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Eclipse Phase: Panopticon & Broken Time Blues Go Live

August 17th, 2011 No comments
Panopticon cover

Eclipse Phase: Panopticon. Is that a monkey & an octopus in a pit fight? You bet your sweet ass it is, paatno-san.

The new Eclipse Phase hardcover, Panopticon: A Focused Eye on Transhumanity, Vol. I, went live for PDF sales on DriveThruRPG.net today. It’s available as both a standalone PDF and a Creative Commons-licensed hack pack so that players & GMs can mash up the art for their own use.

Physical copies of Panopticon will be available in  gaming stores (at least in the U.S.) on August 31. Support your FLGS! But if you just can’t wait that long, or don’t have a game store that stocks Eclipse Phase, it’s also available through Indie Press Revolution.

Panopticon features new material on uplifted animals, ubiquitous surveillance, and space habitats (the chapter I co-authored with Justin Kugler). Along with beautiful art and detailed setting information, it’s packed with new morphs, new gear, and new mechanics of use to both players and GMs. This is a great book to own if you’re into the high tech dungeon crawl or political aspects of the game, and the chapter on sentient animals is essential reading if your campaign involves uplifts. And the opening story, El Destino Verde, also written by me, ain’t too shabby, either… in my entirely humble opinion.

# # #

Broken Time Blues cover art

Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring Twenties

Meanwhile, on the fiction front, my story Der Graue Engel appears in Broken Time Blues: Fantastic Tales in the Roaring ’20s. It’s got a little bit of Fritz Lang, a little bit of Cabaret, and a little bit of LeGuin’s Hainish Cycle, all turned loose in a Weimar Germany that’s about to hit the skids big time. I can’t wait to get my hands on the book myself, because it’s also got stories by three of my Clarion West 2010 classmates — Frank Ard, John Remy, and Andrew Romine — as well as by Paizo’s fiction editor, the estimable James Sutter. Keen-as-hell art by Galen Dara ices the cake. Our editors, Jaym Gates and Erika Holt, themed their last anthology, Rigor Amortis, around zombie erotica, so I highly doubt they pulled any punches on this one.

All right, enough marketing. I’ve got another chapter of Eclipse Phase: Rimward to polish off tonight…

…and a fine Gen Con was had by all!

August 10th, 2011 3 comments
Panopticon cover

"Two uplift enter, one uplift resleeve!"

Thing with Gen Con: it’s always been too damned short. When I was a kid, it always seemed like Sunday came too soon. And now that I’m going as a game designer, ironically, it seems even shorter (you’d think all that work would make it seem longer, but no!). I didn’t see even half of the people or things I wanted to, but it was a blast all the same.

The biggest news from my court was the release of the latest Eclipse Phase hardcover, Panopticon: A Focused Eye on Transhumanity, Vol. I. We had pre-release copies of the book on sale in the Posthuman Studios booth for those lucky enough to be at Gen Con.

Like every Eclipse Phase book to date, it’s gorgeous, with yet another Stephan MARTINIÈRE cover icing the cake (I’ll capitalize his last name, because he’s French, and that’s how they roll). The writing ain’t too shabby, either, although as co-author of the section on space habitats, I’m clearly biased. The other two sections of the book deal with uplifted animals and ubiquitous surveillance. No street date yet, but EP fans may be assured that we’ve delivered the goods on this one. Can’t wait to see the forum threads on how people use these imaginings in actual play!

ENnie 2011

Posthuman be bringin' home ENnies.

I also finally got my hands on a physical copy of Gatecrashing, and it, too, is pretty darned sweet. And Posthuman won another Gold ENnie, this one for Continuity, Marc & Leah Huete’s excellent scenario from last year’s Gen Con. Congrats to them on taking one of Eclipse Phase’s core concepts — body-hopping — and building an intense scenario around it.

Other acquisitions this year included one of Dragonchow’s beautifully made limited edition Eclipse Phase dice bags; Pathfinder: Ultimate Combat (congrats to Jason & team on another great rulebook); and, from the ENnies benefit auction, a bundle of everything currently available for the Dragon Age tabletop RPG. I have to admit I’m always suspicious of RPGs licensed from a big non-tabletop RPG product, but if you look at the names in the credits (Pramas, Kenson, Kulp, Tidball, to name several), it’s clear Green Ronin wasn’t relying on a franchise name to carry this line.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend grabbed a copy of Don’t Rest Your Head RPG and its companion volume Don’t Lose Your Mind and is threatening to run it, a development I’d welcome. We gave this game a spin at Paizo Con back in June, and it’s a great little design.

Additional awesome things I did or saw, in no particular order…

Giant Robo Rally

Giant Roborally with Mindstorm Robots. Squeee!

Some brilliant genius/maniacs who apparently live at the sweet spot between Maker Fair projects and extreme geek love brought a giant Roborally board to the con and had huge Lego Mindstorm robots tooling around it. I was running by on my way to the Posthuman booth when I spotted it, but Father Fletch (of PAX Tabletop Enforcer fame) was nice enough to let me borrow his photo of it, so that y’all may know this awesomeness wasn’t just something I hallucinated after 3 days of Gen Con sleep dep.

I ran a lot of Eclipse Phase, as Posthuman was short on GMs this year. Last year I spent almost all of my time in the booth, pitching the books, so it was great to get out and game with the fans. I mostly ran Xenovore, the fan-inspired scenario I wrote and ran at East Coast cons earlier this year. Hopefully I’ll get it published some time soon.

Jesus Store

Welcome to Indianapolis, Land of Jesus Stores & Ranch Dressing

And I pitched a board game designed by Nathaniel Dean & I. Far too early to talk about what the project is, but we felt the pitch went well. It was my first experience pitching a new game of my own to a serious potential publisher, and I think my co-designer and I took a lot away from the experience.

On Saturday, advance copies of Degenesis showed up at the Posthuman booth. Gorgeous art; weird, weird setting. I was joking with booth visitors that we only do RPGs about the end of the world. Davidson & Seth, the line developers, took a really tough translation project and made it sing. Unfortunately, I forgot my copy at the booth when I rushed off to the airport, so I’ll have to wait to read it!

Some people say Gen Con leaves them exhausted. True for me, physically, but on a creative level, I find it incredibly energizing. I went home very much revved up for another year of writin’ and schemin’.

Eclipse Phase: ‘Continuity’ PDF Available

November 29th, 2010 No comments

Eclipse Phase: Continuity (cover art)Over the weekend, Posthuman reported they’ve released Marc Huete’s Continuity, the fourth published scenario for Eclipse Phase, as a PDF. I watched a few tables at Gen Con playing this one, and it looks like a ton of fun. In convention play, the players stepped into the roles of multiple forks of the same person, then worked together to unravel the circumstances of their original’s demise. The PDF release includes the set-up for putting PCs from your own campaign into the same situation.

This comes right on the heels of the next major Eclipse Phase book, Gatecrashing, going to the printer. Gatecrashing explores the alien worlds on the other side of the Pandora Gates. It includes lots of setting material and many new character build options, including new gear, morphs, and augmentations.

I didn’t work on either of these projects, but having read the manuscripts for both, I highly recommend them to EP fans. Continuity is available through DriveThru RPG now. We don’t have a street date on Gatecrashing yet.

Categories: Eclipse Phase, RPG Tags: ,

Eclipse Phase: Sunward finally available on Amazon!

November 16th, 2010 No comments

After months of Posthuman Studios wrangling with Amazon about a Catalyst-related ISBN mix-up, Eclipse Phase: Sunward is available on Amazon… But check your FLGS first!

Eclipse Phase at PAX West

August 28th, 2010 No comments

Schedule of Eclipse Phase events at PAX West. I won’t be making it, but developer Brian Cross will be there. I highly recommend checking it out if you’ll be there. Not sure if he’ll be running my scenario from Gen Con, Doctrine, but I hope so!

Categories: Eclipse Phase, Events, RPG Tags: , , ,

Accolades for Eclipse Phase

August 20th, 2010 No comments

Posthuman Studios got some love (and some more love, and then some more) for Eclipse Phase this summer, starting with winning an Origins Award for Best Role-Playing Game at Origins Game Fair in July. We went on to receive four ENnie nominations. This was neat, but we weren’t really expecting to win anything, especially since Pathfinder’s powerful fan base would be voting en masse. (And it was a good night for Pathfinder; they left with something like a dozen medals! Being a Pathfinder fan myself, I can’t argue much with this).

But lo, we were to be surprised…

The outcome: Eclipse Phase won…

  • Best Writing: Gold
  • Best Cover Art: Silver (go, Stephan Martiniere!)
  • Product of the Year: Silver

For the Best Production Values ENnie, Adam Jury of Eclipse Phase lost to Adam Jury of Shadowrun: 20th Anniversary. Four ENnies at one table. Sweet!

So now I get to display these…

Ten year old me? Super jealous.

Eclipse Phase GM’s Screen & ‘Glory’ Scenario now available!

February 25th, 2010 No comments

EP GM Screen + \'Glory-The Eclipse Phase Gamemaster Screen is now available as a PDF release. I’m pretty excited about this, because the adventure included with it, Glory, is my first solo RPG publication. The scenario is designed as a solid intro to the Eclipse Phase world. The characters, as agents of Firewall, are sent looking for another Firewall agent who’s gone missing. The adventure combines intrigue and investigation with a high-tech dungeon crawl on a deep space station and some good ol’ blood & guts horror. One reviewer compared it favorably to legendary sci-fi/horror computer RPG System Shock 2.

You can…

As with the Core rulebook, the GM screen is released under a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution sharealike license.

Gen Con Roundup

August 25th, 2009 No comments

Eclipse Phase coverThis is very belated, as I just gave myself about a month off to regain some sanity, but here’s my roundup of this year’s Gen Con.

The big news from where I sit is obviously Eclipse Phase. It’s finally out, and it’s a beautiful baby. At 400 pages, it’s a big baby, too. Catalyst had only a limited number of copies to sell at the con, so the people doing retail in the exhibit hall booth were cracking open one box each morning and selling out as fast as they could run the cash registers. I’m pretty sure we could have beaten some records for units sold at Gen Con if we’d had more copies, but trans-Pacific shipping (from Thailand, specifically) cuts deep into your margins if you airlift in too many advance copies.

Despite the dearth of actual books to sell, we had full tables for every demo we ran over in the Catalyst room at the Hyatt, and I was running demos more or less nonstop in the exhibit hall. I’m thankful to everyone who spent some of their time trying the game out. After all, there’s a lot to see at Gen Con. I even got to play in a demo run by Sprite (or “Rob Boyle,” as they call him there in Gondor). It was great getting to just be a player after writing and GMing a playtest group for two years. But this gets to the heart of what I told one blogger who stopped by to talk: we made Eclipse Phase because it was the sci-fi game that we all wanted to play.

 

Games for Which I Want to Write

The Gen Con exhibit hall is a non-stop assault of amazing new stuff, much of which a true gamer wants to buy and take home. One unexpected (and lucky, maybe) side effect of having moved to Massachusetts is that I can’t bring back much stuff due to airline weight restrictions. If I bring ten pounds worth of chapbooks with me to the con and get rid of all of them, I’ve got ten pounds of swag and purchases, max. This year I took a an approach to shopping I’d never tried before. I took my mandatory swing through the Indie Revolution booth and picked up a board game there (Andre Monserrat’s intriguing House of Whack). I eyed a really neat-looking storytelling game set in Asian antiquity whose mechanics apparently call for serving tea and stabbing other players’ character sheets with a knife (whose name I forgot, damn it!).

I then spent most of my time in the hall looking for games on which I’d want to work as a writer. I love running games, so for me, the litmus test of whether I’m going to love a new RPG is whether it immediately gets the creative gears turning in my head. There were some clear standouts. Some of these won’t be news, but having spent the last two years completely absorbed in making our game (and barely having gotten to leave our booth last Gen Con), I’d missed a few things.

 

Desolation RPG coverDesolation (Greymalkin Designs)

When I saw this game’s tagline, “post-apocalyptic fantasy,” I was immediately intrigued. Take your typical happy high fantasy world. You’ve got lots of self-satisfied elves, dragons soaring over mountaintops, happy halflings at work in their barley fields — in other words, a wellspring of boredom as old as the Silmarillion. Really, your only option is to destroy it and set your game in the ashes. Now the halflings are resorting to cannibalism and the elves are wearing cloaks of elvenkind that haven’t been washed in eighteen months. Suddenly things are interesting! I wasn’t able to bring this one home, but I’m definitely giving it a read when I can grab a copy.

 

Geist (White Wolf)

I’ll admit: I’ve been known to beat up on White Wolf a little when I discuss RPGs with my friends. I love Exalted, but there are times when I’ve talked about them as if they were the Quentin Tarantino of the RPG industry (“I’m not into Kill Bill, and other than that, what has he done for me lately?”). Maybe I was bored with the formula for World of Darkness game titles (parodied by White Wolf themselves in the card game Pimp: The Backhanding). Maybe it was petulance at their killing Wraith (was I the only person who ever loved this game?). And to be fair, they’ve put out some products that I just didn’t like (Hunter: The Reckoning comes to mind).

Geist is not one such product. The people at the White Wolf booth were very quick (defensively so, it seemed) to tell me that the game is not a reworking of Wraith. That said, it retains in some form what I think was one of the most powerful aspects of Wraith: the shadow. Instead of playing ghosts with an evil twin, though, this game tells the story of living humans, recently returned from near-death experiences, who’ve bonded to an entity called a Geist. The Geist is a former person whose death was so emotionally charged that it transforms them into a near-archetypal persona whose drives and desires thereafter pull constantly at the Sin Eater, the mortal to which it bonds. Less brutal in its disempowerment of the PC than Wraith, yet no less spooky, Geist looks like a nice addition to the WoD franchise.

 

Alpha Omega (Mindstorm Labs)

And here I confidently thought we were going to be the prettiest game at Gen Con. Damn. We’ll have to settle for prettiest new game, since this one’s been out since 2007. Mindstorm had their core book and a book of monsters on sale, both gorgeously produced at an appealingly unusual aspect ratio. Post-apocalyptic occult horror games aren’t exactly new ground in the industry, but this one boasts a solid combination of compelling writing, innovative mechanics, and totally eye-popping art. The added presence of angels and demons (with halfbreeds as playable characters) introduces some interesting storytelling possibilities to a world that’s already gone through some over the top transformations by fire, flood, and comet.

 

Song of Ice & Fire RPG (Green Ronin)

The history of RPGs is littered with failures, a surprising number of which are games licensed off of properties that probably seemed to their developers like a sure thing due to the built-in fan base. Some failed due to poor design (Aliens), others due to weird restrictions imposed by licensors who didn’t understand the RPG industry and developers who agreed to their terms when they should’ve just walked away (Indiana Jones, Star Trek). These failures have become no less common over the years; they’ve just gotten more expensive (witness Buffy, a property that no RPG company in its right mind will ever touch again). So after the rather spectacular failure of Guardians of Order’s Song of Ice & Fire RPG, it’s heartening to see a good company like Green Ronin taking a whack.

It looks like they’re off to a good start. Rather than producing a door stopper of a core book full of material that’s only marginally useful (did anyone really need stats for every single knight in Westeros?), Green Ronin’s core book comes in at a slimmer, saner page count while maintaining great production values. Need setting material? GRRM’s notoriously incomplete series has what you need. Need a game for it? It’s right here. The fact that Green Ronin’s web site is currently offering it on sale makes it even more tempting. Oh, and in case you still haven’t heard: George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.

 

Pathfinder (Paizo)

One of the big pieces of news this year was Paizo’s release of Pathfinder. The running joke on the con floor was that Pathfinder is what D&D 4th Edition should have been. Maybe this is a little unfair to WotC, who, let’s face it, weren’t going to make anyone happy by releasing a new edition of a game whose last edition only came out five years ago. D&D 4th Edition was clearly intended to bring new players into the hobby by producing a product that would be friendlier to massmorg players, and in this it will perhaps succeed. Whatever the case, I don’t need to be miffed that the game I’ve played for 26 years has suddenly gone from semi-realism to a much more video game-like experience, because Pathfinder is there to keep D&D 3.5 in print.

The execution is great, and the price is right. Lest you think from the last section that I don’t like big, beefy core rulebooks, think again. I just don’t like them when they’re full of useless NPC stats or other filler that any good GM could generate themself while in a vegetative coma… which this book is not. At 576 pages, Pathfinder may knock a few vertebrae out of alignment when carried in your messenger bag, but the MSRP (only $50) is right, especially when the book contains everything you need to play. Contrast with D&D 4th Edition, where just the two players’ books will set you back $70, and this is a steal (although WotC was offering a very nice deal on Player’s Handbook I at the con this year — which I took). The anime-inspired art is phenomenal, and the fact that the Pathfinder setting book won an ENnie last year doesn’t hurt in piquing my interest, either.

 

Cthulhutech (Catalyst Game Labs)

Last but not least, there’s Cthulhutech, not a new product this year but one I didn’t get my hands on until Matt Grau handed me a signed copy at this year’s Con. Despite sharing a booth with them last year, I hadn’t gotten a chance to check out their product. I’m now devouring the book and enjoying it immensely.

The first lesson I’ve learned from this game (in combination with working on Eclipse Phase) is that if you’re doing an RPG and want the art to be effin’ slick, hire Mike Vaillancourt as your art director. This is a damned pretty book, with a very consistent visual style throughout. Is there a little bit of fan servicing thrown in there with the giant robots and unspeakable horrors? Well, yeah, there is… but it’s largely pretty classy.

Second lesson: it’s possible to design a fun, playable vehicle combat system without resorting to everything-but-the-kitchen-fabricator Star Fleet Battles-esque rules. I was initially a little skeptical about this game because I didn’t see how the designers could cram workable mecha combat into such a slim core book along with everything else this game covers. But Cthulhutech’s mecha rules build elegantly off of the personal combat system without adding more than a handful of special rules for handling vehicles.

Final observation: the writing is bang on. This isn’t just some silly “Cthulhu versus Battle Mechs” genre mixing mess. The writers have successfully envisioned a world transformed by contact with cosmic horrors, and they’ve followed through on all of the implications. I haven’t yet gotten a look at Vade Mecum, the first major rules expansion for the game, but I’m now pretty psyched for it.

Milestone: ‘Eclipse Phase’ goes to press

June 18th, 2009 No comments

Eclipse Phase has officially gone to press. Although I’ve done minor writing and editing work in RPGs before, this will be the first time I’m credited as a writer. Although my word should not be taken as official, I imagine the core rules should be showing up in stores by August.

Go, little game!