Questions and Answers

I was interviewed recently about role playing games, game design, and writing, by an old friend Patrick Matthews. If you’re interested in any of these things, the interview can be found on Pat’s blog here.

Many years ago now, it feels, I wrote some various articles for a website Pat ran which was called Games for Educators. I wrote about using games in the classroom. I also hosted a short podcast series there which was co-hosted by Tom Vasel and myself, called Teaching Strategies. Later, Games for Educators also hosted another podcast I recorded with Donald Dennis, called Games in Schools and Libraries (which is still running strong I might add, hosted by Kathleen Mercury and Donald Dennis). Pat is an author, game designer and software developer, and has recently started a blog series on his site called ‘6 Questions‘. Under Patrick, the Games for Educators site had a range of authors writing about games in an educational setting.

In the 6 Questions series Pat interviews authors, game designers, and other creatives. I was honoured to have been asked to contribute something, and I hope anyone interested in freelance writing, game design, or writing in general finds something interesting or useful in my various and rambling answers.

In my interview I wrote about role playing games and why I love them, creative focus, offered some thoughts on writing, processes, writing in the RPG industry, and talked about what’s upcoming from Caradoc Games. Check it out here! Thanks Pat for asking me to contribute something to your 6 Questions series, it was a lot of fun, and I am very honoured!

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!

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!

Brigands of Sherwood

It used to be that a person could make a handy living robbing passers-by in Sherwood forest, but since Robin and his Merry band of fools turned their hand to it, everyone expects a good old dose of ‘giving to the poor’. It’s hard to make a living when every starving beggar has their hand out!

Brigands of Sherwood is the second in my series of micro-RPGs. In Brigands of Sherwood the players are criminals trying to end their adventure with as much loot as possible. The trouble is, that with the return of Robin Hood, everyone expects stolen goods to be redistributed to the peasantry! The characters are simple dishonest thieves trying to steal enough loot to retire, will they be able to fill their loot tracks? Or will the presence of Robin Hood mean they have to give it all away?

The rules are simple, and players have the chance to take a shot, by flicking a disc or die, to gain a bonus to their skill tests. This expanded edition includes some extra rules and an alternative character sheet, as well as a short adventure sketch. It’s available now, from my Patreon, Itch.io, or DriveThruRPG (and you can find these links on my downloads page!

Each month I plan on releasing one of these micro-RPGs. Beginning from next month (June, 2019), the basic versions will all be available for free from Itch or DriveThruRPG, the expanded versions will be available at a nominal cost, or through my Patreon page, which you can find here. Yes, the expanded versions don’t include anything earth-shattering, and you won’t be missing vital information if you opt to get the free download. The expanded version is just a way of saying thank you to anyone who chooses to support me through my Patreon, on DriveThru, or on Itch.

As well as writing these micro-RPGs, I am continuing to work through the writing and development of the fantasy RPG Ashmerl. One of the things I am most pleased with is how the character and setting development is shaping up. As you create your group of characters, you also create the Enclave (the village or town) that your characters are from, important landmarks, experiences, and people all shape the setting and make it uniquely tied to that group of characters. My playtests of this system have been fantastic, with campaigns worth of story hooks rising from the character creation process. In the few months I plan on putting the early draft of Ashmerl on my Patreon, it’s still a work in progress, but it’s getting closer!

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…