State of the Conspiracy: The Stuck on a Train Update

As we move into election season (in the US) it seems appropriate to update on the state of Project Cassandra, especially as I’ve set myself a goal of release on or around the week of the US Presidential elections. The short version: it’s nearly there. The longer version with a but: it’s nearly there but I’ve had some rather severe issues with creativity and motivation of late.

Right now I’m focused on two aspects, final edits and layout. The edits are coming along smoothly, the biggest issue is one of consistency. In some sections I address the reader directly while in others I’m more abstract and indirect. Resolving that shouldn’t be too hard, I just need to set aside a period where I can go through the entire document at once and ensure that I stay in a single frame of reference. Luckily for me I’m not only half way through a long train journey right now but it’s going nowhere thanks to a fallen power line. Yay.

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Layout is also progressing but at a much slower pace. After the debacle with the Tower Fall pdf compatibility I’ve gone back to the start. First up was a switch to the latest dev branch of Scribus and a new from scratch document… which of course generated some new issues that I need to investigate and address. The second half of the layout process has been artwork. At the moment I have enough that I could, in theory, complete the game and have all 4 characters illustrated if I reword their descriptions (Sarsin for example would need to be an ex-cop rather than a former member of the secret service). It’s not ideal though as that would mean losing a few images from the rules sections. I’m going to see about the feasibility of getting a couple more pieces commissioned but that will depend on how busy the artist is over the next few months and my budget.

A proportion of the artwork, however, is stock art that I’ve been able to acquire for the grand total of… nothing! For those I’m now working to edit and fade the images. Or rather I’m learning how to edit and fade in the way that I want. It’s taking a while but I do at least feel like I’m making progress and am enjoying the process. My aim is to have all the free stock art selected and edited over the next few weeks, after which I can start slotting it into place.

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LunarShadow Designs now on DrivethruRPG

Correction: Ok, so my below post was rather premature, it seems that there was an issue with the file that neither I nor the preflight software at DriveThruRPG spotted. That resulted in a corrupted file which I also failed to spot before I put this post up. So it’s been a learning experience, if only in why not to jump the gun with files. I’m currently trying to resolve the issue but that’s taking longer than I’d like, once it’s sorted I’ll make Tower Fall available again.


Another quick update but I didn’t want to hold this one back. Following the release of Tower Fall, my first micro RPG, I’m glad to announce that LunarShadow Designs can more be found on DriveThruRPG! You can find my publisher page at http://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/10032/LunarShadow-Designs while Tower Fall is available to download from https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/183370/Tower-Fall-Micro-RPG

I’ll still be releasing material here on my main site but where possible the final products will also be available at DriveThruRPG. While Project Cassandra remains a priority I’ve a few other pieces outlined, including another one page game and an adventure collection for the Demon Hunters RPG.

State of the Conspiracy: Artwork!

Today I received a preview of the nearly finished first piece of character art I’ve commissioned for the game. To say it’s great is a massive understatement. Getting to finally meet the character is always a special moment, it makes them real in a way that a simple character sheet can’t and I can’t wait to see how the rest stand out.

My aim with the game is to have 8-10 images for the game, using a mix of commissioned pieces and stock art, all by the same artist. Should I ever move onto a second game I’ll look into using a wider range of stock art. While I’ll always aim to produce as professional a product as possible I’m very much aware that I’ll never make much (if any) money from them. Like many people though that’s not why I do it, this is and always will be a hobby to me.

Now I realise that this post teases some artwork but I’m going to hold off on posting the preview as I want to present the final image in context with the finalised character sheet. Hopefully that won’t be too far off.

State of the Conspiracy: Character Layout

One of the areas of Project Cassandra I’ve always been unhappy with is the layout and presentation of the game. While I’ve always liked the typewriter style font I’ve been using the document as a whole has always looked like something thrown together in word, for the obvious reason that it was. Over the last few weeks I’ve been slowly learning how to use Scribus, a desktop publishing program that is available for free. I made the mistake of assuming it would be similar enough to word and dove right into it, trying the layout the entire game all at once. Suffice to say that didn’t really work so my focus of the last few days has been on laying out the character sheets, the initial result of which you can see below.

Character sheet comparison

The new sheet, on the right, is a vast improvement on the old one. It makes much better use of the space, with the individual sections more clearly defined than before. Most of all it feels (to me) like it is closer to something you’d find in a published RPG. There are, obviously, still aspects that need work with spacing being the main one. That’s something I’ll properly address once I have the character art in place, as I want be sure of the final dimensions of those images.

Speaking of art…

Something that drastically improved the look of the character sheet was the inclusion of some proper artwork. The piece included in the new sheet is stock art created by JEShields (who also has an RPG art Patreon here) and can be purchased from on drivethruRPG. Eventually this will be moved to within the main rules and replaced with artwork commissioned specifically for Project Cassandra, again drawn by JEShields. The first piece, of intrepid reporter Samantha Dawes, is already underway with the rest to follow once funds allow.

Project Cassandra: Looking for an artist

Looking for an artist. So Project Cassandra is now at the point where if I’m ever going to publish it I want to consider artwork, at this point specifically character art. So if anybody is either an artist or knows somebody that is please let me know. 4 characters with the possibility of male and female versions (so total of 8) in Cold War era clothing (anything from 1950’s-1980’s). The basic outlines can be found on the character sheets over at http://www.lunarshadow.net and I can provide a fuller brief for each on request. I’ve got a small but hopefully reasonable budget for it, plus possibility of needing a few additional pieces (cover and/or interior art) once I know how my post Christmas finances look.

JFK assassination: Photo showing Lee Harvey Oswald with same type of gun used to kill JFK ‘authentic’

One of the results of working on Project Cassandra is that I’ve been trying to learn more about the central events of the Cold War. Being born in the early 80’s I only vaguely remember the tail end of it, such as the Berlin Wall coming down but the bulk of it is something that I’ve had to learn about. The JFK assassination was something that I studied in school but I’ve avoided diving into while working on the game as I specifically didn’t want to focus on that tragic real world event.

Even so this coming across this article – Photo showing Lee Harvey Oswald with same type of gun used to kill JFK ‘authentic’ – got my attention and has set thoughts moving again, specially this time about the ideas of conspiracies and secret plots while I expand on a few sections of the game, most notably scenario advice for the GM.

Gateway 2015: Project Cassandra Retrospective Part 1

Of the three games I ran at Gateway 2015 the one I was most apprehensive about was Project Cassandra, most simply because it was the first time I’d run it for people I didn’t know. There are a number of steps between now and publishing it, the first of which is working out what needs changed so this summary will try and pull together my thoughts about how it went in order to get me thinking about edits.

The blurb

Project Cassandra: 4 Minutes to Midnight
The Cold War. A time of spies, paranoia & fear. A top secret research project into ESP yields startling results, only to be betrayed from the inside after the subjects receive a shocking premonition: The President is due to be assassinated at an upcoming rally. Fleeing from the flames and with only their developing psychic abilities to aid them can the subjects stop the attack, or is the Cold War about to turn Hot?
All in all not too bad but a little on the short side and could have had more details, especially about the system given nobody would be familiar with it. Definitely something that I’ll need to work on a little.

The Questions

Part of my aim with Project Cassandra was to give the players an element of control in determining the setup for the game. The characters are psychics after all. Prior to this I’d already decided on a number of elements, designed to frame the questions. Firstly it was 1969, Nixon is a year into his presidency and Apollo 12 has just returned from the moon with news of a startling discovery. The project members have learned of this through one of their visions and that President Nixon will announce the discovery to the world in 3 days during a speech at MIT. Unfortunately for the President they’ve also predicted that the President will be assassinated during said speech, spinning the world into the chaos of mutually assured nuclear destruction.

For the Gateway game this led to the following questions (and answers from the players):

  1. The assassin will strike during the President’s speech. What will be their primary method?
    A prototype robot, unveiled by the President earlier in the speech.
  2. What did the Apollo missions discover that has led to the assassination attempt?
    A clearly unnatural monolith, of unknown origin.
  3. How are the Russian’s involved? Or are they just scapegoats?
    The Russian’s have reprogrammed the robot to stop the US from being able to claim the monolith first.
  4. Who do you need to find at the diner on Highway 29?
    Yuri ‘the defector’ (We left details about Yuri deliberately vague)
  5. What is Senator Rickman’s role in the plot?
    He is a spy for the Russian’s

All in all this provided a good setup, I already had ideas for a number of scenes lined up, such as the diner but until this point I didn’t know who they were meeting or why. The robot, well that threw me but that’s the point of the questions, to mix things up for the GM. All in all, a good start to the game.

Next up, the game itself.