Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Another Valoria, WIP and Stuff of Legends draft 3

(click to embiggen)
Above is the map I've chosen to place Another Valoria on, its use gracefully allowed by Herwin Wielink. Thank you, Herwin :)

The current state of Valoria is such:
  • It's populated strictly by humans, although precursor races exist and those are not dwarves, elves or any other sundry race.
  • The humans are centered around several locations and the majority of the continent is wilderness. There are no mechanical differences based on where a character originates from.
  • Magic is uncommon but viewed with careful acceptance.
  • A crystalline element, called Varinium, is relatively plentiful and can be worked into a form that produces thrust. The use of Varinium acts as a scientific catalyst which jump-started advanced locomotion - airships are rare but functional, ships can travel more reliably and hovering vehicles are uncommon but in wide-spread use.
  • The cosmology of Another Valoria places the prime material plane in the center of 7 layers of planes. 
    • At the top is the Essence layer, from which all is made and where the creator god resides. 
    • Below Essence is Light.
    • Between Light and the prime material plane, Fire and Air share a layer.
    • At the bottom is Void, where things cease to exist.
    • Above Void is Darkness.
    • Between Darkness and the prime material plane, Earth and Water share a layer.
    • It is believed that the further up you ascend, the closer you get to Essence. In the same vein, if you descend into the earth you move closer towards Void.
It's not much, but it's progress.


I am also working on Stuff of Legends draft 3. Slowly I write my way through character creation. When I have enough to share, I will.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Short, celebratory post

While I was sleeping, my blog achieved precisely 1000 views. I feel like this number is very much celebration worthy, so here's a post to celebrate that with some bits of information about myself and blogs.

Bit #1: I've had 3 or 4 blogs in the past, my count is iffy. One was when I had been a teenager and another one or two when I was a bit older. The very first one held up relatively well, with infrequent updates, but it was also a personal one so I don't really count that. The other one or two were more about my interests and lasted several months before I completely forgot about them.

Bit #2: I don't remember how many views my blogs had among them, although the later one (might've been another one in the middle, but no idea if it exists and where) has 416. One way or another, I think neither got to 1000 and most certainly not this quick since I created it.

Bit #3: I've been refreshing the view count every 30 min or so last night, since my latest post went up. I have a tendency to define a part of myself through definitive achievements, preferably numbers, and 1000 views feels like one such achievement.

Bit #4: I never thought I'd get quiet so high, given the fact that 1000 isn't even that high.

<edited in>
And here are some fun stats
  • With 63% of all views, Chrome is the browser used the most to access my blog, followed by 29% Firefox and an assortment of others making up the final few percentage.
  • 49% of all views came from Linux machines, 35% Windows and 11% Mac. Picking up the slack are several others, with a whole 6 views from "other Unix" operating systems.
  • A massive majority of views, 810 of them, are from the USA, as could be expected. The far second is, unexpectedly, Israel with 75 views. I know I gave them links, I did not think they accounted for such a relatively large part of my views.
  • The most viewed post is Stuff of Legends - Character Basics with 44 views as of this post. Fun fact: it's using the first draft rules and terms, which were a mess.
I've not messed nearly at all with layout options before this post and any functional layout is probably going to be newer than this post.
 </edited in>

Thank you, readers and bots alike, for giving me the drive to keep writing and sharing by giving me your views and your +1s. Thank you very much! :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Another Valoria, take 2

I was writing the third draft of Stuff of Legends, to work with the Another Valoria concept (third draft in chronological order. The second one has not been abandoned... I think). I got to writing about races and I noticed something: I couldn't figure out how to account for 2 entire races being completely wiped out - moreso by a war.
I mean, extinguishing a localized people is relatively simple, given you have the correct tools and methods. But an entire, continent-spanning race? I cannot begin to imagine how one such entire race is wiped out, deliberately, by another race, much less how two wipe each other out.

So the question I'm faced with now: what changes to enact in order to fix this lapse in the setting's narrative. Which bits do I compromise on and which do I hold onto?

Point 1: dwarves and elves evoke certain imagery and concepts, whether present as a race or as history.
Having either or both allows me to evoke certain images and concepts in players and GMs, without having to resort to sprawling descriptions and in depth analyses. This is double-edged, as it provides a familiar foundation, but it also takes away from the wonder in the world, as it sets it firmly in the well known.
Point 1 Verdict: they are both useful, but they aren't necessary. Compromise seems safe. Other races in their place?

Point 2: massive war definitely has immense casualty, but it rarely ends with complete genocide.
To push the part about not being able to imagine just how two races manage to completely wipe each other out. It takes an incredible coincidence to have 2 sides lose to the same degree. In the same vein, some force could intervene and tip the odds. Either the casualty is greater or this just doesn't work.
Point 2 Verdict: this makes little to no sense, except being "cool". Definite compromise. Exterior forces attacking? Shifting of how it ends?

Point 3: avoidance of elves and dwarves as PC races helps avoid reliance on the safest tropes.
Back to point 1: even if they aren't actively around, they still affect the world. Their general presence is a safe bet in design, which I suspect is harming the setting as a whole.
Point 3 Verdict: also back to point 1: other races as a compromise?

Point 4: the state of the continent is supposed to be bad. Disarray and massive swaths of land changed after the Event. Where kingdoms and maybe empires had been, now are city-states at most.
Points of Light is the bread and butter of many D&D-esque games. Adventure is found away from civilization and there is less civilization than there is wilderness. This is compounded by the rarity of safe wilderness, due to beasts and monsters. I want the taste of adventure.
Point 4 Verdict: if I want to achieve that, I need any kind of Event. To continue from point 2, it doesn't have to be a war, although those tend to do it.

Conclusions: It looks like compromise is the way to go here, after I give an honest look over at the original concepts. But it's not yet clear how to proceed - do I nix the elves and dwarves completely? Do I keep them but lose the war? Do I drop the war and find some other Event? Perhaps, is the Event still going on?

Going Forward
I don't really want people to see dwarves and elves in the list and say "Ah, of course!" and take some trope or other. While they are fully in the right of doing so, it feels lazy and plain to me. If I had to cobble together something right now, that takes into account all the compromises:
The Event is likely still going on and is an invasion of some sort - extraplanar or from another planet. There are ways and things. If there are elves and/or dwarves, they aren't recent. Theirs are the grand ruins where the greatest treasure lies. Maybe humans are gone too, since humans tend to be boring. Heck, maybe it's a big like Numenera, where the world now is much different than the world of a long time ago.

Heck, I might do just that.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Playing over Hangouts

After scheduling conflicts had been resolved, I've joined +Other Tim's Numenera game, being played over Hangouts. It's been around a year and a half since the last time I played, I think, and the game had been +Chris McDowall's Into the Odd.
I had fun. I really, genuinely had fun. Numenera is a pretty great game and Tim is a good GM. He really gets in character with NPCs and can really push a particular image or sensation into your mind, in that good way.
I'm playing a glaive that really quite show-offy. He's a decent fighter and a decent person.
Highlights included vivid descriptions of some creepy things, a fight with two mutants which I crushed with skill and really shifting the plot by killing what could've been an important NPC. She was creepy and spoke in my head.
So I'm looking forward to the next session, both since it was a fun, specific group and it's nice, in general, to get back to playing rather than just GMing.

Also, following some short discussion, we're planning to have a one shot of D&D 5e and I'm set for DMing it. Huzzah!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Another Valoria

While in the shower, and shortly before it, I was thinking about Stuff of Legends - the RPG I'm writing. I've hit a rut both in the system itself and in the development of its setting, Valoria. So while in the shower, I thought about what I could do differently, or at least what bothers me so much that I'm stuck, and it hit me that I still have a pretty ordinary fantasy world, except with some palettes switched out for different ones. It took me very little to picture a different Valoria.

Base assumptions
Valoria was thought up with some certain base assumptions: there were elves and dwarves and now there weren't, there was mighty magic and now it's harder to access, there are dragons and they aren't uniformly evil nor good across certain spectrums and finally - there's little actual and true evil anywhere to be seen.
I wanted to get rid of elves and dwarves since they were becoming less interesting for me alive. Their ruins are exploitable, but actual characters are... boring to some degree. Magic has a price, as can be seen in one previous post. Dragons are more of a united race. There are no demons.

Valoria v1
Saying it's the first version is misleading. It went through a bunch of iterations, but it's the first solid version. There are 5 races, after the elves and dwarves had gone, that all stem from humans - warped in one way or another. There are conflicting political superpowers. There are mysterious things to still come to know. But overall, when I write it out like this, doesn't it seem... kitchen-sinky? Not a bad thing to be, but I suddenly find myself boring.

The rut
I've been stuck for ages on other races. A full fledged five! One did this certain type of character well, another did that other type well. In trying to sidestep a trope, I walked right into one. I feel ashamed of myself, in a way. The same goes towards the political superpowers - the same old lady but with different clothes. Their precise creeds, forms of government and cultural quirks do little to make them truly interesting. And then there's the whammy, which hit me hard - what game am I trying to make again? Why do I care so much about political superpowers spanning half a continent? I felt like I lost sight of what I was going for.

Imitation and intentions
An advice that comes up often is to try and avoid building games from scratch, not because it's hard, but because it can be redundant. It follows with trying to see which game best fits the style you're going for and hacking or imitating it to a worthwhile degree.
And so I gave that some thought: I want adventures and adventurers, but I don't want classes. I want combat but I want it to matter. I don't want social interactions to be a heavy system. I don't want spell slots. There are numerous games out there in the fantasy genre and many fall into any number of these wants and don't wants, but I haven't yet run into one which answers everything. Hacking or imitation sounds about right, though.
So what is my game supposed to be about? It's supposed to be about going out on adventures and delving into dungeons, about exploring the wilderness and the unknown, about attaining power. This sounds like D&D, but some of my don't wants stand out. So do I hack or imitate? Remains to be a question.

And what this post is really about
But I went on a really long, winding path to get to my point. This post is about another Valoria, not necessarily Stuff of Legends as much as the setting that I wish to tie the game into.
In this other Valoria, some things are different but share a common base assumption:
  • The elves and dwarves did die, just not sequentially and quite recently. All out war brought the continent to its knees and the setting takes place during recovery.
  • From 5 races remain 3, and they get a bigger spotlight. Instead of covering bases, I want to make choosing a race an interesting choice. More than giving you general guidelines, I want the process to give you a feel for who your character is just from the racial choice process. I'm playing favorites and nixing races that felt too out of place and redundant.
  •  A multitude of disparate factions in favor of a few unified ones. Gone is the empire and other such superpowers. Spared are those who were far from the war. Points of Light all the way.
  • The elves and dwarves dying out took with them more than just cultures and history - inherent parts of the world became weakened.
  • The Not-Demons can be allowed to be more... unseemly.
These points still fall into many tropes, but out of them I see my vision as more fun to attain. I see a game closer to what I want to do and how I want to portray it, though this setting.

So there's a second Valoria. It isn't the new one, or the better one, just another one.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rough Ideas: Supervillains of another Earth - the Gentleman's Club

I like comicbooks and I like the stories therein. I've pretty much always liked them and always also had a soft spot for superhero comicbooks. Granted, what I like the most are stories about villains - villains gone good, villains doing good and even villains just being villains. Notable titles include Bad-Ass by Dynamite, Edison Rex by Monkeybrain, the Worm web serial, Deadpool (which you could argue is not a villain, but still) and others.

But there's a special spot in my heart reserved for villains not often found - ones that have unique and interesting powers. Granted, most powers have been done to death, but there are always new spins.

So I'd like to present the Gentleman's Club, supervillains of another Earth.


Mr. Multiple

Position: leader of the Gentleman's Club.
Real Identity: unknown.
Power: can create real, physical duplicates of himself, materialized in any pose and carrying up to anything he himself wears or is holding. The distance he can create these duplicates from his own body has been estimated at 50 meters. Neither he nor anyone else know the upper limit on how many duplicates he may create. When a duplicate dies, he simply disappears in a puff of smoke, although they are as durable as Mr Multiple.
(Author's Notes: I know this one has been done to death, but I can't imagine a non-duplicator not being at the top.)

Mr. Curve

Position: right-hand man and bodyguard of Mr. Multiple.
Real Identity: unknown.
Power: Mr. Curve's power is threefold and immensely powerful. It's first part is the ability to perceive trajectories of moving objects - fists, bullets, debris and pretty much anything in motion, as long as it can be clearly defined in thought. The second part is slowed down sensory perception, which allows him to think at normal speed while perceiving everything in slow motion - slow enough to see bullets travel is a leisurely pace. The third and final part is the ability to modify trajectories - the faster and bigger they are, the harder they become to modify. Nonetheless, Mr. Curve has yet to be harmed by a bullet, even at point blank, to illustrate a point.
(Author's Notes: this guy was the first to crop up as an idea. I really like him since he has a finely defined field of work with a massive scope.)

Mr. Fear

Position: in charge of drug trafficking.
Real Identity: Daniel Du Leyri,
Power: triggers acute hallucinations in line of sight which are directly connected to feelings and sensations. Whilst he can cover the entire psychological spectrum, Mr. Fear found that common punishment, in the form of fear-tied hallucinations, and rare rewards, in the form of pleasurable ones, are the best motivators. His primary restriction, line of sight, is also the primary reason why he isn't leading the Gentleman's Club - Mr. Multiple always has more than one duplicate running around and nearly always out of sight.
(Author's Notes: this is one wicked power that I thought up when I was researching tarot cards and thinking of suitable powers based on their meanings. This one is tied to the Moon.)

Mr. Shepherd

Position: in charge of violent operations.
Real Identity: George McNeilly.
Power: in justification of his position, Mr. Shepherd's power allows him to excite crowds in a frenzy that he is in partial control of. While his range is relatively short, at least as far as activation goes, those under the frenzy are susceptible to his commands and directions and are generally healthier and studier than they would otherwise be.
(Author's Notes: where Mr. Fear comes from the Moon card, Mr. Shepherd comes from the Sun card.)

Mr. Vault

Position: in charge of smuggling.
Real Identity: Armand Marney.
Power: has the power to store objects in an alternate, nearby dimension which overlaps with our own and in which time does not move.. The objects occupy physical space that directly corresponds to our own world and that surrounds Mr. Vault. No one but him, and Mr. Shift below, is capable of interacting with the objects within, as well as removing them. It is assumed, when he will die, that everything that was stored will be released all at once. Due to that, he claims, though the veracity of the claim could be questioned, that he has an atomic bomb stored several hundreds of feet above of himself and which is primed to detonate.
(Author's Notes: came up as a power in post-apo setting I've thought of. I liked it a lot.)

Mr. Shift

Position: in charge of covert operation.
Real Identity: Alexander Breen.
Power: where Mr. Vault can store things in that alternate, nearby dimension, Mr. Shift can physically enter it, along with anything he's wearing or carrying. Remaining inside is exhausting and ages him asynchronously in comparison to our own dimension, which has made him actually older, than just appearing to be. Anything that leaves his person, as though dropped or fired, immediately shifts back. While inside, time goes slowly enough as though to simulate that he's actually move abnormally fast.
(Author's Notes: in the post-apo setting, the main character and best friend of the guy with Mr. Vault's power.)

Mr. Devil

Position: in charge of legitimate fronts and promoting crime and chaos.
Real Identity: Tulliver Perdu.
Power: able to grant superpowers temporarily and permanently to others by trading it for something of worth. Mr. Devil is in full control of power retention and can revoke powers as long as someone he has powered is in line of sight. Things of worth are defined by those who trade them in and no one thing has any inherent worth outside of what the one trading it gives. Two lives might be worth very different powers, depending on all kinds of things. The powers given are impossible to predict, but can be directed by trading certain things.
(Author's Notes: the Devil tarot card, in continuation of the Moon and Sun cards.)


And there you have the Gentleman's Club, one of the most dangerous supervillain groups I could think of.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Late D&D 5e impression, schools of magic and play experiences in other countries

So this post is coming in really really late.

D&D 5e Impressions
So, sure, I've seen the Basic rules like a long while ago - about a month. Before I went to London, anyway. So I'm late to the impressions party. But still.
My biggest impression is thus, seeing as I didn't _really_ play before 3.x: this new edition is a fabulous thing. It's back to roleplaying goodness after how 4e had been more of a miniatures tactical simulation with RPG elements, rather than an RPG with major combat elements.
Now to be more precise - I like how...
  • ...classes are less boring, compared to 3.x, most notably spellcasters, which stopped having just the one schtick of spellcasting.
  • ...character sheets are less packed and offer better visibility to different aspects of a character. Also that they aren't the one that won that one contest.
  • ...that they removed a lot of modifiers, making things simpler and DCs adhere to a stricter scale.
  • ...how wizards have been given a middle ground that feels fair about spell prep.
I'm sure there are more things I have to say about the game, but this is the gist of it. I was excited by virtue of reentering the roleplaying hobby to play D&D 3.x, but 5e has me genuinely excited about the game.

Schools of Magic
So I'm still working on my RPG, Stuff of Legend, and recently really looked into how I want magic to work in my game and setting. After one iteration which didn't prove solid enough, I've stolen the magic schools of D&D 3.x and mixed them up a bit to get a better spread.
There are a total of 8 magic schools, divided into 3 tiers:
  • At the lowest tier are the essentially standard magic: illusion, conjuration, abjuration and evocation. These are scary in their own right, but they are predictable and direct.
  • Above them are more versatile and potentially dangerous schools: divination and transmutation. One can supply information about many things, the chief of which being the Enumeration spell. They are scary because the supply power that's harder to fight against.
  • At the top are the most dangerous ones, capable of the most harm: vitamancy and cerebremancy. The prior has the power to snuff out life indiscriminately with a flick of the wrist. The latter allows the wizard to read minds and cause massive brain damage with as much effort as vitamancer expend into killing. These are so considerably hard to defend against that they are the most scary and most regulated.
Players may choose the lowest or middle tiers when they create spellcasting characters. The schools are intended to speak for themselves, in regards to expected effects and I think I've done a good job.

Gaming in other countries
About a month ago I've been to London, for my sister's graduation from City University London (house of Gryffindor). Before I flew in, I sought out activities with people from the internet that I'm familiar with. James Young answered that call with an invite to their weekly game night he was GMing. The experience was fab.
To start with, it was my first time playing outside of my physical comfort zone - somewhere public that isn't directly tied to RPGs. Cons don't count, for that matter, is what I mean.
I had a beer sometime in the middle, which also counts for points.
My character, which started with the name Arlen but ended up with the name Frog*, lived through the session (well, there was no combat, although other characters had nearly died) and even contributed a bunch by defeating a ghost at Jenga.
We gamed for 3.5 hours, but they were a total blast. All players got as much spotlight as they were seeking and everyone was pretty much really grand.

Sorry that the posts aren't coming in very often, but I'm struggling to leave my social comfort zone of being a lurker. So here, have a late post about things.

*There are two good reasons for this switch in names: 1) the only remaining miniature to represent a character was a plastic frog, and 2) Frog had 4 charisma, which makes the name, at least as a nickname, sound pretty fair I think.