Misspent Youth: Join the rebellion

Misspent Youth game

A few years ago I reviewed Robert Bohl’s role-playing game Misspent Youth. Well, two exciting things are happening with that game right now.

The Revolution Will Be Televised

First, it was demo’ed by Wil Wheaton on his show Tabletop (Geek & Sundry channel on YouTube), with geek blogger / vlogger / podcaster / actress Amy Dallen (Geek & Sundry, Future Girl, Nerdy But Flirty), and comic book writers Kelly Sue DeConnick (Bitch Planet, Captain Marvel, Pretty Deadly), and Matt Fraction (The Invincible Iron Man, The Immortal Iron Fist, Casanova).

This demo provide a very good impression of what the game is like. I recommend viewing the episodes in the following order:

  • Part 1 for the first three minutes and 15 seconds or so, in order to get the introduction.
  • The entirety of Part 0 for the full setting and character creation.
  • The rest of Part 1 (from 3:17 to the end.)
  • Part 2.

Sell Out With Me

Second exciting happening: A revised edition and a supplement full of new playsets, ideas, and art are being released soon, and the Kickstarter funding campaign is under way.

The new edition will be published through Burning Wheel Headquarters. The development team comprises writer and creative director Robert Bohl, book designer Joshua A.C. Newman, lead artist Jennifer Rodgers, editor Adam Dray, and publisher Luke Crane.

Contributing authors include some fantastic people:

Caitlynn Belle, Strix Beltrán & Ajit George (writing together), Misha Bushyager, Judd Karlman, Kimberley Lam, Daniel LevineKira Magrann, Matthew McFarland, Michael Miller, Quinn Murphy, Joshua AC Newman, Dev Purkayastha, Alex Roberts, Hannah ShafferJared Sorensen, Daniel Swensen, Curt Thompson, Rachel E.S. Walton, Bill White, and Gregor Vuga.

Artists include more luminaries:

Christianne Benedict, Nyra Drakae, Alex MayoJennifer RodgersEvan Rowland, Ernanda Souza, Rick Troula, and Jabari Weathers.

The Kickstarter campaign is already funded and runs for eight more days. Grab your music box, your balaclava, and your spray paint cans, the revolution needs harbingers.

Software Review: Scrivener

OMSFSM, Scrivener! I love it so much!

I wrote War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus on LibreOffice and it worked well enough, but by the time the manuscript got to about the 50% mark, it started being a real chore to revise and restructure. By the time I finished, it was 221 pages that we were passing back and forth between writer and editor to handle in LibreOffice and MS Word, and it was rather unwieldy.

Towards the end of the process I downloaded Scrivener but I was too far along to try converting the document. However, when I worked on the Open Content materials from War of Ashes later on, I tested a variety of more advanced writing tools (mostly distraction-free editors and LaTeX-based power tools), with the most promising being LyX and Scrivener.

In the end I decided that Scrivener was a good option for me. It was powerful, flexible, inexpensive, multi-platform, easy to learn thanks to its great tutorials and manuals, and supported by a vibrant community.

When I say inexpensive… The macOS, Windows, and iOS versions go for $40, just enough to cover minor support costs, and you can download a free trial version. The Linux version (that’s the one I use) is free because it’s unofficial but the user community is very helpful, and I ended up sending my $40 as a donation because it was worth every penny.

It has so many features and so much flexibility to work the way you want. I use it right from the planning stage to create my structure and outline, and to gather my writing resources: publisher’s guidelines, references, examples, cheat sheets, lists of names, notes I jotted down, etc.

I use its metadata features to add notes to each section such as keywords, actions needed (“Write examples of play,”) references cited (“Top Secret, TSR, 1980,”) status (“first draft”), or who will be a collaborating author on this section.

I have Scrivener set up to save the draft in my working folder and create a backup on Dropbox, in addition to using iDrive for my regular computer backup. On top of that, every time I stop working for the night or reach a significant milestone, I compile an export version of my draft in .docx format and post it for my publishers on Google Drive so they can follow my progress, and have a work product in hand if anything happened to me.

But I kind of got used to its ease, and I forgot what an improvement it was! Except that when I stopped to take stock of my progress tonight, I looked at the page count and realized what a chore the current drafts would be to handle on a basic word processor. In addition, I had reworked several individual sections of the Tianxia Rules Companion this weekend and instead of being a major hassle to locate the sections to edit in the middle of a manuscript, it was a breeze. So I just had to say a word for useful software!

New Releases: Harlem Unbound, Sins of the Past Revisited

Today I take a quick look at a couple of new releases in two different genres: horror and superheroes. Both can be used to expand an existing campaign or as the backbone for a whole new campaign. These will be overviews, not full-fledged reviews since I have not had a chance to run either campaign.

Harlem Unbound

Cover of Harlem Unbound

If you want Cthulhu Mythos horror that flips the standard Lovecraftian view of minorities on its head, putting them in the roles of heroes who must struggle against cosmic horrors while also fighting for a chance at equality, this is the sourcebook for you.

Harlem Unbound is a 274-page sourcebook for Cthulhu Mythos role-play written by Chris Spivey and published by Darker Hue Studios, which provides setting history, locations, characters, adventures, and game-master advice for the Harlem neighbourhood of New York City during the 1920s, the era known as the Harlem Renaissance.

System-wise, elements are detailed for play with both Call of Cthulhu 7th Ed. (Chaosium) and the GUMSHOE system (Pelgrane Press). In fact, you can play it as a GUMSHOE standalone, it contains the necessary rules; or you could play it with a GUMSHOE game such as Trail of Cthulhu, Fear Itself, The Yellow King, or The Esoterrorists.

However, the materials offered in Harlem Unbound are rich and well-formulated so that in my opinion, there should be little trouble adapting them to another system of your choice. Mechanics are the least of your worries—doing the material justice in play is the GM and players’ true challenge. This is exactly the game supplement you need to run adventures in the vein of The Ballad of Black Tom (Victor LaValle) or Lovecraft Country: A Novel (Matt Ruff).

The art is of course strongly influenced by luminaries of the Harlem Artists Guild and precursors. Some of it is not my cup of tea (the gorier images), but it is nevertheless well done. I am particularly fond of artist Nino Malong’s contributions.

If you missed the Kickstarter funding campaign, you can still pre-order Harlem Unbound on Backerkit.

Sins of the Past, Revisited

Sins of the Past Revisited - coverThe original Sins of the Past adventure, published back in 2010, is one of the best scenarios ever written for the superhero game ICONS. Since its release, however, the system has undergone a revision and expansion published as the Assembled Edition in 2014.

Sins of the Past, Revisited is a 52-page adventure written by Theron Bretz, illustrated by Dan Houser—the same team that created the original edition—and published by Ad Infinitum Adventures for ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying: The Assembled Edition.

It does not only update the mechanical bits to reflect the most recent version of the game; it offers new material, game-master advice, and notes on the playtest games. There is more art and new maps, everything a GM needs to run exciting scenes of superheroic action.

To top it off, if you prefer to run ICONS using the original rules, this comes with the 2010 version of the adventure for free. This means you can enjoy the new materials without major system adjustments.

The adventure connects modern-day superheroes (and villains) with those of the Golden Age. I think the adventure might have the most impact if its chapters were introduced one at a time over the course of a long-running campaign, when some of the GM characters have become familiar figures of the game setting. This could create fantastic buy-in for the players, inviting their characters to shoulder a legacy.

You can get the PDF on DriveThruRPG, and I understand that the print version will be available soon.

Game Review: Leaving Earth

For my birthday Edmund gave me the game Leaving Earth, published by Lumenaris.

This is an attractive game of space exploration published by a local family-owned company. Design, art, layout are all the work of a single person, Joseph Fatula. The art is beautiful, the theme richly conveyed in every component, and the hand-made wooden pieces in the shapes of various spacecraft made me squee with delight. Even the box looks lovely, and it was hard to bring myself to cut the seal to open it.

Leaving Earth: the contents

The object of the game is to gather a certain number of points by accomplishing randomly drawn missions, all within 21 rounds representing the years 1956 to 1976. You can play it competitively, cooperatively, or solitaire. The basics are the same in all three modes: Continue reading “Game Review: Leaving Earth”

Mapping the Veins of a World

I was opening a tab in my browser for a completely different reason, and I got completely sidetracked.

I’ve been using Chrome lately, and I have the Earth View form Google Earth extension installed so every tab I open shows me a new interesting image of the Earth seen from above. Altitude makes it looks like abstract art, but then you start recognizing features. Since I’m a fan of maps, I love looking at these.

This particular image just fascinated me, making me think about what’s unsatisfactory about a lot of map-making of fictional worlds, and especially in games. They are missing the key shaping factor of the ground surface:

Water is the shape of the landscape.

Karaginsky District, Siberia

This image shows the river that forms the southern boundary of the Karaginsky District on the Kamchatka Peninsula with the Ust-Kamchatsky District, just above the point where the river reaches the Pacific Ocean. It’s both a mighty stream and a little nothing rivulet, depending on the scale you’re considering.  Continue reading “Mapping the Veins of a World”

Coming to Big Bad Con: Jared Sorensen

Jared SorensenThe Kickstarter funding campaign is in full swing for Big Bad Con, the sweetest tabletop gaming convention on the West Coast. We quickly funded our basic goals on Day 1, and have been blowing past many stretch goals since. Several of these stretch goals allow us to bring great guests to the convention, to host games, speak on panels, etc. Today’s guest interview is with Jared Sorensen, of Memento Mori Theatricks.

Could you introduce yourself? What would you like the Big Bad Con attendees to know about you?

I’m a writer and game designer, one of the old-guard indie guys from the turn of the century; the creator of Lacuna Part I, InSpectres, Action Castle, and the co-creator of FreeMarket. I wrote for D&D Online, Lord of the Rings Online and a buncha other computerish things and I’m known for wearing lots of black.

Continue reading “Coming to Big Bad Con: Jared Sorensen”

Coming to Big Bad Con: Hakan Seyalioglu

Hakan SeyaliogluThe Kickstarter funding campaign is in full swing for Big Bad Con, the sweetest tabletop gaming convention on the West Coast. We quickly funded our basic goals on Day 1, and have been blowing past many stretch goals since. Several of these stretch goals allow us to bring great guests to the convention, to host games, speak on panels, etc. Today’s guest interview is with Hakan Seyalioglu.

Could you introduce yourself? What would you like the Big Bad Con attendees to know about you?

Hi there! I’m Hakan, one half of Thorny Games along with Kathryn Hymes and we’re on a mission to spread play through quirky and thoughtful games. People are hungry to tell stories in new and exciting ways, and whether that be at a table, moving around, inside or outside, we want to make that happen. With our game Dialect, A Game about Language and How It Dies, players tell a story about a language, and how the birth and death of that language mirrors the story of a community in Isolation. With Sign, A Game about Being Understood, players reflect on what having barriers to communication mean to us, through the true story of Nicaraguan Sign Language.

Continue reading “Coming to Big Bad Con: Hakan Seyalioglu”

Coming to Big Bad Con: Jason Morningstar

Jason MorningstarThe Kickstarter funding campaign is in full swing for Big Bad Con, the sweetest tabletop gaming convention on the West Coast. We quickly funded our basic goals on Day 1, and have been blowing past many stretch goals since. Several of these stretch goals allow us to bring great guests to the convention, to host games, speak on panels, etc. Today’s guest interview is with Jason Morningstar.

Could you introduce yourself? What would you like the Big Bad Con attendees to know about you?

I’m Jason Morningstar, and I’m a game designer who lives and works in Durham, North Carolina, USA. I make tabletop and live action roleplaying games through my company, Bully Pulpit Games, and I also consult on using games for teaching and learning. I would like the Big Bad Con attendees to know that I love meeting people and playing games, and that my surname is not a pseudonym or nom de plume.  Continue reading “Coming to Big Bad Con: Jason Morningstar”

Game Review: Gloomhaven

Back in 2015, Edmund and I backed the Kickstarter funding campaign for Gloomhaven, a new legacy-style miniatures game. Legacy games are campaigns where actions in one scenario may affect game world conditions and future scenarios. Because they involve placing stickers or marking cards, maps, etc. to indicate persistent effects in the game world, it can be very hard for a dedicated gamer to accept.

Many gamers can’t bring themselves to permanently alter game components! Nevertheless, the scope of the game was ambitious and the price tag ($79 for the full version with miniatures for each player character class) was perhaps steep if it turned out to be a game we’d rarely play, but really cheap if it we worked our way through the 70 or so scenarios then expected to be included, even if we only played through the campaign once, so we decided to risk chipping in.  Continue reading “Game Review: Gloomhaven”

Coming to Big Bad Con: Misha Bushyager

The Kickstarter funding campaign is in full swing for Big Bad Con, the sweetest tabletop gaming convention on the West Coast. We quickly funded our basic goals on Day 1, and have been blowing past many stretch goals since. Several of these stretch goals allow us to bring great guests to the convention, to host games, speak on panels, etc. Today’s guest interview is with Misha Bushyager, who writes for Unruly Designs.

Could you introduce yourself? What would you like the Big Bad Con attendees to know about you?

I’m Misha, data analyst by day and gamer whenever I can. I’ve got two great kids I’m slowly introducing to gaming and a husband who tags along for the ride when he can. I’ve been a player for over half my life now, and recently plunged into the producing side.

Continue reading “Coming to Big Bad Con: Misha Bushyager”