29 Apr 2016

NaNo Prep 2016 - Shadowrun Webcomic - Art Details

Time to switch back to my other potential NaNoWriMo project, the unofficial, unauthorized Shadowrun webcomic.  I've have a cast list, but the final product will be visual.  Time to get out the details about the setting, as filtered through my thought processes.

As with By the Numbers, I want to keep what happens in the webcomic within the mechanical possibility of the game.  I do have character sheets for the main cast, which did take a bit of time.  If this is the chosen project, then the sheets will be made available.  Why create the cast as player characters?  To figure out exactly what they have.  Shadowrun gets into details to bring the feel of the game closer to home.  Characters are, in a default game, deniable expendable assets for hire, without access to equipment that a PC in a Traveller may have.  Most of my cast have fallen through the cracks in the society of 2072.

I've broken things down by character, noting what items that would be visible to the reader.  Obvious cybernetics are obvious, and all that.  A quick note on commlinks - they're the equivalent to smartphones with more procnessing power.  All of the cast has subvocal microphones for them, so dialogue will need to reflect that usage.  Chrome and Corporal have smartgun links, so their weapons should have laser sights.  Everything else after the break.

22 Apr 2016

NaNoPrep 2016 - Colony Base 182: Casting

The past few weeks, I've been building Colony Base 182, first with its place in the overall setting of the Terran Confederation, then its world and main and only settlement.  But a colony needs people.  Time to work out the roles needed.

First, the people already on the ground.  I have Exploration Service researchers working beside homeworld scientists making sure that the world is inhabitable.  Not all will be staying, but some will.  The mission is a joint effort between the Exploration Service and the homeworld's government, so there will be a senior representative from each.  Since this is a team of field researchers, there aren't any dedicated administrative personnel, though the Exploration Service will have someone who will act as liaison and make sure that paperwork is done.  The Exploration Service is also supplying a small medical team, just long enough to help get the first wave of colonists out of cryo-stasis.

The Exploration Service is also providing personnel to act as law enforcement, at least until the colony establishes itself and works out its own laws and how they get enforced.  The service is providing two scouts, a senior constable already onsite and a constable who may be the viewpoint character.  On paper, the senior constable answers to the senior scout planetside, but, given the duties, he or she will act autonomously.  The goal is to keep the peace and make sure people don't kill each other, more easily done when pressure from above doesn't interfere.

Over at the starport, the settlement needs traffic control.  It's not a busy site, so minimal staffing will suffice, with enough backup in case of illness.  Traffic control will also handle shuffling cargo around; actual traffic will be low, mostly Exploration Service vessels handling mail duties and asteroid miners arriving for resupply, with the occasional shipment from the colony's homeworld.  The only busy time will be when the first wave of colonists arrive.  The Exploration Service will have mechanics, mainly for their own vessels.  The Commonwealth will have some mechanics at the starport to service private vessels.

That leaves the colonists, the people who will make permanent homes on the planet.  First wave consists of one thousand settlers, mostly young couples.  Figuring out all one thousand colonists isn't productive; most will be extras.  Having a few detailed, though, isn't a bad idea; a sample of who arrived.  The young homesteaders wanting to start a new family where the air is clean.  The miner hoping to hit the motherlode.  The settler escaping the homeworld's laws.  The would-be rowdies who keep the constables busy at night.  Enough to provide colour as the story progresses.

There will be a second wave of colonists.  This wave will have more townsfolk - administrators, merchants,

Here's the list so far.  I still have to flesh each role out more, but this gives me an idea of the size of the cast.
  • Senior Researcher.
  • Senior Scout, Colonization
  • Administrative Liaison
  • Scout Doctor plus medical team.
  • Senior Constable.
  • Constable.
  • Space Traffic Control, three shifts.
  • Ground Crew.
  • Young Homesteaders.
  • Miner.
  • Rowdies.
Still a bit of work to go.

15 Apr 2016

NaNo Prep 2016 - Colony Base 182 - The Settlement

Continuing from last week's worldbuilding, I have a world (UWP D655365-7) and colonists inbound, but they have nowhere to live.  While, technically, they will be building their homes and settlements, I do have a Exploration Service base already on the ground, with a limited starport.  As decided last week, the colonizing world is heavily industrialized.  It needs to import foodstuffs and raw materials.  Colony Base 182 is on a world that can support agriculture.  With the low number of colonists arriving, limited mining can be done in areas that aren't ideal for farming.  Farms and mines do need support, though, and that's where this week's focus will go.

In story, all this work has been done over a few years by both the Exploration Service and the colonizing world, determining the best locations for both the starport and the first town.  There will be some space between the two locations; a catastrophic accident at the starport shouldn't wipe out the main settlement on the world.  The settlement should also be in a location where farming can be maximized over the course of a year without being a toil for the settlers.  No one is building a town in a swamp this time*.

For the starport, I want the area to be sheltered with access to a bay or cove to allow for water landings and for refuelling.  Starships won't be able to land on a beach, though, not without sinking into the ground, so some sort of hard bedrock base near the bay is needed.  Since I'm creating the world, sure, it's possible.  After all, ice ages here on Earth have scoured the ground, revealing bedrock and depositing the soils hundreds of kilometres away.  Earthquakes and tectonic movement has also forced ground to rise to the surface.  An inlet caused by an ice age, with the soil desposited as islands just offshore should be theoretically possible**.  The starport can be placed there.

The settlement, though, needs river access.  Early shipping is easier using rivers until roads can be created.  While the colonizing world does have anti-grav vehicles used in day-to-day life, the colony itself cannot rely on transportation that, when it breaks, needs weeks or months for a new part to arrive.  Boats make it easier to transport bulk when there aren't roads of any sort.  The settlement is further north, at the mouth of a river.  The researchers and surveyors already have reseidence set up there, with early lots already marked out.  It'll take time before permanent buildings are erected; the surveyors are using prefabricated cabins that will be removed once the colony is up and running properly.  Even the town's meeting hall is a prefab building.  Warehouses have been built along the river for future use.  An administrative building has been granted a lot with some work installing the foundation already started.

While most of the colonists will be farming, not all will.  The settlement will have a number of services needed by the farming community, including a general store, recreation, administration, and repair services.  The admin building is already started, handled by the colonizing world for the most part, and will have licensing and government services available.  The Exploration Service will have a portion of the building to handle mail.  A lot has been set aside for the general store, awaiting the colonist who has bought the initial rights.  With a small settlement, competition isn`t possible, so the store has a regulated monopoly.  Once the colony is self-supporting will competition be opened.  Recreation includes the meeting hall, where films will be shown weekly.  The inevitable bars/pubs/saloons will open, keeping the story's main character busy corralling drunks.  Speaking of the main character, her office is also in town, still just a number of prefab buildings arranged together.  The Exploration Service isn't expecting a rash of violent crime that would need heavier prisoner facilities.  Worst case, the accused could be kept in cryo-stasis while awaiting transport to the colonizing world for trial.

The starport may have the only permanent facilities.  The colonits will be coming in cryopods, so a medical facility is needed.  The facility will double as the colony's hospital in the early years; while a distance to go from the town, flying in emergency cases from area farms and mines won't make much of a difference in time to the starport.  The Exploration Service base also has permanent buildings, to house transient scouts.  These facilities aren't extensive, but will provide some comfort for the spacers.  There's also a building acting as air- and space-traffic control.  Since expected levels of traffic is low, the building has communications gear and radar/LIDAR with satellite link-up to watch local space for inbound and outbound vessels.

Now to work on the logistics of getting one thousand colonists and their belongings sorted out and pointed in the right direction.  Even if it was possible to thaw out all of the colonists at once, the confusion and chaos that would cause would be a massive headache for the personnel already onsite.  While the colonizing world, determined last week to be a bureaucracy***, may have a list of who gets brought out of cryo-stasis first, errors happen.  Not only that, but the people on-site may have a better idea of who to thaw first, based on medical and logistical determinations.  The colonist whose belongings are easy to get at may be the first to leave, despite being in the bottom third of the list.

* Thus avoiding the weather issues Ottawa has, such as extreme temperatures and high humidity.
** Says the author with a high school understanding of geography but university levels of physics.
*** Government type 9, Impersonal Bureaucracy.  Doesn't mean that there aren't elections, but the system is set up to run on paperwork, no matter who is in charge.

8 Apr 2016

Colony Base 182 - The World

Flipping back to Colony Base 183, as last seen two weeks ago, I have the overall setting laid out if not fleshed out.  The Commonwealth is huge, so I will have to leave areas under-developed and undeveloped for now.  I don't need the entire Commonwealth mapped out. just the colony's "local"* area.  Time to get some thoughts out.  World building is nice to have, really.  The Elf's Prisoner suffered a little in execution because I was making up the world as I went.  With colony's planet as much a part of the cast as any character, I really do need to figure out what's there.

7 Apr 2016

Commentary Hiatus Reminder

There is no commentary today.  I am still working on a few ideas, trying to get them to shake out.  However, if any of the previous NaNoWriMo projects intrigued you and you want to see more, let me know.  As a reminder, the unposted projects were:
Tomorrow, either more brainstorming for NaNo2016 or pictures.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Jem and the Holograms.
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, managing expectations.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

1 Apr 2016

NaNo Prep 2016 - Shadowrun Webcomic

Two weeks ago, I previewed two potential ideas for NaNoWriMo 2016.  Last week, I posted details on the setting for one of the ideas, the Terran Commonwealth  Today, I want to lay out the idea for the other idea, the Shadowrun webcomic.

The still-unnamed comic isn't the first time I've delved into the Shadowrun setting.  I've played the game, even acted as the GM for a group of friends, and wrote By the Numbers.  The amount of world building needed is far less than that of Colony Base 183, though some is still needed.  Also, unlike Colony Base 183, the webcomic is starting from characters instead of the situation.  Unlike By the Numbers, the characters aren't a team, at least not yet.  The nature of the RPG lets me bring in a diverse cast and throw them into a job with little time for them to get to know each other.  Instant conflict there, and that can ramp up during the plot.  Let's meet the cast.

Chrome Rainbow - the muscle of the team.  Chrome is an elf from Tarislar, a neighbourhood in Seattle where displaced elves went during the Night of Rage.  He has a number of implants, as would be expected in a street samurai, and knows people from the neighbourhood who he can call on if needed, including the Elven Mob.  Chrome is also gay, thus the street name.  He's tall, tan, with short platinum blond hair.

Corporal - the getaway driver.  Corporal is an ork who is ex-UCAS Army, having served in the motor pool.  As a rigger, he has a number of vehicles available to him, including drone.  He named his vehicles after Transformers, based on the closest approximation between his vehicle and a character.  That does mean the Roadmaster is named after Optimus Prime and the insect-like Fly-Spy after the Insecticon, Ransack.  Corporal still has his Social Identification Number, which will make it tougher to avoid official notice.  His demeanor is far gruffer than Chrome's; Corporal doesn't waste time mincing words.

Papa Slick - the hacker.  Slick started running after Crash 2.0* caused his wife's death and destroyed the company he worked for.  Slick picked up "Papa" after his then-teammates discovered that he was raising his daughter.  The transition from corporate designer to shadowrunner was difficult, so Slick picked up some extra cyberware to try to keep up with the edge.  He brings an older but not necessarily wiser view to the group.

Sister Sam - the magician.  Formerly a Shinto priestess at a Shiawase location, Sister Sam fled the corporation after making a discovery that she couldn't reconcile with her beliefs.  She follows the Shinto tradition of magic, naturally enough.  Sister Sam has set up a shrine in Seattle, and takes jobs as needed.  She doesn't charge for dealing with dangerous spirits, such as insect spirits; she sees such beings as abominations that should be allowed to roam the Earth.  Her street name comes from being a priestess with a katana as a weapon focus; the name is short for "Sister Samurai".

Tempest T. Pot - the face.  Slightly more naturally charming than Chrome, Tempest has learned how to set people at east, thanks to her life on the street, first as a hooker, then as a bunraku parlour "employee".  Tempest managed to gather information when her second-hand skill jack was on the fritz and used it to leverage herself out of her contract with the Yakuza and into the life of a Shadowrunner.  She's still pulling herself out of the hole she's in; she still has the BTL addiction that sent her to the Yakuza parlour in the first place.

The first storyline will start with the cast already placed together as a team by Mr. Johnson, though without the needed prep time to get used to each other's foibles.  In media res bypasses the early set up and drops the audience right into the plot, hopefully giving them time to root for the characters before discovering their backgrounds.  All I need is one hundred pages of script.

Simple, ne?

* The one in-game, not the one that occurred in 2008.  Details at the link.