Update 44

by David Meadows 17. February 2018 00:23

This week's Strikeforce update is chapter 21, "Breakthrough", and it has probably the most shocking ending of any chapter so far. Trust me, you won't believe the state our heroes are in by the end of it!

Two background "who's who" files this week: Jerome, to complement last week's revelations about his past, and to go with that we have a bio of Powl the Samurai who also featured in last week's story.

That's your lot this week, but I think the Strikeforce cliffhanger is more than enough to occupy you until the next update...

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Romance (II)

by David Meadows 14. February 2018 23:34

Ok, I was wrong. I just found some kissy stuff in issue 53 of Heroes.

Ewww, kissy stuff!!!

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Romance

by David Meadows 14. February 2018 19:39

Huh. Lovey dovey stuff. I don't really do it. I've tried it, and it's hard to write well. It's fairly easy to plot--basically all Romance novels have a very simplistic formula--but hard to write in convincing prose.

Then consider that the stories of Strikeforce and Heroes grew out of games, and were improvised by a group of men sitting around a table and making up the story as we went along. Romance didn't feature greatly in our ideas. Any that did arise were background things, usually plotted by me to flesh out some characters' personalities.

So basically, don't expect to find any big romantic plots unfolding in these pages. They will be there -- and sometimes will be essential to character or plot progression -- but I'm going to avoid writing about them as much as possible. It's all going to be implied, or understated, or confined to sub-text.

Because writing a convincing romance is hard, much harder than unfolding a mystery plot or pacing a fight scene. Remember that next time you scoff at Romance novels, and don't knock it until you've tried it.

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Skip Week

by David Meadows 6. February 2018 00:27

This is a "planned" skip week, so don't look for an update on Friday.

The reason I'm posting this is so you'll know it's part of a plan and doesn't mean I'm failing to stick to my schedule Wink

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Update 43

by David Meadows 3. February 2018 00:39

This week's story is issue 21 of Heroes: SAMURAI. Last issue we glimpsed the Chicago mob boss POWL THE SAMURAI, but this isn't his story -- it's Jerome's, and we finally learn a bit more about the man who claims to be from the 17th-century (but may be just a figment of Paul's imagination... you decide!)

The bio pages are a bit uninspiring this week. I've got a lot of characters (112 at last count) who have only appeared or been names once in the story, and they're hanging around on my character list like loose ends. So I'm going to try to get some of them written up and on the site. I've started with three who I'm reasonably confident will never be seen again (one is dead in the current Heroes story), and you'll find them under RECENTLY ADDED in the sidebar of the Who's Who index page. There isn't a lot of detail on any of them, simply because they were never designed to be detailed characters, they were throwaway names or faces needed for the plot. But I hate loose ends, so they have to get pages.

Hmm, at three a week it's going to take a long time to get through 112 characters. I might have to re-think this...

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Update 42

by David Meadows 26. January 2018 23:12

Something unusual this week. The Strikeforce chapter (Chapter 20: Panther Trap) is a "solo" adventure of Nightflyer, and it's by a guest writer, Stuart Forster. 

I never planned (or expected) to use guest writers, but Stuart is the the original creator of Nightflyer, so this chapter is as authentic as anything else in the Strikeforce story. After all, Stuart knows how Nightflyer really thinks and feels; I only pretend I know.

And just so it looks like I've done at least a bit of work this week, I've written a who's who entry for the first Greywolf. The useful thing about writing about characters who have died in the story is that I don;t have to worry about ever updating them as new information is revealed.

Talking about updating, I've made a slight amendment to the Strikeforce encyclopaedia entry to add Astra as an associate member. Will she ever be promoted to a "full" member? You'll have to keep reading...

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Update 41

by David Meadows 19. January 2018 23:55

Weekly updates are still on track (it's a miracle!) but only a couple of pages this time.

The main one is the next issue of Heroes, #20: Chicago Knight. This follows on directly from issue 19, which was published so long ago you'd better go and read that again first.

Chicago Knight introduces a new character, Knight Owl, who is bound to become a big star, so you've basically got to read the issue or you'll feel as silly as those people who didn't buy The Incredible Hulk #181.

The only other new page is a bio of Supernova, but it's a really long page because Supernova is one of the key characters of the universe, a founder of the Defense League and (before Strikeforce turned up) the man considered Earth's mightiest hero.

Update 41 is still on schedule for next week.

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Update ... 40, I think

by David Meadows 12. January 2018 22:00

Months overdue. No excuses. I'll aim to get back to a weekly schedule, but it might be a bit light until I build up a decent reserve of content. Next week should go ahead as I already have Heroes #20 ready, but I'm not sure after that...

So, this week we've got a new Strikeforce chapter, chapter 19, "Major Changes", called that because ... well, you'll see.

The other content is a bit light. I want to flesh out the Defense League of America (seen in Strikeforce chapter 7 and scheduled to recur several times) so I've started with the Green Knight. And I want to build up more of the immediate pre-Strikeforce history, so there's a timeline of important events in 1986. I've been thinking of a complete revamp of the history section because the format doesn't quite work, so this might be the last timeline update for a while while I work on a new look and architecture for it.

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First test with players

by David Meadows 18. September 2017 19:41

I have a handle on how the combat rules work from my solo test, and the next step was a test with the players. I created some simple characters for them to use, and set up a simple situation against some typical enemy forces.

This has two benefits: first, it teaches them the rule mechanics. Second, it lets them see first-hand what a character can and can't do, what he's vulnerable to, how the game treats the balance between weapons and defences, how effective different skills are at different levels, and so on. When they come to create their own characters, they'll have a better idea of how to create someone balanced and effective.

To cut a long story short, the test was a great success (at least from my point of view). It went slowly, because I did a lot of referencing rule books, but I've satisfied myself that once I have the rules off pat it's going to be quick and simple to run.

The players threw themselves into the spirit of the test, trying all manner of things to test the rules to destruction. So we had people on foot and in vehicles, crazy manoeuvres, tanks crashing through buildings and pedestrians, all manner of different weapons being employed, people picking up grenades and throwing them back before they exploded, people sneaking around as well as charging in recklessly. We learned that you need to be very skillful to shoot from a moving vehicle, that machine guns aren't as good as you think they are (except when they are), that grenades are horrible but survivable, that (un)lucky dice can upset you but there are ways to mitigate the disaster, and that skilled characters can take on three-to-one odds and win comfortably, as long as they're clever about it.

Overall, I'm very happy with how things are going.

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Familiarity Breeds ...

by David Meadows 16. September 2017 21:43

A reader asked, "How does familiarity with the players affect the game?" and it's a good question that I'm not sure I know the answer to.

Everything in my recent series of posts isn't intended as a "how to" for new games masters, as every GM has to find his own approach. The posts were simply a record of my own personal process (though if they have provoked some thoughts in other GMs, that's a nice bonus). For a start, the single biggest factor affecting my process that won't affect new games masters is my familiarity with my players.

Two of my playing group have been with me since I started the Strikeforce game 30 years ago. The rest of the group joined at various points within the first three years or so. Over the years, others have come and gone, but my current group has been playing my game together weekly for almost 30 years.

That’s a lot of familiarity. They know how I plot things, and I know how they react to things. That's a really nice feeling, in a lot of ways, and a major annoyance in others. No matter what twist I come up with in a plot, the players are going to foresee it, because they know how I think. It makes surprising them a real challenge, to the extent where I now don't try to surprise them, I try to just make the totally-anticipated events enjoyable for what they are.

Sometimes I play on the familiarity. It's now an accepted convention that a red-haired, green-eyed woman with a mysterious past will appear in every historical era, and she'll be from a pure Atlantean bloodline and may or may not be a sorceress (and may or may not, in fact, be the same immortal person -- I know at least one of my players suspects she is). But knowing that the players expect her to turn up isn't a problem, it just gives me the challenge of making her exact motivations interesting this time around.

Working the other way, having an idea of what the players will do in any given situation makes me better able to deduce the outcome and lets me get away with plotting less redundant possible paths for them to follow. I can give the impression that they have four possible choices, for example, while being 90% certain they will take choice "A", and therefore concentrating on fleshing out that part of the plotline.

Or course, it doesn't always work that way and I still can't allow myself to get too complacent.

A significant problem with this "game familiarity" is that I don’t know if it is now possible to add new players to my existing group. Never mind about whether they will enjoy my playing style, the real problem is how could they ever have a clue what’s going on? My players and I have 30 years of shared knowledge of the universe. I never need to explain "Atlantean", because they know exactly what it means in the context of my game. They're good enough players not to let that knowledge colour their characters' actions, of course (in a game, your character is only allowed to know what he should logically know, even if the player knows a lot more). But as a shorthand I can say "Atlantean" to the players and save myself a long plot exposition.

How do you introduce a brand new player into that environment?

I have literally no idea.

In my more self-doubting moments, I think maybe I'm not a good GM at all, and I wouldn't be able to run a game for anybody else, and it's only the familiarity factor which lets my game stagger along at all.

And, you know what? That's ok. I don't aspire to be the world's best games master. I just aspire to make my game the best game it can be for my players

That's all any GM should worry about.

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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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