A Postmortem Update

I have been very busy, beavering away on my novel, which is almost complete and should be finished by the end of next week. This has taken time away from games writing quite a bit and as I’ve been busy two weekends in a row and have had a bit of a bout of depression things haven’t been proceeding entirely according to plan. Please bear with me!

I’ll be posting some more ImagiNation previews, everything is now done save for a few pieces of art so, fingers crossed, ImagiNation should be out by the end of the month. This will be released FREE on PDF and AT COST via Print on Demand. I’d like to get as much press as possible for this game – since it deals with depression and is intended as an aid/boost to fellow sufferers as well as a game. If you’d like to help me out with that, please get in touch.

I’ve received proofs of all the board/card games I have made – apart from Lady Bexington’s Home for Wayward Zombies on The Game Crafter (links in the side) and I have to say I am very, very pleased with the quality and results. I can’t recommend purchasing outside the US unless you’re willing to spend over the odds but if you are a US customer and want a shiny, awesome copy of Steamed, Final Straw or Cthentacle then go buy! If there’s enough interest there I’ll work on more board and card games.

When the novel is finished, because ImagiNation has been slightly delayed, I will put together the generic version of The Description System (that powers both Neverwhere and ImagiNation) and get that out ASAP.

The last bit of news is that myself and Satine Phoenix will be going ahead with Machinations of the Space Princess but as a FULL game, derived from the Lamentations rules set and aimed at providing fast, furious, simple, Sci-Fantasy adventuring weirdness in a Metal Hurlant style. Sexy, Sleazy, Swords & Sci-Fi. You can get some ideas on where my thinking for the game is going by looking at the Maksa-Jazra blog posts here (though those are more fantasy than SF). This will be an IndieGoGo fundraiser aiming for $1,000 to go to Satine for art. We’re still working out the details but look for a proper announcement sometime next week. Excess money will go to stretch goals, more art and some money going to me for the time it will take to write. It’ll be a ‘whatever amount is raised’ fundraiser.

After that, it’ll be on to a second novel and I hope you’ll all be as supportive of that endeavour as you have been of my games writing!

If you want to check out my already published short stories, you can get them at Amazon or Smashwords (just search for my name on the Nook, iBook etc stores).

ImagiNation Preview

Silly childhood rhymes, traditions and superstitions can take on a life of their own.
Remember your training and for the love of the fuck, don’t step on the cracks.

 

ImagiNation Preview

 

Even childhood heroes may need to find new ways to survive.

ImagiNation: Choose Your Own Adventure

As part of the introduction chapter of ImagiNation there will be a Choose Your Own Adventure as a way of introducing the setting and the rules (minus some of their complications). This used to be a staple part of many RPG introductions back in the day and is probably worth bringing back in some way. I can see why it’s dropped out of favour (it’s a huge pain in the arse) but hopefully it works well. I include it here as a preview but please keep in mind it’s not edited or polished yet.

Download here:

ImagiNationCYOA

ImagiNation Update

Sorry for the delay, I’ve been pre-occupied, obviously.

As well as the more full on illustrations in ImagiNation there will be scraps of notes, observations and sketches from the talented and damaged few that are able to brave the changed mainland. This sketch by Rowena Aitken is one of those, capturing the moment that an artist’s painting is energised and comes to life, emerging from the canvas to – hopefully – do their bidding.

You’ll also get diary entries, ‘post-it notes’ and other scraps of observation from island dwellers and explorers as a way of bringing the setting and all its weirdness to life.

Unfortunately, due to recent issues I’ve slipped behind on talking to people about their rewards from the campaign. The character profiles and the entries. I’ll be getting back in touch as soon as I can but if you want to jump the gun and get in touch before I do, please do.

I just finished writing up the section on mental illness – and how it interacts with the creative abilities – so progress is, once again, being made.

ImagiNation Excerpt: Creativity

In ImagiNation it’s a combination of creative skill and an unconventional mind that gives people their power over the mutable reality of the mainland. They can seem magical, which is almost appropriate given that magic has also been called ‘the art’.

This is a sort of pre-first draft but other than more examples and better wording, not much is likely to change much. If it seems opaque or tricky to understand to you, let me know. Most of the rest of the system will be broadly identical to that found in Neverwhere 3rd Edition.

The Arts

Every character who can enter the mainland is a creator of some kind. It needn’t be their professional talent but rather something inside a person that drives them to create. Even people who are awful at art, or writing or poetry sometimes feel the drive to create regardless. A character who is good at their art will be more powerful and capable but it’s by no means absolutely necessary.

The arts allow a character to shift and change and create, not just on paper or in their minds but, out on the mainland, they can change themselves, change the landscape, even conjure things out of nothing but their own thoughts and passions.

Acting

An actor is able to don a mask, a face, the persona and thought structure of another person. They can lie, so well, that they can even believe the lies themselves. An actor is mutable, changeable in how they present themselves and – once they enter the shifting reality of the mainland they can change themselves physically, mentally, absolutely, rather than merely pretending.

System:

An Actor has a pool of points that they can use, the combined bonus of their Acting skill bonus and any appropriate adjectives to their acting capability. During the course of a day the Actor can spend these points on a one-for-one basis to change their adjectives or two for one to add additional adjectives. They’re always able to revert to their normal self.

Even drastic changes or additions are possible, an actor can give themselves claws, for example, or night vision, animal traits or more conventional changes that alter their description. They can even give themselves down traits, just like during character creation, a maximum of another two which can be spent to give positive adjectives.

Architecture

An architect can envision structures and understand how buildings are put together. They can envision things are they are supposed to be, how they could be and as they are. What is drawn and built in an architect’s mind is often an ideal that never comes to be in reality. This was starkly shown in the 1960s and 1970s when the concrete housing blocks of British cities turned out to be much worse in practice than in theory.

System:

An architect has a pool of points equal to the total of their architect skill and any appropriate adjectives. They can conjure or change the descriptive traits of a building on a one-for-one basis. These points regenerate after a day. A strong door can become a weak door. A dark chamber can become a bright chamber, a ruin can become pristine or the pristine can become a ruin.

If they want to conjure a shelter out of their mind they can do so, describing it with their available traits. Needing a shelter at night, for example, an architect might use their ability to create a ‘Hidden, strong bunker, deep beneath the earth with running water.

They’re a good person to have along.

Dancing

A dancer moves to time, to a beat, they make shapes with their bodies and create a spectacle of themselves that can evoke wonder and envy. Whatever the form the dance takes it ties one into the beast of the music and when there is no music, one can create their own beat.

System:

A dancer can distort time or fascinate with their gyrations. They have a pool of points based on their dance skill and their appropriate adjectives. They can spend these points in one of two ways:

  1. So long as they dance their audience can be drawn in, fascinated and rendered mute and still until such point as the dance ends. This costs one point from the pool per turn.
  2. The dancer can distort time for themselves, slowing it down or speeding up by a factor equal to the points that they put in. For each point spent they can take an extra turn doing something as they slow time – provided they can work it into the dance.

Music & Singing

Music is one of the less powerful but more wide ranging of the influential arts. Music can make few specific changes to individuals but it can evoke mode, change mode, create or lighten an atmosphere or make it more oppressive. It plays upon the emotions and the resonance of a place in a way that can blanket a whole region.

System:

A musician, provided they have access to their instrument and can play, can use their music to alter the mood whenever they want as many times as they want. There’s no limitation on how often it can be used. When playing music the musician can alter, replace or add to the mood of a location, creating an adjective that anyone can tap into – if it’s appropriate. A place that is frightening, might become amusing. They might play something inspirational or courageous, sound the charge to aid people in a fight. It’s a subtle, but powerful, effect.

Painting & Drawing

Those who paint and draw can create things out of their imagination and bring hem to visible life. Outside the zone this is limited to paper and canvas but within the zone, so long as they can at least sketch, they’re able to bring these things to genuine life.

System:

An artist has a pool of points drawn from their writing skill and their appropriate adjectives. They can use these points to draw and create items, even creatures out of nothing. They can also draw doors, windows or other features onto a surface and cause them to become real – at the cost of a single point. In creating something out of nothing the description is made using the pool of points available. For example one might draw out a sketch of a ‘powerful handgun’ and then use that, at the cost of two points. One for the object, one for the description as ‘powerful’.

Poetry

Poets have a facility for artful language and for rhyme and meter. A poet plays with language as a writer constructs it. A poet can work their words in their mind, without the need to jot them down to make them work.

System:

A poet can freely change any word in any description, even that of other people, to a synonym. Strong can become powerful, fast can become speedy. This is a subtle but potentially very powerful effect as it can tailor a description to very specific circumstances. For a point from their pool (poetry plus adjectives) they can change any word from a description to its rhyme. A ‘violent’ beast may, thus, become a ‘silent’ beast, a ‘dangerous’ man a ‘timorous’ man, and so on.

Writing

A writer has a powerful way with words and can use them to evoke almost anything, to spin the imaginary into a form people can see in their mind’s eye or to create an evocative description that can make something more real or convey it in a way even pictures cannot. Within the zone, provided that a writer can scribble down their thoughts on a scrap of paper or in the dirt, they can have a wide-ranging, but somewhat unpredictable power.

System:

The writer creates a pool of points from their writing skill and their appropriate adjectives. They can freely change words for their synonyms – one per turn – just as the poet can and they can conjure objects or creatures out of thin air as an artist can, but at a cost of two points per adjective. The most powerful thing a writer can do is to narrate. They can – within reason – describe something that happens, spend a point, and have it happen. For example: “Without warning, the roof collapsed upon the gunman…”

ImagiNation Thank Yous

ImagiNation Excerpt: Explaining Role-Playing, Again

Role-Playing

Odds are that most people reading this already know what a role-playing game is but, as this game is intended to reach out to new gamers as well as old ones, I’m going to take a little more time than usual to explain what a role-playing game is, how they are played and – most importantly – why they’re such good fun.

Role-playing, as a hobby-game, has been around since the mid-seventies and grew out of wargaming. A hobby that is represented in most people’s eyes by Games Workshop and their Warhammer game these days. Role-playing is a little different though. Rather than commanding an army each player takes control of a single character and guides their actions through a story created and refereed by another player called the ‘Games Master’.

This is a lot like playing games of imagination when you’re children. Maybe you shouted out ‘Let’s play Star Wars!’ and then people would take on roles: “I’m Han!” “I’m Chewie!” etc, and then – as kids – you would play out battles or re-play the stories of the film. There are three important differences when it comes to role-playing games.

1: We’re grown-ups now, so we have to justify creative play to ourselves with all sorts of adult structure and waffle.

2: Role-playing games have rules. This helps prevent the sort of “Bang, you’re dead!”, “No I’m not!”, “Yes you are!”, “Nuh huh, I have a forcefield” type arguments we had as children.

3: The characters and stories are our own and, hopefully, somewhat original.

So, how do you play one of these games? That’s actually pretty easy to do, but a lot harder to explain in any meaningful way. If you know anybody who already plays these kind of games then your best bet is to ask to sit in on a game or to get them to explain it to you in person. I’ll do my best to explain below, but one of the main barriers to spreading the hobby is the problem of explaining it.

The Games Master is one of the players. He comes up with the story, the challenges, the opposition that the players who are taking the part of the characters have to face. The Games Master sets the scene, looks after the rules and describes the action. It’s a demanding but rewarding role to take in a game.

The players create and describe their characters. These characters are made according to the rules – given later – and these descriptions determine the bounds of who a character is, what they can do and how good they are at it.

The advantage to The Description System is that so long as you can describe something, you can put it into the game rules. This makes it very easy to pick up and play with very little preparation or number crunching.

Here is how a little bit of one game session might go, we join the game already in progress…

The Games Master Sets the Scene: You emerge from the underground station into the light. You think this must be King’s Cross station – or rather what’s left of it. The station is overgrown, the floors cracked. Vines and creepers sprawl over everything and are festooned with brightly lit and sweetly perfumed flowers. Butterflies and other insects flutter and buzz from flower to flower and vine to vine. It makes the floor hard-going to walk through and here and there knots of thick vegetation block the path.

Kerr (Played by Kyan): “Damn, I’m glad to be out of there. Who knew so many people were afraid of rats on the underground?” Now we’re in the light I brush the dirt off my clothing and check myself for rat bites.

Juliet (Played by Karen): “Don’t relax yet Kerr. Rats make sense at least. We knew what to do about rats. Even giant ones. What’re all these plants about though?” I’ll move to the nearest one and take a closer look.

Games Master: You don’t find any bites you’ve missed but the ones you did take look a bit nasty, angry and red. The flower looks a bit like a bluebell or a snowdrop, but bigger and glowing with a honeyed, inner light. Each flower seems to be a subtly different shade, covering the whole rainbow throughout the station.

Kerr: “I don’t trust it. Pretty things always hide something nasty.” I’ll sit down on the steps and use my first aid kit on my wounds. I don’t want them getting infected.

Games Master: OK, I won’t make you roll for that. Daubing on some iodine or TCP isn’t exactly taxing. It’s probably a good idea though. What about you Karen?

Juliet: “Pretty things always hide something nasty eh? Should I take that personally?” I laugh at Kerr but I know he’s probably right. I’ll keep my hand on my pistol and move a short distance deeper into the station, looking out for trouble.

Games Master: Alright. I’m going to ask you to make a roll to see if you spot anything. Give me a moment. *He tots up the appropriate words and skills from a description of ‘something’ lurking in the station and rolls a dice, getting a four* OK, roll and tell me what you get. You need to beat seven (the roll, plus the opponent’s total).

Juliet: I’m paranoid, that’s usually a bad thing but I want to use it here. I also have a good eye and in our time off between missions I trained up in observation. So that gives me a total of three before I roll. If you’re OK with all of that?

Games Master: Sounds kosher to me.

Juliet: And I roll a five, giving me a total of eight. That beats seven.

Games Master: Distantly, behind the overgrown tangle that used to be the automatic gates, you briefly catch sight of a wild-haired, naked woman carrying a spear. Naked save for three strategically placed fig leaves that is. She ducks back down again, out of sight.

Juliet: What… the… hell… Kerr. Hurry up with what you’re doing. We might have more trouble.

And so the adventure continues…

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.

 

ImagiNation

Credits/Legal

Introduction

Welcome

Postmortem Studios

Piracy Plea

Roleplaying

ImagiNation

Depression & Creativity

The Description System

Terminology

Example Adventure

A Choose Your Own Adventure Introduction

The Disaster

The State of Play

Ex-Patriots

The Islands

The Blockade

Base Foxtrot

Lo-Bots

The Government

The Dream Trade

Reclaimers

The Monad

Dreams & Nightmares

Sleepers

Loci

You Have to be Crazy

Characters

Who are you?

Describe Yourself

What can you do?

What Have you Got?

What did you used to do?

Character Profiles

The Arts

Acting

Architecture

Dancing

Music

Painting & Drawing

Poetry

Singing

Writing

Chemical Imbalance

Anxiey

Delirium

Depression

Imposter Syndrome

Mania

Manic-Depression

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Phobia

Psychopathic

Schizophrenia

Sociopathic

Rules

Doing Things

Rolling Dice

Opposition & Assistance

Hurting Each Other

Experience

Playing Other Ways

The World Gone Mad

People

Places

Things

Playing the Game

What do we do?

Adventure Seeds

Campaigns

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?