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Curating ‘Zines plus Mothership

Last night I started reading the Mothership Players Survival Guide. I think the game could be a good candidate for solo rules. Dangerous games often are better solo games than they are traditional group games.

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The reason danger works better in solo games is because of player drop out. By that I mean, in a group game, if you die, you have to drop out while either you make a new character, and the GM can work out how to work you back into the game or in some games there is a choice between do your companions try and raise dead your character or let you make another one.

In a solo game, you are the be all and end all of the game. If you die, you can end the game, or if you love that character you can try some ‘What if…?’ scenarios or even go back in time and run some lower power adventures that took place in the characters past. These are not an option normally in a group game.

The game mechanics in Mothership are rather similar to Black Spear from Sad Fishe Games, or so they appear from the first ten pages that I have read so far.


I run a couple of ‘zines. From an indie developer point of view these make a lot of sense. It guarantees me a couple of regular book releases. The production values in a fanzine are generally lower, making them cheaper to produce that a high quality book and they give you regular contact with your audience.

They are also a lot of work.

You are looking at creating up to a hundred pages of unique content every month, month in, month out. The RolemasterBlog Fanzine is monthly and is typically 25-40 pages. Lowborn, the Zweihander fanzine is about 50 pages but is quarterly. I also have a TTRPG game designers magazine in the pipeline.

TTRPG Writer

This magazine is a ‘by and for’ game designers. Unusually, for me, it is going to be kindle only. That massively reduces my production overheads and with the rising popularity of Kindle Unlimited [KU] it means the magazine will be free to write (if you exclude my time) and free to read.

The magic ingredient is that Amazon shares some of the income from KU with the writers of the content read by KU subscribers. Issue one is nearing completion. So this is going to be a fun experiment.

Curating or Writing?

The Lowborn Fanzine is almost entirely written by other writers. I create the editorial and do the layout and if I needed extra content, I would write something to order. Most of the content is user submitted.

The Rolemaster Fanzine on the other hand goes through phases of plenty of reader submitted material and fallow periods where I end up writing most of the content.

TTRPG Writer, being a first issue, is entirely written by me, and I will expect that to remain true for some time. I have a library of articles that I want to use for it, enough content to keep the magazine going for six issues.

The big difference between Lowborn and the Rolemaster fanzine is the size of the userbase. Rolemaster is niche, very niche. The ICE discord server has less than 100 members. The Zweihander discord has nearer 1000. If I was only interested in profits, the Rolemaster ‘zine makes no sense. There is always a hope that with the new version, working title Rolemaster Unified, that the popularity of the game will pick up. We will wait and see.

Lowborn, with an audience of thousands, has a much greater capacity for user submitted content. Here my role becomes that of curator rather than writer. I can even pay other people to do the editing.

June, is a month when all three publications come out. It will be a busy first week. I will of course post here when each is ready to go live.

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Bare Metal Edition

Although I have a background in IT, as well as other things, I have never really taken a look at Github, nor had any idea how it works. Since starting Bare Metal Edition (BME) as a Github project I can see some of the advantages.

Right now, I am still in the ‘stripping down to the bare metal’ stage. I want to leave just the basic game mechanics, with an explanation of how they are implimented.

Where Github comes in is that provides two features. The first isn’t too exceptional, you could do the same thing with Google Drive, but you can have multiple people working on the shared project at the same time. My fellow developer, Alfred Reibenschuh, is a coding expert, and his programming skills are coming to bear on creating all the tables and stats for the game.

Alfred also has a coders analytical mind, questioning everything how it works, is it necessary and challenging the implementation. The result is a really robust core to the game engine.

The exciting part, for me, is that Github supports forks in a project. This means that if you wanted to create a 1930s pulp action game from BME, you could just fork off from the core. Any improvements made in the core would cascade through to your fork, giving you the choice to adopt the change or reject it (in case your fork has changed a core rule).

I think this freedom to ‘take and make your own’ is really exciting.

So what does BME give you?

BME walks a tightrope in trying to be both simulationist and rules light at the same time.


BME has a fairly deadly combat system with location specific woulds. Those wounds make logical sense, pointy weapons cause bleeding, blades cut muscles and tendons or bits off, blunt weapons stun and stagger foes. The damage and the attack roll are related, if you only just hit you are only going to do a glancing blow. A great attack roll does a lot more damage.

BME has a life path character generation system. You get benefits from your genetic makeup, from the culture you grew up in and basic skills from your profession. This gives many options and combinations, but mechanically it is simply additive. You pick a species, add the culture skills, add the basic training and you are most of the way there.

You get to customise your character by specifying aptitudes towards certain skills and by point buying a few starting skills that are unique to you. Chargen is a matter of minutes but the characters are detailed and unique.

Rules Light

BME is rules light in so much as it has pared down the rules to a minimum and it was designed to be played in an OSR style. I would much rather you roleplayed your solutions than just roll your skill and expect things to just work for you. I read something today that said “Come up with a solution that is so perfect that there is no need to roll.” That is how OSR should be played!

Being a framework, BME is capable of being expanded with an unlimited number of skills. For example Music is a default skill, but the rules allow you to split that into Music: Singing, Music: Play Guitar and even Music: Dance. You could go into as much detail as you like. There is Engineering but you can explode that down to any level of detail.

My logic was that in a generic scifi or fantasy setting broad skills are just fine. If you wanted to run a procedural police crime investigation game, then the details become much more important. You would want to be skilled in forensics or interrogation techniques and many other things.

The structure is there, it is up to you to craft it into the framework to support your game setting.

It would be extremely easy to go all out for detailed simulation or all out OSR rules light. It is the middle ground that is the hard path.

Are We There Yet?

As of tonight, character generation is done, and the combat system is in place. The combat is a work of art. Alfred’s combat engine can detail individual weapons and pieces of armour or go the other way and just bulk all swords into one generic weapon. It can deal with simply unarmoured/armoured or fantastically detailed model of different armour types.

What isn’t done is resolving a few questions, like, do we include a magic system? or psionics? Are these part of a bare metal system? Are the so setting specific that we should leave them to the writers creating actual games?

Right now, we don’t have the answers, but we do have some ideas we can suggest.

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SURPS (GURPS) Solo Universal Role Play System

Today was a good day! I got some playtesting done, a few more edits to the document but most importantly, a lot of the page layout done. It isn’t complete yet, but below are a lot of ‘spreads’ (two page layouts) of the book as it stands.

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There is still more to layout. I think this is going to end up as a 50 book. Initially just PDF, but later as a printed paperback as well.

This weekend is largely clear, which means that I get to have a three good sessions of playtest and refining the rules.

I know it is bad practice, but I tend to do the last edits directly into inDesign, the layout programme. It means I can balance the content and the layout. If I was doing it by the book, I would be editing in the word processor and then importing into inDesign for layout.

If you are an entire team of developers, I am sure that makes sense. As I am one person, it makes little difference to me. But it is much more satisfying to see the book taking shape as I work on it. I have a colour laser printer as well, so the rules I am working from look nice at this stage.

You can let me know what you think in the comments below!

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Solo Universal Role-Playing

I cannot tell you how much I wanted to find an L to put into the title of this book!

These rules are now written and I have been playing all week, its a tough job but someone had to do it. I have done my best to make SURP [Solo Universal Role Playing] non-invasive. I didn’t want these rules to become a major time hog, Most of my gaming I wanted to be GURPS. I think I have achieved it.

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In the last GURPS post, I mentioned Narrative Combat. The version that made it into the book is slightly different. Often what seemed to work on paper, doesn’t pan out in playtesting. But that is why we test.

What is really cool (in my opinion) is that I can share the first screenshot, of the first draft, of the working rules.

As of today there isn’t really much to show, but it is coming together. You can see from this screenshot that the text overlay is not quite right. All of these things will be solved in the next few days.

I cannot finalise the layout until I have finalised the text. Having the book look like a finished product, make it much nicer to play with!

The art in this book is going to reinforce the whole TL7/TL8 genre, as much as I can.

I hope you like what you see!

And the last image for today… I cannot show you much more simply because I don’t have much more to show you.

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Navigator Bare Metal, Castles & Crusades and GURPS

My latest video diary is live on YouTube. It has been a pretty good week all round!

When I can find the Castles & Crusades video on YouTube I will be able to add it to the Crusaders Solo Handbook product description. I don’t know if having videos on the product pages help sales, I would instinctively think that it does. Surely you cannot give too much information before someone buys a product. The videos don’t autoplay, so if you don’t want to watch you don’t have to.

Navigator Bare Metal Edition is moving on at quite a pace. The first four chapters covering introduction, glossary, ancestry/species, talent & flaws and rolling stats are all stripped of all references to WhiteStar and Swords & Wizardry.

Tonights effort will be to strip out the WhiteStar professions. This will largely just leave the rules on how to create a profession.

GURPS Solo, is the final topic. The rules are written, the tables all exist. What needs doing is solo play advice and more playtesting. I treated myself to a couple of hours art selecting the other day. This is going to be a lovely looking book if I can get it all to come together as envisioned.