Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

29 October, 2012

Procrastinating on Fun

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

I’ve pretty much decided to try this online game idea. However, I also know that I don’t really have the time for the start-up yet – life’s a bit hectic at the moment. The result is that I still putter around with the idea, but not with the parts that actually matter.

See, all the important stuff from here on will depend largely on the players, should I find any, so until I’m ready to go looking, I can’t very well do much of the real work. So, in a characteristic move, I obsess over needless details. Except, in my head they’re obviously not needless. If I’m aiming to run a campaign focused mostly on a sea voyage, I want to know which sail I’m talking about when one of them catches fire.

I’ve been puttering around with the details of this ship for a couple of weeks now. I made a little floor plan, gridded out should combat arise, based on some other ship maps I found. I’m pretty pleased with the results, so long as I don’t think too closely about the scale.

Ship plans

Sail plan

So, yes, I’m procrastinating on something that is supposed to just be fun. That’s the level of procrastination I rise to.

15 October, 2012

A Very Quick Word while Short on Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

I continue in my withdrawals, and in my plans. Although the short break is now over and work ramps up again, I continue to explore the possibility of running an online game, and I think the exploration has progressed to the point where it is only a question of when, not if, it will happen.

As part of these almost-preparations, I have been catching up on and rereading Chris Perkins’s column on DMing, on the theory that learning from the best can’t be bad. I used to follow that column pretty regularly, but fell off at some point, possibly due to lack of a real game to experiment on. After reading about the way he uses arcs and his efforts to tie characters to the world through origin stories, I’ve tried to jot down some things myself. I managed three vague sentences that might describe viable arcs, and I produced a couple of potential origin stories, but they didn’t feel too good, really.

I fear I am running up against the limit where I can’t really do too much more without committing fully. Perhaps I should be posting a game ad already? How do you even choose players? I don’t know the first thing here!

I think I’ll postpone for at least another week, just to get some school work out of the way at least, and contend myself with reading the Iomandra campaign summaries while I wait.

8 October, 2012

Managing Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

Predictably, writing about my D&D withdrawal didn’t alleviate the problem so much as exacerbate it. I have passed the week with the possibility of a game swirling around my head, a maelstrom of ideas and notions and desires. Of course, it always comes back to the same stumbling block: I don’t have the time.

Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself? When am I ever going to get more time? Could I do it if I just managed my time better? There’s probably no question that I could squeeze out some extra hours if I accomplished that, I am terrible at time management. Or, viewed from a different perspective, I am great at it, and really do need quite a bit of time to just digest.

I have, fearfully, toyed with a thought of jumping in with both legs and just see how much of a train wreck would result if I did try to do everything I wanted. This is a busy and important year in my education, my final year at University, and there are quite a few things I need to do and write over the course of this fall. I have, for many years, bemoaned the fact that NaNoWriMo takes place in November – the only moth that could possibly be worse for it is May – but in this dread fantasy of late I actually try to do it again this year. After all, it is lots of fun.

And maybe I could try running a net based game on top of that? It couldn’t hurt, my fevered brain whispers, what’s the harm in trying. That’s an argument that’s hard to counter with just a general feeling of impending doom, but you have to work with what you have.

Of course, maybe I’m overestimating the amount of work such a game would be; it’s not like I have any experience running one. Maybe it could be a slow runner, where I’d only have to post up a thing once or twice a week. Maybe I should just post an ad and see where it goes?

Of course, I have no real plan yet. My explorers idea is just that, an idea, not fleshed out at all. If I send players out to explore the world, I ought to have some world for them to explore as well, it seems to me. I could go against my every instinct and try to wing it, but I don’t know if that would end up fun or just messy.

I realise, by the way, how self-indulgent and spoiled I am – oh, no, not sure if I have the time to play a purely entertaining game on my magical electronic box – but I am blessed with a fairly drama free life, so this is what I angst about. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have wallowing to do. See you next week, when I’ve probably already posted an ad at this rate.

1 October, 2012

Idle Desires

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

I’m having a bit of D&D withdrawal.

It’s been a good while now since last I played the game, and a few months since I even wrote something about my world to release some of the steam. Today, I finally watched this year’s Acquisitions Incorporated episode, and many laughs were had. I also recently got caught up on the excellent Critical Hit podcast, after having fallen a month or so behind. It all adds up to a great big desire for more D&D. Before you know it, I’m scouring Obsidian Portal for interesting wikis, trying to soak up the mood like some desperate sponge.

There’s a new edition of the game on the way. I have barely skimmed the playtest materials currently out there. I like some things, am very sceptical about others, but I’m trying not to make up my mind before I see the finished product. I quite like 4th edition, though – and I already have a bunch of the books – so I doubt I’ll be switching any time soon. Late adopter, that’s me.

But as I’m not really playing, it hardly matters at the moment. I don’t have the time for running a game; that much is certain. I suppose I could try to find someone else to run one and just play in it, but that’s not the easiest project in the world either. No, gathering a group around a table at this point seems an unassailable task.

But, there’s always the Internet. I have been toying with the idea of putting up an ad on Myth Weavers. I don’t have much experience in play-by-post games; I’ve participated in one that sort of petered out pretty quickly when the DM disappeared, and been the DM of another, on Google Wave, that also did not last long. People do make it work however, so maybe I was just unlucky. I could try signing up for a player on a game, I guess, but there aren’t that many 4e games advertised on there, and among those even fewer that I think look interesting.

If I decide to try running one myself, I think I would want the story to circle around exploration – adventurers sailing off into the unknown to explore the world and discover what lies in the blank spots of the map. Possibly structured around a central search for a lost treasure. It’s all in the vague not-even-early stages.

It’s something that I think I will eventually talk myself into, even though I have no idea if I actually have the time to run it properly; I don’t even know what the time requirements will end up being. It’ll take a little more time, though, so while I wait, I’ll just have a look at Obsidian Portal …

2 August, 2012

Welcome to My World: Space

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

In my last post in this series, I talked about time keeping in my D&D world. Now, I’ll say a word or two about space, the kind that’s outside the atmosphere, and it’s application.

If you recall way back when, the post that started this madness had a map that included a model of the world’s solar system. I’m not going to embed it here, but have a look at it if you want. I set up a geocentric model, ’cause, hey, magic!, and am going to ignore any potential problems this creates, because, again, magic! There’s three planets circling the world, and one rather unpredictable one that has its own entry in one of the Monster Manuals and won’t feature further here. The Eye of Aurom is the closest planet, named for a god of death that died long ago. Athas is another planet that has plenty of books devoted to it; the only semi-novelty here is that I put it in orbit around my main world. The final one is Cé, named for the legendary first elf, father of all the elven races, because that’s the sort of title that gets you elevated into the heavens upon your death.

I don’t really plan on space travel in this world, and if you’re adventuring on Athas, part of the shtick is that you’re stuck there anyway, so I haven’t developed these beyond names and orbits. What I’m more interested in is how astronomy can be used for astrology back down on the ground. Prophecies, even randomly generated ones, can be interesting fodder for games, I think. So I figured out a calculation for finding their position on the ecliptic on any given date.

There are nineteen constellations along the ecliptic, each but the last of them explicitly claimed by a specific god. You can see them indicated on the top left of the previously mentioned map. They are, in order: the Swan, the Claw, the Spear, the Hammer, the Sickle, the Spider, the Horse, the Tyrant, the Wheel, the Ear (of grain), the Dragon, the Serpent, the Maiden, the Mother, the Rat, the Sword, the Icicle, the Conqueror and the Arrow. That last one is the wild card of the heavens, no god is associated with it.

So let’s take the only character in this world of mine that ever established a birth date; an unfortunate gnome known as Jed. Jed was born on the 12th of Peloma, in the year 460 of his local calendar, under the following astrological conditions: The sun rose in the Ear, making that the dominant constellation – his sign. The moon rose in the Spider and set in the Horse. The Eye of Aurom was in the Horse, Athas was in the Serpent and Cé was in the Rat.

And from there, it’s just a matter of making stuff up, really, until enough stuff is made up to reuse. I’m stealing stuff from real world astrology, ’cause why make up new stuff when someone’s already done the work, and stitching together something halfway coherent.

The Ear is a mutable fire sign, speaking of change, enthusiasm and self-expression. It is associated with wealth, generosity, purity and success. It’s associated god is the god of the Sun, of time and brotherly love and summer and agriculture. Considering Jed, this world’s astrology seems to be about as accurate as out own, so far.

The Eye of Aurom is associated with death, and the sign it was in, the Horse, is the sign of the goddess of luck, change and trade. The Serpent’s god is the god of darkness and poison and indeed serpents. Cé could be especially significant here, as Jed is a Fey creature. The Rat’s god is the god of prisons and torture, it is a fixed wood sign.

Now, like I said, this doesn’t really describe Jed very well, but that wouldn’t be much use anyway. What’s the point in predicting personality? The player decides the character’s personality! What this might do is generate ideas for what could happen to the character, help plan the story of his life. Jed is pretty greedy, and quite keen on economics, so a death planet in the sign of trade could mean I make his trade activity highly dangerous to his health. Since his main sign is all about success and wealth, that gives a story where he gains plenty, and then drowns in it – unless the dice are on his side, of course. Someone will try to poison him at some point, or maybe the poison is metaphorical, a poisoned gift. It’s all vague, as a horoscope should be, but I like it as a starting point for idea generation nevertheless. It’s like using Tarot cards to make story outlines. Or the Deck of Many things. Yeah.

Jed is currently in the stasis of an inactive character, and somewhat unlikely to be revived, so I might as well make it semi-canon: He got hugely wealthy and then chocked on a gold coin after a biting it a bit too enthusiastically. Boom.

16 July, 2012

Welcome to My World: Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

For previous posts in this series, click here.

I mentioned, in the post that turned out to spark this little series, that I have put some thought into the time keeping of my D&D world. Ludicrous amounts of thought, actually, considering that this is a point which is hardly even relevant when playing a game. I’m just the sort of person who wants consistency of holidays and seasons and full moons, I guess. So I made up a calendar for my world. And then, thinking it very unlikely that everyone would use the same calendar, I made another one. And then two more. Yeah, nuts.

I started by deciding the length of the year – for reasons of pure simplicity, I decided to keep days and hours the same length as their real counterparts. I went for a year of 373 days, because I am a tremendous idiot who didn’t think far enough ahead to avoid a prime. By the time I did figure out that maybe I should have gone with something evenly divisible, I had done too much work to feel like starting over. You should see my spreadsheet. Actually, no, you shouldn’t see my spreadsheet; it is a monstrosity of kludging, but it seems to work.

I wanted leap years, ’cause why the hell not, so my year actually ended up being 373.125 days long. Throw in a moon with an orbit of 28 days and it’s all down to the details.

My first calendar I dubbed the Iounian Calendar, naming it for the goddess of knowledge, figuring that in-story it had been invented by her earliest clerics, not long after the world was finished. This is the main calendar, in use by the gods themselves, and the default for me as GM. It has thirteen months, of either 28 or 29 days – like the Gregorian calendar, it can’t follow the moon exactly. Every eighth year, the last month gains an extra day. The months are mostly named for various gods – and since these are just the core gods, I don’t reproduce them here. In any case, it would only make sense for month names to vary by time and location – it is the system of the months that is the important thing. The year starts with the winter solstice, since that was the position of the sun when it was first made. Much easier to make calendars in magic land.

Along with this system of thirteen months, the Iounian Calendar has a nine-day week, with the days also named for various gods – the thing was thought up by pious clerics, after all. This calendar is in use on the continent where I have done most of my work so far, the site of Arkhosia, Myklafar, and of such from-the-books locales like the Nentir and Elsir vales. Being divinely endorsed, it is very widespread – saving me the trouble of making even more unnecessary calendars.

The second calendar, I thought up almost right after the first – the Dark Calendar. This one’s in use in the Underdark, the vast caverns beneath the world. I figured this one was constructed by the drow following their break from the other elves and relocation into the Underdark. Since the drow sort of give me French revolutionary vibes, I went with clear mathematical precision on this one. None of those weird natural cycles. 10 months, each with 5 weeks, each with 5 days. No names, just numbers. At 250 days a year, this is the shortest of the calendars.

Next, I went for lunar. Since there are about 13 full moons per solar year, the lunar calendar also calls 13 months a year. With each month being 28 days long, though, the year becomes 364 days long, 9.125 days shorter than the solar year. The result, like with the Islamic Calendar, is a system of months which move relative to the seasons. Since the moon is fairly closely associated with the Fey in the core books, I made this the calendar type of the Feywild. In the Sehaninian Calendar, named for the moon goddess, the months all have sort of poetic names – in order they are: Breath, Division, Beauty, Lover, Hunt, Thunder, Twilight, Dragon, Mask, Decision, Light, Wolf and Shadow. I have a notion of Eladrin nobles refusing to make any significant decisions outside the proper month.

I did sort of want to make a lunisolar calendar, but I can’t figure out a good way. Screwed by my prime-based solar year, I have no Metonic Cycle of usable length to make it predictable – and if I can’t predict it, I can’t calculate the dates for it. If more mathematically proficient readers have any hints, I’d be happy for them.

The final calendar is where I clearly lost my mind. This one is used on a continent far removed from my main setting, and I wanted something completely different, so I based it on the Aztec calendar. Instead of months based on the moon, this one divides the year into 18 periods of 20 days, followed by a period of 12 days, followed by what is called the Nameless Day. Every eight years, you get two Nameless Days. The periods are based on the zodiac – each of them begins when the sun rises in a new constellation of the ecliptic, and is named for its constellation. The constellations are each associated with different gods, and so the periods of the calendar are as well. The 19th period belongs to the shortest constellation, the Arrow, which is specifically not associated with any god.

In addition to this count of the year, there is a count of days. There are twenty unique markers which is run through in a cycle in periods of thirteen days. When the thirteenth day is passed, the count starts at 1 again, but continues with the next marker. So the count goes: 1 horn, 2 root, 3 ox, 4 straw, and so on until 13 steel, followed by 1 death, 2 star and onwards. When you reach the last marker, which you would on 7 sun, you go back to the beginning, and the next day would be 8 horn.

I know, it’s kind of hard to wrap you head around the way I’m explaining it. The point is, you go through 260 days before you reach 1 horn again. Pair this up with the constellation periods above, and you go through 65 years between each time 1 horn falls on the winter solstice – a Great Cycle. So you have dates like 8 toad, 6 spider, which can only refer to one specific day within a 65 year cycle, and if necessary you add on a clarification of time period. I figure each new period is named for the king reigning at its beginning, so you’d have 8 toad, 6 spider, in the Great Cycle of King Whatshisface.

And, yeah, I can convert dates between them, using my aforementioned kludged spreadsheet. To pick a not so random date, I can tell you that the 12th day of the 7th month in the year 9580 in the Iounian Calendar, is equal to 13/6/9787 in the Dark Calendar, and to the 9th of Masks, 9820 in the Sehaninian Calendar, and to 13 steel, 5 ear in the 148th Great Cycle. I can also tell you that it was Ninsday, and that the full moon was six days away.

So there, my calendars. I had intended to segue from this into some stuff about the zodiac and astronomy and astrology in general, but this post is too long already, so that’ll have to wait for a different time.

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