Showing posts from 2019

Too far out of the box?

Is it possible to develop a project that's too far out of the box?

I know the answer is yes.

Is "Beneath the Glass and Steel" too far out of the box?

I didn't thnk so.

There are plenty of ideas that come out before their time, and there are plenty of ideas that require a bit of extra work to make them useful. The thing about these is that it might just take a little longer for those ideas to see their time, or maybe a bridging tool that helps explain how the new idea is useful... maybe both, maybe it just takes a while before someone creates that bridging tool.

I'm not intending to stop with "Beneath the Glass and Steel" yet, I'm hoping that a few more issues will show people it's potential as a game resource. If it still doesn't catch on, then I'll need to move to phase 2... generating that bridging tool myself.   

Maybe I'm just overanalysing stuff again.

Sales have started

Beneath the Glass and Steel has been live for a day now, and it's sold 6 copies. Not setting the world on fire, but hopefully a few more issues will start seeing some snowballing effects. 

There's still a few people interested in contributing, but I'm thinking that higher sales will lure in more of that too.

The experiment seems to be going well.

...and we're live

Beneath the Glass and Steel - Issue #01 has just gone live on DrivethruRPG, I'm not sure how well it will start selling, but I've generated up an advertising banner for the site, have established a small community of folks who've said they'd be interested in writing articles for future issues, have sent copies out to the regular reviewers on OBS (even though that hasn't particularly generated any positive outcomes in the past) and have generally done what I can to get the word out across my various social media presences.

I'm hoping that the current groundswell of supprt for Cyberpunk 2077 will translate into a few sales, which in turn will cascade across my other products... but now it's just the waiting game.

Esoterica 2




How BG&S ties in to other projects

I still want to do work on The Law and Walkabout, but I have this nasty habit of changing my plans mid-stream. Often not delierately, often it's just an evolutionary offshoot fro one direction to something a bit tangential, then a slightly new course correction that seems unrelated to the original plan unless you're able to see the flow of logic in my head.

The thing about this new BG&S 'zine is that its directly meant to provide a source of in-world data for players in a game of The Law... but I want it to be more useful that just a supplement for my own game. There are a range of great 'zines and sources for the OSR movement, but they have the advantage that they're all basically clones of the same basic concepts. A single stat block might be appropriate for a dozen (or more) different games. In trying to generate the same sort of concept for assorted cyberpunk games, there needs to be a minimal connection to specific game mechanisms of play. That basically l…

Images of the Sprawl

Here's what I've been working on as images for the for the new 'zine. I'll probably throw together half a dozen in this style for every issue because it only takes half an hour or so to generate each one, and for the most part they're derived from freely accessive creative commons sources.

In much the same way that I'll be calling on other authors to help flesh out the 'zine, I'll probably be drawing on a few other illustrators for the project too. One of those illustrators will probably be Chris Tamm, who runs the blog Elfmaids and Octopi, and who I've mentioned previously for his Planet Psychon stuff. He does some great lo-fi stuff that really fits the aesthetic I'm going for here. Besides, he's been ding it tough for a while, and I just want to throw some money his way to help him out.

The trickle

A few folks have started appearing on the BG&S discord server, and that's nice. A few other folks have shared interest from other directions too. A new reading of the DrivethruRPG data indicates almost 70 download via that site, so maybe there's some traction happening after all.

I've just spent the last day or so writing a block of text about the essential elements of survival in a cyberunk dystopia, basically structuring it on the Maslow Heirarchy of Needs.

The hierarchy is a bit controversial in some circles, but I'm figuring that it's a bit like the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (when dealing with linguistics). If you use it as a general framework of ideas rather than slavishly and religiously sticking to it, it can function as a useful shorthand to get people on the right page.

I didn't really want to go into too much depth with this... but after 1600 words I think it's a little late for that. It certainly goes toward setting the tone for the 'zine.


BG&S - What now?

At the time of writing this post, it's been less than 24 hours since I've uploaded the guide to Beneath the Glass and Steel, 40 people have downloaded it from DrivethruRPG, and I've had a few positive comments on various forms of social media. I've also had 29 hits on the previous post here at the blog, where I talked about the product. So I'm figuring that there are probably 80 to 100 people who are aware of the ideas, maybe a quarter of them have actually read through the guidebook. Maybe half of those are actually considering writing something. That still gives about 10 people who haven't yet got in contact with me.

It's still early days, and maybe there might be a bit more interest once I get the first issue or two out there. I guess it just means that I'm going to have to write those first few issues myself.

We'll see what happens.

Beneath the Glass and Steel

Halfling Caravan Games has done something that I've found to be really interesting. As a part of their Betamaxx system, they've developed a Cthulhu inspired setting and have gathered together a range of authors and artists to contribute to a monthly magazine of weird tales. I've been working on something similar for The Law, and generally any cyberpunk roleplaying game. In order to get everyone on the same page regarding this project, I've developed a guidebook in the same general style that the 'zine will take.

Beneath the Glass and Steel - Guide

In addition to this, I've created a Discord channel for participants to discuss the project and work together as they submit their ideas to the 'zine.

Like a lot of things that I do under the "Vulpinoid Studios" imprint this is an experiment that may or may not work, but we'll never know if we don't try.

RPGaDay: Part 3 (Days 22-31)

Bit of a more epic run with this posts 10 entries compared to the previous days where I've done 7 at a time... but here goes.

22. Lost
Many of my ideas over the years have been written on scraps of paper, sometimes pasted into diaries or journals. More often than not I don't get to finish working on them because something comes up in my life with a higher priority than game design. I often find that these game ideas become lost for months, years, or even decades before I find them again, then choose to ether integrate them into my new designs, modify them because they've evolved in the meantime, or occasionaly just chuck them out completely because the concepts have been superceded.

I was going to develop a wedbsite that was purely a library of lost ideas a few years ago. It was going to be a series of pages of scanned images from those notebooks and paper scraps, for use by anyone who might be interested. But then I realised that most designers probaby have so many oftheir…

RPGaDay: Part 3 (Days 15-21)

I'm even behind in my catch up, where I had intended to do seven days each post until the end of the month. So, back to the RPGaDay treadmill. Maybe one post this morning, and another to finish everything off tonight.
15. Door
A few years ago, I developed a system for analysing and considering roleplaying games. I called it my "Vector Theory", and it has basically informed all my game designs ever since. The whole idea here is that a story moves in a linear path, sometimes straight, sometimes curving based on pre-existing elements in the setting. Sharp corners occur when game mechanisms come into play, with different types of mechanisms influencing the story path in diferent ways.

Another analogous way to look at this might be a series of dungeon corridors. If you follow the story, you follow the corridor. Occasionally you'll see a door. It might lead to another corridor, following the story in a new direction, or it might lead to a room where a variety of choices ne…

It's going further

Looks like the idea of a Code of Ethics has some traction.

Here is a sample of where it seems to be heading.

At the moment, a Code of Ethics on its own is a vague an nebulous thing. It doesn't need a regulatory body if everyone agrees to it, but the reason something like this tends to be put in place is because people aren't acting ethically and a community benchmark needs to be set. The closest analogue I can see here is the founding of the Comics Code Authority in the US, back in the 60s. The way I understand it, it wasn't really a watchdog, but more a show of solidarity and wholesomeness in the face of groups who wanted to shut them down. Arguably, something like this might have been useful in the moral panic of "D&D = satanism" back in the 80s. Maybe it will be useful if that sort of thing raises it's head further in the new right wing conservative political climate. Maybe.

The catch I see is that the whole thing needs a critical mass of people behind …


I was going to get started on my next batch of 7 RPGaDay posts, but something more interesting came across my radar a few hours ago.

I've written a few times abut the way Australian game designers have innovated and generally been ignored, with lots of people saying that maybe Australian's should have publicised their innovation better... Or simply made it known that they were doing things.

I guess this is one of those times when innovation is happening, and when everywhere else in the world will generally ignore us until someone in the UK or the US does exactly the same thing then gets praised for their wondrous idea. The innovation is the idea of a game designers Code of Ethics, linked to a professional association of game design. For roleplaying games, this might be a companion association to a professional association of computer game designers, the "industry" probably isn't big enough to necessitate it's own association.

Here's some of the discussion…

RPGaDay 2019: Part 2 (Days 8-14)

Here's seven more responses to this year's RPGaDay labyrinth...
8. Obscure Roleplaying isn't a mainstream hobby. Yes, it's gaining popularity, but in comparison to sports, music, or movies, it's not a common hobby at all. The major players in the roleplaying "industry" are Wizards of the Coast with "Dungeons and Dragons", then maybe Paizo with "Pathfinder", and Chaosium with "Call of Cthulhu" or Fantasy Flight Games with their assorted licensed products. There are a few other big companies, but in the grand scheme of things, these companies would be considered no bigger than small businesses in most industries. When the larger elements of our hobby are tiny compared to the juggernauts of consumerism, it's hardly surprising that the rest of us wallow in obscurity. 
Of course, obscurity isn't entirely a bad thing. On the positive side, creativity can flourish outside of the public eye... a hundred designers can develop …

RPGaDay 2019: Part 1

I've been meaning to get to this, but it just hasn't happened. Life has been too busy...but here goes, the first seven.

I'm going to approach these prompts from the direction of my game design work with Vulpinoid Studios...

1. First Like most game designers, my first attempts were modifications of the systems I loved to play. I hacked, I cobbled together bits and pieces from different systems, and I threw away the bits I didn't like. I thought they were awesome, but they were probaby awful. They were basically a shiny mix of dazzling surface, with no decent solid core. 
The first game I designed from scratch was called Platinum Storm, it was also the first game I sold copies of at conventions. It ran off a percentile system, becase I thought they were great at the time. It was based on a pseudo-Japanese Empire, because I loved samurai and ninja. Of course, as a typical white guy in the early 1990s, most of my understanding of Japanese culture came from elusive anime and…

RPGaDay coming soon

I'm not doing well this year when it comes to blogging. Things have gradually been getting more hectic in my life, which has meant less time to spend typing away like I did in the past.

I'd been hoping to get started on the RPGaDay posts that are doing the rounds this month, but I just haven't had the chance. I've barely got the chance to write this now. Hopefully I'll be able to male two posts a day during the second half of August to catch up and finish on time.

Fall from grace

This article on Medium has been doing the rounds on Facebook.

It feels like only a year ago that people were still defending him and fawning over him... actually, I think that was only a year ago.

From what I've heard through numerous sources, this couldn't have happened to a more appropriate guy.

Physical Geomorphs (Part 2)

I've done sequences of blog posts on mapping and geomorphs. I've also done a sequence on building terrain elements... so none of this is particularly out of the ordinary, it's just been a while since I've done a series of posts like this.

For this project of physical geomorphs, I need to work out what sorts of environment I'll be simulating with the tiles. For this, I'll think about the various types of miniatures in our collection, because there will be conflicts where one side or another has home ground advantage... there will also be a range of locations that are just fun to play scenarios in.

My wife has a small horde of undead miniatures, which would tend to imply a graveyard or necropolis of some type. She also has a horde of fantasy celts, so a suitable village, some forests, rolling hills, or farmlands might be appropriate. I've got a bunch of goblins and gremlins from various games, who might be found in swampy or bayou areas. I've also got a f…

Physical Geomorphs (Part 1)

Yes, there's probably a better title for this sequence of posts... but that was first to come to mind.

In 2008-2009, at Gencon Oz, I met the team from Griffin who were spruiking their "Ultimate Table Top Terrain" (or UTTT) system. It's been that long since I've wanted to do something with their products, and a cursory glance across the internet seems to indicate they might not even exist any more (they do still have a Facebook group, so I'd love to hear if they're still active at some level)

Evidence of the UTTT product can be found scattered across the web, with images on Pinterest and general search engine results.

I liked the system because it was made up of hexes that could be linked together like geomorphs. The hexes were also a decent size, with 37cm (just under 15 inches) across the points of the hex, and 32.1cm (just under 13 inches) across the flats. A few hexes could be laid out, with half hexes, and "shards" to create a decent sized p…

Party Crasher

I love this party crasher post.

It's the kind of style I'd love to see a whole game written in. Whenever I suggest this, or try to present something this way, I invariably get a bunch of people telling me how hard it is to read the text, how bad it is for cognition, and how generally unprofessional it looks.

I certainly pushed in this direction for The Law, and might go further in the sourcebooks for that game... but we'll see how things go.

Smoking Ceremony

Today I watched a traditional smoking ceremony. I've seen a few of these in my time working with indigenous communities, and the commonalities between the ceremonies used by various groups across south-eastern Australia gives me a confidence to use them as a common ritual in Walkabout. The fact that they are used publically in front of non-indigenous Australians also means that there's no real fear of spreading secret knowledge to people who shouldn't be seeing it.
Given the opportunity, I approached the local elders who ran the ceremony, asking them if they'd be willing to share some of the stories. I usually tell people I'm writing a comic book when I first make contact with them, because this is something people quickly understand as a storytelling medium. It's after a couple of meetings that I reveal how much more there is to the project. At this stage, I've once again been welcomed into the community. I've been offered a guided tour of the local s…

The Journey

Walkabout has been a long and winding road. It's been a journey that has seemed to head one way before veering off in another, it's spiralled in such a way that I've encountered a number of points on the trail a few times each. But each crossing has brought a new perspective on those points, and a better understanding of why they might be critical concepts for the greater Walkabout plan.

This year's move to the bush has given some great insight into the setting of the game, but has meant I haven't had the time to really refine things. Similarly, I've looked at the reduced frequency of posts on the blog this year, and it feels like everything is slowing down. But I'm not abandoning the game at all, I just need to focus.

I don't need to go back to the SNAFU Cookbook... but I have been thinking about it.

Blogs of Negativity

Apparently, this was a thing.

By the time I found out about it, it was gone.

It seems to be related to one of the many toxic individuals who have been recently exposed in our hobby.

Whether it's related to"Yourdungeonissuck" , I don't know. Perhaps it was made by the same person, perhaps it was made as a response... either way, these are the kinds of sites that drive toxicity and trolling behaviours. There are plenty of other blogs that do similar things, by attacking the productivity of designers they don't like,

I know I'm not immune to it. I've attacked a few games and related products over the years, but where possible I've tried to explain my reasoning. More often I've just tried to keep a low profile and work on my own stuff.

I'll hopefully start posting more of that stuff I've been working on soon... but this year has been pretty chaotic.

I've discovered the gamers...

In my new school, I've finally discovered the small community of roleplayers...

...and it basically consists of half of the year 11 students, who play twice a week. Now I just need to expand their horizons beyond D&D.

Osprey Roleplaying

For years I've used books from Osprey as sources of data for my RPGs, do it's interesting to see that they are branching out to develop their own games.

After seeing what they did with miniatures gaming, and particularly Frostgrave, I'm a little excited about this. I hope it all works out for them, and based on some of the names I've seen associated with the project I'm expecting good things.

Extra data for Walkabout Characters - Part 2: Multiples

During each phase of a character's development, the player rolls 6 dice (first d4s, then d6s, then d8s, then d10s).

If the players rolls doubles, triples, or no matching dice at all, this reveals something special about the character's past and prompts the player to ask one of the other players to fill in the blanks.

Since players are rolling 6 d4s during the first phase of development, they will always rolls multiples of some type, as they get older and the dice get larger, the chance of rolling multiples is reduced, and the chance of no matching dice is gradually increased.

No multiples of any kind

If you roll the six dice and none of the die results match any of the others, a catastrophe has hit your life. Roll another die of the same type just rolled, the outcome of this die determines the nature of the incident that has occurred.

Roll Incident 1 Your entire family and settlement has been wiped out. All significant people in your life are dead. Relationship points to indivi…