Preparing a game

by David Meadows 14. January 2017 13:37

Last week I was blindsided by the players voting to return to a segment of the Game I had never expected to re-visit -- the "Crusades" era we played about three years ago. I could remember the premise and the direction I wanted the plot to go, but I was very vague on details. So pretty much everything else this week was put on hold while I desperately tried to cram everything I needed to know.

First, I re-read the game rules, something called Chronica Feudalis:

It's 120 pages long, but I only needed to read the parts that were actually rule mechanics, so I could skip all the preamble and background material.

The main reason I thought we would never play this again is that I know the players hated the rules, but I'm not actually sure why. I think they have a really innovative and clever mechanism, and I actually remember them being very quick and streamlined in play. Oh well...

Next I read my notes from when I originally planned the game. In the process I discovered a lot of things I'd forgotten I had, such as this interesting map of Nicaea:

And the Game calendar:

I knew that to make the game work (because it was left with the characters split up and, honestly, in a hopeless position), I would need to move events on, narrate where the charatcers are "now", and pick up a new plot direction. 

But to do this would mean advancing the game calendar beyond what I had originally planned. So ... more planning. Back to my original reference texts, Runciman's A History of the Crusades

and Frankopan's The First Crusade

Thankfully not the whole books, just the chapters dealing with events around Nicaea in 1096/1097, as I'd decided to pick up with the characters stuck in the besieged city. This meant advancing to April/May 1097, a longer gap than I wanted but I can cope:

I already have the characters worked out (both player and non-player), and I have the non-player motivations worked out so I have a goal and a way to drag in the characters, so that's it really, the rest of the plot writes itself. 

Preparation finished early, with plenty of time to write this blog and have lunch before the game.

I'm pretty sure I haven't forgotten anything...

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Week 28

by David Meadows 13. January 2017 23:37

Only two new items this week due to unexpected stuff eating up my writing time. 

In the new Strikeforce chapter, Crossfire Part II, the alien invasion is in full swing:

On the ground, Scorpio was equally worried.

‘How many of these things do you think are on the ship?’ he called to Nightflyer.

‘Too many. It’s huge!’

‘We’re going to need a better plan,’ said Scorpio.

‘You mean better than no plan at all? Hold the fort, I’ll confer with the aliens.’

Nightflyer leaped clean over one squad of Krai, weaved through the blaster fire of another, and skidded to a halt near where the solid-looking Star Guard leader was defending Princess M’Krell from attack. He was pleased to note that the princess had seized a fallen Krai blaster and was enthusiastically joining the battle.

‘Singularity, this isn’t winnable,’ he said. ‘We’re looking for a better plan.’

‘Better than no plan at all?’ said M’Krell, Singularity’s translator making a good job of conveying her sarcasm.

Nightflyer grinned as he dropped a pair of Krai with spinning kicks. ‘We’re usually good with no plans,’ he explained.


And in the Encyclopaedia this week, an in-depth look at the Department of Intelligence and Counter-Espionage:

A high-level NATO meeting in 1980 laid the foundation for a concerted response to the threat, and the Department of Intelligence and Counter-Espionage was subsequently formed. The DICE charter included international extra-legal powers specifically to combat the Anarchist threat. DICE and the Anarchists were locked in covert (sometimes overt) combat for the rest of the decade and into the '90s.

 

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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.

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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...

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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!

CAPTION:

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.

SARA:

What do you think, Chi-Yun?

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.

SARA:

You just don't get it, do you?

CHI-YUN (softly):

No.

Panel 4

SARA is sorting through a rack of clothing.

SARA:

Just try something on!

CHI-YUN:

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.

SARA:

Don't you get cold?

CHI-YUN:

Never.

CHI-YUN:

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!

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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?

Hmm.

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.

 

 

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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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