And In Conclusion

I’ve developed a super annoying eyelid twitch. That’s the signal that it’s time for a Plus break! All outta spoons. But I can rest when I’m dead so here are my last two thingamajobs:


Space adventure with feels. Yes feels are a genre, I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. (My trad answer is fantasy post-apocalypse, which I suppose Earthdawn has already covered so we’re done here.)



I’m sitting here thinking about any sense of anticipation. I don’t feel any. I’m not aware of any specific games slated to come out, or if I am I don’t actually care that much (like that Genesys thing from FFG). I don’t really think much about Kickstarters scheduled to deliver, especially a year out.

I guess it’d be nice if I could get one or more of my things test-ready. I had intended this year to be that year, but spoons, so I’m reeling in my con/test/hype plans. Maybe 2018!

Oh there goes the eyelid twitch again. L8r sk8rs.

#rpgaday #rpgaday2017


Mostly the campaigns I’ve signed up for have either been rock-solid and professional (specific shoutouts to Andy Kitkowski, luke crane, and Jason Morningstar for repeat high-quality service, and everyone else for the one-off campaigns I’ve participated in), or have been unprofessional clusterfucks (no I’m not calling anyone out, you vultures).

It’s weird how one bad clusterfuck will sour me on the whole process though. I’m not sure what my personal ratio is. Maybe 10 good to 1 bad? Utterly unfair to the “good” campaigns.

There. That should be adequately uncontroversial.

#rpgaday #rpgaday2017

Nerd References and High-Fives

Oh this whole…thing…makes my skin crawl.

There is a whiff of nerd shame in my reaction. I’ll cop to that. This flavor of virtue-signaling just grosses me out, mostly because I feel like it’s so transparent. And I grew up in an age where being a giant nerd was not a point of pride. It is astonishing and wonderful to me that nerd culture means something different than it used to. But I still have that visceral reaction, that little wince when someone spouts a Monty Python quote or some Star Wars thing.

There’s also this thing that continues to gnaw at me about The Problem With Indie Games These Days. And that is that so, so many of them (premised on the fact that PbtA and Fate largely dominate the scene) feel and play and were conceived of as derivative of other media. Yes, absolutely, this is me #poopingonotherpeoplesfun and I am a monster.

For at least 25 years now, maybe longer, I’ve never quite resolved for myself the tension between dismissing RPGs as trivial entertainments and embracing RPGs as a legitimate and powerful art form. Probably it’s because they can be either, and asserting that RPGs can only be one or the other is unnecessary. Movies can be derivative summer tentpoles, and movies can be art. Also books and live performances and music and every other damned thing. But that tension is there, and it’ll probably always be there. There are so very many derivative, tropesy, trivial entertainments out there and so relatively few thoughtful, meaningful artworks. Never mind the additional social pressure to discount any artful game thing as “arty”, to diminish, to drag down the aspirational work to the same level as the derivative work.

Protestant work ethic (are you being productive?) combined with late capitalism (in what way is this profitable?), no wonder we’re so fucked up. By we I mean me. I’m sure you’re perfectly fine.

Anyway, when I hear players start spouting quotes at each other and reifying their shared identities, I see the game steer toward derivation and think to myself, “There goes an opportunity for real meaning, squandered.”

#rpgaday #rpgaday2017


Here’s my packing list for every convention, minus the duh-obvious stuff like dice and rulebooks:

* Easel pad for giant relationship situation maps (smaps!) (the one I prefer: I’ll tear three or four off and roll them into a poster tube if I’m not where I can physically carry the whole pad.

* Index cards. Honestly I can’t get by without tent-cards with names, and I’m also very fond of doodling up index cards as props representing important things or game-states (like my “Fascinated” cards for Space Wurm vs Moonicorn).

* Big fat Sharpies in various colors for the smap and tent-cards

* OHTO Graphic Liner pens for everything else ( I love them.

* Glass beads for resource tracking

* A copy of Jason Morningstar’s Names book ( because I greatly prefer the form factor of an actual book for browsing.

I think that’s it. If I’m at home, add clipboards and a steady supply of Utz Pub Mix.

Other tools I’ve seen in use that got me thinking:

*Misha B’s extensive Pinterest boards filled with representative character art. Genius! I’m slightly phobic about introducing electronics to the table because my regulars are already phone addicts. Last thing I want is to have a tablet there for them to diddle with.

* Jonathan Perrine’s rainbow-hued index cards. I’m a big fan of color coding (I print common-use references like Common Moves in a different color for easy grabbing) and never even thought about the fact that index cards come in different colors.

* I’ve seen a few versions of a nice, permanent (ie laminated ) X Card to drop on a table. Jeez…I’m trying to remember…someone at a recent convention had a whole deck of useful social rules they dropped on the table. Was that you, Tomer Gurantz? My apologies if I screwed that up.

Kind of a boring answer today; no bandwidth for a hot take. Hope you’re having a great weekend!

#rpgaday #rpgaday2017


Happy Saturday, hope y’all are having a nice one.

For me and maybe you, but this isn’t the hill I want to die on, a killer app of the indie/small press game scene is the access we have to the creators of these games. In my mind, this is what makes the current generation of “indie publishers” utterly different than the equally-indie publishers I worked for in the ’90s. And that’s the best resource you could ever ask for.

Probably the most fruitful, genuinely useful conversations I’ve had among all the indie creators I’ve met and talked to — which are many but not even most, ye gawds they keep cropping up like weeds — would be a tossup between luke crane (he double-classes as genius and gadfly) and Jason Morningstar (who specializes in just the genius thing). These two have done the absolute most to crowbar my head open to the vast, truly vast range of gameplay, priorities, and ideas about the nature of This Thing Of Ours.

(If you wanted to talk about extra crap to buy, I really like all the card-based supplements the Fria Ligan folks do with their Mutant Year Zero family of games. Cards are rad, yay cards.)

#rpgaday #rpgaday2017

Okay so I kind of hate today’s #rpgaday #rpgaday2017 question but it is an excellent Rorschach test of the folks who are replying. None of whom, me included, are predominantly players. 🙂

Thank You

Kind of an indulgent, masturbatory question today — and if I’m saying that in this collection, it must be extra-true.

I’m a GM probably 95% of the time, but in that 5% (usually my convention games) I don’t really do much more than directly thank the GM or facilitator. Costs nothing but a bit of time, but jeez, we’ve been sitting in a small room together for four hours smelling each other’s farts, it’s the least I can do. But as a GM, I know that those direct thanks are a big deal.

But! If you’re a player who doesn’t know what to give the GM Who Has It All (i.e. me or others like me), here are some ideas:

* Be present. Not just in attendance, but actively engaged in the thing. Put the phone away, ringer on mute.

* Ask how you can help. No really. Ask. Playing is a necessarily inward-focused activity, and I think it can create inward-focused play habits that aren’t conducive to table synergy.

* If you’re not feeling it, say so. I don’t know about other facilitators, but my stoke is heavily reliant on the table’s stoke. If you’re not feeling it, I won’t feel it. If you think you’re hiding your disinterest (out of politeness or whatever), joke’s on you: you’re so not.

* Indulge me in a little debrief after. It’s my one chance to, you know, share in the stoke! It’s nice to come out from under the table and join you folks and pretend I’m a star like you.

I think that’s about all any of us need!

#rpgaday #rpgaday2017

Feeling Old

No idea who should be charging more — that’s the formal question — because I don’t actually do much with PWYW stuff. It’s a huge blind spot, I think.

I’ve been advised more than once to go this route for my various little design projects (and then put that money into paying a layout artist for the next ones I post up). I just…it’s very hard for me to see the upside, because blind spot.

I think I’ve paid what I wanted…twice? Once for a copy of Dream Askew (Avery asks for a $5 donation, so not precisely PWYW), and once for a big fundraiser Bundle of Holding, can’t remember what the cause was. That one filled my library with so much crap I will never download or read and continues to fill my inbox with notifications and spam from those publishers. I liked donating, didn’t like the marketing bullshit afterward.

This is, I think, mostly a function of my age.

I get how Kickstarter works, but I’m also cynical about it being largely a preorder platform. Beyond that my understanding of the modern game publishing world drops off fast. I’ve also been advised to try a Patreon but I can’t make heads or tails of how to succeed at that. PWYW makes very little sense to me. A Payhip button or whatever, same thing. I think it’s because I think in strictly capitalistic terms like value proposition. I have no mental model in which people just give you money because they like what you’ve done. Even at the high point of my little three-week blast a few years ago with Tiny Dragons and folks were repeatedly asking how to give me money, I was like…why would you? I’ve posted it for free.

And because I’ve been fed a steady diet of capitalism, I immediately undervalue anything that doesn’t have a price. Including my own stuff, I’m sure. Of course the logical endgame of that is the dumbass “why should I pay for all this blank space” #shitgamerssay business.

Paying what you want intersects with the #latecapitalism idea that money is the only meaningful way of showing appreciation in some very strange and hypocritical ways.

#rpgaday #rpgaday2017

Jaw Dropping

I’m gonna call out this expansion for 2nd ed Kult, a totally incomprehensible, unuseable book called Purgatory. This is my copy from when I was working with Target and got all their goodies.

Believe me, my jaw definitely dropped when I opened this thing up. What the heck are you supposed to do with such an absurd artifact? It’s nearly unreadable.

There was a…fad, phase, something, at The Forge that eschewed all visual representation. I think it was considered distracting to the central work, maybe? That if the work can’t stand on its own then … something. Honestly I never understood the core argument, other than it being a chance for folks to slag D&D sales.

Don’t worry! I’m not gonna relitigate any of that. But I think it’s self-evident that presentation is information. Go too far in one direction — say, my mostly unadorned Word docs I turn in for various ill-considered game design contests — and you can’t get anyone’s attention. Go too far in the other direction — like Purgatory here — and you can’t keep anyone’s attention.

I’m gonna share a little story that will have you rolling your eyes at the obviousness of it all.

So I’ve got maybe a dozen finished-and-lightly-tested little games I’d like to get out into the world, right? Several small-footprint PbtA hacks (Jurassic World, Robot Park, Tiny Dragons), last year’s Game Chef finalist (Dragon, Fly!), others (this year’s Game Chef, Intake, not a finalist but I’m so stoked on it). Once upon a time, I actually did visual design as part of my general marketing practice. But that was nearly 20 years ago now, and I don’t have the software mastery nor the design chops of the actual pros. Anyway, I was lamenting this to Mark Diaz Truman​ hoping for advice — I think I’d given him a draft of my Secret Unnamed Project but, hey, unadorned Word so ugh. He had the simplest advice: pay a layout artist. His followup was along the lines of “put them up for sale at drivethru and it’ll pay for itself with like a dozen sales.”

Other than the obvious necessity of having the cash on hand for the initial outlay, that answer is so obvious. I think I’m scared off by what I’m imagining the cost will be, but I’m scared because I’m ignorant. It’s something I hope to rectify soon. Obviously it can’t be too much if a few sales will cover the cost.

Anyway: presentation is information. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

#rpgaday #rpgaday2017

So tired…so tired. Well so here are short answers for the #rpgaday #rpgaday2017 days I missed over the weekend. I’m sure you’ve all been waiting on the edge of your seat:

19: Best writing. Urrrgh games mostly aren’t notable for their writing. But I’ve always had a fondness for luke crane’s Imp voice in the Burning Wheel games. He set out to be confrontational and succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. 😀 I’m serious! The whole game has an attitude that’s fundamental to loving or hating it. And it’s sincere, not a stylistic affectation (see the endless f-bombs in Apocalypse World, a game I adore but not for the stylistic affectations).

20: Out of print: Fuck if I know. Totally not my interest area. If I had one of those awesome Half Price Book outlets near me that seems to have a portal into 1979, I might be interested. I have no idea how many thousands of dollars of old games I’ve sold, traded or given away over time. I regret most of them now.

21: Most with the fewest words: Gonna go with Archipelago on this one, with Montsegur 1244 a close second. The fact these games are so functional with pretty much none of the traditional scaffolding is a marvel.