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John LeBoeuf-Little
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I'm writing a web app for an indie RPG that's so hipster it hasn't even been published.
I'm writing a web app for an indie RPG that's so hipster it hasn't even been published.

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With SaV, every playbook has an iconic character associated with it, so that when we visualize the art for the book, we can draw from a pool of immediately recognizable people. It's a pretty standard approach, but communicating the characters clearly and effectively took a bit of work.

I think the best tool we used was to explain the characters separately from the scenes we showed them in.

Mevakor Shrike. Male Memish - Memish are humanoids from the water planet of Mem, and have smooth blue-to-purple hued bodies and hair similar to the arms of a Cuttlefish. Mavakor is generally light blue and wears small golden rings on the ends of his hair. Ritually scarred with the holy words of the Prophet Ruum that glow when he infuses himself with Way-energies. (A Mystic is like a Jedi from Star Wars.) Mevakor generally wears loose-fitting natural clothing that leaves a lot of his arms and chest exposed. He has a wooden sword on his back he can infuse with energy to cut through almost anything. He’s quite a drinker, and is often found with a bottle of whiskey or gourd of alcohol.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1bcTTDLuBdLhkz6oTtZ3Rul8y7LWJx1_g

This gives a good feeling of Mevakor as a character - giving options for Brett to pursue or elements that can be introduced whenever it makes sense in the picture. And it's not limited to characters! We outlined a lot of things, including planets, various factions, how technology looks, how ships look, essentially building up a manual of style for the SaV universe.

That said, making portraits that a) demonstrate the character clearly, b) doing a thing that that character should be associated with, and c) has a sense of action to it is rather hard actually! But using this 'describe, then pose' technique, is a really good way to make tight scene descriptions that communicate a lot.

Aria is working out in the ship’s weight room. The room is spartan but serviceable. She’s doing barbell squats, but the shot is waist-up, showing the barbell resting on her shoulders. She’s in a cami, which shows off her tattoos, and her face shows the weight she’s holding.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=15YaM7rFy3DGkwmtiW18c-FXREz1nkZkt

In a lot of ways, this turned writing the art spec into an activity more like writing a screenplay, and we borrowed a lot of screenplay terms like scene headers that described the 'shot', a very short gist of the scene, and the lighting:

Playbook: Pilot (page 86)
Full Page
Exterior/Interior/Space, Ship Console from outside the Ship, Interior Lighting

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1W2B2RwfqYzoF-ijylEE9RlFt6Jq-hY5f

In all, the art spec alone was about six thousand words; despite being the by-product of the art process, it has become a resource all unto itself. I've never written one of these before SaV and now I can't imagine doing without one.
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2/20/18
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I wanted to talk briefly about art and RPGs; with putting out SaV, we're doing a lot more art planning than ever before. I've had to put together art specs for the first time. And it's been a cool excursion into thinking about visual media.

Here's the art description for the homeworld of Aketi.

A verdant jungle-world full of incredibly hostile natural life. We see the Base Camp One, where heavily-armed guards patrolling the tall, metallic walls, watching the jungle for signs of fauna. Research crews pack for their next expedition in uneasy truce with the poachers doing the same across the quad. A smuggler discusses arrangements with a prospective client in a tent while a private barista makes them drinks.

Deciding what to include in the spec is its own form of art: You need to specify enough that it conveys an image to the artist, but doesn't constrain their ability to be creative. And specifically, for landscapes, you have to create a sense of space that feels like it could really exist. +Brett Barkley has done an amazing job visualizing these scenes.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1aStNk4bywdQezNkwJUO4_q0l8oF-Vxg8

This outside-looking-in view really gives the impression of being surrounded by the hostile natural forces of the planet. The craggy mountains in the background give the sense of untamed land. I love the way this comes across in the rough, and it's exactly how stories in Aketi should feel. Pressured on all sides, with a hint of untamed wildness.

Here's another example of the homeworld Indri.

The thick, rust-colored clouds create a dusk during the day on this industrial planet. The smokestacks and various-colored flames from gas burn offs make an impressive skyline from the warehouse-surrounded premier spaceport of Reeves. Rows of hovercars in traffic flying from district to district while advertisements blare on buildings around them. Pedestrians holding specially-treated umbrellas to prevent acid rain damage, walk hurriedly on metal sidewalks. Slow-moving containers being shuttled to warehouses or the spaceport.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1laGMQogXuQyeSDYJClBaUoON95qWy5SP

The way this view is so angular and tight gives it an intensely urban feel that I love for Indri. Everything is square and mechanical and gives you the idea of tight, packed spaces. Which is what we want adventures on that world to feel like!

Anyway, if you're a fan of SaV or just RPG art, enjoy. For my part, it's a true joy to see our visions presented in a way that is so immediately identifiable for what they are.
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2/15/18
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Hey ya'll. So some of you know, I'm one of two developers on Scum and Villainy (with my awesome partner +Stras Acimovic for our company Off Guard Games). SaV is our Blades in the Dark hack where you play outlaws in the Procyon sector and have cool space adventures. It's our favorite elements of Firefly, Star Wars, Cowboy Bebop, and other touchstones, all mashed together in a way that's uniquely OGG.

Today we're announcing the next phase of SaV - a print edition, by our dear friends at Evil Hat. The quality of Evil Hat games puts us in humbling company, and we're absolutely thrilled. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a tangible artifact that represents the last few years of work and beginning a relationship with a publisher we respect so highly.

Check out SaV on the Evil Hat site here!
https://www.evilhat.com/home/scum-and-villainy/
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Scum and Villainy Play-test

Hey you all. You might know I've been working on a hack of Blades in the Dark with +Stras Acimovic; it's meant to recreate the spacefaring adventures found in Firefly, Star Wars, and Guardians of the Galaxy. We play-tested it about a week ago and it was pretty great.

Out of the gate, we have a number of classic playbooks. I played the dashing Scoundrel, ever fortune's favorite. My table-mate Mike played the clever Mechanic, whose engineering antics were clutch to pull us out of the fire a number of times. Avedan played our mysterious Mystic with unsettling powers.

The initial situation for S&V is fun - we started in the middle of a shoot-out, having just stolen an Ur artifact and having several disputing factions trying to kill us for it. Our GM started a clock to track our getaway. I laid down some suppressing fire while our mechanic overrode the safety settings on a hoverlift. Cue dramatic title sequence as we rode over a nearby cliff.

We hustled through the crowded streets of the bustling city-moon to a gambling den (further advancing our clock), until we found a gambling den to hide in. We were stymied at the door until our Mystic managed to bring in her noble background and masquerade as a high-roller and get us off the street.

One of the new mechanics in S&V is the gambit mechanic. The crew starts with a pool of gambits that represent a little bit of tangible luck. These gambits can be spent in various ways, such as to gain a die, or to activate specific playbook powers. My playbook has the unique ability that it gives the crew an extra gambit. It's not a flashy power, but it felt really nice to have that extra support and it felt like we had a little more depth when things got out of hand.

We took the opportunity to do downtime actions. We investigated the nature of this artifact and found out that it had the ability to shut down star gates used to connect systems in the empire. After arguing about whether we could sell it, the only thing we could agree on was getting off planet. Our ship was still on lockdown in the local spaceport, so our hacker figured out what we could do about it. Our Mystic brought in a friend to help seal the deal. For my part, I spent some time figuring out how to make money while we're there.

Our engagement roll was pretty good, and we got all the way to our ship before things became serious. The Mechanic started to work our way around the spaceport's security systems, but not before a member of the Nightspeakers - a cult of mystics that have nefarious designs - arrived, seeking the box. Our Mystic managed to use the Way to bend our enemy's mind, giving us time to work.

The mechanic overrode the last of the locks while I started our plan to steal some conveniently located fuel. I managed to con some droids into loading a few crates onto our ship, but around that time (and after a borderline roll) the Nightspeaker broke free of the confusion and unsheathed it's energy sword. A battle ensued, culminating in our Mystic bending space around the unearthly warrior and tapping enough of her own life force that she could barely stand. Our Mechanic finally popped the locks. Running through a barrage of laser fire we manage to blast off to space.

In all, it was an incredible time. The Blades core really pushes towards the interesting middle ground and the extensions we've made - between the new playbooks and the gambit mechanic - really capture the dynamism in the source material. I'm really excited about what we've got here.

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Just to add some variety, here's Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress.
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Today has been really the best. I <3 you all. :)
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Hello friends.

If you're interested in ROLLER DERBY, and would like to be added to a circle about my progress in learning about the sport, please drop me a comment below. There will, occasionally, be pictures.
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#pieceOfWork   is our cybernoir game about struggling with your identity, your place, and who matters to you in a dystopic future and it's finally (FINALLY) in beta! If you want to be a reader, or a playtester, please let me know. I'm hoping to get a few groups and 5-10 readers. Thanks in advance, and reshares are definitely welcome.

Played +Epidiah Ravachol's Wolfspell last night. It was fantastic. That's twice I've played that game and each time I've been overjoyed at the results.

In this case, we mixed up a few of the conceits. We weren't just cursed, we had an annual duty to roam the land and cleanse it of outsiders. I was a Rational Man who studied physics in Paris, looking for answers to how this could even be possible. This is the modern era, after all! They called me Ashe, after my ashen gray coat.

My companions were the woman who still lived on the land as our ancestors had done for generations (Kolokol, played by +Kate Phelps), and our devil-may-care compatriot who wandered the earth with no real responsibilities (Clay, played by +Austin Bookheimer.)  +Kit La Touche played old man Winter.

Wolfspell is maybe the first game where I've been able to let go of the notion of "what is my best technical play" and to slip into the headspace of doing, and then checking what rule might be engaged. Because the die mechanic is so difficult to influence, it is a lot easier to let go of wanting to control the effect but because the actions taken are so visceral, I never feel disengaged from what's happening.

I won't go into the long details of the game, but some highlights are:
* transforming into a wolf to smell gasoline on the wind
* hunting a deer on a frozen river and seeing portents in its entrails
* barely saving my packmate's life as the river ice caved in under him
* stumbling upon the most infamous bear of these parts as it woke from hibernation
* chasing after it as my packmate lured it into the foul hunters' camp
* feeling the burning outrage as they managed to mortally wound the majestic creature
* luring them from the camp so I could work an ancient wolfsong to restore it to life, at deeply personal cost
* hunting the hunters in a sorcerous blizzard and descending upon them like a pack of wolves

Everything about the game is so obvious that it just feels so natural. And the wrap-up at the end of the game (where one may, or may not, change back to human form) was as perfect as it was in my previous play-through. Next time, I want to play Winter, and see how it works from the other side.
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