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Crisis prep for GMs!

TRANS FOR ME(Should work for most traditional games. Crowdsourced on Rollespill.info).

The scenario: You have the characters (with some background, motivations and special abilities), an idea about setting and genre, and the system you’ll use. Maybe you have notes from previous sessions.

But you have no idea what’s going to happen next time you meet!

It’s a couple of days until you play, and – knowing yourself – you know there’s somewhere between half an hour and two hours remaining for prep.

What do you do?

In prioritized order (drop the one’s you don’t have time for):

1) First of all; skim through character and setting notes, and notes from previous sessions (if any). Make a note of any ideas they give you.

2) An explosive start: not necessarily violent, but something the characters have to relate/react to. Something that changes the status quo, preferably involving 2-3 NPCs (it’s good if at least one of these is central to the game). The scene may well start in medias res (in the middle of unfolding action).

3) Prepare 3-5 NPCs especially for the session. You can detail predefined secondary characters, or make up some new ones. Preferably tie them to the characters and/or their agendas (as adversaries, helpers, obstacles).

3) “Cool elements” to sprinkle on top: a couple of specific scenes/moments, a specific setting, a group/organization (with agendas), items with unique properties. The characters should be able to interact with these in a meaningful way. Dilemmas are good.

4) Threat clocks/countdowns (if time): make a note of a couple of “background processes” where events will unfold in such-and-such a manner unless the characters intervene. This can also be combined with 1-2 further “crises” like in the opening scene, 1).

Over half of the items and ideas you come up with may be tied to specific character agendas/abilities/backgrounds/contacts. Give the characters a chance to shine.

All of this information can be organized in a mind-map (with lines between the elements denoting order of appearance or how they relate to each other). A few keywords should suffice.

Further inspiration for making up NPCs: Your next AW NPC is going to be awesome.

Further reading from Imagonem: Some tips for new Game Masters

Reklamer

Kickstarting the Apocalypse

Apocalypse World took the indie roleplaying scene by storm. In its sixth year, Vincent and Meguey Baker are kickstarting a second edition.

Apocalypse World has a post-apocalyptic setting, or rather; helps the players generate their own settings in the genre. It’s a violent, dirty, poisoned world, but with room for hope. The designers have decided to stick fairly closely to the original system in the new book.

Meg: The single biggest improvement is the flow of battle. The combat in AW1 was often a place where the pace slowed and people had questions about the process. When we were looking at that system and how to streamline it, it clicked into place that we already had a solid system for the flow of action in the PC and MC moves, so why not see if a series of moves would work to handle battle? And lo and behold, they work great!

A major change is doing away with fronts and using threat maps instead. Threat maps give a better sense of how all the various dangers play off each other, and support an even stronger sense of the world. There are also significant changes to the Hx system that help make it smoother and faster to navigate.

Vincent: I’m pretty excited about the new threat map system. The old system for fronts was a little, I dunno, abstruse, a little too conceptual. The new system has you place threats directly on a map, centered on the PCs, it’s more intuitive and more concrete. It really ties the threats the GM’s responsible for to the landscape of the game, both when you’re originally creating them and when you’re updating them between sessions.

katrina

“Hurricane Katrina LA6”. Flickr.com. Photo: News Muse /CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I: What was the original appeal to you with the post-apocalyptic genre?

Meg: Oh my goodness, what’s the appeal?! It’s everything. I’m a big history and archaeology and anthropology fan, and pretty much as far back as we know, people have been experiencing world-altering events, living or dying through them, dealing with the aftermath and the rebuilding process,and warning everyone about the next one. The current mainstream images of the post-apocalypse are mostly dry and dusty wastelands because we are on some level deeply aware of our utter dependence on potable water, but there’s a dozen different scenarios that spring to mind from history. Top among them in my mind are the Black Plague in the 1350s, the arrival of the Spanish and smallpox in America in the late 1400s, the great fire of London in 1666, the dust bowl in the 1930s in the US, the second World War, Chernobyl, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010, the poison water in Flint Michigan going on right now.

The end of “life as we know it” is a really, really old idea, and one that keeps on happening,even if it’s only the end of life as you know it within a 20 mile radius of your home. To explore it and examine it, to look at scarcity and want and decide what you are going to do, where you are going to make a stand and say “I will prevail, I will remain human, I will remain humane” -those are fascinating things to look at and play with! And Apocalypse World offers players a framework to do that, to create and explore the nature of the apocalypse, whatever that looks like to them. I’ve run games with a wide wide range of apocalyptic landscapes, and heard about many more.

Vincent: I am, at most, a casual fan of the genre. Back in 2008 I was reading Gregor Hutton’s game 3:16, one of my very favorites, then new, and it came to me that I could use the post-apocalyptic genre the way he uses military sf. The old power structures and systems of control are breaking down around us; we have this marvelous opportunity to carve out space for ourselves in their ruins. I wrote Apocalypse World originally to reflect on that.

Lange-MigrantMother02

Florence Thompson with several of her children, March 1936. The photo is known as «Migrant Mother» and is a famous icon of the Great Depression in the U.S. Photo: Dorothea Lange, Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information / Office of Emergency Management / Resettlement Administration (Public Domain).

Apocalypse World provided a toolkit for other designers to create their own “hacks” of the game. There are now over two dozen published games using the core system/method from AW, many of them indie favorites in their own right, like Monsterhearts and Dungeon World. In addition there are several fan-made hacks using elements or the system in its entirety.  

I: What do you think of the growth of “Powered by the Apocalypse” games and hacks? Do you have any favorites?

Meg: We love it! It’s incredibly gratifying and humbling to have something we made inspire so many other people to design, and so many of them are so good! My personal favorites are Monsterhearts, Sagas of the Icelanders, The Warren, and Epyllion. And World Wide Wrestling.

Vincent: My favorite is a relative unknown: Epidiah Ravachol’s Wolfspell. It uses the game-mechanical structure of reading a situation to take you out of your normal mindset and put you in a foreign one. It’s pretty cool.

I: The Kickstarter now has over 2500 backers. How will you use the extra money (or maybe everything is spent on printing and distribution)?

Meg: We’re printing books enough to keep in stock for a while and pay to have them stored and shipped, we’ll go to PAXEast and some other conventions (not GenCon, sorry), we’ll start work on the next book with a little cushion to cover time off from our day jobs. In my wild world of fantasy dreams, we get to take AW2e to a convention in Scandinavia over the summer, but there’s a LOT of things to do before that becomes anywhere near a thing.

Vincent: Yeah. It looks like a huge pile of money, but that’s deceptive. It’s a LOT of books.

We’ve taken the past year or two slow on conventions and game development. Like Meg says, we’re hoping that this can let us do some expanding, business-wise. Modest, practical expanding.

I: Vincent has been kind enough to share total sales figures for AW over the past few years. Last time I saw, I think you said 4000 copies sold since 2010? AW is a very high-profile game in the community, but financially it seems to be completely overshadowed by heavy-hitters like D&D5, or even a game like 7th Sea (300K on the Kickstarter in 24 hrs). Why do you think it’s so hard to reach audiences, relatively speaking?

Dresden, zerstörtes Stadtzentrum

The German city Dresden after the Allied air raids in February 1945. The bombing and the resulting firestorm destroyed over 6.5 km2 of the city centre. An estimated 22.700-25.000 people were killed. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1994-041-07 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Meg: We are not aiming to be D&D. We are not hoping to capture the 7th Seas audience. We write weird little off-beat games dealing with odd concepts, like young gunslinger preachers and superpowered people with amnesia and doomed pilgrims and whatever the Hocus is. We want to do our thing well, and if folks like it, that’s great! To use a music analogy, we’d rather have coffee shops full of folks that love what we do and follow every note than have a stadium full of folks who know that one song because they heard it a few times and don’t really know the words.

That said, I also think Apocalypse World continues to reach new audiences because of the wide appeal post-apocalyptic media in general has lately, and the way AW is structured makes it VERY accessible to people who have never played a roleplaying game before. We see this over and over at PAX, when people are excited and it’s the first time they’ve bought a tabletop roleplaying game.

Vincent: Part of it is just plain age! Apocalypse World is five years old. 7th Sea is what, 25? Let’s compare again in 20 years. I bet that Apocalypse World has the staying power.

I: On the same note; do you have any advice for self-publishing game designers? I mean, obviously you do, but like a top-three list.

Meg: Ok, top three bits of advice:

Write everything down. Get a notebook, a phone, whatever. Write in the grocery line, write in the bathroom, write while waiting anywhere for anything. Don’t think that every idea will be golden,but do make a habit of getting those random ideas down on paper so you can rearrange them and come back to them and see how they fit.

apocalypseworld

Illustration from the original game. Illustration by D. Vincent Baker, based on stock photos from Dreamstime and iStock Photo.

Kill your darlings. Half your ideas will be crap, or at least crap for the game you are working on. Put them on a mental shelf and maybe use them later. Editing for rules and text that actually do what you want and convey how to do that is vital.. Related to this is to leave room for the player in your game design. A good game design should feel like a few bits are missing, because that’s where the players take what you give them and make choices and tell stories. If you fill in all the holes, there’s no breathing room for your players.

Only spend what you can afford to lose. It’s tempting to see crowdfunding as a way to get around this, but seriously, don’t go into debt. If you are a first-time designer, think really hard about doing your own art, your own layout, etc instead of hiring lots of folks for your first time out. Try it. Figure out your skills. Use pdf and POD to help stretch your reach and your voice without stretching your wallet. And for heaven’s sake, have a finished or very-nearly finished product before you launch a crowdfunding campaign based on an idea and the promise of a LOT of work!

Vincent: Yep. Also, make and release many games. You learn more about making games in the weeks after you publish a game than in the months and years leading up to it.

I: What other projects are you currently working on? Meguey recently launched Playing Nature’s Year, could you tell our readers a bit about that?

Meg: Playing Nature’s Year is just about the polar opposite of Apocalypse World :) It’s a cycle of eight short seasonal games you can play with anyone. I made it with wishes, fortune-telling games, and children in mind, thinking a lot about how we connect to the seasons and to each other. Each game uses 10 six-sided dice for each player, each game is playable in full in under 30 minutes, and each game stands alone. It’s sort of my love letter to living in New England, with a big nod to all the fairytales of my childhood.

Vincent: Right now I’ve just got a bunch of leads. Mostly fantasy games, come to think of it: a Jack Vance-esque one, a Tanith Lee-esque one, a Game of Thrones-esque one, a Tolkein-esque one with a lot of jokes in it. I’m trying to be responsible and wait until I’ve finished and delivered Apocalypse World before I get serious about what next.

I: What developments in the indie/DIY communities currently excite you? What games and discussions do the two of you follow with interest?

Meg: I LOVE that all the avenues of creating things are in greater access now. Not only through pdf and POD and such, but through 3D printing and Patreon and things like Spoonflower and Etsy and Maker Faire, and on and on. I think there’s a real revelation and reveling in the ability to make things. It’s not quite a revival, because it was always happening, but it seems that now there’s a greater appreciation of whatever you might be making. I’m currently involved in Thing A Day, which is a month-long project to do anything creative for 15 minutes a day and tell people about it. It’s so refreshing and exciting to see so many people enthusiastic about being creative!

Games I follow most. Hmm. Much harder question. I’m very interested in the use of games for social change, and teaching, and I’m always fascinated by the overlap between games and storytelling. I guess right now I’m most interested in the intersection between oral history and LARP, where aspects of role-play connect with our own past. It’s very rich ground, and not at all clear what’s going to happen next or come out of thinking and talking about it.

Vincent: Well, I’m following the PbtA scene pretty darn eagerly, as you might imagine. The work that my colleagues are doing is breathtaking; every time I crack open a PbtA game, I find something new that I love.

I follow the DIY D&D scene too. Some of the game design problems that we old school Forgies consider difficult to solve are much easier when you look at them as scenario design problems instead.

I: Vincent was a guest of honor at the Danish roleplaying convention Fastaval in Denmark in 2013. How did you find the local game design scene? What interested you about the festival?

Vincent: I loved it! It was really strange!

It’s like the DIY D&D scene, actually. The Fastaval scenario form gives you an angle on some game design problems that are pretty intractable to the kind of RPG design that I do. Every game designer should play Fastaval scenarios, there’s a lot to learn from them.

The festival itself is structured in such a different way, too, compared to every other convention I’ve been to. I’ve spent a lot of time since then thinking about how it works and what to bring away from it.

I’d like to get back as soon as I can.

Also see Brianna Sheldon’s recent interview with the creators.

Apocalypse World homepage.

The current Kickstarter project.

Some tips for new Game Masters

Photo: olepeder

Photo: olepeder

(Please note that many games, particularly newer ones, will have some of these tips integrated as part of the method. Have some good tips of your own? Please let us know in comments).

Creating the characters

  • Create the characters together in the group, or at least spend some time in a physical meeting or via e-mail/Facebook group talking a bit about the campaign you want to run.
  • Make sure the characters have some points of contact to each other. Figure out why they will experience things together as a group (most roleplaying games still presuppose this as a default, though there are exceptions). Do they already know each other? Are they stuck in the same situation? What ties them together?
  • Make sure the characters have some interesting weaknesses/challenges to overcome. Preferably also some clear goals (that do not conflict with each other to the extent that they can’t cooperate).
  • Drama = conflict, but if the conflicts between characters are too big, the campaign might be short-lived.

Setting up the game

  • Plan adventures and campaigns based on the character’s background, interests, skills, goals and motivations. Let them be the main characters. Tie important elements of the plot directly to the characters.
  • Plan starting points and “hooks”, not solutions. Preserve the player’s freedom.
  • When preparing an adventure: give yourself a framework for improvisation, not a finished map over how events will play out (players generally dislike being “railroaded”.) This will ensure both your and the player’s freedom during play. The game is created at the table, not in your study in advance of play.
  • Don’t cling too tightly to your secrets, bring them into the game. The true excitement is in seeing what happens when the secrets are revealed.
  • Non-player characters (NPCs) are one of your most important tools. Plan a handful of these in advance of the game. Write briefly, just a few keywords about who they are. Sketch them out in a simple “relationship map.” How do they relate to the characters? To each other? How do they relate to the plot? What’s their agenda? Write them down between each session of play.
  • Having prepared a simple list of a dozen typical men’s and women’s names from the setting can come in handy when you have to name NPCs on the fly, during the session. – Don’t spend lots of time preparing things you feel reasonably certain will never see play.

During the game:

  • Make sure all characters get some spotlight, and all players get a chance to speak.
  • Follow up on player’s initiatives and ideas. Reward them, add to them. Maybe their ideas are just as good as what you’ve planned.
  • Players will rarely do exactly what you expected. This is a strength, not a weakness, of roleplaying. Relish the opportunity to improvise and think at the drop of a hat. Take a short break if you need to gather your thoughts.
  • Breaks are good. A bit of food before or after the game is good. Some snacks is good. Many groups like playing with a bit of atmospheric music. Some GMs use prepared handouts. Most groups will need dice, books and some pencils and paper to make notes with. Cell phones are a distraction. Ask players to turn off the sound and put them away. They can check them during breaks.
  • It’s better to allow frequent, short breaks than a lot of off-topic conversation during the game.
  • Use the player’s imagination. Ask them what the setting looks like, what the character is wearing, how she’s feeling, if the character knows anyone in the area, etc. Never reduce them to a passive audience, they should be active participants and co-creators (otherwise, they might as well be watching a movie). Build on and add to their input.
  • If you are not ready to have the character fail at a given task, don’t ask the player to roll. “Say yes, or roll the dice”.
  • Be careful giving the players challenges where there is only one possible solution. Try to leave challenges open, possible to solve in various ways. You don’t always have to picture a solution in advance, leave it to the players.
  • Make some notes as you go. Write a brief synopsis (half a page should suffice) after the game. This documentation will prove a goldmine when planning future sessions.

Timing and dramatic sense

  • As game master in traditional games, you have a lot of freedom to establish scenes where you want, decide which characters and NPCs are present, and what is going on when the scene starts. You can start in the middle of the action, spend time on exposition, cut a scene when it feels *dramatically right* rather than when the players are starting to get bored. Keep the action moving, at the same time as you’re preserving player freedom (you’ll get better at this balancing act given experience).
  • Timing. You’ll train your sense of dramaturgy by experience, and start with what you got. You’ve seen movies, played games, read books. A lot of this is already in your blood, and you’ll learn as you go. We are never fully taught as game masters. Timing has to do with when you reveal secrets, introduce new threats, cut scenes, raise your voice, whisper, sit quietly and just stare at the players for a quarter of a minute, or put on *that particular* song.

Check out the great website Learn to Play Tabletop RPGs

Best of luck!

Thanks to: Morten H.

Not in the spaces we know, but between them

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”

― H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature

American author H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937) is considered one of the early masters of the horror genre, and created the "Cthulhu Mythos." Photo: Lucius B. Truesdell, 1934.

American author H. P. Lovecraft (1890–1937) is considered one of the early masters of the horror genre, and created the «Cthulhu Mythos.» Photo: Lucius B. Truesdell, 1934.

Lovecraftesque is a new roleplaying game inspired by Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s stories and the mythology he created. Lovecraft (1890 –1937) is widely regarded as one of the early masters of horror fiction. The works of the American author have also been criticized for dealing in racist clichés. The British game designers Becky Annison and Josh Fox want to let players recreate the suspense of the original, whilst shedding the reactionary tropes. A Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of Lovecraftesque is running at the time of writing.

Several roleplaying games have taken inspiration from Lovecraft’s works. Unlike the classic game Call of Cthulhu, first published in 1981, Lovecraftesque has no single Game Master (GM), and there is only one main character.

“We are fans of the existing canon of Lovecraftish games”, says Josh “but they feel different to a classic Lovecraft story. In them, you typically get a party of investigators, who are actively working to uncover the horror. The focus is on them and their struggle to overcome the mystery, and rules-wise you’re focused on their actions and what happens to them. And following on from that, the investigators tend to be part of a campaign, encountering one horror after another.”

“Our game tries to get closer to Lovecraft’s own formula”, says Becky. “There is one main character who stumbles across the horror, and whose personal struggle is of secondary interest to the horror itself. The character should eventually feel as if they have been at the whim of the horror all along, that we are like ants to them.”

This recipe whetted the appetites of several gaming enthusiasts online, and the Kickstarter’s main goals were funded in 48 hours. The campaign page links to a bare-bones version that can be downloaded for free

One main character

“The focus of the game is the horror itself, which you create collaboratively”, Josh explains. “There is only one main character, the Witness, whose role is to provide a human perspective on the horror, not to defeat or solve it. Everyone works together to torment and terrify the Witness and see them to their doom, and to build up an idea of what the true horror might be.”

One player takes on the role of the Witness, one is the Narrator and the rest are Watchers, with the roles rotating after every scene. For most of the game you’re playing through scenes where the Narrator will reveal a single strange clue. Both the Witness and the Watchers concentrate on adding atmosphere, in different ways: the Witness by speaking out loud the fears and rationalizations of their character, and the Watchers by elaborating on what the Narrator describes, dripping detail and tension into the game.

“Something important for me is that there is only one character active at a time”, says Becky. “This is not a party game and this reflects a vital aspect of the majority of Lovecraft’s stories.  They are lone tales of one person stepping into a shifting horrific new world.  The gameplay will replicate that.”

Lovecraft was little known during his lifetime, and published his works of horror fiction in cheap pulp magazines, dying in poverty at an early age. He is today regarded as one of the most significant 20th-century authors in his genre.

“We both love really slow-building, brooding, atmospheric horror stories”, says Becky. “Stories where you don’t see the horror or even come across clear evidence of its existence, but rather you sense its presence through countless small hints, and only really confront it’s true nature right at the end. In contrast a lot of modern horror relies on a number of shocks spaced out throughout the narrative.”

The cover image. Illustration: Robin Scott.

“What Lovecraft adds to that formula is the alien, cosmic nature of the horror”, adds Josh. “Instead of vampires or ghosts, it’s creatures from the stars or from other times or dimensions. We see Lovecraft’s work as an early example of horror with a science fiction flavour to it. And we love the bleak, hostile nature of the universe.”

“A virulent racist”

A controversial aspect of Lovecraft’s works is racism. A recent article in The Atlantic states: “He was a virulent racist. The xenophobia and white supremacy that burble beneath his fiction (…) are startlingly explicit in his letters.“ 

The game designers are keenly aware of this:

“Let’s start by saying that we’re clear Lovecraft was an unashamed racist whose views about people of colour shaped his stories both overtly through stereotypical portrayals of those people, and subtly through allegory”, says Josh. “Similarly, Lovecraft boiled mental illness down to people ‘going mad’ in a way that is nothing like real mental illness and can be insulting to those of us who live with the reality of it. We’ve written sections on both of these issues which candidly address the problematic nature of Lovecraft’s work, and include advice on how to handle these issues.”

Two stretch goals of the ongoing Kickstarter campaign are funding extended essays on both these topics. The first one, already unlocked, will see British game designer Mo Holkar write a full-length essay on Lovecraft and racism, and ‘how to run Lovecraftian games without replicating his bigotry’. The next goal is an essay by US game designer Shoshana Kessock on the portrayal of mental health issues in games.

“The single most important piece of advice is: talk about these issues with your group, and agree what you are and aren’t including”, says Josh. “If even one person objects to inclusion of a given theme, you should leave it out. So for instance, if you’re playing in a setting where overtly racist views are commonplace and acceptable, don’t just go ahead and include characters who spout such views – discuss it and keep them out unless you’re absolutely sure that everyone wants it in.”

To support this approach, part of setup invites players to ban elements or themes they aren’t comfortable with, with prompts to consider banning racist themes and characters who “go mad”. The authors also recommend using the X-Card safety mechanism designed by US game designer John Stavropoulos. (X-Card link).

“I’m not a fan of including racist themes at all in Lovecraft games”, says Becky. “We don’t tell people what to do, but we don’t see enough benefit from including these themes to outweigh the risk that someone’s play experience is ruined. In contrast, the effect of the horror on the human mind is a key component to Lovecraft’s stories. So our guidance analyses the different ways in which the horror might impact on someone’s mental state, or could influence their behaviour, without falling back on stereotype. Our bottom line is that you portray a person first, and not just a collection of symptoms. What we don’t do is provide any mechanics which would force anyone to portray any particular psychological symptoms, or to include such elements at all if they don’t want to.”

No Cthulhu

Lovecraft’s menagerie of strange and terrifying creatures have been popularized through comics, board-, video-, and roleplaying games, and even plush dolls. Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep are familiar names to most gamers. The authors of Lovecraftesque want the players to create their own, unique monsters rather than recycling these classics.

Interior art. Illustration: Robin Scott.

Interior art. Illustration: Robin Scott.

“We’re not trying to do away with dead gods and hidden cults – those are staples of the genre”, says Josh. “But instead of Cthulhu, you create your own sleeping god. Instead of Dagon’s cult, you’ll create a cult of your own.”

“Lovecraft is well known for his bestiary”, says Becky. “But there is so much more to his writing and that is what we are trying to bring out. Lovecraft had a particular style for constructing a mystery, starting out by describing something odd but explicable and then peeling back the layers until the whole monstrosity is revealed and yet all the tangible evidence is destroyed.  We want to re-popularise that slow burn story.”

To aid the players in creating their own “Lovecraftesque” stories, the authors have included advice on his writing style, together with lists of inspirational material. The game utilizes a special set of cards to guide the story towards Lovecraftian themes. Each card represents a Lovecraftian trope of some sort – a weird artifact, cultists or time travel, for instance.

“Each card enables you to introduce appropriate material for a particular Lovecraftian theme, often allowing you to break the normal rules of the game as you do so”, Becky explains.

Can they kick it?

The Kickstarter campaign started 15th September and runs for 30 days. The main goal is to produce the book and cards.

Sample layout.

Sample layout.

“We’re raising funds for layout by Nathan Paoletta and art by Robin Scott, as well as the printing and shipping costs, of course”, says Josh. “We’re really excited about Nathan’s layout: the book will look like a tattered notebook that gradually degenerates as you progress through it, with increasingly horror-laden margin notes.”

You can see a PDF version of the draft layout here.

Layout artist Nathan Paoletta is an experienced game designer himself, and recently released the acclaimed World Wide Wrestling RPG.

“Nathan, Robin and other game designers have generously given of their time to provide advice and support to this project”, says Becky. “It’s one of the things we love about the indie design community, and we are very grateful for it.”

The book will be A5/half-letter size, available in softcover and hardcover. An easy-print version of the PDF will go alongside the version described above. The plan is to make the game available from a range of RPG outlets, including Drivethrurpg.

Among the stretch goals are more artwork for the game, quick-start scenarios by several well-known game designers, and the essays about racism and mental health.

“We’ve already raised our initial funding goal and we are making great progress in unlocking stretch goals”, says Becky.

On the author’s webpage blackarmada.com, they have published material about running such a Kickstarter-campaign. They hope this will be a useful resource for other game designers thinking of self-publishing.

The authors about themselves:

The authors. Photo: Private.

The authors. Photo: Private.

Josh Fox:

I’ve been roleplaying since I was 10, when I played D&D in my lunch-breaks. In recent years I’ve been all about the indie games: my favourite games include Apocalypse World, Dream Askew, Monsterhearts, Dog Eat Dog, Microscope and Durance. Although I’ve noodled around with game design for many years, I’m relatively new to making finished games: previous projects include Disaster Strikes!, a game based on classic disaster movies, and House of Ill Repute, a political playset for Fiasco. In real life I play a 36-year-old civil servant who dreams of being a famous game designer.

Becky Annison:

Like Josh I started roleplaying when I was 11. I remember taking all my birthday money on my 11th birthday and rushing out to buy D&D.  It was amazing and I devoured it.  Since then I’ve played in so many different types of games both tabletop and LARP.  I’ve been designing for a few years now – I started out designing and running large LARPs (as part of a team) but since the indie revolution I’m hooked on designing indie games. Games which are really pushing design work into unexpected places.  Apart from Lovecraftesque the game I’m most proud of is When the Dark is Gone which will be coming out in an anthology with Pelgrane Press later this year.

Our hobby has such an amazing choice of games on offer.  My favourite games are probably Amber: Diceless, Monsterhearts, Itras By, A Taste for Murder and 1001 Nights.

How to Give (and Get) Feedback on Games

British game designer Graham W has kindly granted Imagonem permission to publish some of his thoughts on feedback.

How to Give Feedback on Someone’s Game

1. Be positive.

(This game is someone’s pride and joy. Treat it well.)

2. Help them make the game they want.

(Don’t try to make the game you want.)

3. Say how the game went for you.

(What went well? What felt rough? What didn’t you understand?)

4. Don’t offer solutions.

(Let the designer fix the game.)

5. Play first, give feedback afterwards.

(If you analyze as you go, it won’t be fun.)

6. Accept that you’ll often be ignored.

(Not all feedback gets acted on.)

7. Bring others into the conversation.

(And don’t get stuck talking about one thing.)

8. Don’t be a man.

(Try facilitating rather than talking.)

How to Get Feedback on Your Game

1. Play the game. Watch what happens.

2. If you want particular feedback, say so.

(If you don’t, then say that too.)

3. Thank people for their feedback.

(Don’t justify yourself.)

4. Don’t take feedback at face value.

(What they say isn’t always the thing that needs fixing.)

5. Don’t feel you must act on feedback.

(You won’t act on most feedback, especially if it conflicts with your design goals.)

6. Remember: even good games fail.

(And you learn more when a game fails.)

Graham W. Photo: Private.

Graham is a Gold Ennie award-winning game designer, who has published Stealing Cthulhu, Cthulhu Dark and A Taste For Murder, amongst other things. He wrote Trail of Cthulhu’s Purist series for Pelgrane Press and has also written for The Laundry RPG and Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. He is currently working on The Tavern and Disco World. You should buy him red wine. 

Cover photo (kids with masks): Li Xin, all rights reserved.

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