old ramblings #2

Also from August, during the last few weeks of King Machine production. This game has since been published and you can grab it at DTRPG with all our stuff!


So what is The King Machine? Well sit down and I’ll tell you a story.

After we built Diaspora and could be forgiven to think we could design a game or two, we started designing more games. Hollowpoint was early out of the gate for weird reasons but Soft Horizon was my personal white whale. For almost ten years I have been fighting with this idea of plane-hopping psychedelic fantasy. Strange places, local happenings with larger, even multi-versial implications. Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius stuff — elegant imagery over stream-of-consciousness plotlines and constant anachronistic and common-sense defying collages of material with constant political undertones about freedom and class and self-actualization.

I have come to realize that the reason it has been stopped and started so many times is that it is just too big. Others have since taken a stab at it and none of the results are satisfying to me. None of my results have been satisfying.

So I decided to focus and write what I will call “scaffold games”. These are tight and tiny little games with a paste-on absurd setting just to test mechanism. To see how robust and simple a system I can use and still deliver the imagery. First was Sand Dogs which was successful for what it was. Then King Machine.

King Machine has had creative traction with me, though. It has grown into a complete game. It has forced artwork from me largely unbidden. It inspired some layout choices that I am in love with (it’s okay to be in love with your own work, right?). So what to do?

Well, right or wrong, smart or dumb, here’s what I’m going to do.

I am going to publish The King Machine as a standalone game explicitly linked to a nebulous thing called the Soft Horizon. It’s not about the multiverse but it’s a place in the multiverse.

Then, in the same format and with the same system, I am going to finish and publish Sand Dogs. Each is complete in itself. Each is linked to the other through the idea of the Soft Horizon.

Then I will write a Soft Horizon Handbook, which will be mostly tools to build your own game connected to the Soft Horizon. It will detail how to adapt the system and how to generate and elaborate new worlds. And how to connect them to other worlds.

And then for as long as I can think them up, I’ll make more worlds for the Soft Horizon. Each a self-contained game. You never need more than one book.

Whether this is a good idea or not, it’s a way to practically get this thing out of my head. And hopefully into yours.

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