Friday, July 13, 2012

2012 status report (in which I write the most boring post title ever [except maybe for the parentetical part]) {no, that sucked too}

(Updated and re-posted version of 1/29/12 post.  Edited and expanded to reflect the current situation).

Now that the X-plorers rule book is in distribution, we can (I will at least) look forward to the adventure modules!  To my knowledge, the first three that Brave Halfling is planning on right now are ones that I've written, and I'm PUMPED to see them nearing publication (Cleopatra Station by the game's creator, Dave Bezio, is already available for free at DriveThruRPG).  I've used the 'default' setting from the rulebook in all three missions, but of course they are simple to convert to any home-grown setting.  For all of them, I've made an effort to write in lots of story options so you can run them several ways and have ideas for sequels.  They will not be railroad plots.

To my knowledge, The Deadly Dawn (you've seen a mock up of the cover), will be the first released, detailing a rescue mission where several interesting secrets may be discovered, a significant nemesis or ally is introduced, and some really far-out (it's a 70's-esque game, right?) Sci-Fi madness and adventure can be enjoyed by all.  The scenario can end a few different ways and possible hooks for sequels of the Referee's design are suggested.

Another module I wrote, Wreck Tech, set in the Reaches and involving lots of corporate backstabbing and, well, exploration, is written and mapped, and is really just ready to get art and maps and layout and stuff, so that will probably be next(ish).  This was the first one I wrote after getting excited about X-plorers while proofing the White Box limited edition version.  My AD&D background shows, as Wreck Tech is much like a Dungeon Crawl (in a good way, I hope!) but the overarching plot presents the players with some interesting choices that really affect the endgame of the mission... if your team survives!

The third module called Letter of Marque is 95% done.  It is more of a sandbox adventure kit than a plotted story-type module, and it really grew larger than I planned, but that's good. It's got several neat-o options and optional rules for new stuff, and I dare say it will be fun and useful. What's cool about Letter of Marque, is that it could serve as a good background for the other two modules and give a Referee lots of seeds to plant their own story ideas and go nuts.  So it's sort of a shame I thought of it last since it would make a great starting point, but it will certainly work at any point in a campaign.
The last 5%?  I came to find the mapping of the various things that need mapping to be a challenge, and felt that all the maps were starting to look too similar.  It was writers/mappers block and earlier in the year I sent out a distress call to the rest of the team to see if anyone wanted a crack at designing some of the maps.  I felt like a bit of a wimp.  I have some free time this week, it turns out, so I may assess the situation and bang out whatever needs doing.

Not that you asked, but for mapping, what's worked for us in the past is I draw the map(s) to go with the adventure on graph paper and scan it.  Then I clean it up a tad if needed with Print Shop Pro (I'm that out of date), and email the image to John who finds a real map maker (usually Pat at Arcana Creations, to my knowledge) to make it presentable for publication (one exception is the hand drawn ink map I did of the cavern in The Secret of Ronan Skerry).  I've also sketched maps using Paint (yes the lame little windows app) so you can imagine how awesome those look before Pat fixes them.  :-D  I digress; the point is, by January I had gotten Letter of Marque to a point where it was quote unquote finished, submitted it to John, and I haven't touched it since then.  But now I'd like to make it better, and will take a stab this weekend.  I think it's going to be a while before Brave Halfling will be able to attack it anyway, since John has his hands full with fulfillment of Brave Halfling's amazingly successful Kickstarter and the new Dagger RPG for kids.

So I'm totally pumped that these three adventures of mine will be published and help X-plorers grow!

There's also a Quickstart version of X-p that I -- what's the word; "condensed" or "edited"? -- with a short adventure in the back that I wrote (again with crude hand sketched map that must be re-done professionally*).  It's a good intro to the full X-p experience, I think. I'm happy with how it turned out and I hope it gets more people interested in X-p if we can use it at some point.  It was going to be for FreeRPG day, but since the printing of the full rules wasn't done on time for June, the decision was made to hold off on the FreeRPG day version since there's no game book in stores for it to support.
As it stands now, the QuickStart has info for character levels 1-3, a shortened section on robots, simplified equipment purchasing and no spaceship combat rules.
I wonder if changing it to 2nd level characters only and adding single ship combat would be better?  (I figure 2nd level characters because the Soldier doesn't enjoy Weapon Specialization until 2nd level, and I don't want any newcomers to see the Quickstart and think Soldiers don't match up with the other classes).

There are also projects I've submitted to Arcana Creations (partners of Brave Halfling) for the Castles & Crusades game.  The module Hide in Plain Sight that Pat has been blogging about is one of mine, and it's looking good for late 2012 (I have a sequel written and notes for three or four more if it sells.  They'd make a complete series or campaign or handsome boxed set (why not dream big?)).

I've also written an accessory for C&C that I think Pat is keeping close to the vest at this point.  With feedback and editing from him and John at BHP and several readers and brain-stormers (primarily you, Keith H), I've turned an old thing from my high school AD&D days into a good solid game accessory I'm proud to share with the world, and I'm grateful for the help.  If the plans haven't changed, there will be a big part written by Pat to serve as a second half to it, so the book will be a real value and a great tool.

I'm continuing work on Castles & Crusades Oriental Adventures, to be published by Troll Lord Games itself. I hope to have a manuscript completed by this time next year, but honestly, since this is my largest writing project to date and I work full time and have a kid, I remain cautious against making predictions.  The book is outlined, I have the classes and races nearly complete and am working on monsters and will address the magic spell lists next (unless something else piques my interest first).  I keep adding notes to whatever section if inspiration hits (oh, that would be a neat magic item (scribbles on post it)... hey, a new shinobi spell (scribble)...).  I have the martial arts section sort of blocked out, though far from finalized.... so I'd say the first draft is about 1/3 done so far.

For the monsters, I'm trying to draw inspiration from various Asian mythologies (or the Wikipedia articles about the mythologies, though I've been busy at the library too) rather than SRD stuff (of course several would be sorely missed if absent, so I'm converting them to C&C stats).  Two reasons: 1) TLG had some headaches with Classic Monsters related to the SRD/OGL and 2) to seize the opportunity to make it my own, and give players a fresh gaming experience, where I can.  This could be (will probably be) my only publication from a major publisher, so why play it safe?  I want to make my mark and I don't want anyone to read the monsters and feel like, "whatever.  I could have converted that from my old books on the fly."  (of course, the beauty of it is, you still could, and totally surprise your players!)

Naturally, I'm adding new monsters of my own creation for the same reason, as well as monsters from Chinese and other non-Japanese Asian cultures since that's always been a common complaint that the OA books, that they focus too tightly on Japanese culture and mythology.

One more thing: I'm writing it with both "foreign" AND "English" names for (nearly) everything; so you could have your Ashigaru wear a haramaki with his kote and sune-ate, fight with a yari or an eku and defeat a vile Jikiniki... (head spinning yet?)

... or ...

Your Footman can wear a belly shield with his armored sleeves and shin guards, fight with a spear or a fighting oar and defeat a vile Fear-Drinker (a type of Hungry Ghost).

I think however, that "ninja" and "samurai" and even "ronin" are ok untranslated since everyone knows what they are.  Yamabushi or Xia on the other hand...  I don't want people to have to open the book and look up what every piece of armor is just to try to have a conversation in character, you know what I mean?

This will not be a historically accurate book: it will be a mish-mash of fun drawn from many sources (Samurai lore and Ninja Legends to Kung Fu movies, research into many other Asain cultures) to make a flavorful fantasy game.  For me, historical accuracy has always been a non-issue in my FRPGs.  Of course a game tailored to be more historically accurate has it's merits and is fun for those who like it.  But I'm not concerned about it for C&COA because, I mean, really, how historically accurate is C&C or D&D?  Using the equipment tables, an ostensibly medieval knight of vaguely European bent, who is half elven, may wear armor from the 12th century and fight with a weapon from the 14th, facing a cyclops (ancient Greece) or a kobold (Germany) or a rust monster (made up from a silly little 1970's Japanese toy) or an illithid (Cthulhu much?) or even something really frickin' weird like a beholder (what an imagination!).  Oh, and there's magic.

I've always felt it's stronger for it.

* see two of my bad maps in the One page Dungeon Contest entries
2012: Goblin Well (frankly, not my best effort; I almost missed the deadline and basically pulled an all-nighter)
2011: The Mad Arcitect's Tomb (This one I actually like a lot, though one secret underground passage doesn't look like it lines up right)

[panic] Please note: Both of these SUCK compared to the real modules I wrote for C&C and X-plorers! [/panic]

Finally, Apropos of Nothing, I must say, THIS IS AWESOME!

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