Saturday, February 25, 2017

Thoughty: Talking Companions Tale with Laura Simpson

Check out my interview with Laura Simpson on Companions' Tale, currently on Kickstarter!

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Town Beginnings in Turn

So +John W. Sheldon wrote a little about the Town Building rules* for my shapeshifter game, Turn, which I discussed recently. I wanted to include a brief rundown and some pictures of a sample town I built today! The pics are a little rough because they're on a glass table with dry erase, but eh. Anyway!

The start of the town is this:
  • The name
  • The type of town (there's a list to choose from)
  • The population
  • The square miles of the town proper
Each town type comes with some themes, like tradition or poverty or something like that. Starting out from the town center, you can add themes, locations, events, and bloodlines. From those, you can add further locations, bloodlines, and events.

In the pictures, you'll see I built the following town:

Pop. 2000
Sq. Mi. 3

(You can tell it's a low population town but it's waaaay spread out.)

The options for themes for industrial towns include (but aren't limited to) poverty, resentment, wealth, tradition, and waste. I added those!

I attached some locations, too, like the Mill, and Main Street, and from resentment, the Church.

Then I added the bloodlines, which are the families in the town, like the Blakes (tied to the Church), the Coopers (tied to Poverty), Tuckers (tied to Main St.), Westins (tied to the Mill), and the Lewis family (tied to wealth). These don't all have to connect, but I did it for fun. 

Now there's a whole town! It doesn't represent locations, but you can see how different things might fit together and where trouble might start.

Hope you enjoy this glimpse!

*He's written more posts, too!

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Submit for March's Creators in Need Post

Hi All,

Since I think this post is needed, I'll be trying (for the time being) to post a monthly Creators in Need post on (Today's is at - check it out!)

This is a form to submit to for creators in need. It is open until March 5, 2017 (midnight EST) to allow me time to prepare the post to be up the following week.

Please share widely! 

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Creators in Need

To be added to next month's list please respond to this survey by March 5, 2017, midnight, EST.

I recently posted on Google+ asking that game-related creators in hardship respond to my post with their various product sales pages or portfolios. I got quite a few responses, which is both great (lots of people to share about!) and bad (lots of hardship!).

I didn't ask people why they needed help, but did say if they wanted to include information they could provide it. Please don't judge people for not providing reasoning, or assume there is none. Some of us keep our hurts private. There is no particular order except those who responded first.

If you like the work of any of the people who I've shared information about below, and you have some money to spare, please take some time to support them! 

I will note: this is extremely guy heavy. If you are frustrated I did not include enough women and NB people in hardship, please keep in mind that I am not scouring the internet for these things. I need people to self identify their work and their needs for everything I do on this blog. I try to keep an eye out, but there is only so much I can do. I may be doing this on a more regular basis, so please look out for the next post. Also feel free to reshare this with your own links!


Josh T. Jordan - Ginger Goat Games, Freelance
Josh is trying to pay off medical bills for family (wife and kids).
DriveThru RPG

Tod Foley - Project Ubi
Tod Foley wants to hire artists for UbiquiCity.

Craig Judd - Editor, Layout Artist, Graphic Designer, Manga Artist
Craig is working to meet needs and pay bills.
Portfolio Site

Brandon Williams - Arcanum Syndicate (Creator of Demon Gate)
Brandon is looking for collaboration as well as to bring in more talent for projects.
Arcanum Syndicate site

Michael McKensie - Graphic Artist
Michael is looking to move to games and graphic arts full time.
Portfolio Site

Lissi Leuterio - Animator, Storyboard Artist, and Illustrator (primarily 2D FX + boards)
Lissi is currently job hunting, and doing sporadic commissions work.

Tom McGrenery - Writer and Editor
Tom notes "bills to pay and mouths to feed." 
Portfolio Site

Max "Drunken Dwarf" Havic - Writer, Designer (Galaxy Incorporated)
Max has an upcoming Kickstarter.
DriveThru RPG

Chris Kentlea - RPG-Related Designer
Chris notes "always in need of a little help."

David Schirduan - Game Designer 
David is looking to catch up on medical bills.
Schirduans Site
If you enjoy David's free work, please send a thank you or PayPal what you'd like to

Mad Martian One - Game Design (Ice Kingdoms)
Mad Martian are releasing content for Ice Kingdoms and looking to raise awareness. 
DriveThru RPG

Ashton McAllan - Game Designer (The Republic)
Ashton's using games as supplemental income and to support an out of work partner.
The Republic Site
DMs Guild

Moses Wildermuth - Editor, Creator (Gold & Glory, Ice Kingdoms, Mutazoids)
Moses has experienced a reduction in the income that allowed design work on the side.

David Berg - Game Designer (Within My Clutches)
David is looking for financial support during some life stresses.
Shrike Design

Gennifer Bone - Artist
Gennifer is moving and aiming to reduce debts. 


Thank you to everyone who has read, and to those who shared their needs! Speaking up is a hard thing to do, but a good one. I hope you all have the opportunity to check out the sites and projects above, and enjoy what you find - and support the creators while you do!

Please share this widely! 

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Five or So Questions with Anna Kreider and Andrew Medeiros on The Watch

Today I have an interview with Anna Kreider and Andrew Medeiros on their new game, The Watch! It's now on Kickstarter and Anna and Andrew wanted to tell you all about it. Check out the interview below!


Tell me a little about The Watch. What excites you about it?

Anna: The Watch is a low-fantasy PBTA game about women and femmes/non-binary femmes who are fighting to retake their homeland from the Shadow – a darkly sorcerous threat that has the power to possess men and use them for its own violent ends. So much has already been lost to the Shadow – land, loved ones, and traditions. But their people have come together, forming a new fighting force from those able to resist the Shadow, which they call the Watch.

As for what excites me about it, that's a tough call... Probably the thing I find most exciting, though, is the fact that The Watch creates stories that typically are reserved for male protagonists. When I was younger, the stories that I craved (and wasn't able to find) were stories about women who fight, so it's super great having created a game that tells the stories that I wanted to hear. And it's even better to see other people get just as excited about the chance to play out these stories!

Andrew: I've always loved military dramas, I grew up with them and they really excite me. The chance to co-design a game like The Watch that aims to capture the feel and tone of those stories has been a real delight; and taking the 'band-of-brother' trope and inverting it to include people who are usually excluded from the genre makes me very very happy.

What have you done with the PbtA system to fit the themes and play expectations of The Watch?

Andrew: First off, we went with a 'less is more approach' for The Watch; streamlining the harm mechanics and simplifying weapons and gear, this let's us focus on who the characters are, not what they are. We've also added in new mechanics to reflect the hardships of war and the stressors therein: Jaded and Weariness. Jaded makes your characters better and more experienced soldiers but comes at the cost of burn-out down the road (not unlike Corruption from my earlier game: Urban Shadows), and Weariness is short term fatigue and stress that, if left unchecked, can lead to your character doing or saying something hurtful that they'll later regret. Basically, war is hard on people, and we have lots of ways to show that pressure.

Have you done anything with character relationship mechanics, and if so, what have you done and how are you integrating it into the fiction and the rest of the mechanics?

Andrew: Yep, we designed a new relationship mechanic called Camaraderie for the game. Camaraderie is earned as points with other characters (and NPCs). It isn't a representation of how good of friends you are, but simply how much potential you have to be so. When you're in need of help with a roll, you need to look to your comrades for aid, and the Camaraderie you have with others is what let's them help you out. In essence, the more good will you've stored up with others, the more potential there will be for them to help you in meaningful ways in the future. Many of the basic moves play with this new system of currency, allowing you to spend or earn it in unique ways.

With a focus on telling stories about fighting divorced from a primarily masculine point of view, how do you frame violence in the game?

Anna: As Drew mentioned, we streamlined the harm mechanics and simplified how dealing and taking harm works - and generally I find that the number of mechanics you have supporting a given outcome (like violence), the more players tend to engage with that outcome.

But also, perhaps more importantly, with any PBTA game, the basic moves are what define what sort of actions the PCs will be taking, and thus what the major story beats in any campaign will be. And while we have a basic move to Prevent Bloodshed, we don't have a basic move to inflict violence, and that really informs how players approach the issue of violence in general. And something we do have are moves based around building and strengthening relationships with the people around you.

Additionally, The Watch borrows from the structure of Night Witches, which has two distinct phases of play, each with its own moves and system. There are missions, in which characters engage in the military campaign against the Shadow's forces, and "normal" play, which is more normal PBTA-style play. So on your missions, you're going out and engaging in violence against Shadow forces, but when you come back to "normal" play, that's when you're falling back on the structure informed by the basic moves, which de-center violence in favor of other modes of interpersonal relations.

So violence is still very much a part of the game. But it's framed very much as a necessary evil, in fighting for your existence against the Shadow, and when it's engaged in outside of a mission, there are mechanics that specifically call that out as toxic and socially maladaptive.

What elements of The Watch do you hope will come out when people play it?

Anna: Obviously, given the premise of the game, there's a level of gender commentary that is baked into the game, and I'm really happy about how excited some people have been to engage with that. But even if that's not your thing, it's really great seeing people telling stories with wonderfully diverse casts of women and nonbinary people about the struggle against injustice. And I hope that people will get as excited about the diversity of weird, wonderful, and diverse characters that get created as I do.


Thanks so much to Anna and Andrew for the interview! Check out The Watch on Kickstarter now if it sounds your style!

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Turn, Two Character Sheets, One Identity

John has been encouraging me to write about my new game I'm working on, Turn. Turn has been a project long simmering, but I've only recently begun putting down words for it, with John's help. I wanted to talk a little about the relationship between the two aspects of the characters.

Turn is a game about shapeshifters in rural towns who experience the struggle between their human side and the call of their beast, trying to maintain the balance between the two and keep their identities hidden. Turn itself is not about external threats like hunters or other shifters coming to town. It is about internal threats, personal struggles, and achieving the goals you have as a human and a beast.

Each player starts with two sheets, one human role and one beast archetype. As players advance and gain more archetypes for their beast side, they can change out that sheet. I'd like to talk about two of the sheets we worked on last night, the Late Bloomer role and the Raven archetype.

The Late Bloomer

You were, and had always been, normal. You had a life as a human that was outright mundane, and it was satisfying. There were days when you looked out the window and felt a stirring in your heart, but that was all, until your beast burst forth. Now, you look at the world with new eyes, and struggle to find your footing while you straddle both worlds, wondering which side will slip first.

The Raven

Ravens are clever, omnivorous birds who are messengers of forewarning and can solve problems many beasts would find a challenge. Their ability to fly is valuable, but their keen intellect and sharp beak serve just as great a purpose.

The Late Bloomer can use their social status they have from their longer, uninterrupted human experience to influence NPC’s who are suspicious of fellow shifters to be less concerned. The Raven has a variety of powers, but I want to focus on a power called Ruffling Feathers. With Ruffling Feathers, they can spur dissent - distract others, make them angry or upset, etc. It’s really a shit-stirring power.

When a shifter is in their human form, they can draw power from relevant beast powers to influence their situation. A character playing the Late Bloomer, who would know a lot about how people behave and what makes them tick, could cause quite a ruckus drawing from an ability like Ruffling Feathers.

For each role and archetype there are a number of goals for shifters to achieve to progress. While some goals may be conveniently aligned, for the most part, these will be competing goals to contrast the powers and backgrounds that do fit together well. These conflicting priorities will hopefully result in hard choices with fruitful results.

This is just a simple examination of how the archetypes and roles interact in Turn, and as the design progresses, there will be more aspects to look at.

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Five or So Questions with Storybrewers Games on Alas for the Awful Sea

Today I have an interview with the creators of Alas for the Awful Sea, a PbtA game currently on Kickstarter noted as being about "why people hate, and what they fear." I imagine you can see why I was excited to interview them! Hayley Gordon and Veronica Hendro (Vee) from Storybrewers Games answered my questions below!


Tell me a little about Alas for the Awful Sea. What excites you about it?

Vee: Alas for the Awful Sea is a tabletop RPG about politics, folklore, and the human heart set in a rural 19th century UK town desperate to survive. You can read more about it on Kickstarter and our website. What excites me about it is the game's focus on a grey moral landscape. The setting focuses on the toughness of daily life and the choices people make in order to survive.

Hayley: Damn it Vee, that's also what excites me most! But I also get excited about the narrative focus of the game, and the way the Apocalypse World system allows us to zoom in on small moments, and ask questions of the world.

What were your goals for integrating setting and theme in Alas for the Awful Sea? What do you want to see mirrored between emotion and fiction?

Hayley: I was lucky, the setting and theme integrated itself! The themes in Alas really arose from what was happening historically at the time. Poverty, crime, and political turmoil characterised the rural experience in 1800s UK, especially in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. We've really tried to tease that out by incorporating conflicts as part of our recommended process for creating a story in the world of Alas. Emotionally, my aim is for players to experience the difficult and desperation these themes present, and the experience of navigating that. So the emotion sort of arises from the fiction directly.

Vee: I agree, and I'll just add from my perspective of the art direction and design side of things that for me, what we wanted to achieve with the integration of setting and theme is encapsulated in the cover illustration of the book. The muted colours of the setting reflects and amplifies the internal struggles of the woman which is a strong theme in our book.

What have you done with Powered by the Apocalypse mechanics to make the game fit the game concept?

Hayley: The basic moves have remained fairly similar, although we have updated them to fit the theme and tone of the game. Mechanically, the theme comes through in Alas' character sheets and custom moves. We were really excited to hit a stretch goal in the Kickstarter recently that will allow us to add "descriptors" - attributes like clansman and lover which will come with their own unique bond and custom moves. These have the potential to marry the theme and mechanics of the game even further. 

Vee: But I think, beyond the mechanics of the game and to the way stories are told in Alas, we changed the way an 'adventure' is plotted out. We adapted the idea of 'fronts' into 'encounter families.' Each family is centred around a central piece of the fiction, such as a person or place, but also a central conflict. Within the family sit individual encounters that GMs can draw on when they feel it is most appropriate.

What have you done for research for the setting and concept?

Hayley: I read a lot of history around the period, including 3rd party sources, but also journals which I found really useful for understanding the concerns of the time. My most exciting find however was a book of folktales published in the 19th century called The Wind and the Waves. The author had lived in the Hebrides, and had recorded many of the folktales in the form of stories that were told to him. He also writes in this amazing and very moving poetic style. If I could capture a small fraction of that pathos in Alas I would be stoked.

What are some of the stories you think can be told with Alas for the Awful Sea?

Hayley: At its heart, Alas is for telling stories about conflict between ideologies, and the tough choices this creates. It's best for telling very personal stories with lots at stake to the individuals within them. It's not great at telling the stories of heroes triumphing over evil, or of battles and large scale conflicts.

Vee: In terms of the specifics, the kind of things you might see include sea voyages, the ecosystems of small towns and rural areas, attempts to seek out or defend from the supernatural, conflicts between families or between the rich and the poor. But I'm sure those GMing Alas will invent amazing stories and ideas we never could have dreamed of!

Hayley: It's more about the emotions and drive behind the story than exactly where it's set and what happens with Alas I think.


Thanks so much to Hayley and Vee for doing this interview! Make sure to check out Alas for the Awful Sea on Kickstarter now if this piqued your interest, and share the interview with your friends!

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