Tag Archives: Planet Mercenary RPG

Life, The Universe, and ConFusion this weekend

This weekend I’ll be attending the 42nd annual ConFusion science fiction and fantasy convention, aptly dubbed “Life, The Universe, and ConFusion.”

I’m not on any panels, because I didn’t want to be on any panels. I’m not selling anything, because I didn’t want to be stuck in the dealers’ room. I’ll have a badge, but I’m not really *at* the convention as anything other than as an attendee who is taking a vacation this weekend.

PlanetMercenaryLogo-250pxExcept, of course, for the bit where I’m running a Planet Mercenary RPG session on Saturday morning with several of the convention’s notable guests as players. That’s a little bit like work, and it’s something that fans can come and watch. When it’s done, I will hide in my room and edit a bunch of the Planet Mercenary stuff, focusing on the bits my party of fine storytellers and wordsmiths ran roughshod over.

If you want me to sign something, or sketch in a book, I will do that for you, provided you don’t try to get me to do it during the RPG session, or while I’m eating.

If you want to talk to me, hey, that’s cool, assuming you choose to do this in a setting where approaching people for conversation is appropriate. If I’m not feeling approachable, I’ll probably hide in my room and write.

The “Handbrain” Game Chief Screen

One of the things Alan, Sandra, and I discussed building as part of the Planet Mercenary Kickstarter was a Game Chief screen that would take drop-in sheets of paper, and which would be styled to look like a handbrain or display unit from the comic strip.

We decided against doing this as part of the Kickstarter because we didn’t have enough information, and committing to something like this would put the project at risk. When the project overfunded to $300k, we committed to an R&D budget for unspecified stuff. This screen was some of that stuff. We contracted with a designer to build a proper prototype for possible mass-production.

The prototype arrived, and I love it.

ScreenBrainPrototype-01The prototype is a high-res 3D print, so the plastic is translucent instead of opaque. It’s designed to take half-sheets of US Letter sized paper. A full sheet of US Letter, printed with some game map stuff, is shown in the picture above.

ScreenBrainPrototype-02After folding that sheet in half, it drops into the screen quite cleanly.

The stand upon which the screen sits is angled so that the drop-in is visible whether you’re standing or sitting, but it’s not angled so steeply that players will be able to see what’s printed on it, nor will they be able to see dice you roll against it.

ScreenBrainPrototype-03Here’s a better look at the angle. For scale you can see a challenge coin, a couple of poker chips, some playing cards, and a pair of AMD CPU fans, stuck back-to-back because they look cooler that way (they were not cool enough when mounted in the PCs, and have been replaced with off-the-shelf liquid cooling rigs, making our game room much, much quieter, but I digress…)

The half-sheet size makes this much easier to see over than conventional game screens. We don’t want Game Chiefs unable to make eye contact with their players.

NOTE: There is a Game Chief screen shipping with the game. That screen will be made of card stock, and will be printed on one side with ship art, and on the other with useful tables and rules reminders. It, too, will have a low-profile format. Game Chiefs do not get to hide behind fortresses of stats and artwork.

ScreenBrainPrototype-07 Here it is from the back. The fiddly-bit sticking out of the corner is a yellow map pin from the local office supply place. Note that the final product will not be translucent enough for anything to be visible through the back.

ScreenBrainPrototype-06Obviously it needs to store flat, so the stand detaches quite nicely. As an added bonus, this means you can put a note, or other mission-specific information into it, and pass it to the players, just like the characters in the comic do with their their handbrains.

ScreenBrainPrototype-04Sliding things into and out of it is quite easy. If your game is anything like the ones I’ve played, this is a critical feature.

These aren’t for sale yet, and no, we’re not going to Kickstart them. We still have to grind a bit on the prototype to make sure everything is just right. The eventual plan is to mass-produce these and sell them in sets of three.

Taking Calendars off the Calendar

To quote Professor Farnsworth: “Good news, everyone! Bad news!”

We will not be producing a Schlock Mercenary Monthly Calendar for 2016. The 2015 calendar sold well enough with other merchandise to not be an outright loss, but the books and slipcases were what carried last year for us.

This year we’re looking at the Planet Mercenary production schedule, and we simply cannot justify taking time out to make a calendar when the project for which we’ve accepted money in advance is not yet complete.

We’re also delaying our print run of Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication until after we’ve got Planet Mercenary queued up for print. This hurts a bit more, because not having a new book out in time for Christmas shoppers is the very definition of “leaving money on the table,” but again, having accepted money in advance for a thing that is not yet finished, I cannot in good conscience spend time on other projects—not even profitable ones.

There’s an update over on the Planet Mercenary Kickstarter page if you’d like more details on how that project is going. The salient point? It’s keeping me busy enough that the only other business activity I can justify is the daily updates on the comic. The movie reviews? Okay, I can’t really justify those, except to say that going out to see a show helps refill the well on the other stuff, and I might as well tell you how the show went.

This morning was spent on Mayhem cards for Planet Mercenary. This afternoon I have a week of comics to pencil and ink. This blog post is happening in the cracks, and the crack is swiftly closing…

Find Me at GenCon Indy! (the 2015 edition)

I’m exhibiting at GenCon Indy with Jim Zub and Tracy Hickman this week. You can find us at booth 1935.


We have new pins and badge holders, and all eleven print editions of Schlock Mercenary, along with slip cases.

Here’s my event schedule:


  • 6:00pm, Room 224  Worldbuilding: When Your World is a Character


  • 10:00 am, Room 224  Character Craft: Motivation and Obstacles
  • 5:00pm, Room 245  Business of Writing: Advanced Kickstarter
  • 7:00pm, TBA  Planet Mercenary Field Marshal Play Date (players have been pre-selected. If you want to come spectate, watch me on Twitter for the location.)


  • 6:00pm, Room 242  Writing Excuses: The Live Studio Audience Episodes (will be recorded)

When I’m not in events I’m almost certainly at my booth, though I have been known to sneak out for breaks from time to time. Mostly, though, I’ll be glued to my seat working on the cover art for Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication. I’ll also have some images from the upcoming Planet Mercenary RPG book if you’d like to peek at those.

GenCon Indy is one of my favorite events of the year. We have a fantastic crew working our booth with us, and Tracy, Jim, and I have lots of fun talking with fans and with each other throughout the day. Come get stuff signed, or just stop by and watch the magic happen.