Yes, the blog may peter out, simply because it is difficult to talk without knowing what anyone wants me to say. I once mentioned, it is like talking aloud to the cat. Only my cat is teh evil and hates me.
But the mod is going strong. As I get closer to release, maybe I can put out updates, because then I won't feel as self conscious about a one sided conversation ;)
Are you one of the three people waiting for this mod?
Here is some reassurance that it is happening. It is just on simmer when it should have boiling furiously. I blame it on the artistic temperament of the folks I work with. They are the sort that will spend 15 hours of texturing to make sure the transition between the hills and the rocks is "just right" while I twiddle my thumbs.
Also the team that worked on it? So many transitions on that front. Many of the people who once wrote for my main characters have moved on to other things. There are also those who once created areas who have been too caught up with real lives (HOW DARE YOU GET MARRIED WHEN THERE IS A MOD TO FINISH).
So..obviously, the outcome has been delay. However, I have not been idle while this delay has happened.
1. Beautiful evocative musical store. You don't want Aribeth's theme playing when you are walking around an Indian inspired village now, do you?
2. Tweaked morality system that has all the nuances I want without your having to convert to Hinduism.
3. A rousing finale to my starting area that ...um...mocks certain movies.
4. What was once a mod has become a campaign. A big, complicated, complex campaign with heavy role playing opportunities. It is not a easy, breezy tale. It requires effort, but I have tried my best to make it fun.
Speaking of fun...
I have also come to the realization that the RPG purist, the one who is too serious about such games will not like this campaign. It has moments of almost trite silliness- which is necessary because the main tale is so frikkin' brutal. I have had a beta tester have to pause the game and sit aside and laugh uninterrupted for five whole minutes. He then yelled at me for making a quest THAT silly.
I do have situations like that though. Deliberately corny. Partly because goofiness is my dialogue strength. I excel in conversations that are predominantly silly. But also because the characters are colorful, vivid, outspoken and often tactless. I am having fun play testing it, mostly because I think one of my characters will cause every man in this universe to WAIL in outrage... heh.
At first glance, it may seem that Samsara is a veritible shopping mall of dieties- so many to choose from. But Samsara is not polytheistic in theory, it is henotheistic.
All Samsarans believe that the Ultimate of All Things is what is called the Brahman (also called the Great Spirit)- a formless, genderless, neutral SPIRIT that is responsible for all good things and all evil things. There is no concept of a higher order of evil- or a Satan/Hell equivalent. No one goes to hell, though when some particularily horrid sinners die, their souls go to a place called Naraka- where they are ritually cleansed by being shown the horrors of what they wrought. If they express repentence- their souls go on to reborn. Life is an endless series of second chances. Salvation is never really denied, but delayed depending on your actions.
All knowledge of this Brahman comes from the tome called the Vedanta. Vedanta speaks of all things- from the nature of the universe to how life came into existence. The Brahman does not actively intervene in the lives of people, but it may manifest in forms that help the world if it occasionally goes out of balance.
This is where the Mitraa and Lawgivers cleave from each other.
Mitraa: The Mitraa believed that the Great Spirit takes different forms to help people comprehend Its message. Thus, though its forms are diverse- it still stems from the Great Spirit and is part of it. Thus, the Mitraa- seeing the Brahman is neutral- do not dissuade from different forms of worship believing that they all have to learn their own lessons and make their own decisions instead of being led down one path. All dieties fall under the Mitraa domain, including the following:
"Sometimes the learning is the lesson" - said the first head of the Mitraa- Malavika.
Here are some of the prominent Gods:
1. Brahma: The venerable, bearded, craftsman and architect of life is the God that is supposed to create all things. From the fashioning of flowers designed to delight those who pass them, to the creation of monsters that cause fear in all those that view them, Brahma is the manifestation that creates it all. He is the Creator, though very few people in the Lands worship him. Most of them who do are architects.
The first of his creations was Saraswati- the Goddess of Knowledge and Arts. Widely worshipped in the southern provinces, flashes of brilliance, or genius are often attributed to her.
2. Vishnu: The preserver of life and the balance, Vishnu is described as a breathtakingly beautiful dark skinned man who lies atop a coiled servant in the "ocean of milk" in the heavens. This is the manifestation that takes the most active interest in the welfare of humanity, and both he and his consort Lakshmi are worshipped more than any other diety. Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity.
3. Shiva: . Shiva is a very intimidating diety, a tall tawny skinned man, with matted hair, his ash streaked body covered with writhing snakes, when the world is not fit to exist anymore, and cannot be redeemed, Shiva does his dance- the Tandav, the dance of destruction that destroys the entire world so that it may be created again. As the next age approaches, suddenly there is a resurgence of interest in this diety.
But fearsome as Shiva is, he is not as powerful or as terrifying as his consort. Parvati is a gentle, pious goddess widely worshipped by women who wish to make a good marriage, but when enraged she takes the form of Kali- The Dark Mother- so powerful, so all consuming that no God, not even the Brahman can stop her. Kali is the color of the night, her nakedness covered with garlands of skulls. She has four arms, each bearing a weapon and once she is angered, there is nothing known that can stop her stampede of destruction. Often the patron goddess of Beserker like Barbarians, she has gained quite the following among cults who take her destructive nature to justify their own unholy acts.
Chandi: Chandi is a vestige of the early tribal roots of much of the region. She is seen as a nature goddess, a motherly figure, often benevolent and kind. However, if insulted, she is known to unleash plague on an unsuspecting populance.
Ayappa: This God is the patron God of celibacy even through adulthood. He is said to loathe women, and many of his followers spurn family life and live their life as monks.
The Lawgivers concede that all dieties may be forms of the great Spirit, but they exist only to test mortals on their sense of judgment. There is only one form the Spirit wants you to follow- they claim, and that is Rudra. Rudra is said to be a tawny skinned, male manifestation of Brahman whose fellowship requires austerity, sacrifice, pious living, charitable acts AND living a life free of what they believe is sin. It is only when the mortal rejects all the false beings and accepts Rudra- that the first step towards salvation is achieved. The Lawgivers do this by preaching, spreading their work through acts of kindness, and the like so that people are inspired to learn more about them.
Many people believe Rudra is an early manifestation of Shiva- the God of destruction but the Lawgivers deny it.
"We convert through compassion. For every person gained into Rudra's fold by false means (lying, coersion, violence, bribery) is a false one"
Pavitra: The Pavitra cleaved from the Lawgivers twenty years ago. Their basic beliefs are similar to the Lawgivers in that they believe that Rudra is the one true manifestation of the spirit, but their worship is far more vehement. They believe the end of the Yuga is coming, a cycle drawing to a close, and the end of the world arrives. For Rudra to intervene, and if indeed He even shall, the world must be cleansed of the worst of sin. Thus, they call themselves "Rudra's thunderbolt", and attack where Rudra cannot.
So where do Cows fit in? Well, a cow is seen as the ultimate giver because there is no animal that is more useful. As most of Samsara is vegetarian- the milk and clarified butter is immensely important. The cow also is a beast of burden, ploughing the fields, and towing carts. The manure fertilizes fields and is dried to make a source of fuel when wood is not readily available. To kill such a valuable animal seems like a waste. Further, most Samsarans live so closely with their beasts that to kill any once they get old and useless is unthinkable.
As time went on- the cow became the symbol of plenty and is now treated with much of the status accorded to a diety. You may never hit a cow, unless you wish to turn the entire crowd around you hostile. If a cow blocks your path, you either wait, or try and lure it away with something delicious. If you kill a cow on purpose- the penalty is death. If you kill it by accident, you must pay the village to which it belongs gold commensurate to the weight of a cow. Let me remind you that a cow is very heavy and if you cannot come up with that much gold, you will be a debted laborer forced to their lands until the villagers believe you have been punished enough. Some unscrupolous villagers have earned a lifetime of free labor because of the unfortunate act of some poor fellow.
While cows are supreme, all animals are sacred. All of them. In fact you may say that in some ways human life is not as highly regarded as animal life. The equivalent in terms of humans are children. To the Samsaran, all children and animals are alike in the sense that they are innocent and we are deemed their protectors. Thus, they must be protected from those who would use their superior intelligence and might to do them harm. Note that each time you kill an animal, even if it is in secret, there is a chance that the act will be discovered. If so- good luck getting quests from anybody. Because both Mitraa and Lawgivers will shun you. Even those violent Pavitra would rather kill women than horses.
That is the primer, folks. You will learn more about the deities and animals in the game if you choose to.
So, those of you who volunteered to beta test this game have probably recd. a little message in their inbox with download instructions. Huzzah! I am so glad I was able to iron out enough to bring it to a testable stage. I realize it is an part of the entire campaign, and there may be more campaigns to go, but perhaps this 90-95% of the first chapter will show you how BIG the frikkin' thing is.
I cut some content because they are major spoilers, and I didn't want you guys to be spoiled. What if you play the final mod someday. That 10% I left out- I can test. But the bulk, I am going to need your help with and HOW!
For starters, bug testing is not the big deal for me. Bugs can be fixed. Conversations can be rewritten, proofed, checked and quests shuffled around to mitigate problems. What matters above all else is whether the tale is worth pursuing. I have given you guys enough to get a big taste of the writing, the people, the characters and the world. Before you bug test, or spell check or anything else, I want you to play it like you ordinarily would. (AFTER reading the Readme document) and just tell me what you thought.
This is my first major piece of work, and so I am going to be justifiably proud of it. But if enough of you say it sucks, then perhaps I can adjust my expectations accordingly.
First let me know what you thought. Be honest, I can take it ;) and let me know what the mod felt like. Then we can get to the more time consuming task of bug testing.
Once again, if you have volunteered to test this mod, know that I really, truly, honestly and completely appreciate your help.
There are five companions to choose from in the first campaign. Any will stay with you until the end of thew campaign unless you do something to make them leave or fire them. All are voluntary. Two are mutually exclusive. You can take them all, or leave them all. The companion you don't take with you will wait at your "house". If you "fire" them, you cannot hire them back. Firing them is an option you get five times in the module, so don't expect to be able to fire them when you want to. You can fire them politely if you want to as well. Whenever they go, they will take some gold with them, so be careful.
Each of your companions have interjections and personal stories. ALL of them have subquests though it may not be immediately apparent with some of them.
Three of your companions are those you knew when you were young, so expect some history. Two of your mutually exclusive companions meet you for the first time in chapter 2, so they don't know much about your past.
Manav & Chaitanya: Duing one of your quests, you will be making a choice between the two of them.
Chaitanya: The son of the headman of Hasthi, Chaitanya is a rising star in the Central Provinces militia and is considered to be a shoo-in for joining one of the King's elite units one day. He was raised in the Lawgiver faith and tends to see the world as pitch black and pure white. He has his own subquests. If you don't take Chaitanya into your group, you will still meet him later in act 3 of the first module.
Chaitanya is not romanceable. At least not in this campaign. In Tamas: The Axe of Parashu, he may be. But for this chapter- he is not.
Chaitanya will not approve of any nookie and most romances. He is most scathing about Sundari as he thinks all female elves are of questionable morals. If you are female or male, he will be okay with your romances as long as you have 30 influence with him and you are not engaging in "sinful" behavior. Most of your companions will not get along well with Chaitanya, but having him in your party boosts your reputation significantly. You will also find that Lawgivers are less inclined to be mistrustful of you if you take him along.
It is easiest to gain or lose influence with Chaitanya. If you gain too many points in the Mitraa faction, he will leave the party. He will also leave the party based on your decisions in a key event in chapter 3.
Manav: A man ostracized for loving another man, Manav is in search of his beloved. He is not romanceable by male or female NPCs as his heart strongly and totally belongs to another. Manav is mostly silent, unless the subject of Lawgivers come up when he lets it rip because he has been subjected to so much tumoil on their account. But even his mistrust of the Lawgivers does not compare to the hatred he feels for the Pavitra who kidnapped his lover.
Manav becomes chatty only after you have acquired a lot of influence with him. Do not expect him to trust you until you have proven that your acceptance of him is total and that you are dedicated to his search. Manav has his own subquests and is a spirit shaman. If you gain too much lawgiver points he will leave. He will also leave the party based on your decision in a key event in chapter 3.
Most of your companions like him well enough because he minds his own business. If you date outside the party, you will find that your females either loathe him, or ask him for shopping advice- something that often bewilders him because he is not in any way artistically inclined. Lawgivers will be less inclined to trust you if he is part of your party. If you are female PC- who is usually viewed with mistrust, keep this in mind. However, most quests have alternative paths- so remember if you lose some- you gain others.
Manav, if treated well will eventually become interested and devoted to PC as a person, and not in a romantic or sexual way. However, it is very hard to gain that level of devotion in a man who doesn't trust anyone easily.
Aditya: Your best friend as a child, and now almost pathetically glad to see you- the awkward pudgy boy turned into a strong, capable Paladin. But alas the mischievous streak in him remains intact. Aditya is like a puppy dog, boundless in his enthusiasm, and with a vast open heart.
Aditya does not seem to completely comprehend that both of you are grown up now, and he continues to treat you like both of you were 10 and harassing the ashrama cows all over again. While his enthusiasm and desire to tilt at windmills may be annoying, Aditya's devotion to you- male or female is unparalleled. He will die for you without a second thought.
If you are female and good aligned, Aditya is romanceable. Kind of. Do not expect poetry. Expect some amount of clumsiness and awkwardness in the beginning as he begins to fully comprehend that he is attracted to you. And even after he does, don't expect grace. Remember the puppy dog analogy? Aditya is playful and jocular, and you can banter around with him, but his typical reaction to a pass is fumbling bashfulness. If you can look beyond his goofiness to see the sincere heart and complete devotion, it may work.
If you start a romance with Nirav, Sundari or another NPC, Aditya will rag you mercilessly- but will be thrilled for you. He will not romance you if you romance someone else- whether they are there in the party or not. If you are a guy and cheat on the woman you are dating, he will tell on you even if he doesn't like the other npc.
Sundari:Sundari is one of the Gandharva elves and a very rare creature indeed. Not only was she born to elven parents, she is a wielder of magick- something practically unheard of in Samsara. While Shamans and Clerics are relatively common (though still quite rare)- a wizard or sorceress is a creature so rare that it breeds wonder in some and extreme mistrust in others.
Sundari is romanceable by male and female NPCs but watch out- though her interest is relatively easy to get, maintaining her interest is hard. Brilliant, pretty and blessed/cursed with a biting wit, Sundari's mind needs constant stimulation. If you slack off, don't be surprised if she cools off.
You will find that she is your most honest sounding board. Unlike Aditya who is inclined to think most things you do are GREAT, and Nirav who really doesn't care what you do (but who you are becoming), Sundari is blunt- in her praise and her criticism. Her eagle eye misses nothing- a glimmer of interest in another NPC or the motivations behind your actions.
If you are romancing someone, expect her to have something frank to say about it. If you are a male romancing an out of party NPC- expect them to display some jealousy that you are traveling with a female elf- even an ultimatum. Sundari will not tell on you unless you cheat on someone she likes.
Even if you treat her badly, Sundari will travel with you unless you fire her. She is level headed enough to understand that the larger goal is bigger than the way the two of you get along. Your companions are apt to treat her partly like a kid who needs protection and sometimes like the know it all elder sister.
Nirav: Nirav as a character scared me, because he is complex and romanceable. I cannot write romances well (even Aditya is being written with the help of my husband), and I was thrilled when Melrinda said she would craft him. From what I have read, I can tell you ladies and gents have a treat in store for them- especially the ladies.
Nirav is a Ranger, though an atypical one. He is large and strong like the Barbarians of the western provinces but never thought of being anything else but a Ranger because he was rescued as a child by one. A man of few words and strong opinions, it is difficult to gain his loyalty, but once you do, it is pretty much unshakeable.
Nirav cares only about his immediate circle, and those beyond that can burn for all he cares. He seems somewhat apathetic, but buried behind that cold, cool facade is a lot of seething anger towards the cowards who slaughtered his village and murdered his parents.
Both good and evil aligned female PCs can romance him, but if you are good, note that each time you take a detour to help strangers, Nirav is likely to get annoyed. You need to have very high speechcraft skills to persuade him to accept the detour. Though you will never "change" him, you can get him to accept you as who you are as long as you do the same for him.
Nirav doesn't care who you romance, though if it is within the party, he will have something typically sardonic to say about it. If you date outside your party, he doesn't really care. If you cheat on your girlfriend, Nirav is not going to be the one who tells on you, though delay his subquest too long and he will leave unless your influence is really high. If you have initiated a romance with Aditya, Nirav will not romance you unless you fire Aditya.
If you romance Nirav, note that he is not the idealistic, we will be together come what may sort. Lose his respect and you lose the romance.
The game starts off with two having only two henchmen. These henchmen of course will provide assistance in battle but their bigger purpose is not to be henchmen but as guides to the most important purpose of chapter 1.
Though as the mod progresses you will be introduced to other aspects of lore and alignment, the first chapter is designed to immerse you in the entire Lawgiver/Mitraa paradigm and how the world seems from their perspectives. And do so in a non partisan way. I am not pushing an agenda. I am showing that different paths have both good and bad aspects to them. One of the ways I do it is through the main quest. The other- through the henchmen.
Pashupathy is a ranger, and rather famous cult author of books that pertain to using the secrets of the animal kingdom to improve your love (sex) life. Take him and only him in your party, and you will get a Mitraa perspective on things- not canon because the Mitraa are diverse, but a sense of how egalitarianism and a secular attitude can work both in noble ways and horribly vulgar ways.
Himanshu on the other hand is the human side of the Lawgivers. And if you take only him, you will get more lore based information on HOW the Lawgivers percieved the events that led to your quest.
If you take both- you don't get too much info and perspective, but you can talk to them individually and learn about why they are the way they are, and you do get the interactions which are characteristic of what each think of each other. Not just as people but as "factions".
Though you will meet both in later chapters, neither will be a henchman any more after a key event in chapter 1.
It is in chapter 2 that you meet your real companions.
I shall speak more about them in my next blog entry.