Uncaged Anthology

Good morning! I won’t bury the lead: I edited a few of the adventures featured in Uncaged Anthology, which is available today over at the DM’s Guild!

I was lucky enough to see this project come into existence in real time on Twitter. It started as a question posed by Ashley Warren about a series of mythology-based one-shots. The response was amazing, and Ashley took the wheel and brought the massive ship that is any anthology project onto an even keel, and it was underway. When the call went out for editors I eagerly put my name in, and was lucky to be asked to take on some of the adventures.

I only grabbed my copy this morning, so expect an in-depth review later. But if the two adventures I work on were any indication of the overall quality (and I have every reason to believe it is so), you will want to grab this book post haste. It is a beautiful book packed with one-shot D&D adventures which could be dropped with ease into your campaign. Given the mythological theme which binds them, they could even form the basis of a campaign, as your players explore the myths and legends of your world.

I’m really excited to read this and get some of these adventures on the table. Even more exciting, this is only Volume One, so expect even more adventures to come!

Once you’ve had a chance to pick up a copy and look it over, I hope you’ll stop by and let me know which are your favourites. And should you be looking for an editor for your TTRPG project, well, I have a page about that. Let’s talk!

Foreign Element RPG

Yes, the title does mean that my next 30 Days of GMing post is delayed. Again. Bit busy finding my illness/work balance, and something had to give. But I wanted to take a moment to promote something cool I worked on.

The Foreign Element RPG is a game for anyone who likes fast-paced, B-movie style fun at the gaming table. Published by Mystic Ages Publishing and written by Nathan J. Hill, the game is set in a dystopian far future, where mankind has reached out into the stars…and discovered the stars don’t really want us. It is a great storytelling game with a fun narrative mechanic, and it really includes the players in constructing the action. It is also straightforward and easy to learn, making it a great game for a one-off, but with enough depth in the setting that you will want to stick around and play your characters a while. At least until the universe catches up to them and their number is up.

And, oh yeah, did I mention I edited the game? Because I did. Nathan contacted me after I posted in the Freelance section at the RPG.net forums, offering my editing services. We exchanged emails, got a good feeling about each other, and I was lucky enough to get the job. Lucky, because it’s wonderful to work on a game you know you’d enjoy playing. also lucky, because while I have been editing a number of supplements for people, this was the first rules set I’ve edited. So I was happy to get that experience, and it’s given me a taste for more of the same.

So please, if you like your sci-fi gaming fast and furious, pick up a PDF copy of Foreign Element. And if you are working on an RPG project and need an editor, drop me a line. My rates are reasonable and I love working on good, new RPG material.

30 Days of Game Mastering, Day Twenty-two

We are close to the end of 30 Days of Game Mastering Challenge, closing in on the final week. I hope folks have enjoyed this. I had and am having a lot of fun, and with the exception of a minor hiccup last week, I like having a constant stream of posts. It is very likely I’ll go back to daily posting when the challenge is over, but for now on with the show!

A novel solution: what’s the best advice you have borrowed from a totally different field?

I freelance as an editor, and spend a lot of my working time with genre fiction. One of the best pieces of advice I received early on and spread around wherever I can is: show, don’t tell. In fiction this means instead of writing “He felt sad.”, which is static and frankly boring, you write something like, “His gaze lingered on her scarf by the door, and he choked back a sob. He poured himself another drink and curled up on the couch in the comfortable dark.” Both methods convey the character’s sadness, but the second method is both more interesting and conveys much more information without using a huge exposition dump.

“Show, don’t tell” can be applied to GMing as well. Instead of telling players how evil the villain is when he’s introduced, show him doing something despicable. It’s cliche, but have him punishing a subordinate as the characters approach. Have the vampire villain stop in the middle of his conversation for a “snack”. It’s much more interesting and exciting for your players than just telling them the villain is evil. It also opens up the chance to surprise your players with the villain. If she’s been acting normal up to that point, then suddenly stabs someone to death in alley, that’s a great “Holy crap!” moment for the players.

And it doesn’t have to be reserved for villains. You can use the technique for any of your NPCs to give them a bit of flavour and bring them alive. Don’t tell them the blacksmith is angry; instead describe him hammering more furiously. Don’t tell them the innkeeper is obsequious; describe how he instantly switches on a smile and agrees with everything the characters say. Giving your players these types of descriptions instead of just telling them what an NPC is like also makes their Perception and Sense Motive checks more useful. After all, how a character acts may or may not have a connection to what they actually think or feel.

Showing instead of telling opens up a whole new way of both providing and hiding information from the players. If you aren’t used to it, don’t feel bad if it takes a while to get into the habit and rhythm of it. Just keep plugging away, and spend a bit of time practising your descriptions, and you’ll soon have a whole new tool in your GM’s bag of tricks.

What’s your best bit of advice from a different field? Drop it in the comments and share with the group. Tomorrow we talk about mechanics and story.

How I’m Keeping Busy

When I was laid-off back in April, I had mixed feelings.  At first there was a moment of “I HAVE NO JOB! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!”, which luckily soon passed (sustained screaming makes my throat bad-tingle).  Once that moment was gone, I realized that my old job had made me…not miserable, that’s too strong.  It made me enervated; I would start the day with ideas of the things I would do once I finished work that day, but by the time I got home I was drained.  Not that the job (shipping/receiving) was hard, it wasn’t.  I was really good at it, which was the only reason I had survived through two prior rounds of lay-offs.

But being good at a job and loving your job are two different things.  So while I certainly miss having a job, I don’t miss that job.  Because of this, I made the decision to stay on EI for a while, and try my hand at some things I do love.  So here is a quick rundown of some of the things I’m working on at the moment:

Freelancing:  I officially hung out my shingle today as a “white collar mercenary”, providing editing, data entry and research services on a freelance basis.  You can check out my Rate Sheet, hidden under the About Renaissance Dork button above.  I think there is a “freelance office worker” niche to be filled for self-publishing authors, small press houses and small businesses that can’t afford a staffing agency.  And since I both enjoy and am good at editing and research, and am willing to perform data entry (can anyone be said to enjoy it?), I might as well fit myself into that niche.  I am excited about this, and curious what will come of it.

Volunteering for On Spec:  I have been a fan of short SF fiction for a real long time, and a fan of On Spec for almost as long (as I talk about here).  Shortly after Aluma gave me my walking papers, I contacted Diane and asked if I could help out, maybe read some slushpile stuff that was piling up.  She was gracious enough to allow me to do some copy-editing, as well as putting me in charge of the @OnSpecMagazine Twitter feed (which you should follow if you love Canadian SF and cool stuff like that).  I’m loving both, but the copy-editing has been the best fun so far.  I’m currently editing two stories, and one of them is in my favourite (though somewhat scary) stage, working with the writer.  I won’t say any more, other than you will love these stories when they come out!

RPG Writing:  Oddly, while this is the one I was most excited to get to work on, it is the one that has stalled the most for me.  I’m still working out for myself why that might be, though I know the fault lies with me and not any outside source.  But in the meantime I have worked up the second draft of a Pathfinder Society scenario submission, started the second draft of an article to be submitted to Wayfinder Magazine (a fan published/created magazine on Pathfinder), and am picking out three article proposals to send in to Kobold Quarterly.  I did complete a paid assignment for a game product coming out soonish, but I don’t know how much I can talk about it prior to it being announced.  So let us say I am cautiously optimistic about my future as an RPG writer, and leave it there for now.

The Blog: Well, you’re here, so I don’t really need to explain what this is.  I’ve wanted to focus on writing for a while, and the blog is a big part of that.  Not only does it give me a chance to sound-off about the geeky things I love so much, it has also helped me form relationships with other bloggers/writers.  And as part of my daily writing process, it does two things. First, I can use it to clear out the cobwebs at the start of the day, by banging out a blog entry, freeform (which I later edit and re-write; don’t worry, only the best for you guys!)  Second, if I’m stuck on something else I’m writing I just pull up the blog and work on that.  At some point that unsticks me, and I can go back to what I was working on.  So whatever else happens, the blog is too important for me to give up.

The Sorta Secret Project: Used to be Super Secret, but I couldn’t contain my excitement and told a few people.  I’m not going to give away too much…oh, all right.  Here are three clues: I’ll still be talking about geeky stuff; I’ll be working with a fellow geek I’m rather fond of; and it will start (as far as you are concerned) in February.  Beyond that, my lips are sealed GABBO!

And that is what fills the days and sometimes nights of the Renaissance Dork, padded out with role-playing games, television and the occasional movie.  I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my life, and hey, tell all your friends about the white collar mercenary thing, eh?

Comments, in perpetuity, below.