A Walk in the Dark A look in to the mind of an RPG designer


25Jul/21

Everything Is Better With Tentacles – Planning

Several months ago, this happened...

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At the time I considered it kind of a joke response, but then I thought about it... I mean, let's face it: if I saw a title on DTRPG or the DM's Guild with the title Everything Is Better With Tentacles, I and many others would probably buy it on the spot, sight unseen. So I got to thinking... why not make this an actual product?

So I began the project...

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Thing is, well, it's a little more complicated than that...

Executive Dysfunction

For almost two years now I've been complaining about my battle with a massive amount of Writer's Block. I'm late on my last Kickstarter and haven't written a whole lot in the last two years, presumably because of that. But then I realized... I don't have Writer's Block, I have something else.

The way I see it, Writer's Block is when you are willing to write, are able to write, but cant put words to paper. You don't know what to say or how to say it.

I, however, *know* precisely what I want to write... what I lack is means and opportunity.

My life is chaos right now, spending the majority of it working my ass of, tending to personal and family needs, and just trying to survive day to day life. So when I do have time away from that, time I could theoretically use to write, I lack the willpower to do so. When I get a break from the chaos, all I can think to do is nothing at all. The chaos is so draining - physically, mentally, emotionally - that I become a useless shell of myself, incapable of taking action to do the non-chaotic things I'd like to do that bring me joy. The easy solution is to mitigate the chaos perhaps, but that's unlikely to happen soon. So I wallow in inaction, and get depressed because of it.

Apparently there's a term for this, or at least something similar to what I'm describing... Executive Dysfunction.

What I feel I need is a breakthrough, accomplishing something that will inspire me to do more, but that accomplishment needs to be within the bounds of what I'm capable of right now. Maybe that will spark change?

Chicken or the Egg

At the same time I was having these thoughts, I had another problem: I have several projects that are nearly done, but they are devoid of art. And, to me, one of the hardest things to do in anything I publish is to not only decide what the cover should be, but tell the artist "this is what I want" in such a way that they can actually do that.

Many say "just use stock art!" ... That's easier said than done, I think. DTRPG and the DM's Guild are full of stock art you can use for your adventures - for example, I've been dying to use some of Dean Spencer's Art, which is amazingly cool and very well priced - but I could never find matching art. You see, I'd written an adventure already; I know what it is. It is very unlikely to find stock art that comfortably matches something I've conceived out of thin air.

But then I thought... why does the adventure have to come first?

I decided to plan for an experiment: get the art FIRST, then build the adventure around that art. This way, there is no doubt the art would match. Let's face it... look through Dean Spencer's Art and tell you can't think of a half dozen adventure concepts for each major piece of art he has on his site.

There would be some dialog back and forth between author and writer so everyone's on the same page, but the goal is that no words are written before the art is settled. So when the writer gets chosen, he already has an image that defines one aspect of the adventure he's meant to write. I can imagine that to be a little challenging, but it sounds like the sort of thing I would like to do personally.

Bring Forth the Tentacles

So, all that being said, I have begun to formulate plans for my next major project: Everything Is Better With Tentacles.

  • The compendium would have 8-or-so one shot adventures somehow involving tentacles. PG-rated, of course... I know how some people's minds go to a certain place when the topic of tentacles comes up. And I don't want 8 adventures involving illithids; we can all be more creative than that, I hope.
  • Rather than me trying to create the project from nothing, I'll make it a collaborative project with multiple authors and writers.
  • ART WOULD COME FIRST. I would commission eight pieces of art, full page images that could be considered the cover art for each one shot adventure. This gives the artists the most artistic license, and lets them decide what they would like to see in the adventure.
  • Then, once the art is complete, the writers would write their adventure based on the art they are given. They still have some degree of artistic license in the adventure, but they have a point of reference, and they are guaranteed that whatever they write will match the full page art that goes with it because that's how it's designed.
  • I'm not sure if this will be Kickstarted or not... Because of the up front art demand, there may not be any other way to do it. So it will likely have to be released through the OGL on DTRPG, but I'd like to keep the DM's Guild option open because that is the bigger market. Of course the method chosen would impact the payment to authors and writers (profit share vs per word/piece pricing); still need to figure that out.

So does this sound like a feasible thing to do?

I'm still mulling over the idea, but it's something I might try. If so, in the near future I'll likely put up forms to see who out there might actually be interested in this endeavor.

In the mean time, let's see if I can do something about this dysfunction...

26Jan/20Off

Hey, GenCon People… Please Read This

I know I haven't posted in a while, and I'd certainly like to change that, but this isn't that sort of thing right now. This post is intended to you people who are going through the GenCon 2020 press applications and are analyzing them for their worth. Since you have no way of me providing additional color commentary on application, I have to resort to this nonsense.

You see, I also applied for a press pass to GenCon 2019, at a time when I posted more often (comparatively speaking, anyway), and I was declined a press badge because I didn't post about GenCon 2018 the year prior. Normally, I'd be OK with that excuse, except for one thing... I didn't go to GenCon 2018. Unless you want me to start making up news posts about an event I did not attend, that's going to make it rather hard for me - or anyone - to ever get a press pass.

So I'm applying again this year. Do I deserve it? Given the frequency of posts here, probably not... but I'd accept things if that was the reason. Denying me because I didn't post about an event I didn't attend is... well... crap.

So the way I see it, there are a few ways this will go.

  1. You will accept my press pass application for GenCon 2020. Unlikely? Probably. But it would be nice.
  2. You will decline my press pass for a reason that is NOT "you didn't post about GenCon 2019", and I would be fairly OK with that.
  3. You will decline my press pass for the same reason as last year, which is... as I stated earlier... crap. News flash, in case you haven't figured it out: I did not attend GenCon 2019.

I may not post here much, but I'd like to. What I do have is a rather large following on Twitter that I will most certainly interact with quite often, and if given the opportunity I will likely use that venue to exercise everything that is expected of a press pass holder.

If you choose option 2, which - honestly - is what I am expecting you to choose, I expect the reason for my denial to be plausible. "You're not a news site" ... OK, I accept that. "We don't like you" ... Honestly, I'd be OK with that too. But if your reason is "You didn't post last year", that falls under the purview of option 3...

So the ball's in your court now. I can't ask you to do the right thing because we have different impressions of what the "right thing" would be in this case (to me, option 1 above is the "right thing"; your opinion may differ).

What I *can* ask you to do is to NOT do the WRONG thing.

Thank you for your attention.

13Aug/19Off

A New Beginning

It's been eight months since I post here... better now than never.

Over the past week I've been thinking a lot, specifically about Atomic Age.

In case you don't know, Atomic Age is my post-apocalyptic treatment of the Archmage Engine, which powers 13th Age. It came to be because I wanted Gamma World, and I wasn't allowed to create Gamma World content for fear that WotC would sue me into non-existence (they had threatened to do so already). But, during its development, it became something different... It's still post-apocalyptic, but not as zany and off the wall as Gamma World is known to be. I think of it as somewhat of a cross between Gamma World, Mad Max and what the future would be like in a Terminator film that didn't time travel.

But here's the thing... when you choose a system to develop your campaign setting around, most of the time you're stuck with the nuances of that system. The Archmage Engine is a great system, don't get me wrong, but there are some aspects of it that didn't feel right or I couldn't get to work with what I wanted to do. For example, how would mutations work in a 13th Age system? What about radiation poisoning? And there are some thing that came with it that I didn't want at all... like magic item "quirks", which are good by design in a fantasy game like 13th Age but just don't fit in my campaign setting.

Since I wrote most of Atomic Age, Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition made its appearance and the landscape changed. As is the case with the Archmage Engine, I have some issued with 5E in that, although it does some things really well, other things not so much. For example, creating monsters and encounters in 13th Age is stupid easy... in 5E, not so much. And 5E doesn't even come close to the background/icon system that Archmage provides.

So I had a crazy idea... why bind myself to a single system? DMs do it all the time... cherry pick bits and pieces from multiple systems, campaign settings, and other source material and create a virtual Frankenstein's Monster of an RPG system to use in their homebrew campaigns. Only I want to take that Monster and publish it.

So I decided to try and write my own RPG system, picking and choosing the features that I want from multiple systems and melding it all into one amorphous blob that will power Atomic Age.

I'm insane, aren't I? Seriously, I have no idea how this is going to go... mainly because it's a daunting task and I'm not exactly sure I know what I'm doing in this regard.

But I can't do it alone.

So I've done something crazy: I've reworked my Patreon to be aimed specifically towards the creation of this new engine. And I'm going to do something even crazier: try to stick to a regular schedule in which I dicuss what this engine is going to be, which means this blog will hopefully see activity it hasn't seen in ages.

Will this become a reality? Who knows... but I have to try. A lot of work has been done for the Archmage Engine version of Atomic Age, but I don't see that ever being cobbled together in such a way that I will be happy with all aspects of it. Hopefully, this way I will actually be happy with it because it'll be wrapped around something I myself put together for the specific purpose of powering the campaign setting.

I hope you all will join me on this crazy ride. My Patreon is open to your support! If you sign up now, you will get my latest published adventure, Witness Protection, absolutely free!

Ever forward...

1Jan/19Off

A New Year

Holy hell, has it really been ten months since I've posted on this site? I gotta start remembering this thing exists.

BIG EXPLOSIONS!!!

Well it has finally come and gone... 2018 has been the longest decade in my life, and I think I can say the same for many of you out there.

Looking Back

There have been a few people posting about what their highlights for the past year were. Well, here are mine:

  • Published Festival of Magic on the DM's Guild, which - in comparison to everything I've published - is one of my personal favorites.
  • Funded the Kickstarter for the 5th Edition conversion of A Night in Seyvoth Manor, and delivered the product before Halloween. It has since become my one and only "Copper seller" on DriveThruRPG.
  • Had my craptastic Bahamut, The Platinum Dragon - which is literally nothing but a stat block, a shoddy one at that, and contains no lore or art - become a "Copper seller" on the DM's Guild. I mention this only because, so far, it is the only Copper product I've done on my own in the DMG.
  • Collaborated on Storm King's Barrows: Tombs and Crypts of the North, which has since become a "Silver seller" on the DM's Guild. Not my best work, but arguably my most revenue-producing thing all year.
  • Released The Absent-Minded Alchemist, which was a bit of a "meh" product to start but was easy to convert from 4E.
  • Funded another Kickstarter for my social adventure Uninvited Guests, which has since been renamed to Party Crashers. This Kickstarter was a "proof of concept" - to see if I can do quick and dirty one-offs with a low funding goal - and it worked, so expect me to do more of this in the coming year.
  • Launched a Patreon! And the TWO backers I have so far are getting lonely, so...

That's pretty much it. It's not a lot... At a personal level, 2018 has been somewhat difficult in terms of my home life and my financial situation, and those situations are, by nature, not conducive to creativity, so I've been in a bit of a rut. But, all in all, it went better than 2017 in some regards, so there's that.

Looking Forward

So what does 2019 have in store? Honestly, I don't know yet... But here are some goals.

  • Finish Uninvited Guests Party Crashers in the near future.
  • Do several more Kickstarters like
    Uninvited Guests Party Crashers over the course of the year.
  • See what the hell I'm finally going to do with the complete The Coming Dark campaign as well as Atomic Age. There's a lot to be done on those, and I question whether the effort is worth it right now.
  • Cater to my Patreon backers more, in that I'll be creating more "behind the scenes" posts and videos (maybe). In the meantime, hope to get more than... well... two... Patreon backers.
  • Hopefully set up a regular game with... somebody...
  • Maybe go to GenCon. I don't know yet... I need to see if the expense really is worth it.
  • Sort out my personal and financial situations so that I can do this kind of stuff more readily and with less guilt.

If you're reading this, you're one of the reasons I press on. Thank you for your support, and I hope to show you a lot more cool things in 2019.

Ever forward.

27Jan/18Off

Zoinks!

"A Night in Seyvoth Manor" for 5E

In case you are not aware, we're running a Kickstarter for the 5th Edition conversion of our ENnie-nominated adventure A Night in Seyvoth Manor that is already 300% funded!

We continue to be overwhelmed... Over 300% funded?!? Never imagined we would get that far, and we're eternally grateful for that!

The only stretch goal we've had so far is the creation of pre-generated characters, and we had a bit of a crazy idea with that that we're wondering if we can make it work: create two groups of characters...

  1. The original Scooby Gang - Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby
  2. The "new" Scooby Gang from Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles and Cordelia

This of course brought up some questions... like what would the races and classes be? So far this is what we've come up with:

ORIGINAL Scooby Gang:

Fred: Human Paladin

Daphne: Elven rogue

Velma: Lore-heavy mage, either a halfling or a gnome

Shaggy and Scooby: ... Oh boy... Let me come back to this one later.

NEW Scooby Gang:

Buffy: Human monk

Willow: Half-elf warlock

Xander: Halfling bard

Giles: Elf or maybe human... and I'm debating either a cleric or a lore-heavy mage

Cordelia: Human or elf, sorceress (wild magic), heavy on Charisma

Now, let's get back to Shaggy and Scooby... Neither of these are "characters" in the D&D sense of the world, so we'll have to take some liberties. I've asked this question on Twitter and I've come up with two possibilities:

Shaggy and Scooby are the SAME CHARACTER: As above, Shaggy is a Druid with wild-shape that can only convert to one type of animal... a Great Dane (we can go with the Mastiff stat block).

Scooby is the main character, and Shaggy is the animal companion: Let's face it... Shaggy is not worthy of being a PC, and if anything he's Scooby's sidekick. So make Scooby a class capable of either an animal companion (ranger?) or a familiar (mage?), and make Shaggy that semi-useless familiar.

Personally I'm leaning towards the first option, but that introduces another problem: there are only four characters, when we kinda need five. So who should the fifth character be? None other than Scrappy as, you guessed it, a gnome barbarian!

So, since we've gotten this far without mentioning stretch goals, I'm going to see about stylizing these character sheets as best I can and including a portrait for each character by the lovely and talented Val "Kick Girl" Hochberg! We're also going to see about working them in to a cover in such a way that doesn't get us sued by Hanna-Barbara.

We've considered creating other types of characters, some that are more down to Earth and fitting the theme like Van Helsing, Blade, etc... but the above somehow feels most appropriate.

Anwyay... We keep trudging foward! Five days left! Tell your friends!