30 September, 2015

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 30) - Come into my World

How do simple hexagonal cells turn into houses, halls, shops, streets, and other living areas?

That's one of the questions that's really been giving me pause throughout this whole project. Since I tend to think visually, the best way to answer this question was through drawing some maps.

Curiously, this brings me back to geomorphs. I'm looking at three phase geomorphs for the majority of the mapping (if you want to know what I mean by "three phase" have a look through the Geomorph series under the Map Tutorials above). The three phases used for the hexagonal geomorphs of the hive are "Wall" (which cannot be passed through), "door" (which can be passed through), and "window" (which is larger than a door, and can be seen through but not passed through). The cell walls of the hive are incredibly sturdy and regularly maintained by the Hiveguard, so there are no options like "damaged wall section". Th survivors of the hive have learnt that as long as they build their structures within the existing network of cells, they are untouched by the Hiveguard.

In the first example above, a dojo/training school of the Fist Guild, there are three adjacent hexagonal cells. Between the top two cells is a doorway, between top-left and bottom there is a window, between top-right and bottom there is another doorway. The only way to get into this trinity of cells is a doorway at the bottom of the cluster. Cells are divided into different areas, some providing common areas and passages, others partitioned off as sleeping quarters or private spaces. The amount of space dedicated to something shows it's relative importance, obviously in this case,the open combat training area takes up half a cell, and is thus important to those who use this cluster of cells. On one side of the "window" is a common area filled with low tables and floor cushions for seating, on the other side of the "window" (between this common area and the training area) is a fungal garden with a small pool at it's centre. Pipes lead between here and a communal bath for the cell cluster, so we can assume that there might be some kind of water recycling effect happening as a result of fungi in the garden. The garden is at least as functional as it is decorative. Beds in the private quarters here are depicted as hammocks, and I'm seeing them at least two layers high (so each set of quarters has 4 trainees, except for the teacher's quarters which have a single occupant). Another interesting thing to not here is that there are curtains dividing off the various rooms rather than solid doors, this might say something about the value of privacy in the Fist Guild (or lack thereof). The only solid door is a sliding heavy panel that secures the entrance to this trinity of cells.

Floors in the cells are generally divided into three types at this stage, a flagstone/cobblestone effect depicts a general thoroughfare, fungal-wood flooring indicates a private communal passageway. Plain floor indicates private space. The same applies in the second illustration above which has been divided up into a two cell home. This home still has curtains between rooms, but has beds for 8 people (including one double bed) rather than hammocks. It has arrangement of tables and chairs rather than low tables and cushions, and has carpets across parts of the floor. This might represent a more affluent family.  

Some cells might be single self contained homes in their own right (such as the uppermost image on this page). Then moving beyond private dwellings, we might see the way market "streets" are laid out within hexes. In this case, specific walkways of flagstones mark the general path through the hexagonal cell, at the centre of each general path there is a gutter for draining away liquid filth (much as would be seen in many medieval cities). The space to either side is divided up into stalls and small quarters where certain shopkeepers might live next to their places of business. Certain junction points in market areas might be marked by communal fountains of fresh water.

One of the other important features of the setting are the fungal gardens and farms that sustain the survivors, so it's only fair that they get their maps made. Here a few different configurations of pathways through the gardens are defined, followed by what might be a Panaho dwelling where the fungal garden is integrated into the home.

These maps are unfinished, and there are another twelve pages of pencil sketches tat will need to be inked, they may be revealed over the next few days.

29 September, 2015

Props for LARP and Cosplay (Part 6 - Final)

By the time I'm writing this, I've done my workshop at OzComicCon describing props and weapons for Cosplay and LARP. I was pretty nervous in front of a crowd of people I didn't know (except for 3 people in a group of maybe sixty), I asked for questions but few came, so I basically talked for half an hour using a bunch of demo props which were handed around the audience...then I kind of ran out of things to say. But people seemed to enjoy that half hour... Not many people left in the middle of it.

Anyway, here's the final piece with a bit of shading. I'm using a flexible metallic acrylic paint on the piece to coat the whole thing, then I added some black ink to the paint for the purposes of really bringing out the "etchings" in the hammer head.

I've got two colours of this metallic paint, one silver and one bronze, so I decided to make the knotwork bronze so that it would really stand out. The problem is that the bronze paint is duller and darker so it didn't really give the effect I wanted. after painting a small part of the knotwork with this colour, I mixed the bronze and silver to give an off colour effect and while it looked like two different grades of steel used in the hammerhead's construction, it really didn't pop. 

That led me to a variant idea. I had some metallic gold powder. I don't think it's real gold, it certainly wasn't as expensive as I'd expect real gold to be. Over a coat of wet metallic paint I sprinkled the gold dust so that it would embed in the knotwork (focused in the middle), and make a good focal point for the weapon. 

The last thing I did was bind a few points on the shaft with medical tape. Mostly to cover problem areas where the moulding process didn't work well, but also to show where the weapon might need to be held when used in battle. All in all, I'm pretty happy with this as a prop...now it's just a case of seeing how well it fares on the battlefield.

28 September, 2015

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 29) - Back in Black

I've really been ignoring the roles of men in this setting, in much the same way that most settings ignore the roles of women. It seems that in virtually every story where there are "Amazons" or systematic upheavals where the men are all but annihilated and the women have the power, we see the society of the story depicted through the eyes of a male protagonist. In these stories, the male protagonist seems to invariably come up with the question "But who does the man's job?", this is considered incredible poignant....the first time. The second time the question is raised (in some other story) it might also make the audience think, but it's basically become a trope in this type of setting.

There are no men's jobs, there are no women's jobs. There are only jobs that you have been socialised into believing are gendered.

In this setting, men are weakened. They have value as sperm donors, women gain prestige for hiving kept one alive beyond a certain age, they are fragile things who maintain their value by looking pretty, but as soon as they have cracks in their visage their worth dwindles quickly, and in most cases a few scars mark a close temporal proximity to the end of their life. Men are forced to be social, because being physical is dangerous for them.

There is no real hard science here, it's quasi-mystic. Biologically there is a level of handwavium infusing the background. From the perspective of fungal strength and weakness, the notion of male and female is specifically defined in a biological sense (XX and XY chromosomes), but it leaves inherent messiness when dealing with those individuals who might straddle the biological divide, whether hermaphrodites, XXY chromosomal individuals, or other genetic configurations. I could specifically link the effect to testosterone levels, but this ends up just as problematic. The hard science will always have holes, so I fully admit that there is a glossing-over of the finer details.

Bringing the testosterone element into play, we might see a caste of eunuchs; such men might have been boys who showed potential or a natural aptitude at a young age. As a result of surgical body modification, a boy gives up the ability to contribute to the next generation of the gene pool, but they do not suffer the debilitating weakness that afflicts other adult males (on the other hand they don't gain the advanced regeneration of the women). Such men are considered half citizens, they were chosen to become eunuchs for their potential, and they are allowed to contribute to society because they show continued aptitude. As specialists in a specific field, they are respected, but outside that field they are considered barely more than adequate... they are still relatively fragile (even though they do heal slowly), and they will never pass their genetic heritage on to the future. Some cultures might see eunuchs as a valuable commodity, others might view them as a useful way to ensure knowledgeable men have a place in society, and some might consider the whole practice a barbaric superstition or abomination.

Of course, sex and gender are two different measurements of a person's identity. For the purposes of discussion here, sex is the biological configuration of an individual, while gender applies to the individual's self perception. I know that I'm probably going to step on some toes here, because I've read so many conflicting views regarding sexuality and identity. If I say something that resonates positively with one person, I will have also said something that rubs another person the wrong way. A reader could argue the semantics of what I'm saying, or use these words as a framework to engage their own exploration of the issues involved.

Biological males in this setting could masquerade as female of they wanted to live a more adventurous life. Perhaps choosing to engage in exploration, even combat with neighbouring bandit groups or vicious creatures in the darkness. Such a story might play out as a gender-reversed "Mulan", but as soon as the male sustained any kind of injury, their masquerade would be exposed within hours (at most). There might be cunning leaders of communities who are males disguised as females, but what does it mean to be a strong dominant figure in a matriarchy when you are not female? That is a more interesting question to me, the simple reversal of gender doesn't quite feel right and that's where I'd probably be interested in getting someone more acquainted with such issues to give me their input into the situation, and their interpretation of how this might play out in the various cultures of the setting.          

Biological females could similarly masquerade as males. Perhaps they prefer to exist below the radar, among the lower classed males who are generally ignored by those who wield power. I'm seeing female assassins hiding among the males who trade spices and cloth in local markets. Females who dress as entertainers (akin to drag queens in our world, except that they would be "drag kings" eternally with flawless skin due to their regenerative capabilities). Some women in the setting might do this because they don't feel aggressive or assertive enough to take on the female roles of power within society, some might just have a natural feel for these gender roles. Again, there are no simple blanket answers to why a woman might masquerade as a male in this setting, that's a question that needs to be answered by the individual.

Taking some cues from anime, there are many stories of girls dressed as boys and boys dressed as girls and many of these could be used as inspiration fodder in the Darkhive. Men doing women's roles, women doing men's roles... it's all just a case of people doing whatever is necessary for their ongoing survival. The only difference here is that it's more than simple social acclimatization, the fungal effects on mammalian biology literally do make females more suited to physical activity than males.

27 September, 2015

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 28) - The Ghost Woman and the Hunter

I'm thinking about the variations that might occur within the Darkhive setting, and how these variant stories might expand and deepen the setting.

The typical stories I imagine being told in Darkhive are dangerous, mysterious adventures that echo fairy tales. But that doesn't mean these are the only tales that might be suitable to the setting.

There are various ways that conflict may emerge in the setting, and various ways that the characters could be agents with respect to those conflicts. In some ways the characters could trigger conflicts, they could deal with the side effects that arise from conflicts, they could work to resolve conflicts... quite often they might cause new conflicts as they try to solve old ones.

Some examples might derive from...

Settlements don't always trade with one another, in every cluster of settlements there will always be some kind of feud between two of them, maybe some kind of argument over resources or men.

Groups of individuals might wage conflict against one another for control over a settlement, for the right to control a specific trade route, or even the chance to earn glory through fighting the Shellbrood.

Individuals might be competing for a source of power (a resource, a mystical relic, a specific fungal recipe, access to a hidden cache of ancient technologies/power/fresh water, etc.)

Every character has a conflict within themselves as well, and that's where things pull back into the fairy tale paradigm. There is always something that a character needs to confront in themselves before they are able to ascend to a new level of power and prestige in the setting, and the various types of empowering effects that lie in wait around the setting catalyse the unveiling of these dark secrets within.

Characters must break out of their habits to transcend. They must leave the settlements and cultures they know in order to learn new things, the enter a liminal space in a spiritual sense (as ghost women), or in a physical sense (as hunters). But they enter this space with companions, assistants and associate wanderers.

At this stage, I don't know. There are a lot of other things I've love to inject into this world, but such things should be rare and meaningful... otherwise they simply spoil the mix with too many ingredients.

I could easily see this setting as the basis for pseudo-post-apocalyptic armoured battlesuits based in a crashed ship. The warrior women piloting such battlesuits might need to clear paths to settlements where they can find potential allies to resupply their ship, but for every journey the take and every conflict they fight, they eat away the energy reserves that empower their suits. Perhaps they might find new ways to empower these suits, but this would require specific negotiations with existing groups in the setting. 

I could just as easily see a story of dark exploration in a fungal chaos jungle on the inner layers of the Darkhive. Perhaps something was accidentally dropped the 25km fall from the middle layers to the inner layers, and now a quest is sent down to find it. The innermost layers have been left deliberately vague, but such a setting would become more psychedelic, more twisted, more about survival in a world that doesn't make sense rather than trying to sort out political issues or conflicts between people/factions/settlements. There is something down here, and it is something that distorts reality itself...something that the hive was designed to imprison.  

I'd love to see deeply emotional stories in the setting. Rather than physical violence being the measure of the story pacing, it is simply something that occurs, instead the game is paced by emotional impetus and twists in the relationship between people. In this way I'm starting to imagine the setting in more of a mange/anime feel. I actually chatted to an artist today at Sydney's OzComicCon, I thought he had some illustrative ideas that would have worked well for the setting, but his prices meant that I'd have to carefully budget to get anything into the book...but that's another story.

More to think about...

Video Journal

The opportunity to produce some good quality videos has presented itself, probably focused on prop making, but possibly other gaming goodness.

I'm seriously considering this offer.

24 September, 2015

Props for LARP and Cosplay (Part 5)

The foam I'll be using for the shaft is the same stuff I've previously used for coreless LARP throwing knives and a metal-cored swordstaff. There are a few consistencies of foam available. If a foam is too hard it doesn't compact when the weapon hits someone, that hurts. If a foam is too soft, it compacts too much and and core within the weapon impacts the target, that also hurts. A moderate foam somewhere between these extremes collapses just enough but not too much. The designation of foam I'm using from Barnes is called S-Foam 50. It mixes in a weight ratio of 100 to 45, so I pull out the kitchen scales and wrap them in a freezer bag to prevent foam getting on them (after all, these scales are normally used to handle food). I turn them on with the mixing cup already on the scale, which means the scales will only measure the chemical, not the cup.

The two parts are measured separately, then the two are mixed together.    

The mixture takes a minute or so to start foaming up. In this time, I put the polycarbonate core into the PVC plumbing pipe (which has been bound back together with duct tape), holding it roughly in the middle with one hand while I pour the slowly foaming mix into the pipe with the other hand.

The mix sticks to the inside of the pipe...well, more accurately it sticks to the SR92 which is stuck to the inside of the pipe. It stars clogging up in the pipe which shows that the foam is starting to form. Eventually it starts to overflow the top...luckily I didn't mix too much and the overflow isn't too bad.

I touch the top of the foam every couple of minutes to see if it has solidified. Once the foam is dry to the touch, I wait about another 15 minutes before pulling the duct tape off the pipe and separating the two halves.It actually looks pretty good. I'm happy with the results of the SR92.

The clogging occurred halfway up the pipe, so the bottom half didn't fill with foam. I reform the pipe around the foam shaft and core, tape it back together and turn it upside down. I measure and mix some more foam solution, pouring it in before it has had the chance to foam up at all (I pour some more into my throwing dagger mould). The liquid starts to foam up after a few minutes. 

When I peel away the pipe mould, I now have a 12mm polycarbonate core, surrounded on all sides by at least 12mm of flexible foam. 

The next stage is to paint the shaft with a flexible metallic finish acrylic paint. It doesn't give a mirror finish, but it does give a decent anodized look.

The same metallic paint is applied to the hammer head once I've pushed the head down over the polycarbonate core.

Now I leave it to dry overnight while I think about the extra detailing for the piece.

Props for LARP and Cosplay (Part 4)

I'm trying a new material on this project; it's a surface coating called SR92. It dries as a flexible smooth surface, sticks to foam and resin, and functions as a basecoat when a layer of paint is required. In the bottle, the SR92 has a similar consistency to watered down PVA/wood-glue, It dries with a similar feel as well; I'm actually trying to work out the difference between the two...except that the SR92 it roughly three times the price. 

I paint the SR92 on the outside of the yoga block, and will use the same stuff to coat the shaft's hammer. The aim here is to ensure a consistent outer layer of material regardless of what lies within. This will pull the final product together as a single unit rather than looking like assorted bits thrown together. make the final product look more. Coating the shaft will be done a different way. 

I'm moulding the shaft by using a length of PVC plumbing pipe cut lengthwise in half. The inside of the pipe is smooth, so that means the shaft will be smooth. I've considered carving the inside of the pipe using my Dremel (rotary tool), to give a wood grain effect to shafts that are cast within it, but not for this particular project.

I pour the SR92 inside the pipe, allowing it to run the length, partially dry, then twist the pipe left so that the liquid coats that side, then right to complete the process, it takes about an hour to do the whole lot...I'm basically doing a rotary casting of the inside of the pipe. I then stick the two pipe halves back together, pour a bot more of the SR92 into it and rotate the whole pipe around a few times. The theory here is to get a decent coating around the whole inside, and dampen the inner material. After half an hour when that last inner coating of SR92 should be tacky, I'll start mixing up the foam. If I was making a sword (or something other than a smooth shaft), I could paint the inside of the mould with the SR92 to pick up the detail.

While I'm waiting that half hour, I measure up the yoga block for the inner rod the pass through it. The path through the yoga block is almost twice as long as most of my drill bits. So I mark centre points on either side of the block, with the aim of drilling in just over half way from each side, and hoping that the two holes will meet up in the middle.

I don't trust using my hand drill to get a perfectly perpendicular hole, so it's a job for the drill press. Normally this would be punching holes in hard timber or metal, so this feels like a lot of overkill, but I know the lines of the holes will be exactly where I need them.  

I've got some polycarbonate rod from a local supplier that will form the core for the hammer. I've tried using metal rods, which might be fine for cosplay but after a few hits in a LARP situation, they suffer from plastic deformation (that means they bend and don't bend back). This makes metal cores dangerous and often banned in many LARP groups.

Some people use PVC rods as their cores, but these can prove too flexible. When pulling blows in a LARP conflict, a PVC core tends to act more like a whip. Apparently bamboo can be used, but can become brittle with time.

This is the first time I've used polycarbonate. The rods I'm using are 12mm (roughly 1/2 inch), somthe hole I'm drilling through the hammer head is 10mm. Since the hole is slightly smaller than the rod, the foam has to expand around it as it plunges through, and it naturally tries to contract around the rod to reform it's natural shape.

22 September, 2015

A new online store

I'm pretty excited that there will be a new online shopfront for selling gaming pdfs and even physical copies of games (eventually). A few things that make it more exciting are the facts that I haven't had to do it, that it's being organised by an Aussie, and that there seems to be a bit of interest in the project already..perhps even enough to start getting a critical mass happening.

I've submitted my interest, and hopefully in the next fortnight or so I'll have some games up there.

Games On Board

Keep an eye on these guys, hopefully they'll become a new player in the field.

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 27) - Fighter


It's been a busy couple of days, and I suspect it will get busier for the rest of the week with prop building for OzComicCon, studying with the Aboriginal Elders, and more university work...but I really want to get this series of worldbuildding posts completed. We're pretty much there, without delving to heavily into the integration of setting and system, but there are a few more things I'd like to address about the way players interact with this world through their characters.

As I've been thinking about this idea...this started popping up in my stream...

It's a bit simplistic on the surface, but then again so many profound things are. It seems like so many of the game designers out there are too busy shouting each other down for being mysogynists, social justice warriors, proGamerGaters, no talent hacks, or anything else that is the "insult of the week". There are many gamers out there, and they all want different things. I think that in addition to the above sentiment you should design for things that you see as being missing in the world...if you want it, other people probably want it too. If you see Pathfinder and D&D5e selling really well, and you want a bit of that market share but don't really care about the product, you're not going to be happy about the stuff you're doing... On the other hand, if you're writing this stuff because there's a new and interesting direction you'd like to take the game, write that stuff. Write it with all your heart, make it meaningful, make it good.

I wrote my "System 4" because I watched RWBY and wanted a game that might emulate the epic battle scenes depicted. I love my FUBAR system, but it just doesn't handle those types of scenes very well at all. I wanted something that was fast, saw heroes decimating hordes of savage beasts, pulled narrative consequences into evey die roll, was pretty simple to understand. The system is going to need some more playtesting to make sure it functions in the way that my mental simulations unfold, but it feels good in the first run-throughs. I honestly can't say that this type of play is supported by games "Powered by the Apocalypse", fitting the OSR niche, or even Cortex+ stuff...some might say they are, but in my experience it's often a GM working against the rules (or across them) to get this type of action happening. 3:16 almost gets there, but a lot of the narrative side is let down in the regular die rolls...but again, it wasn't specifically designed to be the sort of game I'm after for this situation.

So, that brings me back around to the topic I actually wanted to discuss today. 

The regular women of this world are rapidly regenerating, long lived, and dominate the societies of the Darkhive. The combatants of this world are a step beyond them, gaining benefits from fungus, artefact and psychic potential to become truly formidable valkyries, amazons, samurai-ko, assassins, huntresses, and more. Every fighting woman is different, but many share enough similarity of training regimes, beliefs, or common goals that they form militias. The concept of global guilds across the Darkhive doesn't really make sense, there is no global currency, and travel between settlements is dangerous for most people. This is a dangerous world.

The stories of fighting women are not the quintessential "Hero's Journey". They may involve leaving the safe world of a settlement to engage the liminal world of dark cells and dank tunnels, to hopefully emerge victorious with trade goods, stories to tell and new finds at another settlement, but just as likely they'll die in an epic battle against mutated bandits, alien shellbrood, or eldritch hiveguard (when they've accidentally broken some ancient and otherwise unknowable law of the constructed sentinels). This is a dirty broken world, it's basically post apocalypse in space.

Individual stories of fighting women will typically follow gender flipped variants of tales in our world...

Red Riding Hood becomes the story of a young boy who hasn't yet succumbed to the debilitating illnesses of manhood, he takes a basket of goodies through a half abandoned tunnel to his dying grandfather. On the way he meets a savage mutated female wolf creature, through wiles and trickery he generally get the better of the wolf creature, but it takes the noble actions of a heroic female huntress to save the day.

Rapunzel might become the story of a prince, imprisoned in a cell by a decadent male sorceror who has found a way to draw the blood of the young prince to avoid the worst effects of the Manbane. A valiant princess warrior has heard tale of this lost princeling, and decides to rescue him using her skill and valour against the trickery and magic of the dark sorceror.

Mad Max: Fury Road can either stay as it is (with decaying men fighting using their virile male offspring to fight for them, permitting them to die and "go to valhalla" rather than become decrepit and decayed at a young age themselves, while the warrior women prove more capable in almost every regard)... or it can be gender flipped as the tale of a woman who becomes involved in a plot to release male concubines from a savage female bandit leader. 

The whole setting is a subversion, it can be done as males trying to take down "the Matriarchy", but even if it's played out this way the themes should be clear as a cruel inverted reflection of our own world. These would be men playing out the struggles that women face here, everywhere, every day. Tales of battle can relate to race, but I've touched on that in earlier posts of the series.

I haven't really touched on beliefs and religion in the setting, but this last series of posts focusing on specific types of characters will go there. From the perspective of fighting women in the setting, the here and now is more important than what may or may not be in the afterlife. Bodies are mulched and dug into the mushroom gardens, mushrooms feed the next generation, life is a cycle. New threats come into the hive from outside, old threats lurk at the centre of the hive tainting those who venture too deep. Everything is a struggle, and the warrior faces it without fear...well, the smart warrior faces it with fear, but does what they have to do anyway.

20 September, 2015

Real Magic?

After three weeks of sharing stories, learning about culture, politely asking about local history, and generally being respectful to the local Aboriginal land council, I've informally been taught all sorts of things.

I've been told how to identify sacred trees, ritual grounds, and burial sites in the local area, and I've been given the specifics on how to "point the bone" at someone, and what this entails.

A bit like "voodoo dolls", it loses some of the significance when you take this knowledge out of context. I'm wondering if this might just be some joke the locals are playing on the "curious gubba"...

(where "gubba" is a derived contraction of 'government', and refers to a "white fella"... but strangely can be a general connotation for white... "How do you want your coffee?" "Two 'n gubba")

...or maybe it's some kind of general knowledge that everyone in the community is expected to know and I've been accepted enough to be given this knowledge. I've even discussed the notions behind the Walkabout RPG with some of the elders, and they're quite happy that I paused where I did in order to learn more about the cultures I'd be portraying.

As an anthropological exercise, my time with the local elders has been fascinating. As a path of research for Walkabout, it has been invaluable. There's still a whole lot more to learn though, there's no way I could fit this stuff into an intended 60-100 page game, but generally it feels like the path I was on was the right one for these topics.

Two of the boomerangs I've made with the elders...now working on some clapping sticks and other items more specific to the local people.

19 September, 2015

OzComicCon Workshop

Looks like I'm up first on the workshop stage next weekend at OzComicCon.

Here's the link.

That's not intimidating at all.

18 September, 2015

Props for LARP and Cosplay (Part 3)

With a few sketches to work from, and a CGI model; it's time to start getting physical. I use three circular templates to draw up a planned designed on the warhammer's head. I would generate a proper celtic knotwork design, but I'm on a tight schedule here so I'm cutting a few corners. the finl product should still look pretty cool though (I hope).

The three circular templates (actually two cups and a plate) are used to make concentric rings at the corners of the head, another pair of concentric rings at the centre, then two more offset to either side. The plat is then used to blend these rings into each other at specific points. This is more instinct and art rather than science. Then I mark where elements of the design weave over and under each other. Identical designs are drawn up on the front and back.

With this laid out, it's time to start carving. A good sharp hobby knife is fine for cutting through the foam of the yoga block being used. The blade is held diagonally as I cut into the foam, with the tip of the knife digging into the centre of the marker line, while the blade plunges through it's edge. Two cuts will be used for each line on the foam, one on each side of the line, meeting up a few millimetres below the surface due to the diagonal cuts.

As I get close to finishing these cuts, the hammer head looks like this. Both sides are cut in this manner.

17 September, 2015

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 26) - Crystallize

If the Shellbrood are chaos incarnate, the Hiveguard are their polar opposites...but life doesn't exist on a linear continuum, it moves in cycles and spirals, fractally growing in all sorts of directions. Shellbrood seem to exist purely to destroy the world and remake it in an image that exists as a grotesque parody of its former self, they create nightmares and phantasmic dreamscapes that just aren't quite right, sitting somewhere between organic debauchery and rusted mechanistic decay. If anything, the Hiveguard are probably most similar to the 'Modrons' in Planescape.

The Hiveguard repair, restore and cleanse. Scholars tend to believe that they are the original caretakers of the Darkhive, eternally tasked with maintaining the structural integrity of the hive, as well as arcane and esoteric functions that have not been fully understood. They are no less dangerous than the Shellbrood, but for different reasons. Most parts of the hive are dirty and derelict, there simply aren't enough Hiveguard to maintain all areas at all times. Instead the Hiveguard swarm across the hive like locusts, sweeping away refuse and anything they are not programmed to expect in an area... Such unexpected encounters include Shellbrood, ships that have crashed into the outer layers of the hive, and most settlements. The Hiveguard are generally single minded in their job to restore the hive to its original state, but it is possible to reprogram them and many technomystics have become specialists in this feat (the problem is that this reprogramming need to be regularly updated as new mystic "software" sweeps across the hive restoring the "Hiveguard OS" in much the same way that the Hiveguard restore the Hive. 

Many of the larger settlements have a small Hiveguard retinue, constantly monitored by a cabal of two or three technomystics (at least one of whom may be a 'Hooded Mystic') and a half dozen or more apprentices, such Hiveguard (and their watchers) are never fully trusted, because the 'Guard could turn at any time, reforming the hive and destroying anything deemed anomalous. Some of the smaller settlements and barricade slums across the hive deliberately keep their homes only slightly modified from the original hive, but deliberately throw rubbish a short distance away to act as a decoy when Hiveguard swarms approach (they tend to deal with the most anomalous areas first when they sweep through an area). Hiveguard seem to have six groups, which scholars refer to as echelons.

Skitterling - The Skitterling echelon is made up of tiny buglike swarms. The individual creatures are roughly an inch long and look like glistening black cockroaches or beetles, they are relatively harmless creature that squirt mild acidic cleaning sprays, using this with their tiny appendages to rip apart matter (organic and inorganic) into tiny chunks that are deposited in small piles around the hive. The problem is that they don't operate alone, Skitterlings are typically deployed in dozens or hundreds (and occasionally thousands), such groups can strip a cell of the hive in under an hour, obliterating anything that might once have lived there. Skitterlings are also capable of rebuilding a cell, but this usually requires overseeing from a member of a higher echelon.

Screecher - The Screecher echelon is made up of packs of metallic crablike creatures, different coloured sheens on their shells indicating different duties. Screechers derive their name from the screeching sound their claws make a ross the hard surfaces of the hive floor. Black Screechers seem to control a few dozen Skitterlings, Green Screechers roam the corridors along common patterns, Red Screechers clean up the piles left by Skitterlings, Gold Screechers repair other Screechers and Skitterlings, Purple Screechers erect temporary force fields while other Hiveguard work in a cell, Silver Screechers act as defense against any who might seek to do damage to the swarm. 

Duplicant - Duplicants look like spidery assemblages of spare parts from all the other Echelons. Using these parts they construct Skitterlings (takes a second or two), Screechers (takes a minute or two) and Nodes (takes around an hour). Whenever they encounter fallen Hiveguard, they add the components to their mass, until new Hiveguard need to be spawned. Duplicants are the most common Hiveguard for Technomystics to seek control of. 

Node - Nodes resemble hovering balls of glowing plasma, at the centre of which can be seen a vaguely dragonfly shaped construct. Nodes move very slowly, and emit a hum both physical and psychic. This hum gets louder when there are fewer Hiveguard around, making some scholars believe that it functions as a homing beacon for the mechanical community. Scholars have also noted that the plasma spheres surrounding nodes pulse in erratic rhythms as Hiveguard are regularly reprogrammed, suggesting that this Hiveguard echelon function as communication hubs for the community. 

Biofactory - There are said to be 12 Hiveguard biofactories, each one at the center of one of the pentagonal cells around the hive. None have seen one of the Biofactories directly, but their existence in intuited by the fact that fragments from Skitterling piles are typically transferred to these locations, while completed hive parts are transferred back out of these locations where Duplicants and Screechers connect them back into the hive structure. It is suspected by some scholars that the so called "Biofactories" are simply a part of the hive itself.
Intellect - Striding the corridors of the Hive in vaguely humanoid forms, the few Hiveguard known as the Intellects are rarely seen and rightly feared when they do appear. There have never been more than three of these beings recorded at any one time, and more often a lone Intellect roams the ancient transitways. In the presence of an Intellect, the hive itself can act erratically; doors sealed for generations might spontaneously open (others might close), lights may activate (or deactivate), ancient relics may spontaneously erupt into power (or shut down), and portals may spontaneously connect different parts of the hive. As long as it is respected and left in peace, an Intellect will continue on its path, a few rare stories of Intellects being hindered or attacked typically end with the absolute devastation of entire villages, thought it is suspected that many other vanished settlements across the hive have met their demise at the hands of a Hiveguard Intellect, there were simply no survivors left to tell the tale. 

A few rarer types of Hiveguard have appeared, but they aren't common enough to be included among the regular echelons. 

Black Guard - In areas where the Hiveguard have regular contact with the survivors of the hive, sometimes a humanoid Guard takes form. These robotic entities have basic communication skills, operating as diplomats between the survivors and the hive. Black Guards often work closely with cabals of Technomystics, but rarely last more than a few weeks before they wander back off into the hive, or break down into component parts before reforming as screechers and duplicants.

Phaseling - These ghostly Hiveguard don't seem to fully exist in the same reality as the rest of the hive. They appear like giant spidery forms, often as the centre of energy webs in abandoned hive cells. Phaselings seem to create temporary portals that allow Hiveguard to rapidly traverse the hive in ways that survivors haven't managed to decipher (psychic travellers have some ideas how this might work). Beyond transport duties, Phaselings are occasionally seen engaged in other activities, but it is a mystery to what ends these may lead.

(Note that from a worldbuilding perspective, there are a lot of hooks deliberately left open with regard to the Hiveguard...there are just as many open elements for the Shellbrood, allowing GMs and players to shape elements to their story needs)

No lyrics on this post.

Props for LARP and Cosplay (Part 2)

When creating an item, it's always good to have a good idea of where you are heading with the design. 

For me, that usually means drawing up a couple of sketches and maybe even developing a few 3d models. If I had a 3d printer, I might consider just printing out these 3d models, but I don't. Besides, 3d printers only seem to print in ABS or other hard relatively brittle plastics, for LARP stuff we need soft foams. Perhaps I could print out a negative of the shape, the use that as a mould to cast foam....but as I said, I don't have a 3d printer, so that's not really an option for me.

Lots of images are good. The more images you develop, the better the idea you have of your end point.

So here's where I'm aiming with the hammer. I know that it won't end up like this, but it's got the right vibe for where I'm aiming.

16 September, 2015

Props for LARP and Cosplay (Part 1)

In just over a week, I'll be running a workshop on how to produce props for LARP and cosplay, with a focus on building techniques that are similar, and those that really need to be kept different.

Both types of prop need to look good
Both types of prop need to be generally sturdy
Unlike movie props where five different props might mimic five different functions, it would be nice to have mutliple functions in the same prop so you don't have to carry around five copies.

LARP Props
Need to be soft so they don't hurt people in combat
Don't need to be excessively detailed, because those details may get damaged in regular use

Cosplay Props
Need to look good photographically, and might benefit from added detail
Can be stiffer, and might even be better if they are, because they'll be held in single positions while photos are being taken

But I need to actually make some props to demonstrate these concepts. That means I get to put together some posts over the next week while I make these prop ideas.

The first thing I'm thinking of is a hammer, a bit like Mjolnir.

I found a cheap block of hard foam that makes a good hammer head, about the size I'm after, so I'll just base everything around that.

Next, I'll look for some inspiration images...

The next thing I do is start drawing up some plans for what I want to do with this particular prop.

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 25) - Chrome

The Shellbrood are a dangerous menace, ever present in the depths of the hive. They are left as a deliberate mystery in the narrative, as something for the explorers of the setting to discover for themselves. A few variants will be offered, conflicting stories for a GM to choose between, or perhaps these stories are all red herrings and the truth lies somewhere else.

The basic idea is that these creatures are "xenomorphs". They exist as something other.

While many of the races that have become stranded on the Darkhive share enough biology and social structure that they have been able to intergrate (more or less successfully) into the wider community. The Shellbrood are something else.

Vaguely psychic, or simply psychic at a different frequency to the humanoids of the hive, the Shellbrood seem to tap into the collective dreams of the inhabitants. They don't communicate directly with the other inhabitants of the hive, but pull the symbolism from sentient minds and struggle to replicate it in the real world. This basically means that the warrens of the Shellbrood are nightmarish hive cells, and certain strains of highly mutagenic Shellbrood younglings develop forms that look vaguely like the other races, but not quite right. 

No one in the hive knows when the Shellbrood first appeared, records of their presence stretch back generations. Tales of encounters with tentacled monstrosities stretch back further into the archives of certain hive libraries, and these are generally assumed to be evidence of Shellbrood who might have mimicked the forms of another race who once inhabited the hive, or maybe these records archive the original forms of the 'Brood. 

There seem to be at least six types of Shellbrood. These are distinct groups that hold specific roles in Shellbrood society. Most of the Shellbrood look insectoid/invertebrate with hard carapaces, snaking tentacles, and elements the don't seem to make sense in strictly biological entities.

Scouts - The scouts generally look spidery, swarming from bulging cocoons in their thousands, starting no more than an inch round (from footpad to footpad, half an inch wide thorax), but potentially growing up to two feet wide and long (ten spindly legs each up to a foot long, with a six inch wide thorax). These creatures crawl all over the warrens of the Shellbrood and often up to a few hexagonal cells beyond them. If left unchecked, scouts make way for workers who convert these cells into new parts of the warren. 

Workers - Workers look more like octopi with fragments of carapace on their central body and segments of their tentacles. They tend to be larger than scouts, with the smallest recorded workers having tentacles a couple of inches long, whole the largest can reach a tentacles up to a few feet long. Workers consume organic matter, such as animal bodies and most forms of fungus, and secrete a hard resin in the familiar biomechanical designs that signify the territories and warrens of the Shellbrood. It is said that some non-shellbrood inhabitants of the hive have managed to "tame" workers, and use them to build structures of their own.

Harvesters - Harvesters seem vaguely like hermit crabs, living inside the skulls of other cretures from across the hive. Those courageous (stupid) explorers who delve into the warrens of the Shellbrood claim that the Harvesters tend to gardens of fungus that would make many of the Panaho envious, taking the biomatter of the fungus and turning it into a glowing liquid that seems to sustain the Shellbrood Breeders and Broodqueens (while being highly toxic to most other races across the hive). Skulls like those inhabited by the Harvesters are commonly found embedded into warren walls and it is hypothesised that they give themselves (and their skulls) when near the end of their lives to the workers  to become an eternal part of the warren complex.

Warriors - Warriors look like a cross between praying mantises and skeletons, with razor sharp claws and bony serrations on their limbs. Warriors begin small but grow rapidly into a stabilised form larger than most humanoid inhabitants of the hive (maybe 8-9 ft tall), they are fast killing machines called into action when a scout or worker is disturbed by a non-Shellbrood. Otherwise they defend the inner parts of Shellbrood warrens when outsiders stray inside.

Breeders - Looking like giant leeches (anywhere from a few feet long to a dozen or more), but with the back half of their bodies a translucent sac containing dozens (if not hundreds) of eggs in various sizes, the Breeders are one of the central elements of any warren. Most warrens seem to have up to half a dozen generally stationary breeders, only rarely are they seen moving, and when they do move it is rarely beyond a snails pace (barely a metre or so per minute). While most Shellbrood castes are able to produce only a few offspring from their own caste, Breeders seem able to convert their eggs into whatever type is most necessary to the hive at the time. In addition to this, those explorers with psychic potential claim the have encountered "psionic white noise" in the presence of Breeders which disrupts any powers they might have. This psychic effect may explain how a Breeder knows which eggs to produce, and explains why certain explorers comsider the Breeders to be "psychic hubs and routers" for the warren. Many suffer nightmares for days after encountering a Breeder.

Broodqueens - While no scholar has ever been able to confirm this, it seems that Broodqueens are an evolved form of Breeder. Every warren has a Broodqueen, and this means there are at least a dozen of them. The main visible difference between a Broodqueen and a Breeder comes from dozens of tentacles and eyes across the flesh of the creature. But in addition to this, Broodqueens are able to shift their forms like an amoeba to form approximations of other shapes. Some claim to have seen Broodqueens with constantly mumbling humanoid faces on their bodies (which turn into shrieking faces when they get agitated), others claim to have encountered Broodqueens with entire humanoid torsos growing out of their fleshy forms...sometimes even manipulating humanoid technologies through these bodily extensions. 


Debates rage about other possible castes of Shellbrood, with the following two variants the most commonly accepted of these.

Bloodworms - Those explorers who seek to learn about the Shellbrood warrens (and those warriors who attempt to eradicate them), often return with large leech-like creatures attached to their bodies. Such creatures aren't known to be a specific caste of Shellbrood, and might simply be an organism that lives symbiotically with them. Bloodworms have natural anti-coagulants in their saliva, and removing them often results in major bloodloss (which can prove lethal to a male). But even though there is a risk in removing them, this is always preferable. Those who do not have bloodworms removed often claim to have regular nightmares, and have been known to walk in their sleep...there have even been circumstances where somnambulists under the influence of Bloodworms have opened otherwise impregnable defences to advancing Warrior Shellbrood, laying waste to entire villages as a result.

Facelings - Few would ever dare to claim that the purest of pure bred Kithlings are a caste of Shellbrood, but the limited shapeshifting potential of the Kithlings and the form mimicry of the Broodqueens seems to have a degree of commonality. In addition to this, wherever there is a concentration of strong Kithling blood near a warren, a type of creature referred to as a "Faceling" occasionally appears. In their "natural" form, a Faceling looks like a humanoid sized member of the Warrior caste, with two arms, two legs and a more skull-like face. What makes Facelings most dangerous is the fact that they secrete a fleshy substance across their bodies which is capable of mimicking the exact texture and colour of the dominant races nearby. Only two things readily give away a "Faceling"; first, the fact that they seem unable to speak beyond unintelligible gibberish that sound like words in another language, but makes sense to no-one, second, the fleshy coating is quite fragile and any physical damage has a tendency to reveal the insectoid carapace beneath.

If you don't get the musical reference on this one... also consider the cover on the album this song appears on... I might have considered something from Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Brain Salad Surgery" but none of them are female.

15 September, 2015

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 24) - Fast and Frightening

We've established some drawbacks and quirks associated with the quasi-mystical powers that characters can achieve...but what are those powers?

There are three general categories of power; psychic, fungal, and mutagenic, and six elemental forces, but these don't really mean anything. 

Two of the first things I always consider when developing a setting are... What powers do I like from other games?....and...which of those powers make sense in this setting?

I've been reading Through the Breach, the Malifaux RPG, and it's got a great idea for magic. Characters might be necromancers, traditional sorcerers, or tinkerers. These different core types of magic provide different basic spell components, but each of the components may be mixed and matched with other to produce fully functioning mystical effects. It's basically the same principles as the magic system I love in Chill 2nd Edition, except that regular folks can be imbued with mystic forces to manifest supernatural abilities of a fixed type (true magic users can construct memorised spells, or mix and match ad hoc components on the fly). I could do the same sort of thing here, since we've got three general sources of power, and a range of elemental forces all of which need to combine into a coherent and logical system that a game mechanism can be applied to.

Through the three different sources of power, we've also got a bit of a vibe like the disciplines in Vampire the Maquerade which might be empowered by the expenditure of blood, or willpower, or by a simple die roll. (but in our case we're generally looking at sacrifice of genetic stability, risking fungal infection, or the possible metaphysical risk of opening one's mind to raw psychic potential.

I like the idea of set mystical powers, but powers that can be specifically constructed by the player to match their vision of the character. So the main thing I need to worry about here is the specific componentry of the basic effects, and then how those basic effects might be modified.

I'm also thinking of pulling the earlier idea of castes back into this part of the setting. But, instead of thinking about them as social phenomena, they now exist as guilds who specialise in teaching specific types of augmenting effects and mystic components. 

Scavenger (Eyes) - Heightened Awareness (air/light), Jury Rigging (light/water), Stealth (darkness/water)
With minor access to - Innate Technology Sense, Empowered Weapons/Armour, Travelling
Scavengers favour psychic sources for their power, followed by fungal.
Scavengers gain easier access to modifiers giving longer duration or permanence to bonuses, with minor access to modifiers that reduce the difficulty, or modifiers that specifically target objects.

Warrior (Fist) - Heightened Speed/Strength/Physical-Power (fire/air), Natural Weapons (earth/fire), War Form (water/darkness)
With minor access to - Empowered Weapons/Armour, Mental Domination, Finding/Making Weakness
Warriors favour mutagenic sources for their power, followed by fungal.
Warriors gain easier access to modifiers that inflict more damage, with minor access to modifiers that increase the difficulty for people to resist the effects, or modifiers that require some kind of sacrifice.

Zealot (Heart) - Inspiration (light/air), Empowered Weapons/Armour (fire/earth), Spirit Affinity (light/water)
With minor access to - Heightened Awareness, Communication, Healing
Zealots favour psychic sources for their power, followed by mutagenic.
Zealots gain easier access to modifiers that increase the number of people affected, with minor access to modifiers that gain benefit from having allies nearby, or existing on/near sacred ground. 

Scholar (Brain) - Innate Technology Sense (water/light), Intuition (air/light), Hiveguard Affinity (light/earth)
With minor access to - Heightened Awareness, Finding/Making Weakness, Fungal Affinity
Scholars favour psychic sources for their power, followed by fungal.
Scholars gain easier access to modifiers that reduce the difficulty of the effect, with minor access to modifiers providing more information about a subject, or modifiers that conceal the nature of the effect.

Diplomat (Tongue) - Mind Reading (light/water), Mental Domination (fire/darkness), Mystic Contracts (earth/water)
With minor access to - Inspiration, Persuasion, Communication
Diplomats favour psychic sources for their power, followed by fungal.
Diplomats gain easier access to modifiers that expand the area of effect, with minor access to modifiers that focus on a specific type of target, or modifiers that gain benefit from having allies nearby.

Merchant/Trader (Blood) - Persuasion (fire/darkness), Travelling (light/air), Communication (water/light)
With minor access to - Inspiration, Stealth, Intuition
Merchants favour fungal sources for their power, followed by psychic.
Merchants gain easier access to modifiers that focus on a specific type of target, with minor access to modifiers giving longer duration or permanence to bonuses, or modifiers providing more information about a subject.

Strategist (Bone) - Hive Mind (air/water), Finding/Making Weaknesses (fire/darkness), Shapeshifting (water/earth)
With minor access to - Intuition, Natural Weapons, Travelling
Strategists favour fungal sources for their power, followed by mutagenic.
Strategists gain easier access to modifiers that increase/decrease difficulties of associated actions, with minor access to modifiers that conceal the appearance of the effect, or modifiers that manipulate the time at which things occur.

...and maybe I'll add in a new caste/guild...

Nurturer (Breath) - Healing (air/light), Fertility (earth/water), Fungal Affinity (earth/light)
With minor access to - Inspiration, Mind Reading, Persuasion
Nurturers favour fungal sources for their power, followed by psychic.
Nurturers gain easier access to modifiers that make their effects resistant to countereffects, with minor access to modifiers giving longer duration or permanence to bonuses, or modifiers that require some kind of sacrifice.

...and then there are a few forbidden arts, because there are always forbidden arts.

Cursing (fire/darkness), Shellbrood Affinity (earth/darkness), Pyro/Hydro/Geokinesis (and whatever fits for air) (element/darkness), Necromancy (water/darkness), Animal communication/affinity (earth/light), Fleshsculpting (water/earth), Inquisition (fire/light), Illusions (air/water)...

I'm seeing each of the power types described having three core magic components...

Example 1: the "Travelling" power components might start with "Ease of Passage" which basically reduces the chances of running into detrimental situations by finding the best natural path between two locations, next would come "Haste" which speeds up anyone affected, and finally "Teleportation" which instantly transmits a person from one point of the Hive to another point they are aware of. These effects would typically be more appropriate as mutant abilities or psychic functions, the typical curse associated with this path of powers could be a gradually spreading tattoo map of every place the character has been. 

Example 2: the "Stealth" power components might start with "Hiding" which basically directs the user to the most appropriate natural location for remaining hidden, next would come "Camoflague" which might actively colour the skin of anyone affected or even turn them translucent, and finally "Invisibility" which would render them unable to be seen at all (through some mental trick or stepping partially into the spirit world). These abilities could easily work as mutant abilities, fungal effects, or psychic functions, the typical curse associated with these powers might include people forgetting who you are and possibly even a risk of forgetting yourself.

The core thing here is that we're looking at interesting actions for the characters to do, and interesting ways to integrate these actions into the setting. Specific fungi will probably be linked to specific abilities, and likewise with specific mutagenic sources and specific psychic channeling techniques for certain powers.

I'm also seeing the potential for effects that combine core components to make interesting crossover effects, where most characters pick up a few minor fixed abilities as they ascend the ranks and uncover the mysteries of the Darkhive, but some open up new abilities or master the techniques for combining effects and modifiers on the fly. I'm seeing secretive mistresses researching new combinations to take their enemies by surprise, perhaps like the arcane scholars of Ars Magica, or even the reality bending magi of Mage: the Ascension. But it seems that the moment that for every element I pull back into alignment with my vision for the setting, two more exist as half complete ideas drifting in limbo.

14 September, 2015

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 23) - My Blood

One of the aims of this setting is to set the stage for a skirmish miniatures game. This kind of game might see conflicts between small teams, each with a single heroine, an offsider or two, and a group of lackeys. Three or four at least, fifteen to twenty at most. Power levels of the figures would roughly go off the power levels discussed in earlier posts in this series, with a roughly exponential increase. Level 1 is a typical person, Level 2 is roughly the equivalent of two people, Level 3 is double that, etc. The leaders of such teams would start at level 3, the offsiders at level 2, and the lackeys at level 1 (any males on the team would generally be a level or two behind their male counterparts). Over the course of half a dozen games, a lucky character might develop their skills well enough to become a match for someone at the next power level, an unlucky character might have dropped a level over the same space of time due to long term injuries and scars sustained by their adventures.

The problem with the last post in this context is that strangely mutated characters would be hard to easily find miniatures for. Maybe it would be better to have fairly generic characters who are able to transform into "war forms" when they go into battle against one another. Or we say that characters look generally normal unless they voluntarily enter a battle form, or trigger something that reveals a monstrous form from within. Character's inner forms are more mutable, and may look quite outlandish, like some of the villains in "Power Rangers" or other "Live Action Anime", and it's only when these forms become too inhuman that the alterations start leaking across to their "natural form". 

This is reminding me a bit of the demon forms in "Kindred of the East", and maybe a bit like the Vessen in "Grimm", so I like it. 

I'm also drifting back to the idea that the regenerative factors cancel out the worst physiological manifestations of power. Perhaps the possession of a trait adds a success to a corresponding power's effect, and a character has to keep using the power to maintain possession of the trait. A positive feedback loop for the purposes of the power, but a deliberate distancing from the wider community. As a corollary, many of the monsters in the depths of the hive might simply be people who've lost the need to socialise with others, and have pushed themselves to limits of inhumanity that others wouldn't dare.

With this in mind, I'm thinking that the different types of physiological changes might need to be reigned in a bit. 

Perhaps psychic powers manipulate the aura, the emotions, and the eventually the hair and eyes due to their closeness to the brain (which is presumably where psychic power is focused). When powers are manifest, the aura flickers into mundane existence, and maybe hair and eyes temporarily shift to their most unnatural state for a minute or so before the regenerative factor fades them back away.

Fungal powers are infusions in the bloodstream, first changing blood colour, then tinting the skin of the extremities (and gradually working their way inward), before eventually making changes to the appearance of the flesh as the fungal symbiote(s) completely subsume the host body. Since the regenerative factor is a common fungal effect across virtually everyone in the hives, these effects might compete with the regeneration, lasting longer or temporarily countering the regeneration factor while they manifest in the host. Such effects might for several minutes as their powers subside.

Mutations are consider the most dangerous because they dramatically rewrite the hosts DNA. Once a mutation kicks in, it does not get healed in a hurry, it might takes weeks or months for a character's regenerative powers to restore their "natural" form, and in the meantime they'd have to avoid any use of power derived from those mutations. The simplest mutations might be shifts in skin tone or eye colour. These might be followed by horns, bone spurs, tail, hardened skin, gills, or changes that could be concealed by appropriate clothing. Then finally we'd see dramatic changes that are hard to conceal like tentacles, additional limbs, exoskeletal armour, or other strangeness. 

With that change...
Basic - 
Aura Shift
Intermediate - 
Emotional Shift
Advanced - 
Hair and Eyes
White Clouds
White hair, Glowing blue eyes
Swirling Dust
Green hair like vine tendrils, Glistening amber eyes
Golden Flames
Red hair blending to black at the ends, Glowing red ember eyes.
Blue Ripples
Blue/Grey hair, Inky black eyes
Sparkling Silver
Silver/Grey hair, Metallic silver eyes
Inky Black Ripples
No hair, Cold dead eyes

Basic - 
Intermediate - 
Advanced - 
Skin Texture
Pale Whte
Smooth Alabaster
Veined and Green
Covered in Lichen
Red hot metallic
Soft and Rubbery
Milky White
Faintly Glowing
Smooth Porcelain
Black Patches
Hard Chitinous

Basic - 
Skin and Eyes
Intermediate - 
Advanced - 
Feathers, White or Segmented Eyes
Wings, wooden looking body parts
Partially phased out of reality
Fur covered skin, Slitted or Black Eyes
Animalistic facial features, metallic looking body parts
Body seems made of living stone
Abnormally high temperature, Reflective or Metallic Eyes
Claws, armoured body parts
Parts of the body are always on fire
Abnormally low temperature,
Shifting Eyes
Gills, webbing, slippery skin
Body flows as though liquid 
Translucent Skin, Third Eye or Bleeding Eyes
Looks vigorously young
Body is made of lights
Mottled Skin, Glowing or Sparkling Eyes
Looks prematurely aged
Body is like a translucent shadow

Note that these are just the general physiological changes, some specific signature powers (such as transformation into animals) may have specific changes associated with them.  

To pull back an idea I had many years ago, a character might have 8 slots in a row. These slots cover their genetic heritage at first, but also reflect the ways they have been changed by the power flowing through them. 

Every time they try to push things further with a special power, they roll a d8. (P for Psychic, F for Fungal, M for Mutation).

eg. When using a mutant earth power, the player rolls a 4 to push it further. On later actions they roll a 6, then a 7.



It comes to a time when the play rolls to push their power, and they get a 6 again.



When this happens, they might automatically gain the benefit without needing to acquire a new mutation. Or maybe the mutation affecting the character's "War Form" bleeds over into their mundane appearance.

Similarly, during a healing period the character would roll a d8, if the result matches a slot where there is a mutation, that mutation is eliminated as a result of the healing process.

eg. The same character is resting up after a voyage into the dark parts of the hive. After a day she heals quite a few wounds and rolls to see if her body is restored to a non-mutated state. The result is a 3...no mutations are eliminated. Later, after more adventures, the character is being attended to by a psychic healer in a major town. All of her wounds are healed and she rolls a die. The result is 7.  



This mutation slot (and any benefits or penalties it may have applied) is eliminated.



I expect more characters to end up with a mix of slots describing various sources of power flowing through them.

For example...


3 Mutations, 2 Psychic changes, 3 Earth effects, 2 Water effects.
Characters with a genetic heritage that predisposes them toward specific power types would gain certain modifications to the die rolls used in this system. 

If we were running a miniatures game in this setting, we might roll a die with each activation of power to see if the body transforms. Then roll a single die at the end of each game to see which effects are regenerated away, Still lots to think about here, but that's starting to shift away from worldbuilding and more toward game mechanisms.