Monday, April 07, 2014

Life in the Galaxy

Life in the 24th century isn't a Utopia, but compared to today it looks like it in many ways. On Earth, very few are hungry and those that are are in that state largely due to their own vices. Disease is largely eradicated, and those that still exist are (again largely) easily managed with medicines and gene therapies. Energy is plentiful, as is drinking water. The environmental disasters that loom on the horizon today, and became a reality in the late 21st Century are a thing of the past. The politics of 24th century Earth deal mostly with matters pertaining to the Concord and not between rival Terran nations. We've abandoned the machismo and arrogance of today's society because we had to as a species when we joined the galactic community. There are still wars, rogue states, spying, greed, avarice, fanaticism, and violence, but such problems rarely affect the lives of those living on Earth and its established colonies in the time of the Mythic Space campaign.

Life for most humans in the future isn't much different than it is today. Sure, energy is abundant and you don't generally have to worry about where your next meal is coming from, but there are still jobs to do and bills to be paid. Corporations are even more massive, some are virtually stellar nations in their own right. These corps are split into various subsidiaries and are bought and sold almost constantly. Most people working for these companies rarely know exactly who they are working for, and frankly most don't care as long as the credits keep getting deposited. The biggest difference is that without the need to run to the grocery store or the gas station or bother with any number of "fixer-up" jobs, people have more time to devote to their hobbies or to entertainment. This is more pronounced on established worlds. Out on the colonies of the frontier, life can be a bit more focused on survival rather than catching up on the latest vid or working on perfecting your cloud painting technique.

The forms of entertainment are wide and varied, but they still tend to boil down to a few key areas: Movies ("vids" as they are called now), Games, Music, Art, Theater, Literature, and Sports. Whenever different cultures interact, there is an inevitable blending and sharing between the two; such has been the case since humanity was a collection of various tribes and city-states and so it continues to be now that humanity is part of a cosmopolitan galactic society. Not long after the humans and fraal joined forces, fraal art and music became all the rage on Earth. Even the fraal took to certain aspects of Terran culinary techniques and fashion. These blendings between cultures only increase further the more species are introduced into the mix.

Musical interests have always been nebulous and hard to predict. That is even moreso now. The music of the 24th century isn't that much different at its core compared to today, but the influences of other cultures and the exposure to new instruments and approaches to making music certainly have their effect. Not to mention the aspect of art imitating life. What would be likened to the Country music of today deals less with tractors and big-rigs, but rather with life on the stellar frontier. Still there is the elements of love, honor, heartbreak, and having a good time that are essentially timeless and are carried through into the 24th century.

The biggest change is how mankind has embraced its place on the galactic stage. Alien artists are booked and sell out packed arenas on Earth continuously. Earth isn't any different that most other members of the Concord, and partaking in the bounties of a shared society does have it's perks. It's nothing to go hear a Klingon opera one night and then a couple days later go hear an Ithorian singer open for the latest human diva.

Sports have been blended in much the same way. Baseball, football, basketball, soccer, and hockey are still played even in the future. As more species become part of different societies, they also bring their sports with them or want to try their hand at the sports of the natives as well. There are various leagues to the "good ol' human games" throughout the Concord, though primarily in areas with larger human populations. There have been rules implemented by each league to mitigate injuries due to special circumstances of various species playing together and the prevalence of genetic modification and cybernetics. After all, it would be dangerous to play basketball with a 12 foot tall being that weighs half a ton. Sports, and gambling, are one of the main areas where humans quickly made in-roads in dealing with other species. If anything, humans love a contest. Vid sports channels on Earth and many Sol Alliance colonies carry a wide array of sports from many worlds. It's nothing to see a kid going to school with a ballcap of his favorite baseball club and the logo of his favorite alien sport team on his backpack.

Movies, television, and games are far easier to get immersed in. Virtual Reality became a reality in the early 22nd century. Holodecks followed about 50 years later. Vids are still largely shown on a 2d surface, but games are largely offered up only in VR. There are some vids, primarily sports, that are offered in VR, but few movies go to the expense to offer on that platform...except in the realms of, ahem, adult entertainment. Even the VR offerings for sports only offer choice seats, and don't allow the viewer to be in the game, unless they are playing a VR simulation.

Libraries are largely all digital. The wave we see now of moving away from physical mediums only continues in the future. The works of authors from across the Concord and beyond are available from most libraries. Plus, the digitizing of classic works from the whole of human history are available as well from most institutions. There are still libraries in the classical sense that seek to preserve the physical copies of books and scrolls, and the trade of these tomes is very active in both legal and illegal avenues. Libraries have largely merged on most worlds as getting from one side of a planet to another is nothing like it is today. It's nothing for someone living in Baton Rogue to spend and afternoon pouring over books at the Terran Library of History in New York and be back home by supper.

Art of many worlds is quite popular as well. The various art galleries in Rome, New York, Moscow house classic works of human artists to up-and-comers from the Terran colonies and members of the Concord as well. Much like the trade of literature, the sale of art is lively both legally and illegally, even moreso in most regards. The black market for antiquities both human and alien has been booming for some time now. This is one of the reasons that when ruins are discovered on alien worlds, the Concord does its best to try and protect the sites from plunderers looking to cash in on the history of a fallen species.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

International Tabletop Day

Happy International Tabletop Day! I hope you all were able to play (or are still playing) some game today. My 5-year old and I played some Talisman (4th edition) today, we're going to continue tomorrow. We started off with Castle Ravenloft, but he just' not quite ready for such a reading-intensive game just yet. He was really enjoying playing his knight for a while until he rolled a 1 on the City's Enchantress Table. Let's just say he wasn't happy about being turned into a Toad... My Troll wasn't faring much better as I kept drawing tough Psychic Combat encounters, which are really, really hard when you only start with 1 Craft.

While playing Talisman, I think I've found how I want to build my own dungeon crawler game. The mechanics will be very similar to Talisman. Characters start with a base score in four categories. These numbers can be raised (and lowered) by various means. These totals are added to a single D6 roll against a certain target number. Characters are built as static classes that can be modified a bit with the player's selection for the character's race. Characters won't level-up beyond the gear they get. This seems to fly in the face of what I've mentioned in other posts, but the way I have it working in my mind even spellcasting characters would get a chance to learn new spells that they find in the dungeon. After the dungeon, there will be events and places to visit that will offer more opportunities for stat changes.

There's still a mountain of details to iron out, but the way it's working out in my head is a game that has some depth, but still plays quick and easy like Heroquest. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

ADD Strikes Again

Thanks to all of the Diablo 3 I've been playing lately and my 5 year old interested in playing the D&D board games, I've been batting around the idea of building my own dungeon crawling game again. I've tried my hand at this a few times in the past, but it always seems to fall apart. This time however, I think I may be onto something. I'm going to use a parred down form of 4th Edition D&D. Why 4E? Well, it already plays very much like a tactical board game, so much so that I think WotC was onto something when they came out with Castle Ravenloft. So why not just play Castle Ravenloft/Wrath of Ashardalon/Legend of Drizzt? I do, and especially while my son gets his "sea legs", so to speak, I will continue to do so as the games are pretty easy to grok. However, my only real gripe with the games is that they simply aren't very deep. One of the reasons I love Warhammer Quest is that there are 10 levels of play. The D&D games really don't have a good set of campaign rules. There are variants up a Board Game Geek, but they only go so far. Plus, I've got a crap-ton of 4th Edition material collecting dust. I want to find a reason to get them down off the shelf!

D&D 4E does have some issues, however, that need to be ironed out. First off is speed of play. Combat in 4th edition can be a boring, drawn-out affair. It really doesn't need to be that way. Hit Point totals for characters and monsters will need to be reigned in. I'm not going the route of the board games and only having a hit point or two for HP totals, but there's no need (or fun) in hacking away at a beast with 500 hit points.

I'm tossing out skills...maybe. The focus of this game is largely going to be about killing things and taking their stuff. Plus, I intend to keep the co-op mode of play, so a lot of things are going to be essentially automated by the game. If skills still play a role in the game, the skill lists will be greatly truncated and probably won't play a huge role in the game.

Feats are possibly out as well. I need to do some more brainstorming on that.

So what will the characters consist of then? The six core stats, their gear, and their powers. Powers will break down as Class and Race powers, and those powers will break down into the usual At-Will, Encounter, and Daily groups. Daily powers can only be used once per adventure. I'm thinking of making each class start out at a static point (stats set, gear bought) with the player needing only to select a race and powers in order to start play. The character and race lists will likely be the standard fare.

Treasure will be random. Not sure how I'm going to do that yet, whether by cards or by charts...

I'm going to pull monsters in from the D&D board games, Hero Quest, Descent, D&D Minis, Warhammer Quest, and a few others I have in the collection. I want a game that will utilize what I have on hand.

As for dungeon generation, I'm not sure yet. I'll likely go with either Warhammer Quest's card and tile based system or with CR/WA/LoD's tile draw.

Not sure yet how I'd generate quests. I like Warhammer Quest's system, but it would have to be greatly expanded to to keep the game feeling fresh. I still need to ponder this.

So, is this just another idea doomed to failure? Probably, but I do think it could work.

Now, I realize I haven't posted much of anything about Mythic Space in a while. I promise to get back to that shortly. I've got a few posts in various stages of completion. I just haven't felt inspired to write much lately, and I really don't want to churn out crap for the sake of keeping up a post count. So never fear, sci-fi will return to this blog soon.

Monday, March 31, 2014

After a Week...

I'm calling it. Diablo 3 might just be the best comeback story I've ever seen. The expansion, Reaper of Souls hit Tuesday (well, Monday night around 11 for those that pre-ordered the digital release). The loot system, which was the main thing dragging down D3, was overhauled prior to RoS's release and got me hooked. I had uninstalled the game, thoroughly disgusted, but reinstalled it after all the great buzz about 2.0 Loot. RoS took all that goodness and expanded it. It added an Act V to the game, that while seeming to be short, was very atmospheric and well done. It also added Adventure Mode, which is where the real fun lies.

Once you beat the game with a character, you can either decide to run through another playthrough of the main game with that character or go into Adventure mode. Adventure mode still utilizes the main areas of the game, but applies 5 bounty quests for each Act. These quests range from clearing levels of a certain dungeon or killing a specific creature. At higher difficulties, the quests become harder like "Kill the Skeleton King in 45 seconds or less." Yowch. You get a shot a good loot, and get lots of XP and gold for completing the quests. You also gain Keystones, which one you have five will allow you to open a Nephalem Rift to a randomized dungeon. The point of these dungeons is to fill your kill meter so that the Rift Keeper appears so you can then kill it. This gains you treasure and XP, but you also get Blood Shards which can be traded for a random magic item of the slot of your choosing. I've been having a blast doing bounty runs and Nephalem Rifts.

Diablo 3 is actually worth the price of admission now. After it's boring vanilla game, and the blatant money grab of the Auction House, it's good to see that Blizzard still listens to the fans and wants to make a great game that players will want to keep installed for quite some time to come. Well done, Blizzard, well done.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Reaper of Souls and a General Malaise

Another weekend has slipped past with really not a damn thing to show for it. I tried to get into the zone, to get some writing done, I really did. However, the words just weren't coming and my ideas felt, well, dumb, so I said to Hell with it for the moment and played some Diablo 3 instead. I hate writer's block. Not to get too disgusting, but it's like my brain is constipated. There's ideas and imagery there that wants to get out, to find it's way onto paper/screen, but it...just...can't...  I just wasn't in a sci-fi frame of mind no matter how much I wanted to be.

What my mind did wander to was fantasy. I suspect it was all the demon-slaying in D3 and likely the binge of Game of Thrones Season 4 previews my wife and I watched. Combine that with my 5-year old's desire to try out the new D&D boardgames (Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and Legend of Drizzt), and all the ideas that kept coming up were tied to fantasy gaming. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm already trying to write some sci-fi material! Blast this gamer ADD.

At any rate, Reaper of Souls, the expansion pack to D3 hits tomorrow. It'll be one of those days in which I just want to get home so I can start a new Crusader, which will make the workday an even more painfully slow slog than usual. It will also likely keep me pulled away from Mythic Space for a bit longer as well. Hopefully, the ADD will swing me back around again before my writing completely switches gears again.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Have a Dream...

No offense meant to the late, great, Dr King, but that title felt fitting even though I'm going to talk about video games.

I love the Action RPG genre. It all started with pumping quarters into Gauntlet (Red Warrior sadly needed food badly a lot...) then it exploded into a full bore obsession with Diablo and all the various games that it spawned. While I love the never-ending quest for more loot and harder challenges, I'm often left wanting when it comes to the world. These type of games scream out for an larger, more open world like those seen in other more traditional RPG's and MMORPG's. What I would love to see is a sandbox-style Action RPG.

Here me out. You travel across a hex map. In each hex there's a chance of an encounter. If that encounter is monsters, then you zoom into a random map based on the environment that you're travelling in to fight or flee with the creature(s) you've stumbled upon. If that encounter is uncovering a forgotten tomb or a cave entrance, then you go into a dungeon (randomized like the early Diablo 1 levels or what you see in Torchlight II these days). There would still be set landmarks to tackle like the crypt of an ancient lich, or the castle of the evil warlord, or the den of a dragon or demon or some other such monstrosity. There could even be quest strings that lead you along an adventure path of sorts, but the choice of where to go and what to do is up to you. Not interested in tackling the Swamp Dragon? Go fight the giants of the North instead, or just explore the world. The loot system would stay like what is seen in Action RPG's, random and tailored to level and somewhat to class.

The base game would cover a set area, but it would be expandable. A new area might even include new classes, monsters, quests, and rewards tailored for that area. You could even create planar levels for super high-level content.

I wish I had the skills to do something like this, but I don't have the coding savvy and I certainly don't have the artistic ability and rendering know-how to pull something like this off. This could be a huge idea in the hands of the right company. I know I would buy such a game in a heartbeat. Then again, I may be the only person that something like this would appeal to.

Anyway, that's my dream. I dream of an Action RPG that keeps giving me more to explore rather than having to run through the same quests over and over in my search of fortune and glory. It may not be the grandest dream ever, but dammit it's mine!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

It's quiet...too quiet...

I haven't had much time to do much of anything lately, writing-wise. I am kicking around a fluff piece about sports and/or entertainment in the future pertaining to my Mythic Space setting. I'm just got a few random ideas so far, nothing really all that concrete. I hope to have something ready to post soon.

One thing that I'm surprised slipped past my radar that I found out about tonight is Pathfinder Pawns. Cardboard stand-ups of various creatures and NPC's from the four Pathfinder Bestiaries and from several of their Adventure Paths, as well as an NPC Codex. While I'm not a Pathfinder player, I do convert their creatures to S&W and the NPC's would be great to have as well. This is an excellent idea, and I'm likely going to snatch up copies as I find them. I loved the old Basic D&D cardboard stand-ups, and still use many alongside minis to this day, but I wish they were scaled to a size other than Medium/Man-sized, so these Pathfinder pawns are perfect.

I'm still playing a bit of Diablo 3, but I'm easing up a bit with Reaper of Souls due out this time next week. I don't want to get burned out before new content is released!