Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Watch This Space

Finally got some time off work, a little summer vacation to catch up on all my projects.  The rest of this week is going to be interesting…

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Made my own DM screen

Whenever I ref a game, I have two requirements for a referee's screen: I like it to be landscape rather than portrait, so that I can actually see and reach over it; and I need lots of room for notes and maps (I like to use big maps).

So I generally wind up using two four-panel landscape screens (the sort that were published for 4th and 5th edition AD&D), or one of those four-panel screens in combination with a customizable three-panel screen with pockets on the inside for tables and the outside for artwork (published ostensibly for Savage Worlds, but useful for pretty much anything). Still, it gets kind of annoying always having to schlep two screens around, and I don't have any particular use for 4th or 5th edition rules tables.

So I finally took the plunge and made my own screen.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Now is the summer of my discontent.

Final exams are over. (They weren't nearly as difficult as I'd imagined. They never are, and yet I always manage to work myself up into a tizzy of stress and anxiety. Go fig.)

And so now I must begin the long, tedious process of a hardcopy proofreading of my books, red pencil in hand. Ah well, at least it's far pleasanter than proofreading on a computer screen.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Holy crap. I found GRID!!!

When I was a much younger gamer, I used a DOS program for hex maps. For the longest time, I couldn't even remember what it was called. But then I decided to go hunting around on the ancient archives of the web 1.0, and lo and behold, I found it:


…and it even works in DOSBox!

I am going to have some fun with this (once finals week is over…).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Got my proof copies in the mail today; good and bad

In broad strokes, the books look good. I still have to go through and read the physical copies, since that's always the best way to proofread and find typos. (Typos are mysterious that way. The only want to manifest themselves once the book is printed. They hide while they live in computer files.)

Some of the book's illustrations, though, did turn out looking kind of crap—a few are almost solid black on the page. I'm going to have to re-sample them, adjust for much higher brightness/contrast, and try again. Which means another 2–3 weeks before I can publish the print editions. Oh, well; them's the breaks.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Muchly of things to be happening now

A bunch of stuff all at once.
• My proof copies for E&E and Gaia finally shipped, supposedly to arrive next Monday (the 1st). Cool beans.
• Finally finished watching through MST3K season 11.  It was awesome, I can't recommend it enough, and I hope that they keep on making more of it forever and ever.
• That software I talked about having written for a final class project last post? I'm now using it to help fill in the setting for the next E&E campaign that I'm going to run, the Lenovia river-valley and the Bâlamont Bayou. Basically, think The Princess and the Frog (the Disney one) meets Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. D&D fantasy plus 19th century southern Americana. It'll be a real hootenanny.
• And, oh, hey, yeah, I'm finally graduating in two weeks. Ahem… w00t.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Stocking dungeons with Python (and I don't mean the 5 HD snake)

So this is fun... for my final project in my coding class, I've decided to write a suite of useful gamer tools in Python. I just finished the character generator last night, and now I'm working on a random dungeon-room content-generator. When all is said and done, I'll also hopefully have a working random wilderness (hex) map generator.

Lucky thing I just made up a page full of wilderness hexes to use for illustrating the E&E Core Rules, eh?  I'll bet that I could color 'em and have something pretty nifty here...

UPDATE: Well, it's after midnight (again...), but I managed to finish the whole project today. I now have a working character generator, dungeon-floor auto-stocker, and a random wilderness hex map generator.

And I can't stop playing with these little toys. So freaking cool... :D

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Holy crap, there's gonna be a new 'Alternity'

I mean, we all knew that a 2nd edition of 7th Sea came out, right?  That was kind of a big deal.  I haven't gotten the chance to check it out yet, but I really want to. I mean, come on, Théah was a pretty major source of inspiration for Gaia.

But I had no clue that Alternity was also getting a reboot!  I freaking loved Alternity back in high school!  For most grognards out there, Traveller is probably their main sci-fi RPG.  Or maybe the Star Frontiers purple box, for people who came to the hobby a little later, in the Moldvay/Cook/Mentzer era. But me, I'm a 90s kinda guy, and in the 90s, Alternity was where it was at.

The rules are complex, sure, but not ridiculously so. It's somewhere between AD&D 1e and d20 Future (or d20 Star Wars).  And, sure, these days I'd probably sooner go for White Star or Stars Without Number or even Retro Phaze for an actual set of rules to run a sci-fi game… but man, did Alternity ever have the right vibe. Like a gritty Mass Effect, it managed to feel both grounded/realistic and totally gonzo at the same time. Especially if you used the Star*Drive setting.

Man, I am gonna have to play me some of this…

Now I can finally watch some TV…

I'm sure I'll get around to revising Retro Phaze quickly enough. (After all, all I really want to do is tweak the classes to make fighters and rogues a little more playable.) But in the meanwhile, I've been working on E&E so long and so obsessively that I've forgotten about other fun things to do.

My wife watched through Iron Fist; I mostly half paid attention to it in the background. But I did really like the parts of it I saw, so I don't understand all the harsh criticism it's getting.  My wife also started playing through Mass Effect: Andromeda, whereas I haven't even been arsed to install a graphics card in my PC capable of running the game. (I have the card sitting on the table by the PC; I just haven't bothered plugging it in.)

I'm slowly but surely working my way through the new MST3K and loving every moment of it. It's freaking fantastic. And I'm sure that once that's done, I'll pick back up with season one of Star Trek: TNG. (I still can't believe I've never watched it all the way through.) But for today… today, I'm in the mood for some truly classic MST3K.

I think that today, I'm going to watch me some Pumaman.

"Hm… the Pew-may-mun." —Tom Servo

E&E Core Rules & World of Gaia are published

…as ebooks, anyway.  The print versions will, of course, go live after I have proof copies in hand.

Peace, all, and good night. (I mean good morning; good God, it's bloody 3 AM again—why does this keep happening?)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Whew. Okay. So that's done.

I decided to go ahead and cut the adventure out of the Gaia book and just make it more of a simple rehash of the original setting material. After all, the same reason I wanted to cut Gaia out of E&E (if I'm not playing in the setting, that part of the book is deadweight) applies to an adventure in a setting guide (if I'm not running the adventure, that part of the book is deadweight!).

That means, of course, that I'm essentially done with the 2nd book already:

World of Gaia Campaign Setting

And now I can worry about fixing Retro Phaze.  But maybe not until summer gets here. I'm exhausted.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"World of Gaia" is half done already

In revising Engines & Empires and turning it into its own standalone RPG, it just seemed like the right move to separate it out from the Gaia setting. As I mention in the introduction to E&E's new edition, I invented Gaia for the sake of a fantasy novel; it just happened to be the setting that was on my mind when I was originally writing E&E.

But Gaia wasn't even a steampunk setting to begin with. The whole point of Gaia, as originally conceived, was a fantasy world ruled by an absolutely ridiculous variety of non-human races, with lots of magic and no technology, and with no humans whatsoever. To make that work as a game setting, I had to advance the timeline by thousands of years, introducing the "Third and Fourth Ages" of Gaia's history, making invading humans commonplace; and to make it work as the setting for E&E, I had to bring the technology level up to something approximating Earth's 19th Century.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The New MST3K is Good. Like, Really Good.

I don't really know what else to say. MST3K: The Return, up on Netflix as of yesterday (I skipped class to binge the first two episodes) flawlessly inherits the original. It nails the tone, the style, the humor, everything. It brings back that warm fuzzy feeling you got watching the show back in the day.

The last couple of episodes of MST3K aired on the Sci-Fi Channel back in August/September of 1999.  I was fifteen.  And the thing is, I totally remember watching those episodes when they aired: Danger: Diabolik and Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders.  Two pretty memorable MST3K episodes in their own right.

Eighteen years later, here we are, and MST3K feels like it's managed not to miss a beat.

I'm seeing a few critics complain that the humor is a little too polished, too referential, and (above all) faster—more jokes coming at you a mile a minute.  And the difference is noticeable, sure; but I actually find that I like the faster pace. I always was a sucker for quick banter (Groucho Marx is one of my favorite comedians of all time), and the fact that the new show is full of "nerd culture" humor—D&D references, call-backs and easter-eggs that refer to the old show, etc.—just makes it appeal to me even more. I found myself just plain cracking up multiple times during the first couple of episodes, whereas old MST3K was usually more apt to induce the same soft chuckle used by Kevin Murphy as he voiced Tom Servo during the show.

Anyway: if you haven't yet, check out the new MST3K. It's comedy gold and pure B-movie awesome.

Friday, April 14, 2017

E&E Core Rules has a draft file!

Check it out right here.

Of course I'm still not going to publish a print version right away. I want to read it a few more times and make sure that there are no major errors. And I want to have at least finished the separate World of Gaia guide (if not the new edition of Retro Phaze too) before I go ordering proof copies.

But, hey, a year's work finally pretty much done.  How frakking nifty is that?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Speaking of Retro Phaze…

There will be Dragoons. There will be Summons. There will be Geomancers who call upon the Planet. And the Bards will Sing and Dance…

Friday, April 7, 2017

I'm just going to use this post to track my progress.

Here's everything that's left to be done on E&E 2e:

Proof & Kern Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Appendices A, B, C
Index Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Appendices A, B, C for general topics
Spell Effect Index for Chapters 3, 4
Monster Index for Chapter 5 parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX

And then I get started in on updating the World of Gaia into its own separate book (which will be much, much easier than completely reinventing Engines & Empires) and publishing a few little tweaks and updates to Retro Phaze (hardly any work at all).

* * *

Incidentally, I think I've solved the spell-sheet problem.  I just went and made a blank one.  That way, the players don't salivate over the names of the spells that they don't know yet but think they obviously and rightfully ought to have as soon as they reach the right experience level.  I'll have to see how that works out in actual play with a crop of new players sometime, though.

* * *

Mon 4/10: Small delay in proof-reading chapter 4. I discovered that I'd neglected to add a few obvious inventions to the lineup, which necessitated reformatting the whole chapter and shrinking an illustration. But now low-level techs have access to a Tranquilizer Gun, a Vacuum Pump, and Night-Vision Goggles.

Tue 4/11: The technology chapter is done. Hot damn, that shit is fun to play around with. I simply don't understand why (a) there are people who don't like steampunk as a genre and (b) why RPGs that actually have a complete system of mad science inventions on par with their magic systems are so bloody rare.

Wed 4/12: All right, that just leaves two monstrous sections to proofread: chapter 5 (monsters) and appendix B (magic items). Uff da.

Thu 4/13: Finally finished a complete proof-reading. And indexing… is going pretty quickly. Not actually as sucktastic as I thought it would be. Who knew?
So, once this is finished and I can actually compile all the Word files into a single PDF, I'll give them one more read-through (you always, always, always spot more typos after you make the PDFs) and go ahead and publish the ebook version. (The print version, of course, must wait for a proof copy before going public.)

Fri 4/14: Well now. That just leaves indexing the last chapter & appendices. I think I'll save it for morning. Super close to the end now.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

And that's that…

…the actual "content" of the book is now all done.  All that's left is proofreading, making sure all the text is properly kerned, and building the index (and OGL entries) as I go. All very mechanical and editorial.

If I'm quick and careful with this, I could be holding a proof copy of the new edition in my hands in two weeks or so.  Not fast enough to beat Easter (never mind new episodes of MST3K), but still fast enough to be here before the 3rd Omaha Dragon's Lair E&E Campaign begins.  (Which I will have to post about once I have some spoiler-free material that I don't mind my players stumbling onto.  This one is going to be different.  Think: fantasy 19th C. American bayou.)

Designing Character Sheets

You know it's weird, but somehow I knew that I would just greatly enjoy designing (you can't really call it "writing") Appendix C.  I've Tetris'd together 14 pages of collected tables from previously in the book. (Really, there is no excuse not to include such a thing in any OSR game, looking up tables is one of the few reasons to ever consult the rulebook in the first place, and you're going to want them all in one place.) And now, the final few pages of the book (not counting the index and the OGL) will consist of record sheets.

I need to design:
• A character sheet
• A spell sheet & an invention sheet (although these days I'm reluctant to use such things: they seem make mage and tech players feel entitled to learn new spells every bloody time they go back to town)
• A general "stuff tracking sheet" for referees: I always use one behind my DM screen with spaces for NPC and monster stats, XP/treasure found by the party so far, and mini time-trackers
• Full time-tracking sheets for turns in a day and days on the calendar

In other words, the stuff I can't do without when I ref a campaign.

So now I get to do graphic design.  This is gonna be baller.

The writing is done. The formalities remain.

Holy crap—all of the text in the complete Engines & Empires Core Rules has been drafted, at long, long, very long last.  All that remains is formatting, proofreading, and indexing.

This is a glorious day. Er, night. I mean, 3 in the morning.

Ugh. I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

So Close to Being Done

• Contents
• Preface
• Introduction
• Chapter One: The Player Character
• Chapter Two: Adventures and Battles
• Chapter Three: Magic
• Chapter Four; Technology
• Chapter Five: Monsters
· I · Abominations and Eldritch Horrors
· II · Animals, Beasts, and Vermin
· III · Constructs and Automata
· IV · Dragons, Chimeræ, and Magical Beasts
· V · Faes and Nature Spirits
· VI · Humanoids and Giants
· VII · Planar Spirits and Elementals
· VIII · Plants, Fungi, and Oozes
· IX · The Undead
• Chapter Six; Rules for the Referee
• Appendix A: Optional Rules
• Appendix B: Magical Items
· Potions
· Scrolls
· Ætherium Crystals
· Armor
· Orbs
· Rings
· Tomes
· Rods, Staffs, and Wands
· Swords and Other Weapons
· Miscellaneous Magic Items
• Appendix C: Collected Tables and Record Sheets
• Index
• then proofread the motherfucker

So… close… to… being… done…

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Drafting the Appendices

I've finished writing Appendix A, which includes the following optional rules:
• Epic Levels (human characters 11th to 14th and demi-humans 9th–10th).
• The original E&E tech class, and a Vancian mage to match
• E&E's old Achievement Points and Favored Weapons systems
• How to keep the old Five Saving Throws categories
• Putting special racial traits for demi-humans back into the game, and a kind of fate-point/bennie/inspiration system to back them up

Now I'm onto Appendix B, the random magic item tables, and this one… is going to take a while. It won't be anywhere near as time-consuming as monsters, but it's still a pile of material to work through.  The main source of tedium is formatting the d% tables and tweaking each item's frequency of appearance.  It's still legitimately interesting, though, to finally have the opportunity to craft my own magic item tables, and to put my own spin on a full item system like this.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Oh, hey, look: it's "don't use the internet" day.

When did April Fool's Day go from being about cute pranks you play on your friends, to being that one day where everybody seems to have agreed that popular websites and news outlets need to be rendered suspect to the point of uselessness?

This shit hasn't been funny since, like, 2003. Cut it out.

—Signed, a curmudgeonly stick-in-the-mud

Chapter 6 is finally wirtten

This was a fun one. Dungeon and wilderness design and advice for referees running campaigns. Very practical and engaging to write.  (My only beef: drawing the legend of dungeon symbols and wilderness hexes took a whole goddamned day.)

Now all I have left to do is mop up the three appendices (it's more editing already extant material than drafting anything new), index the book, and give it a final proofread for typos and kerning.

So it looks like my previous estimate was spot on: look for the Engines & Empires Core Rules to appear in print sometime in April!  (Of course I'll post the finished pdf right here before then.)

Once that's done, of course, I need to give Retro Phaze another minor little update (mostly just fixing the confusing dice notation), the World of Gaia setting that used to be a part of Engines & Empires is going to get its own book.  But, again, nothing really new there.

After that, I think I'll be ready to take a nice long break from working on RPGs again.  (But I'll get around to publishing the Shade Isle campaign and the dungeons of Shade Abbey eventually!)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Another update: things are moving fast now

With a few sample encounter tables built and chapters 1–5 all re-kerned and proof-read and referenced in the table of contents, it's finally time to turn my attention to drafting chapter 6.  It's a short, easy chapter—the "DM's Miscellany" typically found at the end of B/X type clones.  Advice for the referee, hints at how high level play should work, that sort of thing.

Then it's just the appendices and the index, and it's all done.  Holy crap.

I just have to kick myself back into "drafting rules text" mode.

Huh; I wonder how I go about doing that?

At long last. Work on chapter 6 (the last chapter) finally begins.

I have statted up all the monsters there are to be statted.  Here's the final tally:

33 abominations
172 animals (kill me.)
47 chimeras and magical beasts
42 constructs
29 fae spirits
44 humanoids and giants
27 planars and elementals
24 plants and oozes
16 undead

434 bloody monster entries in total.

Holy fucking shit.

I should just re-title this book "The Steampunk Monster Manual" and be done with it.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Undead: The Finalized List

I've finally begun to work on the last category of monsters to be found in the Engines & Empires Core Rules—the undead.  This doesn't quite finish off Chapter 5; I'll still need to mock up some encounter tables to truly put the last nail in this particular coffin-lid.  But at least I'm nearly done statting up individual monster-entries, at long, long last.

So, without further ado, here's what the last set of monsters to be added to the game will look like:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The finish line is in sight...

Okay, that puts the lid on planar spirits.  Now onto plants, fungi, and oozes.  This should be a nice, short, easy chapter.  (But bo-o-o-ring.)  Hopefully I'll be done with it by sometime tomorrow and onto the undead, at long last.  Undead are awesome.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Only three categories left…

Whew.  I've finally finished statting up all the faes and humanoids for the E&E Core Rules.  This was horrifically time-consuming.  I have to say that, while faeries are certainly interesting in principle, once you get down to the nitty-gritty of statting up individual monster entries, it becomes quite the repetitive slog.  "Oh, hey, look: another mischievous fae that doesn't grasp human morality or mortality, and, big surprise, it lives near water and probably turns into a horse for some reason(?), and it somehow uses that to try and drown people. which supposedly works because reasons; and, oh yeah, it doesn't like iron."

Writing about humanoids was at least fun, because they have cultures and differences—things worth writing about!  And it was pretty fun to suss out which ones would make good player characters and what their stats and classes ought to be.  (It really helps that my revised take on demi-humans is so clean and straightforward.)

So that just leaves Spirits, Plants, and the Undead.  Spirits (angels, demons, and elementals) is the only really long chapter I have left to write; plants and undead will breeze by in a day of writing each. In fact, since it's spring break now, I'm fairly certain that by the end of the week, I'll be done with monsters altogether and well on my way to finishing the last major chapter of the book (chapter 6, DMing rules and all the miscellaneous crap not yet covered—it's actually not that big of a chapter).

Meaning, I could just possibly have this baby ready to publish by sometime next month!  WOO-HOO!!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Some Fae on the Way

A couple of days ago, I finally finished my first once-over of the new E&E rule-book's "written-so-far" material.  It's going to need more proofing and editing yet, but in the meanwhile, I've caught back up to where I was before school got super busy last semester, and I've started writing again.

The list of fae creatures populating the next sub-chapter has been finalized.  This is going to be fun, but also time-consuming: fae are complicated, with lots of little details and a quirky variety of abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.

Honestly, I'm looking forward to just being done with this part and moving onto humanoids.  Humanoids have cultures, societies, cool shit to write about.  Humanoids are interesting.

Fae are fascinating, but too otherworldly I think to be truly interesting.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Black Sheep Sequels

Several months ago, I resolved to finally watch all the way through all of Star Trek, in chronological order.  I got through Enterprise (which I dearly love) and the original series (which had its ups and downs, but was mostly pretty awesome) and the animated series and the Motion Picture and Wrath of Khan (as good as everybody says it is) and Search for Spock (maybe my favorite Trek movie)… and just sort of ran out of gas before I could really get into The Voyage Home.

I'm sure I'll pick it up again soon, but in the meanwhile, I decided to break up my Trek time with a pure nostalgia kick: The Super Mario Bros. Super Show.  I was five when this show first aired… and to put into context just how strange it is that I loved this show so very much, my parents didn't allow my siblings and I to even own video games until I was at least twelve.  (If there needs to be some psychoanalytic reason as to why I've decided to collect every video game console ever, this would be it…)  But I really did love the Super Show, the Zelda cartoons on Friday, the live action segments with Captain Lou and Danny Wells—these guys basically were the Mario Brothers to the young me (and to millions of late 80s gamers too, I'm sure).

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Have you ever tried to change the font-size of a half-written book?

Oy vey, what a hassle.

When I'm writing a book, I generally like to draft and format at the same time.  That is to say, I don't just type up all the text and then try to make it pretty on the page; I use a word processor to template out what the printed book is going to look like, and then I draft the text while fitting it into that template.  This allows me to edit on the fly, make word-choices that aid in justifying and kerning the text, and make sure that I can fit paragraphs or illustrations within a given page-count.

But as I've been merrily typing along, drafting the text to the Engines & Empires Core Rules, I've noticed how long the book has been getting, and how large 10-point font (for text) or 9-point font (for spell and monster descriptions) has looked on the page, and thought more than once about shrinking everything down by a point.  Then, once my load of schoolwork lightened up this semester and I took the plunge back into working on E&E 2e, I decided to go for broke and try it—after all, going over the book would be a chance to both proofread and revise everything, and a good memory-refresher.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rethinking demi-human classes

So now that I'm on my last semester as a physics undergrad (and it's an easy one, thank goodness: I made sure to knock out of my labs, projects, and physics classes last semester, and all that's left for me to mop up on this last go-around are the math classes I need to pick up my mathematics minor), I've actually found myself with a bit of time to get back into working on E&E 2nd edition again.

Before I got back into the nitty-gritty of drafting chapter 5 and all those monster stats, though, I thought that this might be a good time to go back over chapters 1–4 with fresh eyes and proofread, revise, and edit.  Some sections needed it badly; others, not so much.  But one of the big actual changes I wound up making to the rules was to implement yet a new take on how demi-humans work.