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?
No. 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!