Game Design Accountability

So a thread started on Praxis, the game design brother to Story Games, about being accountable to work on your game designs.  This is a good thing.  I’m not very good about doing anything with my games very often.  I need some push and incentive to get going.  Some inertia so to speak.  So I joined up.  And I’m going to report here also.

Here are the game in progress:

Comatose – an rpg about people in comas and what happens when something is trying to kill them in their dreams.  This one is pretty well along except it seems empty of story.  Like a lot of mechanics strung together.  I need some more eyes on this for some feedback I think.

The Accused – a murder mystery rpg driven by a puzzle mechanic.  This one is pretty well along.  I had a revelation on this one about a month back that broke a block I was having.  This one needs testing.

The Interman Game – a board game based on my good friend Jeff Parker’s extremely excellent graphic novel, The Interman.  The book is about a genetically altered guy who is being hunted by assassins.  It’s Jonny Quest meets James Bond.  I cannot say enough good things about this book.  You should check out all of Jeff’s work at  He’s currently writing for Marvel – Agents of Atlas in particular is super awesome.  Back to the game.  It’s 90% done.  I need to tweak some of the graphic and do not have the computer power at the moment.

Restless Spirits – an rpg about ghosts and the people they haunt using a unique graphic mechanic for the spirits.  Infant stage.

Becky Sharp card game – based on another good friend Micah Harris‘s book, The Eldritch New Adventures of Becky Sharp.  Micah, Jeff, and I used to do comics for The East Carolinian back in college.  I’ll post some of those some day.  Anyway, Micah is a fantastic writer.  He’s eloquent yet down to earth and has an excellent command of language.  His novels and stories are very heavily researched and he truly loves to write.  Infant stage.

That’s it for right now.  I have a whole lot more ideas that I may discuss here at some point.


Castle Keep by Gamewright Games

I got a copy of Castle Keep for Father’s Day this year.  It was an immediate hit.  My kids wanted to play this game every night for about two weeks.  Its rules are simple and easy to grasp.  It plays in a maximum of 20 minutes and is easy to reset for another game.  The game involves building a castle with a keep in the middle.  That’s it.  Well, almost.

The object of the game is to build your castle out of nine tiles – one keep and eight wall tiles.  Consisting of three different shapes and three different colors, the wall are joined at the corners by towers.  Wall and towers are matched either according to color or shape or both.  The keep must match the color of one of the walls.

At the start of the game the tiles are shuffled, face down.  Players are dealt 4 tiles each.  The rest of the tiles are placed in the middle in two stacks.  These are the draw stacks.  On a turn a players draws two tiles from the draw stack.  The player can then either build onto his castle, attack an opponent’s castle or keep, or pass.  At the end of the turn the player discards down to four tiles.

Castles are built by placing them next to each other based on color and/or shape.  Red goes with red, yellow with yellow, blue with blue.  Round towers match to curvy walls, square towers with straight walls, and diamond towers with jagged walls.  Players may attack an opponent’s castle by playing a wall tile that is an exact match for that opponent’s wall tile directly on top of that tile.  The attacking tiel and attacked tile are discarded.  And any same colored tiles are also removed!  This can be devastating.  In one game I had my whole castle destroyed this way.  To attack a keep players play two matching keeps on top of the attacked keep.  Play continues until someone completes his castle.

The tiles are heavy thick cardboard and are easy to handle.  The rules sheet is clear and concise.  The artwork is good and it is easy to distinguish between each type of tile.  This is a small game and travels easily.

As I said, my kids like this one a lot.  And there is enough there to satisfy gamers as a quick filler too.

Check it out.

Go Forth and Game,


Fear The Boot 169

Here’s brief feedback on FTB 169.  I apologize for the shortness and vagueness of this post.  I forgot to take notes on the episode.

It was good. I enjoyed the section on Atomic Robo. That is a good comic.
The running a system for the first time discussion was great. I’ve run into this recently with Savage Worlds and Spirit of the Century. It is difficult to keep things straight. I agree that being thoroughly familiar with the material is key. The interruption of thumbing through the book(s) can kill a game if too long. I will use some of your suggestions the next time I run a new game. I like the show.
Go Forth and Game,

Pulp Gamer – Out of Character 91 – The Quest Continues…

This episode was kind of random catch-all show it seemed.  Lots of topics were covered.  Here we go.

They talked briefly about Don’s(?) Halloween party.  Ron, cool idea to go as Gillian’s Island characters.  I love that show.

They talked about hijacking The Game’s The Thing RinCon show.  This was a very good show that had Don, Derrick, Paul Tevis (famous podcaster and designer of A Penny For My Thoughts), and Ryan Macklin (host of the excellent Master Plan) as hosts.  Ron & Veronica were out unexpectedly.  There was a posting of ‘One Cool Thing at RinCon’.  This very cool idea was started by Jason Morningstar I believe.  Jason videos a bunch of people at the cons he attends and asks them the one cool thing they had/did at that con.  Ron did this for MACE too.  So you will get to see ME!  My videoed cool thing was playing Prime Time Adventures for the first time.  In reality the coolest thing at MACE was meeting lots of really great people and making friends.

Speaking of RinCon and MACE, they talked about conventions growing.  I know MACE’s numbers were up considerably this year and they said RinCon had strong attendance too.

Jason talked about the Ghostbusters rpg game that he ran.  It proved to be very popular.  I want this game.

Jason, I believe, also talked a bit about PTA and how it was a good game to introduce newbies to roleplaying.

Smilin’ Jack’s Bar and Grill: The Savage Worlds Podcast was talked about.  This is Ron and Veronica’s new Savaged podcast.  It’s good and a must for all Savages.

Gamer Adventures was mentioned.  This company arranges cruises with gaming theme.  Several days of gaming interrupted by occasional excursions to cool places.  This sounds like a lot of fun.

There was a good discussion of White Wolf’s policy on publishing in electronic form.    It seems WW is embracing electronic publishing with vigor.  There was much talk of the decline of sales of rpg books in the brick and mortars.  Ron and Dave could attest to this personally.  But it was agreed that the industry as a whole is healthy and growing.  One of the growth areas is ‘indie’ publishing.  Some of the guys feel that these games could replace the ‘mainstream’ games on the shelves of the game stores.  I agree that greater variety is good for the hobby.  The talk turned to pdf’s and how versatile they are.  Ron talked about layers in PDF’s.  I have to investigate this.  POD was discussed and it was felt that this is a viable and profitable alternative to traditional publishing.

One of the questions I wanted to ask Sean Patrick Fannon at the Industry Pros Panel at MACE was about new technology in electronic publishing.  Maybe this could be a topic on a future show guys.

I want to mention that there have been a lot of boardgame/rpg hybrids lately.   For example, Tales of the Arabian Nights and Descent.  This would make a good show too.

They talked about Witch of Salem, Mayfair’s new game.  It sounds very good.  Check out The Game Kennel show on it.

If you live in Tucson or the surrounding area go by Hat’s Games and tell Dave TomG sent you.  He’ll get a kick out of it.

I’d say go over to Ron’s store too but I don’t remember what it is called.

go Forth and Game,


Don Dehm had a birthday. And so did I.

I got a facebook message thing on Friday (13nov).  Seems he and I share a birthday!  Very cool.  November 14th is a great day.  I took a long nap and ran my group’s Savage Worlds of Henford game.  One character was killed by a rat swarm, apparently.  The rest of the group got arrested for an apparent breaking and entering, which turned out not to be.  They found a bunch of ratmen on a quest to recover their comrade’s apparently dead body.  Then we had to stop.

I bought Pandemic and Archaeology: The Card Game with some birthday $$ and still have some left for the annual Fantasy Flight sale (I hope it is still on.).

Anyway, go forth and wish Don a belated happy birthday.

Pulp Gamer – Out of Character 92 – Opportunity

The latest PG-OoC is out.  It’s a feedback show so they’re going over emails and other feedback.  Here’s the low down.

They start off responding to an email from Wayne talking about playtesting.  This is a very good topic that would make a show of itself (hint, hint).  Don mentions that an upcoming GAMA panel release on publishing your game will have some information on playtesting.  They discuss two types or forms of playtesting.  The first is black box testing.  This usually means that the designer is not present for the playtest.  The testers are taking the game on as if they just bought it, fresh out of the box.  In most cases they are asked to take notes on what works and what doesn’t, did the game accomplish its and their goals, their play experience, those sorts of things.  This information is captured somehow and fed back to the designer.  The other type of playtesting is ‘eyes on’ testing.  It’s just that.  The designer is right there taking his own notes on what is happening as well as getting feedback from the testers.  I think both of these are essential for a successful game.  The merits of each are obvious.  Often playtesters will feel the need to soften their feedback when the designer is present or known.  Black box is often anonymous or once removed thus alleviating the testers from protecting the feelings of the designer.  And honest feedback is the best and most valuable kind.  Eyes on testing allows the designer to see where the game is broken for himself.  He is able to see things about the game that the testers may not.  They mentioned using a form for the testers to fill out so that the designer can address specific areas that may be problematic.  And that playtesters should take notes on a game.  There has been some good discussion over on Story Games and The Forge on this topic.  Cruise over there and check them out.    The biggest revelation that I have gotten from all the discussions and the playtesting that I have done (Fiasco by Jason Morningstar) is that playtesting is hard and not always fun.  To take an almost complete or in process game and give honest feedback can be difficult.  And, as I said, the games are usually not finished and in a rough form.  So the experience may not be full of awesome.  All in all, playtesting is a must to design a successful game.  I thought this section of the show was valuable and will use the information I got out of it when I begin playtesting my games (soon I hope).

There was a long discussion about the new regulations about disclosing if you received something in return for a review.  Or something like that.  Check the show for the details or go over to the FCC site to find out more.  Anyway, if you receive something for writing a review, you have to disclose that.  So in the spirit of full disclosure, I received digital copies of Accent Your Character for reviewing Pulp Gamer on iTunes and got some dice from Myriad Games for the same.

Jason talked about Arthur Lives! some more.  The game sounds really interesting.  It’s basically Camelot 3000 the rpg.  Check out Camelot 3000 here.  Jason talked some about the RinCon game that didn’t happen but says he will run this game soon.  Can’t wait for the AP or wrapup on that one.

Next they covered a lot of my feedback in The TomG Spot.  I even got an echo!  Sweet.  They plug this blog.  Thanks! And talk about stuff that I said in email.  Most of that is in previous posts so check them out.

They talked about ‘Don-isms’.  Seems Don has the mutant ability to make up new words to fit any situation.  This is known as Wordsmithery or Vocabulization.  And is completely faketicous.  My son made that one up.

They talk about Ed Wetterman’s Innana’s Kiss game.  Middle East roleplaying that is deadly.

Responses to various comments:

I do take advice e.g. this blog.

I like being at the end of the feedback show.

Ron and I did meet at MACE.  We got to hang out and we played some Savage Worlds together.  See previous MACE post.  Ron is very cool as is Veronica.  I hope I get to hang out with them again.

Cons for Pros – mentioned Jess’s book again.  You should check out her blog too.

A frog doesn’t bump its rear when it lands.

And let’s not forget – Hive.

That’s it.

Go Forth and Game.



MACE 2009

MACE, the NC Gaming con, was this past weekend.   It was a super blast. Even better than I expected.
Friday night – first game:

I played in a Trail of Cthulhu game GM’ed by Jason Morningstar. It was a lot of fun. I was one of the investigators who sacrificed themselves to save the world.  I hadn’t played the Gumshoe system before and I liked what I saw of it. Jason said we really didn’t engage it much but the game was creepy and moved along well. We had some hard decisions at times. It was fun. The group was entertaining.   Jason ran a good game and is hyper-prepared .  The detail and research he put into this game was phenomenal.  That was it for Friday.

I got there about 9:45a.  I had a Fury of Dracula game scheduled for 9:00a with Chris Norwood.  He was going to teach me the game.   I was of course late.  But all was not lost.  I played Jason’s new game in ‘playtest’ The Plant.  It’s a solo game which really pulls creativity out of you.  It’s kind of  a choose-your-own adventure thing but amped up.  It has a neat mapping mechanic that I have not seen before.  I got most of the way through a game when I had to stop.

I stopped to attend the Industry Pros Panel.  I was the only person not connected to he game industry in some way.  Attending were – Ron & Veronica Blessing of The Game’s The Thing podcast (more on them later), Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games, Sean Patrick Fannon of Shintar fame and, Robert H. Hudson Jr. (writer of HERO system), and from Pinnacle Entertainment, makers of Savage Worlds, Clint Black, Matthew Cutter, and Joel Kinstle.  There were a couple of others attending who were retailers or in some way associated with Savage Worlds (Heath = pepster on the SW forum).  The discussion started with introductions and I learned a bit about each person.  Sean Fannon became the ad hoc moderator at this point.  The talk turned to Savage Worlds and we talked about licensing.  Eloy has just licensed SW for his Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. game and talked about how easy it was to work with the Pinnacle people.  The topic turned to HERO system, that it is the granddaddy of many of the system and mechanics in modern games.  The question was asked “What in 2009 was the big thing?  What surprised you the most?”  Pretty much everyone agreed the WOTC erratic behavior and the PDF blunder was the big news of the year.  If you are interested in what this is take a listen to this episode of The Game’s The Thing.  It encapsulated it well.  Someone then asked what do you see happening in 2010.  Everyone agreed that fan created, free content of high quality would be the big thing next year.  I chimed in that the indie scene had come upon that revelation this year and that there was a good deal of quality free game out there now.  I mentioned Lady Blackbird, The Mustang, and Clinton Nixon’s games like Donjon as good examples.  It was getting toward ending time by now so the panel ended.

I really enjoyed the panel.  All there made me feel very welcome and comfortable.  They treated me like an equal or comrade.  I sat between Joel Kinstle and Eloy.  Joel is a hoot AND he knows gaming.  Everyone had a great sense of humor and goofed around with each other a lot.  Ron and Sean in particular.

Let me talk a bit about Ron and Veronica.  I learned a couple of months ago that they would be attending.  Ron’s on Pulp Gamer Out of Character and a few of their shows.  TGTT is in the Pulp Gamer Network.  I have been sending feedback on PG shows for a while now.  We had developed a ‘friendship’ over the internets and I enjoyed the attention the PG gave me.  They are one of the main reasons this blog is here.  Anyway, Ron mentioned that he an Veronica were going to be at MACE with Clint and Jodi Black.  I was very excited to learn this and wrote back that I would really like to meet and hopefully game with them.  I ran into them along with Eloy on Saturday morning and I think we were all pleased to finally meet.  Both of them are fantastic people.  Kind, excited about gaming, and pleasant to talk to.  We spoke briefly and I told them I would see them later at the panel as we all need to get to our first games.

Game 1: I played Prime Time Adventures for the first time. The show was about a group of volunteer first responders during the beginning collapse of American society. I played a beat cop trying to maintain some kind of order. We had a very good group of imaginative players. There were some scenes that were kind of intense but nothing way out there. It ended on an upbeat as the preacher diffused a neighborhood group’s taking over of a grocery store. Having not played PTA before but owning the book, I wanted to see how it really worked. It does, beautifully. I am very impressed with this game and want to run/play it again. One of the best parts of the game was I finally met Chris Norwood (GamerChris) with whom I have been talking to on email and his blog for a while now. He played the preacher. AndyK was also in the game and he is an awesome and creative guy.   The PTA game was fantastic. I really like the system and Jeff Colliyer did an awesome job as the GM. I think all of us had a blast. I forgot Dave Artman was in that game too. Thanks Dave for joining the game. You are one super creative person. I hope I can game with both  you and Jeff again soon.

After PTA a lot of the Story Gamers went out to Kepley’s for barbeque.  The food was good as was the service.  But the selection was small.  We had a good time talking and getting to know each other better.
Lastly was Savage Saturday Night.  The Pinnacle guys arranged to have 5 Savage Worlds games run by ‘celebrity’ GM’s.  Clint Black, Sean Fannon, Matt Cutter, John Farris (?) and Ron ran various SW scenarios.  I played Savage Worlds: Pinebox Middle School. Oh this was a sweet game! Ron Blessing  created and ran the scenario centering around a group of 5 fifth graders in detention who become involved in some unpleasantness at the school. Ron’s a fantastic GM who had this down cold and was quick to respond to the curve balls that we threw him. The group was prime. I played the boy scout with the big mouth who turned into a very unlucky clutz. But I did incapacitate the bad guy for the killing blow. Joel Kinstle from Pinnacle as the class clown was priceless. And there was another guy, I don’t remember his name, playing the outcast who played it to the hilt. The game bounced between creepy and hilarious.  I was able to see the SW system run by an expert and that helped me as a GM of an SW campaign.  The whole experience was really awesome.  Savage Saturday Night was a big hit and I hope it returns next year.
I demo’ed Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. with Eloy, the creator, after the Pinebox game. The demo was ok but went too long I think. The combat system demonstrated was a bit too crunchy for me at first pass but I liked the initiative tracker system. I bought the book and will give it a read through review soon.

Stuff I didn’t do but wished I had:

Carrom – Billiboards had Carrom tables set up for teaching people to play.

Auction – saw some great deals

The con was well organized and ran smoothly.  The staff was very courteous and helpful.

The building was an icebox.  It was freaking cold the whole time.  I wore my jacket for everything but the Pinebox game.  It was upstairs separate from the rest of the gaming. The rooms were crowded but passable.  I heard that the service in the bar was awful.  The con organizers had a food stop set up in one of the rooms.  You could order Jimmy John’s sandwiches for lunch or supper there for delivery later.  The later turned out to be 2 or 3 hours past the scheduled delivery times.  There were no stairs.

The best part of the whole con was getting to hang out with people. I got to meet and have supper with some of you, which was cool. I got to strengthen some already existing friendships. Thanks guys. And I made some new and hopefully long lasting friends.
All in all – Super Sweet con. I can’t wait for next year.