Good News and Bad News

Well, let’s start on a high note. I got the proof copy of curse the darkness in the mail today. Behold!

Here’s my daughter, Teagan, holding it. My dog, Leo, seems to have sneaked in there, too.

Anyway, the books looks mostly fabulous, and therein lies the bad news. “Mostly” is not good enough. What happened was this: the pdf copy (that many of you have already downloaded) wasn’t optimized for print, and so the pictures came out darker than we wanted. For some of them, that isn’t a huge problem, but for a couple of them it utterly ruins them. So we’ve uploaded the correct pdf this time (we had the right one the first, just the wrong one got uploaded), and we’re now starting the process of approval, proof copy, shipping, over again.

What does this mean for you? Well, it might mean that I won’t have print copies at GenCon. That sucks, I know. It sucks for me, too, because I really wanted to be able to hand out books and Kits (and, y’know, sell a few, too), but it’s more important that the book look right. So if the book doesn’t wind up coming in before GenCon, c’est la vie, I’ll just mail everything out afterwards. (If you bought a Kit and want to pick up everything except the book at GenCon, though, I’ll totally do that because it’ll save trouble and money shipping.)

And what about the Kits? Check it.

So you’ve got (top left to right) a Suit Assignment sheet, five Player Mats, a Condition Assignment sheet (all laminated), a Character Pad, a bag with the candle stamp with little yellow Memory Points, a bag with the Symbol with little black Between Points, a copy of the book, a GM’s Deck (blue with the Symbol) and two Players’ Decks (red with the candle), and a Scenario Creation Pad (still at the printers, but we’ll have those next week). All of that will be packaged in an attractive cardboard box and shipped to you or handed to you at GenCon, assuming I can get the books in on time.

It’s all coming together, maybe not as smoothly as we’d all like, but considering the Kickstarter just wrapped in early June I think we’re doing pretty darned spiffy. And don’t forget – I need stories for the anthology!

Oh, and I have some exciting news about the curse the darkness Companion, but I’m gonna save that until I get confirmation on one remaining thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

Updates! Get ready to get your pdfs!

So! The pdfs are done, I’m just finalizing a few things before I send out download links to our Kickstarter backers. Right now the plan is for the pdf to go on sale on the first of August, and for the print book to be available at GenCon (that’s the part we’re working on, though, so that’s still not a for-sure thing).

As for the Kits: The cards are in, the t-shirts are in, the muslin bags are in and getting stamped and filled with Between and Memory Points! Again, all we need are the books, so I’m going back to work on that. ๐Ÿ™‚

Origins Schedule

We’ll be at Origins Game Fair this weekend running curse the darkness. Below you can find our schedule. Last I looked, all of these sessions had slots open, so please come join us! And, if you haven’t, please check out our Kickstarter. Remember, it ends next Wednesday, 6/6. We’re also doing a cross-promotion with Magpie Games for their new RPG, Our Last, Best Hope. Back both games at (at least) the pdf level ($10 for theirs, $15 for ours) and you get a specially designed curse the darkness playset for Our Last, Best Hope free of charge!

And now, the schedule:

  • Wednesday, 5/30, 7PM-9PM: Characters & Scenarios demo (but might expand into a full session)
  • Thursday, 5/31, 10AM-12PM: Challenges demo
  • Thusrday, 5/31, 1PM-3PM: Characters & Scenarios demo
  • Thursday, 5/31, 2PM-6PM: Full session
  • Friday, 6/1, 10AM-12PM: Characters & Scenarios demo
  • Friday, 6/1, 1PM-3PM: Challenges demo
  • Saturday 6/2, 10AM-12PM: Characters & Scenarios demo
  • Saturday 6/2, 1PM-3PM: Challenges demo
  • Saturday 6/2, 4PM-6PM: Characters & Scenarios demo

I’ll also be at the Drive Thru RPG Booth (Booth #827) off and on, but all afternoon on Saturday, happy to answer questions, run quick demos, and generally be affable.

Fiction Anthology: Tell Me Your Stories

We’ve hit our second stretch goal, which means that we’re doing a fiction anthology. Here’s the plan for that:

The anthology will include nine stories. Three of them will be set “pre-apocalypse,” three “mid-apocalypse”, three “post-apocalypse.” In brief:

Pre-Apocalypse: The game takes place in the months before Jerusalem. The characters know that something strange is going on, but not what or why. Openers havenโ€™t been discovered yet, nor has the Between, meaning that in fiction, these elements can appear but aren’t commonplace or well understood (discovering them could be a thrust for a story). These stories might focus on investigating what is happening, perhaps by searching for people who disappeared in His initial attacks or by examining the wreckage. As the damage intensifies, characters can become involved with riots, food shortages, clashes between police and protesters and other dramatic situations.

In this setting, the Between is a lair. They are here, visible as characters enter, and They approach interlopers threateningly but do not attack. In fact, They look as though something is holding Them back.

Mid-Apocalypse: These stories, probably the most brutal option for curse the darkness, take place within the first 10 years after Jerusalem. Stories in mid-apocalypse games would involve coming to terms with the new reality of the world, learning about the Between and Them, and attempting to save and protect the people the characters care about. This is the part of the setting where absent-mindedly crossing oneself can get you killed.

In this setting, the Between is a beehive. They swarm everywhere, crawling over, under and around anyone who enters. Violence against visitors and travelers is common.

Post-apocalypse: The war might not be over, but He seems to have done what He wanted to. He doesnโ€™t take as active an interest in the world anymore but still sends Them to kill people on occasion. Opportunistic looters and loyalists make up the opposition, but the resistance is global and working toward understanding what happened, why, and, more importantly, what options there are to fix the world.

In this setting, the Between is a ghost town. The topography is barren, flat and empty. They sometimes wander through the wastes, but travelers are just as likely to see other human travelers. They do not attack people without strong provocation (or orders from Him).

Obviously, you’ll need a copy of curse the darkness for this to make sense. You can download the playtest packet here, and the game itself will be available in August (you could go pledge to the Kickstarter, if you haven’t, which would get you a copy faster, since backers will get the pdf before it goes live on DTRPG). The playtest packet should be enough to get you started, and there are assorted fiction bits in this blog that should also help. And, of course, I’m available to answer questions.

If you want to submit a story, here’s what you need to know:

  • Stories must be at least 2500 words and no longer than 4000 words.
  • Play Attention Games is paying 3 cents a word for these stories.
  • Stories must be received by Saturday, September 1st, 2012 (target date for publication is 12/1/12).
  • Stories must sent via email to playattentiongames AT gmail dotcom (except, you know, formatted properly). Please put “Anthology Submission – XXX-Apocalypse”, where the “XXX” is either pre-, mid-, or post- depending on when your story is set in the subject line.
  • Stories may not reveal the identity of Him or define the nature of the Between, Them or any of the other mysterious elements of curse the darkness. You may feel free, though, to have characters speculate about these things.
  • You should hear from us within four weeks of receipt of the submission deadline.
  • Please feel free to share this link, the link to the Kickstarter, and any delicious cookies you may have.

RIP, Mr. Sendak

Maurice Sendak passed away today. If you don’t know, Sendak was an author and illustrator who gave us such amazing books as Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. To say that his work was influential to children and the field of children’s literature is a massive understatement, and a topic my mother (a professor of early childhood education) could probably talk about with more authority. I’m going to talk about what his work meant to me.

I’m a speech-language pathologist, and I work with students in kindergarten through 8th grade in an inner city elementary school. I work with an incredibly diverse population, and some of my kids are readers with articulation problems, but most of them either don’t read or don’t read at their grade level. Very few come from homes with a lot of stimulating printed materials around, and very few come to me having read Where the Wild Things Are. I consider that a tragedy and I use it with my students during the first week of school.

Some of it is education and therapeutic. Readers can practice with words that they know and a few they probably don’t (“terrible,” “gnashed”). Non-readers get to listen to the story, follow it along, and answer questions about Max and his private boat and his journey to the place where the wild things are. One of my favorite moments in my job was reading the story with a kindergartener who, when he saw the picture of Max chasing his hapless pet with a fork, exclaimed, “He’s gonna eat the dog!”

I know the book by heart (it’s only 250 words or so). I’ve recited it to my children, in long nights or plane rides or while waiting for tables at restaurants or while helping them go to sleep. And I’ve occasionally thought, if it all crumbles and I have to care for them in a world devoid of the structure and comfort that we enjoy, I’ll still have that story, word for word.

I think a lot of people from my end of the geek spectrum think this way – in the event of the apocalypse, what would we do or have or know? Trying to figure out what we would do in a given situation is a normal part of experiencing fiction, and between zombies, nuclear war and (ahem) RPGs about ideologues wiping out the world with shadow-monsters, the notion of dystopia comes up a lot. It’s not that we want it to happen, I think, we’re just interested in seeing it, us included, maybe as the hero.

Max didn’t want to live with the Wild Things. He just wanted the rumpus, and then he went home, to the night of his very own room.

In the larger context of curse the darkness and properties like it, I think that this desire to let off steam in aggressive ways might be part of the appeal. I know that every child I’ve read Where the Wild Things Are to, ever, has relished the part where they get to snarl at me (“roared their terrible roars”), snap at me (“gnashed their terrible teeth”), make faces (“rolled their terrible eyes”) and swipe at the air (“showed their terrible claws”).

Kids don’t need everything tied up in a bow, and they can certainly handle a little surreal – even out and out weird – in their books. Mr. Sendak understood that. He understood that kids get scared but sometimes seeing the monsters makes the scary easier to tolerate. He understood that kids pay attention.

If you have kids, maybe hit a bookstore or library today and pick up a copy of one of Sendak’s books? Or if, like me, you know Where the Wild Things Are by heart, maybe recite it to someone you love. And make the faces. That’s fun.

All the Sheets – Available Now!

Many RPGs have character sheets, and some, especially the indie games that rely more on play collaboration and shared world creation (which is a high-fallutin’ way of saying “all the players get to contribute to how the game setting is interpreted”), have sheets for other parts of the setting. As you may remember, curse the darkness has several sheets that you’ll need to play.

Now, I say “need,” but let’s be honest. You could just as easily do this with pencil and paper. I personally have always been a sucker for printing out a character sheet and using the “official” (or best-designed, at least) ones available, because as a GM I like the uniformity of it. I like being able to glance across the table and see if someone has a rating in a particular skill, and knowing where to look because the sheets look the same. But I was really glad when the age of downloading hit and I was able to just print of a character sheet (my usual go-to is Mr. Gone’s site, because his World of Darkness sheets are amazing and editable) instead of popping by Office Max and breaking the spine of my book to make a copy.

In the case of curse the darkness, the sheets are bigger than the book it going to be, so they aren’t going to be included as pages in the book. It’s just wasted space. Instead, there will be URLs to this site or to the official Play Attention Games site (once it has something on it), and these sheets will always be available as pdfs, free of charge.

As such, why wait? Here they are!

The graphics on these sheets were created by Nicole Liberty, with the exception of the candle logo, which was created by Nigel Sade.

In Kickstarter-related news, we’re at $6553 as of this morning, which means we’re just shy of $1K from our next stretch goal of a fiction anthology. I’ve had a lot of interest from very talented writers about contributing, but we need that extra money so I can make it happy.

We’ve also got some awesome art-related things in the works, so keep an eye out here or on the Kickstarter page.

Two Ghostly Scenarios

So, here’s what happened. Yesterday, you’ll recall, I said I’d write a ghostly scenario in celebration of cresting $6K, featuring the ghost of whoever put us over. Yesterday afternoon, a pledge put us over $6K. So far, so good, I updated the story and the various social networks I’m on…

…and then someone else cancelled a pledge, and we were back under. But not by much (and by the way, I in no way begrudge the backer who pulled the pledge their right to do so. Ain’t my money until 6/6, and I don’t pretend to know anyone’s circumstances. I’m just glad that the backer was willing to pledge to begin with).

So a short time later, someone else pledged and put us up over again! And now we’re sitting at a comfortable $6224, so I don’t think I have to worry about dipping below $6K again (he said with a cautious glance at the main page). But it does mean I have two backers, both of whom deserve the reward for pushing us over $6K.

Who really wins here? You do.

Scenario 1: Crestmont

  • Where are you? We’re at a nursing home, or what’s left of one. Cresmont Nursing Home was an inner-city home for the elderly, not as horrible as some such places, but still pretty bleak. It was basically a place where lower-middle class folks put their parents and grandparents to die. The creatures from the Between rampaged through it shortly after He issued his rules, killing everyone therein – patients, staff, relatives. The structure of the building is intact, but the windows are smashed, some of the doors were torn from the hinges, and the whole place smells of death. It’s been looted, but the dead bodies made some of the supplies unusable.
  • What just happened? A burst of light came from the nursing home, illuminating the area surrounding it.
  • How are you following the rules? This scenario isn’t coupled to a particular group of people, just folks who are in the area. As such, it would be up to the players what in particular they are doing to follow the rules.
  • How are you breaking the rules? Entering Cresmont is enough to get His attention, not that this is something the characters will really know (by the way, it’s entirely appropriate to have your answer to this question be something that the players decide, but that the characters have no way to know. Hey, He’s many things, but “fair” isn’t really among them).
  • What is the goal? This is a pretty direct “put the ghost to rest” scenario, though a secondary but related goal might involved finding out what happened at Crestmont and why.
  • Who is the first ghost? Mary Frank, a speech therapist who worked at the nursing home, died in the onslaught. She was there doing therapy, and the reason that They attacked was that 10 residents had died the week before and a minister was there doing grief counseling. He apparently decided to make an example of the place, but Mary, an opinionated person on the best of days, tried to tell the minister to knock it off, since praying would get people killed. Her spirit lingered on after her death, and recently she managed to summon the strength to cause the burst of light. She wants her badge removed from her body, swiped through the card reader (yes, the place doesn’t have power, but that’s not the point) and taken off the premises.

This is probably a one-shot, and if I were running it, I’d set the Between Number (the number of Between Points needed before the characters draw His notice) pretty low.

Scenario 2: Open Source

  • Where are you? We’re at MIT in Cambridge. It’s spring, and the snow is melting off – it’s not bitterly cold but there are still piles of snow around and the ground is muddy. Like many universities, MIT had enough ideology going on that They took a lot of people in the first few years after the end of the world, but since then it’s become pretty inhabitable. Except for the Richard and Maria Stata Center, or rather, the Kirsch Auditorium. The auditorium is always cold, even the middle of summer, and although the power is intermittent to campus (maintained by a series of generators and other power sources – I can’t imagine that there aren’t still engineers around here!), lights in the auditorium tend to switch on a focus on where the podium was.
  • What just happened? A sound system that hasn’t worked in years bursts to life, and through the crackle of static, the words “Control over the use of one’s ideas really constitutes control over other people’s lives; and it is usually used to make their lives more difficult” are broadcast across the campus (if I were running the game, I’d base how much of that a character understands on their Active Focus card when we start).
  • How are you following the rules? Everyone on campus works to make the community function. This being MIT, a high number of Openers and engineers live here, and so there’s a lot of traffic and a lot of resources. Not only do people work to keep the stuff going where it needs to go, but someone has to make sure it gets distributed equitably.
  • How are you breaking the rules? The more people you have, the more likely it is that you’ll see hierarchy and, therefore, ideology. The folks who distribute goods have, on occasion, allowed themselves to be convinced (either through argument or other, more venal blandishments) to show preferential treatment. This isn’t really equitable, and it’s dangerous, because it’s definitely in violation of the rules.
  • What is the goal? Putting the ghost to rest is one concern, but the ghost isn’t really hurting anyone. Really, the goal here should be to find out who it is that is showing preferential practices in distributing resources and make them stop, before They come and wipe the whole place out.
  • Who is the first ghost? Shortly after people started noticing that weird shit was happening but before the destruction of Jerusalem, a programmer named Damien Eversmann gave a talk at MIT, espousing free software and the open-source movement in general. During the talk, which was passionate and empathetic enough to draw attention from folks just passing by, Eversmann just vanished, falling into what seemed to be a trapdoor (but was, in fact, his own shadow). Why did They kill him? Open-source is close enough to ideology that, especially in the early days of the apocalypse, it drew His attention. But Eversmann did not rest following his death. He never finished giving the talk, and he’s stuck in that moment. He wants to finish what he started, even though most of his main points (since they were about software) have ceased to matter in the world of curse the darkness. If a small group of people stands and listens to him, he’ll depart. Of course, doing so might well attract His attention, but will it still matter enough to be dangerous?

This one, I think, could probably go four or five sessions, and I figure maybe three sections of Wick per player to make the essential choice to light a candle.