I got to play River of Heaven, the Guns of Olympus Mons, at Winter Con 2020 at Fanboy3 in Manchester last weekend just gone. On a personal level, it was great to play in a game with Jon Ossoway, a man who knows his Sci-fi troupes inside out. As a publisher of River of Heaven, it was great to be playing the game with John and seeing exactly how it ticks with the author playing it.
The set up was simple and direct. The Renoucers, a sort of Fascist Luddite paramilitary movement who are out to stop the rise of AI, had taken over a military base on Olympus Mons, which a huge extinct volcano on Mars. Since said base controls the planet’s defence grid, our team of Marines were going in hard and fast using drop-pods to take it out. So cue a fast-paced military-techno-thriller, with much sneaking about, hacking into systems, taking out guards from a distance, as well as the all-out firefights you’d expect. John had included some hooks in the character’s backgrounds which led to some great roleplaying from the players, so it wasn’t all grunts-n-gunplay. I had fun ‘weapons-testing’ the power armour and a quite frankly scary array of guns and grenades our characters were equipped with. My favourite one was the Smart Grenade, which can be programmed to have a delayed explosion (“Hey Google, set explosion for 30 seconds after impact”) and to only go off when near actual combatants, not say, civilians
The best thing of all was that it felt like we were in a distinct Sci-fi universe, not a cheap knock off Star-Wars, Star Trek or Aliens.
7 Hills is among one of my favourite cons, and certainly one I won’t hesitate to sign up straight away. Its wall to wall RPGs for two days over five slots, in a warm, cosy and historic venue (the Garrison Hotel is an old Napoleonic barracks). It’s an RPG con that’s actually all about the RPGs. not some guest speaker, or some trade hall that shoves the games into the periphery, or a big LARP that sucks all the attendees in leaving GMs to twiddle their thumbs in the bar. Five slots, 10 or so tables
But it will fill up fast, especially the onsite accommodation at the hotel itself (tip ring them) and the slots for gming. So if you’ve been fancying going to a Garrison con, give it a go 🙂
Seven years ago the mega-corporation Stirling INC left the colony of New Oldham. It pulled all VIP personnel off-world to the Corporate HQ on Westminster, to consolidate assets during the Galactic War. As soon as they shut their Tower in the financial district the planetary economy went into recession.
A whole generation came of age during this time. Most enjoyed mass employment by joining various street gangs. Others found in jobs with the only other growth sector, Corporate security. A small minority, the Cyberpunks, set their sights higher on actually creating a fairer system for the people on-world, rather than a small number of investors off-world.
Now the Galactic War is over, and there are rumours that Stirling Inc is coming back. The lights are on at the Tower, and mystery money is buying up cheap stock on the local stock exchange. The Cyberpunks realise that must they either get their plans for planetary revolution off the ground, or they will get hunted down by the returning Corporate Executives.
All Systems Gone uses a hacked version of the Linimal system, called Reboot. It’s a direct and straightforward set of rules, using a unified 2d6 mechanic. Reboot uses a modified ruleset to stimulate the high-octane worlds of 23rd Century Cyberpunk in Space.
Holidays in the Sun
System: Savage Worlds
It is 1984 and five years since the glorious Punk revolution here in the United Republic. Our anarchistic methods toppled the monarchy and their cronies. Now it’s time to use the same techniques to bring down the Dictator of a banana republic in the south seas tropical island of Lalonde.
Will there be fast cars? Yes!
Will there be explosions? Yes!
Guns and Guitars? Hell yeah!
As well as the usual mob of homegrown anarchists, you’ll be assisted by our allies in US Scene who have expertise in disrupting CIA backed governments from their time enabling regime change in Central America.
SO KICK OUT THE JAMS MOTHERFUCKERS!!!
Cmdr Joe Strummer.
At last a game that is Punk! Not SortaPunk, or NotVeryPunk, or Idon’treallyunderstandPunk or even fucking TolkienPunk!. Using the Savage Worlds system because there will be lots of guns and shooting and stuff. Don’t sign up if you are of a gentle thoughtful persuasion, who dislikes swearing. Because there will be f**k all of that type of playstyle in this game!!
I love Kickstarter. Its a great way of letting fans of small creators help them get over the financial hump of having enough funds to create their dream niche RPG product. Here’s a selection of British created Kickstarters that I’ve backed in the last year or so. (Links to the KIckstarter pages in the titles).
Liminal. Masterminded by my frequent collaborator Paul Mitchener, this one funded waaaaaaaaaay back in February of 2018, but as well as the main core book for this game of British Folklore set in the modern day it funded a whole line of supplements and sourcebooks (city and racial). Full disclosure I’m writing an adventure book for it. Close to final release.
The Black Hack Second Edition. I loved the 1st edition of this popular lightweight take on modern D&D through an OSR lens by David Black. The second edition makes it more of a proper self-contained game you can play on its own and considerably tightens up on both presentation and rules.
Troika! This one has just landed with backers, it could be lazily described as Fighting Fantasy on Acid, but there’s more to it than that. This is Daniel Sell’s psychedelic fantasy, which distorts and warps expectations at every step. I’m still absorbing its wonder.
The following Kickstarters are current at the time of writing being funded on Kickstarter.
Bite Me! Who wants a game of Powered By The Apocalypse Werewolves by Becky Annison? You do? Then get over to Kickstarter now and get your pledge in. Focusing on pack politics and the game promises a focused look at the Werewolf genre.
The City of Great Lunden. This one is the inevitable colossus of that is Midderlands Setting Trilogy by Glynn Seal. This book details the capital of the Havenlands (which were described in part 2, MIdderlands Expanded) where the green-hued Midderlands (which was the first book) is but a region. Although you don’t need previous volumes to make use of this book, which uses the freely available and readily adaptable Swords and Wizardry ruleset, you can pick them up as part of the campaign add-ons. The whole Midderlands setting brings back nostalgic memories of the 80s while being their own thing. It’s evident from the previews on the Kickstarter page it’s carrying on the fine tradition of such settings as Pelinore (of Imagine UK magazine) and Middenheim City of White Wolf (for WFRPG 1st ed).
Honourable mention, because it’s a card game, goes to Bang and Tang, Jon Hodgson’s and son’s Rory and Ben’s sequel to their totally charming Forest Dragon card game. This one recently delivered on time a high-quality gem of a game. Worth following Jon’s Handiwork Games imprint, since they’ve got some killer RPGs coming up.
If you are a regular follower of D101 Games you’ll have noticed the last State of Address was back in 2016, and that things have been a touch wobbly since then. Monkey was kickstarted in the first couple of months of 2017, followed by its mega-adventure the Mandate of Heaven, which was a great payday for D101 and put enough money aside to get the books done. All plain sailing from here you would think. In June I left full-time employ to go full time with D101 working from home (cynics would say that I was becoming a House Husband 😉 ). All good and I was just settling in, when the wheels came off the bus. In July my mother in law was suddenly hospitalised and did not get home until the end of the year. During which time my family, was my priority and D101 became an occasional concern. It wasn’t until almost April 2018 that things had settled down at home and I could seriously work on Monkey, other outstanding books (see below). All in all, I lost a good year of work and pay. If you bought a book or supported me with kind words during that period, you have my thanks for helping me through that difficult period.
2018 in review
I spent much of last year playing catch up with Monkey, the last of the add on adventures for Crypts and Things Remastered Kickstarter and making steady progress with the long overdue River of Heaven Companion, To the Stars. It was also the year that after a five-year hiatus Hearts in Glorantha made a reappearance.
Monkey the RPG
After a wildly successful Kickstarter in 2017 the main rulebook and the free Pdf Quickstart was released in towards the end of the first half of the year. This was an auspicious and fantastic moment for me, since its very much a niche game, as far away from D&D’s troupes as you can possibly get, and a project that is very close to my heart. So it was awesome to see it out in the wild, and hold the hardcover, crammed with lovely art from Peter Frain and Dan Barker.
I’m now catching up writing the supplements; the mega adventure the Mandate of Heaven (which is at first draft stage), the short mini-campaign The Ministry of Thunder (which is the final stages of writing), The Golden Book of 101 Immortals and the Monkey Companion (a book of extra rules and adventures), all of which I’m getting out this year.
Two issues of Hearts in Glorantha were released in 2019. Issue six was the resurrection issue after a five year hiatus and issue 7 was our tenth anniversary issue We featured scenarios and articles for all the published systems; Guy Milner provided his Beard of Lhynkor Mhy for 13th Age Glorantha, Stewart Stansfield provided an Anti-Hero Lunar Duck for RuneQuest Glorantha and I wrote a duo of RuneQuest Classic adventures Duck Hill in issue 6 and The Temple of the Golden Gorp in issue 7.
It was heartening to see the surge in interest in Hearts in Glorantha, due to the availability of new Gloranthan games and material from Chaosium Inc, and new names alongside the familiar contributors to the magazine.
On a sad note Glorantha Creator Greg Stafford passed away at the end of the year. Greg was a firm supporter of Hearts in Glorantha, who contributed a few one pagers on magic (featured in HiG 1-5 collected) in the early days as encouragement, and his warm words of support will be missed.
Want to try out Crypts and Things in a quick 3-4-hour scenario? Have your adventurers race to save the world of Zarth from a great evil? Then this book that came out in September, which features two such scenarios and a guide of how to write C&T convention scenarios is what you want.
In the last quarter of 2018, D101’s coffers were in need of filling and I struck upon the idea of doing a quick Halloween Themed adventure, and the Road to Hell (which was previously an OpenQuest adventure published in OpenQuest Adventures) was 80% of the way there, bar conversion to Lamentations of the Flame Princess (a horror-themed OSR game based of B/X D&D). Currently, it’s in fulfilment to the backers, but will soon be available to preorder via the D101 Web Store. Best way to know when its out Is to subscribe to the D101 newsletter.
Despite being free of the concerns of leave allowances, I cut back on my convention attendances. I made a conscious decision not to go the trade shows that require outlay up front, so UK Games Expo and Dragonmeet were dropped from my schedule.
7 Hills (April) and Furnace (October) at the Garrison Hotel in Sheffield continued to be a ton of fun as ever. This year they were also joined by new kid on the block Northstar in May, a small convention dedicated to Sci-Fi RPGs. Outside of the Garrison cons, there was Continuum (Leicester) in July which I’ve not been for a good six years due to family holidays, and it was a good show to launch Monkey upon the gaming masses. I also made an appearance at Grogmeet 2018 here in my home city of Manchester, were I ran Crypts and Things and the D101 Games Magic Stall made its most minimal appearance ever (see the photo below)
Catch up of outstanding books
As noted above I’ve a good chunk of Monkey books to release, and the Great Crypts and Things Campaign aka Under Dark Spires to get out. Rest assured while I work and release the new shiny things I’ll be announcing
Talking of which…
Coming to Kickstarter in 2019
I have two firm dates for your diary.
Into the Shroud #2 (now until Feb 25th)
On Kickstarter now at time of writing until Feb 25, as part of the ZineQuest initiative. This is your chance to get both the new second issue, which has been gathering dust on my hard drive for a year or so, and the first issue in print. Its already funded, and the first stretch goal (10 new monsters) has also been met.
This is Paul Mitchener’s post-D&D game of fantastic exploration of a series of dimensions by inhabitants of the Empire of Ys. This one has been in development for a couple of years now and it’s a true gem of a D20 game, whose system we’ve christened the Beyond 20 system. Well be getting the whole pool of recent D101 artists on board to illustrate this book, and Glynn Seal (aka MonkeyBlood design, 2018 Golden EnNie Award winner for Cartography) will be doing the many maps that show the worlds that Empire interacts with.
OQ is ten this year in September. I’m currently playtesting a new version of the game, and gathering a host of talent to illustrate the 10th Anniversary edition, which I want to be the best illustrated version I’ve put out. Once the main rulebook comes out I want it to be quickly supported by a regular release schedule of adventures. Tentatively the Kickstarter to fund OpenQuest 3 will this coming summer Jul/Aug.
River of Heaven, To the Stars!/Revised Rulebook
The long-delayed Companion book is done and to go with its release I’ve revised the main rulebook slightly to take into consideration the small but significant system changes I made to the OQ system in 2016’s OQ Refreshed Edition and another proof-read. Both of these should be out the end of this month or by mid-march latest.
Hearts in Glorantha/Gloranthan Adventures
After last year’s return to Glorantha, I’ve got more than enough enthusiasm to carry on. Call for contributions for HiG #8 will be made soon, with the aim of getting two more issues out this year. Also one or two issues of Gloranthan Adventures, including Defenders of the Dark (GA #3). I’m currently assessing how to do this given 13th Age Glorantha and RuneQuest Glorantha are now out.
The Further Adventures of Dr Dee’s Associates
I’ll be doing more adventures set in the Jacobean Period, and the sequel to The Road to Hell has already been partially written (look out for it
Blue Skies Development Department
These are things that I’m either thinking about doing or have a rough outline or even a partial draft, but they are not 100% done yet.
Project Darklight will return, as Reboot. Not 100% on the system yet (strong contenders are Fate or Yin/Yang or even HeroQuest OGL) . At some point, I’ll be sitting down and working it out.
I shall be doing something with the soon to be released HeroQuest OGL SRD, starting off with a self-contained version of the Ye Little Book of HeroQuest Fantasy (which was made up of two pdf releases Dungeoneering and Monsters).
Beyond Monkey. Once the backlog of supplements coming out of the Monkey Kickstarter is done and dusted, I’ll be doing something more with the Yin/Yang system that features in the game. Front runners are The Water Margin, but that requires me to sit down and do a TON of research so don’t expect anything more than a con game this year, or something else Kung-Fu/Wuxia related.
Some thing for D&D 5th. I’ve recently taken the plunge as a 1st Ed/Basic/Expert D&D Dungeon Master and run the game and liked it very much. It’s straight forward for me to run, and even at first level there were lots of fun things for the players to do with their characters. I’d go as far as there were points where the players were running the game themselves!
Isle of Death for Mythras. I’ve long been a fan of Design Mechanism’s D100 game Mythras. I’ve now got a framework for releases using that system, and a starter adventure that is full of drama and action. When I sit down to do this, I’ll be previewing and gathering my thoughts on the Sorcerer Under Mountain blog.
Crypts and Things. After Under Dark Spires is out I’m going to have a pause and look at what/where I’m going with Crypts and Things. There’s still a lot of adventuring to be had on Zarth 😊
The return of Fortune. This is our small Fate variant for which we released two-pickup and play small RPGs (everything you need in about 100-150 A5 books) Hunters of Alexandria and The Hollow West. Me and principal author Paul Mitchener have started discussions/planning to get the other various game books we have on our hard-drives out into the wild, and the (strong) possibility of an expanded Hunters of Alexandria.
Convention appearances for 2019
The Magic Stall shall be materialising at…
7 Hills (Garrison Hotel, Hillsborough, Sheffield)
Northstar (Garrison Hotel, Hillsborough, Sheffield) – A science-fiction rpg con that I’ll be running River of Heaven
Furnace (Garrison Hotel, Hillsborough, Sheffield)
Grogmeet (Fanboy 3, Manchester). Get on the Grogpod and you’ll get an invite to this awesome one-day event at the end of the year.
GoPlayManchester (Fanboy 3, Manchester) – this is a monthly meetup I run in Manchester @Fanboy 3. While I’m not trading as D101 there, I do run and run D101 stuff there.
I may add more to that list as the year goes on, but the above are dead certs.
Others flying the D101 flag are:
Neil Benson (aka OldScouseroleplaying on twitter) is running The Road to Hell at UK Games Expo and at Deva Con (Chester).
The D101 Games Newsletter
Stay up to date with all the new releases and news from D101 Games, by signing up to our monthly newsletter. Also, I’ll be running regular competitions, prize draws and giving discounts (this month there’s a code for Hunters of Alexandria).
I’ve weathered a rough patch over the last couple of years, and D101 Games has proven surprisingly resilient despite me feeling stretched thin at times. This is in no small part due to our supporters and contributors. You have my thanks.
Now that I’m refreshed expect a more frequent and aggressive release schedule as the year goes on 🙂
D100/BRP is my goto fantasy engine. Not just the actual % skill system, but also the Character ->Culture ->Proffession ->Magic System framework that originates from RuneQuest. RQ 3, in particular, introduced a whole framework of presenting setting information that I keep on coming back to.
OD&D. When I got back into D&D as a result of following the OSR blog sphere five years or so, of all the retro-clones Swords and Wizardry was a hit with me the most and I spun Crypts and Things off that (which is my Swords and Sorcery variant with a dash of Fighting Fantasy/White Dwarf 80s inspiration). It’s my gateway to stuff like the Black Hack and 13th Age. Should really graduate to running 5th Ed, but OD&D I can carry in my head. Also, Mitch’s Beyond D20 (which is what we are calling the system in Beyond Dread Portals) also builds a lot of modern narrative sensibilities on top of the S&W chassis, in an easy effortless way that doesn’t tax my poor aged sponge of a brain too much.
FATE won the narrative system wars of the 2000s that raged in my head sometime in the 2010s, swiftly dispatching HeroQuest to the dustbin of failed systems (although I’m feeling the urge to take it out and give it a spin again).
PbTA is still the hot new kewlness, that I’d love to write something for but I’m still at the learning through play stage with. But every game I’ve either played or run has been a hit with me.
It was your job to guard the Dread Portal to Erebus, but somehow, someone slipped through on your watch last night.
This security breach is bad news. Erebus is a particularly foul world that the Empire of Ys withdrew from after a disastrous colonisation attempt. They kept the portal, closed and under guard by ex-members of the Explorer’s Guild, just in case of emergencies. As as far as you’ve been told, there was no emergency last night. Someone is up to mischief. Now the various Noble Houses are up in arms about the breach, fingers are being pointed in your direction, and you’ve got the sinking feeling that you are going to end being scapegoated while whoever snuck through the gate gets away with it.
Time to dust off your membership of the Explorers Guild, which gives you temporary immunity to whatever court action the Nobles bring against you and the right to prove your innocence. As well as the power to go world hoping to Erebus to bring the real criminals to justice.
Beyond Dread Portals is Paul Mitchener’s take on D&D. Which initially started off as Paul’s homage to Planescape, but mutated into its own thing. It’s a large fantasy setting, where a magical city-state of Ys sits at the centre of an empire of other worlds connected by magic portals (hence the title). Its also a ruleset – which I’m tagging as post-D&D. It takes D&D as its starting point and then cuts and adds to it to make the ruleset match the setting. The nearest analogy is I can make if that second wave of AD&D settings (Planescape, Dark Sun, Ravenloft etc.) had been self-contained games with modified D&D based rulesets. Bear in mind Paul also takes into consideration 30 years of games design on top of that, although he does so in a way that isn’t jarring to the starting point.
Tags: Dimension hoping Fantasy, post-D&D
Then for the rest of the convention, I’ll be running three slots of Monkey.
Then almost a month on is North Star (28th-29th April) – a convention dedicated entirely to Science Fiction RPG’s. So you’ve got everything from Traveller, Tenra Bansho Zero (a bonkers Japanese RPG), Star Wars, Star Trek and a few other games in different settings spun up using Fate and the Cortex system.
My three games over the course of the weekend:
System: River of Heaven
Max Players: 4
“The space station was offline. The Caretaker started its daily routine of checks to see if it was time to reactivate the station. One by one the parameters of the Station’s primary mission objectives were ticked and as they were the lights went on in the modules responsible for delivering those goals. Eventually, the station was a sea of lights in the darkness of space. A beacon of HOPE for the shattered system that it was situated in. With all the lights on, the Caretaker automatically started The Call, to pull suitable personnel to the station, who would be responsible for achieving the station’s goals.
Your motives match the HOPE’s mission parameters, so you answered the Call. You now wait in the main hanger bay, along with others who also answered, waiting to be taken up to the briefing room to be formally inducted into the station’s staff.”
HOPE is set on a space station in a solar system with issues and problems, that its staff are responsible for solving. It takes its cues from TV shows like Babylon 5, Deep Space 9 and Space 99. it uses the River of Heaven game system, based on OpenQuest a straightforward D100 system.
Then on Sunday, a retro-Cyberpunk two-parter: Cyber Crash.
Game: Cyber Crash: Tell me why I don’t like Loonies?
Max Players: 4
“Right Ladies and Gentlemen, here’s your next assignment. You know Anna Rose, that presenter off Treasure Punt on Channel 23? Yeah, the one with the designer jumpsuits (no sniggering at the back). Well, she’s off to do a film a documentary about a bunch of charmers, called the Happy Loonies. They’re a new street gang, who to put it mildly are a colourful bunch. Your cover will be acting as a media crew for Miss Rose so you need to dress appropriately and follow her every move and make sure she stays safe. Oh yeah and she’ll not only be wanting to follow them around the nightclubs of the city centre, but also the after-hours party scene in Mosside, so make sure you’ve got appropriate weapons AND licenses. Remember if its no point having a licence to kill if you don’t carry on your person to show the boys in blue.
There is a bonus, from our friends in the Organised Crime Unit. The Loonies as well as being world class party animals are also into peddling a new drug called Joy, that the OCU would like to know more about. “
Part 1 of Cyber Crash, a retro-Cyberpunk game using a quick simple version of Fate called Fortune (by our own Dr Mitch). This scenario introduces the alternative history setting of 1984 Manchester and the men and women of SafeCorp’s Cyber Veterans Response Team.
What do I mean by ‘Retro-Cyberpunk”? Think Max Headroom, not Bladerunner, with a soundtrack that is more Joy Division, not techno. It uses an alternative history setting where cyberware emerged from its use during the Falklands War of 1982 and is seeping onto the street as beaten up army surplus. There is no virtual reality, but instead, a text-based network carried through the analogue TV signal called “The Oracle”. Where Hackers break into secure computer clusters to use green screen terminals to access private information stored securely or clunky armband PDA’s with wireless connections that are constantly dropping.
“OK team, get your guns and vests ready, and head out to the roof and jump in the Spinner.
We’ve got a hot lead that the IRA gang who were responsible for last year’s bombing of the Arndale Centre are back in town, and in one of the pubs run by the Salford Boys. We’ve got a limited time-window to catch these bastards. They are currently being held down in a firefight by civilians on our payroll. The Head of Greater Manchester Police has agreed with the boss, that there will be a ‘Delayed Police Response’, but the same can not be said of MI5 if they are aware of the situation.
I need not remind you that these men are on SafeCorp’s most wanted list and their apprehension ALIVE will help our legal department dismiss the case brought by the victims of the bombing against SafeCorp that is currently going through the courts. I’m sure management will be reward anyone involved with a large cash bonus”
Part 2 of Cybercrash, a Fate-based retro-Cyberpunk game set in an alternative 1984 Manchester. This game continues the adventures of the Cyber Veterans Response Team, and from its explosive start explores the deep dark secrets of the origins of cyberware within this alternative reality. No need to have played part 1 to join this game.
Following on yesterdays’ spotlight, which featured Project Darklight, here’s one about one of our quietly best selling game, which was released with out much fanfare early Autumn 2015.
What is It?
A self-contained game of monster hunting in the cosmopolitan city of Ancient Alexandria during the Roman occupation.
Although it is based on the Fate game system, it uses a variant called Fortune, which sits somewhere between Fate Accelerated and Fate Core regarding complexity.
How it Came About
Paul Mitchener (Age of Arthur, Starfall, Crucible of Dragons), the author, released it as a standalone game via his Historical RPGs Patreon. I liked the straightforward version of Fate that he used with it, called Fortune. While it retains the meat of the Fate system, there are differences. It uses Professions instead of Skills, (Fate Core), or Approaches (Fate Accelerated). Extras are used as standard to define anything that isn’t directly part of the character such as magical items, martial techniques or advantages due to some form of social status (the Legionary extra is a good example of this). I also liked the premise of the characters being monster hunters in classical Alexandria, since I’m a big fan of Roman Epics.
While I liked the Patreon version and I thought with some more work on it, It would be a nice small pick up and play the game. Paul agreed with me, so we started work on it.
The Development Processes
I did a small bit of editorial on the game, asking Paul to clarify a few bits and expand in a few areas (the section on Alexandrian Religion is new). The main aim here was to keep it short and to the point, including lots of gameable stuff without either being vague or going over the top.
After Paul had done his bit of creating this tightly focused game, I rounded off proceedings with an adventure called Saviour Gods. This adventure focuses on a plot to pull down the Lighthouse of Alexandria, which unknown to anyone is a magical ward dedicated to the “Saviour Gods” of the title
I commissioned the ever-talented Peter Town (Mythic Russia, Hearts in Glorantha, The Book of Glorious Joy) who actually relishes the ancient period, to do the art.
Another Peter, Frain (Duty and Honour, River of Heaven, Monkey), did the cover, a scene straight out the Saviour Gods, with a Roman Centurion battling a mummy before the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
I also re-used Stephanie McAlea’s (Stygian Fox owner who produce beautiful Call of Cthulhu scenarios) fantastic map of Alexandria, which she had originally done for the Patreon version on the back cover.
The Finished Product
An A5 11 Page self-contained game. It’s designed to be read quickly and then run with the adventure or scenario seeds straight out of the book. The game even comes with four ready made characters.
Currently available in the D101 Summer Sale with 25% off until Sunday 16th in print with free pdf, selling at £9 (usual price £12).
I’m currently holding a 25% off sale at the D101 Web Store, until this coming Sunday. For the next 5 days, I will be highlighting one of the books in the sale.
First off is my Cyberpunk/Conspiracy Thriller game, Project Darklight.
Day 1; Project Darklight
What is it?
Project Darklight is a rules-light story game of Cyberpunks in space in the 23rd Century. They are fighting the Corporations who abandoned their world during an economic crash during the first Galactic War, who have recently returned covertly to retake control. Behind this façade of a Corporate Conspiracy is a deeper mystery that stretches back to the origins of humanity and beyond. A mystery that is fuelling the secret black labs of Project Darklight, that makes faster than light travel possible and mass mind control a reality.
How it came about
Mainly, I wanted rules light Cyberpunk game. Something that quickly factored in all the big overpowered cyberpunk special effects. Such as the cyberware itself, the character’s supernormal experience, the effects of important technology (where everyone has the equivalent of Dirty Harry’s Magnum .44). Then put them in one big hand of dice and counted up the successes and turned that into a rapid measure of success or failure, with room to show up huge successes or failures. Graham’s Spearing’s Wordplay system does exactly that, so I very quickly had a prototype that I took to the table.
The Development processes
I ran lots of convention games, and a home campaign where we played with the whole setting co-creation system (inspired by games like Burning Empires and Fate Core) that features in the book. For my home campaign, we created a small self-contained planet called New Oldham, with about 3 other significant satellites. The players wanted a game that took their punks from Street Level gangbanging to the lofty heights of corporate takeover, and that’s what they got. Mission accomplished for my fundamental goal for the game.
When I came to develop the background, I pulled heavily on what is called UFOLogy, since various theories connect our real-world corporations with the machinations of off world powers. I love this sort of stuff. I know it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, so it’s a fundamental part of the setting creation rules that if you don’t want to deal with the Alien Agenda part of the background I present, you never need to go there and the game runs just fine.
The Finished Product
It’s a 198-page book, in A5 softcover format. It has seven chapters that cover setting creation, character creation, technology, game rules and even has time to include a short introductory adventure. Cover by Steven Austin, with internal black and white art by Steven Austin and Jeshields.
Project Darklight is currently available in D101 Web Store’s 25% off Summer Sale until Sunday 16th July. Free Postage and Packing for UK orders. Free PDF included with purchase. Further information and to buy a copy visit the Project Darklight product page
Taking inspiration from erstwhile D101 Colleague Paul Mitchener who dumped his wish list of games he’d like to play over hangouts soonish the other day, here’s my list. Some of it less navel-gazing, because they are D101 releases that need playtesting, some of it is.
Monkey! I’ve got to figure out a way of adapting/streamlining Monkey to run over hangouts. At the moment the card based mechanic really shines at the table, because you get to see the opposition’s cards laid on the table before you draw yours. This is especially relevant when you are facing down multiple extras (mooks) and their bad ass boss, and you have to decide which cards in your hands are getting played where. BUT once that crease is ironed out I reckon it should shine because its already fine tuned to be a quick action packed fun fest with most adventures lasting a single 3-4 hour game session. I reckon I should be able to pack lots into a 5-8 sessions campaign. I reckon the Ministry of Thunder, a
OpenQuest: Green Hell. I want a weekly/bi-weekly game of OpenQuest like some folk run D&D. Good old classic FRP, but finely tuned to cut out the time wasting. OQ already does it Face to Face (it was my go to when my kids were very small and I only had 3-4 hours dead to run game), no reason why it shouldn’t online. I want to immerse myself in the setting I’m putting together for the adventure book Green Hell, a big bad ass Fantasy Swamp. Aspirant pseudo-Medieval Knights and Wizards vs spiky plant based horrors sounds good to me 🙂
River of Heaven. I’ve run a couple of RoH games at conventions and always had a good time. Now I want to do a short campaign. Either a continuation of the Starshine adventure , which is basically “you are fugitives on the run with your own ship, GO!” or a short focused sand boxy campaign on ‘Red Mars’, with the the characters being on the wrong side of both the Imperial Chinese and the US Military who both have colony’s on the planet.
Crypts and Things: Underdark Spires. This is one of the adventures I’m spitting out as part of the C&T Kickstarter as an addon. I’ve played bits at conventions, and I could easily playtest the remaining bits as standalone, but I want to stress test it as a whole. I want to see characters ground into the dust, driven mad or warped by corruption. Or (more likely) see a clever bunch of players heroically overcome all the weird madness this mini-campaign chucks out at them.
Moving onto games that I don’t publish, to show I’ve got a bit fo depth to me 🙂
Tenra Bansho Zero – run once, played once at conventions. Would love to explore this gem some more. It hits my dials for batshit oriental Gonzo, plus the play framework of startup-scenes-intermission-more scenes + simple d6 system really hits my sweet spot for game design too.
Dungeon World: Megadungeon Ran this as my first series of Hangout games, and for a while, it was my go-to hangouts game. Then suddenly it stopped and I didn’t play via hangouts until my recent game of Beyond Dread Portals a game written by and run by +Paul Mitchener (look out for this one when D101 publishes it later this year). I was running the mega-dungeon I wrote when I was 15-16 from memory and it was working out most excellent, providing great improvisational nuggets under DW where it never really holds water for as an overly complex logical AD&D adventure.
Feng Shui This is more of a wish list game, one I’d possibly like to play, but that lovely 2nd Edition sitting on the shelf gathering dust needs to get some use and be made part of my gaming landscape once more.
HeroQuest Glorantha I’ve been away too long. HQ is a great pick up and play game, quick flavoursome character generation, and is the ideal way of running zero to EPIC hero in about dozen of more adventures. I know HQ Glorantha is quite a niche game, but I may seriously look at this as being my first game to run via hangouts.
Fate was a game that I tried for the longest time to get, in its Spirit of the Century incarnation – seeing as it was similar to HeroQuest ( a game I learnt out of necessity when I was a die hard Glorantha fan ).
I guess I was put off by the writing since I like short direct rulesets. Then I jumped on the Fate 3 Kickstarter, went “aha I’m beginning to get this now” after reading Fate Core but was put off a bit from its Tool Set approach ( a style of gaming which I had I came to hate from playing a ton of HeroQuest).
But through sheer bloody mindedness, I sorted out a “Cowboys vs Dinosaurs” game using Fate Accelerated (which for me cut the crap and got down to the bare necessities of the system) and with a group that was a bit more knowledgeable about the base resolution system from playing it at conventions. Finally saw it sing in play after about 5 sessions! I started at this point to want a bit more flesh on the bones – especially about having Powers and Talents.
So I started eyeing up Fate Cores Extras rules. It was at this point my friend Paul Mitchener came up with his 10 page version of Fate called “Fortune” (which in itself borrows some key ideas from a game called Jadepunk, with permission from its author) for his Historical Gaming Patreon . Fortune has Professions, broad skill groupings which sings out to my old Chaosium Basic Roleplaying side , which replaces FAE ‘s Approaches and Fate Core’s Skills, flattens the Stress track (so no more fumbling about thinking “I’ve taken 3 wounds, which box do I tick off” now it’s a more deadly “‘I’ve taken 3 wounds, tick off two boxes”) and an Extras system that handles not only mundane talents and supernatural powers, but also advanced professions (so, for example, you might have a Soldier as a profession then Legionary as an Extra, which gives you bonuses for the extra training and superior equipment. System wise it sticks to the core Actions & Challenge systems and doesn’t over expand from there (I can look to Fate Core or makeup stuff if I want more). Overall it helps that Paul sees Fate as a much more traditional game than some of its fans present it as.
I liked the system so much I teamed up with Paul and we released “Hunters of Alexandra” together, a A5 sized pick up and play game (literally you could be reading it on the way into work and be playing in the evening (it has a straightforward adventure + pregens).
Fortune has become my go-to system for Storytelling games, and I’ll be publishing more for it next year – for example, I’m currently putting together my Cowboys vs Dinosaurs game as the Hollow NWest , a small game about Modern Day Conspiracies called Lost Fools of Atlantis and Paul’s working on something for it too.