vs. M Engine
Tonight, Thursday November 17th, 2016, at 7 pm Central time till roughly 9 pm Central, our writer for vs. Moon Men, Jason Owen Black, has been invited to participate in an RPG.net Q&A session -- which you can link any time to the chatroom here: http://tinyurl.com/rpgnetchat or if you're finding this out after the fact, read the collected chat here on The Hardboiled GMShoe's Office.
What follows is a "brief" introduction to Jason Owen Black and vs. Moon Men for those unfamiliar with either. This is, of course, all in celebration of our newest releases to the vs. M Engine system, which includes our vs. Ghosts and vs. Stranger Stuff games!
Jason Owen Black & vs. Moon Men
| Jason Owen Black has been gaming since before he was old enough to be on the Random Starting Ages table. He has a B.A. and an M.A. in history and a graduate certificate in gender studies, and uses that education to write better games than he would have otherwise, hoping to keep his head down long enough for his student loans to be forgiven. He grew up near Detroit but followed the siren call of game design and rainy winters to move to Seattle. You can follow him on twitter @owenstreetpress or check out his website at jasonowenblack.com
Jason has written material for Wayfinder, Louis Porter Jr. Design, Sneak Attack Press, Outland Entertainment, Zenith Games, Adventure-a-Week, and of course Fat Goblin Games. He also creates content for The Black Hack on his website. You can find all of his publications at https://jasonowenblack.com/publications/
Jason first popped up on my radar I believe during my long-ago open call for Call to Arms books. He had had a range of texts he was proposing, but had settled on a Call to Arms: Banners & Flags theme. That book is still in some kind of development (I'm most likely going to at least nab out pieces of it for use in Fat Goblin Game's Steampunk Musha setting and the samurai), but that's all neither here, nor there.
It was back in August I want to say that The Fattest Goblin started making comments that he'd love some more vs. M Engine games, and they don't all have to be "paranormal" themed like vs. Ghosts. For Jason, he thought of the idea from this story:
|vs. Moon Men started out with the desire to make a science-fiction game and getting the late-night inspiration to ask “what if there were aliens on the Moon and they were upset about the Apollo 11 landing?” After that it pretty much wrote itself (with a lot of tinkering and back and forth and thinking and watching stuff like Mars Attacks! late at night).|
A very basic pitch in place, Jason started to bang away at vs. Moon Men, leading to this lovely book:
This is planned to be MUCH MORE than just a 'stand-alone' adventure book, with Jason and I spinning numerous variations of possible follow up and future plans for the vs. Moon Men and related books. To give you hint of some ideas, possible book titles in support of vs. Moon Men include:
- Go Wildcats!
- Mother Russia
- This War of Mine
- Silver Screen
- Sons of Liberty
- Crystal Skull
- Snow Base Alpha
- Body Snatchers
- Rogue One
- Strike Back
and so much more!
Jason's also tried his hand at writing for another vs. M Engine book, as he wrote vs. Ghosts Adventure: The Talking Board --- all about a possessed 'talking board' (tradmark-name-redacted).
So Please Join Us!
We've had a few of these RPG.net Q&As about a number of topics, check them all out!
- Lucus Palosaari discusses vs. Ghosts for the vs. M Engine
- J Gray discusses Curious Creatures for Castle Falkenstein
- Lucus Palosaari discusses the Fat Goblin Army Patreon
vs. Moon Men Character Sheet:
Today’s a special day for me -- Fat Goblin Games released my first, for-pay book (I had another article in the short lived Open Gaming Monthly a few months before, but I wasn’t paid for that) three years ago today, October 6, 2013. It was the Call to Arms: Axes & Picks book, which has been well received. I’ve sold over 160 of these books in the past three years since then, but bigger than that, I’ve worked on over 50 other books since then, some for other publishers but many right here for Fat Goblin Games. I’ve also had the chance to work with a LOT of new talent and bring them into the Goblin Hoarde.
New writers like our most recent addition to the team, Ben Dowell
|Ben lives in rural Indiana, somewhere between Indianapolis and Chicago; the exact location changes every decade or so. His love of all things gaming started on an Atari 2600 and grew with him. Nearly 20 years ago, he was introduced to table top gaming with Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition. Ten years ago, he homebrewed a ninja-based game for his son. Now, he runs games for the whole family and a host of friends and acquaintances.
Ben joined the ranks of professional RPG developers in January of 2016 when he co-founded Epic Level NPC, a nod to his D&D roots. His next goal is fulfill his childhood career choice, and become a werewolf.
Our newest book from Ben is vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: The Mad Gasser
The Mad Gasser of Mattoon
Based on an actual urban legend from his hometown, Ben was able to craft an adventure not just for our vs. Stranger Stuff game, but also included rules to play with our vs. Ghosts game, allowing the the "truth" of whom or what the Mad Gasser is to be up to the GM. Those options include:
- An escaped mad man
- A gas leak
- Military experimentation
- A cryptid beast
- or even a Nazi Ghost!
But an adventure involving possible Nazi ghosts isn't the only thing we have coming from Ben Dowell. Planned for release next week, we have vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Creepy Clowns.
Cuz we're always looking for a way to use this guy again.
And like with his The Mad Gasser adventure, this too will be quite a bit longer than the first few adventures we put out for vs. Ghosts. The premise of Creepy Clowns is taken right from today's headlines!
|The Fall Festival is only a few days away. School will be on break, a carnival is in town, and it’s all capped off with Halloween! Unfortunately, there’s always a few bad apples that want to take things too far. Lately, a group of “creepy clowns” have been scaring people in town. Can the kids in town convince the creepy clowns to cut it out before someone gets hurt? Or worst, before they cancel Halloween?!|
Now, clearly we're playing on the recent problems across the country with "phantom clowns," which also goes all the way back to at least the 1980's, but we do in the adventure try to point out that clowns are getting a bad wrap these days.
Regardless, we hope you'll be able to enjoy that storyline when it drops early next week, just in time for a Halloween adventure!
But That's Not All -- vs. Moon Men!
We also have an entirely new and different vs. M Engine game in the works:
vs. Moon Men is a roleplaying game in which players take up arms against alien invaders from another (but very nearby) world! Steal a ray gun and take the fight to them, or fight from the shadows while avoiding Big Lunar. Fight for freedom, stay out of the way, or help the invaders (but only if you’re a jerk). From the streets of Moscow to the backwoods of Tennessee, the Moon Men are here, and somebody needs to stop them!
The Moon Men didn’t come in peace, so send them back in pieces!
I'm not saying this is what they are going to look like, but it also might be...
vs. Moon Men is coming to us from Jason Owen Black.
|Jason Owen Black has been gaming since before he was old enough to be on the Random Starting Ages table. He has a B.A. and an M.A. in history and a graduate certificate in gender studies, and uses that education to write better game than he would have otherwise, hoping to keep his head down long enough for his student loans to be forgiven. He grew up near Detroit but followed the siren call of game design and rainy winters to move to Seattle. You can follow him on twitter @owenstreetpress or check out his website at jasonowenblack.com|
Jason has some neat new ideas for ways to play things out with the vs. M Engine, and then The Fattest Goblin Himself and I are going to steal those and continue to work on our "Next Big Thing"...
...but more on THAT later.
Sales of vs. Ghosts were great, as was general reception, and while we are still working on announced ideas like vs. Goons (a 40's/50's-era pulpy vs. M Engine game, discussed with GMShoe last month). Read more about vs. Ghosts in my older blogs here and right here.
But while we're working on the larger project that will be vs. Goons, as well as some other properties (expect to see something from one of the Hoarde about "vs. Moon Men" very likely soon, as well as a vs. something else from J Gray), we felt a need to get something small but different out there. Also, the main vs. Ghosts book is large and fairly expensive, so we wanted to offer a bit of an "easy in" point for people new the vs. M Engine games and so...
.... I wanna talk about vs. Stranger Stuff!
While vs. Ghosts was a "full" book with a decent amount of setting materials mixed in and "expanded" rules from even the old vs. Monsters Deluxe, vs. Stranger Stuff is the "slimmed down" ruleset you'd find in the old vs. Outlaws game that was only 6 pages long.
THAT is the full game, right there. ~2,000 words.
Our own vs. Stranger Stuff is all of 14 pages, with basically a dozen pages of "content" and we take CLEAR inspiration from that Netflix series (but also all the stuff that inspired them!
Oh wait, not that...
And so while you "could" play out a story about four geeky kids and one of them going missing and their siblings getting involved and a little science experiment of a love interest psychic coming to town to play with...
Its also ideal for playing any number of 80's themed misadventures of kids like:
- Alien Assimilation (a la Invaders from Mars)
- Deadly Dogs (a la Cujo)
- Experiments on Youth (a la Firestarter)
- Ritualistic Neighbors (a la Children of the Corn)
- Urban Slashers (a la Friday the 13th)
- And so many more!
Now, inline with the "minimalist" approach, it is a FULL GAME but there just aren't a lot of bells and whistles. The Equipment section, for example compared to vs. Ghosts, is down right sparse.
It's already been selling "fairly well" compared to vs. Ghosts, but we'd also love to hear some feedback. Also, we'd be willing to any number of expansions to -- in fact, if we did enough of them and pushed out that 14ish pages to over 50, we'd consider doing a vs. Stranger Stuff Deluxe which was available in print.
As it is, vs. Stranger Stuff will be our "easy point of entry" with a low-cost and "simple gameplay." The PDF is $1.00 currently on OBS stores, and it's likely to remain that way for the time being. Why not toss us a buck, give us a review, and tell us what YOU'D like to see us do to expand vs. M Engine games!?!
Back on June 30th, I did a blog post talking about the vs. Ghosts game which The Fattest Goblin and I had been working. While I talked about about it and the system that powers it, I didn't give any full or thorough previews of the game --I shall now attempt to 'fix' that.
While you can see the first several pages of the book in the Preview on RPGNow.com, you really start to appreciate it, in my opinion, when you can see more of this pamphlet-sized (print versions, available soon, will be for a 6"x9" booklet) overall.
Starting with the lovely cover, done by His Fatness Himself-Himself, you can get both the fun and the "inspiration" for this book in one quick look.
And then check out the layout and designed used in the book for things like the Core Mechanics of the game (reprinted below for legibility)...
The Core Mechanic
Vs. Ghosts uses a standard deck of playing cards, without the Jokers (unless your Ghostmaster likes to play fast and loose), to resolve actions. When performing an action, draw a number of cards equal to the appropriate attribute score. Compare the value of the highest card against the target value. If you have a card of equal or higher value than the target value, the action succeeds. If it is lower, you fail.
The Card Deck
At the beginning of the game session, the Ghostmaster shuffles the deck to create the draw pile. Bonus cards in the characters possession (see Character Advancement in the Ghost Mastering section) are from a separate deck and are not placed in the draw pile. As cards are drawn and used, they are placed in a discard pile. When no more cards remain in the draw pile, the Ghostmaster shuffles the discard pile to form a new draw pile. Cards currently in play are not shuffled at this time. Only the Ghostmaster is allowed to shuffle. Players may draw their own cards from the draw pile. The Ghostmaster draws all cards for the other characters in the game, the Extras and the Ghosts alike. Face cards are not equal to 10, as they are in blackjack; Jacks are equivalent to an 11, Queens to 12, Kings to 13, and Aces are normally high and equivalent to a 14, but when dealing damage low cards are better, and Aces can count as a 1.
|When attempting an unopposed challenge, the Ghostmaster must assign a target value for the character to draw against. Use the following chart to help determine an appropriate value:|
"Equipment" isn't the same in a vs. M Engine games like it is in many RPGs, so its not as vital but you HAVE to have some stuff...
And part of that "tongue-in-cheek" tone of vs. M Engine games is that NPCs (non-player characters) don't need to be so generically referred to as "NPCs" so that we can tag them as "Extras" and the special Stuff (if you know vs. Monsters game) renamed in vs. Ghosts are "Gimmicks."
But my favorite bit is our excerpts of Dr. Corontze's Spirit Guide.
And then our final plea for help about the future of this whole experiment...
Future Plans for vs. Ghosts and Beyond
In our minds, here at Fat Goblin Games, vs. Ghosts is just the first in a whole field of games using the vs. M Engine.
The versatility and ease-of-use of the vs. M Engine will allow for a wide range of books, from expansions to the basis of the vs. Ghosts book, to completely new "core" vs. Games. For instance, the basic rules of vs. Ghosts lends itself to a more "classic" version of "demonic-possession" and so a vs. Demons expansion could be planned, with just-the-few-extra-rules-needed plus a codex of demon-spirits and the versatility of your vs. Ghosts game expands drastically without having to worry about getting into the more standard RPG version of "demons" from D&D or the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Or we could release a complete version of Dr. Corontze's Spirit Guide!
Going 180* from the supernatural thrillers of vs. Ghosts, His Fatness and I have talked about releasing a vs. Crime "core" book, which would focus on playing modern police officers, a genre of RPGs that isn't well covered despite its popularity in television. We could play follow ups to vs. Crime with vs. Evidence (a CSI-inspired expansion), vs. Gangs or vs. Cartels (largely NPC codices with a few added bits and pieces), or vs. Cops (where your PCs take on the role of the criminals).
Now, we still have grand plans to continue to support our Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, 5th Edition, and even our in-house announced-but-unreleased-systems like Little Goblins and the Bastard System, and keep your eyes on these blogs for more information on "what we have planned."
Speaking of keeping your eyes to find out what's planned, be sure to check out my planned Q&A session with the Hardboiled GMShoe on RPG.net planned for July 28th, 2016 @ 7 pm till 9 pm Central Standard Time!