31 August, 2015

RPGaDay (Day 31)

Favourite Non-RP thing to come out of RPGing


My wife, +Leah Wenman.

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 10) - I See Who You Are



I've temporarily added the cultural elements to the two major cities in the setting, as well as basic elements for smaller villages and border settlements on the edges of dangerous zones. These may be subject to change s new ideas are developed for the setting. The important thing to note here is for the most part I haven't gone out of my way to "feminize" these assorted cultures, and except for the type of clothing worn and the housing arrangements, I haven't really applied anything gender specific anywhere. There will be a post or two dedicated to men in the setting shortly.

Like the pirate/steampunk setting developed last year, this now gives prompts for how religion might play out in the Darkhive, and starts to give us new ideas for details about governing systems and authority structures, and aesthetics in the setting.

Main City Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Street Nullan
Valued Possession: Mien/Personal Honour
Type of Clothing Worn: Renaissance-Era bodices and flowing skirts (or doublet and hose), typically in bright colours and often elaborately embroidered.
Valued Concept: Dignity
Common Pastime: Haggling in the market or watching the gladiators
Housing Arrangements: Small family - mother and two to three children in a self-contained single cell.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Hope
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Justice
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Pride
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Lust
Religious Beliefs: Divine Order of the Holy Empress
Acknowledged Authority Structure: The Imperial Matriarchy
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Tendency to wear too much makeup

Secondary City Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Street Panaho
Valued Possession: Personal Garden
Type of Clothing Worn: Simple ancient-Greek styled flowing dresses (or togas) in plain but striking colours.
Valued Concept: Tranquillity
Common Pastime: Working in a garden or entertaining friends
Housing Arrangements: Large family – possibly a pair of sisters and their children (maybe half a dozen) in a self-contained single cell.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Love
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Charity
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Lust
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Gluttony
Religious Beliefs: Sacred Path of the Fungal Way
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Council of the City
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Never wears jewellery or adornment

Village Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Low Nullan
Valued Possession: Family Heirloom
Type of Clothing Worn: Utilitarian clothes with few adornments, often in muted colours.
Valued Concept: Community
Common Pastime: crafting handiworks or entertaining friends
Housing Arrangements: Extended families of a grandmother, her daughter(s), and grand-daughters (up to a dozen) in pairs of adjacent cells, where one cell is restricted to sleeping and private quarters while the other functions as cooking/entertaining/work space.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Diligence
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Wisdom (thought this may vary on the village)
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Pride
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Wrath
Religious Beliefs: Local Angel Superstitions and Ancestor Worship
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Local Council of Elders
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Varies by village (examples: always wears village crest, superstitions)

Small Settlement Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Low Nullan
Valued Possession: Map of the nearby cells and passages
Type of Clothing Worn: Plain clothes, typically in dark colours, greys or browns.
Valued Concept: Survival
Common Pastime: Patrolling nearby cells and passages or crafting goods/weapons
Housing Arrangements: Extended families of a grandmother, her daughter(s), and grand-daughters (up to a dozen) in single cells, often sharing cooking and communal areas in an adjacent cell with similar families.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Bravery
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Chivalry
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Wrath
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Greed
Religious Beliefs: Local Superstitions and Ancestor Worship
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Quasi-Military Structure
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Varies by settlement (examples: always armed, always masked, travels barefoot)

Nullan Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Street Nullan
Valued Possession: Family Heirloom
Type of Clothing Worn: Plain clothes with a blend of simple styles unique to the individual
Valued Concept: Community
Common Pastime: Gathering with friends or watching the gladiators
Housing Arrangements: Large family – possibly a pair of sisters and their children (maybe half a dozen) in a self-contained single cell.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Hope
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Charity
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Envy
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Sloth
Religious Beliefs: Local Angel Superstitions and Ancestor Worship
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Meritocracy
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Tries to prove themselves exceptional in some skill to make up for a lack of genetic advantage.

Khar-Tui Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Khar-Tui-Go
Valued Possession: Oldest textbook
Type of Clothing Worn: Elaborately embroidered flowing robes often depicting family crests and personal icons
Valued Concept: Curiosity
Common Pastime: Reading or crafting handiworks
Housing Arrangements: Small family - mother and two to three children in a self-contained single cell that doubles as a laboratory or library.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Wisdom
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Patience
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Pride
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Gluttony
Religious Beliefs: Agnostic
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Geniocratic Council
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Pet Animal of Some Type

Riven Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Rivani
Valued Possession: Heirloom weapon passed down from mother
Type of Clothing Worn: Functional leathers, although some prefer to wear armour at all times
Valued Concept: Integrity
Common Pastime: Displays of martial prowess or exploration of local passages and cells
Housing Arrangements: Extended families of a grandmother, her daughter(s), and grand-daughters (up to a dozen) in pairs of adjacent cells, where one cell is like a dormitory of sleeping quarters, while the other functions as cooking/training/work space.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Bravery
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Justice
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Wrath
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Pride
Religious Beliefs: Order of Sho-Seth-Eenh Goddess of Battle
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Kratocracy (Power to the strongest warriors and strategists)
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Always carries at least two weapons

Kithling Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Kithspeak
Valued Possession: Artwork
Type of Clothing Worn: Rarely wear the same clothes twice, and if so, they always shift the way their clothes are worn
Valued Concept: Continued Transformation
Common Pastime: Carousing with friends or Theatre
Housing Arrangements: Live alone, typically sleeping in the same cell as their workplace, often near the middle of a settlement.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Hope
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Love
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Lust
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Greed
Religious Beliefs: Path of the Sacred Trickster
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Theocracy (Hereditary Priesthood)
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Always wears a mask

Ichthyan Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Ichthyani
Valued Possession: Piece of Jewellery
Type of Clothing Worn: Simple functional clothes, often treated to avoid water damage
Valued Concept: Harmony
Common Pastime: Fishing or Gambling
Housing Arrangements: Extended families of a grandmother, her daughter(s), and grand-daughters (up to a dozen) in pairs of adjacent cells, where one cell is restricted to sleeping quarters surrounding a central pool/bathing area, while the other is functions as cooking/work space.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Diligence
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Hope
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Sloth
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Greed
Religious Beliefs: Old Elemental Gods
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Meritocracy
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Tattoos

Panaho Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: High Panaho
Valued Possession: Collection of fungal spores
Type of Clothing Worn: Simple ancient-Greek styled flowing dresses in plain but striking colours.
Valued Concept: Growth
Common Pastime: Farming or Meditation
Housing Arrangements: Small family - mother and two to three children in a self-contained single cell that doubles as a garden/greenhouse.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Patience
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Cunning
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Lust
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Despondency
Religious Beliefs: Sacred Path of the Fungal Way
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Elective Monarchy
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Often prefer to remain silent unless specifically addressed.

Xelani Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Xelani
Valued Possession: Relic item from the furthest distance away
Type of Clothing Worn: Dark Robes, often trimmed with symbols and sigils of personal significance
Valued Concept: Purity
Common Pastime: Meditation or Crafting handiworks
Housing Arrangements: Extended families of a grandmother, her daughter(s), and grand-daughters (up to a dozen) in single cells, often sharing cooking and communal areas in an adjacent cell with similar families.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Faith
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Loyalty
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Greed
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Gluttony
Religious Beliefs: Divine Order of the Holy Empress
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Theocracy (Elected Council of Priestesses)
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Superstitions

Endoss Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Nullan
Valued Possession: Musical instrument
Type of Clothing Worn: Simple clothes in non-descript style, often in dark dreary colours
Valued Concept: Secrecy
Common Pastime: Gambling or playing music
Housing Arrangements: Live alone, often on the outskirts of a town in small tents and “lean-to”s that they carry around with them.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Cunning
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Hope
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Sloth
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Pride
Religious Beliefs: Tabernacle of Rust
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Anarchism
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Like to be the centre of attention through storytelling or musical performance

Scavenger (Eyes) Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Low Nullan
Valued Possession: Most valuable thing scavenged so far.
Type of Clothing Worn: Simple, functional clothes or leathers, possibly light armour.
Valued Concept: Skill
Common Pastime: Exploring nearby cells and passages or crafting handiworks
Housing Arrangements: Live alone, often on the outskirts of a town in small tents and “lean-to”s that they carry around with them.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Diligence
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Patience
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Greed
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Envy
Religious Beliefs: Worship of the Angel of Fortune
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Meritocracy of the Eye
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Always picking things up to examine them

Warrior (Fist) Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Rivani
Valued Possession: Weapon won in battle from a formidable foe.
Type of Clothing Worn: Protective armours typically adorned with a family (or local militia) crest.
Valued Concept: Glory
Common Pastime: Feats of martial prowess, or watching the gladiators.
Housing Arrangements: Extended families of a grandmother, her daughter(s), and grand-daughters (up to a dozen) in pairs of adjacent cells, where one cell is like a dormitory of sleeping quarters, while the other functions as cooking/training/work space.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Bravery
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Chivalry
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Wrath
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Pride
Religious Beliefs: Worship of the Angel of Battle
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Meritocracy of the Fist
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Always wants to test martial prowess against new people

Zealot (Heart) Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Street Panaho
Valued Possession: Holy symbol
Type of Clothing Worn: Brightly coloured robes adorned with the symbol of a deity or faith
Valued Concept: Love
Common Pastime: Meditation or helping others
Housing Arrangements: Extended families of a grandmother, her daughter(s), and grand-daughters (up to a dozen) in pairs of adjacent cells, where one cell is like a dormitory of sleeping quarters, while the other functions as cooking/praying/meditation space.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Faith
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Charity
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Pride
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Despondency
Religious Beliefs: Worship of the Angel of Purity
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Meritocracy of the Heart
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Hates conflict

Scholar (Brain) Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Khar-Tui-Go
Valued Possession: Personal library
Type of Clothing Worn: Functional clothes, often well-worn and out of date.
Valued Concept: Truth
Common Pastime: Reading or Theatre
Housing Arrangements: Small family - mother and two to three children in a self-contained single cell that doubles as a laboratory or library.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Wisdom
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Patience
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Sloth
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Greed
Religious Beliefs: Worship of the Angel of Knowledge
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Meritocracy of the Brain
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Always questions things

Diplomat (Tongue) Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: High Nullan
Valued Possession: Family coat of arms
Type of Clothing Worn: Elaborate clothing in bright colours according to the season’s style
Valued Concept: Honour
Common Pastime: Theatre or haggling in the market
Housing Arrangements: Small family - mother and two to three children in a self-contained single cell.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Justice
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Wisdom
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Pride
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Lust
Religious Beliefs: Worship of the Angel of Beauty
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Meritocracy of the Tongue
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Hates getting dirty

Trader (Blood) Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Street Nullan
Valued Possession:
Type of Clothing Worn: Simple clothes, but often adorned with small jewels and subtle symbols of wealth
Valued Concept: Wealth
Common Pastime: Haggling in the market or crafting handiworks
Housing Arrangements: Small family - mother and two to three children in a self-contained single cell that doubles as a trade stall or shop.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Hope
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Justice
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Greed
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Pride
Religious Beliefs: Worship of the Angel of Travel
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Meritocracy of Blood
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Always looking to get a better deal

Strategist (Bone) Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken: Rivani
Valued Possession: Family Heirloom
Type of Clothing Worn: Well-fitting clothes suitable for action at a moment’s notice
Valued Concept: Wisdom
Common Pastime: Entertaining friends or playing music
Housing Arrangements: Small family - mother and two to three children in a self-contained single cell that doubles as a laboratory or library.
Primary Virtue – strives to do this: Patience
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this: Courage
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this: Greed
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this: Despondency
Religious Beliefs: Worship of the Angel of Strength
Acknowledged Authority Structure: Meritocracy of Bone
Unusual Cultural Character Trait: Never rushes into anything without thinking of two plans


30 August, 2015

RPGaDay (Day 30)

Favourite RPG Playing Celebrity


There were some absolutely brilliant roleplaying and gaming anecdotes about the comedian Robin Williams in the days after his death.

One of my favourite all time celebrities is Bruce Campbell, and it really doesn't surprise me that he is on the list.



The notable omission on this list is Dame Judy Dench. While Bruce Campbell may be my favourite celebrity who games, Dame Judy being a gamer is my most awesome combination of the ideas.

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 9) - We are Family


What are the cultures of this place? What are the subcultures within those cultures?

When I was working on Walkabout, I divided the population into seven different cultures who each survived in the post apocalyptic wasteland via different means. I had scavengers, neo-tribalists, farmers, mutants, vehicular nomads, skyborn drifters, and hermits in their surviving glass/steel towers. Each of these were divided into four/five castes, defining the various character roles that would be necessary for a community to survive in the indicated manner. The same sort of system could easily be used to describe the cultural diversity in this setting.

Scavengers are still scavengers.
Neo-tribalists are still neo-tribalists.
Farmers might exist on the open parts of the hive but are more likely to be focused on the various methods of cultivating fungus, and the imported creatures (lizard farmers, rat farmers?).
Mutants tend to exist in the innermost parts of the hive.
Vehicular Nomads are less likely to exist, but could be replaced by merchants who follow specific trade routes.
Skyborne Drifters certainly wouldn't exist in this setting.
Hermits in their glass/steel towers would be replaced by new arrivals who remain locked hermetically in their crashed astral ships, trying to avoid the fungal infections, or desperately clinging to the hope that they might be able to return home. 

In Walkabout, there are a few organised alliances of towns, but for the most part each settlement is a self contained group of survivors with their own issues. A few are involved in feuds with their neighbours, a few are incredibly isolationist, most are interested in survival as a priority (whatever that means to them).

The Darkhive is pretty much a post-apocalyptic sci-fantasy setting, so the analogues fit. Since I'm most familiar with these themes, it's hardly surprising that they inform my design process once again. But I'm not trying to simply redesign Walkabout as a variant setting. Next week I'll be meeting up with local aboriginal elders, and I'm hoping to learn from them (Leah met up with the ladies group a few days ago), so Walkabout is back on the cards as it's own project. 

For Darkhive, I'm actually pulling the idea I introduced for cultural descriptions in the last worldbuilding exercise. Each culture will have 13 elements that define it. Those who follow all 13 elements will be stereotypical paragons of the culture, most people will vary from their culture by one or two significant elements where they follow some other culture they've been exposed to. It's a bit of a reverse to the racial development system (where we start with a blank slate and build up traits as a character reveals their affinity to a specific genetic heritage), instead we assume a baseline of a specific cultural upbringing and deviate from there as a character is exposed to new influences. 

Cultural Elements:
Language most commonly spoken
Valued Possession
Type of Clothing Worn
Valued Concept
Common Pastime
Housing Arrangements
Primary Virtue – strives to do this
Secondary Virtue – strives to do this
Primary Vice – strives to avoid this
10 Secondary Vice – strives to avoid this
Religious Beliefs
Acknowledged Authority Structure
Unusual Cultural Character Trait
(It would be tempting, since the critical characters in this setting tend to be female, to swap out the secondary virtue and vice for things like "hairstyle" or other girly things...but this just isn't that type of setting, and it would compromise the stories to go down that path. The majority of these cultural elements are about how the character lives and what they aspire to...not what they look like.)

There are two ways I could develop these lists of cultural elements. The first would be to create a list for each genetic heritage, implying that these were the cultural standards of the group before they became stranded in the hive. The second would be to create lists for the largest communities in the hive, working on the assumption that a large enough mass of people would stabilise their community around specific cultural norms, smaller communities regularly trading with such large groups would tend to adopt the cultural traits of their neighbours to facilitate easier trade. It might be a nice complexity to use both systems... An individual character starts with a baseline culture applied through their community of origin, if they start acquiring genetic traits from a specific race they start picking a number of cultural elements from that race implying their affinity with that group of people.

Actually, there's a third way I can develop a list of cultural elements, and that's to go back to the Walkabout survival methodologies. Since there are 13 elements that define the values, appearances and traits of a culture, maybe a character starts with a random hand of cards; where each heart indicates a cultural value aligning with the character's genetic heritage, each club aligns to their local upbringing, each spade links to their survival methodology, and each diamond is a wild card where the player can decide. Areas where one genetic heritage (or one survival type) dominates would have local values the same as the genetic values, and thus these would be predominant (characters of predominantly Nullan/mixed-heritage would default to local cultural norms). There seems to be something heading in a direction I'm happy with, but more thought needs to be applied. 

There are currently 6 major towns, 9 races (including a catch-all category of outsiders who have recently crash landed and who haven't yet been assimilated into the wider community), around half a dozen survival methodologies (again including isolationists still trying to remain sealed in their ships as they attempt to escape)... that's over 20 lists of cultural elements to generate for starting characters to deal with, and there will be more lists of elements for specific secretive cults and groups to whom a character must belong if they want to advance in certain ways (but that's long term play). I might even generate up a simple system that allows a GM to create their own sets of cultural elements for small, of-the-beaten-path villages and towns.


(Yes, one of the reasons I'm developing this setting is to make use of the dozens of assorted female miniatures that generally seem to get ignored by most of the major game producers...and to send business toward a few local sculptors who produce predominantly female models).


29 August, 2015

RPGaDay (Day 29)

Favorite RPG website/blog


Probably G+.

I'm a part of a few awesome game design communities there, as well as RPG artist communities, cartography communities, communities dedicated to specific games, communities for (reasonably) local gamers. Every time I wake up (and often three or for more times through the day), I can log onto G+ and see a new range of inspirations, see people excited for new gaming products, find new artists and new art from artists I already knew. It may not be a dedicated RPG social network, but I've tailored my streams and circles in such a way that it is for me.

Once I would have said 1km1kt, the regulars over there are a great bunch of guys. But they've been pretty quiet lately.

The only other RPG site that I regularly visit is my online store profile on RPGNow/DrivethruRPG, which gets checked maybe twice a week.

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 8) - Necessary Evil

(Oops...this image and the last one are out of order)

I keep trying to get back to the fun stuff of cultural development and quirky idiosyncrasies of the various races, but keep finding that I need to establish coherent background details before those ideas will make sense.

I can't remember which author said it, nor can I remember the specific quote, but I vaguely remember that it was a female sci-fi/fantasy author, and that the sentiment of the quote stuck in my head as a very good and logical way to consider worldbuilding.

The general gist of the quote stated that it is silly to develop motivations and surface features then try to extrapolate what is happening underneath it all. In much the same way that it is often bad writing to develop the set piece battle at the climax of the novel and then shoehorn all the elements needed to set up that battle throughout the course of the story. When done well, it can be great, it makes elements of narrative like foreshadowing really easy because you know where you have to end up, and what tools will get you there. But it can be a crutch to certain writers, and when done poorly it just looks contrived. Instead create the backstory, and then let the characters and story develop organically from that.

When looking at an RPG, the same things applies. It's often called (rightly or wrongly) "railroading" when a GMs story specifically relies on getting the characters to a certain point that they have set up in advanced rather than just letting the story develop organically based on character motivations. The sense of agency is stripped away from the character and the players feel unfulfilled (I'm getting that a lot from the current Pathfinder game I'm involved in).

So I develop background, I develop interesting settings that will evolve without the presence of the characters through a dynamic tension that cycles through certain concepts. Once the players step in, they have the chance to break these cycles, push destiny in new directions, even if those changes are limited to a small segment of the community.

This whole setting could easily become a "murder-hobo fest", where characters roam through a vast network of tunnels confronting enemy explorers and alien monsters...killing them and looting their stuff. It could just as easily devolve into a purely Warhammer-esque grim-dark setting, almost akin to rent-punk where the characters are barely able to survive, where every victory is hard fought and short lived, and only a very rare few will ever manage to ascend to a life of barely adequate comfort.

Sure, there's going to be elements of murder-hobo, and rent-punk, but these will be balanced against the sense of adventure, mystery and eldritch wonder. There are strange things hidden in the dark places of the hive, some which might not have been explored in years, others decades, centuries or even millennia. There are wars between survivors and shellbrood, between survivors and hiveguard, even between different city-states of survivors. I haven't added these into the maps yet because I'd forgotten about this idea while I was drawing them up yesterday...but I'll make sure to add in a few of these war zones today. That will help determine where specific cultural groups might lie, how those groups differ from the groups they are at war with (and conversely, how allied groups share similarities thus allowing them to interact equitably, and difference that have prevented such groups from simply merging into a single mega-state).

A few other elements distinctly add to the flavour of this setting.

The first derives from the fungal growths that have infested the hive for as long as anyone can remember. The addition of them to the setting was a natural choice due to the lack of natural light throughout the Darkhive tunnels, and the general idea that even the "open" spaces would act like a terrarium with moist humid air. These fungi seem to have been a food source and general resource for the original inhabitants, and the survivors have learnt to adapt to them as well. Some fungi function as construction materials, others as foodstuffs, medicines, poisons or even illicit drugs (thus the introduction of the Panaho race as a specific group who use and manipulate these fungi).

The first fungus on the list is called Manbane, and as the first on the list it is the most prevalent across the hive. This adds another flavouring agent to the setting since Manbane is mutagenic with different effects determined by an individuals chromosomes. Males are weakened by it, females strengthened. I've had discussions with various people regarding this on different forums. Generally, the Manbane kicks into effect at puberty (implying aome sort of hormonal reaction), regenerative powers of either gender are exponentially enhanced (for females) or diminished (for males). Let's say a factor of roughly 13. What it would take a regular female a year to recover from, now takes about a month, and what would take a regular female a fortnight to recover from now takes about a day (vice versa for males). Being out of breath might take a male hours to recover from, while the constant regenerative powers of females might see them never become fatigued. Instead of taking two months, a broken limb might take half a week for a female to heal, and might take years for a male to heal...if they heal at all. Manbane spores drift through many of the tunnels, the spores are microscopic and have limited initial effect except on repeated exposure, but over the course of a few months, the regenerative effects gradually build up. New arrivals to the Darkhive might be able to avoid the effects for a while with hazmat suits and other containment methods, but if they want to interact with the wider community, they'll become infected eventually. The overall effect of the Manbane sees a reversal of gender tropes in this setting, with men as the distinctly weaker gender (often treated as delicate flowers, especially since the fatiguing act of sex might take a male days to recover from). The treatment of males by different cultures will be a distinct defining trait for them.

There is something at the centre of the Darkhive. The exact nature of this thing hasn't been disclosed, I actually haven't thought of what it is and I'm considering leaving it as a mystery. It's dangerous to go down to the inner shells, but people do go down to harvest a rampant fungal weed that neutralises magical/psychic energies. Since I'm thinking that Shellbrood have some kind of hive mind effect, it might make sense that these creatures have subliminal psychic powers, they'd lose their hive mind when in contact with the nega-psychic fungus. So they wouldn't head down to the lower levels, but there would be far more Hiveguard ensuring the integrity of these inner shells (and probably some incredible powerful variants of Hiveguard not seen elsewhere). But if there is a suppression of mystic/psychic powers; we need to see this reflected in the characters, so there will be reality-benders/psychics in the setting (probably predominantly from one race, but this might be a forgotten race who have become so interbred with later arrivals that little is left of them except for their genetic legacy traits in the population).

The last general flavouring mechanism in play comes from the various astral/hyperspace ships that have collided with the Darkhive over the millennia. Few have done so deliberately, more often than not they have accidentally crossed into hyperspace, been caught in the gravity well and have been unable to escape or even send transmissions back to their homelands. There are probably rumours of an astral anomaly that occasionally devours ships, and most civilisations avoid it. The few treasure hunters and knowledge seekers who actively seek out the anomaly are considered rogues and lunatics (but this might explain the prevalence of Khar Tui scholars). Most who arrive, bring strange technologies from their homelands but eventually find their power cells (technological or mystic) run dry.

I'm sure there will be other quirks in the setting, but too many major twists just ends up with a kitchen sink melange that doesn't end up with much substance, I like to make sure my world settings are coherent, consistent, and generally meaningful.





28 August, 2015

RPGaDay (Day 28)

Favourite Game you no longer play

Let's have a look at the game bookshelf, because almost every game I've played in the last 2 years has been played from a pdf copy on my iPad, a printed-out pocketmod, or using other people's books.

I can narrow it down to a few...

Alphabetically, they'd be...

Chill

I've ranted on this a few times throughout this series, it was one of the few games that gave great pointers toward a good horror session. Sometimes as a GM I'd get this right, sometimes not so much, but I'd love to go back to it and refine that skill set.

Cold City / Hot War

I had a lot of fun with this a few years ago, in the regular group we had at the time. It was one of those games we intended to revisit, but just never got back to.

Old World of Darkness (specifically Hengeyokai, Mage:the Ascension, and Sabbat Vampire)

I'm saying Hengeyokai because I played one session of it and it was awesome, so it's average game quality was high (we just never managed to meet up to tell the remainder of the story). Mage was always consistently good (sometimes awesome, sometimes mediocre with interesting moments, but on average fairly good), but I've not played it much since I've been married, because Leah had a bad Mage experience with a really bad storyteller and was never willing to give it another shot. Sabbat Vampire was fun because it had that element of subversion, rebellion and thinking beyond human ideals, it was really starting to sing when they killed off the Old World of Darkness. I guess each of these games had a common theme of transcending humanity via different paths. I've been getting that a little in other games lately, but certainly not as much as I'd like.





Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 7) - Maps



To work out how cultures might develop in a setting it might be a good idea to understand where they develop in relationship to specific locational elements and to each other. The majority of interest in this setting will be on the middle cluster of shells.The simplest way to draw a map will not be to scale, but through drawing an icosahedron net divided into hexes (the way this is drawn, the points of the icosahedron form pentagons rather than hexes).
The outermost of these layers will have a naturalistic appearance. But to maintain a sort of "crumpled mechanistic" feel I'm ensuring the high points on this map tend to be at the icosahedron vertices and along the midpoints of the edges. Not always, because it needs to look a bit more organic, and I haven't particularly worked out what this upper layer would be made of...maybe a scattered layer of soil over a low density rock (like a pumice). The actual shells would be a high-density/high-resilience metal.
Now we can start adding a few settlements of different sizes, only the larger ones would appear on the map. Since this is the layer with the most water, it makes sense that this would be the layer with the highest concentration of the aquatic based racial type (the Ichthyans). So I'll shade in an area of water and an area of land where the Ichthyan people have a higher likelihood of appearing.
Next we move "underground". Some sprays of colour highlight some important areas on this map. The genetic heritage of the Panaho race is known to be concentrated is a specific area, so this is marked in magenta. The shellbrood have established a major territory, and a few minor territories on this level, so they get marked in yellow. The hiveguard have focal points at each of the vertices, and I'll mark some streaks in cyan to indicate some pathways where they are commonly encountered.

Next I mark in some parts of the darknive that are known to be generally abandoned and decripit. These shouldn't be near the hiveguard territories, or near locations where established population exist, unless we're going to see some good story reason for the set up. Finally I'll add some towns. 

With the addition of some small towns (the pulling the town layer to the top so they can actually be seen under the territorial sprays), it's time to start applying some established, cleared pathways across the layer.
Then we go through the same steps for the bottom layer.
...and that's just the central cluster of shells.

But I'll leave it there for the moment.



27 August, 2015

RPGaDay (Day 27)

Favourite idea for merging two games together


Anyone who deserves to call themselves a "designer" has probably already done this. I've merged various card games with board games to develop RPG mechanisms, settings from one game with mechanisms from others... I've done this so many times that the various constructs have blurred together.

I know I've had favourite ideas in the past, but nothing specific now.

I like the idea of using different games to unveil different elements of the narrative... "A Penny for my Thoughts" to unravel mysterious stories, "Mage: the Ascension" to handle magic, "D&D" to ground things if I have new players who are shy to try something that doesn't have a big name behind it... In most cases, a lot of the players I've encountered like to play games straight from the book. If I'm going to mix things up, I'll just run one of the games I've written.



Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 6) - Rome wasn't built in a Day


(Warning...this is a big one)

Something I've been seriously considering throughout this project is the size of the setting. The figures I've given so far for shell distances (50km/75km/100km radius) have been vague numbers totally subject to change (as long as the 2:3:4 ratio remains intact for the purposes of gravity calculations). The Darkhive derives it's name from a hexagonal structure, this was intentional to give the whole complex a crystalline/insectoid/inhuman feel.

For the purposes of shape, I'm looking at Goldberg polyhedrons (polyhedra?). The most famous of which is the soccer ball. 
But I'm going for the more rounded versions of these forms...

The Inner Shell (4 faces between hexagonal "points", 150 Hexes)


The Mid Shell (6 faces between hexagonal "points", 350 Hexes)


The Outer Shell (8 faces between hexagonal "points", 480 Hexes)

If each of the hexes is roughly similar in size, then the shells depicted maintain the ratio. The pentagonal "points" contain columns joining the spherical shell levels, to maintain stability between shells, only the finest thread would be needed. I remember Niven describing a similar concept to this in Ringworld, in theory gravity would hold the shells in place around one another, but it would be safer to have some kind of manual backup, and similarly it would be good to have some kind of way to commute between the shells. 

I'm thinking that each of the hexes should be roughly 5km across if I want the whole outer shell radius to be 100km. That means just over a 314km round trip to complete a circumnavigation of the outer shell. But 5km across for a single hex is too big for the claustrophobic vibe I'm aiming for with this setting (so we'll call these large hexes). I've shown in a previous blog entry that a hexagonal geomorph can be nicely divided into tenths. So I could divide a 5km large hex into 500m medium hexes, then subdivide these further into 50m small hexes. 

Using another division method, I can divide the large hexes into smaller cells (using divisions of 21). Using this method, medium hexes end up just under 240m wide (and about 400 of them for each large hex) and small hexes end up just over 11m wide (and about 160000 of them for each large hex). (too many to map quickly). This is what I actually did for construction of a 3D form that might be the basis for map work in this world.

Here is a cutaway rendering of a single hexagonal cell used in the overall construction. Sweeping through this particular cell is a junction for a canal system. Such canals would have been the major form of transportation throughout the hive. If we assume that all parts of the hive are three layers deep, then these canals would be located on the middle layer, they aren't particularly deep (maybe a metre).

(There end up being about 15 million of these small hexagonal chambers)

Placing the roof back onto the structure, and zooming into one of the canals, it becomes possible to see the shape of the background being used for the title illustrations in this series.


Looking back, at the cutaway, there are passageways between many of the hexes, some of these passageways might be intact, some might have collapsed, some might have been fortified and trapped by survivors over the many millennia that they have been stranded here. The central cluster of hexes is another interesting feature to develop as I constructed the hex form. Such an area might be a perfect location for a fortified outpost or trading centre in the hive. It exists on a junction of transport canals, it could probably be fortified, it's a self contained cluster. It was an accidental development, but why waste serendipity?

Surface area calculation give us 31415.927 square kilometres for each of the three layers of the inner shells, 70685.83 square kilometres on each layers for the mid shell, and 125663.6 square kilometres for the outermost shell. If each of the shells is 3 layers deep, calculations give a total surface area of 581194.314 square kilometres. 102101.757 square kilometres of that is on the "topmost" layer of the inner two shells, and thus open space covered by water or "natural" environments, 125663.6 square kilometres exists as the outermost part of the construction, and is uninhabitable due to being in direct exposure of hyperspace/astral energies. That gives us 353428.957 square kilometres of tunnels, passageways and chambers (maybe minus 10% to account for wall space). I'm assuming no-one lives on the outer surface areas due to dangers that will be explored in later posts.

The surface area of the earth is 510,100,000 square kilometres, so the surface area of this construct is less than a tenth of 1% of that, with three quarters of the space as claustrophobic tunnels and chambers.

That brings us to the total population of this setting. There need to be vast unexplored areas in the passageways, dangerous desolate and overgrown regions between scattered enclaves of survivors. As a ratio of population to surface area, we could make this construction roughly as population dense as Earth (assuming a population of 7.5 Billion), that means 14.7 people per square kilometre (that gives us roughly 5,196,000 people). But Earth is considered overcrowded, and in this environment, there is even less capacity to grow plants or farm animals. If the numbers are dropped to 5% of those figures (let's say 260,000 people total), we get closer to the potential for vast areas of unexplored world.

Even that figure is about 3 times the number of people I had originally considered for the setting (at about 70,000). Not a major concern, but it will mean rejigging some of the numbers.

Originally...

Null - ~30,000 (all over)
Khar Tui - weak blood ~8,000, strong blood ~2,000 (mostly in towns)
Riven - weak blood ~8,000, strong blood ~2,000 (mostly in barricade slums and fortified outposts)
Kithling - weak blood ~4,000, strong blood ~1,000 (mostly on the inner shells)
Ichthyan - weak blood ~4,000, strong blood ~1,000 (mostly on the inner shells)
Panaho - weak blood ~4,000, strong blood ~1,000 (mostly in one town and settlements surrounding that specific town)
Outsider - weak blood ~4,000, strong blood ~1,000 (mostly on the outer shells, typically in specific areas around their incursion site)

Now...

Null - ~60,000 (all over)
Khar Tui - weak blood ~20,000, strong blood ~5,000 (mostly in towns)
Riven - weak blood ~20,000, strong blood ~5,000 (mostly in barricade slums and fortified outposts)
Kithling - weak blood ~6,000, strong blood ~1,500 (mostly on the inner shells)
Ichthyan - weak blood ~6,000, strong blood ~1,500 (mostly on the inner shells)
Panaho - weak blood ~6,000, strong blood ~1,500 (mostly in one town and settlements surrounding that specific town)
Outsider - weak blood ~6,000, strong blood ~1,500 (mostly on the outer shells, typically in specific areas around their incursion site)
And two more rare races...
Xelani - weak blood ~4,000, strong blood ~1,000 (mostly in one town and the settlements surrounding that town)
Endoss - weak blood ~4,000, strong blood ~1,000 (mostly in the barricade slums and fortified outposts)

The new figures give us an approximate total of 150,000 people.

Dividing the settlements according to the new numbers...

Towns have roughly 2000 people (1000-3000, spreading over 2-3 adjacent 2.4km hexes), there would be 8 of these. (20,000 total population in these)
Villages have roughly 1000 people (500-1500, spreading over a single hex), there would be 40 of these. (40,000 total population in these)
Hamlets have roughly 400 people (200-500, covering half a hex) there would be about a hundred of these. (40,000 total population in these)
Beyond these are barricade slums (with 50-200 people, covering a cluster of a dozen or so chambers and connecting corridors), there would be a 100-150 of these...and a few hundred fortified outposts (with less than 50 people in each). (50,000 total population in these outer settlements)

The canal junctions mentioned earlier in the post would count as fortified outposts.





26 August, 2015

RPGaDay (Day 26)

Favourite Inspiration (for your game)

Honestly, inspiration can be found anywhere. I've carried notebooks around for years, just waiting for inspiration to strike, so that I can write it down.

I love bad movies with plot holes or crappy endings, where I can use the setting as a basis to quickly get everyone on the same page ("Just watch the movie, and pick a lesser character from it, we're going to tell their stories and they'll be far more interesting than the movie was...").

I love cutting out newspaper articles where you can tell that there was something happening behind the scenes that the reporter isn't allowed to write (for fear of defamation...or simply because the "facts" are so hard to pin down).

I love hearing snippets of conversation, or even being involved in them, and imagining the underlying meaning of those conversations completely changed if they were held in a different context (or if some of the words were being used to conceal protected-data/sacred-secrets of some kind).

I can find inspiration anywhere.



My favourite inspiration is the inspiration that is currently inspiring me.

Darkhive Worldbuilding (Part 5) - I Will Survive



Before I go further, I've made a fundamental error in my gravity calculations.

I forgot to include a centre mass. The massive "demonic elder god"/"white dwarf"/"black hole"/"singularity"/"unknown thing" in the middle. My gravity field calculations were based purely on empty shells.

It's easily remedied though, and actually fixes up a few of the calculations when I put the central mass back in place. If I declare the central mass to be an equal weight to the inner shell, then each of the shells can be the same thickness while maintaining fairly constant gravity fields on their surfaces.

No Core
Surface Area Weight Cumulative Weight Gravity
314.16 2356.2 2356.2 0.94248 (50km)
706.86 3534.3 5890.5 1.0472
(75km)
1256.64 3141.6 9032.1 0.90321 (100km)
Core
Surface Area Weight Cumulative Weight Gravity
N/A 1250 1250 N/A
(Inner object)
314.16 1256.64 2506.64 1.002656
(50km)
706.86 2827.44 5334.08 0.948280889
(75km)
1256.64 5026.56 10360.64 1.036064
(100km)

The weight numbers aren't in tonnes, they're just some arbitrary ratios based on surface area caluclations. I could get stuck into this further, but this isn't another post about the theoretical physics of nested Dyson Spheres, it's time to start looking at the things we really want to focus on with this setting. This is a world for telling stories in, not a world for simulating theoretical concepts.

Working off the same theories that drove the pirate/steampunk worldbuilding example. I'm looking at a few different cultures and a few different races that can be mixed and matched to form the basis of characters in this world.

This is a world of survivors, each of whom have chosen different ways to prolong their existence in an abandoned wreck that could have seen their rapid demise. In this surreal astral prison, at first they are afraid, they are petrified...they loo at their failing technologies (and former magics of their homeland) wondering how long their going to live without these tools beside their side.

Since this whole setting was designed as a variant for my System-4 setting, which has become my TMNT variant game, it applies a similar structure to character creation and character development. This means that there are certain things that can be bought in character generation, but become "locked in" once the character enters play. Races exist on a fluid continuum, but once a point on that continuum is fixed, the character must develop through other means (occupations, associates, agendas, virtues, vices, etc.)

In this regard I'm really interested in the idea of "ring species". This came up in a G+ discussion recently, where someone mentioned humans interbreeding with both elves and orcs, but you never see an elf/orc hybrid. The origin of my thoughts goes back to a race in the "Races of Destiny" book for D&D 3.5, a race called the "Mongrelfolk". The general idea focuses around the ultimate mixed breed race, they are "quartercastes" at best (human/elf/dwarf/orc/"other?"), not so much ugly, but definitely not bearing the marking of a pure breeding. Hell, what is pure breeding, is it (conscious or unconscious) eugenics? Maybe I'm being influenced by a lecture I attended earlier this week regarding the intersection of eugenics and euthenasia...

...anyway.

The concept of Mongrelfolk is perfect for this setting. Astral ships crash here, unable to leave, so they do what they need to in order to survive. This will eventually mean breaking taboos against relationships outside their race, otherwise they will eventually succumb to inbreeding. 

Instead of humans being a central race without major benefits or penalties (like you find in most settings), the mongrelfolk are the norm (I'll call them "Nulls" from this point because they exhibit no specific benefits or penalties compared to everyone else). We end up with a ring of various interconnected species like a wheel, and the Nulls become the hub. A species may procreate with those to the left or right on the wheel, or with the Nulls in the middle. 

Any bonding between "pure" adjacent species produces a hybrid of those two. 

Any bonding between a "pure species" and a Null tends to produce a "Null" who manifests more of the traits from the pure species than any other race.

Hybrids may only bond with Nulls or with the "pure blooded" species from which they derive. If they bond with the "pure" species, their offspring tend more toward those genetics. If they bond with a Null, their offspring are generally no different to any other Null. 

There's always the option for throwbacks, and there could be cultures within the setting who strive to breed the best combination of traits from the available genetic diversity, and this makes things into more of a continuum. Therefore character race in this setting will not be a hard "I'm this race", it will more typically be "I have genetic traits commonly found in this race, but I've also got some of that one". 

From the original brain dump document...

Races/Cultures
Null - (common) those descended from mixed blood who have lost their racial heritage
Khar Tui - (uncommon) a noble race of scholars and mystics
Riven - (uncommon) a race of giant warriors with a sense of honour and pride
Kithling - (rare) a race of mutagenic changelings enslaved to half-forgotten monsters
Ichthyan - (rare) an amphibious race once decimated by the Shellbrood in ancient times
Panaho - (rare) a race with floral kinship and a resilience to fungal infections.
Outsider - (rare) those who belong to minor races, and less populated groups. 

...each race will have a range of genetic traits associated with them. All characters in this setting fundamentally begin as Nulls with no benefit or penalty traits, players may choose for their characters to manifest genetic traits from one of the other races. Lets limit this to a maximum of 4 traits in total, each trait having a bonus and a penalty, and if they take more than 3 of these from one specific race they are no longer considered a "Null" but are now considered a member of that racial group. Characters may choose racial traits from two different raves to indicate that they are a hybrid (possessing two traits from a single race indicates a "half-breed"), but the racial groups need to be adjacent on the species ring.

The only problems I have with regard to the original brain-dump list are the "Kithlings" who have been defined in their nature as mutagenic (and thus might be able to breed with any other species if they adjusted their DNA accordingly), and the "Outsiders" who are a general catch-all category of assorted genetic traits (which could be used to create "humans", "elves", "dwarves", "klingons", or anything else that might have crashed a ship into the structure). 

Maybe it's easier to just forget the ring, and allow players to choose different traits from different races to reflect their character's ancestry (but maybe specify certain pairings of races that are generally genetically incompatible... If you pick any "Khar Tui" traits, you may not pick any "Ichthyan" traits). I'd be interested in developing a few more races, but at this stage I'll do that through specific combinations of traits in the "Outsider" group.