Friday, August 18, 2017

Some first impressions of Blades in The Dark

We took a little impromptu camping trip this weekend, so I was able to spend a bit more time reading Blades in the Dark. 

When we go camping, we put everyone to work
tldr; I love Blades.

As a side note, I came to some realizations about this. First, this is set in the same world as Ghost Lines, which is super awesome. Second, someone somewhere told me about Blades last year before the Kickstarter. But, third, I somehow at the time got it confused with Project:Dark, the similar but ill-fated game that was Kickstarted like three years ago. 

Blades succeeds fantastically at delivering a Thief or Dishonored experience. Aside from aspirations to adapt Tribe 8 to every game I find I like, I really want to play in the world. It hits all of the points, and has a really cool atmosphere. But at the same time, it's not over detailed. There are plenty of blanks to fill in, and numerous opportunities.

But, even better, I can see the possibilities for tweaking the game to adapt Tribe 8 to it (what, were you expecting anything else?). Much as Fate was kind of an eye-opener in terms of possibilities in expanding themes and highlighting facets of the setting, Blades is doing the same thing. Crews, holdings...these things offer some new elements to explore within Vimary.

I'm looking forward to finishing the book and maybe getting a vanilla game together.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Interests and inspirations

To kind of segue from my last post about the fantasy world I've been puttering around with, I figured it would help out if I categorized/listed out long-running interests and inspirations. I'm not sure if this is actually a thing that people do to help get their brain juices flowing, but I suspect it can't hurt and it helps me feel like I'm accomplishing something.

Beyond the obvious, generic interests (hard science fiction, cyberpunk, fantasy, horror, etc.) I've long been fascinated by:
  • Geomancy
  • Megaliths and "places of power"
  • Prehistoric religion
  • Glyphs/sigils/etc.
  • Post apocalypse/collapse
  • What I can only call "alternative cosmographies". Think not just the Mythos, but things like Hellraiser or Nightbreed, as well as elements of Gnosticism, Kabbalah, etc.
There's a sense of the mystery and the unknown (or unknowable) running that list, and it makes it easy to see why I'm attracted to the RPGs that I am, such as Tribe 8. The Ryhope Wood books by Robert Holdstock - Mythago Wood, Lavondyss, and others - rank among my all time favorites.

Some if these elements are going to make their way into the setting I've been working on, in some way. I'm still balancing uniqueness/variety with familiarity - I want something that feels new, without being so alien that people can't connect to the setting. Coupled with my newfound interest in more late modern/Industrial revolution for settings as opposed to standard medieval fantasy settings, and I think I can strike that balance.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

There's A World Kicking Around in My Head

It's been there for nearly 30 years, but I don't have binders and binders of stuff about it unlike a lot of GMs or designers. I've started and stopped working on it, many times - and just as many times lost what little I had committed to paper or digital. This includes a half dozen maps; notes saved in notebooks; as well as countless files on floppies, zip disks, and CDs. Various incarnations of the setting have been ported to the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, GURPS, Fantasy HERO, and a Dreampark/Interlock hybrid called (in what obviously seemed very cool at the time) VIRTUAL. Every time it changes, sometimes quite a bit.

This world, which is nameless only in that it's had many different names, has likewise pulled from a grab bag of fictional inspirations. But it started out humbly as a TMNT/Palladium Fantasy mashup sometime during high school in the late 80s, using Mutants In Avalon as a springboard. It was populated entirely with a random smattering of anthropomorphic animals. Sometimes it would include humans, elves and dwarves, sometimes not.

This may be one of the coolest covers I've ever seen

At the time I had no concept of the term "furry", although I had flipped through Albedo or similar titles in the comic store once or twice (usually followed by promptly putting them back when I ran into a sex scene).  But eventually I came into contact with individuals involved in furry subculture who really turned me off from the idea of including the anthropomorphs, and I haven't included them since.

Before we go any further, I want to state flat out that I don't want a debate about how not all furries are perverts or have sex in fursuits or whatever. At the time, confronted by a trenchcoat wearing man of questionable hygiene who loudly proclaimed that my "furries" were all wrong and proceeded to pull out color dot matrix printouts of 16-bit X-rated furry porn .bmps to show me how they were supposed to be, it turned me off from including anthropomorphs. It's a thing that happened, and I can't change my reaction to it. I realize there is a long and storied history of animal-like races in mythology, fantasy fiction, and rpgs. I realize that my creation had literally no connection to this guy or his interests, and that most people I've met since with similar tastes are not creepy or obscenely inappropriate like he was. Damage was done, and I've moved on from it.

Getting back to the multiple iterations, five or six years ago I got the itch to start mapping out a fantasy world. I delved into the Campaign Cartographer forums, familiarized myself with the techniques, tools, and styles out there for creating digital maps, and started on it. It took a lot of work, but this was the result:

I was pretty pleased with it, and started to cobble together some ideas and notes which for once, due to the miracle of The Cloud, I still have. I had just come off of a binge of PC gaming, having playing through Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age Inquisition again, plus Dishonored and the Thief series (in preparation for the reboot that was coming out). It sounds contradictory, but I knew I wanted a melding of the high fantasy vibe from Dragon Age with the more low fantasy "noir" feel of Thief and Dishonored (I hesitate to use the word steampunk, or any other kind of "punk" to describe those two games, so noir is a good compromise).

Of course, things came up (lots of things - like over two years' worth, including having another kid) and it kind of fell by the wayside until this past January. I had just gotten laid off from my job, but with a decent severance package and a very good prospect that I eventually landed, I wasn't feeling the urge to full-time job-hunt. I started doing some housekeeping in Google Drive, and ran across the map and some of my notes. It still looked good, but I noticed a bunch of things that I really didn't like about it. So I dug back into my Cartographer's Guild tutorials and started over. This was the second result.

It still doesn't have a name
There are some similarities between the two maps, largely because I used some of the same base land shapes with some rearranging and tinkering. But I'm really pleased with these results, enough so that I started to fill in some details. I then felt confident enough to produce a hand drawn style regional map of one area of the larger continent, which I'm still working on.

Chickenfoot Bay is too tempting of a name
Doing this has brought me around full circle to the world that I've had in my head for so long. I've come to realize that it's always been about mashing up things I was (and for the most part still am) intrigued with  - ley lines, megaliths, sigils/glyphs. That these things deserve a place in this world solely because I like them. So I'm going to damn the torpedoes, and throw all of the elements I want into the pot. Including anthropomorphs if I want. Maybe this time it will get a name that sticks too.