The Diogenes Club

by David Meadows 23. September 2016 21:16

Feeling guilty about only uploading one new page today, so I'll compensate by waffling more than usual about that page.

If you haven't read the page yet, it's an encyclopaedia page: The Diogenes Club. Go and read it, then come back for the waffle.

First, you're quite possibly aware that I didn't invent the Diogenes Club. I freely admit that stole it. I do that a lot actually (remind me to write a post owning up to all of it one day).

But I probably didn't steal it from where you think I did. I came across it about 20 years ago in Kim Newman's book Anno Dracula, which I highly recommend as an excellent example of alternate history with a lot of literary name-dropping:

Newman's book, set in Victorian England, had one character who was a member of "The Diogenes Club", a mysterious group who are into shady spy games.

When I later needed just such an organisation to play a minor role in the Game, I used the name, because I thought it sounded cool and I thought, well, Kim Newman's not going to know or care.

What I didn't know was that Newman didn't invent the club. He used a lot of public domain characters in the novel (so I'm in good company) and the Diogenes Club was no exception. But it was more than 10 years later that I found out the origin, when I got this book for Christmas:


Which of course everyone should read at some point in their lives (I would suggest sooner than I did).

It's first mentioned in "The Greek Interpreter", I think, which is also the story that introduces Sherlock's brother, Mycroft Holmes, and it crops up a few more times after that. Oddly, Doyle never hints that it's anything other than a normal gentleman's club. It's later writers (such as Newman) who have run with the name and made it into a secret-service type organisation.

Anyway, that's the background. My Diogenes Club shares nothing in common with Doyle's original (other than I listed Mycroft Holmes as a member, because why not). It shared more in common with Newman's version, but by now is its own thing (it's been so long that I would have to read Newman's book again to remind myself how much I did take from him; I think nothing but the name (not his anyway) and basic concept (also not his idea originally)).

Where does The Diogenes Club fit into the Heroes Universe? It still exists in 1987 but Strikeforce will never encounter it. It still exists in 2014, and the Heroes might encounter it, but not for a long time yet and only in a minor way.

But as I've said before, there's a lot of background history in my Game universe, and the "Notable Members" listed for the Club are all people who have played roles in the Game's history.

Alfred Cutler was a key member of Strikeforce: 1777, where he served as First Lieutenant on His Majesty's Frigate Atlantis.

Bertram Wellington was a member of Strikeforce: 1865, where he was part of the ill-fated Abyssinian expedition.

Charles West is a character with a long history that ties into a plethora of important events, and you will meet him very soon in the Strikeforce story.

Edward Gillifray is a new character (as in, I just created him this week) whose story is yet to be told, as is Hudson the club steward.

Edward Playfair is a character I actually played in a different game, a game of Call of Cthulu a friend ran some years ago. I enjoyed playing the character so much that I transplanted him to my universe and wrapped him into Charles West's history.

Peter Flint is another stolen character (anyone recognise where from?) who I borrowed to flesh out some more of the history of Charles West.

Patrick Muldoon is a charater you might encounter in a (far-)future issue of Heroes, and a (even-further-)future chapter of Strikeforce. He's a massively important character in the history of the universe, but I won't say much more as I need to keep some things up my sleeve for now.

So now you know more than you ever needed to know about my Diogenes Club. The only other thing you might need to know is that I'll be running the Strikeforce: Edwardian Times game starting in about two weeks, and the Diogenes Club is key to the setting. So now you know why I needed to write this article now...

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Week 17

by David Meadows 23. September 2016 21:05

For various reasons, this week is very light on new material. No major fiction, and just one encyclopaedia page: The Diogenes Club. The choice of this page might seem a bit random, as it's not obviously connected to either the Strikeforce or Heroes stories, but it's something I needed to write anyway so I thought I might as well put it up here now. The connections will become apparent in the fullness of time.


How to prepare for a game...

by David Meadows 17. September 2016 14:38

Game in 22 minutes. Things to do:

1. Waste time on the Internet. Check.

2. Think and re-think the villain's plan. Change mind several times. Check.

3. Play rock music REALLY LOUD. Check.

4. Daringly have a second cup of coffee. Check.

5. Remember that I needed to look up how a character's new skill works. Whoops.

6. Have a new last-minute idea about the villain's plan. Check.

7. Change my mind about how to implement the villain's power within the rules. Uh-oh...

8. Waste a few more minutes writing an unnecessary blog post. Check.

14 minutes...


Week 16

by David Meadows 16. September 2016 19:33

Oh my, too much stuff to list. The main update is issue 9 of Heroes, and things start (but haven't yet finished) going horribly wrong for the group, which is why I had to call the issue "Onward and Downward".

Backup material this week includes entires in the History, Who's Who, Gazeteer, News Headlines, and Mission Report section. I'm not going to list all the links, you'll just have to go to the Home Page and find them all for yourself.

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Golden Heroes

by David Meadows 11. September 2016 22:51

Number 4 in an intermittent series on how this thing came to be. (See the sidebar for the others.)

Role-playing games (RPGs) became a thing around the mid-70s. Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) was the first one published, rapidly followed by a horde of imitators. I first encountered them around 1980, and D&D was the first one I played.

As I explained in a previous post, an RPG has a "games master" (GM) who devises the world and the plotlines, and "players" who take the part of characters in that world and move through the plots the GM creates for them. I started as a "player", which is probably how everybody should start. But although I loved being a player, I knew that all the real creativity came from the GM, and that's what I wanted to be. But there was no point in me being the GM for D&D, when our group already had one who was very good at it, so I needed something different. Almost randomly, I bought a second-hand game called Traveller. Unlike D&D, which was about heroes going on quests to slay fantasy monsters (the clue is pretty much there in the name), Traveller was a science fiction game. Which was good, because science fiction was what I really loved.

In a lot of ways, the Traveller rules were ridiculously primitive: both overly-simplistic and overly-complex at the same time. And a lot of things in them didn't really make any sense. But as I've already discussed, the rules are the least part of an RPG; the world is everything. The trouble was, In the first game session I ran I hadn't really figured that out. So I had a simple plot that didn't make much sense, set on a planet that didn't have any thought behind it. And the players created "cardboard" characters with no thought behind them; no personality, no goals or motivations, just playing pieces to solve the GM's puzzle. It didn't really work, and I almost stopped being a GM right then. But I went away, and thought about it, and realised what an RPG really was. It was a story. And I was good at making up stories (I thought). So I needed to stop thinking about a game, and start thinking about how to tell a story that my players could be part of.

I went to them and said, "I want to run Traveller again. What kind of stuff do you want to do?"

"We want to hijack a starship and explore space in it. Like Blake's 7."


Well, ok. That's my premise. Now write a story that satisfies that. I'll need a universe for them to explore... well, ok, a corner of the universe... a few planets... a political background... conflicts and potential conflicts... interesting things to discover in different corners of different planets... ok... I can do this...

Several hours of work and pages of background notes later, I got the players back together and we tried again.

We played that game weekly (in summer holidays, almost daily) for a couple of years. We pretty much stopped playing D&D. The players just kept asking for Traveller. And I kept making up new plots, and growing the universe more and more...

And something weird happened. Instead of mechanically plodding though my plot like it was a game of chess, the players had told me what they wanted to do within the game's world, and suddenly the world was as important to them as it was to me. They wanted to understand it. They wanted to work within it. And they did unexpected things that made me go away, re-evaluate my ideas, and come back with a better idea of what my world was like and how the players fitted into it. I had designed a world that would be there and make sense and keep working even if the players were not in it. But once they were in it, they affected the world. It reacted to them; it had to because they kept pushing at it. And they reacted to it in turn, as it pushed back at them, and their characters became more developed, well-rounded personalites, who felt like real people even as I tried to give them a real-feeling world to inhabit. It was still my world, but it was more than that. It was collaborative.

That's what all RPGs should be like, of course, and I know I'm not the only person to discover it. But from that point on I stopped creating "games" and started creating "worlds". Start with the world, and the plots for the games should become obvious, because you just have to look at what's happening in your world and ask, "How can the players interact with this?" I don't think I could run a game any other way now. I know some people play "one-off" games, short scenarios that don't need a detailed background, they stand alone, the players solve the puzzle, then they're over, finished. (Games designed to be run at conventions work like this, for example; they are never intended to continue for a second session, so why do you need a world beyond what the players will see in that one session?) And there's nothing wrong with that style of game, it's just that I don't think I could do that. With me, I need a world.

Over the next few years I ran several different games with various sets of rules. And always starting by creating a world.

And then some time in 1987, I saw this in a Games Workshop sale. The game that changed my life:

It was the first super-hero RPG I had seen, though I had known such things existed. And I loved super-heroes. I wasn't sure if I could convince my playing group to try such a game,  but Games Workshop were only asking £1.99 for it. I couldn't not buy it.

I bought it, and it was the most elegant set of RPG rules I had ever read. Even today, with rules generally more detailed and "sophisticated" than they were in the early days of the hobby, and even though I've bought and read dozens of sets of rules in all genres, I've never found anything with core mechanics that simulated the action of comic-book heroes as well as Golden Heroes does. I had to convince my players to try this.

But first, I had to create a world for my players to explore.

And that's another story...

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Week 15

by David Meadows 9. September 2016 21:11

New this week:

Chapter 8 of Strikeforce. Things are fairly quiet for Strikeforce, so it's a good time to focus on some solo character interludes, picking up threads from previous chapters and laying the groundwork for what's to come. In a fit of inspiration I've called this chapter "Interludes".

This week's Who's Who entry looks at what we've learned so far about Avatar.

The Gazetteer has a short bit on Crystal Lake Camp Ground, following my policy of getting the trivial entries out of the way before tackling the big stuff.

And as usual some extra bits of the History are filled in, adding 2002 to the timeline and filling in a few dates in other years. Lots and lots to do here still, but I don't want to start filling in historical details that will spoil future stories.

So, that's it really.


Week 14

by David Meadows 2. September 2016 20:15

After revealing Sara's background last issue, the only way I could follow that up was to have this issue narrated by Sara's mother. Her actual mother! So expect some more revelations about Sara's past. Plus James unmasks for the first time in front of the group and tells everybody about his father. But why does this make Sara unhappy?

All this in Heroes issue #8, an issue that could only be called: Family.

As if that wasn't enough excitement, I'm also launching an entire new section: The Gazetteer of the Heroes Universe. This section will do for "places" what the Who's Who section does for characters. There's only (unimportant) place described so far, but now I've got the section launched I'll be adding to it each week.

Plus a new news headlines page, some history updates, and, er, probably other stuff.

That's it for now. I'm off to do a rewrite of Strikeforce chapter 8 in time for next week's update.

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Week 13

by David Meadows 26. August 2016 21:21

Lead story this week is chapter 7 of Strikeforce.

I'll admit up front that I don't like this chapter. I think the original events in the game were poorly thought out (by me), and when I looked back at it to write it out as a story I couldn't make it work in any sensible kind of way.

So my options were to omit the chapter entirely or to do a major rewrite of the "real" events. Missing out the chapter wasn't actually an option -- a major group of charatcers have to be introduced, The Defense [sic] League of America, and as they will play a part in several future chapters this initial meeting with Strikeforce had to happen.

So instead, I went for a re-write. The events you will read are not really what happened when we played the game, I've cut out some confusing elements and given a whole new explanation for the fateful meeting, but it's covering the same ground in broad terms. Some of my changes may cause some problems down the line, but I can anticipate them and accomodate them with more minor changes in future chapters. I'm happy that the integrity of the narrative is presevered.

But I'm still not happy with the chapter I've presented. Sorry if it reads poorly, but it's all I've got.

Anyway, the numerous false starts and re-thinks of all that didn't leave me time for much else this week. I've added a new mission report and more L.A. Globe headlines , and these features have both now caught up to date with the events of the Heroes story, meaning I'll be able to keep them all in step in future.

I've also done a bit of updating in the history section, but nothing important.


Strikeforce: Edwardian Times

by David Meadows 21. August 2016 21:49

You know how CSI has lots of different spin-offs with different teams in different cities?

I do that. Except different cities are boring, so I'm doing different time periods. That's what all the items on the history page are.

Currently preparing for Strikeforce: Edwardian Times.

Here are some Edwardian gentlemen and ruffians waiting for their storylines...


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Week ... er ... 12

by David Meadows 19. August 2016 20:00

The last issue of Heroes ended with Sara kidnapped by the nefarious Temple of Unity. In part two of the story we ask the all-important question: can Sara finish telling her history in a series of cunningly-written flashbacks before her friends rescue her? The answer is in Heroes issue #7: Zero.

Seriously, you have to read this one. Learn Sara's background and how her power works. ("I'm good at finding things" ... you didn't fall for that, did you?)

And now I've covered her background in the story, she can get a biography page. Don't read this until after you read the issue!

And then there are some news headlines and another mission report from Don. And some general updates to history pages. And stuff like that.


About this blog

The Heroes Universe is an ongoing work of fiction, conceived and chiefly plotted by David Meadows, with help from a group of friends, over a 30-year period.

I am slowly documenting the Universe on this web site.

This blog is a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of that history.

If you're new here, the series of posts listed below will explain what it's all about. I hope...

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