Thursday, March 16, 2017

Hip to Be Square

I hope you'll endulge me this post, as I'm going to talk about a weird obsession I have - square books.

Weird huh? When I first decided to go it alone and start work on WILD, thinking "I want to make my own RPG that's about dreamsharing", before I'd even considered what kind of system I was going to use, I'd already determined that the book was going to be square.

Nobilis 2nd Edition - the "Great White Book"
Look at it. Isn't it glorious!!

I love square books. There aren't too many of them in the gaming hobby, from the amazing Mouse Guard, to the holy grail of RPGs - 2nd edition Nobilis. There's just something stylish and cool about them. 

Page example from 2nd Ed Nobilis
Two column with two quarter column asides.

From a design point of view, you get the wonders of having a two column layout just as you would with a traditionally shaped book, but you get a cool half-column that you can litter with sidebars, notes and other info, or just keep it clean. 

Sorry, the old-school graphic designer in me was clawing its way to the surface for a moment there.

I'd always imagined WILD to be my Nobilis - but I knew I wasn't smart or prolific enough to produce something as vast or wordy. In my head, it was going to be about the size of Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars RPG (Saga edition). The same width as a normal RPG book, but shorter to make it square. Cool! Also, it'd mean you wouldn't give yourself a hernia picking it up, as Nobilis 2nd edition has a tendency of doing if you approach it wrong.

Star Wars Saga Edition
Force Unleashed supplement
Not only had I a clear image in my head of how big the book would be, but I also knew what I wanted on the cover. I wanted it to be reversible, with a person on the front (originally intended to be the lead character for the WILD spin off fiction novels) wearing the dreamshare device, and her hair flowing out behind to become part of a swirling image of the many dreamworlds. The back cover would be the same image, only with her father hooked up to the machine (creator of the device, hoping to wake her from her coma-like persistent hypersomnia). You could approach the book both ways, with the back being the reference for the cards.

I'd even had the idea that you could put the whole thing in a slipcase that would also contain the Tarot cards, so on the shelf it'd be the same height as the rest of your books...

But I've been having a lot of ideas over the last couple of weeks. A LOT. And the more I think about it, the more that could work with WILD. No longer is it just a one-shot deal. A one-trick pony. It could work as a line

Rough design for the corebook cover -
please excuse the art, it's very small (10cm x 10cm)
and I haven't drawn in years!
With a book that details nightmares and night terrors - turning the game into more of a horror game.

Rough supplement cover design -
again, only 10cm x 10cm, sorry.
Another book that looks at other ways of accessing the dreamspace, some being able to do it without technology either by meditation, ritual or psychic ability. Organisations and groups using the dreamspace to manipulate others, and even control or eliminate elements of the waking world.

Supplement cover rough number three!
Maybe a book on the real world. The waking world. How does the technology impact on the real world and the dangers involved. Does society accept the tech, or does it get out of control and lead to a disaster like the flash-forward episodes of Joss Whedon's underrated series "Dollhouse"?
Supplement cover rough number four!
A book on the collective unconscious. The raw dreamspace that hides at the heart of the dreaming, where creatures of myth and archetypes lurk, hoping to ride their way to the surface, to break into the real world.

And, before I knew it, I was doodling the covers again. Rethinking the design, and realising that the covers could all join together, as well as be reversible. If only I knew how to draw...

How the covers could fit together. The fifth cover, of the collective unconscious
could lay over the middle, changing the dreamspace to a new image.

Who knows. I need to finish the first one to begin with. But we can dream, can't we?

"But what about the rest of it?"

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wildly did my mind wander...

Taking time away from everything, letting the mind rest, thoughts of that game keep coming back to me. It's the burden of a creative mind, at least that's what I've read. That need to work on something, to get it out there. If you've followed my blog, or know me at all, you know that I've been working on WILD for many years now - tinkering away in the quiet moments.

Well, I've been thinking about it again. Coming back to it after some time away has made me question some of my initial choices, and it's going to take some work, some thought, and maybe some changes. Nothing major or drastic, but a few tweaks to some of the cards of the Tarot, changing the names of some things, and I can get back to where I was.

The playtest roughs, nowhere near final artwork

The horrible thought that dawned on me just after Christmas was that I had been working on WILD on and off for five years. I'd hate for it to become one of those great unfinished projects.

I'm not going to over-do it. I'm not going to stress myself into illness again, but I'm certainly going to chip away at it with a little more determination. One day I'll get it finished. One day...

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bryan Fuller-ing

Before we start, I just want to say I'm a big fan of Bryan Fuller, and I hope he doesn't mind that I've verbified his name for the purpose of what I have to say in this blog post. Bryan Fuller has made some amazing TV, including one of my favourites - Hannibal. I struggle to think of a more beautifully filmed, scripted and crafted series. It is simply gorgeous - if not one to watch while you're having your tea.

Bryan Fuller, as you probably know, got his start by being a huge fan of Star Trek. Back in the 90's, when Star Trek was producing multiple series as well as the movies, they had an open door policy where you could submit a script. This almost unheard-of process gave us a whole host of brilliant writers who have gone on to do wonderful things. Fuller, of course, went on to fantastic series like Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, and the eagerly awaited adaptation of Gaiman's American Gods

Last year it was announced that he'd be showrunner on the new Star Trek series - Star Trek: Discovery, and fandom screamed and shouted for this was a genius move on behalf of CBS. Unfortunately, production has taken its time, and scheduling has meant that he's had to back out of Star Trek: Discovery completely. Speaking to Newsweek he said:

"Ultimately, with my responsibilities [elsewhere], I could not do what CBS needed to have done in the time they needed it done for Star Trek. It felt like it was best for me to focus on landing the plane with American Gods and making sure that was delivered in as elegant and sophisticated a fashion as I could possibly do."

Basically, he's defined how the series is, helped write the first couple of episodes, and he's had to pull out. It's not that he doesn't still love Star Trek, but circumstances beyond his control has meant that he's had to reassess the situation and pull out of the project.

I think you're starting to see where I'm going with this now.

Last year it was announced that Modiphius would be producing a new Star Trek roleplaying game, called Star Trek Adventures

In actuality, I knew about this a long time before as I had been involved since almost the second that the license with CBS was signed. I've known Chris at Modiphius a long time, and he was instrumental in getting the Doctor Who license for us when Cubicle 7 approached the BBC. Chris had seen my blog post many, many moons ago where I was ranting about how there isn't a Star Trek RPG, how I'd do it, and so on, and knew I was the person to ask to get involved. 

I, of course, leapt at the chance. Remember that time I was asked to write for Wil Wheaton's Titansgrave and turned it down? If someone asks if you're a God you say YES! So I did.

Modiphius, and Chris, were brilliant. They accommodated my day-job, and set me to work thinking how to adapt their house system, the 2D20 system, to suit Star Trek. Not only was I "lead writer" they had me consulting on artwork, how the miniatures looked, how the game would work, what supplements should be produced... everything. It was awesome. 

However, (and you knew it was coming) working two jobs, filling every waking hour with one job or another, was a bit too ambitious for me. When Christmas in retail came, along with a death in the family, I started to realise that something was going wrong. I wasn't sleeping, my health was suffering. I was breaking out in a rash, getting irritable with everyone, snapping and being just a misery to interact with. I couldn't concentrate on anything for more than ten minutes, and the docs pointed the finger at stress. I had to do something.

My last few posts have been about taking a "time out" from the world. Cutting back on everything for the sake of my health and sanity. Unfortunately, one of those things that I've had to cut was Star Trek Adventures

So, that's where the "Bryan Fuller-ing" comes from. I'm having to pull out of Star Trek Adventures. It doesn't mean I don't love Star Trek, and I have tremendous faith in the game. The vast team who are working on it are doing a fantastic job, and the line developer is doing a brilliant job of coordinating the various arms of Starfleet as they work on every aspect of the game - from the main RPG, to the Living Campaign, the miniatures, and the various supplements. 

It is going to be brilliant. 

Much like Bryan Fuller's input on Star Trek Discovery, there is a lot of me still in the game - the tone of voice, the "skills", freeing up the links between skills and attributes in a true IDIC-way, and the way the game is structured. Even the planned special editions are inspired by some of my suggestions. And, again like Bryan Fuller, I've penned a portion of the project, but alas I'm having to step away and reassess things.

I doubted myself, as you'd expect. I thought I was making a terrible mistake. But in the weeks since I made the decision, the stress is dissipating. My concentration is back - I'm able to sit through a whole episode of a TV without getting distracted. The skin is clearing up, and I'm sleeping better (when the cat lets me). 

If it's a choice between Star Trek and my health, then I'd have to listen to Spock and "Peace and Long Life". I'm sorry it has had to come to this, and I do feel like I've let Modiphius down, but if I'd have stayed on board my lack of concentration could have put the game at risk, and the project needed someone who could dedicate their time to making it the awesome game it will become. 

Keep up to date with Star Trek Adventures at - it's going to be great. 

Until next post, I'm going to watch some great TV, await American Gods, and put my head in order. Maybe book some time on Riza... Maybe, just maybe, in the future, if Starfleet will have me and when I'm fit to serve, I can rejoin their ranks in a lesser capacity.

Live Long and Prosper.