I love IRC. It’s simple, easy, and a great way to connect with people all around the world. I am a particular fan of #5by5, #wikipedia-en-help, #wolfire, and #linkinus. Between podcast chatrooms and Wiki help groups, IRC has a lot to offer.

I know that IRC has been used to run games since the protocol was first available, but I just don’t know where to find (this particular set of) nerds. What channels do you all lurk on? Where are the late-night conversations about the latest Pathfinder game? Enlighten me.

This is the first in what I hope will be a long series of posts detailing the world of Telmane. I am writing Telmane in a locally hosted wiki and have enough to start posting regularly. Enjoy!

Taern, the City of Lights, is in the contested region between Morgau, Doresh, Wyte, and Tele. In 1370, the Oligarchs declared the city independent in the Glorious Uprising, fended off an incursion by the undead, and established Taern as an economic and cultural power in the region.

I was really excited by Johnn’s post announcing the March carnival because: 1) life and death in RPGs offers a lot to play around with, and 2) his examples really sparked my imagination. To be honest, death doesn’t feature very heavily in my games. Nor does undeath, in fact. I’ve stayed away from vampires, liches, and zombies and I’ve never had a character death from one of my players.

However, in the near future I expect a shift toward death. I’m preparing a new campaign setting based in a city on the border with Morgau and Doresh, the realms detailed in Kobold Quarterly’s Imperial Gazeteer: The Principality of Morgau and Doresh, and Realms Subterranean. Here are a couple of ways I plan to include death:

  • The base city will be in contested territory—Morgau and Doresh to the northwest, Wyte and Tele to the south and southeast. The princes of the nearby realms have fought over it for centuries. About 70 years ago (1370), several powerful merchants declared an independent oligarchy and a bloody shadow war ensued, now called the Glorious Uprising. Morgau and Doresh used the opportunity to mount an offensive, using the defenders’ own corpses for fodder. The oligarchs rallied the city to fight the undead, using the external threat to solidify their power. While the oligarchy has relaxed in recent years and there is even some trade across the border, the fear of enemy agents is constant.
  • One artifact to be found during the campaign is the Axe of Imshandra. Imshandra was a holy warrior of Pharasma during the Third Human Empire, known for her devotion and fearlessness in battle. Ultimately slain during the assault on Lotherion, her reputation lived on, as did her weapon. Anyone who strikes the killing blow to a creature of at least equal prowess may shout, “I dedicate this death to Pharasma!” and receive the blessing of the goddess in the next encounter.
  • Few know that the city is on the edge of the long extinct First Human Empire. Exactly how and why the Empire perished is lost to time, but there is a small but active cult trying to revive it. The cult believes that the Empire is merely sleeping, waiting to be awoken by its loyal descendants. While they are active in several other cities, the cultists have begun to gather in this city. One of their prophets (actually a manifestation of the demigod Hos) wrote of a cataclysm to take place in the near future that would allow the cultists to perform the rituals necessary to raise the Empire. The appointed time approaches, and the cultists watch for omens. Little do the cultists know, of course, that they are being played by the demigods who plan to use the cultists to pierce the planar veil and manifest fully on the material plain.

So, that’s coming along. Sound exciting?

Over the next few months on this blog, I will develop parts of a world in which I hope to run some Pathfinder games in the near future. I will sketch out regions, nations, cities, factions, and denizens (sometimes literally). Things will likely be fluid as I change my mind, so I may add a wiki to keep track of every aspect of the project. Please read along and chime in—this is meant to be a learning experience for me, and community feedback will be vital.

What is this world called? I really don’t know yet.

I have decided that the fate of this blog is best served by canceling my hosting plan with Dreamhost (who have been wonderful, by the way) and moving the domain to a free host. I’ve used Posterous as my host for a free blog for a while now, so it seems like a fairly natural transition. There may be some down time as the transition takes place, but I hope to have everything backed up and redirected by early this afternoon.

If you read my other site, Creative Anomalies, the parent domain, I plan to merge it with the blog subdomain. With any luck, creativeanomalies.com/blog will soon redirect to the main domain. And with that, I wish all of you (and WordPress) a very fond farewell!

EDIT: I was able to use a new domain (the actual site name) with WordPress for less than it would have cost me at Posterous, so here we are! Expect new content to arrive shortly.

Let’s be honest.  Most blogs shine when they have a real focus.  Most RPG blogs are just that: RPG blogs.  Perhaps they post interesting-and-random-but-related tidbits every now and then.  Ink Nouveau is a great pen ‘n’ blog that sticks to its mission with commendable zeal.  Some of my classmates, like Carey Pietsch and Steph Su, keep up sketchblogs and book review blogs and keep a tight focus.  Sure, there’s the occasional post about happiness, but part of what garners a loyal crowd of readers is keeping that laser-tight focus on your blog’s mission statement.

Why do I bring this up?  In a month’s time, my contract with Dreamhost is set to expire.  I bought my original hosting plan with a ridiculously cheap deal, something like $12/year for unlimited storage and bandwidth.  Over the past two years, I’ve tried to run a webcomic/sketchblog and a personal blog that morphed into an RPG blog.  I’ve had a whole lot of fun doing each of the above.  I’ve read some great game products, interviewed cool people, and engaged in some excellent dialogue with others in the blogosphere.  Unfortunately, I fear that the time for this blog has come to an end.

To be honest, I’m not sure why this blog is around any more.  My first blog, an utter embarrassment hosted on Blogger, was really just an experiment to see if I could make my voice heard on the web.  Surprise!  It worked.  I don’t know if anyone actually read it, but I could certainly publish with a click of a button.  This blog was more of an effort to see what I could do with a server.  Turns out I could learn some HTML and CSS.  It also turns out that I’m not very good at web design, but somehow I’ll just have to live with myself.  Now, two years later, I’ve experienced blogger drift.

Some people manage to make a living by writing about their opinions day in and day out.  We call them politicians, or, charitably, op-ed contributors.  Some people even manage to maintain a blog of random, awesome stuff.  Look at Boing Boing or Tom Scott.  They do really neat stuff and rarely fail to usually surprise us almost completely.

But, again, let’s be honest.  Writing the ridiculous amount of stuff that shows up on Boing Boing requires work.  First, you’ve got to have an idea.  I’d be curious to see how many ideas are tossed in the bin by Mark & Co. for every one that makes it out to the thousands of readers who visit the site every day.  Second, you’ve got to research your idea.  You can’t write a good news piece, interview, expose, or what have you without doing some basic research.  Then you’ve got to do some in-depth research.  Blogging may look like random, serendipitious fun, but the best stuff, the stuff that makes you add a site to your news feeds, is founded on some basic journalistic principles, like research.  Third, you’ve got to write your idea.  And fourth, you’ve got to edit your idea.  Those last two take only a pair of sentences between them, but in reality they can take hours to days.

And now I come round again to the reason why I’m assaulting your eyeballs today.  Blogging is fun, but it also requires a time commitment.  To build the sort of loyal, involved readership that I want requires a regular schedule and at least a couple of hours per week spent researching, writing, and editing (to say nothing of interacting with other, like-minded bloggers).  I do not think I can invest that kind of time every week.  That is not to say that I have done so in the past.  This blog is not Boing Boing.  This is not meant to be Boing Boing.  But I would like it to be a place of focus, a place where readers may reliably find new and exciting pieces of quality amateur journalism.  Whether it’s roleplaying games, writing instruments, speculative fiction, comics, or the state of professional journalism today, I want my blog to have a reason for being and I want every post to contribute meaningfully to that purpose.

For now, I shall think more about why I like to write and what I like to write about.  When my Dreamhost plan lapses, I may transplant the blog to another (free) host.  At the very least, I shall keep the domain name and an archive of the content from this blog.  Maintaining a self-hosted blog is no longer an option for me, but I plan to continue my online presence.  I have found in the past that eliminating commitments, even if they exist only in my head, is a liberating experience.  Sometimes it pays to reevaluate what you do and why you do it.  I’ve noticed my blogger drift and have decided that the time for reevaluation is now.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I love blogging, and that I love interacting with readers and other bloggers.  So, to all my readers and subscribers, whoever you may be, thank you.  I appreciate the time that you’ve invested in this blog over the past few years.  I don’t intend to disappear, but in a month this blog will likely not be what it was.  I hope it will be better.

Interactive fiction has been around a looooong time.  I’m just getting into it now, but I thought I’d write about how cool it is.  I know, I’m a tad late to the party.

If you’ve never played interactive fiction, let me put it to you this way: you type commands or click on things, and it changes the setting you are in (or not).  Then you type or click on more stuff, and things change again.  Eventually, you accomplish a goal.  But that really doesn’t even begin to sum up the experience.

Interactive fiction covers a lot of ground.  Myst and, more recently, Machinarium are two games that, I would argue, have pushed the IF envelope a bit (using graphics, for one thing) and have garnered serious attention.  When most people hear IF, though, they think of text adventures.

You’ve probably heard of Zork.  If you’re a Chuck fan (and you should be), you’ve definitely heard of Zork.  Zork has, for a lot of reasons, entered the public awareness like few other text adventures.  It sort of hides out in the corner at the party, occasionally waving and getting recognized by a couple of celebrities who have fond memories from childhood, but is soon forgotten when the flashbulbs have faded.  But no matter how often it is forgotten, Zork sticks around and inspires greatness.

That’s the thing about text adventures is that they stay with you.  I’ve become a pretty avid Minecraft player in the last month or so (in case you’ve been wondering if I died) but even Minecraft doesn’t stick with me in my walk to the dining hall quite the way Andrew Plotkin‘s excellent The Dreamhold does.  It’s the sort of thing that begins to consume you, all puzzles and tantalizing descriptions, and you begin to see what you’re not told.

That’s the pull of IF.  It takes root in your soul, to use a pseudo-spiritual term.  I can see why you would, in the words of the fabulous Mr. Plotkin, “spend fifteen years working hard on projects with no reward but community good-will.”  In fact, after much work by dedicated IF players and writers, Inform is available to help you do just that.  It’s really a fantastic, easy-to-use piece of software and it runs on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

With Inform and a great starter tutorial from Brass Lantern, I’m starting to work on my own short, exploratory piece of IF based on my current residence hall.  Why?  Because it sounds like fun.  Also, I’m hoping to learn a lot about playing IF from trying to write it myself.  They sort of go hand in hand.

If you’re still with me, you’re probably considering trying out some IF, or maybe you already have.  Here are some excellent works that I’ve been enjoying (though I have finished none):

  • The Dreamhold: written as an IF tutorial by the aforementioned Andrew Plotkin, I’m working through this one before I seriously play anything else, just to get a handle on how IF works.  The system is pretty intuitive once you get used to it, but The Dreamhold is a great way to wrap your head around what is sometimes a steep learning curve.
  • Everybody Dies: This was actually the first piece of IF that I played.  I am indebted to some now-forgotten blog (probably Boing Boing) for pointing me to it.  I can’t wait to come back to it once I’ve finished The Dreamhold.  Who doesn’t love hijinks at Cost Cutters?
  • Zork: A classic.  I started playing this one because of Chuck.  I also have it on Frotz, the IF interpretor for the iPhone/iPod Touch.

I happen to use Spatterlight as my primary IF interpreter, but I’ve also played with Zoom and find them about equivalent.  No reason to be picky—they’re all pretty much the same.  I definitely recommend Frotz for iOS, though.  For more IF, check out the IFDB.  There’s a lot, and it’s free.

Speaking of iOS, I recommend checking out Andrew Plotkin’s Hadean Lands project on Kickstarter, too.  I know I sound like some sort of religious fanatic by this point, but Plotkin really writes some excellent IF.  I hear similarly good things about Emily Short, but I haven’t gotten around to her games, yet.  Kickstarter is a great way to fund projects, and Hadean Lands looks friggin’ amazing.  The demo was what convinced me—do yourself a favor and try it out with Parchment (in-browser IF interpreter).  I’m a sponsor, and I can’t wait to get both the iOS and desktop versions…

Go out there and download some IF.  Play around and find your feet.  It’ll be worth the investment.