Saturday, January 14, 2023

Release The SRDs!

With everything going on in open gaming in tabletop RPGs right now, I have decided that I am going to release SRDs (system reference documents) for a couple of systems based on the Fudge role-playing game, to which I have the rights. I will be calling these the Crasher and Quest SRDs/systems. They will be derived from two game systems to which I own the rights. More details will be forthcoming, but the plan is to release each of these SRDs first under a Creative Commons license, and then probably eventually under the new ORC gaming license that is being developed. More to come!

Saturday, January 07, 2023

Action-Heroes Is Coming!


After years of development and writing, along with more than a couple of pandemic-related delays, my Action-Heroes role-playing game is finally coming to Kickstarter next week. You can click here to sign up to receive a notification when the project launches next Tuesday.

I am really happy to have the game so close to the finish line, because I have put a lot of work into this system over the years, and I am really proud of the end result. Please sign up for your notification, and also please support the game's Kickstarter project. There are only supposed to be a couple of stretch goals, but they are going to provide some nice upgrades to the game if we hit all of them. 

Thank you all in advance.




Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Reading Grant Morrison's The Invisibles In 2023

This upcoming Fall will be the 20th anniversary of my blog. I've tried to get more active in posting here over the last couple of years, but it has been difficult. The stress from online harassment really curtailed my desire to comment on things, but I really need to not let the harassers wins. So, I think the answer to getting more serious about writing here at the blog is to get more regimented about my posting.

One of my "projects" for the new year is going to be a re-read of Grant Morrison's comic The Invisibles, originally published through the Vertigo imprint at DC Comics. I don't know if the book is still in print physically or not (I have digital copies of the collections that I picked up on Comixology along with the original floppies) or what arm of DC Comics is handling it currently.

This post is going to set the tone for what I hope to do with this series of articles.

Kind of like with Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, I was not a big fan of The Invisibles at first, but for entirely different reasons. With The Sandman, I didn't really get into the book until it found its vibe around the time of the "Sound of Her Wings" story. I think that moving away from a direct involvement with the general DC Universe was a good idea for The Sandman. With The Invisibles the book just didn't grab me like other works of Morrison's had. The first arc of The Invisibles, dealing with the initiation of Dane McGowan into the group, had a "been there, done that" feel to me. I dove back into the book with the controversy over the second story arc, and found that the story clicked with me, and I ran with it until the end.

Probably one of the most difficult things to do in a new comic, with a new universe, is to create the feeling of an established universe right out of the box. This is something that comics have struggled with since there were comics. In regards to what a lot of comics readers consider to be an "established universe," it is really a build up of plot points that have more or less accidentally accrued around comic characters. A comic universe is like a build up of barnacles, or a growth of coral, where little bits build upon other little bits until a structure comes out of it.

I think that is why neither of these books clicked with me. For The Sandman that introduction leaned heavily into the DC Universe to provide the structure that Gaiman probably thought that his new universe needed, when really all that he needed was to push through far enough to get the growth of coral that eventually brought the Sandman Universe into existence. With The Invisibles, Morrison wasn't using an existing universe as a support structure, in the way that Gaiman did, but instead they leaned into the time honored "world outside your windows" approach that Marvel popularized in the 1960s, but they made their universe, the universe of The Invisibles as a group, much, much weirder than even much of the Marvel Universe was. 

The problem for me was that this weirdness really wasn't enough. Things like magic, "magick," conspiracies and UFOs have been an interest of mine for a long time. I blame 1970s TV as a kid for putting all of that weirdness into my head. This might upset some more diehard fans of Morrison's work, but like I said above it made me feel like that first arc was something I had seen before. Now, I am intrigued to be looking at the book from the perspective of a world where a lot of weirdness and conspiracies have become weaponized in our worlds (both online and off).

My approach for these posts will be to break things down by story arc. I haven't decided if the various one shot stories that appeared during the run of The Invisibles that Morrison wrote for various anthology books will be tacked onto a story arc that feels appropriate, or if I will write about them on their own. I don't know yet how in-depth I will go into things on these posts. Some will probably be explored more deeply than others.

What these posts won't be is a series of annotations and explanations about what happened in the various stories. Annotation posts have their place, and I've enjoyed them for a number of properties that also have a number of concepts that could need explaining to readers, but I don't really have the temperament to do those kinds of posts. This series of articles will be mostly my commentary and criticism. What I think works, and what I think doesn't work. There will probably be some explanations of material, but that won't be the focus of the series.

Will I get through the entire series with these articles? I hope so, but I can't make any promises. I don't know how frequently I will be making these posts, because they will depend upon my reading and working out concepts as I go along. Some arcs will probably take longer to write about than others.

Here is looking forward to the new year. It is probably appropriate, or at least a serious synchronicity, that I announce this on a Winter Solstice.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Where To Find Me

With the birdsite circling the drain, I am not posting there, accepting new followers or any active use of the site. If you want to follow me on social media, you can try the following sites.

Mastodon https://mas.to/@dorkland 

Tumblr https://tumblr.com/dorkland

Instagram  https://www.instagram.com/chris.helton/

Discord  Christopher Helton#1676

Patreon https://patreon.com/dorkland 

I am not currently as active on all of these sites, mostly because I am trying to figure out how to use them. Mastodon has pretty much replaced my Twitter usage, and I am currently mostly Tumblr for looking at art people are sharing. But these are the places where I will publicly interact with others.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Some Action-Heroes FAQs

 

With the release of the ashcan edition of Action-Heroes by Outland Entertainment over at DriveThruRPG there have been a few questions that have floated around the internet and come to my attention, so I thought I would make a post of some of these questions to point people towards. I don't know how frequent these questions have been, but they have been asked about the game.

The ashcan is no longer available for sale now that the Kickstarter has launched.. The ashcan has everything that you need to play a game of Action-Heroes, but it isn't the complete game that will eventually be available on Kickstarter and retail. The final version of the game will also have a series of appendices that outline an alternate magic system for the game, go over some collaborative setting-building rules for groups that want to create their own worlds from scratch, and a series of examples that take you through the process of building powers and special abilities for your characters in the game.

Action-Heroes is something that I have been working on for a long time, and has its origins in a system that I was asked to build for a licensed tabletop RPG that didn't come to fruition, so the rights to the system stayed with me. It is a simplified and streamlined version of one of my earliest professional game designs, and I think it is a design that represents where I am today as both a designer and game player/GM. It uses a simplified ruleset that is augmented by the ruling of the GM, and the needs of the players, that come up during play.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Shape Of The DCU To Come

Over at Newsarama, one of their writers talked about how many of the story seeds dropped by Scott Snyder at the end of his run of events at stories over at DC Comics didn't all pan out as expected. All of this is completely speculative on my part, as I have no idea where things are going to land.

This is what happens when 1) publishers rely too much on a treadmill of events to sustain interest, and 2) the architects of the big events don't stick around to sprout the seeds lain by their events. As Scott Snyder lead the DCU through Dark Nights, the No Justice Era and then into Death Metal, successive stories picked up what was being laid down because the writing architect was there threading the needle through the events and story arc. Then with Death Metal, Snyder laid out the after effects of his massive run...and then went off to do creator-owned books.

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Chaos World Explainer

 

Cover mockup featuring stockart by Claudio Casini
Chaos World is my Fate-based fantasy role-playing game, currently in development. You can find drafts of Chaos World by backing my Patreon.

I have always said that I am not a big fan of fantasy fiction. That doesn't mean that I don't like it, but that my tastes in it are fairly limited. I am a big fan of the fantasy, and science fantasy, of British author Michael Moorcock, and to a lesser degree the works of Robert E. Howard (particularly Conan). 

Most of my interest in Howard came from the Marvel Comics adaptations of his works and characters when I was a kid. I love a good fantasy comic, and books like DC's Warlord also inspired me.

All of these inspirations flowed into my writing and developing Chaos World. The game itself has gone through a number of incarnations and systems over the years. Some people who have followed my blog or social media throughout the years may remember my early playtests of a game I called Demon Codex back in the G+ days. That was an earlier version of the game that I wanted to make. There have been a lot of inspiration from an old school Swords & Sorcery RPG that I am a fan of threading through the various incarnations of the game as well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Safety And Tabletop RPGs

 

Photo by Serge van Neck on Unsplash

I have been gaming for a long time. I first started playing D&D back in 1979, when I was still in elementary school. I would have been a couple of years older than the characters in Stranger Things (I grew up in a small town in Indiana, too). When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s things were different. The general idea of dealing with things that were uncomfortable or dangerous was that you "sucked it up" and dealt with it.

Honestly? That's not a very good way to deal with things that can be potentially traumatic. So I think that one of the better advances that has come along in tabletop RPGs has been the development and increasing popularity of using safety tools in gaming. 

I haven't always been a fan of using safety tools while gaming, but I have seen the light. At this point I think that safety tools should be a part of your RPG's text, if you're a game designer. My Action-Heroes game (currently out in an ashcan edition PDF from Outland Entertainment) uses safety tools. My upcoming paranormal romance RPG, called Paranormal Friction, will have safety tools. Both games start at the same basic point with them, and Paranormal Friction puts on another couple of layers of tools.

So, what are safety tools?

Monday, August 01, 2022

Action-Heroes RPG Is Out In The World

 

Ahead of the Kickstarter to fund the printing of the physical book, we have finally released the Action-Heroes RPG into the world as a PDF (Note: Now that the Kickstarter is live, the ashcan is no longer available). This ashcan release is a playable version of the game, with all of the rules needed to play and a preview of the art that will be in the final book. The final book will have a full color wraparound cover as well.

Action-Heroes is the culmination of years of work in developing this system. I was running it at conventions in the Before Times, and I incorporated the feedback that I received into what has become the final text.

When I started up my game development Patreon during the early days of the pandemic, I started reworking the text into a game that I wanted to play (really, not making me all that much different from the many other game designers out there). I have posted some new material that I am developing for future releases for Action-Heroes as well.

In my background as a gamer, I have leaned heavily on "generic" games that can be used to realize a multitude of settings and character types, and this carried through into Action-Heroes. I took the lessons that I learned during years of running games like GURPS, Champions/Hero System, Heroes Unlimited, and the big gold book of Basic Roleplaying and combined them with evolving game design ideas and made them into something that I could run without things breaking down at the table.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Top Cow's Sara Pezzini, The Witchblade

 

Witchblade and Sara Pezzini are copyright
and trademark Top Cow.
Once again I am exploring 90s comics characters, and while she might not have been among the first wave of characters put out by Image Comics or Top Cow during that time Witchblade definitely quickly became one of the iconic characters of that era.

This particular writeup is a bit more modular than the previous Top Cow character that I adapted. You can take away the stunts dealing with sensing the supernatural and use the writeup to represent Sara earlier in her career as the Witchblade.

This is not intended to be considered to be an official adaptation of the Witchblade character, or a challenge to any copyrights or trademarks owned by Top Cow.