Category Archives: Making

Articles in this category are about tools and ideas about making things, and my belief that you can make things.

Chirality in Game Design

Chriality is a term you probably learned in chemistry class and I learned in Walter White’s chemistry class. No shame in being aware of the roots of our knowledge. Point is, chirality is a term we use to refer to a type of symmetry – where a thing can be constructed with all the pieces relating to one another in the ‘same’ way but the whole object is meaningfully different because they can’t be superimposed.

The simple way to think of it is that chirality is the handedness of the object. Your left hand and right hand (if you got one of each) are structurally ‘the same’ with thumbs and fingers all relatin to one another in roughly the same way and distances, but the construction means that no matter how you try, you cannot rotate the pair so that they are both representing the same position.

Chirality is very important in chemistry, where two chemicals can be identically composed and yet have wildly different effects. Now you know a word you might not have known before. If a thing has this property, this ‘handedness,’ then it’s chiral, and if it can’t be constructed to have a handedness, then it’s known as being achiral.

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CoX: Tatsuhime

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.


Name’s Mack. Mack Morito. Syndicate, yeah. Imperial city, too! Yeah, that’s me, that’s the gal. One of those martial artists, the kind who can break tanks and beat guns. How? Channeling chi, the force of will made flesh. Or as Mack likes to say it: She’s got Big Dragon Energy.

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Shirt: The Idyllshire Copycoeurl

You know now I’m open about playing Final Fantasy XIV there’s a whole bunch of specific niche jokes I can make that don’t make me feel like I’m divulging the location of a covert operative.

These two designs, the Profile and Bell designs, are available on Redbubble. I recommend a baseball 3/4 style, for that proper ‘sports teams supports’ design.

Velocity in King of Tokyo

Look, normally I’d treat this as a thing in a whole Game Pile Article, but it doesn’t seem worth it to me, not at this point, especially when the game is so similar to one I’ve already written about. The game is King of Tokyo, but the new information this time is the mechanics presented in the Dark Edition of the game.

I have played more editions of King of Tokyo than I have of most board games. Setting aside long-hauler games like Magic: The Gathering where the rules are changed every time a new card gets designed, I have played at least four versions of King of Tokyo and own one. I like this game, and as a game, the version I own has some problems.

They’re not huge problems, mind you, they just are problems. Some cards you can buy introduce powers that are a little weird, and can create odd rules interactions that don’t work. The rules stated in the version I own are a little ambiguous about timing, things like when you enter Tokyo in the turn. Those are things that can be treated as refinements of what’s already there, ways to make the system work better, but which is just the kind of things the system has right there.

There are two big problems with King of Tokyo, and those problems are tied to one larger problem: A lack of velocity.

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Asset Brainstorm #5 — Some Phantasy Robots

As a matter of practice, it’s important to me that I keep demonstrating different ways to engage with games. Making games is a practice, and when you can look at game assets and consider ways to apply them, you’ll begin to see how much of game design is stuff you can do. Therefore, on this blog I’m making it a project to regularly grab some game assets I couldn’t make myself, that are made for game designers to work with, and see what ideas they inspire.


Wow this one was a story. How I got here isn’t important, what’s important is the assets, and what ideas they inspire. For this month, I grabbed Ansimuz’s Phantasy Tiny RPG Mobs Pack.

Disclosure! I haven’t bought this pack yet. These are made using the preview images from itch.io. The reason I haven’t bought this pack yet is because Ansimuz has a lot of assets available and I am considering buying up big blocks of packs. Since I don’t want to spend another dang week planning ahead about what I’ll purchase, I’ve grabbed this preview image to work with and hopefully it’s okay.

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MTG: April 2022’s Custom Cards

I like making Magic cards. It’s easily my favourite way to engage with the game. In the name of discipline, in the name of getting cards done I will sometimes make cards I’m not wildly happy with, but largely, I like my cards. Since my normal theme of April is to try and focus on me and on being indulgent, it can be challenging to really nail down what makes a me month worth of cards. After all, many of them are my precious babies.

What can the cards be about then, in this context?

Warning: Wizards employees, this post contains primarily custom magic cards.

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April Game Project — House Advantage

Every month of 2022, I am trying, as part of both my PhD project and my all-purpose general game development, develop if not a whole game for game development, a project start, such that I can make playtest prototypes. This is a sort of report of the process throughout the month.


In 2016, I made a game playable with a deck of playing cards, a single session tabletop roleplaying game that was designed to get everyone in the experience of being a DM. I made it and did the graphics myself – these four pictures of the four types of character, Hitters, Fitters, Grifters and Lifters.

I’ve wanted to make a game based on this for a while now, something small, something that plays with pieces I didn’t get to play with for a while. I wanted to make a game you could slip into a little bag, which came with some tokens and some cards, and let you play out the fantasy of The Suits in a different way. Rather than telling a story, though, the idea this time around was something tactical, something about robbing a casino.

And something about poker.

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Mask: Some Masks!

I don’t need shirts right now. I do however, want to have some masks, so I can wash them very regularly. Let’s check some out!

I love my THIS SHIRT SAYS TRANS RIGHTS shirt, and I wanted a version I could wear on a mask when I need my shirt real estate to say something else, like, say, DID YOU CHECK THE SUBJECT OUTLINE. I made this variant on the shirt for mask purposes.

I have a M*A*S*K mask already, but I was never as into MASK as I was into Transformers. This mask is based on the face of Wheeljack, from Transformers.

And this is my masterpiece. This Haruhi-inspired asymmetrical mask is a reminder to me just how much I love that classic anime. I should write about it later this year.

FFXIV: Karash

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.


You might have met Karash Ejinn wandering around Limsa Lominsa, or perhaps out by Ul’dah, Idyllshire, or Radz-at-Han. It’s not like he doesn’t stand out – he’s the largest Au Ra you’ve ever seen, large even by their standards. If you’ve spoken to him, you’ll have heard the deep, rumbling voice, which speaks with a deliberate care in what is clearly his secondary language. While he’s obviously very dangerous — nobody his size would be seen as helpless — he seems to mostly do trade with people, bodyguarding work, and travel along riverways as a strange kind of nomad.

On the other hand, you might have met him on the battlefields, or in the trenches against the Garlean Empire over the past few years. You might have seen him, clad in black armour, repurposed from Garlean war machines, that made him seem even more massive and dark, as he walked through rivers of blood in an unflagging wall of violence pushing deep into the heart of the empire. You may have heard the rhyme the soldiers said about him.

It doesn’t think
It doesn’t feel
It doesn’t laugh or cry
All it does from dawn to dusk
Is make the soldiers die

There shouldn’t be anything that counts as a story spoiler below.

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How To Be: Minfilia Warde (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.

In deference to this being Final Fantasy 14 Week, a sub-theme in Talen Month, I figured it was time for us to give the fan, singular, what she wanted, and finally write an article about her favourite character, and how I’d go about playing her in a game that she doesn’t play and has no reason to care about.

It’s also an opportunity to talk about negative space and harmonisation.

Let’s talk about Minfilia Warde.

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Buried Gods: Reconcepting Dragonborn

I have spoken already about the challenge of integrating the Dragonborn and Dwarves into the setting of Cobrin’Seil. These two extremely strong, heavily supported character heritages, so I don’t want to take them away from players, but they’re also hard to integrate into the world the way I want it to be. For dwarves, the problem is that they didn’t bring anything to the world that humans didn’t, and I solved that problem by reconcepting them as what I’ve called a ‘pocket heritage’ – small communities whose biological oddness is explained by a feywild origin.

Dragonborn’s problem is a little more tricky. They provide some things I do want (mechanically robust heritage that can be used for a variety of classes in interesting and distinct ways) and some things I don’t care about (fuckable dragon people). They also bring with it some worldbuilding questions, which the default setting answers with a shrug of ‘a God Did It,’ and what’s more that god is Bahamut, against whom I will never not have a grudge. I know these days he’s changed his names and now he’s a monk, no, really, he was always a cool guy, but Bahamut is still always going to be a Lawful Good God who’s meant to be Super Powerful but Doesn’t Fix Things because That Would Be Hard.

He’s also very much defined by his Faerunian depiction, and that world’s gods are awful.

Dragonborn can’t just be transplanted wholesale into another species group, or remade as like, bear people, because their mechanics have all been very good about reinforcing the flavour of being ‘a dragon that’s like, a guy.’   That means they have wings, breath weapons, bites, specific references to elemental energies through their scales, and relationships to other species based on ‘being a dragon.’ Whatever I choose for the dragonborn still has to be possible for any given player to grab their existing dragonborn character art and, more or less, plonk it into the world without feeling like they can’t ‘be’ the way they want to be in the world.

Also, there’s an added problem: Kobolds. Kobolds are an extant heritage in Cobrin’Seil, and they’re popular, and they’re useful for showing something about dragons and the world as it is. I like Kobolds a lot, and when looking at the world as a whole I had to answer the question: Why Aren’t Dragonborn Just Big Kobolds?

That was a thought, for a while there. I did seriously consider Dragonborn as like, Kobolds who had been selected to be defenders or guardians and were changed somehow, but that process seemed something I didn’t want in the world as something common enough entire heritages got it. Plus, it did open a balance door, of like, well, why can’t dragonborn and kobolds share feats? That seems strange, and lords I didn’t want to give dragonborns more options.

Here then are the parameters for defining the Dragonborn of Cobrin’Seil:

  • Allow players to feel like existing Dragonborn work,
  • Open up to more options that are more appropriate to the world
  • Don’t make Bahamut a requirement
  • Have a new, clear hook as to why a player might want to play one
  • Not Just Big Kobolds

Let me tell you about an empire of the sun.

Let me tell you about the children of the scale.

Let me tell you about the Dragonborn of Cobrin’Seil.

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Asset Brainstorm #4 — Casino Cards

As a matter of practice, it’s important to me that I keep demonstrating different ways to engage with games. Making games is a practice, and when you can look at game assets and consider ways to apply them, you’ll begin to see how much of game design is stuff you can do. Therefore, on this blog I’m making it a project to regularly grab some game assets I couldn’t make myself, that are made for game designers to work with, and see what ideas they inspire.


I did spend a long time today – when I wrote this – picking out possible assets to buy for this project this month. I also thought about maybe just using art assets I knew I couldn’t buy because the point is the brainstorm, not the product. I looked at a lot of stuff today, and I tried very hard to come up with something that felt interesting

But I kept getting pulled towards a mechanical idea I’ve been thinking about.

This time, we’re going to look at an idea I’ve been toying with that wants to use, at least to start, ordinary playing cards.

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March Game Project — Sky Islands

Every month of 2022, I am trying, as part of both my PhD project and my all-purpose general game development, develop if not a whole game for game development, a project start, such that I can make playtest prototypes. This is a sort of report of the process throughout the month.


In January, I started late and didn’t get it done. In February, I had four game ideas. One of them became focal, and I spent some time this month actually making a physical prototype. My plan this month is to have something that at the end of the month can be treated as a thorough plan for not just a prototype, but a game that’s ready to go.

That proved very stressful, with the whole design write-up being week to week, and publishing just before the end of the month. Instead, I’m going to talk to you about what the idea is and focus on the core ideas, rather than on every step of the process.

Let me know if you prefer the week-to-week explanation or this style of simplified version.

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CoX: The Wild Hare

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.


Juniper Jacks thought she was pretty boring. She thought she wasn’t special. She thought that if the time came to step up, she wouldn’t, not really. Oh, sure, she had a drive to try – but… like, everyone had that, right? Everyone could see things they’d do, and just lacked the power to do them, right?

Then she became the host for the BOUND symbiote, from a mysterious Praetorian-Primal science project. and found, to her surprise, that when she had power, she absolutely wanted to do something with it. Stepping up, acting, fighting and finding evil and battering it unconscious: She was here to spring into action.

Oh, sure, she’s a rabbit girl – but she’s a loud, brash, brawling, rabbit girl who gives 10,000%.

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How To Be: Zelgadis (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.

There’s always going to be a challenge when you translate a character from a game into a different medium. These How To Be articles are about the process of taking a character represented in a fictional form and move them across into the game so that you can connect with their concept in a mechanical space. What, though, if the character started as a mechanical expression and then became part of a fiction?

What is it like to make a D&D character out of a character who is, in a lot of ways, just someone else’s D&D character?

Let’s talk about Zelgadis, from Slayers.

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Shirt: Somy Pacestation

I’m fond of these things, these deliberately wonky brands you see in anime and TV that can’t or won’t pay other brands to advertise their bullshit. How am I going to explain this one. It’s just the text. It’s literally just the text!

Here’s the design:

And here’s how it looks on a mask:

Here are links for if you want it in white text or black text.

Asset Brainstorm #4 — Floating Islands

As a matter of practice, it’s important to me that I keep demonstrating different ways to engage with games. Making games is a practice, and when you can look at game assets and consider ways to apply them, you’ll begin to see how much of game design is stuff you can do. Therefore, on this blog I’m making it a project to regularly grab some game assets I couldn’t make myself, that are made for game designers to work with, and see what ideas they inspire.


This month the asset I want to look at is Moon Tribe’s 2d floating island asset pack.

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Too Much Fun: Reconcepting Dwarves

I wrote earlier this year about how I don’t like the ‘dwarf’ as conventionally presented by 4e D&D. I don’t like the implication it has in the world, I don’t like the space for human culture it eats, I don’t like the baggage from Tolkein and World of Warcraft and I really don’t like the way dwarves are so bloody good if what you want is the mechanical portfolio to build a tough hard to move character in 4th edition D&D.

The Dio Baragh, Baragh for short, are the Cobrin’Seil replacement for the Dwarf. Mechanically, they are exactly the same, but they’re not the same fortress-building, ancient-artifact-having, Jewish-stereotyping squat Scottish humanoids. Instead, the Dio Baragh (from a Scots term meaning ‘The Outcasts’) stand apart from the dwarf, on their magnificent goaty legs.

Let me tell you about a culture that was born in magic, and made itself real.

Let me tell you about people who were kicked out of the Feywild for partying too hard.

Let me tell you about people of hammer and oak and axe and thorn.

Let me tell you about the Baragh.

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What Are You Trying To Feel?

Making games involves a lot of consideration about how players feel, as they engage with your game. When a player is playing a game like Doom, there’s a desire for some tension, but also for a feeling of excitement; you want to push players to feel like they can achieve things, and for their fear to be at odds with their sense of invulnerability. If a player thinks they’re able to defeat things, they’ll approach the frustration of the game with a proactive attitude, but if they’re afraid of dying, they’ll also be making threat assessment very quickly. Turn based Doom is a whole thing (DoomRL), but that timing and resource management becomes very different, and that game maintains its tension in the unreliability of turn-based math combat.

Anyway, while we’re talking about smooches in smooch month, and the smoochiest of games, Doom, let’s talk about how in smoochy games you want to maintain that tension to give people feelings.

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How To Be: Akane Tendo (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.

You know it’s not an intentional thing, but it seems that in the month of February, How To Be returns to the world of Ranma 1/2. Ah, what a wonderful world, the world where we have characters who fight with brooms or teleport or turn into gods and throw lightning bolts. Who are we going to visit here, in this mysterious world of creative martial arts?

Oh wait it’s in the subject you clicked on to go read this.

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Sticker: Tama Go-Ju!

This joke is far too niche, but if you (‘ju’) are an egg (‘tamago’) who had a realisation reading Ranma 1/2, then I have made a sticker for you. Just you.

Here’s the design:

And here’s how it looks on a hat:

I don’t think of Smooch Month as ‘Ranma month’ but this is the inspiration that struck and this is the result. Enjoy this eggy joke that I won’t wear myself. I made something for you! And the cheapest way for you to get it is to buy stickers, over on Redbubble!

MTG: Partner Problems

Look, partner as a mechanic is kind of a problem. Setting aside jokes from Melissa Detora about ‘hating the partner mechanic,’ Partner, as presented at first in Commander 2016, is a mechanic that put its foot forward in a bad way. This isn’t unheard of; Devotion’s first appearance was as the mechanic Chroma back in Shadowmoor, and when Wizards returned to that, they managed to absolutely smash it out of the park. Heck, Partner, after its first appearance, has come back twice, and each time it’s been really good.

I like Partner a lot – it’s a way to represent a story between two characters, it’s a way to examine common ground between mechanics, and it’s a way, crucially in smooch month, to represent kinds of relationships that a game about combat and conflict and faeries doesn’t often have room to show.

Let’s talk about Partner, then.

WOTC Employees: This article is entirely about about unsolicited game designs, with example cards.

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Cox: Nightsun

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.


Hey, what’s the weird tradition YOUR family has?

For Mika, his family follow an obscure religion, the Zantedeschian faith. It’s a pretty sweet gig, with lots of flower festivals, feasts, and gift-giving ceremonies, body positivty, and apparently, the goddess has all these cool heroic stories. He even had a position at the family temple, of a Knight – which again, meant things like attending the festivals.

And when Mika was kidnapped by the council to serve as a host for a gestating Nictus, though, the Nictus that tried to consume him found that that faith wasn’t in nothing.

You know what will give your faith strength? When your god’s power flows through you and shreds the soul of the thing that tried to destroy you.

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Asset Brainstorm #3 — AuCrowne Expressions

As a matter of practice, it’s important to me that I keep demonstrating different ways to engage with games. Making games is a practice, and when you can look at game assets and consider ways to apply them, you’ll begin to see how much of game design is stuff you can do. Therefore, on this blog I’m making it a project to regularly grab some game assets I couldn’t make myself, that are made for game designers to work with, and see what ideas they inspire.


It’s a new month and that means it’s time to look at this again with a sneaky secret oh hey what if this winds up being part of the actual project this month followup, eh?

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January Game Project — Adventure Town

Halfway through this month, I sat down with my supervisor and we discussed the idea of what this year is going to look like for the PhD. One of the things that we discussed was that large projects were slow and hard to move, and the material I had access to was harder to access thanks to the global shipping crisis. Services like Gamecrafter and DriveThruCards were unreliable, sometimes simply refusing to ship to Australia at all. Anyway, point is that I’m trying to make a print-and-play game each month this year.

But I decided this with ten days left in the month.

Hrm.

I was not going to get this done. Not properly done, not done in a way I’d be happy with. But I do have a game where the core idea of it is something I’ve been turning over and over in my head for years now in the idea of making a print-and-play game for the year.

Therefore, here, I am just going to provide an honest accounting of what I did, this month, to work on Adventure Town and how close it is to being complete.

Every month of 2022, I am trying, as part of both my PhD project and my all-purpose general game development, develop if not a whole game for game development, a project start, such that I can make playtest prototypes. This is a sort of report of the process throughout the month.


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Inquagnito Mode!

You know how I wrote about how there was a chance that cool design I had of a Quagsire sneaking around in a mask wouldn’t ever be able to be published because discoverability was functionally broken?

Well turns out I lied.

Here’s this month’s design. I recommend getting it on a sticker (cheap) or a hat (pricey), but as always, you can get it on a shirt.

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