A Little Surprise in the Mail Today.

So far I have very, very good things to say about this game. Renegade has outdone themselves on this in terms of RPG playability and nostalgia/fan content.

I’m pretty excited about this!

I’ve only been waiting something like, 35+ years for this one. Yo Joe!

An early birthday present from my wife. Dang.

Foreword by Luke Gygax. Unbelievable. I’ll have a full review up when I’ve had more time to drool over this book. My physical copy showed up and the pdf dropped. (Giddy noises.)

So far, it’s been flashbacks and good crunch.

While I’m still pretty much obsessed with Renegade’s other recent release, Power Rangers RPG, I will say GI Joe is very impressive so far. They seem to have gotten their acts together between books somehow. The system is the same Essence20 System used for Power Rangers. It’s a much better fit for this game.

I grew up playing with GI Joe toys among other things. I remember pretty much all of the characters listed in the book and wondered about several they haven’t mentioned. I think the sourcebooks for this game have the potential to be loaded with awesomeness.

The art in this book brings back so many fond memories of both the toys and their packaging. I’ve lost track of the “oh yeah” moments looking back after opening this book. There are characters, vehicles and stories in here that I haven’t thought about in years.

They realized they couldn’t fit 500 dossiers into the first book. Go figure.

I remember when I was first introduced to roleplaying games for the first time when I was nine and thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a GI Joe game.”

Other than Spycraft and Cartoon Action Hour, I don’t remember anyone really doing much of a knockoff. It’s just way better with the actual GI Joe cartoon art and characters. Conveniently, Hasbro appears to be working closely with Renegade on GI Joe, Transformers, and even My Little Pony.

As another side note, I absolutely adore the book referring to “Knowing is half the battle,” throughout. I still think there should be extra XP given if characters want to do a public service announcement vignette between episodes.

I sincerely hope they put together sourcebooks with more Joes, Cobras, and lots of vehicles very soon. Renegade seems pretty determined all around on this one. I also should mention that another dream come true is on the horizon- Transformers RPG. Imagine the crossover between GI Joe and Transformers in an RPG. Almost as good as that movie we’ve always wanted.

Thank you for being here. Stay safe. Stay hydrated. More to come.

Making Characters by the Binder Full?

Am I the only GM that insists on making a ton of characters for myself just to get a feel for the system?

Am I the only GM that likes to make characters, too?

When I’m trying out a new system to see if I want to run it, I make characters. I make enough to have an entire party. I know how people tend to have a distaste of pregenerated characters, so most of my good characters become really overly crunchy NPCs.

This has its upside, though. It gives me readily available party members to fill in for positions in the group that no one likes to play (cough-healer-cough.) In a pinch, it might also give me a foil for one of the characters, a competing dungeon party, or even a bad guy.

Hidden benefit to making tons of characters.

First, it gives me an idea of how to make/explain characters for a new system. Second, I can read a system and know pretty fast how it runs. Making characters helps me catch some of the nuances I might have missed. It also helps me learn the design process for the game itself so I can build new character classes, spells, items, etc. Last, it does give me a building block to help the players if I get in a pinch.

If I have new players, or if my players are new to the system, having generated a ton of characters helps me teach them the best way of going about it. Most of us know D&D, but not every game runs character generation the same way. I even build cheat sheets on blank character sheets for some games. Anything involving point buys for attributes probably has a heavily annotated character sheet in a folder around here somewhere.

Second, I’ve read a TON of game systems. I can read a few lines in the first few chapters and have a pretty good read on how the game is going to work. But actually creating a character helps dig into the nuances of the system. I learned a lot about ICRPG making characters.

Third, it truly does help build better balanced and fun new classes, items, spells, equipment, etc. I’ve had three or four games where I started building classes right after I made a couple of characters. For example, in Bare Bones Fantasy, I built a warrior and a cleric. Right after that, I designed five or so flavors of samurai, ninja, Wu-Jen, Kensai, Monk, Wuxia and a bunch of other stuff. I had the same experience with ICRPG. Good games. So flexible.

Last, having a pile of characters lying around helps me if a player gets in a pinch designing their character. Not all character creation systems are created equal. Some are super easy to pick up. Others… there’s a lot of help needed. (I’m looking at you, Role Master, Mythras, and Traveler.) Having a couple of characters to just hand out so that people can just jump in and roll dice is a huge advantage, especially if it’s a pickup game. It’s also a good tool for players to see what a completed character sheet looks like to copy skill lists, equipment, spells, etc.

The more interesting the system, the more characters I tend to make. It’s fun exploring enough options to crew a starship or raid a dungeon. Sometimes I even have a party of characters handy for designing dungeons, not as pregens, but as a group of guinea pigs, err… “test subjects” to see if an encounter is balanced to my liking. I can’t predict everything, but it’s good to know if my Roper/Rust Monster/Goblin sharpshooter room is going to be deadly enough.

Hope you’re having a good week. Please, stay safe. Remind your loved ones that they’re loved. Thank you for being here. See you soon.

Collateral Damage in Superhero RPGs

Another gruesome point to be made, while we’re on the subject. You’re a giant transforming robot from another planet here to save the day. You are walking down the street. You hear a kinda crunchy squishing sound. Do you dare lift up and inspect the bottom of your foot? (Cringe.)

Sometimes it’s worth reminding the heroes they’re supposed to protect someone.

Superman punches Doomsday through five or six large Metropolis buildings. The Avengers thwart an invasion from space while wrecking entire sections of New York City. The Power Rangers regularly blow up mega sized baddies in the middle of the city in massive explosions. Ever notice there never seems to be anyone squished in these battles.

Moreover, you never see that many new buildings going up in Power Rangers and only rarely do we ever see fire crews and ambulances picking people up. Police? Fictionally speaking, you never see anyone beyond the occasional parking cop or comedy relief.

*Disclaimer: we are purely talking fiction. Real police, fire, and medical personnel are amazing. Lots of love for them.

Just another day in downtown Angel Grove.

Too much realism is sort of a bad thing in superhero games.

Nobody wants innocent bystander injuries or worse on their conscience in a game. It’s pure escapist fantasy. Most superheroes would hang up their capes and tights if hundreds of people were getting injured as a result of their actions.

Not to mention the hours upon imaginary hours that would be spent in front of a judge. In Avengers terms, Tony Stark would spend more time in court defending just the Hulk’s actions after every battle than running his own company. Yeesh.

Senseless fictional property damage is fun and all, but can you imagine the amount of insurance payouts that must occur in some of these superhero cities? No one in their right mind would stay in Metropolis. The property values of Angel Grove must be insanely cheap after every Megazord battle.

Which is okay, because the insurance rates are through the roof. $10K+ per month house insurance? $5K+ per month car insurance? C’mon down to Angel Grove Insurance for shockingly low payouts and insane premiums today. Because Megazord battles make us wish the entire city was just a bunch of Styrofoam and cardboard models.

Another gruesome point to be made, while we’re on the subject. You’re a giant transforming robot from another planet here to save the day. You are walking down the street. You hear a kinda crunchy squishing sound. Do you dare lift up and inspect the bottom of your foot? (Cringe.)

Needless to say, it’s probably easier to just say everyone escaped with only minor injuries. Buildings have fire, tornado, earthquake, and kaiju evacuation plans. Your character’s family bakery is flat, but somehow your family and all of the midday customers made it out alive.

Photo by Francesco Paggiaro on Pexels.com

Real collateral damage can be a red flag for some players.

I think honest, open discussions are becoming more important than ever during Session Zero of superhero games. There are so many of us out here in the real world who have been in horrendous traumatic events that it’s important that we all agree to some boundaries so everyone has fun.

In superhero game terms, it might be most effective to use the Comics Code Authority standards or even create something more tame. I tell my players we keep it somewhere between four color supers violence and cartoon violence. I grew up during the Iron Age of comics, and we really just don’t need that level of blood, guts, and gore in a game.

I’m also going to remind my Power Rangers players regularly that they might want to lead the baddies out of town or into some abandoned area of the city. That way the massive propane explosion of the megabaddie doesn’t wipe out an entire residential district. I may also do a couple of comedy relief insurance investigators snooping around to try to bill the Rangers for all the damage. I’m also constructing a subplot around one of the Rangers parent’s business getting squished. At least let the players think about some of their actions.

Out in the real world, stay healthy. Stay safe. Thank you for being here.

Please Put Me In Charge For a Month or Two, Part Two.

As a GM/writer, I would rather have two or three monster books, a guide full of advice for GMs along with new items or NPCs, and a setting guide rather than a GM screen and a bunch of prefab modules. Why? Because I’m probably going to tailor adventures to my campaign and the characters. No premade module I’ve ever seen/run has ever fit directly into the game for our characters specifically.

I have some thoughts for a new game company that I would love to share more directly with them.

I know roughly how arrogant I sound. But, I’ve been around a while and I have a pretty good gut instinct when it comes to the RPG industry. Some things are like any business. Some things are like any publishing business. Others resemble the retail industry. Still others yet are a platypus unique to the RPG business.

That’s where I come in. I love a good platypus, or rather RPG. There are formulae at work. You’ve got players, obviously. You’ve got a GM in most cases. In some instances you have fans of whatever setting or genre the game is based on. There’s lots of moving parts here.

Every game company I’ve ever seen grapples with at least one of the big three components I just listed. Most game companies tend to overlook the poor Game Masters for some odd reason. Do we GM in a vacuum?

Here’s how I would do it for the GM.

Telling the GM to make up everything is not an OSR mentality. Honestly, it’s just plain self-sabotage for game companies. Maybe there are just too many GMs out there saying, “I usually toss out the rulebooks and make up my own.”

If a GM says that about your game, your product? Y’all have a problem. That means a company can make up anything it wants, but chances are, it’s lost some potential buyers. RPGs function on word of mouth advertising as much as anything. If the GM is tossing your rules out, it’s pause for concern that you’ve lost your audience. (Except good old D&D, but that’s a deeper rabbit hole.) If a GM loses faith in the product, what message does that send?

Remember, most game companies aren’t WotC/Hasbro. Most companies don’t have a big money actual play podcast/animation franchise on Amazon Prime. Most game companies really can’t afford to have their initial product releases flop horribly or they will not be around for another year to do it again in all likelihood. Likewise, if a GM is pulling in books from other games or pitches the system out the window, the sales on future supplements might not look so good.

Here’s my theory.

Really, the formula is simple. Start out with a solid core book that includes literally anything/and everything basic within reason that players and GMs alike are going to need. Unless you’re dropping a two or three volume set, it is best to include all of the character creation, system, combat, gear, spells, monsters, and items in one book. It is highly advisable to include GM basics in every core book such as how to create adventures and adjudicate the system because not everyone is a 40 year veteran GM. That first book has to be dynamite!

Then, the next releases are pretty crucial. My angle is support for the GM. Is a GM screen crucial? No. Is a book full of monsters going to help? Oh yeah.

New GMs especially need something to keep the game from becoming stale and redundant. Trust me, reskinning the same orc, skeleton, or goblin a hundred times over gets pretty droll after a while. Giving out the same +1 glowing shortsword of orc detection, likewise pretty boring.

Modules are okay, but if you set GMs up for success within the first few releases, modules are icing on the cake. Yes, it’s okay to have a module available early on to get players interested in the game for the first time. But after that, the GM is on his/her/their own anyway. Please set the GM up for success!

If a GM says good things about the core book, and buys into the next three or four books down the road, word will spread about what a wonderful game it is. It’s not set in stone, but a lot of people do look to the GM when it comes to what books to purchase next. This is really crucial if the players are new to the hobby.

Sourcebooks aimed at players are cool, but…

As a GM/writer, I would rather have two or three monster books, a guide full of advice for GMs along with new items or NPCs, and a setting guide rather than a GM screen and a bunch of prefab modules. Why? Because I’m probably going to tailor adventures to my campaign and the characters. No premade module I’ve ever seen/run has ever fit directly into the game for our characters specifically.

As a side note, if your game is not specifically a miniatures wargame, figures are probably not mission critical. Many fine RPG systems run off of minds eye theatre or rudimentary blocking with coins, dice, or tokens. Minis might look shiny, but the real RPG money is in the books/pdfs. *Unless we’re talking about Games Workshop.

The player driven stuff is great. We all love new character options, spells, weapons and magical gimmicks. I mostly go after that stuff to see what I can loot for ideas and to get an impression of what the players are likely to want next. Some things catch my eye as a drooling fanboy, such as all things mecha.

Okay, enough about my obsession with giant robots. New game companies can still benefit from listening to old veterans. No one has all the bases covered. We’re all human, and as such, prone to errors. Living is learning. What works for my game company may not work for someone else’s.

Have a great weekend. Thank you for stopping by. See ya soon.

Gah! Just Let Me Drive!

At some point, you absolutely must cater to the GM. What do GMs need? If the game involves slaying monsters and grabbing loot, it’s probably best to have a book with monsters and a GM’s book detailing all kinds of cool loot. That mentality of “set up everything for the players and tell the GM to wing it” is going to go stale pretty fast.

I’m having an egoic moment, but I have to say something as a fan and “Old Grognard.”

First impression of a game should not elicit shock and dismay.

I’m not going to name and shame any game companies, but I noticed the 2022 release schedule for a new RPG that just released this year. For a brand new game with a brand new system, this thing looks anemic. I’m incredibly underwhelmed by what I’m seeing. If it were my company, I daresay we’d be doing things a little differently.

Maybe it’s the drooling fanboy in me. Maybe it’s the writer talking. It could be the guy that’s been on the retail end of the RPG industry for years. I just have a sinking feeling that this company could do better with a flagship release. The second half of the book made me cringe. The subsequent releases made me start looking at other games again. My quest for “the One” may yet continue, sadly.

Honest disclosure: I’ve never run a game company.

Most of us can probably say the same? However, I have seen dozens of companies come and go over the years. I have an RPG collection on paper larger than I can easily catalog. Then there’s pdfs. Let’s just say I’ve seen a lot of game settings in a lot of systems. Could I do better? Maybe.

Here’s the thing. I’ve seen some definite winners over the years. Games that came out with a solid core book or books and followed up immediately with things they know fans will be clamoring for. Some games even go so far as to promise certain expansions in their core rules because they know there just isn’t room to cover depth and breadth without creating a 700+ page nightmare to the tune of $65.00 or more.

For example, if a new modern combat game comes out; after the core rules, what does everyone likely want? Well, if you’re like me the order is usually first guns, sometimes a setting book, next vehicles, and then a GM’s book. Then the order probably depends on the setting. You have various factions, cyberware, hacking rules, monsters, magic, and so on to consider depending on the game.

What did I see?

Without naming and shaming, the company in question flopped hard on their first release. The core book was lacking and a bit mediocre. The system in question is a solid B+, the art is an A-, and the rest is pretty lackluster. But then it got kinda mopey. I can’t give too many details because I want to teach and not offend.

What would I have done differently? So far the writers have done a great job catering to the players. The art for a game is make or break in a lot of cases and they did that fabulously. The question I think the company needs to ask is, who’s running the game?

At some point, you absolutely must cater to the GM. What do GMs need? If the game involves slaying monsters and grabbing loot, it’s probably best to have a book with monsters and a GM’s book detailing all kinds of cool loot. That mentality of “set up everything for the players and tell the GM to wing it” is going to go stale pretty fast.

Maybe it’s because we’re in some freaky modern era of game design?

I think there is a LOT more to designing an RPG that just handing everything to the players and oh, yeah that person behind the screen. Unless you’re branding the game as GM-less or some other wacky players-only mechanic, that person behind the screen is important. That person behind the screen is going to need a lot more than a screen last I checked.

I’m going to go more into depth on this in my next article. There’s a lot more to pulling together a first product release and subsequent supplements than anyone could really cover here in one article. The problem is, I have a pretty fair idea of how to do it, but not the resources to actually build a company and release an RPG. So, I’m playing armchair quarterback for now.

Have a lovely day. Please stay safe. Thanks for being here. See ya soon.

That Last Episode

I’m always asking things such as what if these two characters fell in love and ran off together? What if the character took on this somewhat annoying NPC as a student? What if this starship crashed on a backwater planet and was never seen again?

I just finished watching the mid season finale of a TV series that I like, and…

It made me think about all of the various rpg campaigns that we never exactly got to finish. I’m sure a lot of players and GMs can relate to this. Entire campaigns come to a screaming halt due to family emergencies, people moving out of town, holiday break, group friction, or some other unexpected, unforeseen conclusion. This has happened countless times in my life, though it saddens me slightly to admit it.

Much like a popular, long running TV series, RPG campaigns tend to bring certain long-running plots to bear over the course of their lifespans. We get attached to certain background characters and subplots. In TV terms, many wrap up by the end of a season, but some keep going for years throughout.

The main difference in an RPG is the players. Nothing is ever scripted. If they want to keep a subplot going, most GMs will do their best to keep the wheels turning as long as it doesn’t become a distraction from the rest of the game. It’s a fun part of any RPG campaign and gives the characters something to do beyond smashing monsters and saving the world every week.

Another major difference is NPCs (those loveable background characters) can die or go missing unexpectedly in game. It’s not the conclusion the players necessarily wants, but it can happen. Maybe the GM had other plans for the character from the get-go. Maybe the NPC has just become too much of a main focus. Maybe the villains seized the moment and capitalized on the characters vulnerabilities.

TV shows and movie sagas suffer their fair share of abrupt character ends.

Main characters go missing in TV and movies. Producers have to adapt to missing actors, which often looks like character death. Sometimes actors don’t renew their contract. Maybe they had something come up in real life and had to leave the show or were unable to film a sequel. Once in a while, an actor ages out of the part or just plain quits the business. It happens.

The same can be said of gamers. A campaign might survive minus one or two players. Most of the time one can recruit more at the local game shop or online. It’s never impossible. But if that’s half or more of the play group? New campaign incoming in all likelihood. Sometimes a different game completely.

Chasing the one that got away.

I’ve run several games that I had plots and session notes planned out for months, maybe even a year in advance. Of course, real life intercedes and the campaign comes to an irreparable screaming end a couple of months in.

Real life happens. Families happen. I sigh a big sigh. I file my notes away in a filing cabinet or a binder for future reference. Never underestimate a filing cabinet full of old ideas. But every so often, I look back on an old campaign and wonder, “How would that have ended?”

One of my absolute favorite TV show endings was Star Trek TNG’s All Good Things Parts 1&2. They wrapped up so many loose ends and left those characters in such a good place. Everything that has happened since could be ignored and it would still stand as a great conclusion to the series.

If a TV show knows its end is nigh, sometimes the writers wrap up the loose ends and do the fans a favor by covering all the bases. Babylon 5 actually did it twice. Star Trek has been pro about it with at least three or four of their series. Xena and Hercules wrapped up, well… they wrapped up. Buffy the Vampire Slayer had one of the most epic endings in TV history that spanned the course of multiple episodes.

Imagine getting to do that with your favorite RPG campaign? I’ve written several of those types of endings even if I’m the only one who ever sees them. I’m always asking things such as what if these two characters fell in love and ran off together? What if the character took on this somewhat annoying NPC as a student? What if this starship crashed on a backwater planet and was never seen again?

Here’s wishing you all happy endings. Hopefully the rest of your week is going well and your weekend is looking bright. Thanks for being here.

Cartoon Villainy at its Finest.

I love designing season villains or Big Bad Evil Guys (BBEG) in the same fashion as Cobra Commander or Rita Repulsa. Is it any wonder I love Renegade Studios so much?

I grew up on Hanna-Barbera and Hasbro cartoons.

Any time I hear a villain in any cartoon utter the words, “Get them!” I can’t help but laugh. I grew up watching Super Friends, Space Ghost, Herculoids, Captain Falcon, Spiderman and his Amazing Friends, Johnny Quest, and a whole host of other cheesy cartoons of the 1970’s-1980’s. Cheesy American cartoons aside, I also remember Robotech, Voltron, and G-Force. Of course, I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention GI Joe, Transformers, Thundercats, and the only live action series of the bunch- Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

Then Warner Brothers broke the mold with Batman: the Animated Series, Superman, and Justice League cartoons. They had real plot and fewer dopey teenagers and dogs that sounded like Scooby Doo. Oh, I watched Scooby, too.

“I’ll finally have my revenge!”
(Image courtesy of <a href="http://By <a href="//commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Peace_is_contagious&amp;action=edit&amp;redlink=1" class="new" title="User:Peace is contagious (page does not exist)">Peace is contagious</a> – <span class="int-own-work" lang="en">Own work</span>, <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&quot; title="Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>, <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=109082090">LinkWikipedia.)

I’m mentioning all this because I’m working on Power Rangers RPG stuff, and it brings back fond memories.

One thing that has always influenced the way I look-at/write for RPGs are those old school, kinda cheesy, easily defeated villains that have an endless supply of lackeys and minions. I also dig the ones who get captured at the end of one cartoon only to show up two episodes later with an all new crazy plan. Admittedly, it’s harder to explain to players in an RPG, but as long as they understand it’s going to happen and it’s part of the genre, we’re good.

The Power Rangers RPG is somewhat similar to Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3. I like both and they have the concept of genre emulation down. (Editor’s note: I really wish Spectrum would develop CAH:S3 more. So much sourcebook potential there.) Both games play heavily on certain tropes. Power Rangers could easily be rolled into CAH:S3 as a set of toys. (You have to know CAH to fully get the logic.)

The Power Rangers pattern is an easy one to follow.

As cheesy villains go, Rita Repulsa had more longevity than most and got smarter as time went on. She’s almost as powerful as Zordon made her out to be originally. Shocking.

We still have that kind of cheesy “Get them!” mentality from the big bosses such as Rita and Zed. They send some poor lackey out who encases everyone in magical bubblegum and a bunch of putties to guard him. The putties end up getting blown to pieces and the lackey gets defeated in his small form only to go Mega mode and have to get put down again. The really lucky ones get teleported away and revived. In later episodes, some of the lackeys/lieutenants manage to survive for a few episodes. Woo. Neat.

One of the best features of a series villain is that they manage to adapt and come back in later series (somehow.) The challenge I find in RPGs is how to do this without making the PCs feel like their actions didn’t count for anything. Goons, lackeys, and lieutenants can stay dead, sure. But what happens when the group offs the series BBEG? What if Darth Vader, Cobra Commander, or Rita Repulsa died way ahead of canon?

Here’s where alternate timelines and other reality shifting tomfoolery enter. Okay, the group killed the BBEG in Episode 7 accidentally-on purpose. Oops. Who’s to say the next poor sop to take up the mantle won’t be better at the job? Or the lieutenant that takes over won’t be better at staying alive and worse at scheming. (Talkin bout you, Starscream.) Who’s to say some other villain from somewhere else in the canon won’t step up. (Remember Serpentor from GI Joe? Or Lord Zed in Mighty Morphin..?)

Food for thought. Sometimes it’s better just to arrest the Joker, bring Cobra Commander to justice, or allow Rita to escape. Let the BBEG fall out of the window during the last battle or have the ever-so-convenient teleporter on standby.

Alternately, as with many Power Rangers series of the past, second season leads to an even bigger, scarier and sometimes smarter BBEG. That of course leads us to shinier new toys in both toy and RPG industries. Woot! New equipment, bigger transformations, new powers, possibly even new NPCs. Good times.

Hope your week is going swell. I’m off to save the world from the weather dominator/take the kids to swim practice and make dinner. Stay hydrated. Stay safe. See ya soon.

Power Rangers RPG More Monsters

Roll 1d12 on the following table. Monster ideas may be combined for more amusing results. Octopus Cowboy anyone?

Roll 1d12 on the following table. Monster ideas may be combined for more amusing results. Octopus Cowboy anyone?

  1. Cowboy
  2. Pro Wrestler
  3. Samurai
  4. Chef
  5. Astronaut
  6. Punk Rock Star
  7. Athlete
  8. Gardener
  9. Knight
  10. Scuba Diver
  11. Barber
  12. Clown

Bonus Table: Weird Ray of the Week

Roll 1d12 on the following to see what the Rangers might be getting zapped with today.

  1. Shrinking
  2. Sticky Goo/Glue/Webs
  3. High Gravity
  4. Sleep
  5. Petrification/Paralysis
  6. Nausea (That could get messy.)
  7. Sensory Deprivation. (Blindness/Deafness, etc.)
  8. Two Dimensional
  9. Love
  10. Polymorph into slugs, crabs, cookies, etc.
  11. Fur/Hair growth.
  12. Uncontrollable Laughter

Actual game effects and a serious ray table to follow. Have fun!

Personal Share at 3:33AM

After my last “real world” job experience, I’m not too keen on criticism. Seriously, I’m still having nightmares about that shit. I wasn’t kidding about the PTSD. Trust me, I’m still in therapy

I’ve been having trouble sleeping the last couple of weeks.


Depression is real. I fight it. I fight it every freakin day. Some days are better than others. I choose joy. I choose positive thoughts. Shit still happens.

I’m grateful for being here in one piece, chatting with you. Yes, it could be a thousand times worse and I seriously feel for anyone who is struggling right now with depression or possibly a war in their back yard.

Lately, it’s been a little tough. I’m not pulling in the big bucks like I was. Okay, specifically, I’m not pulling any bucks. It’s kind of a downer if I’m being pragmatic. We’re not starving in the streets, but I’m starting to feel like a sixth wheel in my house. It gets to me because there’s so much more I want to do.

I get that I’m not everyone’s cup-o-tea.

“Look I so old to young eyes?” –Yoda

If rejection letters and flush emails were currency, I’d be a millionaire. I’m a writer, so getting shot down for things is kinda par for the course. Not a huge deal. And I’ve been blessed with not-a-ton of criticism.

After my last “real world” job experience, I’m not too keen on criticism. Seriously, I’m still having nightmares about that shit. I wasn’t kidding about the PTSD. Trust me, I’m still in therapy. Probably for a long time to come.

My wife and I playfully debate about changing my profile pics. She keeps trying to convince me to shave the beard. I contend that looking a couple of years younger is not gonna help and I love my beard.

It’s what I have to work with. Trust me when I say I have my share of issues working against me. Now if I could just convince the government…

I don’t expect everyone to love me. I’m not that arrogant. If I’m not your cup of tea, can I at least be your soda? Cup of coffee? Coaster? Anything?

February was the month of getting shot down in flames.

Criticism is not my friend.

Ever see that old Nintendo game, Duck Hunt? You can just call me “Daffy” because it’s like I’m out there flying around just waiting to get picked off. That dog’s still laughing at me, too.

The other day I receive another one of those should-have-known-better flush letters. I don’t know why I put myself through some of these things. I see opportunities that I think are fabulous that are “open to everyone, but…” The most bothersome part of that debacle is it wasn’t even a paid gig. It was a scholarship for cryin out loud!

Again, grateful there was no criticism there with the feedback. I would have caught that one in the feels for sure. I’m happy for whomever got it, but it was pretty obvious that I had no hope in Hell on that one. Onto the next one, I guess.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m on my own for the most part.

I’ve taken down my “Looking for Work” banners, etc on social media for the time being. I’m also pulling my resume down off of some websites because I’m tired of people just looking for names to add to their list or worse- selling it to telemarketing scum. I’m also a little annoyed that I’m getting spam calls from people who obviously pulled my number off the resume. If I didn’t give it to you, you shouldn’t have it!

I feel like seven plus months of looking for a job is enough for now. If I was going to get hired for real money, it would have happened by now. Countless applications = one kinda lame interview. Depressing.

I’m not sure I’m back to starting my own game company or looking for a suitable bridge to practice my high dive from. (Kidding about the bridge, for now, I guess, maybe.) At this point Wile E Coyote and I have a lot in common when it comes to wacky schemes. If anyone has any offers or deep thoughts they’d like to share, I’m all ears. jeffcraigmile@gmail.com

Thanks for hearing me out. I appreciate you.

Campaign Design: Episodes

Power Rangers RPG mixes two and a half genres that I absolutely love. You’ve got some superhero elements along with some Saturday morning cartoon drama, and a little bit of anime action sprinkled in. I think it’s a perfect storm. I plan to treat every session like one or two episodes of the TV show.

Today I am back to planning campaigns.

I’m excited because I haven’t really sat down to jam on a campaign plan in a while. For many years I used a somewhat closed episodic format to plan my campaigns. It’s sort of like I imagine planning a TV or Anime series would carry out.

It looks a little like railroading the players, but it’s not. A lot of it is genre dependent. In other words, different campaigns have different styles. I tend to not run a fantasy rpg such as D&D the same way I would run a superhero RPG or a space exploration game.

Some adventures are far more open ended than others.

Luckily, the campaigns I’m choosing to focus on in the near future are GI Joe and Power Rangers RPG. I’ve got a FATE space game in the works, too but we’ll save that one for later.

If it were a fantasy game, like the Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign I’m tentatively building, all I have to do is set it up and plan an an adventure or two to get through the first few sessions. After that, I’m listening to the players and planning mostly location based encounters and NPCs. (Places to go and people to meet.) I might slip in a BBEG and a few dungeons for them to encounter down the road, but DCC plus Hexcrawl is pretty low maintenance so far. It’s a sandbox. I literally need 7 hexes figured out to begin with.

Superhero games are a slightly different animal. Since most of the game is going to take place in the same city, I plan major locations and NPCs before the players even create their characters. I also put together a rogue’s gallery for the team and possibly have some villains in mind to potentially plague certain character types. After the first couple of issues, I leave my plans open and insert new villains as we go. Sometimes I’ll plan a specific villain and accompanying adventure. Supers games tend to lend themselves well to NPC interactions with the group.

Then we come to Power Rangers RPG.

(Evil GM grin.) I absolutely adore any RPG based off of a TV series. I had so much fun working on campaigns for a game called Cartoon Action Hour from Spectrum Games. This type of genre emulation format is simply a dream come true to work with. I’ve built entire seasons (Play Sets) in that system and it was fantastic to work with. Is it any wonder I’m stoked for GI Joe?

Power Rangers RPG mixes two and a half genres that I absolutely love. You’ve got some superhero elements along with some Saturday morning cartoon drama, and a little bit of anime action sprinkled in. I think it’s a perfect storm. I plan to treat every session like one or two episodes of the TV show.

My plan is pretty simple on the surface. Episodes 1 and 2 are pretty much pre-planned: The team is formed. Here’s Zordon and Alpha Four (because I can’t do the cheesy Alpha 5.) Here are the Zords. Here’s the BBEGs called the Triumvirate. They have a ship in Earth Orbit. They’re here in search of the crystal buried deep underneath Ranger HQ.

After the first couple of episodes, we’re going to do some random villain/monster of the week stuff. The team gets to play around with new gear, Zords, etc while the Triumvirate tries to mess with the Rangers and locate the crystal. This also gives the players some time to explore their characters and monkey around with some subplot stuff.

Then sometime around Episode Six or Nine, I have specific villains planned. The Triumvirate are going to get slightly more serious. Suddenly random threats start appearing that they didn’t send. My intent here is to bring the players’ focus back to the main plot. It’s time to think about beating the Triumvirate and send them packing.

Around Episode 12, the plot deepens slightly as the Rangers are going to be visited by a mysterious person calling himself “Lokeen.” He’s not a villain, exactly. At least not yet. He is going to let the group know that there’s a little more going on than what Zordon told them. They’re not alone in the multiverse and there are some much larger threats out there.

Then we’ll probably do a little more Monster/Villain of the Week type things to take a bit of the pressure off. At Episode 18, the Triumvirate are going to escalate their attacks considerably. The kid gloves are off. No more goofy, silly villains. It’s going to start looking a bit more grim. The last six episodes are all planned to a certain extent.

We’re only going 24 episodes in Season One. The generals send down their toughest fighters and trusted lieutenants. By this time the characters should be pretty sufficient level to take on anything. Sometime during the last two episodes, we will probably see Ranger HQ get trashed; the military subplot end; some Zords are possibly going to crash and burn; plus anyone wanting to trade out characters before the next season will have a good opportunity to do so.

This brings us to Season 1 Part 2 aka Power Rangers Super Lightning Force.

More to come as I build it. This is just the rough draft. I’ll have some specific adventures up as they are created. Have a good one. I appreciate you!

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