Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How are you using (or not using) art in your games?

Here's a question for your veteran GMs out there: how much or how little do you rely on game (or other) art during game play?

Do you show your players art to set the mood or give them an idea of their environment or adversaries?

How much of your art at the table is non-game art?

Do you let them bring in art?

While I've used art in games, I've encountered players who admit that the art doesn't do much for them. Others love it because (they say) they're "not great with visuals". (Not sure if I should find that worrisome or not!)

I've considered describing images that the players cannot see (hidden behind a screen), and let their imaginations do the rest. In the past, I've wimped out and shown it to them because, I deemed it just too cool not to show. But I think for some people it detracted from their experience.

Again, I think it's important to make a distinction here: I'm not talking about how you use art in crafting settings, creatures, or NPCs--but how important that art is during game play.

Feel free to be as detailed as you like in the comments.

And thank you!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Rad Astra, where are you?

It's been a while since I've done a proper Rad Astra update. And for good reason--I've stalled. I've made good headway on what started as a setting book for X-plorers--but that really can be easily adapted to any scifi game. Here's what's completed (though not all of these are published on the site):
  • Five classes, plus a "bonus" multi-class option
  • Alternate rules for earning XP, building skills, and a few other options for PCs
  • About 30 or so creatures (monsters and aliens)
  • Four playable alien classes
  • Equipment and gear options
  • Rules for space magic
  • Optional rules for building robots
  • Three adventure modules
  • About a dozen artifacts/treasures
  • Various adventure hooks and "news from around the galaxy" bits
  • Plus a few other surprises
But, I've run into several barriers this year, including:

100% increase in babies

We had a kid! She's awesome. Like the best, most awesomest thing ever. She's my new hobby. I don't really talk about her on the blog, but I expect as I work to introduce her to the geek lifestyle, that will change. The outcome? My time/energy was diverted. A recent conversation with my wife was very encouraging in respect to reclaiming those resources so I could "work on nerd things" like Rad Astra.

At least I've got my health

Or not. This one nearly leveled me, and I never, ever mention it because I'm a fairly private individual. Also, who gives a shit? Really, everyone has their day-to-day struggles. On this blog, it would get old fast. The details aren't important, but after 5 months and a lot of visits to the doc, things are finally back on track. But it sucked up a lot of previously mentioned time/energy.


Interest in space opera, thanks to juggernauts like Guardians of the Galaxy, has surged. We're living in a new golden age of wahoo, gonzo scifi. There's been an uptick in homebrewed scfi settings and games. I've agonized for 6 months on this: do we need another one?

This all seemed like a good idea back in the fall of 2012. I proposed this idea of doing a pastiche setting that ripped off the best and worst of comics, movies, and TV. It's by no means an original idea--and one that can be done many different ways. Currently there are several projects that are creatively knocking it out of the cosmos. Let's say that I'm able to get Rad Astra out a year from now--it would be pretty late to the party. Plus, I'd like to think that I could measure up to those, but the next barrier has a lot to do with quality...

Insufficient funds 

Money.Yep, it makes the world go round. At one point, I had a small sum saved for paying artists for much needed game art and maps. That's long gone. I'd switched to thinking I would do a gazetter (essentially a zine) and compile it into an almanac at the end of the year. But still, these things aren't cheap. Incidentally, I've considered doing Rad Astra sans art, but really, the theme demands it. And so do I.

I've got no game

In January of this year I attended Con of the North, our local game con here in the Twin Cities. I only had time to show up and run a single game of X-plorers (in the Rad Astra setting). I was woefully under-prepared. It was a complete disaster. I was overtired and the experience (from my perspective) was so bad that I didn't even want to blog about it. The adventure itself was pretty cool, but I just couldn't pull it off. The players said they had fun, but the end result was me going home and feeling like I'd let them down.

The longer-term result was a real lull in my RPGing. I'd even lost interest in it for a while. When I'd finally stopped feeling sorry for myself and my interest was renewed, I found it really tough to get a group together to play. Not to mention, I had all these things I'd written for Rad Astra that I'd been desperate to run--and no one to try them out on. The drought continues to this day.

So what now?

I don't know. I'm all over the map on this. I've thought of doing one of the following:
  1. Kill this little darling. It's dead weight. Cut the cord and be done with it. Short term pain for long term gain.
  2. Kickstarter! Beg strangers on the interwebs for money. I hate this option.
  3. Partner with a publisher. I really only know of one who might take it. I'd have less control but it has a better chance of seeing publication. 
  4. Take a million years to finish it and publish it anyway. (Not really an option, because I'll resort to #1 if I can't get it done without a clear finish date, e.g., end of the year.)

"What now?" indeed--besides the catharsis of writing this post. Do I double down? Are there more options I'm not seeing? The pity party is over, it's time to decide. Feel free to offer sideline analysis in the comments.