Complete blank...

by David Meadows 24. April 2017 22:29

Trying to write down events that happened 30 year ago is hard. I'm half way through describing a battle with the demon that kidnapped Avatar (that was in Strikeforce #17, in case you didn't read it) and I suddenly have no idea how Strikeforce won. This demon is so powerful, I know that everything they tried against it must have failed. I know they did win (sorry, spoiler!) but can't remember how.

Normally when this happens, I just make up something that's dramatically satisfying and produces the right outcome.

Except in this case, he's so powerful, I can't think of anything that's going to produce a believable victory.

It's not exactly "writer's block" (I don't think that actually exists, it's a myth put about by lazy writers) but it is an annoying problem...

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Spoilers

by David Meadows 22. April 2017 09:51

It's getting trickier to decide which background articles to publish each week. I have a (growing) list of (currently) over 400 names, places, and dates that have been referenced in the story or in other articles and will eventually need to be written up. But several of the more key ones would give away plot spoilers that I would prefer to come out as surprises in the story. 

Here are the top 10 (based on number of references to them) articles I need to write:

Row Labels Count of REFERENCES
James 17
Scorpio 15
Chi-Yun 14
K-Men 11
Jerome 11
Astra 9
Anarchists 9
Carla Zod 8
Paul 8
Black Zero 7

Of that list, Carla Zod is the only one I can write about in a not-too-spoilery way (so that will be next week's). The rest would completely spoil several major (that was a pun and a hint, by the way) mysteries that I'm trying to build up in the story.

So that's why I'm filling out the encyclopaedia with irrelevant things like fictional book reviews and legal firms that don't need explaining and didn't even really need naming in the story in the first place.

I'll try to include enough meaty stuff to stop it being to boring. But it's getting harder...

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Update (week 34)

by David Meadows 21. April 2017 21:57

In this week's Strikeforce chapter, Avatar gets himself in a spot of bother:

 

‘If Karoona wants Avatar, then we must foil him. We must retrieve him,’ said the Sorcerer at last.

‘That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you,’ said Nightflyer. ‘So how?’

‘Someone must journey to the Nether Regions and retrieve him.’

‘Why do I get the feeling that’s going to be us and not you?’ asked Scorpio.

‘Oh, I cannot go. Far too dangerous for me to place myself in Karoona’s grasp so openly.’

‘Well, there’s a surprise,’ said Electron.

 

The most important storyline in Strikeforce's history (and that's not even hyperbole) kicks off in Chapter 17: Haven

Supplementing this, I have two book reviews: Demon City: The Haunting of Vancouver, and It Happens in Underground Car Parks. And yes, both are connected to the story! And just to tidy up a loose end, I've added a really trivial article on Wallis and Wallis.

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Avatar

by David Meadows 17. April 2017 22:40

When did Avatar become the most important character in the Game? It's hard to say for sure, but it started in Strikeforce chapter 17, coming this Friday. My ideas of how my universe (its cosmology) worked started to crystallise then.

I thought I was running a basically science fiction Game, but that went wrong right from the start when one player decided to play a demon.

It was trying to reconcile that choice, and fit demons into my (I thought) rational universe, that gave me the key over-arching plotline that ran through the whole Game.

I'm not going to give it away now. And chapter 17 won't really explain anything either. But it's where the explanation starts. Don't miss it!

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Research

by David Meadows 14. April 2017 18:14

I've got more bothered about getting historical and geographic details right recently. Because the Game is set in what's more-or-less our real world, I've always used real places and historical events as background, but as long as the details were vaguely right then I wasn't too bothered about absolute accuracy. As the Game progressed, I took more care over getting things right -- possibly because the players were getting better at pointing out errors ("But the Luger wasn't in use in 1907" "Oh...").

This has led to some retroactive headaches. I've been editing the bios of Carl and Carla Zod, ready to upload in a future site update, and finding all kinds of errors that I presumably didn't know or care about 30 years ago but now are really bugging me.

Such as, why is Carl Zod teaching at University of California San Francisco? When I introduced Zod in the fifth Game session (or Strikeforce chapter 5), I set the story in San Francisco completely at random. So when writing Zod's background, I placed him at UCSF.

The problem is (I know now): it's a medical school. Not the obvious place to find one of the world's foremost theoretical physicists.

I'm not going to re-write history (i.e. the details played out in the scenario 30 years ago and chronicled in chapter 5 last year) to have Strikeforce meet him at his home in Los Angeles. I'm stuck with San Francisco. But I'm tweaking his background so it makes a bit more sense in the "real" world.

It probably wouldn't bother anyone else if it was wrong. But things like that have started to bother me...

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Diversity

by David Meadows 13. April 2017 21:56

There's a big fuss in the media at the moment about diversity in Marvel comics. Apparently, Marvel editors believe that people aren't buying Marvel comics because we don't like the "diverse" (non-straight-white-male) casts they've introduced.

As a life-long Marvel reader who no longer reads them, let me set the record straight: I didn't stop buying their comics because they introduced black, female, or gay characters. I stopped reading them because they were consistently publishing bad comics. I'm talking about having storylines that were impossible to follow, making beloved characters act completely out of character, and randomly cancelling and restarting titles just to make it as hard as possibly to know what to buy. I stopped buying Marvel comics because their editors no longer knew how to put out good comics, not because they had gay heroes. Every lapsed Marvel reader I've spoken to has said the same.

Soooo....... how does my universe score on diversity? Probably pretty poorly. It was simply never a consideration when I started the Game. So the vast majority of characters are straight, white males. In later years I (and I think my players too, though we never discussed it) put more thought into having a greater variety of character backgrounds. So I think you'll find the Heroes cast more diverse than the Strikeforce cast. But the mix of main characters still isn't anywhere near representative of modern America.

I could retroactively make half the supporting cast black, but that would be the very epitome of "tokenism", making a change just so I could say I've done it, and I don't think it serves any useful purpose.

So I'm sorry, I've got a mostly non-diverse cast, and I'm stuck with it. It's just how it is.

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Don

by David Meadows 9. April 2017 10:14

Don wasn't supposed to be an important character. When I introduced the DICE organisation to the Game, the main and only important character was supposed to be Major Eastwood, its leader (a thinly disguised Nick Fury, as I'm sure everybody figured out). But I needed other agents, so Don started as a generic background extra, and then got a name probably around the time Scorpio saved his life

He could still have faded into the background, but now he had a reason to be remembered. Scorpio had saved his life, so there was a bond there, and when I needed more DICE agents to appear in a plot it just made sense to say it was Don. So now he needed a personality, and a background, and a skill set beyond being "generic secret agent #1".

Huey, Dewey and Luey were quickly added to DICE because Don needed a team and, well, I love names that are puns and/or have meta-textual meaning. Ed ("the duck") Mallard was also an inevitable addition by this point.

Don was never a major character, because the Game had to be exclusively about Strikeforce, and he didn't really appear very often, but his appearances were remembered. 

When I ended Strikeforce and moved the story "twenty years later", the main characters would be young super-humans on the run. I needed an older mentor for them, someone who could lead them into the stories I wanted to tell. From the moment I concieved the idea, there could only be one choice: Don.

When we started that next phase of the Game, I introduced Don and the players accepted it with a smile, because they knew it was exactly right. As players they knew and trusted Don, and so it made it easy for them to believe that their characters would trust and follow him. It wasn't something forced on them to make the story work, it was something that made sense within the world and felt right.

In the Strikeforce story, I introduced Don by name earlier than I did in the Game, and I gave him and his squad larger supporting roles. Whenever I've needed a generic DICE agent, I've made it Don or one of his team. Because it probably was, except I hadn't given them names at that point. And because I knew Scorpio had to be with Don at a certain point in order to save his life and for them to become friends, so why not begin the association a little sooner? I think it works.

Don went from un-named to cardboard character to trusted friend to key participant to one of my favourite characters over years of play, and I like to think it all grew organically. I hope it looks that way from the outside. But you've still got lots of his story to read ...

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Page count

by David Meadows 8. April 2017 12:37

I complied the Strikeforce chapters into a single, print-ready document, and it's 132 pages long. That's the length of a (short) novel.

More accurately, it's 57,000 words, which isn't quite novel length. But the Heroes scripts are 85,000 words in total (though slightly less useful measure, because of the nature of the comic script format). Together, that's a respectable length novel.

Now, bear in mind that I've only written up about six months' worth of a 30-year-long game.

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Update (week 33)

by David Meadows 7. April 2017 21:40

Remember back in Heroes issue 14 we had a cliffhanger showing Don in trouble?

Well it's time to look in and see how he's getting on [Spoiler: not good] in issue 17, cunningly titled Whatever Happened to Don?

Hey, it's only a squad of shape-shifting, super-human killing machines. Not a problem for Don, right?

Well, all that is so exciting that to calm you down there's a couple of very minor background articles, one on the Stone Circle seen in Strikeforce #14 and one on Casey's Bar seen in Strikeforce #8. Not terribly important places, you might think, but they still need to be documented (and the story will feature both of them again).

No update is scheduled for next week due to other stuff, so come back on the 21st and hopefully I'll have something then.

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Update (week 32)

by David Meadows 24. March 2017 20:46
This week I proudly present chapter 16 of Strikeforce: The Hill, Part II.
 
Last time, we saw Strikeforce finally discover the hidden Anarchist base. And now...
 
     ‘The important thing is, we know where it is and we can storm it,’ said Nightflyer. ‘Let’s go now while it’s dark.’
     ‘Hold on,’ cautioned Electron. ‘I’m as keen as anyone, but as we’re pretty sure they have hostages in there ...’
     ‘He’s right,’ said Eastwood. ‘They’ve been there a long time, they’re not going anywhere now. So nobody goes blundering in until we have a plan. That’s an order. Understood?’ He glared around at Strikeforce, daring them to object.
     ‘I’m all about the plans,’ said Nightflyer cheerfully. Electron snorted and Nightflyer gave him an innocent look.
 
What could possibly go wrong?
 
On top of that I've done some work on the history pages, added short entries for 1829 and 1849 and tidied up some other bits of the timeline. And I'm afraid that's your lot for this update.

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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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