Heads Up! – Limited/No Internet

StrandedMy Internet has been ballsed since Sunday night. I have been commuting over to my mum’s poaching her internet to work, but it’s not the best way to go about things and her internet isn’t the fastest and has a very low usage limit.

When we recently upgraded our Demon Internet they upgraded the wrong line (we’d had to change our number due to malicious phone calls and harassment a few years ago), this despite me telling them otherwise. We’ve stuck with this old ISP for two very good reasons.

1. Everyone knows where to find me.
2. Their support has previously been exemplary.

Our legacy connection went dead Sunday night and calling support we figured out what was wrong. Monday we re-ordered. Apparently the agent ordered for the wrong line again and screwed up a bunch of other stuff. Since then we’ve been trying to work out what’s wrong and to get it fixed. They still seem to have no fucking clue what’s wrong and apparently we could still be out until next week.

Living rurally and dealing with depression and anxiety the internet is not only essential to my business but also to my wellbeing. It’s a safe, effective, non-stressful way to socialise (believe it or not) and to keep up with scattered friends too far away, often, to ever visit. Especially since I find travelling and especially driving a butt-clenching ordeal of pain and misery.

This really isn’t good enough. At all, and it’s really starting to make me twitching. It’s like being stranded, alone, on a desert island, very abruptly.

So if I haven’t replied to emails etc, you now know why. Please be patient until this is sorted out!

Progressing from GNS Theory

GNS theory is, or was, a popular theoretical tool for the examination of tabletop RPG game design, though it was mostly fixed upon the player, rather than the game itself. Ron Edwards, and the forum that the theory came from, have a bad reputation in some circles, but regardless of these issues I have found the theory structure useful in the past while working on games and judging the design in terms of something to aim for.

That isn’t to say that GNS doesn’t also have some issues and I’ve been rooting around for some time to improve it to aid with my own game design structure and I think I have hit on the missing element for a structure to examine and design games of most types. The idea of something being a ‘Toy’.

There would, then, be four elements to any game.


The Game factor is the element of skill to the activity. This can take many forms from honing reflexive skills to learning how to build characters with maximum damage output. The Game factor is the amount to which you can ‘git gud’ and improve your personal skill and interaction with the game. Game elements tend to conflict with Toy and Narrative elements.

Examples of high ‘game’, games would include Dark Souls, 3.5 Edition D&D (character builds), or Chess.


Narrative is the extent to which story constitutes and controls the activity. Narrative factors tend to conflict with Toy and Game elements. Narrative elements can include story heaviness (often limiting free exploration) and tends to create a more passive, less player oriented experience.

Examples of high ‘narrative’ games would include Choose Your Own Adventures, visual novels or Once Upon a Time.


Simulation is the extent to which an activity tries to faithfully replicate something. This does not necessarily mean realism, activities can attempt to replicate the tropes and conventions of unrealistic genres (superheroic comics or action films for example). Simulation tends to conflict with Narrative and can conflict with Game elements.

Examples of high ‘simulation’ games would include Basic Roleplaying, Microsoft Flight Simulator and SSI Wargames.


A Toy factor determines how much the activity is a ‘plaything’ and how much it is self directed. This is another way of expressing the degree of ‘sandbox’ and latitude a game might have. Toy elements tend to conflict with Narrative and Game elements as a sandbox must allow for latitude and escape from the directed narrative and the constriction of needing to ‘git gud’ gets in the way of freedom.

Examples of high ‘toy’ games would include Lego, Minecraft and Hexcrawl tabletop settings.

You could then plot a game’s position by measuring the tension between these various factors to measure it against other games.


Rotating this 45 degrees and using it as a ‘political compass’ could let you plot and compare games.



#RPG – Pen & Paper & Laser Guns is rad, & you Should Watch it

Pen and Paper & Laser Guns is how I always imagined presenting an RPG-oriented TV show, cutting back and forth between the game and the action and it works well. It’s at least as good as a Syfy show (though I appreciate that’s not a ringing endorsement).

As a bonus, this could easily be a Machinations of the Space Princess game brought to life 🙂

#Gor #RPG Art Update

Just to prove things are still being worked on and getting closer to completion!






#RPG – Fifth Edition goes OGL


And while various RPG companies have been sidestepping it to produce things for 5th edition already, this makes it far easier and – more importantly – seems to have learned from the 4th Edition situation with a return to 3rd edition era openness.

Wizards have also created their own, semi-open, online webstore in which D&D material can be sold called the ‘Dungeon Master’s Guild’ though, with a cut of 50% and more stringent rules on content etc, it’s really not that tempting to a publisher like me, save – perhaps – as a place to sling a few short products.

The good thing about it is that it’s just another ‘face’ to Drivethrurpg/RPGNOW, which means an account on one of their sites is an account on all of them. That should help bring more people over to the other sites and increased attention and sales all around. Again though, recent greater pushes for censorship under the Onebookshelf banner is a cause for concern and getting the D&D online sales is another concentration of power in a single place, vulnerable to censorious pressure.

So, what to do with it, now I can play with it?


There’s a couple of projects I’ve been developing for the OSR:

  • A ‘city crawl’ inspired by Bloodborne and other Renaissance/Restoration/Victorian horror.
  • A post-apocalyptic fantasy hex-crawl across an environmentally ravaged landscape.
  • A dark-fantasy waste-world, mingling technology and magic in an interdimensional junkyard city.

A 5th Edition version of Machinations of the Space Princess could be done, though it would be a lot of work for a repeat project and probably not cost effective.

House rules options – like I did in the past for 3rd Edition – might be an option. Some people prefer grimmer and grittier rules more suited to low fantasy and dark fantasy but this kind of thing is more complicated than it seems if you want to retain game balance.

New races are always an option, but it’s hard to create something that truly stands out. The work I’ve done on various fantasy worlds makes me think I could come up with some possibilities.

New classes are popular, but it’s hard to find effective niches for new character types and there’s a lot of competition in creating them. The old Prestige Class system in 3rd Edition was a way around that, but doesn’t exist in 5e, though there are sub-classes to the classes which fulfil some of the same role. It might be interesting to do some anime-JRPG style classes, inspired by Final Fantasy ‘job’ systems though. A new ‘Actual Monk’ is a definite possibility though.

Backgrounds have plenty of room for additions, but are a thin thing to hang supplementary material on.

Equipment can always use additions, but as with background probably needs to be wedded to something else. A deeper crafting system definitely has some appeal.

Mass combat rules would be a useful edition, an updated Feast of Crows might be a good thing to do.

Feats were popular things to create lists of in 3rd Edition, and it doesn’t seem unlikely that they’d be popular again. Again though, a thin thing to hang a whole supplement off.

The Skill system is not remotely as deep or interesting – or adaptable – as 3rd edition and some alternative rules for skills might be a useful thing to introduce.

There’s always room for new spells, or types of magic.

There’s all manner of real and fantastical gods and pantheons to be potentially detailed.

There’s an insatiable hunger for new magic items.

People always need more monsters.

Then there’s adventures, but they never sell well and have limited long term use to purchasers.


If I do anything for 5e, I don’t want it to be the kind of mindless blown-through make-work that a lot of 3e products were. A few of the shorter ideas above appeal – such as the JRPG character classes – but otherwise I’m far more interested in the potential of creating worlds and lore and tapping into the 5e audience that way.

What do you think, what would you be after?

#RPG – Machinations of the Space Princess Companion – Skills


Image from Battle Angel Alita

The Machinations of the Space Princess skill system is deceptively simple and much of it compensates for the -5 penalty rule, encouraging character builds with signature moves and capabilities beyond ‘I hit it with my axe’. Other Skills provide pools, bonuses or extra capabilities unavailable elsewhere.

The existing Skills are fairly comprehensive, but there is room for some additions and new ideas, as well as a new category of skill, a specialised skill that can represent the particular capabilities of specialist training or cultural capabilities.

Example Psi Skill

Bio Control

You have honed your body to sustain itself on psionic energy more than anything else. For each level in this skill you use 20% less food, air and water each day. At level 5 you no longer need to eat, drink or breathe if you do not wish to. At level 6 you not only need no sustenance, but can sustain another person without food, air or water for a day with a touch and the expenditure of a psi point. You can also pass for dead by slowing your metabolism, a Skill Roll will make you appear deceased to examination, or even a scanner.

Example Combat Skill

Body Weapon

You have honed your body as a weapon, increasing your capacity for unarmed violence to extreme levels. This is usually the result of some very harsh training and effort by doing things like punching bags of hot sand and so on. Each level in the skill increases your unarmed damage amount.

1. 1D3
2. 1D4
3. 1D5
4. 1D6
5. 1D8
6. 1D8 & +1 Close Attack when unarmed.

Example Scholastic Skill

Better Living Through Chemistry

You have good knowledge of chemical cocktails, drugs, psychedelics and other chemicals and their effects on your own body and that of others. By careful, constant tailoring you’re able to put together (relatively) harmless cocktails of chemicals that can enhance people’s abilities. Maintaining the precise balance takes a lot of work and devotion, so you can only apply these bonuses up to your Skill Level and this must be decided at the start of each game session – continuing until there’s a reasonable in-game amount of time passed for you to tweak (pun intended) the dosages.

Skill Points can be spent in the following ways…

  • 1/+1 Initiative.
  • 1/+1 Social Reaction (pheromones and chill)
  • 1/+1 to a Saving Throw
  • 1/+4 Hit Points.
  • 2/+1 to a Statistic
  • 3/+1 to an Attack or Defence score.

Example General Skill


You’re good with people. You know what to say, how to carry yourself and how to make a good impression and look your best. You add your level in Schmoozer to your Social Reaction score.

New – Specialist Skills

Specialist Skills are skills that originate within very particular cultures, training regimens and secret orders. As such there’s usually a price to training in these skills and they’re not normally available at character creation. If you’re designing your own campaign you need to decide how powerful you want these to be, where they originate and what the cost of entry to learning these skills is.

Compensating for this is the fact that specialist skills are generally twice as powerful as regular skills, making them much sought after. The first level in such a skill is gained when it is trained – in game – and doesn’t cost a Skill Point, after that it must be increased with Skill Points as normal.

Example Specialist Skill – Ki-Tian

Ki-Tian is a form of ‘gun fu’, the application of zen-like principles to firearms combat as an integrated martial art. Ki-Tian claims to have been developed during the mythical time of the human diaspora when the human species was butting up against galactic society and the need for defence with cheap and handy weapons was particularly pressing. The kata involved somehow tap into the background psi-field. At levels 1-5 Ki-Tian provides +1 per level to Ranged Attack and Ranged Defence so long as the practitioner is using a pistol. At level 6 the Ki-Tian kata channel latent psychic energy to power the pistols, meaning they no longer require ammunition.


HELP NEEDED – ZelArt Scholarship 2015-16

We made our target, but I suspect a couple of donations may be fraudulent so I’d like to get a bit of a safety net, plus I’d just like to be able to offer whoever does gain the scholarship more money.

There’s a bigger problem though. Usually by this point I have received a half-dozen applications. This year I have received…


This is a problem. There’s no point having a scholarship scheme if you can’t give it to anyone.


Share, tweet, Facebook, G+, mention on Youtube, pass this on in your blog, let artist forums and communities know, send up flares, smoke signals, whatever you can.

The scholarship is for science fiction and fantasy artists, primarily in school, college or university who could use the money for supplies or to make life a little easier. It’s also open to SF&F artists in reduced circumstances like the long-term unemployed and the disabled.

So please, pass it on, let people know.

I can be contacted at GRIM at POSTMORT dot DEMON dot CO dot UK