13 October, 2015

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 33) - Roam

In essence, this is a setting to be explored.

The idea has been to provide broad brushstrokes to set the tone for exploration in the world, and a few details that can be plugged into the larger picture in a way that makes sense to the ongoing narrative of those adventures.

To this end, we've defined ways in which the protagonists of the setting gain powers that differentiate them from the wider community, we've set threats for them to face, we've given them a variety of types that might work with or against one another in a wide assortment of potential political maneuverings, we've deliberately set certain parts of the world as a creative void to be explored, ad we've integrated the whole package into a generally coherent unit.

I think that's pretty much everything that I'd really need from a setting, as well a many of the things that I don't really need...but are nice to have as story hooks and narrative motivators.

I've started the process of integrating this setting with my "System 4" series of game mechanisms. There is more work to do in that regard, but that stops being the process of world-building and starts becoming something else.

I hope there is a crowd of people who might be interested enough in this setting to maybe consider sending their own adventurers through it one day. Along with the steampunk/pirate setting I developed last year, I'm still hoping to write up some formal setting books to publish via crowd-funding (as soon as my university workload has subsided for the year).

I'll be finishing off my exploration of the #drawlloween / #inktober images with regard to the Darkhive for the remainder of the month, and then we'll move on to new things... or, more accurately, we'll finish off some old things during November for NaGaDeMon.

12 October, 2015

#Drawlloween #Inktober 12 - Moon

Yesterday there weren't enough birds in the enclosed spaces of the Darkhive to justify drawing a Raven. Today, there is no open atmosphere in which a moon could be seen.

The moon is a concept typically brought to the Darkhive by survivors. They remember their home planets which may have had one moon, or possibly even many moons. In many of the cultures from which these survivor's descend, the moon is a symbol of spirituality as a protector of the night, as a mysterious object that is capable of fading in and out of the sky, the connections to the moon become a symbol of faith... some believe that there is a moon in orbit around the Darkhive even if they can't see it.

The concept of a moon survives on all manner of jewellery throughout the Darkhive...rings, pendants, amulets... while the mystical significance is always present, and the religious spirituality is common, this isn't always the case. Some wear the crescent simply because it is a bit unusual or exotic, others wear it because they aim to give the appearance of being more mystically aware than they truly are.

There are a number of spiritual groups who have adopted the crescent as their symbol. Most notable among these are the "Order of the Slivered Light" who believe that the Darkhive itself is the moon of a giant dead planet locked in darkness in the physical plane. These mystics believe that somewhere at the heart of the Darkhive is an immortal being trapped in rock by ancient gods, and surrounded by protective shells maintained by the Hiveguard. They often debate the finer points of whether the immortal being was rightfully imprisoned (and thus should remained contained through the assistance of the Hiveguard), or whether the immortal being should be liberated (with the possible assistance of the Shellbrood). Luckily, the "Slivered Ones" spend so much time debating one another that they haven't set a specific course of action. Either could be deadly for the other inhabitants of the hive.

A second group to adopt the crescent moon are the Keepers of the Prophetess. They seem to be an offshoot of a religion from a far off land, but they generally keep to themselves. There are only a few villages where the religion of these women is practiced, most notable for the fact that they keep their men completely draped in cloth, unable to reveal any flesh at all to the outside world.

My #Threeforged Debrief (Part 1 - Design)

Now that the winner has been announced (congratulations to 15131 - Field Work), I can start talking in more detail about my Threeforged Journey.

I was involved in 3 games, two of them made it to completion.

I'll describe my thoughts through the various design stages in this post, and my next post will be more of a reflection on the metacontest (the actual "ThreeForged" procedure, and the review community that developed).

Stage 1 - 1520 (unfinished)

I specifically did here one of the things we were told not to do. I entered one of my white whales in the hope that other people's input might provide some ideas about where to progress.

I've discussed the idea of "Apocalypse Diaries" before. The idea is a self moderated game where you weave the tale of a lone individual whose world is crumbling around them. This uses an oracle format to provide twists to the narrative, and it plays out in three parts... 

First, the everyday world, wher the player goes through one oracle to help define the backstory of their character and the relationships important to them over the course of a couple of days. 

Second, the Apocalypse. This may occur in a single day, or it may occur over a number of days as the character's life crumbles around them. The original oracle is partially replaced by new potential results. For some events the character's life seems normal, but for other parts of their life things get more surreal and dangerous. They lose friends, they lose their house, they start to use up their possessions.

Third, the post apocalypse. The entirety of the oracle is replaced by a new oracle. In this stage of the game, the character tries to use everything they've accumulated in the first two stages to remain alive as long as possible.

Each day a single significant event occurs... Each day the player writes in a physical diary about the unfolding story of this character.

I saw a whole lot of interesting components to add to this when I did my reviews of this year's Game Chef entries... I tried to add some of these concepts into the game, but just didn't have the word count to get my full ideas across. 

I'm sure that whoever got my entry in round two saw a glorious trainwreck, and simply had no idea what to do with it.

Stage 2 - 1581 (finished as "Zen Flashback Battle Zero")

Thankyou, Jeff Ricks, for giving me such a fun toolkit to work with.

If I consider the parts you gave me to be a Lego kit, I tried to use a lot of the pieces, and I tried to keep the overall shape of the completed kit, but there were certainly some gaps and a few areas where I thought I knew of a more elegant solution. I like to think of it like this...

I was handed a partially assembled kit-bashed 4wd dune buggy. It's a lean machine that needs a bit more work, it has a general purpose that can be a lot of fun, but even when the partial machine is finished with the parts given, I wouldn't drive it on the road. I threw away some of the parts that didn't see the direction I saw things going... I modified the suspension, pulled off the bullbar, tuned the engine, added proper doors and windows, generally made it street legal but still a tough 4wd capable of taking to the rubble and dirt. I turned it into a Batmobile, but didn't paint it or install weapons. I tried to give some instructions for how to finish it off, applied weapon mounts, scribbled paint details over the shell, then passed it on.

Thankyou, Kurt Dankmyer, for finishing off the project in the way that you did.

I wanted to add in some play examples, and that was great. I wanted to add in the idea of formatting the various cards used in play, perhaps 8 to a page (in pocketmod format), or 9 to a page (in three rows of 3), just to make the game a bit more accessible to those who might be reviewing it. But as it was, I went above my word count limit, and was trying to pare back as much as possible...which meant instructions like this got left out.

Kurt took my proto-Batmobile and finished it off. He left it predominantly black, but added some red to it, and instead of bat logos he added a bird motif. It's now an awesome crime fighting vehicle for Nightwing to confront the villains of Gotham, but not quite the Batmobile I had in mind.

I'm happy with the way the game has turned out, but I just want to "paint it black", add the modifications that I originally envisioned (as well as taking a lot of the great work done by Kurt), then release it into the wild.

We'll see how that goes.

Stage 3 - 1530 (finished as "Q")

I'm sorry.

I recieved this from Samuel Briggson (stage 1) and Josh Crowe (stage 2). The state in which I recieved it was more of an unpolished gem. It didn't particularly look like much, but it looked like with a bit of work I might be able to turn it into the kind of game I'd like to play. 

Now I've looked at the first stage for this game ("A Bard's Tale") and the transformations that were applied to it to achieve the second stage ("Quiet Night"), I'd actually be really interested in a refined incarnation of the first version. 

I wanted to make the final product look like a document from the setting, with a scrawled handwritten font, burnt parchment backgrounds, I wanted to fix grammar, to stramline the rules and make them more coherent in regard to the setting. I would have wanted to spend hours on this, but time just got away from me. I did what I could on the final night, then had computer issues... Leading to a half missing title, a crappy background watermark, a font that didn't transfer across and not enough time to fix things up. I should have gone through all this a couple of nights before, then had a second look a few hours before sending it in (just in case there were issues).

I'm really annoyed that I hamstrung this entries chance at getting to the finals. But based on the review process, I don't think it would have gotten far anyway. The kind of game I was aiming for just wasn't the kind of game that reviewers were interested in. I think my second game was in this situation a bit too.

Everyone wants their games to do well, and I really thought my second round entry might be different enough to stand out...but it seemed to stand out in such a way that people just didn't know what to make of it. I honestly didn't expect much from "1530 - Q" but that falls on me. 

11 October, 2015

#Drawlloween #Inktober 11 - Raven

The animals of the Darkhive typically came as farm creatures, and stowaways on the various ships that crashed into the ancient hulk. This means that most animals are rodents, lizards, and insects, there are a few predators, but mostly these have descended from animals that were bred for hunting. They aren't many birds at all, and if there were ever any ravens, they haven't been seen in generations.

The strongest representation of Ravens and other birds in the hive comes from the "wanderer script" inscribed on pathways across the hive. There are hundreds of symbols that make up this language, although many of these symbols are only common in specific regions of the hive. The Raven symbol is one of the more common signs, typically denoting a safe passage that has been recently used by a wanderer.

10 October, 2015

NaGaDeMon 2015

I've got three things I really want to do for National Game Design Month this year. One is to develop a game about exploring the inner core of the Darkhive, and one relies on the completion of the judging of the #Threeforged contest... otherwise I start discussing which game of mine was the one I really wanted to get to a polished final product. I'm also thinking of putting together a playtest kit for "Bug Hunt" which may be shifted to "Scavenger Hunt" as a variant linked into the Goblin Labyrinth or the Walkabout setting.

I'll think about these over the next couple of weeks.

#Drawlloween #Inktober 10 - Alien

Nothing in the Darkhive is more alien than the Shellbrood. (It also helps that I had the works of HR Giger in mind when thinking about these creatures)

The Shellbrood combine exoskeletal bodies, with crablike pincers, segmented limbs and bony protrusions, with tentacles, slime and protoplamsic amoeboid ooze. These are the alpha predators of the Darkhive, regardless of the technology, psychic powers or mutations possessed by other survivors. Alone, these creature could wipe out a family of merchants travelling through the hive, but they rarely act alone. The Shellbrood operate in swarms and have a hive mind that links them as a single functional unit with many limbs in many places.

Often the first evidence of a Shellbrood infestation is a simple loss of communication with a hamlet or village. If raiding parties are sent to the settlement and don't return, money and favours are called apon. The largest group of the deadliest warriors and most dedicated fanatics are assembled for a scourging party to wipe the entirety of the Shellbrood warren from the hive. When all traces of the Shellbrood are eliminated, the party disbands...this could be weeks, months or even years later, those who sign onto a scourging party accept that it is a commitment to complete the task regardless of the cost or duration of the campaign.

If enough casualties are sustained in the scourging party, drastic measures are taken. The entire area is quarantined and Hiveguard are summoned to completely rebuild the Darkhive around the infestation.

Despite the constant shadow war against the Shellbrood, they have never been completely removed from the Darkhive. They breed too quickly, and generally live too far from survivor contact. It is only on the occasions when the territories of Shellbrood and Survivor overlap that the fires of warfare start raging through the tunnels of the hive.

09 October, 2015

#Drawlloween #Inktober 9 - Eyeball

Dismembered sensory organs are left as warnings by some of the more barbaric groups of bandits across the hive. No one is quite sure when the first eyes and ears were used in this way, and few have offered suggestions as to which tribal groups might have started the practice. The only certainty is that the more civilised groups in the Darkhive tend to avoid areas marked with dismembered eyes, ears, tongues, and fingertips.

In recent years, certain explorers seem to have answered the mystery of these organs; claiming to have encountered mutant bandits who seem to have deliberately removed their senses to replace them with fungal symbiotes and mystic relics. The stories of these mutant bandits speak of cults dedicated to fungus, even more than the culture of the Panaho, they believe that by exchanging their valued sense with a connection to "the fungal grey" they might transcend their bodies to become one with the fungus once their time as an animal life-form has come to its end.

This would suggest that the sensory organs are not so much warnings, but perhaps invitations to join with these orders of fanatical transhumanist cultists. Either way, civilised survivors are disturbed by this practice and tend avoid areas marked in this way.