Project Inventory
The number of projects I have in progress at any given time is pretty ridiculous, and I find it helpful to periodically sit down and make a list of all of them. Normally I do that in a notebook, but the revamped Patreon seemed like a good place to do it publicly. Since it’s not just for myself this time, I’ve included descriptions of each one, which is why it took me a while to write all of this out.

Please feel free to ask questions and let me know which things here particularly interest you. I have a habit of opening up files and working on whatever interests me in the moment, and honestly it would be good for me to get some idea what people are interested in. Also, if the length of this post is any indication, I’m entirely too happy to blather about what I’ve been working on.

RPGs

Brainpocalypse: For a while I’ve been wanting to do a game that’s basically my take on the general concept and feel of the 7th Edition of Gamma World, using Strike! or something similar to provide the same kind of fun tactical combat and zaniness with less math involved. When I finally read the original Akira manga (which is great and way, way longer and more involved than the movie), I had the idea to have the apocalypse caused by a child with ludicrously potent psychic powers.

Dyna Rangers: Forever ago I was working on a game called Tokyo Heroes, aimed at sentai and the American Power Rangers adaptations, with a side helping of fighty magical girls a la Sailor Moon. More recently I came back to it and started a process of revamping it into “Dyna Rangers,” which would focus more heavily on sentai heroes (with the magical girls going into an appendix or possibly a supplement). It still needs a lot of work, and looking through stuff I wrote around 2006 was bizarre because of how much more economical I’ve gotten with my RPG texts. Still, it contains the fruits of watching a ridiculous amount of sentai stuff, and I’m hoping I’ll eventually be able to refine it into a fast and fun game of colorful heroes fighting monsters.

Helpful Heroes: The idea here is to build on the rules of Pix (see below) for an RPG where you play friendly, good-hearted superheroes. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the single biggest inspiration, for how Squirrel Girl takes on all sorts of foes, and more often than not wins through clever thinking and the Power of Friendship. I’ve gotten more into reading superhero comics in recent years, and it was mostly because of the weirder titles about characters who deal with the little problems and help people out while the marquee superheroes are off fighting over magic space rocks and whatnot. With Helpful Heroes I’m trying to make a game that celebrates those guys, the ones who have a lot of heart even if some people write them off as losers.

I Hate You: The subtitle of I Hate You is “A Cartoon Story Game for Two Good Friends.” It’s a two-player game where two people collaborate to create a short story in the vein of one of the classic cartoons with a “predator and prey” dynamic, like Coyote and Roadrunner, Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, and so on. It’s pretty simple, and more a guided storytelling exercise than a game per se. Before I discovered anime I was all about cartoons (hence the first RPG I ever owned was Toon), and it’s been fun to go back there. I’m planning to give it a little bit of a modern spin, hence one of the sample character pairings is a fashionable deer who takes a lot of selfies and a hunter girl who has a vlog about hunting.

Magical Burst: If you’re into my stuff enough to support my Patreon you probably already know about Magical Burst, but it’s a dark magical girl RPG that I started on in 2011, drawing inspiration from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. I started putting drafts up as free downloads on my blog, and while the game has had major problems design-wise, a ton of people have played and enjoyed it. I’m currently working on revising the “fifth draft,” which simplifies a bunch of things that I feel were overly complicated in previous versions. The big stumbling block is that I set myself the task of creating a tactical combat system that’s simple and fun, whereas in most of my games I’ve handled combat by either taking a Powered by the Apocalypse approach (making it more narrative than anything) or outright non-violent in the first place. With some inspiration from video games (notably Octopath Traveler and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle), plus looking at the “Monster Manual III on a Business Card,” it’s starting to come together at long last, though it’s still going to take a while to write and playtest.

Pix: Pix takes place is a small, fragile world that’s a weird hybrid of fantasy, reality, and buggy video game. The system is what I’ve taken to calling “Powered by Dreams,” a hybrid of Powered by the Apocalypse and Golden Sky Stories, with some new elements added. You play as monsters from pix as they help each other through the joys and failures of everyday life, similar to how the henge in Golden Sky Stories help others, but with a little more of a sense of challenge and adventure (hence the game uses dice and AW-style moves). It’s been fun and challenging to work on. Right now I have the core rules basically finished, but I’m working on both fleshing out the setting and finishing up new “Changing World” rules, where Pix itself accumulates different kinds of points (Joy, Melancholy, and Debug) according to the PCs’ actions that change and heal it in different ways. I’m planning to put together a playable draft for Patrons this month!

Slime Story: Another one from ages ago that I want to retool and finish up, Slime Story is about teenagers in a present-day setting where MMO-style little monsters have started appearing and hunting them has become a way to kill time and get some spending money. I wrote up a whole game that just didn’t work that great, and when I started on a new Powered by the Apocalypse version from the ground up it suddenly started snapping into focus. Jonathan Walton had been following its development for a while and recommended Roadside Picnic (the Russian science fiction novel, loosely adapted into the film Stalker), and I’m currently trying to process it and what it means. The novel and film came out in the late 70s, and they show a distinctly Soviet view of the world as nonsensical and beyond the power of science to properly grasp. I really like the idea of the monster phenomena being something a bit beyond human comprehension, and I’m trying to figure out what I want that to really be, particularly from my own American perspective.

Zaptacular: Spooktacular is my sorta-retroclone of the rules of the West End Games Ghostbusters RPG (more from the first edition than not, but with some elements of Ghostbusters International and some new stuff I came up with). I saw more potential in the rules, so I decided to both release it as an open system (“Sixtacular”) and start on a new RPG using those rules. Zaptacular has the subtitle “Mad Science Adventures,” and while it’s going to have a ton of other influences (practically every humorous sci-fi thing I’ve ever experienced) and a ton of room for reshaping it for different kinds of campaigns, the core inspiration for it is Rick and Morty. The base assumption of it is that you’re playing as a group of people in present-day suburbia (mostly normal, with one or two total weirdos with weird technology and/or powers) who have aliens, other dimensions, super-technology, and other strangeness intrude on their lives on a regular basis. (There are also going to be alternate campaign setups in the appendices loosely based on Doctor Who, Sliders, Red Dwarf, and Star Trek, and plenty of room for coming up with your own.) It’s been a lot of fun putting together a multiversal setting where I can jam in all kinds of creations of mine from various games and campaigns that hadn’t had a home in a published game before.

Zero Breakers: In terms of setting, the idea with Zero Breakers is that there are people called “Breakers” who can break the laws of reality in certain ways, and Narukami Academy is one of the special schools that they send Breakers to in order to keep the busy fighting each other instead of destroying the world. The game is kind of a proof of concept for treating combat more as an exercise in narration, where you take turns playing cards (kinda sorta like in Hot Guys Making Out) and the GM picks a winner (kinda sorta like in World Wide Wrestling).

Other RPGs

  • Assassin’s Kittens: A short and simple PbtA RPG that’s basically “Assassin’s Creed but adorable kittens.”
  • Beyond Otaku Dreams: A story game about anime fans at a convention grappling with their problems and touching a world of dreams that could change their lives forever.
  • Galaxy World: A game that builds on Dragon World for anime comedy sci-fi. Think Tenchi Muyo, Galaxy Fraulein Yuna, Dirty Pair, Nadesico, Project A-ko, and Usurei Yatsura.
  • Otaku Crime Squad: I don’t know how far I’ll take this idea, but it’s based on Anime Crimes Division, basically a hybrid of Fate Accelerated and Blades in the Dark about a team of police detectives in San Akihabara.
  • Podcast From Another World: An improv-heavy RPG in the form of a deck of cards where you do episodes of a podcast from a fantasy world, in the vein of Hello From the Magic Tavern.
  • Tsundere Sharks RPG: Inspired by the whole tsundere sharks meme, this is about sharks trying to get close to sempai. I went as far as to commission some artwork for this, but I haven’t gotten very far with designing an actual game.

Other Games

Epic Fun Games: This is sort of a tabletop game with more of an RPG-style presentation, where you get a PDF and printable forms, and bring pencils and dice to the table. Inspired by the Coolgames, Inc. podcast (unfortunately now defunct thanks to one of the hosts turning out to be a terrible person) and Mangaka (the awesome manga-drawing game by Jason Thompson), it’s a game where (with some constraints provided by the game and its random tables) you try to come up with the most amazingly awesome new video game pitch.

Fighting Fighters Coliseum: This party card game is meant to build on Channel A and try to integrate some more mechanics into it. Instead of using words on cards to come up with the best title for an anime series to fit the Producer’s premise, you’re using words on cards to come up with the best special move to defeat that round’s boss. There’s a set of 20 double-sided character cards, which double as both playable characters and boss characters (with the effects for each on each side). Of course, that means that the final game will need 20 pieces of full-color art, which may be an issue. In playtests so far it’s been fun but flawed, and it definitely needs a serious revision going forward.

The Hungry Dragon: This is a relatively small and simple deck-building game where you play the wait staff at a super-popular restaurant in a fantasy world. A while ago I translated Dynamite Nurse for Japanime Games, and while it got its Kickstarter funding and everything, it wasn’t successful enough for anyone concerned to do anything more with the game. Despite it being one of Arclight’s card games that’s partly just a vehicle for fanservice art (of nurses in this case, because of course), it’s genuinely a fun and interesting game, and a uniquely frantic, vicious take on the deck-building genre. The Hungry Dragon is thus my attempt at building on what I like about Dynamite Nurse, while trying out some new things. I’m not super-confident that it’s a project I can really bring to fruition—the costs of art and printing for a game with that many cards being what they are—but so far it’s been fun to work on.

RPG Chef: The card game Unpub is a small, simple party game where you pitch board games, and RPG Chef is a party game along very similar lines, but about pitching RPGs instead. I found that I felt the need to write explanations of things to go on the cards so they’d make more sense (since tabletop RPGs don’t have nearly the clarity of vocabulary that board games have), which has made it into a somewhat involved writing exercise despite sticking to a 52-card deck.

Miscellaneous

Anime Oracles: “Oracles” are a thing from D. Vincent Baker’s game In a Wicked Age (a really neat sword and sorcery RPG), where you have a table that lets you generate story elements by drawing a card from a standard deck of playing cards. There are other possible ways to use them, but in IAWA you start off the game by picking which oracle you want to use and drawing cards to get four entries, which you then use as the basis of your characters and starting situation (and periodically introduce new ones as you progress through chapters). For example, in the “God Kings of War” oracle you might get “The guardian spirit of a foolhardy, naive, reckless and impressionable young person,” and then a player might decide to be the reckless young person, the guardian spirit, someone in love with either the young person or the spirit, or something else related in some way. I have an idea to do a small book of anime-inspired oracles, as a tool for anime-inspired role-playing and other creative pursuits. Since each oracle needs 52 entries (to follow the IAWA format for them at least), they’re time-consuming to create, but rewarding when complete.

In a Room: Are you familiar with “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”? The Room has become a cult classic B-movie that sells out midnight showings, and it’s a truly bizarre, nonsensical story of tragic love or something, I’m not really sure. Costar Greg Sestero wrote a memoir about the experience called The Disaster Artist, and more recently James Franco did a really excellent movie adaptation. The Living Space is a parody of The Room—if such a thing is even possible—where I deliberately use my random tables as much as possible. Since I made a The Room Ewen’s Tables pack, I’m thinking about having the final book also include a “The Other Room” story, consisting of a series of randomly-generated scenes, just to see what happens.

Isekai Story: I haven’t settled on a title yet, but I started writing an isekai novel (isekai being the “person winds up in a fantasy world” genre that’s become an overbearing cliché in anime lately) just for the fun of it. In it, a particular religion summons a “prophet” once a century, a person from earth who is supposed to introduce new ideas and keep the world from becoming stagnant. The protagonist becomes a catgirl (I guess because I have A Thing about that), and between that and a mishap resulting in two prophets being summoned, she ends up being declared an anti-prophet and kicked out. She makes friends with Alyssa, the summoner the church hired to consult on the summoning ritual, and a holy scribe named Langella who has decided to make it her life’s work to chronicle the deeds of the new anti-prophet. They get into progressively bigger and bigger trouble, and along the way they learn what kind of influence other prophets have had in the world. I started out writing it basically just to do something with some dumb ideas that kept persisting in my head, but I found myself working on sort of a critique of some aspects of the isekai genre, where it deals with the consequences of earthlings shoving their culture, ideas, and technologies onto another world. There’s a small nation called New Ohio, founded by a previous prophet who was an engineer, and it turns out that the whole system of MMO-style classes and levels exists because there was an early prophet who took the form of a computer and is imposing that system onto the world. The way it’s heading right now, the final conflict will be against a nihilistic internet troll who’s gained dark and dangerous powers.

Kagegami Days: I want to do an anthology of Kagegami High short stories, starting with a story about a girl receiving her unwanted acceptance letter and attending the opening ceremonies.

Magic School Diary: Waaaaaay back when I did a single-player RPG thing called Hikikomori RPG (inspired by Welcome to the NHK) where by rolling dice and keeping an in-character diary of sorts you play out the life of a shut-in. Magic School Diary is meant to be a more ambitious (and less mechanical) take on the in-character diary concept. You play the role of a student at an American magic school, and the principal has given you a special diary and asked you to chronicle your school year. The diary is magical, and it predicts events that will happen to you, plus it has some notes that a time traveler stuck into it, so as you go through it doing various activities, a story emerges. There’s a lot to write for it, plus I want to commission portraits of the NPCs, so it’s kind of a big project to undertake.

The Most Toys: This is sort of a “techno-memoir,” telling the story of my life in terms of the devices that were important parts of it, going all the way back to the family’s Commodore VIC-20. It gets more muddled as I get closer to the present and the pace of new devices increases, and at some point I need to sit down and figure out how exactly to conclude it.

Most of My Friends Are Potential Supervillains: This is a sequel to I Want to be an Awesome Robot, my book of weird humor stuff. It’s going to have 700 skeleton names, fake trivia about board games, a Today in Geek Alternate History calendar (with a gamebook about Steve Hawking preparing for his rap battle against Albert Einstein embedded into it) and more.

Night After Night: In anticipation of writing a second UFO Girl (see below) novel involving vampires, I read the entire Twilight Saga, and then watched the RiffTrax as they came out. The Twilight Saga is not good, but its actual problems have nothing to do with sparkly vampires. In one of the RiffTrax (IIRC the New Moon one) they go on an extended riff about Bella having a bunch of different monster boys interested her, culminating in the Teen From the Back Lagoon becoming so desponded that he flushes himself. That led me to the idea of actually writing a novel that’s sort of like a Twilight parody (though emphatically not the shallow, stupid kind of parody like Vampires Suck) about a girl who moves in with her mom in the town of Spoons and winds up with a succession of supernatural suitors, starting with a vampire and a werewolf, but also including a haunted ventriloquism dummy, the Handsome Living Corn (I did let some Chuck Tingle influence in), the demon Buer, and in the climax of the story Literally God. It’s very silly at times, but it also has a point to it. 

Sharkicane vs. Dolphoon: One of my dumbest ideas that I still want to do at some point is a Sharknado parody. It involves the sharks using evil Shark Sorcery to call up a Sharkicane and the good dolphins using their Dolphin Magic to summon a Dolphoon to counter it.

Sigil: I have an idea to do a Persona-inspired RPG that builds on the rules of Magical Burst (though that means I have to finish Magical Burst first), and while playing through Persona 5 I started making notes of setting ideas as they came to me. One that I particularly liked was a social media company called Sigil—basically Facebook with faux-occult overtones—which is secretly doing shady stuff with the cognitive world. I wanted to do a novel in that setting, and I hit on the idea of (instead of Persona’s insistence on being about high schoolers) having it be about a group of new employees at Sigil, letting me draw on my own experiences with Silicon Valley tech companies.

UFO Girl and the End of the World: This is a novel I started on forever ago and still really want to finish. The protagonist is Janet, a teenage girl who happens to be half-alien, and thus has a pair of metal antennas that she prefers to hide. (Inspired by My Favorite Martian, though her mom is actually from Altair.) One hot summer day her mother tells her that the world is going to end in about a week, launching them on an adventure that takes them to Roswell, the Moon, and eventually to the interior of the asteroid that’s about to collide with Earth. Janet is sarcastic and cynical, but underneath that she has a profound appreciation for the beauty of the cosmos that motivates her to defend the Earth at all costs. It’s very silly at times, affectionately lampooning ufologists, conspiracy theorists, and sci-fi B-movies, but has some serious moments too. I have entirely too many ideas for further UFO Girl stories, starting with UFO Girl vs. Vampire Boy, where Janet (apparently by virtue of being half-alien) is about the only one at her school not under the sway of the new guy’s vampiric charms.