Sunday, May 29, 2011

Creating Characters: Viewpoint

While this is, nominally, a 40K blog, since I have been getting the most attention for my writing rather than my gaming, I thought this might be a good chance to go ahead and throw some good old fashioned advice column in here.

Now, as a tabletop gamer I know that creating a character is one of the most vital parts of the entire endeavor, and one that many people struggle with, whether they know it or not.  This same struggle comes up when creating characters for fictional universes, whether they be in stories or games.  Many gamers enjoy creating characters for their 40K armies, naming their Space Marine captains or Farseers or Crisis Commanders.  This is colloquially known as fluff.  But what makes good fluff characters and bad fluff characters?  The same thing that makes good literary characters and bad literary characters.

Up above you see one of my favorite characters of all time, one Homer J Simpson.  Homer is, to me, a wonderful example of a character.  He exhibits all of the characteristics required to create an engaging and memorable character.  He is multifaceted,relatable, goal oriented and, above all, terrifically human.  Originally, The Simpsons focused on the antics of Bart, but as the series matured the focus moved on towards Homer as he was less one dimensional than his mischievous son and provided more options for storylines.  His mixture of below average intelligence, determination to solve problems and general lack of foresight came together to create a character that is both alien and all too familiar.  We, as humans, do not want to hear stories about the everyday lives of ourselves, we want to hear stories about the adventures of our exceptional neighbors.

Not every character has to be Homer Simpson.  In fact, one of the reasons that Homer is so memorable is the fact that he has cast a unique mold for himself in our psyches, one which other shows in the same genre have tried to emulate with varying degrees of success.  The key to a good character though is not in the external challenges or the superficial characteristics, but in the viewpoint of the character itself.  Homer is constantly flabbergasted, bewildered and in over his head; his stories reflect this by making everything seem larger and more difficult than it is.  Peter Griffin of Family Guy, however, is possessed more of a supreme and mislaid self confidence mixed with dramatic hyperactivity.  This results in stories about relatively similar character archetypes, the dim witted husband and father, having entirely different styles and themes thanks entirely to the character's viewpoint.

Let's look at another example:

The Cross Counter: Dramatis Extremus
Everyone knows the man on the right, Superman, but his not quite as popular counterpart there is Captain Marvel. On the outside they are remarkably alike.  Tall, muscular men with shining black hair, they are both impossibly strong, impossibly tough and impossibly fast.  They can fly, they fight badguys, they're both in the same superhero organization, how are they different?  While one could argue powers forever, the differences in the characters themselves is a matter of viewpoint.  Superman is an alien, forever alone on the planet, the Last Son of Krypton, protecting his adopted home because he feels that it is right and just.  He is a fully grown man with staunch convictions and experience who knows how to use his strength to achieve his goals.  Captain Marvel, on the other hand, is a young boy with the power to become "Superman".  He has not had time to grow into his convictions, but instead simply apes what he believes to be honest and true.  He moves through life with the innocence of a child and the strength of a man.  He does what is right not because of decisions he has made, but because of a childlike naivete that right is right and wrong is wrong.  While Superman's actions are guided by reason, Captain Marvel's are guided by emotion.  This results in characters with vastly different viewpoints and thus vastly different stories.

To bring this back around into 40K I'd like to contrast two more characters, one bad, one good.

There can be only one!

Why is one good and one bad?  Because one is a person with a viewpoint and the other one is testosterone with weapons.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Edmund Filo, Brigand and Rogue

Part the First
Edmund vs The Gladiators

Edmund Filo was not a man to be taken lightly. He had, in his time, been a liar, a thief, a cut-purse, an assassin, a naval commander and, once, a gourmet chef. It was this vast experience that made him such a success both in his chosen career, and his everyday life. Several years before he entered the gladitorial arena on Cumsaka V, Edmund had gotten into a tarot game with an Inquisitor, a Rogue Trader and a High Lord of Terra. How a man of his meager means had managed to gain entrance into such prestigious company would have remained a mystery of the ages had not subsequent investigations revealed that he had drugged all of the wine with hallucinogens and seduced the Inquisitor's mistress.

The result of this historic card game became legend as a man with no political standing whatsoever came away from the table with a Warrant of Trade, an Inquisitorial commission and a three legged dog named Vexillarius. Recordings of the game reveal that Edmund cheated unabashedly and poorly and touched none of the wine. For three years Sir Inquisitor Lord Captain Filo, as he liked to call himself when the actual Inquisition wasn't chasing him, robbed, pillaged and generally made a nuisance of himself throughout the Davoth Subsector in the cruiser he had won along with the Warrant of Trade.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Liscensed Vulgarity

Today's topic is one that I hold close to my heart, the use of the English language.  English is a horrible bastardization of German, French, Latin and a half dozen other dialects that results in a wildly popular pidgin mess of beautiful chaos.  We've got words that mean twelve things, we've got words that mean nothing (Deceptively is deceptively deceptive!) and we've got words we're absolutely positively no matter what not allowed to say in public otherwise our mothers will wash our mouths out with lye soap.  But let's hold back for a moment and think about that.  There are words we have been told all of our lives not to say, and so we don't say them.  Is there anything wrong with that?  I believe that it's a personal choice on whether or not you cuss like a sailor or have a tongue as pure as a virgin nun's wet dripping snowcone.  Now the problem here is when whether or not you spout off like a woman giving birth is some elses' choice and not your own.

I'm talking, mainly, about Licensed Media, with Games Workshop's Black Library publications coming immediately to mind.  No matter what else may happen in the story, not a single daemon or chaos cultist, rugged adventurer or dying space marine will ever mutter a four letter word.  Why?  Should I even have to ask?  Honestly, it's obvious, isn't it?

For God's sake, Carrie, children read these books!  You can't put vulgarity in there where children can read!  Of course, how could I be so stupid?  Obviously we wouldn't want the children reading these books to repeat language they read in a book written about a game.  So absolutely no curse words.  None.  Instead include another scene where the protagonist skins a small child alive and hangs his body from a lamp post.  Now that's a great idea!

Sarcasm much?  I know, I know.  I just find it weird that in a setting that exalts ultraviolence and genocide there can't be any naughty words, and any kind of sex better just be alluded to.  Now it's true, some books might be a little bit more sexually oriented than others, but there's never anything explicit.  Now while I'm not saying that there should be graphic sex in every novel, I do find it a little bit odd that death, murder and mayhem is more socially acceptable than tits.

So, I want to go back to that metaphor I left hanging in the air back in the first chapter.  You say a curse word, and your mommy washes your mouth out with soap.  Now, what would your mommy do if you showed everyone your private bits?  She'd probably get very embarrassed and lock you up in your room while she sat in the kitchen drinking her life away and wondering where she went wrong.  But what would she do if you tortured a man to death so brutally that his dying screams summoned an army of the damned from a thousand light years away?  (That's Lord of Night again, I get a lot of mileage out of that one).  Well, if she didn't pat you on the back and hand you a cookie with a friendly, "Good job, kid" then she's not Games Workshop.

It's a common thing in media that while graphic violence is ok, sex and cursing is not.  Well, unless you're on Starz.  And why is that?  I think the answer is obvious.

PS: Up there where it says snowcone it should say cunt.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Radical: Reunion

This is Radical part VI.  For more check the table of contents here.

In the decade between the Invasion of Ulric and my next meeting with Isimbard Kane I had achieved some modicum of glory. I was recognized as a survivor of the fight with the daemon, an event which took the lives of several Grey Knights and an Imperial Inquisitor, along with my own sisters. I had been retained as a bodyguard for the Inquisitor Gibbius Vecht of the Ordo Hereticus, along with the remainder of the Cleansing Fire Commandery. During this service I fought in the purge of Scarran, I participated the destruction of a chaos cult on MacCragge itself, and I found myself alongside guardsmen once more when Inquisitor Vecht was called to assist in a particularly dangerous hunt for the rogue psyker Dasar. I was promoted from Battle Sister to Sister Superior. But my career, as prestigious as it might have been, was nothing compared to that of Isimbard Kane.

Kane gained fame for his defeat of the daemon on Ulric and was adopted into the Ordo Xenos as an Interrogator. While an Interrogator Kane personally put an end to a genestealer cult on the eastern rim and assassinated a Tau leader. Upon being promoted to Inquisitor, Kane halted an Ork Waaagh in the Davoth subsector by using Navigators and Astropaths to create a storm in the warp large enough to wipe out the entire greenskin fleet. Then he led an assault on an Eldar Craftworld, driving the foul race from it with flame, fire and a Deathwatch company. In the ten short years since he had come to the galaxy's attention he had become the stuff of legends. He never tried to hide his identity, instead preferring to operate in high profile conflicts, unerringly following an innate instinct which allowed him to emerge victorious from every conflict with the foul xeno.

I will be honest, I felt nervous as I waited for him to arrive. He'd contacted Vecht about rumors he had heard of a xenos cult on the backwater world of Ondine. The planet, a lush place of verdant green fields and thick forests, had been colonized only a few years before. Some xeno race must have attacked the colonists, or Kane never would have involved himself. Vecht, smelling glory in the air, had invited Kane onto our ship, Nolo Contende, and offered him the use of our forces in his mission. Our forces, at the time, consisted of Vecht himself and fifteen of us sisters, cut down from the original twenty-seven who had survived on Ulric by the previous decade's conflicts. While it was true that he could have mustered a few hundred men from the ship's security detail, Vecht generally considered his group of veteran Sororitas bodyguard to be enough to handle any conflict, and so far he'd been right. If only he had been this time as well.

Radical: Table of Contents

In the effort to make an easier browsing experience for readers, I hereby institute the Radical Table of Contents.  This means no one has to go sneaking around through my blog in terror, avoiding the foul xeno on the way to their goal.  Ain't I nice? (And a bit overdue?)

The Invasion of Ulric
1) Hell
2) Healing
3) Heretics
4) Hymn
5) Hero

Inquisitor Null's Intermission Report

The Ondine Expedition
6) Reunion
7) Rain
8) Resurrection
9) Rest
10) Remembrancer

Radical: Rest

This is Radical part IX.  For more check the table of contents here.

We fled through the jungle for hours, Kane ranging ahead to clear a path while Kora pulled me along on my injured leg. I don't think any of us actually knew where we were going except away from that clearing. We had no idea what had happened to the rest of the group, or even if they'd survived. All we could do was pray that Vecht had gotten them out of there and was on his way to the shuttle, otherwise we were stuck in this Emperor forsaken jungle for the rest of what were about to be our very short lives.

During the battle I hadn't had time to pull that Necrontyr claw out of my leg, but at some point it had come loose, and now my boot was filling with blood. Somehow, I didn't think about bleeding to death, but rather about getting some kind of fungal infection from having wet feet. I'm sure that meant that I was already in pretty bad shape. Eventually Kora shouted ahead at Kane, calling for a stop so that she could see about doing something for my leg. Reluctantly, the Inquisitor came back to us and pointed out a sheltered hollow under a fallen tree that we could take shelter in. As we settled in, Kane kept a close eye on the jungle around us. “I don't hear anything.”

“It's impossible to hear anything with all of this rain,” Kora said, and she was right. The constant downpour had turned into an all out storm now, and the heavy drops hitting the canopy above us produced a deafening din that drowned out the ambient noises of the jungle. I propped my back up against the roots of the fallen tree and began unfastening my boot and greave. Kora helped me, and gasped as at least a liter of blood sloshed out of my boot onto the ground. “By the Emperor Regina, how are you still walking?” I just shrugged and laid my head back, glad for the rest.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Radical: Resurrection

This is Radical part VIII.  For more check the table of contents here.

They couldn't be alive. They had no organs, no muscles, no minds. The metal men were just that, metal formed into the vague shape of men. There were no engines powering them or motors making them move. The metal men were simply impossible. But they still came on, knife fingers snipping towards us, long, expressionless faces gazing at us with glowing green eyes. Janine hit them with the flamer again, but they ignored it, and why wouldn't they? There was no flesh to burn, no nerves to feel pain, just heartless metal intent on death. I dropped the clip out of my bolter and fumbled a new one into place, then fired. The explosive shells impacted into the oncoming mass. Here one would fall, there another would stumble, but they didn't slow down. To my horror the injured ones picked themselves back up, their bodies reforming right before my eyes. I think that, by then, I was screaming.

Kora saved us. She came out of nowhere, her stormbolter blazing, and the two creatures in the lead fell into twitching piles. “Regina, where's the Inquisitor?”

“Here!” Kane shouted, his power sword cleaving through the neck of a metal man who had come up behind Kora. Two more nimble flicks of his wrist sent the thing to the ground in several pieces. His bolt pistol barked twice, then empty, he threw it at one of the things with a growl. “Necrontyr,” he said, holding his sword in a low guard. “This was the last thing I was expecting. How could I be so stupid?”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Upon being flabbergastingly drunk.

This this is my blog and I can rant about what I want to, allow me to just say that I am rip roaringly flabbergastingly drunk and I appreciate each and everyone one of you fine fellows and ladies who read my blog.  It is for you that I continue, and it is in your interests that I try to produce the highest quality material which I can.  (Though it is true that I was spoiled by MS Word 07 a while back and now that I don't have it the lack of autocorrect is blatantly obvious sometimes.)  While it is true that I am entirely and hugely drunk on many many shots of whiskey, I think that it is important to let all of you know how much I appreciate your continued patronage.

Without your support I could not continue, and I want nothing more than to make your experience here the absolute best it can be.  I can speak candidly about this because my good friend Jackie D. is telling me it's okay.  Because of this, I encourage each and every one of you to share your comments and opinions.  They make my day.  And in the event of emergency please break glass, fasten seat belts, move in an orderly fashion towards the nearest exits and tell your loved ones how much you love them (otherwise they would not be loved ones!).

I, again, thank everyone who showed concern for me during my time in the hospital and throughout my recovery, which is now officially over, thus the celebratory alcoholism.  If there is anything I can do to make your visits here more enjoyable please let me know.  Also tell your friends.  I do so love an audience (Leo, ya know?).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Radical: Rain

 This is Radical part VII.  For more check the table of contents here.
The rain never stopped, on Ondine. The entire planet was covered in perpetual cloud cover that made the equatorial forests a bog of mud and mists. Inquisitor Vecht had taken one look at the weather outside and begun a tirade that was still going on the third day of our expedition. We couldn't search for these ruins of Kane's from the air with the jungle canopy being so thick, and we had no vehicles that could make their way through the terrain without getting stuck or disabled. I would have given over my bolter for a squad of Catachan veterans. Instead what we had were all fifteen of we sisters, the two Inquisitors and a trio of Deathwatch marines which were considerably more impressive aboard the shuttle than they were here in the muck. Their large bodies and heavy armor proved to be more detriment than help in the jungle, and ore than once we had to haul one of them out of a swamp where he'd become completely stuck. This is not to besmirch the Astartes by any means, but they were not made for jungle fighting.

Our power armor kept us safe from the biting insects and barbed plants as we moved, Analyn having made it absolutely clear that we were all to wear our helmets on this trip. Still, the going was rough and unpleasant for all of us except Angelica, who seemed to take great relish in clearing the way for us with wild swings of her eviscerator. The great two handed chainsword made quick work of any vines and undergrowth in our way, not to mention several trees and one feline predator which had thought to ambush us. I don't exaggerate when I say that night we had our best meal of the trip. Field rations are no fit substitute for red meat on a forced march. It was on this third day of the expedition, when Vecht's eloquent rant cut short, that we finally found something.

“This Emperor forsaken mudpit of a planet has exterminatus written all over it. When I get back to the ship I am wiping this place out of the sky. And if another of these thrice cursed warpspawn insects bites me I am burning this entire forest to the ground. Do you hear me Sister Janine? You keep that flamer re- What in the nine daemonic realms of heretic cursed excrement is that?”

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Current Projects

Hey kids, it's me, your ever loving friend and compatriot Commissar Carrie here to give you the lowdown on what's coming up from me in the near future.

First off is the next section/chapter/storyline/event in Radical.  I really gotta figure out what to call these things other than parts...  Anyway, yes, Radical is continuing, though the War on Ulric is over.  It's going to shoot into the future about a decade, but it's still following Regina Winterfield's record of the fate of Isimbard Kane.  Look forward to Necrons and surprises soon!

Second is my Waaagh Walka, which has been sitting unfinished on my desk for several weeks.  I'll get pictures when I finally bother putting on the damn CCW.  Pinning stuff is such a hassle.

Finally, I'm working on writing the fluff pieces for the Adeptus Mechanicus Fan Codex's newest iteration.  I don't think I'm supposed to share them on my blog here, but I highly recommend checking it out once the whole thing is finished.  You can download the current (Non-Carrified*) version here.

There are still going to be sporadic battle reports and a few other more gameplay oriented posts here and there, but that's the stuff currently in the pipeline. If there's anything anyone would like to see let me know in the comments section below.  I'll see what I can do.

*Carrified: (adv)  To have been altered or influenced by Commissar Carrie.