The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

On gaming authors

Posted By on November 29, 2013

Unlike fiction, there are few gaming authors where I even care who wrote the book. In general, you pick the game and buy the books for that game, and you trust that the line developers do their jobs and pick good authors.

There are two exceptions to this:

  • Monte Cook (and not just for D&D. He also did D20 Call of Cthulhu and a D20 World of Darkness)
  • Fred Hicks

This post is not about Monte.

I first learned of Fred’s work through a podcast – which one, I cannot say, as I don’t remember. They were talking about Spirit of the Century, which led me to his livejournal, and then his podcast.

I’ve also found his transparency over the years to be very interesting. He’s very forthcoming and seems to subscribe to the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that more people in the industry, making more products, makes more good products for people to buy.

As if to drive this point home, he talks about Diaspora and Starblazer Adventures where he comes down (slightly) preferring Diaspora, despite the fact that he did the layout for Starblazer Adventures. (He talks about it here as well).

I bought Diaspoa, BTW – it’s as awesome as he says. I hope to play it sometime. It takes Fate (though based on a previous version, Fate hasn’t changed that much between the two editions, and it doesn’t require the older core rules – it’s self contained) and mixes it with a hard SF edge that feels very much like Traveller (which, as an aside, if you liked the original Traveller, Marc Miller (the original author) has done a Traveller 5. I likely will never play it, since it’s very complicated and I don’t know of many players willing to stand for that much crunch, but that’s what’s great about Diaspora – it feels like that, but being so FATE-ish, it’s actually likely to be played).

But, anyway, back to Fred – I don’t mean to imply here that everything he touches turns to gold. However, if he is involved with or recommending a project, it’s definitely worth a look.

Oh, and the other thing is that he does layout as well as game design, and his layouts are really good. I haven’t paid a lot of attention to layout in the past but, more and more, I realize that it evokes a certain feeling when reading. Notable examples here are the 4th and 5th editions of Shadowrun and the revised Battletech core set (Total Warfare and its friends). The layout is both functional and aesthetic, and getting that right is quite a skill. Adam Jury‘s work is also excellent in this regard, and he did a lot of work on the aforementioned former-FASA properties, as well as Eclipse Phase, about which I will likely write in the future.

Anyway, for fans of the Hero system, Fred also did the layout on the Hero System 6th Edition.


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