Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser is from Bloodlust: The Shield Maiden (Domains of the Chosen #3)

Bloodlust TSM cover

In the first two books readers only encounter automatons as fodder for the Gladiators in the arena. Hephus is the first important artificer and Bastion is the first Automaton with any real ‘character’. In the upcoming Seeds of Ruin we meet another artificer and hear more about Hephus and Bastion, though I am mostly ‘planting seeds’ for book seven and eight with the later.

Vintia was watching Hephus at work; the Artificer was testing one of his creations, a man-shaped automaton more than twice her size. Barrel chested and broad shouldered, with gleaming metal plates for skin, the clockwork golem was working through a kata with a long spear and a huge shield. Unlike other automatons that Vintia had seen in her travels and fought in the arena, Hephus’s creation did not cough smoke or bellow steam, nor was it as noisy. The clanking sound of gears had been replaced by a smooth hum. She could detect some elemental magic flowing within it, but was unfamiliar with the rest of the magical pattern she could sense; artifice was not her strong point.

“What makes you say it is a he?” asked Hephus. “I don’t see how a sexless automaton can have a gender identity.”

“He looks like a man,” said Vintia. “And he moves like a man. Gender identity does not reside solely in the genitalia Hephus. Much of it is in the way we see ourselves.”

Thrusting the tip of its immense spear into a ring barely thick enough to take it, the metal warrior showed impressive precision as it followed Hephus’ instructions. Vintia swallowed a comment about the phallic nature of the demonstration. She was not yet comfortable in her new surroundings.

“True enough,” said Hephus. “I suppose I did model the automaton’s movements on my own, at least unconsciously. I call him Bastion.”

Lazily sensing the strands that made up the automaton’s patterns, Vintia saw a flash of activity as Hephus said the automaton’s name. Hephus did not react, so she assumed it was normal.

“What are you planning on doing with him?” asked Vintia.

“Bastion is an experiment,” said Hephus. “He is one of the reasons why I’m with the Legion. Of the organizations in the Domains that can supply me with the materials and money that I need, the Legion affords me the most creative freedom. As long as I share my research and Bastion can fight, they are happy.”

“Can Bastion do more than fight?” asked Vintia, watching as the huge robot stepped to the side and thrust again, perfect and precise.

“One day, he’ll be able to do whatever you might care to teach him,” said Hephus, “provided he has the proper components installed. I’m working on a cannon and a self-repair module for him, I hope to get them finished before we set sail.”

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The First Shield continued. “I am filling in for Nerus until the men can choose a new Legate, as per Marian campaign law. Several of you are new to your duties as well, filling in for the fallen. Being a Centurion in the Legions is often a quick path to the pyre, so make sure to follow the lead of your seniors. This brings me to a slight irregularity. The Eighth Cohort, damned engineers, have recently elected their new centurion: Hephus Krassius.”

Hephus smiled, but for every thankful face in the room, there was a frowning one; by law the Gifted could not command the Legions. Even the Chosen had an established protocol when dealing with the armies of the Domains.

“Technically, the men voted for Bastion,” said Hephus. “And while I appreciate their enthusiasm, I don’t expect I will remain in the position longer than the next battle or two. I would not want to tip the ship.”

“There is precedence for the Gifted commanding in the Legions,” said the First Shield. “But the politics of it are ugly to be sure. Crazy engineers. I accept the Eighth’s choice, but my successor might care more for his or her political future Hephus.”

“Thank you, First Shield,” said Hephus, moustache twitching. “I won’t let you down.”

This little passage is important, as it creates a controversy that begins to come to a boil in the Seeds of Ruin. The Gifted are not allowed to hold command ranks in the Legion, as a check on the power that an individual Gifted or even a Chosen can gain in the Domains. The situation in Ithal’Duin is so bad, however, that the men of the Ninth just push forward the best candidate with no thought to the politics at home, which leads to trouble down the road…

RPG Building: Runepunk #3 (Dice Mechanics 1)

I could have titled the post resolution mechanics because I was considering using cards this time around. The idea of attributes controlling a card pool that the player builds over the career of their character is interesting, but merits more than my amateurish part time tinkering.

So dice it is:)

In the last post I decided that the game would use three main attributes (Power, Finesse, and Cunning) for most tasks, encouraging the player to choose which attribute they use approach a roll as a matter of simple role-playing, as well as tactical thinking.

I started thinking about what other attributes I wanted to use to describe the character, how should skills work, do I want to use classes, etc. But before I get there, I think it is best to write about the dice mechanic I am inclined to use.

As an aside; I love dice. They are just fun to play with and you can use four sided dice as caltrops in a pinch.

So what do I want from a dice mechanic for my homebrew Runepunk Game? (The goals for the game are set out here). BULLET TIME!

  • Consistency. When I ask a player to roll the dice, I want them to know what to roll without consulting their character sheet for dice types. This requires that I use the same pool of dice for everything, an idea put forth by the d20 system (D&D, Pathfinder), but not taken far enough by most versions. I do not have the same legacy issues, so I will use the same dice for everything. Higher is better in all cases.
  • Bell Curve: I want to use 3-4 dice to provide a strong bell curve on each roll. Rolling a single die is not as satisfying as rolling a small handful in my opinion, but the main idea here is provide a more predictable average roll. My gaming group for this game is very large, so the players get fewer rolls.
  • No Custom Dice: This one should be obvious, but I am feeling a little butthurt after discovering that two of my FFG star wars dice packs contain some custom dice from other FFG games. Grrr.
  • Elegant Resolution: The important idea here is that I want to make the most out of every roll and keep the action smooth. One of the things I do like about dice pool games like Shadowrun and FFG star wars is counting successes. It is pretty easy for every player to grok, a lot faster than adding a number to the roll. The problem lies in assembling the dice pool to begin with. I think consistency gives D&D the edge in this.
  • Exploding Dice: Earthdawn 1 was one of my favourite games partly because I loved the idea of exploding dice. I would love to find a way to use that in my little homebrew runepunk game.

So I am currently thinking 3 or 4d6 with some sort of exploding dice. More on this next week!

 

The Rune (1.3)

After much soul-searching, I have decided to write a few short stories, unrelated to the other works, before continuing on with the next of the Shadow Wolf Sagas, just to keep it fresh. As always, this is raw and uncut; enjoy responsibly.

The Rune 1.1

The Rune 1.2

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“Took you long enough.”

My head was still swimming, my eyes unfocused in the sudden light. The voice was female, but not friendly. My knees were weak and I could not stand. As my eyes cleared I looked up at her.

“Fuck, what?” I was starring down the barrel of an enormous gun. There were runes etched on the barrel; dire and potent. “I… I…”

“Eyes up here, newcomer,” said the girl. “I don’t like the way you are looking at my gun.”

 An enormous black mohawk, with the tips died red and white like the crest of a warrior’s helm from ancient history, framed dark eyes. Silver skulls dangled from her ears and her septum was pierced with a ring. She wore a black leather jacket decorated with iron studs. She must be a scavenger, but she obviously knew the runes.

“Well?” she asked impatiently.

“What?”

“I’m waiting for you to prove that you’re not a fucking ‘cog,” she said.

Cog was slang for cognitive aberration enforcement agent. She though I was working for the people who had imprisoned me.

“Um… I can see runes like you can…”

She laughed, delighted, and removed the barrel of the gun from my face.

“Are you fucking mental, chum?” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“Do you honestly think that the ‘cogs don’t have people who can read runes?”

“Its illegal…”

“For us.”

“I guess that makes sense.”

“Your story is just too dumb for me to shoot you. You must be genuine. The last guy through this wayrune had an answer for everything. He turned out to be a cog, just like I figured. I’m good at spotting fucking cogs.”

In truth I should have realized the truth of it immediately. How else would they hunt down aberrant like myself, people who could read the runes, if they had no understanding of what they were looking for. I was a fool.

“That’s a pretty sour expression, fella,” she said, laughing at my discomfort. “Alright, time to get moving. Stand up slowly. If you try anything, Sweet Lucy here will put a hole in you and I’ll leave you for the groaners to finish off.”

I did as she asked.

Tuesday Teaser

This week’s teaser is from Bloodlust: Will to Power (Domains of the Chosen #2)

bloodlust_wtp_cover2

The Cover for Bloodlust: Will to Power

Omodo is one of my favourite characters from the whole series, and I know he has his fans. In some ways he is a another reader identification hero, as his struggles (acceptance, confidence) are far closer to those faced by most readers than those of Sadira (overconfidence, anger, lonely at the top). He has an interesting (cameo) role to play in the Seeds of Ruin, although he does not show up in person…

Neither fighter let up. Omodo drove Gavin back ceaselessly, smashing his shield with punishing blows whenever he caught him out of position. Gavin danced forward, landing a masterful lunge that caught an unarmoured side. The crowd cheered this, but Gavin’s triumph was short lived as Omodo hooked the edge of Gavin’s shield with the back spike on his own weapon, then pulled it out of the way before ramming his horn into Gavin’s chest.

Sadira winced. She had been on the receiving end of attacks like that often enough on the training grounds. Omodo was more comfortable with his body now and he used his horn to great effect.

Thrown backwards by the attack, bloody spit arced out of Gavin’s mouth. He rolled awkwardly to his feet, looking much the worse for the exchange.

Omodo charged. Gavin stood his ground, drawing his spear back for a throw, channelling power. He threw. The spear arced wide. Omodo crashed into Gavin’s shield, knocking him off his feet again. The crowd cheered as the Armodon raised his hammer. Sadira sensed, rather than saw, the burst of power that reached out from Gavin and swung the spear around in mid-flight redirecting it towards the Armodon. Perhaps Omodo sensed it too, or he might have anticipated the attack; with a slight flourish he turned, stomping a heavy foot down at Gavin while knocking the flying spear away with the haft of his maul.

It was deftly done Sadira had to admit.

Gavin avoided the bone-crushing stomp. He rolled to the side and came to his feet with a twist, his short sword was in his hand. He thrust at Omodo. The Armodon was attempting to strike him with the haft of his weapon as he turned back to face him. Both of them struck home. Gavin’s thrust drew blood from the Armodon’s thick hide. Omodo’s haft smashed into Gavin’s shoulder-guard and chin dislocating his jaw. The sheer power of the blow knocked him off his feet. He was standing up again, readying a thrust and a mental blast as the match-time ran out and the trumpets sounded.

RPG Building: Runepunk #2

A few weeks back I decided to work on a new homebrew RPG to replace my Shadowrun game. The first post set forth my goals.

In this post I want to focus on attributes. I want attributes to be the basis for character creation and advancement.

  • Attributes are the most descriptive terminology for a character. While we tend to concentrate of vocation in the modern day, if someone stands out as strong, smart, or agile that is the first thing that we think of them. Meanwhile if someone is exceptionally skilled at something, it does not always leap to mind when we thing of that person.
  • For a relatively simple system it is easier to center the mechanics of play around a handful of attributes rather than a comprehensive skill list.

I have been toying with the idea of a triumvirate of active attributes based around how the player approaches a problem.

  1. POWER: The attribute for direct action. Power represents strength, will, and presence. Emphasizes brute effect.
  2. FINESSE: The attribute for subtle, circular action action. Finesse represents agility, unconventional intellect, and charm. Emphasizes critical.
  3. CUNNING: The attribute for trickery. Cunning that represents deception, cheating, exploitation, and manipulation. Emphasizes side effects.

With these active attribute the player can choose how to approach a specific problem. Let us take a melee attack as an example. A character can use POWER to batter their way through an opponent’s defences with brute strength and unrelenting aggression, FINESSE to make a swift, graceful attack that slips through the targets defences, or CUNNING to trick the opponent into reacting with a feint and then hitting them.

So what’s the point? If the player can choose what attribute to choose in any situation, what is to stop them from going top-heavy into a single stat and focusing on that? The idea is that different stats are opposed by different defences/difficulties which allows a versatile player to tune their actions. My goal here is to give players tool to approach problems in the game from different angles, rewarding versatile characters without punishing specialists.

More on this later.

 

 

The Rune (1.2)

After much soul-searching, I have decided to write a few short stories, unrelated to the other works, before continuing on with the next of the Shadow Wolf Sagas, just to keep it fresh. As always, this is raw and uncut; enjoy responsibly.

The Rune 1.1

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To admit that you can see a rune, even hint that you can, is practically a death sentence. Runes are subversive; those in power do not like what they represent and that they cannot, directly control them. A rune is more than just a few scratchings from a mystical alphabet; it is more than the sum of form and intent. Some say that the runes are the remnants of the language that was used to re-write reality by the Machina, which would make runes akin to fragments of code.

I don’t know. In fact I have always been utterly terrified to experiment with them at all. If the rumours are true then the Runes can grant great power. Then again if that were true, then why did people like me bow down to The Orthodoxy?

My life up until this point had been simple. I was getting used to hiding my talents and avoiding the temptations that would lead me to seek out more and more knowledge until I was caught. I took pride in blending in, in fact. I was very good at hiding in plain sight. But I had become complacent, missed something, and here I was.

The rune drawn on the wall before me promised escape. I am uncertain how I knew that the simple lines and the complexity underneath would transport me from the cell, but every time I looked at the thing, I was certain of its intent.

Now I could see that it was definitely fading. At first, I though it was my it was imagination, but the rune on the wall was diminishing noticeably. If I ignored it much longer it would fracture or just wink out of existence soon enough.

“Yes, but is it salvation, or is it a trap?” I asked myself, out loud or in my head.

If it was a trap, touching the rune would confirm what I was, even if it did not kill me outright. Of course, it seemed that my captors already knew. If it was some odd form of execution, then how much worse could it be than slowly going mad in a cell or starving to death?

Logically, I had to activate the rune. I tried, but could not work up the courage. In the end it required faith in something that I did not trust, in something that I was raised to hate and fear.

My misgivings seemed insurmountable, but in the end I did it. The rune flashed neon, blinding me. I felt my stomach lurch and lost my balance, thinking, ‘oh, they really did opt for the ironic execution method after all’, but I survived.

I was no longer in the cell. I wasn’t even in a building. I was lying on the ground in a grove of… trees… real, healthy trees. I just lay there and looked around.

“Took you long enough.”

Teaser Tuesday

This week’s teaser comes from Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale, first book in my Domains of the Chosen series.

Bloodlust-AGT-Front-cover

Cover for Bloodlust: A Gladiator’s Tale.

Ravius Vergerus, aka Ravishing Rude Ravius, is a long-time acquaintance of Gavin introduced in a Gladiator’s Tale. His cheerful nature compliments Gavin’s introspective demeanor. He figures into the upcoming book, Bloodlust: Seeds of Ruin as well.

“I’m telling you Ravius: it was luck.”

“No, it was instinct Gavin. We’ve been drilling since we were six years old, little brother. We’ve fought hundreds of training duels with live weapons; moves like that are second nature to us, little brother.” Ravius’s voice dripped cheerful self-assurance; an annoying trait in Gavin’s view. “Your body and subconscious knew how to position the spear even if your conscious mind did not command it.”

“Ravius, I’m pretty certain the Spike Hound impaled itself on my spear accidentally,” responded Gavin, trying to show his exasperation.

Ravius Vergerus was one of Gavin’s classmates from the Campus Gladius, where young gifted were trained in magic and where they both had decided to become Gladiators. He was slightly shorter than Gavin, with a wide tangle of blond hair, dark blue eyes, and always smiling as if the world was one big joke, at least in Gavin’s mind. The two had met Ravius in a pairs training duel when he was fourteen and the other had spent the last three years of training taking Gavin “under his wing”. Ravius was smart, bold, a little egotistical, and always trying to break the quiet Gavin “out of his shell.” Ravius also called anyone he spoke to “little brother” or “little sister”, even if they were larger than he was; this too, irritated Gavin… he had a good two inches over Ravius.

Gavin did not seek his company; Ravius was over-fond of talking and did not seem to understand that some people enjoy quiet solitude, are serious by nature, and that introversion is not an aberration that should be cured. Gavin had hoped that Vergerus would forget about him after graduation, but this was apparently not to be. He’d come to Gavin’s second match and had gone out of his way to help him make a full recovery afterwards. Now Gavin was having trouble reconciling his distaste for Ravius with the fact that the man was showing himself to be a true friend; he was beginning to wonder if his aversion to the blond Gladiator’s friendship was a reflection of his own internal conflicts and not true dislike.

Upon further thought, he resolved to be nicer to Ravius. Perhaps true friendship required that he accept the other person’s foibles. Besides, it would be useful to have a training partner.