Friday, June 14, 2019

B/X Mars preview and update

The book is still in DRTPG’s process.
I will offer the following
Adult content version- premium HC (is says color, but it will be black and white) Standard soft cover.
Rated T version: regular soft cover
And pdfs
I can’t say when, but soon.

The rated t-version will have altered and substituted art work.
There are no sexual situations in either version.
The adult version has quite a bit of full frontal nudity.
I have no regrets.

Here’s a faction:
The Nuphal, large sentient pachyderms, operating as a collective of clans, control overland trade throughout Zurzura and beyond

Place of Power The marketplace. 

The Shape of Things If it is a staple of life and cannot be produced within Xards or one of the other settlements it comes to the Dry Sea via nuphal caravan. Famed for delivering goods intact and in a timely manner, the nuphal clan caravans boast an excellent reputation. 
The Herd represents a key link in the highly illegal flesh trade. In fact, the Invisible Hand considers the nuphal caravans the only sensible way to transport slaves. Each clan runs a caravan. Currently, ten clans, each linked to the others through a weak form of ritualized telepathy, walk the sands of Mars. Each caravan follows the same unmarked route, known as the Golden Road at unevenly spaced intervals; a new caravan arrives in Xards without warning a month or two after the departure of the last. But occasionally a year or more will pass between visits.Individual nuphal act as caravan organizers, porters and guards. 
Additionally, the clans employ humanoid agents to further their ends within settlements and mercenaries to guard their expeditions. Despite the Herd’s use of sell swords, nuphal warriors know few rivals in their capacity for destruction, and, although rare, there are powerful Warp adepts among the ranks of the clans.

Goals To buy and sell whatever there is to buy and sell
Whatever there is to buy and sell.

Demeanor Herd markets and caravans entice with goods and revelry, and for most provide nothing but a good time. But some who drink and dance amongst the nuphal vanish into their midst, never to be seen again. 

Monday, June 3, 2019

What is best in life?

Finishing things is pretty cool
B/x mars is currently in its actual final stages. DTRPG went down on whatever day I tried to upload this thing, but didn’t see fit to email anyone until later I guess. I spent a day trying to figure out what was wrong with my pdf. @#$%*&, as spider-Man might say.
Now we wait. Waiting is not amongst the best things in life- unless you are unsupervised and have intoxicants.

Starting things is great too. With Mars done I’m returning to Cosmic Tales. Although I guess that’s finishing something too. It’s weird to use the other f-word around here so much.
I’m pretty excited about this. I’m working from enlarged photo copies of my roughs (Email if you want more detail) and it’s lovely. I got the idea from Erik Larsen.
My goals here are

Anyway, if you have anything you’d like to talk about now is the time to hit the comments. In a month I’m going to be building my cult of personality. It’s going to be all yes men all the time. Yes!


I’m wearing something slinky and waiting to hear from you- don’t worry though. i’m always unsupervised and I always have intoxicants. “Can’t” is for losers, though, so I like to call them INTOXICANS.
Now, I’m going to put in a floor, which also requires intoxicans.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


I’m waiting on proofs.
Here’s something for you to look at with longing.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Honor of the Dwarves

With Mars complete it’s time to move on.
Here is the first map for my next project,  a vanilla setting book titled  “Honor of the Dwarves”

I’m not sure about this map; it may be destined for the trash.

Anyway, it’s going tot take awhile. I have two months of silent running art practice and study time coming up. I gotta level up before I lose my shit.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Goshdarn Batman

Golden Age/ Bill finger era Batman was a revelation. I’ve probably read close to 1000 pages of this stuff in the last week or two. It’s gritty; it’s fun; Batman and robin solve mysteries;  escape deathtraps share a bedroom (it was the Depression, nobody had their own room) and all kinds of other shit.

I have also decided that an unwillingness to directly kill other people in masks (the only other people they acknowledge as people) is a fairly frequent, although far from universal, component of the overall super villain profile. In this regard it is not unlike leaving clues to indicate your next crime. Below we have an example of both.
Anyway, these stories are miracles of compression, and, imo, a good example of how to put a comic together if you’re looking to do such a thing.  Also when it is at its best (when Bob Kane isn’t drawing it) I love the art style.
There are thousands and thousands of pages of this stuff. Hoopla has a good chunk of it.
Highly recommended.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Get it done

Getting it done. 
As I close on Mars, my first major RPG product, and with the relatively recent release of Cosmic Tales #1, I have a thing or two to say about getting it done. 

Okay, first things first. You need to decide on an art budget right away. Start saving that money up. 
That’s commitment. Relying on clip art or hoping to provide “exposure” for an artist isn’t going to do it. Maybe you have another way to generate commitment. Use that, but you still need to budget for art and start saving that money. (Just to be clear as far as my motivations go here, I am not currently accepting commissions). 

Yeah, that’s easy for me to say. If I had to pay for BX Mars art we’d be over 4k at this point- if I lowballed it. You’re not really in competition with people who can do both, however, there are only a few of us in the scene- and I’m not even there yet.  

That’s out of the way, except for the part where you pay a guy and he doesn’t deliver. That one goes both ways. Find out who delivers and who doesn’t. Find out who pays up and who does not 

Research is also commitment. 

We have now successfully placed one horse in front of the carriage. 


First Draft:
You can make an outline or not at the beginning. It won’t mater later. I suggest making an outline between your first and second drafts.

You need to write your first draft from end to end without going back and revising. It doesn’t matter if it’s garbage. It is a natural resource. Think of your first draft as mining the ore. Subsequent drafts draw out the METAL!

Never go back mid draft, no matter how fundamental the change. Make a note- and proceed from there as if you have already made the change. Fix it on your next pass. Frequently- you will want something very different by the time you make your next pass. Any time spent going back is time waisted. Get to the end; go back to the beginning. Rinse and repeat until you cry. Then do it some more. If you think you can do it all in one, tell me about it; I can always use a good chuckle.

Alternately, you can engage of an endless loops of pointless revision within the incomplete first draft. You’ll never finish this way. How can you finish something if you don’t get to the end? You fucking can’t. Have you been sailing for years and never seem to get any closer to the shore? That’s because you’re doing it wrong. 

That’s out second horse. Sometimes, however, it’s also the elephant in the room. 


Two Sentences.
You need to write a thing about a thing, but the well is dry. Write two sentences. Come back on your next draft. The second you put those ideas down they start to cook. Even if they are barely ideas. Expand and refine on your next pass. This is especially useful for list items like spells, monsters. or geographic details. 

Honestly, I suggest following the two sentence rule from end to end on your first draft. When you’re done, you’ll have an outline. Won’t that be swell? 

That’s our third horse. 

Don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t start planning your KS or fucking around with layout until you have a complete document. I made the mistake of doing the latter. The dwarf kick starter guy did the former. I lost some time. He lost his house. Be careful! And for the love of god, if you can afford it, find some poor bastard to do your layout. 

Four horses. 
You can get ready to roll. 

Additional advice. GTFO social media. Checking to see if someone has upvoted your clever comment 5000 times a day isn’t going to get you there. 
You need a strategy for this. I turn off the wifi, or leave my tablet on another floor of the house. I keep books and comics near where I work on my stuff, so if I need a distraction I don’t drift into  e-fugue. 

Limit how much you share along the way. Previews and such often provide some necessary affirmation. But in the long term, short term gratification is an icky self-indulgent distraction. Further, showing incomplete content, especially if it hasn’t gone through drafts, makes your abilities look like less than they are. 


Friday, April 26, 2019

Initial impressions- the Six Million dollar Man

Six Million Dollar Man
Initial Impressions

Every week or as often as I can manage it, I’m going to blog about Steve Austin, the Six Million Dollar Man (SMDM). I’m going to take a look at the stories; some of the actors that show up; discuss the social relevance of the show- and some of the surprising differences between TV then and now.  
The most important and shocking is that the show is not dumbed down even a little. Yeah that’s right, a 70’s show aimed at ten year olds asks more from you than GOT or even the Expanse. Way more. 

One of the things that struck me immediately as I watched an assortment of episodes scattered throughout the series, were the similarities between Steve’s arrangement with the OSI and the third Doctor’s arrangement with UNIT. 

However, in contrast to Doctor Who and most other science fiction franchises; SMDM skews more towards science fiction than it does science fantasy. Star Trek and Dr who level technobabble are in surprisingly short supply- really they’re absent altogether. 

What you can expect: Discussions of things like planetary conditions on Venus; cogent explanations of plate tectonics; speculation on robotics and space flight-  and not to mention the protagonist himself: Steve is a science fictional artifact, a fantasy projection of what prosthetics might someday be able to do- and in many cases, today, can. The original pilot was made in conjunction with a UC prosthetic research institute. 

The first season of the show is comprised of three television movies; each of the movies is self-contained, but also plays into a combined story. The second two movies are more espionage oriented and the third is the best of the three. The first pilot is a slow burn- I had expectations of action when I went in and was disappointed. I watched it again (i don’t know ) why, and I really enjoyed it.  
I found it absolutely impossible to dislike Steve. i want him to come over for dinner and bong hits. 

I’ll talk about the first of these movies next week.

We have the technology, if you’d like to watch along. The entire series is available to stream for free  NBC dot com or, alternately, the DVD’s are really cheap. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Star Wars: it’s not a dungeon crawl- it’s a ship sprint.

Alas as all good things must, my Star Wars game has ended. Sooner than I would have liked, but that’s how it goes.

However, in the last few weeks, as missed play sessions stacked up, I did a shit ton of prep, and I created a system for infiltrating a functioning imperial facility.
We’re not looking to map or explore methodically. It’s Star Wars you run around fro awhile, take some lifts, talk to your droid and find the Falcon.
Your player need a Droid for this kind of thing. It’s like a space smart phone and gen x hacker kid rolled into one. Also I am convinced that R2 D2 is a minor god of mischief.
If you give them a droid it should be the one with a bad motivator from IV, R5 D4, because that’s how SW works.

Here we go. This station below is a product of budget cuts in the wake of the demise of the original Death Star. It is a mash of Imperial and Separatists (The enemy of the republic during the Clone Wars) technologies. It lies at the center of a great ship’s graveyard hidden in a cloud of interstellar dust and infested with giant catfish like space monsters.

Now that we have our simple cutaway, or schematic if you want to do something a little more in depth- although I don’t advise it. .
Next I created two decks of cards.

One deck is for architectural features and gets reshuffled every time you draw from it.  The other deck is encounters and locations.  I have as yet to come up with a scheme for how frequently to draw cards. But i’m thinking really frequently

Once a card from the second deck is drawn , the list of encounters is consulted. Eh after this, the card is  replaced in the deck or discarded. If it’s location/encounter that is singular, discard; if it’s Storm Troopers, put it back in the deck. You should have multiple ST cards in the deck, btw.  Here are the card  listings. 

Ship invasion rules 
Two card decks
Architecture. Some basic architectural features 
Encounters and rooms (often with encounters too)
Some listings get more cards because they are more likely to occur. Some encounters are one time things and can be removed from the deck once they occur. 

Floating in space the characters do not have enough mass to pass through the air barrier and bounce back into space. The only way in is through an EVA access door. Two techs are near the door fixing something or other;  door is sealed. And requires a key code. There are two doors one has tech s the other does not. 

Once inside the characters are confronted by a lift. 
The lift comes out in the  scrap yard. 

Assume that two troopers stand guard over anything even minimally important. 

Access Tube I
Drunk technician. Apologetic. Thinks the PC’s are officers on an inspections. Belligerent.
Tube is just for climate control system maintenance. Shaped like a cheeto, shorth ladder leads to anotehr access tune with a long adder. Mostly conduity and pipes ends with a right angle crwl space, opens on Wampa Pens.

Access tube 2
Unoccupied leads to core shaft. Mostly conduits and utility boxes. A few computer stations  here and there, but all engaged in local functions. 

Armory [restricted. Difficulty 15]
Storm trooper weapons and armor. 10 dormant battle droids. 10 thermal detonators. 2 troopers inside playing cards on thermal detonator box. If the alert has been given they will be outside the door, and demad that anyone approaching identify themselves. 
Remove from deck.

Off duty men having a raucous party. They give no fucks about the alert! If the PCs are dressed as Storm Troopers they will invite them inside. And hand them drinks. Some are in armor others are wearing pod racing paraphernalia.   Some drunk dude will stat shit with them, and demand to know who they are. He’ll accept any answer. Or forget he asked the question. Oh have a laugh. 
If the PCs leave someone will try to get them to stay- the big race game is about to start.  
“Get back in here, it’s started”
“Now that’s what I all pod racing!

Battle Droids
Patrol of 10 marching down the hall.

20 Boarding Pods 
Long, narrow tech- crowded and ring shaped passage. Crammed with 20 boarding pod docks. A3 M4, Grumpy belligerent astromech doing repairs.  Wearing a restraingin belt. Will ignore characters unless they get in his way. Will attempt follow them out of the room but is blocked by the restraining bolt. If they take it off he will follow and commence to assist them. 

One of the few places with complete computer access to ships systems. Usually two guards two tech. 

Bio-Weapons [Restricted]
The domain of Doctor Ogmus Kryne. 
Door open on a lobby like space. Reception droid (protocol droid; two ultimate Battle Droids.  lobby like space.
Two lifts one up, one down. 
The upper lift leads to the wampa, rancor pens. 

Down lift leads to:
White, creepy sterile lab. Drains cut into floor, slightly stained with blue. Lined with tanks and transparent plastic jars full of murky fluids and familiar unsettling shapes and masses. One of the jars has a rancor head in it. 
Glass door leada out to a room lined with compurers and hooked into jars of fluid and huge bacta tanks. Quit droids scuttle over the machines like spider.

The doctor is in, before anyone can properly identify the occupants of the tanks, he steps out from the shadows. The warbest follows behind. 
It is a rancor with a machine-like attachment to it skull. 
The doctor laughs and welcomes them to his lab. He is mildly curious before the alert, but will attack on site after the alert. 
He’s hella creepy.

Carrier Deck One 
Main deck. Lots of techs and roughly 40 troopers on guard. Another 100 are marching around the bay in crews are everywhere fixing things and putting other things back together. 
A dozen imperial shuttles; 50 tie fighters. The Distant Hope in the process of being dismantled and searched. The dead body of the original pilot is on a repulser lift stretcher in front of the ship. Several men in sickly green lab coats and filters masks built into their faces. 
Storm troopers mill around the outside of the ship. 
High chance of discovery. 

Carrier Deck Two
Mezzanine above the landing bay. Twenty meters up; runs all the way around the landing bay, except the space side. Multiple lifts and stairs. At least two control rooms. 
Lots of troopers and techs. Officers too. 
High chance of discovery. 

Command Station
Officer controlled security kiosk. One officer 10 troopers.  Unusual behavior is likely to lead to discovery. 

Control Room
Ship wide computer, system and facilities access. 1-3 empty. All sealed. 
Detention Block
Security kiosk with corridors lined with cells branching off it. 

Someone recognizes that their armor is damaged

An officer asks for papers.

Darth Quell
The sith lord shows up.  

Separatist battle droids patrolling the hallway.  

Droid Rm
Storage and recycling. 10 imperial astromechs in wall rack. Lots of droid components.  
Sleeping guard. 

Engine room
Noise wall! Cavernous open space. Hundreds of trooper and techs. Catlwals and sup decks and control pits everywhere. Allkinds of building and reparing and welding. Noisy as fuck. 
Immediate confrontation. This is a high security area. 

Escape Pods [10]
See boarding pods.

A full level filled with farming fields and artificial light. Ag droids everywhere. Speeders near the lift. 

The ion cannon control room. 
Dozens of techs. Grimon Pitt, Military Archeologist. Darth Quell, reptilian lord of the Sith.

Med Bay
Several Too one b med droids. State of the med bay depends on what has been going down.  

Meat farm 
Rows and rows of meat vats. Droids tending the vats pay no mind to the pcs. 

Security Kiosk 
Octagonal kiosks in the  center of a 4 way intersection/lift bank.  It’s presence indicates on or the other. 

Storm Troopers
4-24 (4d6)
Behavior dependent on intruder alert status. 

Torpedo Room
 Racks of Torpedos
Empty awaiting clients
Two men in green robes with mandoid attachments working on a horrible looking machine

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

From the mists of time; the Dwarf Thing revisted

Long ago, in the mists of 2014, I started a project that I found myself unable to finish; except I did finish it- but I suck at figuring that out- as I’ve recently been informed. The good news is I am going to put it together and re draw all the art and maps- and you’ll get some of my fancy new shit  with all the arrows and text clutter we’ve all grown to love.

Here is a link to everything I remembed to tag. There is more I’m sure. There is a
mega dungeon map at the very least.

The bad news is I’ll need to do like 100 illustrations. Because.
2014 was an exceeding bad art year. Brace yourself, youngling:

Monday, April 1, 2019

BX mars, final update

Mars went to the copy editor a few days ago layout is 8/10ths done and the cover art is below. The next time we’ll see anything about it here will be when we look at the proof in a month or so.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Star Wars AP 1

Star Wars AP
Session 1
Escape from Hoth:

Start: The Battle of Hoth
Taken from the front during the heat of battle, Lay-Sinn, the soldier and Gauge, the failed Jedi, were suddenly tasked with escorting Commander Danu, a pilot,  to his ship: The Distant Hope, an ancient Old Republic fast attack boat.

The officer who assigned this mission died in an ice fall seconds later. Danu took a fatal wound on the way to the ship, and barely remained alive long enough to make  the jump to light speed. 
Before he died the pilot imparted his mission onto Lay-Sinn and Gauge.
They were to find a world suitable for the new rebel base. The next step in their mission was to visit the planet Trinn, a water world and meet with an agent residing on the planet’s only island, in the planet’s only city: Port One.
The DH came out of light speed near Trinn; endured an inattentive imperial boarding party’s half assed search, and made landfall at Port One.
After leaving the ship the pair went to meet their contact at a fast food restaurant; a note passed to them told them to seek out Krusk in Pipe-town, deep beneath the surface, on the city’s lowest level. 
A few inquiries led them to Krusk, who gave the pair a computer storage crystal with the additional details of their mission and the course to a planet in a distant and little known sector at the galaxy’s rim. 
 As they left Krusks, a short distance down the pipe way, a gravity lift opened, discharging a squad of storm troopers led by Lorquin Qu’all, minor lord of the Sith. 

To be continued...

EDIT: Ref notes: the game was easily played although slowed by a little by page flipping; which is not to be unexpected in a first session. The second sessions way cooler. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Fractal Setting Three: Pyramid of Empire (Star Wars Part 1)

Fractal setting Creation three: 
A familiar example: Star Wars Part 1
The Empire

The Empire’s Pyramid: 
2.Vader/Moff Tarkin/ Aristocracy*
3 Organized crime; (formerly)the senate.
4. Top brass military officers- the guys Vader likes to choke
5. Military Personnel: Officers and administrative staff.
6. Enforcers: Stormtroopers; cops.
7. Citizens

Excepting the emperor, each category has a pyramid of it’s own- and in many cases, pyramids at the same level or even adjacent levels may battle over resources or power- or just as mutual expression of anger and hatred- even the Emperor is not immune. 

*the place of the aristocracy in the empire is ambiguous at best. Assuming it’s old money and and old boy network controlled, a place near the top seems fitting. 

It may or may not be useful to design a similar pyramid for your current setting. 

Of course we can argue about the exact placing below, if you like

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Review WEG Star Wars 30th Anniversy Set.

Review: WEG Star Wars 30th Anniversary Edition

My first campaign ever was with FGU’s Space Opera RpG, set in the Star wars universe. However, by the time the actual Star Wars RPG was released, I’d moved on to dating. Before last night, I’d never run or played this system at all. Before last week, I’d never even looked inside one of the books. 

Watching the the Clone Wars show with my son and reading Archie Goodwin and Carmine Infantino’s run on Marvel’s original Star Wars comic rekindled my  interest in in the franchise. I really enjoyed the Force Awakens and (especially) Solo, too. And just out of curiosity, mostly, 
I’ve been looking at this set since before it was actually available. 
Anyway, I scored a big art commission, got paid, split the money with my wife and bought myself a whole bunch of comics- and this game. 

The set includes reprints of Star Wars the RPG and The Star Wars source book.

First physically- it’s fantastic. The slip case is sturdy; the books are hardcover and pleasing to hold. The interior photos and the graphics have charm and communicate an awesome space opera aesthetic. 
The only drawback to the presentation of the game is a separation of some combat stuff between the mechanics chapter and the combat chapter- and a few missing things, or things that should have a heading, but do not; however, this is mitigated to a high degree by thurough cross referencing. All in all it’s a wash. Organization is adequate. 

The system is amongst the best I have ever seen. I’m absolutely taken by it’s simple elegance. 
Another thing about the system and the rules, that frankly blows my mind, is if it happens in the movies and its cool or sounds cool- there’s likely a cool system for it in the game. Can you: Angle the deflector shields; use parsec as a logical sensible measure of travel time; plot a course though Hyperspace in an cool and exiting way; engage in an exciting chase; get snagged by a tractor beam- fuck yeas you can. 

I can’t say enough good things about the system, and there is only one thing I dislike about it and it was easily remedied. 

The PCs are in no way even half as competent as Luke on his first day off planet.  The version of Luke presented in the Sourcebook is an OP demigod, but that’s not even what I’m talking about. You cannot with the system as written create a character that has the skills Luke has when the movie starts- much less Han or Ben. 
This is a weird design choice, and I’ve seen it before- Hollow Earth Expedition PCs are crazy anemic, for instance. This is some kind of “earn your fun” shit that is endemic in RPGs and, frankly has no place in Star Wars.  
Other points of interest. The game has a mechanic to turn you character into an NPC if you do too much terrible shit. 
The environment is friendly to players. Things go their way when it’s possible and sometimes when it’s not.
Referees are strongly cautioned against killing characters 
Finally the book is 141 pages long; with 94 pages of rules and related; a character sheet; 3 pages of charts at the end; 17 pages of character templates; 5 pages on designing adventures and a 15 page adventure. I probably dropped a one in there somewhere. We’re all gonna make it. 

The sourcebook is a collection of descriptions and diagrams of common technology; starships; droids; creatures and aliens. The Wampa failed to make the creature section, but the Taun Taun is in there. Weird. The movie characters are all stated up and are incredibly OP. You’d be all like Mon Mothma, baby, why the fuck they stat you? And then she would hand your entire party and a platoon of storm troopers their collective ass.  
“Don’t call me Baby”

Other than that the source book is really cool. 

Our game was rocking. After months of play testing my own thing, followed by several weeks of trying to sort Icons die mechanic and poorly organized text, it was a relief to play something so well designed and easy to run. Improvisation- something I’m normally not on board for as it limits player agency, if I’m pulling consequences of their choices out of my ass, is very easy in this game, and it’s Star Wars, consequences are pretty easy to work out ahead of time. Further if you hit a rough patch, just toss in something from the movies. I did it like three time last night. We stated during the battle of hoth.  My (home made) encounter tables were mostly stuff that happens in the movies. 1. Pitched battle 2. Ice Fall 3. Wampa; 4 storm troopers; 5 something explodes; 6. Lorquan Qu’all, minor lord of the Sith. 
The characters are now tasked with finding a new planet for the Rebel base. 
Which brings us to my final point and another aspect of the game that has only emerged over time- and that is the crazy amount of additional material- and I’m not tlaking about EU stuff or RPG supplements. I’m talking about awesome DK picture/ map books; encyclopedias and art books and all that stuff. It is so easy to stat up creatures, NPCs and ships you don’t really need game books at all. 

Sadly, there are no complex rules on financing a 30 year mortgage for your starship. Otherwise if you’re running a game with a space empire- even some of the most esoteric aspects of the setting, Star Wars are common knowledge. This one campaign (of two that I can think of) where you don’t have to worry about the players not reading the setting material. 

Our cannon (So Far)