New Beginnings

One dice fumbles, another rolls a hit…

And this dice brings me a brand new marketing position at Handiwork Games, a company offering a gleeful assortment of tabletop goodies, including games, mats, maps, cards, dice and dragons. The last one not literally.

Beowulf, Age of Heroes

It’s step away from FP, honing my focus to a much more specialist product range. And Handiwork’s stuff is gorgeous, giving me the chance to flex my marketing and social media muscles for something really pretty, and in an arena I know well. Seriously, this is the true heart of my personal geek journey, the place where I grew up – from my Uni days in the Eighties, all the way through those long, long years of CyberPunk and D&D, then White Wolf, right the way up to our current #ChickenCormyr campaign…

Jon Hodgson Map Tiles

With thanks to Andrew Girdwood of GeekNative and Handiwork’s Jon Hodgson for the opportunity, I’m looking forward to new horizons!

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The Benefits of Character Generation

There’s always talk about how much role-playing affects writing and creation – world-building, storylines, motivations, whathaveyou. And it’s pretty-much a given that any RPG background is a fantastic way to learn how to (convincingly) create, visualise and share the things that live in your head.

And nothing more strongly than character development.

Fairly obviously, there are a multitude of systems that all handle this differently. Your basic D&D (‘fessing here that I’ve only ever played up to third edition), offers you feats and abilities, a selection of (weapons) skills that allow you to frame your character in slightly more detail than just their ‘to hit’ roll and/or how difficult it is to listen at a door. I love D&D, always have, but its characters can be quite flat – and there are many more ways to add dimensions to your favourite kobold-masher. 

D&D shows you only what they can do, not really who they are – they leave that very much up to you.

CyberPunk brings us the lifepath generator, now online for CyberPunk 2077. It’s adaptable to any system – or any fiction – and it’s a wonderful way to flesh out those past years, not only with skills, but with possibilities. Contacts, enemies and lovers gain names and backgrounds and gangs and grudges; they spawn scenarios in their own right. And they add depth and timbre to a character, and to their surroundings, that’ll come in handy over and over again. Generated contacts can also gain gravitas in their own right – those enemies or lovers can keep cropping up. If you cross-reference the lifepath with the much-beloved random encounter table, you can have hours of gaming fun.

A step beyond that, we find World of Darkness – Vampire, Werewolf, Kindred of the East, etc. And if you then fold in the basic ‘archetype’ concepts of Nature and Demeanour, and have a look at the Merits and Flaws list, you can add a good ol’ sprinkling of needs, weaknesses and distinctive traits that extend the character still further.

Going back to the D&D, WoD shows you who they are, as well as what they can do.

Any which way, character creation is a wonderful thing, and adding layers like these can bring us right out beyond ourselves (and beyond our favourite tropes!) and really make things striking. It can help us past blocks, give us chunks of history, or let us know how a character would react in any given situation. I’ve spent my morning rolling two lifepaths for the two central characters of the current WIP, finding out what they’ve been up to in the 25 years since the ending of the previous story. And, not only has it thrown up some fascinating results, it has helped me build the history of the setting and the intervening narrative.

One final word – about names. (I’m very fond of saying how Ecko (originally called Oxy) had to have a new name when I started Rising for real and how Caph kept his shortened family name as a nod to his essentially ‘public school’ background). We know that names are critical for our characters, but you can create a whole NPC from just the right name. So, all those lifepath contacts – name them. Look something up, give them a label. Call them ‘Gravel’ or ‘Lavish’ or ‘Dances-in Moonlight’ or ‘Vomit-Face Rick’ or something with an apostrophe. Whatever you chose to name them, it immediately brings them to life.

If you like, you can pick something from here – hands-down the single best N/PC name generator I’ve ever found.

But whatever you do – enjoy it!

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Friday Night FireFight

King’s Drive, Eastbourne, 1991. My brother-from-another-mother Alan had been playing this new ‘CyberPunk’ game with his local mates. And, in as much as any GM has a single system in which they feel at home, a world and a set of rules that suit them, then this was his system. And, even then, it already had a huge backstory – elite characters, lists of guns and cybernetics and crime families that were not out of the books. I was 22 when I statted my first character – a dark-skinned, heavy-duty, ex-military sergeant-type solo, totally and shamlessly based on Apone, and (very creatively) called ‘Panther’.

CyberPunk 2020

And from there, everything spiralled.

That CyberPunk campaign has spanned three counties, some thirty (?) players (not all at the same time), and it still goes (I believe) to this day. It’s been one world, one storyline, one massive META-gaming brainstorm that we’ve all shared, and that’s been overturned, like an anthill, every so often, to give it a new lease of life. I played for ten years before my responsibilities caught me, and some part of me still misses it – though it inevitably veered towards too much intensity, at times.

I guess it was why I wrote Ecko. 

Here’s Johnny….

Seriously, though – CyberPunk 2077. This is my youthful aphantsia come to life, all the images given form, and movement, and a backdrop of neon. It’s our past, our creativity, realised in another format. It’s all the characters we drew, all the lists we made up. It’s all the movies we all loved. It’s all those core texts that we had to read – Altered Carbon and Snow Crash and Neuromancer.  

It’s been almost thirty years since Panther first took to the streets of Night City, almost twenty since I played the game myself. 

But I’m really looking forward to seeing what it’s become. 

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Judge Anderson: Bigger Than Biggs

“Six foot six and 100 tons, the undisputed King of the Slums…”

Getting the chance to play with the Big Toys has been one hell of an opportunity, and not a little intimidating.

This is the first time I’ve ever written for a character I didn’t create (the Battle Sisters are my characters, though the background is not), made all the more challenging by the fact that she’s omniscient, which is a right pain in the butt. How do you add mystery and tension to your plot, when your protag already knows everything?

But, I found my answer, and Bigger Than Biggs is out on December 4th. It’s my homage to the iconic CyberPunk of our youth, to its imagery and characters, to all the love and work that went into it, and to the bright threads of 2000AD, that, even so long ago, crept into our gaming…

It’s also based on one of my all-time favourite tracks – by Carter USM, the song that was Biggs’s theme tune, and that, to this day, ionises those youthful dice-rollings.

Judge Anderson Year Two: Bigger Than Biggs can be downloaded from the Rebellion site, and is available from Amazon. Or, if you don’t fancy giving that buttwipe Bezos any more money, there’s also a signed limited edition print novella. All with cover art by the fabulous Neil Roberts!

Sing it with me: –

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…”


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Sometimes, you discover something so absolutely beautiful that you wonder how the hell you’ve never seen it before. By Daniel Arnold-Mist, this just took my breath away. I don’t know whether to call her steampunk, cyberpunk, wirepunk or to leave the punk alone completely and hold back from giving her any kind of limiting label. She’s too delicate, too expressive, for my clumsy words.

Her beauty is astonishing. If I look at her long enough, I expect her to move.

Find more of Dan’s artwork here.

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