My plans for new TSOY products

Started by Eero Tuovinen, May 06, 2008, 08:30:36 AM

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Eero Tuovinen

A while back Clinton R. Nixon, the creator of The Shadow of Yesterday and other fine games, decided to curtail his involvement in the online rpg scene. Here's the thread about it. As I understand it, the reason was a wish to move more towards being a hobbyist and less a semi-professional game writer. I asked Clinton about his future plans, at which point he told me that he's hoping to find somebody to continue publishing TSoY for him - keeping it available has value in itself even while Clinton doesn't feel like continuing to support the game personally.

Now, as some of you might remember, I've been hot to trod with TSoY for a while, now. I proposed to Clinton (actually, he might have been doing the proposing, can't remember) that I might well be interested in publishing TSoY and answering any rules questions and such people might have about the game. My only reservation was that I wasn't particularly interested in doing the faithful custodian bit if it meant doing a lot of publishing work and putting out my own money - if I were going to edit and print a new version of the game, I wanted to do it solely according to my own vision, without looking back to how Clinton'd do it. Clinton didn't have anything against this, large-hearted individual that he is, so we decided to proceed with the plan.

The news

I'm going to publish a new edition of The Shadow of Yesterday in two parts. The first part, Solar System, will be a generic rules-set for dramatic adventure, detached from any particular setting. It will include a slightly generalized and updated version of the Solar System as we know it, as well as methodology and advice for adapting the system to different settings. The current plan is to make the Solar System a cheap-ish saddle-stitched booklet in letter size, but we'll see how it develops in writing. The production schedule is a bit tough, as I'm planning to release at Gencon, but I'm confident that we can make it, as I'm not exactly a stranger to the rules-set.

The second part of the game, The Shadow of Yesterday, is the campaign setting of Near after the Skyfire, familiar from Clinton's edition. I'm going to expand the text in different directions, add rules and setting writing and do other kinds of interesting things with this. I'm currently visualizing this as a 100-150 page perfect bound letter size book, but we'll see how expansive it needs to be to fulfill it's primary goal of providing a ready-made array of background and situation suitable for numerous campaigns set in the same world. This is a considerably more ambitious book than Solar System, above, so I'm really anticipating it for Christmas at the soonest. Who knows, though, how much time I have for writing this stuff as the year progresses.

The reasoning

The reasoning behind the above plan is many-fold. The agenda in separating the rules and the setting into separate books is simply that I'd like to see if I could encourage others to publish their Solar System material as well in greater droves than before. Perhaps a separate rules product will make that easier. Another angle is that the relatively cheap Solar System booklet is easy to get for new players - we'll see how cheap I can make it, but I'm kinda thinking of selling it in bundles so every player can have his own.

From the setting side of the equation removing the need to have the rules in the same book means that the book is easier to use as reference; people don't usually need to refer to the Solar System rules while playing, so for reference purposes the rules stuff is just in the way when you're trying to find anything in the book. The reason for making a larger book than indies normally are is here as well: I'd like to sort the setting book into a layout that allows easy flipping and finding pertinent spots as necessary. I'm a bit non-happy with the format of the game in this regard as it currently stands.


If there's some fatal flaw in my overall plan here, by all means point it out. I like the idea of doing separate books and rewriting the text to better fit my vision, but I can imagine how some might consider that sort of updating unnecessary - there is nothing fundamentally wrong with The Shadow of Yesterday as it is, so in many ways my new version might not be that much better. I'm hoping that I will be able to add more depth into the game due to having several years of collective experience to tap on at this point, but the results remain to be seen.

In practice I'd like to communicate a lot with other TSoY fans about my writing, just to validate my thinking and to find out what others would like to see in books like this. I'm planning to start a number of threads about the topic here at the Forge this month, but I'd also appreciate any hints anybody might have about interesting work others are doing or have done with TSoY. For example, I seem to remember that Matt Snyder was doing something with the Solar System a while back, but I haven't heard anything of it lately - if you happen to know about other interesting activity, I'd love to hook up and compare notes with others.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


The idea sounds good! Will you offer a logo to show compatibility with Solar System, so that Setting designers can easily reference it?

Steve Segedy


I think this is a great direction, and I'm glad to see you taking the lead on it.  I'd be happy to offer suggestions on breaking out the core rules from the Near setting, and expanding them to work best with a variety of settings.  Jason and I have done a lot of setting work with the TSOY rules, so its very possible that some of that material could be tightened up and published along with your changes.

From a product point of view, I'd suggest trying to match the two books in terms of form factor and style- perhaps even making them perfect-bound with a spine title, if the page count allows for it.  It would be nice if they looked like a set (possibly along with other setting books), in much the same way that the Burning Wheel books go together. 
The Shab-al-Hiri Roach and Grey Ranks, available now at IPR!


I think this is great news!  I've been wanting pure system book for the Solar System for a long time.  I agree that it would be nice if the the system book and the setting book formed a visually coherent set, although I could certainly live with out it. And Eero, don't waste a moment of regret over editing and polishing the system to bring it in line with your vision.  There is nothing sacred about the rules as they stand, and compromising your vision will only lead to a purer product in the long run.



Hah, I just noticed my strange Freudian slip:

"compromising your vision will only lead to a purer product"

...should have read...

"compromising your vision will only lead to a POORER product"

Per Fischer

Solar System Does Matter!

Nice going, Eero. I converted Solar System 1st edition as the system for a Danish modern detective game - didn't quite finish it as the 2nd edition of TSOY came out and I never got around to update it.

Like the idea of separating the Solar System in a book of its own and look forward to your design threads
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


This sounds like a great idea- will you be expanding on both the rules and the setting?

Eero Tuovinen

Yeah, I might well create a cool-looking logo for anybody and everybody to use for signifying Solar System compatibility. A heraldic sun thingy most likely or something like that. Making the books match each other is also a given, although the exact formats will obviously depend a bit on how lengthy I wax in writing - I already am surprisingly long-winded in writing the Solar System rules, hopefully in a good way, as I put down all my wisdom and hints on how the rules are best approached. There are some pretty smart bits in there, I hope.

Actually the one design issue I'm most wary of at this point is a certain temptation to make the books long just for the sake of looking impressive, getting titled spines and so on. I think that the setting book can reasonably be pretty extensive and justifiedly so, but I'm willing to see how long the rulebook becomes without trying to force it. Certainly I could add length to the rules part by putting in mucho crunch - actually, any opinions on that? My basic plan at this point is to try to keep a rein on the Solar System book length by putting in just the absolute minimum amount of crunch, but there is some merit in including more of that and thus making the book larger and more expensive as well. To my eye this actually depends greatly on how short I can make the book in all - if I could make it just 50 pages or so, then I'd be rather attracted to printing it as a super-cheap booklet and selling it at $5 or so. That'd certainly be the best value for the money for any given reader, as crunch is in many ways so setting dependant in the Solar System. The other option, I guess, is to put in lots of generic crunch and mini-campaign ideas and such to better support play with just that one book, with a pricepoint somewhere considerably higher. That would be reasonable if it starts to look like I have reason to extend the rules/advice material to the range of 80 pages, for example - then it's a short step to add some crunch and make a perfect bound book with a spine and all.

I wrote a bit about my recent playtest of material for the new book here. Comments and questions are welcome - I especially invite anybody to share their experiences with the issues I raise, as there is certainly a lot of TSOY experience and opinion on these forums. I'll try to post some other points about my writing later as well, when I get my chicks lined up - I'm having hell of a time writing this Solar System book at the same time as I'm figuring out the logistics of producing my own zombie game for Gencon.

Also, Willow: I'm certainly expanding and rewriting in both parts. Looking at that thread from February will give a sense of where I'm at concerning the setting book - those ideas are pretty applicable still. The rules part is still a bit of a mystery, partially because I'm researching and discarding options while writing, but some new stuff will certainly be there. The above thread should give a pretty good sense of how I'm approaching rewriting the rules.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


My gut reaction is to say steer away from crunch for the sake of crunch.  However it would be cool if there was something that a purchasers could sit down and play with just the basic Solar System book all by itself.  One thought that springs to mind is to include something like John Harper's excellent Freebooters adventure in the basic rules booklet. (You'll have to ask John if he is up for that, I'm talking through my hat here).  Anyway it would give people an example of applied crunch, but without the baggage of a full blown setting.


Let me join my voice to the choir:

stand-alone Solar System book = awesome.

That's one of the open systems out there I would love to provide support for, and such a book will only make it easier for more gamers to get into it.

Looking forward to your projects.

The Tweaker

I did not know anything about this new generic Solar System implementation, but I am really excited about it. Will it be available as a PDF?


  I can't think of a better successor. I have a few questions though:
1) Will you be staying with fudge dice or?
2) Are you going to do a total re-write, try and clean up the verbage?
3) What is the one thing you will be making the most changes in?
  Thanks for taking on this on, if there is anything I can do to help, let me know.
Dave M
Dave M
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Eero Tuovinen

For publishing an electronic version, I was thinking of putting it up as a HTML page - could even ask Clinton if he'd mind including the new Solar System in his TSOY wiki. I imagine some kind of electronic version is going to happen after we get the game done in book form, assuming I survive Gencon.

We're going to continue with the Fudge dice, certainly. In general, the basics of the rules system are not going to change much at all - the changes will be primarily in GMing advice and some subsystem implementations. I'm rewriting the text itself, there will be no copy-pasting from Clinton at all, really - The Solar System generic rulebook is a different enough project to warrant a reorganization of the material, anyway. At this point it seems that I'm writing in a bit more extensive style than Clinton, but we'll see what remains after I get to editing the text mass.

The most changes will happen in the setting book, it'll be written with a radically different purpose in mind. But speaking for the Solar System, the biggest single change is probably the Effect rule I describe in that other thread. Or perhaps the biggest change is the shifted focus of the text: the Solar System book will strive to be more of a cone-like toolbox where you can pick and choose between some slight variant rules for the purposes of your specific campaign. Thus stuff like equipment ratings might be handled the way they are in TSoY, or in some different manner, depending on what kind of impact the players want equipment to have in their setting. In general I'm trying to distill the Solar System into its generic form to give more free rein to customization on a per-campaign basis. Some of this stuff was already in Clinton's version, such as choosing the rate of character advancement, while other optional variants will be new.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

The Tweaker

Thanks for the information, Eero. I am looking forward for the new Solar System!