Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Making engineers sexy.

Been working on Spacers a bit. Sometimes I get really discouraged, because I think of all the great S-F RPG's that have been published and have really gone no where. From Traveler to Gamma World to to Fringeworthy to Alternity to whatever...what RPG game gets the people playing it so loyal that they continue playing it after more than a handful of sessions? Then it occurs to me to look for what is missing in these games.

Okay but all this is bunk. Really it is.

These games are great, as I have said already. These games are great and it is the GM's interest in them that keeps any game, let alone the whole paper RPG hobby. alive. His players, steady or infrequent respond to his, or her, passion long enough to turn off the boob-tube and be the stars in their own mini-series. Good stories sell and tabletop role-playing is a social event.

That actually is what LAG is about. Coming up with a system that I like and selling decent episodes, err scenarios; that's my angle. The GM is the director and his core players act as the heroes in the on-going story. Cameo appearance characters can be NPC's or infrequent visitors. The story and the novelty of the approach is what I am counting on. Truth be told I am modeling Spacers scenarios heavily on TV serials and series like Buck Rogers and Enterprise. To me they represent the right mixture of high drama and atmosphere which might not lead to twelve plus years of dinner and game sessions, err ten seasons on TV, but the participants, err viewers will remember the experience, err show.

In play-testing the scenarios to date, I am not finding a lot wrong with the game mechanics. So while I should be happy, I am noticing that my engineers are having a hard time time staying involved in the game play after the first hour ninety minutes. So while I have got the ship-to-ship combat having everyone involved, I need to make the techno-babble an actual aspect of the game. If only I could wrap spandex around a bunch of equations that equal 34-2xD and paste a cyborg part over her, err its left eye.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On dealing with Arteests!

Ever since I first saw Jim Shipman’s small T&T magazine the Hobbit Hole, with its articles and integrated with black and white illustrations, I have been fascinated with bringing together words and pictures. So when Flavia and I started working on Peryton Publishing as a mutually supportive catalyst to finally get our butts writing the stuff we have been making notes on for years, I decided that the artwork would be an important part of everything we would produce. Little did I know the task that I had set myself up for.

I have always been something of a cartoonist, even in the professional work place I often used cartoons to catch people’s eye when reading rather dull stuff like rough drafts for protocols and standard operating procedures. But I have more of a background in theater and radio scripting. While a person working in comic books might find this to be a benefit, it didn’t help me out as a soon-to-be publisher.

My friend, No.1 Tony, often complained how his wife, J. , was needing something to keep her “mind busy” since she had their child and was a nanny for others. J. is a professional artist by training at a very prestigious school here in Cleveland, but just couldn’t find the energy and motivation to do any work. I ventured that I had some work that needed illustrating, and he was aglow with hope.
For months I pestered J. and she seemed receptive. I was under the strict theatrical director’s rule “Do Not Feed The Line.” Which was telling me not to directly impose my interpretation onto the contributing creative force, in short “don’t draw what you the other person to draw for you.” So as I said before we discussed two illustrations often for hours on end for months, and nothing was appearing on paper.

Finally I asked, “Would you like to see a sketch?”

The answer was a yes. So over the next week, I committed myself to crafting up some pencil drawings, in fairly crude terms but with enough detail to highlight things that would clarify the image to the general gaming/fantasy reading community. And I produced a decent what could be called a “Bug-Bear” stealing a pig from a little farm, along with some other pictures. I happened to get tired of drawing the pig so I saved the detail and just put “x’s” in place of eyes to indicate
that it was dead– along with a long sentence explaining all of what I have just said.

When I dropped off the sketch’s J.’s eyes lit up when she saw the Bug-Bear. I had hope that an illustration of some sort or another would be coming quickly.

Five months later, I dared to ask how progress was coming along. J. then proceeded to produce her sketch pad and I was treated to a six page study of a cartoon pig with “x’s” for eyes. And then there was a squirrel, also with “x’s” for eyes. And lest I forget, a bunny with “x’s” for eyes. Sort of like a child’s book that you never wanted to show your child. I pointed to the original sketches which happened to be showing the bug-bear and another with a sword-wielding barbarian,

“What do you think about...” I was about say, ‘Doing the rest of the drawings?’ But didn’t have a chance.

“Perfectly average.” J. said without a moment’s hesitation. “Pretty typical of those gaming books.”

I decided to let this lead drop. Just to let you know, she is now doing erotic paintings for very swank group of art gallery owners. She gave us some of her latest work for our library wall as a gift.

Figuring that perhaps artists with more familiarity with the genre might be a better prospect. I posted a flyer at the local coffee shop where role-players, tattoo artists, and Magic card players frequented. Got about a dozen nibbles and had some success, if you count four quarter-page illustrations completed over a year’s worth of dinners. Of
course I had to provide the document protectors upon purchase. Usually after about three meetings, the artists informed me that my schedule was too demanding as moving in girl-friends and car repairs were becoming more pressing. A couple of them asked for sketches once again, but when I provided them, both muttered something about “dwarves don’t come from Egypt” and decided they too were busy.

One of these artists, Sabriel, though was absolutely what the doctor ordered, she would find me when she needed some cash and show me her works for sale. Unfortunately, she got a lead on some street theater in Los Angeles and skipped town– though I have heard rumors of a warrant being involved.

So lately I have been going with the professionals that I meet in fantasy communities on-line as well as at conventions, but even then I run into problems.
I asked Dandelion, a very funny and what I consider a good friend, even if we haven’t met in person yet, to draw up a couple illustrations involving “apes” for my Athebes setting. I offered to throw up my sketches. Upon her positive response, I posted a sketch that I had lying around a place.

Three weeks later, Dandy, was posting to me asking me whether I wanted her to do ape drawings or not. When I pointed out that the sketch was posted, she replied,

“Oh I didn’t know tha
t there was an ape in that picture.”

All this being said, while I realize that a sketch may help someone see what you had you in mind, considering my own luck to date, perhaps I should sit back and let the professionals handle it.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Gen Con 2006- the write up.

As for my details on GenCon, I guess I better get to it now before I get busy with writing some other stuff and getting ready for Con on the Cob.

First day Wednesday-
Pacing around all night at work waiting to get off and get rolling. Afterwards finally dragged Flavia out of house by her hair to on the road only 30 mnutes late. Picked up Caed, who made some sandwiches for the road. We caught a great radio station about a mile from the Indiana border and our collective jokes brightened the ride up. Saw a pick-up truck with "GenCon or bust" soaped in the window and trailed him so Flavia could try and get a picture. Finally after the fifth mile of the car chase we gave up and veered off of his tail, Steve McQueen would have been proud of my driving though.

We showed up at nearly the expected time at the Ram, so Caed could get into her Serenity RPG. Talked with her friend Jareth(sp?), who gave me two great 6-sided dice erasers though I wasn't playing. Then checked into the Stone Soup, where we started hanging with our friend Jordan who wanted us to come see his new house, but had to decline as we were meeting Caed and Yoggy for dinner.

Showing up for the Stink's, a GenCon forum group, celebration where Caed and Yoggy were, Flavia and I realized that no food or alcohol were present so we slipped out--Flavia was coaxing small children closer and hiding a fork. So after buying her a sandwich, Flavia then went to back to our cottage and I stayed on catch up with Caed and Yoggy.

Caed, Yoggy, and I sat down for a quiet brew after the Stinkiwink, or whatever it was called. Had some good laughs catching up with Yoggy. Showed up fashionably late at the Ram, where the Stink's swanky party turned out pretty much like I expected it. Hot, sweaty, and overcrowded because all the people who "organized" the party let all the people they really liked in and didn't pay attention to who had reserved seats that they had insisted on for months before.

We headed elsewhere while I chided Caed about how I just knew what to expect. After I got us some champagne, with fresh strawberries, at the Alcatraz, Caed cooled down, and told me finally to shut up and enjoy the air conditioning. Had a decent dinner, and I realized that the packed Ram, luckily had let me slip out of yet another Serenity RPG session.

Caed, Yoggy, and I parted ways and I walked back to the B&B, where Flavia was doing laundry and wrapping up her notes for the Peryton RPG session.

First day of the convention. Flavia and I walked around the dealer hall, and noticed how many more of the stalls were smaller dealers. And noticed a few interesting works that we'd have to wait to buy, as we never buy anything the first day.

The first Peryton RPG session didn't go off, only Caed and I were there, but we schmoozed a bit with one Eden games long-term GM's who expressed an interest. And we watched the D&D for cash tournament GM's set up. we'd get to a friendly nodding acquaintance by the end of the Con with them, though we'd never talk.

Lunchtime, or dinner as it was late afternoon. And some serious lounging in the Marriot's lobby. As I got ready for the T&T session later.

The T&T session went well. Five out of the six players showed up, despite an angry D&D head demanding my table because he was too afraid to ask the people squatting at the table he was assigned to wrap up their game. I let him throw his bags on the table and go get a "hall captain" in a huff, Flavia whispered to me that she knew I was having fun as I had a chance to be in a fight. The bucky came back with a sheepishly smiling "hall captain" who rolled her eyes when I showed her the room's table assignment and pointed out where the guy should be throwing his tiff. Bucky never realized what an ass he had just made of his self, but my players tossed his book bag onto the floor next to his table without a pause. A person from the T&T on-line club, Trollhalla, swung in to say hi, introduce her and her husband, and wish me luck as she had another sit-down session elsewhere.

As said before, the game went well. Four new comers and one old schooler. Everyone got into the spirit and we had some serious laughs, as well little side discussions on the rules and whatnot. I gave away plenty of swag thanx to Andy Holmes of the UK and James Shipman of Chicago and their respective publishing companies.

Seeing that the T&T game was running smoothly, Flavia and Caed slipped out to go find Yoggy finishing up his daily seminar schedule. They set up a Peryton RPG session in the hall tables over at the Hyatt and I hear got seven people playing.

About 10pm, we had a late supper and night cap then said good-night.

While we made it on time for our HEx game, the table was a little too crowded for Flavia and my tastes, so we traded our tickets with two people who had generic tickets and slipped off. we already bought copies of the game and have played it already. It was nice to see the rush of people interested in Jeff Combos of Exile games work.

We caught a small lunch, and started laying down some serious bucks in the dealer hall. And we started hob-nob with a couple artists talking about up-coming Peryton Publishing works.

At dinner we caught up with Caed, then Yoggy showed up. I had to get my cell phone replaced as I found out that washing machines and phones don't mix, so we found an Italian place at the mall.

Afterwards, Flavia and I went to a pagan gamers get-together which basically boiled down to a "seminar" with peppy bottled-red heads taking notes about "serious" pagan authors, but never having heard of the obscure poet W.B. Yates who happens to have been a contemporary of Aleister Crowley. When the idiots at the microphone offered to read aloud the list of authors that they had compiled, I grabbed Flavia and went to grab a beer.

The rest of the evening was spent back with Caed and Yoggy looking for what would turn out to be a mythical Cthulhu get together. At about 10 PM we wrapped things up.


Up too early, 'cause my night-time job sleeping habits kicked in, 10am couldn't come quickly enough to get my final game "Rocket Men versus the Saucers." I had breakfasted with a couple artist from California and the guy who has created the card-game 'Treasure and Traps." Amazingly Flavia was running on schedule, so there was no delay.

On our arrival at the convention center, we discovered that we had been parking in a US Post Office parking lot, which would explain why we had parked for free the day before. oppsy. Robin re-parked the car as I got the session up and running. Once again five out of six players showed up. And the guy who ended up playing the android for the session, looked and sounded like a blond Brent Spiner. He had everyone laughing. The session had plenty of Red Dwarf s-f moments but we somehow got through the whole game, with ten minutes to spare.

Picked up the new RQ rules just before we sat down to play it. And really enjoyed the session. I almost got giddy remembering how much fun RQ was with all of its details but an amazing combat system that helped you feel the sand in your sandals so to speak. Flavia even smiled in public without Ed Greenwood around.

After the game, Flavia and I bought a couple more things and decided going to get some more sleep would be a good thing to do.

Our friend Jordan woke us up at 7pm, and we went to dinner at Indianapolis's Washington St.'s "Arts District." He was excited to hear about the release of RQ again, as he played it in college. And we found some serious bean curd cakes in Mole' sauce. I expounded on how yuppie ambiance would always destroy good old fashioned Gemuglikeit, after we tried out the local Beer Garden, for some reason Flavia and Jordan were rolling their eyes and laughing at something I had said.

Caught up again with Caed at around 11pm, she was attending a midnight Zombie RPG. After seeing her Jordan and we walked around the convention center and was surprised by how much activity was going on even at that late hour. Got back to cottage at midnight, and actually slept a full six hours straight for the first time all week-end.


Flavia and I took Jordan's son with us to the convention so his dad could finish cleaning up b-fast to catch up with us later. We showed up a little too late to catch HEx again, but that was alright. Said hi to Jeff Combos and talked about his company's new forum.

We wandered around the dealer's room, taking the kid to stalls where figures were being sold, as that is his dad's and his thing. Jordan caught up with us, and we left him and the kid to do their shopping. I went on to catch more artists' business cards, Caed and Flavia disappeared before I noticed.

I decided that catching a beer back across the street at the Mariot was a sound strategy, and everyone finally came together again. Jordan's wife started calling him for more chores, so he and kid slipped off, while the rest of us caught lunch. Oh yeah, I saw Jamie Bamber, of BsG fame, grabbing a coffee at Starbucks he didn't look too thrilled at being a celebrity.

After lunch, Caed watched our bags, as Yoggy, Flavia and I walked the dealer's Hall once again. I found a wooden gladius, and indulged in yet another Phase World book, a guilty pleasure. Afterwards we woke Caed up, as she was napping hard, I would too after a night of zombie hunting.

We drove Yoggy to the airport, and headed out of the Circle City, to await once again until "next year."

Thursday, August 17, 2006