Friday, February 26, 2010

Secrets From Within Chaos Earth: First Responders

Can you keep a secret? Because apparently I can't.

Actually, I'm just really excited about Chaos Earth: First Responders and I'm hoping that you're getting pumped up for it as well. The project has taken waaaaaaay longer than I hoped or expected, but that's just the nature of things, sometimes. I'm finishing picking up my last red marks this weekend (for real this time, not like the other couple of times I have suggested just such a thing), so I thought that it might be interesting to provide as much of a sneak peak as I can. So, consider yourself "Spoiler Alerted" when I tell you that what follows comes straight from the pages of First Responders.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My So-Called Gamer Life

Okay, I admit it. I am a massive fraud.

As often as I talk about the sweet geek life, I am now here to admit that I have not sampled fully from its bounty. There are certain experiences in geekery that we, as a culture, all share. It's expected that we all know the finer points of Star Wars canon. We can explain the difference between Wisdom and Charisma. We have discovered that our princess in in another castle. It's these common experiences that help to bind our otherwise diverse membership into a real community. However, there are a number of standards that I have neglected while building what I feel is an otherwise strong geek resume, or as I like to call it, my "gresume."

While I'm not willing to come totally clean on all of the geek staples of which I have failed to partake in my lifetime, I am willing to discuss at least the one gamer transgression of which I have just been absolved. I have learned from my mistakes. I have reached out to that which I have wronged. I have made my amends.

I have...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

10 Things Required For Successful Writing

People are always stopping me on the street and asking, "Jason, you have an entire RPG sourcebook to your name, some articles in a magazine that I heard about once, and still find the time to talk about your career as an author on your lightly trafficked blog. How can I enjoy your level of success?" Some people say that you need things like skill, perseverance, or even dumb luck to make it as a writer. I am here today to tell you to ignore these lies. I will, at long last, allow my faithful fans and readers into my creative bubble and show you how the magic happens.

Behold, my desk.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

So, You Want To Be Psychic

You'll get your chance, at least if you're a player in the Chaos Earth RPG. I just submitted my article on Chaos Earth Psychics, which will be included in Rifter #50 in a couple of months as official material. This is my warm up act for writing my next sourcebook, Psychic Storm.

The article contains as much information as I could pack into 17 pages of manuscript and details new types of Minor and Major Psychics as well as three new character classes, descriptions of which follow.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Origin Story! - Superpowered Short Fiction

Welcome to Friday. So far on the blog there has been a lot of talk about gaming, specifically about RPG design. There have been downloadable resources for the Chaos Earth RPG, and an adventure module as well. I'd hate for you to think that I'm just a one trick pony who can only talk about geeky things like D20s and video games and the Internet. I think it's time we moved on to some more mature subject matter.

Let's talk about super heroes.

Before I get too far into this, let me go ahead and tell you that in the Downloads section you can now find a piece of narrative short fiction entitled Origin Story! Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think. Send it to a friend and be sure to tell them where you found it. Enjoy! But hold on for just one second, and let me tell you a bit more about this particular work, and the world in which it exists.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday Housekeeping

Just a quick post today. I spent a little time last night desperately trying to get Twitter, the Facebook Fan page, and the Myspace account all synced up. I enjoyed very little success, and shall continue to wrestle with that pile of snakes. On that note, I'm still looking to improve a few things and figured that I could solicit help from the Internet at large. It's like wikipedia, but for advice.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fasting For Gamers

Tomorrow is a big day in the world of Christian Orthodoxy: Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of penitence and fasting prior to Easter. It's also a day when I, among many others, will have to state many, many times in the elevator at work that I am indeed aware that I have something on my forehead. During this season many people fast by giving something up that is detrimental or superfluous in their life and I thought that we gamers could probably stand to lose a few things. Things like:

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Comic Book Project Drops in July

Or at least, thereabouts. It was my pleasure to write a comic for The Uniques Tales, a monthly series of comics set in the superhero world created by Adam Withers and Comfort Love. They did some blogging about it today and thought I would share. Check it out. Don't forget to download the first issue of The Uniques for free while you're over there. Once you read it, you'll order the rest. It's as good or better than any supers comic out there.

While I'm plugging this upcoming project, I might as well remind you to take a gander at the work of Jeremy Dale, who is drawing the issue. Greatness.

I have a number of projects in the queue, but this is the one that I'm most looking forward to. I love working with friends, especially when they are sickeningly talented and make me look good by association.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday Quick Hits

I'm sitting here working on my article for The Rifter #50, a sort of anniversary issue that will include all-official material from most of Palladium's freelancers. Naturally, my contribution is late. My particular article is all about psychics in Chaos Earth, a subject as of yet not covered in the game's source material. The article is more or less a prelude to Psychic Storm, the supplement that will be my next project for Palladium.

Vehicles and Giant Robots

Sometimes I'm struck by something that I have read a hundred times before. I'm reviewing existing source material for psychics in other Palladium games, most notably Rifts. In the Game Master Guide I run across this sentence:
Powers like Sense Aura, Psychic Diagnosis, Hypnotic Suggestion, Bio-Manipulation, Empathic Transmission, Telekinesis, and most others can NOT be directed at those INSIDE a vehicle or giant robot.
Ignoring for a moment that there is no such power as Sense Aura in Rifts, at least of which I am aware, the word that actually grabbed me in that blurb was "giant." Giant robots. I chuckled to myself because it's absolutely a fact that in Rifts you must differentiate between robots and giant robots. For full clarity it might be necessary to add a third category of "humongous" to the list. I'll consider petitioning to have it added to the next printing.

Fun and Exciting New Ways to Read Minds

I also am continually made aware of why some companies choose to reboot their entire catalogs every few years. Rifts has been running continuously now for 27 years and has dozens and dozens of sourcebooks. Writing new material can be exhausting, for one because so many truly great ideas have been taken, but also for the huge amount of research that needs to be done to produce work consistent with the canon. Rifts is full of free radicals of concepts and stat blocks and power descriptions scattered across two entire bookshelves' worth of information that all must be accounted for. In writing for Chaos Earth, which is really just Rifts of a different color, I'm obligated to honor all of this material. If I write a new power for Psychic Storm called Create Psychic Fuzzy Dice and somewhere in the stacks of Rifts books lies a similar ability with conflicting stats, I'm going to hear about it from a fan base with an uncanny encyclopedic knowledge of the material.

So, I can see why every so often breaking it all down, condensing the good stuff and tossing the leftovers is appealing as a designer and writer. I'm glad that Palladium has resisted this, though. The last thing I want is for my next assignment to be rewriting Rifts England or Rifts Spirit West to bring them in line with a new standard.

Happy Valentine's Day

So, I hope everyone enjoys this most special of made-up holidays when it hits us tomorrow. I'll be here in front of the computer, writing away and giving my wife the greatest gift of all: leaving her alone to go to the mall by herself, in peace.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Knights in Shining Power Armor, Part II

Earlier this week I talked about the structure for my power armor/classic fantasy mash-up adventure for Rifts and Chaos Earth, Knights in Shining Power Armor. A group of eight or so soldiers were given four suits of robotic power armor, giant shields and swords, and an assortment of upgrades to the armor that could be distributed as the players wished. The remaining players donned traditional armor and gear, and we were off to fight the monsters and save the captives. Check out Tuesday's post for the detailed setup, but that's the gist of it.

How It Went Down

As I recall, we had about eight players at the table. As many as four of them would be donning the famous Glitter Boy power armor, while the rest filled other roles. We took volunteers and soon had a group leader, a couple of scouts, a radio man, and some in-the-trenches fighters, ready to teach some bandits a lesson.

The next order of business was to figure out how to distribute the limited equipment and ammunition. This wrinkle was what I hoped would set the session apart from the typical generic convention game, and I was not disappointed. A while back one of the players wrote me an email saying that he wanted to run this scenario at a local convention, and asked to go over it with me. I was thrilled, of course, and sent him what I had. Through the course of the conversation, he told me, "One thing I loved about this scenario was the time we spent strategizing about how to allocate the equipment before we got to rolling the dice."

Yes! Home run! Exactly what I was hoping for.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Big Announcement

Speed: 100 mph (160 km) maximum, provided good roads or smooth terrain. Half in less than ideal conditions. Travel may be impossible through marshes, deep mud, thick accumulations of unsettled snow or ash and in fields of large debris.

With those words, I think that I'm now finished with Chaos Earth: First Responders. It's funny how it sneaks up on you. It always takes me by surprise.

Now, I'm not totally finished. I still need to print it out (all 105 pages) and read it on actual paper for one last go-through, but... wow!

WOOOOOOO!!!! How about that?

Knights in Shining Power Armor

Sometimes, something fun springs from a single phrase, idea, or concept. For one game that I ran at the 2009 Palladium Open House, it was the "knight in shining armor." The idea of the armor-clad knight, stalking through a dungeon on a quest to save a young woman kidnapped by monstrous bandits is a classic that convention players can grab hold of immediately without needing to be brought up to speed, so it's perfect for a one-shot adventure. Still, I wanted to do something to turn the concept on its head. Seeing as I was going to be running this game at the home office in Michigan, I wondered, "How can I Rifts this up a little bit?"

Mega-Damage, Glitter Boys, and Boom Guns? Yes, please.

Now in the Downloads section (or by using the "downloads" keyword), you'll find a module for this game.

As this is a convention game, limited in time and with unpredictable participants, I hope you'll forgive the setup being simplistic. That's just how it has to be. My intent is to paint a clear picture, clearly define the roles of the characters, and establish an authority over them that can direct them on whatever mission will ultimately present itself.

Here's how it runs down.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Characters from Across Worlds

I just finished writing a number of new aliens for my upcoming book, Chaos Earth: First Responders. Creating new, playable races is one of the most difficult and rewarding things about RPG design. This long and arduous process involved cutting and reinserting one particular entry half a dozen times, reaffirming my belief that a writer should never actually delete anything, but should maintain a "trash" file for discarded ideas for each product. It is a well into which I continually dip when stumped on a creative or design issue. This particular bit was problematic in that I was trapped firmly between the Scylla and Charybdis of the game designer's world: reality versus playability.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Resources for Chaos Earth

I thought that, for my first official post, I should venture forth from a position of strength. That assumes such a thing exists.

Since I trust Google implicitly, I believe them when they tell me that by far my most popular features on the prior incarnation of were a pair of resources for the Chaos Earth RPG. It seems logical to me to post those here, again, for the use of fans of the game. You'll find two links under the heading of "Downloads" in the navigation bar: Chaos Earth RPG resources, and Chaos Earth RPG errata.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Internet is open for business

Apparently, there is this thing called "The Internet," an alleged massive network of chips and wires and electrons that carries information around the globe. I am also led to understand that human beings harness this magical power through a process known as "blogging," which effectively beams the thoughts and feelings on an individual onto this mysterious Internet, creating a small window into the life of the "blogger."

Sounds good.

I'm sandbagging a little bit. I have actually heard of the Internet. We go back a long way, sharing a complicated history full of disappointment and unfulfilled promises. If you're reading this, you might be one of the literally dozens of people who have enjoyed previous incarnations of or some other endeavor at an online presence. I feel that I owe you an apology, in that I'm sure at some point in the past I promised you a feature, update, or article and then failed to deliver. My hope is that by using the magical power of Blogger, it will be easier for me to post new tidbits and insights with greater regularity and reliability.

If this is the first time for our paths to cross, then I'm certainly pleased to meet you. I, as you may have guessed, am Jason Richards. My great love in life is the written word in most of its forms. I do my best version of authoring in a number of forms, probably most notably in short fiction and role-playing game design. The two genres often stew in the same creative pot for me, so I think you'll find my posts here weaving somewhat uncontrollably from the world of prose and into that of gaming with great regularity.

So, all of that said, I entreat you to return to this point in cyberspace with regularity, on Tuesdays and Fridays, so that we may engage in discussions on topics both small and very small. I'll be here. I promise.