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…

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…