Benjamin Sperduto

Fantasy, Horror, & Science Fiction Author

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12/12 Vision

Most of you are probably familiar with the “12/12 Project”, my big undertaking for the year to play twelve new roleplaying games in the span of twelve months (speaking of which, be sure to subscribe to the podcast chronicling the endeavor). It’s been an interesting ride so far, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share some initial impressions after the first two months.

Scheduling: Remarkably, this hasn’t been nearly as challenging as I anticipated. The idea of managing a weekly roleplaying game group terrified me when I first decided to commit to the project.  In the past, I’ve usually defaulted to running bi-weekly sessions, but I’ve actually found that it’s more difficult to schedule games that way. When you only play every other week, the prospect of missing a week can be rather damaging to the overall momentum of the campaign. It’s very easy to suddenly go three or even four weeks without seeing the rest of the group. If you’re playing weekly and you’re forced to cancel a session, everyone is still pretty much eager to go the next week. The regularity of the weekly schedule also forces everyone to understand what they’re committing to. Bi-weekly games really aren’t that much less of a commitment; they just sound like they’d be easier to schedule around. Very often, players (or GMs) agree to a bi-weekly game but then start missing sessions frequently because their schedule can’t actually accommodate playing in an ongoing campaign. Weekly sessions force them to be more honest with what they can handle.

Continuity: When I laid out the basic schedule for the “12/12 Project”, I anticipated running three sessions of each game as loosely connected “one shot” adventures. What I found out very quickly, however, was that this approach made it very difficult for players to feel any kind of narrative or character continuity. Given the time constraints, I have to get them to the action fairly quickly, which means the hours of character building roleplaying I typically incorporate into my games is getting left on the cutting room floor. While that’s all well and good when you’re trying to test out the mechanical aspects of a game system, it creates a big problem for social interaction and roleplaying. In many cases, the players just don’t have enough of an opportunity to develop their characters as living, breathing people with motivations and distinct personalities. I think this is a fixable problem, but it’s one I didn’t originally anticipate and it cause me a lot of headaches in the first two games we’ve run.

Adaptability: So far, picking up new games has been a relatively painless process. We’ve been helped out in this regard by the fact that I had some familiarity with the Warhammer 40k family of rpgs before we played Deathwatch. Furthermore, the second game we played, Dragon Age, has a fairly simple rules system that’s easy to pick up. Devoting an entire session to character creation helps this process a great deal because players get to see how characters are constructed and understand how their stats interact with the game’s mechanics. I expect some games later down the line will make this more difficult (looking at you, Cthulhutech), but so far this has been a welcome surprise.

Buy-in: One of the problems lingering in the back of my head as we embarked upon this journey was the fear that players wouldn’t like switching to different games just when they started getting the hang of the current game. In fact, one player I was hoping to include decided not to participate precisely because he didn’t want to have to learn a new game system every month. Fortunately, this hasn’t been an issue so far. Everyone enjoyed Deathwatch, our game for January, but they wound up liking Dragon Age even more. Now, there’s no guarantee this will continue. Sooner or later, we’re bound to play a game that isn’t as well liked as some, or maybe even any, of our previous games. But at this point, I think it was helpful for the players to see that there are a lot of great games out there and if you never give them a chance, you might be missing out on something awesome.

Unexpected Challenges: The biggest problem I’ve encountered so far have to do with striking the right difficulty balance as a GM. Most games provide guidelines for appropriate challenges for characters at various power levels, but there are a lot of things you just don’t know about setting up encounters until you’ve run the game several times. I’ve made a LOT of mistakes in this area so far, whether it was setting up encounters that were far too difficult for the players or failing to provide a meaningful challenge at all. In a long-term campaign, this isn’t much of a problem. As a GM, you figure out what players can handle pretty quickly and you can course correct provided no other factors change. When we played Dragon Age, however, we made the decision to play each session at a drastically different power level in order to experience more of the game system. The first jump, from level 1 to level 6 wasn’t too bad, but the jump from level 6 to level 16 was simply too much for me to compensate for as a GM. Had we played a long term game and gone through levels 1-15, it would have been pretty easy to anticipate what challenges would be appropriate for a party of level 16 characters. The ten level jump, however, left me guessing, and it wound up producing a situation that wasn’t all that difficult for them to deal with. Everyone had fun, but it definitely revealed one of the challenges of this approach to gaming.

We’re moving on next week to Exile Game Studio’s pulp adventure rpg Hollow Earth Expedition. It will be a fun change of pace after a far future sci-fi game and a medieval fantasy game, so I’m looking forward to running it. If you want to know more about the “12/12 Project”, be sure to join our Google+ page and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. I’m looking to expand the podcast’s focus a bit in the coming weeks, so be sure to subscribe if you want to stay up to date.

 

“Distant Worlds” Short Story Collection

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time, but this weekend I finally got around to compiling several of my published short stories into a single volume. Distant Worlds features seventeen complete short stories, including two exclusive, unpublished stories you can’t find anywhere else. The best part is that you can get this pdf collection for free simply by signing up with my author updates email list. In addition to the pdf, you’ll get updates on new releases and book events. You’ll also receive a free copy of Chronicle, a music sampler containing twelve tracks from the first six Morana’s Breath releases.

Sign up now for email updates to get your free copies of Distant Worlds and Chronicle!

  

“Lena’s Song”: A Short Story Reinterpreted

A few years ago, shortly after completing my first novel, I tinkered around with the idea of writing stories in the cyberpunk genre. I’d written mostly fantasy and horror up to that point, so cyberpunk seemed like a fun alternative. While I knew a fair bit about the genre, I wanted to try doing something a bit different. My first attempt was a story entitled “The First Price,” which appeared in the Dystopian Express anthology (Hydra Publications, 2015).  The story provided only the vaguest hints of a setting, but it intrigued me enough to write another story that took place in the same futuristic city. That second story, which followed the efforts of an ambitious young guitar player to impress the audience at her first gig, became “Lena’s Song,” which appears in Darkscapes, a new anthology from Curiosity Quills Press.

Since music plays such a central role in the story, I thought it would be cool to write a Morana’s Breath song that tied in with the story for the album I was working on at the time (the cyberpunk-themed Cybergothic).  A little less than a year ago, I tried to get a new band project off the ground by writing and recording about a dozen songs. The band never quite came together, but one of the songs had a great guitar part that really stuck with me. When I started throwing ideas around for a musical interpretation of “Lena’s Song,” I decided to include that guitar part in the new song. The original song (an alternative rock song entitled “The Cure”) featured all live instruments with the exception of the drums. To transform it into a Morana’s Breath song, I reworked the bass and rhythm sections around the guitar with electronic instruments and then added in a new synthesizer melody to give it more of a cyberpunk edge.

I think it turned out pretty good, capturing a lot of the spirit of the short story. If you want to check out the final results, I’ve posted a link below to view the song on YouTube. Feel free to leave comments if you enjoy and be sure to check out “Lena’s Song” in Darkscapes! You might also want to check out the Morana’s Breath album Cybergothic, which features not only “Lena’s Song,” but also a musical interpretation of my other cyberpunk story, “The First Price.”

Darkscapes Anthology Now Available on Amazon

Darkscapes, a new anthology from Curiosity Quills Press, was released on Amazon last week. It is currently only available in Kindle ebook format, but print copies will be available soon. The anthology features my short story, “Lena’s Song,” as well as stories by bestselling authors J.R. Rain and Piers Anthony. Here’s a full description from the publisher:

“Curiosity Quills Press explores yearning, regret, and fear with the Darkscapes Anthology — a spellbinding collection of dark fantasy, sci-fi, cyberpunk, horror, and detective fiction. Delve into worlds of terrible family secrets, unexpected doppelgängers, a home invasion on an alien planet, androids and assassins, places and people who aren’t as stable as they seem, frustrated musicians going to desperate lengths — and more.”

Darkscapes available now on Amazon Kindle

And if you’re fond of horror stories, be sure to also check out Dark Horizons, an anthology of dark science fiction from Elder Signs Press.

Dark Horizons available now on Amazon (Kindle and trade paperback)

12/12 Project Podcast Available on iTunes

I’ve posted elsewhere on the site about my new roleplaying game group and its effort to play 12 games in 12 months. We’re doing a podcast in conjunction with the endeavor and the first two episodes went live yesterday. Click on the link below to check it out! Be sure to subscribe and leave a review if you enjoy it. We’ll be trying to do at least one episode per week, but the format won’t always be the same.

Listen to Episode 0 and Episode 1 here!

If you have a technological or philosophical aversion to iTunes, you can listen to the same episodes on SoundCloud here.

I may try to get around listing them on another podcast service like Stitcher, but I’m sticking to what I know for the moment.

Email List Update

I recently changed the free story people receive for signing up with the email mailing list, but after thinking about it for a bit, I decided to make another change. Offering a free short story seemed a bit underwhelming, so instead I decided to combine  two novelettes into a single volume and provide it to new signups. Now when you sign up for the email list, you get a pdf of The 88th Floor and The Wolf Queen.

“Darkscapes” Anthology Artwork Reveal

Curiosity Quills Press recently revealed the cover for their upcoming anthology Darkscapes. As is so often the case with CQ, the design by Eugene Teplitsky (who also did the cover for The Walls of Dalgorod) is fantastic.  The anthology is scheduled for release on January 31. There’s a pretty detailed rundown of the contents on the CQ website, so click on the image below if you want to have a preview. My short story, “Lena’s Song,” is a cyberpunk tale about an aspiring musician looking for her first big break.

 

Last Chance to Snag a Copy of “Don’t Open Till Doomsday”!

Unfortunately, I just came across the announcement that PunksWritePoems Press has decided to close up shop and cease operations. Their online store is already closed, but you can still pick up a copy of the anthology “Don’t Open Till Doomsday” on Amazon through the end of January 2017. My short story “Mira” appears in this volume, and I’m not sure if it will be back in print anytime soon. Get it while you can!

New Email Signup List Offer

To commemorate the new website launch, I’ve added an updated email signup link for anyone wanting semi-regular updates on new releases and events. By signing up for email updates, you also get a free e-copy of an unreleased short story entitled “A Most Refined Taste.” A gothic fantasy story written several years ago, it’s always been one of my favorites and I’m excited to share it with everyone (though I should let you know that it’s definitely a tale for adults!). To join the email list, you can either click on the signup link on the sidebar (or at the bottom of the page if you’re using a mobile device) or simply click the image below.

 

 

New Website Up and Running

So, as you can no doubt see, I have the new website up and running. It’s pretty basic right now, but seeing as how this was my first stab at using WordPress, I didn’t want to try to get too crazy with the design. I’ve included menu links to the publications page and Morana’s Breath discography; all of the hypertext links should be working as well. There’s also a new entry for something called the 12/12 Project, which I’ll be providing more detail for later. I saved some of the more worthwhile posts on my old website and I’m going to post them here eventually, but I haven’t decided if I want to do it all at once or parcel it out a bit at a time.

So far I have a Twitter link integrated, but I haven’t set up anything for the mailing list, Facebook, or Google+. When I activated the Facebook plug-in, the website crashed, so I need to take some time to figure out why that happened and how to avoid it in the future.

That’s the state of things at the moment. I actually have some writing news to announce, but I’ll save that for a dedicated post later today or tomorrow. Hope everyone enjoys the new site!

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