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S. John Ross
Be Excellent To Each Other
Be Excellent To Each Other

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Hi there! I'm S. John Ross, and this is my G+ feed, focused (mainly) on announcements related to my digital publishing outfit, Cumberland Games & Diversions (+ the Cumberland Fontworks). If you know my name, it might be from games, fonts, or the odd cooking article, or you may have me confused with someone you knew in high school, but that's not me (I'm slightly taller). Here are some relevant links:

Cumberland Games & Diversions

CG&D Guidelines for Freelance RPG Writers

Cumberland Fontworks

Risus: The Anything RPG

Uresia: Grave of Heaven

Encounter Critical

Redbubble Poster-Maps and Things

Books at Lulu

The Blue Room (My Homepage)

A Quick Bio

I'm "Temphis" on DeviantArt

Are you an RPG Publisher? I Offer A Very Special Service

If you know me more for my GURPS or Star Trek work or Discordian writings who-knows-what-else (does anyone really know me from my days as a videogame journalist? I know I don't) you can poke around and find pages about those things, too. But if you've found this page, you've found the closest thing I've got to a public Social Media thing, so: hi there! Check in now and then; I post Cumberland-related updates at least monthly, and more social-media style posts on an unpredictable schedule based on how grouchy I feel. Hi!

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The lineup is still evolving a bit, but the latest version of the HexPaper font is very close to where I can toss it out to some testers. As you can see, it's going to have a lot more grid-styles than the old version. It's a silly little thing to be stoked about, but I am.

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I'm posting this wallpaper again because this wallpaper makes me happier than other wallpapers.

A sign of growing older: I'm starting to behave like my elders. And by "my elders" in this case I mean the late Ed Simbalist, who I grew up knowing from the credits of FGU's Space Opera and later C&S and then later in life knew from many rounds of phone-tag (when he hired me to write a C&S book set in fantasy Muscovy) which became a friendship.

The point of behavior is where I'm typing. In my earliest days (and for my very first sales), I wrote on a typewriter, because that seemed reasonable. In my next phase I wrote in a word processor, because a publisher told me to stop writing on a typewriter. In the late 90s, I started writing everything longhand, and then typing it into a word processor, which improved the writing but made more work (a tradeoff I was willing to accept). It was around that time I also started self-publishing, which meant it was no longer someone else's problem translating my word-processor formatting into real typesetting (an eternal headache without a carefully-designed workflow adhered to at all levels ... by which I mean it's just an eternal headache).

And it was around this time I got to know Ed. Ed had solved this problem by just skipping the word processor entirely and writing directly in the DTP (in his case, PageMaker). I found the idea bizarre, eliminating the middleman of the word processor entirely, and I kept trudging along with my Longhand > WP > DTP approach despite the clear wisdom of Ed's method.

In the last couple of years I've begun to cave. I still begin with longhand (because I'm still willing to make that tradeoff) but the word-processor phase was giving me nothing for my time, so now I'm writing pretty much everything DTP-direct (I'm not writing in layout, because that would still be crazy, and Ed didn't do that either ... I'm plain-janing it in DTP with basic styles intact, ready for massaging in the pour).

So the point is: Ed, you were right. Plus I miss you.

There's this thing that happens when I write space-opera material, it seems.

So, one of the many projects I've been juggling lately is a Risus worldbook about journalists in a space-opera setting, based on a mixture of modern online journalism issues, search-engine issues, and the Hearst-Pulitzer newspaper war. And it's a bit of lighthearted newsroom fun with lots of planet-and-station-hopping, driven by the basically-impossible slogan "Get The Story, Don't Become The Story" with adventures focused on that, and the rivalry with other news sources ... And I think it's shaping up to be a terrific little worldbook. The playtest sessions have been lots of fun. At its grittiest and most serious, it's Matthau and Lemmon in The Front Page, in space.

And now I just can't even look at it anymore, because it feels wrong to write about journalism-based adventures in such an offhand, fun-loving way. It just doesn't fit the climate of the world right now.

I was writing Points in Space 2 lo these many years ago, and one of the pieces was about a passenger shuttle being hijacked and the tone was very pulpy ... and then, you know, twin towers. That happened, and I just couldn't even rest my eyes on Points2 for years because of it (except the maps; I can always look at maps). The tonal clash was too much.

So I guess it's time to get back to Points2, and put that Risus book into long-term storage for a later revisit? I guess. I mean, I've got two-dozen other projects demanding my attention anyway, so it's probably a blessing, but I really like that one. Part of me wants to put more steel in its spine, bring it up to speed with the current climate. That wouldn't be hard at all; the changes would write themselves and even give it some added vigor ... but I liked it sweet and snarky. I dunno.

As per usual, I'm not looking for a vote or anything. In the end, I'll decide the way I'll decide. Just rambling about the daily grind.

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I've found several blogs and podcasts dedicated to a specific Trad RPG (for example, it's easy to find folks who blog about Call of Cthulhu), but the excellent Rolling Boxcars blog is the only one I've found - so far - which seems to be about trad-gaming in general with broad appreciation for the entire hobby on display (even some non-trad stuff at the edges). Finding this blog makes me happy. Finding more would make me happier, and if you've got a Trad blog you write or read, let me know about it at so I can dig it, and share it here.

The good news is that I'm now blocking/unfollowing/downfollowing more people for pedantry and presumption than I am for politics. I mean, it's not great news, but it's good news.

I have observed my annual President's Day tradition of, for one brief moment, realizing it is President's Day.

If you were in the mood to crack a code or solve a puzzle and you had reason to believe the number 1740260280018 might be either or both of those things, what would you make of it? I've been pondering it literally backward and forward, breaking it down into numberic alphabet replacements, reducing it via numerology and so on ... if you have any insights, drop me a line at

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At this point, I tend to assume that everyone is familiar with bundle sites like and, but as the saying goes, every day someone is born who has never seen The Flintstones.

So for that person, the idea is simple: Sites offer up bundles of things - usually games or books - and give you the opportunity to pay a crazily low price for what you get. Often there is a tiered pricing model, though the tiers are rarely steep and some portion of the proceeds goes to charity. If you're a gamer on a budget, these are some of the most amazing opportunities out there.

But I bring it up today for something very specific: Humbler Bundle's "Freedom Bundle". I reshared +Brian Engard's experience with just one of the games in it the other day, but I want to zoom out and give it some context.

This is a HUGE bundle of mostly video games and some books and maybe an album. There are amazing games in the stack (Including the aforementioned The Witness, but also Stardew Valley, Day of the Tentacle, Invisible Inc., World of Goo, Human Resource Machine, The Stanley Parable, Sword & Sworcery, Guacamelee!, Mini Metro, Ninja Pizza Girl, Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble!, and a ton of others. ) The books look great, including stuff from Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow (plus R in a Nutshell!).

And this is all Pay What You Want. Which is to say, if you really want to, you can get the whole stack for 30 bucks, which is insane (corrected from my initial mistake).

But I encourage you to pay more than that, because the purpose of this bundle is to raise money for three groups - The ACLU, Doctors Without Borders and The International Rescue Committee. And if, perchance, you particularly like or dislike any of those groups, you can adjust what proportion of your payment goes to which group.

This is a fantastic bargain and a good cause. There are only 2 days left, so please check it out.

(A Few technical notes:
1. I have a Mac, so a lot of these games do me no good. I can still add them to my steam account for the day when I break down and get a gaming PC, or I can gift them to other people.
2. Since I have linked my Steam account to Humble Bundle (very easy to do) it knows which games in this bundle I already own, and lets me know that, so I can just gift those re-purchases off to people rather than double-dip.
3. While you can get the games distributed through Steam, you aren't obliged to. Most of them have download options.
4. Almost everything (maybe actually everything - I haven't checked) is DRM free.)
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