One Down But Work Continues

With Nefertiti Overdrive 2E out in the wild, my trifecta is down to a duology, and work is proceeding apace on both.

One note here is on print editions. The main cost for print editions—along with my time—is indexing. It is precise, painstaking work for which I am poorly engineered. If I would like someone else to do it, it comes at a cost—and SEP will only just start turning a profit this month. So, while print editions for Nefertiti Overdrive 2E and later Kiss My Axe may happen, they will be slow in coming.

Kiss My Axe is in the research phase, but this is also leading to some design decisions and evident changes in the mechanics and focus.

Image by Dmitriy Tereshchenko
(more…)

Nefertiti Overdrive 2E

Cover of Get Netiqret

As mentioned earlier, I was working on updating Nefertiti Overdrive, tweaking the rules, focusing the characters more on Egypt and Egypt’s environs, and adding historical context. I’ve removed Get Netiqret as its own thing. When I first wrote Nefertiti Overdrive, I was heavily inspired by the design of Lady Blackbird, but what I released was not nearly as elegant or purpose-driven, and so I think it makes more sense to have Get Netiqret out there on its own.

I also removed the quickstart and released its adventure separate—but still for free now called Proof of Death.

It’s all complete and out now at itch.io: Nefertiti Overdrive, Proof of Death, and Get Netiqret.

I feel better having got it all done. Research proceeds apace for Kiss My Axe 2E, and it is going to be a significant departure in character design if not in base mechanics from what exists now.

Trifecta?

Nefertiti Overdrive Cover

It’s been a while since I’ve had any news, any information on new products, and that will likely continue for a while, but I don’t feel right if I’m not working on something, and I’m a little too old to change that.

I have three projects at various stages that I’m working on, two of which will likely see a release.

1) Nefertiti Overdrive 2E: I’m updating Nefertiti Overdrive, both changing the structure of the book, and altering the mechanics. I’m removing the adventure and having the book focused on the game itself. The adventure that was included in the 1E book—Get Netiqret–will be released separately but at the same time as 2E.

(more…)

RPG Research: Kushites in Egypt

Nefertiti Overdrive Cover

I’m not very vocal on Twitter—my main social media presence . . . if it even qualifies as that. One thing I’ve recently done is posted little history tidbits I learned while doing research for RPGs—either games or adventures. I’ve been posting them under the hashtag RPGResearch.

The most recent one comes for Dr. Donald B. Redford’s From Slave to Pharaoh: The Black Experience of Ancient Egypt which was research material for Nefertiti Overdrive.

This is from very early on in the books in which Dr. Redford recounts in general the connections and relationships between the Egyptians and the Kushites/Nubians. While the narrative of Kush as some kind of satellite/tributary of Egypt is now questioned—the two certainly had connections, but the Egyptians likely culturally adopted from the Nubians as much as they influenced development there. Still, there were expatriates of Kush living in Egypt, and Dr. Redford suggests that while they were segregated, there was also intermarriage and cultural assimilation, with Kushites holding some minor bureaucratic and courtly positions, as well as lesser priesthoods. (pages 6-9)

The mention of the Medjay is actually anachronistic for the Old Kingdom. Dr. Redford indicates that the Kushites were indeed linked to a gendarmerie known as the “kilt-wearers,” but that the term Medjay is attributed to the New Kingdom and was also a region in Lower Nubia. (page 20)

The Patreon Is Live

The Patreon is now live. You can find it here. The first three releases are complete and ready to go. First, later this month, I’ll release “Lawless Heaven,” an adventure for Sword’s Edge based on Korean action cinema. In October, it’ll be “Face ‘Splosion,” a Sword’s Edge adventure sci-fi actioner that’s an homage to the Borderlands video games. November’s release will be “Judged,” an adventure for Nefertiti Overdrive that bridges the adventure in the Quickstart Rules and in the main book.

I hope this is something you can support. Have a look and decide.

 

Karimala – Queen of Kush?

As part of my research into a cultural and historical primer for Nefertiti Overdrive, I’m reading Robert G. Morkot’s The Black Pharaohs. It’s a bit rough going because it’s a very technical book and not a popular history. My readings on Egyptian history have been at the popular history level, and much of the archaeological and historiographic discussions in the book are over my head.

I have hit on a very interesting point. There’s an inscription on a temple in the fortress of Semna in what would become Kush, and it refers to Karimala, whom the inscription calls “King of Upper and Lower Egypt, King’s Great Wife, King’s Daughter.” While she was apparently a great wife to a pharaoh, that inscription seems to suggest she also ruled in her own right. Dr. Morkot’s assumes this is not true, even though he does not indicate a specific reason why it could not be. He does indicate that the hieroglyphs are difficult to decipher, though I do not know enough to be able to make a guess as to why.

I understand that female rulers in Egypt and its surrounding cultures were uncommon, but they were not unknown, and given the accepted – if uncertain – translation, it seems reasonable that someone, quite possibly Karimala herself, considered her the pharaoh. Certainly Hatshepsut ruled as pharaoh, as did Sobekneferu, and possibly Merneith and Ahhotep I, among others. As serendipity would have it, the temple on which the inscription was found was believed to have been built by Thutmose III, with whom Hatshepsut jointly “ruled,” as he was a child of her husband, Thutmose II, and a lesser wife. It was also in the rule of Thutmose III that an attempt was made – possibly by him or his counsellors – to remove Hatshepsut from all monuments and inscriptions: to erase her from history.

The Karimala inscription also relates to a period in which the ruling powers – whomever those might be, let’s say it’s Queen Karimala – turned away from Amun, which created turmoil in the kingdom. The carving shows Karimala giving sacrifices to Isis, so maybe – like Akhenaten – she tried to change the state religion and raise Isis above Amun. Imagine her nation in turmoil as the nobles and warlords turn against her. The inscription seems to indicate that in the end, Amun was returned to his place of pre-eminence, so I guess in our story Karimala would have to lose.

In the end, for me, it’s a great piece of inspiration, a seed that could grow into a really interesting story. I don’t have the knowledge or skills necessary to actually ferret out the truth, but Nefertiti Overdrive is about kick-ass adventures rather than strict historical accuracy, so there’s nothing stopping us from running a game in which Karimala, an acolyte of Isis, challenges the status quo and finds herself embattled by her own subject – though maybe not all of them.

It’s also important not to assume anything. There may be plenty of evidence not presented that Karimala was a wife of the ruler rather than a ruler in her own right, but that’s not included. Unfortunately, it seems very much like an assumption based on expectations, and that is very dangerous.

You can find The Black Pharaohs on Amazon here, where you can also find Nefertiti Overdrive,

You can get the print+PDF combo of Nefertiti Overdrive at Indie Press Revolution.

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.

Whew!

How I Messed Up Nefertiti Overdrive

I posted this earlier on Sword’s Edge, but I think it’s important enough to be posted at both, so here you go: my huge regret regarding Nefertiti Overdrive.

Just after I put out the Quickstart rules for Nefertiti Overdrive, I had a discussion with a respected game designer regarding the characters. He was very unhappy with what he saw as an exclusion of Africa in a game set in Africa. The cast of characters included an Italian, a Greek, a Central Asian, and an Asian and only two from Africa – a Kushite/Sudanese and an Egyptian. At the time, I decided to change the Amazon in a Numdian/Berber, but argued for keeping the Asian character, given that the concept of Jet Li in Ancient Egypt was the idea kernel that sprouted into the story. And as for the Etruscan and the Spartan – well, I argued, Egypt was a Mediterranean culture rather than an African one.

That was a pretty stupid argument. It’s on par with insisting on a misogynistic medieval fantasy setting because that’s what history was like, while at the same time including magic and dragons. By the time Nefertiti Overdrive was released, not only was the Amazon a Numidian but the Monk had become the Misfit and was Ethiopian. While I kept the Etruscan and the Spartan – I’m sorry, but I can’t tear myself away from the image of those two iconic cultures in Ancient Egypt – I included the Bantu (a Sub-Saharan culture) and the Mercenary (from ancient Carthage) which could be used as alternatives and fit the same role.

Some might argue that I should have stuck to my initial vision, that I only changed what little I did in order to meet an “agenda.” They would be wrong. I actually don’t feel that I changed it enough, and honestly struggled with keeping the Etruscan and the Spartan – the historical argument being honestly empty and unimportant. If I could go back and re-commission all the art, I would do so and remove the Etruscan and Spartan. I could maybe include them as part of a series of iconic warriors from other cultures around the world statted for Nefertiti Overdrive.

The only agenda I am meeting is my sense of what I should have done. That’s personal. Another individual offered up an argument, and the more I think of it, the more I feel he had the right of it. I have heard others argue against his position, and I am not moved. The agenda that feeds this post is the same agenda that created Nefertiti Overdrive – what I want.

In deciding to use Egypt, I also decided to use Africa and the baggage that goes along with that. While I might be able to decouple that baggage in my own mind, it still exists, and only if I do not care for the perceptions and desires of others can I ignore it. What is sad is that I did ignore much of it. I had an opportunity to shape a game with much more African content. The more I think about the argument – and I do, regularly, especially as I consider embarking on a Korean-inspired second-world setting – the more I feel my compromise was actually a failure.

How would Nefertiti Overdrive have been impacted with the Bantu and Mercenary in place of the Etruscan and the Spartan? I don’t believe it would have been. Sure, the images of the Etruscan in a-historical Principate period legionary armour and the Spartan with his iconic helmet likely got some people excited. I’m pretty sure action images of the Bantu and the Mercenary would have worked just as well. I don’t think many have supported Nefertiti Overdrive because of the two Mediterranean characters.

Would anyone argue that I should remove this from sale, given the real weaknesses I see in it now? Probably. I haven’t heard that yet. I’m not going to do that, mostly because of all the work I and others put into it. I really do love this game, as much as I feel I missed a great opportunity.

So, this is one long mea culpa. I fucked up. It’s out there for all to see. I’ll try to do better next time, if there is a next time.

How I Survived 2015

2016 you say? Where did that year go?

Let’s see what happened in 2015 for me.

Nefertiti Overdrive
On 13 January, the Nefertiti Overdrive Kickstarter began with a target of $3,000 Canadian dollars. It closed on 10 February having raised $4,892 CAD. The amount that made it into my bank account was $4,387.19 CAD

The costs? $5,381.15 CAD
Editing $711
Art $1836.95
Design $905.00
Printing $800.13
Shipping $1,128.07

So, yes, I was in the hole $993.96 and this was mostly due to the drop in value of the Canadian dollar against the US dollar. I lost about $1,200 on the difference in value, so I would have come away with a little money in my pocket if the exchange rate had held.

All’s well that ends well, as Nefertiti Overdrive has been selling well and we are on target to get out of the red relatively quickly.

Bundle of Holding
Centurion: Legionaries of Rome was part of the IGDN Bundle at Bundle of Holding in February. This was my first experience being included in a BoH. I’ve purchased a few of them. There’ve been so many great collections I just couldn’t pass up. It was a great experience, yet another reason to be happy to have joined the Indie Game Developer Network. I got to be in a bundle with curse the darkness by Matthew McFarland at Growling Door Games, Edara by Carl Harrison and Ryan Schoon at Caelestis Designs, Fortune’s Fool by Jay Stratton at Pantheon Press, Misspent Youth by Rob Bohl, Psi-punk by Jacob Wood at Accessible Games, S.P.L.I.N.T.E.R. by Devon Oratz at End Transmission Games, Wu Xing by Eloy Lasanta at Third Eye Games, issues 4-7 of The Fate Codex magazine from Magpie Games, and a local favourite, Spark by Jason Pitre of Genesis of Legend.

Impressive company.

Gen Con
I was able to attend Gen Con 2015 and I had hoped to have the Nefertiti Overdrive books ready for it. Unfortunately, Gen Con was a couple of weeks early and the book was delayed in the layout phase. I had a PDF out to the backers before the convention, but no books. I was still able to run some games of Nefertiti Overdrive, and it was a great chance to get to know some of my colleagues at the Indie Game Developer Network.

Gen Con also provided the chance to sell a few books and it got me in touch with Indie Press Revolution, which now carries SEP’s systems.

Definitely a great investment!

Nefertiti Overdrive in Print!
And it was great to get the books out to the backers at the end of September. Much later than hoped, but there had been some issues with the cover and the time it took for proofs to get to me. Still, only one month late with delivering the book.

CGX
I attended Capitol Gaming Expo the first weekend in October with the plan to run some Nefertiti Overdrive and hangout with the crew from Ottawa Story Games community. I sold a few books – which was cool – met lots of awesome people, but didn’t actually get to run anything. This has not deterred me, and I plan on being at the next CGX in April of 2016 (and also at CanGames).

The Masters!
And I started a Masters program in October. It has taken up a huge amount of my free time, and so SEP and my Sword’s Edge blog have both suffered. I’m actually taking a break from schoolwork to write this. The program is set to take two years, but I hope to have it done by March 2017. We shall see.

Bundle of Holding, Take Two!
Nefertiti Overdrive was featured in the Indie Cornucopia +3 Bundle of Holding which kicked off 25 November. It was an insane collection of games, including Blood Red Sands, Circle of Hands, The Clay That Woke, The Gaean Reach, Starfall, and Urban Shadows. That puts me in company with Ralph Mazza, Ron Edwards, Paul Czege, Robin D. Laws, Paul Mitchener, Andrew Medeiros, and Mark Diaz Truman. Kind of makes one feel like one has arrived.

And that was my 2015. Next post I’ll share the numbers with you. Ignoring the Kickstarter, SEP did okay for sales in 2015. Nothing spectacular, but enough to make me happy.

As I hope you are in the coming year.

Stay frosty!
Fraser