Words about worlds

The State of the Game

by | Mar 29, 2023 | Chatter, Games | 0 comments

A small waterfall shines in the sun, foaming and splashing over moss-covered rocks in this lively image.

Image © Heather Osborne

Our worldbuilding series took a brief, unscheduled pause last week as we focused on editing a video for our upcoming Kickstarter. Sign up to be notified when it launches here! Since we already interrupted ourselves, we decided to talk a little about what we’re up to at the moment.

On the RPG side, we just released our second science-fiction adventure featuring the bold crew of the starship Desperate Measures. This is our fourth published Cypher adventure and our first complete two-sided adventure. Cross-checking the key moments nearly left me cross-eyed but I had a ton of fun designing this adventure. It’s also our first Cypher adventure to receive an independent review by the Busy Wyvern!

We have at least half a dozen adventures in various stages of completion waiting in the wings. My personal favorite is The Pizza Chronicles, a series set in the modern day, designed for groups that like more “magic” in their “modern”. We also have a complete trilogy of adventures designed for Players from Tier 2 to 6. Our original plans called for us to launch this trilogy as a Kickstarter, opening our campaign on the first of March. I pushed back that launch deadline for a higher priority: making our adventures accessible. Now that I had a little experience with layout, it was time to dig in and make our products better.

Bringing these adventures up to their current point of accessibility took some learning, a lot of tinkering, and some calls to Adobe tech support. I must say that while I ended up solving all my own tech support problems, Adobe’s teams did at least make an effort to understand what I was attempting. At this time, all of our published Cypher adventures are set up for smooth, intelligible listening with screen readers, with alt-text for all images, separately controllable background, image, and text layers, high-contrast font choices, and a color-blind friendly palette of font colors. We’ve tested the screen reader results with Adobe Acrobat’s built-in reader and with NVDA screen reader and used a couple of color-blind simulators to check our palette choices. I also set up our pre-generated character sheets for screen readers. Unlike the visual character sheet layout, which separates Special abilities and Skills across pages when necessary, the screen reader version keeps sections together. The only way we’ll know if we got all this right is by listening to our audience. Constructive comments and suggestions are appreciated!

I was hoping that we would be able to transition to Affinity for our layout needs this year. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, Affinity neither offers current support for tagging nor makes any suggestion of offering it (for Affinity 2.0) in the future. Only Adobe products appear to offer that level of support for PDFs. If you know of any open-source projects that are working on this, please let us know.

With a first pass at accessibility complete, it was time to return focus to our Kickstarter! We’ve written a trilogy of adventures that let Players take on the role of the darkly magical Unseelie Court: the winter side of the beings variously known as the “Fae”, “Fair Folk”, and “Sidhe”, among other names. Our Kickstarter launches on March 31. We expect to have the trilogy (in digital form, at least) in players’ hands in plenty of time for a mid-fall campaign.

Writing this series has been a challenge. I wanted to give Players a chance to tell a story about change from within. I also wanted to tell a story where Players could portray beings for whom magic was as natural as breathing. I combined the two goals in this tale. By choosing to play Unseelie, the Players set their Characters as deeply magical beings within a darkly magical culture full of challenges. Step over to Kickstarter to sign up to be notified when we launch on Friday!

In other news, we are play-testing two card games and one free-form board game and having a great time doing it. We have several more games in various stages of design. Our current favorite is a lighthearted dungeon crawl with plenty of replay value. A single session should take about an hour to play. Right now, we’re working on fleshing out the Magical Mishaps deck for this game. Looping back to worldbuilding, we’ve had a lot of fun building worlds and writing about them. We intend to continue writing periodic articles on different aspects of worldbuilding, starting with an article on names and naming practices. I love evocative names but I am not naturally good at them, so I’ve had to put in some work to improve. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite tips in our next Worldbuilding article.

By the end of 2023, we hope to run a crowd-funding campaign for at least one of our stand-alone games and have some new Cypher adventures and pre-generated characters out in the world. We are continuing to focus on Cypher for now. We’re looking forward to the release of the Open RPG Creative License. There are some systems we would love to write for (hi, Chaosium) but we want the freedom to continue publishing as an independent “third party” for now.

Will our Kickstarter succeed? Will we meet our year-end goals? Will we march triumphantly into December or will December drag us, kicking and screaming, away from our keyboards as our frantically flying fingers struggle to add just one more line? Only time will tell. Follow along with us and see!


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