A fragment from Wesnoth

I did some writing I’m feeling rather proud of today. It is storyline text from a Battle For Wesnoth campaign I’m working on. I’ve decided to post it here as a teaser and let my readers have the fun of deducing the kind of context in which it makes sense.

“WHO ENTERS THE TOMB OF AN-USRUKHAR?”

“I..I am Delfador, a mage of Wesnoth.”

“I am the will of An-Usrukhar, greatest of mages, he who bestrode Irdya in the morning of time, who sleeps now in a death beyond death until the unmaking of the world.”

“I am only a man, a living man seeking a way home from the house of the dead.”

“Living? …I see that it is so. Your breath stirs dust that has lain untouched since the Primal Aeon. And it was foretold that one like you would come.”

“Foretold?”

“Foretold in the Primal Aeon, years past beyond your counting. An-Usrukhar the Great, he of whom I am but the tiniest shade and fragment, foresaw in the Mirror of Evanescent Time that a living man would come here to be tested. AND I AM THE TEST!”

“I have felt the coils of prophecy on me before. I am beginning to dislike them.”

“It is only given to the small not to feel the hand of fate on their shoulder; the great must suffer its weight whether they will or no. Delfador, mage of Wesnoth, ARE YOU A SERVANT OF THE LIGHT?”

“I serve my king and my kingdom.”

“Your king will die in an eyeblink and your kingdom in the drawing of a breath. Delfador, I ask you again, ARE YOU A SERVANT OF THE LIGHT?”

“I serve my people and my land.”

“Peoples vanish and lands wither under the pitiless gaze of eternity; the true matter of the world is deeper. Delfador, I ask you a third time, and on your answer hangs your life: ARE YOU A SERVANT OF THE LIGHT?”

“I…I serve life against death. Love against fear. Light against darkness.”

(There is a momentary, brilliant flash of light.)

“IT IS WELL. Take up, O servant of light, the Staff of An-Usrukhar. The trials before you will be great. So is its power.”

47 thoughts on “A fragment from Wesnoth

  1. I assume this is something for Delfador’s Memoirs. I’m curious about “who sleeps now in a death beyond death until the unmaking of the world”, though. I saw your message on wesnoth-dev that you’re also working on cleaning up Under the Burning Suns, so I’m wondering if by the unmaking of the world you mean the UtBS backstory, and if you’re going to introduce An-Usrukhar as a UtBS character.

  2. Umm. This reminds me of the Bridgekeeper in Monty Python And The Holy Grail, armed with a high-power photoflash.

  3. >I assume this is something for Delfador’s Memoirs.

    Correct.

    >I’m wondering if by the unmaking of the world you mean the UtBS backstory, and if you’re going to introduce An-Usrukhar as a UtBS character.

    Oh, no. The true unmaking of Irdya will be much further in the future and much more devastating than that trivial error with the two suns. I have no actual plans for it yet. No, I was really evoking Swinburne via H.P. Lovecraft here, “That is not dead which can eternal lie / And with strange eons even Death may die”, and attempting to suggest a timescale vastly longer than the known history of the world.

    The UtBS cleanup is done, BTW. It was rather easier than I had expected.

  4. >http://xkcd.com/483/

    Ah, well. Clearly, since there are no made-up words in this fragment at all, its merit is infinite.

    Oh, were you counting the proper names?

  5. Sean C.:

    That graph seems appropriate since I’m working my way through Anathem, which actually contains fraas, and so far seems the most wretched example of commentary-on-the-real-world-by-way-of-an-imagined-universe this side of Jennifer Diane Reitz.

  6. Jeff: Go read the comic again and look at the image text by letting your mouse sit on the image for a second or two.

    Eric: Good point, about the made up words vs. proper names. I forgot that I con-fuse Randall’s rule about made up words with Proper Nouns on the First Page.

    So granted, this is a fragment, and maybe they don’t all show up on the first page of the real story, but it did trigger that response.

  7. >So granted, this is a fragment, and maybe they don’t all show up on the first page of the real story, but it did trigger that response.

    Not unreasonable, out of context. FYI: “Delfador” is a principal character in the original BFW (Battle For Wesnoth) campaign, Heir to the Throne. “Wesnoth” is the human kingdom around which BFW campaigns tend to revolve. “Irdya” is the name of the world, the planet; it’s only rarely used, but it’s quite canonical. The only new proper name introduced here is that of An-Usrukhar (hm, I guess “Primal Aeon” is a borderline case).

    I was, of course, emulating the style of high fantasy; there are little bits of homage to C.S. Lewis and Lord Dunsany and Jack Vance in there. I was not really trying to avoid cliche; the BFW storyline is such a compressed, low-wordage form that you can’t really do anything in it if you’re not prepared to play off the reader’s preconceptions from other fantasy and other games.

    BTW, there’s a Sophoclean irony as well. When the tomb guardian says “Your king will die in an eyeblink and your kingdom in the drawing of a breath”, Delfador is free to believe he is speaking metaphorically of the grand sweep of time, but the reader has probably already played the campaign to which this is prequel. Very soon afterwards, Delfador’s king will be murdered by his own son at the behest of his wife, who will then usurp power in Wesnoth and splinter the kingdom into warring fragments.

  8. You give me new reason to check to see that my install of wesnoth is up to date and dive back into that little fun game.

  9. Very neat! So is the typical goal with add-on campaigns to take them to mainline Wesnoth eventually? Will this campaign in particular become Wescanon?

    Oh, and do you recommend completing Heir to the Throne first?

    (The only campaign I’ve completed so far is Thursagan, and besides the small, basically unchanging unit selection, it was great. I need to replay that last scenario without taking the swiftest, easiest route. I got a lucky one-shot on the final Lich, and didn’t have to fight any of his Draugs :-))

  10. Having played Wesnoth for a bit since I read this post, I have to say the game mechanics lack the subtlety of games such as World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online.

  11. >Very neat! So is the typical goal with add-on campaigns to take them to mainline Wesnoth eventually? Will this campaign in particular become Wescanon?

    Often it is, and this one will probably enter during 1.7.

    >Oh, and do you recommend completing Heir to the Throne first?

    It’s not necessary, though it is a good introduction.

    >The only campaign I’ve completed so far is Thursagan, and besides the small, basically unchanging unit selection, it was great.

    I’m pleased you liked that campaign, because I personally wrote it. Except for that last scenario, on which I brought in a guest designer who’s good at big dungeon crawls.

    In 1.7 the Dwarves may get another unit type – Dwarven Explorer. Something like a Footpad, equal ranged and melee attacks with relatively high mobility.

  12. Though Wesnoth is fun, I think the AI cheats. I often miss 4 times in a row when the odds are well above 50%.

  13. Having played Wesnoth for a bit since I read this post, I have to say the game mechanics lack the subtlety of games such as World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online.

    In my opinion, that’s what makes Wesnoth so fun. It’s extremely easy to learn, yet not so easy to master….

  14. >In my opinion, that’s what makes Wesnoth so fun. It’s extremely easy to learn, yet not so easy to master….

    WoW shares this property, but there is a depth that is not exposed until the higher levels. I find Wesnoth lacks this depth.

  15. I think it’s a great bit of dialogue, and I’m looking forward to playing the campaign. (I’m unbiased, of course.) :-)

  16. Hmmm, kinda has a Terry Pratchett feel. Someone should do a satirical Wesnoth campaign. And I happen to be someone. ;-)

    Also, @Jim Thompson’
    I skimmed the paper, and the C++ apologist seems to be arguing over the superficial features. He should really be discussing how readily C++ programmers can form mental models of what they’re doing.

  17. About gaming experience, and about WoW… A friend of mine sums up the WoW experience by saying “11 million addicts can’t be wrong, but we can be addicts.” I play WoW on wine on Fedora, by the way.

    The story line(s) make any game enjoyable. After WoW’s grind gets to me, the story lines keep me involved.

    Regarding story lines in Wesnoth, they seem to play out more like …a story, which is refreshing. :) I haven’t seen anyone use the word “grind” with Wesnoth.

    I enjoy both games. They’re both fun, in different ways. Wesnoth seems to turn on different parts of my brain than WoW. (I’d rather not analyze this any further lest I spoil my fun.)

    One thing I think both games have in common is that the developers, whatever their role, really love the game. I can’t describe exactly how I know this, but I can tell when it’s there and I can tell when it’s not. With both WoW and Wesnoth it’s obvious: The developers love their game’s universe, its characters, and the their stories.

  18. > Though Wesnoth is fun, I think the AI cheats. I often miss 4 times in a row when the odds are well above 50%.

    You’re imagining it. It certainly doesn’t deliberately cheat, and it’s been tested extensively to make sure the RNG isn’t buggy. People suffer this delusion so frequently that there’s an FAQ item about on the site. I’d link you to it, but it seems to be down ATM.

  19. >You’re imagining it. It certainly doesn’t deliberately cheat, and it’s been tested extensively to make sure the RNG isn’t buggy. People suffer this delusion so frequently that there’s an FAQ item about on the site. I’d link you to it, but it seems to be down ATM.

    I built from source for BEOS. Maybe there is a platform-dependent bug.

  20. > I built from source for BEOS. Maybe there is a platform-dependent bug.

    Affecting humans differently from AIs? I find that implausible. But if you’re sure of yourself, then definitely do some rigorous trials and post the results to bugs.wesnoth.org. If you find anything then a lot of us will be eating a very large helping of crow.

  21. >A hacker’s view of the G1

    Please keep the G1 comments on a G1 thread. They don’t belong here.

  22. >Affecting humans differently from AIs? I find that implausible. But if you’re sure of yourself, then definitely do some rigorous trials and post the results to bugs.wesnoth.org. If you find anything then a lot of us will be eating a very large helping of crow.

    I’m an end-user of the product. I have neither the means nor the inclination to test their software for them.

  23. The RNG is a fickle deity (anyone remember the Lady from Discworld? Oh wait, I’m not supposed to talk about her!)…but really, if you save frequently, there’s no issue. It only pisses me off when I play a ladder match on multiplayer. At the same time, there’s nothing like committing an early regicide through a lucky thunderer-shot. Some players just aren’t cautious enough, because when I see a decent CTK, and I know that I’m in an otherwise 50-50 match, going for the King/Queen/Hero is the obvious choice.

  24. >One thing I think both games have in common is that the developers, whatever their role, really love the game.

    True. And we have to; there’s a lot more work behind BFW than is obvious at first glance. If we didn’t love it, we’d bail.

    My work on this game includes:

    1. A lot of prose doctoring. There has been one wordsmith arguably better than me associated with the project in the past (the author of The Rise of Wesnoth), but I’ve been the most capable English prose stylist we have regularly available for at least two years. Thus I get asked to polish storyline text a lot, especially by the people who aren’t native English speakers themselves. On my own initiative, I’ve done a rewrite pass on most of the mainline campaign story and dialogue text; if you notice that most of it now reads like the better grade of high-fantasy novel, that would be why.

    2. One original campaign, The Hammer of Thursagan. I used this to develop some ideas about Dwarvish society that are now canonical — all the stuff around loremasters and the Law is my invention.

    3. I’ve helped lift no fewer than seven other campaigns into mainline (the set that’s shipped with the game). The most recent addition is Legend of Wesmere, and I’m working on another called Delfador’s Memoirs with its author (that’s what the fragment is for). Lifting is a big job that can involve debugging the campaign logic, script doctoring, and working with artists to develop better graphics and portraits.

    4. While I avoid C++ whenever possible, I have done significant work on the C++ core of Wesnoth. The buttonless, translucent message windows we introduced in 1.4 were mine; also linger mode (the after-action pause when you finish a scenario or MP game).

    5. I wrote and maintain a suite of automated sanity checkers for WML, the Wesnoth Markup Language. This is pretty much essential to keeping our release quality high; the WML corpus shipped with the game is now so large that (for example) just checking for invalid image references by hand would be way too hard.

  25. >I guess ESR really cares about relevancy

    Different threads, different rules. I’m generally willing to let the politics threads ramble. but I try to keep the tech-related ones more focused.

  26. To be honest, I’m impressed with BfW as a FLOSS game as most of them aren’t quite as polished as this one, but I’m not particularly impressed with it as a game in general. I tried that campaign – forgot the name – that’s about beating up thugs in the countryside and later on it introduces some help from elves, and it reminds those tactical games like Steel Panthers or Panzer General: most of the time it’s just the tedious, boring, one-by-one movement of units. For every click I spend on actually attacking something, there are 20 clicks I have to spend just moving troops around, which is boring. Perhaps I was spoiled by superficial, trigger-happy real-time strategies where you send 30 tanks in battle with 1 click and just watch them blow shit up, and perhaps I should see it rather as a game of chess than as a game of action, but I just have no patience for it. Are there any plans of making it more exciting? Or should I try a different campaign?

  27. > I tried that campaign – forgot the name – that’s about beating up thugs in the countryside and later on it introduces some help from elves

    I think you mean The South Guard.

    Chess is definitely a better way to think of it; it’s certainly a lot like that at the higher levels of online play. I do wish there were a “bulk move” feature for some of the single-player campaigns though. The Wesnoth UI and gameplay model work well for up to about 20 units on each side. For significantly larger scenarios, such as a couple in The Rise of Wesnoth and several in Northern Rebirth, it does get a little tedious.

  28. >perhaps I should see it rather as a game of chess than as a game of action

    You’re actually describing why I like it. It’s a tactics game, not a twitch game.

  29. While not having played the game, yet, but an avid interest in Fantasy/SciFi books I’m sorry to say that much of it seems too hokey.

    “Foretold in the Primal Aeon, years past beyond your counting. An-Usrukhar the Great, he of whom I am but the tiniest shade and fragment, foresaw in the Mirror of Evanescent Time that a living man would come here to be tested. AND I AM THE TEST!”

    “I have felt the coils of prophecy on me before. I am beginning to dislike them.”

    The first part is reasonable, given the context and the construct(NPC) (maybe remove the AND from the last line, make it cleaner – the AND is not a necessary part given what’s said before.) And reveal that he is the test after the characters line – it doesn’t fit that the construct makes such a bold claim and the character just says I don’t like prophecies.

    However Delfador’s response sounds like it belongs in Army of Darkness, especially since he starts out so scared that he’s stuttering.

    Perhaps, if you want to keep the sentiment:
    “I am a free man. Having felt the bonds of prophecy before I do not seek them again.”

    or
    “I do not seek the bonds of prophecy again.”

    ~~~

    “Living? …I see that it is so. Your breath stirs dust that has lain untouched since the Primal Aeon. And it was foretold that one like you would come.”

    “Foretold?”

    perhaps:
    “Living?…Yes I see it is so, your breath stirs dust undisturbed since the Primal Aeon.”

    “The Primal Aeon?”

    “It was prophesized in the Primal Aeon, years beyond counting. An-Usrukhar the Great, of whom I am the tiniest shadow and fragment, foresaw in the Mirror of Evanescent Time that a living man would come here to be tested. I AM THE TEST!”

    Just some quick thoughts and suggestions. The framework is there, but it could use some cleaning up. It seems like a pretty good draft though.

  30. Did we stray off-topic? Anyway, back to Wesnoth.. I think it’s quite polished visually, but that the code isn’t up to scratch.

  31. I’m surprised at how good the graphics and sound are in Wesnoth. I wonder how the project managed to attract so many talented people.

  32. @poweruser: assuming you’re not just being annoying, please expand the criticism. ‘not up to scratch’ is right there with ‘doesn’t work’ in the ‘useless bug reports list’

  33. Well, you could start with the fact that I keep missing more than four times in a row.

  34. A run of bad luck happens to all of us, poweruser. I don’t have this same “bug,” although I have had occasional ridiculous runs of good or bad luck.

  35. I run this game on my BeOS system, along with a few other applications. I use Windows XP for everything else. FWIW I don’t have keyboard trouble on BeOS either.

  36. > A run of bad luck happens to all of us, poweruser. I don’t have this same “bug,” although I have had occasional
    > ridiculous runs of good or bad luck

    someone has discovered ‘wizard’ mode, or its equivalent.

  37. ESR: In case you are looking for bugs to fix, I’m able to recall “Delfador” in the scenario where bowmen are introduced. I’m not sure whether this problem is yours to fix or not. In any case, I have decided to rename him Rodafled, and he is Delfador’s evil twin.

    A preliminary report on the first two scenarios: the villages are quite far-flung. This makes for some interesting choices. After disastrously halving my force into a Western front and an Eastern front, and winning only due to the AI playing aggressively with its king, I’ve decided to use a main clump of units with a couple of horsemen to go after the villages.

  38. Matt, the version on the stable campaign server hasn’t been updated in ages, and I don’t think the 1.5 version is current either. We’re just going to have to wait for ESR to finish tinkering before we get to play with his handiwork :-).

  39. It’s actually not mainly up to me when we ship. santi and fendrin are the leads on that campaign; I’m just an assistant WML tech and story editor at this point. You’ve seen mostly my name on the commits recently only because fendrin has been concentrating on the last phase of the Under the Burning Suns fixups.

    I did have a lot to do with how the campaign assumed its present shape; it was my idea to chop the Delfador-centered scenarios off the end of Legend of Wesmere (which was way too long and, with them, thematically incoherent) and graft them on to the
    uncompleted Delfador’s Memoirs. But that phase of the design is over, it’s all tuning and testing now and they’ll make the decisions about that.

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