Friday, December 23, 2016

Where's the Rules Update for LAUNCH WINDOW? (and other news)

     Let's talk about that.
     For those of you who do not already know, I got sick again right after getting Issue 1 published.  It was another depressing reminder that while the spirit is willing, the flesh is still very much disabled and will crap out at the most inopputune times.  What can I say?  Putting out a 80+ page magazine monthly single handedly may not be impossible, but for someone of my medical conditions, it may very well be unsustainable.
     Not to be deturred, I devoted some thought to the situation between bouts of fever and + blood sugur reading and came up with the following solution:

  •  January's Issue 2 will come out on time and be awesome.  I've decided to take the monthy feature "Starmorphs" and devote the entire issue to it.  It will contain 26 maps, complete with keys and six random tables apiece for your gaming peasure.  The whole thing together was planned as a stand-alone product for $10.00, so getting it for $7.50 as a LAUNCH WINDOW issue is abargain.
  • Since Issue 2 will contain no new rules per se, it will need no rules updates, so I can spend that time catching up on Issue 1's updates.  This way I can keep to my publishing schedule for the magazine without getting any further behind.
  • Starting with Issue 3, LAUNCH WINDOW will be the same length as Issue 0.5 - roughly 50 or so pages, and sell for $5.00 an issue.  I know I can make those monthy even if illness or other douchebaggery happens to upset my schedule.  Print issues, when they come, will be two-issue collections, for a total of 6 100- page print books a year.
  • The subscription deal we have, (one year for $60.00) will now be expanded to include 18 issues for $60.00, to reflect the shortened lenghth.  You'll still be getting each issue for 1/3 off.
  • Patreon pledgers will get the magazine, the separate short stories, and additional behind-the-scenes and bonus materials not available for sale.  These will include prgressive reports on the "Star Desroyer" mapping project
    Anyway, that's where we're at on the magazine for now.  In other news, Christmas is around the corner, my 40th birthday is right after that, and I'll probably be out of touch more or less untill the new year.  So...Happy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Star Destroyer Map? To SCALE!?

     So after getting LAUNCH WINDOW up an running (finally) my tired brain needed a break.  As a sort of palate cleanser, I went trawling around Ye Olde Interwebs looking at Star Destroyers.
 Some of the images I came across were from Geoffry Mandel's blueprints.  These are so old, they pre-date the scaling up of the Blockade Runner and SD made late in production and show us a Star Destroyer less than five hundred meters long.  The weapon mix and compliment is also interesting - the Mandel SD only has a crew of 750 (280 of which are Stormtroopers) but still carries a full wing of 72 TIE fighters.  No AT-AT or chicken walkers, though.  The SD was either too small to carry planetary assault equipment, was optimized for space combat, or, most likely, these were omitted because George and ILM hadn't invented them yet.
    Anyway, for fun, I started sketching star cruiser whose size was inspired by Mandel's SD, and blended featured of all different Star Destroyers we see from Episode II on.  I couldn't get the tiny inch long sketches I drew scale up, so I fired up Wings 3D and simply built a model in that.  Because my "Pocket SD" star cruiser was only about 600 meters long, I could build it out to scale.  The scale I chose was one grid square = 15 meters, because my Star Morph capital ship map tiles are 15 x 30 meters, so it made sense.  I also though about texturing the beast, but this was just a palate cleanser, so why bother?
     That's when the muse descended.
     I can texture blocks in Wings.  I have twenty-six star morphs laying around.  Hmmm...

      Sure enough, I not only could put my Starmorphs on 1x2x0.2 tiles to represent 15x30x3 meter deck segments, the resolution of the images was sharp enough to really see the detail.
    I was shocked as the implications set in.  By using my existing tiles, maybe a few new ones, and Wings 3D, I had the tools to fully map a Star Destroyer to scale.
    At first I thought it was crazy - after all, my Starphin project proved to be too much work to do in a timely manner - and that ship was a third of the size of my Mandel SD.  But in reality, the SD is a lot simpler a project, because the large pieces like engines and main guns are computer models and the deckplans have already been drawn.
     The results so far have been encouraging...

Friday, December 16, 2016


Now you can get new material for your science fiction game - no matter what game it is!
Welcome to LAUNCH WINDOW: A monthly digest that features new material for Cepheus Engine, Diaspora, D20, Open D6, and OSR gaming.  Stories and articles every month feature new characters, starships, equipment and rules options for your favorite science fiction games.  Every system, every item, every issue.
The Black Desert of space is a dangerous place. When a shipping rocket is endanger of being impounded by a hostile government,  takes a special kind of team to repossess spacecraft before its passengers and crew become detainees.
The Third Gleise Monarchy stood for freedom and prosperity.  When is much larger totalitarian neighbor orchestrated a palace coup, it appears that all is lost.  It’s up to one diplomat and his starcruiser to find a way to turn what few ships and troops remain into a force of resistance.
Gone in 7 km/s: When your rocket’s bills are past due, don’t fear the Repo...
Species Spotlight: Hichikars:  These vagobonds of space are a lot of fun, but keep your hand on your wallet!

Technical Readout: Pinnace: These armed interface craft are a real bargain...but you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

It's coming together... (T-MINUS 4 DAYS)

     Rescheduling of family functions and the normal psychotic pace of the so-called "Holidays" has made getting the magazine finished a marathon of endurance. It coming together, however.  Stargosy Part 1 and both articles are finished, as well as a lot of the art. I'm especially loving the cover for the Stargosy story:
    Modelling that cruiser was an exercise in endurance as well.
    Anyway, I got the first round of character art in from Chris Ford, who did the portraits in the previous Issue.  He arts a comic on Comic Fury called "The Accidental Witch" as well as a Harry-Potter-meets-Speampunk-Oz Patreon exculsive called "Soleil & Selene".  You should check them out.
    I like using Ford's character portraits because they a never what I expect.  His take on the characters from Stargosy, for example - I would never have thought of that!  Check it out:

    And I've also been hard at work drawing the bonus Isometric map for Issue 1:

    I hope you all are as excited about the upcoming issue as I am!  Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a doctor's appointment that was rescheduled!  Gotta go!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Art Previews! (T-MINUS 6 DAYS)

   That's right, RocketFans - Issue 1 is only six days away!  While we're all waiting in breathless anticipation, here's a look at some of the art in the upcoming issue:
Our Glorious Cover!

One of the big tasks this month has been designing and modelling Varangian, the diplomatic cruiser from the Stargosy series.  It's still a work in progress.

And I just cannot be a Blue Max Studios product without some deckplans somewhere, now can it?

  Hope you all enjoy!  I gotta get back to work...

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Let Freedom Ring Excerpt (Issue 1 Update)

Here's a look at some of the upcoming stuff from LAUNCH WINDOW's first full issue!

Let Freedom Ring (exerpt):
One does not simply decide to go into space.
    The distance is not great, as these things go - a home-built rocket made by amateur enthusiasts can easily cross the hundred-odd kilometers needed to reach open space around Terra.  However, since gravity that high is still roughly ninety-seven percent of what it is at sea level, these rockets will fall back down as soon as their propellent is gone and burn up in the atmosphere. To actually stay in orbit requires a staggering change in velocity - the same amount used by the first expedition to Saturn.
    Annabelle Li was able to take her crew on that kind of jump only by flagrantly cheating at every possible turn.  Her current body started life a CASSTOR catapult-assisted rocket back when Annabelle herself was being assembled by the Brazillian military.  The orbiter had since been modified with a collapsible L-Drive dish in order to take advantage of the boom in ground-based laser installations.  The little rocket carried no on-board propellant - she could make orbit with just the energy of the ambient atmosphere exploding under her bell.  This gave Annabelle and her crew enormous leeway in their available launch window - after all, staying in the thick atmosphere longer actually extended their delta-V- but it required waiting for an available beam to launch on.
     “I can get us a beam in twenty-one hours.” Wade leaned back into his flight chair and rubbed between his eyes.  “That’s literally the soonest I can get.  It’ll cost 50% over standard and we’ll have to portage to Cape Troy to use it.”
    “That’s...really awful.  You know that, don’t you?”  Niles Demirkan had a talent for sounding mildly amused.
    “Well, unless y’all wanna go up as cargo on another ‘Bell, that’s our situation.”
    “That’s an option?”  Tilde looked at her husband. “You can get us up in a Liberty Bell?”
    “Uh...yes?”  Wade shrugged and grinned sheepishly. “I was actually joking, but one of my Hive-fi followers is PLO on a ‘Bell that flies local, I think. Lemme check real quick -”
    “Wade,” Niles still sounded amused. “Do you know everybody in the Solar System?”
    “Nah.  Mebbe one percent - tops.”
    Tilde ignored the exchange between her husband and their friend.  She was thinking.
    “Wade, did you think to check and see if anyone on Lucky Libby is one of your followers?”
    “Tilde…That would’ve been smart.
    It worked out that Wade, by virtue of “knowing” almost a hundred million people, did have a Hive-fi follower on the crew of a Liberty Bell boosting out of Redstone XTA.  Two hours of negotiation and a five-figure transfer of funds from Tom got Annabelle Li loaded as freight on the Liberty Bell Roll Tide Roll. They would space in less than twelve hours.
    The time was far from idle.  Annabelle Li was herself a launch vehicle, and therefore had many features that were ideal for launching cargo and impossible for being cargo.Wade, Tusk, and Annabelle’s robotic minions worked furiously to dismantle the CASSTOR’s twelve-meter high launch fairing.  Since the rocket’s only on orbit power source were solar panels mounted on the interior of the fairing, the crew spend several hours more installing aftermarket panels in Annabelle Li’s four equipment pallets.  Port inspection took another hour and a half, during which Wade and Tusk both desperately jogged the two kilometers to the terminal building, showered, and took a tram back in time to for Li’s loading procedure.
    Which started nearly forty-five minutes late.
    “Look on the bright side,” Tilde playfully nuzzled Wade’s cheek as he stood fuming on the tarmac. “You smell much better.”
    Liberty Bells were the unappreciated workhouses of surface to orbit transport. Resembling a massively upscaled Mercury capsule from the days when spacecraft were glorified warheads, Liberty Bells were cargo liners that rode into space on leased L-Drive bells from spaceports across the world.  There were not only the most common spacecraft in production, there were the most common ever made - only the single use megatankers from Titan are produced in higher numbers.  Liberty Bells were reliable.  They were trusted. And most of all they were cheap - the lasers were already paid for, and the air was free.
    Roll Tide Roll was typical of the breed; a cone eighteen meters tall serving as a command module, waiting to be attached to a payload fairing.  These were voluminous enough to hold eight standard “Conestoga” cargo containers and was also part of the L-drive assembly - a ring of turbofan compressors surmounting a twenty meter wide parabolic dish.  The Liberty Bell was currently in a vehicle assembly building, awaiting her cargo.
   “They’re having to add an extension to the cargo fairing.”  Wade, Niles and Tusk were in the attached lounge, with a dozen other people who were waiting to board the rocket. “And Annie’s too wide to dock anywhere but the center ring - we’re gonna be the only cargo.”
   Tusk signed at the other two men.
  “Yeah, we just might lose money on this job.  Mebbe we can get Annie a new body for her birthday.”
   Niles smiled.  “Do AI have birthdays?”
   “Why not?  You do, and you’re an asshole.”

  Tilde missed this exchange by virtue of being Annabelle Li’s Payload Officer.  Despite Li being part of another rocket’s payload, Tilde still considered the CASSTOR very much her responsibility, especially since Annabell’s processor was to remain on board.  There was also the rest of the cargo, break-bulk life support supplies for the Libby, and an inflatable cargo module to carry them once in orbit, that had to be carefully arranged around Annabelle Li and secured for launch.  Again, this was PLO of Roll Tide Roll’s responsibility, but it was Tilde’s cargo.
   Tilde made hir life hell until the everything was loaded to her satisfaction.
   The last hurdle was a minor one - Tuskegee, being nearly twice as wide as a human being, was too large for the passenger coaches in the Liberty Bell’s cabin.  The logistics were solved by Tusk simply agreeing to ride in his own custom flight chair in Annabell Li, but the problem was that Roll Tide Roll’s PLO wanted to charge for his seat anyway.  Tilde, oblivious to karma, argued with hir until Wade offered to do a video tour of the rocket for his channel gratis once they were in orbit.
   One does not simply decide to go into space.

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Hard (SF) look at Star Trek: Starships!

    Work continues, RocketFans, on the next issue of LAUNCH WINDOW, so my space time is limited.  I'm still climbing the learning curve of making a full sized issue, so you'll have to be patient with me.
    I did want to show some work I did on re-imagined Federation starships as Alcubierre drive spacecraft.  It was a fun, albeit frustrating at times, exercise.  Hope you enjoy.
Exploration Cruiser Colombia (XCC-1701)  

Clockwise from top left: Hubble - class Sensor Frigate, Lee - class
Combat Frigate, Gali - Class Diplomatic cruiser, Argye - class Battle cruiser,
(cernter) Luna - class Destroyer 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What I've Been Working on Instead of Posting...

     Happy Wednesday, RocketFans!
     Profuse Apologies for not posting anything for awhile; the Thanksgiving holiday was busy.  In other news, hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and I've stated the obvious.
     I've (naturally) been working on Issue 1 of LAUNCH WINDOW when I haven't been working on the rules updates for Issue 0.5.  Issue 1 is shaping up well.  It's a monster of content - two stories, several articles and features, some nano-fic, an isometric bonus, and lots of artwork I've got to get finagled.  I've also received offers of help from some of the talented RocketFans - for which I am most grateful.
    Anyway, let's take a look at what we've got going on for Issue 1, shall we?
Stargosy Part 1: The Stargosy series of stories, which we began back in April, have turned out to be enormously popular and I've received more requests to continue the series than I have for just about anything else.  So Issue 1 will see a reboot of the series where the story is expanded and the world building cleaned up a bit.  By which I mean that the series started very "Royal Navy" in feel, then became very "Egyptian Transhuman" as it went on.  So the new version will start out Egyptian and get a more unified theme.  It's turning out well so far!
The Hichikar Ankhmesh (pleases no one) gives his towel
to Imhotep, upon whose lap he has spilled beer.
Let Freedom Ring:  This story is exciting to me, as it will be the first Black Desert fiction to see print!  The Black Desert is by far Blue Max Studio's oldest property - in fact, BD predates Blue Max Studios by over a year.  So to finally see the characters I've developed for the setting come to life is most gratifying.
Species Spotlight: Hichikars: That's not a typo, it the return of of the Species Spotlight feature!  In this entry, we meet a race of shape-shifting humanoid vagabonds that star-hop across the galaxay, trying to kedge a pint at the pub and bringing towels to the masses.  Loads of fun to hang around with but check your pockets afterwards.
Nano-Fic: I've got a few ideas kicking around.  I'll probably put at least two in this issue...
Technical Readout: Pinnace: A brief write-up and plans for a short-ranged aeroshuttle suitable for a wide variety of settings.
Starmorphs: Barracks: Continuing the series, we offer more random tables and another ten by twenty map for your gaming peasure.
     That', that's a lot of stuff.  What am I wasting time chatting fore?  I gotta get to work -

Monday, November 21, 2016

Building a Space Navy In The Gentleman Abroad Series I

  Happy Monday, RocketFans! I am happy to say that we reached a major milestone this weekend:  Over 100 downloads of LAUNCH WINDOW! This was my (I thought unrealistic) goal for the entire month - and we reached it in just five days!  Thanks to everyone who got a copy of LAUNCH WINDOW Issue 0.5 for helping make this release our most popular ever.  If you like the magazine or - more importantly - have something you'd like to see in the future, please comment or email us.
     But enough about LAUNCH WINDOW.  I wanted to get into some good, old fashioned world building for my Gentleman Abroad setting and talk about some of the assumptions that are going into the design of the spacecraft and how they are funded, manned and deployed.  You know, the "Building a Space Navy" stuff we all love so much!
     For full details of the steps and considerations that go into building a Space Navy, you can read the Atomic Rockets article here.

Basic Assumptions
     What follows is fairly arbitrary world building details that are tweaked to give me the setting I want.
     In order to start working on the nuts-and-bolts of this setting without too much extra detail work, I shamelessly stole borrowed the excellent Near Space resource published by Stellagamma.  I chose this because 1) It's a Traveller style map so I don't have to convert it; 2) Its real planets with the most up-to-date data we have, 3) Being larger than a subsector but smaller than a sector puts the map in the Goldilocks Zone of utility for my needs and 4) The licensing of the product allows me to steal it shamelessly.
     Against this backdrop I wanted a tiny "empire" of worlds run by people (mostly) as well as the near-mythical god-AIs that actually make NegMat.  So I've assumed that one intrepid cruiser from one last rag-tag fleet from the last round of apocalyptic wars managed to limp via Rabbitholes to a Nexus system just before its NegMat reserve ran dry.  The system was abandoned - no one knows what happened to the AI.  The crew of this cruiser - call it Vanguard - became the rulers of a new empire as they learned the secrets of creating Janus gates and NegMat and set out to reconquer the galaxy.
     Epic backstory: Check.
     When I said "tiny" I meant it - you can count the nobles in the Vanguardian Empire easily.  For convenience and as an intellectual exercise, I'm using the numbers for the Aristocracy of England in the 13th century.  You'd be surprised at just how few their were.  Anyway, our aristocracy is as follows:

  • Tejishang: The Emperor :  It is said she is a descendant of the original Captain of Vanguard. She could also be a clone for all anyone knows - it is a Nexus system, after all.  From her all NegMat in the Empire flows.  She is a mainline human, as far as anyone knows by hard choice:  A message to the Janoi and other god-like AI that mear mortals can control their own fate.
  • Jiang: Dukes: Perhaps five.  All of them wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice, yet wanting more.  All of them either blood relatives of the Emperor, or decedents of the senior officers of Vanguard . Whole families have been wiped out in dynastic struggles and other intrigues.  Their fiefs include the Class B ports of the Empire.
  • Xiao: Counts: No more than a dozen or so.  They either rule planets with Class C starports or command the expeditionary fleets of the Empire.  Lowest hereditary rank the Emperor recognizes, but only the most competent - or ruthless - of a Count's offspring can expect to be elevated to rank and the Admiralty.
  • Wei: Baron:  This rank is often passed down in families but is actually dependent on being able to field a warship of over a thousand tons.  Anyone who can afford to build one - and has the political savvy to get one constructed for them at one of the Ducal shipyards - will almost always be elevated by the Emperor.  Better that than having rogue fleets preying on the boarders systems... Even so, there are only about twenty or thirty Lord Barons in all the Empire.
  • Zhang: Baronet: A senior Knight that is elevated to command of a Patrol Cutter.  The most common military ship in the Empire by a wide margin, Patrol Cutters are produced by the Emperor and the Dukes and also provided second-hand by the Janoi.  Zhang can be commissioned by the Empire directly, or by any Noble that chooses to buy one and appoint its commander. 
  • Bing: Knights:  These are mostly but always fighter pilots, the senior officers of a spacecraft, or part of a starport's administration.  Any noble can knight someone, but only those commissioned by the Emperor are Knights of the Empire. 
     So maybe fifty or so nobles and then a mess of knights.  That's it.  Not a large empire, to be sure.  This system also defines our Empire's size as a function of starports and shipping lanes.  We have one Class A port, 5 Class B ports, and maybe six or seven Class C ports.  These also define the extent of the Janus Network in the Empire as well. I'm assuming that any planet without an A, B or C port is not connected to via a Janus controlled by the Empire.  The Janoi however, created dozens of gates and some go to planets seemingly without value.  Since they're orders of magnitude more intelligent than humans are, they work in mysterious ways...

     Lots of potential for shenanigans: Check.
Pictured: Noblesse Oblige
Strategic Assumptions
     I've said before that one of the inspirations for The Gentleman Abroad series was the Drive system.  I've detailed the game mechanics for Negative Matter drives in the "Down the Rabbithole" article in Issue 0.5, so I won't repeat the details here except for a couple of points that pertain directly to fleet building.

  • Negative Matter is the "fuel" for all space travel.  It is only consumed when travelling FTL without a Janus Gate
  • Physical size of spacecraft are limited by the amount of NegMat available for propulsion and the physical size of Janus Gates
  • Interstellar travel is by wormhole - distance is covered instantly and the effective distance one can travel in a single jump is limited only by navigational accuracy
  • NegMat is only produced in Nexus systems (systems with class A ports) And only available for sale in Class B and C ports
     Security Environment
These few facts shape space travel in a way that is fundamentally different from the parsec divisions of Traveller and the free and open systems of most other space operas.  The most important way it shapes the setting is how the use of Rabbitholes and Janus Gates defines the frontier.  The biggest difference between the Gent setting and most space operas is that "core" and "rim' become null concepts.  With unlimited "range" and instant travel times, there is no logical reason to establish Janus Gates between systems in close proximity instead of systems with ideal conditions. This means that a polity's "Core" would not be a dense cluster of systems around the Capital, it would more resemble a branching river or web of systems connected to the Capital via Janus.  The "Rim" could include the system next to the Capital - if it lacks useful resources or habitable planets.
        What does all this mean for a Space Navy?  For one thing. The Nexus systems will probably be impregnable.  If your goal is defense of the system, you can build warships as big as you want and wait for the small fry that can fit through the Janus to come to you.  Being a production center of NegMat, you'll have plenty to pump into your monster ships, and you'll only need to fuel these monitors once.  Even better, while the spacecraft themselves are unable to carry complex computers, the Nexus systems are virtually the only places with AI and super-advanced computing.  So said AI could control warships via radio, confident that their god-like processing power will create an encryption that no computer simple enough to traverse the Janus could break.
     So no assaulting a Nexus system.  
     The best you could hope for is to isolate said Nexus by destroying the Janus gate that connect it to other systems.  But those Gates are in Ducal systems, which are only powerful as long as the supply of NegMat is maintained.  Ours is quite the hydraulic empire - and it's meant to be.  I don't want an Empire on the brink, under threat of extinction or even one about to explode into a new Renaissance.  For purposes of writing little stories about local events and providing a good game setting,  I want interesting backstory, just enough of a logical framework to make filling in details easy, and above all I want the empire static and out of the way.
     Fiscal Assumptions
     This is kind of the opposite of the Medieval system I used to design my arisocracy:  Credits are for the rabble; the Nobs don't generally use money.
      This has to do with being an industrialized society.  Those Nobles with planetary feifs will own banks and be minting their own credits, which will be used by citizens.  Among themselves, NegMat is the main currency:  It dictates how many ships you can build, how far they can travel, and how much business your spaceport can handle.  If you want to draw parallels between Dune's spice and Imperial NegMat, you can.  So among the Emperor and her Dukes, favors are exchanged for NegMat, which is exchanged with Counts for more favors and so on.  The NegMat must flow.
      As far as how this pertains to shipbuilding, the assumptions are that any planetary system that can sustain a Class A, or B starport has the resources to build ships without trouble.  Even assuming low TL computer power, having ships with unlimited Delta V in practical terms will insure the riches of the entire system can be exploited.  As for minor nobles that lack shipbuilding capacity, they're still rich enough in practical terms to buy ships.  This gives them the option of accepting noble rank, which is basically a glorified Letter of Marque, or being hunted down by any vassal of the Empire who would like their personal access to NegMat to continue.
     As for the 99%ers who are not born to nobility nor rich enough to buy their way in, you have credits, banks, mortgages and all of the lovely systems that keep traders and mercs in Traveller from earning a quiet living and forcing them to have adventures to stay in the black.

Friday, November 18, 2016

But what about all the other stuff!? (Regular Features in LAUNCH WINDOW)

     Boss' note:  For the foreseeable future, we're shooting for a M-W-F post schedule, with Blog-exclusive goodies on Mondays, and info about upcoming issues of LAUNCH WINDOW the other two days.
 TGIF, RocketFans!  For those of you gaming this weekend, have fun.  I'm officially jealous.
     Not that I lack things to keep me busy.  I've just now gotten The Gentleman Scoundrel stats for OSR and D20 completed, and will spend this weekend twisting her crew through multiple chargen systems as well.  I've also started writing the new stories for Issue 1 and hope to start modelling ships for the internal art.  Busy busy busy.
     I wanted to touch base with everyone about the future of some of our more popular product categories.  In the last year alone, I've introduced four new product lines - and only one or two products for each, if that.  This was the kind of diffusion of effort that really bogged me down and made moving forward difficult.  Fortunately, LAUNCH WINDOW has given me a way around all that.
    A big part of the problem was taking a decent little idea and then fleshing it out into a book-sized product.  I can draw a map easy, sure, but trying to sell just one is a disaster, as my first Starmorph product shows.  For example, I've had a new book - Technical Readout: Shuttles! - on the back burner for over six months now, because I haven't been able to develop enough unique and exciting spacecraft to fill a whole book. Another problem is that laying out and editing a book takes more time than developing the content, by a surprising high margin. Not to mention it's the least fun part of the process. So making a whole bunch of little books is neither time effective nor is it fun enough to compensate.  Big fail.
    But LAUNCH WINDOW changed all that.  The magazine is an average of a hundred pages an issue, and I only have to lay it out once.  Even better, it's covers a variety of features and subjects, so I don't need to pad a story or my game content to reach my page goals - I can just add different content. So all those little product categories we developed for independent titles can be folded in as features of the magazine.  One of them, Starmorphs, is already part of Issue 0.5, and we're planning on including it in every issue at least for the full 26-tile series.  Issue 1 will include a Species Spotlight as well, and possibly a Technical Readout, depending on our page numbers.
     The point is, I can finally develop my little ideas in a venue that favors them.  That means a larger variety of content, which make for a more diverse magazine and guarantees something for everybody.  That's the hope, anyway.
     Just like I hope you all have a fun weekend out there in either the real world or the campaign setting of your choice.  See you Monday, Rocket Fans!


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Point Five is Number Two! (Also another free offer!)

   Yesterday was a wild ride RocketFans! Our little half-issue of LAUNCH WINDOW proved to be more popular than I dared to imagine.  When I went to bed last night, we were at number two on's Top 100 Hottest Titles!  We were still at number two on the Top Small Press Titles.  This is amazing - in a few short hours, LAUNCH WINDOW Issue 0.5 broke all sales records here at Blue Max Studios!
    I'd like to take a moment to talk to all of you RocketFans old and new about what's next.  Obviously, LAUNCH WINDOW issues every month are next.  We've also revamped our reward and goal structure on Patreon to reflect the new direction of the company.  Part of that includes the new $5.00 reward, which is a PDF download of of each month's issue, both short stories, and the isometric map at no additional charge.  And since these patron are already getting the entire PDF archive with it, it's a pretty good deal.
    But I want to give that deal to everyone.  Thanks to the survey I ran a few weeks ago (Still active, BTW, so you can still get a free book!) I discovered that enough people dislike Patreon, for whatever reason, to make me decide to publish a monthly digest in the first place.  And since this is going to be a regular thing, There is no reason not to offer subscriptions at a substantial savings to all of my RocketFans.  So There will now be an option on our page to order a full year of LAUNCH WINDOW for only sixty dollars.  That is a third off of the cover price; a total of $27.00 savings over the year.  
 I realize that $60 is a lot at one time, especially around the holidays.  While I think that a year's worth of LAUNCH WINDOW would make a great holiday gift for the gamer in your life, I more than understand not having the scratch to make such a purchase.  Well, that's okay, because one of the nice things about the system we have here is that you at any time you want to buy the 2017 run of LAUNCH WINDOW, you can.  If it's 2020 and you want to get the first year of our Digest, it will still on the infinite virtual shelves of the Internet. And you can always go the five buck a month on Patreon route. So don't worry about it.
     I will however, sweeten the deal: Issue 1 will be included in the 2017 subscription.  That means you'll be getting thirteen issues for only sixty dollars! It makes the next year's all even that way -January to December, without any issues left out.  Issue 0.5 will always be Pay What You Want.
    We have other plans for the future as well.  There will be Quarterly and Annual extras, and I hope to have Issue 1 available for POD by the debut of Issue 2 on Jan 15th next year, and be able to continually offer print editions one month behind.  I'm not sure about offering print subscriptions - that would cost a good bit more, our net would be less, and the shipping issues are an animal I've yet to tame.  If there's enough interest, however, I'll certainly give it a shot.
    You know what I'd love to do?  Get my books in brick and mortar stores.  We've got five within a hours drive of here alone.  I may only manage to get ebooks on gift cards into stores (yeah, that's totally a thing!) but maybe - just maybe - I can see my books on the shelves of bookstores and gaming shops.
     That would really be something.
     Anyway, I've got to get back to work.  I've got to get the D20 and OSR updates ready for Tuesday and, of course, I'm already writing for Issue 1.  See you later, RocketFans! 

Monday, November 14, 2016


 Here we are, RocketFans, on the eve of our inaugural issue.  I've save the best surprise for last:  Issue 0.5 will be available as a Pay What You Want download!
     It's like this:  Our traditional publication date here at Blue Max Studios has always been the 15th of the month.  This is as much because of my family's monthly schedule as it is tradition. This left me but two weeks to put together the digest, unless I wanted to wait another month and put out  only one issue this year.  So I decided to start with an "Issue 0.5" - a half-sized magazine made in half the time.  The full sized digests running about 100 pages, start with Issue 1 in December, will cost $7.50 for the PDF and be available for $12.00 in full-color print editions. This one is an experiment, one I consider to be a success.  This is the last sneak peek before go live tomorrow, so I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Just a Few More Things to Do...(T-MINUS 4)

Goes with the isometric map... 
You know you're getting close to done when the Table of Contents
has page numbers...

Thursday, November 10, 2016

More Works in Progress (T-MINUS 5 DAYS)

    Another busy day, RocketFans, getting LAUNCH WINDOW ready for press. It's looking like we'll be finished with the issue in plenty of time, meaning I can get a jump on the rules updates for D20, OSR, and Diaspora.  Let's take a peek, shall we?

    The Gentleman Scoundrel's  bridge complex is coming along.  The problem is, the image is huge - literally five feet by three.  Needless to say, at that size a lot of detail would be lost if I reduced it to fit a size A5 page, so this iso artwork will not be in the digest.  It will however be available for download as a separate file with  the digest, so you can enjoy it at a larger size!

     I'm really pleased with how the lay is coming as well.  I hope you are as well.  Anyway, I've got some more work to do, so until then, RocketFans, enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Some work in progress... (T-MINUS 6 DAYS)

     Six days until the first taste of LAUNCH WINDOW is available for download, and things are coming together nicely.  Thought I'd share a glimpse or three of what you can expect:
 This image is an iso of The Gentleman Scoundrel's control deck(s).  It is easily the most elaborate I've done.  This is only the basic inks - most of the detail work isn't even added yet!


  An example of the layout process in Scribus.  I've actually got some artwork -very little - by another artist as well.  I left the descriptions of the characters deliberately vagueso the design choices for the pics are a pleasant surprise.  As you can tell by the big honking six on the page there, this issue will feature Open D6 stats in the initial release, along with 2D6 rules.   OSR and D20 will be released the following week and an update, with Diaspora as the final update the week after.  Sorry to make you wait, Diaspora fans, but that's the rule system I have the least gaming experience with...and the one that will feature most prominately in the December issue!

     I'll try to show off more tomorrow.   Until then, I hope you enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Putting the Fiction in Science Fiction Gaming

    It’s seven days until the big reveal, RocketFans, and there’s already so much anticipation for the new secret project that I’ve decided to let the cat out of the bag.  On November 15th, Blue Max Studios will release a prototype issue of what will be a monthly digest of science fiction and gaming: LAUNCH WINDOW.
    Thanks to the overwhelming response to my survey (which I will keep going indefinitely), I finally feel like I’ve found a clear sense of direction.  There are a lot of RocketFans out there, who enjoy this blog and what Blue Max publishes for different reasons.  There are people who like the fiction, the hard science, the space opera, the game rules, and almost any combination of the above.  There are people who only play Traveller, or D6, or Diaspora, as well as a growing group of folks who swear by OSR systems.  LAUNCH WINDOW is a way that I can consistently put out quality content that gives everyone something that they want.  
    What does this mean for the blog? Obviously I’ll be putting the majority of my efforts into the digest, so the amount of fiction and gaming articles available on the blog will be limited somewhat.  Every week, there will be a preview of material that will be published in that month’s issue, whether it’s the first part of a story, an overview of an article, or work-in-progress images of up coming artwork.  That being said, I’ll still be posting nano-fic, “Five things” articles, and other goodies just on the blog.  Like this article, for example.

Do you have a favorite Fiction or Article series that we do?  Let us know in the comments!

    Back in 2010 I started Blue Max Studios with the intention of finally being able to write game material for D6.  This was just after West End Games went under and the D6 rule system was released as Open Game Content. I had been inspired by Atomic Rockets (You could tell, couldn’t you?) to create a Hard SF setting, which was the beginning of The Black Desert.  One of the things I always wanted to do with the setting is create fiction for it - but I haven’t gotten around to it for many and various reasons.  One of the big reasons is that Gaming Fiction - stories set in an established RPG setting, has received a lot of negative feelings.   I did not fully understand
that feeling when I was a young gamer, most likely because my all-time favorite RPG was the Star Wars Role-Playing Game.  The game was literally built around a fictional setting, and the game fiction released in the Galaxy Guide supplements and especially in The Star Wars Adventure Journal are among some of my favorite short fiction stories, period.  In point of fact, the WEG material was given to authors working on the Expanded Universe (Now Legends) Novels, so I could argue that the bulk of Legends material is Gaming Fiction.
    From a certain point of view.
    But I won’t make that argument, because that’s not what most gamers mean by Gaming Fiction.  Rather than make specific examples, and thereby possibly insult someone’s favorite game, I’ve made a list of some of the most common complaints I’ve heard about Gaming Fiction:
  • A Core Rule Book or major supplement has more pages devoted to fiction than to useable gaming content.
  • A published adventure is more fiction story than game module.  It seems that the adventure is devoted to a plot that revolves around NPCs, while the Players are bit actors at best and merely spectators at worst.
  • The fiction presented as being based on and showcasing a game system or campaign setting features characters doing things that cannot actually be done in a game using the rules as written.
    I honestly thought there would be more complaints than this.  In a way, there are - but many complaints can be grouped under just plain poor writing.  The above list of grievances are frustrating even if - or perhaps especially if - the Gaming Fiction is of high quality.

What’s your biggest complaint about Gaming Fiction? Leave a comment below!

    Do RPGs even need companion fiction? Is it all just a way to make money? In my opinion, the answer is no - for fantasy and modern setting games.  Science Fiction is a different animal.
    When I say, “Science Fiction”, what’s the first thing you think of?  Is it Star Trek or Star Wars?  Maybe something cyberpunk?  Classic Heinlein?  Honor Harrington? Rayguns and Rockets? Transhuman philosophy? Mass Effect?  I borrowed that last one from Omer Joel of Stellagamma Publishing.  In a recent blogpost, he praised the setting of Mass Effect as an excellent foundation for a Military SF campaign.  The post reminded me of the Rebel Operative premise from WEG Star Wars that goes all the way back to its first edition.  And that reminded me of how easy it is to run a Star Wars campaign compared to a generic science fiction game.  Everybody knows what they’re getting when they play a Star Wars game, because the movies and TV shows and media presence provides us all with a common context.  Generic Fantasy and Modern games, being based on history and the real world respectively, also provide a common context that we all share to a certain degree.  With science fiction, a genre that makes very specific assumptions that are very different from setting to setting, that common context is not present.  An easy way to see what I mean is to try to run a certain style of SF game using a system that isn’t custom made for it, like Star Trek with Traveller, or Third Imperium with WEG Star Wars, or Shadowrun with either one as written.  There are generic SF rule sets that provide a huge variety different technologies you can pick and choose from to make a unique setting, but having done so, a Game Master must explain to their players just what does or does not exist in that setting.  This requires such awkward choices as telling everyone before play, which when you include chargen may use up all the available time, or writing out a document detailing the assumptions of the setting that the Players may or may not read, and may or may not be very interesting in any case.
    Or, you could provide a work of Gaming Fiction that puts everyone on the same page, both literally and figuratively.

What are some games that get adding fiction right? Comment below!

   I’ll use my own work as an example.  I’ve developed a Stardrive/FTL system using Negative Matter that is, if not completely new, sufficiently unusual as to require custom rules and lengthy explanation  In fact, I’ve already spent several thousand words trying to explain how it works without even touching upon the game mechanics.  In contrast, the story The Gentleman Scoundrel tells you pretty much everything you need to know about not only the technology of the setting. But the flavor, the themes, the species, the government, and a host of other things.  It’s not in any detail, to be sure, but the main thing is, if you’ve read the story, and I as a Game Master say that my setting is based in that universe, you know enough as a Player to get into the game without the frustration of finding out later that the campaign is not what you expected.
   Now all this is easy for me to say:  I’m a science fiction author as well as a game designer.  I have no problem with introducing my settings with fiction, and because I’ve been game designing for a while now, I feel reasonably confident that I can do it without being too intrusive.  If you like making your own SF worlds but have no desire to write stories, there’s no reason you should.  With me, it’s different - for one thing, I’m not writing stories to fit, reasonably or unreasonably, an already established game setting.  I’m writing stories, then writing rules that will allow a group of players to tell their own stories in that setting. I think that that’s an important distinction.  A good example is Rob Garitta’s Tesla stories.  They started with the universe of Starships & Spacemen, but they are so clearly part of their own distinct setting we published a supplement for them that was longer than the S&S Core Book!  
   In my opinion, the best use of game fiction was by West End Games in their Star Wars Products.  I mentioned them at the beginning of this article for a reason - When I was in high school, I wanted to write for the Adventure Journal when I grew up.  So that’s exactly what I’m finally going to do.

    That’s what LAUNCH WINDOW is all about. It is very much based on the model of the old Star Wars Adventure Journal: Short stories that include game information like character stats, ships, and equipment, as well as articles and rule expansions to support the settings presented.  With LAUNCH WINDOW, however, I’m going a couple of steps further.  Not only will stories and game material be presented for multiple settings, but it will be presented for multiple rule systems as well.  LAUNCH WINDOW will support Open D6, the Cepheus Engine, OSR, D20, and Diaspora.  The main release of the digest will showcase one or two systems that fit most easily with the settings featured within, but throughout the month after each issue’s release there will be DLC packages updated to the ebook file.  This way, you can be assured that everything in the magazine will support your favorite system. Every item, every issue, every month.  I hope you enjoy.