Do The Research! And Have Some Fun Doing It!

I may have mentioned (though not on this blog, at least not recently) that I’m developing a tabletop RPG. Since I couldn’t find anything worth posting about today, I thought I’d talk about doing research… on YouTube.

Let’s start with a clip from the BBC. This video illustrates not just some cool things about how firearms wound, but also how modern armor protects against firearms.

In and of itself, this is not enough to build any mechanics or gear stats off of, but it is additional info to add to the hopper, and can suggest other avenues for research. (What kinds of modern ballistic vests are there? What game stats should they have?)

Next is a cool video from one of my favorite channels, “Smarter Every Day”.

Entertaining and informative. Again, not enough on its own to build game stats or rules off, but then again nothing really is. You study a lot of different pieces of information from a lot of different sources (filtering out the garbage, and leaning on the more accurate ones), and use that info to piece together your rules set. (You did watch until the end, didn’t you? After the commercial, there’s some additional coolishness.)

Last, Lindybeige, the single biggest research time suck. You click on a video about why halberds had those peculiarly shaped heads, then find yourself watching a video about why platoons and companies have the manpower they do (actually helpful for [CAN’T TALK ABOUT THIS RIGHT NOW SORRY]), take in how to make and use slings, and finally end up with this little ditty about longbows. (I skipped literally ten other videos in that chain, just to make it simpler, including one on medieval siege warfare. Just in preparing this post, I watched two other Lindybeige videos, and loaded another three in tabs to watch later.)

Now some people are gonna read this post and say “What, you do all this research? PFAW! You’re gonna drown your players / GM’s in details, ain’t you?” No, or at least I hope not. You have to simplify to make a tabletop rules set. But if your base your rules on other games, who based theirs on other games, your world is a copy of a copy of a copy, and you have no idea what the real world is like. Do some research, and you just might find your game (or book, for writers) is much better for it. I have.

Throwing together a rules set is easy. Game design is hard. Research doesn’t make it any easier, but it does ensure that you’ll know what you’re talking about.

More or less.



Yesterday was the inaugural awarding of the Dragons, Dragon Con’s Science Fiction/Fantasy awards, and no less than FOUR awards were won by acquaintances, friends, and / or good friends of mine!


Congratulations are due to all the winners, but especially:

Best Science Fiction Novel—Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm by John C. Wright

Best Fantasy Novel—Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia

Best Apocalyptic Novel—Ctrl Alt Revolt! by Nick Cole

Best Horror Novel—Souldancer by Brian Niemeier

All four have, at one time or another, been on my Geek Gab podcast, and one—Brian Niemeier—cohosts with me!

Again congrats to all four winners, their victories are well deserved. The full list of all winners can be found here, and if you’re interested in reading some of the MANY deserving nominees, you can find the full list here.


The Bar at the Center of Existence

Imagine a world where something like this ACTUALLY MADE SENSE…

I would KILL for a setting where this makes sense. Fortunately, I have one.

There’s a lot of ways you could go with the material: time travel, meta-fictive, even recursions from Bruce Cordell’s The Strange. Forget about people meeting themselves, trippy as it is. I want to go in a different direction. Instead of those specific characters, think in terms of archetypes.

Imagine a place where a cyborg cop, a cyborg assassin, a dhampir, two psychic warrior-monks, several mob bosses, a godling from a dimension of agony, various alien races, a bad-ass martial artist, a robot, and nearly any other being imaginable could meet in a club and fight it out.

That is Storm Knights (and its predecessor, Torg), and in that game world something nearly exactly like this is possible. It is, in fact, the entire point of the game. (Plus, it allows you to add in elves, wizards, costumed super-powered heroes, paladins armed with the power of God, and much, much more.) And yes, there is a spot in the game world where a club EXACTLY like that exists.

I like it. I like it a lot.

Torg: Eternity On Line for GenCon!


Torg was a trans-genre RPG from the early 1990’s that withered and died just five years after its introduction. Despite its ignominious end, Torg’s concepts and mechanics went on to inspire a great many game designers, who made a great many great games under its influence, such as Savage Worlds and Spycraft. This moribund state has lasted for 20 years, but it seems as if, at long last, Torg will see a renaissance.

Teased earlier this month with a series of obscure emails, Google+ and Facebook posts, and tweets featuring the game’s iconic speckled red-and-blue “eternium” dice, Torg: Eternity, published by Ulisses Spiele US and distributed by Paizo Publishing, will update the game system and setting for the modern world, including streamlining the mechanics and (according to Dean Gilbert, member of the as-yet-unannounced team), tweaking the Realities in ways the fans will like.

(What? “Realities?” Yes, Realities.)

Other announced members of the team include Patrick Kapera, designer of Spycraft and Mistborn and Shane Hensley, creator of Deadlands and Savage Worlds. (Wait, “announced”? Yes, there was a press release posted Tuesday. Plus the afore-mentioned Google+ posts and the like.) According to the press release, “[t]he design team includes many who worked on the original Torg.

Hensley, studio head: “Though my plate is pretty full with my own company, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, I couldn’t resist working on the game that gave me my start. I also met a kindred spirit in Markus Plotz [owner of Torg] who truly loves and appreciates what a turning point Torg marked in RPG development, so I just couldn’t say no.”

They even consulted with Greg Gorden, the man responsible for pretty much all of the landmark RPG. “I really like this re-imagining of the Torg mythos,” Gorden said. “The streamlining and modernization of the game mechanics feel spot on. I cannot wait to play this game!”

And now, Torg: Eternity ART!


That right there is almost assuredly Doctor Mobius, perhaps after a character redesign (the cowl missing its trademark “∞” symbol). (Either that, or a Dark Avenger hunting the Nile Empire villain. Who dresses almost exactly like him. Perhaps not.) It is simply THE best picture of the insane, megalomaniacal, worlds-conquering dictator ever published, which bodes well for the line’s art direction (under the command of Aaron Acevedo, Pinnacle’s Art Director).

[I wonder also about the absence of blue-and-red, and the presence of all the orange, but I’m gonna bide my time for now. ; ) ]

Torg: Eternity will preview during the up-coming GenCon, and will be published in a deluxe, full-color hardback sometime in 2016. (No word yet on Drama Deck cards or speckly red-and-blue dice.)

When Video Games Say “You Stop That Right Now!”

The chief difference between tabletop games and video games is this: tabletop games allow you anything but what the GM forbids, whereas video games forbid everything not allowed by the coding. And sometimes they get snippy about it.

Halo veterans know you can hide behind the transparent map, in the cockpit, and last a long while killing space marines. In fact, if you’re smart you can shoot the soldiers and pick up their guns (IIRC), allowing for fully-automatic fire in your doomed, rebellious firefight.

• Star Trek: Elite Force does pretty much the same thing as Halo. You can kill the captain, whereupon endless waves of security troops spawn, and when you die you appear in the brig. Because the Federation is a bunch of wimps.

• The Deus Ex example isn’t really a good one. All the others are basically non-standard “Game Over” screens, whereas Deus Ex is just the inherent consequences of your own actions. Kinda like Fallout 3 (and other Bethesda RPG’s) that way.

• The missed one of the better examples in “All Ghillied Up”. Forget mad dogs, do the wrong thing at the wrong time and they send an ATTACK CHOPPER after you. Much more interesting, especially as you run for the anti-aircraft missile in the church… and die before getting it.

Come on, there HAS to be better examples out there. Two of my favorites are from one of the Ultima games. Attack Lord British, and he will annihilate you. Quickly.

Also, get the right reagents and learn the right spell, and you can kill everything in the world except you and Lord British. Oh, the game never ends, it’s just that there’s nothing for you to do but stand around in the throne room.

Everyone’s dead. No villains. No story. Nothing at all.