Pay What You Want for Shock:!

Originally published at xenoglyph: the alien writings of designer joshua a.c. newman. Please leave any comments there.

Until I get tired of doing it this way, Shock:Social Science Fiction, the literary SF RPG, is Pay What You Want Dollars for the PDF! The average payment is about $13, but you can give me any amount you want!

I’ve seen players use Shock: to make stories in the style of Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, C.J.Cherryh, and Octavia Butler. It works with your group’s sense of humor for playing tragedies, comedies, and adventures, so long as they appreciate the irony that defines science fiction.

I do ask that you sincerely pay what you feel you can afford. Game publishing is my living and, while I’m very happy about every download, I can only make a living at it if you help.

Enjoy it, and may you never experience the vast and terrible worlds you create!

Jinxed in Jersey: a LARP about climate change

Originally published at xenoglyph: the alien writings of designer joshua a.c. newman. Please leave any comments there.

buildings collapsing

You are 50 miles from your final destination. You left western Massachusetts with a near-full tank of gas. You planned on refueling in southern Connecticut, but every station you’ve passed is empty.

You surge forward into New York state. The opportunity to refuel decreases sharply with each exit you pass. Every few exits, the needle drops lower. You have enough gas to make it to Morristown, but what then? Will normalcy be restored by Sunday, or will the shortages have worsened?

You consider trying an alternate route. If you drive far enough from the highway, you might have some luck. But if that doesn’t work, you’re stuck. Far from home, far from your destination, out of fuel.

Do you turn back now, or continue on?

We turned around when, about 40 miles from the convention, we realized that one tank of gas could get us in, but not out, of Morristown. We had been forewarned about fuel shortages in northern New Jersey, but we had not anticipated the scale of the problem. When electricity was restored, everyone ran to refuel at once. Northern New Jersey ran out of fuel, so Jersey folks set off for southern New York; southern New York ran out of fuel, and New Yorkers set out for Connecticut. And so on and so forth…

This road trip was a sobering experience; a reminder that climate change is not a problem of the future. If you live in one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, then you’ve seen the damage yourself. The storm left more than 8 million homes without power, canceled nearly 20,000 flights, and has caused an estimated $50 billion in damage. This weekend, more than 900,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey were still without electricity.

As power is restored throughout metropolitan areas, impatient drivers are piling into long lines for fuel. On our drive through north Jersey, the only serviceable gas station we passed had at least 50 cars lined up, drivers waiting and glaring.

Across the country, the effect of climate change will vary regionally. Everywhere, there will be a marked increase in extreme weather events. These will taken the form of storms, floods, droughts, heat waves, and a colorful mashup of other unpredictable “acts of God.”

What this means for the future of this country – for the future of this planet – is beyond the scope of this piece. I can’t predict the full impact of climate change, nor do I know how quickly certain changes will take place.

This is what I can say: This weekend, climate change impacted your community. If you did not personally feel the impact, you weren’t looking.

Mobile Frame Zero Success

Originally published at xenoglyph: the alien writings of designer joshua a.c. newman. Please leave any comments there.

The Mobile Frame Zero Kickstarter was a huge success! Thanks to the thousands of backers, enormous creativity of my co-creators, and big ups from Tycho and Kotaku, the game is under full-steam production!

You can expect me to be a little quiet — it’s a huge project — so if you’re curious about what’s going on, please follow me! I’m also on Facebook and G+, though I don’t really have time to interact there very often.

You might want to keep an eye on everything in the Community sidebar on, especially the Mobile Frame Hangar. There’s amazing creativity going on over there, from creation of mobile frame companies to fan art and t shirt designs.

I’ve got a whole ton of work to do. Hope I get to build some robots soon!

Captain Estar Likes Colony Drop

Originally published at xenoglyph: the alien writings of designer joshua a.c. newman. Please leave any comments there.

See if this sounds familiar:

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time hanging out with the guys (not all actual scrotum-toters) from the comic shop. We had a great time, on the whole, though we got into the stuff you get into when you spend a lot of time with the same people, but, unlike with actual family, there’s sexual tension.

The lot of us got together to play roleplaying games more or less weekly from when I was 15 until I was 19 and the store was starting to falter. When we got together for parties, though, for birthdays or whatever, we did other stuff. Sometimes we fought with boffers (I scoff at what you think a boffer is — ours were made of rattan, weighed a good pound or two, and we fought to submission), or, on rare and exciting occasions, got to watch smuggled anime brought by our transitory Navy friends who would bring bootlegs. Mostly they were untranslated, multigenerational messes that really seemed to threaten the health and safety of the VCR. I remember The Samurai in particular was full of baffling features, like geyserish nosebleeds.

But it was fun! It was worth it! We were seeing amazing imagery that far exceeded even that of Heavy Metal, until then the Platonic ideal of a cartoon where you could see nipples. We signed petitions to bring Akira to a nearby theater (Boston being the closest we could get to a Rhode Island showing). We gobbled up Appleseed (BAD MOVE STICK TO MANGA), Black Magic M66, and Bubblegum Crisis.

For some reason, probably the fashion dictates of the day, we never got into giant robot stuff. For me, that was still the stuff of legend that I had to travel to New York, making a pilgrimage to the big, old Forbidden Planet full of imported Japanese goodies. There, I first saw the triple eye and domed head of the Scopedog and first experienced the mysteries of a robot bear that turns into an egg. While I purchased the bear/robot/egg for further study, there were no Scopedogs for sale in any price range I could approach, so it remained a mystery until a few years ago when I was rummaging around MAHQ and came across it looking for ideas to make Lego robots. Then, thanks to the rest of the Internet, I was able to finally watch the series. It’s very grim and very good. Like a lot of series, I feel like the ending is a partial violation of the spirit of the series, but I now have the context to really appreciate it.

And, as my work with Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack (née Mechaton) has progressed, I’ve looked more and more at this stuff. I’ve watched a lot of Patlabor, Dougram and Gundam as well as the complete series of VOTOMS. And I’ve been reading Colony Drop. What’s neat about it to me is that they have the same relationship to it that I do: this is stuff they love because it has a particular place in their hearts, and they, as fans of that age, helped it to become a thing here. But in becoming the thing it now is, it’s lost some of the stuff they (and I) loved about it then. To be sure, I think there a) was a lot of irredeemable crap then, and, b) there’s very good stuff now (see Gundam 00), and history tends to edit. But I don’t see anyone doing now what Masamune Shirow was doing then (least of all Masamune Shirow). I suspect the money’s too big for the fanzine scale at which he started; or perhaps the fanzine scale is so vast now, thanks to Teh Intarents, that I just don’t know where to look.

But Colony Drop lets me know that, irrespective of Damn Kidsism, other people love what I love, too. They’re independently publishing a zine right now, and you can guess how I feel about that. It talks about the evolution of Anime not as a piece of marketing material, but as a scene and an artform, as fans. And, unlike a lot of zines, the drawings are quite good. It’s ten bucks. They’re good graphic designers, too. You should get yourself a copy if you enjoy this stuff as much as I do.