What am I working on right now? Well, about a million things… I have the attention span of a toddlers and flit from project to project, pursuing whatever is shiny and interesting in the moment all the while cramming down Cheerios and wearing footie pajamas. Truth. BUT, there are a few irons which are more on the fire than others*, projects which are in some way near completion but waiting for me to focus. This is a page meant to shame me into working on them more consistently, as much as to inform you what’s coming down the pipe.
THE FRONT BURNER
- About: Humanity has disappeared. But we’ll be remembered by the things we’ve left behind. Synanthropes is a story game about exploration and practical anthropology for 3-5. In the near future, all of humankind disappears suddenly, for no clear reason. In the many, many generations following, synanthropic species (those who live in ecological niches that humans create… think vermin, like rats, roaches, etc.) inherit the world, evolving into intelligent, humanlike societies. The players each portray a member of a different species: Crows, Rats, Roaches, Raccoons, Cane Toads, and Geckos. They’ve come together after a time of war on a scientific mission to explore an old, abandoned Human ruin, one which has been left empty for as far back as anyone can remember, in the hopes that it might hold some clues as to what, exactly, happened to the Humans who built this world.
- Features: A setting that the Game Chef 2013 reviewers described as “Weird as fuck. Cool.” So that’s pretty boss, then. So yes, a pretty unique setting to play in, character generation that emphasizes putting the players into objectively non-human skins, conflict between societies that cannot understand one another, and, most importantly, Artifacts, which are any physical item you care to put on the table and play with, because hell yes I’m going to design a game that factors in my need to fidget with crap constantly.
- Status: A complete draft, currently on version 3.1 and pending playtests. Has been successfully played both with and without the designer at the table. In a condition I would call “minimally publishable” which is distinct from “done” in subtle but important ways.
- Plan: WORK IT. Playtest at every opportunity. Get it complete. Find an illustrator. Post in-progress right here. Most likely publish on a “pay what thou wilt” model as soon as it becomes feasible to call it published, though I might consider investing in kickstarted funds in order to pay for illustrations and physical copies. Most importantly, network, brand, and publicize, which brings me to the sub-burner:
- Sub-burner: Synanthropes Lite.
- About: It’s the core of Synanthropes… humanlike animals poking about at human refuse, trying to figure out what it is… distilled into a business card-sized game. Or rather, six business cards, one for each species. If I’m clever, I might even find room for my name and URL on the cards too.
- Features: It’s Synanthropes but it’s tiny! Tiny Synanthropes! Squeeeee!
- Status: It’s done if we assume every buisiness card is three by five inches and has a front, a back, and a mysterious third side. Beyond that it’s a matter of condensing as much as possible while sacrificing as little as possible.
- Plan: See if I can get these fuckers done and printed by PAX, even if they aren’t QUITE perfect yet, because oh my gosh you guys, wouldn’t that be a perfect thing to have? It would! It really, really would, especially if I can talk people into playing the full-sized Synanthropes as well.
- Book Binding: A Novel
- About: About Airrol Twain, senior librarian at the Aelethon Academy of Magical Arts. When his boss is fired due to political machinations within the Academy, he’s made the chief librarian, and things start to fall apart; it’s a magical library, you see, and raw magic interacts in unexpected ways. Demons, mutations, elementals, spontaneous reaphabetizations… Wild Magic Events, growing less and less predictable as time does on, until the very existence of the library becomes a threat to the school.
- Features: A story about a magic school that doesn’t become all about saving the world from dark wizards. No man, this is about the Library. It never goes more than a block away from the school. The stakes are political and academic but, one hopes, still significant, because the library being destroyed is a big problem. Also features magic in a functioning economy and fantastic races who aren’t just odd humans but have major physical and psychological distinctions.
- Status: First draft complete; plot fully outlined, most scenes and interactions done. Needs a full overhaul and edit for consistency and reorganization.
- Plan: Finish editing before the end of the year and start shipping it around to agents early next.
- About: A steampunk RPG that isn’t fantasy-driven, isn’t GURPS or GURPS-like, favors a pulp atmosphere and, most importantly, is STUFF focused. The creation and use of items is to be a fundamental part of the game, hence the “craft” in the title, and characters are defined less by attributes and more by Props: those items which are so fundamental to their aesthetic that they are seldom, if ever, seen without them.
- Features: A flexible and intuitive central mechanic: minimal math, minimal slowdown, just roll some dice and recognize the difference between evens, odds, and ones. Fast combat and action sequences, high adventure and of course a powerful crafting system (which can be adapted into alchemy or even magic, if you’re of a mind, though it will remain sufficiently-analyzed magic approached with a scientific bent).
- Status: Under construction, being intermittently playtested on a small scale (making characters and walking them about sort of thing).
- Plan: Finish a rough this year, playtest on a larger scale, get a little publicity. Eventually, kickstart and publish a PDF if early tests look promising.
THE BACK BURNERS:
- The Academy of Magic
- About: The nice people who train the dungeon-delvers. The Academy casts players as up-and-coming professors of magical arts–extremely accomplished wizards who have eschewed the call of adventure for the call of comfortable rooms, possible tenure, and no heavy lifting. But all is not well: magic is wild, unpredictable, and dangerous, but only half so dangerous as the other up-and-coming professors who realize that “possible tenure” means there are only so many slots to be filled. A game of backstabbing and bureaucracy at the largest university in the world.
- Features: Among other things, four completely different systems of magic for the four colleges, which roll the same dice in entirely different ways. A very magic-heavy environment, with robust pseudo-vancian magic and obligatory spell creation, and otherwise simple mechanics. A specific and detailed setting which complements the action.
- Status: 60% complete, if you don’t count meddlesome things like “testing” and “playability”. Originally put together for a contest, the rules needed a full overhaul (replacing cards with dace, and making the whole thing an order of magnitude less fiddly). Need to complete the transfer for a number of sample spells, then playtest, tweak, and get into design.
- MEDDLESOME DISTRACTION: Uh… ignored the game, got so involved in the universe that I’m writing a novel now. That’s currently the biggest iron on the fire, and has been useful in forcing an analysis of the narrative aspect of the mechanics, but is a distraction.
- Walking Away from an Explosion in Slow Motion (Without Looking Back)
- About: Well, it’s right there in the title. Very short, very over-the-top, this is a game about doing badass stunts in a badass way. Punching out ninjas, flipping motorcycles, and rappelling down buildings on fire-hoses, all while walking away from an explosion like it doesn’t even matter. Yes, you can motorcycle while you walk, and you can use “motorcycle” as a verb, it’s that sort of game.
- Features: Attributes named after history’s greatest badasses (you want to intimidate someone, you use SAMUEL L.; want to jump-kick them in the face, use JACKIE CHAN, etc.). The option to stand up and make an awesome pose in order to increase your stats. A rule which mandates that whomever is closest to the explosion is more badass than anyone else, and gets to wear sunglasses to prove it. And badassery.
- Status: In rough draft form. Needs to have the soundtrack finalized (yes, there’s a recommended soundtrack) and a soupcon of testing and tweaking, and after that, illustrations. This is the sort of game which truly requires a splash page of burly dudes surrounded by billowing flames, among other such touches.
- The ‘House of Leaves’ RPG
- About: Metanarrative, metanarrative, metanarrative. Players are normal people, reading an manuscript written by another author (whom the players all collectively portray), which concerns another set of characters entirely (which the characters ALSO portray), who interact with some bit of life-destroying weirdness.
- Features: Three layers of storytelling, each of which uses different mechanics: a skill-and-dice-based explorer, an oracle-based writer which acts as a GM, and a token-spending observer who can make sweeping changes in an attempt to understand the world.
- Status: 20%, but a very excited 20%. Basic ideas are sorted, but we’re still sussing out the relationship between the various levels. After that, we need to decide whether this is something to keep as a Danielewski pastiche/fanfic, or if we can successfully port it into a more general setting.
*Metaphor breakdown: please do not let toddlers work a forge.