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How To Roleplay, Part 4

So after all the previous work (script, sketch, ink, coloring) the last element to be brought to the page is lettering.

Now there were a few little tweaks that were needed once I read through the whole comic. For example, in the Scott panel “Harbinger Wars: Bloodshot” and “X-O Manowar” were not bolded; those were an easy fix.

However, in the Tony panel I wanted to add the additional sentence: “His abilities are cool and his Cues give me great ideas for how to play him.”

Peter, from Valiant, rightly pointed out that these pages were already tight and that one especially. Just not any room for that addition. While the dev/writer in me wanted that extra bit of instructional flavor, I completely understood the graphic constrains and let it go (grrr…that song pops into my head every time I say/type those words…ahahah).

With that in mind, here’s the final first page of the comic (print-ready, hence the “printer marks” in each corner). 

We’re  discussing on our side how best to proceed so hopefully this whole comic will release very soon!


Shadowrun…I want it all!

Unfortunately there’s a part of me that’s inherently greedy. When I fall in love with something, I want it all. And even when it doesn’t exist in other ways, I want it to exist, so then I can have it all.

For example, when I listen to a new song and it clicks with me, I don’t just listen to that song over and over, I immediately listen to the whole album. And then spin back through all of their albums (fingers crossed there is a lot of albums to experience). Doesn’t mean I love everything the artist does, but if that original song really clicked, then I know I’ll enjoy most everything.

The same usual applies to an author. If I love the way an author writes, I easily follow them from series to series.

And the same applies to a universe. If I fall in love with a universe (regardless of how that universe was originally presented), then I want it all. I want video games, and RPGs, and board games and novels and miniatures. If the setting just clicks with me, then my penchant for playing a huge variety of games lends itself to wanting to enjoy that setting in many different ways.

And that brings us back to Shadowrun and Catalyst’s currently mantra of “we want you playing Shadowrun no matter what type of game you’re playing.” Just an extension of our love and enthusiasm for this universe.

That’s why we just released the deck-building cooperative game in Shadowrun: Crossfire. Why we have a board game in development in Hostile Takeover. Why we’re working on Sprawl Gangers, a skirmish-level miniatures game (which will also give us miniatures for those that just want to them while playing the TableTop RPG).

Drek…we even want you reading fiction in between playing the TableTop RPG—or any of the other experiences—why we’ve just published the first new Shadowrun novel in 8 years and have more novels coming right behind it.


And you can’t run through that fantastic list without including video games. I’ve played Shadowrun: Returns, though I hate to admit due to deadlines and convention season I only dabbled in Shadowrun: Dragonfalls. But now there’s an even cooler version of that expansion in the stand-alone Director’s Cut.



Once again, the graphics are just crazy awesome, brimming with Shadowrun to get the geek-on for what ever metahuman you might be.

I dove into it last night (sneaking in a mission between the Diplomacy game I was losing; and the night started out so well), and didn’t make it 20 minutes before failing the mission. But failing in wonderful, glorious fashion. Once I get some more writing done today, I know I’ll be back playing it later tonight.

But don’t take my word for it…the critical acclaim has piled up for this experience:


Still unconvinced, or want to know the differences between the original and the Director’s Cut? Well, check out the Design Diary from the devs & our great friends over at Harebrained Schemes. There you can always watch a video of Felicia Day explaining why she loves Shadowrun: Dragonfall (and note this was before all the cool new material in the Director’s Cut).

So what are you waiting for? Go check out the game and experience the Sixth World in all its brilliant, fantastic digital glory! 

And just as important, spread the word, chummers. Get the news out there and let’s see how many people we can have playing some form of Shadowrun at once!


Never Throw Away Your Ideas or Your Fiction…

I can remember joking at FASA that “we throw away a ton of great ideas before it’s even lunch.” However, I’ve come to believe that instead of throwing ideas or fiction concepts away, simply stuff them in a box. Whether that’s metaphorically or literally (computer, paper or otherwise), I’ve had enough experiences over the years to believe that even the things you think are totally stupid, or just don’t seem to really be working at all, might find a home in a new place.

Now it may be totally refined, re-tweaked and presented in a way you never previously imagined. But that’s the point. We grow, we learn, we hopefully get better. And as we develop new ideas and new projects, we often can abruptly realize that X or Y thing we did a while ago might be perfect for that.

Two examples. One, I’ve got a game that I fully developed in the last months of FASA. In fact, I was printing it out to hand the whole thing over to edit on the day when we were called in and told FASA was closing (yeah, it was very painful on so many levels). Thirteen and a half years later I still have it on my hard drive. I’ve used a little bit of it here and there, but I still have it, still waiting for the right opportunity to see if it’ll see the light of day fully.

Second, like most authors, I’ve got a folder full of short stories. And while some of those originals are published, others are not,  for various reasons, while others are unfinished. Either not working right in my head at the time, or not seeing where they might best be placed in what I’m doing at that time.

Been working on the outline for a new RPG book over the last week. And suddenly I realized that one of those “unfinished” short stories (just checked, the file was started back in 2005) might work here. Got me pretty excited. In fact, I just re-read what I’d written (yeah, I can clean it up and make it flow so much better now). And who knows, ultimately it might not work out for this project. But regardless, I’m newly energized over it and can see a better path for taking it forward and finishing it. So that even if it doesn’t work out here, I’ll have moved that idea, that short story, further along.

Since, as previously mentioned, this Tumblr is about letting you guys look over our shoulders, here’s an excerpt from that fiction (pre-edit, of course):

“No hope for exiles.”

The Force Prefect sneered with relish, nasally tone through the intercom a perfect match for his blotchy skin, too-large nose and vulture-like fingers. Standing arms crossed, obsidian chitin plates sheathing him foot to neck while a falling crest of krothis vines from his helm bespoke his station as a member of the Pantheos Guard; dark, uncleaned spatters marred the armor’s brilliance. His beady eyes pecked for weakness, finding a few within the stasis cell who turned away, eyes fleeing from hollow strength.

“No hope for those who marshal against the Blood,” Darius whispered, mere centimeters away from the repulser field and its invisible wall of aligned molecules. Your armor, nor your skill to obtain it, can hide your filthy geneweak.

The Force Prefect turned towards the voice as though a peregrine to the call of the falconer, only to flinch from the soulless impact of Darius’ overly-large, void-black eyes. Not nearly as Exalted as some of the Blood; after so many decades most Unbloods looked upon Darius’ physical manifestation of Destiny unblinking, often unnoticing. But Darius was not simply Blood. Darius rang with Destiny! With or without Exaltations, a presence that even in captivity, even after the slaughter of so many Blood, kept him and his coterie from extinction. An aura that in defeat, behind an unbreachable repulser field, without a seed of emotive control, allowed soft words and a direct look to cause an elite Force Prefect to glance aside, mumbling something as fingers scratched convulsively at dried blood spatter on his cheek before moving away.

To re-iterate, don’t throw ideas or fiction away. Just set them aside and let him grow and morph as needed. And then keep an open mind as you work on new games and books…one of those old kernels might just be a perfect fit in the new…


Shadowrun Novel #2 Cover Illustration

For those not yet aware of it, we’ve begun releasing Shadowrun novels again!!! You can grab a print copy from your local game store or even Barnes & Noble, and of course the epub is also available.

But this isn’t just a one-shot wonder. Next book is running hot on the heels of the first…let’s take a look at the illustration for that cover.

For the second cover in the new Shadowrun line of novels, Hell On Water, shows us a Shadowrun equivalent of Indiana Jones trying to swing over a pool of giant magical crocs. Of course, instead of Indiana we have a legendary shadowrunner (Cayman), and our crocks are magically nasty.  The scene takes place in Lagos, Nigeria on a long elevated causeway above a large, nasty lagoon filled with murky, oily water.  Unfortunately for our hero the road is in terrible shape, and there are parts of the bridge where entire stretches are missing. Cayman is in the act of sliding down this ramp toward the water with a rifle with one hand and a grappling gun in the other, which is a good combo because in the water below thrashes a congregation of angry ammits (essentially large awakened crocodiles about 13 feet long) in a frenzy for a Cayman-sized snack.

Brent Evans

Dice Core System…cause, why not…

As most of you know that follow this Tumblr or Twitter or the other ways to peak over our shoulders, I’ve always got a ton of things going…perhaps too many things (a discussion for another time…).

Yet, because I can’t leave well enough alone, and because if you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about something, then you really should work on it to try and get it out of your system.

For those that haven’t played Leviathans, it uses a color-coded dice system; basically polyedrals dressed up all as D12s (making production easier) and then color-coded so it’s easy to build a hand of dice and roll them. In other words, the combined bell curves of the various dice mimic most of your standard modifiers (attacker & target movement, range, and so on) for a miniatures game.

I got it in my head that I could strip that dice mechanic down to its core (hence the un-imaginative system title) and turn it into a plug & play skirmish-level miniatures game. Meaning that from scifi to fantasy to comics, it could support any flavor of “skin.”

After banging around the spreadsheets for a while, I then built a sample army.

You’ll note everything is totally generic. Because this is about building the mechanics of the system, irrespective of the skin that will appear on it (which is exceedingly strange for me as I’ve always been a proponent that both are intrinsically linked and should be developed simultaneously).

I then tapped one of my spreadsheet gurus, Joseph, to help me build a way to test my initial gut stats to see if the probabilities worked out as needed.

Joseph has been instrumental in generating some important spreadsheets over the years to help me crunch my numbers, but this one just might take the cake. This is just the first 50 lines of 1,262 lines of data that allow me to plug and play numbers on the front end to get percentages to see if it all works.

So far it’s looking promising. But of course, in the next month or two I need to find the time to actually put it on a table and play test. Because no amount of number crunching matters a wit if the game it’s fun when you’re moving miniatures and tossing dice.


How To Roleplay, Part 3

Below is iteration 5 of the script (well, just page one…).

Peter Stern, from Valiant, rightly pointed out after reviewing the first script that there simply was way, way too much text. Especially when we had so many panels and so many details already unfolding on the page.

Additionally, he mentioned that since the Lead Narrator was from a first person POV, all of them should be that way. That was a great D’OH! moment as absolutely it all read and flowed better going that route.

Here’s the colored first page.

Yeah…the smiles just kept getting bigger each time!


Catalyst Game Labs turned 1 today! Wow…hard to believe…with 178 posts in 365 days, that’s one every 2-ish days…not bad…not bad at all.
As with our Twitter feed, we didn’t want the Tumblr to be about dry and polished announcements; we’ve got for that. 
Instead, we wanted this to simply be letting you guys perch on our shoulders, looking at a variety of behind-the-scenes and really just everyday work involved in creating the games you hopefully all enjoy playing.
We’re up to 633 followers! Thanks for everyone that’s following.
If you’re still enjoying this Tumblr, awesome. Please feel free to share it around and let people know that if they enjoy playing our games, this Tumblr provides some unprecedented access to all the things related to getting something out the door…as well as a wide variety of things in between, but always related to gaming and geek culture.
Thanks for the first year…hopefully there’s many more to come!

Catalyst Game Labs turned 1 today! Wow…hard to believe…with 178 posts in 365 days, that’s one every 2-ish days…not bad…not bad at all.

As with our Twitter feed, we didn’t want the Tumblr to be about dry and polished announcements; we’ve got for that. 

Instead, we wanted this to simply be letting you guys perch on our shoulders, looking at a variety of behind-the-scenes and really just everyday work involved in creating the games you hopefully all enjoy playing.

We’re up to 633 followers! Thanks for everyone that’s following.

If you’re still enjoying this Tumblr, awesome. Please feel free to share it around and let people know that if they enjoy playing our games, this Tumblr provides some unprecedented access to all the things related to getting something out the door…as well as a wide variety of things in between, but always related to gaming and geek culture.

Thanks for the first year…hopefully there’s many more to come!

How To Roleplay, Part 2

One of the things that keeps me going after all of these years is that the job continues bringing new horizons into view. New challenges to wrestle to the ground and make work.

One of the elements I geeked out the most around in this project was being involved in comic books. Come on…comics! My teenage self would never believe it!

And with my idea for the How To Roleplay comic, I got to tackle another  first as I near 20 years in the job…writing a script for a comic. (Here’s hoping it’s not the last!)

Now the script went through a lot of iterations…um…I believe 10 (I won’t share them all, but future posts I’ll include the most drastic changes to show its evolution). But here is the very first page of the first draft of the script that goes with the first page of the comic.

And here’s the pencils for sketch of page one I included in Part 1.

Again, couldn’t help but smile big as the first page continued to showcase everything I hoped this would accomplish.


How To Roleplay, Part 1

Many, many years, while I still worked at FASA, we took an informal poll at a Gen Con panel (must have been close to a hundred people there). We’d just published a new book and we’d agonized (more so than usual) over the crafting of the Introduction. We asked people if they read it and of that  room of people, almost all of whom read the book, 1 person raised their hands to say they read the Introduction.

It was painful…very painful. But that doesn’t stop us from still spending inordinate amounts of time, now and then, trying to craft the perfect opening for a book.

In almost any RPG you pick up, you’ll find a section on “What Is a Roleplaying Game” or “How To Roleplay” (if not both). Every time I’ve had to write one of those over the last few years, I think two things: 1. Hardly anyone is going to read this; 2. This has been done hundreds—thousands—of times…how can I possible make it new and interesting and try and achieve what has really not worked well for endless years and iterations?

You see, I’ve spoken with hordes of people over the years. And it’s almost impossible to convey ‘what’ an RPG is via just words. So few people come into the hobby because they saw a cool cover, opened the book, read about “How To Roleplay” and thought it was so cool they leapt.

Instead, the vast majority of people get in because they either saw an RPG being played, or better yet their friends dragged them into a game.

Earlier in the year as I sat to write the Introduction to the Valiant Universe RPG, all of those thoughts rampaged. All those feelings that while I can’t NOT do it…what difference could it make? 

But then I had a thought. We weren’t dealing with just any type of RPG. We were dealing with a comics universe. An inherent, intensely visual medium. Which got me to thinking. 

What if we created a comic that showed a few turns of an RPG? Showed actual people at a table. Showed them talking and rolling dice just as you do in any RPG, but then spliced between that would be images of the characters they’re playing, showcasing the action unfolding within the shared imagination of the players.

I started to get excited. Real excited. Because while I’ve seen small snatches of this sort of thing (i.e. a few panels dropped in books here and there), as far as I’m aware [and absolutely let me know if I’m wrong on this] there’d never been a 16+ page comic dedicated directly to this concept.

Brent Evans (our art director) and I dove into that rabbit hole, then, and pitched it to Peter Stern at Valiant. And while there absolutely was back and forth on how best to make this work, they ultimately not only allowed us to run down this rabbit, but they pitched in in a big way, bringing their expertise and assets to bear to make this a reality.

Here’s page one in sketch form.

The second I saw this first page I knew this was gonna be something extra special; will share more details in coming posts. Hopefully, when the final comic book releases (and it’s nearly there) you’ll agree and it can be a tool anyone can use to convey why we love playing RPGs.


Back In The Saddle…& Fun With D&D

Apologies for the week or so without a post…August is one of the most fun months of the entire year as we hit Gen Con and PAX Prime within weeks of each other. But that amount of work, lack of sleep and stress take its toll and I got a wicked migraine last week, so a few more days lost.

Mostly human now (or as human as I get) and flying through emails, updates and posts…and of course, starting to dive into reading my D&D5 books.

First, I was very lucky to acquire a Monster Manual at PAX; considering it won’t be released for a few weeks yet, I was incredibly grateful to get early access as I did.

Second, how is it? It’s fantastic. I’m absolutely loving it. I thought I’d just be skipping around and reading it here and there, but I started at the front and I’m already almost a 1/3 of the way through it.

The write-ups are entertaining and do a great job of filling my mind with a myriad adventure ideas for a host of games. 

The graphic design and layout is not overly wrought, but still conveys a great sense of immersion; though the light green “Variant” sidebars don’t work for me.

The art is almost universally stunning…very high quality.

Now all of that praise doesn’t mean I universally love it all. I still don’t like the new D&D logo and the fonts used on the book covers; far, far too stripped down for my tastes. And I’m still confused about why release 100 page free PDF in the D&D Basic that’s an un-appealing wall of text without hardly a hint of the wonderful art that has always drawn players to D&D?  While yes, it’s free, it could actually turn people off of D&D, IMO.

However, I think those are rather mild and in some cases very nit-picky comments. On the whole, I’m very pleased with the new D&D5 and the direction they’re taking things. Great work to Mike and his whole team…I know I would’ve been sweating blood to have that mantle on my shoulders.

Finally, why am I reading all of this? Well, as I’ve mentioned numerous times, I’m a huge believer that if you want to be in X industry, you should be participating in that industry as much as you can; ready, listening, playing, what ever it may be. 

Second, I’m a fan…and it’s D&D…why wouldn’t I want to see what they were doing?

Finally, my 12-year-old daughter really wants to play in an RPG and I’m simply not letting her play in Shadowrun…yet. So D&D it is (and hopefully it’ll kick me in the butt to finally ‘run’ an RPG on a regular basis).