What is Stablehand? The December 2014 answer

Stablehand is a libre universe which will begin around a visual gamebook I'm currently developing. The goal is to give you the first fandom in which fan stuff will be 100% legal by default, no caveats (ok, two if you wanna be technical), and on roughly equal footing with canon stuff. It's a little bit like a Wikipedia universe!

Now, the visual gamebook I just mentioned, of the same name.

It is, as a certain someone made me describe, a sort of "choose your own adventure with attributes". The story has a number of its own quirky mechanics, but one of the central ideas is that there are any number of ways to be and to approach things, aka attributes.

Some people are good at certain attributes, others are terrible at them, others may even use the same attribute differently! Every character is different, and characters can of course change what attributes they are good at and which define them, sometimes leading to them schematising into new forms.

Each character (there are 12) has a distinct theme, story, and background within the framework of a fairly vast world.

And speaking of world, it's a fantastical world with an aesthetic I call retrolark. I've described it as "retro-modern middle-fantasy surrealism".

^ The obligatory "retro lark" pun.

Basically, a "retrolark" world is one where everything is styled in a sort of avant-garde minimalistic style that looks "modern" in an abstract way, but with traces of the awkward charm of about the 70s-90s. Silly expressions like "rad" are common, and people often see the world with a strange open-minded optimism. More centrally, the the world is full of strange and unheard-of things to the point almost nothing is surprising to them. That's the "lark" part.

Stablehand: our character classes include dragon rider, detective-scientist, superhero, anthro, person who realises original characters, person without eyes, person with airplane wings, person who throws cats, explorer, person who ruins everything, egyptian god ripoff employee, unearthly animal mascot

Like, it’s just not a sitcom without lizardman and space officer person right

And let's not forget the mysterious unreal entities without normal eyes that came from who-knows-where.

So, yeah! That's Stablehand. It's a goofy retro-avantgarde-fantastical Wikipedia universe where people have "attributes" and stuff. That's what it is.

Neutrality (Ssivyin's theme)

I don't like to think politically
Ceaseless quarrels are annoying to me
If only I could step off this reality
And stride out into the blankness of infinity

I'm a freely-floating entity
No container can encompass me
No matter how I might look for group unity
I'll still be slopping bog-mass mired in an oddity

I'm not full of red-orange sunset rays
Sometimes my grasp on my appearance frays
I'm not a dreamer on the mystic frequency
Nor they to lead your squad to victory

People may think I'm a waste of space
But I can only move at my own pace
I'm not a kettle to pour cups of tea
So why should I try to ought not be me?

I'm not a monster from the shadows
Nor could I soar on flawless swanlike wings
I find rules quite blah but anarchy Herr Straw
To fit the grain goes against my rings

You see I don't like sheep and I don't like foils
A shade of peach-orange-beige is for what I toil
My flag is a patchwork made of muddled countless skeins
In autonomy I see the only brains

Wheat or chaff, curd or whey
Why cannot it just be grey

Land or sea, day or night
Why must all be black or white

Tech or farms, earth or man
Who drew up this master plan

[Instrumental meanderings]

I'm not one for deep philosophy
Sides and platforms labyrinth endlessly
In my heart I just want to be free
To transcend the boiling deserts of futility

I'm not a saviour from the heavens
Nor could I scald with brands of burning flame
I think it's not that great to just deliberate
But crusading toward death's just lame

You see I don't like fists and I don't like clowns
A stew of lukewarm heat is for what I sound
My anthem is a medley made of myriad jumbled parts
In but neutrality I find the only start

Dogma, fact, now or then
How can we give one the ten

Deft or dumb, friend or jerk
How can we know what will work

Plebs or folk, fiends or kings
How can we divide all things

[Instrumental meanderings]

I don't like to think politically
I'm not one for deep philosophy
In my heart I just want to be free
In my heart I just want to be me

Stablehand: Abyssal

Finally got around to drawing a proper picture of an Abyssal.

This is one of those drawings where I drew exactly what I set out to draw, but don't feel like it quite captures what the subject is supposed to be and how it's supposed to "feel". Maybe if I had the energy to colour it with proper darkness/contrast/texture I could make it look better.

Abyssals are supposed to vary in shape some amount, and also, as I tried to show here, churn and shift a lot. This one is supposed to have scattered claws randomly forming out of nothing since as a creature of Nothing, I feel like they should have zero coherent limbs.

Stablehand: I tried

Some miscellaneous creatures that didn't quite work.

Shadow has been a character I've been consistently ambivalent about, and I've had thoughts of either dropping or revamping him a bunch. Remembering another (throwaway) character I'd created once with a vaguely interesting appearance and the fact I didn't exactly have an Esteemed character on the main cast I tried to revamp him to be Esteemed, and it looked pretty cool honestly, but after a little while I scrapped that idea, realising that nope, I just wasn't realising what the main idea of Esteem was before so there actually was one already, and also that this design was a little lacklustre in being too "standardly awesome". So I'm back to square one with him, but at least this misstep made me appreciate him a bit more.

A couple of "traditional" medieval creatures, which I'm not sure if I'll use or not. One was an "ermine" with a heraldic "ermine" pattern, the other was a very literal take on a leucrota (from Pliny the Elder's description).

Leijonœrns. Or, serious attempts at them that didn't quite work. Originally I wanted them to look a lot like hexarts (see: sideways one, stuff at the top), but more recently (many months after I'd drawn the sideways one) I decided it would be more interesting to give them shoulder arms and ground wings and make them visually different from hexarts, and do similar with the other six-limbed creatures. I'm probably going to stick with that, though it's the only thing I solidly liked about these.

Stablehand scrap update: 4/20~10/31

The interval between these only gets longer, but at least this time it's mostly because I've actually been posting things as proper posts instead of in here. Still, there are a few things.

First, the Observers' colour is apparently called "atoll" as I found out on this neat website. Neat bit of trivia. I remember back when all MBs were going to be variations of that colour, a time this post still hasn't gotten out of.

My mind couldn't think of the word "papaya", so it tried to pull out the word "pomegranate", but it couldn't come up with that either, so I accidentally ended up noting that a bunch of "Portent seeds" had spilled all over the floor and for at least five minutes intermittently laughed about it while picking up "Portent seeds".

Then there was the portent seed incident.

I had to settle on appropriate background colours for... shh, a super-secret thing, and went back to my swans to pick them, resulting in a new set of single "official" attribute colours. Later I had to re-pick a couple colours again, partly thanks to Clarity replacing Duplicity.

A number of process pics happened.

And also Fuchsia.

I may as well say a bit about Fuchsia [...]. She's one of a number of side characters that played important roles in Aluma's history; to be a bit more specific she was a superhero of sorts known as The Superpower, and the first of the Superpower archetype. In present times there's at least one comic about "The Superpower" very loosely based on her, but almost everybody forgets it was based on an actual person. Kris, one of the main characters, was greatly influenced by this comic.

I'd had the basic idea for her design with the big poofy wing-shaped hair and the "feathered" cape for some time but then recently I found out about SU and realised it would make way more sense if Kris with her vague mineral theme admired somebody who also had a connection to minerals... so I shamelessly gave her a dark pink topaz stone clasp as a rôle object. :p

(Fun fact: Fuchsia is supposed to represent Faith, so her original name was Fiducia [trust/confidence in Latin], but that sounded like Fuchsia so I decided she'd probably go by that more often, and then fuchsia became the colour of Faith, so her gem is meant to match both her attribute and her name)

[C]haracter logo sketches I plan to vectorise soon. Lance's, Ssiv's, Sleipnir's, and Ariana's in a counterclockwise circle around the Yanha shape I drew to draw markings on but didn't (:p), to be specific. There are also some attempts at Io's logo but I don't really like how any of them came out.

Yeah, the rest of the main character logos are going to be a post some time in the near future. Here's Ssiv's:

Lastly, some chroma scribbles (that post conflated them with genders because it was an early version):

Me quickly scribbling out the gender symbols used for each chroma.

The current version of this particular worldbuilding facet, if you're totally lost right now, is that mystery beings don't have a gender, but have something called a chroma, which is related to their behaviour and general nature and as such people see it as kind of like a gender. People also sometimes identify as "gender Zed" and "gender Xai", etc., sometimes while also identifying as a "traditional" gender, like Flash Karkira who is malezed.

From top left: Xai, Zed, Omega, Omicron. Omega is Zed + Xai, kinda the "Totality attribute" of chromas, and Omicron is sort of the "Nothing attribute" of chromas. If it looks familiar from Ssiv's logo, it’s because Ssiv is more or less gender Omicron. I should have mentioned that. :p

Stablehand: Planestack, Expurgator

Two more MBs! Both of the still semi-new Clarity attribute.

Planestacks are a creature of both Synthesis and Clarity. They aren't well-known at all.

They're made out of many square planes of a strange glassy material, each taking on one of many colours. The stack of planes spirals and slides around dynamically as the creature moves, branching off into four similar but smaller stacks that form the limbs. They have a rather loosely-composed body; I drew the planes right up against each other but they can have varying amounts of space between them.

The Expurgator is a concept I'd had sitting around for a while. Basically I wanted an S-Clarity creature that erased things, and I joked about calling it the Eraser and making it a literal eraser. Well, I did the "literal eraser" part finally, but decided to name it the Expurgator because that sounded cooler.

Expurgators are really mysterious. They don't even have sensors unlike most MBs to sense their surroundings with, just random holes through their form that might somehow accomplish the same thing. Or maybe they just know. Either way, they worm around furtively, sometimes using their correction pen to white-out seemingly random objects, which then disappear, never to be seen again. Well, seemingly. Occasionally, they reappear.

At first I randomly tried to draw the Expurgator as a weird biohazard-symbol-like thing, before I came up with the idea of the correction pen and then decided to go for something different.

(I did indeed write "head look dumb". I am not sure why. Maybe I left it that way because I thought it was funny.)

Lastly here's a "tame" Abyssal I drew. (I forget why I drew it but I think it may have come from the idea of them eating missing socks.) It's difficult to see but its "toes" are supposed to just be a bunch of randomly-placed churning blobs, as is much of the rest of its body.

Stablehand: Orienter, Portensilisk, Cragwing, Wanyanszar

This post was supposed to post some time ago but I never got the Arbiter's design done so it just sat around instead until I had the good sense to take the Arbiter out and put it in a new post.

The Orienter (Synthesis + Desolation) is a kind of living compass, with eight floating arms that each "point" to one of the Directed attributes. It has a great directional sense, and will gladly give directions to whoever wants them, drawing from what seems to be an uncannily great knowledge of the layout of the universe. Despite this, though, it tends to wander around a single, fixed area giving off an odd sense it has no idea where it should be going.

Below their arms they appear to have a strange double armillary sphere. For them, it functions somewhat like an elaborate compass, and interestingly, some human Navigators have mastered the art of using similar spherical compasses to plot their courses.

(New development I didn't tell you about: Nassak and Portent Rider both lean toward the Navigator archetype, a new archetype I just added. Nassak probably doesn't use one of those, but PR has one.)

The Portensilisk is a frightful creature that seems to be able to conjure up dark and terrifying hallucinations just by showing people its eyes. It also has a very limited ability to make such things actually happen, but not to a much greater degree than typical cirque techniques. For instance, it can conjure up small, corrosive waves of darkness-fluid around itself temporarily in a very limited radius, or bend the landscape around it temporarily to make a large structure easier to knock over.

Portensilisks tend to be peaceful and withdrawn most of the time, a lot like ordinary snakes, but unlike ordinary snakes, at times they will seemingly just randomly decide to be destructive. The good news, though, is that they will just as capriciously decide to stop being destructive.

(This is hardly even a concept picture of the Portensilisk, I'll do a real one later)

Cragwings (Fantasy + H-Clarity) are literally just huge chunks of cliff rock with... wings and a tail. That's it. That's all they are. They fly around randomly in the air and seem to thrive in deserted places with a lack of coherent logic, like cloud islands with floating mountains (i.e.: not normal places). They also sort of have a theme song.

Wanyanszars (H-Incongruity) are fluid, springy, vaguely lizard-like beings that appear to be made of some kind of unusually violent and bright energy that tears through their surroundings. They thrive in ambiguous environments, which, apparently, they have the power to warp to their liking, as if certain types of environments inherently had loopholes (e.g.: environment appears to be a lake at night, Wanyanszar jumps onto it and reveals it's actually a tar pit in front of a blue hazy screen; sees sidewalk drawing and jumps onto it, turns fake illusion into actual hundred-foot-tall tower). If one thing's for sure, they definitely don't mind chaos at all, though they don't necessarily delight in inflicting confusion on others. They're just at home in a chaotic environment.

The rounded Wanyanszar would be called a Jianjianszar if/when I use it, but I don't even have any idea what that one would be like yet so... no cool description on that one. Sorry. :p

(The Wanyanszar was from my initial concept drawings before mystery beings were entirely a thing; I forgot to really give it background and a name and integrate it so now I'm finally doing that. I realised it was a lot like a creature named Wanyanxi ("zigzag lizard") I'd made for a parody of Chinese Pokémon bootlegs, so for its name I just took Wanyanxi and mashed it up with -szara, the ending equivalent to "-er/-or" in MB language. It's basically a crazy bootleg name that literally means "Zigzagger" but I'm using to mean "Contorter".)