Mining For Inspiration

Sorry Phantom Followers, it’s been a while! As I think I’ve talked about here before, I’m terrible at updating.

Nonetheless, here is a reasonably timely update for the Psionics Kickstarter! This update actually contains a lot of the stuff I want to talk about here, so I’m just going to post in a chunk of it in.

[Our local playtest group] has been struggling with some not entirely unexpected scheduling difficulties but nonetheless has managed to log three playtest sessions (six hours in length) since the playtest period began. We have our next one scheduled for tomorrow, and hopefully many more between now and January 1st 2015, when the playtest period officially ends (although we may keep playing after that). Local playtest experience has already yielded a few solid handfuls of rules corrections, tweaks, and ideas.

As I said previously, the priority between now and the start of 2015 is finishing the manuscript and incorporating actual playtest feedback into the final manuscript. What I am doing first is the “meat and potatoes”, all of the rules, mechanics, and procedural advice necessary for a game that feels entirely complete and able to support many robust campaigns. What we’ll shift focus towards going into the new year once the nuts and bolts are in place is the “candy coating”, all of the pretty stuff. This means first embellishing the manuscript with flavor, quotes and of course awesome fiction (which you generous people have paid for), and then embarking on the journey of securing the awesome art that you generous people have paid for and letting Mikaela work her layout magic, perhaps going into the later stages of that process in March or April (too early to say now for sure). Until then, I’m letting my actual play experience serve as both a continuing stress test of the rules and mechanics and as a groundswell of inspiration I’m currently storing up as the basis for the thematic and aesthetic trappings that my fiction and the fiction of other contributors will imbue the game with as the final coat of polish before the art and layout phase. This process is, fittingly, happening side by side with the painstaking “training” of the Psionics Pandora station.

It’s the last few sentences that I want to expand on here. So I did, although I didn’t expand on the music part much. Let me just say either listening to music is an inseparable part of your creative output or it isn’t, and either you know the uniquely frustrating experience of hammering a Pandora Station into the shape you want, or you don’t. : )

Basically speaking, this unusually lengthy playtest process is fascinating to me and I’m really enjoying having the time window to leisurely unpack the process and take my time with it. My past games have been written and published with much less time for playtesting and almost no time for REFLECTING on that playtesting. While I think the games we’ve already published came out pretty great (I’m biased), I’m finding both the playtesting and the time to reflect to be really invaluable. If nothing else, I’m catching mistakes that I never caught in past projects until the book was already published.

To be blunt, by no later than early next year, I need to write some fiction for Psionics and also write some evocative hooks and guidelines for the Fiction we’re going to pay other talented people to write. This prospect scares the everloving shit out of me. There are a lot of reasons of varying importance for this. The fact that I’m rusty at writing fiction-qua-fiction and I know I’m rusty at writing that kind of fiction (gosh, I think it’s been years since I’ve done it anything resembling regularly) isn’t the core issue, nor is the fact that I’ve never been a “manager” for other writers before.

The issue is more that my standards and expectations of the quality of the Psionics fiction–my own writing not just included, but especially–are enormously high. But even that doesn’t get at the heart of it, because I don’t just want it to be awesome, even more than I wanted the fiction associated with the Singularity System and SPLINTER to be awesome.

The real stumbling block is that for me there is a certain seemingly ineffable, seemingly unnameable, emotive, philosophical attitude, literary quality, aesthetic, and most of all style that I want the Psionics fiction to have. What I want, in my head, is so evolved in style from earlier versions of Psionics as to be almost unrecognizable when compared to the 2007 and 2002 incarnations of the unpublished game.

I hate things I can’t say in English, but the French have a better phrase for this. It is a very literal “je ne sais quois. I’m not being clever or coy here, because “je ne sais quois” is French that literally translates to “I-DON’T KNOW-WHAT”  and I DON’T FUCKING KNOW WHAT. Or more saliently, more accurately, I do know what, in my heart, and my mind, but so far I’ve been totally unable to approach putting that quality and style into even the most rudimentary words. Which is a very problematic thing because putting it into words is literally my most important job.

Never fear, though. I’ve got time, I’ve got a burgeoning playtest campaign to mine for inspiration, I’ve got books to read, and I’ve got music to listen to while I do it. So I am going to sais quois this je ne sais quois, come hell or high water. Mainly by playing Psionics.

In other (enigmatic) news…invisible drama (if I’ve talked to you face to face in the last month or so, don’t worry, I’m not talking about you) continues to be more or less invisible, against my fundamental instincts, as I try to focus on productive things rather than my mounting thirst for absolute destruction.

I hope to make a more general update on our company soon. But since aspirations don’t always align with reality as far as blogging goes, here’s the short version in case I disappear for a few more months. We’ve got an exciting distribution deal with Studio 2 Publishing and that might allow us to actually have a reasonable presence at GenCon next year, hope to God.


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