#RPG Chronicle City: Forever Summer – Dev Diary

Approaching the game Forever Summer I wanted to do something different. A short project suitable as an introductory game and one that adults could use to introduce children to role-playing. Hopefully I succeeded by fusing a simple system that even adults have enjoyed (variations of this system appear in Urban Faerie and Invaderz) with a background of adventure and reference to the classic kids movies of my youth, and the series and cartoons of today.

I set out to create a kid-friendly game, in contrast to the more controversial or ‘edgy’ kind of material I generally prefer. A kid friendly game demands a different approach – not that it can’t have a little bite. There are scary and gross moments in all kinds of kids shows, movies and cartoons and many of them do deal with some complicated issues. Simplicity doesn’t have to be patronising.

Forever Summer is designed more for pick-up play than anything else, so characters are based on familiar ‘stereotypes’ from the genre. So you might pick out a character that is the:

Fat kid with a lot of heart

Fat kid with a lot of heart










Cute little kid

Cute little kid









The nerdy kid

The nerdy kid









And so on.

This is great for pick-up and play because you immediately have a hook and understanding of a character ready to go. With the customisation and the player’s input, they become a bit more individual and if you want to come back to that character again, you can, building up a little ‘mythos’ of child adventurers.

The town in which the default game is set is called Oceanview. It’s a small town near the coast in the Pacific Northwest, in amongst the forest and close to the sea. It’s a town full of weirdness and oddity, to which you can add your own – as much as you like – expanding Oceanview and its people as you do so. For those familiar with role-playing games, you could almost think of it as a child-friendly Al Amarja (Over the Edge). If you grew up in the early nineties and were fortunate enough, you could also compare it to Eerie Indiana.

Overall, I think this would be an excellent game to introduce kids – perhaps as young as seven or eight, all the way up to adult kids – to roleplaying. You can steal plots and ideas from kids shows and films from past, present and future to make things familiar – or even recreate them. For older players there’s nostalgia, for younger players playing out their shows and films can help them understand the game a little easier.

I hope you’ll enjoy it and that it fulfils its design aims. Questions in the comments are welcome!

You can find the game to buy HERE.

Machinations: Races

Here’s a rough draft of the list of race-types you’ll be able to pick from. Each type will have race traits that can modify your character. It sounds more complicated than it actually is, it’ll be the odd extra skill point, stat point or access to extra senses, capabilities and so on.

It’s a simple, flexible way of custom-building alien characters and NPCs in a quick, ‘checkbox’ manner.

These lists are all open, so if you don’t see something that you’d want to play, speak up!


Exotic Attack




Metal-Oxide Based

ImagiNation: Dev Diary 3

When I write games – or fiction – I always start with an outline to tell me what needs doing and to construct the ‘skeleton’ of the book and make sure everything is covered. This is the ‘content skeleton’ for ImagiNation. If you think anything is missing or should be included that isn’t, please let me know and I’ll think about revision. Not shown is that there will be little bits of fiction distributed throughout the book along with the art that has been commissioned.






Postmortem Studios

Piracy Plea



Depression & Creativity

The Description System


Example Adventure

A Choose Your Own Adventure Introduction

The Disaster

The State of Play


The Islands

The Blockade

Base Foxtrot


The Government

The Dream Trade


The Monad

Dreams & Nightmares



You Have to be Crazy


Who are you?

Describe Yourself

What can you do?

What Have you Got?

What did you used to do?

Character Profiles

The Arts





Painting & Drawing




Chemical Imbalance




Imposter Syndrome



Obsessive Compulsive Disorder






Doing Things

Rolling Dice

Opposition & Assistance

Hurting Each Other


Playing Other Ways

The World Gone Mad




Playing the Game

What do we do?

Adventure Seeds


Living Game World

ImagiNation: Dev Diary 2

It’s – finally – the end of the whole Queen’s Jubilee thing – thank goodness, and so I’m able to get back on with work. This also means things have backed up a bit and that I have been hit with dozens of ideas (which always happens when  take a break) and have probably taken on too many responsibilities again.

I’ve taken the opportunity, though, to re-read through Neverwhere and The Descriptive System (TDS is an unfortunate acronym, but never mind). Scary to think I originally wrote the first version of that system back in… what, 92? Twenty years ago? That’s a little scary.

The third iteration of the rules doesn’t really need anything doing to it, other than a little adaptation to make it fit the setting and special rules to cover the special situations.

Coming back to something you’ve written after a few years is a weird experience because in a sense it is like reading something written by somebody else. Especially the way I tend to move from project to project to project, rather than latching on to one thing in particular and developing it hard.

Even if I do say so myself, TDS in Neverwhere3 is a bloody elegant, adaptable and pretty brilliant system for narrative lead games. I wouldn’t use it for anything more gritty and violent but it is, absolutely, the best fit for ImagiNation, especially given the way that things can be created, modified and adapted in ImagiNation.

I have also now commissioned the majority of the art in addition to the pieces that I already have. Relative to my normal projects ImagiNation will be quite lavishly illustrated.

The final book will be A5 (like my pocket editions of other books) and I don’t know how many pages yet. I intend to put a lot of useful GMing ‘kit’ stuff in there, ideas, adventure seeds, advice and so on. I also want to take the time to make it welcoming to new players and I want to write a good piece about depression, mental illness etc to include in the book without getting too preachy. I still need to acknowledge why the game is being made and how I hope it will help.

As to the generic version of the TDS rules I intend to release, I’m open to suggestions from the peanut gallery. Should I cover it by genres and special rules? Divide it into sections for magic, superheroes, fantasy, horror, science fiction and so on? What do you think? What systems and genres do you think need to be covered?

ImagiNation: Dev Diary One

The basic idea for ImagiNation goes back quite a long way but it’s only now that I’ve really been able to put it all together and found the hook that brings it all together.

British fiction has its own particular love affair with the end of the world but it’s much more understated than post-apocalyptic fiction in other cultures. A running theme in a lot of it is a sort of return to pre-industrial rural, agricultural living as though that were somehow desirable.

ImagiNation’s apocalypse is an unknown and possibly unknowable disaster. A breaking down of reality to the point where imagination and delusion take on a physical reality. Everyone’s fancy, nightmare and dream becomes a tulpa and runs wild, clashing and interacting in the ‘wild’ while the dreamers are lost in the same clashing world of their fancies.

I intend to blog quite a bit as the game is put together, after all, there’s no harm in being open about it and gives people who backed the game some extra value.

The first thing I really want to talk about is the whole crowdfunding thing. I’ve talked before about how Kickstarter, Indiegogo etc make me feel a little uncomfortable. In part this is because people seem to ask for a hell of a lot more money than they should actually need (ten times as much in some cases). When it’s for a charitable purpose it’s a little easier for me to swallow both begging for money and the shameless self-promotion that’s involved – something I always find a bit tricky.

I had to use Indiegogo because Kickstarter only allows US accounts to be tied to them. That makes things a bit more tricky because Indiegogo doesn’t have the level of cachet or trust that Kickstarter does. I’m fairly certain I could have raised more cash at Kickstarter but there simply wasn’t the option. That’s something I think other  people looking to crowdfund should keep in mind.

I still don’t think I would use crowdsourcing for my normal projects, but as a way of doing ‘hostageware’ or games with a charitable aspect to them (such as ImagiNation) I do think it’s a good option. I’m just not comfortable ‘begging’ to provide funds to my normal projects.

It’s a double bank holiday Monday and Tuesday so don’t expect too much progress until Wednesday and I’ll be alternating my work on PROJECT and ImagiNation. This is an open development process so any queries, questions or suggestions are welcome as we go along.


ImagiNation is GO

Huge thanks to everybody who backed me.

This weekend is, obviously, the Queen’s diamond jubilee so the whole country has gone mad. This means I can’t really start cracking on until Wednesday, probably.

I intend to do constant dev-diary type stuff over on the company blog so keep an eye out there for developments.

If you backed me and selected a reward, I don’t necessarily have your real name or the name you’d prefer to have in the book or ‘shouted out’ as a thank you on social media.

If you want to collect your reward please contact me ASAP directly, by e-mail, even if I know who you are, even if I’ve already name-checked you, and let me know what reward level you’re claiming. I can cross-check that against the Indiegogo data and I can sort out your character profiles, shout-outs and/or he things you wanted included in the game (within reason).

If you don’t have my mail it’s: grim AT postmort DOT demon DOT co DOT uk or you can grab me on twitter via @grimachu

Blood!: Hell on Earth

I have two major problems in writing games. Firstly I don’t have enough time, energy or copies of myself to write everything that I want to write and publish. Secondly, I tend to come up with the same ideas as other people at a similar sort of time. Fortunately I beat others to the punch with Agents of SWING and the only very-similar product to come out was 7TV – which is brilliant and awesome but is a skirmish minis game and thus doesn’t bite into the same market.

Another case is Adamant Bloody Entertainment and their bastarding East-West fusion game Far West. This is so bloody similar in concept, if not execution, to my own project Setting Sun that I’m in two minds whether to go ahead, though they’re different enough in other ways. Mine’s alt-history and more Samurai themed than Wu Xia themed, and not Steampunk per-se. Mine also uses a poker mechanic and is oriented on team/gang/pack play. We’ll see. Setting Sun could be the Cyberpunk to Far West’s Shadowrun.

When it comes to Blood! it has been my intention since I resurrected the game to create the long promised supplements/reskins of that game Hell on Earth and Star Shock. Hell on Earth was to be my first. I was all excited to revise the Blood! rules some, create some setting background and material on Puritan witch-hunters post restoration, trying to survive the crown and the Annus Mirablis (1666), the devil’s own year when many thought the end of the world was come. I was going to create a dark post-civil war, post-Cromwell setting of debauched courts, downtrodden puritans, devilry, witchcraft, zombies, omens, infernalism, qabbalistic magic and Hammer Horror references when what should happen but this?


Shit indeed.

Fortunately, since its relatively humble beginnings, Defoe:1666 has gone somewhat bugnuts crazy, which is fine as these things go, but does distance it quite a bit from the more serious approach I was going to take.

So, that means Hell on Earth is probably back on the cards for development in the not-too-distant future, after the current swathe of heavy, long-term projects and I’ll probably be throwing ideas up here.

One of the main things to do in B:HoE is to address criticisms of the Blood! system, insomuch as it can be done without losing the system’s integrity and raison d’etre. The errata/suggestions that already exist will be incorporated and we’ll probably try and find a way to speed up or slimline the character creation system but the bloody and brutal combat will – of course – remain.

I’m likely to throw ideas up here as they occur to me, as much to keep them safe as to draw comment but I do crave feedback on development and all aspects of our games. So please don’t be shy of speaking up.

Agents of SWING Update

SWING is, essentially, done. The final version of the rules is all complete and set in stone, there’s just a few more things to do – relatively easy things – before the base book can go into layout and, thence, to POD and PDF download.

  • One more read-through/edit
  • A few more examples.
  • The example/pregen characters (there’s a lot of these so that you can pick-up and play as and when).
  • The example enemy organisations – a handful of these.
  • The reference sheets.

The first one shouldn’t take more than a morning.
The second one shouldn’t take more than an afternoon.
The third and fourth shouldn’t take more than a day together – once I have all the art in.
The last shouldn’t take more than a morning.

I’m still waiting on a bit of art but I intend to get as much of the rest out of the way as I can beforehand, so that’ll be the read-through/edit, the examples, the enemy organisations and the reference sheets. The pregens will wait until I have the last bits of art.

The layout should only take me a couple of days.

So all things being well, hopefully end of this month, beginning of next.

Care and Feeding of Your Artist

So You’re a Small RPG Publisher
This essentially means that you have no money to speak of and, as such, you’re doomed before you start. Obviously you’re going to look for cheap options first when it comes to art and that means you’re going to look at alternative art sources such as:

  • Begging people on deviantart.
  • Friends who can just about draw if you squint and are willing to work for free.
  • Clipart.
  • Your own horrific scribblings in the manner of an epileptic spider having a grand mal in an inkwell.
  • Tattoo Flash.

Sooner or later though, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and hire an artist to do some work for you. This is expensive and can be harrowing, distressing and frought with danger for all concerned but it is worth doing and there are things you can do to get maximum value for money, maximum artist satisfaction and a good working relationship. I pride myself on, generally, doing this fairly well and producing good material with a small art budget, and so can you!

My Typical Rates
Just as a ballpark to frame the terms of the discussion, here’s what I typically pay, presuming the piece is not too complex.:

  • Full Page Colour: $100
  • Half Page Colour: $50
  • Quarter Page Colour: $25
  • Greyscale: Half the above.

I’ll go up to double that for someone I really like/want or because the complexity gets higher, but I can often get lower than that, per piece if other considerations come into it. There’s a lot you can do to make it a more pleasant experience for you and the artist involved.

Caring for your Artist
Order in advance
Nobody likes a tight deadline. The more in advance you can ask for work the more time the artist has to let inspiration to strike and the easier it is to work your – low paying – work in around other work that they might have. This is convenient for everyone and if you get the art early, lets you think about layout ahead of time. Bonus!

Make yourself available to your artist to talk. A good relationship is essential on both sides and aesthetics are very subjective. You need to communicate to make sure you get what you want  and they need to communicate if they’re unsure. You don’t want to get something unusable or completely different to what you want and they don’t want to waste all that time and effort or drawing something ‘wrong’. Regular exchange of sketches and ideas is a good idea, until you’ve learned how each other work and have achieved a position of trust.

Know What You Want
If you don’t know what you want, how in the name of Klono’s beard and whiskers, is the artist supposed to know? “Like… an orc… or some shit.” is NOT an art brief. You need to know what you like and what you want if the artist is going to have any hope of accomplishing that. Similarly, changing your mind every day or two is NOT acceptable and is, frankly, fucking annoying.

Professional AND Personal
This is a hobby industry and, below a certain level of money/activity/scale professionalism is severely overrated. Personal relationships are far more important. I’m not saying kiss people’s arses or pretend to be their friend, rather, work with and talk with people you genuinely like and treat people you work with as friends. This particularly pays dividends at conventions etc where hobby professionals who work together can act as a support network and watch each other’s stock/tables.

Bulk Buy
Sometimes books work better with a common artistic look to them. It’s to your advantage – often – both aesthetically and financially to get a lot of art from the same person. If you have a very tight theme this might not be the case so much, people do get very bored with drawing the same thing over and over again. Still, if you’ve got a bit of variety a common thread in the book from someone’s style is a good thing to have. You can often get a discount if you’re ordering a lot of work too.

Pay Early, Pay Often
Artists get stiffed a lot. They also get paid late a lot. This sucks unwashed donkey balls and you can often get a bit of a discount and a hell of a lot of kudos from an artist – and their other artist friends – by coughing up the moolah as soon as possible, preferably as soon as you get the art. With services like paypal around there’s really no excuse not to. If you don’t have the money, don’t commission the work. If you’re really pleased, pay extra. Come back often to an artist you like and you’ll build your rapport and they’ll like working with you.

‘What do you like?’
The right tool for the right job. Find out what your artist likes to draw and give them work that plays into what they like. That’ll make things more enjoyable and easier for the artist and if the work interests them, you’ll get better results. Everyone’s a winner.

Just Enough Rope
Too much rope and someone will hang themselves. Not enough rope and they won’t be able to express themselves. Start with a small amount of art direction and move on from there. You’re NOT Alan Moore, pages and pages of detailed description and background notes to artists are unlikely to be appreciated. Generally speaking, the more latitude someone has to express themselves, the better. Some people do prefer more direction rather than less, but it’s easier to provide it when it’s asked for – later – than to start out seeming like a bossy, demanding, exacting wanker who is hard to please.

Help them out
Talk up your artist, credit them properly, pimp them to other companies, talk about them on your blog, link to their pages. Sell clip art for them. Anything you can do to add value to them working for you is good and can offset what you can’t pay in monetary terms.

Be Tolerant
You’re not paying that much so let higher paying work go ahead of yours in the queue. Let deadlines slip a little, no biggy. If things get really late and the artist starts feeling guilty you might get a discount or some free work! Be understanding and give them the benefit of the doubt. The artistic muse is a hard thing to tame or to rely on. The more leeway, the better and this goes along with booking early’

Let Them Keep Rights
Let them re-sell and re-use the art in prints, as clip art, for other clients. The more they can sell it the more money they get for the same amount of work and this can make up for a great deal. The art is still tailored to your needs, even if other people later use it, that’s well worth it even if others get it cheaper later on.

Next time, care and feeding of your writer.

Agents of SWING Dev Diary

I’ve finished everything up to skills and stunts in their final form. There’ll be another edit and there’s been some knock-on implications into other parts of the rules but all things considered, it’s done. I still have to do the ‘supernatural’ stunts, but those are a bit of a questionable area anyway. There’s no question that there are odd powers, psychics, even magic in a lot of the adventure series of the 60s and 70s – The Champions being one example – but they’re normally not that massively powerful and they’re usually pretty rare – so for the main book at least I want to keep them fairly low key. More powerful powers and so on may be introduced when I go into detail on Section Eight, the department of SWING that deals with the weirder parts of the world.

Sorting out the stunts I got rid of the prerequisites so there are now no multilayered stunts and they’re not dependent on skills. The only thing constricting you is your theme and the approval of Control (the Games Master). This means some entry stunts had to be powered up, others powered down and many eliminated altogether, though there’s a few extras to help make up for that. A lot of stunts were replicated across different skills in other versions of FATE so more were lost there and the whole effort – along with text consolidation and shortening – has massively reduced what was otherwise a very clumpy section of any FATE book.

I haven’t gone as far in reducing things as ICONS does, but this is definitely going to be a less intimidating lump of a book than many FATE based games are and I hope the streamlining and looser rules interpretations are going to make it an even more accessible and fun game to play.

Fingers crossed!