All posts by Ed Jowett

Era: The Consortium – Revival

Hi everyone!

I wanted to take a moment this week to talk about one of my favourite books that I’ve ever written, which is an expansion for Era: The Consortium called Revival.

Initially, the plans were relatively modest – a 5-session campaign which explored the intersection of Era: The Consortium’s Science Fiction and Era: Survival’s Survival Horror universes. I planned to work with Johnathan Lewis on writing it and we set up a set of sessions and a storyline.

John wrote the majority of the stories, with a little help from Jennifer Martin. As they did so, I wrote the campaign end and quickly realised what I could potentially offer within this campaign.

It transformed from a fairly minimalist 30-page book into a huge 150-page masterpiece, supported amazingly by the story, isometric maps of every room within the spaceship that the characters might explore, a full bestiary and 13 sessions for players to enjoy. It is the single expansion which I immediately point at when I’m ask which is the best.

This is how I believe sessions and campaigns should be delivered and it is my fond hope that I’ll be able to do more of this in the future.

Why am I talking about this right now?

I’ve never been able to run the campaign in full – I ran sections to make sure everything worked, but it was before the story was finalised and it wasn’t able to finish.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been running Revival in full for the first time with a small group, via Discord, and it’s been an incredible experience: everything that I always hoped would work well has been excellent and the group are embracing the essence of the campaign in the way I had always intended.

You can get hold of Revival and play for yourself (it’s got everything you need, all you need is the Rulebook Primer or Core Rulebook) from our store. If you’re a fan of Dead Space, Aliens and similar genre intersections between Sci-Fi and Survival Horror (as I am!), it’s a must.
Digital: https://www.shadesofvengeance.com/product/era-consortium-revival-digital/
Paperback: https://www.shadesofvengeance.com/product/era-consortium-revival-paperback/
Hardback: https://www.shadesofvengeance.com/product/era-consortium-revival-hardback/

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoy Revival if you choose to look into it!

– Ed

Join us for EraMo!

Hi everyone!

Before I go into the primary part of my post today, I’d just like to remind everyone that Era: Forbidden ends this weekend. We’ve had a fantastic month, with loads of actual plays and a lot of games on our Discord (link at the end). I hope you’ll consider joining us and supporting our latest game: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shadesofvengeance/era-forbidden-an-rpg-of-hope-in-an-invaded-world?ref=3j18oq

Some of you may be familiar with NaNoWriMo, where the aim is to write a novel in a month. Unfortunately, because of the nature of what I do, I find it very hard to focus on a single game for a month – other things would go by the wayside.

However, I strongly believe in the principles of NaNoWriMo, which is to rapidly get stuff out into the world – writing 2000 or more words per day.

So I came up with EraWriMo, where I write 2000 words per day minimum, but it can be about anything relating to Era universes – sometimes it’s short stories, sometimes it’s rules… That works super well for me.

When Leo got a little more involved and we started producing audio dramas, he decided to do 5 minutes per day of audio material, almost like “sketches”, which we would later edit together into a piece. At that point, I couldn’t call it EraWriMo any more, because it’s EraAudioMo as well. The great thing about this sort of thing is that you can motivate each other when things are hard. Last year, we had someone else join us who did audio drama work, inspired by Forbidden.

We would like to open this up to anyone who would like to be creative, whether it’s writing, audio, artwork, composition, or anything else that works for you! Obviously the focus for us is on Era games, but it’s really about creating. We’ll be happy to guide you where we can as well, if you’re unsure!

We’re mostly coming together on Discord, where I’ve made a special channel for it: https://discord.gg/6C4H9Cv

I hope you’ll consider joining us for this celebration of creativity!

– Ed

Loads of New Releases… SOON!

Hi everyone!

We’ve been busy all through COVID-19, and various other factors have brought a number of projects together at the same time. This is both good and bad, but I don’t think any of it is going to affect delivery in a significant way: I’m still only working on one thing personally (Era: Survival Expansions).

So, what’s this whole load of stuff going on?

A Titan’s Rise Audio Drama Credits
We’ve had A Titan’s Rise ready since before the Kickstarter, except for the credits, which could be influenced by the backers. On Monday this week, I recorded the credits and they are now with our editor, Zulian. I expect to have the final version of A Titan’s Rise pretty soon – perhaps within a week or two? That’s looking to beat the expected delivery date by quite a lot, so I’m very pleased!

A Titan’s Rise Script Book
Another from the Kickstarter, the script book for our latest Audio Drama is just awaiting the money to arrive from Kickstarter so that I can kick off the print run with our usual printer! It’s looking great, and I can’t wait to get that sent to me.

Era: The Consortium Short Story Collection Novel
This is the stuff dreams are made of – a 612 page novel which has every Era: The Consortium story we’ve ever written, in chronological order in standard novel format. I’ve sent the files off to a new printer today and am looking forward to a proof within a week or so! Honestly, I can’t wait…

A Titan’s Rise OST
This is sitting on my computer ready to go at this moment! There are 14 amazing, unique tracks that were specially written for A Titan’s Rise that are ready to go as soon as other rewards go out.

A Titan’s Rise Art Book
This is still being laid out by Keith Draws, but we’re ready to print it as soon as he’s done with that! I think it’s going to really show the beautiful artwork that is synonymous with the Consortium well when it’s ready.

Violete: Backlash
The second comic in Violete’s series (as well as the rest of the series that led to this point!) is on Kickstarter right now: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sovcomics/violete-2-backlash?ref=77zohq. I have been waiting for a year or more to release this comic, and it’s one of my favourites I have ever written. People seem to agree, because it’s already blasted through Funded and the first Stretch Goal, as well as being chosen by Kickstarter as a Project We Love. It’s well worth a look if you didn’t already!

Era: Survival – Foundation Campaign
These session books are currently being proofread by our team, and are going very well. I’ve only got the changes to do, then sending them off to the printer, so it should be very straightforward to finish these two!

Era: Survival – Diaries of a Madman
Jennifer Martin has now written all of the stories for this book, and is now doing her second draft pass. I expect that to be done soon, so I will pick up the adventure seeds and Equipment parts of the book after I am done with…

Era: Survival – Settlements & People
This expansion is going really well! It’s got my primary focus at the moment, and I’ll be also working on it as my first task during EraMo (I’ll be writing more about that next month!). I’m looking forward to finishing it, as it’s the last large expanse of writing for these expansions that’s still to come.

Era: Forbidden – Core Rulebook
I’m still doing interviews and conversations about our latest Core Rulebook, which is on Kickstarter at the moment: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shadesofvengeance/era-forbidden-an-rpg-of-hope-in-an-invaded-world?ref=plx5bx. Support for this game has been fantastic, it’s been an absolute pleasure to run this Kickstarter and talk about it. We’re also seeing games played across the Discord server, so feel free to join us if you’d like to try it or any other Era game!

Era: Lost Legend Core Rulebook (Paperback) and Players Guide
These now have signed-off proofs and I’m looking forward to receiving them from the printers in the next 7 working days. Unfortunately, there’s been a bit of a row over the design, because they took a few iterations to follow instructions, but we’re finally there, and I know everyone will love our latest game!

Era: Lost Legend Core Rulebook (Hardback)
I’ve also just signed this off this morning, but the print run will take a little longer, so I’ll be waiting more like 3 weeks for these. I’m equally looking forward to them – I think this will be a really nice-looking book.

Penumbra: Heist Lettering
Keith Draws is working on the lettering for our next comic in his off time, between his various other ongoing work. It’s looking good so far – I’m certain you’ll love it!

Infiltration: The Bug War #2 Audio Drama
The sequel to our welcomed Era: The Consortium Audio Drama is now edited and will be ready to go on Kickstarter when I’ve delivered A Titan’s Rise and its rewards! It’s come out really nicely, and I’m very pleased with it!

Recording Radio Free Taranis, Season 2
The second season of our audio drama set on Taranis is now fully recorded by Leo Cosh and I (who are the only two main characters in that series). We’ll be on the lookout for people who want to record brief (scripted) messages to “call into the show” with, but otherwise, we’re very happy with what we have, and will be working on editing it in the near future!

Blue-Shift and Lacuna Audio Dramas
Both of these are being edited at the moment by two very talented editors, and you can look forward to adding superheroes to Sci-Fi for the EraScapes portfolio very soon!

Patreon Release 2020-10-25
This is all done now, but I thought it was worth mentioning, as I did it earlier this week! You can get the latest session (which is the start of a Resistance Campaign intended for the Living Campaign), as well as nearly 100 other Era: The Consortium, Era: Survival and Era: The Empowered sessions right here: https://www.patreon.com/SoV

That’s pretty much all I have active right now. You’ll see that I’m waiting on other people for most of this (especially the printers), so I’m not really moving much forward except what I am writing, Settlements & People!

Thank you for reading! I hope that was an interesting insight into how I’m able to juggle so many projects, and feel free to let me know if you have any questions! I’ll be back next week to talk about EraMo in some more detail, so I’ll see you then!

– Ed

New Releases, New Challenges!

Hi everyone!

I’m going to keep my update a bit shorter this week, as I’m a little short of time. I’m sure most of you are aware already that Era: Forbidden has been released on Kickstarter this week, and we’re already almost (87%) Funded! Launching a Kickstarter tends to make me very busy, and that’s why this Update is very slightly late – sorry about that!

The other primary thing of note this week is that The Era Zone issues 6 and 7 have just been released on the Shades of Vengeance Store!

Issue 6 is a “Crossover” issue, where I combine many of the different Era games together and explore what new mechanical and storytelling options that can give a group: https://www.shadesofvengeance.com/product/the-era-zone-issue-6-july-2020-digital-version/

Issue 7 is more like the normal issues, and features the first part of a new Consortium session, as well as a new segment we’ve launched in this issue called the “GM Toolkit”. This ongoing segment aims to offer insight into how I handle certain situations, such as traps, enemy encounters and so on – definitely worth a look if there’s anything you’re not sure about when running Era d10 games! https://www.shadesofvengeance.com/product/the-era-zone-issue-7-september-2020-digital-version/

If you have any questions you’d like answered in the GM Toolkit, you can get in touch with us on the Discord (https://discord.gg/6C4H9Cv)!

I’ll be back next week with some more news, so until then, stay safe!

– Ed

Era: Forbidden – On Kickstarter Now!

Hi everyone!

We’ve been working hard over the last couple of weeks to finish off Era: Forbidden’s Core Rulebook Kickstarter and putting the content together!

I’m so proud of what this game has blossomed into – it’s genuinely one of my favourites out of what I have created. I hope you will consider joining the Kickstarter here to support this dream becoming a reality: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shadesofvengeance/era-forbidden-an-rpg-of-hope-in-an-invaded-world?ref=ecjtjn

If you have any questions or would like to try out the game, you can do so right here: https://discord.gg/6C4H9Cv

– Ed

Legends and Titans and Expansions, oh my!

Hi everyone!

I’m back with another update on the general state of Shades of Vengeance! As I said in the last post, I’m hoping to do these every week from now on.

A lot has happened in the last week (it’s amazing how often I say that sort of thing!).

Era: Lost Legend has now gone in Digital Format to all Kickstarter backers. This is a tremendous achievement – I can’t easily express how it feels to complete a game after 11 months.

There’s a lot more work still, of of course – the files have been sent to the printers and what they produce will need careful checking, as well as dealing with the distribution for hundreds of books. I’ve done it a lot of times before, of course, but it’s nice to take a moment and look over an achievement like this.

The Era: Survival Expansions are still consuming a lot of my time each day! Backers will be pleased to know that Encounters En Route is almost ready to go out, and that the Foundation Campaign Books 1 and 2 are currently in the first round of proofreading.

That only leaves me Settlements & People (which I’m working on next), Diaries of a Madman (which Jennifer Martin is currently writing the stories for) and Aqua (which I have long said would be the last book, because there’s not a lot more to do with it). I’d say things are going well with these Expansions in general, and I am fairly sure I’ll be able to give you more news soon.

A Titan’s Rise has also taken a lot of my time this month, which will not be a surprise. The Audio Drama is finishing on Kickstarter on Sunday and I’m getting the chance to work on a whole bunch of awesome Era: The Consortium goodies to go out with it, which is good fun. If you haven’t joined us for our latest awesome audio, check it out here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/erascapes/a-titans-rise-a-cyberpunk-full-cast-audio-drama?ref=1nausx

As always in the last week of the month, Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/SoV) released last Sunday with yet another awesome session for Era: The Consortium. This is one we ran on Discord, just for fun, during the week before. I got to play and it was an absolute blast!

That’s about all I have for you this week, but hold onto your hat, because we have some amazing stuff for you next week, including the launch of a new games Kickstarter, with a comics Kickstarter not far behind it!

See you then!

– Ed

Update – We’re Back!

Hi everyone!

It’s been a while since I last made a post, and I thought it was about time I got things moving again in terms of updates, because we are still working hard!

COVID-19 has been very hard on everyone, of course, and it’s changed the landscape a lot for us. We’ve done a lot this year, but it’s been very, very different to our plans for 2020.

Our Discord (https://discord.gg/6C4H9Cv) has been running games like crazy! We’ve grown our community there, and we’re offering several games a week still, so if you’d like to play some Era games online, you are welcome to join us. We’re playing Era: The Consortium, Era: The Empowered and Era: Forbidden the most at the moment, but we’re also open to any game you’d like to play!

Era: Lost Legend is almost complete as I type this, we’re just waiting on the final Power Web from the graphic designer. What we’ve achieved is stunning, from the artwork to the fun people have by playing, and I could not be more proud.

Era: Survival‘s expansions are moving along, with the first currently undergoing its second proofread! Encounters En Route will be the first to go to Kickstarter backers and ultimately be released on the store, but I’m currently working on the edits for the Foundation Campaign. I’m about 3/4 of the way through the two books as I write this (I’ve done all of the “player” segments first and am now working through the “GM” segments where the sessions are described!). After that, it will be Diaries of a Madman or Settlements & People – I haven’t entirely decided yet – and finally moving on to the Aqua Source book, as that was the closest to finished when I started the project!

I’m still confident that I’ll be delivering these expansions by the end of the year, something I believe all of the backers are looking forward to!

Era: The Consortium’s Living Campaign has been amazing! With the extra games on Dicsord and many groups from around the world sending in the results of their sessions, the situation has changed significantly, just as we had hoped when we started!
You can find all the updates here (https://www.shadesofvengeance.com/era-the-consortium/living-campaign/), but suffice it to say that things are not going well for the Resistance at this stage! With the Consortium now willing to lock down entire planets and stations, preventing travel, it’s caused some serious problems for Resistance operatives who can’t reach their resources any more.

Inspired by that, I’m releasing a new Patreon campaign this month (https://www.patreon.com/SoV), which explores what it’s like to be a border patrol officer on the newly locked down Clota. We played the session last night on Discord, and I think it’s fair to say that it was a massive amount of fun for all involved!

The Era Zone has been going strong with 3 of the 4 episodes for the year now out with everyone! September’s issue, sent last night, was a fantastic addition to the series, which included not only a session from the amazing Alison Cybe but also the first of our “GM Toolkit” sections which talk about how I recommend handling various aspects of the game. On this occasion, it’s traps, answering questions from ShadowsOverScotland, one of our most prolific GMs on Discord!

There’s loads more to come from The Era Zone, so don’t miss out when they become available on the Store!

Now that Era: Lost Legend is about to be sent to the printers, we’re gearing up for our next major rulebook – Era: Forbidden‘s Core Rulebook is finally coming! This Pocket Game’s popularity is undeniable, and we’ve decided that it’s time to fill out this world in the way we always wanted!

I’ve got a treat for you in a week or two when it goes out as well – we have about 30 episodes of actual gameplay recorded from early in the COVID lockdown, which I’ll be publishing daily to celebrate the campaign! Keep an eye out for an adventure that is truly unlike any other!

We’ve been working on audio a lot this year. EraScapes is something that’s very important to the team, and we have a lot of material recorded and awaiting editing from last year. The first of those, A Titan’s Rise, is on Kickstarter now (as you probably know! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/erascapes/a-titans-rise-a-cyberpunk-full-cast-audio-drama?ref=32nerm), but we have loads more coming, including a sequel to Declaration: The Bug War #1, several Empowered stories (Lacuna, Blue-Shift and Violete) and a few others. Of course, I’ll tell you a lot more about those when we’re a little closer to their release. For now, please check out A Titan’s Rise when you have the time!

We’ve also been working on our backlog of comics! Violete #2: Backlash is now almost ready, and we’re expecting it to get to Kickstarter before the end of the year. I’ve shown the latest adventure to a few Violete superfans and they think it’s even better than the first comic! That’s a lot of pressure, but I feel certain that our new regular artist Linggar is up to the challenge of providing an amazing cover, sitting on top of a comic written, drawn and coloured by veterans of Era – with a team like Jennifer Martin, Rahmad Wisnubroto and Keith Draws, there’s very little that can turn out badly!

I’d like to apologise for how long it has been since my last update – things have been crazy (as you can probably see!). My plan is to return to regular weekly updates to keep you on top of all of the latest over here. We have 3 card games ready to go to Kickstarter, another 3 Tabletop RPGs ready for some intense development (one of which is just finishing the last piece of artwork!), issues of the Era Zone and our miniatures game all coming soon, so keep an eye out here for more info!

– Ed

A Titan’s Rise – Epic Audio Drama

Hi everyone!

Today, I want to talk about A Titan’s Rise, an Audio Drama that has been in production for 2 years now, and has finally make it to Kickstarter!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/erascapes/a-titans-rise-a-cyberpunk-full-cast-audio-drama?ref=esgm94 It’s currently 33% Funded (just 24 hours in!) and we’re hoping it’ll go to the goal and beyond by the end of its 34-day run.

Leo and I had worked on an audio project – Life on Gaia, the Era: Survival Audio Book – but we both had slightly higher aspirations than reading the stories that had already been written for the universes. That’s not to say that Life on Gaia wasn’t great (check it out on Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Life-on-Gaia-An-Audiobook-of-Post-Apocalyptic-Stories-Audiobook/B07XVCTS4J), it was just a little limiting on the writing side of creativity.

We decided that something more ambitious could be done with a small voice actor cast (and, like everything, that spiralled and became almost double the originally intended size!), and we set about writing the story of Elliot Draigon, one of the most important characters in Era: The Consortium history.

We finished writing the script (about 150 pages) in November and recorded between November and December 2018, which was a huge amount of work… and then the editing, composition began. We had everything that could possibly go wrong, from sudden illness to people involved having to leave the country because their visa ran out!

In the meantime, however, we repeatedly aimed out sights higher, recording our own foley and working hard to make the story as real as we imagined it.

I’m very proud of what we’ve produced and I hope you’ll consider joining us on the Kickstarter or even just spreading the word of this amazing Sci-Fi Cyberpunk Audio Drama!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/erascapes/a-titans-rise-a-cyberpunk-full-cast-audio-drama?ref=esgm94

See you there!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 31: Experience

Hi everyone!

It’s the end of RPGaDay2020 and, once again, it’s been an experience. It’s especially true this year, because the sorts of things I’ve said in these posts are the kind of thing I usually say at panels on convention weekends.

With no in-person conventions, I’ve not had any panels this year, but it’s nice to have the chance to talk about all of these things.

Thank you so much for following me through the last month, and I hope you have found what I’ve been posting interesting and useful!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 29: Ride

Hi everyone!

Tabletop RPGs are a way to do whatever you want within the world, and there’s one particular occasion that will always remind me of that.

Some years ago, I was running a training day for GMs, back when we had in-person conventions. We were practising to run 30-40 minute taster sessions, as we often did for that convention.

Some of the people who were going to be more “talky” than the GMs and help out with explaining the games were also there – to play the games for the first time, get to know the rest of the team and so on.

One of those decided that riding the Infected Deer, bronco-style, was a good idea. It might have been suicidal, it might have been risking Infection (the game was Era: Survival), but she wanted to do it, so she did!

In any other form of game, you just couldn’t have done that. A computer game would have stopped you, or let you glitch standing on top of it.

Tabletop RPGs are an incredible medium for storytelling, and I love them for it!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 28: Close

Hi everyone!

I’ve spoken already in this month about being close to the end of a project and how hard that can be (where the last 20% seems to take 80% of the total effort). I thought I’d cover something slightly different today.

I’ve thought, quite a few times, that I was close to the end of my creative journey. I thought that when I published my first book, then after I published a couple of others (maybe 4 games is enough?), and another time more recently.

Currently, I’m not certain that the creative process ever really “ends”. I might stop someday, but I don’t think I will ever run out of ideas.

So, if you’re struggling for inspiration, watch my YouTube video about “How to be Creative”, let your mind wander and try not to think about it too much!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 27: Favour

Hi everyone!

The hardest thing (for me, anyway) relating to creating is getting the word out into the wider world.

I’ll often ask if someone can “do me a quick favour” and share a project that I’m working on. Sometimes, I get told yes, sometimes no and sometimes it’s in return for something I did for them so that they have to say yes!

My point is that you should do this whenever someone gives you the opportunity. The indie RPG community is nowhere near as powerful as the big companies because they don’t have the same kind of reach. The only way that I can see to do better is to work together to build that reach.

So share a project if someone asks you to, even if you think you don’t have any followers who will notice. Even one extra backer can make a difference to a struggling project. If you’re a backer, share the project and explain why you were interested in it.

It can make a huge difference to the project, even if you don’t think it will…

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 26: Strange

Hi everyone!

I think the strangest thing about being a creator who has made a lot of different things is that there are things that feel obvious to me now, but I learned through doing – often the hard way, and sometimes by doing it right first time by luck!

I’ve recently been approached by someone I respect a lot in the RPG creation field. He’s been doing this a lot longer than I have, but doesn’t have the same kind of experience, because he chose a different approach. I’ve been able to advise him (and hopefully help!) on a project he is working on at the moment.

My point is, no matter how experienced another creator is, I think any creator can give another perspective to them, and possibly even advice on things that did or did not work for them. Everyone’s creative experience is unique, and that’s fantastic, because it means that there are always other ideas.

So, if you’re experienced, let people pick your brain. And if you’re inexperienced in the thing you’re doing… ask someone what they think!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 25: Lever

Hi everyone!

What technology should you include when worldbuilding? Is a lever acceptable in a High Fantasy setting? What’s the lowest level of technology you can have and still call it science fiction?

I’ve been asked this sort of question quite a few times on my various panels and I honestly believe that it’s not as straightforward as “this genre has these rules”. I’m a big believer in magic and technology being interchangeable in any setting, and Era: Dragonsong is, I hope, going to be a good example of that when we are able to show it to the world.

Do what works for your setting and your story. If you need the general population to have magic in a Sci-Fi setting, you should think about how that came to be, but never wonder about whether it is “okay to do it”.

Just like no-one ever really thinks too much about overly complex machines for the technology level in D&D!

– Ed

Era: Lyres tabletop rpg game

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 24: Humour

Hi everyone!

I think humour in a roleplaying game is super important, pretty much no matter what you’re playing.

In a serious game, a little humour – preferably set within the game, rather than breaking immersion – is a way to release any built-up tension, so that you can start to build more. There’s an upper limit to the tension you can build at any table.

The best sessions I have ever played or run have been a combination of humour and tension. The balance doesn’t always work out, and that can mean that the game falls too far in one direction or the other.

Consider the balance when constructing your session, and give the players something that will allow them to let off steam… even if it’s a guy with a wheelbarrow who sells vegetables and has a sense of humour in the post-apocalypse!

It would be remiss of me to end this post without mentioning Era: Lyres, which has facilitated some of the most humorous games I’ve ever played – the night in the mansion with S’coo’b’y-d’oo and the group’s evil twins who all are the same but have moustaches is, reluctantly, a high point…!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 23: Edge

Hi everyone!

What should you do when you approach the edge of giving up on your creative project?

I’ve talked about this a few times at conventions and such – it’s often hard to keep going full-tilt for weeks and months on end. Sometimes, you need to walk away.

When I get like that, I set a time on my phone – an alarm or calendar entry – for 2 weeks. Then I step away from that project and do everything I can to forget about it.

Quite often, the demoralisation happens for one of two reasons: either you don’t have the skills to proceed and you need to find someone to help you, or you have lost the project paradigm.

What should you do in those cases?

Give your subconscious time to process and realise what’s wrong; you’re too close to the project to see clearly. That’s why I walk away, but keep a timer to remind me to come back. It’s worked for me countless times, so I strongly recommend you try it.

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 22: Rare

Hi everyone!

I went back and forth on what to write about for this one. It’s not something that instantly speaks to me. However, I think it’s worth talking about those rare moments of creativity that push someone to create a universe.

Inspiration can come from literally anywhere, in my experience. I came up with an idea while walking along the street and having a Facebook chat with someone about a mundane topic. Something about the way they (or maybe even I) chose what we were going to say prompted me to build a universe and create an RPG.

One of the things about inspiration that’s rare for me, however, is you often need to be doing nothing else. I’m constantly busy (I covered that earlier in the month with “Rest”, I believe!), and often all of my brain space is subscribed to capacity with everything going on.

So, if you want to get inspired, take a break. Walk around and observe the surroundings (in a mask, please, in the current environment), pick up your favourite book, or chat about something totally irrelevant with someone.

You might be surprised how much good it does you. Only… don’t spend all of your time trying to get inspired – a lot of creating and publishing is still the hard, boring work part!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 21: Push

Hi everyone!

The final push of a project is always the hardest. In convention panels, I’ve been known to say that it’s 80/20 – the latter half of that being that the last 20% feels like 80% of the work!

It’s not helped by the fact that it’s usually a deadline that makes you buckle down and actually do it.

For me, that’s usually a convention rather than a Kickstarter deadline – I like to launch my latest books at conventions. I always recommend you consider carefully about what your deadline is if you’re making a project for crowdfunding – I’ve delivered 50 projects on time without any significant issues.

I happen to be in the middle of the final push for Era: Lost Legend as I write this, so I’m going to leave it there, but I am more than happy to answer any questions you have on this subject, just leave them in the comments!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 20: Investigate

Hi everyone!

I believe that every rule set has limitations. No, really – I’ve built Era d10 to have as few as possible, but there are things that it will not do very well without a significant rewrite to the core. I thought I’d talk today about the first time I realised what one of those was, as it happens to be centralised around “Investigate”!

It was while I was investigating the possibility of using an IP that I suddenly realised was available…

That IP is Sherlock Holmes – now a public domain property which can be attractive, on the surface of it. However, the core of Era d10 is focused around making Combat easier for the players. Sherlock Holmes stories are about laying breadcrumbs and having the group figure out what’s going on.

I’ve done some limited things along these lines – there’s an “Insight” Empowered ability in the Enhanced Intelligence Power Tree, for example. That lets me give the players a lot of clues. That said, there are a lot of Skills in the game, each of which is focused around a specific area, and Investigation is just one of those. I feel that I would have to redefine many, many Skills into different categories of Investigation.

The other problem is that I’m, personally, not good at running those sessions (yep, people have limitations as well!). The balance is extremely difficult between not giving enough and giving too much so that it’s easy. I’ve always found it relies on a certain group of players… and that makes playtesting such a radical change to what works well much more difficult.

The Skills in Era d10 can be changed to fit the genre (I have done that many times, for various games), but they all have a core intention that they are for something else.

It’s not impossible, but I feel that it would be stretching the Era d10 Rule Set into a specific shape, one that the core paradigm is not suited for, so I decided to pass on the idea for the time being.

Is that because it’s out of my comfort zone (see Day 17!)? Am I right that it’s too big a paradigm shift? I am truly not certain. As a creative, I often go with what feels right to me, and this doesn’t feel like a good place to be headed… for now, at least!

Whether you’re making a rule set or using an existing one (I’ve worked with FATE and Savage Worlds a few times myself), I always recommend thinking about the limitations of the rule set you are choosing!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 19: Tower

Hi everyone!

“Huge in scope, towering in concept, it is a work that will live on in the reader’s imagination.”

Boy, were they ever right. I first read those words almost 25 years ago, on the back of a novel. That novel climbed Kilimanjaro with me, went to university with me on my first day and it took me exactly 3 seconds to locate it on my bookcase when I saw today’s topic.

Those words are on the back of “Dune” by Frank Herbert, written decades after he wrote the novel.

I’ve always aspired to do the same sort of thing with worldbuilding and I’d like to believe that, with Era: The Consortium, I’ve got close to a concentrated area which has the kind of detailed universe which I respect so much in his work.

I’m here to tell you that it’s fine to have inspiration from whatever works from you.

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 18: Meet

Hi everyone!

The thing I miss most about Tabletop RPGs at the moment is the ability to meet in person and sit around a table together. I don’t know about you, but there is something different when everyone brings snacks, we sit them in the middle of the table and we start playing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that a widespread move to online gaming has let me run and play games with people who could never meet up in person. I’m currently running a game for a group spread across the UK and the US, only one of which could feasibly reach my home to play, and playing a game with a GM and another player who could never meet in person.

But there’s something about meeting in person. For me, anyway.

Honourable mention for Dragonmeet – I’m a little concerned it may not be able to happen this year, which is a massive shame – it’s my most local convention and I have gone every year since I began publishing. I miss conventions a lot, it’s a great way to meet people, new friends and old, and I sometimes even get to be the person who shows people that Tabletop RPGs are fun!

Stay safe, everyone – we all want our normal life back, but it’s not worth people dying over, especially if it ends up being you who infects someone else.

– Ed

Era: The Chosen tabletop rpg game

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 17: Comfort

Hi everyone!

No-one likes to go outside their comfort zone.

That said, it’s the only way that things change significantly – sometimes you can be forced out of what you like and discover something new, and sometimes you have to make a choice to do it.

Stubbornness was the thing that pushed me out of my comfort zone the first time to publish my first book. After that, I wanted to make more and more.

I’ve occasionally gone out of my comfort zone since – A Titan’s Rise, our upcoming Audio Drama, is a good example, as I ended up playing the lead, something I never would have predicted when I initially wrote it. It came out well in the end (look out for it on Kickstarter soon!), but it was nerve-wracking and difficult, to say the least.

Era: The Chosen was a trip outside what I know well, with the heavy historical aspect (I’ve always been more of a “look forward” person!), and several others.

It’s nice to push your boundaries every so often, but I recommend you occasionally go with what you know as well, it can be really important to reassure yourself creatively that you’ve got things in hand, that you don’t need to doubt next time you push outward!

That doesn’t mean you need to create something of poor quality, just focus on something you know – I do this by creating expansions for Era: The Consortium and Era: Survival every so often, just to remind myself that there’s a solid grounding that I am building on.

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t say it’s been worth it every time I’ve gone out of my comfort zone… but I would say it has been about 75% of the time. The only reason not to be proud of something you have made is when you know you have not done the best job you could have at the time. Give it everything you have and you’ll never be disappointed in what you create.

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 16: Dramatic

Hi everyone!

I only recently had a conversation on Discord (feel free to join if you’d like to play, by the way! We run regular games! https://discord.gg/JMNnbsB) about my most dramatic tabletop moment.

Today, I’m wearing my GM hat, and don’t worry, I’m not just going to tell you a story of sessions gone by, I’m going to talk about my GMing style – just a little!

I’m of the philosophy that it’s not the GM that makes the game fun on their own. I’m also of the belief that the GM doesn’t control the situation, lord it over the players or try to kill them. When I GM, I create a situation and I watch characters try to get out of it.

That means that, for me, a good game comes not only from a well-crafted situation, but from engaged roleplaying, careful thought on the part of the players and a willingness by them to let go of the real world and try to live the world they are playing.

The particular moment that was referred to – at CON-Tingency’s Era: The Consortium Multi-Table last year – was not memorable because of me, in my opinion. I just sat there and told people what happened when they did things. Four people at the table told that story, their way of getting out of a situation that I’d put together. Everything I described was neutral – quite deliberately – so all of the emotion, all of the dramatic tension that we had, came from the players.

I also think that most of the people at the table would not consider themselves outstandingly brilliant players – that’s not something that you need to aspire to in order to have amazing moments.

At the end of the day, Tabletop RPGs are about coming together, no matter who you are, sitting at a table and telling a story together. That’s what makes them so special, and it’s also what makes the moments like the one I mention possible for absolutely everyone.

When you’re playing, give yourself to the universe for those few hours. I don’t think you’ll ever regret that choice.

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 15: Frame

Hi everyone!

In my opinion, one of the hardest parts of writing RPGs is framing the sentences so that they are specific, descriptive, open to a minimum of interpretation, and fit within the layout.

Some of you may already know that I am currently working through character creation, equipment and rules editing for Era: Lost Legend, my latest game. During this, I’ve actually had a total layout change, which means a lot of items need to be re-edited.

I’ve become quite expert at this over the years – page breaks in text can matter a huge amount and, while my proofreader doesn’t always love me for it, I’ve reached a point where I can usually figure out some way to make everything fit.

For this, a wide vocabulary of both what’s used in roleplaying games and in general is really important.

So, as I always say to anyone who wants to be a creator – read, play, watch! Learn how other people do things, because it will help you in the longer term.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you tomorrow!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 14: Banner

Hi everyone!

I’m fortunate enough to have a banner which shows off all of our Tabletop RPGs very nicely. It’s a go-to for me in many situations, and it all comes from one person, Alexander Korchnev, my longtime ally and graphic designer extraordinaire!

I thought I’d take a moment today to talk about the importance of graphic design and layout in an RPG that goes out into the world.

It’s a funny thing – even the smallest amount of graphic design can transform a product from black letters on a white page into a sci-fi datapad showing you the information, or the feeling that you’re looking through a cracked gas mask in the post-apocalypse.

The majority of the graphic design and layout choices I am most proud of in our products are focused on the idea that less is more. For example, I think Era: Balam’s enclosed page was actually not the best possible design, it was overcomplicated and distracts from the content on the pages.

I would always recommend thinking about the minimum that can be done to “flavour” a page to send the message the way you want it to. That way, it focuses on the feel of what you’re doing, rather than trying to thrust it into the reader’s face.

Whether you’re someone who likes two columns or one on your page, whether you work on A5 or A4, and even if you create your games in Word, convert to PDF and print, think about putting something in the background to make your text pop!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 13: Rest

Hi everyone!

One of the most common questions I get asked by anyone who gets to know my work situation is “How? Do you just not sleep?” I thought, since today’s topic is “Rest”, I’d answer that question!

First, a little about my average week. I work a full-time job separate to Shades of Vengeance . I am lucky enough (in current times) that this job pays enough for me to need only one, and that it was not significantly affected by COVID-19.

That means the time I have to work on Shades of Vengeance games, comics and everything else is limited to my hours outside work. That comes to about an hour after I get up in the morning, my commute, whatever lunch break I take and the time I have when I get home in the evening. I’m a big believer that you can choose to have one hobby, pretty much no matter what, so if you want to be creative, you’re likely rejecting other things you might want to do.

I actually do sleep a good amount (I think it’s important), but I use every other minute. I write on my phone during my commute*. I’m always thinking things over while I’m eating and trying to focus my mind during my commute home to make the most of what time I have in the evening.

* I don’t recommend that if you drive, but you could try text to speech! Otter is pretty good.

I usually get 4 hours out of each working day, and perhaps 10 on a weekend day. I find that just about enough to do everything that you see from me.

Look for the time, you might be surprised how much you’re not using… but don’t forget to chill out as well, because everyone needs to switch off sometime!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 12: Message

Hi everyone!

What “Message” do I have for RPG creators everywhere?

I know how hard it is. You don’t get to the number of books I have published without knowing. It’s hard to put your work out there, because you think no-one will like it. Maybe people will laugh? It’s hard to bare your soul – you’re giving so much of yourself away with your book. It’s hard to know when it’s “done” enough to put out there.

My message to you is: It is worth it in the end.

If even one person plays a game you created and enjoys it, if even one person experiences something new sees the hobby in a new light as a result, you have made a genuine difference to the entire hobby, not just that person.

I don’t think anyone ever told me that when I started. I was left to go on sheer stubbornness and an eventual need to bring in at least a little money for what I had spent.

I learned so much from having my book out in the world – I did a lot wrong, too – that I was able to keep doing it.

I’m not on the path to get rich (trust me!), and it’s a hell of a lot of work, but I get to make universes come to life, on the page and in people’s minds, every year.

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 11: Stack

Hi everyone!

I’ve actually got a “stack” of books on Kickstarter right now, so I thought I’d talk about that today, if that’s all right! I’ll try to make it not too boring!

I believe that one of the most important things about a game that goes out into the world is to provide support material for it. All of our Core Rulebooks include campaigns and sessions for easy gameplay, and several games (Era: The Consortium, Era: Survival and Era: The Chosen) also have separate session and campaign books.

There are also things like extra equipment or abilities, new superpowers, random session generators and various other content that could be added to the games.

Rather than do this in a volume for every game, I publish The Era Zone, an inexpensive zine ($2 per issue), which offers material for every single game we have published.

Whether this is the right approach or not, I’m honestly unsure (see Day 9’s post – I’m making my best guess), but I think that it offers much better value to nearly everyone who wants it.

Currently, The Era Zone is on Kickstarter, meaning you can actually get 7 issues (or 8 if we hit the next Stretch Goal!) for £11 ($14), and support the upcoming issues as well. You can also just grab one issue to make sure that you’re interested, if you prefer!

I think producing this sort of material is really important, and I know that several others do as well, from the support I’ve received on the Kickstarter. I hope you’ll consider supporting this if you did not already!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shadesofvengeance/the-era-zone-2020-part-2?ref=dw62u6

I hope to see you there!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 10: Want

Hi everyone!

What do you want from an RPG session?

I know what I want – I’d like to participate in a group telling a story. That story should have ups and downs, difficulties that are overcome (both mental and physical), and the characters trying to be who they are throughout that.

Whichever side of the table I’m sitting on, that’s what I’m trying to achieve.

I’ve had some amazing sessions, and some less good ones, over the years. The best sessions have always been the ones where the players committed to the characters and tried to bring that person to life within the situation offered.

Stats, character abilities and all of the other things that go into a character almost don’t matter – it’s how the character uses what they have that matters.

Just my opinion!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 9: Light

Hi everyone!

When people want to make creating a career, they often wonder when they will feel they are able to see the “light at the end of the tunnel”. I thought I’d talk about that today, because it’s something that was on my mind for at least a couple of years.

Creating regularly, consistently and producing work you are proud of is hard work. It’s not made any easier by a broad lack of feedback from everyone who looks at your work. If you’re an artist, you’re a little luckier – you can get people to post a comment saying “I like it!” on a piece of artwork relatively easily. But I wouldn’t call that helpful feedback that’s going to let you know whether you’re doing the right thing. For a writer, people have to actually read what you’ve written and that’s usually too much of a time commitment for a quick browser.

It’s also hard to know that you’re doing a good job, that word is spreading or any of the other indicators just based on a trickle of sales. It’s very hard to be sure whether people actually play the games they buy: full shelves of games that people have never played is far from uncommon! Even if they did play them, did they enjoy them? From a business perspective, there’s nothing worse than this situation – you know sales are happening, so you’re not sure exactly what you’re doing wrong. Is it marketing, is it the product, is it the cover image, is it that no-one wants to pay by card on an indie website?

I think the important thing is to keep going. Keep making the best material you can every day, keep releasing new things for people to enjoy. It’s gruelling, probably the hardest thing of all for me, but it’s ultimately allowed me to glimpse that light at the end of the tunnel.

Every year, more people hear about what we’re doing and pay attention. All I can think to do is keep trying.

– Ed

P.S. If you read this far and there are indie RPGs (not just talking about SoV!) you like, tell the creator. Believe me, it’s not something we hear often at all!