Category Archives: Writing

First Look: MASHED playsheet draft

I’m making good progress on my Korean War RPG (working title still: MASHED), based on the Apocalypse World engine. I’m almost finished with the second draft; I just need to edit a little bit of text and include rough layouts of the hospital tents, camp, and both basic and deluxe playsheets. Here’s what I have so far for the deluxe playsheet. Any thoughts?





CSI: Cryptid Scene Investigation

I’m going to add an ‘official’ Knightwatch guide to the Print on Demand edition. Here’s the first draft, provided for your review. Any thoughts?

  1. Arrive at Scene. Obtain a situation summary from Watch officer in charge. If Watchmen have not already secured the scene, perform reconnaissance to clear and secure the scene. If possible, wait until Watchmen have secured the scene from unauthorized persons before entering. Use the route least likely to disturb any evidence.
  2. Notify Command. Send any requests for assistance (e.g., Watchmen, medical examiner, criminalistics) to M.E.R.L.I.N. to be processed on your behalf.cover_Page_192_cropped
  3. Jurisdiction. When you need to operate within a district, neighborhood, or property not under Watchman jurisdiction (subscription services), be aware that search and seizure problems exist. Where possible, notify command to obtain a temporary inter-corporate contract or warrant before entering the scene. Without this permission, and if confronted by an official representative from another PMSC, notify command of the rep’s name and contact information; a Valyant legal representative will reach out directly to resolve jurisdiction.
  4. Living Cryptid. Attempt to contain. Flex-cuffs and paracord should be able to restrain most mutated humans. If the cryptid is active and hostile, combat is authorized. Wound the cryptid until it cannot retaliate and can be restrained. Liquidate cryptids only after containment fails. A Watch officer will transfer the cryptid to the Keep observation facilities.
  5. Living Victim. Perform or summon medical aid. Attempt to obtain the name of the assailant; otherwise, commence to obtain ID from description (sex, race, height, hair/eye color, clothing, etc.). Also attempt to determine the victim’s PMSC provider. If the victim is unconscious, ensure that a Watchman remains with the victim to note any declarations made during periods of consciousness.
  6. Removal of Cryptid or Victim from Scene. First, use HUD to photograph and record the individual’s position. Record the collection of any physical evidence from the individual.
  7. Witnesses. Canvass the area. Obtain names and contact information, plus a brief statement. Hold witnesses until the arrival of Watchman investigators, keeping them separate to prevent collusion. Be vigilant – witnesses may be involved.
  8. Process Scene. Call trained Watch investigators to process the scene. When not possible, photograph and record the scene and adjoining/adjacent areas from all angles. Examine the scene for physical evidence, marking and visually recording the location of objects found such as footprints, ectoplasm, fragments of cloth, bloodstains, magical residue, tool marks, etc. Preserve each item of evidence in separate correct containers.
  9. Evidence Processing. Contact morgue or lab to request tests on persons and objects (cause of death, presence of Flux, etc.). Watch detectives and investigators will process reports (initial, follow-up, evidence), witness statements, cryptid statements, and background on cryptid and involved individuals (name, home, relatives, friends, employment, finances, possible criminal activities, possible romantic involvements, possible use of narcotics, gang involvement). M.E.R.L.I.N. will deliver to your HUD as they become available.
  10. Investigation. Act on information provided by evidence. Determine actions of cryptid (day, weeks, or months; depending on circumstances) before the initial scene, including motive. Consider motives such as: sex, theft, narcotics, mental and/or Flux derangement. Question everyone thoroughly. Do not disclose valuable information to unauthorized persons. Give constant attention to the presence of any other PMSCs involved.
  11. Assault/Infiltration. Some investigations may lead to a greater threat. Return to Step 1 and repeat until mission is closed.
  12. Disinformation Report (Journo). Provide a brief, concise summary of the operative case facts, without verbatim recital of witnesses statements. Fictionalize accounts of Flux-based incidents, replacing magic with science and mundanity, and submit to media.


Familiar Spirits

The latest Corporia supplement, Familiar Spirits, is now available on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow for only 99 cents!cover_familiarspirits_800w

This little 14-page expansion details on how Sorcerer and Witcher characters can conjure animal familiars out of the very atmospheric energies (aka the Flux) around them. I tried hard to make familiars really easy and convenient to use, without the inconvenience of how they’ve traditionally appeared in the RPG medium. For instance, because they’re corporeal but still composed of energy, you can summon and dismiss them back into the ether – so you don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to board them when you’re going on a particularly dangerous or stealthy mission. This supplement also includes a form-fillable record sheet for your familiar.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Publishers: How to format your PDF metadata

Maybe it’s just me, but it really bugs me when I download a professionally-published PDF and open it only to see that its properties aren’t correctly tagged, and that the views and layouts haven’t been set up properly, or at all.

Not only is this formatting helpful for the readers—both the human ones and their ebook apps—but it can also help with search engine optimization (SEO), provided that your PDFs are publicly available for free download somewhere that’s not protected by a paywall. Even better, formatting these metadata and view options is very, very simple.

So, here’s my own little 12-step program to help you improve your PDF publishing. (These instructions are specifically for Windows users, but the process is functionally identical for Mac.) Images utilize my Corporia RPG core rulebook as an example.

Step One: Open your PDF.

Step Two: Go to File > Properties. This will open up the Document Properties window.

Step Three: Click the Description tab (see Image 1, below), if you’re not taken to it automatically.

Step Four: Complete the Title and Author fields as appropriate for your product.

Step Five: Complete the Subject and Keyword fields however you prefer. For the Keyword field, I put my name, the title, and some keywords appropriate to the book. I usually repeat the book title in the Subject field.

Properties (click for larger view)

Image 1: Description (click for larger view)

Step Six: Now, while we’re still in the Document Properties window, go to the Initial View tab (see Image 2 below). This tab is where you’ll set how you want your PDF to appear when the reader opens it.

Step Seven: Under Layout and Magnification, you can set what Navigation tab (if any) you want to appear along with the page. Experiment to see which one you like. I personally recommend either Page Only, or (if you included bookmarks – which you should) Bookmarks Panel and Page.

Step Eight: Next under Layout and Magnification is Page layout. Most of you will probably want Single Page. Again, experiment to see what looks best for your project.

Because Corporia was roughly 7 x 10, I chose Two-Up (Cover Page) so that once the reader was past the cover, the PDF displays a ‘spread’ of two pages, so it looks just like it would if you had a copy of the hardcover open in front of you. If you use this option, you’ll need to insert a blank page (or, as I did, a Preface) to appear immediately following the cover. Otherwise you won’t get that nice two-page spread. I’ve seen some publishers insert the back cover as this ‘filler’ page, but I don’t like that, myself – I prefer to keep the back cover at the end of the book.

Initial View (click for larger view)

Image 2: Initial View (click for larger view)

Step Nine: Also under Layout and Magnification are Magnification and Open to page:. These are pretty self-explanatory. I prefer Fit Height and, of course, Open to page 1.

Step Ten: Next are Window Options. I ignore most of these options because they may override the reader’s natural PDF viewing preferences, but the last one, Show: File Name/Show: Document Title, is very important. Be sure to always pick Show: Document Title, since this will cause the PDF header to display the title you entered on the Description tab, rather than a file name that might include numbers or notes that make sense to you but that don’t need to be visible to the reader.

Using the title is GOOD (green arrow). Using the file name is BAD (red arrow))

Image 3: Window Options. Using the title is GOOD (green arrow). Using the file name is BAD (red arrow). (click for larger view)

Step Eleven: The last item on this tab is User Interface Options, which I also ignore. I don’t want to hide any options that the reader is probably already accustomed to using.

Step Twelve: Finally, save your file with an appropriate file name. Be sure that it’s clear and concise, so that your buyer knows instantly what the file contains simply by reading the file name. For instance, “Corporia-RPG.pdf” would be fine, while “CRPR-final-v1.4.pdf” or “12346636.pdf” would not be. Note also that if you’re going to be releasing multiple PDFs in this same line, be sure to keep your file naming style consistent.

Okay, that’s it. Now go forth and publish!

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.

First Thoughts on Fate Core

Some of you may be looking at the title of this post and thinking ‘what took you so long?’cover fate After all, versions of the Fate RPG have been around for years and – according to a recent Examiner article – is currently the 5th most popular RPG around.

Well, it’s not like I’ve never heard of Fate before. I’ve thumbed through it occasionally over the years, but just couldn’t get a good handle on the rules. Possibly this is because I come from a dice-heavy as opposed to narrative/story-heavy gaming background, or possibly because I find the rulebook’s layout confusing.

There seem to be a lot of undefined terms or new terms for the sake of new terms (effort, magnitude, shifts…) and concepts thrown at me in the wrong order. I took me lots of internet and book searching to determine whether the term ‘effort’ means your dice roll + skill rank, or just the dice roll alone. Also, I quickly understood how the skills work, but had trouble finding the section that tells me how many skills a new character gets. That kind of thing. Maybe this would have been easier with a print book instead of trying to read it online; I’m not sure. Or maybe it’s just me.

I find it interesting that so much of what I’ve read from players online, and in the early pages of the book, weighs heavily on ‘aspects’. In the designer notes that I’ve read, however, there seems to be a preferred focus on each part of the rules as having equal weight, with aspects being no more important than the rest of the ruleset. Maybe that’s an incorrect interpretation. What do you think?

I’m toying around with ideas for a Fate conversion of Corporia, and if I follow through on that, then I think I’m going to stick with that interpretation. I feel like a minor change in the order of how the rules are presented may make it easier for the dice-heavy player to latch on to. We’ll see how it goes.

Any thoughts?

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.