Update (week 38)

by David Meadows 9. June 2017 23:01

As promised, something a bit different this week. The site gets an entire new section, Atlantis, documenting the beginnings of the Heroes universe.

There is a short piece of fiction -- and I do mean short, barely over 1000 words, which is shorter than any of the Strikeforce chapters -- that's only supposed to introduce the setting and key characters. As I get further into the story, expect chapters to be more reasonable lengths.

There are also supporting entries in the who's who, history, encyclopaedia, and gazetteer pages. They can all be accessed from the main Atlantis page.

There's even a map! I drew it with coloured pens and everything! Who doesn't love maps?

Next update will go back to a regular Strikeforce chapter. I'm still not sure how often I will update the Atlantean section. It will probably be intermittent.

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Atlantis

by David Meadows 6. June 2017 22:03

(or, "What Do You Do After Breaking The Universe - Twice?")

I'm shortly (probably next Friday, if all goes well) about to launch a third strand of fiction on the site, alongside Strikeforce and Heroes. Here, I'll try to explain why I'm doing something so insane.

The original Strikeforce game lasted 300 playing sessions over about 7 years. After I "broke" the universe with the Event, I re-started it as the Heroes game, and that ran almost 20 years, bringing the total number of playing sessions to 1000, when I managed to break the universe a second time and bring the whole Game to an end. I was burned out. I had been creating stories in the same universe for 25 years, 1000 "chapters" of a story that, if I ever finish adapting it, is going to be the equivalent a five-million-word novel. (The Bible is three-quarters of a million words. The combined Harry Potter books are slightly over a million. Me and my players have written a BIG story.)

So that was it, I'd had enough of writing superhero plots. I finished on what I hoped was a bang, with a big storyline that tied off as many loose ends as I could manage and literally ended the universe, so I couldn't change my mind later. Then I sat back and put my feet up.

I was out of the hero business.

For a couple of weeks. 

Then I needed to create things again. I can't help it. It's what I do.

I approached my players and asked if they'd like to try a fantasy-style game. No superheroes, just knights and wizards and thieves in a clichéd pseudo-mediaeval setting. They said yes, and I started creating a setting, characters, plots, and everything else a game world needed. I picked a set of rules that I'd first played decades ago and had always wanted to run my own game with: Dragonquest

Image result for dragonquest rpg

The rules date from the early 80s, and by modern standards are pretty creaky and over-complex. But in play, they actually work really well, they give you a lot of options (a lot more than the primitive Dungeons & Dragons rules, for example) and don't attempt to impose any specific background on the game. Which is what I wanted. I'm not interested in modern systems which present a fully-developed world for you to play your games in. Developing the world is what I do.

I already knew the world I would use: the world of mythical Atlantis, shortly before it sank beneath the waves. Taking whatever elements I wanted from the myths, and adding elements of my own, I pretty soon had an entire world sketched out, a main plot arc for the players to follow, and plenty of peripheral characters and plots to allow a theoretically open-ended campaign. I could run 25 years of games in Atlantis, if I wanted to.

But -- this wasn't a new game universe. I didn't tell the players (they fairly soon figured it out for themselves), but this game was taking place in the past of the Strikeforce universe. And during the game, I would be explaining the history of some of the key mysteries of the Strikeforce universe: magic, demons, Avatar's Amulet of Karoona, and more. This game wasn't just Atlantis. It was Strikeforce: Atlantis.

So I had managed to suck myself back in again. There's something about Strikeforce. I try to move on, but they keep pulling me back. They have become a millstone around my neck.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

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Suddenly, One Year Later...

by David Meadows 27. May 2017 01:17

It's exactly one year since I started this web site. In the last year, I have made 37 weekly updates. Ok, the mathematicians among you might work out that if they really were weekly there would have been 52 of them. I had more skip weeks than I wanted (including this one, sorry), but I'm happy enough with 37. I'll see if I can beat that total in the second year.

There are now 152 pages on the site in total. That's around three pages a week, every week of the year. Some of those pages might only be a few lines long, but others are 5000-word Strikeforce chapters, so that's a lot of words. I think there must be close to 200,000  words on the site, so I've written enough for a respectable novel. Let's see if I can beat that in the second year, too.

In additon to the actual site updates I've got 80 posts on this blog, many of them trivial but I've basically achieved my initial goal of documenting the behind-the-scenes look at what this site is all about. Specifically the set of eight pages in the "Start here" list at the right ---> , which is probably now complete (I can't think of any more major things I need to explain).

Plans for the forthcoming year is to launch a new strand of fiction, in fact I'm currently on schedule for launching it in the next update, which should be in a couple of weeks. I'm not sure that it's sensible to run three stories in parallel, and in fact the "third strand" might be irregular, but I'll see how it goes.

So, that's how things stand. Onward and upward.

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Best plan ever?

by David Meadows 21. May 2017 23:03

Sometimes in a Game you throw a no-win situation at the players. I don't mean you kill them all with an undefeatable monster (though actually... I've done that too), but you give them a dilemma in which every solution has unpalatable consequences, so you're forcing them to make a moral choice to decide which is the lesser of two evils. Depending on what they choose, you follow through with the consequences and the Game changes as a result.

Sometimes, you wait for them to realise that they have two unpalatable options, and out of the blue they come up with a third way you've never even considered, one which you hadn't planned for and probably shouldn't allow, but which is so awesomely argued (all in character, no "cheating" with knowledge the characters shouldn't have) that you just have to allow it, even if it means completely chucking out future plot lines that you've spent weeks working out in anticipation of the "defeat".

This is one such plan proposed by a player's character in the Game. In his own words:

 

"Perhaps either the Event Field is 'indestructible' and interference is pointless, or the consequences to the Universe itself will be far worse than mere interstellar conflict if it's artificially extinguished. So I'd like to propose a compromise, a third alternative. Why don't you utilise the Dream Weaver Device to divert rather than eliminate the effect? I propose a three stage process, which will necessarily require use of the Device and the absolute trust and co-operation of everybody involved. Firstly, over the area of space-time encompassing the Event horizon itself, amend a basic Physical Law. Instead of being Mass multiplied by Velocity, briefly define Momentum as being equal to Mass multiplied by Speed. Secondly, curve that area of space time, nudging the direction of travel of the Event in space by ninety degrees i.e. perpendicular to its previous direction of travel. Thus we would have a rotating rather than an expanding phenomenon around the Earth. With our adjusted definition of Momentum, the direction component of velocity is not an issue thus Conservation of Momentum / Energy is conserved. Thirdly, restore the previous definition of Momentum to the area of space time previously affected. The Event phenomenon has not been destroyed, merely 'steered' and contained into a constantly rotating and non expanding configuration! The Event itself isn't to be targeted, merely the area of space-time it occupies."

 

Best. Players. Ever.

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Haven

by David Meadows 21. May 2017 22:09
One day many years ago, probably in the pub after a Game session, and possibly under the influence of alcohol, I said to the players:
 
"Haven is where everything touches but never meets, while the Parallax is where everything meets but never touches."
 
If I'm honest, I don't think I had any idea what that meant. It just sounded cool. My ideas of multi-universal cosmology were still a work in progress. But from that statement, or rather, from trying to subsequently justify that statement and make it true, came the so-called "Beermat" model of the multiverse, the five demons, and basically everything that underpinned the big concepts of my Game universe and drove stories for the next 25 years.
 
I was just reminded of this today when reading some old notes and came across this (reasonably accurate) transcript of a conversation between the players arguing in-character during the course of a Game:
 

"Supposing you're right and the Demon itself wasn't destroyed during the Event. What you seem to be implying is that it's fleeing from Earth at the speed of light consuming whatever 'magic' it encounters, growing stronger as it expands. If this is the case it will have the power it needs to achieve criticality and complete its takeover of the universe long before it engulfs the entire galaxy. Considering the situation, we don't see any other choice but to utilise the Doomsday Device against the Event field!"

 "You are missing the point! The Demon is the outside of the Event! The Event itself is non-Demon. It is a purging/pushing/repelling field, not an all powerful Demon containment field! Look, the Event MUST survive to progress through the whole universe before the end of Time so that the entirety of the Demon energy is destroyed before the Universe restarts!"

"You possess absolutely no evidence to support that hypothesis! As has been proven by subsequent events the Event field is self contained and has no link to Earth. Besides which, it's not an anti-Demon field! It's an improbability manipulation spell!"

 
(And there was a lot more of it, it goes on for pages) 
 
Bear in mind that this isn't me writing the argument, it's players with differing interpretation of how the universe -- my universe -- works, each trying to convince the other they are right, without reference to me.
 
This is why I love the Game. It's the player input. They really care about it to the extent that they don't just listen to my explanations of stuff, they think about them in character and have their characters come up with new theories to explain the facts they've been given. 
 
And then they argue with each other about them. 
 
It's awesome.
 
I have the best players.

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Update (week 37)

by David Meadows 12. May 2017 19:15

CAPTION (FRED'S BLOG):

If Huey has problems, they're not our problems. No reason for us to get involved. 

Unless somebody tells Captain Boyscout. 

SARA:

We need to help Huey. I think you should talk to him.

JAMES:

Me? Oh, no—

CAPTION (FRED'S BLOG):

Funny thing about this group. When James decides something, we do it. 

Sara figured this out a while ago and makes sure that what James decides is what she wants. 

 

Yes, it's another chapter in the life of everybody's favourite "we're-not-a-team" group of heroes. Issue 19 is called Huey's Place. Read the issue to find out why.

Elsewhere on the site I've been tidying up the history pages, including new timelines for 1981 and 1996 which introduce (or foreshadow) some new characters and plot lines which won;t mean anything to you......yet!

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Update (week 36)

by David Meadows 5. May 2017 21:17

This week, the conclusion to the "Avatar" two-part tale: Strikeforce chapter 18: Karoona.

Avatar has been dragged to Hell, but I'm sure he'll be ok. I mean, he's a demon anyway, right?

 

     His arms and legs were bound to it by iron chains. On Earth, Avatar’s strength would have shattered the manacles without an effort. But here, the manacles were as strong as Karoona willed them to be. After a token effort, he hadn’t even tried to break free. 

     Karoona reached down and with one clawed hand he grasped the amulet Avatar always wore around his neck. It was a five-pointed star set in a circle, suspended from a silver chain. It was also the object that a Human wizard had used to bind Karouvicine to the Earthly plane. As long as he wore it, Avatar would retain his free will on Earth.

     Karoona tore the chain from Avatar’s neck. 

 

Uh-oh.

If the trauma of reading that doesn't finish you off, you might want to look at the new biographies of a couple of Strikeforce supporting characters: the DICE agent Huey and the villainous Dragon.

 

Next update next week. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

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Missing players

by David Meadows 2. May 2017 22:31

Sometimes when you're playing a game, you have a player who can't be there for some reason. There are a number of ways to deal with it. If you're in the middle of an adventure, you do your best to continue it while you (as GM) play the missing player's character as fairly as you can. If you're about to start a new adventure, you simply assume the player's character is somewhere else that day, and go on without him.

Or, if you have enough advance notice, you prepare a game that can only take place when the player is absent. For example, when Avatar's player was away for one session, I had Avatar kidnapped by a demon. I couldn't do that if the player was present. Well, I could, but it wouldn't be fair on him to make him just watch, completely uninvolved, while the other players tried to rescue him.

So, Strikeforce chapters 17 and 18: it's all Avatar's player's fault.

It's also the pivotal story of the entire 30-year Game, as I may have mentioned.

Chapter 18 coming this Friday...

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Update (week 35)

by David Meadows 28. April 2017 21:08

In the last issue of Heroes, we left Don alone, injured, and surrounded by enemies. Can his young proteges find him in time?

 

Sara still stands looking out over the forest.

SARA: Down there.

JAMES:  That's a ten meter vertical drop. Then the hill gradient is--

JAMES: It's a long way to fall, Sara, that's all I'm saying.

SARA: Don's the best there is.

 

To find out, read issue 18: Found.

Aww, heck. I've given the answer away in the title. (But there's another, more important meaning to the title. You'll find out by the end.)

Also this update: biographies of two Strikeforce supporting characters: Professor Zod and his daughter Carla.

 

 

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Maps

by David Meadows 25. April 2017 22:32

I have spent the evening tracing maps of Ecuador, so I can turn part of it into the (fictional) country of San Lostos.

I love maps. One of the great things about RPGs is that you can draw all kinds of maps of all the places you make up. Except when you set your game in the real world, then you don't have much opportunity to draw maps because you can just use an atlas.

So I'm quite happy with San Lostos. The map still needs work, but when I've finished it I'll put up some scans of it...

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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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