Discover more from The Guac Newsletter
Constant Downpour Launch! + watt’s Cloud Empress Interview!
Constant Downpour Remastered is officially live!! We’ve already unlocked a free zine, “10 Stims From the Dark Web”. You can back the psychological thriller stress-crawl for Mothership 1E below. (More details below.)
We are also posting our inaugural creator interview with watt - now developing Cloud Empress!
I’m very thankful to watt for bringing up doing interviews. I really love having the time to hear about the creative process of other TTRPG makers.
The Guac 006 Docket:
Constant Downpour Remastered Details
Cloud Empress Interview with watt!
Free Xenotech Artifact: THE TWO RINGS + SpicyTuna plans :)
Constant Downpour Remastered
Constant Downpour Remastered is a survival hex-crawl where players traverse through a near-hopeless environment that slowly whittles away their sanity.
The Remastered edition introduces an open-world hex crawl packed with new dangers and discoveries. Inside Venus 3, players will witness Venusian lore, discover hidden bunkers, survive a rival party, and struggle endlessly for a small parcel of security. The monster list, violent encounters, and hallucinations are vastly expanded and the book dives further into the jungles and deeper into riverways.
The stress-crawl uses the help of the Mothership Sci-fi RPG 1E mechanics to simulate the chipping away of control and loss of hope. Characters suffer shared nightmares and fight off illusions that vanish into thin air as their hold on reality is lost and refastened across Venus.
*Constant Downpour Remastered PDF + Digital Original Soundtrack also available!
Interviews for Constant Downpour:
Wobblies & Wizards:
Make sure to tune in this Saturday at 8pm CT we’ll be streaming live with The Weekly Scroll / The Adventure Archive on Twitch!
Weekly Scroll Twitter: https://twitter.com/Weekly_Scroll
TheAdventureArchive on Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/TheAdventureArchive
Cloud Empress Interview with watt!
Question: I would love to hone in on world-building for this interview. Firstly, let's talk about inspirations. You have several expansive worlds paired with worldbuilding through lore and snippets like Thousand Thousand Islands and Electric Bastionland as inspiration. What are some of the pillars of the Cloud Empress world you’ve pulled from these inspirations? Can you give us a specific example or two from your inspiration list you’d like to share?
Yes, let’s talk about worldbuilding! Visually and thematically, Cloud Empress’s largest influence has to be Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind. Both the film (and later the manga) impacted me deeply as a younger person. I haven’t seen many other RPGs focus on the environmental messages of Nausicaa, Final Fantasy 7, and Frank Herbert’s Dune. There’s also a surprising amount of Stephen King in Cloud Empress (specifically Wizard and Glass). There’s a bunch more, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
Question: How did you balance new ideas with the familiar tropes from the inspiration list when designing the settings and adventures?
I have been fixating on the risks and benefits of using tropes and shared cultural touchstones in my game design.
Tropes are extremely helpful in settings and adventures. A familiar concept can quickly orient players, filling in their mental gaps with previous experiences. The more tropes used, the more the picture looks familiar though. Too many tropes and stories start to run on autopilot, they lose all sense of surprise.
I try to give myself a pretty limited trope budget because there’s a very real danger of building a game out of only inspirational material. One of my fears is spending years making a game that’s just an existing intellectual property with the numbers sanded off. I’m not in this for the money. Cloud Empress has to become more than the sum of its parts. I’ve been pushing my writing to stretch our imaginations and encourage players to deepen their own connection with the natural world around them.
Question: I personally love the class descriptions as worldbuilding. You’ve chosen short snippets that show how the class interacts, views, or is affected by the world. Why did you choose this? What are some other similar practices you’ve implemented or wish to implement?
Thank you! I read somewhere that you can learn the most about an RPG by looking at its character sheet and have tried to take that to heart. For my first three months designing Cloud Empress, I only worked on the character sheet and class descriptions. At one point there were about fifty classes, and now it’s down to Lordling, Sellsword, Magician, and Courier. The names should be evocative enough to give an initial roleplay direction by reading the name alone. With that shared understanding I started twisting expectations. What if magicians all die young? What if one in four travelers were royalty? How would you pay a sellsword without a unified currency?
Question: Can you tell us more about the incredible art direction? How were these choices made? Was it within collaboration with the artists or did you have a style guide figured out prior? Has the art shaped or reshaped the initial vision of the world?
I am thrilled with Cloud Empress’s artwork. I tend to be a visual first designer. I need to have some idea of what something will look like before I make it. This may sound cynical, and less artistic than my best aspirations, but if you want people to look at your work or expect three or four people to try a new game/setting/adventure it’s got to grab people’s interest quickly (usually with strong visuals).
I started seeing work from Kattapulka (artists pbbeta and Garin) on my Twitter timeline. The work was evocative, unique, and had a strong ecological vibe and their commissions were open. It turns out we had a shared love of Nausicaa that became a foundation point. The writing, artwork, and gameplay have evolved together. Commissioning artwork before a completed manuscript has led to some restrictions on my writing, but limitations breed creativity.
Question: You’ve mentioned to me your interest in creating experiences that are both accessible and intellectually challenging. What is your general approach to this and how does the world of Cloud Empress make these experiences possible?
I don’t think making mechanically streamlined games also means that RPGs need to sacrifice their thematic and narrative complexity. What does thematic complexity mean for a book like Cloud Empress? The book tries to tackle ethical and philosophical concepts of moral ambiguity, how our collective beliefs shape reality, and how myths become a kind of truth, both ephemeral and obstinate.
Like Elden Ring or the Dark Souls series, I’m trusting players to follow the breadcrumbs instead of asking them to read a ten-page timeline of world events at the start of the book. I know this approach creates a level of effort not required in every game, but I find that obvious answers are usually quickly understood and quickly forgotten. The writing in Cloud Empress is getting dense, mysterious, and minimalistic as I keep at it.
Question: Alright, one question slightly outside of worldbuilding.
The violent encounter mechanics are rich, deadly, and an interesting inbetween of roll to hit and auto-hit mechanics. You even take lethality one step further with exploding dice and tackle the balance with curses. Can you tell us how you worked these mechanics together and how it affects the feel and atmosphere of the world while playing?
Mechanically, guns are challenging to include in games for a couple of reasons. Guns, knives, and swords are really dangerous. They mess people up. Weapons should feel scary. I’m a lot less interested in comic book violence having lived through the deluge of Marvel movies. I’m tired of watching Spiderman throw a manhole cover at a burglar and assume Peter Parker is the good guy.
Many RPGs systems also treat their characters like superheroes. It creates dissonance when we know the danger of a loaded gun and a PC takes 3 damage after getting shot. I’ve also seen players make some really foolish and unrealistic decisions in violent situations because they understand the rolls will likely be in their favor or the odds aren’t quite clear enough.
To solve these issues I started playing with Sean Mccoy’s cyberpunk Mothership hack - Null Hack where you roll to hit, but each weapon deals an automatic wound. This approach sped combat up, but I found that most PCs ended up like walking scar tissue after a single session.
I’ve since fallen in love with the combat rules of Karl Druid’s Frontier Scum and used this system as a starting place for revising Mothership’s combat. Ranged weapons and guns automatically hit unless it is a tough shot. You reroll 9’s and add the subsequent roll to the damage total.
I’ve got more playtesting to do, but I immediately noticed some really remarkable changes in player behavior. When getting hit is the default and every shot can kill, players start talking more, engage with their surroundings in violent situations, and generally try to avoid a shootout.
To add a bit of magic to a brutal system, PCs can become cursed the first time they would die. You roll on a curse table to see if you turn into a chimera, become an animated piece of furniture, or get sent forward or backwards in time.
Question: Where can people finding out about Cloud Empress get the playtesting ruleset and learn more about it?
For news and monthly Cloud Empress free content subscribe to my free substack worldsbywatt.substack.com. For the twenty-eight page playtest document and a work-in-progrss introductory adventure, readers can go to worldsbywatt.itch.io.
Free Xenotech Artifact: THE TWO RINGS
THE TWO RINGS complete with a small scene to find them in. Greenspore (our main editor) prompted me to write more xenotech artifacts during a conversation we had. He’s a big fan of the Julip IV system and Familiar Faces Vol.1, but he said the only thing he wanted was a list of xenotech artifacts in the book to more readily use Ainsley Blackwood - the Xenotech Restorator.
So, here is the inaugural Artifact for Ainsley! I’ll be releasing a nice 8 pager by the end of the year called Artifacts for Ainsley Issue 1 containing 4x different xenotech artifacts. It will be free on our spicytunarpg.itch.io page.
SpicyTuna Update: New and Revived Product Lines
SpicyTuna Rolls: Free PDF modules hitting spicytunarpg.itch.io quarterly. Artifacts for Ainsley Issue 1 will be the first newly released SpicyTuna Roll in December, and you can expect a new Roll quarterly. These will be separate from the monthly freebies on The Guac.
8-Page Zine Line: This might currently be my favorite format (8-12 pages really). I’m just not cut out for brochures, but those extra 4 pages make everything a ton easier for me.
They will all be physical zines priced $6-7, with bundled discounts. Some of these will be the physical copies of the SpicyTuna Rolls, some of them player-facing catalogs featuring items from larger SpicyTuna publications, and some of them all new material including weird formats and content like comics.
We’re planning on releasing 3x 8-page zines with the Constant Downpour Remastered Campaign. By the end of the January we’ll have made 5 of them!
The 3x 8-pagers launching during the Constant Downpour Remastered campaign are
Yucatan Tech Co. Retro Catalog 1. 10x Retro Weapons. Features the 6x Retro Weapons from Constant Downpour Remastered + 4 Bonus Retro Weapons. [Part of the Sun Dome Edition and Above]
Stims From The Dark Web: Venusian Edition: 10x Stim Packs. Features 4x from Constant Downpour Remastered + 6x New Stim Packs made from Venusian blood and the monsters on Venus 3. [Free Stretch Goal]
Yucatan Tech Co. Retro Catalog 2. 6x Retro Weapons. This is the physical copy of Yucatan Tech Co. Issue 1 on our itch.io page + 2 new retro weapons. [Free Stretch Goal]
The 2x 8-pagers earlier this year for the Mothership Lo-Fi Jam. They will be available on the Tuesday Knight Games store when they release the rest of the Mothership Lo-Fi Jam entries. We’ll update their availability after they launch on the TKG store.
SpicyTuna Stories No.34. Mercenary Woes on Celsius-X + Tales of the Laughing Sphinx. 4 1x page comics showcasing alien xenotech. No stats, just a short 4 panel story to riff off of. And, 2x burrow maps housing horrors from Celsio-X. These maps can be populated with anything or are compatible with an upcoming SpicyTuna module called “Outsourced”.
Reviews. Books. Ads. Reviews. 7x Ads and book covers that can be used as in-game artifacts to connect 3PP modules. Featuring book covers and ads that reference Knights of Lazarus, Yucatan Tech Co, Familiar Faces Vol.1, The Oceans Are Endless on Meridian, and Cleaning of Prison Station Echo.
Lastly, Knights of Lazarus and Familiar Faces Vol.1 + FFV1 Notebook are available in the Bannerette Bundle on the TKG store here!
You can also get Knights a la carte and Familiar Faces Vol.1 + Notebook solo too.
Super excited to have our first Mothership zines up on the store.
Thank you for reading - especially if you made it all the way through!! I’m really happy to share so much news + the interview with watt! It was fantastic insight to their process.
Compiled Links from The Guac 007
Constant Downpour Kickstarter Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marcoserrano/constant-downpour-remastered
Words by watt Substack: worldsbywatt.substack.com
Playtest Version of Cloud Empress + Intro Adventure: worldsbywatt.itch.io
The Two Rings: A Xenotech Artifact Free Download: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/18FFs1oa-y5bwlaZ45H-81G1l5LbhoKEU?usp=sharing
Have a beautiful day,