All posts by Ed Jowett

#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!

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 8: Shade

Hi everyone!

I’ll be honest, I laughed when I saw this one was a prompt. I think it’s probably a good moment to reflect back on the last 7 years or so and talk about the “Shade” that means most to me – Shades of Vengeance!

To me, Shades of Vengeance is about something. It’s about doing better than the what I’ve experienced in the entertainment industry, it’s about going our own way to create and it’s about helping others to be creative as well.

There’s quite a lot to unpack there, so bear with me! Don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief.

I’ve mentioned before (Day 5: Tribute) that the entertainment industry, especially comics, TV and movies, run on uncredited people who are quite ludicrously underpaid for their work.

Shades of Vengeance, to me, is about being better than that, being an example (no matter how small) of how things can be done. We aren’t huge, but what we bring in is shared with every artist and writer who contributes to the work, to the best of our ability. We credit everyone – no-one is allowed to be a ghost writer or artist.

That’s led to some interesting situations in the past! We actually made up a pen name for someone who didn’t want to be credited in one of our pieces of work so that they can claim it at a later date if they ever want to.

The industry can do better than it does, and I intend to keep doing what I’m doing to prove it, through games, comics, audio dramas and anything else I end up making.

As I said above, Shades of Vengeance is also about creative freedom for the team working on any project.

I don’t believe for a moment that there is a “right way” to create a roleplaying game, write a story or build a narrative. I’m criticised on a number of reviews for my way of doing it, while others praise it.

I intend to keep doing what I think’s best (which includes learning from products and people I believe do things better!), because I believe there are people out there who want to see the attention to detail in the worldbuilding, the epic history which is all playable and the detailed, real characters which can be included in the story as you progress… just like I want to see those things.

The same applies to the other media we do – the comics tell the stories that the writers want to tell, the audio dramas portray what the writers and directors want to make a reality. I don’t think we need to be bound by a “convention” in any of these areas – there are always people who want something different.

The final thing I mentioned above was about helping others to be creative.

I’m proud to say that I’ve helped a number of people publish their own tabletop RPGs, I’ve helped others become paid professionals – writers and voice actors – when they had an enthusiasm for it and more. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t make these people the amazingly talented individuals they are – I just did what I could to help them show off their talents and paid what I was able to.

I believe that any industry is stronger with more people in it. Different perspectives offer something more to the kind of creative projects I work on, which is absolutely invaluable. I’ll continue to help other people find and express their creativity to the best of their ability, and I’ll continue to reward them to the best of my ability for their work.

This, of course, isn’t everything that we stand for or believe in, but these three are the things I consider most important. I hope you can understand why these matter so much to us, especially in the difficult year that 2020 has been. As Shades of Vengeance gets larger with time, It is my fond hope that all of these things will grow with us.

How fast we, and all of this, grow is pretty dependent on everyone reading this!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 7: Couple

Hi everyone!

“What are the top couple of pieces of advice you’d give to new RPG creators?”

I take that to mean I’m only allowed to give two, so hold on…

1. Believe in yourself

If you want to create something then sitting on the idea for ever will mean that it never happens. Put some time aside and start to work on it.

If you’ve previously playtested a game and want to learn how to publish, then find someone who can help you. I and others offer advice (I do so through ImagineRPG.com) on how to do it, and it can be a lifesaver to have advice.

But you can go it alone as well. If you’ve come up with an awesome idea, it deserves to see the light of day. Whatever you’re hesitating about, try to put that out of your mind – just do it!

2. Playtest more

You should never stop playtesting what you’ve made. Some of the most insightful things I’ve discovered about the Era d10 Rule Set have been since I “finished” it in Era: The Consortium.

As you grow in your experience running it, no matter how long you did before you published, you’ll realise there are things you want to change. I recommend saving them all up for a while, rather than releasing endless new versions.

That doesn’t mean don’t do it, though! Give it a little time and come publish a revised version – you’ll learn more from having a version of your game out in the world than you ever will redrafting it for ever.

Those are my top “couple” of tips for anyone wondering if they should create an RPG. I hope you found that useful, and feel free to reach out if you have any comments or questions!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 6: Forest

Hi everyone!

Today, I’m going to be talking about this image, which is absolutely the first thing that popped into my mind on the prompt “Forest”.

Being inspired is often a very hard thing. While I generally don’t struggle much with it, I often find it extremely useful to pin down the details by having some images early on in the creative process.

That’s exactly what’s happened here: this image is for an upcoming game (provisional title Era: Legends, which we’ll have to change!). This forest is the site of a former werewolf fight against the equally powerful vampires. There were losses on both sides, but the werewolves were overwhelmed, due to their smaller numbers.

This game brings some pretty cool new ways of levelling and gaining skills to the Era d10 Rule Set, as well as an immersive, monster-filled story. It’s not going to be ready for a while still, but keep an eye out if that sounds interesting!

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 5: Tribute

Hi everyone!

I found another image for the RPGaDay2020 event, thanks to someone else posting. I thought it was cool, so I’m using it for this post!

Today’s topic is “Tribute”, and I think it’s a good opportunity for me to talk about something very close to my heart: credit where credit is due.

I think that the entertainment industry, in general, is awful about this (see ghostwriters and ghost art). Roleplaying Games tend to be better, especially the smaller companies, which do usually try to credit the people who did the work.

As someone who works in a variety of media (RPGs, comics, audio dramas, card games and more), I think it is vital that everyone who contributed to the final product is credited properly. I, personally, go to great lengths to ensure everyone who has contributed is mentioned – it feels like the least I can do.

If you’re a creator, I have the fond hope that you feel the same – this is not a well-payed industry relative to others, so the least you can do is ensure people can point at good work they have done in the past.

– Ed

P.S. Also, please also pay the people who help to make a product, if you are selling it!

#RPGaDay2020 – Day 4: Vision

Hi everyone!

I’m back again today, and there’s only one thing I want to talk about based on the “Vision” prompt. It probably is somewhat linked to the fact that this game has been on my mind for several days for a variety of reasons!

Era: Forbidden was a game I put together with my wife, Immaculate. You might have noticed that she is credited in the Special Thanks in every book – that’s because she does a huge amount behind the scenes that lets me to continue to create. Well, this time, I got to sit down with her and build a world which was a vision made by both of us.

This world is dark and harsh, but there are heroes, too. I’ve run and played a lot games of it recently, and it’s always a treat: the game is designed for a small group, as few as 1-3 players and a GM. That gives you an opportunity to explore the characters in detail, as well as keeping the fear in you – facing an army won’t go well!

Well, I’ve just released it on the Shades of Vengeance Store, so you can get a copy of your own for the first time, if you missed the Kickstarter:
https://www.shadesofvengeance.com/product/era-forbidden-pocket-edition-digital/

This shared vision of the world will always be special to me, perhaps more so than any of the other games I’ve created. I believe you’ll all thoroughly enjoy it, so consider checking it out.

– Ed

#RPGaDay2020 – Days 1-3

Hi everyone!

I like to do this every year – #rpgaday2020 being the latest – and give my thoughts on various aspects of RPGs, and my experiences within the community. I’ve missed days 1 and 2 because of GenCon, so I’ll do the first three days quite briefly right here and move onto the next days properly!

Day 1: Beginning

Everyone I’ve seen posted has been about how people got started in the industry. I think most people reading this know that story already, so I thought I’d mention a new beginning.

This weekend, I did GenCon Online. I’ve never been to GenCon – I don’t have that kind of budget for convention visits, sadly! I was able to introduce several new people to the Era games for the first time, through Era: The Consortium, Era: The Chosen and Era: Forbidden. I’d like to thank all of those individuals, and I hope that it’s the “beginning” of a load more awesome players joining our little community!

Day 2: Change

Throughout my time creating Tabletop RPGs, I have gone through phases of what specific weighting interested me. From the creation of Era: The Consortium and Era: The Empowered, where I wanted to tell a towering story with every sub-genre available, to the creation of Era: Lost Legend and Era: Balam, when I was thinking about dualities, I think the core of any creative process is change.

What’s interesting you right now? Make something about that, because that will change… and that will mean your work always feels fresh.

Day 3: Thread

This word just means one thing to me, as a writer and creator – what happens when you lose the thread (of your idea / conversation / whatever)?

I struggle a lot when this happens, personally. I don’t like to try to pick up halfway through something because I was interrupted – it wastes a lot of time for me. As a result, I try to stay away from distractions: I play music to drown out the world and distractions, I go away into another room (or a corner of a room, to be more accurate!) and do my thing. I come out when I’m ready for a break, so that this space is dedicated to working.

That works for me. What works for you?

I’ll be back tomorrow with Day 4, so I’ll see you then!

– Ed

Shades of Vengeance is hanging on!

Hi everyone!

We’ve been super, super busy during lockdown – like all of you, I’m sure!

I wanted to take a moment to reassure everyone we’re very much still here and talk about a few things we’re doing that might interest you!

Our team is running daily games (and have been every day since the lockdown began!) on our Discord! You can join in here if you like:
https://discord.gg/pDFnCdN

As there are very few conventions at the moment, Leo and I are doing gameplay streams a few times a week, where we discuss what we think about the worldbuilding, characterisation and design of a variety of games. You can find our streams here: https://www.twitch.tv/Sandworm4
Our next one is on Thursday, so hit Follow and we’ll see you there for some Heavy Rain!

I’m still writing every day, working on Era: Lost Legend and the Era: Survival Expansions, along with a few other cool projects, including an upcoming Audio Drama, a couple of comics and more!

Keep an eye out and stay safe, everyone! And don’t forget to check out the store… things are tough all over, but we have some great games for awesome prices there.

You can also join us on Patreon for monthly goodies: https://www.patreon.com/SoV

Thanks so much for your support.

– Ed

Living Campaign – An Update!

The Era: The Consortium Living Campaign has now been running for just under 3 months and we’ve seen a lot of changes to the Consortium as a result!
(Asking “What is the Living Campaign?”? – read this! https://www.shadesofvengeance.com/era-the-consortium/living-campaign/)

We’re about to publish the first official update of the position in The Era Zone Issue #5, and I wanted to share it with all of you first! Here’s what’s happened:

  • A strange group of Sentient Beings, not matching any known race of the Consortium was reported arriving at Ceridwen. They disappeared from the station after shutting down various areas, seemingly taking nothing with them.
  • The same group of creatures were spotted shortly afterwards on Gateway 2, the Resistance station in the Outer Damara System. They killed several individuals and took Dr Phil Adams hostage, along with several of his weapons prototypes.
  • A riot occurred among the prisoners who were building warships at the shipyards in orbit of Clota. This was contained with minimal damage, and the stolen ships were returned by Admiral Bryce Christoffer.
  • A Consortium Task Force, with members from each of the Big Eight, destroyed Gateway 2, the Resistance base in Outsystem Damara. Two parts of this space station remained intact and escaped, though not without Resistance casualties.
  • Several of this Task Force flew a ship full of children to the Outsystem Combine, and Consortium relations have improved with them as a result.
  • Several Consortium personnel defected to the Resistance during the Task Force’s activities, changing the balance of power in this region.
  • Commander James Lynks was captured and handed over to Hardcastle Haulage, which was a significant blow to morale for the Resistance in the Damara system.
  • Zweihander Unit recovered Dr Amanda Charles and a mysterious ship for the Resistance after boarding Ceridwen station. Their base was later destroyed through unknown means, and the ship was lost. The personnel assigned to the unit itself survived, as they were on a mission.
  • An Open Technology base on Belisama mysteriously exploded, with the loss of all base personnel. This has been assumed to be a Resistance attack, which has damaged their reputation in some areas and improved it in others.
  • A building in the Geso District of Taranis is first breached by Smertios Security, with numerous personnel lost, and then is bombed to destroy it. This is a public relations nightmare for the Consortium, increases the Resistance’s foothold on the homeworld of the Consortium.
  • The Consortium carried out an elaborate sting attack near Labbonus against the White Scythe. By having the Resistance capture a decoy ship, rigged to self-destruct, and hand it over, they eliminated a number of key leaders of the pirate organisation, strengthening their position in the region.
  • Falcata Unit, of the Resistance, managed to steal a transport full of artifacts leaving Sirona and convert some of the crew to the Resistance.
  • A Senate-funded team investigated and eliminated pro-Resistance smuggling operations on Abnoab, strengthening the Consortium’s grip on that planet.
  • Falcata Unit used the stolen ship to destroy a patrol in the region of Andastre, but raised suspicion on the Lugus Smertios Security Border Station while doing so.
  • Cinqueda Unit recruited a pair of trainers for new Resistance recruits and hacked records to make the havoc appear to be the Consortium’s fault.

I’d like to thank the over 50 players across 20 sessions who made this vision a reality, taking the first steps towards reshaping the Consortium in a new image!

The new map is the image for this post, so check it out, and decide where you want your next session to be! If you want to participate, just write in afterwards and tell us what happened – you, too, can change the shape of the Consortium!

Key:
Red = Resistance Influence
Blue = Consortium Influence
No Colour = Non-Aligned (e.g. Outsystem Combine, The People of Nodens)

Play an Era game online!

Hi everyone! Did you know that we’re offering daily games online at the moment?

We’re trying to combat the insanity invoked by staying inside all day every day – I feel it as keenly as you, believe me! – by offering a wide range of Era games via our Discord: https://discord.gg/6C4H9Cv

For those who don’t know, Discord is an easy-to-use audio and text messaging system, often used by computer gamers to contact each other. There’s also a growing community of Tabletop Roleplayers who use it. There’s a web version, but if you want to play a game, I recommend that you download the application – mobile, tablet or desktop!

We post our schedule in the #general_text channel, so you can find out what games are available there. They often fill up quickly, so keep an eye out!

I hope you’ll consider joining us but, either way, please stay inside where possible and stay safe if you can’t.

– Ed

Era: Hitman tabletop rpg game

Store and YouTube Releases!

Hi everyone!

We have a wonderful new team member, Angel, and she’s been helping me to get several of the books that we never quite got up on the website onto the store!

As a result, you’ll see quite a few new items if you look at the store now, particularly a lot of “Character Sheet Packs” for Era: The Consortium and Era: Survival. They are all free, so check them out on our Store: https://www.shadesofvengeance.com/store/

We’re also doing loads of actual plays for Era: The Consortium, Era: Survival and Era: The Empowered, recorded from the Discord games and edited by yours truly! You can join the YouTube channel to see those: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEiOpTk8IwuolqNVdBDik2A
We’ve also added several playlists to help you find what you’re looking for – look for the game name and “Actual Play”!

Don’t forget that you can join us on Patreon for monthly rewards like Wallpapers and sessions! https://www.patreon.com/SoV is the place to go.

There’s more coming, so watch this space… we’ll be back before long!

– Ed

Era: Survival Expansions – 110% Funded!

Hi everyone!

It’s been a very difficult month, and I apologise for the lack of posts. Like many of you, I’m self-isolating from the outside world, and that’s meant a big change to lifestyle.

We’re making fantastic progress on Era: Survival – funded, and working towards that vital first Stretch Goal. That will mean that everyone gets an extra expansion for free! Now’s definitely the time to hop into our post-apocalyptic world, so join us here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shadesofvengeance/era-survival-expansions-2?ref=emeiw5

I’m also working on The Era Zone, Tales of the Empowered and with the artists on Era: Lost Legend, so that’s keeping me busy, alongside the things that are trying to keep me sane!

Please stay safe, say indoors where possible and keep others safe.

– Ed

Spotlight: Era: Survival – Expansions into the Unknown 2

Hi everyone!

Fantastic news for fans of our post-apocalyptic game today, as we launch our latest Kickstarter! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shadesofvengeance/era-survival-expansions-2?ref=96fdfm

Era: Survival – Expansions into the Unknown 2 aims to offer at least three brand new expansions for games taking place in the world of Gaia, where Infection runs rampant.

But we’re hoping to do much more than that – every Stretch Goal we meet will unlock a new expansion, offering a huge number of awesome rewards.

Join us to finally find out…

Evil Overlord deck building card game

Three Top Tips on How to Direct an Audio Drama!

Hi everyone, Ed here from shades of vengeance. And today, I’m going to talk about how I and today I’m going to give you my top three pieces of advice on how to direct an audio drama.

1: Live the universe!

When you are directing an audio drama, you are bringing that universe to life for the people who are listening to it. If you don’t understand the universe, or at least your take on the universe, to a high degree, there are going to be tiny things that slip through.

You shouldn’t let those things go unless you feel that they contribute and build on your view of the universe because people will notice. People will pick up on them and begin to question your commitment to the projects that you’re doing. The key is to always focus on the essence of what it is that you want to portray within the story.

2: Don’t be afraid of the actors improvising!

There have been a number of times during my various audio projects where an actor has done something I didn’t expect. It may be a misread, it may be a different take on a character.

But I always asked myself, referring back to Point 1 – does it fit within the universe? Does it make the story better?

And if it’s a change that makes the story better, you need to be able to say “yes, I like that, it works equally well!” (or nothing at all, in some cases, just let them continue!). 

If it’s a change that calls any of the aspects of the universe into question, you need to fight hard to make sure that the actor does it in the way that you need. Consider carefully what that character might act like. And does this improvisation distorts what the character has been up until now, or does it fit in nicely? That’s also very important.

3: The First and the Second-to-Last Take

In my experience, these are the takes that are the strongest.

That might be because when you first walk into a role, you give your instinctive take, you give the truth as an actor, that insight of your own.

It might also be that after, there’s a little bit of correction, changes to be done, and then you’ll take one more take for a safety at the end.

Don’t be afraid of taking a safety take, but be aware that you may not use it.

One of the things that can be a serious impediment to this is when an actor sabotage themselves in the middle of a line. Try never to let the first take get interrupted, because if it gets interrupted, you will never get that moment again. Make sure that the first take runs to the end and make sure that you get a good take before you then go ahead and say “just once more”, or even just say, “okay, that’ll do”. 

So those are three top tips on how to begin three top tips on directing an audio drama.

Thank you very much for reading, and please let me know if you’d like some more tips about audio – I’d be more than happy to speak some more, or bring in Leo, our Head of Audio, to answer some questions!

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How to Make Your Characters Real – Part 6: Acting

Hi everyone, and welcome to the final part of “How to Make Your Characters Real”!

In this part, I’m going to be talking about how you decide the way in which characters act, focusing in some simple techniques to ensure that your character acts in a realistic and consistent manner. 

Let’s assume you have your character and have established their appearance, the hidden information that they have the various other bits and pieces that we’ve been talking about throughout these articles.

You want to put them in a situation you have devised and you’ll therefore be thinking about how would they act. Sometimes, this might be difficult – you may end up not being sure because they have all of this hidden information that other people might not understand. They may even act in a way that doesn’t seem entirely rational.

When you hit a wall, if you cannot extrapolate from what you already have, try thinking about what you would do in that situation. How would you respond to the various factors in play.

Once you have decided that, consider how they are different from you… and therefore, what would they do differently in that situation – would they act in the same way, because the things that differ between you and them are insignificant in this regard? 

Or even would they act in the same way, but for a different motivational reason? Perhaps because they would have personal gain, rather than because that’s the right thing to do. 

After that, if you want to create a chain, which helps the story pretty much right itself, you want to think about how people are going to react to the way that they have acted. So if they are not completely in isolation, or even if they leave a trail – a message behind that someone else can pick up – there’s going to be some level of reaction to what is going on.

Then, you need to consider how people around react to this approach. How people react to actions that they observe is an important part of building this chain of events. Some people will overreact, some people will feel that it was the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do for various reasons… and the balance of the crowd may not be in the direction that you initially assume.

Think carefully about what I wrote previously about what the average person is like and how your character stands out from them. Will the average person indeed react positively just because your main character has done something? 

Next, depending on the initial action and the reaction, there’s likely to be some level of outcome. This is often something that will prompt another action by the main character. 

If you can work out what the action is, what the reaction is, and then what the outcome is, you can often build an entire event chain off the back of that. This gives you the opportunity to continue your piece of work at pace – you will move forward through your story very easily, in a character-driven way, because a story is inherently a chain of events. 

That’s all I’ve got for this article, but I’d like to thank you very much for reading this sequence, and I hope that you found it helpful. 

I’m going to be moving on to some different topics next week, but I am still more than happy to answer any questions that people have. So please message me or let me know if you’d like me to follow up on any aspect of this in the future.

– Ed

How to Make Your Characters Real – Part 5: Hidden Information

Hi everyone, Ed here, and I’m back with another “How to Make Your Characters Real!”

Today, I’m going to be talking about how characters won’t always share all of the information that they have about themselves from the very beginning.

They might have very detailed reasons for being the way they are, but most people won’t share them for no reason. You have to be in a situation where they’re willing to open up about certain facts about themselves. From a writing standpoint, it also has to be relevant to what they need to tell other characters in the story: it has to be emotionally motivated.

Equally, when a character acts, they won’t always explain why it is that they’re doing what they’re doing. That’s really important, because if you say wy  every single time and you make every character’s motivation totally clear, it will make for an unconvincing story and an unconvincing character. Be careful what you explain about why they do what they do – although as I said in a previous part, make sure that you know what their reasoning is!

Equally, characters might come in looking like they have one type of approach, then have ulterior motives that they don’t explain. Sometimes, it is possible to leave tiny little clues that then make that betrayal, that eventually occurs, feel right, even if it’s not obvious from the start.

I’ve talked a lot about building a detailed backstory in the past. I just wanted to quickly cover the risk that a lot of people panic about in my experience – that of building a detailed character which never gets explored properly.

I don’t see this as a massive problem, and I have some reasons behind this. Primarily, you are able to explore these things later: maybe this character deserves their own story? Maybe there are aspects of this character that never come to light, but you really like them… so you can potentially reveal them through another character. A similar but different character can be built on the basis that you’ve worked on (using some of the tips I’ve spoken about earlier in this series).

I was talking at the beginning about consuming media, and then combining aspects. This extends to your own work as well – feel free to combine aspects of your own characters that maybe you never got to use, add things that motivated them, but you never actually managed to portray.

This is the second to last part of my “How to Make Characters Real” set of articles. If there are more topics you’d like me to cover then, please, go ahead and leave a comment – I will be more than happy to cover those!

Next week, I’ll be back with the final part, which is focusing on advice for deciding how a character will act in any given situation.

Thank you very much for reading.

– Ed

Welcome to the Era Zone!

Hi everyone!

We’ve just launched our latest Kickstarter, The Era Zone 2020!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shadesofvengeance/the-era-zone-2020?ref=aqgkct

It’s, once again, offering support materials for every one of our games! You can join us on Kickstarter, where you’ll be able to get a subscription throughout the year (Digital or Physical) and help this attempt to continue producing material for all of the Era Games succeed.

Welcome to The Era Zone!

– Ed

How to Make Your Characters Real – Part 4: Visualisation

Hi everyone, Ed here from Shades of Vengeance again!
I’m back with another entry in my “How to Make your Characters Real” series. I hope that you are finding these useful and interesting. Of course, if there’s any subjects that I’ve not covered that you’d like me to talk about, please just ask, I’ll be more than happy to speak about it.

When you are creating characters, remember that humans are visual creatures. The fact that a beautiful picture of a sunset is more likely to sell a game than brilliant mechanics is something that I’ve struggled with for a long time as a game designer.

When building characters, this is a relatively easy thing – though important – to include.

Try to come up with three or four features which make any character that’s important stand out from the rest of the population. There are some obvious ones. There’s an eyepatch or a wooden leg or another type of prosthetic, depending on what time period your your story is setting. This can be done effectively in Sci-Fi as well – one of Elliot Draigon’s most memorable features is his artificial arm, and I think the same could be said for Barret from Final Fantasy 7!

However, there are other things that could be included which are less obvious. Perhaps the character always stands slightly crooked, because they actually have constant back pain. Perhaps they perhaps they have a nervous tic, where they turn their head to the left quite frequently as if they’re looking around seeing if anyone’s following them.

There are a huge number of possibilities and I suggest you try not to reject anything that you think might suit your characters attitude – sometimes people’s attitude to their their reality is based on their physical state.

Obviously, you can also think about how they dress, how they wear their hair and various other personal details which are choices, rather than forced on them by circumstances or biology.

Don’t be afraid to experiment a little bit and make your characters memorable to the people who are reading. It’s actually surprisingly hard to go overboard on this.

Once you’ve come up with these details for your character, remember that you don’t actually have to show them or talk about them in every single encounter with that character. Make a choice about when you want to talk about it, and when you don’t want to talk about it. And don’t be afraid to leave it until it becomes a relevant detail – I am sure you have been in a situation where you didn’t notice something until embarrassingly late!

That’s pretty much all I’ve got on this subject, so check in again next week for another “How to Make your Characters Real”, where I’ll be talking about how much information to give away!

– Ed

How to Make Your Characters Real – Part 3: Hero of Their Own Story

Hi everyone!

I’m back again to talk a little more about how to bring your characters to life in an engaging and realistic way. 

The reason that I think this is important actually relates to the fact that, when you have a character which is solid and believable, it makes the story that you’re trying to write almost able to tell itself. All you have to do is follow that character and understand the choices that they make. But I’m going to be talking a little more about that in the future! 

Today, I’m going to focus on how characters live inside your universe, along with several things that you want to remember when you’re thinking about bringing those characters to life. 

The first thing to remember about every single character – every single person – in your setting is that every character is the hero of their own story

Importantly, that might not be the story you’re telling today. You may have read some of my previous articles, where I say that the main characters should be the most important person in the universe at the time you’re telling the story. Obviously, for almost all of the population that can never be true, but they can still be the most important person in that place at that time. Remember that every other character has a reason to exist. There’s a purpose to their life that they’re going to achieve at some point – Robin was always going to grow to be a hero in his own right!

Secondly, bearing this in mind, don’t forget that the character exists among many other characters in some kind of community – whether that’s a small number of survivors in a post apocalyptic setting, like the Resident Evil movies, or whether it’s a huge city that they’re just one of the faceless crowd within. They exist among these other characters, and they’ll interact with them and be interacted with in a certain way. 

This means that you can easily model a wider society, because most of them will act whatever is the norm in your universe… but if you’re trying to make a character stand out, if you’re trying to make it realistic and memorable, think of a way in which it can be unique, and will therefore be treated differently by other characters who live in that universe.

Coming back to the point about every character being the hero of their own story, remember that there’s history to every single character! Every person has a story that brought them from where they were when they were born to where they are today. No matter what that story might be, it exists, and it’s very likely that you’re not going to tell it – you may not even want to tell that story!

Instead, remember that it might make people act in an odd way to certain situations. A history of parental abuse might cause a character to react slightly oddly to a father figure appearing in the story. Or a lost job might start making people think that they don’t trust the mentor figure that they’ve come across, don’t entirely believe that what they’re saying is the way things are going to be. 

You might not have the opportunity to explain why this is in the story you weave, but I think that it’s very important that you understand why it is. That way, even if you never explain, you’ll have the opportunity to be consistent in the way that they behave. There will always be other clues based on the way they are acting, even if you don’t say directly! 

I hope that’s been helpful and I hope that you’re finding this series interesting, so please check in with us again. I’ll be back next week with some more of my thoughts about making characters real! 

– Ed

Spotlight: Era: The Consortium Living Campaign

Hi everyone!

Era: The Consortium’s Living Campaign has just launched, and that means anyone can get involved with the universe!

All you have to do is play a game set in 451CE, where the Consortium has decided to eliminate the Resistance, and the Resistance is not going to give up easily. Focus on an outpost or planet where the other faction has a stronghold (as shown on the map!) and play your mission.

When you’re done, send in the details to me on Discord, the Facebook group or via E-mail to publishing@shadesofvengeance.com! I’ll change the map according to the various information I receive…

There are two in-game years for this to run, and a chance for immortality for all of your characters, so don’t forget to get involved!

For more information, you can visit the dedicated page: https://www.shadesofvengeance.com/era-the-consortium/living-campaign/

See you out there!

– Ed