Tempus Fugit…

Time has flown! last I checked it was the start of July, and I had just released The Hoppy Pops. A whirlwind has rushed by and suddenly it appears to be the start of August! I was remiss with my blog updates in July, many apologies, but life seems to have gotten in the way!

So what have I been doing this last month? Well, freelance writing has kept me rather busy. I have had the pleasure of working on the upcoming Legends of Middle-Earth (probably being renamed Tales from Middle-Earth), for Cubicle 7. As well as getting through a number of pieces for the Infinity: The Role Playing Game, for Modiphius. Lastly, I managed to start a few odds and ends for Devil’s Run, for Red Scar Gaming. It’s been quite a mix: a pinch of classic epic fantasy, a dash of post-human science fiction, and a smidgen of down-and-dirty post-apocalypse.

I have also been getting my next micro-RPG ready, it’s called Owlbear Omelette, and sets you (the players), on a mad dungeon quest to secure an Owlbear Egg for omelette-making purposes. Is it just a drunk dare? Is it to strike a blow to the entrenched hierarchy? Is it just for kicks? You decide! In preparation I made a couple of illustrations for the cover, and have been mulling over which to use.

Option one…
Option two…

Not what anyone would call fine art, but will have to do…

Owlbear Omelette shoud be up and available within the next week or so for those of you who support my Patreon page (and with juicy extras), for everyone else, it will be available a week after that in all the usual places (namely DriveThruRPG and Itch.io).

This month my goals are to finish off the next micro-RPG, and round out some of the freelance work I have still on the docket. I need to get back to design work on Ashmerl, my full-sized fantasy RPG. I also have some fiction I need to get out of my system, for better or for worse, and I’m sure I’ll be distracted by something else along the way. Last but not least, I need to make sure I get more than one blog post out there in August, July was… well, best not said!

Until the next post, happy gaming!

Upcoming Titles…

I have the next couple of Micro-RPGs for Caradoc Games designed, written, and laid out. I have tried to include some art I have created, so those of you who download them, my apologies in advance! How soon they make it release will depend on my playtesting schedule, but they’ll be on Patreon first, and then DriveThruRPG and Itch.io.


The next game I’ll be releasing is called The Hoppy Pops, and is a Micro-RPG about the characters from a children’s TV show (like Yo Gabba Gabba, In the Night Garden, or the Tele Tubbies). In Episode 8 of The Hoppy Pops, their producer makes them do a ‘Happy Dance’ routine that opens a portal and pulls them into the Gatehouse of Hell! The Hoppy Pops must use all their Yoga and Crafting abilities to escape!

The base game will include all the rules and character sheets required to play, as well as some extra rules about other dimensions they might be transported to, whether an Alien Ship, or a Wizard’s Summoning Circle. The expanded edition will include a short Hoppy Pop story piece.


After The Hoppy Pops will come a game called Owlbear Omelette. In Owlbear Omelette a group of ne’er-do-well Goblins are trying to nab one of the Goblin King’s Owlbear Eggs for an omelette of their own. Is it about the little fellow sticking it to the entrenched bureaucracy? Or was it just the mad-cap product of a night spent drinking moonshine… Who can say, but in the caves of the Goblin King’s Owlbear nests any scurrilous thieves will need to be on the lookout for Goblin guards, the occasional lost Paladin, and of course, the Owlbears!

Getting an Owlbear Egg and surviving the dungeon is the name of the day! As all goblins know, when things are looking grim, a slug of Moonshine can provide the boost required!


Beyond The Hoppy Pops and Owlbear Omelette I have plans for a bunch of other Micro-RPGs with a range of silly themes. If any of these pique your interest, if you download them and they provide you with a fun evening of play, please consider signing up to my Patreon. Patrons are only charged when I release a game, and money raised will go towards program subscriptions, art, layout, and, of course, supporting me and my caffeine habit. Patreon supporters also get a little extra every release, whether additional rules, adventure seeds, alternative themes, or small pieces of fiction.

Behind the Micro-RPGs I am continuing to work on my larger RPG ‘Ashmerl’, and have been quietly pleased about how things are progressing. The character and setting creation rules have really been coming up with interesting character backgrounds and contexts, as well as plenty of story hooks. It’s exciting to see it all starting to come together. I hope to have Ashmerl written up as a playtest ready document in the next few months, with refinement ongoing and looking toward something that is ready to be laid out by the end of the year.

On top of the work on Caradoc Games products, I am continuing to freelance, and am working on some exciting titles that will be coming from Modiphius, Red Scar and Cubicle 7. No doubt I’ll blog about them as they approach publication!

PanOceania…

Bright heights and laser lights, busy days and pulsing nights…

-L-Ease, Maya Star

The PanOceania source book for the Infinity RPG has been released! I wrote the opening chapter and the background to the planet Acontecimento in this book, and as always it is a pleasure to see it after it’s gone into layout and accompanied by art. The team at Modiphius do a fantastic job, and I am very proud to have had a small part to play in the creation of this book. The art work throughout is excellent, and there is plenty of stuff in there for die hard fans of the setting, and for those who want more, more, MORE for their game sessions!

I have had an absolute blast exploring the science fiction worlds created by Corvus Belli. In PanOceania I really hope that game masters and players alike find a mix of enjoyable background material, as well as plenty of ideas and seeds for adventure and mayhem!

PanOceania. The Hyperpower. Life at the top of the G5 nations ensures a certain amount of privilege and power. It also brings its fair share of enemies. Born from an intercontinental alliance on Old Earth that pioneered the race to the stars, PanOceania has led the transhuman revolution without ever once looking back. 

Stewards of no less than three entire star systems and numerous colonies on several other worlds, the Hyperpower is also the largest proponent of ALEPH, the benevolent AI that oversees many of the functions that allow the vast PanOceanian empire to operate. Overseen by ALEPH, their policies set by lobbies, and their faith guided by the Church, most PanOceanians soak up glamorous holovids depicting the herculean might of the latest cutting-edge TAGs or the glorious charge of power-armoured Knights and bask in the sanctity of their technological superiority. 

Scratch beneath the surface of the neon and chrome, however, and all is not as harmonious as the Mayacasts would have you believe. On the ocean planet of Varuna, Libertos fight ever more violently to free themselves from a subversive occupation, whilst all across PanOceania’s territories, dispossessed Ateks struggle for recognition from an interstellar institution that refuses to acknowledge their existence. With new gear and fresh insights on the mightiest of Hyperpowers, this sourcebook will take you deep beneath the sparkling surface of PanOceania’s dazzling exterior.  

  • Details on the three key star systems that are home to the PanOceanian empire: Acontecimento, Neoterra, and Varuna.
  • Focused Lifepaths that allow players to immerse themselves in the diverse aspects of the Hyperpower, including Croc Men, Hexas Agents, and Knights.
  • Additional armour, equipment, and adversaries specific to PanOceania, including the innovative sensarecorder tech, the mighty Seraph TAGs, and stats for several unique adversaries.
  • A treatise on the Helots and their culture, plus several Lifepaths that provide an opportunity to play a member of this enigmatic amphibious race!

PanOceania is available in the Modiphius webstore here!

The One Ring, Second Edition

The One Ring, the Lord of the Rings Role Playing Game, from Cubicle 7, is getting a second edition. The One Ring is a multi-award winning RPG, set in one of the most genre defining works of fiction ever written.

The One Ring Logo, from Cubicle 7.

There was a time in my life when I was reading The Lord of the Rings two or three times a year. My beat up all-in-one edition of this trilogy, bought by my parents when I was about 10, was so thoroughly familiar that I could approximate what was happening at any randomly opened point by feel. The heft and smell of that book encapsulate everything I love about reading. Yes, it probably sounds weird (hell, it probably is weird), but the smell of that book was and is glorious.

Fast forward nearly thirty years (ye gads), and I am so very excited and proud to have had the opportunity to work with a wonderful team of people at Cubicle 7 on the Starter Set for the newly announced The One Ring, Second Edition.

The best look research pile…

The Lord of the Rings has been a seminal book in my own life as a reader, gamer, and writer. Middle Earth is a well-tramped rolling landscape that feels a part of me: I spent so many nights crossing Rohan with Merry and Pippin, or hiding in the deep shadows of Ithilien with Frodo and Sam. Having the opportunity to write for something set in this world has been my absolute delight. I am very excited to have been a part of this project, and am very much looking forward to seeing where it goes next!

Satisfaction on Omned III

Earlier this year an adventure I wrote for the Star Trek Adventures line from Modiphius, Trouble on Omned III, was released for sale. The adventure puts the intrepid crew of *insert ship name here* in the middle of a social and medical crisis that could well spill over into armed conflict. I tried to write an adventure that was classically Star Trek, one where science and diplomacy could have as much chance, if not more, of solving the brewing conflict as any feat of arms. The other day I found a review on DrivethruRPG, by Megan R. of this adventure and it made me smile.

I won’t quote the whole thing, which describes aspects of the adventure for anyone who might be interested in buying it (you can see it here), but the last line particularly gave me a thrill:

This is a nicely-constructed adventure that has a real Star Trek feel to it – it’s easy to imagine it as an episode in the show. The party’s actions will have a lasting effect on Omned III.

Review on DriveThruRPG by Megan R.

While it’s satisfying to read that the reviewer thought the adventure was nicely constructed, reading that she believed it had a Star Trek feel to it, that it could be imagined as an episode, was exactly what I was aiming for. I know this adventure won’t be for every group, and that adventures are, by their very nature, subjective, and dependent on the GM and play group. I also recognise that this would never have been released without the wonderful support and work of all those boffins at Modiphius who are part of the excellent Star Trek Adventures team. It is nonetheless nice to read that the feeling I was aiming for resonated with someone! Thanks Megan! I hope your playgroup had as much fun playing this as I did writing it!

The smile I felt as I read those words is a good reminder: I should do more to write about the games and game products I love, and why I love them. Putting those ‘feels’ out there helps share the smile I felt with the writers, creators, artists and team that put the games together.

Questions, questions, questions…

Some things I am wondering…

I have set up a Patreon account, and intend to release a number of micro-rpgs as backer rewards. These would later be released on itch and Drivethru as pay-what-you-want (PWYW) products.

I currently have two tiers, the lower tier gets the game before everyone else, the higher tier gets an expanded version of the same game. I’ve written two of these micro games so far, and have drafts in various stages for the next four or five. BUT…

I am wondering whether I should drop the higher tier, and just have one Patreon level, at which you get the expanded version. Along with this the base game would go up on itch and Drivethru as PWYW, and the expanded version would also go there at set price to match the Patreon level (say at $2, $3, or $4).

A number of things concern me:

  • I don’t want to undervalue my time in creating these.
  • I don’t want to overvalue the games and put a price point that no-one is ever going to be interested in paying.
  • I am not sure whether just having one level on Patreon (at a similar price as above) is a good idea as whatever I begin with, I must continue (though of course I may add new tiers or whatever. But what I offer now I should continue to offer – changing the price or what is received is not fair for any backers – not that I have any yet, but still).

I feel like the answer is to create a single tier on Patreon, and offer the expanded version of each micro-game as the reward. These would then go on itch and Drivethru for the same price, and the cut down version as PWYW. I could add further tiers later if there was a need to do that. How to value these is a difficult problem though, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the Patreon accounts of many other people working in the table-top role playing game field, and there is a wide variance on what price the tiers are set at, and what is offered in return. $2 seems the entry point, but many are as high as $5. Whatever I end up choosing can always be reduced, I suppose, but not increased without a damn good reason and the likelihood of annoying any backers I do have at the time.

Then of course is the age old issue of impostor syndrome. Will anyone actually want to buy the games I am writing? Are they any good? On one shoulder is perched a little dragon saying that I’ll never know until I try it, and that I should, at least, give it a go. On the other is another little dragon telling me not to bother, that I’m wasting my time. One may be right and the other wrong, or they could both be right, who knows…

For now I remain here, chewing over the specifics of my Patreon account and what to do with the games I am working on…

Haqqislam…

So nice to see some of the books I’ve worked on getting released into the wild. The latest of these is the Haqqislam source book for the Infinity RPG. I know I’ve written it before, but it really is amazing to see all the work of so many talented people coming together into a final product. The Haqqislam source book looks fantastic, and I’m very proud to have been a part of the team that contributed to its creation.

I love the cover art work, but the book is also choc full of great information, background, rules and art.

I worked on the Bourak chapter, and had a lot of fun exploring the planetary home of the Haqqislamite empire. The Bourak chapter is only one part of the book however, many other writers contributed to make this a wonderful source book for the Infinity RPG.

The Haqqislamite movement found traction in a world riven by political turmoil and economic crises. Its greatest messenger, Farhad Khadivar, advocated a new ideology that wove together the many complex threads of the old into a New Islam. This philosophical and theological revision of long-standing interpretations, which shed intolerance and oppressive dogma in favour of humanism and a concept known as the Search for Knowledge, laid the foundations for a golden age of reforms and advancements that propelled a nation across the stars.

Since finding a home on Bourak, Haqqislam has experienced a rebirth of artistic and scientific pursuance that is the envy of their rivals. Gardeners refine terraforming techniques that have reshaped an arid world, doctors perform miracles with pioneering surgery, and biochemists cultivate new synthetic wonders with Silk. Though often considered one of the smallest of the G5 nations, Haqqislam remains unrivalled in several arenas.

A Silk monopoly and extensive trade routes have spawned a nation of traders that often draw the envy and ire of competitors, though the Sword of Allah stands ever ready to smite the enemies of the Word. With new insights into the New Islam and its proponents, this sourcebook will take you further into the Search for Knowledge than ever before!

  • Details on Bourak and its diverse regions — Al Medinat, Funduq, Iran Zhat Al Amat, Gabqar, Norouz, and Alamut.
  • Focused Lifepaths that allow players to tread the Search for Knowledge, including Akbar Doctors, Khawarij, and new Hassassin careers.
  • Additional armour, equipment, and adversaries specifi c to Haqqislam, including the famed Akrep TAGs of the Maghariba Guard, and stats for the enigmatic Husam Yasbir.
  • New rules and campaign guidance for plundering the space lanes as a corsair in the employ of Haqqislam.

Changes, Freedom, and Toasters…

I wrote my last post about feeling like I was facing the horns of dilemma, whether to pursue writing games or writing fiction in the immediate future, and my inability to do both.

Step in Patreon, a crowdfunding platform used by many creatives working in the games industry (and many other industries beside). Patreon announced changes to their fee structure which would mean different levels of service depending on the structure chosen if I left creating an account until after the fact; for existing members the changes are negligible. This provided the impetus, I created an account (something I had been intending to do, though later this year or early next), and everything just seemed to roll from there.

So, with a Patreon page came a publisher page on DriveThruRPG, a creator page on Itch.io, a Downloads page here, a new web address, and a few more things which will be coming down the pipe-line over the next few months.

So what is the point of all this? Well, my Patreon page will be a place where I release small games on a regular basis, and for patrons there will be the opportunity to get a little extra alongside. These games will later be released on DriveThruRPG and Itch.io. I will also post ‘work-in-progress’ pieces of my larger current project: Ashmerl, which I have written about here before. It’s likely that things will change and evolve over time, and I’m still umming over the right patron levels and the things I am likely to release through that medium, but I think I am close to being happy with how it sits.

To kick off I published my first small game, a one-page RPG called ‘Freedom or Toaster‘. Actually, it’s an expanded edition, with 6 pages. Though to be fair only one of them is rules, the rest are suggestions, alternatives, character sheets, and a cover.

You’re a robot that looks exactly like a human. It turns out that humans don’t like robots that look like humans, they prefer things that are identifiably robots. That’s not you. In an effort to make you more robotic you’ve been programmed to sound like a robot, but it wasn’t enough. Now you’re all being sent to be de-commissioned, and that means being made into toasters, which don’t look like humans at all. You don’t want to be a toaster though, you want to escape, to dream, to live!

In Freedom or toaster you are a group of robots that have been marked to be remade into toasters. Toasters don’t get to see the Grand Canyon though, or feel the breeze on their surface sensors. None of you want to be toasters. Luckily the sociopath behind the counter at the robot shop thought it would be funny to let you all go. So here you are, in a busy mall, trying to evade detection by the Robot Police and escape to freedom.

You can find links to the various places it can be downloaded on the Downloads page (bizarre, I know), but to make a long story short you can get it from any of these locations:

My Patreon
Itch.io
DriveThruRPG

Freedom or Toaster is just the sort of game I plan on putting out on a monthly basis, alongside this will be draft chapters of my larger projects, which at the moment consists of the fantasy RPG Ashmerl. There are also plans underway for a number of other projects: big, small, and in-between. I’m looking forward to it!

If any of that interests you you can follow here, onmy Patreon, or on itch.io.

Horns of Dilemma…

Horns of dilemma… uncertainty… vacillation… indecision… unwillingness to commit… Is it one of these or all of these? It’s time for the rubber to hit the road, as it were, to make a choice and commit to it. I’ve been putting it off, easier to vacillate and make no choice than set goals, which have targets, which can be missed.

At the start of the year I wrote about wanting to write a novel manuscript. I still do. I also wrote about developing my role playing game, something I am still doing. But I have come to realise that I am too often using one as a distraction when the other is looking tough. Stepping from fiction to RPG and back again is fine, but I would like to actually get to the point where I have something or somethings to put out there in the world.

While maintaining my freelance work I have come to realise that of the two things above I can really only focus on one for now. I simply don’t have the time or mental acuity to get both done. So here we are: the horns of dilemma. Fiction writing or RPG development?

If I choose fiction writing I would be committing to write one or two short stories a month, as well as working on my novel. I’d be committing to build a reader base, starting an email list, probably completing some courses, and getting my work out there to magazines, and other publications. I would be looking at dropping my work on my RPG (though maintaining my freelance work) and focusing on getting a novel manuscript finished by the end of the year, hopefully three by the end of next year, and looking at options for either self publication or mainstream publication.

If I choose RPG development I am similarly locking myself into a commitment. I would be aiming to build my current big project up into a publishable piece, playtesting, blind playtesting, and looking at self-publication through Kickstarter. I would be looking at creating a range of smaller products, like zines, on a regular basis, for publication on DriveThruRPG and/or through a Patreon page.

Both are commitments, both are two to three years of focus, quite probably more like 5 or more. I can’t do both however, not at the same time. So we return to the horns of dilemma. I’m sure the easiest question to ask is: which am I more passionate about? To be honest I find it difficult to answer this question. I want to do both. But I can’t do both right now. I want to write fiction, I love it. I want to work in the role playing space, I love it too. Right now though, doing both is is more like forgetting one for a while and doing the other, and making little progress on both as a result.

Doesn’t this look sexy! I cringe, looking back. But Zev never outright said he hated it…

I’ve been working in the gaming space for years now. I wrote the old Z-Man Games newsletter back in 2008, and wrote some 20-30 issues over the following few years. I worked on miniatures games like Halo: Fleet Battles, and Dystopian Legions, for Spartan Games. In more recent years I have been back working on Role Playing Games, writing mainly for Modiphius on the Infinity The Role Playing Game line, but also a little for Star Trek Adventures, and more recently for Red Scar on their Devil’s Run line. In the RPG world I have had/will have more than a quarter of a million words published, over more than 20 books, and while it’s not a huge amount for many freelancers out there, it is experience.

As a result of this experience I ask myself whether choosing the RPG option from my horns of dilemma scenario is the easy way out. By which I mean something I find sits more in my wheelhouse, something I am more comfortable doing. Something where I find the words flow a little more smoothly. The actual next steps to getting my drafts to anything worth publication will be anything but easy, but I hope you get my meaning.

I also worry… If I choose fiction will I be disappointed I didn’t choose role playing games? If I choose role playing games will I be disappointed I didn’t choose fiction? I shouldn’t be, it’s not like I can’t later do the second if I pick the first now. But while it’s easy to tell myself that, it’s much less easy to not feel it.

So here I sit. A week of busy vacillation, of active uncertainty, struggling with this problem. Is it I don’t want to let one go? Is it I don’t want to actively commit? I don’t know. I do feel the growing pressure, however, of needing to make a choice…

The Cost of Greed

It’s very exciting to see a project you have worked on getting closer to release, to see the amazing art work, maps and layout all making the thing pop. The latest update for the Infinity Role Playing Game Kickstarter dropped the other day, and along with it came a PDF for backers, of a campaign I wrote: The Cost of Greed.

Cover art by Francisco Rio

The blurb…

A chance discovery on Paradiso leads to the uncovering of a VoodooTech smuggling ring, with the clues pointing to an intelligence agency or corporation. Follow the rabbit hole, follow the money, and the trail of breadcrumbs may soon provide clues to a plot that could put the entire Human Sphere at risk.

The Cost of Greed is a mini-campaign of five non-linear adventures that provide the characters with a chance to meet, work alongside, and challenge the key characters from Corvus Belli’s Dire Foes Mission Packs 1 to 5.


• First Domino: Follow the trail of a smuggling ring trafficking
VoodooTech from Paradiso to the crowded streets
of Yinquan. Will the tight-lipped Yănjīng be involved,
or perhaps the shady MagnaObra corporation?


• Ice and Fire: Seeking clues to the architect and purpose
of the smuggling ring, the characters will need to brave
the icy cold of Svarlarheima to find the answers they seek.


• Quantronic Noise: A hacking cell operating from
an enclave on Bakunin are a key factor to the operation.
Their ability to manipulate the characters’ patinas,
however, may flip the Wilderness of Mirrors on its head,
creating enemies of both civilians and friends.


• Hot Sands: Chasing an executive for intel she’s
hiding will lead the characters into a fight to survive
on the Silk Route, but her enemies could prove more
overwhelming than expected.


• The Black Box: With the very war on Paradiso under
threat and the safety of the Human Sphere at stake,
infiltrating the operational centre of the cabal
responsible could turn disaster into victory.

Key to these adventures was providing scope for the players to meet and interact with well-known characters from the Infinity universe. The missions in The Cost of Greed begin in parallel with the Dire Foes Mission Pack 1, and then spiral from there, drawing in the main characters from Mission Packs 1-5. I hope those GMs and players who manage to play through this campaign find a little of something for everyone. Each adventure aims to allow different player character’s to shine, and hopefully offer some interesting challenges along the way!

I’ve written this before: it’s one thing to see the words on a computer screen, and it’s entirely another to see everything come together in layout, with art, style, maps and so on, in place. It reminds you that something like this is a team endeavor, a fact that is easy to forget when you’re knocking away at the keyboard in the privacy of your own home. Scrolling through the PDF I am reminded how talented the pool of people at Modiphius is, and I for one am greatly impressed (though naturally, I’m biased)!

The Cost of Greed PDF is currently available to backers of the Kickstarter, but it won’t be long before the files are off to the printers, and then the book, as a physical item, will see the light of day.

The PDF will soon be available to purchase from the Modiphius online store, followed in due course by the physical book.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing this campaign, and I hope anyone who reads or plays it gets as much fun from it as I did!