March 28th, 2013 § § permalink
My friends at Green Ronin are currently running a Kickstarter to fund a new Pathfinder-compatible edition of Freeport: The City of Adventure. They are into the last week of the Kickstarter project, and they are just under $10,000 away from their $50,000 goal. Ronin head Chris Pramas just made a very interesting post about their Kickstarter campaign.
When Kickstarter first launched, I hoped it would be a service that could help publishers be more transparent about their costs, including the often invisible fixed costs that running a publisher entails. This has turned out to be true only in very specific situations. Instead, many Kickstarter campaigns have moved to a model of setting a low “base goal” that satisfy’s Kickstarter’s requirements but does not actually fully fund the project, and stretch goals that push the dollar total higher to fully-fund the actual project. I’m not placing a value judgement on this (I’m working on a Kickstarter campaign that does the same thing), but it’s nice to see this level of transparency from Pramas and Green Ronin.
Their new Freeport book is ambitious, and Green Ronin is up-front about that. Instead of starting at a small book and building more into it with stretch goals, they’ve outlined exactly what they want to do, and they’re either going to do that book or not.
I’ve enjoyed both previous versions of Freeport, but have never actually played or ran a game of it. A new Pathfinder-compatible edition makes that more likely to happen, and it could well be the version of Freeport. That’s something that is well-worth having.
August 8th, 2012 § § permalink
One of my projects this fall is the HERO System fantasy game, Narosia: Sea of Tears. The Kickstarter launched on August 1st and closes on August 31st!
Narosia is a gritty fantasy RPG, designed by Shane Harsch of Legendsmiths and Marc Tassin, with artwork from Universe M, and contributions from Kenneth Hite. I’m especially excited because this is actually the first project where I’ll get to work with Ken!
I’m also excited about seeing what sort of new graphical takes I can do on a HERO System game, without alienating the diehard HERO fan base … I do suspect some samples will end up hitting this blog over the next couple months!
Narosia: Sea of Tears will be published by Silverback Press, the new publishing company run by ex-HERO Darren Watts. The core rulebook will be complete with HERO System rules and setting information, not requiring a distinct HERO System core rulebook to use!
April 13th, 2012 § § permalink
It’s going to be the most elegant and epic heavy metal dungeon crawl ever, isn’t it? It’s like a 3-hour Kirk Hammett guitar solo sending the party to war with the power of a hundred bards!1 Hell yes!
Several years ago I sent James Maliszewski the above, as I asked him if I could work on the eventual publication of Dwimmermount, his long in-progress megadungeon campaign.
And now that’s reality. James is working with the folks at Autarch, creators of Adventurer Conqueror King, to run the Kickstarter campaign and project manage Dwimmermount.
We are late into the Kickstarter campaign; it ends on Saturday, April 14th. And the campaign has reached the initial funding goal and three bonus goals, but we’d be very happy for more funding in these last few hours so we can push to make the book even better!
We’re still tweaking the graphic design of the book (most notably, some icons to help convey info in the sidebar), but here’s a two page preview of Level 1: The Path of Mavors. James has also posted a different preview of the same chapter on Grognardia. Check them out, let us know what you think, and remember: the Dwimmermount Kickstarter finishes on Saturday the 14th of April! As I post this, 30 hours to go!
1. I am not one of those “Heavy Metal is the music of D&D” guys … but neither is James, so that made it funny to me. To me.
April 5th, 2012 § § permalink
A long time ago, the SEGA Genesis version of Shadowrun introduced me to the Sixth World. A few weeks later, my pay for babysitting my young nephew was a copy of Shadowrun, Second Edition. Good games, bad games, fandom, fanzines, being published, working for the publishers, and the 20th Anniversary Edition all followed. My nephew is nineteen years old now. The Sixth World has been dear to my heart for a long time.
I wouldn’t be here, doing what I do, without Shadowrun. As I once said to Jim Nelson: “I blame you.”
And now, Shadowrun is returning to the computer/video gaming world, with Shadowrun Returns from Jordan Weismann’s Harebrained Schemes. And I’d be remiss to say that this is really, really awesome. In just over a day, the Kickstarter project has been fully-funded, and it will surely go much higher with 23 days to go.
Harebrained’s approach is interesting: they’re rolling back the setting to 2050 and moving on from there. On an initial level, that kind of hurts—my work on Shadowrun appears to be in no way integrated into what they want to do. But on logical reflection, I’m fine with that. I think rolling back the world to 2050 gives Harebrained tons of room to tell stories that weave in-and-out of the existing metaplot that Shadowrun fans are familiar with. And on the personal side, I fell in love with that 2053 datajacks-and-rockers Shadowrun, so playing through a computer game set in it appeals to my tastes as well. I know I have some fresh stories to tell in the setting.
A fresh start for a game in a completely different medium sounds like a good move to me. Keep it familiar to old fans and accessible to new ones, and take the best of the existing canon material while sliding the rest under the rug.
What great news for Shadowrun fans, and what an amazing show of support by them!
January 31st, 2012 § § permalink
I started this article a long time ago and it’s sat in my drafts folder for months. I’m working on the same task today and figured I would finish what I had written about the subject and get it out there, instead of waiting until I could finish everything I want to write on the subject.
I’m working on playtest kits for some card games right now. It’s not my first time doing so, but I think it’s my smartest time. Here’s some notes on how to build playtest kits more easily.
What are the goal of playtest kits? Playtesting the game, of course! You want to spend as much time as possible playing and analyzing that play, and less time building and rebuilding kits.Here’s some priorities when breaking that down:
Playtest kits should be:
- As easy to make as possible.
- Quick to modify on the fly.
- An accurate representation of the current state of the game rules and all card text.
- A factual representation of the physical game item (correct colors, rough icons, etc.)
Here’s the game-specific stuff you need to build a playtest kit:
- A spreadsheet or database that contains all the necessary information for each card.
- A list of how many of each card you need to print.
- Printable cards, 9 per page. There are a million ways to turn your spreadsheet/database into a printable page like this. As you can probably guess, I use InDesign for this. Data merge is hot!
- A copy of the rules to be printed. These rules should be in a state where a group of people who have never played the game can lean the game from them.
Here’s the stuff you’ll need from your Game Designer’s Toolkit:
A whole bunch of excess cards from dead CCGs. Go to your local game store and say “Hey, I need a 800-count box of the absolute worst, dead, totally terrible CCG cards you can get me, from a variety of terrible CCGs.” Your game store clerk will say “Are you serious?” and you say “Yup! What do you want for them?” You should be able to get this box of cards for 10 bucks or less—many game stores have boxes of these cards that haven’t sold in years. If the store offers to sell you more and you have the storage space, go for it. You want the games from a variety of CCGs to make your different playtest sets easier to tell apart if you use clear sleeves.
A smaller bunch of CCG sleeves. There are two routes to take with this: the cheap clear sleeves that Ultra Pro sells for a penny each, or the nicer colored/opaque/textured sleeves that typically run about 5 cents each, retail. Advantages to the penny sleeves: they are cheap and you can use different CCG cards in them to easily distinguish between different types of cards in your game. Advantages to the more expensive sleeves: they typically shuffle better, slide around less, and can take more wear and tear. I prefer the Ultra Pro matte sleeves, as they’re quite durable and don’t get marked very easily. You’ll need a few different colored types of sleeves to distinguish between different types of cards (or different games, or different versions of games.) If you want the nicer sleeves but are on a budget, ask your local game store to sell you all the sleeves that, for whatever reason, have not sold well to the local player community. If you’re willing to take those slow-moving sleeves off their hands, they may well cut you a bargain. They might also have a bunch of used sleeves that they’ll sell to you cheaply—many people who sell off their CCG collections leave the cards sleeved, and so stores end up with boxes of these used sleeves (if they don’t just throw them away.)
Cheap printer paper. This paper will be going inside a sleeve and against a card, so it doesn’t need to be sturdy. I think I paid $16 for 2500 sheets last time I bought paper: if each of those sheets turned into 9 playtest cards, that’s 22,500 playtest cards you can build before you need more paper.
A printer. I have a HP 2605dn color laserjet. Being able to do color is very useful in playtesting, and the cost savings over time for a laserjet printer are very clear over an inkjet.
A paper cutter or scissors. You’re going to be cutting a bunch of paper, and a proper paper cutter will make your life better. A paper shredder for all those scraps is great too, if you’re not a recycler.
A bunch of counters. Most games require counters of some sort, for life or other resources. During playtests, poker chips usually do a great job of this. If you’re getting fancy, print out graphics and glue them to both sides of a poker chip.
Sharpies in a couple different colors for annotating cards during play or between sessions. Reprint them when the annotations become more confusing than the lack of them!
Print all the cards, cut them out, fill every sleeve with a CCG card, and then add the paper cards. Double-check the proxies with your list of cards, and you’re good to go!
One final word on organizing this stuff: make sure all of your playtest files have dates on them, and keep all the physical components in a single bag/box/container, with a list of everything that should be in it and the playtest kit date/revision number. There are some large deck storage boxes designed for Magic: The Gathering that are big enough to fit 100+ cards and some other components, or you can simply use the smaller white 400-count card storage boxes.
This may seem like a lot of stuff to buy and have kicking around, but you can get it all for under $50, and most of it is reusable!
December 22nd, 2011 § § permalink
Until more permanent arrangements are made, you can download the Thousand Suns Character Sheet right here. Of course, if you buy the PDF, you have a copy of it … and if you buy a print copy, you get add the PDF on for only $5. But you might want this file anyway.
December 20th, 2011 § § permalink
Just before the holidays, PDF, softcover, and hardcover versions of Thousand Suns Rulebook are now available. I did the cover and interior design on this project, and all the production.
It’s been interesting working on a sci-fi game that is so different from Eclipse Phase, and also working on such a setting-light game. I think we did a sweet job of showing the setting style through art, captions, and examples without being too heavy-handed.
This is the first new release for James Maliszewski’s Grognardia Games, and I’m excited to see it live!
There is a nice preview—including the first chapter and the entire Table of Contents—available via OneBookShelf, so check it out!
It is a time of wonder.
Humanity has reached the stars and created a society of glittering sophistication and diversity on hundreds of planets. Poets declaim, lovers rendezvous, and rakes duel with wits and monoblades. Colonists settle virgin worlds, merchant princes vie for emerging markets, and free traders hawk their exotic wares. The Navy rules the jumplines, putting down pirates and charting new star systems. Scientists uncover startling new truths on long-dead worlds and posit revolutionary theories dizzying in their implications. Technology advances at a rapid pace, each year improving the lot of all who accept its boons. None dare deny the bright destiny Man has seized for himself.
It is a time of upheaval.
The inhabited galaxy-the Thousand Suns-teeters on the brink of chaos. Half a millennium since the Concord, and a generation since the bloody Civil War, the dynamism that ended the Age of Warring States is sorely tested. Diplomats try new gambits, shifting their ground for an unknown future. On dozens of worlds across known space, the lights are going out again and the process of decivilization begins anew. Despots and tyrants who would rather lord it over benighted backwaters than bend their knee to even a distant authority, arise once more. At the edges of explored space, rivals-both human and alien-watch and wait.
It is a time of glory.
Victorious fleets smash enemy armadas in distant star systems. Soldiers parade through liberated planets to alien cheers. Sector governors draw up breathtaking visions of terraforming and orbital cities. New jumplines open to the heart of unex- plored space, daring the bold to venture into the unknown for profit and peril. Surveyors stumble upon lost colonies and puzzle out the mysteries of inscrutable clades. Captains with blazing eyes save worlds from barbarism-and rule them as gods. Daring thieves turn new technologies to unexpected ends or sell them to shadowy cartels on the fringes of known space.
Meanwhile, bold operatives seek out these criminal plans for reprisal. Everything is possible with enough beauty, brains, or blasters, and it’s all within reach of a single jump.
It is a time of adventure.
November 2nd, 2011 § § permalink
Over the past few weeks I’ve been getting a small project off the ground that I intended to launch earlier this year; a series of Creative Commons-licensed textures that can be used and remixed into book covers, interior graphics, ePub covers — anything. No limits on what media they can be used in, commercial use allowed. They’re CC BY 3.0 licensed, which simply means that myself and Posthuman Studios need to be credited in a product where you use them.
Each of the texture packs is $5, and they contain at least four graphics each, at 18″x12.6″, 240DPI.
Battered and Blasted:
Dead Television Explosion:
These three packs are all kind of grungy; I’ll hit other themes and tropes in later packs.
August 12th, 2011 § § permalink
My company, Posthuman Studios, will have a Gen Con 2011 report soon. We went, we made money, we drank, we had meetings, we played games.
I kissed a troll.
May 31st, 2011 § § permalink
I was at the InDesignSecretsLive Print and ePublishing 2011 conference last week, and did a five minute Ignite speech talking about my publishing philosophy, Posthuman Studios, and Eclipse Phase. Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with many of those principles, but I have a sexy slideshow available for download.
I wrote way too much text for a five minute speech, but I had fun and got a lot of nice reactions to it from a crowd of people largely unfamiliar with roleplaying games and their particular publishing niche.
If you were at PepCon and want to chat about the things I said or toss ideas around, there are a ton of ways to get in contact with me!