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Depression, Struggles and Light at the End of Every Tunnel Although this Forum is and should be mainly about fun and a shared creative passion, we have a community and sometimes real life intrudes. A forum friend sent me the poem below expressing the debilitating impact of depression. We all know that depression is a physical illness, like osteoporosis, if you will - not a disease of lifestyle or personal "issues." But while there shouldn't be any stigma on it, there can tend to be. Fear of this can reinforce the emotional dark night of the soul for the depression sufferer and make the person feel even more isolated.

Here's the poem:

Quote
Do you know what depression is?
Feeling down, black dog, grey clouds…
No. Wrong.
Depression is an illness, a disease. Faulty brain cells.

Do you know what depression feels like?
Feeling down, black dog, grey clouds…
No. Wrong.
Be thankful you don’t know. It’s different for every single person, every single time.

This time, a switch was installed.
It flickers on and off, with neither rhyme nor reason.
One moment you’re ok, the next you’re sobbing uncontrollably. Tears are optional, just the ragged breathing and the feeling are there.
One moment you’re walking, moving, the next you stop. You’re paralysed. Your legs feel heavy, your arms like they belong to someone else. Everything about you is frozen.
One moment the world is normal, the next the smallest decision feels overwhelming. There’s no future beyond the now.
One moment you’re laughing, the next there’s a knot in your throat and you’ve forgotten what it feels to be ok.
Nothing makes sense. There’s no night nor day.

Chemicals mean hope. Repair.
Weeks pass, months pass, a year or more. And you no longer know what depression feels like.
Until next time…

The friend asked me to share this poem, and doesn't want some big outpouring of "OMG! Are you okay?" no matter how heart-felt and well-intended.

But you may know someone - or be someone - who suffers from this disease, and the words here may be a balm or an opening of the eyes. We hope so.

May 08, 2015, 04:19:12 PM
1
Re: Explain your magic systems
I have used lots of different magic systems

But my fave is accretion magic. When a mage is born, crystals start to form on their skin. Using magic (and exposure to water) depletes the crystals. A really powerful mage cannot move for the crystals built up. So they use their magic to enslave other people to do their stuff for them

Other than that, they can use up crystals to do a lot of stuff (almost whatever they can think of) provided they have enough stored to do it. The more they use it, the more depleted their magic becomes, and it doesn't grow very fast soooo...

that's awesome.  in my head, i am picturing a world where those guys all look like "crystal the hut" -- slothing around all day, bellowing giant belly laughs, and feeding their enemies to large, toothy monsters.

September 20, 2015, 05:03:27 PM
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Re: Explain your magic systems Day late and a dollar short but whatever. Little technical because that's how I roll. (Also probably not the entire system and ripe with holes, but it was the entire bit I was willing to write at the moment.)

Spoiler for Magic in Por Voalis:
A Brief History of Magic

Common wisdom affirms that mankind will always try to transcend its obstacles. We have always wanted to better ourselves; whether that meant for good or evil is always left up to interpretation. Innovation had to start somewhere. Indeed, the Book of Days opens with, “A seed fell.” However, as stated, there has been much interpretation put into that one line.

Does it signify the greatest discovery in human history, the fire? Does it point to man’s Original Sin? Or is it something sinister, like the first murder or the greatest destruction the world has ever seen?

Many conservative denominations in the Faith would point to when civilization first fell and this great cycle began. And of course, mythology tells us that this came about because the Wanderer harnessed the power of the Sun and destroyed the Moon to show his power.

That was the day the Almighty turned His back on us.

Or so the story goes. Yes, magic, while controversial in many political, societal, and religious spheres, can be pinpointed to its genesis here: Where Man tried to transcend this plane and break the wheel from its rut.

The Void

There are two major religions in Por Voalis, and because of this, two major interpretations for the Spirit Realm. For the Faithful, the Void is where spirits wander while they wait for Judgment. For the Keepers of the Seed (or the Clansmen, if you are so inclined), the Unformed or Unmolded Mounds are where we visit after death so as to move among worlds, all on our path to Enlightenment.

However, they agree on one certainty: Here lies the great veins of magic, where we craft our gift into tangible form. Yes, magic is derived from our unconsciousness, for all people are connected to the Void, thus all are connected to magic.

What is Magic?

Put simply, magic is the alteration of matter. This can take many forms, but for scientific purposes, you can split them into two distinct categories: Physical changes and chemical changes.

The former is more elemental or mechanical, dealing with state changes (freezing water particles in the air) or bending materials (moving boulders or steel beams). As for the latter, separating (stripping hydrogen from oxygen) or adding (then burning hydrogen or oxygen) requires a lot more energy but is still doable.  As you can see, the possibilities are endless.

Though there have been debates on whether you can break the law of conservation of mass, in that magic can create its own substances. Some older texts cite dark matter, that invisible matter coursing through everything, as the reason we can fashion sand castles in the middle of the tundra, or that there are indeed sand molecules buried deep within the permafrost.

But because only one nation in Por Voalis has allowed magic to flow freely and without consequence, arcane knowledge is very limited. The examples, experiments, and evidence are few and far between.

Magic is also the interaction between here and the Spirit Realm. Because everyone is connected to the Void through their unconscious, many mages excel in memory alteration, changing motivations, and creating illusions that only the mind can comprehend.

One scholar said that mages “bend reality,” and that is closest to a definition you will ever find.

Essences

Magic requires an energy source. While there are three necessary steps to performing magic, the first is the most obvious. Magic needs a catalyst.

  • Pain: 1 out of every 1,000,000 people are a pain mage, or a magician. While magic is genetic, there is a certain trait linked to pain mages that allows them to draw upon this specific energy source. Because of this (and many more reasons), pain mages are hunted down and systematically killed so as to destroy their lineages.

    See, magicians draw upon both the abstract and the tangible source of pain. They feed off of emotions brought about by tragedy, or perhaps the strong waves of pain brought about by a wound or broken bone.

    There is a certain electrical spark that is conducted when pain is experienced, and this is our connection to the Spiritual Plane. From this they can contact the magical veins, for what else makes us mortal but not the ability to hurt?
  • Spirits/Demons: Whereas magic is our defining characteristic of mortality, there are other, much stronger ways to contact the Spirit Realm. Say, by conversing with a demon itself. Yes, stripped of all but the agony knowing you will wander for eternity, these echoes in the machine can be brought to this world and subjected to our will.
    With them comes oodles of Void substance, and from that they can be funneled into a spell or thought.

    Demonic magic is much harder to harness than the other two essences. It usually requires one or the other to grab a spirit or demon, but when that is accomplished, hoo boy. There is much more potential and much more power inherent in this source, seeing as it has been in direct contact with the Void.

    Unfortunately, spirits have their own will, too. Sorcerers are the rarest of all breeds. They live the shortest, are known the most, and risk everything.

    But if they succeed? Why, we only need to point to the Fall of Empires less than a millennia ago.
  • Blood: While some may say that pain is what makes us mortal, from a scientific aspect, what really does? Our lifeblood.

    Some scholars argue that blood is not a real source, though. They say that it is merely the by-product of pain, that the number of magicians is actually higher and that the magical education is worse because of this ignorance and perceived inability for a witch to push the boundaries.

    However, others point out that this is wrong. If we drink the blood of a fallen man or woman, is not the pain absent? And then is not the magic that we create our own? Warlocks claim that blood magic is the purest of the three, in that it holds the most consequences (you run the risk of potentially killing yourself or others when performing) and holds us farthest away from the Void.

    Blood magic shows us that we are truly mortal, and that it is mortality that drives magic, not spirits or a feeling of pain.

Focus

Two of the three sources of magic are extremely weak. How much power can you derive from a drop of blood or a bad memory? Not enough it seems. Because of this, magicians, witches, and sorcerers need an item to bind, or pool, energy into.

While unfocused magic is generally harmless (or as harmless as a prick of ice in an eyeball can be), most magicians aren’t harmful to society until they establish a focus. Most focuses require a physical touch, much as an essence does. Thus, most focuses are favorite articles of clothing, pieces of jewelry, or in some cases, unimportant organs such as the tongue.

Though the last has only been documented once, and that poor sap’s life ended, well, quickly. Seems complex materials aren’t the greatest to hold chaotic forces.

Medium

Magic needs an energy source. Magic needs a place to store said energy source. But magic also needs to reach matter to perform its duty. What is the easiest way to reach an object without physically touching it?

Whistle.

Yes, sound is the greatest employed medium for magic. A quick snap or piece on the piano can venture your spell as far as the wave can reach. Deaf people can still be affected, yes.

Physical touch still works, but the magician needs to be in contact with the object of desire or else the spell won’t work. Because of this, while it is theoretically possible to stand on one border, shout, and light a cigarette on the other side of the border, it is extremely impractical and requires more energy than most can create in a lifetime. Yes, the sound wave might eventually reach the other side, but it is highly improbable and best not to put your hopes on it even if you have the patience and the power to store enough pain or gallons of blood.

The Costs of Magic

They’re quite simple: Aside from the physical challenges inherent with maiming yourself or others, what does tormenting yourself to persistent pain do to the psyche? It drives you bonkers.

If a pain mage doesn’t commit suicide during their training, they will easily establish some sort of depression or even psychosis. Magicians going insane are seen as normal.

But again, this is few and far between. Most are killed off if their powers are found out. Most might even kill themselves as stated earlier. But the few that survive long enough to see their powers come to fruition either cut cold turkey for fear of what might come, or delve into madness searching for a cure or a fight against the norm.

As for deals with the Devil? Demons don’t play nice. You can fill in the blanks here.

Magic also uses up some of the user’s energy, depending on their mental will, discipline, determination, and practice. Thus, a fledgling apprentice might become exhausted merely tapping into their veins or essences, while a master who repeats the spell day in and day out can perform it without much strain.

However, as stated, determination, will, and discipline can come into play. For instance, a mage that is willing to push himself to the brink of exhaustion can perform longer (psychologically) than one who is afraid to cast multiple spells.

The effects of exhaustion may be overlooked by adrenaline or other factors, but for the sake of the moment, they can perform longer.

September 21, 2015, 01:05:01 AM
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Fantasy Story Series Concept: The Old World I've started getting interest in writing stories about a year ago, but neither the format of big novels or various stand alone short stories really got my creativity going much. Novel series take years and hundreds of pages to write and tend to deal with always the same people and places the whole time, while stand alone stories are so limited in scope that I never felt it worth making the effort to create an interesting world or good characters. The pulp series format seems to be a lot more to my liking, and I actually enjoy reading the Sword & Sorcery variety the most of any fiction. However, when looking at classic series like Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, or Kane, there's always also a bit of the monotony that comes with big novel series. Different places in the world, but always the same protagonist with the same perspective on things. So I came up with an idea of having various self-contained stories set in the same world, but with different protagonists. This has developed into a more complex concept and I would like to hear what other people think about it.

The past four years I had been working on a fantasy setting for roleplaying games and while my interest for that has gone very much into the background for now, I've already had lots of great creative ideas that I still want to use. Since the purpose of the world is quite different, many of the changes are quite substential, going much narrower and deeper. I actually like the name Ancient Lands much more, but to keep my notes clearly separated I am calling this new version the Old World for now.

I've put it all into a spoiler box so people don't get scared before reading the introduction. It did get quite long.  :D I also didn't write it in a single go and jumped around sometimes to add things to earlier sections, so some ideas and details might appear duplicated, but I think I got it mostly in order.

Spoiler for Hiden:
The Format

As I said, the basic concept I have in mind is a series of self-contained stories all set in the same setting. But an idea I really like is to have significant crossovers between the stories. I am really not a fan of the superhero genre, but the idea of having lots of protagonist and having them appear as secondary characters in other stories is something I always considered fascinating. Star Wars novels have that a lot, and you could even say the movies do, with lots of classic characters having minor roles in the Clon Wars movies, with Obi-Wan and Yoda doing the reverse. A very strong influence also comes from many TV shows from the 90s, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, or X-Files. Mostly you have these stand alone episodes with the Monster of the Week  (or Murder, or Space Anomaly), but every so often you have secondary characters that show up occasionally. Often the stories don't involve all the main characters but really deal with only two or three, with the others serving only as minor secondary characters or not appearing at all. And sometimes you have clearly distinct subgroups. In Babylon 5, the two characters G'Kar and Londo almost have their own thing going on that only occasionally touches with the story of the crew of the space station. And in Deep Space Nine, the weasly bar owner Quark has close interactions only with the security chief Odo but barely anyone else of the main cast. He does however have several episodes with his own personal antagonists like the Grand Nagus, Brunt (FCA), his mother, or his klingon ex-wife. Who all never have any meaningful interaction with the rest of the main cast.

And that's the probably rather unique part of the concept I have in mind. At the core is a group of perhaps a dozen or so main characters who have a web of relationships with each other. Some are allies, some are rivals, others share a common past. Geographically they are pretty far spread out, but their common field of interest (more on that in the next section) frequently has them crossing paths.

One almost-example I know about are the Witcher books by Andrzej Sapkowski. The first two books are stand alone stories which all have the Witcher Geralt as the protagonist, but unlike Conan and Kane, secondary characters have regular reappearances. Dandelion is with Geralt on a lot of his adventures, Yennefer appears in several stories, and Ciri, her grandmother, and an old druid also have multiple appearances. From the third book on the format shifts to novels, but the individual chapters are still structurally very similar to the earlier stories. The first chapter of Blood of Elves has only Dandelion and Yennefer (who only met once before as adversaries but are both friends of Geralt) with Geralt not appearing at all, and the second has Triss as the protagonist, with Geralt being one of several secondary characters of equal position to Vessemir and Ciri. Each chapter connects together to a larger storyline and they are nit really self-contained, but it's otherwise pretty close to my idea.

What I want to do with the writing is to always have only a single point of view character per story and everything that is in the story is what that character sees, hears, and knows. If that character is not aware of something, it's not revealed to the reader. I also want to do it in a limited form of omniscient narration in that the description of things also includes details and background information that the character knows, without having someone say them out loud or that character saying them in his head. But I have no intention of ever revealing the narrator as a distinct person or directly address the readers in any way. While I like omniscient, that thing is always too cheesy for me.

The Premise

The basic premise of this series of stories is a world that is dominated by wilderness and only sparsely populated, but the deep forest, mountain peaks, and remote islands are full of old ruins originally build by fey lords when they ruled over the world of mortals for a while. The main characters are all involved in the business of artifact hunting, as any small king or chief is very much interested in whatever magical wonders might be hidden in their depth. To use them to protect their clans from threats, to destroy their enemies, or to keep them from falling into the hands of their enemies or their dangerous powers being released by accident. Every ruler has always some of their warriors and witches traveling the surrounding lands, keeping their eyes and ears open for any signs or rumors that might be worth to investigate. Sometimes they find things of value or things of great danger. Sometime they have to deal with monsters or other artifact hunters. They might cooperate to fight a common thread or share the rewards, or end up in a fight over their current target. Some are in it for money and fame, other out of the desire to help, and some to claim the power for themselves. It's about stories of magical places and strange monsters and of treachery and heroism.

The Themes

All the stories that have ever deeply impressed me have highly existentialist themes and the question of what is the right thing to do in a world that is fundamentally ammoral and what you want to be when you alone have full responsibilty for everything you do are the only themes I consider worth investigating. It's a major part of the Cyberpunk and Noir genres, and my favorite movies are Inception, Ghost in the Shell, and Blade Runner. It's also the whole overarching theme of my favorite videogame series Mass Effect. And both my favorite fantasy book series Conan and Kane hav it in spades. The basic assumption of Existentialism is that there are no objective truths about right and wrong, nothing can be known to be fact for certain, that there is no larger purpose to anything, and that nothing has any intrinsic value. But it also goes beyond mere Nihilism by asserting that life can be made meaningful by chosing to give subjective meaning and values to things.

Another thing that fascinates me about premodern societies is the high degree of interdependence within a community. Nobody exists alone, but is always influenced by and influencing the rest of the group. They need you to survive and you need them. In small communities everything you do affects the wellbeing and safety of everyone else, which adds a whol new layer to the existentialist question of what things you want to value and prioritise. As artifact hunters the main characters are in a unique position in that they enjoy a great amount of autonomy since they are often gone from home for a long time and enjoy many privileges that come with the position, but the nature of their task also means that their action and decisions can have very dramatic effects on the people who depend on them. They are not very deeply integrated into their societies and tend to be people who enjoy personal freedoms, and unlike most other people they really have the choice between doing what is expected from them and what they want for themselves. And it's just these people who regularly get objects of great power just within their grasps.

Even though I am not a superhero fan, I am highly fascinated by Magneto and Mystique from X-Men. Within the series they are antagonists, but in many ways they don't really qualify as villains. Their goals are not selfish and very similar to those of the X-Men, but their personal experiences have led them to different conclusions for what needs to be done to gain their security and dignity. Or as I mentioned before, there is Londo Molari from Babylon 5 who is personally responsible for many of the most terrible things that happen in the series, constantly makes deals with devils, and is ultimately driven by pride and revenge. But the results of his actions are not what he wanted, yet he sticks around trying to salvage of the situation what he can. He's not really a villain, nor can you really call him evil, but he's still one of the top leaders of a clearly evil group of villains. And in Deep Space Nine you have characters like Quark and Garrak, of who you can only say for certain that they are not heroes. They are also backstabbing liars, but sometimes they take very great risks to save others and either have limits to how low they will go with their methods or do the most terrible of their deeds for purely selfless reasons. There's also Odo, who is a paragon of justice, but will still not abandon his people, even though they are a race of violent tyrants. I always enjoy conflicts the most that have a lot of ambiguity and in which even the antagonists have goals and motives that you can understand. As such, I don't want to divide the main characters into heroes and villains or make any clear statements about who is good or evil. There are only protagonists and antagonists and which character has which role depends on tbe perspective from which each story is told.

Though I want to set the stories firmly in the Sword & Sorcery genre, one thing that really annoys me in pretty much all of western fiction is the triviality of death. My whole fascintion with premodern warfare comes from wondering how anyone could have actually fought like you see it in movies. I learned quite a lot about the construction and use of weapons and the mechanics and medicine of killing that way, and the short answer is that all you see in movies is pure fantasy. Dying from battle injuries can take quite a lot of time, and for much of that time the person can still keep fighting and cause lethal injuries. Fantasy always glosses over that and any enemy who gets hit seems to instantly disappear from reality. The hero needs not fear for his life and does not have to deal with the gruesome aftermath os stabbing someone with a sword. So everyone starts using lethal force at the drop of a hat and violence and death is completely trivialized to utter banality. I think combat can be a great element of fantasy adventure stories, but I think the whole parts of considering whether to risk a fight or not and dealing with the ugly aftermath are even much more important than the swinging of blades. I neither want to read gore nor write it, but I think the buildup and aftermath are much more interesting scenes that have a lot more to say. Some characters will be brave, others cowards, and some are more willing to kill than others. But I want my combat to never be banal or trivialize death. Every fight shouls be a major crisis for the protagonist. If it isn't then the fight scene shouldn't be there in the first place.

The Setting

Finally we get to the good part. I have a big pile of setting elements from when I was doing a world for an RPG and a lot of them I intend to carry over. At its heart, the Old World is a high fantasy setting with elves, trolls, and dragons and all that. But one thing that many people copied rather blindly from The Lord of the Rings is the idea that the present time is a diminished age where much of the magic and monsters have disappeared and fey and other spirits have left the world mostly behind. But almost always there's plenty of mention of an ancient past when that was not the case and the world was full of dragons and giants and the elves and dwarves had grand castles in the forests and mountains. Those references to ancient times always seemed much more interesting to me than the actual story that is being told, and the Old World is an attempt to tell stories in such an older world of mystical wonders and great heroes. (Tolkien actually prefered that himself with the Silmarilion being his main work and the Lord of the Ring being the closing chapter that transitions from the mystical world to our modern world. Sadly, most people immitating him didn't catch that.)

The world is basically a wild forest planet with trees covering almost every piece of land except for mountains and the arctic. And it is very sparsely settled and has only a few small and young civilizations. Most cultures are tribal barbarians. In many ways it's modeled after the mediterranean Bronze Age with its many small kingdoms that often were just a castle and a surrounding town, with several villages scattered around them. Greek and Germanic myths of heroes exploring the unknow and fighting strange monsters are a great influence. The Odyssey and Beowulf being prime examples.

Geographically I've reduced the world down to two primary areas, which are centered around two stretches of coast between the ocean in the east and a seemingly endless expanse of forests in the west. The northern land of Revand takes inspiration from the many countries around the Baltic Sea, where I grew up, and Canada. It also takes lots of inspiration from the North region of the Forgotte Realms fantasy setting, which is also where almost all the Drizzt novels take place. The ancient history of the High Forest (which of course is now lost) was actually the main thing that originally inspired me to work on creating my own fantasy setting. The southern land of Senkand takes inspiration from both the northern Mediterranean Sea and southern China, which both share rocky coasts and many small islands that make for quite fantastic landscapes. The main influence here is the continent Kalimdor from the old videogame Warcraft III, which again has a long history of ancient and now mostly lost elven civilizations. The sea and the forests dominate the world and almost all people live on a small strip between these two vast environments that are full of hidden secrets and strange beings.

Peoples
There are several kinds of different people who inhabit the lands of Revand and Senkand and their surrounding areas. Humans are only one of the minor ones. Most of them are barely out of the Stone Age and some of them still aren't. They live in small villages in areas on the periphery, having remained in mountains, marshes, and on small islands a safe distance away from the lands fought over by the civilized peoples. To give humans their own thing at which they shine and that sets them apart from others, I am emphasizing human endurance and durability, which really is quite amazing in the animal kingdom and not something you could necessarily take for granted in every fantasy race. Humans can keep running and working far longer than almost any other creature on earth without having to rest (the best way to catch a horse alive is to chase it until it's too exhausted to continue running) and they can also survive on a very wide range of foods, which means they are at less risk from malnutrition during shortages of regular food. In a fantasy word that has lots of long distance foot travel through complete wilderness, that is quite a special power and can be a huge advantage. It is what makes everyone else value human warriors as mercenaries. The big players are elves and serpentmen. Elves are all of the woo elf kind and live for only 300 years, with leaves in their hair and dirt on their clothes. They are quite similar to humans and their differences are mostly cultural. They are the Normans to the human Saxons, not some kind of wonderful immortals of endless beauty and wisdom. The serpentmen come from jungles in the far distant south, of which almost nothing is really known. But occasionally they travel north for several kinds of shady business. They are obviously strongly influenced by the serpentmen of Robert Howard, but also the Yuan-ti from Forgotten Realms, the Naga from Warcraft, and also the ancient Sith that appear in some of the more obscure Star Wars stories.
The other people include the kaas, who are tall beastmen living in the North, the skeyn, who are kind of like goblin-gnomes (green but nice, but also viscious in war) who live in mountain fortesses and burrow-villages, trolls, and the kidari, who very roughly speaking are monkey-weasel people who live in the tops of trees.
There are about a dozen different cultures with different customs that reflec their environment and way of farming and includes various systems of social hierarchies and roles. They are all made basically from scratch and not various easily identifiable cultures from Earth history copied over. I never like those and here my background in cultural studies and ethnology really comes in very handy.

November 11, 2015, 10:45:39 PM
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Re: Freelance artist looking for work
November 30, 2015, 11:17:53 AM
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Re: Freelance artist looking for work


Heh. The look in this lady's eyes absolutely sells the words: "I've made a terrible mistake."

December 08, 2015, 07:57:24 PM
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Re: Help With Ideas?? Tell us something about your story.
February 04, 2016, 04:54:31 PM
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Re: Help With Ideas??  We are all ears and happy to help!
February 04, 2016, 05:01:31 PM
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Re: Help With Ideas?? Idea: group of wizards is shepherding the creation of a new world. They disagree on everything.

There. That's what I got. ;)

February 04, 2016, 07:04:07 PM
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Re: Hi There!
Hi yall im Dragobane(real names Jackson but you don't know that, oh wait now you do!) and i'm really into fantasy and i'm currently working on a fantasy book series.

first, +1 for throwing out a "ya'll!"

second, howdy!

February 05, 2016, 05:58:30 PM
1