Archive for October, 2009

1 (or so) Days to NaNo: Counting the Hours to NaNo

The time is 10:11 A.M.

This is is it! Tonight, at 12:00 a.m. local standard time, NaNoWriMo begins. My wounds have healed enough that I can write for an hour or more and hopefully I’ll dump…I mean write a few thousand words in the wee hours of the morning. One thing I learned about NaNo last year is that you have to bank your word count early. The more you write at the beginning, the more time you have when life, and writer’s block hits you upside the head.

I’ll post the opening paragraphs here, the usual bitching and moaning and may be a excerpt or two.

So stay tune.

And good luck with your NaNo 09!

 

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2 Days to NaNo: Writer’s Notes/Encyclopedia Galactica

More world building stuff, this time an “encyclopedia” of useful terms. Again, this is a reconstruction, since I lost the original some time ago. Now, in no particular order (and therefore defying the encyclopedic concept|) here are a few terms:

Galactic Empire:  Form of hereditary government that claimed dominion over the whole of the Milky Way Galaxy. Currently defunct.

Throne of Stars: Galactic seat of government. Established on Pharriss Prime.

I.C.: Imperial Calendar. Current year 1300. Year Zero 3000 CE.  Not in used outside the central spar.

Imperial Credit Standard: Or ICS (not to be confused with I.C.). Serves as the galactic monetary reserve standard and main form of galactic currency. Comes in two forms- ICS and BICS. ICS covers all transactions except those at the world governments/institutions level, those use the Billion Imperial Credit Standard.

Imperial Governance Bureau: The main bureaucratic/technocratic corp that enabled the Emperor to administer the galaxy. They now control the central spar of the galaxy waiting for a new Emperor to take the Throne of Stars.

Imperial Navy: Main military branch of the Empire. It’s mission was to patrol the trade routes between worlds and uphold  Imperial writ(s).  Currently divided among the House Major with 40% under the control of the Grand Marshall of the Imperial Arm.

Grand Marshall:  Supreme military commander under the Empire.

Gate Network: A series of “jump” gates that allow ships to traverse space at Faster Than Light travel (FTL) and also serve as transmitters for FTL-communication between star systems. Military vessels rely on their own “jump engines” for FTL, but this makes them several orders of magnitude more expensive than not FTL equipped ships.

Imperial Marine Corps Support ground units of the Imperial Navy. Specializes in using powered armor for planetary assaults.

House-Major: Political subdivisions of the Empire. Each house controls an arm of the galaxy.  Each Five Houses exists divided into a host of House-Minor.

House Regiments:  Military forces of each House-Major. Considered to be inferior in quality to former Imperial elite forces (Navy/Marines). Most of the these forces serve as planetary garrisons and/or system defense. Since the fall of the Third Dynasty many of the forces have expanded. Some, like the 555th Infantry Regiment of House de Havilland have acquired reputations rivaling the former Imperial counterparts.

The Red Horse: A mercenary “company”. One of many that came to being during the Dark Age.

Dark Age (Galactic): Current area. The last 300 years of galactic history without sans Empire.

Garou: First space-faring alien race encountered by humanity. After a series of wars with humanity the Garou were defeated and assimilated into the Empire. Later, under the Second Dynasty they were ascended to House-Major status.

Dynastic Eras– The galaxy has known three dynastic periods- Kaiser/Han/De Havilland.

Powered Armor– Sophisticated suits of armor that provide omni-environmental protection to ground forces, with expanded sensor suites and enhanced strength/endurance. Basic armament consists of a 27 mm Grad-Mauser  auto-cannon, but can be armed with a series of weapons suites including missile/rocket launchers (direct/indirect fire),  recon/stealth sensor suites and enhanced kinetic or portable energy weapons.

The Void: The space at the edge of known space. The scattered worlds on the galactic rim (the edges of the spiral arm and the outer sphere of the galaxy) do not hold any allegiances to House or Empire.  Also known as the Grey Market, it is home to rebel factions, commerce raiders and the like.  Attempts over the centuries to bring this area over Imperial control have failed. Economist suggest that the Void acts as an “pressure valve” for the “close galactic economy”.

World: Any planet or system with over 100 million inhabitants.  Each world has a governor or some form of representation within the House-Minor/Major structure. They also sport one or more jump gates.

World-Sanctuary:  Worlds reserved for non-human sentient races.

World-Imperial: Worlds controlled directly by Imperial writ. They serve a series of functions, such as libraries or military bases.

—–

Well that’s all I have for now. I’ll add more terms as I remember them.

And now for the obligatory video!

3 Days to NaNo: A Writer’s Notes/Timeline

There is a lot of stuff that goes into writing any book. Among speculative fiction types, the work behind the scenes is called “world building“. It’s how the build locations, cultures and languages. The most that readers will see are glimpses of the lattice the writer used to erect their epic world/universe because they want to read a story, not an encyclopedia. Still, consistency depends on doing the research and taking the time to iron out the details before you put the proverbial pen to paper.

A common technique that helps the writer (and by extension the reader) keep everything in order is a timeline. Knowing what (and when) something happened in the past relevant to the current action helps give the narrative some depth as well as consistency.

Below I reconstructed (because I lost the original when my laptop went puff!) the RoE timeline as an example:

2034- End of Second Global Insurgency. Fusion power perfected.

2045- New Planetary Government invests in off-world colonies. Large scale terraforming of Mars begins.

2048- First Sol System Confederation. While off world colonies have autonomy, all major decisions are made on Earth.

2050- Second wave off colonization. Earth government unloads “undesirables” on off world colonies. Social tensions, crime and taxation increases across the colonies.

2055- Martian “Civil War” erupts after several city-states declare war on their neighbors citing terrorist attacks on their territory.

2058- Martian Civil War ends in stalemate/truce negotiated by Earth government. Massive contingent of Earth peacekeepers arrive on Mars.  Low grade fighting continues. Earth forces casualties mount.

2066- First Interplanetary War/Colonial rebellion. Begins after Earth defenses fire on a refugee ship from Mars transporting people displaced by the continued upheaval on Mars.

2067- End of First Interplanetary War/Colonial Rebellion with massive bombardment of Mars colony domes by Earth forces.

2071- Second Sol Government established. The Pax Sol begins.

2189- Doctors Andrew Chan, Paul Johansen and Maria Estevez-Rivera win the the Nobel Prize for Physics with their development of their “fold-space” transmitter than can reliably transmit data at Faster Than Light speeds.

2198- First probes equipped with “jump” engines, based on the “fold-space” technology are launched from Saturn. Of the five probes, three reach their destination and transmit data.

2210- First launch of the Millennium colonization project.  Large colony ships, carrying over 10k colonist each are launched from the Sol System.

2280- Large colonies established across the local star group. Humanity expands along the central axis of the Orion Arm.

2351- Humans encounter first alien species of limited intelligence. As the distances between Sol and the outer colonies increase so do tensions between local governments.

2355- Large scale cross raiding human space occurs. Local governments blame each other.  Pax Sol ends as Earth forces can not contain the fighting.

2361- Alien forces strike at the human world of Hodierna.  First contact with intelligent hostile species.

2362- First intergalactic war begins.

2369- Sol forces fight a series of delaying actions across the Butterfly Cluster but the cluster is lost. Contact with the enemy ceases.

2414- The enemy is finally identified as the Garou, a canine-like species.  The Second Intergalactic war begins.

2419- Human forces manage to hold  enemy gains but are unable to strike back. Raiding of human space ceases once more.

2449- Collapse of the Second Sol government as infighting between colonies deplete its resources. Garou raiding starts anew.

2494- Third Sol Government launches a series of counter strikes against the Garou and rebel factions.  After severe losses on both sides the Sol goverment creates a buffer zone of “free states” between itself and Garou occupied space.

2514- Admiral Otto Von Kaiser launches a series of bold strikes into Garou territory after “discovering” intelligence that some Free World governments conspired with the Garou to launch an assault on the Sol Government.

2516- On his return to Earth, Von Kaiser made a successful plead to finish the Garou threat once and for all. The government grants him extraordinary powers to deal with the enemy.

2518- Now Grand Marshall Otto Von Kaiser launches a strike deep into the Perseus arm and into the Garou home world. Caught off guard the Garou central government capitulates.

2520- Von Kaiser returns triumphant to Earth. He is declared the first “potentate”.

2852- The Kaiser oligarchy extends human rule to the core of the galaxy.

2856- Liu Bang Han leads a successful rebellion against the Kaiser oligarchy.

3000- Hian Xian Han grandson of Liu Bang  declares  January 1st, 3000 CE as Year Zero of the Empire. Humanity expands from the center of the galaxy across the remaining arms.

3309- Liu Han, 8th direct descendant of the Han Dynasty, having conquered most of the galaxy divides the territory among newly created “Houses” lead by his most successful generals.  He claims the Orion and Cygnus Arms as his own plus the Galactic Center. The Kaisers are given the Centaurus Arm and House De Havilland is given Sagittarius Arm. The remaining arm is gifted to the Garou for “loyal service to the Empire”.

3436-  Wu Han launched the “One Year Campaigns” to rein piracy from the Void, (areas between the galactic arms and the outer star sphere of the galaxy).

3548- Lao Han, a first cousin to the reigning Han Dynasty Empero, launches a planetary bombardment using nuclear arms and high impact kinetic weapons of a rebel colony on the Void.  . 80% of the planets population (600 million total) die in the onslaught. However this world belonged to a De Havilland Minor House. Entreaties to the Emperor about this war crime fall on deaf ears.

3550- The de Havilland House Major allies with dissident factions inside the Han Dynasty and launches a successful assault on Earth.  The battle devastates the planet and ends the rule of the Han over the Galaxy.

3551- A new Emperor John I rises to the throne. He shifts the Imperial capital to  Pharris in the Galactic Central Spar.  To placate the other houses, he severs ties with his own House Major (House De Havilland), renounces control over the Sagitarrus Arm and creates a new House, the Imperial House.

3778- Law of Natural Birth announced by Alfred I. No child conceived by artificial means could be considered a rightful successor to any House, including the Imperial House.

4001- John III dies without a successor. The  Third Dynasty collapses and the Galaxy falls into Civil War.

4010- Edward Duke de Havilland, dies at the result of an ambush.  Imperial forces under Marshall Makarov attempts to restore order but fails.

4011- Edward son, Jamess dies without an apparent heir.  His sister Elizabeth becomes regent of House de Havilland until her own son can assume the Ducal seat.

4023- Civil war erupts between two factions claiming the right of succession to House de Havilland. Jeremy de Havilland claims legitimate  status from his father. His cousin  Edward II disputes the claim.  After a year of infighting Jeremy slays his cousin and her aunt accepts his claim.

4250- Red Horse Campaign.

4320- Present Day.

———

I know, pretty long. Again, most of this stuff will never see the light of day, outside of my notes or this blog. But it puts certain things into perspective.

And now for some music with The Crystal Method:

6 Days to NaNo: A Writer’s Notes

I am not the kind of writer that creates outlines, but I do take notes before, during and after writing to keep things track of things. Here is an example of what my pre-draft notes look like:

Title: Ruins of Empire/ROE

Genre: Science Fiction

Sub-genre:  Space Opera

Time Frame: 2,300 years in the future.

Technology:

Travel

FTL– “Jump Gates” near major planets, large ships carry “jump engines” that allow them to fold space/time and make near instantaneous travel between stars.  Outside of FTL, travel is no faster than 1% of light speed.Travel is linear (no maneuvering while on a jump). It may take multiple jumps to reach a specific destination.

Weapons- Capital ships use a mix of energy, projectile and missile based weapons. Engagements occur at distances under a light second.  Ground units use missiles and projectile weapons with the rare heavy energy weapon. Standard heavy infantry wears powered armor with armor, artillery and aerospace fighter support.  Nuclear weapons reserved for planetary bombardment but use of “hi-impact kinetic weapons” and “nukes” against civilian targets illegal under Imperial Law.

Communications: FTL through jumpgates (that double as transmitters stations) and FTL equipped courier ships.

Sensor: Only work in “real space”, non visual targeting sensors can be jammed by advanced ECM or temporarily blinded by nukes and/or EMP charges (which need not be nuclear).

Politics:

Empire ruled under a Noble House System. House Major each control an arm of the galaxy while the Emperor controls the Galactic Center and the “Imperial Arm” (Orion arm of the Galaxy). The “Imperial House” is considered a separate entity from the rest of the House Major.  By custom no leader can rule both a House Major and the Imperial House. Each House Major internal political organization follows their own pattern from Constitutional Monarchy to a Corporatocracy. Currently the House Major feud among each other to see who will fill the vacant Imperial throne.

The smallest political unit is the “world”, which is a planet with at least 100 million inhabitants.

Military:

Task Forces of the Imperial Navy patrolled Known Space. The Emperor could call upon levies from House Major/Minor to support Imperial operations.  Planetary and system defense fell under each House responsibility. With the fall of the Empire, House Major have increased the size of their military and large mercenary forces have come to the forefront.

——

That’s just an example. I write the notes down as they come to me, more of a tool for mental organization than anything else.

NOTE: I’ll be in surgery tomorrow, so I probably won’t post anything until the end of the week. Hopefully I’ll be up and running come next weekend to kick off NaNo O9.

7 Days to NaNo: In the Beginning

So what exactly am I doing for NaNo 09?

The name of the this blog is a clue of sorts, as it shares said name with the title of my NaNo:

Ruins of Empire

The Throne of Stars remains empty. For three hundred years no one has has claimed the seat of the Galactic Empire. The last three centuries war consumed the length of the galaxy, with no clear winner in sight.  Now an unusual alliance of bitter rivals may change may place a young Duke on the Throne of Stars. But can he trust his new allies, his bride to be and survive the perilous journey from his home world to the very center of the galaxy? Will a new order rise out of the Ruins of Empire?

So what you think?

I’ll post more details tomorrow.

And now for some music:

9 Days to NaNo: Music to Write By

I hopped over to Amy’s blog earlier today and the subject was music to write by. I’ve made it a habit of creating “soundtracks” for each one of my projects. In fact I write scenes with specific music in mind and this project won’t be any different.

So here is a selection of songs I’m putting together for NaNo ’09:

  1. Dune Movie Soundtrack/Prologue- Toto
  2. Ready,Steady,Go!– Paul Oakenfold
  3. Keep Hope Alive– The Crystal Method
  4. Tempus Vernun– Enya
  5. Mer Noire (Tiesto Remix)- Cirque du Soleil
  6. Welcome to the Black Parade– My Chemical Romance
  7. Lacrimosa (Choir)
  8. Adagio for Strings-DJ Tiesto
  9. Dune Movie Soundtrack/Take My Hand– Toto

Those are the songs I have so far. I’ll add/change the list as necessary.

So, do you have a music muse that fuels your writing?

Gaming Tools for D&D 4E

I’m a gamer, as you might have guessed by this blog content. One of my favorite tabletop RPG games (also known as pencil & paper) is Dungeons & Dragons (also known as D&D, or DnD).

I’ve played every version of the game from Basic to 4th edition in the last 18 years and so far I find the latest edition to be the best (your taste may vary).

One of the reasons why is the support provided by the parent company, Wizard of the Coast. In the past the product support from the parent company has been lackluster at best, with an emphasis on flooding the market with splatbooks that added very little to the game except headaches to the DM. Add to it the sheer volume of product generated under the d20 brand (plus the travesty that was 3.5) and the game turned into a nightmare even for the most experience DM.

Now things have changed, at least in the electronic department. The folks over at WotC have tightened the editorial rules (extremely lax during the 2nd Edition years specially with the Misbegotten Realms and downright diuretic during the 3.x years). With the new found disciple came a reinvigorated approach to online/electronic support.

Enter the D&D Insider and a new series of tools designed to make the life of players and GM that much easier. The Insider is subscription service that provides a series of benefits (for around $10 a month). Among these benefits you get:

  1. Character Builder- A program to create PC characters.
  2. Compendium- An online library of every rulebook and DragonDungeon magazine articles.
  3. Adventure Tools- A series of tools for GM to build adventures. Currently on it’s Beta phase.
  4. Dragon/Dungeon Magazine- In house mag for all things D&D. Includes races, items and adventures.

I’ll focus on two of these: the Character Builder and Adventure Tools.

The Character Builder has everything you need to build a character. Regular updates (once every month or so) means that you don’t need to run to buy new books just to get access to the latest powers or items. GM/Players can customize the creation process with homerules and choose which sourcebooks fit their campaign. An autobuild button button allows players to let the program build their characters for them, which then they can tweak to fit their gaming style. Finally, the character sheets created are concise, clean and clear. I especially like how the powers are color coded for ease of use.

As a Beta, the Adventure Tools only provide a monster creation/modification tool (so far) but even that is a godsend for a GM who wants to whip up a monster in minutes. It has a complete list of creatures from multiple source books including both Monster Manuals. Even if you don’t plan modifying or creating new creatures, having the entire list (updated regularly)  helps as each entry is in alphabetical order and the descriptions use the same standard setup for all monsters. The program suggest it’s best to modify an existing creature rather than to create one from scratch and I agree.  Once you’re done you can save the new monster in the existing list or copy/paste to another document so that you can have it on hand for game night.

The way I used these programs is as follows:

The Builder is great for keeping track of my characters both past changes and future possibilities. With the autobuild feature I can scale said character several levels and see possible builds and how the change it’s nature.

The monster creator gives me hundreds of creatures at my disposal and if I want to create a memorable NPC I just search using a key word such as Human and then look for the closest creature to use. If I think it needs tweaking I copy it, make some changes it and save it.

New tools are expected soon, including a virtual dungeon maker (in 3d no less). If WotC keeps this up, they won’t be any need for third party software to deal with the hassle of adventure creation.

And I know that D&D is not World of Warcraft, although the similarities are undeniable, especially with the revamping of the core mechanic in 4E, but I still think this video is pretty cool: