NEW

ANNOUNCEMENTS Join Outland's Street Team, The Outlanders! Get sneak peeks at new releases, including fiction, games, and comics! Receive exclusive content, and be eligible to receive advance review copies of upcoming releases! If you like to help spread the word about...

THE ALL FATHER PARADOX Releases in October!

THE ALL FATHER PARADOX by Ian Stuart Sharpe Coming in October! What if an ancient god escaped his fate…and history was thrown to the wolves? Churchwarden Michaels thought it was just a run-of-the-mill crazy old man who stood in the graveyard, hellbent on studying the...

HATH NO FURY Has Hit the Shelves and E-Readers!

Mother. Warrior. Caregiver. Wife. Lover. Survivor. Trickster. Heroine. Leader.   This anthology features 21 stories and six essays about women who defy genre stereotypes. Here, it’s not the hero who acts while the heroine waits to be rescued; Hath No Fury’s women are...

Announcement: VIKINGVERSE COVER ILLUSTRATION RELEASED!

ANNOUNCEMENT Official summary of ALL FATHER PARADOX along with color cover illustration! What if an ancient god escaped his fate…and history was thrown to the wolves? Churchwarden Michaels thought it was just a run-of-the-mill crazy old man who stood in the graveyard,...

Announcement: New Comic Coming from Outland Entertainment!

ANNOUNCEMENT: Announcing Riddle of the Loremaster, an all new original comic series written by Melanie R. Meadors, with art by Nicolás Giacondino! Here is a sneak peek at some of the promo art: Riddle of the Loremaster is a comic for mature readers set in a fantasy...

Women in Dark Fantasy Have Changed by Linda Robertson

In doing a bit of research looking for a dark-fantasy-related topic for this article, I sought something that I knew at least a bit about, something I felt strongly about, and something where I could add meaningfully to the conversation. Many things were considered,...

Alethea Kontis on Imposter Syndrome

Earlier this year, I met the only student Katy Kellgren ever had. He told me he just about had to bully her into being his teacher. This amazing, multiple award-winning voice actress with hundreds of audiobooks under her belt truly didn’t believe she knew anything...

Announcements: HATH NO FURY Has Arrived in the US!

Backers of the paperback and hardcover editions of Hath No Fury will be happy to learn that the books have arrived at the printer's headquarters in Chicago! Now, they just need to be sent to our head honcho Jeremy Mohler, and then they will be sent out to backers...

Fairies with Dark Faces by I.L. Cruz

I like fairies—not a difficult admission for a fantasy writer—and I don’t mean the safe Victorian ones with gossamer wings that spread sparkles when they walk. I mean the ones that steal little children and make Faustian bargains. They were ancient and magnificent and...

Announcement: Launching New Transmedia World, VIKINGVERSE

Announcements Introducing the beginning of a new transmedia project with fiction, comics, and games in development! VIKINGVERSE From a concept created by Ian Sharpe, Vikingverse is going to launch this fall with a novel called All Father Paradox. Here is the line art...
Ragnarok Publications Absorbed into Outland Entertainment

Ragnarok Publications Absorbed into Outland Entertainment

Hello folks!

When we announced last year (2017) that we were making changes to Ragnarok Publications, the intent was to maintain Ragnarok as an imprint of Outland Entertainment. But as we started to move forward, it became more and more obvious that there was just too much negative press associated with Ragnarok. None of which really had anything to do with the current team behind the company as it stands.

So, rather than try to continue publishing with one arm tied behind our back, we’ve made the decision to absorb Ragnarok into Outland. It also helps to bring everything under one banner in terms of management and production.

We’ll be maintaining these titles from the Ragnarok catalog –

  • Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues;
  • Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place;
  • Hath No Fury: Tales of Strong Women;
  • Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters;
  • Mech: Age of Steel;
  • Neverland’s Library.

We’ll also be maintaining our distribution relationship with Independent Publishers Group (IPG). We love working with them and they have been more than supportive with all the changes we’ve made.

Moving forward, we’ll be taking on projects that we intend to develop into trans-media IP (intellectual property). Meaning, before we take on a project, we’ll be looking at how we can develop it into fiction, comics, and games, or some combination of those three items. It’s a slightly different approach than Ragnarok had previously, but we have a pretty extensive background not only developing fiction (whether it’s anthologies, novels, or novellas), but developing comics and game projects through our creative services as well.

We also have a deep and abiding love for all things fiction, comics, and games!

So as 2018 progresses, we should have some fun announcements to make about the projects that are currently in development. Keep an ear to the ground and if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page!

Thanks!

JM

OUTLAND ENTERTAINMENT ANNOUNCES OUTLAND PUBLICATIONS, NEW KICKSTARTER LAUNCH

OUTLAND ENTERTAINMENT ANNOUNCES OUTLAND PUBLICATIONS, NEW KICKSTARTER LAUNCH

KANSAS, UNITED STATES (28 December, 2017) —

Outland Entertainment has launched its comics, games, and fiction publishing division, Outland Publications. The new arm of the creative services company continues to publish the company’s successful projects, such as the forthcoming print volumes of Nightfell and Warlock 5, as well as digital comics such as Ithaca and The Barry Blair Library, as well as anthologies formerly published by Outland’s fiction arm Ragnarok Publications. All currently in print Ragnarok Publications titles are being absorbed into the new division.

Outland Publications first new anthology project, Kaiju Rising 2, a sequel to Ragnarok Publication’s most popular anthology, is launching a Kickstarter on January 9, 2018. Editors Nick Sharps, editor of Kaiju Rising, and editor-in-chief Alana Joli Abbott have brought together an exceptional author list: Marie Brennan, ML Brennan, Cullen Bunn, Teri Clarke, Nick Cole, Steve Diamond, Kane Gilmour, Jonathan Green, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Melanie Meadors, Mari Murdock, Lee Murray, Jeremy Robinson, Sabrina Vourvoulias, and Dan Wells. 

Editor in Chief Alana Joli Abbott, who has been with Outland since May 2016 and served as Editor in Chief of Ragnarok Publications upon Outland’s acquisition of that company, enthused about the new division’s upcoming projects. “We have some excellent anthologies planned for this year, featuring a group of really exceptional authors,” she said. “I’m pleased to be collaborating with experienced anthology editors, including Nick Sharps and Melanie Meadors, and Narazu editor Cerece Rennie Murphy, to be putting these projects together.”

Outland Publications’s other forthcoming projects for 2018 include the core roleplaying book for Matt Forbeck’s Shotguns and Socrery, as well as an omnibus tome of Forbeck’s novels that inspired the setting, and the launch of trans-media project Pileaus, which includes a roleplaying game, comic, and short fiction projects. 

Outland Entertainment continues to provide high quality creative services under the name of the parent company.

# # #

Outland Entertainment was founded as a creative services company in 2008 by Jeremy Mohler. Since then, Outland has worked for a wide variety of clients across the world. Outland specializes in assembling creative teams and managing projects. Contact them via their site form or go to www.outlandentertainment.com. For more information, contact Jeremy Mohler at jeremy@outlandentertainment.com.

WARLOCK 5 IS COMING TO KICKSTARTER ON APRIL 26TH

WARLOCK 5 IS COMING TO KICKSTARTER ON APRIL 26TH

KANSAS, UNITED STATES (26th April, 2017) —

On the 26th April, Ragnarok Publications will launch a Kickstarter campaign for a reimagining of Warlock 5. Originally created by Gordon Derry & Denis Beauvais, Warlock 5 was published by Barry Blair, a Canadian comic book publisher, artist and writer, known for launching Aircel Comics in the 1980s. CULLEN BUNN and JIMMY Z JOHNSTON co-write this relaunched fantasy adventure while JEFFREY EDWARDS takes on the artwork with colors by ANDY POOLE.

The campaign seeks to fund the reinvention of this classic fantasy masterpiece, full of rivalry, betrayal, magic, dragons, and killer robots. The goal is to create a 60-page full-color original graphic novel with an entrancing action-packed narrative that will please both newcomers and fans of the early series.

This project is part of The Barry Blair Library, which provides a collection of approximately 300 issues and over 6000 pages of content collected from over a half-dozen publishers that Blair worked on through the 1980s and 90s. Prepare yourself to read works such as Blood N Guts“, “Demon Hunter“, “Dragonring“,  “Elflord” and Gun Fury” for the first time in digital format.

Cullen & Johnston keep the story faithful to Blair’s work, while Edwards illustrates the most exhilarating multiverse scenes, all brought to life by Poole’s colors.

The new Warlock 5 series is something every comic fan will want.

 

# # #

Ragnarok Publications, founded in 2013 by Joseph Martin and Tim Marquitz, publishes genre fiction and has released about 50 titles from dozens of authors. They specialize in genre fiction and can be reached at www.ragnarokpub.com. Outland Entertainment was founded as a creative services company in 2008 by Jeremy Mohler. Since then, Outland has worked for a wide variety of clients across the world. Outland specializes in assembling creative teams and managing projects. Contact them via their site form or go to www.outlandentertainment.com. For more information, contact Gwendolyn Nix at g.nix@ragnarokpub.com or Susana Grilo at s.grilo@ragnarokpub.com

Ragnarok Publications and Outland Entertainment merge to expand publishing and creative services

Ragnarok Publications and Outland Entertainment merge to expand publishing and creative services

Crestview Hills, Kentucky (Feb. 22, 2017) Genre fiction publisher Ragnarok Publications and creative services company Outland Entertainment announced this week that the two will be merging into one, with Ragnarok Publications as the publishing branch and Outland Entertainment continuing to offer creative services.
Ragnarok Publications began releasing titles to market in January 2014, providing epic fantasy, urban fantasy, and supernatural/paranormal fiction to readers. As of 2016 they are distributed by IPG Books into the trade market.
Outland Entertainment’s expertise lies in illustration, graphics, and comic development, branching into publishing in 2014. The merger has come about to expand both companies’ creative opportunities, leading Ragnarok Publications to come under the banner of Outland Entertainment to oversee Outland’s comics and games, in addition to continuing to publish novels. Outland Entertainment will remain dedicated to creative services.
“We are thrilled to partner with Outland,” said Joseph Martin, former Creative Director of Ragnarok Publications and now Publisher with the Outland merger. “It lets us expand our publishing repertoire by adding more staff and a diversification of comics and games properties, at the same time utilizing the strength of Outland’s design services and contacts. Jeremy [Mohler] and I have been talking since late 2014 about this merger. It’s nothing but upside.”
“We’re excited about the partnership,” added Jeremy Mohler, former Outland Entertainment Founder & Creative Director and current Creative Director at Ragnarok. “Joe and his team have an impressive reputation for publishing quality products and an amazing library of novels and anthologies. Merging our two companies, more importantly our teams, will only increase the quality of our products, and we’ll be able to create, manage, and tackle more projects and, best of all, reach more markets together rather than on our own.”
Martin and Mohler will remain the heads of the merged company. Ragnarok and Outland’s teams will combine, resulting in the following:
Joe Martin Publisher, responsible for project acquisitions, and production supervision of novel and anthology published titles.
Jeremy Mohler Creative Director, responsible for project acquisitions, overseeing all creative services, and supervising graphic novel and game projects.
Alana Joli Abbott Editor in Chief, responsible for story development, editing, production, and overseeing projects to publication.
Edward Lavallee Chief of Comic Operations, responsible for all aspects of graphic novel production schedule, submission, and distribution.
Gwendolyn Nix Office Administrator, responsible for manuscript editing, public relations, liaison with clients and authors, and novel production administration.
Shawn King Director of Design, responsible for design solutions, including website graphics, novel covers, comic page layout and games.
William Ward Director of Games, responsible for game idea and development and overseeing them through to publication.
Susana Grilo Director of Digital Marketing, responsible for marketing, overseeing digital technologies and social media trends, and ensuring strong company presence.
Nicolas Giacondino In-House Illustrator, responsible for illustration development for graphic novels, games, and comics.
# # #
Ragnarok Publications, founded in 2013 by Joseph Martin and Tim Marquitz, publishes genre fiction and have released about 50 titles and worked with dozens of authors. They specialize in genre fiction and can be reached at www.ragnarokpub.com. Outland Entertainment was founded as a creative services company in 2008 by Jeremy Mohler. Since then, Outland has worked for a wide variety of clients across the world. Outland specializes in assembling creative teams and managing projects. Contact them via their site form or go to www.outlandentertainment.com. For more information, contact Gwendolyn Nix at g.nix@ragnarokpub.com.
Choice of the Pirate – The power of CHOICE

Choice of the Pirate – The power of CHOICE

It’s great a feeling to have your say on how a story develops. That while you’re reading, it evolves, and your own character is created according to your choices. This makes it a lot more personal. So I was eager to try out a multiple choice interactive novel from Choice of Games and see if it lived up to its recommendation.

When I first opened the Choice of the Pirate app [I was surprised:  stark, without the usual razzle-dazzle one associates when we hear the words “interactive e-book.” But I quickly realized it didn’t need any of that: the quirkiness was in the way it approached you directly.

The stats column, on the left side of the screen, informing you of your character’s development, is written in pirate. (Please, tell me you know what I’m talking about! There’s even a day for it. “Arrr, me matey! I’m yer captain!”)

Being a fan of all things pirate—it all began with Pirates of The Caribbean I have to confess—when I got hold of Choice of the Pirate by our very own Alana Joli Abbott, I was intrigued.

At first I didn’t know exactly how it would play out.  How would the graphics on the column get filled?  I read the “landlubber’s guide to the terms” but I was still curious! And it was with a childlike pleasure I started to see MY character emerge from the story. Yes, my character. Because I’m sure that if you read it, even if you decided to copy my general characteristics (such as name, moniker, flagship, flag and even signature clothing), your character would be different in some percentage. The delight of being an honorable but 91% pirate woman! To have this sassy young lass navigate the flow of allies and enemies, trying to figure out how to improve her skills at the art of Cambiar—a special kind of magic—all connected to my own choices.

 

 

 

 

The Status column!

 

 

I got stuck looking at some paragraphs, rereading the options given. Would I ruin my reputation? Would this be too definite for the character, or would there be another chance to follow a similar thread?

Oh, how I wished I could read ahead! Or go back and change something.

There’s an increased level of responsibility when reading a book like this. You read knowing that what you answer might only control the order of info given, or how quickly you reach a certain goal, but it also might mean an abrupt change of wind.

I admit sometimes I needed an extra choice, something that wasn’t there. But here’s the thing: the narrative has already been written; you’re just navigating your way through the different choices the author has created. Think of it like a sneak peek of how the multiverse theory would kind of work out. Parallel universes where what doesn’t happen here will fracture outward, creating a different timeline and therefore a new universe where your unchosen option will play out.

Or…maybe not.

Sometimes you can feel the hand of the writer steering you, limiting your choices. These moments break a little bit of the “oh, I have freedom!” feeling that you embark on. But without these confinements, there had to be an infinite number of hypotheses that would in turn lead to uncountable plot points. So, to sum up: not feasible, deal with it, and enjoy the sweet playful compromise, bargained between you and the author.

I had a blast! If sometimes I felt restricted, others I felt like I had too much on my shoulders: the name of my character? I wanted it to be something meaningful. Her flag? It definitely had to be special!

My attempt to make my pirate and flag tangible… hey…I’m not an illustrator!

And that’s how I found myself delving into lists of marine flora and feminine names. “Too strange. Too predictable. Oh… I don’t even know how to say that,” were some of the things that crossed my mind. I easily lost twenty minutes searching for a name fit for my character.

But the flag and the clothing? That came out instantly! I had already begun to discover Noziroth, she was becoming more and more visible.

I loved the idea of incarnating this person, so I made the choices against what I usually do—which is set up to make completely bold choices that I’d never dare in real life. Here, I actually put on the salty battered leather boots and decided to be me (well, as “me” as possible, of course!).

I felt the yearn to kill a certain character. But when the time came to press the “Next” button and make it my final choice, I would change for the merciful option I knew I would actually go for as “me.” Nonetheless, I was pleased to end up with a bold, fierce character that had a lot of me in it. I had the opportunity of seeing how I would behave in a sea filled with scavenger rats and dubious captains. I got to be a PIRATE!

And yes, I wished I could try another choice; see where the other road would have led me. That’s the magic of it: if you want, you’re free to reread the book and play it out as a complete opposite character! But you know what? I think I’ll wait for awhile: I’m just too caught up with the web I created.

See how possessively I talk about the narrative? It seems as though I wrote the story myself. That’s the beauty of these books. Alana creates a rich, involving universe with strong characters that you—as a reader and as a character yourself—get to play against. She allows you to feel at ease to explore this world she created at your own pace.

And it is magical. I felt as surprised as I felt responsible for some outcomes. There were cliffhangers, some intriguing characters, and it made you want to read faster: why? Why can’t I read just a little bit ahead? The answer is simple: it would ruin the whole experience.

When talking about this book, I always talked about the things I had chosen and what that had gotten me. I didn’t feel like I was just reading. I was creating alongside the author. Isn’t that powerful? I have to say that as a writer it must be really scary to share this power with the user (reader/creator). As Alana said in her article “Sharing your world: game writing,” you have to be open about how the story will play out. Not much different than a Game Master on a quest. Your players will define their own characters and blaze through a path of their own, although inside the possibilities of the universe you’ve built.

It’s a much more immersive way to experience a narrative. I felt embarrassed, excited, disappointed: as the choice is yours to make, so is the rejection or the pain that results from it.

When reading a common book, you get to imagine the whole thing in your head, and we all know that no two readers will get the same exact experience of a particular story. However, here you’re bound by the information and descriptions given. The characters are all fleshed out, or at least not as raw as in this choice book.

Don’t be fooled: Choice of the Pirate is no ordinary “Choose your own Adventure” book. Alana borrows the core idea from ol’ creative Edward Packard, but allows you to actually create your character—nearly—from scratch. And that, for me, was key for all the rest. I was captured. I assumed the role of the protagonist: buying the ghost ship against common sense, maintaining cordial relationships with as many people as I could, trying to find out the truth about the Pirate King’s identity. Yahima Noziroth was my avatar in the island of San Alfonso and the Lucayan sea.

Can’t wait to start reading one of Alana’s other apps, Choice of Kung Fu. Being a Pirate: check! Now, let’s be a martial artist, shall we?

 

Have you already read any of these titles? No?!? Then click here and try it.

And please, please share your characters in the comments. I would love to see how your pirate turns out!

S.G.

Hearthstone: RPG or TCG?

Hearthstone: RPG or TCG?

 

You should already know I’m a noob in the game universe. Following my post “RPG: Hearthstone, my  newest addiction,” some of our readers pointed out to me that Hearthstone isn’t exactly an RPG, but first and foremost a TCG.

I made my case, they made theirs, and in the end we still had doubts.

While Hearthstone is based on as hardcore a roleplaying game as World of Warcraft undoubtedly is—or is it? We’ll get back to this—Hearthstone itself is more of a card game. You do get into character, but you don’t create the whole persona—I mean, you can’t even edit or change their speech bubbles during games. You’re stuck with the personality that each class has been given.

You can’t actively trade cards with other players either. You can disenchant yours, get dust and then craft new ones, but it’s not like your friend can entice you with three awesome cards just so he can have your Ragnaros.

However, when you’re playing against your friends, be it a friendly banter or the ultimate challenge, you’re not “you.” There’s this Mage, Warrior, Hunter, or Rogue who molds your actions—and therefore how your personality comes through. Of course you will have a determined gaming strategy that sets you apart. Maybe you like to attack the Hero directly from the very beginning instead of wiping all its minions off the table. Nevertheless, one can argue that you are indeed playing a role. You don’t have as much creative freedom as you get in other RPGs, but you are in character nonetheless.

“How about the cards?” I can hear some of you shouting. “How can you not see that you’re playing freaking cards?!?”

Well, yes, cards are the gateway to your actions, they’re how you express yourself—outside of the speech bubbles. You can change the backs of the cards, and you can choose whether or not to use the golden ones, giving your personal touch to the game. Hey, you can even buy new characters that will, in turn, grant you access to new card backs.  And don’t forget that you can interact with the different settings where you’re playing.

Then again, what makes an RPG or a TCG? Wait. You didn’t think there were just these two terms did you? Because there are more to count, starting this small list—and this is just concerning the CG part as a constant:

BCG: Battle Card GameCCG: Customizable Card Game
ECG: Expandable Card Game
LCG: Living Card Game
OCG: Official Card Game
OCG: Original Card Game
TCG: The Card Game
XCG: Expandable Card Game

This IS confusing.

Even worse, did you know some people claim that WoW goes by the name of TCG? Hey! Don’t crucify me! I have yet to play it to reach any conclusion.

If you look for definitions of each of the aforementioned terms, they vary from source to source. Opinions differ and the rules get hazy when you scan through different forums.

So… Here I am. New at this and without certainties about nomenclatures. But you know what? Even though most of you would probably smack me in the face for saying this, I do have to admit that I don’t really care what it is called. The important word on that fancy and—sometimes confusing—pot of acronyms is the G word. I simply want to enjoy myself playing GAMES, no matter if they’re slightly more TC based or RP oriented.

May I just add how interesting this whole acronym thing is? It makes you feel like you’re an old soul gamer. No? Is it just me? Well, at least it impresses non-gamers… Anyway…

What do you think? RPG or TCG? Weigh in with your opinion in the comments and see if you can convince me!

S.G.

Web Summit – Techies Assemble in Lisbon

Web Summit – Techies Assemble in Lisbon

The city was bursting with people wearing badges. You could spot your kindred souls just by seeing the blue lanyards. Finding yourself in Lisbon, here in Portugal, you’d think we’d be speaking our own language, but no: from November 7-10, the first contact you’d have with ANYONE—be it the lady from the teeny tiny fruit shop to the conference speaker at the MEO Arena—would be in English.

Lisbon transformed itself to welcome the more than 50,000 geeks that made their way to Web Summit. Taking into account it was the first event of its kind and size to take place in our country, I think we behaved quite well. Yes, 3,000 attendees were left outside the main stage on opening day and that was a big shock for everyone—believe me, I had paid my ticket, was psyched to be at the opening ceremony… and stood freezing on the steps amidst the crowd watching through a screen.

But let’s not get caught up in the logistic details and cut to chase: all the tech revolution.

There were thousands of startups from every sector you can imagine: Entertainment, Health, Sports, Fashion, Socializing, Learning… What held this diverse group together was the fact that they were using new(-ish) technology. Whether touting apps made from scratch or adaptations of existing software and hardware, people showed how innovation can be achieved in the smallest of ideas.

But there weren’t only startups there. You could see and experience new ventures of household names like Microsoft, Google, or Tesla.

You always know that going to a conference (or convention) is going to test your agility. How’s your sprinting time? With the stands of companies changing on a daily basis, plus the huge number of presentations, I found myself running franticly to catch all I wanted. Needless to say, sacrifices were made.

But I managed to hear some captivating speakers on a variety of topics that truly interest me. There was time for new marketing ideas and tools at the PandaConf, tons about the importance of continuing to make relevant content for your increasingly demanding audience at ContentMakers, and more VR and AR enlightening at the TalkRobot stage, while FutureSocieties and Modum offered different views on how we can learn and teach people to be bolder and embrace tech innovation by applying new methods to old business and creative models.

All that was asked in return was that you remembered their words and took their advice into account when your time came. People want entrepreneurship to move forward embracing the technological advances we continue to conquer.

At Night Summit, when you had worn yourself out all day, it felt nice talking to the other attendees about work, yes, but more about the countries they came from and what they thought about current events—remember that a certain election happened right in the middle of the conference, so that was a topic that immediately permeated every conversation from then on.

I could go into detail at how excited I was to finally meet Paddy Cosgrave in person or how cool it was too listen to Joseph Gordon-Levitt talk about film and creativity. I was disappointed to miss an interview with Sophia, the AI robot created by Ben Goertzel—that looks disturbingly like a character out of Ex-Machina…

My head bubbled with ideas upon listening to Baobab Studios CEO Maureen Fan and film producer Michael Shamberg, and I got many ideas strolling down the Entertainment aisle of startups. I felt the urge to do something. To act. To be part of this moving innovative cluster of people who’ll bring you the Future, no matter what field you work in. Because in the end it will all spread through our lives, from the way we dress to how we talk to friends or how we drive a car.

S.G.

Sharing your world: game writing | By Alana Joli Abbott

Sharing your world: game writing | By Alana Joli Abbott

When I was in high school, I ran my first D&D game. I hadn’t been gaming very long, and I had a ton of fairy tale tropes that were stronger influences than the D&D cannon. My game did not really fit the D&D archetypes, and while I did a great job rolling with the way the players took my material (because, hey, they were upperclassmen and veteran gamers and it was my first DMing experience), I learned a lot about the difference between writing—and writing for gamers. The core of the difference is that when you’re writing a work that stands alone, you know where the story goes and where it’s going to end. When you’re writing for gamers? Well, be prepared for everything.

As a game master, one of the nicest tools in the arsenal is the ability to go off script. So, your tabletop Shotguns and Sorcery gamers have decided that they don’t want to do the mission given to them by the Dragon Emperor, and instead want to spend the day shopping in Gnometown? You roll with it. That may mean arresting them and getting them back to the hook (because when is saying no to the Dragon Emperor a good idea?), but you humor them. It may mean changing the adventure to be about evading the Imperial Dragon’s Guard, and taking the bones of the adventure you designed and changing all the flavor so that when they get chased out of Dragon City, the zombies you prepped are there for a different reason than the quest they were supposed to go on in the first place.

But what if you’re writing an adventure, or interactive fiction, for players you’ve never met? If you’ve played with gamers who like to go off script, you know how challenging it can be to anticipate their options. But that’s exactly what adventure writers and interactive novel writers are asked to do. I’ve written my fair share of tabletop adventures and I’m now three apps into writing multiple choice novels, and I still don’t know the best solution to this conundrum. But I know the first thing that I have to do when I start writing is realize: I’m not the only writer.

Is that a surprise? If you’re a gamer: congratulations! I’m not writing my story when I’m writing a game. I’m trying to write one for you to make your own. And that’s the real key. Any game story I write, the player should feel like the star. As the player, you should be able to make choices that suit the backstory you’ve created, beyond the text I’ve written. You should be able to tailor your character to reflect the culture and romantic inclinations you think suit them best. You shouldn’t be held back by my imagination.

Am I always going to have all the options everyone would like? In a word: no. My playtesters will tell you, though, that if they present an idea I haven’t thought of, I’ll work it in if I can. And—to some degree—if it suits the framework of the story as I’ve envisioned it. Because that’s your job as a gamer too: you’re the star, but we’re working on the story together. I hope you’ll see some of me in the world I give to you.

If you’re a game designer or an adventure writer yourself, this can be one of the most mind-wracking, brain-twisting challenges you’ll ever have—and you’ll come out on the other side better for it, because your imagination has to expand beyond a single point of view to encompass the potential points of view of thousands of players. And when you walk away, you can guess that as memorable as your NPCs are, as great as the details are in your world, the character the players will remember the best are the ones they created. And that’s exactly as it should be.

RPG: Hearthstone, my newest addiction

RPG: Hearthstone, my newest addiction

For a long time, RPG was a foreign word to me. I knew it from my so called geek friends, from the newest CGI games, and from hearing references of classics like Dungeons & Dragons. But I didn’t really know what it meant.

This summer, I was introduced to Hearthstone. It had something to do with the universe of World of Warcraft. Ok: a familiar name. I had never played it myself, but had seen people addicted to it and talking about how awesome it was.

hearthstone_scre

And…I’m dead…

My first reaction: cool graphics, but… so many cards with… numbers… and what do they all mean? There’s the little diamond shape thingy and then the other two on the bottom… And the ones with a skull have “Deathrattle”? My inner monologues ended pretty much with “Wait. Why did that monster die? No! Wh-why am I dead?!?”

Yup. Not the easiest game ever, I give you that. Especially if you have no experience with card games or RPGs in general. But I was hooked. I continued to try. I had help building my first decks and got used to playing with the same character: Mage (c’mon, you’ve got to love a good Flamestrike!).

hearthstone_flamestrike02-pc-games

Flamestrike: Deal 4 damage to all enemy minions

But besides the everyday ranked games, daily challenges and solo adventures, there’s something that, sometimes, is incredible: the Tavern Brawls!

These consist of a weekly challenge that changes its rules every time and is only available for three days. You get games that go from cooperating with the other player in order to destroy a common enemy to using only one type of card to destroy your enemy—or even to using chess pieces.

Something that captured my attention was the cooperation game. In a question of seconds—and without the use of chat—strategies were made and put into action. Just by playing a certain card and maybe highlighting your partner’s hero power, you gave each other signals and you were in fact working towards a common goal from across the world. It seems something ridiculous, right? What’s so important about destroying an imaginary monster in a fantasy game?

co-op_tavernbrawl

Co-op! Co-op!

Well, picture this: it’s not a random monster, it’s a problem that two people who have never met are joining forces to solve. Within seconds, tactics are created and acted upon.

This shows how we are more than capable of solving problems and collaborating. We just have to be on the same side—and that’s the tricky part of any conflict.

See how this quickly went from mere game to world cooperation? Ok, ok, I’m not preaching RPGs as a solution to World Peace—everyone knows that the answer to that is tickling; we are just afraid because it’s so obvious, as comedian T.J. Miller pointed out.

Anyway, back to Hearthstone!

I am now proud to say that I have conquered my good share of victories, currently trying to push myself beyond my comfort zone by playing with other characters. I know the difference between a Battlecry and a Deathrattle and more or less how to prioritize my mana spending and energy losses.

card

Deathrattles and Battlecries: let’s mix it up!

I love that it is a game that needs more than sheer luck, that you have to actually think when playing if you want to create certain combos and get cool cards.

But there was another thing that helped me get addicted: the possibility of playing with friends from around the world! It’s fine to chat on a regular basis to keep tabs on how everyone’s doing, but it’s much cooler when you’re able to share these funny moments in an RPG. Challenging your friends for battles, arguing about what characters have the best powers and cards, giving tips and advice on how to improve your decks or what web pages to visit for extra news—it’s all part of a shareable experience. It’s something that takes the game to a new level and makes it less impersonal.

It’s almost like having that cosy boardgame night where you just goof around and have fun, using the game as an excuse.

The funny characters, the subtle humor on the card descriptions, and the whole sound and graphic landscape make Hearthstone an enjoyable experience for anyone wanting to give the digital RPG world a try. It’s free, so why not take a chance?

cardshs

Are you an avid player of online RPGs? Which ones would you recommend?

Let us know! I’ll be playing the ones you suggest and writing my impressions here. Yes, I’m a complete newbie but that’s why it’s going to be fun for you to hear the struggles and nonsenses of a rookie in worlds you’ve traveled so many times.

S.G.

Serial fiction: Not just for webcomics | by Alana Joli Abbott

Serial fiction: Not just for webcomics | by Alana Joli Abbott

After reading Susana’s confession about how she came to comics, I feel like I should have a confession of my own. Here it is: I think I’m addicted to serial fiction. Not series fiction—those ten or twelve or how-ever-long-Game of Thrones-will-be-when-GRRM-is-finished—although I love those, too. I mean serial fiction, the type of fiction you can take in at bite-sized. The kind of fiction you get in webcomics, which have been doing it brilliantly for years, stringing along a story one day at a time and keeping the readers hooked with little claws of awesomeness dug into our brains. The kind of fiction that’s easy for reading online or reading on your phone.

The kind of fiction that’s becoming ever so much more popular for prose stories these days, as well as webcomics and episodic television series. I keep an ongoing updated overview of “The Best Serial Fiction You Should Be Reading” where I write over at Den of Geek. But while I’m waxing eloquent over the prose tales I’m loving to read, and listen to when the audio versions are available, I haven’t gotten into something I’ve been considering for awhile: how much serial prose fiction is like the webcomics experience—and how much it isn’t.

If you check out the philosophy espoused by Serial Box Publishing, which produces most of the serials I’m reading right now, you’ll see that the inspiration behind these serials is the television writing process. Each serial has a team of writers who storyboard, work out the main thrust of the story’s season, and take the head writing assignments for different episodes. The result is that the serials feel like television, except with all the action going on inside your head. The pacing is very much what you’d expect of an hour-long TV drama (or, in the case of Whitehall, a bit more than an hour, especially in audio, which makes them feel a bit like a PBS-run British mini-series; it’s appropriate for that story).

But, of course, reading prose has very little else in common with television. As Susana pointed out in discussing the difference between novels and comics, with prose fiction, all of the world and character appearance come from the reader, and no two versions of that world are going to be the same, because of the different details readers will focus on, and because of their own frame of references. While I’ve got a cast list to pitch for Bookburners if that ever got optioned for a television series, my cast list is probably quite different from the one the writers would create themselves! (I’d love to find out, though…) More than that, there’s no need for a special effects budget in prose, because the imagination of the reader has a pretty unlimited budget.

So why does that have me thinking about webcomics? I’ve always thought that comics were sort of a middle ground medium. When I first started writing comics, I took a screen writing course to get a better idea of how to create a script. The big difference between film and comics, in my opinion, is that the action in a film is continual. The action in a comic happens between the panels. The action in prose can happen anywhere, but a prose writer has a cheat: the prose writer can tell you what’s going on in the heads of the characters. The action can be internal. Not so with comics! The art has to show you what’s going on in that character development. So if serial fiction and television are similar storytelling experiences, the webcomics, with the art-prose hybrid, could be the perfect middle medium between them.

Generally, though, webcomics are a very different reading experience, unless you’re binge reading. If you haven’t ever read a page of Schlock Mercenary, for example, (and if you haven’t, where have you been?) you could be reading online for hours on end, devouring storyline after storyline. The volume arcs in a long-running webcomic like Schlock do feel a lot like a television season.

But if you’re all caught up, a webcomic gives you a tiny, bite-sized morsel of story every day, every other day, or even once a week. The best of them are able to make that small bite enough to keep your interest, to keep you wondering what will happen in the next post. In an age of binge watching, that ability to sustain a story without the ability to binge read it is an impressive skill, and I admire the webcomics creators who can maintain the kind of loyal readership that so many inspire.

Webcomics and serials both draw on earlier, similar examples. Webcomics come out of a tradition of newspaper comics like Prince Valiant and Spiderman that would give readers four panels a day of an ongoing tale. I always wondered how those readers would manage if they ever missed a day of the paper! Serial prose has been around since Charles Dickens and his peers, though the recent resurgence is closer in many ways to television (or TV movies: some of the bite-sized books are full stories in a single reading). And while they don’t share many similarities in how readers experience them, both webcomics and the modern prose serials are, when done well, masters of the art of keeping their readers coming back for more. That’s a skill that’s valuable for any writer!