Progress Blog: He-Man RPG (Update 2)

Today, I have 24 hours to build and publish a nostalgia RPG based on the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated series.

About 4 hours into the process, we are 20% complete! Now that Character Creation is pinned down, the two character traits chapters have to be written so that sample characters can be built (though those are made last–the number of sample characters included in the book is based on how many pages are available for the job, since the game has a 60 page limit).

Table of Contents

Introduction (DONE)

Game Concepts (DONE)

History (DONE)

Character Creation (DONE)


Aspects and Drawbacks

Sample Characters

Action Mechanics

Narrating Eternia

Evil Warriors


Blank Bio


If you would like to follow along with the major beats of progress, you can visit the blog throughout the day and check out the Microblog on the sidebar (or you can go direct to the source and follow @nightcandle on Twitter)!

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Progress Blog: He-Man RPG (Update 1)

Today is the day! Starting RIGHT NOW, I have 24 hours to build and publish a nostalgia RPG based on the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe animated series.

If you would like to follow along with the major beats of progress, you can visit the blog throughout the day and check out the Microblog on the sidebar (or you can go direct to the source and follow @nightcandle on Twitter).

I will also post more substantial updates about my progress as regular blog posts throughout the day.

Are you ready?

60 pages of semi-modern RPG based on old school cartoon action.



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Moments of Transition

One of my favorite quotes from Babylon 5 is this one…

All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments .. of revelation. This had the feeling of both. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of the future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.

Yesterday was a big day. I wrote the most widely read serious post in the eight year history of this blog (other than Austin, of course). It was about the importance of representation in art, and how that really struck home with me in the past week or so.

But now today, I realize that the eccentricity of my blog is sometimes its greatest strength and at other times, a terrible frustration. After that important post, had I not written this one, there would have followed…

The writing thought journal for the creation of a silly RPG based on an animated series.

Yeah… tomorrow is my 24-hour game-writing challenge, creating a game based on He-Man. That’s a hard turn from the Very Serious, Very Important content yesterday.

But is it?

If yesterday was a moment of revelation–AND IT WAS–then does that not just make this a moment of transition?

And would that mean that tomorrow’s post is a moment of revelation again?

Would that be weird? Maybe. Maybe writing fan-service RPGs is not revelatory to you. Maybe it is.

It reveals something about me, perhaps. Something about the power of fantasy, the power of transformative imagination that dwells so tightly in the central chamber of my heart.

Perhaps that’s something worthy of another Serious Post again in the future (though I touched on it once before, I think).

But for now, I just wanted to remark on the strange vagaries of this place, where my inner thoughts collide and transfigure one another. It’s a cool thing, sometimes, and at other moments, merely an awkward smooshing.

Sort of like my use of the word smooshing there, I suppose.

So yes… tomorrow is He-Man Day.

Only you can decide if it is worthy of being called a revelation or merely one more transition along the way.

Magic is a personal thing, I think.

SIDEBAR: my first book, Gatemaker, is still free for Kindle on Amazon through Thursday (15-Mar-2018) if you want it! Or if you want to give it to someone else!


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You like that title? It’s catchy. Robust, yet staggeringly spare. But every pretentious turn of phrase I could think of for this post just sort of… didn’t fit.

I’m 38 years old. I’ve been married for 8 years to a man I’ve been in love with–and together with–for almost 18 years.

I came out of the closet just after my nineteenth birthday. This year, I will celebrate the point in my life where I have been out longer than I was in.

I have a good life. A great one, even. I have heavy stories, and heartaches, and places where people let me down or the world in which I lived was not yet ready for the person I needed to be. But those are old, small scars. My life today is pretty great because of the people in it, the places in which it rests, and the way my brain has grown to be wired.

So what am I writing about today? Why thaw out this subject for another turn around the dance floor? (Especially when it was addressed so fully in some other places: HERE, HERE, and HERE to name a few.)

Art. Art is everything. Entertainment is art. Art is entertainment. Art is transformation. Art is history made manifest and the future made malleable. Art is the collective obligation of humanity in an era where we have eschewed every such obligation for the flimsiest excuses of division.

So, a week ago I saw the movie Call Me by Your Name as part of our annual pilgrimage to see every Oscar-Nominated Best Picture contender. It struck me squarely in the heart with its gripping, nuanced portrayal of passion and confusion and shame and joy and reality and all of the things that make a movie worthy of an Oscar. It was also a big, gay romance–the likes of which I had never seen before on the screen.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t seen gay people on the screen. Or that I haven’t seen moving, powerful love between persons of the same sex in cinema. But it IS to say that this story, told in this way, by these people (including my new ridiculous infatuation, Armie Hammer), showed me something new.

As has been said in many an interview about the movie, it is a love story without punishment. There is no antagonist save for time–arch-villain to us all. There is no hate thrown in the teeth of the homosexuals, no danger of being cast out, no nigh-biblical plague swept down from the needles of history to eradicate the brave lovers.

Can you imagine? Can you imagine a story that is simply allowed to be about love, without the danger of losing everything for that love, without the risk of sickness or destitution or being beaten to death by angry homophobes on a windswept Wyoming night or any of it?

I imagine that you can, indeed, imagine it. Especially if you aren’t gay. The movies have given you those stories a hundred times. Hallmark Channel gives you eighty of them every Christmas season. Sometimes, love is the story instead of the reward… and we laud those stories for their focus on emotion or depth or charm instead of on contrivances of plot.

But I am pretty sure I had never seen one about my people before that day. Not one designed to be seen by everyone–this was an art house film, don’t get me wrong, but it was meant for YOU. For anyone. To speak to something bigger than the niche that so many by-the-gays, for-the-gays films, destined to live only on DVD and streaming sites, never on silver screens, are allowed.

It shook me. It was all I could think about for days. It is still all I can think about, if I stop moving and just let the quiet seep up around me.

So, of course, I bought the book. And the audiobook (where my dear Armie read the book to me in a voice that is, quite honestly, frighteningly delightful). The book captured my heart and my brain in entirely new ways and left me sobbing on the bed for a while after its last delicate words were set free.

You can never get the feeling of reading a book for the first time back. It’s one of life’s great artistic shames, I think.

But I remained aflame with this indistinct, nebulous energy that I don’t recall ever feeling before. Unfocused, it just bounced around inside of me, challenging me to something, to say and do and be something that I couldn’t put my finger on. Filling my heart to full, breaking it plainly in two, then stitching it back together with sinewy thread of a purpose not yet defined.

So… that was going on.

Then last night, while we were waiting to be seated for Chicago at the Civic Center (a marvelous performance, by the way), I happened to notice that there was a sneak preview screening tonight of the movie Love, Simon. Based on a book I have not read, I had been intrigued by the movie based on the pedigree of the cast and crew (long story short, IMDB the movie and you’ll see that its been built by a laundry list of people who cross over into all of my nerdy happy places).

It could have been–and in its way, was–simple teen-flick fare. But it was something else, too.

It was a movie about coming out, not as a sidebar or a twist, but as the point. It was a movie about what it means to be in that unenviable, unique place in the world, in today’s world, so different from my own experiences and yet so very much the same. It was about friendships and family and the inconceivable duality of self that you will, flat out, never understand unless this is your world.

I don’t say stuff like that very often. I’m being bold today. It’ll pass, perhaps.

I loved this movie as well. It was simple and honest and played fairly with its audience and its subject matter. It set aside tired tropes of violence and sickness and desolation and instead asked its characters to pay in safer, but no less terrifying, currency. Fear. Risk. Doubt. Harsh words instead of harsh blows.

Family that seeks first to understand, not first to judge. Acceptance that doesn’t have to be earned, but is instead freely given.

Do you know when the last time I saw that story on the big screen was? The simple, accessible, down-to-Earth, Big-Studio-Machine-Produced story of a gay young person coming to grips with their authentic self in a world that may not have understood them but did not intrinsically and instinctively hate them?


Never, never, never.

I am 38 years old. I watch a LOT of movies.

Why is my answer never? Why have these two movies given me something that I have never had before in my art? In my entertainment? In my world?

In the world my nieces and nephews will inherit?

Do you…

Do you know what that’s like?


Just think about that.

As I drove home from the movie, as I sipped my tea and thought about what to say on this big, endless white screen… I realized what the energy in me, what this full and bursting feeling of co-mingled love and hurt in my heart, wants.

More art.

More art that shows the next person in line that their story is good and true and right, because it is their story. That what is good and true and right has not been passed down in silent arbitration from Puritan tyranny, but is instead simply the product of a world reflective of the infinite diversity of its component parts.

I write stories. Sometimes, I think… enough, Jeremy. Does every damn one of your stories need a big, gay character?




A hundred times, a thousand times, for all of time, yes.

Nobody else has to wait 38 years.

Not on my watch.

And not on yours.

Make the art you needed when you were small and alone.

I’ll be over here, doing the same.

NOTE: To put my money where my mouth is, and to put my art where my heart is, I just made my first novel, Spiralchain: Gatemaker, which very much features a gay protagonist, free on Kindle on Amazon from Sunday, March 11th (2018) through Thursday, March 15th (2018). Enjoy, world. 


Posted in Steam Vents, Writing | 8 Comments

Nostalgia Returns: New Game Announcement

It’s been a while since the last game was added to my Nostalgia Games catalog. Before I spoil the big surprise and let you know what’s coming next, I wanted to take a brief stroll down memory lane…

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 10.53.56 AM.pngMany years ago, while teaching summer school, I decided to make a Transformers RPG. This game was released in 2011 and has gone on to be viewed, downloaded, and dissected by thousands of people!

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 10.54.15 AM.pngAfter that, I pushed on into another game, this time based on a significantly more obscure property, Visionaries. That game came out in late 2012, and while it has found a far smaller footing, I remain incredibly proud of that game. I look forward to using its system again in the future, albeit with a more robust set of parameters.

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 10.53.45 AM.pngThundercats came out in the summer of 2014, the result of a Game-in-a-Day experiment. Its system is the most fiddly of the four games I have written in this line, but I remain rather pleased with some of its innovations and the fact that the whole thing came together in 24 hours!

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 10.53.30 AM.pngI cheated to get Care Bears out in early 2015–it was actually a much older project that I discovered was in a closer-to-complete state than I had originally thought. A quick polishing pass got that out into the world, but judging by the view count on that one, nobody was really waiting for it to exist… 🙂

That brings us to a now-three-year gap in releases. What was once a regular fixture of this blog, new game announcements, has gone dry. To be fair, so too has the rest of the blog. Once I started writing novels more full-time, I had less and less time for the fun stuff of the blog.

Old_School_WWF_LogoJemEarly in 2017 I announced that I was going to be writing a dual-purpose game that would be skinned for both WWE (or rather, classic WWF) and Jem. Yes, I know, that sounds improbable. I still have a good idea for that! But the impetus for the project is a friend who life has kept rather busy and mostly removed from my life. Since he’s not here to egg me on, the project simmered and cooled and is now so far back on the mental stove that I wouldn’t be able to accurately say it is in a burner at all.

So what will we do for 2018 to get a new Nostalgia game into the world?

Gargoyles_Logo.pngWell, as anyone who knows me knows all too well, there are a few projects left on my Holy Grail list. One of them, Gargoyles, deserves a more massive treatment. In fact, I can guarantee that when Gargoyles gets made, it will be the first ever Super-Nostalgia game. 120 pages and boat loads of awesomeness. So, that is NOT this year’s project.

(This is like counting down the winning carrot in Killer Bunnies. I like it.)

crimson.pngI also have a deep yearning to write a game based on the 1990s Cliffhanger comic book series Crimson by Humberto Ramos and Brian Augustyn. It’s fun and different and might be a nice way to roll out an updated version of the Scale system that was originally used for Transformers. But the thing of it is, that game lies a little outside of my cartoon-based Nostalgia line demographic. So, that is NOT this year’s project.

silverhawks_logo.pngSilverhawks is an obvious place to re-implement the Trigger system from Thundercats. I also am desperately in need of a deep re-watch of that show in order to get my lore under control. So, that is NOT this year’s project.

There are several novel series (Eddings’ Belgariad/Mallorean and Butchers’s Codex Alera) that have caught my eye for simple RPG-ports, but again, not cartoons. So, those are NOT this year’s project.


What’s really left? Depending on who you ask, there are a few lynchpin animated series from the 1980’s that I haven’t talked about.

voltron.pngVoltron is close to my heart and is a PERFECT place to re-implement Visionaries‘ Position system. But because the game-in-a-day project includes a requirement of making a new system, that won’t work. Not it.

TMNTTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles never really rocked my world as hard as it did so many others. Until I start feeling it call to me, it won’t work. Not it.


G.I.Joe is in the same boat. Worse, I am only about 20% versed in the lore, so it will take a load of research. Not it.


I mean, come on. How long have you known where this is going?

MOTUHe-Man and the Masters of the Universe will be the game-in-a-day project for 2018. I will take my boundless love of MOTU and smash it into 60 pages in 24 hours. It will feature a new mechanical engine (in a simplified form, as these games always use), and it will feature the classic, FILMation-influenced mythology (which leaves the possibility of later editions that bring Princess of Power, New Adventures, 200X, and even MOTUC into the fold, just like the second edition of Transformers brought in Beast Wars/Beast Machines).


The date of this marvelous, terrifying experiment?

Why, I think it shall be March 13th. Why March 13th? Because I have a day off of work, and by that date I will be eager for a break from working on Next Alliance Book 3: Lashing Out (coming out in early June at Wizard World Des Moines)!

Posted in Nostalgia RPG Projects | 2 Comments