29 August, 2018

New Geomorphs Available

I've been trying a few different techniques over on OneBookShelf/DrivethruRPG/RPGNow to see which ones are more effective at generating sales for me.

I've had quite a few of my games and gaming products for sale as Pay-What-You-Want, and these remain consistent sellers, but most people choose to pay nothing for them. This means exposure is building, but income isn't.

Adding The Law into a charity product bundle similarly didn't generate any more money for me, but it wasn't really about getting money, it was about contributing to a good cause, and getting a bit of exposure for a game that I'm pretty passionate about. almost 500 copies of the game went out in that lot.

Using the sales of The Law, I now had a list of emails in the OBS system. I used this as a promotional tool when releasing The Dispatch Guide, and within the first week sold half a dozen copies, which was a little faster than I normally would reach that point, but as a second book in a series (rather than a standalone rule set) I consider that a bit of a win. 
The attempt to get responses from the featured reviewers was basically a failure.

Today I've just released the first ten maps in my modular dungeon series. The nominal starting price for ten hand-drawn maps and ten random tables to go with them is $2, but I'm offering readers of the blog 50% off.

Here's the link

If this technique works, there will be a few more offers like this as I offer more map collections as a part of this series. If you want to share this post with other people, please do.

25 August, 2018

Reviews and Comp Copies

OneBookShelf has a function where a product can be sent to a group of reviewers. The idea is that this will get at least one of them to read through the product and provide a bit of feedback, because good reviews are one of the strongest promotional tools available to a new product.

When I released the Dispatch Guide for The Law a fortnight ago, I sent comp copies to their reviewer's circle, and figured I'd send a copy of the core rules for The Law along with it... after all, a GMs handbook makes more sense when the rules it refers to are also present.

I indicated at the time that I'd provide feedback on this feature... I can't remember if I made that indication here on the blog, or in one of the game design Facebook groups I'm a part of. Either way, a fortnight has passed, I've sold half a dozen copies of the Dispatch Guide, and a few more copies of The Law. I haven't had a single review from the reviewer's circle.

24 August, 2018


So, the last post was on transhumanism, and it generated some decent conversation.

Then I saw this awesome post by Joshua Macy.

It provides robots as a character option for Space Crawl (which seems to be a sci-fi version of Dungeon Crawl Classics).

I could pretty easily convert some of these ideas to the SNAFU system, which is my working name for the game system underlying The Law.

Characters in this system start with d4 in each of the four attributes, then generally 4 dice upgrades, 4 abilities, 4 defences, and then a range of 3 upgrades that could improve elements in any of these three categories.

In The Law, two of the attribute upgrades (and two of the abilities), are defined by the character's caste. There are six castes, each increasing a different pair of attributes (and providing abilities associated with those skill increases). A series of automatic abilities are added to characters based on their training in the agency academy. Defences are added to each of the four attribute categories.

It really wouldn't take much to modify this system to accommodate for robots.

The first option would be to generate four basic robot chassis (what is the plural for chassis?), each focused on a single attribute type. This means that instead of two attributes upgraded by a single degree, a single attribute is increased by two degrees.

Heavy Duty: Physical d8, Social d4, Mental d4, Paranormal d4
Protocol: Physical d4, Social d8, Mental d4, Paranormal d4
Strategy: Physical d4, Social d4, Mental d8, Paranormal d4
Sensor Drone: Physical d4, Social d4, Mental d4, Paranormal d8

Next, would be to generate a series of core upgrade suites, which would be simple collections of an attribute upgrade and a pair of abilities. Each robot would begin with two core upgrade suites.

Close Combat: Physical (+d2), Brawl, Assault
Construction: Physical (+d2), Endurance, Strength
Diplomacy: Social (+d2), Etiquette, Subterfuge
Infiltration: Physical (+d2), Movement, Stealth
Navigation: Mental (+d2), Navigation, Piloting, 
Nega-Psychic: Paranormal (+d2), Nega-Psychic, Occult
Paramedic: Mental (+d2), Awareness, Medicine, 
Ranged Combat: Mental (+d2), Shoot, Awareness

I really like the idea of robots being unable to be healed by medical abilities, but instead being repaired by crafting skills. I really doesn't take anything special to translate that concept across.

The idea of robot malfunctions works too. Instead of the typical negative conditions that human characters get when their attributes are damaged (such as the physical conditions of tiredness, disease, injury), a series of new conditions more appropriate to mechanical characters can be substituted.

Malfunctions can easily take the place of permanent battle scars, able to be repaired when the first few occur, but the more times a robot takes the type of damage that instils a long term malfunction, the harder it will be continue repairing it. Eventually, the software will need to be installed in a new chassis, and this could have permanent long term effects on the robot's digital psyche.

There's a lot more to think about here, and it could easily be a new spin-off game for the current setting... or at the very least, a new type of NPC for agents of the law to encounter.

22 August, 2018


(If you have issue with any of this, let me know. I'm trying to wrap my head around some big concepts here, and I honestly believe that getting more opinions on the subject matter will give a more complete picture)

I generally fit into the mainstream of game designers. I'm white, I'm male, I'm generally cis and hetero, I have enough spare time to actually work on game design because I'm not working stupidly long hours on minimum pay to support a family. Yes, I've got a degree of privilege, I accept that, and I do what I can to take that into consideration when dealing with other people. I'm not in the US or the UK where there are bigger opportunities for networking, so I'll always struggle to get my voice heard over those folks who are in closer proximity to those hubs of game design, I'm not completely neuro-typical, but I've learnt enough to masquerade as neuro-typical to most people.

The reason I've started writing this post is to take a break from my "Quartermaster's" book for The Law. More specifically, what I'm taking a break from is the concept of cybernetics, implants and transhumanism.

I've got a few people in my circles who are transgendered, or otherwise experimenting with sexual identity and gender. Some of those people seem to be really nice folks who have been struggling with their identity for a long time and are continuing to understand their place in a world where they feel out of place. Some are folks who've found a comfortable identity separate to that which they were born into. I think this is great. But then there are those folks who are controversy magnets and who are in everyone's face about how no-one respects them for their identity and how badly they've been treated, and how the world is an abomination... I've alluded to these kinds of people in the past. There's nothing much I can do about them, and it feels like any course of action will have them proclaiming their martyrdom.

In the past few years, advances in 3d printing, increased understanding about neural networks and nerves, better electronics, and improved programming techniques have seen the concept of prosthetic limbs start to actually see what authors envisioned in the 1980s as a part of the cyberpunk future, but we're still a long way away from the cyborgs seen in Robocop, the full limbs that remain permanently attached to the body, or even the advanced optics embedded in an electro-mechanical eye. It still feels like the closest that we have to that sort of thing is gender reassignment surgery, and body modifications in the form of piercings, tattooing and implants, where this allows some kind of dramatic appearance change and an ability for individuals with body dysphoria to approach the form they envision within their minds. Yes, I understand that there are artificial hearts and other organs, but these aren't necessarily tools used to transform the appearance and match the physical form to the mental ideal, they're tools to improve the lives of those who have troubles with everyday functionality...

...but here's where my privilege kicks in. I've generally been happy in my body, and generally able to function in society, so it feels like there is a clear delineation in my mind, but to those who undergo such procedures I have to wonder if the same delineation is present.

At what point does a person undergoing procedures to become adequately functional in society, transcend the boundaries of what is normal and become something more (or just generally different) to human?

Is there a scale of body dysphoria?

  • Perhaps the lowest levels can be addressed by dressing in a different way or wearing makeup, that can be immediately altered or changed when things become uncomfortable.
  • Slightly beyond this might be cutting your hair short if you feel the need to express to the world that you don't conform to societal norms of femininity.
  • Further still, taking hormone altering medications, which again can be stopped at a later time, but will leave long lasting biochemical effects which might take a while to leave the system.
  • At a similar level to this we might see tattooing or piercing, which are significant surface alterations, but which can be stepped back later (there's a whole spectrum just within this).
  • Next, surgical procedures, such as implants, gender reassignment, etc. Such things are possible, but push the moral boundaries and become controversial.
  • Beyond this we're starting to push the envelope of science fiction when it comes to modifying the body to correct for body dysphoria. But where do we stop? In the seminal "America" series of stories in Judge Dredd, we see a character who loves his partner to an obsessive degree and when she dies, he has his brain surgically implanted in her body so that he can live through her. This is more than just gender reassignment, it's taking over a completely new host body, and it might as well be synonymous with having a brain implanted into a cyborg/robotic host body (except that everything is biological).
  • Altered Carbon touches on this to some degree and I'd really like to see where it takes things in future seasons, with characters existing as neuro-electronic "stacks", implanted in the upper neck/spinal column... the body is just a sleeve. This seems to be another level further.
Myself, I have colour blindness. I've wondered what it must be like to have "normal" colour vision, and if the optical technologies were available, wondered whether I would engage. But that makes me think of my financial status, and has also made me consider whether I'm just happy in my own body because I've never had the money to consider changing it. Is there a certain degree of privilege that comes with money and allows people to physically engage their fantasies to change their outside to match their idealised inside? Are there a lot of lower class people who just become resigned to the fact that they'll never attain their ideal body, and thus live out their lives in misery? Is this why many of the most prominent gay personalities in the media are rich and white...because they've got the rest of the associated privileges on their side, and thus are able to indulge their lifestyle as a whim? This all links into ideas of intersectionalism. The more a person deviates from the norm, the harder it is for them to reach that norm... what is the norm anyway, except for a social construct?

Why is a boob job or rhinoplasty considered socially acceptable for a woman, yet reconstruction of genitalia is considered taboo? Why was it considered so controversial when Meow-Ludo Disco-Gamma Meow-Meow implanted a travel RFID chip in his hand?

Is it all merely because of the conservative grip on global politics at the moment? A last ditch struggle to maintain control in the face of accelerating technology? I really don't know.

Does a game system require a "humanity" system when characters are upgraded with cybernetic parts? How do you determine what levels become trigger points for that system? Is it easier to simply replicate certain types of stories with the systems in a game, rather than trying to mirror the complexity of reality? What sorts of stories are being told with the systems, and how do they feedback into one another?

More questions than answers at the moment. I'll be thinking about these a bit, and welcome any input.

21 August, 2018

RPGaDay (Parts 11-20)

Since I’m doing these in batches of 10, it’s time to start working through the next sequence.

11. Wildest Character Name

I’ve had some crazy character names over the years. Sometimes offering them as a hint toward the type of character that I’m playing… there was “Sir Ashley Williams, Keeper of the Third Sacred Boomstick, and Scourge of the Undying”, it actually took players two years to work out that I had basically named the character “Ash” from the Evil Dead series.
One of the more interesting character names I used was for a character who walked into a LARP with no name. Based on the first conversation exchange the character, they became known as “No Kick Mushrooms”.    
There’s plenty of others, but these two come to mind first.

12. Wildest Character Concept

As mentioned, “No Kick Mushrooms” was a LARP character, and was a tiny goblin inhabiting a bio-organic power armour suit that was roughly human sized. This was modelled by using a painted green doll with a customised goblin head, and mounting it on my chest, under an armoured chestplate. The remainder of the costume was designed to look like pneumatics and clockwork.
In a non-LARP context, the wildest concept I played for a while was a sentient swarm of nanotechnology. That game didn’t last long, mostly because I’m usually the one running games, and the other GM decided that he rathered play than run things.

13. Describe how your play has evolved

When I started playing, back in the 1980s, I had already been hearing about games that had been running for 5 to 10 years. I wanted to be a part of one of those epic games that just kept going and going. From then, and ever since,
I’ve never been a part of a tabletop game that has run for longer than 2 years. It’s only ever been LARPs that have lasted longer.
I guess that being a part of the LARP community has distinctly taught me that the game doesn’t have to be about me. It’s fine to be the supporting character in someone else’s story, and sometimes it’s possible to have more fun balancing supporting roles in the stories of multiple other characters, acting as a catalyst to combine those stories into something bigger than their parts. 

14. Describe a failure that became amazing

In the Palladium game RIFTS, rune weapons are some of the most epic and powerful equipment available. I gave one of my players the opportunity to gamble for their character to gain a rune weapon. This was using a character that had been regularly played in weekly sessions for over a year, a character who had developed quite a bit of history and was quite significant in the campaign. He was literally given a 50/50 chance of either gaining the rune weapon or being removed from play forever. This was done by coin flip.
He lost.
We decided that the character was stuck doing “menial chores for Satan”, and he kept popping up in other campaign for the next few years, tying together plot lines and adding a sense of consistency to many otherwise disparate games and campaigns. Twenty-odd years after the event, people are still talking about the guy who does “menial chores for Satan”, and apparently he’s been showing up in other people’s campaigns in the decades since too.

15. Describe a tricky RPG experience that you enjoyed

The first time I LARPed , I didn’t really know what I was  doing. It was a World of Darkness ongoing LARP campaign, and I was playing a werewolf…but the only people I knew in the game were playing vampires, and the werewolf players were insular and didn’t accept me as a part of their clique. As an isolated werewolf, who was trying to do the right thing, it was hard.
In the end, I just embraced the idea that this character was destined to be corrupted by vampire blood, and that they’d follow a downward spiral through the rest of their story. For three years we kept thinking this character had reached rock bottom, but in every situation we found that there was further darkness and depravity to explore. This character ended up being the big bad villain to one year’s season of storylines, but was never killed. A vampiric werewolf infected by the Vicissitude virus, and attended to by demon worshipping magi. Certainly not what I was intending when the character started.   

16. Describe your plans for your next game

I have no idea when my next game will be, but I’m suspecting it will take place once I’ve moved house to the country areas of Australia and have started my teaching job. That means I don’t know who I’ll be gaming with, whether I’ll be running a gaming club for high school students, for other teachers who are into gaming, or whether I run into an existing group of gamers.
My plans and preparations at this stage have generally revolved around developing a few sectors for “The Law”. These plans have involved placing locations, populating those locations with assorted characters, then linking those characters together through a relationship map. This includes clustering characters together into cults, corporations, street gangs, and secret societies, it also means establishing key objects that they might want, and understanding how the environment might change politically and socially when certain character actions occur.
I suspect that these plans will probably see publication as a supplement for “The Law” before they ever see my tabletop.    

17. Describe the best compliment you’ve had while gaming

A few times at conventions, I’ve been fairly packed with players for my sessions, with potential room for people to join as a pick-up game if they need to. One of he greatest compliments I’ve ever received in gaming is when a player has already payed for a session of my game, and then as paid money to play my game again even when other games are available at the convention.  

18. What art inspires your game?

What art doesn’t?

This is one of those questions that has many answers depending on the type of game being played. I used to love the simple lines and vibrant colours in the art of Chris Foss, and that informed a lot of my sci-fi gaming, but arguably not as much as the artwork of HR Giger.
At the moment though, I’m more inspired by the artworks of the artists around me on G+ and various other social media platforms. Folks like Matthew Adams, Dyson Logos, Stuart Robertson, Bradley K McDevitt, James Shields, and so many others.
19. What music enhances your game?

Again, it all depends on the game. I remember a great series of games set during the Vietnam War, with a soundtrack of classic rock and roll hits of the era.
One of the best game soundtracks actually came from one of the Battletech computer games of the mid 90s. That game came on a CD-rom, but if you put the CD into a standard CD player it was possible to access the audio tracks, including a series of heartbeat tracks which were presented in order on the CD according to the speed of the heartbeat. This meant I could put the CD on constant single-track repeat, then simply shift the disc forward of back a track depending on the intensity of the situation. High tension, fast hearteat…low tension, slow heartbeat.  

20. Which game mechanic inspires your play the most?

Anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time knows that I love the “Otherkind Dice” mechanic, so much so that I’ve been using it as a direct inspiration for a number of the games that I’ve written over the years. I think gaming is best when it makes the players confront difficult decisions, and this mechanism makes almost every situation a narrative dilemma that has serious ramifications on the ongoing story. Choose to succeed with a cost, or fail without a cost…both are interesting choices.

Vignettes from The Sprawl

I've been sharing my progress with the mini-comics I've been writing and illustrating for "The Law", and a few people have started commenting on how much their enjoying the comics, and whether they might end up relating to a larger comic series.

Honestly, at this stage I'm not sure.

I'm happy writing four page comics, and maybe expanding those to six or eight pages... and themes or elements from those comics will crossover between the sequences that I'm producing, but this project isn't about the comic book, the comics are being written to support the game.

The current comic is one of those four page sequences, that will get a couple of extra pages scattered through the book it's presented in. It relates to a mysterious object that needs to be identified.

A follow up pair of pages for this comic will go into rule explanations about identifying things, and making things.

It includes two of the characters who will probably make regular appearances across a number of comics, just like the first comic included a pair of characters who will make regular appearances. I'm probably going to run with a roster of about five different agents, and a dozen citizens (some of whom will be obvious criminals, some of whom will be individuals with skills that are useful to the agents, and some of whom will be morally grey). I'm also making sure that there is a decent diversity range among the depicted characters with a mix of genders, skin tones, and other elements (while trying to avoid tokenism)

20 August, 2018

In the 1980s, the Traffic Authority of New South Wales released a number of booklets on cycle safety named "The Bike Book". These were serious books about what kids needed to be aware of when riding bikes in public spaces such as parks, paths, and roads.

No, that's not actually true at all.

They released a series of books under the pretence that they were serious booklets on cycle safety, but British comedian Spike Milligan had scrawled all over them with jokes, funny insights, and surreal additions to the text. The basic in for action in the book was carefully laid out and typeset, and Spike's handwriting and crudely drawn sketches were scrawled across the pages. Sometimes chunks of text were scribbled out, sometimes he'd make comments about how certain aspects of the text were fine in theory but didn't work that way in reality, often he'd underline bits and agree with it.

There were three levels of book. One for "small" kids, which had innocent and naive scribblings, jokes and helpful hints. One for "medium" kids, where the jokes were a bit more mature and the safety advice reflected kids with a bit more independence. One for "big" kids, where the elements were more risque again, and even adult oriented.

These books always stuck in my mind as a fun and informative element of my childhood, and I've long wanted to produce a game book that worked like them. Formal rules typed, and a scrawl from one or more people through the pages, highlighting how the typed text only goes so far but the real world is a lot messier.

I'm suspecting that one of the future supplements for "The Law" will fit this mould. 

17 August, 2018

Game Chef 2018

"Speedwalking".. seriously?

Here's my first idea...

My first thought for Game Chef is just called "My Druitt", but I'm sure that any suitably Bogan suburb can be substituted. 
It's about weed dealers who "weigh" their stock, and roll their "blunts", while wearing Ugg boots (to cover the "sheepskin" ingredient). To avoid suspicion from police, they have a tendency to "speedwalk" rather than run. 

Theirs are the "lost stories" because too much pot smoking has started eroding their brains... or perhaps the adventures occur while they are stoned.

Yes, I know you only need two ingredients, but it's always more challenging to add more.

I probably won't use this idea, as it's very "Sydney-centric" and many of the in-in-jokes that would comprise the entry would lose some of their meaning outside of Sydney, and possibly be rendered meaningless beyond Australia's shores.

16 August, 2018

Further Law Books

Too many books...not enough time to write them all.

I've now released the main rules for The Law...

...and the Dispatch Guide.

I'm currently working on The Quartermaster Inventory Records (which is doing that typically cyberpunk thing where you get a list of awesome equipment, as well as a bunch of rules to describe how to make your own equipment for the game), and following that will come the Agency Field Manual (which will basically be a players guide, with a variant method of character generation, and a few ideas about how to get the most out of a game). Then there will be a "Most Wanted" book (with some sample characters, the types of crimes they might need to be investigated for, and the ways they might function as long term characters feeding plots over multiple sessions).

I'll need to produce seven books for the seven castes who live in the sprawl (management, fanatics, militia, cultists, street, mutants, drifters), and then maybe some books providing information on vigilantes who protect the sprawl when the Agents of the Law aren't around. Then a book on magic and psychic powers (which will link into the "Familiar" game).

I've also got half written books about developing random sectors, buildings, corporations, cults, and even just regular NPCs. Once a few of these books have started coming out, I'll probably start looking at getting some collaborators to help illustrate or help write chunks of text to add a bit more variety to the voices in the work.

I had a listing of 30 books worked out at one stage, with the intention to release one every month or two, but since it's taken over a year between the release of the first book and the second, we'll just see how things go.

The aim at this point is still to get the Quartermaster Inventory Records out in the next couple of weeks, and the Agency Field Manual released before the end of the year.

13 August, 2018

The Forgotten Places

No, not the Forgotten Realms, just other places that I've forgotten about for projects that have been abandoned.

Earlier this week I found one of my old sketchbooks with some half finished pencil sketches and some sketches that had been partially inked. I've spent a bit of time working on the images, now I just need to work out what do do with them.

Other Media

I've uploaded the Dispatch Guide, and I've noticed that the RPGNow/DrivethruRPG file for the core rules of The Law were out of date, so  they've been corrected and updated.

With this range of corrections, updates, and new releases, I've decided to play with a few new features on the site. They may not be new for other people, but I've not used them before, so it will be interesting yo see what impact they have. I'm using the customer email tool and sending review copies to the list of featured reviewers. I'll offer some feedback on those once a week or so has passed, because at that point I should have a useful period to reflect back on.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering about whether to engage in other media forms. I'm thinking about YouTube videos or a short form podcast. The question is whether people want to hear my voice, or whether I can produce something good enough that it actually helps what I'm trying to achieve rather than hindering it.

Then I think to myself that if raving right-wing lunatics can do podcasts and YouTube videos, and get tens of thousands of followers... how hard can it be?

12 August, 2018

Dispatch Guide

After a long and arduous process, and numerous other issues getting in the way, it looks like The Dispatch Guide for The Law is ready to go live. Hopefully by this time tomorrow there might be a couple of sales.

11 August, 2018

RPGaDay (Parts 1-10)

I'm not really doing this in the proper manner. In previous years I've answered a question every day, but this year I'm just going to run through the question in three batches of 10 each.

On with the responses...

1. What do you love about RPGs?

There are so many answers to this question, but I'll narrow it down to three of the things I love most about RPGs.  The first is the way they allow players to experience things that they would be unable to engage in their regular lives, in this way they provide a safe place for experimentation and a liminal space for players to make choices that can be confined to a narrative space and a close group of friends. The second element plays into this as well, and that is the way RPGs are a social activity, they allow players to get to learn about one another through their characters, I've met so many friends this way. The third is the way RPGs prompt the imagination and act as a catalyst for learning, I'm actually planning to use RPGs in my classroom when I finally manage to get my accreditation as a teacher.

2. What do you look for in an RPG?

When I'm looking at new RPGs, I look for an evocative setting, coherent mechanisms of play, and the potential to tell good stories with it. I can tell stories with any game, but if there are mechanisms of play that promote specific types of stories then that's good, if it's a type of story that isn't necessarily supported by other games then that's a bonus. Games that don't particularly draw my interest are those that simply provide a generic setting, or a similar batch of mechanisms to numerous other games... such games really need to do something unique and incredible to add a twist to their setting/mechanisms to get my attention.

3. What gives a game 'staying power'?

Versatility and adaptability keep a game interesting over the long term. I find that games that only do a single thing well become predictable and monotonous, and in turn this reduces the longevity of the game. Similarly, the balance of a character's ability to advance, versus the effort necessary to get that advancement is a delicate balancing act. If advancement is too easy, then a game may not feel challenging, and instead feels overly simplistic...conversely, if advancement is too difficult, then the challenges may not feel worth engaging. I guess that for me, there are more criteria that render a game lacking in 'Staying Power' ad it's only if a game doesn't have these that it has the potential to be a good long term game.

4. Most Memorable NPC?

The most memorable NPC I encountered was a vampire pirate, he was named 'Janaan Baraka' from a  character in a CCG (I think it was 'Legend of the Burning Sands'). This was a character who got by on his reputation more than anything else. He surrounded himself with competent assistants, each of whom helped maintain the facade that he was an incredibly competent warrior and sorceror. I remember numerous people in a LARP being quite scared of this character, and it was only later when the truth was revealed that the cleverness of this character and his story became apparent.

5. Favourite Recurring NPC?

My favourite recurring NPC is simply referred to as 'Old Jed'. He has occurred in fantasy games, cyberpunk games, and even far future science fiction games. Old Jed is an amputee from a long forgotten multi-planar war, with hideouts scattered across the multiverse, the lower half of his body changes depending on the setting where he is found, often clockwork or steampunk legs, but possibly a wheelchair, or even a hover pad. Jed is a tinkerer able to fix almost anything that is damaged, this makes him a useful NPC, but his repairs often come with a price (and that leads to new stories and adventures). Most of my players come to learn that 'Old Jed' is a mean and surly coot, and a catalyst for change in the towns where he is found.

6. How can players make a world seem real?

Players can make a world seem more real by engaging with it, this involves adding their own story elements through their character, or even something as simple as taking on mannerisms and accent that help the immersion for the players around them. 

7. How can a GM make the stakes important? 

Stakes become important when they actually have an effect on play, and on the narrative. Simply killing a character as a result of a bad roll isn't really making a difference to the wider narrative, unless that character is important. Disposable character aren't a way to make stakes more important, instead the characters need to be built up, the players need to care about them (this is true for both characters and for NPCs). Places can be jeopardised in the same way, so can pieces of equipment or anything else. Similarly, as long as stakes have a permanent effect on the world, they become important. 

8. How can we get more people playing?

I think in recent years we have been seeing a lot more people playing, I think a more pertinent question is "How can we get more people playing RPGs other than D&D?" I think this is a case of showing that there are more games out there, and they all have the potential to tell very different types of stories. Not all RPGs are about murder-hoboing in a fantasy setting.

9. How has a game surprised you?

I didn't expect to like "A Penny for my Thoughts" when I first encountered it. The procedural play just didn'tfeel like it would be something that appealed to me... then I played it. It was through this play that I saw how clever the simplicity of the game was. I think it was this moment that made me see the potential in the genre of game now referred to as "Story Games".

10. How has gaming changed you?

I met my wife of almost 15 years through gaming... enough said.

10 August, 2018

RPGaDay coming.

It's 10 days into August, and I haven't even started RPGaDay. In some regards there's too much happening, in others not enough. Basically, there's not much happening externally, so I'm working on lots of things to get them happening.

I'll probably write up 3 blocks of 10 responses each... starting with one this afternoon.

Then there's Game Chef to consider as well. 

07 August, 2018

Drawing Process

Just thought I'd share the process I've been going through for this introductory comic.

Step 1. I use artist mannequins to get the poses right. Using a desk lamp or two to get some interesting lighting effects, or in the case of the bottom photo, to set the lighting for an explosion. Once I've taken a few photos in a sequence, I combine them into a page layout.

Step 2. With the poses right and the page laid out, I cheat a bit here and use my computer monitor as a light box. Using a light weight paper over the screen, I trace the basic shapes of the figures, and the various bounding boxes that build up the page. This tracing is done at roughly 150% of the final image size, this is done for two reasons... the first means I can often add a bit more detail in the illustrations, the second means any mistakes that I make in the image will be reduced in the final image and less noticeable. I've added text here in the traditional comic onomatopoeia, using Photoshop to distort the lettering to look like it is bulging and exploding. Other text will be added after the images have been completed, but I'm trying to make sure there is ample room for speech bubbles later.  

Step 3. Using a series of costume layout drawings that define the characters, I detail the outlines in pencil. For these characters that means marking the location of armour plates and padding, but in other cases it might mean draping fabrics or other clothing details.

Step 4. Once that feels right, it's time to start inking in the images. Generally my style involves drawing a heavier outline around significant pieces, then detailing those pieces with limited linework in a finer pen. Specifically here, I'm using two types of brush pen (one thicker for the panel outlines, and one thinner for the character element outlines), and two types of felt tipped marker (one thicker for prominent detailing, and one thinner for specific finer details...but both thinner than the thinnest brush pen). With intense lighting behind the characters as the explosion occurs, it felt interesting to put the into silhouette, using the lighting in the mannequin photography, I know where to put the highlights on the bodies to indicate a strongly lit explosive effect between them.   

Step 5. The image is scanned into the computer. Flat colours are added to it according to the general costume layout of the medium armour worn by Agent's of the Law. Armour plates darker, flexible lamellar segments lighter, skin tones also a medium tone, not necessarily "white", but more trying to get across a mixed bloodline for both characters. I'm not really sure how successful this was, but I'm trying to make sure there are a range of skin tones present throughout the illustrations in these books. 

Step 6. Shading is added to the flat colours to give the characters more depth. The specific placement of the shadows is informed by the mannequin photography. A bit of shading is added to the background of each panel to add a bit more visual interest to the images.
Step 7. In addition to shadows, a range of highlights are added to the figures and forms within the page. Again, these highlights are informed by the mannequin photography. If I was going for clear crisp images, this is where I'd leave things... and it's basically where I left one of the images in my last post.  

Step 8. The rest of the pages in The Law are covered with inkblots and stain effects to give the whole text a dirty and gritty look. To make these images fit in with that aesthetic, the same sorts of effects are applied here. It also adds a bit more interest and texture to the images.

Here's the other images in the sequence. The same general process was used to create them.

Clean or Gritty

I like artwork that reflects the tone of the setting, and gives ideas toward the types of narrative that might be found within the setting. I've also found that Lulu doesn't like printing paperback books with less than 32 pages.

So, with these two factors in mind, I've started writing up some mini comics to help set the tone for the urban sprawl of The Law. These mini comics will appear at the beginning of the various sourcebooks I'm writing up, and will be used to illustrate specific rule concepts within the game. If you've been following the blog, you'll know that this game is set in a pseudo-"Judge Dredd" urban sprawl, and the characters are agents of a megalithic bureau of law enforcement that is overworked and barely able to maintain peace despite having an incredible array of technology at their disposal, and the authority to act as Judge, Jury and Executioner on the streets. It's a post cyberpunk setting, where there is the potential for almost anything to be added to the environment, but generally anything too weird becomes a reality deviation that needs to be hidden/neutralised/eliminated just as quickly as any crime.

Here's the first page of the first mini comic, in two potential formats...one gritty, one clean. I haven't included text yet.

Just trying to work out which of these to use.

The gritty version sets the tone better, the clean version results in easier images to read. I'm probably going to go with the gritty version, I just thought I'd throw both versions out there to see what other people thought.

01 August, 2018

Modular Dungeon

It's been a bad run over the last couple of weeks. I finished my university studies over a month ago. I've been trying to get accredited as a teacher since the beginning of the year, and by this stage the process should have been completed. I know there are jobs in the fields where I'm qualified to teach, but I can't get through the bureaucracy to get to those jobs. Chasing this down has drained my bank accounts dry, with costs for car registration, power bills and phone bills coming in on top of that. 

I tried to do a bit more study while waiting for accreditation from the relevant government departments, but I can't even do that, because the up front fee for study at the local college (while cut back due to being a registered carer) was still too much...

...so I've fallen back on doing what I love to do, what I find to be a fun diversion when the real world just starts getting me down, and what tends to make me a bit of extra money on the side.

I've gathered together fragments of projects I've been working on, and have combined them into something coherent. This is all interconnected with the "Bring Your Own Miniatures" project that I've been blogging about recently, but explores the other side...the world that will set the backdrop for the tales.

I've generated up a few components, and I'm mixing-and-matching them to create 7x7 square dungeon tiles. Generally this means a maximum 5x5 room with a border around the outside edge, and passages that might reach across to other tiles, but as I'm doing more of these I'm trying to experiment with the format a bit.

I had a few variations for flooring patterns, but all of the basic hand-drawn image components are drawn up on A3 paper, and suddenly the university A3 scanners that I have access to are charging a nominal fee per page for scanning (which was never previously the case). I should get myself a proper A3 scanner some time, but general living expenses and survival are a higher priority at the moment.

The idea was to generate the images at A3 size, with 40mm squares, then these could be scaled down to 25-28mm squares on an A4 page to accommodate the standard base size for most miniature games.

I'm going to throw together batches of 10 tiles following a theme, and put them up on the online store at DrivethruRPG/RPGNow. Hopefully a few people will be interested enough to purchase a couple of them.