Monthly Archives: July 2013

A Possible Future

Where is it going and how will it end? Will the Earth ever defeat the invaders? Will the CRC’s secret “Apostle Project” be the answer? What kind of world will we have afterward? Well, here’s one idea . . .

She was floating through starlight, a porcelain knight in silver armor, looking down as the pinpoints of light winked on and off passing between the fingers of her hand. A gauntlet that measured ten feet from thumb-tip to pinkie. As she drifted her mind roamed through the spectrum and listened for the voices of the Mayzor. The enemy. She could only just make them out, far off beyond the periphery.

“Are you sleeping, Benevolent Five?” the commander’s voice came through the MetaTron network.

“No. Just meditating.” she said; the typical reply of any pilot whose mind had been wandering. Continue reading

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The Bully – Part 4

Now, the epilogue to our short episode of Tears of a Machine.

The park was topside on the Arx. A place of greenery and flowers on a military base that floated in the sky above the mountain tops. The shield barriers kept it warm and the air pressure at ground level. Floating above the clouds it was always a sunny and bright day. Other pilots and cadets sat on park benches or tossed a frisbee on the lawns. From the top of the hill at the edge of the park Klaus knew he could see over the low buildings of the dormitories and to the sea of clouds below.

“Why did you flip his tray?”

“You knew?” Klaus dropped his eyes in shame.

“Of course. I might not be so smart as you but you don’t pilot with someone long as we have without seeing things.” Continue reading

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July 26, 2013 · 10:30 am

The Bully – Part 3

Klaus can’t stay lost in thought forever. It’s time for the next scene of the episode. This is a Trial scene, a prolonged conflict. It will take a series of Challenges and Actions for people playing this scene to work our their story. 

“Do you think I’m completely stupid?” shouted George.

George and his two toadies marched down the aisles. Klaus scrambled to grab up his things and run but it was too late. With a few quick strides they had him surrounded again.

“Just one punch,” said George. “Then I’ll call it even. You tell your commander you walked into a door or fell or something.”

Klaus stammered again, cursing himself on the inside for his weakness and looked around for an escape.

“I’m going easy on you, you know? You deserve worse for disrespecting me, and all just ’cause you’re a pilot. Because you’re so special. Maybe everyone else thinks you’re going to save the world but I know better. Without soldiers dying on the ground to hold back the Mayzor you’d never save anyone.” George leaned back, winding up a haymaker punch. Continue reading

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July 24, 2013 · 10:30 am

The Bully – Part 2

It’s time for the next scene. We’ll fill in the story with some of Klaus’ ruminations, explaining more about who he is and where he comes from.

Klaus went to physical training after lunch. He had been sheltered as a child, his mother terrified of the open sky overhead that had snatched away her husband. She worked two jobs to afford an apartment only three blocks from an emergency shelter. Klaus was left with little more than his books.

The months of training since he had joined the Preservation Force were toughening him up and he noticed the flab of inactivity fading but he was still short and nervous and never did very well in sports.

Today was worse than usual. No matter what he did his thoughts drifted back to George with mixture of anger and fear. What do I do now?

“Klaus!” He jerked back to reality just in time to reach up and bat a ball away from his head.

“Good reflexes. But this is soccer, not volleyball.” Trainer Levinson picked up the ball and handed it over to the opposing team. Bettina from Fortress Company rolled her eyes at him and smirked to her teammates. Continue reading

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July 22, 2013 · 10:30 am

The Bully – Part 1

Things are never cut and dried for a pilot, or any teenager for that matter. Add in the responsibilities of becoming the hope of humanity and even the simplest situations become charged.  Over the next few updates I’ll be posting some scenes from one pilot’s life. Each of these posts could be a separate scene in an episode of Tears. Enjoy!

Klaus swallowed hard and stepped back. The metal rails along the lunch counter stopped him by jabbing his kidney. George stared down at him, still shocked at the runny mess of beef stroganoff and whipped potatoes dripping down the neat creases of his cadet uniform. Klaus pawed at his pockets and tried to find a napkin or tissue to hand over but as he fumbled George’s eyes snapped into a brute’s scowl and he balled up his fists.

Klaus stammered out a lame apology while George reached out and grabbed his lapel. Franz and Jackson, George’s toadies closed in around them but not fast enough to block out the security officer.

“Cadets!” Her shout echoed off the high ceiling of the cafeteria. Other diners turned to watch and their voices dropped to whispers. Continue reading

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July 19, 2013 · 2:25 pm

The Cloistered Research Council

Some more world-building today. Get to know the most mysterious super-geniuses of the world of Tears of a Machine.

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A shadowy organization of cutting-edge researchers and scientists, the Cloistered Research Council are responsible for the robotic SAInts, the floating Citadels of Earth’s Preservation Forces and the MetaTron telepathic communications system that ties them all together. Their knowledge demands respect because it is the best chance humanity has to survive the alien attacks and strike back. Continue reading

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If you can read this, help someone else to read it too.

You’ve seen it in the Tears of a Machine kickstarter project write-up and in the stretch goals, but I’m going to say a little more about the subject of an accessible game manual.

For 13 years I’ve worked at Learning Ally, a non-profit organization that serves students with print disabilities. I’ve gone through dyslexia simulation exercises and teaching sessions about the way that the brain develops to handle written language, all so that I could better understand the challenges that a student with learning differences must face. The simplest way for me to explain it is to imagine that you’re learning algebra but your book is written in a foreign language. You can understand the concepts and the symbols but have to puzzle them out from among the surrounding words, slowly. Bit by bit.

Now, go to your bookshelf or the folder of PDFs on your computer and open up an RPG manual (preferably one of those big 200+ page ones that cost you 50 bucks) and drink in the wall of text. That’s what it is for many people. A wall. Mild dyslexia is almost commonplace; as many as 1 in 5 students could benefit from having access to their school books in alternative formats.  There are imaginative and intelligent people who are held back by how information is delivered and by the stigma of “disability.” With the same information presented in a different format they are just as quick to learn as many others. I want to give them the opportunity to enjoy my game without barriers.

How will I make Tears of a Machine accessible? The DAISY Consortium is an international organization devoted to the same goals of Learning Ally, to remove the barriers of print comprehension from information. They provide an assortment of free and open source tools for the creation of accessible books and audio. Because I have access to the raw text I can use many of these tools to convert it into these formats: Continue reading

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Battlefield

How do the rules of Tears of a Machine interact with the story? Using some of the game terms I’ll break down a slice from a battlefield situation to give you an idea of how the pilot’s actions interact with the narrative.

Rico vaulted over the row of apartment houses and hunkered down as her rifle’s auto-loaders cycled. The MetaTron network showed her the Locust stampeding down the parallel street.

Rico has just used a Take Cover action. When you need a breather in the middle of a fight to reload your guns or to let your SAInt activate its repair systems, or just to not be shot at for a while, you need to be more observant than your enemy.

As the gun clanked “ready” she lunged upward, steadied the barrel on the roof of the building and squeezed the trigger. She felt a rush of delight surge from within her SAInt as the shots slammed the side of the giant mechanical insect and tore it apart.

Rico has Attacked the enemy bug-robot with her firearm and she’s had some help from her SAInt to do it. Because SAInts are made from the same stuff as the enemy machines, they have the built-in desire to smash things. In the right situation Rico can tap into that to add a benefit to her Attack actions. Continue reading

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Kickstarter . . . Launch!

Today I launch the Kickstarter funding drive for the Tears of a Machine role playing game. Here!

Tears of a Machine is about the teenage pilots of giant robots and how the ups and downs of their lives give them the strength to fight off an alien assault. The pilot’s hopes, fears, friends, and rivals will help or harm her self-esteem. Getting a love note to the cute guy or girl on the other side of the classroom or winning the volleyball match might save her life when a brutal alien robot falls from the sky to crush a city and she flies to defend the people.

Game mechanics that are speedy and accessible are important to me, so Tears uses 6-sided dice and some simple addition to work out the results of challenges. The outcome of most situations are decided by a single roll but when things get especially tense or dangerous then the rules “zoom in” to cover the back and forth of winning and losing but without sacrificing the opportunity for a dramatic narrative.

Do you want to know more? Check out the kickstarter page. Review the rewards; read about my excellent creative team; look at the beautiful art; download the sample adventure; watch a video in which I try and fail to maintain eye contact with the camera!

Tears of a Machine on Kickstarter.com: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/robotclaw/tears-of-a-machine

This writing project has been my labor of love over the past two years. It’s undergone multiple full drafts, 50+ hours of play-test sessions, and dozens revisions and rewrites! I’m already happy with what I’ve created already in writing the complete draft of Tears, but seeing it made into a physical artifact will make the accomplishment “real” to me.

Thank you for your attention and for your support!

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