It’s going to start September 1, but to get your creative juices flowing, here’s the official Indie Game Reading Club’s list of questions to ponder.

Obviously this is needed because the #RPGaDAY  list is so freighted with assumptions about RPGs that mostly it’s incomprehensible if you’re not in that scene any more.

1. When were you last deprotagonized? What happened and how did you reassert your agency?

2. What game created your most elaborate relationship map? How much of it did you actually use?

3. What’s your favorite behavioral incentive?

4. What’s your favorite perverse behavioral incentive?

5. Would you say rolling dice to have sex is hot, dirty, deprotagonizing, or all the above?

6. How many PbtA games do you own, and which one best captures its most clichéd genre tropes?

7. When did you last spend more time setting up a situation and talking about the situation after than actually playing in that situation?

8. What was your most awesome fight online about what does and does not constitute a story-game?

9. When was the last time an indie game made you feel guilty about your race, gender, or sexual identity? Were you more or less woke after you played it?

10. When did you most recently refuse to play a trad game because the central facilitation role was granted too much creative authority?

11. Best unwanted fictional input generated by procedural uncertainty?

12. Best story about waiting for players in a GMless game to finally get to the point in a scene they’ve called for but obviously had no idea why they wanted it in the first place?

13. What’s the most you’ve spent on a Kickstarter game relative to the amount of play it received?

14. What’s the most play-disruptive discovery you’ve made when you insist on playing by the actual printed rules?

15. When was the last time you unironically used the word “diegetic?”

16. GMs: abusers, control freaks or both? Best story explaining why this is so.

17. Do you buy your legal-sized paper by the ream or by the case? Do you ever try to reuse your playbooks or just start fresh every time?

18. What’s your best story about a precious snowflake character some trad player brought to the table because it was “clever?” How did you call them out?

19. What kind of shit-fit did you throw the last time someone tried to schedule your convention game in a ballroom like you’re playing fucking Pathfinder or something?

20. What’s your best story about falling all over yourself trying to rescue a bunch of awesome fiction that just got invalidated after making a fortune-at-the-end roll like some commoner?

21. What was the last OSR game you tried to play, but quit because you realized there’s literally no mechanical support for a storyline at all?

22. How many friendships have you terminated because they confessed they kind of like to play Fate games sometimes? It’s okay. Fate players have to hear the truth.

23. Tell your most scandalous story about getting X-carded.

24. What was the very saddest thing you wrote on an index card?

25. Do you like your scene framing hard, harder, or hardest? What’s the very hardest you’ve had your scene framed?

26. When you interrogate the nature of heroism in your game, do you prefer to directly or indirectly invoke Lacanianism?

27. What’s the very best playtest-stage game your friends probably haven’t heard of yet? How long ago did you play it and how much better was it than the current version?

28. What’s the most interesting period of obscure and unrelatable history you’d like to see a game set in? How would you do it?

29. What indie game tech do you most keenly miss when you play something more mainstream? And then do you denounce the game in person or do you save it for a social media rant?

30. What is your fondest memory of a game you thought was fun before you knew better?

_Special thanks to Brand Robins​ and Adam Day​ on the thread where it started!_

I’m always on the lookout for good name lists and this one looks pretty good! Also free.

Not sure what to do with the family tree element but I’m sure it could produce interesting results.


Damn you Jason Corley you were supposed to run a Fantaji thing for me at RinCon.

Looks like I’m playing some OVA thing instead.

But seriously, I guess I’m not signed up for the RinCon community because I had no idea they were already done rustling up GMs. I has a sad! There are big swaths of time where nothing specifically jumps out at me to play, and I would looove to run something.

Who do I know at RinCon Central Command that I could work with? Is it just totally too late for this?

Heaven help me but I’ve started reading through Numenera.

It’s…interesting. Elaborate, gorgeous artwork of course. Really interesting setting. A functional and interesting reward cycle that sort of combines PbtA-style GM moves (called GM Intrusions) and peer rewards/fan mail: when the GM wants to inject a complication (no GM rolling!), the target player gets an XP and then can also give an XP to another player. Or they can reject the Intrusion and lose an XP. No idea what the flow is but this doesn’t sound grossly punitive.

Characters themselves start out as a neat little formulation that reminds me of 13th Age: “I am a [adjective][noun] who [verbs].” The noun is your Type (there are 3), the verb is your Focus (there are 29), and the adjective is your Descriptor (there are 12).

But you know what jumps out at me once again? It’s like…I don’t know…it’s like trad-rooted game designers never saw a premise they actually liked. A reason for play. A driving motivation.

Numenera feels an awful lot like Exalted that way: here’s this amazing setting, truly amazing. Here are these evocative character classes brimming with cool effects. Here are some weird locations. Yes but what do you doooooo?

“Well now you plan an RPG, like you do, dummy,” says the trad player. Which I suppose is true. Chase XPs, search for treasure (which is ostensibly Numenera’s default answer to “what do you do?” but…why?), grind, level up, repeat.

And I get it. I do. There are so many perfectly functional, good gamemasters out there who absolutely do not want someone else’s premise intruding on their thing. Give me a system that doesn’t actively suck, some hot art to get the juices going, lots of character customization, and a wide-open setting with little bits of description. Keep your motherloving hands off my story!

Doesn’t it get exhausting? All that…staring at character combos and setting details and building these one-off bespoke storylines? I mean I suppose it doesn’t, not by a long shot: MCG sells plenty of games. There are plenty of prewritten adventures. I guess I’m naive in my ongoing, decade-long bafflement at how it is something as simple and focused as a premise hasn’t been grabbed by The Roleplaying Community as essential technology. Bafflement at all those gamemasters out there who actively seek this out. I can’t believe they just don’t know there are other ways to do this.

Weird rant, I know. I know! But Numenera I think has promise on the system level (Cypher seems like it works okay, and I can’t wait ’til my kid is old enough to really engage with No Thank You, Evil!, the juvenile version) and somewhere buried in there is, I’m sure, the faintest outline of an actual premise. I’m guessing it becomes pretty clear during character creation, which throws a lot of flags and ideas out there.

Would play! Maybe! I’d need to be in a place where dreaming up branching-path material, week after week, was something I wanted to do.

How to Learn A Game
Way-Back Machine Repost

This is a thing I wrote from before the Indie Game Reading Club collection, reposted at Mark Delsing’s request. I think it’s an #rpgaday  thing.

* * * * *

When I’m learning my way through any RPG with some complexity, one of the first things I start working on is a player cheat sheet, an explainer that hopefully they can refer to without disrupting the game. It empowers the player to know their choices, and takes some load off me during play.

But more importantly, building the cheat sheet is the #1 way I actually learn the rules.

I’m working on my Pendragon cheat sheet right now, and really it’s all about the Traits and Passions. Glory has its own appendix in the PDF; I just printed copies of that. But Traits and Passions are where the players have the most authority, the most power, in the game.

This process never fails to reveal weirdnesses or disconnects in the rules text. It requires incredibly close reading of the text, perhaps closer than even an editor or developer gives a draft (especially if it’s like the 17th draft of something and you think you’ve already read all this stuff).

In Pendragon, you’ve got these pairs of Traits (Chaste/Lustful, Just/Arbitrary, etc.). They’re kind of paleonarrativist, arguably simmy (I mean if we simply must refer to this stuff), certainly flaggy descriptors for your character. When you’re correctly aligned with chivalric values (high energy, generosity, justic, mercy, modesty and valor) then you’re acting most like a good knight. When you’re not in alignment with those values, you’re being kind of a douche. But whatevs; your character your choice.

But then there are these things called “directed traits.” And because they’re called a Trait, you know, I sort of assumed they act like Paired Traits. But they’re just modifiers to traits, special cases that cause Traits to spike under certain circumstances (weakness for blondes spikes your Lustful trait, and probably others as well — reckless, trusting, merciful, etc.) So…why not just call them ‘trait modifiers?” Who knows. 30 years of accretion means it is what it is.

Passions are nifty: they let you wildly overindulge some attitude and get a massive spike for the scene (+10 or more on a d20). But you also risk going crazy, falling into despair, or going into shock should you actually fuck up. I love them. I don’t love that you gain them kind of…whenever you want them. But this prompts a GM-Player discussion, which is maybe the point.

Luckily, everything advances pretty much in the same way: You use a thing, you get a check (provides a chance of advancing during the Winter Court — yeah, intermittent rewards, Vegas-style. Either it’ll sink its fangs into you or you’ll fucking hate this part). Traits are more nuanced (you only get a check if it “mattered,” which isn’t so far off from Burning Wheel discretionary powers), and Passions can actually fall if you use them and fail.

Anyway, cheat sheets. Useful process. Developers should really consider the process for games they’re working on. Teaching is learning.

The Kickstarter for New MexiCon 2016 is live!


We really hope to see you this year (or see you back if you came last time!). Please pass this along to folks you know! It’s going to be a blast! Pre-registering through the kickstarter will save you about $10.
September 16-18, 5 gaming sessions
Albuquerque Ramada East, 25 Hotel Circle NE

Wrath of the Autarch is now available on drivethru and rpgnow! If you like kingdom building games, give it a look! It’s my tabletop answer to video games like Civilization and Crusader Kings.

It features: troupe based play, asymmetric conflict between the Autarch player and the Stronghold players, mini-games for diplomacy, infiltration, skirmish, and warfare, as well as systems to trade resources and, of course, build your kingdom!

This has a super team behind it: editing by Amanda Valentine​, layout by Nathan Paoletta​, and art by Doug Kovacs​, Alyssa Maynard​, Eric Quigley​, Jonny Gray​, and John W. Sheldon​!



Spending Money On Games

Is there an upper limit to how much you might ever spend on a game?

I’m betting opportunity cost is a huge part of your answer! For example: I don’t know that I’d ever scrape together $200 for a single game all at once. BUT I’m looking at my shelf, right? And I’ve got about $300 into Edge of the Empire books — a game I don’t even especially like! But I was following it for a while, and a little trickle of books over a very long period can sneak up on you.

I’ve got a couple hundred in on The One Ring and I don’t know that I’ll run it again. I hope I do, it was lovely, but still. It adds up.

I’m going to spend several hundred going to a three day convention: air fare, food, hotel. But it’s also my personal vacation and my birthday present wrapped up in one.

I have no idea how much I’ve spent since…hm…my first purchase (red box) in 1983 or so. Tens of thousands. Ridiculous, right? But amortized (rationalized!) over a lifetime? Among the cheaper hobbies per person-hour of pleasure delivered.

I’m not judging one way or another, here. I know some folks have more resources at-hand at any given moment, so a single big indulgence — an elaborate multiday convention, a ginormous Kickstarter (oh I’ve run up pretty close to “too much” for me a couple times on the boardgaming side) — is possible.

It strikes me that RPGs continue to be a pretty reasonable and egalitarian hobby to be in on. There are no requirements to spend big money, unlike buying a mountain bike that won’t literally collapse the first time you use it, or the travel/lift/living expenses of skiing, or the obvious material expenses of racing cars or whatever. PDFs have made even keeping up with new games either affordable or technically possible (koff torrent koff). Huge, huge range of choices in the open source/free space as well. I’m not even persuaded that expensive stuff — the high end of the Over the Edge or Coriolis Kickstarters, for example — actually deliver an objectively superior experience.

Anyway, RPGs! Still among the very most affordable hobbies per person-hour! I’m honestly not sure how anyone could be offended at the existence of high-end spending opportunities. It’s not like you’re dumping money into a multinational’s overseas holdings or something! That’s artists, writers, editors, printers and truck drivers being paid.

BigBadCon Planning

Today’s the day! I submitted:

Sagas of the Icelanders for Friday evening.

Mars 244 for Saturday evening

Meridian for Sunday morning.

I’ll bring other stuff and maybe haunt the GoD room. I never get into anything I try to sign up for so I’m planning on either crashing tables and/or holding Super Sekret Games for The Right People.