Tag Archives: marvelous superheroes

How I Write

writing processRecently on Chuck Wendig’s blog, he was talking about the nuts and bolts of his writing process. I posted a comment about my own process, but thought I would expand on it a bit.

First off, because I write at work as well as at home, I don’t have a daily timeframe in which I always write. What I’m working on in a particular day changes too frequently to fall into a process, and writing at home is often when I have some spare time and the energy to do it. As a result, my writing timetable is more about daily time management rather than something like “I get up at 5am and write for three hours.” That being said, I do try to write something meaningful every day, and I tend to write before noon on weekends, and between noon and early evening on weekdays.

I tend to write first drafts in plain text. For a while I just used Notepad in Windows, but I’ve recently been a convert to WriteMonkey. It doesn’t have easy text formatting tools or spell check (which is good, because that tends to be what I fiddle with when writing first drafts), but there are useful features like real time wordcount and a progress bar that keep me going back to it. Basically, it gets the hell out of the way and lets me write my ugly first draft without judging me. Even better, I can install it on my Dropbox, so I always have it on any computer I have my Dropbox hooked up to.

A quick side note: I know a lot of writers like programs like WriteMonkey because they are “distraction-free.” I’ve also heard stories of writers who turn of their Internet connection or shut down certain pieces of software while they’re writing. I don’t do that – the only concession I’ll make to the Internet when I’m writing is that I’ll switch my Google Talk to “Do Not Disturb.” When writing in the office, I can’t really block out email or IM, especially because our IM client (Communicator) also doubles as our office telephone system. But in general, I tend to work in short sprints of 10-15 minutes, instead of trying to run a marathon of several hours. Sure, sometimes I get into the groove and I’ll write until I stop, but more often than not taking two minutes to answer a quick work email will recharge me enough to start my next 10 minute sprint.

Second and subsequent drafts used to be done in Word 2010 at work and OpenOffice 3 for home, but over the past few months I’ve run into enough formatting problems trying to switch documents between the software suites that I went ahead and put Word 2010 on my personal laptop as well. I used to just copy and paste the text from WriteMonkey into Word, but recently I’ve been playing with the textile markup export. Between that and Word 2010 styles, I can go right from boring text to a look that is closer to what I want, so I can jump right into revision instead of (again) fucking around with formatting.

I do subsequent drafts in Word until I’m ready to call something final. Then I usually print it out, or export it to a new program to look at it one more time, because changing the context can often cause thing to jump out at me that I didn’t see before.

Blog posts like this one are generally written in Windows Live Writer 2011, because blogs are pretty much one-draft writing. The exceptions are my Tour de Holmes essays, which go through the usual WriteMonkey/Word process, because those require more research and crafting.

All of my writing (both work and personal) is saved to Dropbox. Not only does it mean I always have access to everything I’ve written, but Dropbox does save old versions of files, so if I really screw up (which I’ve done a couple of times), it’s easy for me to go back in time and get that draft I thoughtlessly deleted.1 One side benefit is that I can also pull my drafts on my phone, which has been useful when I get a spontaneous idea or when asked about a particular point of a project in progress.

I’ve been trying out the Scrivener beta, and I’m already in love with its organizational options. It might replace WriteMonkey for longer projects like Whitechapel and Marvelous Superheroes, but thus far I haven’t done too much with it – I’ve tried out too many betas to trust a project I care about to them. But once it’s out of beta, I’ll likely drop the $40 and start moving some projects into it.

What’s your process like?

  1. I’m ruthless in deleting old drafts. Unless there’s a strong reason for me to keep an old draft, I’ll delete it rather than letting it clog up my hard drive, and I’ll often delete old drafts once a project is done.

Slowing Down Development of Marvelous Superheroes

Icons This might seem like it’s related to my recent post about ending Whitechapel prematurely, but it’s largely unrelated – it’s something I’ve actually been thinking about for a few weeks. Let me give some context.

I tossed out Marvelous Superheroes about six months ago. I expected maybe one or two people might find it interesting, but it’s gotten a strange little bit of notoriety in the Fudge scene. Some have even emailed me with suggestions, praise, and ideas for the project. People have gravitated to my quirky little mash-up, and I’ve been poking and tweaking it for a while since then. I never expected to do much with it (and I certainly didn’t imply any kind of regular work on it), but people are enjoying it more than I anticipated, even running games with it!

Then I got a copy of Steve Kenson’s game Icons. Now, I knew we were coming at this from a similar perspective – they’re both Fudge/Marvel Super Heroes blends, and some of my groundwork came from Steve’s original notes on what he then called the “Superlative System.” But I was blown away at how similar they are in many ways. Not only were there similar systems in place in both games, but things that I had notes to update in future versions of Marvelous were in Icons. It’s like Steve and I shared a brain, and he just spent more time developing his project than I did. There are some differences, but most of them are pretty minor.

Now, Icons is under an Open Game License, just like Marvelous Superheroes. I could, theoretically, pull the interesting bits of Icons and cram it into Marvelous. However, at the moment I don’t see much point in that – I’d rather point people who are interested in Marvelous Superheroes at Icons, and see what happens. I’m running a game in Icons, in fact.

Over time, I might find things I want to change in Icons, and use Marvelous as that bed. Or I might recompile bits of Marvelous into an Icons book. Or something. But I don’t want to take cash out of the pocket of Adamant unless I can make sure that Marvelous offers something different than Icons.

So, this isn’t a case of my dropping a project because I don’t have the time. This isn’t even a case of my dropping a project because Adamant asked me to – Gareth was very gracious about the whole thing when I brought it to his attention. This is me being respectful of a game that I think is really cool, because honestly it’s really close to the game I made anyway.

Go buy Icons.

Marvelous Superheroes: Why It Haunts Me

After my post yesterday, I got into a comic book vibe and spent a number of hours poking at my ever-evolving superhero game, Marvelous Superheroes. I just put up a zip file of the 0.2 version on the “Free Stuff” page, in case you want to take a look at it. I realized that, as more and more people start expressing interest in the game, I should sit down and spell out my design goals. Plus, since not everyone was reading my LiveJournal when I put up the original draft, I thought I should go over some of the game’s history. So this is, collectively, a discussion of why this game haunts me.

This is copied and pasted from my current draft on the eventual 0.3 release, thus allowing me to make a blog post without actually spending any time writing it. That’s efficiency, that is.

Introduction

I’ve been a fan of various superhero game systems for over twenty years, but none of them quite worked the way I wanted them to. I was familiar with Fudge for over a decade and liked the idea of it (especially the open source ethos), but it also had some weirdly complex areas that seemed unnecessary and kept me from really trying out the system. Meanwhile, a public domain game called 4C was released. It was a more streamlined version of my favorite superhero system, but it went in a different direction than I would have gone in.

One day, in thinking over some house rules for a superhero campaign I wanted to run, I considered converting 4C and Fudge into a new game, so I would have more flexibility in terms of rules hacking down the road. I found a great article by Steve Kenson on the “Superlative System,” and that started me on the road to what eventually became Marvelous Superheroes.

Continue reading Marvelous Superheroes: Why It Haunts Me

Marvelous Superheroes

What happens when a game designer gets an itch to play with some house rules and loses complete control over his ideas? This:

Marvelous Superheroes

From the Introduction:

I have always loved the Marvel Super Heroes game from TSR, and over the years I have often considered it to be a good superhero game for my style of gaming. However, while many of the mechanics have held up as a decent RPG-light system, there are weird sub-rules and needlessly complex systems built into the game that are just too quirky for my tastes nowadays. Meanwhile, I’ve been familiar with Fudge for a decade now and liked the idea of it, but it also had some weirdly complex areas that seemed unnecessary and kept me from really trying out the system. A couple of years back, a public domain game called 4C was released. It was a more streamlined version of my favorite superhero system, but it went in a different direction, focusing more on the numbers than the words which made Marvel Super Heroes so cool to me.

One day, in thinking over some house rules for a new superhero campaign I wanted to run, I considered converting 4C and Fudge into a new game close to Marvel Super Heroes, so I would have more flexibility in terms of rules hacking down the road. I found a great article by Steve Kenson on the “Superlative System,” which was his start on a conversion attempt between Marvel and Fudge, and that started me on the road to what eventually became Marvelous Superheroes.

This document is rewritten from the Fudge and 4C SRD documents for use in my personal games. I do provide a simple conversion page to go from Marvel Super Heroes to Marvelous Superheroes, but it isn’t intended as a challenge to anyone’s intellectual property. Right now, this is just a fun system that I hope will finally hit my sweet spot of superhero gaming.

I stopped poking at it a while ago, but I kept forgetting to post it online. If people want to run some playtests or just read it over, that would be cool.

Update: This has turned into a regular thing, so I’ve updated the link to point to my Free Stuff page, which will always have the latest version.