NEW

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...

The Secret Origin of “Daughter of Sorrow” by Maurice Broaddus

“Mr. Broaddus, you need to start a Creative Writing Club.” Thus began a four week campaign in which different members of my eighth grade class wore me down and I agreed to run an after school program. We ended up with nearly a dozen intrepid souls in our merry band,...

Knaves Has Funded, and Then Some!

Thanks to our awesome backers and readers, the Kickstarter for our anthology, Knaves, has been a success! Four hundred eighty-nine backers came together and invested $15,342 to make Knaves happen. Not only will this anthology be produced, but the authors will all get...

You Like Me Because I’m a Scoundrel

I remember watching Phantom Menace in the movie theater wondering what the movie was missing. There was awesome Jedi action (and way better choreography than the original trilogy). The music was fantastic. Tatooine looked pretty much the same, and pod racing was...
Fighting The Voices in My Head

Fighting The Voices in My Head

This article by fantasy author Melanie R. Meadors first appeared Geek Mom: Geek Speaks…Fiction! Here, Melanie tells us about how she fought the voices (of the characters) in her head…and lost.

When editor Marc Tassin invited me to write for the anthology, Champions of Aetaltis, I was ecstatic. Not only was it heroic fantasy, which is one of my favorite genres to write, but it was a shared world project, an anthology that tied in with Tassin’s role playing game world. There were a ton of authors involved, many of whom I had admired for years from both the fiction and the RPG community: David Farland, Erin Evans, Ed Greenwood, Richard Lee Byers, Elaine Cunningham, Cat Rambo, and more. I’d never worked on tie-in fiction before, but it’s something I had always wanted to try. This was a great opportunity to break into this part of publishing.

Image: Mechanical Muse, used with permission
Image: Mechanical Muse, used with permission

Mind you, the anthology is called Champions of Aetaltis. While I love a good knight in shining armor story, it’s not exactly what I write. My “heroes” are usually of a quieter, nerdier type. Folks with mightier pens than swords. But I’m a pretty imaginative person. I was certain I could come up with something.

I read through the top-secret world bible for Aetaltis, that had all the info about the world, its history, the races and classes of people, the gods, and so forth. Almost immediately, a character popped into my head. A young female halfling.

Um… not exactly what people think of when they hear “heroic.”

I tried my best to come up with something else. There were so many cool ideas, I was sure, waiting in that world guide. There were a couple races in particular that fascinated me, including the reptilian-like Scythaa. But my halfling girl wasn’t just a girl now. She had developed a personality and was now joined by a whole village of halflings in my mind. “No, no, no,” I said to myself. “You’re doing this wrong. You’re supposed to be writing about heroic people. Elves with legendary bows and majestic men with swords bearing magic runes! Not halflings with… what? Frying pans??”

By this point I knew better than to fight it. My story would have halflings in it. But a wandering hero could come in, find them in the clutches of an ancient evil force, and rescue them. The halflings would celebrate him and he would rise to glory once more!

In my mind, my halfling girl looked at me, raised an eyebrow, and said, “Really?”

Well, enough was enough. “Fine,” I said. “If you’re so heroic, prove it.”

And I’ll be damned, she did.

Image: Mechanical Muse, art by Mike Schley, used with permission
Image: Mechanical Muse, art by Mike Schley, used with permission

“A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is possibly my most favorite story I’ve written to date. Why? Because it proved what I had always thought, and why the smaller races of fantasy have always appealed to me. People are different and have different ways of handling situations. Sure, a human paladin could rush in and smite a vicious ogre with his holy sword. Having a halfling do that wouldn’t be believable. Halflings have a completely different skill set from men or dwarves. But they do have a skill set. They have their life experiences and their own set of tools. Instead of fighting to force their story to fit a set of ideals, I let my characters have enough rein to show me where their strength was. I let them show me how they would defeat not just one, but two villains in their story. And they did it as only halflings could.

If I had forced my character to do things that weren’t natural for her, it would have seemed fake, contrived. If I had had someone else come in to rescue them, the story wouldn’t have been as satisfying. Who wants to be in someone’s head as they are being saved? Wouldn’t you much rather be the hero?

This is why the advice to hold your story loosely, and let your characters–to a point–act things out, instead of you the writer inflicting how things “should” be upon them. My story developed in a more organic, natural way because I let this happen, and I think has a very satisfying end.

But in the words of LeVar Burton, don’t take my word for it! Go forth and read it yourselves!

Dagon’s Bones: A Lovecraft-Inspired Kickstarter Game!

Dagon’s Bones: A Lovecraft-Inspired Kickstarter Game!

Dagon’s Bones

A fast and fun Lovecraft-inspired dice game played in the pubs and bars of Innsmouth. Roll the Bones, pray to Dagon.

Utility Games, LLC is proud to announce our first game, debuting on Kickstarter, Dagon’s Bones.

Dagon’s Bones can be taught in minutes, is designed to be played casually, yet players have to make quick decisions to win. It makes a great warm-up for Game Nights or as a fun mini-game in Lovecraft-themed RPGs. Either way, it’s a fun and fast beer-and-pretzels game that’s easy to play while plotting to overthrow the accursed land-dwellers.

In the seaside pubs of Innsmouth they play a game of chance and fortune called Dagon’s Bones. It’s a dice game that requires both luck and daring and maybe a small blessing from the Elder Gods.

Will you steal from the other players, rob Cthulhu himself, or be granted, however fleetingly, Dagon’s blessings? Roll the Bones…and pray.

Included with each game are three dice with unique combinations of Innsmouth inspired symbols and 25 plastic replica coins from The Marsh Refinery, all packaged in a sturdy storage tube. Backing begins at $20.

Shipping for each backer will be determined after the campaign has ended and will be added to the bid amount. We will always strive to find the lowest cost shipping solution possible.

About Utility Games, LLC:

Our gaming passions span the gamut, from dice to board games, RPGs to minis, simple to complex. Together, we have over 80 years gaming experience.

Brian S. Roe is a graphic designer, sculptor, and writer and the creator of Zombie Plague and Trash Bash Bits.

Cinda Lybarger is a gaming hobbyist, with a background in production, logistics/shipping, and technical writing.

Ryan Lybarger is a scientific/technical writer, project manager, and lifetime gamer who has decided to apply his skills to game design and production.

Visit us on Kickstarter, Facebook, and Instagram:

www.kickstarter.com/projects/643854291/dagons-bones-a-fast-and-fun-dice-game

www.facebook.com/Utility-Games-LLC-1921759928137265/

www.instagram.com/utilitygamesllc/

Bringing You Stories, However You Like Them

Bringing You Stories, However You Like Them

There’s a saying that goes around (books are written on this topic, and serious research done by anthropologists) that storytelling is what makes us human. If storytelling is that core to our identities as people, it’s no surprise that we like to ingest stories in so many different ways. We consume click-bait headlines that lead us to (probably) true stories, our favorite movies through our preferred streaming systems, high definition video games or tabletop RPGs, the latest issues of a comic or latest updates of a webcomic, and (gasp!) print books.

And you know what’s fun? When you can see stories in more than one format. I am an old school Star Wars fan, and as a teen I hit the sweet spot of getting my Star Wars in multiple formats (before, of course, the explosion of new Star Wars stories). Not only did I watch the films over and over again, but my public library bought every single new Expanded Universe (EU) book as it was published. I devoured them. I was ecstatic when Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade got married in a comic (the only Star Wars EU comic I still own). Eventually, being a grownup got in the way of keeping up with the EU, in part because so many books got published, but I still dabbled. And I loved it.

Fast forward not only to the new Star Wars canon (I have Elizabeth Wein‘s Cobalt Squadron on my desk, and if you’re not reading the Marvel run on Star Wars that started in 2015, you are missing some awesome stuff), but to my job at Outland Entertainment. Creative Director Jeremy Mohler and I have had a lot of discussions about our visions for the company. We have these fantastic comics, anthologies, and games that we publish, and we love them. But what could we do to make those projects even better?

And this is our answer: Let our readers dig into our stories in all of the formats they want.

Having grown up with shared world projects that spread across media formats, and having written fiction, comics, role-playing games, and interactive novels, taking Outland in a transmedia direction made sense. We already had three formats we were publishing. Tying them together and giving readers more of the worlds and characters they loved across all our platforms has given us a mission. It’s also made us look at each project we take on and say, “How would this look as a game? Or a comic? Or a novel?”

If you’re a table top gamer, you may already be looking forward to the Shotguns & Sorcery RPG, a game based on Matt Forbeck’s fantastic novels (which we’ll be bringing out in omnibus format, complete with a brand new Max story). Matt is also on board to create an S&S comic. All three formats: one awesome world to explore.

If you’re a comic fan, you may have picked up Nightfell. We’ve started development for an RPG in that setting, as well as a novella to dig deeper into the world through prose. If you’ve come to us through fiction, such as the Blackguards anthology…well, we might just have some surprises in store for you coming up.

In the meantime, I’ve got a little bit of Star Wars reading to catch up on.

About Alana Joli Abbott

Alana Joli Abbott is the author of the novels Into the Reach, Departure, and Regaining Home, the interactive multiple choice novel app Choice of Kung Fu and was the writer for the webcomic Cowboys and Aliens II. Her game writing has been featured in Steampunk Musha, the award winning Serenity Adventures, and Dungeon and Dragon magazines. Alana has visited ancient ruins around the world; sung madrigals semi-professionally; and recently earned her black belt in Shaolin Kempo Karate. She lives near New Haven, CT.

 

Melanie R. Meadors on Playing In Someone Else’s Sandbox

Melanie R. Meadors on Playing In Someone Else’s Sandbox

This post was originally posted here on Books of M (www.booksofm.com).

When Marc Tassin invited me to write a story for the anthology he and John Helfers were editing, Champions of Aetaltis, I was over the moon. I had always wanted to work on an RPG tie-in project, and since this had a sword and sorcery type setting, it seemed right up my alley. Some of the first fantasy novels I read as a teen were Dungeons and Dragons tie-ins, and I’ve enjoyed the Pathfinder Tales books from Paizo as well. It didn’t take me much thought at all to agree to work on this project with two editors I admired.

When I got the setting guide to the world of Aetaltis, where the stories of the anthology were to be set, I started reading it with glee. I couldn’t wait to get started, and I was sure inspiration for a story would hit me as I pored over the pages. There were two hundred pages, to be precise, with details about races and classes of characters, facts and maps about the settings, and everything I ever wanted to know about the history and gods of the world. But when it came time to actually write the story, aside from having a little struggle coming up with the proper “champion” (and you can read more about my struggle with that here) I became really worried. There was so much stuff in the world guide, so much of it was already established. What if I completely screwed something up?

Thankfully, I’m not a shy person and went straight to Marc with my fears. Not that I asked him to hold my hand or anything, but I pitched my story idea to him as specifically as I could, and asked him to please verify that the world stuff that was involved with my story seemed accurate. I told him straight out, “Hey, I’m new at this shared world stuff. I just need your OK that I’m going in the right direction.” Sure enough, I was fine. I wrote the story and submitted it to him by the deadline.

Then things started to get really cool.

I hadn’t thought much beyond needing to get my story written and then taking care of edits when they arrived. To me, my characters existed in Aetaltis, and there were creatures and mention of other places in the story, but that was it. It was self-contained in my mind. But of course, to the world developer, this one story was a piece to a much bigger puzzle. My story’s characters and the events in it would become the stuff of leg-end in Aetlatis. And possibly most awesome of all was finding connections between stories in the anthology, things that were completely unplanned but just coincided. Two stories, for example, that had a staff in them. When Marc emailed me one day and asked if I could fiddle with the description of a device in my story to make it match one in another story, which would actually be a legendary weapon, I realized for the first time just how cool writing in a shared world really was. My story was more than just a story, it would become a bit of the mythos of the world. People could read my story and create a game out of it, just like the Aetaltis role playing game world was the basis for my fiction story.

The same goes for pretty much any tie-in. When you write a story based in the world of a video game, RPG, or movie franchise, your story becomes part of that world’s cultural literacy. Something small in the world might have inspired your story, but something small in your story might inspire someone to write another story, or game, or even movie. Your work becomes part of something bigger than it would have been if it was just a stand-alone tale.

A simple story becomes legend.

About the Author

Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available on Amazon.

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.
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.

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.

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Robert Schwalb’s Journey

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Robert Schwalb’s Journey

Matt Forbeck already enlightened us on his latest interview, but we also wanted to hear directly from the other man of the RPG game: Robert Schwalb.

Forbeck & Schwalb have worked closely to finish the first of the S&S RPG manuscript. With around 180,000 words and a little over 300 pages long it seems it’ll be one of the biggest game books of the year.

Let’s find out what they’ve exactly been up to while working for the upcoming Roleplaying Game based on Forbeck’s IP Shotguns & Sorcery.

 

How was it to integrate the Cypher System™ seamlessly with the S&S setting?

It was a whole lot of fun to be honest! As my fourth RPG adaptation of fiction to game material, the process was really comfortable and made easier having Matt just an email a way to answer all my finicky questions. Plus, Cypher is a flexible game engine and can handle a wide range of stories, so that was a benefit.

 

Was it an organic process?

To some extent, yes. The novels have a some strong world-building elements, but they are short, so we inferred a lot about the world from the books and Matt filled in a lot of the blanks. As far as adapting the game system, we didn’t have to make many significant changes. Cypher uses a universal mechanic for dealing with narrative complications, regardless of what those complications are.

 

Was it more difficult to adapt an already existing IP into the rules of the RPG universe or is it the same as when you start a game from scratch?

I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult. Rather, it’s a different kind of difficult. Building a game from the ground up presents its own challenges—you have to nail down the kinds of stories you want to tell, the stakes involved, and build the system to meet the story’s needs or build the story to match the game system as in the case of original creations bolted on to an existing game system. With fiction adaptation, the author creates a world without thought given to game balance or telling stories outside the story involving the protagonists. So the challenge really is to look at the world around the protagonists and find stories and characters that could exist within the same story and then building the game for them.

System work is also tricky since the objective is to match the mechanics to the narrative. For example, the novels show a wide range of magical effects, from enchanted bullets to nets of blue magical energy that catch falling people to astral projection. The characters in the book don’t “grow” into these things. Rather, they just have them. While Cypher does not place an emphasis on growing one’s individual power, it does feature a system of Tier advancement and from those tiers, characters gain additional benefits and options. It was a bit difficult pinning certain effects found in the story to particular tiers and/or character building blocks such as focus and descriptor, but it wasn’t an insurmountable difficulty.

 

What exactly was your job on this specific part of this big venture?

It was my job to put the Cypher System through its paces, bending and adapting the core rules to fit the needs of the game and to create new mechanical content to help players and GMs express the story in play. Sometimes, I took existing mechanical content from the Cypher System rulebook and embedded them in new story wrappers. Others, I rebuilt certain rules to make them more suitable for Shotguns & Sorcery. And I also spent a great deal of time creating new content for the game, such as new horrible creature, descriptors, cyphers, and more.

 

What was the biggest challenge or even obstacle you found?

Shotguns & Sorcery places a considerable amount of importance on race and the tensions of disparate peoples forced to live together under the tyrannical reign of the Dragon Emperor. As the Cypher System doesn’t sweat race/ancestry/people/whatever too much—though there are guidelines in the Cypher System Rulebook—I had to find a way to make the race choice important within the system’s framework. After four or five attempts, I finally settled on extracting a few game elements granted by type and presenting them in a second adjectival choice point called race. This approach allows race a greater impact on how characters take shape and helps differentiate characters who share the same type.

 

Did the results so far assume the form you wanted?

Oh yes! I’m quite happy with how the game turned out and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing it in its final form.

 

What is it that you’re most looking forward to show the audience as soon as the RPG is available?

Fans of the novels are going to find out so much more information in this game and Matt added a lot of detail to Dragon City, which really brings the place to life. I’m just excited to get this game in the hands of the customers so they can start playing!

 

Can you give us any scoop on a favorite character, magic, cypher…?

So many things! But let’s talk about magic. Spells operate as benefits gained from your Type choice. You can access spells from one of two types, the Wizard or, if you want to be a dabbler, the Freelance. Now, anyone can pick up additional spells too by selecting a magical focus such as Conjures Monsters or Commands the Dead. And then there are cyphers. We introduce a subcategory of cyphers called Words, which are spells in written form. They can be written on pages in books, on scrolls, etched onto tablets, or painted on the walls of an ancient, ruined building. Magic is fully integrated into the game, so it’s pretty easy for most characters to have a bit of mojo.

 

People are already wondering about GM advice you could give them. What’s the one recommendation you would share?

Make Dragon City your own. While we go into detail about the city, there’s plenty of room to add your own creations and characters. Don’t feel locked into the story told in the novels. This is your city now and you can do with it whatever you like!

 

Thank you, Robert! We are very excited to be part of the 1st third party game licensed with newCypher System™ from Monte Cook Games.

S.G.

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Matt Forbeck’s Journey

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Matt Forbeck’s Journey

A lot has changed since the last time we spoke. Matt Forbeck has worked closely with Robert Schwalb to finish the first draft of the S&S RPG manuscript. With around 180,000 words and a little over 300 pages long it seems it’ll be one of the biggest game books of the year.

Let’s find out what they’ve exactly been up to while working for the upcoming Roleplaying Game based on Forbeck’s IP Shotguns & Sorcery.

 

Matt, could you explain to us how it is to transform a universe you made famous in novel format into an RPG?

It’s fantastic fun. The world of Shotguns & Sorcery actually started out as an RPG setting in my head, although the world first got to see it in fiction, so it’s a real thrill to watch it develop into a full-blown RPG.

 

Was it an organic process?

As organic as anything can be that comes from people typing at each other. For me, it felt very natural. I started out as an RPG developer over two decades ago, so working on another RPG again felt like coming home.

 

What exactly was your job on this specific part of this big venture?

I wrote the background for the book and supplied all of the details about the world. My pal Rob Schwalb did all the heavy lifting with the rules, while Outland’s CEO Jeremy Mohler is creating all the art.

 

What was the biggest challenge or even obstacle you found?

It’s been a while since I wrote the Shotguns & Sorcery stories, so I actually had to back through and read them, taking notes as I went. This gave me all sorts of ideas for new material for the setting, but it’s kind of odd to study something you once wrote.

 

Did you have to compromise a lot? Did you feel like the S&S characters and universe had to change a lot to fit the RPG model?

Not much at all. As I mentioned, I originally developed Shotguns & Sorcery as an RPG setting, so bringing it back to its roots left it fairly well intact.

 

Did the results so far assume the form you wanted?

So far, I’ve been thrilled with every part of it. I can’t wait to see the finished book. There’s nothing quite like holding a book like that in your hands.

 

What is it that you’re most looking forward to show the audience as soon as the RPG is available?

Jeremy’s artwork. It’s really going to breathe new dimensions of life into the world and draw players right into it.

 

Can you give us any scoop on a favorite character, magic, cypher…?

I really like what Rob did with the cyphers overall. That’s something new to Shotguns & Sorcery, and he made it fit well.

 

Any future plans regarding this I.P.?

After re-reading all the books, I have ideas for lots more Shotguns & Sorcery stories. I don’t know when I’m going to get to writing them, but hopefully soon.

 

Thank you, Matt! We can’t wait to delve even further into the Shotguns & Sorcery‘s Universe!

Stay tuned for Robert Schwalb’s interview comming to you on April 27th!

S.G.

How to convert your family to Board Games & RPGs this Holiday Season

How to convert your family to Board Games & RPGs this Holiday Season

Well,  tomorrow is Christmas Eve! Yep, already another round up of eating copious amounts of food, giving presents and being surrounded by the ones you love.

On Xmas day, you’ll probably go through the same routine every year: the cheesy movie playing on the background, the kids trying out their shiny new toys AND the small group that turns to board games. But I’m talking about Monopoly and Party& Co.. And this is where you come in and introduce them to the magic and awesome world of cool board games and RPGs!

Be prepared to face resistance. Unless you’re family is already cool and geek there’s a big probability that Monopoly will win. But don’t get discouraged just yet!

Here’s your plan:

1- Prepare your favorite(and also newbie friendly ) game.

2- Take it with you (Too obvious, right? But when your kids are screaming and your wife is asking if you got everything in the car, you’ll thank me for this dull in your face advice.)

3- Casually, mention the game as much as you can. Namedrop subtly, though.

4- Find the most likely person to turn into an ally and stuck with them. When you feel they’re ready, mention what a  great time you had playing that game (over&over again = brainwash them).

5- Make it relatable to something they’re interested in: politics, mystery, deducting, fantasy…

6- When the time comes to pull that dusty moustachy cardboard box, Pitch Your Game!

Point number 5 is probably the one that will get everyone excited and playing it through the afternoon. So make sure you know what your dear one like!

So?  Are you prepared?

I’m going to conduct my own experiment: “Avalon the Resistance”. I’m in love with this game and how it really changes people while they’re in character – it tends to be a bit scary to see your bestie lie to your face with utter most ease.

Anyway, this will be my project: me, my cousins, my grandmother and her sister playing Avalon.

Let the Games Begin!

Oh! And Merry Xmas everyone!! 🙂

S.G.

 

P.S.: Thanks to Clever Move Games, Rachel Kremer Xmasy pic!

P.P.S.: If you need something to read during a flight or a drowsy afternoon, try our blog posts from interviews to opinion & advice articles.