L – Lulwy

Lulwy is the goddess of wind, air and archery in the free roguelike game ELONA (Eternal League of Nefia).  The wind is a harsh mistress.  Literally.  She’s kind of an evil dom, but that’s to be expected in a world where the wind is a bringer of death, disease, and horrid mutation brought on by the Ether of the Vindale Forests.  Worshiping her has its advantages, particularly since her domain is speed.  There are a lot of things in Elona that you will want to run away very quickly from.

Chara_393-426_lulwy

It Continues: Emergent Narrative as Prose Narrative

Son Tower, the Mad Mage of Palmia, could not get the memory of Arark out of his head. The way she wielded her sword. The way she leapt and dodged the blows from that adamantine golem. The way she rescued him from that pack of Tyrannosaurs. He had to see her again! Before she had left, Son Tower had showered Arark with gifts and trinkets. Nothing too impressive, but hopefully enough to remember him by.

“Will I see you again?” he had asked.

“I’m sure our paths will cross again,” she’d replied with a smile. “North Tyris is not such a big country.”

But it was big. And it was deadly. And Son Tower hated the idea that he would have to face it without her.

For a few months, it was business as usual for Son Tower and his enterprising band of misfits. Escorting wealthy individuals along the dangerous highways, doing a few procurement jobs, massacring drunken revellers. Son Tower had even managed to topple a few bastions of chaos, though nothing of the magnitude that he’d been able to with Arark’s help. But it was paying the bills and refilling the coffers that the swordmaiden had emptied. Tower had even managed to amass enough platinum that he could finally be done with the Thieves guild. Being taught how to steal and disarm traps had been useful tidbits that could help him in some of the sticky situations he’d gotten himself in, but Tower was a magus at heart (though his band of merry maidens often worked more magic with steel and gunpowder than he with his tricks) and the great library in Lumiest was calling to him.

Forfeiting his right to call himself a thieves guild “thug”, Son Tower dropped off a sizable donation of occult literature he had been translating, hoping that the Mages of Lumiest might welcome a dangerous freak such as himself. Entry qualifications are rather harsh and demanding, however, so it might be awhile before his membership actually came through.

Before leaving the city, Son Tower decided that he would ask around about Arark. Had anyone seen her since they parted ways? He couldn’t hold against her that even she hadn’t been able to kill that damnable Golden Bell. Did she hold it against him? He hoped not as he stopped off at adventure office near the Pub.

He’d never asked after the other adventurers in North Tyris. He knew that there were individuals who kept track of them (whether for tax purposes or something else, he wasn’t sure; the information was generally provided free of cost to the public), but until now, he’d never had a reason to ask.

“Excuse me,” Son asked hesitantly, “I was wondering if I could see the roster of sanctioned adventurers registed in the kingdom.”

“Knock yourself out.” A surly gentleman in exquisite blue finery handed Son tower a list of several dozen names with locations written beside them. The Kingdom’s top diviners tracked the activities of all sanctioned adventurers and fed that information out to the adventure offices in cities around the kingdom. Whether they liked it or not, adventurers had to accept the fact that the Kingdom knew where they were at all times, and anyone wanting to hire them on had the opportunity to find them.

Son Tower began by looking at the bottom of the list and scanned upward. About 10 names up the list, Son Tower saw himself, smirking that he’d managed to keep such a relatively low profile while amassing such wealth. His flippant attitude towards certain work had likely been a contributing factor, but the last thing he wanted was renown. The higher your name was on the list, the more people were out there looking for your head, if not your help.

Son kept scanning upward, but could not see the name of the lady whom he sought. Until he reached the top, that is. There, at the very top of the list, Son Tower saw the name of his beloved Arark. She was considered (officially by the Palmian government) the most powerful, most successful, and most sought after adventurer in all of North Tyris, and he had fallen in love with her! And she was at the Palmian Embassy!

“That’s near my holdings!” Son Tower cried. Indeed, Son Tower had carefully established his lands in highly desirable plains between the Capital and the government office complex (likely the real seat of authority in North Tyris) just to the north of Palmia.

It would take him a few days to reach his home from Lumiest, so Son Tower set out at once. Unfortunately, he would prove to be too late. Arark’s business at the Embassy was likely brief, perhaps just paying taxes on her various incomes which, judging by her contract price, must have been substantial indeed.

Surely she couldn’t have gone far, though, Son thought. Maybe she was still in Palmia?

Son Tower immediately raced south, stopping only briefly at his home to drop off a few things and gather what cash and light-weight valuables he could. Once within the walls of Palmia, Tower made a bee-line for the local adventurers’ office.

“Tell me!” Son demanded excitedly as he barged in. “Is there a swordmaiden named Arark in town? I have to know!”

“Easy, there!” an attendant checked him. “You can see the list and look for yourself, just like everybody else.”

Son eagerly and violently grabbed the scroll from the attendant. Top of the list: Arark – location: Palmia.

“She’s here! She’s here!” Son jumped for joy. “Oh, no! I… I need to get some gold, fast!”

The sad reality was, even if there was something between Son Tower and Arark, she was way out of his league. She was the most sought after hero in all of North Tyris. There was no way that she’d just give that up to live with him and go tagging along with him into boring muddly little holes. She was the sort of woman who wanted real adventure, to laugh at danger, and to swim in the mountains of wealth and treasure that being the number one adventurer in Tyris had made her accustomed to.

The one way he could for certain get her to spend time with him on his terms was to sign her on for another contract. They’d have all week to talk about things, kill monsters and bathe in their hoardes of treasure. He knew that she’d like at least two of those things. Hopefully all three. They HAD hit it off the first time they talked when she stopped by his estate to pay her respects to one of Palmia’s up and coming nobles. He tried to deny that it had anything to do with the fantastic sword she carried. But if he didn’t genuinely care about her, why did he help her uncurse that stupid tower shield she’d been stuck with? Yes, he cared about HER, not the sword. It was HER that saved him from… how many dinosaurs was it? Three, at least. Not the sword.

As the most sought after adventurer in North Tyris, Arark’s contract was not cheap. The kingdom made sure of that, especially since they wanted their piece of it. Son Tower would need to make a lot of money and quickly while Arark was still in town.

“I have no idea what these are for,” Son mumbled to himself looking over the several dozen scrolls of wonder and oracle he’d been keeping for just such an occassion. “Some wizard I am…”

It took stopping at nearly every merchant in Palmia, selling almost everything magical of substantial value he had. He briefly wondered what effect his action must behaving on Palmia’s economy, having taken over one hundred thousand gold out of the hands of the capital’s merchants in a single day.

“Please let her still be here…” Son whispered over and over as he hurriedly looked about the city for the object of his desire. She was not in the palace plaza, nor in any of the shops, nor the temple, nor the inns, nor the pubs. Arark seemed to have vanished. Earlier in the day, Son Tower had seen her gazing into one of the fountains in the main square, but he had been afraid to approach her.

Son was forced to ask around. Yes, she was still in town, but no one had seen her. He was about to leave in desperation, when walking down an alley in the southeast residential district, Son saw the pale face, framed by flaxen hair, of a woman in white.

The woman gave Son a quizzical look before a smile of recognition broke on her lips. “Son Tower? Is that you? How are you!”

Arark bid Son come into the small house outside which she had been standing.

“I’m staying here while I’m in Palmia,” Arark explained. “What have you been up to?”

“Oh, well, a little of this and that.”

“Adventuring? Anything real exciting?”

“Some. Nothing like some of the stuff we faced, though.”

“I know! I mean, who would have thought that dragons hunt in packs? And those minotaurs?”

“And dinosaurs.”

“Oh, yeah, who could forget?”

“Actually, Arark,” Son Tower swallowed hard, trying to quell the nervousness that was building in his stomach. “That’s kind of what I wanted to talk with you about. I have a job that I’d like to hire you on…”

____________________________

Arark and Son Tower are on their way to another level 30+ dungeon. While Arark will have no trouble here, it might be a bit of a struggle for Son Tower to stay alive while winning over the affections of his beloved.

Emergent Narratives and a Few More Shout Outs

I’m always intrigued by games that have emergent narratives, and the emergent aspect of rogue-likes combined with the work/reward cycle makes games like Elona particularly addictive.

I’ve been playing in a way I hadn’t ever played before. Usually, I would only have 1 or 2 allies and would never even think about hiring other adventurers in the world for short term contracts. The character I’ve been playing this time, however, has grown to have quite the entourage, including a core party of a tank, two gunners, a tank in training, and a very low-level tank in training that I don’t quite know what to do with right now. I’ve got a high level rock-thrower, but he’s keeping things under control at my Shop, which is like a used car lot for undesired dungeon-loot. In addition to this fairly large party, I’ve been taking the opportunity to hire any reasonably priced adventurer who swings by my house to say “hi”. This has more or less ended up with there being 3 mediocre adventurers I’ve had with me several different 7 day stretches each, as well as a few others I may have only hired once. I typically use them for a little extra oomph in dungeons around my level, hoping that they’ll keep my lower level companions from taking the heaviest hits.

Anyway, I was playing last night, and something happened. Some adventurer showed up at my character’s house, and she had the Zantetsu. The Zantetsu is probably the best longsword-type weapon in the game, and god knows how much stuff you have to have to be able to trade for it (you can only trade one stack of items at a time, and 19 Scrolls of Wonder got me laughed at). The chances of finding one or having someone who has one stop by your house is astronomically low. So, I had a plan. I hired her.

Hiring this adventurer cost me about 1.5 million gold for a 7 day contract. This pretty much broke the bank for me, so I had to get my money’s worth. The original plan was to tell my main party to stay behind, take her to high level dungeons, and hope that she got killed by something so I could get her loot and escape using various scrolls before whatever killed her got me. After clearing 2 high level dungeons, it became apparent that there’s next to no way that anything in these holes are going to kill her. I’ve got maybe a day or so left on her contract and I’ve taken her into a level 34 dungeon, which is more than twice my current level and will have out of depth monsters of nearly godlike proportion. One after another, she cleaves her way through wyverns, titans, liches, dragons, greater mummies, evil chess sets, and worse. And with each monster she obliterates with her Infinity+1 sword, she smiles at me and winks. This changes everything. I may not get Zantetsu as a bequest but as a dowry.

Sleezy evil wizard (c’mon, it’s a roguelike!) brings a beautiful warrior with him, hoping that she will die and he can steal her treasures, but over the course of their time together, he sees more than her sword, she maybe sees the job as more than just a contract, and they start to fall in love. Will they get married? Will they live happily ever after? WHO KNOWS!? I do know that mechanically, the characters are a little over half-way there. I don’t know exactly how much time is left on her current contract, but it should be enough to finish off this last dungeon. If I’m lucky, she’ll have killed enough monsters that she’ll be willing to stay as a permanent fixture of the party. If I’m less lucky, I might at least get enough money to hire her again and run another high level dungeon or two. Because it’s Elona, there’s a lot of potential for evil unhappy endings for this relationship: after the wizard and warrior get married, and the wizard could always just rob her of her prized possessions and then sell her into slavery. But that’s pretty awful. I’d like to think that maybe the wizard sees more in her than her valuable equipment and she becomes a staple in his party and in his life.

Anyway, enough about that, there are a few other things I wanted to mention.

First of all, there are only 10 days left on the Rumors of War kickstarter, and it’s just under half-way to its goal. Go over there and show some love!

Secondly, Varg has started a new video series of mini-documentaries on Black Metal. The first might be of particular interest to some of the readers here, as it pertains in part to the influence of RPGs on Metal. I’m not entirely sure how this documentary project is going to turn out, as it’s just begun. If he cuts it short and only makes a few, it’ll be kind of a disappointment, especially as a lot of what he talks about can be found elsewhere or is common knowledge to music wonks. But if he keeps it up and actually creates, as he says he’s planning, a definitive and myth-dispelling analysis of Black Metal from the perspective of someone who was there, if only to try to set the record straight, it will doubtlessly be insightful and fascinating.

Lastly, I’ve found a tool that will help me in my Batman quest. Or deter me. I haven’t decided yet. Either way, http://www.therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/ is a thing of wonder.

Generic Dungeons and Some Oblivion Inspiration

I’ve recently been playing a lot of Oblivion, continuing the adventures of Mr. Pants. I just finished re-running the Shivering Isles expansion, and Mr. Pants has has returned to Cyrodiil to continue his misadventures in the great green fishbowl. Since his return, not a lot exciting has happened. At level 5, he was impressively able to kill Umbra and take her stuff with the help of a handful of clanfears (nothing like being able to send a demonic raptor dinosaur thing after low-level enemies) and finding a nice ledge to shoot down at her from. But that’s really been about it. I’ve run through a couple of the generic dungeons, and the dungeons of Shivering Isles only serve to reinforce how generic they are.

The average non-quest related dungeon in Oblivion is 1-4 levels of cave, mine, castle or elf-crypt. There is a specific “type” that is randomly drawn from based on your level, and generic randomly spawning chests. Nothing to write home about. There are a few non-quest places that have a little bit of flavor, like Goblin Jim’s cave (a generic goblin cave that has a crazy naked dude who lives with goblins) and the elven ruin that was destroyed by some sort of flood, but for the most part, there’s not a lot going on and you’re not going to find anything of interest.

Shivering Isle, on the other hand, with a few exceptions, has some interesting and rewarding stuff even in dungeons that aren’t quest-related, some of which would be a great inspiration for some table-top games. Now, I can’t remember their names, but a few descriptions should suffice:

-A family tomb that has become an obsession. I’ve always said that I’m fascinated with cursed and haunted tombs in RPGs, how they began as normal tombs and what the transition ot a cursed/haunted tomb must have been like. One of the most interesting Shivering Isles dungeons, Ebrocca I think it is called, is a look at a tomb that is nearing the end of its transition from normal family tomb to crazy cursed haunted tomb. The patriarch of a family has become obsessed with building his family tomb so that it will stand for all time and be a sanctuary for the family dead forever, so he fills it with all kinds of traps and apparently curses as well. His relatives have expressed concern, the tomb is far too dangerous for the family to actually visit, and the traps and curses actually lead to the death of a number of said family members. To top it off, the crazy patriarch has made himself immortal so he can guard the inner sanctum of the tomb for all time.

-A cult of poets have found an awesome ruined subterranean amphitheatre and had a great idea: kidnap people, give them anything they desired, and then have them compete in poetry and playwriting. Of course, the people who are kidnapped are all in a panic and think that they’re going to be forced to fight each other to the death. Instead of asking for the luxuries the cult are willing to provide, the prisoners ask for weapons and end up trying to kill each other. The cult of poets panic and hole themselves up, hiding because “oh, god, these people are crazy and are going to kill us!”.

-A young man convinces his wife to leave the big city behind and go live in a cave. Not just any cave, but a wonderful, beautiful cave that has everything they’d ever need! Unfortunately, the cave is lonely and the wife wants to leave. Eventually, the young man relents and lets his wife go off to return to the city, but she gets hurt and killed trying to flee a dangerous animal in the cave. Now, in the game, you only find the woman’s corpse, and the husband is programmed to immediately attack, so as far as that goes, it’s a set-piece and is a little disappointing in how it plays out, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile for some inspiration.

These would make for GREAT adventures, or at least offer a lot to pull from. The vanilla Oblivion dungeons, though, can’t help but make me think of the Labyrinth Lord Gibbering Tower, which is a non-descript ruin with some rather vile monsters and no worthwhile reward. The best way to win is to avoid the place completely.*

Now, it is time for the irony of this ‘generic’ dungeon complaint to show itself. I’m setting aside Mr. Pants for a bit to start playing Elona again.

*:Gibbering Tower, it should be noted is one-page dungeon and a con-module.