Saturday, October 31, 2009

Forums and things!

Some days it just doesn't seem you can stay out of trouble. Somehow, in a fit of end user brainlock, I managed to dump the entirety of the Forum module into the recycle bin. How this occurred is still a bit of a mystery as the folks that rescued said forums from the gnashing teeth of the recycle bin were at a loss to figure out how I managed to do it without realizing what I was doing.

Needless to say, there was a wee bit of embarrassment that accompanied my merry delving into end-user idiocy. However, the forums have been rescued and are now safely at home on the website with a nice cup of cocoa and a blankey.

Due to further investigation by those who are wonderful with our forums, IE, not myself, we now have the avatar functionality worked out. So, feel free to put up your APPROPRIATE photo or image. Remember, that as intelligent and upstanding web citizens you will, of course, not put up offensive or pornographic material as that will result in the "Das Interwebs" equivalent of jack-booted thugs dragging you into the alley for summary pummeling.

I am looking forward to getting the DIY part of the website up so that we can put up visual instructions for building and making things.

We are presently getting the Outpost structure worked out so that all those who are in a myriad of far flung locations can set up their own games and local organizations. More to follow on that.

Now that I have completed my rampage through the website with little or no idea of what I was apparently doing, we are now concentrating on getting the Captain's Table content put up for folks so that you can see about running this episode yourselves as well as the complete Triptych Fast Play rules set so that you can run games of your own. We intend for these rules to be complete enough for you to be able to run games until we finalize the full rule set.

So, until I find a different way to torment, torture or burn down the website, I will bid you all good eve.

Marshal - Tormentor of Forums

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Steamcon Post Mortem - sorta

Well, this is the first chance I've gotten to really sit down since Steamcon. The episodes were a success, everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly. I was a bit surprised but also immensely pleased by the number of folks who played that had never done any kind of Live Action Role Playing before. I say BRAVO! to them. =)

We had tech issues as well as paperwork issues with every episode, but we persevered and although we were a bit delayed at every turn, it all worked out for the best.

We were running three channels of sound at each episodes. Or, we were supposed to have three channels for each episode. We did not have it for the first game and only had it from halfway through the second episode on. Not having it for the first episode really made its impact later on clear. There was a Radiant (radio) channel. As a result of the creativity of Molly Friedrich and Jordan Blake, be looking for more from our variety hour host Jimmy Muttonchops in the future. There was the ambient channel which had things like the sounds of the ship's engines and then the ship's public address channel. When these were running, it was impossible to hear anything outside the room and when certain timed sound queue events happened, the players were totally surprised and it made their reactions even more real. Note for the future, SOUND IS CRITICAL to immersion.

We are now talking with folks from Portland, Tacoma, Chicago, New York and Arkansas about getting episodes going in these areas. We are going to be getting the Triptych Fast Play rules up on the website as a .pdf for people to download so that they can get episodes started in their own areas. These will be the interim rules while we finalize the full up Live Action rules. The forums will also be back up by the end of the week for people to compare notes, talk about story and characters, and talk with us. We'll also be having a special forum for those who participated in the episodes to give us feedback on them, and be able to socialize with others who've had the experience of playing in our world.

There will be more to come with photos, stories and other things as we get them pulled in. Be looking for the first page of the web comic to be up in the next week or so and in the next month we should be getting our hands-on section up with instructions on how to build or create a variety of things. The first installments will have to do with building set pieces such as the "Porthole panel" which is a wood wall panel with a porthole where images passing by the window can be seen. So, the plans will include the construction of the panel and frame behind it to allow mounting a flat panel monitor. As we get more things worked up, there will be hands-on entries for making costume pieces, props, and a variety of other things of interest for our players and the artistic community.

As a result of exhaustion, and post-con punchiness, several in-world products have come into being. Needless to say, these are...silly. The RoA staff largely degraded into fits off silliness and laughter at the end of the convention. Strange things were born from this wild and uncontrolled creative energy. I will leave the surprise for later about exactly what these products will be. But, let me just say, they were born from exhausted silliness and so they represent a slightly unhinged sense of humor.

Well, that's it for now. I'll have more later as things become clearer in my addled brain from the con.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Building for Steamcon

Well, it's been a while since I've posted. It's been a crazy couple of months as we try and get our legs under us and to get prepped for Steamcon.

Steamcon is less than a month away and we've got a boatload of work to get done before then. The scenario is worked out, the pre gen characters are worked out but we still have to get the timing of the scenario nailed down and get the character stats finalized. On that note, we'll give you a bit of a preview of what a pregen character might look like.

Medicine – GREAT
Surgery – GREAT
Bedside Manner – GOOD
French – GOOD
Oratory – GOOD
University Science: Biology – GOOD
Gambling – FAIR
Guns: Pistol – FAIR
Finishing School: Latin – FAIR
University Science: Chemistry – FAIR
University Science: Entomology – FAIR
Writing – FAIR

The idea for the pre gen characters is that the system is simple enough that it can be taught to someone who knows nothing about it in about 10 minutes. To that end, the characters will all have a total of twelve skills with only three levels; GREAT, GOOD or FAIR. There will be no traditional Stats such as Strength, Social or Mental. Similarly, the sytem for conflict resolution will be simple and very fast. The idea is to get the rules out of the way of the role play.
Now, we've pretty well worked over the rules and character ideas and came to the realization that a set of rules for a demo game that would be simple enough to pick up in minutes and fast enough to play are unlikely to be the same rules you would use for a long term series of episodes lasting over a year. So, the decision was made to work up the "Fast Play" rules for the demo games. Now, these will be part of the larger rules system but obviously are a grossly stripped down version. The Series rules will be much more in depth and include things such as rules for constructing in game items. Props and gadgets are a fundamental part of Steampunk and that is something we very much want to promote and so once the Series rules have been finalized there will be a fully developed component to support gadgetry.

At Steamcon, we will have the "Fast Play" rules available which will allow people to take them home and start games of their own. Additional content will be available on the website to help further flesh out the games you create. Most of this information will have to do with setting and suggestions about how to expand the fast play rules to give them more longevity when played outside the tightly constrained format of a demo game. These simple rules will be what allows people to begin to enjoy and create within the Rise of Æster world until we get the Series rules finalized.

So, on to Steamcon. We are working hard on getting set pieces built to allow us to create an immersive environment for the game. The setting will be the interior of the observation lounge on the Æster liner Princess Arianrhod. We are building and staining wooden panels that will transform the room from average con room into this observation lounge. The folks from B. Fuller's Mortar and Pestle will be joining our endeavor to provide tea and service to add to the ambience of the setting. Those who attend will be party to a very different sort of experience than they have probably had before. Opening the doors of the conference room, you will be greeted by a wooden wall with signage directing you to the entry way. It is not until you pass through the curtain at the end of a short entry way that the room will be revealed. The sight lines into and out of the environment have been cut. This will allow people to feel fully immersed in the game and the environment.

Each game will only allow 15 participants due to the constraints of space and we will run the game five times over the course of Steamcon. Twice on Friday and three times on Saturday. In between the games, when we are not preparing for the next game, the room will be open for people to relax and roleplay in the environment.

We will be signing people up for particular game slots at Steamcon to give everyone an equal chance to participate. These slots are likely to fill quickly and so we encourage folks to register early to ensure participation.

Well, I hope this successfully brings you all up to speed on the madness that has been our lives for the last several months. The team has been exceptionally busy trying to keep on top of things and it doesn't seem that it going to change any time soon. Look forward to further updates from myself or others in the near future.

I look forward to seeing those who will be attending Steamcon. I hope to meet those who will not be at Steamcon during our travels in the next year.

Fair Winds and may the Lady be kind on your journeys,

Marshal Hunter

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More web comic stuff!

Just got done emailing with Tony and Sarah and the web comic is going swimmingly. We discussed some new content information that will feed into the overall City of Light feel in the future.

Some quick headers on stuff that was discussed that will be coming out in more detail later on.

Lightkeepers are officers of the Cities of Light who draw a salary and can be recognized by the sun symbol badge on their hats with their license number engraved on it.

Rat Catchers are a group of independent contractors who work in the Cities of Light by hunting vermin for particular bounties and individual for-pay contracts. They are highly individualized without uniform or standard issue equipment. Individual Rat Catchers can be identified by personalized and the unique configurations of their equipment.

The farms outside the Cities of Light are enormous greenhouses that grow most of the staple foods required for the cities. Vermin within are controlled by specially bred and trained raptors, and insect are controlled by songbirds and bats. Intensive training to curb the natural instincts of the raptors allows they and the songbirds to operate in the same environment. Training can only go so far and some songbirds do become additions to the raptors diets.

Ravens are the most common bird species seen in and around the Cities of Light.

Snippets and stuff!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Web comic in work!

It's been a busy couple of weeks in the Aeroplex.

Tony and Sarah have gotten the first few pages for the web comic sketched out and I'm hoping to get the first one posted in the week or so. I'm very excited about this.

We are beginning preparations for Gencon and Steampunk University #2. SPU2 looks like it's going to be a hoot. Look for more information on that as we get it. Unlike our previous Steampunk U, this one is being designed with outdoor space so that we can do live gun modding classes, and other things that can't be done indoors.

The Beta rule set is in the finishing stages in prep for our Beta test games. Hooray!

And in a slightly off topic note, some of our folks here in Seattle will be participating in the 2009 Zombie Walk. The target is a Guinness Book of World Records record for the largest Zombie gathering or some such thing. Other than that, there will be Zombies, Shaun of the Dead at the Fremont Outdoor cinema and a fine beer to be had across the street! Photos of the undead invasion should be forthcoming!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Character Sketches! Ratcatcher and Lightkeeper

Well, this has been an exciting week for me. Concept art is rolling in and I just found out that the first parts of the web comic are coming together. The next month looks to be extraordinarily exciting.

Tony Hicks, our comic guru, has done concept sketches of both the Ratcatcher and the Lightkeeper. These are just too cool to keep to ourselves.

Ratcatcher Concept by Tony Hicks

Tony did a really great job of combining the conceptual stuff we'd been talking about with the realized Lightkeeper costume created and worn by Liz Spain at Maker Faire in the Bay area this year.

Lightkeeper concept sketch by Tony Hicks

Thursday, June 25, 2009

AEROPLEX ! Sketches from Jordan!

I, like everyone else have been waiting until I could put some of this stuff up for people to see. I've only just seen these myself and may I say, AWESOME! These will also be posted in a larger form on the website and in the gallery.

This is one of the initial sketches that Jordan did to kind of rough out some of the overall visual ideas for the St. Louis Aeroplex.

This is a more detailed study of the lower half of the Aeroplex including some adjacent buildings for scale

This is one of the first overall sketches the was worked with between Jordan, myself and some of the other artists and associates of the project at our Monday night Steampunk meetup in Seattle.

<= Note the airship landing configuration sketching. We were trying to fight out how large airships would dock to the upper airpark of the structure.

This sketch incorporates many of the earlier concepts and idea as well as one of the newest ideas for dealing with the large airships that would dock at the Aeroplex.

Simply awesome stuff!



Well, after a few surprise emails from Desz and Ray, it looks like they are going to be rolling out the minimal rules set we have for test games in Iowa and Canada. Once I have more confirmation on the rules, I'll be putting out the word for our first Seattle beta game.

Be looking for the first game around mid July.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who are we afraid of? Who is the enemy?

Although this isn't something that will have direct effect in our games and the world, it's a very present thing in the minds of the citizens of the British Empire.  Not unlike sudden discussions of Iraq, North Korea or Iran popping up in our present world.

The British Empire is fighting proxy wars in several areas of the world.  Unlike twenty years ago when these were full blown hot wars, they are now not quite cold wars, but are being fought by proxy in several areas of the world.

The two primary adversaries are the Ottoman Turks and the Chinese.  They both threaten India, the Ottoman's in the West and the Chinese in the East.  The Ottomans have been held to Afghanistan by the British proper and Afghan tribesmen being supplied by the British.  Not unlike the current wars the US is fighting in the mountainous areas of Afghanistan, the Ottoman advance into India has been held in these same brutal passes.  This is one of the most challenging fronts in the entire British Empire with the lines shifting dozens of miles literally overnight.

In the East, the Chinese have been held at the Irrawaddy Delta.  Backing the Kingdom of Siam and supplying troops from Burma, the British have been fighting the Chinese to a standstill through the Siamese.  A treaty of mutual protection has served both well to halt Chinese aggression in SE asia as it pushes west.  Attempts by the Chinese to make military forays across the Himalayas have been stopped with heavy casualties in manpower and equipment.  The Chinese have largely abandoned attempts to fight their way across the mountains in the last decade.

There are some notable things which have solidified the Chinese and Ottoman Empires as the primary enemies of the British Empire.  While territorial interests are part of this, despotism and inhumanity are some of the things that  underpin the Empire's battle with these governments.

The Ottoman's use of "War Ghuls" is one of the most despicable acts in the history of warfare.  The use of these Ghuls is the reason why the Afghan tribesmen are strongly allied with the British.  The first report of these terror troops being used was after the Afghans had pushed the Turks out of tribal areas.  During this time, the Afghans were largely equally disposed to both the British and the Ottomans, they would trade and negotiate but at the end of the day they did not want either force in their areas.  That all changed when the Ottomans deployed the War Ghuls.  Afghan prisoners and civilians were intentionally exposed to the Æster and then these Æster mad men, women and children were driven down onto other Afghan villages.  The ensuing chaos was predictable.  This tactic was used again and again by the Ottomans without remorse.  It was this tactic that caused the Mullah's to declare Jihad against the Ottomans.  This forever changed the balance of power in the region.  Afghan tribes became allies of the British and the Ottomans thereafter were unable to hold territory for very long in tribal areas.

The Ottoman's have also bred the Janissaries.  These soldiers grow up breathing a mixture of Æster and opiates.  When in battle, the Janissaries are not Æster mad but have many of the benefits of the Æster mad; this makes them almost unstoppable.  Reports of them continuing to fight with limbs hacked off and literally tearing opponents apart with their hands have made them legendary.  If captured, they quickly die when their breathing media runs out.  Attempts to replicate the formula they breathe have failed utterly and so no attempt is made any longer to take Janissary prisoners.  To kill them outright is kinder than the slow horrific death they would suffer as a result of withdrawal from the Æster opiate concoction.

The Chinese have similarly taken to using inhumane tactics in their attempts to expand.  While they do not intentionally expose their own troops to the Æster, they have been reported as marching entire villages of their own people into the mountains where Æster exposure is almost certain.  The reason for these activities cannot be directly determined, but investigation points to studying the effects of Æster exposure on those people.  The use of Æster warheads by the Chinese is something else that is common knowledge.  These warheads have been devastating against the Siamese.  International outrage has accompanied reports of the use of these warheads against troops. 

The Ottoman Turks and the Chinese pose the greatest threat to the British Empire and way of life. 


The St. Louis City of Light

I'm really glad I'm as into this idea as I am or I would have gone mad long ago.  Some folks say I'm nuts to even be doing this, so I'm not sure the application of sanity to what I'm doing is relevant any more.

Between the real job and this, I'm working two full time jobs, one that pays the bills and the other that sucks the money away from them.  Well, actually, I work a full time job and live the other one.  Rise of Æster pretty much consumes the rest of my life.

Much of the time that is eaten up in my life by this project is being funneled into making the St. Louis City of Light a living, vibrant place.  This is the place our story and games will take place initially and, as such, it needs to be as fully fleshed out as possible.

Since the cities of light are built by initially stripping the ruins of their predecessor, it allows us to build what we want with the appropriate Steampunk flair about it.  Historically significant structures will be left in place because the people that build these cities make decisions having to do with maintaining the historical context of a city.  For instance, when we begin developing the London City of Light, the London Bridge, Big Ben, etc. will be left in place while other structures of historical significance might be sacrificed.  Likewise in Paris, the Eiffel Tower would be left behind along with Notre Dame, but other places will be torn down for parts.

The cities of light exist as concentrators and industrial hubs.  St. Louis is the gateway to the Great Mississippi bay and thereby the Caribbean.  So, a tremendous amount of traffic in materials and finished goods passes through there.  Rail cars are offloaded onto ships bound for British possessions in the Aureus, airships are loaded with cargo from ships that they will carry to the Denver City of Light, etc.  A massive industry in meat, hides, leather and fur goes on in St. Louis as hunters bring their goods in from the darkness of the central plains.  Dyers, weavers and clothiers run another huge section of the city as yard goods and materials come in by ship to be turned into clothing and finished goods which are then distributed by ship, rail and airship.  Spinners and weavers turn fiber from the heavy fur bearing animals living in the dark and cold into thread and cloth for local use and export.  Massive smelters and remanufacturing facilities turn materials brought into the city by the Scavenger Guilds into new iron and steel construction materials, reclaimed brick and everything from new radiators to glass windows and spectacles.

Outside the city walls enormous farms occupy the areas outside.  These gigantic green houses grow all the staple foods for the city.  Unlike the city itself where the lights never go out, you can tell the time of day by which of the farms are lit.  The plants would die if they were not given periods of darkness and so various farms are dark at different times.  Specially bred and trained raptors hunt through these green houses policing them to prevent rodents from gaining a foothold; owls and hawks call out from their rooks in the upper clerestories of these buildings. 

We will be posting some of the initial City of Light and Aeroplex sketches soon so that you will be able to see what we are working on and the development of the ideas as we go on.

Cities of Light, Coffee, commerce and economics

We are working on adding more depth and interest to the cities of light, specifically to St. Louis.  Parts of this have to do with the day in and day out economics of how one of the Cities of Light operates.

We've chosen to run British America on the Pound Sterling which means we can use colloquilisms like "Bob" for a Shilling and "Quid" for a Pound.  The quick and dirty on the Pound Sterling
1 Pound (£) = 240 pennies or pence
1 Pound (£) = 20 Shillings
1 Shilling (s) = 12 pennies or pence
1 Penny or pence (p) = 1/20th of a Shilling
1 Guinea (gn)(or Gentlemen's Pound) = £1 1s 0p

"Sixpence" = 1/2 a Shilling - This will get you a beer, wine, pot of coffee or tea or a meal
"Tuppence" (two pence) - This will get you a cup of coffee or tea or a scone or loaf of bread

One Shilling will generally get you a meal and a beer or wine. The "Blue Plate Special" at a local pub or eating establishment will generally get you a meal and two beers for the same price.  This beer is generally what we would consider "small beer", a light lager or pilsner.  The cheap stuff on draft.

People in the cities of light get paid better than those living the life of luxury in the Aureus.  This works out in a couple of ways.

1)  Workers in the cities of light get paid in Guineas instead of Pounds, so a worker making £3 in the Aureus would be getting paid 3gn instead.

2)  Because of the finite footprint of a city of light, housing is an issue.  This is entirely another subject to be dealt with.  However, what it means is housing is subsidized for residents.  Those living in a city of light don't pay rent unless they wish to live in better accommodations than they are "billeted", which most do.

3)  Basic food and health care are subsidised.  This means that staple foods are provided, this is usually root vegetables, beet sugar, and a broad spectrum of mushroom edibles.  This is primarily what the farms outside the city of light produce.  To keep the close-packed population of the city of light healthy, basic medical care is part of the daily life.  Most people do not live on only their food alotment.  Luxuries such as coffee, tea, citrus fruit, cane sugar an all manner of other things are generally added to the household budget of the residents.

So, you have a population that is higher paid, has their housing subsidised, and doesn't pay the average 1/4 of their income for food that was common during the Victorian era and still is for much of the world.  The result is, that you have people who can put away a very tidy nestegg or live a lifestyle well above what would be considered their normal means if they were living in the sun along the equator in the Aureus.

Certain things that we consider very common today would be expensive or hard to come by in the cities of light.  Citrus fruit is not grown under the Æster with the exception of the areas on the close to the equator and even there it has to be assisted.  Most citrus fruit comes from the Aureus and as such is very expensive.  There is almost no such thing as "fresh" fruit in a city of light.  The fruit flown in on fast packet ships to maintain freshness is only for the very wealthy "Still Warm from the Aureus" is a common slogan for this fruit and paying over a Pound for a single orange would not be uncommon.  Coffee and Tea are much more expensive (over double the cost) in the cities of light compared to the Aureus and other areas.  For instance, a pot of tea or coffee in the Aureus would cost a tuppence vs. a sixpence in a city of light. 

Your average laborer in a city of light is going to make somewhere between 4 and 8gn a month.  A skilled laborer such as a machinist is going to make between 7 and 10gn a month.  Crews on Æster vessels make more more due to the danger of their work.  Since there are no unskilled laborers working in the Æster as there is a minimal amount of training mandated for the work, like people who work on off shore oil rigs, the average base pay is between 8 and 12gn a month.

Jeff and I have been working over the economics of the Rise of Æster world to try and give folks a way to break out of the real world mindset when playing in the world.  This is a reason for the choice of Pounds, Shillings, Pence and Guineas.  Besides, it's very Victorian to tell someone you paid "Three Pounds Fifty" or "5 Quid" for something.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Where we are now

So, the last few months have been busy, well more accurately, insane. This insanity has bred some truly extraordinary ideas for the Rise of Æster world.

I've been writing like a madman trying to flesh out the world and give people a good feel for what we are doing and creating.

We rolled out initially at Norwescon here in Seattle, made an appearance at Maker Faire and are targeting Gencon and Dragon Con and will have our first full up game at Steamcon.

All of this is has been happening amidst development of the world, the game, and the artist community.

Maker Faire clearly pointed out that the artist community that I am wanting to create as part of the Rise of Æster is not only possible but will be a vibrant and dynamic part of the creation of the world, community and the game.

Right now we are getting spooled up to run our first Beta Test games. We have the first draft of rules in process and will be rolling those out to the test groups within the month. We intend to have these rules available at Steamcon so that people can go home and begin running games for themselves.

So, there is a tremendous amount in work at this point that is going to be very exciting.

I've finally decided that the only way to keep people abreast of what we are doing is through having a central blog so that folks can keep up with me and the larger group, so here we are. I hope this blog will give people some insight into the madness that is creating something like this.

So, I'll be putting up thoughts, ideas, concepts of where we are going and what we are doing. So, here we go.