The Gumshoe System: Mutant City Blues and Ashen Stars

Gumshoe is an RPG system developed by Robin Laws and used in several games. Robin is an award-winning designer, I first came to know about his work with his Shadowfist CCG and Feng Shui RPG from 20 years ago.

Gumshoe strongly diverges from other games in that it assumes competence: anyone can drive, but if you have one point in Driving, you can pull off trick manouvers. Obviously it’s a lot more complicated than that, but it serves as a decent base example.

Mutant City Blues is sort of a superhero world. A virus struck and a certain amount of the population later gained superpowers. But you’re not a superhero, you’re a cop. Specifically, you’re on a special squad because of your mutant abilities. It’s CSI X-Men. I can’t claim to be an expert because I’ve only been reading the rules for a couple of days, but it’s quite intriguing. A professional skill costs only one point, and as someone who was always massively skill-heavy when it came to designing Champions characters, I like that. And while I’m mostly not a fan of police procedural television, this game really intrigues me. One thing that I particularly like is the Quade Diagram: a map of superpowers and how they relate. They have an excellent example of finding at a crime scene both prehensile hair and lightning blast evidence. You now know that you’re dealing with at least two suspects because those two abilities are too far apart to be from the same person.

Also, You can’t be horribly unbalanced as your second-most powerful ability has to be at least half the value as your most powerful, I like that design balance mechanism.

I’d suggest taking a look at the Wikipedia entry for the Gumshoe system, it does a very good job of illustrating it.

Anyway, this is a Bundle of Holding offering with two levels and three games, the three being Mutant City Blues (superhero CSI, Ashen Stars (Gumshoe in space), and Night’s Black Agents (spies vs vampires). The funding has another three days to run and part of the proceeds go to Womenkind Worldwide.

https://bundleofholding.com/presents/GUMSHOE2015

Post-Apocalyptic Bundle from Humble

There’s two books in here that I really want: Damnation Alley by Roger Zelazney and Gather, Darkness! by Fritz Leiber. But the bundle also contains A Gift Upon the Shore by M.K. Wren, Wasteland: Vol. 1: Cities in Dust (collecting six issues), After the End: Recent Apocalypses (short stories), Lightspeed Magazine July 2010 and March 2013, the game Defiance for Windows, and an audiobook omnibus of Wool by Hugh Howey.

The $15 bonus level includes The End Is Night by Hugh Howey and John Joseph Adams, Parable of the Sower by Octabia Butler, and The Strain Vol. 1 collecting issues 1-6, I think this is a comic series.

Paying above the average, which is currently $9.73, gets you: Walter Mosley’s Futureland, Nancy Kress’ After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall, issues 1-6 of The Massive Vol. 1: Black Pacific, Daybreak by Brian Ralph, The Wild Shore by Kim Stanley Robinson, Zelazny’s Damnation Alley, The Bunker Vol. 1 (comic series, issues 1-4), and Lightspeed Magazine, April 2014.

This Bundle’s charities are Worldbuilders and the SFWA Emergency Medical and Legal Fund. And you’ve got 5 days to participate if you should so choose to.

https://www.humblebundle.com/books

In game design news, I made a great advance in my database for creating room tiles for betas, I hope to post on it soon. Sadly you need Microsoft Access to run the copy that I’ll give out later. I wish I had the skills to do it in PHP/MySQL, but I’ve just never developed those.

Great. Now there’s another company doing things like Humble Bundle.

Just what I need, another place to spend money.

This place is called Bundle of Holding, and their current offer is quite awesome: The Laundry RPG by Charles Stross. You can get two bundles: one of just the core rule book and player’s book for $8.95, for about $25 you add four supplements. These books are non-watermarked PDFs, which personally bugs me: I REALLY wish they’d make them epubs so you could scale the font and it would all re-flow. But I get that it’s really easy to make a PDF once you have the books ready to go to press.

The Laundry RPG is about a secret British intelligence agency who is tasked with keeping Cthulhu from invading our planet, all while maintaining ISO-9001 compliance. The mechanics are quite sensibly based on Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu game and are very fun to read, I also highly recommend Mr. Stross’ other works, he’s a fun read. The game design and publishing is from Cubicle 7, and they do pretty good work.

This bundle is available for another 4 days, and they also have a TORG bundle available, an RPG based on the work of Jack Vance.

The bundle: https://bundleofholding.com/index/current

Stross’ Blog: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/index.html

And I’m just going to use the Humble Bundle category for talking about Bundle of Holding.

RIP: Maxis

You may not have heard of Maxis, an Emoryville game company, but you’ve heard of their game, a little something known as SimCity. Electronic Arts has closed their doors.

I’ll admit I haven’t played the game in ages, but it was one of the very first games that I bought in the mid/late 80’s when I bought my first PC: a 386/SX16 with a Hercules monochrome graphics card and 2 MB of RAM! WOOT! The first two games that I bought were SimCity and Chuck Yeager’s Advanced Flight Trainer. AFT was fun: you could fly the space shuttle and actually loop it, even though you didn’t have engines. At the top of the loop you were so close to stall speed that it wasn’t funny.

But SimCity, man, some very fond memories of that. I built-out this huge city, then just to see what would happen, I turned off all the services, set it to auto-budget so it didn’t need any interaction from me, then I turned off the monitor and went to bed. The next morning a hundred years plus had lapsed, and the city was in ruins from exploded nuke power plants, tornadoes that had swept through, fires burning everywhere. So I did my best Bill Murray voice: “This was the city after the apocalypse. Our job was to rebuild it.” And I did, if I recall correctly — it was a long time ago.

It was an amazing game, absolutely nothing like it at the time. I wonder if Sid Meier’s Civilization series would have been the same without Maxis coming first.

ETA: This does not mean the end of the Sims line. EA is going to continue development, the work done at Emoryville will be continued at other EA development sites.

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/youll-regret-this-simcity-developer-maxis-is-closing-down

http://games.slashdot.org/story/15/03/17/1817202/simcitys-empire-has-fallen-and-skylines-is-picking-up-the-pieces

With great sadness and great respect, RIP: Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett, the second best selling author from the UK, passed away early this morning from an unusual early onset Alzheimers, he died in his sleep.

J.K. Rowling is, of course, the number one UK author, and she’s written not quite a dozen books. Terry wrote 70.

I had the honor and privilege of meeting him at the Tempe Discworld convention a few years back and he autographed my limited hardback of Good Omens, I’m hoping I can track down Neil Gaiman for his.

Bloom County! Humble Bundle!

YAY! (Imagine Kermit doing the happy dance)

For one week, or more accurately six days and sixteen hours from this post, you can get 9 Bloom County collections and 2 Outland collections, currently for $22. That’s a heck of a deal, not to mention the difficulty of just finding all of these books in one place!

This round the charity in question is Traveling Stories, whose motto is Outsmarting Poverty One Book at a Time. Sounds good to me.

The normal array of ebook formats is different this time around, available formats are PDF, PDF (HD), ePub, and CBZ. And the file sizes are much larger since they are picture books.

https://www.humblebundle.com/books

BWAhahahahaha….

I LOVE IT when inspiration strikes!

There’s been a game design that’s been sitting in the deep dark corners of my mind (and as a file on my iPhone) for several years now. This morning, at about 3:30, it popped its head up and said “Remember me? Here’s a way to begin!”

I started recording ideas, and I also started a database to see if a thought I had for printing the terrain tiles would work. And it works perfectly….

And conveniently, I am at a break between classes, so now is an absolutely perfect time to work on it!

If things go well, I might have a alpha test set ready when we go to Phoenix at the end of the month. I’ll talk more about it later, I’ll only say now that playing Betrayal At House On The Hill, and Alhambra, are significant inspirations.

Be fwightened, be vewy vewy fwightened!

If you are a fan of Girl Genius, you might want this game

Killer Robot Games has funded the sequel to their game, Legendary Showdown, by somehow coopting the skills behind Girl Genius, Phil and Kaja Foglio, and Gunnerkrigg Court‘s Tom Sidell.

The game is card-based combat between characters: you equip your peeps with great gear while trying to pass off crap on your opponent, and vice versa. Eventually it turns in to a fight, but with lots of permutations and trickery. The video for the game looks really good.

The Kickstarter is massively overfunded, you can get a copy of the game for $38 (+S/H) along with lots of pretty awesome coins and magnets and a copy of the original Legendary Showdown, which is based on Dr. McNinja.

Legendary Showdown: Machines and Magic is for 2-7(!) players and has LOTS of cards, and card from this set can be combined with the original game. The Kickstarter has seven days to go, and they are estimating delivery for July of this year. That might be optimistic, we shall see!

Blood-spattered white picket fences: zombie hunting in the 1950s!

Exploding Rogue Studios has put forth an RPG game set during the Red Scare 1950s called Dead Scare, in which it isn’t just women and children first, it’s women and children only!

The game designer Daniel Solis talked about several Kickstarter projects in his blog today that are nearing their funding deadline, amongst them was Dead Scare. It only has 5 days remaining and are less than $100 from their goal, so they’ll make it. The game is unique in that you’re not the Mighty Zombie Slayer, you’re the suburban housewife or the kid who has to defend the house. It’s a game that explores aspects of society that are not normally touched upon in most games, and it is also being published by a four woman team!

For $15 you can get the PDF of the game, plus digital rewards, a print copy will set you back $30 plus shipping.

The Don’t Rest Your Head boardgame

Don’t Rest Your Head, or DRYH as I’ll subsequently refer to it, is literally a crazy little RPG from Fred Hicks of Evil Hat. The basic premise is that all of the players are insomniacs, but they have something different about them: their insomnia grants them access to the Mad City. The problem is, when you have access to the Mad City, the Mad City has access to you and its denizens don’t like you.

You’re exhausted, you’re being chased by nightmares, and if you fall asleep you’re in serious trouble.

I’ve never played the RPG. I’ve read the rules, and I find it quite intriguing, but I just don’t have enough people in my area right now to launch a game. I’m also a little iffy on the dice mechanics, but as I haven’t attempted to run or play it, that’s probably just unfamiliarity. But I’m very intrigued by the concept. Evil Hat also published a fiction collection called Don’t Read This Book. I love the title! And I haven’t read it.

Well, Evil Hat is running a Kickstarter to launch a deck-building version of the game called Don’t Turn Your Back. It has less than 48 hours before the funding completes — sorry, I would have posted it earlier but it’s been a rough few weeks. $40, not including the shipping costs, gets you a physical copy of the game, plus PDFs of DRYH and the fiction anthology. You can get just the PDFs for $10.

The game is for 2-4 players and they say it takes less than an hour to play. You’re trapped in Mad City, as are the others, and you’re currying favor with nightmares to buy power to try to escape. Or at least that’s what the overall game play appears to be. Could be very interesting, but I can’t back everything and I think I might pass on this one, though I might chip in $10 to get the fiction anthology.

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