Welcome to Planewalker Games! We are the home of The Broken Hourglass, a new CRPG in development for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux computers.
Inside the Engine: On-the-fly creature customization

On the fourth Monday of each month, we explore the code underneath The Broken Hourglass, the game environment called "WeiNGINE." This month, we look at the _encounter function, a way to quickly generate semi-random, tailored groups of creatures.

WeiNGINE can generate and place creatures in numerous ways. We have already discussed the placement of static creatures in an earlier installment of our engine tutorials. Any CREATURETEMPLATE may also be deployed at will, any number of times, using the _create_creature command. It is possible to customize a creature as it is generated with selective attribute upgrades, but a more convenient and automated way to do this is the _encounter statement.

_encounter provides an extremely powerful and flexible system to generate anything from random, "wandering monster"-type encounters, to heavily customized variations on established creature types. As such, it can be useful both for incidental combat situations, as well as for planned, "fixed-piece" encounters which simply could benefit from scaling or on-the-fly flexibility. _encounter can create one or more instances of a creature, from one or two CREATURETEMPLATEs. This means _encounter can be used to build a random encounter of "pick one of these six monsters, make four of them, and send them after the party", or to build a "Unique 'captain' and pack of soldiers" fight.

For purposes of illustration, we will stick with something simple—a comfortable cliché, even—a fight with giant spiders. Our sample spiders have a CREATURETEMPLATE which looks like this:

<<<<<<<< creaturetemplate/spider
<xml>
<Name value=~Spider~/>
<Appearance value="spider"/>
<Starting_Item value="bite"/>
<Strength value="10"/>
<Agility value="20"/>
<Toughness value="10"/>
<Health value="20"/>
<Brawl_Precision value="10"/>
<Movement value="10"/>
<Cannot_Loot value="0"/>
<Cannot_Manipulate value="0"/>
</xml>

The function arguments for _encounter make quite a formidable list—as most of them are optional and not strictly necessary to create a garden variety encounter, we will not exhaustively discuss each one.

Here goes. Don't be frightened.

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Rules and Mechanics: Special Equipment Properties

What sets one piece of gear apart from another? Sheer offensive (base damage) or defensive (damage resistance) potential is an easy measure, sure. But there are more nuances to equipment in The Broken Hourglass than that. Two weapons may have the same base damage potential, but their distinctive capabilities may make one better suited to a particular opponent or scenario than another.

Weapons draw from a pool of four major properties:

  • Parrying. Weapons such as short swords, rapiers and quarterstaves are particularly good at parrying incoming strikes. Although you may attempt to use the Parry skill without a Parrying weapon in-hand, it won't work as well. (Remember from our explanation of attacking and defending that an attack may be Dodged, Parried, or Deflected—the game automatically chooses the best defensive mode versus any given attack.)
  • Penetrating. Axes, maces, spears, arrows, bolts and some polearms are designed to either cleave or pierce through armor or transfer momentum and energy through it. Armor is not as effective at absorbing damage from Penetrating weapons.
  • Flexible. Flails are articulated and can wrap around obstructions. They are difficult to deflect or parry.
  • Rapid. Because of their tremendous velocity, arrows and bolts cannot be easily dodged or parried.

 

Weapons may possess more than one quality—for instance, a bow is both Penetrating and Rapid.

A special property of defensive equipment is Deflect. Shields have the Deflect property and enable a wielder to use the Deflect defense skill. Unlike the Dodge and Parry skill, you may only use Deflect if using a Deflect-enabled shield. Bigger, stronger shields grant bigger bonuses to the Deflect skill. Shields do not provide damage resistance as such.

All weapons have a Range, drawn from a list of five possible choices. A weapon may have only one range, although a weapon may be used to attack a target closer than its maximum range. We do not simulate a penalty for using a very long polearm against someone standing right next to you.

The applicable ranges in the game, from shortest (not much more than literally arm's length away) to furthest (a character's sight range) are:

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Moonshine, Chapter 3

The four-part tale Moonshine continues this month. Klavel, junior partner in one of Mal Nassrin's illicit pitfighting rackets, has stumbled upon two brutal murders in less than a day, and can't seem to find out why the victims were killed or even how they were connected--and he can't quite make himself not care, either. Missed Chapters 1 and 2, or our earlier serial On the Fly? See our complete list of serials here.

Moonshine
By Sonja Littell-Trotter

Chapter 3


I am halfway to the door when it occurs to me that this might be the only chance I have to get a good look at a few things. I turn back, this time meaning to go through the small lockbox that Larius kept. It takes me a moment to spot it; I've not been in his rooms often. I drop to one knee awkwardly. The box is there, half under the bed on that spotless floor. I immediately know that whatever is in there is mostly useless. The box is far too light.

The lock rattles brokenly as the lid opens. Someone has already been up here and gone through it. I glance up at Larius' slack face. Maybe. Or maybe he doesn't--didn't, rather--trust me any more than I do Knock.

I quit the room, closing the door behind me. The hall is still empty. If there are other guests, they're keeping to themselves. I go back the way I came. Gillian needs to be told and I need to be shocked. Well, maybe she wouldn't believe shock. Grief? Irritation? I may not like the old man, but I worked with him for fifteen years and that's not nothing.

Down the steps. Going down is harder than going up. I don't see Gillian right away and when I reach the bottom of the stairs and walk in to the common room I don't see her at all. I debate keeping the key, but then decide I'd rather not have it. What else would I need in that room anyway? I stick my head into the kitchen at the women lackadaisically peeling whatever misbegotten vegetables will fill out the stew tonight.

"Where'd Gillian get to?" I ask. They all look up, at nearly the same time.

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Broken Hourglass On GamingTrend TrendCast
News and review site GamingTrend features an interview about The Broken Hourglass in a recently released TrendCast. Listen to the latest about our upcoming title here.
 
Death and Beyond in Tolmira
It could be said that one can learn as much about a people from how they die as how they live. We present excerpts from the customs and rituals surrounding dying, death, and beyond in Tolmira...
The God Oron

Superstition holds that shadow is not merely the absence of light-- that your shadow is born with you and follows you to the grave, standing witness to all your actions and reciting them before your maker at the time of judgment. This tradition derives from the lesson of the god Oron, who governs law and death.

Created from the primordial darkness at the same instant that light first sprang into being, Oron watches over the gods. In that sense, he is shadow given form—the shadow of the creation of the other gods. The Black Warden, as he is sometimes called, watches over the rest of the pantheon and guards the souls of the dead until such time as Fire can return to judge them.

As protector of the dead, Oron is afforded more individual organized worship than most of the other gods. His clergy is large and powerful, despite his relatively minor role in the history of the world and the meddlings of the other deities. Based primarily out of the City of Chains, an independent city to the north of Tolmira and said to be built on the site of a great battle between Uulix and Oron, it is perhaps the most powerful monotheistic church in the known world. Followers of Oron preach an ordered existence, with obedience to those above you and protection to those below you.

 


After Death

The popular, but by no means universally accepted, image of the moments after death:

Immediately after the body dies, the soul awakens in the Gray Realm, a distorted, fog-shrouded mirror of the real world where the dead can still bear witness to the affairs of the living. The soul remains in the Gray Realm until The Words are spoken over the body. This alerts Oron to the death, and he sends his Takers to gather the soul and deliver it to the afterlife. This is why it is not uncommon to see soldiers recite a short-form version of the Words over their fallen enemies—the fear that the unmourned dead may have power and influence over the world of the living so long as they remain in the Gray Realm.

The exact nature of the afterlife beyond the Gray Realm is subject to greater debate, but it is generally believed that it is a static, unchanging place, which cares little for accomplishments in life. Those in the afterlife are said to await the return of the Sun God at the end of time, where all final judgments will be passed down.

 

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Broken Hourglass Dev Diary at RPGWatch

RPGWatch has published the first installment of the producer diary for The Broken Hourglass, covering the theme of wishful thinking and dangerous questions.

Read all about it here.

 
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