Monday, 15 April 2013

Ramblings from the War, Part 3 - Worlds in Global Battle Locked

And with Part 3, this monstrosity of a rambling post is coming to an end. We had left the primitive world of Shintolin in shambles, the denizens dazed and confused as to what had really happened to them. The simple weapons of that place simply could not be used to properly express our blood-thirst, so we moved on to newer, fresher, bloodier playgrounds.

In other words, to Nexus Clash. Bob Generic, an admin and play-tester for Nexus War created the game, which was originally named the not-so-pleasantly-as-now sounding name Worlds in Global Battle Locked, which was soon referred to as Wigbl or BobWar. The game's engine and mechanics were reverse-engineered from Nexus War, with jorm's blessings, of course.

The premise is the same as with Nexus War, though Clash did bring a twist to the set up - Characters get to exist trough several Breaths of the universe, not just this single moment in which the war is taking place. Each new Breath wiped all characters down to level 1 again, usually radically changing the layout, number and overall feel of the different planes on which the war is being fought.

Bob did some working on the classes as well, creating new ones and tweaking the old ones. Nexus Champions in Nexus War were, more or less, considered to be the strongest overall class in the game, having high damage output (They were the single best archers in the game, making bows a very, very viable weapon in the hands of a Nexus Champion), being really hard to kill if they put they mind to it, had some of the best mobility skill in the game with their Tattoo of the Wandering Way skill, which allowed them to teleport and were also a fighter class which had access to the Spellcasting skill (One of each fighter subclass in each 3 groups always had access to Spellcasting, though not for free like the mage classes did) and had powerful summonable pets, which could not match a Lich with a properly maintained horde, but were still quite hard hitting in their own right.

In Nexus Class, Champions are not all that different from their Nexus War brethren, though a lot of their abilities have been either toned down, or other classes had been made stronger to be able to match them. What I find interesting is that this change in power is also explainable in-universe as well.

As Nexus War was ending, jorm revealed that the, by that point kind of obvious, source of power of the Nexus Champion was, in fact, jorm himself. After all, the Champion drew power from the Nexus War, and jorm is the person who created the whole thing. With the game moving to a different developer, it would make sense that the Champions would be weakened.

Another important addition to the classes were the Redeemed and Fallen classes, representing, respectably, a demon who has managed to atone for it's atrocities, and an angel who has stumbled down the wrong way. They both had quite unique abilities to differentiate them from other classes of either morality group. I never felt like they were particularly strong, so I always viewed them more as flavor classes than anything else, though there were Fallen builds that made quite the effective use of firearms, so maybe it's just that I never played all that much with them.

Overall, the game is still doing fine, from what I can tell. With a community this strong behind it, it makes sense.
Even though I actually made the tiles for the map (some of which I never quite finished, now that I think about it), I haven't really played the game in a few years. That's in no way saying that I don't think about it from time to time, as evidenced by these three posts, but with me interest comes and goes like the tides. Back in the day I took quite a long break from Nexus War as well, before returning to it and enjoying it as much as i had before. I still have my Clash account, i still have all of my characters, and I'm sure that some day I'll go back to the planes, slaughtering angels and demons in the names of Neutrality.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Ramblings from the War, Part 2 - Going Native

So Nexus War was over, but the community did not want to just disperse, so we started looking for a new game.

Now then, I'll make a small detour here to explain where Nexus War actually came from. Urban Dead has been around for quite a while. Jorm, the person behind Nexus War was a player in there, part of the Ridleybank Resistance Front, one of the biggest and most (in)famous zombie hoards in the game. In fact St. Germaine, the starting point of new characters in Nexus War has Ridleybank as one of it's neighborhoods. Now there's been a lot of other offshoots from Urban Dead, using the same basic model of gameplay as that game, though none as successful or as polished as Nexus War.

One such offshoot was a  small game, made by some guy and being played by around by around 30ish people called Shintolin. Setting-wise, Shintolin filled a gap I feel can be explored more in online games - it was set in a sort of pre-historic, neolithic age. The best weapons in the game were stone axes and spears, and most of the gameplay involved scavenging, hunting the sometimes absurdly dangerous wildlife running around, building lodges and fires and trying to make a settlement that can support itself with the food it produces.

The Nexus War community took a shine to it, and we decided to go play there. In around a week we more than tripled the population of the game. Suddenly, we were the largest group in the entire world, and after some initial disorientation (trying to get everyone's characters gathered in the same spot, so we can do some coordinated moving towards a new settlement site) we managed to settle in the central/southern parts of what was the map back then. The game's creator was quite happy to have us, and he even expanded the game world map by quite a bit to accommodate the new influx of people.

The people who already played the game? They uh...weren't so happy about us. See, if you go to the Shintolin website you'll see this is the game's Sub-Title, so to speak: "Explore. Settle. Trade. Conquer." Well, people in Shintolin were very good at the first three bits, but something we noticed very fast was that there wasn't really any conflict in the game. Animals never attacked you unless you attacked them first, and everyone else just stayed in their own villages and never bothered to go anywhere or do anything. It was boring. Well, who would know better about Conquering than the people from the Nexus, right? Our group soon settled on a roleplaying theme. We literally were the same characters from the Nexus War. With the end of the war an the rebirth of the universe we now had been thrown into this new universe, left without our weapons and magic.

Our group quickly settled on being an expansionist force. We made several villages to accommodate the huge number of people we had, we produced tons of stone axes and spears and then just started systematically wiping out all other settlements in the game one by one. They couldn't really do much, since our raiding parties usually had more people than there were in the entire settlements. The idea behind this was to spark a war.

An in-game war that would get the blood flowing and make the game at least a bit more interesting. That didn't quite happen. Most of the drama was, of course, happening on the forums with people bitching and moaning that we were ruining the game by not playing nice with everyone. The fact that the game's creator actually said he was perfectly happy with what we were doing did not help stop us. There was a lot of gnashing of teeth and tearing of clothes going on, but very little in-game resistance was met. At some point, the goons from Something Awful ran into the game as well, dropping in there and doubling the already large population, becoming the second largest group after ours. They weren't as aggressive and war-like as we were, but they didn't mind simply slaughtering people from time to time.

The main problem with Shintolin is that the game was still in development. There was very little actual in-game content, and there were bugs all over the thing. At some point there was a very serious bug that became dubbed as "The White Fog of Death". Moving to any square simply sent the browser to a blank white page and it was impossible to get out of it, making the character effectively stuck. (There were some ways around it, but it basically made the game unplayable). Most of the Nexus community simply left, because what's the use. The game's creator basically just vanished and stopped bothering with working on the game and things were looking pretty bleak.

While our invasion of this peaceful, primitive world was taking place, a guy named Bob was working on a sort of sequel to Nexus War. He had been an admin and a playtester on NW, and with Jorm's blessing he reverse-engineered the game's system and started a new game for the Nexus community to go play in, which was at first called the hilariously bad Worlds In Global Battle Locked (which was quickly renamed BobWar) but later came to the official name of Nexus Clash. I'll talk about Nexus Clash in the next post, but even though most of us simply left Shintolin to go back to the killing and murdering, we left quite a legacy in that game.

The Nexal Empire was simply the biggest and most striking thing that happened in that little game's history, with the in-world history of the place being measured with Pre-Nexal and Post-Nexal terms.
Also there as this amazing RP post that I feel is a must-read: Grandpa, tell me about the Nexals!

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Ramblings from the War, Part 1 - Fighting in the Nexus

Man, you won't believe the shit I saw in the war.

There was some really messed up stuff going on there. The demons were slaughtering everyone in their way, the angels were elitist assholes who refused to help anyone who didn't play by their rules, and the transcendents and undead were too busy fighting everyone else to help anyone out.

Some of you by now have reached for the phone and dialing the closest mental hospital you know of. The war I'm talking about didn't happen. Or at least not in real life it didn't. I'm talking about Nexus War.

Nexus War was a browser-based MMO with heavy focus on PvP. The setting was simple and imaginative - the universe is on it's dying breath and the nine Elder Powers started pulling souls from all over the place, putting them into the Nexus and sending them to fight against each other. The prize? Whichever Elder Power's forces wins the war is going to be the dominant ethos when the universe is reborn anew. The game was AP based, with movement, talking, attacking and other actions requiring certain amounts of AP (usually just 1, but some actions require more). Action Points regenerated 1 per 15 minutes, so the game kept a generally fast pace for what it was.

While the game was PvP (the few non-player run monsters running around were huge, towering colossi who required several dozen people working together to even have a chance of brining them down, plus those were introduced very late into the game's life. For the most part it was just you and everyone else) it actually awarded experience points for other things besides killing. Healing people gave you XP, so did crafting items or reading books. That allowed for vary different play-styles to work together in the same game.

Why am I talking about this game here? Because the time I spent playing Nexus War was some of the most fun and enjoyable time I've had with an online community ever. I am still not certain how this happened, but this little game about murdering the shit out of each other managed to accumulate some of the most imaginative, cultured and well behaved people in an online community I've seen so far in my life.

Characters in the game were organized into Factions, and while there were quite a few factions that were simply "Okay, well we need to be in a faction so we'll have a Stronghold, so we'll have somewhere semi-safe to leave our characters when we're not playing", there were a lot that were there around a certain theme.

To name a few, there were:
* The Ragged Philanthropists - a Good aligned faction that ran what was, essentially, a safe haven for good and neutrally aligned characters called The Ragged Fortress. It was a 3 by 3 game-squares area in St. Germaine, the default and neutrally aligned plane of the game, which had a foundry, a gun shop, a warehouse and basically all of the important building types which contained almost all basic crafting materials. The place was where their Faction Stronghold was, and the area around it was covered in barricades and protective wards against Evil characters. The faction produced almost absurd amounts of weapons, armor and ammo, which they usually just gave away to random people in their fortress. At times they would even do Gift Raids, where they go to some other faction's stronghold, brake down the protective ward, go inside and just give people all kinds of potions, weapons, ammo and other things, wish them a good day and then leave.
* Lawful Good!! - Yes, the name is always spelled with two exclamation marks. The faction's gimmick was that it was composed of D&D nerds. I will simply post the faction's introduction from their wiki page, since it says it all:

"Lawful Good!! are a Good-aligned party of adventurers, fearlessly slaying demons and other members of Evil factions in this strange place called the Nexus. Their origins are uncertain - it is possible that one of the Elder Powers, Baraas, may have intended to summon bold warriors and mages to his cause, but instead summoned a bunch of socially inept geeks who were pretending to be bold warriors, priests, rogues and mages while playing tabletop role-playing games. Over the course of time, the Nexal energies of each death and rebirth transformed the socially inept geeks into bold (but still socially inept) adventurers, regularly journeying far across the Nexus to clear out Evil dungeons full of Wandering Monsters, all the while yelling strange battle-cries such as "Roll for initiative!" and "Natural 20!" "

In fact, i recommend reading trough their entire faction page. While you probably won't get all of the references, it's still a fun and enjoyable read.

Now, while this seems like it would get old really fast, it actually didn't. The faction was filled with imaginative people, who kept up the gimmick almost constantly, managing to filter almost everything in the game trough the lenses of Dungeons and Dragons. All of the faction's raid logs were categorized and described as old D&D campaign modules, and the faction had, amongst it's members, such memorable characters as Peter Perfect (from the Wacky Races), The Brave Little Toaster (from the movie with the same name), Eleanor Roosevelt (FDR's wife) and of course 1st Level Fighter, the faction's proud munchkin leader.

* The Demons Next Door - The DND's shtick was the absolute politeness with which they handled all situation. Since the game is based around Action Points management, and talking required AP, most people would just find a character and kill them as fast as possible, so as to preserve AP. The DND found this practice to be boring and impolite, so they made sure that they said something to people they killed, even if it was just offering them some tea and cookies. Talking was actually mandatory, and slaying someone without saying even a word gave you a stern warning and, eventually, a booting out of the faction. They took politeness very seriously. Kind of like the Ragged Philanthropists above, the Demons Next Door were famous for their weird raids on other factions, in which they'd just burst in and start offering tea to everyone, chatting amongst themselves and a lot of times not even bothering to kill anyone (though most of the time they'd just slaughter everyone in the end. They're still demons). The most famous of these was a game of hide and seek they played in another faction's stronghold, which lasted for a week before the DND decided to finally leave and go back to their own stronghold.

This post will get huge if I did a full list of everyone and their great ideas, so here's some quick mentions. The Friends of English Magic, based around the famous book Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. In fact my membership in this faction is what got me to read the book in the first place. It was an all Elementalists faction, perceiving the elemental magic that the class used to be the only proper way of doing magic, keeping with the themes of the book. The Pirates of R'lyeh, who were the largest faction in the game for a long, long time. They were Evil aligned, allowed basically anyone to join (as long as they could join an evil faction, of course), their captain was Christopher Walken and they had one of the most absurd battle cries in the game - "Yarrr R'lyeh!". The Magi Anonymous where you had to be able to memorize and cast spells to be allowed membership. For a while they were one of the most feared factions in the game, due to the free access of srolls of Death Cloud, which, before the overhaul of the spells system in the game, was the most powerful AoE spell in the game. Nobody dared mess with them, since the back-swing would usually level out the attackers and several other factions that just happened to be in the area.

As you might notice, a lot of characters had some really odd names. The fact that the game was primarily text-based (input was done via buttons, but the game interacted with you by descriptions) generally gave quite a lot of freedom of people to come up with imaginative names, like the lemonade stand, who's summons were all named lemon, sugar, cup, water and so on, or the broad side of a barn, who's goal in life was to be the character hardest to hit. Connor MacLeod  and The Kurgan who ran around factionless, fighting wherever they met and making sure that one character never leveled beyond the other. The almost absurd amount of real-life people, mythological and fictional characters that also ran around the planes, meaning you could kill Margaret Thatcher and  fight with Osiris in the same day.

And while all of this was fun, enjoyable and great, as you can see on the link at the beginning of this post, the game is no longer active. In fact it closed down quite a while a go. The community, however, endured and would migrate to a different game, changing that game forever (for better or worse), before moving on once more. These stories will have to wait for a different post though, since this one has gone on long enough.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The alleys look a bit different today

Why yes, yes they do.

A major overhaul of the look of the place (As in I just used another pre-made template. Like hell I'm gonna bother designing the entire thing on my own!) also brings in a change in subject. It is obvious to me and the zero people who read this that this place can't be sustained only on my love for the Unknown Armies RPG, as such I will start posting all kinds of other stuff in here. And by posting other stuff, I of course mean I won't really be posting much of anything for long periods of time.

I do plan on writing one or two posts on a subject I love rambling about and I don't know if I'll be doing anything else after that.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The City Rises

The City rises.

The streets are beginning to remember their old names, the memories the walls, the bus stops and the traffic lights used to have are now becoming more and more vivid. The people of the City are beginning to notice it. They are not sure what's going on yet, but they feel a tension in the air, like the City is holding it's breath before it exhales and opens it's eyes.

But not everyone is confused and disturbed by this. There have always been people who knew this will happen. People who live in places that sometimes don't even exist, who you pass by the street every day and seem to have a strange look in their eyes. They know that something big is happening. For some of them, this has been the thing they have waited for all their lives. Now they have crawled out of their hiding spots and their secret places and wars once waged in silence are now beginning to escalate into the open. 

The cabals of old are dissolving. While old ties and feuds still hold true, most who are "in the know" are beginning to break old alliances and form new ones, with only one goal in mind - Be the one who controls the City when it finally awakes.

 This is the set up for a board game I am planning. (The 15 cards challenge game is almost done, just a few minor tweaks in the cards) I have the basic set up ready, all that's left is to actually create all of the characters, powers, items and events that are in it and start testing. Should be fun.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Greg Stolze is Awesome

While this is hardly a news flash, I still feel that it must be written down proper. Greg Stolze is awesome, and you should go and read everything written by him. Seriously, everything.

If Gary Gygax is The Creator in the pantheon of RPG deities,  for my money Greg Stolze is The Perfector.

That is all.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The 15 Card Challenge

(Note: All cards shown in this post are to be considered WIP. This is the first stable(-ish) version of the game, so things are bound to change, and with them so will card design)

A few friends of mine and I decided to do a little game-making challenge. I had 15 blank pieces of cardboard in sleeves (I usually use those as tokens during Magic games) lying around, and was wandering what to do with them, until a friend of mine suggested to make a game out of them. So I did. And so did another of my acquaintances.

This is what the original 15 Card Challenge stated:
Design a board game in which a key component are fifteen cards (They must be exactly fifteen. No more, no less). It's unimportant if all the cards have the same function, or even if all fifteen of them are in play at the same time, but all fifteen must be considered during the design.

Now, my original idea at the time was to do something similar to the game called Summoner Wars, with each card being character or creature or whatever with different skills and statistics, but limitation on the number quickly made this next to impossible. Instead I decided on a more traditional card game, with players drawing cards, playing cards and so on.

The game's working title is DUAL also known as Mathereal: The Game. Yes, the name needs work. Whatever.

The basic set up is this - The game is played with either 2 or 3 players. Each player starts with 20 Will Points and 20 Wound Points, with the person who's Wound Points drop to 0 being taken out of the game. In a 2 player game, each player is handed a hand of 5 randomly dealt cards, with the rest being shuffled and placed face-down as the Void. In a 3 player game, there are 3 cards given to each player instead. At the beginning of his turn each player draws the top card from the Void into his hand. When a card is played it is put on the bottom of the Void, which means that eventually it will be drawn by a player again.

The game itself consists of 14 cards with various effects and a Plane card, which has two sides - Material and Ethereal.
Material Plane and Ethereal Plane
There are cards in the game which allow you (or force you) to switch the plane card from one side to the other. Each card is split into a Material and Ethereal half, with Material effects being usable only in the Material Plane and Ethereal ones only in the Ethereal one. (Makes sense, doesn't it?)
Each player has two actions during his turn. One of those actions must be to play a card from his hand. The second action has some more freedom. It can either be to play a second card from his hand, or use the Invoke ability on card that is Influencing the Plane.

Effects that have Influence on them, are put into play in front of the player, with the side that's influencing being put facing the Plane. Invoking an Influence means paying the invoke cost, which causes the listed effect to occur. What this means is that a player can place an Influence with his first action and the Invoke it with his second action.

When the Plane is switched, all cards that Influence it are turned 180 degrees. If the card has an Influence effect on it's other half, that effect is now active. If it doesn't, the card is still considered to be influencing the Plane, but it's effects are not active until the Plane is switched to the proper side. Some influences are fragile (or too powerful) and as such get put into the Void if they ever stop influencing the Plane. (Note: This is a major design problem that I am still not sure how to handle. I do like the fact that you can have a card with two Influences that changes it's effect depending on the Plane's status, but the cards that only have an Influence on one side are kind of tricky rules wise. Are they still considered influences? A player can only have one card influencing the plane, so do they still count towards that player's limit, even if their effects are not active?)

Each card has a number right under the Plane symbol. That number is the cost required to play the card in Will Points. When a player (Not If. When.) runs out of Will, the cost is directly taken from their Wound Points. So if you try to play that card up there and you only have 1 Will Point left, that would mean you will pay 1 Will and 2 Wounds to play it. This system is made to ensure that no player will be able to just keep the game going on forever, and creates tension. The game's dynamic becomes less of trying to screw over your opponent, and more of trying to hold off the inevitable end so he'll die before you do. There are of course some cards that restore Will and Wounds, but they are few and far between, and can only be used as a momentary delay rather than a push forward.

The game still needs massive amounts of testing, because while the core mechanic (The Plane, the two effects on each card, the Void and so on) is solid, the trick is in actually making the cards themselves balanced so as to create an interesting gaming experience. I will be posting more on this as it progresses.