When it comes to soundtracks for pen & paper roleplaying games my favorite composer is definitely James Semple. He and his team have created several awesome soundtracks for Pelgrane Press’ series of GUMSHOE games including Trail of Cthulhu and Ashen Stars. A while ago, after finishing my review of their latest work “All We Have Forgotten”, it occurred to me that it could be very interesting to ask James a couple of questions about his work. I contacted him over Twitter and he gladly said yes. So, without further ado I am proud to present our interview with the composer and multi-instrumentalist James Semple.
Stargazer: Thanks again, James! It’s an honor being able to do an interview with you. Even though I already gave our readers a short introduction on who you are, could you please tell us a bit more about yourself and your work? What non-gaming projects have you worked on? How did you become a composer in the first place?
James: Hi Michael, it’s a real pleasure to be interviewed here. The short story on me is that I’ve been a gamer since I was about 10 years old and I’ve been a fan of film scores since Star Wars was released at the cinema. It really had a huge impact on me and ever since then I have always loved big orchestral film scores. For many years I played lead guitar in various rock bands but for the last 6 years I’ve seriously been focusing on media composition and getting back to my first love of orchestral film music. Outside of composing for tabletop RPG scores I’ve worked on videogame music (The Witcher: Platinum Edition) and feature film scores.
Even though I haven’t played it that often I am a big fan of the Fate system. It took me quite a while to wrap my head around the Fate rules but when it “clicked” I realized how elegant the system was and how easy it made it for people to focus on roleplaying their characters and driving the story forward. Fate is one of those games where it suddenly becomes more important who your character is and not what he or she can do.
For quite a while Evil Hat has been working on an updated Fate Core System. The rules are pretty much finished. The only things still missing are the interior artwork and the fans’ feedback. That’s where the Kickstarter comes in.
With still 56 days to go, the Fate Core Kickstarter has already reached it’s goal of $3,000 and has already reached a couple of stretch goals. Backers also get access to the latest draft of the Fate Core rules already. If you are a fan of Fate you definitely should support this project. It’s well worth it!
The progress on Galaxy Rising has been slowed down a bit in the last few days. The fact that I suffer from bad lower back pain for since Monday didn’t really help with my creative projects. Today I managed to finish the equipment section at least.
So what’s the status of the project so far? The core rules are pretty much done and the game should be playable at this point. There are no special rules for spaceships yet and neither vehicle nor spaceship stats. The rules for character advancement aren’t written either, but that’s not a big deal.
The big question remains: did I “win” NaGa DeMon? Yes and no. Even though I didn’t win when the official NaGa DeMon requirements are concerned, I still see it as a big success. Galaxy Rising is slowly taking shape and the core rules are more or less playable already. I am committed on getting it done if not by the end of the year then at least in early 2013. If you want to have a closer look at how the game is looking so far, check it out below!
I am looking forward to your comments!
The National Game Design Month ends in a couple of days and I fear I will not be able to fulfill one of the requirements set by Nathan Russell when he conceived the contest. But I am actually not worried about this at all. I might even turn this defeat into long-term success and take my time to finish writing the first draft of the game.
Over the last few weeks Galaxy Rising has become much larger than I anticipated. Participating in this year’s NaGa DeMon helped me to get excited about a project again. I am actually very happy with the progress so far. The core rules are basically done. Of course I still need to add stuff like special rules for spaceships and character advancement and come up with stats for the alien species in the setting, but aside from that the mechanics dubbed Galaxy Core should be fully playable.
The setting still needs a lot more fleshing out, though. I have a lot of cool ideas but I haven’t written them down yet. This will probably take a couple more days at least, if not weeks. I could hurry to get things done, but at this moment I actually prefer to make a proper effort and not rush things. So, in a way you may consider Galaxy Rising a failure at least when the rules of NaGa DeMon are concerned. But I consider it a success. I almost got the game done in one month and I still have a lot of energy to keep on working until it’s finally done.
What are your thoughts on the subject? As always any comments are highly appreciated.
In the last post I revealed a few details about the rules system (which I dubbed Galaxy Core). One aspect I was not really happy with were Hooks. Yesterday I remembered that I actually had designed a similar mechanic for another game that never saw the light of day that I could easily adapt for Galaxy Core. Instead of up to three Hooks, each player now gets to pick three Traits: Concept, Motivation and Flaw.
The Concept is a short description of who your character is. This could be something like “Curious Explorer” or “Battle-hardened Veteran”. Motivation is a description of what drives the character on. It could be the quest for glory or riches, the belief in a greater good, personal revenge, whatever suits you best. Last but not least the Flaw is your character’s Achilles Heel. He or she may be vengeful, naive, impulsive, etc.
These traits are guidelines to better roleplay your character, but there are also some mechanical aspects. Each character now gets a new derived value as well: Resolve. Resolve is a measure of a character’s firmness of purpose or intent, his or her determination. Resolve can be spent in order to improve circumstances in the character’s favor and are regained when a character acts according to his Traits or achieves certain goals. You can spend Resolve to get a bonus to a Skill check if either your Concept or Motivation should give you an edge in the given situation.
A character’s Flaw can used by the GM to coerce the player to let the character act according to the Flaw, which gains the character a free point of Resolve. There will probably a couple of more uses for Resolve that I’ll introduce later.
What do you think of Traits? Do you prefer the more clearly defined traits over the rather loose hooks? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Yesterday I spent several hours to work on the layout of my NaGa DeMon project Galaxy Rising. It’s already November 21 and when I want to get the game to a playable state, I have to focus on getting the rules done and into PDF form right now. One important part of game design for me is to make the game good-looking. Sure, you can run a game that only exists as a couple of notes on a scrap of paper, but that’s not enough for me. Below I have posted a couple of images that should give you a good impression of what Galaxy Rising might look when done.
So, what do you think about the layout so far? As always, your comments are highly appreciated! You can check out the layout draft in PDF format here.
Due to some unforeseen family crisis progress on my NaGa DeMon project is much slower than I anticipated. Luckily it hasn’t come to a total standstill yet. Today I actually managed to finish the character creation section and what better way is there to present a new system than by going through its character creation process.
The character we want to create today could be a typical League Soldier who we will call Commander Shep… eh … Farmer. She’s part of the LDF’s marine corps and has already seen some action. Since we want to focus on the mechanical side of things we don’t need a fully-fledged out concept yet.
Galaxy Core (that’s what I called the system powering Galaxy Rising) is a rules-light d%-based system. Each character is described by three attributes (Physical, Mental, Social – each ranked from 1 to 20) and eight pretty broad skills that get some more granularity by player-defined specializations that grant bonuses from +10% to +30%. There are also three values directly derived from the attributes: body points, Initiative, and Damage Bonus. Last but not least each character has up to three “hooks” (think of FATE Aspects) that help to flesh out the character.