Thursday, January 28, 2010

Working.... like always.

Okay, what's on deck from Otherverse Games for 2010?

Well, I just sent off the Neverborn sourcebook manuscript to Amanda for illustrations, and knowing how quick her turn-around time is, I should have the finished art in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I'm going to let the manuscript just sit and breathe, and if I come up with any new concepts for it between now and when the art comes in, I'll include it. If not, it's 100% ready to go, and it will be a damn fine sourcebook. Given the source material, I want to try out a darker layout.... something similar graphically to the old World of Darkness stuff.

Secondly, I've been trading e-mails back and forth with Mark about putting out some more fantasy stuff. We're still hammering out the Campaign Options: Firearm mega-sourcebook, and each iteration seems to be getting tighter, cooler. Mark also wants to revisit some of the Adventuer's Essentials work we did together, and expand upon it. Should be fun.... . I've also got some more ambitious fantasy projects on deck for later down the road.

Meanwhile, work on the Psi-Watch revision is going much quicker than I expected. I've gone through and made minor tweaks here and there, and also added alot of world information. Unlike the previous draft, this version of Psi-Watch has a much greater sense of history. The world has more cohesion and a greater sense of interconnectedness.

I've added in a Mutant race, which has opened up alot of design space. With these guys, I'm able to include alot more 90s-flavored backstory, a new villianous nation similar to X-Men's Genosha, an independant mutant homeland hidden deep in the Bermuda Triangle, and other cool stuff. I also pulled in the Patriot Mechanic race from APEX and I may pull in a race from Guide to the Known Galaxy. If you have a favorite, drop me a line and let me know. Otherwise, I'll probally pull in either the Jigsaw or the Sequence, which I think would work really well in Psi-Watch.

In terms of the existing races, I've made only minor changes. The Jupiter-Taint mutants, which were Fuji/Hellstrike analouges got renamed, but are still bascially the same. Some of the races with weak racial abilities (Blooded Ghost, Patriot Boxers, Patriot Ivories and Spetsnazski) get a second look and some slightly improved talents. I'm also adding some very fun racial feats to the game. Each race has at least 2-3 and some of them have ALOT more. The racial feats for Blooded Ghosts and Shiftsteel Symbionts are particuarly cool, and add alot of history and depth to the setting.

Feats....especially Psionic Precursor feats... get a revision. Seriously, I don't know what I was thinking with a couple of the Precursors. Two feats spring to mind: Faith Healer and Sociopathic Insight. Both were outclassed, not just by stuff in another sourcebook, but by other feats in the same chapter. Needless to say, I did some major surgery on them and others. Faith Healer was outclassed by Mind Healer, and despite the fact it was less useful, Faith Healer had higher prerequsites. Changed that. Big time.

I'd always intended Sociopathic Insight as "Hannibal Lecter fucking with Agent Starling" and instead it turned into a lame circumstance bonus on Bluff and Diplomacy checks. I changed the feat dramatically to bring it in line with how I initially wanted it to play.

I'm starting in on the Shell design chapter, which should go quickly. I have an idea how I want to rework the Power Armor and Mecha rules, and should make using the rules ALOT easier. It won't look like the current system, but will still be compatiable with your old rulebooks.

Finally, I've added like a dozen new starting occupations, and I pulled in the Powered Hero Basic Class from Otherverse America. This revised Powered Hero, by the way, has about twice the Talent choices as the original version. You'll like it.

Psi-Watch 2.0 should be out in another couple of months. Amanda is working on some art, and I've just sent off emails today (like 20 minutes ago!) to Butch Mapa and Rudulfo Montemayor to see if I can get some original work from them. I used both their stock art, through the LPJD Image Portfolio in the previous edition, and I want to get some original stuff from each for the revised edition.

Anyway, talk to you later
CHRIS

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cleanse it with FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If the anti-abortion movement took a tenth of the energy they put into noisy theatrics and devoted it to improving the lives of children who have been born into lives of poverty, violence, and neglect, they could make a world shine.


-Michael Jay Tucker


So I'm at the grocery store yesterday, and I get slapped in the face by this atrocity against common sense. I'm still pissed about it and I'm not sure if I can really articulate why.

Everyone reading this knows I despise the prolife movement- the ideology and most of the people involved. It' s a belief system that has contributed nothing to the human discourse other than pain, unnecessary guilt and the occasional murder.

But this cover, maybe because it walked up and cock-slapped me while I was shopping for DiJorno's pizza, really got under my skin.

Maybe it's the timing. In Touch Weekly puts this rag out the week of the Roe vs Wade anniversary, while Scott Roeder's trail is still ongoing. Timing like that indicates malice- the Bauer Media Group, who owns In Touch Weekly- knows full well what it's doing by running this article now. That rat-fucker Bush talked about 'emboldening the terrorists'- what the HELL do you think this is? This article, it's a subtle hi-five to Roeder and his ilk, a blessing and urging to carry on the fight to 'save the pre-born.' It's a dog whistle message: most undecided Americans and most prochoice advocates really don't know the date of the Roe v Wade anniversary. But to the anti-choice movement, Jan 22 is their superbowl. The tiny little old Catholic ladies and their dead eyed, hulking rednecks with their dead baby signs are camped out in front of clinics like Geeks at a Lucas movie. They've got this date marked in bright red ink on their fuckin' calendars, and if there's violence this Friday, ask yourself how much responsibility Sarah Palin, this fucking magazine and Bauer Media Group has for it.

And the content of the message.... there's the happy smiling main-text that they're glad they had their babies. Good for them, rock on. You don't want an abortion, don't ever fucking get one, be happy, be glad, go in peace. That's fine, but Palin seems to never have considered that 'choosing life' isn't as easy for a teen mother who'se family support network doesn't involve a politically connected billionaire. Just for instance, a 16 year old going to Ray High School, with a mother making less than $20k a year, and whose future prospects are limited to a choice between working at Wal-Mart or working at McDonalds.... choosing life for that girl's going to be a fuck load harder, and maybe she shouldn't 'choose life'. Just maybe.... and moralistic pieces of human filth like yourself Mrs. Palin shouldn't make that theoretical girl feel bad when she makes the mature, reasoned and ethical decision that the best way to be a parent is not to become a parent NOW.

You know, that last scenario, it isn't really theoretical- that's what my high school experience was like. Since I don't live in some kind of fortified compound in Alaska, 've seen first fuckin' hand the consequences of 'choosing life'. Choose life, damn it, but that slogan pisses me off. What these fuck-tards call choosing life, I call choosing 'anti-life' in the most Darkseid since of the term, choosing a belief system based around guilt, spiritual bondage and perpetual poverty and blind, idiot reproduction when it isn't in your (or your family's) best interest.

Mrs. Palin, you want more girls to Choose Life, I've got a couple of suggestions. Have your Republican cronies stop gutting welfare, foodstamp and other public assistance programs. Do some work on raising the minimum wage. Maybe do something about getting Obama's healthcare program passed. Teach something other than fucking abstinence in school. You want to eliminate teen motherhood and by extension teen abortion- the lesson plan should be one sentence long: "Nobody ever got pregant from oral!" Problem solved, bitch.

But no, instead of doing that, you try to make every body "choose life" by doing everything you can to make it not a choice at all, to outlaw, demonize and punish abortion and the brave physicians who occasionally give their lives to practice it by any means possible, from gunshots to the face to stupid magazine articles. Your political platform makes about as much sense as eliminating auto accidents by banning seatbelts- that'll teach 'em to drive more carefully!

So basically, instead you trumpet your morality, and how joyful you feel to have been able to make a CHOICE while taking that choice out of the hands of millions of other American womens' hands. You seek to make motherhood, which should be entered into with full consent, full and open hearted joy, and make it something compulsory because of fear of legal consequences. Doing something out of fear of punishment, that's the lowest level of morality- dogs and toddlers act at that level of moral development, and if you're a woman of reproductive age, that's the moral level Palin believes you SHOULD be working at. No wonder the dumb bitch started an organization called "Feminists for Life". She's got a pretty fucked up view of what life is, and what feminism is.

Anyway, I have very little 'star power.' I write an obscure RPG blog with an audience of 50 on a good week, but I want to do something. If you're reading this, copy this to your own blog. If you know anyone who buys In Touch, try to convince them to skip this weeks issue, and drop an email to the creative staff indicating your displeasure. Cause some trouble, boys 'n' girls, please.

Contact information for everybody involved in this debacle is down below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bauer_Verlagsgruppe

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Touch_Weekly

http://www.intouchweekly.com/contact_us/

Blessed Be,
CHRIS

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shit! Shit! SHIT! THOSE SONS OF BITCHES!

Presented without comment, because the article really needs none.
Damn it.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34881460/ns/us_news/

By ROXANA HEGEMAN and JOHN HANNA
Associated Press Writers
updated 1:05 p.m. CT, Fri., Jan. 15, 2010

WICHITA, Kan. - The judge overseeing the trial of the man accused of gunning down a Kansas abortion doctor is a practicing Roman Catholic who once courted the endorsement of an anti-abortion group — but who has insisted the case won't be about abortion.

State District Judge Warren Wilbert galvanized both sides of the nation's abortion debate this week when he refused on the eve of Scott Roeder's murder trial to block the defense from trying to build a voluntary-manslaughter case by arguing that Roeder believed the killing of Dr. George Tiller was necessary to save unborn children.

Legal experts said the judge's decision was a proper attempt to protect the defendant's rights. But the move has put Wilbert and his background under the microscope heading into one of the nation's most sensational abortion-related cases.
Story continues below ↓advertisement | your ad here

"All high-profile trials put a lot of pressure on judges because even though our courtrooms are open, generally speaking, the public doesn't have an eye on judges unless election time comes around," said Michael Kaye, director of Washburn University's Center for Excellence in Advocacy in Topeka. "So a judge in this position, any judge knowing this, is going to try to do his best to appear judicious and to rule in a way that will not get him reversed."

Wilbert, 57, is considered by many in the local legal community to be a fair judge. No one can seem to point to an instance in which he injected his religious beliefs into a case.

He is a rather ho-hum figure on the bench. He runs a tight courtroom, isn't given to colorful exchanges and has little tolerance for distraction. The Roeder trial — which began with jury selection Wednesday — is easily the biggest case to come before him.

Tiller, one of the nation's few late-term abortion providers, was shot to death inside his Lutheran church in Wichita last May.

In televised hearings, Wilbert has been scrupulous about keeping private his own beliefs on abortion, exhaustively citing case law when making any rulings. He angered news outlets when he closed jury selection to the media, saying the presence of reporters could inhibit prospective jurors from speaking frankly about abortion.

He has insisted the trial will not turn into a debate over abortion, warning Roeder's lawyers that he intends to keep the case as a "criminal, first-degree murder trial."

Wilbert, a Republican who earned his bachelor's and law degrees from Washburn University in Topeka, was appointed to the bench in 1995 and faced no opposition the first three times he stood election. The most recent race was a different story: Wilbert won re-election in 2008 by a mere 471 votes out of nearly 166,000 cast.

Kansans for Life's political action committee endorsed Wilbert in that race, though it did not contribute to his campaign directly. The mainstream anti-abortion group does not espouse violence, and its political arm focuses on lobbying the state Legislature.

Finance records show that Wilbert paid the group $75 in September 2008 to have his name listed in an ad in its quarterly newsletter, a 6-by-11-inch booklet of 24 pages that included articles such as "Update on Tiller charges" and "Planned Parenthood — a Snake in the Grass!" The judge also spent more than $16,000 on radio spots on seven stations.

The ad in the newsletter took up most of the bottom of page 16. It said: "The Kansans for Life PAC urges you to vote for, work for and pray for the following pro-life candidates."

David Gittrich, the organization's state development director, said the group endorsed Wilbert because it believed he was no judicial activist and would not try to make new law from the bench. "The No. 1 thing is, is this a good judge?" Gittrich said.

In an election guide published by The Wichita Eagle, Wilbert described himself as a member of Wichita's St. Thomas Aquinas Church, where the married father of two was a lay minister and former president of the school board. Among Catholicism's core doctrines is a strict stand against abortion.

Beyond the ad, campaign-watchers said they could not recall anything he might have said about his position on abortion during his re-election bid.

In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Wilbert turned down an interview request for this story, saying he could not comment because of the trial.

The judge has dealt with cases involving abortion before. Court records show a 2005 case in which he dismissed a public records lawsuit filed by Cheryl Sullenger, the senior policy adviser for anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, after she was denied copies of 911 tapes for ambulance runs from Tiller's clinic. Though the judge ruled against her, Sullenger said she believes Wilbert will "do his job" in the latest case.

"Most everybody in the world is looking at him — he is not going to pull monkey business," Sullenger said. "I don't think he wants to be known as the judge who blew the biggest case he's ever had."

Though he advertised with Kansas for Life, campaign finance records show that Wilbert also received a $500 contribution in June 2008 from Dan Monnat, one of Tiller's lawyers. Two months before his slaying, Tiller was acquitted of misdemeanor charges he failed to get an independent second opinion for some late-term abortions.

Wilbert and Monnat had worked together before, when Wilbert faced his own legal problems. A judicial commission reprimanded him in 2006 for a personal relationship with a subordinate employee — conduct Wilbert later explained to the Wichita Bar Association consisted of riding motorcycles with courthouse employees after work.

"I donated to his campaign because I thought he was a good judge and would continue to be a good judge," Monnat said.

Kaye dismissed as "hyperbole" warnings that allowing Roeder to build a manslaughter case will lead to open season on abortion doctors. Kaye said he doubts Roeder's lawyers will actually be able pull together such a defense.

"Lawyers when they try a case are concerned first and foremost with defending somebody — no matter how unattractive and controversial — within the bounds of the law," Kaye said, "and they expect the judge to recognize that, and he has."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

CHRIS

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Looking Forward and Back


Okay, so why do I have an Image Comics cover up on my blog? Well, it should probably give you an idea of the content of this post: Psi-Watch. First, just want to say that I sent Mark a second draft of Campaign Components: Firearms (now referred to as a Campaign Overlay) for his read through. Im excited about the project, because at this point, I only have three hard copy books to my credit, and I want some more! Anyway, I have a feeling CO: Firearms will be a kick ass product, especially with the last revisions laid down.

Also, I decided that the Lifer sourcebook I'm working on will become a smaller, more concise and thematically 'tighter' mini-splat focusing exclusively on the Neverborn species. When I get some cash together, I'll send Amanda the manuscript and get some more excellent art out of her, and maybe if I can start expanding my stable of artists too. Look for the Neverborn splat and a few other Otherverse Products in the next couple of months.

Now, the real meat and potatoes of this post. I'm thinking of putting out a revised and expanded version of Psi-Watch sometime this spring... probably around Easter if my estimate of the work time I will require is on-spot.

Now, I always begin a project the same way. Some initial notes and design goals for myself, written in a pretty much free-flowing, stream of consciousness style. Here are my initial notes for Psi-Watch revised, which I'm tentatively branding as Psi-Watch: Unlimited Edition. Obviously, my increasing skills in layout and design mean the Unlimited Edition is going to look a LOT better, but here's an idea of what you can expect content-wise. Note that since this is really just written for my own use, it may be a bit cryptic, but you should figure out what I'm talking about....

Talk to you later.

RACES

1. I’m not satisfied with the Blooded Ghosts- either make them more powerful, more exotic and unique to play, with some feats, starting occupations, classes ect of their own or cut them.

2. Likewise, I never made the Shiftsteel Symbionts COSMIC enough. They don’t feel important enough, well described enough, and don’t really fit. Do more with them, bc they seem like they could be a key element of the metafiction.

3. I like the Patriot Mutates, and I want to add more material to it, another few mutates. The grim, low tech and violent, crude tech 1970s, this weird new tech being tested in the jungles of ‘Nam. (Where Mung Thoy Than supplied weapons and arms to the bad guys, fought against US interests, a very dirty, cold war era story)

4. Racial abilities, feats, cultural touchstones for every race on the level of what the Culture got. More unique content for each one! Do themed sections in the feats chapter corresponding to each race! Put a go-to guide with the page number on the margin and maybe a hot link if I can figure it out.

CLASSES

1. I like everything I’ve got, and I want to simply include more. Classes were the best part. Give everything a second eye for balance, add more optional class features, more action enhancements, ect. Right off the bat, I’m worried that the Nanosculptor is too wordy and not really as powerful as she seems,as powerful as the Engineer should be.

2. Same question: is the Final Sword overpowered with bonus attacks tied to her ranks in art?

3. Pull in and expand the Powered Hero from Otherverse America. New talent trees, Sniper, Mechanic/Fixer, Ghost, Microbe, Nullifier, Elemental (req: Warbody I), disadvantages and prestige abilities, maybe a few more. Make it a very deep, Ultimates-style superhero creation tool. Maybe add the Lifechain superpowers from GTKG????

4. Starting occupation- pull in tube grown from whatever draft I did, assault clone, narsiscian clone, military occupations, child soldier from the defunct D20 Decade (maybe Mustard Men, Spy Master and Arcadians as well?)

5. Starting occupations for every race.

6. A greater sense of the beard stubble, hypermasculinity of the source material- more of a feeling of grizzled veterans of Vietnam, Styker, Cabbot, Cable….. what it’s implied they went through and what we see Team One go through in the Chuck Dixon miniseries. Make that, along with Metal Gear Solid canon, a primary influence.

7. Spy movie cliché plot generator, halfway tongue in cheek, halfway serious and very cool.

FEATS, GEAR & WORLD

1. Lots more of everything. More vehicles, get more vehicular stock. F.P.S inspired weapons- Nectar from Haze, the geo-grenades from Fracture, other cool gaming weapons- one shot kill energy sword for the culture (Halo)

2. Since most of the feats from PsiWatch are reprinted in Otherverse America, a free product, and still available easily to readers, pull the military feats from the script, and use the page count for more and better original material.


I bolded this one because I figure of all the modifications, this decision will probably interest gamers most.

3. Expanded world info- dramatically as well as stuff built into the crunch that tells about the state fo the world. More on Huxley Emergence, some of the galaxy spanning material from the MN sourcebook is included here, more on the MN/Huxley and Culture conspiracy… make it obvious the Culture are cultural imperialist elves, and they’re funding the H.E. for their own ends.

4. A Genosha style nation that uses clones, mutates, ect as slaves and soldiers. Slave stock starting race, or occupation with a waste recycling slave suit, weird Claremont bondage…. An entire nation of doms & subs, but who really has the power, do the slaves really rule the island?

5. A monster manual in the back. On deck: more powerful, non playable Blood Ghost elites, ruling class monsters like Helspont or Despot- powered demi-gods….. ready to use combat robots, mercenary elites, Powered heroes at various levels, each with some basic personalities grafted to the stats- 2-3 biologies per stat block, so you can reuse and re-skin as needed, grunts for each faction- MTT Snake Current thugs (mid), Detroit powered gangers (low) Huxley guards (decent), Culture FS ninjas (elite)

Look upon that blurb and smile, Psi-Watch players!

6. Rework D20 Future’s random mutant chart for a deformities and secondary power system for muties. Powered Hero options, racial option are primary- the D20 Mutation rules are more of a secondary ability, an ace in the hole, a mix of borgs and mutants like Cyberforce, Bloodstrike…. While I’m at it, make the Gravediggers a lot cooler, and a lot more like Ultimate Soldier/Bloodstrike- more individual, less robotic… right now, they’re just Superpatriot/Robocop… the other is more fun & less moody….

7. Pull in some life chain stuff and GTNG races? Start buying up art in prep for a GTNG re-release? That way I can re-use the assets as needed. Off the top of my head, I want to include: Jigsaw and Ejawfe- really round out the Galactic Scar, though those two might be too similar. Likewise I never really did anything with the Polyflor, the snake race (can’t even remember what it’s called now)… the book was basically Jigsaw & Ejaw which were cool and original, the Stonecutters and Half Grey who are iconic and a bunch of also rans.

8. Patriot Hawk- birdman/Archangel type race- do the feather wing stock from Action RPG Counters, or the metal winged archangel type?

9. Rework the shell system dramatically- make it more effects based, less wordy, more standard and easy to use, but with more potential depth. The tier system might work, or something else? Maybe something like FFX style sphere-grids to represent invention- each suit comes with armor, speed, strength enhancement, damage output determined by weight class and size, and can field additional Slots- mobility slot, sensory slots, secondary weapon slots, gadget/comms slots- one or two of each, based on the class of the shell suit- Armor is divided by wieght class (shell, exoframe, ect) and by purpose (recon, assault, comms). Determines how many dedicated each suit has and how many freefloating extra slots....

10. A review mentioned they wanted to see more real world politics- focus on the politics of the 1990s, domestic militia terrorism (but keep it distinct from the Lifers) Iraq- G W Bush was killed while still Gov of TX (big smile!), while at an Astros game with his dad by an Iraqi supervillian, Sept 11 probably didn’t happen, or was the date of a concentrated metahuman assault on America by Iraq, the Taliban and MTT and other villain countries-maybe the setting is an occupied America, where the heroes have to fight for freedom, ground warfare-


11. Add in a section at the end for 100 plot hooks for Psi-Watch filled with comic injokes and lore…

Readers and regular buyers, if you have anything you would like to see in a revised Psi-Watch please leave me a comment here. Your comments will determine what Psi-Watch 2.0 looks like in a very tangible sense.



Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pathfinder Modern Part II

Okay, first off, let me say that I've got $$ in my PayPal account to support the patron project to build a revised version of D20 Modern, and I am glad to support it. I've been thinking alot about this project, and I have a couple of other things I would love to see the revised rule-set include.

1. The Political System/Social Engineering System in "Brave New World". This very elegant rule system is absolute best part of an otherwise forgettable Judge Dredd style satirical superhero setting. Basically, it's a chart that links several factors of a culture, such as health care, standard of living, taxes, law enforcement levels, ect.... changing one factor has ripple effects on other factors, sometimes positive other times negative. It's a cynical but fairly accurate view of politics, where changing the world is VERY possible, but isn't easy as it looks, and you're always going to be screwing over somebody, or being forced to compromise slightly.

I would love to see something like this in a revised D20 Modern, because it opens up a whole new vista for gaming- high level political manipulation. Absolutely awesome rules, which remind me alot of Sim City and other god-game sims.

2. Drama Points. I'd love for Super Genius(not Paizo itself, sorry!) to take a cue from the Buffy RPG (among others) and expand the uses for Action Points. Instead of just a flat bonus, have them allow for dramatic editing, healing surges, luck and fate effects. I've tried to expand what Action Points can be used for with some of the classes I've written. Alot (but not all) of my classes have abilities with "Action Enhancements". Activate your class ability normally it does X. Spend an action point while doing so, and it does X + Y, and I would love for an idea like that to become industry standard.

3. Classic D&D Alignments. It's odd, but I would love to see the classic 9 alignments replace allegiances, mostly because of the Gunslinger-like sense of a huge multiverse where characters are judged on moral codes they don't consciously know they follow and don't fully understand, but still have validity. It's less realistic, and could turn VERY sticky, particularly for my highly politicized Otherverse America stuff, but I still like the idea of modern Chaotic Good and Lawful Evil heroes and villains. This is a very negotiable wish, but it would be nice.

4. On the same note, give me some more support for goofy cross-over campaigns. Give me some conversion advice, the bare bones of a dimension crossing campaign where occasionally I can go dragon-slaying with rail guns, or have my 7th level Rogue cross over to modern Earth on an adventure. D20's strength is its cross compatibility, play it up!

5. More flexibility in starting ages. If I want to play Cable- the older grizzled veteran, or if I want to play Power Pack- precocious kid heroes, I should be able to without much trouble. D20 Modern assumes that all starting characters are about college age, which is fine as far as that goes, but I want more flexibility. If I want to play a kid's campaign- Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, the old school D&D cartoon or Red Dawn, I should be able to modify starting occupations and such to do so easily.

6. Make damn sure your version of the OGL looks like Paizo's Pathfinder license and not WOTC's 4th Edition license. Of course, whatever the text of the new OGL looks like, I hope it's 'hands off' enough for me to slap its label on my Otherverse America product. Of course, even if it isn't there are work arounds, but I'd hope Super Genius has enough confidence in the readership to allow me to put out my slightly controversial home-brew under their banner without too much hassle.

7. Finally, if Paizo can include the content of both the PHB and DMG in their core book, there is no reason at all Super Genius shouldn't combine and consolidate the content from D20 Future and D20 Modern. Give me one big sourcebook that allows me to run the gamut from Victorian steampunk to Singularity Sky and I'll be very happy. I need guns, gear, cyborgs, VR hackers, mecha, the whole bit.

Anyway, discuss, and I'll post more as I think of it.

CHRIS

Friday, January 8, 2010

Pathfinder Modern

As I saw on Mark's blog, it looks like Paizo is thinking of putting out an updated version of D20 Modern, in line with the changes they made to Pathfinder. This is probably the best gaming news I'm going to hear all year, and I'm surprised it took them this long to announce it.

D20 Modern is a fun system to work with, but it definitely has its quirks, and there's quite a few things that could run smoother. When Pathfinder came out, Mark and I actually talked about doing a revision of our own, but I'm glad Paizo will be doing it. They've got infinitely greater resources, credibility and market saturation plus a revision of this scope is going to involve a whole lot of number crunching, cut & pasting from the current SRD and making hordes of tiny changes. An exercise in frustration I'm glad somebody else is going to be taking on. I'm really looking forward to the chance to write Otherverse and sci-fi stuff for a Modern ruleset built from the ground up to actually emulate modern era crime, sci-fi and action stories.

D20 Modern elements I hope stay in the revised version.

1. The Basic/Advanced Class split. I enjoy the flexibility of talent trees, and I love writing 10 level advanced classes. I think 10 levels is just about perfect for a D20 class, because it's a long enough timeline you don't feel creatively constrained (like with 5 level prestige classes) and rushed into the capstone ability, but it's not too long. To me, 20 levels is hard to write for. That's alot of class abilities to come up with.

I also like the flexibility of multiclassing, because by adding different combos of Basic and Advanced classes, you really can build any character in fiction. I would love for Paizo to support Modern characters up to level 30, because in Modern terms, that doesn't seem EPIC, it seems more like a highly experienced character with a diverse skill set. In modern, 30 character levels doesn't feel nearly as game breaking as it does in Pathfinder, probably because of the lack of high level magic. Think Snake Eyes or Batman as opposed to Elminster.

2. The Wealth System. For a lot of gamers, it would make more sense to just use dollars, but I kinda enjoy the Wealth check mechanic. Call me strange, but the dollars/Wealth Check DC conversion chart on pg 204 of the D20 Modern core book is the part of the system I reference most often when I write up new gear.

That said, the wealth system isn't perfect, especially when multi-million dollar military hardware starts entering the game. Lots of the best vehicles in the game, especially the military stuff, seems dramatically under priced compared to real world gear. For instance, when I'm writing Otherverse America, I often come up top of the line suits of power armor with a sticker price of 'just' 4-5 million dollars, when I would imagine it would price out near a modern combat jet... closer to 20-30 million dollars. Improving the idea of requisitioning military gear, and standard issued gear load outs issued by the PC's employers would go along way to solving this.

3. Crunch. Don't slack on the crunch, guys. D20 is about building the best damn character you can, light rules abuse and cool power combination. Give me lots and lots and lots of feats. Give me gear lists that only an autistic 12 year old boy would love. Give me tons of vehicles, cybernetics and guns, each with meaningful differences.

4. The diversity of racial options. As you can probably tell from my writing, I love designing new player races. Fits in nicely with my love of crunch and neat options, and building a new culture is simply fun. Though it probably shouldn't be in "Chapter One"... see below.... a later chapter in the core book should have a host of interesting racial options. Obviously, Elves, Dwarves and Orcs in the modern world, ala Shadowrun are an easy 'get', but also include some original races and races specifically designed to emulate the most common races in modern-era fiction.

Give me a basic race of Data-esque androids or Blade Runner styled replicants, give me playable vampires in various flavors (Dracula classic, Anne Rice, WOD and even some Sparkly Twilight style vamps, if you must). Give me a decent selection of werewolves and other shape shifters, some basic genetically engineered super soldiers (think Dark Angel, Capt America or Universal Soldier). Toss in some mutants, either in the Mad Max or X-Men senses of the term (though see my comments on Mutants & Masterminds, below). Finally, give me at least one Size: Large player race designed purely to kick ass. To me it's idiotic no D20 game gives me a big bruiser in the next size category up without a Level Adjustment... look, guys I want to play Chewbacca, so let me frickin' play Chewbacca without being one level behind everybody else.

5. Department Seven. I like the idea of players working for a big, above-the-law covert agency, because it takes care alot of the mundane aspects of adventuring/crime fighting for the players and lets them get to the action faster and easier. Having one 'standard' agency that spans lots of campaign worlds saves GMs time reinventing the wheel and coming up with conspiracy analouges in every game. D7 is like the Shop or the Illuminati or the FBI of the X-Files, it's a nice placeholder, and I like the idea of building a shared fiction about this sprawling, usefully generic organization.

Things I would love Paizo to pull in from other D20 products.

1. Give me the Wounds/Vitality Point system used in Star Wars D20 among others. To me, that more accurately models combat like it is in comics and action movies. Watch Die Hard, read some Spiderman or X-Men, and you can practically see the character's wound count dropping, and occasionally see characters suffer some Vitality damage from a nasty crit.

2. Flat out guys, just steal as much of Mutants & Masterminds as you can get away with and make it 'core'. Ideally, I envision "Pathfinder Modern" broken into chapters. Chapter one is basic character creation, which helps you build 'realistic' human level characters for military, crime or investigatory scenarios. Over in chapter three or whatever, you've got a very deep supers system, which depending on what powers and power-sources you and the players choose, can emulate any sci-fi or supers setting you can imagine.

I'd also love a side-bar at the beginning of the Powers chapter, which details which 'tiers' of abilities, feats and power limits best emulate which genre of fiction. For instance, if you're just using Chapter One and basic human characters, you've basically got NYPD Blue. Add some Tier One stuff, and you've got a John Woo flick. Add in Tier Two and you've got Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Add in Tier Three stuff, and the sky's the limit- you're at Marvel Comics power levels.

BESM and other generic systems have always included suggested lists of powers and talents grouped by relative power level, utility and genre, and that's something that needs to be in a Modern setting.

Things I wish Paizo would pull from my work.

1. Social-fu feats and rules. I put alot of 'social-fu' feats into Psi-Watch, Choice and Blood and Otherverse America for a reason: D20 Modern doesn't have much in the way of social combat. So I came up with rules for manipulation, propaganda, cultural warfare, leadership, winning converts to your cause, starting riots, ect.... Maybe they don't have to be in the form of feats, but I would love Paizo to include social combat talents in some form. Social combat is a whole other resolution method, and adding as much depth to it as already exists for regular combat would only make the game more diverse and stronger.

2. Variant Basic Classes. In Galaxy Command, I wrote up the Psychic Hero, and in Otherverse America, you've got the Powered Hero. These variant basic classes are defined by their power source and techniques more than a particular attribute, and I think they're pretty cool additions to the six attribute based basic classes. I've thought about creating a Magical Hero and some other 'powerset based' basic classes, and I might release 'em at some point as a stand alone product.

Likewise, the Intermediary Classes, which are basically story based, origin specific basic classes like ER Intern or Military Recruit work nicely with starting occupations and add some neat flavor to a low-level campaign. They're one of Louis' neatest ideas, and anything that adds more diversity and opens up new build options is usually a good thing.

3. I'm not sure if it would be in the core rules or not, but I'd love for the variant cybernetics rules I came up with Mark to be included as core. The drain mechanic is pretty elegant and allows for deeper customization and more interesting cyborgs than the current "Number of implants equal to CON modifer" rule. In the same vein, I've always thought treating full conversion cyborgs as a starting race rather than a template worked pretty well, and it's something I'm proud of.

Things that need to DIE!

1. The Magic and Psionics (FX) system. The best way I can describe magic and psionics in D20 Modern is.... anemic. There's a reason I built a new system from the ground up for psionics. This system was too short, didn't include nearly enough options, and felt very rushed. Being tacked on to the last 15 pages or so of the core book didn't help this perception. The magic system is basically D&D with the best spells nutered or eliminated, without any passion, originality or fun, and the psionic system was worse.

I wouldn't mind if the spell and power-list based FX system disappeared completely, especially if it was replaced with a deep, M&M style power system. In fact, I'd prefer that.

2. Vehicle combat. D20 Modern's vehicle combat makes no sense. Running a car chase or auto-duel, or even just doing a drive-by is virtually impossible. An action scene that takes 2 seconds in game would slow gameplay to a crawl for about 2 hours around the table. Air combat is worse, because it's just modified ground combat. Aircraft in D20 Modern don't seem to turn, attack from different angles and planes of attack, worry about momentum, turning radius, or anything. And sensor systems seem absurdly low range. Over the horizon warfare doesn't exist, and I'm pretty sure WWI biplanes could spot their opponents at longer ranges than an F-22, at least as modeled in D20 Modern.

3. The gun combat feat trees. I remember a jokey list in an old Knights of the Dinner Table comic "How things would be different if the real world ran on D20 rules." One of the entries was something like "Gun crime would drop off dramatically because none of the gang bangers could afford the 3-4 feats necessary to pull a trigger." I figure that says it all.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. You can tell I'm excited.

Blessed Be,
CHRIS

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

Okay, so my birthday was yesterday.... the point still stands. I'ts going to be another busy year for Otherverse Games. A handful of Galaxy Command releases, my last works of 2009 will be on sale soon. The first of these releases, Space Mafia seems to be doing pretty well sales wise. It's EXTREMELY goofy, a tribute to the cartoon space-criminals in Silverhawks, Voltron and other 80s toons, not to mention a few concepts borrowed from DC Comics. If you look close enough, you'll find some pretty interesting Tharok (of the Fatal Five) and Lobo (of crystal meth) analouges in the splatbook.

So what's next?

Well, I've currently got a few ideas for some Lifer sourcebooks on deck, however I can't quite determine what format I want to do with them. Namely, should I create a bunch of smaller, lower cost phamplets or combine the conent into one big ass mega-splat? I'm leaning slightly towards the latter, though the smaller/more concept has its appeal. Right now, I want to cover a few Lifer settings, namely Pensacola circa 2107 and Solomon Station, which orbits Jupiter. Those two location-based ideas might end up being stand alone products, though as mentioned in a previous blog post, I want to play with Lifer culture in the same way I delved deeper into the Choicers with Coven of Bast. So you might end up with one book, but you're just as likely to get multiple splats. Either way, I'm hoping I can continue the trend from Coven of Bast, with more attractively laidout, professional looking products with every release.

I am kinda hesitant about doing a deeply Lifer soucebook, for reasons owing more to magical theory than the market place. A common thread of belief among many pagan authors I respect is that writing is a magical act, in terms of the concentration, will power and imagination necessary to create a fictional reality from nothing, and that's something I believe. Another facet of the belief in writing-as-ritual is that the working can create physical changes in the universe, above and beyond the psychological and political impact good writing normally has. That I believe about 50-60%.... a little more since my lovely little feline companion Bast appeared literally as I was laying out a sourcebook in 'honor' of the goddess Bast. You could argue, and I wouldn't disagree too strenously, that my cat's appearance was a change in reality brought about by my writing this soucebook.

So if spending months thinking, studing and creating something that glorifies Bast and puts the old goddess back into public consciousness, even if only in a very, very small way, I can produce a cat.... what the hell is spending months studying anti-abortion terrorsits, evangelical nutjobs and writing about their place in the world of the 22nd Century going to produce. On my materialist hand, I know that anti-abortion terror and crime is inevitable, and sooner or later it's going to happen again. But man, I really really hope that the next terror-strike doesn't occur right as I'm laying out page 75 of 76 total pages or something, because I would feel really, really shitty. Less magically, coming up with Othervere America stuff is harder work than writing fantasy, or goofy kid's sci-fi.... it's alot more emotional and personal to me, and requires alot more care and research.

In other news, Otherverse America got a 3 star over on RPGNow, which is interesting in that the reviewer compared the setting to the classic version of Deathrace. Cool, but very odd. Out of all the works of fiction and pop culture I've compared Otherverse America to, I never even thought of Death Race. I guess the analogy works, since they're both violent satire, but it still kinda threw me. (Still, I'm far from upset, because I own the remake of Deathrace and enjoy the hell out of it). Thanks for the review though, and the time you took to read through O.A.

I've also got some fantasy ideas I'm hankering to explore, and I think we'll be one of the first companies with a working psionic system for Pathfinder. the question is of course, how much to keep from the old SRD Psionics system and how much to scrap. Maybe I'm the wrong guy for the project since I've always hated D&D psionics, but maybe that's my qualification right there... I'm not going to be too sentimal about keeping old mechanics.

Okay, enough talk, enjoy your post-holidays and look for alot of interesting stuff from Skortched Urf and Otherverse Games this year.

Blessed Be,
CHRIS