Designer Diary #5: RPG Races

Designer-DiaryToday I’m going to talk a bit about races in roleplaying games. Now, I have to admit I’m really into races, and I do get excited when a game has a neat offering of races, but I’m not just making Cosmothea for myself. I’m making it for a mainstream audience, so it’s not about just what I want. I do have a detailed, specific vision for the Cosmoverse Campaign Setting, however, so that guides my decisions as well.

I was surprised to learn a few years back that some gamers don’t consider the quality or quantity of races as being a very good selling point for a game. In fact, sometimes they get annoyed hearing about it. “Every game has races. Big deal!” So I have to remind myself that not everyone gets excited like I do when hearing about new races in an RPG. So, I don’t talk about them a lot—I have plenty other selling points, after all, but I do love the races we’re using and they are important to me. My guess is some will fall in love with some of the original races in any RPG that has ’em, and that fact will be one more factor in keeping them playing, so they are important, IMO. Regardless, it’s important for a game designer to carefully consider what races to include, providing a good mix of themes that work well together, and go off the beaten path a little and offer something that is both creative and makes sense.

If there is a setting, the races should feel like they belong, both conceptually and historically. The more you tie them to the setting, the stronger their theme will be, but also the less portable they’ll be to other game systems and settings.

Books have been written on how to make a good race so I won’t go into all the meat here. This is a general overview and like most of my other posts, going behind the scenes a bit into my decisions and what I ultimately chose for QT Games.

As I’ve said many times, I believe in offering something that is familiar, but not too familiar, obscure, but not too obscure. Anyone can come up with a new race no one or almost no one’s ever heard of, but the fact is, many of us have fallen in love with certain classic races. At the same time, we enjoy seeing and playing new ones too.

Because Cosmothea is a mainstream game, I try to put in a nice blend of classic races and races unique to the Cosmoverse Campaign Setting. I love elves, despite the fact that most fantasy games have them, and can’t imagine playing in a setting without dwarves. The omission of either would not prevent me from playing someone’s rpg, but I do enjoy them.

Back in late 70’s and early 80’s I made a number of unique races that I’m still very excited about and have gotten positive feedback on them over the decades. I’ve also written numerous stories featuring them (writing stories helps force you to think about a race’s culture, religions, politics, abilities . . . i.e. it helps you flesh them out and make them more believable, while playtesting helps you spot mechanical and balance issues). The very best of those races I’ve made have been carried into future incarnations of the game and setting.

If you use classic races, it’s a good idea to put a little spin on them so that they remain fresh, but are still the races many gamers have grown to love over the years. One thing you want to be careful about when creating creatures in general . . . if the creature is just a renamed orc, call it an orc. If it operates identical to and looks similar to a dragon, calling it a dragon helps with identification.

You can always have secondary names for them, but don’t dance around the name as if it’s a whole new race just because you call it something different. A name alone doesn’t do anything other than make you look like you are trying to deceive someone. It’s not a huge deal, but why not just call most things what they really are and then make up new, cool stuff?! ‘Nuff said.

You will most likely have a race in your game that someone doesn’t care for (I’ve yet to find a game or setting that doesn’t have some issue people don’t care for). There’s no pleasing everyone, but I think we have a nice balance with our races, covering the sneaky, the resilient, fliers, lil guys, etc. Cosmothea 5.0 includes 12 races in the core rulebook. Further, because the Cosmoverse is a huge setting, I’ve set it up so that you can alter the races considerably as well. Some other games have done that also, so I’m not trying to act like it’s innovative to offer lots of options for races. That’s not even what this blog post is about. I’m just trying to dip into my decision making process, shed a bit of light on what we’re doing and why.

Since there are tons of worlds in the Cosmoverse, Cosmothea includes a guide to quickly making racial variants and new races for other galaxies as well (our giant star map covers the Pantara Galaxy and shows partial maps for both the Omidar and Ruun galaxies). That’s not all there is to the Cosmoverse—not by a longshot, but I’ll never live long enough to explore every corner of what I’m already revealing, so that’s more than enough to worry about.

One of the decisions I made back in Cosmothea 4.0 was to allow players to run most races found in our monster books as well. That means including a large number of monster talents in each book. I think it’s worth it and it should go over rather well for those into that sort of thing. I think it’s best if GM’s monitor the use of monster/alien races and try to stick with races that are mostly humanoid, as it’s easier for players to wrap their brains around creatures that are at least vaguely humanoid. It also makes it easier for them to interact with societies. That said, if they want to do wilder ones, that’s fine too.

I once ran a two-year long mega adventure that was all monster races and it was uber popular, so I want to keep that option open. We’ve also done a bit of time travel a few times and even had adventures in which the players could take the roles of existing, minor gods (which was even more popular). Tons of caution should be taken and there’s lots of other things I could say about that, but we’re gettin’ off track, so I’ll stop there. As for running monsters, I have some elements in place in the setting’s back story which works well for that sort of thing, and will include it in the published game and setting as I know many will enjoy that option.

As we also have superheroes in the setting, there are many races players can pick from (and make new ones) to ensure they can build whatever sort of superhero they want. Other games like GURPS and HERO also allow you to make up your own races and provide rules for it. I like my rules medium crunch, not heavy crunch, but we’ll offer plenty of options. I decided early on to spend the extra time, book space and money to offer plenty of talents for each race (or species if you prefer), but that’s not a decision to be taken lightly. You’ll need a pro editor and every extra page just boosts the cost of putting your game out, so beware. That said, it’s a turn off to me to play a game with only a few core races, so that’s something to consider too. Find your sweet spot!

Ultimately, I removed half a dozen races from our core rulebook in Cosmothea 5.0, due to exactly what I mentioned: space, time and money concerns. We’re still including 12 races and since I decided to include the option and talents to play the aliens and monsters to boot, I think that’s plenty. Actually, it will likely cost me more in the long run, but it shortens up the core rulebook, which was helpful, and I think was a good move. It is going to cost a pretty penny to put out the core rulebook as it is.

Of course as Cosmothea 5.0 is still under heavy construction, anything I post in this blog pre-release is subject to change, but I’m pretty happy with the races at this point (just need to finish ’em up—still lots of work left to do, but so far, so good!)

The current lineup of races in the core rulebook include: axcii (furry lion-like race), dwarves, elves, exotics (includes a huge variety of options under this entry including artificial intelligence, androids, etc.), gnomes, humans, klatuans (a magical, brain-modded race), nehi (very small fey), orynii (boneless lil guys who live in a mech of sorts), sygman (part flesh, part machine), taager (hyper focused, tech-obsessed, brain-modded aliens) and xeelotian (stony, gentle giants). I won’t go into detail on the individual races at this point, but you’ll hear more about them down the road, at our forums, and in actual products, of course, the first being our upcoming anthology: Arcane Synthesis due out this Summer!

Rules are included to build pretty much any race you can imagine. Chances are the race could find a home somewhere in the Cosmoverse, though it isn’t a generic setting. Caution should be taken, as with any game offering heavy customization. It can be a tricky thing to balance the fun/cool factor with what makes sense. A wild or ridiculous race might work in a game as long as you put in place a proper backstory and internal logic and if the game provides a decent set of rules to slow down imbalances. While balance is important, to me, ensuring the race feels like it belongs is even more important. And if it’s a mainstream game, make sure the race’s aren’t too obscure. I’ve got a couple oddballs like the orynii (one of my personal favorites), but I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback and think all the ones I’ve designed or chosen will go over very well with most gamers. And we’ll do tons of playtesting before we release the game.

I wanted players to dig as deep into a race as they want to, so in Cosmothea, you start with a few racial talents and can purchase many more during the life of the character (which represents focusing on developing talents, magical abilities and even rituals unique to a particular race to manifest the race’s historic and even legendary rare or lost abilities.

Well, that’s all for this week! I’m going to post an update on our anthology next week, then take a couple weeks off while our internet is down (long story as to why that is), and then dive back in for more designer diaries. Feedback is welcome! Take care and hope to see you around the blog or our forums!

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Designer Diary #4: RPG Character Creation

Designer-DiaryIn this post, I continue to discuss rpg concepts and what we decided to do for our roleplaying game, Cosmothea, and why. I don’t know about you, but Character Creation in roleplaying games has nearly always been a blast for me. I love coming up with back story, sorting out personality, goals, buying gear, etc. Just sitting there rolling dice is fun (though it can be problematic and even annoying as you roll a 3, a 5 and a 6 and realize you can’t play the character you wanted, while the guy or gal next to you is rolling a 15 and two 18’s, etc.).

Many optional rules have popped up over the years to combat this, but I’ve found most of them unappealing. Even so, rolling is fun. But even more fun—to me, at least— is the creative end. Designing the actual character, and so the dice aren’t really as important as I once thought. I can take ’em or leave ’em as long as I get to create! I mean, at least in some games, I could just sit there and create characters and skip playing (I love playing, mind you—just sayin’). Playing the characters is the icing on the cake! But I’m aware that some players just want to “get on with it” get into the meat of adventure. I totally get that. And there have been times where I as a GM or as a player get to a point where I’m like, “Let’s finish this already. The first hour was fun. Now I want to play! But I still have to pick my spells/buy gear.”

So, when I began developing Cosmothea 1.0, I bore in mind not everyone wants to spend an hour or three making characters. Even so, I couldn’t dodge the bullet and the earlier versions of Cosmothea took a good amount of time to “roll up” just like in most, if not all other games of the day. I made a few rules lite versions along the way that enabled uber fast character creation, but I like a bit more meat on my rules, so ultimately, I kept going back to the “regular” rules.

With Cosmothea 4.0 and now 5.0, I’ve been re-evaluating character creation and now offer both complex and fast-track character creation to meet most preferences (I hope). I’ve only had limited playtesting with the fast-track system, but it seems to work fine. I think I’ve hit the sweet spot, finally, with what we’re offering, and yeah, it’s still a blast to make a character.

One of the problems I’ve encountered in character creation in games is the whole abilities/attributes thing. Back in an early version of D&D (Ad&D 1st edition, I think), depending on what you rolled for your stats, you might be forced to play a fighter or thief and had to get really lucky to play a paladin or monk, much less the optional bard class. Getting psionics usually required cheating or a psionics-obsessed, uber friendly DM to let you squeak in the door, since almost nobody could roll good enough (it required percentile dice – rolling a natual 100 (minus from 1/2 a point—yes, 1/2, to around 3% if you had super high stats—something like that). Most wanted to roll lots of high numbers and were disappointed even before getting on their first adventure if they couldn’t roll exactly what they wanted. Getting high stats required lots of luck and often some fudging for many players, special rules, etc. Some of that nonsense they don’t do anymore, but rolling remains an ingredient. Some games don’t use rolling or stats and gamers still have fun. ‘Nuff said.

So, rolling for stats has been out of the game for decades now. That is, I have rolling in certain areas of the game (and I also have a diceless system for running the whole game, but that’s another topic). You can create exactly what you want and I think most players will appreciate that.

I didn’t want gamers spending precious time fussing over dice rolls and failing to roll what they want, so even the concept of stats has taken a back seat in Cosmothea. While it is still very beneficial to buy stats, you can actually play the game without them or only focus a little on them, saving the bulk of your points to help you in other ways, or to show you are smarter, more agile, stronger, etc. without fussing over stats. And to be clear, this isn’t about comparing D&D to Cosmothea or even bashing D&D. They are very different games. I just like to use D&D as an example because most people have played D&D, if they’ve played any rpg, so I figure most will understand.

And if enough gamers want to roll dice for stats, well, maybe I’ll include that as an option too, but the focus is off stats and instead focuses on other areas of character creation. I have had zero complaints on stats after all these years, so I think I’m probably safe. But we’ll do widespread playtesting when we get further along.

As for the rest of the character creation process, I created several paths to building a character, including the typical (create from scratch), modify existing archetypes to suit your flavor and even made a “Create as you Go” version where you can literally jot down a few of the more crucial details and then start playing, and fill in the details as you play. It has worked even better than I thought it would.

In Cosmothea 1.0-3.0 and now again in 5.0 I included a background system for added flavor and extra goodies related to your upbringing, family, past, etc. I dropped it in 4.0, but missed it and have restructured it. As with all of the creation systems present in the game, you can take it or leave it, but I think it helps players flesh out their ideas and offers them some neat extras. It does take a little longer, however, but it is just one of the systems.

I’ve also revised the gear system considerably since Cosmothea 3.0, enabling faster purchasing and easier recording, with a couple optional methods of tracking the lil bits like bullets, torches and arrows. The system needs widespread playtesting of course (if you’re making an rpg, you’ll want to playtest it to death before releasing it), but so far so good.

With nearly half a dozen creation systems covering a wide range of approaches from easy and fast to thorough and slightly more complex, yep, I’m thinking Cosmothea has hit the sweet spot. To be fair, there is a downside to this approach. I’m not trying to cover every angle, but I am covering several, and that means more development time, more space in the rulebook and a bit more money for editing, etc. That’s definitely something to consider. But knowing that gamers have very different interests, and seeing the great divide between complex games like HERO and GURPS, and simplistic games like Savage Worlds, I figure Cosmothea is right where I want it to be, so we’re staying the course!

My guess is we’ll be massaging the gear tracking rules a bit more and keep looking for ways to improve our character creation systems. That said, I’m always interested in hearing your preferences. So, just how important is . . .
• Rolling for stats (or even having stats) to you?
• Do you enjoy creating characters or would you rather dive into your first adventure as quickly as possible, whether your character is fleshed out or not?
• Do you usually, sometimes or rarely make a backstory or goals for your character?

I’d love to hear from you!

Next week I’ll tackle, um . . . the concept of levels or maybe races. Or something else. Topic suggestions and feedback in general is welcome, of course. Cheers!

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Designer Diary #3: RPG Classes or Not?!


Welcome to our 3rd Designer Diary in which we go behind the scenes on the Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game. Today I’d like to discuss classes (careers, professions, archetypes, affiliations, whatever you want to call them) and what we ultimately decided to do about them in Cosmothea (more often than not I use the term “we” very loosely—I’ve gathered a team to work on Cosmothea before and will again, but am currently going it alone due to financial constraints). I think we’ve hit the sweet spot regarding classes—if there is one, but I’ll let you be the judge.

Some love classes and some hate ’em. That’s how it is with many rpg mechanics, and as I’ve said before, there’s no pleasing everyone. We use classes in Cosmothea (we call ’em paths currently, but that might change as the game’s still under construction). Despite the problems D&D had with them (read dead levels and uber rigid), we like the basic concept. It’s an easy one for players to wrap their heads around, especially new ones, and they are a great launch off point to quickly establish a theme.

I’ve always approached classes in a very loose manner, not wanting to straight jacket players. As I said, I’m pretty sure we’re doing it right, and as that was our approach in all earlier versions of Cosmothea, I’m carrying it over and building in even more customization in 5.0.

Let me back up and start at the beginning because “class” isn’t a straight jacket, like many gamers think—if done right. D&D both popularized the concept of class and gave it a bad name at the same time. Their classes were very rigid and a bit messed up right out of the gate with oddities like dwarf being a class instead of a race. Classes used to have lots of restrictions and even in more recent years still had “dead” levels—times when it just stunk to be a particular class because after attaining certain levels (some classes were really awful every other level) you didn’t have much to show for it. The concept improved but in most games has been pretty flawed, which is why many look down upon classes today.

But classes do have their place and can be used effectively and minus the straight jacket. In early editions of Cosmothea, I broke classes down into packages—sets of goodies you could take or leave as you built your own class. It was an easy system and popular among my gaming groups over the years. If you wanted to build a super tough warrior you could, but he would gain levels more slowly. If you wanted a mage that had learned the art of warfare, and always used weapons along with her spells, being very combat-focused, you could do that. That was way back in the 80’s, and my classes are still very flexible today, though the mechanics are quite different and even simpler now.

Where classes go downhill is in games that once you pick a class you are stuck with what they give you, often before you know what you really know your character’s goals. This results in frustration at the gaming table, playing a character recklessly so they’ll die and let you start over, or retiring them early. I never liked that about D&D and never made my classes cookie cutter like that. I’m not really trying to pick on D&D, but it’s the best known example, so I figured more of you could relate to it.

In Cosmothea, I provide numerous themes you can build off of, and easily customize throughout the life of the character and also provide the means to build your path from scratch. It’s easy. The hardest part is likely having many options, which can slow down character creation if you let it, just as when you make a superhero character in any supers game (Cosmothea has supers too, though we call the “mutant” and artificially augmented types Augments). You might get a bit bogged down trying to decide between super strength and flight and that sort of thing can happen in Cosmothea too.

Character creation was designed so that you can create a character as fast and as thorough as you want, or get up and running fairly fast and even flesh out your character during play. There are many sample packages you can take to help flesh out your theme and individual talents to ensure you build exactly what you want throughout the life of the character. Since most of the customization is done along the way, creating characters is pretty easy, fun and there’s never any regrets.

Even if you make a mistake, Cosmothea includes roleplaying and mechanics in place for further refining your character, changing directions or simply dumping early “mistakes”—poor choices you might have made. i.e. After rewatching an old Conan movie you get a notion to play an armor-less warrior (or warrior/thief) but then you quickly realize after a game session or two that you really wanted something a little different and were just riding the high of watching Conan. You can fix that along the way.

In Cosmothea there is a single path that guides you in creating any sort of path you want (Archaeologist, Engineer, Entertainer and Medic, Artist, Filmmaker, Journalist, etc.), and then there are also lots of fleshed out Themes that include talents for those that want to start with a predefined theme and then tweak and build from there. As for fleshed out themes (and I do mean fleshed out) we’ve got adepts (divine miracle workers of many flavors), artificers (including biomancers and technomancers), dignitaries (various types specializing in social talents), shadow runners, agents, mages (we call ’em shapers and they use magic way different than I’ve seen elsewhere—our magic system is our pride and joy and we’ve got a card game version for dueling coming out eventually), gun mages, gatekeepers, and various warrior types.

Heck, you could make a magical plumber if you really wanted to. You decide what you run. Cosmothea provides the tools and options for if you change your mind or just want to expand your vision for your character.

Without classes or something like them, you have to work a little harder to define a theme for your character, to make sure the other players and your GM understand and respond appropriately to your theme. Classes can be a beautiful thing and help keep your game organized and approachable. They can simplify things and still get the job done, at least in games like Cosmothea. ‘Nuff said.

Next week I’ll tackle something else. Maybe the concept of levels or character creation. Haven’t decided yet, but I hope you return. (One of these days I’ll sort out how to make a meaty post that isn’t long for those that just want a nibble). Even so, be sure to subscribe if you haven’t (and tell your friends—why not. :) and keep an eye out for Arcane Synthesis: A Blended-Genre Anthology coming out soon! Thanks and as always, feedback is not only welcome, but encouraged!

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Designer Diary #2: The Scope of an RPG (Part 2)

Designer-DiaryWelcome back for another designer diary! This is the second in a new series, so if you’re just jumping on board, check out our last one and let’s roll! This diary will focus on our Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game and Cosmoverse Campaign Setting (and associated fiction), both of which are under construction for our 5th major revamp. Comments are welcome, coveted even! From here on I’ll be blogging mostly weekly, with an occasional exception. Parts 1 and 2 are just an overview as I figure most of you are new to the blog and am starting fresh.

Sorry in advance that this post will be uber long, but I really didn’t want to have a part 3 to this overview and my time is too tight to edit this way down (I’m working 70 hours a week right now for a mobile game company—I make a living as a commercial artist), and I’m on the home stretch of publishing our first fiction offering: Arcane Synthesis: A Blended-Genre Anthology, so I’m squeezing these posts in when I can.

Next week, I’ll begin delving into game design (like Class or no Class, D10, D20, dice pools or diceless, handling races, skills, spells, etc.) and post bite-sized pieces (most of the time), so you can get through the posts faster and walk away with something fun or at least interesting.

Now to continue my overview discussion on rpg scope, where we’ve been and where we’re heading! There are lots of directions a game designer can go and some important decisions need to be made along the way (the earlier the better). But a good game designer also needs to be able to stop and turn a corner if they see a better way of handling something. I loved Cosmothea 4.0, but I’ve turned a few corners and am glad I did as 5.0 is becoming a pretty solid game. Most of the hard decisions are out of the way and the game is largely playable, though there’s still many holes in it that I’m filling as I find time, testing, revising, etc.

Rpg’s are more complicated than most probably realize and it’s likely that many designers ought to just be playing games instead of designing them (though it is therapeutic and some designers are amazing at house rules). Other designers would find more success teaming up, not because they can’t cut it, but because as I said, rpg’s are complicated and two heads are better than one, increasing the odds of a great game on the market, rather than two pretty good games that never see the light of day (assuming they can put their egos aside and work together).

I’ve had much success building teams for working on projects, but much care should be taken. Not everyone plays well together (but that’s another topic). I’m a firm believer that creative types need to stand together and help each other accomplish dreams rather than trying to strike off on one’s own. I built a team of 11 to put together Cosmothea 4.0 shortly before the economy took a nosedive in America and crushed my budget. I’m on my own again, but I’ll build another team one day for finishing Cosmothea 5.0, Lord willing. (Again, that’s another topic for another time.)

When it comes to game design, it’s impossible to please everyone with every rule or setting concept. I’ve yet to see a game on the market that someone hasn’t complained or made a house rule about. I fully expect people to make house rules about Cosmothea one day, if things go well and I get the thing published, that is. I’m very driven and very focused, but money is tight and Kickstarter isn’t a sure thing for anybody (except maybe some of the top names in the industry).

To be clear, while my designs are meant to appeal to a wide audience, my goal isn’t to please everyone. I have a very clear vision for the game mechanics, magic system, technology and other concepts and am pursuing those. In addition to developing numerous card and board games that I’m still hoping to pursue as well, I’ve spent a great deal of time on this rpg and we’ve playtested each version quite a bit over the years. But just as a writer gets better with writing, I keep learning new tricks and am getting better at the old ones too, so the game’s been improving. I’m making more changes than I thought I would with Cosmothea 5.0, but I’m very happy with where we’re heading.

I’ve also spent hundreds of hours listening to gamers and what they like and want (and will continue to—there’s so much one can learn, including from playing tons of games), and have been brainstorming for years (not to mention running countless adventures in one incarnation of the game or another). This latest revamp is well on its way, though my company, QT Games, is currently focused more on the setting and revealing it through anthologies and novels.

If all goes well, as we refine the game and get funding, and if there’s enough interest, we’ll publish the game and more setting material. Some will fall in love with the system and/or setting, others will want to stick to what they’re already playing, no doubt. Again, such is life. As some of you know, Cosmothea and the Cosmoverse aren’t generic, though I designed them to be quite extensive. So, while the products I’m creating will be able to handle running or reproducing many of the cool adventures possible in the popular settings out there (and those from the Cosmoverse, of course), some concepts were left out intentionally.

There are already several generic/universal rpg’s out there like GURPS, HERO and Savage Worlds. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, nor am I interested in a big, crunchy or generic game and setting.  The Cosmoverse doesn’t have every kind of magic one can dream up, for example, so I don’t need to design the game to tackle everything. I just want to make the best game I can to handle the setting I’ve created (which is plenty to keep me busy as it is).

I wanted to cover a lot of ground and I have, so the game has to be able to support it. The previous iterations have done a pretty good job, but I think I can do even better. In Cosmothea 4.0 I merged superhero powers with the magic system, altering both into a better system that takes fewer pages, loses none of the flavors of each, and am continuing to improve it in 5.0, for example. Some mechanics and concepts in Cosmothea 1.0 and 2.0 I’ve kept because they’re very good, others have been quickly dumped and replaced in later versions as I’ve grown as a designer, writer and artist and gathered the feedback of my freelancers and players on and offline.

I’ve seen many of my designs pop up in other games over the years, so I’m confident with my design concepts and experience, but getting a product out there on a shoestring budget and a vision for very high production values, is a tricky combination. I insist on tons of good art all over my products, and have been painting and also commissioning art for years. I’ll be needing quite a bit more art to do the game and setting justice, but I’m approaching some elements of the product line differently now, and am continually refining my approach and execution.

All the big decisions were made early on (blended-genre, lots of options, not too lite or too crunchy, large number of worlds with differing themes – post apocalyptic, dystopian, science fantasy, western science fiction, my flavor of magic, etc. Yep, I had to make a lot of decisions and ask a lot of questions, including some hard questions.

As I post on particular topics, I’ll address some of these questions. As you can imagine, after 35 years and now a new edition of the game, I’ve learned a lot and am making changes to continually improve the game. And I’m still learning. Game design isn’t for those with a weak heart or big ego. Everyone has blind spots after all. I believe in bringing together the people needed to make something great, and I’ll do that here, as needed and as my budget heals.

For Cosmothea, I wanted to be able to do all kinds of cool things, with few limitations, which meant blending the genres together and making a universe big enough that gamers could take or leave many concepts, enjoy a robust and unusual magic system, ancient and futuristic mechs and other uber advanced technology, fantasy, science fiction, superheroes, horror and other goodies all in the same, coherent universe without stepping on toes or getting silly. I wanted a setting rich in flavor and overflowing with story potential, and I think I’ve nailed that.

I decided I wanted an average Joe to have the ability to affect life in other parts of the universe, and for the gods to be active, with rich backstories (I wanted everything to have lots of flavor—my specialty!), and no matter what planet you’re on, for there to be something connecting you to the rest of existence. So, it’s a very developed setting, but there’s still tons to unpack in novels and game products). And I intentionally left some worlds on the vast star map ripe for GM’s to explore as well, because I know you guys have stories to tell too (and it works for me as a designer too)!

It’s an ambitious project with big goals, but I think I’m accomplishing many of them, and it’s not like I’m going to put out everything at once. The latest incarnation’s still under heavy construction, so it will take some time and financing to move in a big way. I’m not rushing it just to get a publishing credit. I refuse to compromise on quality just because the scope of this rpg and setting are big. Further, I don’t have to put out big books left and right just because I’ve got a big universe. I’ll be moving forward carefully, focusing on what’s working and make adjustments as needed.

I’ve also got a cool card game in the works that is directly tied into my unusual magic system and it also ties into several stories, all of which I’m very excited about, but again, one thing at a time!

Just as other game companies have a battleplan for releasing products, QT Games does too, but one thing at a time as we get back on our feet. We officially opened our doors in January and are wrapping up a successful Kickstarter campaign. We aren’t ready for a big rpg kickstarter (rpg’s with good editing and art cost a decent chunk of change). QT Games is still an unknown, despite how active I’ve been online, as we don’t have any game or setting products out yet. That will change, I believe. And we’ll be doing another Kickstarter before long for our second book: The Living Train, and hopefully start building a fan base so we can move forward with our many, many other irons in the fire!

I hope you’ll return next week for my much shorter post on designing Cosmothea (follow my blog so you don’t miss anything!) I’ll be discussing classes (pros and cons and what I ultimately decided to do).

Let’s make it a great week, all. Cheers!

Posted in Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, Fiction, Game Design, Kickstarter, Roleplaying, RPG | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Designer Diary #1: The Scope of an RPG

Designer-DiaryWelcome to my first post in this reboot of my blog! I’m kicking off a design diary going behind the scenes on my brainstorms and decisions for designing the Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game and Cosmoverse Campaign Setting, discussing the mechanics, changes in this latest incarnation, etc. Now that I’m officially rebooting, I’ll start posting weekly (barring sickness or getting crazy busy).

As I’m in the middle of a reboot (with my game design, not just the company blog), and as not everyone is starting with this post, you might read something you’ve heard awhile back as I try to get new people up to speed, or discover that something I wrote a year or two ago no longer applies (Such is life when you’re striving to make the best products possible—I’m leaving no stone unturned and there are no sacred cows).

When I began designing Cosmothea back in the late 70’s, there were very, very few rpg’s on the market. Now the market is flooded with them. I’ve never had money to publish, which is why you’ve probably never heard of the game or setting (except on certain websites where I’ve run adventures via Play-by-Post or if you backed my Kickstarter or hung out at our forums or site).

With a glut of games now on the market, why then do I keep tweaking and even completely revamping the rules, rather than take my Cosmoverse and squeeze it into another game system? Because a) Cosmothea continues to be much, much better at simulating what I’m trying to accomplish in the Cosmoverse (since I’m tailoring the rpg to run it), b) I love game design and c) I love the mechanics and flavor I’ve been putting together. I’ve played many other games and am very familiar with numerous others, but I don’t want to play anything else. I’ve had fun with other games, but I keep returning to Cosmothea to get my gaming fix.

An rpg can’t be all things to all people. If you love D&D, the mechanics, what the game has to offer, then you should probably be playing that. If you love Star Wars and what the latest incarnation has to offer, then perhaps that’s the best game for you personally. I love Star Wars, but when it comes to settings, I’ve got a lot of ideas of my own and have been developing them for over 35 years.

Back in the 70’s I set about to create a universe where I could tell my stories and still leave plenty of room for others to tell theirs. I still think Cosmothea and the Cosmoverse are the hot ticket for my gaming pleasure. My bet is that many others will find it true for them as well. Having designed dozens of games, these aren’t the only concepts I could pursue commercially. I’m very excited about some of the others as well, and our upcoming fiction too, of course, but I think I’m on to something here, so I’m not backing down!

I’m currently revamping the whole game (this is my 5th major revamp, not counting some of my mini and rules-lite versions over the years) and I continue to flesh out the huge setting. Our first fiction offering, Arcane Synthesis: A Blended-Genre Anthology, should be out this Summer, if not a little sooner! The book’s already done (editing and formatting). I’m about to send it to the printers for review. But I always squeeze in time for my rpg design (I can’t help it, the ideas just keep coming), so even while I’m driving or walking the dog, I’m designing—some ideas get dumped, others refined and incorporated as appropriate, tested, dumped or refined further, etc).

I’ll post a bit more on all this tomorrow, then jump to weekly after that. Comments are welcome as always. Cheers!

Posted in Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, Fiction, Game Design, Kickstarter, Play-by-Post, Roleplaying, RPG | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Challenge Day 7

With this final day of the Gratitude Challenge, I wrap up the 7 days of acknowledging the wonderful things in my life I’m grateful for. While not every portion of these posts may have touched your hearts, the main reason I’ve been posting these (aside from taking a break while I focus on wrapping up our fiction anthology release (Arcane Synthesis) is because I figured you might find these inspirational/encouraging—at least a little something in each post—or at least find them interesting.

I’ve been very transparent and while you may not have agreed with everything I’ve said, or cared about everything, I think the posts have given some solid insights into my background, why I am such a positive person, why I’m here, where I and QT Games are heading, etc.

Following this post, I’ll be returning to my regular game design diary and company focused posts, mostly about the Cosmoverse Campaign Setting and Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game, but also about upcoming fiction and why I made the decisions that I did. I’ll also get into some of the design concepts I’ve bandied about, revised, tossed out, and what you can look forward to in upcoming products.

Now then, as I’m already late getting you this final post of this tangent, without further ado, the final day of the challenge! [Most future posts will be much shorter. I hope you stick around for the regular gaming and fiction posts and our occasional tangent about life, the universe and everything. Have a great weekend, all! Cheers!

Gratitude Challenge Day 7:
1. Creativity: I am grateful for my creativity. It has made life a lot more fun. When I’m waiting somewhere and people around me are all using their cell phones, all I really want is a blank notebook and a pen. I love to just sit and create, whether it’s snippets of dialogue for some future skit or play I want to write, an idea for another Cosmoverse story, a sketch of my next cartoon character or creature for my Cosmothea RPG, a new spin on a game mechanic or setting element, or even an idea for another card or board game.

As long as I can think, I can entertain myself for hours on end, and have a blast doing it. I used to pray for red lights so I’d have time while driving to write down ideas. I’ve come up with numerous board game concepts and dozens of stories while driving, none of which I would be able to do without creativity. I have far, far too many cool ideas to ever find time to write them all down or draw them and eventually try to publish them, so until my brain no longer functions properly or I get too old to think, I will have tons of exciting things I can work on! What a wonderful gift that is useful in every area I’m interested in, and I only hope that I will be able to spend a good portion of the rest of my life using my creativity to pursue my dreams and be a blessing to others!

2. Games: I am grateful to have spent the past 35 years working on, playing or expanding upon one version or another of the Cosmothea Blended-Genre Roleplaying Game and the Cosmoverse Campaign Setting. Both have been tremendous fun. I’ve done a lot of things over my life, but none of the hobbies I’ve tried have ever held a candle to tapping my imagination through roleplaying and game design. The game is still not on the market, in large part due to a lack of finances, but I’ve still had a lot of fun with it and still hope to one day get the finances to pursue it commercially.

The Cosmoverse setting, (which for those who don’t know, is a universe I created and filled with imaginary creatures, cultures, magic, science fiction, superheroes and lots of cool ideas), is also not on the market yet, but Lord willing, will be one day. It has been immensely satisfying and it is the backdrop for nearly all of the stories I have written and plan to write for the remainder of my days. I’ve also had the pleasure of designing over two dozen board and card games since I was about 14, and have had so much fun with them (yeah, I’m hoping to publish a few before I pass away, but come what may in life, I’ll never regret the time I invested in exploring my imagination through games!

3. Drive: Call me foolish, naïve, stubborn, and maybe I’m a touch of those things—nobody’s perfect, but the fact is, anyone who knows me, knows I’m a driven person. I’m grateful that I’m no quitter! It doesn’t take a lot to knock me down, but you can be assured that I’ll get right back up and continue down the path I’ve chosen. The reason for this unwillingness to admit defeat, to throw in the towel and lay down my dreams, is that I believe I’ve been given solid reasons to stay the course. I believe I can make it.

Sure, I’m a very positive person, but I know my limitations too. And my dreams are ones that many don’t achieve (prolific, published author and game designer chiefly) and I admit there’s times I feel like giving up, when I don’t know if I can go on. I know the road is hard and know others who have tried and failed, but I continue to do research and work toward my dreams. I have quite a bit of experience and pray daily for wisdom. And I have seen wisdom bubble forth at times when I’ve needed it most and I’ll continue to pray for more and learn from my own mistakes. (I guess I’m not so foolish, nor so naïve after all). Yet after so many trials I still don’t give up.

Stubbornness then? That implies a refusal to change my opinions and direction, despite good advice, but I spend a great deal of time seeking advice, studying the market, doing my homework, and making adjustments to my dream.

Making adjustments isn’t failure, it’s preparing for success! I’m not stubborn for pursuing a hard dream to accomplish. I have solid reasons for why I’m so driven. The reason is simple. I’m not relying on myself to carry the ball. I’m merely bringing the ball to the field and having learned the game, am approaching the goal and am prepared to kick the ball when and where God tells me to.

I’m confident in God’s ability to help me achieve my goals because I believe there’s nothing too difficult for God. He has affirmed again and again that I’m on the right path, and while I still have a long way to go to reach my goals, I’m trusting in him and am doing my job. What makes me so driven is what I’m eternally grateful! ‘Nuff said. ☺

Posted in Cosmothea, Cosmoverse, Encouragement, Fiction, Game Design, Hope, Life, Roleplaying, RPG | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratitude Challenge Day 6

I’m back. Between being sick and apparently not being able to read a calendar, I blew past the last Gratitude Challenge day. Sorry about that! here’s Day 6! We’re bringing this back around to fiction and gaming following next week’s Day 7.

I may start a second blog later for off-topic stuff about life that I hope you find inspirational, but time is too tight currently (as you might have guessed by this late post). Only one “day” left of the challenge and then back to my usual, including some game design diary goodies, updates and more sneek peeks. Here goes . . .

1. Comics: What an impact comics made on my life. Not only have they been a wonderful, healthy, lifelong distraction, causing me to read like mad and learn all sorts of new words (like excelsior), but they inspired me creatively. Jack Kirby in particular got me thinking epic thoughts about wild stories—larger-than-life adventures and strange, new worlds. I have a lot of fun memories and get goose bumps easily when I see some of those old titles from my youth. I doubt I ever would have thought up the Cosmoverse Campaign Setting had it not been for Jack Kirby and for being a voracious comic book reader.

2. Movies:
Star Wars and Indiana Jones were two movie franchises that had the second greatest impact on me. My jaw fell into my lap and stayed there while I watched those first two movies. They, like many that followed, served to motivate me to keep writing my own stories, to keep designing my own games and to keep dreaming! Even today, when I see a great movie, it makes me want to do something great, to write another play or another tale of life in the vast Cosmoverse!

3. My Mom & Dad: They are two very different people, but both impacted me in very different ways. My Mom lives here in town and is my biggest fan. I can’t tell you how wonderful and encouraging she is and how irreplaceable she’s been in shaping my life! She is the one who led me to Christ and is a daily example that inspires and encourages me to keep going and keep trusting in God even when times are very hard. She is sacrificial, and I can always count on her cheering me up when I’m down. She has supported every dream I’ve ever had and has invested so much time and energy and even money in helping my dreams come true. She is always quick to pray for me and see how she can help me in some way. I could never repay her for all she’s done, nor express all she means to me!

I don’t see my Dad very often, but if much time passes without him hearing from me, he calls to check in on my family and I! I didn’t live with him growing up and usually didn’t appreciate when he would try to teach me things. He wanted very much to prepare me for the days ahead and impart practical lessons. It was important to him that I was well rounded, that if I ever had a problem, I’d be able to fix it, or at least have the sense of being able to make sure someone else wasn’t trying to rip me off if they fixed it for me. He tried to teach me all sorts of things. When I was smart, I listened, and then passed his tricks and tips on to my own boys in due time. I love him and am grateful for everything he’s done over the years!

That’s it for this week. Next week is Day 7 and then back to our regular goodies, only with fewer calories and better tasting. Have an awesome week folks. Cheers!

Posted in Encouragement, Hope, Life | Tagged | Leave a comment