Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Gorillas in our Midst

I stumbled across an archive of my old wiki for Demons in the Mist; the very successful and very wahoo crazy "odd D&D" game I ran as a play-by-post starting in late 2008 and into the first quarter or so of 2009.  Wow, has it really been more than six years?  It has.

Anyway, I've been motivated to restart my long dormant novel project, and in looking at my past notes, I was unsatisfied with the directions I had been heading.  Thinking that a scoundrel "Odd Couple" pairing like Lash and Ricardo would actually make the perfect "first among equals" of an ensemble cast, I wanted to reread their original adventures in my Mist setting.

And I'm not done yet; I'm maybe 25% finished with the Pbp game threads which are probably nearly the equivalent of a modest novel in terms of actual amount of text.  Briefly, I had the wild idea that I could adapt the entire game--not just the characters, but the plot and everything--into DARK•HERITAGE, but the more I read of it, the more I think that's probably not really doable, or at least, if I did it, the result would be relatively unsatisfying.  The tone and feel and even the very details of the two settings are simply too incompatible for that to work.  But it has made me think two things about DARK•HERITAGE as it currently stands that I now need to address...

First; I think some of my stuff is too concentrated.  The FORBIDDEN LANDS, for example, is the specifically Lovecraftian area of the setting, with names cribbed from Lovecraft's Dreamlands sword & sorcery tales and other stories in the same public domain ouvre, like the Vale of Pnath, Carcosa, the Plateau of Leng, etc.  Do I really want that all concentrated in one area, separated from the rest of the setting?  I think not.  In my drive to concentrate influences, I found that I basically had made completely separate mini-settings with a different tone and feel.  This wasn't surprising; in fact, to a great degree, it was deliberate.  But I don't necessarily like it anymore, or desire that now; unlike in an Indiana Jones movie, the characters can't hop on a plane and have a faded montage while a red line moves across the map, and then they're in a different part of the setting with a different tone, feel, and challenges.  It would be easier, and more conducive to what I want to do if I had blended them more thoroughly; it would be better to have the slavers and onyx traders of Sarkomand more readily available rather than tucked away in an obscure and esoteric corner; it would be better to have the apes of N'gah somewhere where I can reasonably have interactions of some kind with them, etc. What's the point of having Lake Hali and Carcosa right on the edge of the Plateau of Leng and within sight (well, not literally, but figuratively) with Kadath?  Then they interact with each other, but not with anyone or anything else.

So second; a restructuring of the map of the setting is needed.  I've still wanted to come up with a new version of the map for some time, and this is the best opportunity to make it a reality.  Because my tools for digital map-making are more limited than I'd like, what I think I'm going to do is stop trying to make a professional RPG product style map, and go back instead to a Middle-earth as drawn by Christopher Tolkien type map.  I'll actually draw--by hand--the map itself, maybe do some very light/limited colorizing, and then add the labels as text on a new transparent layer.  This will be relatively easily done; I just need to find a few hours to pull it off (as opposed to many hours with my previous plan.)  Of course, a limiting factor is determining exactly how much of the map to change and in what way--I may need to go through several drafts before I'm happy with the layout of the setting.

And to come full circle; I am thinking of having Lash and Ricardo--or transparently similar characters, at any rate--be my main protagonist characters in an all new novel outline which I'll also start working on and be disciplined enough to actually finish the thing this time.


Joshua Dyal said...

I've been rereading the entire thing (I'm now more like 70% done) and it flags a bit in certain areas. To be fair, where it flagged the most was where I was out of town for a few days and the guys just carried on in character chatting in a tavern while I was gone, but it's obvious that I was treading water a bit as a GM too. Once I got the action moving again, the game got moving again.

We lost one of my favorite characters though, at about the 1/3 mark. We lose another one not too far past where I am now if I remember correctly. Although we back filled with one more, and we still had only four of the six originals when the game ended.

By lost, I don't mean that the characters died, I mean that their players went AWOL from the game.

Joshua Dyal said...

At one point, the following interchange happened: "Good to note the imminent destruction of the entire world isn't on anyone's minds."

"Meh. I'm sure that, just when all hope is lost, some group of unlikely heroes will show up and use/destroy the MacGuffin and save the day. Why waste our time worrying?"

"I dunno about you, but I'm absolutely loving playing a character that, when presented with evidence that he holds the potential fate of the world in his hands, is far more interested in how useful it will be in helping his friend kill something and how much he can make off it's sale afterwards than doing anything remotely 'heroic' with it. And I'm just as tickled I'm playing him in a group that seems just as selfishly focused as he is.

This is an evil campaign the way it should be: evil with a little 'e', not a capital 'E'."

Joshua Dyal said...

Oh, whoops! Posted too soon. There's more: "Saving the world ... just as long as I get paid, first."

"Oh, absolutely. These clowns would make TERRIBLE Evil Overlords. This campaign is like a bunch of dim-witted evil minions whose master fired them all for incompetence.

What [the GM] should REALLY do is create some ACTUAL heroes who try and take the gun away from us.

Oh wait, he might just have already done that. That's probably exactly who the little girl and her cohorts were.

See, I don't think Ricky at least (and Lash, and Shautha, I would say, and maybe Vuukran) can even comprehend that "saving the world" has any relevance to their lives. We're orders of magnitude BELOW someone like Han Solo, who can understand that the world is at risk, and yet make a decision to not save it for free.

These morons can't even GRASP that the destruction of the world might affect them personally."