Comment Spam

by David Meadows 18. October 2016 18:25

I really don't understand what purpose it serves.

Now there's a possibility that this comment left on an old blog post is legit:

...but it seems unlikely. It's on a random (and not very interesting) post from four months ago, and the comment is generic and empty of worthwhile content, suggesting the the person leaving it hasn't even read the post.

So I'm left wondering why. It's not advertising anything (which would be the obvious reason for paying some kid in China a fraction of a penny for spamming blogs), there's no URL, there's nothing to indicate it serves a useful purpose for anyone. And yet somebody has gone to the effort of finding my blog, overcoming my (admittedly very simple) bot trap, and writing a random sentence.

What's the point?

Genuine question. I'm am baffled.

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Week 19

by David Meadows 14. October 2016 22:15

Back on track with a full range of new pages.

The lead story is issue 10 of Heroes: Unglued. Action! Excitement! The return of the K-Men! And you won't believe how this one ends!!!

In the Encyclopaedia I've finally added a page for Strikeforce, because they are kind of central to... well, everything.

There a new page describing Sylvia Roth's beach house, because we've spent a couple of issues there so why not?

And various other bits and updates to old pages and new cross references.

 

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Beam me up, Scotty!

by David Meadows 10. October 2016 22:36

Just wrote a long essay on the principles of the Strikeforce teleport system, and realised it really needs some diagrams to go with it.

I'm rubbish at diagrams.

This may take some time...

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Scheduling issues

by David Meadows 8. October 2016 20:46

(That's a double meaning. Neat, huh?)

The last couple of weeks saw a blip in the schedule. Partly due to real life intruding, but also because I've run out of material.

A 4000-word Strikeforce chapter takes a couple of evenings to write. A Heroes script takes a little longer (the word count is higher and the structural issues are more complex). I should be able to write one a week, plus a couple of other pages such as news, history, biographies, or whatever. But it's tight, and it's not always possible. I started with a few weeks of pages stockpiled, but I've pretty much burned through them by now.

And there's another factor I didn't take account of when I planned this: putting hyperlinks into all the pages. Everytime I write a new page -- for example, I've just added "Luey's Place" -- I have to go back through every page already on the site and add a link wherever the new page has been referenced (I have a database to track where links are needed, or I'd never manage). Luey's place is referenced in an LA Globe story, in Don's mission reports, and in the 2014 history page, for example, so I had to edit all those pages to make the references into links. When I add Luey himself, I'll have to add links to his bio from all those pages, plus from the Luey's Place page. Plus from any new pages I've written that reference him (and that will happen ,as he's going to crop up again in the stories). So you can see the task grows bigger with every page I add.

There are currently 79 pages on the site, and I have a list of 611, yes six hundred and eleven items (names, dates, places) in those pages that will have to be made into links when I eventually write suitable pages for them to point to. And the number grows each week. All this "housekeeping" is needed to make the site into the fully cross-referenced hypertext fiction and encyclopaedia that I want it to be, but it all takes time -- and more time with each passing week.

So, yes, this is my excuse for the occasional lapse in updating the site. It's not my fault. The dog ate my work. Honest.

(Next week will be fine, as I have Heroes #10 ready to go. After that, no promises.)

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Week 18

by David Meadows 7. October 2016 21:00

Ok, after the slight disruption I'm back on track.

The lead story this week is chapter 9 of Strikeforce. This wraps up the third story arc and ends with a major change in the team's status quo. Along the way we learn a bit more about Avatar's powers and get one of my favourite Nightflyer moments. You might also start to see that there's more to Astra than meets the eye. Oh, and I introduce ace investigative reporter Penelope Lane. Yes, really. I'm so sorry.

There's a major plot hole in the chapter that I just couldn't reconcile or explain away, so I just left it in. Let me know if you spot it, but you'll get no prize for doing so. (No prize, get it? Oh, please yourself.)

Elsewhere there's a Whos' Who entry for Gemini, which I know is completely random because he hasn't actually appeared in any stories, but I felt like doing him. The Gazetteer entry is for Luey's Place, and the Encyclopaedia entry sums up everything we know so far about Dimension W.

Well, that should keep you busy and give me time to write something for next Friday. See you then.

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Planning the Game

by David Meadows 30. September 2016 20:36

(Number 5 in an occasional series. See sidebar for others.)

I had a set of rules for a super-hero role-playing game: Golden Heroes. And I had a group of players I hoped would play a super-hero game. All I had to do was make a game that they would like playing.

The first thing you do with new rules is try them out by yourself before letting the players anywhere near them. Starting at the beginnng, you create a set of characters in exactly the same way that he players will have to.

I decided I needed a super-hero team of five characters. I created Gemini, Hammer, Image, Lotus and Littlejohn. (Observant readers will have noticed them name-checked in Strikeforce Chapter 2 as an in-joke to myself. Persistent readers will actually encounter them, eventually.) As I created each one, I gave them background stories, explained how and where they got their powers, and decided they would be police officers in the 24th century.

(One of the great things about Golden Heroes is that the rules actively required players to create a background, or in comic terms a "secret origin", for their characters, to explain where their powers came from. At the time, this was a pretty innovative concept in RPGs. And it's one of the key things I credit to the Game's longevity. Because when I told the players, "Now give your character a secret origin," they really put their imaginations to work, and gave me story ideas that I could run with for years. Much of the Game's story arose from the characters. Which is what stories are supposed to do, of course. But I'll get to that in time.)

I wanted a heavy SF flavour to my game, which is why I decided to set it in the future. And I didn't want the players' characters to be randomly thrown together. That works in a one-off game, but in a long-running game you start to look at this collection of mis-matched, type-A personalities who probably hate each other and ask, "Why are these guys even in the same room, let alone on the same team?" And the worse question, "Why are these characters doing this crazy thing the GM has placed in front of them?" The answer to both questions is often, "To make the game work," but that's a terrible answer. You need an answer that makes sense within the story, not just one that's convenient to make the game work. And unless your players are going to work together when they create their characters and build in their own relationships between the characters (never happens; even when they try, it doesn't work), the GM needs to impose a reason.

So, that was my reason: the characters are police officers. They're a team because that's their job.

So far, so good. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised I didn't want to set my game in the future. I wanted to start it in the future, but I would send the characters back in time and strand them there. Of course, I wouldn't tell them that. As far as they would know, I was running a futuristic game. I was sabotaging my stay-together-because-of-duty idea by moving the story to the past, but I hoped that it would be replaced by the mutual need to stay together because of the strangers-in-a-strange-land thing. Plus the sense of heroic duty would still be there because the characters would have been created as selfless police officers, so they would happily do the crazy things I placed in front of them.)

With that established, I had to create a number of threats for the characters to encounter in the 20th century. I had the "Warscout" concept as the reason for going back in time, but you need more than one threat. That's good for a single gaming session. What comes next?

So I created a team of villains: Neutron, The Dragon, Cosmos, Skyrider, Greywolf, Astra, Siren, Silver Streak, Hellfire. Each one had his or her own background, origin story, motivation, and personality. This was stuff that the players wouldn't necessarily ever find out, but I needed to know. Because if I don't know where a character comes from, how can I decide how he will act at any given point in a game session?

Now I had my second game storyline covered. But I needed more. I added in the Department of Intelligence and Counter-Espionage (pinched from an example game in the Golden Heroes rules) and spent some time working out how the organisation worked, where their secret headquarters was, who the key agents were, and so on. I needed other super-hero teams, to act as either friends or rivals to the players. The Defence League of America was a group I used to make up stories about as a child, so I dredged them out of my memory and worked out game statistics for them. I started to put together a history in which the DLA had been around for about five years, DICE had been set up to deal with the Anarchist threat at about the same time, and the world of 1987 was quite used to costumed heroes and villains running around.

It was enough to start. I understood enough about the world to answer any "What about...?" questions the players asked. The big short cut to this was that I was setting it in our own world, in our own time period. This gave me a huge advantage over running a pure science-fiction game. I didn't need to invent all the little trivial details such as how people cooked their dinner in this world, and the players didn't need to ask me. And of course that's exactly why I decided to time travel back to 1987 instead of setting the whole thing in the future.

But I still had a lot of inventing to do. To sustain a long game, I would need dozens of characters for the players to interact with. And I would need long-running, recurring plotlines. If an antagonist keeps coming back, or is a constant background worry, players get a lot more invested in how to overcome him. I had some ideas (the Warscout and the Anarchists were both intended to be long-term threats) but I was soon to get a lot more, and from an unexpected source: the players' characters, who would breath life into the game into ways I couldn't foresee.

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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:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-1BvXUd71pco/Tht0ONSFzXI/AAAAAAAADu4/20bPao7XwOE/s1600/newman-anno_dracula-cent.jpg

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:

 

https://03fcd67fd51850d3ba6b-6cb392df11a341bce8c76b1898d0c030.ssl.cf3.rackcdn.com/large/9781/8402/9781840220766.jpg

 

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.

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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...

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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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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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