The Crossing

Playing The Crossing, I would have to be a simulacrum (as some of you guessed I would).

Not that it’s an easy decision, mind you. I’m writing a book about this world, so I have all sorts of personal attachments to various aspects of all three races. But I’ve classified this one as the one most inclined towards the whole sneaky sneak-thief thing, and that is what cements it for me, as a player of videogames.

So, my simulacrum.

What skills have I developed? Simulacra don’t do well in close-combat (without a significant bolstering of strength and defenses), so my main weapon is a sling. I sneak around, and pick off monsters from a distance, and if they make it to close range then I have to debilitate them quickly, or flee.

Simulacra, compared with the gate people, have less generally powerful but more specialised ghosts. My left arm is built from the corpse of a snake, and this allows me to develop abilities that help me paralyze and incapacitate enemies. My right arm is built from the corpse of a crow, and this enhances all sorts of things related to scavenging and lockpicking.

As I explore the numerous dungeons in the game, my main interests involve finding treasure chests, and mining raw gemstones which I can then facet and polish with my much-levelled Lapidary Skill (ie. gem-cutting [ie. hot shiny action]). Other crafting skills that I’m working to level up more gradually are grass-weaving (lightest armour type), and alchemy (potions and poisons – snake-arm gives me bonuses here as well).

I also have an NPC companion, Vetch. He specialises in support and defense, but he’s not very stealthy, so my tactic is to leave him a little ways behind me and retreat to his position if I stumble across an enemy that I can’t kill (or sneakily avoid) by myself.

Vetch accepts a portion of my loot as payment, and he spends it on upgrading his armour and weapons (if I don’t keep them up to snuff, myself).

If I play in a party with other people, my main role is to “debuff”. In other words, I debilitate enemies in a variety of ways (paralyze them, slow them, etc.), making them easier to defeat.

What might an average day look like for me, in-game?

Logging on, I would be in my house – a smallish shack in a river village, located somewhere in the big left-central swamp you see on the map. The village itself is full of fishermen and boatbuilders, travelling merchants, and a few lower-level trainers.

I could rent a camel-thing (I haven’t got a name for them yet, so bear with me while they’re still referred to as “camel-things”), and ride to a nearby city, but I’d rather hold off on that until I’ve found some treasure to sell.

So I rent a camel-thing anyway (I’m still saving up money to buy one of my own), and head east towards a large system of ruins throughout which there are many dungeons, most of which I have yet to explore in full. Vetch tags along, too, because he’s good-natured liked that.

The ruin I choose is smaller than the others –  I don’t want to spend too long at this – and I hear it has some good mining opportunities. What sort of shinies do we want, today? Garnets? Let’s say it has some really nice garnets, all wine-dark and full of secrets, and I want them. I leave Vetch at the entrance and sneak in.

On the upper level, the monsters are weak enough that I can sneak around them, taking advantage of shadows cast by the light pooling down from cracks in the ceiling. A ways in, I see a rock face that I can mine, so I take out my little hammer and chisel to see what I can glean. Nice nubbly raw garnets? Don’t mind if I do.

Past the mining point, the paths narrow and press downward, leading me to what I recognise as a lower-level of this particular dungeon, meaning that the enemies are going to be harder. I weigh the chances of really excellent treasure against being killed by creatures unknown – maybe another day – and I retreat back outside to where my patient Vetch is waiting for me.

I don’t feel like walking all the way back to my house (camel-things don’t stick around and wait for you, unless they belong to you), so I opt to fast-travel to the closest large city a ways south of me, where I can cut my gems, see if there’s anything I want from the merchants, trainers, etc. Sell some stuff, upgrade my Sling Skill. Vetch had asked me to do a favour for him in this particular city, so I finish that little quest, winning a bit of extra loyalty, and opening up further quest opportunities.

And I might end it there for the day, since I probably have some kind of horrible, shrieking deadline that needs tending-to.

Another player might have a very different experience. They would take advantage of different in-game opportunities. Somebody who wanted to just hack at stuff should find ready gratification as well. And so on.

I’m aware that none of this is really anything new. Good games provide it on a smaller scope, and the larger scope I’m describing is beyond anyone’s realistic resources. 

But I keep thinking back to my brief stint in FFXIV, where it seemed like every task that might have been otherwise fun could be performed only after crawling through multiple unyielding layers of thick, viscous slime. Then you had to do it 200 more times in order to level up. I’m wielding my dramatic licence pretty broadly, here, but after a month of playing it that’s really more or less how I felt. And there’s no need for that. Gruelling repetition shouldn’t be a stand-in for engaging, extensive (and ideally varied) content.

So this is it for The Crossing. Tomorrow, I’ll do a last, brief post talking about a couple of the games I’m particularly looking forward to this year. In the meantime, you guys who’ve been following this series have a good idea how this game works, so you should tell me what race/class/type/etc. you would play, yourselves. No holds barred.

26 Comments

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26 responses to “The Crossing

  1. sachikopivot

    <3 <3 <3. A game I would actually play. Not that I don't love mindlessly levelling up for hours, but I love it because it numbs me the way any mindless addiction numbs me. And I don't actually love numbing.

    Also. Please, what does camel-thing look like? I picture it with a beak. Is it beaked?

    • Marian

      I haven’t drawn it yet, so it could have a beak! I’ll see what I can do, beak-wise.

      And yes, exactly what you say about the mindless numbing. Smart lady.

      I’m going to email you now, because I need your address.

  2. chris

    i would play a humansi would have like a huge ass beard and covered half of the face with mud like one of the last post you had up with the character my guy would be a mocha brown color and i dont remember are we aloud to have tattoos well any who he would be covered in sand script like lettering and thats as far i have got but i know for sure like i do in other games i would collect all weapons or make them after leveling up and have a simulacrum as my companion no offence to you but to play the bate in battels then level it up so it can learn potions and learn how to make more weapons there is more but i dont want to go that far lol

  3. Mr. Man

    Ma’am sell this as a pen and paper rpg! This is awesome. I would totally play this original, non-Tolkinian fantasy game. I would like to play a simulacrum: I would have legs made of horses, to make me fast; arms made from moles that would help me dig and give me claws; and a chest made from monkeys so i could climb well. I would end up blowing a lot of points to make my guy a proficient melée fighter. In my wake would be the bodies of anyone not smart enough to kill me on sight.

    • Marian

      I think that a melée simulacrum, after all the extra stuff it would take to make that work, would be the coolest-looking thing ever.

      Like I told John there below, I’ve never played a pen-and-paper RPG game before, so I’d make a sad show of creating one from scratch. Maybe some day, some ideal group of hardcore classic D&D people in Vancouver will invite me into their fold, wherein I will accrue the necessary experience.

  4. I figure I’d personally like to be a Simulacra with maybe a bit of turtle in me for some minor armor protection as well as a salamander for some poisoning/alchemy skill. If possible I’d like the character to be am alchemist specializing in healing potion/beer brewing/and some kind of offensive potions as well (In case you forgotten you claimed to like my real homebrew ;) )

    Can’t wait to see what you do with the book. I know you said you haven’t much experience with dice game (neither do I, really) but it might be fun to try and figure out a way to play this game outside of a computer for now.

    • Marian

      I have not forgotten! I’m not a beer person (which I know, to you, is sacreligious), but your homebrew was, like, so good. Totally took me by surprise.

      • yeah, people love my Belgium White, but you should try my Belgium White “Lite” ( I switch out half the wheat malt for corn sugar [flavorless alcohol] and honey [sweet alcohol]). It was created due to an ingredient purchasing snafu, but its increase in alcohol and flavor change was a favorite of everyone at my 30th.

  5. Sophie

    I’d absolutely want to be a gate person! (<- assuming that's the correct singular) Probably a female one (gate woman?) with loads of tattoes, and I would like the character to be a kind of hunter/gatherer, using her ghost as a scout. As a profession, tanner would be suitable, but I wouldn't want to kill the poor camel-things! So I hope there will be more animals? Maybe some vulture-like big birds for the desert? Small ferrety-things?

    On the whole, The Crossing is epic and I'm gutted it probably won't make it to a real game D:

    You keep going, Marian! Thanks for repeatedly blowing my mind!

    • Marian

      Definitely more animals. They’d all look a little different from normal (earth) ones, rather like how the gate people look different from humans.

      Gate people is almost certainly a temporary name – I kept avoiding using the singular in my posts, because nothng sounded quite right.

      Using a ghost as a scout is so cool, I love that idea. I might have to steal it, in fact. The main character (sort of) in my book is a female gate person, or gate woman, or whathaveyou.

  6. Steven Lee

    I just found this today, and it sounds awesome. I’ve always wanted to play an RPG where I did not just have to be a warrior/fighter. I’d like to be a Gate Person, male, and play as a trader. Either sitting on the coast with my own ship, and facilitating trade and travel, or holding an outpost in the middle of a difficult continent with caravans of camel-things moving through, that would be what I’d want to do.

    I’d still participate in questing, but I’d hope for more than storming dungeons with quest parties. I’m one of those who prefer to game solo.

    • Marian

      Oh, totally. It would be crucial that you could be a merchant or craftsman, exclusively, and not feel like you were missing out on anything. I wish more games had that stuff.

  7. You know, I’m pretty torn on deciding what I would want to be.
    My big thing would be dungeon exploring,treasure hunting, and monster hunting.
    It sounds like a human would fit my more action-oriented play style, but whenever I’ve played a game with some different combination you can make to how your character fights, I usually tack on a job or skill that allows me to buff and de-buff (Corsair with Thief in XI, Lancer skill-based Gladiator in XIV…god I hope they add Muskateer someday soon…or just some actual content…). I’m also the type to sort of go against the norms of how you’re “supposed” to play a character class. I’ll struggle for a while because of it, but I usually end up with something unique that plays exactly how I WANT, which seems most important.
    Simulacrum seem the most “fun”. They get more customisation, it seems, with adding in what your limbs are made of. I really like the whole masked face, and their history seems interesting to me. It sounds like it would be a little tougher to play a DD-style one, but the challenge of getting there and the reward also sounds so satisfying.
    I hate to say, but I’d have to really see what kinds of arms and animals you can put in would yield, before settling down. Although, I must admit, your character’s arms really appeal to me. Any time I play an Elder Scrolls game, I just can’t help myself from picking every single lock I come across…

    • Marian

      Me too. Even though I knew the chests just had random crap in them (tongs and calipers!), I still had to pick those locks.

      Anyway, I’d want all races to have about equal customisation in char-gen and beyond. Simulacra would just have the opportunity to specialise more vigorously, with the animal-parts things. Which could be good or bad, depending on your personal preferences.

      I remember the Lancer abilities looking really interesting, in XIV. I have to fight the urge to drop in a see how things are evolving.

  8. Hey, my names Shawn, and I have to tell you this has completely captured my imagination. If this is going to be a book, I am beyond excited.

    The world seems the perfect balance of simplicity and grandeur, fantasy and realism. I may, with your blessing, steal the setting for a Pen and Paper game (with friends, obviously).

    As to what character I would play, that’s a tough one. I’m thinking human, because, well – I can relate. Also, the idea of making the long, long pilgrimage to my final gate is alluring. My play style would be very minimalist-survival. I imagine my character coming through the first gate with a stone sword and a heavy wooden shield. I think I’d also like some small scar, to signify the blow that finally killed me.

    All of my actions would be to prepare me for, as well as finance, my journey. Helping people out for a place to sleep, food to eat, or coin (if there is coin. What sort of currency does a world between world almost just for the dead have? What is this world, if just a point between two destinations? Write this God damn book, please). Anything to help me get just a little farther.

    I’d prefer to get a camel-thing, but I wouldn’t be above walking. Companions would come and go, but I suppose a Gate person guide would be the most useful to me. Someone to help me figure out what this place is all about. Also: heal me.

    I’m just wondering, what are the cities and towns like? Architecture-wise, I guess.

    • Marian

      Thanks very much. And I would be so thrilled if you and your friends did some Pen and Paper gaming with this – you have my many blessings.

      Let me think.

      As a human, you should know that whatever you come through the gate with, the one thing you no longer have is your name (which is to say, you can’t remember it. Or anyone else’s name from your life, for that matter).

      I haven’t thought too much about currency. An online game would need it, but for my personal purposes I imagine it would be more of a general barter system, together with some mixed, local currencies (seaside towns use seashells, etc.). Men might bring gold across.

      Architecture-wise, clay huts, adobe houses, straw and mud. Desert stuff. Ruins would be impressive, but still simple and monolithic.

      Books take me forever, but I’ll try to keep this one on the shorter side of forever. For my own sanity, if nothing else.

  9. Gentleman Goyle

    As a sometime dabbler in worldbuilding and the construction of games, I have to say this is a very intriguing world you’ve built and I love it. :) I particularly enjoy that the different races offer different gameplay options, rather than being merely a case of +2 to stat x and -2 to stat y which is so often the case.

    Personally I’m particularly drawn to the Simulacrum as I enjoy their rather strange nature. Perhaps a fun gameplay mechanism for them, to go with them being sort of soluble in water would be to make to them able to heal from certain kinds of attacks by applying moisture or dryness. For instance if someone used fire to hurt them they’d be somewhat dessicated, but could replenish health by going into the water, or in the opposite case, by taking a sand bath.

    • Marian

      Yeah, the stat thing always just feels limiting. It should feel like more options, choosing between races, rather than fewer.

      Simulacrum would have to have something balancing out the extreme weakness to elements, wouldn’t they. Or at least well-implemented, not-tedious ways to deal with it.

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  10. FYI, this is the coolest thing I have seen in a very long time. I played Morrowind for a short stint back in highschool and haven’t done many MMRPGs ever, but this reminds me of some aspects of the Elder Scrolls games, except better.

    Here is a brief question: what role does technology play in this world? That was always something that intrigued me in the Final Fantasy games, though I never played XIV. There is always this weird interaction between human advancement, the harnessing of existing supernatural powers, and the conflict therein created between races and environment, etc. Something that ends up running into an extremely meta loop when I realize I am playing in an imaginary world created with technology rather than thinking and dealing with situations in the real world.

    Game philosophy aside, your work is incredibly inspiring and evocative, and I wish you the best of fortunes in the development of this universe!

    • Marian

      Thanks. I have much more fondess for Elder Scrolls-type games than MMORPGs, generally speaking, so I guess that’s not surprising at all.

      Technology, that’s a good question. In this world, it’s limited to what men from up until the 9th or 10th century earth might use. So not very much at all – very low-tech, rustic. The past inhabitants weren’t so much pre-technology as just outside of it altogether, so ruins wouldn’t have any buried machinery or anything, either.
      The Final Fantasy tech-fantasy thing interests me too. I always wanted more commentary on it (though I suppose there was some in 6 and 7, which constituted my personal FF golden-age).

  11. Kirk

    I would most likely play as a humansi or gateperson and would dedicate my gametime to quests involving combat and do-gooding. As a humansi, I would make it a focus to master all forms of weaponry and combat; as a gateperson, I would make it a focus to enhance the power of my ghost. I would also roam the world over looking for other regional champions and challenging them to duels. And venturing into whatever dungeons and/or ruins that cross my path, of course.

  12. kim

    i would have a gateperson that knows how to trick his ghost into a temple shield, worn in his travels but never actually fielded in combat. a strange light sometimes flickers from one of the many holes in the worked wood. through the night, it’s a reassuring prescence – a window for his ghost…

    npc’s would come to seek my gateperson when their quest hero has failed to return, for they whisper that the house of wayward eats the sin of the almost and the over. on these night there are many lights, and the wood resonates a haunting melody…

    • Marian

      Ooh, that is a thought, the ghosts being hosted in objects (not to say haunting…). This would have to be possible.

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