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[UPDATED] 3 RPG Kickstarters Adapting – Things From the Flood, Richard A. Knaak’s Rex Draconis, and Judge Dredd

This week’s theme, tabletop RPG adaptations, let’s me share Simon Stålenhag’s artbook, Richard A. Knaak’s newest fantasy series, and the famous judge created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra (who just passed away). All of these projects are live on Kickstarter. If you want to play as a teenager in the technopast 1990s using the Mutant: Year Zero system, or as a fantasy minotaur using either the D&D 5th edition or Pathfinder 1e rules, or as the law using What’s OLD is NEW (WOIN) game system, there are games waiting for you.

 

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Things from the Flood – Sequel to Tales from the Loop RPG by Fria Ligan/Free League
Ends on Tue, October 9 2018 3:00 PM EDT.

 

“Return to Simon Stålenhag’s world of the Loop in this new RPG. It’s the ’90s now, and things are different. This time, you can die.

It started on Christmas Day in 1994. Dark water suddenly rose from the land, invading our homes and lives. They say it came from the depths inside the Loop. Whatever it was the Flood changed everything. Nothing would ever be the same again.

Welcome back to the Loop. Things are different now. 

In 2017, we released Tales from the Loop the tabletop roleplaying game based on Stålenhag’s first art book. That game was an instant hit, selling out its two initial print runs and winning no less than five ENnies (including Best Game and Product of the Year) as well as three Golden Geek Awards (including Best RPG).

Now, it’s time to return to the Loop and continue the story. In Things from the Flood you play Teens in the 1990s – a decade of change and disaster. You’re still balancing day to day life with solving exciting mysteries with your friends. But this is a darker time, and the stakes are higher.

We are the Free League, creators and publishers of roleplaying games such as Mutant: Year ZeroCoriolis – The Third HorizonTales from the Loop and Forbidden Lands. As well as the original publishers of Simon Stålenhag’s art books. The lead writer of this book is the seasoned Swedish game writer Nils Hintze, backed up by the entire Free League team who handle project management, editing, and graphic design.

The vast majority of the art in the game is done by Simon Stålenhag himself. Most of the art will be drawn from the pages of the Things from the Flood artbook – many scenarios in the game are based directly on illustrations in the artbook – but the RPG will contain some new original art as well, including the cover image.

The book will have approximately 200 pages, in the US Letter format.

Tales from the Loop Backer? If you backed the original Tales from the Loop RPG back in late 2016, you will get a PDF of the Things from the Flood core book, including the digital stretch goals in this Kickstarter, at no extra cost. You can still join this Kickstarter to get the printed book.

Things are different now.

The world does not seem so innocent anymore.

Its the ‘90s and the once mighty Loop has been shut down, the experiment abandonded and the land bought by Krafta, a powerful corporation. You are no Kids anymore, but Teens trying to find your way in a decade of change – both within and around you.

The Flood has transformed the once pastoral islands into a dark marshland. Some say that the dark water pouring out of the ground comes from within the Loop itself. Machines are afflicted by a strange virus turning them unreliable and dangerous.

Still, your lives go on as before. You go to school, fall miserably in love, try to do everything possible to fend off boredom. When you hear about other teens going missing, and even turning up dead, you realize its time to gather the group again.

One way or another you fill find out what these Things from the Flood really are.

You play Teens growing up in the 1990s, trying to balance everyday life while at the same time solving dark mysteries together with your friends.

The core of the game is the same as in Tales from the Loop, but the themes are different. Gone are the childlike tales of wonder and discovery, in their place are dark threats to the Teens and their world. Everything is changing, everything is falling apart. Figuring out how to deal with this is a big part of the game.

You are no kid anymore, the world is both more exciting and more dangerous. Teenagers can get hurt – and even die. The stakes are higher than ever.

Both! Things from the Flood expands the scope of Tales from the Loop to the 1990s. You can continue your campaign with the Kids from the original game or create brand new player characters. We call it a “standalone expansion” because everything that is needed to play the game is included in the book. That’s right, no previous experience is needed at all, just get the book and start playing right away.

If you’ve read and played the Tales from the Loop RPG, you will find yourself right at home, this book expands the setting and introduces new exciting mysteries and threats to explore.

The game engine of Things from the Flood is the same as the one for Tales from the LoopRPG and is based on our previous game Mutant: Year Zero, that was awarded with a Silver ENnie for Best Rules at Gencon 2015.

The core mechanic is the same: To make a skill roll, you simply grab a number of dice for your attribute score, skill level and gear, and roll them all together. You need at least one six to succeed, and extra sixes can give you stunts and other bonus effects.

The acclaimed artist, concept designer and author of the art books Tales from the Loop (2015), Things from the Flood (2016) and The Electric State (2017). Simon Stålenhag is best known for his highly imaginative images and stories portraying illusive sci-fi phenomena in mundane, hyper-realistic Scandinavian landscapes (expanded into America in his latest book The Electric State). Tales from the Loop was ranked by The Guardian as one of the “10 Best Dystopias,” in the company of works such as Franz Kafka’s The Trial and Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca.

Not only have Stålenhag’s unique and cinematic images earned him a worldwide fan base, but have also made him a go-to storyteller, concept artist and illustrator for both the film and computer gaming industry. This year it was announced that The Electric State will be turned into a major motion picture and Amazon Prime ordered a full season of a TV show based on Tales from the Loop.

During his twelve years as a game writer, Nils Hintze has written a great number of scenarios, articles and reviews, as well as being the main author of critically praised and award winning Tales from the Loop roleplaying game. Previously he has written plays for theatre groups.

Nils is known for his ability to create scenarios which allow the players to explore their characters and their relationships while facing dangers and solving mysteries. The conflicts in his games are often built on personal dilemmas, where thrill and mystery is not seldom mixed with humor.

Nils is educated in creative writing, but he normally works as a psychologist. Nils is also one of the three creators of the Swedish role-playing podcast Podcon.

Free League Publishing is the international name of Swedish game and book publisher Fria Ligan AB. Since 2011 we have produced a range of pen and paper RPG’s, and have won several awards in the process.

Our first international game, Mutant: Year Zero, co-published with Modiphius Entertainment, was awarded a Silver ENnie for Best Rules at Gencon 2015. Last year Tales from the Loopwon five Gold ENnies (including Best Game and Product of the Year) as well as three Golden Geek awards. We have also created and published Coriolis – The Third Horizon (2017) and Forbidden Lands (2018).

Our Kickstarter fulfillment and shipping is handled by GamesQuest in the UK, and we have a partnership with Modiphius Entertainment for international retail distribution.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

Tales from the Loop won five 2017 ENnie Awards (Best Game, Best Setting, Best Writing, Best Internal Art and Product of the Year) plus several Golden Geek Awards (Game of the Year, Runner-up Best Artwork & Presentation). Fellow Guilder, John McGuire, did two articles on Tales from the Loop, the prequel to Things from the Flood. The first is his thoughts about the game from playing it at Gen Con, the second is a traditional review. It can be said that “roleplaying in the ’80s that never was” is a winner. The sequel pushes the clock forward from being kids in the 80s to being “teens in the 1990s – a decade of change and disaster.” The world is darker, the stakes are higher, the first bits of the internet are forming, and you are old enough to drive in a world that is turning into a dark horror. This standalone expansion (you don’t need TftL to play this) is waiting for you here.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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Rex Draconis RPG – Rising Tides by P.B. Publishing
Ends on Sun, October 21 2018 10:02 PM EDT.

 

“The first adventure in a trilogy based on NY Times Bestselling author Richard A. Knaak’s: Rex Draconis fantasy setting.

Welcome to the Rex Draconis RPG

Set in the world of Tiberos, the Rex Draconis RPG setting allows you to experience the epic fantasy of Richard A Knaak’s new world, dubbed by many as ‘the spiritual successor to Dragonlance’.

Against the backdrop of war, play as honourable Minotaur, chivalrous knights, mischievous Kwillum or powerful wizards, as you thwart the warmongering of the savage Wheyr and the machinations of the mysterious draconic Fafni and Afafni.

The Rex Draconis RPG is written for the D&D 5th edition and Pathfinder rules sets, and feature setting material that can be easily imported to any RPG system of your choice.

The Rex Draconis RPG is being produced in conjunction with an active novel line. While the novels are not required to use and enjoy the RPG, this structure allows you to interact with and fight alongside your favourite characters in a living, growing setting that evolves as Richard envisions. It is also important to note that the RPG storyline is a separate and unique story, that interestingly crosses paths with the novel line.

Map of Tiberos
Map of Tiberos

What is Rex Draconis?

Rex Draconis is the latest offering from Richard A Knaak, renowned fantasy author, and creator of some of the most iconic elements of the Dragonlance world. Richard is credited with the strong development of the Minotaur culture and the Solamnic Knights, as well as many other elements that made Dragonlance such a unique setting.

After many years, Richard has chosen to breathe new life into these embers, in an all-new high fantasy setting that combines favourite elements with an exciting new world, characters, monsters and  storylines.

The first novella – Under the Dragon Moon (Hydra Publications) – has been released, and the second – Lords of the Dragon Moon – is due for release shortly. Work has already begun on the next installment.

Why Kickstart?

With the success of the new novels, Richard would like to see the setting become a playable world for Table Top Roleplaying, much like its predecessor, the Dragonlance setting. Rex Draconis is wholely Richard’s creation, over which he has, and would like to retain, full creative control.

Bringing on Phil and Micah adds significant indie RPG experience, with numerous successful products and projects and a proven track record. However without the funding of a large game company, alternative funding needs to be sourced for professional art, editing and layout, as well as production of both PDF & physical products.

Considerable time, effort and expense has already been invested in the project, but to do it justice and create a standard we – and you – are satisfied with, further funding is required.

Rewards

While a full RPG world setting is in development, this first kickstarter will focus on launching the line with the following three main products, digital art and map pack, and a smaller, exclusive mini-adventure;

The Rex Draconis Player’s Guide – This book is primarily an adaptation guide, offering rules changes to the chosen official rulesets to ensure compatability with Tiberos – the world of Rex Draconis. This book will include new races, classes, archetypes, rules and more, as well as advice on adapting the material from your favourite RPG systems to create a more personalised Rex Draconis experience for your tastes.

Rising Tides – Adventure 1 – The first adventure in a series, Rising Tides allows players to foreshadow the action of the novels, playing roles that interact with the story in meaningful and lasting ways. In Tiberos, there is more than one story being told in this war. Rising Tides acts as a prequel to the official novel storyline and takes thre characters on a journey of discovery across this fantastic new world.

Amble’s Guide to Avondale – This book is the first of the setting content, a complete guide to Avondale, the capital city of Dracoma, home of the Knights of Dracoma. This guide provides all you need to launch your own adventures in Tiberos.

Digital Art & Map Pack – All art and maps produced for the project will be offered to eligible backers as a digital pack for personal use.

Misunderstandings – A mini adventure to whet your appetite for the unique qualities of the setting. This adventure is a Kickstarter EXCLUSIVE, and will not be reporoduced anywhere else.

We know that everyone is different, and will desire different rewards. PDF or physical copy, pathfinder or 5th edition rulesets, or both. We have arranged the rewards in a number of Backer Tiers that allow you to choose the rewards you want. We also have a special early adopter reward tier for the digital products.

Who Are We?

Phil Beckwith 

IT Project Manager by day, owner of P.B. Publishing by night, known mostly for many bestselling and successful titles on the DMs Guild, including the highly rated horror adventure – The Haunt, the 200 page hardcover tome Adventure Anthology, and a co-creator for the best-selling Monsters of the Guild.

Micah Watt

Owner of Pyromaniac Press, Micah is a successful Pathfinder and D&D 5e designer, known widely for his adventure path ‘What Lies Beyond Reason’, and the epic D&D 5e hardcover deity supplement; Faiths of the Forgotten Realms. Having run successful Kickstarters previously, Micah comes on board as our Pathfinder and Kickstarter expert.

Richard A. Knaak 

The creative genius behind Rex Draconis. Richard builds the world of Tiberos in his brand new novel series; Rex Draconis. He is known worldwide as a New York Times Bestselling author of novels in the Dragonlance, Diablo, World of Warcraft, Pathfinder, and Dragonrealm series. Richard provides creative consultancy and canon authority for the Rex Draconis RPG team.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

In my youth, Richard A. Knaak’s Dragonlance novels, The Legend of Huma and Kaz the Minotaur, were huge influences on me and, after Weis and Hickman’s Dragonlance trilogies, solidified my love of Krynn. If you’d like to read more about how influential those novels were, you can read fellow Tessera Guilder, John McGuire, give his thoughts on them here. Add to them the Dragonrealm series, and I have been a lifelong Knaak fan. His new series, Rex Draconis, introduces a world that is a love letter to Dragonlance. It’s less Weis/Hickman’s version and closer to the focus of Knaak’s corner of the world, yet manages to be greater than its inspiration.

Knaak’s strengths and knowledge of Ansalon let him touch all of the right moments from that world without the work ever descending into being a pale shadow of the better known property like Go-Bots to the Transformers. Rex Draconis remains its own world and story. While the focus of the series are the minotaurs and the not-Knights of Solamnia, they are handled in an earnest manner. There’s more to compare between the series. The kender (the group of annoying Hobbits that would have been wiped out just to end their unrepentant kleptomania) are replaced with the kwillum, a race that look like 10-year-old children who are also porcupine quicklings that are hunting something (in every pouch and coin purse that they pass). They are fast and have quills making them difficult to kill and, while they steal, they don’t do it aimlessly (they’re looking for something). The dragons are not flying mounts for the characters to ride into battle; instead, they’re D&D master monsters. The dragons, starkly good and evil in D&D, are neither in regards to humans in Rex Draconis, they see all bipeds as pawns in their wars so it changes the traditional pulp relationship between the powers that be. This series analog of the black moon of Dragonlance was shattered 400 years ago, which makes it visible as pieces that, I’m guessing, are leaning into the atmosphere a bit much. Every piece has a touch of the old with a nice twist that makes it new.

Continuing its homage of Dragonlance, Knaak wants to build the world into a D&D setting and, to do that, he’s working with Phil Beckwith and Micah Watt to make it happen. I’ve backed this and recommend checking out the setting as well as the first novella in the Rex Draconis series.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

UPDATE: [Q&A] #randomworlds welcomes Phil Beckwith (Rex Draconis) 10/05/2018 8:30 p.m. CDT! If you can make it, you can ask Phil your questions here: https://tinyurl.com/randomworlds-chat In case you missed it, Dan Davenport (the host) has the complete transcript here: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com

 

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Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD Roleplaying Game by EN Publishing
Ends on Thu, October 25 2018 7:00 PM EDT.

 

“Explore Mega-City One and beyond with the official tabletop roleplaying game for the galaxy’s greatest comic!

Judge. Jury. Executioner. Play as a Judge of Mega-City One and bust perps, Sov spies, and mutant raiders in this action-packed standalone tabletop roleplaying game, bringing to life the iconic characters and worlds found in the legendary British comic 2000 AD. This book is your introduction to Mega-City One, and your gateway to a line of supplements based on 2000 AD’s many characters and settings.

These books are brought to you by Darren Pearce (Doctor Who; Lone Wolf), Robert Schwalb (Dungeons & Dragons; Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay), Andrew Peregrine (Doctor Who; Firefly; Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Russ Morrissey (What’s OLD is NEW), and Nick Robinson.

Limited & Standard Edition Rulebooks, GM Screen, Counter Set, and The Robot Wars
Limited & Standard Edition Rulebooks, GM Screen, Counter Set, and The Robot Wars
  • Full colour 270-page hardcover Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD core rulebook!
  • The Robot Wars, 100-pages, the first in a series of softcover sourcebooks and adventures!
  • Sturdy two-sided cardboard 4-panel GM screen full of handy reference charts and tables!
  • Beautiful cardstock tokens to represent your characters and their foes!
  • Also, we are offering a limited edition version of the core rulebook with a special cover exclusive to this Kickstarter!
GM Screen (Front) - note that we include player useful info, such as typical crime sentences, on the player facing side of the GM screen
GM Screen (Front) – note that we include player useful info, such as typical crime sentences, on the player facing side of the GM screen
GM Screen (Back)
GM Screen (Back)
Nearly 100 full-colour cardstock tokens to represent your characters and their foes!
Nearly 100 full-colour cardstock tokens to represent your characters and their foes!

 

We are producing a full-colour hardcover core rulebook for the all-new Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD tabletop roleplaying game. This book contains all the rules and setting information you need to play any character in Mega-City One, and is the core rulebook for the entire line of 2000 AD settings and worlds.

  • Play a Judge, Civilian, or Perp!
  • Choose from Humans, Clones, Robots, Mutants, Chimps, Gorillas, and Orangutans!
  • Wield the iconic Lawgiver sidearm and ride the mighty Lawmaster motorcycle!
  • Read about Mega-City One, as well as other worlds of 2000 AD!
  • Core rulebook contains everything you need to play in Mega-City One, and provides the core rules upon which the many worlds of 2000 AD are based!
Limited & Standard Edition Core Rulebooks
Limited & Standard Edition Core Rulebooks

Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD is a standalone roleplaying game. You do not need any other books in order to play. This 250+ page book introduces you to Mega-City One, and allows you to play Judges, Perps, or Civilians in that futuristic metropolis. This is also the core rulebook for future setting books which will detail many of your favourite 2000 ADproperties, such as Rogue Trooper, Sláine, Strontium Dog, ABC Warriors, and many more!

Check out these previews of the game!

 

2000 AD is a multi-award winning weekly British cult-sci-fi comic anthology that has been running since 1977. Having featured dozens of writers and artists over the years, including Pat Mills, Alan Grant, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, John Wagner and Alan Moore, 2000 ADbrings you an explosive cocktail of sci-fi and fantasy, infused with a mean streak of irony and wry black humour.

2000 AD is future lawmen in vast megacities. It is post apocalyptic wastelands filled with mutants. It is celtic barbarians and druids fighting evil drunelords. It is robot warriors taming a lawless Mars. It is ancient accords between the British Crown and Hell. It is intergalactic cargo trucks adventuring through space. It is extra-dimensional agencies who repair anomalies across the alternate realities. It is Houdini, Lovecraft, and Doyle as paranormal investigators in the 1920s. It is alien freedom fighters seeking to end the tyranny of humans on a far future Earth. It is genetically engineered soldiers bred for war. And it is much, much more.

The worlds of 2000 AD are diverse indeed. And you can play in them all!

 Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD uses the What’s OLD is NEW (WOIN) game system. Here are some of the features of that system:

  • d6 dice pools. Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD uses d6 dice pools to resolve actions. You form a dice pool by adding dice from an attribute, a skill, and equipment. For example, a burglar trying to pick a lock might have 3d6 from her AGILITY attribute, 2d6 from her thievery skill, and 1d6 from her high quality thieves tools, meaning she gets to roll 6d6. The dice are added together and compared to a target number. Detailed rules for simple tasks, extended tasks, and competitive tasks using the same core mechanic allow for a flexible variety of challenges.
  • Life-path careers system. Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD uses a “life-path” system for character creation. You create a character by selecting a number of sequential careers which represent periods of your character’s life since childhood. Each career adds to your character’s age, and increases various attributes and skills, as well as granting a special ability while adding to your character’s history and backstory.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

Disclaimer: I freelance for ENWorld, which is published by EN Publishing who are behind Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD.

Judge Dredd, while known in the US, has never taken root as it did in its native country, the UK. The best illustration of the difference in markets is the 2012 movie, Dredd. For that movie, the US and Canada (population north of 350,000,000) spent $13,414,714 on the entire run of that film while the UK (64,000,000) spent $6,929,744 on seeing the film. [Numbers from BoxOfficeMojo here.] A population that is less than a 5th the size of the US/Canada bought about half as many tickets as the larger group. That speaks to how much larger the fanbase is in the UK than North America. Add to that, in this Kickstarter, as of this writing, the number of American and Canadian backers combined (477) just edges out the UK (441).

Should you back this Kickstarter? Does national origin make any difference? I’d say you should, because what makes the difference in audience participation is, in my opinion, The Law tends to display a certain amount of English wit that does not always connect in the US. Yet, in my experience, that wit lives at the gaming table. Judge Dredd has the range to feel pulpy, humorous, and dark all in a single story. Using the WOIN system combined with the player’s natural tendency to take all situations to the extreme, this will be an excellent RPG and I can’t wait to test it out.

While this is a hype piece (call a spade), I’m compelled to note that the world of art is poorer today for the passing of Carlos Ezquerra, the character designer of Judge Dredd. His artwork will be missed, and my thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

UPDATE: A free quickstart of the game is available here.

 

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Disclosures: This article contains affiliate links.

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™
Freelancer for EN WorldKnights of the Dinner TableOpen Gaming Network, and the Tessera Guild.
Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Want to share news? Press releases? Rumors? Sneak peeks? Deals? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

4 RPG Kickstarters You Should Back – Something Is Wrong Here, Jack Hack, Occam’s Razor, and Prism

For this week’s RPG Kickstarter roundup, I’m looking at games that deal in Lovecraftian horror, surrealism, and relationships. These games look both forward into the relationships of today and the future while others expose the dark soul of the past. All are worth backing.

 

Prism by Whitney M. Delaglio
Ends on Fri, September 28 2018 10:00 PM EDT.

 

“A diceless roleplaying game about relationships and conflict resolution in an aquatic world.

“Once upon a time, there was a barren planet without life, an ocean, or vegetation. Six gods in coalition made the world habitable. Five of the six gods each took an island for their own and molded it into the home they wanted to leave behind, for the life they had created and for the generations to come. The Blue Realm was created beneath the waves, built atop sand where merfolk could thrive. They lived there as mortals until their deaths, returning to their godly forms to observe from afar.”

Prism is a roleplaying game about relationships (both platonic and romantic) and conflict resolution set in an aquatic world. There are six realms in the game with their own culture, code of ethics, and deity. The setting of the game promotes a sex positive environment and a safe space to explore intimate character interactions.

Prism is also a world of elemental magic, but the mechanics are light and conversational. The rest of the rules rely less on crunch, and more on negotiations between players and the GM. There are three core mechanics in the game. The first is each character starts out with at least one relationship with another character in the game. Depending how they feel about the other person, they’ll receive a unique bonus. The second is instead of using dice, characters rely on predetermined levels of expertise in skills such as swimming, dancing, and following protocol to solve narrative conflicts, and interact with the world around them. The third mechanic is each character is loyal to a realm, and depending on their behavior, they can be punished or rewarded by the god that watches over the realm they are loyal to.

“Prism offers players a chance to think about their characters emotional lives in a way that is really fresh. I love the way in Prism what your character feels, and how they relate to the world – and the world, to them – actually matters.” – Jason Morningstar

“This is a delightful work. I am reminded again at how calm it makes me feel to read it. That is also a testament to her choices of words and phrasing.” – Cam Banks

“Character creation was a delight. Character creation is my least favorite thing about RPGs, so this is the highest compliment to pay.” – Elizabeth Stong

Since the core of the game is relationships between player and non-player characters, it’s intended for a maximum of four players. For a really intimate experience, Prism can even be played one-on-one with the GM!

“I love Prism’s attention to the dynamic nature of our relationships, and there is no better way to explore that theme than in a game where it’s just you and the GM. Experiencing love and loss through such a highly-focused lens was powerful and inspiring. I have never felt so affected by a single session of any game.” – Andrea Gaulke

“Prism was rich with opportunities, fun to explore, and intimate without being overwhelming. I felt like my character could stand alone during the adventure, but I also had the sense that if the game expanded to include more players, it could be just as fun.” – Kimberley Lam

All the writing, and most of the art was done by yours truly. The rulebook has over 50 full color illustrations. I collaborated with one of my best friends, Maria Smith, to complete the artwork for the Almanac.

The physical copy of the book is 6×9 softcover, full color, and 48 pages in length. The great thing about this campaign is the digital version has already been finalized. Which means once it has ended, printing and fulfillment can begin soon after.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

 

Let’s do the list of why this is an idea that’s worth checking out:

  • Diceless? Check
  • Aquatic? Check
  • “[P]romotes a sex positive environment and a safe space to explore intimate character interactions”? Check

Normally a game tries one “new”, or rarely used, concept. Prism is a grab bag of ideas that, after reading the campaign, feel like they belong together. This RPG is opening new doors and stepping through, and I cannot wait to see how it plays!

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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The Jack Hack Complete. A Dark Victorian role-playing game by John R Davis
Ends on Sun, September 30 2018 1:30 PM EDT.

 

“The Jack Hack is a rpg of trying to beat the odds in the depravity of late Victorian London. It was inspired by the Black Hack OSR rpg

The Goal of this Kickstarter.

To create an updated version of the Jack Hack rpg including a limited printed box set.

The Jack Hack is a Role-Playing Game of Victorian Villains.   It was originally inspired by  The Black Hack rpg by David Black & my love of Victorian Adventuring. The release will contain a full rules set based on the Black Hack, modified to fit the setting.

You were once quite worthy fellows. Something terrible happened and you hit rock bottom. Were it not for a mysterious benefactor you would have died. Maybe you would have been better off that way. Your life is one long fight to survive in the twisting, dank alleyways of the Whitechapel area of London.  And now rumour has it there is a serial killer on the loose“.

The main thrust of the The Jack Hack as a game is trying to beat the odds in the depravity of late Victorian London. It has a particular focus on the Whitechapel area just before, and around the time of the infamous Jack the Ripper murders.  The PCs aren’t heroes, but aren’t meant to be down-right cruel either. They are trying to get by- but situations, events and adventures keep coming their way.

Clearly the Whitechapel Murders were a terrible event but the mystery and legend about them is perfect for game creativity.  

The Jack Hack Complete (Or The Jack Hack-The Complete Rip-Off, if you forgive the terrible pun) is produced as a set of five A5 sized books each about 60 pages in length. Parts of it have previously been released on ‘DriveThruRPG.com’ where it is a Silver Seller. This release will contain much more material, a good edit throughout, and more art and images.  As well as a set of new cover art.

The following details the five books

  • The Jack Hack Basic Book. This includes the rules.
  • Ripper Fhtagn. A game book of Mythos, Mesmerism and Monsters.
  • Dead London. A game book of Martian Invasion and Steampunk.
  • Carved In Flesh. 5 scenarios based around the Whitechapel Murders.
  • The Great Game. A game book of Anarchists, Political Intrique and Spies.
The Jack Hack Basic Book
The Jack Hack Basic Book

The Jack Hack. This contains all the rules needed to play and stacks of random tables and adventure seeds.

The game features 5  classes:

  • The Broken. Former military tough or pit-fighter, now a shallow shell of a man.
  • The Night-Flower. A singer, actress; now working girl unable to rise out of the squalor.
  • The Cokum. A street swindler, hypnotist, false nobility or fake folk hero. ·
  • The Disgraced. A former doctor, scientist, lawyer, politician; abandoned by friends and family. ·
  • The Fine-Wire. Once a master criminal, now mocked by both police and thieves.
One born every minute....
One born every minute….

It also features two usage dice:

The White. This usage dice represents your ‘outer’ influence, infamy, contacts and place in the Whitechapel area. You can use it to quickly gather information, find a safe house, find a short cut, or anything your group deems relevant.

The Black. This usage dice represents the ‘inner’ torment you suffer. You can call on it to complete a task, but the GM can force its use when she (or you) thinks a recent setback may cause you to go into a downward spiral and you need to face your demons.

Most classes start with a d6 to a d10 in a usage dice. When they are called on, the relevant dice is rolled to ensure you just get through that situation. If a 1-2 is rolled the dice is degraded one step (d10 to d8, d6 to d4) to represent you using up any influence and resources you may have; also your will, sanity, and/or self discipline being worn away.

The Rest of the book is ‘Welcome to Whitechapel’ and contains lots of random stuff to see, do and suffer! Images and Maps. There are many random tables such as:

  •  20 things found floating in the Thames.
  •  20 things a street vendor may sell you.
  •  20 places to wake up the morning after.
  •  20 petty criminals.
  •  20 words a gentleman wouldn’t call his wife.
Sample d20 things
Sample d20 things

There are about two dozen of these in total. There are also many lists of places to visit, and numerous adventure seeds to start your Jack Hack.

Fear Itself
Fear Itself
Who would have believed.......
Who would have believed…….
There will be blood
There will be blood
The Games Afoot
The Games Afoot

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

 

I’m a John R Davis fan! In the days when I backed projects to write for them (and build my resume), I did some NPCs and location creation for his book, The Cruellest Mistress of All. I’ve interviewed him over on the Open Gaming Network (here). Through it all, I’ve found John to be an easy to get along with creator. Now he’s combining his version of the OSR, The Black Hack, with Victorian England. With the artwork above, I’m sold!

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * *

 

Occam’s Razor, a collection of scenarios for Call of Cthulhu by Stygian Fox Publishing
Ends on Mon, October 1 2018 12:16 PM EDT.

 

“A series of adventures where evil and the Cthulhu mythos is not what it seems.

Occam’s Razor is a collection of modern scenarios by horror author and Call of Cthulhu stalwart Brian M. Sammons for Chaosium Inc’s 7th edition Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. It has a dark tone, like most Stygian Fox titles, more akin to True Detective and American Horror Story and is written for Mature Gamers Only. The scenarios look into the dark heart of humanity and the mythos… but this book has a twist.

One of the problems long term Keepers can face when running Call of Cthulhu is their players becoming too jaded or blasé regarding the Cthulhu mythos.

“Oh, Deep Ones? Yeah, we’ve killed these before. Open fire.”
Rather than; “Oh my God! They’re real! Run!”

It’s difficult to maintain that suspension of belief when you have been facing the same creatures year after year. This is where Occam’s Razor comes in, being a collection of scenarios where initially they seem to be linked to the mythos but they have mundane causes and outcomes.

I have run these type of scenarios for twenty years and every time they sucker players in and help them see how paranoid their characters have become and, more importantly, when it comes time to face the actual mythos again, many players believe the adventure will have a mundane cause. When interspersed with mythos adventures this leads to some serious panic when the players realise that this is real. Used sparingly, these adventures lull players into a false sense of security and make the next real mythos encounter all the more vivid.

One of my players had his character just stand and watch as a colleague was eaten by a dark shadow in a toy store because the player refused to believe it was a mythos entity. This was a ten year veteran of the game.

Of course, a separate sidebar is provided for each adventure if you wish to have actual mythos elements in your game.

Call of Cthulhu is the Registered Trademark of Chaosium Inc., and is used with their permission. www.chaosium.com

 Brian M. Sammons has created 6 scenarios which tease at mythos causes but will ultimately lead to a mundane resolution. A murder is just a murder, a cult site is just kids with spray paints, etc. Here is a summary of the scenarios contained within the book.

Deep and Dark – the investigators find a snuff film on the dark web, but one of a pretty girl getting mauled by a Fishman monster. Did the deep ones mess up and accidentally get filmed in this modern world where everyone has a camera phone or is it something else?

Eye of the Beholder – an art student goes missing while doing late night research in a museum with ties to the local university. Maybe it’s a coincidence that the museum just got in a huge statue from South America of a little-known death god called Thul’Cathul. Yep, total coincidence.

The Watchers – a woman living alone in an apartment in the big city notices that people are watching her. Following her. They even broke into her home. But why? What do they want and how far will they go?

A Whole Pack of Trouble – a group of film school students go to an isolated, abandoned, and reportedly haunted asylum to make a found-footage horror movie and make a fortune? Whatever could go wrong with that? Well, when the filmmakers go missing the investigators will have to find out.

A Cleansing Flame – People are dying by fire. No one knows why and no one knows how. When the latest victim is a friend to one of the investigators and an astronomer who reportedly made a recent discovery of note, it’s up to the investigators to put out these flames.

Visions From Beyond – Tommy is a friend who makes some new friends. That’s nice. Unfortunately those friends have a strange reputation, they get up to some bizarre practices, and then one night Tommy calls one of the investigators in terror, begging for help, then the line goes dead. What’s a friend and an investigator of the Mythos to do?

The book will be in PDF, ePub, Softcover, and hardcover formats and will be full colour.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

 

Modern horror adventures for Chaosium Inc’s Call of Cthulhu’s 7e written for mature audiences. Stygian Fox Publishing purchased four titles from Miskatonic River Press and is bringing them back (read some of the details here). Judging by those titles, Stygian has an eye for quality horror and I expect these scenarios will be excellent.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * *

 

Something Is Wrong Here: A Roleplaying Game by Kira Magrann
Ends on Thu, October 4 2018 8:00 PM EDT.

 

“Uncanny surrealist roleplaying, inspired by TWIN PEAKS, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, and the other dark works of DAVID LYNCH.

Something Is Wrong Here is a Roleplaying Game of uncanny surrealism designed by Kira Magrann. In this game you’ll play troubled humans who struggle with their dark pasts and inner demons in order to make meaningful, potentially healing connections with each other. At some small town diner with a neon sign, in a broken down car on the highway, in someone’s wallpapered living room, at the old roadhouse down the way, unsettling scenes of Americana unfold as the game heads down it’s inevitable nightmarish path.

This game can be played in one night, in the intimacy of your living room or a private convention room. The line between player and character is intentionally drawn thin, causing feelings to bleed from one to the other. This game is atmospheric, emotional, and personal. Don’t worry though players, there’s safety mechanics to guide you through these dreamy paths of the subconscious mind.

The game’s themes and characters are inspired by the horrific surrealism of David Lynch’s work, specifically the quirky and supernatural characters from Twin Peaks, the nightmarish identity confusion from Mulholland Drive, and the lurid truths that lie beneath mundane Americana in Blue Velvet.

all art by Elissa Leach
all art by Elissa Leach

Dark and Dreamy

With the Return of Twin Peaks last year I became re-obsessed with the spooky dreamlike worlds of David Lynch’s work. This game is an homage to those worlds, and is meant to evoke the same types of unsettling, horrific, and identity/reality questioning feelings. The characters struggle with their darker selves, the setting is surreal and Americana, and there aren’t any satisfying answers at the end of the story.

Much like a David Lynch film, this game has postmodern references to breaking the fourth wall. It encourages overlap between real life feelings and a character’s feelings. What this means is that it’s likely players will feel a little vulnerable playing this game. There are safety guidelines included about how to play with intention, and how to debrief with aftercare for any troubling feelings that might arise while playing this game. This allows players to experiment with these feelings, and explore them in play, with a safety net built into the game.

What Play is Like

Everything needed to play Something Is Wrong Here is on a deck of cards. The only props needed are a mirror and a box. Character costuming is optional, but generic enough for thrifted or piecemeal wardrobe elements to work. A few songs are integral to mood making but can be played on any device.

Something Is Wrong Here can be played in a living room or any private room where you can control the atmosphere. While embodying your character in a series of scenes, you’re encouraged to use the space either sitting or standing, since there’s no dice involved. Cards are where the characters, roleplaying prompts, and instructions for play exist. Play is a series of scenes that the Facilitator of the game will guide players through, just like a TV show or movie.

I’ve designed this game to be as accessible as possible to new players, so I’m hoping that other David Lynch fans who have never played a game like this before can easily play, or gamers who’ve never seen a David Lynch gig don’t have to worry about matching genre conventions.

The Facilitator is in charge of knowing the entire game, spoilers and all. Their job is to tell players of characters what scenes they’re in, keep time for the game, and explain the basic rules of what the players need to do throughout the game.

Players will act the part of troubled characters in a surreal America. Each character has a personality, goals, and relationships with the other characters. There are six characters to choose from, each with their own specific issues to work through and personality quirks.

There are Two Acts in the game.

Act One establishes the characters in the surreal Americana settings. Their goal during play is to try and evoke a certain emotion in each scene together. They have a list of emotions to portray collaboratively in this series of scenes, and after each scene a corresponding card is drawn. This card gives them some narrative power over the next scene they’re in, stealing this power from the auteur Facilitator.

Emotions are things like:

  • The feeling of something new on the horizon
  •  A genuine closeness

Narrative Control cards are things like:

  • In the next scene you’re in, you can’t quite hear what the other people are saying. Ask them to repeat things.
  • In the next scene you’re in, take over any part of the facilitator’s role that you like.

Mixed in-between these scenes are surreal interludes called Mirror Scenes. They allow characters to monologue about where they are internally, how they’re feeling, while looking into the mirror. Disturbing music plays.

Act Two takes a plot twist and contains a major spoiler, but it is reality changing for the characters. Scenes are then acted out with new sets of nightmarish cue cards that apply specifically to each character’s psyche, with haunting music. This is where characters, and players, decide the fate of their relationships with themselves and the other characters. It’s an internal emotional exploration, told on a supernatural stage reminiscent of red curtained stages and black striped floors.

The stats for this game are below.

  • Players: 5-6 + Facilitator
  • Time: 4 hours
  • Rating: 18+
  • Materials: Character Nametags, Game Cards, Music, Box, Mirror (floor length if possible), Drinks & Costumes (optional)
  • Keywords: Identity Confusion, Surrealism, Uncanny, David Lynch, Americana, Non-linear, Meta, Narrative Control, Unsettling, Emotional, Personal”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

 

Kira Magrann has tapped a vain: David Lynch, the card-based RPG. There’s one card you can read with only a light tilt of the head [enlarged below] and, taken with the David Lynch muse, it tells you what you’re getting. What are you getting? The tea leaves say it’ll be a unique experience. That’s the genius of this game, it is more than a linear RPG, this is an atmospheric experience that you will think about as often as you ponder a David Lynch production. It is worth trying out.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Disclosures: This article contains affiliate links.

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™
Freelancer for EN WorldKnights of the Dinner TableOpen Gaming Network, and the Tessera Guild.
Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Want to share news? Press releases? Rumors? Sneak peeks? Deals? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

4 RPG Kickstarters You Should Back – Tiny Supers, Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD, Art of War, and Power Outage

I’m back from Gen Con 2018 [you can read Part One of John McGuire’s review of our trip here] and ready to focus on some amazing RPGs available via Kickstarter. These are projects that I have connection to (I’m friends with the creators or they are an all-ages game) and that look amazing! Let’s dive in!

 

Tiny Supers: Minimalist Superhero Roleplaying by Gallant Knight Games
Ends on Fri, August 10 2018 7:25 PM EDT.

“Tiny Supers – Minimalist, four-color tabletop superhero roleplaying based on the TinyD6 system!

Gallant Knight Games is happy to present the latest genre-book for our TinyD6 minimalist roleplaying system: Tiny Supers!

Using the rules in this book, you’ll be able to play superheroes of all types, from paragons and exemplars, to super-science heroes of the future or past, to cosmic guardians defending the far-reaches of the galactic civilizations from untold threats!

Alan was on Victory Condition Gaming talking about Tiny Supers! While the video is 40 minutes long, the first 5 to 10 minutes are hyper focused on the game and the contents of the campaign (but you can listen to the whole thing if you want!)

The Iconic Hero and paragon of the GallantVerse, Gallant! Art by Nicolas Giacondino
The Iconic Hero and paragon of the GallantVerse, Gallant! Art by Nicolas Giacondino

Character creation is simple, fast, and exciting. You pick your character archetype based on the exciting stories your Game Master is going to tell, you pick a few Traits or Powers that each grant a single benefit, and you’re done!

For the first time ever, a TinyD6 game will have it’s own detailed setting, as we bring the GallantVerse to you!

You can read more about the GallantVerse below!

Ryker Swift, aka Velocity! One of our Iconic GallantVerse Heroes. Art by Nicolás Giacondino
Ryker Swift, aka Velocity! One of our Iconic GallantVerse Heroes. Art by Nicolás Giacondino

Sometimes as the GM, you don’t have time to plot lengthy, detailed worlds, but you want that experience. Well, we’ve got your back, and that support comes in the form of micro-verses and our signature setting, The GallantVerse!

Micro-verses are short settings filled with adventure hooks, and designed to put your adventures and campaigns into high action-adventure.

Our goal is to fund a softcover edition, a limited number of hardcover collector’s editions, and the Tiny Supers dice. We’ve planned several stretch goals which will increase page count, add more art, add more special rules but all of our goals will provide you with more fun and engaging superhero tabletop content!

You might notice that our funding goal is much higher than previous TinyD6 Kickstarters. One of our goals with this project is to fund a full-color book, replete with gorgeous art from the very talented Nicolás Giacondino, with posters and covers by a variety of talented artists.

Additionally, the writing on the GallantVerse is being handled by top industry talent. We’re set on paying all our contributors well, and our goal reflects our commitment to an ethical pay rate for our writers, artists, and team members.

Pulsewave, one of our GallantVerse Iconics! Art by Nicolás Giacondino
Pulsewave, one of our GallantVerse Iconics! Art by Nicolás Giacondino

Tiny Supers uses a simple, fast, and dynamic ruleset to handle actions. The game uses up to three six-sided dice as part of action resolution.

If you roll a “5” or “6” on a die, your check succeeds. Most checks are made with two dice. However, if you are deemed to have “advantage” on a roll, you gain a third die to roll. If you have disadvantage, you lose a dice (rolling only a single die).

Characters are made quickly and easily. You will select a superheroic archetype (such as Paragon, Gadgeteer, Defender, Mastermind or more), three traits or powers, and write down some basic information and you are ready to play!

Bastion, one of our GallantVerse Iconics! Art by Nicolás Giacondino
Bastion, one of our GallantVerse Iconics! Art by Nicolás Giacondino

If you’re familiar with the TinyD6 ruleset, you’re probably wondering how Power Traits are different than Traits?

Well, Power Traits are new traits that gain better versions of themselves as you take them again and again. Let’s use an example, like SuperSpeed (Alan’s favorite power.) SuperSpeed has 3 Tiers. The first time a Trait choice is spent to select SuperSpeed.

  • Tier One: Any turn in which you move, you also count as having taken the Evade action.

If a Hero were to select the Super-Speed Power Trait again with a Trait Choice, they’d gain the Tier Two Power:

  • Tier Two: You can take a move action once per turn, without using up one of your two actions for the turn.

If they repeated it a third time, they’d gain the third and final power:

  • Tier Three: When you take a move action, you can move three times.

All the PowerTraits in Tiny Supers function on a level similar to this. There is a wide swath of powers, making almost any super imaginable!

Darklight, one of our Iconic GallantVerse Villains! Art by Nicolás Giacondino
Darklight, one of our Iconic GallantVerse Villains! Art by Nicolás Giacondino

The GallantVerse is the standard superheroic setting for Tiny Supers! Conceived by Alan Bahr, the GallantVerse is a near-future setting, where superheroes have recently come into being!

The GallantVerse is a setting focused on heroic and exciting heroes, with a slight science fiction bent and a focus on hope and optimistic heroism! All your favorite comic book angles are here, from mystical occultists, to mutants, to paragons of science and technology, and massive cosmic threats! We’re hitting all the notes!

Our core of the setting is the coastal city of Sentry City! A technological hotspot, Sentry City is the birthplace of superheroes and the central piece of the GallantVerse.

As the first cohesive core campaign setting for the TinyD6 line, GallantVerse is being overseen by Alan, with writing by an excellent troupe of freelancers!

The Eagle! One of our GallantVerse Iconics. Art by Nicolás Giacondino
The Eagle! One of our GallantVerse Iconics. Art by Nicolás Giacondino

Micro-settings are unique, small universes that exist in alternate dimensions adjacent to theGallantVerse!

They are specifically designed to be used as a tool, resource, or spring-board for your own campaigns.

All of the micro-verses come with some story and some fluff that is designed to be unique to that particular micro-verse.

The core book comes with some very different micro-verses, all of them written by those we selected from our Tiny Supers Open Call! 

Further down the page (and revealed as they’re unlocked) are the micro-verses that are included in Tiny Supers! All of them were unlocked by stretch goals, and we’ve compiled them below!

Asher Solomon, the Immortal Magus and GallantVerse Iconic! Art by Nicolás Giacondino
Asher Solomon, the Immortal Magus and GallantVerse Iconic! Art by Nicolás Giacondino

Gallant Knight Games is a indie game company ran by Alan and Erin Bahr. This is our 10th GKG Kickstarter!

Our previous TinyD6 Kickstarters (Tiny Frontiers and Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters) delivered early to backers (4 months in the case of Tiny Frontiers), and Tiny Dungeon 2e was on time!

Our micro-settings are written by some of the most talented freelancers in the RPG business!

Tiny Supers has been in development since late 2016 and been in play-testing for 12 months! The art is all in, and paid for (with the exception of any stetch goals). The goal of this Kickstarter is to pay for the print run and unlock our stretch goals, making this a truly gorgeous book.

Montebank, an Iconic Occult Villain! Art by Nicolas Giacondino
Montebank, an Iconic Occult Villain! Art by Nicolas Giacondino

As we continue along, we’ll be previewing bios of our fantastic freelancers and writers here!”

Egg’s Thoughts:

This year I met Alan (Gallant Knight Games) Bahr at Gen Con (it’s nice to put a face with a name). During another campaign, I interviewed Alan Bahr about Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition here (Tiny Supers uses the same core mechanic). The system is simple enough that it can be viewed as an all-ages option (which I love), but not so simple there’s no joy in playing it. TinyD6 is a popular system and it spans a variety of genres.

  • Tiny Frontiers: Minimalist Science Fiction Roleplaying – 403 backers pledged $12,413
  • Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and Monsters – 352 backers pledged $13,310
  • Tiny Dungeon: Second Edition – 1,661 backers pledged $62,585
  • Tiny Wastelands: Minimalist Post-Apocalyptic Roleplaying – 910 backers pledged $32,353

Of the Tiny-verse, only the campaign for Tiny Dungeon: Second Edition has more backers and pledges. Add to this, Fat Goblin Games will be creating “roleplaying game supplements based on the popular TinyD6 Engine” [read the press release here], this is a good time to try TinyD6!

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * *

 

Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD (40th Anniversary Reprint) by Battlefield Press International (DriveThruRPG or Open Gaming Network)
Ends on Sat, August 11 2018 12:59 AM EDT.

“A Terran Trade Authority Handbook. Full color reprint of the original books by Stewart Cowley.

No one would have believed, in the closing years of the 1970’s, that science fiction was to experience a boom that would last through to the present day. The summer blockbuster had only just been invented. There was only one Star Wars movie. The voyage of the Battlestar Galactica had only just begun, and Buck Rogers had yet to conquer television. But between the pages of the Terran Trade Authority handbooks, enthralled readers were discovering a beautiful and brightly-coloured vision of the future, where wondrous spacecraft explored strange planets, navigated shimmering nebulae and fought desperate battles among the stars. Illustrated by some of the world’s greatest science fiction artists and written by Stewart Cowley, the handbooks told the tale of mankind’s expansion into the unknown and the trials and wonders they encountered. Conceived of as a “Jane’s Guide” for the future, the books made use of the stunning artwork produced for the paperback science fiction market at the time, reproducing them in lush colour and on glossy paper. Beginning with Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD in 1978, the Terran Trade Authority series went on to become a cult phenomenon, loved and fondly remembered by all who came across them. The Terran Trade Authority presented a bright vision of the future, optimistic about man’s place in the universe, and featuring a strong undercurrent of mystery, wonder and adventure. In recent years the volumes have become collectors’ items – expensive and rarely found, but never forgotten – and have gone on to influence creators around the globe. The setting has spawned two role-playing games and has been cited as a clear inspiration for the best-selling computer game No Man’s Sky. Within the pages of the books are a veritable who’s who of science fiction art, including such names as Jim Burns, Alan Daniels, Peter Elson, Fred Gambino, Colin Hay, Robin Hiddon, Bob Layzell, Angus McKie, Chris Foss, Chris Moore, Tony Roberts, and Trevor Webb. Now, with your help, we are proud to present a special 40th Anniversary Edition of the first of the TTA handbooks; Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD. It’s time to return to the future!

ACM 113, Fatboy
ACM 113, Fatboy

About Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD

The Terran Trade Authority is an original science-fiction setting first presented in four large-format full-colour illustrated books, published between 1978 and 1980. Each book is presented as an “in-universe” document, detailing the history of the Terran Trade Authority and their spectacular spacecraft. This book covers the events immediately before and after the Proximan War Era, and is presented in the same manner as an aircraft recognition guide, made up entirely of spacecraft descriptions and art accompanied by details of their role and performance in the war, and occasionally their history afterwards.

Nomad Industrial Complex
Nomad Industrial Complex

Foreword to Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD: 40th Anniversary Edition

During the heady days of the Russian-American space race and the globally televised Apollo missions, the world watched enthralled as humans took the first faltering steps beyond gravity’s grip. But as time passed public enthusiasm waned. The value and relevance of space research and its huge costs were questioned In the face of global social, political and economic pressures. But eventually, popular interest in space exploration re-emerged. A major imperative was the growing awareness of Planet Earth’s fragility in the face of the demands we made on it. However successful we were in conserving our world’s resources and developing new forms of energy, the fact remained that we were simply outgrowing our homeworld. The search for Earth-like planets and the technology to travel there became of paramount importance. The post-Apollo drop in popular enthusiasm for space research did not mean that the scientific community relaxed their search for answers. On the contrary, a growing number of major players brought fresh resources to the table. In addition to NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, China, Japan, India, the European Space Agency and even private enterprise grew our knowledge base. Not just in how we would travel in space but where we might go. A major contributor was NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. Launched in 2009 to seek out exoplanets – planets beyond our own solar system – Kepler soon identified over 1000 of them. Only a dozen or so were Earth-like, as to qualify, planets could not be much larger than twice Earth’s size and therefore rocky, in order to increases the probability of surface water. Such planets also had to orbit the ‘habitable zone’ of its sun where the average temperature allowed water to exist in liquid form. Identifying the ‘Where’ brought us to the ‘How’, the greatest challenge of all. Entirely new aspects of astrophysics had to explored and manipulated for interstellar travel to become a reality. The strongest contenders were forms of Warp Drive where the space-time continuum, the actual fabric of space, is distorted. Work by NASA’s Dr. Harold ‘Sonny’ White made significant advances in Warp Drive technology using advanced Quantum Optics to create a space-time bubble around a craft that would enable it to move independently from the rest of space. By compressing space-time in front of the vessel and expanding it behind, faster-than-light speeds became possible. The key point in making interstellar travel a reality came about in 2012 with the founding of the 100 YSS (100 Year Star Ship Project) funded initially by NASA and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). The formation of Icarus Interstellar in 2011 and its Starship Congress of 2013 combined with the introduction of Brane Cosmology took faster-than-light (FTL) research to a new level. The creation of the Terran Trade Authority harnessed global research and made Warp Drive systems and our journey to the stars a reality.

~ CMDR Stewart Cowley Terran Trade Authority

Colonial III, Angus McKie
Colonial III, Angus McKie

Add-Ons

RPG Add-on

Terran Trade Authority: The Proxima War. This is the setting book written for the Savage Worlds game system. For an additional $15 you will be able to purchase a PDF of the book, for an additional $25 you will be able to purchase a softcover copy of the book. Shipping to be figured after the end of this kickstarter. 

Promotional Opportunity 

We know that as midshipmen, it can take forever to qualify for that promotion in the Terran Navy, so why not do what good midshipmen have done for ages, bribe your way up the chain of command. You can just add an amount for which ever rank you request promotion, you will be listed in the back of the book with a dedication to you at that rank. It’s the easiest way to be promoted. Ship assignments, where necessary, will be posted on the order sheet detailed in the back of the book.

  • +$10 Ensign. While its not a high rank, it does put you in the officers core.
  • +$15 Lieutenant. It’s a little higher on the chain of command, Captains are still above you, but you get to command Ensigns and midshipmen. You get to look forward to your own ship command one of these days.
  • +$20 Captain. Here you are, you immediately will be assigned to your own starship, at the assignment of the Admiralty when needed. The Admiralty will randomly assign you a ship (type and name) for your command.
  • +$25 Rear Admiral. You are in command of a squadron, imagine being in command of a fleet of ships. Its not easy baring that responsibility, but you are pretty sure you have the chops for it. The admiralty will give you a random assignment for your fleet, something like Terran Defense Command or Terran Training Command.

Book Specs

  • Author and Artist: Stewart Cowley and company (this book will contain all the original artwork)
  • Size: the print book will be a 8.5 x 11 book, either in softcover or hardcover, depending on your choice.
  • Layout: New layout will be done by J Gray.
  • 40th Anniversary logo is by Ian Stead 

Stretch Goals

  • $13000 – Terran Trade Authority RPG material for the Starfinder Role Playing Game published by Paizo Publishing in PDF. A POD version will be made available for purchase should we reach this stretch goal.
  • $15000 – Terran Trade Authority RPG sourcebook for the Cepheus Engine (A current Mongoose Traveller 1e clone) in PDF. A POD version will be made available for purchase should we reach this stretch goal.

SHIPPING THE REWARDS

Shipping is not included in the pledge levels. That’s because for this Kickstarter campaign, we’re going to send out surveys and collect shipping fees through BackerKit once we’re ready to ship out all physical rewards. This not only means all funds raised in the Kickstarter are going towards covering the costs of production (creating an electronic edition from a print is not cheap. The cost of production include licensing fees, layout, and printing) but it gives us plenty of time to source the best and least expensive international shipping options through fulfilment agents in Europe and Asia. Thanks for being understanding! We know that for some it’s much easier just to take care of the total costs all at once upon pledging, but we hope you’ll see that this approach is not only better for the project but affords you the lowest shipping costs when the time comes.

Cyclops, Colin Hay
Cyclops, Colin Hay

Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD is (c) 1978 Stewart Cowley. All art is (c) 1978 to the respective artist. All work used herein is used with permission and under license.

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

This is a campaign to reprint the first in a series of books, it has a stretch goal to make it the setting for two RPG systems (Starfinder [a new stretch goal] and the Cepheus Engine), and it will be beautiful. Everyone involved in this has a great deal of love for this series. On the Open Gaming Network, I interviewed Jonathan Thompson about this campaign (here), and it covers so much ground. If you’re on the fence, I recommend that interview.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here or at the OpenGamingStore here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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Art of War for Savage Worlds by Amora Game (DriveThruRPG or Open Gaming Network)
Ends on Thu, August 16 2018 5:31 PM EDT.

“Art of War (relaunch): The Martial Arts Setting in a Fantasy Anime World. Powered by Savage Worlds. Be a Hero. Be a Legend.

Art of War is an anime inspired setting of over-the-top action. Art of War combines the exciting influences of Heroes of the East mixed with Samurai Champloo. A high-flying martial arts campaign where Players and Game Masters can tell epic stories of Outlaws of the Marsh and Forty-Seven Ronin using Savage Worlds.

Welcome to the San Empire…

It is the rise of a new dynasty for the people of the San Empire. After an invasion of an Oni horde, the Three Clans attempt to rebuild a nation with the help of a new Emperor. The proud Kitsune Clan slowly relinquishes territory to the Imperial Court. Members of the Tiger Clan work to restore the peoples faith in the land with the guidance of the Jade Stratagem. The leaders of the Serpent Clan remain silent keeping their plans secret.

Mock up only. Cover arrangement may change.
Mock up only. Cover arrangement may change.

Art of War introduces new features for Savage Worlds® fans and RPG enthusiasts. It offers unique &  updated setting rules inspired by the tropes of Anime, Samurai Sagas, and Wuxia Epics. These include:

Tropes: Adapted from the Iconic Framework character creation rules of Savage Rifts® and the standard archetypes, Tropes offer a chance for a player to choose a starting package and jumping off point of skills and abilities that reflect their role in the story. This is a simple “plug-in” to the core Savage Worlds® character creation process.

Chi System: A streamlined rule set based of the Power system of the core rules allowing for a combination of cinematic game play and martial arts flavor. Designed for ease of use, it syncs with the core philosophy of the Fast, Furious, Fun role-playing you have come except out of a Savage Worlds® game.

Glory & Honor System: For those that want to introduce a more social system, we have created an optional rule designed just for you. The Glory & Honor System is designed to track a Wild Card’s fame, honor, reputation and even notoriety throughout the course of a game in the world of Art of War.

New Races: While humans are the default race across the Empire, we pull from anime and have created the Kemonomimi and Terracotta. Animal spirits that grew by the side of mankind are the Kemonomimi. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but only seven species are prominent. The Terracotta are clay vessels that hold the spirit of those that have passed and have been given a second chance at life.

New Edges: New Combat, Racial, Social, and Weird Edges are introduced to add character background and story hooks for Game Masters.

New Hindrances: The epic folklore and inspiring tales of the past, humanize mythic heroes and make them relatable. It is the same for the stories that we tell in our home games. While not everyone’s favorite part, we introduce new hindrances to add both serious (like the Mute Hindrance) and comedic value (such as Nosebleed) to play.

New Skills: Two new skills are introduced, Acrobatics and Meditation.

Tropes & Races
Tropes & Races
  • Declaration of Red Pass ends the war between the Tiger and Kitsune Clans.
  • A horde of Oni invade from the southern wastelands, slaughtering everything in their path as they move up the coastline to the East.
  • Tiger and Kitsune launch a combined two year campaign expelling the Oni from the San Empire. Southern Wall is erected to keep the Oni at bay. Once completed, the ruling Emperor, Liu Shan, passes away leaving an empty throne and no heirs.
  • From the Northern Mountains the Serpent Clan emerges from hiding with a decedent from the First Emperor.
  • The Serpent Clan, Tiger Clan and the majority of the Kitsune Clan accept Wu Zhang as the new Emperor.
Not the final map.
Not the final map.

While welfare and prosperity is on the rise, the San Empire is not entirely stable. Along the eastern coast lies the loose alliance of feudal lands of former clan members who refuse to recognize Emperor Wu Zhang.

Rebellions of the poor and destitute cry for help. Hauntings from the wrongfully dead plague the lands after the sun goes down. Patches of Oni have been sighted north of the Wall. Each clan has internal power struggles as they clamor for favor with the new Emperor.

Players take up the mantle of Heroes in a land of need. Will they fall to the clan politics and internal struggle. Or will they rise to become Legends and carve their names into the scroll of history?

Art Montage 1
Art Montage 1

Imperial Scribe – Wojciech “Drejk” Gruchala (Contributing Writer): Drejk was born in the country historically marking the border between the West and the East, during the times when communist regime faded to democracy, in a city sporting an actual dragon cave. He was fan of SF and Fantasy since he can remember, having learned to read on a fairy tale book. He also discovered games when he was but a wee hatchling, starting with early computer games and board games, followed by more complex wargames, and then role playing games. Assembling worlds and creating snippets of fictional cosmology, history, culture, and science is his favorite part of role playing games. You can find his work on his blog: Shaper of Worlds

Ukiyo-e – Sasha Turk (Artist and sole Illustrator): Sasha Turk is a freelance concept artist. For three years, she has been published in several Amora Game products. Her most notable character designs appear in Kemonomimi: Moe Races and Xeno Files Issue 5. Sasha lives in Lake Forest, California. You can find her online portfolio here, and see sneak peaks of work for Art of War.

Humble Peasant – Greg LaRose (Creator & Publisher): Greg is the owner and operator of Amora Game, LLC. Art of War has been a labor of love and is happy to see it come to production. You can find Amora Game published works here.

This game references the Savage Worlds game system, available from Pinnacle Entertainment Group at www.peginc.com. Savage Worlds and all associated logos and trademarks are copyrights of Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Used with permission. Pinnacle makes no representation or warranty as to the quality, viability, or suitability for purpose of this product.

Art Montage 2
Art Montage 2

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

This is a relaunch of this campaign with new additions and a better goal (which it’s already met). For the first iteration, I interviewed Greg here and much of that still applies. I thought this looked strong on the first try and looks strong again here. But, don’t take my word for it, try some samples:

Download Goodies:

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here or at the OpenGamingStore here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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Power Outage – A TRPG for Kids and Adults by Bebarce El-Tayib
Ends on Sun, August 19 2018 12:00 AM EDT.

“Power Outage is a kid-friendly, kid-focused Superhero roleplaying game, that focuses on accessibility, learning, teamwork, and fun!

Power Outage is a kid-friendly, kid-focused Supers roleplaying game where it’s all about being the hero, taking down villains, and being accessible to the widest audience as possible.

It started out originally as a personal project to introduce my own children into the world of tabletop gaming. But Power Outage has grown and is now ready to bring a new generation into the world of tabletop role-playing.

A UNIQUE CHARACTER CREATION SYSTEM  

Power Outage does not have classes or races. If your kids want to make a Human, a Robot, an Alien, a Ghost, or an 8-foot tall anthropomorphic zebra girl they can. Powers come from a library of effects that kids get to apply their own characteristics.

STREAMLINED CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN-ADVENTURES

Power Outage makes use of a CAPE (Combat, Alternative, Puzzle, Exploration) component technique that allows you to easily build your own adventures, or allows you to choose your own path through pre-made modules.

FOCUS ON ACCESSIBILITY

Power Outage offers guidance for gaming with kids of various ages and abilities. Through Differentiation and Accessibility guidance, GMs can make the table fun for everyone.

A COMPLETE PACKAGE  

Power Outage contains player instructions, GM guidance, a compendium of villains, and a complete adventure to play with! You supply dice and an imagination, and we will take care of the rest!

Mrs. Robotto
Mrs. Robotto

EASY ON RULES, BIG ON COOL

Power Outage focuses on the concept of guidance rather than hard set rules. You take from the book what you need, and build the game as you go. But there is enough guidance built in that you don’t need to question how to play. Free resources are also available for characters, powers, and adventures. The mechanics are easy enough to pick up in a half hour, but not boring or overly simplified. You’ll constantly find yourself rolling and strategizing.

THE POWER TO LEARN  

Power Outage is built not only as a game but a potential educational tool. The game slots in perfectly with a gamified classroom, but also works tremendously in counseling as well. Villains also have weaknesses based off of Meta actions that allow your players actions outside of the game to impact the world of Outage.

PLAY THE GAME YOU WANT  

5 distinct regions allow you to customize a game you want in this safe and wonderous sandbox world. Do you want to create a fantasy adventure? Try The Overgrowth or The Sink! Looking for your classic Super Hero Beatum Up? Turn to the soaring futuristic heights of Shorai City! Looking for a gritty detective story. Try delving into the murky alleyways of the Atomic Punk ever-night Atomnyy Zavod. The entire mythos is built into this single book.

WHY SO SERIOUS  

Well, it’s not. Power Outage is filled with fun adventures, puns, and references that even adults will enjoy. In fact, Power Outage is just as often played by groups of adults as it is by groups of kids. With villains like Break Fast, InstaGator, The Bulshefist, and heroes like SuburbanKnight, Rockin Troll, and Pocket Protector, the adventures are off the wall fun.

Product Information

Power Outage is currently sitting at roughly 160 pages in its rough draft form. That number might change during the edit and design process, which is this Kickstarter is funding.  Currently, the plan is to have this printed in Hardcover format at 8.5×11, with options for digital copies in PDF at its outset.  As mentioned the game is intended to be GMed by adults, but kids are welcome to try their hand at it.  The game can be played with as few as one player and one gm.  The core rulebook offers differentiation and accessibility guidance that allows you to play the game with varying abilities.

Power Outage 1.4 Cover
Power Outage 1.4 Cover

The core rulebook includes the following sections:

  • Quick Play Instructions –  A 4-page primer that gets you playing or demoing a game in only a few minutes
  • What Is Power Outage – An introductory to Power Outage, Tabletop RPGs, and external resources
  • Mechanics – Gameplay mechanics for Players or GMs
  • Heroes – Creating Heroes including Powers, Guidance, and Crafting Unique Experiences, as well a Character Sheet
  • The World – Information on the history and current standing of Outage, Its five primary regions, adventure hooks, travel information, notable villains and heroes, and region-specific roll tables that add complexities to your adventures
  • Villain Files – Information, stats and weaknesses for 120 villains, sorted by Region and leading Villain
  • Gaming with Kids – Guidance for playing with kids at different age ranges (from as early as 4 years old), abilities, and how to manage differentiated game tables where kids have varying degrees of capabilities
  • Accessibility Accommodations – Guidance for playing with kids that have disabilities, including Pre-Session communication, general guidance, and information pertaining to five accessibility domains (Physical, Communicative/Receptive, Behavioral, Cognitive, and Emotional)
  • Free Play Guide – A full guide on how to create your own adventures using the resources within the book
  • Trading Spaces – A level 1 to 4 adventure set in Shorai City against the villain Mrs. Roboto.
RoboTrouper
RoboTrouper

A majority of the Kickstarter funding is going toward art, design, editing, and some other miscellaneous production costs.

Here is an example of the quality of change that can be achieved.  While my design was serviceable, Rosanna Spucces will take the design to the next level.  To something that is professional.

Power Outage Character Sheet Redesign
Power Outage Character Sheet Redesign

My Designer and Editor will be Rosanna Spucces of https://www.rsdesignsnyc.com/

My Artist is Abhishek Ghimire”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

This is the second superhero game on here and the second all-ages RPG system. The system, just from a small sampling, looks more rules-heavy than most all-ages games. It’s a bold choice and I’m curious to get the rules details. The art looks great and I’m eager to see how it plays.

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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Disclosures: This article contains affiliate links.

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™
Freelancer for EN WorldKnights of the Dinner TableOpen Gaming Network, and the Tessera Guild.
Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Want to share news? Press releases? Rumors? Sneak peeks? Deals? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Gen Con 2018 Recap – Part One

After the success of the trip last year (which you can read about here and here) (you know, none of us killed any of the others after being together non-stop for the better part of 5 days), Lee, Egg Embry, and I took a drive back to the land of corn and at one point Peyton Manning.

This year continued the idea of checking out all the gaming systems we’d never had the opportunity to play previously. In fact, much of the last year or we’ve played a handful of games just to get that different kind of exposure.

DAY 1

Thursday started off with a trip to the Dealers’ Room. I’m not sure if I mentioned it last year, but the room is enormous. Even if you were moving quickly and barely taking any time to look around it would probably be a couple of hours. Throughout the weekend we’d squeeze an hour here or an hour there to try to slowly move through the building and even then it was easier said than done. In addition, you have all the game demos going on, but if you are only in the room on a scattered basis, there is almost no way to fit it in. The best we can figure is MAYBE you set aside Thursday and not do anything but go through the room playing demos and squeezing everything you can out of that room and then basically be done with it.

However, we couldn’t do that, and after a couple of hours, it was on to the first game.

Flash Gordon (Savage Worlds)

While I’d like to claim that I have an in-depth knowledge of the old serials or the cartoons or even the comics, my brush with Flash Gordon is limited to three things:

  • The Queen Soundtrack
  • The 80’s Movie
  • And explaining to people that the Flash and Flash Gordon are two entirely different characters.

Savage Worlds is an interesting system in that the is probably just enough complexity to give those people who really like the more Crunchy systems, but for the most part, it was fairly easy to understand. We were introduced to the “Exploding Dice” mechanic which basically means that if you roll the maximum value on a dice you get to roll again (so a 6 on a d6 would mean a reroll and add it to the first result). I enjoyed the system enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of it at some point.

Given that we were playing in a pulpy game setting with ray guns and short skirts and evil robots, Lee and Egg told me that I had to use my newsreel voice for whatever character I get (to get an idea of what that might sound like, think about the old movies where the news was also played along with the film and how the narrator might have sounded). I chose a Mad Scientist type character and put maximum effort into the voice. I hope that the other players had fun because I had a ball (as goofy as it might have been to say “What’s that dame up to now?” or “This just in, we need to get the hell out of here!”).

Rest easy, we stopped Ming’s latest plot to destroy the Earth, so you can thank me the next time you see me!

Wicked Pacts

I didn’t have any idea what Wicked Pacts might have been, but it was pretty easy to figure out as it plays in the Modern Day (Urban Fantasy, where the supernatural are all too real, and you get to play a magic user of some type). The system combined Tarot cards along with D10s. The DM did a great job, and the players seemed like they were having a good time as well. There were minor things that I wasn’t overly thrilled with in regards to the system, but there was plenty of good as well. I think that if you wanted to play a Dresden Files type of game this would be a good one to check out!

Day 2

Geist

We had it all figured out. A five-hour session playing Geist (a Storyteller/World of Darkness Game). We visited Onyx Press’s booth on Thursday and talked to one of the guys who had worked on the 2nd edition of the game. And promptly got screwed up… on the time and place of our game. He said he was running the demo at 10 AM and that was the time we had set up for our game. But it was actually in the dealers’ room – something none of us had done before. Still, we didn’t think anything of it until the game ended about an hour and a half… it was a five-hour session. At which point Lee double checked the ticket and realized we were in the wrong place!

The game just completed a Kickstarter for the 2nd edition we played. You can check that out here.

As to the game demo itself, I’ve now played Storyteller games a few times in the last year, so the familiarity is now there. I was more concerned with the story. I know nothing of the original 1st edition Geist, but this idea of people who deal with ghosts while dealing with the fact they’d come back to life in another way. Even as a simple short story, it suddenly clicked on how you could do a full campaign with the system and really have some fun with local ghost stories in your area.

Hmmm, research, where I have to visit creepy places in and around Atlanta, may not be the best idea…

***

Hope you enjoyed Part 1, Part 2 will be up next week.

***

John McGuire has co-written, along with his wife, two Kindle Worlds novellas set in the world of Veronica Mars: Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

4 RPG Kickstarters Ending This Week – Quest, Champions Now, 5th Evolution, and Secret Agents of CROSS

There are a number of excellent RPG Kickstarters that end this week but I want to focus on four of them. From superheroes to fantasy, original systems to Savage Worlds, these four campaigns are worth your time.

 

Champions Now by Hero Games
Ends on .

“Recovery and re-imagining of first-generation Champions role-playing.

The first wave of role-playing design was its own Renaissance, marked by greatness of all kinds. If you were playing then, you’ll remember. And if you weren’t, you’d be amazed at what that wave held. One of them was Champions, the Super Role-Playing Game.

Hero Games is proud to present Champions Now, to be created by pioneering game designer Ron Edwards, author of Sorcerer and co-founder of The Forge. Ron will revisit the original three editions of first-generation Champions (1981 to 1988), recovering the power of this foundational era of superhero roleplaying.

We know that time and tides went elsewhere. Fourth edition Champions and the Hero System have their own storied history beginning 1987-1989. Steve Long revised and expanded this body of work into the Hero System Fifth Edition in 2001, and then revised and expanded it again in 2009. There were lots of good books, lots of great games, and lots and lots of superheroing.

And that’s fine. Things change. Only… there is one little point, one observation, one wholecreative superhero subculture left back there in the past. One that just happened to rock the hobby to its foundations and train a whole generation of play and design, including a bunch of Big Ass Names who wrote the Big Ass Games you know well.

So our goal for Champions Now? To show you why the original Champions created by George MacDonald and Steve Peterson was actually just that good. To celebrate and recover that explosive quality. The final work will include best practices for the original rules and a new rules-set to bring their strengths forward, as well as practical essays about superhero comics and gaming.

It will also include you. See these people playing this game?

Right here is a very sketchy yet usable playtest document. We’re playing this thing right now and so can you. We want to know what you do with it! Pledging playtesters get serious props right there in the text, saying what they said and what it means.

Halfway there breaking news! Hero Games is providing the PDFs for Champions 3rd edition and for the supplements Champions II and Champions III to all backers at named tiers at the completion of the campaign. The playtest document was written assuming you’d have these in hand, and now you totally will, as of July 1.

That’s why you see that long delivery period – so you can play. This isn’t a pre-order for a prefabricated product that would have been pumped out anyway. The point of crowdfunding is inclusion, and this is how that happens.

Another example are Ron’s short videos, like this one, which initially appear as updates and are archived into a public resource at Adept Play. What you tell us about how you play and what happened – that’s what upcoming videos are made to address. If you want, you might even get to be in one!

Ron Edwards is a wanderin’ Californian who has wound up in Sweden. He is the co-founder of the legendary website The Forge, a creator-owned-game publisher site, and the author of some notions about role-playing. His previous works include Sorcerer, Trollbabe, Spione, and Circle of Hands. He won the second Diana Jones Award for “excellence in gaming” in 2002, and is the author and creator of this project.

Steven S. Long is a role-playing game author and one of the owners of Hero Games. He has written for numerous companies, including White Wolf Publishing, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Steve Jackson Games, Last Unicorn Games, and Chameleon Eclectic. He has written, co-authored, edited, or developed over 200 RPG products. Steve will be assisting in the development and playtesting phase of this project.

Jason S. Walters is an author, essayist, and publisher best known for running Indie Press Revolution (IPR), a distributor of micro-published roleplaying games. He is also one of a small group of investors that purchased Hero Games in 2001, and serves as its CEO. He is the developer of numerous roleplaying games, including Champions Complete, Fantasy Hero Complete, and At The Hands of An Angry God. Jason is the publisher for this project.

Ruben Smith-Zempel was made in Oregon. He showed his creativity at an early age, charging his 3rd grade classmates 25 cents for paper and cardboard army vehicles (for the G.I. Joe’s, of course). Thus was born an artist who would never shy away from creating things important to his hobbies. Ruben has served as head graphic designer on dozens of RPG projects and will be handling layout and graphic design for this project.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

 

As a kid, the ads for the historic versions of these games always captured my attention creating a nostalgia for this campaign as much as the game itself. I want to see how this game plays today (and how this campaign plays out).

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here or at the OpenGamingStore here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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Quest: the roleplaying adventure game for everyone by The Adventure Guild
Ends on Sat, June 30 2018 12:00 AM EDT.

“Everything you need to begin an exciting adventure with your friends that you won’t forget

Quest is the roleplaying game for everyone.

If you’re completely new to this type of game, we’ll have a friendly conversation with you about how to play. Quest is fast, fun, and easy to learn. We hope to show you how intuitive and immersive storytelling games can and should be. And if you’re already an experienced player, you’ll find a surprisingly deep game with a refreshing set of modern rules.

This is a game about becoming an extraordinary person in a dangerous world. You’ll explore wondrous places, meet fascinating and mysterious people, witness magical events, and answer the call to go on an exciting adventure. What happens in this world is based on the choices you and your friends make.

Curious? Excited? Ready?  

Let’s begin.

Quest is a way to tell an exciting story with your friends. You don’t have to be an improv actor or a mathematician to be good at it – you just need to open your mind and use a little imagination. The rules of the game are intuitive and help you imagine where the story might go.

These are just some of the ways Quest will help you quickly begin your adventure, and potentially carry it with you for years to come.

The Friendly Guide. Everyone deserves to feel like a hero with their friends at the table, so we wrote a book that feels inviting. It’s not a textbook – it’s a conversation. Along the way, you’ll see a running dialog from a fictional group of players, to help you see how the rules of the game are used to tell the story.

The way it works is simple. Read the left side of the player’s guide to learn the basics, and if you want to learn a little more, see the right side of the book. Here’s what it looks like:

A page spread from the Quest Game Book
A page spread from the Quest Game Book

The Essential Deck. Quest features a deck of cards with all of the game’s special moves, so that you can reference them at the table without having to flip through a book. The Essential Deck makes it easy and fun to grow as a character. When you begin the game, you’ll start with a few moves that make your character special. As you grow during your adventure, you’ll get to collect more cards that tell you how to do amazing things.

Essential Deck cards showing Quest's 8 hero roles
Essential Deck cards showing Quest’s 8 hero roles

The Story Engine. Quest only uses a single (but powerful) die – the twenty-sided die, or “d20.” When the stakes are high in your adventure, rolling the die will help you imagine what happens. Sometimes you’ll use it to walk a tightrope, make a sweet move, or witness the results of an unpredictable spell.

You only need to roll once to see what happens. And if you’re really good at something, you’ll get a bonus. Then, you’ll check to see what the consequences are from an easy-to-remember set of outcomes.

The story engine keeps the game moving fast by letting you succeed a lot. But when you fail, the consequences will be meaningful. Every choice you make matters.

If you’re an experienced player and want to know more about Quest’s rules, check out our Kickstarter FAQ. Or visit our website for even more advanced details about our rules. 

“Quest breaks from the war gaming history of more classic tabletop RPGs to bring a more narrative driven approach both in and out of combat. I love D&D, but it is structurally, by the design and history of war gaming that it comes out of, a game that encourages players into the murderhobo mindset. Quest feels like a game that is trying push back on that inclination systemically. A lot of the spells and skills tend to be a bit more narrative driven which gives a lot more room for encounters that aren’t about just about killing monsters.”

– Andrew Simone, game tester

Spells that tell tales. We think everything you can do in a tabletop roleplaying game should be surprising and delightful. So we created skills and abilities with a focus on narrative and fun. Quest’s skills and spells – the special things your adventurer gets to do – are meant to inspire your own silly, dramatic and unexpected ideas. Here are a few examples:

There are over 300 spells and skills in Quest that you can learn and use. Follow us on Twitter to see more examples, where we’ll be posting more previews of Quest’s spells, abilities, and items every day.

Play a little, or a lot. You can play Quest just once, or a few times, with groups of any size. You don’t have to make a long-term commitment to play, and with our first adventure format, you’re not obligated to play every time your group meets; you can easily rejoin the story down the road, if you want. But for groups that want to tell an epic story over months or years, Quest is deep enough to let your character learn and grow over time.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

 

An easy, inclusive fantasy RPG that has, as of this writing, around 1,200 backers. I think they’ve found the secret sauce and that level of excitement alone is reason enough to check this out. Want more details? Dan Davenport hosted a Q&A with T.C. Sottek about Quest and has a copy here: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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5th Evolution: New Genres for Your 5E Game! by Limitless Adventures
Ends on Sat, June 30 2018 12:59 AM EDT.

“5th Evolution (5Evo) takes the wildly popular 5E game mechanics and applies them to new genres: super heroes, WW2, and 80s horror.

What is 5th Evolution?

5th Evolution (5Evo) takes the wildly popular 5e game mechanics and applies them to new genres. 5Evo products are a marriage of comics and roleplaying.

Learn more about 5Evo with this explainer comic!

Why 5E?

5th Evolution is intended for gamers who enjoy the 5E game engine and would like to use it in other genres. 5E is wildly popular, has been extensively play-tested, and is easy for new players to learn. Many players familiar with 5E are hesitant to learn a new system, and 5Evo allows them to explore new worlds and genres of play seamlessly.

What does this Kickstarter Contain?

This project is made up of three separate graphic novel-sized softcover books in three different genres: WW2, Super Heroes, and 80’s Horror. Each book contains three parts:

  • Part 1: the comic. Each 5Evo book opens with a comic that GMs will share digitally with their players prior to the gaming session. These comics serve to introduce the genre and setting, as well as to get players invested in the coming adventure.
  • Part 2: the adventure. The second section of each 5Evo book is a one-shot adventure, complete with pregenerated characters, that picks up where the comic left off.
  • Part 3: the source guide. Finally, the third section of each 5Evo book is a source guide that gives the GM the monsters, equipment, and characters to create their own adventures in that particular genre.

The Books

World War II – Set in North Africa in 1942, you’ll crew an M5A1 Stuart tank on a special mission during Operation Torch. This book contains the adversaries, equipment, characters, and vehicles to run a WW2 North Africa campaign with or without supernatural elements.

Source guide includes:

  • 4 American WW2 solider archetypes
  • Period specific tanks and trucks
  • Meticulously researched, period specific firearms
  • Customizable enemy combatants

Super Heroes – Set in Carbide City in the present day, you are part of a team of the super heroes trying to stop a gang of super villains wreaking havoc downtown. This book contains the super villains, equipment, and player archetypes to run a supers campaign.

Source guide includes:

  • 13 of Carbide City’s worst super villains
  • Customizable non-super enemies
  • Future tech equipment
  • 10 character archetypes

80s Horror Films – Set in the small town of Woodhaven  in 1985, you and your friends get in over your heads and uncover a dark plot while seeking a party. This book contains the monsters, equipment, and teen hero archetypes needed to run a horror campaign set in the 1980s.

Source guide includes:

  • 10 1980s horror movie monsters
  • Customizable non-monster threats
  • 6 teen hero archetypes & 6 variants
  • Variant rules for younger characters

Sample(s)

Download “No Going Back”, our free sample comic and adventure PDF.
Download "No Going Back" - a sample comic and adventure PDF
Download “No Going Back” – a sample comic and adventure PDF
View Boost full size by clicking the image below:
Meet "Boost" - A 5Evo NPC!
Meet “Boost” – A 5Evo NPC!

Note: This is not a stand alone game, these books still require DnD5e core books or rules from the SRD. We recommend 5thSRD.org.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

 

The 5e mechanics you [likely] already know applied to superheroes, soldiers, and 80s horror. If you’re a 5e fan, this will expand your table options!

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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Secret Agents of CROSS for Savage Worlds by Blessed Machine 
Ends on Sun, July 1 2018 12:59 AM EDT.

“Secret Agents of CROSS is a tabletop RPG where Catholic agents protect the flock from supernatural horrors, demons, and terrorists.

CROSS is a clandestine spy agency also known as the Catholic Response Organization to Strategize and Strike. CROSS was created by rogue Cardinal James McDonnell to take the Pope’s prayers and convert them into actions.  He and his command staff create missions to protect the flock from evil using cutting-edge technology coupled with saintly magic honed over 2000 years of history.

The CROSS organization was originally created as part of a Champions game years ago.   When I decided to create a setting around it, I wanted to capture my vision of an organization that only includes agents that are the best of the best.  They are the only people suited for the types of adversaries that they will face.  I wanted the players to feel like they were playing competent characters from the start.  When I discovered Savage Worlds, I felt that the exploding dice aspect of Savage Worlds along with the bennies system modeled that feeling. After a few sessions at Garycon, I knew this was the system for Secret Agents of CROSS.

Please note, you will need a copy of Savage Worlds to play Secret Agents of CROSS. You can find out more about Savage Worlds here.

You will receive the Secret Agents of CROSS book, a Savage Worlds setting in full color with approximately 170 pages of never-before-seen content.  This book is your guide on how the world of CROSS operates, how to make player characters, and how to run CROSS missions that are steeped in secret spy stuff, religious history, modern terrorism, and the supernatural.

For Players and GMs:

  • A brief history of Biblical events that affect the modern world of CROSS.
  • A detailed history of the creation of CROSS and the entire command staff.
  • 10 Roles for players to choose from to promote CROSS’s setting feel.  Optional rules to expand, create, or change Roles.
  • New Edges and Hindrances to help capture the setting feel of Catholic secret agents.
  • Over 40 unique weapons created by the engineers of CROSS.

For GMs:

  • Suggestions for how to handle the nature of supernatural things and how they are affected by normal and supernatural powers.
  • Suggestions for the use of CROSS in various genres including Fantasy, Horror, and Superhero settings.
  • Suggestions on how to provide the best gaming experience for each archetype.
  • Double-secret-GM’s-eyes-only section of secrets not revealed in the other chapters.
  • Over 30 powerful relics and artifacts to place into missions.
  • Over 30 adversaries to interact with your agents.  Some good, some bad, some hard to tell.
  • 3 complete missions for your agents to begin defending the flock.
  • A detailed mission generator.
  • High-quality color pdf and printing fulfilled with DriveThruRPG in standard 8.5″ x 11″ size.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

 

Pete Ruttman of Blessed Machine reached out over a month before this campaign began to share his enthusiasm for his game. The concept – literal warriors of Christ – is an obvious idea (D&D Paladins brought to today), yet it has only been lightly explored in the [largely secular] gaming industry. Since the engine is Savage Worlds, the question of deciding whether to back this or not becomes if you like that system and this setting for it.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com and Amazon.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by a variety of companies:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or onFacebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Origins Game Fair Spotlight – Survive This!! Zombies! from Bloat Games

It’s the first day of Origins Game Fair 2018 and the first game I’m scheduled to play is Eric Bloat’s Survive This!! Zombies! from Bloat Games at 2PM. OSR plus near-future zombie-ocalypse. I covered the SURVIVE THIS!! Dark Places & Demogorgons RPG Core Rulebook Kickstarter in October 2017. I’ve been eager to try a SURVIVE THIS!! game since then! If you’re interested in more from Bloat Games, Eric has a Kickstarter coming up on June 26th. If you’re interested in updates, you can follow him on Kickstarter here.

 

SURVIVE THIS!! – Zombies! by Bloat Games

“They’re coming to get you Barbara . . .”

That’s the line that started it all.  Sure, there were other zombies in movies and literature prior to the delivery of that iconic quote but George A. Romero’s Night of The Living Dead kicked off the modern zombie craze for sure.  From Day of the Dead to Return of the Living Dead to Dawn of the Dead to Shaun of the Dead to The Walking Dead, people can’t get enough of The Dead!  Zombies can be found in abundance in film, TV, comic books, literature, video games, board games, card games, dice games and yes, of course, roleplaying games.  That is where we come in.

SURVIVE THIS!! – Zombies! is the first in the line of SURVIVE THIS!! Roleplaying Games to be released by indy publisher, Bloat Games.  SURVIVE THIS!! is a retroclone of the world’s most popular fantasy roleplaying game.  Mixing the familiar rules of the Old School Renaissance and a near future zombie apocalypse, SURVIVE THIS!! – Zombies! aims to please giving any zombie lover a fast, fun and wild ride, that’s easy to pick up but hard to put down.

In SURVIVE THIS!! – Zombies! players take on the roles of survivors in a zombie apocalypse.  This Collected Edition is the complete game and contains all 4 booklets (Introduction, Survivor’s Handbook, Zombie Master’s Guide & Zombie Manual).  Don’t miss out!  Pick up all four books today and try to SURVIVE THIS!!”


 

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Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com and Amazon.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by a variety of companies:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or onFacebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

8 Questions About Art of War: Bushido/Wuxia Setting for Savage Worlds & 5e With Greg LaRose (Amora Game)

Greg LaRose (TentacleGreg on Open Gaming Network, where I write some articles) of Amora Game is running a Kickstarter for his latest creation, Art of War: Bushido/Wuxia Setting for Savage Worlds and 5e.

EGG EMBRY – Thanks for taking the time to talk about your project – What is Art of War?

GREG LAROSE – Hey, thanks for having me. Art of War is a dream project I have always had in my head brewing for years. Art of War is an epic storytelling action focused campaign setting inspired by the influences of Chia-Liang Liu martial arts films (The 36th Chamber of Shaolin & Heroes of the East), Akira Kurosawa samurai films (Seven Samurai & Yojimbo), Dynasty Warriors video game series, and a various anime (Basilisk, Naruto, etc).

It is a setting where the people of the San Empire are pulling themselves out of the chaos of a civil war, an invasion of flesh eating Oni, and a return of the restoration of the original royal bloodline. One role the players can take on as heroes is trying to restore hope back to the population. There are plenty of opportunities to play the hometown hero, indulge in a political landscape of deception, or to stand on the Wall and slay some monsters.

It is my love affair with Chinese and Japanese cultures, histories, and mythology.

 

EGG – This project is for two different systems, Savage Worlds and 5e. How are you interpreting the setting to get the most out of each of those systems?

GREG LAROSE – As a whole, the setting is a rich tapestry that easily be played with any system out there. It has access points for any type of story a group would want to play.

System mechanics wise, we adapted the setting to several systems over the past two years with Savage Worlds and 5e acting as solid frameworks to use. Moreover, what I mean is that both are flexible and “rules light” so that you can shape them. This gives us the ability to interject a power point-like system that can added to each rule set. You can scale it up or down to help determine how grounded or fantastical you want the game and characters to be. We call it the Chi System.

These power points fuel different additional rules that give the action movie feel we wanted to achieve. The system also supports Chi Techniques that give the character a specialization of power. Think of the youxia that can run up a bamboo tree and balance on a tiny branch without falling off or having it give to heavy weight. Or the samurai standing on bridge by himself against a squad of archers and he gives a deafening yell. Chi Techniques are those types of powers translated to simple and easy game mechanics.

Besides those being in common with these systems, the Savage Worlds version introduces Tropes that act as frameworks for the creation of heroes. For those familiar with Savage Worlds, think of them as beefed up archetypes or concepts. We also include new Edges and Hindrances. We adapted the classic nosebleed scenario found in anime as a Hindrance to add some comedic relief. I’m also excited to introduce two new Skills to the Savage Worlds ruleset, Acrobatics and Meditation.

Tropes in the 5th edition version, act as character paths for various classes. The Shinobi trope is a path for the rogue class. The fighter receives the Path of the Samurai as a viable option. The Youxia trope is available to both rogues, rangers and fighters, each one taking on a variation of the concept. We are also supporting numerous new Backgrounds, Inspirations, Feats, and equipment.

 

EGG – A number of Amora Game‘s products are for Pathfinder, why not offer a PF version of Art of War?

GREG LAROSE – Great question. We started to use Pathfinder as one of the systems to publish in and the project was called “Hands-Over-Fisticuffs”, but it quickly became overwhelming. There is a lot of amazing source material to pull from to get the mechanics right. But that was also the problem; we needed to pull rules for the revised action economy from this book, convert rules from that book, use OGL from this company. Develop a new class or archetype to handle this, spend more time playtesting to check the math on that. It became heavy, bulky, clunky and imbalanced.

We wanted something that wasn’t cumbersome for new players to jump in and play without multiple rules and errata. Light and flexible is what we wanted to focus on.

In addition, timing played a major factor. With the announcement of Pathfinder 2.0, we would rather see how the new system plays out then produce for an old system where support might fall to the wayside. While we have 200 pages worth material for a Pathfinder edition, it just doesn’t hold the feel we wanted for the setting.

 

EGG – You did not skimp on the previews. How have they been received, and which system is getting more interest from Art of War fans, Savage Worlds or 5e?

GREG LAROSE – Surprisingly they have almost equal numbers. Art of War teaser for Savage Worlds is racing ahead of Kemonomimi Race preview for 5th Edition. But I have been shocked that the 5th edition of South of the Wall has pulled down a few more numbers than the Savage Worlds version. In contrast, we have more backers on the Kickstarter buying in for the Savage Worlds. Ahead of that, is the backer level where you get both versions of Art of War. I’ve been happy with the turnout.

 

EGG – When I first approached you about doing an interview, I didn’t connect you were TentacleGreg on Open Gaming Network. For those who don’t know, what types of articles do you do on Open Gaming Network?

GREG LAROSE – So far I have focused on Starfinder articles. Showing off future archetypes and playing with Faction idea write-ups. Open Gaming Articles are a fun sandbox to play in at the moment. In one of the first articles, I rant about what I feel a Third Party Publisher Organized play society would allow and not allow. After the Kickstarter, I have a few 5e articles for character paths, more factions for Starfinder, and my lost notes for Pathfinder articles.

 

EGG – What was the game that made you into a gamer?

GREG LAROSE – Techno Wizard in the Rifts setting for the Palladium system was the first character I ever created. My Tremere for Vampire: The Masquerade was the first character I ever played in a game. West End Games d6 Star Wars was the first system I ever fell in love with. Shadowrun was my introduction into the world of cyberpunk and magic. Big Eyes, Small Mouth Third Edition was the birth of Art of War. I have fond memories of L5R and Magic the Gathering card games. But the game that made me a gamer? Well there are two of them: Mage the Ascension & Eberron campaign setting for 3.5 D&D rules.

My love for these two settings and rulesets are unparalleled to anything else. Mage being the handful of d10 Storyteller System and the other using the precursor to Pathfinder. I still have my original books on the shelves and go back to read through them. You can see an early inspiration for the Pathfinder Society concept in Eberron, when it was called the Wayfinder Foundation. Interesting name isn’t it?

You can see that is the name of a compass in Pathfinder. Coincidence? Maybe. Conspiracy theory of that being a key source of influence for a certain big company? Probably, yes.

EGG – Why did you start Amora Game?

GREG LAROSE – I started Amora Game in 2012 as an actual TTRPG publishing company, but we were a playtest company well before then. My gaming group was always home-brewing rules, classes, and all sorts of things. We liked using fan created material and pushing the limits see if they were broken or if we could break them. Over time we reached out to a few publishers and game designers looking for playtesters. One thing led to another and then we were holding playtesting sessions once or twice a month for several hours a session. Word got around and people started seeking us out to playtest, and paying us.

After a year or so after of messing around and playing with other people’s toys, I decided I would do my own. At the time I was playing Pathfinder after a gaming group converted over from 3.5 and just sort of went with it. I started publishing, hiring freelancers and artist. Here we are today.

EGG – For those interested in learning more about you, your upcoming projects, and Amora Game, where can they go?

GREG LAROSE – Currently we are focusing on two product lines. One is our monthly/bimonthly science fiction e-mag called Xeno Files. This is laying the foundation for our Xeno’Verse campaign setting. It focuses on Starjammer, Starfinder, and Savage Worlds rulesets. Exotic space places and exotic space races. Our second, of course is the Art of War line, which we are going to continue to push for a release date, even if the Kickstarter is unsuccessful. It will just take a little more time.

Where can you find us? Our facebook page is the most active spot. You can get there by typing in our website: AmoreGame.com, and it will direct you to it. After the kickstarter, I’m going try and put an article up twice a month in the Open Gaming Network site. You will also be able to catch those articles and anime ramblings on my blog under the same pen name: TentacleGreg.com

 

Amora Game has products available on DriveThruRPG and Open Gaming Store.

 

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Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or onFacebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com and Amazon.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt orwall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or onFacebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

3 Savage Worlds RPG Kickstarters You Should Back – Freedom Squadron, Savage Tokusatsu, and The Dinosaur Protocol

Kickstarter has several Savage Worlds settings funding at the moment. Want to do your own 1980s-style GI Joe vs COBRA? Thinking you’d like to see giant robots versus monsters? What about post-apocalyptic dinosaurs? Right now on Kickstarter, Savage Worlds await you!

Freedom Squadron – A Savage Worlds Setting by SpyGlass Games
Ends on .

“Freedom Squadron is a high-octane “Love Letter to 80’s Cartoon Action Heroes,” featuring new rules and new options for Savage Worlds.

It is the year 2051. After the startling discovery of VENOM—a paramilitary organization and global conspiracy that’s been interfering in world events since the end of the 19th century—the United Nations and leaders of the free world have been shaken to their core. In the aftermath of World War III, which they started, VENOM’s clear goal is world domination, and they will stop at nothing to achieve it.

The world’s response? Choose the greatest hero of the war, General Abraham Steel, and charge him to recruit an elite fighting force to oppose VENOM and protect liberty for all. That force, comprised of the best-of-the-best from all over the globe, is Freedom Squadron!

Players take on the role of those who’ve heeded the call to action. They are new Recruits who must first earn their stripes to become Commandos. Eventually, if they live up to the expectations of trainers like Sandbar, Corporal Carnage, Preedatore, and Blindsight, they may earn their Code Names and carry the fight to VENOM anywhere in the world… and beyond!

“Savage Worlds was created to handle the kinds of games I often like to play and run, where you can be a badass fighter or wizard or whatever, but you can also be a leader. A planner. I’m proud of how the game accommodates that, and my friend Sean Patrick Fannon has added even more to it in Freedom Squadron.

I had a blast in the Plans & Operations phase riffing off the other players, figuring out how best to use our individual characters’ skills, and then watching it all come together in the adventures that followed. Sean isn’t afraid of big games and big ideas, and this may be his best yet. I can’t wait to back, buy, and run it myself!”

Shane Lacy Hensley (Code Name: BUBBLES), veteran author and game designer, creator of Savage Worlds®, CEO Pinnacle Entertainment Group

Freedom Squadron has many new features for Savage Worlds® fans. Written and designed by Sean Patrick Fannon (ShaintarSavage Rifts®), these are special rules both inspired by his previous work and brand new for this setting. These include:

    • Plans & Operations: A unique combination of core Savage Worlds® game play elements that allows players to engage in multiple missions and actions in an “action cinema montage” style. Intelligence gathering, tactical positioning, investigations, covert insertions, computer hacking—anything and everything special ops Commandos might do between their epic battles with VENOM and other enemies. Fast-paced, inclusive, and designed to feature all of a hero’s skills, the Plans & Operations rules are sure to enhance any Savage Worlds® game.

 

  • Vocation Frameworks and Specializations: Inspired and adapted from the character creation rules of Savage Rifts®, these allow the player to choose a starting package of skills and abilities that reflect their primary role in the team, while also gaining cool extra abilities rolled randomly from various interesting charts. This is all on top of the usual core Savage Worlds® character building process.
  • New Edges: like Fighting Style, Operational Planning, Qi Focus, Strange DNA, and the innovative Zone Specialist (allowing heroes to truly shine in various environments like Arctic, Mountain, or Sea Zones).
  • Skill Focuses, Gear Points, and much, much more!
Psi War Big Epic Game at Ghengis Con
Psi War Big Epic Game at Ghengis Con

Freedom Squadron for Savage Worlds®, is based on VENOM Assault®, the board game created by SpyGlass Games. Evil Beagle Games has worked with World Designer Michael Knight to not only bring the world to life, but to expand on it as well.

Supplemental gaming accessories not included. Final design subject to change.
Supplemental gaming accessories not included. Final design subject to change.

While VENOM Assault® is not required at all in order to immerse yourself in the world of Freedom Squadron, you can check out SpyGlass Games’ website to view many character bios and even purchase the game!

Pinnacle Entertainment Group has created one of the most popular game systems in the world with Savage Worlds®, specifically oriented towards pulp and cinema action experiences. Sean Patrick Fannon of Evil Beagle Games has worked with them for years, and is the mastermind behind Savage Rifts®. Creating Freedom Squadron for Savage Worlds® was never a question.

With Pinnacle’s new release of Flash Gordon™ the Roleplaying Game, featuring many new rules updates, Freedom Squadron® is completely up-to-date and represents the state-of-the-art for Savage Worlds® fans.

New To Savage Worlds?

If you’re new to the Savage Worlds® rules system, Freedom Squadron® does require the core rulebook to play. You can get it in print and PDF from Pinnacle’s website. Pinnacle Entertainment Group publishes and manufactures the Savage Worlds® rules book, and maintains this website.

“Freedom Squadron offers an RPG experience like no other. This game is bursting with nostalgic tropes and themes, added to the rock-solid gameplay of the Savage Worlds system. The Plans & Operations rules are an innovative mechanic that focuses the action right where it belongs: on your characters facing down VENOM. Freedom Squadron is the perfect way to take on the roles of an elite, highly-trained special mission force and go on exciting adventures in this fully-realized setting!” – Ross Watson (Code Name: SKIPPER), Product Line Manager Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Wrath & Glory; Lead Developer, Savage Rifts; Lead Writer/Designer, Accursed

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

Let’s call this what it is – 1980s GI Joe! The setup, the execution, the names, the file card feel of the bios, the art that’s reminiscent of Tim Seeley’s GI Joe comic work from a decade ago, it’s the feel of my youth and one of my favorite toy lines/cartoons. But, there’s one difference, this is going to be the best version of that era of GI Joe, it’s going to be your version and your stories. This is not to say this is an officially licensed GI Joe product, it’s not; instead, this RPG is based on the board game, VENOM Assault. Regardless of that, the concept will put you back in your childhood and wondering if you should crack open eBay and buy some figures.

But will it be a good Savage Worlds setting? Well, I think the answer to that question is Sean Patrick Fannon. I had the pleasure of roleplaying with Sean at AndoCon 2018 (read about it here). He’s excellent at his craft and he’s the lead designer and brand manager for Pinnacle Entertainment’s Savage Rifts and I’d say he’s the perfect project lead for Freedom Squadron, an individual who loves the craft and the content. His presence as lead designer gives this a big stamp of approval. [By the by, Sean’ll be on this list twice.]

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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The Dinosaur Protocol (for Savage Worlds) by Battlefield Press International
Ends on .

[Disclosure: One of this project’s stretch goals is “$3850 – Stretch Goal #2 – One Sheet Adventure by Egg Embry“.]

“A post-apocalyptic table top role playing game of adventure and discovery in the jungles and plains of a world grown wild and strange.

65 million years have separated the ages of man and dinosaur. Until now.

“Some time in the 21st Century, something broke the world. No one knows for sure what happened. Solar flares, war, global warming, pollution and environmental collapse, or perhaps a combination of all of them. Perhaps it was something much stranger. All we know is that mankind fled the surface, retreating into vast underground shelters where they could wait out the centuries until the earth was habitable once more. But when we emerged from the darkness and prepared to retake our world, it was not as we remembered it. Something had happened to the world that once was. In the centuries without man, nature wound back the clock, returning the planet to an earlier, cleaner, more primal age. An age of dinosaurs.

Now humanity must choose – do we fight to reclaim our past, or do we make peace with the present and embrace a simpler future? Armed with the skills and technologies of our ancestors, do we struggle to recreate former glories, or will we use the second chance we have been given to avoid the mistakes of the past? Will human nature even give us the choice? Will we exterminate the reborn dinosaurs, enslave them, or something else? What will be our Dinosaur Protocol?” – From the journals of Archivist Roebuck

Written for the award-winning Savage Worlds game engine by Chris Halliday and Jonathan M. Thompson, The Dinosaur Protocol is a game of mystery, exploration, discovery and adventure. Players take the role of explorers, scientists, scavengers, hunters and traders, trying to survive a world whose first masters have returned. Will they stay at home and build their settlement, or blaze new trails through the saurian jungles of a World Reborn? Will they extend the hand of friendship to other settlements, or war for valuable resources? Will they hunt the dinosaurs, or study them? Where did the dinosaurs come from, and what other mysteries lie hidden in the ruined cities, dense jungles and empty deserts? Just who – or what – else is out there?

The Dinosaur Protocol presents a bestiary of prehistoric life, rules for encountering, battling and wrangling dinosaurs, details on how to carve your own settlement from the primeval jungle, rules for scavenging ruined cities and ancient installations, and a guide to the World Reborn… everything you need to create your own Dinosaur Protocol campaign.

A post-apocalyptic table top role playing game of adventure and discovery in the jungles and plains of a world grown wild and strange for the Savage Worlds Game Engine.

Alternate campaign frameworks will include:

Blast to the Past: Something went wrong the day they tested the weapon, and the sky tore open. Now your hometown is millions of years in the past, and you and your neighbours must survive a world you never thought you’d encounter.

The Broken World: Time has shattered. Imperial Rome has mingled with modern Europe. Blood runs down the step pyramids of Mexico, and at the bottom of your street is a jungle that wasn’t there yesterday. A jungle from which thunderous footsteps and distant roaring can be heard…

On Safari: Time travel has allowed humanity to retrieve extinct species from the past, and correct some of our worst mistakes, but it’s expensive. Chronos Corp allows universities and research institutes access to their Deep Time stations, while paying customers and their guides hunt the most savage and successful creatures in history. But something has gone wrong at the station. They’ve lost contact with home, the power is failing, and there’s a horde of hungry raptors gathering beyond the security fence…

Inside the Triangle: It was supposed to be a holiday, time off in the sun to recover from the stresses and strains of modern life. Only something hit the plane and now you’ve come down near an island that doesn’t show up on any map, populated by creatures that should have been dead for millions of years. Can you survive, let alone find a way home?

The New World: When scientists discover a crack in time leading to the distant past of a nearby timeline, it seemed like a gift from the gods, a means to escape an overcrowded world strangling to death on pollution. Now you and your family are pilgrims exploring a frontier like no other, building a new life in a primal land. But the factions and pressures of the old world may just have followed you here, and you no longer know who you can trust.

Cover Image is “Laelaps” by Charles Knight”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

[Disclosure: One of this project’s stretch goals is “$3850 – Stretch Goal #2 – One Sheet Adventure by Egg Embry“. You have been warned twice now. 😉 ]

Per the disclaimer, this project inspires me. For this action RPG, let’s strip out the need for superpowers, mutants, supernatural monsters, aliens, gods, magic, and made-up weapons, and get back to the reason we build homes in communities – Humanity vs Nature [in this scenario, Dinosaurs]. The idea of co-existing with the Earth’s apex predators is going to be the fuel for great battles at the gaming table! With the focus on the thunder lizards, expect all of the tools you’ll need to make your table Jurassic role-play as you tell stories of living in a world where humanity is an appetizer!

Oh, and Jonathan M. Thompson, co-creator on this project, loves him some dinosaurs and Savage Worlds! This is your chance to partake in his dinosaur love and see how well it will fit with the Savage Worlds rule set!

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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Savage Tokusatsu: Kaiju, Mechs, and Heroes for Savage Worlds by BPB Games
Ends on Fri, April 13 2018 11:59 AM EDT.

“Transforming heroes, kaiju running amok, giant robots versus the monster of the week, and more built for the Savage Worlds rule set.

Tokusatsu is the Japanese word for any live action movie or television show that makes heavy use of special effects. The word’s literal translation is “Special Filming.”

Even if you aren’t familiar with the word itself, you are familiar with the works that fall under its umbrella. Giant, lizard-like kaiju that breathe atomic energy, quirky teens that transform into superheroes to fight against aliens from the moon, and giant robots going blow for blow with one another are all fundamental works within the genre of tokusatsu.

Savage Tokusatsu is a game built from the ground up specifically for the Savage Worldsroleplaying game. Within the pages of this softcover book are new rules and character options to help you capture the feel of any tokusatsu story in the collaborative storytelling experience that is tabletop roleplaying.

You can be the transforming team of heroes working together to control a giant mech simultaneously. You can play the desperate humans trying to halt the advance of an unstoppable monster that towers above skyscrapers. All this and more is possible with Savage Tokusatsu.

Savage Tokusatsu is a Savage Worlds supplement with approximately 100 pages of new content to help you take your game from mundane to kaiju-sized.

It contains:

  • Frameworks to represent the diversity of the many transforming heroes genres of tokusatsu.
  • New Edges that encourage an even greater degree of cooperation and teamwork amongst teammates.
  • New Hindrances that capture the feel of youthful characters trying to find their way in the world.
  • Multiple new Optional Rules to help you capture the specific feel of whatever genre of tokusatsu you seek to emulate. Lighthearted action and grim, pessimistic horror are all just as welcome as the next.
  • An in-depth but highly intuitive system for designing iconic weaponry and suits of armorfor transforming heroes and special agents alike.
  • An in-depth but not intrusive system for designing challenging monsters for our more mechanically-inclined friends.
  • A simple Hero Tier system to help groups wishing to avoid Toughness Bloat work giant robots, kaiju, and normal-sized people into the same sessions.
  • A streamlined way to approach high Toughness creatures for groups looking to capture the durability and desperation of facing down skyscraper-sized beasts with a column of tanks.
  • Over 40 new statblocks including heroes, kaiju, monsters of the week, and big bads that give detailed examples for each type of playstyle.
  • full Plot Point Campaign for a light-hearted, transforming hero themed tokusatsu adventure with several Savage Tales.
  • High quality printing fulfilled with DriveThruRPG. The book will fit right in with your other 6.625″ x 10.25″ Savage Worlds books on the bookshelf!
  •  A collaborative system for creating and controlling a shared pilot mech.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

Giant robots vs giant monsters using Savage Worlds! This is going to be big, dumb, action fun and I can’t wait for it! Want to test it out? They have a free test drive here. Add to that Sean Patrick Fannon’s second appearance on this list, this time as a guest writer for the project… which makes sense since he’s the lead designer for Pinnacle Entertainment’s Savage Rifts and he will bring the giant personalities this game needs to compete with its mechs and leviathans!

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

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Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or onFacebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com and Amazon.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt orwall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or onFacebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Steampunk Fridays – Interview with the Creator of Monstrous

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

The Universal Monster movies are really what introduced me to those creatures of the night. And while I’m probably most partial to the Creature movies, I loved Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolf Man. It not only set them in popular culture but also provided a blueprint on how you might go about using them in other formats.

Add that to a Steampunk setting and you have something that seems to hit all the right buttons.

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics? 

I had published a few short comics stories in anthologies before my first one-shot came out in 2015.  That comic is called Wild Bullets, and it follows the four siblings of the Bullet family as they attend their parents’ Thanksgiving dinner.  They each take a turn telling the story, and when they do, a different artist handles each section in a different genre and style (crime, science fiction, adventure, and horror).  They’re all dysfunctional pulp adventurers: a detective, a mad scientist, an archaeologist, and a monster hunter.

Since then, I’ve published several issues of Monstrous and Holliston: Friendship Is Tragic.  Monstrous is a fun romp where the stories all take place in a steampunk, Frankenstein-dominated Europe.  The monsters and robots fight for their own interests, and everybody is a little bit monstrous.  

The Holliston graphic novel is based on the cult TV show by Adam Green, but it’s not just for fans of the show.  The basic idea is that it’s like The Big Bang Theory, except for horror nerds.  There are references to Stephen King, serial killers, and John Carpenter movies.  The story tells about four friends who find a cursed credit card that threatens to destroy them, destroy their friendship, and destroy the town of Holliston itself. There is a new Holliston comic on the way, and more Monstrous will be out soon!

At what point did you sit down to become a writer? Do you remember the first thing you wrote?

I have written allllllll kinds of garbage in my life.  I literally do not remember what it was like before I was writing.  I wrote comics and illustrated stories as a kid, mostly ripping off the stuff I liked.  That method is still pretty much what I do.  People who read my comics probably think: “Oh, I bet he likes ______ because he stole ______ from…”  And they’d be right.  All creators are thieves!

I taught screenwriting for a couple of years at Kalamazoo College, and I wrote movie scripts then.  Comic book scripts are much more likely to be made into something than movie scripts, so I tried that out.  I really love collaborating with the great artists I get to work with, and being able to share a comic with someone is very, very cool.

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite writer or creator?

There are scads of creators I could point to: Alan Moore if I’m feeling a little pretentious, Rick Remender if I’m being honest, etc. 

But I figure I should use this venue to give a shout-out to someone who might not be a household name yet but deserves to be.  I’ll say Ryan Ferrier.  He is a comic book writer in a variety of genres working with lots of companies, but his D4VE series and Hot Damn are just a bunch of fun, taking weird premises and wringing every last little bit of lunacy out of them.

If you haven’t read his stuff, fix your life right away, folks.  (He also wrote the forthcoming Kong on the Planet of the Apes, which promises to be cool, but give his original stuff a whirl, too.)

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

I am literally working on this response after 10:00 p.m.  And on a school night, too!

I have no idea how I manage this stuff.  If somebody knows, please tell me.

The upshot of working on creative stuff while having another job (I teach college English courses) is that when I come to the writing I know I need to focus because my time is limited.  When I “have all the time in the world” to work on something, I tend to fart around longer on the Internet.  I might claim that time as “research,” but if I do, I’m a filthy liar.

Also, my writing process is a pretty straightforward thing.  I do a lot of prewriting and outlining, so I know exactly where I need to go with the story.  I highly recommend this method, as it takes some of the airy-fairy, arty-farty aspects of writing out of the process.  I mean, it’s not all sitting under a juniper tree on a dewy April morning to achieve the necessary inspiration or whatever.  Just write the damn thing.  I’ll talk more about not screwing around waiting for some idiotic celestial muse in a bit.

It’s often difficult to get word out about independent comics. What do you do to market and promote your books? Anything work really well or really poorly?

What works best is having really rich, organized people do it for you.  But that’s not a luxury a whole lot of independent creators have at their disposal.  There are plenty of tools I would recommend using, like social media, podcasts, and lots and lots and lots of face-to-face conversations with people at anything and everything related to the comic (or book or whatever the person wants to promote).  Get out there and tell everyone who will listen!  And, please, for the love of everything that’s holy, try to make it interesting.

This past weekend, I did a signing at Barnes & Noble, and that was sandwiched between two other weekends at comic cons (Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids).  I spend a lot of time meeting people and telling them about what I have created.  I’m really excited about my comics, and I hope that enthusiasm is contagious.  From my perspective, nobody will ever care more or work harder to promote your work than you.

What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

Oh, I don’t just have a full outline; I have a bunch of them.  I like to use the screenwriting model of writing out the beats of any story, organizing it, chopping it up how it needs to be broken down to look like a story that humans can recognize.  I write a logline, a synopsis, character bios, the works. 

I use Blake Snyder’s beat sheet.  Then I write a page breakdown.  If my notes on a single page can’t fit into a single line of description, I’m probably doing too much with a single page.  (Of course, I set all my rules up clearly just so I can cheat.)

My last step is actually writing the script itself.  I specify the panels, camera angles, etc.  Some other writers are more freeform, but I could sketch out the page breakdowns I am visualizing in my head if artists ever wanted that kind of thing.  I’m open to that, but so far nobody has ever really wanted me to be that absolute with my control issues. 

And the good news is that my artists (Ken Lamug on Monstrous, Steve Sharar and Josh Werner on Holliston, and Sean Seal, Steve Sharar, Jason Jimenez, Joe Freyre, and Sarah Dhyne on Wild Bullets) come up with things I never pictured throughout this process.  And it’s always better than I anticipated.  They’re terrific!  It’s like a constant stream of birthday presents!

What inspired you to create Monstrous?

Monstrous stems from a lifelong fascination with monster movies and their misunderstood heroes.  Even when they’re completing evil, monsters are always the most compelling thing about the stories they occupy.  I’ve always loved the Universal Studios monsters and Ghostbusters and the Hammer Studios movies.  I threw all of those influences together with plots from John Wayne westerns in this strange steampunk hybrid. Monstrous is like all of these things I’ve loved for years having a party together.

The potential of this setting and these characters really feels limitless to me.  I have loads more stories in this universe than I have time to write.  Frankenstein’s Europe, teeming with steampunk robots, Dracula, and Igor running tech support on brains in jars—it all just strikes a chord with me.  I don’t think I know how to get bored here.

Was this a case of coming up with the story first and then the setting or vice versa?

The notion of a shared universe with monsters and robots duking it out, trying to live their everyday lives, was the initial impetus I had.  I love the 70s horror comics Marvel put out about Dracula and Frankenstein.  The best part, to me, was taking these characters and just logically extending their stories to see what might be interesting about them.

Eventually, they basically turned Frankenstein’s monster into Captain America, and they gave Dracula a fantastic adversary by creating Blade.  Those weird changes are the kinds of things I want to do with Monstrous. Take something already established and bring a new sense of excitement and possibility.  Get all the toys out of the toybox and have fun.  The stories come mostly out of wanting to see something crazy on the page.  I keep tossing out bizarre scenarios to Ken Lamug, and he routinely delivers on this insanity in amazing and entertaining ways.

What’s been the reaction to the book?

Most people seem to like it a lot.  If they don’t, they’re too polite to tell me.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Monstrous seems to tap into a bunch of things that people really enjoy, and that’s why we keep making more.  There are some possible developments as well to adapt it into a movie or a game.  I don’t have anything definite to report, but that level of interest is very exciting!

I really like telling stories about unusual families, either “families” that are not really related but instead made up of people who need to bond with each other in order to make their lives work (as in Monstrous) or actual families that stray pretty far from how we think of families working (like the deeply dysfunctional Bullet family). 

More specifically, in Monstrous many of the relationships are between father figures and daughter figures.  I guess I gravitated toward that dynamic because I feel like the father-daughter pairing, which should be fairly common in fiction, more or less isn’t.  I just wanted to see what kind of mileage a horror/western hybrid might get out of a less conventional pair at its heart.

Most of my creative work tends to be fast, fun, and escapist.  That’s not really a theme.  It’s just my overall disdain for reality.

After running a successful crowdfunding venture on Monstrous on Kickstarter, what have you learned about the process of crowdfunding? What do you think has contributed to hitting your goals on Monstrous? Do you view the platform as a testing ground for concepts? Any plans on more Kickstarters?

Ooh, that’s a tough one.  There are so many people out there who have the Kickstarter thing down to a science.  Ours was successful, but I don’t know how much I personally had to do with it.  I mostly just got nervous and spazzed out for a month.  Seriously, I lost my voice and got pneumonia.  If I had a lesson to pass on about Kickstarters, it would probably be: “Don’t be like me.”

Ha ha ha!  Who am I kidding?  That lesson extends far beyond just Kickstarters.

In all seriousness, I think it’s important to have a few videos and plenty of visual information.  Don’t run a Kickstarter if the project isn’t in the final stages!  Ideally, it should be completely finished.  Treat a Kickstarter more as a hype machine to get your thing—whatever it is—in front of different audience members.  For people who are already supportive fans, treat it as a pre-order system.

As for Kickstarter being a testing ground, that is a kind of pleasing notion.  Kickstarter is a Darwinian Thunderdome for ideas.  The only problem, though, is that some projects are too pricey or too niche to really work that way.  It is a good wake-up call, though, if the Kickstarter doesn’t work or barely squeaks by.  That idea needs re-tooling and adjustment.

As for future Kickstarters, Travis McIntire at Source Point Press has talked about us doing a Kickstarter for the second Wild Bullets.  I don’t know if we will, but I’m willing to give it a shot.

Get it?  Get it?  Bullets?  Shot?  Oof.  Remember, kids: “Don’t be like me.” 

What’s the overall plan with Monstrous (series length)?

This question is a real toughie.  I have ideas that could fill up loads of stories, but I also don’t necessarily want to outlast the interests of my readers and wind up making everyone sick of it.  I am sure that all long-time comics fans can point to a particular arc or character or series that has severely overstayed its welcome.  I don’t want that to be the case with Monstrous.

As of this moment, the series will at least go twelve issues with the plan to group four issues together into three trades, maybe have a bigger omnibus at the end.  But if I can be entirely honest and mercenary about it, I will probably take the corporate model and just do it until it’s no longer profitable.  (And yes, I know that this answer is essentially a full reversal of what I said in the last paragraph.  A real toughie, huh?)

How did you get together with Source Point Press?

I’ve known the people at Source Point Press for years, and when Ken and I had the first four issues completed, his agent was shopping the project around.  Source Point Press approached me to see if we could work something out, and it was an excellent fit between their brand and what we’re doing.  All creators should, I think, work on their network.  Keep meeting people.  Keep talking to people.  Be polite.  Be someone others want to work with.

Sometimes I hear people ask: “How do I break into comics?”  And I almost always answer: “Dang.  Just be one of the people others are not trying to keep out of comics.”  That sound flippant, but it’s also true.  Be professional, reliable, quick, and friendly.  Be the type of person you’d like to work with, whatever that means to you.  Greedy people don’t get far.  Ditto people who make excuses or spread negativity, etc.  Talk. Interact.  Put yourself out there!

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about working with Ken Lamug.

Working with Ken Lamug is wonderful!  He gets where I’m coming from with the scripts and comes up with fantastic art.  There are rarely any hiccups in the communication and/or collaboration.  Everyone should go check out his children’s illustration work, too.  There is some tonal overlap with Monstrous, but it’s all still very different and wild and fun.

Fun fact: Ken Lamug lives in Las Vegas, and I live in Michigan.  We have talked extensively via Twitter messages, e-mails, and phone calls, but we have never met each other face to face.  I’m sure that we will eventually, but things are going so well now I’d worry about blowing it.

Earlier in the working relationship, he would send some process images and sketches, and I would send him outlines and notes.  Now, we mostly exchange finished products, as we really trust each other and trust ourselves.

Plus, I don’t know if I’ve said it extensively enough here, but Ken Lamug is an absolute animal.  He does it all: pencils, inks, colors, letters, covers, design work.  He’s 100% fantastic, and I’m lucky to work with him.

If you could go back in time ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?

I’d probably make fun of whatever outfit I was wearing ten years ago.

Seriously, I would tell myself not to get so attached to things that are doomed not to work out.  I know that sounds like good advice for everyone, but I get altogether too worked up about things that don’t turn out like I’d hoped, everything from jobs to creative projects to relationships.  With the creative stuff, at least, that is part of the path.  As a writer, I need to keep writing.  I have to write more stuff than will make it to the marketplace.  That’s just how the process works.

It’s a little heartbreaking at times, though.  “I really want this thing to get finished and into people’s hands!”  A high percentage of the time, for a variety of reasons, that scenario doesn’t work out.  So make another thing.  When I hear about creative people talking about working on one thing for years—decades, sometimes—I just feel sad.  Keep using your time to create different things, and eventually one of them will catch. Every new idea you can offer increases your odds.

Anything else I wish I knew ten years ago?  Appreciate your hair, younger Greg.  You’re going to lose most of it in the future.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote? Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?

I do!  I’m excited that there is a second Wild Bullets on the way, more Monstrous, and another Holliston graphic novel.  I have some other projects, too, but they’re in the early stages.  Some movie stuff, some comics stuff.  I hope I’m pulling off an air of mystery here, as opposed to just an air of vagueness…

All my hobbies involve sitting.

Where’s the best place to find out more about Monstrous and the rest of your works?

People can check out my website: www.gregwrightcomicbooks.com

They can also find me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/gregwrightcomicbooks

And I have two Twitter accounts: @GregHenchman and @GregWrightBooks

Monstrous is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and all my comics can be purchased directly from Source Point Press: http://sourcepointpress.storenvy.com/products

For those who like prefer digital copies to physical copies, all my comics are available digitally through Comixology, Drive Thru Comics, and ComicsBlitz.

The website for Monstrous is www.monstrousworld.com

Thanks for taking the time to hear me out!  I’m grateful for this opportunity.

See you all in Frankenstein’s Europe, folks.  Let’s get MONSTROUS!

***

 

Greg Wright has written several comic books: Monstrous, Wild Bullets, and Holliston: Friendship Is Tragic.

Greg earned a Ph.D. in American Literature and Film from Michigan State, and his award-winning fiction has appeared in a variety of journals. He has taught screenwriting, media studies, creative writing, and composition.

If he had a castle with a secret passage, he’d probably tell everybody and make it just a regular passage.

***

I’d like to thank Greg Wright for taking the time to answer my questions!

 

 

***

John McGuire

The Gilded Age Kickstarter is still going on. Check it out on Kickstarter here.

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

4 Savage Worlds RPG Kickstarters You Should Back – Titan Effect, Frozen Skies, The Monster Hunters Club, Seven Worlds, and more

This week I’m focusing on four Savage Worlds Kickstarters (as well as a system agnostic offering). Why pick a specific system like Savage Worlds instead of considering every system? Well, for one week I want to see if shining a spotlight on a single RPG engine helps spark some discussion about it. Savage Worlds is one of the most versatile games out there and it covers a variety of genres and I want to see if these campaigns can reach a wider audience, to get an idea of what SW’s fanbase is like. Considering that, let’s countdown the campaigns.

 

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

 

5) Frozen Skies RPG for Savage Worlds by Applied Vectors, ltd and Utherwald Press
Ends on Wed, November 1 2017 12:00 PM EDT.

“Diesel-punk post-war aviators fight to survive on the frozen frontier against the elements and the savage Wulvers.

Frozen Skies is a roleplaying game written by Stephen Hughes of Utherwald Press. It is being brought to Kickstarter by Applied Vectors Ltd.

The 120 page book is written, what we need is artwork that accurately brings the setting to life, and for this to happen, we need you! The funding goal gets you a combination of colour and black and white art. if we hit the first stretch goal, it will be a full colour interior!

The setting of Frozen Skies is the continent of Alyeska, the most northern landmass of the world of Darmonica and is often referred to as either the ‘rooftop of the world’ or ‘Darmonica’s Crown’. It is an icy frontier plagued by savage beasts, cut-throat sky pirates, harsh weather and eons old dark secrets. It is a barely tamed land where the most basic of utilities are hard to come by and tend to lie on the good side of unreliable at best. But despite all this there are opportunities for a man to make a name and, more ideally, coin for himself.

Alyeska itself is dominated by savage beasts known as Wulvers, wolf like creatures that’ve plagued Alyeska since its earliest Colonial days. The Commonwealth had troops stationed in Alyeska to defend its fledging colony against the beasts, though they were steadily whittled away to satisfy the Commonwealth’s war efforts. As the defenses were weakened the Wulvers gradually overran more and more territory, in the end the Alyeskans were forced to hide behind fortified walls and increasingly rely on air travel to maintain contact with far-flung outposts.

Despite the Wulvers the other great powers of Darmonica have their own interest in Alyeska, chiefly for the ruins and artefacts of the Ancient Terrans buried beneath the ice and for a mineral by-product of the Blast known as Glimmer Rock. Until it was altered by the energies released in the explosion it was a previously unremarkable mineral, now it is the fuel for a new Industrial Revolution that the world finds itself on the cusp of….but only if the new technology can be made viable.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

Lets lead this list with some diesel-punk for Savage Worlds. Frozen Skies is set on a unique continent where the great powers colonized the north pole and planes are the best way to keep the icebound colonies connected. Sky pirates, and wolves, and glaciers. The concept is interesting and I can see where it’d mesh nicely with the Savage Worlds ruleset. Do you want to try a sample of the setting? It’s a $1.50 for the Frozen Skies Setting Primer at DriveThurRPG.

 

You can see examples of the creator and publisher’s work at DriveThruRPG here (Applied Vectors, ltd) and here (Utherwald Press).

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

4) Titan Effect RPG for Savage Worlds by Knights Errant Media
Ends on Thu, November 2 2017 10:06 AM EDT.

“An espionage and science fiction setting for Savage Worlds, somewhere between Tom Clancy and the X-Men!

Cover made by Vargasni
Cover made by Vargasni

Titan Effect RPG is a licensed campaign setting for Savage Worlds. Titan Effect is set in a contemporary world where psychic spies clash with genetically enhanced soldiers in a secret war in which the future of human evolution is at stake.

Take on the role of a trained operative gifted with psychic abilities. Perform dangerous missions all over the world for the international clandestine organization known as the SPEAR, and fight against dangerous creatures and organizations. Survive long enough, and maybe you will be able to make a difference.

Titan Effect RPG requires the Savage Worlds Core Rules and the Super Powers Companion (2nd edition).

The world of Titan Effect is like ours but darker and stranger. Psychics and augmented humans are used as spies and soldiers on behalf of criminal organizations, private military companies, and secret societies in a secret war that has been raging for decades. Some are fighting for control and power, while others seek to shape the future of human evolution.

In the middle of this conflict, stands the worldwide clandestine organization known as the Special Executive Assault and Recon or SPEAR. Its mission: to track and neutralize eugenics and psychic threats, and to prevent the world from falling into chaos. To succeed in its mission, the SPEAR hires people with unique sets of skills and possessing powerful psychic abilities. Its agents come from different nationalities and backgrounds.

Players take on the role of psychic operatives trained in black operations, and working for the international clandestine organization known as the SPEAR. They have the task to perform dangerous missions all over the world and fight against dangerous creatures and organizations. Some are there to make a difference, others for the thrill or because they have no other place to go.

Titan Effect RPG combines biopunk, spy thriller, and superhero elements. Imagine Tom Clancy meets Metal Gear Solid meets the X-Men. Titan Effect RPG plunges you into a world filled with conspiracies, secret organizations, dangerous biotechnologies and psychic phenomena. A world where the boundary between “good” and “evil” is blurred…”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

Let’s move from diesel-punk to biopunk. It’s a secret war for humanity’s future in which you can play a supersoldier. Based on the write-up – “Tom Clancy meets Metal Gear Solid meets the X-Men” – this is going to be action meets action meets action. But, hey, you gotta ask yourself if there’s enough action for you? To answer that, try their free demo kit and see (I think you’ll be happy with it).

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

3) Beneath, the Spire and the Sound (Beneath book 2) by Severed Books
Ends on Sun, November 5 2017 8:05 AM EST.
NOTES:

  • This link is NSFW 
  • System agnostic

“Beneath, the Spire and the Sound – book 2 of the Beneath series, a system-agnostic RPG module.

Beneath, the Spire and the Sound (book 2) 

Salt of the stars and salt of the earth — the critically acclaimed series is back! The armies of Seven Walls and the armies of Leaf have set their weapons aside — mid-battle — and cast off their armor and clothes. They walk hand-in-hand, naked, laughing, as friends, into the UnDungeon. Hannah has been captured. Now Baron Lennox beckons for you to return from your dark decent, rewarding you with The Perseverance [a tavern]. Beneath book 2 begins.

“Beneath challenges the conventional idea of the ‘Dungeon crawl’ in so many ways and succeeds in them all. It is radical yet well crafted, it is shocking yet thought provoking, it is familiar yet intensly Alien. If roleplaying is a Tree with all the various games and genres spreading out from it, then ‘beneath’ is one sick and twisted branch that waits for all brave travellers who dare to tread their foot upon.”  Jay of Colosseum Rex (U.K.)

“Beneath as a series is doing so much to reinvent what it means to be a prewritten adventure module. But Beneath isn’t just a few module books, it’s a living document full of unexpected messed up stuff and amazing artistic expression. You’ll feel like you’re talking to real people when you’re talking to the NPC’s. So strap in, and let’s get salty.” Zach Benge of Tabletop Radio Hour

“Beneath is a return to that thing that made gaming cool in the 80s, it’s dangerous and brutal, yet modern in it’s approach to subtext. A unique, grotesque, disturbing work that is entertaining and well crafted. A horror crawl that examines the topics of self absorption and the dangers held within. Your table deserves this experience and the sequel that follows.” Emanuel James Miller, Owner, Crit Hit Conventions

“Beneath masterfully blends narrative, adventure, combat, and character involvement. A dark tale that left our group massively satisfied.” The Inner Gamer

“I’ve never seen anything like this on an RPG level and I think it’s f*cking rad.” Full Metal RPG / Podcast

Undead Viking review here. 

Players will venture back to CragLee to claim the rewards they earned from book 1, including The Perseverance (a large tavern). Your party will even manage a “character sheet” specifically made for The Perseverance:  name a bar manager, track profits, store items, and customize the property.

Players will also meet Emily, a “Game Witch” who will share Hannah’s secret and also provide valuable support throughout the second half of the campaign. She can take an apprentice and teach them to imbue animal and human organs with powerful magic.

Horrors compound as the party returns to the UnDungeon and “The Vert” to face the more inverted abominations. Player’s decisions affect the outcomes of Hannah and many of the townspeople who have been seduced by the Inverted Cupid. Players will discover what The Invert actually is–a living, breathing cultural catalyst (a “Vert”) summoned with only the best intentions.

THE BOOK (Beneath, the Spire and the Sound)

  • 200+ pages
  • Matte cover
  • Perfectly bound
  • 8.5″ x 8.5″
  • Original illustrations by Scott Buonchristano and Justin Sirois
  • 50+ maps
  • Emily (NPC) and Suit of Salt character sheets
  • The Perseverance (tavern) management sheet

You will need Beneath book 1 to play Beneath book 2. If you need book 1 now, you can get it on Amazon (free shipping with Prime).”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

Let’s take a short Savage Worlds-pause to look at Beneath, a system agnostic adventure. Reading the pitch, this is an adventure that’s going to turn your fantasy preconceptions on their ear. It has some rarely utilized ideas – your tavern has its own character sheet – and enough twists to keep everyone guessing. If you’re looking for a unique path, this may be your cup of tea.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

2) The Monster Hunters’ Club RPG for Savage Worlds by CCS Games/Fabled Environments
Ends on Thu, November 16 2017 9:02 AM EST.

“The Monster Hunters’ Club is a setting for the Savage Worlds RPG about kids coming of age and fighting monsters in the 1980’s.

Cover by Karl Keesler
Cover by Karl Keesler

 

 The Monster Hunters’ Club is a licensed setting for the Savage Worlds Roleplaying Game set in the 1980’s and inspired by kids’ adventure and horror films, television, and novels like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, The Monster Squad, The Lost Boys, Fright Night, It, Super 8, Stranger Things, and many more. Players take on the roles of children, growing up in the 80’s, who become heroes.

 The Monster Hunters’ Club is an officially licensed Savage Worlds product, and requires the Savage Worlds Deluxe Core Rules to play.

A preview of The Monster Hunters’ Club is available on DriveThruRPG. Please click on the link in the text, or click on the Preview button above to download our FREE preview from DriveThruRPG.

Something strange is happening in the town of Gulf Haven. Horrible creatures are coming to life. The adults seem blind to the entire thing. It’s up to you to find out what is happening, and stop it before it’s too late!

Growing up in the 1980’s…

You’ve got Saturday morning cartoons, a tree fort, a boombox, a fast bike, and oh…

Monsters are real.

You heard me.

Don’t bother telling your parents. Grown-ups can’t see ‘em. When something gets smashed up, they blame us. When somebody goes missing, they blame someone from out of town, or maybe the Russians. The monsters are real though, and it’s up to us to do something about it.

That’s right, between babysitting your little sister, dodging bullies like Scotty Mangrum, and surviving middle school, you also have to figure out how to fix the monster problem.

You can’t phone home, and there’s nobody you can call. It’s up to you to save the town, and maybe even the world!

Image Credit: Mike Dukes
Image Credit: Mike Dukes

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

The kids on bikes subgenre (Stranger Things, Stephen King’s IT, Tales From the Loop) expands to Savage Worlds. This is a fast-growing niche filled with, at a guess, fans about my age that are looking for a window back to their childhood. Do you want to see if this has the feel of Amblin Entertainment before you buy? The Monster Hunters’ Club is available on DriveThruRPG for free, so grab it and then you can decide if this is the RPG for your childhood memories.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

Monster Club art by Veronica V. Jones

 

1) Seven Worlds – realistic science-fiction for Savage Worlds by Intellistories
Ends on Thu, November 16 2017 9:08 AM EST.

“A unique hard Science-Fiction setting for the Savage Worlds RPG. An epic campaign, 2D/3D starmaps for most platforms, and more!

Welcome to Seven Worlds, a new Epic Science-Fiction Setting and Campaign for the Savage Worlds role-playing game!

Seven Worlds is a unique, epic hard(ish) Science-Fiction role-playing campaign and setting. In the year 2217 humanity’s greatest achievement is the colonization of the nearby star systems now known as the Seven Worlds, where humanity lives, thrives, and prepares for the next great wave of space exploration. But when the unexpected threatens humanity, only an unlikely band of heroes can unravel a deadly conspiracy and try to avert the Fall!

“This isn’t the usual Firefly-meets-Star Wars space opera, it’s more like The Expanse… Overall rating: 5 out of 5.”  – Halfway Station

What makes Seven Worlds special? Do we need yet another science-fiction setting and campaign for Savage Worlds? We believe there IS a niche for a new, unique setting, and here are some reasons why:

The Campaign is Epic: The core of Seven Worlds is its awesome, world-shattering campaign! The setting was designed around the story, rather than the story around the setting, making for a rich environment where everything fits together. Inspired by classic science fiction books likeThe Expanse series and TV series like Battlestar Galactica and Babylon 5, as well as by such grand episodic RPG campaigns as the original Dragonlance saga, this is a story arc the players will never forget!

The campaign will be available as seven PDF-only modules and (after the modules have been released) as a single-volume 253-page Campaign Book. For more information on the campaign, check this Designer Diary on our blog site.”

 

Check out my interview with Luis Enrique Torres about his Kickstarter for Seven Worlds here.

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

You know what I like best about Savage Worlds? There are four Kickstarters and four unique settings/genres. Diesel-punk, biopunk, kids on bikes, and, now, hard science fiction. As I’ve mentioned before, 2017 feels like the Year of the Sci-Fi RPG.

With that in mind, this is going to be a good Savage Worlds setting. As with the other Savage Worlds RPGs on this list, you can try before you buy – Seven Worlds Test Drive for free.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Signal Boost:

 

Design Camp 2 – The Conversion! with Ben McFarland, Jason Sonia, and Brian Suskind
We’re planning a short winter project to showcase the process of converting a D&D3.0 adventure to 5E & PFRPG while updating the design.
Ends on Wed, November 1 2017 4:53 AM EDT.

Why signal boost this? This is wanna-lancer college! Take out a student loan and join in because Egg Embry will be there!

Check out the campaign here.

 

Gilded Age: Vol 1 – A Steampunk Graphic Novel by John McGuire
Made up of magicians and actors, freaks and gunslingers, The Gilded Age reveals everyone’s desires and secrets.
Ends on Fri, November 17 2017 11:59 PM EST.

Why signal boost this? This is from the Tessera Guild’s own John McGuire and he’s hitting on all cylinders with this story! Steampunk circus touring across Victorian Europe! Carny robots! Stage wizards! Tricksh00ting cyborgs! Check out the link to the campaign for a free copy of issue one!

The Gilded Age - Volume 1 Cover - La'Vata O'Neal - Artist
The Gilded Age – Volume 1 Cover – La’Vata O’Neal – Artist

Check out the campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com and Amazon.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Tales From the Loop – Thoughts About the Best Game I Played At GenCon

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

I’m not burying the lead on this one. Heck, I put it right there in the title. Tales from the Loop was the best game experience I had at Gen Con. To the point that I talked about the game session to my wife like I was telling her about some awesome movie I’d seen (ask her about my retelling of How to Train Your Dragon – the rated R version – now full of lots of swearing!). I told my sister, a nut for everything 80s, because the game does a great job at delivering on a premise.

So what is Tales from the Loop – Roleplaying in the 80s that never was?

Think about your favorite kid led movies from the 1980s. Do you have a list in your head?

Goonies?

Flight of the Navigator?

E.T.?

Stand by Me?

Monster Squad?

Explorers?

Cloak and Dagger?

Short Circuit?

D.A.R.Y.L.?

These are the movies just before you get to the John Hughes films in your mid-teens. These are the movies where the kids are the heroes. Where they aren’t treated as dummies just because they aren’t the adults. If anything, the adults are normally the clueless ones who have no idea that a bigger world exists around the next corner, but their kids know it all too well.

This is the feeling Tales from the Loop taps into the nostalgia of that time when you both couldn’t wait to grow up, but also began to understand that it was pretty cool to be a kid sometimes. When you created adventures with your friends, when you bike was your gateway to the larger world, and when the woods were a sanctuary from whatever bothered you.

Tales is a game that takes that premise and puts it into a world very much like our own (or any of the worlds from those movies) but uses the backdrop of artist Simon Stålenhag’s paintings where fantastical machines are becoming more and more commonplace. From the Kickstarter page:

In 1954, the Swedish government ordered the construction of the world’s largest particle accelerator. The facility was complete in 1969, located deep below the pastoral countryside of Mälaröarna. The local population called this marvel of technology The Loop.

While it is a Swedish game, one of the stretch goals set up an American counterpart Loop in Boulder City, Colorado. Again, the thing is you could set this game in the town you grew up in. Those memories of growing up on the coast or in the mountains or playing in the creek or riding your bike through the subdivisions are what the game evokes within the players. It becomes easy to play because you’re tapping into a piece of you from Before you got old(er) and had adult responsibilities.

***

When Egg mentioned adding Tales from the Loop to our game schedule, I had no idea what he was talking about. I just smiled and said, “Yeah, whatever. I’m just glad to be going.” Later I looked up the game’s Kickstarter and thought, “Interesting. A game where you play kids in a 1980s style setting.”

Then promptly forgot about it again until the Friday night of GenCon.

Egg was unable to attend the session as he was Cubical 7’s guest at the Ennie Awards. So Lee and I made our way to the room where the game was to take place. After a few minutes our Game Master, Bill Carter, appeared, having hustled from another game. For a while, it was just the three of us. Lucky for us that Alan Precourt and David Cochran decided to swing by and see how things were going. Bill “convinced” them to join in the game, realizing that 4 would probably be better than 2. And off we went into character creation.

Many games we played during the weekend were pregenerated. They had their own stats and histories and connections to the other pregenerated characters. So it can be a bit of a crap-shoot as you’re never 100% on how they are going to work, especially if you’ve never played the system.

However, Bill had us create characters for this game, and I’m especially glad he did.

You pick out an archetype: The Loner, The Jock, The Computer Nerd, etc. in order to have a little bit of framework for your character. But the thing is, you’re a kid, you’re not going to be great at 100 different things like some games. You have 4 main attributes: Body, Tech, Heart, and Mind. You’ll divide up your character points here among those.

Oh, how many character points do you get? How old is your character? Pick a starting age between 10 and 15. Got it? That’s how many points you have to divide.

Pretty cool, right?

Art by Simon Stålenhag

Ah, but there is a catch. There is one other main stat: Luck. Much like other games, using a Luck point lets you reroll a failed roll. So how many Luck points do you get? 15 minus your age. So the younger you are, the luckier you are, but the fewer Build points you’ll have.

The thing that any roleplayer will tell you is that your stats are only part of the story for your character. The story… who you are… what are you afraid of… what do you aspire to be? These are the keys to not only your character but will potentially inform your relationships with the other kids. And that may be the biggest piece of this game. Your kids are going to be friends and it’s really up to the players to figure out why.

In our particular game, I chose the Rocker. A bit of a clumsy, still growing into himself, an 11-year-old kid whose brother had passed away maybe a year or so prior. His parents rode him – trying to have him live up to be his brother, but in his grief, he found his brother’s old guitar and something clicked.

So, I had a background, but how to tie it into the other characters. Why are you friends?

Well… what if the Computer Nerd was helping me actually record something?

What if the Skater-Jock was just big enough to protect the Computer Nerd from the school bully?

And what if the Hick and the Rocker had found friendship in the older brother’s death?

Sounds like we’ve got some friendships going.

And just like that, we were ready to play.

I don’t want to give away the details in case Bill wants to run it again (or maybe publish it at some point). Suffice to say, our four kids immediately noticed something was wrong while at school. You might say that Strange(r) Things were afoot… and it was up to us to figure out why the world seemed to blink or why the robots were acting strange or why- seriously, I probably should stop.

Our attempt at Taunting the missing Egg Embry

***

After the game, Lee and I met back up with Egg and proceeded to talk his ear off about the session, about the people we’d played with, and just the joy of the session. I’m sure he was tired of hearing about it by the time we went to bed that night. The next morning we made a b-line to the Modiphius booth where I snagged a hard copy of the game (when we swung back by later that afternoon, they were sold out).

The book comes with all the rules needed to play as well as 4 adventures to get everyone started. So far I haven’t had a chance to bust the game out and play, but I did look to see if they were running any adventures at Dragon Con a couple of weeks later (if they were, I didn’t see any). Regardless, I’m looking forward to jumping into that world!

***

For more information about Tales from the Loop, check out the Modiphius Entertainment site here.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Steampunk Fridays – Interview with the Creator of Boston Metaphysical Society

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

One of my favorite things about Steampunk stories is how the genre lends itself to the use of real world people and places… but with a twist. Monster hunters set on their path by some of the leading scientists of the era (Tesla, Edison, Bell, and Harry Houdini!). An X-Files in a Steampunk world!

I can see why it started its life as a tv show pitch.

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

About five years.

At what point did you sit down to become a writer? Do you remember the first thing you wrote?

I was a child, so it’s tough to say when or what exactly. I was always inventing stories in my head then probably by the second grade, I was writing my own.

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

Other indie creators inspire me, but right now Marjorie Liu’s Monstress and Lady Killer by Joelle Jones are my favorites.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

What a question. Hahahaha. Time management is always hard. I work part-time for LA Fitness as an instructor, plus have a husband, two dogs, and house that gets cleaned (by me) on occasion.  I usually write in the afternoons from 2-5 pm and do what I call administrative tasks (expense reports, signing up for cons, travel arrangements, inventory, etc.) for an hour after I get home from the gym. Obviously, laundry and dog walking get squeezed in there somewhere…. And my husband.

It’s often difficult to get word out about independent comics. What do you do to market and promote your books? Anything work really well or really poorly?

I do a blend of social media, exhibiting at cons, reaching out to blogs, reviewers, doing panels and interviews like this! I don’t think you should focus on just one aspect of marketing. However, I do like reaching out at Comic Cons or steampunk conventions because you can develop a relationship with a potential fan.

What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

Most of my stories require some research, then I do character bios, a beat sheet, an outline, then a treatment where I break down the scenes and page count for comics. If I’m doing prose, I pretty much do the same except the treatment is broader in scope, but allows for me to go off in different directions if need be, or if I’m feeling inspired.

What inspired you to create Boston Metaphysical Society?

It was a combination of my love of history, science fiction, and The X-Files. However, the original story was a TV Pilot that I wrote at UCLA School of Theater, Film and TV when I was a graduate student in the MFA Program in Screenwriting. It was suggested I turn it into a six issue mini-series, which I did. And here we are.

Was this a case of coming up with the story first and then the setting or vice versa?

The story and setting came up simultaneously in this case.  I thought it would be cool to have paranormal detectives set in an alternate history of Boston and the United States and have to deal with a different set of social mores and expectations than we deal with today.

Or at least not quite so blatant.

What’s been the reaction to the book?

Excellent. I have what I refer to as a small group of ardent fans. And I love them all.

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?

Absolutely. I almost always deal with the theme of classism. In the case of Boston Metaphysical Society, I also dealt with racism and sexism.

After running 4 successful Kickstarters for Boston Metaphysical Society, what have you learned about the process of Kickstarter? What do you think has contributed to hitting your goals on Boston Metaphysical Society? Did you worry about “going to the well” too soon after each one?

Soooo many questions….LOL. Once upon a time, back before 2013, you could pretty much throw something up on Kickstarter and get it funded. Not anymore. You have to create a fanbase before you launch and post what is essentially a grant proposal as your Kickstarter page. There is much more professionalism in how projects are presented now.

Many of the reasons we make our goals so quickly is that I have a core email list of people who I’m 99% sure they will back the project. Not only because they like it, but I have delivered on all past rewards in a timely fashion. I don’t like to do more than one campaign a year as it is very time intensive and takes away from my productivity. I do think there is a risk of “going to the well” too much, but I have friends who have no problem with it and have been successful.

Do you view the platform as a testing ground for the concepts?

I don’t view the platform as a testing ground for concepts when it comes to comics. Most comics use Kickstarter as a pre-order mechanism. However, I can see how tech items might use it that way.

You currently have 6 issues (a full trade) of Boston Metaphysical Society. What’s the overall plan with Boston Metaphysical Society?

All stories after the timeline of the original six issue series will be in 32-34 page one shots. I’ve just completed a draft of the first story which will feature Granville Woods and Tesla. These will be complete standalone stories focusing on two or three of the main characters. Anything that occurs before the beginning of the six issue series will be in prose. In fact, I’ve got a first draft of the first novel which begins five years before the start of the comic. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to go back and rewrite it yet.

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about working with artist Emily Hu.

Emily has been a joy to work with. We set up a schedule where she would deliver three pages a week. I would review them, then give her notes while she continued on to the next three.  We worked together for almost four years and she completed the entire series. We hope to work together again in the future if her schedule permits it.

If you could go back in time ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?

Start reading comics sooner. Let me explain… My brother has probably the largest graded collection of Daredevil comics in the U.S., but I was never interested in superhero comics because I thought that was all that was available. It wasn’t until I decided to adapt the TV Pilot that I took a sequential art class and started reading indie comics. That was such a revelation. I loved them and wondered where they had been all my life.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote? Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?

 

Yes! I’m very excited to announce a couple of things. The first is that I was hired to write a four issue mini-series for SFC Comics/Evoluzione Publishing called, Kasai: The Homecoming.  It will be my first time writing a superhero and I loved doing it. It’s set in a world where many superheroes are pro-wrestlers. My series will focus on a young female pro-wrestler from Japan who is half-human and half-fire demon. It will be on Kickstarter in early 2018.

The other project is a short story called, The Scout, which will be in the anthology, The Fourth Monkey. It is an anthology which deals with social and environmental issues and will launch on Kickstarter on Sept. 12, 2017.

I also wrote a short story for The Enyes Anthology called Saturday Night Fever. It contains various stories from indie creators about the Enyes family; a family where each of its members are either monsters or have some sort of relationship with monsters. It will be on Kickstarter in 2018.

And definitely look for us on Kickstarter for the Granville and Tesla standalone story in early 2018. Right now the working title is Boston Metaphysical Society: The Scourge of the Mechanical Men.

Where’s the best place to find out more about Boston Metaphysical Society and the rest of your works?

Website: www.bostonmetaphysicalsociety.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BostonMetaphysicalSocietyComic/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mholly

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mcholly1/

Storenvy: http://bostonmetaphysical.storenvy.com/

***

A TV, feature film, and comic book writer, Madeleine is the winner of the Sloan Fellowship  for screenwriting, and the Gold Aurora and Bronze Telly for a PSA produced by Women In Film. She also won numerous awards while completing the UCLA MFA Program in Screenwriting. Having run a number of successful crowdfunding campaigns for her comic, Boston Metaphysical Society, Madeleine now teaches a crowdfunding class for independent creators at Pulp Fiction Books in Culver City as well as guest lecturing at UCLA Professional Program in Theater, Film and TV, Scriptwriters Network, and Dreamworks Animation. She has also published the book, Kickstarter for the Independent Creator.

Boston Metaphysical Society webcomic is the recipient of an HONORABLE MENTION at the 2013 GEEKIE AWARDS and was nominated for BEST COMIC/GRAPHIC NOVEL at the 2014 GEEKIE AWARDS. The comic has also been nominated for a 2012 Airship Award as well as a 2013, 2014 and a 2015 Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice Award. Her novella, Steampunk Rat, was also nominated for a 2013 Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice Award.

She also has an anthology of short stories and novellas called Boston Metaphysical Society: Prelude  (in print as well as eBook) based on the Boston Metaphysical Society universe available at all major online retailers. The Boston Metaphysical Society short story, Here Abide Monsters, is part of the Some Time Later anthology from Thinking Ink Press. She is currently writing the first novel based on the series and was hired by SFC Comics/Evoluzione Publishing to write a four issue mini-series based on the SFC character, Kasai.

Formerly a nationally ranked epee fencer, she has competed nationally and internationally. She is an avid reader of comics, steampunk, science fiction, fantasy, and historical military fiction.

Madeleine lives with her rocket scientist husband, David and two rescue dogs: Ripley and Bishop.

***

I want to thank Madeleine Holly-Rosing for being so gracious with her time!

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Steampunk Fridays – Interview with the Creator of The Legend of Everett Forge

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

Cowboys and Robots.

I’m a sucker for the Western genre. Anytime they cross my tv, I end up stopping on that channel to watch. And Heaven help my poor wife if the word Tombstone is mentioned anywhere in there. She might as well give up on me being productive for the rest of the day (even though I own the DVD).

Everett Forge is in the mold of many of those same Westerns. He’s clearly a man on a mission to destroy Omega’s entire livelihood. He’s a myth, a ghost story the Robots tell each other at night – make sure you lube all your joints of Everett Forge will get you.

***

How long have you been creating/working in comics?

I’ve been working in comics since about 2014, that’s when I officially started work on The Legend of Everett Forge.

At what point did you sit down to become a writer? Do you remember the first thing you drew/wrote?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I was super into Goosebumps when I was a kid, so the very first stories I wrote were all lighthearted, scary ones.

Who inspires you? Or do you have a favorite artist or creator?

So many people. Family inspires me to continue pursuing my dreams. And the list of creators out there who inspire me is way too long. I’m just extremely fortunate to be surrounded by so many amazing, loving, and talented people.

How do you manage your daily/family life with your creative work? Is this your 9 to 5 or is this your 10 to 2?

Writing is my 10 to 2 for sure. It’s a tough thing trying to balance family life and my creative work. I don’t want to sacrifice any time with my wife and daughter, so I will write while they’re at the grocery store, visiting family, or when they’re asleep.

It’s often difficult to get word out about independent comics. What do you do to market and promote your books? Anything work really well or really poorly?

With essentially no budget, I stick to the cheap and easy social media methods like Facebook and Instagram. I’m fortunate enough to be friends with a lot of indie creators who help get the word out about my comic as well. Kickstarter, in my opinion, works the best. It’s an amazing platform to get your work out to thousands of people from across the globe. From just two Kickstarters, my readership has expanded over a couple hundred. That is pretty solid for a new indie title.

What’s your process look like when you’re writing? Do you go with the full outline? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants type?

I always start with a general outline. I don’t get too detailed with it as I’ve come to find that often times the story will tell you how it wants to be told. For example, in the second issue, I wrote and re-wrote a couple pages over and over again because they just weren’t coming out the way I outlined them. Then I realized that the way I was writing them was way more organic than what the outline had. Sometimes, as a writer, you have to give a little of the control over to the story.

What inspired you to create The Legend of Everett Forge?

I always say I wish my inspiration was deeper and more meaningful…but, to be honest, I just wanted a story that had robot cowboys! A college professor once told me that if you can’t find the stories you want to read, write them yourself. So, that’s what I did!

Was this a case of coming up with the story first and then the setting or vice versa?

Well, it all initially began with me wanting to see robot cowboys. Then in high school, I wrote a short story about an unnamed gunslinger who has to fight his way out of an old west town full of robots. The story ended up lost somewhere in my hard drive until I came across it a few years later in college. I was minoring in Film Production, so I decided I wanted to expand on it and turn it into a screenplay. I worked on that for about a year or so, on and off. After I finished it, I shelved it again. It wasn’t until a couple years later, after I attended one of my first Comic Cons, that I decided I wanted to revisit the story again in comic book form. And here we are!

What’s been the reaction to the book?

So far, so good! Reactions from the Steampunk community regarding the comic have been extremely positive. Even those who aren’t big into either Steampunk or Westerns have enjoyed it. But, I think my favorite reactions are from the people who typically aren’t into comics. I have one reader who hadn’t read a comic in over 20 years, but after he saw my first Kickstarter, he decided to pledge and now he’s one of our biggest fans.

Oh, and just a few weeks ago someone shared one of our posts and said they want to cosplay as one of the characters from the story.

That’s amazing!

I don’t think you can get a bigger compliment than that!

Are there themes and/or subjects you find yourself drawn to again and again in your work?

I seem to always be drawn to stories about death, vengeance, or humanity. I love exploring all three. Fortunately, The Legend of Everett Forge focuses heavily on all of those in varying ways.

After running 2 successful Kickstarters for The Legend of Everett Forge, what have you learned about the process of Kickstarter? What do you think has contributed to hitting your goals on The Legend of Everett Forge? Did you worry about “going to the well” too soon after each one? Do you view the platform as a testing ground for the concepts?

Networking and expanding my fan base have proven instrumental in hitting our goals. My very first Kickstarter failed miserably. I only had a few pages of the comic done by that point, I had only started my facebook page maybe three or four months prior, and I knew very few people in the industry. After the Kickstarter flopped, I sat down, licked my wounds, and started to put myself out there more. Within a year I had become close friends with dozens of indie creators and more than doubled my fan base.

You currently have 2 issues of The Legend of Everett Forge. What’s the overall plan with The Legend of Everett Forge?

Yeah, the second issue should be out in about a month or so. The initial story arc for Forge will run seven issues. After that, I have two additional story arcs for him that will close out the entire saga. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to tell the tale of Everett Forge for the next ten years!

Comics is an amazing collaborative medium. Tell me a little about ClickArt Studios.

They’re the best! Back in 2014 when I was looking for an art team, I posted an ad on DeviantArt. Rai responded almost immediately and showed me their work and stated that he and his wife Ochie were big Steampunk fans. I knew almost instantly that they were the ones I wanted to work with. Then the concept art started coming in, and suddenly these characters that had been in my head for years started to come to life in ways I could have never imagined!

They’re all such amazingly talented and kind people! I love working with them and I just love them in general. I hope to have a very long career with them!

If you could go back in time ten years, what advice might you have for your younger self? Something you wish you knew?

I’d tell my younger self not to wait to pursue his dream. I spent so many years thinking I wasn’t ready or doubting that anyone would even want to read my work. Had I spent all that time actually getting my stuff out there, I’d be light years ahead of where I am now.

Do you have any upcoming projects? Anything you’d like to promote? Anything else that you’d like people to know about you (Hobbies? Passions? Favorite TV Show)?

I’m currently working on a new comic series with Godsend creator, Lee Jiles. It’s called Red Scare. It’s still in its early stages, but so far it is looking great. I’m also working on a pitch for a superhero story. Other than that, I enjoy playing video games and reading comics. I love spending time with my family. My favorite TV Show is Westworld. Shocking, right?! 😛

Where’s the best place to find out more about The Legend of Everett Forge and the rest of your works?

Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/EverettForge. Otherwise, follow me on Kickstarter and Instagram.

***

I want to thank Scott Wilke for being so gracious with his time!

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

San Diego Comic Con 2017 Recap

No, I didn’t go, but due to the con, I have tons of smaller chunks that have been running around my brain this week – dealing with San Diego Comic Con, Dark Tower, Thor, and Game of Thrones:

San Diego Comic Con

My wife asked me if I was jealous of the people who went to the convention this last weekend. Immediately my mind went to something Robert Jeffrey said over email:

“I want to go, but I want to go with a purpose. I want to be invited.”

Or something close to that. The point is I see the pictures of some of these comic creators gathering up and having their meetings and I think, that’s a million miles away. Other days it only feels thousands of miles away.

With conventions that size, there are only so many things you can actually see. You stand in line for hours in order to possibly get a seat in a crowded room (I should know, I’ve done it at Dragon Con many, many times over). Luckily, I’m able to see the new trailers for the various movies or tv shows coming out in the fall without leaving the comfort of my house…

Make of that what you will.

***

The Dark Tower

The Dark Tower comes out in just over a week I think. I’m not finished with the series (on the second to last book). I’ve also come to it fairly late in the game only having started reading them in the last couple of years. I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to start them before King was done writing them. And I actually timed it right, as Wind Through the Keyhole was out when I started my journey allowing me to read it in its proper order.

Of course, once I started in on the series I was hooked. In fact, the only reason I haven’t finished the series is more out of trying to make it last… not speeding through it like a maniac.

But the film… I’m hyped. I don’t know if it will be faithful or not. Then I talked to friends this weekend who informed me of its running length: 95 minutes. It’s been about 3 decades since that amount of time was more or less the standard. Maybe that’s all they’ll need if they stick to the first book (it is the shortest), but they have a TON of world-building before they are done.

95 minutes isn’t a lot of time for everything they need to do.

***

Thor: Ragnarok

Then again the new Thor movie is claimed to be 100 minutes, which is also very short in this day and age of 2-hour movies. Here’s the deal, as the movies have lengthened they probably don’t trim and cut as much as they could or should. I have no doubt of that. When you are a writer there are scenes which you try to rework and rework to fit into the Draft, but after a certain point, you have to excise it from your life.

Maybe that’s what these filmmakers are doing now. They are looking how to make the best version of the movie, not worried about some arbitrary time limit which may or may not be something the studios should be dictating in the first place.

Then again, if the movies are shorter, do we get a discount on the prices to see those same movies?

***

Game of Thrones

I see plenty of memes about Game of Thrones and people realizing we’ve only got 5 more episodes for this season (7 total instead of 10) and people losing their minds. supposedly the producers have said they want the season to move at a brisker pace than previous seasons. Plus only having 7 episodes allows them for more of the special effects.

The problem with the first reason is these episodes have felt like normal episodes. Characters have still been scattered to the edges of the world. We still are wondering what’s happening in certain areas. And we’re gearing toward the final conflicts. But it feels the same.

Which makes me worried we’re getting less of the same thing. Not that we’re getting 10 lbs of something in a 5 lb bag.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Steampunk Fridays – 5 Steampunk Movies You Should Watch

Check out John McGuire’s The Gilded Age steampunk graphic novel on Kickstarter!

Maybe…

Steampunk as a genre is both a century plus old and somewhat relatively new. Arguments can be made that the birth of the form is found in the works of Mary Shelly and HG Wells and Jules Verne as much as they might be given to those who put it on the map for modern audiences: Tim Powers, James Blaylock, and KW Jeter.

Yet, as I was coming up with this list of 5 Steampunk movies, I had to admit that there aren’t as many as you might think there are considering the number of costumes I see posted all over the web (or at conventions like Dragon Con). The following aren’t necessarily the best, but these are ones who contribute in their own way to the genre.

The Prestige (2006)

Ok, I might have lied. This one is not only worth seeing, but it is worth watching multiple times. Told through a series of flashback, this is the story of dueling stage magicians who are constantly trying to one up the other through sabotage or stealing the other’s tricks.

Much like the subject matter, the movie itself is somewhat of a trick, daring you to figure out its secrets as one twist follows another. The lengths that two men will go to in order to get the last word.

And just when you think you’ve figured it all out… now comes the reveal.

What makes it Steampunk?

Stage Magic. Nikola Tesla makes an appearance and builds a machine that seemingly allows the magician to move instantly from one place to another.

 

Wild Wild West (1999)

So we go from the top of the form to one of its disappointments. The problem with Wild Wild West isn’t that it wears its steampunk roots on its sleeves, no the problem is that it never takes any of the plots seriously. Things are played for laughs, but there are no real stakes for our characters. Instead, we are treated to a series of gadgets which would make James Bond jealous. Add in an odd motivation for the villain of the piece: He’s going to use his technology to help defeat the United States as punishment for winning the Civil War… Ok, I can understand that. He’s a southerner who was on the losing side. However, the crux of his plan is to have President Grant divide the country among Great Britain, France, Spain, Mexico, the Native Americans, and, of course, himself.

What?

Wild Wild West is proof that you still need a story on top of the steam technology.

What makes it Steampunk?

Honestly, this movie is chocked full of Steampunk items: a giant mechanical spider, trains, and a steam-powered wheelchair!

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Maybe I’m blinded by Robert Downey Jr’s performance, but I really like this movie (and its sequel, A Game of Shadows). If Steampunk means Victorian Setting, then this wins as it’s set in London near the turn of the century. A dirty, crowded city trying to birth itself into the new industrial world.

The plots of the original movie follow Sherlock Holmes as he tries to figure out how Lord Henry Blackwood managed to potentially cheat death. Throughout, he’s forced to try to find the truth of things even if every new revelation seems to point to a more supernatural explanation for how the Lord escaped his execution.

Much like any good mystery, I liked following along with the characters as they made their way through the maze of lies and deceits, often wondering what the answer was going to actually be.

What makes it Steampunk?

A mixture of science and magic being used together. Secret societies. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

 

The Time Machine (2002)

Based on HG Wells’ novel, this particular version is more of a cautionary tale of what happens when you try and change the past. Dr. Hartgren’s fiancee’s death at the beginning of the film is what pushes him to complete the machine in order to try to change the past. However, in almost a nod to Groundhog Day, each attempt to stop her death is foiled in some way. Realizing he can’t find the answer to his question: “How do you change the past?” in his current time, he pushes the machine forward to discover the answer.

Around the time I graduated high school, I went on a spree of reading many of the “classics”. The Time Machine was one of the first and probably is responsible for my love of time travel in fiction. This version of the story has the strongest reason for the main character to travel in time at all (I believe, in the novel, he’s mostly doing it to show that he can). The heartbreak of losing his true love over and over… I completely bought into what he was trying to do, and how he’s literally going to the end of time if it meant saving her.

What makes it Steampunk?

If being based on one of the seminal books of the genre isn’t enough, then I’m not sure what is.

 

Van Helsing (2004)

This should be a no-brainer. You have the vampire slayer, Van Helsing, also acting as a potential “monster hunter”. You have free range over the entire Universal Monster franchises. You have Dr. Frankenstein teaming up with Dracula. You have a monster hunter who works for the Vatican. You get werewolves and gypsies and potentially angels (?).

And yet, somehow the movie just never delivers on its original promise.

This is one of those movies that I look upon as a lost opportunity. This should have been the start of a very cool franchise (which might have given us an updated version of The Creature, maybe?). Instead, it was dead pretty much on arrival.

What makes it Steampunk?

More of the gothic feel of the form to start. Many roleplaying games and novels have used the monsters are walking among us within the Steampunk framework. Dr. Frankenstein’s experiments.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novellas Theft & Therapy and There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

A Tale of Two Concerts

So there are two big concert experiences (with regards to song choices):

One is play only your hits. Maybe you sprinkle in some of the old stuff, the deep tracks, but you’re playing the big songs and the newest songs from your latest album in order to support it.

The other option is when maybe this is a tour where you don’t have a new album to support. Maybe you don’t have to be beholden to a strict set list. Or perhaps you are working on a new album, but nowhere near close enough on most of the songs.

This is a case where the catalog really opens up and you can truly reach back and plat those songs older fans haven’t heard in a long time and newer fans have never heard in concert.

Last week I got a taste of both…

An aside – With Pearl Jam being my favorite band, the idea of a unique set list is not strange. In fact, with their shows I’m normally the asshole who wants to hear some random track 10 from one of the lesser known albums. I want the deep cuts more prominently than the more casual fan is not going to have heard or understand.

Night One: A Perfect Circle

This is a band situated firmly in my top 5 bands, but it’s been 13 years since I’ve been to see A Perfect Circle. Life, tour dates, and them not really existing for a good portion of a decade were all contributing factors. That time they were indoors, with people hanging from the ceiling, and other oddities that are somewhat commonplace when you’re dealing with a Maynard related band.

This time around they were at the Verizon Amphitheater in Alpharetta, Georgia, where after having been to only two shows, is fast becoming a household favorite. Great sound, relatively easy to get into the venue (getting out is a little more sketchy, but so is just about every other venue I’ve ever been to), and there is just something about an outdoor show as the sun goes down.

We arrived in time to hear one song from the opening band… which I didn’t catch the name of. I normally don’t mind trying to get in a little early just to catch those bands. So many shows over the years have introduced me to some solid music.

Our seats were about 7 rows behind the general admission orchestra area (which was probably about 10 rows deep if full). Around us were a handful of empty seats… probably another symptom of not putting out music in so long. Strangely, we were told repetitively that the band did not want any pictures taken. In 2004, that might have been something you could control with cameras not installed in every phone (maybe? I honestly can’t remember), but in 2017 you can’t really put that genie back in the bottle. Still, ushers did stop a few people, and I’ve read about others being asked to leave.

We’re rule followers, so no worries there.

The show itself was amazing. APC is one of those bands where I don’t have tracks I skip. As to their set list, I use my wife as the go-by, and she commented after the show she was surprised by how many songs she recognized. Overall, they played their hits, a couple of covers (John Lennon’s Imagine making an appearance – an always welcomed addition), and even sprinkled in a pair of new songs.

The only odd thing about the new songs was the placement of one of them to close out the show. Normally I’d think you’d want something to bring down the house – a song everyone knows and has been waiting for. Instead, we get a song that maybe a handful know and the rest just get to experience. Just an odd choice.

Though, I do think once I get to hear it enough, I have no doubt it will be a quality track to use in that capacity. It certainly had that feel.

Night Two: Soundgarden

Lollapalooza 1996 is the last time I’ve seen Soundgarden. Again, helped by the dissolution of the band for over a decade, I missed the tour they did with King Animal back in 2012/2013. And I might have missed this one had it not been for the venue.

The Fox Theater brings an assortment of memories for me beginning with seeing Top Gun there with my parents and being astounded by the audience interaction with the film. Catcalls during any of the numerous guys with their shirts off scenes, cheers whenever Tom Cruise did anything great, and more clapping when the movie ended. The Theater is topped off by seeing Pearl Jam back in 1994, which I’ve talked about here.

Yet, I’ve only seen one other band at The Fox and it happens to be Soundgarden over 20 years ago. Now here was a chance to see them again in the same venue… a no brainer.

We actually arrived early enough to see The Pretty Reckless open. Given XM Radio and the Octane channel, I recognized a couple of songs. Courtney mentioned actually wanting to download some of their stuff. I’ll be interested to see how the album fills out past the release songs.

As to Soundgarden, you couldn’t ask for a more different pair of shows. Where APC’s light effects were more colors and mood based, Soundgarden is a rock band with their influences spanning from arena rock bands to DIY punk rockers – so the lights were an assault at various times throughout the show. But the biggest difference was the song choice.

Apparently, their 1st full album was rereleased in the last couple of months. It makes for a perfect excuse to dust off those old school songs. And I gotta think if you are a fan from waaaay back in the day, your song bucket list managed to get a lot shorter as they opened with 3 straight songs from that era. Which is great… except I don’t own that record. I start with Badmotorfinger and continue from there.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the hell out of the show. They pretty much hit upon everything I’d have expected them to play, but it was a little unexpected.

Though there is nothing like hearing Fell on Black Days live. It’s my favorite song of theirs no matter what form it takes.

***

Two bands. Over 4 hours of live music. Great venues.

Extremely tired come Thursday morning.

Worth it.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Break out the fake hacking, techno, martial arts, and black leather! Why a Matrix relaunch could work.

I’m a huge fan of  The Matrix, and from a creative side of things, an even bigger fan of the overall universe/ concept of the property. On the other side of things, I’m lukewarm to outright “will turn the movie off because I’ve been bored to tears” when it comes to Matrix: Reloaded and Matrix: Revolutions.

The movie, along with a few other creative sources, propelled me into my career as a writer of all things super heroic, epic, sci-fi, and all around kick ass.

So when I heard that Warner Brothers was giving some thought to possibly restarting the franchise, I thought I’d just share a few opinions. Really trying not to rant here.

There’s enough of that on the internet, so call this a “calm laying out of ideas/ thoughts”.

Original Recipe or Crispy is the true answer we seek……

-In the second movie Col. Sanders, I mean The Architect, established that there had been other “One’s” in the vein of Neo.

He explained that fights/conflicts like the ones of the Matrix trilogy had happened before, suggesting that this was sort of an endless loop.

So like it or not, the Wachowski’s left the door open for more stories to possibly be told for a concept which they no longer completely own (when they sold the idea to New Line Cinema/ Warner Bros.).

Unless they signed a kick ass deal which put the complete rights of the franchise in their hands, then WB always had the possibility of telling more stories in this universe without them, and they inadvertently (or maybe that was their plan from the beginning) provided a really solid jumping off point for future stories to be told.

It would be nice for Warner Bros to bring them in on a creative front, but legally speaking, they probably aren’t obligated to. Definitely sucks, I know.

Or not, which leads me to my next point……


-As much as I love The Matrix (one of my favorite movies of all time and a trend setter for modern sci-fi film) the subsequent sequels were a’ight to just horrible. I’m not a huge fan of the Animatrix as a whole. Enjoyed some of the shorts. Others just weren’t my cup of tea.

So any other stories that could be told in this universe, which is extremely expansive, should be told probably by someone else.

I like Sense 8 well enough, and even enjoyed that Channing Tatum roller skating in the sky space opera movie they directed, but with the subsequent Matrix sequels and other movies they’ve directed since then (though I hear Speed Racer has a cult fan following) I’d rather have them on as producers, or hands off, sort of in the vein of Lucas and the current round of Star Wars.

The Star Wars franchise has hit an all time creative and pop culture high with handing off the reigns to other creators, examples including Rogue One and Star Wars: The Force Awakens

-There are some awesome creators who can tackle this material in the form of screenwriters and directors who could kick ass in this universe, and I think they deserve a chance to tell stories set in the world of The Matrix. Once again, look at the Star Wars franchise, and the hiring of such modern/ talented storytellers as J.J. Abrams, Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson, Phil Lord and Chris Miller to continue to expand this universe.

Heck, I’d be up for writing an expanded universe comic for The Matrix.

Warner Bros: hit a dude up.

Please let this be good. By all that is holy, please let this be good.

-I think between this possible relaunch and the burgeoning Harry Potter film-verse restart with Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, I feel that Warner Bros. is trying to get a viable franchise in their hands because the DC film-verse is currently just not cutting it.

Though the Matrix movies steadily got bad in quality, they still made a crap ton of money, and that’s all these studios care about.

-Lastly, don’t do a reboot. Just pick up with another The One as suggested by Col. Sanders. Create a new story, new conflict, higher stakes, etc.

That’s about all that I have. Just a few opinions.

Please discuss below, share, and be civil. 🙂

Arrival movie review

* Disclaimer – this review is largely spoiler free. A few small plot points and themes are revealed.

*

On a cold night in early December, I saw Arrival in a nearly empty theater. Now, the theater being almost vacant isn’t a commentary on Arrival’s quality. The hour was late, the weather was frigid, and everyone (besides me) was probably huddled inside their homes, still stuffed with Thanksgiving leftovers.

I’ll confess; the only reasons I went to see this movie is that I’m writing a sci-fi novel and I’m hungry for inspiration…and I heard from a friend of a friend of a friend that the movie was right up my alley.

I’ll start by saying this: it didn’t disappoint.

From the first moment Amy Adams (as Louise, an expert linguist) appears, it’ s obvious Arrival is a character piece. The title suggests maybe an Independence Day-ish alien invasion or a Bodysnatchers-esque creep-fest. Nope. While the opening scenes share a sense of “what are these huge ships doing in our sky?” dread, every moment thereafter is unique to Arrival.

Mostly.

arrival-movie-4-e1471529984165

What’s the heck is that?? …I’m not telling.

Turns out, Arrival is a thinking-person’s movie. Maybe a splash of Jodie Foster’s Contact mixed with a tiny dash of Interstellar, but with even less action. Let me repeat that: Arrival has almost no action scenes. That’s not to say nothing’s happening, but if you walk in expecting cities full of people to die and xenomorphs strutting around with murder on the mind, this movie probably isn’t for you. Like I said, I went in purely to do a little sci-fi research, and I got exactly what I expected. A mind game. A voyage of intellect and emotion, not of violence.

Amy Adams’ Louise is the key to the movie. And when I say she’s the key, I mean she’s the only character of substance. Sure, you’ve got competent performances by Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner, but Arrival is one of those films in which you get to know one person and one person only. Louise is a linguist, and her job is to find a way to communicate with some pretty cool looking extraterrestrials. Her conversations with humans are short and to the point. It’s really all about what’s going on between her and the aliens, and what’s happening in her head.

Which, as it happens, is a lot.

In pretty much every aliens-on-Earth movie ever made, the real question is: Why are they here? And in pretty much every aliens-on-Earth movie not named Arrival, movie-goers know within 45 minutes whether they’re going to be killed (Independence Day) hunted (Predator) or hugged (E.T.) But Arrival makes a point of stretching the question of why until the very end. In fact, having only seen it once (so far) I’m not entirely sure director Denis Villeneuve ever actually reveals the aliens’ true intent. Which is fine if you can appreciate subtlety, but perhaps less than ideal if you prefer nice, tidy endings.

thumbnail_24771

But…does it have guns?

I will say this: if Arrival’s intent was to show the meaning of hope and the power of human perseverance, both messages ultimately faded for me. And that’s not meant as a criticism, but more a commentary on the strange turn of events near the film’s end. If you’ve seen the excellent sci-fi flick, Ex Machina, maybe you’ll understand my meaning. Things get a little dark and morally murky at Arrival’s terminus. It’s something I personally enjoyed, but not something all movie-goers will appreciate. Or even notice.

So what you’ve got is a movie that moves at a measured pace, a movie that’s sprinkled with small reveals, and a movie whose ending might leave some scratching their heads…and others a little perplexed. The themes go way beyond meeting aliens. Some moviegoers might think it’s too slow, and that’s not a point I can really contest. It is slow at times. And that’s just fine with me.

Final verdict: I didn’t love Arrival, but I really liked it. And for my part, the science behind the aliens’ reason for coming to Earth and the weird/dark situation Amy Adams grapples with at the end made it a worthwhile film. If you like thinking movies, go see it. If not, download Edge of Tomorrow to squeeze in your action fix.

It’s worth mentioning the Jóhann Jóhannsson music score (mostly strings and piano) is haunting and excellent. I’ll be adding it to my soundtrack collection.

Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning (again) the aliens in Arrival are pretty awesome. I’d take them in a fight against pretty much any other movie xenomorph…ever.

*

* * *

My other movie reviews are here.

And for a book I want to make a movie out of, go here.

J Edward Neill

Horror Movies That I Don’t Like

October has come again, and again my goal of watching a bunch of horror movies hasn’t quite managed to happen just yet. Luckily we’re at the beginning of the month, so I have a little more time to go about checking some things off my list.

Prior to beginning this post I looked around at plenty of blogs who list their Top 10, Top 30, even Top 100 horror movies. As much as I’d like to be able to have an opinion on each and every one of them, I couldn’t even begin to figure out if Let the Right One In should be above or below 28 Days Later. Or where Jaws might belong on my Top Horror Movie List.

Of course, horror movies are a subjective as any other genre. And there are a handful that I just don’t get the praise for. These movies get slotted high up in the rankings while other movies, ones I find much more deserving, languish below.

high-tension

High Tension

With each of these movies I have on here, there are definite “good” portions. I understand that. High Tension was a movie that I borrowed from a friend after he praised it. I only wish he’d told me to turn off the dvd at about the 45 – 60 minute mark, because the beginning of the movie more than lives up to the name. You have all manner of scares to keep you on the edge of your seat. You have a couple of heroines to cheer for – I really wanted them to get out.

And then the TWIST happens. I had to rewind the movie at first. It didn’t actually work within the framework of the movie. Then after I finished it (annoyed the whole time) I actually tried to see what the commentary might say about why they made this BIG choice (forgive me not giving the specifics, but I’d hate to ruin things for someone who has this still on their list). Nothing. Which leaves me to imagine that the act of having a solid, scary film wasn’t quite enough for them… and it will forever leaving me scratching my head.

Oh, what could have been.

the_texas_chain_saw_massacre_1974_theatrical_poster

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

I can dislike a movie while still recognizing its place among the keystones of the genre. And I fully understand that, for better or worse according to who’s talking about the movies, without Texas Chainsaw Massacre there would have been no slasher renaissance of the 80s.

Here’s my problem: it’s boring.

That’s it. It goes on for far too long. The screaming goes on for too long. The dinner scene, while creepy, just goes on for to long.

I truly think that I saw this at the wrong time. By the point I got around to seeing this movie I was a horror movie veteran many times over. So any of the tricks that might have been invented within this particular framework was old hand. I’d been jaded by too much a of good thing, I guess.

Still, it’s not a good thing when by the end of the movie I’m hoping that no one survives, is it?

descent-final-poster

The Descent

Tight, enclosed spaces. Yep, that’s scary.

Complete and utter darkness. Yep, scary.

Creepy monsters in the dark. Yep, scary.

I definitely get why people might like this movie. It has plenty of hot buttons to push. Add in a storyline that is constantly threatening to bubble over, and you just know this one is ending in a blood-bath.

Yet…

This is going to sound odd when talking about horror movies, but I still need the characters to actually act like people. Instead some of them just became speed bumps on the way to the big confrontation at the end which wanted to tell us that people are the problem sometimes, not monsters.

But this isn’t The Walking Dead… and I just didn’t buy it.

And then was there a “false ending” thrown in for no real point? Just no thank you.

friday-the-13th-1980-poster

Friday the 13th

In the same category as Chainsaw Massacre, my problem with the very first Friday is that it has become more a trivia answer than a movie you’d want to watch. Jason doesn’t do the killing in this one, it’s his mother. Kevin Bacon gets killed in it. People have sex and then they die.

OK, but is it a good movie? Is it one that you’d watch again randomly at home?

No is the correct answer to that question.

In fact, we could make the argument that the Friday movies really are the ugly step-sister of the slasher sub-genre. It had become such a joke by the end that not only did Jason “go to Hell”, but he also hung out in “Space”.

Space… need I say more? Who the hell was going to see these movies?

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

You’ve Got the Touch!

Transformers the Movie turned 30 years old on Monday. I want to write something about the Transformers to celebrate that idea. But then I realized that I’ve already written a bunch of things about the Transformers already:

Transformers-movieposter-west

How when the movie originally came out, I couldn’t go during opening weekend. And it disappeared from our theater before the next weekend (stupid small town theater!).

Or how issue #4 of the comic was the first comic I ever bought.

Or how Michael Bay won’t get me to watch another of his movies, even if they have Dinobots in them!

Or even discussing the proper way to “play transformers” (and no, they don’t play “Friends”).

The thing about Transformers is that it kind of replaced Star Wars for me after Jedi had come and gone. Maybe there was some aspect of the engineer in me wanting to come out as I transformed certain characters from car to robot and back to car again. But when there was really no other outlet to interact with Star Wars anymore (remember, this is still the better part of a decade before the Zahn books even show up).

This was crazy space battles. And crazy Earth battles. And planets which could destroy other planets (granted it wasn’t a laser beam from a Death Star, but by being eaten by Unicron).

Good and evil fighting things out until the end of everything.

But here’s the thing, without the movie I would have still loved the show. Heck, it took years for me to even see the movie. However, there was something about the idea there could even be a theatrical release of a children’s cartoon. GI Joe didn’t manage that. He Man did, but it was a live action. The less we talk about that, the better things will be for all of us.

My show got a movie. Not only that, but it advanced the storyline. Characters lived and died and underwent complete changes. After the movie, I remember the GI Joe TV movie where some things changed, and we got Surpentor. Or the Thundercats “movie” where they introduced other villains and other survivors for the characters to interact with.

And maybe all those things were in the works for a long time previous. To my 10 year old self, it meant that Transformers was pushing the envelop in story-telling. That thing we all kind of take for granted from television today: serialization.

dinobots

But it didn’t just start with the movie, the show had done some of that kind of thing before. Obviously it was to sell toys, but they’d introduce the Dinobots, then many episodes later there would be two more Dinobots, and then maybe they got their own episode. The characters might not change at all from episode to episode, but the world was definitely getting a little bigger than it had been before.

When one season ended and the next began, so it meant we’d be seeing newer Transformers. We’d have new favorites to cheer for and against.

What the movie really did was super-charge things. Where the transition from season 1 to season 2 might have meant less screen time for your old favorites, they were still there. After the movie, the slate had been cleared for a whole new generation of Autobots and Decepticons to continue fighting this never-ending war. Again the world got bigger (suddenly we had a whole universe to fight over rather than simply remaining on Earth).

Death had come to the Transformers.

Generation 1 Box Art 2 1280 x 1024

It was a big deal to me. As big a deal as Vader’s revelation to Luke at the end of Empire. Optimus Prime was dead (and again, realize I had to have friends describe exactly what happened since I couldn’t see the movie. It would be like trying to dissect the Zapruder Film with only someone else’s word to let you know exactly what had happened). Someone else was the leader (who the heck does this Rodimus Prime think he is anyway?). Starscream was gone (and thought dead as well – say it ain’t so!).

Lil’ John McGuire’s world was sufficiently rocked by all of this. And then I bought the soundtrack, and Stan Bush rocked me a little more.

Now, I have to admit, I haven’t seen the movie in a long time. I have no doubt it won’t necessarily hold up to my standards today. It is sitting over there on the shelf… and my nephew is coming to town this weekend. I wonder what he’d think of it…

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Star Trek… Beyond?

Or Why You’re Wrong About the New Star Trek Movies

Cast your mind back to the Spring of 2005, regardless of how you felt about the show (or its final episode – which I still don’t completely understand the backlash there), Enterprise was going off the air. Which meant for the first time since 1987 there wouldn’t be a Star Trek show on TV.

What the hell did that even mean? For almost as long as I can remember, some starship was out there discovering, searching, having a 5-year or a continuing  or some kind of mission. There were missteps and ideas that took a while to really gel. But apparently whatever ratings they were getting not only wasn’t good enough for Enterprise, but not good enough to even warrant a replacement show.

Three years earlier was the last Next Generation movie: Nemesis which barely made back its production budget of $60 million (it took in a worldwide box office of $67 million, down almost half of Star Trek: Insurrection).

star trek captains

Star Trek was dead on the vine.

Here’s the thing, I’m a Star Trek Fan, but I am not a Fanatic about it. I will fully own up to the fact that I haven’t seen most of the episodes of the various series (The Original Series and Next Generation I’m probably in the 90% range, but the rest are somewhat scattered). And normally this would mean that I should probably keep my mouth shut about it other than to say “I like the shows”… but…

You see, I think I’m much more in the vein of the person that can see things as they are (and maybe not how we all might really want them to be). So when I say Star Trek was dead on the vine, I don’t take any joy in that fact. There was something very comforting about knowing I could turn on my tv any given week and have a new episode to comfort me.

That’s why I both understand the venom against the new movies (the Reboot) and can’t understand it at all. Think of it another way – clearly the fan base for the show had become numb to the lot of it. You were down to the diehards as opposed to even some of the fans like myself (who had watched 2 seasons of Enterprise and then got distracted by life). After my disappointment in Insurrection, I made no attempt to watch Nemesis (and while I know I’ve seen it – I couldn’t tell you very much about it). This from someone who loved the movies before those last two.

trek 3

But the Reboot… I get it. I personally don’t like it when DC comics keeps doing that same thing to my comics. I don’t like the idea that MY VERSION of things is no longer cannon. And I hate it when someone tells me the answer is to reread my old comics or search out old comics if “that is what you want to read about”. How insulting.  While I love to go back a reread things I loved or even find those hidden gems I never knew about in the first place. Yet, I participate in fandom because I want to experience it in new and exciting ways.

I’m not sure the old universe had much juice left in it for broad consumption. Note, this isn’t taking anything away from the numerous fan film projects (some that look flat out amazing). This isn’t taking anything away from the newer comics or books or anything else that might have still existed. This was about saving the series for (forgive the pun) the next generation of potential fans.

The Reboot. I liked it. It’s not perfect, but it did exactly what was needed to be done. It made Star Trek into a spectacle, an event again. And while money isn’t the only thing we should gauge this stuff on, it made SIX times as much as Nemesis. So I’m not wrong (at least not completely).

This was the shot in the arm.

You want to know why these movies needed to happen (lens flares and all)? Because of someone like my wife. A person who has managed to embrace pretty much all my crazy fandoms. From Spiderman and the Avengers to the Flash tv show to Star Wars and Firefly.

You want to know the one thing she could never really understand/connect with? Star Trek.

You want to know what happened when we went and saw Into Darkness? She was literally bouncing in her chair at the end of the movie. Yes, for us who had seen Wrath of Khan (still the best movie) there was a lot of switch-a-roo (and plot holes – why do they need Khan’s blood when they have a whole ship worth of guys and gals with the same blood? – I digress). And maybe that pissed you off (and that’s cool… not that you needed my permission). She really enjoyed it.

New fans. New blood.

And what has that led to? A NEW SHOW. Something I wasn’t sure was possible a decade ago. And maybe a chance for that Star Fleet Academy show to finally happen (you know, the one that always gets thrown around as an idea for the next show) (have they announced what the new show is about yet?).

Perhaps it is time to slacken up on the death grip you’ve performed with the series all these years. Let’s invite these new fans in and then show them why the old shows ruled so much… and if we have to deal with the Beastie Boys in a Star Trek movie… well, that might be the price we have to pay to still have it around at all.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Evaluation M-047

I have something different to share this week–a Throwback Thursday. Not an image, but words. In 2011, I wrote a short piece of fiction (flash fiction) for StoryADay. It won honorable mention in a contest they held that year. I always intended to return to this story, to breathe more life into the world and characters. It’s an odd feeling reading something I wrote five years ago. I have to stop myself from editing the little eyesores. So many things scream at me when I read this piece. Maybe it will be incentive to dive back into the words.


Evaluation M-0147

Evaluation M-047

She wouldn’t break eye contact. A film of anxiety glistened across her forehead. In her hands she turned over a small trinket, again and again—a good luck charm. She’d need it. The baggy hand-me-downs didn’t hide the frail condition of her body, nor her spirit.

I glanced at the paperwork in my hands.

Mary Emerson – 8 yrs – Sole Survivor of Glendale

Eight years old is too young to be a trainee, too young to be sitting the across the table from me tonight. I’m the evaluator. I’m the one who gets to choose who will stand watch in the night. It’s the job no one wants.

Each evaluation begins with a simple statement: This is not a test. But the young are eager to please. When I was a child pleasing our elders involved passing Math, or cleaning our rooms without being asked. Now, childhood ends when you can aim and shoot a target at fifty feet. This ghost of a girl wasn’t ready.

I made motions to cross her name off the list, when her small voice broke the silence.

Chocolate!”

That’s what you miss the most?”

Chocolate. I tried to hide my amusement. When was the last time I’d had chocolate?

No, wait,” she said. “Batteries!”

Better answer. Why?”

Because, batteries generate electricity and we can use them to power machines, like flashlights and Thomas’ defibrillator.”

Eager and intelligent, she could be a malnourished version of me ten years ago. I’d been twelve and eager too. I’d sat with a group of ten other children, in the rain, shivering, waiting to be called inside. The room had been dark, like this one, but instead of a single candle there’d been a single dim light bulb.

Damn. I miss those generators.

Okay, next question. You’re on the wall. You spot Leuks. What is the first thing you do?”

Her fingers squeezed the life out of the trinket in her hand. I’d had one of those too, a lucky rabbit’s foot. The silly souvenir was a gift from my father.

I confirm with my binoculars. If there really are Leuks, I ring the bell four times.”

I pretended to make a few notes. There was no right or wrong answer, only reactions to measure.

Next question. Leuks breach the wall. What do you do?”

Tomorrow could be the day. A raid now would obliterate this settlement. I wish my brother were here. Were we fighting the inevitable?

Ma’m?”

I tore my thoughts away from what I’d lost and focused on her fear filled eyes. Her need to prove herself had hidden the truth. But now I saw the jagged nails and torn cuticles. Who had she lost?

What is it, Maggie?”

Ma’m, are we are going to make it?”

What?” Then I heard them. The bells were ringing. Shouts and screams began to pierce the darkness. Stay calm.

Of course, we are,” I said and forced a smile.

I pulled a tattered white rabbit’s foot from under my collar and placed it around her neck. We all dealt with the stress in our own way. Some survived. Some became shells of their former selves. Some heard the call of the blood.

© Amanda Makepeace

My Sliding Doors Story

First things first… Sliding Doors was a movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow where we see her character along two different timelines. One where she catches a subway train and one where she does not. And then the movie shows us how different that one moment has made her lives from each other.

It is very much a Butterfly Effect style of movie where changing the one incident causes more and more ripples until things are not anything like what they “should have been”.

Slidingdoors

The thing is, you never know if something is going to be that defining moment of your life. No one knows when it is coming, what it is going to look like… heck, it could be a very minor thing like missing a train or it could be a major thing like getting arrested by the police…

***

Anywhere the foliage above didn’t completely cover the area, the sun found its way and broke through in a patchwork of light. I crept along, trying to keep the amount of noise I made a small as possible. Not an easy task when every step you take is through broken tree leaves and limbs. Not the best thing when it is Autumn and everything takes on that extra bit of crunchiness.

About ten feet to my right I see one of the others, the barrel of his gun protruding slowly from where he was hiding behind his tree for some cover and possibly surprise.

He hasn’t spotted me yet.

I could try and sneak up on him, but the floor of the woods would give away my position quicker than anything else. I don’t have any kind of clean shot from here. And I don’t know where the rest of his family might be waiting. They hear the shot, and maybe I’m down before I even have time to think about finding another target.

In fact, they might have already seen me and are just waiting for me to shift, to move into their sights. To be easy prey for them.

I glance down at my watch and realize the time. I only have about thirty minutes before I have to be at Kroger to begin my shift. An odd time for it to begin: 5:00 where normally I either have to be in at 3:00 or not at all during the week. It’s alright though, they really just needed some extra warm bodies for this school project. Something about the family feuds from Huckleberry Finn… at least I think that’s what it’s for. I film one more scene – my death scene, and then wish them good luck for the rest of the afternoon.

What I don’t know… what I’ll find out later is about 15 minutes after I leave the cops will arrive to investigate some kids running around the woods with BB guns. Somewhere during that there will be word that an neighbor’s dog might have gotten shot by one of the guns (I never did find out whether anyone of our group had accidentally done this or not, but since I don’t believe anything came of their trip to the station… I’m guessing not).

cops

A number of my friends will get to experience something that it’ll be another 4 or 5 years before I get around to it: being put into the back of a police car.

***

I’m going to be late. I’m always late. I could leave twenty minutes early for something and still be ten minutes late. At Kroger, I’ve become a master of the clock in by 5 after so I don’t get docked the quarter-hour pay. And when you’re only making $4.25/hour, that’s a significant chunk.

They’ve only talked to me about it a couple of times at this point. In my defense though, I told them that I could start my shifts at 3:30 since I get out of high school at 2:15. That would give me just enough time to head home, change, maybe grab a snack, and then get to work… and not feel rushed.

In all my time working there I never had a 3:30 start time.It’s always be in at 3:00.

Of course, I also mentioned that 9:00 was as late as I could work. You know, so that I could get home by 9:15, eat dinner, and then actually do any of the homework which might be waiting for me in my book bag.

I always worked until 9:30.

They must have had something in their ears. I probably could have complained more, but when you’re 16 and me, you just roll with it.

This day though, this day was some rare thing. I’m not entirely sure, looking back now, that I ever had another 5:00 start time.

The thing is, I never complained. Never bitched about these things. I just came in when they scheduled me.

That day I sped into the parking lot, the time on my dash telling me I might not make it by even the 5 minute after cut-off. I grabbed a parking spot far enough away not to steal any potential customer’s spots… and only then did I realize there were a number of cop cars all around.

frog and cop

When I entered I saw more, mostly huddled around the bank, but a couple talking to the floor manager. And it is only then that I find out I missed the incident by ten minutes… tops.

In the same day I missed getting picked up by the police (and all the fun that would have been for my parents) by about 10 minutes and then additionally miss the bank robbery by the same amount of time. Had I left a few minutes early or a few minutes later my day could have been completely different. Somewhere in that drive to work was a pivot point in my teenage life. Now that’s not to say anything sinister would have come of either things had I been there, but considering I worked at Kroger for 2 1/2 years and never heard of this happening again. And I worked on plenty of school projects and never had the cops called on me…

I don’t know. I didn’t end up getting a different haircut. I didn’t have an alternate reality open up for me, but… something was in the air that day. Something strange, something weird… a day of close calls to be sure.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Skull Buckets and Big Old Bucket Lists

Ages ago, I published my personal mega-bucket list.

It included 50 things I wanted to do before I die. Some were realistic. Others…not so much.

So here we are, centuries (ok, only 18 months) removed. I’ve completed a few of my self-challenges and completely whiffed on many more.

Here’s my bucket update:

* * *

50 Hard-as-Hell Bucket Stuffers

1. Go caving in Kentucky. As in way deep in the earth. As in if I get lost, the rest of the bucket list is screwed. (I haven’t even seen a cave since making this a bucket list item.)

2. Write a book twenty books. Yes seriously.   (Done. Actually it’s 23 now. My next goal is 100. Realistic? Who cares?)

3. Hold a four-minute plank. (Kinda stuck on two minutes right now) (Did several five-minute planks. And then…promptly was hospitalized with costochondritis. For real. Google it.)

4. Read the entire LOTR trilogy to my kid. As a bedtime story. Because bedtime stories should be epic. (We got about two chapters in. Tolkien puts kids to sleep.)

5. Perform a meaningful charitable act. As in a weekend at a soup kitchen. Or ten weekends. Whichever. (Not yet. I’m a bad person.)

6. Escape office life before it kills me. The dude from Office Space had it right. We weren’t meant to live like this. (Nope.)

7. Spend the night in a haunted house. Or a sanitarium. If only to know whether all the Ghost Hunter-type shows hold water. (Nope.)

8. Climb a mountain. A real mountain. Preferably something volcanic. (I climbed a giant f’n waterfall. Does that count?)

9. Be an extra in a movie. (Free food!) (Nope.)

10. Plant at least ten trees that will outlive me. (And then promptly had to sell the land I planted them on. 😐 )

11. Make one of my books into a movie. Even if it’s a pitiful ten minute-long Youtube flick. (Nope. Though I did make a four-minute Youtube clip.)

12. Wander the Scottish Highlands. Confound the locals with an over-the-top William Wallace accent. (Nope.)

13. Teach my grandkid(s) things to annoy their parents. (Need you on this one, G Man.) (Update. He’s only five-years old.)

14. Live long enough to see the Cubs play in (they don’t even have to win) the World Series. (Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!!!!!!!)

15. Play lead guitar in a band. Even if for just one night. (Turns out no one I know really likes death metal.)

16. Paint something stunning. (For me, this is as close to stunning as it’ll get.)

17. Eat Maine lobster. While in Maine. And on the same trip, eat Maryland crab. While in Maryland. (Nope.)

18. Try my hand as a quarterback coach. For kids. (Nope.)

19. Road trip through Sonoma, CA. (Closest I’ve come is touring the wineries of North GA.)

20. Be ripped when I’m 50. Wait. Forget 50. Be ripped when I’m 60. (I’m pretty shredded now, but I’m still a looooong ways from 50.)

21. Try every food I hated as a kid to see if I still hate them. (Yep. Turns out I liked most of ’em. Who knew? Except beets. I still hate beets.) 

22. Win a costume contest. While wearing something truly terrifying. (Win! Some creepy monster mask is all it took.)

SkullBucketReal

23. Go to a Super Bowl (as long as the Packers aren’t in it.) (Alas, I’m considering giving up my love of football.)

 24. Buy a dinghy. Wake up at the ass-crack of dawn. Take my son fishing. Return home at dusk. (Soon!)

25. Live tech-free for 30 days straight. No cell phone. No laptop. No tablet. No TV. (I wish….)

26. If space travel to Mars is perfected, I’m there. I want to be the first person to write a book about the Red Planet while on the Red Planet. If space travel isn’t perfected, change this bucket item to: drink a Texas margarita while in Texas. Those are equal, right? (Nope.)

27. Drink a bottle of absinthe. With friends. In Europe. Preferably in Copenhagen. (Planning this one soon.)

28. Completely overhaul my wardrobe. Because if Joan Rivers were still alive, I’d be on her worst-dressed list. Seriously. I’m like a twelve year-old up in here. (I have mostly new clothes. I still dress like a teenager. Whatever.)

29. Live in London. For a week. A month. However long it takes. (Nah. Not yet.)

30. Tour every major pub in Dublin, Ireland. Alone. No friends for this trip. (Ditto.)

31. While we’re on the subject of pubs, build a ‘pub room’ in my house. Neon signs, futbol banners, stools, pool table, low lights, cute bartender. The works. (I was in the midst of doing this when I sold my house. I suck.)

32. Start an herb garden. No, not that kind of herb. (See # 31.)

33. Grow a Mephistopheles beard. Pointy and black. (Partial credit. I did the beard. Didn’t dye it black.)

SkullBucket

34. Learn how to make wine. (Gonna need something to drink after the Ebola-pocalypse.) (I’ll need a house and a yard.)

35. Learn to play the cello. (Nope.)

36. Help someone else fulfill their own bucket list. (My friends don’t like to take risks.)

37. Shave my cats to look like lions. (Ha. Nope.)

38. Spend an entire summer living on the beach. (Does five days in Ft Lauderdale count? No? Boooooo.)

39. Teach my kid to beat me at chess. Bow humbly when he does. (Halfway there. He knows how to move the pieces.)

40. Rescue a turtle. (You know…the ones who try to cross the expressway.) (Lucked out and did this one with a pretty girl!)

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41. Leaving this space blank _________________________ for someone else to suggest a bucket list item. (All the suggestions have been…ahem…adult film related. Thanks, guys.)

42. Find a clear night and a place from which I can see the Milky Way. Marvel hopelessly at the sky and wonder it’s all about. (Sigh…)

43. Find the recipe for my dearly departed grandmother’s homemade stew. Cook it for a big group of friends and family. (Did it! And for double points, I used the same mixing bowl she used when I was a kid.)

44. Kiss a beautiful woman in Paris. Corny, I know. Don’t care. (There’s a shortage of beautiful women in Duluth, GA.)

45. Make myself useful. Save someone’s life. (Half credit. Saved my kid another hundred times.)

46. Invent a new board game. Nothing complicated. Something like checkers or othello. (Nope.)

47. Remain apolitical. Even if I make it long enough to be a crotchety old wizard. (Yeah. I’m claiming this one. In the most vicious political season yet, I still DGAF.)

48. Start the tradition of giving gifts on my birthday. (Maybe next year when I’m not so broke.)

49. Try sushi. (Tried it. Didn’t like it. Oh well.)

50. Pay for all this stuff with a thriving writing career. (Working on it!)

 ***

Next update: December 2017!

 J Edward Neill

Author of the Tyrants of the Dead dark fantasy trilogy

Co -Author of Hollow Empire – Night of Knives

Marking Time with Movies

Like everything else in my life, I have milestones, road signs, stops, ups and downs, and everything else in between. These moments become fixed in my mind whether I want them to or not.

But there is another thing that can happen. Through the movies we watch. The best movies have a story. And I don’t mean the plot of the movie. I mean they tell a story from your own life, offering a snapshot of what things might have been occurring around the time you watched the film.

Sometimes I think that aspect can get lost in the newest spectacle which comes down the pipe from Hollywood. We rush to see these things on opening weekend that we’ll forget details of in the weeks and months that follow.

But when you can connect them to something else. Some event… they will always be there to illuminate that memory.

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Star Wars – At the Drive Through – When I was about 3 or 4 years old.

I like to think of this as my first memory. It could be that I don’t know the exact dates involved here. I have others from around this time, so it is entirely possible that it chronologically falls later than I think. What I do know is that this is the very first “movie experience” I have. It’s no surprise then that like every other kid I fell in love with the movies.

The thing is, I don’t have specifics. Oh I remember little things, but over the course of 30+ years and multiple viewings of the movie I’m no longer sure what is my memory of this event and what might just be a memory of the movie itself.

Still, that opening scene… I can hear that through the speaker perched on the driver side window.

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Transformers the Movie – At home

Consider something you are ultimately passionate about. Some toy or comic book or tv show or novel or whatever. Now find out that they are making a movie about that very thing… you’d be excited. You’re friends would be excited. I mean, you talk about the show ALL THE TIME.

ALL THE TIME.

And then the day begins to approach. Yet, for some reason your mom is unable to take you to the movies opening weekend. You, being the kid, actually take it fairly well (I have no memory of complaining… I’m sure I did). Promises of seeing it the following weekend accepted, you go to school on Monday to hear your best friends talking about these characters you’ve never seen. Plus, this being a time before you even understand there is such a thing as spoilers… well, they tell you the biggest news: Optimus Prime is dead, killed by Megatron.

You have your Princess Bride moment, “You mean Megatron wins?”

On and on it goes, bits and pieces of the movie suddenly etched in your mind without having viewed the damn thing.

But it didn’t matter. You were going to see it in 5 days… 4… 3… 2… 1… and on Friday you hurried home to look at the movie times on Saturday…

And couldn’t find the movie listed. See, you live in small town USA where movies come and go in a week’s time.

Disappointment. That’s what it felt like. And you watched the new episodes where they referenced some of the stuff in the movies and you figured it out, but still… you missed out…

Until finally it came on tv, broken into 5 parts (to be shown in place of the regular episodes). And you finally connected all the dots.

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Clerks/Mallrats – Dorm Room

While it was Chad Shonk who first showed me his copy of Clerks, it wasn’t until my college roommate and I made a bootleg copy of Clerks and Mallrats onto one VHS tape that it became an anthem of sorts for those long days in the middle of the year. Those days where we weren’t going anywhere. We didn’t have any homework to do (or we just weren’t going to do it right then). So we’d pop it in and listen more than watch as we sat at our desks surfing the internet, playing video games, or just talking.

All those quotable scenes flying in the background helped the two of us bond in a way that we might not have if we hadn’t found the appropriate common language.

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Ghostbusters II and Who Framed Roger Rabbit – Home… and the beach

For two summers I saw these two movies every day at least once each. My sister and I watched our younger brother (2 or 3 at the time) during the summer months while my mom slept (she worked nights). Now when you are babysitting a small child with your mom trying to squeeze in 6 hours of sleep it is a lot like Fight Club.

Rule 1 – Don’t let Mark wake up Mom.

Rule 2 – Don’t let Mark wake up MOM!

Most days we could find plenty of things to keep him occupied, whether it was hanging out with me in the basement playing video games (he just held the other controller while I played)… but the all-time fix to a fussy toddler was those two movies (again bootlegged on the same tape). One played right into the other. And while he’d normally fall asleep on the couch at some point during the 3 plus hours of cinematic offerings, neither my sister or I dared to change the tape… Mark had a 6th sense about such things.

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However, in the last year there is a slight caveat to Who Framed Roger Rabbit for me. While at the beach with my nephew, he asked to watch a movie with me (he was 7) and we chose Roger Rabbit. Even though he had seen the movie before, it was like he was watching for the first time.

And when the Judge is revealed as a Toon… his mouth literally fell open. Just perfect.

That image will stick with me now… and so the movies change my perception one more time.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Interview with Brandon Easton, screenwriter for Marvel’s Agent Carter, Part 1

In an exclusive collaboration with TesseraGuild.com, BlackSci-Fi.com presents the first part of a 2-part interview with screenwriter, and comic book writer Brandon Easton on his work on “Marvel’s Agent Carter” upcoming season 2 episode, “Monsters”.

Since the creation of Iron Man in 2008 Marvel Studios has continued to grow their shared cinematic universe through film and television. Pulling from a wide array of licensed characters found within the pages of Marvel Comics, they’ve stretched from the farthest reaches of the galaxy (Guardians of the Galaxy), to the seedy streets of Hell’s Kitchen, New York (Daredevil).

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Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Image Credit: ABC/Marvel TV

On both film and television the studio has found critical and commercial success, and shows no sign of stopping. This is further exemplified by such television series as ABC network’s, Marvel’s Agent Carter.  The television show follows the story of the Strategic Scientific Reserve’s (SSR) finest and most brilliant secret agent, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Introduced in Captain America: First Avenger, Peggy Carter has become one of the MCU’s (Marvel Cinematic Universe) most prominent characters, fighting evil in World War II ravaged Europe, and now in late 1940’s Hollywood, CA.

The show is in its second season, and this coming week will air two episodes on 2/16/16: Life of The Party (Episode 6), and Monsters (Episode 7).

Adding another notch to his ever growing portfolio of work, Brandon Easton joined the writing staff of Agent Carter in 2015, on the heels of his acceptance into the 2015 Disney/ ABC Writing Program. This has culminated in the upcoming 2/16/16 premiere of his addition to the MCU, with an episode that he wrote, the aforementioned Monsters.

Easton’s body of work continues to grow in the arenas of comics, animation, and now live action television with such standouts as his creator owned Shadowlaw comic book series, his documentary Brave New Souls: Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers of the 21st Century, his work on the Glyph Comics Award winning/ Eisner nominated Watson and Holmes, WB Animations ThunderCats, and the recent Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics nominated Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven.

In an interview with BlackSci-Fi.com, Easton spoke about his time spent in the Disney/ ABC Writing program, his work on Agent Carter, his writing career, what he’s learned during his time in Hollywood, along with other topics in this two part interview.

“It’s a really long story, to really get into it. I had a really up and down 2014, between family stuff, and career stuff,” Easton said speaking about his acceptance into the Disney/ ABC Writing program. “I was nominated for an Eisner in 2014 that I didn’t win. But the very week that I didn’t win the Eisner I’d also lost out on two really important jobs. Well maybe not important, but two lucrative jobs that would’ve kept me alive throughout the end of 2014. Things got really bad.”

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Brandon Easton

“If I didn’t get into the ABC/Disney Writing Program I honestly don’t know what this past year would’ve been like for me. I had no idea what would’ve happened to me. So to make a long story short it was an incredible feeling.”

“I was one of 8 people selected in the program. Halfway through the program they try to get you staffed on any show in the ABC family, and the ABC Family networks. First, getting into the ABC/Disney Writing Program which is damn near impossible, that was amazing. Then when they said “we have an opening on Agent Carter and a couple of other shows”, and they sent me out, it just happened that Agent Carter really was the best fit.”

Gaining an inside track of sorts into the inner workings of the executive side and development branch of the ABC network, Easton was able to utilize his time spent with the ABC/ Disney Writing Program to expand on his knowledge of what it truly takes to put together a television program.

“The program puts you in a very unique position. You get to meet with development executives within ABC the studio, and the network, which are two different things as I found out.  You get to spend time with people that you would never get a chance to meet in any other capacity,” Easton explained.

“And you learn things about the business that don’t get reported anywhere. You learn things like who’s actually in charge. You learn about the people that actually make the decisions.  There’s no class in the world that will tell you that. So the ABC program puts you in the unique position to really understand the business side of it, because all the people who complain 24/7 every single day, whining and complaining about this and that, very few people understand the business side of it.”

“I learned so much about how things actually work that it changed the way I thought as a creator.”

Easton provided an example of such insight which involved a scene that he wrote for his upcoming Agent Carter episode. It was here where he found how the business of the network can affect the scripting process, while also informing how he’d write future scripts.

“To give you an example, I wrote a couple of night scenes. I also wrote a scene in the desert. When you’re shooting a night scene you’re actually going to be outside. A typical TV recording/ shooting day is anywhere between 12-15 hours. That’s typical. Sometimes you’ll go onto 20 hours. I didn’t know that,” Easton explained.

“So I was writing a bunch of night scenes and I wrote some scenes in the desert. Next thing you know we start shooting at 6pm, we’re out all night until 6 am. We were shooting in the desert and I’d never spent any time in the desert.  I’m from the East Coast, from Baltimore, what the fuck do I know about a desert (laughter)?”

“We go out in the desert, and it’s like, did you see The Martian by any chance? There’s a scene in The Martian where the red dust of Mars is blowing across the landscape, and you can’t see shit. The spaceship is falling over. I felt like I was in that position. We were in the desert at 5 am the wind is like 90 mph, sand is cutting through everything, and I realize in the future I’m no longer going to write any scenes in the desert.”

“I’m going to make sure I don’t write too many night scenes either because you have to realize everything you write that they can physically achieve, you’re actually going to have to be there for the entire shoot. And that’s something I didn’t really know and nobody can prepare you for that.”

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Brandon Easton’s comic book work including Shadowlaw, Watson and Holmes, and Andre the Giant: Closer To Heaven

As the new recruit on the Agent Carter writing team, Easton explained that though the experience was an irreplaceable one, being the new kid on the block wasn’t necessarily the best feeling.

“It didn’t feel great,” Easton explained. “And this is nothing against the people that I worked with because they are really good people, and I learned a lot from every single one of them. But I came in on a show that had already had a season.”

“It’s sort of like transferring from one school to another as a sophomore. You come in and the relationships are already made. You weren’t there for the freshman year to build those relationships. I often felt like the odd man out, I was the only black person there, and that wasn’t always fun, but that’s the reality of the business.”

“So at the same time you’re also there to learn because you’re new. And you try to find a way to make yourself useful to the people. You don’t want to make your bosses’ day harder than it already is going to be. I learned a lot, I had some good teachers, so I really can’t complain.”

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Wynn Everett as Whitney Frost, Image Credit: ABC/Marvel TV

Easton’s work in the writers room, his years of screenwriting, and the ABC/ Disney writing program culminated in an episode which he’s called “The Empire Strikes Back” of this season. The writer explained that the episode focuses on this seasons’ archenemy, Whitney Frost (played by Wynn Everett), who deals a major blow to Carter and her team. Throughout the season, Carter and Frost’s struggle has risen in a tense and exhilarating fashion, and it seems that Monsters will possibly bring this conflict to its climatic and destructive head. Adding to the growing pantheon of complex MCU villains, Frost seems to be on a path to test Carter in a way that she hasn’t encountered before.

“I can’t wait for people to see her performance (Wynn Everett). She really brings it. She brings it hard,” Easton said.

“It was fun (writing an episode featuring a villain). My episode is a Whitney Frost episode in a way. A lot of the episode is dealing with something that Whitney Frost is working on. The way that the episode works you have to have some bad things happen in order for the heroes to come back. My episode is sort of like the Empire Strikes Back episode of Agent Carter.”

Easton further explained that he was able to have a hands on experience with the filming of his episode. Being able to be on set when Monsters was filmed, Easton explained was an invaluable experience, as he gleaned more information into the development of his story from script to screen. In addition to gaining this experience, Easton found another perk of being a screenwriter on a major network series: you become a go-to person for those in front of and behind the camera.

“In TV the writer is basically number one. On set, the director knew I was new, the producer who was with me on set knew I was new. So I was really observing and learning how it goes.  Also, no matter how good you think what you wrote is, some actor somewhere is going to say there’s a problem with it, and ask “can I say it this way?”, Easton said.

“Whatever you’ve got to get (in terms of filming) that day you’ve got to get. So a lot of times actors will have ideas, the directors have ideas, and sometimes you listen and sometimes you don’t. More often than not there are good suggestions but you don’t always get the flexibility to make changes.”

“I was on set, I was participating, I had a say in things, and if I didn’t like something I’d let them know, but more often than not I liked it. You don’t want to be saying shit to just say stuff. You want to make sure that if you’re saying something it actually makes sense.”

Marvel-Television-SeriesAt the end of the day Easton explained that his experience writing the Agent Carter episode was an important one, that he appreciates on both a writing/ creative front, and as a fan of the MCU.

“As a fan, that’s a good question. I can’t even figure out where to begin,” Brandon said.

“I was working with some ridiculously creative, talented people. And knowing that every word I write is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because Agent Carter is in the Captain America films, she was even in Ant Man at the beginning. So she’s a part of that world, so everything that happens in any episode of Agent Carter also occurs at some point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”

“It hasn’t hit me yet because it hasn’t aired. But trust me when I say once it airs, and particularly with the type of stuff that I deal with in my episode, its really going to hit me hard then.”

Stay tuned for Part 2 of BlackSci-Fi.com’s interview with Brandon Easton which will be available with the 2/27/16 relaunch of www.blacksci-fi.com.

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Episode 7 of season 2 of Agent Carter,”Monsters”, premieres  2/16/16 on the ABC Network, at 10 pm EST. Check your local listings for exact times.

Many thanks to the fine folks of www.tesseraguild.com for this great collaboration opportunity.

 

 

Best Works Featuring “Regular Folks with Super Abilities”: Part 1

2016 is going to bring no shortage of superheroes and super-villains on both the large and small screens. We’ve got Batman vs. Superman, Daredevil: Season 2, The Suicide Squad, Luke Cage, Agent Carter: Season 2, Captain America: Civil War, and the list goes on and on.

I’m personally a huge fan of such stories, in all mediums, and as a geek/ fan of pop culture I think that we’re living in a golden age of comic book storytelling, both on and off the pages of comics.

What I’m also a huge fan of are those stories of everyday people blessed/ cursed with awe inspiring abilities who don’t necessarily decide to put on a cape and tights to save the day. Folks who find themselves caught up in a set of crazy circumstances, while trying to continue to live their lives.

Pay the bills. Deal with relationship issues. Keep a job.

Now I’m not saying that these stories don’t eventually go the way of your typical tale of super heroics, but most of the one’s that I’ve become a fan of haven’t necessarily gone this route. As in the case of comic books, there’s a huge amount of action and adventure, with a smattering of some of the best elements of great science fiction.

Sometimes some of these examples start off as solid science fiction, but wind up playing within the spectrum of  the “regular folks with powers” sub-genre.

At the root of most of these works is a focus on how the characters involved decides to work with the abilities they’ve been either blessed or cursed with. There’s no immediate call to save the day, though we eventually get there in some of these cases.

For a while there have been a number of really notable examples of movies, novels, television programs, and comics that have played within this arena. There have also been some that have been not so stellar.

This will be the start of a list that I’ll try to add on to as I come across more examples of what I think is a pretty interesting sub genre of the tights and fights area of fiction.

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The 4400 (Television Series)

The USA Network for me was always the home of comedies like Psych and marathon broadcast sessions of dramas like Law and Order: Criminal Intent. It wasn’t a network that delved too much in the fantastical, at least at the points where I had cable.

So color me surprised when The 4400 dropped. I’m planning on doing another post that will go into detail on the awesomeness of the television series. Needless to say USA surprised me in a very good way.

The 4400 told the story of a group of 4400 individuals who disappeared worldwide over the years, beginning in 1946. In 2004 they are brought back to a Seattle, Washington beach and a division of US government agents are tasked with figuring out what happened to them, why they’ve been brought back, and to basically watch over them.

What is soon revealed is that a large amount of these individuals have abilities, and the show then becomes a mixture of X-Files meets X-Men. For the first season we follow a pair of agents, Agent Diana Skouris and Agent Tom Baldwin who tackle a sort of “ability” of the week story line, while we also watch how this plays out on the larger story being told.

The show ran for 4 seasons, with an abrupt cancellation in the last season. There have been four novels set within the continuity of the TV show which builds the world even further that should also be checked out.

Though the show focused on the concept of people with abilities, as mentioned before, these individuals weren’t trying to be superheroes. You have people who abused their abilities for selfish gain, saw the abilities as a blessing, or even tried to use them for committing disturbing acts.

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For example there was one episode during the first season where one returnee attempted to use his ability to simply save his neighborhood, after seeing the state of decay it had experienced in the years that he’d been away. But even then, you see the effects of what happens to an untrained individual who, though they had a set of “super” abilities, paid the consequences of the harsh reality he’d attempted to change, good intentions be damned.

The story grows in scope over the later seasons as we see the true purpose for these individuals being brought back, and definitely throws in a large amount of sci-fi elements. But at the core of this larger story we always come back to how these abilities are affecting these normal, everyday folks who are in essence caught out of time.

Chronicle (Film)

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Simple synopsis of Chronicle: A group of teens at a party find a glowing rock, investigate, experience nose bleeds, black outs, and develop telekinetic abilities.

And everything else afterwards is f&^%$ing awesome.

What works about this movie is this simple synopsis. Only towards the end of the flick do we get some obligatory, grandiose hero vs. villain fight. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome, but that’s not the strongest part of the flick.

No, before then we simply get a tale of kids gaining super abilities, and just being kids.

They get a handheld camera, and just do what teens nowadays would do: show off, and have fun with these new found abilities. Whether it’s pulling pranks at a grocery store, or just flying through the Washington state skies, the teens are just enjoying these awesome abilities.

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We have the popular nice/ intelligent dude (Steve/ Michael B. Jordan), the middle of the road likeable guy (Matt/ Alex Russell), and the sympathetic outcast (Andrew/ Dane DeHaan). Through the gifting of these abilities an unexpected friendship organically grows between the three, and makes you enjoy these characters even more.

In addition to this focusing on the budding friendship between the trio, we also get a really good example of something that I’ll tackle in Jumper: a focus on what a person who has been physically/ mentally abused might do with such a set of abilities.

One of the strongest, and depressing character arcs that we see in this movie is Andrew’s, played masterfully by DeHann. He’s the butt of everyone’s joke at high school, he’s the kid with the alcoholic father who verbally and physically beats him down it seems with every single day.

Imagine what a kid like that might do if granted god like abilities? Put on an outfit and fight crime?

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Nope, he’d be more inclined to probably F’ ‘ish up, as he lashes out with a huge well of pent up pain and frustration that’s been building over the years.

Andrew probably should’ve seen a counselor in the years before the events that play out in Chronicle, but that’s not the case. Even as his new friends try to intervene and help him to see the awesome guy that they see, it’s too late.

That’s why this story works extremely well for me. You have a kid who doesn’t go the typical route that teenagers endowed with abilities might go in the world of super heroic tales of do gooders.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit the dude gets a bit too super villain-esque at the end, but the build up to that, and even the final fight make up for this.

Chronicle is a great movie, featuring a believable take on teens gaining super abilities that shouldn’t be missed.

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 Jumper by Steven Gould (Novel)

First, let’s start with this: get that movie out of your head. The one featuring that guy who played the whiny Anakin Skywalker, and Samuel L. Jackson with yet another weird wig.

The movie was fun in spots, bad in others, but got too convoluted and grandiose in the story that it was trying to tell. Nice special effects, but kind of “blah” at the middle.

Jumper, the novel was much, much, much more in terms of a sci-fi story about a kid who discovers he has the ability to “jump”, or teleport. But David Rice, the stories protagonist, doesn’t do this for the sake of fighting crime, or saving lives (at first). For a large chunk of the book this kid is running from an abusive relationship.

David’s mother left him when he was a kid, fleeing the abuse that her husband was tossing out. Rather than eventually be continually hurt by him, or worse, she decides to leave the household, unfortunately leaving David to be the sole receiver of David’s ass-hat of a father’s abuse.

So when David discovers that he can teleport, he becomes the ultimate runaway kid. And you do nothing but root for him the whole time that he does this. Imagine being able to wondrously get away from a person who does nothing but berate you, hit you, psychologically just break you down to the point where you just want to die.

That’s where David is at in the book, and we see his growth into a stronger individual as the story plays out, the further away he gets away from his father.

Later on in the story David does use his abilities for good, but this is only after he suffers a personal tragedy of sorts. Throughout the book he’s constantly escaping the crappiness that life had heaped on him, and it makes for a compelling story.

Just as Jessica Jones focused on what someone with super abilities who had been psychologically and physically abused might deal with that, I think Jumper does the same in telling a science fiction based story of a runaway who is trying to simply escape a set of crappy circumstances.


 

That’s it for this round. I’ll add more in upcoming weeks to this list. Thanks for checking it out and happy viewing/ reading.

Story Telling – Micro Bursts

Everyone wants things smaller and faster. We can’t sit still for more than a few seconds before another image, webpage, show, movie, whatever needs to be consumed. A whole book? No. Can’t be bothered.

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Well if you can’t be bothered, then I’m going to feed you what you need little birds. I’ve compiled a few 2 Sentence Stories below. After I’d written a bunch of them, I then looked out into the web to see if I was doing it right. Turns out a couple of them pretty much matched some others out there. I call it synchronicity (or something). Either way, I’ve included them too.

Also, I’ve put some things in there which are clearly movies most everyone has seen, but I thought it was an interesting experiment to take some aspect of the films and distill them down into something so small which tells you about the movie, but isn’t (hopefully) just a pitch for the movie. I’ll let you see if you can find them all.

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My wife slipped out of bed during the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. A second later I feel another person shift to my side of the bed.

One of the greatest things about having animals in the house is that when the house makes a weird noise you can blame it on the dog. Our dog died last week.

He always wanted to be a part of a tight-knit community. It was only after the first person died that he realized the rest were waiting for him to drink next.

After struggling with a potential ending for his horror story, Jim decided to turn in, leaving it for another day. The next morning he discover the ending had been filled in for him, in blood.

Clenching her eyes shut, Clare reasoned that if she couldn’t see the monster then it couldn’t hurt her. The hot breath on her neck told her those rules did not apply.

He told them that they’d catch the damn monster terrorizing the town. It was only once they were at sea that he realized they were going to need a bigger boat.

In space no one can hear you scream. That knowledge didn’t stop him from trying.

He jumped. The ground rushed up to catch him.

He told himself the pain and agony was all for science. He’d already tried electrocution, drowning, and poison, so dismemberment seemed like the next logical conclusion.

No one had ever told him that if you die in your dreams, you die for real. So as the blades sunk into his flesh, Ronnie didn’t bother to scream.

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They all laughed when his head dipped below, his lungs filling with water. When he kills the last of them, maybe the laughing will finally end.

She’d worked at the bank for so long no one really noticed her anymore. How easy it would be to walk into the vault then and get her early retirement.

If there were an infinite number of parallel universes, then that meant there would be infinite number of Ryan Tommes out there. Yet he’d seen glimpses of them all, and he was unique.

The fortune teller’s promise was that water would be the cause of his death, so he moved inland, avoided showers, and stayed out of the rain. When the floods came he realized he should have learned to swim.

This stunning woman with curves in all the right places beckoned him to come to her with a look of lust unmatched by anything he’d seen before. “It’s a trap, get an axe.”

The Frog Prince closed his eyes, awaiting his kiss which would undo the witch’s curse and restore his humanity. When he opened his eyes, his female savior blinked back at him and croaked.

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David had beaten the AI at Tic-Tac-Toe too many times, so he was definitely up for another game. Thermoglobal Nuclear War sounded like a safe choice.

With graduation looming, Lloyd took a chance to ask out the girl he’d been dreaming about for the better part of high school. Miraculously, she said yes.

They called him Outcast or Idiot or Freak or Weirdo… so many names to show him how different they thought he was from them. Pressing the knife to his flesh, it surprised him to see green blood where there should have been red.

The explosions recalled memories of fireworks on the Fourth of July. The mushroom cloud foretold only death.

As long as she had light, the shadowy figure at the edge of her vision couldn’t claim her. The idea of rolling blackouts never occurred to her.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Back To The Future II: A Fan Reminisces

For me personally, this week was a GLORIOUS WEEK to be a sci-fi fan.

We got a new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer.

I picked up my copy of The City: A Cyberfunk Anthology, a book that I’m loving.

I’ll have the first draft of my short story set in the world of The Crossing ready to be sent off for edits soon, which will be submitted for this awesome anthology.

And then there was 10-21-15.

Before we jump into why I feel this day held so much significance for fans of one particular movie franchise known across the world, lets hop back into the ‘ole Delorean.

It was 1989 and I was living in Chicago. My mother had taken my brother, myself, and a few cousins to the theater to see Back To The Future II. I was a huge fan of the first movie, having killed our VHS copy of Back To The Future upon subsequent viewings (an act that would also occur with our copies of Hook and New Jack City. Weird combination, I know).

Back-to-the-Future

To say the first movie blew my mind was a huge understatement. You’ve got time travel. You’ve got great comedy. You’ve got the weirdest, awesomest (not a word, I know) buddy adventure pairing of Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and past/present Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd) that I don’t think has been matched since. There was a homicidal bully/ antagonist. Wrongs being righted. Timelines being changed. Crispin Glover in all of his manic weirdness. A skateboard chase sequence. Great acting. A solid story that just damn worked.

And one of the greatest ending’s to a movie ever.

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

And to think that there weren’t any immediate plans for a sequel, that the movie was just going to end on this huge cliffhanger, is mind boggling. As a kid, your brain just starts racing with the possibilities.

“No roads?” younger Robert said to himself as the credits rolled in the darkened living room.

“Means some serious ‘ish is about to go down.”

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The moment young Robert’s mind melted.

Ok, I wasn’t cursing at the age of 7, but you get the point.

So fast forward to 1989. Back To The Future II hits, and my 7 year old mind is just ready to be blown to bits.

And it was. 🙂

Once again you’ve got McFly and Doc Brown (who just work so darn well with each other). Cripsin Glover is gone, replaced by some dude in bad old person make up. The homicidal Tannen family are still around. Time travel. Doubles. Action. Adventure. More time travel.

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And here’s where it gets crazy.

You’ve got a wacked out version of the future. 10-21-15. There was a time when anytime maybe, 30 years plus ahead in the future was seen as possibly being this crazy foreign period where things would be extremely outlandish.

Back To The Future II wasn’t an exception. You had flying cars. Interactive 3D movie ads. Crazy fashion styles. Video phone calls (yeah, not too crazy now with things like Face Time and Skype). And hoverboards.

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As a kid seeing all of this, and with later viewings, it was a fun peek into what could be. Seeing Marty rolling around on his Mattel  branded hoverboard was awesome, and had all of us debating if some shadowy government program had created this technology in the real world.

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We were kids. Don’t be too harsh.

The flying cars were great. I wanted Marty’s self-lacing Nike’s and blow dry jacket then and there. Griff Tannen and his height growing abilities was crazy. Duck Hunt being seen as a golden oldie of the video game era was a fun nod to the Nintendo games we were then playing. And the Cubs had won the World Series.

As a kid, this is what I appreciated the most. The more visceral, fun nods to what the future could possibly bring.

The movie also ends with a teaser for the third installment that was being filmed shortly after the second movie was completed. As a kid, to have a guaranteed movie coming down the line was a fun surprise, as it confirmed we’d be seeing more of Marty and Doc’s cinematic escapades.

In this day and age where such end credit teasers are common place with big budget movies, Back To The Future II was the first time I’d experienced this. Marty and Doc in the Wild West?

Take my mother’s money, because she was going to be the one paying for that shindig.

Upon subsequent viewings, as I got older, other things started to stand out.

First and foremost, I think this would have been the first time I’d been introduced to the idea of alternate timelines. Sure there were things like Days of Future Past before, and any host of other sci-fi TV shows, and films that dealt with this idea, but this was the first time I’d experienced the concept firsthand.

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When Doc Brown broke down how old Biff stealing the Grays Sports Almanac created Hell Valley (please see the movie for further explanation if you haven’t seen it) was just mind blowing as a kid, but appreciated for a cool storytelling tool as I got older. The idea that one man’s selfish pursuit of wealth destroyed the idyllic town of Hill Valley creates a dark tone for the flick , providing a counter balance to the whimsical adventure that we’d been experiencing before. And this alternate timeline confirmed for me that the Tannen’s are a group of murdering psychopaths.

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That face just screams psycho. Actually that face just screams all the time.

Another idea that continues to resonate with me is that as much as you might think you’re laying the foundations for a successful future, that’s not always going to be the case.

Case in point: where future Marty’s life winds up. He’s working a crappy job, his dreams of being a professional guitarist are out the window. His family life is kind of blah, and rather than try to rebuild what’s fallen around him, he continues to make bad decisions based on some crappy sense of bravado.

Now that I think about it, where did dude’s obessession with being called a chicken come from? That was totally out of left field.

Sorry, I digress.

Not saying that all of our lives have a tendency to turn bad or horrible, it was just interesting to see that the screenwriters sought to show that everything wasn’t so peachy keen in the McFly household. Remember, Doc’s whole reasoning to come back was to save Marty’s son from going to jail, which led to a downward spiral in regards to the McFly family. For a sci-fi adventure you could say such a concept being introduced was as Marty would say “Heavy”.

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The same could be said for the horrible direction that Biff takes with his greed filled run of murder and gambling. Biff chooses to be an opportunistic ass, who leaves nothing but pain and misery in his wake. And he accepts this, and revels in it, creating the hellish alternate timeline Marty and Doc head towards.

I know it’s a stretch to think that B2FII (as it’s known to all the cool kids) might have something to say on life decisions. But often we find that science-fiction can be used to speak to our personal experiences. Heck, I know as I get older, that as much as I may want to move things in a certain direction, that’s not always going to be the case, try as I might. But if I don’t at least try, then nothing will happen.

The thing to realize is even though the chips may not fall where you want them to, you still have opportunities to make those decisions. As long as you at least try. Roads less traveled and all that jazz.

I know I’m jumping movies a bit, but I feel the final scene from Back To The Future III sum’s this up perfectly:

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Jennifer Parker: Dr. Brown, I brought this note back from the future and – now it’s erased.

Doc: Of course it’s erased!

Jennifer Parker: But what does that mean?

Doc: It means your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one, both of you.

Marty McFly: [Marty wraps his arm around Jennifer] We will, Doc.

That scene always gets me on that ‘ole sappy emotion level.

So to round things out, I’ll go on the record and say this is my favorite movie trilogy of all time.

Watch this movie. Heck, watch the trilogy in a binge session and just enjoy some good cinema. Happy post October 21, 2015/ Back To The Future II day.

I almost ran off with this hoverboard. But that probably would've screwed up my future timeline.

I almost ran off with this hoverboard.
But that probably would’ve screwed up my future timeline.

 

So What’s He Going To Buy With All That Gold?

Currently in rotation on HBO are all the Hobbit films. And while I’m not the biggest fan of the book, I find I’m watching bits and pieces of the movies here and there as I flip through the channels. However, there is one scene that I must turn to and watch in its entirety every opportunity I get:

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Smaug.

Smaug slowly revealing himself from under a treasure trove that would invoke Dragon Sickness on Thorin. Smaug talking with Bilbo, toying with him, showing him exactly how impressive he might be. And the extremes he goes to prove that the dwarves will never retake the mountain.

I love every minute of it.

Yet, the other night I was watching these sequences and a strange thought popped into my head:

Why does Smaug (or any dragon) need all that gold? And it isn’t just him – so many of these creatures throughout our myths are guarding a treasure horde. It is a staple such that in Dungeons and Dragons it is not questioned. The only questions anyone has any real concern to answer are: how much is the horde worth? Are we powerful enough to kill the beast guarding it?

But I feel like there is more to this idea.

***

The cavern shone whenever the tiniest glint of light broke through. In those instances, the gleam would bounce from coin to coin, making them sparkle. It would illuminate the lighter colored gems so they became tiny lanterns dotting the golden mound. Under this light the true spectacle could be seen. Appreciated. Gold and diamonds and coins and gems and… a myriad of skeletal forms cooked to a crisp inside their metal armor.

That same treasure acted as a beacon to some. Bands of adventurers who wove odd stories about how the dragon claimed their birthrights… their home. How every coin buried there was theirs to recover. Indeed, all of it would be restored to its rightful owners.

Yes, the cavern might have once belonged to dwarves or mountain men or even an orc herd, but it was the dragon’s now and had been for decades. It was his home. And more importantly, so were the riches it used as a bed.

For while the previous owners certainly contributed to its girth, not everything was from a singular conquest.

***

Krench moved into the cavern. Ever a creature of habit, he made sure to bring along a lantern, even if the act was worthless. At the outer chamber a familiar warmth ran down his leg. Long gone were the days he might have made excuses for such an action. How it could have been explained away as an involuntary response to the immense fear coursing throughout his body.

If his nephew smelled the urine, he did not show it. For that, Krench was grateful. There was far too much left to teach the lowly creature for them to become bogged down in such a trivial thing.

“The thing that no one understands is exactly what the Great Wyrm does with all his riches. The outsiders believe he simply slumbers on them. They make up superstitions where he extracts some form of nourishment from the metals in the coin allowing him to generate his awesome flame. They suppose he is vain and loves the way the gold and silver flicker in the darkness.

“Does that even make any kind of sense? It is up there with those who claim he stole the entire amount.

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“Lies! And I have the numbers to prove it.” Krench patted the large book tucked under other arm. “A quick reading of this would inform everyone that of his original horde, only thirty percent was from what the dwarves possessed. Then there was the twenty-five percent in tribute from the lizard men. Another ten percent from random caravans he assaulted when bored. The last thirty-five percent an investment with the orcs that paid him quite well upon their successful campaign against the elves.”

The tunnel tightened enough that they both were forced to duck. His nephew passed through the narrow opening first and took the lantern and book from him while he made his way. Holding the items, the younglings resembled him decades earlier. His mind would be a swirl, a jumble mass of expectations, questions, theories, and who knows what else. To his credit, no questions were posed, but Ketch knew the sermon was far from finished. There was just too much to prepare him for. To explain how the world really worked.

“Once a week the Dragon’s Accountant must journey here to give a full account on all his holdings.” That got the boy’s attention. “I know your question: how would his horde ever change? He’s sleeping on the lot of it.

“And that’s the secret. He’s not. That’s small level thinking. For a creature such as this, who counts his life in decades or even centuries, you must expand on all of that. And this one has holdings as far east as Silverpool, as far north as the great seas… where ever money might exchange hands the likelihood is very high some of the coin originated here.”

“That inn located at the crossroads of Madras and Danan. Where all the caravans stop. Where lords and ladies and even princes have stayed… he owns a fifty percent stake. The blacksmith shop in Butte has worked out a nice living for himself because of a certain anonymous investor.

“A fleet of ships supporting the Merchant Guild in Silverpool.

“And the latest Duke of Parthan, who somehow found enough of a foreign inheritance to afford the new title and the lands which come with it.”

Krench let it all sink in.Watching his nephew’s eyes dart back and forth, a mind at work. After a few moments, a toothy grin emerged.

“Not to mention the coinage itself. Think about it, most of the coinage will be old. Then after a time it will be very old. Then ancient. Kingdoms and empires rise and fall in the blink of an eye (well, from His point of view). They mint new coins, phase out the old ones… and no one wants to have worthless coins. So periodic exchanges have to occur. In small enough amounts not to arouse suspicion, but in enough transactions so that you actually gain some ability to pay for what you want to invest in.”

The first of the outer doors appeared at the end of the tunnel. Remnants of the previous owners. A loose stone along the right side of the door, halfway down, provided the opening mechanism. Krench pushed until he heard the click and the engraved doors shifted open.

“What people don’t understand is dragons are ancient creatures. On a long enough timeline, barring random adventurers stumbling in and murdering them in their homes, they might well live forever. Even the ancient elves appear to wither in the eyes of dragons.

“But forever is a long time. And while they may share more in common with cats in their sleeping habits- they still wish to be entertained. And with the level of money they possess… well, pulling the strings on some of the humanoid peoples is a pleasant distraction.

“More than anything else, he knows history will repeat itself if you let it. So he can push and pull. Nudge things along for the better. Well, for his better.

“You see, dragons have gotten a horrible reputation as being evil. But what no one will tell you is the word is made up. They simply don’t realize have the perspective to appreciate everything as it moves and twists and turns. The elves… yes, they might, but the lower races, the dwarves and humans and halflings and gnomes and orcs… the lot of them just don’t live long enough. So they make up new stories to explain the world around them. And more often than not they only have the vaguest of memories as to what came before. The devastation, the wars, the armies… evil.”

They were getting lower now, the tunnel’s slope increased to the point Krench had to hand the lantern over to his nephew. They both stumbled a bit, but neither lost their footing. A hundred feet or so later things flattened out once more, and he took the burden back.

“Of course, they don’t know about the art. Creatives need funding as well. Ancient dragons need songs and maybe stories to be written about them. To be retold for the next generation. And who’s going to pay those bards to make such beautiful art? He is.

“Exotic animals? Seems strange, but my father explained it to me. Some days you want beef and some days you want Minotaur. Nothing wrong with either. And when you exist at the top of the food chain and have this level of wealth…”

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Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“My great-grandfather realized one undeniable truth: wars cost money. Conquests. Paying armies to conquer the world. It’s a terrible business plan. First you outlay all of that money on the mercenaries. You pay to feed them. To forge weapons for them. To build the forges. To build the siege equipment. And all of that work and gold guarantees absolutely nothing.

“Up to that revelation, the Dragon’s Accountant merely handed out the sacks of gold to the mercenaries and kept a log of it all in the book. But it was a drain on the coffers, and no amount of caravans would cover the loss. That pile he sleeps on will surely drain until he’s sleeping on stone like some commoner. No! That would not stand! So he dared to pose a single idea: if the Great Wyrm really wished to take over the kingdom, then why not buy it instead?”

Careful to turn the key two times to the left and then once to the right (no one wanted a face sprayed with acid from a trap set to keep the undesirables out), Krench led them into the cavern proper. Pausing to let the younger of them take the sight in, he pushed his spectacles back up his long snout. Long ago the glitter was enough to nearly blind him. Too many restless nights were spent trying to determine exactly how one might extract such a mass from the mountain. When his own father passed the Book onto him, he spent more than enough time to understand how moving even one coin was as important as the whole of it.

Later, when he took a full account of the book, Krench realized some of the investments had gone sideways. A small war between human kingdoms, a great flood, and suddenly there was a loss to report for the fifth year in a row. Such a glorious day filled with fire to signify the passing of duties to the next Accountant.

“Krench…” The Great Wyrm stretched out his name so that it appeared to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

The two of them moved over to the large platform where he would deliver the latest news. As they climbed the steps, crafted so long ago by rough dwarvish hands, he pushed the book into his nephew’s arms. There was no need for it anymore.

Dragons were patient creatures, but above everything else they did not like to lose money.

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the recently released anthology Beyond the Gate, which is free on most platforms!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.