This week I learned that due to an understandable fear and loathing of songs in books, Jamie skips anything he sees written in italics. Jamie is a poopyhead. That’s interesting information to know.
The Die is Recast
Unless I’m forgetting something, this is the last issue I wrote this year that’s coming out, and a pretty good way to end it. Part of me would have loved if it was 6, so ending the first arc, but it can’t be that neat. There’s a bunch of stuff in here. Grail Castles! Big reveals! Slightly Too Much Exposition in The Opening! This one has it all.
Dan and Tamra are making one of the best looking action comics on the shelves, and this issue Ed Dukeshire has to deal with some of the classic Kieron Has Something Weird He Wants To Try nonsense.
Dan also has his Klaus Christmas issue out, so go grab that too. Him and Morrison doing Santa Klaus as Mystical Barbarian is a genuine joy.
It’s in issue 10, so spoilers of DIE follow. Skip to the next section if you don’t want it.
We’re sending DIE: SPLIT THE PARTY off to the press this week, to print in time for its release in February. We always inevitably fix a few typos and other things. There’s one thing we’re tweaking we thought worth putting in the newsletter, as it’s a significant tweak and I wouldn’t want people who’d read the single issue to not see it.
In the one in issue 10, we mistakenly had Mistress Woe drawn instead of the Mourner, and the line was "But I knew what I owed her” rather than “But I knew what I owed Izzy.” There’s readings which are open with the former which are closed with the latter.
Thanks for your patience. Comics!
Let’s plug some fine stuff I’ve enjoyed recently…
I’ve always loved Ray Fawkes solo work, and IN THE FLOOD is Comixology Original collaboration with Lee Lougbridge and Thomas Mauer was great. Ray’s always moving in space between the Lynch skewed vision, the brutal formalism and the sheer horror. This takes from all three traditions, and is one of the most accessible version of his vision. I gave a pull quote, which is “As compelling and disturbing as watching the water level inch up your body. There's nothing you can do to resist." Which certainly sounds like the sort of thing I say, right? You can go buy it all here.
I also read Charles Soule’s second novel ANYONE, which prompted me to tweet “A near-Future Cartesian Count of Monte Christo vengeance thriller which determinedly explores how mass mind-swap technology would be abused, I dug it a lot. Big ideas, big velocity, big fun.” which also sounds like the sort of thing I’d say. I sure do like saying. Buy here.
Christmas is a time for games. These are both great, and forgive my crappy photoshopping to try and make the two be in the same image.
FOR THE QUEEN is my favourite story-game of the year, and it’s so good that I almost didn’t say “Story-game” both because it’s that good and that I didn’t want to turn anyone off. It’s the sort of hyper-accessible and directed thing which could entirely find an audience outside of the classic indie-RPG circles – it looks and feels like something that could transfer to a more standard boardgame-y group. I’ve played it 7 times since James D'amato tossed me a copy at Thought Bubble, with groups varying in size of 2 to 6. I’ve played it with experienced roleplayers. I’ve played it with people who’ve never roleplayed at all before, even one on one. At its worst, it’s been really fun. At its best, it had four of us standing up and punching the air and high fiving at the tale of (er) the how awful the fucking Queen is.
With a minimum of core establishing facts, the game takes the format of each of you taking turns to answer questions about the Queen, and so defining the world and the situation you’re all in. Other players may throw in more questions. You all build, with knowing what the last card is at the start to guide you. It shows exactly how much you can do with the right guiding question. I’ve been the Queen’s courtier. I’ve been the Queen’s Warlock. I’ve been the Queen’s Spaceship. I’ve been surprised, delighted and horrified each time, and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s from Evil Hat, so easy to get in the US but you’ll need to speak to your retailer in the UK. Leisure Games are sold out but Games Quest have it.
If you want something more EVERYONE PILE ON! IT’S CHRISTMAS! You really need to grab a copy of any of the MONIKERS games. It’s what I’ve heard called The Hat Game, but made a little cleaner. You play in three rounds – the first is taboo (where you have to get your team to guess the name on the card without saying the name). The second is where you only get to say a single word to get people to guess. The third is charades. The magic sauce is the group uses the same 40 or so cards for the whole game, meaning you generate a shared social language primarily of in jokes. You can get it easily in the states for $20 for any of the boxes, but they’re oddly hard to find in the UK. You have someone trying to sell it for 70 quid on amazon, which is a Sling Your Hook, Mate. The US lists do ship to the UK though. All the expansions are standalone – I’ve been playing the one above, which was entirely written by the chaps at Shut Up & Sit Down.
As the only game where I received applause from my peers for mime of “Sharknado”, it clearly has my approval.
I was at a Christmas party of a games company this week and spent a bunch of time chatting to the writer and critic Giada Zavarise, who was telling me about the column she’s writing over at my old alma mater Rock Paper Shotgun, A Panel Shaped Screen. It’s about the dialogue between comics and games, and using comics as a filter on games. I love this kind of stuff.
It’s the end of the year, and more end of year lists are emerging. The io9 fave comics one was particularly kind.
It’s the end of the decade, and more end of the decade lists are emerging. The SyFy Most Influential Indie Comics of the 10s one was particularly kind.
The new PanelxPanel has just come out and is available to buy. But have the subscribers been mailed a copy yet? No they haven’t. Hassan! HASSSAANNNNNNN!
Here’s some recent asks I answered. More on the tumblr, and do ask if anything is on your mind.
Q: Do you think your skills as a writer have benefitted you as a GM/DM?
There was basically a 10 year gap where I didn’t run games for anyone - and in that period I basically basically did my whole journey into doing comics. The campaign I ran afterwards was instantly better in some core and immediately striking ways. I was kinda shocked.
Some of it is just knowing what a satisfying narrative unit is - I’d end a session 20 minutes early if it was a better place to leave it hanging rather than play until the last second. Some of it is being better with theme on the fly. My NPC were always something people liked, but more so - especially that I tended to structure scenarios based around antagonists with desires rather than planning in detail. I was more comfortable with living worlds. I just had a better understanding of structure and character, which I could then play with.
In some ways it was just more practise - I was always a particularly descriptive GM, but you play with me, and you get all manner of ludicrous description. One of my regular players notes that at least once a session you’ll get a bit of really uncanny imagery when I’m clearly going for it.
I have huge weaknesses as a GM, but I’ve always been good at flash. I suspect that only got more pronounced.
Yes, this question did lead to the “Has being a writer hurt your as a GM?” which I’ve yet to answer properly, but the short answer is “yes”.
Q: Now that OaF is an ongoing (yay, btw), and if it's not too much of a spoiler, did you have a set length in mind, or are you keeping it loose depending on how many adventures you feel like writing? The characters and set-up feel perfect for a connected series of "here we go again" shenanigans that could go on for as long as you want, or just as equally a very particular set of character arcs. Either way, loving the book!
A: Your opinions are Sympatico with mine.
Basically, I’ve got an arc I want to tell, and then we’ll see where we are at the end of it. Duncan and Bridgette are very much that kind of iconic-character who can be plugged into adventures, as you say.
Q: What’s up with the delays for the Thunderbolt HC? It was first scheduled for September, then November, and now late December. Any chance the delays are to allow for additional content?
A: As far as I know, nope. I presume it’s a printing issue or similar. Looking forward to seeing them.
The week was a hard one personally. That I was DJing at Marioke on Friday after the election wasn’t something I would have chosen to do. In the end, going into a room full of people howling socialist game pop remixes of pop culture before dropping a song was genuinely healing. I ended playing Shipbuilding, which also felt right.
I’ll likely write something more eventually. I distrust shooting from the hip right now. I need to think.
Work in the lead up to Christmas is normally about clearing the decks. ONCE & FUTURE 7 is finished. Jim’s passed me the raw text for LUDOCRATS 4 which I’ll beat into shape before Friday – in fact, I’ll move onto it after I finish this. There’s been meetings and writing for all my associated PROJECTS. MILLIONAIRE SWEEPER and PRIVATE BUKOWSKI have had some writing – I’ll be doing some on Bukowski later tonight. COWBOY has an artist attached, and I got notes on BRIGHTER SHADE OF BLUE. Ideally I’ll have a full outline on COWBOY done before Xmas – at least, that’s the aim.
The thing of getting stuff off the plate is that (as all the editors and similar are away) it leaves the space between the new year as a liminal space. I’m almost always writing something in the gap, but it’s deliberately something extra, something I want to give the space to play with. WicDiv 1, WicDiv 18, Ludocrats 1 and DIE 1 have filled the space. I don’t think it’ll be a script this year – I mean, if I fall in love with writing the outline of COWBOY, it could be that, as I suspect it could segue into a script easily.
Or it may just be putting some firm ideas for DIE RPG’s next step down. The Arcana is all together and C is just doing the tweaks on the main books and character sheets. So with that removed from the decks, I’ve got that.
Or maybe I’ll just play with prose.
Either way, this will be the last newsletter in 2019. Next time we’ll speak, it’ll be 2020, and I’ll be making lots of Cyberpunk RPG jokes.
Love to the lot of you. The year has been hell, but you’ve been good people to be in hell with.