Sep 302015

There is only one true city; a place of multiversal trade, cultural exchange, and mixed blood. A place where monsters come to scheme and gods come to die.

Sig: The City Between is the nexus of the multiverse. It’s a city connected to everywhere, a refuge for the oppressed and a prize for tyrants. It’s a place where culture is at the forefront, with diverse faiths and tongues struggling for space in the crowded metropolis. It’s a city of families, both whole and broken.

Sig is also a launching point, allowing fools and heroes to venture into the eternal planes of existence. Each plane is made of concepts, of elements, or of ideals that resonate through the entire ‘verse. The planes impose their own Beliefs on Sig, and on the infinite primal worlds beyond.

Each of the planes is also home to unique peoples, from the Giants of the Elemental Plane of Stone to the Wyrms of the Ideological Plane of Destruction. The planes are home to mighty Powers; gods, demons, and stranger things which send their servitors to spread their faith into the City Between. The planes even offer resources to the bickering political Factions and warring guilds that control Sig’s hungry streets.

Visit the Elemental Plane of Flame to test yourself in scorched wastelands of the Crucible. Seek answers to hidden secrets in the Umbral Delta of the Conceptual Plane of Shadow. Defend yourself in The Final Court, where the Seven Magistrates provide final remedy to any injustice.

Back it over at and spread the word!



Sep 192015

Dream Askew

Designed by Avery Mcdaldno and published by Buried Without Ceremony

Available at

A queer enclave in the apocalypse

Roleplaying games have a power in them. They invite you to embody the lives of others and discover what challenges others face. They allow peoples to express facets of their own identity in the safe companionship of friends.  They foster greater understanding in a multitude of ways. Dream Askew, from Avery Mcdaldno, does all these things and more.

On the surface, the game seems to be a simple derivation of the classic Apocalypse World. Avery had done a great deal of design in that space with projects including the amazing game Monsterhearts as well Simple World. Avery gives a compelling pitch for the game on what makes this particular iteration different from the core conceit of Apocalypse World:

Imagine that the apocalypse didn’t happen everywhere at the same time. Instead, it happened in waves. It’s still happening in waves. You were hit recently. You’ve fallen out of the society intact. You’ve found others who you can relate to, and you’ve banded together with them to form a queer enclave. Gangs roam the apocalyptic rubble, and scarcity is becoming the norm. And just beyond our everyday perception, howling and hungry, there exists a psychic maelstrom.

Dream Askew is a game about post-apocalyptic lives. It’s a game that queers the post-apocalyptic genre, exploring how the apocalyptic process could impact our sexuality, genders, livelihoods, experiences of marginalization, and experiences of liberation.

On first glance, it seems only to drift or a reskinning of the core game to enrich the queer elements of the setting. It’s only upon peering into the game in more detail that the true brilliance begins to shine.

As a player, it’s a fascinating experience. It’s a consensual game design from its core, giving the participants plenty of options and encouragement to create messy situations but allowing them to opt-in. If something diverges from the desires of the participants, each of them has “win buttons” that allow them to overcome those obstacles. The very nature of the system encourages communal decision making, watching other people’s boundaries, and taking care of the other people at the table.

It is a GM’ful game design, with each player portraying one main character and one situation – an aspect of the setting. One person may be “The Tiger”, the badass individual who leads a gang to defend their people and seize what the community needs. That player could also portray the Psychic Maelstrom situation, controlling this antagonistic force against their fellow players. Avery gives guidance on which situation elements are directly tied to each of the playbooks, so that you avoid having the Tiger controlling their own gang. Considering the strong GM focus of game powered by the apocalypse, this is fascinating.

It is a diceless game design, with a series of different fictional moves available which are custom-designed to fit each individual playbook. These moves are classified in three different tiers of effectiveness. Strong Moves are potent victories and solutions to problems, and you must spend a token each time you use them. The Tiger might have a strong move of “Say the right thing to extinguish someone’s fear and bolster their confidence” or “Calmly watch on as your gang reacts for you”.  Normal Moves are mixed results that continue the action or change the situation without resolving things, not requiring or providing a token. A Normal move might be “Take action, leaving yourself vulnerable” or “React by drawing a weapon”.  Weak Moves provide you one token each time you use them, and these almost always cause trouble/drama for the character. Example weak moves could be “Trigger the memory of a past trauma” or “Ask ‘Which character’s motives should I second-guess right now’”.

It’s functionally a beautiful, diceless, Gm’less mix of Apocalypse World and Fate Core.  I encourage all designers to explore Avery’s magnum opus at the link above.

Sep 122015

The Best Practices for Information Organization in Tabletop RPGs
RPG Design Panelcast sml

Recorded at Metatopia 2014

Presented by Brennan Taylor, Matt Wilson, Meredith Reitman, Krista White & John Stavropolous

Tabletop RPGs serve as both a “let’s play!” and a reference document. RPGs designers and writers often attend to one of these goals at the expense of the other. Come to this panel to learn about professional theories of information organization, best practices for making the important information in your games findable and learn lessons from experienced game designers who have made information organization innovations and mistakes in their own games.

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Sep 062015

We are in a golden age of creator-owned and independently produced roleplaying games. Countless creative designers, from all walks of life, have created beautiful rpgs that explore important issues through play.  The true innovation in games, like in all media, comes from the little-known gems. These small games are often overlooked in favour of the bigger games on the market, but they add something vital to the hobby. I hope to shine some light on these gems, so that they can be discovered anew by designers and fans alike.

Each of these bite-sized reviews describes the game overall, what kind of experience it offers to the players, and what new game design tech it offers to designers. It’s only a small taste of each of the games in question, but it should be enough to get started. Now let’s get to the games!

MissMisspent Youthpent Youth (2010)

Designed and published by Robert Bohl

Available at

Misspent Youth is a game of teenage punk-rebels in a f*cd up future dystopia. It’s a game with a GM who portrays the brutal Authority who is killing, consuming or perverting something that matters in society. You build a dystopia that reflects on real-life bullying behaviours, then portray teenage characters who stand up to oppose it.

Misspent Youth is the most punk RPG I have ever read, and it is glorious. The characters find ways to exploit the various systems of control and bypass the iron grip of the Authority. As they struggle, they may be forced to sell out some of their characteristics in order to succeed, losing part of themselves in the process.

When I last played this game, we made a dystopic Authority who was controlling and limiting art. When a bit of creative graffiti, and some of us were accused of doing the artistic crime, I was put on the spot and fell back into my own dysfunctional defense mechanisms against bullying. I felt like my younger self, and it gave me space to consider my own youth more deeply. It was highly engaging for me as a player.

For a designer, Misspent Youth presents some beautiful pieces of game design technology. It offers a very compelling yet focused procedure for creating a dystopic society. It reinforces bleed to further the emotional foundation of the ideal game experience. It uses a relatively strong scene structure to great effect, encouraging a coherent story emerges from the player contributions. The layout is also a fantastic case-study in user experience and interface design, reinforcing the themes of the game beautifully.

Check out this indie gem, if you get a chance!

Aug 292015

Learn RPG Design Redux
RPG Design Panelcast sml

Recorded at Gencon 2015

Presented by Jason Pitre, Caleb Stokes and Andreas Walters 

This panel, sponsored by the Indie Game Developer Network is a fresh new exploration of how to start roleplaying game design by focussing on mission statements, the important questions of game design, and other gems. Also an absurd number of references to games including, but not limited to: Inspectres, Headspace, Dog Eat Dog, Paranoia, Fiasco and Apocalypse World.

There is a reference to cards with links to a ton of resources? All of that treasure-trove is available over here.

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