Friday, 22 February 2013

Done, Done, and Never Done

So the print version of Remnants: The Broken Lands is on sale as of today.

Happy Dance = done.

I am done with Remnants for a bit... or am I? I still do Q & A's on's forums, I am setting up discounts for everyone who bought the PDF, and now wants the print book, and I am still stressing over sales, distribution, and format errors, among other things.

In addition to the above, our first short module for Remnants, which we contracted out to another author, just entered the editing stages, and needs to be content-approved by me before the editors tear it apart and rebuild it.

Now Broken Lands was already successful enough that I want to release Broken Lands II next year, and III the year after that. In the meantime, there's that other game I'm working on.

That Other Game

That other game is both similar and different to Remnants. It has familiar rules, but a new setting. It follows a similar structure to other Outrider games, but throws some new curve balls in terms of rules and themes.

The new game is not my sole creation either. It is a collaboration with my wife, who helped design some of the new (and very interesting) rules, built a lot of the setting and background, and is writing several very large swathes of the game text. I will admit that collaboration is difficult for me; I like things my way, but the magic of working with someone else, is the work you make together is better than anything either person could do alone.

Play-testing, though, has been rough. The game is good and the rules work, but every time we go to the table we find problems with how I have written things. If there is a way to make a rule vague or confusing, I've found it. If there is a way to write an instruction so that the player reaches an incorrect result, I've written it. With each session we iron out more problems, and the manuscript is nearing completion.

That "new game in August" promise is looking good. We've hired an artist, and even acquired our first few pieces of concept art. We're even looking into a crowdfunding campaign to up production values and provide extra goodies.

Very exciting times.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Little Tangents, Random Thoughts

Sometimes I have ideas that I want to share that are too small for a blog post. So I will throw a bunch together to make a random scattering of thoughts that might give you some insight into the chaos inside my head. This stuff is way off base, and in no way related to anything else I talk about. So, yeah.

Agent Coulson Lives

If you saw the Avengers, you remember that Coulson died, or did he? News is that they are bringing him back for the TV series. I just re-watched the Avengers, and I can buy his surviving. He was breathing and moving when Nick Fury found him, so that spear missed his heart. That means it hit his lungs. Big trouble, but he was only passed out for a few seconds when the paramedics arrived to work on him. Fury says they called it immediately, but that guy is a lying bastard who would totally fake Coulson's death if gave the other characters the push they needed to come together to fight Loki. I figure Coulson went into emergency surgery, spent months in recovery, and will be back to his old self in time for the TV series.

Firefly is Still Awesome

Hmm. Two Joss Whedon vehicles in a row... gotta keep these more random. Anyways, I just re-watched all of Firefly and Serenity, and it still holds up. Everything about that show is pitch perfect and I pick up new little details and turns of phrase every time that makes the show better and better. It died too soon.

More Star Wars

I gotta say, taking Star Wars away from George Lucas is probably the best thing happen to the franchise since Empire. Now I have heard rumours of all sorts of spin-offs, sequels, and TV series, but I  will withhold judgment until new stuff actually shows up on screen. Besides the new J. J. Abrams sequel they are talking about spinoffs for Boba Fett (talk about pandering to the fan base) and a young Han Solo (we'll see how that goes once they cast some one). In other news, the new Star Wars RPG is getting mixed to positive reviews. As a rule, I don't trust games with proprietary dice (except FATE, they're cool), but once again, I withhold judgment until I see how they deal with Jedi and the Force. My heart is still with the old WEG Star Wars, but I was never happy with their Force stuff, so we'll see how it goes.


The best place to write in Cornwall (Where I live. It's a small town in Canada) is not in Cornwall at all, but 15 minutes up the highway at the Denny's Restaurant in Lancaster (A very small town). It is open 24 hours, has free Wi fi, and lots of plugs for laptops. They also don't mind if you just order a sampler and drink and sit there for hours. The music they play is pretty awful, but it's nothing that can't be fixed with some earbuds.

Neil Degrasse Tyson

You really should watch some of his talks. The man is able to talk about science in a way that is both interesting and relatable. His most important contribution to society, though, is his insistence that investing in science, and science education now will pay off in improvements in our society decades from now. People really do need to learn how to take the long view on stuff.

Age and Experience

Up until recently, I loved getting into debates about religion, and I was a total bastard about it. I would do it just to stir shit up and piss people off. I was contrary just to be contrary. In the last six months, though (coinciding with the birth of my daughter), I have been loath to have religious discussions, and I have to be dragged into them, at which time I try to crawl out. The problem is that while I am not a fan of organized religion, I longer get kicks over having arguments about it. It stresses me out to think about what faith my daughter will choose (if any) and activates my instincts to protect her from any religious influence. It is her choice as to what to believe, and I don't want it made for her before she is mature enough to figure things out for herself.

To make matters worse with the whole religious debate thing, I find that most religious debates are built around irreconcilable premises. There is rarely any middle ground or compromises to be had. And debating the subject tends to cause people to become more entrenched in their beliefs than doing anything to convince them you might be right. Science backs me up on that one.

Mini Cinnamon Buns

They come in $5.00 buckets and are so delicious. They shall be my downfall.

Friday, 1 February 2013

What Does Indie Mean?

So what does "indie" mean? I have described my games as "indie" on several occasions in several different venues. No one ever questioned me on it, and everyone seemed to know what it meant. But seriously, what the hell does indie mean? It's time to do some googling.

Google answer:

  1. (of a pop group or record label) Not belonging to or affiliated with a major record company.
  2. (of a movie) Not produced by a major studio: "she's landed herself the lead in an indie horror movie".

Well, we're not talk about movies or music. This is games land. Let's try again. This time, we will try Wikipedia and search "indie role-playing game". Here we go:

"An indie role-playing game is a role-playing game published outside of traditional, 'mainstream' means."

OK, that I can work with. Indie means your game doesn't have a big distributor right? If you read the rest of the article you will find that the whole thing is pretty murky. Some people claim that "indie" is a self-identifier and you have to be part of a indie community, while others claim just by not being part of a corporate structure (like Dungeons & Dragons) you are magically indie. 

Making the waters even muddier, detractors of the term will tell you that the tabletop RPG industry is so small that almost every company is "indie" when you start to look at things like distribution numbers and profits (D&D being the exception again). From now on, I will refer to this as the Grognard School of thought.

Yet another school of thought is that indie RPGs tend to cover "unconventional" play styles, an emphasis on rules designed to support specific settings/concepts, or a focus more on improvisation and story than actual game elements. Just for fun, I will call this the Warhol School of thought.

Both the Grognards and the Warhols have a point. Gaming is small business. The costs are small, the volume of product moved is small, and the profits are minuscule. So the Grognard claim that we are all indie cannot be discounted. At the same time, the unconventional games of the Warhols are wicked fun. I have a cabinet full of their quirky goodness, and I would be lying if I said that their works didn't influence my own game design. Those Warhol games, by the innovative use of rules, change the way games are played, and, much indie film and music movements, they are having a real tangible effect on the design of the more mainstream games. 

Now to tear the schools up a bit. 

The Grognards are forgetting about relativity. While the industry is small, there are still discrete tiers of popularity within the industry. We have D&D (and perhaps Pathfinder?) at the top, a cadre of middle tier publishers who make good profits (For those in the know, companies like Fantasy Flight, Privateer Press, and Whitewolf, amongst many other), and then there's the rest of us fighting for whatever is left, and trying to break even. Those of us at the bottom are working on very different publishing and distribution models than those at the other levels, and so the indie moniker could definitely apply to us.

The Warhols are on shaky ground as well. If you look at their "creator owned" moniker, then such wonderfully "traditional" games as Rifts (love him or hate him, Kevin Siembieda is Palladium books) are indie. If we look at the Warhol idea that indie games are experimental, or explore games out on the fringe of design, what happens when these games become mainstream. Most Warhols would have called FATE an indie game, it won some indie RPG awards back in 2003, but Evil Hat's $400 000+ kickstarter (hell's yes, I contributed) means that FATE is now smack in the RPG mainstream. 

So are the Grognards right, or the Warhols? is there some sort of compromise? To hell with it. Let's look at this another way. 

Steve's Rule of Indie Game Design:

If you can't afford to quit your day job, your game is indie!

You can quote me on that.

This pays tribute to the Grognards in recognizing that most game designers are tiny, and need to have "real jobs" to keep publishing. But it also acknowledges that a few people do "make it" in the industry and are able to it as a full time job, and a few even make good money at it.

It also should appease the Warhols to some degree. Creator owned projects tend to be works of art that are full of passion and new ideas, but do not sell enough to let their creators live off of them in any significant way. Under my new rule, once you make games profitable enough to live off them, you are no longer indie, and the Warhols can either keep supporting your games, or much like their hipster cousins, they can move on to other newer projects.

As for me, my day job has excellent benefits, a good pension plan, and very good pay. I am sticking at it for at least another decade. So my games are indie for now... I guess.

I have a feeling some people are going to disagree with me on this one. If so, let me know. I can handle it.