Mar 24

Some News

While I’m making a few updates to the main pages for The Sprawl, Dinosaur Princesses and Kratophagia, this seems an appropriate time to mention that Rachel Beck (author of Glitch interviewed me as part of a series on contemporary cyberpunk creators: The State of Cyberpunk with Hamish Cameron. She also just released her second interview, with Fraser Simons of The Veil. Check out Rachel’s visions of a cyberpunk future in print and digital (the first one’s free…) at The Glitch Logs.

If you’re waiting for news on Kratophagia, I had a few things to say on G+ last week.

My production queue is currently as follows:

  • The Mission Files: Currently in my hands between editing passes.
  • Touched: I have some, Steve is finishing the rest.
  • Dinosaur Princesses: Game mostly finished, rules text being written.
  • Kratophagia: Player-facing game aspects mostly finished and playtested, advanced play, MC rules and main text to be written.

Mar 01

Playbooks in the Net

Hey.

You with the cred.

You wanna buy some tasty new playbooks? I got updated errata, print friendly and full colour; legal, letter… maaaan, I even got that good A4 shit. All wrapped up in a tasty tasty compression algorithm.

Wait, what? What do you mean you can download that for free. What are you, some kind of shadow operative?!

Oh. Okay then. I’ll leave you to it then.


The Sprawl playbooks now have a newly updated new zip file, ready for your cyberpunk mission requirements. Enjoy!

//Out of the alley, into your drive..

Mar 01

Sounds of the Sprawl

Backers of the Kickstarter will remember that one of the reward options was a small collection of cyberpunk background sound loops custom made by Wes Otis of Plate Mail Games. Well, I’ve been meaning to make an official post here for a while, but you can pick up any of those background loops from the Plate Mail Games store at DriveThruRPG. That link takes you to PMG’s cyberpunk collection, but they have a background loop for just about any situation these days, including 155 that he made for Monte Cook’s Numenera. Wow. That’s a lot of sound, Wes!

PMG’s current kickstarter is coming to an end. It’s for Kobold Press‘ Midgard setting for 5e, so if that sounds like you, you have 10 days to take a look.

I recently sent a big pile of words for PMG’s Rothaen setting to Wes too. I posted about that here during that Kickstarter; look out for the final product later this year.

//Bathe it in static..

Jul 23

November Metric

..
Prepare your datajack for a driveload of global cyberculture, friend.

Remix your mind and your DNA with the transhumanists of Tangaroa. Screen yourself from the UV, the corps, and the nanobots in Aotearoa. Swim through the stifling oppression of law and history in the capital of the European Federation.

Resist the corporate boot crushing the last bastion of North American freedom. Blow over the agri-prison baseline and the voodoo hooks of the Big Easy. Slink out of the lab and into the streets with keen eyes, sharp claws, and a vengeful mind.

Circle with the sharks of the Global Giant of Africa: smell the fire in their spirits and the spirits in the fibres. Dance from terrace to tower in the Paris moonlight, rapier in hand, honour in mind. Take down the fat cats and the dirty dogs with anthropomorphic abandon.

Play in the Caribbean sand or slog through the Florida swamp at the nexus of terrestrial and orbital borders. Fight your way free from the bleeding edge of militarised capitalism at the fractured terminus of a new Korean cold war. Kick against the current in SoCal’s melting pot of simsense dreams, global commerce, and covert water wars.

Twelve new ways to experience The Sprawl. Are you ready for the November Metric?

November Metric is a 150 page setting supplement for The Sprawl. It includes twelve settings ranging from arcologies to sprawls to nation states to cat-based conceptual overlays; you can use them as-is, or mine them for inspiration for your sprawl.

Check out the awesome cover art by Vira Sakhniuk!

November Metric cover

At the moment, November Metric is only available in PDF. We’re working on the Print on Demand files, so physical copies should be available in a few weeks.

November Metric was originally funded as Stretch Goal 003 of the Kickstarter (backer update here). The next supplement will be a book of ten missions in much the same format as “The Kurosawa Extraction” example mission from the book.

Jul 15

// take [intel]

I’ve started a Twitch stream and a YouTube channel.

My goal with this stream is to discuss game design, especially my game designs, through a variety of lenses. I’ll try to organise the videos into appropriate playlists. The first playlist I’ve started is // take [intel] // Game.Stream (embedded below) which will include any video game play streams which are primarily relevant to cyberpunk and The Sprawl.

I’ll start here, but in the future you can expect design sessions, movie commentaries, question and answer sessions, ancient history related game play, and perhaps some dedicated cyberpunk video game playthoughs. There might eventually be some tabletop play, but initially, I’ll be focused on formats that I can slot into my schedule when it’s convenient for me, rather than trying to juggle the schedules of multiple people.

Apr 27

Hamish del Rol

A month or so ago I posted on my Google+ page that I was available for podcasts and Angel Garcia immediately made me put my money where my mouth was.

Last week Angel and his co-host Edgar interviewed me live on their YouTube channel Hijos Del Rol (Story Always). They ask questions about my start in running and playing games, the genesis of The Sprawl, kickstarting and the publishing process, some design questions which I hadn’t thought about for a while, the excellence of acquire agricultural property and Dread, some structural insights into the mission phase, and my future publishing plans, including some hints about Touched.

Check it out!
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Oct 10

The Taseki Empire

The Realms of Rothaen is a dark pulp fantasy setting with a modern edge, densely layered with story hooks that will allow groups to tell amazing tales and shape the world. The books will be written for Dungeon World, but will have plenty of scope for adaptation to other systems.

The kickstarter is in its final week now. If it funds, I’ll be doing some of the writing. Many of you are familiar with my writing in the realm of cyberpunk, but here’s a taste of the kind of fantastica I’ll be summoning forth for this project!


The Taseki Empire

The tune Chantor Kilida-to-Gipoti was humming reached a natural pause as he crumbled the last carbonated pieces of the lilyroot into place to complete the circle. He made a sweeping gesture with both hands and almost fumbled his new tune as he remembered his lack of magical servants. Pause. “Keke-da!” Resume. His two assistants rushed forward out of their dozing to light candles and drip wax in the three pointed star formation. He sighed internally, careful not to disrupt the rhythm of his new tune as the spell started to take shape within the careful binding structures he has assembled. As he wrestled the magic inside the bindings into the shape of a viewing portal, the bead of sweat that rolled from his brow was not from the ambient humidity–he had lived in Taseki all his life, he was used to that. The sweat was fear. He could feel the air chill in the room as the curse siphoned off any residual magic outside the bindings, lacing its way with icy fingers through the extremities of his body. As it stopped at his diaphragm, and the bindings held, he grimaced, satisfied, and focused his attention fully on the luminous portal at the center of the three-pointed-star. “Por-tal!” he sang, “show me the da-ay, the em-pi-re fell.”

That day had been a long time coming, but for most of the Chantors and Song Magi of the Taseki Empire, it was sudden, shocking, and brutal. For centuries, the Song Magi of Kipata, the 1st city, had expanded their magical and political influence through Taseki-Kadi, the land mass that foreign scholars and sailors now call Murwata Island. Their society and government was collectively shaped by the magical chants, canticles, arias, and madrigals sung by generations of practitioners of the Taseki magical tradition. In time they came to be guided first by the leading Song Magi, and then by the Chantors of the Forty Cities. The island thrived, the people were content, the Song Magi grew prosperous… and divided.

As far as Taseki historians, arcanists and antiquarians have been able to piece together from sparse written evidence and the fragments of magical divination from the time before the curse, out, the Taseki magi-musical tradition (or Song Magic as it is commonly known) was based on the magical principle of the Harmony of Voices Unified. In essence, this principle held that by acting in magical concert, the magic of the song was amplified, and the different parts and harmonies of the singers would exert a cohesive influence on the whole spell. The particular styles and expressions of individual singers would weave together to form a stronger magical harmony.

The Taseki Empire

Murwata Island is over 3000 miles from end to end. As long as the Chantors of the Forty Cities maintained their commitment to the Harmony of Taseki-Kadi, the Empire remained strong, but local divergence in tradition inevitably drew the attention of some Chantors away from the Harmony and it weakened. At least, this is the prevailing theory among the historians in what remains of the Taseki Empire. What is not debated is the Day of the Curse.

290 years ago, on the day of the Festival of Lights in Sogado, the 34th city, the Harmony failed and Taseki-Kadi ripped apart. Waves of magical energy resonated throughout the island, sundering the magical communications networks that kept the Forty Cities harmonized. Civilization as they knew it was destroyed. From the ashes emerged the Murwata Island they now know: the rebel republic of Wisgo, the poisoned lands of Malo (formerly Sogado and its neighbours), the lee-lands now called Chrysom, overrun by barbarians.

Now the Forty Cities exist in the archaic name of the Harmony only. The Song Magi of Taseki are divided under the yoke of the curse. Choral singing attracts demonic forces so the magi sing alone. The Harmony is broken. Factions within the remaining Thirteen Cities pursue their own goals. The Reunifiers plan to recover Taseki-Kadi by conquest. The Reharmonizers hope to resettle the Lost Cities and re-sing the Harmony. The Seekers focus their individual energies on discovering the origin and workings of the Curse and reversing it. For the Arians are united only in their belief that the Curse arose because the Harmony was too heavy; the way forward for each of the remaining cities lies in local variations of the Taseki traditions. The various factions use, abuse, and collaborate with the peoples and groups of Malo, Chrysom, Wisgo and beyond to serve their own vision for the cities of the former Taseki-Kadi, and their interpretation of the Harmony of Voices Unified.

Play to find out…

  • What exactly happens when Song Mages sing together?
  • How does the Curse affect mages from other traditions?
  • How did certain Song Magi know to hide on the eve of the Day of the Curse?
  • What gives the Songgrove the power to amplify the Harmonies?
  • Were the volcanoes of the Lavaspine mountains active when the ruined cities in its foothills were built?
  • Secretive cults from before the Curse still tend to the ancient mounds that dot the plains and jungles. What lore do they preserve?

Oct 06

The Sprawl on IPR

After a sell-out debut at Gen Con, The Sprawl is back in stock at Indie Press Revolution. IPR stocks the NOON softcover version of the game in a Print+PDF bundle or you can just buy the PDFs on their own. This is the same set of three PDFs you would get on DTRPG: MIDNIGHT, NOON, and B&W. If you are a retailer, or you want your FLGS to stock The Sprawl, this is by far the best way for retailers to get hold of the game.

I’ll also be participating in the Bits and Mortar program, so if you buy the book from your participating FLGS, they can hook up with the PDF as well.

Jul 14

AAR: Operation Angel Basin Missions

Between May 27 and May 29, a team of four MCs ran a series of linked missions set in a collaboratively generated Sprawl.
This was Operation Angel Basin.

You can read the initial public pitch here and the discussion of the setup session here.

After the setup session on Friday night, the four members of the MC team spent about 30 minutes discussing the setting that had been created and spitballing ideas for how it could link to the clone ideas we had come up with in advance. The setup session gave us some corporations to insert into certain roles: which corp was leading the field in clone research, which corps knew about that research and wanted a piece of it, that kind of thing. We also had some specific colour and technological information that we could link in (those picites would play a major role in what was to come). Also importantly, we had some major clock states, including Ares Manufacturing at 0000 and GeneSense at 2200.

Session 1: The APL Infiltration

Saturday morning was a slow start. The morning slots are never as well attended at Strategicon, especially among the BarCon crowd that make up a decent proportion of the story game community there. Late night room parties will do that to a crew. Rob and I had discussed our mission options over breakfast and we both had ideas ready to go. As it turned out, we only had one table, so I ran a mission I called The APL Infiltration.

We wanted the first session missions to establish the setting. Because of the way the clocks turned out (Ares at 0000), this mission was also a great chance to establish Ares as a major villain of the series. The team were offered the opportunity to clear their name with Ares by recovering the data stolen in the last links mission, the mission that had moved the Ares clock to 0000. The data turned out to be in an underwater research lab run by a secret division of GeneSense that the (happily) +owned Genesense Tech had not heard of (hooray for shadowy organisations!) Right off the bat, I was using the two highest clocks established in the setup session.

The great thing about having a corp at 0000 in a starting mission is that when the characters miss a roll, there’s a really good source of hard moves right there just waiting to complicate things before you have to push up the Mission Clocks. Sure enough, they missed a research roll pretty early and were soon in a firefight with an Ares kill team. That put the team on the run and they were happy to be infiltrating an ultra-secure facility out of Ares’ reach. They recovered the data and ended up selling it to the Pixie Killers.

This mission was pretty traditional, but it set up a lot of recurring plot activity. All four of the characters in this mission made an appearance in the final missions: two as NPCs, two as essentially the main protagonists (Liam Ride [Driver] and Amity [Hacker]).

Two of the corp cards and a player-doodled map!

Session 2: The Murder Line

The Saturday afternoon session was also only one table (I played). This time the game ended up pushing a lot of buttons and establishing a clear moral compass for certain characters.

The goal for the second session was to establish cloning as a technology. The mission was to infiltrate a hospital and eliminate some plague victims who were going to be released into the sprawl, but once the characters got in they discovered that it was actually a batch of force-grown clone babies. They were in a situation where the characters were being paid to kill the babies (which weren’t prepared to do), the characters didn’t have the means to rescue them right then, and the players didn’t have time to leave, make a new plan, and return to rescue them. They walked away, which wasn’t a satisfying end. (My character didn’t walk away, and became an NPC instead.)

There was a lot of discussion of the game afterwards which can be boiled down to three ways to make this kind of bait and switch work:

  • Give lots of information in the Legwork Phase: have the characters find out what was really going on through research, assess and hit the street.
  • Get through the Legwork Phase quicker: give the players time to realise the shitty reality, retreat, regroup, and come back to be Big Damn Heroes.
  • Build in a way out: think of how the characters might use things in the fiction to adapt to the situation and build them into your Legwork answers from the start. If there’s a big thing that might need to be removed, add a loading dock; the characters can call in a favour from a contact on a fly. If there’s a remote, nefarious plan afoot, build in a matrix kill switch. Remember that you’re going for an action, intrigue and complication, not hyperrealism and the horror or powerlessness in the face of inhumanity. Well, there’s a certain amount of that implicit in the corporate vibe of cyberpunk, but your agenda says action, intrigue and complication.

That aside, this session established a powerful emotional motive for Liam Ride, and established Memory Solstice as a major player in the clone game.

Session 3: The Two Where Hamish Was Absent

This session had two tables playing. I didn’t participate here, and instead played a game in the next room, interspersed with occasional visits. Our goal for this session was to reveal more of the corporate machinations behind the clone activities so that the characters would have a good idea of what was going on in time for the final session.

Session 4: The Skyline Switchback

The final session also had two tables playing, most of whom had played in at least one previous session and included Amity at one table and Liam Ride at the other, both of whom had played in two prior sessions and had thus established a lot of history with the world, the NPCs, the corporations, and the other characters.

This is the session where these multi-session con games play off. You have some players who have seen a lot, some who have seen a little, and some who are new and the interaction between the players and characters is great to see. As MCs, we didn’t have to do much explaining, just the occasional, “X works for Y” and all of a sudden the wheels are spinning and the web of intrigue is unfurling before you in the words of the player explaining it. Magical.

We had set up these two missions to potentially connect, hoping for a scene where the two teams meet, discuss the nasty BS the corps are having them do, and make a combined plan to turn the tables. I was also hoping for some movement between tables. That didn’t really happen.

We sent both teams up a space elevator to do things at the top: steal a thing and implant a virus. The two goals weren’t in direct competition. We didn’t want to moderate an 8-way PvP arena fight. However, PCs being the wonderfully imaginative creatures that they are, my table decided to avoid security on the space elevator by going up a competitor’s elevator and flying over (Liam Ride was an ex-”Rock Jock”, an asteroid-dragging space pilot). Liam’s team found out that the virus that Amity’s team was implanting was going to bring down the space elevator, but Amity’s team thought Liam’s Team were trying to stop them completing their mission! Amity’s team continued and spent the second half of the session sabotaging and then trying to repair the space elevator while Liam’s team made a whole new plan to burn Ares and spent the rest of the session enacting it.

Another way we made use of the previously established story was by bringing previous NPCs and PCs into the story and killing them. Picite plagues are a bad scene, my friends. That led to some frantic cross-table messages and phone calls, as well as some ominous “they don’t pick up” moments.

Final conclusions.

Having run three events like this now (the previous two were Living Dungeon World games), there is definitely a tendency for players to want to sign up for the big conclusion without playing through the build up. I definitely get that, but it does mean that you will end up with more players at the end than at the start. It can be harder for players who try the series at the start to get a place in the final game if they decide they like it.

This was the first time I had dedicated an entire slot to the setup. We definitely had enough players that we got a great setting and had a lot of fun. All of those players came back for at least one game (except for one emergency situation). We also had several drop in players who didn’t come to the setup session. We were prepared with three tables in our room and four MCs; we certainly used all the space and staff in the setup session, but we only ever had two games going at once, so we had extra capacity if necessary.

Jul 03

Deploy Physical Assets // Print on Demand is here!

The second round of proofs came in this week and I made them available on Friday. The quality on these latest proofs is the same as the first set (which you might have already seen on Google+ or Facebook), but there are a couple more options. Here’s a rundown of the four versions available.

There are two layout options, MIDNIGHT and NOON, each of which is available in softcover or hardcover. All are colour.

MIDNIGHT is white text on black background. The hardcover is premium paper and the softcover is standard heavyweight, so the blacks and colours are deeper and richer in the hardcover.

MIDNIGHT hardcover (p.119):
MIDNIGHT hardcover (p.119)

MIDNIGHT softcover (p.119):
MIDNIGHT softcover (p.119)

The part of these that I really like is that if you slightly fan the page edge, you can see the chapter divisions really well. You can see this on the right side of the two MIDNIGHT photos above. This was a cool surprise — to me! Aaron planned it because he’s a pro.

NOON is black text on white background. The blacks and colours are deeper and richer in the hardcover on this version as well, although because the base is white the difference might not be as noticeable.

NOON hardcover (p.119):
NOON hardcover (p.119)

NOON softcover (p.119):
NOON softcover (p.119)

One oddity I’ve noticed so far is the cover finish. When I ordered the first proofs, the hardcover had a matte finish, the second proof had a gloss finish. As far as I can see, this isn’t a toggle that I can control. I’ve sent an email to DTRPG technical support asking about this. My preference is for a matte finish, so if you want a gloss finish, I suggest you get in quickly in case they get back to me and change it. Ideally this would be something that you could choose when you order a PoD from DTRPG, but it doesn’t seem to be.

Questions or comments are welcome here or on social media.

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