Showing posts with label Matt Forbeck. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matt Forbeck. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Shotguns & Sorcery has Arrived and It's Been a Long Wait, but Worth It!

In December 2015, about two months after the Geekerati Radio Podcast went on hiatus, I saw an exciting new gaming project called Shotguns & Sorcery proposed on Kickstarter. The product was based on the Shotguns & Sorcery trilogy by Matt Forbeck, itself a part of Matt's 12 for '12 series of Kickstarter projects where he hoped to be able to fund and write 12 books in 12 months. Quite an ambitious project, but if anyone was going to try it Matt Forbeck was the man for the job. I backed his Brave New World, Monster Academy, Dangerous Games, and Shotguns & Sorcery trilogies when they were proposed and we interviewed Matt about the project on the old podcast (embedded at the bottom of this post).

A couple of confessions before, I get into the nitty-gritty of the Shotguns & Sorcery book. First, Matt's a friend and one of the nicest guys in the gaming industry, so I'm very happy that this project was completed. Second, my wife Jody did some illustrations for the first (and maybe the second, but I'm not sure about that) Monster Academy book and provided the art for the Storium Monster Academy page.

When I backed Shotguns & Sorcery on Kickstarter, I knew that I was supporting a friend. I also figured that there was a high probability that the product would be published. The Kickstarter presentation was very professional and had lined up a good team of experienced rpg designers including Robert Schwalb to write the product, had artists lined up, and they were using an existing game system's mechanics as a foundation. These were all things that pointed to completion in a reasonable time.

Sadly, making things is difficult and things fall behind schedule and sometimes never get completed. Such is the creative process that even with a good team, cost overruns, writers' block, or a host of other things can lead to a project not being completed. I've seen it happen with a couple of the 500 projects I've backed, and it looked like Shotguns & Sorcery was going to be one of those projects. Though it started strong, the production lost steam, updates became rarer, and I thought the project would never reach fruition. Since I backed the project (at the $100 level) to support a friend in creative work, I wrote it off as a sunk cost. A lot of backers weren't so generous and had some pretty angry things to say, things that might have contributed to the delay more than they helped keep the project going. It's one thing to check the status of a project, it's another to call into question the motives of the creators. This is especially true when the stakes are relatively small. In the end, over four years passed before the book came out.

Sometimes when a project finally comes out after a long delay, it looks like it was thrown together "just to get it out the door." That is not at all the case with Shotguns & Sorcery. Instead, this product seems to fall into the category that "you are only late once, but you are bad forever" and so it's better to be late than bad. The book has solid binding, high end printing production on the cover, and is beautiful inside. While the pages aren't printed on glossy paper, they are printed on acid free paper and the sepia tone of the book gives a nice overall look to the product.

Mechanically Shotguns & Sorcery uses Monte Cook's Cypher System, a system that will be very familiar to fans of Numenera, The Strange, or No Thank You, Evil! It's an easy system to learn, but flexible enough to cover any genre from street level espionage to superheroes without stretching the mechanics beyond utility. In order to determine if any action is successful, the player rolls a twenty-sided die and compares the result of the die to a target number based on the difficulty of the task. The difficulty can range from 0 to 10 and this number is multiplied by 3 to give a target number between 0 and 30. As you might have noticed, you cannot roll a 30 on a twenty-sided die. In order to achieve tasks that are at this "impossible" level, or to make other challenges less difficult, characters can spend points from their abilities to reduce the base difficulty. They may also have special abilities or training that lowers the difficulty, but the main game play is the same. Get a target number and roll equal to or greater than that number. Unlike D&D, the players make all rolls in combat by rolling both "to hit" and "to defend."

In order to flush out the characters, players rate the games in three categories (Might, Speed, and Intellect) and then select a Race, Type, and Focus. The Race and Type will be familiar to D&D gamers with things like Halfling, Dwarf, and Elf being available as races and Freelance (Rogue), Veteran (Fighter), and Wizard being among the Types available. Players will also add descriptors like "cunning" or "aggressive" to their characters and choose a Focus like "Commands the Dead" or "Carries a Quiver." Initial character creation is as simple as completing the following sentence, "I am a (fill in the adjective here) (fill in a noun here), and (fill in a noun here) who (fill in a verb here." More simply a character is an adjective noun, a noun who verbs. For example, I am a Hardboiled Human, a Freelance who Packs Heat."

The book includes scads, yes scads, of types and foci for characters to use. It may have been a long wait, but in this case it was a wait well worth it seeing the final product. One final comment. If you don't want to play Shotguns & Sorcery using the Cypher System, the setting was originally designed for use with D&D as a part of the campaign the resulted in the Eberron campaign. The combination of straight fantasy with the Old West works well with Cypher, but it could also work with 5e or with Savage Worlds. There is so much setting and adventure information here, that using it as the basis for a Savage Worlds game would be very possible.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Geekerati Gaming Archives Volume 1 -- Matt Forbeck Interview

In July of 2007, Geekerati Radio -- a podcast a few friends of mine and I ran for over two years -- had our first gaming related episode.  It was our ninth episode overall and it featured an interview with Freelance Game Designer extraordinaire Matt Forbeck.  Over the course of his career Matt has worked with most of the major game and toy companies -- from rpg games to toy design -- and has been nominated for 24 Origins awards and has won 13.  His game designs have included miniatures rules for starship combat, dark future science fiction roleplaying games, bleak counterculture superhero rpgs, and the list goes on.

You can tell by the interview why Matt is called the nicest man in the gaming industry.

Last year in September the Geekerati show petered to a halt as we never got the listenership to justify the effort we were putting into the show.  When you are interviewing Brandon Sanderson -- new author of the Wheel of Time series -- and you only get 4 "live" listeners (though the archive did quite well) it can be a bit disheartening.  When you add a full time work schedule, MBA courses, attempts at a regular rpg gaming hobby, and twin toddlers to the mix it was becoming difficult to justify the time.

I loved the experience, and my co-hosts are great friends, and would like to do it again.  But to do so will require some massive scheduling efforts and possibly some new co-hosts.  Bill Cunningham, our mad pulp bastard, is hard at work promoting his own awesome pulp publishing company, Eric Lytle is keeping California safe from toxic chemicals, and Shawna Benson is striving toward fame and fortune.

Let me know if you think I should give it a go again, and in the meantime I'll be sharing the archives with you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sporadic Geek Update 11-17: Jess Hartley, Matt Forbeck, and Assault Girls

Here are a couple of items that caught my eye as I wandered the internet today:

  • Jess Hartley has a good "One Geek to Another" column up today discussing "Networking and Cross-Promotion." Her site, and columns, are on my regular must read list. She is an inciteful veteran of the gaming industry who regularly shares tips for the aspiring game designer and reviewer.

  • Tulkinghorn over at "The Hungry Ghost" pointed me toward what looks to be a combination of geek awesomeness -- ASSAULT GIRLS. A live action film with Big Guns, Kick Ass Women -- some with angel wings, Giant Sand Worms, all blended together through the Anime Transmogrifier.

  • Reactor 88 has released a conceptual trailer for a film based on Matt Forbeck's excellent BRAVE NEW WORLD roleplaying game.

  • Thanks to SF Signal, I discovered who have public domain books which they have kindly translated into a number of formats...including Kindle.

Monday, July 20, 2009

James Lowder Adding Another Must Buy Gaming Book to Book Shelves Everywhere

In the summer of 2007 Green Ronin released the most important book in the gaming hobby since David Parlett's The Oxford History of Board Games. The book, entitled Hobby Games: The 100 Best, was edited by industry luminary James Lowder and contained essays about 100 of the best -- and most important -- hobby games that had ever been released on the market.

Some of the games in the book have been out of print for some time. Avalon Hill's Gettysburg -- which was the first themed commercial wargame and following in the footsteps of Avalon Hill's Tactics and Tactics II created the modern commercial wargaming industry -- gets a brilliant write up by one of the founding fathers of the modern gaming industry Lou Zocchi. It is a game that is particularly difficult for collectors who like to play games as well as own them. Gettysburg went through numerous editions, each with major changes to the rules of the game. The original game featured a square grid overlaying the map used during play, the second edition replaced the square grid with hexagons, the third edition brought back the squares and added new rules, the fourth get the point. Adding to the dilemma is the fact that, while different, many of the editions are fun for their very differences.

Other games, which like Gettysburg were games that spawned genres of game play, are still in print -- though usually in a new edition that is often very different from the original game. Richard Garfield praises Dungeons and Dragons, the game that created the role playing game hobby. Jordan Weisman praises Magic the Gathering, the game that spawned the Collectible Card Game industry and paved the way for the Pokemon craze.

Even when the games aren't responsible for creating a new genre, they are still great games. Ogre, reviewed by the late Erick Wujcik, wasn't the first tactical wargame featuring tanks. But it is, to date, one of the most accessible tactical wargames and highlights the struggle of humanity against a murderous machine that echoes the "Butlerian Jihad" and predates the Terminator franchise. It is a shame that Steve Jackson Games doesn't continue to keep this game in print...even as a pdf download. It's the game that launched the company, and it is a wonderful introduction to "map, counter, and CRT" wargaming.

All 100 of the games written about are worth playing, and all 100 entries of the book are worth reading. Whether you want a glimpse in to the variety of experience the hobby offers, a look into the history of the hobby, or a peak to see if anything in the hobby is "for you," Hobby Games: The 100 Best is a must have for any book shelf.

Given the high praise above, you can imagine how much I am looking forward to the release of James Lowder's second collection Family Games: The 100 Best. The book will be released in late August, sadly not in time for Gen Con, and once again has an awe inspiring list of designers who contribute their thoughts on some of the best family games from the past 100 years.

Here is the list of confirmed authors, according to the Green Ronin website:


Mike Gray: Foreword
James Lowder: Introduction
Wil Wheaton: Afterword
David Millians: Appendix (Games and Education)

Andrea Angiolino
Keith Baker
Wolfgang Baur
Carrie Bebris
Uli Blennemann
Bill Bodden
Mike Breault
Richard Breese
Todd Breitenstein
Alessio Cavatore
Leo Colovini
William W. Connors
David “Zeb” Cook
Monte Cook
Luke Crane
Dominic Crapuchettes
Elaine Cunningham
Richard Dansky
Karl Deckard
Dale Donovan
James Ernest
Matt Forbeck
Anthony J. Gallela
Richard Garfield
Marc Gascoigne
Stephen Glenn
Eric Goldberg
Andrew Greenberg
Ed Greenwood
Jeff Grubb
Scott Haring
Bruce Harlick
Jess Hartley
Fred Hicks
Will Hindmarch
Kenneth Hite
Joshua Howard
Steve Jackson (GW)
Steve Jackson (SJG)
Paul Jaquays
Seth Johnson
Matthew Kirby
Corey Konieczka
John Kovalic
Robin D. Laws
Matt Leacock
Jess Lebow
Jon Leitheusser
Ken Levine
Nicole Lindroos
Ian Livingstone
Michelle Lyons
Hal Mangold
Jason Matthews
Erik Mona
Alan R. Moon
Colin Moulder-McComb
Bruce Nesmith
Kevin Nunn
Peter Olotka
Phil Orbanes
Andrew Parks
David Parlett
S├ębastien Pauchon
jim pinto
Mike Pondsmith
Chris Pramas
Lewis Pulsipher
John D. Rateliff
Sheri Graner Ray
Philip Reed
Thomas M. Reid
Susan McKinley Ross
Charles Ryan
Steven Schend
Robert J. Schwalb
Emiliano Sciarra
Jesse Scoble
Mike Selinker
Bruce Shelley
John Smedley
Lester Smith
Jared Sorensen
Warren Spector
Gav Thorpe
Dan Tibbles
Jeff Tidball
John Scott Tynes
Monica Valentinelli
James Wallis
James M. Ward
Darren Watts
Tom Wham
Bruce Whitehill
John Wick
Kevin Wilson
Ray Winninger
Teeuwynn Woodruff
John Yianni

Like the list of authors in Hobby Games, this is a list of some of the best and brightest game designers working today from a variety of gaming genres. The inclusion of some of the leading game historians (the aforementioned David Parlett and the as yet unmentioned Phil Orbanes) speaks to James Lowder's knowledge of the field and his desire to create a product that is important to hobbyists and useful to those outside the hobby. The designers selected range from the old guard to the exciting young turks.

Sadly, some of the designers who had articles in the prior book in the series are no longer with us. One would give a lot to read Gary Gygax's or Erick Wujcik's thoughts on the subject. I am also disappointed to see that Ken St. Andre and Rick Loomis, both featured in the prior book, are absent from the list of contributors. But an editor's job is no easy and this is a wonderful list indeed.

I am particularly interested in seeing what longtime Cinerati friend Matt Forbeck wrote in his entry as well as what relative newcomer in the industry Jess Hartley chooses for her entry. Forbeck has worked on a number of the classics of the hobby and Jess' work on the excellent Scion by White Wolf (as well as numerous World of Darkness titles by the same publisher) makes hers a voice I'd like to hear from.

Of all the names on the list, I would only remove one -- Wil Wheaton. His removal would have provided less geek celebrity appeal, but would have allowed Lowder to invite me to write the afterword.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Game Designer and Author Matt Forbeck Interview on Geekerati Radio Monday, July 2.

Award winning game designer and author Matt Forbeck will join the panelists at Geekerati Radio at 7pm PDT. In addition to discussing his latest projects, Forbeck will talk with the panelists about his influences and his general thoughts about media tie-in fiction, SF and Fantasy, and the state of the gaming industry.

Fans can listen to the show live, and call in with questions at (646) 478-5041, by visiting the Geekerati website ( during the broadcast. Those who miss the live broadcast will be able to listen to an archived version of the show approximately fifteen minutes after it airs online. During the show, the Geekerati panel will be giving away copies of his first Blood Bowl novel and his Eberron novel Road to Death.

Matt Forbeck has worked full-time on games and fiction since 1989, when he graduated from the Residental College at the University of Michigan with a degree in Creative Writing. With the exception of a four-year stint as the president of Pinnacle Entertainment Group and two years as the director of the adventure games division at Human Head Studios, he freelanced for most of that time. He has worked with many top companies, including Atari, Ubisoft, Wizards of the Coast, Games Workshop, Playmates Toys, Mattel, TSR, Decipher,White Wolf, Pinnacle, Green Ronin, AEG, Reaper Miniatures, Image Comics, WildStorm Productions, Idea + Design Works, and Human Head.

Matt has designed collectible card games, roleplaying games, miniatures games, and board games, and has directed voiceover work and written short fiction, comic books, novels, and computer game scripts and stories. Forbeck is currently working on several projects, including the novelization for the upcoming Mutant Chronicles film starring John Malkovich, Ron Perlman, and Thomas Jane. Forbeck was co-designer of the Mutant Chronicles Second Edition roleplaying game, upon which the film is based. Additionally, Forbeck worked on upcoming
Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law video game for the PSP and PS2.

Matt is a proud member of the Alliterates, a group of fiction writers and game designers, all of who have been published by TSR or Wizards of the Coast. He also belongs to the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers and the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design and is a member of the board of directors of the Madison chapter of the International Game Developers Association.

Projects Matt has worked on have been nominated for 23 Origins Awards and won 12. This includes the Best Roleplaying Game for Deadlands and The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game, Best Miniatures Rules for Warzone and The Great Rail Wars, Best Roleplaying Adventure for Independence Day, Best Fantasy Board Game forGenestealer, and Best Short Story for "Prometheus Unwound" from The Book of All Flesh. He has also won five ENnies.

ABOUT GEEKERATI RADIO – Geekerati Radio is an online radio show hosted by Christian Johnson, Shawna Benson, Bill Cunningham, Eric Lytle, Wes Kobernick, and Steven Merrill which features discussion of popular culture by geeks for geeks and is a featured show in the BlogTalkRadio network. The Geekerati Radio show airs Monday nights at 7pm Pacific and the archives are available 24/7.

- END -

Friday, January 05, 2007

Movies: Now for Gamers by Gamers

In the second issue of their customer newsletter, The Strategic Review, the upstart gaming company TSR claimed that the inspiration for the company was the "satisfaction in creating and/or publishing a good set of game rules." Brian Blume put a great deal of emphasis on the fact that TSR was a company of gamers who would make games for other gamers. In other words, TSR was a company that produced games "for gamers by gamers."

It was a battle cry that the company was compelled to make due to two things. First, the rapid rise of success TSR experienced was making some people, who are particularly "precious" about their interests, question whether TSR was "genuine" or "corporate." Second, TSR had set itself apart from a good deal of the gaming hobby. TSR's roleplaying game D&D would have long term negative affects on the wargaming industry, as it existed in the late 70s, and TSR quickly set their own gaming convention GenCon against the industry standard Origins convention. There is a long editorial in the April 1976 issue where Gary Gygax responds to Don Greenwood, the New Products Manager for Avalon Hill (one of the sponsors of Origins) at the time, who claimed that Origins was "the national convention."

TSR was a company establishing its identity and place in the world of gaming and it wanted to make sure that its audience new that TSR was a company "for gamers by gamers." In the 1980s, a computer game company by the name of Interplay also used this battle cry in the promotion of its products.

Members of a niche audience, in this case gamers, have a desire that the products designed for and destributed to them are made by members of the niche audience. This may sound like an exclusionary attitude, and in some ways it is, but it is also a good defense mechanism. After all, is it fair to ask a gamer to only be able to purchase "games by people who disdain gamers but what their disposible income?" I think not. Often those who are best able to make a product for a desired audience are those who have an appreciation for the product in the first place, Joss Whedon's run on the X-men comes to mind as a perfect example of a for x by x synergy.

I have been keeping track of one upcoming product "for gamers by gamers" and was alerted to another just the other day. There was one difference this time, both of the products are upcoming movies. That's right, some gamers have decided to make movies "for gamers and by gamers."

The first of these film projects is the Midnight Chronicles which is being funded by Fantasy Flight Games, the people who designed the world in which the film(s) will take place. The Midnight setting is a game world Fantasy Flight Games designed for use with the Dungeons and Dragons roleplaying game. The setting is a typical Tolkeinesque setting, with one significant alteration. In Midnight the bad guys won the big war and the setting is about what happens after "the Dark Lord" has been victorious. What isn't emphasized enough in the film clips/discussion is the reason the Dark Lord won, which is what I think actually makes the setting an interesting adaptation of the cliche. The Dark Lord's victory was secured when the "heroes of the age" sided with him instead of battling against him. The what if of the setting isn't just, "what if Sauron won?" The question is actually, "what if Aragorn, Boromir, and Gandalf sided with Sauron?"

The Fantasy Flight project is already deep into production, and has produced both a short and long trailer. By the discussions on the site, it appears that the hopes are more to make the Midnight Chronicles into a SciFi channel original series than into a single movie. The film(s) are being shot on HD and are being entirely produced by Fantasy Flight Games.

The second project, which I am equally excited though more worried about (more on that below), is the news that a movie inspired by the Brave New World roleplaying game is on the way. Reactor 88 Studios, a group of independent filmmakers in the Chicago area, have begun work on the project. The work is still in the early stages, but Brave New World is a roleplaying game with a devoted audience. Brave New World was a superhero roleplaying game created by Matt Forbeck which featured a dystopian present day America. The tag line for the game was "superpowered gaming in a fascist America." The setting was dark, but no completely hopeless. The game itself featured "functional" mechanics, unless you wanted to know exactly how much your superstrong character could lift, and one of the best innovations in the history of gaming, website's devoted to the milieu's resistance. Brave New World was in many ways a precursor to the modern Alternate Reality Game, in that it attempted to use existing communications media to further immerse gamers into the world environment. The game faced tough competition in the Hero Games dominated superhero rpg market, in addition to other pressures from a changing rpg marketplace.

I am excited about both of these projects because they are inspired by the hobby that I love. Both these projects have the potential to increase exposure, in a positive non-creepy way, to the roleplaying hobby and demonstrate the creative and inventive natures of those who participate in the hobby. I just worry about quality.

When it comes to game design, by gamers for gamers is a good philosophy. I don't know if the same maxim holds true for different entertainment media. Fans of Dungeons and Dragons the game shouldn't forget that Courtney Solomon claimed to be a fan/player of the game when he was promoting his Dungeons and Dragons movie. Integrity and a respect for the target audience are certainly necessities for quality in a gamer targeted movie project, but so is talent. In fact, directorial/creator talent is the single most important attribute necessary in the production of entertainment. So far the Midnight project looks like it is being done by people who are proficient at what they are doing, though some of the acting is suspect. I worry more about the Reactor 88 project, only because I have yet to see what their work looks like. I am limited by what I have seen of their website, which I hope isn't an omen of what their film will be like. To be fair, it is highly possible to be a talented filmmaker who only has limited web-programming skills so it isn't the best criterion with which to judge.

Gamers can be a forgiving, if hard to access, audience. Sales of the rough, ragged, and sometimes insulting "The Gamers" were enough to warrant a sequel and special edition. Though I prefered Gamers the Movie, if only because it was directed by a classmate of my wife's who I know is a real gamer. Gamers the Movie featured rendered environments and special effects that dwarf The Gamers and a score by Battlestar Galactica's own Bear McCreary, that and the fact that the Sound Editor, Wes Kobernick, plays in the Eberron game I DM. Speaking of USC student films, if you ever get a chance to see Fist of Iron Chef go immediately. It may be one of the single best student films ever made, that and it was a selection for 2005 Taipei Film Festival.