Urban Shadows PDF live on DTRGP!

I’m proud to announce that Urban Shadows is live on DTRPG! Huge thanks to Andrew Medeiros, Amanda Valentine, Thomas Deeny, Shelley Harlan, Elizabeth Bauman, Juan Ochoa, Brendan Conway, and Marissa Kelly for making this day a reality. Woot!

We’re working with our printer now to get books, so we will have an update on that shortly. We’ll be including the PDF with a book purchase, so if you want both… we’ll have books ready soon. 😀



So this Saturday is the second session of the Firefly game I’m running for my family! They asked to return to the previous (one-shot) setup: a salvage ship and their particular crew.

Unfortunately, I feel like maybe I’ve painted myself into a corner. So let’s crowdsource this thing.

The corner is that … there aren’t a lot of options when your ride is a salvage ship. It’s designed to do one thing well: salvage wrecks. So, well, they did that last session. Seems kind of boring to expect them to, you know, salvage more wrecks every session.

That got me thinking about how cleverly open-ended Firefly the TV show was in that regard. I’d already decoded the secret sauce of the crew — lots of crossed lines and conflicting loyalties — but failed to notice that the Serenity is a multipurpose platform. They can fly around and land and salvage and carry cargo etc etc. Maybe in my head, “cargo carrier” feels somehow more flexible than “salvage vessel.”

So where is my crew off to next?

A bunch of random maudlin thoughts

Man I really thought I’d dodged this summer cold that Iris had a couple weeks back. But here it is, the day my wife got back from another week in Tokyo. The very first thing that happens any more is that I slide into a funk. Borderline depression? Dunno. I’m like for fuck’s sake not this again. I know it’s gonna just be a couple days of yuck, but still. But still.

Here’s what’s in my brain these days. Prepare to mute/uncircle/block.

Con(test) Drop: This was a good year for me Game Chef-wise, since I made it to finalist and IMO it’s a really solid piece of work. Yay me. And now that I’m out of the mix, it’s gotten me thinking about how utterly unsuited I am to this event. I mean I should never do one again. A mix of bad-competitiveness, unrealistic expectations, some stuff other participants got up to that I did not love, the abyss of terrible feedback (terrible as in, it read like everyone loved my thing without qualification, which is nice for my ego in the beginning, terrible for my ego when I lost, and as a practical matter useless to me going forward), and in retrospect kind of crappy ingredients.

I didn’t think they were crappy when I started! In fact the mix really pulled me in for whatever reason. But the deeper I got into the reviews and the contest itself, some things jumped out at me:

* “A different audience” didn’t really do much other than get people to consider their audience. Which, you know, for crying out loud you should absolutely be considering your audience. All the time, every time. 

* Good ingredients are open to many approaches and inversions. So like “abandon” is good because you can flip it over (embrace/abandon), you can use the word several ways (leave something behind, wild abandon, etc.), and so on. It has room to breathe. Excellent. Stillness also. Dream maybe less so; there were a godawful lot of games about dreams and dreamers, not so many about “thing you want to achieve in your life” type dreams. And dragonfly was universally terrible: either you end up with a shitton of games about bugs — which happened — or you play with it and get accused of “deliberately misinterpreting” an ingredient. Which I gotta say, not cool. 

Too Many Games: Since I can’t get my shit together to actually work on work, I thought I’d browse through the list of games at boardgamegeek.com and add rankings/ownership stats. God do I own a lot of games. And not-mysteriously the collection grows when my wife is out of town. New hotness is a way for me to treat myself with something nice when it’s just me and the kiddo, but it might be a borderline problem. I’m going to see what happens on her next big trip, pay attention to my urges and needs. 

Eternal Mediocrity: But going through the list — I made it to around #1500 — got me thinking about other stuff. Like, when I’m ill/borderline depressed I’m like “holy mackeral, can you imagine being the designer of #1500 here? For all time, you’re gonna be associated with this crap that didn’t score as well as Eat Poop You Cat.

But of course I have been exactly that guy. Modiphius has recently released the third edition of Mutant Chronicles RPG. I’ve been reading it and it’s really good. The designers have taken advantage of the past decade of hothouse game design thinking, much as they did with Mutant: Year Zero, and come up with something really good. On the other hand, I also get to read previews and reviews by fans who slag the shit out of second edition.

Which is rough when I’m in the wrong head because I’m the guy who wrote second edition.

I think when I’m in a better mood I can mutter something to myself about standing on the shoulders of giants or whatever, but right now, ugh. Not what I need to read.

It also makes me wonder what the point of releasing so-so designs into the wild even is: Sick Paul turns into a skeptical hardcore capitalist, seeing value only in ROI and not in adding to the creative collective, giving some people a way to have a nice time, self expression, etc. I’ll get over that when I’m not sick. Just an interesting character thing/flaw of mine.

This is the End: It’s gonna be a month between sessions of my Mutant: Year Zero game. Has the fizz escaped the bottle? I think it might have. Semi-glad because my to-play list is long. Mostly sad because FFS I can’t seem to see a game to its conclusion.

This Is The End, part 2: I watched this stupid movie on my little out of town trip last weekend. It is so terrible. Do not subject yourself to it.

So. How’s your week going?

We’re coming up on the final countdown – Undying’s Kickstarter ends Thursday morning! In preparation, I’m offering a new stretch goal tier at $17.5k by J. Walton!

“Hungry & Hopping: Spooky Encounters with Mister Vampire” is a custom set of Lore for Chinese vampires and hungry ghosts, inspired by classic Hong Kong horror and horror-comedy cinema, from “Encounters of the Spooky Kind” and “A Chinese Ghost Story” to more recent entries like “Rigor Mortis.” Using the existing Undying rules, this new set of Lore reskins predators and their rivalries for the bright lights and labyrinthine alleys of modern Chinese cities.

(Publicly shareable post)

Your Game Chef 2015 English-language champion is:

Good Night Fairy Theatre by Emily Griggs!

Congratulations to Emily and to everyone who participated in this year’s Game Chef! We’ll be announcing the Game Chef world champion in August, so stay tuned for that. And feel free to keep chatting about your games with other GC participants. We could only pick one winner, but every game has the potential to be awesome.


Ha, ask in passing about printed cards, get yelled at by Jason Morningstar​, and lo and behold, here are printed cards.

For serious, this is a very clever story game/tool. Highest recommendation (and now you don’t need to deal with the arts & crafts element).



Paul’s In A Funk

In a funk so, hoorah, you get to read about it.

* Mutant: Year Zero has finally failed me by producing a shitty GM screen. Well, let me walk that back a bit. The screen is gorgeous. Ostentatious, even. The best produced GM screen I’ve ever seen, to be honest. It’s also priced like they’re proud as hell of it ($35ish and there’s no supplement, it’s just a screen). Two things. Thing the first, I hate GM screens. Terrible technology, although I can see using it while they’re on a Zone expedition and I’m generating sectors as they go. But mostly, no thank you I do not need or want to have that giant wall between me and the players. (Why did you buy it then, dumbass, I can hear you asking — good question, but I actually have gotten some value from having all the important tables on a separate reference.) Thing the second: they didn’t even include some vital tables. The second photo shows Modiphius fluffed out that ridiculous fourth panel — four panels, who’s heard of such a thing? But the top third is bullshit like “how to run a session” and “how to vote on Ark projects.” For crying out loud. You couldn’t include the mutation table? You know, the table that you have to check every single time someone biohazards a mutation point roll? Terrible.

* It’s been two weeks since we last played MYZ and it’ll be at least two more weeks before we can play again. I tried to run the game at another house — complicated kid/house stuff — and forgot the goddamned zone map. Totally didn’t feel comfortable running without it, so we did boardgames. It was a nice night but the fizz is escaping fast. It’s not just them, it’s also me. Every week that MYZ doesn’t sink its claws back in, I start thinking about The One Ring or Motobushido or hell, a full run of Night Witches or something. 

In the end, novelty nourishes me more than fictional continuity. I have no idea what that says about me. I guess it says I’d better say what I want to say inside 8 sessions because that’s all you’re gonna get.

* When I feel myself sliding into a rpg funk, boardgames are usually there to pick up the slack. The problem is that I really need two nights of gaming: one for rpgs and one for boardgames. Such different exercises, such different needs. They seem to be getting even more different the older I get, too, which is weird.