And Now For Something Completely Different

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In a few recent posts, I’ve made references to a super secret project I’ve been working on. Today I’m going to tell you about that project.

First, here’s a brief history of QAGS for those of you who aren’t familiar: sometime in the late 90s, I wanted to come up with a quick system that we could use for one-shot games without having to spend an hour making characters and looking up stuff on tables. I made up some rules and ran a couple of games with them, but didn’t do much with them until Leighton and I got the hairbrained idea to start a game company. Since the “real” game system I was working on (a complete monstrosity that will never be published) wasn’t even close to being ready, we decided to publish the simple little candy-based system. Since the system would only take a few pages to explain, we decided to fill the rest of the book with jokes and dumb stuff. That turned into the first edition of QAGS, which we published in 1998.

Over the next few years, we realized that in order to sell a game, you actually have to run it from time to time, and in the process we discovered that QAGS actually worked surprisingly well for what we wanted to do in an RPG. We started using it for our regular games and thinking of it as a “real” game system. When we moved up to printing real books, the digest-sized core rulebook with the cardstock cover that we’d printed at a shop one step up from Kinko’s just didn’t cut it anymore, so we started working on QAGS Second Edition. Q2E came out in 2003 and while we kept the general tone and some of the jokes from the first edition, we also added a lot of stuff to make it a more complete and usable game system.

When you run and write for a game for 12 years, you inevitably start to notice the flaws. With QAGS, there are some mechanical problems, but the biggest flaw is that making the system work requires buying into a certain style of play and, while the GM advice in Q2E does a good job of explaining this style, the only things in the system that really support it are the overall simplicity and the use of Yum Yums. Otherwise, the system is representative of games from that time period, and some of the rules we added to the second edition are really there more because at the time they were things a game was “supposed to have” than because they add anything to the gaming experience.

Since the system and the play style aren’t as intertwined as they should be, playing QAGS with someone who doesn’t really get it can turn out badly. Part of the problem is the humor in the rulebook. Most gamers approach “silly” and “serious” games differently, so they’re fine using QAGS with something like Sharktoberfest or Funkadelic Frankenstein, but when you try to use QAGS for non-comedic games, they get confused. Either they’ve mentally tagged QAGS as a “funny” game so they ruin the story by trying to be wacky or they shift into a more simulationist “serious game” mode and start trying to bring a level of crunch to the system that just isn’t there.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’ve been playing around with ideas for a third edition of QAGS for a while. Initially, the idea was to fix the mechanical eccentricities, streamline some things, and provide more support for campaign play (the experience system in Q2E is fiddly and weird, and that’s coming for the guy who wrote it). Eventually it hit me that the real goal should be to bring the rules more in line with the style of play we’re trying to promote, so I started completely overhauling the system.

At some point, the game system I was working on stopped being QAGS. The QAGS roots are still there, but there are so many changes that it’s really not the same game anymore. A new edition of QAGS that’s barely identifiable as QAGS presents some (mostly marketing-related) problems. The first is that we have close to 50 QAGS supplements out right now, so releasing a third edition that’s vastly different from the current rules set would mean rendering those supplements obsolete until we got around to rewriting them. The other is that there are a lot of our existing games work perfectly with Q2E. QAGS works great for beer and pretzels one-shots, for example, because the kinds of things the new system does better are things you just don’t need for something like Fratboys Vs. The systems are also different enough that some people will probably simply prefer QAGS over the new system, and we don’t want to lose the people who are perfectly happy with the game they’ve already got.

Long story short, instead of releasing a third edition of QAGS, we’re working on a whole new game system, which right now we’re calling “Cinemechanix.” Second Edition will remain the current version of QAGS, and will still be supported. New products will be released using whichever system works best for the goals of the game (or the author’s preference, if both systems are equally appropriate). The first Cinemechanix setting will be M-Force, which means those of you who have been patiently waiting for the new edition are going to have to wait a little longer. We apologize for that, but I think it will be a much better game with the Cinemechanix rules. As we get time, we’ll also be releasing new versions of some of the existing QAGS games that we think will benefit from the new rules, starting with Hobomancer.

We don’t really have a timeline for this yet. As most of you probably know, we do all the Hex stuff in our spare time, so real life can really slow down our release schedule. Since real life has been punching us all in the dick a lot over the last few years, new releases have been few and far between lately. These sorts of slowdowns have happened before (and will probably happen again), so those of you who have been around for a while know the drill. As always, thanks for being patient while we work to get things moving again.

The first draft of Cinemechanix just needs a few more chapters to be ready to playtest. We’re planning to do more playtesting than usual for this one before we start moving toward an actual release, so the timeline will depend on how well that goes (if you want in on the playtesting, contact me through the usual channels, or through the Hex web site if you don’t have usual channels). Now that we’ve told you it’s happening, I can also talk about it here, so watch this space if you’re curious about the new system.

In the meantime, we’ve got a few QAGS supplements that are ridiculously close to being ready for release. Carter’s been whipping the third installment of American Artifacts into shape, Ian’s Three Musketeers Game, And One For All, is being edited right now, and the Comprehensive Soldier supplement for Qerth is 95% written. Once we finish up the text, get the art, and do the layout, you’ll be able to own them yourself for some ridiculously low price. If you want to be among the first to know when we get them done, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or join the QAGS community on Google Plus.

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Supporters at the $3 or higher level will get advance access to the Cinemechanix playtest draft.