Friday, July 19, 2019

A Giant Leap for all Phil-kind

Greetings readers!

If you've been following this page, or have found this page recently, you'll notice that it's been quite some time since I've added anything. My freelance career has been moving forward -- quite successfully, if I may say so. The consequence of that has been that my time to write for this blog has almost entirely evaporated. It's a good thing and a bad thing, as I always enjoyed sharing my thoughts and methods with anyone who was interested in it.

A few things to update you all on; I'm still writing for Fantasy Flight Games. I've written two adventures for them; "On the Run" and "Mystery of the Burning Gold". Both set in the Android universe, I ran "On the Run" at PAX Unplugged last year and I'll be slapping down "Mystery of the Burning Gold" at GenCon in two weeks. If you'll be in attendance, come on by and say "hi!" Show up early enough and you may be able to jump in and play -- I almost always have at least one no-show from reserved players, so bring some Generic tickets.

My first published work debuted in Allies and Adversaries where I worked on the "Citizens and Creatures" section. The next book I worked on was Gadgets and Gear, which is due out sometime in Quarter 3. These projects were the fulfillment of a lifelong dream; seeing my name in a Star Wars RPG book as a contributing writer. Here's hoping more projects like this come my way.

The biggest news in my RPG writing life is that I started a small game company with several friends of mine in the New England area, Studio 404 Games. While our website has not gone live yet, we are active on various social media. For now, come join our community and discussion over on Facebook. I'll likely announce it here when our website goes live.

Studio 404 Games's focus is on providing top-shelf quality settings for table-top adventures. We all have busy lives, and don't always have the time to create rich, vibrant worlds for stories and adventures. Studio 404 Games is here to provide rich worlds and settings that spark creativity in game masters and make players excited to play in those worlds. Our first offering, Starcana, is coming soon.

What is Starcana? It's a scifi setting with adventure, exploration, intrigue, politics, horror, and tragedy; all with a bit of magic thrown in. We call it a "Science Fantasy" setting, and it will be available in August. More details coming soon.

That's pretty much it for now, possibly for good. "Fragments From the Rim" has been a wonderful journey to share for the past decade or so, but to be fair it's a borrowed title. It might be time to retire it and evolve my blogging into something else. Something that's more "me". If this change comes to pass, I'll be sure to link it here so you all may come with me.

Until then, may the dice be with you!

Monday, October 1, 2018

30 Days of Game Design - Day 31

So my adherence to the "30 days of RPGs" didn't exactly go...well, anywhere. August was a hectic month; to be fair most of the summer was hectic. Thankfully, it was mostly in a good way so I'll take it.

I've transitioned out of New Hampshire and am now living on the outskirts of quasi-scenic Worcester, MA. I have a new residence, a new roommate, and a cat that has "opinions" (and she would like to share them with you). As I unpack and find space for my life, I start to formulate a plan for the future.

One reason August was so full was because I was working on another assignment for FFG. Someday, hopefully soon, I'll be able to talk more about that but sadly today is not that day. That assignment, combined with GenCon and unpacking in my new residence took up a lot of my free time lately. But again, things are settling down and I look at the list of things I need to do and want to do. 


...although that could change at a moment's notice...

I want to get some work done on Anomaly. I've had some serious conceptual issues with the setting, and after a conversation with a good, creative buddy of my the other day I might have a better grasp on what I want to do with the setting. It has to do with the hidden plotlines that are occurring in the background, and what makes the setting unique.

I describe the setting as "Fantasy Space Opera"; it's a setting where various races have populated this area of the galaxy. It's mostly sci-fi, but suddenly magic is discovered. "So it's Shadowrun in Space" was the intentionally sarcastic comment from the previously named buddy, trying to poke me to say why the world is different. His comment hit home, and I knew that I needed to re-align it's focus on what I really wanted to do with the setting.

I'm sorely tempted to re-do the "30 Days of World Building" that I did for it two years ago. Part of me wants to wipe the table clean and start over, but there are a lot of good ideas in there that just need some refinement. I'm not thrilled with the name "Anomaly". Come to think of it I'm not excited about several names in the setting; Stellar Garden, League of Allied Worlds, and The Dark One. None of them are particularly interesting to me or grasp the weight of what I want to do with them.

I have a lot of game ideas on my plate, but I think that My Setting (whatever I call it) deserves my attention. I've been trying to get it going and get some momentum on it for over 3 years now. It's high time I start to make it happen. I've got some time coming up where I can focus on the setting and really get some solid writing done for it. I'm determined to let nothing get in my way...

*finally checks email*

...or that could happen. I guess the reward for a job well done is "more work"... 😅

We'll see how much I can juggle at once! Hopefully there will be another update to what I'm working on later this week, and how I did.

Until then, may the dice be with you!

"I haz opinions!"

Cosplay Projects - Fall 2018 Edition

Some folks recall that I'm involved in cosplaying as well as game writing. I've got a couple costumes in various stages of progress...

First Order Snowtrooper - The project that is now 3 years old. I have armor, and most of the body-suit pieces cut out. The quilted body-suit is the biggest hurdle. I feel that if I can just get that done, the armor pieces would start falling into place. Then again, who knows; it might take more of a concerted effort to get these done (one for me, one for my dad).

Shoretrooper - Those tan-suited stormtroopers on the beaches of Scarif in Rogue One. I've got a deposit down on a hard suit that should be done sometime in the next couple of months. After that it's sand, paint, fit, and get soft parts made for it. Oh, and the blaster, because their blaster is quite awesome looking...

Flint - From G.I.Joe, for "The Finest" costuming club. Most of what's left for Flint requires a sewing machine that can handle sewing through layers of nylon strapping. I need to sew on some shotgun shell holders onto the shoulder straps of my tac-harness rig. Oh, and I need to make/acquire shotgun shells. That and a few patches need to be sewn on. I'm eyeing a sewing machine to get that done in the near-ish future.

Vault Dweller - Vault-suit and Pipboy 3000 are already in hand and fit well. I've got a fantastic, 3-D printed laser rifle kit that I need to sand and put together. I also need to make some armor pieces for it, mostly Combat Armor but I would like the odd leather and "metal" part in there too.

These, combined with reworking my armor for Gatewalker, my Crossover LARP character, means I've got a full docket of costuming projects to occupy my time.

I still want to pick up a 3D-printer before the end of the year. I drool over the possibilities of what can be accomplished with such a device. Screw buying props, I'll just print them for a tenth of the cost! But it needs to fit into the budget, which is a little tight currently...

Next trick; find some time to work on all of these, and my RPG writing projects too. More on that elsewhere...

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

RPG A Day 2018 - Day One

So it's been a while since I've written in this blog. Life has been pretty dynamic these past 6 months. I got hired by Fantasy Flight Games as a freelance writer for a yet-to-be-announced product. I packed up my life and sold my home, and have been living in a close friend's basement guest room since April. My transient status and lack of real grounding home led to my creative energies being mostly non-existent, and greatly affected my ability to write, create, and run games. Still, I soldiered on an can state happily that I have found a new apartment, it's awesome beyond what I could have hoped for, and believe that this will lead to many good things to come.

I also got hired by FFG for another assignment, and am working on that for the bulk of August.

To keep my gaming writing fresh and my creative mind flowing, I'm going to do this year's RPG A Day challenge, as I did last year. The rules are simple; write about the daily topic. Now since I'm leaving for GenCon today, I'm going to be sporadic with this first week's posts. Normally I'd write them in advance, but recall me mentioning that writing gig from FFG? Likely that will consume most of my downtime onboard the aircraft out and back from GenCon. I've got a deadline, after all...

Anyway, here's Day One:
What do you love about RPGs?
As a Gamemaster, I love the communal creative process. I love coming up with the bare bones of a story, the general overarching idea of the plotline to a grand campaign, and then getting 4-6 friends together to flesh it out. I love challenging my players and seeing what creative ways they come up with to resolve the challenge. I love the stories that come out of them, that are told years and even decades later.

As a player, I love being something I'm not. I often play races as far from human as I can possibly get. I love putting classes or archetypes together in different combinations to see if I can get them to work and be effective. I love the challenge of assuming the role of someone "not me" for hours or even days at a time, and getting so into the role that they surprise me with how they respond to a situation (often in ways that Phil would not).

I've enjoyed this hobby for over 25 years, and I'm hopefully going to enjoy it for another 25. Maybe we'll get to sit together at the same table and make some memories.

See you in Indianapolis, Plano, or an internet galaxy far, far away.

May the dice be with you.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Fallout Genesys - The Institute

Image (c) Bethesda Softworks 2015

We're back with another "DLC" update to my Fallout Theme for the Genesys Role Playing System!

One of the major protagonists in the Commonwealth is the secretive and scientifically advanced Institute. Built from the ashes of the Commonwealth Institute of Technology, the Institute has been around for hundreds of years, advancing technology well beyond anything thought possible even before the Great War that destroyed much of human civilization. This update includes a general description of the faction, some of their weapons and armor, and a smattering of Adversaries. Also, you'll find rules for playing Generation 3 Synths in the Fallout wastelands, either as a spy for the Institute or as a run-away. If you're on the run, be careful of Coursers from the Synth Retention Bureau, they're on your trail and are among the more dangerous adversaries out in the wastes...

You can find a copy of the Institute DLC as part of the overall theme document, linked above.

Now, the DLC has basic stats for playing a Synth, but some players and GMs might be concerned about using those stats, especially if they're trying to keep the fact that the player is a synth secret. The GM might even want the player to be unaware that they're a synth, and play it like the Fallout 4 characters [REDACTED], [REDACTED], or even [REDACTED]. If you wish to do that, simply use the stats for any of the human archetypes presented in the core rulebook. There's no reason to think that the Institute couldn't make a synthetic human with those qualities instead of those of the traditional Gen 3 synth, and it allows you to surprise the other PCs (or even that character's player) with the fact that they are a synth.

I seem to be on a roll with these DLC updates for Fallout. I've had some requests for more adversaries, but I think I really want to get one of the beefier and potentially more fun updates rolling; salvaging, scrapping, and crafting. Once I present rules for that, they'll be incorporated into the rules for creating and managing your own settlements in the wastes.

More juicy bits of web goodness are coming, folks. Until then, go scare a PC by pitting them against a Courser.

May the dice be with you.

Image (c) Bethesda Softworks 2015

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Fallout Genesys - Talents and Perks

Image (c) Bethesda Softworks

It's time for another update to my Fallout Theme. Perks have been a staple of Fallout games since the beginning, neat character choices that provide additional bonuses to your character beyond their skill selection. These Perks nearly perfectly align with Talents in the Genesys setting, so it seems like a natural fit to create appropriate Talents from several of these Perks.

The new talents are now included at the end of the compiled Fallout theme setting document, available in it's entirety here.

There are several adversaries I need to work on, and a few missing melee weapons that should be added in to the theme, but I know folks out there are starting to play in this theme, and felt that these Talents would add some neat character choices to those playing in the setting.

More gaming goodness to follow!

May the dice be with you.

Image (c) Bethesda Softworks

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Anomaly - Updated Timelines

Image (c) Rockfish Games

I've been suffering from a bit of a writing block of late; well, maybe it's more of a writing slump. I'm juggling two (well, technically three) Star Wars campaigns currently and I'm not happy with the results of my adventure writing. I look at what I get down for session notes and I get hit with a feeling of "this isn't Star Wars enough." There are a lot of things that could be factoring into my creative difficulties; they'll get worked through in time, meanwhile I've got a couple sessions coming up in the next few weeks that deserve my best.

I'm just not sure they're going to get it.

So what should I do; keep throwing words at the screen and home that something magical appears? Take a break from Star Wars? Stop gaming all together?

Hey, let's not talk crazy here; it's writer's block, not cancer (not this time, anyway). 

Still, a break from Star Wars might be in order. I've been running Star Wars campaigns exclusively for the last ten years, at least. Not including a few one-shot endeavors into alternate settings such as Fallout, Harry Potter, and City of Heroes, all of my storytelling has been in the galaxy far, far away, and why not? I'm good at it, it's what I'm most known for, but after a decade of slamming Star Wars stories down on the table week after week and month after month, it may be time to shift gears and do something else for a while. I know I've got a Fallout campaign in me, and it might finally be time to get my Anomaly setting off the ground.

Prompted by a friend of mine, I've gone back and reread my notes for the setting. Originally called "Trinary", I worked on it in October of 2016 as part of the "30 Days of World Building" exercise. I was fairly pleased with much of what I wrote, and feel it's a good place to start. Last September I wrote a few updates (which are now listed as Adventure Logs on the ObPortal site). I've been tweaking the historical timeline based on those two posts, as well as updating some of the names. 

CS -112: Drachon warships begin to raid Garden worlds, beginning the Garden Conflicts
CS -111: Republic of Kel forces clash with ships from the Granos Territories while pursuing Drachon raiders.
CS -109: Allef Domains invades and conquers thee worlds in the N'guli Empire. Armies of the Uranar Reaches engage the forces of the Narasheem Concordat
CS -92: Mineral deposits discovered in the Giant Nebula, prospectors and corporations rush to stake claims and secure them for their respective empires.
CS -86: Giant Nebula prospectors fight corporations over mining claims, escalates into open conflict. Because of cutthroat practices and lawlessness of the region, becomes known as The Blood Nebula.
CS -84: Destruction of Tasaran City in the Narasheem Concordat by the Granos; loss of life 120,000.
CS -82: Corporations begin physically removing asteroids and stellar debris from the Blood Nebula for mining at facilities within nearby systems. Prospectors begin arming mining ships to prevent or raid these mineral convoys. First Blood Nebula Pirate Gangs appear.
CS -70: Battle of Tovar; Republic warships, led by Admiral Karlson Hask, engage the combined forces of the Granos Territories and the Allef Domains. Republic wins the engagement, destroying 2,300 enemy ships while losing 793 of their own. Fallout from the engagement causes the Territories to go to war with the Domains.
CS -38: Unarar first deploy Gesalin Gas on the Republic city of Iasalo, killing 84,000 humans.
CS -37: Republic of Kel, Narasheem Concordat, and the Granos Territories form a non-aggression treaty and begin to attack the Uranar Reaches.
CS -22: Drachon's Infernus Clan raiders destroys the city of Zabross on Kel, killing 65,000 humans and injuring tens of thousands more. Zabross is reduced to rubble.
CS -21: 500 raiders from Drachon's Arctus Clan seize the nesting broods in the N'guli city of Kakarakas and use them as bait to fight the best warriors of the N'guli. They hold out for 16 days. The nesting brood complex is destroyed by the last few surviving Drachon; almost an entire generation of N'guli are lost (320,000 N'guli eggs)
CS -19: In response to the growing threat of the Drachon clans, the Republic, Granos, and Narasheem form the StarCorps; the first multi-national military force with a dedicated purpose of stopping the raids by the Drachon Clans.
CS -14: Allef Domains being to suffer significant losses to the N'guli Reaches, losing every world they had conquered over the decades and many of their colony worlds as well.
CS -12: Allef homeworld suffers a catastrophic extinction-level-event while being invaded. The Allef used a Gravity Singularity Bomb to destroy the N'guli fleet massing in orbit, but the experimental weapon interacts with the jump field of an incoming N'guli command ship. The resulting singularity annihilates 60% of the planet’s core mass.  Allef begins to shake itself apart as it bleeds off it's remaining atmosphere. News of the planet's destruction shakes every Garden nation to their core. Rescue ships from every nation arrive in Allef space to try and save as many lives as they can. Even with the unified assistance, only 0.3% of total Allef population survives, either rescued before the remains of Allef shook itself apart or were off-world at time of event.
CS -10 (0 AE): The destruction of the Allef homeworld ends the Garden Conflicts and prompts the nations to begin to negotiate for peace. After months of debate and compromise, the League of Allied Worlds is formed. All nations except the Drachon Clans join the Union. All invitations by the League to the Clans are rebuked.
CS -9 (1 AE): Membership in the StarCorps expanded to all League member worlds. StarCorps is now tasked with interstellar peacekeeping as well as their previous role of defense against Drachon raiders.
CS -8 (2 AE): After several months without finding new mineral sources, the last of the Blood Nebula mining corporations folds. Mining operations within the Blood Nebula cease. The Blood Nebula pirate gangs begin to raid convoys in nearby systems.
CS -4 (6 AE): Citizens of the planet Danal vote to leave the League, but the motion denied by League Council (and the Republic of Kel). Danal's exclusive source ku'jai (an animal who's excrement is a super-charger for jump drives) makes them too important a world for the League to lose. The denial leads to weeks of riots and eventually armed uprising by the populace against League interests on Danal.  Revolutionary War of Danal begins.
CS -2 (8 AE): After two years of brutal warfare, the Revolutionary War of Danal ends with the capture and public execution of the rebel leaders. Danal is now a world under martial law and controlled by a military governor. Collection and distribution of ku'jai excrement is overseen by the League Military.
CS -1 (9 AE): First non-human Prime elected in the League; Aararastavos of the Narasheem Concordat. Primary Aararastavos vows to stabilize the League, end the raids by the Drachon clans, and bring peace to the Stellar Garden. In response, the Drachon clans step up their attacks on N'guli, Republic, and Granos worlds.
CS 0 (10 AE): Campaign starts
I'm fairly pleased with this timeline. There are plenty of gaps where I can fill in more information at a later date, but there's enough here to give readers (and players) an idea of what the galactic situation is. I want the League to be new and unstable; there are factions within it that want the League to work, but there are also factions with long, bitter memories that long to finally defeat their hated foes. PCs are likely to be contacted by several factions and empires throughout a campaign, and they get to choose to help them, hinder them, or fight them.

And then we throw the Bathal Host in on top of that and watch chaos ensue.

I really need to make a better stellar map, something that's easier to read and defines where all these empires are. I also need to come up with a "player's guide"; something that details all the information players need to make characters that fit into the world. I suppose the PCs could be StarCorps, but that's too limiting for my initial game. Maybe if one or two PCs are StarCorps, that could be fun. They'd be compelled to investigate any alerts for Drakon Raiders in their area. But what about the other PCs; they need a reason to come together. Possibly salvagers, or explorers; there are still uncharted planets out there that need surveying for mining or colonization. An independent crew could make some serious coin if they find another "garden world" where a colony could thrive, or one so filled with mineral rights that they could retire on their own moon.

Yeah, I think that might be a place to start. Let's see where this goes.

Game on, people.

May the dice be with you.