Saturday, 13 August 2022

Shelfish Opinions: 1

 Continuing the Youtube theme - making these videos is also giving me blog material.


I decided that I would move on from critiquing people's writing to critiquing people's writing, but now the writing is whole books, and the critiquing is cursory opinion, and the selection is made by my (mostly) alphabetised shelves.

Since I have a great many fantasy shelves, this could be a new recurring feature that will hit dozens of episodes.

Let's see how it goes.

Imma present one shelf at a time and just talk my way through the titles there, saying if I've read the book and briefly, what I thought of it. It's worth noting that I'm not responsible for the purchase/acquisition of the majority of the books on our shelves. My wife's an avid fantasy reader, and my children have been also at various points in their lives.


Shelf 1:

(the whole thing is too much to read the titles easily, so I've broken it up below)



Bit by bit:

So, we start with four books by Ben Aaronovitch, The Furthest Station, The Hanging Tree, Foxglove Summer, and Lies Sleeping. I've not read any of them. My wife's the fan of the series.

Then there are four books by Joe Abercrombie. Half A King, Half A War, Half A King (again ... so a whole king together), and The Blade Itself. Why do we have two halves of a king? Because Voyager send me ARCs, and my wife pays no attention and buys the book again later. 

I've not read any of these either. There are many gaps in my fantasy reading, and I'd not read Rothfuss, Sanderson, Lynch, and many other big sellers before getting published (I still haven't read Jordan and some others). Since very early on there were a number of people online saying that I'd in some way copied Abercrombie, it's become a purposeful omission. I like being able to answer any such accusation with the fact I've never read him, without have to qualify it with (before writing Prince of Thorns). There's nothing personal in it - I've met Joe at three Grim Gatherings, he's an amiable and witty fellow. And I don't think he's read my books either.

And the last one in this shot is Blood And Bone by Tomi Adeyemi ... who I've also not read. So I'm 0 for 9 on my own shelf here. This may not have been as good an idea as I thought it was!


Ah! Song of the Morning, by Mark Alder! I've read this one. Pretty sure I was sent it by his publisher back in 2013. It's pretty good. Some great prose - I recall an excellent early line about a hawk rotating the world around it. 

Looked it up: "A kestrel, silver in the dusk, turned the world around its wing. A beat, a flutter, a sudden and momentary fury. It tumbled, stopped, and hovered almost motionless, its wings wide, possessing the land."

It's a fat book concerned with medieval France and England. The time of the Black Prince etc. With angels and devils thrown into the mix of politics and war, in an interesting mix of historical fiction with a kind of magical realism - a what if devil and angels were real and had been part of all this, acknowledged and used by/using the various parties.

I actually thought the 'historical' parts were the best, and floundered a little on the angels/devils. But it was a good read over all. There's a follow up I never reached - I read a lot of book 1s and rather few book 2s. Not because I'm hard to please but because I read very slowly and want to sample a broad range, not sink a year into one author.

Next up, Margaret Atwood's famous The Handmaid's Tale. I've not read it 😄

The Skinner, by Neal Asher, is one I have read, probably back in 2011. Asher was one of the first to review Prince of Thorns (on his blog) and was very positive about it, so I investigated his work. I enjoyed the book. I'm not a great scifi reader, but Asher's universe seems packed with cool ideas, and I particularly liked the super hostile planet where the wild life comes in a great number of really dangerous forms that try to eat/destroy each other along with any new additions to the food chain, whether they count as food or not.

Then we have the complete Paternus trilogy by Dyrk Ashton. Paternus, Wrath of the Gods, War of the Gods. I've read book 1, Paternus. It came 3rd in the 2nd SPFBO contest (that I run). It's a heap of fun - basically every mythology you've ever heard of, and a lot you haven't, are real and their gods/monsters run riot in the real world (whilst not disrupting it too much).

I've met Dyrk too - he came to Bristolcon (from America!) a few years back. Lovely guy. Has been in major films too, as aliens and zombies!

The other two books I should read. Just need time.

Black Cross by J.P Ashman is another self-published book. J.P I know from Bristolcon, a nice chap. His book I remember for having an enormous number of PoVs ... like 20 maybe? A monster-fighting romp.


Everworld by Katherine Applegate is a book I didn't know we had! Never heard of her.

The final 9 books are by Issac Asimov. They include two copies of Foundation And Earth, and a boxed set of 4 Foundation books. Also Nine Tomorrows, The Stars Like Dust, Mutants, The Robots of Dawn, and a collection of short stories.

It's been at least 40 years since I read any Asimov. I did read and enjoy the Foundation books, while recognising that they are pretty dry with paper-thin characters. And The Stars Like Dust was one of my earliest sci-fi reads. I recall liking it, and not one other thing about it. It's sad that not only can I not read all the books, or even a good chunk of the books on my own shelves ... but I can't even remember all the books I've read.

Ah. Mortality.




Join my Patreon.

Join my 3-emails-a-year newsletter #Prizes #FreeContent 




Friday, 12 August 2022

Youtube if you want to.

Look at me spitting out posts like they're watermelon seeds!


This one is just to say that I have finally bitten the video bullet.


After posting my first Youtube video (in which I do not feature) 11 years ago:


I have finally appeared on one, and not merely blessed the multitudes with my face ... I speak too!


I have posted two videos on "Perfecting Page 1" - aimed at writers.

In due course I plan to post some reviews, thoughts, who knowns, and maybe even swell my subscriber numbers past double figures 😮

Here are the two I've done this week (sadly in the second I forgot to plug in my new £35 microphone, so the audio is a bit 1950s):







Join my Patreon.

Join my 3-emails-a-year newsletter #Prizes #FreeContent 






Thursday, 11 August 2022

Page 1 critique - "Children of Gods and Fighting Men" by Shauna Lawless

So, I've decided to reprise my series of page 1 critiques - you can read about the project HERE, and there's a list of all the critiques so far too.

I'm also posting some of these on my Youtube channel (like, subscribe yadda yadda).

And it was after seeing my first video that the writer of this page, Shauna Lawless, volunteered her page 1.   

It's worth noting that I have read, reviewed, and very much enjoyed the book Children of Gods and Fighting Men, from which this page 1 comes. The book is due for publication in a few weeks (September 1st 2022).

First of all I'm going to cut and paste the disclaimers, and anyone prone to outrage really should read them:

It's very hard to separate one's tastes from a technical critique. There are page 1s from popular books with which I would find multiple faults. I didn't, for example, like page 1 of Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule (I didn't pursue the rest of the book). But that book has 150,000+ ratings on Goodreads, a great average score of 4.12 and Goodkind is a #1 NYT bestseller. His first page clearly did a great job for many people.

I'm not always right *hushed gasp*. You will likely be able to find a successful and highly respected author who will tell you the opposite to practically every bit of advice I give. Possibly not the same author in each case though.

The art of receiving criticism is to take what's useful to you and discard the rest. You need sufficient confidence in your own vision/voice such that whilst criticism may cause you to adjust course you're not about to do a U-turn for anyone. If you act on every bit of advice you'll get crit-burn, your story will be pulled in different directions by different people. It will stop being yours and turn into some Frankenstein's monster that nobody will ever want to read.

Additionally - don't get hurt or look for revenge. The person critiquing you is almost always trying to help you (it's true in some groups there will be the occasional person who is jealous/mean/misguided but that's the exception, not the rule). That person has put in effort on your behalf. If they don't like your prose it's not personal - they didn't just slap your baby.


I've flicked through some of the pages looking for one where I have something to say - something that hopefully is useful to the author and to anyone else reading the post.


I've posted the unadulterated page first then again with comments inset and at the end.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Amlav’s armour, sword and axe gleamed as if new. His beard, washed and bathed in lavender-scented oils, glistened in the soft candlelight and curled elegantly over his chest.

I leaned forward and rubbed my finger over his lips, down his cheek, until I touched the wolf-fur cloak which covered the stone slab he lay upon. Only a stray lock of hair that had fallen across his forehead marred the effect. The nuns had dressed him well, but it was my duty, as his wife, to ensure he crossed over to the afterlife looking like a king. I pushed the curl back, sweeping it into line with the others.

Once satisfied, I smiled.

Lying down, eyes closed, had always been the way I preferred Amlav. But this was better. Death had a finality that sleep could only imitate.

Death suited him in other ways too. His right hand had stiffened to grip his sword tighter than I’d ever seen him hold it in life. He’d been a warrior once, true enough, but by the time my father inflicted this marriage upon me, Amlav had been almost seventy, his fighting days over. When his armies left Dublin to fight the Irish, he had gone with them, but I knew when the battle was at its worst, he sat on his fat horse while our warriors drew their swords. Well-deserved, the warriors said, for Amlav’s reputation preceded him. The number of men he’d slain in his prime numbered over a thousand. No one dared to call him coward – only old.

Sinking into the chair next to Amlav’s body, I waited for the abbot to arrive. The monks had taken an age to dig the grave, rain and storms hindering them from their work. Last night, finally, they finished. I almost pitied them, though pity was wasted on the clergy. They’d chosen a life where misery was a virtue. If they felt closer to God by freezing to death on this hateful piece of rock, who was I to tell them otherwise? Not even the gold crosses that Amlav had gifted the monks, and which now adorned the altar, could give this miserable hovel any glamour, and somehow, the morning sunshine seeping in through the windows made the stone walls look more tomb-like than when lit by candlelight alone.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


First, it's worth noting that this page one does not do several things that I offer as 'things to do on page 1' in general advice. And since this is a very good page 1, that fact speaks to the truth of my oft repeated qualifications regarding my way not being the only way.

Two principle things it does not do, which I advise generally, are (i) include dialogue (ii) include action/tension/a problem.

These things are 'generally' advisable early on, page 1 is great, chapter 1 'generally' a must. Lawless keeps us waiting til page 3 for dialogue, but then it's a full-fledged conversation.

I said in my review that the book is an understated one, and noted that there's considerable power in understatement in expert hands. And this relatively gentle opening fits with that.

The advice I've offered on earlier page 1's is intended to be easy to follow and bring good results. This page 1 succeeds using more sophisticated, and harder to achieve, methods.

So, onto the page 1. Let's see why it works 


Amlav’s armour, sword and axe gleamed as if new. His beard, washed and bathed in lavender-scented oils, glistened in the soft candlelight and curled elegantly over his chest.

Line 1 just shows us something. I'm pretty neutral on it. At least it's not the weather, and the presence of weapons and armour could promise excitement.

By line 2 we're getting a slightly off-kilter feeling. Washed beards and lavender oils in soft candlelight don't normally live next to armour and axes. A subtle question has been posed. Off-kilter is good. It's a "what's going on?" in a good way. 

I leaned forward and rubbed my finger over his lips, down his cheek, until I touched the wolf-fur cloak which covered the stone slab he lay upon.

The author is keeping us on our toes by subverting minor expectations a second time. I was reading about Amlav, a bearded warrior. But now I discover he's not the 3rd person Point Of View (PoV) character. Instead the PoV is first person, and watching Amlav. Touching him in a curiously invasive manner. More questions.

 Only a stray lock of hair that had fallen across his forehead marred the effect. The nuns had dressed him well, but it was my duty, as his wife, to ensure he crossed over to the afterlife looking like a king. I pushed the curl back, sweeping it into line with the others.

More revelations. Amalav's dead - earlier strangeness explained. The PoV is a woman. The setting is beginning to fill itself in despite the author having spent almost no words on it. By slowly expanding and changing our awareness Lawless has created an implied setting in our heads without needing to spend words describing it to us. A dead king, dressed by nuns, candles, a stone slab. I'm thinking some sort of chapel, a king lying in state, ready for burial/cremation.

Once satisfied, I smiled.

And again, the author continues her series of small surprises, expectations subverted/contradicted. A newly dead husband, but she's smiling.

Lying down, eyes closed, had always been the way I preferred Amlav. But this was better. Death had a finality that sleep could only imitate.

We're learning about their relationship now, but without being 'told' it in an inelegant statement "I never liked my husband." or "I was glad he was dead. We didn't get on." etc - instead observations on his state in well-written prose 'show' us.

Death suited him in other ways too. His right hand had stiffened to grip his sword tighter than I’d ever seen him hold it in life. He’d been a warrior once, true enough, but by the time my father inflicted this marriage upon me, Amlav had been almost seventy, his fighting days over.

More observation and brief facts that through the reader's understanding of arranged marriages in times of swords and axes tell us a lot. It seems clear that she was much younger than her husband. The word "inflicted" is very efficient, speaking volumes. We don't need paragraphs here, just enough hints to reconstruct the likely situation. We feel grounded.

 When his armies left Dublin to fight the Irish, he had gone with them, but I knew when the battle was at its worst, he sat on his fat horse while our warriors drew their swords. Well-deserved, the warriors said, for Amlav’s reputation preceded him. The number of men he’d slain in his prime numbered over a thousand. No one dared to call him coward – only old.

Plenty of world-building here - 'leaving Dublin to fight the Irish' either raises questions or answers them, depending on the level of your understanding of the period/place. If he's in Dublin and isn't Irish then it seems he's a Viking king, an invader.

-- as an editing point, that "the number ... numbered" is a bit awkward and the line could be reworked to avoid the repetition.

We also see a hint that our PoV's, perhaps understandable, antipathy is not well contained. If the man has killed 1000+ warriors in person in battle, it's hard to consider him a coward, but she rather implies he should be called cowardly for sitting out the hand-to-hand stuff in his old age. 

Sinking into the chair next to Amlav’s body, I waited for the abbot to arrive. The monks had taken an age to dig the grave, rain and storms hindering them from their work. Last night, finally, they finished. I almost pitied them, though pity was wasted on the clergy. They’d chosen a life where misery was a virtue. If they felt closer to God by freezing to death on this hateful piece of rock, who was I to tell them otherwise? Not even the gold crosses that Amlav had gifted the monks, and which now adorned the altar, could give this miserable hovel any glamour, and somehow, the morning sunshine seeping in through the windows made the stone walls look more tomb-like than when lit by candlelight alone.

And finally we get more scene-setting observation - which is ALWAYS much better than scene-setting absent a PoV. Always make description come through the eyes of someone with opinions, thereby illuminating both the place/thing and the person. The more "stuff" that writing can deliver, comfortably, in a small space, the better it is. It's more nourishment/excitement per line. If you were to separate out the description from the opinion here and deliver them separately, it would take more space and be far less digestible.

We get hints that our PoV is perhaps not a very agreeable person. Her situation hasn't been great but she also comes across as spiky. That's good too. It suggests that we're not getting a vanilla goody-goody here. We might be getting someone with edges who is going to be proactive and maybe even cause trouble. All to the good - I want to know more about her and her situation. Is she going to rule now? Is she in danger? Who will fill the throne?


It's a strong page 1 that pulls you through from line 1 to the bottom of the page by relentlessly edging the boundaries of our understanding outwards, all the while keeping us on our toes by, if not pulling the rug out from under our expectations, then by giving it a good yank on a regular basis.

Confounding expectations is a powerful technique. The first line of my book Red Sister is often quoted, and the strength there comes from confounding expectation.

"It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure you bring an army of sufficient size."

The 'nun' being the object of important advice about 'killing' is a surprise. We might expect a dragon or a lion or something traditionally fearsome. And expectation is upended a second time when instead of being told to bring a sharp knife or make sure nobody's watching ... we're told to make sure we have a big enough army.

A page one that spreads that effect out across five paragraphs and a series of minor shocks, can work very well too.

 

The rest of the book is written with similar skill and I recommend you give it a read.






Monday, 1 August 2022

Prince of Thorns is eleven today!

 Prince of Thorns has been on the shelves for eleven years!

The UK paperback has reached at least 28 printings.



I'll take the chance to say thanks - thank you to my readers (and my publishers) for letting me spend the past 11 years writing stories, and more than that - living in them. It's been an unexpected privilege.


In other news, I now have a Patreon. Check it out!



Check out the 10th9th8th7th6th5th4th3rd2nd, and 1st birthday round-ups. 



I now have 16 books on the shelves!




The most recent addition was The Girl And The Moon, in April.




Being a numbers guy as well as a words guy I like to keep track of things and record them for when I'm doddery and old, looking back at my 'glory' days.

At this point I need to inject a comment concerning Goodreads. The Goodreads site has been an open joke for many years. It's one of the worst coded things on the internet. If you imagine a decent site as having an internal combustion engine, Goodreads is more a series of blackened saucepans propped up over trash fires, with a spaghetti mess of leaking twisted pipes siphoning off the steam in the hopes of driving a Victorian era piston.

It used to be that authors were forever questioning the admins about missing ratings, and the answer was always: "the buffers need flushing" and after a while a splurge of 200 ratings would appear.

Then, several years ago, my books and many others suddenly got a boost of thousands of ratings, which were attributed to some Goodreads engineer finally unblocking the pipes and dealing with the 'buffers' issue once and for all.

...this year though, my books started to lose hundreds of ratings a day, and ultimately several thousand from the most rated ones, like Prince of Thorns. I queried this several times. At first it was "an issue that the Goodreads team are aware of" and then finally it was "concluded". It was never fixed though. Those ratings just vanished. They weren't 'good' ones necessarily. The Red Sister average rating shot up...

What happened, I have no real idea. I'm not sure Goodreads do either. Certainly, they're not talking about it. My working theory (on no evidence) is that the big surge a few years ago was an error that has now been corrected. But it's just as likely that Goodreads randomly pissed away 10,000 ratings from my books.

Anyway - if any of you watch these stats closely enough to notice (and I would bet money that none of you do) then that's the story!



I have been slightly more active on the blog of late, it hasn't impacted the plateauing traffic, but still ~30,000 hits a month isn't too shabby and this year it so nearly reached 4 million hits in total.





And my quest to conquer Twitter crawls on...




It's also worth noting that this year saw the release of not one but two 10th anniversary special editions of Prince of Thorns (offering less eye-watering postage options). One in the UK from Broken Binding, and a super deluxe leatherbound one in the US from Grim Oak Press. Both publishers plan to follow up with 10th anniversary editions of King of Thorns.

Where things stand with my special editions:

Grim Oak Press
The Broken Empire omnibus - SOLD OUT
The Red Queen's War omnibus - 50 of 1,000 remaining.
10th anniversary Prince of Thorns - 60 of 750 remaining.

Broken Binding
10th anniversary Prince of Thorns - SOLD OUT

If you want to see how they appreciate, try buying a copy of the sold out editions on ebay.


Well, that's my annual stock-take. Over & out, until next year.


Join my Patreon.

Join my 3-emails-a-year newsletter #Prizes #FreeContent 










Monday, 18 July 2022

Money!

The Passage is an interesting case to study if you want to learn about the non-linear frenzies the publishing world can throw itself into.

I read and reviewed the book a few years back. I watched episode 1 of the recent series on Disney+ last night.

This vampire book was sold half-written (along with the promise of 2 more books) for an advance of ~$4 million. The bidding frenzy was driven by Hollywood interest in making a movie based on the manuscript. The film rights (for book 1 by itself) were secured for $2 million.
It's this sort of thing that makes many readers believe that the author of a book they've heard of is financially set for life.
In reality a "good" deal, reported as such in Publishers Weekly etc, is generally in the region of $100,000 - maybe up to $250,000 for a 3-book deal. The vast majority of book deals are for much smaller sums, typically $10,000 or $5,000.
But take that recipient of the SIX FIGURE DEAL - $100,000 advance for a trilogy (note: the 6-figure deal is the holy grail for writers). If they manage to put them out at 1 book per year, that's $33,000 a year. Immediately we can reduce that to $28,000 having accounted for the agent's 15%.
Here are some average salaries against different professions in New York.
TEACHER $50,516
OFFICE MANAGER $50,142
CHEF $48,827
ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT $42,714
CUSTOMER SUPPORT $40,329
RECEPTIONIST $34,635
CASHIER $25,790
WAITER $24,652
If the author were to take longer than a year per book ...
Chances are that if you're a fantasy fan and follow fantasy groups and forums, you'll end up hearing about that author with the six figure deal. You'll see their books if you haunt the fantasy sections of bookstores.
But if their book only does "OK" then they won't earn out that advance. They'll never see another penny from the books. And if they get another book deal after, it will very likely be at a MUCH reduced amount.
So, that big deal author you read, you saw their books on shelves, you saw discussions of their work on r/fantasy etc. That author, by dint of being extremely lucky and getting that six figure deal, will likely have existed on an income hovering between cashier and teacher for 3 years, with none of the job security, pension, health benefits etc. And after that ... crickets.
To return to The Passage:
Because such a vast sum was invested into it, the book debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at #3.
It did OK sales-wise. It came out a year before Prince of Thorns and has nearly twice as many Goodreads ratings, which is a fairly safe bet that it has about twice as many sales as my debut.
The three books came out over 6 years (reducing a $100,000 advance to $14,333 a year - try living on that) but with ~$6 million in their pocket the author wouldn't hurt over that.
The film was in development for well over a decade before being abandoned. In the end they made a TV series, which came out recently and was cancelled after the first season.
I watched episode 1 last night. It seemed pretty decent to me.
I'm sure the publisher and the film studio both lost a great deal of money. And the author made a mint.
But this is a WILD outlier.
It's also the sort of thing that explains the attitude shown in this recent comment following the death of author Eric Flint:




Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Off Topic - big time!

Back in 1987 I helped run a Play-By-Mail game called Saturnalia. I ran it full time for a year with a bunch of other folk in an office. And I ran my area for another 12 years after that in my spare time.

There was an extensive Wikipedia page about it - but they decided in their wisdom to reduce it to a very brief summary.

I found the original text online today (I wrote a fair bit of it), and have copied it here for posterity in case that last site vanishes.

So, ignore this - it's just of interest to old Saturnalia players who might google their way here.


 Saturnalia (PBM)

Saturnalia (PBM)

Saturnalia was one of the first single-character sword and sorcery fantasy Play-by-Mail role-playing games run in the United Kingdom. The game started in 1984, being created by Neil Packer and Simon Letts and grew from its initial players at the University of Southampton up to over three thousand scattered across the United Kingdom and beyond. A company, Sloth Enterprises was formed, with many full-time GMs running Saturnalia from offices above a tyre/brakes/exhaust garage in the red-light district of Southampton. 


In time, the company gradually faded away, with several former players taking on the role of GM to run either existing campaigns or to open up new areas. Most of these successors ran through the early 2000s (decade), and the Harlequin Games Exile campaign in the Southern Isles remains active.

The game was named for the Roman festival of Saturnalia, in that making the game, forming the rules and applying for the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, was total chaos. The word "Saturnalia" was one which turned up under the entry for "Chaos" in a thesaurus. Players took on the roles of adventurers. The game started on two sets of islands off the North and South coast of the continent, Erythria. This was named for no reason better than it sounded good. The Northern Isles included Faldeheim, Jorleheim and Tafkhim. The Southern Isles were Alagas, Krang and Ghan.

Importance

Saturnalia was one of the first and certainly one of the largest PBM games run in the United Kingdom. It inspired numerous other games and was important in the initiation of game pub-meets. The game has, in various forms, remained in existence for since 1984.

Whilst there is no direct link between Saturnalia and online role-playing games, PBM games were their early forerunners. If it were not for PBM games showing the way, there would be no online role-playing games.

Campaign Regions

The campaign regions of Erythria have included:

  • Central - Narquoron
  • Distant Isles.
  • North East Erythria.
  • North West Erythria.
  • Northern Isles
  • Serpent Isles.
  • South Erythria.
  • Southern Isles.
  • Exile. The last remaining active region. 

  • At one time in the late 1980s the campaign regions were designated by colour:
  • Central/Narquoron (Pink)
  • North East Erythria (Red)
  • Northern Isles (White)
  • Southern Isles (Blue)
  • South Erythria (Yellow)
  • Character Statistics

    Characters were defined by the following statistics:

  • Combat Ability (CA).
  • Magic Points (MP).
  • Stealth and Agility (SA).
  • Perception (PER).
  • Vitality (VIT).
  • On initial start-up in the game, a player had 250 points to allocate between these statistics, with none given less than twenty points and none more than a hundred.

    Each turn, the Games Master would award the player bonus points to be allocated between these statistics. Points could also be lost (in most games) by injury or by using MP to cast magical spells. Bonus points would be awarded depending on how well a character performed during a turn, but also on how well the player wrote the instructions. This could be entirely subjective and at the whim of the GM.

    A character would begin as a very lowly adventurer, gaining in ability as points were added to their statistics. Their actions in the game would result in gaining renown as Fame and Infamy; the former would be awarded for positive actions and the latter for negative actions. These defined the character as Good or Evil, with an accumulation of major good or evil acts required to gain a double figure Fame or Infamy. This was the Saturnalia equivalent of Dungeons & Dragons Alignment.

    To prevent character death resulting in the loss of a player, Saturnalia included a Karma system so that in the unfortunate event of a character dying, the player could create a new character using the standard number of points, plus a bonus derived from their dead character's points, Fame and Infamy. This meant that the paying player did not lose their entire investment in playing the game. Saturnalia was the first single character RPG and the Karma system was a way of ensuring that players who lost their character did not lose everything they had invested.

    Setting

    The game was set on and around Erythria, a massive continent approximately two thousand miles east-west and four thousand north-south, plus the island chains to the north and south. Different regions of the continent and surrounding islands were divided between different Games Masters, with geographical features separating the various regions. This permitted Saturnalia to become one of the earliest shared world building fantasy campaigns utilising a common framework of in-game religions and early history, whilst permitting the different regions to co-exist with minimal cross-campaign interference. Player characters could, under exceptional circumstances move from one campaign region to another, but only with great persistence and luck, or with the agreement of the relevant Games Masters.

    Geography


    The major geographical features of Erythria included:

  • The Northern Ocean – A scattering of islands including:
  • The Serpent Isles, a small chain comprising four main islands: Bromo, Formo, Trefato and Sepakak.
  • The Northern Isles in arctic waters including Jorleheim, dominated by fierce clans, Faldeheim, dominated by Royalists, and Tafkhim, an isle of city states.
  • The Northern Plains – Extending across the entire northern portion of the continent, ranging from near featureless grasslands to stretches of arid desert or steppe.
  • The Great Divide - A monstrous range of mountains splitting Erythria into north and south, and impossible to cross. Compared with this mountain chain the rare hills and mountains of the Northern Plains were mere ridges.
  • The Great River – A gigantic river system flowing northwards from the Great Divide towards the Northern ocean splitting the northern extent of the continent into the campaign regions of the North East and North West. The Great River at places was more than a hundred miles wide.
  • The Southern Desert – A vast desert below the southern edge of the Great Divide. Away from the centre the land became more fertile with forests on the eastern and western coasts and jungle further south.
  • The Southern Ocean – including the tropical Southern Isles, an archipelago of sixty islands including Alagas, Ghan and Krang.
  • History

    The recorded history of Erthyria begins with the invasion of the Northmen of the Northern Isles, with their greatest leader being Erik the Forger. Their tide of conquest swept over the continent, clashing with the native tribes and defeating the nomads of the Great Plains, breaking the power of the Ocean King, the overlord of the tribes of the sea of grass. Reaching the Great Divide, the Northmen extended their conquest by sea, ultimately dominating the entire continent and uniting it under the rule of the Empire. In the far south the Northmen conquered the civilised Sahmen worshipping Mordish, driving them to the southern coast of Erythyria and across the ocean to the Southern Isles.

    Erik and his descendants were so pivotal to the history of Erythria that his name was used in the dating system: AE, After Erik.

    In time the Empire fragmented, and the resurgent nomads broke many of the successor states dotted across the Northern Plains, until all that remained were isolated city states, mostly on the coast. In the south the Empire endured until it too was smashed by wars with the desert nomads.

    After the fall of the Empire in the north, for a time the banner of the Ocean King was uncontested, but after leaving the inland cities as ruins his domain dissolved into many different tribes, awaiting the raising of his standard again. The remaining cities dwindled into fractious city-states, often pursuing religious conflicts between themselves.

    Campaign Dating

    The game dating system was derived from AE 901 in 1984, and incremented annually, so 2009 relates to AE 925.

    Common Themes

    One of the common themes shared by the different regional campaigns was the quest for the fourteen swords of power, each dedicated to a deity of the Saturnalia game world. 

    These swords had been created by dwarven master runesmiths during the second century of the expansion of Erik's Empire. The swords served as the motive for quests and struggles between the player character heroes attempting to become a champion of one of the gods. Other, less powerful magical weapons appeared across the campaigns.

    Currency

    All of the Saturnalia games used a common currency. The whole currency system was based around the crucial facts that:

  • The gold cadoc. A cadoc was worth ten phymeres.
  • The silver phymere. A phymere was worth ten ogrods.
  • The bronze ogrod. Ogrods were many, Cadocs were few.
  • Pantheon

    The Saturnalia campaigns shared a common pantheon:

  • Corgul: God of Law.
  • Destu: God of Darkness.
  • Dianodus: God of Balance.
  • Drasci: Thief God.
  • Egar-Colmetch: God of Wealth.
  • Haquar: Goddess of Magic.
  • Morana: Life Goddess.
  • Orth: War God.
  • Renchu: Death God.
  • Sahmen: Sun God.
  • Somol: Weather God.
  • Suocona: Love Goddess.
  • Trolin: Healing Goddess.
  • Trorindar: Moon Goddess.




  • Join my Patreon.

    Join my 3-emails-a-year newsletter #Prizes #FreeContent