#RPG – Postmortem Studios April Update


I know, I know, I’ve been slack. Still really struggling with fuckbrain issues, but they seem – hopefully – to be somewhat on the mend.


Here’s what’s going on…

The Gor license has been renewed for three years, giving me time and space to put out more product moving forward into the future, and even – perhaps – to produce some guidebooks for playing Gor under different systems (I’m mulling over Pathfinder’s new edition, 5e D&D and some others). Even better news is that after this three year period the license is extended indefinitely – until and unless the IP owner decides to withdraw it. This means that we are have been judged to have done such a good and trustworthy job by Mr Norman and his agent that we’re being entrusted to continue doing so moving forward. This makes me tremendously happy.

In celebration of the above, those who subscribe to me on Patreon or Makersupport will have half price access to the Gor rulebook, worldbook and artbook for as little as a $1 subscription, which you can cancel at any time.

I’m in very early and basic discussion with RPGPundit about putting together a podcast/stream with him. Not sure if/how it will work out, but we’ll see.

It also appears that Chronicle City is stirring back to life to some extent, but I’m not sure yet, quite what is going on there. I’ll let you know. We tried to start Chronicle City at about the worst time possible for us to do so and paid the price. Hopefully, it can be resurrected.

I have lost a few patrons on my Patreon lately, things are tight for a lot of people, but I need to draw more people to ‘subscribe’ to me as a creator. As such I’m going to experiment by providing some Patreon exclusive content over the next 30 days. I will be building a fantasy world for use with the Machinations of the Space Princess system with the first post up here for free and the rest appearing to Patrons and Makersupport subscribers only. These posts will be modeled after the 30 Day Worldbuilding blog prompts and will then be collected and collated, tidied up and added to in order to produce a saleable product. By subscribing you’ll get early access and the opportunity to provide feedback.


I’ve also had a few approaches about – possibly – doing some writing/worldbuilding on some indie computer games. I’ll keep you posted.

I’ll be creating support/discussion communities for Gor on G+ and Facebook soon, watch this space.

Please take a look at my Youtube, Patreon, Makersupport, Gab, Twitter, Facebook, author page, company page, designer page, Instagram, Minds and Steemit and follow/sub whatever else, should you feel the urge. Please do leave reviews of anything of mine you’ve bought, wherever you’ve bought it and share posts, videos or information about products – it really does help me out.

If you do reviews, podcasts, interviews or anything else, get in touch. I make a good guest and have opinions on everything 😉




Chronicle City: Forever Summer

ForeverSummerSo I finished my first project for Chronicle City (one of many) and it’s called Forever Summer. It’s kind of like a children’s version of Over the Edge. You can buy the PDF HERE though we don’t have an ETA for print yet.

We get more money if you buy it from our web store.

Fabulous art by Manda and it’s something of a career departure for me. If any blogs, ‘casts or sites want to chat to me about it I’d appreciate the publicity and I’ll make myself available as much as I can.

Forever Summer is a role-playing game of children’s adventure.

Evoking the likes of Goonies, Monster Squad, Eerie Indiana and Gravity Falls, Forever Summer drops you into the sleepy town of Oceanview for a long summer of adventure, mystery, thrills and excitement.
Behind every door lies a mystery, an adventure, or something scary!
FSkidsForever Summer features:
A simple system, suitable for children and beginners.
Details on Oceanview – a whole town of strange adventures!
Quick and easy play, suitable for fill in games and convention scenarios.

Premortem Studios 2014

snow_serahThere goes 2013, that was an odd one, like being stuck between dimensions.

I started working for Chronicle City around the end of the first quarter (though it was announced earlier) but have spent a big chunk of the last year wrapping up Postmortem Studios stuff (some of which remains still to do!) and doing work for Chronicle City, much of which hasn’t come to fruition yet. That’s made for a very strange time in limbo between one thing and another.

Things can take a long time to get moving when you shift jobs but hopefully some of the bits and bobs I’ve been working on will get to the front of the queue in relatively short order.

A large part of the year has been taken up with preparing the ground, advising third parties and taking preparatory notes from a huge series of books for a game based upon them. That’s almost done which means I’ll be able to leap feet-first into new, bigger projects relatively soon.

This blog then, aside from the very occasional release, I can use to do the various side things, musing and fan projects that keep me (relatively) sane.

This year I’ll also be at GenCon in the US, which is frankly terrifying as I don’t like travel and the Americas are where the haters live.

We’ll see how it goes though…

Don’t forget the Darkzel Scholarship is open until the end of this month, so let art students anywhere and everywhere know about it.

Want me to blog about something or write something particular for one of our games? Leave a comment with as many suggestions as you want.

Interview at Roleplayer’s Chronicle

Me and Daniel (Camelot Cosmos) had a chat with Roleplayer’s Chronicle and you can read it HERE

Dry, Boring, Designer Musings

brilliant_mind_cs2I’m settling into my new role at Chronicle City and wrapping up old projects which means I’m in a bit of a lull before the Chronicle City work really kicks in and I have to adjust to a whole new set of management and interpersonal skills. This has given me downtime (welcome, due to a terrible bout of depression) and the opportunity to think, ponder and ruminate on game design. Being at Chronicle City is going to give me a lot of opportunities and as a chap who is somewhere halfway between the Traditional Gaming camp and the Story Games camp (and thus loathed by both) I’ll be in a relatively good position to smuggle some new concepts and ideas into games as we develop licences and new IP. Provided of course, that these ideas actually work.

I rarely ‘talk shop’ – per se – from a design point of view, so hopefully you’ll forgive this indulgence. I am painfully aware that I will sound super, super cereal and more than a little pretentious.

The Nostalgia Train (a lot of it in the form of the Old School Renaissance) is in full swing as it rarely has been since the heady days of D&D3 brought a bunch of old gamers out of retirement. Some of these games are shamelessly just trying to recreate the old experiences while others are using it as a ‘back to basics’ approach that allows them to reinvent the wheel from first principles without the baggage of thirty years of development. This mirrors some of what we’ve seen in computer games with a division between sprawling A-list titles and casual, simple games with great hooks and addictive play that draw something from that simplicity and the constrictions it puts upon what you can do. Something you also get with the limitations of tablets and mobiles as compared to desktop machines or consoles.

Part of the problem with RPG design is that we don’t have a common set of terminology, despite best efforts on the part of Dr Bat-Dong and his nefarious allies. Rather we each develop our own thoughts and ideas and express them in our own ways and then stare at each other cross-eyed as we try to understand it. I’ve developed my own inner lexicon and set of thoughts on gaming innovation and progress and while I can’t talk about specifics or predict which – if any – of these ideas will see fruit in any games I’m prepared to share them in hopes of starting a conversation with other ‘makers and doers’.

Defining Roleplaying Games

Within the context of what would traditionally be called a ‘tabletop roleplaying game’ (more on this later) I would currently define a roleplaying game as:

A mediated conversation that results in a narrative.

That is an extremely broad definition and it encompasses everything from kids playing soldiers in the woods, through games like Once Upon a Time through to D&D. It includes traditional RPGs, murder mystery games, LARP, story games and even GMless games like Fiasco which some people seem to find it difficult to accept as an RPG.

Let’s examine this definition a little more closely.

Mediated: What I mean by mediated is that there is a filter of some kind that the conversation passes through. This might be a Games Master, referee, the consensus decision of the other players, who can shout the loudest, mum or dad, or ‘the rules’. It can also be some combination of all of these.

Conversation: Our games take place through the transfer of information from one party to another (or several others) and back again. One participant describes an action, another reacts to it, that is – in turn – reacted to and so we continue.

Narrative: I’d say ‘story’ but when role-playing you’re not ‘telling’ a story, rather a story is emergent from the conversation and the interactions involved in play. An RPG – of whatever kind – is not like a novel or even a computer game. It is not (necessarily) set or bounded and many gaming narratives that are engaging and wonderful in play would make terribly boring books, films or other media narratives.

I regard this as the quintessential core of what a roleplaying game is and while these elements may be found in or emerge from other games that are not explicitly RPGs they’re key to roleplaying as a conceptual design framework. You may disagree, please do! Poke holes in my thesis and shake it around to find the weak parts!

Anything else? That’s up for grabs.

Playing around a table? Playing in the same room? Playing face to face? Playing at the same time? Rules? A Games Master? Everything else is free to be examined, eliminated, confirmed, toyed with, messed with, spun about and shot out of a cannon at The Moon. With that in mind, here are some design concepts that are currently bobbing around in the soupy mass of oatmeal that passes for my brain.

Alternative Platform Design: Gaming takes place in a lot of different venues now. With VOIP, Google Hangouts and services such as Infrno, combined with scheduling issues, an aging gamer population, families, travel costs and so many other things a lot of gaming is taking place away from the table. This isn’t a new phenomenon, gaming has taken place on forums, IRC, chatrooms and elsewhere since the internet became a ‘thing’ but the relative convenience and accessibility of these mods of play is now at a tipping point of convenience and no longer requires ‘leet skillz’. While this kind of stuff has gone on for a long time we haven’t really had any games properly try to address and tailor themselves to playing via conference call, chatroom, email, forum or other means that aren’t face to face. Yes there’s a couple of well known exceptions, but not really at the mid or upper tier publisher level.

Asynchronous Gaming: Which is a posh, long-winded way of saying ‘playing at different times’. Again, we have been at this a long time with forum and email play (and play by post if you want to get really stone-age) but again there’s almost no games that cater to this form of play. Which is odd, given that its probably one of the most convenient and low-impact ways to play.

Experience Commonality: This is something gaming used to have but which has slipped away. People have it in MMORPGs and other computer games, ironically as a result of the limitations of those games. Story, adventure, dungeons, locations, all have to get reused in these games and the experiences of them are not individual. They’re a point of contact for people because they share the experience of fighting that boss or overcoming that obstacle. They build a community around sharing solutions, clues, tips and optimisations. We did have that in tabletop RPGs once upon a time (everyone failed to rescue Alt Cunningham or explored Keep on the Borderlands) but that has gone away. I don’t know how to reintroduce this aspect without lots of problems, but it’s on my mind.

Generational Gaming: The best and most successful way to hook new gamers is by example. Unlike many things that parents do, which become automatically ‘lame’, roleplaying does seem to manage to transfer from parents to children (and grandchildren!) with relative success. When I say generational gaming I mean that both literally and figuratively. I want (and we need as a community) to provide tools to make gaming accessible to children, easy to pick up for ‘noobs’ and exciting and demonstrative to a new generation of gamers who don’t have parents or peers to induct them. We also need to understand that our passion is not for everyone and its OK for people to like other things. As part of this I also think we need to concentrate on the strengths that roleplaying has, the things that differentiate it and set it apart, rather than trying to chase the same itches that MMOs etc scratch. This was, I think, the failing of 4e.

Non-Statistical Gaming: Are there other ways to describe characters, capabilities, worlds? Can we move outside of the dice to using cards, pictures, colours, music, words? There are means other than numbers – I think – to describe the world and I’ve explored this some in Neverwhere and ImagiNation, I think there’s further to go though and experiments to test. This is probably one of the more challenging ideas rolling around in my noggin and everything I have thought of so far still includes some numerical aspect, but its an avenue worth exploring.

Numerical-Spread: With computers, smartphones, even calculators all capable of generating random numbers between ANY values, why are we still stuck on polyhedrals? That’s inherently limiting isn’t it? True, there’s something visceral and delightful about handling dice and they become near-spiritual fetish objects for a lot of gamers but they can produce some odd statistical anomalies. Why should an Ubersword of Ming do 4d6 (4-24) damage when it could be doing a 1-25, allowing for everything from a tiny graze to a full on hit?

One-Play Sagas: What if we didn’t play our own characters and what if the adventures we played in were more… set? There’s been some tinkering along this line with the new Marvel game and with examples like Lady Blackbird but what if we told a story through group play in a way more similar to, say, Final Fantasy, J Random Fantasy Epic or the old Choose Your Own Adventure books like Lone Wolf.

Pick-Up-And-Play: ‘That looks cool!’ ‘Lets play it!’ ‘OK’ – and they gamed happily ever after. It will never be QUITE that simple, but we can TRY damn it.

Player Products: From a purely economic point of view games companies are selling books and materials to, perhaps, 1/6th to 1/4 of their potential audience. The person who – normally – buys all the books is the Games Master for that particular game. There must be a way to create materials that players would want and would use that aren’t ‘splatbooks’ which, again, fragment the audience for them. I don’t know what – yet – character journals have been tried a few times and never really taken off that well but there must be things to try.

Parachute Gaming: Dropping in on one game or another without it being a huge hassle, without characters being too far apart in capability and without it ruining anyone’s campaign. Flailsnails baked in to the game at the concept stage.

Transferable Game Engines: Deleria tried to do this. We often found ourselves playing Vampire using the old MET rules (because while you may not have dice, you always have hands). A game engine that can be used in tabletop, LARP, online and any which way (but loose) has some advantages. The compatibility between the new Iron Kingdoms RPG and the skirmish games of the same world (Warmachine/Hordes) is a good example of this working really well.

Chronicle City Appointment: This Time in Video

Joining Chronicle City Full Time



While you’re all temporarily paying attention to me please go and support the Kickstarter for Red Phone Box, a story cycle to which I’m a contributor and also includes Warren Ellis.

Chronicle City Expands
Chronicle City is expanding its operations with the hiring-on of James ‘Grim’ Desborough as the Creative Director of the company alongside its founder, Angus Abranson.

James will have particular focus on developing new intellectual properties for the company, overseeing product line development and moving forward with licensed properties as the company matures and develops.

“I am excited – and nervous – to be working for Chronicle City. I have known Angus a great many years and have worked for and with him in various guises in the past. I believe Chronicle City has the potential to become a driving force in modern role-playing and I relish the opportunity to work in other arenas such as card and board game development. I particularly hope to bring some innovation and attention to licensed properties and hope that I can bring some of my particular style and thought to everything that we do.” – James said.

James is an Origins Award winning writer and has worked for Wizards of the Coast, Steve Jackson Games, Cubicle 7 Entertainment and many others. He has been freelancing since the 1990s and has worked full-time with his own indie company, Postmortem Studios, since 2004.

Chronicle City has a lot of plans this year, both with the expansion of our third party publishing programme as well as with licensing and in-house design of our own settings and game lines. Appointing James as Creative Director will give our own properties, and the licenses we’re working, on a dedicated overseer who can work day-to-day with our design teams and developers. James is the first fulltime appointment to the company and we have a few more team members to be announced in the coming weeks. 2013 is going to be a very interesting year for the company and I’m glad James has been able to join us for the journeys ahead.” – added Angus.

Chronicle City is a new British based games publisher set up by multi-award winning publisher Angus Abranson (ex-Cubicle 7; Leisure Games). Chronicle City are working with a number of companies and designers to publish their games, as well as designing their own role-playing, card and board games.

You can find out more information about Chronicle City, and their games, at:

Webstore: http://shop.chroniclecity.co.uk/
Twitter: @Chronicle_City
Email: info@chroniclecity.com

If you want to contact James (Grim) directly with questions please contact via twitter – @grimachu – or via email to grim AT postmort DOT demon DOT co DOT uk


I’ve been itching to make this announcement for some time but legal and financial details take ages to sort out. This has also been part of the reason I’ve been less manically and publicly busy for some time – despite working away on Machinations of the Space Princess.

Postmortem Studios will continue, albeit  much slower and much more self-indulgent in terms of pace and content. Machinations will be finished and I’ll be taking other outstanding projects with me to Chronicle City where they can get a much greater amount of exposure and a wider audience.

January next year would be Postmortem Studios’ 10th anniversary but running your own company, however small, is exhausting. Especially when it’s just you. I have become increasingly frustrated by the level of quality and the amount of output I’ve been capable of doing as a one-man show and yes, my depression has been a factor in this. Working with others – while being higher stakes – should be much better for my mental health and take a great deal of pressure off me.

Working with Chronicle City will give me an opportunity to reach a wider audience, to develop new, exciting and quality RPGs and other games to the hobby, to travel and to pay back a hobby and a number of fellow freelancers and co-workers who have been very good to me since I first cracked open a Fighting Fantasy book in the 1980s. Special thanks are also due to my wife and my anonymous patron, both of whom have been unflinching in their support of me.

I also hope to be able to devote a little more time to my fiction writing, perhaps tying in with some of our products.

I’ve always been an idea person and I hope that as Creative Director I’ll be able to bring that capability – interesting, deep and innovative ideas – to everything that we do.

Machinations of the Space Princess Supporters
Work for Chronicle City is going to take up an increasing amount of my time which ma delay completion on the project. I was going to be aiming for May at latest before but this shift in roles and responsibilities may delay that by up to another three months. I hope you’ll be understanding, happy for me and will consider that – on the plus side – it gives Satine more time to work on the art.