Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Stygian Well

After a few weeks of writing notes for the new sourcebook, I finally had to buckle down and start some actual writing. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of days. So far it’s going okay. I began with a brief history of Rochan and how the Tagus family came to pillage its riches. Today I talked about the main mining colony (called the Lions’ Den, named after the lion on the Tagus family crest). Most of the facility is underground, including the primary mining shaft that’s 50 meters wide and 8 kilometers deep. I call it the Stygian Well after the river Styx. Here’s a snippet:

“Also called the "Highway to Hell," the Stygian Well is the primary shaft for Tagus Mines and serves as the main artery from which dozens of other mines branch out. The top of the shaft is actually over a 100 meters below the dome of the Lions' Den and runs for over 8 kilometers straight down. Fifty meters wide, the sides of the shaft are lined by elevators and conveyers bringing material and personnel up and down the hole. Since most miners live for weeks in the actual mines they work, many of them don't make the long trip up the Stygian Well more than once a month at most.”

Meanwhile, I’ve also written a little for my short story “Ramus.” I still have no idea where the story will lead, so I may stop working on it until I can figure something out. However, for those interested, here’s what I wrote:

( … Continued from the previous post)

The twilight landscape revealed little. Low hills dotted with fir trees. A river leading to a lake reflecting the gloomy sky. Finally, the rough outline of apartment blocks and warehouses. The pilot steered his craft in for the final approach. He saw other ships parked on the landing pads, huddled like beasts of burden. His freighter shuddered as the landing gear deployed and the vertical thrusters fired. The ship groaned, coming to rest.

The intercom crackled.

“Ray, you going out?” said a voice sounding like it came from a deep pit lined with gravel at the bottom.

“Yeah,” the pilot replied.

“Get me some smokes would ya?” the voice said. “And take that piece of shit in to get fixed. I left him – or what’s left of him – by the airlock.”


The pilot unbuckled his harness and swiveled the chair around to face the back of the cockpit. He grasped the rungs of a ladder, taking it down past the galley and sleeping racks. Two decks below the cockpit, he found a canvas bag sitting on the grating. A metallic foot attached to a leg protruded from the sack. The pilot took a coat off the wall and pulled it on, covering his head with a dark hood. He tapped a control panel and the door to the airlock hissed open. He went inside, grabbing the bag along the way. The airlock closed and the man waited while the pressure equalized with the atmosphere outside. In front of him was another hatch, this one with a red light above it. When it turned green, the man heard a locking mechanism clank and twirl, and the hatch opened to the outside world. He stepped through and felt the planet’s natural gravity take hold. A steady drizzle dappled the dusty tarmac.

He walked, a little unsteady at first, to the gate where a starport officer greeted him with a sour smile.

“Identification, please” the officer said.

The pilot pulled out an ID and showed it to the officer who scanned the bar code printed below the photo.

“Ramus?” the officer asked.

“Yes,” the pilot affirmed.

“Captain of the Starling?”

“That’s right.”

“Business or pleasure?”

“I’m looking for work,” Ramus told him.

“Well, good luck with that. It’ll help if you’re not too picky.”

Friday, October 24, 2008


I’ve had an idea for a short story recently, set in the Imperium. Technically, I only have an idea for the first part of the story and nothing for the rest, so that doesn’t bode well for me finishing it. However, the weather has been dark and cold for several days which play havoc with my mood, so I haven’t done much with the new game material. So, instead I’ve written a few paragraphs of the story (see below). It’s still in a rough state, but I don’t mind showing people my dirty laundry if they don’t mind reading potential crap. ;-) Anyway, the name of the story is Ramus, which happens to be my character’s name in Warhammer Online. It means branch in Latin, but I actually picked in for its phonetic quality (ie: I liked how it sounds).


A tramp freighter approached the upper atmosphere of a gray shrouded planet. A stream of particles trailed the engine nacelle where burnt pock marks discolored the fuselage. Inside the ship, a man sat in the cockpit. He looked cramped, crowded on either side with control panels and supplies lashed to the walls with elastic cords. His hair was a muddy blond, but his three-day beard was red except for the scar along his chin that burrowed through his whiskers. His eyes were a brilliant blue.

The ship lurched up as it plunged deeper into the atmosphere. The pilot corrected the trajectory and the pitching stopped. His attention turned back to the warning light that had been blinking steadily. It worried him, but he tended to worry. The lines in his face were testament to that.

In another time and another place, the pilot is a young man. He’s strapped into the tight cockpit of an Imperium fighter. His hand eagerly grasps the stick as he banks the ship to the right. A pirate marauder fills the HUD as target data scrolls up in green, translucent numbers. The pilot squeezes the trigger, releasing a stream of plasma blasts from the fighter’s nosecone. The marauder disappears into vapor and debris.

An orange glow filled the cockpit windows, but it was merely the ship burning through the heavier air. Before long, the glow was gone and droplets of rain began pelting the glass. The pilot checked the navigation console. It had already connected with the local traffic control grid. A series of yellow squares appeared on the window directly ahead, leading the pilot like a trail of breadcrumbs to the starport.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dodging Dead Deer on the Hwy of Life

When my wife and I go on car trips, we play a game called “Guess the Road Kill.” It’s not a very fun game (especially for the road kill), but at least it passes the time. Another thing I do (instead of listening to my wife) is thinking about my game. So, over the weekend, we drove to a little town called Hermann, Missouri and along the way I thought about Destination: Rochan. Although I wasn’t all that productive -- dodging dead deer can be distracting – I did manage a few ideas. For example, the main employer on Rochan is going to be called Tagus Mining Limited with a nice logo (not pictured here) and a catchphrase “We Dig It!” I also came up with a name for the main mining camp called Boonville. This is from a town we drove past which also happened to have a lot of XXX stores. Actually, Boonville will be the part of the camp containing the actual miners (the “dirty masses”) while the Tagus admin facilities will be called the Lions’ Den based on the lion on the Tagus family crest.

Last week I was also thinking more about the volcano on Rochan that I’ve named Mount Thera after a famous Greek island that blew apart 3,600 years ago. During my research, I found out that diamonds are brought to the surface from deep underground by lava, so I decided to use that for the game. Basically, I decided that the Klixians mine diamonds from beneath Mt. Thera and sell them to the Tagus Mining company. Tagus buys the diamonds because the Klixians will do the work more cheaply than Imperium workers. However, the Tor worship a fire/earth goddess who happens to live beneath Mt. Thera and thus they view any mining there to be sacrilegious (and another reason to hate the Klixians). Since the Imperials use the Tor as guides for their other mining, Tagus Mining Limited has to keep their diamond dealings secret. So to recap, I started with the idea of the diamonds and the rest organically grew from that.

Off topic: because I’m a nerd, I took a quiz about which kind of Dungeons & Dragons character I would be (see below). It’s from the site, but be warned: it’s a freakin’ long-ass quiz. Anyway, I saw the quiz on Matt’s blog, so thanks for bringing this nerdy goodness to my attention.

You Are A:

True Neutral Elf Wizard/Sorcerer (3rd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength- 11
Dexterity- 11
Constitution- 11
Intelligence- 14
Wisdom- 12
Charisma- 12

True Neutral- A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.

Primary Class:
Wizards- Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Secondary Class:
Sorcerers- Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Detailed Results:

Lawful Good ----- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (19)
Chaotic Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (17)
Chaotic Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (19)
Lawful Evil ----- XXXXXXXXX (9)
Neutral Evil ---- XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Chaotic Evil ---- XXXXXXX (7)

Law & Chaos:
Law ----- XXXXXXXX (8)
Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Chaos --- XXXXXX (6)

Good & Evil:
Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Evil ---- X (1)

Human ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Dwarf ---- XXXX (4)
Gnome ---- XXXXXXXX (8)
Halfling - XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Half-Elf - XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Half-Orc - XXXX (4)

Barbarian - (-4)
Bard ------ (-2)
Cleric ---- (-6)
Druid ----- (0)
Fighter --- XX (2)
Monk ------ (-19)
Paladin --- (-23)
Ranger ---- XXXX (4)
Rogue ----- (-6)
Sorcerer -- XXXXXX (6)
Wizard ---- XXXXXX (6)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Change of Plans

Forget what I said last time about the first labyrinth. In fact, it’s not even the first labyrinth. ;-) Not only did I discard my previous idea and go with a different one, I also switched its order to last (or third, for those keeping count). Basically, the first idea involved a bunch of connected rooms, but once I started thinking about how I would fill each chamber, I decided it was restricting me too much. I mean, I could put in traps or creatures, but that just seemed to limit the variety of what I could do. So, dejectedly, I laid down for a nap and came up with a fresh idea. Instead of connected rooms, I went with something that on the surface appears more conventional, namely just hallways and rooms (like any other dungeon). However, what I have in mind are a series of surprises that I hope will keep the players guessing to the end.

Today I was busy working on the second labyrinth, which consists of platforms surrounded by lava. Characters have to jump between these platforms without falling, or face certain death. To make things more interesting, some of the platforms are booby-trapped, including some that fall into the lava once someone lands on it. Others will have creatures (with ranged weapons) to attack the characters as they transverse the platforms. I call this a labyrinth because there is a safe “path,” but the characters will need to find it through trial and error.

I also revisited the side view of the Klixian home city Tholos today. As I mentioned before, I wasn’t very happy with it, and frankly I’m still not. However, I fired up Bryce and did some different mountains in the background and a different sky. I also tweaked the shading a bit, to give it more depth. It’s not great, but I think players will want to know what the city looks like from the side. Judge for yourself:

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Hive City

Over the weekend I worked on one of the Tor labyrinths. Unlike a maze, which has many dead ends, a labyrinth is really a single path with many twists and turns. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking of three different labyrinths for the Tor capital. Each one leads deeper below the Rochan surface, eventually leading to the Council of Elders. This first labyrinth is a series of attached rooms winding its way to the exit. The characters will need to traverse these rooms one by one, dealing with whatever obstacles they find within.

In my last post I talked about the Klixian capital city. After doing some research, I decided to call the city Tholos, because of the beehive-shaped domes that make up the structure. Here’s the overhead view:

The city's buildings come in three sizes: large, medium, and small. The four medium domes are home to the four castes that make up Klixian society: workers, soldiers, priests, and nobility (including the Queen). Obviously these are based on insect society, especially bees and ants, but I came up with a twist on how a new queen is selected. Basically, the Queen has several daughters and when their mother dies, each one takes a special pill. One of the pills is harmless while the others are poisoned. Whoever survives the ritual becomes the next queen, while the rest perish. This “poison pill” ritual insures that the daughters don’t try to kill the Queen prematurely since the chance of dying during the succession ritual is pretty high.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Muse, Don't Fail Me Now

I’ve been working on a laundry list of items for Destination: Rochan. Using the Lunar Cell plugin for Photoshop, I created images of Rochan itself. It took a lot of experimentation to capture the sense of desolation I was looking for, and the color palette that looked good to me. The great thing about Lunar Cell (and I recommend it highly), is that I can create a flattened version. I then take that and use another plugin (also from Flaming Pear) called Flexify 2 and make an equirectangular map (like the one on page 227 of the Basic Rules). Here’s what Rochan looks like from space:

I also bought the models for the Tor from, and spent some time doing test renders. At this point I’m just trying to get a feel for the model and what I can do with it. I’ll be buying additional gear for them too, including more clothing and a double-headed ax. Here are a couple of renders. Keep in mind they are just tests and very basic:

Lastly, I worked on the Klixian capital city (although I haven’t given it a name yet). I’d been doing sketches of what I had in mind: basically hive shapes with tall spires on the top. I made a map in photoshop of a top-down view that came out pretty well. Today I worked on the side view, but I’m not as happy with it.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been largely thinking of the business side of things, so it’s nice to get back to the artistic/creative side. Neither one is particularly easy for me, but I keep trying anyway. ;-)