After a rush of activity at the end of 2019 I’ve started the year a little more sedately while I work out what I want to focus on. Right now that has involved a significant amount of jumping between ideas, making a little progress and then moving to the next one. I’ve completed a draft of The Geller Protocol, the first of my Sprawl mission packets (using a minimal one page format) and made headway with Say Aaargh, an expanded version of the very first Demon Hunters adventure I ever ran. Progress on Clean-Up Crew continues to evade me – the Fiasco format is harder to get my head around than I ever imagined but I would really like to get it completed so I can wrap up the Slice of Life material.
In typical fashion it is The Dyson Eclipse where my brain is firing on all cylinders. It probably helps here that I’m still at the ideas stage, so I can just jot down options and possibilities without needing to work them into a cohesive whole. What I’m still missing though is that central conceit.
What is the core focus of the game, what do the characters do.
Until I can get that solidified any real progress is going to be at a glacial pace as I can’t lock in mechanics without that aspect. So for now I’m researching – despite being a massive sci-fi fan my collection of sci-fi RPGs is relatively small. I’ve picked a few core systems to go over, to see how they work through the problem and what options they present for gameplay beyond the typical scoundrels in space.
The final thing I’ve been working on is learning to use Affinity Publisher after buying a new desktop computer for at home. That has been a lot of fun and I’ve been going back to basics as I get to grips with it. So far, so good and I think the fact that I have a much better appreciation of layout concepts than when I first opened up Scribus has been a massive help. I’ve started to put together a series of layout templates for Demon Hunters as once Clean-Up Crew is out I’d like to do a complete revamp of my layout. There isn’t anything explicitly wrong with my existing format but it could definitely be a lot better. The alternate badness table incorporated a number of new elements and going forward I’d like to have a template that would be useable for both PDF and print formats. Yes, that’s right. Print. DrivethruRPG offer print on demand options so I think it is worth exploring. It would be great if some day in the future I could offer material at a convention and this is one of the options that would facilitate that.
After saying that I’d started off sedately putting this together actually makes me realise that I am already making progress on projects even if it isn’t automatically apparent.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been slowly teasing an ongoing project over on Twitter – The Synth Convergence, a trilogy of missions for The Sprawl RPG.
Like Gibson’s original Sprawl novels these stories are thematically rather than narratively connected. For our missions the focal point is Synths – artificial lifeforms that are pushing the boundaries of their programming and gaining sentience in a society that has come to rely on them as cheap, disposable labour. Through the course of the missions the team will have to infiltrate a self-aware luxury hotel, extract a synth DJ seeking to defect to a new Corporation and finally facilitate an act Corporate revenge that will have a lasting impact on the Sprawl.
Working on The Synth Trilogy has been a learning process. It’s my first collaboration with another designer, HyveMynd, who designed and blocked out two of the missions. It has also required that I significantly improve my graphic design skills, a fun challenge I’ve been giving 10-15 minutes to during lunch breaks. I think the results speak for themselves and I’ve learned a lot of lessons that I’ll be applying to future projects.
The trilogy is nearing completion. I’m in the process of editing the core text while working on the layout documents guided by the official Mission Files supplement. It’s slow going but moving forward and my aim is to have it all completed soon. Until then keep an eye on twitter for more updates.
Disclaimer: Links to driveThruRPG include the LunarShadow Designs affiliate ID. If you chose to purchase anything using these links I will earn a small commission from driveThruRPG at no cost to you.
One of the things I’ve been slowly working on recently has been a single page character sheet for Demon Hunters inspired by the work of Hyvemynd with their Fate Accelerated Fantasy characters. I’ve been doing a little here and there, interspaced with having to learn more about how scribus works, mostly through trial and error. I’m never going to be a layout professional but I hope that once I’ve created a template then I’ll be able to start releasing more material on a semi-regular basis. Yes, in addition to the adventure starters I have underway. And the larger adventures. And Project Cassandra, which no, I’ve not forgotten about.
The first draft of the template is pretty much done, using only filler aspects and text for now. I’m happy with it but know there are issues. Firstly the space on the right needs to be used better, right now too much of it is comprised of text frames. Second I’ve yet to add boxes for conditions. Third, general spacing especially for stunts.
Overall though it works. This draft is designed for full characters but it should be easier to remove elements for minions and mobs than to add them back in.
One of the things about learning how to layout and produce a game as I go along is that every so often I come across a rather major issue that forces a rest on a particular aspect of the game. This time? The font. I mentioned this particular issue in the last update, that the text of the gag ghee wasn’t rendering correctly in certain versions of acrobat and having spoken to Adobe tech support it appears that this is due to a bug with that version of the software. A bug that they have no immediate plans to rectify and which means I need to find a replacement font for Project Cassandra.
Hopefully this shouldn’t be too big of a challenge, typewriter style fonts are fairly common but this time around I’ll be testing the output in a variety of formats before I layout the main document. Right now I can’t afford an Acrobat Pro subscription so testing it with that is, unfortunately, off the table at the moment. All in all this is one of those annoying but not too critical bugs. It would have been a different story if I’d already published the game but for once it seems like I’ve rolled a twenty on that spot check.
Edit 1: Actually ignore all that, as it seems to be an issue with multiple fonts, possibly even all of them. Next stop – getting in touch with the Scribus community and seeing if I can find anybody with access to Acrobat Pro to run the file through the preflight tools. Hopefully that will solve it. Meanwhile if you have any experience with this sort of thing then any ideas / suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Edit 2: Ok, so looks like it is an issue with embedding font, subsetting works fine. Progress of a sort but not sure why the two differ in their output.
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.
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.