Science or Fiction

by Kyzrati on 20130124 , under

Andrew has put together a well-written short about Victor Wade's dilemma in Rookie's Tale. You may have to play Rookie's Tale a few times before getting the underlying idea he's presented here. It's not something I'd considered when originally designing the scenario, but works well given the premise:


Kaol was sick and tired of the piss that passed for booze in this damn shack.
Taking another swig of the ruddy liquid, he longed for a glass of real alcohol. A beer would be amazing right now, and it would help take the edge off of the sword wound on his neck. Damn lucky, he was, that the goblin hadn't taken his head clean off; his last potion had stopped the worst of the bleeding after he had bashed the last of the bastards into paste, and after he had crawled his sorry ass back here a priest - the same man sitting across from him, actually - had stitched his flesh back together with a kind word to his deity.

Leaning back in the creaky three-and-a-half-legged chair, he spent a bit of time wondering where the nearest pub was before shrugging resignedly, realizing that he'd have to walk for a few days to get anywhere more civilized than the collection of huts the locals had dubbed a "town."

Kaol's pleasant thoughts were interrupted, however, as a stranger banged through the front door. The unshaven man stood a tad bit taller than he did, wearing the tattered purple scraps of an armor made from a metal Kaol didn't recognize. Some sort of weapon was slung over his shoulder. The man stumbled, catching his fall on a table nearby and leaning on it for support.

"No..." he croaked.

"Somethin' wrong?" the barkeep called from behind his counter; the newcomer waved at him dismissively, looking at Kaol's priest friend with strange, hungry eyes.

"This isn't right," he whispered. "Where... where's Zilith?"

"What the 'ell are you talkin' about?" Kaol asked. This fellow didn't seem drunk, or on anything Kaol had ever taken before; despite that, the strange man didn't quite seem there. Maybe he was mad.

"You... were there," the man muttered, ignoring Kaol's question. His eyes swept through the cramped room, taking in the dingy furniture, dying hearth and the wizard sitting silently at the far end near the embers. Despite his apparent attentiveness his eyes were glazed over, seeing something only he could see. Definitely mad.

"You... Tsek... you were there, that's right..." the madman said, pointing to the robed figure; by the look of shock that flew across the wizard's face Kaol figured he didn't know the man. "And you... Kaol... you were there... but you weren't," he continued, pointing at the priest.

"Now jus ow in tha 'ell do ya know me?" Kaol asked, standing up and knocking his flimsy chair over. "Who tha 'ell are ya?"

"Victor," the madman said, nearly whispering. "Tsek is here... Kaol is here... where's Zilith?"

Kaol drew his mace from his belt. "Ya got one more chance, ya bastard. How in tha name a Belthas do ya know me?"

Victor's unfocused gaze sharpened, boring into Kaol's own. Despite himself the fighter stepped back; the ferocity behind those eyes scared him. "You were born in a town, a far distance away from here. Your father was a blacksmith, your mother died during childbirth. For your fourteenth birthday your father made you a sword; you lost it three years later to a dragon and you never forgave yourself for it. I can get it back for you." Kaol was struck by a wave of confusion, anger and a tinge of long-buried regret as those events flashed through his mind's eye. Was this Victor a psychic? An oracle? How did he know...

"And you," the madman said, turning to point at the mage - Tsek. "Your mother was a mage and raised you into the profession. You are ashamed that you can only cast a single spell and are hoping that adventuring will help you learn more to finally prove yourself to her. I can help you do that." The man in question just stared at Victor, shock written across his face. "But you... priest of Belthas... I don't know you... Zilith should be there... was there..."

The stranger slumped to the ground with a groan, leaning against the wall and holding his face in his hands. Kaol shared a look with his priest and the mage, and by silent agreement the priest stood and walked over to the madman.
"My name is Shentong," he said softly, crouching in front of Victor. "I am, as you guessed, a priest of Belthas." Victor looked up, tears streaming down his face. "What happened to you?"

"She died," the man whispered; Kaol struggled to hear him, even from a few feet away, and he struggled with the urge to creep closer. The priest might be able to strangle some sense out of the loon and figure out how the hell he knew so much... how he knew about Kaol. He didn't want to scare the man away, and kept his distance. "I... it's all so foggy, but... I remember her smile, her hair, her kindness... I remember her. And I let her die."

"What happened?" Shentong asked softly, concern and kindness etched across his face. "Do you remember?"

"I... there were monsters... no, aliens... they sent me here... I was, we were looking... I can't remember, it was something important..." Shentong met the barkeeper's eye, gesturing upstars; the barkeep responded with a nod. "Let's get you upstairs. See if some rest will help you remember."

Victor nodded wordlessly and allowed himself to be led upstars; as Kaol watched the two of them stumble out of sight, the mage approached him. "Do you know that man?"

"No," Kaol growled. "An' I'd guess ya don', either." The mage shook his head.
"I have no idea how he... found out..."

"Nor I." Kaol cracked his neck and rested a hand on his mace. "But I intend ta find out." With that, he followed the priest and his charge upstairs. No matter what this Shentong said, he wasn't going to let the madman rest until he had answers. With the mage trailing him, he stomped upstars to confront the madman.


You can read a couple more fan fiction stories on the forum here and here, though they appear in the members-only board for now. (We'll have a dedicated public fan fiction board later once the game gets bigger.)

"You are ashamed that you can only cast a single spell"... I love that line, so fitting.

Another memorable excerpt from one of Andrew's stories that I'm sure anyone can appreciate:

"It's a good plan and we're a lot better equipped than last time, so I think we can pull it off. What do you think, Kyzrati?"

The erratic mage hummed in thought for a moment. "I'd give it a good thirty-three percent chance that one of us, at least, will survive."

"Better than X-COM usually does," Victor muttered. "You guys ready?"

10101 has posted a screenshot showing what could be the "worst start ever" in Rookie's Tale.
Good luck, Victor.

Development on the game itself has been slow of late. The only new feature worthy of mention is the ability to show all destinations within range of a unit given its current TU/EN. This is a pretty much a standard feature for TBS games and has been on my to-do list for a while, so I threw it together a few days ago since I had recently added Dijkstra processing to the pathfinding class for other uses.

It's nice because it updates as you move, so you can see the area reduce in size as you take each step (most useful while using a keyboard). Another advantage is it's a way to easily see what spaces can and cannot be occupied. It has a couple of [unimportant] known issues, but should work fairly well.

Various News Items:
  • There have been a few new unannounced minor updates to X@COM, and we're now at 8.5. The latest version of Rookie's Tale has been repackaged with the current version.
  • A Rookie's Tale has been updated several times since it was first released, mostly minor fixes and improvements. If you're playing now and plan to create golems, I recommend the new version since I had apparently broken that spell before the original release. Thanks to 10101 for finding almost everything that needed fixing so far. There may be more silent updates in the future, if anything else is reported.
  • "Aggression" the mod has been updated by 10101, who added a possible mage tower and burned mill to the map generator and gave the Elder an extra healing spell. (The mod's original author is Andrew Sundberg.) 
  • By request, the blog has been reopened to anonymous comments for anyone who has something to say. I'd still prefer you leave some name that we can know you by (which you can do without logging in) in case you end up with multiple comments.

The next post will come fairly soon, as soon as I can organize my notes on potential new features to seek some feedback.
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