Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Crux Rules Notes (2016) 2

More of a meditation on things to do with Crux, rules and the like I think.

Classes and Such

A core conceit for Crux has been the idea that classes- the long used rules mechanic in our world- was an actual metaphysical concept in-setting.  Having a Class in Crux is something you state.  It's like discussing the weather or social etiquette.  It just is.

This idea still feels important to Crux to me.  But using the term Class (and other d20 terminology) in-world has its difficulties.  I think the concept can still remain, but could be easier to convey if the setting term for classes had the sobriquet "Path."  Calling them Paths has a nicer ring.  And it allows class to be used for more sociological use, rather than a mechanical concept.

The other part would be for me to try to embed Paths a bit more into the setting.  Each time I've come to do rules for the game, I manage to realize I need to do more.  But I don't want the granularity of d20.  I want the flavor of a d20 class, but I don't want thicket of rules that comes with it.  Apocalypse World and its spawn have given me inspiration for how to do paths in the future.

I think providing some options for players at the Path level is handy.  Some players will always enjoy their blank slates, but my experience with Crux showed my setting needs more ready to go "archetypes" for people to step into.

I'd borrow the playbooks of Apocalypse World for future Crux stuff.  The lists provide ready options.  A basic list of talents and a list of advanced talents, too, help sketch out a Path.  I dislike the moves in Apocalypse World, but I think that's from me not having run the system.  Sometimes some rules just flow better in practice than in hypotheticals.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Random Thought: Fire

It comes and goes.  The fire one needs isn't a fixed thing like the sun.  The fire needs to be stoked.  Kindled unless it dies to the harsh cold of doubt.

All things created have a life to them.  Even those fictions and artworks we regard only for their beauty.  They exist, they breathe and they die for our sake.  They are fires.  Each is a fire that needs to burn.

It is easy to douse them.  To put them out.  To place them and let them die.  It is even easier to push other to douse the embers of new stories.  To silence unrealized dreams with but a phrase.

The fire of a dream needs kindling.  It needs eyes.  It can only live on by being told, by being seen, felt, tasted... Believed.

In this life, one must help throw kindling on the fires of the dreamers.  There is plenty out to douse them.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Inksketches, Week of August 26th

Another Week, another pile of Inksketches done.

On twitter and instagram I post these sorts of images every day.  If you are looking for some place to follow and get these in your feed, check those out.

Also, if you want to support images like this, the stories on this blog and more, check out my patreon.  It isn't necessary for this stuff, but it'd help with expanding some of my projects a bit.  I also take commissions, so don't be afraid to message me about that.
1.Very tired, I crafted this Grave Scorpion last saturday.  A friend got to see my process of uploading these on my phone.  Between an app and some minor photo editing, most of my inksketches are as they are on paper.  I just use some photo editing tricks to get rid of most pencils.

"With their eggs place'd in the corpses to hatch and protect the dead. Such is what the Kirgan do to keep back the Bokor."

2.Got in a good mood on Sunday.  This matched how I felt like I had managed to beat down some of my own doubts and self-hatred.

3. From Instagram: "The #Cyberwood reaches even into the depths of the desert."  

Cyberwood continues, as a secret project of mine.  One day I do something worth posting for it, other than my pictures of how it looks.

4. I hit a troublesome pose for a sketch.  This took me 4 attempts to get one I like.  Even then, this still feels... "eh" to me.  I call it "Warrior" because that's how it feels to me.  At least the pose feels correct.    

5.  Something emotive.  To be specific, she is a Fish-Vampyre- a Patrizo, from #Crux.  One of my favorite ideas for Crux is that four of the five vampyre clans are elemental-based.  The Patrizo, obviously, have ties to water.  The angry, tsunami-kind of water magick powers.

6. Something experimental.  A "Smart" jacket of a sort, and probably a social media device- a Mnemosyne, which lets you experience the short memories of others they post online, like twitter or vine.

7. From Instagram: "Even the #fungus in the #Cyberwood grows beyond our ken and understanding. Such is the ecological curse of the cybernetic virus, everything is touched by it."

If you enjoy these sketches, feel free to share 'em!  Also, please post in the comments any suggestions for things for me to draw.  I might not get to them right away, but if I do, I'll do my best to credit the idea back to you!  :D

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Find The Path: Crux Rules Notes 2016 (pt 1)

Upon the path you tread, you stand above the waters of the Cursed Sound.  The Tinkerer's Bridge glimmers, high above the waters.  Still new, the massive bridge has enabled countless new machines to dash out of Crux, Westward.

I haven't run Crux in awhile.  The Dark Fantasy Western game I ran had problems.  But it also did succeed in some other areas.  My setting was robust enough it seemed to survive contact with the enemy (read: players).

This is more of a ramble on my thoughts on what to do with Crux.  Some of the ideas I have for Crux benefit from the fact I own the setting, and I can do anything I damn well please with it.  So, I feel like my alterations feel apt.

There are also lessons I need to learn from it.  I think I could run Crux at some future point, again.  I don't know when or if that'll happen, given that my gaming group has dwindled due to life stepping in.  Without that itch being satisfied, I guess I have to resort to blogging my gaming away.

Fate Core

Before the game entered its hiatus, I'd restarted the game's rules a bit.  Using both skills and approaches from Fate Accelerated, didn't quite fit for Crux.  So I changed things a bit.  Atomic Robo's use of Skill Modes intrigued me, so I came across three skill modes for Crux: Ferocity, Swiftness and Vigilance.

Skill Modes worked, after a fashion.

My experience with Fate Core was generally positive.  But because my style drifts a bit, and my players preference didn't grok 100% with skill modes, I tried to figure out what I liked and what I'd keep going forward.  My reskinning of skills also might've been dangerous, given that I couldn't remember my reskinned names myself.

Next time, I probably should just hack something together for Crux.  Maybe Fate Core, maybe some unholy abomination.  The three traits of Ferocity, Swiftness and Vigilance will be central to that.  I don't know if skills will.


Another hard lesson learned is that depending a setting with elements from pathfinder as interpreted by fate core fails.  One of my greater acts of procrastination and laziness is how I handled magic in Crux.  While one of the best, more robust magic systems is that from D&D, I've never defined the actual differences between Crux and what magic exists in Pathfinder.

I should try to redraw how magic works in Crux.  As an actual magic system, something more solid I can lean on.  The current mess works for deus ex machina and an RPG... but that is flawed.  It makes magic less interesting of its own self.

For Crux, I know how magic works in the setting, the mechanics of it.  The channeling of energy from the Aether plane, magic creates effects from nothing through will.  I've always liked the creative systems in Mage the Awakening and Ars Magica, wherein players can do almost anything through magic.  This has two problems I've discovered, tbh.

First, since I never defined the system past some vague landmarks, it creates a blank page problem.  Players don't know what actual limits in the setting are, as I am the keeper of the setting.  Second, a broad "you can do anything system" is uninteresting.

I've always believed that generalists are less interesting than specialists.  It's akin to how have one of each tool you need to handle a problem is direct.  Someone who always has a hammer when they need a hammer isn't as interesting as a person who has to figure out how to get the effect of a hammer without a hammer.  Specialists make it even better.

 They have glaring holes in their skill sets, holes they have to work around.  It's interesting and it can help define a character.

7th Sea's sorceries act this way.  And so does D&D's magic, albeit based on levels.  Magic the Gathering, even though it isn't a RPG, defines limits and specializations in its five colors of magic.  Crux would benefit from that same set of ideas for sorcery.  I am not certain how best to do that, but I have a few ideas for a magic system.

There is a certain challenge in aligning what I've established before with what I have in mind.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Gaming Materials: 7th Sea.

7th Sea.  

I chipped into the Kickstarter.  I received it the other week.  And considering my tabletop gaming life is kinda sparse right now.

Have I enjoyed it?

Considering I'm up to the point where I've made a 7th Sea character, I think I've enjoyed it.

I never read or bought the original 7th Sea.  It existed before my first tabletop RPG experiences, with 3rd edition D&D around 2002.  7th Sea never bubbled into my collection to read or check out.  And at some point I drifted into White Wolf stuff.  By that point, my focus had moved from "some sort of medieval fantasy" to "anything different."

But the allure of Pirates, Swashbucklery and general 17th century awesomeness works on me.  Just one thing, though.  Ever since I first dived in the 7th Sea kickstarter, I knew 7th Sea wasn't the kind of the game I'd want to run.  This, this is the sort of thing I love to play in.

The part where your character gets rewarded for charging through something heroic and dangerous, only to survive it by doing something a bit mad, I love to play those kinds of characters.  I once played a character who stripped naked.  Then I charged screaming into a encampment of vampyre-worshipping cannibal cultist savages.  All while not bothering to plan it or give anyone a chance to stop me.  Being told, "here, do that thing all you want" makes me more excited to play than gamemaster.

That's what a surface promise of 7th Sea is.  One of the opening pages lists writing credits like that of a movie.  That tells you want this is, a game meant to be your summer blockbuster.  Your big popcorn flick.  So, yeah, I'd rather play a character in that than direct it.

What's better is how 7th Sea rewards that.  There are reasons I don't like d20.  I find XP tiring.  7th Sea's Story mechanic cuts the middle man.  It lets players create actual arcs for their characters to go through.  And the arcs matter in that they are the only way you can advance.

Oh, this game.

It isn't the holy grail.  My knowledge of 17th Century Europe lets me see the allusions Theah makes (I need to stop calling it "Not-Europe" BTW).  Pre-written settings have their flaws, ones you don't always see.   Also, I think parts of the action sequence and other combat mechanics will require actual play for me to figure them out.  I can't quite grasp them on paper yet.

But 7th Sea feels like too much fun to let those drag it down.

Ok, I'm mostly just drooling about the game.  There are better reviews or critiques I've read for it.  The part of the game that locked me into wanting to be a player in it had to be one chapter.  The Sailing chapter.

Excellent and beautiful rules for a ship.  The same reason why I've always saw why the Firefly RPG appeals to me.  Having your own ship, that scratches such a magnificent itch.  7th Sea gives you that.  It's very, very easy to start play with a ship.  Something that other rule sets go out of their way to make a pain.  In 7th Sea, you can just have one without much effort on your part.

That's like being given puppy, isn't it?  Something as awesome as a sailing ship in a game about pirates and swashbuckling.  Sign me up.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Inksketches, Week of August 19th

Another Week, another pile of Inksketches done.

On twitter and instagram I post these sorts of images every day.  If you are looking for some place to follow and get these in your feed, check those out.

Also, if you want to support images like this, the stories on this blog and more, check out my patreon.  It isn't necessary for this stuff, but it'd help with expanding some of my projects a bit.  I also take commissions, so don't be afraid to message me about that.

More inksketchness!  More I say!

Monday, August 15, 2016

City of Curses: Unworthiness (Flash Fiction)

#Crux, City of Curses is a dark fantasy setting I've been working on for two years now- inspired by the Jacksonian Era America, Legend of Korra, Pathfinder the Roleplaying Game, Hellboy and more- full of dark intrigues, horror, magic and weirdness.  Here's a bit of #flashfiction!  Iblis Kirgan is a undead thing visiting the city for the first time!  Yays!  Horrible undead monster things!

The wooden plank hit the dockside rather hard.  Dark mists had dominated the small bay the dock encircled.  The sun had long down.  The sailors aboard the Maliphi freighter stood back.

They waited.

Once he came out of the cabin, they moved away from him.  Fearful stares as bones cracked.  Long dead flesh moved like a living person.  Bandages and robes covered him.

He didn't stand that tall.  No higher than any of the dark-skinned Ramelin sailors.  The dead Ursyklon's golden earrings shined.  One assumed him to be male, if his beard were any significance.  Ursyklon runes covered his bandages.  The empty eye sockets shimmered with their own dark red glow.  The black-green flesh teemed with undead vermin.  The dead shells of beetles scuttled.  Rotten, dead worms writhed.  They moved around and through the walking corpse.

Flies, rodents and more moved away as he approached the plank to the ship.  They fled from his presence.

"Thanks."  The dry, rasping voice exhaled to the sailors.  "If you change your mind on my offer, you know where to find me."

They shivered.

The short mummy walked into the docks of the City of Curses.  The dark port of Crux buzzed around him.  He took in the air of this new place.  Ships bustled.  Even at night, people moved.  Things from all over the world mixed here.

His eyes darted, studying the foreign sights.  The once-Ursyklon undead creature hadn't been part of the world in such a long time.  Curiosity made him wonder.  Had it changed enough to forgive what he'd done?

Upon reaching the first flight of stairs up the cliff, a man in an odd uniform looked up at him.  The same old look of despair, disgust and fear took over the human.  The black-haired Tomasi took a step back.

"W-who are you?"

"A visitor."  He looked up at the human.  "Iblis Zorden Kirgan Foxhide.  I imagine you need to see papers?"

"Uh..."  The guard coughed a bit, then shook his head.

Iblis climbed up the stairs to the top of the cliff that overlooked the docks.  As he moved upward, he could see through the mists.  The gigantic skullmount in the distance appeared.  A city of gothic spires hung over the edges of the cliff.  Like a field of termite hills, cloaked in fog.

The archdruid could sense the life moving away from him as he climbed up the stairs.  Birds woke themselves out of their nests.  Living insects scuttled out of the way.  Mice and rats took a wide berth of him.  Others moving down or up the stairs around Iblis took their time.

He was used to that.  He had hoped this foreign place might be different, but it didn't matter.  Damned, Iblis knew that nothing living could find comfort near his cursed flesh.

"A city of curses seems fine for a Cursed fellow then."  Iblis told himself.  He chuckled at his words.

He would continue to explore this place.  So many of the quick moved about here.  Millennia ago he'd remembered it being just a few villages and sheep.  Time flies it seems, when one is dead long enough.

"Alms for the unsorcerous?"  A voice called out.

Iblis tilted his head at the sound.  A girl's voice.  Sickly.  The sound of a long cough.

When he found her at the street corner, the tiny creature had slumped up against a lamp post in the mist.  Shivering.  Pustules covered her face.  People seemed to move around her.  The undead took in a deep whiff.  Her myriad of scents delighted him.

He recognized so much life there.  So much potential.

"Hello?"  She called out to him.  The human child would've stood only to his shoulder.  So thin, so hungry.  Her green and black hair was matted.  Dirt covered her.  She looked almost like more vermin than a urchin.  "Alms for unsorcerous?"

Another coughing fit took her.

"You have a sickness."  Iblis pointed out.

"Yah.  Got a pox."  She looked up at him.  Her eyes couldn't seem to focus on his.  "I can't quite see you, but I can still do things for you."

"Things like what?"

"Things you might like."  She tried to grin, but another bout of coughing stopped her.

"Why would I want that?"  Iblis asked, curious.  "And what is unsorcerous mean?  Is that your disease?"

He drew closer.

"Uh..."  She wiped her mouth.  "Money.  I'll do anything you want for coin.  I got no magick, no sorcery...  Can't afford to get cured without coin, see?"

Iblis drew closer.  Then she sensed his aura.  The mark of the curse.  The undeath that scared all living.  That made them want to flee from him.  That primal fear that he, Iblis of the Kirgan, was wrong.  Something to be avoided.

But she couldn't get away fast enough.  Passers-by didn't stop him from grabbing the sick girl.  Despite being almost her size, he lifted her up.  He grabbed her face, bringing it close to his face.  Then he breathed out into her.

"You aren't worthy of their gift, child.  These things are meant for worthier folk."

Then Iblis dropped her to the ground.

She looked at herself.  Her pustules were gone.  She could see.  She could breathe.  All her ills had been gone.

"Why did you cure me?"  The girl looked back up at the mummy's glowing red eyes.

"I didn't cure you, per se."  Iblis cracked his neck.  "The wolf-mother made everything to test us, to root out the worthy from the unworthy.  You aren't worthy of such glorious tests, begging here in the streets.  These are mine now.  Go.  Sin.  Do something dark, something to make your life burn hotter.  Earn the right to die, child."

Then he turned, walking away.  The words echoed in his mind.  Iblis knew the mantra of his people, how diseases were only for the worthy.  But he always preferred to twist those words a bit.  Just a bit.

Even if they were scared of him, Iblis had damned himself for the right reasons.  Not evil.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Inksketches, Week of August 12th

Another Week, another pile of Inksketches done.

On twitter and instagram I post these sorts of images every day.  If you are looking for some place to follow and get these in your feed, check those out.

Also, if you want to support images like this, the stories on this blog and more, check out my patreon.  It isn't necessary for this stuff, but it'd help with expanding some of my projects a bit.  I also take commissions, so don't be afraid to message me about that.

Here's a bit of August-flavored inksketches for your perusal:

Monday, August 8, 2016

Random Thoughts: Stranger Things (A Criticism of Something Awesome)

What made Mad Max Fury Road refreshing for me?  It was how its female and male protagonists had a measure of equality.  That was why so many felt the movie was feminist.  Max and Furiosa shared the spotlight.  Even the subthemes in Fury Road touch on these ideas.  

It's great to see something that reminds what good media can do.  It can shock you.  It can get you to think about some neat things.

Stranger Things reminds me of great 80s stuff I grew up with.  And it reminds me of stuff like Fringe and Twin Peaks.  Stranger Things touches on the notion of lost loved ones.  That is something that is in one of my favorite tabletop RPGs, Changeling the Lost.

But when I think back to Fury Road, I can't help but ask Stranger Things about how it treats two female characters.  I loved the show.  Couldn't stop watching it.  But two characters felted underserved.  Should female characters be defined by the men in their lives?  When does characterization trump plot device?  Does this character lose something for the sake of the story or the sake of a trope?

I choose Fury Road to compare to because it was made by a film maker who did prominent 80s films too.  He returned to a franchise and choose to present gender ideas in a certain way.  George Miller didn't have to.  He could've relied on the 80s nostalgia of Mad Max as an excuse to use his female characters as plot devices.

Spoilers, if you haven't seen Stranger Things I guess.  The two characters I'm focusing on are Eleven and Barbara.

Barbara is the second missing character in the series.  But unlike the first, she doesn't come back.  This doesn't bug me by itself.  But Barbara's disappearance becomes mostly plot device for the next few chapters.  And rather than have Nancy get stuck in the "Upside Down", her search for Barbara there goes wrong.  Then she is saved by the only nearby dude.

I'd rather prefer the chance for them to have Nancy be stuck in the Upside Down.  Her looking for Barbara.  But instead, she's the center of a love triangle thing.  It felt like a missed chance.  But not as bad as the plan for Eleven seems.

The character of Eleven is kinda neat.  But then, you see how much of her is plot device, not a character.  Eleven's relationships to male characters define her, not anything about herself.  We don't even know what she wants.  I don't expect her to have been able to overcome that in the series.  I just kept wondering, why did she leave the lab?  Eleven tends to have so much lack of self-momentum.  Her "escape" feels just like a plot necessity.

Even Eleven's "sacrifice" at the end of the series felt more like plot motivation than character driven.  So much of the kids plot focuses on being antagonistic with her.  Yes, they get their 80s pop culture bits in with her.  But her painful flashbacks aren't the same as a relationship with the boys.  The boys (and most of the rest) never got to hear Eleven's story or at least her version of it.  They just got to use her powers to solve their plot.

That's kinda the rub that bugs me about the show.  I liked the rest of it.  The horrific monster, the strange "other" dimension, the characters, all that.  It felt like three great 80s films that merged into one.  I think it'll be one of the best things I'll rewatch too.

But choosing to dip into old tropes about women without trying to subvert them a bit, feels lazy to me.  It feels like the part of the plot that they could've changed from the 80s pile of tropes.  Without hurting the feel.  Some 80s stuff is great.  But a lot of the great 80s cultural pieces don't treat their female characters in a fair way.  Stranger Things apes that, albeit it subconsciously.

Go watch it.  It at least also proves that some series are best in smaller pieces.  Not the usual giant series we usually get for TV.  Awesome.  I hope the second season helps develop the female characters as characters, not plot devices.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Inksketches, Week of August 5th

Another Week, another pile of Inksketches done.

On twitter and instagram I post these sorts of images every day.  If you are looking for some place to follow and get these in your feed, check those out.

Also, if you want to support images like this, the stories on this blog and more, check out my patreon.  It isn't necessary for this stuff, but it'd help with expanding some of my projects a bit.  I also take commissions, so don't be afraid to message me about that.

Here's what I did this week:

This week, some character design, one piece of fanart, and certainly some strange images that almost are dreamlike.   Friday's image also caused me to do some poetry, which usually doesn't happen, so that's out there somewhere.

Another week down.  Kinda fell off the writing wagon this past week.  Let's see if I can get back on track!