It's a bit quiet in here...

Published on 12 April 2021 at 13:09

So, it's been a while since I've posted anything or released any new product on DTRPG, so I thought I'd spend a bit of time putting out an update of the projects I'm working on and provide a little context as to why things have been so quiet of late.

Firstly, to repeat an oft-used phrase by us part-time creators - "RL is pretty hectic right now". For those of you who don't know, "Real Life" for me as as a senior leader in an English secondary school.

If you're interested in the teaching context, I'll pop that in a sidebar to the right, but for those who don't care, I'll just progress on to talking about the projects I've been working on and where they're up to, and likely unload some frustrations in the process.

Newtonium Engine 

I did a fair bit of work on Newtonium Engine over the summer of 2020. I released Savage Avengers for the Fury archetype and The Lord of the Below, an 8 adventure campaign. I've also started work on Cunning Manipulators for the Spider archetype, but it's not near to publication yet. I was also hoping to release The Lord Below in print, but that, toom, has fallen off my radar.

I have to admit that I have also lost a certain amount of enthusiasm for Newtonium Engine recently. It's really difficult as a small publisher to generate awareness of your products, and sales have been very slow. It's incredibly frustrating, because it's a product I believe in - it's a great setting and a fantastic, original system. I can't help but think if more people knew about it the sales would improve and people would love it, and I'd get back my enthusiasm for writing it. But at the moment, I feel too much that I'd just be writing for myself, rather than for anyone out there to buy it, read it and play it. It's hard to justify spending the time writing in that context.

However, there is one thing Newtonium Engine related that I have been working on recently - a card game where you deploy your augmented heroes, clockwork tech, magic and mundane forces to gain dominance in different battlefields around the world. If all goes well it could provide a new way to generate interest in the RPG.

But if there are any Newtonium Engine fans out there who would like to see me get back to work on it, there is one thing you can do: write a review and publish it on a prominent website. When I started writing for the D20 System back in the noughties our products would get regular reviews on sites like EN World and RPG.Net and it would put our products in front of more people and give us a bump in sales as a result. If there's anyone out there willing to do that, please do, it's the lifeblood for us small publishers.

Battle Mayhem

Perhaps not something that many of you will be interesting in if you're here for the roleplaying content, but I am also a wargamer as well as a roleplayer, and one thing that has frustrated me since Games Workshop ended the Old World and replaced it with Age of Sigmar is the lack of a tabletop fantasy battle game that I want to play (other people may like Age if Sigmar, Kings of War or 9th Age, but I've tried them all and they just don't excite me).

A friend of mine, Elliot, and I have been working on our own new system, focused on simplifying the movement mechanics and expanding the different tactical options that players have with their units. I felt we were really getting somewhere last summer, but it's not a game you can playtest remotely very easily, so our local lockdown has put its development on hold. That said, it looks like restrictions are easing, so it's probably something we can get back to in the near future.

The Teaching Context

In this country, teaching is a profession that COVID has hit pretty badly, especially for my subject area, Computing. Where I live - a classic northern industrial town - we have only really only had two lockdowns, one from March to June last year, and then a second that started with a local lockdown in August 2020 and still hasn't been fully released as I write this.

You may think that being in a lockdown would give me some time to get some extra writing done, but throughout most of that period the students have still been in school, despite the data clearly showing that this created a massive spike in the infection rate and has led to many of my colleagues and myself from getting COVID (which floored me for over 3 weeks!), it was pretty much work as normal. However, in my subject, at my school, teaching couldn't be as normal.

Our school is small and over subscribed. The building was originally built for 450 pupils, but now has around 800 attending. There's been extensions built, so that we can house them all, but we are left with a legacy of small classrooms that make social distancing tricky, and narrow corridors that if we went back fully to normal, it would be impossible. The decision taken (which has given our school a much lower rate of students being sent home to isolate for 2 weeks because one of their cohort tested positive) was to bubble students up in the same classroom for all their subjects, and reduce the amount of movement around school as much as possible. In an English school, typically years 7-9 (what we call Key Stage 3, I think equivalent to Grades 6-8) runs on a broad curriculum of 12+ different subjects, before reducing this number down in year 10 and 11 (Freshman and Sophomore years at a US high school). At our school, years 10 and 11 are allowed to move between classrooms, whilst all Key Stage 3 students must stay in the same room for all their lessons other than PE (for which they go outside, even in winter). For me as a Computing teacher, this means that I have to teach my subject without access to computers for these three year groups. As the person in charge of the subject area that means that I needed to rewrite my entire curriculum for 3 year groups and deal with students thoroughly fed up with both being stuck in a classroom and not being able to complete any practical work in a usually very practical subject. It has been... hectic.

Further, another part of my job is that I am in charge of assessment for the whole school. Normally this would mean that I monitor student's progress across the years and help teachers identify the students who are underperforming, etc. However, as exams have been cancelled for two years in a row, now that means I'm spending a lot of time trying to sort out the various different messes that the government have left us with to replace them. Last year it was a serious amount of data-mining for quality checking the grades teachers assigned. This year, we're having to provide portfolios of evidence, and someone (me!) is going to have to wade through it all and make sure it makes sense. Not only is it a much bigger job than last year, but last year the students weren't in school, whereas this year they will be, so I'll have to juggle all that around my teaching hours, too. 

In many ways I'm lucky to still have a well paid job, so I guess I don't want to complain too much, but hopefully that at least helps you see why my writing has taken a back seat.

Other Projects

Finally there's a few roleplaying projects that I've got at various different stages of early development you might be interested in. Which of these I will actually end up creating or not, I don't know. Maybe none. If you like the sound of any of them, let me know in the comments.

  • To End All Wars: A WW1 horror game - "Cthulu in the Trenches", based very loosely off the Powered by the Apocalypse engine.
  • Arcane Engine SRD: A system reference document for the core system behind Newtonium Engine, so that anyone can use it to publish their own games based on the system.
  • Etherscope, 2nd Edition: Using the Arcane Engine for Etherscope, the game I wrote back in the noughties, published by Goodman Games.
  • Sion: Deliverance: A wild west inspired sci-fi setting, originally written for Savage Worlds, before a falling out with the f****rs at PEG. This version would use the Arcane Engine.
  • Gateway, 2nd Edition: I've said it publicly, but I've not enjoyed playing Gateway, despite writing it and publishing it myself, but I've grown a lot and expanded out my gaming experience a lot in the 15 years or so since I wrote it. I now have an idea on how I can fix the things I don't like about it but keep the essential dramatic core, which I think does have legs.
  • Hope From Shadow: I have been running a campaign for Aeon lately. It has a fan license, so I've been contemplating taking some time to formally write up my adventures for publication.
  • Penal Colony Omega: a minis game idea I'm working on with Jenn of Inquisitor Jenn on twitter (and wife of Elliot who I'm working on Battle Mayhem with) set in an abandoned penal colony where gangs of prisoners fight over the remaining resources (like Escape from New York, but in space). Part of the idea is to make it a big community project, using her Space Marine Busts you may have seen on twitter and allow people to add themselves into the game

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