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…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’.

Announcing Empyrean, a new RPG from Lonesome Robot Press

August 2nd, 2009 5 comments

Lonesome Robot Press is pleased to announce Empyrean, a pen & paper science fiction role-playing game set in posthumanity’s distant future. Inspired by influences as diverse as Cowboy Bebop; the original Traveller RPG; and the writings of Vernor Vinge, Peter Hamilton, Bruce Sterling, and Alastair Reynolds, Empyrean uses a richly developed Milky Way galaxy as backdrop for the meeting and clash of humanity and numerous alien races. Players can choose to portray characters from one of humanity’s many cultures and subspecies, AGIs, or aliens designed to be culturally distinct yet playable.

Although the possibilities for an Empyrean campaign are nearly limitless, the default campaign casts the player characters as the crew of an FTL (faster-than-light) ship. The rules and setting material focus on the challenges and opportunities for such characters, whether they choose to seek hire as mercenaries, ply the galactic trade lanes as merchants, or pursue more obscure goals. An elegant system of rules for modeling the technology levels and available resources in various star systems helps to determine the challenges and potential rewards of the missions upon which characters embark.

Player character roles are designed to encourage a cohesive “adventuring party” style of play, with some or all of the following possibly present within a PC group:

  • Starship command crew: commanders, navigators, and helms
  • Groundside ops personnel: drop ship pilots, groundpounders, infiltrators, and even bounty hunters
  • Spacing professions: salvage crew, fighter pilots, and fleet ops specialists
  • Social & sciences professions: biologists, linguists, astrophysicists, infobrokers, and trade negotiators
  • Sentient starships whose robotic avatars can accompany the rest of a PC group groundside

A range of races and human subtypes are available as playable characters:

  • Humans from planetary cultures, including the Normans, Aztlánistas, and Vegans.
  • Humans from spacefaring cultures, including the technology-trading Ming Lu and the awesome mercenary fleets of Kombine Mercantile Marine.
  • Lynn’Ryn, a race of tradition-bound blue skinned humanoids whose ancient culture teaches the discipline of manipulating physical reality at the quantum level.
  • Al-Mogur, entrepreneurs and merchants who grow their ships from organic matter and whose science appears weirdly mystical to outsiders.
  • Sovizen, humanoids descended from arboreal amphibians. Their aptitude for macro-scale building is unparalleled, extending to the planetary scale.
  • Bagduarh, a race descended from flightless avian carrion eaters. They are new to the stars, having rapidly assimilated new technology gained from other races.
  • Dholi Ghat, the children of the Mold, a race of rudimentary humanoids connected by slime mold implants in their bodies to the Bloom, a self-aware information network that is the only known method of faster-than-light communication.

In addition to unique PC races and a variety of interesting antagonists, Empyrean will eventually include spaceship combat rules at two scales: micro, for GMs wanting to include small craft and fighter combat in their games, and macro, for star system-spanning battles between capital ships. This and other features of the game setting and rules allow GMs to decide on what balance of hard sci-fi versus space opera elements they wish to include in their game.

Empyrean was co-authored by Jack Graham and Derek Swirsky between 2003 and 2009. The core Empyrean book will be released in two sections: a setting book detailing the game universe, and a separate rules book. The rules book uses the Eclipse Phase game mechanics published by Catalyst Gamelabs and developed by Rob Boyle and Brian Cross of Posthuman Studios. In accordance with the Eclipse Phase Creative Commons license, the Empyrean rules book will also be distributed under a CC license. Wherever possible, rules for Empyrean material will be made backwards-compatible with Eclipse Phase, allowing EP gamemasters to borrow from Empyrean.

Empyrean material will be released online starting in Autumn of 2009.