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
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.
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 email@example.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!
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:
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.
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”)
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
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 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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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: