Random Thoughts

by David Meadows 3. September 2017 19:33

The best ideas appear to come randomly, out of nowhere. Like when you're sitting drinking a cup of coffee and reading a book and not actually trying to plot the game, and the name of a potential villain pops into your head out of nowhere, and within seconds you've got a background, a skill set, a personality, and a head full of typical dialogue you can use in his inevitable gloating monologues. All arising from one random thought.

Except, it's not out of nowhere. Thoughts never arise in a vacuum. I've spent weeks now reading rules, reading text books, looking at maps, thinking about my wider universe and how to fit the new game into it. My head is full of this game. Even writing these blog posts is part of it. The more I immerse myself in this game, the more ideas I'm going to get, seemingly out of nowhere.

There are no totally new ideas. Everything you ever "make up" filters out of everything you have ever absorbed. I'm in a phase of making sure I absorb enough of the right stuff at the moment, and trying not to derail myself by making up stuff for six different games that are somewhere in the back of my mind.

And on an unrelated note ... after a long period of not updating the web site at all, I posted enough on the blog last month to make it my third most prolific month since the site started. So I think I'm just about ready to stop messing about and get back to publishing the old game stories that the sire was really intended for. I'll not commit to an update this week, but I'll aim for at least one before the end of September, and see where it goes from there ... 

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Figures

by David Meadows 15. August 2017 20:03

Role-playing games mostly take place in your head. You have a few statistics written down to represent your character, but everything the character does and says comes out of your own head, and all the action is purely imaginary. If your character walks across a room and opens a door, you say "I walk across the room and open the door", and every other player imagines your character doing that.

Sometimes, though, a scene gets a bit too complicated to hold in your head. This is particularly true in action scenes, where you could have a dozen or more characters interacting with each other and the environment. You can't clearly visualise all that, or if you can then you can't be certain everybody else is visualising it in the same way. It's highly annoying to say "I leap over the table and punch the man," only to be told that the table isn't where you think it is and the man is behind you ready to shoot you.

So we borrow a system from wargamers, and use table-top maps, scenery and miniature figures to represent the field of play. We can immediately see where everybody is standing, and, with a ruler and a scale (such as, "one inch represents two yards") we can see exactly how far they can move and/or shoot, and what obstacles are in their way.

My maps and scenery are very primitive -- usually a pencil sketch, often improvised on the spot, and with bits of cardboard or other improvised items to represent furniture, vehicles, and so on.

For figures, we use metal wargames miniatures. Usually in a larger size than most wargamers will use, as we don’t need to represent 1000 infantrymen but we do need to easily distinguish one character from another.

Figures are expensive, and it takes time to track down suitable designs, and hours to paint individually to personalise them (I am not a good painter). So often I'll just use something vaguely suitable from my rag-tag collection ("Let’s say this Elf is the Saracen archer"). Or sometimes, I'll put in the effort to do the job properly.

A mail-order place called Wargames Foundry (https://www.wargamesfoundry.com/) do a good range of miniatures from all eras in 28mm scale, and I've used their figures before (for Victorian-era explorers in Africa, for example). So I checked out their web site and bought a handful of German and British infantry to use in the new game. It will be touch-and-go whether I get them painted in time, but even if I have to use them unpainted they will still serve to represent characters on the tabletop.

Here are some of the Germans waiting to be painted: 
 

 

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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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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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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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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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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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Speeling

by David Meadows 25. November 2016 19:51

I just discovered that SharePoint Designer will spell check every file in a web site in one operation. How come I never knew that before?

Ok. No excuses from now on.

...

Whoops...

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This is not America

by David Meadows 1. November 2016 20:28

It's important for any writer to research his story, of course. So when I decided to set this story in America, I did extensive research on American culture, society, and geography.

Or, to be specific, I watched a lot of TV.

This setting is not the real America. I have absolutely no idea what the real America is like. The setting I am using is an America filtered through Hollywood. So you might find it looks a little weird and functions a little unrealistically.

This shouldn't actually matter. After all, I'm creating a fantasy. The stage that the characters move across may be loosely based on the real world, but it is definitely not the real world. It is close enough to be understandable, I hope, and it functions as logically as the real world, I hope (not that there's very much logic in the way the real world functions anyway). But in the fine detail, things may get a bit wonky.

I'm armed with a Rand McNally road atlas, a comprehensive encyclopaedia, (with, I admit, a slight British bias), an Internet connection (of dubious real value), and a handful of American friends I can ask if something is really crucial. Everything else I draw from TV, movies, and of course American comic books.

If you need a rationalisation of why something isn't working right, I wave my hand and pronounce that the history of my universe deviated in at least some ways from the history we are familiar with.

So I'm not really going to apologise for anything. But, as always, I'm happy to get feedback on what went wrong.

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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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