Free Stuff Is Popular – Big Surprise

Since its release last Thursday night (18 Sep 2014), the Nefertiti Overdrive Quickstart has been downloaded 216 times. That doesn’t mean I have 216 backers for the Kickstarter because it’s likely at least half of those people haven’t even looked at it yet, but if we get 100 more backers out of this, it will have been worth the effort.

I’m working to make a better Kickstarter pitch for October, and I’m hoping that most of the previous backers will return. The target will be lower, though this leaves maps as a stretch goal, which will invariably rub some people the wrong way, but I need to get the bar lower so I’m more likely to fund – projects that look like they are about to fund or have already funded are more attractive to prospective backers.

There will be more to say about the project as it grows closer. The interesting aspect of this for me is that the game itself won’t be changing, though they way I’m trying to sell it will. It’s a lesson in marketing, and I am really not good at marketing myself.

You can get yourself a copy of the Nefertiti Overdrive Quickstart (free) here.

Nefertiti Overdrive Quickstart

Maybe you’ve heard about this game of mine, Nefertiti Overdrive? Yeah, well, if you are interested in checking out a free Quickstart, you can go here.

I hope to commence the second Kickstarter attempt to crowdfund the full book in October. Keep watching SEP, my Twitter or my Google + if you are interested, because I’ll begin shouting as soon as it goes live. Please share the Quickstart with anyone you think might dig it. I need your support!

Ease of Face Punchin’ in Choson

From the movie the Shadowless Sword (Muyeonggeom) directed by Kim Young-jun

Last post, I mentioned two of the factors of historical Korean society that I hoped to include were I to do re-design my RPG Choson. But there are at least two other factors I want as part of the design. I can imagine anyone that has played Kiss My Axe or Nefertiti Overdrive would be able to guess.

Simplicity and impressive action.

Simplicity has been the touchstone of most of my games. I switched from D&D 3.5 over to True20 and tried Savage Worlds because I wanted simple rules. Comparatively, these were simpler rules. Then I found Jaws of the Six Serpents and Old School Hack – Jaws putting me on the road to designing simple systems and OSH giving me a target for which to strive in regards to robust minimalism.

From the movie the Huntresses (Joseonminyeo Samchongsa) directed by Park Jae-hyun

The action has nothing to do with historical Choson, but more has to do with the kind of games I like to play and the kinds of media I like to consume. I’ve already mentioned the promise of the opening of the Korean TV series the Hero Hong Gil Dong. I want to inject cinematic action or at least open narrative skill and martial test rules.

So Choson needs to include historical Korea’s strict hierarchy and disdain for warriors in a simple system that supports free narrative in skill tests.

That’s what I would want for Choson.

You can find more information on Choson here.

You can find Jaws of the Six Serpents here.

You can find Old School Hack here.

What Has Choson Ever Done For Us?

From the TV series the Hero Hong Gil Dong on KBS2

Revisiting and working through Choson – a role-playing game set in historical Korea – is a more likely outcome than working on Pandora Excess (needs new name) – a tabletop RPG inspired by Borderlands – because Choson would be closer in philosophy to Centurion and Nefertiti Overdrive. Choson could be a streamlined, simple system rather than a robust, complex system, which a Borderlands tabletop would need to be were to one replicate the many facets of that game.

But were I to embark on this – and this very post seems to indicate that I am doing exactly that, at least as an exercise – I would need to zero in on what I want the game to be about. What makes Choson Korea different than Ming or Qing China? Well, that’s not actually the question I need to answer. I need to answer why would I want to game in Korea? It may be the same or different than China, but I am making a game about Korea, so I’m going to focus on that.

Dirty commoner! From the movie Kundo: Age of the Rampant

The elements of historical Korea that I want to include in Choson are the extreme stratification of society and the disdain of the ruling class for all things martial.

The stratification of society for me works great because I believe it mirrors the situation in North America (and elsewhere) right now. We have a huge wealth gap and limited social mobility (though that’s not the image we want to project). That gives the game a bit of social relevance, something I haven’t really included in other games.

This also sets Choson Korea apart from Ming China, which still claimed to believe that a man (and, unfortunately, it was always a man) of ability could rise to the very pinnacle of government (though not to the ruling class). While Choson Korea was very Confucian, this was a part of the philosophy the ruling class rejected. One did not rise. One did not threaten the hold on power of the elite.

From the TV series Iljimae by Chorokbaem Media

The disdain for all things martial pretty much guarantees the PCs will be outsiders. They might be literal outsiders – though foreigners generally fared much poorer in Choson than they did in Shogunate Japan – but as mercenaries, adventurers, trouble-shooters, whatever, they will be considered unpalatable if necessary elements. To me, stories of outsiders are always more interesting than stories of those within the status quo or ruling apparatus.

So, moving forward, I want Choson to include some mechanical representation of the extreme stratification of society and the outsider status of the PCs.

But there is more. There are elements I want to include that are not a part of historical Choson. And I think you probably know what those elements are.

You can read more about Choson here.

Wikipedia’s got you covered for a primer on society in the Choson period.

Remembering Choson

Back in 2008, I made a game called Choson to run for the crew from Fist Full of Comics and Games. It was set, as might be guessed by the title, in Choson era Korea. Looking at it now, I am not impressed. It’s not that I think it was a horrible design, it was just that there is too much to it that does not follow directly from the purpose or philosophy of the game. Some of it did, but not all of it. It has a lot of excess baggage.

I have considered reviving Choson before, and it came to mind again because I am re-reading some Korean history. I tend to do historical games (Kiss My Axe, Centurion, and Nefertiti Overdrive), so Choson would make sense. However, I don’t think I’d want to do a straight-up historical game like Centurion – or, to a lesser extent, Kiss My Axe – rather I think I’d do something closer to Nefertiti Overdrive.

There was a Korean drama series that I watched with my wife called the Hero Hong Gil Dong. Hong Gil Dong is a Korean version of Robin Hood, the 2008 series started out blending wire-fu, anachronism and humour with the story. I was sold. Unfortunately, all those elements soon disappeared, and while the opening of the pilot made promises, the series as a whole didn’t deliver.

The promise of those early episodes is what I would aim for would I do another historical RPG set in Korea. For wirefu and fun, I probably would set it in the Choson era, probably in the 17th or 18th century. Other periods of Korean history work better, in my mind, for more swords and sorcery action, and for a straight-up adventure, I would probably choose the Koryo era, maybe during the 10th and 11th century wars with the Khitan nomads.

You can find Fist Full of Comics and Games here.

You can find some information on an adventure I wrote for Savage Worlds based in Choson here.

You can find more information on the Hero Hong Gil Dong here.

You can watch the pilot here. The first eight minutes or so are the best part.

Wikipedia can give you some quick information on Choson, Koryo, and the war with the Khitan.

Skiffing the Sand

I mentioned on Google Plus that I am playing in the Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty downloaded content for Borderlands 2. I mentioned this because that part of the game includes sand skiffs, similar to what we saw in Return of the Jedi. But my initial excitement at seeing these vehicles wasn’t due to that connection, it was due to a connection to an Old School Hack game run by Kirin Robinson at Gen Con 2011 in which myself and the Accidental Survivors were able to participate. It had a very pulp-y John Carter’s Mars kind of thing going on, from the desert to the villains, to the final city in which we faced the big bad.

And it was hella fun. This was the game that really opened my eyes to the potential of Old School Hack.

It’s also fun in the Scarlett DLC because it has a very post-apocalyptic feel to the locations – although that’s pretty normal for Borderlands. The two together make a potent combination for a media hound who chewed through post-apoc b-movies in his youth. Heck, I was even disappointed when they cancelled the Highwayman (did anybody else watch this? No? Guess that’s why it got cancelled).

This was another reason to love the Warden’s High Plains Samurai when he first introduced it. The setting has a very dusty post-apoc feeling to it, mixed with spaghetti westerns and the Good, the Bad, the Weird – in other words, a love letter to my sensibilities.

As usual, seeing or reading something makes me want to play it. A High Plains Samurai playtest is coming soon (fingers-crossed) but I can’t run anything for my Ottawa group after promising them a year-long campaign (instead of constantly pulling the rug out from under them with new systems and new adventures). However, there might be an alternative . . . if I am willing to commit the time to it.

Dare I?

You can find more information on Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty here.

You can find more information on Borderlands 2 here.

You can find more information on Old School Hack here.

You can find more information on the Highwayman here.

You can find more information on High Plains Samurai here.

Uniquely Visited

WordPress is telling me that I have about 250 to 300 unique visitors per month to this site. That has remained constant since I started tracking numbers in 2013. That is not a large sample period, but it does include some quiet months and some very busy months. Case in point, August was very busy, with two to three posts every week whereas April was spotty at best, with only one post in the first three weeks.

I force myself to try to think of things to write here, things that might be of interest to either other designers (how would I approach turning Borderlands into a tabletop RPG) or just other gamers (the Savage Zanzibar posts). I do that to try to keep eyes on this site because this is my business, and more eyeballs hopefully means more purchases.

Since the number of eyeballs is consistent, the number of posts doesn’t seem to really matter.

Wow. Talk about a kick right in motivation’s junk.

I’m going to be straight with you: figuring out what to write is hard. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem writing gaming stuff for my own use – rules, adventures, campaigns – and when I can, I’ll share it with you (like I did for Direct Action or the Sword Noir one-pagers), but most of my gaming writing is either 1) an attempt to obtain legal currency or 2) for my own use and would need serious work to be shared with the public. This means that I generally need to think up a topic and write an article specifically for this site.

Work. Huh. What is it good for? Absolutely . . .

I’m not sure. Looking at the numbers, they seem to be telling me that I am doing a lot of work for nothing. Post about new project, new products, Kickstarters, sales, etc. That should be enough. Maybe once a week. But that feels wrong. Really wrong. The evidence is there but my heart is telling me something else.

Will I stop writing articles? Like I said, my gut (heart, innards, whatever) tells me I need to keep posting, so I think I’d feel guilty not writing and posting. I don’t think I’m going to feel the need to do three posts a week consistently. But I also see no pattern in what articles draw attention.

So, I will keep plugging away. If you have suggestions, share them. If you are one of the 250 to 300, thanks.