Posted on : 22-05-2013 | By : Rodney | In : Tips and Tricks
“The Long Earth” is a Sci-Fi novel by authoring greats Sir Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. In the book, a device for travelling between copies of our Earth is discovered, leading to great social change and many interesting adventures for the book’s characters. The novel is a great example of world building and from it we can derive a simple formula for creating our own fantastic realities.
In “The Long Earth”, a scientist leaves behind a device that allows a person to “step” from our world to the next along a string of earth’s. Think of this string of earth’s like a string of beads – you can move “east” or “west” from earth to earth, step by step. Each earth is a slightly different copy of our own, with a different outcome of evolution or global and cosmic events having left their mark. The device and the instructions for creating them (left on the Internet) leads to the mass migration of people from our own earth (Datum Earth) and the colonization of thousands of other earths.
Effectively, the authors have taken our own world, here and now, and added one fact or reality:
There exists a number of different iterations of our earth.
With this reality they add some mechanics to describe how the reality works in practice:
- You can move one earth “east” or “west”, with a device called a “stepper”. This is called stepping.
- Stepping causes nausea.
- Some people can step naturally, without the device or the inconvenient side-effects.
- Readers of the book will be familiar with “stuttering” and “soft spots”, further mechanics of the Long Earth, which describe aspects of how the “reality” works. I won’t go into that now, read the book if you want to know more.
From the above “mechanics” the authors draw conclusions which shape the world (or “worlds” in this case). These conclusions come to light through the narrative of the story:
- People step for various reasons – to explore, to run away, to get rich, and so on.
- Some worlds have dinosaurs, other ancient mammals, others are devoid of life or covered in ocean.
- People have different beliefs about what the Long Earth is, and factions form around those beliefs.
In short – a reality – one single concept that defines the world, is represented by a number of mechanics. These mechanics describe how the “reality” works in practice. From these “mechanics” we can derive “consequences”; repercussions of the mechanics that are visible in the world.
Reality -> Mechanics -> Consequences
Taking these principles into account, it’s easy to see how they can be expanded on or repeated to add more complexity to the world or an aspect of it. I think “The Long Earth” works well, at least as a novel, because it isn’t an overly complex world, yet from the core “reality” an interesting world containing infinite possibilities is derived. That’s what makes this formula so great: it’s simple and limitless. Give it a try in your own campaign, it will give you the framework your imagination needs to run wild.
Avernos in Trow-ble
You may have noticed that I’ve reworked the Avernos Campaign Setting here on the site. I’ve got so much in store for you that I needed to rework the structure of the pages to ensure it would all fit together well. I’ve added pages too and the most recent is a look at the Trow, or dark elves. These guys put the “dark” back in being a dark elf.
The copy editing for the Beta is done, so expect more news on that in the coming months. You can keep in touch by connecting to the Claustrophobia! Facebook page.
Super Secret Mystery Projects
Because of contracts and bad tempered gnomes I can’t reveal some of the other projects under way in the lab, but many wonderful things are bubbling away nicely. I’ve decided to refocus my efforts and so you’ll notice less blogging from me and more wonderful goodies in the future.
Till next time!
Posted on : 10-08-2012 | By : Rodney | In : Campaign Journal
These are exciting times for solo role-players, with new ideas on solo story telling being assimilated and shared all over the web. I recently played a solo RPG session of my own and here’s what happened.
The system I used is by Spacejacker of tinysolitarysoldiers. He explains the rules on his website with a play report too. Simply put you use dice to determine how the story progresses, asking questions which the dice and your creativity answer. I played using my Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures collection, Dungeon Tiles and for combat I used the Claustrophobia! rules, since I wanted to play test the combat system specifically. I’ve decided to focus on the story here rather than the mechanics, but if you want me to go into more detail on mechanics then let me know.
Posted on : 06-08-2012 | By : Rodney | In : Lunatic Labyrinth
If I haven’t said it before then it’s high time I did: check out Solo Nexus. It’s a blog all about solo gaming and solo role-playing. Even if you never play by yourself solo nexus has some interesting stuff and is well written. Recently my own Lunatic Labyrinth got a shout out, check it out.
Posted on : 20-07-2012 | By : Rodney | In : Inspired in Japan
If you’re ever in Tokyo, go and check out Yellow Submarine in Shinjuku. It sells loads of role-playing paraphernalia in both English and Japanese, including some things you might not find so easily elsewhere.
A “rare” find.
Play testing for Claustrophobia! is coming to an end and I’d love to hear your feedback. I set up a little survey on SurveyMonkey. Check it out and let me know what you think of the game. Don’t forget that there’s still a chance to bag a free copy of the improved version of the game. You know, free stuff. Nudge nudge, wink wink.
Posted on : 07-05-2012 | By : Rodney | In : Contests
Stuffer Shack recently announced the winner of the 2012 Site Of The Year award. Well done to The Id DM on a job well done. Head on over and check it out. Also, well done to everyone else who entered, you are all giving something to the community and for that you deserve to be noted!
Your favourite Phoenix took part in the competition and was up against some big names in RPG blogging. Unfortunately we didn’t make it into the finals, but I feel proud just having been a part of the fun. We’re putting together a bigger team and looking forward to competing again in 2013.
You can read our interview with the creator of Stuffer Shack, Tourq Stevens, right here on this blog.
Posted on : 04-05-2012 | By : Rodney | In : Tips and Tricks
It’s great playing with a group, but sometimes you just want to hack up some monsters at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home. This series is aimed at helping you get started on some excellent solo campaigns of your own.
Choosing A System
The first thing you need to decide is what you’ll be playing. Will you create your own adventure arc or use something pre-made? What system will you use? Often the best system to use is the one you’re most comfortable with. What are you currently playing? There sure are loads of systems to choose from. I recommend heading over to Drive Thru RPG to see what they have available. There’s also some great free stuff up for grabs, like Pokethulhu or Heroes Against Darkness.
Choosing An Adventure
There are plenty of solo adventures out there, not least of all our own solo adventure: Sentinels Watching. Of course, each solo adventure will usually be tailored to a specific system, but with some work you can fit most adventures to any system you want. Here is a list of some solo adventures worth checking out:
I’ve played through a few scenes from one of the Fighting Fantasy game books using D&D 4th Ed. It was a good game and something I’ll likely try again, probably with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game system.
Creating Your Own
The easiest way to play is to just lay down some maps, some monsters and then duke it out, making up the story as you go. A good idea is to keep some type of Quest Log, either in a notebook or on your favourite word processor. It helps to have reminders of what you’ve done and where you were going. I like to draw out my maps and annotate directly on the GameMastery Flip-Mat: Basic. When I’m done I just take a picture with my cellphone and I’m all set to remember things next time, even if the map gets used in another game in the mean time.
Abstraction Beats Distraction
Simply put, you have to make the game as fun and exciting for yourself as you can. Play the encounters you want to play, skip the humdrum details of travel and anything that brings a yawn. Some players love to micro manage their games, and then do that, but really, you just want to make it an awesome game. You’re the GM now, so you have all the power to do that.
Also, step away from Facebook and e-mail. You know you want to play with dice more than pixels.
Learning From Board Games
Look at the average board game today. Everything has a visual representation. So use loads of maps, miniatures, counters and terrain. Everything and anything you can use to map out the action will help you stay involved.
Like board games, role-playing games don’t have to take heaps of time. Sit down and play out a scene, a battle or one session, with a clear start and end. That way you leave the table having completed a nice chunk that’s well defined. You’ll feel more rewarded for the effort.
Advice From The Pro’s
Head on over to SoloNexus for the mother load of tips. The site covers a wide range of table top games, not just role-playing.
Have any ideas on Starting Out? Please share them with us. Also, don’t forget the Twitter account @RisingPhoenixGM where I share all kinds of geeking.
Posted on : 20-04-2012 | By : Rodney | In : Tips and Tricks
Making fantasy names is a bit of an art and something that GM’s need to do regularly. I have three methods for creating names that I want to share with you. These I call the History / Attribute Method, the Fermented Method and the Foreign Languages Method.
Memorial Panel by Labattblueboy.
The History / Attribute Method of Name Creation
Many places get their names from either a prominent feature of the area or from the area’s history. New York was the “new” York and Cape Town was the “town in the Cape”. I like to name my towns in the same way, hence Willowton would be a town with many willow trees, South Fort would be a fort in the south and so on. You might feel that names are too basic when created like this, but you effectively achieve two things: you have an easy to remember name and it’s linked to a fact that adds colour to the location. Hobbiton, from JRR Tolkiens Lord of the Rings, is a good example of this type of name.
In a recent session, my players were passing an area of unmapped land so I had to create something on the fly. I came up with “Gold Bridge”, a pirate port city ruled by the pirate king Duke One Eye. The players never actually entered the town but later I went to my notes and added in some details, including how it got its name. This is an easy way to flesh out your own world one step at a time.
The same can be applied to people, and old Duke One Eye is a good example. Do yourself a favour and watch Hot Fuzz and take note of some of the villagers’ surnames. Names like Thatcher, Cartwright, Cooper and Skinner are all occupations, but can be great links to what the NPC is all about too. Why not have a villain called John Butcher, or an NPC called Mr Slain? This kind of name can say something about the NPC or about the history of the character’s family.
A magical item can always be named after what it is. The Ring of Speed, the Bow of Death, the Sword of Flame and so on. If we get a little more creative we can take it a step further and call the same items The Quicksilver, The Widowmaker and The Inferno. Add in a little history about the item and we get Quicksilver of the Ancients, The Fallen Widowmaker and Inferno of the Spitting Sands.
The Fermented Method of Name Creation
This method uses several steps. First, take something from your surroundings as inspiration. I have the air conditioning remote near me so I’ll start with Air Con Remote. Now I want to change that to come up with a person’s name, so I’ll change it slightly to become Aaircon Renmot. It’s still too similar, so my next iteration is Aair Renton. Voilà, a person’s name is synthesised from the humble air conditioning remote. This method does take more time and I’d advise letting your list of names sit for a day or two, just so you can have another go at them when you are in a different frame of mind.
Try and use changes that will in some way reflect the place you are naming. You might, for example, want something that sounds dwarvish for your dwarven city.
Like in the example of the air conditioning remote, you’ll probably want two parts to the name. You can use different sources of inspiration to create the name. Keep at it until you find a name that fits nicely with the NPC, as it will inspire good role play and help players remember the character. You don’t want “Captain Bunny Slippers” to be the name of your big bad NPC at the end of the quest.
Things should be pretty easy to name, we could have the Ring of Asusuma (Asthma Inhaler), Sanshasses’ Bow (Sun Glasses) and the Blade of Cruthix (Chopsticks). The point is that you can use anything to create anything, just go with something you feel works for you and your players.
Having foreign sounding names may seem important to you, but if you need a name quickly then remember that you could always say something like: “Her name means ‘Silverleaf’ in the elven tongue”. If you have more time to devote to creating names I suggest drawing up a list of names to have handy for when you need them. Don’t forget Google too, there are loads of lists out there for you to scavenge from. Google Translate is particularly helpful for getting names from other languages such as Latin.
Have any great names to share? Leave a comment and let us know.
Posted on : 19-04-2012 | By : Rodney | In : Uncategorized
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