Category Archives: Fantasy

Idea Wrangling- Pixies

One of my favorite books when I was little was The Borrowers. I love the idea of little people coexisting with humans. Living in the walls, crawlspaces, and forgotten attics while they carefully scavenge things while living in secret. In fact, one of my first stories was about being shrunken down and my adventures.

As a parent now I spend a lot of time watching animated movies. While I might be watching cartoons and such without kids the selection would be different. For a good stretch of time one of my goblins loved the Tinkerbell movies that Disney had going. We watched them quite a lot and, as we usually do, my wife and I started to overthink the stories.

The place they live is called Pixie Hollow and they have Pixie Dust, but they are all called Fairies. Not once are any of the characters called Pixies. They did come up with the name ‘sparrowmen’ for the male fairies (which is a cool term) but the Pixie/Fairy thing wasn’t answered. Granted, I didn’t read the attached books. If that is where the information rests then I have yet to disturb its slumber.

Couple with the movies such as Epic (shudder), Strange Magic, and The Secret World of Arrietty  I’ve started to consider an attempt to start a project.

This is the part where I try to organize some of the rambling in my head. You have been warned.

It would be set in a town, or city, where people live unaware of the little world around them. There would be different sorts of people (fairies, pixies, & brownies) as well as small magical creatures. Animals would play a part, but most would lack the ability to speak. Pixies and brownies would not have wings while living in buildings, crawlspaces, and such. The main separation between those two peoples would be nomadic vs a settled way of life. Fairies would have wings and stick to parks and gardens.

Magic is something I’ve considering as well. Each kind of people would have their own sort of magic. It would be tailored for to fit their way of life. Honestly, I’m still trying to figure it out. Fairies would have magic based around plants. Pixies could have something connected to scavenging, tracking, or maybe even camouflage. Brownies would have magic similar to Pixies, but I was thinking something closer attached to crafting.

Luckily, I’ve got the plot settled. I’m worried about how to get the tone and world settled. Thanks for reading.

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Filed under Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Writing

Simplifying Shadowrun

Shadowrun is an awesome setting. The amount of world-building that the source material contains is amazing. I love the cyberpunk fantasy and I’ve loved it since I discovered it years ago. The problem being that the rules have always held me back from learning it. Fifth Edition is the first ruleset that I’ve actually got my hands on. With access to a Virtual Tabletop I finally have the chance to play the game.

That being said, it’s freaking complicated. I’ve tried to read the book a number of times, but it’s put together horribly. After watching a few Youtube Tutorials and Play-Sessions I’m still lost.

This leads me to my current option: Simplify Shadowrun.

D&D 5e is a wonderfully streamline compared to the 3.5 I learned in the past. Compared to Shadowrun it’s a freaking bullet-train. There has been a bit of pushback from the community at the thought. I’ve been told that D&D can’t run the ‘complicated mechanics’ of Shadowrun.

Astral Projection, decking, rigging, and combat that is always deadly. Wow, yeah, there’s no way that a fantasy RPG can’t get those things to work.

Deckers (1980’s Hacker who plug their consciousness into a matrix) could be adapted from Wizards. Swap the flavor text for tech rather than magic, change a few things around, and that’s setup.

Astral Projection is laughable. Spirit form =/= air elemental, but it’s close enough to Druidic stuff to make a the conversion.

Rigging controls drones, vehicles, and turrets. Wow, if only the Range-Beastmaster class made that jump laughable.

http://themurdernerds.com/ Has made some steps into their own efforts. I’m planning on tossing that work in a sack & doing my best to push ahead. Here’s hoping I can get the formatting right to post.

 

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SpellJammer

For those who don’t know, Spelljammer is a D&D setting that take the adventure into space via magic. This allowed players a new avenue of play and gave them a chance to explore other settings: Dragonlance, Greyhawk, Realms, and others. The ships were magically propelled through space using Helms and there was a multitude of races, monsters, and ships to experience. In truth, converting the rules isn’t really the issue here. Getting the flavor right is important and everything else is easily swapped over.

Here is my flavoring:

  • No Clerics

Each pantheon works with the sphere of influence of that planet. The old rules state that for a god/goddess to have power they need at least 200 followers in a sphere. Considering this, divine magic seems kind of silly. A cleric without magic become a lack-luster fighter. Not saying a Cleric/Paladin can’t hop a ship to another planet. This is directed for crew-members. Healing would be done via potions or other magical means.

  • Personal Bubble

A ship has a bubble of atmosphere to keep the crew and passengers alive. For my version, each person has a one hour residual bubble if they leave the ship. This is recharged once they are returned to a ship/planet/atmosphere.

  • Charging the Helm

Helms are the way ships are able to fly through space. It requires a spell-caster to do so. To keep the ship in the air, and the atmosphere, the Helm needs to be charged by a magic-user once per 30 days. More if the spell-caster is untrained in the technique or lover than level 5. After charging the Helm the caster cannot use any spells beyond cantrips for the next 24 hours.

  • Helms Guild

Due to the fact that a trained Helms Mage can keep a ship flying indefinitely they are part of a guild. There they are given secrets and techniques to make their jobs easier. Also, any member is considered protected and killing one is an offense even the most dreaded pirates would think twice about.

  • Practically All Playable Races

Your party consists of a Kender, Warforged, Drow, Turian, and a Minotaur? Sweet that works. Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Ebberon, and just about anything you can think of is open to the players. Within the limits that you have set that is. I tossed in a Mass Effect race in that list, does this mean that they have advanced armor and sniper rifles? No, but you can say that they were encountered during an earlier time than scientific space travel.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Thoughts, comments, and suggestions would be great.

 

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Short Story- Inspection

Thalc pulled his breather mask into place. He took a moment to make sure it fit correctly on his face. The mist was thick near the edge and even after all these years it still made him dizzy. Any more than two deep breaths and he’d have to pull back out of the clouds and he’d need an hour or so to recover enough for another attempt. Some said that fact alone was proof that someone had made these floating lands. The builders being gods, man, or something else depended on who was speaking. He had lost count over the years how many scholars and priests had been lost to the mists trying to find answers. What about the thick mists made the lands float? Why did the lands stay to their gentle migrations? Was there something below the mists? The answer to those questions were variation of people falling to their deaths. Whatever caused the mists held up islands of varying sizes, but didn’t extend to hapless idiots who fell over the edge.

He hooked the latch on his belt to the lead once his mask was secure. The rail extended below the edge of the island. It connected to another sturdy pipe he’d shimmy his feet along. Thalc hated this part of the job. His post was at the edge of the mist and he’d warn people that got too close. Most of the time his daily task was a simple redirection of travelers to one of the raised bridges nearby. Today was not one of those days. No, today he had to inspect the chains.

Years ago, no one knew how long exactly, someone had bound smaller islands together. The links were easily as thick as his chest. They said that a few hundred normal sized chains ran under the lengths of the bridges, but those were built when he was a boy. Somehow the islands stayed in a close enough migration that allowed them to be linked without ever touching. Scholarly types attributed that miracle to the mists too.

Thalc checked his harness as he neared the edge. This was the worst part. He didn’t know why it even had to be done. Someone alone the way had decided the chains needed to be regularly inspected. Toss it to the mists that no one knew how they were built, or how to fix them if something went wrong.

He put his back to the edge of the island as he slipped down flat onto the ground. Slowly he shimmied back into the mist. For an eternity his booted feet hung out into nothingness. This was how his nightmares started. His feet dangling into the mist, the harness pulled taught, and then he’d fall. Luckily, this wasn’t his nightmares. His feet found the jagged edge of the island as the tether pulled taught. He leaned back, gripped the rail, and began his descent into the mist.

After this excursion to the chain he’d have forty days before it had to be repeated. That was unless someone complained. Some cloudborn noble inland would send it down the line that they wanted the chain inspected. The rainy season was the worst of it. A little hard thunder and people who had never even seen the edge thought the chains were shaking.

The tether clinked against the first joint. Thalc latched his secondary line onto the rail, swapped his main down to the new section, and continued his descent. For some reason once he was over the edge he didn’t mind the mist as much. It wasn’t something he wanted to to dwell on. Maybe it was because on the edge he could still see the land while down here it was just the mist. If he fell it wouldn’t be much different than the climb. The mask helped him see through the mist. It gave the world an amber tint and cycled his breath through two chambers.

He feet found the bar at the end of the tether. His hands moved in practiced motions to change the lines over. The progress along the bar was something of a dance. Step, step, pull, latch, and repeat. Tap, tap, brrip, click. Tap, tap, brrip, click. He found the little rhythm had worked into the small moments of his day. Tap, tap, brreng, clank.

Thalc looked down at the line. The lead had pulled away from the island. So much so that it curled back toward him and ended in the mist. He clipped his tether back to the secured section and pulled himself tight against the island. His heart thundered in his chest as he looked for any sign as to what could have done this. There weren’t any claw marks, which meant harpies and cliff birds were out. That was a small blessing. A harpy strong enough to pull the line would have had him for breakfast before he’d be able to scream.

He inched his way closer to get a better look at the ground where the bar had once been. Something big had scrapped along. It had to be a ship. Hopefully one set to drift. A ghost ship in the mists. It happened. Those hit by pirates, bad weather, or fallen to the beasts of the mists were left to drift in the mists until they were smashed to bits or pulled for salvage.

Thalc didn’t want to think about the other option, which of course meant that was where his mind went. He began his slow climb back up to the ledge. Smugglers weren’t uncommon. They’d fly in the thicker parts of the mist to avoid detection. He wasn’t against smugglers. Pirates on the other hand. Some said the mists drove them crazy. They said that their ships would simply appear. Death, pain, and terror was the only thing they traded.

He pulled himself over the edge, unhooked his tethers, and rushed out of the mist. His legs wobbled after a few steps. Thalc made it to his his guard shack. He shut the thick door tight, locked it, and slid down to the floor. Once his heartbeat returned to normal he realized his job was not yet complete. He carefully removed the clutter from around the signal light and tapped out a message. The message was brief. He stuck to the facts.

Inspection incomplete. Rail damaged. Signs point to crash. Thalc.

He looked inland and waited for someone to answer. Hopefully someone on the other side knew what to do.

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Double Book Review

A month or so ago I signed up for a free trial on Audible. It comes with 2 credits to download audio-books. I picked out Star Wars: Aftermath by Chuck Wendig and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Here are the reviews.

Star Wars: Aftermath

The best part of this book was the narrator. Marc Thompson has done a few other Star Wars audio-books so having him doing the reading was a nice slide into things. Not only that but the Star Wars series really goes all out with sound FX and pieces of music to enhance the listening experience. That’s about all that’s good about it. Star Wars books aren’t exactly to top tier of science fiction. They mostly get by on the fanbase, but they’re entertaining enough to read.

This wasn’t. It was set in Third Person Present Tense. She lifts the blaster. He ducks out of the way. I hate that. I’m not a fan of Chuck Wendig. A while ago I saw a bunch of hype about him and someone I respect lent their voice to the praise. I decided to check out one of his books when I was at a bookstore and was underwhelmed. His blog is entertaining, but I don’t understand how’s he’s gotten to be so lauded.

The story takes place on a planet the remaining Empire has locked down. Their story is that nothing the rebels say is true and everything is business as usual.

There was a lot of noise about having a main character who was gay. That’s stupid. I didn’t enjoy the book, the writing was clunky, the tense never settled in my head, and the fan service felt forced. The fact that one of the characters was gay didn’t play in to any part of not liking the story. It felt like the author was grasping at straws for some way to make a flat character interesting.

Verdict: Skip

The Way of Kings

Brandon Sanderson is the author. I like his work, most of the time. He wrote the Mistborn series, which had 2/3 good books and The Alloy of Law was cool. I hope to read that sequel to that soon. The narrator, Michael Kramer, sounds like a badly disguised Microsoft voice and was hard to listen too.

This book. Man. I wanted to like this book. It started off interesting, but it turns out that after the three stage prologue (it calls one of them part 1, but that’s a lie) that the reader has been suckered in to a long trudge. The first prologue is set thousands of years in the past and gives some insight of the larger picture, if vaguely, that is happening. The second prologue is awesome and has to do with an assassin trying to kill a king. That was a sweet read. The magic the assassin used was interesting and dynamic. Part 1, which is really prologue part three, starts a few months in the aftermath. It kept me invested and I wanted to see where it went. Then at the end of the the story takes another leap in time and that’s when the real-real story begins. Something didn’t smell right to me, so after listening for quite a few hours I decided to check out the wiki page. My hunch was right and, not to spoil it, irritated me quite a bit. This damn book is told in 3-6 hour chunks and it wasn’t worth it.

Verdict: Skip

I got these two audio-books for free. They each marketed for like $30 when I got them. I’m so glad I didn’t pay for these.

Sanderson is starting to lose my faith. After the third Mistborn book I was unsure, but Alloy of Law reminded me why I liked his stories. The second prologue, and even the third part, was interesting and I wanted to know more. It wasn’t until I was knee-deep in the slog that I realized I’d made a mistake.

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Animal Control & Rescue

Simon looked at the beast that towered over him and wondered how it had found him. A sharp pain in his right arm reminded him of the bloody gash he had received crashing his car into one of the creatures pack mates. Blood trail, stupid rookie mistake, and possibly his last.

The beast looked like a polar bear mated with a gorilla and then got really angry. He knew what it was, a North-American Yeti, usually they stuck to the wildernesses of Canada and even then they weren’t much of an issue but somehow this one and the three that followed it had found their way into Northern Maine, and that was part of Simon’s territory. Technically, Vermont, Maine, Massacheusets, and New York excluding New York City were his territory but that was just arguing semantics.

Taking down the first two while fully stocked and with use of all his limbs was hard, using his car to smash the third one was a desperate move, now he was down to one arm and his gun nowhere to be found. He always wondered how he was going to die, ever since starting this job he knew it wasn’t going to be in bed surrounded by grandkids. Well, there was a chance he would die surrounded by someone else’s grandchildren but then he would probably be a meal and that was a scenario for another day.

He tried to remember what the manual said about Yeti. Was the plural Yetis or Yetii or just Yeti? No time for that now, his brain was wondering, the pain was making him loose focus.

“Yeti,” he said looking into the black orbs of the creature. “Prefers colder climate and enjoys a diet of small game. You are supposed to be extremely territorial but mostly harmless.”

The Yeti growled as it took another step closer to him. One more step and it would be able to grab him and that would be the end. He tried not to move and then it clicked in his mind.

“Catches game by frightening its prey into stillness,” Simon rushed forward and hopped to the side as a large hand reached out for him. “You’re big and scary but slow and stupid.”

Diving under another swipe of a clawed hand he ran back along the creatures tracks. Yeti were notorious for living in caves or creating natural cover by bending trees, if there were any survivors they would be there. Once he found them he would come up with more of a plan.

Adrenaline kicked in, the pain in his arm dulled and the cool winter air was refreshing and brisk. The tracks were easy to follow and he soon found himself facing the opening of an ice cave. Natural run-off had frozen to create a hollowed out area against a rock face. Somewhere in the back of his mind he noted that it was beautiful.

The Yeti was close behind him, they were slow moving but big and once they sped up all that mass they didn’t stop easily. An idea went formed in his mind and he stood on the other side of the ice wall, waiting for the beast. Just as he found the perfect spot the Yeti came into view, charging straight at him and bellowing a roar that made his teeth rattle. With every step closer the beast picked up speed.

Simon dove to the right, sliding face first like a runner praying to steal home, and the Yeti crashed head first into ice wall and bursting on through.

“Oh crap,” he turned over and looked at the chunk of missing ice.

The ice wall was supposed to stop it. Reaching with his uninjured hand to his right pocket he pulled the large tranquilizer needle and uncapped it. He had to move quickly, it would probably still be stunned.

Closing one eye and walking into the cave he could see the Yeti sprawled across the floor of the cave. One of its arms was bent at an odd angle and he was pretty sure its left foot wasn’t supposed to turn that way. It was still breathing, which he guessed was good.

Unceremoniously he planted the needle in the creature’s hindquarters and depressed the plunger. The thing should be out now for at least a few hours, probably more given its injuries. He sat down, using the Yeti as a seat and reached inside his jacket. He pulled a little black box that almost looked like a garage door opener with a small screen and pressed a button. The screen blinked for a moment then the word ‘received’ scrolled across the three inch display in green blocky letters.

A small whimper brought his attention toward the back of the cave. He really hoped it wasn’t another Yeti, even a little one could be a pain in the ass and he didn’t have any more needles.

“Hello,” a shaky voice called.

“Hello?” He replied standing up. “Who’s there?”

“Oh thank god!” The voice yelled.

A young man, maybe twenty years old rushed from the back of the cave and wrapped his arms around Simon.

“I was so scared,” he sobbed. “It ate Robby and our guide, then it dragged me here. I thought I was going to die.”

“You’re going to be alright now,” Simon patted the young man on his back and tried to ignore the pressure on his injured arm. “Help is coming.”

“Anything you want, I’ll give it to you, anything,” the young man sobbed.

“I could really use some back-up,” he sighed looking at the downed Yeti.

“Done,” the kid nodded. “What’s your name?”

“Simon,” he returned the hug. “Simon Kelevra.”

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Filed under Fantasy, Short Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Writing

In Another Castle- Chapter 3

We moved quickly through the castle. Three guards approached from a side hallway. I took a breath to tell them to stand down, but before I could speak they fell into step with the others. My mouth pressed shut as we kept up the brisk pace. This castle had been my life, these guards were men I’d grown to count as friends, and yet they didn’t even attempt a rescue. Yes, I had chosen this fate, but anyone outside of the ballroom wouldn’t have known, and those in it probably weren’t too happy about it.

I stole a look at one of the guards. A mixture of relief and worry stirred in my chest. I didn’t recognize the man, in fact now that I had a look at him I wondered how I could have mistaken him from any of the guards in the palace. The raised red tattoo that ran across the bridge of his nose made it apparent he wasn’t from around here.

“Where did you get the guards uniforms?” I looked at my draconic betrothed.

“We stole them.” He answered without looking at me.

“And their original owners?”

He didn’t say anything.

“How many of my men did you kill?”

His sharp golden eyes snapped to me. “Only those we had to. Can your men say the same?”

I narrowed my gaze and looked up at him. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t know?” A faint puff of smoke accented his words.

I realized then that we should have been to the main hall by now. Out of the corner of my eye I began to pick up hints of where were and what our destination would be. We were near the western tower. I kept silent as we moved. This didn’t make sense. The western tower was the tallest of the five that the castle had, but it faced the sea on one side and the castle on the other. Even if they had somehow managed to figure out how to bend space-time, there wasn’t a conduit in the tower. The nearest anchor point was in the courtyard outside behind the main gate and surrounded by two fully stocked guard stations whose sole purpose was to monitor traffic.

“Are you planning on making a last stand in the tower?” I waved a hand at the winding staircase now in front of our group.

Even with the new arrivals, which had totaled nearly twenty, they wouldn’t be able to hold the tower for long. The stairway was wide enough for six wide-shouldered men to walk side-by-side, or fight, which would work in their favor, but this wasn’t the only staircase. Each tower had two separate passages for servants and a central platform that could be raised or lowered floor by floor. The tower would be retaken before sundown.

“Hardly, princess.” Eirikr strode ahead of his followers.

The desert gnomes began to remove their disguises as we wound our way higher. They tossed their stolen jackets on the stairs, most of them used the white frilled shirts to clear out chunks of blue gel from their hair. A couple wiped streaks of the goop to paint designs on their faces, or to simply wipe it on their unsuspecting comrades. Those disguised as guards followed the gnomes lead. I quickly learned that they weren’t even human, the green and red shells on their backs gave it away. A closer look at their skin revealed that it was finely scaled and what I thought were tattoos was natural. The looked similar to Eirikr in appearance with sharp draconic features, but their eyes were more akin to that of a human. None of Eirikrs’ band had looked twice at me, as of yet. I guess sneaking into a hostile castle and stealing a princess doesn’t leave a lot of room for leisure.

Our band more than doubled the higher we got in the tower. Every room, landing, and alcove held a waiting gnome, lizardman, or one of the shelled-folk I did not know the name for. My gown began to stir as wind whipped down the corridor. We reached the top of the tower where even more of loyal troopers waited near the open door. My heart dropped as I looked up at the patch of sky through the door. This was it, I would do my duty, save my kingdom, and avert total invasion. I wasn’t sure yet how plummeting from the tower with the leader of the soon-to-invade horde, but the life of a princess is rarely a fairy tale.

Eirikr strode to the door and waited for the rest of his band to pass through. He held his hand out to me.

“The choice is yours princess.” The dragons’ voice still rumbled, but it was distant thunder on the horizon rather than storming overhead. “Your father gave his word, as did I, but you did not.”

I glared at him. “You doubt my honor.”

He gave a small, slow shake of his head. For a moment I didn’t see him as fearsome dragon, but a king, not unlike my father, with the world on his shoulders. I put my hand in his. He looked down at it and then up at me.

“If we’re going to jump, could we do it toward the sea?” I looked to the doorway. “I’d rather make a splash than a mess on the stone below.”

Eirikr raised his head to the ceiling and let out a quick trio of flames. I was taken aback, maybe he meant to burn me alive. He covered his mouth with the back of his hand and the flames settled down into a chuckle. I stared at him, still unsure what caused this outburst.

“Slip into the castle, escort the princess to the tallest tower, and then throw her from it?” Eirikr shook his head. “What kind of plan is that?”

“I assumed you’d be right behind me.”

“Behind you.” Smoke rolled from his nostrils. “No princess, we’re not jumping, we’re leaving. I’ll lead the way.”

He led me out to the tower. His troopers climbed the stone battlement and stepped off.

A moment later they floated back up into sight riding on clumps of cloud. They lazily rose to a thick concentration of dark storm clouds. He pointed a clawed finger at the cluster of cloud and my eyes began to pick out lines through the mist. I raised my free hand and traced the distant edge with my fingertips.

“A ship?” I turned to look at him.

“A fleet.” He waved hand at the other dark clusters that filled the sky around the castle.

Now that I knew what to look for I could pick out at least ten ships nearby. The band of troopers were heading toward the largest ship. I followed Eirikr to the battlements. He stepped up onto the stone and prodded a nearby cloud with his foot. The mists gathered around his foot until I couldn’t see through it. He stepped off the stone fully onto the cloud and dipped down out of view. I watched in wonder as he floated back up and drifted off toward a nearby ship.

I was alone on the top of the tower now. All the troopers and the dragon lord were riding clouds toward their fleet. I looked back at the door that led down into the tower. My father had betrayed his word, I would not. I stepped up onto the battlement and dipped my foot into the mist. The cloud formed around my foot. I closed my eyes and stepped off.

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