January 29, 2013


With Over the Edge’s rules engine breaking free of its captivity to become the open-licensed WaRP System, my longtime pals at Atlas Games have dropped Invasion, a digital adventure by yours truly.

Can you take over the command center of an alien race whose thirst for violence threatens the entire galaxy, or will your attempt at infiltration leave you irredeemably corrupted?

Find out at e23 or the Paizo web store.

I’m delighted to return to this rules set after so many years, pushing its flexibility into the red zone spin for this player-driven upending of a time-honored sci-fi trope.

January 28, 2013

Pre-Deadline Hillfolk Progress Report

Hillfolk backers, hackers and gawkers take heed—it’s time for me to pop up from a pile of virtual manuscripts and illustration submissions with a progress report. A shockingly high percentage of series pitch writers have gotten their pieces in ahead of this Thursday’s deadline, making my job easier and giving me a big head start on the gargantuan task of assembling the core book and its companion, Blood on the Snow. As of this writing I have over half of the submissions for Hillfolk and over a third for the sourcebook.

Since my last update I’ve edited Emily Care Boss space colonists, Josh Roby Machiavellian Florentines, Dave Gross Shakespearean festival noir, Pedro Ziviani feuding Icelanders, Jesse Bullington backcountry bootleggers, Rob Wieland multi-generational mafioso, T. S. Luikart’s regal rabbits, Gareth Hanrahan high-fantasy heroes and Ian “Lizard” Harac’s 1960s nuke survivors.

Waiting patiently on my hard drive are contributions from Jason Pitre, Will Hindmarch, Eddy Webb, Wade Rockett, Steve Darlington, Ryan Macklin, Chris Lackey, Steve Long and Angus Abranson.

Emily has also submitted her DramaSystem LARP rules, which will constitute a prime reason to grab Blood on the Snow.

I’ve written my own series pitches for Blood, adapting Mutant City Blues and my short story “The Dog” to the DramaSystem platform.

My main contributions to that book’s DramaSystem Master Class are also done.  The biggest piece provides players with 14 different approaches to scene-calling. No matter how your creative brain works, there’s a step-by-step for unstumping yourself when the GM calls your name.

If you’ve been planning to submit to this section, by all means do so. We’ve got some great pieces so far but there’s still room to squeeze in a few more.

Our stable of artists has also been hard at work. At right is the subtly compelling illustration for Wade Rockett’s “The Secret of Warlock Mountain” pitch, by the stellar Jonathan Wyke.

January 18, 2013

January 10, 2013

An Incomplete List of Congressional Metonyms

As profound students of Restoration comedy one and all, you surely know what a metonym is—a given name for a fictional character that telegraphs his or her personality or role in the story. This may be direct, or simply through euphony. Examples: Charles Surface, Sir Benjamin Backbite, Mr. Gradgrind, Mistress Quickly, Severus Snape.

Sometimes real people have metonymic names. This can come in handy sometimes.

For example, certain members of US Congress have names that an editor might reject as too metonymic if we tried to use them in fiction. I hereby nominate my top ten.

  1. Henry Waxman

  2. Louise Slaughter

  3. Bob Goodlatte

  4. Bobby Rush

  5. Mac Thornberry

  6. Sam Graves

  7. Emanuel Cleaver

  8. Marcia Fudge

  9. Leonard Lance

  10. Raul Labrador

Though perhaps not strictly a metonym, an honorable mention must surely go to Dutch Ruppersberger.

How apt these names I leave as a matter for other scholars. Just how creamy and delicious is the legislation of Marcia Fudge?

January 09, 2013

An Intriguing Experiment (That No One Will Ever Do)

Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under and True Blood, is about to launch a new cable show, Banshee, about an ex-con who, through the peregrinations of an opening plot twist, becomes sheriff of a small town in Amish country. This will give Ball another chance to air his issues with conservative Christianity and presumably his mother. Given the wildly contrasting tones of his previous shows I’m curious to see where he takes this one. Also, they had me at Ulrich Thomsen.

It’s on Cinemax in the US and, through the peregrinations of pay TV licensing, HBO Canada here in the land of the silver birch.

I mention this here because it inspired a thought experiment. The synopsis given on the HBO Canada site (and presumably repeated on its Cinemax counterpart) goes like this:

From Alan Ball, creator/EP of True Blood, this exciting new Cinemax action drama charts the twists and turns that follow Lucas Hood (Antony Starr), an ex-convict who improbably becomes sheriff of a rural, Amish-area town while searching for a woman he last saw 15 years ago, when he gave himself up to police to let her escape after a jewel heist. Living in Banshee under an assumed name, Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Milicevic) is now married to the local DA, has two children (one of whom may be Lucas’), and is trying desperately to keep a low profile – until Lucas arrives to shake up her world and rekindle old passions. Complicating matters is the fact that Banshee is riddled by corruption, with an Amish overlord, Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), brutally building a local empire of drugs, gambling and graft. With the help of a boxer-turned-barkeeper named Sugar Bates (Frankie Faison), Lucas is able to stay on even footing with Kai and his thugs, and even manages to bring a measure of tough justice to Banshee. But eventually, Lucas’ appetite for pulling heists pulls him and Carrie into a dangerous cauldron of duplicity, exacerbated when Mr. Rabbit (Ben Cross), the NY mobster they once ripped off, closes in with vengeance on his mind.

That’s complete enough to serve as the basis of play for a DramaSystem series. As a series pitch, it’s way truncated, but you don’t need a series pitch for everything, especially stories set in our familiar world.

The experiment would go like this: take the synopsis of this or any other upcoming serialized cable drama. Use it as the basis of a DramaSystem series...without watching the show. Or otherwise keeping up with where it’s going. When you finish you own series, rent the original on DVD, and compare and contrast.

January 08, 2013

Pirates, Bunnies and a Mystery Contributor Herald Hillfolk Progress

With the holidays in the rearview mirror, it’s time for another Hillfolk progress report. I continue to receive great contributions from stretch goal writers ahead of the Jan 31st deadline. This grants me a useful head start, one I’m sure I’ll need when February 1st rolls around and the task of assembling the full books begins in earnest.

Jason L. Blair’s “Inhuman Desires” delivers the promised paranormal romance in sterling fashion. It doesn’t let death get in the way of a tortured love story.

Meguey Baker’s “Under Hollow Hills” pours on the faerie atmosphere, bringing an evocative prose voice to her series of intrigue among the fae, and the humans caught on the thorny boundary between their realm and ours.

Jennifer Brozek’s “Transcend” brings the post-human condition to the dinner table, letting you explore the consequences of radical transformation either on a future Earth or in the social hothouse of an orbiting space station.

Graeme Davis has swashed his buckles with “Pyrates”, bringing the time-honored crime gang drama to the blue waters of the piratical Caribbean.

If you prefer your epic drama under the waves, Richard Iorio has turned in “Dolphins.” Just like he said, it bridges the moods of Finding Nemo and Lord of the Rings.

Compelling human storytelling occupies a smoldering center stage in Greg Stolze’s “Fire in the Heartland.” What is it like to serve as first responder in a community so small you know everyone you’re ever called on to rescue?

Also, I received an early Christmas present in the form of a completely unexpected, ready-to-print series pitch from an RPG heavy hitter I’m not quite ready to announce. This luminary’s surprise participation gives me leeway in the unhoped-for-event of a drop out from an announced series pitch contributor. For the moment I’m keeping both the name and the concept under my hat.

Contributions from Ash Law, Emily Care Boss and Pedro Ziviani have arrived and will be reviewed over the next few days.

Meanwhile, I’ve completed work on the reference document for the DramaSystem open license. This will allow us to release it concurrently with the book.

Art contributions are beginning to roll in.  I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen so far and am confident that you will be, too.  As a teaser, at right is Rachel Kahn’s illustration for TS Luikart’s “Malice Tarn.”