Monday, November 7, 2011

On the Future (or lack thereof) of Realmcrafting

Okay, folks. As you may have noticed, this blog has become more and more difficult for me to keep up with. This is due to a number of factors, from work/school, home life, other creative projects, and a growing dissatisfaction with my work on it.

You see, the notion behind Realmcrafting was to get some attention and feedback for my City of Lives project: showing people what I was doing behind the scenes as I worked on creating the game, and getting input from an audience of potential players, telling me what they want. I wanted to create an online "presence," to build up a bit of a fanbase before I put the game out there.

The problems are twofold: One, I don't seem to be making any kind of impact. I knew it would be slow going, but I've been writing this blog for about a year now, and I have at most a couple dozen readers (it's hard to interpret the statistics Blogger gives me). And those readers aren't giving anything back. I've read plenty of articles wherein internet writers complain about the evil people in the comments section—but at least that means someone read it. I haven't gotten a comment in months, positive or negative, and never have I gotten anything substantial (aside from a few posts made by my friends, who I can consult IRL). I'm not blaming you, those few folks who are reading me—I too am a lurker, too busy or lazy to comment on virtually anything I read. But the fact is, with low readership and no comments, I'm not really getting anything out of this blog.

The second problem is about why I'm doing this blog for myself: It was intended to help clarify my thoughts on The City of Lives and help me come up with new and interesting material for the game. It was always intended to be of secondary concern: Actually work on CoL, updating the wiki and writing new material, and then blog about it. However, since my creative time and brainpower has become more limited of late, I've gone from working on the blog, game, and playtest campaign to simply blog and playtest campaign... so I'm blogging about a project that's not actually moving anywhere. If CoL is ever to be publishable, I've got to actually work on it, and that's not happening right now.

So: the question is, should I continue Realmcrafting? If there are actually people out there reading and enjoying it, I will continue. If there aren't, then I won't. So if you want this blog to continue, let me know! There's a poll on the website, or you can put your two cents in the comments. Don't be shy, or Realmcrafting will go the way of the dodo.

Let me know.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Realms - The Gap, Part 2

Today, we continue examining The Gap, the empty space between Realms where discarded pieces of broken Realms and the dispossessed former inhabitants drift in empty space.

The Gap's Real-Life Inspirations are the "Hoovervilles," tent cities created by the mass unemployed during the Great Depression. A place for people who have nowhere else to go, like refugee camps but built by the disenfranchised themselves. Admittedly, most of what I know about Hoovervilles comes from The Grapes of Wrath and the Doctor Who episode "Daleks in Manhattan," so "real-life" inspiration is perhaps selling it a bit strongly. However, the notion of people with nothing building themselves a new life is a meaty one, and we would certainly see some interesting and innovative physical and social creations in a world made up of the remains of others.

The Theme of the Gap is surprising self-sufficiency. That is to say, the people who have fallen through the cracks in the worlds have managed to survive despite everything being against them, and so the culture of the Gap will reflect that "something from nothing" attitude. There will be a bit of a Cast Away/Gilligan's Island/Robinson Crusoe sort of thing going on, the inhabitants surviving on their ingenuity and bits and pieces they've managed to pull from the wreckage of their world. I'm reminded of the novel 1632, in which a small modern town is abruptly transported to the titular year in the midst of Germany, and they have to figure out how to survive in this new/old world with whatever bits and pieces of modern technology happen to have been transported with them. Visually, I also see parts of Neverwhere's scrap-built society and an image from the old American McGee's Alice computer game, where bits of Wonderland float in a dark void (in a section of the game I can't find visual evidence of online).

A secondary theme of the Gap is likely one of desperate escape. I'm not sure how anyone would be able to visit the Gap and return to the Realms, but it is certain to be difficult and unreliable, or else the people inside wouldn't be there. Hence, many of the Gap's inhabitants are likely to be desperate to return to their own world—or, at least, a proper Realm designed to support life. Visitors might find themselves in chains, interrogated about how they arrived and how to get out. While the self-sufficiency theme gives the Gap mood, this theme implies plotlines.

That'll take us through the Gap, and next time, we'll take a look at... well, this blog itself. Check in.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Realms - The Gap

Today we will examine what a Realm is, and what lies between them, coming to our new Realm location: The Gap.

So what is a Realm anyway? It is currently ill-defined in many ways, but we have a few pieces:

  • A Realm is a "world" of some kind, defined by its own lifeforms, physical and magical properties, and culture or cultures.
  • You cannot travel from one Realm to another through any traditional transport, whether walking or rocket ships. They are in completely different physical spaces, accessible only through the magic of Realmshifting.
  • There is some form of geography between the Realms, with some being "near" the City of Lives and some being "far." The Far Realms are noted to have radically different physical and magical properties.
From these pieces, we can see that Realms are very similar to the concepts of "planes" in Dungeons & Dragons or Magic: The Gathering, or parallel universes in the vein of Sliders or innumerable sci-fi stories. The question I have yet to answer for myself is how large a Realm is. Is it an entire universe, with planets and galaxies and what have you? If so, why do we only explore one small part of one planet of each Realm that is featured in the game? Is it a tiny, magically-contained area a few hundred or thousand miles in diameter? If so, is that natural or created by some god? What does that mean for the cosmology of The City of Lives?

Functionally, every Realm should serve the purpose of a town in The Fugitive or a planet in Star Trek, a new place to explore every adventure—and as we see from those two examples, they can be of any size and still serve the same story function. So maybe it doesn't matter. Except that someone will want to know, and won't be satisfied without an answer. Perhaps we aren't prepared to answer those questions yet.

In any case, since we know that the various Realms are impassable to ordinary travel, and yet have some form of geography, this would seem to imply that there is something "between" them, some magical barrier or void. So let's run with it. In between the Realms is an emptiness, with absolutely nothing in it, not even the vacuum of outer space.

But that's boring. 


The Gap once was empty, defined by its emptiness. However, the Realms are unstable, occasionally falling to pieces. Because of human conflict, natural disaster, or godly intervention, sometimes Realms split, and pieces of worlds spill into the Gap. Floating islands of reality drift in the darkness, each ruled by its own physics, twisted by the neighboring realities spinning by. A few people inhabit these shattered realms, refugees and foolhardy explorers, doing their best to transform the bits and pieces they have left into a coherent world.

The Archetype of the Gap is that of the "junk city," the makeshift world formed of bits and pieces from everything and everywhere. The best example I can think of is Armada from The Scar, a city created from innumerable sailing ships lashed together. HoL is a (frankly bizarre) RPG that takes place on a landfill planet, and there always seem to be hobo communities thriving in any fictional garbage dump. The Gap is this archetype writ large, with pieces of landmasses fused together haphazardly to create a hodgepodge of realities. I see pieces as small as a city block and as large as a state, sometimes connected, and sometimes simply floating in the void nearby each other, reachable by bridges or ziplines or magical airships.

...and with that imagery, we'll pick up the Gap next time. See you then...