Wednesday, June 17, 2015

#RPGaDAY2015 This August - It is Happening Again!

Last year I had this bizarre idea. Inspired by taking part in one of those "Hashtag-a-thons" about books, I wanted to do something for tabletop roleplaying games, to spread the love of our hobby and what we enjoy about it. And, maybe, find some new friends online who share our interests.

So, with the help of the awesome Will Brooks who provided the design for the question image, I set about launching #RPGaDAY. I figured a couple of people I knew through roleplaying design would take part, and I was blown away by how many people actually joined in. RPGaDAY spread far and wide, throughout Europe, the US, Australia and Brazil. I was stunned!

When it was all over, the only question that remained would be - shall we do it again next year?

That time has come, and so why not? Let's give it another try!

The new questions can be found above, and every day in August we'll take the corresponding question and post our responses online using the tag: #RPGaDAY2015

I made a little video to explain it all...

This year, it'll not just be me talking at you for a month - I've managed to recruit some far more interesting and awesome people to help out and join in. Please subscribe and keep up with the news!

So please, spread the word, and join in celebrating all that is cool about RPGs.

Like the Facebook page:

Until next time,
Stay Multi-Classy!

Monday, June 8, 2015

"Dream a little bigger, darling..."

I've been spoiled.

Something amazing happened to me in the past - we did the impossible and came out shiny, but it has spoiled me and set my expectations way too high.

The amazing thing was Doctor Who.

It was impossible. A crazy, impossible dream that started as a chat over the internet between like-minded individuals, that escalated into just saying "let's go for it"... never expecting it would get anywhere.

It started with a quick chat with Chris Birch, possibly one of the nicest people you could meet in the RPG scene, and now the man with his own company - Modiphius. He'd just bought Conspiracy X 2.0, and got in touch. We chatted about the RPG world in general, and about trying to get new gamers into the hobby, and chatted about licenses that would get kids playing.

Cover of the original pitch to the BBC for the game
Within weeks we'd been talking to Angus Abranson, and Dominic McDowall-Thomas at the recently formed Cubicle 7 Entertainment, who Chris and I knew from past dealings, and we talked, and brought in Fred Hicks - the legend over at Evil Hat - to do some layout design for us, and we put together a proposal to the BBC for a roleplaying game based upon Doctor Who. All of them legends in the RPG world, I was way out of my league.

Never thought anything would come of it.

Even when we all went to BBC Worldwide Licensing in London, to talk about our idea, did we ever think we'd get anywhere. But the BBC liked what they saw, and we'd done the impossible.

(L-R) Me, Dominic Mc-Dowall Thomas, Chris Birch, Angus
Abranson, and Fred Hicks at the official announcement for the
Doctor Who RPG at Dragonmeet 2007
But I'm not posting about Doctor Who. I'm posting about doing impossible things before breakfast. To me, and to everyone around me, getting to write the Doctor Who RPG was an impossible task. I mean, we knew people had tried before to do the game (not just the ones that got published like the FASA one, and Virgin's "Time Lord").

In my head this set a new standard.

To dream a little bigger.

This week I went to see Ruby Wax live. She was doing part of her "Sane New World" tour where she did a live thing on stage that was part recap of her new book and part stand-up. I must admit, I had this moment a few years ago at a Dylan Moran gig where I had a moment of clarity and realised that I didn't like stand-up comedy. Luckily, Ruby Wax's tour wasn't really comedy, so to speak. More a presentation about how our brains work, and how we're screwing ourselves over. Done in an amusing way.

A couple of parts of the show really rang true. The first was how stress can affect your memory, and one of the earliest signs of being stressed is forgetting things. This was a bit of a wake up call, having noticed recently that I'm having difficulty remembering names...

The other is about how we're driven by that dopamine hit, that constant drive for more. You eat the donut, and you're already looking for the next one. It's not the actual donut that's giving you pleasure, it's the thrill of the chase, of the capture of the donut, and midway through eating the donut the brain is already preparing you to look and hunt for the next donut out there in the wilds of the donut plains...

And my writing has been like that.

But I was part of something impossible. And while I kinda burned out on Doctor Who (there was a period when my dayjob and my writing were pretty much non-stop Doctor Who for about a year or two), that dopamine hit is calling and I've spent months, if not longer, desiring the next one.

Part of my brain is screaming at me, saying...

"You did Doctor Who! You can do anything! Why don't we do Star Trek next? Or James Bond? Or Harry Potter!"

And another part of me is shouting...

"You were lucky to get that one, just give it up and know it'll never happen again..."

I know it's impossible. I'm just a little freelancer. I don't have the clout of a massive publishers, or a track record of my own publications. Hell, I've been working on WILD for nearly three years now and it doesn't seem to be getting any bigger.

But I have to dream.

I had the same problem just this morning, thinking about #RPGaDAY2015. I'm going to film a video for it in the next week or two, and the image for the questions for August's RPG-love-fest is coming, but part of me... that annoying "dream too big" part of my brain kicked in again today and started suggesting stupid things like...

"What if I did the video, and I could get loads of game designers and people like that to submit a little video of themselves saying RPGaDAY2015..."

"What if I could get people like Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton to do it? To take part in the month of talking in a positive way about tabletop RPGs?"

Stupid brain.

Anyway, next post will be about #RPGaDAY2015. I don't know if the video will be ready, but I'll try. In the meantime, I'll be over in the corner, dreaming too big for my own good, and eating donuts.

Until next time, dream bigger darlings, and stay multi-classy.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Make It So...

FASA's Star Trek RPG
In addition to Harry Potter, another major franchise that constantly circles my brain on a regular basis is Star Trek. Why isn't there a Star Trek RPG at the moment? With the anniversary only a year away, it just seems strange that there isn't a Trek RPG currently in production. I know there have been a couple of Trek RPGs in the past, the FASA one in the 1980s, and Last Unicorn Games' version in the 90s... but like Trek TV series, it seems like a very long time since the last one.

Maybe it's something about Star Trek's main themes that keeps drawing me to it. I backed out of writing Eden's Extinction RPG despite having worked for nearly three years on its predecessor Conspiracy X 2.0. Not because I didn't like the game, but because the task arrived just after my mother had died and I wanted to get away from games that were all about war, violence and killing.

Maybe it was because I worked for so long on Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space, which encourages interaction, and using your brains and diplomacy when encountering a threat, rather than diving straight into a gun-fight.

And there has always been something about Star Trek that's been like that. Sure, there are fights. Sure there is constant danger and threat, and even death. But, the dominant themes are adventure, exploration and discovery. Races and sexes are equal, working in harmony (mostly) and finding new and exciting things. And, above all, it's fun.

I remember watching a few episodes as a kid of the original series, but I think I was too young to really appreciate it. Then, of course, Star Wars happened, and everything in my head was cool spaceships and science fiction. I have a distinct memory of my father taking me to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture at the cinema when it came out. And I have a more distinct memory of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - and being absolutely blown away by that one.

By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation started on TV, I was already a fan. So much so that I even attended the local (despite it being 15 miles away) official fan-gathering, the local "chapter" - the USS Kingston-Upon-Hull, where they fuelled my appreciation of the original series, and showed TNG episodes that hadn't aired in the UK yet - specially recorded and posted by fans in the US on videotape (this was before the wonders of the interwebs).

Of course, Trek stopped being on TV, but when JJ Abrams' revival movie hit in 2009, I was lucky enough to see a secret advanced screening and I was filled with excitement and wonder again. The classic characters were back, and it looked fantastic. Loved it. It's still one of those movies where I watch it over again if it happens to be on TV.

That was when I started thinking about a Trek RPG again. It's always been ticking away in the back of my head.
The mock up versions of the Star Trek RPG books I made for the following video, around the size of a Traveller LBB

Earlier this year, I posted a little about the size of books, even making a video about them and how the first RPG I played was also one of the cheapest, and one of the most economically easy to get into playing - Traveller. (Maybe skip to around the 4:00 mark)...

The Traveller "Little Black Books" (as they were called) used to retail for between $4-$6 each (usually about the same in UK £'s) which meant they were a good pocket-money price for those without a massive disposable income on gaming.
Cadet Book (mock cover)
for Character Generation

Which got me thinking about how a Star Trek game could work in a similar way - smaller books, cheaper price, maybe a boxed set to start you off if you want.

A Cadet Book would cover all of the aspects of character creation, defining who your character is before going to Star Fleet Academy, going through their training and assignment.

Then you can have books for the Sciences (which cover research, medical, and the scientific element of adventures) and Operations (detailing combat - both on a personnel level as well as basic ship combat). A Command book would round off the "core set", providing help for Command crew as well as Gamemastering.

Taking its design style initially from the Abrams movies, you could expand into more detail in further supplements. Supplements for races, planets, and advanced rules for ships could follow.

How about keeping the supplements small? You could do individual books for ships - featuring all the deck plans and specifications for a particular ship, or class of ship. A space station like DS-9 where you can set a whole campaign.

 What about retelling the episodes? You could have small books for each of the classic episodes, allowing GMs to run them as games. And, like the James Bond RPG, and the Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space RPG, the episodes can be presented with alternate options to change the story or the outcome slightly for those who are familiar with the episode, and present spin-offs and continuations for follow up episode ideas.

This wouldn't necessarily need to stick to classic Trek, it could continue through The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and the movies.

Of course, the other thing to consider is accessibility. Keeping the game simple, quick and fast, to emphasise the story rather than the rules. Remember the rules I discussed for the Harry Potter RPG I'd been posting about? Using a similar approach, instead of a mass of skills and numbers to concentrate on, everything could initially be boiled down to five Skills -

Command, Science, Medical, Operations, and Security

And like the Potter game, reducing the number of Attributes to a minimum is key as well... probably ones that tie in with key themes of the series, like Logic, Empathy, Bravery... that sort of thing...

Maybe one day...

We can dream can't we?

Until next post, stay multi-classy, and Live Long, and Prosper...