Monday, 31 December 2012

What If... WotC Brought Back 3e?

I am the Warden!!

Playing with my D&D group yesterday (and doing so in person for once... always a nice touch), we were having a blast. I have to admit, though I'm not entirely sure why, this latest incarnation has me excited about D&D again. While every new playtest draft features tweaks and revisions hinting at any number of possibilities, it feels familiar and refreshingly different at the same time. I'm still in love with the advantage/disadvantage mechanic.

Then a thought occurred to me: what if Wizards of the Coast decided to go back to D&D 3rd edition? My first follow-up question wonders if it was even a consideration during those initial meetings to discuss the possibility of a new edition, but let's assume all those involved in making that call took a look at the situation and felt the best recourse was to return to what brought them so much glory in the previous decade. What if D&D and Pathfinder literally went head to head?

It's a trick question when you think about it. The idea of WotC actually re-launching 3e could create far more consequences and bad PR than anything as many would see it as "giving up" and "caving in." So there would have to be something about this effort to make it a revised edition while staying damn close to the original design of 3e. In a sense, it would be the same as Pathfinder: stick with the basics and tweak the classes, races, and such with your own personal touches. Would WotC reprint the previous rulebooks or redesign them with some minor revisions? If they were to reprint, it would likely be the whole 3.5 mess all over again and based on the fact that they seem to have learned from past mistakes (hence the whole reason for D&D Next), let's assume they simply turn back to supporting 3e again without new rulebooks or supplements for simplicity's sake.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

2013: The Year of Reality

I am the Warden!!

That's right, kids. It's time for yet another blog to recognize the end of 2012 and talk about everything he wants to accomplish in 2013, AKA New Year's resolutions. My mind is flooded with them at the moment and, as I always do in times of uncertainty, I turn to my blog for guidance like a purse snatching victim turns to Batman as the scumbag runs away with her bag.

As much as I could spend time going over the good and bad of 2012 (with much of it awesome, despite the numerous difficulties still going on in my personal life), my focus remains on the coming year. There's great doom ahead; I can feel it. Based on how certain events have closed out this year, I can tell the early months of 2013 will be incredibly challenging and what kicks me in the balls hardest is that I can't talk about them in any detail online or in any public forum. Hell, even being vague is probably not a smart move, but a writer expresses himself through his craft because he knows no other way. The ongoing lawsuit for my accident makes it incredibly difficult and unwise to freely share my views and comments on such matters because it's incredibly easy for such posts to be taken out of context. Don't believe me? There's a giant stack of papers bound in volumes as thick as Senate committee reports for my online posts alone, including my Kickstarter project for Killshot, my Twitter account, Facebook, and everything else. So while I would love nothing more than to include these details as part of my own healing process, it's not a smart thing to do right now. As always, you'll just have to trust me on a few matters and allow the topic to move on without explanation.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Let The Gamebooks Begin!!

I am the Warden!!

As regular readers may know, my current project is a gamebook adventure for the Adventurer solo RPG titled Fires Across the Plains. It turns out there's a whole slew of fellow crafters plugging away at their keyboards as well, as announced on the Adventure Games Guild (yon publisher) site over the weekend. Plus a couple more announced Monday morning. That makes a total of ten (10) gamebooks scheduled release in 2013, an impressive tally for something just starting out.

If you're an aspiring freelance designer as well and haven't considered submitting something for this line, it's a great opportunity and solid tool to display not only your adventure design skills, but fiction writing as well. In other words, you're not limited to just read-aloud text blocks to get cah-razy with da text. I'm currently half way through Fires and truly enjoying the entire process to the point that I may consider trying another one if the audience shows even a little appreciation. (If the reviews and comments indicate my need to return to my old career, I won't bother gamebook fans any more. That's my risk and a sign I need to take a step back and tackle those issues. I was actually being sarcastic when I first wrote this, but now I'm considering it a real possibility. What can I say? I'm Canadian and modesty is a national sport up here.)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012: Messenger

I am the Warden!!

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to reach my 50,000 word goal for this year's NaNoWriMo due to unfortunate events that had to be addressed immediately, combined with the pressure from an ongoing project's deadline, something had to be cut. But the 27,088 words that did make it to the screen resulted in something I'm surprised and pleased to present to you, the reader!

Messenger is a dark fantasy tale set in an unsettled frontier inhabited by few settlements nestled in the midst of the Wild. Out here, beasts and foul creatures rule the land, leaving the humanoid races to hide behind stone walls, underground, or atop the highest trees in a desperate contest of survival. Linking them together are messengers, wanderers of the Wild and adventurers of the unexplored. Whether they deliver good word from other communities or carry out vital quests for information and provisions, messengers are perhaps the noblest - and dangerous - profession known.

It was an idea I've had for a few years now and always wanted to toy with it as a fantasy RPG, but the setting had never been detailed. While I had always believed writing fiction helped a setting express itself organically, I would now swear on a bible it was remarkably effective. Everything just started falling together and really opened up the massive setting to dive into with antagonists unique and familiar to the standard adventurer.

Anywho, if you're interested in checking it out and willing to provide some feedback, please feel free to download this PDF. It's formatted for standard letter size (8.5"x11"), it should work just fine on tablets, though I haven't had a chance to test out this new export method.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Balancing Precariously

I am the Warden!!

It's been said before and will likely find itself repeated all over the blogosphere from every other aspiring freelance game designer, but what the fuck, eh? Being able to balance your workload with your personal life is a significant key to your success. And last week was a major test of mine.

For details, wander over to this link and then come on back. (P.S. I'm still not going into any details on these personal issues, but I will say things are in full swing to get back on track.) Those of you sticking with me and this blog may remember my current projects include the Adventurer gamebook, Fires Across the Plains, Killshot: Reloaded, the newly announced Optional Core, and the next issue of Killshot Files. Add to that my desire to submit something for Kobold Press' Valhalla Calling open adventure call and it's already a hefty workload for a relative newcomer. Plus I'm juggling weekly articles for Broken Ruler and Under the Hood, running online demos, and creating promotional videos for said projects.

Of course, there's no way I can continue with this topic without using some form of analogy to simulate the upcoming point, so here goes. A freelancer's life is much like carrying water in cupped hands. Too much and you'll lose half of it. Not enough and you'll never be able to quench your thirst. And to complicate matters, you have to keep a tight seal between your fingers and palms or else by the time you make it to your destination, there won't be anything left to drink.

While I've been dealing with serious personal issues, I have been reflecting a great deal on my current strategies and whether or not there are any major flaws in the forecast. More importantly, how can I arrange my work flow so that I can handle these last minute and unexpected changes, including additional work? (Hey, it can happen and a true professional would be prepared for such an event, right?) It's a process that's taken months of trial and effort, success and heartache, to get to a comfortable and reliable point. It's not perfect and remains constricted by other factors, yet has given me enough confidence to start taking on a decent workload.

This is where the topic gets a bit interesting and I want to stress a vital fact. Due to the accident, I have some severe problems with concentration, memory, and multi-tasking. This changes the "hand of water" analogy to carrying the water in only one hand. It brings up a valid question, one that has lead to some unexpected reactions: How the fuck do I expect to do the work with these problems? Read on and I'll tell you.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Brief Silence

I am the Warden!!

I've been quiet for the past couple of days and it will likely continue into the remainder of this week.

Anyone who's followed this blog to any significant degree, friends, and family will know the circumstances behind what I am currently going through. There's little I can say on the matter other than I have been confronted with a serious financial concern regarding my recovery and it has taken top priority at the moment. On the advice of my lawyer, I'm not clarifying this topic.

As a result, I'll be silent online this week as I use all my resources to tackle this matter before getting back on track. Needless to say, something has to get the knife and that will be NaNoWriMo. Every other obligation and project on my plate has something financial involved; NaNo does not. That does not mean the novel itself, Messenger, is no more, just not at this moment. I've become intrigued by what's transpired in the novel so far and want to take it further for many reasons outside of this annual challenge. As it stands, I have 27,088 words completed to date and I'm very satisfied with that amount considering the circumstances and my first effort.

The time will come when I can explain things in detail (my fiancee's still persuading me to write an auto-biography as my NaNo submission), but it's not now. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

NaNoWriMo... or NaNoWriNoMo

I am the Warden!!

No, let me correct that.

(sigh) I am the Warden.

This novel, she puzzles me, intrepid readers. It pains me to admit, but I haven't written anything solid for the past three days. If I have any defence, the time was spent working on other projects, particularly the Adventurer gamebook, Fires Across the Plains. I had a different goal set to accomplish that project in time and needed to fire it off regardless of anything else for the sheer sake that it's a paid contract. (And technically my first in years, therefore the first of my full-time career.)

Now I have to confess. Part of that last paragraph was a lie. I could have easily put in the work on my novel, Messenger. I simply didn't.

We've established already this is my first serious attempt at completing any fictional writing aside from the occasional brief story used in RPG supplements and personal campaigns and taking this vehicle from 0 to 60 in 6 seconds has proven to be a true endurance challenge. When I started, I had it my mind to write a complete work of fiction from beginning to end and I've been treating this as such, save for the advanced planning and conception stages other projects require. It's worked out well during the initial stages of the story, starting from intense action and intrigue, some burglary, story-based dialogue as the protagonist learns their mission, escapes from enemies, even wanders the Wild for a chapter. While the last chapter was quite the challenge - I've never written a lot of exposition and travel scenes before - this new one has truly escaped me.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Overshooting the Market?

I am the Warden!!

A thought occurred to me earlier today while walking the dogs (as it always does) and I mentally broke down my objectives for the week. Am I expecting too much of Killshot?

Let me explain a little further. My editor, Chris, sent in the edits for Killshot Files #1 and this is what got the ball rolling. I've made a point to stay one issue ahead with article production so that as soon as an issue is released for sale, there are already articles ready to edit for the next. After quickly scrolling through Chris' corrections and suggestions, I started my final consideration on which articles should go into the second issue. All this while adjusting in the work required on the Adventurer gamebook, the BRG website, Killshot: Reloaded and its Kickstarter project, getting the house ready for winter (and a Canadian winter at that), putting up a door to my office, and many other upcoming events.

Now I want to make something perfectly clear at this point. I am not wondering if I've bitten off more than I can chew and thinking about cutting ties with Killshot or the ongoing issues of Killshot Files. Aside from the obvious benefits of putting these products together (and I should finally start making a profit on it by the year's end), the entire endeavour is a huge experiment and effort to gauge some future ideas. One of those ideas is the feasibility of releasing RPGs with only one or two core releases or as part of a large brand comprised of at least 6-12 products. Hence, Killshot Files.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Overcoming Chapters

I am the Warden!!

As of last night, I'm hovering close to 600 words short of the expected word count after six days of this year's NaNoWriMo. Considering I was behind by 3000 when I finally sat down and got cracking, it's not as bad as it could have been and it's also not as good as it should be.

What's slowing me down? It's not lack of effort, I'll tell you that. It's chapters. I've finished two chapters of the novel now, including the end of the second chapter last night, and I shut down as soon as the word processor added a page break. What's up with that? My mind was willing and able to think about any other project or topic, yet shuts down when it came to this novel. It's an identical reaction when I'm reading a book - I stop at the end of a chapter and set the book down. Could that have spilled into my writing?

It goes without saying that novel writing is remarkably different than game design (for me, at least). In game design, I bounce around back and forth until there's enough to assemble a chapter and then's it's a couple of hours of cutting and pasting. Not with a novel. That sucker's got to be written in paginating order (which also happens to be chronological order). To put it another way, novels were intended for use on typewriters and games written on computers.

Mind you, there have only been two chapters to date, so it's not like I have a chronic problem. And each chapter is larger than I normally write, so working on this material from a word count point of view has been incredibly helpful. Any previous efforts at fiction saw them consistently broken up into small chapters or text breaks as I jumped from scene to scene as if I was cutting a movie. Or perhaps it's because of the world I'm working in, a strange and far off-course from standard fantasy (IMO) that words are spent explaining details the citizens of this world would normally glaze over. It's like finding yourself trying to explain how fire works to a child and junior ain't swallowing "Just because."

Either I find a way to overcome this chapter hurdle or make a point of having every chapter end in an increment of 1667 words. Oh, and before the middle of this month or else I risk being further behind than I am right now. If things keep up (or stay down, as it were) at this rate, I'll be 3,000 words off from the final goal at month's end. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

NaNoWriMo: Day Five

I am the Warden!!

Well into the fifth day of this writing marathon and I still haven't been able to start today's word tally. Mondays were always going to be tricky because of my weekly slate for this first day of the work week (I like to keep my personal life somewhat similar to a real workplace so that I can dread Mondays as well as everyone else). In between checklists, I took a few minutes to talk about Messenger's progress to date, the completion of the first chapter, and how the plot didn't come about until today.

Overcoming Old Habits

I am the Warden!!

On Friday, I announced my involvement in a new gamebook for the upcoming solo RPG, Adventurer. Now that it's Monday, it's time to start figuring out how the hell I'm going to write this sum bitch.

A friend and frequent playtester of mine, Brandon Neff, emailed some tips and tricks he used for a similar project of his (SoloQuest published by Kenzer & Co.). His recommendations came in three parts, each as important as the last and suited to a dungeon crawl style gamebook.

Step 1: Build a map first, randomly numbering each room, intersection, and corridor.
Step 2: Take each number from your map and assign them a single line on a notebook, followed by connecting numbers that room/intersection/corridor came from or heads toward. For example, line 48 could read as 48 - 3 - 56 - 112.
Step 3: Start writing out each numbered section, pacing yourself out in a particular direction for six or seven choices at a time before winding back and picking up where you left off so as not to get too far ahead.

As I mentioned above, this process was intended for dungeon crawling gamebooks and the biggest issue with mine is that it's an outdoor, story-based sandbox gamebook. Considering Brandon's more experienced than me at the process, I'm not really in any position to be finicky, so I'll use what's been offered in generosity and figure out how best to use it.

Let's take a look at each of the three steps and re-analize them, shall we?

Friday, 2 November 2012

NaNoWriMo: Day One

I am the Warden!!

Those of you following this blog may have noticed I'm not inclined to have my face on camera. I'm not sure why, it's a quirk. I'm more comfortable behind the camera than in front, let alone keep a video journal of anything. However, sooner or later, I have to face my fears and try something.

Throughout this year's NaNoWriMo, I'll planning to keep a video journal of my progress and capture the randomness of my thoughts and process. It might not happen on a daily basis, but I would like to post at least one per week and share it. Think of it as a way to force me into following through with this project. Today's entry provides details on what my novel is about - a fantasy tale called Messenger - why I chose it and the foundation I'm trying to lock down.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Attention All Gamebook Fans

I am the Warden!!

As I'm about to let the cat out of the bag, there was an ulterior motive for this past weekend's Under the Hood article on gamebooks. Not in writing it, but researching it. With all the paperwork signed, sealed, and electronically delivered, I can officially announce my involvement in a new gamebook for the upcoming solo RPG, Adventurer.

The concept of this game is to create a core RPG system allowing players to create their own character and maintain an ongoing campaign throughout a series of gamebooks instead of switching characters with every different book. It's an interesting and unique concept put together by Shane Garvey and Stuart Lloyd combining the individuality of 1980s style gamebooks with the flexibility and character development of RPGs. You can even gain experience and levels with each gamebook adapting to your level. Its publisher, Adventure Games Guild, release a beta version of the game's rules last week, so feel free to check it out and judge for yourself.

My particular entry is currently titled Fire Across the Plains and involves the sole adventurer encountering a rising escalation between an isolated community of half-breed (half-elves, half-orcs, etc.) and the noble Emerald Knights. As each side accuses the other of instigating the conflict and threatening the other with war, the adventurer must get to the bottom of this predicament and find a way to keep the peace between them. It's a sandbox style adventure rather than a dungeon crawl and I'm really looking forward to putting the pieces together.

I have to admit, it's going to be a challenge putting it all together for the sheer reason that I've never written a gamebook before in my life. Played, yes, but never written. I've pulled out my reprinted special edition of Warlock of Firetop Mountain as inspiration, but the trick to making this book work will be allowing fluent choices without overwhelming the player with too many options. I want to set it up so that the player can choose which side to align themselves with and still reach the same conclusion, even play both sides and choose whom to align with. All I can say is that I'm glad I have a giant bulletin board in the office, cause I'm gonna need it.

As I get cracking on this project (with a projected first draft due date of early January 2013), stay tuned to this very blog for updates and thinking-out-loud posts as I do with all my work. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

NaNoWriMo: The Quest for 50,000 Words

I am the Warden!!

While I'm waiting for videos to upload from my phone, it's time to start thinking about this year's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, I think). Scratch that! It's time to start doing something about it, not just thinking about it.

Ever since I first found out about this annual goal for aspiring writers to write at least 50,000 words within the month of November last year, I've aspired to do something about it this year. In typical fashion, it feels like every other month would have allowed time and investment in such a project and November 2012 seems overburdened already, but such as it is. Despite my workload, I'm going to try and find a way to make it happen.

So what am I planning to write about? That's a good question.

There are two projects in mind. The first is a Killshot short story involving a detailed analysis of how a young fellow becomes a professional assassin. The second is a fantasy novel. That's about as far as I've gone with either idea. Every day for the past week, I've darted back and forth between which project should take priority and neither one seems to secure the lead in this race. With the starting pistol hours away from going off, it's time for me to make a decision.

As much as I could make use of a Killshot novel, there's a big part of me craving something different. Step away from the same type of work I've been doing these past couple of years and write something for myself. In other words, it feels as if I want to write a Killshot novel so that I'll have a Killshot novel to sell. With the fantasy novel, I have no aspiring plans other than the standard idea to sell it as a self-published ebook if I like the final result, but that's not the priority.

Then again, I have no idea what this fantasy novel will be about, let alone details of the world. Any ideas bouncing around are not concrete enough to announce here, so it would literally involve a more complicated endeavour than the Killshot novel, where at least I know the plot. And it would involve the real world, something that's already created with millions of supplements available on a daily basis. It would be harder to write a fantasy novel at this point with the workload already on my plate and numerous appointments on tap for the month. (I'm already losing out on the first day when I go in for the first cortisone injection tomorrow morning.)

The thing about harder projects is that they're very attractive options for me. A challenge mocking me in the background and I'm always up for showing a challenge who's boss. It may not be the best idea - how can it be any worse if I don't even have an idea? - but it looks like I need to piece together 50,000 words of fantasy.

Maybe I could just write some S&M fanfare using alternate names for Middle Earth characters as a backup plan. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Reloading Killshot: Let's Get Mystical, Part 2

The Nine Cuts of the kuji-kiri. Used for reference only.
I am the Warden!!

Seems I broke a small promise to you and went a bit off course from my Reloading Killshot series. With so many things on the go, I guess it's bound to happen, but let's not think of it that way. Let's think of it as appropriate to the topic - ninjas. One minute, your mind is thinking about them and how they might come in through the window to kill you in your sleep until eventually you begin to wonder about other problems... and then BAM!! they slip out of the shadows and dig a knife into your back.

Last time, I wrote about ninja magic in the upcoming theme, Way of the Killshot. As historical accuracy has already been tossed out the driver's seat, playing up on the mystique and terror of these ancient assassins is now par for the course. The trick is devising a magic add-on that not only plays along with the ninja's other assets without overpowering them (i.e. other focuses), but also extends the mechanics without breaking them and enhances the aura of these characters without snapping players out of their expectations.

As the idea of "magical ninja" is intended as a variant for players and Directors to play around with rather than a regular feature, I've created a first draft ninja focus called the Shinobi. These ninja specialize in the mystical art of kuji-kiri, itself based on the actual practise of hand symbols as part of meditation in various Japanese martial arts (including ninjitsu). Each symbol (or cut) represents an aspect of human consciousness and was taught to real world students as part of their path to enlightenment and training. All nine cuts are featured on the diagram to the right.

Friday, 26 October 2012

One Lean, Mean, Typing Machine

I am the Warden!!

Notice anything different about how I'm typing? Perhaps not, but if you look closely - real close - you may just notice a bit of an eager step to these sentences, a sign of hope that all my problems from the past couple of years have melted away.

That's right, I've finally replaced my laptop.

It's the conclusion of a long overdue journey featuring my faithful and trusted iBook G4 purchased in 2006 and the start of a new fellowship with this gorgeous silver MacBook Pro. To be honest, I'm both incredibly excited and horribly nervous at the prospect because as much as I desperately needed this sucker as my new career is up and running, it's an awful lot of money to spend at the moment as my new career is just getting started.

As with many significant changes in life, this latest one came to be in light of a technical problem. On Tuesday morning, after spending the previous day talking about the risk of my iBook crapping out completely, she crapped out. Not completely, but enough that there was no ignoring the sign. After pressing the on button, it started to make a sudden chopping noise for close to 20 seconds before coming to an end on its own. Yep, it was time. It's also why I've been silent on this blog and the Broken Ruler's website as I couldn't risk starting up the old girl again until I had reliable access online.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Just Play, Dammit (or How I Finally Got To Be An Assassin)

I am the Warden!!

Friday night was a major event for two reasons. First, I was finally able to present my Development Team for Killshot with hardcover copies of the book as a token of appreciation for all of their hard work, time, and effort playing, critiquing, and improving this game of assassination. Second, I got to play an assassin.

That's right. I relinquished my Director's chair to my buddy, Nick (literally and figuratively - it's not a true director's chair, but it is larger, softer, and more impressive compared to the dining room chairs the players use), who volunteered to run a job for us last night. No pressure on creating, running, and ruling on a game; I could just play. Not that I didn't chime in character recommendations, quick rule references, and such because my instinct is to be the Director. As my fiancee put it, things sure did sound like I was still running a game from the adjoining living room. But once the action was rolling, I shut the fuck up.

For the evening's festivities, I rolled up an Enforcer/Hunter by the name of "Father" James Heathridge (yeah, I stole a name from another job), so nicknamed because he was once a man of the cloth who one day got his hands bloody and began walking down a dark path. While I had originally intended for the Father to be a fist fighter, I switched him out to a firearms expert with +1d6 towards unarmed attacks so there was always a back-up option (and it would allow me to use Dual Strike unarmed or with any weapons mastered through my Weapons Expert benefit).

I had a blast and not just because I was thrilled to finally play (something that never happens when you design your own independent RPG). Aside from offering me the standard fare I've been dishing out to them for months on end, we were tossed a bone. A Cthulhu bone, if you will. Released from our respective prison cells by a clandestine organization (assuming from the tremendous effort they went through to spring us from the slammer), we were charged with eliminating three kidnappers who had snatched an unidentified subject known only as the High Value Target (HVT). We had all the information we needed on the three kidnappers, other than where they currently resided, and were hired to dispose of all four targets.

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Power of Morality

I am the Warden!!

What makes us tick? 

Not physically, but morally and psychologically. What is it about a person that defines their personality and gives them reason to do what they do? How does that translate into a character and her actions?

It's an idea I'm somehow stuck on for an unnamed project and it's stuck deep. So deep that I have to turn to my blog to keep all those thoughts can be sorted out and put on record for future use. The rest of the project will have to remain veiled, not because I'm trying to being mysterious (though it certainly doesn't hurt) but because it's not ready to be revealed. (Ok, now I'm being really mysterious, so let's just move on before I get off topic.)

There have been a lot of great advancements in game mechanics with regards to incorporating character morality into the mix. From a simplified recommendation affecting only a couple of classes' choices (D&D alignments, which could affect the types of spells they could cast or cause a paladin to become a shamed fighter) to the Plot Points of the Cortex system from Margaret Weis Productions, many games are finding a way to have a character's personality give rise to mechanical bonuses, abilities, and dice. 

That's what I'm wondering about right now. How is there a way to insert something like into the Optional System? 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Reloading Killshot: Let's Get Mystical

I am the Warden!!

With tentative plans to run a little Way of the Killshot playtest, I spent some time last week working on ninjas. It's what I love about this line of work. I get to sit around and play with ninjas all day. Then break for lunch.

While the playtest never worked out, it gave me the excuse to crack down on how I wanted my Killshot ninja to look and feel. During my initial research, I found out there are two versions of these historical assassins: actual and made-up. What we consider to be the quintessential ninja is a modern, mythological version dressed head to toe in black save for eye slits is pretty far from the truth. Real ninja disguised themselves as yamabushi, or pilgrims, and ambush their marks out in the open. They were more like suicide bombers of today than the masters of darkness rumors may them out to be. Luckily, Killshot is not about historical accuracy and I wanted to present the mythological ninja for this theme.

What I didn't expect was dabbling in the most obscure and unrealistic aspect of the ninja: magic. During my initial research into the ninja, plenty of references were made to the belief in their supernatural powers granted or taught to them by the tengu, half-man and half-crow mystics dwelling in the mountains. Even many modern films and stories portray them as magical beings able to disappear into thin air (even without the iconic smoke bomb) or heal massive amounts of damage with nothing more than meditation (as seen in the recent film, Ninja Assassin). Even in my first impression of the ninja as a child, the classic B-film American Ninja with Michael Dudikoff, he was able to vanish in plain sight by the end.

Friday, 12 October 2012

A Calling?

I am the Warden!!

Fair warning: today's post is going to be a bit vague. I'd tell you how vague, but that's getting a bit specific. The point is on the impact these translucent events of the past week have had on me and the choices I've been making over the past couple of years.

This past Wednesday, I went in for a vocational assessment for my insurance company to basically determine what professions, if any, are suitable for my "new body." It's standard procedure when you reach the 2-year mark in your claim. Anyone who's read a number of my posts or is aware of my online life already knows what I'm working towards and I've been incredibly up front about it during my previous vocational assessments. (That's right, there's been more than one.)

I want to be a tabletop game designer.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Threat Levels

All this week, I've been talking about my objectives for Killshot: Reloaded and the goal of creating a more advanced version of the rules. Today, I reveal my plan to deal with advanced jobs and difficulty rolls: threat levels.

As characters in Killshot gain more experience, they take on more complex and dangerous jobs. While opponents surely get better, difficulty rolls and challenges generally do not. Characters improve and master such tasks to increase their chances of success, but in a game, this creates a situation where the only way to keep a challenge  on par with the opponents is to increase the number of dice. If we simply add on more dice for the sake of adding on more dice, we're simply stating the original version of the game is broken.

So we have to increase the threat characters face; the repercussions for failure as their work brings them uncomfortably closer to dangerous or high-profile figures.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Ramping Up The Difficulty

Increasing the difficulty in a game is much like
motorcycle jumping. Too much throttle and you overshoot your mark;
not enough and you land flat on your face. 
I am the Warden!!

In my last post, I talked about the major challenge for Killshot: Reloaded, the upcoming supplement for tabletop's deadliest game. I want to use it as an extension for more experienced characters, particularly with Operation: Killshot, the international espionage theme.

As we all know (and if you've never read or played Killshot yet, you can fix that problem with this link), active rolls attempted against non-opponents are challenged by difficulty levels, each one increasing the number of circumstance dice applied to the Director's opposed roll. By taking on experienced characters - such as those with over 50 training points - the difficulty has to keep up or else the game starts to collapse in on itself.

So here's the issue I'm addressing. Using the rules for difficulty levels as is, I could simply add more difficulty levels with more d10s. In all honesty, that's what I'm trying to avoid. As much as this system is built on dice pools, it can get really out of hand as the experience goes up.

And that's what we're here to brainstorm today. How do we address difficulty levels for experienced characters? Let's begin with some ideas I'm cranially tossing about at the moment.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Killshot... Advanced?

I am the Warden!!

On Thursday, I finally sat down and used a series of words to form sentences, which collected into paragraphs to create an introduction for Killshot: Reloaded. The next supplement has begun.

What was nice about nailing down the intro's first draft was settling on the key aspects for each theme. I had been tossing around a few ideas, collecting notes, yet never truly agreeing on anything save for the general idea and it's name. Having forced myself to make a decision, I can honestly say I'm really looking forward to the challenge this supplement will offer.

Having a basis to work from, I can now sit back and assess what this book is truly about. It's not just about new themes; it's about stepping this game up a notch. An advanced version of Killshot, if you will. I'm going with the assumption many characters (now that "assassin" will not always apply) will be close to 50 training points in total or simply looking to mix it up a little from their previous exploits. I realize now this book has to meet and exceed that challenge in many ways, including handling "higher level" characters.

Let's go through each one by one, shall we?

Monday, 17 September 2012

Two Years

I am the Warden!!

That's right, two years ago today saw my world turned upside down. Or at least rammed from the driver's side and shoved into a ditch. At 4:02 PM on Friday, September 17th, 2010, I was nearly killed.

Hence I look at the shape of things two years later and ask myself where things stand now compared to then. For the sake of today's solemn memorial, I'm concentrating solely on the accident and its effects.

Pain: That ever constant bitch gnawing on my right foot continues to this day, so much that I'm off to a pain clinic this afternoon for treatment. And what is that treatment? Pills and a recommendation of various exercises.

Mobility: I get around well enough, though with a moderate limp toned down by orthotics. The dogs still get their frequent walks and I still go up to an hour at a time, but it requires pushing and aggressive force ("I will walk to that park tonight!") to make it happen. Paved walkways only, never hiking and I do miss my hikes.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Phase 2: Planning for Reloaded

I am the Warden!!

The Killshot core release is complete. By that, I mean there's no more game design, editing, or layout remaining. All that's left is press production, sales, and the ongoing marketing that remains eternal for all core rulebooks. It's time to start a new project and, in typical fashion, I'm looking at more than one.

Those of you familiar with this blog, BRG, and Killshot in general know the next supplement will be Killshot: Reloaded (and the ongoing Killshot Files, of course). Four alternate themes/setting applying the Killshot RPG: Hong Kong gun-fu, Wild West bounty hunters, CIA operatives, and ninjas. It's a project conceived during Killshot's early days (there's even mention of it in the original Kickstarter project) and has been on the back burner for months waiting for the opportunity to start investing time and energy. Before I can type the first word, I need to know what I want from this book and how to make it all happen through Kickstarter.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

What I Learned And Should Have Remembered About Kickstarter, Part 2

I am the Warden!!

With the demo copy arrived and a list of minor corrections/revisions noted and costs for production written in stone, I was finally able to make a complete tally of all costs involved for the production of Killshot's initial release. Remember when I talked about lessons learned from my Kickstarter experience? Now it all comes into play.

As promised, all relevant costs involved in this Kickstarter project will be posted and I'm hoping to provide a bit more information to match. Not just for the sake of updating my backers, but to pay it forward in a way. Learning as much as you can from as many people as you can before setting out on a first project is huge and my intention is to share my experience with others looking to do the same. It's also by sheer coincidence that I was invited to an impromptu podcast interview specifically to talk about this topic and the timing to post these numbers is too perfect to pass up.

Here we go.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Unexpected Delays

I am the Warden!!

It's just past 6AM on a Monday morning as I start to write today's post and there are two things I'm waiting for: a review of Killshot and an email from Lightning Source accepting my POD files. Both have taken longer than expected, yet not unexpectedly longer than expected, if that makes any sense. In other words, while I was hoping both issues would be resolved and happily promoted by now, it's inevitable for either matter to be more complicated and/or slower than desired.

There's nothing to do about the reviews, such matters are out of my hands. The fact that there are three websites willing to perform a review (including Game Knight Reviews) is very good news considering Killshot's another game in a crowded field from independent publishers like me. Combined with the issues I've been having with the POD (print on demand) files makes it a little more stressful.

My original plan was for all the POD copies for the Kickstarter backers to be in production at this point with an expected delivery time of August's last week. It's now looking like September. It's my first time using a POD printer - being Lightning Source through OneBookShelf, owner of DriveThruRPG - and there's a unique twist to dealing with these kinds of printers: they're all computerized. In my past life (or one of them, at least), I was a printer/press operator. Whenever we received files, we'd run a preflight check on them, perform some checks to ensure what's missing, wrong, or perfect about the file(s) and fix whatever needed to be fixed right away. In many cases, what a computer would consider imperfect, we could manually override as a minor or insignificant glitch. For example, if an image in the interior pages came in at 293 dpi instead of the standardized 300 dpi, that's not a big deal. Skip. Computers don't see if that way.

It's also come to light I'm very inexperienced at creating layout files and I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to every graphic designer out there I cussed out during my press operator days. Perhaps it's not as easy as I insinuated and now I'm learning my lesson the hard way. Not that my files don't work, but it's another matter entirely to get minor details in order (which is complicated by my technology issues address in the last post). As of last week, I've had three POD files rejected and am waiting to hear back on the fourth.

The process has been incredibly eye-opening, just like everything else in this process of building and publishing Killshot. A very welcome process, I might add. While I've dabbled in every step before, it's never been to this level and I'm planning to take it even further. It's like the old saying goes: We learn better from our mistakes. I'd be a fool if I thought these were the only mistakes/problems/hiccups I'll ever encounter and that does not make me a screw-up. It makes me human. 

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Out of Date = Out of Touch

I am the Warden!!

Let me start today's post by saying how much I love my office. While we've been in our current house two years now, the office is finally in awesome shape and provides me with a creative space to work. My entire RPG collection is arranged alphabetically to my right, there are dragon figures on all sides, printouts from assorted projects - new and old - on the wall in front of me, and a glass tray balanced on a pewter skull holding a pile of dice, including Big Red. Sometimes I like to sit at my desk, a large corner unit, and admire the space.

There is one flaw in all of it and it's rather ironic: my laptop. I have a 6-year old Macintosh iBook G4, one of the last models before they switched to Intel processors. She's served me well these many years, got me through school, and busted her ass keeping up during Killshot's various production phases. Her age is showing as she's been horribly overworked on a daily basis; the cooling fan's broken, I can't get more than 6Mb of memory available no matter how hard I try, and she freezes up at least once a week. I've known for a while now she needs to retire, it's just impossible with money being so extinct nowadays.

Despite all those technical issues, her current state is not what bothers me. It's the exclusion from nearly every computer-related activity. The processor's the biggest issue because with the new Intel chips came new coding and resulted in the old Macs like mine being incompatible with everything out there.

I'm not talking about programs, apps, and games (though it counts, but is understandable). It's even things online. Little things one would hope is universal. Google Hangout, for example, cannot run on my laptop. There goes my plan to attend CONCurrent and run Killshot as a replacement for Gen Con. Skype still works, so I'm not completely in the dark, but there are quite a few professional options eliminated just from my inability to access Google Hangout alone.

I have an iPhone supplied by my insurance company to help keep my scattered brain organized, but there's not much good hooking it up to my laptop unless I want to use it for charging. Because I can't upgrade my iTunes to a version that understands there a device called an iPhone, I can't perform some of the simple actions like swapping music, photos, and such. I've eventually been able to find third party apps to help with those issues and that's the point. I have to "cheat" in order to performs tasks the commercials proclaim as basic on their products.

This past week almost became the final straw when preparing to upload PDFs for Killshot's print copies, I noticed they required an export standard (PDFx:1/2001) only available on InDesign CS3 or later. I'm working with CS1 (and Illustrator 10). For a while, it seemed as if even PDFs were out of reach. PDFs!! That universal format of all universal formats. After some research, I found out one my CS1 export standards was equal to the requested one and had only been renamed a few years back, but it was a disturbing and frustrating moment to that point.

I hate new editions and the constant stream of updates, upgrades, and eventual exclusion in our technology-dependent era. Desktop publishing is horrible for that as Adobe alone seems to release a new CS every year. Add to that new hardware launches every year and everything gets drastically out of hand. I understand the intention of upgrades - it's technological evolution combined with a conspiracy theory of money grabbing by their owners - and I accept it in some cases. When it starts to get out of hand like it is now, I shake my head.

It's a losing argument, I know, and nearly pointless to make. Perhaps my frustration is more at my financial situation preventing me from doing anything about it mixed with the realization nothing can be done to fix the problem until next year, if everything works out for Plan G. Or maybe it's that all this upgrading crap is itself an upgrade of exclusion from when we were kids. If your parents didn't buy you the latest clothes, toys, or school accessories, you were excluded by the other kids. Now we've found a way to do it as adults.

Somewhere in the Toronto area is a woman named Wendy laughing cruelly for no reason and calling my family poor on a Google Hangout.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


I am the Warden!!

The word "independence" has a lot of meaning right now. It's something I've been struggling to regain for the past couple of years and it's really been coming through in my work.

Since Killshot went live (just over 48 hours ago), I've sold 8 copies of The Director's Cut. For me, that's a stupendous increase from what I used to get publishing 3pp supplements for D&D - 1 per day. Tops.

It's not so much that I'm surprised by this upswing so much as relieved. During my research over the last year, I've noticed the shift in PDF sales from third-party material taking some of the top spots to more independent/original systems. I think the download market is best suited to independent systems and publishers. For me, these sales are proof.

The ironic effect to it all is that nagging feeling I've "wasted" so many years publishing material for other systems that have gone unappreciated. Perhaps the glass was half empty, yes, but my previous experience put the water in the glass. Without the experience of putting a PDF together, assembling Killshot would have been a nightmare and the end result would be far inferior to what's in place now. Not the least of which is the game's mechanics.

When I was putting the finishing touches on the assorted Killshot PDFs, I recognized how much influence D&D had on design and presentation. Casually flipping through, it looks very much like a traditional purchase option game where your character's abilities are measured only in your choices made during character creation. That's very D&D and I guess it's no surprise to see it there.

Yet as an independent game, I could break away from some of the taboos originally holding me back and create a game where character options are a strength, not a definition.

So we're all in agreement then? Without the previous work with Emerald Press, none of this would have come to pass. You just have to starve to appreciate a good meal.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Killshot & The End of the Beginning

I am the Warden!!

It is with great pleasure I can finally announce we have a Killshot. The Director's Cut is now available on all OneBookShelf sites for $8 (American). For more information, check out the Broken Ruler Games site for links on where you can get yours plus some free goodies to make the decision a lot easier.

Twenty months. That's the amount of time I spent working on this project. While it's not the longest amount of time I've spent on a project, it is by far the largest and most dedicated I've ever been on anything ever in my life. I don't think there's much more to say which hasn't been said over countless posts before and the time has come to let the book do the talking.

The conclusion of it all comes at a strange time. While my make-believe life is starting to pick up and things are moving along ahead of schedule, my real life is starting to close in around me as the 2-year mark of the accident arrives and it's time to start going through the assessments to see what the long term effects are before someone else sitting behind a desk decides what to do with me. Despite whatever you hear or read over the coming months, my commitment is to make my work in game design, Broken Ruler Games, Killshot, the Optional System, and all that my future. Because it's my choice.

And that's something no one can take away from me.

I hope you enjoy and thanks for taking the ride with me thus far. Now let's gas the car up and hit the road, we've got more highway to travel!!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

What I Learned And Should Have Remembered About Kickstarter

I am the Warden!!

As I write this, it is the Wednesday before Killshot: The Director's Cut PDF goes on sale to a murderous public and I'm just waiting to hear back from my editor for review notes and last minute changes and corrections to the book's final layout. Once they're made and the final export sitting on my desktop, the culmination of six months of blood, sweat, and tears comes to a head. OK, so there's still completing the upload to OBS, sending out backers' copies, review copies, and some other stuff, but my point still stands.

Perhaps you're dying to know how everything went as I've been very quiet this past few months, especially compared to before. In a word: outstanding. I'm so ecstatically happy with how this book has turned out so far (and there's still the print copy to look forward to, which may be my favourite part of this entire experience). Did it all go according to plan? Hell no. Did I learn something from the process? Oh yes. Will I share it with you? Guess I better, seeing as I went to all this trouble leading up to it.

Presenting a list of the 5 things I've learned - for better or for worse - about the Kickstarter experience.

Friday, 13 July 2012

2012 ENnie Nominees Announced

I am the Warden!!

These are the nominees for the 2012 ENnies!!

As with every major award ceremony, there is a dominant nominee and this year it seems to be Pelgrane Press with 8 nominations, including multiples in certain categories (they're up for 3 in Best Adventure alone). Major congrats are in order to them.

As I had hoped and expected, the Marvel Heroic RPG got a nod for Best Game and Best Rules and I have no shame in sharing my vote for this game.

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple has also received a nomination for Best Game. I have to admit, I'm hearing so much about this game that despite it being a bit out of my norm, I'm seriously considering giving this a look over.

This is the first year in quite a while in which I haven't clicked to this list eagerly waiting to see if any of my products were nominated (I did have the good fortune for the 2010 awards to see Combat Advantage #15 listed under Best Free Product). With Killshot literally days away from its release, I can return to that anxious state once more at this time next year.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Online Roleplaying Sucks!

I am the Warden!!

Read the title again and prepare yourself for a bitch fest. I hate playing my RPGs online. Hate, despise, loathe, dread, rue, and curse all at the same time. And when I say my RPGs, I mean my regular weekly games where I am but one player in a party.

For close to two years, I've been stuck with using Skype as my only means of continuing the quests in my D&D, Pathfinder, and monthly independent games. That's right, the accident. And while I'm physically and (mostly) mentally able to make the trip to Ottawa, my driveway does not have a car to park and neither do I have one to make the commute to Ottawa. So I use Skype, but it's just not the same as sitting at the table as part of a group.

Traumatic events in your life give you a lot of moments to reflect and can eventually teach you a lot about who you truly are and what gives your life meaning. While I already knew how much I loved playing and running these games, I had no idea how valuable they were as my social outlet. Everything I avoid and deny in everyday life - hanging out in large crowds, meeting strangers - is easily corrected when RPGs are involved. I won't even wait in a line of more than 5 people because I think it's too crowded, but happily walk into any convention with hundreds, if not thousands, of people. In the past two years, I've learned the value of these games to my well-being and so have my doctors and therapists who prescribed RPGs to assist with my recovery. I shit you not.

Attending these games is the problem and so I must resort to the Internet to fill the gap.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A Random Idea: Player vs Player Killshot

I am the Warden!!

Right now, I'm rested across a couch in the cabin listening to the rain fall. It's a rare time to do nothing but reflect in peace and quiet and obviously my mind wanders back to Killshot.

I played a game last night with one of my latest recruits. As always, it's going well and because we're playing next to the beer fridge, everyone else up here takes turns checking out what we're up to. A major scene of the game involved being chased down by a helicopter and this got a lot of the lads interested in what we were up to. The more they saw and learned how it worked, the more intrigued they became until someone shot out this idea.

"Could you play PvP with this like Halo or Call Of Duty?"

It only a second before I answered with "Fuck yeah!"

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Werewolf Fever

I am the Warden!!

Over the weekend, I received a very cool surprise: a signed DVD and poster for a horror movie called Werewolf Fever shot here in Renfrew. I'd heard about it right after moving here in 2010 and it never came up again until my buddy handed it to me on Sunday.

Last month, I was supposed to attend the Ottawa Comic Con and had to bail at the last minute due to car troubles (which was really ironic because I barely have access to a car for one to be busted). Turns out the cast and crew had a booth promoting the movie and my good, good, goodgood friend got them to sign a copy of the DVD and poster for Chelsea and I.

First off, it's by no means a great film. Or good. But it's not trying to be. It's just goofy horror fun. Almost 95% of the movie takes place at Odi's Kingburger, a drive-in burger joint just on the edge of Renfrew, and simply knowing where it was shot made it a kick to watch. Tell you the truth, I've actually watched the movie twice. And went to Odi's for a burger afterwards. This must be what people in Hollywood or New York feel like (if either city only had 8,500 people and no one ever wrote songs about them).

The premise is simple: the employees of a late night drive-in (possibly during the 50s; it's hard to tell with the Budget rental cars in the background) are besieged by a werewolf trying to tear them limb from rollerskate. The only things keeping them alive are their wits, some roses, and a magic back door. OK, maybe just some roses and a magic back door. The kicker is the actual drive-in is located right next to a police station, making it high-larious for us locals as the employees try and come up with a plan to call for help after the phone lines have been cut.

In true schlock horror style, the acting is bad and the werewolf costume is questionable (looking like Sylvester Stallone suited up like Gizmo run over by an 18-wheeler), leaving most of the budget for make-up effects and squishy SFX. But I still had a hoot watching it. After pushing myself through Thankskilling sober, this is the good kind of bad. Good enough that I hope to actually meet the cast and crew in person to shake their hands.

It's easy to forget there are passionate, aspiring filmmakers behind these movies busting their ass behind the camera while trying to hold down a "real job." Especially when it's something many of us could only go so far as dream. So kudos to the cast & crew of Werewolf Fever - you've made a great piece of crap!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Extreme Juggling

I am the Warden!!

A call came in today from the vocational counsellor set up by my insurance company. A really positive, upbeat woman who's been a tremendous help going through the process of choosing a new career, school, program, and everything else in between.

Let me clarify something important, dear readers. Tabletop game design and publishing IS my new career, but it's not a choice the insurance company considers "economically viable." (Anyone remember that Michael Douglas film, Falling Down, where those words played a part?) But an essential element to my goal is graphic design and that's where I'm headed. With the proper training and up-to-date software, my games will stand a much better shot in a small, crowded market. (I should point out I'll be taking online classes, regardless of how all the pieces fall into place.) Plus, it's still an acceptable back-up plan should BRG fail and remains related to my previous field - press operator - so those 5 years of training and experience aren't thrown out the window.

Right now, we've submitted two programs and it's once again time for the waiting game. Or maybe not. Apparently, their goal is to get me cracking as early as July. That's next month, people. With Killshot nearing completion - yet far from wrapping up as a product line - it's going to get hectic all up in here.

It'll be a test of two skills: willpower and concentration. The former is rock hard, I have no concerns there, but the latter lies in the opposite column. My concentration is... how shall I put this?... as solid as that pretty bird sitting in the tree and now it's flying away, look how fluffy those clouds are, boy is it ever hot outside today, oops, I was talking about something else then got off topic and now I can't remember what I was talking about. An unfortunate side effect of the traumatic brain injury, or TBI.

My bulletin board (AKA the back-up brain)
as it is when I wrote this post.
During these past few months, I've had the good fortune of having nothing on my plate for long periods of time, allowing me consecutive weeks to work uninterrupted on a single project. Even that's never been 100% smooth sailing, but it's been possible for two reasons. One, I'm passionate about my work. Two, I get to make stuff up. I'm not bogged down by having to remember things because I'm building something of my own creation. And I have a giant bulletin board covered with notes to keep me on track, as you can see in the photo provided somewhere around here.

This will change once I get cracking on whichever course is chosen. (Likely the cheapest.) While my intention should focus on the course, it will always want to drift back to my work because it always does. The entire reason I've chosen this course is to aid my publishing career. Therein lies the real challenge: battling myself.

There's a lot at stake aside from grades. When I have trouble concentrating, I get "fuzzy," resulting in migraines, mood swings, and overall mental absence. Left unchecked, I'll be standing in the middle of the room staring at the fridge wondering how it opens. Or why it opens. That won't help anyone.

With all these concerns, I'm looking forward to the challenge because it's a chance to test myself in a more real-world scenario. It's one step closer to returning to normal, or as close to normal as can be. It offers an opportunity to gauge my abilities before and after through a series of challenges within my control. In other words, progress. And I love progress.

Hey, what happened to that bird?

Monday, 4 June 2012

Announcement: The Ottawa Tabletop Game Designers

I am the Warden!!

This is the Ottawa Tabletop Game Designers!!

Last week, a couple of other game designers were talking about a local comic book shop opening up a table for people like us to introduce and promote our games when the idea of "banding together" on a social site like Google+ was thrown out. The idea has now become a reality and over the weekend, the Ottawa Tabletop Game Designers page was launched.

While it's just starting up and features are on the light-to-nonexistent side right now, my plan is to feature many of the numerous aspiring and successful tabletop game designers in the Ottawa area as well as local artists, editors, and other freelancers plying their trade. Plus highlight stores and conventions where you can find these games as a kind of cross-promotion effort. With all the recent growth in gaming development and culture in Ottawa over the last couple of years, I've been surprised with the number of designers and publishers and would love to see this area become recognized for tabletop game production in the same way Montreal has become synonymous with video games.

So if you live in Ottawa or the surrounding valley, be sure to check out the page and follow away. Once we have an initial membership up and running, I'm looking to set up a Twitter feed and work on setting up contact with various retailers and conventions in the area.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Hello? Is This Thing On?

I am the Warden!!

I said... I am the Warden!!!

Anybody? Hello?

As much as I like to think I'm an independent person, there's that human need for acceptance and participation. Online, that means having followers and people posting comments on your blog, responding to emails, and inundating you with replies upon replies upon replies. When you're developing a new game, reading these text-based representations of human contact can be a huge boost to both your work and your confidence.

But it's been really quite around here. Especially with the backers.

(Before going any further, I want to make something perfectly clear. My intent is not to throw a tantrum, but to express and verbalize in an effort to gain an understanding and clarity on the topic, much in the same way blogging about game design issues gives me greater vision to tackle the task and complete it.)

Just over half of the Director-level backers for the Kickstarter project have responded with details - vague or in depth - for their marks and not a single one has sent in any legitimate playtest comments other than "looks good after a quick read-through." The deadline for playtest comments has come and gone and there's less than a week left until the deadline for the Director's submissions. (Note: This deadline is more of a request rather than an absolute so I can have a leg up on the workload ahead.) Now that Killshot has entered its last three months of production before the scheduled release in August, this has become a huge concern for me.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Website or Blog?

I am the Warden!!

After a long weekend plus an extra day away from work to handle the pain of a long weekend trying to do stuff you're not supposed to do, I'm back at getting ready for Killshot's release in August. After making some updates to the Broken Ruler's blog and the Killshot page in particular, I'm looking at purchasing a domain name for Broken Ruler Games to step things up a notch.

I'm left wondering which direction I should take the Ruler. Using a simple blog has been effective and saved me time and energy keeping an online profile and there's no reason to ditch it for an actual website at the moment, yet there's nothing a blog can provide in the way of a website's flexibility. But it also comes down to cost. A lot of independent game publishers start off with blogs to keep their costs low - why spend money on a website unless you have the traffic to make it worth the effort? Right now, I'm literally on the fence for this one, so I'm turning to all of you for advice.

What do you think? Blog or website?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Hope Is Paralyzing

I am the Warden!!

Before I begin, I want to make something perfectly clear. Looking at the title of today's post, you'd think I was about to get all dark and depressing, wouldn't you? Far from it. What you'll read today is actually my own inspiring tale of rising up to overcome oppression and the tribulations of life.

We have a little saying in my house: Hope is paralyzing. It's something my fiancee uses a lot and it's one I've come to agree with, though I've turned it into something a little more positive than her original version. As many of you know, we're going through a rough patch in many regards. The accident was just the catalyst sending it all into a spiraling black hole threatening to break us apart into nothing more than atoms in space. As the readership on this blog can be a bit scattered (some of you are friends, others are backers of my work, and a small percentage are random people stumbling onto this blog because you did a search on the Matrix and started clicking around from there), I'll give a little back story helpful to my overall point.

My fiancee has epilepsy. A rather severe form in that it's brought on by stress, plus some mild reactions to florescent lighting typical in many work places. Despite her best efforts, she has been unable to maintain any employment for any significant amount of time. When my accident happened, the stress of dealing with this compounded her condition and sent her into a near nervous breakdown - she's in her mid-20s. So the two of us are at home: while I'm yet physically unable to meet the demands of my previous occupation - press operator - and still overcoming certain cognitive issues and internal demons, she's been put on indefinite medical leave by her doctors in fear any additional stress could either induce a massive grand mal seizure capable of putting her in a coma or killing her. In the words of Albert Einstein, I shit you not.

As you can imagine, we could certain use a healthy dose of hope right about now. (Or any time within the past 18 months, actually.) But while this time has not exactly been a piece of cake, not all of it has been spent wallowing in tears and brooding over what could have been. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely days like that and one of them befell us recently, hence the reason for today's post. I'd say the majority of the time is spent holding each other up to stand and face whatever comes our way.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Probability Can Suck It!

I am the Warden!!

Seeing as this is a roleplaying blog, I don't have to get into explaining probability and how much it factors in game design, right? (I have talked about it before.) This time, I'm talking about the perception of probability in real life with an emphasis on the word "perception."

During my numerous therapy sessions last year - brought about from the trauma caused by the accident - I heard a lot about probability and traffic accidents. "Do you know what I mean when I say 'probability?'" my therapist asked me. I chuckled and gave a quick explanation on how it's gospel when it comes to RPG design.

From there, she attempted to break down the odds of the average person being involved in a serious accident based on frequency on the road, speed, time spent on highways, and a few others I can't remember. When she came to her conclusion, she proclaimed there was only a 0.0001% chance of the average person being in a car accident and the odds of the same person getting into another astronomically increased to 1 in a million.

I chuckled again. This wasn't the first time I'd heard this argument and the funny - nigh, hilarious - aspect about it was I had just been knee deep in reading forums and engaging in personal discussions with the mathematically inclined on probability in roleplaying games. The answer I gave was an off-shoot of my reply to those points.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Director's Submissions: Blaze of Glory, Part 2

I am the Warden!!

I'd like to start this next installment of Director's Submissions with an apology and correction. In my last post, I mentioned the name of the mark written for Blaze of Glory was "Richard Chevalier," but I forgot one crucial detail. One of they key details of the Kickstarter reward level was the mark would be named after the Director (or the Director would be allowed to choose the mark's name). Therefore, the name of Blaze's mark is actually Michael Brightbill and my apologies to the real, unmurdered Mr. Brightbill for that oversight.

Now let's get back to the task of killing the fake Mr. Brightbill.

Yesterday ended up being a rather late day juggling many tasks, but the first draft of Blaze of Glory is done and awaiting my own review. I have to say this is probably the first all-out action job yet written (and if you think Final Justice was steeped in action, you ain't seen nothing yet). It's a job where there's very little detective work for the assassins to do, yet still a major benefit should they try. If anything, the rest of it plays out like a military game with the level of violence and the size of the guns involved.

As I was writing this job, I reflected back to my earlier comments on keeping Killshot a game of grey rather than solid black-and-whites. Was I going back on that promise with this job? If it's just a big shoot-em-up, all the assassins have to worry about is point and shoot and that's about as black-and-white as it gets. Was there a way I could play up on the hidden emotional plight of the situation in the midst of all this violence?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Director's Submission: Blaze of Glory, Part 1

I am the Warden!!

Lo those many months ago when yonder Kickstarter bid put out the call for funds to help make the game known as Killshot a reality, I offered a special perk for anyone who pitched in at least $100 for the Director reward level: a chance to contribute a rough concept for a mark or a job. While not all of those backers have sent in their submissions, the time has come to start working on those that have for use in the early issues of the Killshot Files e-zine.

The first one is entitled Blaze of Glory and was chosen for the sheer reason that it was that first one sent in by Michael Brightbill.
"Here's my rough idea. Figure I'll swing it by you before going to the trouble of getting everything together. Character is ludicrously wealthy. And bored. Has ins in the government, finance, etc. Nothing can touch him and he fears nothing. So he hires the group to try and off him. But he also hires another group to protect him/off the PCs."
Michael's submission was a major inspiration for the third job provided in Killshot: Direction so far as pitting assassins against each other, but it wasn't anywhere close to what's given above. Now it's time for me to put in the work and make this concept a reality.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Geeking Out on Marvel RPG

I am the Warden!!

Part of my work with Roleplayer's Chronicle involves writing reviews on various RPG markets, old and new, a task I've been skeptically honoring. There's a large part of me viewing the idea of a game designer working on his own RPG publicly judging other games as a bit hypocritical, though a couple others have convinced me that's exactly why I'm qualified to do so. Regardless, I am engaging in the practice and find a fun perk: forcing myself to pick up games with a "valid excuse."

Yesterday, I finally got my hands on the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game from Margaret Weis Productions and started reading through the opening pages. First thing I'm in love with is the price. Cost me $26 and some change for a full-colour softcover print - and that's Canadian dollars. It's a gorgeous book and as a former printer, I'm in love with the smell of the pages as they crack open for the first time. Like I said, it's a printer thing.

After tearing through the first 20 pages or so before falling asleep, I'm very eager to learn the ins and outs of the game for one solid reason: it's remarkably different from many other major RPGs on the market right now. Pieces of it strike similar to some independent games - much like ones that Fraser Ronald has been playtesting with us - and the essential components of the game are far outside the norm from most games I've played and reviewed, including the Cortex System's Supernatural RPG. This isn't a review and I still have a lot more reading to complete before I can build a final opinion on the game, but things are looking positive so far. Positive enough that I'm keen to run a couple of games with some of Renfrew's newest gamers.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

New Page: Under The Hood

I am the Warden!!

I've added a new page to this here blog, linking all my posts for the Under The Hood column written for Roleplayer's Chronicle. Seems only fitting since many of the topics I discuss over there are ones I would otherwise discuss here. You'll find the new page listed on the Pages sidebar to the left.

You can find new posts made every Sunday on

Monday, 16 April 2012

10 Years Ago: Mazes

I am the Warden!!

I can't recall today how this memory came to me, but it did nonetheless. It wasn't through an email or any visual reminder (seeing the old cover again), it just slipped into the conscious part of my brain and gave me cause to stand back and literally say "Whoa" out loud. I know, total Keanu moment.

Ten years ago at this time, I started work on my first RPG supplement. Originally called Mazes, the name was changed to d20 Options: Mazes and finally resulted in Campaign Options: Mazes after being told there would be legal complications in using "d20" in the name of the product.


Today, I dug through old CDs and "flipped" through the pages of this PDF, reflecting back on the work poured into this first book with fond memories and deep regrets. I can remember pacing in the parking lot next to my rental house with my dog, Rusty, running around sniffing the grass for signs of pee and squirrel droppings while I pondered the next step in the design process. Any day I had off work was dedicated to the book with a fervor I couldn't understand at the time and all my thoughts were on mazes. Why should people use them? How do I make them more exciting? What are quick tips to building one? I had never been the type to race a pencil through 2D mazes in the paper or in one of those supermarket activity books, yet I became consumed by the concept of incorporating mazes into D&D. Hell, I even wrote new rules for using the minotaur's path memory ability when using a minotaur PC.