Hi, am not dead, apologies for the radio silence! I have been thinking a lot about Other Worlds recently and when I re-watched The Bourne Identity I felt inspired to create a Treadstone-style trademark template. So here it is, an espionage/assassin type based around situational awareness rather than brute force.
Sanctioned Operative Training
General Abilities: Identify Escape Route
Target Weak Point
Personality Traits: Compartmentalise Feelings
I Don’t Make Mistakes
Relationships [to civilian helper]
Flaw: No Memory of Previous Life
So what do you think? Has anyone tried to run an espionage/technothriller Other Worlds campaign yet?
Hey so remember that vapourware space opera supplement I was working on once upon a time called Starfighter? Well, I just got the manuscript back from the editor. Kickstarter, art, and layout are next on the list. Start watching the skies!
Hacked together from a couple of emails and PMs, this is the initial design philosophy stuff in terms of establishing a visual identity for Other Worlds. The best advice for any unknown indie games designer is to spend as little as possible on art and layout to cut down on your potential losses. I completely ignored this advice and instead followed a more sort of Factory Records approach of: I am making an object that I expect people to give me money for, so why not make that object as wonderful as possible? On that basis I spent a lot of money on art, editing, and layout. It worked out, I am in profit and I have a game that I am still very proud of, but it was still a big risk at the time and I owe a big thank you to Fred, Storn and Harriet for doing such excellent work. Anyway, without further ado, here is the original plan I discussed with Storn Cook:
What I want to do first is try and establish a general ‘look’ for the game. Something distinctive. Something that represents the truth of how the game actually plays.
The concepts I want to really try and capture are:
1) The game is very much concerned with genre emulation – setting the right tone in terms of atmosphere and making good use of genre archetypes and other iconic images.
2) The world is created by the whole group and not just the GM. They own it, and they will continue to expand on it during play by using their narrative authority. It may not be perfect but it’s all the more powerful because it’s ‘theirs’.
3) Characters are heavily tied into the setting. All of their abilities are defined in terms of either fitting in with their society (culture, profession, relationships) or standing out from it (individuality, trademarks).
4) Play is all about using these details to tell a story rather than simulating a world for its own sake.
I don’t really think of Other Worlds as a generic game. I think of it as a game with a setting every bit as detailed and evocative as something like Middle earth or Glorantha. The difference is simply that the group will create this world for themselves, rather than borrowing it from someone else. My game is intended to be a toolkit for this purpose.
I’m open to any ideas you have about how to represent this stuff visually! The more off the wall, the better. The less like other games, the better. Personally I’ve been thinking of something along the lines of the following:
The game is all about creating detailed and evocative worlds. So those worlds should be at the forefront of the book’s visual identity. We could therefore follow a handful of different campaign settings throughout the book.
We already have some interesting possibilities that have come about through playtesting:
Earth City, the cyberpunk world built by my group and described in the World Building chapter
Ward 13, a secret asylum under a Victorian hospital where patients are being experimented on and transformed into Hammer Horror monsters like vampires, werewolves, zombies, and hunchbacked freaks.
An alternate history where WW2 is interrupted by the Martian invaders from War of the Worlds
An undersea world where the sharkmen fight for supremacy over the sentient starfish-people
We could also make up our own worlds and settings. Non-Tolkienesque fantasy set in the aztec jungle. The pirates of ancient Atlantis. A world colonised by superheroes. Steampunk. The weird weird West. Post apocalyptic zombie survival. Whatever. Perhaps you have some interesting settings or images in mind already, from previous roleplaying campaigns or for future personal projects of your own. If so I’m happy to make any agreements necessary in terms of IP rights and design credits and so on.
We don’t need to write up any of these worlds, BTW. It’s all about the flavour, not the details. We would just have a few pictures depicting some characters, monsters, and locations from these worlds with maybe some hand-written words or phrases of description over the top. ‘This is a Calamari fish soldier’, that kind of thing. Think of it in terms of concept sketches for an imaginary film. We could perhaps also list some suggested abilities alongside it, also in pencil, along the lines of your ‘PC as schematic’ idea maybe?
(In fact, maybe we could also use some storyboarding sequences for the conflicts chapter? Just a thought)
I’ve been very much inspired by the pencil sketches you posted online of key NPCs and starships etc from your weekly space opera campaign (Fading Suns IIRC). In fact, some of my favourite pieces by you are the masked pulp hero with dual pistols and the cyberpirate guy, both of which are also done in pencil. Maybe all of the art in the book should be like this rather than inked? It would certainly be different, and it would also reflect the ‘design it yourself’ nature of the game. What do you think of this idea?
I also want to include about half a dozen campaign concepts. These I imagine will take up half a page, or possibly a whole page, each. They would consist of a pencil sketch or two with a bunch of hand-written text in pencil alongside it. The idea is that they sort of represent example potential campaign ideas ripped out of a GM’s notebook. They’re examples/inspiration as well as artwork. Ideally the text, logo, and art would be all intermingled on the same page like the GM had been doodling an imaginary campaign on his notebook in the middle of a class. The art doesn’t even need to be one picture, it could end up being two or three different character/location sketches scattered across the page.
As a general rule I also don’t particularly want the art to represent the sample templates or examples of play that are described in the text. I want people to be able to imagine on their own what the things in the text would look like, and to imagine on their own what the characters and scenes presented in the art might actually represent. The idea is to spark people’s imaginations and get them to create their own material rather than just playing with whatever random stuff we might happen to have come up with.
Some of you will have heard talk about an upcoming space opera supplement for Other Worlds by the name of STARFIGHTER. Well, it’s real, and the writing stage of the process is getting scarily close to finished. I’m not going to embarass myself by throwing out any estimated release dates, bear in mind that even after the writing is done there will still be editing, art, layout, and a whole load of other complications to get through. But nonetheless I thought it might be nice to show you some of the wonderful art that Storn has already produced for this book, partly as a taster of what’s to come but also as a bit of a holiday gift to thank you for your kind support. Merry Christmas and here’s to a more science-fictiony 2015!
I came across a document on my hard drive recently that turned out to be the original art brief for Other Worlds, written in August 2010. Storn Cook was always the artist I wanted for this project, and he did a fantastic job of bringing my strange ideas to life – well, this is the document he had to work with. I present this not as a model for how to do a professional art brief (seriously, I have no idea) but as a historical artifact in the game’s development that reflects some of my thinking at the time. I intend to expand on this thought process in a later post but for now, enjoy!
N.B. This is the ‘revised’ version of this document with ‘deleted’ entries simply because my initial vision somewhat outstretched my budget, so some of the projected illustrations fell by the wayside (although later during layout some more art was commissioned to fill various gaps). Nothing has been edited here and so you will see a variety of ideas and plans that ended up being revised or amended either by myself or Storn. I hope this is of interest to people who have enjoyed playing or reading the game.
REVISED ARTWORK BRIEF FOR OTHER WORLDS
The plan is to capture the DIY/build your own setting element of the game by using pencil sketches rather than fully inked pieces. All the art will be themed around the idea of ‘concept sketches for an imaginary film or campaign’.
Several of these pieces will also feature the use of text. This should always be hand-written in pencil (AND IN ALL CAPS) underneath or alongside the image, representing the notes of the GM//designer or simply the title of the piece.
The book will be in 6×9 (or maybe 5.5×8.5) ‘paperback novel’ format. Please bear this in mind in terms of page sizes.
Note: the game is written in English-English, not American-English. Please do not correct any spellings.
Each campaign concept should take up a whole page.
They represent example potential campaign ideas ripped out of some hypothetical GM’s notebook.
The idea is that they serve as both examples/inspiration and also as artwork/breaks in the text.
I’m thinking that each one should consist of a hand-lettered logo of some kind, a pencil sketch or two, and a bunch of text hand-written in pencil. The text, images, and logo should all be intertwined as though on the same scrap of paper.
I suggest that you just pick one and experiment with it, and we’ll see where we want to go with them from there.
1. VIKING SAGA
[Logo in sharp, angular text, like the elvish runes from Lord of the Rings. Maybe have runes along with it?]
[Text as follows, can be broken up or put into a single text block (keep existing line breaks)]
Concept: The characters are viking raiders exploring a mythic, fantastical Europe.
Dark and gritty in tone – sudden, violent death is always potentially around the corner
Explore ancient tombs, sites of mystical power, coastal villages, ruined castles, shipwrecks, and haunted forests
‘Here be dragons’ – fight against goblinmen, dragons, werewolves, dopplegangers, faeries, and spirits of the dead
Power Level: 20
Culture: Tribal variations on a common ‘Viking’ template
Profession: Roles in the party – scout, warrior, chieftain, etc
1 Trademark: Huscarls, berserkers, animal sidekicks, magic swords, great destinies, etc
[Potential images: A standing norseman with shield and weapon. A fragment of a map. Stonehenge or a ruined tower. An axe or sword. A longboat. A (realistic-looking) viking helmet. A wolf]
2. THE SILVER AGE
[Logo like a comic book logo – think particularly the 3-D thickness of the traditional Uncanny X-Men logo, and the curved scroll effect of the traditional Amazing Spiderman logo]
[Text as follows, again can be broken up around artwork or kept together in single cluster]
Concept: Watchmen meets Mad Men
Superhero campaign set in America as the shining optimism of the 1960s gives way to the dark cynicism of the 1970s – JFK, the space race, the civil rights movement, the cold war, Cuba, Vietnam, Nixon, Watergate
Echo Marvel’s own silver age – soap opera subplots, breaking the fourth wall, gonzo weirdness and superscience, commie supervillains, everything is new and shiny, lots of one-shot stories, new heroes and villains coming out of the woodwork all the time – creating a new continuity rather than mining an existing one
Power Level: 40, 2 Trademarks
[Potential images: Any assorted Kirby-esque aliens/mutants/energy dots/cosmic wonders/fight scenes. Maybe a Challenger space shuttle with a superhero flying alongside it?]
3. ROBOTS OF THE THIRD EMPIRE
[Logo: not sure. rivets? cogs?]
[Text as follows]
Concept: Sentient transforming robots come to Earth to fight over the four final fragments of the Nexus Cube, an ancient and powerful artifact that crash-landed here over five million years ago.
Power Level: 50
Cultural Archetypes: Different factions among the robots – the Defenders, the Watchers, or the Enslavers.
Professional Archetypes: The character’s role in the robot wars – scout, footsoldier, artillery, etc.
2 Trademarks: One represents the weapons and capabilities of the character in Giant Battle-Robot form. The other represents the weapons and capabilities of the form he can transform into – a car, a jetfighter, a dinosaur, etc.
Supporting Characters: other robots, AI programs, human sympathisers, human government forces
Antagonists: robots of the other factions, anti-robot guerillas, human government forces, aliens
Sets: Anything that can be smashed up real good by twelve foot tall robots with guns for hands
[Potential images: first image is a huge transformer battlerobot guy, maybe holding some kind of gun. Second image is some kind of sportscar or truck – various shared elements show clearly that it’s the same guy]
4. THE INFECTED
[Logo: military style, as though stamped onto something?]
[Text as follows]
Concept: The Nazis win WW2 by infecting Britain with the zombie plague. The survivors seal themselves into the London Underground and establish a network of underground colonies. We begin the action in 2013, when the virus has finally started to recede and people can once again return to the surface world. The characters are part of a special forces unit that has been sent out on a secret mission to rescue Prince Harry from unknown captors.
The Underground Colony of New Britain – a military/monarchist dictatorship, representing an idealistic version of what life was like in the 1940s. Rationing, Vera Lynn-style nostalgia/propaganda, cobbled together anachronistic tech like Sten guns, the wireless, the Enigma Machine, etc. Different underground stations have their own cultures (after Neverwhere) – Angel Islington is full of religious fundamentalists, Oxford Circus is full of anarchists and liberals, etc
The surface is a rubble-strewn wasteland, with all the classic London landmarks mostly still standing. Some element of re-wilding has gone on, with nature slowly taking over the city again. Lots of new trees and overgrown plants.
Potential antagonists: fast cannibalistic zombies – ‘the Infected’, rogue scavengers, anti-establishment types, infected animals like rats and dogs, collaborators and spies, Nazi scouting parties, other foreign troops.
Grim and gritty tone. No magic or supernatural elements at all – the virus is a scientific weapon.
Power Level: 20
Archetypes: All the characters will have adapted versions of both the ‘Englishman’ and ‘Soldier’ archetypes.
Trademarks: One each, representing various specialist roles within the unit – sniper, medic, demolitions, etc
[Potential images: Big Ben partially ruined or amongst other, bombed-out structures. Ruined/empty London city streets (think: the movie 28 Days Later). Zombies who look serious and angry, not too rotten and decomposed.]
These pieces are specifically designed to act as headers/bookmarks for the most important chapters of the book.
They should take up half a page each.
5. WORLD BUILDING
This comes from one of your own ideas Storn: “A GM putting blocks and shapes into a world over countries, stuff flying around in bits… sorta GM type leaning over a fantastic Sims layout or Civilization type land”. The only thing I would add to that is that there should be multiple people overlooking the layout, to represent the fact that the players create the setting of this game on a more or less equal footing with the GM.
6. CHARACTER GENERATION
This was one of your ideas: “A PC type as a schematic showing various aspects of character generation.. General Abilities, Traits, Flaws etc.” I’m not sure exactly how that would look but it’s definitely something to explore. Another possibility is to base something around Da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man diagram (the one with the man standing at a T position and also an X position, superimposed together in a circle. Maybe combine the two ideas?).
7. SUPPORTING CAST
An archetypal supporting cast for a fantasy game all huddled together ‘for the camera’. For example, a dwarf wizard, a scrawny young squire holding a sword, a floating skull, an innkeeper, a king, a barbarian, and a cloaked rogue/spy type character (could be an antagonist of some kind). I’m flexible though – only the floating skull is mandatory.
8. CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Two characters engaged in a hand-to-hand struggle – both from the Silver Age 1960s superhero campaign example. On one side we have ‘The Spirit of Liberty’ – a winged all-american hero, flag on chest, eagle mask helmet (face covered with a beak Hawkman-style), try to make sure he doesn’t look too much like the captain america style guy you did for the silver age campaign picture. On the other side we have EITHER ‘Grindstone’, a grey rocky strong guy hero made out of stone. maybe looks slightly demonic/gargoyle-like? – OR – ‘The Red Spectre’ – a cloaked figure (wearing a suit? evil looking robes?) who is able to turn insubstantial, possess people’s minds, and manipulate tendrils of gaseous/shadowy energy. Choose whichever of those two baddies you have the best visual ideas for.
There should be a caption underneath saying: ‘The Spirit of Liberty vs. [whichever enemy you use]’
9. SPOTLIGHT POINTS
Again, one of your own ideas: literally, a PC “in the spotlight”. I think the PC himself should be a secret agent type, some kind of James Bond/Nick Fury figure with a flashy-looking gun.
Do you think this image will still work as a pencil sketch, given the shadows created by the spotlight effect?
11. ADAPTING OTHER WORLDS
This is a science fiction/space opera image, although it should look more beaten up/industrial like Battlestar Galactica or Aliens. Image of either a computer console or a starfighter, with a guy crouching under the hood holding a spanner trying to fix the damn thing
12. Pan, the space opera/cyberpirate character looking at a computer display.
This image is a great example of the sort of look we are going for – clean, elegant, iconic.
CHARACTER SKETCHES + RULES TEXT
These pieces should take up a half-page each – a character sketch on one side of the piece and some rules text hand-written alongside it. The text and art should be seen to be part of the same piece – they should not be separated.
13. LILY McCALL
[Image: Young girl, somewhere between five and seven years old. Sitting cross-legged on the floor wearing pyjamas. She’s from the Victorian era but this doesn’t need to be obvious. She is looking up at word blocks that are floating in the air (via her own subconscious telekinesis). They could spell ‘ward 13’ or something else maybe?]
[Text as follows]
General Abilities: Abuse Toys
Sing Creepy Nursery Rhymes
Personality Trait: Never Flinch
Relationship: Adored By All Things Evil
Goal: Find Mummy
Flaw: Accidentally Summon Eldritch Monstrosity
14. JACK AND JILL
[Image description: Siamese twins from Ward 13 (victorian horror campaign set in lunatic asylum). Heads entirely separate. They should be teenagers/young adults in appearance. Twisting and struggling against each other in a straightjacket? Prison bar window in background? Should be a serious picture, not a funny one. ]
[Text as follows]
Jack and Jill
General Abilities: Jack – See The Past
Jill – See The Future
Separate At Night
Personality Trait: Constantly Arguing
Relationship: Love Each Other
Flaw: Hate Each Other
Goal: Escape From Ward 13 (And Each Other)
15. THE A-TEAM VAN
[Concept: this is a 1940s Harrods delivery van that was converted into an A-Team style attack vehicle by British special forces during the actual play of campaign concept 4, The Infected]
[Image: Please see both attached images. Either pick one to use as a basis or make up some combination of the two. The Harrods lettering should be visible but perhaps partly obscured by other things. Then add the following mods: an actual A-Team stripe, sprayed or painted on along the side of the van; a roll cage; two firing ports on each side of the back cabin of the van (make it one port each side if it will look better); sheet metal armour plating; and a snow plough (that’s actually used for ploughing through zombies). It should be reasonably clear that this vehicle has been largely improvised from stuff found in a garage rather than being some hyper-designed killing machine]
[There should be NO figures inside or outside the van – it’s all about the vehicle itself]
[Text as follows]
Customised Harrods Delivery Van From ‘The Infected’
General Abilities: Firing Ports
Jump Over Ramp
Sheet Metal Armour Plating
Souped Up Engine
Personality Trait: A-Team Stripe
Relationship: Designed By Corporal Q
Flaw: Zombie-Attracting Backfires
16. CAPTAIN BRIGHAM
[Image: stern and merciless naval captain, buttoned up appearance, uniform, cutlass, flintlock pistol. Should look like he is standing on the prow of his ship, pointing and giving orders maybe?]
[Text as follows]
Captain John Brigham is in command of HMS Impervious, a special pursuit warship of the Royal Navy given a unique mandate by the Queen: remove all pirates and subversives from the high seas by any means necessary.
General Abilities: Catch Target Unawares
Stop At Nothing
Personality Trait: Utterly Ruthless
Relationship: Tyrannical Captain of HMS Impervious
Goal: Restore Order To The High Seas
Flaw: Hated By All Those He Commands
OTHER, STAND-ALONE SKETCHES
Some of these images should be simple sketches, like Pan discussed above, with maybe a header or a name.
Some of them should be more like concept sketches in that they have little text labels calling attention to various details. Please see the attached images ‘Concept Sketches 1 and 2’ to get the general idea of what I want.
19. THE PIRATE SHIP
[Intended to illustrate the ‘A Distant Port’ example in the conflict resolution chapter. Image should simply be of a pirate ship at sail in the ocean during a storm. Try to zoom out a bit to capture the ship and the wild, choppy nature of the conditions. No clear pictures of the crew please (if they are even visible at all)]
20. GRULL MARAUDERS
[concept: humanoid marauders from a space opera game.]
[Image: some kind of cross between orcs, trolls, the mangalores from the Fifth Element, and the pig-like gamorreans from star wars. Brutish-looking animal-men wearing fragments of uniforms and heavy armour plating (mostly scavenged/improvised). Holding some kind of heavy shotgun rifle with a revolver-like chamber in the middle]
[text should say: Grull Marauders from Sector Seven]
21. THE KINGS CROSS HAMMERS
[Concept: a ‘team shot’ of the special forces unit we used as PCs in our ‘The Infected’ campaign]
[Image: four figures standing together, equipped/dressed as British soldiers circa 1940, with a dog at their feet:
Figure 1- a demolitions expert who looks like George Clooney in O Brother Wherefore Art Thou
Figure 2 – a gadgeteer/officer type with a utility belt and a custom made spike rifle/harpoon
Figure 3 – a slightly feral-looking scavenger/scout who is a bit of an angry loner type
Dog – a small rat terrier, should be at the feet of his master, figure 3(the scout)
Figure 4 – a medic with a high-tech hypodermic needle-pistol, sample vials hanging from his belt, and a (not too blatant please!) crucifix hanging from his neck. ]
[The text underneath/alongside the piece should simply say: ‘The Kings Cross Hammers’]
22. FLYING FISH
[Concept: a flying fish with a boat attached. From a fantasy setting]
[Image: A giant fish, 100 metres long, with a lighter-than-air gas sac (this is wholly internal and should not be seen on the picture) that lets it float in the air. It has a boat underneath it attached via a harness. The boat has no sails but does have a ballista or two (not necessarily visible). The boat is big enough to need a crew of about 10-12 people. The fish should be in mid-flight, soaring majestically over a sea of clouds with the peak of a distant mountain just visible in the distance.]
[The text underneath/alongside the image should read: Large flying fish (Pesce Dirigibile) from Angelo’s ‘The World Over The Clouds’ campaign.]
[N.B. The final ‘i’ in Dirigibile is not a typo ]
24. A WARLOCK OF THE IRON CITADEL
[hand write the above title directly underneath/alongside the picture]
[Concept: a steampunk technomage in a post-apocalyptic Earth]
[Image: a tall and imposing figure, dressed in a heavy longcoat and a tattered cape. Looks gothic, like something out of warhammer 40,000 or the mutant chronicles RPG. Some riveted armour plating – actually made out of brass. Maybe have some kind of cogs set up around the limbs to act as rudimentary power armour servos. Grand Darth Vader-style helmet & mask with a prominent respirator grill. Salvaged items on belt and in equipment – a book, an hourglass, maybe other stuff. Has a sabre (powered?) and some kind of baroque flintlock-style energy pistol. Holding a staff maybe? In the background an essence storm roars around a distant citadel, amidst barren wastelands/mountains?]
[The citadel itself could look something like the attached image of the GW Citadel logo]
26. DARTH MANTIS
[Darth Mantis is a villain from an old star wars campaign I ran. From the waist up he looks like a cross between darth vader and a dark eldar incubi from warhammer 40,000 (see attached image). He should be elegant, armoured, slightly insectoid/waspish looking, and holding a lightsabre in one hand. He lost both legs in an ‘incident’, so from the waist down he is fused to a robotic spider body like some kind of centaur. The join between the armoured human torso and robo-spider-centaur legs should be seamless, so that he appears to be one single unified robot/creature.]
[The text should simply say: Darth Mantis]
27. DWARFBALL BLOCKER
[To illustrate the conflict consequences stuff at the end of the conflict resolution chapter. A fantasy dwarf in very heavy sports armour, like something out of Bloodbowl. Any ideas for an interesting new spin on this image? This should be a character study with no background or other figures. Could try both a front view and a side view next to each other, or have various call-out lines that we can label with text later on (spiked kneepad, concealed weapon, etc)]
[no text needed]
28. CYBERPUNK CITYSCAPE
[For the worldbuilding chapter. Just a half or a third of a page, a loose sketch of a cyberpunk cityscape – all skyscrapers and billboards and neon, with a side view of a bladerunner style flying car as it moves past. But this car should be small – the focus has to be on the cityscape itself]
[no text needed]
29. HEL-BLÁR, Animal Draugr (note little accent line over the a in blar)
[concept: an example monster to follow on from the Viking Saga campaign concept]
[Image: a satyr-like beastman, with cloven hooves, goats legs, a human torso/arms, and a fox’s head. It should be wild eyed, angry looking, intimidating. It’s an animal spirit just risen from the grave, so there should be a gravestone just behind it (maybe a very primitive one?) and wisps of black smoke trailing along the floor]
30. SOME KIND OF MARTIAL ARTS/WUXIA IMAGE
33. SOME KIND OF WILD WEST IMAGE
35. RE-USE OF CRIMSON72
You said that you had a pencil version of this
36. RE-USE OF PILOT72
Pencil version of this too please.
37. RE-USE OF SWEEPER
Greyscale/pencil version please.
38. RE-USE OF SANDMAN FIGURE
You said you might be able to make this more ‘sketchy’ in photoshop by making it greyscale.
Angelo, who has been a big supporter of Other Worlds since the very beginning, has started a really interesting thread on his new campaign on rpg.net, come check it out: