Plans for 2017

by David Meadows 8. January 2017 23:06

Yesterday, the "Edwardian" game (players as members of the Diogenes Club in 1907) drew to a conclusion and was a resounding success (by Strikeforce standards): European war averted and a spectacular Zeppelin explosion over northern France. So last night we held our annual Strikeforce summit (in the pub) to map out where we're going next.

My next historical era is the 1930s, a pulp adventure with lost cities, jungles, and probably Nazis (there are always Nazis). To give me a few weeks to properly plan the new game, we traditionally go back to an earlier game and pick that up again (something I have already created the background for takes much less work; if I've done it properly the first time then when we pick it up again it should virtually run itself, so it buys me a breathing space to develop the new era).

As we now have eight developed eras, from Ancient Atlantis to the Old West, I throw it open to players to vote on what they want to do. I was betting on either Atlantis or Victorian Africa, but they completely blindsided me by picking the Crusades. This went down so badly last time that I thought it would never come up again, so it's the one I'm least prepared for. I can't remember the rules, let alone what the plot is. So, a busy and stressful week ahead, before I can even begin to think about the 1930s...


The other thing I've been thinking about is how I'm going to be updating the web site in the coming year. And my conclusion is, pretty much the same as I have been. Weekly updates have been manageable, and I can;t see any reason why I shouldn't be able to keep the same pace. Though I might build in a few deliberate "skip weeks" to let me get on content generation. I had the laughable idea that over the Christmas break I should be able to write at least a couple of months' worth of Strikeforce stories, and I failed miserably. I should be ok for the rest of January, and after that I'll reassess.

One thing I've wanted to do from the start is put some of the "historical" games into story form, with the Atlantean story being the obvious place to start. There are two things I need to work out first, though. Mainly, I need to make sure that I have an approach to writing the story in an entertaining manner. I'm still working on that. The other problem is that I don't know how I'll ever find the time to write a third long-form story. I think the only way I could do it would be to alternate it with Strikeforce and Heroes, so you get a chapter of Heroes, a chapter of Strikeforce, and a chapter of Atlantis, on three-week cycle.

So I'm still thinking that over, but if I can do it then I'll try to start it sometime in the middle of the year. I think I need to write a few chapters first, then if they seem any good I'll start putting them up on the site.


So, that's the plan. Probably nobody except me wanted to know all that.


Plot Books

by David Meadows 7. January 2017 13:43

My plan for this morning was to write an article of the Department of Intelligence and Counter-Espionage (DICE). Unfortunately, I can't find my notes on this anywhere on my computer. Which means they must be in one of my Plot Books.


These are my Plot Books:


This could take some time...


Week 27

by David Meadows 6. January 2017 22:49

The new issue of Heroes is a bit different from usual, because the focus is off the main characters. Instead we're looking at what some of the peripheral characters are doing while the main characters just ... hang out and go shopping. It's designed to show that there's a whole living universe surrounding the cast, and events don't just stop because Sara wants to buy a new coat. Everything is connected in the end, of course, and hopefully you'll see the links (or guess the foreshadowing).

The issue is called Meanwhile... , for obvious reasons.

Other new items are a bio of Luey, who you should know from both Strikeforce and Heroes, a timeline of 2348, and a gazetteer entry for the Troll Club

And if you've got any time left after that, I strongly recommend the extensive article on the Krai, who are currently making life difficult for Strikeforce in the Aliens story arc (to be concluded next week).

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We're back!

by David Meadows 5. January 2017 15:10

Coming tomorrow in Heroes #14: the girls go shopping!


PAGE FIVE. Five panels.

Panel 1

Daylight. A city. Specifically, the exterior of a shopping mall. If it's not obvious what it is, we can include a sign: "QUEENSTOWN MALL". (Name unimportant -- just something to set the scene.)

CAPTION (voice-over, continuing SPY's thought):

"Where are teenage runaways likely to go?"

VOICE (from inside mall):

This is absolutely perfect!


Winnipeg, Canada.

Panel 2

Inside the mall. It's a female-clothing store. SARA is wearing a big, sky-blue coat trimmed with white fur -- just the thing for the Canadian winter. (It's fake fur, of course. I know there's no way to convey this point on a comic panel, I just thought I ought to mention it.) She's examining the coat in a full-length mirror. CHI-YUN sits on a nearby chair, looking bored.


What do you think, Chi-Yun?


Sara, your power lets you find anything you need. Why does shopping take so long?

Panel 3

SARA turns an exasperated look on CHI-YUN.


You just don't get it, do you?

CHI-YUN (softly):


Panel 4

SARA is sorting through a rack of clothing.


Just try something on!


I don't need clothes. My skin can look like whatever I want.

Panel 5

SARA holds out a horribly cute pink jacket with flowers or hearts or something.


Don't you get cold?




And I'm never going to wear that.

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Week 26

by David Meadows 9. December 2016 23:33

Today's new chapter is Strikeforce chapter 13: Crossfire. Strikeforce meet their first extra-terrestrial! Or two... or three... 

Over in the Who's Who section you can get the whole life story of Don Newman. This is probably the most important bio published so far. Don straddles both the Strikeforce and Heroes eras, and has done a lot more besides, so this is packed with more background detail than anything I've published so far.

After all that effort, the other new pages have to be fairly minor: a piece on the Vancouver Sentinel which I admit is pretty pointless, and a timeline of 1997 in which you might find a couple of interesting details (whether background teasers or foreshadowing, you decide).

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Back on track (again).

by David Meadows 6. December 2016 20:16

There will definitely be an update on Friday. I've just finished Chapter 13 of Strikeforce.

Here's the trailer:


Covered by suppression fire from the rest of the squad, two of the Krai moved towards M’Krell.

Their tactics were flawless. But those tactics relied on their opponents doing the sane thing and keeping their heads down.

They weren’t designed for Nightflyer.


Dern dern dern!


Parallel Stories

by David Meadows 3. December 2016 22:24

(Number 8 in an occasional series. See sidebar for full series.)


Last time I wrote one of these essays, I explained how the Game storyline had two distinct parts, set 20 years apart. In the Game, I could throw in references to the past in order to amuse the players, while they implicitly agreed not to use their knowledge of the "past" to cheat in the "present".

If I was writing this story sensibly, I would start with Strikeforce chapter 1, write 300 chapters of Strikeforce, and then move on to Heroes issue 1, set 20 years later, so you would be reading the story in the order the players played it.

Of course I didn't do that. I started writing both stories in parallel.

One one level, I hope it adds interest to each story for the reader. When you met Don in Heroes #1, hints were laid that he had a long and (hopefully) interesting history. When you met him again In Strikeforce #5, you get more of his backstory from another end. James tells us that his father was the leader of Strikeforce 20 years ago, and although you haven't yet met "Major Democracy" in Strikeforce, I hope you're seeing clues to his identity by now, and I hope it's whetted your appetite to see the story of Major Democracy unfold. [Note for later readers: this blog is being written between the publication of Strikeforce 12 and 13.]

But adding clever back-references to whet your appetite is one thing. "Spoilers" are something completely different. And that's going to be a problem for me, if it hasn't been already.

On the big scale, the obvious spoiler given right from the start of Heroes is that some time before the mid-90s, an Event removed the powers of every super-human on Earth. So you know the eventual fate of Strikeforce. Except, you've got 300 chapters of story before then, and does knowing an end is coming really change how you view those chapters? Everything ends ...

Smaller scale spoilers are more of a problem. In Heroes #4 I introduced Frank and Carla Marks. A week later, in Strikeforce #4, you learned that Electron's real name is Franklin Marks. A chapter after that, you (and Electron) met Carla Zod. Have you joined the dots yet?

So is there any point in me writing their unfolding romance and eventual marriage in Strikeforce? And is there any point in me putting either character in peril in 1988 when you know they're going to survive to 2014?


Would you avoid watching a costume drama about Anne Boleyn because you already know she'll marry the king and lose her head in the end?

It's not the destination, it's the journey. This is true for all literature. (Except for those that rely on "twist" endings. And I can still do a few of those ... I've got lots of stories to tell, and lots of characters to play with, and they won't all have their endings spoiled in advance.) And where endings are "spoiled", I hope I'll make the details of the journey to those spoilers interesting enough that you'll still want to read the stories.

The other thing, going back to the Anne Boleyn analogy, is that I consider this a "history" as much as a "story". Strikeforce are real! Everything you're reading really happened. That's why I can write encyclopaedia and who's who entries about these people. And if they are real historical figures, then just like Anne Boleyn, it's ok if you know they are going to be beheaded in the end. (Hold on ... no ... I can't think of any Strikeforce members that were beheaded. So that wasn't a spoiler.)

I don't want to tell you how you should or shouldn't read something, but I think that to get into the spirit of the story you need to embrace the cross-references as something that's adding depth to the journey, not spoiling the destinations. Look for the characters that cross over. Think about how they might have got from A to B, what happened in the "untold" years between the storylines. Hunt for clues in the encyclopaedia and history files. There's a big picture, a whole universe to reveal, and you're not going to get it revealed in a linear -- or even logical -- order. This is deliberate. Go with it.

I'll make mistakes, and I'll accidentally over- (or under-) expose some things that I'll regret later. But I'll do my best to make each part of the saga entertaining.

And when it goes wrong, you need to tell me.

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Skip weeks

by David Meadows 30. November 2016 19:18

No update this Friday, due to circumstances.

Should be an update on the 9th, but that could be the last one of the year.




Twenty Years Later

by David Meadows 27. November 2016 00:08

(Number 7 in an occasional series of explanations. See sidebar for the full series.)

As already described, this story started life as a game. The original protagonists were Strikeforce, and their initial adventures were set in 1987. That story is being serialised on the site.

After about 7 years, and 300 "chapters" (playing sessions), I decided the Game was much too unwieldy, too big and complicated to manage any longer, with too much weight of storyline and character history to keep track of. I decided to end it in a big, dramatic fashion. I created a storyline I later called The Event, in which all Earth's heroes sacrificed themselves to save the Earth. End of the Heroes, end of the Game. I was out of the superhero-GMing-business.

For a couple of weeks. Then I realised I couldn't leave the Game behind. It was too much a part of my life. I needed to resurrect it. But how?

After a couple of false starts and bad ideas, I hit on it: a new storyline, called Twenty Years Later. Which would literally be that. The same universe, twenty years later, with the players playing completely new characters. Twenty years after the Event, a new generation of heroes was emerging. Their story is being serialised on the site as Heroes. The players had full knowledge of the pre-Event world, of course, but the idea was that their characters didn't. 

Throughout the new Game, I used as much of the old history as I could as background. There's James, saying that he's the son of an old hero (the player had my permission to put that link in James's background--in fact, it might have been my suggestion to him, because I wanted the storytelling opportunities that link would bring). there's Sara, the daughter of an old villain. Don, a pivotal character who was directly involved with Strikeforce 20 years earlier.

In some cases I deliberately hid crucial bits of information to keep the players guessing--the identity of Sara's mother, for example. And in fact, the exact details of Sara's power. Her catchphrase in the early Heroes issues, "I'm good at finding things", was a catchphrase I had her use in the Game. It clearly pointed towards a particular--wrong--character as her mother, misdirecting the players. When the true nature of the power slowly became obvious, the identity of her mother (who once had the same power) became obvious--to the players, not their characters, of course. (For clarification: Sara wasn't a player's character, she was one of mine.) 

In other cases, I made the nod to the past more obvious. When they met Franklin Marks, the players all knew it was Electron, twenty years older and without powers. But being good players, they played their characters as if they were completely in the dark. Because that's the essence of role-playing: you make your character act within the bounds of the character's knowledge, not your own knowledge.

Incidentally, the player who originally played Electron in Strikeforce played Fred in the Heroes era. When Fred met Franklin Marks (Heroes issue 6), I played Frank, the player played Fred, and the conversations the two had are fairly faithfully reproduced. Read that issue again, bearing in mind that Fred's player once played Frank, and think about how beautifully he played "in character", not letting his player knowledge colour his actions. In fact, read it keeping all of the players in mind: James, Fred, Harry, Chi-Yun, all of their players walked into the Marks's house knowing exactly who they were. Not a single player "broke character" to let any of that knowledge influence them.

The same pattern was repeated over and over throughout the Game. History crept in and became important. Sometimes it crept in merely for background colour, to amuse the players. Sometimes it was a mystery posed for the players' benefit, something that had no bearing "in game" but the players could amuse themselves figuring out who or what a particular call-back referred to. But every time, the characters behaved exactly as they should with the information they, the characters, had.

That's really satisfying to see, as a GM.

But when it comes to translating the Game to the story you read on the web site, this time jump (or at least the way I have chosen to deal with it) has caused a whole set of problems. That's going to need a lot more explanation, so I'll talk about it in the next of this series.

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Week 25

by David Meadows 25. November 2016 22:09

It's time for a spotlight on Paul Smithsteen. But of course this isn't so much about him as it is about how he sees the rest of the team, so issue 13 of Heroes is aptly called Dr Smithsteen's Casebook

There are a couple of news stories, and as usual you should read these after you read the issues they refer to. Or read them first and get plot spoilers, see if I care.

And a small encyclopaedia article on Troll Dust, which to be honest I should have held back because details about where it comes from and how and why have not yet been revealed in the story.

And finally a who's who page on the amazing Nightflyer. Nightflyer himself contributed most of the details, so you can be sure it's accurate. Although he was possibly making it up as he went along.

Next update will be 2 December, and that might be the last one of the year. Not sure, but check back here and I'll keep you posted.

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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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