Zodiac Brave Story 7/3/19

In despair, pores through the personal journal of the world's greatest heretic as seen through the eyes of a priest who had long since lost his faith. Chapter 82, Saints and Sinners, is up.

Fans of the game may notice I've made some departures from the source material here, altering both what Simon says about Ajora and what the Gospels actually contain. I can't get too into detail at this time (some of the changes I've made have a direct bearing on future story revelations), but essentially my goal is to better ground the story of Ajora in the story of Ramza, providing parallels between them. Add that to the expanded role I've given to the Hand of Barinten, and I think my telling comes out a little smoother.

I'm sorry for the long, mostly unannounced hiatus. I was working on other projects, dealing with my own grief and family, and having trouble engaging with the story. My brother meant a lot to me, and I can trace a lot of my day-to-day joys to his influence (including my love of Final Fantasy). I am going to prioritize my own mental health and wellbeing, but I think I'm finally in a place to give you guys more regular updates. I appreciate your patience.

Zodiac Brave Story 4/24/19

Ramza Beoulve seeks the only safe haven left to him, ignorant both of the bad news that awaits him and the deadly cargo he carries with him. Chapter 81, Pointless, is up.

Not much to say here. I'm glad I have Besrodio and Daravon living together. Wonder exactly when I'm going to confirm they're gay and how explicit I'll be in doing so.

Sorry for the dearth of content, folks. My brother died a few weeks ago after a resurgence of brain cancer. I'll write when I can.

Zodiac Brave Story 3/20/19

Alma Beoulve and Izlude Tengille confronted each other in the thick of a storm, ignorant of the shadows drawing close around them. Chapter 80, Captive Captors, is up.

The original game gets into this a little bit, but writing it in novel form really gives you time to play with the fact that Ovelia, Alma, and Teta are in many ways iterations of each other. It also lets me examine how these characters both mirror and contrast one another. I've been surprised how much I enjoy writing all three of them. I hope that continues.

Sorry for the long absence. Family drama continues. I'll post when I can.

Zodiac Brave Story 2/20/19

A monster is loosed upon the world, and Ramza and his company gather around a dying priest, and reckon with the weight of all their sins. Chapter 79, Sins Unredeemed, is up.

Not a lot to say about this one. I'm pretty much disregarding FFXII canon for  this version of Ivalice, but I do like the idea of a multi-armed monster wreathed in fire, so I borrowed from his depiction in FFXII to inform his appearance here.

There's a lot going on in my personal life, so we're going to be taking a brief hiatus. We'll resume regular posts in about a month.

Zodiac Brave Story 2/6/19

Though they often stood on opposite sides, these two men were always driven by the same high ideals. But now revenge and desperation turn them against one another, and their fight will not end until one of them is dead. Chapter 78, An End to Martyrs, is up.

Hoo boy this chapter is a doozy, and I've been working on it for a long damn while. This may be the most important chapter in the Zodiac Brave Story so far. Figuring out the rough structure of this chapter informed a huge part of my work elsewhere. I had to figure out who was doing what, and where.

It's probably pretty obvious, but the idea of Wiegraf and Delita allying in the aftermath of Zeakden is definitely canon for me. First and foremost, it creates continuity between Part One and the rest of the story: it explains how the Death Corps rebellion set in motion the key figures who would reshape Ivalice. It also explains the rebellions plaguing the kingdom (it's confirmed in the original game that the Church is fomenting rebellions across Ivalice, and Wiegraf is a handy organizer for such events) and how Delita joined up with the Church (he was recruited alongside Wiegraf), as well as explaining how Delita picked up a unique class during the timeskip (trained by Wiegraf).

 

If I were in charge of the original story, Vormav Tengille would probably be a fairly minor character, with Wiegraf becoming the main villain driving the action of the tale. But the goal of the story is to create a novelization that stays true to the original while giving me room to develop my own vision. All this to say: wait and see what happens next.

Zodiac Brave Story 1/23/19

Whether elite soldiers, well-meaning idealists, or old friends, nothing will stand between Ramza Beoulve and his sister. Chapter 77, Merciless, is up.

I actually ended up planning this section pretty early on (though it went through more than a few new drafts as the story changed). When I was replaying the game and working on the outline for the Zodiac Brave Story, I was struck by how deadly Ramza is. During their confrontation, Ramza doesn't hesitate to threaten Izlude. In fact, throughout the game, Ramza is consistently willing to employ deadly force, even from his first (chronological) battle outside of the Academy.

I ended up going in a different direction with Ramza's character. In the game, Ramza starts out much more focused, determined, and violent, only losing his ideals at Zeakden. But the idea of a character constantly overshadowed and looking for his own meaning appealed to me a lot more. Here, it ends up creating a nice unity between my version and the game's version. In the game, we see a fresh iteration of a deadly character; in mine, we see the Ramza/Wiegraf parallels reinforced when we see just how far Ramza will go for Alma's sake.

Zodiac Brave Story 1/9/19

Two former revolutionaries face off with blades drawn, the trust they one shared soured by the things they've done to survive. Chapter 76, By Any Means, is up.

It occurred to me recently that Wiegraf should absolutely be the main villain of Final Fantasy Tactics. His character arc neatly mirrors Ramza and Delita, and would offer a direct connection between the game's opening with the Death Corps and its conclusion. Not that there's anything wrong with Vormav (and I look forward to showing more of him) but Wiegraf's the beter character and his role in the story deserves to be expanded.

It's probably clear by now that Wiegraf is one of my favorite characters in any video game ever, and it's been a pleasure getting to write him. But this chapter made me especially glad I invented Radia. Her history, her backstory, and her character offer a nice contrast to Wiegraf, and help flesh him out. There's more Wiegraf coming, too.

Happy new year, all. Looking forward to writing more and seeing what the future holds.

Zodiac Brave Story 12/19/18

Descending into the depths of Orbonne Monastery in search of dangerous magic, the sons of two great heroes confront one another, and try to win other to their respective causes. Chapter 75, Proud Believer, is up.

Izlude's first appearance! I'm having a little trouble nailing his character. I like what little I've managed to figure out--his core concept is that he echoes Ramza, being kind of a reflection of what he would be like under the thumb of a different kind of father--but it's hard to express so much in a relatively short time. I'm looking forward to writing more of him, and seeing what I can figure out.

Happy Holidays, everyone. I hope the season's treating you well.

The Collaborative Sessions 12/5/18

The Collaborative Sessions (which I always privately called Space Cowboys) was kind of a weird project. I started it basically on an impulse, with no real long-term plan for how it was going to go. I think it ended up pretty well, and I always meant to assemble a more complete version.

That version now exists. Space Cowboys: The Collaborative Sessions will be available on this website as long as this website exists. Please enjoy it.

Zodiac Brave Story 11/19/18

A brother and sister reconcile as they walk a dangerous road, and happily reflect on the imperfect legacy of the father they both admired. Chapter 74, Roads Not Taken, is up.

The relationship between Alma, Ovelia, and the Lionesses is kind of a goldmine when it comes to worldbuilding. There's so many ways to expand on their history, the political implications of training or not training one or the other. Plus, making Alicia and Lavian mages gives me so much opportunity to get into the mechanics of magic and the history of Ivalice.

Mainly, though, I was excited to have Ramza and Alma actually have a fleshed-out relationship, and engage with their father on some level. In the game, Balbanes is nothing but a paragon to aspire to, but there's just enough hints of his character (his skill at the sword, his idealism, the fact that he repeatedly trusts the wrong people, and the fact that he's enough of a horn dog to sire two bastards) to make something a little more interesting.

I've got a couple different projects in the works, one of which I'll post here shortly. Thanks for reading.

Zodiac Brave Story 10/26/18

The Grand Duke contemplates the sheer scale of the opposition arrayed against him, as his young ward waits for him to turn his depraved attention back upon her. Chapter 73, Risk and Reward, is up.

This was a difficult chapter to write, for a couple different reasons. Throughout this story, I've been wrestling with how to portray female sexual assault as a straight male writer. I don't want to be one of the authors who uses sexual assault as the only means of growth for female characters, but nor do I want to ignore the reality of assault. And as the story is grounded in a fantastical world, that raises further complications.

My decision was to make it ancillary to many of my characters while facing it directly in this particular case. Per the advice of my friend, I was determined to show just how monstrous Barinten was without shying away from what he was doing, which always runs the risk of fetishizing it or making it tantalizing. Barinten's actions are cunning, deliberate, calculated, and self-serving. He's empathetic enough to know to hide his crimes from Malak while still taking pleasure in them. He's a psychopath whose crimes cannot be justified. 

I hope I achieved my goal here. If you have any thoughts one way or another, please let me know.

Zodiac Brave Story 10/12/18

A sister tends to a brother exhausted by dangerous magic. But the brother faces more difficult trials if he hopes to best serve the Duke who saved his life. Chapter 72, Duty, is up.

Sorry about the slight delay here, folks. My computer had some issues (such as, uh, not letting me see the screen no matter what I did) but that's been resolved, and I should get you another update next week. We'll then return to our schedule of every other Wednesday.

I'm really enjoying the accidental parallels between Malak and Rafa and Alma and Ramza. In general, I'm also enjoying Malak and Rafa. When we meet them in the game, their conflict is already established, and I don't have much to ground me in their relationship. I think it also better establishes how deft Barinten is at keeping his activities from Malak, which we'll delve into deeper in the next chapter.

Kavanaugh 9/27/18

The Kavanaugh nomination has been kind of a revelation--about sexism, rape culture, the naked ambitions of the powerful, and my own privilege. I wrote something about it.

Zodiac Brave Story 9/19/18

After years spent seeking what she wants slowly and subtly, the reins of destiny are finally in Alma Beoulve's hands, and she won't let anything slow her down. Chapter 71, Siblings, is up.

Like Ovelia, I'm really enjoying writing Alma. It's a very different feeling to writing Ramza--the eagenerss and awareness of it, the cynicism of her views tempered by an idealism Ramza could never fully lay claim to. I hope she came through well in this chapter.

I am, as before, sorry for the delays. I didn't intend to take a 2.5 month hiatus, but things have been busy. Now I finally have some time and some calm, and I think I can give you guys regular updates again. The story will update every two weeks, still on Wednesdays. Thank you for your patience and support.

Zodiac Brave Story 6/27/18

In the midst of despair, a brother is reunited with his sister, and tells her the truth he's been keeping from her. But as brother and sister reconcile, the jaws of the powerful close fast around them. Chapter 70, Heretic, is up.

I've got some plans for Alma and Zalmour that I'm really excited about. Alma I've already shown a bit--she, Teta, and Ovelia are kind of a triad of different answers to the question, "What do you in a position where you have much asked of you and little say in it?" Ovelia bears the role with good grace, Teta just tries to survive, and Alma tries to subvert the system. And in a story filled with ostensibly-religious characters who use their religion to justify their actions, Zalmour is a man whose religious convictions determine his actions. I hope you guys like my take on them.

This chapter took a long time to write (hence the two-week hiatus), and with it I am officially out of a buffer. There's too much else going in my life for me to make this a priority right now, so I'm putting the story on hold for at least a few months while I get everything settled. When I come back, I hope I can give you guys more regular updates. 

Zodiac Brave Story 6/13/18

When last the two brothers met, they faced each other with drawn swords. Now reunited, they face each other with harsher words. Chapter 69, The Gallant Knight, is up.

This is another of those chapters where the dialogue writes itself. Although it was shorter than I intended, I still like the way it came together. I've been doing my best to make Ramza's brothers a little more three-dimensional than they are in the game. I hope you're enjoying my portrayal.

Zodiac Brave Story 6/6/18

The Hand of Barinten struggles to live up to the trust their liege lord has placed in them as they try and find out what secrets Ramza and his friends hold. Chapter 68, The Burden of Command, is up.

I'm excited to see how the Rafa/Malak dynamic compares and contrasts with the Ramza/Alma dynamic. I'm also excited to show how their different powers work (to wit: Rafa has uper-strength and mild invulnerability, Malak's blood allows him a limited form of telekinesis and telepathy when ingested/forged inside something, Clara has limited time magic, Clarice can manipulate her body's relationship to gravity, and Berkeley has illusions). But real quick, nerd digression: my friends and I spent a few months playing Final Fantasy Tactics as essentially DnD, and Berkeley, Clarice, and Clara are largely based upon those friends. I hope they like their portrayal.

Zodiac Brave Story 5/29/18

Strangers with reason to distrust one another spar with words, and come to see in each other a common cause. Chapter 67, Soldiers of Peace, is up.

 

I probably enjoy writing dialogue the most, and this chapter is one of those places where the dialogue basically writes itself. I had trouble writing Olan until I figured out that he's basically Delita if Balbanes had been a more active presence in his life, so the juxtaposition can make him a skeptical idealist rather than the scheming cynic Delita became, and that explains the newcomer's appeal to Ramza. I also much prefer my order of events to the game's, where Olan's introduction to the plot is the result of trying to uncover the Church plot, rather than simply stumbling into Ramza in the midst of an unrelated battle.

I'm sorry for the unannounced time skip. As I said before, there's been a lot going on in my personal life (frankly 2018 has kind of been nonstop from the outset), so I'm going to slow my update pace a bit to see if I can recover. I'll still try to keep regular updates going at a slower pace, but I may have to take a longer hiatus anyways. Thank you for your patience.

Zodiac Brave Story 5/16/18

On a quest to share the truth with someone powerful enough to do something about it, Ramza and his friends are pulled into a battle thick with strange magic. Chapter 66, Intrusion, is up.

I mentioned earlier how excited I was to have everyone's weird magic in play, and I think it came across nightly in this sequence. Now I've got a Quirky Miniboss Squad to call my own! I'll talk more about the Hand (both in personality and powers) in a later update.

On an unrelated note: I really thought I'd be able to keep up a steady stream of updates for the next year, but between moving, the search for a new job, and planning a wedding, I've probably got to take a break from the story here pretty soon. I'll try and get us to a good stopping place first.

Zodiac Brave Story 5/9/18

A young bastard makes a difficult choice, and strikes out on a treacherous path in the hopes of puting an end to the brutal war tearing his kingdom apart. Chapter 65, To Stem the Tide, is up.

Writing this chapter was what made me realize I had to open Part Three with Purposeless. We've seen Ramza listless and in despair before, but throughout the course of the story Ramza is always reacting to events happening around him--whether he stumbles onto the Marquis' kidnapping, or chases after Teta during her abduction, or goes to the rescue of his friends at Golgollada. At no point has Ramza really made a major decision that's not in some way a reaction to the events of the story. This is the first chance he's gotten to do that, and I had to establish just how listless and depressed he was in the opening to make the decision bigger.

 

In case you can't tell, I'm really enjoying writing these Alazlam Durai openings in order to flesh out his personal life. I'm also really enjoying my take on Bodan Daravon as a weird, eccentric old master. 

Zodiac Brave Story 5/2/18

The Grand Duke Barinten watches the raging war with hungry eyes, eager to claim his rightful place with the help of the soldiers he's spent years in training. Chapter 64, The Hand of Barinten, is up.

I have been excited about these chapters for a long time. This section of the game is among the best in both gameplay and story on its own, and there's plenty here that's ripe to expand on. Barinten (sometimes spelled Barrington) and his elite band of foreign-trained assassins. There's going to be a fair number of mythology gags to the series, as well as my own take on what their powers should be. Lastly, there's going to be my interpretation of Barinten as a sociopath with a dangerous gift for empathy, able to use his understanding of the people around him to consistently further his own ends.

The problem I've been wrestling with is his sexual abuse of Rafa. This abuse is canon, so I wanted to include it, but I also don't want to fall into the trap of the male writer who thinks that the only way to write a compelling female character is to subject her to sexual trauma. I already felt uneasy enough with the passing references to it in Teta's plotlines: now it's going to take a much larger role in the story. I hope to do justice to Rafa as character while not downplaying the seriousness of a crime that far too many people, in my own life and in the world, have been the victim of. Please let me know if you don't care for my treatment. I promise to do my best to handle it with the respect it deserves.

Zodiac Brave Story 4/18/18

We begin Part Three: In Search of Honor with a double update. First, in Chapter 62, Purposeless, Ramza and his friends spend their days hard at work and training, but in spite of it all are listless with their failures. Then, in Chapter 63, Casualties, a legendary general pleads with his liege lord, desperate to end the war that is bleeding his country dry

I went back and forth a couple times about which chapter to lead with here. I ultimately decided on Ramza: I think his perspective gives us a solid understanding of how bleak Ivalice is these days, and how helpless our heroes are. Then, when we pivot to the Thundergod, we get a sense that this powerless extends to even a character who is in some ways as legendary as Ramza's own much-admired father. Not only that, but I get a chance to explore Delita's character from the perspective of someone who has no reason to suspect his true nature, and show another side of the deep game that Delita is playing.

Zodiac Brave Story 2/28/18

A Princess and her captor confront each other above the raging falls where they once saved each others' lives. Chapter 60, Promises, is up.

 

I enjoyed writing this chapter, but it took me a long time. I was stuck trying to figure out how Delita talked Ovelia back from the brink of the cliff. This is especially confusing since my Delita and Ovelia are very different from their original incarnations: my Ovelia is stronger, and my Delita kinder, and I had to find a way for them to reconcile. I think my main insight is that Ovelia has to feel like Delita's peer in order to trust him, and I'm excited to see how I handle that dynamic in chapters to come.

Zodiac Brave Story 2/21/18

A monster of legend tears Castle Lionel apart, and Ramza and his friends must use every skill they have to slay it before it slays them. Chapter 59, Cuchulainn, is up.

I am super happy with how this chapter turned out. It's a bit longer than I intended, but I think it's dramatic, tense, gives everyone in the group a chance to contribute, and showcases their talents, drives, and determination. I'm also really happy with the modifications I made to Cuchulainn's appearance, since the goal is to make the Lucavi a lot more abominable than they have been in precious incarnations. I hope you agree.

Zodiac Brave Story 2/14/18

As a holy man wrestles with his demons, he finds a miracle with which he might defend the righteous and punish the wicked. Chapter 58, Pain and Punishment, is up.

I really love doing villain chapters, and giving the reader a sense of how the antagonist arrived where he is. With the Cardinal, I got a chance to show his transformation from man into monster, and also exactly how intoxicating and powerful these Lucavi can be. We'll be getting more into this later, but I hope you enjoyed this story of grief, loss, temptation, and torture on your Valentine's Day!

Zodiac Brave Story 2/7/18

Bloodied, battered, and determined, Ramza and his friends advance into the enemy's stronghold to confront the Cardinal who betrayed them, only to find him lying at ease with an unexpected offer. Chapter 57, The Cardinal's Offer is up.

The challenge I ran into here was trying to make sure my characters had compelling reasons to refuse the Cardinal's offer. It's a pretty reasonable one, and removes most of the causes for which the characters have been fighting thus far. Ultimately, I realized Agrias was the best reason to oppose him: that her honor is in many ways more straightforward than that of her allies, and that the Cardinal has clearly demonstrated that he cannot be trusted.

Zodiac Brave Story 1/31/18

A mercenary and his one-time pupil fight to the death for the sake of what they hold dear. Chapter 56, A Grim Night's Work, is up

Oddly enough, I find I don't have much to say about this chapter. All the story decisions/motivations that led her were established before this chapter. By the time Ramza and Gaffgarion get here, they've already decided they're willing to kill and die for their respective causes. Now it's just a matter of who wins, and why.

For the record, I didn't plan for Gaffgarion's own motivations to so nicely mirror Ramza's (Ramza, accepting the humanity of the people he kills, willing to do it anyways vs. Gaffgarion, careless of the humanity of the people he kills as long he gets what he's after). But it does once again establish Gaffgarion as kind of a dark path for Ramza: a man who possesses great skill, empathy, insight, and intelligence, and uses those powers only to protect his own place in the world, since he feels wronged by it. And I like how he dies: almost at peace, even as he laments the hardships that await his protege and daughter.

Character deaths have always mattered to me. One of the great powers of a writer is the ability to give a character's death meaning. It's something that's not owed to us in life, so letting a death genuinely serve a purpose always felt like a power reserved for God. And Gaffgarion dies here because he was determined to kill Ramza, in spite of having other options, and he was determined to do it alone. It wasn't about survival; it was about comfort. And when he dies, he genuinely wishes Ramza well, hoping he can do what Gaffgarion never could.

I've been thinking about this subject a lot more lately. My grandfather, who helped raise me, died recently, and I've been processing that in my own time and my own way. Suffice to say, death scenes of all kinds hit me a little harder than they used to.

Zodiac Brave Story 1/24/18

After a difficult parting and a reunion made possible only by desperate battle, Ramza and his friends find purpose and clarity as best they can. Chapter 55, Reprieve, is up

There's a lot I could say about this chapter. I could talk about how the gimmick of characters falling all over themselves to save each other is one of my favorites, when all logic goes out the window as you care for those you love. I should probably warn you it's a bit NSFW. But all I can think is this: I wrote a good sex scene.

This is actually a big deal for me. I didn't know it was something I could do. I've always been a little uncomfortable writing sexuality for any characters. I'm always afraid I'll reveal too much, or come off as objectifying, or sexist, or manipulative, or tone-deaf. But I just cut loose, and that's because the characters speak to me. Ramza and Radia make sense to me. Their relationship makes sense to me. Their dynamic makes sense to me. It's complex and rooted in their family histories, their need for idealism, their search for causes. They keep landing with these groups that don't quite fit the people they want to be, and they suffer and struggle and fail and keep trying. And I love the dynamic between them, and I feel like I was able to bring that moment to life here, where two people with every cause to care for each other ignite something physical, and nothing is ever quite the same again.

Anyways, thanks for listening to me talk about how proud I am of a sex scene. Ya'll are great.

Zodiac Brave Story 1/17/18

Locked in a cell, with men she trusted holding the keys, a Princess questions everything she knows. Chapter 54, Pointless, is up.

First thing's first, I want to thank you all for your patience. I'm sorry that the site's been slow in updating while I deal with family stuff, sort out lay-out issues and trying to write more. I can't promise it's going to stay perfect for long, but I'll try and give you guys a steady stream of content to get us to the end of Part 2.

I really love the contrast between this chapter and the last one. It wasn't intentional on my end, but I realize there are a lot of parallels between Ramza and Ovelia: they're both the unfavorites of proud families, with stubborn streaks of idealism and independence that have made them obstacles to their more cynical, manipulative relatives. When Ramza felt unworthy of his name, abandoned it, and ran away, Ovelia felt like her name was a burden that gave her worth.

In the last chapter, Ramza found the courage to keep fighting and killing, because the things he's trying to save are worth fighting for. Being a Beoulve doesn't matter to him; it's about the people he cares about. But Ovelia, who has just now found a passion to match the lofty name she bears, has that name ripped from her by the people who have betrayed her. She is alone, and abandoned. I can only hope she finds her own truth, the way Ramza has.

Zodiac Brave Story 12/27/17

Whatever the cost, Ramza Beoulve is not going to lose anyone else he cares about. Chapter 53, Bloodstained, is up

I don't want to get too personal here and make anyone too uncomfortable. My grandad died this week. He had a huge hand in raising me, and was one of the most important people in my life. He was one of the best people I knew. None of my writing would exist without his example and encouragement. My family's still dealing with the loss of what amounts to our foundation. Update schedule's probably going to be pretty messed up for awhile. Thank you for your patience. I'll talk more about this chapter in the next update.

Zodiac Brave Story 12/20/17

With doubts, fears, and regrets hanging heavy over him, a mercenary speaks with the daughter he hopes to save. Chapter 52, A Happy Man, is up

Gaffgarion's mostly served as a cipher for other characters and events at this point. We've gotten a picture of the man, but that picture rarely exists in a vacuum. We don't have much time to spend with him (I promised myself that I would limit my "villain" chapters, and Gaffgarion's already gotten more than most), but it's nice to be able to spend time with him in a new context.

I think adding a semi-OC in the form of Radia was a really good idea to the overall narrative. It gives Ramza a constant companion he kind of lacks in the original story, and it gives Gaffgarion a personal stake (and personal connection) that he simply doesn't have. In the game, Ramza joins up with Gaffgarion, who turns out to be secretly working for his brother and repeatedly preaches the same philosophy as most of the villains. But giving him a daughter--and one as idealistic as Ramza, in her own way--gives him someone to play off. Suddenly we see Gaffgarion not as a minor boss to provide interesting battles, but as cynic who was once idealistic, and who only wants to claim his place in the world. We see Gaffgarion in some sense as a dark future for Ramza, if he cannot find a cause worth fighting and dying for. And we see that like many character, Gaffgarion is in some ways a victim of a system that rewards his behavior while punishing people like Wiegraf, Miluda, and Agrias.

Zodiac Brave Story 12/13/17

Ramza and an old friend confront each other as a vast conspiracy looms around them. Chapter 51, A New World, is up

I think one of the things I've most enjoyed about this project is giving these characters a new, more consistent shape in a different kind of narrative. In the video game, since we're partially in control of their actions, their motivations don't always make sense. Delita in particular is troublesome: parts of his plan seem to rely on pure luck, rather than skill. Likewise, Ramza pressed forwards ceaselessly, seemingly for no other reason than that the story requires it.

With this chapter, I got to take my own crack at that narrative. Through the last few chapters, I've established what a dangerous game Delita is playing, pitting his friends and allies against each other and trying to assure the best possible outcomes across the board. He sends Beowulf to rescue Ramza and arranges for Ramza to come to him; he arranges a trap he's sure Ramza can beat as long as Gaffgarion's not there, and tries to give Gaffgarion every reason to leave; he helps Agrias escape, renders Ovelia helpless, and tries to give Vormav every reason to trust him. I think with the last few chapters I show just how canny and cunning Delita is, and how difficult his chosen taken is, to boot.

Ramza, by contrast, is simpler (as he has been since the beginning of the story). Ramza is only trying to do the right thing. He rarely knows what this is, and he's easily cowed and manipulated. But here, he knows exactly what he's after. And I get the fun of a bright, courageous, idealistic young man arguing with his brilliant, morally-compromised friend as they both fight desperately for what they believe is important. 

Sometimes this project isn't easy, but I really enjoy it.

Zodiac Brave Story 12/6/17

A mercenary finds himself trapped between a rock and a hard place and he seeks to save himself and his daughter from the grasping hands of careless, indifferent power. Chapter 50, Tightrope, is up

This is one of those chapters that just comes together beautifully as you're writing it. I manage to do so much with it, and I don't fully understand how. Last time we saw Gaffgarion, he mostly served to get us a broader picture of Ivalice's political situation: this time, he's used to sketch pictures of some pretty major characters, including Vormav Tengille, Cardinal Delacroix, and Delita Heiral, while at the same wrestling with his own questions about loyalty, duty, money, and power. In a few short paragraphs, I can establish just how dangerous both Vormav and the Cardinal are and what a delicate game Delita is playing (though we'll get more of that later). In case you can't tell by all my self-praise, I'm really happy with how it came out.

Zodiac Brave Story 11/29/17

A criminal conspiracy backed by the Church draws its noose tight around Ramza and Mustadio, but the two still have friends they can count on to bail them out. Chapter 49, An Unexpected Rescue, is up

One of the things I was really excited about when I undertook this project is that Final Fantasy Tactics offers so many characters who almost always have biographies and in-battle dialogue that helps sketch a better picture of their character, in spite the fact that they get so little time in the spotlight. This makes the characters, and the world of Ivalice, feel huge: a man we meet once in a forgettable story battle has a backstory like Barich's, or is the hero of sidequests like Beowulf.

I enjoyed this chapter for a number of reasons: I get to flesh out the characters of Barich, Beowulf, and Mustadio nicely, and we get to see Ramza be a badass. The tension I've developed in Ramza's character--between his cautious, uncertain nature and his murderous abilities--makes for an interesting dynamic. It's only in moments like this, when Ramza's back is against the wall and he has no choice but to act, that he really shines through.

Zodiac Brave Story 11/22/17

The Cardinal makes an unexpected proposition to a Princess who's tempted in spite of herself. Chapter 48, The Jaws of Lionel, is up.

I think I've mentioned that I really like writing Ovelia? I didn't expect it, but in some way she's so much smarter and so much more focused than Ramza is. Ramza is constantly locked away in his own head, struggling to make sense of himself and fix his flaws, but in spite of everything she's been through, Ovelia is much more outward looking. Maybe it's a reflection of their different upbringings: Ramza always felt small in spite of being essentially a man of action, so he turns inwards to find himself; Ovelia has always been trapped inside, prevented from meaningful action, so when given opportunity to act she seizes it.

I enjoyed the idea of doing Ovelia chapters from the moment I came up with this novelization, but I've found they're even more useful than I anticipated, giving a much broader view of the conflict while still retaining a personal touch I rather like.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. I'm thankful for my readers.

Zodiac Brave Story 11/22/17

The Cardinal makes an unexpected proposition to a Princess who's tempted in spite of herself. Chapter 48, The Jaws of Lionel, is up.

I think I've mentioned that I really like writing Ovelia? I didn't expect it, but in some way she's so much smarter and so much more focused than Ramza is. Ramza is constantly locked away in his own head, struggling to make sense of himself and fix his flaws, but in spite of everything she's been through, Ovelia is much more outward looking. Maybe it's a reflection of their different upbringings: Ramza always felt small in spite of being essentially a man of action, so he turns inwards to find himself; Ovelia has always been trapped inside, prevented from meaningful action, so when given opportunity to act she seizes it.

I enjoyed the idea of doing Ovelia chapters from the moment I came up with this novelization, but I've found they're even more useful than I anticipated, giving a much broader view of the conflict while still retaining a personal touch I rather like.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. I'm thankful for my readers.

Zodiac Brave Story 11/15/17

A mercenary and a machinist meet the Cardinal's man, and find a familiar face. Chapter 47, An Unexpected Reunion, is up.

So I've been introducing references to Barich earlier than he appears in the story (in point of fact, Barich just sort of shows up without explanation near the end of Final Fantasy Tactics). Once I started playing around with Barich's character, I realized that he was actually a very useful way to keep Mustadio relevant and give him a personal stake in the story, so I decided to introduce him much earlier. 

So far I really like Barich. He's fun to write, and I think there's a lot to be had out of his dynamic with Mustadio. The goal is basically to have the heroes and villains act as more direct foils this time around, and give everyone a role in advancing the story. Barich and Mustadio are going to be very useful in that capacity, since their position as machinists can give them insight into the nature of Ydoran culture and technology--insights that are going to be very important to telling this story.

Zodiac Brave Story 11/8/17

A young man tries to do what he thinks is right, even at the cost of a treasured friendship. Chapter 46, Uncertain Paths, is up.

This fight's been coming for awhile--obviously Radia and Ramza cannot go together to Goug--and I actually found it somewhat tricky to write. It's always tempting to give someone a clearcut right or wrong position, but that cheapens the complexity of human relationships. Both Ramza and Radia have their reasons for acting the way they're acting and what they want, and for most of the book those reasons have aligned. It always hurts to love someone and realize that you have to part ways.

Zodiac Brave Story 11/1/17

The Princess meets with the Cardinal, and glimpses a fragment of a legend. Chapter 45, The Stone, is up.

Not much to say here. I already introduced the Cardinal a little bit in Chapter 44, and it was pretty fun to get to write him here. Events in the original game only give him a few scenes, but I think it's obvious from my treatment of the villains thus far that I intend to provide more compelling portraits of their struggles and personalities as we go on.

I like writing antagonists for a lot of reasons. The first is purely narrative; sharing the antagonists story helps create motifs and comparisons between the characters. Is Gustav all that different from Delita? Aren't there similarities between Argus and Gaffgarion? I get to tell more of the story of Ivalice, and improve the narrative as a whole.

The second is personal; I really like getting into the heads of people who've done horrible things. I think the idea of evil is kind of idiotic. People aren't pure evil, anymore than they're pure good. No one is born ready to hate, torture, and kill. It's a long, strange road to get there, and I think understanding how you arrive at a place of evil is the first step in figuring out how to prevent others from going down that path. Writing villains helps me sympathize with how people might do the horrible things they do. And in today's political climate, that seems like a very necessary skill.

Zodiac Brave Story 10/25/17

After a hellish trip through a city's sewers, the princess and her guards rest and reaffirm their bonds. Chapter 44, A Grateful Company, is up.

I was kinda nervous about this chapter. As a heterosexual man, I obviously find women attractive (and naked women especially so), and I didn't want to objectify my subjects, each of whom is a person with agency. And while I suppose there is something a little tantalizing in the construction of this opening scene at the pool, it's supposed to stay focused on the characters in question. I hope I achieved that.

So far we've largely avoided sexual content. In future chapters that's going to change. I try and warn people about mature content, but at this point in the story readers should be well aware of what they're stepping into. The source material was already violent and sexual, and novelizing it the way I'm doing means giving you a front-row seat to some of the unpleasantness.

Zodiac Brave Story 10/18/17

A Princess and her companions meet a fugitive, and form a tentative alliance. The fugitive offers his gratitude, and a way through their crisis. Chapter 43, Good Deeds, is up. 

There's not that much to say about this chapter. It's one of those pieces of writing where the characters almost felt like they were writing themselves. Mustadio, Ovelia, and Radia really shone for me this time, as did Alicia.

I suppose I could just make a quick note on accents? Ordallians are French, just to be clear, and Romandans are like an amalgam of German/Russian (note: this will NEVER COME UP). Lesalia and Gallione basically have different versions of a British accent, while Limberry is a Scottish brogue. Lionel and Mullonde typically have lilting Italian accents, while Zeltennia is more Irish and Fovoham is more Welsh. Just to make it easier for you to hear.

Zodiac Brave Story 10/11/17

The princess and her guards hide in the slums of a city crawling with danger, but cautious as they are, they cannot stand idly by when dangerous men come hunting a young man hoping to save his father. Chapter 42, Righteous Again, is up.

Thank you so much for your patience over the last few weeks. I burned through most of my buffer while dealing with family issues, moving, and other necessities, so having a few weeks off to travel, write, and see family and friends did wonders. I've got the thread of the story again, and I promise you updates as regularly as I can make them.

I actually wrote two versions of the fight scene featured in this chapter--the one you read, and another where Ramza defeats Mustadio's assailants single-handed. I was pretty happy with this second version, but I ultimately felt the need to include Agrias for a number of reasons. Mostly I felt that I'd been kind of giving Agrias the shaft. She's a powerful character who's been screwed by the challenges she has to face--repeated betrayals and especially-talented enemies.

 

This trend tends to continue, because Agrias, for all her strength, is a lone knight trying to deal with the chaos of a kingdom, and she can't always best her enemies. There's a whole trope about this--The Worf Effect, which basically means that certain characters are established badasses solely so that new threats can beat them to demonstrate how dangerous they are (it's for that reason I had Wiegraf thrash Beowulf way back in Chapter 22). Agrias, being probably the strongest of the core party right now, often suffers this. So while there's time, I wanted to let her shine, and show that as outmatched as she often is, she really is deadly enough for her confidence to be justified most of the time.

Zodiac Brave Story 9/21/17

A battered mercenary and his exasperated employer lament the naivete of their loved ones and plan for future battles. Chapter 41, Realists and Idealists, is up.

Oh man, I've been excited about this chapter for awhile. As I've said elsewhere, I really wanted to make this project readable for people who know nothing about the games: essentially, I wanted to tell a story where a person could read along and have a good grasp of the events. This is an adaptation of the game that's meant to stand on its own.

So in the game, we only know Gaffgarion for a handful of missions before his sudden but inevitable betrayal. By spending so much more time with him (and by making Radia his daughter), we really increase the stakes of his betrayal. We see that this deed doesn't come out of nowhere--that his relationship with Ramza and Radia was already fraught. And finally, by making him a perspective character, we get a sense of the man behind the malice--the mercenary who focuses on the practical and pragmatic, even when besieged by doubts. We also get to see a little of Dycedarg, and I wanted to paint a much more human portrait of him (much like I did with Argus before). I think this scene gets to show the two men off nicely--as people who understand the dirty business of running a kingdom and taking what they want, and aren't afraid to do so, but still lament a little of it. It makes you wonder how much of what they've said is lies, and how much is truth.

Taking a long break while I travel and sort out other materials. Plenty of stories right here on the site, and you can also grab my books if you're hungry for more.

Zodiac Brave Story 9/14/17

Exhausted from days of travel and battle, the Princess and her guards lie down to rest at last. Before they do, they speak as equals, confident in each other and in the cause they've chosen. Chapter 40, A Righteous Rest, is up.

So apparently this chapter actually serves as a minor reveal to people who have played the game, which I think is kinda funny.  I decided to write the story using only characters with fixed names as main characters (besides Ramza, who a player can name any way they choose), and that includes three otherwise-generic characters--Alicia, Lavian, and Rad. I decided early on that Alicia and Lavian were going to be my mages, but couldn''t figure out what to do with Rad, until I decided to flip her gender and give her an extended backstory. Gaffarion's daughter, who fought for the Death Corps (which also explains how Ramza found Gaffgarion and signed on with him after Zeakden). So yeah, Radia's been a gender-flipped version of Rad all along. 

On a more serious note (minor spoilers ahead), I went back and forth on whether or not to put their first kiss in this chapter. Ultimately (as corny as this sounds) I let Radia decide for me. Radia's a lot more about physical comfort than Ramza is, and after the day she's had I figured she might be looking for a distraction. 

Zodiac Brave Story 9/7/17

Old friends, old enemies, injured guards and frustrated captors face-off, their fragile alliance collapsing as suspicions and accusations fly.  But all fall silent when a Princess makes an unexpected choice. Chapter 39, Pawns in Revolt, is up.

I decided from the beginning that I was going to try and make Delita a more human character, and convey more of his role in the narrative. In some ways, the Delita of the original game is too stilted and perfect: when we meet him after the timeskip, he knows too much and rarely seems caught off-guard.  Since we were going to spend more time with him, I wanted to make him seem more like a protagonist--a character whose actions are impacting the story, and who in turn is having to react to confusing and unexpected events.  I think I managed to deliver that with this chapter, and get some pretty great mileage out of having Wiegraf and Radia present as well.

I forgot this over the last two weeks, but now seems as good a time as any: as of 8/23/17, the Zodiac Brave Story is over a year old.  It's been really fun so far, and I really appreciate all the fan feedback and support.  I've wanted to tell my version of this story for over 10 years: I feel blessed to get a chance to do so, and more blessed that anyone thinks it's worth reading.  Thank you.

Zodiac Brave Story 8/31/17

A traitor stands with blades pressed against hostage throat, and preaches the inevitability of the Princess' death. But there are many warriors beside the roaring Falls, and together they may yet fight their way to freedom. Chapter 38, Blood to be Spilled, is up.

You've probably already picked up on this from previous chapters, but I'm adapting the dialogue from the game basically as I choose to, spreading it out among many different speakers, expanding here and condensing there.  My goal is not to do a straight retelling; it's to take the elements of the story and tell them my way.

So this chapter's obviously fun for a lot of reasons, and I get to blend ridiculous chaotic magical action with character-driven philosophical conflicts.  That's basically everything I ever want to do as a writer.

Zodiac Brave Story 8/24/17

A princess and her captor fight their way through murderous soldiers.  When things seem at their bleakest, an unexpected rescuer arrives, and with him dangerous revelations and unlooked-for danger. Chapter 37, Surrounded, is up.

This is another of those chapters where I get to reinterpret based on the sparse framework the game provides.  When Delita and Ovelia leave Orbonne, they're a kidnapper and his victim: when we see them again at Zirekile, they're fighting together against the Hokuten.  Getting to write that dynamic's a lot of fun--the odd mix of camaraderie, doubt, and distrust.  I already had some pretty fun plans for Ovelia in my telling, but she's practically writing herself here.

Bonus fun fact: the notion of Alma being a good sketch artist is one that happened literally as I was writing the chapter.  It's both a useful device--I get to have characters recognize each other earlier--and a nice way of fleshing out the character. Hooray for happy accidents.

Zodiac Brave Story 8/17/17

The mercenaries follows the Princess' guards as they rush to save her from her kidnapping, but find the ghosts of an old waiting for them in the woods. Chapter 36, The Ghosts of Zeakden, is up.

This was probably clear from the last chapter, but I'm gonna go ahead and talk a little bit about my favorite of fanon.  See, in the game, Delita disappears from the story at Zeakden as an ordinary soldier, and reappears as a unique class with unique abilities.  At this point in the story, only two characters you've encountered have those abilities: the royal guard Agrias Oaks, and the noble rebel Wiegraf Folles.

So I decided a long time ago that Delita must have been trained by Wiegraf.  When I decided to write the story, this little bit of fanon helped shape a lot of interesting relationships.  Consider the parallels it creates between Delita and Wiegraf, Ramza and Delita, Ramza and Wiegraf, Radia and Ramza, Radia and Delita, Radia and Wiegraf!  Rebels who turned against their cause, idealists who abandoned their ideals, soldiers who turned against their families.  There's a lot to be unpacked here.

This scene was chaotic, but fun.  There's more where that came from.

Zodiac Brave Story 8/10/17

A princess fights her captor tooth and nail, but slowly comes to fear the far worse dangers chasing after her. Chapter 35, The Inconvenient Princess, is up.

I find that I'm really enjoying these Ovelia chapters as I write them. She's a character with an interesting mixture of drive and awareness, which makes for some nice dramatic tension between her, her allies, and her enemies.  I think by this point our departure from canon should be clear, with certain characters appearing either long before they're due to show up or in a quite different fashion than their original appearance.

The chaos of the Araguay Woods and the Zirekile Falls is gonna happen fast. I hope you'll enjoy it.

Zodiac Brave Story 7/27/17

A desperate battle in the rain. The screams of a princess. And the face of a man who should be dead. Chapter 34, Seeds of Distrust, is up.

I debated a fair bit about how to divide up Chapters 32, 33, and 34, but I'm ultimately happy with the choice I made.  The original story structure would have me open with a brief scene of Delita, an argument in the chapel, a fight against the fake Nanten, and the taking of the Princess.  Since I forswore that structure from the outset, I had different choices to make, and this ultimately seemed best to me.

If you'll pardon a little explanation: in the current format, Ramza's story is in many ways meant to deconstruct the traditional shonen narrative of the young, shy boy who ultimately rises to the occasion, by telling the tale of two young men (a pacifist bastard and a talented commoner) who by narrative convention should rise to the occasion. Instead, they repeatedly fail, and hurt (both intentionally and unintentionally) people who have valid points to make. Thoroughly disenchanted with idealism and heroism, Ramza joins the company of a professional killer.

So the last few chapters establish how Ramza has changed, what his core conflicts are, and why exactly Orbonne breaks down as it does. First, a sketch of the duties of these mercenaries; a glimpse into the personality of the Princess; a sudden attack; a glimpse into the mind of the princess, and her peculiar kidnapping/rescue; a view of the bizarre battle outside the Monastery Walls; and finally, the sudden appearance of a man who should be dead. So our peculiar company is bound together: the Princess' stubborn guardians, a pair of idealistic mercenaries, and one hired killer intent on fulfilling his contract, all with reason to distrust one another.

Attentive readers will have noticed I'm not hiding that Delita ultimately becomes King.  That's intentional.  Delita's rise is not itself a surprise, either here or in Final Fantasy Tactics. The question I'm really interested in is; how much of what Delita does is justified, and how much simply monstrous? How much of what he says is truth, and how much lies?  I won't say much, but there is only a single Delita chapter in the entire story I intend to tell.  I hope you've enjoyed it so far.

I'll be taking a two week break to get my other materials in order, and probably returning to one update every two weeks for a bit afterwards. Thanks for reading so far.

Zodiac Brave Story 7/21/17

An unloved princess frets in her room as her guards fight for their lives, all ignorant of the true assassins moving against the princess through the cover of the chaos. Chapter 33, Blades in the Dark, is up.

Apologies for the delay in publishing this one.  I usually do all the final work for publication on the same day, and for whatever reason I have been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately, which makes it hard to focus.

Been saving the fact that I intend to do some Ovelia-perspective chapters.  My treatment of Ovelia is probably going to depart from the official canonical treatment in several ways, in part because I want to make her a character of actual agency. I felt a little guilty victimizing Teta, for instance, until I decided to make that the point: that essentially Teta is simply doing what she thinks she has to in order to survive, and is the victim of far larger powers and aims that she really never had control over. Ovelia is supposed to stand in contrast to that: a woman who is repeatedly put in a powerless position, but who manages to find ways to use it to her advantage. In many ways, it's a study of privilege: by virtue of their births, Teta, Alma, and Ovelia have access to very different resources, and their personalities are shaped by these circumstances.

 

Zodiac Brave Story 7/13/17

The Princess' guard stands watch against the gathering storm, ignorant of the terrible threat bearing down upon their heads. Chapter 32, The Storm, is up.

I think this chapter is a really good example of why I chose to start the story where I did.  The game begins with the raid on Orbonne Monastery, which acts as both a prologue and a tutorial. Then we find out how we got here--who the Princess' kidnapper is, and who the mercenary who needs to be reminded of that fact. Starting from Balbanes' death and following Ramza that way serves a lot of purposes--it preserves some element of surprise for readers unfamiliar with the game, and it presents a more organic character development for Ramza and company, as well as allowing me to introduce the changes/expansions/explanations I've made to the original narrative.

More importantly, however, I get scenes like the ones I've provided here.  You learn the identity of the nameless knight who dies in the attack: you see the feuding between Agrias and Gaffgarion developing in earnest, a clash of personalities and of managing styles: and you get to see Ovelia not as a living MacGuffin but as a clever, empathetic woman with a wicked sense of humor.  Going into this chapter, I didn't intend to write a scene where Ramza, Radia, and Ovelia spend time together: in the writing of it, I got a genuine pleasure.

 

The goal of this novelization has always been to tell my own version of a story that inspired me as a child. Here, I got to do that in earnest: to build upon the world and the characters in away that is essentially my own, but acts merely as an enhancement of the original tale. Then again, I'm pretty sure that's what all storytelling is. 

 

Zodiac Brave Story 7/6/17

The mercenaries reach Orbonne Monastery, only to be greeted by the angry snarls of the Princess' guards. Chapter 31, The Lionesses, is up.

A lot of groundwork being laid here (and probably my last 100% off-script chapter for awhile).  Almost every character introduced in this chapter is going to shape the story in a big way in chapters to come. From a story perspective, I get to have a lot of fun with these brief, intense meetings: we see Gaffgarion as the confident man who manages to have fun even while playing the ignorant sycophant, and some actual familial connection between him and Radia. But while that was fun for me to write, I'm much more interested in Ovelia and her Lionesses.

Agrias and Ovelia are obviously important characters (with the latter being foreshadowed in the story as the future queen of Ivalice and the former being her bodyguard and confidant), and knowing where the story's gonna go it's pretty fun to establish Agrias as a mild antagonist. But the real fun is with Alicia and Lavian. In the game Final Fantasy Tactics, Alicia and Lavian are generic units you can recruit as members of the Princess' guard: in a game where most generic names are randomly-generated, this makes these two named blank slates stand out. There's a fair tradition of giving them expanded roles in FFT fanfiction.

I knew I was going to follow that tradition for reasons of my own, and already started doing so with Radia--a play on the character Rad/Ladd, who's a fellow mercenary with Ramza and Gaffgarion and another generic character with a set name. Likewise, Alicia and Lavian go from being ordinary knights to mages, with distinct personalities and their own roles in the coming story.

 

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