Era of Magic (EoMa) 3.3

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bvanevery
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Re: Era of Magic (EoMa) the campaign is now available!

Post by bvanevery »

wesfreak wrote:This seems more like a fan-fic to me than an EOMa story,
The difference between "fan fiction" and "campaign fiction" is who's writing the story from scratch. I'm gunning for the job of screenwriter, as in 50%..100% writing credit.
mainly because of the amount of things you just made up, rather than taking from existing information. Granted, there isn't much existing information:
Of course I just made it up. inferno8 hasn't provided anything, is currently too slammed with exams to come up with anything, and I don't think he has a clear idea what he wants out of the Tharis anyways. I became less interested in asking questions about the Tharis and more interested in providing a more-or-less complete account of who they are and how to portray them. Ditto the Kharosians since they're the obvious foil for the Tharis, and we've already established that the Kharosians are not completely pure.
The tharis have no racial description and little unit description. Other than the creation of Hydra and the nature of the Tharis empire (they could as easily be much more tribal, with different clans/small countries warring against each other, for example, with the invasion against the Kharos being the attempt of one country to expand it's power base.)
Sure they could be, but are you personally going to write a coherent narrative about that? By all means, let's hear your story if you think it is better than mine. In my accounting, the Tharis are the most horrible despotic regime you can imagine, because dramatically that allows a Tharis deserter to have interesting psychological baggage that a Kharosian High Priestess can cure him of. What about the Tharis being "just another squabbling tribe over there" is dramatically interesting? Where does that lead story-wise that's worth going to?

Also, we already have "just another squabbling tribe over there" in the Era of Magic. That's the Barbarians vs. the Darkblooded. I assume that when someone gets around to that campaign someday, it's the best vehicle for portraying squabbling tribes.
You also invented a lot about the Kharosian sun worship: It never says that they worship a sun-god, like the egyptians worshipped Ra. I always thought they worshipped the sun itself, as an object rather than a being.
I didn't make any distinction between a "Sun god" and "the Sun." In fact my sci-fi explanation is that the Sun is a sentient star. Anyways here you are nit-picking and it doesn't matter. The explanation given by Anthi in "The City of Light" is:
[Anthi] As you already know, our society is devoted to the Sun and his life-giving power carried by the immaculate Light. You are from the desert, so you don't know how important vegetation is. The Sun causes plants to grow and give us fruits, which feed us and allow to live. This is how our religion came into being.
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bvanevery
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Re: Era of Magic (EoMa) the campaign is now available!

Post by bvanevery »

I don't expect that inferno8 is going to read and digest my Tharis / Kharosian story for awhile. I seem to be on a roll with writing lately, at least as far as creating overviews of characters, plots, and arcs. Please don't regard what I write as "precious stories." They are pitches for possible stories. They tend to come out at film / screenplay length, and I realize that committing to the implementation of that much material is not something someone immediately jumps on, but has to mull over. On the other hand, if we don't get on with something fairly soon, I will inevitably run out of things to "start fleshing out" in EoMa. At that point I'll decide that I'm more productive working on my own than trying to get anyone on board with a cooperative effort, and I'll simply get back to my own computer games. If you want a writer then let's get on with something! This offer of labor isn't good indefinitely, as I have other things I could be doing with my time.

I think it is more efficient and dramatically effective, to make campaigns that mainly contrast 2 factions, rather than try to make 5 campaigns that are each mainly about 1 faction. In that way the basic situation of EoMa can be covered in 3 campaigns instead of 5. The obvious pairings are {Tharis + Kharoisian} and {Barbarian + Darkblooded}. These factional contrasts are already established geographically and thematically. There's a Great Desert keeping them apart so cross-interactions aren't important. 1 campaign that deals with 2 factions may come out longer than 1 campaign about 1 faction, but it's still shorter than 2 campaigns about 2 factions.

I would summarize the authorial themes of {Tharis + Kharosian} as follows:
  • there really is such a thing as Evil. It is the destruction of love and free will.
  • organized religion is stupid
I deal with the question of religion from a sympathetic position, a spiritually advanced woman who is trying to do the most good for the largest number of people. But it becomes clear to her that the prescriptions of her organized religion are in the way of that. Because she has become a truly enlightened being, she abandons the aspects of her religion that are useless and detrimental to her people. Her ideological commitment is strong enough that she dies for it. This is how I, as an Atheist, interpret the historical personage of Jesus Christ. I see him as the Martin Luther King of his day, rebelling against the centralized authority of the Temple that was mainly about commerce. Jesus brought a radical message, that one could have a direct relationship with God without the authority of the Temple as an intermediary. Jesus had a pretty clear understanding of the abuses and corruption of the Temple in his time; he too thought organized religion was stupid. That's why he turned over the tables of the moneychangers at the Temple.

I like pointing out "things that are stupid" :eng: so in that vein, I propose that the squabbling between the {Barbarians + Darkblooded} is completely, utterly pointless. The theme I would write about for this campaign is, "war is stupid." Well, maybe some war somewhere has purpose, like say, trying to disrupt the Tharis leadership in a noble self-sacrifice. But this war, between lizards and cyclopses, is completely stupid. Ego, vanity, petty grudges, ridiculous misunderstandings, endless vengeance, inability to let go and move on. On the comical side it reminds me of the pathetic and never-ending tribal squabbles between various people in Paupa New Guinea that I read about in anthropology classes. On the serious side, it reminds me of Israel vs. Palestine. I would treat the subject comically, however. Alternating between comical and serious campaigns is good way to keep from wearing people out, including the authors. I'd like to do a more serious take on Mehir in the Abyss, as he goes mad, but not as serious as I have in mind for the Tharis. I see the progression as:
  • {Summoners} - comedy
  • {Tharis + Kharosians} - heavy drama
  • {Barbarians + Darkblooded} - comedy
  • {Summoners in the Abyss} - comedy+drama
A corollary to {Barbarians + Darkblooded} being a pointless war, is that Mehir's involvement in the war was fairly pointless as well. Sure he picked a side, and maybe thought he was being a great help, but it wouldn't have made any difference if he had picked the other side or no side at all. The lizards and cyclopses were far too busy fighting each other to have any impact on the completion of The Great Circle. As it happened he aided the lizards, who in turn reciprocated with "construction rights" in the Jungle of Life. Had he aided the cyclopses, the lizards would have been kept even more busy defending themselves, and wouldn't have had time to worry about the Circle. Thus Mehir's choice is merely an artifact of his own ego, his knee-jerk impulse to "do good" regardless of the objective situation. Such an artifact might be construed as negative or a bad thing, except that in different circumstances, it happens to save a semi-enlightened civilization from total destruction at the hands of a totally evil civilization. Only to betray Anthi, which is yet another bumbling gift, because it enables her to see what is negative and destructive about her own religion and culture. Mehir is, structurally, The Fool, who inadvertently causes positive things to happen because he forces change.

It seems in all of this I forgot The Enlightened Ones. I propose that Guru is rather observant about the interaction of all these forces, and does much to puppet the other races, to keep his own people way at the top of the food chain. He does so out of selfishness and despite his great intellect and understanding, is in no way an Enlightened Being, as True Rashti, Nomolas, The Mistress of Light, and The Sun are. Guru's people reflect his own selfishness; he may come up with wiser or more benevolent answers than the general populace, but the basic trend of stepping on others is pretty predictable. For instance he allows the Summoners to procure for him half a Sun Ray and confine themselves to the Abyss, rather than simply killing them off. We may call Guru's people "The Enlightened Ones," but they rather exactly aren't.

Nomolas, incidentally, fits the definition of "Enlightenment" that The Mistress of Light arrives at. An enlightened being is one that gives the gift of enlightenment to other sentient beings, according to its own limitations and ability to do so. Nomolas has very few limitations and so his gifts are great. This also implies that an Enlightened Being can never give a gift that is truly Evil. A gift might be chaotic, or instructive, or seem bad right now, but it will become neutral or good later. A request for simple domination, subjugation, and torture of other sentient beings, such as the Tharis routinely use upon their victims, would be refused by Nomolas. This is partly why the Summoners, even though extremely powerful and capable of great destruction, are culturally reasonably nice guys and not much inclined towards conquest, civil wars, regicide, or other petty acts of violence. The culture of the Summoners to some degree reflects the generous nature of Nomolas, the Enlightened Being from which they gain most of their power. Of course the ability to access the Abyss is ultimately a technology, not a moral certitude, so the Summoners can indeed do negative things with their powers. They just don't tend to as a culture, and thus are more stable and happy than any other people in the world. Thus they can work on ever greater projects for their own happiness as a people, such as The Great Circle. The Summoners will find, however, that being happy in the Abyss is not so easy.
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MrSean
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Re: Tharis campaign: "The Deserter"

Post by MrSean »

Firstly, hi. I'm new to the whole forum-posting thing (obviously), but not to the game, and I'm not sure if I'm doing this the right way. Also, deconstructing the Tharis is an interesting endeavor and I'd like to add my own two cents to it, if you don't mind.
bvanevery wrote:
I see the Tharis as a large despotic land empire, somewhere between the Romans, the Nazis, the Mongols, and the Aztecs as to how they're organized and the kind of suffering they inflict upon people. There's nothing pleasant about them. They are a culture that is based entirely upon domination, subjugation, and enslavement. Many of the people in their armies are not willing participants. Like various troops under both the Nazis and Soviets in WW II, they fight because if they don't, their masters will immediately kill them.
So, I haven't finished the campaign yet - I'm at Kharos and my butt keeps on getting kicked - but I always thought that the Tharis were one race, Dark Elves, and not a multiracial empire. At least, that is how their units are in the actual game, aside from bats and Hydras. Making their army a composition of deeply traumatized and frightened individuals of different original races and cultures, united only by fear, doesn't seem so effective to me, and I don't think that it goes with their flavor. Except the deeply traumatized and evil, sadistic bit.
bvanevery wrote:It is perhaps worth contrasting the motives of the Tharis with more traditional Wesnoth factions. Unlike the Wesnoth Orcs, Tharis do not fight for enjoyment. They fight because their leaders are cruel and malevolent. Their minions fight because they are scared to death. Tharis control their various conquered societies with illusion, darkness, madness, and genocide. In this respect they are somewhat like Sauron from The Lord of the Rings. Their minions are often like the Tolkien conception of orcs: not simply a race among racial equals as the semi-politically correct Wesnoth universe would have it, but rather the twisted bodies of elves who were tortured for many years in the dungeons of Angmar to produce truly warped and depraved beings. However, unlike Sauron (should he be reunited with his One Ring) the Tharis are not all-powerful. They are a land empire limited by extent and logistics, and consequently have other minions that are simply ordinary humans. Whether the humans believe in the world view of the Tharis, or whether they act out of fear alone, or whether they try to resist or desert, depends entirely on how much local control the Tharis have.
I don't have as much information as you, as I haven't finished the campaign yet, but where do you get that the Tharis do not enjoy bloodshed? The Master of Darkness was very happy for there to be real bloodshed at the Battle of Kharos, and most depictions of Dark Elves show them as sadistic and evil, battle-loving creatures. Did you get the above idea from the campaign or are you trying to create a new background for them? I ask because I think it would fit better in people's minds if the Tharis/Dark Elves followed at least partially the route that most people expect them to take, flavor-wise - that of them loving to fight rather than doing it with emotionless resignation.
Also, I think the idea of something making the Tharis dark, evil, warped beings is compelling. If we are going to make origin stories, how about the Tharis were originally 'normal' elves, perhaps the only elves in this setting, who lived in a secluded and insular nation as all people here seem to do, until a being of Malevolence (like an opposite of the manifestation of the Sun that the Kharosians worship), a dark sun, fell from the sky and corrupted their race through its presence and purposeful experimentation. So their minds and bodies are twisted and warped, becoming the battle-loving creatures of darkness that they are now; slaves to a being that still floats above their underground capitol and shining its dark and corrupting light upon their people. Moving away from its influence for a length of time - say, going to the surface on a long campaign to fight Kharosians - makes them slip slowly into insanity as physical and mental degradation takes hold.
Oh, and another argument to their being an individual race: Tharis/Dark Elf terrain defense and movetypes are all the same, them being good in caves and mushrooms and hills and mountains. This tells me that they spend lots of time either in the mountains or in cave systems, two places humans aren't found commonly. They live in caves and hilly, mountainous regions, and so whatever empire they have is necessarily concentrated around such terrain, and so at least partially underground, with mountains above the more populated underground region.
bvanevery wrote:Tharis are occult and many of their magics are druidic in flavor. Hydras are created by mummifying their enemies while still alive and throwing them into bogs. What remains of the victim's tortured soul is controlled by the witches who lead a Tharis army. Should the witches ever leave the field or die, the hydras go into a rage and kill anything that vaguely resembles the essence of their torturers. The average combatant "dressed in black" is going to get his head bit off, regardless of his world view, but a truly benevolent being with a benevolent aura might be able to tame the hydras and release their souls from suffering.
Um, this is a strange idea to me; it is hard to fit the concept of mummified, living bodies being thrown into bogs and magically fused into hydras. Is this your idea, or did Inferno8 come up with it? In my opinion it would require a more precise explanation than 'dark wizards did it' to convince me that this is how hydras are made. I always just assumed they were swamp beasts the Witches magically dominated and tortured into being slavering killing machines.
bvanevery wrote:The Kharosian High Priestess eventually learns this secret of their nature and trains her closest disciples to release the good in all such maligned beings. Unfortunately the Kharosians didn't figure this out when the Tharis initially invaded them; it is only as the tide of battle turns, and the Kharosians go on a counter-offensive to reclaim their insular kingdom, that the needed spiritual awakenings are understood. Thus the dialectic between Tharis and Kharosiasns is that of the pain of existence, and how different cultures come to terms with it. The Kharosians are not as pure and perfect as they would like themselves to be, but in the scheme of possible cultures, they are unquestioningly a better reaction to the problems of existence than the Tharis.

I am envisioning a campaign that encompasses both the Tharis and the Kharosians. I think they best explain each other, by contrast. It would star a deserter from the Tharis army. The tone of the story would be dramatic and serious, not comical like "To Lands Unknown."

As a small boy, his village was conquered. As all small children are instructed, his parents were thrown in the bog to become hydra, right before his very eyes. Then he is whisked around to whatever part of the empire the Tharis have need of his labor. Eventually all such children are trained to be soldiers or witches. Many traumas are repeated throughout his childhood and adolescence, as this is how the Tharis demonstrate the place of the conquered in their society. As the boy becomes a man, he cannot be the typical Wesnoth "good guy hero." He is deeply scarred, an emotional basket case with many repressed feelings. He takes action out of fear and survival, this is all he knows. Thus he may kill innocent people without hesitancy, not because he enjoys it in the slightest, but because it's a basic instinct for survival in Tharis culture. There isn't much room for kindness and mercy, as any officer who sees you bestowing such, would immediately kill you, whoever you were trying to help, anyone else they thought might be slightly relevant to the incident, and a few others for no reason at all. There is not much hope of resistance or revolution, at least not in the parts of the empire where the Tharis are strong, so mostly troops do what they're told and become as desensitized as they can to what they're doing. Repression of feelings is an important survival skill as well, as displays of crying, pity, or sadness are a quick way to get your head cut off.

When Mehir defeats the Tharis at Saffaros, the man has a chance to escape what little is left of the Tharis army.
He is hunted by Kharosians who are regaining their strength, and hides in villages and mountains as best as he is able. He kills innocents as he needs to, to survive. He faces at least one situation where he kills, not out of need, but out of reflex, when there was not really a danger, and it was clearly brutal to do so. In the past there had always been some overlord making sure he would do it, but this time there is not, and it begins the crisis of conscience that starts to tear him apart. The crisis is not swift and overwhelming, but rather a slow burn, as he has a few decades of repressed emotions to unpack about what he is and what his parents were.

As the Kharosian counteroffensive becomes stronger and stronger, it becomes more and more difficult for the deserter to hide. He witnesses some battles at a distance, and sees that routed Tharis troops are "losing it." Defeat is not the usual Tharis military experience, and many of the repressed conscripts are not psychologically equipped to handle it. Some laugh and go into an ineffectual dementia, as their overlords are gone, but they cannot be truly happy lest they return. Some face the trauma of losing their loved ones for the first time in a great while, can't handle the guilt of what they've done, and kill themselves. Some just weep and can never stop. Some just go completely insane and run for the hills, running as far as they can until they go over a cliff or are eaten by wild animals or some such. Some do manage to simply surrender, but they are muted and dead, the typical emotionally stunted citizens of the Tharis empire.

Kharosian healers walk among the defeated soldiers. They try to help, but the level of damage is uncommon in the relatively benevolent Kharosian society, and there are so many. The High Priestess convenes a special temple to handle the prisoners, to try to find a way to bring them back as human beings. A significant segment of Kharosian society fears that the prisoners are too "hardcore" to ever be restored to anything resembling normalcy, and thus are too dangerous to be released into society. Thus nearly everyone agrees to keep them under strong guard, and some think they might be better off if they were simply euthanized. The small conflict over what to do with these tortured people reveals that the Kharosians, although a relatively benevolent society, is hardly a perfect enlightened society and has its own fears and ugliness.

The deserter finally unravels, in part because he has seen his countrymen unravel. He comes out of hiding, walks into town, and throws himself at the mercy of the priesthood. He experiences a dark period somewhat like living in an insane asylum. The Kharosians are not necessarily doing bad things to him, but many of his reactions to authority are involuntary, and the Kharosians do not yet know any quick, effacious way to repair their damaged psyches.

The High Priestess is deeply disturbed by the turning of her soldiers at the battle of Kharos. Although it doesn't cause her to lose her faith, it causes her to question the boundaries of faith, the value of it to ordinary people who do not live in temples. If the Master of Darkness can so easily sway so many of her people that all their beliefs are false, and even that nihilism and darkness are to be preferred, what does that say for our condition as benevolent beings? She is frustrated by her inability to easily help the prisoners, and by the mutterings of some Kharosians that they should simply be killed, as it is somewhat reminiscent of the life philosophy of the Tharis they have just repelled. The Kharosians are on the march, but do they march for righteous things? Mehir just saved her, then betrayed her, and stole their Sun Ray. Well, half their Sun Ray. Rationally, she admits that nothing has changed for having lost half of it, except a feeling that their beliefs have been violated. This feeling of violation and betrayal has become a powerful force in Kharosian society, and she does not consider it to be positive. Should she have offered their sacred object freely and openly? What are Kharosians going to become as they embrace war and retake their homeland? Are Kharosians believing in correct things? Did the Master of Darkness, despite the obvious cruelty and wrongness of his world view, nevertheless have a minor point in there somewhere?

Somehow, not sure by exactly what mechanism or plot device, the High Priestess finally has a key insight as to how to help the prisoners. Perhaps it comes to her while she's on a battlefield, walking amongst more defeated Tharis troops. Perhaps she interacts successfully with a hydra. Perhaps examining the remains of a mummified victim in a bog helps her to understand. Perhaps she answers various questions that have been nagging her. Perhaps all these things. Eventually, however, she realizes she can help, and "The Deserter" is the 1st really hardcore case that she's able to have an impact upon.

The High Priestess has gained an exceptional ability, not through accident of birth or sheer willpower as the prophecies seemed to predict, but simply by a greater understanding of compassion and a willingness to see it through, to its logical conclusion. She realizes that she could, in some sense, now be considered a Mistress of Light. She also realizes that the Prophecies are a bit of a lie, because every such Mistress faces a final test of her "goodness." Will she transcend her body and become a perfectly good entity, a personification of the Light, or will she remain here in the world to perform good deeds? The morality of her predicament seems quite obvious to her, seeming to confirm that this is what a Mistress of Light actually is. This in turn leads her to question what Kharosians actually believe in. Although the core of Kharosian belief is mostly good, there are corners and details that now seem of little concern to her, yet are of disproportionate concern to others in Kharosian society. Such as the worship of the Sun Ray.

The High Priestess may go through an internal philosophical test; she may have developed an awareness that she can transcend but must now choose whether or not to do it. Alternately, she may be tested by an actual Sun god in these matters. If the Sun does appear and act as a guide, she will ask why the Sun has not intervened in the pain and suffering of the world. The Sun will say that he doesn't have the power. Although his dimension has many facets - light, darkness, benevolence, chaos, and elemental magic - it is an ephemeral place where structure and resolution comes and goes. Although the Sun doesn't explain it, these are all just facets of the Abyss. What the Sun does explain, is that the permanence of any Good or Evil upon the world is for her kind alone to determine, and will be whatever they choose. She asks, then why do we worship you at all?? The Sun says, "because I gave you plants. I have given so that you may grow."

The High Priestess comes to understand that Enlightenment is a gift passed from one sentient being to another, to the degree that such a being is capable of doing, given its own limitations. With this knowledge she asks The Deserter, and others of his kind, to help her to break the leadership of the Tharis empire. She knows that she and the Tharis prisoners are uniquely motivated to end this menace, that they are fanatically capable of giving their lives for a higher purpose, in a way that insular Kharosians concerned for beliefs, rituals, and relics cannot presently understand. She does not ask her own Kharosian people for this. She knows that if she does ask her people, in the course of waging war with the Tharis, they will become a lot more like the Tharis and a lot less like the enlightened being she has now become. She is already having trouble explaining why captured Tharis should live, and why people should not be so angry that half their Sun Ray is gone. She cannot defeat the Tharis but she can hope to mute and diminish them. To make the world more balanced, it is best to strike at the Greatest Evil, while protecting the Somewhat Good from the harm they would do to themselves in trying to conquer that evil. And so, the High Priestess, The Deserter, and all his countrymen at the Temple Asylum abscond in the night, on a clandestine mission to unravel the power of the Tharis leadership. Good timing too, as a minor faction of Kharosians was just about to murder as many of the prisoners as they could get away with.

The battles and adventures that follow deal with the Tharis occult. Gradually the mysteries of how the Tharis leadership controls their minions are unraveled. Villages here and there are set free, and the knowledge of how to resist spreads. The Tharis empire, being large and militarily powerful in conventional terms, has plenty of ordinary tools for keeping people repressed, but mind control just doesn't work as well anymore. The empire breaks up, with general chaos and multi-factioned civil wars. The farther reaches reassert themselves as independent nations, and start rebuilding themselves according to what they once were, before the dark times. The Deserter distinguishes himself valiantly in the conflict, although he does have his moments of temptation and relapse. Both The Deserter and The High Priestess are killed, but before their demise they see the likelihood of their work having a positive effect upon the world.
Interesting idea for the campaign, but I think a lot of it is based on conjecture that doesn't have enough of a knowledge base to stand very well on its own. A Kharos vs. Tharis campaign could be done, but I think it might be better to explore the other factions with a Tharis campaign - like pitting them against what I would assume are their most common enemies, the Dwarves. Leave a description of the Kharosians to the Kharos campaign. Instead, perhaps something like this would work:
Tharis campaign is based before the Summoner campaign, with the Tharis attacking both the Dwarves and the Sky Kingdom (before they were a sky kingdom, they lived on land) and causing massive damage to them both. Some dwarves get enslaved, and Enlightened Ones lose their capitol city to the Tharis, who use the dwarves to make a dam and flood the valley that the city is in, killing everyone in it and making the Enlightened Ones an endangered species. This leads to the Guru (who I have not yet met in the Summoner campaign; please forgive me if anything I say goes against what has been established in the campaign already) who failed to take action against the Tharis quickly enough to save the majority of his people, lead the remnants of his civilization into the sky to escape annihilation at the hands of the Tharis, while giving him a serious conviction to prevent bad stuff from happening to his people again by doing whatever it takes, being proactive, screwing others over in order to save his own. (Do you know what Warhammer 40K is? If so, think of the Guru as having a mindset similar to the Craftworld Eldar; if not, disregard this statement. Also, I use too many commas.). Sky Kingdom tangent aside - the Tharis campaign establishes causes for 2 or 3 other campaigns, unites most campaigns into a single timeline where things happen at the same time/in a chronological order consistent with other campaigns, each one interacting with and supporting the story progression of several others. Basically they crush the Enlightened Ones (and perhaps the Dwarves) and decide that they are badass enough to take on the Kharos as well, but didn't figure in Mehir's involvement. In fact, I don't know why they would bring the Summoners into it, unless there was another faction of the Tharis that wanted the Kharosian offensive to fail and sent an army to attract the Summoner's attention by attacking one of their cities. Bah. I need to step back and take a look at this, to see if it makes sense...
H*ll Yes! Got the quotes right!
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wesfreak
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Re: Era of Magic (EoMa) the campaign is now available!

Post by wesfreak »

I don't think making the Tharis always chaotic evil is a good idea: In general, simplifying a person/faction to evil for the sake of being evil is a bad thing. Good characters have more depth than that. It would be better to give the Tharis a reason to attack the summoners and the enlightened ones. In Bvanevery's story, the reason is that their dictator is evil, and the other Tharis follow along because they have no choice. Personally, I think a better reason would be xenophobia: The tharis could have lived peacefully on their hills and in the caves beneath for hundreds of years until they met the dwarves, for example, and killed them out of fear of the unknown. The dwarves, in retaliation launch a raid, and a war between the two races escalates. After the end of the war, the Tharis become xenophobic and thus militiristic, attacking every race they see for fear of being attacked themselves. The Tharis campaign could be about someone who sees through the illusion that all other races want to kill them, and gain support from a variety of other factions to conquer the old leader of the Tharis and bring peace to the land.

You do raise an interesting idea though: Maybe one could play as the Guru during the enlightened ones campaign.
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bvanevery
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Re: Era of Magic (EoMa) the campaign is now available!

Post by bvanevery »

A lot to answer here. I will start with the shorter one. :-)
wesfreak wrote:I don't think making the Tharis always chaotic evil is a good idea: In general, simplifying a person/faction to evil for the sake of being evil is a bad thing. Good characters have more depth than that.
In my rendition The Deserter is "good," in the sense of committing atrocities involuntarily, and being redeemable. All of the conquered Tharis are "good," or capable of it; they prove this by undertaking a secret mission to disembowel the Tharis leadership and in the process, dying for the cause.

I finally read the link you provided. I think that critique of societies that are "always chaotic evil" is not very good. Terror is very effective at unifying societies into one overt world view. It worked for the Nazis, for Stalin, and the Mongols, without much nuance. One could argue about the historical duration of such societies. That's not important to EoMa though: the Tharis are on the upswing of empire, and lack any significant opposition until they run into the Summoners. The Enlightened Ones are far too powerful to consider mere mind control techniques a threat, so they ignore the Tharis. As far as the Enlightened Ones are concerned, a continent full of Tharis would be easier to manage then even one city full of Summoners.
It would be better to give the Tharis a reason to attack the summoners and the enlightened ones. In Bvanevery's story, the reason is that their dictator is evil, and the other Tharis follow along because they have no choice.
Also because the Tharis leadership has been historically successful at stomping everyone in the world. Consider the Roman or Mongol empires at their peaks. Running into the Summoners is a new military experience for them. Even the Kharosians would have been completely wiped out had the Summoners not intervened. The Kharosians are hardly undeveloped as a military culture, but they are inwardly focused, and consequently not as good at stomping on other countries or preventing themselves from getting stomped. Moreover the Tharis have mind control and the Kharosians don't. Much of the Tharis empire is built on mind control, and this is what the Mistress of Light and the prisoners set about to unravel. It won't end the Tharis as a despotic empire, but it will cause it to fall into chaos and contract for awhile.
Personally, I think a better reason would be xenophobia: The tharis could have lived peacefully on their hills and in the caves beneath for hundreds of years until they met the dwarves, for example, and killed them out of fear of the unknown. The dwarves, in retaliation launch a raid, and a war between the two races escalates. After the end of the war, the Tharis become xenophobic and thus militiristic, attacking every race they see for fear of being attacked themselves. The Tharis campaign could be about someone who sees through the illusion that all other races want to kill them, and gain support from a variety of other factions to conquer the old leader of the Tharis and bring peace to the land.
This explores a different set of themes about war. In your telling, "all races are equal and interchangeable, war is due to misunderstanding, and people are inherently good." In my telling, all races are not equal and interchangeable, absolute evil does exist, and this particular war is sheer naked conquest for its own sake. I'm not trying to tell a Vietnam story. I'm trying to tell a Nazi story, or a Stalin story, or a Mongol story. I would use your themes for a story about Barbarians vs. Darkblooded. In my view they are at war for completely pointless, avoidable reasons.
Last edited by bvanevery on January 1st, 2011, 5:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tharis campaign: "The Deserter"

Post by bvanevery »

MrSean wrote:Firstly, hi. I'm new to the whole forum-posting thing (obviously), but not to the game, and I'm not sure if I'm doing this the right way. Also, deconstructing the Tharis is an interesting endeavor and I'd like to add my own two cents to it, if you don't mind.
No prob; thanks for offering the brainpower!
bvanevery wrote: So, I haven't finished the campaign yet - I'm at Kharos and my butt keeps on getting kicked - but I always thought that the Tharis were one race, Dark Elves, and not a multiracial empire. At least, that is how their units are in the actual game, aside from bats and Hydras. Making their army a composition of deeply traumatized and frightened individuals of different original races and cultures, united only by fear, doesn't seem so effective to me, and I don't think that it goes with their flavor. Except the deeply traumatized and evil, sadistic bit.
You are right that the Tharis units do not portray a multiracial empire of conquered conscripts being driven forwards in punishment battalions. I had thought about this inadequacy from a gameplay standpoint, like implementing retreat and execution rules, but I hadn't thought about the unit artwork. Another problem is they just don't look evil enough to commit all the atrocities in my "R rated" story. The Tharis leader witches look the part, especially with their dark auras, but the underling witches look like "cute little Goth chicks" to my eye. The fighting males are too enthusiastic about their craft, with their special daggers and berzerker blades and whatnot. These are not conscripts; they're "psycho-warriors," and probably keep playing with their carving toys long after the battle is over.

I don't have as much information as you, as I haven't finished the campaign yet, but where do you get that the Tharis do not enjoy bloodshed? The Master of Darkness was very happy for there to be real bloodshed at the Battle of Kharos, and most depictions of Dark Elves show them as sadistic and evil, battle-loving creatures.
The leadership loves bloodshed and torture. The conscripts do not.
Did you get the above idea from the campaign or are you trying to create a new background for them?
Well when there really isn't a background for them, creating a background for them doesn't exactly make it "new." I'd rewrite your sentence as "I'm creating a background for them" rather than "I'm creating a new background for them." inferno8 is MIA with exams, and until he starts telling us what the Tharis are "really" about, anything is fair game AFAIAC. Perhaps he will like my "R rated" Tharis better than whatever he's cooked up so far.
Also, I think the idea of something making the Tharis dark, evil, warped beings is compelling. If we are going to make origin stories, how about the Tharis were originally 'normal' elves, perhaps the only elves in this setting, who lived in a secluded and insular nation as all people here seem to do, until a being of Malevolence (like an opposite of the manifestation of the Sun that the Kharosians worship), a dark sun, fell from the sky and corrupted their race through its presence and purposeful experimentation.
My own view is that sentient stars are emissaries of Good, whereas black holes are bastions of Evil. That said, I personally do not want this world to be explained by "God A fights God B and mortals are merely mirrors of divine struggle." Saying "well, the Gods are at war, so we have to be" is an authorial crutch, an Existential shirking of responsibility, and in our own universe an outright lie, so I'm not going to write a story that merely says "follow the 2 alpha males, do what you're told." I wrote The Sun as being a fairly ineffective deity for a reason. Nevertheless he does have an effect on the world; basically, nothing as we know it would be alive, if he were not continuously exerting himself to keep the planetary temperature in the right range. In my view the Tharis were corrupted when they tapped into the darker portions of the Abyss. They learned how to control people's minds, which set off a chain of evolutionary events which "selected for" the most cruel, despotic mind controllers imaginable. The Summoners got lucky: when they were first learning magic they met Nomolas, an Enlightened Being, and drew most of their power and culture from him. Nomolas is so enlightened that they don't even think to capitalize his pronoun, i.e. they call him "he," not "He." They think Nomolas is their servant!
So their minds and bodies are twisted and warped, becoming the battle-loving creatures of darkness that they are now; slaves to a being that still floats above their underground capitol and shining its dark and corrupting light upon their people. Moving away from its influence for a length of time - say, going to the surface on a long campaign to fight Kharosians - makes them slip slowly into insanity as physical and mental degradation takes hold.
Your authorial theme here seems to be about Geology. Your explanation seems to be a form of hard science fiction. I'm not totally opposed to approaching stories in this manner, as I do think in terms of stars, black holes, and what those things mean in the magical Abyss. However, I point out that we've currently got 6 factions to explain: the Summoners, the Darkblooded, the Barbarians, the Tharis, the Kharosians, and The Enlightened Ones. From the standpoint of dramatic needs, I think it is more important to explain these factions relative to each other, than as standalone entities in their own terms. Otherwise we end up telling 6 separate stories, it takes forever to get all of them done, and it doesn't hold up as anything particularly special as a coherent world. If I wanted to write a story about dark elves and sunlight, I could do that without any of the other world features of the Era of Magic. What's important about the Tharis, is how they differ from the Kharosians.
Um, this is a strange idea to me; it is hard to fit the concept of mummified, living bodies being thrown into bogs and magically fused into hydras. Is this your idea, or did Inferno8 come up with it?
Mine. I can see it clearly in my mind, and it's pretty horrific. If this story is greenlighted I'll wordsmith it out, so you can see it in all its glorious awfulness. :mrgreen: In the meantime, transpose the live embalming scenes from "The Mummy" movies, with historically accurate druidic bog sacrifices, and Nazi death camps where the children have to watch their parents being thrown into ovens (not exactly their MO, but whatever) and you'll have the right idea.
Interesting idea for the campaign, but I think a lot of it is based on conjecture that doesn't have enough of a knowledge base to stand very well on its own.
Stories are conjecture. I'm not sure what your objection is here. It seems to be along the lines of "inferno8 didn't think of it." I say, so what? He either likes my writing and wants to use it, or he doesn't. My writing is internally consistent, minus a few pieces of artwork, and it's consistent with what is known about the Era of Magic.
A Kharos vs. Tharis campaign could be done, but I think it might be better to explore the other factions with a Tharis campaign - like pitting them against what I would assume are their most common enemies, the Dwarves.
The Dwarves don't appear in "To Lands Unknown" at all. I am inclined to ignore them. They strike me as an obligatory steamer punk cliche, a mechanical contrast to The Enlightened Ones magical cloud kingdoms. Frankly I think that's very boring compared to the rather original concept of Al-Kamija created by Nomolas, and the Summoners vanishing their entire nation from the material world using a Great Circle. Too many ideas spoil the screenplay soup. Among writers there is a proverb: "kill your babies." Just because something is good for MP combat, doesn't mean it's any good for storytelling.
Leave a description of the Kharosians to the Kharos campaign.
I see my comments about production economy didn't sink in. :whistle: Let me lay it out in simple terms. inferno8 just spent a year on the 1st campaign. I just spent a few months debugging and polishing his writing and gameplay to make it better. inferno8 is swamped by exams and doing close to nothing on campaigns right now. I'm going to be swamped by the realities of making money Real Soon Now in the coming year. We've already talked about the desirability of making a sequel To Lands Unknown in the Abyss, although clearly inferno8 wants to do "something else" right now, because he's burned out on Mehir. Can't blame him. 6 campaigns for 6 factions + an Abyss sequel = 7 campaigns, only 1 of which has been completed to date, and that took a year. Do you understand the problem now?? :hmm: To do that much content well is almost a Harry Potter level of production. For that kind of effort, I assure you, I won't be doing it for free or under someone else's say-so. :twisted: So I want to get done something that can be done in a short amount of time. That means doubling up on the faction explanations.

This isn't my first open source pony show and when I say "cut to the chase" I mean it. There's a whole pile of abandoned campaigns in the development forum, the testament of well-meaning developers who didn't understand production realities.
Instead, perhaps something like this would work:
Tharis campaign is based before the Summoner campaign, with the Tharis attacking both the Dwarves and the Sky Kingdom (before they were a sky kingdom, they lived on land) and causing massive damage to them both.
Are you personally going to write the story and then implement a lot of it?
Some dwarves get enslaved, and Enlightened Ones lose their capitol city to the Tharis,
The Enlightened Ones are far too powerful to ever lose anything to anyone. The Summoners were the only conceivable threat to their dominance, and that is firmly and incontrovertibly told in the final 4 scenarios. Any time a civilization emerges that has any chance of threatening the supremacy of the Enlightened Ones, they find a way to knock it down, typically by geopolitical manipulation and not usually by any direct use of force. As we see in the case of Aerius, they are not a particularly enlightened civilization. They're just far more powerful than everybody else, and fortunately not into enslavement and mayhem the way the Tharis are.

An important authorial theme for me: the races are not equal. They serve different structural positions in the overall story, to tell a particular overall story. This is rather different from Wesnoth mainline campaigns. Wesnoth was created by developers who primarily cared about MP combat, not single player RPG or storytelling. Thus they have evolved a world history where all factions are pretty much equal in importance, with only minor asymmetries. You could eliminate almost any Wesnoth story from the world's history, and it wouldn't matter much.
please forgive me if anything I say goes against what has been established in the campaign already)
No prob.
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Re: Era of Magic (EoMa) the campaign is now available!

Post by StDrake »

Intro to second scenario of to 'lands unknown' - correct spelling is "myriad" and "influences"

hell that campaign is starting out great! i've never seen such eye candy anywhere in wesnoth!..well maybe aside for portraits of such masters as Kitty and LordBob

..say if the theme is war-makes-no-sense maybe my cat faction could find a place in EoMa? mainly the ever-tech-stealing crazed kits fit perfectly into that, and into those hi-tech dwarves i see on the first page (perfect way to show nonsense in war science - whatever horrible weapon gets invented mysteriously vanishes to reappear later ridden by a crazy horde of kitten thief-inventors)

edit: the more i read the more grammar/spelling things i find to correct. Want some help with that? (btw I'm PL too in case that matters)
Like cats? I've made a whole faction of them to kick ass with!
Don't like cats? I've made a whole faction of them to kick their asses! So everyone's happy :)
Felinian faction is part of the Beyond Southern Hells era
kitties need sprites! art topic here
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Re: Era of Magic (EoMa) the campaign is now available!

Post by bvanevery »

StDrake wrote:hell that campaign is starting out great! i've never seen such eye candy anywhere in wesnoth!..well maybe aside for portraits of such masters as Kitty and LordBob
"To Lands Unknown" is the best campaign ever, IMO. Not because I worked on it a bit. I thought that before I worked on it, which is why I contributed some work to help it get even better. inferno8 has set a new bar for what campaigns can be.
..say if the theme is war-makes-no-sense maybe my cat faction could find a place in EoMa? mainly the ever-tech-stealing crazed kits fit perfectly into that, and into those hi-tech dwarves i see on the first page (perfect way to show nonsense in war science - whatever horrible weapon gets invented mysteriously vanishes to reappear later ridden by a crazy horde of kitten thief-inventors)
Well, I suppose that anything "to the south of The Great Desert" is a patchwork of squabbling tribes. What's one more tribe? Meanwhile, to the North are the Tharis. If my vision of the Tharis as an evil conquering empire is accepted, then its holdings are vast, and Dwarves or Cats could be at the periphery "somewhere." As well as some more traditional-looking Wesnoth types. Gotta fill out the ranks of conscripts with whatever. Mermen etc. are "somewhere."

I would point out, however, that my own authorial concerns are about telling a strong story. I always ask what a faction, plot device, or artwork choice are going to do to further that goal. I wouldn't personally want to get too committed to "a story about cats," as I don't think that's what a Tharis vs. Kharosian plot arc is about. However, I did say that The Deserter was raised from childhood, starting with his parents being thrown into the bog to become Hydra, and had a long career surviving in the Tharis army before escaping at Kharos. One of those early episodes could be a scenario about conquering the cats... and the cats are totally vanquished, becoming yet another subservient race. Ditto the dwarves. Basically nobody can stand up to the Tharis. Not until the Mistress of Light embarks on the quest, explores the occult underworld of the Tharis, and comes to understand the nature of mind control. Cats, dwarves, and other sundry races could serve as guides who know about Tharis secret places, but don't understand what they're about or what to do with them. I see the 2nd half of my Tharis story as having a lot of occult "dungeon crawl" to it, much as Ka-Gatta is a dungeon crawl in "To Lands Unknown."

Portraying the Tharis as an empire offers interesting game mechanics. They can draw upon a much larger variety of units, but those units are not loyal and have poor morale. If they disobey, usually out of fear or despair, the Tharis kill them with their mind control. At least, the mind control does kill most of them, if not all, and is an object lesson to troops who are thinking about shirking their duty.

Hmm what do Tharis do with conquered magicians? I think they put them in great big underground cylinders of glass-crystal to harvest their magical energies. They certainly don't allow them to live and serve in the Tharis army. Tharis witches hold a strict monopoly on magical power in Tharis society.
edit: the more i read the more grammar/spelling things i find to correct. Want some help with that? (btw I'm PL too in case that matters)
I don't know how inferno8 feels about that. I don't think the spelling and grammar irregularities are all that bad really; I think they add a bit of "home grown character." I do think that if others want to work on EoMa campaigns and make this get bigger, then we're going to need some kind of source control and access permissions. I'll be submitting a patch pretty soon for TLU 1.4.1 and I do want to get it patched. When the lead developer gets swamped it becomes a problem for anyone else to make contributions.
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Re: Tharis campaign: "The Deserter"

Post by MrSean »

First, some things to say.
I would very much like to help develop the story of the campaign/s , but I can't really offer anything in the way of coding because I have no experience whatsoever with it. And yeah, I didn't know you had already gotten some fingers into the EoMa pie development-wise.
I am absolutely fine with the Tharis being a large empire on the upswing. That is kind of the idea that I got when I started playing against them in the campaign. The little story about them that I wrote was just an epileptic tree tangent; it wasn't necessarily what I thought would best describe them, but something I came up with in like 30 seconds, I guess to show that all ideas have flaws and many ideas should be considered. I agree with you in that there shouldn't be a "God A fights God B" theme with a Light vs Dark sun thing, or with anything else; again, tangent. Using their (the Tharis') experiences with the Abyss as a way of describing who they are is both internally consistent to the setting and more reasonable than the idea I put down, and so it seems a better choice to me.
By the way, I think that a campaign about the Tharis should be shown from the perspective of the Tharis and not some deserter who gets helped by the Kharosians. In my opinion, that would work better as part of the Kharosian campaign. I know I said this in my previous post, but I'll say it again. I think it would work better to teach the players about each separate culture and reveal the storyline if each campaign was seen from the Point of View of the faction that campaign is about.
Also, I'm not sure if at the end of this I will have supported your argument more than attacked it and instituted my own. I'm kind of looking at this as a slow debate/peer edit/critique thingy, and already it's quite fun for me. I hope it is for you, too.
bvanevery wrote: You are right that the Tharis units do not portray a multiracial empire of conquered conscripts being driven forwards in punishment battalions. I had thought about this inadequacy from a gameplay standpoint, like implementing retreat and execution rules, but I hadn't thought about the unit artwork. Another problem is they just don't look evil enough to commit all the atrocities in my "R rated" story. The Tharis leader witches look the part, especially with their dark auras, but the underling witches look like "cute little Goth chicks" to my eye. The fighting males are too enthusiastic about their craft, with their special daggers and berzerker blades and whatnot. These are not conscripts; they're "psycho-warriors," and probably keep playing with their carving toys long after the battle is over.
I think a story about the Tharis should totally be R rated, but I don't think you need to redo the unit graphics to make them look more evil. Just make the Tharis do so many evil things, all the time, repeating over and over, that eventually their utter evilness will sink in. But don't necessarily make them go out of their way to be evil, if it wouldn't serve their purposes of not dying to the player's forces. Wesfreak was warning against the Always Chaotic Evil thing, and I don't think they should be that either. Evil, yes, deliberately so; but not in a way that would cause self-destruction in a controlled environment.
The leadership loves bloodshed and torture. The conscripts do not.
I kind of disagree with the idea that the conscripts do not like fighting. (This stems from my disagreement about the Tharis using basically unwilling people to fight for them. In fact I disagree with the campaign story being based around a 'saved' Tharis conscript getting a crack team of other 'saved' conscripts to infiltrate the empire and kill the leadership. Sounds too much like Inglorious Basterds to me.) I mean, sure, all three empires you mention did that (Mongol, Nazi, Stalinists), so the Tharis can too, but a unit that is a Dark Elf and not a slave race should enjoy fighting, because the race as a whole, being twisted and evil, enjoys fighting. And unless you make non-DE units that fight for the Tharis in the campaign, all of the units should reflect that, as all will be Dark Elves. I guess I should say it this way:
The Tharis Empire consists of Dark Elves, who created it and rule it, and various subjugated slave races, who don't rule it. Conscripts of non-DE races may or may not enjoy killing. They are mind controlled, traumatized, fear-driven individuals who live their entire lives in a state of blind fear of their overlords. Fear and obedience are so ingrained in their personalities that they have great trouble comprehending disobedience. (Here is where your magical Prophetess of Light's powers can come in; they remove the fear, obedience and control from the mind - but then, what is left? SO MUCH of the conscripts personalities are based on that fear and obedience, they have been so long controlled, what exactly do their minds consist of once those things are gone? Can they even function?)
On the other hand, Dark Elf soldiers - who, while being a higher caste than all slave races, still participate in combat - enjoy fighting as a rule. It is part of their racial characteristics. While they might fear their overlords, it is not the same thing that the conscripts experience - they can still make rational decisions, rather than inpulsive/instinctual ones only.
Well when there really isn't a background for them, creating a background for them doesn't exactly make it "new." I'd rewrite your sentence as "I'm creating a background for them" rather than "I'm creating a new background for them." inferno8 is MIA with exams, and until he starts telling us what the Tharis are "really" about, anything is fair game AFAIAC. Perhaps he will like my "R rated" Tharis better than whatever he's cooked up so far.

My own view is that sentient stars are emissaries of Good, whereas black holes are bastions of Evil. That said, I personally do not want this world to be explained by "God A fights God B and mortals are merely mirrors of divine struggle." Saying "well, the Gods are at war, so we have to be" is an authorial crutch, an Existential shirking of responsibility, and in our own universe an outright lie, so I'm not going to write a story that merely says "follow the 2 alpha males, do what you're told." I wrote The Sun as being a fairly ineffective deity for a reason. Nevertheless he does have an effect on the world; basically, nothing as we know it would be alive, if he were not continuously exerting himself to keep the planetary temperature in the right range. In my view the Tharis were corrupted when they tapped into the darker portions of the Abyss. They learned how to control people's minds, which set off a chain of evolutionary events which "selected for" the most cruel, despotic mind controllers imaginable. The Summoners got lucky: when they were first learning magic they met Nomolas, an Enlightened Being, and drew most of their power and culture from him. Nomolas is so enlightened that they don't even think to capitalize his pronoun, i.e. they call him "he," not "He." They think Nomolas is their servant!
I hold more with the sentient stars being C'tan or Elder Gods ala Lovecraft, but that's beside the point. They could certainly be Caleban, but that is going into SF rather than fantasy, where extremely powerful beings tend to be gods.
Yes, the setting should not be defined by fights between good and evil. Mainline wesnoth tends to do it too much and that annoys and bores me. I also think that you were taking my own little plot contribution much to seriously, but thank you anyway for deconstructing it, for without criticism we cannot find the flaws in our arguments and move forward!
(The way you say it the Sun Being is in fact not ineffectual at all, and its efforts are incredibly important to everything living in the world. He just doesn't do much for the Kharos in particular. But anyway.)
You have a good idea there for the Tharis. Its already been established that different people access different parts of the Abyss, which leads to different forms of magic. The Tharis have dark mind control magic. It influences them and has done so since they started using it; changing the way their minds operate on a fundamental level, perhaps. Maybe or maybe not changing their physiology, but I don't know if the Abyss works that way or not generally.
Your authorial theme here seems to be about Geology. Your explanation seems to be a form of hard science fiction. I'm not totally opposed to approaching stories in this manner, as I do think in terms of stars, black holes, and what those things mean in the magical Abyss. However, I point out that we've currently got 6 factions to explain: the Summoners, the Darkblooded, the Barbarians, the Tharis, the Kharosians, and The Enlightened Ones. From the standpoint of dramatic needs, I think it is more important to explain these factions relative to each other, than as standalone entities in their own terms. Otherwise we end up telling 6 separate stories, it takes forever to get all of them done, and it doesn't hold up as anything particularly special as a coherent world. If I wanted to write a story about dark elves and sunlight, I could do that without any of the other world features of the Era of Magic. What's important about the Tharis, is how they differ from the Kharosians.
Ok, I can see that, I just want them to traditionally live in those areas that they are represented as being good in. Yes, what I was saying was sort of geology based, and while hard sf is fun I wasn't trying to use it to describe a story. We don't need to spend a lot of time talking about who the Tharis are; explore their culture like it was explored in TLU, with it not ever being a major part of the plot. Of course I want to see them in relation to other factions/cultures. That is how you can get the most conflict in a story IMO, not that we can't get lots of conflict by pitting different Tharisian factions against themselves.
Sunlight isn't any sort of major theme that I am seriously thinking about exploring. I was just providing a simple description of 'who they are'. I don't think that the differences between the Tharis and the Kharosians are what define the Tharis. They can be major plot points, or reasons for the plot moving in certain ways, but the Tharis, like anyone else, are defined by nature and nurture - biology and culture. Culture can be their interactions within their own culture and with others. The Dark Elves, rulers of the Tharis Empire, are biologically different from the subjugate/slave races that make up another part of their empire. The story can include the differences between Tharis and Kharosian cultures, but isn't driven by that - it is driven by the actions of the protagonists and antagonists, people, not societies.
Mine. I can see it clearly in my mind, and it's pretty horrific. If this story is greenlighted I'll wordsmith it out, so you can see it in all its glorious awfulness. :mrgreen: In the meantime, transpose the live embalming scenes from "The Mummy" movies, with historically accurate druidic bog sacrifices, and Nazi death camps where the children have to watch their parents being thrown into ovens (not exactly their MO, but whatever) and you'll have the right idea.

Stories are conjecture. I'm not sure what your objection is here. It seems to be along the lines of "inferno8 didn't think of it." I say, so what? He either likes my writing and wants to use it, or he doesn't. My writing is internally consistent, minus a few pieces of artwork, and it's consistent with what is known about the Era of Magic.
Meh, I don't care if Inferno8 did or did not come up with it. And yes, your writing is internally consistent and consistent with the setting. Mine is consistent with it as well, but my knowledge of the setting is more limited than yours. And, um... 'minus a few pieces of artwork'?
Basically what I was saying is that I don't wholly agree with your idea of what constitutes the Tharis and the Tharis Empire (BTW, is 'Tharis' the name of the empire or the people who rule it, or everybody in it? I just can't tell.) I think more brainstorming needs to go into them before we start writing up a story about them. And as I said before I think a campaign about them shouldn't start off with the Kharos or have any Kharos as protagonists.
Regarding Hydras - I get the idea, I just didn't know if anybody talked about it in the Summoner's campaign or not. I can't wholly remember the scenes from The Mummy that you are talking about, but I certainly get the concepts that you are throwing around. It just seems strange and illogical to me. I think there can be a way of making Hydras that makes more sense. Like, say, Hydras being Hydras and not magically fused bog-embalmed mummy people. Not that your concept isn't interesting... I could see it working for single body undead units created that way.
The Dwarves don't appear in "To Lands Unknown" at all. I am inclined to ignore them. They strike me as an obligatory steamer punk cliche, a mechanical contrast to The Enlightened Ones magical cloud kingdoms. Frankly I think that's very boring compared to the rather original concept of Al-Kamija created by Nomolas, and the Summoners vanishing their entire nation from the material world using a Great Circle. Too many ideas spoil the screenplay soup. Among writers there is a proverb: "kill your babies." Just because something is good for MP combat, doesn't mean it's any good for storytelling.

I see my comments about production economy didn't sink in. :whistle: Let me lay it out in simple terms. inferno8 just spent a year on the 1st campaign. I just spent a few months debugging and polishing his writing and gameplay to make it better. inferno8 is swamped by exams and doing close to nothing on campaigns right now. I'm going to be swamped by the realities of making money Real Soon Now in the coming year. We've already talked about the desirability of making a sequel To Lands Unknown in the Abyss, although clearly inferno8 wants to do "something else" right now, because he's burned out on Mehir. Can't blame him. 6 campaigns for 6 factions + an Abyss sequel = 7 campaigns, only 1 of which has been completed to date, and that took a year. Do you understand the problem now?? :hmm: To do that much content well is almost a Harry Potter level of production. For that kind of effort, I assure you, I won't be doing it for free or under someone else's say-so. :twisted: So I want to get done something that can be done in a short amount of time. That means doubling up on the faction explanations.

This isn't my first open source pony show and when I say "cut to the chase" I mean it. There's a whole pile of abandoned campaigns in the development forum, the testament of well-meaning developers who didn't understand production realities.
Yeah, you don't need to get like that. I'm not even sure I read anything you wrote about production economy unless it was in the post I'm quoting, and that'd be another problem in itself, wouldn't it? I understand and agree with you; dealing with several factions in each campaign saves mucho time, we don't have that much time to work with, nobody's getting paid (AFAIK) and we don't want low quality, now do we? Trust me, I understand that people can only focus on doing anything for a set amount of time. And while I would like to see a product with 'Harry Potter level production', I doubt it could actually happen.
And so, each campaign will deal with multiple factions. Summoners involved all but the Dwarves, who don't exist, and it has already been established that there will be a Darkblood + Barbarian campaign; so the Tharis one will deal with them and Kharosians. We'll leave the Enlightened Ones out of a major role until their own campaign.
A good campaign will constantly add new twists, so just dealing with two factions will get boring after a while. Fortunately it isn't Default Wesnoth, so we won't have anything brain-numbing like elves vs orcs for twenty scenarios, but we will need variety, and not just in the landscape art which Inferno8 may or may not be willing to do much of. And so your idea of the multiracial empire works, because as the player moves around the empire he/she gets to see new things and people, and fight them. However, again, it would be hard to make 'mind control kills the deserters/wears off' very interesting for more than one or two scenarios, so something else is needed.
Are you personally going to write the story and then implement a lot of it?
As I said above, I don't have the knowledge to implement it; the best I can do right now is offer my advice on how a story should go. I could write something, but it would only turn into a real campaign if other people liked it sooo much they did the coding and everything themselves. (still, I like the idea of enslaving the dwarves and having them build massive buildings for them and whatnot - just behind the scenes, you know, the dwarves being enslaved for so long they don't have a real culture anymore, or understanding of things not related to low-tech engineering and perhaps conscript-style fighting)
The Enlightened Ones are far too powerful to ever lose anything to anyone. The Summoners were the only conceivable threat to their dominance, and that is firmly and incontrovertibly told in the final 4 scenarios. Any time a civilization emerges that has any chance of threatening the supremacy of the Enlightened Ones, they find a way to knock it down, typically by geopolitical manipulation and not usually by any direct use of force. As we see in the case of Aerius, they are not a particularly enlightened civilization. They're just far more powerful than everybody else, and fortunately not into enslavement and mayhem the way the Tharis are.
So basically the way to avoid being collapsed by the Enlightened Ones is to realize that they are watching you before they think of you as too much of a threat, and then avoid looking threatening to them at all in order to lose their attention. Once that happens you can slowly and secretly expand your power until you have enough to defend yourself from any attack that they could reasonably throw at you, and then you become more overtly powerful. If they are impulsive and attack you push back, and they get the point/continue a pointless and destructive war between equal forces. And then, hey presto, you're a new world power.
... But anyway.
Ok, is fine with me. If the Tharis cannot touch the Enlightened Ones, then they've certainly been touched by them. I guess we can think of the Enlightened Ones, power-wise, as a modern USA in the seventeenth century. Or is it not that much of a gap? Enlighten me, if you will. (/obligatory bad pun)
An important authorial theme for me: the races are not equal. They serve different structural positions in the overall story, to tell a particular overall story. This is rather different from Wesnoth mainline campaigns. Wesnoth was created by developers who primarily cared about MP combat, not single player RPG or storytelling. Thus they have evolved a world history where all factions are pretty much equal in importance, with only minor asymmetries. You could eliminate almost any Wesnoth story from the world's history, and it wouldn't matter much.
Ancient Dwarves don't exist? Fine with me. The idea of the Ancient Dwarves always grated on my nerves me anyway - overt use of high technology in a fantasy setting, without any regard to aesthetics or compatibility to other factions? Sheesh.
So this means the Tharis won't fight any major powers until they hit the Kharosians and then the Summoners. Perhaps they have been manipulated by the Enlightened Ones, but we won't know that for a while. (In fact they probably have been; a powerful 'rising star' empire would gather the attention of Guru and his peeps, and they'd definitely act to prevent any threat to their power.

Perhaps we can establish some (more) basic tenets of the Tharis culture?
1. The Tharis faction is an Empire, run by Dark Elves. It subjugates other nations and peoples.
2. In the Empire the Dark Elves rule, while other races are enslaved.
3. Much of the culture of the Tharis is based around war - both the rulers and the subjects take part in it.
4. The Empire is currently in a state of expansion; expansion is important to it. Perhaps the paradigm cannot survive without continuous expansion (which is what you are getting at, but I think something can happen that allows for their culture to become more stable.)
5. The Tharis are also about fear and mind control; subjugation actively and passively. (BTW, I read somewhere that the Inca were some of the most sublime practitioners of state terrorism ever. This is relevant because I think that the Tharis should do that too.)
6. Machiavelli actually said that it is best to be loved, but achieving that is hard and can ruin you, and being feared is much easier and nearly as effective in some ways, more so in others. The Tharis don't give a sh&t about love. (I'm not sure if this is really all that relevant; I just wanted to say it).
Yeah. I wrote the word 'campaign' a whole lot in this post.
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bvanevery
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Re: Tharis campaign: "The Deserter"

Post by bvanevery »

MrSean wrote: By the way, I think that a campaign about the Tharis should be shown from the perspective of the Tharis and not some deserter who gets helped by the Kharosians.
Ok, but I just created a rather complete story outline with 2 complex character arcs + lots of psycho-drama. If you really think it would be better the other way, let's see it. Provide a story outline of equal depth. As much as I like input and constructive debate, I'm not going to argue "my story is better than your story" unless you actually have a story.
bvanevery wrote: I think a story about the Tharis should totally be R rated, but I don't think you need to redo the unit graphics to make them look more evil. Just make the Tharis do so many evil things, all the time, repeating over and over, that eventually their utter evilness will sink in.
I agree that any fears about the art assets should be postponed indefinitely. See if it still looks like a problem after everything else is in place. I do think conscripts and combat mechanics pertaining to conscripts are going to be needed though. That's a programming problem, not an art problem.
The leadership loves bloodshed and torture. The conscripts do not.
I kind of disagree with the idea that the conscripts do not like fighting. (This stems from my disagreement about the Tharis using basically unwilling people to fight for them.
My fiction is my fiction; you will have to write your own. In my fiction, all 1st generation conquered Tharis are psychologically tortured from early childhood, starting with witnessing their parents being mummified alive and thrown into the bog to become Hydra. Conquered people learn early that there is no joy in life, only fear and servitude. There is not much to like about fighting for people who murdered the people you loved and then repeatedly mentally and physically abused you for years afterwards. I suppose that kind of trauma would create a certain percentage of serial killers, so maybe there are some conscripts who "enjoy" killing, or at least do it compulsively.
(Here is where your magical Prophetess of Light's powers can come in; they remove the fear, obedience and control from the mind - but then, what is left? SO MUCH of the conscripts personalities are based on that fear and obedience, they have been so long controlled, what exactly do their minds consist of once those things are gone? Can they even function?)
That is why there is a Temple Asylum. Dealing with the nature of the mind is a major component of my story, and core to the High Priestess' character arc. Contemplating these matters is how she becomes the Mistress of Light. Her transformation is not prophetic, a divine right of birth, or deus ex machina, as the prophecies predicted. Rather, given that this is a magical universe, the mechanism of her transformation is thoroughly secular and atheist. Then she has to choose, Existentially, whether she is going to ascend to the Abyss as an immaterial "benevolent being," or actually be benevolent and stay behind to fight the Tharis. The moral choice is pretty clear to her, and she realizes how frequently this has probably occurred amongst the High Priestesses of the past. No record has ever been left of this difficult personal choice, because the Kharosians are a culture of spiritual isolation, and each High Priestess has known what was at stake.
I don't think that the differences between the Tharis and the Kharosians are what define the Tharis. They can be major plot points, or reasons for the plot moving in certain ways, but the Tharis, like anyone else, are defined by nature and nurture - biology and culture. Culture can be their interactions within their own culture and with others. The Dark Elves, rulers of the Tharis Empire, are biologically different from the subjugate/slave races that make up another part of their empire. The story can include the differences between Tharis and Kharosian cultures, but isn't driven by that - it is driven by the actions of the protagonists and antagonists, people, not societies.
We have a conflict of procedure here, about what's important to EoMa. You seem to be saying that historical simulation is most important. You want the Tharis to exist as an independent historical entity, with particular properties, that enable you to make predictions about "what will happen next" without any reference to the Kharosians, Summoners, Dwarves, cats., etc. I am saying that dramatic need is most important. AFAIC the only reason the Kharosians and Tharis exist, is to communicate a dialectic about Good and Evil, spirituality vs. materialism, aid vs. domination, etc. If some aspect of the Kharosians and Tharis is not doing the job of developing that dialectic and plucking the audience's emotional harpstrings, like a major detour into biological issues of sunlight and caves for instance, then I personally would jettison it from the story. The audience's attention span is a limited resource, and it should not be squandered on simulationism IMO. The story should move crisply according to dramatic needs and remain compelling at all times.
A good campaign will constantly add new twists, so just dealing with two factions will get boring after a while. Fortunately it isn't Default Wesnoth, so we won't have anything brain-numbing like elves vs orcs for twenty scenarios, but we will need variety, and not just in the landscape art which Inferno8 may or may not be willing to do much of. And so your idea of the multiracial empire works, because as the player moves around the empire he/she gets to see new things and people, and fight them. However, again, it would be hard to make 'mind control kills the deserters/wears off' very interesting for more than one or two scenarios, so something else is needed.
AFAIC, dramatic needs will keep it interesting. I intend for this to be written well, not the typical Wesnoth average writing. All a typical Wesnoth campaign does is have some comical idiots say, "Oh look, we're fighting again. Fancy that!" The writing in "To Lands Unknown" is better than that. There's a really compelling world vision, a decent plot, and now a really good character arc for Rashti (minus some bugs). But for the writing on the next campaign, I'm aiming a lot higher. I want it to hold up as a screenplay, to be worth turning into a film. Not that that will ever be done, but I'm competing against the writing standards of screenwriters and novelists, not typical Wesnoth authors.

The main thing that still bugs me about "To Lands Unknown" is that Mehir is a flat character. He's comic relief, and sympathetic, but he has no complexity. At first I tried to shoehorn some complexity into him, but I quickly gave up, realizing that comedy and "setting up the world" already had all the screen time. Any complexity I'd try to introduce would just be spitting into an ocean of extant content. So, I'm saving "Mehir is real and complex" for a sequel in the Abyss. Oh well, Tolkien wrote "The Hobbit" and then he wrote "The Lord of the Rings." It wouldn't be the 1st time that the tone of a story changed as more volumes were written. "To Lands Unknown" is still the best Wesnoth campaign out there (minus a few bugs), so that is to be respected. At some point it's best to sit on one's hands and move on with new work.
(BTW, is 'Tharis' the name of the empire or the people who rule it, or everybody in it? I just can't tell.)
All of the above. I don't personally think that having a more specific word is important. Tharis society makes it very clear what your station is!
Regarding Hydras - I get the idea, I just didn't know if anybody talked about it in the Summoner's campaign or not. I can't wholly remember the scenes from The Mummy that you are talking about, but I certainly get the concepts that you are throwing around. It just seems strange and illogical to me. I think there can be a way of making Hydras that makes more sense. Like, say, Hydras being Hydras and not magically fused bog-embalmed mummy people. Not that your concept isn't interesting... I could see it working for single body undead units created that way.

My version of the Hydra serves a dramatic need.
It's horrific. It establishes the character of the Tharis, it's one of the first experiences of the conquered with them. It traumatizes the children. The first part of my version the campaign would deal with The Deserter's childhood and adolescence, and other psychological abuses inflicted upon him. This gives the Temple Asylum something to do, and the High Priestess something to think about, so that she can unravel the nature of the mind and transcend. This isn't just about factions. It's about 2 characters.

As for the technology of turning living people into Hydra, you are arguing implausibility in a magical universe. :doh: Remember, the Tharis are occult. Their magic is darkly evil. They don't just control things, they perform horrible rituals and sacrifices to control things. The Hydra are described in "To Lands Unknown" as "the stuff of nightmares." I don't think their unit artwork lives up to that description, but I understand the intent. I am putting the nightmare into the Hydra. There's a tortured being inside each and every one of those things, that lives nothing other than a horrific life.

Conquered magicians have a similarly horrible fate. They are placed into the period's version of sensory deprivation tanks, and milked for "magic juice" for centuries. They have to be given some mental stimulation for the magic to happen, as magicians use their minds to control the flow of magic, they don't just ooze it out of their pores. But the Tharis control the images that the magicians see, so it's sort of a "horrible Virtual Reality" that the magicians are living. Magician experiences a threat, magician casts a fireball in his mind, magical energy is siphoned out of the tanks. Haven't figured out what they do with all this harvested magical energy though.
Are you personally going to write the story and then implement a lot of it?
As I said above, I don't have the knowledge to implement it; the best I can do right now is offer my advice on how a story should go. I could write something, but it would only turn into a real campaign if other people liked it sooo much they did the coding and everything themselves.
I disagree. Granted I'm a programmer, but coding WML is not that hard. You can surely pick up some of it as you write. Nobody would expect you to be a whiz at it; inferno8 and myself are more than capable of the technological heavy lifting.

The most valuable thing you could do at this point, from my perspective, would be to come up with a major chunk of writing, so that we can all see "why your story is / might be better." Absent that, I'll be honest: I don't see a reason to follow your lead on these matters. Dissecting and critiquing is good, as it clarifies my story intent to more people, but at this point there's definitely enough here to get started with a coherent campaign.

At present, the big determining factor is not anything you have to say, but what inferno8 has to say. We've had a pretty good working relationship the past few months, and he respects my writing abilities, but previously I've just script doctored his stories. Here I am presenting a major story of my own, and he may simply not want to go in the direction I've laid out. It may be too "rated R" for him. He may not be interested in the amount of psycho-drama I'm gunning for. He may be farther along with his own story about the Tharis than I thought, although honestly, I really doubt that. He may want more of the campaign to be open ended than I've allowed for; he may not be comfortable being boxed into a corner with what's going to happen. He may have a lot to say about the High Priestess and the Mistress of Light than I know about. Who knows? Until he gets done with his exams and makes some comments on all of this, we can't really know. I think it's possible to get some prototype work done without him, but I respect his work, authorship, and judgment enough to wait for anything truly important.

So... like in a lot of open source work, if you want to "get in there" and show us some writing that we all think is pretty cool, that's a good way to shape the campaign.
Ok, is fine with me. If the Tharis cannot touch the Enlightened Ones, then they've certainly been touched by them.
Actually I think the Enlightened Ones have completely ignored the Tharis.
I guess we can think of the Enlightened Ones, power-wise, as a modern USA in the seventeenth century.
That's exactly how I think of them. Flintlocks vs. M-16s and cruise missiles. The USA isn't despotic, but it does step on other countries routinely to maintain its dominance.

There is a little bit of a puzzle or plot hole though, about why Faction X is purportedly so much stronger than Faction Y. The units are, of course, all balanced for MP combat! An equal number of any of these units is not any more powerful than anyone else.

One solution to that, is just having tons more units. That would explain the Tharis vs. most of their opponents; their mind control would allow their armies to be numerically superior. I don't think we can have the Tharis just mind controlling all of their enemies into total submission, as then the Tharis really wouldn't need to fight conventionally. The Master of Darkness does put a hurting on the Kharosian troops with straight mind control, but he is the Master of Darkness, not just a high level witch, and his mind control wasn't 100% effective. Some Kharosians had a strong enough faith to resist. That's part of why the Tharis kill all the parents, because children are so much more pliable as to what they will believe.

Another solution to that, is the Enlightened Ones have the ability to resurrect, according to inferno8. Yeah, Mehir cut up a whole city full of 'em, but according to inferno8 it's not terribly consequential. Other Enlightened Ones from other sky kingdoms will be coming shortly, and will simply resurrect everyone that was killed. So yes the Enlightened Ones are truly that powerful.
So this means the Tharis won't fight any major powers until they hit the Kharosians and then the Summoners. Perhaps they have been manipulated by the Enlightened Ones, but we won't know that for a while. (In fact they probably have been; a powerful 'rising star' empire would gather the attention of Guru and his peeps, and they'd definitely act to prevent any threat to their power.
Being a large land empire is of no consequence. What matters is the understanding of magic. The Enlightened Ones are immune to Tharis mind control techniques and don't see them as any threat. They view Tharis understanding of the Abyss as "piss poor," in part because the Tharis had the misfortune of tapping into the most evil and negative parts of it. This warped them as a culture and although it makes them militarily powerful, it is actually an evolutionary point of stagnation. They can't really progress because they're too warped to care about things like "civilian research" or "social betterment." All they want to do is enjoy their next torture-fest; in a sense the Tharis are the ultimate hedonist society, just enjoying the violence.

The Enlightened Ones feel threatened by the Summoners because the latter really are starting to understand the Abyss.
Perhaps we can establish some (more) basic tenets of the Tharis culture?
1. The Tharis faction is an Empire, run by Dark Elves. It subjugates other nations and peoples.
2. In the Empire the Dark Elves rule, while other races are enslaved.
3. Much of the culture of the Tharis is based around war - both the rulers and the subjects take part in it.
4. The Empire is currently in a state of expansion; expansion is important to it. Perhaps the paradigm cannot survive without continuous expansion (which is what you are getting at, but I think something can happen that allows for their culture to become more stable.)
5. The Tharis are also about fear and mind control; subjugation actively and passively. (BTW, I read somewhere that the Inca were some of the most sublime practitioners of state terrorism ever. This is relevant because I think that the Tharis should do that too.)
6. Machiavelli actually said that it is best to be loved, but achieving that is hard and can ruin you, and being feared is much easier and nearly as effective in some ways, more so in others. The Tharis don't give a sh&t about love. (I'm not sure if this is really all that relevant; I just wanted to say it).
All of these sound correct to me.

The only thing I seriously dislike about the Tharis is that they're "Dark Elves." Why bother bringing Elven cultural baggage into EoMa? I propose dropping the "Dark Elves" description and calling them just "Tharis". Period. The End. Full Stop.
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MrSean
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Re: Era of Magic (EoMa) the campaign is now available!

Post by MrSean »

Story outline? Here is something, at least:
The Tharis, doing what the do, are always looking for new lands to conquer. They do some scouting and find the Kharosians (alternatively they are directed to attack the Kharosians by some other power, but you claim the Enlightened Ones haven't meddled with them, even though they are the most likely people to do so - is that claim canon or your own interpretation?), who are probably the toughest opponent they have yet faced, even if (as Mehir pointed out) their army is entirely composed of physically and mentally frail humans. They mass up their military power, form some sort of overarching battle plan, and begin wailing on the unsuspecting Kharos. I don't know their reasons for attacking the Kharos, unless they had been preparing to attack them for a while as part of a larger expansion plan or had seen them as an immediate and highly dangerous threat that needed to be subdued. I cannot see them as impulsively attacking the Kharos only because they want to kill people. Sure, the Master of Darkness craved lots of bloodshed and was highly powerful and feared by his subordinates, but a nation as powerful as the Tharis could not be Always Chaotic Evil like that and survive, let alone function properly enough to gather a massive army under one leader to fight a highly organized enemy.
They also get the Summoners involved but I don't know why, and I suspect that it isn't touched heavily upon or at all in the campaign. Why the hell would the Tharis bring another force into their conflict with the Kharos when they didn't need to? It's not as if they weren't nearly overextending themselves logistically by bringing a major army across an entire continent while cleaving their way through a belligerent nation. And Mehir would be a lot less willing to help the Kharos if the Tharis hadn't attacked and nearly conquered one of the Summoner's cities. In fact, Mehir wouldn't even have had the autonomy or authority to take an army to another continent in order to aid a nearly unknown nation. So, unless the Tharis are acting entirely illogically and without regard for the success of their campaign or the safety of their troops, which is something I highly doubt, they had reasons for attacking the Summoner city and bringing them into the conflict. What were those reasons? I feel that the Tharis campaign should explain them as part of the campaign storyline. Doing so would connect the storylines to each other and help to explain the world that the Era of Magic is based in, which I feel is important in any campaign. As for what the reasons were, I think it should have to do with either Enlightened Ones influence or some sort of imbalance that they thought would happen if the Summoners succeeded in bringing their people to the Abyss. In short, if they didn't attack the Summoners something worse than losing troops would happen to them.
As you pointed out, I'm trying to use logic to explain why the Tharis do things. I think that is important, not trivial. With the knowledge of why the Tharis act the way they do I can develop a story that fits them, rather than changing who they are in order to fit the needs of the story. More later, but I have to go to class now...
EDIT: Oh, and the Tharis race is described as Dark Elves, so for me that is what they are. That can change if it is necessary or better; I also don't want the usual baggage associated with the Dark Elves, but would prefer making different baggage for them.
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bvanevery
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Re: Era of Magic (EoMa) the campaign is now available!

Post by bvanevery »

MrSean wrote:Story outline? Here is something, at least:
The Tharis, doing what the do, are always looking for new lands to conquer. They do some scouting and find the Kharosians (alternatively they are directed to attack the Kharosians by some other power, but you claim the Enlightened Ones haven't meddled with them, even though they are the most likely people to do so - is that claim canon or your own interpretation?),
It's not canon. It's my interpretation of the Tharis level of threat to the Enlightened Ones. That is, zero threat. I suppose, however, that the Enlightened Ones could have meddled with the Tharis to get them to attack the Summoners. It was actually pretty likely for the Tharis to seize Mag-Magar; Mehir just single-handedly thwarted them. However, if that was the Enlightened Ones' plan for killing off the Summoners, it's a pretty bad plan. Knocking off Mag-Magar or Tar-Tabar is one thing, as they're both near to the Tharis empire and within the logistical range of feasibility. Sud-Affar, however, is on the completely opposite end of The Great Desert, making it logistically unlikely to be reached by the Tharis, and Al-Kamija is in the way. I think the Tharis' odds of conquering Al-Kamija are very exactly zero. So, while the Enlightened Ones may have stimulated the Tharis to harass the Summoners, I think getting them to conquer the Summoners is too far fetched for any of their great manipulative planners. Guru certainly didn't sign on to anything so stupid; he wants the Summoners to disappear into the Abyss and not come back. So it would not be in Guru's interest to have the Tharis disrupting the Summoners' construction of The Great Circle. Aerius may have thought otherwise, and had other designs, possibly including supplanting Guru. Guru was happy to have Rashti eliminate Aerius, as Aerius was getting in the way and a pain to argue with about what to do.

I don't see the Enlightened Ones joining the Tharis for an assault on Al-Kamija. Compared to the Enlightened Ones, the Tharis are not much of a military value add. If the Enlightened Ones thought it was most prudent to swoop out of the clouds and destroy the Summoners utterly everywhere, they would have done that. Guru clearly didn't think it was a good idea, preferring instead to let the Summoners dispose of themselves in the Abyss.
who are probably the toughest opponent they have yet faced, even if (as Mehir pointed out) their army is entirely composed of physically and mentally frail humans. They mass up their military power, form some sort of overarching battle plan, and begin wailing on the unsuspecting Kharos. I don't know their reasons for attacking the Kharos, unless they had been preparing to attack them for a while as part of a larger expansion plan
Simple expansion of Empire as far as I'm concerned. An empire such as the Romans, Third Reich, or Mongols survives by expanding. Soldiers need something to do. The seized wealth of other societies provides incentives to the soldiers and fuels the empire. It's when an empire hits its logistical limits that it starts to have problems. In the Mongols' case, they ran out of grassland to feed their horses.
or had seen them as an immediate and highly dangerous threat that needed to be subdued.
Kharosian culture is confusing, and possibly has plots holes in it. They have a professional army, with Roman style troops and war banners to lead them. This speaks of a people who have done a lot of fighting. Who have they been fighting? If they have to fight that much, why haven't they sent scouts, spies, and legionary expeditions into the world, to see where the enemy is? The Great Desert is only one boat ride away, hardly difficult to get to. Why haven't they noticed the Summoners before? Al-Kamija is visible everywhere on the continent; that is how Altios gets drawn deeper and deeper into The Great Desert, trying to reach a tower that looks like it is close. I can see the Summoners not bothering to explore the world. They are self-absorbed, and have jinns to provide what other civilizations secure get through trade or conquest. The same cannot be said of the Kharosians. They may be spiritual, but their army looks like a bunch of spiritual conquerors, not isolated spiritual monks. They have lands that stretch out to the east, which were overrun six months ago by previously unknown "masked beings, full of madness and anger. Terrifying three-headed creatures from the worst nightmares served them..." according to Scenario 14 "Far North." They have never fought the Tharis before, and the Tharis invasion is a complete and overwhelming surprise. So, who were they fighting beforehand, to have evolved such a professional army? Each other?

The map could be made bigger, so that Atiros has to go on a much longer journey to find the Summoners. The Tharis Empire has to be near both the Kharosians and The Great Desert, as both are attacked. Perhaps the Tharis Empire is a big land mass, the Kharosians live on a large peninsula, and The Great Desert is another peninsula? The distance by water would be a lot greater than it is now, but still doable if you have an idea where you're going. It would be more like the English sailing to Turkey for aid. Right now, it's more like the English sailing to France.

Tweaking the map still doesn't answer: who have the Kharosians been fighting in the past? It's not the Tharis.
I cannot see them as impulsively attacking the Kharos only because they want to kill people.
Empires don't do that. If the Tharis are an Empire, then it's a given. If the Tharis are just a band of barbarians, well then I suppose they could have had their minds poisoned by the void parts of the Abyss. However, I can't see disorganized barbarians as a threat to the clearly organized Kharosians. Let's face it, the Kharosians have Roman troops. They may be spiritual, but they do have a professional army that knows how to fight. From this I conclude that the Tharis are not mere barbarians, they are highly organized. If they attack, it is for cultural reasons, not impulse. I say their culture is heavily influenced by the negative void of the Abyss.
Sure, the Master of Darkness craved lots of bloodshed and was highly powerful and feared by his subordinates, but a nation as powerful as the Tharis could not be Always Chaotic Evil like that and survive, let alone function properly enough to gather a massive army under one leader to fight a highly organized enemy.
I don't agree with the "Always Chaotic Evil" disparagement. State terror worked fine for uniting the Third Reich, the Stalinist USSR, the Aztecs, the Inca, and others. A strong leader such as Ghengis Khan is actually what keeps an empire together, over the short haul of that particular ruler's life. The Mongol empire lasted for a few centuries before being acculturated. The Romans ruled as a superpower for a number of centuries, and only the western half fell. The eastern half survived for another 1000 years as the Byzantine empire, until the Ottomans finally stormed them. "...and survive" is an argument about historical duration. It's applicable to Mordor because those civilizations have been around for thousands of years. It's not applicable to a newly formed empire on the rise. Strong leaders can and do subjugate others.

The LOTR Orcs are not inexplicable, they are justified. The STTOS Klingons are not Chaotic Evil, they are a Proud Warrior Race. I objected to the portrayal of these examples strongly enough that I changed the tvtropes wiki entry. We'll see if my edits stick. Important takeaways: an author might Hand Wave the trope, or the trope may be Justified. Using the trope is not in and of itself bad writing. My justification of the evil behavior of the Tharis leadership, is they had the cultural misfortune to tap into the darkest parts of the Abyss. As for timescale, it's worth noting that the Summoners only discovered magic 500 years ago, according to Scenaro 6 "Gates To The Past."
[Mehir] I remember how they taught us about the Time of Beginning. About 1000 years ago our ancestors lived here before Al-Kamija was created. [...] For 500 years they lived here and discovered the Abyss. In time their knowledge about magicks allowed them to create cities on a hot surface. There was no need to live in the caves any longer. The ancestors could finally take possession of the Great Desert.
They also get the Summoners involved but I don't know why, and I suspect that it isn't touched heavily upon or at all in the campaign. Why the hell would the Tharis bring another force into their conflict with the Kharos when they didn't need to? It's not as if they weren't nearly overextending themselves logistically by bringing a major army across an entire continent while cleaving their way through a belligerent nation.
Indeed, the Tharis logistical over-extension at Mag-Magar looks completely foolish. Not only is it a 2nd enemy before finishing off the 1st, it's a huge desert. My personal explanation for this, is that the author inferno8 doesn't know much about military logistics, and simply chose the Tharis as a gratuitous enemy for dramatic needs. The dramatic need served, is Mehir has a tough battle and gets promoted. I think the plot here is pretty thin, and I thought so when I first played Mag-Magar. However, "it's cool," and The Rule Of Cool prevails. So, I would merely seek to retro or re-explain the geopolitics to some extent, rather than trying to rewrite a scenario that from a dramatic and gameplay standpoint, is perfectly fine.

On the other hand, Adolph Hitler overextended himself plenty, and Josef Stalin incorrectly estimated Hitler's willingness to be aggressive. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor thinking the USA wouldn't have much stomach for war after having their nose bloodied. This was mainly because the Japanese Army was in charge of the decisionmaking, whereas wiser people such as Admiral Yamamoto of the Navy weren't calling the shots. He said, "I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant," and he was right. Leaders in real history do make wrong decisions about military strategy. So all we really need to do here, is decide why some Tharis faction thought it would be a good idea to attack the Summoners while the Kharosian campaign was nearly complete but not quite wrapped up. It's rather like if Hitler, just in sight of Moscow, decided it was finally time to overrun neutral Sweden. Simple hubris? Competition between Tharis generals for glory?
And Mehir would be a lot less willing to help the Kharos if the Tharis hadn't attacked and nearly conquered one of the Summoner's cities. In fact, Mehir wouldn't even have had the autonomy or authority to take an army to another continent in order to aid a nearly unknown nation.
The Tharis and the Enlightened Ones could not possibly have known that Mehir would have successfully defended Mag-Magar. We the audience know that it's the hero's job to change history in this manner, but the bad guys certainly don't know that.
So, unless the Tharis are acting entirely illogically and without regard for the success of their campaign or the safety of their troops, which is something I highly doubt, they had reasons for attacking the Summoner city and bringing them into the conflict. What were those reasons? I feel that the Tharis campaign should explain them as part of the campaign storyline. Doing so would connect the storylines to each other and help to explain the world that the Era of Magic is based in, which I feel is important in any campaign. As for what the reasons were, I think it should have to do with either Enlightened Ones influence or some sort of imbalance that they thought would happen if the Summoners succeeded in bringing their people to the Abyss. In short, if they didn't attack the Summoners something worse than losing troops would happen to them.
I don't think the Tharis are all that intelligent about the nature of the Abyss. I think the Enlightened Ones hold a monopoly on understanding the true nature of the Abyss. I have offered the theory that the Abyss is the true source of all magic in all of its various guises. The Kharosians and Summoners are not aware of this; the magic of the other seems strange to them, in both technique and operation. I have suggested that the lizards get their ice spells from an ice continent trapped in the Abyss, a rare accumulation of cold matter in an otherwise ephemeral world of energy winds. Winds do "whorl around" and if a trapped cycle is formed somewhere, solid matter can accumulate there. The lizards gained access to this sometime in their distant past, and that is why they can cast ice spells. They're summoning the ice from the Abyss. I've run these concepts past inferno8 and he seems in favor of them, although he hasn't expressed commitment to them.

I don't think the Tharis are capable of acting according to potential bad consequences in the Abyss. They're not that knowledgeable. Any consequences they would foresee, are ordinary geopolitics + being twisted by the negative void of the Abyss.
As you pointed out, I'm trying to use logic to explain why the Tharis do things. I think that is important, not trivial. With the knowledge of why the Tharis act the way they do I can develop a story that fits them, rather than changing who they are in order to fit the needs of the story. More later, but I have to go to class now...
But "who the Tharis are" isn't defined right now. They're mostly up for grabs. What becomes important then, is whether "my story is better than your story, or inferno8's (unknown) story." Completeness is one of the variables. Currently, I'm winning on that. I'd like to see you write more story. Dramatic value is another variable. I think I'm winning on that too, although I don't expect everyone else to see it, as only I can see my story in my head in its full realization. I think psycho-horror can be made rather compelling, but others don't have to believe in that, since I haven't written the details of it. Historical logic is a 3rd variable. I don't think what you've said is any better than what I've said. We agree on some things, we disagree on some others. Don't forget coolness as a 4th variable. What story pushes the campaign in the direction of Awesome?

I'll make no secret: I think the mainline Wesnoth way of treating history is far less than awesome. Dry logic about what nation might have attacked what, is only compelling to people who are devising those details for their own canonical amusement. It's pretty dull to a player absorbing canon. IMNSO, the only mainline Wesnoth campaign bordering on coolness is Descent Into Darkness. This is because it's dealing with a character arc and not boring Wesnoth history. In Wesnoth, none of the factions matter. They're all politically symmetrical, minus a few quirks such as "orcs love to fight" or "the undead are dead." They parade around on a map that has absolutely no relevance to narrative or dramatic needs. Go here, go here, go here, go there, go where? oh yeah, there. Lord of the Rings it ain't! Whereas in "To Lands Unknown," the map is the story. How can you miss that Great Circle?

There's more to a story than just logic. You need characters. What characters are you going to create and use to illustrate the story? Otherwise it's just background information about the society. "To Lands Unknown" has reasonably good characters that move the story along: Mehir, Aerius, Rashti, Atiros, Anthi, and Guru. They each have a structural purpose, and most aren't throwaways. The only one that's weak is Atiros. My reaction to him is, "Uuh, ok, I've got an anime rice hat dude in my inventory now, that's great." I don't care when he dies because he doesn't do anything that would get me invested in him. I don't think anyone has the energy to rework Atiros; it's time to move on to other work. I did some script doctoring with Rashti and Guru, to make them stronger. I do think Guru is worth writing an entire campaign about; he has the nuance and motives to become a complex character. This time around, I am choosing to make Anthi a complex character. For a writer, complex characters are the obvious way to make a more ambitious campaign than "To Lands Unknown." Why stop at great, why not make it better and better? The Tharis have no characters, other than the Master of Darkness, who is now dead. What character(s) would you make for the Tharis?
EDIT: Oh, and the Tharis race is described as Dark Elves, so for me that is what they are. That can change if it is necessary or better; I also don't want the usual baggage associated with the Dark Elves, but would prefer making different baggage for them.
Why call something in a fantasy universe a Christian if you don't actually want to deal with Christian values? What's worthwhile about Elves? Bows, forests, pointy ears? The Tharis aren't doing bows and forests. They've got pointy ears; who cares, so do Vulcans, Romulans, and Devils. "Dark" Elves, well they're dark. So what? We know the Tharis are dark, because half their units wear black, and their level 3 witches have dark auras. Tell me why calling them "Elves" is other than completely pointless. I think the only possible explanation is "because there are Dwarves in EoMa," and we're stuck in the obligatory Dwarf vs. Elf fantasy dialectic. However, there aren't any Dwarves in "To Lands Unknown." I think Dwarves vs. Elves probably existed at an early stage of inferno8's faction planning, before he had a complete story about the Summoners. I think they're superfluous, vestigial fantasy cliches. The Dwarves fly mechanical vehicles to give the Enlightened Ones some opposition; it's an obligatory "magic vs. technology" steamer punk trope. However, "To Lands Unknown" establishes that the Enlightened Ones are far above any opposition, except the Summoners. That throws pretty much any Dwarven opposition storyline out the window. "Magic vs. Technology" is not the core conflict of "To Lands Unknown," and adding that element doesn't help the storyline at all. The core conflict is "Summoners trying to get to the Abyss."

I say, don't be afraid to kill canon before it gets firmly rooted. Not all canon is good groundwork.
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wesfreak
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Re: Era of Magic (EoMa) the campaign is now available!

Post by wesfreak »

Your Tharis and Kharos story so far sounds good as a fan-fic but not that great as a campaign: campaigns tend to be plot based, rather than character based. For someone to be able to make a campaign out of a story, there has to be a few combat scenarios. In your story, there are few, since the main characters aren't generals or military leaders of any sort.

I agree that Tharis should become the race name, as well as the faction name though. You're right about the association not being necessary. (unless of course Inferno8 has a reason for calling them dark elves)

As for past conflicts (such as who the Kharos would have thought): I would think that before they were unified as a nation, there were multiple groups of Kharos, constantly warring with each other. (think the states of ancient China) One of the groups, the sun-worshippers, came out best and conquered the rest, leaving the modern Kharos. Part of the conquering group set out across the sea to become the Summoners.

A possible justification for the Kharos never discovering the Summoners: The Kharos have light magic (teleportation) as a mode of transport, and thus don't need to build boats to sail to different continents. If they trade, then it would most likely be with the dwarves. (which I am against killing off btw: If anything, they could be the ones trading with the Kharos, since the Tharis are hostile, the Enlightened ones are remote and the Summoners are across a desert.)
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Re: Era of Magic (EoMa) the campaign is now available!

Post by bvanevery »

wesfreak wrote:Your Tharis and Kharos story so far sounds good as a fan-fic but not that great as a campaign: campaigns tend to be plot based, rather than character based.
That's a prejudice. Frankly, the writing standard in most campaigns is poor, so "what is typical" cannot speak to "what is possible."
For someone to be able to make a campaign out of a story, there has to be a few combat scenarios. In your story, there are few, since the main characters aren't generals or military leaders of any sort.

Anthi isn't a military leader??!?
She only, what, leads the entire Kharosian horde in Gates of Kharos and Sun Dome. The whole second half of my storyline is a secret ops mission led by Anthi. But she's not gonna just sit back in her Keep cackling about all the Chaotic Evil units she's exterminating. There will be character.

The Deserter starts his childhood and teenage years on campaigns with the Tharis. He won't get to keep any recruits, but he will gain XP and AMLA. After the Master of Darkness is slain at Kharos, he deserts and spends a few scenarios doing "thief stuff" in the Kharosian countryside. There's nothing wrong with stealth based scenarios and dungeon crawling.
As for past conflicts (such as who the Kharos would have thought): I would think that before they were unified as a nation, there were multiple groups of Kharos, constantly warring with each other. (think the states of ancient China) One of the groups, the sun-worshippers, came out best and conquered the rest, leaving the modern Kharos.
It would account for zealotry. However it's really not solving the teeny tiny map problem. Consider the Greeks when Athens and Sparta were wailing on each other. They didn't sit at home, they traded all over the Aegean Sea and beyond. The Great Desert is no farther away from Kharos than Asia Minor was for the Greeks. China is huge compared to Kharos; same distance problem.
Part of the conquering group set out across the sea to become the Summoners.
Or a persecuted group.

Really the big problem here is that the Kharosian unit artwork screams "Roman Empire at its peak." It's totally working against the idea of Kharos as a civilization that's about to be wiped out. A Kharos campaign about the decline of the Kharos civilization could explain everything, but inferno8 says he's working on Tharis, not Kharos. Having a Tharis campaign first, doesn't explain the Kharos.
A possible justification for the Kharos never discovering the Summoners: The Kharos have light magic (teleportation) as a mode of transport, and thus don't need to build boats to sail to different continents.
That doesn't explain why they didn't explore. If I can go <POOF!> and teleport anywhere within a certain range, then I'm going to go everywhere in that range, if I have any curiosity at all. Also, not all Kharosians have light magic, only a certain warrior class. It's definitely for personal use or they'd <POOF!> their main armies anywhere they needed them to be, instead of walking en masse as they did in Sun Dome. They still need ships to move goods around, same as any advanced civilization. Also they had boats, back when they seeded the Summoners in your telling. Too much of a hand wave.

I say make the map bigger.
If they trade, then it would most likely be with the dwarves. (which I am against killing off btw: If anything, they could be the ones trading with the Kharos,
Have you looked at the "Dwarven" unit artwork? They're friggin' Mechas. They totally don't fit the story so far. They're opposition for The Enlightened Ones and make no cultural sense as Kharosian trading partners, or opponents. I say dump 'em, or postpone 'em until THE last scenario. EVER. They would make sense as a civilization on the other side of a dimensional rift. The Summoners screw around in the Abyss, make their way back to the real world, and open up a gate in the process that lets "Dwarves" in. The Enlightened Ones finally have real competition.
since the Tharis are hostile,
The Kharosians don't "trade with others due to Tharis hostility." The Kharosians don't know about the Tharis at all.
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Re: Era of Magic (EoMa) the campaign is now available!

Post by wesfreak »

Anthi is a religious leader, not a military leader, and her mission, as described by you, would be one of peace rather than war, with little fighting. But you do have a point about the dungeon crawl. I suppose we'll have to wait and see how it turns out.

You do have a point about making the map bigger, but how would we make a map so that the Tharis could reach the Summoners but the Kharos couldn't?

The Summoners couldn't have been persecuted by the Kharos: In TLU, the legend said that the summoners were allies from the past, not enemies.

I think that the Tharis would have beens so dangerous to the Kharos despite their military might would be the same reason the Enlightened ones are so powerful despite being balanced in multiplayer: cutscene power. The Tharis have powerful mages and warlocks, but the Kharos don't. (they do have mages, but mostly healers. Their cutscene power would probably be extra healing.) They are also a human army, and thus more vulnerable to the Tharis draining and poisoning tactics. The organised military that the Kharos has is a remnant of their power before they were almost conquered: still organised, but not nearly as big now.
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