Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lud: Part Five

In the dead of the night, Happy Force 109 returned to the old and broken-down shack they had discovered earlier that year ((see "A Little About Roger Whirm: Mysterious Man of Lud")). Lo and behold, the mysterious man was there, as if waiting for them.

Roger turned out to be an eccentric and optimistic man, despite his tragic past. After explaining that they wanted to find a way off of Lud, Roger told them of a possible way. He explained that when the Alon had removed his hard-earned gifts, they had not been 100% successful and that there was some residual powers laying dormant within him. With the right equipment - namely, the equipment he and his brother had used long ago - he could tap into his ability to create portals. Additionally, he would need to open the portal in the same location that he and his brother had performed their experiments, as reality itself had weakened over the years of their projects there. As fortune (or misfortune) would have it, the shop they operated out of years ago was the very same that Gog called home.

Roger gave 109 schematics for a complex frame that would aid him in opening a portal, as well as detailed maps of the street in front of Gog's workshop, pinpointing the exact spot it would need to be placed. Rad quickly got to work, jury-rigging the equipment needed while the rest worked on a plan on setting up unnoticed. They decided that early morning under cover of the snow and mist that had become the norm would be the perfect cover to attempt their escape. They chose a planet (one thay had visited before) as a destination and a hopeful means of safety. When Rad was finished with the frame and other equipment, they packed up and set out to leave Lud.

That morning, there was no snow-fall, but a thick fog provided them enough cover as they set up the complex equipment on the deserted street in front of Gog's now-destroyed shop. Rad, Hera and Roger prepared the device while Gog, Gasha, Wade, Adrianna, Flynn and Byra said their farewells to the island they called home for the past year. As always in these situations, things didn't go quite according to plan.

As the morning stretched on and the sun rose, beginning to burn away at their precious cover, Rad discovered an Alon security camera. After smashing it and alerting the rest, the group stepped up their efforts to set up as quickly as possible.

The Alon arrived just as they were finishing up and Roger began the task of harnessing enough energy to open the portal, giving 109 the unfortunate news that it would take him a few moments to fully open it. Even more unfortunately, the Alon had brought a small army to apprehend the powerful group of rogue gifted.

While Gog, Gasha and Hera took cover, Adrianna, Flynn, Rad, Wade and Byra fought to hold off the growing army. Using all of their powers, they fought a loosing battle. Byra even resorted to summoning her most powerful creature, Arkadios - the dragon adorning her back. Despite his immense power, Arkadios was eventually brought down and destroyed, and the army continued to advance.

Just as they were about to be overwhelmed, Kintaro arrived to help, accompanied by Corey at his side. The two may not have been strong enough to stop the army, but combined with 109's continued efforts, they were able to delay the march long enough for Roger to finally open the portal. Adrianna was the first through the portal, followed by Hera, Gasha, Rad, Flynn and Wade. Just before Gog and Byra were able to get through, however, a shot struck Roger in the back, closing the portal instantly and flinging 109 through a place in-between reality.

They landed hard in broad daylight. Around them stretched on rolling green plains. Above them towered a large tree growing to just one side of the dirt road they had fallen upon. On this road was a large wooden cart piled high with supplies, and literally under them was the cart's owner - handsome young man who only had one arm - the other was cut off at the shoulder and bound in bandages.

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((Whoo. I can't believe I actually updated this! I again fell out of interest with 109 as my new arc played out and got progressively worse (no fault of my players, just my own mistakes) but now I'm getting back into it! Of course, my biggest inspiration to pick this up again has been one of my off-again on-again employees who had been reading some of these and essentially stroking my ego about it. That's always good motivation! Welp, on to talking about the session itself!

The final session of Lud was probably one of my more weak sessions, unfortunately. I feel that it fell victim to my own over-hype. In the weeks leading up to it, I had this grand and epic final battle in my head - one that was full of some powerful and over-the-top set pieces in it (like Byra summoning her dragon). Unfortunately, as is always the case, things didn't play out as they were in my head and instead, the whole fight seemed more like a grueling gauntlet instead of a struggle for survival.

After the session was run, I took a brief hiatus until I was able to talk to several of my players about it. I learned a lot from those conversations, possibly the biggest being that I should tone down the NPC big-damn-hero moments. Basically, my players were getting a bit tired of being saved my the NPCs, lol. After he pointed it out, I could really see it.

Nobody's perfect, and I'm still learning a lot from my storytelling experiences and (hopefully) becoming better at it as a result.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Little About Roger Whirm: Mysterious Man of Lud

In the spring, before the Golden Fall, 109 helped Byra search Lud up and down for her secret entrance. Since Lud was so large and magnificent to them, every day they discovered something new. On the day that 109 met Corey and Jake at the lake, they also discovered a run-down and overgrown shack built into the roots of a large tree just out of sight of the lake.

The shack hadn't been lived in for years, and most of it wasn't even intact any longer. The years and weather had made ceilings cave in, the door no longer stood on it's hinges, and the floor was covered in dirt and weeds poking through the warped and rotting boards. The only thing they found inside, apart from a few pieces of ruined furniture and a moth-eaten bed, was a desk filled with notes and papers.

They couldn't make heads or tales of the chicken scratch and diagrams drawn on the papers, but they were able to discern that the drawings were portals of some kind. At the time, irrelevant to their search, and thusly put out of their minds.

Months later, as Byra led the three out of Zolo's tomb riding on her summoned bird, Livius' back, they all received a vision of a silhouetted old man standing in that shack, telling them that when they needed him, he would be there.

That old man was Roger Whirm.

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Roger grew up on Lud with his brother, William. At an early age, the two discovered and became fascinated with the concept of the gifted. Throughout their childhood, the two would fantasize about being gifted, pretending that they could do some of the incredible things the sometimes god-like creatures could pull off. Moving mountains, controlling the sea, fighting with beams of pure energy, and fighting the forces of evil were a natural part of their innocence-driven games.

Their obsession did not fade as they grew into their teens. The two began to work very hard to understand the gifted condition. What created gifted? What determined their powers? What was their purpose? They never found any answers to these questions, of course. Their research was still a product of boyhood dreams. They partly knew this, but were still determined to expand their understanding. The two got jobs and worked even harder, saving their money to further their research.

Eventually, Roger and William grew out of their teens and used their hard-earned money to buy a small workshop on the edge of the city. They used this as a base-of-operations to attempt to do everything from learning the answers to their burning questions, to even replicating some of the fantastical gifts themselves. At a young age, the two had determined that one of the most powerful and useful gifts thinkable was teleportation. They had decided that the ability to instantly travel from one point to another - even across worlds - was the gateway to wonderful power. So, naturally, that was the focus of their experiments.

After decades of trial and error, tears, sweat and blood, they were eventually successful. Roger and William perfected teleportation. They were finally gifted. Their work was finally perfected, and they were on top of the world - until the Alon arrived on Lud for the first time.

Roger and William both read and researched much on the Alon. They knew the danger and threat the Alon posed, and for the first time in their lives, they disagreed on what to do.

Roger, being the rational and logical of the two decided to turn himself in. He knew that the Alon had measures in place to not only track down gifted - even ones that could teleport - but stop them. William, on the other hand, was the proactive and headstrong one. He decided to flee. He was not successful.

Roger never found out what happened to his brother after the Alon caught him, but he assumed the worst. Following through with his instincts, Roger turned himself over to the Alon without a fight. The Alon took him happily enough, and did exactly what they promised: they 'cured' him of his 'condition'.

When the Alon were sure that they had removed the threat his 'curse' posed, they sent him back home. Old, broken, and his childhood dreams realized, then destroyed, Roger sold his and his brother's shop and left his memories behind, taking to life outside of the eyes of society. After that, he disappeared.

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Unrelated to this post, here's Rad. Again, credit for the pic goes to Joe Bags.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lud: Part Four

"Come look at the giant birdies in the sky!" Gasha cried out as she burst into the room, putting an end to the long discussion being had about what to do about the situation on Lud. Everybody's heart sank to the bottom of their stomach as the small crowd that had gathered in Gog's small workshop followed her outside to see what they had already suspected.

The Alon were descending on the once-safe island of Lud.

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The Alon invaded Lud with a military precision. They landed on the once-populated marketplace that served as Lud's docking platform. After clearing it away and commandeering a couple nearby apartment buildings, they erected a massive wall, complete with sentries and gates, around the area and transformed the white-cobble common into a makeshift port. They then evacuated the residents from the apartments and began shuttling them off the island to the safety of the mainland far away.

Once clear, the Alon transferred the apartments into a temporary refugee camp and processing center. They then systematically sent out word to the entire island, requesting any and all innocents to report to the gate for processing and evacuation of the once-beautiful island. They also sent an offer: that any 'cursed' willing to do so to turn themselves in without a fight so that they could be properly treated and cured of their 'conditions' peacefully.

Within a week, the Alon had successfully cleared out the city.

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Flynn Triune and his father had settled on Lud a month before it departed that past summer. His father opened a little tea shop at the base of one of Lud's massive skyscrapers. Naturally, business boomed with tourist traffic over the course of Lud's journey across the sea. That is, until the golden leaves turned red.

Being newcomers to Lud, the two didn't really believe in the crazy superstitions about an omen or worse. Of course, their customers weren't so rational. For the next couple of months, business dwindled to a trickle and eventually stopped altogether when the streets were no longer safe. Flynn's father closed his shop and settled in for a long winter.

Then the Alon came.

Still terrified that his son would be taken away, Flynn's father formulated a plan to get them off of Lud. He had heard that innocent people were being taken out of the city and to safety. Since Flynn appeared a normal Cooreinian, his father thought that they would surely be able to sneak past the gate. He was wrong.

When they got to the massive, crowded gate, they found that the Alon had a series of checkpoints with a dozen different scanning and testing procedures in place to detect 'cursed' from slipping past. It came as no surprise to Flynn that one of their scanners picked up on his powers. Naturally reacting with fear, Flynn attempted to flee with his father. The Alon, however, were well prepared to stop him and easily separated him from his father.

Though the odds were against him, Flynn managed to escape thanks to the help of Gasha and Byra who had been scouting the Alon camp and saw the breakout attempt. Thanks to Gasha's intricate knowledge of the treetops and shortcuts through the city, they were able to escape to Gog's place undetected.

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By the time the city was completely deserted save for Alon patrols, 109 decided that staying at Gog's workshop was suicide. Once clear of civilians, the Alon had began to forcefully search every building in the city. It was only a matter of time before they found their safe-haven. And so, undercover of a night-time snow storm, 109 and the rest packed up all their belongings and fled underground to Zolo's cave.

The following weeks were long, stretched on by the bitter cold brought from the cave and the fear of ever being found out. Rad was able to build everybody a tent and had begun working on a contraption that would simultaneously protect the cave from the Alon while allowing 109 safe passage up and down the river without Byra's help. The entire group also began planning how exactly they were going to escape Lud for good.

Meanwhile, Adriana, Flynn and Gasha set out to find Kintaro, hoping to bring him into hiding as well. When the finally found him, he was near death. Somehow, he had suffered a devastating wound in a fight (either against Hade or, more likely, against the Alon) and had escaped to his home. Fortunately, they were able to save him.

During his recovery, Kintaro continued to watch -with his gifted eyes- the gifted of Lud suffer and die at the hands of the Alon. When he had recovered enough, he attempted to leave, explaining that it was driving him mad to stay in hiding while so many died and fell. 109, however, coerced him into staying, knowing that if he left, he would surely die and could endanger their hiding spot as well.

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Eventually, they came up with a plan to build several gliders and rafts to literally fly away from Lud and sail the ocean far away from the Alon. And as Rad began crafting the gliders, another obstacle presented itself when Gog fell ill.

Putting his project on hold, Flynn and Rad went to the surface and to Gog's workshop to retrieve some medicine. As fate would have it, the Alon had picked that day to investigate the shop. They entered the building while Rad and Flynn were inside and discovered the machine that had been hiding the gifted presence. Flynn and Rad had to fight their way out. Rad feared that if they shut down the machine, their location would be found out.

To make matters even worse, inspired by Kintaro's devotion, Corey and Jake, left the cave to attempt to help whoever was left on Lud. Kintaro and 109 set out to bring them back. In order to cover more ground, they split up. Kintaro went alone, telling them that after the children were found and safe, he wasn't going to return to the cave. Eventually, Rad, Flynn, Adriana and Wade found the twins, and of course, so did an Alon patrol. 109 sprung into action in attempt to save the children.

The fight was brutal, and truly revealed to 109 the immense danger that the Alon posed to gifted. Each Alon soldier was built like a swiss-army-knife, containing a number of weapons and defenses specifically designed to fight off common types of gifted. And, as they tragically found out, one soldier was equipped with a mortar-like weapon that fired water-evaporating grenades. A direct hit to Jake sucked out all moisture in his body and killed him.

Enraged, Corey's gifts evolved before everybody's eyes and he transformed into some kind of sea-creature/human hybrid and devastated the Alon soldier responsible. he then fled the battlefield and escaped into the city, leaving 109 to finish the fight with the Alon patrol.

Though they won the fight, 109 still felt defeated and more desperate than ever. They gave up the search for Corey and took Jake's body down to the cave, intending to lay him in Zolo's tomb.

But of course, fate yet again turned against them while they were there when another Alon patrol descended into the cave through the opening in the crypt. Before 109 could react, the spirits of a hundred animals rose from their graves and destroyed the patrol.

Rad, Adriana, Wade and Flynn never felt so exposed, and they decided ultimately that waiting any longer was simply not an option. They had to leave Lud, or they would die.

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The Alon attack on Lud was probably the most tense situation I've ever created in an RP. Like the time just before their arrival, I feel that I was a tad too successful in creating the mood and began to even sense frustration and irritation from my players. Again, a success and a failure all at once, but I learned a lot.

As it's probably obvious, I had wanted to create a very oppressive and desperate situation. The mere fact that they were prepared to risk death at the hands of the freezing sea below in an effort to escape the situation is proof enough to me that I had done exactly that.

Well before Lud, 109 had run into Alon soldiers in spurts, and had wiped the floor with them. At the time, I was hardly concerned with developing a dangerous antagonist with the story and was leaving it up to reputation alone. When it came to Lud, I knew that it wasn't going to work well with simply saying "the Alon are dangerous!!1" and then pitting the gang up against easily defeated enemies. (I can't seem to find that happy medium ^^').

So, I apologize to my players for kind of dragging you around and beating you over the head with hopeless fights, but I promise, it was necessary!

Anyhoose, adding in Flynn was a huge thing for me. For the first two to three years 109 went on, I was determined to exclusively have Penny, James and Chris. After Pen and I moved away and our group dwindled down to the four of us, it was pretty easy to maintain that! Then Joe Bags started coming over too, and for some reason, it felt natural to bring him into 109. So far, I'm very glad I did. Him and his character provide a very good balance to the 109 group.

During the Alon attack, I imagine a great number of exciting stories taking place.

109 never did delve into what exactly happened to Kintaro. I imagine that he got into a massive battle with Hade and the Alon interfered. Kintaro was created as a humorous, goofy character but behind the scenes, he developed into a robust and dynamic character with a complex relationship with Hade. Every time Kintaro captured Hade and put him behind bars, Hade would eventually escape (seriously, he can phaze through walls. How do you contain someone like that?). After a while, they sort of became each others identity. Sort of like a Batman and Joker relationship: one almost can't exist without the other. So when the Alon took Hade (at least, in my mind - it's not set in stone!), Kintaro sort of lost it, and began to try and help his nemesis. He probably wasn't successful.

I also try and think from the Alon's point-of-view. Somehow, they knew that there were a lot of gifted hiding on Lud. They had to do something about it. Of course, you have to remember that the Alon see gifted as uncontrollable monsters and deadly weapons. To them, it was like descending into a powder keg with the fuse lit. At the same time, their honest priority is to protect innocent people and preserve the city of Lud as much as possible (which is why they didn't simply blow it out of the sky). The Alon went in with extreme caution, set up a perimeter that was monitored 24-7, and every precaution taken. They didn't start using direct force until near the end.

The gifted that did turn themselves in (and there were some) were treated as peacefully as possible. The reason they reacted with violence with Flynn was simply because he was trying to sneak his way past them. It's essentially the equivalent of trying to sneak a knife past security at the airport.

By the time Lud was evacuated, the Alon knew that whoever was left was going to try to actively resist. This is why they reacted violently with Jake and Corey. The Alon soldiers saw the two boys and bombs about to detonate. They handled the situation as carefully as they could, and when they were attacked, they instinctively tried to neutralize the threat before they got hurt.

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New pic! This one of Wade! Mad props go to Joe Bags for drawing it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Little about Coorei: Swamp Planet of Horrors and Flynn: gifted of Coorei

Coorei is quite possibly the most popular (or at least most infamous) planet in the HFN universe. Originally, the old Happy Force Nine (consisting of Lucky, Ne' Sonya, Kaze and Yoda) traveled there to seek out a component for the wolfen gun. along the way, we've had two PCs and a handful of important NPCs hail from the swampy planet.

When I first created it, I developed the planet itself, but not the primary species. Credit goes to Noel for fleshing the cooreinians out as a people.

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Coorei, as mentioned, is a swamp planet, meaning that most of the surface is covered in a thick mire. Massive trees (think redwood forest style) grow out of the marsh everywhere. The surface of the planet is home to hundreds of different extremely dangerous creatures. As such, the sentient species took to living in the trees.

The cooreinians are a race of bipedal lizard-like people. Exotic and powerful, they are by no means helpless - a testament to just how dangerous the creatures living below are. As a result of literally living above a swamp, their hair (yes, they have hair) is most commonly found in dreadlocks. Their immune systems are also very well developed from living on a very unsanitary planet. Though this is good for them, it isn't so good for non-indigenous species, as the cooreinians tend to be walking cesspools of bacteria and disease. Despite their somewhat barbaric appearance, the cooreinians have thrived as well as any other species and have even developed their technology to allow space travel.

During the great war, Coorei was a strong focus for the Alon, and Coorei has been forever scared from the battles that took place there. Some of the most violent and tragic moments of the war took place there where many lost their lives; Alon, Gifted and innocent alike.

In 109's time, the cooreinian people still fear both the Alon as well as gifted for fear that those terrible conflicts would occur again. So when Flynn was revealed to be gifted, his parents took extreme care to hide him. Eventually, Flynn's father heard about a safe haven for gifted: a floating island by the name of Lud. Soon after hearing of the safety the island seemed to give, Flynn and his father left Coorei to start a new life in the beautiful and wondrous city of Lud.

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Flynn is Joe Bags' character. He's a teenage Cooreinian who can mutate into a giant beetle-like creature at will, thus making him the tank character of 109. It's also worth noting that Cooreinians have three eyes (which you can't see in the picture).

Picture by Joe Bags

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lud: Part Three

The red leaf Rad found was only the first of many. Within days, every leaf on every tree on Lud had shifted from the vibrant yellow that brought the Golden Fall it's name to a deep and unsettling red. For as long as anybody can remember, Lud's leaves were always yellow, so the people of the island naturally reacted to the color change with fear. Many called it an omen. Why else would such a strange phenomenon happen? No matter the reason for the change, people didn't take it well. Lud's warm, friendly atmosphere slowly drained away to a chaotic panic.

Many took advantage of the situation and the streets became filled with looters, burglars, and muggers. Lud was no longer a safe place to be. Leading the charge was Hade, who had somehow managed to create a following and promoted himself from petty thief to super villain. As a result of this, along with the dramatically increased crime rates, Kintaro became very overworked and almost impossible to find.

In the beginning stages of the downward spiral, Jodi visited Gog's workshop to issue a goodbye, telling them that she was again going into hiding with her child, but did not plan on letting anyone know where.

109 also met Gray, a disturbed violinist gifted who had the power to manipulate people's actions and emotions by playing his violin. Over the course of the last few months, Gray caused a bit of trouble for our heroes, merely adding to the unpleasantness of the situation. At one point, he even harmed Gasha with a knife when she got too close to touching his violin. In her panic, she ruined a whole city street while growing massive trees to protect herself.

To make matters worse, Renato (mafia guy from 109's past) revealed that he was on Lud. He invited Rad to a party in a swank apartment in one of Lud's taller buildings. When Rad arrived, Renato treated him as a guest of honor, claiming that none of it would have been possible without Rad. (To be honest, I think this happened before 109 went underground with Byra...) Later, after Rad had given Hera enough money to help her father, Renato invited Rad back to the apartment for another party. This time however, he revealed that Hera was one of his agents and had been giving him all of the money Rad had been saving for her. Humiliated and heartbroken, Rad left and began to plot against Renato. Gog had to interfere to stop Rad from setting fire to the apartment.

Eventually, Hera approached Rad and was able to explain that Renato is (of course) gifted and that he seemed to be able to control her to a certain degree. After spilling her heart out to Rad - and revealing that she was actually an orphan who had been 'broken out' by Renato - Rad forgave her and took her in to shelter at Gog's.

Adriana and Wade each had issues of their own. Adriana began to notice strange tattoo-like dark colorings appear on her arms, beginning with he fingertips. Ashamed and afraid, she resorted to covering them with gloves and long-sleeve shirts. Wade's arm also seemed to  take advantage of the situation and began to mutate, briefly taking control of him, growing legs and the ability to create a swarm of locust-like bugs.

As time went on, things continued to get worse and worse, even after all of the red leaves had fallen and blown away and snow had begun to fall. Gog was even more downtrodden than usual. Byra had secluded herself in her room, going through the mountains of books she had. Corey and Jake's guardian was killed in a break-in, and the shock-struck twins took to living at Gog's shop with all the other gifted. even Gasha wasn't acting like her usual, innocent, gleeful self. The dark situation worsened, bringing down and affecting even 109 until finally, the unthinkable happened.

The Alon arrived.


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Dun dun dunnnnn!


I struggled with this part while running the sessions. I was trying to create an unstable and uncomfortable feeling, while still making it enjoyable to my players. I feel that I succeeded on the former, but didn't on the latter. It wasn't until towards the end of the 'arc' that we actually had a really good session in which everybody was talking and trying to figure everything out. It was a good learning experience, though.

Another goal I had in mind was to try and stretch this part along as a sort of 'dark counterpart' filler to the first part of Lud where I introduced the entire cast. This led to the introduction to Gray. I needed an antagonist they could see and fight before the Alon.

I was very pleased with the whole bit with Rad, though. He reacted pretty much exactly like I expected, but got over it faster than I had prepared for. Hera ended up paying back all of the money she 'stole' and even plead her love to Rad - after he had forgiven her, so you know, kudos to James.

Easter Egg Theater!

Gray was pulled directly out of another RP! A while back, James ran a forum-based RP on gaiaonline.com called Trials of the Soul. In it, each character would be brought into a temple - one of light, and one of dark. Since Penny and I were the only two in the RP, he had Penny's character go to the light and my character, Gray, go to the dark. James did a masterful job of directing our characters towards each alignment, and before I realized what was happening, Gray had become a dark, emo, villain! I figured he was a perfect fit for the mood I was creating in Lud, so there he is!


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I finally drew Byra! I'm really happy with how she turned out, despite the difficulties I had.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Little About Gog: Guardian of Steel and Gasha: Guardian of Wood

The only person to ever know Gog and Gasha's story was Rad. Sometime during part one of Lud, Rad was helping Gog perform maintenance on some components in his head and Rad received an electrical shock that literally planted a memory from Gog into Rad's mind. Rad never shared this memory with anyone else, possibly due to the personal nature of the memory.

So here it is.


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Gog can't remember much of his childhood before he was re-constructed with cybernetics. All he can recall of his parents was that they were skilled mechanics and brilliant engineers. They knew Gog was gifted with the affinity to manipulate metal and steel with his will, and they nurtured his talents as any good parent would.

The Alon first arrived on Lud when Gog was still very young. At the time, Lud was teaming with gifted, and the ensuing raid was the most violent skirmish in the city's history.

Desperate to keep Gog safe, his parents were placed on the losing side of the fight. Tragically, they were unable to keep the Alon away from their son, and the Alon apprehended the young Gog. Defiant and powerful, Gog fought back. Unfortunately, the Alon were not defeated and Gog was killed and his body mutilated in the resulting battle.

The next thing Gog can remember, he had been rebuilt and given new life, but his parents were gone. Gog never found out what actually happened to them, but he suspects that they lost their lives protecting him a second time. Gog took over a small, abandoned shop that his parents had worked in and began his life alone. Every so often, he would upgrade himself to accommodate his still-growing human body.

In the aftermath of the Alon's raid, Gog was able to salvage some of their technology, and despite the fact that he never fully understood their advanced tech, he was able to reverse their tracking signal to create a 'blind spot' of sorts around Lud.

Years later, he found a very young girl stuck in a tree. He spent the entire year searching for her parents, and only gave up well after Lud had docked at it's annual destination. Gog named her Gasha, and took her into his home to live. They have been together ever since.

Inspired by the bravery and conviction of his parents, Gog now makes it his business to safely house any and all gifted he can each year.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lud: Part Two

Alright, it's been a little while since I've had any drive to do this. This is mostly due to a slump I got myself into after running the first session of the new arc. I felt that the session didn't go as well as it should have, and that kind of plunged me into a state of uncreative-ness. Or, maybe it was the other way around... At any rate, I didn't even feel like thinking of 109, let alone writing about it. But now I'm back!

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Our heroes gathered their essentials and embarked on what could quite possibly be the most brave venture of their lives: dive into a dark cave with the not-always-quite-there Byra as their guide.

The small and well-hidden entrance led them down into a long and winding cave path, spiraling deep into the heart of Lud. The first obstacle they came across was a raging river. The river cut through the path and carved out a new cave leading even further into the island. On the other side, they could barely make out that the path they were on ended shortly after the river. Years of the running water had eroded the walls smooth, eliminating any way to safely climb down, and the water was running too fast to swim. Byra stepped up to solve their dilemma by summoning the first of her tattoo creatures: a large half-snake half-turtle sea creature named Hile. 109 was able to climb onto the creature's back and ride down the river.

The river brought them to a massive cavern so deep they couldn't even see the bottom. The sheer size of the new room gave the impression that Lud was actually mostly hollow. The ceiling was far above their heads, opening to the surface in several places and allowing in the filtered golden light from above to illuminate the room. A maze of massive stone cogs and gears, all moving slowly and methodically, much like the inside of a clock tower, populated the enormous area. A narrow path wound it's way along the edge of the cave, spiraling far down and out of sight.

Unfortunately, the river entered this room high up on the wall and cascaded down to the depths below. Again, Byra stepped up to the plate, summoning a huge, elegant bird named Livius. Just as Hile began to plummet, Byra dispelled her sea-monster and Livus swooped in to catch 109. Byra had her second summon bring the group to the path along the edge before dispelling him as well.

Along the way down, 109 faced smaller challenges, including a large section of the path that had crumbled away. Drained of energy from her summons, Byra was unable to help out, leaving 109 to climb on some nearby gears and make their way to the other side.

Eventually, 109 made it to the end of the path and into a carved stone door at the bottom. Inside the door were various rooms filled with elaborate wall carvings and decorations, including a massive carved mural depicting Zolo's final victory against the Alon. After a couple simple challenges, 109 was rewarded with entry into Zolo's tomb.



The tomb itself was far less decorated than the rooms leading to it, but it certainly held an awe-inspiring presence of it's own. The room itself was shaped like a gigantic bowel, with several caverns branching out along it's edges. Filling the bowl were tens of thousands of bones from animals and creatures of all shapes and sizes, creating a mind-boggling graveyard of sorts. In the very center of the room, illuminated by a single spotlight from a hole in the ceiling above, was Zolo's tomb proper: an impressive stone sarcophagus impaled with dozens of bladed weapons of many makes. Growing out from under the tomb itself was a thickly weaved entanglement of roots and vines that grew out in enormous columns to Lud's surface.

While Byra excitedly examined the tomb, 109 found a scrap of paper on the ground, written by Tenor - proof that he too had examined the resting place of one of the legendary HFN. Their investigations were cut short however, as Rafal announced his presence from the shadows. Rafal taunted 109 a bit before introducing Ruben to the mix.

Ruben was in a state of pure bliss. Surrounded by his obsession, he seemed barely aware of anything but the bones. Rafal then bode him to use his "new powers" to play. Ruben didn't hesitate to animate the bones, creating several small, mismatched creatures.

109 immediately sprang into action, Wade leading the fight while Rad attempted to snipe Rafal from a distance, Adriana dropped into the shadow and attempted to safely approach them for a close-quarters fight, and Byra summoned a hulking bipedal wolf named Jackson.

109 dominated the fight, even cutting their opponents short when Ruben attempted to animate a gigantic scorpion (again, due to Rafal's bidding). Together, they were able to send the duo into a retreat. Before 109 could finish the job however, Rafal and Ruben vanished into a dark mysterious portal in the ground. The portal vanished immediately after. Considering the fight a victory, Byra summoned Livius once again to fly them out of the hole above.

Outside, they found themselves deep in the forest, but were easily able to find their way back to the city. Along the way, Rad discovered a single red leaf floating in the breeze...


---


Easter Egg Theater!

I consider 109 to be one of my best RPs to date. While HFN is legendary, I always felt that it was always too crowded and jaded. The RP was at the best of times, semi-coherent. Add to it the complicated and winding stories from countless characters (both player characters and otherwise) and the fact that control of the RP was under assault for the greater part of the end (don't ask...) and I felt it was kind of a mess. To me, 109 seems not only more in-control, but coherent and with a better flow. As such, I tend to incorporate a lot of outside personal sources in it. Here are a few.

While most of the NPCs I introduced for Lud were original, I did borrow a lot for their creation. As mentioned before, Jake and Corey were named (and inspired by) two of my cousins. However, Byra's summons are an Easter Egg-fest.

Hile was inspired as a cross from the Loch Ness monster thing in Super Mario 64 and a giant turtle creature I created for a Mai HiME RP I did on gaiaonline.com a while back. Livius is named after a monk character I made for an RP that James ran a while back. Livius was a silent elemental monk with an elegant and beautiful phoenix-like bird as a familiar. Jackson is named after my character from Chris' World of Darkness RP, Werewolf. My character's name was Russel Jackson. Not to be confused with Knobb's character "Jackson Public" (I most definitely didn't name Byra's wolf after him). Gavriel is a constantly changing tiger/lion/leopard/etc. creature that Byra can summon. shortly after we got married, Penny started an RP between the two of us and Gavriel was my character and he had the large cat as a friend. Finally, Arkadios is the name of Byra's dragon summon. Arkadios is also the nickname of my Charizard from my first official Pokemon team.

I also had a lot of fun building Zolo's tomb. The tomb has a few elements that were purposely created that never really got explained in-game. First, Zolo's influence over animals was so great that they flocked to her grave at the end of their lives to lay in eternity with her, explaining all the bones. Second, the vines growing from Zolo's crypt grew from the unique properties of her blood (it was poisonous!). As such, the vines are literally the roots of the trees of Lud, which gives them the uniqueness of the Golden Fall.

The giant gear room is essentially the explanation as to why Lud not only floats, but also travels back and forth between continents like clockwork.


---


Finally, a reminder to my players: very few events in 109 are random. There was a very specific reason Rafal and Ruben were down there.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

404: Day Four

 ---Day Four---

I broke through the wall this morning(?). Sure enough, there was a spider and a fresh water source. The bonus? Gold! I saw three hunks of raw gold ore in the wall! As soon as I light the place up, I'm going to mine that gold so hard that it won't know what hit it! (hint: it's my pick axe)


---


The craziest thing happened! A zombie was chasing me around outside my home and he fell into a little hole in the ground! I blocked off the top and opened a little window on the side to look at him. These things are so weird. The moan and groan constantly, as would be expected from zombies, but they apparently also bounce at all times. It's like he's stuck on some sort of jumpy-thingie. Like a tambourine you jump on. A jumpourine!

I think I'll name him Pogo.


---


If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that the monsters are getting more violent and restless. Every time I go up to the gold, there's a new spider or skeleton! I haven't started mining the gold yet, as I want to light up some more of the caverns it branches out into. Wouldn't want a creeper to creep up on my and creep--err - explode and kill me.


---


I think I may have broken a leg. I was up in the cave-loft (as I'm coming to know it as), lighting up the area when I spotted the creeper moving towards me in the shadows. I immediately spun around to run back the way I came and tripped on a rock and fell into a ditch running just deep enough to prevent my escape. To my left was a six-meter drop down to my base and behind me was the creeper already hissing and ready to blow. I had no choice but to jump.

Now, I'm just waiting for my wheat to finish growing - it's almost done - and then maybe I can mine that damn gold.


---


I renovated my first cacti trap again. Now it's even more efficient! I'm going to go check up on Pogo and then off to the gold!


---End of Day Four---

 The journal ends there.

The body was discovered not far from the dugout.

The scene was unpleasant.

Ending Score:

Zombie kills: 14 = 7pt
Spider kills: 8 = 8pt
Skeleton kills: 8 = 8pts
Creeper kills: 5 = 10
Pumpkins harvested: 3 =2pts
Jack-o-Lantern get! = 2pts
Bread get!: = 4pts
Iron Block get!: = 2pts
Bow and 64 Arrows get!: = 10pts



Total: 55pts

-------------------------------------------------------

I found the 404 challenge thanks to Paulsoaresjr. I've been watching his Minecraft videos since I got into them
late last year. They're great vids, especially his tutorial videos (if you want to start up Minecraft for yourself.) Anyway. It was a very challenging adventure. Took me five tries to get down into the cave alive. I admit that I kind of expected things to last a bit longer though. In fact, I almost completely blame my death on a customer issue (I was playing at lunch at work) I had to deal with in the middle of fighting a skeleton. I had paused the game to deal with the issue, and when I returned I had forgotten what was happening. It cost me a few extra hits I didn't need and when I killed him, I'm pretty sure that Pogo somehow escaped from his prison and did me in.

No big deal, that's point of a challenge. If it was easy, it would be boring.

I fully intend on trying again, but I don't know if I'm going to do another journal for it. If you liked this and would like me to make a second in-character journal, leave me a comment either here or on Facebook and I'll very likely do it. If not, no biggie. Thanks for reading! 

404: Day Three

---Day Three--- 

I've taken to transporting the lava around my base and depositing into little dug-outs. The light it sheds is wonderful and soothing. It's like my cave is littered with some sort of lamps made of lava. Using my new technique, I've been able to explore around my base a while. I'm getting more and more brave as time goes on.
What's that sound?

---

Ohgodohgodohgodohgod.

---
Ok, everything's fine. The creeper's explosion took out my garden, but I had enough seeds stored away in my chest that I was able to re-plant everything. I had to use almost all the bone meal I'd collected to rapidly regrow them so that I could make enough bread to heal myself, so I'm going to need some more bones here soon- WHAT IN THE---

---

No more! I put a lava lamp in the hallway leading to my cactus trap, so hopefully nothing else will crawl from the darkness and into my humble home again. At least I have plenty of bones now thanks to the amazing skeleton bros. who decided to follow the creeper's example and try to take me out. I'm too wily, you see!

---

Perhaps I'm getting to gutsy. Perhaps this cave doesn't like my confidence. Perhaps the creepers can smell it.

So I found a tunnel around the back side of my home that lead to a huge pile of gravel. I was humbly shoveling through it, searching for some flint to make arrows, when the whole stack shifted and revealed another section of the cave above.

I used the landscape to my advantage and climbed up the gravel to peek out from beneath the rock. I was able to kill a couple skeletons and a few zombies without an issue.

Then the creepers came.

The first one wasn't a problem. I dispatched him as easily as the other monsters. The second one was on to my tricks, however. He jumped up on top of the stone above my head and detonated himself! I thought I was dead. My vision went white and blue, and I seriously thought I'd gone to Heaven. Eventually, I was able to come to my senses and saw the gaping hole the explosion left.

After I plugged it back up, I took inventory of my limbs. I was surprised to find that the explosion hadn't hit me at all. I was perfectly fine.

I took my new outlook on life and cowered in the corner, sobbing myself to sleep. I woke up some time ago. I'm no longer the blubbering, useless pile of terror I was when I fell asleep, but I'm definitely never, never going back out there.

Ever.

---

So I was outside my base, building up my defenses with another cactus trap when I heard some spiders through the wall. I think there's some running water up there, too. Tomorrow, I'm going to break through and get myself a fresh water source!

Score so far:

Zombie kills: 13 = 6.5pt
Spider kills: 6 = 6pt
Skeleton kills: 6 = 6pts
Creeper kills: 5 = 10
Pumpkins harvested: 3 =2pts
Jack-o-Lantern get! = 2pts
Bread get!: = 4pts
Iron Block get!: = 2pts



Total: 40.5pts

404: Day Two

---Day Two---

Just finished expanding my tree hole. I'm near total exhaustion, but I finished, and this time it seemed to work! I grew a tree and was able to cut it down without any of the leaves getting caught in any nearby lava!

 I'm feeling a bit more confident today ('day' being a relative term. It's impossible to tell time down here. The one day I forget my watch, sheesh). Yesterday, I managed to kill a giant spider and got some string from it. I think that if I can collect enough string from these beasts, I may be able to fashion a bow. The stupid skeletons give new meaning to the phrase 'I'll take it to my grave' with those bows of theirs - they seem to fall apart into dust when I kill one!

I have collected some of their arrows, though. They seem to be made from ordinary sticks (easy to make, thanks to my insta-tree formula), flint, and the feathers that the zombies inexplicably seem to be carrying. I've already collected some feathers, and flint should be pretty easy to find in any ordinary gravel pile. Look out, monsters, I'm coming for you!


---


I don't know what science has wrought, but I had a run-in with what could possibly be the most dangerous creature ever known. These horrid little green guys walk on four legs, but stand as tall as you or me. The move silently, creeping around the dark. I'd seen glimpses of them through the shadows before, but never had the displeasure of meeting one up-close. Until now.

You see, these things have but one method of fighting: they explode. That's right, these phallic monstrosities defend themselves by self-destructing and taking out anything and everything nearby.

I had opened a hole in the ceiling just outside my hidey-hole and saw two giant spiders. The eight-legged freaks are too big to fit into such a small opening, so I took the opportunity to stick my sword out and gut the bastards as they were jumping up and down, trying to get to me.

I had just killed one and collected my string when I saw a flash of green and heard a terrible hiss. I had barely enough time to back off when KABOOM! The little hole I had created expanded to a gaping crater leading up to a massive chamber. I'm lucky to have survived with little more than a bruised ass. I grabbed the string left by the other spider and ran back to safety.

The worst thing is that this cave is filled with those creeps.


---


I made my bow!


---


Having shaken off the adrenalin rush from my brush with death, I felt the need to secure the spider-hole. After a bit of work, I closed it back up and blocked off a few of the tunnels leading out into the darkness. I ended up even going so far as crafting a makeshift door out of wood.

But while I was out, exploring and renovating the outside of my cave, I spotted a skeleton inside. The bastard was hopping around next to my workbench, taunting me through the window. "Ha ha! The tables have turned!" it seemed to say, then proceeded to trample my crops! All fear left my body as a flood of rage cascaded in. I ran inside as quickly as I could and slew the beast. Fortunately, none of my wheat had been damaged.

After I calmed down, the fear returned like a dark curtain, clouding everything sane and rational. My home had been infiltrated.

Suddenly, I could hear them again; all the creaking, moaning, and yes, hissing. Monsters splashing around in the water outside, monsters crying out in the lava above and below, unspeakable horrors clawing at the walls. I panicked. I knew that the darkness brought the monsters. I knew that the jack-o-lanterns and the small pools of lava just wasn't enough. I needed more light. Had to have light. And so, a crazy plan hatched in my distraught mind: make a bucket. Move the lava.

I see now how crazy of an idea that is, but you know what's even crazier? It worked. I made myself a bucket (I don't remember entirely where I got the iron, but now there's a suspicious hole near my cactus trap...) and started toting around the lava like it was water from a well. I dug little holes here and there and filled them with the hot magma.

I'm not sure how or why it worked. The very idea of moving hot lava in a metal pail sounds ludicrous, but it worked, and now I feel safe.


---End of Day Two---

Score so far:

Zombie kills: 8 = 4pt
Spider kills: 3 = 3pt
Skeleton kills: 4 = 4pts
Pumpkins harvested: 3 =2pts
Jack-o-Lantern get! = 2pts
Bread get!: = 4pts


Total: 19pts

Friday, April 15, 2011

404: Day One

---Day One---

There are noises everywhere. I can hear them in the walls, in the ceiling, even under the floor. Groaning, creaking, hissing... constantly, echoing everywhere. I know they're there, in the darkness. Moving, shuffling, swimming... I've walled myself in. There's very little light, and it's very hot, but I think I'll be safe... for now. I was lucky enough to survive the fall... barely, and I can't sit here forever, though. I only have limited supplies. All that I had with me from the surface is already dwindling... I've made a crude farm with the seeds I picked, and fortune smiled on me that some water is flowing just on the other side of my wall - my saving grace - to keep the soil moist. Hopefully the wheat will grow, and then I can have bread.

It was one hell of a drop. I was having a pretty good day too. I had even stumbled upon a small group of pumpkins! I carved them up and put some candles in them to make some quick jack-o-lanterns. That's proving to be one of the best things I could have done, because without them, I would only have the faint light of the nearby lava to see by. Not that there's a lack of that of course, but the lava scares me almost as much as the clanking of bones that even now won't cease! Argh! It's driving me crazy! And those monster's even carry bows and arrows! I had to remove a few from my backside upon walling myself in! Too bad the arrows were to badly damaged to used again, they would have come in handy.

If I ever get out of here alive, the first thing I'm going to do is wall up that cursed sink-hole that brought me into this hell! Fill it in with rock and dirt! Never again will it take someone to these cursed depths! Not that that's very likely, though. I was pretty well removed from anything resembling civilization when I fell. Of course, all that means now is... oh god...  no chance of rescue... Heaven help me.


---


I used some cacti and sand that I had gathered to set a trap! I realized that some of the monsters were getting caught in the current of water and ending up pushing right against my wall. I dug a little around to direct the current, planted my cacti on either side, then blocked off all but a small bit at the bottom so that they can't get in! They still try, of course. These creatures aren't smart. They get caught in the water and then die on my cacti! Best yet, when they die, things they were holding - or sometimes parts of them - get sucked under the rock and right to me!

I was able to make some bonemeal out of bones the skeletons drop. I also happen to know that bonemeal makes for great fertilizer. Long-story-short, I now have plenty of bread! I have some saplings with me too. I don't know if it'll work, but if I can hollow out enough space, I may even be able to grow a tree. If so, then my supplies may not be as limited as I thought!


---


Score! I was expanding my cactus-trap a bit and I found some iron, then some diamond! Using some coal I found a bit ago, I was able to smelt the iron in my stone furnace and then fashion an iron sword and an iron pick axe. With said pick, I mined away at that diamond and recovered enough for some new boots. They're a bit too flashy and uncomfortable for my tastes, but they're a hell of a lot better than my old beat-up leather boots. Every bit of protection helps!


---

Ran into a snag. A big one. But then, aren't they all? While digging out a big enough space to plant my tree in, I discovered that my hidey-hole takes residence directly below a lake of lava (that explains this damned heat...). Fortunately, due to my quick wits and handy cobble, I was able to block off the lava flow without getting burned up. When I tried to mine down, I broke into not one, but two more lava lakes on either side! Argh! Why do the gods of fate despise me so!


---


OK. Ok. I'm done. It was a lot of work, risky as all get out, and I even singed my shirt a bit, but I'm done. I blocked off all of the lava flow (walled 'em up good!) and finished my pit. Now, for my first attempt at a tree...


---


Ok. The fire is out. *sigh* back to the drawing board.


--- End of Day One ---

Score so far:

Zombie kills: 2 (at half a point each) = 1pt
Spider kills: 1 = 1pt
Pumpkins harvested: 3 =2pts
Jack-o-Lantern get!: 2pts
Bread get!: 4pts


Total: 10pts

Minecraft 404 Challenge

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Thoughts: Pokemon Black and White

If you know me, you know that I'm positively obsessed with the core Pokemon games (core meaning the RPG-style color-named games, I've never gotten into any of the spin-off games such as the Mystery Dungeon or the Ranger games). I've put more hours into Pokemon Diamond than Fallout 3. I've got more fan art saved on my computer than any other anime/video game source combined.

For those of you who didn't know that (you're reading this, seriously?) you may scoff at the fact that Pokemon is so big to me. To you I say; grow up.

Not only do the Pokemon games appeal to a collector's nature using colorful, creative, and a seemingly ever-expanding list of creatures to capture, but it also appeals to a strategist's nature. I'm not comparing Pokemon to chess or Civilization Revolution or anything, but anybody who play's Pokemon competitively will know exactly what I'm talking about.

Pokemon Black and White versions (as of this time, I've beaten them both) are exactly what we've come to expect: pick a starter (grass, water, fire) and set off on an adventure to capture hundreds of dangerous animals and stuff them in little balls and then stuff those into a computer, never to see the light of day again until you need to breed the little bastards over and over again until you get that perfect addition to your team.

HOWEVER!

They changed some things up in this generation, for better or worse.

First, let's talk about some of the Poke's that appear. All 150 Pokemon that appear in the games are brand new. No more geodude or zubat to drive you nuts in this iteration, oh no! Now, we get such charming annoyances such as woobat:

and patrat (AKA: hypnosquirrel)
 
So, expect to be tired of these guys really quickly.


Like the rest of the games, this one features the good:
the bad:

and the ugly:





This generation however, seemed to be more pronounced in those categories than we're used to. Normally, I can look at a bad-looking Pokemon and think "Okay, maybe it would be neat to train up if done correctly", or "maybe if you squint...". This time though, we get some wonderful gems like Derpfish up there. I hate that thing. Bad.

Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, we get some sweet Mon's like Heydreigon (the King Ghidorah thing up there) or Haxorus:



Yes. That's an axe for a FACE.

At this point, I've trained up two teams to level 80 and I'm already piecing together a third team in my head.

I won't even get into the huge Smugleaf vs. Wotter debacle the internet exploded into after the starters were revealed last year. Here's a hint, though:
Imagine that the pig is a greater-than sign.


Now to start nit-picking! I have some minor complaints/compliments for the game.

PRO! HM moves are NOT required to get through the game! The HMs still exist, but they're mostly used as a method to get to special items and areas, and sometimes to create a shortcut. Strength boulders stay where they were moved, cutable trees are kept to a minimum, dive is used to get to a secret area, and there isn't a smashable rock anywhere in sight!

CON! The world map is boring. Don't get me wrong, sometimes simpler is better. Generation IV had a huge complex maze-like mess of routs and cities that was split in half by pain-in-the-ass mountain. But it was interesting. Generation V has a circle. Whoooo. I found myself caring a lot less for the world in B&W than I did any other generation. Kanto was classic. Johto was scenic. Hoenn was tropical. Sinnoh was mountainous and complex. Unova is... full of bridges? I don't miss the HM obstacles from past games, but they at least added some puzzel-ey complexity and character to the routs. In Unova, I found most in-betweens to be pretty dull.

PRO! TMs are reusable. Gone are the days where I save every TM like a paranoid pack-rat for fear that I would eventually train up a team and need that one move to make it perfect.

CON! FAR too much NPC involvement. What happened to the "You're 10 now! Off you go into the world to fend for yourself and do the professor's job!" mentality of the old? Now, you can't take ten steps without an NPC running up to you to tell you about how strength isn't the most important thing or that Team Plasma is bad.

PRO! The story was... interesting? I hesitate to call it good because, let's face it. It's Pokemon. But still, the storyline was a refreshing change from the cookie-cutter style of the previous games, and it actually had somewhat of a twist!

In all, I enjoyed the games (and will continue to enjoy them) for the most part, but I will miss the older regions I spent most of my DS's life in. Besides, what other game has the fighting/steel legendary I dubbed 'Pony Stark':

It's funny because he's ridiculous!


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A little about Zolo: HFN Samurai

I decided that I would talk about the HFN members as I was telling the story of 109. I'm going to start with Zolo because, (spoiler alert?) she was the first HFN character I had 109 'investigate'. The method that I finally developed for my RP is that each story arc would revolve around - or at least visit in some form - each HFN character, going in no particular order.

Zolo was created by our youngest friend, Gigi. From what I understand, Zolo was a character she had created before she officially started RPing, and when we brought her in, I gave her the same criteria I gave everybody else: create whoever (or whatever) you want. Gigi decided to port over her pre-made character.

Zolo's back story was originally written that she was from Earth, although I never decided if this was cannon. The only other member in our group to have been from Earth was Lucky, and his background was fairly ambiguous. I eventually decided that in the HFN universe, Earth was a veeeeery far away planet. So, having two characters from the same distant planet seemed pretty unlikely to me (it's unrealistic to have two characters originate from Earth, but having a half-vampire, half-werewolf is totally a-okay). I did have other reasons though. The fun thing about being a storyteller is that if someone's back story or history clashes with the story itself, you have the power to change it. :)

Gigi wrote that Zolo was living in a dojo with a slew of other samurai children when their dojo was attacked by a dark and mysterious enemy. All of her peers were killed in the attack and she escaped into space. Now, the other reason I had to change it up a bit was due to the fact that I decided the whole "gifted" thing mid-story. When I did so, I required that each character have an explanation for their gifts. When it came to Zolo, we (Gigi and I) kind of drew a blank.

To explain: Zolo's gifts are pretty interesting. One: she cannot feel any pain (or much of anything, for that matter). Two: she's ridiculously skilled with bladed weapons. Her later weapon of choice ended up being an unrealistically long sword (it's FINE, as long as she's not from Earth!). Three: she has poisonous blood and is immune to poison. (seriously, could you imagine the probability of two human-like characters being from Earth? It's absurd!) Four: she has a strange affinity to animals of all sorts. In our defense, you try explaining that gift set in one backstory.

Anyway, it was eventually revealed that the mysterious attacker that assaulted Zolo's dojo was a particularly sinister branch of the Revolution. This gave her a reason to be out and about in space and to join HFN - to exact revenge.

Unfortunately, Zolo never saw the conclusion of her own story arc in-game. Even though the Revolution was defeated, the branch that had done her so much wrong has split from the main well before the war's conclusion. When my wife and I moved and the HFN story was put on indefinite hold, I had been in the progress of combing through and ending each character's respective story. We simply never got to Zolo.

Now, this will be some spoilers for everybody (including HFN members), but as it turned out, I had come up with an explanation for Zolo's powers after all!

**Official HFN Spoilers**

I mentioned Willard Hamm in a previous post, but didn't go into any detail (and I won't here, that will be another day). What you do need to know is that Hamm dedicated his life to the creation of gifted - for better or for worse. He was not a nice man and didn't have many morals. He wasn't above kidnapping and experimenting on all sorts of living organisms. Bringing Zolo into an ever-expanding club, she had once been a project of Hamm's. The whole life she remembered was fabricated by the evil scientist, up to, and possibly even including, the Revolution's involvement in her life.

**End Spoilers**

Now, let's skip a bit. In 109's time, Zolo is long gone, but her legacy lives on. Because I never decided what HFN's official fate was during the war (or even if they were a part of it at all), I wanted to leave things as ambiguous as possible, so any history about HFN in 109 is completely legend; it could be the truth, and there's probably some truth to it, but it could just as easily be completely wrong.

This is the legend told to 109 (as told by Byra Sturge):

When the war broke out, HFN fought. Of course, we all know that it was a war the gifted couldn't possibly win, so naturally HFN eventually fell. When Turel, HFN's face leader, was killed, HFN crumbled. Having realized that the war was a lost-cause, Zolo retired to a distant planet. The planet was fairly primitive and didn't have space travel, nor did they know the existence of the gifted. As such, Zolo was regarded as a god.

She lived the rest of her life as an idol. Her people constructed a massive temple for her, and obeyed her every command. She had her followers collect and bring to her thousands of animals from around their world, where she kept them (all of them) as pets in her temple.

Of course, the Alon were still searching for her, and eventually found her. The people of her planet saw them as alien intruders, here to kill their god. Of course, they were no match for the advanced technology of the Alon and were nearly wiped out. Then, Zolo's animal pets rose up to defend her. The sheer number and power of the creatures was enough to drive the Alon back permanently.

When Zolo finally died of old age, her people constructed a massive tomb. For the next hundred years, animals of all sorts and sizes would flock to her grave at the end of their lives and die surrounding her. Eventually, the people of the planet had the technology to bring her tomb where they thought it belonged: in the heavens. They constructed a massive floating island around her and the thousands of animal bones that littered the land.

As you now know, that floating island was called Lud.

Zolo's people continued to worship her, eventually developing the ability to harness the spirits of the animals that Zolo loved so much. Truly gifted members of the people could even summon these spirits, imbuing their energy upon their own skin in the form of magnificent tattoos.

Byra is a very curious and adventurous girl, fascinated by the history of her people, so naturally, she wanted to see the resting place of the god they worshiped.


---


Wow, that was longer than I expected. Oh well, a long lunch break for me today~!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lud: Part One

After some part-time jobs and chores, 109 earned enough money to board the floating city of Lud. They crossed a small wooden bridge onto the loading platform. The landing plaza of Lud was a large, open stretch of cobblestone where many local vendors had set up rows and rows of tourist trap stalls, selling all sorts of Lud-related memorabilia. The plaza was decorated with paper flags and streamers and banners stretched between branches proclaiming "Happy Departure Festival" and "Departure Day in 3 Days".

Having no more money, 109 ignored the stalls and proceeded into the streets of Lud, marveling at the tall buildings stretched before them and on either side of them. Suddenly, from a low-hanging branch, extended a small hand that snatched up Rad's hat from the top of his head. Above them, a small girl sat, holding the hat and wearing a huge, toothy grin. When rad reached up to take it back, the girl swiftly spun around and began dashing through the branches, moving not unlike a monkey. 109 gave chase on foot.

The girl led the heroes on a chase through the city, winding down streets and alleyways, but never going higher into the trees. Eventually, the girl came to the edge of the city proper. Here, the buildings weren't nearly as tall, and ended suddenly. Between the buildings and the edge of the island itself stretched a good half-mile grove of tall, uniform trees. The girl dropped out of the canopy and to the street in front of this grove, allowing 109 to finally catch up to her and giving Rad his hat back.

The girl led 109 into a nearby alley and into a doorway. Inside was a small, humble workshop filled with scrap metal and other assortments of junk. Behind the counter stood a very large and imposing man.

The girl's name is Gasha, and the man is Gog. As 109 later found out, Gasha and Gog are both chosen of the guardian lore. Gasha is the wood monkey and Gog is the metal cyborg (in more ways than one). Whenever I picture Gasha in my head, I think of a cross between Koala Su from the Love Hina graphic novel series and Ed from Cowboy Bebop. She is young - maybe no more than eight - and very innocent. Her skin is deeply tanned, and she wears short denim shorts with suspenders, and a loose white shirt, with no shoes. Her innocence is matched only by her enthusiasm and energy. Gasha is never fully happy until she is swinging and scampering through the trees. As such, she knows the city of Lud back and front better than anybody else.

Gog is nearly the polar opposite of Gasha. Though he is very gentle and kind, he is slow, steady and lethargic. Being a cyborg, his voice is a combination of a normal human voice and one that sounds like he is talking in a tin can, with a heavy German/Russian accent. He is very smart, and builds many great things with the scrap in his workshop, most impressively - maintaining his own half-mechanical body.

Gog acts as Gasha's guardian, sheltering her and protecting her. They care very deeply for each other; Gasha would do anything to make Gog happy (as Adriana found out) and Gog would do anything to protect Gasha - even to the point of severe self-sacrifice.

Gog told 109 that he found Gasha when she was very young, climbing through the trees aimlessly. He adopted her after he was unable to find her parents, and the two have been together ever since. Gog also explained to 109 that the Alon once attacked Lud, but left some of their technology. When he discovered the tech, he delved into it and discovered that the device he had found was used to track down a signal that apparently only gifted sent out. He was able to tweak the device to instead, block the signal, making Lud a safe-haven for gifted. Ever since, he has been too terrified to even touch the device, for fear that he would cause it to stop working. Since it is advanced Alon technology, even Gog is unable to fully understand it.

He also told 109 that a young man (Tenor) had stopped by to see him a week or so ago. The young man told Gog that 109 would be arriving on Lud before it's departure and that they were gifted too. For years, Gog had used his workshop to house gifted for the duration of the journey, and he planned on doing the same for 109. As repayment for his kindness, Gog only asked one thing of 109: to seek out as many gifted as they could on Lud and extend the invitation.

Almost immediately, 109 found Ruben.

Since they last saw Ruben, he had become even more creepy, going so far as to make a necklace out of random bones he had collected.

On Departure Day, 109 also discovered that Rafal had made it onto the island of Lud. They learned that Ruben and Rafal were also members of the chosen: Rafal being the poison scorpion and Ruben being the bone skeleton. Unfortunately, Rafal wasn't nearly as tame as Ruben, and he even somehow recruited Ruben to his cause: namely, causing 109 trouble. During Lud's grand fireworks display of the festival, 109 and the pair got into a fight that was only ended by Wade blowing up a nearby barrel of fireworks and scaring them away. Of course, it wouldn't be the last we saw them on Lud.


Over the course of the next month or so after Lud began it's journey, 109 began finding more friendly and cooperating gifted.

Byra Sturge is a spunky and eccentric woman covered in very intricate and colorful tattoos of various creatures, including a massive Asian-style dragon on her back. She is able to summon each of the tattoos in the physical form of the creature they represent. Byra was in search of some sort of hidden entrance on Lud that she believed would lead to a secret cavern within the island. She took up 109's offer to stay at Gog's.

Kintaro Roj is an awkward, office-man with a greater sense of justice. Kintaro has the standard super strength and super speed abilities, but most interestingly, he has the ability to see through any substance at any time - but he can't control it. One minute, he's seeing through clothes (leaves nothing to the imagination...) the next, he's seeing through sheer rock and steel. As such, he was able to witness many unscrupulous activities, driving him to don a lame costume and call himself the Seeker, fighting crime at night. 109 helped shape him up and make him a respectable hero. His sworn enemy is Hade Wahx. Due to his ability to see through varying degrees of substances, Kintaro can also occasionally identify other gifted by literally seeing their hidden gifts.

Hade Wahx is Kintaro's arch nemesis. He started as a petty thief, using his ability to phaze his body through any substance to steal valuables under lock and key. He ended up breaking out of jail every time Kintaro caught him (seriously, how would you keep someone who could walk through walls locked up?) and even gained a following of henchmen.

Jake and Corey are twin blond boys, perhaps twelve years of age. They are just like other young boys with active imaginations and adventurous and defiant attitudes. They both have the ability to control and manipulate water. 109 found them showing off their skills to a crowd of people at Lud's lake. In an effort to stop their public display of their powers, 109 agreed to have a water-gun fight with them. The twins took it way too seriously.

Jodi Welsh is a timid and mysterious widow, six months pregnant. She has the ability to control and create fire. 109 found her (with Kintaro's help) and helped her hide from her late husband's debt-collectors. Her husband's dying wish was that their son be born on Lud during the Golden Fall.

Hera Dire is a mysterious young woman with a questionable set of gifts. Like Rad, it's hard to tell if she's gifted at all, but she seems to have extraordinary luck when it comes to poker. Rad ended up dedicating his time to earning her enough money to bail her father out of his gambling debts.

Wade and Adriana started dating. Adriana taught Gasha the value of a dollar, and the greater value of a hug (dawww). Rad learned the value of trust. 109 found an old shack in the woods.  Bad men were beaten, good people saved, and many small adventures had.

Then Byra found the secret entrance she was searching for.


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 Lud played host to the most robust and varied collection of NPCs I've ever created. I came from a world of creating people like Bill Tunder (a boring apartment landlord from Hunter: the Splintering) to making people like Gog and Gasha. Never before have I had such a vivid mental picture of the characters I've created (except maybe for my own character's in other people's RPGs). Of course, it helped that I based most of the characters around a central idea and inspiration.

Gog, Gasha, Ruben and Rafal were created based off of the elements and spirit creatures I had to create (see http://godzilla3092adventures.blogspot.com/2011/02/little-about-guardians.htmlt). Byra is the descendant of Zolo from HFN (I'll get into that next time). Corey and Jake are (very loosely) based on two of my cousins when they were younger. Hera is essentially a female Rad. And Kintaro, Hade and Jodi are based off of inspiration I got from various songs I listened too during their creation.

When I first introduced many of these NPCs, it was for the sole purpose of killing off many of them in the final battle of Lud (I was kind of sadistic, I guess). During the course of Lud, though, I sort of fell in love with them, so that was changed pretty drastically by the end.

My Thoughts: Bulletstorm and Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Okay, so yesterday I beat Bulletstorm. all-in-all, I liked it. The story was... interesting, the dialogue was... interesting, the game play was... interesting. Okay, so it was an interesting game.

at first, I tried to play Bulletstorm like I play many games with achievement-like gimmicks (like actual X-Box 360 achievements so... every game, I guess) in that I was going to play all the way through it without looking at the list of skillshots. Then after completing the game, opening that list and taking a look at what I naturally got through the course of the game and then playing through again trying to get some of the specific skillshots.

For those of you who don't know, a 'skillshot' is a new game mechanic (or is it a feature?) that rates you on how creative your kills are. For example, a standard kill is awarded 10 points. If you happen to nail them in the head, you gain 25. If you leash an enemy forward, kick him into the air, and shotgun him into the mouth of a giant man-eating plant, you get 100 points. The game has some general skillshots , like killing an enemy after kicking him, or blowing up one with an environmental hazard, up to the extravagant, like using a flare gun to launch one enemy into an other and the resulting explosion killing both. All of these skillshots are tracked in your menu, allowing you to view how to perform the shot, and giving you the name after you perform it.

As I said, my initial approach was to play as I always do. I found myself becoming very frustrated and bored with the game very quickly this way. It wasn't until I actively started striving to get these shots that I started really enjoying the game. Working with your guns and attempting to get some of the more specific skillshots was very addicting and fulfilling. I did pine a bit for some more weapons (the game gives you around eight or so), but it was a minor complaint.

Some of the set pieces that Epic Games brought into the game really lived up to the developer's name. My favorite (for obvious reasons) involved controlling a robotic Godzilla-like monster with a remote (RIP Wimpleton P. Tallylicker).

The story wasn't very deep or enthralling and every major character seemed unusually reluctant to finally pull the trigger on any other major character (James Bond, much?) and the characters were pretty hypocritical. That isn't to say that the dialogue wasn't funny and entertaining (I didn't make up the name for the Dinozilla up there). The voice acting was surprisingly well done and the beginning of the game had humor on par with Brutal Legend. The gratuitous language used didn't bother me until the end when it really started to sound forced - the main antagonist couldn't say a single phrase without some sort of 'wacky' use of a swear being forced in.

I've been hearing some complaints about the length of the game, but it took me perhaps six to eight hours to beat, and with the dwindling length of first-person shooter campaigns anymore, that's nothing to gripe about. also, as I said, a lot of the 'epic' set pieces were very cool and exhilarating.

All-in-all, I'd have to say that if you had an interest in this game, pick it up, it's a fun ride. If not, then wait until the price drops some before trying it out.

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Now, MvC3. I'm terrible at fighting games. I tend to get very frustrated and irritated with them and in general, don't enjoy them. I'm going to take a pass on the new Mortal Kombat this spring, I've never played a Tekken or a Street Fighter, and Soul Calibur is somewhat of a stretch for me. I was drawn to MvC3 however, by it's pretty graphics and character selection.

So far, I'm happy with it. I'm still terrible (I've been known to get my ass handed to me by the computer set on 'Easy' from time to time), but I'm enjoying it.

My only real problem with it is the same that I have for most fighting games: it's a button masher. I understand that after a while, as you learn the combos and strings of attacks, that you could be unstoppable. My problem is that as a beginner, I resort to jamming on every button that gains me a positive reaction on screen. This is why sometimes I can do absolutely awesome, beating my opponents down before they have time to breathe. These moments actually trick me into believing that I know what I'm doing and - more importantly - can do it again. Then, the next match begins and I flail about wildly, usually taking several punches to the jaw, kicks to the ribs, and laser beams to the face.

It's still fun, though. Just don't expect to ever see me online playing it.