Thursday, April 24, 2014

New New Khazan

If you're getting impatient as to when Glow is finally going to be released, as I know Beckett, SSidZ, and TimS are, you're in good company. I am too, but hey I don't quibble with editors. Indeed I bow to them and slay their enemies because they bother to help out bad writers such as myself. It has been rather liberating though with the wait (I say that a lot, don't I?). My zombie movie screenplay Stay Alive, you might've heard the title before, is now three scenes long. Crawlspace's Apogee setting and something I call "Paranormal" has gotten a lot of attention. Not to mention the previously mentioned Spacers re-write from the last entry here.

My fiction though has been boring me severely though.  My prose tends to be space fantasy, also known as "sphere fantasy." For those that don't know, sphere fantasy are works like John Cater Warlord of Mars, the Gor series, and stuff like that. My own take is something I call "Slrog" where I deconstruct themes like "Fish-Outta-Water" and address the metaphors for racism and sexism-- there's a lot of Samuel Delaney in my zap-gun fantasy tales. I suppose I've been doing too much "serious" reading and I keep judging my work here. So after a few pages, I slink back into game writing. This leads me to New Khazan.

Image by Simon Tranter. Used with permission by Peryton Publishing. Don't steal, It's not nice or beneficial,

New Khazan was my T&T space fantasy setting. Kicked around, used and abused since 1999, this work went official about '09- '10. I had written it in like '99, the would-be publisher bottom-drawered it. When it was released, it was released twice with two different distinct takes, though the usurping author and publisher still credited me with "the idea" while copying and pasting 75% of the text written by me in an attempt to take control of it from me. It was a point of pride for me getting the PDF and print versions of my version, the real one, out. The inopportune parties rescinded their claim to my work, though the publisher still offers his oats compared to my wedding cake at his website.

Besides being a consistent seller, with multiple requests to "get it into stores," which I've not followed up on, I received the gracious thanks from T&T's author for expanding his game into space. Mad Dr. Roy "Yorda" Cram helped expand T&T in space with his contributions to the line of scenarios as well.  David Moskowitz has a couple works still in the works as well. I have a couple scenarios for a series of adventures called "The Quest For Trollstar" which I've half-heartedly worked on, and still continue to. But it's been a little neglected by me, mostly because by the time things got rolling with it, I was little tired of it.

I hate to admit it, but the scenarios from "The Quest For Trollworld" are from two and a half pages that I wrote for the neighbors I had in 2000. It was an awesome six episode campaign, more than a few beers and BBQs with me recruiting fellow 30 somethings into Adventure Gaming. They'd end up jumping into World of Warcraft and Axis and Allies. Still, I've promised to complete the publishing of these adventures to the initial backers of the '10 release of New Khazan. A little something called "Gas Giant" is in the works, if I can get the tonne of pages into a single scenario, that is. Heck maybe, it'll be five scenarios-- Maybe I'll run a marathon...? I don't really know, but something is coming.

New Khazan though in my notes is expanding. Sometime after 2015, the whole setting, with a bit more, is going to be worked into a piece called "The 9,000 Worlds." The planetoid of New Khazan will hopefully still figure prominently in the re-working, I'll ask Ken St Andre later if he doesn't mind his trademark city-state being reincorporated into the continuing source-book saga.

One of the criticisms of my New Khazan work has been, "Starfaring (demanded) that one use one's imagination to fill in the blanks... . New Khazan's background has the feeling of having been there and done that. (It is) (derivative) without being interesting..." . I think the criticizer missed the discussion around T&T circles about the pretty awesome game Starfaring not really being a role-playing game. And he kind of missed the point that New Khazan was not Starfaring but "T&T in Space." Some allowances to the reviewer, I was picking on him at the time elsewhere. Even if everything in the book was recycled material in space, it was meant to be. I want to explore space-based fantasy, not re-work a numerical matrix for space exploration format. Hopefully the saga won't be just evident, there are going to be a few saga kernels involved in the work. I am saying this now, if narrative role-playing doesn't interest you, do not buy it when it comes out.

The "9KW," the shorthand that I use for New Khazan, I am working into what is now well-received RuinCrawl species. These are Human, Otgan, Goblin, Elf, Dwarf, and Ape. Of course there are a couple more alien species to work in, this is an expansion after all. The least of which are the Hissers (reptilian-folk) and the Og (differing grades of ogres) re-imagined into the a "Kopfy-scale" of things. Rest assured, somehow I will work in leprechauns and trolls, at least the green ones, into the greater scheme of things.   

Friday, April 18, 2014

In a Spacesuit, Afloat On Water In a Current Towards Shore

Waking up at 3:32am when one has to be at work at 8, gives a person a bit of time to reflect on things. For me I got to write my take on a Sphere Romance (John Carter, et al) novel in my head for about 20 minutes, before my mind slipped into my rewrite of Spacers. I wrapped my mind around how I could make the game easier to compose.
Working in mental mode I took Ken St Andre's Starfarers and placed the tidbits more succinctly written for role-players, not strategists and map makers, onto a generated format that copies Tunnels & Trolls 5th Edition. Worked in the artwork that I have bought already, daydreamed about getting with the artists on finishing the pieces I still need. Rough sketched some maps (well graphics actually) to get to the under-employed cartographer that I know. Mentally, I cut and paste them onto the imaginary pages. And then the topics and segments that I've already written. But then I scrapped all of it, some 32 pages in. Then suddenly a couple rule ideas occur to me, that make the game play easier and the text crunchier-- If only I had thought of them before I wrote the first edition of Spacers, dammit. Hey, I wanted to play some sci-fi in a hurry back in the late 90s and the Naughts.

The combat is still TROTT, not T&T, but the Types of characters stick to the classic Warrior, Rogue, and Wizard concept. I have the Scrapper, the Spacer, and the Scientist, which anybody familiar with Spacers, the original system (Spacers TOS). I kind of freed myself from mental mumbo-jumbo involving the KISS principle, and moving away from Types and genre archetypes and went into rote list making. By 5:45 I am up, drinking tea and OJ,  and dressed and making notes while looking through my T&T 7.5 booklet with its paperclip book markers.

After the start of work, I kept my Kindle word processing program busy, continuing to make notes throughout the day. Technobabble suddenly has some legs to stand on. I am pretty proud of that, as Technobabble has been pretty important to me and my games over the years. It just hasn't been easily translatable to other folks experimenting with the game. Tinkering, Piloting, and assorted Psychic abilities are based on aptitudes not the Type of character one has. There are still Types, and they still have perks that differentiate themselves from the others, and there is no Traveler like encyclopedias of skill listings and explanations for the most mundane of things. Overall though, my six pages of notes will save about one hundred pages of padding.

This will of course leave room for my multiple examples of space-based adventure settings, that are more sci-fi than sphere fantasy, from the nearer future and spanning into fictitious millennia ahead. Damn, that's more maps and a lot of art yet.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wobble: The Omega Universe

Being the universe where multi-universal travel is believed to have been invented allows those that live there to call their own the Omega universe, at least according to them. The civilizations here have been Wobbling for three centuries while established interstellar empires have been around for at least a thousand years. Their technologies are considered super science by our standards. Each have very distinct outlooks, goals and even ways of thinking.

The Prophesy-
Often called The Oracles. Fortune Tellers, Astrologers, etc...etc of various ilk and styling form this nation of Omega dwellers. They are said to have been the first Wobble capable folks on the Block. That said, they seem very reluctant to do much Wobbling. They believe that they have the ability to actually form the future, and even feel that they are on the verge of traveling into the future to verify their results, as well as their specific linear pasts to rectify any problems found. They are viewed as a reliable intermediary between the various nations of the Omega universe.

The Olympoids-
This group of human-like beings are seemingly immortal and somewhat supernaturally endowed. There are only about twelve thousand of them, and new ones are born very rarely. Many claim to be the deities from ancient human history, though many also claim to be the same one, there at least two hundred and twenty-six folks named “Zeus” and innumerable amounts named “Hercules,” ”Horus,” “Thor,” and “Venus.”
Not really known for their Wobbling, but that doesn’t mean that they do not.

The Apex Company
This is the worlds of the Apex Company. Everyone within this faction is Corporate, but at the same time they are beyond any single corporate entity. Instead they form together in various corporations to undergo the benefit of the Company, because everyone in their fold is a Company Man. That is regardless of position or pay grade within Apex.
It is their Time Agents that characters in Wobble will most likely encounter and come to interact with. Not to go into too much detail, that is because they are the most like us human beings in our Mu universe. Most of the Apex are humans that rarely modify themselves, unless assigned to special missions that require such things. Political, metaphysical or philosophical extremes tend to reflect badly on balance sheets, so the Company mind set is one towards moderation.
Most corporate factions of this entity really like the Mu universe continuum. Some strive to protect it from too much Omega universe interference. At the same time, many are using their advance technology to set up illegal settlements and special projects throughout it for various unscrupulous interests.

The Zenith-
These beings were at one time most likely humans that splint into two distinct factions, during something that they called the Schism. One faction genetically altered themselves into shapes to adapt to various environments that they encountered while exploring new worlds.The other incorporated themselves into machines that would replace their perishable organic parts to also live upon new worlds. Both kinds of these beings consider themselves to be transcended from what they consider to be “primitive” human forms, but they remain emotionally and intellectually very human.  The two sides have worked together to establish an interstellar empire with serious Wobbling interests that have worked against as well as allied themselves with the other civilizations of the Omega universe.

With a singularity of vision that only took a few generations of genocide to enforce, err instill into its denizens, the Uber-World Hegemony is an empire built up semi-autonomous worlds that are essentially ruled by an oligarchy of fascists. This is not as uniform, nor efficient as we, people from the Mu universe, would think. At various times, dictators will arise and unify all of the worlds, even for a few generations. Sooner or later, various other power hungry leaders arise to establish their own authority. But the constance of conformity perpetuates this civilization in a rather unchanging form as time moves on.
Since learning how to Wobble, Uber-World wobblers, seek out like-minded authoritarian mindsets and work towards enslaving, if not just exterminating, everybody else around them. Of course, they claim that this is done in “self-defense” because the other Omega civilizations can wobble as well.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Bit Of Prehistory

Way back in the 80s, I explored Expressionism gaming. A fellow's T&T character had died in the course of the game. As it was his first role-playing character ever, Stan, that was his name, was not ready to let things go. I, being the "friendly GM" as opposed to the "real GM" of the day, took the persona into the depths of the Afterlife. I used three directions to determine the type of area this spirit could float towards: Order, Chaos, and Infernal. Since it was an X,Y, Z graph, I used the numeric value of each element to design the type of encounter that occur. Of course there was a fourth direction, time, which was the plot twist of the game. As Tervis, the Elf Archer, made his way through the after life towards a waypoint here and there, I rolled a d6 to determine whether time was moving slower, the same, or faster, on the mortal coil. As I suspected, bell curve be damned, the median time flow lead to a significant shift. So what had been a few weeks of adventure for the PC ended up being 72 years for the rest of the world. And because of some choices Stan made, not to steal another slot on the great cycle of renewal, he was reincarnated (once again a d6 used to determine variations) as an elf, of a different racial type, and from a culture different from his first. The new elf, Trey Arrowslinger, could start at 3rd level because of his old soul. The lesson we decided was that nothing stays still nor permanent, and it was an awesome session.

Stan's co-player, Fred, was in his late 40s while we were in our 20s. He was a "real gamer." Now the equivalent of that these days is a cross between an "Old-School Gamer" and a "rules lawyer," though it was about the shape and form of anything fantasy itself. Elves weren't black--Star Trek: Voyager was still a decade away, and the first D&D movie wouldn't happen for another fifteen years. And his own character, would have to be 97 years older, to play with Stan's new PC. He played a dwarf, Tunarl Hammerfist, who was probably in his 40s when he went tunnel delving with Tervis, the Elf Archer, would be a whooping 137years-old. When I pointed out that Gimli was 139 year's old when he hooked up with Frodo and Legalos, Fred couldn't argue with LOtR references. He did point out that he was still 3rd level and should be at least 140th level, and that T&T only had 20 levels of spells listed, so I was in fact retiring his character.

The claim that I was trying to "retire" Fred's character would come up more often than that later in the course of the campaign. This first time I was able to argue that no character other than Gandalf was above 7th level in the LOtR cycle. We decided that something came up that kept Hammerfist busy after Tervis's untimely death. I would've said that the death of a close companion-in-arms had the dwarf depressed and disillusioned about the life of adventure. I think Fred said something about his sister becoming Queen of the clan and needing a wizard that she could trust.

So this T&T campaign lasted another ten months, and both characters got up to 14th level and were very, very powerful. D&D came out with exotic Arabian Nights-based adventures. Fred would run this as a "Humans-Only" campaign, because elves and dwarves weren't Arabic I suppose, for a group of older friends and myself. Stan had gotten busy in a relationship. I about died of boredom, but not quicker than the older dudes around me. I swear the closest thing we ever got high adventure was an orc in an evil sorcerer's bathroom. The campaign ended with only me showing up for a couple Arabian Tuesday Nights sessions.

I was able to get Stan and Fred back to the table for two more T&T sessions. the last one, I ham-handedly made sure the Characters finished at 20th level. I then had them step into a trap that flung them 200 centuries into the future, drastically altering their characters into humans. Both were young men in frilly shirts and knickers. One was from France and the other was from the Barbary Coast. I had just bought a role-playing game about pirates. Fred started running "beginners" sessions of D&D at the local game store, Stan got busy with graduating college. I was busy getting a paramedic certification and preparing to move.