Machinations: The Process

Games, stories, projects of all sorts go through three or four different incarnations as I work on them and are subject to mutations and mutilations as they pass through those stages.

Stage One: Game ideas sit in my head for a considerable amount of time. Various rules, plot, background and other ideas percolate, fizz and buzz and things that relate to the game and its style wiggle their way into my thoughts. Playtesting and play modelling takes place at this stage to work out what works and what doesn’t.

Stage Two: I make a folder on my drive and start pinning down ideas in a series of documents, notepad files, graphics, fonts and anything else that feels related. Some of this doesn’t make any sense to me when I come back to it but somehow, it works.

Stage Three: Next I make an outline. The chapters, heading, sections, notes on where there may be sidebars or extra information. I sort out the order in which the book is going to be laid out and that tends to also be the order in which it’s written. This is fairly fluid and there’s always something cropping up to be put in.

Stage Four: The actual writing. Things are still somewhat fluid here. As I write along I find that things need to move from one section to another or that other things are needlessly repeated. More ideas come up as each section is hit and sometimes writing one section leads back to making adjustments to another.

Throughout the whole process, start to finish, I tend to consume media that fit the project I’m working on. Games with related ideas or style, TV shows, films, comics, computer games. So, I’ve been re-reading some of my old SF paperbacks and Heavy Metal magazines, the 2000AD stories that fit the genre and playing the living fuck out of Borderlands 2 – which is definitely something you should be able to model using MotSP.


Machinations: We Deliver

Ideas are one thing, but if you’re going to back a project you need to know that what you’re backing will see the light of day. Not being American it is hard for me to ‘big myself up’ but let’s try…

I’ve been writing RPGs professionally since 1998-1999 and have been full time doing my own thing since around 2003/2004. In that time I have produced a lot of freelance work for companies including SJG, C7, WotC and more. I have also published a huge amount of games of my own devising with supplementary material and have mentored a couple of new games writers as well.

If you followed my previous fundraising project, ImagiNation then you know I can get it done. That game is written, edited and only waiting on a couple more pieces of art before it comes out (hopefully next week). The generic version of the system behind that – The Description System – should also be coming out around the same sort of time.

Even while working full time on a novel I’ve managed to turn out several ‘Fistful of Fantasy’ RPG adventure seed booklets. Basically, what I’m saying is that I can ‘get shit done’ and I normally get it done on a shoestring. Give me a decent amount of money to work with (and I count a grand as that) and something wonderful can be accomplished.

As to Satine? I’ve wanted to work with her for some time based purely on the quality and strong graphical style of her sensuous art. She sketched out a rough of the Machinations cover while on a plane back from a holiday. She’s not only wonderfully talented but is also, clearly, a hard an motivated worker and I’m confident in her being able to deliver the art that we need.

We deliver.

You just have to order.


Machinations: Updated Fundraiser Page!

We’ve updated the fundraiser page with some new perks (there may still be a few more to come but we’ll handle changing your pledge reward for you if you want to change or double/triple up).

Things will kick into even higher gear starting next week with more notes, a pitch video and more to tempt and tease. I’m also hoping to get some blog and podcast interviews going and otherwise I’m available across social media and in this blog to field people’s questions about the game.

Meanwhile, here’s a few little word-pictures, tasters, ideas:

A pirate ship spreads its solar sails and sweeps out of the sun, blasting at a convoy of golden, glinting traders.

The white-furred bandit queen receives you in the icy inner chamber of her comet fortress. Airs and graces that bely her vicious whims.

The ship crashed. Your suit’s batteries failed. The bloodsucking thorns tore at your flesh and your shipsuit. Ragged and bloodied you are down to your diamond-knife and your disintegrator pistol, on half charge. Then you hear the shriek of a beast…

Gorlakk slides the packet of tyon powder across the desk, distracted by the three-breasted girl dancing in the zero-gee bubble. “You get that sold and I’ll give you your in with the Marquis.”

The gunfighter fixes her opponent in the range-finding gaze of her cybernetic eye. When the mass-lift fires they draw, but what he doesn’t know is that the gun on her bare hip is a decoy. The real gun is built into her gunmetal right-arm.


Machinations: Fundraising and Rewards

So, Satine’s back and we’re talking about rewards.

Now, I don’t have the resources or profile of someone like Monte Cook and people are definitely hitting their Kickstarter/IndieGoGo exhaustion limit.

Hopefully there’s still enough goodwill out there and I’m not asking for as much as many projects because I think we can squeeze a great deal of quality out of a more reasonable amount of cash.

I’m not going to think ahead to stretch goals, that’d jinx it, but we’re thinking up extra reward levels and options.

So, here’s a thought. Why don’t YOU let us know what sort of rewards you might like on this project and how much money you’d heft out of your pocket to get it. We’ll see what we can do about it making them – or something like them – a reality in order to wrangle money out of you!


Machinations: Classes

Machinations is going to be pared down to four character classes and without racial character classes. Races will modify/add specific special capabilities instead. You can see that in one of the previous articles.

I may mess around with the names to find something more evocative and interesting, if you have any preferences please chime in!

Should start having some sketches and art progress to show you soon. Meanwhile…


The Fighter (or Soldier, or Killer, or Weapon) is absolutely deadly. They are omni-competent when it comes to killing, maiming and otherwise harming people, robots, objects and starship. If you want it broken or dead, the fighter is who you want on your team.

Exemplars: Lobo, Riddick, Aeryn Sun, Julie.


The Specialist (or rogue, or expert, or chancer) can either be a jack of all trades or can hone-in and specialise on particular skills and abilities to excel. If your character concept doesn’t fit another niche, this is the one.

Exemplars: Han Solo, Malcom Reynolds, Joe Pineapples, Nova.


The Psion (Mentalist, Psiren or Psilencer) hones and uses their psychic abilities in a wide variety of applications. Different ‘trees’ of psychic ability will be available, at least Telepath and Telekinetic with others potentially being added depending on funds raised and the need for them in the game. An electropath, being able to control and commune with computers/robots might be an interesting way to go as might pyrokinetics. Psions will all have some flaw to compensate and mark them for their power.

Exemplars: Lilith, Anderson, Samara, Worsel.


The scholar (Brainiac, Expert, Factotum or Database) trades on his knowledge. If it needs to be known, deciphered, fixed or otherwise tinkered with your scholar is the one to do it. Scholars delve deep into science, lore, languages and any number of other mysteries and can provide the information and skill necessary to head on to the next big score.

Exemplars: Richard Seaton, Seven, Andromeda, Galen.

Now then…


Machinations: Guns, Blades, Armour and Force Fields

Switching from fantasy to science fiction/science fantasy you run into issues with deadliness, firearms, automatic weapons and the whole panoply of high tech gizmoes, gadgets, sights, bullets and so on and so forth.

You also have to account for more advanced forms of protection while not overdoing the whiff factor or making it too easy to hurt someone the other way.

This ain’t easy.

I haven’t quite decided yet but I’m leaning towards damage reduction for armour and armour class boosting for force-shields/agility. Force shields won’t apply to melee attacks and ranged attacks should find it easier to hit,

I want to keep things as simple as possible but I also want combat to have plenty of options  and to have a universal guideline so players can easily decide what they want to try. Sticking with LotFPs attack guidelines, mostly, this also gives fighters (soldiers) a much greater capacity to pull special attack moves.

Something like a universal -5 penalty no matter if you’re tripping, headshotting, disarming or any other environmental or competency issues. You could then offset that penalty – and even turn it into a bonus – by taking lots of skill levels.

The spirit of ‘old school’ is heavy on the improvisation but by providing a framework you can enable a lot of improvisation from that.

“What’s the penalty for fighting in zero gee?”


“When I levelled last time, I took Zero gee combat once.”

“-4 then.”

Bosh, sorted and fighters/soldiers become a damn sight more interesting all of a sudden 🙂

Machinations: Here Come the Lizards

So, in Machinations there won’t be any racial classes, rather you’ll be assumed to be humanoid by default and will then pick a two templates from which you’ll get to choose bonuses/racial abilities for your character.

The universe teems with different life forms though humans are all over the place and humanoids are the most prevalent. Choosing not to be humanoid will give you access to more racial template abilities but also knock your Charisma on its arse.

For example a Reptilian template might offer you:

  • Infravision
  • Teeth & Claws
  • Skin Armour
  • Heat resistance

While the Humanoid template might offer you:

  • +1 skill point

A ‘pure’ human would have +2 skill points.

A human-like reptilian might have +1 skill point and infravision.

A reptile like humanoid might have teeth & claws and skin armour.

A completely reptilian character might have infravision, teeth & claws and skin armour, but would also suffer a penalty to their charisma, as well as having to pay through the nose for custom gear to fit their peculiar bodies.

The other thing about these templates is that you could slap them on to basic and generic monster/animal templates to customise them.

A simple ‘rat’ becoming a Centauran Lizard-Rat, for example.

Characters are going to start out more competent and capable than standard LotFP characters but that suits the genre a little better.

Of course, in a realistic SF setting you likely wouldn’t get a bunch of humanoids but in-genre you tend to find most people are humanoid, even if they look a little odd.

Templates could also be used to represent psychological or other racial types, elemental, energy forms, silicon life, all sorts.


Want a heavy-metal Sci-Fi RPG?


Machinations: Style & Substance


This is a universe where everyone has an angle. Almost everyone is out for themselves and to get ahead. It’s a universe of chaos, destruction and struggle punctuated by a few islands of civilisation – and much of that is corrupt, decadent or despotic.

The Urlanth Empire has fallen and chaos has ensued as every prince, princess, duke, duchess, baron and knight who thinks they can take a shot at the title goes for it. Taking advantage of this every rebellion, criminal organisation, pirate gang, mercenary company and independent trader has made a ‘break for it’.

Newly founded colonies? They’re on their own.

It’s a violent, brutal, universe that breeds violent, brutal heroes.


There’s something about a woman that can kick your arse. Men too, strength, capability, that’s something that’s attractive to all kinds of people and – in this universe – things that aren’t really people as well.

This is a heavy metal aesthetic, leather and metal, rubber and plastic, big guns, big blades and probably an amount of big hair as well. This is album-covers, this is euro comics, this is Kirby and Brom, Tim White and Jim Burns, Moebius and Vallejo.

The game won’t be ‘horror porn’, but it will retain adult subject matter and some of the pinup aesthetic.


The universe is a run down, dirty place that has been lived in for a very long time by multiple civilisations that have come and gone and left their mark. Urban decay, desert wastelands, graveyard worlds, fire worlds, ice worlds, leaking asteroids and orbiting junk-stations.

This isn’t a future of gleaming control panels and flashing lights. This is oily, sooty, damp and covered in obscene graffiti in a thousand languages. People will do just about anything to survive and that means crime, vice, drugs, all the usual things that people resort to when they’re down on their luck.


Whether it’s a blaster or a knife, if you’re good with a weapon you deserve respect. Ranged weapons may be great for blasting away primitives but any civilised opponent has personal shielding and armour. Close combat is more effective, within the range of the shield and hey, guns break, run out of ammunition or get lost.

You might start off in a pressurised power suit with a repeating laser blaster and jump jets, but all too soon you may well end up reduced to trying to kill your dinner with a rock, in your pants.


More science-fantasy to be exact. As the old saying goes, any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic. The real ‘magic’ will be through psionics and ancient high-science artefacts but the base-line tech will be graspable, usable, things within the bounds of relative plausibility. That’s just the baseline though and there are exceptions, races will be templates of different kinds that you can mix, match or even double-down on, but most are assumed to be humanoid.


IndieGoGo: Machinations of the Space Princess – Sexy, Sleazy, Swords & Sci-Fi


The Machinations of the Space Princess fundraiser as part of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure fundraiser didn’t fund but there was sufficient interest to warrant another look.

MotSP will set its sights on the world of sleazy, sensual pulp Science Fiction from the likes of Metal Hurlant, creating a universe of heavy metal space opera (rather than rock n’ roll).

Rather than a single adventure and some ideas, MotSP will be a FULL GAME.

MotSP will give you ALL THE RULES you need to play.

MotSP will BULGE AT THE SEAMS with adventure ideas and toolkits to help you create and maintain your game and produce ideas.

MotSP will include fantastic art by Satine Phoenix.

MotSP will take your gang of wandering space-reprobates from the strip clubs of Proxima to the feudal planets of the Black Cluster. The glass spires of Imperial Space to the wastelands of scrap-worlds.

MotSP will take you from confronting elemental evil to delving the crypts of long-dead civilisations across the known galaxy.

MotSP is planned to include:

  • Expert, Psion, Scholar and Warrior classes.
  • Extensive rules for creating humanoid and inhumanoid aliens or robots as PCs or monsters.
  • Expanded skill & combat rules.
  • Cannon fodder rules.
  • SF gear.
  • Starship combat.
  • Psionics
  • Hints, tips and toolkits for the GM and players alike.
  • Basic rules for creating stars, planets, cities and adventures.
  • A full game background.
  • A sample adventure.

Why should you back us?

Satine is a fantastic, up-and-coming illustrator and associated with I Hit it With my Axe and D&D With Pornstars. This project will give her a real chance to stretch her artistic legs and show off.

I am a full time RPG writer and author with a lifetime love of science-fiction comics, novels and fantasy art. If you’ve ever looked at a Tim White or Roger Dean illustration and been inspired to set a game in what you see, we have something in common.

I have a proven track record of producing great games in PDF and POD as well as selling through publishers such as Cubicle 7 and Chronicle City. I have worked for Wizards of the Coast, Steve Jackson Games, Cubicle 7 Entertainment and others and won an Origins Award (along with my writing partner Steve mortimer) for my work on The Munchkin’s Guide to Powergaming, the book that spawned the card game.

If nothing else, you’re guaranteed an amusing read with great art and that HAS to be worth a few bucks.


All funds donated will be used whether the project hits its target or not! If you’re donating, you’re actually donating! Whatever amount up to $1,000 is raised will go on art from Satine. Past that number we’ll start to reveal and trigger stretch goals and the money will be split 50/50 between art and payment to me for my time/effort (and driving lessons!)

Board & Card Games at TheGameCrafter

Recently I uploaded three of my board/card games to The Game Crafter which allows for Print on Demand board and card games to be created. The only outstanding board/card game of mine that I haven’t yet uploaded is Lady Bexington’s Home for Wayward Zombies and that’s because the sales on this site – so far – don’t allow for it. I thought,though, it might be useful for people to get a look at what you get for your money and for me to offer a presentation both on the games themselves and on The Game Crafter as a site for offering POD board/card games through.

Steamed is my simple, fast game of steam-powered mecha duelling. The card quality is excellent, though the cutting is a little bit rough around the edges. The game board isn’t that thick but that’s not really a problem for this game. They offer larger boards for bigger games which look to be of greater thickness/quality. The cards are big and very well printed with excellent quality, though they are just a tiny bit thin for the card stands. Out of the box this isn’t a problem but later on with wearing you may find the cards sliding free of the holders. This version includes the Tactical Cards expansion, which are the little cards you see in the middle.

Steamed sells at TGC for $17.99 (Around £12.00, but shipping outside the US is a bitch).

Cthentacle is the successor game to Hentacle and, overall, much better executed. This version of the game includes every character and every card from every set, along with all the optional rules. That’s a shitload of cards. Again the print quality is excellent though the cards are just the slightest bit thin. The cutting issues show up a bit more on the black-edged cards but really don’t look that bad. I consider this to be the definitive and best edition of Cthentacle, though I’m under no illusions that most people buy it to actually play 😛

Cthentacle sells at TGC for $34.99 (Around £24.00 but, again, shipping outside the US is a bitch).

Final Straw is my game of highschool shooting satire. It was always going to be a controversial topic and I somewhat misjudged the American market. Europeans often find the whole US gun culture darkly amusing (gallows humour). The game is actually more about the aftermath and the blame game that goes on. In the Game Crafter edition the quality of the game comes through much better and the game pieces are excellent, though the little plastic round tokens are a little thin. The dice and the ‘meeple’ are great. Again the black border shows up the cutting issues, but these are minor. I would hope that the quality and value comes through in the hardcopy version.

Final Straw sells at TGC for $29.99 (Around £20.00 but, yet again, shipping outside the US is a bitch).

The Game Crafter is great for running off proofs but does not seem to have anything like the same through-traffic that sites like RPGNOW and Drivethru do. There are promotional tools but they seem to have limited impact. For POD the quality can’t be beaten and it is probably worth taking demo sets that you get printed off to proof the games to conventions and so on. The major sticking point for anyone outside the USA is that the shipping costs are exorbitant. To order Cthentacle on non-priority, non-tracked post via USPS to the UK is $25.00 (£17.00!).  By comparison, I could ship through a discount shipping service, such as MyHermes, from the UK to the US for £3-4 ($6.00 or so).

For people outside the US TGC is only really an option for proofs of games and the die-hard fan. They really need to find either:

a) Other shipping services.
b) A European print partner.

Continental Europe is nuts for card/board games, surely there must be someone out there who’d partner with TGC?

Meanwhile, please buy these. I have fun making card and board games and want to make more!