This Is How (What) We Do It

After having a fair break with minimal pressure following the success of the Sword’s Edge Kickstarter, with the payments in, project management has started. But that’s not all. There are a bunch of other projects on which I am working, and here’s a general overview of what I’m working on and what stage it’s at.

Sword’s Edge: So the text is off for editing, and I have both the indexer and the fulfillment locked in. Right now, I am finishing off the setup for BackerKit and once that is running, this will move to project management, which means long periods of monotony punctuated by spurts of effort.

Fiction Commission: I can’t say more until this happens, but I am updating a fiction commission that I had thought was done. That’s okay, because the reason for the revision is one I whole-heartedly support. It has kind of changed how certain characters should be impacting on the story, but it is totally manageable and I’m happy with how this is turning out.

More to follow when I can.

“Lawless Heaven”: This is going to happen. It is actually very close to being in presentable form. Unfortunately, I won’t have portraits for the pre-made characters, but I do have some art for the book and most of the text is written. I will be doing some tweaking with it before it is released, but it won’t actually hit the public until after Sword’s Edge is released as a PDF – which will likely be November 2017, a month after the Kickstarter backers get theirs.

“Face ‘Splosion”: Another Sword’s Edge adventure, this time a science-fiction high octane actioner heavily inspired by Borderlands and especially Borderlands 2. Like “Lawless Heaven,” this will be released after Sword’s Edge hits the public, but this requires more work. The adventure and pre-made characters are all ready, but I need to write the other text that will be included, like an introduction, an explanation of the genre, and a discussion of the intended setting in case this will become the intro to a wider adventure.

Head Crushers: Another role-playing game, but this one is at the intersection of Nefertiti Overdrive and Sword’s Edge. Its default is fantasy, and it was designed to replicate the Skull Kickers comic, which was itself based on RPG sessions. The writing on this one is done, but it’s going to sit on the backburner for now, though I have plans to release it.

The Wall: And yet another RPG, but this one far and away from anything I’ve done before. Rather than fast, high octane action, the Wall is much more about creating narrative scenes. Its subject – the difficulties of being a foreign occupier in an unfriendly city – screams for deep thinking and drama rather than hacking and slashing. The mechanics on this one are ready, but there is a lot of writing to get it ready to hit the public. The intention, though, is there.

“The Nor’Westers”: This is a Sword’s Edge campaign set along the North West Company’s fur trade route in Canada in 1810. This campaign is made up of short scenarios, and so needs to be fleshed out more with lots of supporting text. This will likely be the last of the Sword’s Edge supplements that will be put out as it needs the most work. This is very much a backburner project. Once Sword’s Edge is out, this will take a higher priority.

Sword Noir: I paused on the updates for this, my first RPG, but much of the mechanics revision is done. There is a lot more, though, because the included setting of Everthorn needs much more work than the SN mechanics do. For now, SN is going to follow Sword’s Edge, but with its own special differences. Everthorn, however, needs a very major overhaul in regards to characters, and I have considered releasing the mechanics separate from the setting.

Nefertiti Overdrive: The historical addendum to this game is growing, but I am still in the middle of research on the 25th Dynasty. This is scheduled to happen after Sword Noir is done, so likely not for a while. A cool part of this project is that I have an actual Egyptologist who has agreed to review my work. For those who wanted more history in their insane action, this should go a long way to scratching that itch.

Crowd-funding: One of the ways in which these projects might see fruition is through Patreon. I have been toying with the idea for a long time, and I think as a system it works better for me than Kickstarter. All of the projects listed could be Patreon projects – some of which might be released in components rather than a single work. I need to get enough in order that I will have a regular release schedule, so this is not something that will likely happen for a couple of months, but I think it makes sense. It is also a way to release my games and supplements in advance of Sword’s Edge hitting the public.

So, yeah, I’ve got a few things on my plate.


Face ‘Splosion on a Sword’s Edge

The last posts included campaign scenarios with Swords Edge in an alternative history and then a straight fantasy setting. This time, let’s look at something closer to science fiction.

This is being cross-posted as an update to the Sword’s Edge Kickstarter, running until 20 April 2017.

Ive been sharing some of the genres in which Ive used Swords Edge, and these are generally outside, or at least different, from those provided in the text. This time, its kind of sci-fi, but really its a computer game adaptation.

One of the adventures Ive written for Swords Edge is a science fiction actioner. Ive been a fan of Borderlands for quite some time, as you may have noticed if you’ve read this blog for any length of time. I had developed a simple system to replicate the shoot em up style of play, but it didnt really work as I wanted. Swords Edge is one way of doing it, so here are some of the narrative characters I created to mess up PCs in Face Splosion.

Assault Bots (Average minion) 12
Concept: Killer-Bot, +2

The Assault Bots are the cannon-fodder, sent in to get blown up real good by the PCs. Theyre minions, so one shot is one kill, but at Average, they arent complete push-overs.

At another point, the PCs will need to crack a secure program, and instead of just having intrusion countermeasures electronic, the system has an actual AI providing the security.

AI (Good regular) 17
Concept: Digital Ninja, +2
Phy -2; Cha 0; Cun +2

At one point, the PCs face up to the underboss, a kind of boss fight but not the big boss. This is Helmut, the brain of the big bads bodyguard put into a robots body. Hes definitely tuned up to ruin someones day.

Helmut (Good Hero) 17
Concept: Cyborg Warbot, +4
Phy +4; Cha +2; Cun +0
Heavy Armour (Phy) +4, Rocket Launchers (Phy) +2

So those are three of the characters that the PCs on Anesidora will run into in my own little version of Borderlands.

You can find the Sword’s Edge Kickstarter here.

You can find out more about Sword’s Edge here.

You can read about my obsession with Borderlands here.

My attempts are Borderlands RPGs are referenced here.

#RPGaDAY2015 Day 31 Favourite Non-RPG Thing To Come Out of RPGs

Wow. This is going to take a bit of actual thinking, at which I believe this month has shown I suck.

Okay, I’m going to cheat and say RPG games in computers. It’s no surprise that I love both Fallout: New Vegas and the Borderlands series. These both have the excitement of a shooter like Call of Duty, but inject it with RPG elements – Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas are basically first person RPGs. It’s a cheat because it’s still an RPG, but adding the computer game element to it changes it in my mind.

And the worst? The D&D movie.

#RPGaDAY2015 is the brainchild of game designer Dave Chapman. Basically, each day in August there is a question about RPGs.

RPGaDAY2015 Day 9

#RPGaDAY2015 is the brainchild of game designer Dave Chapman. Basically, each day in August there is a question about RPGs. I’m going to play catch-up first and then look at day 9’s question.

Favourite Media you wish was an RPG? That’s actually pretty easy, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about and trying to crack: Borderlands. Now, I don’t think I would actually play a faithful tabletop representation of the game, because that RPG would need – by the very demands of adapting – be complex and probably huge. At least larger and more complex than that with which I’m generally happy. That being said, it’s a heck of an IP that could lead to really fun games.

Gen Con – Train in Vain

As you may have heard, I’m running a couple of games with a system I was calling Fancy Pants but now has two names – F#ck You Up and Face ‘Splosion. Yesterday I told you about F#ck You Up: Gangwar. Today, let’s looks at Face ‘Splosion.

I’ll be running Face ‘Splosion: Train in Vain Thursday evening. It sees the characters arrive on the planet Anesidora in an attempt to get the secret location of a vault filled with alien artifacts known as the Pithos out of a mole within Cronus a mega-corporation with both mining and manufacturing interests. Anesidora was once a mining colony but has since been mostly abandoned. Mostly.

Just in case it’s not clear enough, this is a riff on the concept behind the Borderlands video games.

The characters for Train in Vain are:

The Assassin (picture Zer0)
Elements: 2d6/1d10 – Alertness; Stealth
Tools: 2d8/1d12
Plasma Blade; Hologram Projector
Traits: 2d4/1d8 – Physical; Social

The Deathbot (picture Gaige’s Deathtrap)
Elements: 2d4/1d8 – Electronic Brain; Hover Drive
Tools: 2d6/1d12 – Plasma Claws; Laser Eye Beams
Traits: 2d6/1d10 – Physical; Mental

The Gunslinger (picture Nisha)
Elements: 2d4/1d8 – Fast; Cunning
Tools: 2d8/1d12 – Big Bore Pistols Akimbo; Attitude
Traits: 2d6/1d10 – Physical; Social

The Leader (picture Maya)
Elements: 2d6/1d10 – Presence; Mythic Entity
Tools: 2d4/1d8 – Communications; SMG
Traits: 2d8/1d12 – Mental; Social

The Mad Scientist (picture Gaige)
Elements: 2d8/1d12 – Science!; Make things go BOOM!
Tools: 2d6/1d10 – Electro-static Plasma Atomizer; Sonic Screwdriver
Traits: 2d4/1d8 – Mental; Social

The Scout (picture Mordecai)
Elements: 2d8/1d12 – Awareness; Survival
Tools: 2d4/1d8 – Bioform ISR/Strike Asset (hawk); Big Ass Rifle
Traits: 2d6/1d10 – Physical; Mental

You can find my Gen Con calendar here.

Read more about Fancy Pants here.

SEP State of Play

Every week I’m trying to get two articles up on the website, but some weeks it’s tougher than others. Tuesdays I generally like to have an advice column while on Thursdays I write about inspiration. This time, instead of providing advice, I’m going to let you know what is happening over at SEP.

The main concern for SEP (which is me) right now is Nefertiti Overdrive. It is in layout and the graphic designer – Rob Wakefield, who has laid out all our books since at least the Khorforjan Gambit – is optimistic about getting it back to me early July. Fingers are crossed. Once we get those files in a format with which we are both happy, the PDFs will be sent off to backers and to the printers to get some books done. I wish printing were faster, but due to schedules and the early start to Gen Con this year, I can’t see us having any Nefertiti Overdrive books to sell at the con.

However, I will be at the convention. The Nefertiti Overdrive games that I am running are all full, but I’ll be on the panel for a couple of seminars, and there are seats available to those. On Friday at 9 AM, I have “Indie RPG Matchmaker” with Jason Pitre of Genesis of Legend Publishing, while on Saturday at 1 PM, Ben Woerner who wrote World of Dew and I sit down to talk about “Historical Gaming.” I will be selling copies of both Sword Noir and Centurion there at the Independent Game Designers Network booth. Come by, say hi, shake hands and chat!

The play test for the game with the working title A Team of Pulp Losers is winding down, and the rules have proved successful through a one-year campaign. I am wondering about beta-testing these rules, but have had difficulty finding playtesters beyond my alpha-test circle. In the end, there is no business plan for these rules. I have not costed-out a release because I am a bit burned out on Kickstarter. What will happen to these rules? First, I need to find a better name. After that? We shall see.

Another system is ready to go for Gen Con. I’m calling it Fancy Pants because – as noted above – I suck at creating good titles. Fancy Pants is a game very much in the vein of Nefertiti Overdrive. It provides players with the opportunity to control the narrative and pushes them to get fancy – describing “success or failure in a way that is dramatic, cinematic, amusing or otherwise dazzling.” Unlike Nefertiti Overdrive, rather than providing an incentive by providing better dice or bonuses, getting fancy is tied to advancement. One Fancy Pants session at Gen Con will be based on Borderlands 2 while another is going to be a high octane action take on Sword Noir.

I honestly have no idea what will happen with Fancy Pants . . . even if it finds itself a good name.

There are two other completed systems that are steps between Nefertiti Overdrive and A Team of Pulp Losers: Direct Action and Starship Commandos. I’ve written about both games before, and they have both had shakedowns. They lack art or professional layouts, but they are ready to move forward.

And even with a backlog of four games, I have a new one for which I am about to pull the trigger on playtesting. This one is termed Riggers, although that name no longer applies. Riggers was tied more to the setting than the system, and I am working on playtesting the rules in a campaign attractive to my players. I intend to use the scenario generation system from Nefertiti Overdrive to create the campaign for the Riggers playtest. Maybe the setting will work with the name.

Riggers won’t be ready for prime time for at least a year. Like Centurion, it is a system built from scratch. Nefertiti Overdrive, like Sword Noir, was inspired by mechanics encountered elsewhere. Riggers was built from the ground up. I’m not going to say it’s totally new and unique, because I honestly expect someone at some point to say “this works just like X.” Still, because it’s new and unique to me, it’ll take a while to work out the kinks. Centurion changed dramatically during the playtest, and I expect something similar from Riggers.

So, there you go. Three completed games, two getting ready to have their tires kicked. Once Nefertiti Overdrive is in the hands of the backers, I’ll be doing some serious thinking about what I want to do and how I want to do it.

Until then, stick around. Let’s chat over at the SEP G+ group.

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.

Mr. Fancy Pants!

A Guy This Fancy, You Call Mister

Nefertiti Overdrive Quickstart has been sent to layout and my crew in Ottawa has settled in to A Team of Losers Pulp Edition, so I have no more pressing design issues. There is work to be done on Nefertiti Overdrive since I want it to be 90-100% complete before the Kickstarter (trying not to contemplate what happens if it fails to fund again), but this is not really what I consider design work, although it is explaining a process (creating adventures and campaigns).

My work on the need-a-new-name RPG based on the Borderlands computer game series has stalled because it is not something I’m ready to pursue right now. The concepts are laid out, but the work required to realize it as a game is daunting, especially since I see no opportunity to playtest or market it. It was and remains a thought experiment, and it was a lot of fun. This was an exercise in disassembling a game in another medium and reassembling it as an RPG. Perhaps in the future this is something I will pick up, but a modified version of Nefertiti Overdrive or the UGS would work for me running a Borderlands-style game with my crew (should that happen after the pulp campaign).

That’s Right, Fancy-Pants

Or I might use Fancy-Pants the RPG (working title).

Every time I’ve gone to Gen Con, I’ve gamed with JJ Lanza (formerly of Fist Full of Comics and Games). The last two times have been with JJ and his two sons. I’ve decided I’m going to Gen Con 2015, and part of my excitement is to run a game for the Lanza crew yet again. This time, I promised something even more over-the-top than Nefertiti Overdrive, and so I have created the basic framework for a game of even more insane action, which I’m calling Fancy-Pants for absolutely no reason whatshowever. The design goal is for a game that is fast, easy, and promoting crazy action.

I have no idea if the concept I’ve laid down will do this, but I have a little under a year to prepare.

I have come to the realization that my games tend to focus on cool people punching bad people in the face with outlandish style, and I am very okay with that.

The pictures of fancy-pants action are Chow Yun-Fat, the Killer himself.

Pandora Quirk

Okay, first off, I need a better title for the game than Pandora Excess. Just doesn’t do it for me.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about (the game that will soon not be called) Pandora Excess.

In most of my published games, I’ve used Pivots or something similar as a way to provide advancement, to improve characters. Borderlands has an experience point system not unlike the most famous role-playing game in the world (which is now in its fifth or so incarnation). There’s no need for two improvement mechanics, and plenty of reasons not to complicate an already complex system, so advancement will be based on experience points.

However, I think there is still a place for something similar to Pivots. Let’s call it Quirk. I’ll go through the thesaurus and find something better later. This is a part of Borderlands as well, with the characters uttering certain catchphrases when scoring critical hits, for example.

I’m not sure exactly if Quirks should have a mechanical benefit, but my initial thinking is that if worked into the game seamlessly, a Quirk can earn a character experience. This way, something like a character regularly wondering about coffee, spouting one-liners, or always eating could add dimension to a character, as well as levity to the game.

It’s also a nice way to provide personality to a character that might otherwise become a bunch of numbers.

You can find out more about Borderlands here.

You can find out more about Pandora Excess here.

Pandora Lacks Strength

I am a fan of having basic attributes like the six stats of D&D as part of characters in my games. For me, it provides a way of accessing some fundamental image of the character, showing the character’s capabilities divorced of all skills, background, training, etc. It has served my games well, in my opinion.

It doesn’t seem to have a place in Pandora Excess.

Look at Borderlands – the inspiration for this game. There are no base aspects, no stats for strength or intelligence. Given that Borderlands is all about combat, this makes sense. Differentiating characters based on intelligence or personality has no role in the game.

But for a tabletop game that is something more than just combat, differentiating who can figure out the code or who is best to talk to the new employer has a purpose. It impacts on character niches.

However, I don’t believe stats – let’s call them that – are necessary for Pandora Excess. Like in the computer game, the measure of capability can be through the skills. You don’t have ranks in that skill? You have no talent that helps? Then you roll 2d10 unmodified and hope for the best.

It makes things smoother, fewer numbers, fewer modifiers, and less math. This is important because I want combat to be fast and fluid, but robust games generally slow down in combat due to choices and modifiers and the math entailed in those.

The plan for Pandora Excess is to have any Test (roll of 2d10) modified by skill, talent and advantage or disadvantage – and only one of each can be applied in the hopes of keeping things streamlined.

You can find out more about Borderlands here.

You can find out more about Pandora Excess here.