Updated on the site

Hey folks,

We’ve updated the review page, or as we like to call it the people say nice things page. If you haven’t checked out the reviews by Brian Fitzpatrick over at Game Knight Reviews then I suggest you do.  They are glowing, I am blushing.

Also, I’ve imported all the posts from gamish designer onto this space.  I’m still deciding if that’s a good thing or not, however for right now you can read it here instead of there … or there instead of here still.  Whatever works.


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People Say Nice Things – GameKnight Reviews Critical!: Go Westerly part 1

Brian Fitzpatrick (Fitz) over at Game Knight Reviews ended up getting a copy of Critical!: Go Westerly.  Apparently there’s enough cool stuff that he feels the need to split the review in two, the first one deals with the world of Westerly.  The second one, that’s coming later this week, deals with the rules of Critical! itself.

Right now, you can check out Fitz’ thoughts on Westerly here.

Let him know what you think there, or leave a comment here.  Feedback is appreciated!

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Let’s talk about – Making Pregens for you Convention Game

This is something that’s kind have been buzzing around my head since Origins.  It was a whole bunch of things, but basically it led to this kind of thought.

How do you split your genders when it comes to making pregens for your con game/adventure module?

If you’ll notice, when we did Critical!: Go Westerly, which is available for the low price of five bucks, Geoff made sure that there were 4 women and 4 men.  Ultimate we ended with 5 women and 4 men, because of a quick of licensing that didn’t pan out we had already created one character and included her anyway because her origin story is pretty funny, which … kind is an anomaly when it comes to pre-generated characters.  I just went through some of the “free” stuff that was nominated for an Ennie and saw that when they had a chance to do a 50/50 split the adventure modules … didn’t do it at all.  There was usually just one woman character and the rest were all dudes.

This leads me back to Origins where there was a game that Geoff was running.  He was running the introduction campaign with a table of 8, which is the maximum that the game will go.  That means that there were 4 characters that were men and 4 characters that were women.  One of the players noticed this, and the first thing out of this mouth was, “Why are there so many women characters?”

Geoff replied, “Well, half of the population is made up of women.  So, half of the population of the characters are women too.  It only makes sense.”

To which the player scoffed, “Not in gaming it isn’t.”

Which is of course, patently bullshit.  You didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to notice that there were a wide variety of people, all of whom where there for gaming in some form or another.

We talked about it later at Big Bar on 2 with Amanda Valentine, who played in the intro game the day before this all happened, and she commented that she had instinctively picked up one of the female characters, and then a second one and stood there contemplating her options before she realized that there were two other characters she could pick from.  I believe, and she can correct me if I’m wrong here, she said that “One is usually all I get, two female characters is usually decadent.”

Having two options is considered to be decadent.  Think about that statement for a moment, and then realize the fundamental absurdity of it.  I know if I have a stack of pregens put in front of me, I’m probably going to have more than two choices.

I leave this to you know, fellow game designer people.  If you’re going to make a set of pregens for a game, a sourcebook, a campaign, or whatever.  Let’s at least try to start making sure that we provide some equality here.  It’s not that hard really, just make your characters and then sit back and look at them and count how many of each gender you have.  If it’s not a 50/50 split then you should probably fix that.

Just saying.

Posted in Conventioning, Critical, famous last words, Gaesa, Game Design, how-to, industry, isms, let's talk about | Comments closed

Geasa – always learning stuff

You can never really know your own game well enough not to learn something about it. I ran Geasa for some friends tonight and got a pretty good wake up call on what not to do. I am now going to share this sage advise with you. This is in the hopes that you avoid this mistake.

When someone provides you with the opportunity to interact with their character, that is an opportunity you should take and introduce them to the story.  Flat out, right thing to do.  Starting to deal with a drug deal, and someone talks to you … then you should probably make them part of the deal, even if they’re ultimately going to be the ones taking you down.  Someone feels like their waiter needs to be talking to your character at your table, then let it happen and draw them into the story.  If you’re too rigid with what you expect your character to do then you’re going to either end up not having a lot to do, or you’re going to end up isolating someone else.

Lesson learned, when someone says, “My character sees your character” that’s when you walk over to say hello.

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Game Chef – 81 and 82

The Simurg by Chris Edwards

The Good:  It’s got a straightforward mechanic that doesn’t get in the way of the idea that you’re travelling in your dreams to wake this mythical beast to help you.
The Bad: I don’t particularly care for the skin?  There’s nothing wrong with it … it just doesn’t do anything for me. 
The Other: I didn’t expect to see Platonic Shadow used in such a way.  You know, the more I read all the games with ritualistic elements the more I realize I get annoyed by them.  Nothing fancy other than I get the feeling that it kinda takes itself too seriously.
Would I play it? No, but knock yourself out if you think it’s cool.

Shady Grove by Daniel “Sp4m” Weishoff

The Good: It’s an interesting concept, and I don’t mean that sarcastically, where you have a game that tries to get a group of players working together, while being antagonistic in an interesting fashion.  It doesn’t try to make cards fit, made up it’s own cards and said this is how narratively you destroy them.

The Bad: Um, I’ve never been a huge fan of playing the various aspects of a single individual.  Again, just kinda my thing.
The Other: I really liked the cards, there’s a different game that could be played with it.  What’s the jargon word that we’re all using now a days, a hack?  
Would I play it? Not really, but that goes back to the no super thrilled by the “exploring the life of a person” type of game.
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Game Chef – 76 through 80

Area 51 Blackout by David Berg

The Good: Well, the name, considering that the file can’t really be found.

The Bad: Well … that I can’t find the game.
The Other: At least it gets me closer to number 80.
Would I play it? Nope.  Boy that was an easy one.

A Delicate Operation by Daniel “Sp4m” Weishoff

The Good: I love this theme, I like the fact that there’s a card game involved.  I love the whole spy in the midst of everything part.  It’s pretty awesome.

The Bad: The whole private public key didn’t work for me.  Also the whole, “Talk about the fauna of your home nation etc.” stuff really put me off.  If there’s a pause, it would have been great to have someone deal with it and then the other player talk about anything really.  Hell, have them believe that the person they sent off is the spy and make alliances that way.
The Other: Okay, there may be some people wondering why I’m not going off on the whole “Coyote as evil trickster” thing that gets mentioned right at the beginning.  Look, the person got influenced by a different idea of what a trickster is and then … didn’t use anything remotely resembling anything in that regard and just made them an everyday spy.  That’s perfectly fine, there’s nothing that was used that can be directly tied to a First Nation.  It’s just a spy, lots of places had them.
Would I play it? No, because the forced conversation bits bug me that much.

Drone Home by Christina B

The Good: It’s a fun concept LARP, though it would need a large space to be played effectively.  I love that there’s a lot of resources that you have to kind of keep track of even though that’s far more of a head ache for the GM than it is for the players.

The Bad:  It’s got Skill Creep, you know the thing where there’s a fair number of skills and they all do certain things.  Also the cards, all the card ripping and creating and cutting.
The Other: Yay for LARPs.  I think there should be more done with Game Chef.  I think I’ll do that one next year. I’m lazy so I’m going to ask, were there a lot of LARPs for the Shakespeare one?  That would have been ideal for it.
Would I play it? If someone else ran it, for sure1

InGendarme by Dave M

The Good: The fact that Dave managed to use a UN charter in a game.  Also, GIANT MECH BATTLES FOR THE WIN!

The Bad: IT ISN’T REALLY A BUNCH OF GIANT MECHS FIGHTING! It kinda is, but the mechanics are a lot less about mech fighting than they should be.  Look, doesn’t need to be Battletech, but it can be more MECHY-MECHY-BOOM!
The Other: There are some really good narrative “you attack and you defend and get to describe this” kind of thing going on.  It’s something to steal.
Would I play it? Nooo … want more BOOM BOOM STUFF!

The Eleventh Hour (+ characters + cults) by Mike Olson

The Good: Pretty much everything you can think of, the structure of the game, the theme, how the mechanics work, how there is conflict between rivals, conflict between the Investigator and the Cultists.  Just great.  I can understand how this game won.

The Bad: My only complaint is that you could have been a little more obvious as to what you are doing assigning values to the Attachments.  Also, once you go up against one of them, you have an idea of what the numbers are.  I might like a more random method … not that I have one for you but that’s not my job now is it. =p
The Other: There are a lot of things that work so very well here that I may have to steal a few ideas and see how I can implement them in a set of games.  I don’t know how yet, but I’m going to get there eventually.
Would I play it? I shall summon the dark lord to cleanse the world of all living things!
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Fiasco – Sudden Death

I was talking to Clark and Amanda Valentine, both avid Penguins fans, and we thought wouldn’t it be great if there was a Fiasco Playset about a team coming apart at the seems in a game seven in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Well, what I figured was that we could all kind of contribute, and by all I mean the 3 people who read this more than once.  With that in mind, I’m going to put it out there as to what people think would be good things to include in this playset.  Now, if it goes badly I’m just going to write it and stick my tongue out to the lot of you.

That being said let’s start.  Leave any ideas you have in the comments.  I’ll give you the first draft of “The Score” and then what I have for the first section.  If you have any improvements, again, leave them in the comments.

The Score

That’s right, it’s the Stanley cup finals. You and your teammates have fought long and hard to get here, eighty two regular season matches, some twenty odd playoff games, numerous undisclosed injuries all for the chance to play in a game seven for one of the most beautiful trophies in all of sport. Tonight is the biggest night of your life, and the stress is greater than anything you can image. There are reporters everywhere, cameras flashing, microphones in your face all the time, the game plans, the aches, the people in the stands, your family that you flew in from your hometown, and the fact that a single mistake on your part could spell the end of everything this year.


Locker Room Cancers

1 – Dry Island and Heavy Drinkers
2 – Conflicting “Leadership Styles”
3 – There goes the goalie again
4 – I make the millions, you warm the bench.
5 – Replacing a Healthy Scratch
6 – Veteran and the Rook

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Game Chef – 70 through 75

Handle with care by Jackson Tegu

The Good: It’s so very cute that you build up this giant city where you all play monsters moving about looking at people’s lives.  It’s so very utterly charming that you have people watching for the monsters, and then mechanically you switch with them if you get caught.  It’s very much like an awesome physical game

The Bad: There was a card mechanic … somewhere in there.  I don’t know because I zoned out for much of it.  It felt way to complicated for what was going on.

The Other: I think this would be great if there was more focus on being the giant monsters who don’t want to be seen rather than the people.  There needs to be a mechanic that involves the people, totally but it’s something gentle and nice and … fun.

Would I Play It? No, but again because my desire to hack it to make it this fun kind of simple game breaks mah rules … that I have broken … several times already.  Damn it.

To Travel These Pathways by Abi

The Good: A great idea to talk about memories on a walk, and how to mimic back something to show that you were listening.

The Bad: The whole ending.  I know you had to use ingredients as they were listed but, really.  Adds nothing at all other than to try to say, “Look I added it.”

The Other: Again, very much like a ritual rather than a game.  Makes me think that there’s the underlying theme this year.

Would I Play It? No, I can find enough stuff to talk about on a walk.

Liminal by Robert Bruce

The Good: Wow, this seemed to be an interesting take on a game.  Play an alien who has taken over an undocumented worker in the US.  Now, I’m not a USian so my idea of immigration politics and what actually goes on is not part of my experience.  I will say that I do like that when you try to describe the person being imitated there’s a lot of focus on the individual as a person, and to try to avoid what you might see as stereotypes (which is kind of idealistic because people will usually fall into some kind of stereotype but I digress)

The Bad: The rules, mostly?  I mean they’re not bad, but that’s where the game kind of lost me.  I think something without die rolling would have suited the game a little better, maybe some token economy?  I don’t have an answer for it, but there you go.

The Other: I think you could have made the “going up and going down” thing a little easier.  Number them? I mean if RDI can keep two tracks going, and make it make sense with what you’re doing then one track should be easy.

Would I Play It? No, but that may be end of the list ennui.

The Lady and the Tower by Joel P. Shempert

The Good:  It is one of the better implementations of last chance, though to be fair not as much as the art one, where you have a series of pull tabs to determine what your character does.  That, mixed with the you can only have 2 characters out of 3 players in any scene is interesting.  It would be cool to kinda focus on that for a game of espionage, where you can really only trust one person at a time.  It’s an idea at any rate.

The Bad: I can’t help but think that there might have been a better way to do it other than a pull tab.  I get the niftiness of the concept, but ultimately it’s a little clunky and not necessarily as “one use only” as believed. Goodness knows that if you make a contraption that could open and close you could just replace the stuff on the inside again and again.

The Other: More games that represent advent calendars please!  Made me smile reminding me of my childhood, and then frown because there was no chocolate involved.

Would I Play It? If someone else did the setup.

The Entropy Game by LordPapyrus_420

The Good: Um … um … um … I guess it could be fun … if you … like planking?

The Bad: This is a technical document gone horribly, horribly wrong.

The Other: It has an order, if you really like that kind of thing.  I guess it could be seen as poking fun at the fact that all RPGs, in their bare bones essence, have to be some form of technical documentation.

Would I Play It? No. It would just end badly.
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“Free RPG Day” – Every year, the games really aren’t free

Now this seems to be a thing because there is “Free Comic Book Day” and now the past couple of years have had “Free RPG Day.”  While this is a great idea, I would perhaps like to draw your attention to some games that are actually Free.
What is this Jonathan?  But this is a game with high production values!  Clearly it can’t be free.  Well, the whole game is licensed under a BY-NC-SA (the text, which is the important part).  That means that if you want, you can download the game on their resources page in epub and other formats.  Download the game, try it, if you like it don’t be a douche bag and buy their very reasonably priced PDF for 15$.
2. Leviathans

While the minis aren’t free, the game is licensed also under a BY-NC-SA license, though I think it’s a lot less than what’s licensed under Eclipse phase.  That being said, there’s a lot of free perusing under there that’s worth your time.

3. 44: A Game of Automatic Fear

This is now available in print, but you can still pick up the free copy of the game on 1KM1KT.  Matt Snyder’s game about alien take over is pretty damned fun, and I can say that because I played it too.  It’s a blast to run and you’ll constantly have your characters running away from whatever has come to take them over.


The FATE system is under OGL, which means that you can find a lot of resources on how to use it for free. That’s right, there many online SRDs and other such things to get you going on playing just straight FATE if you haven’t heard of it (which mean you have been living under a rock as of late).  There are also a bunch of great games you can pick up that use FATE like Bulldogs!, or the Dresden Files, or the Kerberos Club.

5. Critical!: Go Westerly

This is your own game, you might say.  I would say in reply yes it is.  It also has a Creative Commons version which is free.  Play it, try the game out, see what you think and then if you like it spend the 5 bucks on the full version of the game.  It’s a lot of fun, and Free for Free RPG Day.

As always a lot of these free games have a pay version of the game.  Unlike a lot of the games you’ll find on Free RPG Day they are fully playable in an of themselves.  There isn’t a “quick start” game where you get some of the rules, but if you want the whole thing you’re gonna have to pay.  There are no teasers, or trailers.  You can read these rules and go ahead and play the game.

That being said, if you like the game support the designers that made playing that game possible.  That way, you can make sure that you end up getting more games from those same designers which means that you’ll have more things that you can play.  It’s pretty simple, actually when you think about it.

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AIR – Playtest Sheets

If you’ve read the playtest document* then you’ll notice that there are a set of sheets that you can use to play the game.  Well, I have playtest sheets for those people who are interested in playing the game.
Clearly these are also up for criticism.  If you have anything that you think might improve them, shout out about it!  I want to make this game better!
*ha, someone reading the playtest document … sometimes I kill myself.
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