“A Life Worth Dying For”, a Tale of Oshala the Hex, now available

A Life Worth Dying For cover
The next sword-and-sorcery tale of Oshala the Hex is now available.

This tale includes the fate of a past love, the fate of a dark future, otherworldly slave-drivers, feats of acrobatic skill, travel to realm of dreams, a cursed graveyard, an ancient tower of learning, a twisted prophesy, close combat on the top of a spire, a people freed of their fetters, and a broken heart.

From the blurb:
A world of dark sorcery—a time of sharpened bronze.

The pale tower of the Academy has governed the city of Lytrops with wisdom and learning for centuries. When Oshala the Hex finds the entire city forced into menial labor and her lover beset by restless spirits, what price will she pay to break their chains?

This is a 6,900-word short story in the sword-and-sorcery genre.

The story is now available for purchase at these fine retailers:

Pilot for The Tick

We watched the pilot of The Tick on Amazon yesterday. Boy, was it dark. Funny, but very dark.

That darkness is there in the original Ben Edlund comics. The very first issue shows the Tick in a straightjacket in a padded room. It is entirely possible the entire comic series is a delusion in his brain. The comic was quickly taken over by the brilliant, skewering superhero parody that perhaps found its fullest expression in the animated series. After all these years, it feels a bit strange to see something that goes back to the source material and focuses on an aspect that was downplayed previously. If they make more, I’ll watch it, because it looks like it’s going to go in interesting new directions.

One of the things that struck me, is that some of the Tick’s lines of dialogue are the exact same lines that Ben Edlund has be repackaging and reselling for nearly 30 years! That’s kind of crazy, and kind of brilliant, if you can pull it off.

Seven Samurai and Genre Expectations

I watched Seven Samurai last night for the first time. It is, of course, masterfully done. The visuals are so rich and the story is so well-told.

We watched it on Hulu, where it’s part of the Criterion Collection. So after the feature they had a short documentary about the film, its inspirations, its impact on the genre, and its context in Japanese history. Although I had know that it was one of those “masterpiece films” that everybody talks about, I hadn’t realized that it came out only a few years after the end of the American Occupation and how that informed what was going on in the film. Kurosawa was not just making a brilliant genre picture, he was taking bits and pieces of samurai genre conventions and remixing them in a way that applied to the new reality of post-war, post-occupation Japan. There are no questions of loyalty to one’s lord in this story; the samurai are hired by the common people, collectively. While the samurai do display stereotypical traits drawn from the genre, they are each an individual. The end shows the villagers victorious, and the samurai as dying off, with no place in society. To say these things less than a decade after the Japanese militarists had used ideas of bushido to rally the people to greater sacrifice in a losing war was, and still is, powerful stuff.

I’ve been thinking along similar lines myself about this sword-and-sorcery fiction I’ve been writing. There are so many horrible genre conventions in sword-and-sorcery, from “might makes right” to issues of gender to legitimate authority deriving from birth. But I feel there is also power in the genre, and virtue can be found there. A world so big and vast that you will only ever scratch the surface of it, no matter how much you study; and yet, still being able to have an impact. The idea that your future is in your own hands. The idea that individual actions are the root of positive change. I’d like to remix sword-and-sorcery into something relevant for the 21st century, much like Kurosawa did for samurai film.

Anyway, yeah, a really great film. Got me thinking.

“The Mercy We Make” the first tale of Oshala the Hex, now available

The Mercy We Make Cover
My first foray into sword-and-sorcery fiction is now available!

I’ve never found the “sword” quite as compelling as the “sorcery”, so the main character of my stories, Oshala the Hex, is a sorceress who has sacrificed part of herself in exchange for magical power that few others possess.

In this first short story, “The Mercy We Make”, Oshala the Hex is a solitary figure who breaches the stoic mountain fastness of a long-forgotten emperor in search of an ancient artifact. The undying spirits within welcome a new, living soul to torment. But who will get the better of whom? Can Oshala the Hex escape where multitudes have fallen? Will her mission of mercy end in triumph, or eons of unending torment?

Check back next month for a new tale of Oshala the Hex.

The first 5,000-word tale is now available from these fine retailers:

DEXCON 19 — June 29-July 3, 2016


Thursday: I had to work. But was able to drop Kat off on Wednesday night. On Thursday, she was a whirlwind of activity and set up a mini-Maelstrom within DEXCON. GMs who had open slots would post the games that they were willing to run at those times. Players interested would show up or sign up. At the appointed hour, we’d seek out an unused table and BOOM!–the magic of gaming would happen. My wife is a miracle worker.

Evening: I battled through a stressful day at work and finally, finally made it to the convention. Kat ran With Great Power Classic Edition as part of mini-Maelstrom. I didn’t get to play, but I heard nothing but praise..

Morning: Another mini-Maelstrom game took off: 7th Sea Accelerated with Joe Zantek, Kat Miller, Jeff Collyer. I played a Castillian archeologist inspired by Indiana Jones. We chased down a buried pirate treasure. We had some witty repartee. Kat seduced a Naval captain of Montaigne. Jeff punched a shark. It was a fun session with fun people. The post-game discussion was particularly fruitful. Talking with Joe about the way the genre maps to FATE, how it might map to PbtA, and why it hasn’t was thought-provoking enough to start my stupid game designer brain working. Stupid brain!

Afternoon: No games came together for me. Thought more about PbtA buckling of swashes. Spent some time with Kat. We bought and played a card game called Spellcaster.

Evening: A Mini-Maelstrom Miracle. No mini-Maelstrom games coalesced for the 8pm slot. So Kat and I spent some time at the mini-Maelstrom booth chatting with our friend Joann. Around 9:30, a couple of new people wandered by, asked for details about mini-Maelstrom, and within 15 minutes the five of us were playing an amazing session of Serial Homicide Unit. I played Yousef, a Lebanese bus boy who just wanted to finish med school. He was a bit of a hypochondriac and thought he was coming down with the ailments he studied. He was savagely murdered by the serial killer. It was tragic. Probably my favorite session of the convention.

Morning: Another great mini-Maelstrom session went off as I got to run With Great Power for Dave and his two kids. I played a villain that could absorb and generate fire. When his powers emerged, he had saved a burning apartment building, and later discovered one of the people he saved was a serial killer. Now he hunted down the worst of humanity to purge by fire. Lots of fun and laughs.

Afternoon: John Farish ran a mini-Maelstrom game of Masks for me, Kat, Rich, Matt, and Brendan. It was a fun session with plenty of banter between the characters. I chose the Bull playbook, a girl called Kelsey “Kaboom” who had been given powers by an alien hive mind to be a super powered sleeper agent as part of an attempted invasion. Now that she was free and trying to be a hero, she had trouble fitting in with her fellow young heroes–one of whom was an ex-pop star turned tree. Fun times.

Evening: For my last mini-Maelstrom session, I got to run With Great Power for five players. The game is stretched to its maximum at five, so the session wasn’t as good as it could be. I actively encourage genre mixing in WGP. Often it produces amazing synergy that you’d never expect. Sometimes it produces the effect of an odd crossover where the characters seem like they belong in two different comics. This session had three players who had great interest in the physics of their superpowers and had a grand time figuring out how their powers worked, and what the repercussions would be. The other two characters were a teenager pulled from a teen drama comic, and a really interesting imp who possessed the dead that belonged in a Vertigo comic. Definitely a high note to finish off the convention.

Acknowledging the realities of age, we said our good-byes, and came home to rest up to face another day.

Thanks, as always, to Avie, Vinny, and the amazing Double Exposure staff for creating and maintaining such a great convention and community. I’m proud to be a member of such a welcoming, fun-loving community. And thanks to everyone I got a chance to chat with and to game with!

With Great Power: Master Edition—PDF only available for sale

Incarnadine Press is proud to announce that _With Great Power: Master Edition_ is now available for sale as PDF only. Print sales will follow in the next few weeks.* Additionally, all purchasers will receive epub format at no additional cost by May 1, 2016.

To buy the PDF: https://payhip.com/b/AkUy

Details and updates are available at the Incarnadine Press website: http://ipressgames.com/index.php/with-great-power/

Use the hashtag #WithGreatPlay on your favorite social media to connect with other players.

_With Great Power: Master Edition_ was cloned from the personality engrams of _Swords Without Master_. It is proud to be Descended from MonkeyDome.

_With Great Power: Master Edition_ is the most fantastic, amazing, strange, invincible, astonishing, incredible, mysterious, and downright uncanny Superhero Role-Playing Game of them all!

*Purchasers of the PDF version during this interim period when print is not yet available will receive a discount on the print version to make up the difference.

Dreamation 2016

Wow. What a #Dreamation.

As always, Vinny, Avie, and the entire Double Exposure crew made great things happen flawlessly and invisibly. They are amazing and I thank them deeply.

Jason Morningstar compared Dreamtion to a family reunion and he’s absolutely right. Except that there’s more people I’m excited to see at Dreamation.

Thursday, 8PM
For me, I started off the con with a game of Swords Without Master: Starward on Thurday night. It’s a supplement for SWoM that draws inspiration from Leigh Brackett, Flash Gordan, Akira Kurosawa, and WWII aviation films (just like a somewhat popular 1977 film you may have heard of). Andrew and Brian, neither of whom had played any SWoM before, both created fallen space knights. Patty played a translator/scientist from “not the United Federation of Planets”. They delved into a planet-sized ancient starship to find the lost panacea that would end a galaxy-wide plague. Despite the space skeletons and pirates, they got the cure and delivered it, but were cheated out of glory by the scheming space senate. How will they possibly clear their names? Find out in the next exciting episode of Starward!

Friday, 9AM
Friday morning, Bill White was running With Great Power. To keep myself from being a neurotic mother hen, I intentionally scheduled myself something else to do. I facilitated one of my favorite games: Serial Homicide Unit. Adam, Michael, Joann, Ephraim, Ian, and I told the stories of the workers and patients of the Helping Hands clinic, who just so happened to be hunted by a serial killer. The best and brightest of our characters were cut down just as their life turned around, while the worst thrived. It was sad and touching, just as SHU always is. I love this game.

Friday, 2PM
Friday afternoon, I got to play Bill White’s The New World. I played it several time over its many years of gestation, and this was the best version yet. So quick! So evocative! So fun! I think 2016 is finally the year for The New World. Just a few rough edges to polish and this one is ready to publish. We wove a tale of the last great city of learning in a fallen land, forcing the survivors of fallen cities into servitude, and the ambitious sand pirates that plagued them.

Friday, 6:55PM
Matt, Chris, and Chris had asked if I could run a demo of With Great Power for them. Asking me to run my game is my own personal Kryptonite, so run we did. In a quick 45 minutes, they made heroes and we played a couple of exciting phases.

Friday, 8PM
Finally, after years of trying, I got to play Sorcerer with Judd. It was a colonized solar system setting, with Adam portraying the secretly half-alien president of Mars, MadJay playing a xenoarcheologist, and me playing a horrible, Captain Bligh-type starship captain with xenotech fused into his head. If you’ve ever played a video game and took a while to understand the controls, you’ll know what I mean when I say that I often have trouble steering my character in Sorcerer. This game was no exception. I’d go into a scene thinking “I’ll show a bit of humanity, a bit of compassion” and then proceed to do the most evil stuff imaginable, like murdering a conscientious traitor, and trying to murder the president of Mars. I’m really, really glad I played. I’m uneasy with how the game went. And that’s exactly what Sorcerer is about.

Saturday, 9AM
I ran With Great Power for a group of three players: Jen played Noir, who could speak to ghosts; Nick played Mantis, who had instectoid alien power armor; and Adam played Blindspot, who could not be noticed, except on camera. Together, they faced down the flame-bodied Crucible who wanted to give superpowers to everyone in the entire world so that her husband could accept her as “normal”. It was a quick, fun session with green mutagenic gas at an MMA fight, quiet discussions on a park bench, a burning building, and punching a woman made of living flame in the face.

Saturday, 2PM
Joshua A.C. Newman’s The Name of Bronze is a work in progress. I like where it’s going and will be excited when it gets there. In our short session with Frank, Keith, and Matthew, I played Unlu, champion of Mard—tallest mountain and roof of the world. In Mard’s service, I crushed a rival mountain with my bare hands. It was interesting, and I could see where it will be fun once the whole game is communicated properly.

Saturday, 8PM
I finally played Torchbearer. Tony, Stephen, Carly and I did pretty well in Bret’s weird old school dungeon. Nobody died. We scored some loot. We rescued a guy from being eaten by a giant spider. I have my doubts about the “if you suggest an idea you have to be the one to roll for it” rule. I can see that the game is engineered to produce a particular type of experience and does it very, very well. It’s just not an experience I particularly enjoy. That’s an important thing to know.

Sunday, 10AM
A second game of With Great Power, this one with five players: Kat played the Scales of Justice/Dragon Princess who was rebelling against her dragon-tyrant father; Blair played the Winter Knight, born of Fey and fighting to hold onto his humanity; Karin played The Shade, who could speak the ghost of Andrew Carnegie; Ami played Feeback, an alien made of music who could take on the form of Jimi Hendrix; Kay played Refraction, a woman who lost most of her memories in the accident that turned her into a living hologram. Together they faced Upload, a robot from the future who was trying to force human society up to where future history said it ought to be, using things like nanobots to install mandatory upgrades in people. We had some great images like a dragon melting the snow off a blizzard-choked roadway to clear a path for ambulances, medical equipment exploding due to supernatural interference, living hologram destroying the evil nanotech disguised inside of charity blankets, and a fey knight cutting the tongue off a building-sized dragon.

Oh, and I also sold some actual, physical copies of With Great Power. Which made me very happy, and I hope will make all who bought it happy, too. Anyone who bought the game at Dreamation can contact my Gmail account (stalwartip) to get the electronic edition at no additional charge. The game and the origin cards will be available for order by the end of the month.

There is never enough time to see everyone I want to at Dreamation. I’m very glad for everyone I got to chat with, or game with, or even smile at in the hall. Thank you for a wonderful weekend.

With Great Power: Master Edition is complete

Incarnadine Press is proud to announce that With Great Power: Master Edition will be available for sale at the Dreamation game convention February 18-21, 2016 in Morristown, New Jersey. The game will be available in print and PDF by March 1, 2016. Additionally, all purchasers will receive epub format at no additional cost by May 1, 2016.

Details and updates are available at the Incarnadine Press website: http://ipressgames.com/index.php/with-great-power/

Use the hashtag #WithGreatPlay on your favorite social media to connect with other players.

With Great Power: Master Edition was cloned from the personality engrams of _Swords Without Master_. It is proud to be Descended from MonkeyDome.

With Great Power: Master Edition is the most fantastic, amazing, strange, invincible, astonishing, incredible, mysterious, and downright uncanny Superhero Role-Playing Game of them all!

#WithGreatProduction 16 August 2015

Not much time for an topical post. I’ve had my most productive week of writing since immediately after DEXCON, but I’ve still got a lot to do in the next two weeks.

I had dinner with Rob Bohl this week and that managed to knock my head into a better place than the mire it was caught in last week. No slight to Rob, but it wasn’t so much anything specific about the conversation as much at the simple act of having the conversation, and needing put my thoughts into words that helped. Writing can become a very solipicistic activity and getting lost in one’s own head is a constant danger.

I’m not a very talkative person in general, and I need to continually remind myself how important it is to talk and listen to put vaguely-defined thoughts into definite words, if nothing else.

I finished the phase overviews!

Goals for Next Week
So much to do in only 15 days! I need to write up the endgame (known as “Gloating Mode”). I also need to start on the introduction and gameplay overview (Yes, I always write the introduction last. Always).

If I can keep up the rate that this week has been, I can do it. Fingers crossed. See ya in seven!

#WithGreatProduction: 9 August 2015

“Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”
― Stephen King

Yeah, that’s the kind of week it’s been.

I’m in the guts of the project right now and the writing is just onerous. I need to translate the living, face-to-face communication that I do at the table—where I’m looking someone in the eye, and can explain a little bit, show a little bit, answer questions, play a bit, explain a little more—into static written text.

Every approach feels wrong. But every project needs to undergo this—I hate it, but I know it to be true. If I don’t struggle to do what the project needs, then the project isn’t very ambitious. Lack of struggle means I’m resting on my laurels, getting lazy, taking shortcuts. And the result of that is a poorly-explained game.

Sometimes this work is just downright difficult and that’s all there is to it. The only way out is through.

I have the phase overview and one of the phase explanations done (in a way that I hate). I started listing terms to define in a glossary.

Goals for Next Week
Finish the remaining three phase explanations.