RPG Post: Far Away Land for my Kids

FAL-AG world-labeled

One of my hobbies recently has been to work on using the Far Away Land RPG rules to run a game for my young daughters. To that end, I’ve been building a world and pondering ways to make the game more friendly (read “less deadly”) for young players. I am thinking about modeling it on battle anime, where despite whatever else it might be about, it usually involves one or more fight scenes each episode, like One Piece or Naruto. Despite deadly foes, there is rarely real character death involved. People may be thrashed, but they recover, train more, and go to battle again, perhaps with some new wisdom or a trick up their sleeve.

This is not to say that I am planning on running a game that is nothing but battles, but when they do fight, if they should happen to lose, I am not going to pronounce their characters dead and cut up their character sheet. Instead, they’re going to be set back. Some time will pass. NPCs will have time to act in the PC’s absence, so goals and adventure hooks will have changed.

FAL Zoom2

I am considering the conceit that this game world is a shared world that the PCs enter in their dreams, an idea that always stuck with me after reading the Lovecraft short story, “Polaris.” So this world the PCs visit will be as real as our own, but they need to figure out why they are going there (if they want; I suppose they could just enjoy the freedom of adventuring). Death in this world, however, results in dissolution and waking back up in the “real” world. When they return to sleep and the dream world, time has passed.

Boulder Beast

It’s just an idea and I’ll have to see how it stands up to the reality of gaming with 5-year-olds, but I’m having fun drawing up maps and populating the world. For that, the Far Away Land setting and creatures work perfectly. There are enough creatures for variety but not so many as to be overwhelming, and it’s fairly easy to create my own creatures as needed.

Silkin

The PCs are going to start off in the small village of Silkin, and then I’m going to leave it up to them what they’d like to do, although sandbox play with 5-year-olds can be difficult, so I will guide them toward adventures if needed. Here’s what I have so far:

Silkin, a remote village: A rock-iron giant fell to Earth here and remains in a deep pit in the center of the village, where its rust has colored the earth beneath it a dark red. There are a few large circular buildings in town, which have low walls because the rooms are actually underground, accessible by a staircase that leads to a main door. The rectangular meeting halls are above ground A-frame buildings. The smaller one is the men’s hall and the larger one is the women’s hall. Both can also be reached by the warren of underground passages that lies beneath the village.

Silkin is made up of dwarves, simians, and ratlings who live together in peace under the guidance of an elderly Orka named Mokranus. They are all outcast from their respective societies. In the case of the simians and ratlings, it is because they are peaceful folk. In the case of the dwarves, it is because their people were long ago exiled from their home under the mountains to the east. Mokranus took up residence to study the iron-rock giant and has grown old here awaiting the moment when the giant will awaken.

The simians and ratlings tend the farmland surrounding the village, while the dwarves dig beneath the earth for ore to make tools (and because they like to dig). Beyond the farmland is deep forest, although to the north and south the remains of an old trail remain, marked by a crumbling wall. The people of Silkin rarely receive visitors and are suspicious of outsiders, but if the PCs can prove that they mean no harm, they will find a place to rest and, in Makronus, a source of information about the world they suddenly find themselves in.

Adventure Hooks:

Seeking knowledge: If the PCs want to discover why they might have been pulled from their realm into this one, Makronus suggests that they seek the mountainside Temple of Ajurna to the northeast. He warns, though, that the path is perilous as the mountains are home to all sorts of foul beasts. If the PCs have befriended any villagers, they might find some amongst them who are willing to travel with them. Dwarves especially would be useful companions.

Something brewing: The dwarves report that in their underground excavations, they have run into some underground folk who are constantly ruining the dwarves’ work. So far it hasn’t gotten deadly, but the creatures triggered a cave-in the other day that might have killed someone. The dwarves are ready to deal with these creatures by force if need be.

Civilization to the South: The crumbling wall and the path that runs alongside it is more intact to the south, and the villagers say that there are larger cities in that direction. Although they don’t advise traveling, they do admit that if the PCs want answers, perhaps some wizard or ruler to the south might have an answer.

Webcomics Wednesday: 3/28/12

For this week’s Webcomics Wednesday, I am reviewing LeyLines, which I discovered through the #lfwc hashtag on Twitter, and Hunter Black, which I had heard about but never checked out until after I met the creative team at WonderCon. Speaking of WonderCon, I will be sharing some links to the great artists I met there, too.

First up, LeyLines by Robin Dempsey. The story is actually very intricate, so I’ll start by sharing the logline from the site: “Three siblings from a broken family are caught in the conspiracy that claimed their mother’s life. To save their family and nation, they seek out ancient gods for answers — but the gods give nothing for free.” Of course, that barely scratches the surface of this fantasy story about High Sage Koruval va Naza, his daughter Mizha, son Tama, and adopted son Zhiro. The va Nazas are Tamakepe, a tall, pale race, while Zhiro is a Timu, a short, darker-skinned race. While Zhiro is technically part of the va Naza clan, there is some bad history between him and Mizha, perhaps to do with the fact that Timu are considered lower-caste.

If that seems like a lot of new words and information to get your brain around when reading a new webcomic, I wouldn’t worry. Ms. Dempsey shares bits and pieces of the story bible with each new page, so you can learn as you go, or you can just let the story unfold and all will be made clear. For those who enjoy seeing behind the scenes, Ms. Dempsey shares a wealth of information on characters, the land, the gods, the politics, language, etc. It is evident that she has done a huge amount of world-building and plotting before page one of the story, and this pays off more and more as the story goes on and you see how it all fits together. So far there are three chapters of about 40 pages each and Chapter 4 has just recently started, and already it bears re-reading the story to appreciate early events in light of later ones.

It would take me many paragraphs to lay out the story and all the characters so far in a way that does the comic justice, so instead I will just talk about what I am enjoying in the comic: 1) an extended, prophetic dream sequence in Chapter 1, and the commentary below it; 2) Mizha’s illusion powers; 3) the high-caste/low-caste forbidden love history between Mizha and Zhiro; 4) the hyper-alert but odd Pakku; 5) Ms. Dempsey’s ability to show subtle action taking place without needing a caption to describe the action (for example, this exchange); 6) nicely-laid out pages such as this one; and, of course, 7) whenever characters look like they are ready to kick some ass, like someone hiding knives under his robe.

LeyLines is an intricate fantasy story full of gods and intrigue, dreams and visions, base villains and plucky heroes, and genuine characters. Check it out!

Hunter Black, written by Justin Peniston and illustrated by William “Will” Orr, is an out and out fun fantasy noir. It is in greyscale with occasional use of color for emphasis (red blood, green cough SFX, yellow crazy eyes). The art is flat and geometric, and very angular, which looks really cool. I especially like the jagged, thick-pixel blood splatters (as in the picture to the right and also  here, but don’t follow the link if you don’t like spoilers). Mr. Orr’s art in Hunter Black reminds me a bit of Samurai Jack, which to me at least is a good thing.

The premise of the story is that Hunter Black took the fall for a huge crime and was sent to an inescapable prison, which he of course escapes from. While in prison he contracted a wasting disease and he would surely be dead already if not for his sword, The Revenger. When he uses Revenger to kill someone who betrayed someone else, the sword feeds him their life force. When he kills someone who didn’t betray anyone, things don’t work out as well. The magic sword reminds me of Michael Moorcock’s Elric and Fred Saberhagen’s Sword books, both of which I really like, so a story with a well-done magic sword is one I will tend to favor. The Revenger is a worthy addition to the ranks of famous magic swords, and there are apparently more of them out there in Hunter Black’s world, so I can’t wait for him to clash with the wielders of those weapons.

Anyway, back to the story: Hunter Black wants to find out who set him up, and he wants to kill them. It’s a simple setup but the payoff is in the characters that Black has to interact with and (often) fight along the way. As I mentioned in the LeyLines review above, I like it when characters kick ass, and Hunter Black, although only about 75 pages in, is already full of them. I am looking forward to following Black’s ups and downs as he Revenges his way through the world. Will he kill all his betrayers before they kill him or he falls prey to his sickness? Damn right he will, and we get to watch.

My only complaint, and a minor one, is that I wish each page had a comments section attached to it. As it stands, you can leave comments by going to a blog post that may or may not have been posted on the same day as the page you are reading, which makes it a bit confusing if you want to actively participate in the commenting.

I’m glad I met Mr. Peniston and Mr. Orr at WonderCon—and especially glad I picked up the three Hunter Black posters—or else I might not have gotten clued in to this awesome webcomic. Read it for yourself and watch the blood fly.

Speaking of WonderCon, I promised last week that I would share more about the art that my wife and I liked, so here are some links in no particular order:

Eunjung June Kim had some very nice, whimsical prints that my wife described as making her feel happy. Check out “Three Indian Girls,” “Fly pig,” “Bedtime Story,” heck any of her prints. They do make you feel happy.

I felt the same way about some prints by Pascal Campion. Check out “Midnight Friends” or “Cinemascope” on the first page of his store. I could totally put these up in my girls’ room, they are so sweet.

Along the same lines, we both liked Nidhi Chanani’s prints. Her express goal with her art is to make people happy, and she shares her art daily as a means of everyday love. Mission accomplished. I won’t even single any particular print out; any of them would be great to own.

In the just plain cool category, I really dug these East-meets-West prints from Moira Hahn. I especially like “Year of the Rooster/Attack of the Hummingbird” as it reminds me of some of my cat friends past, and “Year of the Rooster/Attack of the Tengu” because it is a samurai cat. ‘Nuff said.

Finally, last week I showed a picture of Arlyn Pillay of Ogre Shop working on a painting and he has since posted a sped-up video of him working on it. I am still blown away that he used leftover house paint to create such a cool piece.

Okay, that’s it for this week. Next week I will finish up my WonderCon sharing by talking about the handful of indie comics I picked up there.