25 May 2012

Pen & Paper: Creating a World part 5 - Recent History

In part 5 of my little world-creation we'll take a look at the recent history of the setting. Recent history is important as it is what makes a world seem alive and seperates it from a static setting. Things have happened in recent history and they play a part in what people think of the place they live in and may even create reference points for snide remarks, prejudice or even popular culture in-game. Let's take a look...

Okay let's talk about recent events that have shaped the world that my players are currently experiencing (and interacting with in ways that may result in mid-scale changes temselves). Now as I am making this up as the game progresses, the history directly influencing the lives of my player characters is what I have fleshed out thus far. This limits the recent history of the world to the eastern hemisphere, as out of the seven PCs six are from the Western Empire and one is from the Kalifate. The latter, being the siltent foreigner of the group, does sometimes wonder about the way things are handled in the Western Empire but is okay with the group running around in the wilderness, doing savage things as she is an animal-trainer in search of rare and (from her view) exotic animals to capture and tame.

24 May 2012

Look what I built!

Two of my friends are getting married this weekend and, being the best man (to the bride, actually), I had to come up with something clever for a gift. Went to cubeecraft and, with the help of my lovely girlfriend, built this nice little mario-themed diorama. As bride and groom have sent out their save-the-date in pixelart too, I thought it would only be fitting. Financial aid for the wedding (in the form of coins, of course) goes into the ?-Blocks. This was quite a lot of work as I have printed out everything in 300 dpi, rendering every block rather small (1" per side), making them quite a bit of precision-work to cut out and put together. Also, I really should have made the floor from one piece - but I didn't, it's eight individual cubes... Not the smartest route, I tell you.

23 May 2012

Playing Oblivion: Day 3 part 6 – Vampire Hunt

This is part of an ongoing series. If you want to start at the beginning, go here.

It's early 2012 and I'm playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Why? Because I (finally) can. Join me on my path to glory and the stabilization of the status quo in almost-Tolkien-land. 

I hang out in the entrance of the fort/underground dungeon. Looking at the deeper parts of the place, I spot a heavily armed man, a woman with a bow and a large dog. I don't feel like murdering what , in this childless world, seems to be the closest thing to a little family of outlaws I've yet to see. Martor isn't here for a fight so I sneak into other tunnels around. Killing a couple of rats, I spend most of the day just sneaking around. Then it's night again, I can get out and get to the last bit of this quest.

The place where the quest has marked the Redwater Slough on my map, where that mighty vampire whose ashes I need is supposed to dwell, is further south than I have ever traveled. I fast-travel to the shrine where I drew blood from that Argonian, then I move onwards on horseback, seeking that cave. It does take a while to ride there so I have already given up the fantasy of returning to Melisande during this night. Finding the cave, I check my equipment. I have my steel claymore, in a decent state of sharpness. I have my katana but lacking it's best buddy, the leather shield, the weapon is of limited use to me, especially as it is rather used by this point. I have the magic mace I bought in case I have to fight ghosts again. As it does deal extra fire-damage, I consider it a possible weapon for my fight with Hindaril and assign it to a quick-draw-slot. I also ready the bow with steel arrows. Maybe I'll get a sneak-attack on someone. I enter the vampire-lair, claymore in hand.

16 May 2012

Music in Gaming

Let's talk about music and gaming, shall we? Music is one of two very direct ways to convey emotions, set a tone and get a mood into a room full of people. Simply watching the same movie-scene twice with different mood-setting ambient music can be a jarringly different experience. So what about gaming? In this post I'll talk about the musical scoring of video games and then give you my thoughts on whether or not this can be conveyed to a pen and paper RPG-session with your friends.

Music in video games is almost as old as the medium itself, starting with bleeps and bloops, then at some point turning into nice MIDI tunes and then going to full on audio-soundtracks. The big difference between making a soundtrack for a video game work as intended in comparison with a movie (which is, let's face it, where a lot of video-gaming has its audiovisual language from), is as with so many things, player agency. If you're not making just an interactive movie with quicktime-events (don't even get me started! F*** you, Fahrenheit!), you need to either tie in the music with cutscenes, make it generalistic (to fit the overall mood of the game without going into the moment too much), or have the game intelligently react to what's happening on-screen and change the score accordingly. Early games had music of the generalistic sort, as cutscenes were as-of-yet unknown. Later games, like the golden-age adventure games featured music mostly in cutscenes, having learned from earlier game-generations that a constant loop of MIDI-music can get rather annoying. You could get away with it in some action-games, as the soundtrack would change with levels but in an adventure, where the player might be stuck in the same situation for hours or even days, having constantly blaring music was out of the question. Then came games that recognized situations on-screen and adapted the playlist accordingly. Still, most games have had and still have bland, non-recognizable soundtracks. Which ones stood out well enough so that I DO remember them, melody-wise?

14 May 2012

Recommendations: April 2012

Recommendations April 2012

A bit delayed as I'm still coping with a death in my closest family, these are some recommendations for your enjoyment in the usual three categories. If any sound like something you'd enjoy, give them a try, you won't regret it!

Podcast of the month: The Rock Paper Shotcast
The makers of the PC-gaming site rockpapershotgun have recently started doing a somewhat irregular podcast (which they claim to be weekly). Topics include news about the video-games industry, general banter and interesting thoughts on concepts within games in a rather informal format that, although sometimes lacking in structure, is very entertaining to listen to.

Blog of the month: The Dungeon Dozen
One of the most entertaining RPG-related things out there, the Dungeon Dozen features (almost) daily random-roll-charts based on a twelve-sided die that give you anything from character-backgrounds to cultural quirks in the mole-people society to loot you find in the arch-wizards chest. As the maker describes it, this blog provides high-flavor and low detail inspirational ideas for role-players or anyone interested in fantasy looking for a chuckle. Be it creating entire worlds in your mind or just laughing with it at the clichés pertained in the hobbys lore, this is an absolute must-read.

Free game of the month: Prospector
As you may have noticed, I like me some good roguelikes with a huge open world to explore and some punishing dangers to kill me permadead. Prospector combines these with space exploration aboard a ship and on planetary surfaces with a nice degree of complexity while remaining rather accessible (for a roguelike). Go forth and explore a planetary sector, make money working for the (somewhat evil) corporations, do your own thing, become a pirate, do whatever you like. There is even a large-scale story to uncover but I have never survived for long enough to find out more than "there are killer robots on some planets. My weapons are useless against them."...

01 May 2012

A short notice

This blog is on hiatus for a couple of days as I am currently dealing with the loss of a very close family member. Check back in a few.