Big Bad Con is the best! – Part 1

A recap of my time at Big Bad Con this weekend.

Friday Frenzy

As staff, I had spent much time earlier in the week seeing to last-minute changes, especially finding replacement game masters willing to run replacement games for cancelled events, as well as preparing the games I was scheduled to run and assembling stuff to bring. On Friday morning I had planned to finish packing my bags and, with my husband, heading over to the convention hotel in Walnut Creek as early as possible.

Because of the California wildfires on top of the usual complement of inevitable but sad surprises for a number of people (illnesses, financial disasters, etc.), we had another wave of GM cancellations on Friday morning, so I scrambled to  notify players and fill a few last replacement games, but I am sorry to say I was not able to get to the ones that came in after 10:30am. Edmund and I scrambled to finish packing, grab sandwiches we ate on the road, and get to the convention for noon. I was stressed and tired and afraid I had forgotten some important task.

But walking in meant immediately running into a lot of wonderful people, most of which I see only online and at game conventions. Everyone looked excited and happy. I felt welcomed, reassured. While I checked in at the front desk, Edmund got our badges at Registration. The staff of the Walnut Creek Marriott had our room ready so we dropped our luggage and headed for our shift as Games on Demand GMs.

Of the four 2-hour games I offered, we ended up playing Tara Zuber’s Fate World Loose Threads for the whole time. I will recap the game in a separate post, but it was tons of fun.

We grabbed some dinner from the hotel restaurant’s buffet, chilling with friends, then Edmund had to leave. Normally, one of us would have made the round-trip home (45 minutes each way) to feed the cats once a day. Unfortunately, one of our cats (Ubaid the Destroyer of Stuff) was diagnosed with thyroid disorder a couple of weeks before, following quick and substantial weight loss. He’s now on methimazole every 12 hours and we’re trying to get him to gain weight. It made more sense to go home at night, and return in the morning. Since I was on staff, Edmund volunteered to do the daily round-trip and ended up missing much of the convention, which was a real shame. When Ubaid’s condition is stabilized, this will hopefully not be needed anymore.

After dinner, I played in Tracy Barnett’s first playtest of very early concepts for Fate of Karthun (part of the stretch goals for Karthun: Lands of Conflict.) We had a full table, six players. We were sent by the Underwatch of Narhal to investigate the theft of the Black Cabinet! I played Kistkatsa, a Lizardfolk bard who reminded me of my beloved T’skrang bard in Earthdawn. I enjoyed the character’s combination of flamboyance and powerful support for other party members.

The key thing in Karthun is that there is no such thing as a small adventure. Even when things start as small as retrieving a stolen piece of furniture, things are guaranteed to become epic—next thing you know, you find yourself sealing a breech between universes! Thank you to Tracy, Jim, Oscar, Eric, Tom and Yann for a fun evening with great roleplay.

It was double fun for me, since I’m also the Evil Hat project manager for the creation of this GM guide. It’s always exciting to see a project take shape. [Note: Karthun is Brian Patterson’s brainchild, used in his webcomic d20 Monkey.]

I crawled to bed after midnight, trying to figure out why I had all these aches after merely sitting at a table to game most of the day.

Tomorrow: Saturday Switcheroo!

Advertisements

RPG a Day: Systems in my toolbox

 

15. What is an awesome RPG you enjoy adapting?

Ah well, I keep mentioning these names but in terms of flexibility, my favourite systems are Fate Accelerated (Evil Hat Productions), HeroQuest (Moon Design/Issaries/Chaosium) and PDQ (Atomic Sock Monkey Press). They are easy to adapt, easy to explain, and easy to run.

#RPGaDay2017

 

RPG a Day: ‘Til Death Do Us Part

14. What is an awesome RPG for open-ended campaign play?

This is sort of the opposite of the Day 9 question. Most RPGs work for this, unless they are specifically designed for short play. What really matters is how engaged everyone at the table is, and whether you’re tracking what has gone on from episode to episode so dangling plot threads and interesting NPCs can be reincorporated in play, making the GM’s life easier (the adventures write themselves) and the players’ actions more important (they impact the game world.)

That said, some games make it particularly easy for me, because the mechanics are light enough that statting more NPCs and creating new locations and plots does not create a burden on the GM. I particularly like games based on Fate Accelerated (like War of Ashes or Dresden Files Accelerated), PDQ (like Truth & Justice, Jaws of the Six Serpents, or The Zorcerer of Zo), or Heroquest (like Mythic Russia or of course Glorantha.) Some (not all) games Powered by the Apocalypse work well for this style of play, like Dungeon World or Monster of the Week.

#RPGaDay2017

RPG a Day: Two Hours!

8. What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2 hours or less?

[Wherein I give up on picking a single option.]

If you’re going to plan on a 2-hour game, you had better use a streamlined system with rapid character creation. Systems that are well-suited include Fate Accelerated, The Shadow of Yesterday, PDQ, Wushu, Over The Edge, etc.

Continue reading “RPG a Day: Two Hours!”

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!

Ups and Downs and Ups

Thrilling news for me: A couple of weeks ago I received the green light from Evil Hat Productions to be creative director and primary author for a new Fate Toolkit focusing on espionage, heists, and confidence jobs. For now we’re referring to it as the Fate Infiltration Toolkit, but the name may well change along the way.

Not so thrilling: A week ago I got a terse note from my employer informing me of termination. Later that week I learned that other people had been let go as well, I’m not sure whether the entire office is closing. It was a miserable job for a short-sighted company, but it was a safety net — if a flimsy one. I had already been sending resumes around but I have to step up the job search.

Thrilling again: In the same batch of emails, I received one from Vigilance Press offering me a chance to write the next Tianxia book! It’s going to be a rules compendium that will present the Fate Core rules (based on the SRD) for people who are new to both Fate and Tianxia, along with game-master advice, optional rules, and so forth. We don’t have an official title yet for that one either, so I’ve been referring to it as the Tianxia Rules Companion.

Two books! Wow! I’m so excited about this.

 

Fate of the Inquisitor

TL;DR: Play materials for a Fate hack of Dark Heresy. Enjoy.

table_sign_foti
A year ago, I was planning on running demo games at conventions featuring the Open Content from War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. The Advanced Conflict rules, which are now also available from Randy Oest’s awesome Fate SRD website, are intended to support miniatures as an integral part of of Fate. Since we have approximately 30,000 points’ worth of miniatures in the house — you think I’m kidding, but I’m not — it seemed like the grim, gothic future of the 41st millennium, as seen in the Warhammer 40,000 miniatures combat game and the Dark Heresy role-playing game, was a perfect match.

Of course, health issues soon forced me to cancel my convention plans, but now that I am recovering and convention season is upon us, I decided to go back to packaging the game for quick-start.

First, the pitch:

Fate of the Inquisitor

Inquisitor Lucanus has led you, his retinue, to the Hive World of Corundum IV amidst an ongoing Genestealer invasion to retrieve a priceless relic from the foul xenos. Now the Inquisitor has disappeared during a brutal firefight and the ensuing cave-in, and you are chased by a Genestealer cult. Will you find your master again? Complete his mission? Call for help? Or die bravely but pointlessly?

I made templates for nine types of player characters, using a playbook format like the one used in games Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA). The rules are pure Fate SRD, but I hope the playbooks make character creation quick and easy for time-constrained one-off games.Each comes with a choice of names, looks, customizable aspects, and stunts. The playbooks include:

  • Arbitrator
  • Assassin
  • Imperial guard
  • Ogryn Bodyguard
  • Ratling Scout
  • Sanctioned Psyker
  • Scum
  • Sister of Battle
  • Tech-Priest

I also modified the appearance of the blank character sheet from War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. Then I made a cheat sheet of the Advanced Conflict rules I am using, and a table sign. All of these are available on Google Drive.

I have not yet put any effort into creating well-formatted single-page folding sheets because I expect mistakes may be pointed out and it’s easiest to update text prior to layout. Also, not a big priority right now.

Your comments are welcomed!

 

War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus is a 2016 ENnie Nominee!

ENnies 2016 Nominee
The 2016 ENnie Awards nominees were just announced and War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus has made the list in four categories:

  • Best Art, Interior
  • Best Family Game
  • Best Rules
  • Product of the Year

It’s up against high-quality, popular releases but it’s so nice to be on the list. (Now I know that at least four people read it!)  ^_^

I am so very fortunate that on my first professional writing gig in the role-playing world, Evil Hat Productions let me create a book the way I wanted to, with the support of their fantastic knowledge and staff resources. It doesn’t get any better!

War-of-Ashes-Pageheader

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.

Doublpage-Spread-Pic-B---Temple-Handshake

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.