Category Archives: Games

I write about games! I write a LOT about games! Everything I do about games is here, in this tab, in some way.

Feinting Couch

Ah, the age of adventure, of conquest, of nobility and of duels. Yes, the time when if someone defied you, you pulled off your glove and you threw it to the ground and demanded she meet you on the battlefield with god as your witnesses. Sublimated homosexuality and swords with reach, raucous adventure and getting out of town just ahead of the local law, it’s a question not about who did it first, but who did it best.

And the best… needs an audience.

En Garde!

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MtG: Oh How It Pains Me To Do This

I’m really liking the Transformers cards as commanders. I know, since I hate the Lord of the Rings so much what am I doing being okay with transformers? Well, I mean, for one, nobody pretends the Transformers aren’t dumb as shit, and also the central narrative of Transformers is bunches of idiots smashing their toy collections together, which makes a great fit for Magic: The Gathering commander games. But wait, you may wonder, what – what’s with this elaborate trap? You weren’t paying attention for a moment and now, I have seized power! It is time for a transgender icon, STARSCREAM to command!

Now, let’s you and them fight.

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USP-07: July’s Custom Cards

While the Outlands rage at all sides, as the Vast’s people slowly gather themselves to respond to the Ice Palace and the open door of death in the Usurper’s Throne, what are the Palace boats doing? What of the culture of Vampires that scourged a whole mountain range and ruined forests of centuries of growth, how have they prepared for the obvious oncoming war?

They haven’t.

They’ve been busy.

They’ve been busy fighting with one another endlessly about who, exactly, is the most royal member of all these Royal bloodlines.

The logo for the Usurper's Palace, showing the title text overlaid on a six-pointed spiral vortext.

Warning: Wizards employees, this post contains unsolicited designs of custom magic cards.

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Jam Game: The Lost Voyage!

I jammed in the Kenney Jam 2023! Do you know Kenney? Kenney make some of the best creative commons games assets in the world, assets you can put all over the place and use in your game designs. The point of the Kenney Jam was to get people to engage with these assets and make a game quickly. It was fun!

At the moment, I think I’m the only participant in the jam who made a physical game, and if you just want to skip to check it out, the game I made is called The Lost Voyage and it’s over on itch! The game is a push-your-luck yahtzee style dice roller, and I was only able to do a small amount of playtesting, which was more ‘does this engine work’ and not ‘is this the most engaging version of this game.’ It’s free, it’s a print and play game, you’re going to have to put some work into it to play it. But I also want to talk about the process of making it, and, importantly, what I want to do next.

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When Eternity Is Your Strategy

Some cultures in Cobrin’Seil are nations. The Eresh Protectorate, with its connected string of city-states, boasts a half-billion souls across all its cities though if you believe the bookkeeping is another affair. Some cultures are very small — mostly homogenous little groupings like the Orcs or the Dio Baragh or the Gnolls. Even amongst those, there are large communities with thousands of members, from which adventurers can start their stories.

Some cultures are pretty small, though, and sometimes that size is a function of material concerns. The example today is the city of Torrent, nestled as it is around the Doval monastery. The material concerns are the town’s resilience against any kind of external authority, the city’s ready access to lightning powered magical technology, and of course, the way that a portion of the population are violently immortal.

It’s a bit of a conversation kick off.

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What’s A Gold Piece in Cobrin’Seil

The economics of D&D worlds are weird, and silly, and silly-weird. Normally conversations that start like this start out with talking about the way that adventurers’ economic presence in a town or city’s space is much like a small moon springing into existence with roughly the same kind of public safety impact. That is a perfectly fun conversation to have! Go ahead, make fun of the way that D&D writers don’t have any sense of scale.

I don’t wanna do that though.

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Game Pile: Small world

Ah, the clash of civilisations! The imposition of different species against one another, in the great and ongoing war for resources, informed by fantasy kingdom fiction! Small World, a board game that I just want to underscore here I like enough to play when I have the opportunity, but not like enough to own, is a game by Phillipe Keyaerts, and published by Days of Wonder.

It’s a delightful little game in that particular type of ‘fantasy cultures building out across a bunch of land,’ and works on the very specific intention of making sure there’s not quite enough space for anyone to just get along. It’s literally a game about a small world. Oh hey, that’s the name. You’re not going to be managing food or water supplies in Small World. It’s not quite that type of civilisation game. It’s much more abstracted, where you smack down little piles of tokens to represent who is where and how much of them there are.

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How To be: Altair Ibn La-Ahad (in 4e D&D)

In How To Be we’re going to look at a variety of characters from Not D&D and conceptualise how you might go about making a version of that character in the form of D&D that matters on this blog, D&D 4th Edition. Our guidelines are as follows:

  • This is going to be a brief rundown of ways to make a character that ‘feels’ like the source character
  • This isn’t meant to be comprehensive or authoritative but as a creative exercise
  • While not every character can work immediately out of the box, the aim is to make sure they have a character ‘feel’ as soon as possible
  • The character has to have the ‘feeling’ of the character by at least midway through Heroic

When building characters in 4th Edition it’s worth remembering that there are a lot of different ways to do the same basic thing. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even particularly fleshed out, and instead give you some places to start when you want to make something.

Another thing to remember is that 4e characters tend to be more about collected interactions of groups of things – it’s not that you get a build with specific rules about what you have to take, and when, and why, like you’re lockpicking your way through a design in the hopes of getting an overlap eventually. Character building is about packages, not programs, and we’ll talk about some packages and reference them going forwards.

Just looking at that name I wonder about if I’ve done a decent job with capitalising that name. Oh, it gets all-capsed by the formatting, but I had to type it in and wanted to get it right, and I don’t know if the ibn should be capitalised or – you know what, never mind, I’m showing a lot more respect to Ubisoft’s Slice Of Brand than I should.

Anyway, hi, remember Assassin’s Creed, that interesting game with a lot of potential? The thing that’s distinct from The Assassins Creed Franchise, a bloated multi-billion dollar proof case for the idea that videogames, maybe, aren’t art?

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4e: When You Crit

I have never found feats or abilities that amplify the effect of critical hits to be exciting in 4th edition. There are plenty of them — almost every book features an effect that looks really cool and special, but it only fires off when you critically hit an opponent. You can have powerful effects on crits, mind you! Famously, D&D offers in its history, the Vorpal Sword, a weapon that decapitates on a crit – fight over, we are done. And the vorpal weapon is part of a powerful lineage of reasons to want to crit.

A while ago, a friend described for me the idea of a ‘raisins sentence’ where the excitement in the sentence increases every step, until suddenly dropping off a cliff, demonstrated with the phrase:

Would you like some chocolate covered raisins

The idea is that every part of this sentence is great but the raisins makes the whole thing disappointing. A lot of the crit-based feats, powers, and item rules are like that. Sure, crits are great! They can be very powerful, and making crits even better is even better still. But when a feat describes a strategy or a style of play that’s exciting that kicks in or triggers when you crit, all the air goes out of my enthusiasm.

Why, though?

Ehhh, a couple of reasons.

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In The Pocket Of Big Ball

A while back, a funny Tumblr post came across my dash. Fox doesn’t like Tumblr – like, for web design reasons. I tend to screenshot it and share it with her, or in some cases, read them aloud. This was a post I read as a dramatic reading, and it’s about the worldbuilding of Pokemon and the availability of Pokeballs.

That was fun, so we recorded more and I recruited another friend, Corey, to add another voice in the mix.



Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose.  This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.

There were two people he used to be. Once, he used to be a quiet, insular kid who wore hoodies all the time and grumped about being short and feminine but never dared to say anything. The other was a raging, loud, abusive asshole on the internet, winning the game and making everyone involved feel bad. Even himself.

He did lose once though. That loss came with it a dare and a bet and a crossplay and then that got him attention from another cosplayer, and that became a friendship. A friendship that wasn’t based on bullying and winning or on shame and shortness. Took some time, but he learned through it to bring who he was together; he could be a cute, short, prettyboi AND an apex gaming predator AND he could be a friend, all at once.

Then six months later, his friend came back to him and asked him to join her, to pilot a big, stomping, videogame-powered mecha, the realest cosplay possible.

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3e: The Excellence of the D&D Onramp

There’s a recurrent pattern of discourse in the TTRPG community, especially amongst indies, that, cooked down into its parodically simple position, goes:

D&D is hard to teach, and nobody plays it properly.

So let’s talk about D&D having one of the absolute best onramps of all time starting with when I started to play it, in 3rd edition D&D. I bring up this edition of the game because it is absolutely a pigs arse of a game, and I know that a lot of the systems of the rules are only attempted by extremely bold people who needed something systematised.

Lemme tell ya, you run one aerial combat in 3rd edition you quickly invest in every technique you can to ensure you don’t have to run another.

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USP-06: June’s Custom Cards

The Palace boats like to pretend they’re free from the concerns of lands. They like to imagine that the vampire estates are free and fluid and empowered by dangerous ideologies. They’re not subject to things like the weather and the mountains and the demands of forests and birds. But they’re not the only people in the world, and it seems that for all of their exclusion and demands, for all of their superiority and aloofness, there are always going to be people ready to reach out, and with fire and rage, bring them down to earth.

The logo for the Usurper's Palace, showing the title text overlaid on a six-pointed spiral vortext.

Warning: Wizards employees, this post contains unsolicited designs of custom magic cards.

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Game Pile: Why Do Trans Women Love Fallout New Vegas

Released in 2010, Fallout New Vegas is a classic of the FPS-shooter RPG genre, bringing forward the Fallout 3 engine’s integration of real-time FPS combat with the previous Fallout game’s turn-based mathematical combat, and integrating them into a sort of ‘second parse’ at the let’s politely say rough execution of Fallout 3. In this game, which I have reviewed in the past, literally ten years and a much more closely-hewn Yahtzee Impression ago, you play a character called The Courier starting at the point in their story where a traumatic head injury gives you an opportunity to intervene in the existing story with a potentially all new, all exciting direction.

The story is a sort of noir cowboy steampunk fantasy – there’s the trappings of modern technology and post-apocalyptica, but the world that was and its infrastructure isn’t really important as much as it just sweeps aside a lot of options for progress. Technology is chunky and heavy and there’s a durability to everything, where things break, but they can always be fed more technology to make them un-break. Everything has an independence to it, a scrounging, foraging, make-it-work, it’ll-do-for-now technologism all typified with a gun at your hip and your duster fluttering in the hot wind.

Also, I guess, Content Warning: Drugs and violence, because that’s a thing that happens in the game and kinda comes up in this conversation. A bit. I just want one person at least to be more comfortable reading this, going on.

And it is notorious for being a game beloved by trans women. So much so that it’s a meme unto itself, a joke about being into Fallout New Vegas being a gateway to the experience of being a trans woman. And as an investigator of games, I thought I could, this Pride Month, explain to you, why all trans women love Fallout New Vegas:

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CoX: Hext and Unburning

Time to time, I write up an explication of characters I’ve played in RPGs or made for my own purpose.  This is an exercise in character building and creative writing.

“Is that her?”


“Yeah, the former sidekick of-“

“You know, don’t call her that.”

“But she was, until the incident,”

“Don’t mention that.”

“Why, what’s the worst that-“

“You know, maybe just stop talking.”

She’s not broken. She’s not wrong. She’s just not like you. Unburning is an angry young woman, in a way that sentence simply could not capture. Some heroes struggle to keep their power under control, and hers is the power of fire that burns as rage – where she becomes more angry, she becomes more powerful… and she recognises that seductive risk.

So, she keeps herself withdrawn. Careful. Quiet.

She knows when she’ll need to be loud.

“Oh, suuuure, it used to be all ‘poison apple’ and ‘cursed to be a frog’ but y’all don’t seem to remember when the time came to solve plagues and poxes, it was the witches that did that, jeeze. No respect.”

Hext. Just Hext. Once, a sidekick, now out on her own, she goes now by just Hext. She’s got that sly, not-quite-impressed college girlboss feel, like she’s free from some form of oversight, except her life and education has featured oh-so-much worse than textbooks. Running around beating up bad guys in her early teens, she’s done with living in a shadow, learned her lessons, and her former mentor… well…

… yeah, none of that, not no more. Bored with that.

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3e: Your Guild Leaders Are All Trans

3rd edition D&D doesn’t do much with queerness. It’s an interesting artifact of the late 90s, early 00s, where the whole edition was something that, to use the parlance of now, would be claimed as ‘woke propaganda’ now, was still something that didn’t feature a queer NPC until a Dragon Magazine published well into the release schedule of 3.5, and when it did, he drew heat that the editorial lineup of that magazine had to fight about it in the letters column of the next issue.

There are other areas that the game can be seen as surfacing queerness, and I’ve talked about one – the way that the D20-SRD component Unearthed Arcana introduces transphobia in the form of gender dysphoria as a byproduct of literal madness. That’s not great. It is, in fact, uh, bad. You can even have a multiple personality disorder identity which has a different gender to you, isn’t that cute?

But uh, okay, so that’s one way that explicitly not-cis-not-heteronormative culture showed up in 3rd edition. Uh… is there anything better? Anything that could be considered, um, nice?

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Queerphobia In Cobrin’Seil

Everyone in Cobrin’Seil is queer to any extent that word can mean anything in talking about my D&D setting. This is not because when you make a dude in that setting part of the character creation setting is ticking the backstory box that, at some point, he has sucked some dick or whatever, but rather is instead because Cobrin’Seil is a world where heterosexuality as you understand it was never invented.

And boy oh boy that right there opens a door, doesn’t it.

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