Monday, February 24, 2014

Taking Time

Seriously. I am taking some time to release Glow. For a product that I intend on charging $2.25, that's US dollars, the Canadians, Australians, Belizeans residents of Belize, Bermudans, et al,  have to do the math, which I hear that they're better at anyway, I have been certainly putting on the brakes towards getting this product out. While my half-brother, Byron, not that one, might want to take credit for this after chiding me for years to "Learn your craft (writing)", that really isn't the cause. It's the positive feedback I am getting from the play-testing.

During the 2014 BASHCon session, my players read through my rough draft of the rules, adorned with art and expensive color cover pages, and asked unforeseen questions. I have been able to come up with quick answers, luckily still working in the matrix of the basic rules system in front of them. The players that nodded, smiling, at those answers, then quickly returned to reading or jotting of annotations on the Character Sheets, tell me that I am not done. Yes, I know, that is play-testing. But more importantly for me, the questions are telling me what the players are finding interesting. Then looking at where the questions are in the text, I begin to fill a bit hoping to satisfy the future reader. AND I want to explore into the topic a it more anyway.

I doubt that I will ever have a game system that is perfect, but none to date have I wanted to present so much within it. It will still be rather succinctly written. Amateur game-theorists, the miniature-dependent, and fans of semantics will probably not be overjoyed. Still, I am dying to see what it exactly that I am making here.

Of course my intended release schedule is shot, but hey.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Alley Oop, Sleestaks, and "Pre-release" Printing

Besides getting together a BASHCon special edition of the forthcoming Glow rules, I broke in a new word processing program yesterday, some Abbie something or another instead of my usual WordPerfect, with reformulating some notes on something I call "Stone's Edge." I feel the need for a better name, but Sticks and Stones is already taken. This is decidedly prehistoric role-playing. "And why?" I hear you asking, "Why are you writing this?"

Besides an incredibly powerful urge to create RPG settings that most folks have neither the time nor the inclination to get into, I am not exactly certain. But yesterday it was fun remembering the difference between eras, periods, and epochs and placing critters into the right epoch-- I used to be something of  a prehistory historian back in the mid-90s. And then it was more fun explaining that it really depended on what type of campaign the GM wanted to run if he should even bother worrying about the nuances of natural history as we understand it. I mean a boatload of "Biblical Historians" that are putting Creationism in science classes and opening amusement parks, err "Jesus Museums," don't bother themselves with actual history anyway. And on that note, a spark popped into my head.

The rules system of Stone's Edge might be pretty cut and dry, but I came up with a story line for two scenarios that involved the birth of a Jesus around 12,000 BP (that's Before Present, for 52% of America that lives below Fort Wayne, Indiana). Before long, I had sleestaks and the Great Race of Yith worked in. Before long, I was wading through Charles De Paulo's thesis (dissertation?)Human Prehistory in Fiction. Most of this time wasted did not make it into note form, at least the typed notes.

It was with great reluctance before I got around to doing the rough draft of the Glow rules for the gaming convention next weekend. I actually let myself drift into George Seldes's Facts and Fascism for a couple chapters before getting into the serious work of a near-future drama about mutated humans and animals in a world gone awry.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Game Review: Apocalypse Prevention Inc.

Eloy Lasanta presented me with a copy of Apocalypse Prevention Inc. over a year ago at GenCon 2012. Actually we traded works, but I can't remember what I traded for it. I placed it on stack of books that I would read, and then life happened accompanied by the Kindle reader. The specific pile of books was moved during a cleaning sessions, so for the last six weeks, neither Peryton nor I could find it. Then while looking for a pad of paper that had some blank pages to draw a map for something else, I stumbled across it. So some nine years after the book was written and going on two years having known the author, I am probably writing the least timely review in the history of written language, that is unless you count most Cleveland newspapers.

API, as the title is abbreviated on the cover, is a modern fantasy RPG setting that has three things that urban action role-players love: conspiracy, guns, and supernatural things to shoot. Always a plus since about the early 80s when Tri-Tac games predated the X-Files on TV with Stalking the Night Fantastic by around a decade. Lasanta decides to put his take onto this sub-genre of "horror RPG" with a very personalized take on things that avoids the often dry and overly-broad works, even the ones that are supposed to be funny, approach most often utilized.

Players get to assume the roles of company agents of API involved with curtailing harmful supernatural activity and maintaining immigration policies of our world regarding extra-dimensional beings that like to come here for whatever reason. And having a license to kill never hurts in these sorts of games in the eyes of the players themselves. The author really wants the player to get into the concept behind the character, bringing up in a conversational tone dysfunctional families, sexual norm deviations, and motivations. While he does a good job avoiding the "plus" and "minus" of the Boon/Flaw system of say GURPS and other games, he doesn't exactly tie together his comments into the game work, which leaves the reader wondering "Why'd you bring that up?" I was hoping for a "dysfunction Bonus" or something at dealing with sanity checks or something.

The rules uses a single d20 and various things add to to the rolls. The result in my mind would be fluidity over more static systems with multiple dice and resolution systems. His magical system is pretty masterfully done. He sorts out differing schools of magic and develops unique disciplines from there without turning the system into a textbook.

Lasanta keeps the setting information informative while also keeping it brief. the milieu is scattered a bit from character "races" (I just hate that word in this sort of context) and then towards the end of the work. Differing species and his game's "demonology" are outlined fully and succinctly. The world around the API is fleshed a bit. Once the reader finishes the book, he'll indeed be able to run a game, and go on to do a whole series of games (you know like a campaign).

In this work the author does the allegorical take on fantasy, which many role-players do already but don't like to admit it. I can see where some readers not very secure in their own political beliefs may have problems reading this. Lasanta doesn't passive-aggressively describe what he doesn't like about the world around him like many modern horror RPG writers, instead he writes very provocative points into the setting saying "This is how it is in this world." He does omit how he feels about these things, which for me means that the reader should incorporate his take on the subject matter into his sessions. I still have to ask him sometime, where did he want to go with it.

This is definitely a Big Foot in my estimation (Smurf to Godzilla). I am definitely going to make a Wobble session out of it. It's kind of like if the TV series Angel ever got coherent or something.

Glow notes: The Lagotropic Campaign

I've been speaking to a couple people, JerryTel and TadK (Tad Kelson, if I haven't mentioned him before) about help with scenarios for Glow. While I am busy with making the Character Sheets and getting the final product assembled for BASHCon, hopefully but time is getting short, I thought I put up my notes for a series of scenarios that I have had outlined for a couple years now. This can be used as reference or not for the interested submitter.

Here is the Rustbelt. This is one of the few functional rail lines in the post-apocalyptic world. Running some seven hundred miles from the Mutant Lands of the east to the robot kingdom of Techno City. It runs along the southern ridges of the Great Swamp (once called the Great lakes). The railway connects three distinct "nations" directly (the Rustbelters, the Mutant Kingdoms, and the Technocracy) and influences the Noob Empire and the Y-Tribe.

The Rustbelt culture strives to keep relations between mutants, humans, and other sorts (robots and furries) on an even keel and cooperative. It is very high tech in certain parts but more often pre-industrial (around 1860) in most of it. They are under constant pressure between the savage, blood-drinking skeeters from the swamps and the warlords of Noob Empire, who are always looking to steal other folks' good stuff. 

Techno City- Once this was the domed city of Chicago, and part of the Bubble-Head metropolises that were designed to isolate its inhabitants from the hostile world around those domes. The artificial intelligence running the city became so self-sufficient that it deemed organic portions of its city unnecessary. What happened to that city's population, the organic portion, is rather sad, brutal, and ugly.

North Fort- A major trading city of the Noob Empire, the feudal road warrior society that covers most of what was southeastern and parts of the Midwest. The Noobs maintain a large fortress against forces of the Technocracy or the Y Tribe coming into their lands.

Detroit- (not explored yet)

Fecund City- An outpost of the Y-Tribe, the empire of Clone One.

Toll- Built on what was once Toledo, this is a Rustbelter city-state. It maintains a large military force dedicated to keeping the Rustbelt railway and various trade routes safe for commerce, for a price of course.

Crash- Colony 16-B at one time. A cluster of water collection colonies established by the Bubble-Head city of Phoenix (yes Arizona) when Chicago stopped sending water to it. It was overrun by skeeters and other swamp denizens. It is named after the flying pods that are still sent from the domed city to the south and cannot find any safe landing spots. To this day bewildered Bubble-heads stumble out of this area into the world beyond their domes confused and ill-adapted to it.

Kleft- Built a few miles north of the ruins of Cleveland. One of the Rustbelter city-states, founded by residents of the area and refugee bubble-heads from Crash. The Noob Empire barely hides its ambitions at annexing this city, and the skeeters make life rough during the summer.

Wellspring- Built not far from the ruins of Erie, Pa. A Rustbelter colony that trades cleaner than usual water more than anything else. The skeeters are a problem for the folks here, but the town's mayor says he's working on a solution for that.

Buffalo- A Rustbelter city-state. (not explored yet)

Toronto- (not explored yet)

"The Great Swamp" is so large that is an ecosystem in and of itself. During its sweltering humid summers temperatures stay around 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The very brief winters can stay quite frigid for weeks on end causing a complete freezing most years. The wets seasons, what we would call spring and autumn, go from miserable to steamy or from steamy to miserable to frozen in about a month.
The skeeter, or mosquito-people, are the dominant species throughout the Great Swamps. Ratlings, and Racoon-heads do tend settle in as well, with humans (soapie and nearlies) coming around third. Insectoids (roaches usually) are not uncommon.