Posts Tagged With: blather

Busy busy busy


At last! I’ve finally polished off the text for the next version of Fatescape – it’s basically FATE Core with a few added skills and a new magic system and a whole load of Planescape bumf included – so all I need to do is sit down for a few hours and drop it into a pdf layout and we should be good to go!

It could do with a decent infusion of Planescape flavour, I think, and I need to transfer more of the custom stunts across from the previous version, and I should write up some sample adversaries, and the magic needs examination… but by and large it’s at the point now where I’m tinkering rather than creating from scratch.

Big Pulp: Catskin

My short story The Canau Deception has been published in Big Pulp magazine, in the Summer 2013 anthology entitled Catskin. I’ve got my author’s comp copies but I’m not sure if its available to the general public yet – but when it is, you should all get a copy! You’ll be able to find it formatted for your e-reader of choice here, eventually.

Also, they’ve agreed to publish another short story of mine – Won’t Be Missed, about a wizard and his super-strong ex-girlfriend and the fight they have – some time in 2014.

Low Life

Continuing my publishing credits: I entered the Low Life, High Adventure contest run by Andy Hopp over at Mutha Oith Creations and my story Not So Smart scored me a place in the anthology!

If you’re not familiar with Low Life as a setting for RPGs, I highly recommend it – I originally only spun by the contest page because Andy was giving away the setting book as a free pdf, and I love free stuff, but once I’d read it I knew I had to enter. Over on Something Awful, someone described Low Life as “Gamma World meets Fraggle Rock, plus butt jokes” which is entirely accurate and still undersells how cool it is.

It’s a shame the Kickstarter for a new rulebook didn’t hit the ‘FATE version’ level, since I’m not a huge fan of either Savage Worlds or Pathfinder, but I reckon I’ll get my money’s worth just reading the pdfs as they arrive in my inbox.


Speaking of ‘getting my money’s worth from just reading’, I finally got around to backing Chuubo’s Marvellous Wish-Granting Engine – the latest work from the superlatively gifted Jenna Moran – and I’m so glad I did!

I mean, the basic premise doesn’t really sit well with me: it’s pastoral-style gaming, slow-paced and gentle; the main protagonists are all teenagers; and the sample campaign strongly expects you to play pregens rather than original characters.

But the execution! The pastoral style works for the kind of stories the game wants to tell (and there are other options, which as far as I can tell no one has seriously looked at), the pregens are without exception bloody fantastic – my personal favourites being Nightmares’ Angel, the Troublemaker, and the Prodigy – and… I still don’t care for teenage PCs* but I’ll deal. I haven’t wanted to play a game so badly in a long time.

*Says the man playing a teenage PC in an online Monsterhearts game. I think the difference is that in Monsterhearts the game tends to focus on a spiral of failure and doom, and watching the in-crowd self-destruct because they’re all terrible people is always a good time.

Shadowrun Returns

And another Kickstarter I backed is released today! I’ve got plans for the campaign editor already, so we’ll see if I can find the time to actually finish a module for the first time ever.

…oh, and I got engaged too. =3

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Rick Grimes: Player Character

Contains minor spoilers for The Walking Dead. You have been warned.

Recently I’ve been watching The Walking Dead with my girlfriend – who isn’t a roleplayer, although she listens with some enthusiasm to the wackier stories that I tell – and I have come to the conclusion that Rick Grimes, the series’ main protagonist, is a player character:

  • He benefits from statistically improbable events to ‘get the plot started’.
  • He’s really good in a fight. Guns, knives, fists, whatever.
  • His arrival in a situation turns everything straight to shit, while leaving him untouched.
  • Five minutes after his arrival, previously independent people defer to his leadership. Within a week “he holds this group together” in direct contradiction of the chaos he brings in his wake.
  • NPCs let him and his group hang around despite the fact that he causes nothing but trouble, eats their limited supplies, and contravenes every value they hold dear.
  • He’s heroic right up to the point where it becomes a problem for him, whereupon he switches to pragmatism of the most brutal kind.
  • Surrounded by implacable enemies, he sets fire to the building he’s in.

Does this remind you of anyone? I mean, he also loots the corpses of his enemies and steals everything in sight, but that’s just natural in a zombie apocalypse.

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So, what’s been going on since I last updated?

Well, Purple Mountain X has been finished off – despite a load of extra work being needed on the stat blocks to make it more dangerous, it seems that the man at Purple Duck was pleased enough to offer me a second piece. That is now the Crimson Caves, a stand-alone dungeon for level 1 characters which I’m having trouble rounding up people to playtest. Still, it’s pretty much finished except for a little polishing.

I’ve also (today!) finally finished the overhaul of the magic system for Fatescape. Now all I’ve got to do is add it to the main file, rewrite the rules so they’re easier to understand, and redo the Equipment section according to the notes I’ve already got. Man, this fantasy heartbreaker thing is hard. (On the plus side it’s back to a playable state again, so maybe I’ll run another playtest game.)

What else? Another short piece of mine is being published in Schlock Magazine, and I’m waiting to hear back on two other submissions – one is a writing contest which I have no hope for at all, but since the prize was £1000 I figured it was worth a stab anyway, and the other is a pulp fiction story for royalties (i.e. bog all) which I reckon is much more likely to make the cut.

Oh, and I reckon I might start my own pulp fiction publishing enterprise. All I need is £800 and a name…

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Purple Mountain

Well, that’s Purple Mountain Level 10 (a Pathfinder dungeon written for Purple Duck gaming) finished and under the editor’s red pen even as I write. It clocked in at 35,000 words in the final analysis, but we’ll see how much of that survives the transition to the final version.

Still, one more thing with my name on.

False Idols

I wrote a modern-day pulp story for submission to an anthology produced by Pulp Empire, featuring a hyper-competent lawyer, a Chinese criminal mastermind, a psychic Russian, and an indestructible idiot who can also shoot fire. It’s modern-day, fast-moving, high-action and ridiculous, but I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing they’re looking for. Oh well: just got to run it past a bunch of test-readers to get some feedback, polish it up a bit and submit. Fingers crossed.

More Writing!

I have so many ongoing projects! Including one which I started in response to feedback on a previous piece which said “nothing happened for 10,000 words”. (Fair criticism, really. Sigh.) So this one is split into 1000-word segments, and something happens in each one. It’s my homage to the Traveler in Black, which I’m very deliberately not re-reading in order to avoid inadvertent copying. On the plus side, short works are easy to finish so it’s unlikely that this one’s going to get put aside halfway through.

Burning Wheel Now Burned Out

We finished up the BW game we were playing – it was fun, although I put more of that on the group I was playing with than any properties of the system itself. I still think it’s fundamentally flawed in a lot of ways.

Maybe I’ll try to start a Burning Empires game with the same group. Maybe I’ll test-run Fatescape again. (The all-new magic system is about 50% complete.) Maybe I’ll try to keep Fridays free for socialising. Truly I am a creature of unlimited whimsy.

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Why Lovecraft isn’t scary any more

Let me say right up front that I’m a fan of Lovecraft’s work. Not all of it, to be sure, but I think even the most die-hard Cthulhu-hat-wearing devotee of old Howard has to admit that his work covers a wide range of quality. People just tend to disagree on which pieces occupy which ends of the spectrum. I personally rate Herbert West: Reanimator and The Colour Out of Space as my favourites, although I’m less fond of the ‘Cthulhu Mythos’ such as it is.

Anyway, none of that is the point. The point is that Lovecraft isn’t scary, and I think I know why.

Back in the 1930s faith in God was strong and people believed in human agency. Lovecraft’s invitation to imagine that the universe was a vast and meaningless place full of things which could casually snuff us out without even noticing our presence was a pretty big deal. His writing said ‘What if you’re wrong?’ What if there is no God, no eternal life ever after, and we’re just specks in a huge void? And people read it, shuddered, and thought ‘That’s terrible; good job God is real and looks out for us!’

Side note: this ‘what if’ underpins a lot of horror. From Lovecraft to SAW, the thought is always ‘What if this was me?’ If the answer is too easy – something like ‘I’d kick the obvious bad guy’s ass’ or ‘I’d get in my car and drive away’ – then the horror falls flat. If we have no empathy with the victims or, worse, find them obnoxious (Cloverfield, I’m looking at you) the horror falls flat. The trick to effective horror is to take real, sympathetic, average Joes, isolate them, make them helpless, then do terrible terrible things to them. And it’s really hard.

Back to the main point: Fast forward 80 years to the early 21st century. Modern science tells us that the universe really is cold and meaningless, full of uncaring cosmic forces that could end us all with little or no thought, there really isn’t a God or an afterlife, we really are just specks in the void, and by the way we’ve put a computer in your telephone so that over a significant chunk of the earth’s surface all of humanity’s collected knowledge is at your fingertips. (Googling for the scale of outer space while sitting on the toilet pretty much sums up the modern age.)

When a modern reader reads Lovecraft, the response is a resounding ‘so what?’ There’s nothing in his central premise to scare us because, hey, turns out he was right. It also turns out that the human mind really can’t comprehend the vastness of the universe and really can’t operate while cognisant of our cosmic insignificance – but we also have a battery of psychological defences to shield us from the effects of this knowledge, so Lovecraft was at least wrong in his estimation of our mental resilience.

Familiarity, as they say, breeds contempt.

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Collected Thoughts #1

Welp, haven’t posted here in a while. Should probably fix that.

Fatescape: Still Awesome

I’ve been working on Fatescape behind the scenes – reworking the magic system pretty much from scratch, overhauling the equipment rules – and once I’ve sorted all that I’ll put up the newest version for people to look at. Maybe recruit some more guinea pigs for playtesting, that sort of thing.


One of the primary reasons that progress on Fatescape has been slow recently has been the devotion of my November to Nanowrimo. Things are going pretty well on that front – they were going really well until my ex decided to get all funny and put me into something of an emotional death spiral, but I’ve more or less put that behind me (again) so excellent progress should resume this evening.


A bit of good news from the weekend is that one of my short stories – The Canau Deception, known in my head as Cranston Burroughs vs. the Lizard People of the Hollow Earth – is going to be published in a pulp anthology called Big Pulp. (Not until June 2013, though. >.> ) This marks the first time that someone I don’t know personally will give me money in exchange for fiction I have written and publish it in an actual physical book; i.e. I’ll be a proper ‘published author’.

People I don’t know personally have previously given me money for RPG stuff I’ve written – On Silver Wings for the Witch Hunter game, and a handful of spells in Azagar’s Book of Rituals for 4e D&D (which earned me the princely sum of $8, paid by cheque) – but before I refer to myself as a “published author” I wanted to make sure I satisfied a definition of such that a random person on the street would agree with.


Since I last posted I have discovered Metric (creators of the best song on the Scott Pilgrim movie soundtrack and also many other good songs), Van Canto (a cappella power metal), and the soundtrack to the video game Bastion, which is better than a lot of modern commercial albums.

I would also like to share the first verse (two verses?) of Rasputina’s Choose Me to be a Champion, which has always struck me as being about paladins:

Choose me to be a champion
I am possessing of a very righteous style
I understand what’s going on
I have charisma and of course a winning smile

I stand accused of being an audacious redeemer
Not a charge I can deny
I have refused the ways of the liar and the schemer
And I’m not afraid to die

And then it goes off onto stuff about the Bounty mutineers – a subject which pops up no fewer than three times on that album, and is less relevant to D&D paladin-hood.

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Go Go Gadget Nostalgia

Last night I happened to download some of the old roleplaying material I’d chucked into online storage back in 2008 in case my hard drive died (which it did). I find it quite reassuring to plough through old stuff I’ve written – most of it was pretty good, although a few turns of phrase here and there could use some work and the game mechanical elements vary from ‘acceptable’ to ‘man what’; by and large it’s nice to discover that the stuff I wrote all those years ago was as good as I thought it was at the time.

Principle among the documents I recovered was ‘RuneQuest Reloaded’, something which originated as an alternative system for rune magic in RuneQuest – replacing the ‘attune rune, learn spells’ system with power trees associated with each rune – and quickly burst its banks to become a sprawling reworking of the core rules with an integral setting.

What surprised me was that RQRL (even in its current incomplete state) ran to some 25,000 words – which is a lot of words for something which is still primarily new spells! I didn’t realise I’d written that much. It certainly didn’t feel like 25,000 words when I wrote it; I just knocked out a rune every couple of days and voila. Now that I have it, though, it seems like a shame to bin all that work. Mongoose have since lost the RQ licence, but the rules they wrote remain as a game called (for now) Legend – perhaps I can cannibalise RQRL for that.

So I suppose that’s another thing to add to the queue of gaming projects, right behind my d20 revision and Fight! – a game based on the 2007-2008 game Thrash, intended to simulate the storylines (and combat) of fighting games and battle anime. Since the creator of Thrash was kind enough to release it under a Creative Commons licence, I can cheerfully co-opt all his hard work and bury it under a deluge of new material.

I can also play BlazBlue until my brain melts and leaks out of my ears, and call it research. Which is nice.

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Bandwagon update

Math is hard.

Making basic classes for a d20 system that fall within acceptable bounds of smack takes a hell of a lot of thinking behind the scenes – a lot more than I expected. I’ve taken steps to reduce the number of variables I’m working with and the range of those variables, and it’s still a pain in the backside.

Oh well, back to the grindstone. I’ve started, so I might as well kick it into a playable shape before abandoning it to the world at large.

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Hello World

Eventually I plan to fill this space with stuff about games: primarily roleplaying games, but I’m a wide-focus gamer. I may also use it to plug fiction that I write, and as a vehicle for thoughts too long to go on my Facebook feed.

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