Archive for October, 2009

[Final Hour of a Storied Age] NaNoWriMo Outline

Posted in Game Chef on October 30, 2009 by Dan

I ran through the plot generation process a few more times, since I wasn’t completely sold on my Unbalanced Scales plan. I abandoned several because they weren’t any better than the one I had, but last night I generated one that seemed to have promise and I just finished generating a 50 chapter outline from it. It’s got 128 scenes, and I think I ought to be able to turn that into an 85000 word novel.

Here are the seeds:

Learning Love Mountain Ice Ambition Rich: A man wishes to transform himself so he can withstand the brutal conditions at the top of the mountain to access the fabulous wealth that is hidden there.

Family Sea Corruption Small Belief Prophecy: A family of pirates blithely ignores an ancient prophecy.

New Responsibility Sword: A boy comes of age and is presented a sword, a badge of office for his new responsibility.

Gold Ring Lies Fire Inherit Old Blood: A recently married man must admit that his relationship is a sham, for he feels the fire of the Old Blood, passed down for generations.

Large Rich Sea Family Prophecy Ring: A seagoing merchant clan has acquired a ring which may be mentioned in an ancient prophecy.

Crown Sword Old Division Forest Farm: A swordsman who serves the crown polices the old division between forest and farm.

Inherit Throne Ice: The crown prince is lost in the icy wastes.

The pirate is the protagonist, the ambitious transformer is the antagonist, the recently married man and the policing swordsman are supporting characters.

I felt a connection between the antagonist’s effort to “transform himself” and the idea of “Old Blood”, and decided that the magic of the setting will be the ability to transform into animal forms. Since the antagonist wants to acquire this power I start with the assumption that is isn’t widespread and in fact has mostly been stomped out. Related to that, there’s a lingering conflict with the unusually intelligent animals of the forest that the swordsman defends the kingdom against. The protagonist, a pirate, would clearly value freedom and stuff, so the antagonist can threaten that best by wanting to enslave everyone. So, the antagonist’s plot will be about forcing the animal transformation magic on everyone, becoming the alpha male of the kingdom, and forcing everyone to submit to him. The protagonist will have to get the ring from the merchant clan, then accept his role as the chosen one of prophecy, and then face off against the antagonist. The swordsman wants to fight to defend civilization from the animals. The recently married man wants to fully commit to his animal form and lead the forest animals to have free reign over the surrounding farmland.

The working title is “King of Beasts”.

I’m feeling pretty good about this, so I’m about 95% sure this is the project I’ll be working on for NaNoWriMo. I haven’t decided if I should post the full outline or not.


[Final Hour of a Storied Age] Using the game to outline a novel

Posted in Game Chef on October 24, 2009 by Dan

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been trying to use the mechanics of my game to generate an outline for a novel for NaNoWriMo. I’m a sucker for multiple-meaning titles, so I decided to title the story “Unbalanced Scales”, referring to the injustices in the world at the beginning of the story, the precise measuring of ingredients that the alchemists need to do, and (most importantly) crazy lizard-people. I used a python script to simulate the scene bidding economy and used that to generate the chapter-by-chapter events in the outline today. It worked surprisingly well, and I think I have a pretty good story outlined. The problem is that it only has 72 scenes, and I’m not sure I can generate a novel-length work from that. I’d be more confident with 100 scenes or more. Also, the bad guys win…

I think I will repeat the process tomorrow and see if I come up with a story with a more appropriate length and maybe one with more likable protagonists who actually succeed. I’ll keep the outline I’ve got, though, in case I don’t come up with anything better. For me, generating outlines is the hardest part of writing novels, so if the game only ever works as a writing aid for me then I’ll still be able to consider it a success. Of course, I’d like it to be a successful game, too, so I’m still looking for interested people to playtest it with me.

[Final Hour of a Storied Age] Hypothetical Play

Posted in Game Chef on October 20, 2009 by Dan

Design is pretty much at a standstill until I can get some more playtesting done. I posted a request for playtesters at The Forge, Story Games, and RPG Geek, but haven’t gotten any response yet.

One of the goals of my game is to produce stories that fit within the Epic Fantasy genre. Since that’s also the genre I tend to write fiction in, I think it would be a useful marketing angle to have a novel written based on a plot generated by my mechanics. NaNoWriMo is coming up, and (if I can finish the editing on my first novel before it starts) I want to participate this year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start with an outline that I generated from my game’s mechanics. I ran through the situation generation yesterday, and these are the seeds I’ve got so far:

Large Summer Underground Corruption Belief Greed: “Sun-worshipers are suffering a magical plague that subverts their minds to worship gold.”

Poor Lies Ice Star Farm Duty Noble Throne: “The tax collector has used the coming of the Ice Star to extort money from the peasants without interference from the age-addled king.”

Hate Star Corruption Small Ambition Belief Responsibility Division: “Believing that the corruption of the dawn star is a symptom of spiritual sickness, the prince wishes to grant independence to the conquered provinces.”

Poor Blood Power Ambition Mountain Ice: “A commoner seeks power in the icy peaks.”

Male Poor Belief: “Males are incapable of achieving the spiritual enlightenment needed for priesthood.”

Interestingly, the tax collector seed is the Protagonist and the independence-granting prince is the Antagonist. The obvious way to go would be to make the oppressed farmer the protagonist, but I’m trying to see if I can figure out how to make the tax collector into the protagonist. I find the mind-warping plague to be somewhat interesting, and I’m thinking of making the sun-worshipers into lizard-people (who are cold-blooded and therefore need to sun in order to function, but the gold obsession is a traditional “dragon” trait, so maybe the magical thing is transforming them into dragons…). “Gold” and “transformation” just scream alchemy to me, so I think that’s going to be the basis for magic in the world. The lizard people are presumably the residents of the conquered provinces, and granting them their independence would reignite a war that might destroy humanity.

I still need to plot everything out and write the outline to see if there’s enough meat for a novel-length story. There is definitely some interesting stuff in there, though. It’s probably a bad idea for me to put so much weight on one writing project (i.e. hit the NaNoWriMo constraints and make it work as marketing material for my game) but that’s the path I’m headed down right now — assuming I finish the editing on my first novel, which I should be doing now instead of writing blog posts…

[Final Hour of a Storied Age] New Title

Posted in Game Chef on October 6, 2009 by Dan

[EDIT] The most up to date versions of the game can be downloaded here. [/EDIT]

A draft of Final Hour of a Storied Age: A Roleplaying Game of Epic Fantasy is available. It’s the same as my 0.3 draft of Trilogy, but with a new title.

Final Hour of a Storied Age is a GM-less, no-prep, short format game (the goal is that the entire story should be playable in one session). It is inspired by my love of the epic fantasy genre in literature. A lot of RPGs try to achieve an epic fantasy feel by copying the setting of an established epic fantasy property (either by licensing it or filing off the serial numbers), but these seem to frequently fail at the goal of reliably delivering “epic fantasy” of the kind that you see in novels. I approach the problem from the reverse direction: my mechanics generate a starting situation and plot for an epic fantasy story, and then the setting details are built up around that, just like the experience of reading (or writing) an epic fantasy novel.

I think the design has a lot of interesting ideas in it, but I still need help playtesting to work out some kinks. I would love to get some playtests going over Skype. (Feel free to leave a comment or contact me at if you’re interested in participating in any playtests)

More thoughts on a new title

Posted in Game Chef on October 5, 2009 by Dan

As I mentioned, I’m working on a new title for my Game Chef game: Trilogy: An RPG of Epic Fantasy. I was thinking about trying to tie it more strongly into the idea of stories or legends. One idea was to do “Lorekeeper of _____”. I sort of liked that, but there’s something that doesn’t feel right about it. Right now, however, the leading idea is:

Final Hour of a Storied Age

On one hand, I really like “storied” since my game is very much about collaborative story building. On the other hand, playing with double meanings like that might be very cheesy. The other problem is that ending the title with “Age” might be too reminiscent of Vincent Baker’s In a Wicked Age. Some of my mechanics were inspired by IAWA and I don’t want to risk coming across as too derivative. The “Final Hour” part helps to key in on the idea that the epic fantasy stories generated by the game are about determining whether the new age will be an age of darkness or not.

I’ll need to sit with this idea for a while to see if I really like it or not, but right now that’s the leading candidate for the new title.

Need a new title…

Posted in Game Chef on October 1, 2009 by Dan

I found out in this thread over on Story Games that Stephen Bretall and Greg Bretall wrote an RPG called Trilogy for Jake’s Awesome Fantasy Contest. They want to develop further and so do I. It doesn’t make sense to try to compete over the name, even though I’ve been getting pretty attached to Trilogy, so I’ve got to come up with something new.

As I mentioned in a previous post, it would be nice to have a title of the “The ____ of _____” pattern, but I haven’t come up with anything good yet. Right now I’m looking at the words: Turn, Cycle, Wheel, Change, Seasons, Tide, Sweep, Age, Epoch, World, Doom, Era, Eon, Time, Juncture, Hope, Destiny, Crux, Essence, Heart, Hour, Trial, and History. I’d like something that evokes the idea of a turning of ages, or a dramatic change in the world. Epoch has some interesting possibilities since the definition is:

1. a particular period of time marked by distinctive features, events, etc.: The treaty ushered in an epoch of peace and good will.
2. the beginning of a distinctive period in the history of anything: The splitting of the atom marked an epoch in scientific discovery.
3. a point of time distinguished by a particular event or state of affairs; a memorable date: His coming of age was an epoch in his life.

But “epoch” sounds a lot like “epic”, and I’m not sure that works. I’m also not liking “Epoch” as a standalone word title, the way I liked Trilogy.

edit: I’m considering “Axis of Ages” now. Axis has potential, since I want to be evocative of turning points, but the WWII connection is a big downside.

edit2: Maybe “Tides of Hope and Sorrow” or “Cycle of Hope and Sorrow”

edit3: Maybe “Seasons of Hope and Darkness”