Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A Plethora of Projects

I’m slowly nearing completion on my latest project (though still a few months out from publication) and I’m already looking ahead to my next game-related endeavor. My writing schedule, such as it is, must accommodate my other roles in life. I manage to regularly work on projects despite the constant guilt that such activity neglects my household duties, innumerable homeowner projects, and the responsibilities of a father to an inquisitively sharp third grader. The start of a new year has me recovering from a month of preparatory activities for the yuletide holidays and an occasional pilgrimage to visit distant family. My productivity wasn’t helped by recovering from sickness both after the holidays and late January’s inadvertently “plague-themed” birthday party for an acquaintance, in which most guests fell ill in the following week. Yet the days are getting longer, my schedule’s returning to some semblance of order (as much as the Lords of Chaos will allow), and my gaze turns once again to game-writing projects at hand an in the near future.

I’m slowly completing work on The Asturia Incident, an OpenD6 solitaire tutorial adventure of (for me) epic proportions. It uses the Open Game License (OGL) for my beloved D6 System with some expected modifications. It capitalizes on some of my favorite inspirations: the feel of the classic Traveller roleplaying game, concepts from my favorite science fiction author, and my overall affinity for solo game adventures, along with a host of smaller references to things that amuse me and will hopefully provide some enjoyment for readers. I expect the programmed adventure will come in around 175 entries, paltry by some standards, but significant by my own (the only ones that should really matter to me, yet self-doubt tells me otherwise). If I can finish the text by March I can send it out to at least one extremely enthusiastic yet I expect highly critical playtester while I manage the artwork, final layout, proofreading, and other finishing touches.

Despite what sometimes seems like still a monumental task before me, I already find myself looking forward to my next project. It’s part of priming my imagination and the work portions of my brain. If I start thinking about it now, I’ll be ready to tackle it when I find time to work on it in earnest. So I’ve compiled a short list of near-future projects, both for my own edification and yours, Loyal Reader, in an attempt to put substance to my often wandering imagination and focus:

Trapped in the Museum 20th Anniversary Edition: Goodness gracious me, has it really been 20 years since I first published the Trapped in the Museum solo adventure? I first released this Risus-powered missive in 1999 (with the gracious permission of S. John Ross for use of his game system). I was recently laid off from West End Games’ bankruptcy and freelance writing full-time to make a “living.” It was the beginning of what I still call the “Desperate Freelance Years.” I can’t recall what I was thinking, since at the time I had no way of finding much-needed monetary gain from it, with e-storefronts like RPGNow and DriveThruRPG yet to come into being, myself having only a grudging understanding of the interwebzes, and my promise to make it available for free to use the wonderfully intuitive Risus game engine. My work on The Asturia Incident led me to contemplate how to better parse the OpenD6 combat system into a more playable gamebook format (at least from the concept of the programmed adventure writer) and the result – outlined in “Streamlined Combat for OpenD6 Solo Gamebooks” – inspired me to try it out revising Trapped in the Museum. I will cautiously admit this seems to me like a “softball” project: revise an existing text with some new mechanics, give it a new graphic design, and offer it for sale online and in print-on-demand (see below) and market it to the solo roleplaying gamer community and D6 System enthusiasts (if I can find them after their migration from the doomed Google Plus). And I’ll keep the original Risus version available for free on the Griffon Publishing Website.

Print-on-Demand Titles: I’ve made my recent titles (Panzer Kids Deluxe, The Greydeep Marches) available for print-on-demand sales through Lulu.com; but I really must take the time and focus to prep my past titles for sale and fulfillment through this service. I turn to Lulu for print-on-demand services for a few reasons. The publisher interface seems far easier to use than other e-storefront sites (and even then provides a good measure of frustration for an old dog like me). As a consumer, though, I prefer using Lulu’s frequent discount codes, especially those combining free shipping...and I want my own customers to enjoy that advantage, too. Certainly Heroes of Rura-Tonga seems the easiest of these projects; I’ll admit Pulp Egypt needs a new cover, though what or how exactly I’m not sure. Titles like Schweig’s Themed Dungeon Generator and Operation Drumbeat aren’t very long, but might appeal to some if presented as “workbooks” with blank pages of dungeon table forms and Kriegstagebuch pages so players can write in their physical book and not simply print out loose sheets (though individual preferences may vary). I face some technical difficulties finding and updating old files, but overall this is a different kind of challenge than developing and writing an entire, decent roleplaying game supplement.

The Infinite Cathedral: I really should bring this idea, long simmering on the back burner of my mind, to final development and publication. The idea went through several format iterations. I’d initially planned it as traditional huge gaming setting supplement, then, looking toward the Patreon subscription model, a smaller core book with frequent yet smaller installments. Now I’ve become wary of publishing through Patreon because I’m not sure I want the commitment of time and focus to learn a new platform and because I’m not sure I want that degree of active engagement with a constant time commitment. Right now I’m veering back to the core sourcebook idea, though with the aim of producing smaller supplemental missives (giving me the freedom to further explore the setting in more manageable doses at my own pace). I’ve had The Infinite Cathedral setting in my imagination for quite a number of years, but never had the time to really devote to it. Maybe now’s the time.

Greydeep Marches Ideas: I really enjoyed developing and writing The Greydeep Marches OSR-compatible, system-neutral setting and – despite it’s relatively disappointing sales and its swift fade into obscurity in the flood of product at DriveThruRPG – I find my imagination drawn back to its seemingly basic medieval fantasy flavor with mystery, danger, and dread lurking just beneath the surface. I’m particularly tempted by the idea of developing a short supplement detailing a medieval fair at the heart of the region (the halfling-dominated Greenfields Township), with plenty of intrigue and adventure potential lurking beneath the fair’s festive facade. I can draw on elements from the main setting for inspiration and engaging encounters with connections to the greater region (and hopefully further misadventures). Like the original setting I’d develop it so enterprising gamemasters can port it to their own preferred settings and systems. I casually explored the medieval fair setting in an earlier Hobby Games Recce post (“Playing at the Fair”) and in the process sowed a seed of inspiration for further exploring the Greydeep Marches. I’ll also admit that in the back of my head I have the vague urge to develop a short campaign centering on the Cult of the Lurking One in the Croaking Swamp, though I will let that simmer on the back burner, coalescing into something more tangible over time.

Other Bits: I have a whole mental file of projects I might develop, though they’ve not yet reached the critical mass of imaginative potential and enthusiasm for me to pursue yet. I have an idea for another OpenD6 solitaire gamebook, this one less tutorial and more expansive, with a pulp theme set in, of course, Egypt in the 1930s. I have some basic elements and an urge to use the streamlined combat system I devised, but the overall plotting still needs to come together (unlike the current solo project, which was fully developed in my head before I embarked on the writing and mechanics). I’d hope to collect and repackage many of my past short stories from disparate anthologies into one volume all my own (with the working title Mad Dreams of Memnon); I wish I had more time and energy to focus on transposing onto the electronic page the new short fiction possibilities I frequently explore in my fertile imagination. Do I resurrect an abandoned project like my beloved but unrealized Maxwell’s Egyptian Diary (originally intended for Castle Falkenstein, now for porting to some unknown Victorian vehicle)?

And so I’ve droned on about all these potential projects and not attended to any in the span of writing this missive. Perhaps it’s one of my all-too-frequent exercises in thinking out loud (so to speak) and indulging in writing about games for Hobby Games Recce without actually writing games. I’ve tried to step away from this blog more than once the past few years, yet I see it as a means to stay connected to the gaming community and find some hopefully positive engagement with fellow gamers and fans, especially in the absence of frequent publications released into the cacophonous deluge of product drowning the interwebzes. Time to hike back to the Hermitage at the Edge of Oblivion and get back to work.

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