Saturday, July 18, 2015

GenCon Presence

I'll be all over the place this GenCon networking, running playlists, and generally having fun. I like to stay mobile and fluid in most of my scheduling, due to the notoriously flaky nature of most gamers and the sheer insanity of a convention that size. If you're looking for me, the only places and times I can commit to are the seven panels I'm speaking at this year. Here's the info for any who are interested.

Introduction to RPG Design - Thurs. @ 9 AM (Crowne Plaza Penn. Stn. B)

Guests: Jason Pitre, Caleb Stokes, Andreas Walters

Description: We'll present the fundamentals of roleplaying game design. Interested in hacking or reskinning a game? Want to design your own RPG system from scratch? Let us help you get started.

Game Designer's Workshop: Everyday Hustlin' in the RPG Industry - Thurs. @ 11 AM (Crowne Plaza Penn. Stan. A)

Guests: Caleb Stokes, Ross Payton, Rob Boyle

Description: Talk with Caleb, Ross, and publishers about how to get started writing for games. With a few tips, you could be barely scraping by just like the pros! The goal of RPPR's GDW podcast has always been educational. To that end, Ross and Caleb will do their best to give advice on "breaking into the industry" in a post-Kickstarter age. The conversation will focus on the more logistical, legal, and mundane business of freelancing in RPGs. On the publisher side of things, Adam Jury and Rob Boyle from Posthuman Studios are dropping by to lend their expertise. Prepare to be demystified, warned, clued-in, and tipped-off about the path to seeing your work get included in games. Questions are welcome and encouraged.

Scary Parrots: Weird Horror in RPGs - Thurs. @ 1 PM (Crowne Plaza Penn. Stn. C)

Guests: Caleb Stokes, John Kennedy, Ross Payton, Jack Graham

Description: Horror gaming can go beyond Lovecraft and tentacles. Sometimes the most frightening moments in RPGs can come from obscure references and mundane moments. Surprise your players from a new direction! The panel will include Caleb Stokes (No Soul Left Behind, No Security), Ross Payton (Base Raiders, Zombies of the World), John Kennedy (Demonworld), and Jack Graham (Eclipse Phase). The title "Scary Parrots" refers to an RPPR game in which the players completely forgot about the plot and focused on a parrot THAT COULD NOT BE. Rather than dismiss the moment as a one-off, this panel will explore the unexpected places that the GM can exploit for terror. Between other writers of The Weird, discoveries in neuroscience, and philosophical thought experiments, this panel will provide a ton of original plot hooks and little disquieting scares to throw at your players.

Education & Games: With, In, and How to - Fri. @ 11 AM (Crown Plaza Victoria Stn. C/D)

Guests: Ross Payton, Caleb Stokes, Fuzzy Dan, Steve Radabaugh

Description: What advice can educators provide for teaching game rules to players? How about using games to enhance education? And what about the portrayal of education in games? This panel covers it all and more. Caleb Stokes is an educator and RPG writer. He frequently uses games in the classroom for a variety of purposes, and he recently worked with Arc Dream to publish No Soul Left Behind, a campaign book for the game Better Angels set in a charter high school. Ross Payton has written extensively for Monsters and Other Childish Things, and he's been teaching rules to players for twenty years. Steve Radabaugh is a high school teacher and creator of app games like Dungeon Marauders and the upcoming dice game Fey Ball. Come ask questions about how to include education in your game setting, or find out which games and game design principles work great in the classroom.

RPPR Game Designer's Workshop: Live Episode - Fri. @ 1 PM (Crowne Plaza Penn. Stn. C)
Guests: Caleb Stokes, Ross Payton

Guests: Ross Payton, Caleb Stokes

Description: Ross and Caleb continue their proud tradition of screwing up in real time. Lend your questions and comments to a live episode as the pair gives updates on Red Markets, Ruin, and other game projects. More specifically, Caleb will be doing playtests of Red Markets at GenCon, and No Soul Left Behind will be for sale at the Arc Dream booth. Ross has news about Ruin. Both have news about current freelancing projects and plenty of advice for aspiring game designers in attendance.

Beyond Lawful Good and Evil: Ethical Concepts in RPGs - Sat. @ 11 AM (Crowne Plaza Victoria Stn C/D)

Guests: Caleb Stokes, Ross Payton, Andreas Walters, Shoshana Kessock

Description: How do you build a character with staunch ethical principles without stopping a game dead with the dreaded my-character-wouldn't-do-that problem? Do RPG systems imply ethical philosophies? Should they? Caleb Stokes (No Soul Left Behind), Ross Payton (Base Raiders, Andreas Walters (Baby Bestiary), and Shoshana Kessock (Living Game Conference) discuss ethical concepts in characters, in game worlds, and at the level of design. Bring your questions and curiosity.

The Case Against Fun: Social Critique & RPGs - Sat. @ 1 PM (Crowne Plaza Penn. Stn. C)

Guests: Caleb Stokes, Ross Payton

Description: Fun is obviously a byproduct of games, but that's where the usefulness of the term ends. This seminar presents the case against fun as a design goal, method of criticism, and aesthetic in gaming. Caleb Stokes (No Soul Left Behind/No Security) and Ross Payton (Base Raiders/ Zombies of the World) discuss the negative and positive uses of the word of fun in gaming, along with other critical frameworks by which the word can be understood (such as the 8 types of fun).

See you there. Try not to scream or get crushed.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Red Markets Update

NOT the final product. Though already gorgeous, the cover is still a work in progress.
Though I probably don't need to tell you this by now, I am utter shit at blogging. I will not be improving any time soon. I have made peace with this.

I am terrible at blogging because, when blessed with the time and energy to write, I work on Red Markets. When I have the time but not the energy, I write perfunctory emails to an expanding pool of freelancers and collaborators...working on Red Markets. When I have neither time nor energy enough to write, I talk to Ross on our podcast...about Red Markets. This leaves little left for blogging.

The benefit of all this shameful non-promotion is that 60,000 words of Red Markets are DONE. The entire player chapter is completed, and while changes will still occur, every rule included has undergone five iterations of alpha playtesting. RPPR is currently in the midst of playtesting extended campaign play (listen to us talk about it here).  Furthermore, the freelance writing gigs stealing time away from Red Markets are now complete (listen to the struggle here; read the books that resulted: Firewall and No Soul Left Behind).

So, aside from the day job, things are all-Red Markets, all-the-time over here at Hebanon Games. I'm drafting the GM chapter as the long-form playtest continues. I'm using the additive format of most RPG books, where core rules reside entirely in the player section and the GM chapter sticks to tips, alternatives, and exclusively behind-the-screen functions. This means the GM section should be markedly shorter than the 60K of other rules language. Though we won't be having enough to sell an ashcan at Gencon, there should be enough to start a beta playtest around August for those willing to hack through a Word document.

Which isn't to say Red Markets is only text...

He's a chipper fellow that won't let being declared homo sacer keep him down.
Now that I have a day job again, I've been using the funds from No Security to fund the pre-Kickstarter art, editing, and layout. From experience, I know these upfront costs are essential to make campaigns for big new books a success. I know its a gamble to put too much money up front, but any level of success means that money will not be wasted. It just frontloads costs even more than crowd-sourcing already does.

You've probably already noticed the cover image up top. That's by the magnificently talented Kim Van Deun. She's very enthusiastic about the project, and I'm thrilled to be working with her. Similar praise is owed Patsy McDowell. I've been using his concept sketches in this post and as the face of numerous RPPR GDW episodes. The final piece that resulted is great, but I'm saving it for the KS. Similarly, I'm eager to get some illustration work from long-time collaborator Ean Moody, but he's already contributed by designing the most thematically consistent character sheet I could possible imagine.


I'm going to keep writing, obviously. I'm also going to commission more pieces from the artists mentioned while trying to bring a few more talented people into the fold. Leaving aside numerous possible disasters, the timetable is looking something like...

  • June-July: Finish GM section. Commission more promotional art.
  • August-September: Closed-beta goes out to other groups.
  • August-December: Caleb drafts as much setting material as possible.
  • December-January: Playtest reports come in, revisions are made.
  • February: Kickstarter planning begins in earnest. I need to build another website in something better than Blogger or Wordpress.
  • March-ish: Kickstarter launch. Open-beta goes to all backers.
  • Sometime before the heat-death of the universe: a book is born
A lot can go wrong with that timetable, but we are literally as close as we've ever been. I'm hopeful and motivated. I hope you guys are as excited as I am.

I'd promise to keep you informed on this blog, but that's probably a lie. The best chance of keeping update are to follow me at @HebanonGCal and keep listening to RPPR's Game Designer's Workshop.

P.S. As far as I can tell, "Ex Terrorem, Lucrabamur" translates to "out of terror, we profit."

RPPR's Game Designer's Workshop 8: Big Playtest, Big Problems

Red Markets is now in campaign playtesting, so this episode covers what we’ve learned about the game since the campaign began. Hear about the enclave I helped create and what kind of jobs we’ve done. Issues that have arisen solely from campaign issues have appeared that were invisible during one-shot playtesting.

Listen here.

RPPR Game Designer's Workshop 7: Multitasking Mayhem

Ross and I got together to update you all on our progress and talk about one of the major aspects of being a writer: dealing with multiple projects at once. Multitasking is a hard skill to learn, but once you master it, it pays off! We talk about keeping our noses to the grindstone, the benefits of doing multiple projects at once, and other topics. We also talk about Red Markets and Ruin.

Listen here.