Monday, September 19, 2005

Two Birds, One Computer

As I was thinking about what articles I could write for this gaming magazine, it occurred to me that a number of the background details I need to work out for the novel would make excellent adventure game settings (that is, after all, the point of most science fiction). The magazine regularly publishes articles that provide descriptions of interesting places characters can visit, as well as articles on prominent "non-player characters" that player characters can meet and interact with. Because most of these details also need to be worked out for the novel (even if this level of detail would never be included in the novel itself), this in effect gives me a way to kill two birds with one stone (or one computer, as the case may be).

I've been working with Campaign Cartographer 2 and learning how to create maps with it. So far, all I've done have been large-scale exterior land maps, but CC2 also excels at making floor plans. I even have an add-on that will convert flat 2D floor plans into 3D perspective drawings, enabling you to really see what it would look like to be inside the location. For example, I need to map out the main mine on Mercury. One of the locations there is a "gentlemen's club" that figures prominently into the early portions of the story (it is here that the antagonist first meets the protagonist and decides that he wants her for himself). I can create the floor plan and perspective drawings for this location in CC2. This will serve a number of purposes simultaneously: I can learn how to better use CC2 and begin learning these new add-ons; I can get a more detailed mental picture of the setting, thus adding to the richness of the detail I can provide in the story; and, last but not least, if I also create the characters that populate this club (also needed for the novel), I'll have an article that should sell quite easily. I can repeat this process for a number of major locations that appear in the story, eventually developing a "Mercury sourcebook" for gaming in this world.

It has occurred to me, of course, that the whole Exodus Project setting would make an excellent role-playing game. I want to be very careful about that, though. Most novels based on a role-playing game have been simply terrible. I have yet to read one with any depth at all. There have been a few role-playing games that were based on novels, but they were never anything spectacular and faded out quickly. While having a merchandise tie-in might be a good selling point when I try to get this thing published, I need to be very, very careful that I don't compromise the writing just to make it compatible with a gaming environment. Writing these articles may be a good way to maintain that balance.

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