I stand with Planned Parenthood, in mourning

I-standCan you imagine?  When I show up at my work place, I’m worried about how the company is going to stiff me again today.  When workers of women’s health clinics show up for work, they’re worried about whether someone will try to kill them.  And patients!  You go to the clinic to help make your life better or at least keep it from getting worse — and now you have to weigh whether this means being taken hostage or gunned down.

Thanksgiving, Agaptus-style

WoA_minis-KuldYes, it’s time for my annual effort to embrace the American tradition of Thanksgiving, not with food, although that will come later, but with taking stock of things in my life worth being grateful for.  As usual, first come family (foremost, Edmund and my mom), friends (in person and online, nearby and far away), and felines (Valentine, Ubaid and Phantom).  Work was not a happy affair this year with the company in constant reorganization, but at least I have work.  And I got more fun work, hobby-work but rewarding, writing for game publishers and managing some project from Evil Hat Productions.

But the single most exciting thing in my life this year has been the publication of the role-playing game War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus.  Evil Hat pulled out all the stops on making this a beautiful, well-edited, well-organized book and I like to think I held my own with the writing.  I am so very thankful that they were willing to take a chance on a whole book with my writing, and that they assembled such a great team to work with and to rely on.

And I’m thankful for the army of War of Ashes miniatures Edmund painted for me.  Nothing says “Thanksgiving feast” like a Kuld horde.

The Thing Pretty pictures Besieged

Temple Handshake

I told you a few days ago how beautifully the art for Do: Fate of the Flying Temple (a project I’m managing for Evil Hat Productions) was coming along.  Here is a gorgeous two-page spread from Dionysia Jones; you can also read Art Director Daniel Solis’ discussion from initial description and visual reference to finished art.


The Dystopian Universe RPG!

DURPG-Cover-Mockup-600pxHuzzah, I can finally talk about this project.  I’m project manager for Evil Hat Productions on a new dark science-fiction role-playing game powered by Fate Core. The setting is The Dystopian Universe, licensed from Travis Worthington at Indie Boards & Cards, and you may be familiar with it as the setting for several other games including The Resistance, Coup, Coup: Reformation, Coup: Rebellion G54, One Night Revolution, etc.

The game is written by Anna Meade and Brian Engard, with system development by J.D. Yearsley.  Applications for the first public playtest just opened today and will remain open through November 30.  (Here is a link to the application form.)

Corruption. Betrayal. Intrigue. Just another day in Paris Nouveau.

In a cyberpunk, dystopian future, the citizens of Paris Nouveau are no more than indentured servants. Virtual reality has come at a cost they can never pay, a tradeoff of freedom for technology. But there are freedom fighters who reject the system, unplugging from the illusion and working to make things right once again. They are La Résistance. Rise up and defy the corporations in the Dystopian Universe RPG, set in the same universe as The Resistance, Coup, and One Night Revolution from Indie Boards & Cards.

The Dystopian Universe RPG is a stand-alone game that uses a customized version of the Fate System. Within these pages, you’ll find:

  • Playsheets for nine character archetypes with tie-ins to the cards found in other Dystopian Universe games
  • New aspect rules to help reflect the intrigue of the Dystopian Universe, where no one is exactly what they seem
  • Two new systems to help GMs escalate conflicts based on character actions: blowback and the Vigilance Track
  • New equipment rules using Fate points from a character or from their supporters at La Résistance.
  • A streamlined modular system for creating missions, along with sample missions to get you started

The Dystopian Universe RPG: Vive La Résistance!

Mini-Reviews: The Journey Down, Broken Age, Pearl’s Peril, The Room 3

The Journey Down: logoMy second batch of digital game reviews, covering the last three months.  Being afflicted with poor hand-eye coordination, I play mostly puzzle games with a plot.

The Journey Down — Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 (Skygoblin): A classic point-and-click with an Afro-Caribbean look and sound, offering challenges that require ingenuity without becoming exercises in pixel-hunting. I really enjoy this series, and I’m eagerly awaiting the third chapter. You can accomplish the tasks in any order and as far as I can tell, you can’t mess it up enough to have to restart.  The first two chapters are available on Steam for PC, Mac and Linux as well as on iOS.  I played it on Steam for Linux with Ubuntu 14.04 and have no technical problems to report (and if I recall correctly, Chapter 1 was free on the Ubuntu App Store).

Broken AgeBroken Age (Double Fine Productions): Another point-and-click that you can do in any order.  You alternate between two point-of-view characters, one seemingly in a fantasy tale and the other in a science fiction universe, until they start colliding and even switching places.  The last chapter was much more challenging for me that the previous ones because you need to meta-game and use information that a given character would not have had a chance to learn in-game.  Available on Steam for PC, Mac and Linux; I played it on Steam for Linux with Ubuntu 14.04 and had two minor issues: mouse speed could not be slowed down enough to use my Wacom stylus and was in the upper range of usability with the mouse; and occasionally in the last chapter the game froze and I had to restart it, but I didn’t lose any progress.

Logo-PearlsPerilPearl’s Peril (Wooga): A hidden object game that is both surprisingly addictive and infuriating.  Pros: Great production values, beautiful images, and some clever use of similar objects with different names (e.g.,  barrel and drum), different objects with the same name (e.g., a spade can be a playing card symbol or a garden tool, a fan can be a paper object or a piece of equipment), and different objects with similar sounding names (e.g., bell and belt, car and cart.)  Cons: Horrible mishmash of anachronisms, geographical heresies, and illogical statements as facts; no real opportunity to put clues together to resolve puzzles or investigate; “freemium” model that keeps trying to get players to spend more money by blocking progress.  Available as a Facebook in-browser game and on iOS.  I play it on my iPhone 5s and it periodically drops progress, forcing the player to repeat a sequence or wasting in-game resources.

room3The Room 3 (Fireproof Games): Recently released sequel to the award winning series; so far I’ve enjoyed it as much as the first two instalments, though the puzzles may be a tad easier this time around.  As before, the graphics are superb, the music lovely, and the experience immersive.  Available for iOS, and the Android release is upcoming.  No glitches to report so far, in the early part of the third chapter.  

[Edit: I finished my first run-through in 8 hours 24 minutes, without the help of walkthrough hints.  (I had to use them in order to finish Broken Age.)  No technical difficulties to report.  There are more scenes to explore and four alternate endings to check out, so this is good replay value.]

[Edit No. 2: Finished the second ending at 10h48m, or an additional 2h24m of play. Had to go look at a walkthrough for one clue.  Then 11h26m for the third ending and 11h36m for the fourth.]

I can’t wait for you to see “Do”…

Do: Fate of the Flying Temple - coverFor the last few months I have been serving as project manager for a few titles at Evil Hat Productions.  Some are in early phases so that I can’t really talk about them yet, but one is getting close to the final stages. Do: Fate of the Flying Temple is a role-playing game based on the storytelling game Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple by Daniel Solis.  It’s doubly fun for me to be involved as project manager, since I playtested an early version almost two years ago.

It’s powered by Fate Accelerated Edition, written by Mark Diaz Truman, and Daniel is involved as layout artist and art director.  Three weeks ago he released the beautiful cover by Jaqui Davis; since then, art pieces by Dionysia Jones, Charles Andrew Bates, and other artists I can’t name yet, have been rolling in.  This book is going to be so gorgeous!  I just can’t wait for you all to see.

The Ghetto Tarot

File_001 File_002 File_000

I just received this beautiful tarot deck for an IndieGoGo campaign I had contributed to a while back.  It’s the result of  a collaboration between the Haitian group Atiz Rezistans (“Artist Resistants”) and Belgian photographer Alice Smeets.  Each image is modelled after the famous Rider deck which was designed over a hundred years ago by A.E. Waite and illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith.  However, this version uses settings and materials from the ghettos of Port-au-Prince, bringing a whole new layer of symbolism.  The deck is a little large for my hands; however, smaller cards would have obscured the details.

I have several uses in mind for it: tarot readings, sure, but also prop and inspiration in role-playing games, and a reminder of the hardships — as well as the art — in places that are too easily forgotten after the initial news headlines, whether it be Haiti, Indonesia, or New Orleans.

[Edit: The deck can be purchased here.]

Dark Matter: RPG?

Dark_Matter_IntertitleThanks to the magic of the Fire TV Stick we recently bought, Edmund and I are half-way through watching the first season of the Space channel series Dark Matter (no spoilers on episodes 7 through 13, please!)  We’ve been viewing this very much as someone’s role-playing campaign, with classic players: the Fast-Talker (1), the GM’s Spouse, a.k.a. the only one that is sensible enough to be trusted as party leader (2), the Gun Bunny (3), the Ninja (4), the Weirdo (5), the Real Role-Player (6), and the GMPC (Android).


GM: OK, we’ve been playing this for a while so we’ve reached a milestone.  You guys can change one of your aspects now.  Think about taking something that will anchor your character in the story, build connections among you.

4: I change my Trouble from “Wanted for Murdering my Father” to “I Will Avenge my Father’s Death.”

GM: Uh, OK… you realize you guys are the hunted crew of a damaged ship, earning a hardscrabble existence on the edge of known space, and you won’t interact much with your family, right?

4: That’s what my character would do.

GM: (Sigh) OK.  What about you guys?

6: I took “I Must Bring the General to Justice.”

GM, weakly: OK… you realize you guys are the hunted crew of a damaged ship, earning a hardscrabble existence on the edge of…

6: Yeah. But that’s what my character would do.

GM: (Sigh) OK.  What about you, 3?  You’ve had some time to become familiar with the premise, you saw the background plots everybody else is taking. What about your own mysterious past?  You could take something to add a little depth to your character?

3: Nope.  I’m fine.

GM, looks at character sheet: Your aspects are Big Gun, Other Big Gun, and Even Bigger Gun, your High Concept is Gun Expert, and your Trouble is Trigger-Happy!

3, proudly: And I have the stunt “Two-Handed Shooting”!

GM: I fucking hate you all.

[Edited to add:]


GM: Hey guys, 3’s player can’t make it this week but my friend Chris is in town and will play 3.  I hope no one minds?

Dark Matter Intertitle” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.