Monday, May 21, 2018

Japanese combat fan and The Steel Road ~ and shameless self-promotion

Art by: Zachary Viola
From: The Steel Road

When I created the list of weapons to include in The Steel Road, the tessen was a weapon I knew I wanted.  Tessen show up in the history of feudal Japan in unexpected ways. Whether being used to prevent Oda Nobunaga from killing you with a door (seriously, this is believed to have actually happened!), or deflecting the sword of a young general trying to kill his adversary in his tent, the stories associated with this elegant weapon are always interesting.

In RPG moments, the tessen has fantastic opportunities to shine in social encounters that turn violent.  Are you attending a ball thrown by a local count and can't bring your sword?  Bring the your tessen, just in case things go badly.  Were you disarmed by guards and locked in a cell?  Having a tessen with you provides a discreet weapon that is often overlooked. 

Don't miss the opportunity to boast of your victory. "He pulled a dagger from under his coat, so I beat him unconscious with my fan,"  is a fantastic story to tell.

Look for the tessen, appearing in The Steel Road,
coming to KickStarter May 24th, 2018 at 7:00PM (EST)


If you've been following this blog you know I talk mostly about my experiences in game design, writing and self-publishing.  The above segment is an obvious plug I slapped together to remind people of the coming KickStarter campaign. 

When you are working to promote yourself, please provide something for people to enjoy.  I like the history of the tessen as a weapon.  I wanted to share some of that with people because I think other people would enjoy it too.  Make a point to provide people with that kind of value.  Give something interesting and genuine in your promotional efforts.  I'm sure you'll find it both rewarding and rewarded.

I do hope you'll come out in support of the KickStarter on Thursday.

I also hope I'll see you here next time as we continue the adventure into game design, writing, and self-publishing.  I hope I can encourage you to launch your own creations, explore your own writing, and to create fun games for people to enjoy.

I'll see you next time!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Dungeons and Dragons campaign Idea: Sword Art Online survival of the fittest style campaign/event

No art for this, I just had a random idea ...

What if, as part of an area wide campaign, you took a sign in registry of all the players who wanted to play in one grand campaign.

You then create one list of random encounters drawn up for all the GMs to use at each level of the overall map.

Everyone makes up first level character.  All seems normal.

Until ...

Each session you rotate GMs, with each using the random table for that level, as well as running a homebrew adventure of their own devising for that level.  Neither the GMs nor the players know who will be running/ playing what until you meet up that week.

Every time a character is killed, that player is removed from the event.

As players are removed you reorder the groups, to fill in gaps.

The campaign ends when the characters have survived a fixed number of sessions, or you are down to one group of six or fewer.

When the campaign ends, the final test is to send those player characters through a high level dungeon.

I think this would be awesome!!!!  Something you would stream for posterity.


Game design / event  thought of the day...

Friday, May 18, 2018

Fun things you learn when you let people see a preview of your new KickStarter campaign

Screen capture from the KickStarter campaign for : The Steel Road
This image was grabbed last night while I was working on the page

Hello everyone!

I'm about to launch my fifth kickstarter campaign.  With my fourth campaign I had made previews of the campaign available to some bloggers I'm acquainted with, and ran the information by some friends to look it over.  It was helpful.    For The Steel Road I wanted a broader spectrum of people to take a look at the campaign prior to launch.  I was looking for feedback and I got it!

Things I had pointed out to me from the earliest of drafts were that I had too much text. Really, I had written to much, put forth a lot of detail, and had pretty much made the page read like installation instructions.  That kind of format is no fun to create, and no fun for the people coming to the campaign.  So, don't over do it, be honest and sincere, and don't worry about things that people are likely to already know.

Also from The Steel Road Kickstarter page
This  capture shows the pledge level for pdf and pod after the early backer tier expires

The next thing that was pointed out to me, was that I needed to tell people what the book was for.  Somehow, in all the excitement and in the process of putting words to page, I had forgotten to indicate the book was for the 5th Edition game mechanic.... oops?    So I did a bit of work to clean that up.

I cut down the extraneous matter (still clipping that back a bit), and tried to stick with just the meaty bits of the thing.  Its a book for your 5th Edition game, it has a bunch of weapons, all are illustrated, please support it... that kind of thing.  I found it was much more fun to read through, easier to digest, and people didn't have to try to interpret things.  All good things I believe.

Page from: The Steel Road
Art by: Zack Viola

Stretch Goals:  

Everyone seems to want more stretch goals.  I've been torn on this point as I don't want the project to get out of hand, but then something great happened.  One of the people looking at the page had been a backer of a prior campaign and he made a suggestion about something he would like to see as a stretch goal.  Its easily done, and I like the idea, so I'm checking the math to see if its feasible. Thank you very much Alexander for such insight!

My position on stretch goals is that they should always be something that makes a great contribution to the project.  Additional art, more content, better quality materials, and things in a similar vein are what I like to see.  As a creator though, you must balance these ambitions against your costs.  It is critical if you are to succeed in the business side of things and be able to afford to create new projects in the future.

So for all of you who are planning campaigns, be mindful of your stretch goals!

original page art for The Steel Road
Art by: Zachary Viola


I talk a LOT about how to treat your audience when you are a crowdfunded creator.  I always encourage people to do all they can to make the best products possible, in order to give their audience the best value.  Yesterday, I was reminded that people appreciate the effort.  I'll not get sappy about it, but I received some very kind words from a few backers of my last KickStarter (for Tarot Adventures, Book Two:  Comet over Echo Rock) which had its fulfillment running late (two weeks late as of this writing, but fulfillment is underway).

Once again, I'll recommend that in all dealings with your audience be honest, realistic, and put forth your very best effort.  I hope that in your creative endeavors you receive the same kind of messages I have.  They really do mean a lot to me because they are encouraging and really make all the work more worthwhile.

Yesterday I was told that my work mattered, that people are looking forward to my next book, and that they have fun with their friends as they play through the adventures I've created.  I can't think of a better reason for all the hard work, than knowing that the people supporting my kickstarter campaigns, my audience, are enjoying what I do.

(Thanks folks, you ladies and gentlemen have been the best!)

Your audience makes your creations possible.  Cherish them all.


Thank you for joining me once again on this adventure into game design, writing and self-publishing.

I'll be continuing the countdown toward the KickStarter campaign for The Steel Road with a new entry tonight.  

I do hope you will share this entry with others to help fellow creators.

Adventure awaits!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

50 Exotic weapons and 50 Enchanted weapons in one beautiful book: Coming to KickStarter May 24th!

The KnobKierie from Africa
Art by: Zachary Viola
page from: The Steel Road
All rights reserved

Announcing the KickStarter campaign!

The Steel Road     (link takes you to details on the book)

This is it: the KickStarter campaign will launch on 
Thursday, May 24th, 2018 at 1900 EST (7:00 PM Eastern)

Backer levels start at $8 (USD) for PDF and PoD codes for the early backers.

I hope we'll see you at launch for a great campaign.

Please do share this with RPG fans everywhere!

Written for the 5th Edition game mechanic (we like our DnD)!

Zack Viola and I will be on KickStarter live, taking questions at launch.  Come hang out with us and support the project.

Thank you all!

Monday, May 14, 2018

"The Steel Road" ~ A look into a weapon of Africa

Work on The Steel Road, has been progressing nicely.

To give you a bit of insider information on this project, let me tell you that I'm presently formatting the text into the book's file.  What this means, is that in a few days time it will be ready for editing, and then final corrections before it's ready for release.

Yes, we're that far along!

As you've likely heard I'm launching a KickStarter campaign to cover the costs on this project.   That KickStarter campaign is less than two weeks away (based on my present projections).  I'll be announcing the launch date in few days, once I finalize it.

But that isn't why you're here.  Nope you're here a look at the weapons we've been hinting at for so long. So let's take a look at one of the weapons you'll see on the KickStarter campaign.

From out of Africa,  the Akrafena 

The Akrafena
Prized sword of the Ashanti (among others)
Page from the "The Steel Road"
Art by: Zachary Viola
Copyright(c) 2018 All rights reserved

This is an example of how the book is going to look.  

We are cleaning up the art layer this week. 
The book will be done before the KickStarter campaign is over.

A lot of work has gone into The Steel Road.   One hundred weapon illustrations (50 exotic weapons and 50 enchanted "Legendary" versions) took a lot of time to create.  

I want to thank Zachary Viola for his long hours sketching over the last ten months, which has brought us to the point where we are readying the KickStarter campaign!  Zack, you are awesome!


I hope you will help support The Steel Road by sharing this post with others through social media, and by supporting the kickstarter and sharing it's links.

I do want to thank all of you who have been following my adventure into game design, writing, and self-publishing.  I do hope this blog helps you to avoid the mistakes I make, and inspires you to create the games, books, and art of your dreams.

I hope you'll join me against next time!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Shadowrun Community thing... Chummers check this out

I had to cobble this together as I couldn't get the widget from GoFundMe to workBut check this out

I am big fan of Rusty Zimmerman's work.  So when I saw him share this around I had to take notice.

Check it out, contribute as you can.  Donate some cash, share the link with others, tweet it around, whatever. 

Lets get united for a fellow runner.

Cry Havoc!

5th Edition and the Darkest Arts of a new arcane tradition

Art by: Brian Lee
From: Tale of the Wizard's Eye


The word conjures dark imagery, a foreboding sense of wrongness, and is reviled for the evil of its practices.

We typically see much less of the evil and vileness in play.  So what do you do when you want your dark arts to be, well, DARK?  The arcane tradition of 'necromancer' just didn't strike me as foreboding.

It occurred to me that I had rarely seen someone role play a character in a truly evil way.  Sure, people had played evil characters, and those characters had done some things that may be seen as evil, but usually the action was done "because I'm evil".   Where then is the drive to forego societal norms in a quest for power?  What drives the character to undertake horrific tasks?  What makes a character pursue evil?

These questions are a bit dark, but stick with me.

There have been MANY books about evil and how to play through them.  Unfortunately, many of those books simply provide a litany of evil acts a character may do "because they're evil" or "because they enjoy it".  That's not much help in determining character motivation.

To my thinking there is a significant difference in doing something because you're truly evil and the ends justify the means; and doing something just because the act is evil and you're playing a jerk.  Think about that for a moment. 

I was thinking along these lines when I began developing Whispers of Persephone.   I wanted to create an arcane tradition that pursued power through genuinely evil practice.  A tradition that inspired fear as others wondered if they would fall prey to these darkest of wizards.

Art from: Tale of the Wizard's Eye
Artist: Rebecca Coulthart

Not being particularly evil myself (at least, I don't think I am) I had to ask myself the age old question: "what drives people to commit evil acts".   I eventually concluded that each person would have their own reasons, but by and large it often comes down to a quest for power.  As a quest for personal power is often a big driving force in a wizard's mentality, I pursued that line of thought.

Death and Magic 

Let's face it, we're all going to die someday.  That said, we hold this fantastic survival instinct that usually makes us fearful of dying ourselves, in spite of its inevitability.  To that end, death is scary to people (usually) and people who deal in death are likewise scary.   

Enter the magician:  the practice of magic has long been feared.  The two together bring us the modern concept of the necromancer.  Our present concept of the necromancer is relatively new, and perpetuated by novels and film.  Where once the necromancer consorted with the spirits of the dead to learn of things (much like the modern medium), now they are dark sorcerers who create monsters to torment the living.   With all that going for them, necromancers should be frightening!

So I made the new tradition frightening.  I burdened it's pursuit with a need for death.  I researched old curses that people feared in the past (some of it was really weird, seriously).  I thought about the ancient magical rites of the Aztecs and those that were ascribed to cultists of the middle ages.  I looked to the ancient writings of Homer and considered the Underworld, the River Styx, Charon, Hades, and the long list of vile magicians and sorceresses the Greeks and Romans named in their writings.

In truth, I think Whispers of Persephone could easily be twice the size I'm creating it as.  There is just so much to draw from! 

Art by Brian Lee
From: Tale of the Wizard's Eye

I'm going to be putting together a play test document for some of the material from Whispers of Persephone and sending it out to my play testers soon.  It won't have any of the art yet, as I'll have to KickStarter  the funding for it.  But it will have a ton of material, and some seriously dark stuff to haunt their games.  New spells, rituals, rules for blood sacrifices, feats, alchemicals, potions, poisons and new magical items are already designed and ready to get shaken down in the play tests.

What horrors will they unleash in their games?  

We'll soon see!

Keep the dark arts DARK and remember that there is a big difference between being EVIL and just being a jerk!

Look for Whispers of Persephone to come to KickStarter later this year.
I use KickStarter to fund the fantastic original art for the books I release.

All art for Whispers of Persephone will be done in full color by the incredible
  Christian Martinez

Art by Christian Martinez
From: Tarot Adventures, Book One: The Draw of Glenfallow

Art used in this entry is from Tale of the Wizard's Eye, my first self-published adventure, and Tarot Adventures, Book One: The Draw of Glenfallow.  You can find them on


As you all know, I'm a big believer in building community and helping to spread the word for people who are creative, innovative people.  Well, Bull could use some help.  

Check out his GoFundMe for details:
GoFundMe Screen Capture (as the html embed didn't work)

Thank you for joining me once again as I continue our adventure in writing, self-publishing and game design.

Do remember that the KickStarter campaign for The Steel Road is launching in just a couple of weeks.  Follow my blog for the announcement or you can follow me on KickStarter!

I hope you'll join me next time.