Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What Kind of World Do You Want? Part 2

 What Kind of World Do You Want? Part 2
By David

A little basic sociology

In the first part of this post I talked about the hooks, or points of relevance, distinguishing my created fantasy world--Archaborea--from other fantasy environments. I also mentioned how the method to my creation came from a series of articles called “Dungeoncraft,” by Ray Winninger. He had a short list of rules for creating successful worlds which I also choose to use in my process.

Rule #1: Never create more than you must.

Rule #2: Whenever you create something important, create at least one secret tied to it.

Setting the stage for my creation’s adventurers (the players,) I look at the second entry on my list of hooks: The Bad Guys Rule. The evil empire is alive and well on Archaborea. However, due to the nature of the environment (remember that grinning cactus?) even the tyrants have their limitations. So there will be a tyrannical, despotic government but it will be balanced out by the savagery of the natural flora and fauna. I am thinking I may give my heroes a choice to start in a small village under the rule of an ogre-lord “regional governor” or a small village in the wilderness (sort of a pioneer village surrounded by packs of predators and other natural hazards.) They will have a small, manageable homebase, but also some kind of instant challenge, either natural or political.

Along the way, I am aware of potential plotlines and adventure ideas. That is what this process really does, it helps to set things in place and spark ideas, stimulating my creativity. My hope is that my players will feed off of this creative energy as well and together we can build a compelling story within the game, resulting in fun for everyone.

Using rule #2, I have established that the evil rulers of the world (although called “ogre-lords”) are not actually ogrish. They will be beastly in appearance, looking more like minotaurs, with bovine heads and horns, and bulky, hirsute bodies--not fur-covered, just hairy. The secret of their heritage will be something I want the players to discover over the course of the campaign and may include other, unknown villains they will not expect.

My hook established the ogre-lords as conquerors in a war long ended. The length of time I am not sure of yet; somewhere between fifty and one hundred fifty years sounds about right. Enough time for society to have settled a bit, established some norms and traditions in the wake of war, but not so much time that no one remembers the conflict, perhaps lost a parent or grandparent. This being a fantasy realm, its also possible for some long-lived race to have members who actually fought in the war. The war will be a quasi-taboo topic: some want to forget and move on, some want to start it again, hoping for a better outcome.

The village homebase for my players will be a combination of races living and working together. This will allow for the players to be able to choose any race they wish. I don’t want to limit my player’s choices of a character too much because I will be limiting other things as a result of the environment. It is really all about balance, trying to balance what can and cannot be. The village itself will be small, not more than a few hundred at most, with roughly ten to twenty percent of that number belonging to the village militia or guard. When it is decided whether the village will be a pioneer village or an ogre-lord village then that will inform the disposition of the guard.

The village will also be relatively isolated because the nature of the world limits population centers. Nature plays a big role in this world; it will be as much of a challenge as some of the humanoid foes the players will face. A later post will cover this environmental aspect, but for now I will concern myself with some names and personalities the player characters may encounter: the leader of the village, the captain of the guard, a few townspeople (a tradesman, a shopkeeper or two, and maybe a couple farmers.) I will outline the village: a list of major buildings (in alphabetical order for ease of reference.)

Maps will come later, but next part of this series will be religion: god(s) and myths.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Game of Dejarik (Dreams and Suppositions) part 1

By David

Dejarik, holo-chess, the Star Wars chess game. Less than two minutes of screen time and it has obsessed my thoughts for years. I realize it is largely set dressing: distracting background for the scene in which Luke practices the ways of Force-Sense. The animators of the chess pieces probably had the barest of internal logic in mind when they animated the scene. I am sure no rules were written down for the game, it just had to look credible and interesting. I always wanted to own a set of my own, perhaps even learn to play it.

That dream finally had a chance at reality when I discovered the company producing miniatures for Star Wars miniatures games had produced miniature versions of the dejarik pieces! I acquired them by trading some other gaming material I had--but no longer needed--and made a homemade board from wood. Now that I had the physical parts, I needed rules…

My search online resulted in several variations, which all seem to have vanished from the internet, except this one: Holochess by Mike Kelly, But even this one didn’t really seem accurate compared to what I knew from watching the movie. The rules I found seemed like variations on checkers more than chess. When it came down to trying it out, the game moves from the movie could not be duplicated with the fan-created rules available. I decided I would have to do it myself.

I have watched the scene many times over--as I said, I am obsessed--and a gradual pattern began to emerge. There is a definite turn order and even specific moves that vary for each piece that changes position. Some pieces never move, some move off screen (they can be seen in different positions as the scene progresses.) All that remains, in my own thought process, is to determine if an internal consistency can be applied where one might never have existed at all.

I start by mapping the progression of the pieces through the scene. Beginning with the initial placement and the board layout and marking each piece’s changed position as it is shown. The pieces start near to each other on the exterior circle rather than exactly opposite in the board. This suggests either the pieces have already been moved before we see them, or that the placement is not like traditional chess. SInce the pieces are lined up on the outer ring and the action seems to occur mostly on the inner spaces when we see it, I feel safe in assuming what we see is the start of the game.

Next I look at the individual pieces, making notes I hope will help me later in identifying patterns and perhaps pinning down what the pieces represent. The pieces of earth chess are idealized versions of a medieval court, why couldn’t the dejarik pieces be similar stylized avatars or icons?
Next time, I will break down the individual pieces.

Next. Part 2: Meet the players (or rather, the pieces.)