I’m listing these by company, but that’s just for organization. If you came here as a White-Wolf fan, by all means sniff around the Atlas material. I don’t think company loyalty has much point with roleplaying games. Many designers and publishers seem to feel that because a given customer bought Unknown Armies that means she’s not going to buy Mage, when I suspect it’s exactly the opposite. To me, that’s like saying, “He really liked Broken Arrow, so I don’t think he’ll be interested in Face/Off.”
In all honesty, I’m hoping these links and pages move some product. Who wouldn’t? But you won’t get sell text until you click the linked titles. What you’ll find here is for design commentary, amusing things that happened on the way to the printer, industry gossip… all that ‘behind the word processor’ stuff.
I don’t know you, but my guess is that you’ll find the links for Limbo and One Time Things interesting. The first is ideas that are, for one reason or another, stuck in neutral. The second are large projects I did that, for whatever reason, had no follow-up. Glimpses into the creative mind, or a somber reminder of just how much roadkill the hobby games industry produces? Only you can decide.
A Dirty World
It’s my next mutation of the One Roll Engine. But more on that here.
Just Out…in Spaaace!
I always liked Futurama, from the very first episode. Being what I am, by the time I bought the first season on DVD, I was tinkering with ideas for a comedy game… in space.
Comedy needs spontaneity. I remembered that from Jonathan Tweet’s old Al Amarja games (before Al Amarja was published as Over the Edge). One thing he did was hand out “whimsy cards” – he had this deck of vague plot developments like “Someone falls in love” or “Unexpected aid arrives.” You got three of these at the beginning of each session. If you used them to help out your character, you lost it. If you used it to make the game more interesting (primarily by making things harder for some other character) you got to draw a replacement. Hilarity ensued.
…in Spaaace! is something of an attempt to capture that freewheeling madness all the time. It has a system in which the resolution of events is based, not on GM judgment and random results, but on a concrete measure of who cares most about the outcome. Player interest is quantified. The more you give a damn, the more you’re likely to have things go your way. The catch is, the mechanics assume limited passion. If you care about everything intensely, it’s really no different that only caring tepidly.
What a peculiar trip this one’s been. Meatbot (or MBM) got it’s beginning when I played the sublimely designed Button Men and it got me thinking about systems where dice weren’t just generators of numbers in a limited field, but actually had meaning. If a d4 always means movement and a d6 always means defense, then you get rid of a lot of the need for declaration of action, it decreases the handling time for the system, and you eliminate the problem of “Oh, I meant for that 2d6 to be my defense roll while this 3d6 collection over here is my attack.” I knocked something together and was pretty happy with it. At the time, I called it “the semiotomatic system.” It’s a play on words, see? “Semiotics” is the study of how meaning is attached to symbols, and a semiautomatic is a kind of gun, and gamers like guns, and dice have meaning and… yeah, well, it’s perhaps not the greatest wordplay ever. But I thought the system worked pretty well.
About that time, Dennis Detwiller approached me about designing the rules for this World War II era superhero game, and I thought semiotomatic would be just peachy.
Then, I tried it.
While it did have some very strong positive elements – all the ease of play I’d expected, lots of tactical decision, meaningful resource allocation – it became clear that running lots of characters with this would bog down a lot. Having all kinds of tactical complexity is great when you’re a player with one character to control. It’s a different matter for a GM with three, or ten, or twenty characters to track.
I suppose I could have concluded that the system was broken. For the purposes of what became GODLIKE, it was. But I asked myself, “If this works great for one-on-one, what’s a setting where that limit seems natural?” Arena combat was (for a game geek) the obvious answer.
Armed with a good system and a setting that played to its strengths, I was ready to put it on the shelf and do nothing for months and months. Then I mentioned it in passing on the Unknown Armies mailing list and Daniel Solis got interested. He kept asking me about it and asking until I sent him a copy, and then he kept coming back with comments and suggestions until I relented and said, “Fine, let’s publish it.” The ransom model we came up with for its release was really my attempt to dodge hassles with (1) .pdf piracy and (2) trying to get it in print. I don’t really think there’s a print market for games of this length. But that’s what the internet is for.
John Nephew gave me my first bound-book break, so my entire career to this point is all his fault.
All right, that’s not entirely true, I was getting magazine work from Jolly Blackburn at the same time, and in each case an introduction from Jonathan Tweet opened a lot of doors. But the ‘big break’ was Wildest Dreams for Over the Edge and it led to more work from Atlas.
Having put in my hours on the old one, I was in a good position to get work on the new one. It’s really that simple.
Here they are. My literary hookups. No regrets, no love no tears. Some work I’m really proud of, though.
If the previous category is one night stands, these are the projects that pretended they couldn’t hear me, threw a drink in my face, or just said “Um, that’s not really my ‘thing’.” I’m always optimistic, though.