RPG Creations and Musings.

Posts tagged ‘Age of Arthur’

What have I been doing?

 

Gosh, it’s been ages since I posted a new blog entry. I hadn’t meant to let it go so long. So if I haven’t been writing here, what have I been doing? Well, here’s a quick run-down, at least as far as it relates to RPGs.

Seven Hills

I teamed up with my faithful comrade in arms Graham Spearing to organise a new RPG convention, Seven Hills. It was my first time organising such a thing. Seven Hills 2014 was a fairly small affair with about 40 people attending. The atmosphere was wonderful, and thoroughly relaxed. It was focused with a science fiction theme. I played in three games (a Savage Worlds space opera, a game in the new River of Heaven setting, and a game of Eclipse Phase) and ran two (a game of Wordplay in my own Starfall setting, and a game in the Transhuman Space setting, but powered by Fate Core), and thoroughly enjoyed them all.

It was two months ago now, so it’s probably a bit too late for post convention analysis, but I’m looking forward to us organising 2015, which has the theme of Steel.

Playing Games

Besides games at Seven Hills, I’m playing and running other things now. I’ve recently fallen a bit in love with 13th Age, which I’ve decided is <i>my</i> D&D. I’m using it to run a game of an old love, which I thought I’d never return to, namely the Planescape setting. I might post more about the campaign later on, but for now I’ll say that it’s wonderfully straightforward to run, with enough tools to keep it interesting.

I’ve just started playing in a game of Esoterrorists. It’s smooth and subtle so far (we’re only one session in), with notes of creepiness just starting to build. I do like the Esoterrorists premise, and do like the Gumshoe system. I’m keen to find out what happens next.

Finally I’m involved with a fun play by post game, namely De Profundis. By play by post, I mean it literally- we’re sending hand written letters to each-other. The game is set in 1893, and plays with notes of Lovecraftian horror. This is by it’s nature a slow mover, but now it’s getting really interesting.

Writing

I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing, just not on this blog. Let me give you a list.

  • My OpenQuest setting with Simon Bray, Crucible of the Dragons (formerly known as Here Be Dragons) came out earlier this year.
  • I’ve finished an expanded draft of my Starfall setting. It’s a 1950s alien invasion setting for Wordplay, intended to play more at the hardish SF rather than pulpy end of the scale.
  • I’ve finished significant revisions to Ninth Legion for Reign. This is starting to sing.
  • I’ve added a scenario to a revised version of Blood of the Gods, which is now out there in the wild.
  • I’ve literally just now finished the first draft of a scenario pack for Age of Arthur.

I’ve also written or am writing a couple of other things for publishers who haven’t announced them yet, so I won’t do it here. So there’s been lots keeping me busy.

 

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Furnace!

Another year, another visit to the Furnace RPG convention. My (gulp) seventh one. That makes me feel old. It also marks over six years I’ve been living in Sheffield. I’m quite the northerner these days.

I also feel I know a good many people at Furnace, though most I didn’t manage to speak to for more than a couple of minutes, and a few I somehow missed entirely. But what about the games, eh? Well, here’s my “report”.

It’s also a lightly altered post from what I’ve written on a couple of forums. If you know what I wrote there, you won’t find much new here.

Slot 1: Hammer to Fall (Age of Arthur, run by yours truly)
To start off, I ran my own game. And it went well. Actually, really well. I’m still really pleased with how this went. Lots of action, lots of roleplaying, and a nail-bitingly close finish, with excellent players. Seriously, everyone was good. Though I did have to be stopped at the start and asked to explain a bit about the setting. Oh, yes, whoops!

One final observation- when I’m running it, Fate-type games seem to sing with four players, but get a bit bogged down sometimes with five. This one had four players; Bulldogs! (later on) had five.

Slot 2: Dead Man’s Bluff (Dogs in the Vineyard, run by Mik Reed)
This is one I’ve been wanting to try for a while- one of the early “indie” games, where the PCs are God’s watchdogs  in a place loosely based on the Wild West.  The player characters are pretty powerful, both mechanically, and in terms of power they have in the setting.

What can I say? Everyone involved got really into this. The GM was enthusiastic, and we all got truly stuck in to our characters.  The conflict system, while complex, leads to role playing and hard decisions (essentially, “I can win if I escalate this conflict, but do I really want to win an argument by turning it into a fight?”).

We overran, but it didn’t matter. My character died at the end, which felt quite appropriate. It’s a game I could now see myself running with the right group.  It would need the right group though.  Still, I had a blast.

Slot 3: The Pain of War Does Not Exceed the Woeful Aftermath (Savage Worlds, run by me)
Due to circumstances beyond my control, this was my first go at running Savage Worlds, though I’ve played it before. I’d intended to give this a playtest, and if I had, it would have been improved.

What was it then? Well, World War 2, plus zombies. It was pretty bonkers. I think the players mostly had a good time. Where a playtest would have helped is that I’d have anticipated the swinginess of Savage Worlds better from a GM’s perspective, and maybe not killed a PC in the first 30 minutes with a huge exploding damage roll. Thanks to everyone else for carrying on afterwards and getting into the swing of it.  It was a fun mad session.

Slot 4: Something in the Air (Bulldogs!, run by, yes, me again)
More Fate from me, this time in the form of space opera and lots of different humanoid (and occasional less humanoid) aliens. And the different alien species in Bulldogs! are very cool indeed, which is why I wanted to run the game. And I fancied some space opera.

The game went reasonably (not my best, not my worst), though at the start a big long bar fight got rather bogged down, meaning the end got rather rushed. I hadn’t particularly planned the end, leaving it open for the party to decide, which made the game more interesting for me. One thing I’ve learnt from this is that starting (or more or less starting) with a big action scene isn’t always the best idea.

I want to give Bulldogs! another try at a con, probably with the same characters, though maybe cut down to four players.

Slot 5: Something Rotten in Port Sumac (Mouseguard, run by Guy Milner)
Yay! I managed to sign up to a game of Mouseguard. A structured narrative game.  Yay! It was good. I do like the structured GM/player turn thing (for the record, for old hands at Mouseguard, we got through 3 GM and 2 player turns), and the more involved conflict subgame worked well with the cards and stuff. Everyone got stuck in to the narrative, which of course is what made it work.

I now have an idea in my head for my ideal narrative game, arising from cross-breeding this with Duty and Honour. I digress. I enjoyed this. I enjoyed everyone I played it with. This and all the other games.

Final Thoughts

I had a good time, both running and playing games.  I’m actually energised by the convention rather than drained.  I won a prize in the raffle.  I hadn’t mentioned that, but ’twas good.  I’ve already got some ideas for convention games I fancy running…more Bulldogs!  1960s Night’s Black Agents.  My Ninth Legion Romans in an otherworld game.   A 1950s Alien Invasion.  A 1970s scenario involving the sudden appearance of superpowers and a rock concert?

My Writing Business (Part 3)

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In this blog post I want to talk about my one self-published project, Age of Arthur. I say self-published, but for this one I had a coauthor. We both fell for the Fate system, and after a game of Diaspora we played together in (well, technically, I ran it and Graham Spearing was one of the players, but you know what I mean), we both had an urge to write a Fate-based game.

We had similar likes and dislikes for what would work, so we started working together. Then Graham had the idea for an Arthurian setting with a more dark ages feel than Pendragon (we both loved Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles trilogy), and I did lots of research, our friend Andy Sangar put together an Arthurian timeline, and we both did lots of writing. I don’t want to write about the writing and research process, interesting though it was at the time. I want to write about the extra stuff that was involved aside from just writing the thing involved in bringing the game to print.

At various stages in the draft, we each ran a few one-shots using the system, including one that became the scenario in the main book. I also ran a campaign, which let me see for the first time how other people reacted to character generation. I didn’t change the rules during play- that sort of thing tends to derail games, but I did get lots of ideas for tweaks afterwards.

When the tweaks were made, we did some serious self-editing, before contacting an artist, Jason Behnke and map maker, Steff Worthington. Steff came up with a lovely map of dark ages Britain, and, with his friend Genevieve Fournier, gave us some handy feedback on the Gazetteer, which was duly incorporated. And Jason’s art when it came was absolutely beautiful, going a long way to defining the look of the book. It was the quality of the art that led to the decision to make a full colour version available. The art consists of a covers and a full page spread in between each chapter.

We then asked for playtesters (thanks to our lead playtesters, Neil Gow of Omnihedron Games, and Ben Quant), Graham set up a website, and I started promoting by chatting about the game on forums. I started a thread on the ads/promos section of rpg.net, which I seeded with occasional updates, and UK Role Players was good enough to host a forum for the game. Graham set up a page on Google+. This all generated some initial interest which was good.

The playtest feedback was appropriate robust, with comments pointing out that some rules were just plain not working or broken. Others were unclearly written. So we made more changes- that’s what playtesting is for. In particular, Neil really helped us tighten things up.

Then we were nearly done, right? Ha ha ha ha ha. More self-editing. Then an external editor. Mitch Williams volounteered for this noble task, and he helped us clarify many more points in the text where the rules were unclear, and what I thought was a surprising number of little typos and grammatical mistakes. This surprised me- we’d self-edited, and I thought I wrote good anyway. It was embarrassing to find that there were places where I’d done things such as writing “viscous” instead of “vicious”. He’s someone else who went well beyond the call of duty in helping us out.

Oh, and layout. We’d had various ideas, but over time I came to realise I wanted to do layout myself. I knew what I wanted in terms of hyperlinks, bookmarks and index, and I knew that I didn’t trust anyone else to do the job. Lots of work in life is made with that philosophy. Incidentally, by the time I’d started the layout, the initial date I’d mentioned for release of the game had already passed. Whee! There’s a moral there.

So, more layout, which was a fiddly technical job, and more comments from the editor, with bonus layout glitches to spot. More posts on forums as we started getting the lovely finalised art pieces. I also set up a Facebook page to show a bit more off. More interest from people, with a hint of impatience. More helpful advice from Tim Gray of Silver Branch Games, and Neil Gow. Eventually, six months after the initial planned release, the PDF was ready to go. I uploaded it to Drivethrurpg to test it out, and a few hours later realised it was actually on the front page, had generated some interest and sales, and was out there in the world.

We’d done one other thing I thought was rather clever at the time, promising a discount equal to the value of the PDF to any early adopters for the print version when it came out. More on that later. Ah, print. That took another couple of months to sort out. Why? Well, the first few attempts at uploading a print file were turned down- my margins were wrong. Then we got the first proof back, and there were two problems.

The first problem was an example of my ridiculous stupidity- the covers were the wrong way round. The front cover was on the back, and the back on the front. Remember when I said I wouldn’t trust anyone else with the layout? That seemed laughable. The other, worse, problem was that we’d used the printer’s standard colour for the physical book. For what we wanted, standard colour wasn’t good enough. Pages didn’t bleed to the edges, leaving white margins, and worse, the beautiful artwork, which is rather rich and varied in colour, had all life leeched out of it. The book did not look good.

This led to the decision to bring the book out in premium colour, but premium colour is rather expensive, so we did a cheaper black and white version. After a couple of comments, we also decided to go for both hardback and softback options. I hadn’t initially planned hardback, but I’m really glad we went for it in the end.

In the first black and white proof, the tone was out on one of the pictures, but the second proof was fine. Wahey, a book for release! As for the premium colour, the first proof looked breathtaking gorgeous, with a lovely hardback cover, and high quality paper, but the margins were out, leaving white space. Fortunately, the second proof was as we wanted it- and the thicker pages made it look soooo much better than the standard colour version. I was able to wrap up the second proof and take it to Graham Spearing’s birthday party- it had arrived the day before.

So the physical books were released, and discount codes were sent to those who’d bought the PDF. Our travails were, unfortunately, still not over- not every PDF buyer had received the codes. Plenty had settings on Drivethrurpg blocking e-mails from publishers. Incidentally, logging into Drivethrurpg through Facebook sets up such a block automatically. Fortunately, that was solvable by a quick e-mail with the codes for those who got in touch.

I hope I’ll make fewer mistakes next time I self-publish something. I haven’t even catalogued every single error made. I’m glad I did the self-publishing thing. It was hard work. I wouldn’t have managed if it hadn’t been a joint endeavour with Graham, and we hadn’t had advice and help from those mentioned here.

One day I’ll self-publish another project. But not yet!