Class Notes: More Cool Bits

-March 6th, 2013

Last week I wrote about how much fun you can have using a college campus as a modern game setting. It offers tons of roleplay hooks and it sets the stage as a compilation of all those exciting things you daydreamed about happening in class when you were supposed to be taking notes. If you missed the post, go back and give it a read. I’ll wait.

Okay, last week we talked about setting, this week let’s talk antagonists–in particular, let’s talk horror. Of course you GMs know that any setting can be customized to suit any purpose, but we’re all about the supernatural antagonists in Degrees of Horror. (Hopefully the name gave it away.) Those of you who are familiar with Pinebox have probably already experienced out-of-control science, ghosts, cultists, shamans, and more. We’ve kept that same variety in this game, so whether you’re into voodoo curses, undead stalkers, science gone wrong, demonic monsters, or menacing spirits you’ll find something to keep you awake at night. 

Speaking of antagonists, one development during the writing of Degrees of Horror was the publication of the Horror Companion. We tried to keep overlap between Degrees of Horror and the Horror Companion (and for that matter the Savage Worlds rule book) to a minimum. Why include vampire or zombie stats when you’ve already got ’em? The overlap that exists does so because we’ve put our own spin on the creature.

In particular, for ghosts and demons we took a mix-and-match approach that offers a base Monstrous Ability followed by a grab bag of additional abilities.*  That gives you tremendous flexibility in creating ghosts or demons with a variety of appearances and abilities. Of course, you might not have the time or desire to make your own creature. That’s why we also included a number of ready-made ghosts or demons that you can drop into your game as-is.

Since ghost-hunting is a significant part of the Pinebox mythos, we also include rules on conducting a ghost-hunting, seances, and dealing with spirit possessions. Let that sink in for a moment.

We devoted a section to spirit possessions and exorcisms.

Picture this: You and your friends arrive at the office of a degree adviser whom you think was sent a cursed yearbook. The adviser acts strangely and you see that you were too late– the yearbook is open on his desk! While you keep the conversation going and distract him, your friend edges close enough to “lay on hands” and cast out the evil spirit. The adviser shudders and collapses into unconsciousness. Your friend looks exhausted, but your step forward to help turns into a stumble. A suffocating pressure squeezes against your thoughts…

As in any horror game, your group sets the tone. We wrote Degrees of Horror so that you can make it an exercise in butt-kicking monster slaying, a terrifying gauntlet of survival, or somewhere in between. 

That’s it for this week. I hope you’re getting ideas for your own Degrees of Horror campaign. As always, please let me know if you have questions or if there’s something you want me to cover in an upcoming Class Notes. I’m always looking for new ideas. Thanks!

 

* I’ve mentioned this before but it always bears repeating. Just because Ed and I wrote it doesn’t mean that it’ll end up in the finished version. Sometimes things have to get cut for space reasons. I could see our build-a-monster sections being sacrificed to the elder page-count gods. If something gets cut for space reasons (as opposed to boneheaded mechanics) then we’ll probably put it in a future supplement or just make it available online.

Sinister Secrets

-January 30th, 2013

Before we get into this week’s news, I wanted to thank everyone for their input on last week’s post about the an ETU website. If you haven’t spoken up it’s certainly not too late, feel free to jump on the Pinnacle forums and share your ideas!

Speaking of things seen on Pinnacle’s website, have you read this week’s update? As part of a much bigger initiative, we are contributing a Degrees of Horror convention one-sheet called Sorority Secret, described thusly:

Luke is a guy who has everything going for him—good looks, good grades at ETU, and you as his friends! That makes his abrupt disappearance all the more perplexing. You’ve been following his last known whereabouts and the trail goes cold at a prestigious sorority house on Pinebox’s “Greek Row”. Is there a reasonable explanation, or is the truth something more sinister?

Needless to say, we’re excited to be able to give our fans some time at ETU. Pinnacle wisely never announces release dates until books are practically ready to ship, so this is one way we can guarantee a fun, frightening Degrees of Horror adventure in advance, if only for a convention slot. In addition to the one-sheet, we’ll also  provide a collection of pre-generated characters so you can make the most of the time in your convention game slot.

Although we really hope you’ll sign up convention slots to run Sorority Secret, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention our most popular convention game of all time- Chickens in the Mist. If you’ve never played this game, you’re in for a huge treat. If you have, then there’s little need for the reminder– it’s unforgettable fun! We’ve also had GMs run Last Rites in a four hour convention slot, although I’ve heard that it can be somewhat rushed. No matter what you run, we are always flattered and humbled when you choose a 12 to Midnight adventure. If you DO run one of our games, please let us know either in the forums or even in an e-mail.

We hope you are as excited as us about Sorority Secret. While I don’t have an official street date for download, it’s safe to say “relatively soon” and certainly well in advance of Origins.

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Back very nearly 10 years ago when we released our first product, Last Rites of the Black Guard, one of the ways we distinguished ourselves from the crowd was by giving away MP3s that could be used by the GM as in-game sound effects. Those MP3s ended up being even more popular than we’d expected, a freebie that people still comment on today.

Now, with major revisions to Degrees of Horror behind us, we’re starting to talk about what we can do to support the GMs who want to run it. Pinebox stands among a minority of settings that take place in “modern times.” That gives us an advantage over fantasy or sci-fi settings– we can extend the setting out onto the web by giving you an ETU school website.

A few of you might remember that we started a website called The Raven’s Report shortly after we finished the first draft of Degrees of Horror. If you follow the link, you’ll see that ostensibly it’s a student-run e-zine based at ETU. Most articles are reported from the naive perspective of someone unbelieving in the occult, but you–the Pinebox insiders–can read between the lines and imagine the supernatural forces at play. Each article is, in essence, an adventure seed for an ETU campaign.

As revisions to Degrees of Horror dragged on, we put The Raven’s Report on pause so we could focus on polishing the game. Now with the heavy lifting behind us, we have the luxury of revisiting old haunts. We can resume The Raven’s Report, but as just one element in a whole university website. We can include Raven’s Report news items, a page on ETU history, a campus map, university merchandise from ball caps to coffee mugs, …and more.

It’s the “…and more” where you come in. We’d really like YOU, our Pinebox fans, to tell us what sort of things you’d like to see on an ETU website. We want to offer a site that our fans will actually use and enjoy. What sort of things would entice you to check out the site as either a player or a GM? What would keep you coming back more multiple times? If a part of the site were behind a paywall, what would sort of content would you consider valuable enough to pay for?

We would really, really appreciate your feedback. This would be a site FOR YOU, so we want to get it right! The best place to comment is on the Pinnacle forums but you’re also welcome to comment on our Facebook page or in the Savage Worlds fan community on G+.

New Year, New Adventures

-January 3rd, 2013

It’s traditional at the death of the old year to reflect on the past. For 12 to Midnight, 2012 can be summed up as the year we finished the revisions for Degrees of Horror AND the world didn’t end. I’d call that a pretty good year.

Now let’s look ahead.

I know y’all want to know when to expect Degrees of Horror. Before writing this I consulted my Magic 8-Ball and it said “Uncertain”. Publishing is a tricky business with a lot of moving parts, even more-so for RPGs which tend to be art-heavy. Publishers have to line up their books well in advance, creating an ever-shifting queue of projects that need editing, art, layout, marketing, and so on. Pinnacle undoubtedly has other games in the works ahead of ours, and they don’t pump books out a revolving door just to meet arbitrary sales quotas. It’s their dedication to quality that makes us so relaxed about having the book in their hands. So yes, the release date is “when it’s ready” and that’s totally cool.

Now that we have that out of the way, what ELSE should you expect from 12 to Midnight? Ed and I have brainstormed many ideas for Degrees of Horror extras- from EVPs to an ETU website. Once the game is released, we’ll see how much interest you have in those game-enhancing goodies. I know many, many people enjoyed the EVPs for Last Rites.

Those are just ideas though. What’s actually on paper is another Pinebox adventure called House on Dale Island. Ed calls it the his “Mt. Everest of haunted house adventures”. That game is completely written and I would expect it to be released a reasonable amount of time after Degrees of Horror.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Ed and I are also in the early stages of writing more Pinebox fiction. We’ve both been making notes and barring any unforeseen complications I’ll probably start my first new short story within the next week.

Beyond that we’ll write the things that you, our fans, want us to write. Please shout out and let us know what you want to see from Pinebox.

December Break

-December 19th, 2012

Just a quick note to let you know that I’m taking a break from the weekly posts through the remainder of the month. It’s a busy time of year, compounded by what seems to be an oncoming cold. I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas filled with fun, laughter, and plenty of games! See you in January.

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