Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Resource Spotlight: The One-Page Dungeon Contest

Time to boost the signal! This September I am planning on doing a roundup of some favourite resources for Table Top Role Playing Games. Most of which are free and online. 

Resource Spotlight: The One Page Dungeon Contest

It is no great secret that I love One Page Dungeons. They require a tightness of design and creativity to make. The creation of my one-page dungeon, Gastropodia, was one of the most complicated adventure design processes I have ever undergone, at least cognitively.

One Page Dungeon Contest Logo

A One Page Dungeon can be grabbed, studied, and played in just a few minutes with little fuss. I have already given a pretty detailed account about how to use one. The real trick is knowing where to find them. That is where the One Page Dungeon Contest comes immediately to mind.

The One Page Dungeon Contest has been an annual event since 2009 that often attracts over a hundred entries annually. All of the entries are shared, many of them are linked, many are, and all entries are required to be released under a creative commons license. When exceptional entries are being evaluated, the contest judges often post a blog entry featuring the dungeon and one thing they love about it.

If you are interested in creating one - whether for the contest or not, their submission guide, templates, and sample dungeons are great material.

"I Hate This Dungeon" by Aaron Frost CC-BY-SA 2020

Each year a book containing all entries is released through DriveThruRPG for sale (and all entrants get copies as well.) I own two copies of the One Page Dungeon Compendium, ones for 2019 and 2020. They are worth the $5 to have to support the contest and get all of the dungeons in one place.

Well worth exploring if you want to put a game together in a hurry.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Resource Spotlight: Free Music Archive

Time to boost the signal! This September I am planning on doing a roundup of some favourite resources for Table Top Role Playing Games. Most of which are free and online.

Resource Spotlight: Free Music Archive

"Piper" by OpenClipart-vectors
From Pixabay
I like to have music on in the background while I play TTRPGs. For the most part, my tool of choice for that is Spotify. I keep Spotify playlists for each campaign to catch its mood (here's my current one). If I want to share music, however, for example, If I were streaming my game, Spotify puts you at Risk of stepping on copyright.

The Free Music Archive is a collection of free and royalty free music you can download and use in your creations: some with and some without music. Most of it is under Creative Commons, and it is advisable to check whether a piece requires attribution.

Note: I personally have run afoul of a predatory company that has persuaded several of the contributors to monetize their work. These companies will put false strikes on content uploaded to platforms like YouTube in hopes of intimidating you into paying a fee. This is a small percentage of the content, and should be reported.

If you are looking for sound effects, Orange Free Sounds is a similar service for sound effects.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Resource Spotlight: Makehuman

Time to boost the signal! This September I am planning on doing a roundup of some favourite resources for Table Top Role Playing Games. Most of which are free and online.

Resource Spotlight: Makehuman

Makehuman is a 3D modelling program that is designed to let you build and pose models of human characters. It allows you to make very detailed character portraits using an interface fairly reminiscent of a character builder in a video game like Skyrim or Saints Row

Character's created in Makehuman can be exported to 3D image editors like Blender and MeshLab, where they can be modified and upgraded, followed by final touches in a tool like GIMP.

I am still new to 3D image creation, and so far have worked only in Makehuman, but even as a stand-alone tool, it can be pretty impressive. The images here are of Róinseach, one of my characters in the World of Weirth playtest campaign using Low Fantasy Gaming.

These images show off what Róinseach does best... Running and screaming.

Mustering false bravado.

And contemplatimg her life choices with a deep sense of regret.

These models represent 2 1/2 hours of tinkering with the software. I suspect that I can put together future models much more swiftly. Resources for Makehuman such as weapons, clothing, and tools are relatively limited in their selection, based on a community database.

Without Blender, assets from libraries of 3D objects like TurboSquid cannot be added to the models, and so if it is the only 3D program you are using, it is fairly limited. I will be teaching myself Blender in the future in order to give a more complete review . As it is, it is a very intuitive program worth tinkering in.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Resource Spotlight: Dyson's Dodecahedron

 Time to boost the signal! This September I am planning on doing a roundup of some favourite resources for Table Top Role Playing Games. Most of which are free and online.

Resource Spotlight: Dyson's Dodecahedron

"The Strange Ruins of Karst Ford"
By Dyson Logos.

I would be remiss in doing a month of resource spotlights if I did not also cover The Commercial Map Archive at Dyson's Dodecahedron. In fact, the whole blog is awesome and deserves more than one feature article... so I will do a few more in coming months!

The Commercial Map Archive is a collection of Dyson's maps. He has opened them for use, modified or un-, so long as he is attributed as Dyson Logos and you don't use his maps for unsavory purposes.

"Tower of the Marmoset Savant" by Dyson Logos

Monday, September 21, 2020

Resource Spotlight: Image Libraries

Time to boost the signal! This September I am planning on doing a roundup of some favourite resources for Table Top Role Playing Games. Most of which are free and online.

Image Libraries

One set of tools that has been incredibly useful to me as I have been creating my incredibly light pamphlet adventures... and this blog, has been knowing where to find images that it is free and legal to use. I wanted to share a few of my favourite resources here:


Pixabay has more dragons than you can
shake a vorpal sword at, like
this one from OpenClipart-vectors 

Pixabay is a massive library of free, royalty-free stock images. It's terms are incredibly simple: don't sell unaltered images, don't just reupload images to other libraries, don't use the images to portray identifiable people in them in an offensive way, don't use images of branded products to create misleading association or claims about that product. Otherwise, it is use as you like for commercial or non-commercial use. No attribution required (But I try to when I can). No fees (But some contributors have tip jars).

Pixabay is huge. And it is a perfect resource if you are producing material with zero budget like I am. Its only downside is ir can take forever to sort through unless your search engine skills are top notch.

It doesn't lack for NSFW images, however, do be prepared for artistic (But not always tasteful) nudity,  especially if you search for "fantasy."

I would also be wary of the fact that pixabay often includes images of trademark characters. I have difficulty exactly working out how the legal complexities of using those images would be. I tend to avoid them on principle.


Photo by Naman Porwal on Unsplash
Unsplash uses a  very similarlicense to Pixabay homemade exclusively features photographic work. While photographic work is not to my personal taste when creating or buying role-playing games, I can't deny there are some truly amazing images there. Many of which I use as models when I paint with Photoshop or GIMP

Photos of things such as sculptures, Miniatures, and other media such as paintings means that there is quite a bit of content you can use on unsplash if you are willing to take the time to search for it.

Free Vector

Similar to Pixabay in scope, Free Vector is mostly vector images that are free for use for private, non-commercial application... so a great resource for your home game. It also includes some creative commons offerings you can use in accordance with the license.

Resource Spotlight: GIMP

Time to boost the signal! This September I am planning on doing a roundup of some favourite resources for Table Top Role Playing Games. Most of which are free and online.


Wilber, Mascot for GIMP
Cc-BY-SA Jakub Steiner

Whether you are making maps, creating handouts or drawing character portraits, one of the best tools at your disposal is a good photo editing program. Adobe Photoshop has dominated the market since the late 1990s, and having good Photoshop skills has been desirable on a resume for a long time. However, Photoshop is expensive. When I was working with it in the late 90s, a copy would run you about $500. The lighter weight Photoshop Elements Just under $200. 

Today Photoshop is available as a part of the Adobe Creative Suite on a subscription basis, which can get costly in a hurry. For someone who is only planning on using it for a hobby basis, Photoshop may be too steep and investment. Thankfully, there is a free alternative that can do pretty much anything Adobe Photoshop can do, and that is GIMP. 

GNU Image Manipulation Program is a donation supported GNU license photo editing program that was first made available for LINUX, and more recently made the jump to iOS and Windows. It is free to download here.

Just like Photoshop, there's a learning curve to using gimp. The latest versions of gimp using interface very similar to the Adobe Photoshop 4.5 that I learned to use Photoshop in, which I found fairly intuitive. In fact, I find it as a slightly better interface than the current versions of Photoshop out there. But, your mileage may vary

Fortunately, GIMP offers quite a few tutorials, and a decent manual detailing the tools the tools and methods for using the software. I have considered doing some tabletop role-playing specific tutorials for things like adding map details or colouring character portraits here, if my readers show interest.

My map for Love Nest of the Barbarix was painted using GIMP. I started with a skull image from Pixabay, and used it as a model or painting the skull, then designed the banner map in Dungeon Scrawl, before editing it in GIMP and adding it to the image.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Resource Spotlight: Character Portraits Tools pt.1

Time to boost the signal! This September I am planning on doing a roundup of some favourite resources for Table Top Role Playing Games. Most of which are free and online.

Hero Machine

I enjoy drawing my characters. I have a great deal of fun trying to come up with poses and activities that help convey who they are. However, I am well aware of the fact that not everyone as the saying patience or confidence to reach level of drawing skill that they are comfortable sharing. The next resource I am featuring is a tool that helps players creative character portrait when they aren't comfortable drawing one.

Hero Machine is made by and takes the concept of a paper doll and turns it up to eleven with the power of Flash. It is a browser-based application that lets you design fantasy, science fiction, and comic book hero characters.

With a little patience you can get a pretty solid character portrait made several be pretty close to what you're looking for.

It can take a while to master, and because the portions are based on DC and marvel character designs, you might have to learn how to grow the heads and shrink the hands in order to make a character who looks more to your taste.

If you are particularly patient, you can create your own assets to upload, allowing an almost infinite amount of customisation. Taking the character into Photoshop or GIMP, afterwards, and let you tweak the final bits and pieces.

Hero Machine has been through several versions. Many of the early versions are downloadable and can be used I need a local machine. The newest versions a lot a lot more variety in poses and character shapes, but are entirely used online.

Unfortunately, as Adobe Flash is currently bring sun-set we are awaiting a new version in a more modern software engine. In the meantime, if your browser supports Flash, it is well worth a look.

Hero Forge for Character Portraits

An alternative way to create a character portrait online is to go to the Hero Forge program, which is a website that allows you to design custom miniatures using a very similar interface. Once you have something you like, you can capture it with print screen and then imported into something like gimp for colorizing and editing.

Game Review: Troika! Numinous Edition

Game Review: Troika! Numinous Edition

Troika! Numinous Ed. Cover Art,
By Andrew Walter,  © 2018

: Daniel Sell
Publisher: Melisonian Arts Council
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG,
Engine: Dungeoneer! / Fighting Fantasy

Troika! is a surreal fantasy role-playing game by Daniel Sell, published by the Melsonian Arts Council. Touted as the "Other World's Most Popular Role Playing Game", Troika!  offers a surreal and otherworldly setting, strange characters, and unconventional challenges.

Troika! is powered by the venerable Dungeoneer (a.k.a Advanced Fighting Fantasy) engine, created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone for their Fighting Fantasy solo role-playing books, and then the later Titan setting. the Fighting Fantasy games were immensely popular in Canada, Australia, and the UK when I was a child in the 1980s, and have made a recent resurgence. Troika! take some of the strange and surreal elements of those games, and turns it up to 11

Monday, September 14, 2020

Twitter Speed Planning Session

Today I did a quick stream-of-consciousness adventure plan on Twitter. While it worked okay, and I have a good adventure planned for tonight, I apparently can't Twitter. The tweets are broken up instead of in the continuous thread like I thought I'd set them up to be. 

So, I deleted that chaotic mess off my timeline after amalgamating is here. I will post it again in this format come above with my own reference, and to show a thought process in action, in case it is useful to someone.

Game Review: Maze Rats

 Game Review: Maze Rats

Questing Beast Logo
© Ben Milton
Author: Ben Milton
Publisher: self-published 
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG/
Engine: 2d6 Roll-over

Maze Rats with the first Indie RPG offering by Ben Milton of Questing Beast. I have previously reviewed his more recent game Knave. In my review of Knave, I mentioned that maze rats was not my cup of tea. On a third glance through, however, I've changed my opinion of it.

Before I begin, I want to make a note that I am using version 4.3 of Maze Rats. My initial version of this review was for version 0.1.

I originally grabbed Maze Rats a few weeks after it was announced on the Questing Beast YouTube channel, as I make it a point, when I have the money, to give back to creators I appreciate. I lost record of my purchase of Maze Rats, and my purchased copy in a computer meltdown. I grabbed a replacement copy from an old folder, and ended up reviewing a much older version of Maze Rats. I decided to put my money down again and buy a new copy, so I could make this review accurate.

Maze Rats is very lightweight and minimalistic. It uses a 2d6 system in which player characters are expected to roll over and in order to succeed on a task after adding bonuses. Characters have three stats Strength, Dexterity, and Will ranging from + 0 to +2. Characters are randomly rolled on a table to get an array of stats. Advantage and Disadvantage, determined narratively, sllows you to add 3d6 and take either the highest or lowest to dice respectively. Maze rats encourages a style of play in which dice rolls are only made players have not narrated choices and actions that will guarantee success.

So, describing how you stick a wedge under a pressure plate will automatically succeed, where is declaring that you wish to "disarm the trap" without any details will require a roll. Attack rolls work slightly differently, as they try to beat an armour class that starts with a base of 6 and then goes up with Armour or Shields.

Maze Rats is extremely lightweight and fast. It is also designed to be highly lethal, and to treat combat as the fail state. Player creativity isn't just rewarded, it is a precondition for survival.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Game Review: Down & Out in Dredgeburg

Game Review: Down and Out in Dredgeburg

: @skullfungus
Publisher: self-published
Engine: Powered by the Apocalypse /

Down and Out in Dredgeburg is a role playing game and setting book created for the Starter Village Jam run on in May of 2020. It is the creation of Skullfungus, an artist, game developer, and cartographer who's work I am very fond of.

Down and Out in Dredgeburg is a is set in a city that sits in a marsh on the boundaries between several different hellish underworlds. Damned and lost souls wind up here occasionally by accident after dying rather than going to the eternal torment to which they were bound.. Some characters take human form, While others are transformed into undead, or imps. 

With nowhere to go, characters try to make as pleasant an afterlife for themselves as they can in a town beset by monsters, ruled by demons, and kept orderly by a corrupt and brutal police force. It reminds me of a mix of Grim Fandango, the Goon, and Dark Souls. It is bleak and whimsical at the same time.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Resource Spotlight: Google Dice Roller

Time to boost the signal! This September I am planning on doing a roundup of some favourite resources for Table Top Role Playing Games. Most of which are free and online.

Google Dice Roller

When I need an electronic dice roller, my first stop is Crawler's Companion, but I don't keep it on all of my devices. Thankfully,  you don't need anything more than a browser.

Google has a device roller embedded in their search engine. If you enter "Roll " and a Dungeons and Dragons dice rolling expression that uses a standard polyhedral die ( i.e.: Roll 3d4), Google will give you a result, and then open up a visual die rolling app in your browser:

It is great for playing around with new systems!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Resource Spotlight: Project Guntenburg, Faded Pages, and Appendix N

Time to boost the signal! This September I am planning on doing a roundup of some favourite resources for Table Top Role Playing Games. Most of which are free and online.

I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons in some form or another since 1986, and I have been Dungeon Mastering pretty steadily from the start. However long I have been doing it, I am always finding ways to improve my game. Nothing has done more for my game in 2019 & 2020 than going back to D&D's source material: Appendix N.

What is Appendix N?

Appendix N was a section at the end of the Dungeon Master's Guide for AD&D 1e listing the books and authors that served as the inspiration for Dungeons and Dragons. I have added a photostat of Appendix N to the right. Click to enlarge.

If you look hard enough through these books, you can see the inspiration for most of the Spells, signature villains, weird Supernatural events, and the seeds of most of the early edventures for Dungeons & Dragons. They include a range of works that at the time were considered "Weird Fiction," although today we break them down into a genres like sword and sorcery, fantasy, lovecraftian horror, and urban fantasy. None of those labels were used in a meaningful way when the books were written or when Dungeons & Dragons was created.

Reading Appendix N is more than just an archaeological expedition. It gives you insight into why the game was designed the way it was, how the creators of the game imagine the adventures in D&D would go, and how to bring together the disparate elements of science fiction, fantasy, and horror that are strewn across the early Dungeons & Dragons manuals. Reading Appendix N can give you incredible insight into what makes a good D&D story.

The books are incredibly fun, to boot. I had not read Abraham Merritt until Christmas 2019, and I am really glad that I did. He has become one of my favourite writers.

Actually getting your hands on Appendix N material, and finding people to appreciate it with certainly would have been a daunting task 15 years ago. Believe me, I am a vet of the Used Bookstore Wars! Today, thanks to the resources available on the internet, you can enjoy a good portion of Appendix N in HTML, text, or even audio book.

Resource Spotlight: Purple Sorcerer Games

Time to boost the signal! This September I am planning on doing a roundup of some favourite resources for Table Top Role Playing Games. Most of which are free and online.

Purple Sorcerer Logo
©2020 Purple Sorcerer Games 
Purple Sorcerer Games 

Purple Sorcerer Games is an online resource site for Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (and it's offshoot Mutant Crawl Classics RPG). It includes an incredible array of LAMP-based in-browser tools, as well as adventures and video tutorials about playing Dungeon Crawl Classics.


Anyone who has played DCC RPG for any length of time, probably uses Purple Sorcerer. It offers quick and easy ways to create 0 level characters, or even higher-level characters, using it range of rolling and build methods. It also has tools for generating demons, dragons, magic weapons, Mercurial magic effects, and more, scrolls, and unique monsters.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Resource Spotlight: The WTF? Engine

Note: Cussin'. Lots of it. No children of any age.

The What the Fuck? Engine is an open source LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) program that you can instsll on most web servers with minimal headaches. It generates a statement based on a series of random, often nested, tables each time you view or refresh the page.

If you are a LAMP Code-monkey like me, you can grab the source code here on Github.

WTF? Was originally made to create a page entitled What the Fuck Should I Make for Dinner? A handy site for the uninspired and meal-plan challenged.

The role-playing community saw this engine and ran with it in a big way, creating their own foul-mouthed and funny character and adventure generators. Here are a few of my facourites:

Friday, September 4, 2020

Resource Spotlight: Dungeon Scrawl

Time to boost the signal! This September I am planning on doing a roundup of some favourite resources for Table Top Role Playing Games. Most of which are free and online.

Dungeon Scrawl

Created by Keir (a.k.a. ProbableTrain), Dungeon Scrawl is a mapmaking program that lets you draw both top-down and isometric maps. I've been following it since Keir first showed an early demonstration of it on Twitter this past Spring. I have been using it since June. All but two of my published works use maps made with Dungeon Scrawl.

Here is what I have made with it, combined with Photoshop or GIMP:

Most of these are just using the earliest iterations of a very fast-growing piece of software.

Dungeon Scrawl uses a layer system and interface very similar to Photoshop or GIMP, but is pared down solely for map-making. It includes the options for seversl different visual styles that have been used in classic RPG adventures and manuals, such as graph paper, blueprint, crosshatch sketch on parchment, etc.

You can also import map reources, like transparent .png images to decorate the map. A lot of testing work has been done using 2-Minute Tabletop's free assets.

As a DM and aspiring game developer with two little kids, I really appreciate how simple Keir makes cartography.  It is a real boon when I can only work on my blog and adventures at naptime.

I also use it when it is my turn to be mapper in those rare instances where I get to play.

Right now Dungeon Scrawl is run in your browser. It can be hard to use on Android at least, but works beautifully in Chrome. Keir intends to make Android and iOS app versions as development continues. I will definitely revisit this one as new developments happen, and continue to use it as my dungeon mapper of choice!

Game Review: Tiny Dungeon 2e

Game Review: Tiny Dungeon 2e

Tiny Dungeon 2e cover art 
by Michael Leavenworth,
©2018, Gallant Knight Games

: Alan Bahr
Publisher: Gallant Knight Games
Marketplace: DrivethruRPG
Engine: Tiny D6

I first heard about Tiny Dungeon 2e through Bundle of Holding, when it was featured with a bundle of other rules-light indie games ("Indie Cornucopia 6"). I was immediately attracted  me by the cover and the description: 

Powered by the TinyD6 engine, with streamlined mechanics that utilize only one to three single six-sided dice on every action, characters that can be written on a 3x5 notecard, and easy to understand and teach rules, Tiny Dungeon 2e is great for all groups, ages, and experience levels!

This was when I first looking for a fast and easy game to replace D&D5e. While nothing else in that bundle appealed, Tiny Dungeon kept calling to me. I picked it up and was immediately taken with its clean, simple mechanics, and clever flourishes.

I ran a trio of short adventures for my wife the day after I bought it, and after she said: "I like it. In fact, this might be the system I finally DM." Within a week, I'd ordered a POD hardcopy. Then I bought the Space Opera game Alan Bahr had written on the same engine, Tiny Frontier Revised for myself, my best friend, and my brother who loves TTRPGs, but works closely with people from WotC, runs games for his office, and makes D&D-based video games, so won't do fantasy games on his off hours.

In other words, I like it. I've run a couple of short campaigns with it, and it goes in the backpack for short trips. I even used it to teach my son the rudiments of dungeon crawling fantasy games.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Developer Interviews: Alan Bahr

Growth and Responsibility: An Interview with Alan Bahr

Alan Bahr is the creative powerhouse behind Gallant Knight Games, a company that produces some of the most creative projects on the small press indie game scene. He has helped bring the Brazilian OSR to North America with projects like Knights of the Underbed, and has helped make ultra-light minimalist games, like his Tiny Dungeon 2e, a big part of the current wave of Indie games.

As always on W2tDT, the answers here are unedited, unabridged, and entirely the Author's own. 

W2tDT: You have made a lot of cool games. Some are pretty straightforward, like Tiny Dungeon and Tiny Frontier. Others are really unexpected: like Moods of the Mad King, a game about entertaining a tyrant and Cold Shadows, a le Carré / Ludlum inspired game of espionage that is built on Trust and Deception. You even have a game about playing Gods! Where do you get your ideas?

AB: Oh wow. I don’t have a good answer for that. I’m really inspired by music and art I see, and I find myself responding to cool media I find and using that to try to leap-frog into new styles of games.

From Hell’s Heart was written entirely to use public domain art from a single artist (yes, I found art I liked and wrote a whole game to justify it.)

Which of your games are you most proud of?

That’s hard to answer. I love the whole TinyD6 line, but I think Cold Shadows is probably my favorite. It’s an underserved genre and I’m really proud of what we did (especially considering it was the third game we ever released and it was a big jump for us in terms of mechanics and production.)

Many of your games are built on the super-minimalist TinyD6 engine. It is probably one of the three lightest systems I have played. Why focus on the minimalist angle in games?

Everyone has fun differently, but I found that my style of fun (fast resolution, rules light, easy to teach and play) was hard to find in games on the market at that time (partially because I didn’t know where to look). Tiny Dungeon really lit a fire under me and I wanted to keep going with it. 

What is different about playing a minimalist game vs. playing a crunchier system like Pathfinder? What does a game master have to do differently when he is running a minimalist system?

Well, I think a GM has to be prepared to fill in some gaps. I’m fond of saying in panels that the goal of TinyD6 is to get you 90% of the way there, and the last 10% is all the GM and what makes your game YOURS. 

Obviously, a minimalist game, like an OSR game requires a focus on making rulings not rules, being reasonable, logical, and open-handed as you run the game. And you have to reward player creativity. What do you think is a major difference between playing in minimalist system and playing an OSR game like OSRIC?

On a philosophical level, not much. I think they follow a lot of the same principles in terms of openness towards modification and exploration of what the mechanics can and can’t do. I think TinyD6 is more forgiving in terms of lethality (though that’s a different debate, I suppose), so the GM should feel enabled to make mistakes and grow. It’s a very forgiving and rewarding game system. 

Over the last few years, Gallant Knight games has become, to my mind, a place where you can see some of the most imaginative projects coming out of the small press scene. I’m thinking of games like Knights of the under bed, Gears of defiance, and Solar Blades and Cosmic spells. How would you describe the Gallant Knight ethos for choosing which games to publish? What makes you look at a project and say that it is a Gallant Knight game?

It's super simple: would I want to play this game at my table with my gaming groups? If my gut reaction is “hell yes”, then we’re all in. 

You have a reputation for being a mentor to other game developers and someone who knows how to boost the signal for other developers and great organizations. I’ve noticed your name in a lot of special thanks and Acknowledgements sections of Indie Games I picked up over the years. How important is mentorship, do you think, to this Hobby?

That’s the first I’ve heard of this! I’m gratified to hear that it’s such a thing, but honestly, I’m just a passionate fan of games. I’ve never lost that “fanboy” feeling I get around other game designers, and I just want to see them be successful. 

Is there anyone you would love to turn my readers attention to right now? A worthy cause or a great new project?

Well, at the time of this writing, Gallant Knight Games has For Coin & Blood: Second Edition up on Kickstarter! It’s a classically inspired grimdark fantasy RPG (inspired by RPGs from the 70s and 80s) where you play the stories of gutterscum and villains. 

I’m personally really excited for the Free League version of Twilight 2000. Free League is one of the best and most exciting publishers on the market and I can’t wait to see what else they do.

And how about yourself? What are you working on right now?

Well, we just put Tiny Cthulhu to layout, so that’ll be shipping soon! Other than that, I’ve got a lot of freelance work I owe folks (sorry!) and I’m actually kinda taking it easy on GKG projects for the next few months while I clear our backlog, catch up on errata style busy work, and work to improve our operations. 

I’ve got a few long-simmering projects I’ve recently turned my eye to that I’m very excited about, so we’ve been doing some playtests. 

After I bought my second copy of Tiny Dungeon 2e, I watched the year-long campaign you ran with Victory Condition Games to showcase it. It was a campaign that really went off the rails; you had a character who set fire to things and got other characters killed in almost every session. You had players who would appear and disappear. And you had, towards the end, a pair of completely ridiculous PCs that I don’t think anyone would quite know how to run. I have, since I first conceived this blog, intended to write an article about the after game discussion you had at the end of that campaign. You sat down and talked very frankly about your part in how the campaign had gone so wrong. Especially how the biggest role of the GM is providing direction and leadership to the group. That had to be hard to do in an open forum! To me, it was absolutely stunning to watch someone display that level of self-Honestly. Do you think that campaign has had an impact, good or bad on you in the long term As a GM or as a designer?

One of the great parts of running games online and publicly is that all your mistakes are nice and visible forever. 

It’s definitely impacted how I talk about GMing in the books we publish, how I talk about GMing at conventions, and how I communicate with players (in person, online and through any medium.) 

It was a lot harder on me than I expected, and it damaged some of my self-confidence I think, but if I’m being honest, I needed to be challenged and I feel like I was better after being pushed to grow as a GM.

You made the transition to full time game developer in 2016, and then in 2018 you went back into the full-time workforce for the best possible reason: to be a Dad. So few people in this industry ever get to be developers full time. I'm envious...

Hah! It’s like a lot of jobs where you spend more time doing the non-fun parts than the fun parts 😊

...What advice would you give the guys who are aiming to develop games for a living?

Be patient, be smart with money and finances, and make sure you learn everything you can. It’s a lot harder than expected in some ways (and some things are a lot easier.) Everyone make and plays games differently, so you have to make your own mistakes, so you can grow into the designer that only you can grow into. 

...Do you think it is possible to have financial stability while making games? What would someone need to do to make that happen?

I think this is really a big conversation, frankly. Short answer is: yes. This is a topic that gets me really fired up, so I’m sorry for the wall of text!

But there are some hurdles that need to be adjusted in the industry. Consumers, publishers, distributors, and streamers all share a responsibility to ensure the industry can sustain and support the wonderful creativity that comes out of it.

Piracy is a real problem in the game industry (some of my angriest twitter rants have been piracy focused.) Consumers need to be willing to pay fair prices for the games they want to consume (RPGs are an insane return on investment for what they cost. They’re cheaper than a movie most times and you can do it repeatedly without purchasing more!)

Publishers need to set up and hold each other accountable, both in terms of what we pay freelancers (a sustainable wage), and what we charge. The “race to the bottom” pricing that you see only harms other publishers (and eventually yourself.)

Distribution is a whole can of worms. I’m really glad I have such a great distributor (Studio2 is wonderful.)

Streamers, actual plays, and those who monetize RPGs in artistic and creative format like that have a responsibility to promote and share games. Streaming is such a wonderful new frontier for tabletop RPGs and it’s so exciting to see all the amazing things that come out of that community. It has the potential to revolutionize the way RPGs are consumed, but when wielded improperly it can be harmful too (as can be seen sometimes.)

Thank you Alan, for your time, and a shelf full of amazing games!

Thank you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Howling Emptiness of Eastern Canada

I grew up in the province of Nova Scotia, and much of my family still lives out east in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. Every year, I try to make my way back to spend time with my relatives, and to give my sons a chance to enjoy time with their grandparents.
Life there is slower and simpler. More humble than most of the hustle and bustle of the Western World. The people there, for the most part have deep roots in the land. They love family, music, home-cooked meals, time spent together. They like to be involved in small community societies together. If there are a people left in the world like Tolkein's shirefolk, it is Atlantic Canadians.

But, as much as visiting the people there can be a joy, travelling through the Maritimes fills me with Melancholy. It is a land that has been emptied out of its people.

During my vacation in Atlantic Canada this Summer, I spent a lot of time reading and thinking about Dungeons & Dragons. Especially the "implied setting" of the early editions of the game; a world where people were barely clinging to their homes after some great Apocalypse filled the land with haunted ruins. The wealth, magic, and wonders they have now, a pale mirror of the wonders that are collecting dust underground.

Cover Art to " Slumbering Ursine Dunes" by 
David Lewis Johnson. Adventure by Chris Kutalik
©2014, The Hydra Cooperative.
I have been dying to get this book for ages...
In particular, I have really enjoyed some essays on the post-apocalyptic nature of D&D by master adventuesmith Chris Kutalik over at Hill Cantons. About the topic. Especially one about the implied demographics of Greyhawk and The Forgotten Realms entitled "The Howling Emptiness of the World of Greyhawk", for which I have named this one. In it he talks about how incredibly empty Greyhawk is when you look at population density and the space between settlements even in the most civilised parts of the world. How they were emptier and lonelier than even the wildest parts of Medieval Europe. 

Amusingly, even the demographic data he presents shows the far untamed marches of Medieval Russia as more densely populated than Canada. But Canada is a wild land where almost all of the population is crammed within an hour's drive of the United States Border. It's when you journey through Quebec and the Maritime provinces that it really feels empty.

But the emptiness, the loneliness, and the decay of Atlantic Canada is truly heart-wrenching at times. I wanted to share this piece as a tool of sorts to World-Builders to give them snapshots and ideas of a place of Howling Emptiness in prose.