28 Feb 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 18

A little light fanservice, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 18.

Chapter 16 was a bit on the fanservice side, though to show what Jyslyn is like when she isn't trying to maintain a front for others.  This chapter is a chance to show Kazi's reaction.  He noticed.  Leo didn't, mainly because everyone else got in between him and Jyslyn, on purpose or otherwise.  Wren is missing the subtleties, in part because of her age, in part because she's been sheltered since arriving in Wildwood.

The chapter also let me get everyone up to speed, with concerns out in the open.  One person hidden in a full cloak gets whispers started.  Two?  Whispers become open nervousness, even if one of the cloaked figures is on your team.  Something is afoot!  And this other figure is plot related.  Even with Nyssa's bribe to the innkeeper, rumour will spread and reach ears that it shouldn't.

Chapter 18 was a bit of a filler, not in that it added words for the sake of adding words, though I did write this during NaNo.  It was easier to show everyone discussing what happened instead of glossing over it, then wondering down the road what everyone knew.  Now, I know what the heroes know, and why.  For example, Jyslyn is still unaware of her mother's untimely passing.

Friday, on the road again with some tactical decisions, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 19.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, music covers.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, exceptions.

26 Feb 2019

Test Run - Firefly - Courier

I'm still on a starship kick.  After creating ships for Scum and Villainy and Star Trek Adventures, I want to try making one to help solidify an idea I have for a story.  This time around, I'll use the Firefly RPG.  I've done this before, using two ships from the Traveller RPG, the Type S Scout/Courier and the TANSTAAFL-class subsidized liner.

The ship involved here is a courier, normal crew of five but can be run by two without effort or one with a lot of effort.  The main idea is to follow the two crewmembers of the ship, but the ship is going to be important.  Hard to get through space without one providing life support.  The ship is going to be an important part of the setting, so it helps to nail down details now instead of handwaving it as I go.  Things get messy when I do that.

22 Feb 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 18

Chapter 18

Nyssa engaged in diplomacy
Inn at the Crossroads, outside the Sylvan Forest
Jyslyn lounged on the double bed.  A sliver of moonlight reflected off her bare leg.  The dark elf shifted her leg, watching how the light played along her thigh as she moved it.  She decided that the moon's light was far better than the sun's.  Her skin didn't burn where the moonlight fell on it.  Her eyes didn't find the light overwhelming.

Heavy footsteps approached the door to her room.  Jyslyn rolled off the bed, landing beside her discarded clothes.  She slipped her dagger out of its sheath, holding the blade up as the door creeped open.  "Jyslyn," Kazimier called in a whisper, "are you asleep?"

Jyslyn put her knife back before standing.  "Still awake."

Kazimier entered the room.  "It's just dark and quiet in here, I thought you could be sleeping."  He lit the lantern, keeping the light dim.  "We're waking up at dawn, so," his voice trailed off as he saw the dark elf, clad only in a strophic and a loin cloth.

21 Feb 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 17

Nyssa in the circle, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 17.

A bit of action to wake up the readers in Chapter 17.  Something needed to happen; road trips aren't interesting unless something odd occurs.  Since I introduced the circle in Chapter 15, it needed to come back at some point.  Chekov's phaser and all that.  It could come up again when the cast is on their way back, but I haven't planned that far out yet.

Why Nyssa?  She and Kazimier wouldn't let Leo and Wren get into trouble there.  Kazi is defering to Nyssa around humans, in part because she is one and in part because she is a woman with authority.  Then there's the idea of the person warning the younger set getting into the trouble she wants Wren and Leo to avoid.  Chekov's phaser is set to irony.  This also let me show off Nyssa's combat skills while not being outnumbered.  Nyssa is an older woman; she fights smart.

The rest of the chapter goes back to the cast investigating the plot.  They have a suspicion, but they're not sure of who or why.  Theo and his friend are there to emphasize the mystery.  The innkeeper sees people come and go all the time.  Unless someone does something to really stand out, he's not going to remember half the people who pass through until their third or fourth time through.  Nyssa handing him a pouch of gold will get him to remember her, but if he wants to keep seeing those pouches, he may conveniently forget about her.

The minstrel is working the crowd.  The idea here is that, for a small fee, the minstrel gets exclusive rights to work the room that night and the patrons of the tavern can provide small tips.  Minstrels are also the closest thing the world has to regular news broadcasts, especially between major settlements.  Within Wildwood and Varinford, there are cryers for local events, but beyond, the only real way to hear news in general is the minstrels.

Friday, end of day catch up, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 18.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Airplane!.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, music covers.

20 Feb 2019

Test Run - Star Trek Adventures - Starship Creation

Last week, I went through creating a starship for Scum and Villainy.  During the process, I mentioned how newer games are allowing players to create or customize their characters' ship before play begins.  One game that is doing this is Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures.  The idea is that a Starfleet vessel can be customized to reflect what the players think is important in the campaign, from type of mission to the extras on board.

To demonstrate, I'll use a concept that I've had in the back of my mind - a Starfleet crew after the Dominion War as seen on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  The core idea here is that some of the senior officers were on the front lines in the war and now have to try to return to Starfleet's traditional duty of exploration.  Some of the crew may be suffering from PTSD as a result of what they went through in the war.  The human element would be front and centre if this were a series.

15 Feb 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 17

Chapter 17

Jyslyn and her new life.
Inn at the Crossroads, outside the Sylvan Forest
Nyssa watched as the barkeep dragged the fight's loser out of the circle.  The crowd tonight was in a mood; Nyssa wasn't sure if she and the elves were the cause or just lucky to be staying on the wrong night.  She entertained the idea that whoever was trying to get Count Tathan to wage war on the dwarves was also trying to create conflict between others.  Nyssa couldn't figure out a reason; a full-out war between all the realms would lay waste to a number of lands.

The other problem Nyssa faced had youthful faces.  Both Leomund and Wren were fascinated by the fighting.  Nyssa thanked the Gods Above and Below that Kazimier was a voice for reason, keeping the youths seated.  For all her repulsion earlier, Wren seemed to enjoy what she saw.  At least with Leomund, Nyssa could understand why he watched; he was going to be a warrior, a knight, someday, and fighting was in his future.

"Let's hope that was the end of the night's entertainment," Nyssa said.  "It's going to be a long day tomorrow if we can't get to sleep tonight."

Wren looked crestfallen at the idea.  Leomund showed that he taking Nyssa's lesson to heart by saying, "Agreed, ma'am.  I'd like to hear the minstrel sing.  He may have heard some news we need."

Nyssa nodded with approval.  "Excellent idea, Leo."

"Would the minstrel perform for us?" Kazimier asked.  "I'm sure we can encourage him to come over."  He slid a small pouch to Nyssa.

14 Feb 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 16

Staying at the Crossroads Inn, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 16.

After a few days of turning her life upside down and now having a future, Jyslyn had a chance to just let herself relax a little.  She's alone, at least for now, so she can try to be comfortable.  All sorts of new sensations; turns out, Jyslyn is sensual.  She likes how things feel on her skin and enjoys new tastes.  Jyslyn is open to new experiences.

The cheering from the below is from the circle, first mentioned in Chapter 15.  Of course, Jyslyn isn't aware of it, having gone up to the room without spending much time in the taproom.  She can only draw on her experiences, which aren't always pleasant.  Look at her family in Chapter 14.

The noise from the taproom is keeping Jyslyn up.  She's had a long day, getting used to being on a horse, after a few life-changing days on the surface.  At some point, it will quiet down as people will want to sleep.  The rooms aren't the only place to stay - the taproom turns into a common room for guests who don't want or can't afford a private room.  There's also the stable, even cheaper than the common room.  It's a matter of comfort level.

Since Jyslyn can't really sleep yet, I could use the opportunity to show her having magical skills.  Minor magics for now; creating small lights and cleaning things, just to show that she can cast spells.  The main issue she has is that her major spells are the type to cause collateral damage.  Practising them would be, at the minimum, rude, and, worst case, destructive and a cause for a mob with torches.  At this point, I still hadn't worked out how wizards cast spells.  Minor spells, like the ones Jyslyn's practising, don't take much effort.  Once a wizard discovered Clean Clothes, it caught on and got refined.  Why spend time doing laundry when a spell takes care of it, leaving more time for arcane studies?

The chapter has some fan service, some worldbuilding, and some character development to it.  Some of it was because I wasn't sure where the story was going after the Crossroads Inn.  Again, I was pantsing the story.  Some of it, though, was to get into Jyslyn's head for a bit.  She's been key to many chapters, but none really from her point of view.  It was a change of pace and a chance for me to write a character solo, with no supporting cast around.

Friday, the circle, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 17.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, remakes and comedy vehicles.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Airplane!

12 Feb 2019

Test Run - Scum and Villainy - The Ship

Now that Tanya and Katya are done for Scum and Villainy, it's time to get their ship ready.  To follow along, grab the playbooks from Evil Hat's site.

A quick aside before starting.  Something I'm noticing in recent science fiction RPGs is the ability for players to customize their PCs' starship before play begins.  While older games did allow for custom ships and customizing existing ships, it was expensive for the characters.  Traveller is typical here; everything has a cost, sometimes more than what characters have on hand, though loans are available.  However, with RPGs like Firefly, Scum and Villainy, and even Star Trek Adventures, players can customize their ships before play starts.  No two ships need be the same, even if they are the same class, and can reflect what the players want.

8 Feb 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 16

Chapter 16

Minding the kids' manners.
Inn at the Crossroads, outside the Sylvan Forest
Jyslyn ate her meal in silence.  The room grew darker as the sun set, a welcoming relief from the harsh light of the sun.  Her legs were stiff after the day-long ride on the horse.  How anyone could enjoy being on one of those beasts were beyond her.  The dark elf longed for the luxury of a bath, but the inn wasn't the place to get one.  The stew, though, did satisfy her.  The meat was different, definitely not the lizards raised at the Citadel.

Done with her meal, she set aside the bowl.  Jyslyn whispered an incantation.  A dark aura formed, starting at her head and cascading down her.  She felt the day's dirt and grime leave her, refreshing her.  The spell, one of the first she learned, was the next best thing to bathing and cleaned her clothes as an extra benefit.

The clothes, though, still clung to Jyslyn.  She still wasn't used to wearing so much heavy material.  It blocked the sunlight, protecting her skin.  The dark elf had shed her cloak as soon as the serving girl had left after bringing dinner and a mug of frothy liquid.  Jyslyn wondered if she could just shed the rest.  The room was dark enough, and high enough up that no one could spy her through the window if she crossed in front of it.  Her body yearned to feel the cooling air again.

7 Feb 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Commentary 15

The Crossroads Inn, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 15.

It was tempting to throw a random encounter at the group but it wouldn't have made sense with the narrative.  Everyone has had a chance to shine already, except Wren, and given the nature of the plot, I didn't want an early distraction.  I would've been tempted to tie the random encounter to the main plot and I didn't know the full details of that yet.

I got to name another inn!  Yeah, not the easiest thing for me to do, but this one came quickly.  No one in-universe is going to care what the real name is; it's the Crossroads Inn because the inn is at the crossroads.  It's been there as long as travellers can remember, even elven travellers.  It's out a day's travel from Wildwood, a good spot to be to get travellers to stay a night.

A bit of world-building slipped into the chapter.  The inn is on a few borders, claimed but with no real way of enforcement without starting a fight.  The location isn't worth the war.  The inn gets protection, doesn't really pay taxes to any of the nations making claims on it, and regular traffic.  The inn is also happy to take whatever coins come its way.  The Seven Dominions uses crowns, inspired by Norwegian kroner and Swedish krona.  I don't have any idea of what the coins are, though.  Denominations in 1, 5, and 10 crowns?  Or 1, 3, and 9?  Or some other combination?  No idea.  And what is the exchange rate between nations?  Or does the innkeeper just not care and gives change based on what sort of coin he gets first?

The payoff to Leo's "stew" from Chapter 11 comes up.  It was a cute little bit, and it let me get the point across that not everyone is fluent in other tongues.  Little things get missed.  Homonyms exist in many languages; in English, for, fore, and four all sound the same.  In French, cheval (horse) and cheveux (hair) are close enough to be mixed.  So why not something similar in an elven tongue?

With the cast on the road, I had to work out what the world looks like beyond Wildwood and the Sylvan Forest while on the fly.  I started the story with no idea of what the world looked like or where the plot was going.  Now, it's off to a dwarven city across who knows what sort of terrain.  I chose the project... poorly.

Friday, alone with her thoughts, in The Elf's Prisoner Chapter 16.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, parodies.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, remakes and comedy vehicles.

5 Feb 2019

Test Run - Scum and Villainy - Katya

Continuing with the test run of Scum and Villainy.  Last week, I recreated Tanya, the family assassin, with success.  Not many changes were needed, just adding on a few details.  This time out, I want to create a character who fits in with the included setting a little better.  To follow along, take a look at the playbooks available at Evil Hat's site.

Before getting into the trenches of character creation, I want to get an idea of who this person is.  The first idea I had was someone who is good with melee weapons, like a staff.  That concept is better suited for the Mystic, though, at least in the game.  Second approach, ex-military, a corporal who was dishonourably discharged.  If you have a problem, and if you can find her, no, wait, wrong setting.  Corporal Katya Orrin, though, feels that she was set up and that her discharge was uncalled for.  Slightly bitter, especially since the discharge cut her off from a number of legitimate career paths, she's now part of the crew of smugglers, the captain's stick when the carrot isn't enough.

On to character creation!

1 Feb 2019

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Final preparations and a look at Jyslyn's home.
Inn at the Crossroads, outside the Sylvan Forest
The sun sat on the horizon as the small group arrived.  Leomund dismounted first; he led his charges into the unmarked inn's courtyard.  Nyssa followed, bringing her horses in.  Wren took charge of the elves' mounts.  Kazimier eased Jyslyn down to the ground.  The dark elf took several unsteady steps, then rubbed her legs.

"That was different," Jyslyn said.

"You'll get used to it," Kazimier said.  "Just walk it off."

Nyssa hooked a thumb at the inn.  "We should get inside.  Let Wren and Leomund handle the horses.  We need to get space, either on the common room's floor or a private room."  The knight gave Jyslyn a significant look.  "Ideally?  A private room.  We don't want trouble tonight."

"I will vouch for Jyslyn," Kazimier said.

Jyslyn placed a hand on Kazimier's arm, holding him back.  "I am well aware of the reputation my people have.  It is well-earned.  I may not start anything, but there could be someone in there who will."