Why I am making a Table Top Role Playing Game
and how you can join in on the fun
In the cool breezy days of November 1985, my dog Red and my imagination were my best friends since all my school friends lived far away. Our trailer was out in the country in Southeast Missouri, behind my great grandmother’s house. Boredom stalked the tall grasses around the pond. I spent hours running around in the woods around our home, playing imaginary games with Red. He was an orangy red shepherd about my height who resembled a beast of legend come alive, and we fought endless hordes of imaginary monsters as we raced through the trees and gullies that surrounded our home.
When I wasn’t being an unholy terror outside, I sat in front of our TV watching Voltron and Robotech reruns, and my newest favorite show, He-man and the Masters of the Universe. It had everything from the magic of the Sorceress and Orko to dragons. Heroes and villains struggled against each other to hold the power of Castle Grayskull. I always loved mythology, and this show was like new legends coming alive on the screen.
I didn’t know how much my life was about to change when my sister Chris came for a visit with my young niece around my ninth birthday. She always showered me with gifts, and this year was no different. Among the books and toys was one that would forever change the course of my life.
Chris bought me my first D&D Book, the Monster Manual.
I sat with it on my lap for a long time, taking in all the creatures on the cover. I recognized the dragon, the unicorn, and the centaur, but I didn’t know what the other three monsters were. After a while, just staring at it, I opened the book and entered a world filled with creatures familiar and bizarre. There was something different about this book. All the creatures had stat blocks above them.
Dungeons and Dragons launched two years before I was born, in 1974. These initial box sets were variations of the war game Chainmail. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons came out in 1977 and allowed players to create their own original characters. Even though the game had been out for 8 years, I had never heard of it.
I was obsessed with the book, and got a copy of Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
When we moved to Maryland, AD&D was the way I made friends. I ran games for the other kids in the neighborhood and played in their games. In time, my experience of Table Top Roleplaying Games (TTRPGs) expanded to many FASA games, from Star Trek to Shadowrun and Earthdawn. We played through all the White Wolf games that came out and even joined in the LARPs (Live Action Roleplaying) of Vampire the Masquerade.
Ever since my sister gave me that copy of the Monster Manual, TTRPGs have been a big part of my life. I still play them with my friends. If she hadn’t given me that book, I don’t know how I would have made friends as an introvert who enjoys being alone. The games sharpened my imagination and honed my creativity. They also empowered me to build new personas and try out new modes of acting to figure out who I am.
Now, I want to create a Shared Imaginary Space (SIS) for all of us to play in.
Our Solemn Hour has been a collaborative project from the beginning. I started building the world when I was in high school and wrote my first novel and a bevy of short stories in the setting. I adapted elements of it into many games I ran for friends.
When I wrote my first published novel, I returned to the setting. In fact, that book was the result of a failed attempt to make my first table top roleplaying game. I met Ryan Dacey at a games panel at an Oakland Wondercon in April 2002. He gave a talk about game creation and I mentioned the game I wanted to make, which he hilariously christened, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Starship.”
I struggled with game mechanics for about a year, and as I did, I outlined a novel to tell the story. In the end, I had the Legends of the Jade Moon and no game. Over the years I added Shine Like Thunder and Fate’s Harrow to setting, but the dream of making a game never went away.
With the Cypher System Open License, I realized the time had finally come to bring this game into being. I had already run a campaign in the Cypher System in my Barren’s End setting. So I disappeared from the internet and started working on a new game, Our Solemn Hour, which takes place in that space opera setting.
The game has been in development for some time and while it isn’t ready for release yet, I am ready to start talking about the stages of Beta release:
Barrens’ Wanderer: a starship system for Cypher
The first part of the project is a new starship system built from the ground up to make the ships as vital a part of the game as they are in the stories themselves. I’ve worked hard to make this new system compatible with the existing ships in Cypher, The Stars are Fire, Expanded Worlds, and other Cypher worlds, while making them a vibrant, playable element to the world.
As I have developed a more fleshed out downtime and travel system, I realized they would work as a standalone solo game, so that is my planned first release. I will talk about it more as its release approaches.
Fate’s Hunters: An Adventure in the Galactic Underworld
The same thing happened when I was working on the fate system for the game since the twin goddesses of fate play such powerful role in the stories. The fate system with the associated other downtime systems will make an interesting solo game experience for players to enjoy.
I can’t wait to share more of the process and the games with you, as well as the new stories that will accompany them. This is an exciting new adventure. Let’s take it together.