I’m Not Dead Yet

I’m feeling better . . .

I am in the middle of playtesting a new game. For those who used to support my Patreon, it is based on the Quantum and GOD setting, but now called the Lost Earth. I don’t think it will ever see the light of day, simply because of the cost of bringing it out along with its setting, and the system is derived from its setting, so I don’t think I’d be happy releasing it separately.

A figure stands before broken structures looking like fallen skyscrapers beneath the title The Lost Earth: Rebirth, and the subtitle of Adventures in a Broken World

I said the same thing about League of Misfits, so who knows.

Anyway, the playtest is not only helping me with the system, but also helping me with myself.

My formative RPG experience was D&D—AD&D, 2E, and 3/3.5. Until the early 2000s, I almost exclusively played D&D—a bit of Top Secret, some Gamma World, Some WEG Star Wars and a bit of Champions was the sum total of my RPG experience.

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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
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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.

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Direct Intent

I am almost finished with Direct Action—the newest version of the kind of game I have worked on and played since Covert Forces in 2005—and hope to have it available early in May 2022. As much as I enjoy writing about elite military units, I am not blind to the real-world problems and issues with these units.

Cover of Direct Action

As military units and tools of national policy for rich nations, elite military units and the operators that staff them have been used in unjust ways, undermining the rule of law and the right to self-determination for many people. They have not and generally are not particularly well-integrated. Their reputation draws to them individuals keen to showcase their physical capabilities and those whose patriotism may lean more to jingoism. Though their initial imagining was as a precise kinetic tool comprised of philosopher-warriors, many have become blunt hammers comprised of shooters. Further, their representation in modern media generally reinforces negative stereotypes of the ethnic and cultural makeup of terrorists and criminals. No matter the truth about the current profile of those who threaten democracy and rule of law, it is always easier to point to the brown and black ‘other.’

To top this all off, during the period that I was working on this, questions regarding adherence to the laws of armed combat surfaced for elite units in Australia, Canada, and the United States. It delayed completion multiple times as I set the game aside.

There are definite problems with these units.

But it is also true that many are drawn to these units because they believe in the rule of law, the right to self-determination, and the requirement for the strong to protect and nurture the weak. Historically, Western society has always lionized bands of elite warriors, no matter the actual truth behind them.

Developing a role-playing game for elite military operators carries many of the same risks as developing games based on the Vikings or Roman legionaries—like Kiss My Axe and Centurion: Legionaries of Rome. Those historical groups did not, in actual history, display the heroism their legends might suggest, and were brutal, violent groups that oppressed those they could safely dominate. However, I would argue that it is possible to play games based on heroism using the tropes of those historical legends, which is why I designed those games.

Understanding that special operations forces can be problematic—as can any military force—this game is intended to allow participants to play heroic characters that have reached the pinnacle of their chosen profession and use their abilities and resources in an attempt to improve the world. That they fail or that they are disillusioned can be included in their stories. The shortcomings of the units need not be ignored, but there is an attraction to ambitious, competent, and driven figures, and that is a good description of most of special warfare operators.

On a personal note, I enjoy playing video games like Ghost Recon and Call of Duty. I have every issue of the comic the Activity. I watched the Unit during its broadcast and have watched both the Six and SEAL Team. I have seen both Acts of Valour and 13 Hours more than once. I am also a middle-aged white guy who has never served but whose career has brought him into contact with various special operations and special operations capable forces. I’ve written a lot of RPG content focused on elite military units. I also believe that black lives matter, that trans rights are human rights, that racism is hard-coded into the structures of most institutions, and that indigenous peoples’ rights and claims must be respected. I am a socialist who believes in strong national security policies and a robust, effective military under complete civilian control.

I want to believe that one can portray heroic characters who have undergone the most rigorous training available in the modern military and now seek to pursue just causes and fight the good fight. That is why I wrote Direct Action and why I think there are those out there interested in playing it.

Not The Time for THAT Kind of Direct Action

This being released concurrently with a post at my Patreon.

TL,DR: I support the protest of police violence against the Black community and demand police reform. Due to current circumstances, I am unwilling to release a game of military action, and will re-purpose it as a SF-action game of resistance against alien overlords in a near future Earth. 

If you disagree that systemic racism is an issue in the US, Canada, and pretty much around the globe, and that we—as the privileged—need to support the Black community, please don’t support me. You don’t want to give me your money as it will be going to support the Black community and police reform.

Okay, the details:

I hope everyone is well and safe. These are truly trying times, and while Canadian streets are not seeing the same kind of protest as many US streets are, we are not insensate to what is happening. Change must occur in Canada as much as the US—I honestly don’t know a country in which racial equality is not a problem.

And if you disagree with that, you would probably be happier not following me and not supporting my work, because I feel very strongly about this. I have been supporting food banks the last couple of months, but I will be supporting causes that have come to the fore in this crisis, causes that are supported by the Black community and especially Black creators and members of the tabletop RPG community.

Having said all that, the militarization revealed in the police force, the use of National Guard troops, and the threat of using US service personnel to police US streets has made me feel very queasy about working on and publishing a game about the military right now. Much like WARMONGER changed because of the COVID-19 virus, I feel Direct Action must change due to current circumstances.

The game will remain the same, I’ve been running two concurrent alpha playtests and the rules are getting close to a viable form. There are much less changes than initially planned, mostly because d20 and 5E were pretty solid platforms to begin with.

So, instead of Direct Action, I’ll be releasing Resistance: EARTH. Themes resonant with the current crisis is appreciated but unplanned. I had playtesters who were not at all interested in playtesting modern SOF, so Resistance: EARTH became a setting we could playtest the rules in.

Resistance: EARTH is kind of a post-apocalyptic action-adventure RPG. You play part of a resistance against alien overlords 10 years after an invasion. A primer is available at my Patreon which provides some insight into what I am proposing.

Thank you as always for your support. Please feel free to cancel that support. You won’t be missed.

Direct Action: Covert Forces and Special Operators

Undertaking the most difficult missions in the most dangerous locales, special operations forces are the tip of the spear. Secretive, highly-trained, and hauling the best kit, these shadow warriors represent a tactical response to strategic threats.

Direct Action is a game based on d20 and Fifth Edition, and draws on previous SEP products like Covert Forces: Redux, Blood and Guts 2: In Her Majesty’s Service, and Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section. Characters are special operators from national covert forces in adventures that can either jump from the headlines or explode out of fiction. Hunt down terrorists, shut down drug syndicates, protect diplomats in ungoverned spaces—the missions are as varied as the operators’ talents and training.

Kit up and head out for some high-speed, low-drag action.

Direct Action is will be the June 2020 release on my Patreon.

Riggers: Meta-Humans in a Shattered World

It has been 70 years since the event. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis ravaged the globe. Continents heaved and buckled for three decades, re-shaping the world. Civilization shattered. There is very little left of what had come before. But people survived. People rebuilt.

And people changed.

They are the Riggers. More than human, but treated as less than people. You have come into this world in Elisus, a growing metropolis and a place of hope. Maybe you don’t belong here. Maybe nobody does. All you know is that you are a Rigger and you are being hunted.

Riggers is a meta-human RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world. This is a story-focused game with simple mechanics and characters based on descriptive qualities. The game will include a basic setting, explaining the Shattered World, how it came to be, and what adventures might be found in it.

Riggers is a possible project slated for a vote on my Patreon.

HeadCrushers in the Wild

Sometimes you just need to crush a head to show you mean business. Kick down that door, kick butt, don’t bother taking names, that’s what I’m talking about. When you find out you are in over your head, distract, dodge, defend, and then get the hell out. Fast swords, fast brains, and fast mouths – that’s what you need.

Head Crushers a simple RPG about fantasy action-adventure, is now available through Drive Thru RPG. It’s a stripped down, easy to play game for straight-ahead fantasy adventures. The philosophy is customizable characters but minimal rules. There might be some ambiguity, but that’s a feature, not a bug – figure out how it works best for your group, then barrel on ahead.

Below is an example character sheet to give you some idea of what you are getting into, but if you’ve played any of my games in the past, you have a good idea, but to break it down, characters in HeadCrushers are based on Qualities and dice – the former provides the description and the latter are used for resolution, called a Test. Players roll dice against the GM, and no matter how many dice are rolled, each chooses only two – one for Success and one for Effect. Even if you roll six dice, only two of them are important, but rolling more dice increases the chance that one of them will be good.

The highest result wins at Success, which means that it’s better to have a bigger die than a smaller one because they generally get the bigger numbers. Die-type is used for Effect, so the result on the die is unimportant, only it’s number of sides. So for Success, a 7 rolled on a d8 beats a 5 rolled on a d10, but for Effect, you need to go big, so a d10 is better than a d8.

You can find HeadCrushers here.