Designer Diary #16: Free eBook + RPG design—Asking the Tough Questions


Happy Thanksgiving to my US friends! Happy Sunday to the rest of you! I’ve got good news and possibly not so good news (depends on your point of view). First the good news! We’ve got some free fiction to give away! I’ll tell you how shortly, but now the bad news (which isn’t bad at all if you like what we’re doing). This post is Part 4 of a series (but you don’t have to read the other parts if you don’t want to. I just happen to think gamers will find them very interesting).

Either some of you guys and gals are trying to keep me from becoming too proud by not rushing out to get a FREE ebook of Arcane Synthesis, a very cool blended-genre anthology based on my Cosmoverse Campaign Setting, or you already own it, or maybe you just haven’t noticed my blog till now in the vast sea of blogs. (Btw, you can read an excerpt of my book and see art from the stories at the link above!)

This blog is about both fiction and gaming. Specifically, it’s about my Cosmoverse Campaign Setting (and the stories I write about what goes on in the Cosmoverse—the cultures, creatures, myths, magic, etc.) and my Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game (the pen ‘n paper/pencil and paper variety). But you don’t need to know anything about setting or even about roleplaying games to enjoy the ebook. You just need to like fantasy and science fiction!

This promotion runs until the end of November. (See Designer Diary #13 for the simple rules —mostly don’t be a spammer!) But as we’re running out of time, I thought I’d make it even easier for you to get your hands on a free ebook (I know, Cosmothea and the Cosmoverse are one of the oldest rpgs and settings you’ve never heard of! But now’s your chance. Don’t let this simple opportunity slip away!) Here’s what I’m going to do:

THE NEXT TWO PEOPLE who post a legitimate comment on my blog (on any of my posts) not just “Like” the blog (though that’s appreciated), prior to December 1, 2015, will get a free ebook of Arcane Synthesis just for participating! (Again, be sure to see Designer Diary #13 for basic rules.) Once I’ve given away 2 books, if there’s still time left in the month and people are commenting, I’ll randomly give away an ebook for every three qualified comments! Pretty nifty, huh?!

Why am I doing this promotion?
I’m pretty sure you’ll get a kick out of the Cosmoverse and the cool stories we’ve put together, not to mention others we have in the works, so it’s an easy and fun way for you to find out about us!

Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled program . . .

Continuing my series on asking the tough questions about roleplaying game design (See the earlier parts of the series for more Q&A!), here’s the last unanswered question from my earlier blog post. Ready? Here goes:

Did you ever ask yourself if we even need another RPG or setting?
That’s actually a bigger question than you might realize. During a Chatroom interview last year I was asked that question. (The interview was basically an open Q&A at the RPGnet Chatroom—they’re a great bunch of guys and gals—special thanks to my good friend Dan Davenport!) Dan invited me to talk about Cosmothea and the Cosmoverse. It was very early on in Cosmothea 5.0 and many things have changed since that time.

The person who chimed in and asked the question picked the wrong venue for it, since it pertained to the industry as a whole, not to QT Games specifically. Further, I began designing my rpg and setting long before most others. There were hardly any games and settings on the market when I started. (See earlier in this series for more on that.) But the question itself is still a very good one, and I’ve thought much on it over the years (long before that person asked the question).

We certainly don’t need another mediocre rpg or setting, that’s for sure. There’s plenty of those, and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve spent so many years working on Cosmothea and the Cosmoverse. There’s some pretty good and a few great games and settings out there, so I’m not bashing. But just like ice cream, no one rpg or setting will ever be everyone’s favorite—and that’s okay. There’s plenty of room for another great rpg and certainly another great campaign setting!

That said, there are a finite number of gamers out there. That’s the bigger issue. You can only slice up the pie so many ways. I’ve backed competitor Kickstarters because I want to help others succeed, even if it hurts my odds. I mean, my bottom line is to have great games and settings on the market, but as a company, I want mine to be in that lineup. The more I help others, the more it hurts me in a way, but the more it helps the industry as a whole become strong. We all win if we can get more gamers in the mix and the level of quality higher on every game coming out.

A gamer can only play so much and the industry can only handle so many games before the number of gamers per game gets so diluted that it’s nearly impossible to make any money worth mentioning on your game unless you’ve both got the hottest two or three products out there and also have a decent sized group of gamers that actually know about your products and are willing to risk their time on them.

As it stands, very few game designers make enough money to bother mentioning—some don’t even break even, because there are so few gamers playing, fewer buying (since you can often play a game that someone else owns and there are pirated versions floating around too, sadly), and many of those gamers who do buy don’t want to spend much money (never mind the fact that you’ll get way, way more hours of fun out of a decent rpg than you ever will out of an XBox or PlayStation game, but hey, money is limited these days, and they likely already sank a bundle on games they already own).

Those that are making money selling their rpg material will tell you it wasn’t remotely easy and wasn’t much money. We game designers do it because we love it. I’m just saying the deck is stacked against indie developers and against innovation, since if a lot of things don’t go our way, those of us developers in a position to do truly cool stuff, can’t always do it, for lack of money. But some of the big boys like WotC do not enjoy the freedom indie developers have to put out a truly great product, because there are fewer suits calling the shots, and an upset fan base to please. Even Paizo, another huge player in the field has to be careful not to kill off sacred cows and upset the apple cart, though not as bad as WotC, makers of D&D.

We also don’t have their overhead, so our decisions can be based on making a better game instead of pleasing our bosses and previous fan base. I’ve put in more brainstorming than most game designers, which has given me an advantage (not that it means I’m any better than they are or that my game material is any better, but I’ve been around the block more than a few times). But because it’s so hard to find the money, time and get everything just right, I think more designers ought to be teaming up to put out a better product than what they can design on their own.

When I was working on Cosmothea 4.0, I brought on board other designers and authors and listened to them. I’ve talked about teaming up before, so I won’t rehash the advantages and disadvantages here.  So far, I’ve been doing Cosmothea 5.0 mostly on my own, since I have so little money these days, and I still think it’s a much better game, but for different reasons—my vision has been improved since then for one, and I will build a team again before I finish it, to make it the best it can be.

Making great rpgs and great settings is quite expensive. Personally, I think there are way too many designers out there who might have had a stronger, better product if they had teamed up with another designer or two. I think we need fewer, but better games. It’s very achievable. Some are already doing it, but we’re also seeing a lot of games that have one or two cool ideas and the rest is lacking and could have been better if they combined visions and images into a better, unified whole.

Now, if we introduce more people to games and insist on higher quality games, not just allow ourselves to go with the flow and buy whatever WotC puts out no matter how good or bad that version of D&D might be, we all win. If we automatically just assume theirs is the best, but encourage and support indie designers and encourage superior game design, and take the time to discover if there are in fact better games out there, again, we all win. That would force even WotC to put out better products.

Fortunately, there’s some brave gamers out there, and they often get to enjoy a better gaming experience, finding obscure games with potential (and in some cases, a not so great experience—that’s how gambling works. Sometimes you win really big, and other times you lose. Now, I’m not advocating gambling, but in this industry you can try things out without getting hurt. There’s usually a playtest or demo you can try, for example!

Funneling the vast majority of the gamer money base into a small handful of games by companies actually hurts the industry, stifling creative game designers who see the abysmal return rates for their hard efforts and are often driven to other industries or to support D&D or Pathfinder products, even if they are inferior products, rather than support game designers like myself, who risk much by chasing something off the beaten path, at the cost of making some money in the industry early on.

I could make a Savage Worlds or Fate version of the Cosmoverse, and maybe I will one day, but no game system will better support the exciting gaming experiences you can get in the Cosmoverse than with Cosmothea, since it was built for it, and I don’t think that advantage is wise to ignore. It means less money in my pockets, but the chance for a better gaming experience for you, so I’m still doing it.

There’s nothing wrong with supporting existing games instead of what I’m doing (hey you gotta eat), but if we don’t support indie designers doing their own creative projects too, it’s more than likely that some really terrific products will never get onto the market, which means we all lose.

Now, it’s important to have games like D&D out there—and I don’t think it’s a horrible game, and WotC does help breath life into the industry, by bringing in more gamers, but like Walmart, it can kill off the mom and pops that innovate and help make the industry great—or at least could, if given the chance. A great rpg or setting done by an indie press helps raise the bar on quality across the board, if it can gain attention (that’s where you come in!) So, to summarize, we don’t need new products unless they are great.

Cosmothea could be the best rpg out there and still have next to no one playing it, which would be a shame, just as it already likely is for some other good, but unknown games out there. Quality and consumer base don’t really match up well in this industry where D&D is a household name and people grow up playing it not even realizing there are other, better games out there.

To some degree, it’s kind of like the deal with PC’s, some grew up using them, and therefore assume they must be better than Macs by default. I’m not saying Macs are better, but you just don’t know what’s good until you give it a reasonable chance, and many games are not given that.

People bash or ignore things all the time that they’ve never really taken the time to discover the truth about (God being perhaps the best example), but then some are introduced to a game in a very poor manner, as not every gaming group or GM is worth spending time with (I’m sure you, just like me have met gamers before that have gone off the deep end, are arrogant, etc. just as you’ve met Christians who have as well, but neither God, nor a game should be blamed for the failings of those who follow it.) Many gamers don’t take the time to learn other games to find out what’s good or better. Further, game designers tend to be their own worst enemies, but I’ll tackle that in a future post.

Further, once you’ve spent a good chunk of change to play D&D (it’s not cheap, unless people loan you their books), you aren’t keen on spending money again on something else. That’s natural. You already know how to play one game so you tell yourself you don’t need to learn another, but every game plays and feels different (except for some D&D clones).

Even though D&D is arguably far from the best game on the market, it does have good promotion and marketing, it has above average quality art and editing. It has inspired many games and does many things right. But yeah, there’s other even better games out there.

I think what I’m doing with Cosmothea is better, but so are many games. Of course Cosmothea isn’t even the same genre as D&D per se—I just mentioned D&D since I figured you’ve heard of it. D&D is fantasy. Cosmothea is a blend of fantasy, science fiction, superheroes and horror. It’s a much bigger, more ambitious game. Therefore it has a different target audience, though some of the gamers will be the same, of course—maybe many of the gamers. After all, you can play Cosmothea as pure fantasy if you want to, ignoring the other elements.

As for the setting, the Cosmoverse supports way more than anything D&D has ever offered, but again, it’s not a fair comparison, because D&D is only offering fantasy (though they’ve dipped into scifi a little, just barely—mostly others have rewritten it to fit). The Cosmoverse doesn’t focus on a single world. We have loads of worlds and a lot of cool opportunities. So, it could simulate the sorts of experiences you could have in a number of existing settings, though we go our own way, not wanting to copy others (actually, we did many things first, but I’m not boasting—how can I? We never put anything on the market until 2014). The Cosmoverse isn’t generic, but it’s not small, like most settings (again, see earlier posts for more on that).

To personalize this more, do we need Cosmothea?
No, we don’t, but then we don’t need the big pile of games we have, including D&D, Pathfinder, Fate, Savage Worlds, the Hero System, GURPS, etc. We don’t need lots of games and lots of settings. We only need the one or ones we want to play. Me, I do NOT like playing multiple game systems (or multiple settings for that matter) just to fulfill the needs of a story I want to tell or play, but that’s what I’d have to do with most games out there (or spend tons of hours putting together house rules and hope for the best). Nor do I want to play an uber crunch game, like most of the games out there that can handle the blended-genre experience I’m going for. And while there are uber lite games out there, except for doing PlaybyPost online, which has unique limitations and advantages that I’ve adapted versions of Cosmothea for, around the tabletop I’m not interested in the watered down systems either. There’s nothing wrong with either type, but I (and I’m betting many of you) are looking for something else.

We don’t always realize there’s something better suited to scratch our gaming itch if we don’t try other games and settings. It’s more a matter of what sort of gaming experience you are interested in. That’s the question you have to answer, and it’s not always easy to discover. If you never ate cake, you would be hard pressed to accurately determine if you liked it. Some things you know right off the bat. I hate what falling down feels like and I can reasonably expect that falling down from a cliff would hurt more than I need to experience to find out. But for many other things, some experience is necessary.

By default, many started playing D&D for fantasy, Traveller for science fiction and/or Champions or Mutants and Masterminds for superheroes but there are loads of games out there, some of them arguably better. I’m not putting them down, there’s something each of them does fairly well. Likewise, most gamers turn to the settings they’ve heard a lot about without trying others that are just as good, if not better. Now, to some degree, great games and great settings tend to bubble to the surface, but this isn’t always the case—not by a long shot.

Not all of us have piles of money to produce glitzy books, advertise, etc. though we hope to get fan bases large enough to support Kickstarter campaigns in order to do just that. Gamers are often gun-shy about trying new things, just like the rest of the world. That’s why it’s always a struggle for small companies, new authors, etc. to gain a foothold.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and having played plenty of games, researched others, studied the market and spent as many years as I have revising and improving Cosmothea and loving the gameplay and concepts, I’d say yes—yes we need Cosmothea as much as we need the games already out there. And in some cases, we need it more—for those that love blended-genre action without the uber clutter and awkward mechanics most current games include (or the watered down approach you find in others).

I think Cosmothea has much potential and sports a pretty powerful engine under the hood, and once I get the timing adjusted—finish up this latest iteration, I do indeed think many would enjoy it very much. Whether it will ever take off or not remains to be seen. There are many games out there after all, and not every gamer is brave enough to try something new—well, new to them.

Do we really need the Cosmoverse?
Again, no, we don’t need anything. We don’t need the piles of settings that are out there, but yes, Cosmothea is very special and offers more than most settings offer (well, that’s not really true. By that as I prefaced in an earlier blog post, I’m talking about if the Cosmoverse were actually on the market—what it actually offers as a product line, not sitting on my home computer, of course!) And it provides its own experience. That experience can in part be experienced in other settings ·and the same thing can be said of many settings—most, if not all, have combat, taverns, boats, sky, swamps, etc.), but the whole of it is something I think has huge potential and would be enjoyed by a great many people if they gave it a chance, whether in the form of fiction or roleplaying. I’m hoping they will love it, which is why I’ve invested most of my life in it, and a great way to start is by reading our fiction! Arcane Synthesis just scratches the surface of what we’re offering, but it will give you a taste, and it’s a lot of fun!

We’re doing some things with the game and setting nobody else is doing. Our own special blend and concepts—like our unusual magic system and Threshold system, but yeah, some concepts are already out there (and of course some of them we did first, but we’ve been horribly slow to the market, lacking significant money to move forward. I’ve designed dozens of games and have written piles of stories, yet I keep returning to Cosmothea and the Cosmoverse, so for me—and I’m betting for many of you, these are just what the doctor ordered. But I’ll leave that for you to decide!

Forgot to mention earlier, but during the holidays, I’m only going to do about one post every 2 weeks. Hopefully starting January, I’ll go to one blog per week. We’ll figure that out when the day comes. Starting my next blog post, I’ll ask some more tough questions I haven’t mentioned yet. Then I’ll jump back to delving behind the scenes and talking more about upcoming fiction and games. Sound good? Let me hear from you in the Comments. Thanks!

[Okay, that post was crazy long. Really sorry about that, folks. Please don’t hate me! This post covered a ton of factors that go into that one question, and also dips perhaps a bit further than I should have into related bits. I promise my next will be way shorter!]

Posted in anthology, Arcane Synthesis, author, blended-genre, Campaign Setting, Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, eBook, Fiction, free, Game Design, games, novel, Play-by-Post, publishing, QT Games, Roleplaying, RPG, transparency | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Designer Diary #15: Fiction Givaway + Roleplaying Games and Settings Questions (Part 3)

designer-diaryBack with another blog post asking the tough questions. If you haven’t read our first two parts, I encourage you to at least skim them as I think you’ll find them interesting and informative. I covered several questions last time and why I was asking them. It’s healthy to question what you are doing and why. Oh, and don’t forget to post in the comments (and tell your friends to post) so I can hand out some ebooks! Let’s see now . . .

What the heck’s taking me so long to get my game or setting on the market?
Money was an issue for many years (it’s actually a bigger issue now than it was back in 2008 when I began assembling a big team of game designers, authors and artists to work on the last version of Cosmothea (4.0). The US economy killed my budget and we all but shut our doors. Years went by and I finally discovered Kickstarter—rather late in the game, I’m afraid.

I’d never even heard of Kickstarter prior to around 2012 or 2013 (I was too busy with life and somehow it snuck up on me). Crowdfunding? It wasn’t in my vocabulary. And besides, Kickstarter is NOT A BANK, so I can’t just toss my games or setting material on there and expect to get funded. Loads of Kickstarter projects never make it. You hadn’t likely heard of me until recently. I’m an unknown despite the fact that I’ve been designing games and setting material longer than most people. (Star Wars was a new universe when I started designing).

Roleplaying games are huge products and I have very high standards, as you can see from my first book: Arcane Synthesis! They are not something you can just approach a game company and ask them to put it on the market. The market is a catch-22 anyway. In order to get an industry job or gain a big fan base, you need to already have an industry job or fan base, unless you get ridiculously lucky.

I won first place in a national monster design contest put on by the makers of D&D many years ago—that was encouraging, but it didn’t bring me a fan base. I’ve run several popular playbypost games featuring Cosmothea and the Cosmoverse that got a good amount of attention, and more than a few players for a few years, but I’m working on a whole new edition of the game now, so I can’t run full blown playtests yet, much less pursue a Kickstarter. It’ll happen if I get the fan base, but that’s not today.

Editing alone costs thousands. Artwork? I’ve spent several thousand on paintings to show off the Cosmoverse and creatures I’ve invented and after all I’ve spent, I’m still several thousand dollars away from being ready to publish. Yeah, rpgs and settings are big business! I have designed many games and written too much to pursue either Cosmothea or the Cosmoverse if I didn’t feel after doing market research, that they still had much potential. There’s still room on the market for solid, creative RPG material, but since I don’t have piles of money (feel free to donate!), I have to build up a fan base. That’s why for many years we just played Cosmothea—I wasn’t actively trying to pursue publication, though I kept producing new and better versions of the game, and kept expanding the setting.

Way too many game designers are putting out questionable games, some of which have deplorable graphics or at least shoddy editing. Others just don’t pack enough punch and are released before they were properly playtested, which takes a good amount of time. I refuse to fall into that slush pile.

Some great games are still being made, thankfully, and I will publish mine when the game’s ready. I have some setting material in the works, but am low on funds. Many game designers compromise and work on products for an existing game to get street credit. That’s fine, but life is short, and I need to stay the course and finish what I’m already doing. I’m not just trying to get an industry credit, but put out something you’ll love, so yeah, it takes time and money.

Am I a slow designer?
Not really, no. I have designed over two dozen games since I started (board and card games) and this is my 5th major overhaul to Cosmothea and that’s not even counting my rules lite versions). Well, I don’t have a lot to judge speed by, actually. For example, if I worked on game design full-time for one week, that might be the equivalent of a couple months or more (depending on how much is on my plate in other areas of life), so if I was designing full-time, I’d be lightyears ahead of where I am now. Some weeks I get a ton done, and others, not so much. I’m extremely focused and a bit of a workaholic when it comes to writing and game design, but I do have a family and need to live a balanced life. And good designing, writing and editing take a good amount of time.

The Cosmoverse is way bigger than most of the universes you’ll find in pen and paper rpgs. I’ve created numerous worlds and vast regions of space—and have stories and creatures and technologies based on many of them, so it takes longer. The good news is that because I’ve already done so much, it’s really just a matter of time before more and more good stuff swing your way. Well, you have a lot of say in that, as I’ll need to do preordering or Kickstarter or get rich to afford to put out some of my work. Such is life.

More recently, I’ve begun brainstorming ways to release the Cosmoverse in smaller chunks and am putting out fiction currently to begin building a fan base, because the Cosmoverse rocks. I don’t want to just tell people that, I want to share it with them and let them decide. I am with Arcane Synthesis—a sliver, at least, but it’s a start. But I’ve also had a lot of good feedback over the last 35+ years running adventures. Cosmothea is a much better game now because of it, and the Cosmoverse just keeps getting better and better. I want to take my time to get it right and to get a lot of paintings done for it, so that’s slowing me down, yes.

Arcane Synthesis is just the first book. I’m midway through another and have written a ton of stuff, designed a ton of stuff. I’ll start publishing more, but again, it will take a fan base (so please spread the word about my fiction, blog, forums, site, etc. Thanks!)

Because word of mouth is so important, part of my time has to be invested in social media—talking with people. That’s just the way it works. If you don’t hear about it, I can design a hundred games or a hundred editions of Cosmothea, but you won’t know about them. I spend some time every week polishing Cosmothea, but the bulk of my time is spent on my latest book: Cosmoverse World Tour #0 (Book 1 in a series). I have some regular setting books planned as well as some rpg material I plan to publish, but one thing at a time until I get the fan base and finances to build another QT Games Design Team.

That’s all for this week. See you in 7 days or thereabouts (I was a little late on this one, but not bad. I’m shooting for roughly one per week, but cut me a little slack as I’m writing my next book like mad and am trying to have at least some semblence of a life!) Don’t forget the chance to get an ebook! Considering 1 in 6 legit commenters will win, those are really good odds! Rules were posted in Part 1. Let me hear from you folks—thanks! Cheers!

Posted in anthology, Arcane Synthesis, author, blended-genre, Campaign Setting, Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, crowdfunding, Fiction, Game Design, Kickstarter, novel, Play-by-Post, publishing, QT Games, Roleplaying, RPG | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Designer Diary #14: Fiction Givaway + Roleplaying Games and Settings Questions (Part 2)


One might think after thirty-six years I would have tired of the Cosmoverse—the universe I started creating in 1978 and have been running adventures in for decades, or that I would have at least moved on from the game I started designing (based around the setting) shortly thereafter. I’ve played some pretty good (and also some pretty bad) games over the years—and have some great memories (I’m not saying there aren’t decent rpgs out there), yet I keep coming back to my Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game. I enjoy it more than the others. Why? Do I really think my game is that good? Seriously!

And after adventuring in some really great settings like the Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Planescape, world of Conan, Ebberon, and numerous others like Greyhawk, Gamma World, Spelljammer, Ravenloft, Harn, Al-Qadim and quite a few others, how can I keep coming back to the Cosmoverse Campaign Setting? Because I made it? Could that be why? Obviously I like it, but honestly is it any good? Didn’t I like those other settings enough to stick with them? Is it that I just enjoy designing or have some huge ego?

If I haven’t put either of my two huge properties on the market, will I ever? What the heck’s taking me so long? Am I a slow designer? Lame? Insecure? Indecisive? Just what the heck is my problem? And do we even need another RPG or campaign setting?

I ask myself a lot of questions! (And if you stick with me, you’ll get my answers!) Questions are healthy. Why do I do what I’m doing? These are some serious questions and they are valid ones. I won’t answer all of them in a single blog post, or even two, but I’m going to start unpacking them, and others over the next few weeks or so.

Do I really think my game is that good?
The latest version of Cosmothea is not finished, so No. No, I don’t think it’s that good. Even some of what I finished earlier this year isn’t the hottest design work ever. But it’s getting there. I think it’s getting really good. I freely admit that not all of my design decisions in the past were something to jump up and down about, and frankly, not every gamer is looking for the same experiences, so no game will ever please everyone.

Just as D&D has been rehashed to death over numerous editions and homebrews, the Cosmothea RPG is on its 5th complete overhaul (not to mention numerous rules-lite versions). I should probably be relabeling it 6th edition, because about a year ago, I blew the doors off of 5.0 with some major changes and expanded the already vast setting further still, but 5.0 will do for now. I’m still making changes to improve it as I plan to finally publish this one, if at all possible).


Will I just keep making new editions or will I ever actually publish this stuff?
I have no intention of doing new versions of my game and writing more and more about the Cosmoverse for years on end without ever publishing them. I like what I’ve done, but never felt I was in a position to do anything about it. I’m hoping that will change soon. In the meantime, of course I’m going to work to improve my craft and my designs. Why not?

The Cosmoverse has been continually expanding and I’ve been polishing the concepts for nearly four decades. Universes are big and I still have a ton of work to do, but I don’t have to finish the entire campaign setting before releasing books on it! There’s no need. And of course no universe is ever fully explored. The Cosmoverse isn’t just one world—we’re talking one vast universe! I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on it from various playing groups who have playtested one version or another of Cosmothea and visited a few of the worlds over the years.

I’ve addressed game mechanics and setting elements when valid points were brought to my attention, and when I discovered some flaws or clunky or overly complicated mechanics or questionable concepts and made changes where needed. Most of the heavy lifting is done on the latest version of Cosmothea, at least until hardcore playtesting begins. But there’s still plenty of minor gaps here and there that need completion—it’s not my day job after all.

Some of the decisions I made thirty-six years ago and since have been changed—I’d like to think I’ve grown more creative and more skilled over the years. So, I’ve needed to revise and polish in areas. Like I said, the vision is largely the same, but in some cases I now have better answers to some of the same questions. In other cases, the vision has matured, the mechanics and concepts have been refined and polished, and will continue to be.

It’s good to ask questions!
If you are a game designer, you might want to look up the Big 3 and Power 19 questions to ask your RPG, if you haven’t! You should ask plenty of questions of your campaign settings too) I’ve addressed some of those questions in this blog and on my QT Games Forum over the years, and others just to myself, and will return to them again and post some of them when I find time. Some of those I might even answer differently today (any dream worth having is a dream worth refining). Chances are you would too with your own—and you might have better answers now.

The questions I’ve posed today are more broad, since I’ve been designing the same things so long (actually, I’ve designed dozens of board and card games too and written piles of fiction, in between all this, but I’m just focusing on my rpg stuff here.)

Haven’t I grown tired of my game and setting after so many years?
. Not in the slightest. Oh, there are times when I get ideas for new settings, but I built into the Cosmoverse pretty much everything I love already. The way I designed it, the setting and game can handle a blend of genres and concepts without breaking overaching storylines that I have in place.

I’m far more excited now than I’ve ever been, because the system and setting continue to surprise me with their depth and potential to tell incredible stories. Are they perfect? Oh, far, far from it! But I think they’re quite good overall, and I’ll keep improving them. And I’m not above bringing in pros to assist with rough edges as needed. I’m not just building it for me, after all, but for you too, if you like blended-genres! Both provide me with everything I need to explore and tell incredible stories from fantasy to science fiction and horror, to westerns and superheroes and others, in addition to the cool blending of such concepts and the myriad adventures that are possible because of them.

What I’ve built isn’t a generic game or generic universe by far, but they cover a lot of ground and are built so GM’s can cover even more if they want. I won’t be able to tell but a fraction of the best stories during my lifetime, but what I’ve built has brought me huge satisfaction! I wish I could the rpg was ready to print, but I’m not able to work on it full-time currently.

I can’t wait to begin sharing some of the stories I have already grown up with, not to mention new ones that come to me daily thanks to the Cosmoverse, a universe bursting at the seams quite literally. It’s a dying universe that fills me with delight whenever I think about it, a universe that rekindles the fire within me to keep going, despite only having a single product on the market (Arcane Synthesis) since establishing QT Games LLC in early 2014.

I was beginning to think I would never get the game or setting in people’s hands, aside from my gaming groups over the decades, but Kickstarter gave me some hope in that regard. However, it’s not a store, and since I don’t have many fans yet (as I’m largely unknown), I need that before I can get a Kickstarter funded (a bit of a catch-22), but that’s life.

Do you think you’re a great designer or are you just too stupid to quit?
No, I don’t think I’m so great, but I have brainstormed for a long time and I think I’m pretty good and happened to dream up some cool ideas that I’ve tried to make good use of. Most people likely haven’t spent as much time as I have brainstorming and developing concepts (of course if I spent as much time as I have while on the clock, I’d never earn a dime because I’ve invested a lot of hours into my work).

Those that have played Cosmothea over the years would probably say I’m not stupid. I don’t think that’s an issue, no. I am a bit stubborn. I’m no quitter! But I’m pretty good at telling when something has potential or not, and I think I’ve been able to give some good pointers to other game designers before.

Lest you think these blog posts are merely glorified advertisements for my work instead of truly going behind the scenes, you might note that if I thought my work was so awesome, I wouldn’t be on Cosmothea 5.0, but would have published 1.0. Nor would I play other games and settings, but I have and will again, I’m sure. Trust me when I say that I have a huge pile of game designs as well as concepts for other settings—many irons in the fire, so it’s not that I’m a one-trick pony beating a dead horse or am too stupid to know better.

I don’t think everything I’ve designed is the best thing since sliced bread (only some of them :) ). Even the greatest authors still need editors, just as even the best game designers still have blind spots or could benefit from another pair of eyes. I’ve even built teams to assist me in improving Cosmothea and expanding the Cosmoverse (I brought in Ed Greenwood, Darrin Drader, Steven Schend, Lee Hammock, Allen Farr and Robert Duran Jr. in to tell some of their own stories set in the Cosmoverse, so no egos here.

I love teaming up because I know I’m not the only smart or creative person in the room, and I don’t know everything. That’s not the sign of a big ego. It’s actually a smart move, especially when you spend some time to sort out who is right for your team.

I’ve no doubt others can add to what I’ve done and help make it even better. I think I’ve designed some truly outstanding roleplaying and fiction goodies, but they aren’t perfect. I can promise you I’ll endeavor to keep making them better. I believe they have much potential, and I’ll go more into my decisions (both the good ones and the bad) in upcoming posts.

See ya next week. Don’t forget the chance to get an ebook! Let me hear your thoughts. Thanks! Cheers!

Posted in anthology, Arcane Synthesis, Art, author, blended-genre, Campaign Setting, Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, crowdfunding, Fiction, Game Design, games, Kickstarter, Life, novel, publishing, QT Games, Roleplaying, RPG, transparency | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Designer Diary #13: Fiction Givaway + One of the Oldest RPGs & Settings You’ve Never Heard of! (Part 1)


Now that I have a newsletter (Go to QT Games to sign up and never miss an issue!) and have been meeting a lot of new friends, I thought I’d change directions a bit and dig even deeper into my game design work (Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game, Cosmoverse Campaign Setting and related fiction). As such, this is more of an introductory blog post, so you’ll know where I’m heading with the blog for awhile, and be able to gain access inside my head as to what decisions I’ve made about my design work and fiction, and why. I think you’ll find it interesting. And to sweeten the pot and hopefully generate some meaningful discussion . . .

I’ll give away one free ebook of Arcane Synthesis (click to read an excerpt and see some QT Games art) to a random poster in my Comments section if I get at least six comments from unique sources (i.e. different people, not just six comments from one or two people) that are relevant to this blog topic, our product line, or QT Games (Spamming/flaming/trolling, etc. won’t count and will be removed, so do be respectful and friendly, even if you think I’m nuts.)

I’ll run this promotion during the month of November and I’ll even count posts on other blog entries I make during November (but again, the total number has to be unique ids, not that the same person can’t post more than once, but I’ll just count it once, regardless of how many places the id appears) as I want to hear from several of you! And if I get 12 posters, then I’ll give away 2 ebooks, and so on. Make sense? Sound good?

Heck, if I get at least 18 unique id commenters abiding by the rules above, I’ll give the most active and insightful poster on my blog an Arcane Synthesis bookmark and maybe even another goody, on top of any ebooks I hand out! Now back to the main reason I sat down to write this blog post!

Cosmoverse_for_indexBack Story: When I started designing my setting and game, there were only a few games on the market (D&D of course, Boothill, Tunnels and Trolls, Traveller and just a few others—all of them very rough around the edges, but notable in their own ways.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope had come out the year before and had my creative juices flowing. Although Gamma World debuted the same year I started my own setting, I wouldn’t get my hands on it for another five years.

There just wasn’t much out there back then, and none of it covered the bases I was shooting for, nor with mechanics that thrilled me (not that they weren’t fun, but I knew a better game and setting was yet to be had, but the hobby was still in its infancy). So, I got cracking and developed the basics for both Cosmothea and the vast Cosmoverse.

Many of my ideas have found their way into some of the most popular games, settings and books on the market over the years so I know I was on the right track. Knowing that was both discouraging since it would then look like I was copycatting if I kept using some of my ideas, even though my friends and I knew better—and it was also encouraging to a point because I knew what I was doing was something people wanted.

Now, I’m not saying anyone stole from me by any stretch, but obviously I wasn’t the only one with cool ideas that needed to be invented. I seriously doubt only one person saw a rock roll and thought of making a wheel. Maybe more than one did, but in life, it’s the one that gets published first that typically gets the credit. The others are forgotten, if they are ever known, or they have to come up with another cool idea.

They beat me to publishing, by a large margin. I was just a teen when I started designing, with no money. Teachers were encouraging me to pursue a career in writing and I liked the idea, but I loved designing games and drawing too. My stuff was creative, but rough. It got much better over time, of course, but I didn’t have any money to publish anything. When I did have money, I didn’t have time to pursue my creative projects, then when I finally got time again when I got laid off, I didn’t have any money!

Interestingly, QT Games had more fans seven years ago than it enjoys today, because I was running games off and online on various sites with a lot more people than I do these days (time is tight), and I was volunteering at the WotC forums and blogging there to boot. I was networking on various forums and eventually helped form and eventually run the RPG Design Alliance, a place for game designers, authors and artists to connect and grow, but we only got a handful of folks participating, despite those that said they wanted to, so I eventually put it to rest.

After being laid off, I reevaluated my dreams, brainstormed, searched for another job, began to write another book and moved forward with a refined vision for Cosmothea. For the first time in years, I only had one game of Cosmothea running at the time, so most of those who were playing the PlaybyPosts and face2face games I shut down to have more time for Cosmothea and my fiction, moved on to other games.

In a nutshell, I started near the dawn of the RPG games industry, even though you’ve probably never heard of me. I’m not boasting—most of my inventions remain unpublished. I’m in the middle of my second book for publication (I’ve written drafts for others) and hope to publish a third next year—and a pile of goodies after that. No egos here—just trying to give some context.

Since I haven’t posted any of the hard questions yet, I’m going to Post Part 2 tomorrow (11/5) instead of my usual week or two between posts. Sound good? Good stuff ahead. Hope to see you tomorrow. Don’t forget about the Giveaway I mentioned above! Let me here from you folks. Thanks!

Posted in anthology, author, blended-genre, Campaign Setting, Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, crowdfunding, Fiction, Game Design, Kickstarter, novel, publishing, QT Games, Roleplaying, RPG, transparency | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Designer Diary #12: Life, Fiction and Gaming

designer-diaryHi folks, today, I’m splitting this blog post into three topics, revisiting a Facebook post I made the other day that you might have missed about life, followed by a bite-sized (maybe two bites) update on my fiction and a behind the scenes on my game design work. Let’s roll . . .

[Note: This part does mention God, so if you can’t stomach it, skip on to the next part, but my guess is that if you do, you’ll miss out on something important that could be a game changer for you, whether you’re religious or not. Just sayin’]

Today is a new day. A new opportunity to start over. Not a new years resolution, but a stand against mediocrity, against the flesh—those areas where we know we’re vulnerable—where we want victory. We’re often our own worst enemies. Tired of stumbling along, fighting alone, just making it through each day? That was never the plan.

Why stand alone? When we stand together, we have strength! When we allow God into our lives, we have power, clarity, peace! We can have lasting victory.

Nothing you have done and nothing you are facing is too big for God to handle. But we have to let him. He’s gentle. He won’t force the door to our hearts. Today is a new day. Why wait until tomorrow? Why wait? Believe change is possible. Take a stand.

Chase a dream and back another’s. Invest in yourself. Invest in others. Live, forgive & move on!

[It’s okay, go ahead and read the first part if you skipped it. Or read it again and allow it to sink in. Allow yourself to breath, recognize you, just like me, don’t know everything, and maybe, just maybe, there’s something in the Life section worth reading. Already read it? Good for you, let’s move on!]

There’s only so much time in the day. Just as you don’t have time to read every book out there (nor should you—some of it’s garbage) authors like myself don’t have time to write everything, so I’ve had to make some tough decisions, setting aside novels and even trilogies I’m dying to write, because I have other novels and trilogies that get first dibs on my time.

I realized a few years ago that even if I live a long life—coherent enough to write down the stories in my head and in my notes, I would never be able to write, much less publish but a small fraction of them. That’s painful, because I think I’ve got some really hot stories I’d like to get into your heads (and if you stick around, I think I’ll manage to get a few of them there).

A few weeks ago, I shoved half a dozen of my books further back in my release schedule to publish the final leg of the Voices story. Part 2 of Voices was slated to be a part of Divine Synthesis (another cool anthology coming up, just not soon enough). Instead, I will combine the first and last parts of the epic story and release them as a separate book as soon as it’s finished. But first, I’ve got to wrap up my Kickstarter rewards for Arcane Synthesis. So, before you review that cool book and mark me down half a star for leaving a cliffhanger, please go easy on me knowing that I’m making part 2 of that story my highest priority after completing my commitment to my Kickstarter backers for Arcane Synthesis!

Voices is a very cool story and I know you’re going to love it (if you read it!)

I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on it (and on most of the other stories in Arcane Synthesis), but I’m just getting warmed up and so I ask for your patience as I wrap up my current writing projects so I can leap forward on that epic adventure.

Did you miss Arcane Synthesis? Read the excerpt and then buy the book! The Cosmoverse, which is the backdrop for all of my books, is a vast and exciting universe of blended genres (Science fiction and fantasy and more) with overaching storylines. Fun stuff. Don’t miss anything. Join our newsletter and if you aren’t following this blog, do so—climb on board, friends! I’m pretty sure you aren’t going to be disappointed!

Our Secrets of Cathor Play-by-Post game has been an exciting ride, and we’re just starting off on another adventure. Read it! Join it! Now’s the perfect time to climb on board or get caught up with what’s come before. We can still take one more player! It uses uber-lite rules based loosely on my Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game. It is an easy PbP to join as there aren’t a pile of rules and we are focusing mostly on story, characters, exploration and mystery, and are only posting a couple times each a week, so it’s easy to handle regardless of your work or school schedule! The point of the PbP is to highlight a small corner of the Cosmoverse and introduce cool new concepts (well, new to you, likely) and have fun, of course!

As for Cosmothea, I’ve been wrestling back and forth with one of my newer game mechanics. See, I have several resolution systems, and overall, I’ve very happy with them. But I just want to be absolutely positive that each one belongs in the game, and so the latest one is under review.

Designing a game for yourself and your close friends, or a homebrew rpg is way different than designing for the mass market as I’ve been doing for well over three decades. I don’t just want a game that I will love to play, but I’m designing Cosmothea to be a game I want loads of people to love to play, which means I can’t just toss in a race, class, game mechanic, or whatever that I love.

I do love the goodies in the game now, but I have to be mindful of what you want to. That’s important to me. I’m not just doing it to please myself after all. So I’m giving each section of the game additional attention and love, to ensure it’s something most of you would really get a kick out of. It’s a lot of work to put together a great roleplaying game. But I believe in Cosmothea’s potential, and it was designed to take advantage of all that the Cosmothea has to offer, so I’m sticking with it.

I could convert the setting to work in Savage Worlds, HERO, GURPS, Fate, or another system, but I think I can do it better (not that those games aren’t well done), since Cosmothea was designed to work smoothly with the Cosmoverse Campaign Setting, I’m hesitant to go down one of those paths. I’m not saying I won’t one day.

If we get the fans we need of our Cosmoverse fiction, then we’ll run a Kickstarter, if needed, and start releasing Cosmoverse setting books, so if you love what we’re doing, stand with us and help us to put out a great setting that you will be proud to have on your shelves and run around in for decades to come!

Got a topic (inline with the sorts of blogging topics I tackle) that you’d like me to address in an upcoming blog post? Comment below and if there’s enough interest, I’ll see what I can do! Cheers!

Posted in author, Campaign Setting, Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, Encouragement, Fiction, Game Design, games, Hope, Kickstarter, Life, Play-by-Post, publishing, Roleplaying, RPG | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Designer Diary #11: Gaming and Fiction (Part 3)

Designer-DiaryWriting fiction was my first love, but designing games of all sorts? They were a close second! When I was around fourteen or fifteen I began designing board and card games like mad. This is in addition to my regular work on Cosmothea and all my stories (I haven’t been lazy or idle since my early youth. I was terribly shy as a kid, so I spent a lot of time writing and designing. Some of my early stuff was pretty rough, but some of it I’d stand by today and am quite pleased with, as well as the later stuff. Today I want to talk a little about the card games I’m cooking up that have a Cosmoverse theme.

So, I’ve got two card games in the works right now, both of which focus on different aspects of the Cosmoverse: Onji Mojo and Crisis.

Onji Mojo, is all about magic and specifically dueling with magic (Onji Mojo is a very different system of using magic than you’ll see in pen and paper rpg’s—it doesn’t use spellcasting, but trust me, a lot of magic is being flung about nonetheless. It’s very cool, and uses many rules from Cosmothea. In fact, if two mages ran into each other in the Cosmoverse while playing Cosmothea, you could use this card game to resolve the encounter, if desired, or you could simultaneously have an Onji Mojo duel going in the middle of combat using the regular Cosmothea rules without breaking a sweat. And there’s a slightly modified version of Onji Mojo for running the duels without Cosmothea too (after all, if you aren’t playing the roleplaying game, you’d still need a mage to play the card game).

One of the systems that I like in Cosmothea that is featured in Onji Mojo is the ability to push your luck, playing with more magic than you can effectively control. It’s optional, but you can do it. When things go downhill, they can go downhill in a really bad way when you’re employing too much magic. Likewise, when things go your way, they can do so in an even more spectacular manner if you’re shelling out a good amount of magic.

The Onji Mojo dueling system and the concept of pushing your luck with magic appears in my fiction (and will continue to), and I think the card game and rpg look very promising, so I’m naturally excited.

Currently, Onji Mojo is about 70% of the way through a first major draft. It’s almost playable now, and I’ve done some early testing on the gameplay—seems to work just fine so far. All the hard work is done as far as design is concerned, at least until it enters more aggressive playtesting, where we’ll quickly see how the rules hold up.

This isn’t my first rodeo as they say, since I’ve designed dozens of games, but that doesn’t mean it won’t need a lot of retooling and then polishing for publication. It will. All games need that, and I have high expectations and insist on quality editing and graphics.

Magic in Cosmothea/Cosmoverse, is quite a different animal than spellcasting in pretty much any other game or universe you’ll find. Now, unique does not mean better, but the system just keeps getting better, and I’ve had nothing but great response from those who’ve used it in the past. You can get a taste of it in Arcane synthesis and in Onji Mojo (once I get Onji Mojo out the door, that is!) My Cosmoverse World Tour series of books will also get into Onji Mojo more (and classic dueling as well).

This isn’t your father’s vancian system—always hated that system! There are no spell books or wands in the Cosmoverse either, though I suppose you could simulate that if you wanted to. There are journals and books, of course, and a mage could write notes in them if they wanted to, and make a wand-like device, but magic is a whole ‘nother beast, and a rather exciting beast IMO.

Arcane Synthesis gives you a taste for magic, and the card game we have in the works will blow the doors of dueling—I think, revealing how it works in the Cosmoverse and Cosmothea, of course. I’ve designed several card games, but that one is near and dear to my heart.

Crisis (Tentative name) is the other card game I’ve been jumping up and down about, hoping to finish it so I can start playtesting (but my fiction is currently on the hot plate). I couldn’t be happier with Crisis, from what I’m looking at so far—it too is sitting at about 75% completion of a solid draft, needing more than a few card designs and piles of art (that comes later). Think Jack Bauer meets the Cosmoverse (with maybe a bit of Heroes and Men in Black tossed in!)

It’s not an entirely serious card game, but I think it has a lot of potential, so we’ll be pursuing that one sooner rather than later as well. I work on it whenever I can rationalize the time (like at doctor’s offices, brainstorming while walking the dog, jotting down notes at stoplights, etc., but mostly by bending the time continuum).

There are several board games I’ve designed that I’d love to publish as well, but everything has to get in line. I’m continually reviewing and refining my product release schedule. Finances will be a definite issue unless something takes off in a really big way beyond my expectations. After all, it’s a bit of a catch-22: some won’t play your game if you don’t have much street cred, but it’s hard to get street cred without publishing, so we’ll be playing it careful with Kickstarter to assist us (but as Kickstarter isn’t a bank, it is tricky to be sure). But I’m not a quitter, and I’m not lazy, so we’ll be hard at work for the foreseeable future.

That’s all for this week. Hope to see you next time as I delve more into the Cosmoverse and game design. Thoughts? I’m all ears! Thanks for stopping by, folks. Cheers!

Posted in author, Campaign Setting, Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, crowdfunding, Fiction, games, Kickstarter, publishing, Roleplaying, RPG | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Designer Diary #10: Fiction and gaming…Moving Forward (Part 2)

Time flies whether you are having fun or not! Welcome back for another post on fiction and gaming. If you missed Part 1, be sure to check that out. I had to cut this blog post in half in order to get it posted sooner, so it will be 3 parts total. (I had so many things to tell you and want to write a bit more before I post about the card games—yes, we’re hard at work at QT Games!) So here’s the deal . . .

Today’s post will focus on fiction and then I’ll finish my discussion on card games (+RPG design and game mechanics) in Part 3. Apparently uber short blog posts aren’t in the cards very often, but I’ll try to make short ones here and there, especially if I use an idea I came up with the other day. Time will tell. Onward to fiction . . . sound good? Here goes!

Back in 2014, I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for our first book: Arcane Synthesis: A Blended-Genre Anthology. Part of that campaign included a cool mini book—the Cosmoverse World Tour (It used to be called something else, but I’ve expanded and beefed it up and now it’s cooler than ever).

The purpose of this series is to shed light on the Cosmoverse. The main character, a young mage serving a powerful master who is a champion duelist, finds himself in dangerous situations, and encounters exotic creatures while traveling to various worlds and learning more about how magic works (very different than you’ll find elsewhere, I’m sure). Magic is our specialty here at QT Games—it’s quite off the beaten path and we’re very excited about it. These books will be primarily fantasy, but from time to time high technology and aliens will be part of the story (it is the Cosmoverse, after all).

Cosmoverse World Tour is a series. Because the first book leads up to a big turning point for the main character, I’m setting it off as #0. We’ll put them out in between some of our novels and anthologies, continuing the adventures of the young mage and his story as we explore the Cosmoverse.

Each book is set up in journal format, but also includes sections that go into more detail on the story in the journal. Sections will include monsters, magic, vehicles and locations. These are mini books with a good amount of art (mostly color art) and you should find a few examples from each of those four sections. We might mix it up at times, and since I’m telling a story, not just tossing in random stuff, if a story includes more monsters and less magic, then that’s what you’ll get. I might even add or subtract a section in time, but there will always be a variety.

I won’t be including game stats for the monsters, vehicles, etc. at least not in the near future. I might go back later and expand on these and include stats. We’ll have to wait and see, but they should be a lot of fun and be good material GM’s can mine for adventures, not to mention being fun to read. Eventually, I’m hoping GM’s will start running adventures in the Cosmoverse as we provide more and more books to shed light on this huge campaign setting (and of course we have setting books planned as well).

Unless you’re new to my blog, you probably already know that the first setting material we’re releasing is fiction, so you can get a good feel for the setting (and because I love writing fiction). QT Games’ first, best example would therefore be Arcane Synthesis, which takes place on several worlds and gives a slice of the huge setting. We’ll give you more in the days ahead.

We’re much more interested in providing you high-quality books to sink your teeth into and inspire you, than we are at publishing. So, we’ll take our time to do each book right and ensure they are creative, well written and edited, with cool art, before releasing them into the wild. Check out our website and forums for more on the Cosmoverse, or read Arcane Synthesis! (You can read an excerpt before you buy!) ‘Nuff said for today.

If all goes well, Cosmoverse World Tour will be out later this year. Have a great rest of the week and I’ll do my best to get Part 3 (about Cosmoverse-inspired card games) finished in the next few days and post it. Feedback? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Cheers!

Posted in author, Campaign Setting, Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, Fiction, games, Kickstarter, publishing, Roleplaying, RPG | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment