Thursday, June 1, 2017

Stuck In A Rut

It is a terrible thing (well, subjectively speaking) that putting off blogging for long periods of time actually makes the act of blogging harder, not easier. One might not think this is the case...after all, in the time between my last post and this one I've had half a dozen (or more) ideas for good, solid posts that I wanted to write. But the sad fact is, the more those ideas "pile up" in the head, the harder it is to actually write them down. After all, which one do you start with? Does it make sense without the context of the earlier (non-posted) ideas that led to it? Is it still timely?

So...fuck. That's where I find myself at the moment. And rather than simply put off posting yet again, I've decided to put something down just to take a swing at blogging. Maybe this will help open the flood gates for yours truly.

The surprising success of my B/X Companion re-print (I've sold more than a quarter of the run already) has really made me want to get back to (i.e. finish up) one of the several writing projects that sit on my laptop. Seriously, I've got two or three books that range from 85% to 98% written, and I just can't seem to pull the trigger on them. One (Cry Dark Future) is actually done (except for artwork)...proofed and edited even...and I just want to blow the whole thing up because it's not good enough. I'm pretty sure I've written about that before (oh, yeah: right here), and the sad fact is nothing's changed since the last time I complained about it, eighteen months ago or whatever. Nothing's changed, except that I've started other projects that are near completion but have stalled, and that I've built up my own personal resentment for my own work.


So here I sit in the Baranoff, drinking decaf and going through my laptop docs and wondering just which one I should crank out. Because I WANT to crank something out. Really. Really really really. And I think it's going to be Cry Dark Future, I really do, and I THINK I can get it up and ready to print and I even have a couple-three people who I can task for artwork, BUT...

...I have a problem.

The magic system. It blows chunks.

Cry Dark Future was originally imagined as a B/X version of Shadowrun. Converting the latter system to the former (back when that was my main objective) was surprisingly simple, even with regard to the non-Vancian magic system.  However, upon years of reflection, I find I dislike the non-Vancian magic system. In fact, I'm getting pretty darn sick of magic systems in ALL of these RPGs I'm designing. I need a different paradigm., a week or two ago...I started thinking that MAYBE I should build a game BEGINNING with the magic system. I've actually been reading a lot of different, older RPGs looking at approaches that were taken by others back in Ye Old Formative Days of RPG design: Chivalry & Sorcery, Ars Magica, Fantasy Wargaming, etc. There are things I like, things I don't but there's nothing I can really polish and mold and re-purpose...which is kind of my forte when it comes to game design. I'm good at refining ideas, but I seldom have full blown creative spurts that spring from my noggin like Athena from Zeus.

More's the pity.

That's why this post is titled as it is. Yes, I'm stuck in a rut with regard to my blogging, but with my designing as well. I'm nearly on the verge of adapting a straight Vancian system (spells by level, fire and forget, etc.) system to Cry Dark Future because it's less fiddly than worrying about success rolls and mana burn and whatnot...not to mention I prefer a system that's dissimilar from other systems in the game (combat, for example). That's part of the beauty of original D& has all these mini-systems that work in different ways, but are all uber-simple to grok and remember. Cry Dark Future should be like that...interesting to use while being easy to learn so you can spend your time playing and exploring the setting of the game.



Huh. I just remembered something...a different game I wanted to examine (not an "old school" game) that might give me an idea or two. Oh...wait. No that was for something else.

Aaargh! You see? Too many ideas fighting for space in my brain!

My six year old really, REALLY wants to play Dungeons & Dragons with me, just by the way. I don't really feel up to it this week...but maybe I'll write up a short adventure for him. That might help my brain to clear this fog.

The decaf certainly isn't helping (duh).


  1. Enough "bitchin-moanin" from you, JB. Just finish one (start with CDF) and get it to us. The reality is that you will NEVER be entirely happy with any "final" effort - that's the nature of the writing gig. Still, you need to get something "good enough" and get it out there, IMO. People like the B/X mechanics. People like Shadowrun. Whip up your Vancian take on the magic and add it to what you have. Leave BOTH systems in there to choose between. Send me a copy, or let me buy one, dammit!
    In all seriousness, people like the tried and true. Not to be that guy, but how many copies of B/X Companion and Adventurer have you sold (I bought both) compared to 5AK? I know, I know, you wrote that because it was a version of the game that YOU wanted to play, but what's the market for another fantasy heartbreaker compared to tried and true B/X compatible stuff?

    1. Just for kicks, I just went back to that post about CDF from last year. Apparently, I wrote essentially the SAME post then too! I guess I AM that guy - what an asshole! Squeaky wheel gets the grease! :)

    2. @ Reese:

      Ha! If I write multiple whiny posts, you're allowed to call me out multiple times.
      : )

      In all seriousness, aren't you working on a B/X-cyberpunk hack called Chrome? What's your game's status? Maybe you don't want me competing with you!

      I'm tempted to send you a copy of the (old) magic chapter just to show you what I mean. IN actual play(test) it But just a bit loosey-goosey for my taste. Yes, even more so than actual Shadowrun.

      That being said, the new magic rules (yes, I actually thought of some today...) might be just good enough. Just. We'll see.
      ; )

    3. Hey JB, yeah, theoretically I am working on Chrome at a snails pace. I wouldn't say we're competing by any stretch of the imagination though. I'm firmly in the camp of more is better when it comes to gaming options. I intended to have something that was more B/X based, by way of Basic Fantasy RPG, but over time I've shifted in the direction of Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox as a base. A little lighter and even easier to hack, and there are so many variants to draw inspiration from.
      So yeah, I'm the last guy who should be giving anyone a hard time about finishing and sharing a project.

  2. Fiddly stuff very rarely works better than basic ol' D&D. You can always release the art-free version PWYW and see what develops. Then you can decide to revise it when you see how it behaves in the wild.

    1. @ Scott:

      I'm hesitant to release betas, freebies, PWYW, etc....but I might consider it in this case.

  3. After purchasing the BX Companion, and reading it thoroughly, I have come to find faith in your design process. I think you'll find the answers your looking for, and am looking forward to your game. Just be patient, it will come to you in it's own time. :-)

    Thanks for returning to the Blog-O-Verse. :-)

    1. @ Trailblades:

      Thank you for the kind words. Glad to be (sort of) back.

  4. Zak (when talking about scenario ideas I think) suggested that ideas never spring from nothing but from lots of work and that you should start by for example writing down lots of connected thoughts on a subject and working from there.

    For rules my best avenue is asking players what they like / don't like and then seeing what I can do with their wholly understandable but entirely unreasonable demands.

    For magic systems I simply asked my son these questions and the resulting constraints formed my current magic system.

  5. Cry Dark Future; TAKE MY MONEY!

    Seriously, I -really- want to buy this one.

    1. Also, I don't care about art,I mean I love art in rpgs, but, I want this
      -so- badly it hurts.

      I agree with the above statements that rarely does something "pop" out of your head, you have to work at it.

      Also if you're truly stuck use the Vancian system, don't worry about it

  6. Infrequent blogging also negatively impacts readership - they rarely come back to check if you've posted anything new.

    When I'm in a design rut, I run some games.

    If you want to borrow magic ideas from Crimson Dragon Slayer, go right ahead. Either version!

    1. @ Venger:

      You know, I'll have to go back and read CDS...I know there were a lot of "gems" in its design, but I don't remember the magic system specifically.

      And I didn't know you did two versions of the game!