Showing posts from 2020


This article on  Nüshu  intrigues me. Especially with regard to my game "Familiar".  One of the key elements of that game is the idea that there are books scattered around the world filled with arcane knowledge that might be capable of awakening individuals into the mysteries of magic. Familiars are creatures of the spirit world who manifest in the physical world to act as magical catalysts, and for much of human history the majority of them have been drawn to powerful people who could make a substantial difference to the societies around them. In recent history, more familiars have seen the error of this, realising that the powerful have little desire to change the world because they already have power and tend to be complacent.  It's the underdogs, the victimised, and the downtrodden who have the strongest desire for change.  It's a language like this that could feasibly hold the keys to a form of mystical awakening, and a group of familiars who have kept its secret

The Altered Carbon RPG

 I pledged to the Altered Carbon RPG Kickstarter when it was going. It was meant to have been shipped in August 2020, but I guess COVID has stuffed up a lot of things this year. I have finally managed to have a look at the second version of the backer review copy of the game.   It looks alright. But as I read through it, I'm seeing lots of fiddly systems and subsystems. The core system looks interesting and fairly sturdy, with a system that's going to be a bit counter-intuitive to most gamers of mainstream systems. It's a roll under system, where characters start with a big die (a d12) as a crude level of skill/potential, and gradually get their die lower as they train and improve. Easy tasks have a high target number, while hard tasks have lower target numbers. Certain effects like having specialised equipment or training, seem to let you roll multiple dice (then pick the best result), while other effects modify the target number.  There's a few variations depending on

Further Beneath the Glass and Steel

I've been generating a few more images for the current run of Beneath the Glass and Steel, where everything used to generate the images is either freely available, or public domain. Most of the aim at this point has been developing filler images with a range of cyberpunk environments, backgrounds, and key subjects that might work to illustrate concepts in the text... it's a case of rounding up those phantom authors who've been owing me stories for the zine since March.    

Unpublished comments, now published

I'm trying to get back into the habit of posting something here every day... and so far it seems to be working... it's just the habit I'm redeveloping so far, rather than trying to post meaningful game related things.  As a part of re-acquainting myself with the redesigned back-end of Blogger, I've found a bunch of comments on the blog dating back over the past three years. Comments that I didn't even know were there. I'm also getting stuck into the "Beneath the Glass and Steel" 'zines, particularly the images that will be going into them. Here's a sneak peek.   

October Artworks

 Most years, when I remember it, I do Inktober. This year I've been hearing controversies about Jake Richmond, the guy who founded Inktober ( here's a link to someone else's blog if you're interested , but I thin there were a coupleof other issues too), and was tossing up whether to participate. DeviantArt has specifically cancelled it's promotion of the event.  I usually try to combine a pair of lists to push myself artistically, then follow through into November by designing a game for NaGaDeMon inspired by my October works. Or I use Inktober to develop the artwork, then format them into a game. Johanus Battey shared a possible listing of artworks in the "RPG and Fantasy Writers and Artists" group on Facebook, so I'll probably be combining that with the Inktober listing. The list from Johanus The Inktober List That gives me... Fish Goblin Wisp Elf Bulky Demon Radio Redcap Blade Dwarf Rodent Bard Fancy Cleric Teeth Ratfolk Throw Sword Hope Wizard Disg

Weird Days

I'm opening up the blog now to see what's been happening in the months of my absence.  It's been a weird year with the whole Australian summer bushfires leading prettymuch straight into the COVID-19 plague, and assorted chaos unfolding in the world as we watch the USA walking a fine line between anarchy, civil war, and impending fascism. I haven't had much chance to post here, but I keep meaning to. I've also been meaning to get a lot more work done on game design, whether that means a playable version of "Familiar", a playable version of "Bring Your Own Miniatures", or some expansion ideas for "The Law". Maybe next year.  I haven't even participated in any of the regular design contests that play out through the year. I did set up a Kickstarter that I've been struggling through (because many of the components needed have had trouble shipping due to COVID.   I really don't want to start anything else. I've got a break no

Breaking the Mould

It's hard to create something a bit different. People have expectations. If you don't meet their expectations, they think you've done it wrong. If you shatter a paradigm, they think you're insane. Technically you are, especially if you consider sanity to be the socially accepted expectations and explanations of the world. If sanity is the consensus, and you do things against the grain of the consensus, then by defnition you are insane. So you need to manage expectations carefully.

Life in a time of Pandemic

You'd think that while we've all been quarantined, I'd get a whole lot more blogging and social media happening, but I notice now that it's been almost a month since my last post here. I'm not just losing motivaton to post here, I'm also over a month behind on my daily photographs on Instagram. What I've been doing instead is working on illustrations for Familiar, refining the rule set, and trying to get work completed on the Beneath the Glass and Steel zines. Work as a teacher has been taking up all of my time, with face-to-face classes, online classes, and twce the amount of paperwork as normal...   Hopefully things will start stablising soon.

The Intro

I don't know if other game designers have the same problem, I suspect it's pretty common though. When I write a game system, I have an idea for how I want it to work while the game is running. The problem is working out how to best get the players into the cycle where the mechanical elements feel natural, and contributive to the situation rather than an obstruction. Generally I seem to see a lot of GMs and homebrewers who don't really give a game the opportunity it deserves before they decide to make their own changes. This often happens because they haven't actually played the game as it has been intended, or maybe they believe that "system doesn't matter" then they find that they don't like the system, and make changes to it to fit their style of play... not realisng that their changes to the system are refuting their argument. Or you might get those specific well-known folks n the hobby who don't like a style of game, so they try to adapt thei


I've just come across this post describing a variant form of Lycanthropy . It has really got me thinking about the other entities that might exist within the setting of the familiars. One of the key elements in Familiar is that there are humans yearning to be something more spiritual and aware, and there are spirits who are striving to be more intimate and meaningful to the greater cosmos. The two halves are coming at a journey from opposite ends, each bringing ther own baggage (both positive and negative) and it's only when they meet that a new quest for transcendence can begin. But I've toyed with side ideas a few times as I've developed the project. What other connections might exist between the corporeal and spiritual worlds? If a mystic has a wide range of potential powers, capable of mixing-and-matching metaphysical fragments according to their imagination, perhaps there are other symbiotic relatonships between mortals and spirits that have different eff

Reconstructing the Bits

I'm generally pretty happy with the way mystic characters will be built in the "Familiar" game, but the mystic characters are just temporary shells for interacting with the environment. I've been tryng to work out a simple point-buy system for creating the familiars, something that doesn't rely on randomness, and which can be customised before the first session of play. If I had to create an analogy to another game system, this might be like a set of procedures allowing you to build PbtA playbooks. The familiar allows a predefined set of playbooks, or adds a certain set of manuoevres to the playbooks chosen. The mystics are the playbooks, which come and go, the familiar is a constant modifier applied to any chosen playbook. Maybe the mystics could be described as a set of story fragments, while the familiars are the over-arching themes linking these fragments into wider narratives. Part of the problem is that I've been tryng to define familiars in a w

Maps of Bronzewing

I'm finally using the tower, and that means I'm finally getting the chance to put together the next three issues of Beneath the Glass and Steel. I'm putting 3 potential story hooks on every floor of the Bronzewing Tower complex, which means the first 34 stories will have the potential for 102 stories. More possible stories if you combine them with one another, but shorter possible campaigns if you do this. The whole thing about the tower is that I could add more detail to each floor, but this reduces the possibility for someone to use this as a game resource and add their own details to the setting. Still a lot more work to do on this, but on target to get the next three issues out on schedule for the Kickstarter.

Busier than ever

Just when I thought I'd have some time to work on a couple of games and get a few long standing projects back in order... I end up on the front line. One of the "essential" workers in society, as a school teacher now required to generate physical lesson plans, as well as digital versions for students in rural locations where internet may or may not be a reliable thing. I'm sure things will calm down soon, but the nature of that calm is unpredictable at this time. More coming soon. --- P.S. It's really starting to feel like I'm writing the prologue to my own Apocalypse Daries story. I'm almost getting the feeling that it's time to swap out the LARP tips on my arrows for the live/hunting tips. We'll see where this goes.

I'm not stuck at home

This pandemic has hit fast hasn't it. A month ago, we heard there was an illness but it was mostly confined to China, with a few outbreaks that generally seemed under control in other parts of the world. NOw, it's everywhere. Folks are self-quarantining, others are disappearing (hopefully they'll be back after a social media isolation period), people are hoarding, infrastructure is collapsing. As a teacher in the Australian state of New South Wales, I have been deemed an essential worker in the community, which means I'm not on self isolation but I feel for the folks who are. It's really starting to feel like the opening scenes to either of the two game projects that I've been toying with for years. Walkabout starts with an undisclosed apocalypse. It alludes to some environmental catastrophe, and implies a time of darkness and chaos when people turned on each other. That basically derives from the Mad Max movies more than anythng about nuclear holocaust,

Silver Lining

The Covid-19 virus is sweeping the world with mixed news and opinions swirling around it. It might end up being only a bit worse than the regular influenza epidemics, it might end up being a devastating plague that decimates the community. I suspect it'll end up somewhere between the two, but we'll see. The silver lining is that a lot of gaming companies have started offering their products free, for those of us who can't meet except in small groups. I'll try to share a few of them ASAP, because these deals won't last long.

World of Darkness is Free

This week only

Beneath the Glass and Steel Issue 3

I've finally wrangled the crew into line, the words have come in and have been sorted into a 32 page layout. It's going to be sent out to the Kickstarter backers shortly, then in a week will be made available on DrivethruRPG, Itch, and any other source where BGS is currently available. This has given us three issues that set the tone for the Sprawl. There's a lot to it, and far more that could be added to it, but now we're gettng to the point where further detail starts taking the setting away from being a generic cyberpunk, and toward something that is more focused. The next three issues will provide a specific setting within the Sprawl, in this case a residential tower, which might be utilised as a specific "mega-dungeon" campaign setting.

Awesome GMs

Every now and then I'll see an article like this one of these articles explaining what someone needs to become a great Game Master (or Dungeon Master) . Sometimes I read them and think "Hey, I do all that stuff already".  I keep thinking I should write an article like this (or even a series of them), but a nagging voice in my head keeps saying, everyone knows all this stuff. Today as I read the article it was different. There are a lot of new gamers out there, folks who weren't even alive when The Forge was trying to establish a standard lexicon of roleplaying theory, folks whose only exposure to games beyond their home table is watching some pre-scripted voice actors being railroaded through a couple of murderhobo scenes. Maybe it is time to develop a good series about new tools for inexperienced GMs/DMs to add to their toolkits.

Fey and Demigods

It's always nice to see when someone is doing something in a similar stomping ground to one of my projects...something I can get a bit of inspiration from. Naturally, this post at The Amateur Dungeoneer , drew my attention. This interpretation of pre-Adamite inhabitants of the earth as fey, or intermediary beings between spirits and mortals, could easily work in tandem with the ideas I've been developing for Familiar.

Diversity of Voices

I don't want "Familiar" to be filled with stereotypes, or "diversity tourism" where the struggles of real people are filtered through the lens of a "male, white, middle class, able-bodied, english-speaking, suburban" author. Of course the problem here is the fact that I am a "male, white, middle class, able-bodied, english-speaking, suburban" author. Hence my desire to get the ideas out there, to get input from people outside this specifc demographic that controls much of the narrative in western society. I want this to be a game for people from different backgrounds, and want this to have input from people from different backgrounds. Over the years I've seen a few calls to authors from diverse backgrounds. In some cases it's been heavy handed... "we want authors, but not if you're cis, white, and male". In some cases it's been met by massive backlash from "cis, white, male" authors who cry foul abou

Getting the final bits of the zine in order

One of the annoying things about developing a collaborative zine is when some of the collaborators don't provide the articles they promised, and when this impacts the ongoing release schedule. I had hoped by this stage that I'd have had all of the articles ready to go for the third issue of the "Beneath the Glass and Steel" zine, but I'm still missing about half of the text. I guess that means I'm going to have to write those articles myself... which kind of defeats the purpose of the collaborative zine. I'm not abandoning the project yet, especially when a whole bunch of people have pledged to the Kickstarter. It just means shifting a few priorities around.

Zine Quest Final Count

We made it! We even got comfortably past a stretch goal. Now it's a case of wrangling some writers.

In darkness, a hint of light.

So, I've been at my new school for a month. Rural school, high indigenous population, lots of problems, but they're not easy problems. There is institutionalised long-term racism here, it's been internalised by frustrated indigenous kids who are looking for a way to move forward but only see the same pitfalls that generations before them have encountered, there's a deep seated mistrust toward authority figures, even if those figures are trying to help. They've been betrayed so many times that it's hard for them to see beyond this. The country kids are divided into farmers and townies, there's tension between them, but they all stand firm against the blow-ins from the cities. There's an underlying sense that something is wrong, but no understanding about how to fix it. This is totally what I've wanted to approach in both my games, Walkabout and Familiar. I'm starting to get a good feel for the issues, and now it's a case of trying to

Familiar progress

We're getting closer with the Kickstarter... ...but what is more important at the moment is some background work I've been doing to reach out to a number of designers around the world who might be interested in providing feedback on the current progress of Familiar. It seems that some of these designers are similarly interested in seeing the concepts underlying the system done right. Others have too much on their plates already, but are also interested in seeing how the project pans out. In a few weeks, once things have settled down work-wise, and the kickstarter campaign has run it's course, I'll get stuck back into the magical world of the familiars.

'Zine Quest Update

It's been a decent start to the campaign. After a few days, we're two-thirds of the way towards funding. Not setting the world on fire, and certainly not one of those campaigns that reaches their funding in a couple of hours...  but I'm generally happy, and confident that we'll reach the funding goal. It was always meant to be an interesting experiment, and something to push boundaries a bit. The kind of thing that I'd work away on for a while, then move on to other stuff... at which point some "big name" designer would do something very similar, then they'd receive accolades and kudos for their innovation. It will be interesting to see if we get some new potential contributors to the project from this campaign.

BGS 'Zine Quest

We've gone live As a part of the current 'Zine Quest campaign on Kickstarter, I've decided to offer the first few issues of Beneath the Glass and Steel, and hopefully get a bit more momentum for the next few issues. Life over the past couple of weeks has been pretty chaotic, with the moving of house, the settling in to a new job, and assorted other stuff happening. Between life, work, and getting this Kickstarter ready, Familiar has taken a back seat... but I'm hoping to get back to that shortly.

Slow start (and a Tarot Simulation)

Another year with a slow start for the blog, basically because I've been preparing to move house next week, rehearsing for a local community theatre production, and putting the final touches on the playtest character generation document for Familiar. It's probably going to be another of those years where I end up chasing my tail, only to end up in flux at the end of it... we'll see. As for the game design stuff... The majority of the character generation system for Familiar relies on a five-card tarot spread, but I realise that not everyone has access to a deck of tarot cards. To make things easier, I'm currently looking through online Tarot spread generators, and the closest I've found to what I'm after is here . It's a Celtic Cross spread rather than a five card spread, so I'm trying to find something better...but I'm having a bit of trouble in this regard. There are plenty of Tarot phone apps , so maybe a person could use one of these inste

Finding Inspiration

One of the key elements of familiar is that the characters can derive mystical inspiration from all sorts of unexpected sources. One of the other elements is that inspiration and mystical insight comes from assorted texts from all over the world. Why not combine the two ideas? Why not allow some characters to develop insight from sources that most people would simply ignore? Here's a example of something I've been devising... Alissandre Ramirez (1973), Harbour Rose Publishing) This pulp romance novel from the early 1970s was ignored by many in the mystic community for decades. A product of it’s time, it tells the story of an abused mistress and a neglected wife who join forces against the successful advertising executive at the centre of their two lives. Willing to do whatever it takes to teach him a lesson, they suffer injuries and humiliation before delivering justice in the final chapters. It was only the transcendence of several suburban housewives that led

Welcome 2020

A new year brings a chance to work on new projects, or at least bring fresh ideas, while reflecting on what may or may not have worked in the past. (Yes, even though half the country is on fire, Sydney still had fireworks) It also brings the opportunity to think about things that have been learned over the year. Something interesting came to my attention yesterday. In 2019, I had my first year as a teacher. During this time, I mat some great students in a rural community who haven't had the some opportunities that city kids get. Many of these kids have great potential, and many of them are really smart, some of them are gamers. One of the kids who I've come to know pretty well lives on a farm of 150 acres, his parents are often away, problems with government bureaucracy and climate change have led them to not have enough water to irrigate crops, so he has basically been living thirty kilometres out of town with no transport to get into town, looking after the surviving