Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Dark Side of Imagination

I think having a healthy imagination is a very good thing. However, it can have its drawbacks. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm playing bachelor this week while my family is out of town. While I enjoy a little peace and quiet, being in a house all alone is a bit...odd...when you're used to being in a home with three other people. The lack of laughter, crying, the TV, or just the sounds of the boys' bedtime music playing leaves me with nothing other than the creaks and groans of the floorboards. Now, I don't believe in the supernatural. The only ghosts and goblins waiting in the shadows are those found in my games and writing. However, there are times when my imagination runs away with me, and I'm currently dealing with one of those times.

My parents gave my 1 year old a giant singing reindeer for Christmas. This thing is almost taller than Grayson, and its sitting down! When we got home from my folks house after Christmas, I placed it on the futon in our basement play room. It "stares" at the stairwell leading upstairs, and it's the first thing you see when you come downstairs. It just sits there (unless you press the button on its hoof, then it sings carols) staring blankly with its beady little black eyes. I hadn't payed it much attention until today. I was getting recycling gathered to take to bins and I looked at it. It almost seemed like it was staring back at me. The thought gave me chills.

Now, it's dark out, and the thought that gnaws at the back of my mind is if that thing is monstrous? It could silently stalk me throughout the house. I'm sitting at my desk in my man-cave and that thing is right outside. I find myself glancing into the playroom half-expecting to see a shadow. Every time I walk out into the playroom, I expect to see a subtle shift in the way its sitting on the futon, or even a dramatic change in position to set me screaming like a wildman out into the night!

It's all crap though. These images are just the by-product of an over-active, and likely over-indulged, imagination. I'm not honestly scared of a partially animatronic stuffed reindeer, but my imagination won't let loose of the idea. Maybe I'll put the reindeer in my son's room so I won't have to see it...but then it could start plotting with the Elmos he got for Christmas...everyone know how evil those things are...

Friday, December 27, 2013

Post Holiday Musings

I hope you all had a great holiday season, and will have a safe and happy New Year to boot! It was a pretty good Christmas here. Now my wife and kids are halfway across the country enjoying some time with her brother and his family. So, here I sit in a quiet house with the next couple of days all to myself. In order to fill the deafening silence that now permeates the house, I've devoted some time to watch some Deep Space 9 (I'm nearly done with season 6, and therefore the series as a whole with only season 7 left to watch) and getting my copy of Descent 2nd Edition and the expansions organized (I just picked up The Trollfens expansion today). As is typical, DS9 got me thinking about my set of sci-fi rules that are in a constant state of revision and re-configuring, and organizing Descent got me thinking about another project that I've long thought about: designing a D&D inspired board game in the vein of Warhammer Quest.

I love dungeon crawling board games. Ever since I first played Hero Quest, I've been hooked. Warhammer Quest is still my all time favorite dungeon crawler. The tables that allowed the party to discover what happened to them whilst travelling to and from a dungeon, and what happens to them in town along with tables and charts of encounters in various locations made for a great time. Plus, WQ is deadly. Getting a character passed the first Battle Level is a badge of honor. Still, the game does have its flaws, the first being that is it so blasted deadly that it's hard to hold some players' interest after losing yet another BL1 character early on in a dungeon due to a random encounter with 1d3 Minotaurs! Anyway, I've got a ton of dungeon crawler board games from HQ and WQ to the D&D Board Game (and expansions) that were only released in Europe to the new D&D games, to Descent and its multiple expansions and some lesser known games like Darkworld and Dragonfire. That's not even counting the mountain of D&D minis and the unpainted minis. With all these games at my disposal, surely there would be a way to draw them all together to make one helluva dungeon crawler?

First off would be the rules. I would like leveling to high levels to be possible. Since its a board game, it needs to play fairly fast, which is oftentimes a downside to many dungeon crawler board games. There will be charts and lists to simulate random encounters. Plus, and this is the big one for me, the system should be able to handle both GM-driven and solo play.

Why solo play? For starters, it turns what can often times feel like a competitive game with one player running the monsters with the rest trying to defeat or outwit the GM's monsters and such into a cooperative encounter with all players getting to feel the danger of playing a character whose life is in constant peril. Plus, since my wife isn't big on these kind of games, and my sons are still a bit too young yet, solo play is often times the only way I can play.

I'm thinking of going with a d20-based system mixed with some of the class ideas found in Descent. This will allow for a variety of classes and allow the level of scaling that I prefer. Monsters would be the standard D&D fare, but some powers and such would have to be tweaked not only for solo/random play, but to also speed things up. Such as spell lists for monster spellcasters would have to be truncated/modified to in a set of powers. The same goes for certain powers like a vampire's bite.

Treasure would be randomized, likely using a modification of the random treasure tables I wrote up for Swords and Wizardry. Some items that have little use in the dungeon or that are hard to use in solo play will have to be left out, but by and large most items would be fine to use.

The dungeon tiles would be pulled from the various sets that I have, but I'd likely end up using WQ's since all the cards and tiles are already right there and ready to use.

Now, with all this musing, you'd think I'm starting to get something more substantial on paper, right? Wrong. I've tried working this idea for a long time now. While its something that I'd like to someday get off the ground, it's nothing more than mental calisthenics right now.

My primary focus in my writing is my sci-fi rules and setting. Work continues, and due to the quiet and alone time I'll have this week, I hope to make a lot more progress that I've been able to over the last couple of months.

So, with that, I'm going to get back to work. Until next time...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Still Kicking

Haven't been very active of late around here. There's been a lot going on both good and bad keeping me away from getting much writing done. I will have a very rare stretch of time after Christmas all to myself in which I plan to devote to making some serious progress on some of my projects. Until then, I'll leave you with this: go rent/buy Elysium. It's a great flick that's rather Mass Effecty in its tech and imagery. (Plus, it's just an all around good movie.)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

HeroQuest 25th Anniversary Kickstarter is Dead

As many of you likely know, the Kickstarter for HeroQuest 25 has been on hold for a while now due to some (surprise, surprise) legal issues. As I was going through my email this evening I get this message from Gamezone:
"Dear Backers

Last Friday we were surprised by the pause placed on our kickstarter Project of HQ25. We wrote a communiqué to you, which was also posted on our site In our letter we tried to communicate to you in the clearest fashion what was happening and as well to share with you all, our petition to kickstarter to have the project reopened. To do all of this publicly was to us the correct way for you as our backers to be informed of the situation and the most correct and transparent way to communicate with you as well, as our backers you have the right to know what was going on with this project.

We have done what you have ask for, we have waited in silence for KS’ answer. It has arrived. KS would prefer to keep the project on hold and wait for us to come to an agreement with third part.
The KS answer can be seen at this LINK (
KS’ position does not agree with as at all. The situation produced by the pause of the project has been harmful.

We do not feel that our legitimate rights over the Trademark have been protected and above all we do not wish to do business with third part under threats or duress of any sort. As a result we are proceeding to solicit KS to cancel our project on their platform.

Is this the end of HQ25? Of course not! Keep reading!
We accept the all of the respectful critics that has come our way because we learn from these things and if someone thinks differently they are free to express those opinions. What we do not accept is the disinformation y distortions that have been happening during the project's pause on KS in which we have remained silent and waited.

During these past few days our creative design crew has still been working on the development of various components, the same as always, the idea being to not lose any energy with this controversy.
The thirteen on the gallows, as we have fondly started calling the 13 professionals that are implicated in the creation of the project, have as a priority the development of this commemorative game.

We are truly more worried about you, the backers. We want thank you for the messages of support that have been rolling in. The public reaction to the news of a new edition of this classic provided undeniable and sincere joy to many. We will hold onto this as the rout to follow.

After this communiqué is sent out we will proceed to ask KS to cancel the project on their platform. After this is done we will immediately restart and continue the HQ25 project. More info Therefore the HQ25 project will return to active status. We will move from victims to survivors and conquer as we go.

We understand that KS has a larger public base than any other crowed funding platform today; we understand that moving the project to another site will mean that out backer support will decrease. However we are ready and willing to continue this campaign in a place that will offer us the correct guaranties for our trademark. We would prefer to raise fewer funds and still move forward with and produce it in time for the 25th anniversary.

We await your support and enthusiasm in this renewed crowed funding campaign.
Again, we would like to thank our backers from the bottom of our hearts, please do not regret supporting us. Let us all together get this back on track and make this dream a reality.

Gamezone Team"

So the Kickstarter is dead and will likely move to a different crowdfunding platform, so while the Kickstarter may be dead, the project will likely live on. However, those pesky Trademark issues aren't likely going to go away so it'll probably remain unlikely that we'll see distribution stateside. This whole process though has left me with the feeling that "there's something rotten in Denmark." While I'll watch HQ25 to see where it ends up, if anywhere, and I do hope that Gamezone can get in going and be able to distribute it in retail won't surprise me in the least if they hit yet another dead end. I wish Gamezone all the luck in the world with this, but I'm glad I didn't pony up any cash for it and likely won't unless it hits retail outlets. 

Monday, December 02, 2013

Slarecians: The First on Mars

Slarecians are an evil race of humanoids found in the Scarred Lands campaign setting for D&D 3 and 3.5 editions. I've long loved the mystery of these beings and how all that has been left behind by them either causes fear, kills without mercy, or sows discord. As I was starting work on my sci-fi setting, I knew that I wanted the first colonists on Mars to find that they weren't the first to set foot on the red planet. I wanted an alien race full of dark foreboding and mystery. The Slarecians are a perfect fit, and below is how I'm fitting them into my setting.

In 2036, the first Martian colony was established in a joint US and EU venture. A couple months after the establishment of Burrough's Promise, a surveying team found a strange metal arched doorway at the base of Olympus Mons. The metal was unlike anything that had ever been seen before. It was nearly impervious to harm and had an oily sheen not unlike what is seen when oil and water are combined. Completely by accident, the door was opened by one of the survey team. They retreated from the site and called in an archaeological team. Mission Control also had a security force go with the team to explore the opening. What was found was evidence that humans weren't the first species to visit and colonize Mars.

The site was dark and contained featureless walls of the same strange metal. Hallways created a maze like effect, but all seemed to eventually end in a central domed room. The central room was adorned with stone plinths and altars with strange, and as several members of the exploratory team recounted, insidious-looking runes carved into them. In the center of the chamber was a stone archway adorned with more of the wicked-looking runes. One of the researches touched a rune on one of the altars, which turned out to be control panel of some kind. The room was bathed in light from an unknown source; it seemed to come from everywhere. The runes on the central arch lit up as well. What happened next was not fully understood until after the Fraal made contact with humankind due to a total failure of the vid-comm systems each member of the team was equipped with. The bits that came through were disturbing to say the least. A number of creatures poured through the archway, which appeared to be a portal of some kind. Other than clips of screams, gunfire, and brief glances of the hunched, gaunt, humanoid monsters, nothing else was seen. Within seconds the life signs of all members flatlined. The security detail stationed at the opening to the site was ordered to cause an avalanche to block the opening since tests on the metal concluded that nothing less than a nuclear explosion would have much chance of affecting the metal.

The Olympus Mons "tomb" shocked the US and EU leaders; all of whom covered up all news of the discovery and the events that followed. It didn't take conspiracy theorists long to notice that a permanent UN military base was set up near Olympus Mons, however. Some of them even got close to what the UN was protecting/hiding. This disaster also colored perceptions of aliens by the US and EU, which is why relations with the Fraal were very cold and cautious to begin with.

It was the Fraal that provided the Earth governments with information that filled in the gaps on just what that site is. The Fraal had encountered other Slarecian ruins on other worlds in their history. What little they knew was that they were a seemingly long-dead Precursor species. All that remained of their culture was the ruins made out of what the Fraal called "Slarecian Steel". They culture, from what little they could discern was devoted to "esoteric sciences" like dimensional travel, torturous surgeries, horrific genetic testing, and psionic potential. Near as the Fraal had been able to piece together at the time was that they traveled the cosmos by way of the stone arches like the one found at the Olympus Mons site. The Fraal strongly cautioned the Earth governments to leave these sites alone. While the Fraal were also keenly interested in Slarecian research into psionics and would also like to know more about the history and culture of the species, every site, while different save for the existence of at least one stone archway and being made out of Slarecian Steel, is deadly beyond all comprehension. To this day, the Olympus Mons site has never been excavated, the defenses have only been strengthened over time.

Slarecian ruins have been found on other worlds the galaxy over, all of whom are instantly declared off-limits by any government ran by leaders with even an ounce of sanity. However, there are those that hear tales of untold riches in technology, science, or simply precious metals and jewels that tempt fate and try to explore a Slarecian site. Some of the horrors encountered are: Slarecian Ghouls, these twisted, savage beings are living creatures. Some scientists theorized that this is what became of the Slarecians, while others contest that they are likely the result of genetic testing or were specifically bred for defense. Either way, these creatures are the most commonly encountered threats in Slarecian ruins. Slarecian Gargoyles are automatons of psionically animated stone. Slarecian ruins are often adorned with statues of these winged creatures, as well as of Slarecians themselves, but only the winged statues are animated. They attack with intense savagery, but little cunning, unlike Slarecian Ghouls. One of the most insidious dangers is the Language Virus. This is a psionically spread virus that breaks down the ability of those affected to understand what anyone else is saying. So far, no cure has been found for the disease, and thanks to the ability for the virus to spread via psionic energy any who contract the disease, especially psions whose mastery of psionics only increases the transmission range, are either killed or simply left behind.

Many Slarecian ruins are destroyed by orbital barrages when discovered, so those that wish to try and profit from such sites typically have to work fast. There are credits to be made plundering Slarecian ruins even in spite of the dangers. Slarecian items are powerful in the hands of a psion and go for high prices on the Black Market (the sale of such items is banned by most stellar nations). Some psions have found chambers that when the correct rune is activated, allows them to expand their psionic potential with relative ease. Even Concord scientists would love to study the Portal Arches found at every Slarecian ruin site. The possibility of being able to unlock dimensional travel is hard to resist.

It is the possibility of dimensional travel that leads many to believe that the Slarecians are still out there somewhere, but only the insane would ever want to meet one.