My Best Four Days in Gaming

Gen Con started badly for me. I flew out from DC on Wednesday morning; my girlfriend Kristen on a direct flight and me with a connection through Chicago. Some bad weather meant my flight from DC left late, and my flight—and the flight before it—to Indianapolis were cancelled. There was no chance of going standby on a later flight, so after I figured out that my bags would continue to Indianapolis without me, my cries to the twitterverse were answered and my rock-star designer friend Tiara zoomed by the airport to pick me up on her way to the convention. This turned out to be a fun little car trip, although I was sad that I missed spending a half-day in Indianapolis with Kristen.


Gobsmacked. In a year where Paizo’s stack of ENnies needed a hand-cart to take them back to the booth, winning the Silver ENnie for Best Product may as well been Gold for us. A gold for Best Writing and a silver for Best Cover Art rounded out Eclipse Phase ENnies. In the Best Production category, Shadowrun 20th Anniversary Edition caught Silver. I can’t deny that I voted for Eclipse Phase in that category, but I joined Randall from Catalyst onstage and, since he was already wearing the ENnie’s medal, I yoinked the certificate. I had no idea I was going to be up there until I had started walking. Shadowrun 20th Anniversary is an awesome book and I am proud as all hell of it.

Eclipse Phase

Sunward was released, the GM Screen was available, and we had ample stock of them and the core book to satisfy our fans. We also had some miniposters, t-shirts, and some plush monsters from OhNo!Doom, a Chicago art collective, to round out our swag. Our booth was busy, sales were good, and our games were very well attended. Our gamemasters kicked ass in accommodating tons of players per game. We gave all the players feedback forms, and from the sampling I’ve read so far our GMs are very well loved!

This Just In … From Gen Con 2010

I appeared on This Just In .. From Gen Con on Saturday at 5PM. Fifteen minutes earlier, I was walking to our hotel room with Kristen saying “I’m feeling the need for some introvert time. Are you cool with just hanging out by yourself for awhile?” Of course, she was … and she got to. I didn’t, because I remembered at the last minute that I needed to be podcasting—not an introverted activity—in another hotel. So I dashed over, and thankfully I was paired with the awesome E Foley of Geek’s Dream Girl, who carried the show. I mostly talked about the ENnies, Creative Commons-licensing stuff, and how twitter functions as the “water cooler” for those of us that work from home but need feedback/stimulation from colleagues.


I hugged my friends extra tightly this year.

Magic: the Gathering and other Acquisitions

I didn’t manage to play any MTG at the show, but with my trusty iPad and some good timing, I was able to score a copy of the From the Vault: Relics set. Beyond picking up my comp copies of Sunward and the GM Screen, Sixth World Almanac, and the Dresden Files, I didn’t buy anything at the show. I bought a lot of games over the last year that haven’t been played much, so I didn’t want to add to the unread/unplayed piles.


We pitched game concepts and playtested things that will become Posthuman Studios’ next games. We have some cool stuff brewing! Refinement starts … tomorrow.

ENnies Award Voting 2010

Voting for the 2010 ENnie Awards is now open.

I can’t deny that this year’s ENNie Award nominations aren’t a little bittersweet after the events of earlier this year. Projects that I worked on are well-represented, and the great number of worthy entrants in every categories indicate something that has been true for a long time: gamers are spoiled for choice!

Shadowrun: Seattle 2072 received an honorable mention nod in the Best Setting category. Steve Kenson did a bang-up job with this title, melding Shadowrun’s past to the present and setting groundwork for the future.

Eclipse Phase in the following categories:

  • Best Cover Art: Stephan Martiniere’s gorgeous cover art will launch thousands of campaigns.
  • Best Writing: Developer Rob Boyle has had his hand in many great gaming books, and for Eclipse Phase he may have assembled the best writing staff he’s had to date: Lars Blumenstein, Brian Cross, Jack Graham, John Snead; with additional writing from Bruce Baugh, Randall N. Bills, Davidson Cole, Tobias Wolter, with Jason Hardy and Michelle Lyons on editing.
  • Best Production: This is the best-looking book I have ever made, with cool visuals that don’t overwhelm the art, and a huge thrust towards making the 400-pages very navigable, most notably the two-page spreads that open each chapter and point you to important information.
  • Product of the Year: With nominations in three of the “pillar” categories, plus the intangibles of Creative Commons-licensing, our trend-setting low price point for the electronic version, and of course a great game to play in a setting that has unlimited potential … I think a nomination in this category is well-earned.

Shadowrun 20th Anniversary Edition got nods in these categories:

  • Best Interior Art: Art Director Mike Vaillancourt and myself butted heads a lot on this project, but in the end, the artwork in this project is really strong and takes Shadowrun in a new direction.
  • Best Production Values: Apparently I build good-looking well-organized books consistently! The giant index that covers not only itself but all the other SR4 rulebooks is so freaking cool.
  • Best Game: Personally, I’d love to see “Best Game” and “Best New Edition” categories. But games don’t get produced for 20 years if they don’t see actual play, and Shadowrun has always erred on the side of being a game that should be played, not just read.
  • Product of the Year: A punched-up and improved version of one of the most successful RPGs ever certainly qualifies.

In every category we are up against other amazing titles: Paizo’s Pathfinder juggernaut, Green Ronin’s Dragon Age Boxed Set, FFG’s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Boxed Set (which looks gorgeous … I have to make the time to read through my copy!), and others too numerous to mention.

To spread briefly about category’s I’m not in: Jess Hartley’s One Geek To Another deserves props in the blog category for doing something different by offering advice about gamer etiquette, something sorely needed. For Best Setting, you can’t accuse the guys at HERO of not taking a chance with something different in Lucha Libre Hero

… and Best Publisher could just be Posthuman Studios.

Eclipse Phase is Origins Award RPG of the Year

Eclipse Phase was just voted the Best RPG of the Year at the Origins Awards. To say that I am pleased, after all the hard work that went into this game, after all the business kerfuffles over the last few months, and considering the competition —well, I am very pleased.

Eclipse Phase

Eclipse Phase is a complete game with a detailed science-fiction setting. It’s published under a Creative Commons license; because we have to build the future we want to live in, and sharing is an integral part of gaming culture. I’m thrilled to sanction and encourage that kind of sharing in a formal way. We sell the electronic version for $15 because we want to get it into your hands; after you’ve bought it, give a copy to your gaming group so they can fall in love with it, too. The print version is a gorgeous, 400-page full-color hardcover book, and it should be available in stores everywhere.

Eclipse Phase is a base for experiments, also. If you buy the Gamemaster Screen Hack Pack, not only do you get PDFs of the GM Screen and the Glory adventure, but you get the InDesign files we used to build the GM Screen, to let you hack your own custom GM screen. And when you’ve built your screen, you can share it with everyone. We’ll have more experiments soon.

But for now, we have our game back in sales channels, there are two print releases coming soon (the Gamemaster Pack and the glorious sexy space whale-filled Sunward), it’s thrilling to be working with Rob and Brian on future stuff, and we won an Origins Award for Best RPG. That all feels pretty damned good.

I’d Rather be Working than Spinning

I wrote this post over on Dumpshock in response to praise on how Posthuman Studios is handling the ceasing of our business dealings with Catalyst Game Labs, and I’m echoing it here:

Y’know what’s work? Spin.

Y’know what I’d rather do than spin something? Other work.

Some crappy stuff happened, so we’ll do what we can do to fix it and continue Eclipse Phase with as little interruption as possible. The important thing isn’t what lousy things happened (and at this point, who knows if anyone’s “scorecard” is accurate…) but that Eclipse Phase will have a bright future.

And now, to repost something from the BattleTech boards, to demonstrate in part why I feel the future is so bright:

One of the things that Posthuman Studios is going to do is be very upfront about sales figures, expenses, etc. So I’ll start with this: we wanted Catalyst to sell EP at $10-15 for the PDF. They argued against it, and basically said “You’ll need to sell twice as many copies in order to make the same amount of money.” We said “Okay. If we don’t sell twice as many copies of the PDF as (ASpecificCatalystCoreBook) did in PDF in 18 months, you can take the difference in dollars out of our royalties.”

Less than six weeks after the PDF was available (and this was after we seeded the PDF to bittorrent ourselves — anyone could have it for free, legally), we broke that mark. This meant that we had made the same amount of money, and we had the PDF in the hands of at least twice as many people!

A few months after that, Catalyst lowered their prices on all core books, and announced that Leviathans would be Creative Commons-licensed as well. And the first print run of Eclipse Phase sold out, also.

So, there will be a quick resleeve for Eclipse Phase, and on with the future!

(Edit: I should offer a hat tip to Fred Hicks at Evil Hat Productions, creators of the available-for-pre-order Dresden Files RPG, who are transparent to a very admirable degree and are a big part of the influence towards Posthuman’s transparency!)

Eclipse Phase and Seattle 2072 nominated for Origins Awards

I wrote about these two titles that I worked on last year in the post My Work in 2009, so check it out if you want to read a little about them—the news today is they’ve both been nominated for Origins Awards; Eclipse Phase (Rob Boyle, Brian Cross, John Snead, and more!) in the Best RPG category and Seattle 2072 (written by Steve Kenson with a bunch of authors contributing short fiction) in the Best Sourcebook category.

I’m really damned proud of these books and the teams that worked on them—thanks to all of the contributors!

By the way, Eclipse Phase is Creative Commons-licensed, so if you want to grab the PDF for free, not only will I not stop you, but I’ll outright encourage you to do so!

My Work in 2009

I’m not going to fib: 2009 was a rough year, work-wise. Catalyst experienced turnovers and hardships and growing pains, and we also did a lot of awesome things, but we also didn’t get all of the awesome things finished that we wanted to. That leaves us with plenty of things to do in 2010, of course!

One particular thing I found troubling about 2009 was developing the design and layout for Eclipse Phase and the 20th Anniversary Edition of Shadowrun at the same time: it was a lot of work, and I would have liked to have seen how one book [either one!] fared in the eyes of gamers before I turned my attention to another book. I used my gut a lot when designing both books; in the end, I think my gut was right more often than not.

My highlights of 2009 are easy:

Eclipse Phase

Not only am I very pleased with how Eclipse Phase ended up looking and working as a book and game artifact, but our gang at Posthuman Studios pushed Catalyst hard for things we wanted: Creative Commons licensing & inexpensive PDF pricing being the prime two. Those decisions have so far turned out to be wise, and Catalyst will be be publishing at least one more game—Leviathans—using a Creative Commons license. The development team’s work on Eclipse Phase—game, setting, book—fills me with pride.

Shadowrun, 4th Ed. 20th Anniversary Core Rulebook

What can I say? It was a thrill to work on this book, and aside from minor nitpicks it’s been enthusiastically received by new and returning Shadowrun fans alike. Highlights: the huge color-coded master index, the streamlining of character generation, and the revised skills chapter. Each time I pick up this book to use is better than any time picking up the previous Fourth Edition book.

Seattle 2072

Through weird twists of fate, I actually ended up being the developer on this project. My goal was simple: meld the best of Seattle Sourcebook’s “bite-sized” design with the best of New Seattle’s, throw in a major shakeup, and set up some future plots so people can keep ‘running in the Sixth World’s signature city. Steve Kenson rocked the main writing tasks and we pulled in a bunch of others to write short fiction pieces.