Saturday, July 30, 2016

World Building Part 3: War and Rumors of War

So far we have laid out some of the big picture stuff and some of the things I see as carry overs from those big decisions. We even have a bunch of peoples that have not really been fleshed out. So lets take a moment to flesh them out a bit. If you are just stepping in to this exercise here are the links to the previous posts in this series:

Part 1: Initial Arbitrary Decisions
Part 2: Airships

In working on this post I had a few thoughts that are unrelated with this post's topics, but are tangentially related and I would like to devote a little space to talking about them.

The purpose of your world
If the world you create is for you alone then you can build it as a utopia. If the world is designed as an exercise in understanding a specific world view or philosophical model, then you can also construct it as a Utopia. If you are attempting it for something else though, Utopias are right out. If other folk will be looking at it you need to at least answer why the bad things don't happen. Even when dealing with a philosophical ideal you need to have some sort of answer as to why things work, and why human nature has somehow been abrogated.

If your world if for use in some form of drama(whether for book, game, story, or whatever)then you must make the world capable of supporting drama. Things must be happening. Generally speaking the things that must be happening must drive action and have solid reasoning as to why the things happening are happening now. What I mean is that if the interesting or conflicting things could have happened earlier or later than the "now" of your setting you need to address why it is happening now. So while I was working on the various intelligent species that inhabit the world I needed to come up with interesting things that happened in the past and interesting things that are about to happen. I am still not quite sure what I will eventually do with this world, but it is very much out there for others to look at, so I need to have reasons why things are the way they are and interesting conflicts and passions that drive the world to more drama.

All that said lets dig into the peoples of the world.

So the problem comes in on what to name the various sentient species  and people groups of the world(which still has no name, but we will get to that later). Also what to call them as a whole group is a bit of a problem. With Dungeons and Dragons they called their various intelligent species, "races." However that leads to complications in the setting that I don't really want. I thought about going with Sophonts, which is my favorite sci-fi term for intelligent species. However that adds a science fiction feel to the world, and I am aiming for a very fantasy feeling world. In the end I think I am going to go with People, and having decided that lets dig into the various Peoples of the world(that still has no name.

Bit-Bit: After a long and involved discussion I decided that the sprites who ride flamingos and live in the deep forest will be called the Bit-bits, as that is adorable and easy to pronounce. I also decides that their war flamingos will be called Gelves. They are children of the forests and the swamps, using the magic of water and earth to bend plants to their will. They live in vast mangrove-like tree cities. They stand between two and three feet tall and tend to wear clothing adorned with bright feathers and leaves of the various beasts of the forests and swamps. Long ago they were protected by a holy order of Knights who wielded powerful magics and rode forth on the fiercest of gelves. One hundred years ago the The Human Empire invaded the forests, defeated the Knights, and conquered most of the Bit-bit's ancestral homelands. Now they are a people on the ropes. They have only one last fortress left and the war has used up much of their resources. They sent out small groups of ambassadors to the other peoples of the world in the hopes that together they can retake their homeland.

Njan: Cat people who live in the desert lands near the volcanoes. they stand at around five feet tall on average, all of it muscle and grace. They are masters of technology and swordsmanship. They are pragmatic and practical people, uncaring about the outside world or anything but their own pursuits. They are divided into hundreds of factions and clans. A passionate people who hold to their ideals no matter the opposition dueling became a cultural norm. Outsiders have a difficult time understanding the social situation in any given moment. To most outsiders their society seems like controlled anarchy, but it all makes sense to the maze-like minds of the Njan. When the Human Empire began its big push for conquest a hundred years ago, the Njan were initially shocked at the invention of airships. However they swiftly crafted their own and were able to hold back the human fleets. However now that the border has been held for such a long time the various political forces within the Njan held cities are back to fighting amongst themselves. If the humans could ally with a few of the factions against the others they might win a near bloodless victory. Well, bloodless for the humans.

Fa-chia: Flying Lizard barbarian nomads. they build cities in the clouds and claim to be from the Thousand moons(the asteroid belt that orbits the planet). They follow the stars and are great oracles and students of history. During the war humans conquered several key elemental locations that the Fa-chia held sacred. They have mined them to near nothing, draining most of the elemental magic energy from them leaving behind what the Fa-chia call, "holes in the sky." The Fa-chia live in various allied bands that form larger tribes and those tribes have treaties and allegiances with other tribes. They are not a naturally violent species. Most conflicts involve displays of might or logic in order to make it understood that the opposing force should not attempt to attack. Needless to say they are terrible at warfare, though there is a growing number of the youth who wish to see the Humans pay for their encroachment.

Humans: The most creative and passionate people, they conquered a majority of the world a hundred years ago. I guess I decided to make them the bad guys of the setting, or at least they are the biggest threat to the various other peoples. I think I will need to work out how best to handle them so as to avoid straight up mustache twirling evil. So perhaps there was an event that predicated this conquest a hundred years ago. The humans had just discovered airship technology and were quite comfortable being master traders and making huge amounts of money(now I need to figure out how money works in the world). Then their was a natural disaster and some vital resource became very scarce. Perhaps the government went back and forth on what to do and society was on the verge of collapse. Tired of the bickering by various political factions the military took over and managed to make a stable government, however the shortage was still there, so they did what they knew how to do. They invaded their neighbors. They were not evil, directly, they were just desperate and made a bunch of terrible mistakes. Also this can lead to lots of interesting stuff with the descendants of the original government leader forming a rebellion against the current military regime, and the odd populist movement or some such. Humans are the most technologically advanced, though the Njan are very close behind and may catch up if they were less busy with their own maddening politics.

So that is what I have so far for this, I think next I will need to deal with religion, elementals, and perhaps how the universe works in a bit more depth. I would love to hear any thoughts, comments, or critiques on the project so far. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

World Building Part 2: Airships, What Do They Eat?

Here we move forward with building this fantasy world I started just a bit ago. If you want to know what was done, here is the previous post:

Part 1 Initial Arbitrary Idea

SO yesterday I laid out the basics of the setting and spun some ideas off into interesting directions. Now I am going to dig into one of those ideas in a bit more detail. That idea is Airships, my friends. Airships are the future, and don't you forget it. So what kind of world would make airships viable. I want them to be pretty central to the setting so they need to be pretty common. So lets do some brainstorming. I will just be spitting out the ideas as the come to me...or for me?

Perhaps their are massive mountains and canyons that halt all long distance travel by land or river. Most folks would then live in valleys and mountainsides. I could also see a bunch of floating islands in the sky, or the world is set in a ring of asteroids and stuff around a gas giant.

I have seen a lot of the sky island type of settings, so I am leaning away from that type for now. I really do like the ring of asteroids idea, but I am leaning toward the mountains and canyons thing. Perhaps I will add the ring of asteroids with livable terrain into the setting. So instead of a moon their is a ring of asteroids that hold atmospheres and have life on them and such.

So we have rough terrain everywhere, with mountains, plateaus, and canyons blocking off long distance travel. Most people live in the valleys or canyon walls(I really love the cool cities built into the walls of a canyon).The rivers are fast moving and dangerous on a regular enough basis that water travel is not optimal for long distance travel. Perhaps there are few oceans and most water is in rivers and small lakes spread across the whole land. Maybe the only ocean is the center of the water Because of its magical nature the ocean is very treacherous. All water stems from that ocean. Ooh, here is a thought the water of the world is all fresh water due to its magical nature.

So we have a world that needs airships for long distance travel, and we even have cool places to explore that would require airships to get to(the asteroid ring). So now we need to figure out how these airships work. The first thing that comes to mind is the magical elements of the world crystallize or somehow solidify and can be used to do odd magical effects. Air element crystals can be used to give a ship neutral buoyancy in the air. The ship needs to provide its on propulsion and direction. So you would get sails and propellers and all that. Also I could see harnessing birds to pull ships(so the sprites can use their flamingo mounts to pull their airships). I would also like for the ship to have some really weird or esoteric means of propulsion, but I don't have any ideas for that right at the moment, so if you have any really cool ideas pleas suggest them.

due to the need for propulsion I thin that either the Njan or the Humans would probably have built the airships first. Due to the idea that humans are everywhere I think that I will go with humans inventing the airships and using those to go everywhere. The Njan have the expertise in technology, so their airships are probably all masterpieces of design, efficient and impressive, but they don't have enough of them as they never came up with them on their own. The sprites(who I have yet to name, but am stuck between Bit-Bit and Flamin-gelves. Let me know what you think) had the ability to ride on their flamingos ot go places. The Fa-Chia can fly on their own, so airships just never occurred to them. Now that humans have spread the technology around, though both of those species are excellent airship makers.

Now that we know that people live in valleys and that the magic of the elements materializes a bit we can begin working on a few other thoughts. Like what do they eat. Well there are monsters everywhere, so I think that monster meat is probably pretty popular. Also you could probably get the elemental magic material of wood to grow things in confined spaces. Also we could get loads of terraces for farming on the mountain sides and such. Perhaps their cities grow up and down rather than out, so the cities are filled with tunnels and towers. The sprites probably live within the trees by shaping them into living houses. Also with the materializing of the various elemental magics you could get the Fa-Chia wind wizards building castles out of clouds, and even airships from the clouds. Their instinct for the sky allows them to do things with air magic the other species would view as impossible.

So that is the basics of airships and how that helps shape the setting. I would love to here your thoughts on it. Comments, critiques, and questions are all welcome.  If you would like to help me name the sprites please let me know what name I should go with, or if you have some really spiffy ideas for airship propulsion methods also let me know. Moving forward I think I will probably move to either monsters or the thinking species of the setting. Perhaps I should also come up with a name for the world I am building, but as of right now I can't think up anything that sounds right. Ideas would be welcome.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

World Building Part 1: Initial Ideas and Brainstorming

I love world building. I guess anyone who follows this blog or my other works might have surmised as much. It is a constant thing with me, building worlds. I have dozens of them going at any given time and I am always spinning more off into the void, just to see what they look like. Worlds are never complete, sure. I am always at work on one or the other, fixing this or adding that. Some of the worlds I have build span galaxies and more, others are only a building and a few personalities. Others still are mere pitches with nothing to them other than the barest hint of an idea. In this series(I think it will be a series) I plan to showcase my methodology and hopefully help my self out of a bit of writers block I have been experiencing.

So here goes, my methodology for building a world:

Step one for me is the Initial Arbitrary Idea(s). In this step I just lay out the things I want to play with and try and figure out if those ideas can go well together or if there is enough depth to a given idea to merit a whole world. For this project I came up with a couple on my own and a couple were given to me by some friends(thanks +Tore Nielsen +Cameron Corniuk +Reagan Taplin +Mitch Williams +John Helmuth  and +James Husum for all your interesting thoughts). Here is the list of idea seeds that I will be working with for this world:
  1. Airships
  2. Points of light(monsters are everywhere)
  3. The Elements are magical/conscious/crucial in some way that is weird and interesting.
  4. Summoning/super form
  5. Humans dominate but there are other intelligent species(thinking maybe a cutesy magic species and a four legged barbarian species. Maybe others)
  6. major city that sits on a bed of water, surrounded by a waterfall on all sides. Airship and magic only safe ways to get there.
  7. Lizard Men
  8. Land/Sky pirates whose ship/lair is built upon the backs of enormous striding beasts
  9. Cloud Wizards who make ships out of clouds and fly about
  10. A sect of priests who maintain the ships(possibly with a secret group controlling them, possibly repairing stuff through superstition and ritual rather than actual knowledge)

And that is what I have, my initial arbitrary decisions. I went with a lot of them, because I like to play around and I kind of want to keep doing world building for a long time on this project. You can start with just one, in fact any one of those ideas would be a solid.

Once you have your initial idea(s) it is time to start brainstorming within it(them). Find the parts of the setting on which the other parts hang. The elements seem like a pretty solid main point to branch off of(heck the final fantasy games have been using it for thirty years, there must be something to it), also the species thing seems like a good central thing to play with. Lets start with those two, mostly because those are what jumped out at me as the most interesting. I like the classical elements, but there are only five of them and I think we can have more fun with more. I did some digging and found a few extra classical elements from various other philosophies and I have a list of eight: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Metal, Wood, Void/Space, and Spirit/Consciousness. In digging around for them I came up with a silly thought that I like. 

In this world(which I have not named yet)There are the four main elements, fire, water, earth, and air. Then their are four secondary elements that are a mix of two other elements, Fire and Earth make Metal, Water and Earth make Wood, Water and Air make Void, and Fire and Air make consciousness. Then I had a follow up thought, what if there was a sentient species for each of the secondary elements. I really liked that so I had to work out what that meant and what the meaning of each element was. I will probably due an in depth breakdown of each element and how it plays out in the world and the magic in the world, but for now here is the initial idea on which species matches with which element. 

Metal: Combining the energy of fire with the permanence of earth makes for creativity and ingenuity, passion and stubbornness. The species of Metal is the Njan, a catlike people of mechanics and sword masters, artists and revolutionaries. 
Wood: Combining Water's unfathomable depth and adaptability with the earth's unchanging nature leads to wisdom and patience. The species of wood are the Sprites(need a better name) tiny folk who value knowledge and survival. They ride flamingos(I just wanted them to ride flamingos, this is not derived from anything)
Void: Combining the air and water is a dangerous mix. Air is free and unchecked, water is adaptable and ever moving. The Fa-chia are a people of great passion and whim, nomads who roam the skies and lands with impunity. They are quadrupedal winged lizards who are considered barbaric and simple by most. Those who know better often go to them for advice, the nomads of sky and sea know many things. They hold no grudges and are quick to forgive. They live in boundless optimism and hope tempered with understanding and empathy. 
Spirit: Combining fire with air leads to truly great things, either great creativity or a great conflagration. The air is flighty but sees all, fire is passion, properly directed it is a wondrous thing. Humans are the species of spirit. They have great plans and must do them now, for tomorrow is a promise to no one. 

Now that we have this I am starting to see the shape of things. Airships are held aloft by the magic of air. The city on the water with waterfalls all around it is obviously the center of a great deal of water elemental energy, perhaps there is a great water spirit there or it is the source of all water on the planet. Does that mean that there are similar cities at similar places related to other elements? Maybe. Does the sect of priests who maintain the airships follow or worship the elemental spirit of air? Is that a real thing or is it something they made up long ago to explain how things work? The great beasts of the pirates, where do they come from and what do they eat? Actually, what do they eat, is a solid question to ask at nearly any point in world building. It nearly always adds a little more verisimilitude to the world, and that is always handy. I have a lot more planned for the future of this world building but I think I have nailed down the basics of the setting. Next we start getting into the why's of certain things. Like why airships, and what would cause people to develop them over land or water travel? That is it for now. Let me know what you think, comments, critique, and questions are always welcome.

Part 2: Airships
Part 3: Species and abit of history 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Game Chef 2016: The Curse That Waits

Well it is that time again in the Game Chef competition. I have completed my entry just sent off my reviews of the games for other four other people's games. they were good entries, and I think this year is going to be a good one. Now that the reviews are done, the waiting has begun. And so I reflect.

On reflection I wish I had noticed and fixed a few of the small(or large) issues in my design I think I have a solid idea, but I am not really sure if I got it across all that well. Usually I can do pretty decent setting and my issues are that I make the rules too simple. This time around I think I may have had the opposite problem. Anyway, here is the link to my game. I hope you like it, and I would love to hear any thoughts or critiques you might have.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Game Chef 2016: Dead Until Dawn

Alright, here is how it works, so far. I have a bit of a background built and pretty much all the mechanics mapped out. I am fair certain I can be done shortly if I really put my nose to the grindstone, but I know me and I will probably get it in just under the wire. Also what a weird statement, "nose to the grindstone." Who would ever do that. I think I get what they mean, but much like many sayings in use, it just gets odd when you visualize it...or is that just me?

The Premise
It is the future, technology has moved forward, faster than even the brightest could have figured. Innovation is the last bastion of true merit in the world. Most people go through their days at a dead end job to make enough money so that they can buy the newest gadget and zone out for a while. Novelty has become the primary source of amusement among the populous. The earth is clean, the air, the water, all of it. It is cleaner than it has ever been. even the forest have been replanted, but no one goes their. Most folk live in vast cities that climb ever higher every year. If one were to look at it, the world has become a utopia. However this perfection has bred a distance from consequences, joy, or anything real. All that matters is the new stuff, the new ideas, the new feelings. The ruling class like it that way. The executives of the mega corporations and the lifelong politicians all work hard to ensure the people stay in place and enjoy the simple things. Wars are no longer fought over ideals, or land, or even money(if their ever was such a war). Wars are fought over new ideas, new technologies, and the control of public perception. Nothing is sacred anymore, not even the dead.

You are one of the dead bodies, reanimated with nanite pseudo-blood and various other concoctions. Repurposed to fight the petty wars of the spoiled tyrants at the top. You spend your nights fighting these shadow wars and your days dead. Pseudo-blood does not work when the sun is up. If anyone knows why, they aren't telling you.

The Rules
To create your character you must choose a concept for a repurposed vampire corpse. Once you have a name and basic idea pick ten key words from the key words list(or come up with your own, if you have a cool idea), at least one key word must represent your role in the operations, generally speaking their are four types of roles: Heavies deal in direct conflict, Intel deals with information and surveillance, Mountebanks deal with pesky human relationships, and Phantoms deal with physical security.  You may then choose any other set of keywords.

Roles: a bunch of cool names for the various nefarious jobs go here, still working on the list.
Background: Accountant, Architect, Cook, Odd Jobs, Dry Cleaner, Stay At Home Mom/Dad, Management, that sort of thing. Represents the things your body remembers how to do from when you were alive.
Vampiric Key Words: Enhance Sense, Super Strength, Bullet Time, Weird Blood Tricks, Addictive Saliva, Poison Sweat, Involuntary Muscle Control, the sort of thing nanite enhanced dead bodies might have.

Then you need to choose your vice. You vice is a stress track that lets you know how in control you are. Being brought back from the dead has an odd effect on the human brain chemistry, it can lead to extremes of passion or lethargy, and all sorts of other things. Vampires have learned to channel this vice into "spooky action" that allows for impossible things to occur.  The Vices are Greed, Lust, Wrath, Sloth, Gluttony, Pride, and envy.  When you pick that that is your stress relief, the thing that gets you passed all the thing you do in the night. You have a stress track that goes to six. For every two stress you take your flaw increases in strength. What this means is that when it would hinder you or complicate your unlife, the GM can give you a coin in order to have you behave irrationally and selfishly for the scene. If you have already taken stress then you may spend a coin to overcome an obstacle related to the vice without having to flip for it. For each vice I plan to have a specific sort of super power that goes with it. Right now I don't have that.

You get to pick one of the Role Powers that I have not yet built, but will be a thing. Generally what they allow is for you to get more for your coin spends, so I still got some work there. You get eight coins that go in your personal pool, these are used up when you succeed at tasks. You also have three wounds, which are the physical damage you can take before your body's supply of pseudo-blood is used up.

When you encounter an obstacle you can pick a number of coins and flip them. If you get a heads that is a basic success. Sometimes you will need to get more than one heads showing to succeed(mostly this will be when the Alarm Level has increased). If you Flip heads and are also showing tails you get a complication. If you have half or less of the coins showing tails you get a minor complication. If you have over half of the coins showing tails it is a major complication. If you have no heads showing and all tails, run. Run fast. Because the roof just caved in and you are holding the cake, my good lad. On its most basic level, for each coin that comes up tails you need to either mark off an Alarm Level, an hour of the Sunrise Clock, Your Personal Stress, or a Wound.

There are two Tracks that the GM keep track of: The Sunrise Clock, and the Alarm Level. The Sunrise Clock is the amount of time remaining before the rise of the sun and you stop functioning. The Sunrise clock always has eight segments. You got eight hours until dawn. The Alarm Level is how aware of you security is. The number of alarm levels can vary depending on the mission. You want to keep both of those from topping out as if either tops out your characters are hosed. Either dead on the ground due to sunrise, or dead because ED-209 and a hundred of his buddies are coming at you.

The adventures are usually broken down like so:

  1. Choose/Get assignment: You get the goal of the assignment, what you are meant to do in the rival corporation's headquarters or warehouse. Generally this will be a thing that needs stealing or sabotage that needs doing. 
  2. Surveillance: In this you can take turns placing a coins in the group pool. For each coin in the group pool you get to dictate one obstacle or weakness in the system. Each round of this you do reduces the Sunrise clock by an hour. 
  3. Gear Up: You will choose two pieces of gear. What gear allow you to do is spend a coin to circumvent an obstacle without having to flip for it. 
  4. Get in: You need to overcome a certain number of obstacles in order to get in and do that which you were reanimated to do. 
  5. Get out: You need to get out without running out of time or raising the alarm too high.
  6. Get Paid/Get Betrayed: After the op is done you report back in and must pass a few obstacles not to get betrayed by the higher ups. Why do you think they use corpses, you are literally disposable people. 
  7. Fallout: You will then spend a bit laying out the fallout for your actions that night. Perhaps a cure was stolen/destroyed, perhaps you killed the wrong person, perhaps you got seen, maybe you kept a dangerous weapon out of the wrong hands. I need to work on a set of fallout mechanics, as I think that is a very interesting idea. Basically building the world based on what will happen or what might have happened. 
That is what I have for right now, I would love to hear any thoughts on the matter. Some of this I have a better grasp of now that I have seen it in writing, but other parts are still a bit up in the air. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Game Chef 2016: Initial Thoughts

So the other day I was thinking about the inevitable hyperspace war that is to come, and I realized something. I realized that very few people seem all that worried about the inevitable hyperspace war that is to come and the hordes of Mantid mind controllers that are enabling its coming. I also realized something else. IT GAME CHEF TIME AGAIN! BOOYAH!

So I have taken a break from telling people of the Mantid threat and the inevitable hyperspace war that is to come(though seriously guys, its gonna happen) in order to do some design work for Game Chef. I have a lot of ideas, so lets get to digging.

Theme: Technology
Alright technology can mean a whole lot of things. So I think I might want interleave technology with the rest of the game. I am not sure I can come up with a new method or device to use while gaming so I think I will need to have technology sit as the ever present landscape upon which the game will play out. So I am thinking maybe doing something with VR as a major setting element, or perhaps holodecks, or some such reality thing. I have just always liked the idea that people get trapped in technology as it makes them virtual gods, and the weirdness that happens because of it. But we shall see, this is just the rough brainstorming of ideas.

Maybe you are people with technology attempting to save the world from ignorance. Or perhaps you are all students at mad scientist preparatory school and you need to complete your projects all while trying to get up the nerve to talk to that special someone and live up to your parents unrealistic expectations. Hard to say at this point. Lets see where it goes.

...ooh, here's a thought a beneficent AI collective is fighting the Bad AI AUTHORITY and must enlist the aid of elite agents in this struggle for the very soul of the world...or something.

Ingredients: alarm, dance, sketch, and sunlight
So the ingredient, Alarm, jumps right out at me from the start. I keep thinking security alarms and the like. Also the idea of a clock counting down to some terrible thing(like waking up?) and you must accomplish you task before the alarm reaches that time. So I am thinking Heists, which is good because it also gives me a framework from which to build my game. You play a crew of thieves, or secret agents, or some other clandestine type. you are taking down marks and committing heists. Maybe corporate espionage? Stealing technology for your corp. Like a competent version of Nedry from Jurassic Park. Stealing tomorrows tech, today!

The other ones are bit harder to nail down. For dancing all I can think is, you must commit heists so you can come to the enchantment under the sea dance? Maybe you are committing heists in order to bring two lover together despite the vast chasm that separate them and it all culminates in a dance? Or perhaps this is a Bollywood style heist and you must do everything to a dance number? I guess I can think of very little to deal with dancing just yet.

Sketch is either a rough drawing or a humorous skit. I am really unsure how to implement this...guess I will think on this a bit more?

Sunlight is really quite expansive though my first thought is vampires(and how they are the work of our secret mantid overlords). If I used vampires in this game it would give a nice parallel with Alarm, as you must complete your goal before sunrise. Maybe vampires are genetic super-soldiers built for corporate espionage. Sunlight also leads me to other interesting ideas, solar panels/power, Lions(I had heard that they were created from the sun), Vitamin D, Photic Sneeze Reflex, and space exploration(solar sails).

So right now I am leaning toward technologically created vampires who commit corporate espionage in a near future, and must do so before dawn.

So let us now brainstorm some interesting mechanics. Are you excited? I know I sure am. I would very much like character creation to be pretty simple, yet leave room for some complexity in play. I am leaning toward something like keywords. You have X number of keywords that describe your characters background and competencies. I also really like Keys from Shadows of Yesterday, so I will probably do something like taht for the characters. I am also a fan of not rolling unless the situation is dire, or only rolling when something interesting can happen no matter what. So I think I want the basic difficulty of tasks to be around 50% for basic tasks. I also like dice pools and that tactile feel of empowerment they bring to the game.

Perhaps some sort of resource management and group mechanics...

H'okay, here is the basic idea for the mechanics. You flip coins. Each character has a pool of coins that they can use to complete tasks. You have a list(or paragraph, or whatever, of keywords that describe your competencies. You can choose one coin per competency, and then you flip the coins(or toss them, I like the idea of an I Ching style thing going on here(not sure how to incorporate hexagrams just yet). Heads means you succeed, more head means you succeed better. Tails make things complicated, more tails makes things more complicated.  So it is possible, in this methodology to virtually guaranty success, but get enough complication that it causes even more danger. You can succeed and still botch, so the game will partially be about deciding how much you want to risk versus how much you need to succeed. There will also be a group pool of coins which you can take from and add to. For everyone of your coins you add to the group pool the group pool actually grows by two coins. However anyone can use those coins at any time. I want to do more with this idea, but I am still fiddling around with the basics of the idea.

There will be an alarm meter that runs throughout the game as well as a sunlight meter that counts down to sunrise. For every time something gets too obvious the alarm meter will go up. When it is mixed then the op is blow and you just need to get out of their with your lives intact and hope your employers don't hold a grudge. The sunrise meter ticks down after every every scene, when it hits zero it is sunrise and you are now trapped, or must sleep, or something. You have a choice at each complication of either raising the alarm meter a little bit, lowering the sunrise meter a bit more than you normally would for that scene, or taking ongoing consequences of a more immediate nature(like damage, or getting stressed out and sloppy).

So that is what I have so far, for this year's Game Chef. I would love to hear what you think. This is all just brainstorming at this point, so all of this is subject to change. Anyway, that is enough for now. I have to go deal with this Mantid mind control nonsense before they kick off the inevitable hyperspace war that is to come. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Magi: The Fix Is In...I hope

Earlier today I had this idea. It just sort of came to me today and so I would like to nail it down a bit and suss out the edges. If you want to understand the basics of what I am trying to create you should check out the following posts:
1. The Initial idea
2. Some Further Extrapolation
3. A short breakdown on many core ideas of the setting
4. A further explanation of how magic works in the world
5. A breakdown of the magical skills, I am going to stick with this list for now
There is a lot more to all of this, but those four posts should get you in the ball park if you are completely unfamiliar with this particular project. It has been a while since I last dug into this setting and so I think I am coming at this with the weight of experience on my side. We will see.

Setting Creation & The Node Map
What are the basic setting Premises?
Look outside your window. That is the world. That is the world as we know it and as it has always been, this cycle at least. You see the past can be changed, the present can be changed, and the future can be changed. Everything is malleable, and yet certain things remain constant, even in this solipsistic mess. No matter how hard they try even the most power magus cannot deny the whole of reality. So while the details may change, their are certain things that remain from cycle to cycle.

Terra Mundus - physical realm, the realm of cause and effect. This is the physical stuff of the world, whatever form it may take. This is the realm that seems of prime importance and a great deal of effort is made to control the Physical Nodes of the world. Currently the Rationalists hold a majority of nodes in the world. This doesn't just encompass the earth, but all the celestial spheres and the whole of the observable cosmos as well. Most of the conflicts revolve around the earth as that is where the most people are, so who can say what is out beyond the known?
The Other World -  The spirit realm, a place of gods and ghosts, of abstract ideas given personas and form. It often mirrors Terra Mundus in shape, though the further in you go the stranger it becomes. It is home to many echoes of bygone cycles as well as refugees who lost the various wars of the Magi seeking to gather influence and power in order to take back what is theirs.
The Dreamlands - Realm of the mind and imagination. Everything here is eerily familiar and yet disturbingly alien. The connections between things here is very difficult to follow rationally and all things are connected by only the slimmest of strands. While this is the least concrete of the realms of existence, it is the hardest to change on any meaningful level for any length of time. Beware the Flamingos. For they know the weigh.
Pocket Realms - These are areas segregated from the other three(though connected to them) where the rules work differently than the prevailing paradigm. These are often created by powerful Magi or gods and can be of some danger for the unprepared.

What Are Nodes?
They are places. They are also ideas, concepts, ideal, and spiritual realities. they are fundamental building blocks of reality. They are a city block, and that dream where you go to school naked, and they are Camelot, and green beans. Basically they are Important Things. Things that people believe in. They give the world stability. They are important in their normalcy. So Magi are connected to nodes, yes. However what separates them from the Shadows is their disconnect from their nodes. They see the illusion for what it is.

A node can look like anything, or nothing. It is a notional fixed point in fluid reality. In that it is hard to describe. The important locations in a city could be nodes. As could archetypes within the collective unconscious. Or it could be a pocket dimension, or a series of alternate time lines. wherever there are enough people believing in an idea or enough energy flowing through an area, there will be a node. Nodes are connected to each other, unless they have been cut off through artificial means. The more you control the more control of reality you have, but unless you are in the zone it grants no additional power.
As you can plainly see, I am still less than fully clear on a proper definition of nodes, so if you have any thoughts please let me know in the comments below.

Mapping Nodes
node mapping as the first step of world building/character creation. To do it you will need a big sheet of paper, or a white board, or something where everyone can see and work on it together. Assign at least one node to each player to create. I would like to do nodes a bit like cluster creation in Diaspora. That does mean that I will need to come up with some tables for creating the basics of magical paradigms and the like. I am still noodling around with this, so it is very rough and unfinished, but it needs to be mentioned at the least so that I have it in mind for the rest of the post.

Stationary Nodes - These are the most solid of nodes, they have existed for a long time and are constant.
Transitory Nodes -  these are nodes that are new ideas, new places, or ideas and places that have not really had any impact on the setting as yet.
Mobile Nodes - These are very rare and powerful nodes, for they can be moved, and often move in and of themselves. I am not sure what that look like just yet

Forging Connections - You start out at the beginning of the campaign creating connections as they are created in Diaspora. What the connections mean, though is up to the group. Each node is connected to the other nodes through some sort of relationship or ley line. Ley lines are the easiest, as they are simply magical rivers that flow from node to node. However these ley lines are present in the subconscious of the people in the world. This means that they will over time come to associate the connected nodes as related in some way. This connection could be physical or metaphorical. Physical connections are just that, these buildings are connected in some way, perhaps they are on the same road or river, or perhaps they share some mystic resonance. Metaphorical connections are when similar things happen in both nodes, or similar emotions are evoked, or something. As I said I am not quite sure how this works just yet, but I know I am getting closer. I would love any thoughts on how this might better work.
Breaking Connections - During play it is possible, even likely, that the players or their antagonists will break the connections between nodes, or create new ones to new nodes. This is a big deal and represents a serious shift in the nature of local reality. Again I am still playing around with how best to do this.
Taking Over a Node - this is the big one. Taking over a node should take a lot of work as it represents changing a fundamental truth about an Important Thing and remaking the world in your image, however small the node may be. It could be the focus of a whole campaign to take over a node.

What is a cycle?
Because there are very few constants in reality, the Magi do not measure things by time or location. Time is fluid, it exists or it doesn't, the Magi remember things by Cycles. A cycle is when the world changes significantly, like the eight dimensional construct cycle, or the cycle of the inverted stair. When a majority of the nodes are converted to a certain worldview, then that becomes the new cycle. In some campaigns the previous or future cycles might be used fairly heavily, some players may with to play refugees from a future or previous cycle trying to retake the world from those who usurped them, or came before them. Man, time travel makes things a little funny when it comes to causality. If this is going to be a theme, talk it over with your players and help them build the world that was or will be.
Magical Paradigm Creation
Your paradigm/worldview/magical belief structure is treated as a character of its own with a couple of aspects, a few skill ratings(of the magical skills), maybe a stunt or two, and a stress track(no consequences).  If the paradigm takes stress anyone playing a character following that paradigm may choose to take consequences instead, as the paradigm has no consequences naturally. This paradigm is created by the group(most of the time, unless you are playing a pvp game then it gets weird as everyone has competing paradigms. But lets not get into pvp just yet, yeah?

A magical paradigm has as many starting aspects as there are players following it(we will assume that is all the players for now).  These aspects are called tenets. Each is a statement that explains the nature of reality or the methodologies that people use to alter reality. As I have not tested this(it just came to me today) I cannot say how well this will work, and the nature of these aspects will probably change a couple of times as I continue to build this hack. Bear with me.

The players then get to assign priority to the magical skills of the Magical paradigm(man I need to come up with a better name for this, it just sounds so stiff and formal when you say it over and over again). The group gets one skill at +4(Great), one at +3(Good), one at +2(fair), and one at +1(Average). The  rest of the seven skills are at zero.

At this point the players may select to sacrifice one or more of their character's personal stunts for magical stunts that attach to the magical paradigm. Also at this time record your paradigm's stress which starts at 4, though I am working on ways to alter that.

Example Magical Paradigm
Technocrats of Quard
Tenet: The Universe Is Objective
Tenet: Everything Is Explicable
Tenet: Technology Is A Force For Change
Skills: Matter +4, Forces +3, Elan Vital +2, Psyche +1
Stress: [] [] [] []

Character Creation
Character Creation then follows, though it is a bit different from your standard Fate Core character creation. Your character is three aspects, three skills(rated from one to three, or something)(entropy, stasis, creation), two stunts, and some consequences. Nothing else.

First you pick your characters Inciting Incident, this aspect is all about what set you on your current path. For a new magus just awakened to the world of magic and all this might be the event that led you to take up magic. For those magi who are further along the path of enlightenment it could be any event, so long as it led your character to this area and this current goal. Speaking of goals, your next aspect will be your Current Desire. This is the current short term goal you have set for yourself. When you attain this goal you will trigger(at the very least) a minor milestone. Try and set this aspect as something that will be relevant in the next session or two, that way you will always be moving forward and changing and growing. Finally choose your Hubris. This is the aspect that gets in your way. The part of you that sabotages your path, and yet you can never quite seem to get rid of it.

Following the aspect creation you must choose your magical strength in each of the mystic pillars, Entropy, Creation, and Stasis. You get one at +3(Good), one at +2(Fair), and one at +1(Average). when you are in a magical situation you will roll the fate dice and add in the relevant pillar from your character and the relevant skill from your magical paradigm. I may adjust the numbers as I go along if the current method leads to odd results, I will need to look into it as this goes forward.

You also should record your stress(which is two) and your consequences. There are two types of consequences, normal and discord consequences. When you are in a tight spot and need to really bring the magical major to the party you may choose to forgo the normal trappings of your magic and just cut loose. In a an area influenced by a sympathetic node(one that works with your magical paradigm, you may add the stress taken as a bonus(the stress that the consequence would have absorbed) to a given magical roll. If you are in an area dominated by an antagonistic paradigm(this will be pretty common in early game) you do not gain the bonus, but you can choose to automatically succeed at an overt magical action without having to roll(or after a roll if you failed).

This leads me into an idea I have only the vaguest inkling of. Basically in nodes dominated by your paradigm you will have one set of difficulties, one one friendly to your paradigm you will have another, and in ones antagonistic to it you will have another set all together. These numbers will be affected by how much ritual and prep you do as well as some other things, I am sure. Like I said this is just the bare bones of the idea, in the very lightest of terms as I am still trying to work out how all of that stuff will work.

When you reach significant or major milestones you can choose to upgrade your magus or your magical paradigm's influence. You can only get those milestones when you break a node connection, forge a new connection, or take a node(which would definitely be a Major Milestone, good job).

Also I think that certain things are very hard to change. Physical nodes are easy to take and control as they are believed in in a very simple and poorly defined way, anyone can own or hold a specific territory, that is understood. It when you get into the odd stuff that you need to do really strange things. Breaking the boundaries between the mind realms and the physical realms or the barrier between the spirit and the physical, or tearing apart the notion of causality is a very different sort of thing. As I have said before, right now how some of the node stuff works, in detail, is up in the air a little bit. I am still working on how some of this works. If you have questions please ask, sometimes I don't even have something nailed down until I need to explain it to someone else.  Please let me know what you think.