22 Dec 2012

He did it!

We're saved!  He did it!  The Doctor saved each and every one of us!

18 Dec 2012

Subject 13 Backgrounder


Back in 2001 and 2002, I had the job from Hell.  No, wait, Hell wouldn’t have the job - too evil.  Front line phone firewall for a DSL ISP, dealing with people who have trouble spelling the dot in an URL.  It was bad.  Very bad.  It got to the point where I’d either find an outlet for the anger and frustration dealing with the people calling or develop software to send a boot to the head over IP.  I chose the outlet and created what was meant to be a text-based comic.  (Read:  A series of short chapters of an on-going serialized story based on the tropes of superhero comic books.)

Prior to starting Subject 13, I was playing with the idea of a superhero setting where the hero IDs continue through generations while the person behind the mask changed.  Naturally, I then went and started a series based on the specific character who doesn’t have a hero ID.  Go fig.  However, the point of Subject 13 was to redirect frustration.  If I couldn’t smack the callers around (and I caught myself at least once checking the address of a caller to see how difficult it’d be to go and deliver the needed boot to the head), then I’d do it through metaphor and symbolism.  The main character, Natasha Teresa “Nasty” Giuliano, became my avatar, letting me hit and swear at work while still keeping my job and remaining out of jail.

The original setting of the story is New York City.  Why?  Because almost every superhero is based either in New York City or a fictitious version* of it.  NYC is a large city, easy for one person to be overlooked, even if she has superpowers.  It gave Nasty some semblance of anonymity as she developed.  Ideal, really.

Oh, and already there’s part of her personality developed.  Her nickname basically describes her.  It’s not a name she’d choose to call herself; it’s one that was imposed by classmates.  Short-tempered, quick to lash out.  Perfect for allowing the author to hit callers without getting in trouble.

The job from Hell has since ended.  Best day of my life, really.  This reduced the need to boot people in the head a great degree.**  This let Nasty develop beyond her core concept, as will be seen in later issues.

Starting in the New Year, read issues of Subject 13 weekly.

* Metropolis is technically a fictional Toronto, but has been a replacement New York.
** There are still people who need one, just not from me.


8 Dec 2012

Story Concept


Some of you who know me may have seen this before, but I'm playing around with a series of stories set in the Traveller Third Imperium setting.

For those unaware, Traveller is one of the first science fiction RPGs, second only to Metamorphosis Alpha.  Originally, there wasn't a setting for the game, with subsector generation a mini-game unto itself.  Over time, the Third Imperium developed, including areas such as the Soloman Rim (the area of space near Earth) and the Spinward Marches (deeper into the galaxy).  For my series of novels, I'd be focusing on the Spinward Marches, a frontier area of the Imperium that allows for pirates, espionage, and political tension, as the Imperium and the Zhodani Consulate maintain a tight balance.

The main players of the area:
The Third Imperium - over a thousand years, the largest starfaring nation of (primarily) humanity around.  The Imperium is so large that news from the Core takes half a year to reach the far reaches.

The Zhodani Consulate - sitting beyond the Spinward Marches, consists of a psionically active branch of humanity.  Given the Imperium's dislike of psionics (mental powers) and aggressive expansion, the Zhodani do what they can to avoid mingling.

The Vargr - uplifted wolves with spacefaring capability.  Rarely seen as a unifying force, the Vargr are a wild card in the region.  A Vargr nation can be an ally of the Zhodani, the Imperium, neither, or both, depending on who is in charge (which can change rapidly over time).

The Aslan - a race of lion-appearing beings, whose roles are gender-defined.  Male Aslan are the warriors, charged with acquiring land, usually through warfare.  Female Aslan, however, tend to the land gathered, and are far more able to handle using technology that isn't a weapon.

Some of the minor players:
The Darrian Confederation - another branch of humanity, best known in Imperial space for accidentally de-stabilizing their homeworld's star.  After fighting their way back to being a spacefaring culture, the Darrians have figured out how they messed up their star and now have a weapon known as the Star Trigger that prevents being invaded.  ("You attack us, we nuke your star.")

The Sword Worlds - H. Beam Piper's space Vikings, essentially.  The Sword Worlds are a lower technology than the rest of the Spinward Marches major players, but are known for taking setbacks in stride and just keep going.


The titles for a possible Traveller Third Imperium series I'm playing with:
The Sword World Menace - wherein a Sword Worlds mission upsets the diplomatic balance in the Marches.
Attack of the Zhos - wherein the Zhodani launch the Fifth Frontier War.
Revenge of the Aslan - wherein an Aslan warrior seeks vengeance on the main characters.
A Darrian Hope - wherein our heroes head to Darrian space to resupply and repair.
The Imperium Strikes Back - wherein the Imperium counterattacks the Zhodani
Return of the Scout - wherein the former Imperial Scout in the cast returns.

Yeah, lots of work to do to fill things out.

7 Dec 2012

Writing - Where to Next?


NaNoWriMo is over for another year.  I now have the beginnings of a story, 50 160 words in.  What now?

As mentioned, I want to leave Beaver Flight fallow for a bit, to think it over, to let the ideas stew.  However, I just can't stop writing cold.  I'll fall out of the practice of sitting down and writing.

Fortunately, I have a few things to be done.  First, I need to get back to "Lost in Translation".  The reviews must flow.  Now is a matter of figuring out the adaptations to watch and see where I can get interesting tidbits.  The Addams Family should be on my list; from comic to feature film with a loving family that's just weird.  Should be up my alley.

Then there's editing my previous NaNo works.  I've gone through Crossover from 2008, getting it ready for submission somewhere.  (Where?  No idea.)  In the process of prepping it, I discovered that the tabbing is out of whack somewhere.  It'll take time to whack it back into a proper spot, even if carrots are needed.  Crossover seems to be holding up to re-reads during the editing process.  After Crossover, I have my NaNo 2010 project, By the Numbers, a Shadowrun story to clean up.  This one, I do hope to submit to Catalyst.  At the time, I wasn't happy with my progress, but rereading the story doesn't cause me to wince.

After that, I have some story ideas idling in the back of my head.  There's Karen's story that could be expanded.  I have an urban fantasy idea set out in British Columbia based on a game campaign that never really got going.  I have a detective story I've been working on during my commute on a Playbook.  I could even flesh out the Brazen Hussies and see where that takes me.

Indeed, I have choices, and plenty of time to work on them all at a leisurely pace over the next eleven months.  After that, it's NaNo all over again!

5 Dec 2012

A Different Look at Hero Points


One of the big changes in tabletop RPGs in the past decade is the concept of the hero point, also known as drama points.  The hero point mechanic allows the player to something to spend to show that character is putting more effort into what he or she is doing.  I estimate the first use of a hero point mechanic comes from Victory Games' James Bond: 007 RPG.  The game also introduced villain points, a mechanic that allowed the GM to let a villain escape or even survive to go on to do even more villainous deeds.

Hero points are typically earned by the PCs for acts in-game and are then spent as needed.  The points usually give a bonus on die rolls, either adding a large number (see various Cinematic Unisystem games, such as Buffy or Army of Darkness) or adding more dice to a die pool (see Force Points in WEG's d6-based Star Wars: The RPG or Edge in Shadowrun: 4th Edition).  However, one game took a different route.

Superbabes: The RPG from Tri-City Games, based on the titles of AC Comics, had a mechanic called "Bimbo Points".  Instead of earning and spending, players could take a Bimbo Point to succeed against all odds or two Points to do something outside the game mechanics.  Naturally, there was a catch.  As the Bimbo Points accumulated, the chance of a "Bimbo Event" grew.  If the GM rolled the number of accumuated Bimbo Points or less on a twenty-sided die, an event would occur for that character, and the Bimbo Points would be erased.  The event table in the game comprised of mostly embarassing situations, such as wardrobe failures or paparazzi infestation.  The idea was to avoid discouraging players from taking Points while still giving them a reason not to take too many.

While the concept worked for the setting, it occurred to me that the idea could be taken and transposed to a different game without too many issues.  The big catch is the name.  "Bimbo Points" isn't exactly a great term to use.  "Backlash" or "Karmic" might work better.  The events would need to be changed, too.  Here, though, I see the players being helpful, coming up with a number of ideas for the table.  Give each suggestion equal weight on the table, and leave a roll of 100 as either a group event or for a chance of multiple events.

What sort of games would work with this?  Right now, I'm still thinking it over.  I suggest not combining Backlash Points with a system that already has a hero point mechanism; that's just overkill.  Other systems work on the idea that the PCs are doomed, so being able to avoid, even temporarily, bad things works against the mood.  (Call of Cthulhu comes to mind here.)

Classic fantasy, though, could use it.  Sliding down stairs while firing arrows into orcs?  Definitely outside most games' mechanics.  Definitely worthy of a backlash mechanic.  Using a whip to swing across a massive barroom brawl?  Backlash point.  Just remember, tailor the events for the game.

3 Dec 2012

NaNoWriMo Wrap Up


Thirty days.  Fifty thousand words.  And, on November 27, I passed by my fifty thousandth word with three days to spare.  Thus, another NaNoWriMo completed.  This year also felt different.  Throughout October, I didn't feel like my heart was in the challenge.  Yet, once I got going, the words flowed.  I had four days where I had absolutely no progress at all; three were due to illness, including a disastrous second weekend of November, the fourth because I was being interviewed on CKCU about NaNo.  I prevailed.

Somehow, the words came to me.  I had very little time spent agonizing on where I was going, unlike previous years.  Oddly, this year's story, Beaver Flight, didn't really have much of a direction.  In the final weekend, I jumped to a twist that was going to be the end of the novel, then had the major revelation that I wanted in the story's sequel.  The change of timing came as I realized that a novel was the wrong format for Beaver Flight.  I had come to see that the story would work better if it was serialized, such as a series of short stories or as a webcomic.  Jumping ahead allowed me to get to the twist at a time when I needed the word count.  The decision to make that jump was easy.

The future of Beaver Flight is to lay fallow for a bit.  I will come back to it at some point, either to rework it or to build on top of what I've done already.  In the meantime, two previous NaNo projects, Crossover and By the Numbers, will get my attention for editing and cleaning.  This doesn't mean that the work put into Beaver Flight was a waste of time.  I wrote, and discovered that I could easily do two to three thousand words an evening on average.

Will I NaNo again?  Probably, depending on what next November looks like.  I need to have a story in mind far sooner than Hallowe'en, have the world created, and have a role for all the characters in mind.  Poor Renée in Beaver Flight didn't get much to do and started to feel like a fifth wheel.  Victoria started taking over scenes; sending her out to be the aliens' prisoner gave others on the moon more screen time.  Next year, I should work with a solo protagonist, with a reasonably sized supporting cast.  And, as always, experiment a little more.  Change things up.

Most importantly, keep having fun.

26 Nov 2012

I See the Light!


November 30 is looming for us NaNo participants.  Fifty thousand words.  A huge number.  Even its size changes depending on the type of day we have.  At the beginning, it's a challenge, something to chip away, a safe distance away.  A week in, and it's formidable, a wall that stretches to the sky.  Halfway, fifty thousand is out of sight, impossible to reach.

Now?  It's the finish line.  The light at the end of the tunnel.  The bottom of the slope.  Whatever was the worry about?

I broke through the 40k barrier over the weekend.  Seeing the number of words drop to four digits is a thing of beauty.  The countdown is entering its final phase.  There is little that can stop me now.  As long as I have story to write, I will be winning.

I hope to validate Tuesday evening.  That's just 5000 words away as I write this.  In the past week, I've averaged over 2500 words a day.  I've seen my mid-week counts rise to 2500-3000 words where in previous years I considered myself lucky to get to 2000.

I will cross the finish line.

22 Nov 2012

Strikers


Last night's D&D Encounters went well.  Far more combat than previous sessions, definitely.  My PC, an eladrin nethermancer with drow issues, managed to participate in them, too.  The mix of characters did show how brutal a party of strikers can be in D&D 4th.  We had an oversized table due to a lack of DMs.  My table had a drow assassin, a pixie vampire, a dwarf hunter, a half-orc berserker, a dwarf slayer, and my nethermancer.  In game terms, that's three and a half strikers (berserkers are part defenders, part striker, depending on temperament), half a defender, and two controllers.  Our opponents couldn't stay on their feet, thanks to the dwarf hunter, and then were pummeled into a thin paste, thanks to the strikers.  To give you an idea of how dangerous a party like this is, ask the cave fishers (underground oversized crayfish with a taste for adventurers).  They started on the ceiling, attacking from above.  One died from bloodloss caused by axes and swords.  The other, well, pummeled by a pixie, then dropped from the ceiling by the hunter.

The big bad of the night turned out to be a drow wraith.  Undead are usually vulnerable to radiant, yet we had no one who had radiant attacks.  Well, almost no one.  My nethermancer had an at-will that takes on the damage type of the target's vulnerability.  But, I had something I wished to try first.  My eladrin has a neat cantrip, Disrupt Undead, that reduces the target's necrotic resistance, something undead have an abundance of.  So, hit it that.  Hit it with a nethermancy spell, and whiffed, though the effect went off.  Used an action and whiffed with the other spell with necrotic damage, though it's effect also went off.  Argh!  But, I ended the fight.  I used the Unravelling Dart spell with its variable damage type.  Minimal damage, but strikers still do a lot of damage, even when halved due to insubstantialness.  Just a frustrating first round with the two misses.

Next week, back to the dwarven kingdom with the unicorn horn.

The Final Stretch


My last NaNo post was all about how far behind I was in updating and NaNo'ing.  This time, I have better news.  I'm still behind, but not that far.  Two days, before starting to write.  I've been pushing to get over 2500 words a night when I do write.  (Gaming causes slower days.)  This past Tuesday, I was caught up.  So, yeah, I can get to the 50k goal, easily.

Storywise, it's a slow pace.  One time skip, though planned, some action.  Far too much dialogue, really.  The story seems to want to be in a episodic format, not a novel.  Chances are, the story will be abandoned as a novel once I pass the 50k goal.  However, I could turn it into something else, with the work this month being treated as backstory and initial testing.  It's not a loss.

Characters are going in the right direction.  Darcy is definitely turning into the beleaguered leader, having to deal with the likes of Tori and Renée.  Dominique is becoming Beaver Flight's "mom", handling the emotional wreckage.  The aliens have appeared, though their motive is still hidden from the characters.  Renée is having some problem - she doesn't quite fit.  Where am I going from here?  One reveal coming up.  Another later down the line.  Some internal bickering, this time between flights.  The Russian flight leader has some issues to deal with.

And more giant robot combat!

21 Nov 2012

A little ditty...


During a discussion at tonight's D&D Encounters of what the creepy crawly in the cave was, the following came to mind:

In the tundra, the frozen tundra,
The ice worm sleeps tonight.
In the tundra, the cold, cold tundra,
The ice worm sleeps tonight.

A Rhemoraz, a Rhemoraz, a Rhemoraz, a Rhemoraz,
A Rhemoraz, a Rhemoraz, a Rhemoraz, a Rhemoraz.

16 Nov 2012

Catching Up


As you can see, I've fallen behind in updating. There's a reason.

I fell behind in NaNo'ing.

I didn't mean to. In fact, I didn't even want to fall behind. It's a tough slog trying to catch up. But, well, Days 8, 9, and 11 saw me spend most of my free time in bed. You see, I got sick. I wound up not being able to get out social activities, and one goal I have with NaNo is to do it without major sacrifices in socializing. I don't socialize much, and less of it is bad.

However, last weekend was just horrid* for me. I could barely stay awake. My throat felt like evil dwarves were sandblasting a hole through it. And, Sunday, I was up for a grand total of four hours at most, and definitely not continuous. Hard to type when LARPing a corpse. Even my cats were concerned. It takes a lot to get a cat to worry.

So, since the weekend, I've been working like mad to catch up. I had my best ever mid-week day of typing at over 3000 words in my history of NaNoveling. I can see the halfway point. Which is good, because I took the 15th off from writing, too. I know, I know, why stop when I could have been within striking distance of being back on pace?

The Ottawa NaNo group had a mid-way party. :D On top, CKCU's Kate Hunt was looking for people participating in NaNoWriMo for her show, Literary Landscape, and I volunteered to be in the studio while one of Ottawa's fearless Municipal Liaisons called in from the party. I figured it was chance too good to pass up. How often would I get to be in a radio studio? I'm catching up to my nephew** there. And then I went to the party. A good time was had, talking about novelling, Star Wars, Star Trek, Airplane, and other geeky endeavors. I feel I had a good excuse for not writing yesterday.

Where do I stand? Right now, I'm a little above 22 000 words, with Friday's needing 28 333 words to remain on track. I'll get a few more words in tonight, but not a full day's worth. This weekend, I hope to get at least 5000 words and get to at least one write-in. This will, ideally, bring me to within a day's worth of writing of being on pace, with Monday getting a major push to catch up. Not where I had expected to be, but not far behind, either.

* Yes, I use words like this. I read too much Enid Blyton as a younger me.
** Twelve years old and he's been to CKCU's radio camp to put together a show.

6 Nov 2012

NaNo Update, Day 6 – And I’m Off!

Those following me elsewhere have seen that I’ve reached over 8700 words at the end of Day 5, slightly ahead of pace despite two days of low productivity.  I’ve discovered a few things about Beaver Flight (story name or possibly series name at this point; wars shouldn’t last one book).

First, the supporting cast.  I’m slowly populating Darkside One, the lunar base that will be home to the Flight.  I still haven’t figured out who the commander is or if it’s a joint command (American-Russian).  I am trying to keep in mind that, if the story is ever adapted, some characters may become composites to save on casting.  However, at the same time, the option now exists that if an actor isn’t available for a role, a different character can be swapped in.  Major Joan di Carlo, whose name is handy for word count purposes, is turning out to be a key supporting character, providing a sounding board for Darcy (Beaver Flight’s commander) and being the voice of authority.  A Russian survivor, Yulya Emelin, came back as another supporting character; hooray for conservation of name space!  I have one more key supporting role, a Russian captain who is the base’s chief engineer, who needs to be named.  With the exception of random pilots met in the corridors and mess hall of the base, few other characters will be needed.

Second, names.  I’m using some short cuts for now, but I prefer to use an actual name instead of a placeholder.  For Russian surnames, I can always go to a NHL team’s lineup and choose a name from there.  In fact, Yulya’s surname came from a Montreal Canadiens player.  My main cast has last names now, which is good.  Darcy is only using their last names when addressing them.  Meanwhile, the others have worked out nicknames where possible (Tori, Dom).  Call signs are also in use – no giving away ranks over an unencrypted comm channel.  Darcy’s callsign is “McGee”, after the Prime Minister.  Victoria is getting called “Geek”, because she is one.  Dominique is getting her old on-court basketball nickname, “Dominatrix”.  (Yeah, the innuendo wasn’t supposed to exist in the story, because of the title.)  Renée… needs a call sign still.  I think her personality needs to develop a little more before I can properly give her one.  I’ve dismissed “Shrieker” for her, mainly because I want the innuendo gone, but have it on reserve for either an American or Australian pilot.

Third, details.  Little things are starting to pop up.  What do the staff of Darkside One eat?  How does it get there?  Where does the water come from?  How are patrols scheduled?  Do the various nations’ pilots fly together or only with their own countrywomen?  Did I end a sentence with a proposition back there?  What brand names are around?  How is the air recycled and refreshed?  The International Space Station (ISS) gets regular supply runs from Earth.  Darkside One, though is out of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and is, as the name implies, on the dark side of the moon.  What I’m picturing is a lot of food gets delivered either in powdered form or as basic proteins that are then run through a 3D food printer.  Of course, this means a shipment of real fruits and vegetables would be a huge cause for celebration, especially by the teams that were on the base from the beginning.  However, I have made the coffee there not the greatest, with tea being the preferred drink.

Lastly, the nations involved.  So far, I’ve introduced American, Russian, and Indian crew.  There are Australians (Kangaroo Flight), but none have popped up yet.  That needs to be changed.  Japan is providing the power suits (hey, mecha!), and I’m fairly sure that the UK, France, and Germany (among many others) are assisting in their own way.  However, China…  The story is about 100 years from now.  I’m being generous in assuming some of the countries involved (Russia, the US) will still be around.  China is one of the countries whose structure I don’t see as being stable after another generation.  At the same time, there are outside interests that need a unified China; most of them don’t want a civil war upsetting factories.  And that brings me to corporate involvement.  I’m trying to picture current companies that would still be around in a hundred years.  Off the top of my head, IBM.  Big Blue has adapted before and will adapt again, usually surprising people.  Beyond that, it’s hard to tell.  There are no hundred year old computer companies because the industry isn’t that old.  Puegeot, Skoda, Mercedes, Buick (GM) and Ford are the only car brands over 100 years old today.  Older companies are financial.  So, yeah, work to do there.

And that’s where I stand near the end of the first week.  Plot is starting to pick up, with the first time Beaver Flight meets the invaders coming up soon.  I’ll also need Darcy to loosen up a little with her team, at least off-duty, and get Renee to stop being easily annoyed.

3 Nov 2012

NaNo Excerpt


May I present part of the first chapter of "Beaver Flight"?


Chapter 1 – Arrival
May 17, 2128

The lunar lander touched down on Darkside One's landing pad. Darcy unbuckled herself from the acceleration couch. "Okay, ladies," she barked, "we will make sure our helmets are secure. We will then leave the lander and march to the airlock."

"Yes, Mom," Victoria called.

"Try not to trip up." Darcy looked directly at Victoria. "We want to make a good first impression here."

"Ma'am, what about our luggage?" Renée asked, her Montrealais accent lacing her words.

"I'll deal with that once I get you inside." Darcy turned her attention to Dominque. "Do you have a question or smart comment?"

"No, ma'am." Dominique shook her head. "I'll just be happy to stretch my legs. It's a little cramped in here."

Darcy smiled in sympathy. "These were never designed for tall people. I'll go out first to help you there. Lalonde, can you assist Pearson in here?"

Renée nodded, sending her dark red hair bouncing in the lower gravity. "Not a problem, ma'am."

"Thanks. And Grieg?"

Victoria looked up from her datapad. "Yes?"

"Don't break anything." Darcy put on her helmet and checked its seals. She gave the thumbs up to the others.

Victoria stuck her tongue out at Darcy as she affixed her helmet. She then helped Dominique with her shoulder length blonde hair as the taller woman sealed her helmet. Renée gave a thumbs up once her helmet clicked into place. Darcy's voice crackled over the suits' radio. "Okay, we're set."

31 Oct 2012

NaNo Warm Up

Just a small exercise to get the creative juices going.  The scene won't be in my NaNoverl this year.

Karen felt every muscle in her burn as she swam through the rough seas.  Between the swells, she saw her destination, the outline of what she hoped was an island, silhoutted by the setting moon.  Even as she drew closer, she felt her resolve erode as fatigue set in, making her arms and legs leaden with every stroke and kick.  A wave submerged her.  Karen fought her way to the surface, coughing out the seawater she swallowed.

The Winner Is . . .


It's Hallowe'en, All Hallows Eve, October 31st.  This means that NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow.  I have yet to make my decision.  This . . . is not good.  So, last minute decision time.  Beaver Flight or Mecha Academy?  Both have a detailed enough setting, characters, and plot.  Both can be adapted to some degree.  That means I have to choose the one I feel will keep my interest for 30 days and 50 000 words.

Last night, I managed to work out scenes for both.  Didn't exactly help the decision process.  But, MechAcad will have some major changes from what was planned, and I may need to ponder over the impact.  Meanwhile, a prologue and the set up to the plot twist in Beaver Flight doesn't require additional changes.

So, the choice seems to be simple.  The story for this year's NaNoWriMo will be:

Beaver Flight.

Stick along for the ride.  I can't promise daily updates, but I will be updating my progress for everyone to see.

Enjoy the ride!

30 Oct 2012

A New Approach

After Characterization, or Who Are These People? - Parts I, II, and III, I still haven't made a choice.  I have a better idea of where I am with each idea and how much work is left to go.  Brazen Hussies has no characters defined yet, but that could be a plus as much as a minus at this point.

Next angle, though, would to bring in adaptability.  Over at Fan To Pro, I write a column, Lost in Translation, that looks at adaptations, reviews, and remakes and what makes for a success with them.  I could use this year's NaNoWriMo to create a work that can be easily adapted.  Let's look at my contenders.

First up, the Brazen Hussies.  As mentioned before, the Hussies' setting is already defined.  The cast could become an issue, as could the format of the storytelling.  The idea with the Hussies is to show several levels of the command structure and how they deal with the events of the story, from the Regimental Commander on down to the grunts on the front line.  Added to this is the concept of the mercenary unit being all women; Hollywood tends to treat female leads as a rarity, especially for action and war movies.  This becomes a solid strike against the Hussies through no fault of their own.  A mixed gender cast may work better, but would require a rethink of the entire premise.
Next, Beaver Flight.  The setting right now is just a loose idea, with details filling in as needed.  However, since the setting is also local space (i.e, Earth, the Moon, and environs), a lot of it already exists.  With a smaller cast, a television adaptation is easier, and Canadian content can be met if needed.  The theme song just needs to be licensed.  Special effects may get difficult; right now, the main base is on the moon, with a lower gravitational pull than Earth.  That could be handwaved or, if needed, moved to a space station with the proper rotation.  (A space station can also become stock footage for scene breaks, if desired.)  CGI will be needed for the powered space suits, but the suits can also be turned into collectables.  Yes, I am considering merchandising for the story.  Action figures, dolls, miniatures, gaming, posters, anything that the fans might even think of wanting.  Despite the lack of male leads, I figure Beaver Flight has a better shot of being adapted over the Hussies, if only because the story can be turned into a movie, a TV series, a comic/webcomic, a gaming supplement for an science fiction RPG, and still maintain a cohesive story.

Can Mecha Academy top Beaver Flight?  The story shares the same setting as the Hussies’; in fact, MechAcad came first.  The format is similar to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter – a year by year look at a group of students, though in a different setting and without magic.  The risk of adaptation is the same.  If the first book of the planned series is filmed before other books appear, will liberties taken cause problems for adaptations down the line.  MechAcad also would work better as a TV series than a movie at this point; several plot elements will get woven through the narrative to be wrapped up either at the end of the novel or in a future title.  The reset button will be broken; order would matter, and traditional broadcasters aren’t at the point where they want all their offerings to be set in stone.  Cable, on the other hand, doesn’t care.  Series like Dexter, A Game of Thrones, and True Blood thrive on cable.  Working against a cable deal, though, is the young adult approach MechAcad needs.  The cast are young adults, just stepping out into the wider world beyond secondary school.

The Brazen Hussies have fallen back in the pack.  Given that there’s a lot of character work to be done and no audience as of yet, the Hussies will be set on a back burner.  The idea will still be around and can still be worked on, just not this November.  Beaver Flight and Mecha Academy are still evenly weighed.  The final decision will have to find another factor first.

27 Oct 2012

Characterization, or Who Are These People? - Part III


Parts I and II took a look at Mecha Academy and Beaver Squad.  On to the third idea, The Brazen Hussies.

At this point, I don't have characters yet.  What I do have are roles to be filled.  I've worked out that the mercenary unit is an all-woman team of at least regiment-sized with three battalions, each battalion having four companies.  The Hussies are one company, mixed infantry and heavy infantry.  That leaves creating a chain of command.  Starting at the top, there's the board of directors, composed of the unit's owners and past commanders.  The board determines the jobs the unit takes.  Also on the board, the current commanding officer, a colonel, who will need to be named.  Next step down, the battalions all have command staff.  I only need the commander of the the Hussies' battalion, though, even if she doesn't make an appearance.  She'll have a rank of Major, with a Lieutenant as an aide.

This brings me to the Hussies themselves.  The company commander, a Captain, will definitely have a role, as will her command staff (second in command, aide, clerk).  The three platoons comprising the Hussies will also have their commanders (Lieutenants) named.  Then there's the platoons themselves.  At this point, though, having at least 12 troops per platoon, naming each one might get to overkill, though a rough idea of who is in each unit may help.

The idea with the Brazen Hussies is to highlight the different levels in the command structure, from the Colonel in charge down to the ladies on the front lines.  This may lead to needing, essentially, three casts; one for the high level (the Colonel, the battalion Major, the board of directors), one for mid-level (the company commander and staff), and one for the front lines (at the minimum, a squad or two).

Oh, and figure out a plot.  I have a vague idea for one (the Hussies are hired to fill out an army where the bulk of the serving soldiers are trying to put down a rebellion when the government falls), but no milestones to aim for as of yet, not even a beginning.  But, that's a different topic for another day.

25 Oct 2012

A Decision is Made!

Yes, indeed, I have made a decision.  Unfortunately, not for NaNoWriMo.  Le sigh.  (Though that is coming after Part III of Characterization tomorrow.)

No, what I have done is decide what my character will be for the next season of D&D Encounters.  It's the final arc of the Web of Spiders, where the fate of the Realms are in the hands of the players.  One last push against the Drow after they've enacted a plot to steal the Demonweave of magic for the Spider Queen herself, Lloth.

I shall be playing Valanæ Winterbreeze, an Eladrin nethermancer (shadow wizard), who escaped from the Drow's clutches with the help of her assistant familiar, who will be working to keep Valanæ on the straight and narrow.  She will be joining such companions as Miss Quito, a vampiric Pixie, as they fight to keep the Realms safe from the machinations of the Demon Queen of Spiders.

Now to make sure that Valanæ has a cutie mark...

Characterization, or Who Are These People? - Part II


Last time, I covered the character development for Mecha Academy.  Today, I look at Beaver Flight.

As mentioned before, Beaver Flight was inspired by an Arrogant Worms song.  The story follows the titular unit as they fight a secret war against alien invaders.  The main question, before starting, is, "Why only women?"  That's a very good question, one that needs answering before continuing.  Why women?  Because the aliens kept taking the men that were fighting before.  In every battle before switching to the all-female force, there were no bodies left, either of the Allied Forces or of the alien invaders, except the one time a Russian woman was found in her powersuit.

Again, the main idea came first, so now I need to figure out the roles and fill them.  Obviously, I will need a leader, someone who has proper military training.  At the time I was first working on the idea, I was on a contract at the Department of National Defense; specifically, the Canadian Forces Air Command.  From there, I figured the leader would be a newly graduated helicopter pilot.  Why a helicopter?  The controls are more complex than airplanes, which would lead to an easier time training the pilot on the powered armour.  Darcy, call sigh "McGee", is an Royal Military College graduate that is nominally assigned to 404 Squadron* but on assignment on the moon.**

With the leader out of the way, the next one I came up with was Victoria, call sign "Geek".  Victoria is a University of British Columbia engineering graduate.  Her top marks and her geekiness got the attention of the project leader, who authorized an offer: join the mission and have your loans paid off in full.  What newly graduated student wouldn't jump at that?  Victoria's role is to be a field mechanic and design consultant.

Next up, Dominique, call sign "Dominatrix".  Dominque holds a Masters in Physics from Carleton University, ideal for adapting tactics in space.  Her call sign is a holdover from her basketball days as a Raven, dominating the opposition.  Being tall and athletic, Dominique will likely be used for spearheading attacks in gravity.

Finally, in the flight of four, Renee, who still needs a call sign.  Renee has a degree in linguistics.  Command is hoping that she will be able to work out the invaders' language, allowing the Allied Forces to find out what they want.

Part 3 will look at the Brazen Hussies and my approach in setting them up.

* The squadron does exist, but the 404 also refers to the "Page Not Found" error.
** I realized that I had to place the story in the future as a result.  This will give me a prologue to explain the details of the setting, adding to my word count.

23 Oct 2012

Characterization, or Who Are These People? - Part I


In an effort to figure out which story to write for NaNoWriMo, I'll go through how the cast of the stories I've detailed before.

First up, Mecha Academy.  This story started off inspired by several anime and related RPGs.  The idea was to follow a group of cadets through their time at the titular academy.  This meant coming up with a squad's worth of characters.  One of the cast was an idea I'd been playing with after reading through the Mekton Zeta lifepath generator,* resulting in a young woman whose family had defected to the other side.  After mulling things around a bit, I determined that she had gone, too, but returned with some assistance from a spy from her homeland.  Dusty, for that's the name she answers to, fills the somber niche in the squad, plus can be a source of internal conflict.

That still left me with four characters.  However, with Dusty as a source of conflict, I added someone for her to conflict with.  Hence, Rhiannon, the daughter of a duke, and whose brother died when Dusty's family defected.  Ta-daa!  Instant conflict!  But, why is Rhiannon out at a frontier academy instead of one on a core world?**  The obvious answer - she wants to make it on her own merit instead of being treated as nobility.  On a border world, she thinks that she'd be treated just like every other recruit.  This, though, implies that the core academies tend to make it easier for the spawn of nobility to graduate.

So, now with two characters who will generate conflict, what next?  Maybe a hint of romance, to attract shippers***.  Mind, shipping will happen, no matter what.  But, I get to pair off my characters first.  Nyaah! :P  So, next character was Rick, a hot-shot type with a flair for piloting.  All space opera has a hot-shot pilot; it's in the rules somewhere.  And, most hot-shot pilots are considered dashing.  If Rhiannon wants Rick, she's going to have to get his attention.

The next character is Lars.  I needed someone who is local (though Rick could also be from the same world).  With Lars, I made him a farm boy, giving the squad some basic survival skills before classes start and a guide to the local area.  Rick, though, is more familiar with the main city.  Lars is also more physical, the biggest of the team.  Trope-wise, he's the Big Guy.

This left me with one more character.  The big difficulty here is to avoid adding a character just to fill the role.  That would have the character just there for the sake of being there, with no other motivation.  I didn't want Miyami to suffer like that.  She needed her own storyline.  Thus, she's actually underage.  Miyami left home to join the military to help her parents out with extra cash.  She forged her age and enlisted.  This also means she's a hacker, a skill that the other four don't really have.  Miyami now has her niche and a secret to keep hidden until she graduates.

Now, I have my squad, some conflict already, potential hookups and shipping.  All that's needed is a plot.

In part 2, I'll cover Beaver Flight.

* A series of tables with suggestions for a character's background; the option was to roll or choose.  In this case, I opted to choose.
** And you can see elements of setting building up.  The setting has been greatly expanded, allowing for nobility, flying cars, and giant mecha.
*** Shipping is the pairing of two characters romantically, usually in fanfiction.  Gender doesn't matter.  Shippers are those who ship characters.

19 Oct 2012

Season "Team Evil" Comes to a Close


This past Wednesday saw the end of the current season of D&D Encounters.  My character, Xaelynna, the drow enchantrix, died.  She was brought below 0 hit points during the fight and left by her teammates in a spider web.  It was the best sort of death she could’ve hoped for, besides being assassinated.  She leaves behind one annoyed mentor who was going to use her to gain power on the ruling council.  If the campaign continued, I’d be working out a new PC, most likely a deep dwarf slave attached to another drow PC.  Then I’d mention to the GM that Xaelynna’s mentor may want to exact revenge at some point.
 
Next week’s Encounters is a “Slot 0” session, where players create characters for the next season.  I mentioned previously a few ideas I had.  Others are coming to mind, too.  An eladrin witch (Heroes of the Feywild), an eladrin nethermancer (Heroes of the Shadowfell), and a tiefling druid are all in the running with the pixie skald.  I’ve got a week to figure that out.  Part of the decision will be based on what’s needed.  Defenders were thin on the field this past season, and leaders rare the season before that.  Ideally, I should have ideas for each role, and I’m halfway there.  (Wizards are controllers, druids can be either controllers or leaders, skalds are leaders.  Just missing are a striker and a defender idea.)  I’ll post my decision when it’s made.

Oh, and possible try to figure out a pic for the PC.

13 Oct 2012

Encounters Characters

As can be guessed, I play RPGs. Wednesdays, Wizards of the Coast has an event known as D&D Encounters. The goal is to let new players try the game starting from first level without having to find a group or a game convention. Naturally, WotC also uses the event to market the latest books. I've been playing locally using a variety of characters. It's a chance for me to experiment and try races and classes I don't normally touch.

Two seasons ago*, I decided to get back in touch with my inner swashbuckler. Back when Living City was a thing for AD&D 2nd Edition, I played a swashbuckler half-elf thief called Aelfward Shadowstar. During play, he got gender-changed and gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. Yes, in the same adventure. He never got swapped back, and ultimately was eaten by a brown dragon. However, Aelfward Junior existed. So, when Living City went to third edition, Aelfward did, too, this time as a swashbuckling bard. Unfortunately, work ate into free time (scheduling problems; avoid working in call centres if you want to see people who don't work in one), and the character languished. When I found better employment, I got back into regular gaming. Along comes D&D 4th Edition. In an early game set in the Forgotten Realms, I created Aelfward III, a swordmage who swashbuckles. Again, just for the fun of it. And that brings us to Aelfward IV, elemental warlock and arcane swashbuckler who was a lot of fun to play. Playing a swashbuckler, I look for chandeliers to swing from, damsels to de-distress, and jokes to quip. The class was an afterthought.

Last season, because there was a dearth of leader types (classes that heal others), I went for a Warpriest from D&D Essentials, using the Sun Domain. Varrs Shadowstar (a distant relative and a full elf) handed out healing and temporary hit points like candy on Hallowe'en. "Oh, is that a minor scratch? Here, have some temporary hit points to make you feel better." Healing others didn't take away from fighting the monsters. Usually, if anyone went down, it was Varrs because he gave healing away to the rest of the party. At the same time, Varrs was on a mission, a roaring rampage of vengeance and light against the drow. With drow in the party. "You can't trust drow. They're a race of murdering liars. No offense."

This current season, which is about to draw to a close Wednesday, takes a look at the other side of the fight, Team Evil. The players are drow or their minions/slaves, working to bring the Demonweave under the control of Lloth. Naturally, being the more unsavory types, not a good-aligned PC around. I went for evil, aiming towards the old Lawful Evil alignment, where one worked in the bounds of rules and regs to move towards the top of the food chain. Thus, Xaelynna, drow enchantrix (drow elf, Essentials wizard, school of enchantment). Her goal, to become the power behind the throne, pulling strings, manipulating, all through the use of her spells and her charisma. Think Tolkien's Wormtongue, but female and sexier. And she managed to get a major goal during play. Publically, she's now an apprentice to a more powerful wizard in her House. And, to appease the misadrist priestesses on the Council, she's volunteered to be the act as her mentor's voice as the wizards advise the priestesses on the use of the Demonweave. Xaelynna is exactly where she wants to be. If this was a long campaign, she'd be working at worming herself into Council, manipulating her mentor, using gossip and lies to deal with enemies, and just being a nasty little vixen. Xaelynna deals in favours, and will remember who owes her.

And that brings me to next season of Encounters, the last one in its current form according to WotC. As long as it relates to Essentials (ie, not from the older Player's Handbooks 1, 2, and 3), it's allowed. So, that rules out the wild mage sorcerer idea; the class is in PHB2. But, looking through what I have that is allowed, well, a Pixie Skald (bard variant found in Heroes of the Feywild) and a Tiefling Druid of the Wastes (Warden Druid variant found in Heroes of the Elemental Chaois) are both legal and intriguing. As a bonus, both are leaders, thus helping ease the pain of hit point loss on others. I have about two weeks to decide. Mind, the pixie feat Streak of Light might be the deciding factor.

Encounters player? Let me know what sort of PC you're playing currently and what you're thinking of playing for the next season!

* Each series of adventures is called a season. The adventures are linked in an overall story.

12 Oct 2012

Decisions, Decisions


NaNoWriMo is coming up.  This will be my seventh year participating.  I've had a decent run, too.  Seven starts, seven times hitting 50k words.  One year, I reached 85k words.  (The math puts it at an average of 2667 words/day.  It took the first week of December for my hands to recover.)  Last year, though, was a measly 51k.  Usually, by October, I have narrowed the ideas down to one and have at least thought about the setting.

This year?  Oi...

Three ideas.  All similar, but different enough that mix and match isn't possible without getting another idea.  So, here's what I have.

Mecha Academy
I finally figured out the format for the story.  Originally, it was more episodic in nature.  To work around that, the framework is to tell the story of the cast in their first year at a military academy for mecha pilots.  Over the course of the year, they'd have conflict with each other, fellow cadets, officers, and the Republic (the "bad guys").  I had started working on this back in 2001, but hadn't filled in the gaps since then.  Technically, this makes me a NaNo rebel - I'm not starting a new story from scratch.  (But it's not cheating.  Fifty thousand new words is still 50k words.)  I have worked out background, setting details down to ranks, the nature of the Imperium and the Republic, types of vehicles (fanbikes!  Flying cars!), all of that.  Just have to, you know, write.

Beaver Flight
Inspired by an Arrogant Worms song ("We Are the Beaver"), the story features an all-woman flight of powered armour (smaller than Mecha Academy's mecha) as they take on an alien invasion.  The characters are worked out, very little has been written, and I might even know where to start!  (Yay, prologues!)  The nice thing about Beaver Flight is that I don't need to end the war in one book.  I have a rough idea of the supporting cast, including command staff, other flights (Eagle, Bear, Kangaroo, Tiger).  The problem, well, given the nature of the staffing, despite using national animals... yeah.  But, there's a big reveal in place!

The Brazen Hussies
Another all-woman force, this time a mercenary unit working in the Republic (see Mecha Academy, above).  Just placing the story in the same setting cuts down on prep work, but I still need to figure out cast and plot.  Though, with this story, I could work on a multi-level narrative, from the troops on the pointy end of the explode-y stick to the field commanders to the brass.  All that I need to do is work out the mercenary force.  I've got until November 1st to figure all that out.  Oh, and come up with the proper name for the Hussies; the title is their nickname.

Eventually, I'll have a choice.  And I'll be blogging the insanity of NaNo throughout November, provided my brain isn't all melty.

11 Oct 2012

What's All This, Then?

Welcome to The Chaos Beast, my little corner of the web.  This will be a place where I pontificate about things on my mind, such as writing, reading, current events, basically, anything.  More serious work will appear over at Fan To Pro, where I contribute.  I'm a fan of movies, animation, books of all sorts, and sometimes baseball.

Updates will be irregular, but hopefully interesting.

See you around!

Merry Christmas!

Hello, World