Thursday, April 18, 2013

MAJUS: Funded!

Abracadabra! As of yesterday afternoon, MAJUS has reached it goal of $3,500. I'm extraordinarily pleased to see that the game has the funding necessary to pay for the art and layout. Great strides have already been made in completing the illustrations and Dan Proctor reports that the game may be ready before its estimated August 2013 release date.

Allow me to extend my gratitude to everyone who contributed. Without your gracious contributions, MAJUS might have been regulated to the "good ideas that never materialized" pile. For those of you wishing to get in on the Kickstarter before it ends, you have two more days to contribute over at the Kickstarter page. The project's deadline for contributions is Sunday, April 21st at 9:01 AM EDT.

MAJUS' funding completed, I'll now cease my shilling. Thank you for enduring my side-show-esque hawking for the last few weeks.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

MAJUS: The End is Near

Four days and $280 near to be precise. MAJUS is 100% compatible with TIMEMASTER, ROTWORLD, SANDMAN, and certain other old Pacesetter titles like STAR ACE and CHILL. If you dig those games, MAJUS introduces new threats and abilities to unleash upon your players or enrich your campaign. More details and a chance to make the magic of MAJUS happen are available at the Kickstarter page. Please consider pushing us across the finish line.

Stonehell Dungeon 2: Week Twenty-One Status Report

We interrupt this on-going shilling for the MAJUS Kickstarter campaign to bring you an update on the status of Stonehell 2. Remember, you can always get timely information on the dungeon' sequel at either the Stonehell Dungeon Google+ page or the Facebook group.

Yes, it really has been twelve weeks since I wrote one of these. I took a month off to prepare scenarios for the 2013 convention season, did three cons in four weeks, and then lost of month to post-con recovery, a final winter cold, and various other small projects and obligations. But that’s all behind me now and progress has begun once again on the long-delayed sequel to the Stonehell magnum opus.

The good news is that on April 10th I wrote the following phrase in the Stonehell 2 manuscript: “Here Ends Stonehell Dungeon.” The final five levels of Stonehell have been officially keyed, noted, and hand-drawn maps exist for all the dungeon’s final twenty-six quadrants. In effect, the dungeon itself is complete, something I had occasional doubts of ever seeing. With the majority of the draft finished, it’s time to move along to the punch-list of tasks needed before I can call the sequel done.

Beginning this week, my main goal is to transform the hand-drawn quadrant maps into Photoshop images suitable for printing. It’s been several years since I last did this, so I cannot yet provide an estimate on how long this chore is going to take. In a perfect world, I’ll be able to create one or two maps a day, meaning at minimum we’re looking at slightly under a month’s work to finish the map series. Once those are finished, the lion’s share of hard work on my end is done.

After the maps are finished, I have the following tasks remaining:

1) A complete re-reading of Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls to ensure I didn’t miss anything I hinted at years ago that I wanted or needed to address in the sequel.

2) Write the introductory chapter containing important details regarding the lowest levels of the dungeon, Labyrinth Lord advice, and rumors.

3) Complete the appendices. I estimate there will be four in total. Two are already started and the remaining two are dependent on your input (more on this in a moment).

4) Write the afterword to the book. This is a short one or two page chapter wherein I bid a fond farewell to Stonehell, address the success or failure of my efforts, and talk to you gamer-to-gamer before saying goodbye.

5) Assemble a working layout of the book for revision and editing purposes. I’ve made tentative steps in this direction already, but can’t work on it in earnest until the maps are done.

6) Solicit, find, and insert the artwork required for the book.

7) Revise and complete the draft based on any missing information, typographical errors, or improvements discovered during steps 1) and 5).

8) Hand the book off to my as-yet unknown editor.

9) Final revisions/edits.

10) Final layout.

11) Printer’s proofs.

12) Final corrections sent to printer and final proofs.

After all this is complete and I’m satisfied with the results, the sequel will then be made available for purchase.

My goal was to have the sequel available by the weekend of June 7th to coincide with the North Texas RPG Convention. This deadline is still possible, but has edged into the realm of improbable. Rather than get wrapped up in getting it finished by then, I’m choosing to focus on getting the book completed to my satisfaction. If that coincides with the beginning of June, wonderful, but if not, I can live with it. This is to be my Stonehell swan song and I want to make sure the notes are pitch-perfect.

So what can you do to help see Stonehell 2 out the door? Glad you asked!

There are two appendices which I require the fans to assist with. One is a necessary evil and the second is something I’ve had planned since the dungeon was in its infancy.

I’m going to include a (in theory) short errata section in the appendices to address anything I missed or needs correction in the first Stonehell Dungeon book. I’m aware of one missing entry on Level 2A (Feature D is missing), but there may be others I missed. If you are aware of anything like this or something that is blatantly unclear (but unintended) in the text, please let me know by dropping me an email with the subject “Stonehell Errata” to I’m not worried too much about any misspelled words or punctuation errors, but you can include those if you wish and maybe I’ll correct them in a revised version of SH1 someday. Mostly, my goal is to address missing game information to make the job of adjudicating the dungeon easier on the referee.

Secondly, I’m looking for a roster of those adventurers who’ve entered Stonehell Dungeon so far. If you have a PC or PCs that explored Stonehell, regardless of game system or campaign world, both the dungeon and I want to know about them. There is a room deep in Stonehell that knows these things and one of the appendices is a roster of those who’ve tread its halls. If you’ve explored the dungeon from either side of the referee’s screen and want the name of your adventurer(s) to be recorded for the ages, please send me those names in an email with the subject header “Stonehell Roster” to Any name sent to me before the final revisions are finished will be included in the appendix and therefore known by the dungeon itself.

And that’s it for this week’s update. I’ll see you in a week with (hopefully) more good news.

Monday, April 15, 2013

MAJUS: Five Days and Less than $500 Remain

Today's MAJUS-related post is a simple one. There's five days left in the funding campaign and we're less than $500 away from our goal of $3500. If you haven't kicked in yet and were planning to, the time to panic is almost here. Please visit the Kickstarter page and pledge now so I can finally get a good night's sleep! Thank you.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

MAJUS: Marvin and Lord Rathmore are in. How about you?

Today's blatant plug of the MAJUS Kickstarter comes from Jim Wampler, Gygax Magazine Art Editor and creator of Marvin the Mage! We're seven days and $603 away from funding my magic noir game. Don't be left behind once the magic goes away. And for the record, I hate shilling, but it's a necessary evil sometimes. It'll soon be over, I promise, but it's going to get worse the closer we get to the finish line until we get those last couple of C-notes to finish the funding. Apologies in advance!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

MAJUS: Five Adventure Seeds to Get You Started

As I write this, we’re just 9 days and $1,119 away the end of the MAJUS Kickstarter campaign. Some of you have already contributed and now have a playable copy of the game in your (digital) hands. But where do you begin your new MAJUS campaign? With many different options available to you, you might already have the wheel spinning in your heads. However, some folks may require a little helpful guidance before heading into the shadowy underworld of the Maji. In that regard, I’m here to help.

What follows are five adventure seeds you can use to jumpstart your MAJUS game. As is my usual design philosophy, I’m going to avoid hard game mechanics and just give you the gist of things to get your creative juices flowing. Whenever applicable, I note what version of the Skein might work best for these seeds, but feel free to ignore whatever I say (which is also my design philosophy in a nutshell).

1) One of the young scions of the Skein bloodline (Skein option #1) vanishes and the PCs become embroiled in locating the child, either by their Tower or as part of their own schemes in the Mehen. With no ransom forthcoming, kidnapping for monetary or magical gain seems unlikely. The PCs’ investigation unearths that the child went missing while accompanying his minders on a seemingly mundane errand close to one of the seamier section of the city. Unbeknownst to all, the child was lured away from his protectors by a band of Tylwyth Teg slavers intent on selling the child to the highest bidder, be it child slavers or rival Maji. The PCs must venture into the faerie-controlled criminal underworld to rescue the child before he goes up on the block.  For a more horrific adventure, substitute the Tylwyth Teg faeries for one of De Rais’ Children, making the PCs’ search a race against the clock before the missing boy becomes the ogre’s next meal.

2) On May 20, 2003, US-led forces invade Iraq under the codename “Operation Iraqi Liberation.” Ostensibly, the collation’s purpose is to end the regime of Saddam Hussein and stop Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction initiative, but was there another purpose? In this adventure, the Iraq War is the public face of a gambit masterminded by the Projecteers to locate and loot a number of ancient sites dating back to Sumer strewn throughout the Iraqi deserts. The PCs are deep-cover operatives of the Projecteers charged with the discovery and plundering of those sites before rival Towers can do the same. Played against a backdrop of on-going warfare and insurgency, the PCs must navigate a treacherous landscape where not all threats are magical. In addition to dodging bullets and IEDs, the Maji must face down enemy sorcerers and mystical guardians, some of whom have grown incredibly powerful since they accepted their charges from the priest-kings of old. Skein options #2 and #3 work equally well for this campaign, which can continue throughout the occupation of Iraq.

3) A series of anonymous tips alert the PCs to certain stratagems in play by rival Maji, allowing them to counteract their enemies’ schemes before coming to fruition. The identity of their informant remains a puzzling mystery, but one thing is clear: Whoever is alerting them knows much about the Old Game. But can this mysterious source be trusted? After much convincing, their unknown ally agrees to meet with them and the PCs discover that he is none other than a “feral” golem whose master died in the Old Game. Now searching for a place in the mystical underworld, the golem is well-versed in the Mehen and is both a valuable source of intelligence and a formidable opponent in battle. But can he be completely trusted, or is its aid all a prelude to its subtle campaign to bring about the destruction of all Maji, who it still harbors ill-will toward for its creation and abandonment? Skein option #4 works well for this adventure idea, but cunning CMs might use option #3 and make the golem itself one of the artifacts important to the Skein.

4) The PCs catch wind of a rumored artifact of old, long forgotten in an ancient temple dedicated to an obscure deity from antiquity. The location of the temple has vanished in the mists of history and the worshippers of that long-ago god no longer exist to aid their search. With no other leads available, the Maji must venture into the Astral Plane to the region known as Cemetery, where old gods go to die. After navigating the hazards of the Astral realm, the PCs win their way to Cemetery to locate the flickering spark that was once a deity and convince it to reveal the location of its former temple. If they’re lucky, the PCs might not only discover the resting place of the artifact, but inspire new life in the dying divinity, earning them a potent new ally in the Mehen once the god begins to reclaim its old power.

5) It is a well-known fact that nobody walks away from the table once they’ve started playing the Old Game. Retirement is not an option for Maji. Nevertheless, it seems one Majus intends to prove everyone wrong and has decided to duck out of the Mehen at the top of his game. In order to do so, he must tie up decades’ worth of loose ends, owed favors, enemies still gunning for him, and a host of other small tasks to make a clean break. To do so, he decides to employ the up-and-coming PCs as his agents, promising to hand the reins of his magical empire over to them if they help him get out of the Old Game. Can he be trusted? Does the Majus really want out or is this just another one of the multi-faceted schemes he’s used over the years to build his powerbase? This adventure seed works best with option #4, but can easily incorporate any (or even all) other Skein option in a campaign. CMs looking to run a campaign with a secretive director issuing regular adventures to the PCs for them to pursue will find this an excellent framing device for the campaign.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

MAJUS: A Look at the Skein

Let me first say that I’ve extremely grateful to the fifty-seven of you who have contributed to the MAJUS Kickstarter. We’re at the half-way point now and the game is more than 50% funded. With two weeks left in the campaign drive, I thought I’d shine a hasher light into the shadows of MAJUS and illuminate the driving goal of its inhabitants: that strange thing called “The Skein.”

Conflict is a necessary element in drama, and therefore a requirement for any medium seeking to engage and entertain its audience—RPGs included. When I sat down to write MAJUS, I set out to design a central point of contention that drove the battles in the shadows that are the lifeblood of Maji. At the same time, my design goal was to make this axis of conflict customizable to allow game masters to run the type of campaign they wanted within the MAJUS universe. The end result was the Skein, an enigmatic end game that most of the rival magical Towers seek to either control, destroy, or protect.

In short, the Skein is a thing that the Maji have been contesting since the days of ancient Sumer, with some seeking to claim it for themselves, while others strive to destroy it completely. It serves as the focal point of the Old Game, otherwise known as “the Mehen” after a nearly forgotten Egyptian game of strategy. But what that thing is, I leave wholly up to the hands of the CM. This way, the Skein retains much of its mystery, and allows the game master to best build a campaign of MAJUS to his/her and the players’ liking.
MAJUS doesn’t leave the CM completely in the dark regarding the Skein, however, and I make a few suggestions as to what the Skein might be and how it affects the type of campaign that uses those options. Here’s a quick breakdown of the types of Skeins up for offering and what a campaign featuring those types might entail. You can find more details in the MAJUS rulebook, itself.

1) The Skein as a bloodline: Although all Maji trace their heritage back to the Sumerian priest-kings, not all are equal in blood. Among them is a sacred, powerful bloodline destined to bring about great changes on the magical stage. Jokingly known as the “Harry Potter option,” the Skein as a bloodline sees the campaign revolve around gambits designed to protect, enslave, or eradicate the descendents of this ancestral legacy. The PCs might be mystical bodyguards or, on the flip side of the coin, magical assassins charged with slaying those of the blood before they come to power. Another option would be a campaign where the members of the bloodline are unknown, forcing the PCs to track down the living descendents before deciding whether they need protection or destruction. Game masters looking to run campaigns featuring the Knights Templar, the Priory of Scion, or to cannibalize the plot of The Da Vinci Code will find this option to their liking. It can also take strange turns into Lovecraft country. After all, the Maji of ancient Sumer were said to have come from the sea. Perhaps the members of the bloodline are those “pure” specimens who retail the strongest hold on their aquatic ancestry or maybe they are the inheritors of the lost arts of sunken Mu.

2) The Skein as sacred sites: This option casts the Skein as a network of lay lines, dragon roads, etc. which cross at potent points across the globe. These nexuses contain immense mystical power and the Tower that controls these sites bolsters their magical prowess a hundredfold. In their moves and counter-moves in the Mehen, the Maji battle to discover and possess (or destroy) these sacred sites before their enemies can, and game masters looking to indulge in world-spanning travel to obscure locals will find this option to their liking. From dense jungles to frozen wastes, the PCs journey to locate these nodes to tap or negate their power. In this version, these sacred sites are known as “labyrinths,” named after one of the first of their kind in ancient Crete. And of course, every labyrinth needs a “minotaur” to guard it. In a campaign with this type of Skein, these minotaurs run the gamut from strong and obviously supernatural defenders to inbred hillbillies with shotguns and a strong family legacy to patrician New England families with a sense of honor and millions of dollars in their trust funds. The PCs might even be minotaurs themselves, seeking to protect their labyrinth from outsiders seeking to pillage or decimate it. If you want a campaign with gunfights and spell-slinging amongst the ruins of Machu Picchu after the tourists have gone back to their hotels, this is the option to choose.

3) The Skein as antiquities: For the Indiana Jones’ fans, this version of the Skein sees the Towers competing to possess or eradicate ancient objects of power, and like the Skein as sacred sites’ version, is a good excuse for world-trotting Maji to battle in exotic or unexpected places. At least one of the Towers, the Sodality of Thoth Eternal, dedicates itself to the collecting and cataloguing of ancient artifacts, and with this Skein option, the PCs might be members of that Tower looking to acquire new artifacts either from forgotten locations or from the hands of their current owners. Game masters can do a lot with this type of Skein. One week might see the PCs battling in a dilapidated Mayan tomb in the middle of the jungle and the next week have them plotting an “Ocean’s Eleven” type heist to steal an artifact from a gleaming and heavily defended (both magically and mundanely) skyscraper. If you really want to pay homage to the noir roots of MAJUS, steal the plot of “The Maltese Falcon,” but make everyone a rival Maji and give the Falcon some potent mojo. Game masters looking for inspiration or artifacts to outright steal will find ten of them in the pages of MAJUS: From Hess’ Luger to the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus, there are some neat oddities to choose from.

4) The Skein as the Maji: In this version, the Skein and the Old Game is the same thing, with the Maji fighting to dominate the magical underworld and plot the course of humanity’s fate. Call it the “Highlander Option,” if you will. Rather than battling to possess some external element, the Maji are fighting themselves, with each Tower out to use or destroy the rest until only one remains alive. To this end, there is no lack of double-crosses, multi-level conspiracies, paranoid, and machinations, and the PCs can never trust others—even the party itself might face betrayal from within! This version really draws inspiration from the gray morality of film noir and players who thrive on weaving complex schemes and manipulating others will find this option most enjoyable. In the end, only one Tower will remain standing (or maybe just a single cabal of Maji within that Tower): Are the players’ crafty enough to be those survivors?

If any of this is pushing your “That’s So Cool!” buttons and you haven’t done so yet, please take the time to throw a few bucks at the MAJUS Kickstarter. Remember, every contributor receives the draft copy of the rules, allowing you to familiarize yourself with the world of MAJUS and get playing long before the book arrives on your doorstep in August. Thanks for reading and a double “thank you” for contributing!