Archive for April, 2009

Neo circa 1910

2009 Apr 27

I’ve been looking for old photographs to illustrate the “steampunk Matrix” playset I’m making for Bliss Stage, and I’m pretty sure I just found the best Neo illustration ever. Even has that Chinese-style short collar, confused expression, and some badass shades. Guess he didn’t listen to Morpheus about staying off the freeway.


Steampunk Matrix for Bliss Stage

2009 Apr 23

Pages from a campaign guide I’m working on.



New Pants Go Even More Retro

2009 Apr 20

One of my favorite Chinese rock bands, New Pants, used to sound kinda 90s pop-punk, then went through a sorta 80s electro-rock phase (that claymation video is legendary), before going more bizarro glam-dance-rock (especially in this ridiculous video or, even more so, this one).

However, I just discovered a video they made last year, making fun or paying homage to the early Beijing rock scene of the early-mid 1980s. It is unbelievably hilarious and surprisingly accurate in its depiction of bands like Black Panther and Tang Dynasty. Check out “Even Wild Men (Barbarians) Have Love”:

Danger Sxool Playtest Notes

2009 Apr 17

I posted my playtest notes for Danger Sxool, in case anybody interested in what a first draft of a Harper-style scenario might look like, before it’s been put through the paces. If you’re vaguely familiar with Mouse Guard, Bliss Stage, and Nobilis — and can decipher my very sketchy rules notes — you might be able to play from just this, but these are really notes to myself, to be fleshed out after playing it a bit.

There’s no character creation guidelines, but I’m thinking 20 points of abilities and 6 points of powers for starting characters. We’ll try that out and tweak from there. Maybe next week at SGBoston? Should be more accessible than my Continuum hack, though I’ve yet to try that one out either (only had two players last time, so we played Formula De instead). Excited about both of these hacks, though.

Just Trying to Keep Up

2009 Apr 16


Coming soon.

Something’s Brewing

2009 Apr 16

Thanks largely to that swell dude John Harper (check out Ghost/Echo and Lady Blackbird if you haven’t), there’s a new design trend that may soon become a movement. He gives me credit for starting it (via Geiger Counter and my love of hacking), but the intellectual historian in me gives credit to the first Game Chef competition, game contests since then, the Forge Birthday Forum threads where people request games from other designers, the Ashcan Front, “roleplaying poems” inspired by Nordic trends, the anti-publishing undercurrent (frex: Clinton), and stuff like Ben’s XXXXtreme Street Luge and Vincent’s Poison’d, Storming the Wizard’s Tower, and Apocalypse World. I’m a part of all that somewhere, but it’s hard for me to say exactly where.

If I had to sketch out the basic principles of the trend, it would go like this:

  • design small, fast, and light, spending less than a week on the initial design work and then tweaking as you play;
  • design for real people that you plan to play with;
  • hack together existing material that you dig;
  • make it pretty;
  • enjoy playing it, because why bother otherwise;
  • share it freely;
  • ignore formal publication as long as possible (maybe forever), and
  • move on once you’re sated, because there’s always something new and getting stuck on one thing can kill your passion.

Somewhat ironically, my sense is that this is the kind of game design that more “traditional” folks engage in all the time (frex: Brand), but don’t tend to share or necessarily even write down formally. But because these games and hacks are emerging from the indie scene, they’re going to look a bit different and share a certain body of background thought.

Personally, I’m excited as hell about this. Honestly, this is the kind of community of practice that I’ve always wanted roleplaying to be (partially due to my strong passion for design, low attention span, social socket, and overgrown sense of aesthetics). And now it seems like it might be coming together. Rock.

Claremont Academy Class Rankings

2009 Apr 16

Blame John Harper and Robert Ahrens, who have me thinking about a Mouse Guard / Nobilis hack for running New Mutants.

1 Spark
2 Candleflame
3 Torchbearer
4 Hearthfire
5 Bonfire
6 Conflagration
7 Wildfire
8 Inferno
9 Starfire

The Queen Lives

2009 Apr 13

This is the plan I outlined to Dev today, to be tackled after I finish a couple other outstanding projects.

Publish each “stage” of The Snow Queen individually, either ransomed or sold electronically. Each stage includes a write up and 8-bit pictures of new characters and items, a map and description of locations and complications, and a original musical track to serve as the soundtrack for that particular stage. Playing through a single stage probably takes 1-3 sessions, depending on how you play, how long each session goes, and how many players there are.

After all the stages are complete and published individually, sell a deluxe version packaged in a DVD case, with a CD containing all the music and a booklet containing all the rules. The combined map is printed on the front and/or back of the cover insert.

Release the Title Screen track (mp3 sketch, not final) and the introduction for free, so people have a good sense of what they’re getting. Maybe I’ll work up a free “boss fight” track as well, for when you face bosses and mini-bosses.

Gerda & Bae

2009 Apr 13

4x actual size, though WordPress makes it a bit blurry.

Pixel Pushing

2009 Apr 8

This is kinda cool. Time-consuming like all hell, but the results can be pretty sweet. This was made by hacking a bunch of stuff from Zelda: Minish Cap and giving it a ominous and semi-sickly Final Fantasy VI-style color scheme.