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.


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 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!


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.


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!


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 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.