[20:03] <+jcombos> Hi everyone. I’m Jeff Combos, the creator of Hollow Earth Expedition, a pulp adventure role-playing game about feeding Nazis to dinosaurs.
[20:04] <+jcombos> It started as a single book, released 10 years ago now(!), but since then we’ve grown the line to include several different flavors of pulp, including the sword and planet genre.
[20:05] <+jcombos> We released a sourcebook about it called Revelations of Mars, and now we’re following it up with a Kickstarter for a book of Martian adventures called Perils of Mars.
[20:06] <+jcombos> Beyond the RPG industry, I’ve also done a lot of crowdfunding design work, and worked in the video game industry too, so I’m happy to answer questions about any and all of that stuff.
[20:07] <+jcombos> So fire away!
[20:07] <~Dan> Thanks, Jeff!
[20:07] <~Dan> The floor is open to questions!
[20:07] <~Dan> For those unfamiliar, can you give us a brief recap of the premise of Revelations of Mars before we get into Perils?
[20:08] <+jcombos> You bet!
[20:10] <+jcombos> As a setting, Revelations of Mars draws inspiration from classing planetary romance properties, like John Carter of Mars, Flash Gordon, and even Dune. I tried to make it familiar, but different, so it has much of the same flavor as those things, but it fits uniquely into the Hollow Earth Expedition world.
[20:10] <+jcombos> For example, there are four armed apes roaming around, but they aren’t necessarily white, and our giant war-like aliens are actually related to dinosaurs.
[20:12] <+jcombos> The all live on a Mars that was once green and beautiful, but is now dying and decaying.
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[20:12] <~Dan> Does Revelations include an adventure, and if so, does it lead into Perils?
[20:12] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, spmusic!)
[20:12] <+jcombos> Naturally, those who live there look with envy one a nearby blue planet full of people, food, and resources…
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[20:14] <+jcombos> Revelations does indeed include an adventure, but it doesn’t necessarily connect to Perils. The one in Revelations puts the cap on the tale we started telling with the original Hollow Earth Expedition book and continued in each expansion. With Perils, the four adventures we have in there are meant to shine a light on different aspects of Mars,
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[20:15] <+spmusic> Hey Jeff, Eric Speier, I am running out but wanted to stop by and say congrats on the record time funding. Looking forward to seeing the project!
[20:15] <+jcombos> like sky pirates, for example. They can be run as stand alone or linked together if you want.
[20:15] <+jcombos> (Thanks for stopping by Eric!)
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[20:16] <~Dan> (Howdy, Jasyn!)
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[20:16] <+jcombos> For anyone that doesn’t know, I worked with Eric on Bella Sara back in the day, and he’s an extremely talented composer.
[20:16] <+Jasyn> Hello!
[20:17] <~Dan> Jasyn, meet Jeff Combos, author of Hollow Earth Expedition and an all-around cool dude.
[20:17] <+jcombos> Hiya, Jasyn!
[20:18] <+jcombos> As Eric mentioned, the Kickstarter for Perils of Mars funded in an hour and forty-five minutes.
[20:18] <+jcombos> And then we unlocked the first stretch goal within the first 24 hours.
[20:18] <~Dan> I’m not surprised! Well done!
[20:19] <+jcombos> It has a smaller goal, but still, it was some amazing support.
[20:19] <~Dan> Oh, speaking of which, would you like to post a link to the KS?
[20:19] <+DebraHP> Wow! Congrats on the super-fast funding on KS!
[20:19] <+jcombos> (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2085348754/perils-of-mars)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2085348754/perils-of-mars
[20:20] <~Dan> (DebraHP has a game in KS herself. 🙂 )
[20:20] <+jcombos> We’re currently 234% funded and less than $300 from our next stretch goal.
[20:20] <+jcombos> What’s your game DebraHP?
[20:21] <~Dan> Man… That is impressive.
[20:21] <~Dan> How does that compare to the Revelations KS?
[20:21] <+DebraHP> EVERYVERSE RPG… universal, written by my late husband and I am trying to bring it to market.
[20:22] <+DebraHP> (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1945825895/to-realize-a-dream-everyverse-rpg)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1945825895/to-realize-a-dream-everyverse-rpg
[20:22] <+jcombos> Revelations was a highly anticipated book, so there was a lot of pent-up demand, so it was our biggest Kickstarter to date, with over 500 backers.
[20:23] <+DebraHP> 500 backers! That’s amazing!
[20:23] <~Dan> It’s nice to see that interest in the setting hasn’t waned. 🙂
[20:23] <+jcombos> (I’m looking at Everyverse right now, DebraHP. It’s so cool that you’re doing this. What a lovely way to remember your husband.)
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[20:24] <+DebraHP> Thank you, Jeff!
[20:24] <~Dan> So let’s see… How many adventures does Perils include, and what are they about?
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[20:25] <+jcombos> There are four big adventures in Perils. We expect them to be about five hours of playtime each, so you can break them in half with a nice cliffhanger and get back together with your group to finish it off next time.
[20:26] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, Guest93!)
[20:27] <+jcombos> With Mars, the four adventures are about the search for a legendary sky pirtate’s treasure, the investigation of a cursed city that rises from the sands, the exploration of one of the Martian moons, and a more generic tale about explorers that tumble through an Atlantean portal and have to find a way home.
[20:27] <+jcombos> There’s a little bit of everything in there.
[20:28] <~Dan> Sounds like it!
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[20:29] <~Dan> Are there any new rules, creatures, etc., included?
[20:29] <+jcombos> We’ve been working on three of those adventures because the Revelations of Mars Kickstarter unlocked them as stretch goals, so that’s why the Perils Kickstarter didn’t need to be that big.
[20:30] <+jcombos> Yes, with every Perils adventure, we include new rules and setting material, so even if the adventure isn’t to your taste, you can use the parts to make your own.
[20:30] <~Dan> Can you give some examples, or would that be spoilers?
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[20:31] <~Dan> (Howdy, catty_big! Meet Jeff Combos, author of Hollow Earth Expedition!)
[20:31] <+jcombos> In a previous book, Perils of the Surface World, we introduced insanity rules, some faith and miracles stuff, etc. For this one we’re looking at doing some simple mass combat stuff for dramatic crew against crew sky pirate battles, a little Martian magic, some Atlantean artifacts, etc.
[20:32] <+jcombos> Basically, we like Perils scenarios to be “cool, and”.
[20:32] <+catty_big> Hi. My writing partner Daniel Marriott is a huge of the Hollow Earth line, and has been looking forward to Revelations of Mars ever since it was announced.
[20:33] <~Dan> Yeah, I was wondering about the cursed city. I thought that Mars was more about the psychic powers than the magic.
[20:33] <+jcombos> By that I mean, it has to be cool and give you something else on top of it.
[20:33] <+catty_big> Huge fan
[20:33] <+jcombos> Please tell Daniel I said hello, catty_big
[20:33] <+jcombos> And thanks for supporting the line all this time!
[20:34] <+catty_big> Will do. I’d invite him to join us but he’s probably got to get up early for work.
[20:35] <+jcombos> I’m not sure if it would be possible to have been waiting for Revelations longer than Dan, though. He was kind enough to playtest the game for me before I released the first book and he pointedly asked me about Mars even before I’d told anyone that it might be a possibility.
[20:35] <+jcombos> He’s a clever one, that Dan.
[20:35] * ~Dan blushes
[20:35] <+catty_big> I love everything about it. I’ve mostly played Hollow Earth scenarios though, with one surface world session.
[20:36] <+jcombos> I wouldn’t want to disturb him, catty_big, but I hope we get to cross paths sometime so I can thank him for being a fan for so long.
[20:36] <+catty_big> From my brief contact so far I’d say yes to that 🙂
[20:36] <+jcombos> (Plus, I’d love to know what he thinks of Revelations. That was a tough book to get right!)
[20:36] <~Dan> You guys are too kind. 😀
[20:37] <~Dan> jcombos: What can you tell us about Martian magic?
[20:37] <+catty_big> Jeff, I’m still not entirely clear how one gets from the surface world to Mars? I guess it’s not like John Carter simply waking up in a cave.
[20:38] <+jcombos> Well, we didn’t focus on Martian Magic much in Revelations because psychic powers are more common to the genre, but it does exist. In fact, there is a group called the Cult of the Undying that live in the remains of the planet’s oldest city. Rumor has it that they perform dark rituals that keep the essence of their dark Atlantean master alive.
[20:39] <+jcombos> We’re going to go into that a little bit, although the adventure it’s in might surprise you.
[20:39] <+catty_big> I haven’t seen him a lot recently so I don’t know if he’s had the chance to run it or not. I’ll ask next time I see him what his thoughts are.
[20:39] <+jcombos> Good question, catty_big.
[20:40] <+catty_big> No biggie, I was just wondering.
[20:40] <+jcombos> There are four ways to get to Mars. And just like in the planetary romance genre, the idea is to get you there quickly as opposed to focusing on the journey. You can fly to Mars in a rocket, of course, plus the Atlantean portals can take you there in an instant.
[20:41] <+jcombos> But there is a strange artifact called the Astral Projector that can snatch someone from Earth and they’ll wake up on Mars. No one really knows for sure who it picks or why, but these people tend to have some Atlantean blood in them or a destiny to fulfill on the Red Planet.
[20:41] <+catty_big> Ah right, ISTR Dan mentioning the Atlantean portals. I like the idea of not spending time on journeys, HEX isn’t that kind of game. Action now!
[20:42] <+jcombos> And lastly, there is one remaining Atlantean flying disc, and very secretive group uses it to raid Earth every now and again, including abducting people and bringing them back to Mars.
[20:42] <+catty_big> Ooh, people with Atlantean blood, interesting.
[20:42] <+jcombos> Exactly! Let’s get to the adventure!
[20:43] <~Dan> One of my players created a character with Atlantean blood. She used her Atlantean abilities to be a masked pulp hero named the Whisper. 🙂
[20:44] <+catty_big> Ok, so we’ve got rockets, Atlantean Portals, astral Projector and a flying disc. Very exciting.
[20:44] <+jcombos> The game system kind of supports that too, as the mechanics can collapse out of your way when you just need to move the narrative forward, but they do so without cheating or breaking any of the rules.
[20:44] <+catty_big> That sounds cool Dan!
[20:45] <~Dan> Yeah, she was a fun character. She could use her Atlantean power to whisper a command that her opponents would have to follow.
[20:45] <+jcombos> Could she speak Atlantean too, Dan? ‘Cause that would make for some seriously powerful whispers!
[20:45] <~Dan> Jeff: See above. 🙂
[20:45] <+jcombos> (There it is!)
[20:46] <+catty_big> Not allowing the mechanics to get in the way of the story, that’s music to my narrativist ears!
[20:46] <+jcombos> I love hearing about that kind of stuff.
[20:46] <+catty_big> Me too.
[20:46] <~Dan> You mentioned one of the four adventures dealing with sky pirates. Can you say a bit about what sky pirates are like?
[20:47] <+jcombos> Yeah, it’s a big thing with me. As much as I’m a game designer, I’m also a narrative guy. I was Narrative Producer when I was at Microsoft, actually. The last game I worked on there is coming out next month. It’s a hybrid video game and live action show.
[20:48] <~Dan> (Oh, sorry… Can you say a bit about what sky pirates arrrrrrrr like?)
[20:48] <+jcombos> I spent most of my time working on the connection between the two so that the show you watch would be based on the way you played the game and might be very different than mine.
[20:48] <+jcombos> You bet, Dan!
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[20:50] <+jcombos> The Martians were never able to fully replicate Atlantean technology, but they did get close, so although they can’t make flying discs, they can make an engine of sorts that will float a ship into the air. From there they have to use the Martian wind for propulsion.
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[20:50] <~Dan> (Howdy, luc, MonkofLords!)
[20:50] <+catty_big> Another question: Ubiquity Space 1889 has come out recently, do you worry that it treads on HEX: RoM’s toes a little? I know S1889 is Steampunk and HEX 20s pulp, but there does seem to a bit of overlap.
[20:50] <+jcombos> Because of that the ships have sails above and below the deck line and tend to look a little like lion fish
[20:51] <+jcombos> Another good question, catty_big.
[20:51] <+catty_big> Hi MonkofLords!
[20:51] <+catty_big> Hi luc!
[20:52] <+jcombos> Ubiquity Space 1889 was done by my German licensee, who has been putting out HEX in Germany for a while. He managed to get the German license for Space 1889 and since he liked Ubiquity so much he asked me if I’d let him use it for the German version. Of course I said yes. Space 1889 is a classic!
[20:52] <+catty_big> Sorry Jeff, I don’t type very fast so there’s a bit of a timelag. Imagine I’m calling you on Inmarsat.
[20:53] <+jcombos> It wasn’t until later that he got the rights to produce it in English, and we even had Kickstarters that came out for both projects around the same time, but we thought there was enough difference between the two settings that it wouldn’t be a bad thing, but enough synergy that it could even be good.
[20:54] <+jcombos> We’re giving out a special adventure to people that backed both projects in fact.
[20:54] <~Dan> Some kind of crossover?
[20:55] <+catty_big> I played in a campaign of S1889 using the old GDW d6 system, which is clunky as hell IMO, so I’m very happy it’s now running on Ubiquity.
[20:55] <+jcombos> But Space 1889 is Victorian-era colonial exploration, and HEX is set in the late 1930’s, which is a little more action-adventure and has a different tone and very different villains.
[20:55] <+jcombos> (It’s more like to quickstart adventures, Dan. One for each setting.)
[20:55] <+catty_big> Yes, I can see that they compliment each other.
[20:55] <~Dan> Ah, gotcha.
[20:56] <+etaoinshrdlu> *oof*
[20:56] <+etaoinshrdlu> i’m so tired
[20:56] <+etaoinshrdlu> but i feel good
[20:56] <+jcombos> We wanted to do a little more with it, buy syncing the development schedules was nearly impossible.
[20:56] <~Dan> (Howdy, etaoinshrdlu!)
[20:56] <+etaoinshrdlu> (sorry! didn’t know Q&A was in progress!)
[20:56] <~Dan> (No problem!)
[20:57] <+jcombos> Did I answer your question about the sky pirates, Dan? I feel like I may have gotten off track there.
[20:58] <~Dan> A bit… What species are they, and how are their sky ships armed?
[20:58] <+catty_big> Yes I can see that, all the same I think I’d prefer Space powered by Ubiquity. Although it’s Victorian exploration, there’s enough action in it (if you want there to be) to make Ubiquity a reasonably good fit I feel.
[20:59] <+catty_big> We put a notice on the door etaoinshrdlu, but it must have fallen off.
[20:59] <+jcombos> I completely agree about Ubiquity being a good fit, and the fact that people have similar tastes but different preferences is exactly why we thought it was OK to have both out there. So far, it looks like we’ve been correct.
[21:00] <+jcombos> Honestly, I just love the fact that there is a Ubiquity version of Space 1889!
[21:00] <+catty_big> Ikr?
[21:00] <~Dan> That is pretty cool, having the game you designed used for a classic setting.
[21:00] <+jcombos> Getting back to Dan’s question…
[21:01] <+catty_big> Space pirates?
[21:02] <+jcombos> The sky pirates are lots of different species, but tend to be the outsiders of their species.
[21:03] <+catty_big> Sorry guys, I’m going to have to get some shut eye (it’s 3 am here). Thanks for inviting me Dan, and thanks Jeff for answering my questions. It was a pleasure chatting with you :).
[21:03] <+jcombos> Green skinned, four-armed dheva are often pilots of the vessels, and you’ve got some of the giant sauren out there, leading the boarding parties.
[21:03] <+jcombos> G’night, catty_big. Thanks for coming!
[21:03] <~Dan> Sleep well, catty_big!
[21:04] <~Dan> The log will be posted as usual. 🙂
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[21:04] <~Dan> (Howdy, Le_Squide!)
[21:04] <+catty_big> No worries, it was great being here. Dan, I’ll check the schedule for upcoming Q&As. Chat soon.
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[21:05] <~Dan> Yup!
[21:05] <+jcombos> There is also a race with dual brains that tend to be very reserved and logical, and I’ve been considering putting a right-brained version of them into Perils as a sample character.
[21:05] <+jcombos> Probably a quatermaster on a sky ship, I think.
[21:05] <~Dan> Are you of two minds on the subject?
[21:06] <+jcombos> It’s like my right hand and left hand don’t know what each other is doing.
[21:06] <~Dan> 😀
[21:07] <+jcombos> But yeah, I love me some sky pirates.
[21:07] <~Dan> Sorry if you were getting to this, but how are the ships armed?
[21:09] <+jcombos> They have cannons that operate similar to their smaller cousins, blasters. You load a special round into them, which is fired out and turns into a ball of plasma.
[21:09] <~Dan> Ah, very cool.
[21:09] <+jcombos> But because they work a little like a rail gun, you can load them with other kinds of shot too.
[21:10] <+jcombos> Which means you can take out sails with chain rounds, etc.
[21:10] * ~Dan nods
[21:10] <+jcombos> We call that “Ripper Shot”
[21:11] <~Dan> You know, I see an interesting dynamic with the state of science on HEX Mars compared to HEX Earth.
[21:11] <+jcombos> The plasma rounds are called Oridium Shot, and the clusters of projectiles are called Gravel Shot.
[21:11] * +etaoinshrdlu peeks in
[21:11] <~Dan> On HEX Earth, the super-tech is new. On HEX Mars, it’s ancient.
[21:12] <+etaoinshrdlu> safe to talk ?
[21:12] <~Dan> (Q&A still in progress, eta. 🙂 )
[21:12] <+jcombos> Exactly, Dan.
[21:12] <+etaoinshrdlu> (sorry! *shushes*)
[21:12] <~Dan> (You can talk in #rpgnet2, though!)
[21:13] <~Dan> Are the Perils adventures written with any particular types of characters in mind? Earthlings vs. Martians, visitors vs. castaways, etc.?
[21:13] <+jcombos> There’s basically three tech levels on Mars. The ancient stuff, which is miraculous Atlantean artifacts (similar to what can be found on HEX Earth).
[21:14] <+jcombos> Then there is the almost-there stuff like blasters and such, which is becoming less common as everything devolves into the third level, swords, bows, etc.
[21:14] <+jcombos> Yes, there are two Perils adventures aimed more at Earthlings and two aimed more at native Martians, but once you’re on the Red Planet, anything goes.
[21:16] <~Dan> For the ones aimed at Earthlings, do they have any assumptions built in on how they got to Mars?
[21:17] <+jcombos> One assumes they are abducted and wake up there, but that can easily be altered, and the other one assumes the tumble through an Atlantean portal, and that sort of thing could be thrown into an existing HEX game pretty easily.
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[21:17] <~Dan> (Howdy, dormouse_!)
[21:18] <~Dan> I see… So are there any allowances at all for linking the adventures?
[21:19] <+jcombos> Just like with Perils of the Surface World, each on is set up to stand alone, but since they all take place in the same world, you can link them.
[21:19] <~Dan> How difficult is it to do that, though?
[21:19] <+jcombos> I have some ideas for switching up how we do these adventures in the future, that would lend itself to linking and publishing a campaign trail, though.
[21:20] <+jcombos> I think it would be a bit easier for Perils of Mars than with Perils of the Surface World, since the events that take place are the kinds of things characters on Mars could get pulled into pretty easily.
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[21:21] <+jcombos> The Surface World adventures are a little more separate, since you might never go to Shanghai with your character, for example.
[21:22] <~Dan> Yeah, I can see that… In fact, I’d think that HEX Mars would have the makings of the same sort of sandbox that the Hollow Earth itself is.
[21:22] <~Dan> (Howdy, Xenesis!)
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[21:23] <+jcombos> Yes, they have that same “make what you want out of it”, although there are a few more tent poles on Mars.
[21:23] <~Dan> Meaning major points of interest?
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[21:25] <+jcombos> Yeah, we talk about major city-states and put them on the Mars map so people know where they are. We intentionally left the Hollow Earth map open so that people could decide where they wanted the Amazons to be, or hawkmen, etc.
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[21:26] <~Dan> Oh, I see… So you aren’t saying that there’s a whole lot of nothing between these tent poles? Just that they’re the obvious places to go?
[21:27] <+jcombos> Right. I mean, there’s a lot of Martian wasteland between those places, but it’s full of adventure and dangerous things!
[21:27] <~Dan> Good to know. 🙂
[21:28] <~Dan> You mentioned a trip to one of the Martian moons… How is that done, or can you say?
[21:29] <+jcombos> The group that gets abducted end up there.
[21:29] <+jcombos> But the how and why of it are going to be in the adventure.
[21:30] <+jcombos> (So I don’t want to spoil anything!)
[21:30] <~Dan> Fair enough. 🙂
[21:31] <~Dan> I think we may have touched on this previously, but is there any chance we’ll get to see what’s happening on Venus?
[21:32] <+jcombos> Ah yes, Venus. The planet of the Atlantean Priests.
[21:32] <~Dan> Yeah, that place.
[21:33] <+jcombos> Where Mars was the planet of Warriors, it’s the domain of entropy. The Priests went a little too far the other direction, and it’s a place where tiny deviations from accepted custom are huge deals.
[21:34] <+jcombos> I’m not sure if it would support an entire setting book, but we might explore it in adventures, I think.
[21:35] <~Dan> That would be cool.
[21:35] <+jcombos> But that could certainly change if people really want a book on Venus. 🙂
[21:35] * ~Dan really wants a book on Venus. 🙂
[21:35] <+jcombos> 🙂
[21:36] <~Dan> Let’s see… I’m trying to think of questions that won’t require spoilers here…
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[21:36] <~Dan> (wb, DebraHP!)
[21:37] <~Dan> Actually, can you say how you’ll be continuing the HEX line in general?
[21:37] <+jcombos> And I’m craving food. with all the Kickstarter things going on, I haven’t had a chance to eat dinner yet, so if you don’t mind. I’ll answer a final question or two and then go refuel.
[21:38] <+jcombos> Yes, I’d be happy to talk about the future of HEX.
[21:38] <~Dan> Oh, certainly!
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[21:38] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, Bigscaryprawn!)
[21:39] <+jcombos> Now that Mars is out, I’ve finally got the big swaths of the setting out. Keep in mind HEX is a game with *three* separate but connected worlds, so it took some time to get all that done.
[21:39] * ~Dan nods
[21:40] <~Dan> (You there, Bigscaryprawn? 🙂 )
[21:40] <+jcombos> There are a million stories to be told inside each one, so we’d like to continue doing that while I also take the opportunity to step back and look at how everything fits together. At some point, maybe sooner than later, it will be time to go back to the beginning and revamp things with an eye toward everything that exists in the game world.
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[21:41] <+jcombos> You won’t find references to Mars in the core rulebook, for example, but that might not be the case with a second edition of said rulebook, for example.
[21:41] <~Dan> (Howdy, FaerieGodfather!)
[21:41] <+Bigscaryprawn> I’m here, sorry, not sure how this all works. Just here to see.
[21:41] <+jcombos> So in general, I tell people that HEX is now complete but not done.
[21:42] <+jcombos> It has it’s shape but is not over.
[21:42] <~Dan> (Bigscaryprawn: No problem! 🙂 )
[21:42] <+jcombos> As long as there are Nazis to feed to dinosaurs, our work continues.
[21:42] <~Dan> A second edition, you say…?
[21:43] <+jcombos> Well, I can see that happening eventually, yes. 🙂
[21:44] <~Dan> 🙂
[21:44] <~Dan> Well, I should probably let you go seek out some nutrients. 🙂
[21:44] <+jcombos> Well, that’s a good place to leave you.
[21:44] <+jcombos> 🙂
[21:44] <~Dan> Is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention before we wrap up?
[21:45] <+jcombos> Thanks again for having me. It’s always fun to do these
[21:45] <~Dan> Absolutely! You know you’re always welcome.
[21:45] <+jcombos> I think we’ve covered a lot of ground, but if anyone has any additional questions, they can track me down on the Exile Game Studio page on Facebook or the Exile forums at (Link: http://www.exilegames.com.)www.exilegames.com.
[21:46] <~Dan> Good deal. 🙂
[21:46] <~Dan> Give me just a moment, and I’ll get you a link to the log, Jeff. 🙂
[21:46] <+jcombos> OK!