Monday, December 29, 2008

Pies for Peace

We’ve been out of town for Christmas, visiting my dear ol’ Mum. There was food-a-plenty there, and lots of the usual drinking and fisticuffs. The best part was the sweet potato pie that the Wife made. I think the world would be a better place if conflicts would be resolved by giving each other pie.

While I was driving back home from the holidays, I began to wonder why I haven’t been working much on Destination: Rochan. Part of it is writer’s block, but also I think I’m just getting sick of the whole sourcebook. I’ve been researching and working on it for what seems like forever and I’ve reached that magical sweet spot called burnout. Even before leaving town, I had started on something I call the Imperial Grab Bag. It’s a collection of material that I’ve created that didn’t get included in the rule book or any of the other products I’ve published. The content is pretty miscellaneous, which is why I’m giving it away for free, but I hope people will still find it useful. As for Destination: Rochan, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it in the short term. I might work on more of these small projects in the meantime.

Some of the things I’m including in the Grab Bag are a few more factions. One faction is called the Butcher Boys, which is a pirate clan I introduced in my Magnus Black: Born in the Grave story. To go along with the faction description, I’ve created an emblem for them with the typical pirate skull, but instead of crossbones, I’m using two cleavers (butcher knives). Here’s how it looks:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

DaCo II on Sale; World Domination to Follow

Dark Corridors II went on sale this week, and on that day my usual self loathing was replaced with happiness and a sense of fulfillment. Actually, I was pleased with how it came out, although I’m glad I went through it one last time because I discovered I had forgotten a whole set of walls (oops). In all, DaCo 2 came out to be 38 pages and 42 MB. However, I’m selling it dirt cheap so I’m hoping people will buy it. Most people nowadays are snowed in so why not play Imperium Chronicles with paper miniatures? Don’t ask questions -- just do it!!

I also started advertising on a miniatures website called The Miniatures Page. They have news blurbs on products and companies that sell miniatures and they’ve been very nice about posting stuff about my work. The thing I really lacked for advertising, however, was a good banner ad. I’d created one before for, but I wasn’t very happy with the ad. So, I sat down and tried yet again and I think it came out a lot better (Note: My animated gif doesn't seem to work on Blogger, so here's the unanimated one):

Finally, for the last couple of days I’ve been back to work on Destination: Rochan. As you know, I’ve been procrastinating like a son-of-a-bitch and haven’t gotten much done lately. My Wife suggested I might be worried about failure, and I think she’s right. It’s one thing to work on my rules for two years largely in a vacuum, but now that it’s out there and getting reviewed, I’m subconsciously worried about how people view my work. Creation is a personal experience, so criticism (depending on the severity) can be personal too. However, it’s important not to let things get to me too much, but it can be hard. I’m a sensitive person after all. ;-)

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Muse: Procrastination

After two weeks of hard work, I’m almost done with Dark Corridors II. I’ve been really busy too -- working several hours each day. Nothing like procrastination (i.e.: NOT working on Destination: Rochan) to get stuff done!

What shocked me today, however, was the size of the PDF. The original Dark Corridors was 8 MBs to download, but the new one was a whopping 44 MBs! That’s because this time I’m using images at 300 dpi, so they’re bigger files, plus there are more pages, so that adds even more. To trim things down a little, I reduced the number of wall sets from 6 to 5 and then reduced the size of the floors from 6x9 to 6x6. That knocked the size of the PDF down to 36 MBs. It’s still pretty big, but I think people will appreciate the quality of the images.

Over the weekend, I printed out some of the new walls and mounted them on foam board. I then had the Wife take some photos, so I can use them on the DriveThru RPG site. I’m hoping that if people see how the walls look in practice, they might be more interested in buying it. I didn’t do that with the original Dark Corridors and I think that was a mistake. Here are a couple of the photos, including miniatures from my Cardboard Citizens product:

Friday, December 12, 2008

More Paper Walls

Since my last post, I’ve been very busy, but not with the sourcebook. I got sick of the writer’s block so I switched to a different project, one that doesn’t involve writing. I’m calling it Dark Corridors 2. Like the original, the sequel features paper walls to be used with miniatures. I’ve made some improvements in this case, however, including a higher resolution (300 dpi) and greater variety. I’ve also included columns and even graffiti. For the latter, I added graffiti from games or shows I like. For example, “Kill Skuls” comes from the City of Heroes MMO, while the alien lettering comes from Futurama (which reads “Drink Slurm!” and “Kill All Humans!”. Here’s what one of the walls looks like (note that their supposed to be folded, etc), including the writing on the wall (so to speak):

It was suggested recently that I set up forums for my game. Back when I was trying to turn Imperium into an online game, I had forums, but they were hardly used. I’m concerned that history would repeat itself if I tried again with my pen and paper game. On the other hand, I could open the forum up to other things as well, including prose and artwork (since those were the basis of the game in the first place). We’ll see what happens. :-)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Drinking the Al Stewart Kool-aid

Friday, we drove up to my Mom’s house to help set up her Christmas decorations (and get her new laptop working). Normally during these long drives, I take the time to think about my game. In this case, however, I mostly just listened to my wife’s Al Stewart CD. I must be brainwashed because I’m starting to actually like it. I guess I should be glad that she didn’t play her other favorites: Outhouse or Toad the Red Sprocket.

It’s hard to explain my exasperation during my current writer’s block. I’ve been trying to write the chapters of Destination: Rochan, but nothing is flowing. Of course, I can write other things (like this blog) and everything is flowing fine. Thus, my frustration. I’m beginning to second-guess myself about the whole sourcebook itself. I’m wondering if it’s too unfocused and whether I would’ve been better served to work on a single adventure supplement instead. My wife says not to second guess myself (since that’s her job), but those are the thoughts that creep in when I’m trying to fall asleep at night.

Since I’m currently unemployed, I’ve noticed that my creativity in general has decreased. I work in a technical field (software testing), and I’ve noticed that when the technical side of my brain is stimulated, my creative side kicks into gear. It seems that if I don’t keep my scientific side functioning, my artsy side takes a long nap. Perhaps I need to do some math problems . . .

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Thanks, Matt!

First off, I’d like to thank Matt over at The Dwarf and the Basilisk. A while back he wrote a review of Imperium Chronicles on his site, and yesterday he was nice enough to reprint it on DriveThru RPG where my game is sold. Thanks, Matt, for doing that. I truly appreciate it!!

So today marks the semi-annual Hurt-Myself-While-Sleeping Event! I once again woke up with a pain in the neck (literally) that only goes to show that growing old suuuuucks! I’m beginning to think that the Logan’s Run method is the best way to go. On the other hand, if that was the case, we’d never get to meet an embarrassingly old Peter Ustinov and get to touch his wrinkled face (Ewwwww).

Last week I took a break to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and Tryptophan-induced naps, but I’ve been trying to get back into the swing of things since then. I wrote the Introduction to Destination: Rochan, largely rewriting the rough draft I had written previously. I’m having some problems with writer’s block, so hopefully I can get through that soon. Yesterday, I created the graphic below that shows the Edon system, including the planets. It’s not exactly to scale, but it’s close enough to demonstrate what planets are in the system, etc. Note, the image here is a reduced resolution so it doesn't look as good as the print version would:

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quittin' Time

Actually, just my day job, not Imperium Chronicles. I told them to “take this job and shove it” on Monday and I’m pretty happy about it. While I take some time off from the rat race, I plan to focus more on Destination: Rochan. To that end, today I created the bare bones of what will be the actual sourcebook document. Before I just had my notes and sections of text (on Google Docs), but today I started the Word document in which all that content will eventually appear. No, I don’t have anything fancy like QuarkXPress or InDesign, although through Wikipedia, I just found out about an open source program called Scribus, which I should probably investigate. In the meantime, I’m just using Word in all its mediocre greatness. ;-)

For the document, I needed a cover graphic, so I spent much of the morning working on that. As you can see below, it has the planet plus some nebulous-looking clouds. Originally there was a different star field, but I wasn’t happy with how it looked. Also, since the main star for the Rochan system is very large and very close to the planet, I was playing around with including it as well. However, it dominated the picture too much, taking focus away from the planet, so I dropped that idea.

Lastly, I’ve been trying to drum up traffic by emailing other RPG bloggers and seeing if they wanted to exchange links on our respective blogrolls. I’ve also applied for inclusion on the RPG Bloggers site. I sent complimentary copies of the Chronicles to the writers on the site, so I’m hoping I can be included there.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Feedback Please!

I’d like to take this opportunity to ask people who have bought my game (or who simply have questions about it) to let me know what you think of it. Please post a comment here or, if you’d prefer to email, drop me a line at At this point, about the only comments I’ve gotten are a few reviews (some that were positive and others that weren’t). I’m really interested in hearing what you all have to say. Actually, if you just want to say “hi,” that’s okay too. So lonely . . . ;-)

Here’s a partial map of Zakros (just showing the city). Each square is about 30 meters and the water to the East is the Undersea (although most of it is cut off in this image):

And, just for fun, I did a mosaic of a Tor Elder. I’m not sure it looks all that good, but I thought I’d show it off anyway:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Don't Ask Your Wife Whether You're an Idiot

As most of you know, I’m a proponent for spending a lot of time creating content and then deciding not to use it. I do this, as most of you also know and the Wife can confirm, because I’m an IDIOT!! Case in point: I created a map for Zakros. Only after doing so did I realize that it’s entirely too small to be a city. Although I could still use the map by somehow turning it into something else, after realizing my mistake the map became dead to me. To a somewhat lesser extent, I also spent a lot of time working on a map for the Undersea, but since it wasn’t really part of either the Klixians or the Tor, it felt extraneous and I decided not to use it. However, in this case I didn’t throw it away completely. I decided to take the Undersea map and fill in half of it with land and use that space for Zakros. The rest of the map will remain an underground sea (albeit half its original size). This allowed me to create a city that was believably sized while also using the Undersea map. Of course, all of this meant doing a lot of additional work, which could’ve been avoided if I simply planned things better.

In other news, I created a new map called the Elders’ Sanctum. This is part of Zakros, but is much smaller than the original map I had created (but serves the same purpose, namely, the home of the Tor Elders).

Last week, I also worked on robots and creatures for the sourcebook. This included examples for the Tor, Klixian, and the Tagus Miners. Each one is actually a set of three different NPCs. In other words, for the Klixians, there’s the Worker, Warrior, and the Noble. For the Tagus Miners, there’s the Miner, Guard, and Foreman. Each has its own stats and level range.

What’s next? Well, I plan to create the Klixian diamond mine, which I’m currently calling Firedeep. Of course, I’ll probably make the entire map and then decide to abandon it, but that’s only because I’m an IDIOT!! ;-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Don't Make Me Go Biblical!

A cold rain’s-a-fallin’ outside, but at least I’m working from home today. The company where I work laid off half their staff on Friday, but I’m still employed for now. Also, my sister got laid off from her job yesterday. Gotta love the holiday season!

I’m more or less done with the map for Rochan. I added the last few regional names, using a middle-eastern theme (or the Holy Land as my father would call it). Why this theme? Well, I decided on the name Edom for the star (a red giant) that Rochan revolves around. Edom was the twin brother of Jacob in the Old Testament, but the name is also Hebrew for red. So, while I was finding names for regions of Rochan, I kept up the biblical theme. In fact, if you go to the wiki link above, you’ll see two words (Negev and Shasu) on the page, both of which I used for names on my map. I’m nothing if not lazy . . .

Here’s the map as it stands now. Of course, I might shift things around later:

I also downloaded the model for the Klixians and did a few practice renders. The textures for the model are a bit dark and problematic in places. There’s some dappled light on the textures which is very distracting. I can turn it off in most spots so that’s not too bad, but for some of the renders, I found it difficult to make out surface features. Overall though, I think I can make it work. Here’s what I did so far:

Friday, November 07, 2008

We Dig It!!

I’ve been surprisingly productive lately. I say surprising because I’m really quite lazy by nature. However, over the last few days I’ve completed the main layout of the underground Tor city (called Zakros), created the logo for Tagus Mines, and did a couple more renders of Tor warriors.

For the Tor city, I’ve been struggling with what Zakros should look like. I’m not sure how I came up with it, but I started thinking of concentric circles. That evolved into three concentric squares with the edges consisting of long hallways. As you travel from the outer halls into the inner halls, you actually travel deeper underground. Here’s a composite view that shows the three rings together. For the actual sourcebook, however, each ring will be shown separately on its own map:

The Tagus Mines logo was something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Yesterday I took those ideas and created the logo in Photoshop. I wanted it to look like something a company would actually use, including a tag line (in the usual horrible marketing style). Although my wife pointed out that the logo looked like a letter T wearing a blazer, I decided to keep it. In fact, if I ever create a hammerhead shark super hero, I may use the logo for that too. ;-)

Lastly, I did a couple more Tor renders, using some clothing I bought from As you can see, they look Romanesque or Greek. Since I’ve based a lot of the Tor society on the Minoan culture, I wanted their dress to follow the same theme. My wife suggested that they actually look like they’re wearing dresses, but I insisted those are tunics. She remains unconvinced.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Can we get on with our lives now?

Let me just say that I hate politics. I hate it, hate it, hate it! Oh, how I hate it so!!

Having said that, I should point out that Imperium Chronicles is full of politics (at least where factions are concerned). Each group is out to better their position, often at the expense of other groups. Many are, in fact, diametrically opposed. Why did I include this in the game? Mostly it’s because a good game, like a good story, needs conflict: a protagonist versus an antagonist. Also, I think it’s human nature to dislike each other, especially those who are in any way different than ourselves. Even if two people looked exactly alike and came from similar backgrounds in similar places, you can bet there’d be something that they’d dislike about each other. It’s why human history is full of fighting. Peace is not in our repertoire.

But enough about politics . . . did I mention how much I hate it?

I’ve written yet more on the Lions’ Den (the main camp of Tagus Mines on Rochan). One of the influences for this sourcebook has been the ’81 movie Outland starring Sean Connery. I saw it in the theatre as a kid and I’ve seen it a few times on TV since. I’ve always been struck by the cramped living conditions of the miners in the film and how they turned to drugs and prostitutes to cope. Since the miners on Rochan live entirely underground, almost never seeing the sky, their lives are very much like the ones in Outland. To that end, I’ve also included an underground shanty town in my sourcebook, full of all the vices one would expect on the frontier. This includes a large brothel called Digger’s Delight. This is run by an all-women crime syndicate called the Red Lotus (which I introduced in the Core Rule book). Ironically, the name Rochan is actually a hindu name meaning “red lotus”.

Next, I hope to turn my attention to the Tor capital city . . .

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Stygian Well

After a few weeks of writing notes for the new sourcebook, I finally had to buckle down and start some actual writing. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of days. So far it’s going okay. I began with a brief history of Rochan and how the Tagus family came to pillage its riches. Today I talked about the main mining colony (called the Lions’ Den, named after the lion on the Tagus family crest). Most of the facility is underground, including the primary mining shaft that’s 50 meters wide and 8 kilometers deep. I call it the Stygian Well after the river Styx. Here’s a snippet:

“Also called the "Highway to Hell," the Stygian Well is the primary shaft for Tagus Mines and serves as the main artery from which dozens of other mines branch out. The top of the shaft is actually over a 100 meters below the dome of the Lions' Den and runs for over 8 kilometers straight down. Fifty meters wide, the sides of the shaft are lined by elevators and conveyers bringing material and personnel up and down the hole. Since most miners live for weeks in the actual mines they work, many of them don't make the long trip up the Stygian Well more than once a month at most.”

Meanwhile, I’ve also written a little for my short story “Ramus.” I still have no idea where the story will lead, so I may stop working on it until I can figure something out. However, for those interested, here’s what I wrote:

( … Continued from the previous post)

The twilight landscape revealed little. Low hills dotted with fir trees. A river leading to a lake reflecting the gloomy sky. Finally, the rough outline of apartment blocks and warehouses. The pilot steered his craft in for the final approach. He saw other ships parked on the landing pads, huddled like beasts of burden. His freighter shuddered as the landing gear deployed and the vertical thrusters fired. The ship groaned, coming to rest.

The intercom crackled.

“Ray, you going out?” said a voice sounding like it came from a deep pit lined with gravel at the bottom.

“Yeah,” the pilot replied.

“Get me some smokes would ya?” the voice said. “And take that piece of shit in to get fixed. I left him – or what’s left of him – by the airlock.”


The pilot unbuckled his harness and swiveled the chair around to face the back of the cockpit. He grasped the rungs of a ladder, taking it down past the galley and sleeping racks. Two decks below the cockpit, he found a canvas bag sitting on the grating. A metallic foot attached to a leg protruded from the sack. The pilot took a coat off the wall and pulled it on, covering his head with a dark hood. He tapped a control panel and the door to the airlock hissed open. He went inside, grabbing the bag along the way. The airlock closed and the man waited while the pressure equalized with the atmosphere outside. In front of him was another hatch, this one with a red light above it. When it turned green, the man heard a locking mechanism clank and twirl, and the hatch opened to the outside world. He stepped through and felt the planet’s natural gravity take hold. A steady drizzle dappled the dusty tarmac.

He walked, a little unsteady at first, to the gate where a starport officer greeted him with a sour smile.

“Identification, please” the officer said.

The pilot pulled out an ID and showed it to the officer who scanned the bar code printed below the photo.

“Ramus?” the officer asked.

“Yes,” the pilot affirmed.

“Captain of the Starling?”

“That’s right.”

“Business or pleasure?”

“I’m looking for work,” Ramus told him.

“Well, good luck with that. It’ll help if you’re not too picky.”

Friday, October 24, 2008


I’ve had an idea for a short story recently, set in the Imperium. Technically, I only have an idea for the first part of the story and nothing for the rest, so that doesn’t bode well for me finishing it. However, the weather has been dark and cold for several days which play havoc with my mood, so I haven’t done much with the new game material. So, instead I’ve written a few paragraphs of the story (see below). It’s still in a rough state, but I don’t mind showing people my dirty laundry if they don’t mind reading potential crap. ;-) Anyway, the name of the story is Ramus, which happens to be my character’s name in Warhammer Online. It means branch in Latin, but I actually picked in for its phonetic quality (ie: I liked how it sounds).


A tramp freighter approached the upper atmosphere of a gray shrouded planet. A stream of particles trailed the engine nacelle where burnt pock marks discolored the fuselage. Inside the ship, a man sat in the cockpit. He looked cramped, crowded on either side with control panels and supplies lashed to the walls with elastic cords. His hair was a muddy blond, but his three-day beard was red except for the scar along his chin that burrowed through his whiskers. His eyes were a brilliant blue.

The ship lurched up as it plunged deeper into the atmosphere. The pilot corrected the trajectory and the pitching stopped. His attention turned back to the warning light that had been blinking steadily. It worried him, but he tended to worry. The lines in his face were testament to that.

In another time and another place, the pilot is a young man. He’s strapped into the tight cockpit of an Imperium fighter. His hand eagerly grasps the stick as he banks the ship to the right. A pirate marauder fills the HUD as target data scrolls up in green, translucent numbers. The pilot squeezes the trigger, releasing a stream of plasma blasts from the fighter’s nosecone. The marauder disappears into vapor and debris.

An orange glow filled the cockpit windows, but it was merely the ship burning through the heavier air. Before long, the glow was gone and droplets of rain began pelting the glass. The pilot checked the navigation console. It had already connected with the local traffic control grid. A series of yellow squares appeared on the window directly ahead, leading the pilot like a trail of breadcrumbs to the starport.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dodging Dead Deer on the Hwy of Life

When my wife and I go on car trips, we play a game called “Guess the Road Kill.” It’s not a very fun game (especially for the road kill), but at least it passes the time. Another thing I do (instead of listening to my wife) is thinking about my game. So, over the weekend, we drove to a little town called Hermann, Missouri and along the way I thought about Destination: Rochan. Although I wasn’t all that productive -- dodging dead deer can be distracting – I did manage a few ideas. For example, the main employer on Rochan is going to be called Tagus Mining Limited with a nice logo (not pictured here) and a catchphrase “We Dig It!” I also came up with a name for the main mining camp called Boonville. This is from a town we drove past which also happened to have a lot of XXX stores. Actually, Boonville will be the part of the camp containing the actual miners (the “dirty masses”) while the Tagus admin facilities will be called the Lions’ Den based on the lion on the Tagus family crest.

Last week I was also thinking more about the volcano on Rochan that I’ve named Mount Thera after a famous Greek island that blew apart 3,600 years ago. During my research, I found out that diamonds are brought to the surface from deep underground by lava, so I decided to use that for the game. Basically, I decided that the Klixians mine diamonds from beneath Mt. Thera and sell them to the Tagus Mining company. Tagus buys the diamonds because the Klixians will do the work more cheaply than Imperium workers. However, the Tor worship a fire/earth goddess who happens to live beneath Mt. Thera and thus they view any mining there to be sacrilegious (and another reason to hate the Klixians). Since the Imperials use the Tor as guides for their other mining, Tagus Mining Limited has to keep their diamond dealings secret. So to recap, I started with the idea of the diamonds and the rest organically grew from that.

Off topic: because I’m a nerd, I took a quiz about which kind of Dungeons & Dragons character I would be (see below). It’s from the site, but be warned: it’s a freakin’ long-ass quiz. Anyway, I saw the quiz on Matt’s blog, so thanks for bringing this nerdy goodness to my attention.

You Are A:

True Neutral Elf Wizard/Sorcerer (3rd/2nd Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength- 11
Dexterity- 11
Constitution- 11
Intelligence- 14
Wisdom- 12
Charisma- 12

True Neutral- A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn't feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he's not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.

Primary Class:
Wizards- Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Secondary Class:
Sorcerers- Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Detailed Results:

Lawful Good ----- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (19)
Chaotic Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (17)
Chaotic Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (19)
Lawful Evil ----- XXXXXXXXX (9)
Neutral Evil ---- XXXXXXXXXXXX (12)
Chaotic Evil ---- XXXXXXX (7)

Law & Chaos:
Law ----- XXXXXXXX (8)
Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Chaos --- XXXXXX (6)

Good & Evil:
Good ---- XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Neutral - XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Evil ---- X (1)

Human ---- XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Dwarf ---- XXXX (4)
Gnome ---- XXXXXXXX (8)
Halfling - XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Half-Elf - XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Half-Orc - XXXX (4)

Barbarian - (-4)
Bard ------ (-2)
Cleric ---- (-6)
Druid ----- (0)
Fighter --- XX (2)
Monk ------ (-19)
Paladin --- (-23)
Ranger ---- XXXX (4)
Rogue ----- (-6)
Sorcerer -- XXXXXX (6)
Wizard ---- XXXXXX (6)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Change of Plans

Forget what I said last time about the first labyrinth. In fact, it’s not even the first labyrinth. ;-) Not only did I discard my previous idea and go with a different one, I also switched its order to last (or third, for those keeping count). Basically, the first idea involved a bunch of connected rooms, but once I started thinking about how I would fill each chamber, I decided it was restricting me too much. I mean, I could put in traps or creatures, but that just seemed to limit the variety of what I could do. So, dejectedly, I laid down for a nap and came up with a fresh idea. Instead of connected rooms, I went with something that on the surface appears more conventional, namely just hallways and rooms (like any other dungeon). However, what I have in mind are a series of surprises that I hope will keep the players guessing to the end.

Today I was busy working on the second labyrinth, which consists of platforms surrounded by lava. Characters have to jump between these platforms without falling, or face certain death. To make things more interesting, some of the platforms are booby-trapped, including some that fall into the lava once someone lands on it. Others will have creatures (with ranged weapons) to attack the characters as they transverse the platforms. I call this a labyrinth because there is a safe “path,” but the characters will need to find it through trial and error.

I also revisited the side view of the Klixian home city Tholos today. As I mentioned before, I wasn’t very happy with it, and frankly I’m still not. However, I fired up Bryce and did some different mountains in the background and a different sky. I also tweaked the shading a bit, to give it more depth. It’s not great, but I think players will want to know what the city looks like from the side. Judge for yourself:

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Hive City

Over the weekend I worked on one of the Tor labyrinths. Unlike a maze, which has many dead ends, a labyrinth is really a single path with many twists and turns. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking of three different labyrinths for the Tor capital. Each one leads deeper below the Rochan surface, eventually leading to the Council of Elders. This first labyrinth is a series of attached rooms winding its way to the exit. The characters will need to traverse these rooms one by one, dealing with whatever obstacles they find within.

In my last post I talked about the Klixian capital city. After doing some research, I decided to call the city Tholos, because of the beehive-shaped domes that make up the structure. Here’s the overhead view:

The city's buildings come in three sizes: large, medium, and small. The four medium domes are home to the four castes that make up Klixian society: workers, soldiers, priests, and nobility (including the Queen). Obviously these are based on insect society, especially bees and ants, but I came up with a twist on how a new queen is selected. Basically, the Queen has several daughters and when their mother dies, each one takes a special pill. One of the pills is harmless while the others are poisoned. Whoever survives the ritual becomes the next queen, while the rest perish. This “poison pill” ritual insures that the daughters don’t try to kill the Queen prematurely since the chance of dying during the succession ritual is pretty high.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Muse, Don't Fail Me Now

I’ve been working on a laundry list of items for Destination: Rochan. Using the Lunar Cell plugin for Photoshop, I created images of Rochan itself. It took a lot of experimentation to capture the sense of desolation I was looking for, and the color palette that looked good to me. The great thing about Lunar Cell (and I recommend it highly), is that I can create a flattened version. I then take that and use another plugin (also from Flaming Pear) called Flexify 2 and make an equirectangular map (like the one on page 227 of the Basic Rules). Here’s what Rochan looks like from space:

I also bought the models for the Tor from, and spent some time doing test renders. At this point I’m just trying to get a feel for the model and what I can do with it. I’ll be buying additional gear for them too, including more clothing and a double-headed ax. Here are a couple of renders. Keep in mind they are just tests and very basic:

Lastly, I worked on the Klixian capital city (although I haven’t given it a name yet). I’d been doing sketches of what I had in mind: basically hive shapes with tall spires on the top. I made a map in photoshop of a top-down view that came out pretty well. Today I worked on the side view, but I’m not as happy with it.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been largely thinking of the business side of things, so it’s nice to get back to the artistic/creative side. Neither one is particularly easy for me, but I keep trying anyway. ;-)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Walls of Jericho

My other paper miniatures product, Dark Corridors, went on sale over the weekend. This is a milestone because it also allows me to sell all of my products as a bundle called The Complete Imperium (saving customers 30%). I’m also selling just the paper miniatures in a bundle called The Imperium Papers (33% savings). I’m not sure how well either bundle will sell, but at least it gives customers more options and a way to save some money.

Before selling Dark Corridors, I tested it out quite a bit to make sure the walls would work properly. As you can see, the Cat was very helpful:

Although his methods of QA are somewhat extreme:

As mentioned in the comments of my previous post, Matthew over at The Dwarf and the Basilisk has written a very good review of my game. I found it very fair and balanced (not a fanboi article by any means), which is all I could’ve asked for. He also went into great depth, clearly reading through the entire rule book. He was one of the bloggers who I sent complimentary copies to, so it was certainly time well spent. Many thanks to Matthew for taking the time to write his review. I very much appreciate it.

Last but not least, my wife and I celebrated our anniversary yesterday. I gave her chocolate covered strawberries, but those pale in comparison to what she bought me, proving she’s the best wife EVER. Bow to your Robot Overlords!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Do you love me now, Daddy??

Believe it or not, but not everybody loves my new game. I’ve read two reviews that basically complained that the game wasn’t very original and even derivative. After reading these, I spent the next few hours under my desk in a fetal position. This raises the question: how well do I take criticism? The answer: not so well. ;-)

On the other hand, several people in forums have said nice things about the game and, in fact, it’s sold decently as far as I can tell. Basically, no matter what you do, somebody’s going to not like it for various reasons. After Michelangelo finished the Sistine Chapel, for example, the Pope reportedly said the masterpiece looked “kinda gay.” This is not to say my work is on that level (although I did try to include some homoerotica). I tried to create something that I could be proud of and I think I succeeded in that, at least from my narcissistic point of view. I wanted to create a universe of my own making that other people could roam around in, and I’ll be happy if even one person takes that journey.

Anyway, to that end, I’ve been sending out more complimentary copies to various RPG bloggers, so we’ll see what they say about it. Hopefully they’ll like it, otherwise the Cat will get pissed if I keep taking his spot under my desk.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Where are you, Vicodin?

I’ve reached that time in my life that I can become severely injured by sleeping. I woke up yesterday morning with an agonizing pain in my neck, apparently just sleeping at a bad angle. Last night it was even worse because it hurt every time I moved my head. Where are you, Vicodin, when I need you??

Yesterday I posted “ads” for my game on several pen & paper forums. On one of them, it was my first posting so somebody on the forum suggested I was a “bot.” I replied that I was actually not a robot, but that it would probably improve my personality if I was. On another forum someone said he had sent a link to his friends about the game, so that was encouraging.

Last night I worked on Dark Corridors. I had originally planned on two styles for the walls (basically, two different ways to construct them). However, after putting together examples of both styles, it looks like only one of them really works properly. After conferring with the Wife (she has a vote in this), I’ve decided to just do the one style. Unfortunately, I decided to use the one that doesn’t work, just because I’m a bastard. Noooo, not really (at least about the first part).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Out of the Gates

Last Thursday (9/18), my game (and the paper miniatures) officially went on sale! Since then I’ve been very happy with how they’ve been selling. Mind you, the sales aren’t “huge”, but the numbers so far have certainly surprised my wife. ;-) Since last week, I’ve been trying to drum up interest in the game by posting on some sites and sending out copies to some people who will hopefully review the rules.

Friday I got the print version of the game in the mail and I was really pleased. Previously, I thought I’d only sell the game as a downloadable PDF, but since getting the print version, I decided to sell that also. It’s not priced much more than the downloaded version so I think it’s pretty reasonable. Plus, a lot of people prefer to have something tangible to hold or don’t want to bother with printing out a big PDF. On the other hand, the printed rules are not in color (except for the cover), since the cost would have been very high (>$50 per copy). By keeping the inside pages in black and white, the cost is under 20 bucks.

This weekend I was also busy with the next supplement, paper walls and floors I’m calling Dark Corridors. I was worried because I had printed off a page last week and noticed that the measurements of the walls were off. After doing some testing with a different printer, however, I found that the PDF was correct and there must’ve been something wrong with the first printer I tried. This means I can proceed with the renders I had already done. I don’t know how long before I’ll release Dark Corridors, but since most of the work is done, it shouldn’t be more than a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Imperium Chronicles RPG is Done!

After over two years, the Imperium Chronicles RPG is finally done! Of course, done is a relative word. The rules are ready to sell, but there’s plenty of other content, including the paper miniatures that I plan to sell also. Not to mention the first expansion coming in the next few months. However, getting the rules to this point is a major accomplishment for me and I’m excited about seeing how well it’s received (hopefully without anyone throwing cabbages at me).

Over the weekend, I was feverishly getting the website redesign completed. It’s not ready yet, but by the end of Monday I was in a lot better shape than Sunday night. I was getting so frustrated with the pages I had done that I had to just quit for the day and go at it again later. My poor wife had to listen to me ranting at my computer in what I figuratively call my “process.” This involves a) working calmly, followed shortly thereafter by b) getting aggravated and cursing at the computer, c) taking a nap, and d) finding the solution to the problem. At that point, I move on to the next issue and repeat the process.

The good news is that I’m almost done with the site redesign, which means I should be ready to sell the game no later than this weekend. The next step will then be advertising and seeing if anyone actually likes the game. I’m trying not to hold my breath, but that hasn’t stopped me from turning blue.

Friday, September 05, 2008


It’s been my belief that the world would be a lot better if it were ruled by robots. Granted, they would undoubtedly enslave the Human race, but I have to ask “Would that be so bad?” Needless to say, robots have a soft spot in my cold heart, so yesterday I found great pleasure making the renders for the Robot chapter of my game (see below for one example).

I’ve made great progress with the artwork over all and now I only have chapters 9 and 10 left to do. Next I’ll tackle the arduous task of making the index and then the rules will be largely done. I did notice something strange in the most recent PDF I made, however. Some of the table headers have shifted to left justification instead of centered. I thought maybe the original document was wrong, but it was still centered. I’m not sure what to do about this since I need the doc to be a PDF. I’ve done a little research on the web, but so far haven’t come up with anything.

Once I get all that done, I’ll need to finish the website redesign work and then get the rules up on some of the PnP websites around. There are only a handful of those, but there are literally thousands of different PnP-related products on them, so I’m not sure how well my stuff will stand out. I’m just hoping the price of the game and the quality will help it sell. I also plan to advertise somewhat, so we’ll see how that goes.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Wanderers

The Labor Day weekend was a wash: I got nothing done on Saturday and only the newsletter done on Sunday. I DID get stuff accomplished on Monday, including several renders and some new rules. As for the latter, I realized I hadn’t really explained the whole DNA snapshot idea very well, so I corrected that. Basically, your character can have a DNA snapshot done so when he dies, a clone can be made. It’s an idea taken from MMORPGs so players won’t lose everything when their character bites the dust.

I put out the newsletter on Sunday, and included some renders for people to look at. I felt bad that I couldn’t announce that the rules were ready to be published, but they’re simply not done yet. With all the artwork that needs to be added, it’s taking me longer than I wanted. As I’ve said before, however, the latter chapters already have a lot of art in them, so they should go pretty fast.

When I did the paper miniatures, I named some of them nomads since they looked like rugged outsiders to me. That got me thinking about nomadic groups, especially the gypsies (or Roma), so yesterday I did some research and came up with the draft below. I’m thinking about adding them as a faction in the upcoming supplement Destination: Rochan. I included the reference links too:


The Wanderers (also called the Gitan) are groups of nomads who travel from system to system, usually in a freighter packed with their belongings. The entire extended family is included in such groups, including several generations. After arriving on a new planet, the Wanderers will take up temporary residence in tenements or other low-income housing. From there, the family will trade with locals and do odd jobs. They are also known as talented fixers and are sometimes referred to as "tinks." Under most circumstances, the Wanderers only stay on a planet long enough to earn enough money to pay for their next jump.

Most societies in the Imperium (and elsewhere) view the Wanderers with suspicion. In fact, although some Wanderers are known for committing petty larceny and other minor crimes, there is little evidence that this is a common practice. However, perhaps due to this sense of alienation, Wanderers are often secretive, speaking in a language called Sheldru, to prevent outsiders from understanding them. Nevertheless, due to their travels, the Wanderers are often very well informed about rumors and other news. Most will gladly share what they know -- for a price.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Emo Magna

I got some feedback from one of the playtesters for the paper miniatures. He was largely positive, although he thought some users might not like the idea that I only include the tri-fold style instead of A-frame. As I may’ve mentioned before, I just don’t like A-frame miniatures very much. I think tri-fold makes miniatures look more 3D, plus the A-frames remind me too much of playing Stratego as a kid (not that there’s anything wrong with it!).

I was busy over the weekend making renders and I am happy to say I’m done with the Abilities chapter. Since there were so many different abilities (and a lot of straight text), there were a lot of opportunities to add images. Overall, I’m happy with the results, which were a combination of new renders and a mix of images from my graphic novel and short story.

I’ve included another of these images below. The two main things to take away from this one is the light reflecting off the Magna’s chest and his black fingernails. I added a light source in Poser to simulate the light given off by the lightning. Besides adding realism, the light also highlights the Magna’s powerful pecs (which remind me of my own). As for the fingernails, contrary to what my coworker said, they are NOT painted black. In fact, since Magna blood is also black, I thought that perhaps their fingernails would appear that way naturally. On the other hand, perhaps they’re just into Emo.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cardboard Love

I completed Cardboard Citizens last week and emailed them to the playtesters. I decided to give them that (and the game rules when those are done) as thanks for helping test the game. As I said before, I’m going to be doing cardboard walls and floors also. Yesterday I came across this funny cartoon on the Penny Arcade site. If you haven’t read them before and you play computer games (or just have a dark and sometimes violent sense of humor) check them out. It’s hilarious.

I’ve been working on renders for the game for the last week, but in most case it’s been a painless experience. Last night, however, it was a pain in the ass. I was originally doing a render of a woman casting an ice psionic so I could add it to the Abilities chapter for, you guessed it, ice psionics. I started messing around with it, including adding an eery blue light and a frosty FX prop (which I also colored blue). Well, I got about 30 minutes into it and realized it totally sucked. The blue looked more like the woman had chewed some forbidden gum at the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. So, I decided to make a radical change: I changed both her hair and her dress to red and removed the blue FX prop, replacing it with an orange one and -- voila! -- I had a woman casting a fire psionic! I put it all together in photoshop with a black background. I’m happy with the result, and I think it’s in keeping with the previous psionic render. However, it took me over an hour to do the whole thing. Since I have a lot of these renders to do, I hope the rest won’t be as time consuming.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I took time off from the Olympics (and even naps!) on Saturday to work on renders for the game. I completed two new ones (see one of them below) and redid a third from Magnus Black. I’m happy with the results, but I have a lot more to do. Of course, I also have the website to complete . . .

Speaking of which, I made an embarrassing discovery Saturday: my website provider had changed a parameter that had turned off the headers and footers on all my web pages. So the site looked very bad and had apparently looked that way for days. I wish I could blame the site provider, but they had actually set out notifications previously. I remember reading it, but the announcement hadn’t sunk in (or perhaps I’m just a knucklehead). Anyway, I was able to fix the problem quickly and the site’s back to normal.

One of my biggest faults is a propensity for obsessing about things (and for using words like propensity). Saturday I got an email from a guy commenting on my game and its similarities to Traveller. So, Sunday I woke up obsessing that people would think I was a big fat copycat. In fact, the mechanics of my game are quite different, even though I was certainly influenced by Marc Miller’s game. Once the game comes out, however, I think people will see how different it really is. At least I hope they will. Still, these are the worries that wake me up at night. ;-)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Seed Sprouts Roots

Although I’ve been mostly focusing on the website redesign and the rules recently, I took some time to brainstorm some more about the next supplement Destination: Rochan. Specifically, I thought about the two new playable races (the Klixians and the Tor). One of the things that bothered me about the Klixians was how they made a living. I mean, if the Tor are underground and can mine for materials, what would the Klixians do on the barren surface?

So, I starting thinking about what the surface would offer and it occurred to me that sand (or silica to be exact) can be used for making glass. Then I thought about what could be done with that glass. I envisioned the Klixians creating beautiful art with blown glass and whole palaces of crystal. Coincidentally, a few nights ago I was watching a science program about light and how it interacts with glass, specifically in the use of lenses. So, for the Klixians, I thought about how they might use lenses for telescopes looking at the stars, and perhaps develop an astrology that would impact how they lived their lives. Eventually, while driving home in the car actually, I thought about the stories of Nancy Reagan using horoscopes to help her husband make decisions as president. Why not have sects of soothsayers in Klixian society do the same thing? In other words, an elite class of “priests” who advise their leaders on what actions to take based on the movement of the stars.

And with that, I had started to flesh out ideas for the next supplement. This is usually how my creative process works: I come up with an idea and then begin extrapolating out to build on the original idea. Having a lot of useless knowledge floating around in my noggin also helps, because I can draw on that to fill in the blanks. Anyway, there are still plenty of other holes to fill in before I have a complete picture of Klixian (and Tor) society, but at least I’ve made some headway (so to speak).

Monday, August 11, 2008

When Cats Attack!

It was a busy, busy weekend! Besides watching the Olympics nearly 24/7, I also had one of the playtesters (a former co-worker of mine) come over Saturday to run though combat scenarios. Everything went fine until the Cat decided to literally crash the party by jumping from the couch onto the table we were using. The Cat and everything else went sliding into a big pile. Nevertheless, we discovered a few things and I took plenty of notes. For example: “Put the cat in the other room.”

I also worked on the paper miniatures. I finished the last pages and wrote up the instructions. I still have some tweaks to do, but it’s mostly done. Besides those, I’ve been toying with the idea of releasing another supplement called Dark Corridors. These would be walls and floors that players could print out, just like the paper miniatures. I had originally envisioned single sheets that people could paste to foam board. However, when I tested this idea out, the foam board was clearly not going to work. The edges were just too jagged. So, I went back to the drawing board and redid the mockup. This time, I did something similar to the folding miniatures (i.e.: something that can stand up on its own). This worked a lot better.

With only a few weeks left before I hope to release the game, I plan to focus on cleaning up the rules and adding artwork. I also need to get the website ready for launch. It’s going to be a busy time for me, but hopefully all the hard work will pay off in the end.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Dog Envy

I redid the Vogar miniatures last night. I used the same werewolf model for Poser that I’ve been using since I did my graphic novel over three years ago. Later last night, however, I came across a new model being offered on the Daz3D site: Lycanthropos

Along with its accessories, it would make a very nice miniature for my Vogar (instead of the old one I’ve been using). However, here’s the rub: do I really want to spend $30-40 on a new model or do I stay with my old one and save some money? I mean, I’m only planning to sell the miniature supplement for 5 bucks and I really don’t know how many I’ll actually sell. Return on Investment (ROI) is a bitch!

By the way, another thing I was thinking about last night was the number of miniatures in the supplement. Right now I’ve got 42 miniatures, but that only fills two pages. That seemed pretty light to me. I thought about it some more and I’ve decided to add another 12 guys. With a little rearranging, that’ll give me 3 pages instead of 2 (54 total miniatures). I think (and hope) that will be enough.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Litt’le Green Guys & Cat Spit

The 100+ degree weather meant I stayed inside most of the weekend. Actually, I normally stay in all weekend, unless the Wife makes me step outside and integrate with Humanity (which I of course strongly oppose). However, the idea of 100+ temperatures did mean I had a very good excuse for staying home most the weekend, and I used that time to work on the paper miniatures.

I now have 42 different miniatures (that’s 126 separate renders for those keeping count). I think that’s enough to sell, even though I haven’t included any robots or creatures in the collection. But since the supplement is called Cardboard Citizens (not Cardboard Robots and Creatures), I think that’s okay. I still need to arrange them though. I’ve been thinking about doing it by social class and then by race for the non-humans. Speaking of the latter, I did the Magna over the weekend and I’m happy with how they came out, especially in color. They’re muscular, green-skinned guys with horns so you can’t get much better than that!

Friday, I printed out one sheet of miniatures that I already had done and, with help from the Wife, put them together. Now I have a little army of 15 miniatures on my desk waiting to be devoured by the Cat. I’m going to be using them (or at least the ones not covered in cat saliva) when I run some combat scenarios later this week.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Toro! Toro!

I’ve come up with another playable race for the Destination: Rochan module. I’m calling them the Tor, based on the word Toro, meaning Bull. Basically they’re a race of minotaurs that live underground in intricate tunnel systems (ie: mazes). Since I had already talked about the other playable race, the Klixians, living underground, I decided to change that race to being above ground (since they are better suited for the radiation on the surface of Rochan).

As I was driving home, I started coming up with a back story for the two races: there’s a Tor myth about the planet, saying how it had once been a beautiful paradise before the Klixians laid it to waste, driving the Tor underground. However, there’s no scientific evidence that Rochan had ever been anything other than a wasteland to begin with, yet the Tor still blame the Klixians from robbing them of paradise. For their part, the Klixians view the Tor as filthy creatures, living in the dirt. As a result, the insect race is obsessed with cleanliness and has many rituals related to cleansing the body and soul.

This is all preliminary stuff, but it’s good to set some ground work for the expansion. I like the idea of having two new playable races, each in conflict with the other. It creates a good dynamic for adventures and fits in well with the underlying themes of the Imperium Chronicles.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Yay, I CAN be taught!

Since deciding to redesign my website, I’ve been relearning a lot about design. For example, if you choose to organize the page using a lot of tables, you can expect to be hunted down by the web police and burned at the stake. Tables are out; DIV tags and CSS are in. I knew a little about the latter, but next to nothing about the former so I’ve been teaching myself (slowly) for several weeks. Eventually, I heard a *ding* which either meant I had finally reached a critical mass of understanding or my microwave burrito was done.

So, this week I made some progress on the site design that didn’t make me want to jump out the window. In fact, over the last couple of days, I’ve even approached being “happy” about the results. It may not last, but at least I can enjoy some temporary satisfaction. Here’s a screenshot of a large graphic I'll be including on the main page. It’s not done and there’s still stuff to be added or changed, but I want to give some idea where I’m doing with it:

Meanwhile, the playtesting continues, but without a lot of progress. It’s nobody’s fault actually, but I’m worried about things that haven’t been tested yet. I’m thinking about putting out some more forum posts specifically for people to playtest the combat system since that’s the part that could be really bad if it’s not balanced properly. I’d hoped to be nearly done by now, but it’s looking like testing will go on into August for sure. Delays . . . Delays . . .

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Challenges of Change

Ironically, I didn’t end up using the picture I had in my last post. I chickened out and used the same original, but simply changed the hue to a different color. It looks nice too, but isn’t as stylized. Basically, I added images for the first couple of chapters over the weekend. After doing it, however, I realized that the ones in the Character chapter are going to shift because I still haven’t added the beginning prose. Blah! Seems like I’m always forgetting things -- maybe because there are so many things to remember!

On Sunday I started putting the miniature renders onto a single sheet (or at least as many as I could fit). Each sheet will have five rows with three different sets per row. One sheet will fill a regular page, meaning there’ll be 15 miniatures per page. I’m still planning to call the product Cardboard Citizens and I even mocked up a quick cover. I can’t say the cover knocks my socks off, but it’s only a draft for now.

For awhile I’ve thought about redoing the website. The problem is that I’ve got dozens of pages for the graphic novel and my short story, all based on the current design. To redo the site, I’d have to redo those also. That’s a lot of work, but I could put the stories back in later and just focus on the new pages designed to sell the game. It’s not ideal, and of course I could just keep the current design, but I wanted something new and hopefully more professional looking.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Breaking up the Wall of Text

Well, playtesting is slowly winding down so now I have to think about adding artwork to the game. Right now there’s already some, but it’s mostly boring stuff like pictures to go with creatures, robots, and starships. I need to add a lot more to make the game more visually appealing. Rules are a pretty boring to begin with (just ask my Editor), but by adding art I can at least break up some of the monotonous text.

I’ve already looked at my two online stories and grabbed some art from there, but I felt like they needed to be more unique, so I used some filters in Photoshop to freshen them up (see below for an example). I’m going to create brand new renders also, using my best friend: Poser 7. I haven’t done any big time renders since I finished Magnus Black over two years ago, so I don’t plan to get too complicated. Mostly I’m just going to create some scenes and maybe some portraits and see where that takes me.

Besides adding artwork, I also plan to create an index next month. I’m dreading it, because it’s an enormous pain in the ass. I’m guessing it will be a few pages long, but I’ll need to go through the entire 240-page document to pick out all the words to be indexed. I also have to wait until playtesting is basically done (ie: few if any changes left), otherwise I’ll have to go back and retag various indexed words. From a usability standpoint, however, it’s vital that I have an index, otherwise it’ll take people forever to find stuff in the game. In other words, by being a pain in my butt now, it’ll be less of a pain for players. Ultimately, I’ll have my revenge by forcing people to look at my hackneyed artwork. ;-)

Friday, July 11, 2008

And so the Klixians are born . . .

One of the playtesters pointed out that I didn’t have an insectoid race in the game, or at least not a playable one. He suggested that type of race was common in most sci-fi games, etc. I’m really not sure why having an insect race never occurred to me, since they’re usually pretty cool. Although I don’t plan to include such a race when the game is published, I have been thinking for awhile about what to include in a future expansion. For a long time I’ve thought about having a supplement focusing on the planet Rochan, so it occurred to me that I could include a new playable race in that expansion. They would fit together well because I’ve always envisioned Rochan as being crisscrossed with mining tunnels beneath the surface. Perhaps the insect race would also live underground (to escape Rochan’s inhospitable environment), and come in contact with the miners (perhaps in conflict).

So this week I started brainstorming about this new race. I found a nice model on the Daz3D site and from that I starting thinking of a name. I went through several ideas, but ultimately decided (at least for now) on the name Klixian. The name comes from their language, which is a series of clicking sounds. In other words “Klix” sounds like “clicks”. I like the use of the letter K and X in the name also because it gives it an alien quality.

As for the racial stats, those are still up in the air, although I’d like to incorporate some psionics, perhaps even a so-called Hive Mind. Right now only the Dahl have good PSI skills, so it would be nice to have another race to give additional choices for players. Also, while doing research on insects, I found that ants have something called the Metapleural gland which secretes antibiotics. By adding that to the Klixians, I can give them a high Disease resistance modifier. I will likely give them a decent Radiation resistance as well.

While I’ve been thinking about the new playable race, I’ve also been working on the game itself, adding changes based on playtester comments. I plan to publish a new draft (verison 0.4) next week. I’ve also been doing new renders for the paper miniatures (see image). I’m thinking about calling the product Cardboard Citizens, or something like that. ;-)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Art and Miniatures

I spent a couple of hours yesterday working on renders in Poser for the paper miniatures I mentioned in my previous post. Since I haven’t worked too much in Poser lately, it was a time consuming process. Also, Poser crashed on me (effectively went “poof!”) so I had to redo some setup. All in all, I only got six sets done, which include three middle-class and three aristocrat figures. Each set has three renders, one from the front and one from the 135 and 225 degrees. I have many more to do, but it’s good to get at least a few renders under my belt. See below for a sample:
So, last Thursday while I was driving home from work, I had an idea to hopefully drive some additional traffic to the Chronicles website. Since the game originated from ideas for a book and then an online graphic novel, it seemed logical that I should have artwork and prose featured on the website. In other words, I’d like to get artists to show their works and writers to post their fiction on my site. In both cases, they would need to have either a sci-fi theme or, preferably, relate directly to the Imperium universe. As I envision it, the artwork would lead directly to the artist’s site or perhaps some other site like DeviantArt. Either way, my site would act as an affiliate, hopefully attracting people to the artist’s sales site. At the same time, it would hopefully attract people to my site as well. Of course, I’m not sure how well any of that would work, but it’s just an idea.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

An Organic Process

I sent out the July newsletter this week. Not a lot to really talk about except a progress report on how playtesting is going. In many ways it’s an organic process: of the people who have shown an interest, at least half have not been able to actually take part. Half of those couldn’t do it for technical reasons of one kind or another. One person didn’t have steady internet access and another person needed the rules in printed form (which is a hefty 240 pages). Since I’m incorporating the testers’ comments into new drafts every couple of weeks, it’s vital that the testers receive the drafts via email (as opposed to regular mail), so internet access is very important.

Another group of people who ended up not taking part simply disappeared. I basically stopped getting email replies. I assume those individuals simply decided to do other things (or perhaps they just really hated the game). I don’t think that last part is the case, although there’s no real telling. In the end, those who remained have made very good comments and I’ve found their input invaluable.

To that end, I’ve been making several changes since publishing version 0.3 of the draft rules. Most recently, I’ve added a whole section to the Starship chapter involving component damage when a ship takes a critical hit. This was directly due to the comments from playtesting that suggested the rules needed it. I had thought of it before, but left it out, but apparently I did so in error. :-)

During this period, I should also work on a supplement to the game: namely, paper miniatures. I’ve mentioned this before, but I haven’t really done much since. They are 28mm miniatures printed on paper (or card stock) that players can cut out and use to play the game. A handful of others offer paper miniatures, but mine will be tailored especially for my game, including creatures and other baddies featured in the rules.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


As I may’ve mentioned previously, I’ve been adding some prose (story) at the beginning of each chapter. Today I wrote one for the Encounters chapter, which features creatures and other things that go bump in the night. I can’t say I’m completely happy with how this little story came out, but it’s not too bad hopefully. ;-)

The tunnel opened into an immense burial chamber. The explorer shined her flashlight around the room. The beam cut through the dusty air, landing on columns encrusted with cobwebs and ancient writings. The light fell on a sarcophagus in the center of the room. She stepped closer. Remains from a cave-in covered the stone coffin, but the explorer had no doubts about what lay underneath. She had spent years searching and now, finally, she was inches from her goal. She brushed aside the webs and stood with eyes ablaze with discovery. The red eyes of a giant spider glimmered almost as bright as it slowly descended from above, its jaws awaiting another meal.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Playtesting Adventure

The epic adventure called playtesting continues . . .

Right now I’m working on draft 0.3, incorporating most of the changes found by playtesting so far. The biggest change, from a headache stand point, has been re-alphabetizing the abilities. I had the descriptions split up into groups (ie: General, Combat, Psionic, etc.), but one of the playtesters said this made looking up abilities difficult (unless you knew which group it was in). So, I spent a couple of days doing a lot of cutting and pasting in Word until they were in the correct order. While I was doing that, I corrected some inconsistencies in my naming conventions too. I think it’s a lot better now.

I’ve been trying to use Google Docs to get new drafts to the playtesters from a centralized spot, but my PDF is just too big apparently so I was getting server errors. I discovered today, however, something called Google Sites which is a website editor. From there I’m able to upload docs and have others download . That seems to be working, so I’ll try to use that from now on. It also has a place for adding comments and announcements, which may prove useful.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Playtesting Begins . . .

Over the last week I’ve been talking with people interested in playtesting the Imperium Chronicles Role Playing Game. I posted an open call for playtesters on several Pen&Paper game forums and so far several people have shown an interest. I’m not sure what the best number of people would be, but I’m happy to get as many as I can.

The process begins by sending each person a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). I’m not a lawyer (and can’t afford one) so I did a web search for a generic NDA and then modified it slightly to suit game testing. I emailed the NDA to each participant and they emailed it back with an electronic signature and a statement that they accept the agreement.

After getting the NDA, I emailed them the draft PDF of the rules. It’s a big file so we’ve had some issue with people’s email provider rejecting such a big file (over 9 MB). I saw today, however, that Google Docs allows uploading a PDF up to 10 MBs, so I’m testing to see if I can distribute the rules that way. It would be better because it offers a central location and the ability to upload the newest version as it gets done. My only concern is privacy since I believe Google shows the email of everyone who is eligible to download the file. I’ll have to make sure each playtester is okay with that, or I’ll need to continue emailing PDFs to those individuals.

I continue to be apprehensive about playtesting since I don’t know how much will need to be modified. I’m just crossing my figures. ;-)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Game Diary Summary - May

My wife the Editor has proofread the Introduction and Chapter 1. She's starting to proofread Chapters 2 and 3 today. Her comments have been very good so far: it's great to have another pair of eyes with suggestions on how to say things. That's one of the most important parts of being an editor, not just to find mistakes but to also suggest clearer ways of writing.

Beside the misc stuff, I'm also working on a new landing page for the website. I did a render using Poser today as the main graphic and worked on the text describing the game. I'm really very happy with how the image came out and relatively satisfied with the text. It'll be some time, however, before I can use it: have to play test first!!

I added the damage and ranges for starship weapons yesterday. Although I think the ranges are fine, I'm not confident in the damages. This will need to be tested fully to make sure they don't do too much or too little damage.

Chapters 2 and 3 continue to be proofread. Since my wife isn't a gamer, it's slow going.

I wrote the beginning prose for the Robot chapter. After several drafts, I'm very happy with how it turned out. I still have several more chapters that need prose, although I'm debating whether they all need to have that. I'd like to be consistent, but I don't want to force it or settle for prose that isn't very good (not that my writing is Shakespeare).

Chapters 2 and 3 are done being proofread. I need to go over Chapter 4 (Combat) before having the Editor proofread that. Last night I added the resistance nanos to the rules and looked over my To Do list to see what's left. I've been trying to estimate how much is left before I can have the game play tested. Right now I'm thinking by the end of May it should be ready, but I've been wildly wrong in the past, so we'll see.

I've been thinking that, once the game is published, I'll stop writing the game diary. Since this has really been an exercise to capture the creative process of building the rules, there much reason to continue it after that process is largely over. Of course, there are tweaks to the rules and future additions I could talk about, but I doubt I'd need to write about it that much.

Friday and Saturday weren't very productive, but today I've been able to get some work done in the Starship and Star System chapters. In the former, I added info on making FTL jumps (and went back to the Skills chapter and modified the Starship Navigation skill somewhat). In the Star System chapter, I worked on the Commodities section a bit, trying to make it more understandable. Although I used a fairly simplified system for trade, it's still pretty complex and I think a little confusing. I'm hoping what I did today will make it more clear.

I did some research on playtesting. I think I will have an open call on some of the forums and MySpace toward the end of May, assuming the rules are ready by then. I probably should have a NDA as well, but not sure how I'm going to do it. I'm nervous about the process since I'm don't know how others will react to it. I'm worried I'll have redo large sections of the rules because the playtesters will hate it. We'll see.

I added a new robot (Deranged Loggerbot) and a new faction (Gaia Brigade) to the rules last night. I'd like to add another couple of robots perhaps before the game goes to playtesting. Speaking of which, my former coworker Mark has agreed to play test my game. He's played several PnP games before so that's good. It's also good to have someone I know well to playtest.

I created another two robots (SpiderBot and Heavy AssaultBot), but haven't added them to the rules yet. I still have three other robots that I did awhile ago, but I have to confirm match with the current rules (since it may've changed since I wrote up the robots). My Editor has finished proofing chapter 10 so we need to go over that. Next I'll have her look at the Star Systems chapter. Obviously we're not going in order; she's just looking at chapter that are basically finished.

I've been slowing adding the prices of various items, mostly in the Gear chapter so far. It's time consuming because I want the prices to make sense, although I'm not very confident about them: playtesting will need to see if they're too high or too low.

I went over Chapter 10 with the Editor tonight. Next she'll be looking at Chapter 9.

I've completed most of the prices now in the Starship and Robot chapters. Although there were a lot of them, it went faster than I thought it would. I went through for the robots and added up their total costs, and the prices were about right I think.

The Editor completed Chapter 9 last night. Next I'll be giving her the Robot chapter to read, although I need to add another few robots. I've also added prices to the commodities list: however, there are so many of them, it will required some testing to see if the prices make sense.

I changed my mind and gave Chapter 5 Gear to the Editor to proof. The robot chapter is almost done, but I wanted to add another couple robots and didn't want to rush it.

Besides misc stuff, I've been calculating the costs for the starship based on their components. Doing it after the fact, is time consuming to say the least. The end amounts, however, seem reasonable to me which is good.

The Editor continues proofing the Gear chapter. We're going to be out of town most of this weekend, but I'll be back to work on the game some more Sunday night and Memorial Day. Of course, I'll take time out to grill stuff too!

I was out of town Saturday and Sunday, but yesterday I was able to complete the cost calculations on all the starships in that chapter. I'm told that the Gear chapter is going to be done proofing today, so I'll be giving the Robot and Starship chapters to the Editor to proof. Since there's still another two chapters to proofread as well, I'm probably going to give a current draft of the rules to the first playtester by the end of this week or beginning of next. At this point, the proofreading process is just to find typos, etc., not technical errors in the rules themselves. With that in mind, I'd like to get the game into playtesting as soon as possible and just update their copy as the final chapters get proofed.

The Editor finished the Gear chapter last night and I gave her the Robot and Starships chapters to do next. I also worked on adding notable NPCs to the Encounters chapter last night. I had left that section blank previously. I created stats for Prince Alexander, Lefty Lucy, and Durant Blixx. Next, I'll do the Magna Ambassador and Smitty Gurkin which will be all of it.

I wrote prose for the beginning of the Star System chapter yesterday. I ran it past my wife and she liked it! I also went through Chapter 10 last night and corrected a few things. I want to go through and correct the final touches before handing the rules over for playtesting this weekend or perhaps early next week.

By way, I added all the notable NPCs except Smitty Gurkin. I decided to leave him off for space reasons, but I can always add him later if I need to.