Monday, December 15, 2008

The Big Preview

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Things have been as chaotic and unpleasant in my personal life, but that’s pretty much my status quo, so I just go with it.

I’ve been working intently on the Otherverse America campaign setting, as Guide to the Known Galaxy readies itself for release. I expect to have Otherverse America out my early spring. I would like to release the setting on January 22nd, 2009, which seems a pretty damn appropriate date to release a cyberpunk supers setting focusing on anti-abortion terrorism. (And if you don’t know why, Wikipedia it, kids.)

However, I probably won’t. Gathering the art resources necessary takes time, and I don’t think the art will be complete until mid February, at the earliest. By my current estimate, I think you can expect Otherverse America at all the usual sales locations by the first of March. I’ll probably release a big preview or some Free20 Supplemental material on Jan 22nd, though, just to take advantage of the date.

At this point, Otherverse America is over 325 pages of dense….very dense… content. It’s a fully realized world, and that’s its greatest strength. The premise might piss off a lot of people, but it’s fully explored and much different than other D20 Modern sci-fi options out there. It’s an interesting setting that doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence, which I’m hoping is enough to make it a moderate success. As the setting nears completion, I’ll be adding some more preview images and some preview text here.

This image here is a fairly standard “Choicer” infantry troop. I’m including him here to give you an idea of the costume design for the setting. One of the hardest design challenges I’ve faced is making the Choicer army not only look battle-ready and appropriately futuristic, but also recognizably pagan. Usually a stereotypically ‘pagan’ look has a sorta medieval aesthetic, which I wanted to avoid.

I’m a huge fan of military sci-fi and first person shooters like Halo, Gears of War and Rainbow Six. I wanted all the troops in Otherverse America to feel like they belonged in a plausible, hard sci-fi environment like that. Plus, when designing for sci-fi, its all too easy to design something you think looks cool and alien, but really looks ri-cock-ulous- Lord Vakko’s hybrid mullet/high n’ tight in Chronicles of Riddick is the prime example in my mind. I think I’ve avoided the obvious pit falls, what do you think?

Early on, I had decided that the Choicer faction would be primarily decorated in reds, browns, golds- warm colors, with a rich, blood red (which symbolizes menstruation, important to a matriarchical culture) dominating. The design challenge of that, of course, is designing red and gold superheroes that don’t make you instantly think of McDonalds. Darkening the colors, adding browns and bronze highlights helps A LOT.

The obi-sash combination he’s wearing ended up becoming a standard part of the Choicer field uniform. Adding a low-tech, hand crafted touch like that to the otherwise standard battle armor he’s wearing really gave me the ‘pagan’ feel I’m going for. The symbol on the sash is an extreme stylization of a standard ‘female’ symbol, which the Choicers use as their sigil.

By contrast, I wanted to dress the Lifers in dark colors. You’ll laugh when you read the reason why. Sure, purple has always been used to denote royalty and religious power, but I picked purple and black armor for the Lifers because of the Transformers cartoon. The Insecticons, the coolest looking soldiers in the Decepticon army sported purple, black and gold deco, and that color scheme has always stuck in my mind as an incredible look for hardcore villains. Even better, you’ve got an immediate visual contrast between the two factions, something important if I ever have the resources to put out a minis line in support of Otherverse America.

I wanted the Lifers to have a lower-tech look than the Choicers. They have worse supply lines, and have to make do with jury rigged or stolen equipment and weapons. There really isn’t a standard Lifer field uniform; each soldier just wears whatever works and what he’s got available. The second Lifer preview image- of Ghost Boss- was also used in Psi-Watch, which is intentional. Most of the characters illustrated in Psi-Watch were Otherverse America NPCs (and former PCs) first and foremost.

Something else I wanted to do with the designs is to incorporate text, jokes and propaganda directly into the costume design. You’ll notice a lot of stuff written on t-shirts, buttons and bumper stickers stuck on mecha, things like that. Scars and tattoos, as well as elective cybernetics, are also a ssssbig visual motif. As a guy with 7 ½ tats himself, I’m fascinated by the concept of changing your body in accordance with your will and beliefs. You could pretty much sub

title the Otherverse “Hot pro-choice chicks with scars and guns”…… basically cybered up Suicide Girls (swoon!).

Finally, I’m including a few random excerpts from the manuscript itself. What follows are descriptions of two major Choicer holidays, from the chapter dealing with Choicer/ Covenant of the Goddess Universal culture. I’m including them here to give readers an idea of how the setting’s political realities have altered the way 2107’s neo-pagans celebrate some ancient sabats (holidays). Also, they’re just neat, and I’m sure you can find a bunch of plot hooks in ‘em. Enjoy.

Samhain (October 31st): Samhain is celebrated at the same time as Halloween, the holiday it inspired. In contrast to the costumes and candy of mainstream society, the Covenant celebrates Samhain as a somber festival that remembers and honors the revered dead.

Samhain has become a highly politicized holiday among the Choicers. Those slain during the War are remembered, as are all witches throughout history who have died in the name of religious intolerance. Bastian politicians take the opportunity to push for a more aggressive stance towards Christian America and expansion of the Choicer military. Television and Mesh ads and Bastian blogs run short propaganda clips extolling the heroism of Choicer martyrs. Violence and street brawls between Bastians and Christians are common in the nights immediately after Samhain.

At sunset, Choicer cities go dark to celebrate Samhain. Homes and businesses turn off lights and electronics and are lit only by candles and ceremonial lanterns. From space, it is an eerie sight, as whole portions of cities go dark, and remain nearly lightless until sunrise the next morning. Only the cool blue light of the force domes lights Choicer cities.

Slow candlelight processions wind their way through the darkened, silent streets. Families and covens visit Covenant cemeteries to lay flowers and pour wine on the graves of the honored dead. Police and volunteer metahumans are deployed into the streets, keeping a close eye for everything from pickpockets working the night-shrouded crowd to Lifer suicide bombers.

After the processions, family and friends gather in private homes and sacred spaces, sharing food and wine. Pumpkin dishes, especially pumpkin pies and jack o’ lanterns are a common part of Samhain gatherings, in half-remembered imitation of Christian Halloween traditions. Children are usually allowed a cup or two of wine at Samhain gatherings, and many traditions use hallucinogenic drugs and oracular object philosophies to allow believers to see and speak to the honored dead.

Ostara (Spring Equinox, usually the week of March 20th): Ostara is a mid-spring festival, traditionally celebrated as a time when the God returns from the underworld of winter and reunites with his consort. Ostara and its antecedents have been a fertility festival since ancient times, and is still primarily celebrated as such. Newborns and young pagans, taking their first steps into the faith, are introduced to the community at Ostaran gatherings, and the month of March is considered an especially auspicious time for Choicer mothers-to-be to perform the Prayer of Awakening.

Choicer cities are decorated with symbols of fertility and life. Garlands of flowers, genetically engineered to survive for weeks after being plucked, decorate doorways and street lights. Stores and schools are decorated with traditional Easter symbols: cardboard and paper-mache rabbits, decorated eggs, reclaimed from the Christian tradition. Marriage vows, commercial partnerships and unit bonds are reaffirmed. Military reenlistment ceremonies, even if the actual reenlistment occurred months ago, are officially celebrated during Ostara.

Over the years, Ostara has taken on a new and surprisingly militaristic role. Ostara has always been a time of renewal; in olden days it was considered bad luck to wear new clothes before the holiday. Glamorous new outfits were unveiled at Spring celebrations. That tradition continues into the 22nd Century, and in recent years, Ostara has become one of the most important military holidays for the young Choicer nation.

The Choicer nation provides its troops with their annual clothing and uniform allowances at the end of March, and troops are provided with scheduled upgrades around this time. New weapons systems and power armor designs are unveiled on Ostara, and the purchasing cycle for new defense contracts closes the week of Ostara. Military analysts (and stock market players) across the world have good reason to pay close attention to the Choicer military and its weapon systems towards the end of March.

The following text is an excerpt from a chapter on Lifer culture and media, and shows a softer, more benign side of the terrorist nation. Again, I just think it’s kinda neat, and something you usually don’t see in sci-fi gaming. Enjoy.

Super Dolfie Loves Mommy”

“Super Dolfie Loves Mommy” is the highest rated, most successful Lifer-themed kid’s cartoon on the Mesh, breaking every conceivable previous rating and sales record by an order of magnitude. The award winning series is based loosely (very loosely), on the early adventures of Lifer metahuman Miriam “Dolfie” Black, a Lifer-aligned Innocent (from the D7ACU line) whose combat drones took the form of children’s dolls. Decorated multiple times for her courage under fire, Dolfie Black was equally respected by her Choicer adversaries for her genuine commitment to pacifism and use of minimum force. Unlike many War-era Lifers, Dolfie concentrated on saving the lives of innocents caught in the cross fire, and minimizing civilian casualties during her combat cell’s rescues.

Today in her early seventies, the grandmotherly combat-veteran has started a second career as a children’s entertainer. She writes, produces and stars in Super Dolfie Loves Mommy, providing the voice of the show’s CGI star.

Super Dolfie is targeted at much younger audience than traditional Lifer children’s fare, and lacks most of the propaganda common to the genre. Aside from urging viewers to “thank mommy for having me!” at the end of each episode, Super Dolfie has little content that would offend even the most sensitive Choicer. The show’s cast even includes “Lady Naomi and Billy”, cartoony versions of a Neo-Witch Midwife and her toddler son, who are portrayed as lovably flawed, and occasionally greedy, but not irredeemably evil. This inclusiveness has made the cartoon an unexpected cartoon hit, and Super Dolfie Loves Mommy is a pre-school staple, even in Choicer homes.

In addition to the Otherverse America setting, I’ve got several more installments of the Thinking Races series on deck, including an incredibly cool new release featuring lots of art from Amanda Webb, The Thinking Races: Inhuman Beauty. I also pulled together a bunch of material originally designed for Louis Porter’s abortive Secret Agent Monthly which never got used into a military tech book: Mil-Tech ’09. Look for two those, as well as The Thinking Races: Core Revisions, with my take on elves, dwarves and hobbits, not to mention several new advanced class releases over the next few weeks. There’s also another Free20 product on deck, so keep an eye out for that.

At last count, I have a total of 15 releases complete and ready to be released, not counting Otherverse America and my freelance stuff. It’s a pretty good number for a first year start up company, and I plan to have more even releases in 2009. After I release Otherverse America, I plan to follow it up with an additional faction book, focusing on APEX and the role the American federal government plays in the conflict. I cut this material from the Otherverse America core book for size, and because it’s big and complex enough to stand on its own as an independent release.

So enjoy your Christmas, (or Yule, if you share my faith), or whatever your holiday of choice is,


Monday, November 10, 2008

Working on Obsidian Twilight... and my own stuff.

Well, right now the front page of is fairly empty. Aside from a few indie games, and some of Sade's excellent stock art (of which I've purchased quite a bit), I don't see much new content. I'm a bit disappointed. I know intellectually, that the market is on a down turn because of fourth edition, and everyone is waiting for the revised GSL, and hell, I know that the biggest election of my life was just 6 days ago, and people are still shaken up by that. But man, it is lonely out there.

Right now, it seems that only myself, Mark and Louis are still plugging away at 3.5 content, which on one hand is good, because I just got my October royalites a few days back, and my stuff is still selling pretty well. Even if the big names are nolonger supporting 3.5, there are still enough gamers who will buy products for it, and at least now I'm no longer competing for 3.5 dollars against Wizards.

Still, I'd like to see some more stuff out there, from other publishers, if only because as a gamer I enjoy good 3.5 material. I picked up some Starwars D20 RPG books at Half Price the other day and thought they're about 5 years old, they're really excellent. But that's another story.

Still, I'm doing my part to end the 3.5 D&D Drought of '08. I'll be doing some freelance work for Louis Porter, working on Obsidian Twilight with him. I just turned in a first draft of a half dozen prestiege classes for the settings, and I'd like to do some more work on the project. Gamers- if you want me to have a big presence on Obsidian Twlight, drop Louis an e-mail and let him know.

Anyway, the way it was pitched to me is Obsidian Twilight is a classic fantasy horror setting, inspired heavily by Dark Sun (probally my favorite fantasy setting of all time) and Ravenloft (eh, its okay). The combination of the two really sounds good, from what Louis has told me, and I definately figure I've got just the right kind of warped worldview necessary to bring a settng like this to life. Check out Louis' blog for some preview material.

I also completed two more The Thinking Races releases, one focusing on savage, warlike races, and another focusing on beautiful, feminine (but alien) races. They should be releasing soon, after "Core Revisions" a Thinking Races book focusing on elves, dwarves, halflings- the usual suspects. Oh, if you're into Obsidian Twlight, you'll definately want to pickup "The Thinking Races: What Savage Beast." "The Brass Men" are a race in the upcoming release, which is very, very inspired by one of the iconic races of Dark Sun.

I'm also working on art for the Otherverse America setting, as well as putting together some material from my unpublished 'slush file'. I never throw anything away, even if I abandon a project midway through or a deal falls apart, so I've got a huge backlog of material I'll be doing something with. On deck, I've got the core setting for Sanctuary: City of Secrets, a D20 Modern crime setting, which was originally built as a West Coast companion for LPJ's Have: City of Violence. The setting was abandoned when Neo-Exodus took off, but the core setting is done. I'll probally be releasing that one myself, as an Otherverse sourcebook. More on that one later,

Since the deal with Reality Deviants fell through, I'll be publishing the Slaugther House Earth setting (post apoc magic and zombies) myself. I worked on some title art last night, actually.

Also on deck is a huge monster book focusing on dinosaurs which I wrote a couple months back but never did ANYTHING with. I'll probally slam something together with stock art or public domain illustrations, and put it out. After all, what gamer can't use 50 pages of monster stats?

Likewise, I've got a geomancy/leyl-lines/steampunk techno-magic source book for 3.5 about 60% complete. I picked up Sade's airship stock pack last weekend, and it's given me the impetus to finish this bad boy.

Anyway, talk to you all later,
I'll be here, filling the D20 gap,

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I should be working...

I really should. I've got a pretty cool assignment on deck, and I'm working on art for my Otherverse America setting. I'm not sure if I can tell you about my new freelancing gig or not, but if you're a fan of a certain classic fantasy setting (with Cannibal Halflings) you should be pretty happy.

I should be working...
But I'm not. I can't concentrate on writing or art right now. I'm watching history being made, and I hope that when the sun rises it will be a good historical moment. After 8 years of the most corrupt, evil and theo-fascistic president (lower case intentionally) I'm looking forward to having a President I can actually respect again. I feel like I'm being let out of prison.

Goddess, I hope Obama wins, because I don't want to imagine what this country will look like in the hands of McCain and that Palin psychopath.

You know, for me, the economy, the war in Iraq are all important issues, but abortion rights are my hot button issue. I won't elect a pro-lifer to anything, not President, not local dog catcher. I despise the ideology, which probally isn't a suprize to readers of my fiction. So today I voted straight ticket Democrat, because they're pro-choice, and well, they're right on pretty much everything else too.

Oh, and I'm hoping that either this Personhood Amendment horseshit gets knocked down in Colorado, and fast.

And so,

The Facts: Voted today, at a few minutes past noon, at a church on the corner of Kostoryz and Crestmore, about a mile from my house.

I got ticket number 6611, voted straight ticket Democrat, and according to the people at the polling station, they'd had around 1,600 voters through the doors by the time I walked in.

The Sadism: I did take a sorta sadistic pleasure in walking in with my pentacle around my neck, becuase I figured the Republicans in there casting their ballots sorta deserved to know exactly why I was kicking their political asses. Immature, yes, but emotionally satisfing.... also yes.

I just wish I had a good pro-choice t-shirt to wear, but that may have been a bit much.

Anyway, I feel like I've been let out of prison. I've been waiting for the chance to vote for President again since... well, the morning of Nov 5, 2000. (And yes, I did vote in 2004, for all the good it did.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bragging like a Mo-fo.....

Just wanted to share the good news. Patrick Greenlaw, over at RPG.Now gave Psi-Watch a four star review, and had this to say about the release....

"The section on powered armor is a godsend."

Godsend, mo-fo. Godsend. That's something I've never heard about my writing, but I'll take it. Anyway, read the full text of Patrick's review here....

I also added a new link to my board- Fred Clark's Slacktivist site. Fred is a rarity- an educated, liberal Evangelical Christian, and his blog is an aboslutely brutal, but incredibly well written and insightful skewering of the Left Behind series. I've been following his stuff for a couple of years now, and it's been an invaluable resource in designing the politics and psychology of Otherverse America.

Speaking of which, I just finished up the writing for Sexually Transmitted Future. I'm using STF as another State of the Otherverse Release, which goes very heavily into the civilian culture and everyday life of the Otherverse America setting. I'm working on the 'military-tech' book for the setting right now, which focuses on the combat aspects of the settings- new advanced classes, vehicles, weapons, ect.
Anyway, talk to you later.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Upcoming Release: GTKG

The Guide to the Known Galaxy will be releasing within the next couple of weeks, and I thought I'd include some preview art and commentary here. I've done all the art myself, working dititally in Corel Photopaint 9.

This first image depicts two of the setting's iconic characters- Cassie Andra Feneris (Crucible) and Steve Mortari (Facade). Originally the focus of the Otherverse when it was a comic, I've decided these two, along with the other two members of their strike-team, the New Power, will pop up often in adventures, in game text and across various Otherverse America releases. It won't always be obvious where you'll see these iconic characters- trying to find all their appearances and peice together their backstory (which is indicitive of Otherverse America as a whole) will be a pretty big part of the line.

Right now, these two are depicted in all their superheroic, post-human glory, and are a pretty damn good example of the kind of Player Characters you can build with the new Lifechain Feats (basically semi-divine superpowers) included in the Guide.

This pretty motherfucker right here is a member of the Stonecutter alien race, who are pretty much THE major galactic power in the setting. Imagine the Dutch East Indies trading company at the height of its power, or an interstellar version of the Spanish Conquistadors, and you've got a pretty good idea of what this species is all about. They're incredily strong, durable and capable of very limited shapeshifting, each member of the species is incredibly wealthy thanks to their well-run, post scarcity economy (something I dearly wish we had right about now) and they're a couple of milleniums higher tech than humanity. There's alot to love about the species, both from a storytelling and a power gaming perspective.

Finally, this last image may not be very worksafe.

Give you some scroll down space.......

A bit more....

That is The Genesis, and he's a God (Capital G) in the best Jack Kirby sense of the word. He's the living incarnation of high technology, innovation and man-as-creator, and because he's a god, he doesn't have to wear pants if he doesn't want to. And he never wants to....

Anyway, that's some images for you guys to mull over.

Talk to you later,


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Working hard on the Guide....

Just a quick post. Right now, I'm finishing up Guide to the Known Galaxy, so I'd thought I'd give a status update.

I'm putting together the last few pieces of art for the product, and out of a 170-page manuscript, I've actually laid out about eighty pages or so. I'm just starting on the chapter dealing with Lifechain mutations, which are basically very, very screwed up superpowers which genetically link player characters (and monsters) to the 'epic level' threats of the setting. It's sort of a high tech, superheroic take on Lovecraft or the idea of demi-gods. Kinda cool, and I think you'll all like it.

I'm doing the art myself, and like all my projects I'm using Corel Photopaint 8 to do the art. I picked this program up about five years ago, and I'm comfortable and familiar with it in a way that I'm not with the Adobe graphics programs. I've tried finishing my art in Photoshop and I'm never satisfied with the results, since by now I'm so used to the Corel interface. Anyway, look for some art previews here soon, as well as the actual release pretty quickly.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Third Edition D20 is Still Alive!

Hey, guys, gals and hermaphadites, how's it going?

It's been a busy month for me, both with my civilian job and on the game design front. Psi-Watch released early this month, and seems to be doing fairly well. From the sales I'm hoping that alot of you are enjoying this new take on D20 Modern Psionics. I'd like a little bit more word of mouth on it. Give me some reviews- good, bad or indifferent. I'd like to hear from you guys on what you liked, what you're using in your home campaigns and what to include in future releases.

I'm also releasing a bunch of 3.5 Fantasy stuff. The Thinking Races are a line of revisions to the core races of D&D. The first installment of this standalone series "Diverse Humanity" is up now at all the usual places, and "Core Revisions" with its new takes on Elves, Dwarves, Halflings and Gnomes will be up soon. I've gone ahead an purchased some absolutely awesome art from Amanda to illustrate the third book in the series, which details the archetypes and races that aren't 'core', but that always manage to find their way into fantasy gaming anyhow: pixies, merfolk, minotaurs, and the like.

Below is the rough sketch for the Sirens player race, which are delicious when pan fried with butter and lemon. Or with beer batter.....

I've got several more Thinking Race PDFs on deck, some of which are waiting for art. In addition, I've got some D20 Modern/Future advanced classes on deck in the tradtion of the work I've done for Marc's D7 Advanced Class Update Line. Also, look for some short, free PDFs mixed in there, as a thankyou for your continued patronage. I'm also working on some support for Black Tokyo, as my best selling product (EVER) I feel that setting definately needs some love.

Right now, I'm focusing very heavily on my own personal universe: Otherverse America. I'm in a wierd place with O.A. it's a setting that's very personal to me, and something I'm passionate about, but I know as a commerical project it is (to put it mildly) a huge risk. I'll be releasing Guide to the Known Galaxy first, probally within a month! I'm doing the art myself, first because it's cheaper and easier, and secondly because this setting is my baby, and I want to do as much as I can on it myself.

I read this Wizard interview with Kaare Andrews a few months back, before Reign premiered. In it, he says that he may not be the best artist, or the best writer, or the best colorist, ect, but since he was doing it all himself, that's something special, something very few other creators can do. That idea of being a self made, one-man-band creator appeals to me alot.

Anyway, talk to you later, and once Guide to the Known Galaxy hits, I'll probally be giving away the original art for it and Psi-Watch. Not quite sure how to go about that, but we'll see.....


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ready for Lift Off!

Alright, thanks to my new found familiarity with Adobe PageMaker, Psi-Watch is finished and ready for release. Barring any unforeseen problems with Mark's final QA pass, it should be up in a day or three! The final manuscript totals 219 pages (including cover, some splash pages, and OGL) and there's some dense, crunchy text on about 215-216 of those pages. You'll definately be getting your money's worth.

I'm pretty proud of the way it came together... the writing's top notch, there's alot of world information- which is something alot of readers wanted from Black Tokyo, including major NPCs, setting groups, enemies and allies, all of which have a definate "Image Comics" vibe. No NPC statblocks though, since I absolutely fuckin' hate writing those things.... statting up villians is probally my least favorite part of RPG-writing.

Some of my favorite things about the project:

It's definately a homage to the early Image stuff, and there's a ton of in jokes, send ups (and even a few flat out rip offs) scattered through out. I'm especially fond of one of the new player races: The Jupiter Tainted mutants, which are basically Fuji from StormWatch with a new coat of paint. Fuji, espeically under Warren Ellis grew into one of my favorite characters on the team, and I'm glad I got to build something like him. Also, a Jupiter Taint mutant is the 3rd illustration in the manuscript, counting the cover.... figure's a little stiff, but I really like how the design for the containment suit came out. I was going for a mix of Fuji and Johann Kraus from B.R.P.D and I think I succeeded admirably.

Also on the art front, I really liked the way the illustration for the Final Sword advanced class came out. It's one of the best things I've ever done myself, and I've previewed it here before. Hopefully, you'll like it.

Other than my own art, I illustrated this project with stock art from the Louis Porter Image Portfolio and Shaman's Stock Art lines, both of which I can't recommend enough. My favorite stock peice has to be the red shell suit.... and you'll know which one I'm talking about when you see it. That puppy is so bad ass I made it a full page splash, introducing the power armor chapter.

On the writing front, I think you'll enjoy the new take on the D20 Modern Psionics system. It's class and feat based. No power points, no class ability lists.... Psi Watch psychics are a little bit less diverse, more tightly focused around a single power theme, but their abilties are easier to use and alot cooler. Most of the powers in the book can be used at will, or a generous number of times per day, and are VERY, VERY powerful. If you want to rack up a pretty impressive body count, go with the Incenerator Advanced Class. That class' 10th level, capstone ability is entitled "Living WMD" and the name's accurate.

Anyway, look for it on RPGNow.Com this weekend, and pick it up. Also, I'd like some reviews. Anybody want a comp copy for review purposes? Drop me a line at I'd like to get the word out on this puppy as fast, and as far as possible.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Okay, boys and girls, I'm finally getting familiar with Adobe Page Maker (it came with my computer) and I've decided that I'll lay out Psi-Watch myself. The good news: I was able to contact Jim Lee and comission a cover, and Marc Silvestri will be doing a few peices of internal art.

No, not really. I'm just fucking with you. Got your attention though, didn't I?

Seriously, though, Psi-Watch will be ready probally by the end of this weekend. I'm about 3/4 of the way through the layout process. It's going to be fairly basic. Two columns of black and white text, with inset artwork. Nothing fancy about the layout, but man oh man, is it going to be lavishly illustrated. I'm a simple creature: I like lots of color on the pages of the products I buy, so any products I SELL will have that same philosophy in mind. I'm not going to do any background print or sidebar text boxes, due to the criticism I've recieved for D20 Decade: the 1980s. I'll also be including a plain text file with the PDF, so readers have a searchable, small and portable version of the product for everyday game-table use.

Anyway, to reiterate what's cool about Psi-Watch: It's a variant psionic system for D20 Modern, based very heavily on the first year or two of Image Comics. Government superspies, cyborgs, mutants, power armor, big-ass guns, beautiful women, ruggedly handsome men, and 'sentient gasesous post-huamns'.... Psi-Watch will have it all. Look for it in a few more days, and thanks for the patience.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Been a While....

It's been about a month since I've updated the blog, so just a quick note.....

With the release of 4th Edition, everything is currently in limbo for me....not to mention that the company I release most of my stuff with is currently on hiatus. Mark from Skortched Urf is in the process of moving, so alot of my Skortched Urf releases are on hold till that's finished. Hopefully things will pick up soon. I'm looking forward to the Wizard of Shadowfall and another couple of cool projects, including the badass looking Fantasy Firearms II.

I can sympathize. This month, I helped my mother move up to her retirement house in Kerrville TX, as well as helping my brother move in (temporarily) into my efficiency. He's moving up to San Antonio at the end of the month, but since his lease on his old place ended this month, he needs a place to crash in the interim.

I've finished up Guide to the Known Galaxy completely, and I'll probaly just coble it together and release it myself, using purely my art, since I'm a bit too broke to afford to commission more art. I've been shopping around Psi-Watch, and if you guys want to see it, drop Louis or Mark a line on their blogs and add some encouragement. I'm also doing alot of 3.5 fantasy stuff- with Wizards out of the 3.5 D&D game, I feel it's a stronger time than ever before for small companies like Otherverse, LPJ Designs and Skortched Urf to push their fantasy products. We're not competing with the big guys anymore- WOTC is off the board, and so are alot of first tier PDF producers who are now concentrating on 4th Edition.

I've got a line of 'race books', each focusing on about a dozen or so different thematically linked player races, which I'm shopping around. I've got two manuscripts, each about 15K words completed, one larger manuscript, focusing heavily on Half Orcs and other Monstrous Humanoids about 80% done, and a couple of more still in various design stages. One book focuses on the core fantasy races- Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes and Halflings, while a second book focuses solely on humanity and human subraces.

Also, for various reasons, all of which are annoying, it looks like Slaughterhouse Earth might not happen, at least not with Reality Deviants. So game publishers and small press gaming companies: if you want to take a look at a 55K word magic/apocalyptic setting for d20 Modern, drop me an email. I'd be glad to unload this big ol' sourcebook for a reasonable price.

Anyway, I'll try to keep the blogging up to date, and look for some releases from me in a few days.
Talk to you later,

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cover Art, Maybe? First Look: Otherverse America

Right here is the first look at the Otherverse America campaign setting, depicting one of the Neo Witch Midwives- cybernetically enhanced, Neo-Pagan pro-choice activists. I did the art myself, working from a public domain image found on my stock art site. The costume details and background were created in Corel Photopaint. Anyway, hope you like it. I'll probably be using her as the cover art for one of the upcoming Otherverse America sourcebooks.

Talk to you later,

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Work With What You Have

I am a small businessman. Very small. Almost microscopic. I'm a very small part of a niche industry, and my operating budget is probally less than the price of a carton of smokes these days. However, like any gamer, I enjoy a lavishly illustrated PDF. So, I work with what I've got.

That includes good artists in the form of Amanda and Anthony. That includes doing alot of art myself- not quite up to their standards, but it's fun and adds some value to the pages.

It also includes stock art. For Psi-Watch, I'm relying pretty heavily on illustrations from Louis Porter's Image Portfolio line. Louis actually used several of these images to illustrate the first projects I sold him, and I have always liked the designs. The super hero stuff from the Image Portfolio collection really has a strong early Image comics vibe, and I thought I'd preview a couple of my favorite peices from the project here. Not wanting to just cut and paste images, I added some color to 'em with Corel Photopaint, a program that I've used for years, and am more comfortable in than photoshop. Enjoy guys.

The last image is all mine. It's an illustration of a member of the Final Sword Advanced Class- if you're a WildC.A.T.s fan, the inspiration for the character class should be obvious. I really liked the way she came out- the almost feline face, the strong brown skin, and the bloody crimson color palatte.

Look for some more images soon enough, and on an unrelated note: Any Super Mario Brothers fans out there reading my blog? If so, check back in a couple of days and I might have a project on deck that will make you delieriously happy- or at least chuckle bemusedly to your self.
Blessed Be,

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Update: The Deluge to Come

Okay, here's where I stand on projects and what you guys and gals can expect from me.

1. Sent along a good solid draft of Slaughterhouse Earth to Reality Deviants. Dave liked it, and I should be seeing the payment for it sometime this month, which means it should be up in a few months.

By the way, congratulations to Dave for snagging the license to produce Call of Cthullu for D20. I just want to say I would love to play with crazy old H. P.'s squidlike uber-gods, and if you would too, drop the folks at Reality Deviants an email saying that you'd love to see what kind of insanity the creator of the tentacle-riffic Black Tokyo can come up with playing with Lovecraft's toys.

2. The Wizard of Shadowfall should be out pretty soon, which is a fun little D20 Fantasy (3.5 version) take on the Wizard. Skortched Urf will be putting this one out, and I've got a few more releases on deck- two new advanced classes: The S.L.A.M. Soldier and the Voidsparrow, both inspired by 80s cartoons. Who knows when they're coming out, but buy 'em when they do, you'll enjoy it.

3. I just bought a metric shit ton of superhero stock art, mostly from Louis Porter's Image Portfolio line, and am colorizing it myself. It looks great- very strong Image style art, and very bright, shiny and glossy colors. After I get the commissioned art I'm paying for from Amanda, I'll send the whole package over to Mark at Skortched Urf, where he'll add some additional art from Anthony and lay this puppy out. Hopefully that whole process will take less time than Black Tokyo did, and reach an even wider audience.

4. Speaking of Louis Porter, I'm doing some more work for him. He's planning what he calls a Player's Idea Factory, a free or low cost subscription based column where each week I produce about 1000 words detailing cool new content for D20 Fantasy, things a player would like. I'm including new prestige classes, feats, spells, magic items by the gross, and a few new player races. I'm having a great time working on this project, since like many freelancers, I've got more ideas than I've found a home for. This project gives me a chance to just throw content at the reader, like confetti at a wedding, without worrying about a single cohesive theme or logical collection of content. This is just random D&D goodness, which I hope you'll love.

5. On the Otherverse Front, I'll probally release a revamped Guide to the Known Galaxy in a couple of months. I'll probally take the 'one man band' approach to the Otherverse stuff, writing, illustrating and laying it out myself. Right now, I want to tighten up the draft of the Guide, arrange the information in a more interesting way , and add some new content- mostly more space monsters.

I've got the cover art done (thanks to the manipulation of some really cool stock art I picked up from Stock Exchange) for the Choicer faction book, and I'll post the raw image here. I want to find a similar set of good photos to illustrate the Lifer faction book.

6. And at some point, while I'm doing all this, I'll be working on D20 Decade: the 1960s, a follow up to the award winning (yeah, right) D20 Decade: Eighties. Like Eighties, Sixties will be another one man band project, illustrated with my own work, as well as a goodly selection of historical photos in the public domain. The research is going well, and I've got an idea of how I want to play the concept, as well as an idea about which classes to include.

And on a personal note, I just got back from seeing Iron Man and that movie totally and completely kicked my ass. I realized that I've been reading Iron Man for more than 20 years now, and that Tony Stark is my favorite Marvel hero. This is a movie that did him justice, and is easily the best of the Marvel movies so far. I really, really want to see a sequel.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Creativity Cycle

Right now, I'm putting the finishing touches on the post-apoc magic that Reality Deviant comissioned. I'm tentatively titling the setting "Slaughterhouse Earth", which has a cool, brutal feel to it. I'm having alot of fun, because Post Apoc stuff can be as ridiciulous as you want to make it, I can include really brutal, biting social satire, and vent my spleen at the world by basically blowing it up.

My writing process goes something like this. Right now, I'm working for Whataburger asa graveyard maintence guy- making better money than I was at a 'real job' ironically enough. I get off work between 7 and 9 am and go home and write till around 3 pm, when I finally crash. On my days off, I spend usually around 10-12 hours writing. It's funny. Even when I wasn't getting paid for it, I wrote just as much. There have only been a handful of days in the last few years when I haven't wrote, at least for a few hours.

The only time I'm not writing is when I'm up in Dallas/Denton with some friends for the Wizard World Texas con, which is the only time I see my best friend and his wife these days. Even when I'm on vacation, I feel sorta uncomfortable not writing- I try to get all my freelance assignments caught up before leaving. The only time I'm not writing hardcore is if I get a new videogame.... but that's pretty rare. the last game I bought was Final Fantasy X2, when my computer was down last month.

Anyway, I usually pop on a DVD to listen to I write or turn on the local hard rock station, C-101. I've been listening to a bunch of post apoc movies while I work on Slaughterhouse Earth: I just bought Grindhouse: Planet Terror (I'd already found a cheap copy of Death Proof- great flick) and Resident Evil: Extinction, I added that to Cyborg, Land of the Dead and, the Devil's Rejects and Colors... not post apoc, really, but tribal, distopian and violent, which fits the theme sorta. The whole project is about violence and terror, so I pop on some good, gory, ANGRY movies.

Anyway, while working on S.E. I've been picking up some of Louis Porter's stock art- some of the early superhero stuff he's put out- to decorate Psi Watch. I really like the art, which has a VERY strong early Image vibe, which is exactly what I'm going for in a cost effective way. I've been working on the color myself, a really garish, slick, metallic style which mimicks the early Image style of coloring. I've been having alot of fun with, I've lined up some more art from Anthony and Amanda, and I might end up putting out an open call for peices on I'd also like to liscense some existing peices from Deviant Art, but I haven't heard back from those cats n' kids yet, unfortunately.

Finally, I'm looking forward to my next projects. The first Otherverse Release, focuing on the Neo-Witch Covenant, a collection of cybernetically enhanced, neo-pagan pro-choice activists is in the design stages, and I want Amanda, with her intricate, feminine, detailed style to take a stab at some of my designs.

Guide to the Known Galaxy will be coming soon. As soon as Slaughter House Earth is done, I'll do some more art and start buying stuff for it. Look for it in a month or so.

After that, I've just started researching another D20 Decade book: The Sixties. I like D20 Decade because it's a fast, easy project to put together, and I can do most of the image work with public domain and historical images,and I should be able to find a bunch of cool art for this one. Plus, this puppy will definately be a tribute to my mom and the stories she told me about the decade....

Talk to you later, I'll be going back to writing now....

And I'll sleep eventually.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Old Comic Book Day

It's been a pair of weeks since I last posted. Right now, I'm working on a post apocalyptic magic soucebook for Reality Deviant Publishing. So far, we've got 3-4 new player races, a half dozen new advanced classes (Here's a preview of some of their names, because a cool character class name is the most evocative part of the concept: Slatewiper, Romero's Legionnaire.) I'm including a bunch of new mutations, new feats, spells and gear as well as location details about two or three major regions on this one particular post-apoc Earth.

I'm waiting to get some $$$ together so I can start buying art for Psi-Watch, and once I get my wacom tablet set back up to start doing some more art of my own for Psi-Watch and Guide to the Known Galaxy. I realized how much I enjoyed doing D20 Decade: The 80s, slamming together a quick product in less than a month, with no financial outlay, and getting it out there to be enjoyed by the consumers.

Right now, since alot of the blogs I'm reading are doing comics articles, I thought I'd join the mix. I'm going to post some cool comic book covers: the covers so good I just had to pick up the comic. SOme of the comics beneath the pages may have sucked, but man, oh man, these are some of my favorite images.

Here goes:

This is the image that attracted me to Milestone Comics, a late and lamented imprint of DC which did some of the best superhero stuff of the mid-90s. I'd never heard of the team, or even of Milestone itself at the time, but this image slapped me upside the head from its place on the spinner rack. It didn't look like superhero comics: the only thing I had in my vocabulary to describe this was cyberpunk. Not the Gibson style of cyberpunk, but the wild and crazy, magic and mutants style of Shadowrun cyberpunk. I picked this issue up contents unseen, just on the strength of this awesome image.

this image of Daredevil came out when I was in 6th or 7th grade. I must have spent days tracing the image, putting my own superheroes into this pose, trying to capture the sheer power of the image. The story beneath combined genetic engineering, feminism, and 3rd string Marvel heroes. Basically Ann Nocenti brought together a Daredevil, Ultron, the Inhumans and a genetically altered sex-b0t into a story together, and it worked. How it worked, I don't know but I did really enjoy this arc.

You know how I mentioned sometimes the cover would be awesome, but what inside would suck. Here's an example of that. Storywise, I couldn't give two shits about Harbinger, or anything else Valiant put out, but this is such an evocative, cool image.

It's hard to narrow down the Lee and Silvestri era of X-Men comics to a single issue, but I've always really like this cover. The reavers never looked better than they do here.

Anyway, that's all I have time for today. I'll have to be skulking off to work. I'll be slaving away at my crappy real job, and than head home to do some work on the Apocalypse, and mabe some projects of my own. (I'm going through a serious release slump: I need to do some more quickie products like Advanced Classes or equipment books to get some more products with my name on 'em up on Rpgnow's front page. I'm not sure if I should do 'em as work for hire, and make some quick cash, or release 'em through Otherverse Games and build up my little company's catalouge. Not sure which would benefit me the most. Anyway, talk to you soon. )


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

In Media Res

“In the middle of things”.

It’s a literary technique, and one of the strongest ways an author can open a work of fiction, right in the middle of the action, forcing the viewer/reader/player to jump right into the story, acting on instinct and emotion and only filling in the details of previous events later, if at all. It’s also a literary technique that’s almost never used in role playing games; adventures usually begin at level one, on the first day of the quest, at the doorstep of a new adventure.

A while back, I promised you my thoughts on Final Fantasy X, and here goes the first installment. I’ve realized the reason that the details- the reality of Spira comes through so strongly is that we, as gamer and viewer are thrust directly into the mix of things. Bad-ass opening cinematic, and than a fight scene, with deeper world details coming after the fighting is done and over. You, the gamer/viewer, learn about the world by doing. There’s exposition, sure, but for the most part, I learn about Spira by participating in the day-to-day life of Spira: your own screen avatar performs religious ceremonies, plays the world’s sports, rides the Shoopuff, and explores the world.

There is a baseline level of exposition and understanding necessary to understand the main story, which is conveyed in a traditional manner- through dialogue and non-interactive cut scenes, but the player can go as deeply as he or she wants into the world. By completing mini-games, side quests, reading info text about the monsters and NPCs in the forms of Shinra’s encyclopedia entries, and dialoguing with NPCs you find more pieces of the puzzle that is the world of Spira, and you’re tangibly rewarded for doing so. More exploration equals better gear, cooler spells, prettier cut scenes, additional missions and powerful, optional boss-monsters to fight.

I realized that Spira is laid out like a giant, interactive puzzle- the literary equivalent of the cube from Hellraiser. Play with it a while and it’ll reward you. The videogame model of story telling is a really interactive, player dictated, 21st Century way of conveying information By contrast, most RPG products are laid out like encyclopedias or travelogues. The reader is a passive participant in the action while reading through the text, only becoming active when the game begins.

As you read through the book, you’re like a tourist boning up on the entry visa requirements for the Coalition States (Rifts), perusing a list of bars and taverns in Waterdeep (Forgotten Realms), or reading a newspaper about the troop buildups in Breeland (Eberron). You’re not a citizen of that world living, breathing, fighting and fucking every day of your life within the universe. Depending on the skill of your game master, and your own role-playing abilities, you might become a citizen of a fictional country later, but when you first read through the rulebook you’re not even a visitor- you’re a guy watching a travel documentary and deciding if you want to visit.

Not knocking any of those settings, by the way, because they’re all great worlds. I’m just saying that they’re all laid out in the same, fundamentally passive, old-school way. Why not do something a bit different? The question is: how do you bring Spira-like interactivity and mystery to gaming? In addition to Final Fantasy X, I’ve also recently become obsessed with ‘alternate reality games’ like, so that may flavor my opinions a bit.

I can think of a few products that come close. Now, this is just off the top of my head, but Aberrant (White Wolf) is on the right track. Sure, the world is still explained by chapter after chapter of exposition, but at least it’s not all in the same voice. Instead, the world info is conveyed with newspaper and magazine clipping, website screen caps, corporate brochures, and other artifacts from within the universe. Not everything is explained; though you know enough to run a good game just by purchasing the core book, those who try to ‘solve’ the mysteries by buying additional splats are rewarded with additional information, usually in the form of more pieces for the puzzle.

The Freedom City Sourcebook (Green Ronin) takes a different approach to interactivity. The book is a traditional RPG world book; on the surface there’s nothing that differentiates it stylistically from other RPG setting guides. The sourcebook takes the usual encyclopedia/travel guide approach to describing the fictional Freedom City. The interactivity comes in the in-jokes, homages and Easter eggs the writers tossed into the manuscript.
In addition to reading through for content, the reader is forced to constantly analyze the text, trying to catch all the NPCs who are named for famous comics characters or creators; the reader is enjoying the world info on two levels. First, the reader is reading through normally, deciding what kind of characters to make and planning out the adventure. Second, the reader is metaphorically wandering through the streets of the city, looking up at the skyline and trying to catch a fleeting glimpse of weirdly familiar superheroes at the same time they’re chuckling at in-jokes like the Trainor and Jordan International Airports.

So, what does this mean for me?

Simple. I’m going to try something new and a bit risky with the Otherverse America campaign setting. I was reading through the rough text of the manuscript today, and I realized something. It’s written in the passive, encyclopedia-style format and to me, maybe because I’ve lived with this world in my head for so long, is kinda dull. Nothing wrong with the encyclopedia-style format, but why not do something a bit different?

How about instead of a 5,000 segment on Choicer holidays, I put the reader/gamer directly into the middle of one, pushing their way through an crowded San Francisco street fair during the Roe Day parades, hearing the constant drone of advertising smartlights, smelling the bar-b-que cooking in sidewalk stalls as you chase a psi-capable Lifer terrorist though the milling crowd. Instead of talking to the reader about the insular nature and xenophobia of the Lifer enclaves, why not send ‘em on a raid inside one of the fortified compounds and let them see things for themselves?

Why not present Otherverse America as a series of linked adventures (similar to Paizo’s Adventure Path or Louis Porter’s Sidetrek Adventure Weekly) instead of a traditional corebook? Each chapter would cover a relatively small, discrete element of the world, and would include, in addition to an adventure write up, a selection of new feats, gear and classes which are a good thematic fit for that week’s adventure. Right now, I’m planning a series of linked adventures, occurring up and down the Otherverse America timeline, but without a linear A-to-Z progression.

Each module would be a standalone adventure, but could occur months, even years before or after the preceding issue’s adventure! The first adventure might take place in 2107, following a young group of Neo-Witch priestesses who have just received their bionic badges of office, while the second adventure follows a platoon of Lifer soldiers more than 30 years earlier, while the third adventure might occur at the end of time, giving the players their first hint of the cosmic, god-level power struggles behind all the politics! I know the continuity and the setting’s meta-plot like the back of my hand, so why not take advantage of that fact?

Of course, something would link all three scenarios- maybe an important NPC during the War-era mission is the parent of one of the heroes during the first; maybe all the adventures occur in the same location, showing how a single adventure site can change dramatically down through the decades. Taking a cue from Final Fantasy and its side-quests, I might find a way to reward gamers who meet certain conditions in each scenario, speaking to (or blasting!) a specific NPC who quest stars in all the modules, for example. What form the ‘side-quests’ take, and what form the reward takes ( in game rewards like XP, bonus feats, super powers, player advantage coupons, or real-world rewards like free products, additional ‘unlockable’ content and info) are all up for debate.

The mystery of what links these diverse, stand alone 4-6 hour game sessions becomes the puzzle the players are trying to piece together, and the suspense of what the picture is going to look like when it all comes together (not to mention curiosity over what next week’s scenario will be) is what keeps the players belling up to the table, week after week.
As you can see, unlike the Adventure Path, where players will be running the same character for most of the long 1st to 20th level adventure, I’d like the Otherverse America campaign to be quick, punchy, and force the players to adopt dozens of different roles, points of view and power levels to keep things fresh and exciting. And I’d also like to borrow the ideas of quick-play battle scenarios from miniature war gaming, that each game session has specific tactical goals. I know I don’t have as much time to game today as I did while I was in the Navy, and I know its’ the same for a lot of other older gamers. Give me a 4-6 hour game session each week and I’m happy, particularly a whole module can be crammed into that session.

The upside to diverse, discrete game sessions is that players can take more risks in character creation, and not have to worry about being stuck with a badly built hero for more than a session or two. Likewise, the heroes can take more risks in game- a heroic death or crippling injury stings a lot less when you’re playing a quick and brutal, high flux combat mission with no lasting consequences for you, the player. Knowing that no matter what happens to your PC this game, you’ll have a whole new PC to play with next week can be very liberating.

The disadvantage is that it becomes hard to identify with a character you’re only going to be playing for six hours or so. I’m picturing Otherverse America as an anthology comic, filled with a bunch of cool short stories by a dozen great artists. Unfortunately, to continue the comic book metaphor, the readers might view Otherverse America as one of those second string comics where the creative team changes every issue and never really hits its stride. Also, by having new casts each adventure, the gamer misses out on what for many is the most fun part of gaming: leveling up! I might have to design a variant XP and reward system that works for this type of game, maybe something similar to a victory points system in mini war gaming.

A downside for me as a publisher is that doing Otherverse America as a weekly or monthly adventure is a bigger investment of time and resources than just putting out similar material as a big, encyclopedia style splat-book. Still, it might be worth the risk, and the setting I love deserves something this cool and innovative.

I'm Blowing Up the World Again!

The other night, I finished the revised draft of Psi-Watch. Finally able to write again (yippee!) I added over 20K words, most of which is purely world information. I built up an Image-style world, filled with lots of little homages and in-jokes to the comics. The Psi-Watch setting is an original world, to be sure, but if you’re a fan of early Lee and Silvestri stuff, you’ll find the world instantly familiar… and very damn gamable. There’s a real sense of history here, some interesting villains for your psionic supersoliders to do battle with, and some cool locales and NPC power-bases. You’ll find analogues for WildStorm Comics concepts like Gamorra Island- a decadent, cyberpunk island in the Pacific Rim where everything is for sale and International Operations (IO), a world-spanning superspy organization.

In addition, I added a handful of new feats, and a trio of new player species. Think StormWatch people- want to play Fuji or Jack Hawksmoor? Go right ahead, baby! You’ll find all the support you’ll need to do so within the pages. Finally, I decided to reprint the Mind Reaper Advanced Class, from the D7ACU line, since that class was specifically inspired by some of Jim Lee’s characters.

I figure that product is old enough that reprinting it here won’t seriously harm Mark’s sales, but naturally if he has any objection or concern, out the reprinted Mind-Reaper goes. I never want to be one of those publishers who just reprints and repackages the OGL efforts of other creators, even if I was the one who originally created the OGL material in question. I won’t be reprinting the flavor fiction which comes with the standalone class, so there is still some value to purchasing the original product if you haven’t already, especially if you like my writing.
By the way, you needn’t worry that Psi-Watch will be a lot of reprinted material- the only things that will be recycled in the entire 275 page , 100,000 plus word manuscript will be the Mind Reaper class (around 3000 words), and one of the player species, which comes to about 500 more words. I decided to pull in the Spetznaski player species, from my own D20 Decade: the 1980s, since the concept of a genetically engineered Russian supersoldier is so Image it hurts.

I really had a lot of fun finishing Psi-Watch up, and now it’s just a matter of getting this puppy laid out, for which I’ll turn to Mark’s expertise, and getting some art purchased. Meanwhile, I’m going to be working on a freelance project for Reality Deviants over the next few weeks. Remember that cool post-apoc magic project I was hired to work on a week or two ago? Well, now that I’m done with Psi-Watch, I’ll be starting up.

I’ve got a bunch of ideas for various magic using factions and some really disturbing new magical styles and powers. Disturbing will be my watchword for this project- an after-the-bomb setting is going to be grim as hell anyway, and once you start adding magic and demons and vampires, things are just going to get worse. I want this thing to be scary and disgusting and cruel, because to tell a good post-apoc story, you need all of that. Slavers, cannibal raiders wiping out struggling communities, disease, filth, infection, sentient disease, children scarred by radiation while in the womb, murder, rape, robbery, treachery, starvation… you know, a cheerful, G-rated setting.

Now, I’m a huge Rifts fan, and my first games ever were set on Rifts Earth, so that’s definitely an influence that’s rattling around the back of my skull.

I’m also keeping the Richard McCamon novel “Swan Song” in mind. To me at least, Swan Song is a superior novel to The Stand, filled with a lot cooler concepts and a much more palpable struggle between good and evil. I like both books, but I’ve re-read SwanSong a dozen times in the last few years; I can’t remember the last time I slogged through The Stand… I think I was in high school when I read it last, which may mean it’s time for a re-read.…. in the name of ‘research’ of course.

Whenever I write, I usually keep a constant loop of movies on my DVD player. During the D20 Decade write-a-thon, I was watching Red Dawn, Lethal Weapon I and II, Labyrinth and MoonRaker, not to mention a few others. For this project, I’ll be popping in some Mad Max, Cyborg, some Romero zombie horror, and maybe some Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green or even On the Beach if I can find a cheap used copy. 300 will probably find its way into the mix, because violence is violence and post-apoc is all about stylish violence. Also, the YouTube trailer for the new movie, Doomsday, is worth checking out. If I can figure out how, I’ll include a link here so you all can check it out.

Finally, on the influence front, I might include some elements inspired by the art of an internet fetish artist named Dolcett. Definitely disturbing, and I’ve got some ideas for a twist on the traditional ‘vampire’ concept inspired by this guy’s art. By the way, if you guys n’ gals go Googling for some examples of his work, be aware you’ll find some stuff definitely not suitable for a work computer. Anyway, freaky as this guy’s stuff is I kinda like it on an artistic level, and it’s inspired my writing every bit as much as works by….well… saner artists.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bought Two New Toys, Got Hit By a Car

To call today 'eventful' would not be overselling things.

I finally got paid, and after cashing my check, promptly set out to purchase a new tower for my desktop, to replace the one that got fragged last week. Unfortunately, the 200 dollar desktop Wal-Mart was offering on their website was out of stock, so I hit Best Buy, Circuit City and some of the other electronics stores in my city's sprawling 'stripmall hell-zone'.

By the way, I was on my bike. (Not a Harley kinda bike or anything cool like that- two pedals and a seat that hurts your ass like prision-sex). Why? Because I am God's Chewtoy. My car died last year. My computer died two weeks ago, and now....

Crotchety old white man in a SUV way too big for him, making a right on red, without looking.... me being stupid enough to think a glowing walk sign protected me like a divine aegis..... crunch. It's not the first time I've been hit while biking, and no harm was done to me, but unfortnately the front wheel of my bike now looks like one of Salvador Dali's clocks.

Another fucking thing to spend money I don't have fixing. Lovely.

Equally lovely was the fact I was humping the shattered remains of my two-wheeled comrade in arms about 2 miles back to my house. I'm a little bit sore from that. After that, I dumped the bike, dumped my first purchase on the phone and did a bit more walking, to a computer store about 1 mile from my home, a little mom and pop place.

Good news there. I ended up getting a 40 gig desktop with all the usual office stuff and Win98 installed.... bascially the same as I've been working on for exactly 200 dollar. I got it home, and in addition to the stuff I saw in the store, I noticed it came loaded up with Adobe Acrobat 6, which is fricking like recieving a submissive supermodel for Christmas! I figure this fun little bonus is karmic payback for spending my money with a real, local small business owner rather than throwing it at some soulless mega-corp.

By the way, the first thing I did since this was a used, refurbed computer was to take it home, open up the Documents folder and see what kind of porn the previous owner was looking at (mostly making sure there's nothing with children or donkeys, I'm cool with pretty much anything else). No porno, drat. Turns out the previous owner was a sweet little old granny, who kept copies of all those stupid inspirational e-mails that get sent around, which is kinda funny. She also kept her will, with every bit of personal secure info (including SSNs, driver liscense numbers and bank account info) on the thing, which isn't.

I'll definately be deleting THAT. Yikes, I feel really bad for that woman if she knows that little about opsec.

Anyway, my new desktop is my first new toy. The second, which I actually purchased before the crash, and the one thing I can't stop smiling about is my newest Iron Man action figure, which will join the small but growing army of Tony Starks protecting my desk and bookshelves.

I stopped by Target in my quest for computational goodness, and though I learned they don't actually sell computers, like I always do I stopped by the toy aisle, and picked up this little honey: "Repulsor Red Iron Man", which is a Target exclusive appearently, and one of the coolest bits of corporate synergy I've ever seen.

Target's colors are red and white, and their logo is a stylized, circular bullseye. This Iron Man, a combo of Adi Gradnov's absolutely awesome design and the old red and silver Iron Man suit from the 80s is red and (metallic) white, and has a circular uni-beam projector on his chest. I don't know who came up with this figure, if it was somebody on the Marvel side, the Hasbro side or if it was a Target executive's brainchild, but this is probally the coolest store-exclusive action figure I've ever seen.

You know, even after being hit by a car, I'm still in a pretty good mood. Maybe becuase I just got paid, and my financial situation is slowly straightening itself out. Maybe it's because 3 different people stopped to offer me a ride when they saw me humping my bike down the street. Maybe its because I've got two days off in a row, a rarity at my crappy 'civilian' job, maybe because I can write again, which I'll be doing after I post this. Maybe because broken bicycle or not, it's a beatutiful day in Corpus Christi, Texas, and I've seen more pretty girls in tight shorts today alone than I have in the previous two weeks. Probally it's because of my new Iron Man though. I've got messed up priorities.

Also, in other good news, I recieved my author's copy of the "Rust Borg" from Reality Devaints Beyond Modern line. I really had fun writing this one. I was asked to create some classes for a grim, violent Mad Max or Rifts-styled post-apocalyptic D20 Modern game. Rusty here is the first of three: the Slaver and Memory Singer (a modern magic healer, source of courage and inspiration similar to an after the bomb Bard) will be coming out shortly. Anthony (the hardest working artist in gaming) did the art, and it's always a treat to see his interpretations of my characters.

Anyway, a couple of secrets about this class. It was inspired almost completely by the "Four Horsemen" sculpt of Trap-Jaw from the revamped He-Man line; I basically built the "Trap-Jaw" advanced class, which is one of the absolutely coolest things I've ever done. Another thing, the name of the Rust Borg gladiator who got killed during the opening flavor text.... he's a small time gang banger in my home town who keeps graffiting my mom's back fence. Seeing that little SOB chainsawed to death, even in a work of fiction, warms the cockles of my heart. So naturally, I'm having a great time with Reality Deviant's post-apoc stuff, and I've been comissioned to do some more work for them.

I love getting cool emails saying things like "give me 30,000 words or so on a post apoc magic system" with a few very fun and very flexible writer's guidelines to follow, most of which consist of me and the clinet BSing about favorite books and cool movies. The post-apoc magic stuff for Reality Deviants will be one of the first things I'll be working on now that my computer is back up and running, along with Psi-Watch and Otherverse America.

Anyway, I'll talk to you all later, and I'll probally share my thoughts on Final Fantasy x2(which I've been playing addictively during my involuntary hiatus from writing), interactive storytelling techniques and confess my undying love for Rikku.

Blessed Be, and Adios,

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bad Reviews, Good Products

I'm going to get a little cantankerous here. I just saw this review of D20 Decade on Rpgnow.Com, by Dana Jorgensen and thought I'd respond to a few things right here. My responses are in red

"I usually like Skortched Urf products, but this is without a doubt the worst they've done to date.

I don't even know where to begin in pointing out where it went wrong.For starters, it is plagued by horribly inaccurate research. A prime example is making malls out to be inventions of the 80's when outdoor strip malls date back to the 1950's and indoor malls date to the middle of the 60's. Of course, why limit oneself to claiming events of the 60's and 70's as part of the 80's, when post-80's events can be referred to as part of the 80's as well, like Magic Johnson's HIV infection, which wasn't made public until 1991.

Read through the text again, you'll notice I never claimed that malls were invented during the 1980s, just that the 80s were a decade where the mall took on major social importance. The mall became the quintessential 80s hangout, started influencing the way we shopped, and showed up in 80s popculture and fiction. The late 70s and early 80s were, in my belief where America stopped being an industrial economy and transformed into a low-wage, service and retail economy. Malls may have been invented decades earlier, but they became very important during the 80s; I also mentioned the space race, the Cold War and the rise of video games and home computers- all those things had their genesis during the early 1950s as well.

Yes, I did rever to Magic Johnson's HIV infection, because it made a nice counterpoint and contrast to the way people with AIDs were percieved and treated during the 80s. I included several things from the present day which give historical context or a bit of irony to the events of the 80s. For example, I referred to September 11 and the rise of the Taliban in many places, linking those events firmly to the Cold War and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. That's not bad research, that's a basic understanding of history.

Why is there a section called "Spells of the Cold War" when everybody now knows that the Cold Warriors in the USA, UK and USSR were researching psychic phenomenon?

Not arguing with you there, there's a lot of inspiration to be found in wierd government programs. However, I really dislike the D20 modern psionic system, and don't want to mess around with it. Psi-Watch, with its completely different Psionic system, will touch on this element, but not in a major way.

Also, incase it slipped your mind- D20 Decade is 175 fricking pages..... for 7 dollars. A few things are going to fall through the cracks, and new D20 psionics elements (which I dislike) were one of the first things to get cut, along with a section on vehicles.

Was "Romanova Survivor" really a phenomenon of the 80's worthy of a starting occupation when there were only a couple people subject of this wild claim? The Rubik's Cube craze lasted longer than the Romanova Survivor craze.

Actually, I didn't know about the Romanova Survivors until I started researching the project. I found a couple of articles on the subject and it just fascinated me. I included it as a starting occupation simply because I thought being the last surviving heir to the Czars was a cool origin for a Russian hero or major NPC. There's a couple of exclusively Russian starting occupations, so if you want to play a Cold War era campaign set in the USSR, with exclusively Russian heroes you can. Besides, the Romonova Survivor is about 200 words out of a 175 page (7 dollar) document, so why even bring it up, other than just to be bitchy?

And why are so many of the "hidden races" of the 80's tied to the faerie mythology of the British Isles? The genetically engineered soldiers, transformers-inspired Manifold, and Chuckie/Puppetmaster-inspired Living Toys I understand, but what's with all the fey nonsense?
Are you talking about the High Solstice Sidthe? One race out of several? That's 'many of the hidden races?' You ever see Labryinth? I figured that celtic/Hellboy inspired fey were basically the best way to create a "Jareth" style player race. The Arcadians are video-game fey, inspiried more by Captian N: The Game Master, than anything else, and the Imajin are Jim Henson style, Dark-Crystal or Fraggle Rock inspired little creatures. All three have the 'fey' type, but only the High Solstice Sidthe even mention real world mythology.

Again, I think the substance of your argument says something positive about D20 Decade even as you're criticising it. You mention four different, (to my mind at least) interesting player races in one sentence, while you're complaining about how many fey are in the game. Again, I have to say this: 175 pages, tons of new content, seven dollars. Or four dollars if you bought it during the GMs day sale. What exactly are you complaining about, when WOTC releases 15 page adventure modules for nearly the same cost?

Finally, the layout is horrific, looking like it was done in Microsoft Word, with problems like text overlapping the inane and grossly oversized little nintendo controller page number graphic, (an experiment in design which has been universially drubbed, which I won't repeat) a lack of paragraph juctification, highlighted text where colored text boxes should be, what colored text boxes exist are cropped off at the ends as they autoflow to extra pages and a general lack of conformity (some feats underlined, while others are boldfaced and in a larger font size, for example).

You know why D20 Decade looks like it was produced with Microsoft Word? Because it WAS. You know why?

Because I don't have several hundred dollars to drop on purchasing Adobe Photoshop and I haven't been able to find a bootleg which has worked worth a damn! If you want to help me out with either, you go right ahead, skippy. Until than, stop harping on my layout abilities. You've got 2 columns of text and art, you can read the damn thing, so stop complaining.

It seems like was produced in a hurry with with little fact checking, haphazard memories of the 80's, and no proofreading or examination of the final product. Save your money for a second edition.

After reading your review, I checked out every review you've ever posted. All 2s or 3s, not a single review higher than that. I don't know what you look like, but I'm picturing you sorta like the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, fat and indolent, wheezing out "Worst. Gaming. Product. Evvarrr!" in between handfuls of Cheetoes.

I also did a search on your name, seeing if you'd actually ever written anything, and all I could come up with were a handful of D20 weapons books. Really impressive, dude. Do you think cut and pasting a bunch of information from Jane's and writing up weapon stat blocks qualifies you as a trailblazer on the frontier of D20 game design? Let's see you do better, instead of just bitching, moaning, criticising and feeling superior. Write something that requires a bit more thought than statting up sniper rifles and the OICW and then we'll talk, rookie.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's computer shopping time!

Well.... my computer works. Sorta. For about 45 minutes at a time, than freezes. With a single Microsoft Word document open. It stutters like Porky Pig, freezes, shits itself and dies. And than when I reboot the fucker it takes 2 hours to log on.

Needless to say, my computer is now the world's largest, most expensive paperweight, so it's going to be time to get a new one. Damnit.

What's worst is that since I don't have any cash on hand, and won't until my next payday, late next week, I'm without the ability to write. I hate not being able to put down my ideas, and work on the projects I'm trying to get out. My life has been... well, it's been extraordinarily crappy lately, but at least I could go home at the end of the day, and write for a few hours. Now I can't even do that, and it's frustrating.

What's even worse, I've got some good ideas I want to put into Psi-Watch, but if I can get my computer to work, I'm writing 3-4 pages at a time at most, before having to do the Restart Dance. Anyway, nothing I can do at this point except wait for that paycheck.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Not As Bad As I Feared

Okay, though I am fairly technologically iliterate, I was able to retrieve my documents from my computer, meaning I've still got the first draft of Psi-Watch, the completed Guide to the Known Galaxy and the current draft of Otherverse America. Thankfully, nothing was lost.

As far as I can tell, my Wacom graphics tablet's drivers crashed which was slowing my computer to a crawl (IE: taking over 2 hours to complete frickin' startup!). I deleted it, and will try reinstalling my tablet later. Hopefully, I don't be left with a $400 Wacom paperweight after all this is done.

At this point, the computer is running again, and I can write on it (though I'll definately be backing stuff up to my flash on a much more regular basis), though I may have to start looking into buying a new desktop pretty soon. Fortunately, WalMart and BestBuy are selling their PCs pretty cheap these days, and it's been time to upgrade for a couple of years now.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Once again, Fate Screws Me

Is there a smiley icon for murderous rage and or suicidal depression? Because I need one.

My computer died yesterday, and hopefully, with the help of my younger brother, it may rise again like some unholy undead abomination. If not, than not only have I lost all my porn, but even more tragically, I will have lost around 30K good words on the Otherverse America Campaign Setting..... fortunately I'd backed up an earlier draft to my flash drive two weeks ago. Still, I'd written a bunch of good material about the APEX organization (the setting's supercops basically), the role of the federal government, its technology and the role of corporations in the future government. I can recreate it, if necessary but it still hurts losing it.

Worse, unless I can recover my documents, all the art and text for Guide to the Known Galaxy is gone. That'll take some work to recreate.

On the good news front, I've recovered the first draft of Psi-Watch, so at least that project is still on track. As for the rest of my previously published material, I can retrieve copies from the publishers later, so I can have a collection of my own writing. Other than some possible delays to Otherverse America and the GTKG, this doesn't delay my plans too much. Psi-Watch is going to be my next big release, and it's still on track.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


It's odd that a product can not yet be released and yet be on its second edition, isn't it?

I learned a few lessons from the criticism of Black Tokyo, and want to apply them to my equally massive, but more 'general audience' Psi-Watch. In it's first draft, Psi-Watch was going to be a tool box for players, a book of feats, new classes and gear, lots of crunchy bits for D20 Modern powergamers. There was information about "PSI-WATCH" itself, a heroic organization that's as vaguely defined as Department Seven, which the psionic supersoldiers in the book work for....obviously an analogue for government funded Image teams like Youngblood or Stormwatch.

However, one of the biggest criticisms of Black Tokyo was a lack of world info, of fluff to back up the crunch, and I don't want to fall into that trap again. I'm revising the draft to add more information about the organization of Psi-Watch itself, what serving in the organization is like, as well as information about a generic 'Image-style' campaign world.

I'm also adding at least one more advanced class. A while back I heard about a Turkish or Afghani (I forget which) bootleg of Star Wars, which got wide play simply because of the hilarious grammatical errors and funky dubbing. One of the things that stuck out in my mind, was that since "Jedi" had no equivalent in the Turkish (or Afghan) language, the dubbing crew had to come up with a substitute: Hopeless Situation Warrior. To my mind, that's probably the coolest name for a character class ever- you are the one guy left standing when all hope is lost, and you can win against anything.

That name is one of the most evocative phrases I've ever heard of, a far cooler job description than "Jedi" and it's been in the back of my brain for a couple of years now. I can see it in the context of a Cable-inspired soldier, come back from a hopeless future to make things better, and that's probably going to be the concept behind the advanced class.

On the subtraction side, I'm going to remove the chapter dealing with combat genetic engineering, since it's alot of reprinted material, and include it elsewhere. The combat genetic engineering and military genemods will probably migrate over to the section in the Otherverse America Campaign Setting dealing with commercial genetic treatments.

Finally, I'd like to share an e-mail I sent to Amanda Webb, who did art on Black Tokyo, and who will hopefully be contributing some pieces to Psi-Watch as well. The letter gives a few hints as to the style and content and 'feel' of Psi-Watch, as well as an idea of what it's like to be a small press publisher working on a shoe-string budget.


I’ve finally got a bit of cash available to me and I would like to commission a bit of art for Psi-Watch. This one is based heavily on early Image comics- the art of guys like Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld especially…. Definitely keep your own style- I like the details and quirkiness of it, but keep the design tropes of early Image comics in mind:

    * Lots of equipment pouches, web-belts, military gear.

  • * Shoulder pads, body armor, and guns- I don’t know if you can draw realistic tech, since it wasn’t really an issue on Black Tokyo, but don’t worry. Just make ‘em look cool and futuristic- if it worked for the comics I’ll work just fine for the game!

  • * The guys are tough, battle ready, ruggedly handsome- the women are impossibly voluptuous, despite the fact they should have a flatter, more athletic build for the kind of martial arts they practice. So remember…. Men= two days growth of stubble. Women= big boobies!

  • * If you want to go crazy with poses, anatomy, and do a less realistic, more energetic style that looks great on the page, but has no basis in reality or real physics go ahead. Same thing with the ‘600’ tooth Rob Liefeld grimace.

You said you read the old Image stuff, so you know what I’m talking about…..if you need more reference or any ideas, just ask me. Right now, the art budget is pretty slim, so I won’t buy more than 2-4 pieces this month, probally in B&W. I might end up doing some of the coloration myself, or may leave some pieces B&W, based just on how they look.

I’m sending over the whole document, just so you can give it a read see if anything else catches your eye, or not, at your leisure. I definitely trust your judgement. The document is a 80% completed draft- I’m probably going to be deleting the section on genetic engineering, rewording some stuff and adding a bit of content, and a couple of new classes…. As well as more information about the world- a lesson from the Black Tokyo reviews.

For you, I’d like you to take a look at the following stuff, because I think any of the items below would look incredible in your style. First and foremost, I’d like to get a rendition of either a Blooded Ghost (pretty much equivalent to the Daemonites from WildC.A.T.S.) or a Patriot Ivory (think Diva from StormWatch)… both are player races…. If you feel like working on a monster, go with the B.G…. if you want to play with a humanoid, go with the P.I.

I’d also like a color piece of the Shiftsteel Symbiotes (think Witchblade, or better yet Void or Warblade from WildC.A.T.S.- a human covered in living metal armor) in this first batch of art. Give the character’s armor a kind of a ‘oil on water’ pearlescent sheen if you can.

After that, take a look at the character classes and see if any jump out. I’d really like your take on the Final Sword especially. I’d also think you’d do some really cool stuff with the Frontliner’s facial tats- I’d love to see your rendition of a Cable (X-Force) or Cabbot (BloodStrike, a really obscure Liefeld comic). After that, I’ll scounge some more dinero together and commission some additional art.
And that's me in my role as art director- yippie! I'll do some of the art myself, simply because I have a great time doing art, and my coloring style is well suited to aping the early Image house style- very bright, intense, garish and relying a lot on Photoshop special effects to convey mood and do cool energy FX (actually Corel Photopaint for me, since I like that program better, but you get the idea).
Obviously, Anthony will be contributing some art, and I'll probally post an open call for artists on in a month or two to get some more peices, as well as beat the bushes of Deviant Art looking for artists.
Talk to you soon,