Fury

by David Meadows 18. February 2018 22:19

Don't read this until you read chapter 21 of Strikeforce!

Read it? Ok, carry on.

Sometimes in a game, something that you didn't think was a big deal turns into something (excuse the pun) major. (You'll get the pun as you continue reading.)

Fury was a prime example. I had a plot that called for Skyrider to defect from the Anarchists and join DICE. To make this into an interesting game scenario, I needed some villains to chase him so Strikeforce could fight them off. I quickly came up with three new villains, and put in some minimal work to give them backgrounds and personality. Fury was one of them. Somebody born with weather-control powers. Why was she an Anarchist? Er, she had a wild childhood, was serving a jail sentence, and was recruited in that way. There, that's more than enough background for a minor villain I'll probably only use once.

From that humble start, Fury became one of the pivotal characters in the entire game. Not from what she did in the scenario she appeared in, but from what Major Democracy did next.

The player who created "Scorpio" was never entirely happy with the character, and put considerable effort into transforming him into something new: "Major Democracy". Gone was the super-spy with some random powers and a lethal weapon, to be replaced by a living symbol of justice and freedom, carrying a symbolic (and practical) shield and making inspirational (or bombastic, depending on your point of view) speeches at every opportunity. It's a change that, to honest, made little sense within the game's narrative (though I've tried to retroactively rationalise it in the story). It was done just because the player was bored and wanted to play something different.

And then, completely out of the blue, the player said, "I want to visit those villains we just captured."

Uh... why?

"Because I think I should try to make them go straight."

And for me, personally, I think that was the point where the way I viewed the game changed. Major Democracy wasn't just a bored player messing around, it was a player with a fixed idea of what he wanted to do within my universe. This was actually important to him. It was as if he really cared about this world I'd created, and wanted to make a difference in it.

This put a responsibility on me: Major Democracy had to succeed. First, because the player deserved it, but secondly because I needed Major Democracy in my game. Again, I can't explain it, but I just felt something about this character was important. (A feeling that was born out in unexpected ways over the years.)

So, quick thinking-on-my-feet time: at least one Anarchist had to "go straight" in response to the Major's plea. I had to think through the likely reactions of three characters with minimal personalities, and find one that could realistically be swayed. From what I had already decided, obviously Greywolf wouldn't listen. Tracker could, but it felt wrong to me. But Fury...

Fury had to became a hero. Because of Major Democracy. So she did. 

She appeared on very few subsequent occasions--maybe half a dozen. But I made sure she did appear, and was obviously and clearly a hero. The player knew he had succeeded. No, more importantly than that, Major Democracy knew he had succeeded, and so Major Democracy carried on as one of the moral cores of the team.

So, for surprising (I'm sure any of my players reading this are surprised) and improbable reasons, I've always counted the obscure, barely-featured Fury as one of the key foundations of the game. 

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Update 44

by David Meadows 17. February 2018 00:23

This week's Strikeforce update is chapter 21, "Breakthrough", and it has probably the most shocking ending of any chapter so far. Trust me, you won't believe the state our heroes are in by the end of it!

Two background "who's who" files this week: Jerome, to complement last week's revelations about his past, and to go with that we have a bio of Powl the Samurai who also featured in last week's story.

That's your lot this week, but I think the Strikeforce cliffhanger is more than enough to occupy you until the next update...

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Romance (II)

by David Meadows 14. February 2018 23:34

Ok, I was wrong. I just found some kissy stuff in issue 53 of Heroes.

Ewww, kissy stuff!!!

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Romance

by David Meadows 14. February 2018 19:39

Huh. Lovey dovey stuff. I don't really do it. I've tried it, and it's hard to write well. It's fairly easy to plot--basically all Romance novels have a very simplistic formula--but hard to write in convincing prose.

Then consider that the stories of Strikeforce and Heroes grew out of games, and were improvised by a group of men sitting around a table and making up the story as we went along. Romance didn't feature greatly in our ideas. Any that did arise were background things, usually plotted by me to flesh out some characters' personalities.

So basically, don't expect to find any big romantic plots unfolding in these pages. They will be there -- and sometimes will be essential to character or plot progression -- but I'm going to avoid writing about them as much as possible. It's all going to be implied, or understated, or confined to sub-text.

Because writing a convincing romance is hard, much harder than unfolding a mystery plot or pacing a fight scene. Remember that next time you scoff at Romance novels, and don't knock it until you've tried it.

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Skip Week

by David Meadows 6. February 2018 00:27

This is a "planned" skip week, so don't look for an update on Friday.

The reason I'm posting this is so you'll know it's part of a plan and doesn't mean I'm failing to stick to my schedule Wink

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Update 43

by David Meadows 3. February 2018 00:39

This week's story is issue 21 of Heroes: SAMURAI. Last issue we glimpsed the Chicago mob boss POWL THE SAMURAI, but this isn't his story -- it's Jerome's, and we finally learn a bit more about the man who claims to be from the 17th-century (but may be just a figment of Paul's imagination... you decide!)

The bio pages are a bit uninspiring this week. I've got a lot of characters (112 at last count) who have only appeared or been names once in the story, and they're hanging around on my character list like loose ends. So I'm going to try to get some of them written up and on the site. I've started with three who I'm reasonably confident will never be seen again (one is dead in the current Heroes story), and you'll find them under RECENTLY ADDED in the sidebar of the Who's Who index page. There isn't a lot of detail on any of them, simply because they were never designed to be detailed characters, they were throwaway names or faces needed for the plot. But I hate loose ends, so they have to get pages.

Hmm, at three a week it's going to take a long time to get through 112 characters. I might have to re-think this...

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Update 42

by David Meadows 26. January 2018 23:12

Something unusual this week. The Strikeforce chapter (Chapter 20: Panther Trap) is a "solo" adventure of Nightflyer, and it's by a guest writer, Stuart Forster. 

I never planned (or expected) to use guest writers, but Stuart is the the original creator of Nightflyer, so this chapter is as authentic as anything else in the Strikeforce story. After all, Stuart knows how Nightflyer really thinks and feels; I only pretend I know.

And just so it looks like I've done at least a bit of work this week, I've written a who's who entry for the first Greywolf. The useful thing about writing about characters who have died in the story is that I don;t have to worry about ever updating them as new information is revealed.

Talking about updating, I've made a slight amendment to the Strikeforce encyclopaedia entry to add Astra as an associate member. Will she ever be promoted to a "full" member? You'll have to keep reading...

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Update 41

by David Meadows 19. January 2018 23:55

Weekly updates are still on track (it's a miracle!) but only a couple of pages this time.

The main one is the next issue of Heroes, #20: Chicago Knight. This follows on directly from issue 19, which was published so long ago you'd better go and read that again first.

Chicago Knight introduces a new character, Knight Owl, who is bound to become a big star, so you've basically got to read the issue or you'll feel as silly as those people who didn't buy The Incredible Hulk #181.

The only other new page is a bio of Supernova, but it's a really long page because Supernova is one of the key characters of the universe, a founder of the Defense League and (before Strikeforce turned up) the man considered Earth's mightiest hero.

Update 41 is still on schedule for next week.

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Update ... 40, I think

by David Meadows 12. January 2018 22:00

Months overdue. No excuses. I'll aim to get back to a weekly schedule, but it might be a bit light until I build up a decent reserve of content. Next week should go ahead as I already have Heroes #20 ready, but I'm not sure after that...

So, this week we've got a new Strikeforce chapter, chapter 19, "Major Changes", called that because ... well, you'll see.

The other content is a bit light. I want to flesh out the Defense League of America (seen in Strikeforce chapter 7 and scheduled to recur several times) so I've started with the Green Knight. And I want to build up more of the immediate pre-Strikeforce history, so there's a timeline of important events in 1986. I've been thinking of a complete revamp of the history section because the format doesn't quite work, so this might be the last timeline update for a while while I work on a new look and architecture for it.

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First test with players

by David Meadows 18. September 2017 19:41

I have a handle on how the combat rules work from my solo test, and the next step was a test with the players. I created some simple characters for them to use, and set up a simple situation against some typical enemy forces.

This has two benefits: first, it teaches them the rule mechanics. Second, it lets them see first-hand what a character can and can't do, what he's vulnerable to, how the game treats the balance between weapons and defences, how effective different skills are at different levels, and so on. When they come to create their own characters, they'll have a better idea of how to create someone balanced and effective.

To cut a long story short, the test was a great success (at least from my point of view). It went slowly, because I did a lot of referencing rule books, but I've satisfied myself that once I have the rules off pat it's going to be quick and simple to run.

The players threw themselves into the spirit of the test, trying all manner of things to test the rules to destruction. So we had people on foot and in vehicles, crazy manoeuvres, tanks crashing through buildings and pedestrians, all manner of different weapons being employed, people picking up grenades and throwing them back before they exploded, people sneaking around as well as charging in recklessly. We learned that you need to be very skillful to shoot from a moving vehicle, that machine guns aren't as good as you think they are (except when they are), that grenades are horrible but survivable, that (un)lucky dice can upset you but there are ways to mitigate the disaster, and that skilled characters can take on three-to-one odds and win comfortably, as long as they're clever about it.

Overall, I'm very happy with how things are going.

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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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