Yes, this is still happening. Albeit slowly. I’m sure you’ll agree Toby’s art is worth waiting for!
Monthly Archives: January 2013
The Pretentious Wine Table
Need a snotty and superior description for a wine (or other drink) in your game? Look no further.
Roll 2d4 and then roll on the following tables that many times to get your wine’s characteristics.
D6: 1-2 column 1, 3-4 column 2, 5-6 column 3.
Don’t forget to categorise these descriptions within the following sort of things: Aftertaste, Aroma/Bouquet/Nose, Body, Definition, Finish, Midpalate, Palate, Structure, Texture, Undertone
Taken from the Queen’s personal reserve only five bottles of Synotian Melon-wine remain in existence.
(2d4, total 4 characteristics)
Column 1: Charming
Column 2: Lavender
Column 2: Lean
Column 3: Sweet
Description: The Queen’s-Label, Melon-wine, is a charming little wine with a lavender bouquet, a lean flavour on the palate and a sweet finish.
|Column 1||Column 2||Column 3|
|2. Accessible||Elderflower||Orange Blossom|
|4. Aggressive||Eucalyptus||Passion Fruit|
|8. Appley||Fallen over||Pear|
|9. Apple Blossom||Farmyardy||Peardrops|
|10. Apple Peel||Fat||Pebble|
|13. Baked.||Fig||Peppery Herbaceous|
|19. Bell Pepper||Flinty||Polished|
|24. Black Pepper||Fruit||Prickly|
|27. Blackcurrant Leaf||Gas||Racy|
|29. Blue Cheese||Geranium||Raspberry|
|31. Brazil Nut||Goat||Reticent.|
|35. Bubble-Gum||Grassy||Rose Petal|
|36. Burnt||Green||Rotten Egg|
|37. Burnt Match||Green Apple||Round|
|38. Burnt Rubber||Green Pepper||Rubber|
|52. Cauliflower||Inky||Soy Sauce|
|55. Chalk Dust||Lavender||Stables|
|58. Cherry||Lemony||Stewed Apple|
|61. Chocolaty||Lily Of The Valley||Summer Fruits|
|63. Cinnamon||Lime Tree||Sweaty|
|64. Citrus.||Linalool||Sweaty Saddles|
|66. Clean||Liveliness||Sweet Pepper|
|79. Concoction||Meaty||Tomato Leaf|
|80. Connected||Mellow||Tropical Fruit|
|89. Currant Leaf||Muscat||Vivid|
|93. Dirty Dishcloth||Nail-Polish||Watery|
|94. Dried Fruit||Nervy||Wax & Honey|
|95. Dried up||Nutty||Wet Dog|
|96. Dry||Oaky||White Pepper|
A Shiny Review of Agents of SWING
Waking up to a nice review is always a good booster. It’s especially nice when the reviewer seems to ‘grok’ what you were trying for and to appreciate the way you’ve gone about it.
You can buy Agents of SWING on PDF or Hardcopy
Everyone says my reviews are too long and nobody reads them. So here’s my two paragraph summary first:
Want to see an amazing game that nails down a very slippery and specific genre and consistently and effectively pursues it? Buy this game.
Want a game that is mechanically well-balanced and won’t lead you into crazy problems? Give it a pass.
Now for the lengthy/verbose/nonsensical analysis.
It seems hard to imagine at this late date, when if you wanted to watch every James Bond movie it would take two uninterrupted days, when the deliberate but tense 1970s Bourne novels have been made into a visceral action series, and when Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy can sucker us in with the professionalism of lying, but there was a time in history when espionage and counter-espionage was just coming into pop culture. Of course The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad was a 19th century venture into the popular spy novel (and modern readers will appreciate terrorism as its central conflict instead of the Cold War), but in the 1950s and 60s, the spy-as-hero jumped into prominence, and a good deal of it was an almost countercultural espionage – the spy not as defender of the stodgy status quo, but the swinger, the con artist, Mr. Suave, the femme fatale, and of course, the only person who could tell that the whole Cold War was a sham, a big crazy lie, man.
To some extent this was because the other arm of visible authority, the police officer, was engaged, quite publicly, in a heart-wrenching shift from primarily being concerned with order to primarily being concerned with law. Cops knew as much as everyone else that when they saw fire hoses turned on voting rights activists in Selma that being a police officer had to change. So in addition to the cop who was in touch with the kids, we gained the spy who didn’t play by any rules. And sometimes these spy stories were lighthearted action romps – fantasies about what we’d do if we were trained to the top of our abilities and turned loose in the world with a gun, a quip and some cool gadget nobody else had.
It’s hard to remember this now when we can count James Bond’s genuine smiles since 1992 on one hand, but Austin Powers is a parody not of Bond but of the goofy/sexy spies that blossomed at the same time, but did not necessarily survive. (I have no idea why people chose to parody swingin’ 60s spies in 1997. Why not parody balloonist adventure tales or picaresques about travelling to the Mysterious East? Those would be just as relevant. But that’s far afield even for my normal rambling review style.)
It’s this fantasy that Agents of SWING targets, and hits, dead on. Not the parody (though I guess you could use it for that) – this is not a satire game, this is a game about that lighthearted fantasy.
Your characters are in an implausible agency, given implausible covers, and must battle against implausible villains, while bedding their unbelievably attractive and somewhat reluctant lieutenants and sorting out ridiculous gadgets. All of these things are given a thorough once-over. The quick-moving FATE 3.0 system (with some changes, see below) is a great setup for this.
It’s always a matter of walking a tightrope when replicating social attitudes of past times that might interfere with people’s enjoyments – Agents of SWING, I feel, does a pretty decent job of emphasizing that players who are women will have opportunities for fun along with those that aren’t. Because the agents are beyond the straitjacketed moralities of the (crumbling, it’s 1967) square world they protect, they are able to forge their own way. You can even play up the tension by selecting Aspects that will emphasize this conflict – and you gain fate points when they cause problems for you, so you’re actually encouraged to think about the issue and bring it to the table with your own spin on it. This game convinced me that FATE’s Aspects (perhaps along with The Shadow of Yesterday’s Keys) are an excellent mechanic for putting those issues into the hands of the players rather than having them feel imposed-upon by a GM or a group. There are a few examples of women characters who are not well-turned, but even if it’s not a bullseye, this game gets a lot of credit from me for aiming at a difficult target and hitting at least within the first ring (to extend the metaphor.)
The game also replaces the normal FATE 3.0 “Spin” with a third “Swing Die” which you can earn, and then spend in future rolls. (It uses the d6-d6 FATE setup rather than Fate dice.) This is a pretty cool way of putting the application of Spin into the hands of the player and prevents something I’ve seen in other FATE games, which is people scratching their heads trying to figure out how to Spin something that doesn’t really fit so that people don’t feel like it’s wasted. This is a really good solution to that – it shifts the probabilities significantly but doesn’t necessarily make it a slam dunk. (You can put your Swing Die on top of your pile of Fate chips too – a nice stack of your player resources that you have available whenever you’re planning for a roll.)
There are a number of ways this product could be improved:
For example, the stunt list doesn’t hyperlink to the description of each stunt, so the list itself is pretty worthless.
There’s no real explanation of what the NPCs are for or how you decide what NPC stats should be. The advice is just “try to keep it balanced with the player characters”, which is sort of bad advice given that there’s likely to be 3-4 player characters for each villain, and player characters may have a HUGE swing in their abilities to face off against the villain, since they can buy their skills all the way up to +8 from character creation. This is fine for the somewhat lighthearted/cartoony source material, but can easily lead to one or two characters walking off with the game and leaving others feeling useless without some clear guidance on how to create opposition (or tighter instructions at character creation).
I’m not super thrilled with the handouts. While it’s nice to see them divided up, the monospace font makes it hard to work out/remember where things are. (I guess they’re a good starting point and I’m glad they’re there because all games should have handouts in their PDFs, what are you gonna do, make me go to your website? My mouse only clicks so many times per game, pal.) Also, the stunt section of the character sheet doesn’t really give enough space to explain some of the more complicated stunts.
I actually rated this one a bit lower at first because of the difficulty in getting from the player characters to a workable scenario, but I have to reviewer tilt up one because it chases after something very specific, something rarely seen these days, and comes a lot closer than I thought it might when I first began reading the introduction. All in all, this is a pretty special game and it’s one that I’ve returned to many times.
Don’t Fuck it up for the Rest of Us
As an indie writer, game publisher and all-round amazing person I spend a lot of time talking to new writers and artists and – unfortunately – that means I run into a lot of horror stories. There are a lot, a LOT of budding artists, layout people and other freelancers upon whom us indie producers rely who are being put off from ever, ever, ever working with indie producers again. Needless to say, this is a bit of a problem for everyone.
This makes my job a lot harder, it makes forming a trust relationship with other freelancers hard and it reflects very poorly on indie/self publishing as a whole.
You want to publish? GREAT! The bar has never been lower which has its pluses and minuses, but if you’re going to invest money you should first invest a little time.
- Images come in different resolutions, 72 dpi is typical screen/web while 300 dpi is the minimum for print. Make sure you know what you need and send the right files!
- At LEAST read the help documents for the POD and other outlets you plan to use, and the software you use. That’ll give you a basic grounding and there’s plenty of free tutorials for just about anything online. Go look.
- Paying someone to edit? Make sure their English is native to where you consider your main market or style to be. American, English and International English are NOT IDENTICAL! Even grammar varies surprisingly.
- Don’t try and cop work for free. You want money out of this don’t you? Something is better than nothing. Publicity isn’t. The only people who might justifiably work for you for free are students needing to learn how briefs and projects work and they need money more than most!
- Pay early, pay often. Cough up the dough, don’t sit on it. You don’t want people riding you for their bar all the time, it’s stressful as hell. Paying on time is also worth about the same money again in terms of reputation and goodwill. If you’re in a pinch later on, these people are more likely to help you out.
- Be – fuckin’ – communicative. The moment that email pings you need to be ON IT! Even if it’s just to say ‘OK’. Artists and writers can’t get on until they know they’re on the right track and that you’re happy.
- Do you have a deadline? DON’T FUCKING LIE! Yes you do! If you say ‘there’s no rush’ you’d better goddamn mean it because people are going to take you at your word and your project is sliding down the priority list. Make one up even if you don’t really have one! Nothing motivates freelancers like a deadline (other than horsewhips).
MotSP: Character Creation and Gear Alpha Draft
‘ere, download this crap and ‘ave a butchers.
I’m currently working on armour, shields and weapons for MotSP.
I’ve decided to take a fairly generic approach, with the ability to add ‘options’ to the various armour suits, weapons etc. If I want to do an equipment book later I can come up with all kinds of specifics and so on but for the main book I think a generic approach is probably the best idea.
So what this means is that you might buy a…
Blaster Pistol – d6 damage.
Options: Sights +1 to hit, high-energy Crit 19-20
Carapace Armour – d8 protection
Fireproof – Double protection, Power frame +1 Melee damage.
…and so on.
Still, let me know if there’s any specific weapons, armour or forcefields from SF and Sci-Fantasy that you think are particularly cool and I’ll try to get them in!