Tag Archives: rpg

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?




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

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.