Writer. Editor. Leximaven. Game Designer. Vorpal Blonde. Bisexual Brainlicker. Midas's Touch. Schrödinger's Brat.

Twas Brillig

Excerpt from Wrecked (Working Title)

posted on: June 28, 2016
in: Numenera, Works in Progress

The draft of The Poison Eater is complete, and is currently in the hands of my editor and publisher, who will come back to me and tell me all the things that I need to do to make it great. In the meantime, I’m working on a Numenera adventure for Gen Con called The Skein of the Blackbone Bride (no spoilers) and a short story to accompany our underwater Numenera book, Into the Deep.

I started this story this afternoon. Here’s an excerpt from the draft, which I’m currently calling Wrecked (that feels a little too on-the-nose, so it will likely change). Beware: here there be typos, I’m sure. And ghost crabs.

*art by Cathy Wilkins

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This is where she died.

“Almost died,” Garil would say. Except that Garil did die here, and so he doesn’t say anything anymore, does he?

You left me here, she thinks as she shimmies down the seaweed-covered tether toward the wreck. The thought is followed by expletives, but not tears. You can’t cry this deep down in the ocean, she’s discovered. Well, you can. But you shouldn’t. There are some things they don’t tell you in training, because no one who is still left knows to say them. Don’t cry. Don’t trust. Don’t move.

Her weighted boots hit the side of the structure with a dull thud that reverberates up through her body. As soon as she lands, her right foot floats loose, sending her sideways through the water. She’s still got hold of the tether, by some lucky stupid instinct, and she tightens her grip on it, pulls her foot up to look. The back of her boot has automatically ejected the weight somehow; there’s just a blank space in the heel. The weight wasn’t magnetized—they’re not Therasti; they don’t have that kind of money—so she’s sure it’s rolled all the way to the bottom of the wreck by now, and is ruining some poor crustacean’s day right about now.

Hope you’ve got one hell of a shell, she thinks.

Normally, she hates tying herself to the wreck. It’s heavy and cumbersome and—and you almost died because of it last time. That too. But the boot thing is a problem—her hand is already aching from gripping the tether, trying to keep herself from spinning around it. So she brushes long strands of seaweed back until she finds one of the reality  spikes that someone else has driven into the side of the wreck and uses the cable from her belt to hook herself in.

Ethne’s six-eyed jybril circles and circles, clacking its sharkmouth, swishing its giant tail. The chittering sound of its rows and rows of teeth comes through the water, through her waterbreather, through the voicepieces she wears in both ears—one for the base, one for Ethne.

She clicks her jaw to the right. The movement turns on the voicepiece on that side. “Get your brehm-brained predator off of my back,” she says. “Before I kill it.”

“Good luck with that!” Crackle. Fade. Return. She bets Ethne’s voice is always full of static, even when they’re not a thousand feet under the surface. “She can swim—”

She clicks him off again. Why she bothers, she doesn’t know. Ethne’s a child. A child who thinks he’s able to control a ten-foot long insatiable predator just because it hasn’t eaten anyone on the team yet. It’s only been two weeks. Give it time.

Once, Ethne told her that he was surprised the jybril—he has a name for the creature, but she can’t remember it—hadn’t bumped her for a test bite yet, because it was attracted to the color red and her dive suit was red. She’d wanted to bump him for a test bite, but had merely turned her suit on dark mode, shining every light that it had right into the lenses of his fisheye goggles. She didn’t quite understand how light worked down here, but she didn’t deny the tiny pulse of happiness she felt when he’d pushed his hands over his eyes and ended the conversation. He wasn’t a bad kid. But he was definitely a kid.

They sent me down here with a child, Garil. And then the string of swear words that always seem to come after his name now. Spitting them out like bad seeds. She worries that she’s developed a syndrome. She hadn’t been topside in six weeks. She has forgotten the color of air. The smell of the sun. Can no longer remember what her own voice sounds like, beyond the burble and hiss of breath and breather.     

The jybril is too close, brushing by her with just a few feet to spare, and she waves it away. Which is a mistake. It’s not some little fish, easily scared off by an odd motion. Its teeth are nearly as big as her hand. It circles, long tail sliding by her. She compresses, doesn’t wait to see if it comes back around, and drops herself through the first hole she sees in the side of the hull.

~iadace~
Shanna

Competing With Puppies: Designing Games for Kids (Part 3 of 3)

posted on: April 21, 2015
in: Blog, Games, Gaming with Kids
[This is Part 3 of 3! If you haven’t already read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, hop over here first].

The first two parts of this series looked at the basics of designing games for kids. This segment looks specifically at accessibility, particularly for players with dyslexia, color-blindness, visual impairments, and autism.

WHAT DOES ACCESSIBILITY IN GAMING MEAN? AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Accessibility in gaming, to me as a game designer, means purposefully creating ways for the widest variety of players to play your game to the fullest.

For kids, this kind of accessibility can be life-changing. Studies and personal accounts have shown that gaming helps kids feel more confident, learn new ways to express themselves, and develop important life and social skills.

Accessibility in gaming typically falls into five categories: Vision (color-blindness, blindness), hearing (hard-of-hearing, deafness), speech (speed impairments, language differences), mobility (physical challenges), and learning/cognitive (learning and reasoning challenges, including dyslexia, autism, and Asperger’s Syndrome).

A few of these–namely dyslexia, color-blindness, vision impairment, and autism are particularly challenging for kids and roleplaying games.

DYSLEXIA

Dyslexia is a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols. This is especially pertinent (and problematic) for roleplaying games, where the books are often beautifully designed, with elegant, complex fonts, dark or complicated backgrounds, and lots of small text, cursive, and italics. Unfortunately, these beautiful design elements can make it difficult for dyslexic readers to understand the text.

Choosing good font types, sizes, and contrast can all make reading easier, not just for kids with dyslexia, but for new readers or those who struggle with reading for other reasons.

Font Types: A number of studies have explored the best font choices for readers with dyslexia. So far the results vary in surprising ways. One article I read even reported Comic Sans as being the most dyslexic-friendly font. Here’s what a more recent study found regarding potentially good font choices:

Good fonts for people with dyslexia are Helvetica, Courier, Arial, Verdana and Computer Modern Unicode, taking into consideration reading performance and subjective preferences. On the contrary, Arial It. should be avoided since it decreases readability. Sans serif, roman and monospaced font types increased the reading performance of our participants, while italic fonts did the opposite.

There are also fonts designed specifically for readers with dyslexia, including Lexie Readable, Open Dyslexic, and Dyslexie.

So, there’s a lot of variability in what the research says makes a “good dyslexic” font, but it’s easier to tell what makes a bad dyslexic font: complicated and extraneous elements, italics, and all caps.

Font Size: Small font sizes and tight spacing between words and characters can make reading difficult. A 12- or 14-point font is recommended for adults. For kids that number is even higher.

Contrast: Dark backgrounds with white text or image-heavy backgrounds can also cause problems. A cream or matte white background with a dark, clear font seems to work well.

Game Elements: A common element of roleplaying games that can be especially problematic is charts and tables. Keeping these to a minimum is best. If you need them, designing them with lots of space and clear distinctions between rows and columns can help.

Diagrams and handwritten fonts can be particularly difficult for those with dyslexia.

 

COLOR-BLINDNESS

Color-blindness is an especially important concern in kids’ games, because many games use symbols and colors to help young readers who have difficulty reading. But if one symbol is a green circle and the other is a red circle, then kids who are color blind might not be able to tell the difference.

Choosing colors with color-blind players in mind, and using a variety of different shapes in icons and other symbols can go a long way toward clarity for struggling readers. The inability to distinguish between red and green is the most common form of color-blindness, so staying away from those colors within the same symbol set can help a lot. Blue-yellow color-blindness can also occur, as well as the ability not to see colors at all. This color-blindness simulator (and others like it) can help you see how your color choices will look to colorblind players.

 

VISUAL IMPAIRMENT

Visually impaired players may have blurred vision, partial or total blindness, or other concerns that make it hard for them to see text and dice. For those players, having a PDF or other electronic document that can be read aloud by a computer makes a big difference. Adobe has some free online resources for making PDFs accessible and Daisy (Digital Accessible Information System) talking books is another popular option. Braille dice and overlays for accessories are also great for at-the-table use, especially to supplement the read-out-loud text.

For those with limited vision, print books with large, dark fonts on matte (non-shiny, non-reflective) paper makes reading easier. PDFs with the ability to zoom way in without quality loss are also helpful.

AUTISM

Autism and other cognitive/learning concerns, such as Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD, are perhaps the most difficult to design for. We still know so little about them, and every child’s experience is so unique, that saying, “Here is the right way to make a game accessible for kids with autism” is something of a pipe dream.

Accessibility in this case seems to be more about building appropriate options right into the rules. Make sure that games have the ability to be scaled up or down, that rules allow flexibility for a variety of attention spans and playstyles, and that parents and other adults are given the rules and tools they need to help players. But the rules should still have a clear structure; autistic children often need to know what to expect and to be able to anticipate what’s coming next.

Games that minimize loud or surprising sounds, allow for short breaks, and encourage, but don’t require, interaction can help set players at ease and allow them to play the game in the way that makes the most sense for them. Because many autistic players struggle with verbal communication, create rules that allow players to act out what their character does rather than talk about it. (Children with Asperger’s Syndrome, on the other hand, are more likely to want to talk about anything and everything; allowing them to speak in a robot voice or repeat a favorite phrase as part of their character provides a way for them to use their verbal skills within the context of the game)

Also consider having an ‘opt-out’ concept built right into the rules. If players know that they can say a word or make a gesture that will stop the game any time they feel scared or uncomfortable, it gives them a sense of autonomy and control. Most kids won’t need to use their opt-out; just knowing they have it is enough to alleviate that sense of tension and worry that can sometimes build up.

 

All of these elements are important first steps toward accessibility, but of course, they’re only small steps and there’s so much still to be learned. Every little bit helps, though. And the more we can do today to make games accessible to those with challenges, the more likely young players will be to grow up to love and work on games themselves. And they, in turn, could use their experiences to make games that are accessible to an even wider group of young players.

 

SOME ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

AbleGamers (works to make games more accessible)

Game Accessibility Guidelines (geared more toward video games, but still useful)

International Game Developers Association (also for video games, but also useful)

64ouncegames (creates Braille overlays for games and supplements)

~

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

Competing With Puppies: Designing Games for Kids (Part 2 of 3)

posted on: April 10, 2015
in: Blog, Games, Gaming with Kids
[This is Part 2 of 3! If you haven’t already read Part 1 of this series, hop over here first].

In addition to the way that age does (and doesn’t matter), I think there are the other two important parts of designing games for kids:

EVERY KID (AND ADULT) SHOULD BE ABLE TO PLAY

It’s not possible to make a game that everyone excels at because everyone has different skills. Numbers will be the bane of some players, while writing is the arch nemesis of others. As a kid, I failed at any game that required me to stand up and do something in front of people, because I was incredibly shy. Games like Charades terrified me.

But it is possible to make a game that everyone is able to play and have a good time at. For kids, some of the biggest hurdles to game playing are the four “R”s — Rules, Reading, Writing, and Reflection. Taking a close look at these elements during the design process helps young players jump into a game quickly and easily.

The Rules: Rules should be accessible, necessary, and interesting. If a rule isn’t necessary, or takes a long time to explain, consider whether it’s vital to the game (or whether it’s just too detailed). To me, the goal of rules is clarity and guidance. If a rule confuses things, constrains the players for no reason, or stops a GM from saying “Okay!” then I think long and hard about whether it’s necessary.

Sometimes the rule is necessary:

[combat] “I want to swing my sword and kill all the monsters in this room!”
“Well, your sword lets you hit one monster at time but you get to hit it really hard. Which one would you like to try and hit first?”
“That one!”
“Great.”

[driving rules] “I want to drive my race car super fast across the world and come back with that awesome treasure chest right now!”
“Your race car is ten times as fast as walking, but it’s not that fast. Let’s see how far you and your friends can get today.”

Sometimes the rule isn’t necessary, because it would force the GM to say no to something fun for the players, even though saying yes wouldn’t impact gameplay:

[combat] “I want my armor to look like a dinosaur and I want to yell Rawr! while I swing my sword!”
“Great. You put on your dinosaur suit. Which monster do you want to try and hit?”

[driving rules] “I want to drive my race car around in circles next to everyone while we’re walking, since I’m ten times faster than everyone else!”
“Great, that will make sure you’re near your friends in case anything bad happens and you can jump out of your car to help.”

Rules are important, and kids will look for those boundaries and push them. The boundaries that matter should matter a lot. But once players understand those limits of the game, they should feel free to be as creative as possible inside them.

Reading: Some kids are fantastic, enthusiastic readers who will read entire corebooks for pleasure. Others will read the bare minimum for what they need to know right now. Others will do everything possible to avoid reading. This might be because they haven’t picked up the skill, they’re struggling with issues like dyslexia, or they can read but just don’t like to.

Ways to help this are by choosing easy-to-read fonts in appropriate sizes and colors (I’ll talk more about this in part 3, and talk about fonts, styles, and sizes that seem to be most accessible). Symbols, icons, color coding, and shapes are all useful cues for struggling readers. Additionally, using graphic elements to point out the most important elements on the page will help players focus in on what they need to read, and will allow them to skip the non-essential reading until they’re ready.

Charts, tables, and even dice are another important element of this. Lots of numbers, lists, and lines can be overwhelming even to good readers. Dice, especially, need to be easily readable, as there’s nothing more frustrating than rolling and not being able to instantly see whether you’ve hit your goal.

Writing: The same aspects of reading are also true of writing. Some kids love to write. Others hate it. It can be useful to give players the option to write if they want to—or to play the game without picking up a pen. Good character sheets with large and interesting writing and drawing spaces facilitate interaction for those who want to scribble, while easy-to-hold and use tokens, cards, stickers, and other elements provide non-writers with other ways to keep track of things.

Reflection: Reflection is the idea that you see yourself in a roleplaying game. This, to me, has two parts that are closely linked. The first is that you can see yourself as yourself in the game. The second is that you can see yourself as someone else in the game.

Seeing yourself as yourself means that there are images and characters that look like you (or that look the way that you see yourself). This means depicting characters with a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colors, personalities, and outfits. This is especially true in a game with human characters. Most games that focus on non-human characters, say, aliens, show every alien differently. Blue skin, yellow skin, round, square, stick-like. But when you look at kids’ games with human characters, they’re often thin, white boys. (Not that there’s anything wrong with thin, white boys — they should be able to see themselves reflected in a game too). However, having more options means that more kids will find someone they can instantly relate to. Of course, you can’t make a reflection of every person who’s going to play your game, but making every character truly unique means that there’s a larger chance that kids will find someone they can really see themselves in and feel proud of.

Seeing yourself as someone else is the creative- and empathy-building element of roleplaying games. When you start playing characters who look and act differently than you do, you begin to understand them better, you move outside yourself into a creative space, and you start to develop human empathy that translates into the real world. Games can help players do that by providing a wide range of character options in terms of race, culture, personality, gender, skills and more (within the constraints of the game and the world, of course).

dreamstime_10488229 copy

YOU’RE COMPETING WITH PUPPIES (AKA: DON’T BE BORING)

The number one thing I know about designing RPGs for kids might be this: Don’t be boring. Keeping kids at the table – both in mind and body – will be a difficult enough task for the gamemaster. Don’t make it more difficult with the game design itself. Anticipate that young players will be incredibly creative, incredibly smart, and easily distracted. If something isn’t the coolest, funnest, most interesting that you can possibly make it, then cut it or rethink it. When you’re doing playtests, watch for those moments when the kids get bored (or ask them — they will absolutely tell you, probably in great detail, about all of the most boring parts of your game).

When kids DO get bored and turn away from the game, watch what they do instead. If you’re in the middle of a combat scene, and the kids jump away from the table to act out that scene, that’s not boredom, that’s engagement. If they jump away from the table to start playing with the dog, that’s boredom (and the power of dogs). So just imagine that with everything you’re creating, you’re competing with the power of a cute puppy (or a video game or a TV show) near the table. Can you keep the kids’ attention (or at least some of it), despite the adorableness of the puppy? Is the game flexible enough to incorporate the puppy as a companion or an escort or even as a friendly helper? Does it allow the GM to give the kids some kind of in-game benefit if they spend one minute away from the table as a group to play with the puppy?

Focusing in on the right age group (without talking down to them), decreasing hurdles to play, and never, ever allowing your game to be boring: Nail those three elements and you’re well on your way to making an amazing roleplaying game for kids (and their families).

Come back soon for Part 3, where I look more closely at accessibility, particularly for those players with dyslexia, autism, and color-blindness.

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

Call for those interested in Mature Topics in Gaming!

posted on: September 9, 2014
in: Blog, Games, Numenera

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During the Mature Topics in Gaming panel at Dragon Con, I made the suggestion that GMs who had mature topics in their games give their players a questionnaire to fill out before their game or campaign (similar to the way the BDSM/kink/sex community recommends filling out a sex-themed questionnaire before you engage in kinky activities with someone — if you haven’t already seen these, here is a very detailed printable BDSM checklist and here is a list of other checklists and resources.). I also suggested incorporating aftercare–taking a few minutes for everyone to talk about the experience and make sure everyone’s okay before you leave the table.

Some people have emailed me since that panel to ask if I have a questionnaire like the one I suggested, and since I don’t (and couldn’t find an existing one), I thought it would be a good idea to create one.

The questionnaire would cover a wide variety of mature topics at the table, including sexual and romantic experiences and relationships, violence, coercion, gender and sexual orientation, and more.

The goal: to provide GMs with a good sense of what mature topics their players are comfortable with and interested in, and to what extent (e.g. “Sex is okay, but only if it fades to black” vs. “I am okay with explicit sexuality at the table.” Or “Violence and death are fine, but please no gore” vs. “Give me all the grisly details!”). It also allows players to unequivocally state what topics or themes they want no part of. Being able to answer in writing — as opposed to talking about it — sometimes allows people to be less self-conscious and thus give more honest answers. Overall, the hope is to provide a better, more inclusive, non-judgmental, non-triggery experience for everyone around the table.

Once it’s done, I’ll make it available for free to anyone who wants it (and might also include it as part of the download for the Numenera supplement, “Love and Sex in the Ninth World“).

For now, I’m looking for some people to be my sounding board — those with experience or interest in mature gaming topics who would like to offer suggestions for questions or topics, see if it’s missing anything, check my language for accidental toe-stepping, etc.

Here’s how to get involved: send an email to shanna.germain@gmail.com with the subject line MATURE TOPICS IN GAMING. Once I’ve got a draft of the questionnaire finished, I will send it along to everyone who emails me for their feedback.

Please pass the word along to anyone you think might be interested. The more voices, the better!

Kickstarting the Revolution

posted on: November 21, 2013
in: Games

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“No other game I’ve played has so casually included gay & lesbian couples as well as females in non-traditional roles. This is subtle, but my god it’s made such a difference. Treating all these non-traditionally gendered & sexually oriented NPCs so staunchly casually is really great. Numenera isn’t about shouting equality from the rooftops, but this treatment of people is just taken as a given.”  ~Darcy, gamer

About a month ago, I was on a crowdfunding panel at Geek Girl Con here in Seattle. There were four women on the panel (Julie Haehn, Lillian Cohen-Moore, Nicole Lindroos, and myself) — all women with successful crowdfunding projects in the game industry. It was incredible, listening to the four of us talk about the experience of working in the industry, running Kickstarters, and, perhaps most importantly, having the opportunity to make games that we are passionate about, games that reflect our values, games that create memorable, exciting and fun experiences around the table for everyone who wants to play. As we talked, I could see the audience members, men and women both, get that glint in their eye. That glint that says, “Thanks to crowdfunding, this thing I’m passionate about just might become a reality.”

And that, right there, is why I really really love Kickstarter. Because it has the power to create the change we want to see in the industry (and dare I say it? — even in the world).

Bear with me for a second, while I explain what I mean. Not that long ago if you wanted to create a game (or, really, almost any creative product) that featured main characters who were female, gay, transgender, non-white, or gender queer, you were sort of screwed. You could either: go through the same gatekeepers everyone else went through (the gatekeepers who seem to think that games don’t sell unless they’re about heterosexual white males) and get rejected. Or you could pour all your time, money and passion into your game and hope that you could get the word out and get a few people to buy it.

Fast forward to today and look at how Kickstarter (and namely the BACKERS of Kickstarter) are changing all of that. Here’s why: Kickstarter is the ultimate tool for market research for companies and individuals. Anyone can put their idea out into the world and they see whether people like it enough to fund it. If people hate the idea, the product doesn’t get funded. If they love it, then it gets super-funded.

And that’s where you come in. Never before has the opportunity to make change been so clearly in your hands. Every single person can make an equal difference. Don’t like seeing scantily clad women who are just there for titillation? Don’t back the games that only feature that type of art. Tired of seeing games where everyone is white? Skip those games. Sick to death of undertones of misogynism, sexism, racism, and homophobia? Don’t help fund them. Wish there were more games where topics like rape and sex crimes weren’t a forced part of play? Just say no.

However, I think that NOT supporting the products that piss you off is only step one. Step two, the really important step? That’s SUPPORTING the companies and products that align with your values.

When you find a company and/or product that seems to be doing the things that are important to you, how can you actually make a difference? You do so by giving them your money or your mouth (or both). Here’s how:

  • Back the Kickstarter at whatever level you can afford.
  • Back the KS at whatever level you can afford, and then spread the word about why you backed it.
  • Don’t back the KS, but spread the word to people who share your values and who might be interested.
  • Back the KS at the playtest or feedback level, if the company offers that option. And then actually playtest and provide feedback.
  • Be the person in your playgroup who brings new games to the table.
  • Talk to your local game store about the games that you love. Ask them if they plan to have the game in stock or if they intend to back the game’s KS.
  • Offer to GM games at conventions or at your local game store.
  • If the game has a fan use policy or limited license or open license, take advantage of that and create your own awesome tie-in products that are full of strong, smart, positive minority characters.

Here are some of the things that I look at when deciding where to spend my money or my mouth:

  • What are the values of the company or individuals who are creating the product? As always when making decisions that matter, be wary of Internet suppositions and guesstimates and really do your research as best as you can. Forums, people’s blogs, social media, and comments are not always the best place to get solid information about companies and individuals. Instead, look at their actual actions: do they actively and loudly support the things you believe in? Do they donate money, products, or time to organizations that support your beliefs? How diverse is their staff? Do they take good care of their artists, writers, and other contractors?
  • What are the values of the product itself? Does it include positive depictions of both minorities and the majority? This is important to me because to me inclusion and acceptance means including and accepting EVERYONE. I won’t buy a product that knocks heterosexual white men any more than I will back a product that knocks gay women. No one deserves to be treated as “less than.”
  • Where has the product or company fallen short in the past and have they attempted to improve? Everyone makes mistakes, no matter how strong their desire to do good. How did the company handle these mistakes? What are they doing to improve?

It probably won’t surprise you, then, to hear that Monte Cook Games, the company that I co-own, is actively involved in all of the above, because they are important to me, not just as a consumer, but as a producer.

What does Monte Cook Games do about all of the above? Where does your money go? What change does it support in the world? Here are the answers to that:

  • We are a company that actively supports our values, with our money and our mouths. We create campaigns like the We Are All Strange project, we donate to organizations such as The Able Gamers Charity, and we actively promote people, companies and products that are doing awesome things.
  • The core team that built Numenera was 6 people — 3 of us are women, and 2 of us openly identify as GLBT. Our group of contract artists and editors is even more diverse than our core team.
  • We are in the process of talking to a variety of gamers about their experiences at the table, and are putting together a comprehensive survey about what makes a game inclusive for everyone. From this, we hope to make our future games like The Strange even better in that regard.
  • We believe in creating games that encourage inclusion and acceptance. The Numenera corebook includes positive depictions of couples and people of all sexual orientations, people of all genders, people of all abilities, ages, and physiques. Everyone wears armor that is appropriate for their personality and skillset. We don’t have a variety of races because (with a few exceptions) nearly everyone is mixed race in the Ninth World.

There’s a lot more that we’re doing, ways in which we are attempting to create great games for EVERYONE. But the point here isn’t that we want you to support US. The point is that we want you to support what supports you. You have the power to be the change you want to see in the geek world. Your money or your mouth — that’s all it takes to make change. You matter. Everything you do, say, or buy matters. And perhaps doubly so when it comes to crowdfunding.

Accept. Support. Embrace. Kickstart the Revolution.  

 

7-Flesh and Steel-Engle

99 Ways of Looking at the Numenera Limited License

posted on: October 11, 2013
in: Games, Numenera

 Okay, there are really only three ways here, but the Internet has pretty much already covered the other 96 (including some nicely written, thoughtful pieces like this and this). However, since the Internet is occasionally incorrect or incomplete, I thought I would offer a few more possible ways of looking at Numenera’s limited license.

Here they are, in no particular order:

A Limited License is Voluntary

By which I mean that it’s voluntary for you—you don’t have to create Numenera products if you don’t like the IP or the license—but that it’s also voluntary for Monte Cook Games. There is nothing that says we even have to have a limited licensing policy (or any licensing policy for that matter).

However, we love our fans and we love small publishers and we want to support them. Charging $50 is an inexpensive way to let fans use the Numenera setting to create products for profit without us taking a percentage of their sales (as we do with full licenses).

To be honest, creating and maintaining limited licenses are an awful lot of work on our end for $50, so at least from our perspective, a limited license never was and never will be about money. It always has been—and always will be—about supporting our fans and the small publishers who want to support us right back.

A Limited License Protects Our Fans

Here why:

1. If someone doesn’t take the time to read and comprehend the website page clearly enough to understand that:

a. what’s been published on the web page is not the entirety of the limited license (despite the fact that it says, and I quote: “This is not the entirety of the limited license”)

OR

b. that for full details they need to contact us (not the internet or a fan site or Twitter (again, despite the fact that it says right on the page, “if you are interested in pursuing a publication under our limited license and would like additional information about what it entails, please contact…))

then the chances are good that they will have a difficult time creating quality products in a field where reading comprehension and communication are vital. Our fans deserve quality products.

2. If someone can’t afford (or doesn’t think that Numenera is worth) the $50 licensing fee, then the chances are good that they might be better off pursuing something else that they love more or can afford. Our fans deserve products created by people who love and support the game.

3. If someone doesn’t understand the difference between licensing a game system (d20, for example) and a game setting (Numenera, for example), then this gives them a chance to learn the difference. (NOTE: We are not licensing our game system here. We’re licensing the Numenera setting. Your arguments about d20 OGL/OGC do not apply). Our fans deserve people who care enough to learn the difference.

4. If someone comes out on the Internet and says that the Numenera limited license is the worst thing they’ve ever read, that’s an absolutely fine opinion and one we won’t argue with. However, if someone comes out on the Internet and says that the Numenera limited license is the worst thing they’ve ever read and that they will never work with us because we’re awful, horrible, money-grubbing jerks who make shitty games, well, they’re right in at least one aspect: They will never work with us. Because why would we want to work with someone like that, ever? And more importantly: Why would we want to subject our fans to that kind of mentality? Our fans deserve a supportive, positive fan culture.

-Make amazing games that bring good things to people’s lives: company motto #1

-Only work with people who give a damn: company motto number #2

-Create a supportive, positive work and fan culture: company motto #3

-Give fans only our very best: company motto #4

A Limited License Supports Small & Starting Publishers

For the low, low cost of $50, you are getting the opportunity to get your foot in the door in a big way. It’s a low-risk way to get into the game industry. Not to mention get yourself some amazing publicity. If you are supportive of Numenera, are generally a nice person, and your product is awesome, we will probably talk about you. A lot. To everyone we know.

Case in point: Numenera fan Ryan Chaddock. He originally came to us a while back to ensure that his fan creations fit our fan-use policy. Then he made beautiful fan work! (You can see it here). When he approached us with a professional query recently to apply for a limited license, do you think we said yes? Of course we did. And then we talked about him publicly and often. Because he is awesome and he thinks Numenera is awesome and that is how you show support for the people who support you.

Another example is Michael Fienen who runs the wonderful fan site, The Ninth World. He came to us to make sure he was abiding by the fan use policies and then he created a great place for fan-created content. If he comes to us in the future to ask for a limited license on something, do you think we’ll support him? Hell yes we will. Ditto with the fans who are right now working on limited licenses for fiction anthologies, adventures and other support products.

 

~

A few other questions that people are asking:

1. Do I have to pay you $50 to put something on my blog? No. You do have to read and comply with our fan-use policy, though.

2. Why can’t I crowdfund? You can. And many have, including Torment: Tides of Numenera and Christopher West’s Numenera maps. However, you need negotiate a full license to do so.

3. Dear, Internet: What is the … ? No, please let me stop you right there. You should know better than to ask the Internet anything, especially about legal things or gaming things. Ask us. We’re the only ones who have the answers you seek in regards to this topic. The email address is right on the website.

4. How will you know when I’ve made $2000? We’ll know because you are awesome and honest and professional and we trust you with our whole hearts, and thus you will tell us that you’ve cracked that mythical number. And then we’ll celebrate your success and see where you want to go from there. (Hint: to the Big Time!).

~

 

In the end, is the limited license the right thing for you? Is it the right thing for Monte Cook Games and Numenera? Most importantly: Is it the right thing for fans?

At this point, only time will tell. But we hope the answer to all of those things turns out to be yes. And if it doesn’t? Then we already have 96 other ways of looking at it for the future.

~iadace~ with a side of kiss kiss bang bang, s.

Tales from the Ninth World

posted on: June 20, 2013
in: Numenera

TalesFromTheNinthWorld-PDFSize

Tales from the Ninth World is now available! The collection features three new stories set in the Ninth World, as well as a sample from the Numenera corebook (which just went off to the printer two days ago).

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • The Smell of Lightning (by Monte Cook) explores one of the weird and wonderful places of the Ninth World. 
  • The Taste of Memory (by me) is a tale of addiction, love and loss, set in Kaparin, a city by the sea.
  • The Sound of a Beast (Monte and I wrote this together) is perhaps my favorite of the three, and is so full of weirdness that I wouldn’t know where to begin explaining it. As Ray Vallese says, it will show you why you should “always carry an umbrella while traveling in the far-flung future.”
  • A sample of the final Numenera corebook (Note: you’ll get three formats upon purchase; in order to preserve the beautiful formatting of the corebook, it’s only in the PDF version, so be sure to check it out).

To give you a glimpse, here are the openings of each story!

(The Smell of Lightning):

Faber awoke to the sounds of the castle growing again. He lay in his bed, listening to the creaking and moaning of metal and glass and materials he didn’t have a name for. The air grew colder, and he detected that strange odor again—like the smell of lightning, if there was such a thing. Pulling the blankets closer around himself, he closed his eyes tightly and tried to force himself back to sleep.

At breakfast the next morning, Faber sat at the grand table of polished culat, which glistened like gold. Moretta always kept it looking like the day it had arrived from the craftsmen in Westwood. His mother, Ladra, and his father, Naranial, had already finished their meal. His father glared at him from over the stack of books in front of him, but only for a moment. The scowl, the shaggy sideburns, and the wide, bald pate made his father look almost like an abhuman. An abhuman with a jeweled eyepatch. His father turned his attention back to the book he’d been reading. Still, a moment of his father’s one good eye studying him and finding nothing of approval was enough to make the young man’s heart sink.

(The Color of Memory):

Marseyl waited in an old byway, desperately trying to keep the stink of sea sweat and dying fish from assaulting her nose. It was hotter here than it should be this time of year, the sun’s slant making her sweat through her last wearable shirt. She side-stepped into the shade of the building, letting the temporary cool wash over her until she shivered.

A man dressed in the faded crimson of the Redfleets strode by her without giving any indication that he’d seen her, carrying a dripping sack that reeked of the deeps. Water splattered against the stones near her feet. Sighing, she shadowslipped sideways, but too late, the liquid marking the toes of her worn boots.

(The Sound of a Beast):

Since this morning, when I woke up with a damn caffa grub hanging off my neck, I’d been daydreaming about killing Palmer in his sleep. The only thing stopping me was I couldn’t figure out the best way to do it. Sometimes I favored the quick blade across his snoring throat. Other moments, I imagined drugging him and rolling him into the fire. Once in a while, I thought I might just throw him to the next creature that attacked us in the dark. Mostly, though, I dreamed of transforming in the shadow of night and dragging him off to the wilds with my claws in the tender bits of his belly.

~


Hope you enjoy your visit to the Ninth World. Bring an umbrella and your knowledge of the weird, and you should be just fine.

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

 

 

Welcome to the Ninth World

posted on: May 29, 2013
in: Blog, Games, Numenera

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The Numenera Corebook (unproofed, so don’t freak out if you see a typo or two).

~

Here it is: a hint of what the Numenera corebook is going to look like. Of course, this is not final, so things are likely to shift and change, but it gives you an overall feel for what we’re creating. Here’s a bit of a guide to what’s on the page:

  • Art: While this spread isn’t art-heavy compared to some others, it gives you an overall feel for how things look as a general rule. There is lots of beautiful color and black-and-white art in every chapter.
  • Symbols: Some of the symbols in the book have meanings in the Ninth World. For example, the icon above the chapter header is the symbol for the numenera (all of the cool and ancient technology in the game), thus it’s been adopted by the Aeon Priests as their symbol as well. Other symbols have meanings specifically for the players, usually to guide them to various charts and helpful illustrations.
  • Callouts: Most of the sections have a third column callout space. This is where we include cool things of all kinds. Sometimes they’re as simple as page references. Other times, they’re definitions, pronunciations or world-building information. Occasionally, they’re suggestions for the GM. And once in a while, you’ll find the voices of Ninth World characters, sharing their knowledge and experiences. 
  • Other Elements: There are lots of other elements to the book, depending on the Part and the Chapter. Charts, dungeons, maps and specially designed character creation sheets make it easy to learn and play the game and to run adventures, while detailed science tidbits and world notes allow for total immersion into the Ninth World.

The Numenera corebook is on pre-order just for a few more days. You can also pre-order a copy of the Player’s Guide. Soon, you’ll also be able to pick up a digital copy of the first anthology of Numenera fiction, Tales from the Ninth World. 

To say we’ve put our heart and soul into this game is kind of an understatement. Now we just can’t wait to put it into the hands of players who will love it as much as we do!

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

 

All Numenera, All the Time

posted on: May 23, 2013
in: Games, Numenera

NumeneraPlayersGuide

 

If you follow me here or on any of my social media places, you’ve probably heard about this Numenera thing I’ve been working on for the past eight months or so. I know a lot of you are gamers, but some of you aren’t, so I thought I’d give you gamers a glimpse into the Numenera creation while also introducing my non-gamer followers, friends and fans to this whole thing.

THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE: Numenera, if you don’t yet know, is a tabletop roleplaying game (think Dungeons & Dragons, where a bunch of friends sit around a table and create characters for themselves and then go on awesome adventures. They roll dice to see how well they do at various tasks, kill creatures, and gather cool treasures, weapons and things to wear. It’s great fun, and I highly recommend it if you’ve never tried it). The game itself isn’t like what you imagine — there isn’t a board per se, and it doesn’t usually come in a box. Instead, it comes as a book (or a series of books) that explain the rules and develop the world. Roleplaying games don’t just come in the traditional fantasy flavor, either. There are roleplaying games set in the modern world, in the past, in other worlds, in post-apocalyptic worlds. There are zombies, vampires, tentacled monsters, and a million other flavors. Some roleplaying games are funny, while others are scary, dark and serious. The game Monster Hearts describes itself as a game of sex and sexy monsters, teenage angst, personal horror, and secret love triangles, while Call of Cthulhu is a game that tries to strip your characters of their sanity bit-by-bit (or sometimes all at once).

So, that’s what we’re building. Numenera is a game set one billion years in the future. Yeah, that’s a damn long time in the future. Yeah, we’ve thought (A LOT) about the science of that. What will the world be like? Will it support life? Will the planet even exist? While our current scientific knowledge has answers to those questions, they are answered based on the science of the now. Not the science of 100 years from now (think about science 100 years ago to see what a difference a hundred years makes), not the science of 1000 years from now, and certainly not the science of a billion years from now.

In our version of the future, the planet does exist, and it’s full of wild, weird, and unexplainable things. Which is part of what makes it fun.

THE ADVANCED GUIDE: For those who are already gamers and who’ve been following the Numenera creation, here’s some new stuff that you might be interested in:

First, the corebook (this is the main game book) is mostly complete and is currently being proofed. It looks a little something like this:

photo (20)

It’s turning out to be a beautiful, rich, and complex book, and I’m very much in love with it. The Player’s Guide is nearly finished as well. If you want a copy of either of these books, it’s not to late to pre-order. They’ll be available until the end of May, and pre-orders will be shipped out at the same time (or just shortly after) Kickstarter backers. The only way to get your book earlier is to purchase a copy from us at GenCon during the official Numenera launch.

Second, we have so many things in the works that I’m not sure I have room to talk about them all, but here’s what I can talk about so far:

–Monte is currently working on The Devil’s Spine, the collection of separate-but-connected adventures.

–We’ve seen the mock-up of the Numenera dice (yum!), and the XP card deck (ditto). We’re currently working on the cypher deck and some of the other products from the Kickstarter. Keep an eye out over the next few months at numenera.com, as we’ll be offering more information on these.

–We’re putting together a collection of short fiction to help tide you over until the game comes out! Our goal with Numenera fiction is to create amazing stories, the kind of fiction that draws you in whether you’re a gamer or not. Of course, if you ARE a gamer and specifically a Numenera gamer, you’ll get even more from the stories.

Here’s the opening of the draft of my story from the collection (subject to change during the editing process, of course :)):

Marseyl waited in an old byway, desperately trying to keep the stink of sea sweat and dying fish from assaulting her nose. It was hotter here than it should be this time of year, the sun’s slant making her sweat through her last wearable shirt. She slipped into the shade of the building, letting the temporary cool wash over her until she shivered.

A man dressed in the faded crimson of the Redfleets strode by her without giving any indication that he’d seen her, carrying a dripping sac that reeked of the deeps. Water splattered against the stones near her feet. Sighing, she step-sided, but too late, the liquid marking the toes of her worn boots.

She hated Kaparin, with its psuedo-grandeur and its unrequieted love of everything sea-faring, with its huge expanse of docks and its false history and its way of getting under every bit of her skin, sinking in like a bad tap. She hated it, but she needed it too.

Which was why she’d come back, why she was now skulking in a half alley getting codspray in her hair and fishwater on her feet. She had jobs to do elsewhere, in parts of the world where they didn’t know about her, where she was just another tattooed thief who got her hands dirty so that theirs were always clean. But always Kaparin drew her back. Her need drew her back.

There’s lots more happening behind the scenes right now, but nothing that I can talk about — yet! Of course, as soon as I know details, you will know details. Thanks for all of your support. It means more than I can say to know that you’re excited about this game and that when it’s done, it’s going to go into the hands of people who truly love to game. 

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

Dice

 

The New Benefits of Kickstarter

posted on: March 14, 2013
in: Numenera

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Just last week, Torment: Tides of Numenera (a computer game based on the world of Numenera, the tabletop roleplaying game that I’m currently working on) broke the Kickstarter record for reaching one million dollars in just a few short hours (beating out even the Ouya, the game console that everyone’s gaga for). This week, that record was broken by a Kickstarter for a Veronica Mars Movie (which, as of this writing, has already hit 2.7 million in just one day). Whatever else you think about crowdfunding, it’s changing the business world, especially in terms of media and gaming, and has the potential to change it even more in the future.

Most of you who read me regularly know that I’m a crowdfunding supporter (with some caveats, as always). Yes, crowdfunding is “cool.” Yes, it has some flaws (as someone who is behind schedule on delivering her own product, because it’s still at the printer, I feel some of these flaws keenly). But it has a ton of benefits as well. Monte Cook and I talked about some of these when we co-wrote Kicking It: Successful Crowdfunding, but since then, even more benefits have come to light:

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