Making the Right Statement with Art

Click play on this embedded audio to listen to this post (Two minutes, forty-four seconds):

Black Lives Matter.

Get involved wherever and however you can to help support people fighting oppression and pushing for societal reform. Visit the official Black Lives Matter homepage, donate to the bail funds, donate to the street medics, but also look to the Black voices in your community, offline and on, asking for help. Scroll through your Twitter feed and see who you can help with a gofundme or ko-fi donation, or even a simple share. Still unsure? Check out this card.
Change is not a sprint, it is a marathon; so get involved now, pace yourself, and see the challenge through.
The rest of this post will be me talking about myself, so feel free to move on – you’ve already experienced the most important part.

The Author is Alive

Making sure our work sends the right message is a challenge to creatives. Unless we are explicitly obvious we run the danger of someone misinterpreting, or even misrepresenting something we’ve created. In the past I’ve very much espoused the “death of the author” as an attitude regarding role-playing games. Once the writing is out of my hands I’m helpless to control what players do with it. In the years since then, a lot of important and impactful articles and posts have been shared that challenge that assumption, so I’m making a pledge to do more with Tears of a Machine 2nd Edition.

  • Sensitivity editor – As soon as there is enough text to review I will be hiring a sensitivity editor (or two!) to help me assess and correct my flaws.
  • Content guidance – In the previous edition content and setting were left open-ended or at the Director’s discretion. The new rules include steps for all players to collaborate on the subject matter at the start of play.
  • Less prescription of the setting – I want players to see themselves in the world and shape it to become a place where they belong. I’m loosening up some of my world building, rather than building in possible stereotypes, and hopefully countering some existing ones.
  • Language choices – There are some vocabulary words that are charged with meaning that I want to avoid in the new edition. “Alien” for example. While we default to have it mean “space aliens” when writing science-fiction, it’s real-world meaning shouldn’t be overlooked.

There are other changes as well on the way, but they are more specific to the content itself, such as emphasizing the role of the Preservation Force as an emergency response effort, rather than an army. I may share more about them as writing progresses.
Thank you for your time, and thank you to game writers such as James Mendez-Hodes and Meinberg for articles that have challenged me to reassess my own messages, and for designers like Sean K. Reynolds and Shanna Germain for Consent in Gaming, published by Monte Cook Games.

Preview of Coming Attractions

To listen to this post press the play button

A new way to get Tears of a Machine; I’m writing for someone else’s book; and the next game for Robot Claw is play testing at Dexcon 18. This past spring was busy but it’s all starting to pay off now.
First, Tears of a Machine will soon be available through Indie Press Revolution! I’ve uploaded the digital files and a box full of hard copy books is on the way to their warehouse now. Soon you can order your own copy from their friendly storefront. If your friendly local game store orders their stock through IPR then you’ll have another option to purchase a print copy of Tears, and I’ll make the arrangements with Bits ‘n Mortar to get you the PDF as well.
The fine folks at Onyx Path publishing were kind and/or crazy enough to let me be a contributing author for one of their upcoming releases. I’ll be sure to post more about it as the book is ready for publication. I’m very thankful for the opportunity. Hour for hour, I think I’ve spent most of my gaming life in the world of White Wolf’s games and it feels great to be able to add to that body of work.
Project Wingspan. I’ve quietly announced this new design through discussions on Google+ and with a few people on hangouts but it’s time to declare this to be a real thing. Project Wingspan is a variation on the themes of Tears of a Machine, moving the setting to a world of international wafare and cyborg secret weapons, streamlining and strengthening the structure of the rules, and shifting the focus to be nearly all player driven so that it could even be a GMless game.
Each Project Wingspan player is a weapon, a person with a secret arsenal of microbots in their bloodstream. When the enemy troops attack with robot tanks and fightercraft, you transform into the ultimate weapon of your homeland and fight back to repel the invaders. Every weapon however can be just as dangerous to the one wielding it as it is to the target. You’ll need to use your downtime to keep yourself sane, normal, and happy or the next time you activate you just might O-V-E-R-L-O-A-D.
The first live play tests will take place at Dexon 18, this coming 4th of July weekend! Go to the Dexcon homepage to learn more about the convention. I hope to see you there.
All of this, and probably more, is coming soon so thank you for reading, be sure to subscribe to this blog and track me down on Google+. May the SAInts preserve us.

Letting the Dust Settle

Messages have slowed down, payments have been made, and we’re ready to proceed. Before the text goes to the editor, I will make one last solo pass to look for any omissions or typos and to pluck out a few more needless words. The less work J. R. has to do, the faster the book turns around and it’s just poor manners to ask a professional to deal with my misspellings.
Reading Aloud
J. R. taught me an editing trick that I think everyone should know. In truth, it’s something I already knew myself, but didn’t think to apply before J. R. pointed it out to me. Read it aloud. Out loud. Mutter if you want to but don’t just silently mouth the words. You will be more focused when you engage your ears as well as your eyes and your attention is less likely to wander. Once you start using your voice you’ll quickly find passages with awkward wording or misspellings. That one-two punch of visual and auditory learning is the reason that having an audio-book format to accompany the text makes it easier to read, process, and internalize.
Presentation at Metatopia
On that subject; because of the impact that the accessibility plans had on funding Tears of a Machine, I’m preparing a presentation on the importance of accessibility for other designers. I’m planning to make the presentation at Metatopia in October. Metatopia is gaming convention focused on the designer with panels and mini-seminars about games of all types and a schedule of demos and playtests designed to find players for your game in progress. I highly recommend attending!
Social Media Sorting
Many of you have added me to your social media groups and I’ve done the same but in a haphazard way. I’m sorting out the Facebook groups and Google circles now. If you’d rather only receive information about Gaming in general, or Tears specifically, please let me know through their messaging channels and I’ll spare you my posts about the “really great pizza I had.”
There will be more progress reports ahead and I’ll be organizing more online chats and demos soon too. I expect that they will be on Wednesday evenings and weekends to fit my schedule but I also hope to get more of you involved, perhaps as early GMs for your own groups.
Thank you and may the SAInts preserve us.

Hello and Welcome!

I’m Russell Collins, the designer and author of Tears of a Machine; A story game (or RPG) about teenagers piloting giant robots against an attacking alien force and all the triumph and loss of their dangerous lives.
I’ve built the game around the pilot’s own strength of will and self-confidence, so that a good day in school or at the mall or on the basketball court will help a pilot beat the odds when the alarms sound and the alien assault force strikes. But on the other side, a pilot’s fears and frustrations may leave him or her drained and apathetic and a weak-willed pilot could be just as dangerous as the enemy. The SAInts, the giant robots built by Earth’s defenders, are made from the same tech as the alien’s war machines and if a pilot loses control, the SAInt becomes a raging monster!
The rules are quick to resolve and focus in on what is most important to a pilot’s success or failure and how those situations relate to his or her outlooks and attitudes. They also scale, zooming in to add more detail when the pilot’s life is on the line as insect-like robots storm the city, but staying light enough so that combat scenarios can still be high-speed, high-energy dramatic events.
As production of the game progresses I’ll be adding more details about the world of Tears of a Machine through stage setting fiction and rules examples. There will also be some supplemental writing and behind-the-scenes information too.
Thank you, and May the SAInts Preserve Us.