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.


 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 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.


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.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A little about the guardians...

When I told my players to write up character backgrounds for their original HFN characters, I was simply looking for a brief "this is how I got to where I am" sort of story. However, I always encourage creativity and details. Whenever I tell Sydtronic this, I always see a little gleam in his eye.

Syd really likes to be creative and loves to write stories. Whenever I tell him to write up a background for a character, it gives him an excuse to exercise that creative muscle. This was definitely the case with Kaze. This is the paraphrased story he gave me.


On the planet Canadanse, there is a legend of nine guardians. The guardians are powerful spirit animals, each tied to a different element. They protect the world of Canadanse and it's people. Every so often, the guardians take mortal form by imbuing their power in nine chosen people of the world.

These nine chosen gain the ability to mold and bend their respective elements to their will. In addition, they inherit their respective guardian's qualities and, in the most powerful cases, even gain the ability to shift their form into that of the spirit itself.

The chosen are usually born in order to serve a great purpose that the guardians wouldn't be able to handle in their spiritual forms. These purposes usually come in the form of protecting the Canadanse people from some great evil or oppression. Sometimes, it's to lead the people to a greater enlightenment or to advance their understanding of the guardians themselves. No matter what the reason, the appearance of the chosen is regarded as a very important time in their history.

The chosen are usually identified at a very young age and are taken from their homes and brought together at a temple on Mt. Kouseiyouso. There, they are trained and raised together under a set of ideals and morals by the monks of the temple. This ensures that the chosen will not only know how to harness their intense powers, but not to abuse them.

Of course, during the time of 109, things have changed with the oppression of the Alon. During their reign, the legendary chosen are considered nothing more than nine more cursed monsters ready to be unleashed on the innocent people of the galaxy (and they have good reason to believe such due to the events that transpired with them in HFN). Of course, even though times have changed, the legend sure hasn't, and the cycle of the guardians continues. Alon or no Alon.


Thanks to Silverain's initiative in making Adriana one of the chosen from Sydtronic's lore and not making her one of the nine elements that Syd had picked out (fire, water, earth, wind, lightning, ice, spirit, light, and dark), it left me with the challenge of coming up with eight more elements that didn't overlap with Syd's. The task was actually a lot of fun. I had to really stretch it in some cases, but overall, I'm happy with the results (even if I did have to get a little abstract with a couple). So far, my players know of maybe half of these elements, but I'm very excited to get to them.

Oh, Syd, if I screwed up on any of the lore, please let me know.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lud: Floating Island of Wonder

Before I begin, it has come to my attention that when I post a link to this blog, it only links to that specific post and does not display any of the others (I'm still pretty new to this social network intranets thing). So, before continuing on, I highly recommend that you read the previous blogs. My bad!

I've started to build a sort of pattern already. so far, every other post is about 109 and the in-between posts are about the HF Universe in general. I think I'm going to continue this trend for a while until I catch up with 109. After all, once that happens I'll only be able to update 109 every week or so. You probably could have figured all that out on your own! Oops!


Allow me to explain Lud. Lud is a city built atop a huge floating island. As a fantasy floating island, Lud  is massive; maybe a couple miles in diameter. As a city in general, that's a pretty small surface area to fill, so the builders of Lud went up. Almost all of Lud's buildings are skyscrapers, some of the tallest being fifty stories or so. Despite this, metal is not a common building component here. All of the buildings are made mostly of stone and dirt. In fact, the presence of trees growing out of the walls - even at staggering heights - suggests that the buildings are either natural, or created by some divine creator (who could that have been?).

Lud is a perfect example of nature and civilization living in harmony. The streets aren't paved, but made of cobblestone. Trees grow everywhere on Lud. They grow low to the ground, out of sheer cliff faces - which in Lud, there are many - and, as mentioned earlier, even out of the sides of the buildings. In addition to the wonderful city, Lud is home to a small, but lush forest and even a clean, sparkling lake.

The most magnificent thing about Lud is, perhaps, the fact that the island floats hundreds of feet above a stretch of forest leading down several miles to the ocean. Every year, Lud seemingly naturally 'floats' away from the cliff and towards the water. It travels over the ocean, eventually ending up next to a cliff on the next continent. The journey takes several months, and then travels back at the same time the following year. Lud's journey begins in the beginning of the summer and ends at the end of winter.

The wonder and beauty of the island draws in many tourists from across the galaxy every year. As such, the residents host a handful of festivals during the journey. The most famous of these is the Golden Fall. When Lud enters fall, every leaf on every tree on the island turns yellow before they fall off for winter. When the sun hits these billions of leaves, the filtered light appears to glow with a golden shine. The sight is truly breathtaking.

Built on the cliffs that serve as Lud's starting and ending points are a pair of small towns. The towns are home to dozens of inns, shops, taverns and other tourist traps. And it is at one of these towns that 109 found themselves in only days before Lud's departure...


At the time I was creating Lud, I was reading Stephen King's Dark Tower series. As such, I was heavily inspired by it. Lud is, of course, directly named after the city of Lud in his third book in the series. Although, I like to pronounce my Lud as 'lude', so I guess I should technically have some sort of accent above the 'u'... but I'm not entirely sure (if anybody knows, feel free to correct me!)

Anyway, you can ask any of my players, but in my storytelling experience to date, I am most proud of Lud as an environment. Never before have I developed such a rich and vivid setting (at least, in my mind). Of course, it wasn't nearly as detailed and full as it probably could have been, but I guess that leaves room for improvement in the future.

My players were on Lud for almost two out-of-game-years, and during that time I sort of fell in love with the island. To me, it is just as much a character as any of my NPCs. As of the time of writing this, 109 has just barely left Lud (perhaps permanently) and I must admit, I already miss it. I'm not sure if any of my players feel the same, but I know that I will always have a special place for Lud in my memory banks.

See ya next time!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A little about the Alon...

The Alon are easily my favorite thing about the HF universe. Perhaps because, as the storyteller, I'm the one in control of them, or because the very idea of them interests me. In reality, it's probably a combination of many things, but there's nothing I love more than to talk about them.

To me, the Alon are not only a very interesting subject of conversation, but the most terrifying thing imaginable for the gifted, and therefore, the players. The Alon are not only a constant antagonist for them, but a deadly effective one at that. In addition, they're not considered to be the bad guys by society at large (of course, that depends on what point in the time-line you're looking at). Probably worst of all; the Alon are successful. Their presence has not only persisted, but dominated since the days of HFN all the way down to 109 with little wavering.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I think I'll start with how the Alon began...


It all began with one man named John Marcus Alon. John had a fantasy of striking it rich easily and quickly and living out the rest of his life in luxury. That fantasy was just that until the day that John met a scientist down on his luck. The scientist, named Willard Hamm (who's name is arguably more infamous to my players than the Alon, but we'll get into that some other time) had had his funding on his life's work cut. After the two brilliant men got to talking, John's fantasy became a very real possibility. You see, John wasn't evil, but he was cunning and charismatic. Joined with the mind of Hamm, he was able to launch his dream into reality.

The first thing he did was find five other influential and able people (but not intelligent, mind you). He gathered them all and ranked them with numbered titles, himself being One, Hamm being Two and so on. Using the titles as aliases, the seven started a mass recruitment. They called themselves the Revolution and brought on hundreds of thousands of weak-minded and lost teenagers. Seven (as they called themselves) told these masses that they were forming a revolutionary army to overthrow the corrupt and sinful governments of the galaxy.

The Revolution, at its core, was little more than a mix of a pyramid scheme and a cult wearing the face of an unstoppable army. The recruits would forfeit everything they own upon joining and would then be brainwashed by Hamm into thinking that they had undergone intense training for three years. They were then split up and assigned different positions under each of Seven. These 'teams' had specific jobs and duties within the Revolution. The most blunt of their activities involved raiding portions of planets for their resources and even resorting to pirating. Some of the money all these endeavors was divided amongst Seven and spent on furthering the Revolution's technology and supplies. Most of it however, went straight into John's pocket.

During the main duration of the Revolution's existence, John was living peacefully in luxury far away from his army.

It was during one of the Revolution's mining raids that HFN became involved in a classic case of 'wrong time, wrong place'. When HFN became aware of the Revolution's 'goals', they took it upon themselves to stop the army. Considering the extreme lack of skill and competency within the Revolution, HFN was able to carve their way to each of John's generals and one-by-one take them out. When John's income started rapidly drying up, he naturally investigated. What he discovered shook him to the core.

Being a greedy and unscrupulous, but not an evil man, John saw a group of horrible and unstoppable monsters cutting through hundreds and thousands of lives like butter. He then looked at the rest of Seven and saw that they had become monsters as well, and worst of all, Hamm seemed to be creating these demons.

Wrought with fear and rage, John acted quickly. He immediately cut all ties to the Revolution. He sold off the entirety of his luxuries and all of the shoddy Revolution equipment, ships, and weapons as he could and went into hiding.

When the smoke cleared, the Revolution was no more.

Over the course of the next several years, John began recruiting a real - if small - army. He used every ounce of money he had leftover from the Revolution to outfit his rag-tag group with proper equipment and training. Then, when he was ready, he struck.

John's return took HFN by surprise, launching a second war. Unfortunately, it still wasn't enough and HFN emerged victorious, finally killing John once and for all.

But of course, that isn't the end. The remainder of his army (still calling themselves the Revolution) broke away from a military standpoint and went into a political movement. They moved slowly, but surely. It started with protest groups, raising awareness of the gifted (and coining the term ' cursed'). Over years, they gained support and finances on dozens of planets, constantly growing. They eventually had the money and resources to begin 'rehabilitation clinics' in which they took willing gifted in to scientifically and psychologically purge them of their gifts. These clinics weren't always successful, but they did work half of the time. During this process, the Revolution kept logs and information on the various gifts and abilities they saw.

Of course, the Revolution wasn't the only group working against the gifted. Less-reputable and chaotic gifted didn't do their kind any favors. Whether for personal gain, acts of revenge, good deeds gone awry, or simply unable to control their powers, more and more people began to see the gifted through the Revolution's eyes: as cursed monsters and demons - walking time bombs waiting to go off. Eventually, the Revolution gained enough pull to form law-enforcement-type groups on many planets. These groups started as peacekeepers, but rapidly evolved into forcing unwilling gifted to undergo 'treatment'. Of course, they were met with resistance.

Then, the inevitable finally happened. A group of Revolution peacekeepers got into a fight with a particularly unlucky gifted. The fight rocketed out of control, leaving hundreds of innocents killed. It was the last straw. The Revolution took the opportunity to finally come forward with the history of their group and it's founder. They changed their name to the Alon in honor of him and plead to the governments of the galaxy to allow them to take up a military stance against the gifted.

Almost all of these governments agreed.

What followed amounts to little more than genocide. The Alon used the information that they had gathered on the gifted to create weaponry specially designed to combat the intense and unbelievable powers of the gifted. The Alon continued to allow willing gifted to receive treatment - a truly traumatic experience for many - the unwilling were hunted down and either forced to undergo treatment and testing, or more commonly, killed.

The gifted fought a hopeless battle. They were unorganized, with conflicting goals and motivations, while the Alon were organized and united under a single cause. The more the gifted fought, the worse the battle became as more and more innocent people took side with the Alon with each bloody clash. The Alon continued to gain support, money, resources, and knowledge about the gifted, making them an unstoppable and unrelenting force.

The Alon have never stopped their hunt.


To me, what makes the Alon so scary is the fact that they are successful. They hunt down and find gifted. They cure those who can be cured and those that can't are killed or worse. The Alon's technology allows a dozen soldiers to stand toe-to-toe against a gifted who could easily slaughter a hundred men with a snap of a finger. The Alon are a very real and very dangerous threat to the gifted, and almost idolized by everybody else.

There is so much to say about the Alon, but this post has gone on long enough. I'll pick up again some other day. Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 18, 2011

109 Begins

Our story begins well after the characters of 109 arrived at school. all three of them found things to be very different from what they were used to. Adriana of course, had to get used to the idea of living in civility among people - not an idea that came easy to her. Even after she was given everything she needed - roof above her head, warm bed each night, plenty of food - she continued to steal, pick-pocket and use 'shady' (pun totally intended haha) techniques to get whatever else she wanted. Wade was inexplicably idolized among his peers. Used to being the whipping boy back home, this change simply frightened him even more - sure that they were trying to lull him into a false sense of security. Rad, in contrast, became the school's resident nerd (I mean, "Rad"? Really? He was practically begging for it) and ridiculed and picked-on constantly. In response, Rad became a loner, putting on the 'it doesn't bug me' face. This went on for quite some time, leaving all three to be outcasts in their own way.

Until Tenor came along.

Tenor was another gifted at the school. The thing about Tenor was that he loved history - more specifically, his heritage. You see, Tenor somehow found out that he is somehow related to the once-legendary Happy Force Nine. What's more, he discovered that at least three other students in that very school are all related to HFN. (Shocking coincidence, I know.) Tenor gathered up our three heroes and created a club of sorts. He named the club after the room number they were able to use: Room 109. (Yes. That's where the name came from. Sue me.)

Tenor explained all he knew about HFN and the connections Adriana, Rad and Wade had with them. He didn't know many of the details (how could he?) but he knew enough; such as HFN's relative gifts, why they were great (banding together to defeat the evil army: The Revolution) and which three Adi, Rad and Wade were descendants of. In fact, it seemed that the one big detail he didn't quite know was who exactly he descended from, which only fueled his drive to learn more about them.

In one of our first sessions, Tenor led 109 to an old abandoned castle in the woods that was supposed to house a broken-down relic from HFN: the Wolfen Gun that started HFN's campaign against the Revolution! After several challenging trials and obstacles, they claimed the prize. Tenor decided that since the gun used to belong to Lucky, that Rad was the rightful owner. They were even lucky enough to discover that the gun had a built-in AI! Of course the AI - as with the gun - were still incomplete and missing parts, so the AI couldn't shed any light on it's own history. It did however learn that it hates it's new master! Whee!

During the course of several more sessions (mostly hum-drum) of school life, I introduced the short-term/long-term antagonists of the story:

Rafal: a sickly and filthy kid with messy, grimy green hair and a bad cough who seemed to be able to control poisons and disease who (for some reason) really wanted to fight Adriana.

Nolwhen: A beautiful, popular cheer-leader type with massive angelic wings who wasn't afraid to stand out from the crowd to pick on Wade.

Renato: A suave, smooth-talker who is pretty much Rad's better in every social aspect, and loves to rub Rad's face in it. (the group likes to think of him as the mafia don of the 109 universe).

109 had a few, minor scuffles with these three, amounting to not much more that schoolyard bullying.

Finally, after setting the scene and building the atmosphere of the school, I destroyed it. On the day in question, 109 went to the club room after school (like they always do) only to find Tenor missing and all of his notes and papers destroyed. Before they could even begin to investigate, an explosion threw them out the window and into the school's courtyard. A bright light shone down on them from the heavens, and they blacked out.

When they came to, they were trapped in a high-tech cage made of some sort of force-field, dangling high above the floor of some massive steel room. Trapped with them were other students of the school. Above them, the cage moved along a track, surrounded by hundreds just like it. The students had been abducted and were now being shuttled around by the mass.

One of the other students in their cage was able to use his abilities to knock it down and free 109. They had an exciting escape that ended in another explosion.

The next several sessions were jaded and confusing. After the explosion, 109 awoke on a strange planet in the middle of a thick fog that seemed to play with their minds. They gained no coherent information or clues in the strange visions they saw. In fact, the only things they did gain were some useful items: translator chips that they swallowed and could suddenly speak and understand alien languages, and a bag that once belonged to an old lady that has an infinite amount of space and can seemingly generate objects at will (it's my unused tool to set them on the right track if needed).

After some more planet-hopping and strange adventures, they wound up on a small planet with an unusually large, blue moon. On the planet, they met a very friendly hotel owner who took them in and explained much to them. The aliens who abducted them were known as the Alon: an enormous faction of aliens from across the galaxy with the single goal of protecting it from the 'cursed'.

109 also met a new NPC by the name of Ruben. Ruben is an extremely thin and tall boy who talks and acts extremely detached and lethargic. To their horror, they also discovered that Ruben had a very unhealthy fascination with bones (he stripped a dead bird down to it's skeleton in seconds right before their eyes).

Before long, the hotel manager shuttled 109 onto an outbound cargo ship. Unfortunately for them, the pilot suffered a heart-attack in mid flight. 109 crash-landed on yet another nameless planet. There, 109 met the Hollest: a primitive race living off the land. Our heroes made their home here for several months, learning many of the Hollest's ways before yet another Alon attack drove them off the planet yet again - this time aboard a hijacked Alon vessel.

When it inevitably crashed, they tried to find another home-away-from-home. After exploring a massive plastic castle ruled by a living doll, and encountering a giant clay golem in the woods, they finally arrived at the setting for the bulk of 109's story so far: the floating city of Lud.


Sorry for the jaded and rushed explanation on all that. I honestly don't remember a whole lot of details and events from those sessions, and I admittedly didn't care for any of them (although, I love Ruben). A few of the places they visited may come back into play in the future, but I haven't decided yet. I mostly wanted to breeze over those recaps anyway, since they fall into the "Zilla doesn't know what the hell he's doing" category. Once I got everybody on Lud, things started to fall into place and I suddenly had a concrete story to create. Everything before was mostly to get my players used to their characters and the constant threat of the Alon.

I guess I'm just not good at beginnings, but once I get that ball rolling, I'm able to make things happen. I won't say it's easy. Far from it. In fact, there are still many times where I still get a bit of stage-fright and anxiety from running these. It sounds so stupid, considering I'm doing this with my friends who have already seen me at my best and worst, but it still happens from time-to-time.

Anyway, next time I'm going to explain more about the Alon and why they are so important to the Happy Force universe.

A little about the gifted...

In the Happy Force universe, the gifted  - or cursed, depending on whose point of view you look at them with - are defined as anybody who has extraordinary abilities not normally possessed by the species. This covers the gambit from super-strength to shooting spikes out of your elbows.

There are three major groups of gifted: overt, covert, and invisible:

Overt are the kinds of gifted that cannot easily hide their abilities. Mutations, wings, physically built-in weapons (I hesitate to call them natural) etc. In 109, Wade falls into this category. He has to wear a huge gauntlet over his arm and wear special clothing in order to hide the demon and his wings. examples of this type of gifted in HFN are Alex, Willard Hamm, and later versions of Trio (or Tres, if you prefer).

Covert types are those whose abilities are hidden until used. Elementals tend to fall under this category. Adriana is our Covert 109 member. She looks relatively normal until she starts popping in and out of shadows like they were doorways. Other examples (from HFN) include Kaze (early Kaze, that is), Ne' Sonya, early Trio, Aiden, Turel, Zolo... heck, just most of HFN.

Invisible types are the hardest to define and identify. These are the kinds that are gifted in game-terms (they have gifts on their character sheets) but the gifts are impossible to directly identify, even while they're in use. Augmented gifted also fall under this category (as augmented gifted are made so by a special object or tool that can be removed from them). These tend to be social or luck-based gifts. Rad, being based almost entirely off of luck, is our 109 rep. the other half of his gift set centers around his gun, giving him an augment. Lucky and Jeanie are our invisible gifted from HFN.

After those three groups, the branches of the gifted tree become very numerous: we have elementals, augmented, psychic, social, healing, mutations, transformations, etc. etc. There is room for error, of course. In order to define a gifted with super strength, one would have to look at the record of strength for that species and then have a margin for error. Therefore, the world's fastest man or the most believable (ha!) psychic would not qualify.

Then, there are two different types that every gifted on the above lists fall into: evolving or not. All player characters are considered evolving gifted. As they play and gain experience, they buy new gifts and abilities. In-game terms, they are mutating and evolving - their powers are constantly growing and changing. Non-evolving gifted are just that - non-changing. Their gifts are at their peak. They won't be gaining any new abilities or powers by living their lives. The latter type are much more rare, and so far I can't think of any examples in our campaigns, but they definitely exist.

According to our universe, the gifted have been around for a long time. Legends and stories of them (exaggerated or otherwise) have been passed down on almost every planet since anybody can ever remember. So we look at it this way: Greek mythology? Gifted. Super heroes in comics? Gifted. Movie monsters? Gifted.

It's just a loose idea, but it serves it's purpose for our cause. Is any of this really relevant or need information? Yes. for you see, the gifted aren't all considered good. In fact, there are a lot of people in the universe that see gifted as a threat. And most of them aren't content to simply stand by while the gifted (or cursed...) do as they please and evolve into what essentially boils down to gods-among-men.

That's where the Alon come in.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Characters

It all began on a planet by the name of Brie. The people of Brie were a simple folk. They hadn't yet discovered the use of space travel yet (but the reasons for this may not be a simple as a lack of technology). The people of Brie knew a lot of the old history. They knew that at one time, all across the galaxy wondrous people began to spring up. People who could move mountains and run the speed of sound. People who could control the elements themselves. People who could read thoughts, move physical objects, and enter the world of your dreams with only their minds. People who could heal the sick, turn stone to gold, and even raise the dead. As these people -both good and evil alike- came into existence, they began to be known as 'gifted'.

Then, for unknown reasons, these types of people vanished from the galaxy almost entirely.

The people of Brie had texts, relics, and tales told from generation to generation of these mighty god-like creatures. They had no idea how much time had passed between that time and theirs, but it was likely centuries ago. What they did know however, was that those legendary people - the gifted - were beginning to appear again.

The Brie people knew that the gifted were powerful, and had the potential to be very dangerous, so they built a school designed to tutor them. The younger the gifted were identified and sent to the school, the better. at the school, they were taught not only normal studies, but how to control and use their powers.


as I said before, I was very inspired by X-Men (and Collision  Course, which had a similar pretense). Of course, there was a twist (isn't there always?), but more on that later. First, I'll introduce the characters.

Silverain created Adriana- a descendant of Kaze (Sydtronic's character in HFN). Like Kaze, Adriana has an affinity to an element as well as a guardian spirit animal. In this case, her element is shadow (Kaze's was fire) and her guardian is a rat (Kaze's was a dragon). Adriana is an orphan and she grew up on the streets. She had to learn to scrounge and survive for herself, behaving much like a rat. Her abilities allow her to slip into and out of the shadow realm, making her very good at hiding and thieving. One day, while scrounging in the trash, she happened upon a strange purple rabbit with impossibly long ears. The rabbit had gotten to the trash before her and stole a bit of food from Adriana. Naturally, she gave chase. The rabbit led her through ally ways, basements, and eventually out into the street. There she was found by a kindly old man who adopted her (she never caught the rabbit, which is important later on...). The man who took her in turned out to be the dojo master of the school for the gifted.

Sydtronic made Rad - a descendant of Lucky (Keiri's character in HFN). Rad is almost a carbon copy of Lucky; his gift base is centered almost entirely off of luck. Also like Lucky, he's a crack-shot with a gun - in this case, a shotgun (try to wrap your brain around that one - a shotgun sharpshooter). Of course, his intense accuracy with a shotgun is further proof of his gifts. Rad grew up in a small mountain village where he had pretty much everything he needed- fame among the entire village, the affections of a childhood sweetheart, loving parents, healthy life, and a peaceful environment. Of course, his parents (especially his father) wanted more for him; he wanted Rad to have a good education (go ahead, let the jokes fly we all do it XD). So Rad's father told the school for gifted that Rad had the ability to control the flight of bullets (luck, being what we call an invisible gift, could never get Rad into the 'gifted' category as far as NPCs see it. For all they know, he is normal with really good luck. Only we, as players, know that it's an unnatural luck).

Keiri created Wade - a descendant of Ne' Sonya (Silverain's character from HFN). Ne' Sonya was part of a race of angels. By the time 109's story takes place, the angel people had pretty much bred out their wings (damn you, evolution!). Before Wade was born, his clan prophecized that he was going to be the first in hundreds of years to be born with wings. Even before his birth, Wade was famous among his clan and was thought to bring salvation. Instead of the majestic angel wings, Wade was born with half-formed, ugly protrusions on his back. The clan took this not only as a bad omen, but as an insult. From that day forth, Wade was shunned by absolutely everybody in his clan - parents included. Living a terrible and unforgiving life, not to mention the guilt of not being what he should have been, Wade turned to the occult. He delved into the summoning of spirits in an attempt to strike a deal with one to grow his angel wings. Of course, as is always the case when dealing with such dangerous material, something went wrong when he attempted to summon one of these spirits. Instead, a demon was brought forth and became fused with Wade. The demon - in about as much control of the situation as Wade - was eventually trapped in Wade's arm and sealed there. Now, the demon and Wade live a symbiotic relationship - if one dies, so does the other. Over the years, they've been forced to work together (never in harmony). To make matters worse, when the demon entered (and wrecked havoc on) Wade's body, it grew out the wings. Not into beautiful angel wings, but the twisted wings of a demon. Impossible to hide his new appearance, Wade feared the worse. Fortunately for him, his clan was too afraid to even kill him, fearing a curse of some sort, and instead sent him to the school.


It wasn't even planned out that the three would create characters based on each other's characters. It just sort of happened. Later on (much later on) we added Joseph Bags, and he broke that little pattern. Of course, I'll go into more detail on that when we get to it.

All in all, I'm very happy with the characters. It usually takes me some time to get used to and attached to characters, but I grew fond of these three relatively quickly. At the time, I thought it was because of their relation to the original Happy Force, but I recently realized that wasn't the case. Not long ago, I started up a new campaign called Happy Force Alternate, featuring alternate universe versions of the Happy Force characters and creating a re-imagined version of the story (much more gritty and dark). However, I haven't even begun to grow any affection to these characters.

I look back on it now and I think that 109 was simply on a good track from the beginning. I can say with complete confidence that 109 is the best campaign I've run so far.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Little about 109...

Happy Force 109 is an RPG that my two closest friends and my wife started a couple months after we got married. We had moved into her parent's house, which at the time was 20 minutes away. It doesn't sound like too much now, but at the time we may as well have been on the North Pole. We eventually got brave enough to have Sydtronic and Keiri out, but didn't dare have the whole group out as we thought (for some reason) that it would be too difficult. we started 109 to sort of keep the bond alive and continue the legacy set forth by HFN.

The idea was to create characters who were the distant relatives of the original HFN and that the new story would take place an unknown number of years after they had all died in a (then-unknown) catastrophic event. We wanted to avoid the creation of clones of the original, so we made the rule that each player had to create a character descending from a different player's character. So Silverain's character couldn't descend from her angel character and Sydtronic couldn't play a descendant of his ninja and so on.

The story would begin on a planet that hadn't yet discovered the wonders of space travel. Each character would be discovered (in their teen-age years) to have a special power known as a gift. They would then be sent to a boarding school specifically designed to teach gifted children. (Inspired both by X-Men as well as another friend's RPG called Happy Force Collision Course).

Similar to HFN, this RPG didn't truly take off until much later in the course of running it, but I at least had some general idea as to what I wanted to do. That general idea eventually split into a dozen ideas, and has only recently solidified into a single, overarching goal. Now I've got my bearings straight and my mind set, so (hopefully) the rest of the story should lay itself out, providing I can continue to create interesting NPCs (It's not something that comes easily for me...)

On my next post I'll start on detailing and recapping the story to the best of my memory. It's been a little over two years since I started the game and I don't have the best memory, so I'll try my best.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Legend

Once upon a time, there was an elite team of warriors who lead an army that swept the galaxy and eliminated the dangerous and powerful Revolution Army. The team featured some of the most powerful people to ever exists, proving to thousands that gods do indeed walk among mortals. This team was known as the Happy Force Nine.

Now if you're like most people, you read that name and either scoffed or chuckled at how ridiculous it is. Congrats; you are normal. To us however, that name holds power. Within my group, the title "Happy Force" is not only the team that the player characters made up, but the universe we crafted as a whole. It spans histories, generations, and whole separate universes. It holds so much weight in our hearts that we even named our RPG system after it.

The name - and the legend - all started with four of us sitting down with a new RPG book we had ordered off of the internet. At first, we had no interest in a story. All we wanted to do was role-play and have fun with it. I believe we had a conversation akin to this:

Me: Okay. Make whatever character you want. I'll run with it.

Keiri: Space cowboy!

Sydtronic: Fire ninja!

Silverain: Angel!

Ex-member: Yoda!

Me: Okay. Done. You will be mercenaries, traveling the galaxy looking for treasure and adventure (not necessarily in that order). Who will your captain be?

Group: The twenty-second clone of Abraham Lincoln!

Me: Okay. Done.

Group: Our ship is in the shape of a giant top-hat and is named "The Emancipation Proclamation III"!

Me: Okay. Done. What will your team's name be?


And so it was done.

The group wrote up backgrounds (some more detailed than others) and other ideas for their characters. Our first session consisted of them going out in search of 'not-so-sunken treasure'. Subsequent sessions took them to a haunted-house style planet (yes, the WHOLE planet was haunted) and burning down a church/town, on an excruciatingly long and now-infamous wooded train ride, and eventually to rise up in mutiny against their captain (who was neither evil nor stealing gobs of their hard-earned money behind their back).

for the first six months I had no real direction for the loose shambles we called a story. Then, after slaying some random wolves on a mountain adventure, they had the bright idea to make the wolf bones into a bad-ass gun.

And then things really got out of control: I had an idea.

The following session, they took the wolf bits to an NPC (non-player-character) who would supposedly be able to craft them into a magnificent weapon. He told them about the Wolfen Gun- a weapon of such power and magnificence that they would have no choice but to go on a fantastic adventure to collect a number of ludicrous parts in order to create it. So the NPC sent them off with a grocery list and a pocket full of dreams.

Over the course of the next four (out of game) years, the Happy Force scoured the galaxy for these parts. They met dozens of friends and enemies, many of whom were PCs (player characters) of people we brought into the group. I believe we had a record of twelve different characters played by twelve different people (not all at the same time, but our record for that had to be somewhere around 10). To say that things got a bit chaotic would be an understatement. The storyline of the main game alone -not to mention the back stories of each character- became so winding with plot twists and side events that it is impossible to explain in a single sitting (if at all). Believe  me, I tried.

We eventually had a space gypsy, a mutating lizard man, a nondescript telepath, a blood-thirsty little girl, a vampire-werewolf, a black-winged angel, a transvestite biker, and a tiny black-hole creating... thing traveling among the pack. Half of them had specific antagonists specifically tailored to their back stories who were just as extravagant.

Unfortunately, the story ended rather abruptly when my wife and I relocated for my job. However, the legacy lives on. As I mentioned, the Happy Force name transcended more than just one story. We've seen several iterations and spin-offs over the years (in fact, I last heard that several old members even started their own spin-off of it recently). I would love to go into more detail and recount some of the adventures of the original Happy Force Nine, but that is an attempt I will make at a later date.

The project I will be focusing on (the whole reason I started this blog in the first place) is to recount the adventures of one of my own spin-offs of HFN called Happy Force 109.

A Start

I'm nothing special. I have my virtues and my flaws, my personality quirks and annoying tendencies. I'm mostly starting this blog as a means to keep record of the tales and adventures of our RPGs. This is nothing new (and Lord knows, not the most entertaining) but I figured 'why not'? I expect 99% of the people who even give this a glance will be my close friends, and they are most certainly welcome to give me their input.

 I'm very much a gamer and under any other circumstances would be considered to waste a bit too much time in front of the TV with a controller in hand, but I have the wonderful excuse of managing a Video Game store and enjoy it quite a bit (some days less than others, admittedly)

Bless my wife for putting up with it (and indulging in the same vice from time to time, hehe...)

Whenever I get the chance to, I travel to my home town (about an hour away) and hang out with friends. Although, I'm very much an introvert and keeping a social tie is about the most difficult thing I do (FYI: I'm not very good at it). As such, it's kind of interesting that I love pen-and-paper RPGs- being such a social pass time. You'll never see me at a hobby shop joining in a random game of D&D, in fact I don't much care for discussing gaming with other gamers (it just bugs me for some reason).

RPGs though, are very important to my friends and myself. Being what brought most of us together and united us in more ways than one - it's how I met my wife and at this point, I consider my best friends part of my family. So it's understandable how much we love them. We often play by our own rules (two of our longest-running campaigns have been under a system we created) but to us, crafting a compelling and well-told story is the most important thing of all - and having fun while doing it, of course.

As you'll very quickly see, I'm not the best writer (you have to compose your words?) but that's the beauty of the RPG told story - it's a collection of minds come together to help craft the same story. My roll as Storyteller (Game Master, Dungeon Master, whatever floats your boat) is not to actually tell the story as the term implies, but to set up the pieces of a world and litter events before my players. It's the group as a whole who fit the puzzle together as they see fit -usually dictated by the progression of the story itself - and to fill in the rest with whatever else we want. And therein lies the true addicting nature of our RPGs; we aren't just having fun and shouting at each other with imagined persona, we are taking part in something greater, each with an equal claim to the final product.

Our group has seen many come and go, but the core has (for the most part) never wavered. I've met many interesting people (whether I like it or not) in this manner, and it's something I hold very dear.

So as (if) you read this blog, keep in mind that even if I cannot portray the events of our sessions gracefully -and sometimes coherently- know that there is a greater feeling and depth to them, and that they mean a great deal to me and I frankly don't give a crap what you think of them. :p