Berin Kinsman’s Kaiju Patrol RPG

Berin Kinsman's Kaiju Patrol

Preorder now at this special price! The full game, now in layout and estimated at around 200 pages, will be available on November 22, 2014!

When the Futurons from Golden Planet 713 invade the Earth, they use giant monsters under control to bring chaos and destruction to cities all over the world! Only fearless members of the Patrol can save the day!

Berin Kinsman’s Kaiju Patrol

Berin Kinsman’s Kaiju Patrol is inspired by Japanese tokusatsu programs, live-action special effects films and television shows. If you love Godzilla, Ultraman, Giant Robo, Power Rangers, or any similar science fiction epics along those lines, this game is for you!

Be a henshin hero! Be a kyodai hero! Pilot a flying sub! Ride in a giant robot! Battle daikaiju! Fight evil alien invaders!

Berin Kinsman’s Kaiju Patrol™: Introduction

Berin Kinsman's Kaiju Patrol™When I was a kid, my absolute favorite show in the world was Ultraman. For a period of time, at least; children are notoriously fickle about these things. I would run home from school, because it started only a few minutes after class let out. There were moments of heartbreak when the teacher would want to talk to me about something, or a friend would want to chat or play, or the ice and snow of Pennsylvania winters made it nigh unto impossible to literally run on the slick and slushy sidewalks. My heart would sink if I thought I was going to miss even a few precious seconds of that day’s invariably thrilling episode.

After the show was over I’d run outside and meet my friend Jimmy, the kid up the street who shared my enthusiasm and who’d been inside his own house watching. We’d talk about the episode we’d just seen, and act out our favorite scenes, taking turns being Hiyata and Ultraman and the monster of the day. This is what we did in those decades before the internet, or even personal computers.

Ultraman was my first exposure to anything related to Japanese pop culture. Soon after, my TV would bring me Astro Boy and Marine Boy and 8th Man, all of which would, for some brief, fleeting moment, be my favorite TV show. It would still be a few years before I saw my first Godzilla film, which my young, naive mind thought was some sort of rip-off. I’d be in high school before I heard the word “anime” rather than just “Japanese cartoons” or the somehow offensive and always grating-to-my-ears term “japanimation.”

It was also one of my earliest exposures to science fiction in general, as well as pulpish fantasy-adventures. A team of people working together to defeat some weird menace? That’s some Doc Savage (and, later, Buckaroo Banzai) stuff right there. Cool vehicles and gadgets? Move over, James Bond and the rest of the 60s spy-fi genre. Cool uniforms? Star Trek had nothing over orange jumpsuits with ties and helmets with antennas. Ultraman opened up my mind and made me receptive to all sorts of other geekish delights.

As with my previous game Starship Tyche™, I’m wide open about what the influences on Berin Kinsman’s Kaiju Patrol™ are. It’s a little homage, a bit of pastiche, but really just taking a similar premise and running with it, seeing what I could come up with that played on similar tropes but resulted in something that would be satisfying to me as an adult. It’s perfect fodder for a tabletop rolelaying game. Whether you’re familiar with the same source material that tickled me as a kid, or just groove on kaiju, sentai, and other giant monsters/giant robots subgenres, I hope you’ll have as much fun playing this as I did writing it.

You can preorder Berin Kinsman’s Kaiju Patrol™ now for only $10.

Kaiju North Korea Style: Pulgasari

Berin Kinsman's Kaiju Patrol™This is a film I’ve wanted to see for a while, and I found this full version with English subtitles on YouTube. It’s probably not strictly legal, but I also don’t think anyone will take a DMCA claim from North Korea seriously.

You see, back in 1978 Kim Jong-Il had South Korean filmmaker Shin Sang-ok kidnapped so that he could make propaganda films. Kim was also a kaiju fan, so in 1985 he made Shin direct this. Where Godzilla was a metaphor for nuclear power, Pulgasari is supposed to be a metaphor for unchecked capitalism in the west or something. It’s an enjoyably weird film.

Surprisingly, Toho was actually subcontracted to do the visual effects, and Kenpachiro Satsuma, who was in the Godzilla suit from 1984 to 1995, played Pulgasari. All of those people were free to leave North Korea after production wrapped. Shin eventually escaped and ended up in America, where he oversaw some 3 Ninjas sequels and then died (there is probably no correlation between that franchise and his death, but wouldn’t it be fun to speculate that there was?).

The thing that I like about Pulgasari — and it’s really not as bad as some other reviews would lead you to believe — is that it’s not a contemporary story. It’s set in feudal Korea. The local lord, a real Prince John type, is oppressive the farmer-villagers. They call upon Pulgasari, who appears to help them rise up against their oppressor. The monster starts small, baby-sized in fact, but grows as he eats metal. In the context of the film, I think “eating metal” is supposed to represent the people controlling the means o production. He finally reaches daikaju size and… well, watch for yourself.

Of course my story (and I’m sticking to it) is that I had to watch this film as research for Berin Kinsman’s Kaiju Patrol™, the tokusatsu tabletop roleplaying game power by Fate that you can preorder now for only $10.

BERIN KINSMAN’S KAIJU PATROL™: Did you see this?

Berin Kinsman's Kaiju Patrol™Over the weekend the preorder for our next game reached #3 on DriveThruRPG’s Hottest Small Press titles! Woohoo! The buzz around this game, and the free preview PDF featuring 12 sample characters, has been nothing but positive!

Most importantly, I wanted to make sure you saw this:

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/139656/Berin-Kinsmans-Kaiju-Patrol

Preorder BERIN KINSMAN’S KAIJU PATROL™ now and save 50% off the suggested retail price.

If you like any sort of Japanese tokusatsu entertainment, from daikaiju films like Godzilla and Gamera, to super sentai like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, to kyodai heroes like Ultraman, you’ve got to check out this game. Even if you don’t know what some of the words in the previous sentance mean, but you like giant robots, mecha, and guys in rubber monster suits, you’re going to have fun with this. And it’s powered by Asparagus Jumpsuit’s own version of Fate Accelerated, which means it’s easy for new players and casual gamers to learn but open enough for experienced players to exercise their creativity.

So get it now while you can:

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/139656/Berin-Kinsmans-Kaiju-Patrol

This price won’t be available much longer, so I would grab your copy now while it’s still fresh in your mind.

 

Berin Kinsman’s Kaiju Patrol™: A Word About Cultural Appropriation

Berin Kinsman's Kaiju Patrol™

It’s important for me to include this caveat about tokusatu and kaiju entertainment. I am aware that I am a white American writing about Japanese pop culture, and that there is subtlety and nuance to that culture that I do not understand because I lack the context. My intention with this game is to pay homage to my own happy childhood memories, where cool Japanese science fiction/superhero TV shows and movies intersected with my life. I have done my best to avoid any offensive stereotypes as I understand them, to broaden the scope to be inclusive of other cultures so that this is not just a knockoff of “some Japanese thing,” and to honor the spirit of the original material that has served as my inspiration.

Kaiju and Culture

In return I ask that you please read this game in the light in which it was intended. If I get something egregiously wrong, or inadvertently make a misstep, please contact me and I will do m best to correct any offending passages. I want everyone to be able to play this game and have fun without feeling insulted or marginalized in any way.

You can preorder Berin Kinsman’s Kaiju Patrol™ now for only $10.

I Am Officially Done With School (for now)

education-graduationEducation is not preparation for life; education is life itself.

-John Dewey

Technically, today is my official graduation date. I finished my final exams weeks ago. I am still waiting for my final grades, which I won’t get until this coming Wednesday. It will take 6 to 8 weeks for my diploma to catch up to me here in Finland, because (again, technically) I’ve graduated from a campus located in Chicago.  But it’s over. It’s done. I now have a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a Specialization in Entrepreneurship.

(Coincidentally, today is also Father’s Day in Finland. It’s funny, because in the United States all of the “dads and grads” stuff happens together in June.)

When I started this degree program, I said that I didn’t care about the piece of paper. I did it to gain practical knowledge so I could better run my own business. That’s still largely true; Asparagus Jumpsuit has been my live lab, and is now our primary source of income. It’s about what I do with these skills, not the time I’ve served acquiring them. Still, there is a sense of satisfaction to having that reminder that you’ve accomplished something significant.

Obviously, I won’t be attending the convocation. Katie and I won’t be doing anything special today; we’re combining my graduation with my birthday, which is this coming Thursday. As usual, I don’t want a party, and plan to just have a quiet dinner with my gorgeous and talented wife.

Group Project Survival Guide

Group ProjectsGroup projects in school are ridiculous ventures. They bear no resemblance to how the real world works. In a business, there would be a project manager who is ultimately responsible for things getting done, with the authority to put a boot in the ass of people not pulling their own weight. In a class, it’s all a matter of consensus with the only consequences coming down on the people who care about their grades. Now that I’m done with school, I can reveal how I’ve managed to survive group projects without killing anyone. I did it without having to do all of the work while also having to share credit with people who contributed little or nothing to the process. Most importantly, I got good grades.

Group Projects Made Easy

Warning: Some of this will require you to be a blatant scumbag. Better to be a jerk than to have your academic career sabotaged by someone else’s poor work ethic, right?

1. Get In Early

People procrastinate on group projects. I capitalized on that by jumping in as soon as the group is assigned. If we have to choose a topic, I pick one. I pitch an angle or approach, and propose a division of labor. Then I claim the part I want to do.

99% of the time no one will argue. They don’t want to have to make a decision and are happy that someone else has made one, even if they don’t like it. I heard “just tell me what I need to do” a lot. You can now work on your piece independently and mostly ignore the rest of the group.

2. Establish Your Alibi

Make it clear up front that you can’t be the group leader. You have a conflict the last few days of the project. You will not be able to give the presentation, edit the paper, compile the PowerPoint slides, whatever the wrap-up entails.

Establish this as soon as possible, so everyone knows far, far in advanced that at some point you’ll fall of the face of the Earth. Let them know that that’s why you jumped in early (step 1) with such enthusiasm to get started ASAP.

It doesn’t matter if you actually have something going on or not. Just lie. You have a doctor’s appointment that it took you months to get. You have an out-of-town wedding. You have non-refundable plane tickets for a vacation your parents/significant other booked ages ago.

3. Ask the Instructor a Lot of Questions

In addition to letting the instructor know that you’ll be unavailable, ask a lot of questions about the piece of the project you’ve claimed. Let her know that your group has decided on a topic and an approach, that you’re doing this part, and you want to know… something.

Make it a good question, a legitimate question, but the answer isn’t the point. The idea is to let your instructor know that you’re engaged in the project, working hard, and both feeling guilty and being conscientious about that scheduling conflict. You’re making an impression that will stick when it comes time to grade the group projects.

 4. Participate in Group Discussions

Show up, but do not lead or organize any more than you already have. You’e already got the group going by picking the topic and proposing the division of labor.  Let them do the rest. Share what you’ve done, offer suggestions on other pieces, but remain at arms length without looking like you’re trying to remain at a distance.

5. Turn In Your Piece, Then Vanish

Get it done and hand it over to the group. CC your instructor “just in case,” since you’ll be incommunicado and want to make sure your portion doesn’t get lost. Make a show of being conscientious, because you don’t want to leave anyone in the lurch since they won’t be able to reach you. You want to make absolutely sure you’re not letting anyone down because they have your part.

Then disappear. Bail out completely. Don’t show up, don’t answer texts or emails, simply vanish. You led, you participated, you did your fair share. Now bolt before it can fall apart and you end up having to carry the slackers.

6. Collect Your Just Reward

Nearly every single time I’ve done this, I have received an individual grade based on my effort separate from the group grade. If the overall project sucked, and the other team members got a bad grade, I came out ahead. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to grade me on the finished project because I wasn’t there.

Once, the group never finished the project and turned nothing in, and they all failed, but I got an A because my individual portion was good in spite of my tragic circumstances. I think that week I had three dead grandmothers and my city burned down following a kaiju attack or something.

7. Feel No Guilt

Look, you really did do your fair share. What’s unfair is that you should be graded based on the quality of the work done (or left undone) by others. What’s unfair is that other people who don’t contribute, or whose contributions aren’t all that great, should get a better grade because you did great work.

The other members of the group had every opportunity to participate. You haven’t thrown anyone under the bus. I did not deny them the opportunity to do the work. I did not do anything to keep the group from success. I simply protected myself.

 

Author vs. Writer: Does It Matter?

mindfulness self-careFrom the “strange hangups of mine” department: I have a greater comfort level with calling myself a writer than have with naming myself an author. Everyone writes. School children write. People who say they want to be writers often writer. Authors, well, they have a title of sorts. They have some gravitas. They’re writers with authority. One must either be anointed by some official body or be filled with an awful lot of hubris to call one’s self an author, surely.

Author, Writer, What’s the Difference?

From all of the definitions I have read and all of the discussions I have had and/or mulled over, it seems to be a matter of tense. A writer writes. An author has written. I am writing my current word in progress; I have written the articles and books that are completed and available for sale.

Some also throw publication in there as a differentiator. If you write but all your words stay on your computer, you’re a writer. If it sees the light of day, you’re an author. Others add a money qualifier in there; if you’ve been paid to write, you can call yourself an author. I see it as the same argument about who gets to be called a professional writer or not. Some think you have to be writing full time and making a living at it to call yourself a pro; I think if you’re getting paid, even occasionally, you can call yourself a professional writer. By those standards, I feel safe calling myself both a professional writer and an author.

Game Designer: Similar Hangups

For the most part I do not design game mechanics. When I write material for roleplaying games, I use existing game systems and write source material and settings for them, making some tweaks and additions. That does require a working knowledge of the systems, though. I felt fraudulent about calling myself a game designer, but I got over myself for two reasons. First, that is the accepted nomenclature for “people who write things related to games.” Second, many of the big-name game designers do the exact same thing that I do, and do not design rules systems from scratch, they simply adapt.

Why It Matters

This can be summed up in three words: perception is reality. We are who people think we are, and who they think we are is largely a function of who we tell them we are. I make my living stringing words together and publishing them. I want to be perceived as a professional. That not only means behaving professionally, walking the walk as well as talking the talk, it means having confidence in stating who and what I am. If I hem and haw and say I’m a writer, it’s less impressive than presenting myself as a writer, and less likely to lead to new clients, better sales, and more work.

I think every “aspiring writer” needs to strike the word “aspiring” from their vocabulary and just write. There’s no such thing as an “aspiring author” — you have either written something to completion, or you haven’t. You may not be published. You may not be a paid professional. But if you don’t take ownership of your own accomplishments, no one is going to throw a ceremony and lay a laurel wreath upon your head granting you permission.

I am Berin Kinsman, author, game designer, and publisher. Hear me roar! 

Use the Pomodoro Technique to Increase Productivity

Pomodoro timerFor the past few weeks I’ve been using the pomodoro technique while I’m writing, with mixed results. The benefits outweigh the drawbacks, though, so I’ve been tweaking and adapting it so that it better fits my needs. In the end, it has increased my productivity and even saved a little bit of my sanity.

What’s a Pomodoro?

Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato. The pomodoro technique uses a timer, and is named after the tomato-shaped kitchen timers that were common when old coot like me were kids. The idea is that you set a timer when you begin a task — in our case, writing — and don’t stop until the timer goes off. The most frequently suggested time is 25 minutes. Then you take a 5 minute break, after which you stay on task for another 25 minutes, and so on. After 4 rounds, or 2 hours, of this you take a longer breaks.

Benefits of Pomodoro

What’s worked for me is the concept of shunting distractions to that 5 minute break. Phone buzzed with an incoming message? Wait for the break. Thought of something I need to look up? Wait for the break. Need more coffee? Wait for the break. Feeling the call of nature? Wait for the break. 25 minutes isn’t that long to have to wait for anything. It enforces discipline, keeps my impulses in check, and helps my stay focused on the task at hand.

I plan by work day in these 30 minute blocks now. If I can’t get in 2 solid hours, I can do 90 minutes, or an hour, or even 25 minutes. Thinking in terms of pomodoro “work units” rather than an 8-hour days can be freeing, especially when you’re able to make your own schedule. It allows you to fit in other things, like meals, exercise, errands, and household chores on both short and long breaks without sacrificing writing time.

Drawbacks of Pomodoro

My preferred method of working is a flow state. When I get writing, I don’t want to stop and lose my momentum. The pomodoro technique is by its very nature interruptive. There are times when if I were using a physical timer and not a handy free website, I’d have pitched the thing across the room. I’ve learned to just ignore it when I’m genuinely on a tear, and write until I hit an organic breaking point. It still helps a lot when I’m doing unpleasant scut work, writing things that are necessary but relatively uninteresting, or doing non-writing work.