The Elves are ancient and full of secrets. Ruthlessness and cunning awaits beneath a thick layer of beauty and decorum. Find out their secrets in Book of Elves, the next setting guide supplement for Modern RPG from High Grounds Publishing.
On one of his more arduous hunts, after days of patiently tracking and weeks of planning before that; crawling through the dirt and enduring difficult conditions, Theodore Roosevelt finally got the bull caribou he had been chasing. It was a big animal, taken down only after taking several shots in a chaotic confrontation.
“It was one of those moments,” he later wrote, “that repay the hunter for days of toil and hardship; that is if he needs repayment, and does not find life in the wilderness pleasure enough in itself.”
What he was saying is something we all know but constantly lose sight of in life: Yes, the rewards are nice, but the process of earning them is plenty wonderful too. A hunter who only enjoys bagging their quarry is likely to be a disappointed hunter, nine times out of ten. More importantly, they are a blind and deaf hunter who needlessly misses out on the majesty of life outdoors.
Too many of us are like this in many aspects of our lives. We are so focused on an end result – on achieving the success, fame or wealth we crave that we don’t even notice the little pleasures of the experience and the people around us. Stoicism speaks constantly of returning to the present moment for a reason. They practice their power of observation for a reason too – so they wouldn’t miss out, so they would truly see and feel and take in just how lucky they were to be alive. By practicing the dichotomy of control, they also knew that the journey is up to us, while the outcome is not. As a hunter, Roosevelt understood this innately. Getting the kill? That’s luck. Listening to the birds sing, breathing in the forest air, enjoying the time away from the city, well.. that’s up to you.
Find pleasure enough in what’s present today. Don’t get distracted by the outcome you crave or fear. Don’t demand repayment for the struggle, because the struggle is where the true rewards live. The weight is supposed to be heavy! That’s where strength comes from. Your lungs are suppose to burn! That’s where speed and energy come from. Cherish these things while you can, while it’s still in your control.
Enjoy the grind. Enjoy the work. Enjoy everything you can, while you can.
As Modern is entering its final phases of production and closing in on that fabled release date, I’ve begun to look long past the release of the core book toward the many places that the game and its setting will go in the coming years. I’m so excited to see what players make of it. I’m hopeful that the vision I have for the game will reach players in a meaningful way. At the very least, I hope some fun can be had from the game.
Derivations & Hard Choices
Over the course of development, I’ve had to make some difficult decisions regarding the setting as well as the design of the game as a whole. The first of these tough choices was one that wound up placing two roads before me that, once chosen, would be incredibly difficult if not impossible to go back on in order to make another decision or a different choice.
The Kickstarter advertised Modern as a Pathfinder compatible game. In fact, the Kickstarter was called “Pathfinder: Modern Adventures”, so its pretty obvious what I had envisioned on the outset. Moving forward, as development progressed I quickly began to realize that in keeping the game completely Pathfinder compatible was putting a lot of pressure both on the game’s design, originality and setting. So my first choice was whether or not I was going to continue to keep Modern 100% compatible with Pathfinder, or if I was going to let the game direct the way it wanted to go and follow the design of the game. The choice took weeks as I waffled back and forth. I didn’t want to upset anyone, especially the Kickstarter backers, but on the other side of that coin, I also didn’t want to create a game that felt forced. I wanted to provide a genuine experience that was true to the vision that I had for it. Something that would help revolutionize how d20 system games are seen. In the end, I chose to remain true to the vision. From that point on, the work came easier. I strayed from Pathfinder compatibility and the game and setting are so much better for it.
Perhaps later on I will create a “conversion kit” that will allow the game to be run fully compatible with Pathfinder rules. But that’s a story for another day.
The next choice was almost as difficult. It derived from the same question asked in the first choice: Do I remain true to the vision, or do I try to maintain compatibility? The choice was whether or not I wanted to design a character advancement system unlike Pathfinder – levelless and possibly classless, with additional powers, abilities and stats purchased separately, with experience used as more of a currency to purchase advancements. Luckily, I was able to find a balance; a compromise between a vision of realistic character advancement while remaining somewhat true to the Pathfinder system. The game would keep its levels, but add a lot of additional customization and advancement options to allow players to create truly unique characters. I kept the level system, but added balance and flavor. When I attended GenCon this year, I had the amazing opportunity to talk about my game with the magnificently talented Karl Bergstrom from White Wolf’s Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition. Through my conversation with him, I was able to gain quite a bit of insight into the way character advancement and creation would be designed in Modern.
What I came up with was written out on the plane ride home to Texas from Indianapolis. By the time I finally got to sit down at my laptop to get to writing everything out, my head was absolutely on fire with new ideas and goals. The relationships between a character’s species (which is what Modern calls “race”) and class became more fully defined and flavorful. Where class and species was at one point completely separate, now they were intertwined. Each combination of species and class now had their own defining bonuses and abilities. Character creation for an Orcish Esper, for example, became somewhat different from how a Human Esper was put together. And that very same Orcish Esper would differ in character creation from an Orcish Operative or Fighter.
Every choice I’ve made so far has been to create a great game for the players, and an amazing universe within which to play.
What Is Yet To Come
The goal for Modern was similar to any other world designed for tabletop role-playing. I wanted to create a world that felt real; lived in. The goal is to create a world that feels both familiar and utterly alien at the same time. A world that looks the same from afar, but close-up is quite different. I think, so far, I’ve been successful. The game puts up a fantasy-tinted mirror to our own world. I am proud of what’s been done so far, and look forward to everything that is to come.
The Modern corebook will be a standalone game. It will contain everything that a group needs to sit down and play. The first release, the core book, will encompass “mortals”, basic species and classes, as well as feats, powers and abilities for Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings and Orcs. They are the everyday population of the world. But they are not the only population.
Modern is a large-as-life setting. Within it, my goal has been to define typical fantasy tropes in a realistic, modernized way. Because of this goal, there will be other releases for the setting that will allow players to step into the shoes of many other fantastic species and character types including Shifters & Lycanthrope, Ghosts and even Dragons. These additional standalone games will be as much a part of the Modern setting as the original core book. They will help define the universe of Modern, expand on its rich history and mythology and give players more viewpoints from which to see the world they’re playing in.
Thank you all for your support during the design process. I am looking forward to our New Years Day release!
Last night I had the distinct pleasure of joining the legendary Dan Davenport of #RandomWorlds for a Q&A regarding my newest tabletop role-playing game, Slasher. In it, I answered many questions regarding the game itself and the process of its creation.
For those of you that haven’t played the game, Slasher (Revised allows you to step into your own slasher film, taking on the roles of Director, Survivor and even the Killer itself. The game uses Fate Core rules as a platform and adds a few cinematic twists to bring a terrifying romp through your very own horror movie.
In case you missed it, you can find the Q&A by clicking this link.
Have you ever wondered where the term “Real Estate” comes from? Real. Estate. As if there are estates that exist that are not real. That are fake. The name itself, real estate, gives you a sense of comfort. Of reassurance in your dependency on your ownership of the land and your ability to tame it. So what do real estate agents sell when they sell you a home? They sell you peace of mind. They sell you an idea. They sell you the thought that your estate is yours and you control everything that walks or grows upon it. That a locked door can truly separate you from the outside world. Just like any other salesperson, Joy didn’t sell a product. She sold an emotion.
“What the fuck was that?” Joy shouted in between bursts of gunfire as she pressed her shoulder to the thick wall of sandbags that she’d jumped behind. In a few moments, Joy had gone from sitting in a coffee shoppe thinking she’d kill for another espresso to being faced with the idea of actually having kill just to see another one. “Where the fuck are we?”
Where the fuck, indeed. “We’re not in Kansas, anymore.” said the man that had brought her here. He was a man of seemingly genteel nature. Sharp, angular features and even sharper ears. Joy had seen elves before and the ears were a dead giveaway that this guy was probably one of the Noblesse. The only reason she knew that was because some of her biggest clients were elves. She preferred them because they knew the value of land and usually weren’t afraid to pay her asking prices and considered negotiation to be distasteful, unlike the dwarves who would shortchange her for every penny they could in a deal. So when he sat down at her table and ordered another espresso for Joy before she’d even spoke her want for another cup aloud, she assumed that his odd mannerisms and prying questions were a simple byproduct of elfen weirdness.
How wrong she was.
After an uncomfortable few minutes of questions that the man always seemed to know the answer to before she spoke them, she finally inquired. “Are you in the market?” she asked. The man simply smiled. His triangular beard made his teeth seem just a little too sharp. “No, my dear. Not entirely.” When he spoke, he did so with a southern drawl that flowed from his lips like hot molasses. “I have something to show you. Would you be so kind?”
Looking back, Joy will question whether or not the man had used a spell to bend her actions to his will. She was typically far more cautious than this, having been raised in an area where you had to look over your shoulder when you had to walk down the street. Yet, upon being asked, she rose from her seat, picked up the large black case she had in the seat next to her and followed the man in the white suit. “Where are we going?” she asked. Her voice was calm. In fact, her entire demeanor had shifted from her mid-morning rush of calling customers and stressing out over sales numbers. Now, she simply walked along the street with the man, unconcerned about the next sale. “Should I drive?”
The man grinned at this, “I do not think so my dear.” She was thankful for the response, too. She drove a car that was far too expensive for her to afford in order to appeal to her affluent clients and their keen sense of vanity. “Where we are going, we will not need a vehicle.”
That should have been one among a vast array of warnings to escape now. To get out while the getting was good. And perhaps some small voice in the back of Joy’s mind was indeed pleading with her to turn back. To get into her car, just steps away as they passed, and hit the gas. To escape the man as fast as she could and never look back. While she will only momentarily question whether or not she was under the geas of a spell over the next few days of her life, she will wonder about her lack of warning signs for much longer than that.
“I have some friends that I would like you to meet.” said the man.
“House hunters?” Joy asked. Naive.
“Hunters, of a sort.” said the man.
Their destination wasn’t far. The coffee shop had a small parking lot which happened to be enclosed on two sides by a tall chain-link fence. It was the door, however, that caught her attention. Or rather, it was a bit of a gate. A simple red apparatus that curved up and over itself in flowing patterns and flourishes. It was double-sided and seemingly made of wood. Joy knew that the handles were gold, but that was the only thing she knew about the door. She wondered if it had always been there, and how gold door handles managed to go without being stolen right outside and in plain view of the street. She also wondered why she didn’t recognize the design of the door. She was versed in elfen architecture and design principles, but this brilliant red door did not register anything in her memory. This should have been her final warning sign.
“Come.” said the man. Ever the gentleman, the man’s pale hand, tipped with long, sharp nails, grasped the golden handle and opened the door for Joy.
When Joy stepped through the doorway, she found that the exit disappeared behind her. She found herself on a path that sat atop a sharp incline on both sides. It was narrow and wreathed in glowing orange flames on both sides. Joy imagined that she would burn up before she found the ground if she fell over the sides. Sporadic, curving spires reached upward out of the bellowing flames like clawed fingers. Joy gasped in awe at the place. She hadn’t noticed that her exit was gone. She wandered forward toward a calm blue light up ahead. The light itself emanated from a circular portal from which unfurled massive, sculpted wings tipped with horns.
The portal opened for her, and Joy felt like an eternity had passed. She felt nearly weightless, as if she sat at the apex of a roller coaster. Anticipation only matched by the feeling that the laws of physics had forgotten her. As she stood before the massive portal, she watched as reality itself seemed to unravel before here. Before she could register the impact of the movement, Joy found herself in a large field of golden grain. The sky was brilliantly blue and stars shone beautifully overhead, nearly close enough to touch.
“Where in God’s name are we?” Joy gasped.
“God?” said the voice of the man who stepped beside her to peer at the vista as well. “Nowhere in God’s name. You might say,” the man paused. His skin began to glow with a pale white light that caused the bones beneath his skin to become clear. “Quite the contrary.”
Joy whirled to face the man as if she were suddenly aware that she was in grave danger. It was too late. She was alone for the moment. There was a moment of pause as she took in the air. It was fresh and clean, like a memory of a summer morning from her childhood.
A dull roar began to close in and she peered upward. As her eyes narrowed to get a clearer vision, she could make out an aircraft. It looked old. Perhaps a small personal aircraft. As it flew overhead, she couldn’t help but notice the odd insignia on the aircraft’s wings and side. Were those swastika?
She watched as the propeller-driven plane made a wide arc and began to circle back toward her. It rose and crested in the sunlight. Joy had to raise her hand in front of her to help alleviate the sharp pain in her eyes from the light. As Joy looked back upward she could see the plane heading straight toward her. It was diving. She continued to watch for a few moments, not fully registering the danger until the sound of whirring turrets and the cracking sound of the minigun sent bullets to either side of her. The ground became dark as Joy turned to run. She found shelter behind a wall of sandbags as the plane flew past.
“You!” Joy roared, and unclasped the large case. Joy was creative in her tactics to acquire clients. She sold to the elite and the affluent, so she frequented the same places that the affluent did. Before she had met the man in the white suit, she was returning from a fencing class. It was an expensive gym that catered to the wealthy in her town but she found herself an avid fencing student. Still, her time spent in the gym was always disappointing. She couldn’t afford to embarrass her clients so, as clever and skilled a student of the sword as she was, Joy allowed herself to lose nearly every day. The glint of the sword in her case caused the man to raise his hand, “Now, now. No need for that.”
“Who are you? Where are we? What are we doing here?” Joy demanded.
“Have you ever heard the phase, “There is a special place in hell for people like you?” before, Joy?” The words rolled off his tongue like sugar. His teeth were sharper now. How she hadn’t noticed his antler-like horns before caused her grip on her sword to tighten. “Well.” There was a suggestive tone to his voice as he looked upward again toward the plane once more. Only this time, the plane wasn’t just a plane. She watched as the metal contorted and bent. The wings crumpled and curled into real, biological wings. The propeller became a yawning maw of razor sharp teeth. It landed before the pair with a loud crash. It was a massive demon now, emblazoned with Nazi insignia like some long-dead Third Reich soldier. It’s circular mouth opened wide and it roared.
“They weren’t exactly kidding.” the man said, and stepped before the creature. Joy, sword in hand before her, stepped to the man’s side. “My name is Asmodeus. And I’ve brought you here,” the man’s cane rose to point at the monster, “Because of those.”
It’s been a great exhausting time so far. I’m looking forward to another day of meeting new gamers and learning more and more about the community than I ever have before. If you see me in the halls, say hello!
And congratulations to all the ENnie winners last night!
Would you like a FREE copy of Warsong Second Edition?
If you see me walking around in Indianapolis this year for GenCon, take a picture with me and tag me in your social media with the hashtag #HGatGC and I’ll give you a card with a super secret URL that’ll nab you a free copy of Warsong Second Edition.
You see me in the halls after a seminar. You walk up and say hello and ask if you can take a picture with me! Post the picture in a tag with me on Twitter using the hashtag #HGatGC and BAM! I’ll give you the super sekrit URL that you can use at any time in August to get yourself a copy of Warsong Second Edition.
If you don’t know where I’ll be, check my social media or take a gander at my itinerary.
Don’t be shy about approaching! At the end of GenCon, when I’ve arrived home, I’ll randomly choose a person from those who used the #HGatGC hashtag to send a free signed physical copy of Warsong Second Edition! Sorry, but you have to be in the United States to get the physical copy. Shipping and Handling can be a killer.
Step 1: See my ugly mug roaming around at Gencon.
Step 2: Say hello! Ask to take a picture with me!
Step 3: Upload that picture, tag me in it (Facebook or @HGGamingStudio) and use hashtag #HGatGC.
Step 4: Get a free copy of Warsong 2nd Edition!
Step 5: Get entered to win a signed, physical copy!
See y’all there!
I read a rather disturbing post yesterday by a somewhat “famous” person, at least in her field, informing others about the importance of “reading a room” because her group was approached by a young hopeful with a pitch in a public space that she had sectioned off by appropriating public chairs into a circle in order to ward off others. I found the rather lengthy post troubling because of the self-importance and immediate disregard of others displayed in the candor of the post. From her distaste in children being around her table at a local diner to claiming a section of a hotel lobby for her own and being upset when her group was approached in the very public area of a hotel lobby where they were loitering. Of course there were reasons that were leaned on in order to explain away and excuse why she would totally disregard (and even threaten) someone who aspired to be in her position, but it reminded me about the importance of acknowledging that skill often has little to do with success. It is a part, certainly. But not the only part.
In his extended post-presidential interview with David Letterman, Barack Obama explains a practice he engages in on a regular basis, one that begins with him marveling at the role luck has played in his life. As he says:
“One of the things that I think, I always am surprised by, is when I see people who have been successful in business, or entertainment, or politics, and they’re absolutely convinced that it was all because they were so smart. And I’m always saying, “Well, look, I’ve worked hard and I’ve got some talent, but there are a lot of hard working talented people out there.” There was this element of chance to it. There was this element of serendipity. And I wonder whether you feel that sometimes, where – and the reason that, for me at least, is important, is so A) I don’t feel too self-important, but B), you know, you want to see if you can maybe figure out how to sprinkle that stardust on other people.”
While it is interesting to see Obama revisit the “You didn’t build that” observation that got him in so much trouble in the 2012 campaign, it’s most important to see the lesson provided here. The reason that the Stoic pays close attention to the role luck plays in their life is to maintain humility and honest self-assessment. If you allow your ego to rise and puff you up with every success, you set yourself up to be crushed by every failure. And if you take sole credit for your good fortune rather than deferring to Fortune and the logos, you are detaching yourself from your most important job: serving what Marcus Aurelius called the “common good.”
To deny luck and to assume superiority as a result of your accomplishments is to make yourself an island. It renders you both less capable and less interested in paying your successes forward and helping others who are in need. It also makes you weak and fragile — unprepared for the winds of misfortune, which can come at anytime.
Don’t be like that today. Remember how lucky you are. Remember how similar you are to other people, how easily it could have come to pass that you’re in their place and they in yours. Remember your obligation to help sprinkle that stardust and your obligation not to pull the drawbridge up behind you.
Keep an eye out for the new web page, coming soon to a browser near you!