Firebird Worlds Out Now, Announcing Carrion Birds, and a Status Update

I’ve been incommunicado for a while working on stuff, but I now have a few updates related to games.

First, I have a new game out (images after the break). It’s small, just a 24-hour (really 12-hour) project that I wanted to get done because I did a little doodling while I was on hold with medical billing stuff and got an idea.

Second, I have some more updates for the schedule and whatnot.

Firebird Worlds is a short (16 page) free (pay what you want and open license) game set in a sci-fi setting with a focus on rapid story-based play. The core game mechanic is so simple as to be basically setting-neutral, but I think both are good enough to hold up. Rather than going through it in detail, I’m just going to link you to it over on itch.io and DriveThruRPG and post the images from the itch.io page to show how purdy it is.

In hindsight, if I had it to do over again I probably would have done more setting integration. That’s a bit weird, of course, because if you look at the most immediately similar games (I’d say probably Traveller, which it appears to resemble a lot more than it does, and FATE) you have a mix of more traditional system-setting hybrids and generic games.

In fact, for clocking in at about 5500 words, it’s probably got as much setting integration as one can slather on it. It’s funny how much the limitation of form matters in that point.

Schedule

Let’s talk about the schedule thing.

I’ve been working on several projects, only a couple of which are directly related to Loreshaper Games. One of these is a non-fiction book with no relation to games, but mostly I’m aiming to work on games right now.

The projects that are the main things as of the last update are Cybrine Dreams and Kenoma.

Obviously, I just finished Firebird Worlds, but that was a spur of the moment project brought on by my need to practice layout stuff while working for a client (basically a test of “will this work” before I started putting stuff in a massive document and having to redo something if it went wrong). That took a literal day, or maybe even more like ten hours.

I also have been teasing Carrion Birds, a rewritten version of velotha’s flock (with a time-shift back to the 1910s) on Twitter. It’s basically a 100% ready-made game that just needs a little editing and publishing, so it should be out sometime this week or next.

That’ll be a $5 title to test the price point but also just to reflect the sheer amount of material it contains compared to, say, Consoles and Controllers, which is about half the size and was based on a publicly available SRD.

Cybrine Dreams

I’m probably going to put Cybrine Dreams on the back-burner. The setting is probably fine, but the rules and mechanics aren’t satisfying me and I don’t have the playtesting to a state where I feel comfortable getting it out the door any time soon.

This isn’t a cancellation per se, though I might put it after other projects like Exoworld or Genship Exiles which have faced the same fate.

Genship Exiles is, of course, another title I might try my hand at again, especially considering that I’ve gotten the experience I was hoping to get before tackling it.

Another issue with Cybrine Dreams was just that the formatting and style I was aiming for were too far outside what is feasible for me with my current working pace. It’s not going to have a lot of illustrations, but it will have more of a rich-format feel to give an added touch to the design.

The problem with this is that it’s also a lot more time consuming and I just have freelancing and other stuff to do. Given that Kenoma is the “game of 2022” for me, I want to refocus on that at least for now.

Cybrine Dreams is too ambitious a project for real side-by-side work if only because both need playtesting.

Kenoma

As I mentioned, I’m hoping to get back to Kenoma more full-time. It’s still going through the content creation phase.

To stave off disappointment, I should point out that I’ve been kind of working against a wall here. I’m not having a hard time being happy with what I get done, I’m just having a hard time coming up with content.

One thing that’s occurred to me is that I think I’ve written myself into a corner with some of the setting development. This isn’t to say that there are major setting elements that need alteration, but I was thinking about how the setting comes together.

Right now the main focus is on the Coalition. There are six major factions, one of which is sort of an honorary member, and this is where the PCs can come from.

What I’ve been thinking about doing is expanding to outside the Coalition. This would have some game design implications, since right now there are mechanical identities for each of the factions, which I’ve detailed elsewhere.

But I think there’s a benefit to opening up some of the other factions.

For instance, the Cartels, which are sort of Coalition-run businesses, could represent one faction.

Another concern I have is that there isn’t a lot of geographical identity for some of the factions. The contamms live close to the Spiral, the Alcove Group, Knight Limited, and Project Tantalus are based in the Anchor, the Expedition has their own “offshore” facility, and the Heresiarchs are sort of floating.

Obviously all that I need to do is establish the Heresiarchs, and there’s some written lore that kind of pegs them to Hephaestus. I’ll just make their holy sites there.

Forward Motion

My idea is to:

  1. Convert the contamms from a general contamm faction to have their own internal divisions, with the playable faction belonging to the coalition-aligned group.
  2. This would have the upside of letting me put the power-center for the contamms in one region, which would probably be Last Station. This identifies them with Hesperus.
  3. Add the Cartels (geographically near but outside the Anchor, mostly focused in Hermes and Hesperus) as a playable faction—low resources, combat branch more enforcers than soldiers, less flexible and scrappy than the contamms but with stronger backing.
  4. Add a Hermes-based faction to represent the agricultural/popular elements of that blade. Might be a political upstart that is seeking to join/subvert the Coalition—people who realize they live in a dystopia and want out. Iconoclasm and idealism are their game.
  5. Add representation for the Hephaestus DMZ people. They’re not contamms, because Hephaestus has no Spiral contamination. Might also represent exiles/refugees from the Syndical Front. The contamms are rough-and-tumble, but these guys are ungentlemanly.

The point of this is to give more flexibility. I feel like with the current six factions there isn’t enough philosophical diversity because they’re all inner-party Coalition (barring the contamms).

This still leaves everyone as part of that central affiliation, but gives more room to represent semi-outsiders.

Small changes to the character sheet will make the renown boxes generic, so characters can have renown with any eight factions (I figure that this is more than the number of factions likely to be influential in any campaign).

I’ve also considered making a Reformer faction, which would represent former Black Grove members who turned away from their fellows, since the Black Grove has Heresiarch-but-not abilities and this would open up more opportunities.

However, there’s some lore stuff in the Black Grove background that would make this hard, so it probably won’t happen, though I may introduce another Spiral-influenced sect or some other weird element, because one downside of diluting the factions means that you’re seeing only the Heresiarchs and pariahs have any psionic abilities out of nine factions.

Two out of six is basically a shoe-in for any campaign. Two out of nine is too strained. Of course, there’s nothing to say that I couldn’t add in psi-stuff for a couple other factions, but that’s going to need some lore rewrites.

No matter, it’s still in development.

Carrion Birds

Carrion Birds is a massive undertaking that won’t be a big deal because it’s just revamping and updating old work. velotha’s flock is available on itch.io and DriveThruRPG. I’ve already linked to Firebird Worlds and you can go through to the publisher page on either site to find velotha’s flock, so I won’t link it again. It’s old, I never finished it, and it’s entirely written in free verse.

Now, I don’t look at it and cringe or anything. It holds up in my opinion.

But I’m not sure I want to try selling it to people in free verse, and while some of the rules benefit from having some added clarification, even though they worked pretty well in playtesting.

The combat system is new, more free-form and flowing. It’s a little slower, but it’s slow because each hit has a decent chance of knocking characters out of combat and I didn’t want it to feel cheap.

I don’t want to toot my own horn before the jury’s in, but I think it might be one of the best combat systems ever made for a game that isn’t hyper-crunchy.

Mechanically, Carrion Birds is simple with a lot of fluffy abilities. The hardest part of the process is figuring out what you want to do, and I’d honestly suggest just going for what sounds cool the first time through character creation, but that’s my own taste.

There’s not a lot more to say. It’ll probably be out some time this week because there isn’t much work to do—I’ve already converted over the character options and 90% of the rules, and then there will be some small additions to set it in the 1910s and write a mix of “here’s the real history for people who didn’t know it” and “here’s the fictional events that the flock experiences” to put things together.

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