On June 11th, 2012 a dream came true for me. My name was put in ink onto a publication that would go out to the general gaming public. Astrozombies Must Die! was released by Galileo Games and I transitioned into being actually published.

It was such a rush, it’s still a rush. I can’t believe I actually did it. More importantly, my first publication came out featuring artwork from one of my dearest friends on the cover.

This supplement, a 15 page Adventure Scenario, proved to me that I can do this.

I know that there are hundreds of people out there who have made adventures for their favorite games- but this is my first time. My first taste of success.

Bulldogs! stole my heart the moment that I started crafting my character. I will say that I was spoiled for my first game, considering that I had the pleasure of playing with Brennan Taylor (the creator for those who didn’t know) and some very dear friends of mine. Since then we’ve remained in contact and he has been kind of a mentor/role model to me.

Now I’m a part of a game I love, legitimately published and my wacky idea is part of an existing world. That is the coolest feeling in the world. I feel like a golden geek god.

Astrozombies Must Die! is out there- right NOW. Someone that I will never meet is downloading it to run for their gaming group. I hope they love it, because I made it for them.

The Adventure can be found on drivethrurpg.com for free! You should play Bulldogs! and you should kill Astrozombies! I’d love it if you left a comment with your thoughts.

Now then, I’ll be preparing HorrorScope for DexCon 2012. Until next time- keep it scary kids!

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It seems like ages ago when I first started pursuing this “crazy” idea called game designing. Two years ago, I attended a panel at PAX East that featured independent game designers talking about how they survived in the industry for so long. After that panel, I realized that game design was a labor of love- but a labor that I wanted so badly to pursue. After that, I met with awesome people at all phases of the game designing process. What I was looking at doing suddenly turned from a daunting pursuit that I was attempting to tackle in to a network of peers.

A group of peers that I had a lot to learn from- and I’d like to share some of my learnings through a few blog posts.

The first (and biggest) lesson I learned was that the system supports your game. I know, at first that seems like a pretty obvious lesson- but hear me out. Everything about your setting and the very experience of your game rests heavily on your system. When you are crafting this little beast, you really have to consider game play in every step of your process. Game design is thematic and you have to keep those themes strong throughout the entire work. It’s pretty tempting to take an existing system and apply it to your creation, but if it’s not an absolutely perfect fit you are cheating yourself. More importantly you are cheating your prospective players.

My theme was pretty easy to find. HorrorScope is a game that pays homage to horror movies, particularly B horror movies. I wanted to make the experience of my game an unabashed reference to this genre, which frankly allowed me to go as extreme and/or cheesy as I wanted. Therefore, I chose Old Reliable from my dice bag- the six sided dice. Thus, the rules for ROLL OF THE BEAST started. It fit the game setting and I built the system around it- you roll of 666 and you achieve real ultimate critical success!

Your system is not just the skeleton of the game you are designing. It is the muscle, the life blood, and the teeth. Give it some love and make your game a truly unique experience.

The closing lesson for this installment is free and applies to any sort of writing: get off your ass and write! Ideas are great- but they are even better when they hit the screen. Sure, not every thing you write is going to be good. Hell, most of it you are going to tear apart and hate when editing- but if you don’t start your project somewhere and just let it stagnate it’s just going to die sad and alone.

Until next time, keep it scary kids.

It’s official, I’m hooked on Double Exposure conventions.  I went to Dreamation with nerves-a-blazing because it was so much  bigger than Metatopia and was only my second convention presenting HorrorScope.  Just like when I settled in to my previous convention, my fears vanished the second I sat down at one of the gaming tables. It was more like I was sitting down with some buddies to play a game (okay- a couple times that was the case) rather than showing my game to new players and getting their feedback.  If there is one thing that stands out to me about these conventions is the sense of community and how strong it really is.  These conventions really showcase that for me.  I made new friends, ran in to old ones, and left the hotel feeling like the most connected rock star of a dude to check out.

I could only make it to three days of the four day Dreamation experience, but I jam packed as much quality time into those days as possible.  During the course of the convention actually got to check out several games while balancing out the three HorrorScope Features that I would be running.

On the Directing side of things, I ran one game per day.  Friday night started strong when I ran Jailbreak for a cast that included my buddies from Revelations.  That Feature was probably the spookiest and most disturbing I ran for the convention, hats off to them for making it all it could really be!  Saturday night I ran Jailbreak again at the players request, but this cast took it in a much more action orientated direction.  Sunday’s Feature was On Tap, whose cast was mostly some good friends of mine trying out HorrorScope for the first time.  Their approach was much more desperate, more aimed at their own survival and with very genuine motives.  I was proud after each session, the cast members had proven that what matters in HorrorScope is the way you want to play.  What I’ve got growing here is a game that can be played any way you really want to Direct it.  My biggest point of pride came from when players really got that oppression vibe that I was going for when I began creating this little beast.

Friday night I wound up taking on the role of a Retrograde psychic in the Dystopia Rising RPG. It was freaking awesome!  I had some concerns about how this LARP would translate into a tabletop product, but they were quickly put to the side once I got my hands on their system.  It’s a pretty exciting rolling system, I really dug it.  I also stumbled in on a lecture by the always entertaining and enlightening John Adamus.  I walked out with some very good information on improving my craft- both in fiction and game design.

The afternoon slot on Saturday didn’t work out for Revelations or myself, so we joined forces and plunged into a Tolkien game that used the d20 in a very different manner than the Pathfinder system that I’m used to.  I took the role of Tarvis the mage.  I may not have been Gandalf, but I did pretty well for myself with the illusions and sound manipulations I possessed.  Uh…that is until I called out a small army of cave trolls and triggered an early orcish assault… but that’s hardly a thing.

Sunday morning I got the opportunity to drop dice in Revelations.  Even better, I was the wild card!  The scenario was Holy Assault, which I am familiar with- but I took up the roll of this poor fellow named Silvio who was new for Dreamation.  He’s a pretty average guy, when you get past his crippling past and current situation.  I was all about the character from the second that I got to portray him, especially since he is totally the type of character I would write for campaign play.  Seriously can’t get enough of this game!

If you’re a gamer on the East Coast, you have been totally cheating yourself if you haven’t checked out these Double Exposure events yet.  These guys run a tight convention and make you feel at home from the very start.  The games are awesome, the company is great, and there is always something to do.

The best description for Bulldogs! is delivered in its tag line: “Sci-Fi that Kicks Ass.”  Enough said there, I know I was sold from the first time I saw the cover of the core book.  I’ve come across tag lines like that before in games, be them video or table top, but this one had me stop and put all of my chips in.  It’s simple and to the point.  More importantly, you can hang your hat on the fact that it’s also the damn truth.

For those of you who are familiar, Bulldogs! uses the FATE system to get things done.  If you don’t know what that means: this game uses a set of four dice that are called Fudge Dice. They look like a bit beefier version of a six sided dice, but each side is either blank or marked with a “+” or “-“.  For any given roll; you drop these 4 dice, look at the results, and compare them to skill ranks that you assigned to flush out what your character can do.  It’s pretty intuitive how the dice work, you have a difficulty that you’re trying to hit.  Your skill rating is what you have before rolling the dice, your dice then control cruel FATE and determine how well you do it. Blank sides reflect no change, + increases your badassnitude, and – sides chip away at it.  If your skill rank is high enough and you get enough + results, you generate something called “shifts.’  If you get shifts, you’re doing the action with incredible results that improve the end outcome or shorten the amount of time required to pull it off. It’s simple, and I freaking love simple.  When I’m gaming I don’t always want to sound like an accountant with multiple personalities.

Character creation is awesome, and completely diceless.  You don’t even need to have the start of your history because it’s something that is built in to character creation.  First you pick your race.  The core book has 10 awesome species available- including green skinned con men and killer teddy bears!  Is that not good enough for ya, Mr. and Mrs. Picky?  At the end of the the Alien Species chapter there are provided rules for creating your own crazy alien race. After that you assign Aspects that flesh out everything about your character, ranging from your Heritage and Homeworld to your Job and how you feel about your Captain.  After that you assign traits to your ship and your Captain, assign numbers to your skills, and you’re good to go after gear.  It’s quick start friendly, yet still provides a great amount of depth to this character that you just thought up.

Bulldogs! has a lot of strengths, but the biggest is the premise.  You’re probably not a very good person or you did something that has come back to bite you in the ass.  Thankfully, there’s TransGalaxy, also know as Type D or Bulldogs because of their company logo.  All you have to do is sign on for a 5 year contract and you’ll walk away a free alien.  Pretty sweet deal, right?  It is!

As long as you ignore the flawed ships you have to work out of, the constant danger, and the questionable cargo…

From the premise alone, you’re skipping on of the biggest pains about being a Storyteller: party formation.  All of your player characters are screwed and they’re pretty far up a space creek with no space paddle.  They have to at least try to coexist or they’re going to lose their contracts, if not their lives.

Every thing about this game lives up to the tag line.  The attitude of the writing in the core book is consistent and gives a great touch of flavor.  The base species are quality and bizarre, which is exactly what I wanted from this type of Sci-Fi game. There is a lot of flex to the system and it encourages out of the box thinking.  Everything you put down on your character sheet can be used against you or to your benefit, so your character’s past is always catching up to them.  It’s good stuff, has a great setting, and it truly kicks ass.

If you want to check out more on Bulldogs! drop by galileogames.com.

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Posted: January 18, 2012 in Comics, Creative Writing, Gaming, Uncategorized
Tags: ,

I’ve been gaming for a whole lot of years at this point. By a “whole lot” I mean 16 of my nearly 30 years. Hell, I remember when Elf was a class in Dungeons and Dragons, when THAC0 was a thing. When you had 8 different Saving Throws and you liked it. In this time, I’ve had the privilege of trying out a variety of different systems. Some I loved, some I hated, but one game broke out and stole my attention from the very start.

Marvel Superheroes, presented by TSR. Due to the sheer durability of the system and how it allows you to play anything. It still holds up as one of my favorite systems today.
I was introduced to this game a few years back, through a friend who swore by the system. I showed up with standard gear: pencil, note book, mountain dew, and my huge bag of dice. He chuckled and informed me that I wouldn’t be needing “all those dice.” Then he handed me this weird chart thing that kind of looked like a colored periodic table of elements.
Immediately I was dreading what was before me. I assumed that this was going to be some complicated chart based game that I would need a Math degree to understand.
I was pleasantly surprised. To play this game, you roll percentile dice and compare your results on the chart to determine your outcome. Again, sounds complicated, but after game one I was in love. After one sitting I comprehended the system and was completely sold.
Marvel Superheroes has a very loose set of rules, it’s very simple to play, and it truly gives you the ability to play a comic book. Most rolls are determined off of your FASERIP, which are your statistics. FASERIP stands for: Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, and Psyche. Basically covering anything you want to do right there. You can improve certain traits of your character by picking talents, which basically are the things you really excel in. After that, tally your hit points, your karma, pick some powers and you’re done.
By the actual rules, you’re supposed to completely roll your character. One plant life hero with water breathing and radiation emission later, I figured from then out I should just pick my powers instead. Here’s a preview of the Ultimate Powers Book, which I use to make all of my characters: about 15 pages of rules and then the rest of the book filled with crazy awesome powers. Good. Sold. Gogogo.
The coolest part about Marvel Superheroes is that the rules are so loose and it leaves so much up to your imagination, and that makes sense. The whole point of most superheroes is that they are something way beyond regular humans. Rules don’t really apply anymore when you could logistically punch someone through 3 brick buildings and then elbow drop them from the atmosphere.
Once you know the flow of the game, a character can be made in 5-15 minutes. Even the enemies. WHAAAT? That’s a Story Teller’s dream right there. No number crunching for high level villains, just scale them to your player’s power level. Have you ever tried to create a level 20 Red Wizard of Thay to *attempt* to knock around an epic level party? Between stats and spells alone I’m losing a little less than an hour of my life! Then you still have to gear the bugger so he lasts longer than a couple of rounds. Are you sure I can’t just have a root canal instead? On the flip side, I can make a villain of Dr. Doom’s caliber in 15 minutes. Cool.
The game is totally worth checking out. It’s the craziest, most satisfying experience you could want. The community is still strong, with lots of resources out on the Internet. Take a quick gander at classicmarvelforever.com and you’ll find pretty much everything you need for this awesome game.

Posted: January 6, 2012 in Gaming
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Zombies.  They’re kind of a big deal right now.  Spanning from Dawn of the Dead to the Left 4 Dead franchise of video games to novels such as The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, we really freaking love zombies.  And why not?  They’re good stuff, playing off of a lot of our emotions and a sense of weakness.  Death is scary enough, but the concept of coming back up out of the dirt and gnawing on everyone we hold dear is a troubling concept to say the least.

One thing that I think is really cool about zombies is that there is always a different twist on their origin.  In Dance of the Dead the zombies are up and shambling because of radiation before a bunch of high schoolers and the gym teacher take them out. In the Evil Dead franchise (counting deadites as zombies here, please refrain from any fan rage) they crawl out of the woodwork because of a demonic force tied to the Necronomicon and are put down by the best horror film hero ever.  The shamblers from Dawn of the Dead are caused by a pandemic before they start gnawing at their loved ones. In The Serpent and the Rainbow they’re up and moving from good ol’ fashion practical voodoo.

I could spend the rest of the blog post talking about different origins for zombies, including great movies like Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, Re-Animator, and Night of the Creeps. However, at this moment I think you get my point.

Zombies were going to be a challenge for HorrorScope, but I was all for it. Good thing I was, they were the ones that generated the most interest when I started talking up the game to my friends.  I went for a much more general approach from my initial design and started referring to them as the Risen.

Technically, Risen are an amalgam of several different Species that I was initially tossing around concepts for.  I didn’t want HorrorScope to get over-corpsed with a bunch of different takes on the walking dead, so I summed them all up into one Species and decided to allow the players to choose their origin by deciding on what sort of Patron Power they wanted.  My basic premise became “you’re a corpse, walking around…thus you are a Risen.”

The only thing I left out was Risen created by disease and rendered mindless.  I couldn’t see them being that much fun to play, but that’s just me.  I sequestered them away as the zombies that the Risen regard as “that guy”, a private little shame that’s better put back in the ground.  Zombie hordes are great for mob antagonists, but sitting at a table behind a pile of dice repeating  “Braaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnns” would have to get boring.  The Risen can think, the Risen can feel all of the sorrow and rage from a life lost.  In my mind, that makes them compelling and sympathetic. I also wanted to break away from the classic zombie horde mindset for Risen.  I wanted them to be badasses that could take one heck of a whooping before they went down.

For my initial offering of the game, I wrote up four different “breeds” of zombies.  Some are classics with a new twist, others are something completely new to really liven (no pun intended) up play.

The type of Risen I thought of first were the Altered.  On the most basic of levels you are a corpse (or several corpse pieces stitched together) that was brought back to life by science.  Either intentionally or not, you are sort of a weaponized cadaver.  Altered were inspired by movies such as Frankenstein and Re-Animator.

Next up came Rage. Usually victims themselves, Rage Risen felt all of the anger that death has to offer and it denied them their dirt nap.  Fixated on vengeance, justice, or whatever they choose to call it; Rage Risen are cursed to walk again until their work is done. Or until they’re put down for good. These bad boys were inspired by the movie Shallow Ground.

Playing directly off of Rage, I came up with Judges.  Just like those Raging corpses, they experienced all of the anger and sorrow of death, whether or not it was for a good cause.  Unlike the Ragers, Judges learned from that raw emotion found in the moment of death. Now they’re walking again, more saints than monsters, trying to spare others from the fate they suffered.

The final Risen came straight from old school myth and lore: the Bewitched.  I knew that I wanted to do a take on Witches that was at least partially inspired by  voodoo, and the Bewitched are their victims.  Bewitched Risen come back from the grave because they themselves were killed by nefarious magics, stuff so dark that it denies even the victim access to the afterlife.  Or that’s at least what the Bewitched like to think.

That’s it for the Risen right now, but we’re sure to be back on the topic as the game continues to evolve.  Make sure to drop by our Facebook fan here: http://tinyurl.com/6rpr5m8 and drop a Like if you..well… like what you’re seeing of HorrorScope.  Until next time, keep it scary kids.