Updates from the Forge 53: Spring 2024

Started by Jubal, March 31, 2024, 05:37:48 PM

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Issue 53: Spring 2024


Welcome to a new issue of Updates from the Forge! This is Exilian's fifty-third newsletter of creative geekery, and as usual before we dig into the exciting articles on particular projects, we'll start you off with some of what's been going on around the community.

The early part of a year is a busy section of the Exilian calendar, starting with January's election results where our current staff team of Jubal, Glaurung, Spritelady and Tusky all stayed in their current roles. We as usual also had celebrations for Cyril & Methodius Day and for Exilian's birthday: our little community is now over sixteen years old, so there are people who can buy alcohol and vote in some jurisdictions who've never lived in a world where Exilian didn't exist which is a rather curious thought. We also reached 150,000 posts across the site in January, which is an enormous milestone for a small community like ours and testament to our still having a vibrant creative presence over a decade and a half from when this site was founded.

One major announcement which has already and very recently had its own front page is that Priory Games' Under the Yoke is now out, so do go and take a look at that if you're keen to dig into the world of medieval peasant life with a simulation covering everything from cooking to interactions with the market to the pressures of village social life in 12th and 13th century England.

We've also had a great range of new articles: Exilian's post #150,000 was an interview with our long standing member and TTRPG developer Phoenixguard09, which covers the inspirations and design philosophy behind his Norbayne RPG and setting. We've also had rbuxton regaling us with tales of his travels and reflections on the places he visited in 2023 - keep an eye out for part 2 coming out pretty soon into April. Finally, as a contribution both to Exilian Articles and to the asynchronous game dev conference #NotGDC, Jubal wrote us a piece on how to think about history for game developers, introducing some of the discussions and ideas in academic discussions of games and history and how those thought process can affect your approaches.

The first part of a new year is always a hectic time: one never feels that the old year has quite been put away properly, and yet there's always new things to do. We've got a spring in our step with the range of new creators this issue though, with an exciting range of new faces in the dev section and new faces added to older projects as our arts & writing news includes new seasons and story rewrites. We've also got a packed miscellany section with new Coding Medieval Worlds videos, cute spring animals, and more besides. So with all that to come, let the flowers bloom around the following issue of Updates from the Forge...


  • Editorial & Community News
  • Game Development
    • Will you consult the Twilight Oracle?
    • Exile Princes now Wishlistable on Steam!
    • Keith Ruiter's History Check
    • Score High with Mushy Score!
  • Arts & Writing
    • Ren series two being released now!
    • Reimagining the Chain with Rbuxton
    • New Poetry from Jubal
  • Miscellany
    • Coding Medieval Worlds IV videos now available!
    • Terms Of Service: Didn't Read...
    • A Yay for Nature in Exilian's Great Library
    • SoundImage turns 10 years old


Will you consult the Twilight Oracle?

New member Cosmic Void has published Twilight Oracle, a point and click adventure featuring a bunch of science-magic school dropouts who, under threat of an abrupt end to their education, must use their powers to uncover the truth behind why they were sent to a distant alien world to attempt a seemingly impossible task. Leo, the main player character, is a water breathing student whose terrible grades have led him to be given a certain "special assessment" on a distant alien planet: his fellow students mind-reader Jill, fire-maker Marcus, and wind-summoner Olivia are all part of solving the puzzles around the island, as are talkative fish, a candy obsessed princeling, and an astronaut with some measuring equipment issues.

The game offers classic zany adventure gaming humour and unusual solutions to a variety of item puzzles, contributed to by the often juvenile silliness of Leo and his high school friends. The game is fully voice-acted in the English language version for the full "I definitely didn't think before opening my mouth" dialogue experience. There are also unique hidden interactions that you can find to get bonus achievements - will you be able to solve all the island's puzzles and discover the secrets behind the dropouts' very strange school program? You can find out by hearing the words of the Twilight Oracle! There's also more coming soon from Cosmic Void, with his next title Devil's Hideout coming to Kickstarter in the very near future, so keep an eye out for that.

Exile Princes now Wishlistable on Steam!

Jubal's fantasy strategy-RPG The Exile Princes has been in development for over half a decade now, but in the last few months it's made a big new jump towards launch with the release of the game's Steam and itch.io pages! You can now wishlist the game on Steam to be informed when it goes live. There's also a new gameplay trailer, which you can watch below, showing the simple combat systems, some of the many decisions you can make about yourself and your companions, and moving around the map. It also includes some of the game's bardic song soundtrack as written by the developer!

The Exile Princes uses a simple but characterful tile-art map based on medieval manuscript art to have the player explore a detailed generated world in which the cities, districts, regions, taverns and characters change with each playthrough. Your player character sets out with a small retinue and the ultimate aim of moving the Exile Realms wholly into their faction's leadership and control. On the way you'll be able to recruit companions with different personalities and opinions on events, meet and do tasks for the cities' leaders, attend feasts and tournaments, pursue different ideals and romances, and more besides. The unique medieval-fantasy world is one where wood sprites, blemmyes and grotesque part-beast folk live in an uneasy mix with the humans of the Exile Realms, and where a colourful mix of chivalry, faith, politicking, hope, traditions and freedoms all hang in the balance as you make your mark on the cities of the land.

Recent additions to the game have included Steam achievements, a number of which will be available for certain feats as you play through the game and for victory or accomplishments playing as the four key factions. There have also been improvements to the late game, where there's now a chance that the enemy factions will band together as your faction grows to rule around half the map, providing a much stronger late-game challenge with a designated enemy king whose honour guard provide an especially difficult combat experience. For all this and more features to come, do follow along with development - a release is expected later this year.

Keith Ruiter's History Check

New Exilian member and regular Coding Medieval Worlds (on which more later this issue) attendee Dr. Keith Ruiter has started a new YouTube channel to help bring historical excitements to your game dev and gaming tables! Drawing on his own expertise as a scholar of the viking age, and with potential plans to bring in other historians covering a variety of further specialisms and time periods, the aim of History Check is to provide inspiration and ideas from the past to build richer and more diverse gaming worlds. This direct video advice channel is a really welcome and interesting addition to the exciting constellation of different

Videos so far include guides on using medieval Scandinavian history to improve your D&D 5e bards and barbarians, some discussion of touring real historical sites as inspiration for your games, and on naming systems for TTRPG characters in light of the early medieval world. Historical ideas can help us rethink even basic features of the game: charisma, for example, doesn't need to mean your bard is a rizzed-up extrovert in a world where a warrior-poet can be little loved but still able to turn a crowd with the sheer force of their poetic oratory. And high levels of lore, in worlds less driven by the written word, can be as much the result of connectivity to the gods or ancient powers of the earth as being the result of book-learning and time in the libraries, a connectivity that a bard may be especially suited to obtain.

For all this and much more to come, why not (history) check it out?

Score High with Mushy Score!

Another new member with a new game, Paahtimo, has brough us Mushy Score - your mushy, a little mushroom with legs and a disconcerting number of enemies who want to kill it, must battle through levels of enemies in 2d sidescrolling platformer style. Using elemental upgrades to change up attacks and defences, your little mushy will have to rapidly up its game as more and more foes try to destroy its brightly coloured and probably only somewhat toxic little fungal form. The game is available for less than three euros on Steam and Itch, and should provide some pacy brightly coloured fun for a damp spring afternoon!


Ren series two being released now!

Our friends and previous convention guests from Mythica Entertainment have, after several years, been releasing Ren: The Girl With The Mark series two! With a new lead duo of Oriana Charles and Alexander Hackett as Ren and Hunter, series two picks up where season one left off with the pair fleeing the village of Lyngarth where Ren's accidental absorption of a Mahri spirit has brought the attention and anger of the ruling Kah'Nath armies. As of the time of writing three of the four episodes of Series Two have been released, and you can check them out on YouTube.

Ren is funded on Patreon, and the team have an aim of reaching 300 subscribers to bring in the funding needed for series three, which will hopefully go into production later this year. The patreon offers additional rewards including more behind the scenes detail, early views of the series when it comes out, and short stories by a team of secondary writers including our own Jubal. There's a lively community around the series too, including a Facebook group, a fan wiki, and of course our own Ren forum on Exilian.

With all of that out there and more to come, it's a great time to start following this brilliant indie production - with the four fifteen-minute episodes of Series Two having been made for the approximate price of one second of Amazon's Rings of Power, it's an impressive testament to the skill and passion of the team that it's building up such a following. With the brief episode times it's also an easy show to watch while doing the washing up or in a short slot of time, too - perhaps you'll find one soon to catch up with Ren and Hunter's adventures?

Reimagining the Chain with Rbuxton

At long, long, last, we reached the door. Pressing tight against it to seek respite from the wind, I beat against it with the haft of my axe-turned-walking pole.
"Who goes there?" asked a voice, muffled by stone.

"Can't we do the interrogation inside? It's freezing out here," I replied, more concerned for comfort than security at this point.

"Spoken like a true spy. Who knocks?"

"I am Ren," I said, "With me are Monok, Turin and Pey: three men with only one tongue between them."

What if our chain writings had gone a different way altogether? In this new short story, rbuxton reimagines a tale started in our 2018 Chain Writing Project Of Storms and Silence. Taking the initial stub of the tale as far as his own section (second on the original chain), he's rewritten the rest of the story along a different path. It's a really interesting writing experiment and comparison in seeing how the same story might develop with a single author compared to the multi-authored chain writing system, and it's a fun story in its own right as well.

In Rbuxton's re-entitled On Three Kings' Crag, Monok, Turin and Pey, the three men with only one tongue between them, return in a rather different form and with a rather different adventure ahead, as rbuxton's fascination with language and speech takes the tale in a new direction. In his hands, a clash between different ways of keeping history, and the language of the downtrodden Southerners, come together as a band seek not only refuge but the path to a mysterious Scribe who will pronounce their fate in unexpected ways - read on to discover the rest of the tale!

New Poetry from Jubal

We've had a few new poems from Jubal already in 2024, including two very contrasting longer pieces. The Lost Child of Amberlea is a poem that hints at an unexplained story and the strains and perils of precarity in modern social, financial and legal systems, with the speaker imagining the crisp lines of the real world and the difficulties of resolving its problems before returning to the simpler, less clear, less actionable - but somehow more real - thoughts brought along by the natural world beyond.

Meanwhile, there's the converse reminder that one should probably not take Jubal too seriously at any time, in the form of Upon The Matter Of The Ankylosaur, a long winded poem that is about sixty percent dinosaur puns. If you want to know why Jubal dismisses the Pachycephalosaurus, Pteranodon, Plesiosaur, and other contenders for the prize of best dinosaur then you can now find out in fifty-one lines of rhyming verse, information I'm sure you were dying to get in exactly that format. Read on to discover more!


Coding Medieval Worlds IV videos now available!

Our fourth Coding Medieval Worlds workshop took place in February! Once again organised by a team in conjunction with the University of Vienna digital humanities department, this year's theme of Outcasts and Monsters proved a great success with two intense days of exciting ideas and exchanges between historians and game developers throughout the event. Thanks especially to all our speakers, and to the team of Jafeth, Tess (tesswatty), Blair, Madeline (TheLichQueen), and Liam for all their work alongside Jubal in making the event happen.

CMW4 having happened also means you can catch up with the resulting content on our YouTube channel. We had three panel events: a discussion on Monsters around Medieval Worlds covering Icelandic, Chinese, and Indian historic ideas of monstrosity, a panel on Life on the Medieval Margins which focused on how we think about outcast and marginalised people in medieval settings, and a How Monsters Work panel with two historians and one game developer looking at specific monsters and how they work in their game and historical contexts. There's also a great keynote talk by Tess Watterson on playing with medievalism and monstrosity, which looks at a range of aspects of how medievalism and monsters are interpreted in games, with an especial focus on how femininity and monstrosity interconnect.

You can catch up with all that, and with the similarly great videos from previous Coding Medieval Worlds events, on the Exilian Channel:

Terms Of Service: Didn't Read...

A useful resource for those who want a more informed way to browse the web, Jubal recently started a thread on TOSDR, or Terms of Service: Didn't Read. Aiming to fix the extent to which "I have read and agree to the Terms of Service" is the most common lie everyone tells on the internet, the website is an analysis and comparison of the Terms of Service agreements of different major players on the web. Whether it will lead to many shifts in how people do things - people often are stuck with big players even when they'd rather not be due to network and scale effects - it's definitely a useful resource and one where users can learn a lot about exactly what they're really signing up to when using Facebook, Reddit, Amazon, Spotify, Pinterest and more sites besides. Exilian is not yet listed, but we'd like to think we'd do reasonably well - maybe someday you'll be able to find out!

A Yay for Nature in Exilian's Great Library

In Exilian's Great Library - our forum area for history, science, and other interesting information about the world - we maintain a number of threads for posting exciting news from worlds like palaeontology, history, and space exploration. Another of these is the Nature Yays thread, which is a great look at some of the fascinating bits of natural and earth history that have cropped up in the news. Of particular recent excitement has been the new discovery of the Excastra albopilosa, the sole discovered member of a whole genus of longhorn beetle from Australia. This incredible little creature is fluffy, with strange colouration and spikes - it's likely to be mimicing the look of a beetle that's died and has fungus growing on it. Fantasy often doesn't manage to capture all the bizarre things nature itself can come up with, so it's always worth looking to the natural world for inspiration in your creativity!

This is only one part of the nature one can find around Exilian, with places like the Cute and Wholesome Picture Thread providing space to share wildlife photography from our members. This includes delights such as the image to the left of some Hepatica flowers (known also as liverleaf due to their distinctive three-lobed leaf shape) in the woods southeast of Vienna, Austria. We've also recently had pictures of wild hamsters and ground squirrels, unusual ducks and wild iris and pasque flowers, so there's plenty to see over there. If you're looking for inspiration, a cute palate cleanser from some of the grimmer parts of life, or both, today might be a great time to take a look at what we have to offer there.

SoundImage turns 10 years old

To close off this issue we have a late happy birthday announcement to give, for this February the SoundImage library of free music, sound effects and images has turned ten years old! Run by long-standing Exilian friend and member Eric Matyas, SoundImage provides free resources for both commercial and non-commercial projects with attribution to the creator, and the option of purchasing non-attribution licenses or negotiating custom work with which Eric has been pretty busy recently.

The library's ten year history has meant building up a wide array of music and image types, including textures and sounds for genres from sci-fi to travel films to historical adventuring SoundImage's resources have made their way into an exciting range of Exilian members' projects over the years - and maybe they'll help yours too, next!

And that's your lot for this first quarter of 2024! We'll be back at the end of June with more exciting updates on a range of new and ongoing projects - maybe you, dear reader, will have something for us to tell the world about next time? Feedback in the comments below is as usual very welcome - but until next time, say safe and may your forges of nerdy creativity never run out of inspiration!
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...