Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017: A Better Year

Welcome to 2017 people.

It's going to be a weird year, I can tell that already. I'll take a weird year after last year. I could use a year of self improvement and upward progress. A year of learning from past mistakes and making whole new ones.

I'm still in a creative slump, for a number of reasons. Oddly, I'm role-playing as a player more than I am as a GM of late. I'm trying to bring Another Longshot to a close but am having difficulty scheduling the last few sessions between the two parties. But there's light and hope that I may be able to get these lined up to finish by the end of Spring.

Once that game sets, the question of "what next?" arises.  I've had a few campaign ideas kicking around my head:
  • Trinity, or Whatever I'm Calling It -  I'd really hate for all the World Building work I did last October be for naught, but I'm having a hard time and little motivation to continue working on the setting. There are a few contributing factors, but ultimately it comes down to feeling rather unoriginal. I know that "there are no more original stories" and "every story under the sun has been told already" but that doesn't change the fact that it still feels like I took the parts of Starcraft, Babylon 5, Star Wars, Star Trek, Firefly, and a couple RPGs and tried to mash them together. And because of that, probably, it feels fake to me.
  •  Earth 43 - I have ideas kicking around to run a game, maybe a year-long one, that the players are DC heroes but reimagined. Their own versions.  Or, maybe they don't get to choose and session one is the PCs suddenly discovering meta abilities of my choosing. Or something else entirely.  Again, it's only in the proto "this could be fun" stage.
  • Justice Council (or "The Jedi League of the Republic") - Along a similar vein, I'm writing a module for GamernationCon 2017 where the Player Characters are all Jedi versions of the Justice League on a mission against a Sith "Legion of Doom".  The module is going to take 6-8 hours to play, but I'm somewhat inspired to run something with more depth. Have it be a few sessions, or maybe a bi-weekly endeavor over Roll20. Total "beer and pretzels" level of involvement, but it could be entertaining for a few sessions.

Not my artwork, but I like it...
  • A Squadron of Rogues - Rogue One really got to me on a nostalgic level; it was everything I enjoyed about the Rebellion Era stories that didn't involve The Big Three (Luke, Han, and Leia). It reminded me of all the old WEG D6 Star Wars games I ran in High School and college. It reminded me of the "Special Forces Squadron" game I ran from 2005-2007. It tag-teamed with Fantasy Flight Games and the Rebels cartoon to triple body slam me into wanting to run a Rebellion game again. I really want to do something like a Rogue Squadron or Wraith Squadron game; the players are all pilots "and something else" (con men, mechanics, slicers, saboteurs, melee experts, etc).  Maybe that feels a little too much like "Team B" in my Another Longshot game, but hey the urge is there.
  • Renegades - I also want to run a game where the PCs start off as Imperials. I've never run such a game, at least successfully. I think I made an attempt once or twice, but it never came to fruition. This could be that game, but then comes the problem of "everyone's a human".  With the exception of Thrawn, the occasional Inquisitor, and a few spies the Empire is all about the humans. My main issue here is whether or not to run it as a strict Imperial game or as a game where the Imperials will eventually go rogue and join the Rebellion. But if I have them go into it knowing that the point is for them to join the Rebellion, does that take away some of the fun and character development?
    • Alternately, the game could start off "how far will you go", and have it be up to the PCs to decide how far they're willing to support the Empire in their iron grip of the galaxy. To make that work and be compelling, there would have to be some sort of benefit vs. consequences conflict going on; the longer they stay in the Empire the more they get "n", but the Consequences for that is a lot higher when they do eventually defect to the Alliance.
    • This game could, of course, dovetail in to the aforementioned Rebel SpecOps Squadron game.

Next up is Convention madness! GamernationCon 2017 is coming, and I've got a few things lined up for that. I might be running games for FFG at Pax East this year, which may hopefully segue into more of the same at Gen Con 50 this year in Indianapolis. I may also try to get out to one of the local cons this year, TotalConfusion, but we'll have to see if that's in the cards.

That's pretty much it for now; back to working on the Justice Council module for GNC 2017.  Maybe I'll start posting up my thoughts and builds for the PCs.

May the dice be with you!

Oh; and thanks, Obama.



Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016: Die In A Fire


Contrary to my last post, maybe I did forget about this thing.

This blog has always been a labor of love, and it's always worked best when I've had something to work on or write about that I can share with the masses; Jedi Rules for Edge of the Empire when we had none, development of characters or campaigns that I was able to share publicly, and the occasional work on costuming. I haven't had a lot of that lately. I haven't been inspired to do work on any new rules. Most of the few gaming projects I'm working on are either GM-only story ideas or locked down under an NDA (which is kinda exciting, in a sort of way). I've also been trying to refocus on several neglected areas in my life socially, which as a geeky introvert is hard.

And then there's this dumpster fire that's been 2016.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a moody guy; empathic and empathetic to the feelings and moods of those around me. I tend to feed off them, and in some cases feed into them. When I'm in a good mood, I am excited and can share that energy with others. When I'm grumpy and down, I share that snark with others. These two moods tend to start cycles and spirals that can lead to creative enlightenment or long periods where I have no energy or desire to enjoy anything.

2016 has tended towards the latter mood. So many artistic heroes of mine have passed away. So many looming threats on the horizon. So many spectres of fear and despair caused by the events surrounding the election. Nevermind the personal difficulties and challenges I've faced privately which have fed into my outlook for the year.

I suppose there's nothing left for it than to try to reverse course and try to foster some good in life. I can sit here and continue to bash my head against the keyboard and hope something interesting falls out for me to type, or I can effect change in my life and climb out of the emotional pit I've been in. There are going to be things in the news that aggravate me, or depress me. I've got to look at all of those situations and think "Okay, what can I do about it?" and either do something to better that situation or realize that I can't do anything to "fix" it and try not to let it weigh on me. This isn't the same as procrastination or ambivalence; if there's something I can do that requires work or effort, I should do it. I can't fix the US Government, but I can support those who have to means to try. I can't stop my artistic heroes from dying, but I can remember and honor them by continuing to create art. I can't give my wife everything I want to, but I can give her everything I am able.

So what will come of this blog?  Will anything come of Trinary? What's next for my Star Wars RPGs? What am I working on for GamerNationCon? Will I get that First Order Snowtrooper done for me and my father in time to wear it next December? Am I going to GenCon 50?

The first question, I'm not going to answer. I'm tired of not meeting my promises; so I'm going to under-promise and work to over-perform.

As far as the rest of those questions; we'll see.

See you sometime next year.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Interludes

 No, I haven't forgotten about this thing.

I've been taking a few days off between projects, and then got steamrolled into a few things which ate up a lot of my writing time. Things seem to be stabilizing, so I can finally get back to writing.

Most recently, I've been putting the polish on my Fallout: Edge of the Wasteland rules and adventure. It's mostly set...mostly. I'm finishing up the equipment rules, and putting some final stat blocks together.  Once that's done, it'll be added to the upcoming GamerNationCon 2017 Kickstarter as a reward for backing it.  So if you want a copy of that early, go back that Kickstarter when it begins at the end of the month.

This makes me start to think about what I want to do for GNC 2017, and what I need to do. Because of a gorgeous miniature I won thanks to help from Sam Stewart, I have to write a module that features a dual-wielding female Dark Sider as the villain. I can do that. I also promised that I'd be bringing the third chapter of my Knights of the Rebellion series; Revenge of the Jedi. Can I work the two of them together?  Probably, I've already got ideas spinning.

But what else do I bring?  A Better Man, the same Fallout module I brought last year?  Do I write a new Fallout module? I've also been kicking around the idea of a Transformers-themed module, either using FFG's D20 OGL rules called Metamorphosis, or Chris West's Saga Edition based rules. Bringing something for Savage Rifts is appealing, too.  Do I write and bring a module for Trinary? The problem with that is context; if folks don't know the world, will they really care about the story? Plus I'd have to decide what system to run it in...


So many choices.

Then I have to figure out what to do about the first two chapters of the Knights of the Rebellion trilogy. Do I bring them?  There's only so much of me to go around, figure I've got 7 sessions in me to run; maybe 8. I have to figure that each game should get on the table twice, so unless I got someone else running the module, I can only have four modules max, three being a more likely number.

One thing I'm going to be doing, definitely; I will be running a "High Gamer Cred" session and a "Con Newbie".  Not sure what will qualify for High Gamer Cred as a limit, but I know the Con Newbie will only be open to folks who have almost no Gamer Cred; maybe 50 or less. I'll have to run it early in the Con; maybe the first session of the first day; you can rack up Cred really quickly if you try to.

Lots to ponder, lots to think about.


Friday, September 30, 2016

Day 30: Last Day


This is it!  The End! The final day of my 30 Days of WorldBuilding challenge for Project Trinary! I'm psyched up, ready to write, and ready to go!  Let's see what today's final exercise is!

Take a break
Today's exercise is to NOT exercise. Give yourself a break from world-building to let the ideas sift themselves out in your mind before you start writing like a fiend tomorrow.
...oh.  Uh...huh.  Okay then...I guess I'm done...?

Kind of anti-climactic to the whole process, then again this is a task that someone theoretically starts on October 1st and then on November 1st starts to bang out a novel for NaNoWriMo. But I'm not writing a novel, I didn't do this exercise to start a book. Every time I think about writing a novel, my lack of exquisite vocabulary gets away from me. My dialouge skills are solid, it's my inability to set the scene that gets me lost and off-track. But that's my own damage for another time.

So...what do I do today?  I was kinda jazzed up and ready for some monumental capstone to this project. But maybe Bryant is right, maybe I could use a break. Take a day off before starting in on something more.  Maybe I could use all this information and get some writing done. Maybe I can use what I am good at and write a few teaser pieces, or mood setting pieces for Trinary.  It might even help solidify a few ideas for the game.

Like a name for the Dark One, or a better name than Trinary.

So I guess that's it! This has been "30 Days of Worldbuilding a new campaign setting for some yet-unknown system". I may decide to keep this setting agnostic and let the readers decide what system they want to use for their games. Me, I'm definitely going to run this world, so I'll need to decide how I want to run it.

I think I may have written more for this blog in the past month than I did all last year. I've been in a bit of a rut these past two years. Something's been deficient; time, enthusiasm, ideas on what to write about. But I'm sticking with it, and I'm sticking with this.

In October, I'm going to flex my writing skills and write some stories for Trinary. I've got an idea on how I want to write them, and about how long they'll be. I probably won't be updating this blog as often as this month, but I might. There were many days this month where I mentioned that I needed to "come back to this" or "do this again for another planet or government". That's what October will be used for; second passes and stories.  My goal is to get something out each weekend, and at least two updates during the week.

I've got this Pintrest folder filled with images of stuff I've found around the web, maybe my weekday tasks will be taking an image and adding it to the setting, describing what it is and how it fits into the world.

It's been a fun month; for those of you who read along with me, thanks for joining me. I hope it's been at least a little insightful and possibly encouraging of your own writing project, whatever it may be. I hope you'll continue to join me as I work on Trinary in the coming months.

Until then, may the dice be with you!


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Day 29: Character II


My last character day didn't go so well, and I ended up cutting her from the Setting because the storyline she was attached to didn't match the themes for the start of the campaign.

Today's character exercise is a little different.

Exercise:
Look in your social and cultural world for not just the places where your character doesn't fit in, but also the places where he or she does, and note them in your character notes. Make sure that, by the end of today, you can name your character's parents and siblings, the town where they grew up, their age and any training they've had, and the most influential three people in their lives.

Oh, and for those of you who already have characters fully fleshed out: Spend your fifteen minutes writing a scene in which your character is given a gift they have to refuse. You decide on the gift, the giver, and why they have to refuse it.

 Once again, the man theme behind this exercise is lost because I don't have a main character, not one that I'm a) writing a story about or b) willing to share with the public at this time.  I could do this for the main villain of the first story arc, but doing so and making it public would give away way too much information that I want.

But this is a day for characters, so I'm going to write about characters, specifically where they will start off. The first campaign I run in this world might have to be characters that I come up with. I don't know if I'll have enough of the setting scripted out for the first batch of PCs to be able to truely make their PCs from scratch.  I've had folks make characters in similar siutations before; the original Longshot game had PC "archetypes" that I wanted filled. Like Ace and Commander; I wanted one player who was the hotshot pilot, and another who was centered around leadership abilities, but how that PC got there was up to them.

This first campaign might be different. For the story arc to advance, I might have to do similar scripting with the starting PCs.  For at least the first Story Arc, anyway. What I'll need to determine are what roles will I need filled within the group.

And, of course, how many PCs will that be?

I'm not even sure what I'd want as archetypes for the game; Retired or Discharged Union soldier? Psychic? Definitely a non-human. Danal Resistance member?  Ku'jai farmer?  I still need to see what the first story arc is going to entail before I decide on archetypes, relationships, and skills necessary for success.

Almost every space opera has some "guy and his ship". I'm sort of tempted to put transportation from one system to another in the hands of the NPCs, and be something the PCs have to negotiate for.  It's a possibility I'll have to consider...

Tomorrow we finish this thing.

One more day...


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Day 28: Left Out

Today should be a blast...

Exercise:

Spend 15 minutes thinking about two or three of the above "left out topics" and post in the comments any other world-building topics that come to mind that you haven't seen addressed in these threads and would like to.
 The post for today's exercise then goes on to list several topics that folks have come up with over the years. I feel like using that as a list...

Clothing: What passes for fashion in your world? 
I like the idea that each world has it's own fashion trends. One world may favor the ultra-chic of today's high-end fashions, while another world is mostly "blue jeans and t-shirts". For the Union as a whole, I look a lot to what's come before; Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battletech. Similar worlds, similar themes.



Sanitation and hygiene: We don't read speculative fiction to read up on people going to the bathroom, but how clean is your world? What do large concentrations of people do with their waste (biological waste as well as regular ol' trash)? 
The Union tends to have mass-garbage yards where trash is compacted, launched into orbit, and fired into the nearest star. At least that's how it works on most urban settings. The more remote a world, the more necessary it will be to try and recycle anything and everything they can. Composting stations, recycling yards, scrapyards; that's the norm in the Stellar Garden. I think there may be one or two minor powers that will be akin to "70s era US", where it's all fossil fuels, smog, pollution, and garbage yards miles across stinking up the place. 

Disease and Treatment, Medicines: Similarly, how does medicine work in your world? What do people do for pain? What do they do about disease? How do people heal? Are there hospitals, healers, infirmaries, medics? 
High medicine with advanced cybernetics, pharmaceuticals, and life-preserving surgeries. Certain psychics could even be involved; if they are skilled in bio-manipulation or with mental techniques, they may be called on for delicate matters.

Treatment of the Elderly: A related issue: do your elderly drift away on icebergs? Do they get put into an old folks' home? Do they shift to hyper-productive imaginative lives in a VR world? Are they revered? Reviled? 
In urban centers, medical science allows humans to live past 100 years of age, regularly. The elderly live long and active lives, due to supplements. The poor don't quite have the same access, but they still can live a long while. Most are still active members of the community and ideally seen as knowledgeable elders.


Law Enforcement and Incarceration: Long-term incarceration is a modern phenomenon, and one that doesn't seem to work very well, given the overpopulation in prisons. What happens to criminals in your world? Fines? Feuds? Eye-for-an-eye mutilation? Microchipping? Do you have prisons? 
The Union maintains various prisons around the Garden. Each world has a few in isolated locations; the goal is to rehabilitate felons and use them as labor in mines, farms, or civic improvement projects. Upon release, they are gene-tagged and on effective parole for the remainder of their lives. The worst criminals are kept away from the public, locked into prisons orbiting dead stars, on planets with harsh climates, or on refurbished asteroid bases. Only the very worst criminals are issued the death penalty (treason or murder of a government official).

Some fun details to add into the setting. Two more days and then this project phase is completed.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Day 27: Plot Hooks

Here we are; Day 27. We're at another point in the exercise where sharing the development publicly is going to be tricky, or at least "spoilery" for anyone who would be PCing this campaign. It's also another day where the difference between "novel" and "campaign setting" are apparent.

Exercise

If you don't have an outline, look at your plot hooks and see if you can group them together ("well, these all have something to do with goats...."). If you can, cluster them together and talk about the most interesting cluster when you start the novel on Monday. You may end up changing that beginning, but if those are the plot hooks that interest you the most, then those plot hooks are your plot. Surprise!
Well, the good news is I've got a pretty good idea on the first story arc of the campaign setting. A few things are going to be happening, and a lot is going to be going on concurrently to each other.  Here's a premise of events that will take place during...well, let's call it "Season One".
  • Blood Pirate attacks - sets tone for game
  • Drachon clan raids - sets tone for Drachon
  • Union does yet another sketchy thing - establishes that the Union is tainted at best, corrupt at worst.
  • New Danal Resistance gains momentum - PC action to determine if they're freedom fighters or a terrorist cell
  • Psychic PCs deal with "Psychic Council" - sets tone for psychics in the Stellar Garden (note to self - come up with cooler name than "Psychic Council")
  • Bathal Host arrives in the Stellar Garden - power shift and chaos introduced
  • PCs encounter prominent NPC that knows about the Bathal Host and their objective
  • PCs learn about magic from mysterious NPC - cornerstone for the campaign setting
  • Bathal Host Secret #1 revealed
  • Benefactor NPC Secret #1 revealed
  • Climax
  • Aftermath/End Season 1
Where Season 2 goes will depend greatly on where Season 1 ends, and the PCs actions there in.

I should start to consider how I'm going to run this game. I've got a few important points to consider.
  • The Rules - What system I use to tell this story is a huge factor. It will color how the story is told, and what the most important aspect to the PCs will be. Too tactical and it turns into a war game with plot. Too narrative and it turns into a "choose your own adventure" story. 
    • Settings I am interested in using; these are systems that I think could handle the game well for one reason or another. Nothing at this time screams out "USE ME!" as a catch-all/perfect-system, though.
      • Savage Worlds; open ended advancement, solid basic rules set, never run anything in it previously, odd combat/damage system (to my history of playing)
      • Starfinder; quite literally "Pathfinder In Space", it's the main reason I want to get out to GenCon 2017, as they'll have copies of it for sale there first. With it's integration of sci-fi and magical fantasy, this might be the perfect blending of what I need.  Uses a modified version of yee olde classic D20 rules, so comparable hit-points and skill check/armor class system I suppose. Limited advancement is likely, and probably has the same problems post level 10 as every other d20 system out there. GM Prep Time is likely to be high out of necessity.
      • Star Wars RPG (FFG); the system I am currently most familiar with. It's a solid system, but would require a lot of re-skinning and fudging to cover a few details. I've already played around with using the Star Wars systems for other settings (Fallout 4), and it seems to translate well. Using the Force Powers as a basis for Magic and Psionics actually could fit pretty well, too. It forces players to focus on a few tricks to be really good at or be broadly experienced with a bunch of minor abilities.  The open ended advancement system is appealing. Space and vehicle combat is incredibly deadly as written, though, and I'm not sure how well power armor and mecha would work in such a format.
      • Star Wars Saga Edition (WotC); Suggested by GM Chris while talking about it on the Order 66 Podcast, it's got potential. Another system I'm familiar with, I've got all the books for it, the Magic and Psionics system would translate fairly well with my ideas for magic and psychic powers. Familiar d20 system and a very free-form advancement path up to level 20. Space combat is decent, and regular combat is survivable.  I remember hours and hours of prep time for character groups over level 11, though, and it feels like a step backwards to me.  Then again, that might simply be because it's a D20 system.
    • Systems I have zero interest in using;
      • FATE; don't like it, can't stand it. It's too narrative for my tastes, too much hangs off your ability to shoe-horn in key words and troubles into your rolls. The dice annoy me the most, probably because of a nigh-flawless track record of being able to roll anything positive on them (usually end up rolling a wash, or worse). I know folks like it, and enjoy it, but that's not me.
      • GURPS; a classic game system, but one I'm not familiar with. I've also heard about an impressive amount of min-maxing is possible within the system, which is a turn off.
      • Palladium; AHAHAHAHHAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA - *inhale* - HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA...*passes out*
Sorry, that last one just slipped out there...
  • "Living World" - the idea that spawned this whole thing was "can I make a campaign setting interesting enough for others to use?" Which leads to the follow up question; would anyone want to use this setting? I've got a few friends in "the industry", and I've got something of an idea on how much work goes into creating a campaign setting. It's a lot, especially for a Party-of-One to tackle. 
    • If I was going something with as much background and history as Battletech or Forgotten Realms, I'd be in trouble. If I set it up to read more like what I've seen for FATE campaign settings, I may not need to be as thorough in the details, especially up-front. 
    • This leads to writing up "modules" for the setting, or at least writing up a lot of one-page "Adventure shorts"; modules with the gist of the adventure and what is happening in the Stellar Garden, but up to the GM to fill out the details and fit in their PCs.
    • This would make it somewhat difficult to plan for massive, setting altering events unless I decide they're going to happen anyway. I know a couple folks who did a lot of Living Star Wars, maybe I should talk to them about how they wrote the adventure campaign...
There are other points to consider, but this is starting to become a long post. Tomorrow looks like a fun day of brainstorming some of the left-out details about the setting. I could use that break from posts like today.

3 days left!