Basically, today I did a lot of work.
Now, mind you.
Not work on a current thing.
The thing about me is, I continue to revisit past projects of mine even when I am working on a future project. I try to prevent myself from too heavily revising--rewriting, redoing--it, but when I am doing these exercises, I try to extrapolate in areas where I hadn't visited before.
Of course, sometimes I end up rewriting anyway, but mostly through the virtue of having forgotten the original material meant to be canonical and thus replacing it, mostly accidentally. OH WELL CONSEQUENCE OF MOSTLY KEEPING THINGS IN MY HEAD.
But I know for a fact that what I did this time does cover new ground.
It's not for Phyrra and Cyrus.
It's not even for Red Hood Rider.
It's for the webcomic obsession prior to that which I still intend to make at some stage, The Descended.
I actually made two breakthroughs there.
The first is in character ages.
Before, I had kept it generic. "Somewhere in their 30s" for most, and even of those that aren't, "appears to be in their 30s" for at least one or two.
But today I made a ridiculously simple breakthrough.
While the fourth group of four adventurers introduced later into the story largely remain intentionally ambiguous on their age, I realized that I could calculate nine of 12 main characters' ages by relating them to a tenth. And the two standouts, both had ways for me to calculate their ages.
It works like this.
Argus has an older brother, who a couple years before the story begins, died of old age/natural causes. Said brother had a son, who appears to be around the same age of Argus. That gives a very specific age range, since Argus appears to be in his 28-34 age range (technically, I believe the official way I handled it is that he appeared 34 pre-ascension, and was de-aged to 28 post-descent).
If you account for the human lifespan in the setting to be ~80 years, and that the son is ~the same age appearance as Argus, and that the son was probably born when Argus's brother was in his 40s, that gives you a good estimate.
I settled on Argus's nephew being born when his father was 46, and that his father lived to the age of 80, placing the nephew at the target age range of ~34. (36, since this was a couple years ago.) I generally assumed that Argus was around the same age as his older brother, so if he's a year younger, that would make him ~81-82 at the start of the story.
Aria I knew died in her 20s, but at what spot I wasn't sure until I settled on 24 today. That left the question of how long she's been a ghost for; since her younger brother is alive and an old man, and the village she died in has only the elders of it be old enough to remember her when she was alive, that gave me a fairly good estimate. I knew she was younger than Argus, but not by too terribly much.
Her parents died before she hit puberty, so that means her younger brother wouldn't be much younger than her. If you keep the human lifespan estimate at ~80 as per the above, that gives a general range for how old she is. The village elders would have to be less than 80 currently, but more than 10 when the incident happened. So say if they were 15 when it happened and 75 now, that'd be 60 years--a little bit of an overshoot, since it'd also place her younger brother who isn't that much younger than her (I estimated him to be ~15-16 when she died) to be ~76, when I wanted him to be more in the 60s range.
So, adjust slightly, make it be ~52 years having passed with the elders a bit older when it happened and a bit younger at the time of the story, and you get her age as being ~76, younger than Argus, but not by much. It also would place her brother as in his 60s, albeit only just, so that felt about right.
And then there is the key figure for calculating everyone else's ages.
Davos is, explicitly, one of the youngest in the cast, younger even than Nathan Betrax. His age range is in the 18-26 area, though I wanted him to be at least 20 for some reason so more on the higher end of 21+ but sub-26.
Sasha is the same age as Davos--not to the same day, mind you, but within a couple of months and such, the same year. She is ever so slightly older, but not by any significant amount, and it's easier to just say she's his age, whatever his age may be.
Davos was born at a time where the remaining 8 characters (save Nathan, who is a bit younger) were all children old enough to have memories and know what their parents looked like (an event happened which orphaned them, around the time Davos was born), but still be prepubescent and not have perfect recollection of that time period. Generally, that gives the 6-12 estimate.
This fits with their age range being 30s while Davos is in his 20s, and can be further broken down.
Sarge is the oldest.
M and Enlec are about the same age, and about one year younger than Sarge.
Kinas and Sanik, being twins, are exactly the same age, and are about a year younger than M and Enlec.
Tyra is about a year younger than them, with Sinaer being six months younger than Tyra.
Nathan is at least two years younger than Sinaer, but no more than ten years younger than Sarge (which gives a bit of flexibility with his age).
So if Sarge was 12 when Davos was 0.
M/Enlec would be 11.
Kinas and Sanik would be 10.
Tyra and Sinaer (albeit barely) would be 9.
Nathan would be anywhere from 2-7 years old.
And scale that up by 20-26 years, which I believe is best at 24.
Sarge becomes 36: a bit on the older side, but he has always looked older than the rest.
M and Enlec become 35: a bit on the older side, but still looking fairly youthful.
Kinas and Sanik become 34: the exact age I pretty much envisioned them as, but didn't want to name until I figured out the chronology (which I have).
Tyra and Sinaer (albeit barely) become 33: just about the same, in their peak.
Nathan becomes anywhere from 26-31, which is about where he should be. I estimated him at 28-32, which would place his Davos birth age at 4-8, which is the right area for him.
Nathan is meant to look youthful, but still have some features highlighting later adult manhood, so I think that 29-31 is the butter zone; I'll make the snap judgement call of 31 on that basis.
Placing Davos and Sasha at the aforementioned 24.
(By the way for those who are curious as to how they look the way they do: adventurers have a limited form of age-halting, based around their level; their race's natural lifespan is extended by however many levels they have, so a normal human living 80 years that's level, say, 50, would live to be around 130, and age appropriately slowly.)
Giving the characters an exact age is something I've striven for, for ages, but never managed to figure out until today in spite of all of the pieces having been there previously.
The second breakthrough I made was actually what triggered the first.
To talk about it though, I need to go off on a tangent.
Back when I was actually trying to produce content for The Descended actively on a near-weekly basis, there was a period where I couldn't make content...but could make canonical filler content.
By that, I mean: a flashback story, giving backstory. Stuff that would eventually be featured in the story proper (and is still planned to be!), and was mostly available as bonus side-material for those devoted enough to read the right places anyway, but which was miles away from being featured.
Yet was not really spoilerific. Stuff that was planned to be integrated into the comic properly, and still is planned to be integrated into the comic properly, but which I could produce quickly and cheaply as filler, as padding, for a break allowing me to do the work I was trying to do.
That was the Kinas Chronicle. To save you the time of looking for it (warning: insanely long, insanely badly done in most places but more on that below), here it is in full (again, not really spoilers, just backstory, but stuff that you wouldn't learn in the story proper for a long, long time):
BUT I DIGRESS.
The point I was making here is.
There are self-evidently some huge flaws in the Chronicle. Aside from a little shoddy writing here and there, the narration style is too much text and not enough images. Now, I wrote this as filler, so that's okay, and in a lite novel format that's actually what you'd have, but it's still a little jarring.
Each page is absurdly long. I told the chronicle in eight images; given the length of each image, I should have cut it up to be many, many, many more than that. (Then again, once more, it was filler, designed to be done in as little time as possible, and designed to disrupt from the story as little as possible. NOT THAT THAT WORKED OUT BUT I TRIED.)
The characters, both past and present, have obvious artistic flaws, aside from Sinaer pretty much.
And the reason Sinaer doesn't share those flaws (aside from the child sprite of her) is because I used trace jobs of her for the chronicle. As in, I created a version of her using anime character maker 2, then traced that. I still drew her, technically, but it was as cheating as cheating gets and pretty much plagiarizing to do so. Obviously, that's a regret. (Done for a combination of time saving and the fact that I couldn't draw her that well at the time.)
I was utilizing the Windows 7 version of MSPaint at the time, so I made heavy usage of copy-paste.
The dialog order is incredibly hard to follow.
The images aren't done very well.
Many key characters are kept out of sight to hide my inability to draw them.
I should have done that for child-Kinas/Sinaer because their presence is the absolute low-point. (Though the way I handled Kinas's dad is not far behind.)
I covered up art with text, covered up text with text, and similar issues due to limited space per panel (in spite of the infinite canvas I was utilizing).
And so on and so forth.
It is, self-evidently, what it was.
Something shoddily thrown together that didn't have very high quality all-around.
Yet there were also some things about it that, to this day, I remain proud of.
The way the story was told and written may be flawed, but I still feel like the idea behind it holds some incredible power.
I took time to create original sprites for many of the characters' pre-"descent" appearances (since they did look different before, and after, their traumatic experience that divided the groups).
The original art I made mostly holds up to scrutiny in spite of its flaws as passable. Some of the images of David are atrocious, but I'm proud of that design.
Tyra's pre-descent appearance has some issues with proportion, such as the bow, her hands, her neck, and so on and so forth but that was all done by me and captured the essence of her.
Sanik's pre-descent appearance is almost perfect aside from the elongated neck, the arrow in relationship to his hand, and his bow in relationship to his hand (not to mention, lack of strap for the quiver).
Kinas's teenaged self is awful, but Kinas's pre-descent adult self aside from a minor perspective glitch in the chest and head, positioning of hand-to-sword, and lack of real grip on the shield (it wasn't until Red Hood Rider that I was forced to learn how to actually pull that off), is pretty much perfect.
There was something magical about the narration style, too, in the transitions held.
All in all.
It is something that I have, in spite of its status as filler, wanted to redo for years, to keep the good and discard the bad and give it a grand do-over. But this is nothing new; I've had that feeling pretty much since a year after I made this. (Which, being in 2012 of October, was a full 5 years ago for the desire.)
Why's this relevant?
Basically, the thought occurred to me today.
There is exactly one other main character I could instead make a new Chronicle for.
In the fourth adventuring group later on, two characters have backstories directly plot relevant almost to Argus levels of importance (see below), so I can't chronicle them without massive spoilers. A third has only minimalistic backstory in general, and isn't actually that fleshed out. (Ha ha I am talking about the member that's a lich.) And the fourth has a backstory reserved for a planned sequel-series to The Descended, revolving more around him, so not something I could even remotely touch on since even in The Descended proper it's only hinted at because of the plans to reveal it later.
Kinas's chronicle pretty much tells the backstory of all eight elementals/latens, and how the groups divided into half, splitting up. So no need to cover the perspective of another of the seven others in those two groups.
So it's a member of The Outcasts, Argus's adventuring party.
Sasha's story is fairly minimalistic; the only details that are there are directly plot relevant.
Davos's story is fleshed out, but his backstory is incredibly plot relevant, to the point where there's multiple "arcs" (arcs, being defined as basically what can be thought of as "episodes" or "chapters") covering it; not something to spoil.
Argus's backstory is literally the driving force behind the comic; almost every single event in the comic, he had some hand in, which makes the instances he isn't involved all the more unique for that fact (something lampshaded when it happens; basically his team blames him for why there are a bunch of angry people suddenly, and in those rare instances, he can truthfully say, "This one's actually not my fault!". Because mostly, it is).
Leaving it as being...
Her backstory does come up in pieces in the comic proper, but like the Kinas Chronicle, though there are elements that are technically spoilers, they are not "real" spoilers. It's a fairly self-contained arc, self-resolving. Her backstory is brought up, but it doesn't have an overall effect on the grander plot; it is a detail which if it was left out of the comic altogether would make no difference on the comic at all, other than not fleshing her out as much. (Haha she's a ghost she doesn't have flesh aren't I so funny.)
And the result of that is.
There's actual potential to tell a story in a format similar to that of the Kinas Chronicle, intermingling a series of text with a series of images, interwoven to be almost like a lite novel. And I could actually tell it. And today I actually expanded on her backstory, basically the whole impetus for this idea.
I knew the basics already, which I can say because they are literally how I introduce her as a character. She was taught by her father's principles, inheriting his alignment, and her mother's skills, inheriting her class. The resulting build of a Lawful Good Rogue was ill-suited for survival because a sense of honor and duty motivated her to not run away when running away would have been the tactic allowing her to survive. (And is a move perfectly viable for Good characters that're rogues, so long as they have a plan to take the enemy down that doesn't involve a head-on confrontation, their weakness.)
I knew that the specific form of the way she died forever cursed her, killing her but preventing her from moving on to the afterlife, and that she's thus (justifiably) worried about Cessation of Existence due to Undeath Always Ending (she doesn't know those tropes by name--though Argus helpfully tells her them--but she knows their ideas well enough).
I knew she had been dead for a long time, but not long enough to be older than Argus.
I knew that the village she was haunting was indebted to her for her sacrifice, tolerating her antics as a result and seeing her as mostly harmless aside from her pranks.
I knew she was orphaned at a young age.
But that left a lot of ground uncovered. Specifically, everything from when she was orphaned up to the point where she died, which if you remember from the above, is a full...well, not specific date, but at least 12 years because her parents died before she was a teenager, leaving her to fend for not only herself but her younger brother (who I knew existed, and was alive some umpteenth years later).
And I basically invented the story of that gap today.
All of it 100% original, and I know for a fact not contradicting existing canon. (The way outside of this hypothetical "Aria Chronicles" being introduced to the comic proper? That might, albeit only slightly, requiring minor rewrites of very specific sections of an already-existing plot. But the content of the story? Nope, all original to today and fitting in line with content made prior to today.)
I kinda want to make it.
In fact, I really want to make it, but because it requires an intermingling of (as I envision it) computer-typed text and hand-drawn art edited in whatever I have available (which on this computer...is the MS Paint that comes with Windows 10)...
...I probably never will.
OH WELL AT LEAST THE IDEA IS REALLY FUN. (And in some areas, funny.)