the force of magic) appears in two ways throughout the Sea. First, it appears as motes of light. How many times has any one of us watched a TV show with Sci-Fi space travel, and noticed a star moving between us and the space ship? (Hint: it happened a lot on the original Star Trek.) Motes are those tiny flecks of light that seem to be spread through the Sea. They seem intelligent to observers, moving of their own volition, and escaping when captured, seeming to teleport out of whatever container they are placed in. I see the motes a little like the Will-O’-The-Wisps of Pixar‘s Brave, winking in and out of existence, leading people towards the Wyrd’s arcane designs.

The other expression of the Wyrd in the StarSea is the medium ships ply, the Ether. The Ether is a flow of energy with a gaseous nature with currents and eddies. Ships can either move with the current, or tack against it. The Ether also allows people to survive without environmental suits in the void, for a while. Its magic creates breathable air and protects from cold and heat, but won’t sustain a traveller for long. So, weightless maneuvering would be a necessary skill for knights and their allies to have.

Ships use the Ether currents as the medium of travel, as mentioned before. Wyrd-drives align with the ether-currents like sails and keels on old fashioned sailing ships, and knife the ships along. Many also have wings for moving through air, as the vertical sails and keels of aquatic ships don’t provide the lift necessary for flight.

I think that’s all I have time for tonight. It’s late, I need to be up in the morning, and I have need my beauty sleep.





Busy Week

I’m really just posting to fulfill my obligation to myself. I want to post weekly. I’m just having problems doing it.

Partially, that’s my ADHD getting in the way. I let myself be distracted, and I really have no choice in the matter. My brain too freely jumps from subject to subject, so if I’m asked to do something, I have a lot of trouble saying “no.” If I find something to distract myself, I follow that, instead of remaining focused on what should be my priority. I’ve really been fighting that one today. I’ve needed to contact someone to do some handyman work for my aunt (who was here most of last week, creating an entirely different set of distractions), which I forgot about almost as soon as I was asked to do it. I need to make some decisions about D&D for Kids by this weekend, which I really should have given more thought after that last game.

And then there is my job. I worked three days last week, which was surprising, as it was after a three-day-weekend. And I was busy all day every day. While I like the paycheck, that cuts back on the time I have for projects that don’t immediately pay.

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a Adonit Jot Pro stylus for my tablet, and I’ve been experimenting with it. It works well enough with ProCreate, but there is a little bit of a curve, more in relation to the app than the tool. At some point, I’m hoping to have some art up.

I also picked up a physical copy of Diaspora, a Fate-based Hard Sci-Fi RPG. I had downloaded the SRD, but I wanted the physical copy, as I want to support the company, and I find paper books better reading before bed. It’s been giving me some ideas, although those ideas are more in contrast to Diaspora, as the themes are different. However, what I’m really hoping to dig into is the “mini-games,” which detail handling ship combat and army-scale combat, which I expect to add into the StarSea. I want to see how they use the Fate rules to accomplish this, and then either adapt their rules or make my own.

I plan to pick up a copy of the new version of Mindjammer this weekend, pretty much for the same reasons.

I think that’s all I’m going to take time to write at this point. It’s more than I expected to spill out, which is always a pleasant surprise.


Issues of Life and Death

I tried to get this done Sunday night, and my damned computer was killing me, so things never got finished. I have a older “CrackBook” (an Apple MacBook model with poorly designed monitor rests that crack the plastic keyboard bezel) with low RAM and a now out-of-date processor. Sometimes it can just crawl to a stop. Sunday night was one of those times. A couple of reboots and a change of browser later, and things are working a little smoother. It’s nice to see that some of you are wandering by to see whether I’ve got a new post up with me having posted notice.

So, I finally came up with a dwarf concept I like. I believe I’ve commented that I’m looking to throw a spin on some of the tropes of fantasy. My ideas for dwarves just weren’t working for me. They just seemed “blah.” Then some things hit me this weekend, and an idea I like hit me. And it’s related to another decision I’d made about the setting regarding how life and magic interact.

The decision in question was the limits of magic in regards to healing. This is something that will take some tinkering to make work with Fate, as the healing system is actually baked into the character improvement system (which is something else I’d like to tinker with). In Fate, characters are defined by statements called “aspects,” such as “I’ve got [OtherPC]’s back,” etc. Injury is partially handled by a point system (light wounds and exhaustion), and partly by the assignment of special kinds of aspects called “consequences.” While some aspects can be created to be very temporary (like “sand in the eyes”), consequences linger. They’re the “sprained ankles” or even “broken legs” and even in extreme cases, “severed limb.” After every “milestone” (end of a session, scenario, and story), the player can rename and reduce a consequence, representing healing. However, I want magical healing, so this system will have to change somewhat.

On the other hand, I don’t want resurrection to be the option it is in D&D. I want the “Golden Hour.” If you can apply healing magic with an hour of the character dying, then you can bring him back. After that, the character’s soul has moved on to who-knows-where. Same with reattaching limbs, which can lead to magical replacements, etc.

This set of limitations relates to dwarves in that I’ve thought about dwarves being golem-like. So far, though, in the setting, I’ve decided “creatures” like Eberron warforged (sentient golems) can’t exist, as magic cannot create souls. Golems have a certain measure of intelligence (up to computer A.I., but with zero-volition). The summation of the idea that struck me is something like what Chris Perkins was using to explain warforged in his Iomandra setting: fully formed souls come to inhabit a construct. Unlike the Iomandra warforged, the dwarves of the StarSea aren’t dead souls returned to life in new bodies, but are rather coalesced soulstuff inhabiting new bodies through a (more or less) natural process. Before the coming of the Ür, the dwarves were “born” at what the dwarves have come to call “foundry-creches,” natural stony bowls that appeared on their world. Once the Ür began uprooting and spreading the dwarves across the StarSea, new dwarves began forming on other worlds. The dwarves on those worlds began crafting the foundry-creches, and began refining the appearance of new dwarves. The dwarves on Primal worlds have a more rough-hewn look, while those born on other worlds are more like stylized statues, rather than conglomerations of rocks, dirt and roots.

As to gender, I’m considering making the dwarves genderless. They already reproduce asexually, and my thinking is that they come into the world with some basic knowledge (like a large vocabulary), so needing to be nurtured until adulthood is largely unnecessary. The dwarven community shares the responsibility of educating the “newborn,” so again, no need for gender. They will likely have mentor-apprentice relationships, but there’s still no need for gender to enter into picture.

These dwarves are very spiritual sorts, as they have direct evidence of the existence of their souls. They flock to the teachings of the Primal shaman and druids, and the Divine priests and ministers. They join the ranks of both orders regularly. No doubt some would find the “humanist” thinking of the Psions attractive, too. It will take me some thinking on how the dwarves might be drawn to the Arcanists at this point, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.

I’m also considering the place elves in the setting. My current idea is more along the lines of the Sidhe, but associating the elves with dragons. Currently, my idea is that the dragons spread the Wyrd seeds of intelligence throughout the StarSea. However, the first dragon to carry such a seed crashed and died. The dragon’s essence mixed with the seed of intelligence, and the elves were born.

Where I’m stuck at the moment is how to deal with the courts of the Seelie versus the Unseelie, or something similar. I know I can simply use Corruption to explain why the two halves of the race exist, but what the physical differences are is problematic. In D&D, you have the elves and/or eladrin and the drow (who are frighteningly racist and sexist in description). In Warhammer Fantasy, there are the blonde caucasian High and Wood Elves, and the black-haired caucasian Dark Elves (and the Eldar of 40K are pretty much the same). I’m planning on the elves having some draconic traits either way, and I don’t think exaggerating those traits in the evil elves is appropriate, as dragons aren’t necessarily evil in the StarSea.

So, I’m a bit stuck. I need to shake up my thinking, somehow.

Now it’s time for bed, as I work in the morning, so I’ll be curtailing things there for this week. Later.