22 Dec 2012

He did it!

We're saved!  He did it!  The Doctor saved each and every one of us!

18 Dec 2012

Subject 13 Backgrounder

Back in 2001 and 2002, I had the job from Hell.  No, wait, Hell wouldn’t have the job - too evil.  Front line phone firewall for a DSL ISP, dealing with people who have trouble spelling the dot in an URL.  It was bad.  Very bad.  It got to the point where I’d either find an outlet for the anger and frustration dealing with the people calling or develop software to send a boot to the head over IP.  I chose the outlet and created what was meant to be a text-based comic.  (Read:  A series of short chapters of an on-going serialized story based on the tropes of superhero comic books.)

Prior to starting Subject 13, I was playing with the idea of a superhero setting where the hero IDs continue through generations while the person behind the mask changed.  Naturally, I then went and started a series based on the specific character who doesn’t have a hero ID.  Go fig.  However, the point of Subject 13 was to redirect frustration.  If I couldn’t smack the callers around (and I caught myself at least once checking the address of a caller to see how difficult it’d be to go and deliver the needed boot to the head), then I’d do it through metaphor and symbolism.  The main character, Natasha Teresa “Nasty” Giuliano, became my avatar, letting me hit and swear at work while still keeping my job and remaining out of jail.

The original setting of the story is New York City.  Why?  Because almost every superhero is based either in New York City or a fictitious version* of it.  NYC is a large city, easy for one person to be overlooked, even if she has superpowers.  It gave Nasty some semblance of anonymity as she developed.  Ideal, really.

Oh, and already there’s part of her personality developed.  Her nickname basically describes her.  It’s not a name she’d choose to call herself; it’s one that was imposed by classmates.  Short-tempered, quick to lash out.  Perfect for allowing the author to hit callers without getting in trouble.

The job from Hell has since ended.  Best day of my life, really.  This reduced the need to boot people in the head a great degree.**  This let Nasty develop beyond her core concept, as will be seen in later issues.

Starting in the New Year, read issues of Subject 13 weekly.

* Metropolis is technically a fictional Toronto, but has been a replacement New York.
** There are still people who need one, just not from me.

8 Dec 2012

Story Concept

Some of you who know me may have seen this before, but I'm playing around with a series of stories set in the Traveller Third Imperium setting.

For those unaware, Traveller is one of the first science fiction RPGs, second only to Metamorphosis Alpha.  Originally, there wasn't a setting for the game, with subsector generation a mini-game unto itself.  Over time, the Third Imperium developed, including areas such as the Soloman Rim (the area of space near Earth) and the Spinward Marches (deeper into the galaxy).  For my series of novels, I'd be focusing on the Spinward Marches, a frontier area of the Imperium that allows for pirates, espionage, and political tension, as the Imperium and the Zhodani Consulate maintain a tight balance.

The main players of the area:
The Third Imperium - over a thousand years, the largest starfaring nation of (primarily) humanity around.  The Imperium is so large that news from the Core takes half a year to reach the far reaches.

The Zhodani Consulate - sitting beyond the Spinward Marches, consists of a psionically active branch of humanity.  Given the Imperium's dislike of psionics (mental powers) and aggressive expansion, the Zhodani do what they can to avoid mingling.

The Vargr - uplifted wolves with spacefaring capability.  Rarely seen as a unifying force, the Vargr are a wild card in the region.  A Vargr nation can be an ally of the Zhodani, the Imperium, neither, or both, depending on who is in charge (which can change rapidly over time).

The Aslan - a race of lion-appearing beings, whose roles are gender-defined.  Male Aslan are the warriors, charged with acquiring land, usually through warfare.  Female Aslan, however, tend to the land gathered, and are far more able to handle using technology that isn't a weapon.

Some of the minor players:
The Darrian Confederation - another branch of humanity, best known in Imperial space for accidentally de-stabilizing their homeworld's star.  After fighting their way back to being a spacefaring culture, the Darrians have figured out how they messed up their star and now have a weapon known as the Star Trigger that prevents being invaded.  ("You attack us, we nuke your star.")

The Sword Worlds - H. Beam Piper's space Vikings, essentially.  The Sword Worlds are a lower technology than the rest of the Spinward Marches major players, but are known for taking setbacks in stride and just keep going.

The titles for a possible Traveller Third Imperium series I'm playing with:
The Sword World Menace - wherein a Sword Worlds mission upsets the diplomatic balance in the Marches.
Attack of the Zhos - wherein the Zhodani launch the Fifth Frontier War.
Revenge of the Aslan - wherein an Aslan warrior seeks vengeance on the main characters.
A Darrian Hope - wherein our heroes head to Darrian space to resupply and repair.
The Imperium Strikes Back - wherein the Imperium counterattacks the Zhodani
Return of the Scout - wherein the former Imperial Scout in the cast returns.

Yeah, lots of work to do to fill things out.

7 Dec 2012

Writing - Where to Next?

NaNoWriMo is over for another year.  I now have the beginnings of a story, 50 160 words in.  What now?

As mentioned, I want to leave Beaver Flight fallow for a bit, to think it over, to let the ideas stew.  However, I just can't stop writing cold.  I'll fall out of the practice of sitting down and writing.

Fortunately, I have a few things to be done.  First, I need to get back to "Lost in Translation".  The reviews must flow.  Now is a matter of figuring out the adaptations to watch and see where I can get interesting tidbits.  The Addams Family should be on my list; from comic to feature film with a loving family that's just weird.  Should be up my alley.

Then there's editing my previous NaNo works.  I've gone through Crossover from 2008, getting it ready for submission somewhere.  (Where?  No idea.)  In the process of prepping it, I discovered that the tabbing is out of whack somewhere.  It'll take time to whack it back into a proper spot, even if carrots are needed.  Crossover seems to be holding up to re-reads during the editing process.  After Crossover, I have my NaNo 2010 project, By the Numbers, a Shadowrun story to clean up.  This one, I do hope to submit to Catalyst.  At the time, I wasn't happy with my progress, but rereading the story doesn't cause me to wince.

After that, I have some story ideas idling in the back of my head.  There's Karen's story that could be expanded.  I have an urban fantasy idea set out in British Columbia based on a game campaign that never really got going.  I have a detective story I've been working on during my commute on a Playbook.  I could even flesh out the Brazen Hussies and see where that takes me.

Indeed, I have choices, and plenty of time to work on them all at a leisurely pace over the next eleven months.  After that, it's NaNo all over again!

5 Dec 2012

A Different Look at Hero Points

One of the big changes in tabletop RPGs in the past decade is the concept of the hero point, also known as drama points.  The hero point mechanic allows the player to something to spend to show that character is putting more effort into what he or she is doing.  I estimate the first use of a hero point mechanic comes from Victory Games' James Bond: 007 RPG.  The game also introduced villain points, a mechanic that allowed the GM to let a villain escape or even survive to go on to do even more villainous deeds.

Hero points are typically earned by the PCs for acts in-game and are then spent as needed.  The points usually give a bonus on die rolls, either adding a large number (see various Cinematic Unisystem games, such as Buffy or Army of Darkness) or adding more dice to a die pool (see Force Points in WEG's d6-based Star Wars: The RPG or Edge in Shadowrun: 4th Edition).  However, one game took a different route.

Superbabes: The RPG from Tri-City Games, based on the titles of AC Comics, had a mechanic called "Bimbo Points".  Instead of earning and spending, players could take a Bimbo Point to succeed against all odds or two Points to do something outside the game mechanics.  Naturally, there was a catch.  As the Bimbo Points accumulated, the chance of a "Bimbo Event" grew.  If the GM rolled the number of accumuated Bimbo Points or less on a twenty-sided die, an event would occur for that character, and the Bimbo Points would be erased.  The event table in the game comprised of mostly embarassing situations, such as wardrobe failures or paparazzi infestation.  The idea was to avoid discouraging players from taking Points while still giving them a reason not to take too many.

While the concept worked for the setting, it occurred to me that the idea could be taken and transposed to a different game without too many issues.  The big catch is the name.  "Bimbo Points" isn't exactly a great term to use.  "Backlash" or "Karmic" might work better.  The events would need to be changed, too.  Here, though, I see the players being helpful, coming up with a number of ideas for the table.  Give each suggestion equal weight on the table, and leave a roll of 100 as either a group event or for a chance of multiple events.

What sort of games would work with this?  Right now, I'm still thinking it over.  I suggest not combining Backlash Points with a system that already has a hero point mechanism; that's just overkill.  Other systems work on the idea that the PCs are doomed, so being able to avoid, even temporarily, bad things works against the mood.  (Call of Cthulhu comes to mind here.)

Classic fantasy, though, could use it.  Sliding down stairs while firing arrows into orcs?  Definitely outside most games' mechanics.  Definitely worthy of a backlash mechanic.  Using a whip to swing across a massive barroom brawl?  Backlash point.  Just remember, tailor the events for the game.

3 Dec 2012

NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

Thirty days.  Fifty thousand words.  And, on November 27, I passed by my fifty thousandth word with three days to spare.  Thus, another NaNoWriMo completed.  This year also felt different.  Throughout October, I didn't feel like my heart was in the challenge.  Yet, once I got going, the words flowed.  I had four days where I had absolutely no progress at all; three were due to illness, including a disastrous second weekend of November, the fourth because I was being interviewed on CKCU about NaNo.  I prevailed.

Somehow, the words came to me.  I had very little time spent agonizing on where I was going, unlike previous years.  Oddly, this year's story, Beaver Flight, didn't really have much of a direction.  In the final weekend, I jumped to a twist that was going to be the end of the novel, then had the major revelation that I wanted in the story's sequel.  The change of timing came as I realized that a novel was the wrong format for Beaver Flight.  I had come to see that the story would work better if it was serialized, such as a series of short stories or as a webcomic.  Jumping ahead allowed me to get to the twist at a time when I needed the word count.  The decision to make that jump was easy.

The future of Beaver Flight is to lay fallow for a bit.  I will come back to it at some point, either to rework it or to build on top of what I've done already.  In the meantime, two previous NaNo projects, Crossover and By the Numbers, will get my attention for editing and cleaning.  This doesn't mean that the work put into Beaver Flight was a waste of time.  I wrote, and discovered that I could easily do two to three thousand words an evening on average.

Will I NaNo again?  Probably, depending on what next November looks like.  I need to have a story in mind far sooner than Hallowe'en, have the world created, and have a role for all the characters in mind.  Poor RenĂ©e in Beaver Flight didn't get much to do and started to feel like a fifth wheel.  Victoria started taking over scenes; sending her out to be the aliens' prisoner gave others on the moon more screen time.  Next year, I should work with a solo protagonist, with a reasonably sized supporting cast.  And, as always, experiment a little more.  Change things up.

Most importantly, keep having fun.