Friday, December 13, 2013

Savoring the Game

I stumbled upon this post earlier in the week. In it, Tori Bergquist brought up an interesting idea: episodic campaign stints.In other words, every few levels you take an in-game break from adventuring and let time pass. Tori:

 It would be interesting to consider a narrative arc which encompasses two or more decades of time. This might not have as much impact for a party of elves or other long-lived PCs, but for humans, halfings and such it could pose an interesting challenge.
I've thought about this before, but never implemented it. Rarely does a sequel pick up 10 minutes after its predecessor.  Tori goes on to say:
Not only would a campaign built around a multi-decade long narrative be interesting for its dynamics, a book like Ultimate Campaign might make more sense, providing some unique ways to flesh out lengthy downtime. You could have a campaign that ends with a four story arc involving the liberation of the city from an evil baron...then next session picks up five years later, with the PCs the legitimate saviors of the city, and a "catch up" session to see what everyone did.
This idea fits well with the narrative style I try to have my games take. I touched on this years ago. And I have a house rule to aid in this. Every character must do his/her leveling in a settlement, and must spend an uninterrupted number of consecutive days honing skills, etc. The time required is as follows:

Next Level
Days Required
where x = next level

Now, I haven't encountered a group of players yet that doesn't have at least one person who gets bored with their character or a long campaign. Sometimes they just want to play a different game/character in order to refresh their RAM or something. In between these episodes, there's a great way to break the monotony while still moving the campaign forward. Have everyone make a level 1 NPC (commoner, expert, etc.) and have them either perform a simple escort quest or survival encounter. The events of those mini-games affect the campaign, and the players get to see them through a new light.

ICOSA is about to release our PDF of Commoners (as soon as Pure Steam hits shelves this month.) It will have plenty of ideas on how to execute this kind of mini-game. 

Until next time!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Confessions of a Failed MMOer

Yeah, I played an MMORPG once.  My brother called me up, said he bought it, and thought we could play together. Fair enough. I dropped the $49.95 and thought, “What’s the harm?”  Physical, emotional, and marital strife is the answer we’re looking for, folks.
Having played pen and paper RPGs for years, I thought the game was about experiencing a cool story and enjoying cooperation towards common goals.  This game shook me out of that illusion with the gentleness of an industrial paint mixer. 
One night, my new wife gently said, “Come to bed, honey,” at approximately 11pm.  “Just a minute,” I said. Then my stomach roared. It was 3am. I had lost time, like an alien abductee, and the game was as fun as the associated probing would have been.  But I had to play on, killing spiders alone in this forest, because some jerkwad with a yellow exclamation mark told me to.  And I needed to gain on my brother, who I couldn’t quest with because he was four levels above me and somehow that precluded our teamwork. 
Anyway, back to my stomach.  I was wrapped around my spine, screaming for food. So, I mashed a bunch of number keys—so my Orc warrior would defend himself for a minute against these eight-legged fools—and sprinted to the kitchen.  My bride had bought groceries that day, so I had so many choices. But I had to act quickly, because my kick/stomp combo in the forest would soon run out and my Orc was too dumb to raise a shield against spider fangs.  Idiot.
I snagged a handful of deli-sliced salami, like a crackhead raiding a Salvation Army change bin. No order, no decorum, no chewing. I had insect glands to collect…or something.  I finished five slices of salami before I made it down the hallway. My warrior was still alive, although assailed by three arachnids while some other players stood there refusing to help me. Apparently teamwork only happens in a 40-man raid. Douche tools. I logged off and went to sleep.
Morning, and a new day. Eight hours in a cubicle thinking of how I’m going to ruin my perfectly good sex life with digital adventure tonight.  Then suddenly, pain. I felt a sharp stab just south of my stomach.  It last a couple seconds, and subsided.  An hour later, it was back, but in a different spot, lower. I was doubling over at work, and coworkers thought I was being exorcised. Again, after lunch, It was on the other side of my abdomen. I was certain I’d be getting an appendix out that day.  It repeated throughout the day, the pain moving throughout my GI tract, until I had a swell BM that evening. Before I flushed, I peeked (you always gotta see how you did, amirite?!). 
Blood! I stared into the bowl at the string of blood, going through a mental checklist. It’s not a xenomorph, or it would have come out my chest. I haven’t eaten glass. Nobody punched me in the kidney. You know, the obvious. Then it hit me. The red stuff wasn’t diffusing in the liquid like it should. I got a closer look, and saw it wasn’t blood.  It was the plastic ring around the salami that some deli meathead didn’t take off before slicing it (and that some gamer meathead didn’t notice as he choked it down).
Yes, I ingested plastic and risked bodily harm in order to save my Orc avatar from having to resurrect at a fictional graveyard.
Yeah, I played an MMORPG once. And I don’t do that anymore.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Well, with a week left (and on my bride's birthday, no less) Pure Steam is 100% funded on Kickstarter.  I'm extremely proud of our dev team for the amazing game they put together.  Brennan, Davin, Lance, and B.J., I appreciate it all, and look forward to working with you for many years.

I think there are three key reasons we are successful where other similar projects aren't.

1. Our product is just better.  While it's my baby, I'm being honest.  We have the right mix of talent putting together a fresh take on steampunk that no one has done yet.  Appalachia: check.  Grit: check.  Low-magic options: check.  Coherent concept: check.

2.  We marketed like dogs.  We didn't just expect people to walk up to us and give us money.  We pounded cyber pavement and kept charging forward, even when it looked bleak.  We sought the wisdom of our betters, and had the humility to implement it even when it ran counter to our own ideas.

3.  We networked and got several significant bumps from fairly famous individuals.  We earned 20% of our funding in the last three days because Steampunk Boba Fett (John, not Danny) and Ay-leen the Peacemaker nodded at us once each on Facebook and Twitter, respectively.  It may have had something to do with the monogoggle, but I'm not sure.

"What if it doesn't survive Kickstarter? Pure Steam's no good to me dead."

That's my take on it, anyway.  Now, with a week left, we have a chance to unlock bonus rewards.  If we hit $13,900 on Kickstarter, we'll start a line of Kickstarter pewter minis.

Also, we are in talks with Apparition Abolishers and Altered History to produce licensed gear and patches.  So you could be walking around with an electromagnetic belt of deflection, steamthrower at your next convention.  Or be sewing on patchings identifying yourself with the Rauschite Cavalry, Ulleran Air Corps, Kanatan Military.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where You At?

I've been silent on here as I've been working feverishly to promote Pure Steam on Kickstarter via YouTube, , Twitter, and anywhere else they'll like me write words.

If you're still reading this blog, I apologize for letting it rust like a car in the front yard.  We've made good progress so far, raising 58% of the required funds on Kickstarter at the time of this writing.  But we've only got three weeks to go, and I could really use the support of my core gamer friends (that's you!).

Would you mosey over to Kickstarter and drop some love?  It'd mean a lot. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pure Steam Kickstarter Rewards has accepted our proposal, and will allow us to fundraise on their site. This is huge! Projects on their site have a 50% success rate (provided they have an explanatory video, which we will). I threw together this logo for the project until we can get a professional one together.

In case you're not familiar with Kickstarter, the gist is you get individuals to donate to your project in exchange for some sort of tangible reward.  The project won't be up for fundraising for another week, but I wanted to give my followers a glimpse at the rewards:

$5: Name printed in book as a supporter.
$15: PDF download a month before release.
$25: Soundtrack download a month before release.
$35: Adventure module PDF download a month before release.
$75: Signed hard copies of book, soundtrack, and adventure module a month before release.
$150: Exclusive access to first round of beta playtest.  Your feedback will influence the design.
$250: A seat at an exclusive game session run by our team at either GenCon Indy or Origins (your choice).  Feedback from you will influence game design. (limit 20)
$500: You'll be written into the setting as an NPC.  AvatarArt will do a MASTER level illustration of you in your NPC role, published in the book (limit 10)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pure Steam is Happening

I know it's been a while since I posted.  I've been locked away with some developers making my steampunk RPG a reality.

Paizo granted us a compatibility license with the Pathfinder RPG.  That was a load off! has been working with us on some concept art.  I'm very pleased.

Con Goodwin, Ructioneer Fighter

So far, here's some of the updates...

We have two completely new classes:
Chaplain: part healer, part social adept, part buffer.  There is some overlap with the bard, but no music required.
Prodigy: In a world of tech with no magic, those with quick minds prevail.  The prodigy can focus their mind on medicine, combat, technology, or a mix of the three.

There are a archetypes fleshed out:
Fumigant Alchemist: Donning a gas mask and turning any agent into an aerosol is what they do best.
Ructioneer Fighter: Provoking and frustrating foes is this guy's forte.  He can use diplomacy to WORSEN a mood.

Plus all the steampunk tech you know you love.

Electromagnetic Belt of Deflection

More to come.  We're up on Kickstarter come January.  We'd appreciate all your support!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Zombie Gunship Strategy

Joe, my magnificent friend, recommended Zombie Gunship to me via text.  I'm cheap, and paying for apps is something I seldom do.  But this game has thousands of ratings and maintains 4.5 stars in the iOS App Store, so I had to oblige.  $0.99?  Yes please!

The premise of the game is wonderfully simple: you're in an AC-130H Gunship and it's the End of Days.  You're providing cover fire for humans as they run for the safety of a bunker.  You must kill zombies before they enter the bunker.  If you kill three humans or if a zombie enters the bunker, game over, man.

I've put some time into this game in the last week, playing on the toilet until my legs go numb.  I'm doing pretty well.  I consistently kill over 1000 undead before some stupid human runs into a 105mm Howitzer shell.  Now I'm paying it forward.  Enjoy my meager strategy tips.

Tip 1: Touch and Go

"It bodes well for me that speed impresses you." -Chandler Bing
The first thing you need to know is these zombies NEVER stop.  They took that Chili Peppers song lit'rally.  And they spawn in half a dozen places.  So, you need to pepper the ground with shells when you see zombies, and then move your view to other areas.  If you try to be Johnny OCD and kill every zombie out of a group when you see him, you're going to let 30 more sneak up to the bunker.  My success comes from dropping some lead and moving on.  If a couple zombs don't drop from that, I can always swing around in a bit and finish the job.  The key here is speed and constant movement. 

The game warns you when zombies get close to the bunker with red warnings, so use that to your advantage.  Skim the outer rim early on, and shoot the junk out of groups of zombies, not worrying about 100% kills.  You only need to ensure the zombies die BEFORE they enter the bunker, so you have time.  Spending your effort on cleaning up a whole mob of these things on the outer edge of the map--only to have a group of 'em encroach on your bunker elsewhere--is akin to throwing out the baby with the irradiated bathwater.

Tip 2: Smart Upgrades

Careful reviewers will see I didn't follow my own advice.
The beauty of this game is the upgrades system.  Every zombie you kill (and human who finds himself in your bunker) earns you points which you spend on upgrades.  You can upgrade your three weapon systems, increase the points you earn from killing zombies, invest in a last-resort bunker defender bomb, and increase your radar range.  A huge key to your success is in how you prioritize these upgrades.

First and foremost, I recommend pumping up your Zombie Bounty (points per kill).  Doing this early in your career is like recognizing the value of compounding interest.  Get in on the ground floor with this so that every round you play is more fruitful (and thus easier to get the other upgrades).  

The next tip I have is to always prioritize the reload (and cooling) rate of your weapons.  Powerful weapons are no good if you're waiting for them to come back online.  

And you should be careful not to upgrade the damage radius of your 25mm Gatling Gun.  This gun is best served for sniping zombies grappling with humans (if you're into that kinda thing...see below).  And each time you upgrade it's damage radius you have to recalibrate yourself to get comfortable with sniping so close to warm bloods.

To recap: upgrade zombie bounty, then reload, and scale back the damage radius of the 25mm.  Everything else is up to you.  

Tip 3: Humans Are Expendable...

"How can you shoot women and children?!"
"Easy, you just don't lead 'em as much." least two are.

So far as I know, there is no penalty for killing the first two civilians in a round.  It's just that pesky third that jumps in front of your hail of bullets that causes Sarge to pull you out of the hot zone.  Use that to your advantage!  If a helpless soccer mom running for safety is the only thing stopping you from thrusting a 105mm round down the throats of a score of zombies, and you've killed less than two already, don't hesitate (provided you need those undead deader than dead on the quick.  Remember Tip 1 and consider coming back later.)

While on the topic of coming back later, you need to be willing NOT to snipe zombies just because they're snacking on a human.  Humans eaten by undead out there on the battlefield don't count against you.  So, if you can stomach it, and you don't want to risk having that human die by your trigger finger, just let the zombie eat him/her and blast that zombie after.  Remember: Touch and Go.

There you have it.  That's all you need to be the most efficient zombie killer. undead slipped past.  Game over!