10 things I’ve learned about world building in role playing games

1. Shouting “This is MY world bitches!” at your players is not acceptable.  Particularly  when one of your players is also your wife.
2. If you challenge your PCs to break your world, you will have a broken world.
3. In a world populated only by Gnomes, tall grass is a real problem.
4. Substituting sound effects for descriptive text just isn’t going to work, no matter how  much I think I sound like a Yeti crashing through a forest.
5. Giving key NPCs unpronounceable names is only making life harder on yourself.
6. All barkeeps speak with a Scottish accent.
7. Even one carefully hidden Monty Python reference built into the myths or politics of your world will be discovered by your players and cause your entire campaign to dissolve into awful British accents for a half hour, at least.
8. Handing out 127 pages of background material on the first night of a new campaign is the equivalent of handing each of your players a dead rat.
9. Pages of carefully prepared dialog to be delivered by a fully developed NPC can be invalidated by one fireball.
10. Give the party a map and they are good for the night.  Teach the party to map and you never have to futz about with grid paper again.

[tags]role playing games, rpg, world building[/tags]

Axe Cop is the best thing to happen to comics since sliced bread

A few days ago a huge, explosive event happened on the Internet.  Loud enough to cause social sites of every stripe to sit up and take notice.  Explody enough to almost trend on Twitter (an event a lot of folks are still working towards dammit).  That explosion has a name:  Axe Cop.

He’ll chop your head off.

If you’re late to the game and if you love comic books as I do, then I urge you – nay I demand that you go to the Axe Cop website and read this comic.  It’s awesome.

Axe Cop was the brain child of Ethan Nicolle (29) and his younger brother Malachai Nicolle (5).  It’s got two things going for it that most comics are lacking.

First, it has the imagination of a 5 year old powering the story.  I had a 5 year old last year, and I’ll have another next year.  They have  imaginations that most power-house fantasy authors can only dream about.  Anything can be real and when they’re allowed to explore their made up universe unfettered everything becomes possible.  Yes, the tend to niche these ideas  (dinosaurs for some, princesses for others) but that’s okay.  It’s a wonderful force, a 5 year old’s mind.

Second, there is an artist taking these ideas and bringing them to life through wonderfully unselfconscious characters.  Axe Cop is a bad ass. With an axe.  And lemon.  He doesn’t care that this idea is completely off the wall and would never work, he’s Axe Cop and obviously the idea does work.

All of those characters in other comics who secretly yearned for a powerful, magical unicorn horn to sprout from their heads and grant wishes – Wolverine I’m looking at you – they can realize their dreams here.

The expressions the characters have whilst being thrown at giant robots, or turning into Avocados are priceless.  Bad Santa and Sockerang’s gaining of the powers of Christmas literally had me crying I was laughing so hard.  The use of the onomatopoeia “stab” still has me chuckling to myself.

The elder Nicolle is a seasoned comic artist, who’s prior efforts are available through amazon in the form of the graphic novels Chumble Spuzz.  Hell you can even catch a trailer:

Also check out the Comics Alliance for a great interview with both elder and younger Nicolle.  Also while you’re at it, you can get yourself an official Axe Cop T-Shirt or two. I know I’ll be getting mine!

Whatever you do, certainly give it a read.  It’s well worth your time.

[tags]comics, axe cop, uni-baby[/tags]

The dead walk the earth while the gods sleep

Note: If you want to follow the development of the Aruneus world, just click this. Bookmarking that will bring you back to the latest news.

The gods sleep while we mortals suffer.  The dead roam the world while the gods remain mute.  The powers have left us to this nightmare and we are faced with living death.  The White Cloth speaks of patience and of turning the tide.  We speak of embracing our death, of controlling it.  You in your entropy are eternally in motion, never at rest. We call on you Dal, in this time of the sleeping powers, you who are still around us, with us we call on you to empower us.  You in your entropy are eternally in motion, never at rest.

Cult of Dal chant, WareHave, 100AA

Here’s the latest installment of world building for Aruneus.  For those new to the party, I’m constructing a high fantasy campaign via D&D 3.5 rules which takes place 100 years after a zombie apocalypse has decimated 90% of the worlds population.

A quick fact sheet for those just tuning in:

  • Only humans are affected by the bite of a zombie.  Well, everyone’s affected as it hurts like hell but only humans will turn.
  • This is a Romero experience: zombies shamble, a bite is 100% fatal and guaranteed to turn your friends, loved ones, npcs and characters into shambling undead eating machines.
  • Elves, Dwarves and Orcs are the other three major races.
  • The world is still a political one – government and religious factions via for control, kingdoms expand and contract, the Orcs are taking advantage of the chaos to create their own kingdom and you, the party are smack dab in the middle of it.
  • There’s a good bit of history, zombie stats, and possibly a cure, all detailed in earlier posts.  Click the link above to see those.

The Gods of Aruneus

It is said that in the time before the arrival of the Elves, Aruneus was a godless world, existing in a state where powers and magic was free to use for all and no beings of immense might had come to claim these raw powers for themselves.

Scholars do not know how the Elves arrived on Aruneus, or where they came from. If even the Elves remember they have not exposed the secret.  However the arrived, when they came to Aruneus they brought with them or allowed to arrive six deities who claimed this world for their own.  Though they occasionally took an active role in world events they have generally focused on their own realm outside of the purely physical.  They are often referred to by the religious orders who follow them as the Gentle Gods for their sparse interaction with the world and its populous.  They are generally divided between the Gods of Light who’s concerns are said to be those of creation and the Gods of the Dark who’s concerns are with entropy.  Neither the Gods of Light or of the Dark can said to be good or evil, and have in the past granted powers to priests who have both helped and harmed many.

The vast majority of sentient individuals on Aruneus do not dedicated themselves to one of the six, rather they are worshiped as a whole with various gods being called upon for specific prayers as needed.

The Gods of Light

Tamir, or the All God was the first to make itself known to the Elves.  Tamir has appeared in many forms, as both sexes but is always said to have worn a crown of white ivory when manifesting in the physical realm.  Tamir is said to be the most powerful of the deities ruling over Aruneus and is most often associated with healing and reconciliation.  The Elves hold that Tamir has some influence over the other deities.  Through the ages a number of religious orders have dedicated themselves to Tamir and Tamir’s Will (although the latter is almost never communicated clearly).  The Order of the White Cloth is the latest religious order to be dedicated exclusively to Tamir.

Vaalu is a god most often perceived as male and has been said to have manifested himself mostly as a powerful, red bearded Dwarf.  Vaalu is most concerned with knowledge and learning, whether it is in the realm of magic, scholarship or recently the new sciences responsible for lighter than air craft.  Of the six, Vaalu is said to have manifested itself most often in the early times of the Great War.  Often offering new knowledge to all of the races.  He is sometimes seen as a trickster as well as a giver of knowledge.

Raena is always portrayed as a female, taking the form of any of the sentient races.  She is always seen clothed in greens and browns and is associated with growing things, forests and fertility.  Popular with farmers and those who live close to nature, Raena has in the past proven to be fickle when it comes to intervention, apparently choosing sides on a whim.

Nantos is associated with birth, fertility and new life.  Nantos has manifested as both male and female, Dwarf, Human, Elf and Orc.  Nantos is credited as the most active god within the mortal sphere. Documented manifestations date back to the League of the Ring.  There have been several religious orders dedicated to Nantos specifically.  The last, the Order of Nantos was popular amongst Elves and Humans until the mid 400’s BA, when it fell in to decline.

The Gods of the Dark

Mertos is associated with war, hostility and trade.  Mertos most often manifests as a tall, dark haired Human.  He was last sighted when the Necromancer’s forces were destroyed and her threat was eliminated.

Dal is associated with death and dying.  There have been no confirmed manifestations of Dal within recorded history although popular thought holds that seeing Dal manifested leaves you little time to talk about it or do anything else in this world.  Most religious orders either shunned Dal or incorporated it into their existing rituals.  Until very recently there have not been any orders dedicated to Dal.  Now there are a number of cults dedicated to Dal, which the Order of the White Cloth works actively to stamp out.

The last confirmed manifestation of any deity on Aruneus occurred days after the initial undead surge, when Nantos appeared before Lord Neveron of the Old Kingdom, while the Lord was holding court.  Forty courtiers report Nantos appearing as a human male, clad in cloth of gold.  Nantos reportedly whispered something to Lord Neveron, looked back over his shoulder and then vanished.  Lord Neveron immediately called a closed council meeting with his personal advisers.  During this meeting he was assassinated by one of his advisers who also succeeded in killing the other 9 men and women in the room, and then themselves.  No one is sure which adviser was responsible.

While the power of the gods is manifest through priests and can be seen to work on a daily basis, the gods themselves have chosen (or have been forced) to remain mute since the dead began to walk Aruneus.  There is vast speculation as to what has happened to them, why they no longer intervene in mortal affairs and why they have chosen not to speak.

[tags]aruneus, rpg, role playing, zombies[/tags]

EA brings Hell to the superbowl. Also makes a nice montage video.

Looks like EA is ready for some football.  They’ve purchased a spot during the Superbowl to highlight their newest franchise – Dante’s Inferno.   Over the weekend they also dropped this nice (up to 720p) video montage of what hell may be like if you carry a fantastically large penis scythe.

There’s the vid, and here’s what EA has to say about the Superbowl, Hell, Dante and just about everything else you could ever want to know about this game without actually playing it.

As the New Orleans Saints make their Super Bowl debut, so does Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: ERTS). On Super Bowl Sunday, two days before the game hits store shelves, EA will introduce football fans to Dante’s Inferno, a third-person action-adventure videogame, with the company’s first-ever Super Bowl commercial. The hellish 30-second spot features Dante’s Inferno, a stunning HD game inspired by the first part of ‘The Divine Comedy’ written by 13th Century Italian poet Dante Alighieri. The ad entitled “Hell Awaits” premieres during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIV broadcast on CBS on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010. Dante’s Inferno from EA will be in stores on Feb. 9, 2010.

As traditional advertisers withdraw from this year’s big game, EA – a leading interactive entertainment software company – will use the Super Bowl as a platform to expose nearly 100 million viewers to Dante’s Inferno within the coveted 18-34 year old male demographic. EA joins perennial advertisers Anheuser-Busch and Mazda as well as other newcomers to the Super Bowl advertising scene such as Time Warner cable channel TruTV, Sprint Nextel’s Boost Mobile and Kia Motors.

“Even within the spectrum of live sports events, the Super Bowl stands apart, almost as a national holiday,” said Frank Gibeau, president at EA. “The Super Bowl is a bull’s-eye in terms of cross-over to our core demographic and the reach is outstanding. Not only does it draw 100 million viewers, but most people watch the Super Bowl live, a rarity in the world of DVRs. While digital outreach to Facebook, Twitter, and online bloggers is a core part of our marketing strategy, we felt that advertising during the Super Bowl is an excellent way to introduce this new IP to a massive cross-section of people who are likely already familiar with the dark and twisted “Divine Comedy.”

EA’s Super Bowl advertisement caps off a breakthrough marketing campaign crafted to cut through the noise and support the launch of this all-new videogame property amongst 18-34 year old action fans. With a focus on engaging fans, EA used digital media, bloggers and community for the Dante’s Inferno marketing campaign. The company brought the tagline “Go to Hell” to life using several innovative programs:

• ‘Go to Hell’ Facebook App – With over 4.5 million active users, this free app takes the poem’s nine circles of hell and brings them into everyday life. With the click of a button, anyone can send a friend foe, place, product or brand to one of the nine circles of hell. Angry at your mom for grounding you? Send her to ‘Treachery’. Mad at your ex- for cheating? Send them to ‘Lust’.
• Special Edition Book – EA is releasing a special edition of Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno” in partnership with Random House and Del Rey Books. The book features an introduction written by the EA executive producer Jonathan Knight, and a 16-page, full-color art insert showcasing the evolution of characters and environments from the classic poem to the video game.
• Animated DVD Feature – EA is releasing a full-length animated feature developed in partnership with Starz Media, Film Roman, and Anchor Bay Entertainment. The movie features six unique art styles created by five of the best animation studios in the business (DVD/Blu-Ray)
• Comic Book – An exclusive six-issue comic miniseries created by DC Comics/WildStorm Productions features the highly stylized artwork of Diego Latorre and written by esteemed comic book writer Christo Gage.
• Collectible Action Figure – A collectible figurine of the hero Dante created by NECAis available as a pre-order bonus at select retailers* and for sale beginning 2/9/10.
• Dante’s Nine Circles Hit the Blogosphere – Beginning in June 2009 at E3, EA brought the game’s nine circles of hell to bloggers, one month at a time. “Limbo” was illustrated with a mock protest. “Greed” was illustrated by bloggers being asked to cash a check for $200. “Heresy” was demonstrated through a fictitious game called “Mass We Pray”. Each stunt set fans buzzing about the core themes of ‘The Divine Comedy’ and Dante’s Inferno, the game.
• Hidden Messages – Dante’s Inferno online advertising will contain hidden source code and ASCII art, further bringing to life the world of Dante’s Inferno and the hell that lies beneath.

With unique and visual representations of the nine circles of hell, once only experienced in the pages of the timeless classic, Dante’s Inferno offers a fully animated experience in which players assume the role of Dante, who descends into hell after returning home to find his beloved Beatrice murdered, with Lucifer seducing her soul into the underworld. As in the poem, players will descend through Dante’s unique nine circles of hell: limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud and treachery. Each circle will showcase distinct environments, enemies and story elements befitting of the sins committed by their inhabitants. Developed by Visceral Games™, an EA studio, and built on the same technology as the award-winning Dead Space™, Dante’s Inferno will deliver a fast, fluid and responsive combat experience running at 60 frames per second, a must-have for the action adventure genre.

Dante’s Inferno is available for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and Xbox 360® videogame and entertainment system beginning February 4th in Europe and on February 9th in North America and is rated M for mature with an MSRP of $59.95. Dante’s Inferno will also be available for the PlayStation Portable (PSP) on February 23rd with an MSRP of $39.99. For more information on Dante’s Inferno, please follow Dante’s Inferno on Twitter at www.twitter.com/danteteam, and visit the game’s official web site at www.dantesinferno.com,

[tags]ea, hell, drm, dante’s inferno[/tags]

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