Metatopia 2014 Recap: Part 4, Hyperreality

Hyperreality is a bonkers, gonzo game of reality game show parody. Tim Rodriguez, of Brooklyn Indie Games and Dice + Food + Lodging, ran a play test session for Adrian Stein, Quinn Murphy, Fred Hicks, Julia Ellingboe, and me. If Spın̈al Tap turns it up to eleven, Hyperreality goes to thirteen.  Continue reading

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Metatopia 2014 Recap: Part 3, By the Book

The one game I preregistered for at Metatopia was Mark Diaz Truman’s By the Book, a Powered by the Apocalypse game of straight cops in a dirty city with a budding vigilante/superhero loose on the streets. The major influence here is Gotham Central, a comic book focusing on the detectives of Gotham City. Of course, it’s easy to see parallels with the new TV show Gotham, which is similarly inspired by Gotham Central.

My fellow players were Joe Zantek, Rachel E.S. Walton, and Misha Bushyager. Mark was the GM for the sessions. Yes, plural. Mark wanted to get two sessions of the game in to see how a second session goes. We played Friday afternoon and again the next morning. Both sessions were three hour slots. Continue reading

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Metatopia 2014 Recap: Part 1, Friday Panels

Metatopia has a surprisingly robust panel track because of its strict focus on game design, development, and play testing. When I sat down to arrange my schedule, I found myself filling in something for every hour of every day. The panels were that good. Given that I only played in four short sessions of RPGs, there were a lot of panels I attended.  Continue reading

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Things Don’t Go Smooth

The first non-adventure supplement for the Firefly RPG has gone live on DriveThru. It’s called Things Don’t Go Smooth.



Much like with the Firefly RPG Corebook, I wrote the new Distinctions appearing in this book. Some of them get pretty far out there. Check out Bai Yin’s Distinctions on pg. 81 for really creepy stuff. The story of Bai Yin is a futuristic ghost story, something spacers tell to scare each other out in the black. She’s a young woman who simply appears on a ship. Rumor has it she never means anyone harm and always offers to trade secrets. People who deal with her plain swear she can speak with the dead. Those who cross her inevitably come to some terrible end. No one ever sees her twice.

I also wrote up the character sheets for the major GMCs. These get pretty weird, too. Program 741 (pg. 69) is a sentient computer virus that tries to hunt down Browncoats and wreck their ships. It has almost no physical or social ability but, wow, will it tear you up in pure intellectual challenges. There’s also an honest to goodness pirate queen in there, Tessa Barbossa (pg. 49).

Lastly, there’s an FAQ in this book! And I wrote it! It was a bit of a technical writing exercise and I had to sludge my way through all the internet forums I could find talking about Firefly. But it was worth it. I think it answers a lot of questions and can be very valuable to the players.

Things Don’t Go Smooth was a great book to work on and it let me branch out from just writing character Distinctions. I’m really happy to see it is now available for purchase and hope you all like it.

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Babylon 5 Remix

The Three Rocketeers has many influences, something I call out specifically in the design document with a movie night, TV binge, and reading list of inspirations and genre defining works. One of those influences is Babylon 5, the “novel for television” created and helmed by J. Michael Straczynski. I put it there because The Three Rocketeers is my attempt to mash together the grand romance of swashbuckling France and the immense, starhopping majesty of space opera. B5 is most definitely space opera. I began revisiting the series a few weeks ago as I look at what I like in space opera and what I can bring to the table.

cob5logo Continue reading

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On Growing Up

Today is a big day for my family. Mom and Dad close the deal to sell their home and buy a bed and breakfast. They move in to the B&B today and they have guests this weekend so their stuff will follow on Monday. This is something they’ve talked about for years and now their dream is coming true. I’m happy for them but I also find myself sad and nostalgic. Their adventure comes at the cost of my childhood home.   Continue reading

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It Must be Fate

Earlier this year the fine folks at Evil Hat Productions put out an open call for freelance writers interested in working on Fate products. Writers wanting to try out were asked to complete a writing sample that had four challenges. The people at Evil Hat reviewed them and invited those who passed to join the stable of writers.

I took the challenge and, after a round of revisions, found out yesterday that I passed. Getting that email was incredible and has added to the list of things that are going my way creatively lately.

Today I want to tell the story of my submission. But it’s not the story with the happy ending above. You see, I almost didn’t send in my writing sample. I almost didn’t even write it.

It would have been easier for me just to let it slide. Hours of work and hammering away at the keyboard would simply have never happened. I wouldn’t have spent two days worrying about my initial submission and going over every word. Fear and anxiety wouldn’t have dominated my life for a week. My wife and I could have gone to dinner one of those nights instead of me typing my way through an anxiety attack.

Screwing up the courage to submit my application was a harder, longer process than actually writing it. I worry a lot about failure, even though I’ve rarely failed when I put my mind to something. My armchair analysis of this is that I don’t really feel like I’ve earned many things; I tend to float to the top in organizations and, honestly, kind of feel like I’ve been failing forward much of my adult life.

The Evil Hat writer search was an opportunity for me to succeed or fail on my own merits. And that scared the shit out of me. It still does, actually. But one thing I have learned is that if I let my fear of failure prevent me from doing something it will turn into a life long regret. That anxiety I feel? That’s temporary. Knowing that I never even tried will eat at me forever. I know this from sad experience.

And failing? That would be fine, I tell myself. I’m still a young pup when it comes to freelancing and writing professionally. Evil Hat is a company with high standards, which is one of the reasons I like them as a publisher. There is no shame in not meeting those standards coming off your first project in the industry.

The writer’s search was open for six or eight weeks. I downloaded the info the first day. I submitted my application two days before the deadline. I only started writing the day before that.

My fear almost won. It made a good race of it to the end.

Thankfully, (I guess?) I’m as prone to drunken bravado as any other young person. There’s a monthly get together in Chicago called CAGWIC (Chicago Area Game Writers I??? Colloquium; I’ve never been given a straight answer on what the I stands for). I was invited to join once I started writing for Firefly. At CAGWIC four days before the deadline, all the writers were discussing the Evil Hat search over several pitchers of beer. We talked about the challenges and ideas we had. A friend I respect quite a lot as a writer mentioned he’d already been rejected. I said that I hadn’t written my application yet but thought I could do a pretty good one. The next day, with just three days to go, I started writing my application because I wasn’t about to mouth off in front of Kenneth Hite and not follow through.

Speak words to power even in pride, I suppose.

My point with this whole story is that creation isn’t easy. Putting yourself out there is hard. Taking a chance and risking failure is scary. But sometime last year I decided to not let fear dictate the course of my life. And things have only gotten better. That’s not to say I am better. I’m still anxious and fearful and a bundle of neuroses but I’m getting work in the games industry and that’s better than being an anxious, fearful, bundle of neuroses that isn’t getting work.

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Star Wars Review – Fantasy Flight Games

We now have access to all three Star Wars RPGs from Fantasy Flight Games – Edge of the Empire (Edge), Age of Rebellion (Age), and Force & Destiny (F&D). All are set in the time period of the original trilogy and explore characters during the struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. For the most part, characters are intended to be anti-Imperial heroes fighting against a tyrannical regime. Continue reading

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