Circle of Power – Google + Breakout 2017 Feedback

Breakout Playtest Feedback

I ran two excellent playtest sessions of Circles of Power over at Breakout 2017. While the hour is late, I wanted to capture the most salient points and share them with the community.

Session 1 consisted of a group of the Wise who struggled against the ever-hungry Giants. The Burdened Community was forced, by the laws of the Dominant Society, to live outside of the great city walls. This meant they were the first to suffer from a Giant’s attack, and they were caught up with a misfired fireball. +Michelle Lyons-McFarland tried to conjure a water elemental to douse the flames, but a botched spell called forth a rage-filled fire elemental instead. She created a new spell to bind the fire elemental and send it to fight off the giants. Now, the errant fireball also severely burned the group’s illusionist, so +Alex Trépanier the necromancer created a new spell that transferred grievous injuries. This invariably led for the wound to be transferred to the necromancer’s brother, slaying him in the process. By the end of the session, they had convinced the dominant society to allow for the construction of a secondary wall around the burdened encampment, offering some measure of additional security for both parties.

Session 2 was far more grisly. The Doom consisted of flesh-burrowing abominations which puppeteer their victims. The Diviner tried to fight against the Doom by helping refugees from her Foreign community escape the carnage, and accidentally invited in seven infected hosts. The blind Evoker created a Force Scalpel spell for surgery to remove parasites, while the Transmuter invented vicissitude. There was a tense discussion on whether to use one marginalized group (The Native) to hunt down the infected hosts (from the Foreign), to prevent the hatching abominations from attracting the wrath of the dominant society. They discovered, by the end of the session, that the Doom was actually a marginalized group that was fleeing an even nastier threat. Granted, the people of the city were less pleased being the food, shelter, and clothing for these refugees.

Next post, I will discuss the feedback received from those games and lessons learned.

Breakout Lessons

As mentioned, I have gotten some excellent feedback with regards to Circles of Power at Breakout Con. I thought I would dig into it, both to solicit insight and to share my thoughts.

1) The spell lists need to be described more clearly. Circles of Power, and the spell system on a whole, revolves around the distinction of Drawbacks (negative consequences to avoid) and Enhancements (extra benefits to gain). The real challenge is that this distinction is not explored in other PBTA games. I need to do a better job of communicating this distinction, so that others can more easily understand how spell evolution works. The current version is usable and people figure it out after I run a session, but the text is clearly doing a poor job on this point.

2) The game currently produces exactly the desired emotional experience, which is a mix of schadenfreude, existential horror, and righteous anger. It seems that multiple people at Breakout listed Circles of Power as one of their most engaging games for that reason, and this mix works well. Specifically, the process of collaboratively customizing your horrific and oppressive society does a good job of reminding players who they are standing against.

3) The 7-9 result on researching a spell (at the interlude phase) falls flat. The intent was to replicate the frustration of poverty in a capitalist society, requiring the Wise to spend valuable favour with the dominant society if they want do to some research. It didn’t quite work out as well as I would hope, so I plan on reworking that.

4) There is a subtle and complex issue with the hierarchy of communities. The intent of this mechanic during setting creation, was to establish that marginalized communities often harm each other due to the hierarchical pressure of the dominant society. From the lens of the dominant society, the mechanic was perfect. The problem was that it also led to “oppression olympics”, which is problematic for several players. I would welcome feedback from others on this front, as I am still mulling over the issue.

One of the fine players +Megan Baxter from Breakout wrote up one of the sessions. Take a look at the fine account, if you want to find out more about the game.

After the War – Playtest Invitation

After the War is science-fiction horror roleplaying game, set on the frontier world of Polvo in the aftermath of a galactic conflict. This is a game about people who lost their homes and their families in the war and have come together to rebuild their lives on this rough, frontier world. It’s about diverse communities of Terrans, Martians, Belters, and Aliens, who come together to build a new home for themselves. When the seductive Song or brutal Tormenta threaten your settlements, it’s your job to protect your new world.
Your story is centered on the settlement that you now call home. You work to build, strengthen, and grow their fledgling home. You deal with internal disagreements and external threats, because this is the only place you have left.

Coming to Kickstarter in Fall of 2018

Playtesters Wanted

We are looking for playtesters for After the War, and we hope you are interested. If you would like to try out the game and give us valuable feedback, please click on the image below and fill in the quick google form to provide us with key information. Once that’s done, you can download the quickstart for free and get access to our private playtest community.

Thank you for your time, and welcome to Polvo!

Quickstart Available

Just want the quickstart without signing up for the playtest?  Check it out at


Fate of the Galaxy – Call for Contributors

Fate of the Galaxy - Call for Contributors


We just released our first major public announcement for Fate of the Galaxy, and we are blown away by the enthusiasm fresh out the gate. One of the key aspects of the game is that we are trying very intentionally to design the game with a focus on inclusion, and we need your help.

This project is going to need more contributors who can bring their lived experience to the table. We are looking for women and for non-binary contributors. We are looking for contributors of colour, and for more contributors with disabilities. We want to your voices and your art to make it into the game and show us a more interesting vision of galactic politics.

We will need artists to illustrate the diversity of this open galaxy, the powerful leaders of the fringe worlds, and the fragile beauty of the worlds they protect. Our current artistic direction is to present grey-scale or minimally-coloured images, and we would love to see anything that you have in your portfolio. Our general guidelines, including our standard rates of pay, are available here. We welcome experienced and new talent alike!

Interested Artists: Apply Here

If you are a freelance writer from a marginalised community, please fill in this form to let us know your interest. We will be selecting a number of folks to write new Core Systems for the game as part of the kickstarter process, each which will present a different vision of the space opera genre. Any writers chosen would work with us and our brilliant editor, Amanda Valentine, to develop this setting.

Interested Writers: Apply Here

We know that the design team on this project consists of three cis-white dudes (Jason Pitre, Mark Richardson & Brian Engard), which is why we need your contributions. If you are a creative from a marginalised community, we need your help to make Fate of the Galaxy a success for everyone. Please don’t self-reject or let imposter syndrome hold you back.

The call for contributors is open from now until May 31st, 2018.

The Fate of the Galaxy rests in your hands.

The Emerging Voices Challenge

A photograph of dawn, with the sun rising over a lake in the winter.

February is a cold and dark time, with our eyes eagerly searching out the sun. It’s time to look to the future. Inspiration and art, from fresh faces and bold voices, will drive us forward into the New Year. For the month of February, we want to spread these stories.

We want you to publicly promote or review an analogue game produced an emerging voice. This could be from a new creative, who are just crafting their first game. It could be from a more established pioneer from an underrepresented community. Lend your support and your passion for these new games and their creators.

Games are a broad category. Roleplaying games, from tiny nano-games to elaborate books are all eligible. All kinds of commercial and non-commercial larps, board games, and card games are likewise eligible for his promotion.  All we ask is that you devote at least 250 words in your promotion or review.

When that’s done, just fill out this form. We will collect all of these projects and promotions, so we can help spread the word.  We will also mail you a physical copy of our award-winning science-fiction game, Posthuman Pathways (MSRP $10).

Now let’s make February a brighter place for all of us, and amplify these emerging voices.

Jason Pitre, Genesis of Legend Publishing




Indie Gems – Small Things (2016)

Small Things

Seven-Wonders_cover_350-200x300-200x300Designed by Lynne Hardy and Published by Pelgrane Press as part of the 7 Wonders Anthology Available at the Pelgrane Press site.

Pelgrane Press has recently published a fantastic anthology of story games, titled “Seven Wonders”.  I will be preparing short reviews of all seven games within the book as part of my “Indie Gems” series. The fifth of these is a game by Lynne Hardy, titled “Small Things”.

The introduction begins as follows.

In Small Things you play a noble guardian who protects your House and Family from whatever may come along. Problem is, you’re only little.

The default setting is Britain, somewhere between 1930 and the mid-1950s (but without the inconvenience of a World War and rationing), but you can also set it in your country during the same mythical time period. Small Things takes place in a world of faded colours, good manners, few labour-saving gadgets and tea made in big brown teapots and left on the hearth to warm under a stripy tea cozy.

If games had a smell, this one’s would be like hot buttered toast, newly baked bread and cakes, fresh cut grass and clean laundry. It might look a bit like a Raymond Briggs graphic novel (but much, much cheerier), or Wallace and Gromit without the modern conveniences.

 This is one of those games that appears to be simple under the surface, but holds a wicked sharpness underneath.  It’s a game where each of the players portrays one of the small being, almost a spirit of the household. They are hidden from the big people, unappreciated for their hard work at keeping a household. They fight valiantly against disrepair, dust, and clutter, which threaten the Family. It seems to be a beautiful metaphor for how feminine-coded labour is treated by society, and it’s masterfully done.

When you begin the game, you collaboratively determine the kind of home, such as a country cottage, a flat, or an old home. You then pick the kind of family which lives there; anything from a big family, to grandparents, to a single bachelor. This combination of home and the family that lives there does a fantastic job of increasing the diversity of potential play experiences, and the kinds of problems they are likely to face. Simple elements combine to create novel situations, and the structure allows for episodic stories as homes or families change.

The resolution system is elegant and thematic. Each of the Small Things has a few special abilities, things like mending cloth, or closing doors. If they want to do something that they have a relevant ability for, they succeed!  Otherwise, they need to work together with other Small Things to come up with a creative solution. This structure means that the Small Things are driven together, either to cooperate, or bicker based on their personalities.  The Caretaker watches over the whole affair, by introducing wrinkles such as Big Things (people), Creatures, and the malevolent spirits of disrepair from the Outside.

Brew a pot of tea, curl up with a comforter, and enjoy the game!