Monday, December 3, 2012

Save or Die Podcast talks about Labyrinth Lord

Just a quick note that Labyrinth Lord was featured on the most recent episode of the Save or Die Podcast. Link here. Also be sure to check out the previous episode about Barrowmaze.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Star Explorer: Companion board game for Starships & Spacemen

Since many new people are being introduced to Starships & Spacemen with the release of the second edition, I thought I would mention for those who don't know that I also publish a companion board game called Star Explorer.

It can be played solo or with several others, and missions are generated randomly so there is a great deal of replay value. You are competing with the other players to complete missions, and you send planet-side teams to a planet to accomplish missions. The game can also be used to help generate missions in S&S, and used to resolve actions by NPCs if so desired. The games go great together which is why I also bought the rights to Star Explorer.

You can buy a high-res PDF for home printing and assembly here, or you can buy a print on demand version at the Game Crafter.

Friday, November 16, 2012

S&S 2e PDFs sent and orders shipping!

Hi everyone,

I have sent download coupons to all supporters of S&S 2e via RPGnow. They went to the email you provided to Indiegogo. If you do not receive the download coupon please send me an email and I will send you a new one.

I have shipped all USA Sub-Lieutenant orders, and all the rest of the orders at all supporter levels will ship next week and into the weekend after Thanksgiving. In the meantime please enjoy the PDF and thanks again for your support!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Starships & Spacemen Proofs Ready!

The proofs arrived Friday, and they look great! I'll approve them and then hopefully the print run will be done within a few weeks. Here are some (blurry) photos, also a photo of the patch. Print on demand and electronic versions will go up for sale after physical books are shipped. Supporters will receive a download link for the PDF once I start shipping physical books.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Starships & Spacemen 2e Proofs Ordered

Just a quick update on Starships & Spacemen 2e. I ordered proofs last week, so assuming all goes well with those the print run will be underway soon. I'm still aiming for a late October date for starting to ship orders, though this will hinge on manufacture time. In any case we are about on schedule, give or take a week, so I think I've estimated the time frame well over all. I'm really happy with how the book has turned out, both the rules and the physical book. Thanks go to all the people who gave feedback on the forums, and to Mark Allen and Steve Zieser for applying their talents to another of my books. Thanks everyone! More updates to follow, including pics of the proofs and the patches.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Starships & Spacemen art preview from Mark Allen

Mark Allen has posted a preview of some art that will appear in the Starships & Spacemen 2e rulebook. Drop and by and check it out!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Deviant Database by Sniderman now available!

If you're looking for more nasty mutants to add to your Mutant Future game, Sniderman has been happy to oblige by publishing a new book of freakish beasts--the Deviant Database.

I've been looking this over and I am truly impressed. There is a nice array of creatures, all well written and interesting. I like the presentation as well. The pages have borders that give the impression of an old computer printout (the kind with the perforated peel off edges, you may recall from old printers) and it is well-done, not overdone like many "modern" layouts you see. This is a book you will use at the table.

...and can you say "cheetahpede?!?" Hell yeah!

Friday, August 3, 2012

[LAST ONE!] Forehead Friday...rolled 58

The bridge of the SFS Drake rocked to the side. Officers swayed, some lost their balance, and others fell to the deck. The explosion was completely unexpected. Captain Reed gripped his chair tightly as he shouted, "Silek, report!"

The Tauran Science Officer collected himself off the floor and consulted the sensor readings. "Captain, a ship has emerged from behind the third moon. It...appears to be a Space Fleet frigate. Yes, it is the SFS Galatea.

"Wasn't it reported lost three years ago?" Reed asked.

"Affirmative, Captain."

Reed said, "Lieutenant Karak, what is the status of our weapons?"

The Rigel Security Officer stood at attention and stated seriously, "Captain, beam banks are inoperative. We have three ion torpedoes ready to deploy."

"Better than nothing, Lieutenant." Reed said grimly.

Karak continued, "...but, Captain, our targeting system is damaged. We can still fire, but we will need a manual lock."

Reed sighed.

"Captain, a visual is coming through from the enemy ship," Ensign Cho reported.

"Put it on screen, Ensign."

The screen displayed an image of a frigate bridge, with a humanoid in the command chair. He was wearing a familiar brown and black leather uniform, with red insignia.
Reed knew the uniform well. He cursed under his breath. The Vega Pirates...again.

"Captain Reed," The pirate said with obvious satisfaction, "This is Captain Larran of the Vega Pirates. You evaded some of my men on Scarra, but it looks like I've caught up to you. I've been looking for another Space Fleet vessel to add to my fleet. We know your beams are down and you're weapons are depleted. Kindly surrender."

"Give us a moment to consult." Reed demanded.

"I give you one minute, Reed, and then your ship will be blown to dust," the spiky-headed alien declared.

"Cut the sound," Reed ordered Cho. "Karak, try targeting a manual lock with torpedoes."

"Trying Captain...they, seem to have modified their defensive screens and manual sensors are unable to lock onto them." Karak reported in frustration.

"Captain," Commander Silek interjected, "they have indeed modified their screens, but as a result they seem to be leaving a trail of trakyon radiation."

"Karak," Reed said quickly, "can you modify the targeting computer to use that radiation as a target path?"

"I think so Captain, it will take just 30 seconds." Karak stated with pleasure, working at his console.

"Reactivate sound transmission," Reed ordered Ensign Cho.

" now have 10 seconds to decide, Captain." Larran said suspiciously.

"We surrender." Reed said with as much earnestness as he could muster.

"Deactivate your defensive screens and prepare to be boarded." Larran said with a smug tone

Reed delayed, "Larran, I want you to ensure that my crew will be taken care of."

Larran laughed, "No negotiation, Captain! You, of course, will be executed as an example of what it means to defy the Vega Pirates. I'll personally send a piece of your body to the corners of the Galaxy as a token of how we deal with interference to our operations. Your crew will receive some measure of mercy. They will be sold into slavery."

"Karak, are you ready?" Reed asked, trying to sound defeated.

"Yes, Captain."

"Fire!" Reed shouted, staring into Larran's eyes.

Larran turned to his technical station but it was too late. An ion torpedo sped along an irrregular course, following the trakyon radiation.

"No, Reed! I'll have your head..." but Larran didn't get to finish his sentence. The ion torpedoes collided with the pirate vessel. The direct hit detonated their nuclear engines and the ship nearly vaporized.

Captain Reed sat slowly in his command chair.

"Captain, the pirate vessel has been destroyed." Silek reported, possibly in an attempt at humor since it was totally unnecessary.

But Reed couldn't enjoy the moment. He was thinking that if the Vega Pirates had become this brash they must have something planned working to their advantage. Could this be a new major threat to the Galactic Confederation?

"Cho," Reed ordered, "set a course for Starbase Omega."

"Aye aye Sir."

* * *
This concludes our Forehead Fridays! Thank you to everyone who has been following along. This has been a fun feature, and I hope it shows how the various foreheads in Starships & Spacemen 2e might be used in play. The indiegogo project has been a great success! As a reminder to those who have been meaning to contribute, the campaign ends late Saturday.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Forehead Friday...rolled 05

And this was supposed to be Captain Reed's vacation.

Reed was trying to enjoy the beaches of Scarra, a "Pleasure Planet" designated safe by the Galactic Confederation, and a popular shore leave spot for Space Fleet vessels. He was sipping a fermented drink made from a local alien fruit, and enjoying the company of a beautiful purple-skinned companion when the mood changed dramatically. A dark figure appeared, holding a beam pistol.

"Reed. Don't try anything. I'm not alone." The human nodded over his shoulder, and Reed sat up from his reclining position to see several other similarly clad figures. Brown and black leather outfits, with the red insignia of the Vega Pirates. They were a motley crew of misfits from various planets, but highly organized and dangerous.

"What do you want from me?" Reed asked, perplexed and annoyed at the intrusion.

"You'll come with us." his grin became a snarl. "You'll make a good hostage. Space Fleet is holding three of my men and I'm betting a ship's Captain will be a fair trade."

But a beam of red energy smashed into the pirate, knocking him backward into a smoking heap. Reed looked over to his almost forgotten companion, his face changing from surprise to amusement as he realized she had been concealing a beam weapon. He didn't have time to ask where she could have hidden it while wearing the Scarra version of a bikini. Reed grabbed her hand and breathed, "I think we better run!"

Reed and the purple skinned woman ran down the beach, the remaining pirates in pursuit. The woman led the Captain into the jungle foliage above the beach, saying, "Captain, I've been assigned to look out for you on your shore leave."

"You're a Space Fleet plant? My babysitter?" Reed said with an accusatory tone.

"You're a man in need of watching, Reed. You have a reputation for getting into trouble. Enough talk, there are caves nearby."

"You're full of surprises." Reed stated with resignation, following her into a cave set in a hill.

The cave was pitch black, and they could hear pursuers searching nearby. Reed was led deeper into the cave.

"I hope you don't think less of me Captain," his companion said huskily, "but I have one more surprise for you."

"Are you sure this is the right time..." Reed's voice trailed off as a bright glow appeared in the dark of the cave. He could make out a thin crack of light appear, illuminating the alien woman's forehead. It expanded, opening up to reveal a brightly glowing third eye on her forehead. It illuminated the entire width of the cave.

As explanation she whispered, "My people come from a low-light planet. It's one of our evolutionary secrets, Captain. Come, we can retreat deeper into the cave."

"Like I said, you're full of surprises." Reed whispered. It only occurred to him later that she had said "one" of her evolutionary secrets. He wondered just how much more interesting this adventure might become.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Forehead Friday...rolled 62

Commander Silek would have been excited, if he were human. As it was, he was merely intrigued as his logical Tauran mental machinery processed the data before him.

"The aliens have little to no body language, Captain." Silek reported as he entered Captain Reed's personal quarters.

The planet-side team had returned from Tripton II with one casualty, an Ensign Rickles who collapsed apparently due to poisoning. The entire mission was briefly in jeopardy, since the Drake needed vital radioactive components from the planet's surface to repair the ship's engines.

"The universal translator was repeating a garbled language, and when Rickles collapsed we were not sure if it was an act of aggression." Silek continued, "But the Doctor detected highly concentrated pheromones and I logically concluded that we were dealing with an alien race whose language incorporates scent and hormonal communication, in combination with sound."

Reed looked amused at Silek's restrained enthusiasm. Communication with this new race would be complicated, because at least 70% of their language involved scents and pheromones, which were emitted from gaping pores on their foreheads. Adding to the mess was the fact that beings with iron-based metabolisms are deathly allergic to the chemical emissions. A poisonous language was a new one for Reed and the crew of the Drake, but that's what Trekking across the galaxy is all about...

* * *
The indiegogo project for Starships & Spacemen 2e has already reached its goal! As I write this there are two weeks left, so if we reach our first stretch goal of $5,500 all contributors at the Sub-Lieutenant rank or higher will receive a Space Fleet sew-on patch. Thank you for your support!


Forehead Friday...rolled 80

Forehead Friday...rolled 76

Forehead Friday...rolled 03

Forehead Friday...rolled 83

Forehead Friday...rolled 44

Forehead Friday...rolled 21

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pacesetter Freebie at the Gen Con LLS Meeting

For those of you attending the LLS meet-n-greet at Gen Con here is one of the goodies that will be handed out on a first come, first served basis:

The Pacesetter logo replaces the zero on these d10s.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hulks & Horrors Sounds Cool!

I just wanted to mention another indiegogo project for an old-school Sci-Fi game called Hulks & Horrors. They're billing it as D&D-like exploration in space, and I have to admit there is something about the logo I find very cool. The system is supposed to be inspired by Moldvay/Cook B/X, so it might be a great game to mine for stuff to include in Starships & Spacemen 2e.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Starships & Spacemen Play-by-Post (public)

There is a publicly visible S&S 2e play-by-post on the Goblinoid Games forums. Feel free to check it out!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Forehead Friday...rolled 80

"Captain's Log 2287.10.21, Captain Jack Reed in command of the SFS Drake. We have arrived at Omecron III after receiving a distress call. A small survey team is here on a mission to assess the planet's suitability for a Confederation colony, but there are no further communications from the planet. I am accompanying the planet-side team along with Medical Officer Lieutenant McNeil and Spacemen Richards and Garrot to investigate the survey team's camp site. Commander Silek is in command of the bridge."

The planet-side team materialized on the dusty, windswept planet just as the blue second moon of Omicron III was dipping into the horizon. The sky was awash in the blue light reflecting off the moon, a stark contrast to the yellow sky. Captain Reed barely took notice of the scene as he began to examine the campsite in front of them.

"McNeil, are you reading any life signs?" Reed asked the Doctor.

"I'm getting unclear readings, Captain, but there seems to be something faint 100 yards to the west."

No sooner had the Doctor made this announcement than the better part of a crude spear emerged from the chest of Spaceman Richards. Richards looked down in astonishment, not recognizing this seemingly new limb, before he collapsed in a heap in front of Reed.
A humanoid alien could be seen briefly admiring his work before ducking behind cover on an elevated ridge.

Reed and Garrot immediately grabbed hold of Richards, dragging him behind a large boulder as the Doctor followed.

"Get out of the way damn you!" McNeil grunted, opening his medikit with one hand and checking Richards's vitals with the other.

"This planet..." Reed said, "...was supposed to be uninhabited."

"He's dead, Jack." McNeil breathed, his tone grim as he met Reed's gaze.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Starships & Spacemen 2e Stretch Goal #1

Stretch Goal #1 $5,500

Good morning Space Fleet recruits! As I write this we have a little over three weeks left for the S&S indiegogo campaign. That is practically forever when it comes to trying to predict outcome.

I’m setting our first stretch goal as a modest one, and if we hit it early enough I’ll set a more ambitious goal for the second one.

Stretch Goal #1: $5,500

If we reach our first stretch goal, everyone who contributed at the Sub-Lieutenant level or higher will receive a Galactic Confederation emblem sew-on patch. You can sort of make out what these look like in the S&S cover painting, and I’ve posted it on the indiegogo page (see below). These patches will be about 3″ × 3″ and also have an iron-on backing for your convenience.

Thanks again everyone for your support. I’m confident this will be a successfully funded project and I thank you all for contributing.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Forehead Friday...rolled 76

In case you're just joining us for Forehead Friday, this is a weekly feature that will run through the course of the indiegogo campaign to take preorders and raise funds for the production of Starships & Spacemen 2e. Here are links to previous Forehead Fridays:

Forehead Friday...rolled 03

Forehead Friday...rolled 83

Forehead Friday...rolled 44

Forehead Friday...rolled 21

* * *
The planet-side team materialized on the alien planet. Captain Reed looked up, admiring the swirling yellow-orange sky. The atmosphere was uncomfortably thick, adding to the choking sensation Spaceman Anderson felt as he looked down over the cliff alongside their transport site.

Spaceman Mallon got right to work, analyzing the nearby surroundings. "Captain," he reported, "I'm reading several life signs up ahead. A path trails around the cliff side."

"Very well," Reed said, "Mallon and Anderson, continue ahead and keep a lookout for the alien party. This is our first contact with this species, so keep your movements slow and passive. Electrostun weapons only, but leave them holstered."

Commander Silek continued to scan the vicinity as the Spacemen disappeared along a curve in the path ahead. "Captain," Silek said, his tone the closest a Tauran ever gets to excitement, "I am reading rich fossil deposits in the cliff side. This location is a paleontologist's treasure trove, and would lend great insight into why so many avian species evolved on this planet."

"A project for another time, Commander." Reed said with amusement.

The light mood was pierced by a scream ahead. Reed and Silek exchanged a brief glance before running up the path. As they rounded the mountainside, the scene before them was grim. Spaceman Mallon was looking over the precipice, a large animal at his feet. Its body resembled a predatory cat, with feathers instead of fur, and the head of an eagle. It was twitching, obviously stunned.

"What happened?" Reed asked with concern, approaching the cliff.

"We were attacked, and Anderson fell..."

Mallon's explanation was cut off by a high-pitched voice, "Captain Reed, I presume?"
About a dozen tall, thin humanoids emerged from the path ahead. They had delicate features and feathers instead of hair.

"We witnessed the attack, Captain, and regretfully were unable to react in time. These predators are common in this area." The leader of the aliens explained. "Your man..." the alien's voice trailed off as he looked over the cliff.

Reed joined him, peering over the side. Thousands of feet below, the Captain could make out Anderson's red uniform. "He was one of our more promising enlisted men." Reed reflected as he opened his communicator.

"This is Captain Reed calling the Drake."

"This is the Drake, Captain. Lieutenant Trotter responding, Sir."

"Trotter, there's been an incident. Anderson's..." Reed paused, "...dead. Lock onto his signal and teleport him to the ship immediately. Send him to deep freeze right away. I doubt they can revive him on Starbase IV, but we'll give him every chance."

"Affirmative, Captain. Trotter out."

Reed turned to address the aliens. "What a rocky start to the mission," Reed thought.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Steve Winter talks about Clones and the OSR

In case you haven't seen it yet, Steve Winter has posted about the OSR over at Kobold Quarterly. Also check out his blog with a list of various old-school games. It's a weird feeling looking at this because not long ago I knew about all of the OSR games available, but at this point I've obviously lost track!

Where the first clones (like Labyrinth Lord and OSRIC) were about preservation, the next wave that builds on them are more about building a customized D&D from the base of what we've preserved. I think this shows the success of this movement. For example, as a supporter of open gaming I am glad to see so much text I wrote for Labyrinth Lord being recycled in Adventurer Conqueror King. Much like when variant fantasy games began to take root after D&D was released, we have more and more such games now. Of course, open game content makes it that much easier because you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time. I spent months, basically full time, writing Labyrinth Lord and the Advanced Edition Companion. I'm glad to give that text back to the open gaming community for the future of all game hobbyists.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Forehead Friday...rolled 21

The command crew gathered in the teleporter room. They took their positions and managed to stand at complete attention, despite wearing their itchy dress uniforms. Captain Reed wasn't looking forward to another diplomatic mission. He felt he was pulled from a much more important...and interesting...mission to investigate reports of a giant living space entity harassing ships near the Videni border.

But such is the life of a Space Fleet Officer. So now he and his crew had to babysit a Lacoathan delegate on his way to negotiations over shipping rights in Nurean space. The Lacoathan's were a friendly race, but their amphibian-like biology and taste for anything raw from the ocean always filled the decks of the ship with unpleasant odors.

"Shall I bring a bottle of Videni wine to the dinner party tonight, Captain?" Lieutenant Trotter whispered in his typical mischievous manner. Everyone called him Trot; he was well known for his antics. And he knew full well that Videni wine wouldn't agree with their guest and the odor problem.

The Lacoathan ship signaled that they were ready for transport. Captain Reed ordered with a sigh, "Ensign Ivankov, initiate."

Ivankov locked onto the diplomat's position and activated the transport sequence. Two forms began to materialize on the teleporter pad. Reed was looking at an interesting painting on the wall--a rare psionic mood-enhancer from a primitive planet they had visited for shore leave. A shore leave, Reed thought, that was far too distant in the past.

His officers were shifting anxiously in their positions, drawing the Captain's attention back to the pad. Reed's eyes widened with confusion and sudden amusement.
Standing next to the squat, brownish amphibian diplomat was a tall, very beautiful woman.

"Please, let me welcome you both to the SFS Drake." the Captain announced, having found new enthusiasm for the mission.

The figures stepped from the teleporter pad, and the frog-like humanoid said, "Thank you, Captain," its voice a mixture of croak and wheeze, "Please forgive my unannounced guest, my daughter Arana."

"Not at all, Ambassador Reichluund." Reed pronounced with some difficulty, masking his confusion.

"Daughter?" Reed thought in amazement. "Of course!" Reed recollected that the Lacoathan moon was home to a native humanoid race, almost extinct. An all-female race that reproduced via parthenogenesis. Arana must be adopted.

"Ambassador Reichluund, you must be famished. We have arranged a buffet of many sea-dwelling delicacies. Lieutenant Trotter would be delighted to escort you to the dining hall and instruct you in the choices." Reed explained with great satisfaction, catching Trotter's downtrodden expression in the corner of his eye.

"Captain, my daughter has seen me eat for her entire life, but this is her first time on an SFS cruiser. Would you be so kind to provide her with a tour?" Reichluund asked. The last sentence was encapsulated in a burp.

"It would be an honor, Ambassador." Captain Reed smiled with delight as he took Arana's arm and led her from the teleporter room.

"The mood-altering painting seems to have worked," Reed thought, "This assignment might be interesting after all."

This has been another Forehead Friday! Please see previous installments here and here and here.

If you would like to support the indiegogo project to fund the production of Starships & Spacemen 2e, please visit the website.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

Forehead Friday...rolled 44

Commander Silek screamed in pain, an outburst unusual for the Tauran Science Officer. He clutched his head and fell to his knees, scattering crumbling humanoid bones across the cell floor.

"Stop it!" Captain Reed demanded, stepping aggressively toward the cell door.

Silek's screams diminished as the alien captor lost concentration, taking a step back from the bars. The large-brained alien grinned with thin lips, it's orange eyes staring hard at Reed. It viewed Reed as nothing but an animal.
Reed heard not with his ears, but in his mind, "We will break you, Captain." the alien's contempt was clear even in this non-vocal communication, "When you reveal the location of your ship, we will transport your crew to the surface of our planet, where they will be willing slaves and breeding stock for our people. Humans are tragically inferior, but we will harvest the DNA we need."

These were the Mind Masters of Zeta Herculis--a stagnant, decadent race that over the millenia had lost all genetic diversity from cloning. They had searched for hundreds of years for a compatible race to reinvigorate their species, and at last had found that opportunity in the humans who had investigated their planet.

Reed tried to empty his mind, hoping the Mind Master wouldn't detect his intentions. The Captain leaped at the alien, his suspicions confirmed as he passed through the bars that were only in his mind, and he grasped at the neck below the disproportionately large head...

This has been another installment of Forehead Friday! Forehead Friday will continue each Friday until the finale of the indiegogo project to fund the Starships & Spacemen Second Edition rule book.

You can find previous Forehead Friday posts here and here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Awesome LL adventure comic!

Came across this blog post. It's for a group that's playing Labyrinth Lord, and one of the players made a short comic about their game session-hilarious!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Starships & Spacemen 2e: New Perk Level Added!

Due to several requests, I’ve added a Perk level at $25—Sub-Lieutenant. This perk comes with the PDF and a perfect bound copy of the book (instead of a hard cover).

What this also means if is if you have pledged at the Captain or Admiral level you will also be receiving the perfect bound book!

Several people have also asked me how to upgrade their Perk to a higher level. The way to do that is to click any Perk as if you are making a new pledge, but scroll down to where you can enter your own dollar amount. Add the amount of money for the difference between your current Perk and the Perk you would like to upgrade to. In the notes section please note your intent so that I can sort that out at the end of the funding campaign.

As of this writing we are about 60% toward the goal! Thanks you for the support, everyone. If you can continue to spread the word it would be much appreciated!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Forehead Friday...rolled 81

In Starships & Spacemen, if the referee chooses to roll a random forehead when a new alien race is encountered, the forehead might not just give an appearance to the alien, but also suggest something about the aliens and how the encounter should be carried out. It can be as much a game adventure seed as an aesthetic device.

"Captain, nuclear drives are gone. We're dead in the water!" the com buzzed with the voice of a frantic Engineering Officer.

"I need maneuvering ability now, Lieutenant!" the Captain shouted, "Helm, arm beam weapons."

"Beam banks are inoperable, Captain." Ensign Cho explained, as calmly as his Space Fleet training allowed, "Captain, we're receiving a visual from the enemy ship."

"Put it on screen." said Captain Reed.

The screen sluggishly came to life, flickering from beam fire damage inflicted by the alien vessel.

Several humanoid figures became visible, on a ship deck with many tube structures gurgling fluids of various hues.

Behind the Captain, the Communications Officer gasped. "Captain, its brain..." she trailed off.

"...we've heard of these aliens," Reed whispered, "they call themselves..."

"We are the Cerebrophones." a machine-like voice pronounced through the crackling sound distortion of the damaged communications equipment, "You will surrender your vessel. Many of our people are in need of your bodies. You will surrender them to us and your brains will be placed in cold storage. Forever."

"Commander Silek," Captain Reed said, looking meaningfully toward the Tauran Science Officer, "I need your command codes for the self-destruct mechanism..."

I am seeking preorders for Starships & Spacemen to fund the final art and printing of the book. I will be having Forehead Friday each Friday until the end of the indiegogo campaign. We're already 50% there about one week into the program. Be sure to check out the miniatures available with the book!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Comments on the Prometheus Movie (Spoilers)

For the last few years I've been frustrated with the types of movies Hollywood has produced. The endless stream of remakes, for one, is especially disappointing. The fact that they are remaking Total Recall bothers the hell out of me, but I digress.

I'm a big fan of Alien and Bladerunner, so for the first time in a long time I was excited to go to the theater. It was a mixed bag. I'm going to whine and complain a bit, so bear with me!

I wouldn't say it's horrible, but it wasn't that great either. Too many things went unexplained to the point that parts were incomprehensible. Leaving something of a mystery is fine, but it wasn't handled well. For example, in the beginning scene, what was up with the alien guy dissolving? Why did he kill himself? Was that CGI animation of his DNA dissolving into the water significant in some way, and if so, how? My wife suggested that his DNA "seeded" the Earth, leading to humans, but if that were the case why were their pictograms around the world indicating people worshiped the aliens? Clearly they contributed more than just their DNA.

I also didn't get how one of the alien-movie-type creatures emerged from the alien guy at the end...weren't we dealing with a different alien menace earlier? Did it mutate? What the hell is going on, anyway? Ok, so they created us, and they want to destroy us. Given that they started making this alien bioweapon when humans were still using bows and arrows, wouldn't it have just been easier to swing on by the ol' planet earth and carpet bomb it? Is it that complicated?

Also, I realize over-the-top action is probably to be expected, but come on. You can't have an emergency cesarean, staple up your stomach after all those muscles have been severed, then go running around, leaping across crevasses, etc. in that condition.

But probably the biggest disappointment for me is the origin explanation for humans. By and large I don't like it when this type of thing is done to explain human origins, though I did like the more recent way it was done in the Battlestar Gallactica series.

I've heard that some cops can't stand to watch crime shows because of the way crime scenes and police behavior is depicted, and that lawyers often have a hard time watching courtroom shows. Similarly, since I am an anthropologist who specializes in human evolution, it is painful to me to see them setup a totally implausible scenario for the origin of humans. I get it, this is sci-fi, but it ruins my ability to suspend disbelief. There is too much evidence for the evolution of humans on Earth to just say we were plopped down here by aliens. Without going into technical detail, that is the long and short of it. It is lazy writing, not to mention an overdone concept.

So in the end it was an ok way to spend a couple of hours if you have no expectations. I liked the synthetic's character. I don't mind the philosophizing about what it means to be human, (I'm a big fan of Philip K. Dick) but the way the movie handled it was sophomoric. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a movie elitist, and I generally like movies that are not supposed to have deep meaning, but if you're going to tackle this issue at least add something new to the conversation.

I've read a lot of reviews that say the movie tried to do too many things. In general I agree, but the bad taste it leaves is that it doesn't do any one of those things very well and it feels like this is a movie written specifically to spawn sequels. So while it sets up a bunch of things to explore in later movies, right here and now the movie doesn't do much for you. I think a movie should stand on its own, and this one IMHO doesn't.

Apparently they are in the early stages of making a Bladerunner sequel (still working on a script I think). Thinking about that makes me feel a peculiar mix of hope and dread. I'm afraid of what they'll do in a sequel.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Forehead Friday...rolled 03

Every Friday between now and the completion of the IndieGoGo to fund the Starships & Spacemen Second Edition game I'll feature a random forehead!

Coming up with new alien races can be a challenge, which is probably why a certain...ahem...generation of science fiction invents forehead shapes to differentiate alien races. In Starships & Spacemen 2e there is an optional section to include this component to your game.

Steve Zieser illustrated 100...yes, 100 forehead configurations so that you can roll a d% each time you encounter a new alien race. When I came to Steve with this concept I think he thought I was a bit nuts, and I know he found it challenging to illustrate that many unique foreheads. But he pulled it off beautifully.

The foreheads are included in the playtest document, which you get access to as a contributor to the IndieGoGo project. Get your voyages underway!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Starships & Spacemen IndieGoGo is Live!

Carry Out Missions in the Final Frontier!

The IndieGoGo project to fund the Starships & Spacemen Second Edition rule book is now live!

Starships & Spacemen was first released back in 1978, only the second science fiction RPG ever to be released.

This second edition of the classic game is compatible with Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future. The best elements of the first edition have been kept--the classes and subclasses, the excellent starship rules, and the space adventuring rules. Classes, races, and abilities have been made more in line with Labyrinth Lord.

This second edition has elements that let you customize the style of play whether you prefer an "original series" feel, a "next generation" feel, or something in between.

You won't be bogged down by an over-complicated and detailed galaxy. That's one of the difficulties sometimes when trying to play in an established licensed universe. With Starships & Spacemen get just enough information to get going, and plenty of advice for designing your galaxy. Galactic space will be yours to customize.

Much like in Labyrinth Lord, in Starships & Spacemen you design your milieu. This is adventuring in space, not History 101!

Pledging at any level gives you access to the playtest draft and the playtest forums!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Crowdfunding a Three-Ring Circus?

I think it's pretty clear now that crowdfunding through places like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo has totally changed the dynamic of small press publishing (and even the larger presses). Ever since traditional distributors changed the way they buy games, a publisher had to provide all the capital for a project upfront. This meant publishers had to bear the financial risk, but also had to carry the debt of the project until sales made it up. For some projects, this could take a while.

Crowdfunding is a great thing. I have a couple projects coming up and plan to give it a go again. The Labyrinth Lord Referee Screen was successfully funded through Kickstarter a few months back, which was great because that type of product is hit or miss. Some people love screens, some don't. Kickstarter let me raise the funds to cover the initial cost of printing. But I had a conversation lately with someone in which he said that he thought Kickstarter is kind of becoming a circus. I had some similar thoughts about some of the recent Kickstarters I've seen, but this statement got me thinking and I thought I'd see what opinions people have.

The circus issue is particularly in reference to stretch goals and the idea that "bigger is always better" when it comes to topping out as high as possible when the time limit is up. I think everyone would agree that stretch goals are a neat idea, and there is little doubt that they seem to "work" in terms of convincing people who may be on the fence to become a backer. But one real concern from a financial point of view is whether some backer rewards are "smart."

By smart, I just mean that the effort and monetary investment on the publisher side is worth the extra pledges. For example, if you have a $2,000 stretch goal that will cost you $1,900 to implement in shipping costs, production costs, and development costs (paying artists and writers), then in the end if you are a publisher what have you really gained from that stretch goal? I've spoken with more than one publisher who is concerned that the "stretch goal circus" may be setting unrealistic and possibly unsustainable expectations.

Which gets down to the heart of the issue. If you are a person who is planning to support a Kickstarter, what are your expectations? Are detailed backer levels enough, or at this point do you "expect" stretch goals? What sorts of stretch goals do you expect?

Friday, May 25, 2012


I admit that I was pretty pessimistic about whether 5e would actually end up being "old-school." In part I suppose that is because I've made peace with my breakup with the D&D brand. When I heard about the D&D 5e preview material I didn't feel disappointment or even frustration that the game was not old-school. Ok, so they've finally totally done away with even the illusion that characters might die. Fine, I was expecting something like that. I wouldn't even have been surprised if characters "respawned" upon death, at full hit points (5e is just one step away from that).

I guess the predominant thing I was feeling was pity for Mike Mearls. I've never met Mike, but from all accounts I've ever heard he is a nice guy. I wouldn't wish him any ill will at all. Think of the problem he faces. It's his job to revitalize the D&D brand. Bring people back to the game, away from all of the other options out there today. He's got to try to turn the next version of D&D into something that appeals enough to a wide segment of fantasy gamers that they will come back into the fold. I bet even Mike knows and knew all along that would be an impossible task.

The problem with needing to stand out is that D&D has to compete with all the other 3.x spinoffs that have been evolving for many years. What can 5e meaningfully add that hasn't already been done? I think that's why D&D 5e feels like an also-ran at this point. The days where the Brand alone was enough are past. D&D 5e could be a descendent of Castles & Crusades, or a cousin to any of the latest in the glut of 3e-lite spinoffs. As I consider 5e there is nothing much to distinguish it from any of those other 3e-derived games out there. 5e is a fantasy heartbreaker that even the brand can't save. I find myself feeling an emotion I wasn't even expecting--sadness.

Even though I had moved on maybe there was some small part of me that took comfort that "D&D" the brand is still there, enjoyed by others if not by myself. But what we have now just feels to me like the last failing gasp before the brand either dies completely or jumps to an entirely new medium. D&D is lost, not just to me philosophically, but probably soon to everyone. There are too many diametrically opposed expectations from the fantasy gamer audience, and the D&D brand can't possibly please them all. The fracturing is irreparable, and unfortunately, D&D isn't like so many of the competing brands that will be happy to chug along with a small piece of the pie. To appease the corporate owners D&D needs a much larger piece of that pie, but while WotC was away from the table it's already been divided up. What's left for them may be big by some standards, but not by their own. The majority goes to Pathfinder, and too large a chunk is divided by the various 3e-lite games and the old-school clone(like) games.

In the end I'm not sure where the blame goes. I can't help but think at least some of the blame has to go to the edition treadmill philosophy. Criticize 3rd edition all you like (and I have), but it was a pretty successful edition. The problem is that when WotC left an edition behind they didn't just revise the game into something else, they torched and salted the fields behind them each time. Each time they tell their customers that there is something fundamentally broken and bad with the previous edition, and in doing so they create a rift between the people who stay behind with the old edition and the people who take the bait for the new edition. How can you possibly convince the people who have followed you all along that, "No, wait a second, there was something salvageable back there after all"? You can't. That's why the 4e players will resent 5e because of how much it resembles 3e.

Sadly, I think we're witnessing D&D's last resurrection survival roll. From where we're sitting it isn't clear yet, but I think we might be seeing double-aught on the dice. Will it carry on in some new form? Who knows. But in the meantime--D&D, RIP.

Lulu free shipping!

Through today only if you select "Mail Shipping" at Lulu your shipping will be free! Hurry and grab some books you may have had in mind.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

GEN CON: Labyrinth Lord Society Meet n' Greet

The Labyrinth Lord Society First Annual Meet-and-Greet is on!

Organized by Tim Snider of the Savage Afterworld and Time Corps HQ, the meet and greet will be an oportunity for LLS members to make connections, recieve some free swag, and maybe tip a beer or two for our favorite hobby!

To be held during the Gen Con "Stink" (the annual kick-off party for the convention)
Date: Wed Aug 15
Time: 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Place: Union Station in the Grand Ballroom

There is a lot of activity going on during the Stink -- lots of folks meeting each other, swag being tossed about, pick-up games, drinking (there's a bar here), etc. We'll have a table set aside, so stop on by and introduce yourself! Tickets are available for the Stink (free), although a ticket is not required to get in. (The Stink is an "unofficial" event, though Gen Con likes to know how many people attend, hence the tickets.) Be sure to sign up when Event Registration goes live on the 20th:

And more info about the Meet-and-Greet as we approach the date!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Q&A With David Silvera, author of WIZARDS' WORLD

David Silvera was kind enough to write up a Q&A of some of his thoughts and recollections of WIZARDS' WORLD. Thanks David! I'm delighted that this game is reaching a new audience.

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Q: Why did you create Wizards’ World?

A: Before Wizards’ World, my gaming group mostly played AD&D. At that time, AD&D’s roots in strategy gaming showed a little too clearly for our taste – basically, we wanted a system that let characters be more unique. We wanted fighters who could be great with rapiers but lousy with axes, thieves who could pick locks but not pockets, and wizards whose spell repertoire could not be predicted simply by knowing their class level.

Over the years, we accumulated a growing volume of house rules to help us achieve our gaming goals, until I eventually came to the conclusion that our game was more house rules than core rules. At that point, it seemed at least worth considering publishing our own system. And, of course, it would be really cool to do that…

Q: How did Wizards’ World come to be?

A: We eventually found a friend of a friend of a friend who was willing to provide the publishing know-how to get out a book. He showed pity on poor college students and helped us a lot figuring out how to proceed, and undoubtedly also cut us a really good deal on printing prices.

I did most of the writing in 1982, which is eons ago by publishing standards. In particular, I didn’t have a computer, I didn’t have word processing software (much less publishing software), and I was 100% dependent on typesetters and fancy publisher machinery to make Wizards’ World happen. The actual production process was about like this: Any chance I got over a period of 6 months or so, I went to a friend’s house and typed like a maniac while discussing both how to design various game elements (given that there was no longer a need/reason to anchor our design in a pre-existing system) and how to explain everything so gamers would understand what we were trying to do.

The biggest glitch in the process was that it turned out we were not allowed to edit the document after typesetting. In other words, my stream-of-consciousness typing is pretty much exactly what you see in the Wizards’ World book. Considering that, I’m shocked at how well written Wizards’ World is, but I did have some regrets about things I never got a chance to fix in the official copies. We got out an errata sheet to fix most of the meaningful errors (i.e., ones that influenced gameplay as opposed to formatting inconsistencies and typos), but that was as far as we were able to go. An updated second edition with errors fixed, a few new game elements added, and a million or so spells and monsters would have been great, but unfortunately never came to pass.

Q: What about the business side?

A: This is a tough one… Basically, we were a bunch of college kids who thought we had a good idea for a game. In fact, I still think we had a good idea for a game. Our biggest obstacle was that we didn’t have two business brain cells to rub together between us. None of us had any relevant experience, and none of us were studying any aspect of business (although I did get a belated MBA degree 7 years later).

Luckily, we happened to have a gaming contact who was also involved in the business side of gaming. His name was Russell Powell, and he was a huge help in getting Wizards’ World started. Without Russ, I’m not sure Wizards’ World would even have gotten off the ground at all. We made a lot of contacts through Russ, basically with him trying to get us to meet people to tell us what we were in for and how to deal with it. The most memorable was a great dinner we had with Dave Arneson. Dave was a super nice guy and really encouraged us to push forward with Wizards’ World.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day Wizards’ World wasn’t polished enough to be successful even back in the early 1980’s. We went to some industry conventions without a lot of success, and reviews from within the industry (public and private) were mostly negative.

Although the scale was way too small to produce mass interest in Wizards’ World, the place we really had success was at gaming conventions. We ran games at local conventions for about 5 years where we would give a basic orientation about the rules then run a session. In that context, we got a lot of positive feedback about Wizards’ World and developed a fairly large following in the local gaming community. Gaming convention sales weren’t enough to drive a business, though, and all of us college students drifted our separate ways after graduating. That was pretty much the end of Wizards’ World as a commercial enterprise.

Q: What is cool about Wizards’ World?

A: To make up for the previous question, I threw myself a softball this time. Like I said earlier, our gaming group wanted characters to feel unique and special. We also liked to be able to spend time outside of sessions planning and thinking about our characters (I know this is controversial and some people would prefer to get right to gaming with zero prep time). Although some game components evolved after the book was published, you can really see this in the Wizards’ World spell system if you look past all the scary numbers in the spell tables. You can basically customize to focus on anything you want – for example, in the last Wizards’ World game I played we had one character who dominated most combats by spamming one super-powerful paralysis spell but was pretty much a one-trick pony, whereas my character was a utility caster who had a few decent combat spells plus a ton of low level spells that collectively covered almost any imaginable occasion.

Another thing I really like about Wizards’ World is that even low level characters get to feel useful. Especially back in the 1980’s, a lot of times low level characters literally couldn’t do anything (old school players must remember the “I’ve cast my one first level spell for the day; I’m done until we rest” feeling). We wanted to get at least a bit of a heroic feeling from day 1 of gameplay, but still have enough upside that characters get to grow over time. I think we did a pretty good job of achieving that.

Q: What are your best Wizards’ World memories?

A: The top of the list has to be the fact that I met my wife while running a Wizards’ World game. Aside from that, I think it is the humorous stuff that sticks most in my mind. Here are some examples: I gave a player a magic suit that let him stretch his body like Mr. Fantastic (from the Fantastic Four), and he later used that to stretch his neck through a prison cage to trip a lever that enabled the party to escape. We had a running gag with one of our regular convention players where each session we found a new way to get the player’s character tied up in a Salin’s Magic Rope spell. Another player had a zombie toucan familiar that produced some interesting interactions. Hmm, maybe you had to be there, but those were all really funny at the time…

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WIZARDS' WORLD is available in PDF format and in print.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

WIZARDS' WORLD: California Gamin' Redux

Most people reading this won't have ever heard of a fantasy RPG called WIZARDS' WORLD. Goblinoid Games recently discovered this little gem, hunted down the author, and bought the rights so that a new audience can examine this game.

Recently, James Maliszeweski wrote a blog post titled California Gamin' in which he asked whether there is a common thread between the various RPGs that emerged from what some people call a different gaming culture in California during the late 70s and early 80s. I'm not yet sure I've developed a firm opinion, but I now offer another fantasy RPG specimen for your perusal.

Back in 1983 a small Californian game company, Fantasy Worlds Unlimited, released WIZARDS' WORLD, a fantasy RPG. The result of how the author's home game evolved, WIZARDS' WORLD included several innovations for its time, not unlike other efforts from the 80s, such as The Complete Warlock or The Palladium Fantasy RPG. WIZARDS' WORLD is an important game in the history of fantasy RPGs, because it reflects the design enthusiasm of the early 80s and is an interesting example of how many people at this time were taking inspiration from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. In many ways WIZARDS' WORLD might be what Second Edition could look like in an alternate universe.

From the back cover:

In Wizards' World you can

— Explore uncharted wildernesses

— Do battle with fierce monsters

— Accumulate great hordes of gold and silver

— Gain amazing magical powers.

You create the characters and play them the way you like. The game master determines the challenges to be faced and the rewards to be reaped; you and your fellow adventurers decide on the strategy.

This manual provides guidelines for play, including

— Character races

— Character professions

— Magical spells

— Combat rules

— Monsters.

All that is needed to enjoy many hours of fascinating adventures in the comfort of your home is in this book. You will need a variety of dice, and a vivid imagination.