Thursday, 6 August 2015

The Best Four Days in Sleep Deprivation

Or: In Which We Nearly Made It All The Way Through A Trip To Gen Con Without Losing Our Luggage.

Gen Con has finished for another year and I realise that the last time I updated this blog was two years ago (shocking behaviour - I do apologise). So, without further ado, I shall present this year's Gen Con report minus pictures as, once again, I took my camera and utterly failed to used it...

My first Gen Con was in 1994 when it was still in Milwaukee. That was an exciting and odd experience and for years I wanted to get back and bring my husband, Richard, along with me. We finally managed that in 2013 and have been back every year since, with each year being its own peculiar (and exhausting) beast.

This year, I was lucky enough to have been selected as an Industry Insider Guest of Honour and I got to be on three very enjoyable panels. The first was Women in Gaming, which I will admit I was mildly dreading as part of me wondered if we still needed such a panel in this day and age. But, sadly, after the events of the last eighteen months or so, it appears that yes, we most definitely do.

Thanks to the lovely Rachel Ventura of Legendary Games, we'd decided to focus on the positive aspects of being a woman in games, something that was very much appreciated by our audience. Having been to the ConTessa opening ceremony the day before, I'd been reminded of how women have been in gaming from the very beginning and how important their contribution to the worlds we all know and love have been. Sadly, in some quarters, that seems to have been all but forgotten.

It was fascinating to share experiences with Elisa Teague (author of Girls on Games), Nicole Lindroos (Green Ronin), Rachel, and Shoshana Kessock (Phoenix Outlaw Productions) and we really could have done with another hour (at least!) to do the topic justice. Still, there's always next year...

My final two panels weren't until Sunday. The first, hosted by the ever-so-organised Keith Baker, was about designing worlds. We were joined by Elsa S. Henry (Blind Mouse Games), Brannon Boren, and the redoubtable Ken Hite. Although slightly intimidated at first by the illustrious company in which I found myself, this was an excellent panel all round (particularly the startling revelation that, as far as we can tell, Elsa is actually Daredevil, though you didn't hear that from me).

It's always interesting to see how other people approach world building and to discuss how important tone and the type of stories you want to tell are to giving your world its unique feel, and I hope we gave the audience some useful tips and ideas to go away and play with.

My last panel was an absolute hoot. Of all the panelists, Bryan Steele (Ursa's Den) was the only one I didn't know (but, as it turns out, he's thoroughly lovely - hardly a surprise, really, as most people in the gaming industry are). Along with Andy Peregrine, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, and Bill Bodden, we had a highly entertaining chat about the dos and don'ts of becoming a freelancer. As Andy said at the time, let's hope we haven't done too good a job, or we've just put ourselves out of work!

In between panels I got to meet up with old friends, some for the first time in the flesh (including the wonderful John Kahane). I also got to make new friends, indulged in sushi therapy with Monica Valentinelli (man, the sea puff specialty roll at Mikado is amazing, and I speak as a sushi virgin), and had some incredibly instructive business meetings, some of which I hope to be able to talk about in the near future.

I also worked the Modiphius booth on Saturday, shilling my wares (Achtung! Cthulhu and Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks) under the watchful eye of booth manager and long time proofreader and friend, T.R. Knight. It's always lovely to interact with our customers and to hear how they're playing and, more importantly, enjoying our games. I even got a little sketch of Cutey (our nickname for the squid symbol you'll find throughout the A!C books) by John Kovalic although, in my usual oblivious state, I had no idea it was him until after he'd gone and I'd checked the business card she was drawn on! (Unless, of course, someone else has taken to drawing cartoons on the back of Mr. Kovalic's business cards...)

And, of course, there was the ENnie Awards Ceremony. Having nearly missed the first hour because I was convinced it started at 9pm not 8, I was, thankfully, in place to see Achtung! Cthulhu: Terrors of the Secret War win silver for Best Cover. Ian Schofield did a lovely job on that one for us and I was so pleased to see his work recognised by both the judges and the voters.

By far the biggest surprise of the night, though, was Terrors walking away with the silver for Best Monster/Adversary. I honestly thought they'd put up the wrong screen to start with, especially considering the other amazing and beautiful books in that category. But no, it really was us and I was thrilled to bits for Josh O'Connor, Jesse Hawkins, Reuben Saunders, Dave Blewer, Dim Martin, Ian Schofield, Michal Cross and Chris Birch (oh yes, and me, of course, as chief cook and bottlewasher on the book) that people liked what we'd done. The choice we'd made to go cinematic was risky, but the nomination and the medal (one of which is hanging over my computer as I type) show that it was the right decision.

I love Gen Con and it's wonderful to have seen it grow and evolve over the last twenty-one years. This has to have been my favourite one so far and, fingers crossed, we'll get to do it all again next year!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Transatlantic Tea Party

We're back from Indianaoplis now (mostly awake, but not entirely), and I'm pleased to report that we had a fabulous time. Not only did the game sell well, but we also met some fantastic people.

I got to run an impromptu demo for two very lovely non-gamer steampunk ladies, who were so taken with it that they bought the game! As Cogs, Cakes and Swordsticks was partly written with these kind of ladies in mind, I was absolutely thrilled to bits.

I also got to discuss the potential for Space Mounties with two smashing Canadians, chat to the fantastic Liz Spain (whose Incredible Expeditions is currently on Kickstarter - please do go and take a peek!), and finally got to meet one of our first and most enthusiastic supporters, the wonderful Donna Prior.

Not only that, but we set ourselves a little cosplaying goal over the course of the convention. As the tagline for the game is "Tea! Cake!! Adventure!!!", we decided that we'd have to find ourselves two very special cosplayers...

Tea! Cake!! Adventure Time!!! With Jake the Dog...

And Finn the Human!

Yes, we know it's daft, but we're very proud of ourselves, and both lads were quite happy to indulge our silliness.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Indianapolis Ahoy!

(Photo courtesy of Shadow Caver,

It's time for the tea and cake to make it's way Stateside for the next week, as Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks makes its debut at Gen Con, one of the biggest gaming coventions in the world.

We're very excited, as it's nearly two decades since I was last there with Nightfall Games and Wizards of the Coast. It may have moved cities, but I expect it to be just as hectic and entertaining as ever it was!

And don;t tell anyone, but there are rumours that the infamous tea-pot fez will also be making an appearance...

Monday, 29 July 2013

Sky High!

Never ones to rest on our laurels, we are very pleased to announce that the first supplement for Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks is available from RPGNow.

Atlantis: City in the Clouds takes you to that marvellous miracle of the steam age, Her Majesty's Flying Steam City Atlantis. Hovering far above the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantis is the pride of the British Empire, ranked alongside India as one of Her Majesty's greatest treasures. Home to myriad businesses and personalities, Atlantis (better known as "The Cog" to its inhabitants), is the perfect place to explore new horizons and seek high* adventure.

The sourcebook contains:
  • Insight into the history and construction of Brunel and Stephenson’s engineering marvel, HMFSC Atlantis
  • Details on the layout of the city and its environs, including notable businesses and personalities
  • A full-length adventure of sky-high intrigue set aboard The Cog
  • Six pregenerated characters ready for you to pick up and play
  • Even more Attributes to help build your own adventurers in the Empire of Steam
  • Thrilling steampunk art by Kit Cox
So grab your Earl Grey - it's time for High Tea!*
*And when we sasy "high", we really mean it!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

A Spot of Tiffin

Tomorrow should be a very interesting day for Cogs, Cakes and Swordsticks, as we're off to Hartlepool's Historic Quay for Tiffin on the Trinc!

Picture courtesy of IAIN, the International Association of Institutes of Navigation.

HMS Trincomalee is a beautiful old girl, with quite the history. A Leda-class frigate, she was actually obsolete by the time they'd finished building her, leading to her spending most of her life either mothballed or acting as a training ship. She is now the oldest British warship still afloat, thanks to her unusual teak construction (most warships of the time were made of oak).

Lovingly restored over the last twenty years or so by a charitable trust, you can imagine how excited we are to be running taster demo games on board this gorgeous ship, surrounded by fellow steampunks and probably quite a few bemused members of the public!

The historic quay opens at 10am, and Tiffin on the Trinc officially opens at midday, with legendary graphic novellist Bryan Talbot firing the noon-day gun. If you can make it along, we'd love to see you!

Friday, 31 May 2013

Time Flies...

It's been a busy old week here at the Cake Factory, with lots of social media promotion for the game, as well as the paper version making its debut on Modiphius Entertainment's stand at the UK Games Expo.

So far, there have been over a thousand downloads of our free preview version, and the full game was at No.6 in the download charts (I would make a Prisoner-themed joke, but it wouldn't quite work seeing as only the first full chapter of the game is free), and is currently sitting at No.33 in RPGNow's Top 100 games. Not bad after only a week, eh?

And last night, way after this humble author's usual bedtime, I was chatting to Dan and friends at the Harboiled GMshoe's Office about the game and its influences, the Victorian space race, dinosaurs as player characters, how to handle supernatural elements and whether or not you could play at superheroes with the system. Dan is a very gracious host, and asked some very challenging questions which I hope my sleep-addled brain managed to answer fully and coherently!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Drum Roll, Please!

If you're going to do something, it's best to make sure you do it properly. And I'm very pleased to announce that, after a few years of polishing, refining, and stalking some wonderful artists (in the friendliest way possible, of course), myself and Modiphius Entertainment are pleased to announce that Cogs, Cakes and Swordsticks is available for your delectation and delight from those fine purveyors of all things gamery: RPG Now (click on this to go straight to its sales page).

Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks  - Steampunk RPG - Core Rulebook

With lovely artwork by his High Tea-ness, Dr Geof, additional squiggles by my good husband, Mr. Richard Hardy, and beautifully laid out by that dedicated gent, Mr Michal Cross, we do hope that you'll find the game as much fun to play as it was to write and test.

I'd also like to thank everyone who helped with that testing and supported us during the early days - I think I managed to get all of your names into the Acknowledgements!