Monday, September 12, 2016

Finally Done With Constructs (well, that took longer than expected…)

So school starting up again has thrown something of a monkey-wrench into my hopes of getting the Engines & Empires Core Rules written in a timely fashion.  I'm taking Special Relativity, Nuclear Physics, and Discrete Math this semester (along with a couple of labs) and could graduate this December (but I'm probably better off tacking on one more semester to finish a mathematics minor, alongside taking the GRE and applying for grad schools).  Anyhow, that means that all of my me-time is once again reduced to nil, and so I can only do a bit of game writing when I can squeeze a few minutes between work and class.

Work… oy vey… have I mentioned that I'm a pollster, and this year Donald friggin' Trump is running for president?  No?  Okay, well, we'll just leave it at that then.  Suffice it to say, I used to have faith in humanity.  Not so much these days.

Where was I?  Ah, yes—game book.  So now that my game has bona fide robot stats governing what kinds of atomata techs can build (and this is way easier than a mage making a golem, naturally), the tech class and its inventions are well and truly complete, and pretty darned cool if I do say so myself.  So now it's onto the Fae category, which is always interesting.  And confusing.  Which is good, because you don't want to impose too much order and classification on what are essentially Chaotic spirits.  But who knows how long this chapter will take?

Faes, Humanoids and Giants, Planars and Elementals, Plants and Oozes, the Undead.  Of all these categories, Humanoids is a pretty big one, but Planars/Elementals is positively huge.  Plants are easy; Undead, there's only like a dozen of those.  Fae are sort of a middling-sized category, depending on how deep into the lore I want to go here.  (Honestly, not that deep… yeah, I'm going for a general sort of "fairy tale"/English and Celtic folklore vibe, but that's another argument for not directly statting up too many specific kinds of faeries—they need to be mysterious.)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Chimeras are more interesting

At least in writing this section, I got to flex my mythology chops.  And, of course, E&E gets to have its own unique take on dragons and werewolves, which is fun.  With this section out of the way, I now move onto Constructs—which is already half done, because the never-finished, never-published "Supplement I" to the old Engines & Empires edition had an entire chapter on automata.  So all I really have to do is write up golems and such.

Anyway, if you want to take a look at E&E's chimera chapter, here it is.

I feel like I'm finally over the hump here.  Once I get Constructs done, then it's just Fae, Humanoids (and Giants), Spirits & Elementals, and two rather short (if necessary) sections—Plants/Oozes/Fungi and the Undead.

Now that I'm done with boring old animals, I'm really having fun with this again.  Monsters rule!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Normal Animals are BORING.

WAAAAAANNNH… (whiny moans)… just bloody indexing the animals took SO LONG!


Like that mediƦval monk wrote at the end of a hand-copied text of Aquinas's Summa:

Explicit secunda pars summe fratris thome de aquino ordinis fratrum predicatorum, longissima, prolixissima, et tediosissima scribenti: Deo gratias, Deo gratias, et iterum Deo gratias.
[Here ends the second part of the Summa of brother Thomas Aquinas of the Order of Preaching Friars, the longest, wordiest, and most tedious thing ever written: thank God, thank God, and again thank God.]

That's how I feel right now,  and I'm only finished with the second of eight monster sections.  The next part (chimeras, dragons, and magical beasts) is ALMOST AS FREAKING LONG.

What have I done… dear God, what have I done!?

UPDATE: Okay, the animals section is all paginated and illustrated now.  It's done, dead, in the grave, in the can, fini, I wash my hands.  Now to Deal with Dragons™.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

E&E Excerpt: Abominations

At long last, I'm finally making some headway through the dull slog that is "Monsters: Normal Animals".  I guess that's why I want to be an astronomer and not a zoologist.  Anyway, in the meantime, enjoy the first completed monster section from the revised edition of E&E: abominations (pdf, 205 kb).

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Alignment: more fundamental even than a player's choice

I haven't posted anything in a while, so I thought I'd drop back in on the ol' blog with a quick update.

The new edition of Engines & Empires has become somewhat bogged down in the monster chapter, probably because I set myself up with too much to do.  I had wanted to keep things slick and simple, but in researching old-school monsters, I kept running into old favorites and thinking to myself, "well, how could I not include that?"  And my original intent—to only include proper fairy-tale and mythology monsters, and dispense with Gygaxian weirdness—got sort of sidetracked, by pure alphabetical chance.

You see, I wanted to divide the monster chapter into sub-categories: animals, humanoids, constructs, undead, etc.  And I decided to tackle them in alphabetical order.  The first heading?  It wound up being "abominations, eldritch horrors, and monstrosities".  This is the chapter that includes all the truly weird stuff: aliens, Yog-Sothothery, and yes, all those Gygaxian "fuck you, because dungeon" monsters.  So on the one hand, at least the Gygaxian weirdness is siloed off into its own little section (and I probably won't put most of these monsters on the random encounter tables, because I want to preserve that very special "basic D&D ain't AD&D" feel); but on the other hand, they're there in the book in case they're ever needed (I certainly used them quite a bit for the Shade Isle campaign, and I'd rather not have to lug around the Creature Catalog and Advanced Edition Companion all the time—the whole reason I'm doing this is to get back down to one book).

But as I was going through these monsters and their stat write-ups, something else occurred to me: early on, I decided that for this new edition of E&E, alignment wouldn't be a big deal.  I would just dodge the whole question of whether it was a moral philosophy, a description of character behavior, or a "side" you pick in the great cosmic battle, and just make it sort of there in the background, a fundamental description of a creature's nature.

In other words, by definition, the alignments mean…
• Law is that which pertains "to gods and men".  It is the alignment of the gods who run the cosmos, their direct servants (angels), humans who are not magic-users, and anything else that is the direct creation of human society, like robots and automata.
• Neutrality is anything which is natural, but unencumbered by affectations of human society or religion (ordinary plants and animals, in other words); or anything that bridges the gulf between the natural and the supernatural (human mages and all demihumans, by definition; and also elementals, for cosmology reasons).
• Chaos is everything else: if it's monstrous, supernatural, unnatural, or in any way out of the ordinary, it's Chaotic by definition, even something like a mindless ooze.  Demons are of chaos, but so are fae, because they're of magic, not of the natural world.

This fits in well with both steampunk's magic vs. science theme, as well as the inspiration I've drawn from Beyond the Wall (heavy as it is on the Chaotic-ness of fae).  Part of what inspired this is the fact that I recently read through both a lot of Elric novels and Three Hearts and Three Lions, and I like Anderson's take on Law and Chaos much better than Moorcock's.  One the one hand, reading Moorcock really turns on the lightbulb with respect to understanding where so much of AD&D comes from (time after time, you just keep going, "oh, that's where Gary was getting this batshit crazy idea from!"); but on the other, it's just so complex and tiresome… it's a very specific bit of world-building, and I want nothing to do with it.  Poul Anderson was just telling a romantic fairy-tale, more or less, and that's what I'll go with.

So the up-shot of this is that alignment is predetermined by your choice of race and class.  A human fighter, expert, or tech is just plain Lawful, period, end of story; and a human mage or a demi-human is Neutral, boom, done.  Frankly, I like any excuse to take alignment out of the hands of the players, because there are just entirely too many players out there who like to use "I'm Chaotic!" as an excuse to play a jerkwad.

No, Timmy, you're not Chaotic, your character is just a jerkwad who hasn't been caught yet.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ghostbusters 2016: Not Bad At All


Saw Ghostbusters last night.  As expected, it couldn't live up to the original—nothing could, of course.  Also as expected, the fact that it was a reboot rather than a sequel was inevitably disappointing; but then, what else could it be?  Ghostbusters II ignored the existence of the Real Ghostbusters, so it's not like any movie that came out this decade would ever, e.g., acknowledge that Extreme Ghostbusters existed.  A true sequel was never going to happen anyway, so… 

So what we got was best possible alternative.  A reboot with fun characters who had good chemistry.  The film isn't anywhere near as witty as the original (but then, who could ever match Bill Murray?  Although Kate McKinnon sure gets some goddamn props for stealing this new film in the same way Murray stole the original).

Pretty much everybody in the cast (with the sorry exception of Neil Casey, who played the lame villain, Rowan North) was fantastic in the movie.  McKinnon and Hemsworth rocked the house, but Wiig, McCarthy, Jones were as funny as they ever are.

It leaves me wanting a sequel.  And a new animated series with these characters.  

Not too shabby, considering what else could've been.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

80% done with technology

So in actually working through the descriptions and mechanics of all these inventions, I've had to (as I knew that I would) shuffle them around a bit, combine, split, tweak, re-fluff.  Some have gone up in level, some have come down, and (especially) all the automata have gotten more flavorful names.

(I will say this much: the 2nd edition E&E tech is going to be very good at making robots.)