Tag Archives: roleplaying

Cyberpunk 2020 ‘Remastered’

I really enjoy noodling over ideas about how older games could be ‘remastered’ (not in terms of rules, purely graphic design). One particular book I’ve been thinking about recently is Cyberpunk 2020, and how it would look if I were given the chance to redesign it.

Now first let me say that I LOVE the original rpg for its evocative design – but it is a bit cramped in places, and very much a product of its time (not that that’s a bad thing). So, I managed to squeeze in a few hours at the computer last night and designed a few pages (for digest/tablets at 6″x9″ instead of 8.5″11″). The art pieces are leftovers that I had planned for my Corporia RPG – which uses a similar graphic design – but I never found a good place to fit them, and I’m not sure what future supplement I might put them in.

I’ve posted the three new design pages here, though you can grab higher-res versions in a PDF from my Google Drive if you want them.

It’s just a draft, and there are some thing I’d tweak if I were doing a full book, but as a design exercise I like the way it turned out.


When I was considering how to tweak the original, I realized that Cyberpunk doesn’t really say ‘punk’ to me as much as ‘cyber’. So, noticing that punk-oriented graphic designs I’ve seen tend to work heavily in black, white, yellow, and pink, I focused on those colors, while keeping the original Cyberpunk-red.

I’m also proud of the new ‘Lena Goldsmith’ quote I came up with for the cover. I think it gives a flavor for the setting as well as the original ‘Johnny Silverhands’, but it scans/flows more smoothly.

Of course, this was made just for my own enjoyment and to stretch my brain creatively. Any sampled logos, text, and such are still trademark and copyright R. Talsorian Games Inc. and respective owners.


The MASHED RPG is now in open playtest

As you may have seen if you’re following me on social media, I’ve finally posted the open playtest PDF for the MASHED RPG! I’ve been working on it for a year, off and on in my spare time, and I MASHED_playtest_v160424_coverthink it turned out pretty well. I intend to run a Kickstarter a few months down the road, but right now I want to spend at least 2-3 months playtesting. I’d like all the playtest comments to go in my new MASHED RPG group on Google+, if you have any, but you can also get me on Facebook and twitter as well.

If you’d like to check it out, you can get the PDF via direct download from Dropbox or on DriveThruRPG. It’s free, of course.

What It Is

MASHED is a story game that you play with your friends. It’s a game that’s based more on conversations than on rolling dice—though you’ll use those too. Everything that you say crafts an ongoing narrative, like a stage play where everyone’s ad-libbing their lines. The rules and dice are there to help this along, adding an element of randomness that lets you succeed in what you want to do—but also ensuring that that there will be consequences and complications, especially when you fail. After all, war is hell.

You take on the role of an Army Medical Corps nurse, physician, or corpsman assigned to the 8099th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in South Korea. It is the summer of 1951, one year after the United Nations’ entry into the “police action” that will later be called the Korean War. It’s a game about medics whose government sent them to a foreign land with little to no military training. It’s about men and women who spent their working hours cutting, sawing, snipping, and sewing up human bodies, sometimes those of their friends—and were expected to stay sane.

This is a game about the value of human life and the stress that war imposes on those who live through it—but it’s also about relationships. And courage. And laughter. And love. Although the medics may spend hours—even days—in the operating tent, the game abstracts these into much shorter scenes, focusing on the most dramatic moments. Most of the conversation actually occurs outside of surgery, in those times when the flow of casualties has ebbed. Here you may fall in or out of love, fight the orders of ineffective top brass, pull pranks, help the South Koreans, pick fights, seduce your way through the unit, pull rank, and more. If you can find ways to blow off the stresses of surgery and war, you might get rotated home with your sanity intact. Just remember
that you’re practicing medicine in a combat zone—and death isn’t confined to the operating tent.

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?




My 2015 ENnie Award Predictions!

The ENnie award winners will be announced at GenCon tomorrow, but before that happens I thought I’d repeat what I did last year and announce my predictions for the winners.

The full nominees list is below. Keep in mine that these are not my personal preferences – I’ve just annotated who I think will probably win, based on fan demographics. I really think the new edition of D&D will sweep it, except on occasions when it’s up against Pathfinder, but I might be surprised! Monte Cook, of course, will pull in some good numbers.awards-image

To my thinking, these awards usually go like this: D&D or Pathfinder contending for #1 and #2, Monte Cook #3, Evil Hat #4, Savage Worlds or Cthulhu-based products contending for #5, and then everyone else. For instance, I don’t think Zak S. has a snowball’s chance, even though A Red & Pleasant Land is a great looking product. Maybe if these were judge awards and not fan voting, but A Red & Pleasant Land is too unknown outside of Zak’s circles, and there are too many people he’s pissed off. I’d be pleasantly surprised, though, if this were not the case.

Best Adventure

A Red & Pleasant Land (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
SILVER Horror on the Orient Express (Chaosium)
GOLD Hoard of the Dragon Queen (Wizards of the Coast)
Cake Walk (Fabled Environments)
East Texas University: Degrees of Horror (Pinnacle Entertainment Group)

Best Aid/Accessory (I can easily see these two getting swapped)

DungeonMorph Dice: Explorer Set (Inkwell Ideas)
GOLD D&D Dungeon Master’s Screen (Wizards of the Coast)
Syrinscape’s Rise of the Runelords Mega SoundPack (Syrinscape)
Black-green Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition RPG Dice Set (Q-Workshop)
SILVER Pathfinder Cards: Deluxe Harrow Deck (Paizo Inc.)

Best Art, Interior (Trail of Cthulhu is my alternate silver; if it weren’t for D&D and Monte, I’d pick it for gold)

GOLD D&D Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast)
Interface Zero 2.0: Full Metal Cyberpunk (Gun Metal Games)
Trail of Cthulhu: Dreamhounds of Paris (Pelgrane Press)
SILVER The Strange (Monte Cook Games, LLC)
Iron Kingdoms Unleashed Core Rules Hardcover (Privateer Press)

Best Art, Cover

Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Monsternomicon (Privateer Press)
MUTANT: Year Zero – The Roleplaying Game (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)
SILVER Freeport: The City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPG (Green Ronin Publishing)
Achtung! Cthulhu: Terrors of the Secret War (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)
GOLD Rise of Tiamat (Wizards of the Coast)

Best Blog  (no idea for silver, really, but ConTessa is probably my alternate silver)

ConTessa – Tabletop gaming by women for everyone!
DMDavid Blog
GOLD Gnome Stew
House Rule Gaming

Best Cartography (no idea for silver, really…)

MUTANT: Year Zero – The Roleplaying Game (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)
The Guide to Glorantha (Moon Design Publications)
Distant Outposts Deluxe Poster Map Set (Christopher West’s Maps of Mastery)
SILVER Horror on the Orient Express (Chaosium)
GOLD Ninth World Guidebook (Monte Cook Games, LLC)

Best Electronic Book (these two could easily swap)

GOLD Dragon Age Core RuleBook (Green Ronin Publishing)
SILVER Basic Rules for D&D (Wizards of the Coast)
Ken Writes About Stuff Volume 2 (Pelgrane Press)
Cake Walk (Fabled Environments)
Valiant Universe RPG Digital Initiative (Catalyst Game Labs)

Best Family Game (Doctor Who is my alternate silver)

SILVER Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game (Evil Hat Productions)
GOLD D&D Starter Set (Wizards of the Coast)
Infestation, An RPG of Bugs and Heroes (Third Eye Games)
Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space – Limited Edition Anniversary Rulebook (Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.)
Adventure Maximus RPG Starter Set (Eden Studios)

Best Free Product

Valiant RPG Digital Initiative (Catalyst Game Labs)
GOLD Basic Rules for D&D (Wizards of the Coast)
SILVER Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space – Arrowdown (Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.)
13th Age: The Archmage’s Orrery (Pelgrane Press)
East Texas University: Redneckromancer (Pinnacle Entertainment Group)

Best Game (Firefly has a good shot at silver, as does Atomic Robo, but I think the ENWorld readership may pick Monte instead)

GOLD D&D Player’s Handbook (Wizards of the Coast)
SILVER The Strange (Monte Cook Games, LLC)
Firefly Roleplaying Game (Margaret Weis Productions)
MUTANT: Year Zero – The Roleplaying Game (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)
Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game (Evil Hat Productions)

Best Miniatures Product

Gen Con Adventurer’s Tavern – Painted (Games and Gears)
D&D Icons of the Realms: Elemental Evil Boosters (WizKids)
Fantasy Pirate Goblin Lieutnant 28mm Miniature (Via Ludibunda)
GOLD Pathfinder Pawns: Inner Sea Pawn Box (Paizo Inc.)
SILVER Iron Kingdoms Unleashed Roleplaying Game Adventure Kit (Privateer Press)

Best Monster/Adversary

GOLD D&D Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast)
13th Age Bestiary (Pelgrane Press)
SILVER The Strange Bestiary (Monte Cook Games, LLC)
Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Monsternomicon (Privateer Press)
Achtung! Cthulhu: Terrors of the Secret War (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)

Best Podcast

GOLD Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff
Miskatonic University Podcast
SILVER Translating the Strange
NPC Cast
Grim Dark Podcast

Best Production Values (Iron Kingdoms or Shadowrun are my silver runners-up)

SILVER Horror on the Orient Express (Chaosium)
GOLD D&D Starter Set (Wizards of the Coast)
The Guide to Glorantha (Moon Design Publications)
Iron Kingdoms Unleashed Roleplaying Game Adventure Kit (Privateer Press)
Shadowrun: Runner’s Toolkit: Alphaware (Catalyst Game Labs)

Designers & Dragons: A History of the Roleplaying Game Industry (Evil Hat Productions)
Chicks Dig Gaming: A Celebration of All Things Gaming by the Women Who Love It (Mad Norwegian Press)
SILVER Shadowrun: Crossfire (Catalyst Game Labs)
GOLD Temple of Elemental Evil (WizKids)
Doctor Who: The Card Game 2nd Edition (Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.)

Best Rules

GOLD D&D Player’s Handbook (Wizards of the Coast)
MUTANT: Year Zero – The Roleplaying Game (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)
Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game (Transhuman Science-Fiction Adventure in the Second Age of Space) (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)
At the Hands of an Angry God (BlackWyrm Games)
SILVER Monster of the Week (Evil Hat Productions)

Best Setting

GOLD The Strange (Monte Cook Games, LLC)
The Guide to Glorantha (Moon Design Publications)
MUTANT: Year Zero – The Roleplaying Game (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)
A Red & Pleasant Land (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
SILVER Trail of Cthulhu: Dreamhounds of Paris (Pelgrane Press)

Best Software (I can easily see these two getting swapped; Hero Lab is my alternate silver)

GOLD Roll20 (Roll 20)
SILVER D&D Complete Core Monster Pack for Fantasy Grounds (SmiteWorks USA LLC)
Hero Lab (Lone Wolf Development)
Syrinscape’s Rise of the Runelords Mega SoundPack (Syrinscape)
Eclipse Phase: Singularity Character Generator (Posthuman Studios & Snow Dog Labs)

Best Supplement (This is a tough one. All of these have great name recognition. My alternate silver is Savage Worlds.)

GOLD D&D Dungeon Master’s Guide (Wizards of the Coast)
SILVER Pathfinder RPG: Pathfinder Unchained (Paizo Inc.)
Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion (Pinnacle Entertainment Group)
Doctor Who – The Fourth Doctor Sourcebook (Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.)
Shadowrun: Run Faster (Catalyst Game Labs)

Best Website (I can see these swapping)

Tabletop Audio
GOLD Adventureaweek
Age of Ravens
SILVER The Escapist
The Illuminerdy

Best Writing (Designers & Dragons has a decent shot at silver, but I don’t think it can beat Monte)

Ken Writes About Stuff Volume 2 by Kenneth Hite (Pelgrane Press)
GOLD D&D Player’s Handbook by Jeremy Crawford, James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwalb, Bruce R. Cordell (Wizards of the Coast)
SILVER The Strange by Monte Cook, Bruce R. Cordell (Monte Cook Games, LLC)
A Red & Pleasant Land by Zak S (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
Designers & Dragons: A History of the Roleplaying Game Industry by Shannon Appelcline (Evil Hat Productions)

Product of the Year

MUTANT: Year Zero – The Roleplaying Game (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)
SILVER The Strange (Monte Cook Games, LLC)
Horror on the Orient Express (Chaosium)
A Red & Pleasant Land (Lamentations of the Flame Princess)
The Guide to Glorantha (Moon Design Publications)
GOLD D&D Player’s Handbook (Wizards of the Coast)
Iron Kingdoms Unleashed Core Rules Hardcover (Privateer Press)
Designers & Dragons: A History of the Roleplaying Game Industry (Evil Hat Productions) Firefly Roleplaying Game (Margaret Weis Productions)
Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game (Transhuman Science-Fiction Adventure in the Second Age of Space) (Modiphius Entertainment Ltd)


Okay, that’s it! I put about 20 minutes into guessing these, and I think they’ll probably turn out to be pretty close.  I’ll post a follow-up to see how I did.

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 Version ("Before")

Original Version (“Before”)


Revised Version ("After")

Revised Version (“After”)


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.


RPG Design: converting Corporia to Print-On-Demand

Because I only have a couple dozen copies of the limited edition Corporia hardcover on hand, and there’s a demand for bundled print+PDF copies on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow, I’ve decided to add a Print-On-Demand edition to those store pages and update the PDF.


The new POD title page

However, this isn’t as easy as clicking a few boxes and turning a ‘print’ option on. First and most complicated, I have to adjust the page trim sizes from 6.75″ x 10.125″ to 7″ x 10″, and the cover has to be similarly resized. That means that all the text and art has to shift just a tiny bit, so I had to go through each page and make sure everything reflowed properly.

Second, the printer requires a blank page at the end of the book for their own internal barcode – and since they require that the total book pages be divisible by four, I have to either delete one page of content or add four more. Naturally, I’m going to add three more. I’ve dropped in three advertisements (at the back of the book) for Corporia supplements as placeholders, but my plan is to replace these with new Director/GM and player templates and guides, which will also be released for free online for everyone who has the Kickstarter hardcover. This means that I won’t be finished with the conversion as quickly as I’d liked, but I think it’ll be a better product.

Of course, I’m also taking this opportunity to fix any typos or rules mechanics errors that slipped by, and to update or replace some of the art and graphic design elements. For instance, I’m updating the background and images on the “The Story So Far” section so it flows better with the rest of the book, and it won’t switch from a modern design to a faux-handwritten journal style. The text in this section won’t change significantly; it will just have a different look and feel that still uses some of the same art. You can see the title page to the left above, and below are some samples of the (before and after) work in progress. What do you think?



BEFORE (left) and AFTER (right) – click image to enlarge