1666 and All That

DEFOE FIGURE BG1666 was a rough year for England. There was plague, the Great Fire of London, Charles the Second was re-establishing monarchy and zombies were rising from the grave to feast on the flesh of the living.

I may have made that last one up.

‘Annus Mirabilis’ means ‘Year of Miracles’ and it is the poet Dryden who applied that to 1666 with the deft illogic of the theist ‘God spared us even worse’ and what we would now recognise as typical, British resignation to our lot ‘Mustn’t grumble’.

2012 has been a bit of an Annus Mirabilis for me, in the sarcastic sense. Sure, I’ve got a lot done, covered some new ground, gotten some fiction out (finally!) but it’s also been a shitter of a year as well.

Fuckbrain: My depression was overwhelming for large portions of the year and so it amazes me that I was even half as productive as I have been. I looked death in the face a couple of times this year and stepped back from it. I’m in a much happier and healthier place than I was but this thing still dogs me. I hope me being ‘out’ about it has helped a few people.

DRAAAAAAAMA: This year – and some of last year – has been a time of great drama. I’m not an awful guy, I just like some transgressive things and I tend to try and think and look at things objectively rather than getting my knickers in a twist. Needless to say, when you’re offering an opinion on something controversial this is a recipe for disaster and for being accused of attention seeking. Boy did I ever get a beasting this year from people who self-proclaim to know better.

Consequences of Drama: As a result of people being terrible human beings I’ve had to cut off contact with a lot of acquaintances who couldn’t get past outrage and into substance. It’s just been too wearing. I hated having to do it, I hate cutting off dissent, but if it’s not productive or coherent its no use to me. As a result of being an internet pinata though I’ve made a lot of new friends and the activist side of me, dormant since the 90s, has woken up. I’ve gotten far more involved in anti-censorship issues, sexual freedom issues, mental health and disability issues and other things all because other ‘moral crusaders’ whom I thought of as peers (writers makers, gamers)  have turned out to be dicks. I guess I should thank them really.

Wonderful People: On the plus side, I’ve worked – or begun to work – with some wonderful people over the course of this year. I’ve finally started to feel like what I do contributes or matters or reaches people, and that’s good. I want to single out and embarrass a few people in particular. Family goes without saying and there’s others who need no special mention and know they’re special. I want to give a few particular call outs though..

  • The Missus: Has always stuck by me an believed in what I do even when nobody else has. May this faith finally pay off for her this year!
  • Barbara: The first person to really and truly believe in me as much as my wife. Her moral support has been literally life saving this year.
  • The Crazy GM: He’s had as tough a time as me, probably more so this year. In him, though, I’ve seen how I can have a positive effect on the lives of others. The first to really make me realise that – or to accept it.
  • Rowena: A fabulous artist and someone else who’s had a tough time lately as well. When professional relationships become strong friendships you know you’re doing something right.
  • Brad McDevitt: Brad bought into me and Postmortem Studios right from the very beginning and I owe him a great deal in terms of having the confidence to move forward. His art has inspired and illustrated many projects and its been great to see him back on top.
  • Tim & Salome: You pushed me to take the jump and get into my writing – outside games. You supported my efforts to get ImagiNation out and gave me the oomph to write my first full length novel. I owe you both so much and I wish we’d been closer friends sooner. A good editor you can work with and someone you respect who likes what you do… these things are priceless.
  • Satine: I’ve wanted to work with Satine since I saw her art and I’ve finally gotten to do so thanks to our mutual fans who backed Machinations of the Space Princess. Satine is one of the loveliest people I’ve had the good fortune to work with and she has an infectious enthusiasm that cuts through my weariness like a razor. I think each of us has gotten a little shit over working with the other (see Draaaama) but that’s all the more reason to do it.
  • Nightfall: Dave, Jared, everyone have been great about the bits and pieces I’ve done for SLA. I came up playing it and respecting their work massively so to end up working on it, to be in synch – creatively – with the originators of it and to have your own ideas taken up and writ larger… wonderful.
  • The Indiecon Family: Indiecon is my ‘home’ convention and now I’m known there… to see people actively searching for the games you’re running and bounding with enthusiasm to your stall is great. Dragonmeet is also fantastic, but Indiecon is home.
  • Ms Scary Boots: Here’s to new friends who ‘get’ you, without needing to be faxed a three-ring binder of instructions.

There’s big changes coming for me and Postmortem in the New Year. I hoped to be able to tell you sooner than the new year but things have conspired against that (Christmas… damn you!) All in good time you’ll be informed though and while it will disrupt things a bit for Postmortem, I hope you’ll all be as excited a I am.

No, it’s not a baby, yet.

Going into the new year, I have a few aims which I’m making public so I can be shamed into fulfilling them properly.

  • Write more fiction.
  • Start drawing again.
  • Get back on the exercise kick.
  • Illegitimi non carborundum.
  • Futuaris nisi irrisus ridebis.
  • Take more risks.
  • Do more things for me.
  • Accept – and seek – praise and positive reinforcement rather than ignoring and brushing it off.

I made more money this year than last, despite the ongoing economic problems. I also spent more, investing in more art. Doing charitable projects. Contributing to start-ups and helping out friends in need. Money well spent. As well as assorted freelancing gigs I can never keep track of I released:

  1. Several short stories.
  2. Lots of Clip Art.
  3. Agents of SWING: Minifigs.
  4. Agents of SWING: Gosh, Spies!
  5. Urban Faerie: Pocket Edition
  6. 6-Pack Adventures: THULU!
  7. Traveller: Alienist
  8. Lady Bexington’s Home for Wayward Zombies
  9. Blood Tales: Windycon
  10. Agents of SWING: Untouchable
  11. Blood Tales: Clearing
  12. Camelot Cosmos & several supplements
  13. Colony: Moon
  14. Irrepressible
  15. Steamed
  16. Filthy Shades Cliché
  17. Several ‘Fistful of Fantasy’
  18. Call of Cthentacle: Spankham Asylum
  19. The Big Bad Cthentacle Art Book
  20. ImagiNation
  21. The Description System

Not bad all things considered, eh?

Please continue to support and help me as we go into 2013. Your feedback and appreciation is very much wanted, even needed. Tell me about your character, tell me about your games. Tell me the things you like, the things you want more of, the things you think are missing.

Here’s to a great new year for us all and not another 1666!

Why the fuck hasn’t this tomb been robbed already?

Sooner or later in gaming you start thinking about things a little too much and it’s about that sort of time that it hits you.

If this fantasy world is full of adventurers going about the place, adventuring, then why hasn’t this Dungeon/tomb/ancient temple been robbed already? Obviously it wouldn’t be much fun if it was cleared out and empty but if you want even the slightest amount of plausibility or verisimilitude then you need a better reason than that.

You can try some excuses, like ‘the ancient guardian that defends the place keeps people out’ but then adventurers tend to see that as a challenge, or ‘experience points’, rather than a reason to keep away. This is, needless to say, problematic.

Looking at the real world examples that we have – few as they are – we find that the spur that lead to the great archaeological, historical and treasure-type finds has been twofold. Imperialism and science. The quest to own and the quest to understand.

People like to think of their characters as heroes, but perhaps the closest we have to the role of adventurer in real history were the Conquistadors who rampaged across South America, the settlers of the American West or British colonialism in Africa, India and China. Wealth and power sought out to send back home and – later on – attempts to understand the past.

So, how might we replicate this in a fantasy setting?

Keep your old-world, high population, high civilisation, great feats of magic and technology that places it ahead of the rest of the world in terms of power, prestige, hunger and arrogance. Hold back some of the transport-magic and place some big natural barriers – like an ocean – in the way and then give your adventurers a whole new continent to explore, tame, loot, pillage and shape in their own way.

That gives you a huge amount more leeway to make shit up than the traditional lore-heavy set up, something more akin to the fantastical adventures in Edgar Rice Burrough’s books and also means you can build your world history as you go along, in response to character actions.

The Daughter Knives of Badb

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAA bone blade with no sign of having been worked. The daughter blades are pulled from the bodies of the slain, bodies that – if left unburied – twist and change in cancerous growths becoming little more than a tumour of lamenting bone and flesh, a fate worse than death itself.

From the bodies of the slain grow new blades like spurs that emerge from the flesh. One who grasps the knife by the blade and pulls it free becomes its master or mistress. 1d4 blades will ‘fruit’ from each kill.

The blades are unbreakable, unnaturally sharp and tainted by dark magic. They also carry a strong compulsion to… breed.

The daughter knives have +1 to hit, +1 to damage and do 1d5 (1d10 halved rounding up) damage.

large the thing blu-rayx2Legend has it that there is a mother knife, the origin of all the blades that have since followed, one far more powerful. If such exists the Mother Knife would have +3 to hit, +3 to damage and would do 1d8 damage, despite still being a mere knife.


Cthulhu Britannica: Folklore OUT NOW

I did the main, principle, writing on this but I have no idea what’s changed in it since I submitted the manuscript many moons ago.

Every nook and cranny of Britain has some sort of legend or weird history associated with it and I tried to link some of those to aspects of the Cthulhu mythos.

I think you’ll like it anyway 🙂

Buy it HERE

MotSP: What gear & Weapons Would you like to see?

Samus.Aran.full.445460I have – provisionally – finished both the introduction and the character creation sections. Though both are still going to be subject to edits and changes and additions as I carry on. The next section to tackle is all the money, gear, equipment, armour, ships, vehicles and weapons.

D&D was in no small part a big success due to ripping off ideas left and right, hobbits and Vancian magic just being the most obvious. So I have absolutely no shame in ‘stealing’ ideas from all over the shop to put into MotSP.

What are some of your favourite devices, weapons, space ships, vehicles etc taken from Science Fiction/Science Fantasy comics, films, books and all points in between?

What have you seen in the genre that you thought was jaw-droppingly cool? What kinds of devices, doodads and weapons have you always wanted to see?

Splurge at me, I want to hear them ALL! Don’t worry if someone’s already mentioned them. Give me YOUR list of wicked-cool stuff.


MotSP: Very early page mockup

Unedited, still playing around with format/font etc but gives you some sort of idea I suppose 🙂


MotSP: Face the Princess



Satine’s startin’ to get busy.

An Adaptive Sandbox

CirclesSandbox games or hex crawls give you a lot of freedom to explore and discover but without a lot of extra effort your characters aren’t going to make a true impact on the world. The sourcebooks – such as Carcosa – present a snapshot of encounters, places, kingdoms, countries, cities. It’s rare – if ever – that anything is built into it to account for the heroic deeds of the adventurers and the effect they might have.

I’ve long sung the praises of the social change mechanics in the old RPG Underground and it is from that seed of inspiration that I grew my GMless story game Colony: Moon.

I can see the potential to mix together elements from:

  • Traveller’s Universal World Profile
  • Hex Crawling
  • Underground’s ‘Make a difference’ mechanics

Mix that all together with a ‘web of influence’ and you might be on to something for an adaptive and reactive game world.

So, say you have a capital city, Aalberg, which rules over an area that includes the port towns of Balsport and Calder and Calder has influence over the villages of Delmar and Eegan.

The characters back a coup d’etat against the King in Aalberg and as a result the political stability of the capital nosedives as does its military strength. We assign it a 50% chance of having a knock on effect and roll.

Balsport doesn’t suffer, perhaps they were never too loyal in the first place.

Calder suffers political instability as a knock on effect. Perhaps it’s a hold-out for loyalists and they’re in open rebellion against the new government. We assign Calder a 33% chance of having a knock-on effect to its surrounding villages.

Delmar suffers, Eegan doesn’t. Rather than spread the instability further we decide that Calder is draining the coffers of the village to prepare for its war effort.

Some sort of program or spreadsheet and a ‘universal settlement profile’ would make this all a lot easier, but as a basic idea framework, I think this has some promise.

MotSP: Skillz and Powerz


Image from Relic Knights by Sodapop

Skills in MotSP are partly skills in a traditional sense and partly the game’s equivalent of ‘feats’, ‘stunts’ or class abilities without actually locking them into a single class. It’s a good way of allowing variable character customisation to different degrees with all sorts of possibilities.

I’m currently fiddling with the scholar skill set, which includes things like insights into alien psychology, archaeology and technology and tech-customisation/opimisation. You can also spend points in this section to get a robotic or animal companion. I’ve been trying to think of some more examples of study/savant based powers and skills but they’re not coming easy. If you’ve got any ideas for any particular skills, powers or abilities you’d like characters to have, get your suggestions in now!

Happy Birfday to Meeee!

claptrap_happy_250It’s my birthday. 21 all over again!

If you want to do something nice for me buy some of my fiction or leave me a review where you’ve bought something else. Either of those would be lovely 🙂