Friday, November 5, 2010

Letter Column the 1st -- part one

Hey, folks, change of plans. Instead of heading to Corhurst, this will instead by my first "letters" column -- or, more accurately, "letter" column, as I'm only going to be responding to a single letter today. So, thanks to @pryllin, who wrote me a critique/fan letter. Thanks from my ego for the praise, and thanks from my brain for the advice. Let's cover a few of the suggestions @pryllin gave me.

He dislikes the name "City of Lives," and recommends I find some piece of my cosmology to name the City after. I both agree and disagree: I like the name "City of Lives" -- it's evocative, and poetic. However, it doesn't necessarily evoke images associated with my city. @Pryllin made some suggestions associated with my setting. Let's look at them:
  • The City of Crafts: Appropriate, but not very poetic or evocative. I vote no.
  • The City of Doors: Unfortunately, already taken as the main "nickname" for Sigil, the central city in the Planescape setting for D&D. I may have Planescape as one of the main inspirations for the setting, but I'm not going to go so far as to steal from them (unless I could go back in team and use the name first).
  • The City of Light: Well, this one has merit: it fits with the fact that "the Light" is the dominant religion. On the other hand, the City is defined more by its multiculturalism than its religious nature -- and, unfortunately, the name "City of Light" is also already taken... by Paris. Hard to compete with a real-life city...
  • The City of Lines: I see the symbolism here -- lines on a map, all roads lead here, kind of thing. But I don't think I live it -- it implies a geometric rationality the City does not possess.
  • The City of Borders: This one has some potential. Thanks to the shiftgates, the City has borders with everywhere. It also implies that the inhabitants of the City belong nowhere, in between all worlds and belonging to none -- which I like. I like the name, though it doesn't have quite the poetry of "Lives." I shall consider...
  • The City of Verges: Similar to "Borders," with more poetry but less grammatical sense. Also worth pondering.
  • The City of Crossroads: The City certainly is a metaphorical crossroads, a meeting place of many worlds. It is also a literal crossroads for the small Rural communities in the Realm of Lives. So it fits -- but it also implies maps and roads, which don't actually exist in Realmshifting... except, wait, maybe they do. There's no reason the portal-like shiftgates couldn't become roads leading into other worlds -- how cool is it to think of a road stretching off into the distance, then turning and seeing that from the side it vanishes in mid-air? And one also has crossroads in life, decisions to make -- which thematically fits the City. I guess The City of Crossroads is the most promising suggestion @pryllin made, and should I decide to change the name of the City and campaign, I shall definitely consider it.
@Pryllin also pointed out the unrealisticness of "spoked" city districts, unless the city was planned from the beginning. Now, in my initial concept, back before I started this blog, the City was planned: the Elder Trio sat down in the Central Spire and magically laid out the City in spokes around them. However, I've since changed the origin, saying simply that the proto-Sons of Light and proto-Prometheans simply settled by the confluence of rivers and the City grew from there in the regular way. But I didn't really know what the "regular" way was, and could (be bothered to) find the time to research it properly. Enter @pryllin, my savior. He informs me that cities tend to start in the following way (obvious once it's said, but I couldn't have said it): "Start with the oldest part of the city and why it was built. Things will expand very quickly from there." -- and he goes on from there, but I won't take up time or violate his privacy any more right now. Suffice it to say, my city map is going to change before it finds its way to the blog. Woof! Urban planning is tough...

Another of @pryllin's concerns was the dichotomy between my current players and the target audience for The City of Lives. As loyal readers will recall, I twisted around the usual Fate phase rules and a few other things to please my players, and introduced more monsters and dungeon crawling than would be my wont.

However, there has been a change that has gone unrecorded here at realmcrafting. My last group of players kind of imploded, with people leaving the state or becoming unreliable, and I was forced to end the campaign quickly but dramatically, skipping them to the end of my year-long plan (they stopped a marauding crossrealm demon/god from coming to the City and eating the sun... and I ruined a perfectly good miniature when dramatically demonstrating how said demon/god devoured its head priest when the players turned his summoning back on him). When I reformed the campaign with a somewhat rejiggered group of players and a brand new group of characters, I stuck to my guns a little more. I started the "one stunt = 2 degrees of magical power" rules hack, and ended up with two completely mundane characters, and the rest more focused and specialized around their Crafting (including a "badass mind wizard"), giving everyone clearer roles. We came up for a reason

Most importantly, despite protests, I insisted every player take their character through all five phases, including the two guest-star pairings. The players initially complained, but by the end of the character creation session, everyone had had a good time, and every PC had a past, one that linked them to at least two other characters -- and it has made a world of difference. Two PCs are ex-lovers still secretly hung up on each other, giving me Aspects to compel constantly, and which actually turned an entire plot arc around as their attempts to make each other jealous transformed negotiations into a brawl. A third PC is unhealthily obsessed with a fourth, they all have horrible, crippling, motivating emotional problems... and each character has a tangible, long-term goal. One is on a search for her real mother; another want to take control of her noble House; a third wants to take down the entire aristocracy from the inside (partly through random and wanton murder... it's a dark group of characters).

But I digress. My point, @pryllin, is twofold:
  • My current, rejiggered group is much more in the proper vein of City of Lives than my first.
  • I fully intend to write this setting for my kind of player -- interested in politics, class warfare, and epically mundane magic. The ways I need to change CoL for my players are not the ways I will lay it out for my readers/customers/whatever.
Wow. I've got a few more of @pryllin's thoughts to respond to, but I'm out of space. I guess we'll pick this up next time in Letter Column the 1st, part two -- Column Harder.