26 Aug 2016

Unruly - How Do We Solve a Problem Like Caitlin Chapter 2

"Overthrowing the school board.  Just where did you get that idea?"
"After all, everyone here wants what's best for Miss Caitlin, even if that means a private school in Ontario."
"Right, let's send her to a school that will teach her how to succeed in overthrowing a government."
"I do look forward to seeing Caitlin in September."

How Do We Solve a Problem Like Caitlin
Chapter 2 - Arrival

September, Six Years Ago

Caitlin paused for a moment as she entered her assigned bedroom.  A large number of girls her age milled about, all carrying luggage of some sort.  Half a dozen sets of bunk beds took up space along the walls.  With a mental shrug, Caitlin continued into the room, weaving her way past the other girls.  Several of her new roommates were already claiming beds, so Caitlin picked up her pace, heading to a back corner.  She set her duffle bag on the lower bunk of her chosen bed, then felt a looming presence behind her.

"That's my bed," a voice growled behind her.

25 Aug 2016

Unruly - How Do We Solve a Problem Like Caitlin Chapter 1 - Commentary

Unruly is back!  "How Do We Solve a Problem Like Caitlin" takes a trip back in time to when Caitlin was a wee Jennifer at the Academy.  However, this isn't her start of darkness.

Back in "The New Girl" Chapter 3, each of Laura's new roommates explained why they were were sent to the Academy.  Caitlin humble-bragged about her reasons.  She got into more trouble than she implied, mostly from her parents.  I've always known that both of Caitlin's parents were in the Canadian Forces, Major Anna Kane-O'Shaughnessy and Lt. Commander John O'Shaughnessy.  Anna is a pilot in the Air Command, based out of Greenwood, flying the CP-140 Aurora.  John commands the fictional Halifax-class frigate, the HMCS Hamilton*.  Caitlin played with toy soliders as a child; even her dolls enlisted.

Chapter 1 was written before the American election season went crazy.  I might have avoided naming one of the school board members Bernie if I'd known what was coming.  Bernie is one of those names that shows up in comedy, including that under-appreciated movie, Weekend at Bernie's.  His idea on sending Caitlin to military school isn't exactly a punishment for her; all that regimentation is something she'd lap up and demand more of.  She'd be running the school before she graduated.

Note that Elspeth Stone is the Assistant Headmistress of the Academy in the flashback.  She'll get promoted over the next six years when her predecessor, the poor dear, takes a medical retirement.  Ms Stone is an alumna of the Academy, as stated in "The New Girl" Chapter 1.  I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out what happened.  The Academy does do personal recruitment.  It's one of three most likely ways for a girl to enroll at the school.  The typical way is for the parents to enroll their daughter at the school as a last resort.  The next most popular method is for the school to actively recruit, as with Caitlin.  The last is to take in the daughter of an alumna, like with Cassie.  The Academy also does exchanges with other, foreign, schools, usually in countries that have limited journalism or severe language barriers.  Laura is an outside case; she's the first girl to arrive as part of a witness protection program.

One item about the Academy that doesn't get noted often is that the girls are smart.  Caitlin's reading books that are part of university courses.  Most public schools aren't equipped to deal with a student who progresses far faster than the rest of the class, especially now with the almost exclusive focus on extreme testing over teaching imposed from above.  Bored students, like Caitlin, will find a way to amuse themselves, though not to Caitlin's extreme.  Ms Stone is embellishing a bit on the Academy's curriculum, though.  She's not just selling the school to Caitlin but also to her parents.  Outside the room with the officials, she used lines like, "And if you agree, Miss Caitlin will not only be the Academy's problem, she'll be several provinces away and unable to return to seek vengeance."

Clubs at the Academy haven't really come up much.  I've been treating them as something that happens off-stage.  The cast list shows what clubs and teams the girls are on, but with the point-of-view following Laura, not much has been shown.  The Unrulies are expected to join a club starting in Grade 8; Jennifers aren't because they're left to be feral, though they can join one if they want.  If a club doesn't exist, an Unruly can create it if she can get a teacher to supervise.  Methods to get a teacher include blackmail, extortion, and sometimes just asking.

Teachers can chime in on Caitlin's punishment.  Technically, Caitlin didn't do anything to her school, just to the school board.  She's smart enough to do her recruiting where teachers can't overhear.  The restraining order might be a little over the top, but the board really hates it when a student tries a coup d'etat.  They also hate it when one is successful, but they wouldn't be in a position to complain then.  Caitlin should be able to keep up even with the two week suspension.

The title is a riff of the The Sound of Music song, "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" except that Caitlin isn't a nun.  The idea struck me and the first chapter came naturally.  It's unlikely that I'll do something similar with the rest of the cast.  Caitlin's flashback has some elements I felt needed to come out.  Which elements?  That would be spoilers, sweeties.

Tomorrow, "How Do You Solve a Problem like Caitlin" Chapter 2.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, ... The Bad ...
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, ... and the Weird.

* I went with the Hamilton because the HMCS Ottawa is a real ship of the class.

19 Aug 2016

Unruly - How Do We Solve a Problem Like Caitlin - Chapter 1


The Ulrich F. Gephardt Academy for Unruly Girls was founded outside Oshawa in 1886 to help young, troubled women turn their lives around.  In 1889, U. F. Gephardt changed the mission, refining the girls to become his personal army.  Gephardt retired to the Century Manor Asylum in Hamilton after suffering a nervous breakdown.  The Academy, however, still continues, helping troubled and troublesome girls get an education and a good start in life, whatever their ambitions are.

How Do We Solve a Problem Like Caitlin
Chapter 1 - Recruitment

March, Six Years Ago

Caitlin felt the various pairs of eyes all staring at her.  The long table in the school board's conference room fit everyone in attendance - her parents, her teacher, her principal, the head of the board, the board members who weren't still in hospital, even the chief of police.  All kept a wary eye on the young red haired girl.  Caitlin didn't bother to feign innocence.

"Well, young lady?" the head of the school board prompted.  "Answer the question."

12 Aug 2016

Future Plans

As mentioned yesterday, I'm having some computer issues.  The last piece in the BattleTech intro is sitll in the works, getting Rahela and Victor to join Frankie.  While that is in the works, here's what else I have in mind.

NaNo Prep Work
November isn't too far off and I've fallen a little behind in the preparation for NaNoWriMo.  What I want to do is write a short story featuring the characters I want to use.  Six stories may be a a stretch at this point, but I have nothing to lose by trying for it.  The six include the five characters from the Shadowrun idea and the rookie scout from the Terran Commonwealth.  For added fun on my part, I want the five Shadowrun stories to intersect somehow.

I've been putting thought into the two incomplete Unruly arcs I've started.  One focuses on Vamsi and her roommates, taking the spotlight away from Laura for a bit.  The other goes into backstory, six years before The New Girl.  I've been trying to work out what happens and may have an idea now.  I do want to introduce readers to Miriam "The Dictionary" Webster soon.

Cortex+ Hacks
I had an idea occur to me recently, using Cortex+ as used in the Firefly RPG and see how it can be adapted to Mass Effect.  I suspect that it'll be easy, with the only catches being species, biotics, and the paragon/renegade mechanic.  This is low on the list right now; I still need to think over the idea to see what can be done, but species may wind up being a distinction with just one trigger, the swapping the d8 for a d4 and a plot point.  Biotics will be handled by distinctions for now and may be swept into a role distinction (Sentinel, Adept, and the like).

The BattleTech hack will continue off and on.  What I have passed the conceptual test; treating BattleMechs as the same as starships doesn't break the system.  My current thinking is that players would have two PCs, one a MechWarrior, the other a support person of some sort, but only if 'Mech battles were regular.

11 Aug 2016

Commentary Hiatus

Due to computer problems, the commentary that was going to go up today will be delayed.  I have no idea when I'll be able to post it, but it will return.

Tomorrow, Future Pans.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Good....
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, ... the Bad ...

5 Aug 2016

Cortex+ BattleTech - Attack on New Turbinenplatz

With the third character prepared, it's time to get her involved.  Previously, Rahela and Victor, while toying with each other, stopped a lance of Word of Blake BattleMechs.  The story now switches focus to Frankie.

4 Aug 2016

Cortext+ BattleTech - ComStar Technician - Commentary

Gasp!  A second commentary in as many weeks?  Sure!  Why not?

First, the past three characters show one of my approaches to creating them for both gaming and writing.  With ensemble casts, I need to keep in mind the roles I need filled.  With the BattleTech concept test, the first two characters I needed were MechWarriors.  I then had to find a way to distinguish the two.  The third character, Frankie, needed to be different from both but still needed to be useful.  Thus, a ComStar technician.  The Cortex+ rules as seen in the Firefly RPG have broad skills.  Fix covers everything from toasters to BattleMechs.  Neither Victor nor Rahela have that skill; they're better at breaking 'Mechs, not repairing them.  Frankie, thus, gets that role.

However, role doesn't lead to personality.  So, knowing I need a technician, I still have to figure out who Frankie is.  The use of distinctions in Cortex+ helps define Frankie, not just in her role but in her personality and outlook on life.  Technologist reflects her affinity towards technology.  Know It All shows she's smart but has problems not lording her intellect over others.  Wet Behind the Ears means she's relatively inexperienced; she's going to make mistakes.  Broad strokes, but the more I work with her, the more I'll get to know her.

I went through a similar process with By the Numbers.  I had a ensemble cast, with certain roles that needed to be filled.  Numbers was an idea I had already was playing with as a player character, so placing her into the hacker role was easy enough.  Charles was another idea that kept coming to mind, the troll wall of muscle.  Treehugger, though, came from the rigger archetype in the Fourth Edition Shadowrun rules, with me interpreting the character sheet's list of qualities.  Oswald started as a generic mage, then slowly morphed into being a former law enforcement detective as planning began.  Know what roles I needed meant I could begin filling in details about the plot without having to worry too much about who was filling the position.  Once writing begins, I can see how the character behaves relative to the others.

The process is different when there is just one central character.  Usually, the plot depends heavily on that character to the point where I need to know who that person is before I can figure out key scenes, including the ending.  This may have been the biggest problem with Digital Magic.  I just didn't know enough about Jackie when I started writing that the story couldn't continue because it didn't suit her.

With an ensemble or just one main character, what I do find helps is substituting my characters in the place of another in a work similar to what I'm writing.  The change of character lets me work out what that person would do in the situation.  This comes from my RPG experience more than anything else.  It's easy to say that a different character would fare better, but would the dice agree?  Take Caitlin from Unruly.  Replacing John McClane from either of the first two Die Hard movies with her changes the tone of the movie.  Caitlin doesn't have the training John does; instead, she'd be organizing her own resistance force.  Or, maybe, trying to take over Hans' gang and make it her own personal army.

Second, I am taking some liberties with the BattleTech setting.  While I am trying to keep to the source books as much as possible, my interpretation may not be the same as anyone else's despite referring to the same books.  Traveller players have two acronyms for this - OTU, or Original Traveller Universe, and IMTU, In My Traveller Universe.  The OTU is the Third Imperium as seen in the various books released over five editions and at least three licensed spin-offs of the RPG.  Due to the sheer size of the Third Imperium, there are a number of valid interpretations of the setting.  The Universal World Profiles are shorthand descriptions of the planets, encompassing a wide variety into an eight character string.  How a world looks in play depends very much on the GM, and two worlds with Government Code 4, Representative Democracy, could have vastly different ways of electing a representative, from a parliamentary system to a tiered system where each level elects a rep to go up to the next level.  Similarily, the culture of a planet also depends on the GM and players; while there are details about Regina in the Spinward Marches Sector, the details about Sorel in the same sector aren't as defined.

Thus, I have a Lyran pilot on a world that is, in 3067, held by the Federated Suns with a Capellan peacekeeping force made up of a Canopian unit.  My interpretation placed a Lyran force on the world at the end of the FedCom Civil War, still evacuating the planet because space travel isn't easy to coordinate.  The Capellans have the peacekeeping force there because the nation's  Chancellor not only is the First Lord of the revived Star League but is also looking to reclaim the world, using the Trinity Alliance with the Canopians and the Taurans to hide his ambition.  I may be pushing the interpretation, but I can point out each element if needed.

Finally, all this is an exercise to see if Cortex+ can be hacked for another setting.  Originally, I was adapting the Firefly RPG for Traveller.  The catch there is that there may not be enough of a difference to be a proper test.  It's been said that Firefly was based on a campaign Joss Whedon ran in university, and speculation is that the game was Traveller*.  It's easy enough to find the links.  In terms of prior careers, Mal and Zoe were in the Army, Wash was a Scout, complete with faded Hawaiian shirt, Kayleigh was a Merchant, Simon was a Doctor, either from Classic Traveller Supplement 4: Citizens of the Imperium or from the core MegaTraveller rules, Inara was either a Noble, from the same books as Simon, or from the Other career in the original rules, Book was either an Agent from Supplement 4 or the Other career, and Jayne used the Mercenary character generation.  If true, than testing a hack for Traveller wouldn't be as robust as possible.  Adding giant death machines, treating them as ships?  That does test the system, and the system can handle it.  The 'Mech battle featuring Rahela and Victor showed that it is possible, though placing a d12 into any attribute may be too much.

For what was meant to be a simple test, the result became far more involved than expected.  I wasn't planning on having micro-fiction, but the characters insisted.  There's no guarantee that the story will continue, but now that I've started it, it's going to be something that I return to.

Tomorrow, introducing the third character for this extended example.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Transformers.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, The Good...

* The other possible game is /Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game/ from West End Games, modified for a custom setting with River using modification of the Force rules.  The archetypes in the game cover the same range of characters as /Firefly/ has.