GRADIENT DESCENT: Module for Mothership Sci-Fi Horror RPG

Created by Tuesday Knight Games

A brand new zine-sized module for the Mothership Sci-Fi horror RPG. Androids, AI, memory, and existential horror abound.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

First round of editing complete, layout and graphic design underway
7 months ago – Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 09:53:30 PM

Hey gang,

Work in Progress (Not Final)

With some minor bumps, we finished our first round of editing and we've moved into layout and graphic design. If you don't know anything about editing an RPG, there's a lot to know. Jarrett Crader is our editor and he does a fantastic job at keeping everything in line. The basic stuff you might know about editing an rpg is: They look for spelling errors or common mistakes in grammar, punctuation, usage. While they certainly do that, a good editor does much, much more.

  • Maps have to be checked to make sure all their references are correct, that the rooms they point to are the correct rooms both in the key and in reference to each other. For example if a map on one pages says "room A here connects to room B on page XX" then you have to check that the reference actually holds up when you flip to page XX.
  • Cutting and condensing text. This is a huge thing in Mothership, since we try to make our spreads so info dense. But a good editor will know the projected word count goals and work with the manuscript to shave off repetition, and read more clearly and concisely. 
  • Speaking of page numbers, that's a huge job and usually one we save for the very end. To make our books usable, they need a lot of references, editors have to check that those are correct.
  • Standardization of language and styling. Do we capitalize skills? What about game terms like "advantage"? Do we bold them? What's the proper way to say "Make a Sanity Save or gain 1d5 Stress?" All of this helps make the experience clean and clear for the reader. Same thing with stat blocks. If there's a standard way to list "Combat, Speed, Intellect, etc." then we should use that across the board to save cognitive load on the reader.
  • Examples, diagrams, math checking. In your system design, you need to make sure that all your example text is: a. accurate, b. using the latest form of the rules, and c. correct.
  • Ordering and information design. The graphic designer does a lot of the graphical information design, but a good editor will say "this information needs to be repeated in this section for clarity" or "this information should be group together with other similar info and moved to an appendix." They help make the manuscript make more sense.
  • Developmental editing contains much, much more. That's basically where the editor works with the manuscript and writer from the beginning, or close to the beginning, to help shape and craft where the writing goes, where to focus time and energy, and where to avoid common pitfalls, tropes, or cliches. 
  • Sensitivity reading is becoming more common and its a service that our editors both help fulfill and also help us to staff and hire. This is hugely important because it helps us get outside of our own heads and backgrounds and think about things from a different perspective. We have undoubtedly made our books better through this process.
Work in Progress (Not final)

The point is, if you write RPGs, editors are not glorified spell-checkers, they're a huge and vastly vital part of the entire process from start to finish and they will save you a lot of time, energy, money, and hassle and stop you from looking like a dumdum more often than not. Jarrett has done this time and time again for us and I couldn't thank him enough for his hard work and devotion.

Work in progress (not final)

Okay cool, but where are we at?

So! Jarrett just finished the first round of editing and passed it over to me (Sean) for layout and graphic design. I'll be doing a pass on this, and then kicking it back over to Jarrett for the second round of editing. I'm hoping to get a playtest document out to our playtesters later this month, and I've been running sessions on my own on Tuesdays. Nick Tofani has also started banging out illustrations and they're looking gorgeous.

Work in Progress (Not Final)

Sorry the backerkit is taking so long, we're searching for some shipping numbers and timelines so that we can get all the ordering data in there. We anticipate shipping in June being disrupted slightly, or majorly depending on what country you're in, but we do anticipate meeting our original deadline for completion and the beginning of fulfillment. 

Work in Progress (Not Final)

Anyways, that's all for now! We're working hard and staying safe as I hope you and your families are. Feel free to jump into the discord, we're running more and more online games and we need more people to help run games for new people as well.

And if you haven't heard, Stream of Blood did an amazing actual play this past Sunday that you should check out. Kickstarter sucks and won't let me embed this video for some reason, so here's the link:

https://youtu.be/avnuOedJYvo

Mapping the Megadungeon
8 months ago – Tue, Feb 18, 2020 at 09:30:42 PM

Hey gang,

One of the hardest parts about designing a megadungeon is how to transmit information to the Warden in an easy, accessible manner. This is tough because there's so much information in any regular module and in a megadungeon it can be overwhelming. Today I want to talk about a small portion of that: mapping.

Luke's Original map for Floor 3, map in Excel

It's super helpful if the writer includes a map with their key (though this doesn't always happen) because it means the layout artist can at least get started on SOMETHING. In Gradient's case, Luke had mad all of his maps in Excel (!). Above you can see the sprawling Floor 3, the biggest floor by far in the CLOUDBANK Synthetic Production Facility. It's about the size of all the other floors combined, with over a hundred rooms alone. 

This map was really helpful for visualizing what Luke was thinking (what WAS he thinking anyway?) when he keyed the floor. However, it's not great for making developmental changes. That's where a flowchart comes in handy.

The entire facility, laid out in Draw.io as a flowchart

Draw.io is SUPER handy for just this kind of thing as you can really quickly make flowcharts in a really easy to read manner. This map took me a few nights of work to make, but it was supremely worth it. Easy to read, easy to make notes on, there's just one problem...

It's HUGE

It's HUGE. Way too big to put in the inside front cover like we want. So we had to reduce things a little bit. It's nice having all the room names and the color coding (which obviously doesn't take up space) -- but we need something that a Warden can look at for a second and say "okay room 43a is 15 rooms away from 15k". They need to get a 30,000' foot view of the entire facility at a glance. After all, we're including mini maps throughout the entire module to reduce page flipping. So what does that mean? 

Reduction.

The entire facility reduced to fit on an 8.5x11" sheet of paper

We stripped every room down to it's number and shrunk the size of every box and tried to reduce space where possible, carefully avoiding our margins and gutters. It's not the most gorgeous thing to look at, but it's functional for showing a warden how everything connects.

And speaking of gorgeous.

Work in Progress (Not Final)

Now THAT'S more like it! It looks a little bit like a circuit board layout, which I like, and it fits in aesthetically with the rest of the module. Plus we've got some room for an encounter table or other content if we want. Plus it has that Mothership "they put so much information on this page with such tiny text I want to claw my eyes out" flare that we're so known for ;-)

Again, none of this is final, it still needs a lot of work to find the right compromise between usability, information, and aesthetics. But it's getting into a good place! And that's just for the overview map, each minimap will need to be carefully considered, as well as the grouping of which rooms go on what spread together. And finally, we'll want to create some player handout maps which is a whole other sideshow of information.

Anyways -- that's all for now! Backerkit is almost done, but finalizing some shipping numbers with our fulfillment company since it's incredibly hard to change after the fact.

New Manuscript Draft Complete, First Layout Pass Complete, Editing in Progress
9 months ago – Wed, Feb 12, 2020 at 12:50:49 AM

This post is for backers only. Please visit Kickstarter.com and log in to read.

Only 48 hours left! Hacking pamphlet unlocked! And a new (final?) Stretch Goal
10 months ago – Wed, Dec 18, 2019 at 12:24:59 PM

Whoa! Get ready to hack some terminals, cowboys!

Alright, Luke and I are pretty excited about this one. Hacking can be a super fun addition to your Mothership game (and even allow you to dip into some sweet slickworld cyberpunk adventures) and it doesn't have to slow everything to a crawl. We're excited to show you what we come up with.

There's only 48 hours left to back, and this next stretch goal is gonna be a fun one.

$65k Hive Mind Issue 02

This one's a bit a way, but if we make it, it'll be pretty great. Hive Mind Issue 01 debuted on the con circuit in 2019 and we're ready to sort out Issue 02. What is Hive Mind? Well it's a popular channel on our Discord where wardens such as yourselves can crowdsource the creation of awesome d10 lists! Issue 01 had custom classes, space pets, space drugs, stoways, awkward situations that occur when the gravity goes off -- in short, it had IT ALL!

If we hit this stretch goal, everyone who backs at the Print + PDF or Megabundle levels will get a physical copy of Hive Mind Issue 02 FOR FREE! We've got the amazing Evlyn Moreau on art again and check out the cover! In short, tell your friends so we can unlock this awesome stretch goal.

PDF Warden Screen Unlocked! One Week Left and a New Stretch Goal!
11 months ago – Wed, Dec 11, 2019 at 10:53:06 PM

Whoa! Sorry for the delayed update, dad-mode and the holidays have got me S W A M P E D!

That being said, we have no unlocked the PDF Warden Screen for Gradient Descent! A lot of you want it in Portrait as well as Landscape mode, so we'll see what we can do on that, no promises though.

In the meantime, we've got a brand new stretch goal -- a PDF pamphlet of expanded Hacking Rules for Mothership!

We've been wanting to do this for awhile, and we almost put it into the module itself, but instead opted awhile back to make as much room for the megadungeon as possible. However, with this stretch goal we'll release a printable 2-sided tri-fold pamphlet with our take on how to incorporate hacking into your game.

Hacking has always been a thorn in the side of cyberpunk and sci-fi gamers, often times amounting to just a solo game that the hacker player plays while everyone else just kind of sits around staring off into space.

Luke and I have worked hard on trying to solve this problem, both for the players and wardens, so that you can create meaningful choice, and explore the digital wasteland at a variety of different levels. We hope you dig it!