5 months ago
– Tue, Aug 14, 2018 at 11:56:42 PM
I want to tell you guys about an idea I have.
No, Cypher Shorts aren’t MCG-branded underwear. (The Kickstarter for those are next year.) Rather, Cypher Shorts are a way of doing adventures for the Cypher System that I’m really excited about. Specifically, they’re one-shot adventures for a single night (or afternoon) of gaming. It’s a cool format that can fit onto two or four sheets of paper (so in a book it would be one or two two-page spreads). The conceit of a Cypher Short is that the action always starts in medias res and the player characters are all a part of the immediate setting and the story is specifically theirs. So if the adventure is about a space station under attack, the PCs are all people who work on the space station. If the adventure is about a haunted house, the PCs are the family that lives in the house, and so on. (This is opposed to the rather standard conceit of the majority of published adventures, where the PCs are outsiders—explorers, adventurers, mercenaries, investigators.)
The key to making this fun and easy is that Cypher Shorts will require a very quick and easy character creation system. Even quicker and easier than traditional Cypher. So really Cypher Shorts comes in two parts: a brief, in media res adventure, and a distilled version of the character creation rules. These rules won’t give you every option in the book, just enough to make a simple character quickly and jump into the action. In just four pages or so, it would offer a few descriptors, a few special abilities that fit a very general “type,” and a few customizable special abilities that might reflect a “focus.” With these simple rules, you can quickly make a tough speaker who is highly skilled, for example, and then you can customize that character into a starship technician, a lawyer, or a WWII soldier. Whatever that particular Cypher Short calls for.
If you wanted to, you could take a Cypher Short character and pretty easily figure out how to make it a full-on Cypher System character, basically by figuring out how they might advance. (Cypher Shorts characters would always be the equivalent of “starting” Cypher characters.) But really, that’s not the point. The point is to easily make it so that one week you have a sci-fi adventure and the next week you have a horror game. Or maybe you interrupt your ongoing campaign to do a one-shot in a different genre just for a break or if not everyone who’s a part of the main game can show up that night. Like our Instant Adventures products for Numenera and The Strange, these would be something the group could do at the spur of the moment.
I love this idea, but it will be a fair bit of additional development and playtesting. So we’re going to make it a backer-focused stretch goal. If we reach 2750 backers, we will add the character creation rules for Cypher Shorts characters in the new Cypher System Rulebook and we will put Cypher Short adventures into all the follow-up books like the Stars Are Fire and Stay Alive! (As well as all additional books that we fund during this Kickstarter).
We’ll make the character creation rules into a single-fold double-sided 11x17 document printed on nice sturdy stock that all backers at the I Want it All! level and above get when they get their new Cypher System Rulebook. These will make it really easy to give all the players in the group access and speed the whole process.
What’s more, we’ll make the character creation rules into a separate PDF and make that available to every backer of this Kickstarter from the $20 level on up.
So tell your friends. Spread the word on social media. Let’s get a lot of new backers for this campaign and make Cypher Shorts happen!
The Stars are Fire Upgrade Unlocked!
5 months ago
– Sun, Aug 12, 2018 at 10:25:46 PM
Nice! Thanks to you and your support, our science fiction sourcebook, The Stars are Fire, is going to be bigger and better than before. It will have more pages with more content—focusing in particular on short adventures you can use right away. It will also have more art and a double-sided poster map. All that, but the price is the same. Kickstarter is awesome!
Let’s do something different next. Let’s do something specifically for players rather than GMs. If we can reach $250,000, we will unlock Cypher System Character Portfolios. You’ll be able to showcase your characters in style with these beautiful and well-organized 24-page booklets. Use them to track all your character’s stats, gear, background, and significant details that you can continue to add to as your character grows more experienced. And you won’t get just one—you’ll get a pack of five for multiple characters (or you can share them with your game group).
The portfolios will be added to the I Want it All! pledge level and above for free, and will be available as an add-on. The PDF version will also be added to the All the PDFs! level.
But only if we reach the goal.
Please continue sharing this Kickstarter on social media and elsewhere. You are all amazing.
~Monte (and the whole MCG team)
P.S. Oh, and how about a sneak peek for a possible goal up ahead? What's that? Another cover? What do you think this might be? Unlock the current goal and maybe this will be next!
Inside Stay Alive!
5 months ago
– Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 01:10:14 AM
If you're curious and excited about what will be in Stay Alive!, proceed!
Most of us at MCG enjoy the horror (and thriller) genres and are looking forward to all the details we'll put into this 160-page book. Stay Alive! will provide rules and stats for classic horror monsters such as vampires, zombies, mummies, golems, dark magic, werewolves, and cryptids. It will also include advice on creating an enhancing a mood of fear, excitement, and suspense; choosing the right level of violence; recognizing safe boundaries for player fear; and how to incorporate aspects of other genres into a horror game. It will also include an entire campaign setting built using the guidelines in Your Best Game Ever.
The team has been talking about an idea for a specific horror setting for about a year now, and debating how to keep its secret twist under wraps (we've seen enough RPGs, adventures, and movie posters that have a major spoiler in the cover art, and we want to avoid that). So here’s a spoiler-free summary: It's set in the modern day; the PCs are all newly-created vampires who awaken alone from their unexpected transformation, without any experienced vampires to train or command them. The PCs get some time to enjoy their new abilities, avenge old slights, battle their hunger for blood, and find a place for themselves in the power vacuum left behind by their creators' absence. Just as they settle into their new roles as masters of the night, they find that something is hunting them, and the campaign shifts from intrigue and power plays to survival mode.
But let's talk more about horror and its subgenres.
Too Many To Count
A lot of people saw the cover preview of Stay Alive! and assumed the setting in the book is about zombies. Part of the book will talk about zombies and survival horror, but that's just one of the approximately three zillion subgenres of horror. Many, many pages in Stay Alive! will be devoted to each of these subgenres. Subgenres of horror include classic movie monsters, horror drama, ghost stories, alien abduction, demonic possession, psychological horror, organ transplantation, Southern Gothic, urban gothic, animals and nature, Lovecraftian (we even published a glimmer about this), creepy dolls, haunted houses, the occult, and body horror. The book will talk about how to incorporate these elements into an RPG campaign, and will include a list of inspirational sources for each subgenre.
Mixing horror with other genres is common, with science fiction horror (such as Alien and Event Horizon) being a common example; mutations and superpowers (Carrie, Split) as a source of conflict; crazed inbred killers; and specific countries putting a unique cultural spin on the genre (such as J-horror and Tasmanian Gothic). Stay Alive! will discuss blending elements from different sources to create a unique setting for a horror campaign.
Of course, the book is not just advice for GMs! It will have sections discussing things players can do to enhance the mood (or avoid breaking it), being prepared for a session that's supposed to make you feel afraid, and taking on other roles in the game after your PC disappears or dies.
Running and playing in an enthralling horror game requires a lot of the same elements as horror fiction or film: pacing, making emotional connections with the characters so you want them to survive, creating narrative tension with highs and lows, knowing when to show instead of tell, or when to hide just enough details to let everyone involved fill in the blanks with their own imagination, and so on. (I wouldn't be surprised if the book ended up with several pages of "cheat sheets" to photocopy and keep on the table as reminders about these concepts.)
Plugging it Into the Campaign
Because there are so many possibilities for a horror game, this book is likely to spend a chapter describing various game mechanics that might apply to many subgenres (such as the Horror Mode described in the Cypher System Rulebook, where the chance for bad things happening increases as the tension does, or custom GM intrusions for types of creatures to add flavor), and the later sections about those subgenres would list which mechanical elements are appropriate and give advice on combining them for the campaign. We won't be starting on this book for a while (we have several Numenera projects to finish first), but we welcome any ideas about how to present this information (post them in the comments!).
What’s Your Inspiration?
As the lead designer on this book, I'm going to spend much of my time between now and when I start writing to watch and read as much horror material as I can (most certainly in a brightly-lit room). I have my own list of favorites that I’m using as references. What horror comics, television shows, films, and other media have you seen that made you say, "Wow, I need to run a game like this”? Leave your answers in the comments and I'll include them in my to-do list!
~Sean K Reynolds
AMA-a-Thon with Monte Cook!
Got a question for Monte Cook? About ANYTHING? Here's your chance to ask it!
On Monday, starting at4pm PDT, Monte will be trapped at his webcam answering questions live from the audience on topics ranging from gaming advice, his career, or who his favorite Avenger is. (It's Cap. Of course it's Cap.)
He will have to keep going longer as more pledges for Your Best Game Ever are made during that time!
We have some great special guests lined up from our rock-star cast of consulting experts, too! Be sure and spread the word to keep him spilling secrets until he needs a snack break and we can bring on the guests to answer some questions!
I Want it All!
If you haven't checked out the I Want it All! backer level yet, now's a great time to do so. It gives you 5 hardcover books (and PDFs of all of them) for a fantastic price. And there's still more to come!
Video Series Unlocked!
5 months ago
– Wed, Aug 08, 2018 at 12:38:37 AM
Looks like I’m going to be in front of a camera a lot soon! The Your Best Game Ever video series will start in early 2019. We'll release them regularly every two weeks (barring holidays and whatnot). What’s more, each installment will come with a PDF of an outline, key points, and show notes that you’ll all get for free. The whole thing will be free to all of you.
In case you missed them earlier, here are the links to the videos we already did as sort of a “trial run.”
Don’t Randomize Fun
Finding a Game Group That’s Right For You
Now, how about another stretch goal?
So, what’s next? The Stars are Fire is our science fiction book already unlocked—what if we made it bigger and better? More pages (from 160 to 192), more art, more adventures, and a full-color, double-sided poster map would certainly make it better. Everyone who gets that book will get all of that if we can reach $225,000.
Let's see if we can get this one done and add even more to the campaign. You can make a huge difference by helping to spread the word. There are still thousands of gamers out there that don’t know about this book, but would love it!
Thank you for all your support.
~Monte (and the whole MCG team)
Inside the Stars are Fire
5 months ago
– Mon, Aug 06, 2018 at 08:14:12 PM
Curious to know more about what The Stars are Fire will contain? Read on!
We’re really excited about this 160-page book of sci-fi goodness that will cover running and playing in science fiction RPGs. Broadly speaking, The Stars are Fire will provide rules and stats for aliens, robots, starships, high-tech gear, otherworldly hazards, and much more. It will also include an entire campaign setting built using the guidelines in Your Best Game Ever.
We’re really interested in steering the new setting more toward the hard sci-fi end of things, but with a sprinkling of more fantastical tidbits in the mix to keep your players on their toes. Our setting is not too far in the future, where humanity has reached out into the Solar System: a supermassive O’Neill colony, with bases on the Moon, Mars, colonies in hollowed-out asteroids, huge bases on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, floating cities hanging in the clouds of Venus, and more. Even more amazing, multi-planetary corporations—like Xiao-Keller (XK) and Astra Industries—make colossal investments into a brand-new domain of physics, producing a top-secret propulsion system allowing humans to found nearby interstellar colonies.
That’s when the Moon colonies discover millions of miles of tunnels crisscrossing the Moon's core beneath the regolith. Artificial tunnels. OLD tunnels. But the news never reaches Earth. The discovery of the tunnels coincides with the Earth going completely dark and quiet. No one in the solar system knows why...
But before we take that any further, I have a couple questions that we’re still exploring, and I’m interested in your take.
Hard, Fantastical, and Soft Sci-Fi
The first question I’m curious about is how hard you like your sci-fi? “Hard” sci-fi usually means an emphasis on scientific accuracy and engineering, or at least a very strong nod to it.
For instance, on the hard end of the sci-fi “realistic” spectrum, humans are stuck traveling at speeds no greater than the classic rocket equation allows. So even moving between planets in our own solar system would take months or years, even with really advanced plasma engines.
On the fantastical end of the sci-fi spectrum, humans might move by beaming themselves instantaneously around the solar system, or step through wormhole gates to find themselves in another solar system. Of course, there’s a lot of room for interpretation in the middle. Can it still be hard science fiction if it’s pre-supposed that all the matter in the solar system has been converted into a habitable ring around the star with a radius roughly equal to the distance that the Earth orbits the sun? Maybe, if all the underlying math is at least plausible.
I happen to think that good sci-fi should also contain soft elements. Lots of people say that “soft” sci-fi is the opposite of hard sci-fi, because soft sci-fi focuses on character and weird societies rather than science and engineering. I don’t know, to me, the amount of focus given to character development in a speculative society sounds like its own entirely different spectrum.
Or maybe all this talk of spectrums is the wrong way to go. I mean, why not create a setting that contains speculative societies of the future using hard science fiction-derived technology, but with the opportunity to develop or find technology far in advance of their own understanding?
It could be a thing. What’s your take?
Rules vs. Setting
My second question has to do with the percentage of rules/advice to new setting material that will appear in The Stars Are Fire. This book is going to contain tools you can use to craft all kinds of different sci-fi settings as well as a fully realized sci-fi setting. It’s a bit too early to nail down that exact ratio right now, but it’s something worth considering. And in fact, it’s a question I posed in the comments section of Your Best Game Ever a few days ago. And many of you already responded!
Whatever the specific ratio turns out to be, we’re committed to producing a meaty section for both. This will satisfy your needs for more tools and serve as an astonishing setting from which you can immediately launch a Cypher System sci-fi adventure or two.
So, will you come with us out into the void, which isn’t as lonely as they say? Because out there, the stars are fire.