Archive for April, 2011

World Creation II: Ruled by Committee

27 Apr

Bonus Hitman stream today, April 27th, at 5:00 PST. That might be a different day depending on where you live–I leave it to you to figure out where you stand. The location, as usual, will be www.livestream.com/chocolatehammer

There were some very reasonable concerns raised in the comments of the last post about how I’ve projected the mountain men’s use of water/steam power. Some of these were salient points which have caused me to make significant alterations, which I’ll get into later. Some of them are addressed by stuff I’ve already gotten plotted out, which I’ll get into later. So, if you had a question or a criticism, I’ll get to you. Right now, I’m just going to hash out their political structure a bit.

My original projection was that civilization would be very concentrated—one or two cities, focal points of skilled or specialized labor. How did these develop? Early on, I thought about having some sort of early fort-based feudal system blossom into citadels that, in turn, blossomed into city-states, but the more I played with the idea, the less I liked it. It doesn’t make a whole abundance of sense, and it doesn’t really touch on any of the ideas I wanted to explore. So, nix on that one. Let’s stick with something simple—there’s a nice scenic valley in the middle of farm country that a couple farmers got into their heads was sacred (on account of fertility or good luck or a nice water source or something like that), so people gradually started to migrate there until they coagulated into a village, which sort of budded and snowballed over the centuries into a respectable city-state.

Does it work? Eh. Kinda. Maybe I’ll come back to it.

Bottom line, nobody’s got the muscle to lay claim to the land, so there’s no lord—and no king. Probably the city-state would be ruled by a council, which might evolve into a sort of crude diplomatic system. The main focus is planning and stacking the harvest, deciding what jobs need to be performed, and planning local improvements such as clearing off land or building community structures. Once the civilization starts to get cozy, and scientific development kicks off, spreading discoveries also becomes a primary responsibility. New developments in agriculture or uses for plants and animal parts are spread orally by horseback—or lizardback or something–messengers and recorded using proto-language glyphs, which eventually become written language.

Anyway, the salient point right now is that the ruling body is a sort of elected council, a group of elders chosen by everyone else to represent them. Perhaps it’s not a straight election—perhaps the elders vote on new members based on individuals that are respected by the community. I don’t see the elders as being too powerful, so corruption isn’t a huge problem. Most of their duties involve steering development and judging civil disputes. They’re backed by a rudimentary police force that doubles as a homeland defense force—neither is frequently necessary, and peace reigns more often than not.

Let’s say this spot’s about where they are now. They’ve got a council of ten to fifteen men and women holding court in a building near the center of civilization, hearing reports of new inventions or discoveries and judging petitions for the use of communal land. Probably the most common issue is: how do they appropriate iron? I decided, and failed to clarify, that they do have a relatively small supply of iron. Large enough that they’ve figured out how to use it and they’re not paralyzed they’re going to run out, small enough that they can’t just throw it at every potential application. Some of it they appropriate for research, some of it for devices—steam engines and whatnot—and some of it, though not much, for tools. Another significant issue would be that of exploration. This is a people who have two facets at the core of their beliefs: that they are living in the promised land, and that they should always be searching for more things to learn and for more resources to put to use. So, where does that leave expeditionary parties? On the one hand, it’s at best unpleasant and at worst blasphemy to trudge out into the jungle with a machete and a samples bucket. On the other hand, the outside world theoretically has much to offer. How to best go about cracking that particular coconut? And what to do if they find something out there that The Damned lay claim to, and aren’t particularly eager to give up?

I’m almost done with these people—for now, anyway. Next time, I tie up some loose ends, throw in a dash of flavor, and figure out for good and all what role these people play in the grand scheme of the setting.

 

 

 

 

 

About That Video

26 Apr

The video’s been stalling on Blip. I’m trying to upload it again, and if that doesn’t work, I’m going to burn down the dorm upload it to YouTube in two parts.

To make it up to you, I was planning on doing an extra stream tomorrow. Ideal would be Hitman: Blood Money, of course, but the game’s been crashing on boot. I’ll reinstall it and try again; if not that, X-COM or Saint’s Row or something working perfectly fine, apparently. As usual, 5:00 PM PST.

Stick around. World Creation by tomorrow night.

 

 

Video Incoming

25 Apr

(A video is actually uploading as this post is being typed. It’ll be embedded in the morning in the space currently occupied by a faceless Hobospy)

EDIT: The upload has stalled twice now. I’m troubleshooting.

 

Another Salesman

21 Apr

I have a strange habit of playing salesmen in RPGs. Generally speaking, it’s not a medium that encourages them–or rather, it necessitates that every character be one and also something else. As in, Bogart the Barbarian’s specialty is cracking skulls, cephalic exoskeletons, and membranous brainsacs, and only when all possible head-rending opportunity has been exhausted does he attempt to interest Joe Pawnshop in a collection of fine used weapons, armor, and personal knickknacks. There’s not a lot of room for someone who’s really good at the selling stuff part and has no expertise to speak of in the acquiring stuff through murder part.

But I’ve done a lot of them in the past, and I’m doing another one soon for a 1920s Dresden Files game. And this is what he looks like. At least, it’s about 40 minutes of what he looks like.

Not pictured: natty fedora, rolled-up sleeves, patriotism, suitcase full of stolen government documents, fifteen hitmen spraying lead in his direction.

 

 
 

World Creation II: Blank Tech

18 Apr

Last entry, I decided that the mountain-dwelling civilization a.) had the capacity for technological advancement, and b.) had a cultural bias that would push them towards it. That just leaves me with the matter of what they’ve figured out, why they figured it out, and what they do with it once they have it.

This is a scattershot topic, so I’m going to address it in trendy, easily-digestible bullet points.

  • Agriculture: this is obviously important. Anything that would maximize the harvest is key towards population expansion. I’m going to go so far as to say they’ve got a really advanced set of aqueducts and canals worked out, and can effectively use animals as labor, but do not have mechanized agriculture just yet.
  • Industry: we’re not looking at a huge population boom, here. There’s nothing to support a heavily factory-based society. Still, fast-flowing rivers mean water wheels are possible, which does allow for some advancements and increased production capacity. I’m also going to say that there is steam power–something invented as much as a demonstration of how natural forces can be tamed as it was for any practical purpose–but coal is precious enough that it’s generally reserved for select applications.
  • Mining is a crucial part of this area’s culture. Consequentially, mining pumps are one of the primary applications of the steam engine, a device that is otherwise used more as a proof of theory than a practical tool.
  • So, this race has things that other races want. And they’ve got lots of nasty natural enemies. So, chances are good that they’ve been keeping a meaningful eye on weapons development…and looking at what I’ve got so far, firearms are not implausible. So, musket-level guns are available to a permanent military contingent, and maybe to hunters. I’ve yet to decide if the military is primarily offensive or defensive. If offensive, they’ll probably have more toys to play with, such as cannons and plated warboats.
  • Speaking of which, riverboats. The river is an excellent source of transportation. If these people are going anywhere, having a way to move up or down it would be invaluable. Maybe these aren’t as advanced as the typically conceived Twain riverboat, and maybe they’re not even steam-powered—powered instead by oars—but they should definitely exist, for those rare occasions in which someone needs to go somewhere for some reason. More on that later.
  • Communication: there is no pressing need for them to communicate with anyone outside a day’s travel, so they probably don’t have semaphore or anything worked out. This is an easy one.
  • Mechanical tomfoolery: this is a people who love to invent. As such, clockwork-type creations appeal to them. They like to make devices that do something, even if that something is vastly more entertaining than practical. Timekeeping devices are not implausible—fairly sophisticated ones can come around pretty early in a culture’s development.
  • Chemistry: another big field for them, as they’ve got a wealth of natural resources in the mountain and in the fields. They’ve got dyes, explosives, and compounds that repel the flesh-eating insects out in the jungle…thank goodness.
  • Decent metallurgy. They don’t have iron to work with, but they’ve gotten pretty good at alloying what they do have. Still, they’re eventually going to hit a dead end if they don’t get their hands on something a bit sterner.
  • They’ve figured out how to make paper, but they haven’t really industrialized it. It’s the sort of thing where you make up a few batches every time you run out.

That’s a decent start. Next time: I throw in some politics, current events, and grisly scandal.

 

Editration

16 Apr

Firstly: I apologize profusely for the lack of a stream Thursday–more so, forgetting to actually announce the lack of a stream Thursday. For those of you who showed up wondering where the hell I was: I can offer nothing to repay you, save the location of three caches of ammo, food, gold, and toilet paper, for use when human civilization disintegrates due to a lack of resources and public order next Wednesday. All three are located underneath a Sizzler in LA county. You’ll have to guess which one.

Also: I’ve got a JaR video sitting raw on my hard drive, but Windows Movie Maker crashes instantly when I boot it up. If anyone has a decent free movie maker to recommend, I’d appreciate the recommendation.

Working on the next World Creation entry. Skarn out.

 
 

The Pig Girl: Section 2, Part 2

13 Apr

Wallace was deliberating whether he should bother asking any more questions when there was a faint, but audible, pang from the roof. It sounded like someone throwing a chunk of concrete at a garage door.

“Welcome to Greene Boulevard,” said Reginald and Victor almost simultaneously.

This spun around in Wallace’s head for a moment–and then it hit him.

“Indeed,” said Reginald. “Homemade. Nothing to be worried about.”

“They might not have meant harm by it,” added Victor. “Might have just been a warning shot.”

“True. Or maybe they were trying to murder all of us with a gun made of garbage.”

“Which, I should stress, would not be out of character.”

Wallace was already up and leaning between their seats, squinting up at the monitors to catch a glimpse of the sniper responsible. He still didn’t have a handle on which grainy monitor corresponded to which direction—he had no proof, but swore it changed sometimes—and sometimes, when they were tearing down the street at full throttle, it was hard for him to tell one thing from the other anyway, impossible for him to spot one man lurking in one of the shadowy windows or disused alleys or uneven rooftops. He really had no chance of spotting the shooter. No sign of him—or anyone else.

“Where’s the settlement?” Wallace asked.

Victor shrugged and eased back the accelerator a little. “Such as it is, it’s up ahead.”

Wallace found the monitor corresponding to the front camera. It displayed rapid movement down an empty street, past empty buildings, towards a horizon that promised the same unto eternity.

“I don’t see it.”

“That’s fair,” said Reginald.

Wallace clenched his hands on Reginald and Victor’s chairs and took a long, slow breath through his nostrils.

“Okay. This is important. This is too important for me to go around in circles for an hour while you two jerk me around on grammar and semantics. So I’m going to ask again, as unambiguously as possible, and I would very much appreciate an unambiguous answer: where is the Greene Boulevard settlement, if it does exist, and you have not been jerking me around to a greater extent than I had believed possible?”

“Inside the buildings,” said Victor.

“Inside the buildings on this street,” corrected Reginald. “Missed a spot of ambiguity there, old sport.”

Wallace looked up at a monitor. There were buildings—old, crumbling tenement buildings, much like the thousands of gassed-out shells he’d seen hundreds of over the course of nearly a decade. “What? Are you sure? There’s no signs…”

“Of course not,” said Victor. “They’d be gone within the week.”

“The people, not the signs,” added Reginald. “Although, in all probability, those too.”

They swept under a rusted out, over-street catwalk. The monitors dimmed in the shadows, and the light level of in the interior lowered perceptibly.

Wallace said, quietly, “I thought this was place was supposed to be different.”

“Different in the sense that it’s a badly-kept secret rather than just a secret, yes. The location’s better known than most. That’s all.”

Victor tugged at the handbrake. The vehicle began to slow further–more gently than Wallace would have expected—and Victor turned the wheel, slowly, and coasted it into a careful right turn. Up ahead, in the distance, Wallace dimly recognized a dead end.

“That’s how they have to operate down here,” said Reginald. “A month in which you see no-one new is a good month. You can’t count on guests having good manners.”

“More often lead pipes and nails.”

“Explosives.”

“Unspeakable appetites.”

In the monitors, more and more city drifted by—all of it the same. Wallace found himself unable to concentrate on it any longer. Slowly, he felt his way back into his seat.

He had no right to feel sick, and less right to be surprised. The idea of being shocked at paranoia and violence at this point was almost, in a perverse way, funny. What had he been expecting?

It had sounded so promising. An actual settlement. Civilization—open, organized, some earnest attempt at the peace and order of the old days. Crude, maybe. Rough. Violent. Anything, as long as it was…

But never mind. He was here. So was the box. He really had no choice but to do his job.

 
 

World Creation II: Ever Onwards

08 Apr

Seems we had a bit of controversy in the comments of the last World Creation post. Reader Kdansky posted the following:

In my (not so small) experience, starting with a map isn’t the right way to do it, because it often ends in your imagination becoming extremely limited by what you have drawn. Nowadays, I usually start with the major personages, and go from there. The world just feels much more alive when you end up with “The General Parcivor conquered half the continent, then died to a lucky assassin sent by Arivor, and now the kingdom he built is in the hands of his useless offspring John.” than “The Kingdom of Parvi has a long tradition of milk-curdling and sewing.”

Go backwards. Want a huge city somewhere? Don’t argue “well, there are suitable corn fields, so logically, a town sprung up, and they pray to the god of corns”, because that leaves you with corn fields, which make for a boring story.
Do it the other way: Why would there be a city with? Because of the gold mine! Which is cursed! And that is why the locals are fervent zealots, because they believe it protects them!”

Way, way better result.

And also:

Take a second look at Rutskarns post: While that setting might be decently realistic, there is absolutely nothing in there that makes for an awesome game. It’s just boring facts. Which is exactly the kind of setting document you should not write, because it won’t make your games better.

Now, I respect his approach, because it seems to work for him and (I’m presuming, given his references to RPGs) his players. But I’d like to take great exception to the idea that my approach, beginning with a world and building from there, won’t generate interesting hooks .One thing Kdansky does in these comments is point to interesting aspects of a world generated via his method–starting with hooks and working towards the less-interesting backing–and then comparing the result to what I have so far, which is the less-interesting backing that nothing has yet been built upon. But I will argue, right here and right now, that I can build up something from this foundation every bit as interesting as I could come up with starting with nothing.

I absolutely defy you to state that there has never been a fascinating civilization, culture, or historical incident in our world–and it was formed just as I am forming this world, starting with geology and building up layers of society and history. The Crusades, the Inquisition, pirates, samurai, Aztec sacrifices, dragon worship–all of this, starting from a rock with resources on it and letting things progress. And it’s not even as if I’ve entirely forsaken the design of the storyteller for the clinical eye of the armchair anthropologist. I can easily guide things towards more interesting angles as I go. But for my world to feel real, it must start from the beginning.

All of this debating is moot. All I’ve done is lay the shadow of the groundwork of a world. It’s impossible to tell if this setting makes for an interesting game or fiction universe, because not only is it not finished, it’s barely begun. The proof of my method is that it generates something complex and interesting; all I ask of Kdansky, or others skeptical of my approach, is that you stick around long enough to evaluate its results. Perhaps I may change your mind.

Now, let’s get back to work.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

World Creation II (In a Bit)

07 Apr

This space will be occupied by the World Creation II by somewhere around 3:00 PM, PST, tomorrow. Or, er, today. Just need to find some notes first.

In the meantime, here’s the Hitman that got recorded today. Er, yesterday.

I won’t be uploading this to Blip.tv for two reasons:

1.) The Procaster window got in the way, and

2.) I wasn’t on today, so it wasn’t exactly my best work

3.) Mostly that first one

Hopefully, those issues will be resolved when I sit down to record next Thursday. I’m pretty sure I can sort out the Procaster window, at the very least, by setting it to hide. The downside of that would be that I wouldn’t get distracted by a hundred comments asking me to punch random passersby in the face and sacrifice them to the River God, but there you go.

 

World Creation II: Mapper’s Delight

03 Apr

Last entry, we punched out a few of the basic themes of the world—jungle, tribes, low/no magic, etc. Now it’s time to start hammering those themes into a big picture, a general overview of the world and what makes it interesting.

There are countless ways to begin a project like this, but I decided to start by drawing a map of the world—or at least, a continent on it. At this point, I have few preconceived notions of what I’m doing. All I’m trying to do is model terrain that fits my basic outline—jungle and mountains—without worrying about cities, or races, or history, or anything like that. For all of those elements to seem natural, they have to be grounded in something, and this map will serve as that foundation.

I pull up a few maps of Mozambique for reference, then start sketching. What I end up with is a hornlike section of coast almost completely canopied by jungle, with spotty little lakes here and there and a chain of mountains running down from the top left corner. Of note is a river that runs down from one of the mountains—narrow and straightforward at first, but twisting and widening as it cuts downhill through the jungle. It also runs into a basin in the northeast area. And that’s about it, for now. Not too fancy, but it gives me something to start from.

I determine that there are few areas naturally suited to agriculture. There are certainly portions that, if cleared away, would be suitable for growing crops or tending livestock, but that sort of shifting cultivation probably wouldn’t be sustainable indefinitely. Then again, it’s possible the elevated regions to the northwest would be suitable for terrace agriculture, given the hilly portions and the convenient water source.

So, if there’s going to be a big permanent settlement, it’s probably going to be there. Hm–as setups go, it isn’t bad. They’ve got access to crops, workable stone, and usable wood. The mountains could serve as a source of metal ore—not iron, I think, but quite possibly tin and copper, which would, in turn, give them bronze. The fast-flowing river might even serve as the basis for water wheels, which would even allow for a sort of modernized industry to take place. All of the sudden, a pretty respectable civilization is beginning to emerge.

I scribble in a little dot to mark a city. I’ll name it later.

Now that I’m looking at it, it’s not impossible that these people would be able to expand outwards. Logging camps would make sense, as would, perhaps, mining camps along the rest of the mountain range. I drop in some more dots.

Okay, that’s enough of that. Let’s add some other factions.

I put a few dots along the river. It’s not inconceivable that people could eke out a living there, surviving on some combination of hunting, gathering, horticulture, and slash-and-burn agriculture. I like the idea of weird herd animals—maybe they’ve tamed and domesticated some form of herbivorous jungle lizard, breeding them for bulk and docility while keeping them fed on poisonous-to-people river plants. None of these peoples would naturally be as advanced as the toffs up on the mountain, though. There might be some sort of trade, but then again, there might not be. I’ll figure it out once I’ve decided what kind of people the mountaineers are.

Finally, I place some dots in the jungle. Some of these represent wandering tribes—some of them are completely random. As in, I have zero idea why someone would want to settle there. I look forward to sooner or later finding out. Right now, I’ll refer to these dots as the mystery points.

Well, that’s a big picture, anyway. Next week, I’ll settle in to get into what makes the jungle interesting…and dangerous.