Showing posts from April, 2014

Steamscapes: Asia Development Log -- YAY!

The feedback on my submitted outline for the Japan chapter in Steamscapes: Asia is overwhelmingly positive.  Hooray!  Eric told me I can kick back and relax while they get the Kickstarter put together.  Time to party!

(Actually, now I want to write some fiction in order to show I can write the accompanying fiction piece for the chapter.  Hmm...)

Gamer ADD attack

A big wine thing this weekend took Robin and me out to College Station, TX.  While there, we visited the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History and now I want to write/run a setting like the beautifully craptastic movie 10,000 BC with saber-toothed tigers and giant sloths and hyper-advanced Lemurians and Muvians and ridiculous junk like that.  Dammit.

Then, on the hotel room cable TV the next morning, I caught part of Disney's The Little Mermaid which reminded me of the Dynamite comic Damsels which reminded me of a vague notion I had a while back about doing a deliberately Princess Bride-ish Hollywood swashbuckler setting which then combined into an idea for a fairytale swashbuckler setting (like Lace and Steel, but with fewer centaurs) and now I want to write/run that too.  Double dammit.

Catching Up

My apologies to all of the commenters I didn't answer until today. 

I'm working on a playtest packet for The King is Dead.  I hope to have it ready for distribution next month.  More word on that when it's ready.

Oh crap, I should write an adventure to go with that...


I gave up cable to help afford a mortgage, so I have to wait (and wait and wait) for a lot of interesting programming.  Right now I'm missing Turn, the series about America's first spies during the Revolutionary War from AMC, but thankfully I don't have to miss Salem, the freaked-out reimagining of America's most famous witch trials from WGN.  It's airing on Hulu Plus which (for my money) is the better investment over Netflix (though I admittedly subscribe to both).  I just watched the pilot of Salem right before bed last night, and it is one crazy show.

The thing the pilot most reminds me of is my arguably favorite movie, Brotherhood of the Wolf, minus the kung fu.  "A rational-minded gentleman soldier returns from time amongst the Native Americans to a supposedly civilized village embroiled in occult conspiracy; based on real events (contains strong sexual content and violence) " is a pretty good description of both properties.  I didn't know that …

The King is Dead: Plot "Points"

One of my ambitions for The King is Dead is to provide a proper Savage Worlds Plot Point campaign.  For those unfamiliar with them, Plot Point settings straddle the line between old-fashioned sandbox settings and newfangled adventure paths; they are meant to provide a lot of room for player agency and GM improvisation while at the same time providing a tour of the setting that is also a plot with a beginning, middle, and end.  I've read some Plot Point settings that I really like (50 Fathoms, Slipstream), some I enjoy but find problematic (Evernight, Rippers), and some I just don’t like.  I've been struggling for a while just how to approach a Plot Point campaign for The King is Dead, and I think I've had a couple of epiphanies.
One is coming up with a title.  Most of the classic Plot Points are intimately intertwined campaigns and settings, and many end by “breaking” their settings in some way.  They’re usually about confronting the Big Bad of the setting and “healing” t…

Well, This is (Bleeding) Cool!

Just in case you didn't catch the news yesterday...

I've been following comic book and entertainment news site Bleeding Cool ever since it was just Rich Johnston's rumor column at Comic Book Resources.  It's one of my favorite places to keep up with the insanity at Marvel and DC and get actual news I can use on movies and TV.  Surprisingly, they've recently started running RPG articles as well -- and the latest spotlights some of the craziness of the do-it-yourself end of the RPG blogosphere!

Self-Publishing Roundup: Three Fantasy RPG Supplements You Won't Find in Game Stores by Dorkland! blogger, Battlefield Press co-publisher, and fellow Google+ user Christopher Helton  puts the spotlight on Trey Causey's Weird Adventures from his From The Sorcerer's Skull blog,
the new The Dungeon Dozen book from Jason Sholtis' The Dungeon Dozen blog, and friend-of-the-blog Jack Shear's Planet Motherfucker quasi-Savage Worlds setting from his gloriously warp…

The King is Dead: The Benevolent Association

There is a truism in RPGs that if you want the players to do something, you should design the game to make them do that something.I want The King is Dead to be about plots and skullduggery in the alleys and parlors of pseudo-Georgian Malleus, so why the heck did I put a hybrid pirate/highwayman guild in the core secret societies?!

“I’m a respectable landowner who is secretly a mad scientist.”

“I’m a Clavish valet who is secretly a deadly assassin.”

“I’m a disaffected noblewoman who has turned to magic.”

“I’m a pirate!Arr!”

Yeah, why deliberately create a situation where one player is going to have a character who doesn’t fit with everybody else – who is yearning to be off gallivanting about on his ship while everybody else built their character to fit into the society of mainland Malleus?Presented below is the new “thieves’ guild” to replace the Red Brotherhood.

The Benevolent Association

They say there is no honor among thieves.The Benevolent Association of Highwaymen, Pickpockets, …

Steamscapes: Asia Development Log -- Woo-hoo!


I've finished the first draft of the outline for the chapter and sent it off to Four-in-Hand Games for their approval.  I expect some changes will be ordered, but at least I have a lot of the research done and a lot of ideas swimming in my head.  Plus, the process of breaking down the beats of the chapter into a formal outline gave me some really good practice that I can use for The King is Dead; I've always been a very improvisational writer, but this more focused approach should prove really helpful in getting my book done.

To celebrate, here's one of the most awesome (and Meiji Era) fights in anime history: Himura Kenshin versus Saitō Hajime from Rurouni Kenshin!

Steamscapes: Asia -- More Wagakki Band

Hey! Some fan actually subtitled this one!

I am determined to plow through the last section of the Steamscapes: Japan outline tomorrow.  I've outlined up to the arrival of Perry and skipped ahead to the aftermath of the Boshin War, but that section between the Black Ships and the establishment of the Republic of Ezo is where the alternate history happens and I'm not sure how much depth I need to go into. 

In Steamscapes: North America, a lot of weird stuff happens but a lot of history runs parallel to the real world despite itself.  The main difference seems to be a fragmenting of the United States of America into smaller republics.  I'd originally thought that the Tokugawa Shogunate should win the Boshin War, but further study leads me to the conclusion that the shogunate was too deeply flawed to last.  There's just no way a despised military dictatorship can win in the long run if it opposes the basic religious beliefs of the nation -- plus the Republic of Ezo is a…

Setting Sketch: Tír na nÓg

This is another one of those things I need to get out of my head so I can concentrate on my real work: a superhero setting of epic adventure inspired by the soundtrack to the anime Fairy Tail.

The manga/anime franchise Fairy Tail has a great setting -- an anachronistic magical/modern/medieval mashup where magic is as common as iPhones and wizards gather into guilds to take on epic quests for fun and profit (and where being a wizard means "being able to shoot fire from your hands and punch demons in the head") -- but the background music to the anime is this crazy mix of rock and Celtic music that always makes me yearn for my misspent youth as a would-be druid.  It is awesome!

(I could and should write an entire post about how anime music is the perfect supplement for gaming ambiance, but that will have to wait.)

It makes me imagine a Tír na nÓg with the techno-magic of Jack Kirby's Asgard and the weird pastel vistas of a Filmation cartoon; it would be an anime by Jim Fi…

More Interruption

So... I joined the San Antonio Sci-Fi/Fantasy RPG Gaming Guild a month ago but haven't had much time to actually join any games.  Last week, Robin and I attended the first session of a new Shadowrun campaign where we decided to bite the bullet and play the team's decker and shaman -- despite the fact that Robin hasn't played Shadowrun in 20 years and I have never played it all.  We've both been gaming for a long time and we like Lupin IIIThe Matrix, and The Lord of the Rings, so it seemed like we could easily jump into a setting that mixed up heists, hacking, and elves.

In retrospect, that was a terrible mistake. 

While the mechanics are more complicated than I like, I think it was really the setting that left us baffled by the end of the night.  Shadowrun is a weird, complicated world with a lot of idiosyncratic assumptions about character behavior that we just don't get.  Trying to balance ongoing design issues with The King is Dead and Steamscapes: Japan, ma…

A Brief Interruption

Last Wednesday, I got up at 5:30, drank some coffee, did a bunch of house cleaning and errands, wrote about half of my first draft outline for my chapter of Steamscapes: Asia and a blog entry, and was frazzled for the entire rest of the week.  Yesterday, slept in, did the same amount of house cleaning and errands, wrote a couple of paragraphs on the outline, did some desperately-needed work on the new duet campaign, and feel much better physicially even though I regret not getting more work done.  Hmm...

Robin wanted a break from playing heroes who are weaker than their opponents, so she requested we basically do an InuYasha game.  This took me completely by surprise, so it really stumbled for several sessions -- but then I remembered that I have Kitsunemori, a D20 setting that's pretty heavily inspired by InuYasha, and things have been going better.  We're using Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion for the rules.

National Poetry Month vs Steamscapes: Asia -- Tanka 1

Driven, man and steel Scuttle along the busy Yokohama road.
The future is the present And what I knew fades away.
Hokusai died in 1849.  Hiroshige died in 1858.  The ukiyo-e print was in sharp decline by the time of Steamscapes' 1871, but it was still a contemporary artform.  The Edo Period was still part of living memory.

Steamscapes: Asia -- Tengaku by Wagakki Band

Actually, it might officially be "Suzuhana Yuuko with Wagakki Band," but I'm not sure.  That's the problem with following pop culture in languages you don't actually read or speak (I took two semesters of Japanese at UTSA; I was not great at it).

I wonder if anyone has invented the electric guitar in the Steamscapes world?

Steamscapes: Asia Development Log -- Karakuri

The images above are of a karakuri ningyo: a doll-sized robot that walks when you place a cup of tea in its tray.  These were used as an entertaining way of serving guests by the merchant class in Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate.  It is but one example of karakuri: mechanized puppets and wooden robots that were used in religious festivals, theatre, and as household entertainment during the Edo period.

When I first started working on Steamscapes: Asia, I did a Google search for the phrase "Edo Era Robots" and discovered multiple articles about this amazing extrapolation of the clockwork technology Western explorers and missionaries brought to Japan during the Sengoku Jidai.  Since I have less time today than I'd like (but I want to keep building momentum), here's some links:

The First Japanese Robots: Karakuri Ningyo

Japan's First Robots Are Older Than You Think

Edo-period “robot” returns to life in Japan

And here's an awkwardly-subtitled piece about a t…

Steamscapes: Asia -- Senbonzakura by Wagakki Band

Need some audio-visual inspiration for Japanese steampunk?  Wagakki Band certainly have the "Japanese" and the "punk" part covered.  Their first album drops on April 23rd!

(I do not actually speak Japanese, but given that most of the Western music I listen to is instrumental soundtrack stuff, I'm happy to listen to beautiful voices singing words I don't understand.)

Steamscapes: Asia Development Log -- Flashman

Wait?!  What?

What do the Flashman Papers -- that series of historical adventure novels about the cowardly, jingoistic, womanizing bully Sir Harry Flashman VC KCB KCIE by the curmudgeonly conservative George MacDonald Fraser -- possibly have to do with Steamscapes?  Aren't the Flashman Papers' celebration of Playboy-style bed-hopping and Victorian empire-building contrary to the tone and intent of the social justice alternate history I'm supposed to be writing?  Didn't I say I was going to write about Yojimbo next?

First, the Flashman Papers are a perfect example of the adage "history is stranger than fiction."  While Flashman himself is fictional, the vast majority of people he meets and interacts with are not and reading these novels opened my eyes to just how colorful and bizarre the real world can be.  Lola Montez?James Brooke?The Taiping Rebellion?  I wouldn't know about any of them without Flashy.  I'm sure many gamers read the description of S…

National Poetry Month vs Steamscapes: Asia -- Haiku 1

Beneath white mountains, Sword-fanged wolves of Mibu hunt In red lantern's light.
The Shinsengumi were a vigilante squad of pro-Shogunate samurai and commoners who policed Kyoto during the waning days of Tokugawa rule.  Beloved by many as populist underdogs and derided by others as ruthless assassins, what role might they play in a world where the shogun still rules?