28 February 2012

Orc War Party

I can't remember what this is from for the life of me, but it's really interesting seeing old ideas for orcs before fantasy races became so monolithic and easily defined. These guys are short, scaly, almost lizardlike orcs who live in some sort of cave system but are still fairly believable. God, as they say, is in the details, and this art is very nearly divine.

20 February 2012

Future Projects!

It's been a while since I've talked about any sort of projects I've got rumbling about in my head, mostly because it's been so long since the creative juices have been flowing the right way. But now that the stress and stupidity has passed, here goes a couple of things I've been working on designing:

1) Sky Castles of Thlaugog: Part five in my neverending quest to become a halfway competent designer, SCoT is a pseudo megadungeon that I've been designing in my head. If you take R'yleh, float it a hundred miles above the earth, add elements of Black Tiger and, Golden Axe, you have the genesis of SCoT. A vaguely cthuloid demonic entity once held dominion over the world in, appropriately enough, a flying castle. It hadn't been seen for hundreds of years, and the castle itself was floating serenely over the ocean, and assumed forgotten. Humanity had seemed happy enough to let it alone, at least until it starts floating back over the mainland.

2) An untitled game that plays with the idea of a skill/job matrix by allowing you to basically choose your class and a "guild." Each class has certain features in common, each guild has certain features in common, and you mix and match to make it work. I'm envisioning more of a board game than a traditional campaign-based roleplaying game. Something like the old tournament modules in D&D, where here's the goal and go get it. Bonus points for these bonus attributes, so on and so forth. This is a fairly old idea, honestly, but one that I think could have some merit.

3) A video game, actually. Sort of turn-based roleplaying game. Not a tactics game, but a JRPG style system with light tactical elements. Your party is arranged on a horizontal line, and so is theirs. Your warriors get in the way, your wizards are throwing spells that the enemy can dodge if they're fast enough/left enough initiative/were already moving, your rogues are trying to sneak around and through, and basically you have a sort of jostling representation of what I think could be a fairly fun seed for a game. Working on the tech demo (soonish)- I lost my registered copy of Game Maker 7 so I'm poking around for a new game engine. I'm looking for something with fast prototyping, not a detailed game engine. Before I set about learning XNA or whatever kids use these days, I'd like to make sure that it doesn't suck in practice.

4) More Aim For The Head stuff. I want to play it with my buddies, but they're always busy .With my luck, I'll have moved away before we get to play again, but I guess that's ok. I'll just wrangle up an online group and make it work.

18 February 2012

Shaun of the Dead: Not Gameable.

Hey Shaun, look who it is!
Well fuck-a-doodle-doo!
I know the quote doesn't match the picture, but I've always liked the quote.

Somehow, I need to channel more Shaun of the Dead from my zombie game Aim For The Head, and I have no idea whatsoever how I'd go about doing that. Seriously, no idea at all. This has been a dry period for the part of my brain that usually is pretty good at generating novel ideas, so I'm content to put it here and maybe come back to it someday.

Maybe some sort of mechanic promoting teamplay, interpersonal relationships, that sort of deal would help out. But the thing is, Shaun of the Dead isn't really a zombie movie, it's a bromance movie in zombie clothing. The crux of the movie is the semi-dysfunctional relationship between Shaun and his buddy Ed, and how it resolves in the end. It's also a little sad- Shaun never does manage to reconcile his laziness with Liz, nor his relationship with Ed. Instead, the world changes around him to his benefit. Apparently zombie apocalypses have a way of making adventurous, lively women want to settle down with the slightly sad everman Shaun, and letting you get rid of your best friend by turning him into a zombie that just plays video games all day.

It's a lot deeper than what it lets on, is what I'm trying to say, and even though it's an awful prototype for a game, there's still something about it I'd like to capture.

16 February 2012

Sleepin' Problems

It won't come as a shock to anybody who knows me by now, but I have a problem with sleep. It's not that I can't get to sleep, or that I sleep too much, it's that I can't stay asleep.

I'm an extremely light sleeper, always have been. I wake up every time my wife wiggles in bed. I wake up when the cat moves from one sleeping spot to a different one. I wake up when the other people in my house get up, use the bathroom, or whatever. It's usually not for very long, and I usually fall back asleep pretty quickly, but I'm still up. This ties into my second problem.

I don't like to sleep. I put it off as long as possible, and then wake up as early as my brain can stand it. I like to be up and doing things, or writing, or reading, or playing games, or whatever it is I do. I want to be scooting around. I've started to realize it's a problem, because it means I'm tired more than I should be, and spend half of the day either wishing I was asleep or groggily fumbling around. It's the stubbornness more than anything.

I'm too stubborn to sleep.

What the hell am I supposed to do about it?

09 February 2012

Rules Cyclopedia Weapons Mastery

Was reading over the Weapons Mastery rules when I realized there were some good ideas in here. Some very good ideas indeed, stuck in between arcane phrasing, bizarre charts, and a general lack of polish.

It shows, for example, the realization that warriors as written are at a distinct disadvantage later in the game. Too, it shows that a character's increasing martial skill should provide some sort of material benefits in the form of increased damage and increased armor class.

To be honest, it's a lot more modern than it looks to be at first, and could really benefit from better organization and a cleaner way to look at things. It's the basis for something very cool, and I regret not paying more attention before now. But that formatting! The prose! The endless columns of text! It's a lot to take in, and the presentation doesn't do anything at all towards helping you out, meaning that it might as well not even be there.

The Rules Cyclopedia was a pretty cool document, but it really could have benefitted from a better editor.

08 February 2012

A Cosmonaut Is You! (Part 1)

The world of Rodiel is not much like your standard fantasy world. And its cosmology is mostly to blame.

Standing on the surface of the world, it doesn't look so different from Earth- after all, it's still got mountains, blue sky, dark clouds, stars, a moon, and the sun. There are birds and insects and grass and trees, rivers and lakes and streams. It rains. It snows. The wind blows and sometimes it doesn't blow.

But if you look closely at the sky, you'll notice that you can see currents in the sky, and that the light from the sun is diffused- you can't ever see the actual star. And the fact that the sky (clouds and all) are moving in an obvious counter-clockwise pattern is pretty suspect. Now that you look at it, it looks a damn lot like they're swirling around a midpoint like a hurricane is forming.

But it's not.

The world is made up of a series of rotating planes, one above another. The lowest one, where you're standing, is fairly normal once you get past the way the sky looks, and the fact that you really can fall off the edge of the world. It doesn't even rotate, unlike every other plane.

The next layer up is the Astral Sea, made of a silvery water. If you looked up from the Base you wouldn't see that there are substantial floating islands, but there are, gently drifting with the current and forming archipelagos and formations in the sea. Creatures native to the Astral Sea tend to be enormous carnivorous fish, krakens, and other dangerous semi-mythical beasts. There are often bizarre plants and small animals on the islands in the Astral, completing a very basic cycle of life. Holding up this whole mess is the Firmament, a relatively thin, transparent, gooey, self-maintaining membrane. Piercing this membrane is what causes waterfall or, if it's cold enough, snow.

Above that is the Darkness, a semicircle of what appears to be an impossibly strong sort of hazy glass, and floats exactly where it's put. The day-night cycle on the Base plane is caused by differing degrees in the thickness of the Darkness. At its thickest point, the Darkness extends vertically for miles- at its thinnest, it is as a rime of ice on a lake in the early spring. This is where the Gods live, parcelling out territory for their servants, and concerned only with eternal war. The Darkness's top is bathed in nearly constant sunshine, except where the Gods will it dimmed for their bizarre and seemingly petty motives. Gods live only on the thickest portions of the Darkness, which they have nearly absolute control over, leaving the thinner portions to lesser Gods or even particularly powerful demons. The variety of the plane is endless and, because the Darkness is such a truly massive plane, nearly anything can be seen on its top.

Inside the Darkness scamper demons of all varieties and all kinds. The mortal enemies of the gods, they constantly plot to overthrow the Gods and ascend into the light. They know they are no match, and so must be content to bicker and squabble literally underneath the beings they so despise.

The last layer, the Light, is inestimable. No mortals have ever managed to reach so far as the Light, and not even the Gods seem to know what's going on (although they're not particularly talkative to mortals.) Some say that it's an enormous glowing orb, perhaps the face of an eternal overgod who watches and judges. Some say that it's the end of the universe itself, and that without the influence of the Darkness over them, we'd all be cooked alive. Some others say that it simply is, and one might as well ask what a mountain is.

05 February 2012

Writing Setting Material

Working on the PDF for the Odds are Against You, and I feel like I've managed to hit a wall. On one hand, I've got the base mechanics down (and thank you to those of you who remarked on my question about mechanics- it was some excellent food for thought!), and I've gotten the layout of the PDF itself to be passable, sort of. It's plain, which is fine by me, because it's very readable. Lots of bold print and very conversational dialogue and examples and big print and stuff.

Anyways. The problem is that, at four pages, the mechanics and character generation are done. The rest of the document is going to be setting-related stuff, and mostly broad brushstrokes for GMs instead of a laundry list of everybody in a settlement and all of their middle names or whatever other people use to fill up two hundred pages of book.

And I HATE writing setting stuff. It's such a pain in the ass. It always feels disconnected and bland, or overly referential, or dry. Setting stuff is hard.

But it'll get done, eventually.