Category Archives: Books

RPG Design: Less is More, Bold is Better

As a long-time writer but an amateur graphic designer, I’ve really enjoyed updating the Corporia RPG layout (in preparation for the 7″ x 10″ Print-on-Demand edition and accompanying PDF update). My skills have improved quite a bit since the original was published, after all.

One early review comment I received on the original book was that there were too many pages with ‘walls of text’ (i.e., pages with a big block of body text and not enough white space, art, or headers to provide some relief for the eyes). This was one particular comment I kept in mind throughout the (nearly finished, as I type now) revision process. Although there are still some ‘walls’ here and there, I really tried to break these up a bit. For instance, I overhauled the character archetype pages by swapping the art and text placement, making the color elements and quote bigger and bolder, and replacing paragraphs of text with a simple inset text block. Now instead of a ‘wall of text’, the archetype page includes text, the statistics block, and the color inset block. There’s still a lot of text, but the wall now has some paint and missing bricks.

The color elements add some boldness to these page spreads, and the inset block summarizes paragraphs of text, making it easier to read and comprehend (thus, less is more). It’s something I’ll definitely have to bear in mind during future projects.

Check out the Hacker archetype below to see the ‘before’ and ‘after’. I really like the revision, and it maintains the ‘look and feel’ of the original and so won’t be shockingly different to the existing reader base. What do you think?

ORIGINAL:

Original Version ("Before")

Original Version (“Before”)

REVISED:

Revised Version ("After")

Revised Version (“After”)

 

The Infinite Flashpoint Convergence of New 52 Secret Wars (A Rant)

The last issue (#8) of DC Comics’ Convergence series releases today, and… I couldn’t care less. It’s quite possibly the worst ‘summer event’ line that I’ve ever read, and I’ve read almost all of them. Almost every issue (and I’m including the various two-parters as well as the main book) suffers the ultimate crimes of being boring and/or confusing to the point of utter incomprehensibility. Sadly, I don’t have much greater expectations for Marvel’s currently ongoing Secret Wars event, based on what I’ve read so far, even though I usually enjoy Jonathan Hickman’s work. It may just be that I’m tired of the whole ‘throw a bunch of heroes together and make them fight’ concept. Also, as has been said elsewhere, “The main thrust of the story is simple enough, but you may have to consult a wiki to fill in most of these blanks.” It’s not easy to jump in.

Convergence

Convergence

It’s not that I’m biased against the ‘Big Two’. Over the years, I’ve been alternately (and sometimes together) a Marvel zombie and/or a DC fanboy. Even now, both companies still manage to produce a handful of great series that are creator-driven (like Astro City or Powers) and corporate-owned (such as Hawkeye and Thor), though the latter seem more like happy accidents of putting a solid writer (or writers) together with a good art team – rather than any kind of actual editorial direction from on high.

Looking over my current reading list, I’m slightly surprised to see how many great titles are being produced by Image Comics, a company once famous more for their adolescent-appealing artists rather than the stories, as they churned out their own ‘variations’ (aka inspirations aka ripoffs) of Marvel and DC characters. Birthright, Bitch Planet, Chrononauts, Jupiter’s Legacy, Saga, Sex Criminals, the Walking Dead, and many other good to great series are a testament to what a comic company can do when they focus on just providing interesting series, rather than being enslaved to continuity and a shared universe.

So. That’s my rant for the day. What do you think?

edit: I’ve gone back in and added hyperlinks to various reviews on other sites that match my own thoughts

Corporia: eBooks and a free city map

Based purely on a quick browse through the internet, it doesn’t seem that the ebook format (typically, epub and mobi) are e-bookpopular formats for role-playing games. I suspect this is primarily because of the extra work involved for the publisher, since converting a graphics and chart-heavy format to an essentially ‘text-only’ format isn’t the easiest job in the world. The ebook is also a fairly new technology, and most tablets can handle the PDF format that’s so common among the RPG community now.

That being said, I’ve decided to convert the Corporia RPG both to mobi and epub format, for Kindles and other tablets respectively. The charts and tables have been simplified to a mostly line-item format, and will appear as close as possible to their original locations in the text. Where possible, both will be bundled free with the PDF wherever that digital edition is sold online (such as DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, and Indie Press Revolution), as well as being sold separately. I hope to release them later this month, and will certainly mention it here when I do. (Citizen-level and higher Kickstarter backers will, of course, get the variant editions for free, since “future-proofing” was one of the stretch goals.)

I’ve also released the City Districts map (page 132 of the core rulebook) as a free visual aid, since it won’t be included in the ebook. That’s free to anyone who wants to download it, whether you’ve purchased the other products or not. You can currently download it on DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, and on the Brabblemark Press website. Enjoy!

 

Masters of the Universe (art book)

I was a big fan of He-Man when I was a kid and, although that love faded as I grew older, I love the idea of the upcoming art book from Dark Horse – especially since it includes such behind-the-scenes things as aomup2‘how to create an action figure.’

You can read more in the Comics Alliance article here.

 

MASHED: Roleplaying Korean War medics

mashed draft title page

draft title page

Here’s a sneak peek at the draft title page (this is not the cover) for my new project! It’s an idea that I’ve had in mind for a while, but until I got familiar with the Apocalypse World engine, I didn’t really have a good game system to do it with. Also, the last couple of years have been really busy with finishing up all the goals from the Corporia Kickstarter, and my brain needs a break. Of course, I might still publish a Corporia adventure or something else simultaneously, but MASHED is my focus for the moment.

As you might guess from the (working) title, the theme of the game is the lives of doctors in Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, set in the Korean War. Gameplay and moves are also inspired by Apocalypse World and Night Witches, but with opportunities for both humorous situations as well as lots of drama. The game will be based directly on the real-world MASH units in the Korean War, including the one that inspired a certain S*H*O*W that you’re probably already familiar with. If you want to use MASHED to run situations from the show, you can. So, it will work with the media, but won’t be based on it or licensed from it.

For stats, my draft notes use +skill, +nerve, +luck, and +fight, with points distributed depending on your rank (Lieutenant, Captain, or Major). There are four character temperaments (Head, Heart, Bones, and “Blood and Guts”), and several roles within them (Casanova, Prankster, Scrounger, Cutter, Mentor, Bully, and Stickler). Stress and burnout will be particularly important parts of moves and such.

Right now I’m still fiddling with these, as well as some other ideas about how mobile the MASH will be, and how/whether I use “Rotation Points” as a means of allowing characters to get leave or go home. Although real MASH doctors didn’t get rotation points like the regular army did, I’m willing to bend reality where I need to service the fiction. That’s one of my main rules concepts that I’m still having trouble with.

I’d love to get your thoughts on the points system or anything you think might work well (or be a problem) for the game. I’ve started a thread on the barf forth apocalyptica forums if you’d like to contribute there.

What I’ve Been Writing – and Where I’m Going

Agents of Change final coverWith the release of the Agents of Change expansion for Corporia (now available on DriveThruRPG), I’ve wrapped up all the stretch goals for the Kickstarter. It was an intense experience, and I’m glad to now have some time to relax without any deadlines hanging over my head. I’m pleased to say that I didn’t fall behind on any of the announced deadlines – only a few personal deadlines that I’d set for myself.

In the midst of that, I also took the time to write a stretch goal adventure (case) and do lots of editing for Fearlight Games’ Baker Street RPG. That’s now on DriveThruRPG as well – though the cases will come in a separate release. If you’re a gamer and a Sherlockian, be sure to check it out. Note that it does use special dice – I’m guessing those will be available direct from Fearlight.

For upcoming projects, I’ve got several things in mind:

  • a 1 to 2-page free summary of the GRAIL system, to encourage its adoption; I really think it has some mass reach potential
  • Corporia mini-adventures, with a twist on the production and layout
  • a text only edition of Corporia for Kindle and ePub readers
  • occasional free playtesting downloads for rules that might make their way into future books and editions
  • Corporia setting supplements
  • Fate and/or Savage Worlds conversions of Corporia
  • a completely new system involving dice – but not in the way you think (more on this later, if it comes to anything)

The big question is where I’ll find the time for it, considering I have maybe an hour each day that’s not devoted to my day job, my family, or sleeping.

At least blogs don’t take much time to write, so I’m hoping to get back on track for that. I’ve love to be able to have a reliably weekly blog, if possible. I’ve been thinking about my experiences over the last decade and a half in the gaming industry, and I probably have some decent stories and advice to share, if I can cull my memory for them. So, there’s that.

Okay, time to wrap up for today. I have a ringing in my ears and it’s either the doorbell or the oncoming storm.

Corporia – Agents of Change (and not the small kind)

Here’s a look at the draft cover of the next Corporia supplement, which I’m planning to release in the first quarter of 2015. The actual title may still change, since I’m a bit concerned that the cover implies a product that’s entirely based on spies and spycraft. Although there’s a Spook archetype inside, that isn’t the case. Alternate title ideas include: Fringe Benefits (there is a Fringer archetype inside too), Hazard Pay, and Trade Secrets.

I’d love to hear what you think!

agents draft cover