Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Holidays - A Psi-punk Present

Happy Holidays everybody! Yes, I am a little late on the holiday wishes but I was out of town with family and not spending time at the computer. Hopefully this will be worth the wait though!

First, I would like to give a special thanks to Franck Florentin for backing Psi-punk using PayPal. There is still time for you to get in on the action and get your name listed as a Backer in the upcoming book, so click the "Support" link on the top of the page if you're interested.

Finally, Melissa Gay sent me a few more pictures, so accept these five images as a gift from me to you. She tells me she can have the art finished by the end of January, which unfortunately delays our book a bit past the Kickstarter Estimated Date. Since everything else is in place and ready to go we shouldn't be too far off the mark however, and we'll still get you this book in a timely manner!

And now, the new pictures!






What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's quiet. A little too quiet.

As some of you know, I am working on getting a business degree even while I work on Psi-punk. That being said, this term has been a bit crazy and FInals were time-consuming, so I have slacked on my duties to keep people informed about what's happening around the world of Psi-punk.

So what's the status of the book?

I have received the final edited copy from my editor, and it's looking better than ever. Anyone who wants to publish a book should hire an editor, even if they're an English major. That second set of eyes really does help!

I have approved all of the edits and made some fixes based on Chris' suggestions, so now I feel comfortable that the text of the book is ready. I still have to finish the ending of the game's included adventure, but otherwise the text is good to go!

That leaves art and layout. Ruben has done a fantastic job on the layout mock-ups, and I think you'll like what he's done. We spent a lot of time going back-and-forth with fonts to find the perfect look for the text, and we have a few alternates in mind in case there's money left over in the budget to do an alternate layout (one for the hardcopy book and a screen-optimized layout).

Finally, Melissa is hard at work on art. I just sent the almost-last of the commissions to her today. All that's left are the front and back cover and two or three internal pieces. Mind you, that's what has been commissioned so far -- we still have a bit of work to do to finish fulfilling the orders.

I hope to have a few more pieces to show off soon, but for now feast your eyes on the Changeling!


What do you think? Feel free to let us know in the comments. And if you have any crazy or killer ideas for the book's cover, let me know!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Updated: Informational Interview with Eloy Lasanta

Update

I had a great time speaking with Eloy on Thursday. Embedded below is the full interview video. I hope you learn as much from it as I did.



Original Post

This is not directly related to Psi-punk, but you may find it interesting nevertheless.

On Thursday, November 8th (that's two days from the date of this post) I'll be sitting down to chat with Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games via Google Hangouts. This informational interview is part of a business management class project, so that means we will be talking about the business of being an independent game publisher.

You can join us live on Thursday at 9 p.m. EST / 6 p.m. PST or catch the recording at a later date.

Click here for the Google+ Event Page.

I am honored that Eloy has agreed to take time out of his busy schedule to chat with me and let me broadcast the event live. Let's show him some gratitude by checking out his Camp Myth RPG Kickstarter, going on now.

I hope to see you Thursday!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Psi-punk at Indie+2

Happy Halloween! Prepared for a treat?
(That was pretty lame.)

I will be running Psi-punk tomorrow during the Indie+2 online game convention. That's Thursday, November 1st, at 10:00 a.m. PST / 6 p.m. GMT.

For more information about Indie+, check out the website.

To join the Google Hangouts event, visit the following URL:
https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cpsovpr16t6s94t7sn8ne39anv8

I am currently looking for 3 - 6 players, but the hangout will be on air and everyone is welcome to come and watch. This will be a great opportunity to see Psi-punk in action!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Updates! and Major Players - the Amazonia Luddites

Good news! I know it's been quiet around here for a while, but I have been hard at work getting the final document ready to send to Chris Perrin for editing. Part of that time was spent working with our highest-level Kickstarter backer to get input about a new megacorporation that will go into the game.

Well, that write-up is finished and entered into the master file, and it has been sent to Chris for review. We're on track to have the document edits finished and when all of that's done, our layout artist, Ruben from 3d6design.com, is ready to take over and put it all into place. He has already started working on the layout design, and we think you'll like what he's come up with.

So what did our Kickstarter backer come up with? Here's a preview.

 Previously we revealed some of the Major Players in the World of Psi-punk. This new entity will be placed in Chapter 1: the World of Psi-punk along with those corporations, governments, and criminal elements that are already listed.

Amazonia Luddites

Not so much a corporation as a militant faction, some say the Amazonia Luddites were founded by Nathan Hunter himself during his stay in South America. While this hasn’t been proven, it is certain that many of the foremost members of the AZL are powerful psychics with an intense hatred for new technologies.

The Amazonia Luddites have established a large and fiercely-protected No Tech Zone in what little remains of the Amazon rainforest. ‘Net signal dampeners and custom anti-tech barriers have been set up around the perimiter of the AZL’s territory, and within the zone electronics and automated machinery are strictly prohibited. Rumor has it that an anti-tech virus has been spread throughout the territory, infecting anyone who enters. This virus specifically attacks people with cybernetic implants, causing their limbs, eyes, ears, and other augmentations to malfunction and shut down.

Understanding that they are no physical match for other nations, the AZL do not make a habit of waging war on other territories or corporations. However, they do spread anti-technology propaganda throughout the world and their numbers have grown steadily over the past decade. Their ultimate goal is unknown, but many corporations and governments fear their power and the likely notion that they are breeding still more powerful psychics within their carefully-guarded borders. None have risked a preemptive attack on this group, however, for fear of destroying what remains of the world’s last rainforest.
The Amazonia Luddites, or AZL, have a lot of potential. Major players like the AZL are meant to give GMs ideas on how to build stories and craft campaigns that involve various groups and organizations throughout the world. Are the AZL up to no good, or is this a group that the players may want to get involved with? Should they be feared for their psychic potential and zealous behavior, or written off as just another fringe group?

What might you as a GM decide to do with the AZL in your game?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hacking Computers - Ghosting

Previously I talked about two of the three computer hacking methods: cracking and psi-jacking. (Check out this post for a refresher.) Now it's time to go into a bit more detail about the third and most complex method: Ghosting.

The term "ghosting" refers to the ability to literally project one's consciousness "into" the 'Net. In Psi-punk, the 'Net is treated like an alternate plane of existence, similar to the Astral Plane. Through use of electrokinesis (the ability to control electricity psionicly), characters can raise the frequency of their own electromagnetic fields to merge with the wireless spectrum that supports the 'Net and all other wireless communications. Particularly skilled individuals can raise their own field and that of others near them, effectively allowing them to bring passengers with them to the 'Net.

What’s Inside

Many science fiction movies of the 20th century attempted to depict what being inside a computer might look like, but every one of them got it wrong; the ‘Net was never designed with conscious thoughts and direct human interaction in mind. There is no user interface because it is not technically a human-created Virtual Reality. Zeroes and ones do not float about in the sky, and there are no circuitous highways.

Ghosts alter their own electromagnetic fields in such a way as to join the wireless spectrum around them, enabling themselves to move with and through it as easily as a computer broadcasts data.  They are able to sense nearby access points – literally any piece of connected technology – due to the large volume of data being passed through them. By zeroing in on an access point, a ghost can use his cyberpsi power to communicate with the system on a deeper level and gain entry to it, allowing him to further use or control the system.

While inside a system, ghosts and their passengers spoof the device into treating them like any other program. In effect, each ghost (including passengers) is a separate program that interacts individually with the environment. These programs must be appropriate for the type of device a ghost is in; electronic billboards are only capable of running programs related to audio and video, for example, while a mainframe computer server can run virtually any program imaginable.

Ghosts can use a device’s cameras (if available) to view the outside world from the machine’s perspective. When not looking through the lens of the machine, the world appears very different; in fact, ghosts cannot actually see their physical surroundings without using this technique. It may be wise to have a passenger keep watch while a ghost interacts with the computer on a deeper level.
As you can see from this excerpt, the 'Net wasn't designed for ghosts. Unlike other cyberpunk RPGs, entering the 'Net in Psi-punk isn't a Virtual Reality experience because characters don't plug themselves into a virtual world. Instead, they must communicate with their surroundings on a more ethereal level by sensing the flow of data around them and communicating with computers as if they were an active program.

Joining the wireless world is relatively easy, but entering, assuming control of, and manipulating a system is far more difficult. Ghosts must contend with security programs have have been specifically designed to thwart their techniques.

Ghosting into a system is far more insidious than a traditional hacking attempt.  Though hackers still exist and attempt to breech high-level systems every day, the majority of a company’s security dollars go in to preventing attacks from ghosts.  New, high-power, low-level security software has been developed specifically to thwart ghosting attempts, and some of that software can cause real injuries to anyone trying to bypass it.

These special security programs have a semblance of sentience to them that is difficult to comprehend. In a partnership rare amongst today’s megacorps, Macroware and Magicorp teamed up to develop a new form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) capable of using magic, generally electrokinesis. For all intents and purposes these programs have real, physical manifestations in the ‘Net and are one of the entities which ghosts can encounter.

Once the characters have bypassed security and entered a system, they may take control of its functions by running as active programs. Because the system already views them as software, no Computer Use checks are required on the part of the players. Instead, characters must use their own skills to help determine what they can do and how successful they are.

Taking Control

After a system’s security programs have been defeated, it is possible to take control of the system. This is the primary purpose of nearly all ghosting excursions, and thee reason megacorps spend so much money to prevent them.

Each ghost, including passengers, are treated as separate computer programs when inside a system. They may perform any action the system would typically be capable of, such as displaying ads on a billboard, withdrawing funds from an ATM, hijacking a vehicle (even if its owner is trying to operate it), or executing complex commands on a mainframe.

Characters who are inside a system and are not being faced by security software have free access to initiate commands. Those skilled at Manipulation might attempt to reprogram a billboard to display a specific ad or message, while characters skilled with Vehicles may attempt to operate infiltrated equipment. Any variety of skills may be useful when ghosting in a system; the ‘Net isn’t just the realm of characters with great Technical skills.

The difficulty to successfully employ a skill is still based upon the system’s Security Level, which also represents the complexity of its code. To successfully operate a truck with a Security Level of Superb, for example, a character must first succeed at a Superb Vehicle check.
I took this approach to allow all players at the table the opportunity to partake in ghosting excursions. If you've read some of my other posts on the matter, you'll know by now that I wanted to avoid the Netrunning issues that other games have faced; specifically, the boredom that non-hackers feel when a hacker and the GM sit down to do their own little side-game while the rest of the players are excluded.

It took a lot of time and consideration to come up with a method that is all-inclusive, but I feel like these rules fit the bill. Though I still think it is important for the hacker's skills to shine, I didn't want them to burn so bright as to cast shadows over everyone else.

There is a lot more to ghosting that hasn't been covered here, but we hope this basic first-look gives you an impression of the direction the game takes. As always, feel free to leave any questions or comments!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Supporter Second Chances

I realize things have been pretty quiet around here lately, but that's because I have been hard at work on getting Psi-punk ready to go to editing and later to layout.

Meanwhile, I wanted to give a second chance to everyone who missed the opportunity to support the Psi-punk Kickstarter. I know that not everyone had the money within that specific window of time (goodness knows I have missed out on a few Kickstarters for that reason myself), or perhaps they just didn't know it was even going on at the time.

So, from now until the release of the final product, we're offering the same backer perks to everyone who pledges to Psi-punk via PayPal. Click on the "Support Psi-punk" button at the top of the page to visit the backer page and select your pledge/reward level.

I will use additional funds to improve the end product as much as possible and to help ensure continued work on future Psi-punk books, including a planned World Organizations guide, new adventures, and more short fiction. Every dollar pledged ensures success of the project in addition to scoring you a great game.

Thanks again to everyone who has pledged so far and to everyone who does so in the future. I'll be sure to write again soon with another update!

Have a question about Psi-punk?
If there is an aspect of the game that you would like me to discuss in an in-depth post, please leave a comment below! I would love to hear from you and would like to know what questions people have, so feel free to ask!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Post-Kickstarter Statistics

In case you haven't heard, the Kickstarter was successful! I wanted to take a little time to share with you some interesting statistics about the project. I am going to use a lot of numbers and analyses, so if that's not your thing then you might as well check out some of our other posts instead.

Introduction

Kickstarter compiles a lot of really great analytic information about their projects, which is really great for users who want to find out where they went right and where they missed the mark. Every project has a "Dashboard" that users can visit periodically to track the status of their project and view a lot of graphs and charts concerning their backers and pledges.

Below I will post the results for the Psi-punk Kickstarter for each of the topics they cover, and I will muse a little bit about what I feel that means in regards to the success or failure of certain aspects of my campaign. Hopefully this will help future Kickstarter projects both for myself and for you, the reader.

Overall Results

During the 39 days of the Psi-punk Kickstarter campaign we had 111 backers pledge $4,669 of a $4,500 goal, or a funding level of 103.75%.

There were times when some people (admittedly, myself included) were concerned with the success of the project. However, we eventually pulled together and earned $169 above our stated goal, which to me is a huge success. While we lack the big name and appeal of major projects, we proved that the community really is ready to help fund people who have big ideas but small budgets.

Funding Progress

Kickstarter tracks the overall Funding Progress of the campaign. The end result is a graph that shows how many dollars have been pledged by a certain date. Here's what the Psi-punk graph looks like:

As you can see, there was a long period of time during which the campaign received very little new funding. I have heard that it is typical for a Kickstarter campaign like this one to gain most of its support in the first week and the last week, and that was the case here.

We hit 30% of our funding within the first week. After that, there was a slow trickle of pledges that ultimately led to a huge surge at the end of the campaign. We still had roughly 25% of the funding to to go by the time the last two days rolled around, but once Kickstarter started sending out 48-hour reminders to backers the pledges started rolling in again.

Kickstarter suggests a campaign length of 30 days is sufficient for most projects. I opted to shoot for closer to 45 days because, I felt like I needed additional time to advertise, and I think that ultimately this helped. Though I wasn't able to attribute any of the pledge funds directly tot he interviews I did (more on that later), I feel like they had an impact on the campaign and that if I only had 30 days to raise funds I wouldn't have had the opportunity to get in as many as I did; as it was, some of the interviews and events I did really came down to the wire (like the live demonstration I did with Chris Perrin and Wayne Humfleet.)

Referrers

Kickstarter keeps track of where backers come from. This, in my opinion, is some of the most useful analytic information. I always want to know where my time and effort is paying off and where I can stand to cut a few corners.

According to Kickstarter, $1,533 came directly from services they offer. We'll break this down a little bit more later, but supposedly 33% of my funds came from KS services. Not bad considering they're only taking a 5% cut.

One of the other interesting statistics is that my average pledge amount was $42.06. This is a solid average pledge level for an RPG, especially since a softcover copy of the book was going for $30. We'll break down pledges by reward level in a bit.

Following is a breakdown of referral traffic in a helpful table that Kickstarter provides (my apologies if the table breaks the browser).

Rows that are highlighted represent Kickstarter sources.


As you can see, we gained backers from a wide variety of sources. It's hard to know exactly what "direct traffic" refers to in regards to where the traffic was from, so I will assume that it's links people clicked from instant messages, typed into their browser from untraceable sources, etc.

Beyond direct traffic, Google+ was a big champion for me. Perhaps this is because I have more followers on the G+ network than any other, or perhaps it's because there is such a great RPG following on G+. Either way, I'm glad that I have met everyone I have on Google+, and I can tell you that at least 6 of those 10 referrals came within the last 24 hours!

Also, 6 total referrals from RPGGeek/BoardGameGeek is impressive. I have spent the last year and a half or more getting to know people on RPGGeek (it's where I met Melissa Gay and was also the source for my interview with FutilePosition.com), so it's great to see that the community is really into helping each other out.

One thing I did note is that I got 0 backers from RPG.net, the Inter net's biggest RPG messageboard. I did post about the Kickstarter on that forum several times and each post received around 100 views, yet I had 0 referrals. Is this because I am not a regular member at RPG.net? I am not trying to say that all members of the RPG.net community are unwilling to back projects from people they don't know, but I am not a regular poster on ENWorld either and I received one referral from that website. 

When comparing RPG.net to RPGGeek, I think it goes to show that who you know is very important. I've spent a long time getting to know the RPGGeek community and next to no time getting to know the RPG.net community, and look who was more forthcoming. It may pay in the future to get involved on other websites, but how does one have time to post regularly everywhere on the Internet? (/idle musings)

The same could be said about my choice of social networking sites. I have a smaller following on Twitter than I do on G+, and a far smaller following on Facebook (due to my bias against it, I am sure). These numbers could probably be easily reversed if I were more active on all social networking sites.

Reward Popularity

It is interesting to see how each reward level fared. Here's a column graph of rewards that shows how popular each was:


There were almost as many $30 rewards (softcover book + PDF) as there were $15 rewards (PDF only). I received feedback from some folks saying that they would have pledged at the $30 reward level if they were in the US, but since they had to include an extra $15 for international shipping they chose to go with the digital-only reward level of $15. On the other hand, I also saw a lot of pledges for $45; apparently the sofctocver is in pretty high demand despite its higher shipping cost.

About half as many peopled pledged at the $50 level (hardcover + PDF) as the $30 level. I think it's plain to see the value of a hardcover book when it comes to full-featured core books for RPGs. A lot of people were willing to make that extra $20 push to get the superior cover.

Of particular note with this chart is the lack of $100-level backers. 0 people backed at this level, which included a signed hardcover and a t-shirt. Clearly the value of a t-shirt and a signature is not $50 and I will adjust accordingly in the future.

5 people pledged at the $150 level, which includes having an image of the backer drawn by our artist. Very few of these rewards were selected until the last few hours of the last day though, and part of that I attribute to the fact that people just wanted to make sure the project was funded successfully. It was sort of a "sweet spot" for people who had enough money to pledge but didn't want to sell themselves short with just a book and a t-shirt.

Finally, 1 person backed at the $325 level which includes a Google Hangout game and a pizza, in addition to the option to help write a mega-corporation for the game. To be completely transparent, this reward level did go to a family member (who is really excited about the game regardless) but nobody else took me up on this offer or the $700 offer. I am not certain if it is because people simply lacked the money after GenCon or if the reward levels weren't worth it to someone who has never even played a game written by the author before. Perhaps in the future some more of the high-level rewards will sell out.

Project Video Stats

This last category relates to the project video. It's a little embarrassing, but I'll post the figures anyway.


Of the 565 people who clicked the Play button, only 43.19% of them bothered to watch the entire video. I know a lot of people weren't terribly excited by it, but that goes to show that the backing video is really important.

To be honest, I didn't own any video recording equipment (even a webcam) and I didn't really know anyone who I could borrow one from (nobody else in my personal circles have one either). I had a few offers to do voiceovers for the PowerPoint presentation that I made, but I liked the idea of using a synthesized voice for a cyberpunk game. Plus, as someone who is legally blind and who depends on screen reader software for daily computer use, I thought it would be interesting to show others what a computer voice was really like.

Apparently, nobody was really buying it. One Google+ comment said that whoever made the video should be "hunted down and beaten with a stick" and that the computer voice "made my brain bleed." Ouch. A bit harsh, in my opinion, but it goes to show that not everyone appreciates that style.

Now that I do own a webcam and am becoming more comfortable with using it, future videos will at the very least feature my own face talking at the camera. Whether or not I will be able to pay someone to do fancy intros and effects remains to be seen.

Dollars and Cents

It may be taboo to talk about money, but I think this information is really important for anyone thinking of starting a Kickstarter campaign.

As I mentioned before, we raised $4,669 for Psi-punk. That's pretty public; it's in giant text on the Kickstarter page. What's less known is how much the project owner actually gets to "take home" from that.

Kickstarter takes a 5% cut of the pie, like I mentioned before. This wound up being $233.45. Amazon also takes an amount that ranges somewhere between 3% and 5%. In my case, it was 3.74% for a total of $174.60.  That means my total "take home" was $4260.95. Amazon puts a 14-day hold on merchant accounts that are less than 6 months old, to ensure there aren't any disputes or chargebacks, so I won't actually get to touch any of that money for two weeks.

Breakdown
$4669 raised
-233.45 (5% to Kickstarter)
-170.60 (3.74% to Amazon)
=4260.95

Total amount paid in fees: $404.05

About $3400 of that is reserved for art, editing, and layout. That leaves me with approximately $861 to fulfill all of the backer rewards. I have read that one can expect to pay anywhere from 15% to 20% of the funding total in fulfillment costs, which isn't very good news for me.

$4669 * 15% = $700.35 -- $861 - 700.35 = ~160
$4669 * 20% = $933.8 -- $861 - 933.8 = ~-73

Will I wind up paying $73 out of my own pocket to fulfill rewards for a book I spent 2 and a half years designing and publishing? I sure hope not. As much as I know this is a labor of love, not a labor of profit, I must admit that idea doesn't appeal to me.

This potential issue isn't for lack of budgeting, either. I'm not a mathematician, but I did spend some time carefully considering and planning the funding goal. However, there are a lot of unknown variables -- particularly international shipping costs and the actual amount that Amazon will claim as their own, as well as the total amount of actual dollars pledged. 

I knew that, even at $4,500 ($500 more than I originally wanted to ask for) I would be taking a bit of a risk. But to me, I decided it was worth it because I really believe in Psi-punk and I really want to get it to market. 

At the very least, I can rest easy knowing that $4260.95 was not coming out of my own pocket up front. That's a risk that traditional publishers have to take, for an uncertain return on investment.

I will post an update in a few months once fulfillment is actually finished so we can all see what it took to complete this process. If nothing else, it's going to be a great learning experience.

 Conclusion

There is a lot of information to be gleaned from Kickstarter. These statistics are helpful when considering one's marketing strategy and effectiveness. I can't go back and change things now, but I can use this information to improve future projects.

With any luck, this information has been helpful not just to me but to someone else out there. If you're thinking about starting a Kickstarter campaign, I encourage you to consider some of these thoughts and to look at what others are doing. I learned a lot about reward structures just by looking at other related projects, but as you can see I still fell short on at least one of them.

If you have any questions about any of the above information, or if you'd like to comment about your own experiences with Kickstarter, please feel free to do so in the comments!

Monday, August 27, 2012

KS Success - We did it!

Well folks, we did it! With the help of all of you amazing people, Psi-punk is officially a go! As of around 8:00 PST on Sunday, August 26th, the Psi-punk Kickstarter reached its $4,500 funding goal.

First of all, I want to thank each and every one of you who contributed in any way. I'm not just talking about those who pledged money -- I of all people understand that it's just not possible to financially support everything you believe in. A special thanks goes to everyone who blogged, tweeted, Facebook-ed, and Google+-ed about Psi-punk (and to those of you using any other medium to talk about us as well!)

What's the Final Total?
We reached a funding level of 104%. Between 111 backers, we managed to raise $4,669 in just 39 days. Kickstarter takes a 5% cut and Amazon Payments will take between 3-5%, so I won't know the exact deposited total for 14 days--the length of time it takes Amazon to gather and hold the funds in case of chargebacks. In two weeks time, I'll know exactly what I have to work with, but I assure you all that it's going to be enough to get all of our initial goals met!

What Happens Next?
Now that the funding is guaranteed, I will commission art from Melissa Gay. Meanwhile, I'll finish up the last few details on the writing; I have at least one mega-corporation to flesh out with our $325-level backer and a few playtest notes that deserve to be looked at before I can consider the game complete.

Once I'm satisfied that the game is ready to go to editing, I'll e-mail it off to Chris Perrin. He'll make sure that I've uncrossed all of my i's and didn't dot any t's, since that would just be silly. After he's done editing, I'll give it a final read through for approval before gathering all of the art and shipping it off to layout.

Once layout is complete, I should have a couple of PDFs that are ready to go to RPGNow.com. Anyone who has pledged at least $15 will get a free PDF, and I'll send out a free download code as soon as that's ready. Everyone who has pledged at least $5 will also get a free PDF copy of the Concensussly Chosen Adventure Story, which should be ready around the same time.

If you're expecting a soft or hard cover, that'll come next. I have to order a pre-flight copy of each book from RPGNow's print-on-demand service and look them over for any errors and to make sure the quality is up to snuff. When I have approved the hard copies, I'll order prints for everyone and eagerly await having a giant shipment of books land on my doorstep.

By that point, t-shirts should be in from Leet Clothing and I will be able to box everything up and start shipping books and clothes to people. I'll invite all of my riends over to my house for pizza and a shipping party, because there's no way I am going to be doing all of that boxing and labeling on my own! 

At some point between the PDFs going out and the books being shipped, I have a Google Hangouts game to run for my highest-level backer. I am enjoying running G+ Hangout games of Psi-punk and may try to set up a few more, so let me know if you're interested and we may be able to schedule something. I do plan on running Psi-punk for the Indie+ online convention around the time of Halloween, so make sure you check in then if you're interested.

Did I Miss Anything?
Oh, that's right. Before I can do all of that, I need to send out a Backer Rewards Survey through Kickstarter. Expect to see one in your inbox within the next couple days. I will need to collect e-mail addresses, mailing addresses, and t-shirt sizes (where applicable) so that I can fulfill all of the rewards.

If you have any other questions or if I failed to address something, please let me know! 

Thanks again to all of you wonderful people. This literally could not have been done without the support of each and every one of you, so you should take pride in knowing that you've brought something new, interesting, and creative into the world!

In humble gratitude,
Jacob

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Just Hours Left for the Psi-punk Kickstarter

I awoke this morning to find at least a dozen e-mails from Kickstarter waiting for me. Three of them were from brand new backers, and the rest were from amazing people who have already pledged their support but chose to graciously increase their pledges to push us that much closer to our goal.

Thank you. A million times, thank you. To everyone who has pledged so far.

As I write this, there are just 14 hours left in the Kickstarter. We still need $614, but that's more than $300 closer than we were when I went to bed last night and it's only been about 9 hours. (Did I mention I actually did dream about Kickstarter last night? Eesh.)

If you have been on the fence, now's the time to hop off and make a pledge. You're not just helping an indie game designer, you're helping the nearly 100 other folks who are dying to see this project successful!

Please don't stop announcing the Kickstarter to your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social media followers until the countdown is over. Raising awareness and attracting new backers to the project is the best way to ensure its success. I would love to be able to say that we've reached at least100 people by the time this day is over!


Click it and pledge if you feel it's right for you, copy it and paste it into your social networking feeds. Let's do whatever it takes to reach that goal!

Thanks again, and I look forward to making another post tomorrow about how successful we were!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Play Demonstration on YouTube

On Thursday, August 23rd I had the pleasure of recording an actual play session with Chris Perrin and Wayne Humfleet using Google Hangouts. You can see the results of that (rather unpreppped) adventure on YouTube (or by watching the embedded video below).


And don't forget, as of this post there are just over 48 hours left on the Psi-punk Kickstarter. If you haven't already, please consider pledging to the cause, and pass the word out to everyone you can think of! I look forward to making an announcement on Sunday about a successful campaign!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hacking Computers - Cracking and Psi-jacking

Last week we discussed how to hack people, but now people want to know how they can hack computers.

Unlike many other cyberpunk RPGs, hacking in Psi-punk is simple and fast. I wanted to avoid the issue of having most of the players at the table grow bored while the hacker and the GM have their own little hacking mini-game together, and I mentioned that in this Designer's Diary on RoleplayersChronicle.com.

There are three different approaches characters can take when hacking computers: cracking, psi-jacking, and ghosting. Cracking is the most basic form of hacking and can be done by anyone with some technical training, while psi-jacking and ghosting both require access to the electrokinesis psionic or magic ability.

Cracking

Cracking is the ability to gain illicit access to a computer system using just one's skill. No special equipment or psionics are required -- everybody carries with them some form of computer and it's enough to attempt to crack into a system.

To crack a system, characters must make a Technical skill check and the GM compares the result to the difficulty of the system they are trying to crack. Following is a table that gives some general guidelines on computer difficulties:

Device
Difficulty
Personal computer
Fair
Corporate computer (average employee)
Good
Corporate computer (management)
Great
Corporate computer (upper-management)
Superb – Wonderful
Publicly accessible device (ATM, billboard)
Superb – Phenomenal
Personal vehicle (car, motorcycle, etc.)
Great
Corporate or government vehicle
Superb
Electronic lock
Great
Corporate or government electronic lock
Superb - Wonderful
Corporate or government flight vehicle (helicopter, private jet)
Wonderful
Megacorp or government mainframe
Phenomenal


If the crack is successful, the hacker gains access to the system. Another check is then made with a +1 bonus to attempt to execute commands or download data. For every degree of success above the difficulty level of the system, the hacker can issue one command or download one piece of data.

For example, Kathy Ohms is attempting to hack the computer of a corporate bigwig (difficulty: Wonderful) to steal some of his private data. She rolls a total check result of Wonderful (+4) and successfully cracks into his system.

Because she's now inside the system, she gets a +1 bonus to her follow-up skill check to download data. This time her end result is Extraordinary (+2) and the GM compares that result to the system's security level, which is Wonderful. Her degree of success is Great (+2), so she can download 2 pieces of information from the system.

All of this happens with just two quick dice rolls and the GM adjudicates what information she is able to collect. Meanwhile, the rest of the game can continue without any interruptions; it's not much different than any character asking to do any other type of action.

If a hacker fails their cracking check, a variety of bad things can happen. SInce the hacker isn't personally plugged into the system, they don't get mind-fried or flat-lined, but the system can lock them out or send alerts to the rest of the network. Depending on the security level, the system may lock all the doors, alert the guards, and leave the character stuck inside a building while they wait for armed forces to show up. If attempting to hack a vehicle, the system may lock the controls and leave the character unable to access the system or navigate, which can have terrible consequences if the vehicle happens to already be in motion!
The difficulty is the same and the rewards are similar, but a character who is psionically linked to a system potentially has greater control of its functions and doesn't necessarily need to be skilled at computer use to snoop around.


Psi-jacking

Psi-jacking is similar to cracking in its form and function, but instead of using the Technical skill it depends upon an electrokinesis check using either the psionic power or a magic device capable of mimicking it. 


Unfortunately, since the character is psionically linked to the system they may be mind-fried or flat-lined when their check fails, so the consequences for failure are potentially more grave.


Ghosting

Ghosting is a little different and requires both the electrokinesis power and some amount of Technical skill. When ghosting, the character projects his/her consciousness directly into the computer system and may travel virtually anywhere in the world via wireless network (of course, only her consciousness travels; her physical presence remains where it started).

The ghost can take control of computer systems and use cameras to view the outside world, or they can snoop around for data and issue commands to the system.

This method of hacking is perhaps most similar to those found in other games in which a hacker directly connects to the Matrix. However, there's one major exception: a skilled ghost can take others into the 'Net with them, enabling all characters the freedom to join in the fun.

The ghost can create additional avatars to take with her, and the GM can take the story in any direction he pleases without leaving people behind.

GMs are also given the power to opt not to use this hacking method at all if they feel it would derail the game. Because ghosting isn't the sole hacking method presented in the rules, it doesn't have to be used. Similar results can be achieved by cracking or psi-jacking; ghosting simply adds another layer to the hacking system that offers players and GMs the freedom to "enter" the 'Net, in case that style of hacking is something they envision adding fun to their game session.


Conclusion

Hopefully you enjoyed this brief look into how hacking works in Psi-punk. As you can see, it takes a simple and fast approach to hacking that will either allow the game to get back on track quickly or allow all of the players to get in on the action, depending on the experience that the players and GM choose to have.

There are far more details in the core rulebook. I chose not to re-print them here because of the sheer volume of detail presented, but rest assured there's a bit more to it than just the outlines listed above. 

If you're interested in what you've read so far, please check out the Psi-punk Kickstarter and consider pledging. As of the date of this post, there are only 4 days left, so don't miss out!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hacking People Psionically - a.k.a. Soul Jacking

In a recent interview with FutilePosition.com I mentioned (albeit briefly) the concept of "soul jacking." It's the term given to the practice of taking over someone's mind and dictating their actions using psionic powers, and it's highly illegal. But what's cyberpunk game without occasionally being on the wrong side of the law?

The initial inspiration for soul jacking came to me when watching an episode of the 1990's X-Men cartoon. In an early episode featuring Sabertooth, Professor X goes into his mind and is shown trying to physically break down a barrier to get at the villain's memories. That's a little bit of what I imagine soul jacking to be.

Taking over someone's thoughts or gaining access to their memories is a multi-step process (or at least can be with these optional rules). First one must enter the target's mind, then make their way through a variety of surface thoughts and eventually locate the memories they are trying to find. What one does with these memories once they have been uncovered is up to them, but a highly skilled (and rather scary) individual may even possess the power to alter them.

Apart from accessing one's memories, a soul jacker also has the potential to take control of the target's thoughts and actions; it's how the term got its nasty name.

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 6: Hacking Mind, Chip, and Soul. It details everything you might need to know about accessing and controlling one's thoughts. Enjoy!

Hacking People the Psionic Way – Soul Jacking

Soul jacking is the harsh new term for what was once simply known as mind control.  Though highly illegal, soul jacking is a lucrative endeavor that can yield a lot of juicy details about someone or, in some cases, give you complete control over them.  This is the sort of thing that gave rise to tinfoil hats, but as we’ve seen over the last 30 years or so, those don’t work.  To truly shield yourself from being soul jacked, you need either a strong Mind or an expensive piece of antipsi tech.

Mind control is a sub-school of the telepathy psionic power.  In most circles it is viewed as a dangerous ability and those who possess it are often stigmatized.  On the other hand, those very folks who have the gift argue (rightly so) that it isn’t their fault they have it, so why should they be blamed?  It’s a tricky situation to be sure, but the fact remains that probing someone’s mind without their permission is definitely not socially acceptable.

The mind control rules outlined in the Psionics and Magic chapter discuss the basic functions and capabilities of the power.  For those interested in a more cinematic experience though, consider the rules for soul jacking, outlined below.

In order to attempt to steal someone’s thoughts or actions, you first need to have the appropriate power to do so.  This means you need to either possess the mind control power or a magic device capable of emulating it.  Because this is such an illegal action, magic devices are hard to find; Magicorp makes them, but is only allowed to sell them to military and police personnel.  You will need a Rank score with a level equal to the power rating of the device in order to find and use one legally.  Naturally though, you may be able to find one on the black market.

If you do possess the ability, you need to pick your target.  This can be literally any living creature that possesses a brain, but works best on members of your own species.  Attempting to soul jack a creature of a different species imposes a -1 penalty – other creatures’ brains process data differently and it is harder to make sense of the information you acquire.

Making the check is as simple as using the psionic power; roll against the appropriate key attribute and compare your result to the target’s opposed Mind check.  Instead of mind control being an all-or-nothing success (or failure) though, soul jacking may require some additional effort.  Succeeding at your first check simply gets you in the door, so to speak.

After making a successful check, you gain access to the target’s “surface thoughts”.  Surface thoughts represent what the target is thinking right now.  For animals, surface thoughts are just simple, instinctual concepts, such as “food”, “potty”, “play”, and so forth.  More complex creatures, especially humans, may have an infinite range of possible thoughts.

Once you’re in someone’s head, you can choose to try to probe their memories or try to take control of them.  Decide what you’re trying to do, then make the appropriate check using your power’s key attribute.

Probe Memories

When trying to probe someone’s deeper memories, make a mental communication or mind control check after you’ve succeeded at getting into their head.  The higher your degree of success, the further you can probe the target’s memories.  The chart below illustrates the results.

Degree of Success
You can read…
Fair
one week of memories.
Good
one month of memories.
Great
one year of memories.
Superb
one decade of memories.
Wonderful
one lifetime of memories.
Phenomenal
multiple lifetimes of memories.*

 *Assumes creature has had multiple lives through reincarnation, a concept popular among psychics.  Including multiple lives in your campaign may lead to some interesting stories.

Most animals have life spans too short to be represented by higher ladder results, but that makes it all the easier to get a life’s worth of memories from an animal.  Most animal memories remain instinctual, and depending on the creature they may have little useful information.  Some animals, like dogs, remember a scent better than a face, for example, while others have memories approaching those of humans.  Use your best judgment (and some creativity) to determine just how much information you can gather from an animal’s mind.

When reading the mind of a human (or other similarly-intelligent being) you can gather nearly any piece of information you want.  Even the deeper, subconscious memories might be accessible if you can probe far enough back in the character’s lifetime.  You can even get the earliest memories of a person’s childhood dating back to before anything that person might actually be able to remember on their own.

Probing a target’s thoughts can be jarring for the target.  They remember everything that you are detecting as you read it, which can have unforeseen consequences.  For this reason, attempting to read the thoughts of an unaware person can cause them serious confusion and, depending on the memories you are looking for, quite a bit of discomfort.  Any character who becomes distressed from the mind reading may get a second Mind roll to attempt to force you out of their head.

If you have the alter memory gift, in addition to the mind control power, you may alter or erase the target’s memory.  See the mind control entry in the Psionics and Magic chapter for an idea of what sorts of changes you can make based on your degree of success.  To alter a target’s memory, you need to make a separate check.

Finally, if you possess the mind reading gift from the mental communication power, you may use it to read a character’s thoughts just as if you had the mind control gift, though it is limited to reading mind sonly; you must possess the mind control power to use alter memory or to take control of a character’s actions.

Taking Control

Once you’ve defeated a target’s mental resistance and gained access to their surface thoughts, you can use mind control to gain total dominance over them.  Make an opposed mind control check versus the target’s Mind check.  If successful, you can influence the target’s thoughts and actions as follows.

Degree of Success
You can …
Fair
implant a minor suggestion in the target’s mind.
Good
charm the target.
Great
charm the target and maintain control.
Superb
dominate the target.
Wonderful
dominate the target and maintain control.
Phenomenal
dominate the target and maintain control with less effort.
Suggestion: You implant a thought in the target’s mind that causes them to react in some minor way.  For example, you can tell the target to “come here” or convince them that “these are not what you’re looking for.”  The target will interpret this suggestion in the best possible light, though he will not do anything that is completely against his nature.  “Jump off of that bridge” and “shoot your commanding officer” are examples of suggestions that a character will not carry out.

Charm: The target perceives you as a friend.  He considers your words and interprets them in the most favorable manner, but he is still unwilling to do anything that goes against his nature.  You must maintain control of a target’s mind and cannot activate any other psionic powers or become distracted to a point that you would not be able to focus on maintaining control (such as in combat or other stressful situations).

With a Great result you may continue to activate psionic powers while maintaining control.  During stressful situations you must make a Great Focus roll to avoid losing control of the target’s mind.

Dominate: You exhibit complete mental dominance over another character.  They obey your orders to the best of their ability despite their own nature and perceive you in the best possible light.  You must maintain control of a target’s mind and cannot activate any other psionic powers or become distracted to a point that you would not be able to focus on maintaining dominance (such as in combat or other stressful situations).

With a Wonderful result you may continue to activate psionic powers while dominating a target’s mind.  During stressful situations you must make a Great Focus roll to avoid losing control of the target’s mind.  With a Phenomenal result, maintaining control requires a Focus roll of only Mediocre or better.

Note that when controlling the minds of animals and other beings of lesser intelligence, they may be limited by their intelligence when attempting to follow your orders.  Choose appropriate commands and suggestions based on the capabilities of your target, or your attempt may be in vain.
We hope you enjoyed this look into the darker side of psionics. Feel free to discuss anything you've read or any questions you might have in the comments!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Kickstarter Countdown - 13 Days to G0

The Kickstarter campaign has entered its final two weeks! We still have just over 50% to go, so keep those pledges coming and keep spreading the word!

Also, if you haven't already, check out the Psi-punk Choose Your Own Adventure Story at RPGGeek.com. Every vote counts, and once the story's all wrapped up it will be collected into one e-book and offered to all Kickstarter backers who have pledged at least $5.

Thanks!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

More interviews to check out

Over the last week, I had the pleasure of doing a couple of more interviews relating to Psi-punk and to Accessible Games.

Here's what I've been up to:
If you have any questions about Psi-punk or Accessible Games that haven't been answered yet, check these out! I talk a lot about the game and the company, so there's a lot to read and listen to.

Also, poke around these sites for more great gaming-related material. All of them are really wonderful.

Thanks again to everyone who has pledged to the Psi-punk Kickstarter so far. We still have a ways to go and we're nearing the finish line, so please remember to keep sharing these links and talking up the project!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Interview with Chris Helton on the Dorkland Roundtable


In case you missed the live showing of the Dorkland Roundtable on Thursday, August 2nd, you can watch the YouTube recording of it!
On this week's Dorkland Roundtable, Christopher Helton sits down with Jacob Wood of Accessible Games to discuss the Psi-punk Kickstarter and accessibility in gaming. 

We talk about Fudge, cyberpunk, and how both players and publishers can help do their part to make games more accessible to people with disabilities. Jacob also talks about his experience as a first-time self-[publisher and offers tips to other game designers who are interested in starting out on their own.
A Big "Thank You" to our Backers
We're up to $1717 as of the time of this update, and we couldn't have done it without the phenomenal support from all of you great people. Thanks again, and remember to keep sharing word of the project with your friends!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kickstarter is 30% Funded!


The Psi-punk Kickstarter has been active for one week now, and look at the progress we've made! 30% of the funding has been raised and we still have a month to go.
According to Kicktraq.com, if we were to continue with our current momentum we'd hit a funding target of around $7,100: 
Though I know that Kickstarter trends toward a U-shaped curve (that is, the majority of backers pledge at the beginning and the end of a project, with a bit of a lull in the middle) I am super optimistic that we will reach our target goal of $4,500. That means we'll be able to pay Melissa for fabulous art, Chris for his editing talents, and we've even brought on board a local Portland layout artist to make sure that it all goes together in an awesome, professional manner.
I know that this couldn't have been done without your support, and I don't mean just the money you've pledge. Every time you fine folks post a link to our Kickstarter somewhere on the Internet, other people see and discover us and many people I have never even met before have become enthusiastic backers.
Word of mouth is a great and powerful thing, and the best part is that it takes so little time to help! Kickstarter already has Facebook and Twitter links built into each project, and for those of you who use Google+ it's as easy as copy-pasting the link into your feed.
Thanks again to everyone who has helped in any way to contribute to this great project. Our hopes are high and we look forward to being successfully funded on August 27th!
If you're just joining us, check out the Kickstarter at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/accessiblegames/psi-punk-a-fudge-cyberpunk-rpg


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Psi-punk: A Fudge Cyberpunk RPG Kickstarter Goes Live

The time has finally come -- the Psi-punk Kickstarter has gone live!

We have been teasing this for a long time, and after a few delays it's finally here. We have 39 days to raise $4,500 so we can pay for layout, editing, and art like this:


Whether you have been following along with us since the beginning or you are new to Psi-punk, please check out the Kickstarter and consider pledging what you can. Every dollar helps, and every dollar gets you some kind of special backer reward -- anything from a special "Thank You" with your name in the book all the way up to having your face featured as one of the characters on the book's cover.

We are also proud to announce that we are Kicking it Forward, which means 5% of net profits after the product is launched will be funneled back into Kickstarter. We want to say "thank you" in a big way by backing the amazing community that is going to help us reach our own goals and make this game a reality.

For more information and to make a pledge, visit the Psi-punk Kickstarter Page.

Also, please remember to pass along word of this project to all of your friends, family, cohorts, and minions!

Important Links
Psi-punk Kickstarter Page
Follow us on Twitter: @AccessibleGames
Accessible Games Google+ Page
Accessible Games Facebook Page
Psi-punk at RPGGeek.com
Accessible Games at RPGGeek.com
Psi-punk Choose Your Own Adventure Story at RPGGeek.com

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vehicles as Character Equipment

Vehicles as Character Equipment


During a recent Psi-punk playtest session we realized that something rather important was missing from the game's set of sub-systems: vehicles. Vehicles are a key component of making modern and futuristic games feel, well, modern and futuristic. Plus, with character archetypes such as the Wheel Jockey, it only makes sense to have equipment for them to use.

With that in mind, I recently sat down to come up with some vehicle rules for Psi-punk. I started by looking at what the Fudge 10th Anniversary Edition had to say on the subject, then promptly threw all of it out.

Well, not all of it. I used some of the ideas they had for traits.

While I like the advice that the Fudge 10th Anniversary Edition had to offer, it was too complex to fit in well with the Psi-punk style. It offered a lot of great advice on how to include vehicles in games for any genre, from historic (with wagons and carts) to space opera (with galaxy-travelling mega-ships). If you're a Fudge Game Master and need some advice on how to insert vehicles into your Fudge game, I'd recommend giving it a look.


What make Psi-punk so special then?

Psi-punk is a character-focused role-playing game. It's about the stories that the players and the GM collectively tell, and as such I felt that vehicles -- when they become necessary to the story -- should likewise be extensions of the characters who use them.

Space ships and aircraft carriers are great vehicles, but in a character-centric game I felt they work better as backdrops or settings. They're locations for a scene to take place, not necessarily the focus of the scene. It takes a large crew of characters to man a battleship, and no individual could hope to ever own, much less use, such a vehicle on his or her own.

With that in mind, I went to work developing a sub-set of vehicle rules that still left the vehicle's owner, the player character, at the forefront. Vehicles will appear in the equipment section as an option for player characters to purchase and outfit as they choose. The rules are simple, straightforward, and include  as few additional sub-systems as possible to help them integrate seamlessly with the rest of the game's mechanics.


Vehicles as Character Equipment

Any player has the option to purchase a vehicle, whether it's as simple and low-tech as a pair of roller skates to as costly and complex as a super-car, and all of the rules for doing so will be outlined in the equipment chapter. Just because it's available doesn't mean it's going to be cheap, though; vehicles in Psi-punk have the potential to be incredibly powerful and, therefore, incredibly costly.

As with anything else in the game, vehicles can possess Gifts and Faults to improve their capabilities and off-set some of their costs. In addition to Gifts and Faults, all vehicles in Psi-punk possess the following features:


  • Size: the vehicle’s relative size.
  • Speed: the vehicle’s speed relative to other vehicles of its size.
  • Handling: a vehicle’s maneuverability rating relative to other vehicles of its size.
  • Weapons: some vehicles have built-in weapon systems; this value represents the vehicle’s Offensive Damage Factors.  Individual vehicles may have different types of weapons, from guns to bladed hubcaps, but the weapon’s Damage will be equal to its Weapons trait unless altered by a Gift or Fault.
  • Durability: how durable the vehicle is; in affect, the vehicle’s armor bonus, or its Defensive Damage Factors.
  • Gifts/Faults: as with anything, vehicles may possess both Gifts and Faults.
  • Cost: The total of all Wealth Modifiers determines a vehicle’s final Cost (in Wealth).
That's everything. Each of these traits comes in a level ranging from Abysmal (-3) to Astonishing (+7).

A vehicle's Size is probably its biggest factor; it acts as a modifier for all of the vehicle's other traits and dictates what type of vehicle is being modeled (anything from skates to motorcycles, passenger cars to helicopters, and so forth).

I chose not to include special rules for vehicle-specific weapons; it's up to the owner to give flavor to what the weapons are like, but the damage they deal is always based on the vehicle's Weapons rating. This keeps the vehicle mechanics simple and mitigates the need to purchase different types of guns for both the character and his vehicle. Any special features that the player wishes his vehicle's weapons to possess can be modeled using Gifts.

The same can be said for each of the vehicle's other traits; it's up to the player to decide whether or not his Good-sized sports car is super-fast and handles like a champ because of special high-tech enhancements or if it's just mechanically engineered to be that way.

By leaving all of the cinematic details up to the players and their GMs, the vehicle becomes more a part of the character and less a collection of additional statistics to keep track of.

What are your thoughts?

Do you have any questions or comments concerning the new Psi-punk vehicle rules? Let us know by leaving a comment below or following us on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook!