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.

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...


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.


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.
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!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Day 26: Anti-What If?

4 days left to go on my 30 Days of WorldBuilding project. The end is in sight, and it looks like I've got a full week ahead of me for putting the finishing touches on my campaign setting framework. I've outlined some speculative elements, set the general mood and tone for my campaign setting, and got some bare bones down on the political and social climate of the Stellar Garden.

So here we are on day 26, and instead of adding, it looks like we're subtracting stuff.

Look at your "mood words" list and then at your notes and outlines and ideas. Put anything that doesn'’t match at least one mood word (or a synonym of a mood word) onto a separate page or in a separate file. You may end up putting your misfits into this novel when you're stuck or need some inspiration or when there's an opportunity for them to fit in. You may even, when you get tired of the main storyline, decide that you want a subplot of Misfits, something to give a little comic relief, perhaps, or just an alternative tone to your main storyline.

For contradictory ideas, pick the one that you like best or, if you have no favorite, the one that best matches the mood of your piece. Put the other one into the Misfits file-- you never know when you might be able to tweak it to fit your story after all. Throw nothing away at this point, but organize your world into "things that I know contribute to what I'm trying to do" and "things that don't match but I like them anyway." In NaNoWriMo, you'll probably want to write things you "like anyway" at some point, and having those ideas already there will help.
 Okay, so I've got Oppressive, Monolithic, Energy, and Defy as my mood words.  Looking though my notes, here's what I got for "Misfits".
  • Wizard's Council; I already had a feeling that these guys are on the chopping block.They kinda fit energy, but only in that they use magic.
  • Also as predicted, Angela Cronin doesn't fit.
  • Arguably, the Drachon Clans are misfits; they don't entirely fit within the listed moods. Although I suppose they could be a little bit Energy; they make things happen, they are always seemingly in motion, and their efforts have explosive results.
I didn't see anything else that really leapt out as "misfit". I did see something I could use as a replacement for the Wizard's Council though; I've got psionics as an established power set in the game. Maybe the ideas I had about a Wizards Council could be adapted to one for Psychics. It might be a blatant theft from Babylon 5, but there is a common theme of psychics in sci-fi being feared and distrusted for their abilities.

When magic becomes more wide-spread and becomes the "next big thing to fear", then a Wizards Council makes more sense. For now, magic is an unknown and psychic are the "scary society working behind the scenes".

...OR ARE THEY? What if the Psychics are the ones keeping the monsters at bay? That could work, and be cool. Maybe they know about the Bathal Host, and their objective, maybe even where their ultimate goal lies.

It's got potential.

Tomorrow is "Pot Hook III, the Search for Plot Hook II" day. More firming up on the details behind the first story arc, and one day closer to the finale. Until then, I'll get some more work done compiling the details I've done thus far on the Obsidian Portal page.

4 days left!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Day 25: The Sky

So there's a little bit of a snag with today's exercise.

Read this article and then figure out: how many moons does your world have? How long is a month for each of them? What are they named? Do you have any scenes already plotted in which moonlight is absolutely necessary? If so, be sure to write down the phase of the moon you need on that date, and use that date as your "touchstone" for what phase the moon will be in on other days. If you need to, write out the moon's calendar and as scenes happen when you write them in November, jot them into your calendar so you know what kind of moon your folks might encounter at those times.
If you click on the link, it becomes readily apparent what the problem is....
...not helping...!

Yeah, so I can't read the article, but I can sort of extrapolate the intent and work on the questions from a static standpoint. And again I find myself with the problem of creating multiple worlds and having multiple places to put moons.

It does bring to mind something I do try and do whenever I write up planetary details; I do try to take satellites into consideration. Moons around a planet do offer illumination at night, or cover when approaching a world.  It presents new and interesting locations for the adventure to take place in. Finally, the moon itself might be the habitable stellar body within a system, and in which case it's relationship to the planet could be important. A satellite might not have much of a dark sky at night time if the gas giant it orbits around is reflecting all that light onto the world. Similarly, when the moon is in the planet's shadow, the whole moon is dark, and gets REAL dark too.

What kind of living facilities are necessary to live on a moon?  Some barren moons may need a full enclosed base, as we would need on our moon.  Some may not need such facilities, if they could be terraformed or were habitable from the start.

One of the races will come from a moon in one of the systems, originally. Likely they will have colonized their system and possibly moved on to nearby systems as well.

Another day where a little more detail gets presented. I've started to go through my exercises from the month and added them to the Obsidian Portal page for the campaign. It's really neat to see the pages practically fill themselves out.  A lot of it is just bullet points at this stage, but that's okay; it gives me something to work on and compiles it all in one location.

I'll be working on that, and a couple other things as we count down the days until the end of the month and the completion of this step of the project.

I may have already done a little of tomorrows task in my Day 24 post, but that's okay.  We're getting into the real nitty gritty and ironing out details, and I'm excited to see what I've got by next weekend.

Day 24: Mood III

Playing catch-up to yesterday's post, but here goes.

There appears to be a lot less structure to today's exercise, and more of a sense of refining what I have prom previous days.
Go through your notes and make a "m?" note next to anything that doesn't actively fit into the mood you want to convey. It's all right to have mismatched moods, of course; in many ways, it's crucial to have a variety. But you want to know, when you write your novel, if a particular element is going to dilute the mood or not.
So I'm going over my notes for the past few weeks and here are some items that leap out at me as "doesn't really fit".
  •  The Wizard's Council. I think for what I want this campaign setting to be, the Wizard's Council, along with the fact that there is magic use in the Garden currently, runs counter to a major plot point I want in the first "arc".  Now, maybe I'll use the idea of the Wizard's Council in some form or another once magic becomes more wide-spread in the region, but for now I think I'll have to remove it.
  • This also means that Angela Cronin doesn't fit as written into the story arc either. That whole day's work gets thrown out because it doesn't fit. That's okay, sometimes these things happen like that.
  • I really need to come up with a better name for the Bathalian god that doesn't immediately give away anything for her origins or existence.
That's about it for everything I can see right now. I might find more as I go on.
Bonus Exercise:
Find a drawing or piece of artwork that captures the mood of your piece and print it out, preferably in color. Hang it on the outside of your notebook or near your desk. This might also be a good day to put together your moody playlist.
I'm going to admit, I'm horrible with "playlists" and "soundtracks for your character". I don't know if it's that I'm not that into a wide variety of music, and as such I don't have a breadth of  tracks to choose from. It also might be that music is something I usually just listen to, and don't really dig deep into meanings or evocative emotions. I'm not saying I never do that, more that it's hard for me to find pieces that appeal to characters or projects I'm working on.

Regardless, I like the Starcraft soundtrack for Trinary, which fits because it is definitely an inspiration for this setting.  But beyond that, I'm not very sure.

As far as images go, that's easy; I've been pulling images from the internet and I've hot a Pintrest folder for everything I've seen that I like.  Today's post is littered with a few of the images that call to me.

That'll do for this exercise, time to work on today's;  The Sky.

Back in a few.

Update: another point that occured to me that might deserve an "M?" next to; the name.  Trinary. It's an odd word, associated with three stars. I'm not sure it fits the name of my setting though. Not sure what I'd call it otherwise, maybe something to do with the Jump Gates or the Jump Drive.  Something to ponder...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Day 23: Culture II

For today's exercise, I recommend heading over to Bryant's page and briefly reading her more expanded instructions for today's activity.  Go on, I'll wait...
After 15 minutes of revisiting your notes with these kinds of questions in mind, you will have a good idea of any gaps in your background knowledge, and where you might need to change a few details (some major, hopefully most will be minor) to make everything more consistent. Remember: it's all right to have gaps, even at the end of this month. The process of writing the story will help you fill in the gaps and make a more coherent novel.
So we're revisiting societies and culture today, going back to my previous notes and trying to nail down a few things. I really like the questions as she wrote them, I'm pretty sure I can list them off and knock them down. So let's get to it...

Do you know the major political and social groups in your world? 
  • The Union, The Clans, and The Host are the three big ones. Minor ones will include the Mining Guild, the Danal Resistance, and the unnamed "Wizard's Council"
Where do they live? 
  • The Union lives in, well...The Union; 19 planets that form the largest political body within the Garden.
  • The Drachon Clans each live on their own homeworld, and rarely leave it for extended periods of time.
  • The Host will move into the Garden and start to take over worlds at Campaign Start.
  • The Mining Guild resides mostly within the Union, but it also has arrangements with other, individual systems and corporations.
  • The Danal Resistance lives on the planet Danal, with only a few points of contact outside that system.
  • The Wizard's Council (better name forthcoming) exists across the Garden and across all borders. The main base for the Wizards Council is hidden away somewhere within the Garden.
How are they similar?
  • The Union is the largest political body within the Garden, but it's not too dissimilar from the planetary governments around the Garden's other (non-Drachon) worlds. Ultimately, there is an underlying corruption to the Union; politicians who seek wealth, power, or both. Few are those who seek what is best for the people without any selfish interest. The Drachon are similar in that they have their own political hierarchy with their own ambitious members. Within each Clan are those who seek power and control, as well as those who want what is best for the Clans. The Host are another multi-planet empire, although much larger than The Union. There are some ambitious Bathal, but for the most part the Host works in unity with the Empress and the mandates of their Dark God.
  • The Danal Resistance and the Wizard's Council both work in secret, although for different reasons. They go to great lengths to protect their resources but are fervent in their mission.
In what ways do they vary? 
  • The Union will use the legal system and politics to obtain and secure resources, and will only resort to military action if there is no other way of obtaining their objectives.
  • The Drachon Clans use combat as their first method of securing resources. The clans are also raiders, taking what they need and rarely sticking around long enough to hold any territory for longer than a week or so. They rarely negotiate.
  • The Host...the host are somewhat similar to the Clans in that they will attack first, but they are more than happy to stick around after they conquer a location.
  • The miners guild is concerned with the wealth and well being of their workers, and negotiating the best deal they can for each.
  • The Danal Resistance is somewhere between a revolutionary movement and a terrorist organization (depends on the cell leader).  They want to free their world; some are willing to do it peacefully, some only care about bloodying the Union's nose as bad as possible on their way to independence.
  • The Wizard's Council wants to keep magic use under wraps; they are waiting for something, and act only in the interests of the Council in preparation from some future event.
What values do they hold most dear? 
  • The Union values order and bureaucracy; the great political machine working to control the worlds of The Union. Individuals within the Union value power and wealth, but some also value justice, fairness, and honor (they're simply fewer of those types than the power-hungry)
  • The Drachons value strength; physical strength, tactical strength, even mental fortitude. They look down on those who are lazy, or who are mediocre. If someone is disabled or disadvantaged and they refuse to succumb to that deficiency, that will impress the average Drachon.
  • The Host values faith and belief in their Dark God, and in the will of the Empress. Spreading the influence of The Host is paramount, as is support of the Host among the member worlds and species.
  • The Miner's Guild values fair trade, a fair deal, and the safety of their members. Risk is one thing; space mining is a dangerous profession. It's needless risk and liability that they oppose.
  • The Danal Resistance values freedom and liberty; the desire to not be governed by a foreign power and have their planet's resources exploited like they are.
  • The Wizard's Council values secrecy and information. They know a great deal about a great number of subjects.
Are they also racial groups, and if so, how do they differ physically from each other? 
  • There are so many racial groups within the Union it would take a day to itemize them all.
  • There are five different Drachon clans, and you can tell which clan a Drachon belongs to by their coloration (and in some cases their stature).
  • There are many different types of Bathal; there are humanoid ones that represent your average Bathal, but higher up in the hierarchy there are more monstrous Bathal. These are the leaders, the elite, the heads of state. They possess larger, more serpentine bodies with great, armored crests. Their psychic and divine abilities match their powerful, horrific appearance.  Finally, there is a sub class of servants and warriors called the Kulathi; these lesser beings are the populous of the Host, the masses. They do the grunt work of the empire, and outnumber the true Bathal by thousands. They are subservient to the Bathal, they wish to be ruled by them.
  • The mining guild and the Wizard's Council are made up of members and species from across the Garden. Only the Danal Resistance tends to be homogeneous in their composition (human, mostly)

Who are the people in your main characters' homeland(s)? 
  • For the most part, the PCs will likely be from The Union. No matter the race, they will be working (probably) for the betterment of the Union public as a whole. While the government is tainted by corruption, the vast majority of Union citizens do want a better existence for all.
What's important to them? 
  • Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, to steal a phrase. 
What language do they speak? 
  • The trade language of the Union is "Unionesse", or simply called "Kelsh" or "human" since that's primarily the root language of the Union.
What kind of industry do they have, and what kind of food production do they have? 
  • The Union pretty much produces everything and anything, but not on every world. Some worlds are "resource worlds", where the materials of production are found. Other worlds are "maker worlds", which imports materials needed to produce items. There are "agricultural worlds", and a few, rare self-sustaining worlds that don't really import much (these are probably also "vacation worlds").
What factions exist, and where does your protagonist fit into the factions? 
  • I'm going to have to think on this one. I have to figure there are political parties, racial movements, environmentalists, interest groups, and cultural movements. Too much to think on right now, but worth noting down to flesh out later.
What is the primary unit of money called, and what can it buy? 
  • There's nothing like Union Credit for interstellar commerce. Worlds may have their own currency too, but the UC is the main currency of trade and economics within the Union.

What is a typical town, city, or settlement like? 
  • Your average settlement is going to vary widely; from mega-cities and arcologies to modern towns and suburbia to outposts resembling the Wild West but with laser pistols.
All the other questions have to do with "the protagonist" and their home town, which is somewhat pointless for my exercise.

Tomorrow we get back into the Mood of this setting, with some bonus work that might be tricky for me to do tomorrow. Got a busy day ahead of me, so I might be pulling another "double duty" on Sunday and playing catch up.

Hope to be back tomorrow...