Monday, January 01, 1990

Designer's Notes--Sources of Inspiration

For those of you who are curious, here are some of my sources of inspiration, along with some commentary.

Gibson, William Virtual Light. In general, I appreciate Gibson for the hard-edged street poetry of his stories as well as his proto-awareness of true spirituality. However, I put Virtual Light on the list because Gibson’s portrayal of the community on the Golden Gate Bridge was inspirational for the Web.

McCaffrey, Ann. The Dragonriders of Pern series. I find it ironic that I only realized the influence of this series fairly late into design. Yet, as I think about it, many of the elements of Alyria are present in this series. The wandering planet and the Thread must have been stirring in my subconscious as I crafted the Outsiders.

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Lord of the Rings. This one is the classic, of course, and stands as one of the two major literary influences on Legends of Alyria. However, I include it not just because it is the classic modern fantasy novel but because it exemplifies all the values that Legends of Alyria stands for. In Frodo you see the true hero: scared, weak, alone, yet struggling forward through the pain so that others might not suffer.

Vance, Jack. The Dragon Masters. I believe that this is the first story by Jack Vance that I ever read, so it is not surprising that I only realized its influence late into design. This story features a colony of humans, cut off from Earth, and suffering under the repeated assaults of a deadly enemy that hails from a red star.

Vance, Jack. The Dying Earth. When I began design work on Legends of Alyria, I had only read one story from this book. I have since had the pleasure of reading all of Vance’s Dying Earth stories. While the Cugel series is perhaps more enjoyable, this first collection captures the technofantasy and alien nature that I have tried to infuse into Alyria.

Vance, Jack. The Last Castle. Another Vance novella that is worth reading. The depictions of a stagnant, decadent society could be useful for certain interpretations of either the Citadel or the Ark.

Vance, Jack. The Miracle Workers. Another excellent novella by Vance that I had read many years before beginning work on Legends of Alyria. I reread it while I was writing Legends of Alyria and I immediately saw the roots of the “technology as superstition” mentality in Legends of Alyria.

Wolfe, Gene The Book of the New Sun. The other major influence on Legends of Alyria. Gene Wolfe crafts such an alien world in this book that it is a wonder to read. However, the major influences on Legends of Alyria were in its blurring of the lines between magic and science to the point of irrelevance and its unashamed religious references.

Wolfe, Gene The Book of the Long Sun. This was only a minor influence on Legends of Alyria, but it is required reading in order to understand The Book of the Short Sun, which is the sequel series.

Wolfe, Gene The Book of the Short Sun. When I first read this series, it seemed like a Legends of Alyria solo game transcribed into book form. The protagonist strikes me as the perfect Legends of Alyria character, and the story revolves around the good and evil which are bound in the heart of man. A complex narrative, to be sure, but well worth the effort.

Computer Games

Final Fantasy VII. My experiences playing this game prompted the initial design work on Legends of Alyria. I enjoyed the game but kept asking myself, “If all these enemies are using guns and science, why am I using a sword and magic?” It didn’t make any sense. And so I decided to make a world where it would make sense. Also, the city of Midgard provided part of the visual inspiration for the Citadel.

Thief: The Dark Project. Another game that I have greatly enjoyed. Its contribution to Legends of Alyria is through its dark mechanistic atmosphere, which directly affected my conception of the Citadel.

Enya “Tempus Vernum” from A Day Without Rain. This one was suggested by my friend and colleague, Jason Blair of Human Head Studios. It conveys to me the feeling of intensity within the setting, or perhaps an image of a storm rolling off the Sea of Mist.

Delerium Reflections I. Scarlet Jester suggested the work of Delerium to me as inspiration for Legends of Alyria. Their dark ambient sound is a great match for the somber world of Alyria, particularly the Citadel and the Ark.

Akira. I honestly do not remember how much of my ideas for the Blessed predated my watching this movie, but, if nothing else, it definitely confirmed the effectiveness of my ideas. As I watched, I thought to myself, “The Blessing looks like that.”

Blade Runner. Obviously, the opening sequence and the overall atmosphere heavily influenced the Citadel. In addition, the plight of the replicants in this movie inspired the Restored.

Roleplaying Games
Amber Diceless Roleplaying. I have never actually had the opportunity to play Amber, although I have read the books several times. Back when Legends of Alyria was going to be a diceless game, I read the Amber RPG several times, studying its system. Something that stuck with me was how its attributes were not purely physical, mental, or spiritual. Instead, they covered certain aspects of a character that included both physical and mental capability. This carried over into Legends of Alyria, where Attributes act in a similar way.

Everway. Another game that I have never played. (You will find that refrain repeated frequently in this list.) However, Everway introduced me to the idea of a system based on symbols instead of numbers. In addition, I found that its inclusion of a GM tutorial was invaluable. The inclusion of most of the tutorial material in this game is a direct result of experiencing the friendly, conversational Everway tutorial.

Nobilis. This is one of my all-time favorite roleplaying games. Even though, I discovered it long after the conceptual work on Legends of Alyria was finished, I have noticed some stylistic bleed from Nobilis to Legends of Alyria. Specifically, Nobilis taught me that a setting does not need to be exhaustive to be complete. In addition, the Hogshead edition of Nobilis strove to be not only a quality game but also a beautiful artifact. I do not know if Legends of Alyria will ever appear in a hardcopy form, but in my mind, it is a beautiful tome like Nobilis.

Sorcerer. I honestly do not remember when the idea of a storymap first entered my head, but I know that my exposure to Sorcerer and its designer, Ron Edwards, has only helped. I lurked on the Sorcerer forum on the Gaming Outpost and later the Adept Press forum on the Forge, gleaning much valuable insight into story-based play in general and relationship maps in specific. If Everway inspired the inclusion of tutorial material in this game, Sorcerer informed their content.

Theatrix. Again, I have never played Theatrix. However, Theatrix’s use of plot points that players could spend to force an outcome to a conflict or establish a fact was a major influence on the Inspiration/Corruption mechanic used by Legends of Alyria.

Unknown Armies. Although I enjoy this roleplaying game quite a bit, its only contribution to Legends of Alyria was in the form of the “Jailbreak” scenario from the One Shots supplement. This scenario is set up differently than most roleplaying scenarios, since players run all the characters in the scenario. Player versus player conflict is assured and, in fact, forms the core of the scenario. Since Legends of Alyria storymaps function in a similar way, it is good to know that someone else thinks that this is a valid way to construct a scenario. Having that “someone” be Greg Stolze is nice, too.

Universalis. This is an unusual entry. Universalis was initially inspired by a discussion on the Alyria forum on the Forge that quickly developed in its own direction. However, as I read through the rules, I was impressed by the concept of Gimmicks, which allow on-the-fly customization of the rules of the game. Legends of Alyria is not nearly this customizable. However, the options presented in the section on Game Narration were an attempt to provide a level of customization to the game, allowing each gaming group to set certain preferences.


Blogger Seth Ben-Ezra said...

I just purchased a copy of the Dune boardgame, so I went back to reread the Dune series. And, wouldn't you know it, I found another Alyria source. The Restored have some interesting similarities with the gholas of the Dune universe. The original novel, Dune, doesn't have any gholas, but they appear for the first time in Dune Messiah.

8/20/2005 11:48:00 PM  

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