designer’s notes

Designer’s Notes: The Psyber Devangelist and Other Psi-Sci-Fi

Yes, I made another thing! By thing, I mean I made something cool for MÖRK BORG. By something cool, I mean I spent a lot of time—possibly too much time—on a new class along with some new equipment, weapons, powers, things to kill you, and some additional mechanics. It’s all inspired by science-fiction, cyberpunk, psychic powers, psionics, etc.

The class is comparable to a cheeseburger—it’s an artificial post-biological horror.

I also greatly appreciate the outright support because this is the closest thing I have to income right now, and I am at least trying to make fun things, build a portfolio, and earn enough off of my work that my hobby is self-sustaining. And the work. Because I had to buy better software instead of using something that’s meant for making slideshows.

First and foremost, I need to say that Evlyn Moreau and her Orbital Megastructures have been my biggest inspiration. I’ve always loved science fiction, but it always felt out of reach in terms of tabletop RPG playability—for me, that is. Running science fiction as a GM feels tough to me. There’s so much to remember, so much to consider, so much to… Well, it’s not medieval fantasy, and that’s just everywhere. I can remember swords. I can remember spells. But I (at least thought I couldn’t) remember security systems and commlinks and all that stuff. Well, Evlyn makes it look and feel so easy, and I think doubly so because I think she is a great GM and I think she has created (or is creating) a great game. (It is also semi-post-apocalyptic, which is also an easier way to manage futuristic themes.) The very process of playing a game like that got me so excited to create something sci-fi-ish of my own.

Also, I used a ton of her lovely art.

And then there’s the great cover art by Matthew Neff. What a lovely Discord notification to get. Oh, some person on the Discord made art inspired by my class, and they let me know that it’s totally cool if I want to use it. Did I cry? Yes. Yes, I did.

But, yes, I love sci-fi. I love Neon Genesis Evangelion, I love Bionicle, I love Cyberpunk, I love Shadowrun, I like Star Wars, and I even like making references to things I don’t know much about like Warhammer 40k. There are a few loving references to Orbital Megastructures, there’s another reference to Ultraviolet Grasslands, and there’s a secret reference to my first GURPS campaign*.

*The first background for the Psyber Devangelist mentions being unable to return to a vision that a seer saw of their own death. That goes back to the Eire Era (the unofficial name that my best friend and I gave our campaign ran by his dad). One of our several characters—we each had a couple—used the Death Vision spell in a wild mana zone. Probably not the best idea. We saw a vision of Jack (my best friend’s first character) as a cyborg, but he stepped through the Death Vision as if it were a portal, and he tried to kill us. He almost succeeded too. CyberJack went nuclear, but one of my characters was able to call in a wave and then freeze it over him.

Anyway, it’s all in there. As well as a mechanic inspired by Darkest Dungeon, which I recently beat by cheating my way through it.

Returning to GURPS for just a second, let’s just say I’m very inspired by the system as a whole. I often use it as a reference point, like oh, this rifle does twice as much damage as this pistol—I’ll remember that. The less I play GURPS, the more I appreciate it as if it is a game design toolkit.

Oh, and I threw in Advantage and Disadvantage because I was quite surprised that MÖRK BORG didn’t have them out of the box. Double oh, and I threw in Energy Dice based off of Risk Dice based off of Usage Dice. That’s the power of evolution.

This whole project evolved, and I hope it shows. As you leave the class and get into page 3, there start to be neon green symbols. Then, on page four, the symbols and the text boxes are starting to glow. I have a lot of fun with design—pretending like I know what I’m doing. That’s actually not even true. I don’t pretend. I just try to make things that I would like.

But what about the other stuff?

The cover title was added last, so I played with a couple of extra fonts to tie together a cyber-horror feel to intro into the funkier bits in the actual content. The title on page 1 just uses some funky fonts to evoke that sci-fi feeling. My main font is my go-to font, but it turned out to be a dumb font that doesn’t even have an italic style, but at least I learned how to shear! There might be maybe two text boxes in the whole thing that don’t have some kind of rotation to them. I love the way rotation makes the text look. I used text highlighting, and I cheated a lot, adding in non-breaking spaces to help pad out some areas that needed adjusting. For colors, I kept to the black, white, pink, and yellow for the most part. A compatible cyan-blue-ish color gets tossed in to grab your eyes toward important notes. Of course, I made generous use of bolding as well as small caps to draw attention to certain things. Finally, on pages 3 and 4, for the creature titles, I used a more blackletter-y font to tie the idea of these strange horrors back to the MÖRK BORG feel.

And how about a review of a review?

by Līber Lūdōrum from here

That’s a good review.

I’m pretty proud of what I’ve made, and I appreciate that others enjoy it as well.

Designer’s Notes: Séquelle — an Album Crawl

As I’m recovering from my surgery, I suppose it couldn’t hurt to throw up some— Actually, that’s a poor choice of words since I’ve been feeling pretty nauseous since the surgery. Anyway, here’s some designers’ notes. Yes, plural—I created this with my amazing partner.

We had been listening to Ghost’s album Prequelle a lot. It just kinda happened. A friend of mine pointed me to the album a while ago, but it just resurged in my brainspace, and my partner got attached to it as I hummed it and sang it while driving, doing dishes, etc. I was also getting into MÖRK BORG, and I really loved the community-suggested idea of doing an album crawl: taking an album and turning the ideas within into an adventure. So, I thought it would be fun for my partner and I to work on that, and I was mostly right. Admittedly, I was a bit of a butt in the beginning as I took on way too much self-inflicted pressure, but we got better at working together, which is, of course, a great skill to have, and we don’t usually work on projects together unless cooking, dishes, cleaning, laundry, etc. all count.

The hardest part for me was killing my darlings, which I had to do a couple of times. First, I had to be more relaxed in how I could fit the ideas together instead of trying to force everything to feel perfect, which is what really helped me relax from my self-inflicted pressure. Even then, I had to kill more darlings because all of our ideas wouldn’t fit on an A4 spread. I had an idea for a fun-but-simple puzzle door that I had to cut, and I’d explain it in more detail, but I plan to reuse it.

I also kept making dozens of small edits. Fitting things better. Formatting. Making certain pieces of the adventure stand out more. Squeezing in the licensing at the end. Tweaking the color because I had accidentally left Night Light on. It really taught me a lot.

But what does my partner have to say after all of it? She says it was fun even though it was a bit stressful in the beginning, and that it was a fun way for us to continue learning how to work together. She also really enjoyed the putting-it-together part, pulling together all of the public domain bits, which she felt really crossed over into her own work as a librarian.

We also agree that it was really fun to play it. She really enjoyed making something that we could actually use, and I definitely agree with her there. She was a good sport at not cheating when we played through it together with the rest of our group.

Designer’s Notes: Carousing in the Dying World

Yes—I published something!

I had finished the first inkling of a ‘draft’ for Carousing in the Dying World and posted it to the MÖRK BORG Discord just minutes before there was an announcement of the brand-new MÖRK BORG Third Party License. My fun carousing tables got buried. Truly, I wasn’t bitter—I was excited about the new license. It just gave me a chuckle. So, I posted it over in another channel on the Discord, and a member tagged me in the Forever GM Discord we hang out in and was like, Hey, you got a web page for your stuff? Because it’s good and people should be able to give you money. That was the moment that I became a capitalist and started worshiping Ayn Rand. Well, maybe I would have, but I didn’t have a page for my stuff.

See, I love GURPS—everyone knows that—, but all of my ideas were super-duper free because GURPS isn’t very open with its license. Which is cool. I respect that. But, because I was too scared to ever submit anything to the Pyramid magazine while it was still alive, that meant I wasn’t selling anything. Anyway, I didn’t really want to.

But this guy was like, Let me help you. So, I let him. (If you want to know who he is, then go check out his stuff. Matthew is great.) Of course, I didn’t have anything to sell, but he really encouraged me to throw something out there. So, with a little help and encouragement from my partner, I threw together my carousing rules and made them ‘real’.

Well, why did I make them? I love the OSR idea of having XP revolve around loot and using carousing as a way to part them from said loot. I first really saw this in Ultraviolet Grasslands by Luka Rejec, but that iteration led me to dozens of other takes on that idea, and many go quite a ways back.

I’ll admit that they’re probably a bit sillier than the dark tone of MÖRK BORG, but I original wrote these up for my own use, so they’re made to fit at my table.

I’ve already got some more ideas. I don’t imagine I’ll be going anywhere anytime soon.

That being said, some really incredible work has already come out that dwarfs mine, which has really reminded me that I’ve got a lot of growing to do in this space, but I am so honored to be able to give back to a community and a hobby that has given so much to me. I was very lucky to get in on the license so early, be mentioned in a tweet by the MÖRK BORG account, mentioned on their Facebook page, and mentioned in this article on Geek Native.