November 21, 2017, 07:24:14 PM

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Messages - Yora

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Writers' Corner / Re: Swords!
« on: November 15, 2017, 06:25:14 AM »
War fighting weapons are invisibly shaped by things other than combat, so be careful how far down the "realism" hole you let yourself go. Half of these issues relate to economics and scale - fielding an army of katana-wielders is impractical given the time those swords need to be manufactured in the way they historically were produced, for example.
100 men with iron weapons will beat 20 men with bronze weapons. Even if their weapons are slightly inferior.

Writers' Corner / Re: Swords!
« on: November 13, 2017, 07:26:14 PM »
Swords are overrated anyway. What common and elite soldiers have been preferring for thousands of years are spears. But spears aren't what you have at hand when you're in a tavern or throne rooms, or at the side of your bed. Which is where all the most exiting exploits are happening.

There is a Dark Fantasy videogame series called Dark Souls that is extremely vague and abigious about everything regarding the history of the world. And it's working amazingly.
I feel that like horror, Dark Fantasy relies on not being in control, and not fully knowing what is going on is a major part of that experience. Having the nature and history of supernatural forces very unclear is something I greatly favor.

I don't plan to put down anything specific about where the god kings come from, how they gained their power, or what happened to the lost kingdoms.

i got the idea that the god kings aren't actually gods. They are simply sorcerers who have become incredibly powerful. There are ruins scattered in the wilderness and burried under the god kings cities that proove that there have been other civilizations in the past and that new ones replaced them, and that looks very much like proof that god kings can die and be replaced.
And the really big question is how they became so much more powerful than any other sorcerer. That's the holy grail and philosopher's stone of the sorcerers, witches, and cult priests, though in practice they are fighting over much smaller scraps.

I really like how wuxia stories often have scrolls with secret techniques that lead to pretty noir style stories. With kung fu instead of pistols.

Barbarian tribes and shamans are nice alternative antagonists when heroes are going on longer journeys to ruins and spirits that lie outside the areas already pacified by the god kings' priests. That's where you get the best findings but the locals are even more hostile.

Common sense says there should be...  ???

Not quite sure how, though. I want to focus on secretive arcane groups that are competing over knowledge and artifacts that let them get their own cut of the powers weilded by the god kings. This they can do in places where the supernatural control of a god king has holes (haunted forests and swamps) and beyond the borders of the kingdoms.
I guess the tribes would not be to pleased about occultists poking around in their lands and see them as agents of the god kings that are sneakily trying to expand the range of their control. To those occultists, the tribes would be ignorant savages who don't understand that their work is bordering being heretical against the god kings' rule.
I quite like the idea that the god kings are not actually as powerful as their priests say and their power has limited reach that they can't easily expand. That there are holes in their control and places where spirits roam freely is something the priests cover up by making them forbidden places under some vague pretexts.

Of course, the priests would make the barbarians apppear like a huge threat from which only the divine powers of their benign god king can protect the people. And to the tribespeople the kingdoms are horrible dystopian tyrannies. But I don't see much actual clashes happening between royal armies and barbarian hordes. Maybe the occasional raid for such mundane things like grain and animals, but nothing that has actually anything to do with gods and magic.

Why do people dislike civilization? Kings.
Why do they dislike supernatural civilization? God Kings.  8)

That's a great direction I could take it:

The god kings come from old lines of shamans that became so powerful that they could draw supernatural energy from the land that normally provides power to the spirits. Within the kingdoms the spirits became weakened so that they pose little risk anymore, and the will of the god king takes over as the main force that controls the weather.
To the barbarians, the kings are ursupers who are stealing the divine power of their gods, which is just wrong on so many levels. It also means that a god king's power over the people becomes complete. Opposing or overthrowing him becomes unthinkable as every vilage depends on him personally to be able to produce their own food. To people used to elected chiefs and important decisions being made by councils of elders, nobody should have that much power, be it man or spirit.
To the civilized people, a god king is the only thing that stands between them and a total collapse of their livelihoods. Without their control over the weather, their way of farming would become impossible and the legendary creatures at the borders would come flooding in causing complete chaos. Which is also the reason they don't want to interact with the barbarians. Not because the barbarians are violent raiders, but because they live in the haunted lands. No amount of taxes makes it worth to go into the savage wilds.

This is great, and it meshes very well with my idea to give the whole thing a Bronze Age aesthetic. Can't get any more like that than god kings.

I've got this idea for a somewhat Dark Fantasy leaning world where most common people are living relatively safe lives and are not usually threatened by supernatural horrors that lurk in the dark corners of the world, but their security comes with some not so pleasant side effects. Now the simple way to do this is to have their leaders do some unspeakable horrors in secret, but I don't really want to go in the "desparate ends justify desparate means" direction. That's too bleak for me.
Instead, there is already an interesting conflict that comes with the situation in reality. Civilization is a great thing to protect against violence and secure the supply of food (though not foolproof), but it also comes with the price of having to pay taxes and the many having to follow the orders of the few. In non-civilized cultures, society is generally much more egalitarian and people have less work and fewer duties, but life is also much more volatile with calamities striking more often and more severely, as the mutually supporting networks are much smaller. There's even a theory that many non-civilized cultures at the borders of great civilizations were not simply lagging behind in development, but were actively seeking isolation to escape taxes and conscription. Civilization is not automatically always better than the alternative, and there are many good reasons against it that had many people in history chose to avoid it.
The famous Germanic uprising under Armenius against the Roman was because of the Germans having to deal with this choice. They defeated the Romans and drove them out, but later murdered their leader because they lost access to many goods and services they had started to rely on.

It's an interesting conflict to begin with, and with just the kind of ambiguity that I really like. But I want to do it with a big addition of magic. The world is full of often very dangerous spirits, but somehow a handful of small empires emerged that managed to keep their lands supernaturally secure. People in the towns and village deligently perform rites at the temple and have the proper runes of protection on their houses and boats, and for most of the time they are not getting any trouble from spirits. Meanwhile the clans that live in the wilderness beyond the imperial borders are under a regular threat of supernatural calamities, but they have good reasons why they chose to accept this part of their life and refuse to seek the means with which the empires protect themselves.

The big question I am facing now is: What means? What is going on in the empires that their people consider a good price to pay but the barbarians see as unacceptable?
I really like the idea that the imperial citizens don't really know much about the supernatural. They know that their religion protects them from very bad things happening, but they don't really understand what the threat is and how their religions keep them safe. Within the empires, real understanding of the supernatural is limited to small groups that have to deal with magical threats because of this knowledge, while for the barbarian tribes it's part of everyday life. To really make this work, I think the civilized method to guard against spirits has to be something that wouldn't make the people rise up in revolt if they would learn about it. It needs to be something that could be seen as acceptible enough or as too much depending on an individual's cultural upbringing.

This feels like a pretty tall order to fill, but I think if I can get this to work there would be a really interesting setting with lots of story potential to be had. Any ideas, even vague or partial, in what direction I could take this?

But you have to give credit to Kagoshima's tourism department. "Cherry Blossom Island" sounds like the most pleasant place on Earth. But you could also call it Mount Doom.

The third largest city in Italy.

Apparently, someone must have thought it seemed like a good idea at the time.

And then there's of course the iconic skyline of Kagoshima.

It certainly can be done, but it is a challenge. If everything is like Earth, but it's not Earth, why use it? Earth at any time period is a highly interesting and complex place, much more than anything anyone could make up.

There are some good reasons if that alternate world is almost like Earth but with a few important differences. Then you could tell interesting stories that could not have happened on Earth. But when it comes to fantasy, it's perhaps impossible to come up with really new plots and quite difficult to create really new characters. Where writers have a lot of potential to do something new that has not been done before and that makes a story an interesting choice over another story is the setting. Setting alone can not carry a story, but it's what makes familiar plots and characters fresh again.
The less you have to offer in regard to setting, the more you have to provide in plot and characters. Which can be done, but is more difficult to do well.

Writers' Corner / Well, this didn't work... Starting over older and wiser
« on: November 08, 2017, 07:04:40 PM »
After three months of very much fruitless tinkering with an old semi-abandoned concept I have come to the realization that my original idea is inherently flawed and simply doesn't work.
I went into this with a whole bunch of ideas for a setting that I find fascinating, aesthetically inviting, and overall a place that I consider my ideal fantasy world. While at the same time all the books, movies, comics, and videogames that really inspire me to do something creative and make something that is amazing are all of a completely different style that doesn't have any overlap with such a setting. My vision for a setting is pretty, but it doesn't really provide any foundation for the subjects and themes that I care for in a story. With that in mind it doesn't feel at all surprising that I was never able to really come up with a plot for my character and my setting. My ideal character needs to be forced into dark adventures by circumstances while my ideal setting lets characters express themselves at their own prefered pace. I don't see how the two could be working together and since you can't have a story without characters doing things, I think I will have to create a new setting that is much more actively intrusive. Pretty much back to square one there.

Have you run in situations where you realized something that you really liked just didn't work for writing a good story? Have you gained any valuable insights for it that are good lessons for the future?

When it comes to introducing the audience to the story, then I agree that you usually have to establish first setting, then characters, and then plot.

But when beginning with the outline I think it is the other way around. I tried starting with setting first and at least in this case it really didn't work. A story is ultimately about things happening and people doing things. I had designed a world and when it came to having things happen in this world I couldn't come up with anything but the most generic cliches. Because the world just wasn't made to provide any specific sources of conflict.
You don't have to have the whole plot figured out to the last detail, but before you can detail the setting you need to have at least a general idea of what is going to happen in the world.

Having done some more thinking about my trouble with plot, I am starting to think that beginning with setting first might not even be a working approach. Of course you can start with collecting some general notes about what rough feel you want to aim at with your setting, but a world that is created in isolation might not actually be a good setting for stories to take place in. The setting I created as my ideal fantasy world is really very nice, but I am finding that it doesn't really lend itself to tales of adventures. Maybe generic fantasy plots would work, but those would work in any setting and not really make any use of the specific traits of this world in particular, which would make the whole exercise of creating it rather moot.

When I look at what kind of fantasy world I would love the most, and what existing stories I find the most interesting and compelling, the two really don't line up much. I think I would probably have a much easier time if I start with considering what types of stories I want to write about and then design the world so that it supports this kind of stories.
Though I do see the risk of ending up with creating a world that is very similar to those from the stories that are inspiring me in the first place.

Well, this sounds like a call for Hellboy and B.P.R.D.

Mostly, at least. Hellboy packs a massive brawn, but that comes into play mostly after he has solved what is going on, and the opponents he faces are often not very impressed by it.
B.P.R.D. is perhaps even more investigaty, but they also carry big guns.
However, in this world the supernatural is not exactly hidden from the normal population. Hellboy and his friends are publically known and respected heroes and at a certain point in the story the whole world becomes very much aware of supernatural stuff making very public appearances. But it's not like normal people have any access to magic. That's entirely the domain of the heroic investigators and the enemies they are facing.

I'm back to playing Dark Souls a lot. After some initial failures I'm now fully back into it and doing really well.
This time I'm actually using co-op, and engage in jolly co-operation8)

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