Why write?: An extrapolation on truth

Why? Why indeed... (The Transcendence of the Ego by Derrick Tyson)
So I was window-shopping on Amazon. The term "window-shopping" still applies in the case of e-commerce, in my mind, mostly because the box that your looking at with all the neat things on it is called a "window" in the vernacular of my operating system; so there!

Anyway, like I said, I was window shopping on Amazon when a ran across a titillating book called "Divergent" by Veronica Roth, a book you probably have heard of. Based on the blurb, it sounds like an awesome, very Rodman Philbrick's "Last Book in the Universe" type yarn.

In the product blurb on the Amazon page, I saw a little Q & A between an unknown interviewer and Roth, and the first question hooked me; it was a peice of writing advice, and I love reading writing advice. Here it is:


Guest Post: Word Porn for sesquipedelian Storytellers

A good friend of mine found a wonderful game that can make demur GM into a true deipnosophist.

Check out LuKpo's blog at http://beneath-the-cellardoor.blogspot.com/2014/02/bleff-and-roleplaying.html?m=1

Bleff, Word Porn and Roleplaying

As a part of my tabletop roleplaying section, I will start adding tips for storytelling and character designing, which I hope someone will find useful.
Last year I started playing a game with some friends, called Bleff. In this game, for about 2-6 people, players take turns to draw a card which contains many weird, little known words, such as xantocianopsy (the ability to see colors blue and yellow), or adoxography (writing that doesn't really give you important data, but is interesting nonetheless -kinda like this blog?-). They then choose one, and read it outloud, after which each player must write a definition for it, without actually knowing it. So for instance, adoxography may be 'writing using an adoxous system' (which still doesn't mean anything but sounds about right) or 'unintelligible handwriting'. After each player has written down their fake definitions, and the reading player has written down both the real and a fake one, he proceeds to read them all out loud. Finally, each player says which definition he thinks is the right one. Each player who makes the correct guess gets 2 points, whereas each player whose definition got chosen, gets one point for each player who chose him.
For instance, I may not have guessed that ailurophilia is the excessive fondness for cats, but if my definition 'someone who likes sticking lures on people' is chosen as right by 3 people, I still get three points (usually you use a board and your token moves forward X squares, where each square is a point, and the first one who reaches the goal wins).

How does this game relate to roleplaying, you may ask? well, I think crazy words can be a good inspiration for character design. Take a word like Schadenfreude,  which is german for 'the joy that comes from watching others suffer', or 'alexithymia', the inability to express emotions verbally. Both are great places from which to start brainstorming a character. Say alexithymia to me, and I will think about Alex, a shy boy who has trouble expressing himself verbally and because of that prefers to do it through art, maybe painting. Or maybe a Bard who only speaks through singing? Or a mute warrior, blocked by childhood traumas?
And xantocianopsis, you could even start a whole campaign around it: 'only some, can see the colours yellow and blue. That's why the green emeralds can only be found by those who...' blah, blah, blah, you get the idea.

Another good source for inspiration words, if you don't already use it, is subscribing to a Word of the Day service (even lernu, the esperanto learning site, has one!), or following the Word Porn facebook page (and suddenly my site got a lot of traffic from people who thought they'd find NSFW content).

So, what is your favourite English word? or maybe one in another language? I personally like Cellardoor a lot, because it sounds really well when my tongue rolls around it... Tell me in the comments, and then you can create a character or story based around it! and tell me, too, if you found this advice useful! I'd love to hear about campaigns based around japanese words like komorebi, the light that filters through tree leaves, or even esperanto ones!

Flintlock flipping, rock eating dwarves sail on coal-fired steamships in new Kickstarter campaign

Sean McLain, Karl Hien and Xaviar Perez says this is pretty much how they envision their Pathfinder setting, Olabbor. Image by Ognian Bonev 

UPDATE: Olabbor Games has become an officially registered Pathfinder Compatible game! Behold...

You can see it yourself at http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/compatibility/registry as well.

The Olabbor design team is gathering steam for their crunchy clockwork and coal tar fantasy setting. Sean McLain, the writer for the setting says that "Olabbor was created to appeal to the sense of wonder which many of today's settings seem to ignore." McLain says the Kickstarter campaign is primarily for purchasing some high quality art to illustrate this vast setting. Based on the way he describes the world, great would be oozing with wonder.

Clockwork boats sailing the Ether
Olabbor has been the homebrew setting between Sean McLain, the Olabbor mechanics designer Karl Hien, and the graphic designer Xaviar Perez for past four years. Karl Hien is a 27 year old fantasy buff and self-proclaimed nerd from Fairbanks Alaska, with 13 years of playing and running everything from D&D to Warhammer 40k under his belt. Xaviar Perez is a creative consultant from New York and a veteran of computer and console RPGs. McLain is a published author, with stories published in the Alaska Quarterly Review under a different pen name.

Olabbor's geography centered around a multi-planar universe similar to, well, every other fantasy RPG on the market. The catch here though is that each plane outside of the prime material plane (called Olabbor) is effectively an island of reality, and separate the prime material from the other worlds is a network of Jetstreams, describes as hollow tubes of water, with atmosphere within them, that are colossal in size. A ship sailing the prime material plane's ocean can enter these tubes through a whirlpool, which brave adventurers can attempt to sail into without the help of pansy magic. 

McLain says that he was inspired by the old Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition Spelljammer Setting by TSR and the Disney film Treasure Planet (one of Disney's more inspired fare) when creating this setting, explaining "What we want is for Olabbor to be a hub world, capable of containing 1st through 20th level campaigns, but also a place where you could leave it behind entirely for a long while, sailing to other worlds for treasure, glory, or on a quest for a lost magic of ancient myths." 

Clockwork technology, which is a trope that many steampunk fans will love, features prominently in the world, from pocket watches to massive centipedal construct cities ambling across the planes. McClain says that in Olabbor "You may be fighting pirates in the skies over a city in one adventure, only to land and take on a hoard of Daemon Worshiping goblins in crude coal fueled mechs as your next adventure, all the while still using the fantasy tools and spells you love, with some new ones along for the wild ride." That's the kind of stuff that deserves to be drawn.
McLain promises mechanics for these things. Must get this game now.

Olabbor will feature rules for the creation of machinery and integrating steampunk machines with magic, as well as slightly tweaked firearms rules for hackbuts and pistols to keep them from making bows and crossbows obsolete (mostly in requiring firearm attack rolls to exceed normal AC, rather than touch AC within the first 5 range increments as in standard Pathfinder). McClain says that the ability to craft magical armor has also helps prevent guns from overtaking the bow in Olabbor.

New Races
There are literally a dozen playable races in Olabbor, some familiar and others quite unusual. Olabbor's Dwarves for example are your usual underground living, gruff talking, mechanically inclined humanoids, except that they eat rocks, soft metals and gems to sustain their skeletons of living stone. They also have a big handle on the global economy due to their construction and control of the Underroads, a labyrinthine network of trade routes built underground throughout the prime material of Olabbor. It’s fairly unusual for dwarves to feature that prominently in a setting, so this setting should fit well for the dwarf enthusiast who wants to get away from the Gimli stereotypes.

The dwarves have a steadfast ally in the Cee-kra, Olabbor's ant-like race that also live underground. Cee-kra have a hierarchy that borrows from their RL counterparts, with mindless Drones serving the svelte Nobles who are protected by the combat-ready Champions. Unlike the bloated little Queens that sit and pop eggs all day in RL however, Cee-kra Queens and scouts, colonists and adventurers who find new resources to feed the colony. A full color printout of the Cee-kra (available to backers at $150), described as "somewhat elven appearance, lightly covered in red or black chitinous plating, gossamer wings held on their back like a cape, large compound eyes and slim antennae" would look smart on my wall.
The Breakdown
McLain says they will spend $2,000 to $3,000 on high quality artwork, assuming about $150 per image at the max for 20 images. Another $2000 go to printing the paperback reward copies of the Olabbor Encyclopedia, the complete setting guide. Another $2,000 for hiring a publishing company and advertising. The final $3000 will take care of legal fees and supplement funding for future projects, such as an Olabbor Jetstream Supplement, adventure modules, and Olabbor novels from McLain. 

Pledge levels
$0-$5: Honorable mention in the Encyclopedia credits.
$10+: All the above, plus first access to play testing materials and your comments will be integrated in by the playtesting team.
$25+: All of the above, plus you can add a character to the Olabbor canon, generated with playtest materials and a PDF copy of the finished Encyclopedia.
$50+: All of the above, plus a SIGNED copy of the PDF and a copy of the DM Toolkit from LVL99 games (Windows only).
$100+: All of the above, plus an exclusive, Kickstarter backer only PDF supplement full of unique items, classes, spells and more.
$150+: All of the above, plus the paperback version of the Olabbor Encyclopedia, full size digital copies of the race artwork and one autographed, spiral bound print copy of the final book. Only 40 pledges in stock.
$200+: All of the above, plus a poster of the world map.

The Bottom Line
Talking with McLain, I have gotten the impression that the flavor text is going to be pretty damn beautiful. At Bluefield State, his alma mater, his story "A Rescue for Two" so impressed his Creative Writing professor that she let him take the course without the prereq. Not to mention I don't think it’s all that easy getting printed in the Alaska Quarterly Review. With that kind of writer’s “street cred”, I anticipate that by the text alone that DMs and Players will get plenty of inspiration from the setting. The setting itself is imaginative and consistent without being so weird that it feels like Salvador Dali the Role Playing Game.

The main weakness here, of course, is the art. A great setting like this deserves some real art, the kind of stuff you would be proud to have on the coffee table.

Thus, bottom line is that I profoundly recommend to my readers to look into this game and see if you would like it on your shelf one day. Check out the project at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1443943482/project-olabbor-a-pathfinder-rpg-setting?ref=live , and tell em Murky Master sent ya!


How I handle alignments in D&D

One of my favorite systems in D&D happens to be one of the most maligned systems in RPG gaming, as far as I can see. Alignments, especially the post 1st edition, nine point, two axis system, is a system that, In my games at least, influences everything from the lowliest peasant to the most universe spanning deities.

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