Sunday, July 22, 2012, 2:17 PM
“You stride forth from the blood-soaked battlefield, bruised and beaten, but unlike all others involved, alive. The balefire and steel that slew hundreds of others, friend and foe alike, you shrugged off, a true champion. Scores of lesser men fell beneath your blade, ending with the general of the enemy. A worthy foe, if there was such a thing for you. Victorious but, thanks to your lord’s death on the field, unemployed, you resolve to cure the world of its problems the way you know best to: by the blade.”
“You marched to war as one of your lord’s men at arms, for the only thought more frightening than fighting the enemy was what should happen if they won. Battle came, and you stood, and you cut, time and time again, finding combat beside your brothers in arms more natural than you had imagined. The war was long and sometimes terrifying, but finally friend and foe alike were worn down. Released from service, you were free to go home… but that was not what you were to do. You had found your calling: to fight against the evils of the world.”
Which of these best describes to you how a 1st level Fighter with the Soldier background might enter the adventuring profession? If you answered the first, you might be a fan of being a hero, while if you answered second, you might prefer becoming a hero instead. This is one of those essential disconnects between various factions in the D&D fan base, whether a character should begin the game with potential, or fully realized.
The Argument for Being a Hero
Nobody wants to be weak or ineffectual. Part of the point of a fantasy role-playing game is indulging in the larger than life experience offered by the possession of superhuman strength and competence or supernatural powers.
Furthermore, as the players are the ones with agency in the game, they should be empowered from the start to alter the world. The adventurer is ultimately supposed to be a hero (or villain, or scoundrel), and deferring this essential core of experience is pure folly.
We do not set out to be apprentices, squires, or footpads – beholden to higher powers, unable to determine our own fates. We wish to be instead archmages, knights, and kings of thieves. This is the enjoyable state – even though challenge surely remains, we are transcendent, beyond hand-to-mouth existence, beyond the realm of common mortals. Start at the top of the heap, and progress upwards to the heavens.
The Argument for Becoming a Hero
Dungeons and Dragons is two things. First, it’s a fantasy storytelling experience and second, a game. The rules govern the action of the game, and must support the nature of a fantasy story.
One common and compelling story is the typical peasant hero. Begin as nothing, and eventually save the world. To rise from the lowest depths to the tallest heights is an exhilarating experience that must necessarily be supported. To fail to allow for this classic, resonant experience can be considered a failing of D&D Next.
We do not wish to begin with great power already at our fingertips. It is the getting, and not the having, that provides the greatest entertainment. That which is not gained through some manner of struggle is not satisfying to have. If great power is handed to the player at the beginning, the great power becomes taken for granted. It loses its wonder, loses its value, and ultimately it matters little how much greater than the average man we are, for we will never really become greater than ourselves.
Both of these play styles are important and relevant. Both must be supported, but how. My answer is robust rules for starting above 1st level. Essentially, it’s easier to scale a character up from 1st than scale them down, so 1st level must represent the absolute lowest/weakest point for character progression possible. Those that wish to be heroes from the start, then, should be supported in starting at a level above first.
With good, solid rules for character creation at a few other levels than 1st, if not any given level, there is no reason to increase the power of 1st level. You might say that this is a concession to one side – the becoming a hero side—but the thing is that the being a hero side can still play the game they want if starting at 1st represents becoming a hero. The same is not true for the Becoming side if heroism is assumed at level 1.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012, 5:18 PM
This was a forum post on this thread. By request, I'm putting a (slightly edited) copy in a more accessable place
Why the Wizard
(And, to a greater extent, Cleric and Druid
) Was Overpowered in 3.X
Sleep is a 1st level spell that knocks out 4hd worth of creatures on failed will saves. Though worthless after the first couple levels (since almost all opponents will have >4hd individually), when you're 1st or 2nd level, fighting 1-3hd humanoids, Sleep wipes an entire encounter. A wizard can do this 2-4 times per day depending on level and Int bonus. An Enchanter can do it an extra time per day.
Polymorph is a 4th level spell. A 7th level wizard can take any living creature shape that's 7hd or less, a number that goes up as the Wizard's level does. Though polymorph lasts mere minutes in 3.5, it lasted longer in 3.0, earning it a bad reputation. With tricks to extend duration, the wizard's physical stats no longer matter, and he can gain a whole slew of immunities and resistances based on the form chosen (often causing a ton of lag as the wizard searches the monster manual for just the right form). As a 9th level spell, you get a better version called Shapechange. Druids get a version of this as a class feature, and thus don't need to waste spell slots on it.
Planar Binding is a 6th level spell which can call to your service an outsider of no greater than 12hd -- let's say the 12hd, CR 13 Glabrezu. a 11th level wizard can do this 1-2 times a day; a conjurer can do it an extra time per day. The summoned creature lasts either a day/caster level, or until a specified task is completed. Assuming a specific task is used, the Wizard can continue summoning 1-3 Glabrezu every day, until a demon army of sufficent size has been accrued. Otherwise, he'll have to stop at 10-30 (and more at higher levels) before the rotation of fiends causes their numbers to stabalize. A single Glabrezu is significant threat for the wizard's entire level 11 party, a lot of them trivialize anything. On the day the wizard chooses to strike with the Glabrezu Task Force, he will have spent no spells. There's also a lesser version of Planar Binding at 5th level of spell: though it summons far weaker creatures, it is subject to the same abuses. Clerics can do this, wear heavy armor, and heal.
On the other hand, an Evoker's expected damage lags behind the expected damage of a fighter's full attack pattern, unless multiple targets can be caught by the area spells. Evocation spells have plenty of advantages (Elemental damage, area, etc.) but over all, damage is just about the tamest thing that a Wizard can do. This is why the Warmage (A sorcerer with extra perks that can only take damage spells) is Tier 4 (Weak end of balanced) when the Sorcerer is Tier 2 (Broken in half, but only in one or two ways per character). For reference, Fighter was Tier 5 (too weak to effectivley compete with anything better than tier 4) and the real "problem children" -- Clerics, Druids, and Wizards -- were Tier 1 (Broken in half in any situation).Why the Wizard Alone Gets the Blame
It's a matter of psychology. Those of us who really focused on 3.x know that, while the same overall tier, Clerics and Druids are much stronger, because they lack the few weaknesses that the Wizard still has: Low AC and HP in his natural form, a theoretically limited spellbook, and so on.
However, in actual play there's something of a Gentelmen's Agreement regarding the classes on the higher end of the tier scale: Everyone wants to have fun, so those who play the power classes will generally avoid breaking the game in half. For druids, this means specializing to cover a missing role. For clerics, this means acting as the dedicated box-of-bandaids. For Wizards... well, crud. What a gentelmanly wizard does may not be the extent of a wizard's power, but it appears stronger than either the designated healer or the role-fluxing druid.
Even a wizard who takes nothing but damaging evocation spells (Weaker than the warmage, having far fewer spells per day) gave the appearance of being flashy and strong. The actual numbers do not matter; Perception is all important in this.Why the Wizard Can't Have Nice Things
In short, because we, the folks who dislike 4e's way of doing things, want casters to be different again. Not overpowering, but unique and distinct, seperate from their non-caster bretheren. We seem to have already gotten our wish there. If Next is going to have a chance, though, it needs to not "Repeat the mistakes" of 3.5. To that end, the Wizard must be a sacrifice.
The worse the Wizard (specifically the Wizard) is at launch, the better off we'll be. If it has any overt power, the apparent potential to meet or excede the strength of the most basic fighter, We're in for a bitter war again. If the Wizard is next to unplayable at launch, the long-term prospects for both casters (other than the sacrificed wizard) and Next are looking up.
Ideally, a maximally optimized wizard will lose to a mildly optimized (at best) fighter. Every time. The current version of the wizard is a step in the right direction, but naturally it doesn't go far enough. Specifically, the following amendments should be made.
1) Fewer hit points. As a class feature, the Wizard should not get con to hp at 1st level like other characters (thus, starting with 2hp and goign up to 4 at 2nd and 6 at 3rd). They recieve no Hit Dice to self heal with.
2) More brutal downsides. Wizard spells should be move-or-cast rather than simply an action. Spells lost to disruption should be totally lost. Wizards should suffer a chance of spell failure even under perfect conditions (again, losing the prepared spell on a fail). Possibly
: All wizard spells must roll to hit, saves are then taken as normal.
3) Nerfing of Defensive Abilities. Shield only has its "protection from magic missiles" effect. Mirror Image should permit an Intelligence Save by the attacker to negate the randomization before determining who is attacked.
4) Disincentives to use Minors. First, Magic Missile can't scale. It also trades in auto-hit for advantage on the attack (or simply loses any accuracy benefits). To keep from hosing fighters, Shocking Grasp loses its advantage versus armor. Minors do not benefit from the +2 to hit with spells. Minors are subject to Move-or-cast like all other spells (as per point 2) Possibly
: Using Minors when not out of prepared spells burns a prepared spell of the highest level still prepared. Possibly
: Using minors costs hp.
5) Removal of Negation and Battlefield Control. Ray of Frost reduces the target's speed by 5'. Sleep applies half speed below the hp threshold, does nothing to targets above it; it never causes unconciousness. Hold imposes Half Speed/-5' Speed based on hp threshold, save negates, save every round to shake off. Grease can only grease creatures. Charm cannot be cast on hostile targets and since victims recall being charmed, imposes disadvantage on all subsequent social checks after it wears off.
If all of these points were adopted, you would still see people declaring the Wizard overpowered. The perception is that strong. Of course, I think at this point sensible heads woudl dominate.
Friday, May 11, 2012, 11:51 AM
Okay, I was hoping this image would speak for itself, but since I happily dance the border between serious commentary and humor, I had better explain. I created this little grid when thinking about who or what your real model for a class is, while there were arguments going on about what is or isn't an appropiate or representable concept. This was all for amusement, but I figured I might as well share it, and my reasoning behind it.
1e-3e: Yeager (Nodwick). Not a complicated fellow. Kills things with swords, likes booze, doesn't have or seem to need extravagent powers. This is pretty much what the fighting man is and wants to be all the way until 4th edition.
3.5: Nodwick (Nodwick). Of the core four, Fighters really did get shafted that badly in the mad expansion of 3.5.
4e: Cloud Strife (Final Fantasy 7). Let's compare Cloud and Yeager. Cloud is younger and slighter of build, but weilds a much bigger sword. While Yeager had his basic attack, Cloud (Even barring Materia) has some special attacks that range from the entertaining (Braver) to the ludicris (Meteorain, Omnislash). A lot of people are going to find Cloud a step up, but he's one of two entries here don't think I'd enjoy playing in D&D (Granted, that's more because he's Cloud than because of his powers...)
Hopes for Next: Ike (Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance). Ike is a bit more of a classic fantasy swordsman than Cloud is, but he's still an interesting and dynamic character, and he is at least capable of fetting a variety of combat skills (Like everybody else in the system, granted). He's even got his own kinda odd super-move, Aether. Maybe I should have picked Mia?
1e: Piffany (Nodwick). Through at least most of 1e, clerics of specific Mythoi didn't exist. Additionally, the expected role of the cleric has historically been to dispense magical healing. Duct tape FTW! (Also, de-naughtifying undead is handy...)
2e-3e: Jozan, Iconic Cleric of Pelor (3e). Priests of specific Mythoi were big starting in 2e. Jozan, 3rd's Iconic, is basically a slight update on your generic band-aid cleric. He's got armor and a mace, and now follows one god (in his case, one who grants him more tools as an undead-remover and bandaid box)
3.5: God (Sistine Chapel Ceiling). Yeah, if played effectivley, Clerics were just that broken. (This is the other entry I wouldn't enjoy playing)
4e: Generic Cleric. Just a bit of an update on Jozan really. We now have glowing maces, and perhaps a little more ability to bring the divine pain rather than sit back and heal.
Hopes for Next: Piffany again, but for somewhat different reasons. The lack of armor is a big one -- though the design goals say I won't get my wish here, I'd like to see clerics cede the "Armored Holy Warrior" turf fully to the Paladins.
1e-2e: Generic Thief. Before 3rd edition, the class WAS 'Thief'. A sneaky footpad ready to bag the loot was prety much expected. I have a lot of good things to say about earlier editions, but bredth of expectations isn't exactly one of them.
3e-3.5: Lidda, Iconic Rogue (3e). Am I cheating by using the edition's own Iconic to stand in for it? I don't think so. Lidda is somewhat representitive of the switchover from Thief to Rogue. She seems like she's prepared for dungeonerring as well as breaking and entering, not just highway robbery. Her portrayl is much more neutral than that of Mr. Generic. Rogues sifted into one of the tiers that played nice in 3.5, thus there was no need for a tier joke here
4e: Thief (8-Bit Theater). I admit, I'm mostly making fun of one particular epic destiny that lets you steal things that don't even exist.
Hopes for Next: Carmen Sandiego (Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?). Let's face it, Carmen is prety much the role model for any theiving type. A lot of her heists get as impossible as Thief's, I admit. Mostly I put her here because a thief-type rogue is going to be going for her level anyway.
1e: Merlin (The Sword in the Stone): Big grey beard, pointy hat, questionable powerset -- this is where Wizards started. I could have used Artax from Nodwick here, but I think I've used more than my share of Nodwick characters.
2e: Gandalf the Grey (The Lord of the Rings): The evolution of the wizard begins with a significantly less questionable powerset. The expectations are much the same.
3e: Gandalf the White (The Lord of the Rings): The power and versitility of the wizard increases, and he starts to shed the old wizard look and feel (here starting with the pointy hat). Superficially, he's the same, but there's been a large step up
3.5: Jace Beleren (Magic: The Gathering): I picked Jace for a few reasons. First, one of his card forms is infamously broken. Second, this particular image expresses that decently, holding the world in his hand. Third, while the power of the Wizard has indeed been changing, its the look and feel that really takes a turn -- the old Gandalf type is gone, replaced by a young, vital figure who wouldn't be caught dead in a pointy hat.
4e: Mako (The Legend of Korra): In 4e, the versitility of Wizards dropped off dramatically, while hard usage limits went the way of the dinosaur with the introduction of core at-wills (Rather than reserve feats or hard-won SLAs). The average wizard can now sling fire all day long, but can't innatley do many of the things that wizards were once capable of (Some are in rituals, some aren't). Also, the art/flavor trend towards young heroes continues.
Hopes for Next: Schmendrick (The Last Unicorn). I'd rather go the other way. Schmendrick's magic is (often) big and flashy, but is marked by its unreliability. Rather than magic being clean, reliable, and weak/narrow, I would prefer it to be strange, unreliable, and potentially strong. And hey, the pointy hat is back!
Tuesday, March 13, 2012, 7:54 PM
Things tend to come in threes – by now we’ve all heard of the three pillars about which D&D Next is to be built, and last time I talked about Three Pillars of Art and Flavor
. This time, I’m going to talk about the third three: the Three Attitudes of Gaming.
In some way, these are the “Timmy, Johnny, and Spike” of the D&D design world: we find ourselves aligning with one or more of the three, and our stance colors our beliefs about what is and what is not good design.
Simulationism may be mapped, somewhat, to the Pillar of Exploration. The Simulationist wishes to enter the fantasy world of the game, and does so by the reality of the world presented in the rules. The Simulationist desires the oft-mocked rules like encumbrance and aging because they ‘enhance versimilitude’ and generally prefers if the logical consequences of an action can be spelled out and accurately modeled by the rules as they are presented.
The Simulationist, on the other archetypes: “Neither of them truly understands what it means to be making a fantasy universe: the Narritivist disregards its logic when it collides with his plot, and the Gamist would gladly throw that logic away if it did not suit the experience at the table. My path is harder, but it’s more rewarding”
In some ways, Simulationism has been set as the opponent of Narritivism, but I find that dichotomy to be incomplete, for there are matters on which the Simulationist and the Narritivist may agree.
Narritivism may be mapped, somewhat, to the Pillar of Interaction. The Narritivist wishes to tell a fantasy story, weave together plot and character and doesn’t care much for the rules so long as they allow him to do so. The Narritivist desires some measure of control over the direction and flow of the plot, and generally prefers if the rolls of the dice can be mitigated should they conflict with that plot.
The Narritivist, on the other archetypes: “They’re letting things get in the way of the real role-playing experience: the Gamist neglects the plot, and the Simulationist would throw it out completely if it didn’t fit his ‘logic’. My path is more interactive for everyone at the table.”
Gamism may be mapped, somewhat, to the Pillar of Combat. The Gamist wishes to play a game, to be entertained by its mechanics and how they unfold upon the table. The Gamist desires balance and fun above all else, and generally prefers to be declaring actions and rolling the dice. The gamist likes abstraction, and dislikes things that get between him and his game.
The Gamist, on the other archetypes: “They’re forgetting the G in RPG: The Simulationist would turn out something totally unplayable left to his own devices, and the Narritivist wouldn’t even use rules! My path is the one that results in fun.”
Overlap is, of course, common: most of us have at least a drop of each of the three in us, though we may swing hard to one corner. I consider myself a Simulationist first, a Narritivist second, and a Gamist third. I’d like a playable, balanced game, of course: it’s better than not. However, I take considerations from the other two archetypes as paramount, and say “balance around this!”
Monday, February 27, 2012, 1:21 PM
A lot of talk has been made about the three pillars of Dungeons and Dragons gameplay: Combat, Socialization, and Exploration. A lot has also been made about D&D 5th edition (I'd really like it to not be called "next") having to 'feel like D&D'
Well, a lot of feel is in the flavor and the art. What themes does it evoke? Thinking about that myself, I came up with my own Three Pillars. I'm mostly going to address them from the standpoint of monster design, but I feel they apply to how much of the game is addressed: the three gameplay pillars inform, for instance, what content is in an adventure. I would think pillars of flavor would inform how that is fluffed.
Pillar #1: "Cool"
I could have also called this pillar "Badassery" or "Metal". Cool is, at its essence, the distillation of tropes that resonate with the modern mind. Cool is the Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot
. Cool is monsters made of fangs and spikes and other scary-looking bits. Cool is the part of the game where where the rock music plays and you stand up and shout "Look at me! I'm AWESOME!" Eberron basically runs on Cool. Cool is exemplified by the "Dungeon Punk" look and feel pushed in the latter half of 3.5 and a good deal of 4th.
Cool is not the only pillar because Cool works best as an admixture. Cool cares not for your logic! Cool cares not for sitting still! It's a very active element in the makeup of flavor, but one that is often somewhat... topheavy. Ready to collapse under its own weight.
In some ways, Cool equates to the pillar of Combat: Fighting and winning, both in spectacular ways, are Cool.
Cool is important because it calls you to do
. Cool represents engagement with the game on an active level. Cool calls you to cheer and shout. On the other hand, Cool should not be taken alone becaust it represents a somewhat hollow experience. With nothing to make you really feel, the shouting and "awesomeness" may soon wear thin
Pillar #2: "Classic"
Classic is, at its essence, that which calls to the past. Most people come into D&D through other fantasy. Classic maintains continuity with the stories we read or see, and the "main stream" of fantasy media. Classic is Tolkien, Lovecraft, Vance, and even Fairy Tales. Classic is orcs and goblins, dragons and balrogs. Classic is the part of the game where you think back on everything that's brought you here and remember what you've loved before. Most of the older campaign settings, like Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk, have a large dose of Classic in them. Classic is exemplified by its source material
Classic is not the only pillar because it serves as a framework. D&D has to expand beyond classic, and grow outward from it. Classic alone is stagnant and unchanging, beloved perhaps but also bereft of what makes D&D a living game rather than a story one reads about.
In some ways, Classic could be equated to the Socialization pillar: "Role Playing", or telling the story, delves into Classic to a great degree.
Classic is important because it calls you to think
. Classic represents an engaement with the game on a cerebral level. On the other hand, Classic should not be taken alone because it represents a fundamentally passive experience. Classic is either there or it isn't. Like bedrock, you'd really like it if Classic were present, but there's not much you can do without somethign else layered over it.
Pillar #3: Whimsy
Whimsy is, at its essence, that which is strange and imaginitive. We have, I think, been unkind to poor Whimsy in recent years. Whimsy is monsters whose looks and nature are at odds. Whimsy is the part of the game where you contact the raw strangeness of your inner child's imagination. Whimsy exists in the stranger corners of most campaign settings. Whimsy is exemplified by maligned flumphs and beloved Displacer Beasts alike.
Whimsy is not the only pillar because whimsy lacks substance. A dream world may seem very nice, and even possess internal logic, but iltimatley all that's there is a sort of fluff, that is easily dispersed and blown away. Whimsy, unsupported, is as fragile as a soap bubble.
In some way, Whimsy could be related to the gameplay pillar Exploration. Devling into a new world of the unknown, seeking and finding, calls to Whimsy and the Whimsical.
Whimsy is important because it calls you to feel. Whimsy represents an engagement with the game derived from free imagination and emotion. On the other hand, Whimsy should not be taken alone because it represents unconciousness. Thought, the concious mind, is needed to keep a game alive and going, and that is not what whimsy calls to. Whimsy is content to gaze upon the clouds in the sky and name their shapes with names not before spoken.
Where Cool and Classic Meet: The IllithidSpoiler:
Illithids are one of those monsters that rank high on the "cool" scale -- they eat your BRAINS, man! They're scary blighters that are alien and revolting in as many (awesomly) horrible ways as you can put together. But, they're also informed by one of the Classics to which D&D pays homage -- HP Lovecraft. The squid-faced humanoid belongs squarely with Cthulhu and his Star Spawn, and the Far Realms that are usually said to have a hand in the birthing of the Illithids are where D&D has placed its Lovecraftian horrors.
Where Classic and Whimsy Meet: Fairy TalesSpoiler:
Fairy Tales are some of the most classical classics. Being traditional in nature, they are older than Tolkien, and I would say, tend to inform modern, western fantasy to a degree surpassed only by Tolkien's Middle Earth. Perhaps I am wrong in that regard, but they are certainly there. And, unlike much other classic fantasy, Fairy Tales call to the ears of the inner child at least as much as they do to the cerebral adult. Perhaps it is a matter of nostalgia, or the way these traditional stories have been treated in the modern world: Most of us encounter them quite early, probably long before we encounter anything else that would be labled as "fantasy". This puts is in the mindset for whimsy.
Where Whimsy and Cool meet: The BeholderSpoiler:
Many attempts have been made to de-whimsy-fy the Beholder, but... It's a beachball covered in eyes. It's not the most whimsical design out there, but while it does have a mouth of pointy teeth, said mouth is practically useless. Looking at it, it's hard to imagine that the beholder is a prototypically scary, and thus cool monster. I mean, next you're going to be telling me that salt and pepper shakers are terrifying!Oh right... they are.
Much like the above, beholders have the ultimate "cool monster" attitude: they hate you. They hate every living thing that's not themselves, and that's probably covering up a healthy dose of self-loathing. The funny thing is, for all their mad xenophobia, beholders are consistantly an incredably varried species, not just in their own looks but in the fact that they've got a slew of beholderkin going on! That's... strange and interesting, which brings us back to a little taste of whimsy.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011, 4:29 PM
Gamer Food #1
Gamers invariably want food. Food, however, is not something that’s terribly convenient for gamers – good food is slow to make, labor intensive, and generally messy to eat at the table. So, for ages, gamer food has been largely limited to take out and anything you can eat right out of the packaging. To this I say no more.
I’d like to present a recipe today that, while essentially “slow food”, can have its prep done way ahead of time, and thus not infringe on an actual gaming session any more than calling for Pizza. There may be more such recipes forthcoming, hence why I called this Gamer Food #1. If you’d like to see a Gamer Food #2, tell me and I’ll look into it.
Our food for today is… Meat Pies!
In form and application, the Meat Pie is perfect gamer food – handheld and contained within a crust, they have a very low chance of ruining books, cards, or character sheets, even compared with perennial favorite Pizza. And what’s more, they’re HUGELEY filling for their size. In execution… Well, I won’t lie: these meat pies are some of the most labor intensive food I’ve cooked recently. They take a LOT of time and make a huge mess. Why are they still gamer food then? Because you can do all of that a day or two before – when you actually want to eat them, all you have to do is throw them in a hot oven and set a timer.
2 lb lean ground beef
5 cups Water
1 cup Flour
1 and ¼ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Oregano
¼ teaspoon Thyme
¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder
3 cups Flour
1 cup Corn Oil
¼ cup milk
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt.
The pie crust and pie filling I made separately. I tried out many kinds of pie crusts, so I made smaller batches. This estimate should bring you close to enough crust to handle the meat.
To start, we’re going to make the filling. Grind the onion (Don’t be a fool like me – use some sort of blender or food processor if you have one. I used a cheese grater and regretted it.). Break up the beef into bits and add it to a large pot with the flour, onion paste, water, salt, and spices. Turn on the heat and stir it until it’s simmering (boiling, but only just) and a good, thick paste without too many noticeable chunks. Cook it this way for at least an hour and a half; the meat should be unbelievably tender. Make sure to keep stirring it so it doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pot you’re cooking it in. When it’s done cooking, throw it in the fridge.
To make the pie crust, just mix everything together until it turns into dough, seriously.
Scrape some of the fat off the top of the congealed filling – there won’t be much if you used REALLY lean beef, but this can help if you didn’t. Now, it’s time to make the pies. I tried two methods, and they both worked out, more or less.
The first is good if you have a cupcake tray – line the muffin holes with a thin layer of crust, fill it with filling, then lay a thin sheet of crust on top and pinch it together. Repeat the process until you’ve filled the whole tray or run out of something. Cut a thin slit in the top to vent – you should have what looks like a tray of meat-filled muffins.
The other way is to take a ball of crust, a small one, press it out thin, and put it in the palm of your hand, add a scoop of the meat mix, then fold the crust over and pinch it shut. The result will look like a tiny calzone. You can arrange these on any sort of oven tray.
In either case, put the pies in the fridge – this should be the day before gaming day so they don’t have any trouble. On the day of, set your oven to preheat to 375 F or whatever that is in Celsius. Once it’s warmed up, you can throw the pies in, either in their muffin tray or on any acceptable oven tray. In about 30 minutes, the crust should be golden-brown (or perhaps a little darker) and the pies will be ready to eat. Careful, they’re hot!
The result will be a hearty, filling meal that can be eaten at the gaming table, with only minimal interruption to the actual day of the game. 2 pounds of beef will easily feed six or more people, even gamers, so you might well have leftovers.
If you try this recipe, let me know what you think, and just how much crust it actually took to handle all the filling!
Monday, November 22, 2010, 6:31 PM
What we do when we're not gaming with our friends in real life.
Much like traditional games, computer games are a broad category. They embrace tons of genres and mechanics that are almost too numerous to list. Because one good game can look a lot different than another good game, it's kind of hard to find a good metric to measure them against each other
As such, my top 5 is goign to be really subjective. Ultimatley, these are games that either really wowed me, or that I keep coming back to. Now, before I get around to the actual top 5, there's something I need to get out of the way.
HONORABLE MENTION: World of Warcraft
WoW is not the most entertaining game I've ever played. In fact, it kind of gets grating after a while. However, for some reason it is just so addictive that I would be remiss if I didn't say something about it here. Now I have. On with the show!
You've probably heard of this game, but if you haven't it's a first person puzzle game where you can place the ends of a portal to get places where simple running and jumping won't lead you. It's kind of minimalist: there's only one character with anything resembling a presence and personality, but the mechanics are excellent and that one character keeps the rather short game interesting as well as entertaining. Though you can clear your first playthrough in under four hours and nothing changes betwene plays, the game really is worth it and excellently made.
4) Civilization II: Test of Time
The whole civilization series, at least as far as I've played, is pretty amazing: they're turn-based strategy games where you start in the stone age and go through everything between then and now. Conquor the world, build allies, manage your citizenry. What puts Test of Time on this list rather than any other Civilization game is that Test of Time gave you not just stone age to spaceflight earth, but also a science fiction game and a fantasy game, both of which involved using more than one world to explore. fun!
In Nethack, you are an adventurer of one of several classes and three alignments. You begin the game on the first level of the Dungeons of Doom with some random junk in your inventory and the nebulous goal of retreiving the Amulet of Yendor. Standing between you and victory is a seemingly infinite army of strange monsters, traps, and features. Nethack is old, Nethack is complex, Nethack is very hard (I've never won). It has more arcane mechanics than you can shake a stick at, and in its little turn-based ascii graphics more complexity and programmed responses than you will probably ever trigger without trying. It's also completley free, so there's no excuse to not look it up.
2) Planescape: Torment
Planescape: Torment looks largeley like any D&D based RPG. It's real time, but you can pause and issue commands. What makes Torment really interesting is the story and the choice you have with the main character. The script for this game could probably read better than some novels I've read, and dialogue options are more powerful than any weapon (Seriously, you can talk the final boss to death, and doing so gets you a better ending than fighting him). And you have choice: you may end up the same place at the end, but the game WILL care whether you're the nicest goody two shoes ever seen or a cruel and evil bastard (mostly established through dialogue options that are really evil: click through fast so you aren;t losing sleep over what you've done). The overall plot is a little more philosophical and personal than standard D&D RPG fare, which is a nice change from saving princesses and worlds. Without a doubt, this is a game you'll want to play more than once.
Iji is a 2d platformer/action shooter with some limited RPG elements. The mechanics are clean and the controls are good. You get a fun arsenal of weapons and face off against some memorable enemies and epic bosses. That alone wouldn't be enough to put Iji on this list. What is?
Like Portal, an amazing plot runs with just a few characters interacting
Like Planescape: Torment, you have choice in who your character is. Pacifist or genocidal berserker, either is valid and they reward you with different plots, all of which are well-written, prety epic, and potentially moving if you're one to be moved by a video game.
Like Nethack, there's tons to find and explore, a ton of hidden secrets to discover throughout one or more playthroughs of the game. Also like Nethack, Iji is totally free so there's no real excuse not to play it.
Sunday, October 31, 2010, 10:09 PM
Okay, having said quite a bit about World Building âlast timeâ, I thought Iâd tackle another topic in the same vein: creating âaliensâ.
Broadly put, for the purposes of this discussion, an âalienâ has the following qualities.Â First, an Alien is not human, or a member of any other Earth species.Â Second, an Alien is sentient.Â Third, an Alien is a species, not a unique being.Â Fourth and most mutably, we will assume that an Alien is a physical, living, biological entity.Â While these are the only âhardâ rules to apply to this discussion, we can also assume your Alien is being created from scratch.Â Note that while I have chosen to use the term âalienâ and therefore the following words will probably contain a lot of Science Fiction baggage, I feel what I have to say also applies to nonhuman sentients in fantasy.
This is, perhaps, the most logical place to start when creating an alien: what does it look like and how does it live?Â If you know what role in your story the aliens have to fill this might come later, but for the purposes of a neutral exercise, weâre starting here.
There is a lot to consider when youâre creating the physical nature of an alien.Â The first question that probably comes to mind is this: are the aliens going to look like us?Â By in large, this tends to be answered with a resounding yes; aliens in film and television are largely played by human actors while it also helps to have sympathetic aliens look like relatable humans while frightening aliens can be just human enough to strike that chord of fear and distaste known as the âuncanny valleyâ.Â We arenât bound to do so, but itâs very convenient that most aliens follow a human body plan.
There is, even, an arguable good reason for aliens looking something like humans.Â First, any alien is going to have some manner of gathering information (senses) and some manner of processing information (A Brain).Â From that alone, because neurons donât transfer information instantaneously, youâre going to want the most important and focused of your sensory organs as close as possible to the brain thatâs going to be processing and collating their information.Â Meanwhile, itâs going to be very useful for aliens from most conditions to have sight:Â Light has this funny way of getting everywhere and being modified by objects, so if you process light hitting you as information youâre going to learn a lot about your surroundings very quickly.Â This means the alien will probably have eyes; sightless aliens are possible, certainly, but the sighted are going to be more common in a universe or setting that approximates your own.Â Now, because you want the most utility out of your sight, youâre going to have the following: Eyes placed forward, at least two of them for depth perception, and eyes situated up near the top of the alien for a wider field of vision.Â The brain follows the eyes and together you have, surprise surprise, a head!Â Meanwhile, an alien by our definitions is also going to need some means of locomotion: slithering or stranger are possible, but legs of some description are actually quite nimble and efficient â somewhere between two and six balances balance and the processing power required to coordinate said legs rather well.Â Meanwhile, the creature will also need some sort of appendage capable of manipulating objects with dexterity, one or more arms or convenient replacements therefore.Â This provides a lot of leeway for very nonhuman builds, but also suggests that the human structure is not entirely out of left field from the construction of life as we know it.
If your aliens are more or less like us â possessing most of arms, legs, a torso, a head, a recognizable face â then your task is mostly to decide how they differ from us: Aliens like Vulcans and Orcs can mostly be said to be âhumans exceptâŠâ they have green blood and pointy ears, or green skin and pointy teeth.Â These are the most comprehensible aliens, and the more like us the more relatable they become (but the more alien or over-the-top their culture has to be to be worth having any distinction between the alien and humanity)
If, on the other hand, your aliens are NOT like us, remember what I mentioned above â aliens need senses, locomotion, and manipulators.Â They need a way to intake and process sustenance, and a core that processes the input from their senses.Â Within these needs, though, there is room for a myriad of possibilities diverging entirely from humanity.Â Even so, it is useful to take your inspiration from somewhere in nature, but it isnât required.Â I find it helpful to start with the sentient creature as a non-sentient animal: how did it survive?Â This is, of course, if an idea for an alien visage does not simply present itself
Example 1: For this example, weâre going to take a human-alien.Â They are like us, except a strong, prehensile tail, skin with a metallic golden or coppery sheen, and wide, dark eyes.
Example 2: For this example, our alien is going to be largely nonhuman.Â Its lower body is much like a slug, and it slides along with a powerfully muscular foot.Â A torso of sorts rises from this, and six tentacles arranged radially from it manipulate objects.Â Finally, the creatureâs head crowns that torso, a bloated mass of flesh surrounding a radially symmetric, fanged mouth that widens vastly.Â Just above the mouth, the creature sports a dozen, writhing eye-stalks
Nothing says that aliens have to think in vastly different ways than humans, or even in systematically different ways, but the fact of the matter is that they tend to: the human aliens need to be distinct from humans somehow, and the truly strange aliens look too odd for most people to accept that their minds work just the way ours do.
So, how do Aliens think?Â One easy shortcut, especially for human-aliens, is to say that âthey think like us, exceptâŠâ and the âexceptâ being anything from a singular focus on logic to a general disregard on higher thinking in favor of bloodshed.Â Alien psychology so built tends to beâŠ exaggerated.Â They will often have a singular focus on one aspect of life, and all their culture will be built around it.Â For instance, aliens that are strong will probably be warlike: they are likely to apply great strength as the attribute most common to their gods, and their leaders will be the strongest among them chosen by a contest of strength.Â This is good on the fly, but when you think about it, it gets a bit grating: why donât the creatures that are, in comparison to humans, weak and frail, choose those that are strong in comparison to others of their kind to lead?Â Since their metric should be their own average, it makes just as much sense as the strong-aliens doing it.
The alternative is much harder, of course, but I think I find it more rewarding: think of how the creature, based only upon its own position in the web of life and its own attributes, what sort of thought patterns would it develop?Â You end up creating a very intricate culture this way, and you have to in order to understand an individual of an alien rendered in this manner.
I think, perhaps, I have less to say about culture, because unlike physiology it has no set rules and is not even needed: Some aliens are too incomprehensible to have what we would recognize as a culture, and if humanity cannot comprehend their mindset than all the writer needs to know is what they do.Â Of course this stretches the bounds of âaliens are sentientâ, because they serve a role little different than any rampaging monster that way, but I still feel that truly incomprehensible aliens are aliens if the fact they have some strange intelligence is recognizable.
Example 1: Our human-aliens have a prehensile tale and large eyes.Â This suggests that they might be nocturnal and might be arboreal.Â Since theyâre so close to humans, theyâre probably social mammals as well.Â Now, a noctournal, arboreal creature is probably nor a predator, even if itâs an omnivore and is probably keeping to the treetops and coming out at night to avoid predation.Â Make that sentient, and these creatures are probably relatively meek and inoffensive.Â At the very least, they arenât aggressive: they probably have the capacity for great viciousness if threatened (Fighting like cornered rats).Â Their culture will, mimicking some primates, be a matriarchal hereditary monarchy.
Example 2: Our strange aliens are big and powerful, and almost certainly carnivorous or omniviorous.Â However, slugs not being known for their speed Iâm betting more along the lines of scavenger.Â Either that, or everything else where its from is just as slow as it is, allowing it to be a âfastâ predator by relative speed.Â Since they look so strange, itâs safe to dispense with a lot of the trappings of human civilization.Â While not fiercely individualistic enough to fail to build communal dwellings, their territorial instincts mean they are NOT pleasant creatures to be around, even for each other.Â Quite probably, when thrown into a mix where they arenât the top dog, they react badly.Â I also think they may very well be quite methodical.Â If we go for a sci-fi species, they probably carefully strip a planet of resources, maximizing yield, and then move on.
Alien Technology (or Magic)
The last thing to consider is what the aliens do.Â In science fiction, what are their ships and weapons like?Â Their other technologies?Â In fantasy, you still have to consider what technologies they would develop unique from other cultures, if any, and also potentially what magic they access and how.
Iâm going to be brief with this:Â Since so much of the tech and magic depends on the psych, Itâs easier to do things by way of example.Â Suffice to say that tech/magic development can run in one of two lines, sometimes bothâŠ
Technology or magic that COMPLIMENTS the alien builds on its strengths: the smart alien makes an even smarter supercomputer, the tough alien specializes in protection magic, the strong alien gets power armor.Â This builds on and exaggerates a theme
Technology or magic that SUPPLIMENTS the alien compensates for what weaknesses it has: the smart but frail aliens create deadly war machines, the tough but slow aliens have a strong focus on mass transit, and the strong but dull alien uses mind-addling magic to bring everyone else down to its level.
Example 1A: Letâs send our human aliens to the stars, and give them technology that compliments them.Â Since theyâre observant and defensive, their ships have better scanners and shields than average, but tend to run light on weapons: these aliens wonât fire first.
Example 1B: In fantasyland, the tech and magic of our aliens will supplement them.Â They certainly donât have the prodigious physical strength of something like an orc, and in combat tend to be a cowardly lot.Â Their forest homes also make for poor farming and not a lot of good stone to build fortifications from.Â However, they are very skilled craftsmen, and experts in the use of poisoned arrows that can fell even the largest foes with a single sting.Â Their magic mostly weakens or debilitates foes, while on the other end probably encouraging growth and plenty.Â In Magic terms, theyâd probably be Black/Green while in D&D (3.x) terms they might use Conjuration and Necromancy magic
Example 2A: The fantasyland version of our strange alien has magic and âtechnologyâ that compliments them: Theyâre stuck in the stone-age and wield massive stone clubs as theyâre basically made of muscle.Â Still, little can withstand an onslaught of d6 or so club hits bashing it to bit.Â Their magic is vaguely understood and shamanistic, flowing practically from their guts.Â It suffuses them and grants them the ability to regenerate, or even more strength, or some extra speed: basic buffs.
Example 2B: Taking our strange aliens to the stars, their technology supplements their obvious problem with speed â their ships have a âjumpâ drive rather than a usual warp-drive, allowing them appear and disappear instantaneously.Â Meanwhile, they use huge amounts of automation both to sustain their colonies and go to war: their quick-moving aerial drones gas entire cities on the attack.
I hope youâve enjoyed this little piece as much as I have, and I hope perhaps that you find it somehowâŠ enlightening.Â There are a few more topics I could take on: Bad guys, characters, monsters, who knows?
Goodnight and Happy Halloween!
Thursday, October 14, 2010, 8:27 PM
Archetype drafting, for those of you who donât know, is pretty much going into a draft with an idea of the deck you want to play and then making it happen.Â I do this a lot, and Iâm planning to do it tomorrow night.Â In honor of that, Iâm going to explain Archetype drafting and its consequences today, in text and text-flowchart form.
When you Archetype draft, you have to have a good idea of the format, and what archetypes there are to draft.Â It may be based around a color scheme, or perhaps a certain mechanics.Â Perhaps the most archetypical of all archetype drafts was most recently seen in Time Spiral block, where it was possible to draft 5-color slivers.Â Running 5 colors is something most draft decks would never do, but by Yawgmoth, youâre drafting slivers so youâre going to do it!
A typical drafter is going to do whatâs usually called âPower Draftingâ: they take the objectively strongest card from each pack they come across until a theme, color, or set of colors presents itself, and then try to follow that unless it totally dries up or something more appealing is clearly âopenâ by what is passed.Â Archetype drafting, to some degree, preys on this: since youâre taking cards that fit your game plan whether or nor theyâre the objective strongest, youâre putting power drafters on your left into other strategies while sending a strong signal that Archetype X isnât going to be coming their way, because every time it passes you, it dries up.Â Naturally, the bane of the Archetype drafter is another Archetype drafter doing the same thing, so you either have to be willing to stick it out to the end and risk having a depleted deck or else know when to fold âem and switch.
I had a lot of success archetype drafting / faerie rogues in Morningtide and am hoping to have similar results with Infect now that Scars is out, though there may be more people fighting me for infect than were fighting me for rogues!Â Anyway, I promised a text flowchart, and here it is
HOW TO ARCHETYPE DRAFT
1) Is there a pack in front of you?
Yes â Look at it.Â Go to 3
No â Go to 2
2) No pack in front of you?Â Is it new booster time?
Yes â Open your new booster, and look at the pack inside.Â Go to 3
No â Wait until youâre passed a pack, then look at it and go to 3.Â Do I really need to explain this?
3) You have cards!Â Do any of them fit your archetype?
Yes â Take the strongest of the ones that fits your archetype.
No â Go to 4
4) Are any of them on-color removal or bombs?
Yes â Take the best removal/bomb
No â Go to 5
5) Can any of them even remotely help you?
Yes â Take the one that helps you most
No â Go to 6
6) Nothing helps you?Â Would any of them hurt you?
Yes â Take the one you least want to see across the table
No â Go to 7
7) Could any of the cards in this pack even remotely help anybody else?
Yes â Take the one that someone else would most want to see
No â Why didnât you tell me you were on pick 15?Â Take the basic land and get ready for next pack/deckbuilding.
Okay, I probably could have made that funny, but a comic I am not.Â Enjoy your flowchart.
Monday, October 11, 2010, 2:10 PM
Well, with the Great Designer Search up, thereâs been a lot of talk around the boards about world building.Â As itâs something Iâve had to do, I thought Iâd comment on it
First, Iâm not involved in the GDS (didnât want to relocate), and second these comments are mostly going to be about writing.Â Iâm trying to make it as a novelist so thatâs where my experience lies.
When you set out to build a fantasy world, the first thing youâre probably going to do is ask how itâs different than Earth (or, if youâre really good, how itâs different than the Generic Fantasy World).Â Youâll probably give a short answer to that, and start building out from there.Â I call this a âGimmick Worldâ: Everything you create centers around the Gimmick.Â Mirrodin can roughly be seen as a gimmick world (Itâs gimmick being âmade of metalâ).Â The people have metal bits, the plants are metal, even the water is just another sort of metal.Â The rest of the setting goes into answering how anything even begins to survive when the world is solid-freaking-metal (or hollow metal, as the case may be).Â Usually, Gimmick worlds are interesting for a story, but unless something about them moves past just âexplore the gimmickâ, youâre not going to get any more than that.
Note here that a Gimmick doesnât have to start in the world.Â Very often, I would consider a world ruled by your Stereotypical Evil Overlord to be a Gimmick World: All that matters is the Overlord and his reign.Â Once the heroes inevitably defeat him, the world ceases to be interesting.Â Gimmick.Â In some ways, you could see the Gimmick World as being the top-down design of world building: It has a strong concept, and everything else fits to the concept
The other method, one I like a bit better for stories if not for Magic sets, is the bottom-up world:Â Call it the Rules World, you start not with a single âwouldnât it be cool ifâŠâ but rather by answering a lot of questions and getting the physical (and spiritual, if applicable) laws of your universe and working out from there.
For instance, you need to ask yourself when building a fantasy universe from scratch if Magic exists.Â The answer to that is usually going to be a resounding âyes!â as this is fantasy, so now you need to ask other questions.Â Letâs try to bottom-up build a world.Â We start with Magic = Yes and decide that magic is a good enough place to start.Â The questions that follow here could be answered in just about any order, assuming they arenât dependant.Â Sometimes, I like to start with the source of power, for instance, or the functions available.
Can Mortals use Magic?Â Yes
Can Anyone use it? Â No
What lets a person use magic? Inborn Talent
How common is this talent? 1 in 100
Okay, 1 in 100 persons born are capable of using magic in some form.Â We can probably extrapolate that strength of magic (if variable) is also inborn.Â Letâs keep going, weâre not even done with magic yet
What can magic do?
This is a big, BIG question when making a new fantasy world.Â There are so many sorts of magic and most of them are more specialized and limited than the magic we see in Magic: the Gathering or Dungeons and Dragons.Â So what can magic in our new universe do?Â Well, letâs say it works with the elements of nature: itâs therefore not going to dip into mind control, or effect the soul.Â Instant death effects would have to be very creative to fit the theme here, so weâre mostly looking at weather magic, water control, producing fire and lightning, and the like.
How is magic used?
Another big one.Â Do you snap your fingers and have it happen?Â Do you need reagents like a science?Â In this case, Iâm going to go with (Lengthy) Ritual: Casting a spell is going to take between 10 seconds and 10 hours (longer if, say, the Big Bad needs an end-of-the-world spell), so not useful in combat.Â Ten seconds may not sound like much, but when people are fighting thatâs an eternity for a cantrip.
Where does magic come from?
Ah, the power source.Â This question is going to determine a lot of the nature of spellcasters in your world (and spellcasters, as different from the familiar, are fundamentally interesting).Â If the power source is somehow tainted (for instance, a demonic pact made by your ancestors), spellcasters are going to be shunned, maybe hunted.Â If the power source is internal rather than external, there might be some side effects.Â This isnât always going to be a compelling or even an answered question.Â Sometimes, for instance, you want a world where magic just works and your plot doesnât really care about the why so much as the how.Â This is the case in D&D, usually, but Dark Sun actually takes a stand on it as Defilers raze the land of life to power their spells (at least, they did before 4e.Â No idea if that still holds, I donât keep up with 4e).Â Since Iâm answering these as I go along, Iâm going to say magic comes from the favor of âThe Spiritsâ: poorly understood, perhaps nonsentient entities that may gift children with the power at birth.
What are the costs/restrictions of Magic?
This one may be answered in the previous questions, but if itâs not and you donât youâre going to kick yourself as you come to the realization that SOMETHING has to stop magic from being the Deus Ex Machina cure-all that it very easily could be.Â Iâm putting this one last out of the complex magic questions because it often draws on the answers to the questions above.Â An evil power source will often exact a toll, an internal one could very well kill the caster much more quickly than a normal person (or kill them if they get careless).Â On the other side, magic thatâs hard to use or has only a limited and not too story breaking power set is pretty safe and doesnât need some extra restriction.Â Basically, think really hard if thereâs a good reason why your casters donât break the plot.Â If there isnât, give them one.
As a side note, mana is actually a rather elegant solution to the restriction of magic: if the caster needs to not be awesome, they can simply run out of juice somehow.Â Neat.Â However, Iâm going to go with unreliable magic for this example world: magic will usually work, but against magical creatures or other magicians, the spirits will often favor one side and abandon the other temporarily
So we have our casters.Â With chants and prayers to the spirits that blessed them, the earth and sea and sky are theirs to command!Â This sure took a while but it provides a good framework to build on.
Aside from Magic, you have World and Society to build on.Â Iâm going to go over these a bit more quickly even though theyâre what people building M:tG planes are going to care about more.
Society: You need to figure out the tech and politics of your world.
Tech level ranges from stone age to space age and beyond.Â âMiddle Agesâ with magic pushing some aspects towards âRenaissanceâ seems to be standard, though if youâre drawing heavily from classical mythology itâs going to look more like Bronze Age or Iron Age.Â Now, with what we know of our spellcasters, this all feels very primal.Â Iâm going to go with Ancient Egypt/Babylon for our tech level to reflect thisâŠ it gives more interesting societal options than the Stone Age while still having that âOLDâ feel.Â Perhaps there are still some stone age groups sticking aroundâŠ
Politics are a complicated affair, and itâs in the crafterâs nature to, creating in an hour what itâs taken humanity thousands of years to create, simplify it a bit. Having a single world power is very tempting, but I find it more interesting if, even if there is one overpowered culture, to create countercultures or rivals that make things a little less like the Planet of Hats.Â There are a lot of roads you can go on this, and I have found it useful to sketch a rough map of your world when deciding what the world powers look like.Â For our purposes, weâll say thereâs one Egypt-like central power, with a population and static cities giving it the edge over nomadic groups at the same tech level.Â Culture in a fantasy universe can be either really complicated or really simple.Â Since this is just an example, theyâll be polytheists worshiping thin pastiches of the Egyptian gods, while other groups revere the Spirits that grant magic directly.Â There is SO MUCH MORE that can be done with this section that itâs not even funny.Â I could probably write ten thousand words on the matter and still not be done crafting an example society.
Now, as far as the world goes, a map is a good place to start but a poor place to end.Â There are a lot of questions here, some of which can get very complex.Â Iâm going to simplify that to two âBIGâ questions.
1) Does your world use familiar physics?
Youâve introduced magic onto your world, so this is NOT a trivial question.Â Is the world round, a planet orbiting a star in a basically familiar universe, or is it something else?Â Perhaps the world is flat, and the stars are glittering gems implanted on a perfect invisible crystal dome that arches over the world.Â For this example, weâll go weird: the world is flat, and there are cracks: great rifts in the world that lead down and out into seas of infinite nothingness.Â This certainly makes the geographyâŠ interesting.
2) Does your world use fantastic species?
The answer to this is either ânoâ or âwhich?âÂ an answer of no indicates that there are only humans and familiar organisms, while any other answer requires you to decide between a myriad of humanoids to an entire ecosystem unfamiliar to humanity.Â Iâm going to say that in this world, we might have a few giant flyers, but nothing else.Â It can be interesting to build with either nothing or just humanoids as well, but unless Iâm going to build the food web from the bottom up, I like to keep to familiar or magical-only nowadays, and focus on the society unless the world is BIG.
Let me share a story now: I have over 20 novel concepts saved on my hard drive, that Iâm working on writing one by one.Â Out of all these ideas, most are fantasy and many had elven main characters.Â Then 2009 rolled around and I was starting to get a bit frustrated with this â cue the great ear-blunting of â09 as I went through the list and figured out for how many of them the elf-ness was important.Â The answer was approximately one, and my works now pretty much donât include Elves: all but one or two got commuted to humans and the remaining ones became new fantasy species, not generic pointy-eared long-lived hippies.
Eeh, 1.8k words is enough for now.