31 May 2017

The Elf's Prisoner - Post-NaNo World Building - Lessons

The Elf's Prisoner - Post-NaNo World Building - Lessons

Building a world after the fact.
Part 1 - The Lands
Part 2 - Militaries
Part 3 - Elves
Part 4 - Architecture
Part 5 - Magic
Part 6 - Wrap Up begins now.
Building a world while writing by the seat of your pants is not for the faint-hearted.  Some of it can be hand-waved if the characters aren't exploring or travelling much.  Once they leave a small section of a city, things start to grow.  If you do wind up creating a world whole cloth on short notice, here's what I learned.

First, when in doubt, choose a part of the Earth that resembles what you want.  Google Maps helps here.  Don't worry about the scale - you just want something to refer to.  I used the lower mainland of British Columbia, then changed the distances to what I needed.  The various kingdoms can be as large or small as you want, too; counties may work well as kingdoms, especially if you zoom in close enough.  Use Earth cultures as a base to give characters names that don't sound like a cat walked across a keyboard.

Have in mind a rough idea of what technologies are available.  The traditional fantasy world needs iron smelting at a minimum to produce the weapons and armour characters use.  The nameless guards will have near-identical arms and armour, mainly because of economics of scale.  Keep notes on what you decide; if the town guard in the king's city wear chain mail and carry short swords while keeping the peace, then a reader will notice if a guardsman is wearing leather or plate.  Not that the guardsman can't, but he'll need a reason.

Non-humans should have their own histories.  Look at how humanity developed on Earth.  Why shouldn't elves and dwarves have the same diversity?  Feel free to change things up, too.  There is no reason for every elf to be a Legolas clone.  Using names based on foreign languages may shake things up and give a new perspective.

Buildings are going to be functional.  The technologies used today require iron refining that wasn't available in the Renaissance, though the ideas were there.  Stone and wood will be the main construction materials, though bricks are a possibility in some areas.  At the same time, once magic gets involved, figure out how that will change building design.  Ultimately, a house will need walls, a door, and a roof, and even magic can't change that.

Figure out, at least roughly, how magic works.  You don't need to work out every last detail, but the general nature should be known.  Do the mages work with the classic elements?  Or do they shape raw mana with their mind?  Ideally, this is worked out before the mage casts the first spell, but sometimes, the spell gets out before the nature of magic is ready.

Finally, don't stress over the details.  Not everywhere needs to be fleshed out.  That inn the characters stay at one night can feel more real by adding description.  Its history isn't as important as what is happening at the moment.  Keep open to ideas that pop up.  Dwarven canals to ship raw and refined ore?  If that fits your concept of your dwarves, why not?  Or maybe the elves are the technoligical types instead, with canals to bring their armada in from the ocean.  It's your world.  Have fun with it.

29 May 2017


Crossover is now indexed under Subject 13.  I've also added a commissioned picture of Nasty to the page.  The Soul Blade has its own page with the chapters linked.  Several of index entries may not be live yet, though, but should be once the chapters go up.

28 May 2017

Test Run - Demon Hunters

After the analysis done on the Cortex system over at Lost in Translation, I felt like putting a character together.  The decision on which setting was made easy - Demon Hunters came with a DVD to watch, a training manual on becoming a member of the Brotherhood of the Celestial Torch.

The game and the series it's based on, the Dead Gentlemen Productions works Demon Hunters and /Demon Hunters - Dead Camper Lake/, are supernatural comedies.  There are vampires, werewolves, and demons out there, and some might be your teammates.  One segment in the orientation video includes a list of trades the Brotherhood is looking for, including TV/VCR Repair.  I have my concept, a TV/VCR repairman who isn't fazed by the supernatural; he's seen far worse.

26 May 2017

The Soul Blade - Chapter 35

"The bleach was getting to me."
"Officer Cruz is here to make sure I'm safe, Daddy."
"Detective McCoy needs available officers."
"Mom and Dad are fighting almost all the time now."
Saturday morning arrived far too soon for Brenna's liking.  She awoke to the sounds of bustling downstairs.  Slipping out of bed, Brenna padded on bare feet downstairs to see what was happening.  Her father was in the living room with her uncle watching the sports highlights.  Brenna peeked in to find out the score from the Padres road game, then ducked back out.  In the dining room, Grace and Rae ate their breakfasts as Aunt Dawn returned with a stack of pancakes.  "Good morning, Brenna," Dawn said.  "Sleep well?"

"Yeah, I guess.  You don't have to cook, Aunt Dawn."

"Let her, Brenna," Rae said.  "We've had the discussion already."

25 May 2017

The Soul Blade Chapter 34 - Commentary

Brenna's cousins arrive, in The Soul Blade Chapter 34.

There's a callback to the start of the story, where Brenna returned from an out-of-town convention.  She's starting to make her doll clothes.  This bit came about after seeing ball-jointed dolls at anime conventions.  After a bit of research, I discovered that the dolls come in standard scales, thus Brenna could easily start designing her own line of doll clothes for them.  That catch is that while the scales - 1:6, 1:8, and all - are standardized, the features aren't.  Two dolls the same scale could have different hip and bust measurements.  Brenna could make some generic clothes, like robes, t-shirts, and jeans, to sell and also take commissions based on the measurements of a specific doll.  Those measurements mean that she could create a new size for her standard line.  Brenna could get into the fashion industry after all!

Officer Cruz's departure was abrupt on purpose.  The reason is Tricia and her actions in Chapter 33.  While she probably should have stayed, that wasn't her call.  A decision was made higher up to get all available officers out on the street looking for Tricia.  Killing police officers tends to attract attention.

Everyone has arrived!  Now to set up the grande finale!  Dawn is Joni's sister and Brenna's aunt.  Dawn and her daughters are also sensitives, like Brenna.  Grace isn't sensitive, but she still has her own abilities.  In another setting that goes into details about psychic and psionic abilities, Grace would be classified as a psi-null, a person who tends to negate psychic abilities.  However, The Soul Blade isn't that type of setting, so the girls don't have a ready term for Grace's lack of sensitivity.

Since the names come fast and furious in this chapter, here are Brenna's cousins once again.  Summer, the middle child, should be familiar, having provided details to Brenna previously.  Raven, or Rae as she prefers, is the youngest, and is an empath still in high school.  Aurora, who goes by Rory for the most part and is called Aura by Brenna, is the oldest, close to Brenna's age.  Summer and Aurora's abilities haven't been revealed.  Rae's did get mentioned, though the girls treat it as a known factor amongst themselves.

Late night traffic through L.A. was interesting to add.  Knowing everyone would be driving, I had to factor in what they'd go through to travel the length of California.  Having been in L.A. very briefly for a Battlestar Galactica convention, I was able to get some details.  The freeway traffic at 2am reminded me of mid-afternoon traffic on the Queensway locally.  The road surface was rougher than the Queensway as well, though not as bad as Autoroute 5 in Gatineau.  There are high-occupancy lanes, and the speed limit is honoured in the breach.  Aura should have stopped at a motel, really.

Dawn and Keith's friction is coming from having to spend time with each other after having raised a family.  Where the girls took up much of their time and gave them something in common, they're now discovering that they've drifted apart a bit.  They'll need to sit down and talk and get to know each other all over again.  However, their sex life is amazing.  Dawn really never minded the idea that her sex drive would skyrocket if she ever inherited the Soul Blade.

Friday, the beginning of the end, in The Soul Blade Chapter 35.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, hiatus week.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, adapting to games featuring Cortex/Cortex Plus.

24 May 2017

The Elf's Prisoner - Post-NaNo World Building - Magic

Building a world after the fact.
Part 1 - The Lands
Part 2 - Militaries
Part 3 - Elves
Part 4 - Architecture
Part 5 - Magic is below.
Part 6 - Wrap Up
Fantasy worlds have magic, overt, subtle, flashy, or sublime.  With The Elf's Prisoner, magic is a known factor, with few people capable of using and abusing it.  As mentioned in previous parts, the story was inspired by the various editions of Dungeons & Dragons.  Thus, there are two main forms of magic, arcane, as cast by wizards, and divine, as cast my priests.

Divine magic comes from the deities of the world.  The priesthood of each deity is chosen, called by the god to serve.  The magic that's available is flavoured by the deity.  Mechanically, this makes divine magic closer to a power pool from Champions.  The special effect is depending on the deity; a priest of the Lightbringer must keep to the idea of enlightenment, whether through spreading knowledge or creating a light.  A priest of the Defiler must break something down, destroying or rendering useless a person or object.  While both priests may be able to heal someone magically, the priest of the Lightbringer will cause the wounder person to glow while the magic flows through while the priest of the Defiler will cause the wounded pain as wounds reform and seal up.

Because the source of magic is tied to the deity, it is possible for a spell to just not work.  The reason could be that the spell is antithetical to the deity's own belief and goals.  Or the priest may not have been as devout as he or she should have been.  Or the deity is out to sow discord.  On the other hand, some deities may provide a spell to a layman or even a non-believer; the Chaos Beast is the most likely to do so, just for the sheer fun of causing confusion and chaos as a result.  Essentially, the priest must believe that the spell being cast is in service of the god he or she follows.  Doubt could cause the spell to fail.

Arcane magic uses the inherent mana around the spellcaster.  Instead of being granted a general ability to cast with the only limitation being belief, wizards must study and create spells.  Once the spell is known, it can be used when needed.  This was a deliberate decision to separate the wizards away from AD&D's Vancian magic, where spells were fire-and-forget until memorized again.  I took some inspiration from Shadowrun's magic system, where mages of all traditions could know any number of spells, but casting them could wear them out, especially if channelling more power into the effect.  Shadowrun's spells tend to obey the laws of thermodynamics; mana cannot be created nor destroyed, just changed into different energy forms.  The Elf's Prisoner may ignore that restriction.  I'm also adding a way for wizards to ignore or reduce the effect of having magic course through them.  By using a focus, such as a staff, a wand, an amulet, or a rod, the magic is directed, allowing wizards to withstand greated energies.  It is still possible to channel too much mana, leading to the wizard turrning crispy or receiving a backlash of the spell used.

Priests may be more flexible, provided that they keep to their deity's goals.  Wizards, though, aren't dependant on being in good faith.  Wizards can also develop spells, modify them, and trade them.  I don't have a spell list of arcane spells; that would be limiting.  However, wizards who do appear will have a list of spells they do know.  Jyslyn's list so far includes a cleaning spell, an elemental manipulation spell for both water and earth, and a spell to open locks.  I also know she doesn't have a spell that directly hurts a target, though those do exist.

So how do spellcasters learn spells?  Priests are trained in the basics as acolytes, learning the prayers needed and how to beseech when needing a spell not already covered.  Wizards study magical tomes and network with each other.  The elven cities of Wildwood and the Sundered Chasm have guilds where mages learn the craft.  The Seven Dominions has colleges of magic, an academic study instead of a craft.  The Niceans have their own form of magic, which I haven't worked out yet.  It may be akin to the hermetic/shamanic divide from earlier editions of Shadowrun, where the two traditions more or less cast spells the same way, but summoning was more formal for heremetic magicians while shamans called upon the spirits of the land.  If I get to the Nicean Islands, I will have this figured out.

Magic is an area in fantasy where care must be taken.  Too powerful, and magic short circuits the plot.  Too weak, and readers start wondering why anyone would want to be a wizard.  A balance is needed to make sure the magicians don't overshadow the rest of the cast.

19 May 2017

The Soul Blade - Chapter 34

"Hi, Krista, it's Brenna.  I am stuck at home with a crazy sister."
"The dead woman was Fiona Leary, a secretary for a high-priced mediator."
"Her boss's name is Tricia Meadows, and she hasn't been seen since yesterday morning."
"Tricia Meadows is the woman who attacked me last week."
Brenna woke up in time for Officer Henderson's shift to end.  She said her farewells to him and introduced herself to Officer Cruz, a woman taller than Brenna herself but not quite Grace's height.  Although relieved, Brenna was also disappointed that Matt hadn't been assigned to protect her.

After a quick dinner, Brenna brought her sewing downstairs.  At a recent convention up the coast, she had received several requests for doll clothes.  One of the people asking about the clothes had even shown her the doll in question, fragile-looking, posable, about two feet tall.  Some research online gave Brenna the measurements she needed to work with.  With a lull in her travels and not much else to do with her hands, she sat down and started with a simple design of her own creation.  Fitting would be a problem, but she could always get the doll owners to put the clothes on before buying the outfit.  On the spot alterations wouldn't take Brenna much time as long as she didn't get a sudden rush.  Brenna chatted with Officer Cruz as she worked.  Cruz watched in amazement as the young brunette worked on the tiny stitches needed to make the sleeves.

Grace returned home long after dark.  She waved to her sister and the police officer before going to the kitchen.  The younger Halliday woman returned to the living room with a can of Pepsi in her hand.  She introduced herself to the officer, then asked of she needed a refill on her coffee.

18 May 2017

The Soul Blade Chapter 33 - Commentary

Under protective custody, in The Soul Blade Chapter 33.

This chapter begins the set up for the big climax.  I'm getting all my ducks in a row and all those other clich├ęs about getting things in order.  I'm also trying to wrap up all the other dangling plot hooks, like Grace's graduation, so that the climax is the end.  This was a problem once I realized where I was going during NaNo.  I had too much, or so I thought, that needed resolution.

Detective McCoy has the name of his prime suspect in the latest killing.  No surprise, it's Tricia.  And Krista now has a major scoop, thanks to Brenna.  Krista should get a raise or a promotion out of this bit of investigative journalism.  This is the end of Krista's story arc, such as it was.  Brenna could finally say the killer's name to someone.

Grace is hitting maximum nervousness.  Brenna probably should have tased her, but she's too nice.  Officer Henderson, though, doesn't have a sense of humour while working and would stop her.  Brenna might be able to claim self-defense; Grace is good at looming.

Tricia, at this point, isn't worried about the police arresting her.  She's more concerned about her minions, in that she doesn't have a quick way to replace them if the police execute a search warrant on her home.  With the Ashen Man as a passenger inside her head, Tricia has access to more magical power than ever.  She also sees no reason to not use the energy.  To her, there is no such thing as overkill.  The result?  Four dead police officers and one crushed police cruiser.

A note on the research for this chapter.  I had looked into what sort of vehicle the San Diego Police Department uses.  I was going to put in a place holder, a Ford Crown Victoria, since that seems to be common and was once the car of choice locally.  A quick Google revealed that, at the time, the car in use was... a Ford Crown Victoria!  Great!  That's three words where a vehicle like the Dodge Charger is just two.  Then I realized something.  Tricia doesn't care what the police cruiser's make and model are, just that there are two cops inside.  But, at least I knew what the car looked like before it was crushed.
San Diego Police Department cruiser, before Tricia crushed it, photo via Wikipedia.

Friday, Halliday family reunion, in The Soul Blade Chapter 34.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Deadpool.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, hiatus week as I will be at CanGames.

17 May 2017

The Elf's Prisoner - Post-NaNo World Building - Architecture

Building a world after the fact.
Part 1 - The Lands
Part 2 - Militaries
Part 3 - Elves
Part 4 - Architecture is below.
Part 5 - Magic
Part 6 - Wrap Up
Of all the things I never expected to figure out, architecture was near the top.  After all, the setting has limits in what it can do with building materials.  Stone and wood can only go so far up before collapsing on itself.  But, there is magic in the world, and magic changes what can and can't be done.

Starting with the elves, since they're fresh from the previous part, each type of elf has used magic to create their cities.  The sylvan elves grew Wildwood in a forest; the dark elves grew the Sundered Chasm in a cavern; and the crystal elves formed their city from crystals.  None of those cities could exist without magic.  With Wildwood, the entire city is raised off the ground, with buildings connected by walkways.  Obviously, horses are only allowed at the stables at the cities various gates, but height restriction are now based on the trees themselves and not construction technology.  Buildings are coaxed from the trees, forming the basic layout, though other items, like doors and window panes, have to be installed afterward.  The tallest building, the Council Chambers, has a garden in the centre.  The Chambers are formed from and around the oldest tree, which branches out wide enough to let the sylvan elves place an ornamental garden in the centre.  This might be difficult to film if adapted...

In the Sundered Chasm, since there are no trees, nor room or light for them to grow, so the dark elves formed the city out of the earth itself.  Being underground, height restrictions aren't a consideration.  The central tower, home to the temple of the Outcast Queen and where the ruling families gather to argue, is by tradition the tallest structure, and must be seen by all locations of the city.  The ruling families cluster near the central tower, with each home taking its own style from the whims of the Matriarch.  The common folk live in a maze of tunnels and alleys, with homes formed as needed without planning.  The marketplace, though, was created as that, so the buildings there look more traditional, allowing the traders who come to the city to feel like they're in a familiar place.  Even then, the inns are made from a solid piece of earth, not stone or wood.

The crystal elves would have similar buildings as the dark elves, except made from crystal above the surface.  Height now does matter, if only as a way to separate the ruling families from the commoners.    Natural crystal formations dictate where housing would be, so streets are formed as travel dictates.  There isn't a central tower; instead, the Council of Matriarchs meet in a crystal formation grown from the side of a mountain, allowing them to look down upon the city when they discuss matters.

The dwarves, at least in the Realm Below the Mountain, don't bother with magic.  They carved their kingdom out from the mountain.  Areas were planned.  The Realm Below has an entry cavern where visitors can be verified before being allowed further.  Going up inside the mountain from there leads to Embassy Row, where ambassadors from other realms may set up an office to help with trade and negotiations with the dwarven kingdom.  Going down leads to the market, the main area where drawves and outsiders mingle.  Beyond the marketplace and deeper in the moutain are the shops and homes of the dwarves.  Magic isn't used to create buildings.  The dwarves excavate as needed, though this does place a limit on the size of the Realm.  The dwarven guild hall, where the various guilds send representatives, is just past the market, keeping close to where trade occurs.  The further out from the guild hall, the lower the property values; it takes more time to get from the outer edges to the hall.  However, for some dwarves, especially the miners, this isn't a problem.  The miners are closer to where they work, and they are always expanding the Realm by following veins of ore.

The dwarves have a preference towards technology, which is available to far more people than any sort of magic.  To get ore from the Realm to the sea, the dwarves built a canal system.  Transportation between dwarven realms is via a rail system, some of it with carriages pulled by giant lizards, other parts with steam, depending on how secure the area is.  More delicate goods are shipped with the rail system, avoiding weather conditions on the surface.  Ore, however, doesn't care if it gets wet.

The human settlements will follow more traditional means of building.  Castles made of stone, inns made of a mix of stone and wood, Nicean homes on stilts due to the potential for flooding along the islands' coasts.  Some areas may use magic more than others.  Colleges of magic will have magical reinforcement in place.  With humans, I'll fall back to what has been used historically, depending on the aesthetic I want in use for a location.  Few settlements will be thoroughly planned out; the grid pattern seen in North American cities core is a deliberate choice applying lessons from European cities that were more ad hoc in development.

The end result, I hope, is a world that doesn't feel like a mono-culture.  Each city, each town, no matter the nation, should have its own character, making the world itself seem more alive.

12 May 2017

The Soul Blade - Chapter 33

"There's been another murder."
"Take a good look at them and tell me if you recognize any of them."
"Arrange for protection for her and her family the next twenty-four hours."
"You're not about to track blood into the house, are you?"
Being confined to the house didn't help Brenna's mood any.  With Grace becoming a taskmaster, the elder Halliday sister's thoughts turned black.  She thought about asking Officer Henderson to tase her sister, then realized that the police officer probably didn't have a sense of humor about such things.  Cleaning took up the remainder of the morning, leaving Brenna to fend for herself for lunch.  She gave her police protector free access to the kitchen, thinking that he'd be better off trusting his skills than her own if he wanted something outside a vegetarian diet.

In the afternoon, Brenna set up her tent in the backyard in case any of her cousins wanted to use it.  She disappeared into it, enjoying a brief escape from her sister's cleaning madness.  As much as she knew why Grace was scrubbing the house from top to bottom, Brenna didn't want to get caught up in the madness.  After an hour of hiding, Brenna returned inside.  Officer Henderson sat on the couch in the living room with the television turned to a sports channel.  Brenna waved to the officer before going up to her room.

11 May 2017

The Soul Blade Chapter 32 - Commentary

Brenna identifies the prime suspect, in The Soul Blade Chapter 32.

The police have been keeping busy, even if Brenna spent most of her time with her friends.  Now that the police have a name and a confirmation of a suspect, they can go after Tricia.  Detective McCoy, who really became a major supporting character despite being an unplanned presence, has been listening to Brenna, even when she was suggesting odd motives.  If McCoy does need a warrant, he can get Brenna to make a sworn statement.

The police protection came out of the plot organically.  What would the police do?  They'd make sure that Brenna was protected, being their best witness.  Officer Henderson turned into a fun character to write, the stone-faced cop who is unfazed by everything around him.  Sure, he just had to deal with bickering sisters this chapter, but he, like Carly, became useful to keep.  He isn't really the Blade's type, but Henderson is in uniform, so Brenna is attracted.

Brenna's cousins get a large mention here.  Aurora, who Brenna calls Aura and Grace calls Rory, is the eldest, roughly Brenna's age.  Summer is the middle girl, university aged but younger than Grace, and is the one who lost the book with the magic rites written in it.  Rae is the youngest, still in high school.  The incident that Grace pointed out was from when Rae was three.  Brenna's correct in saying that Rae isn't going to have problems in bed like she did thirteen years ago.

This chapter wound up shorter than the previous ones.  When I wrote this in 2009, I was still trying to get a handle on how to chapter a book.  The breaks I'm using are scene breaks I used, but they weren't meant to be proper chapters.  They work as such, though.  I'm getting better; writing a story as a serial helps.  With a serial, I need to have a good length, a proper chapter ending, either to provide key info or a decent cliffhanger, and keep the action flowing.  Works like The Soul Blade weren't written with serialization in mind, so everything is being retrofitted.  With my experience writing Unruly and the unpublished project from 2016, I'm improving with creating chapters.  Of course, one would think that I should have that idea after Subject 13, but I hadn't considered the concept of a serial when I wrote the bulk of that title.

Friday, protective custody, in The Soul Blade Chapter 33.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, on adapting characters.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Deadpool.

The Elf's Prisoner - Post-NaNo World Building - Elves

Building a world after the fact.
Part 1 - The Lands
Part 2 - Militaries
Part 3 - Elves - below.
Part 4 - Architecture
Part 5 - Magic
Part 6 - Wrap Up
The Elf's Prisoner is built around a character idea I had when AD&D's Unearthed Arcana was released.  Jyslyn took advantage of multi-classing rules not available in current editions, where non-human characters could work on two classes at the same time by splitting experience between them.  Progression is slower, but provides flexibility.  Jyslyn was a drow magic-user/thief, limited to fourth level as a mage but unlimited as a thief.  I accepted the limitations; the idea was that she was unusual for being a drow woman dabbling in the arcane instead of being drafted into the divine.

Since this was coming via AD&D, the different elves there worked their way in as well.  Along with drow, there were also high elves, grey elves, wood elves, wild elves, and the grugach or sylvan elves.  Lots of elves.  However, I wanted to file off the serial numbers.  The game is a start, an inspiration, not the desire result.  Thus, the names of the elves will get changed.

Since Jyslyn was the basis of the story, let's start with the dark elves, or the Accursed as they're know by the surface elves.  The details of the War of Splintering were lost in the dawn of history, but represents how the elves wound up across the world.  The War saw the dark elves driven or escaping underground, depending on whose historians are consulted.  The surface elves see the transformation that their dark brethren went through as a curse.  The dark elves argue that the transformation was a blessing.  Dark elves have ink-black skin and have hair colours that include platinum blonde, copper red, and jet black.  The various dark elf settlements, including the Sundered Chasm, forced their buildings to form out of natural caverns, creating vast cities underground.

Dark elf society is matriarchal, with the heads of the ruling families forming a fractious council.  Matriarchs of the ruling families are clergy serving the Outcast Queen and are judge, jury, and executioner.  However, ruling with a capricious hand doesn't make the ruling families beloved by the common folk.  There is a resistance, small as it is, dedicated to overthrowing the ruling families.  Problem is, a power void is never good.

Moving to the surface, the first elves seen in the story are from Wildwood, in the Sylvan Forest.  My intent was to have the elves of Wildwood be the high elves, but, on retrospection, that doesn't quite work out.  The term "sylvan elves" might work better here.  They are closer to nature, having grown the city of Wildwood.  Physically, they are tanned and have similar hair colours as the fark elves.  As a culture, I want them to mirror the Sundered Chasm.  Wildwood is also matriarchal and run by the Council of Matriarchs.  Unlike the Sundered Chasm, there is no core restriction on who is on the council.  All family heads have a seat.  Neither do the family heads need to be clergy, though some are.  However, there are matriarchs who are listened to due to their wisdom.

If I'm changing up my elves, then why not defy expectations and have a group with darker skin that isn't drow?  For this, I have the "crystal elves", the working term for the nation living further to the south.  These elves also grew their city, this time using crystal formations in the area.  Skin tones are ebony and mahogany; the goal is to have an African-American or Caribbean-Canadian tone while not having an Africa, America, Caribbean, or Canada in the setting.  Using trees for descriptors may help with the idea that elves are/were tied to nature.  Hair colours are similar to the dark and sylvan elves, though platinum will be rare.

Like the sylvan and dark elves, the crystal elves have a matriarchy, this time with ruling families.  The idea is that the crystal elves see themselves as the core elf type that all the others splintered from.  They may even refer to themselves as just elves, with no modifier, while the rest of the world adds the world "crystal" for differentiation.  This does put a new twist on the War of Splintering.  Not only did the War drive the dark elves out and underground, it sent the sylvan elves north and who knows what other types of elves elsewhere.  The ruling matriarchs aren't necessarily clergy, unlike the dark elves, but most have spent their lives preparing for taking up the mantle of rulership.

Two elven types that aren't planned for yet but could appear in some form are the wild elves and the sea elves.  With the wild elves, instead of living in forests, the idea is to have them living in nomadic groups in the prairies to the east of Wildwood and the Seven Domains.  Sea elves, for now, are considered a legend by the various elves and don't exist.  The more inland elves, like the sylvan elves of Wildwood and the dark elves of the Sundered Chasm, are too far from the sea to even consider the possibility of them being real.

For the languages of the different elves, there is a common ancestor language.  Because of the Splintering, each type of elf went in different directions with how the language developed.  In Part 1, I compared the elven tongue to English, with the sylvan version being akin to Canadian English and the dark elves using an Aussie development.  The crystal elves, seeing their role as preserving what it means to be an elf, will keep their language as close as possible to the original, letting the splintered groups bastardize what they speak.  This also gives another insight on the crystal elves.  Instant conflict with at least three of my main characters right away.  The key with the languages is to make sure that each different elf type has its own way of speaking, which may mean an edit pass to fix up the dialogue.

With all this work on elves, I really should put some thought into the human cultures.  To a degree, I have, back in Part 1.  Elves, though, tend to be treated as a singular culture; if there are differences, the it's more from distance, not design.  Here, I want to make sure my elves are grounded in the setting, giving them a bit of a history to provide depth to use while writing.

5 May 2017

The Soul Blade - Chapter 32

"Missy, did you know your arm feels like Matt's?"
"Gracie will make me walk on towels."
"I do not need more practice!"
"However, magic?  That is power."
Brenna finished her breakfast taco and wiped her mouth and hands.  As the young brunette washed down a pill with a bottle of water, the door to Missy's office opened up.  A still sleepy Krista shuffled out on to the sales floor.  She rubbed her eyes.  "Morning.  What smells so good?"

Missy held up the last taco.  "Breakfast.  Want one?"

"Please.  Hi, Bren.  How did we get here?"

"Missy brought us here last night."

Krista unwrapped her breakfast taco.  "I trust we didn't do any dancing on tables last night?"

"None," Missy said.  "However, you have footprints on my car."

Happy Cinquo de Miaou!

Adore me! (photo by author)

4 May 2017

The Soul Blade Chapter 31 - Commentary

Exciting nights for Brenna and Tricia, in The Soul Blade Chapter 31.

Maybe Brenna should invite Tricia to a girls' night out.  Brenna seemed to have a far better night out, though on re-reading Tricia's "trembling", maybe the evil sorceress enjoyed herself more.  It wasn't intentional, but if the innuendo works, why not?

Missy got to be the focus of the second scene.  She was the designated driver for the evening, and had to corral Brenna.  There's a small info dump, but Missy wanted spotlight time, since everyone else was getting some.  Beats having Brenna wander doing nothing for another scene.  Missy bought the store after Krista had moved away, and kept it quiet because she didn't want her friends thinking she was settling down so soon.

Tricia got her own little info dump in the form of a monologue.  Apparently, she's never seen The Incredibles.  At least she didn't monologue around Brenna.  Tricia's major flaw is impatience.  She wants power and wants it now.  As a result, she has a passenger in her head who is commenting like she's a feature on Mystery Science Theatre 3000.  Tricia is a little cranky.

Again, this chapter is very dependent on Tricia keeping the plot going.  Adding Tricia helped a lot, which is why she first came in.  As Brenna floundered, Tricia picked up the plot and ran with it.  Brenna should be getting more active over the next few chapters, but it took some time.  This chapter, and the past few, were written in the NaNo doldrums, the third week where the idea seems to run out of steam at the same time as the writer reaches into energy reserves to keep going.  Sort of like the wall for marathon runners  At the time, The Soul Blade was the longest NaNo project I had, and even recent projects haven't hit the same totals.  Mind, I find that my later ones, last year's first part excluded, were more focused.

Friday, the police find the last body, in The Soul Blade Chapter 32.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Fixing the 2015 Jem and the Holograms.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, on adapting characters.

3 May 2017

The Elf's Prisoner - Post-NaNo World Building - Military

Welcome back to the world building for The Elf's Prisoner.
Part 1 - The Lands
Part 2 - Militaries - below.
Part 3 - Elves
Part 4 - Architecture
Part 5 - Magic
Part 6 - Wrap Up
With the lands starting to sort themselves out, time to figure out what armies each nation can field in the potential wars that my heroes are trying to prevent.  The key idea I have is that a standing professional army comparable to today's is rare.  Most nations cannot afford the investment of money and personnel.  However, the lands do need to protect themselves.

This time around, I'll break things down by nation, starting with the Seven Dominions.  The nation is heavily inspired by the knights of Arthurian myth.  Nobles are responsible for levying troops in times of crisis, with knights and their men forming the backbone of the army.  Knights, most barons, and some counts have training in various weapons, preferring the long sword and the lance over other arms.  They also have training in heavier armours, allowing them to be the main thrust of the Seven Domains.  Some estates do try to raise an army from the common folk, though they aren't as well trained and are given spears.  Cities and many towns do have a guard or watch, one part law enforcement, one part defense soldiery.  The guard is better trained, though their focus is on keeping the peace and patrolling instead of daily drills.  There are specialized troops, mainly archers and sappers, or siege engineers.  However, these troops tend to be in the employ of Counts, Princes, and the King and aren't risked on general patrol duties.  Magical support is provided by the various colleges of magic, though no wizard is officially part of a knight's retinue.

Over in Wildwood, the sylvan elf land, the approach is far looser.  The different houses do have household guards, but not to the same number as a knight would have in the Seven Dominions.  Wildwood, though, has the outriders, horse-mounted scouts that report to the Council of Matriarchs.  The city also has a watch that draws from the population at large, bolstered by household guards.  The watch sends out patrols to keep the Sylvan Forest safe from intruders.  Whether a patrol has a priest like Kazimier or a wizard along depends if someone volunteers to go along.  Wizards in Wildwood belong to the Guild of Mages, and tend to not go out unless necessary.  The watch is trained on long swords and long bows, with light chain shirts and shields.  Outriders, who are meant to be fast, use short bows which they can use on horseback, short swords, and spears.

In contrast, the Sundered Chasm, Jyslyn's home, the Matriarchs aren't willing to share, so each of the ruling families has a sizable household guard, bolstered by hired men-at-arms and wizards lured into qorking for the family. However, the younger clergy of the Outcast Queen, including scions of the ruling families, are kept sequestered away from kin during training.  They form the core for the defense of the Sundered Chasm, pulling troops off from everywhere for patrols.  Since members of the clergy hold the highest positions of power, few challenge them when they do take away household guard.  Weapons used by the guards vary by house, but typically are swords of some kind, flails, and daggers.  Guards wear light chain mail.  The clergy learn to fight with rapiers and whips, and rely on magical protection over armour.

Silver Trailings, the trade town outside the entrance to the Realm Below the Mountain, has no standing military of any sort.  Instead, the city hires a mercenary band, Galan's Shields, as city guard and defenders.  For the mercenaries, the job represents a steady income and a home, though they can't fully commit to any other contracts without leaving Silver Trailings defenseless.  There are times when the city guard is working with a skeleton crew as mercenaries are sent on other jobs.  The Shields fight with long sword, spears, and crossbows, wearing heavy armour and shields.  A few specialized troops are trained with the pike.

The dwarves do have their own constabulary as well as their own army.  The Realm Below already has a technological edge, thanks to the needs of life inside the mountain.  Dwarven combat engineers are far better prepared for siege warfare, defending and attacking.  The idea of a dwarven artillery regiment is still being played with, including the special forces unit, which uses siege weapons to hurl dwarves into the enemy's fortifications.  No one throws a dwarf like the dwarven artillery.  Dwarven troops fight with weapons made from tools from their various trades, primarily war hammers and war picks, though they can also use swords.  Dwarven archers use crossbows, since it's hard to arch a bow properly underground.  Dwarven soldiers are trained in heavy armour and shields, acting as an anvil.

The Nicean Islands, being islands, has a navy.  Well, two navies.  The first navy is very much military, though without the pressganging found in the British Royal Navy.  Nicean ships are the most advanced in the area, because the Niceans rely on the sea.  The other navy is mercantile, carrying cargo for the merchant traders and with escorts, freeing the primary navy to focus on defense and exploration.  The naval vessels and the mercantile escorts are armed with ballistae modified to fire two types of ammunition.  The first type is the traditional javelin-like projectile, meant to pierce targets.  The other is a form of grapeshot, rounded stones meant to tear sails and foul rigging.  Shipboard troops are trained in short, thrusting swords and clubs, to avoid accidentally cutting a rope that shouldn't be severed.  Armour is rare; sinking because of the weight of metal isn't worth the added protection.

Each of the island states of the realm field their own guardsmen.  Because the Niceans are mercantile, they prefer negotiating over invading, there is no unified army.  The Niceans don't need it, either.  Invaders would have to either spread their forces across the different islands or attack each island one at a time.  The Nicean navy, in the meantime, will be pressing the invaders' ships, taking the pressure of the various guards.  Typically, the island guards wear leather armour, with senior personnel getting chain mail or better, and wield spears.

So why all that thought when the likelihood of any of the above coming up is low?  In part, because it could come up.  In the work done, I've already had scenes in the Seven Dominions, Wildwood, and Silver Trailings, with the action heading into the Realm Below the Mountain.  The first chapter opens with an elven patrol, so already I needed to work out what gear they had.  Fortunately, you can't go wrong with chain mail, swords, and shields.  There's also a chance that my group of adventurers will get on the wrong side of a militia.