Category: Making

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

T-shirt: Menu Loss

I have a bunch of t-shirt designs that build on the meme of Loss. I think some of them aren’t so great, as shirts, any more, and are a little slack or lazy in their execution. Since I wear them to class, I decided I needed to update and add to those designs, so here’s another one.

 

Here’s the design, on a shirt:

You can get it on Redbubble.

 

How To Be: May (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 may remember that we’ve looked, earlier in the year, at the character Rock Howard, from Garou: Mark Of The Wolves. Fight games are rich fodder for this kind of exercise because they so often about what a character is and less about what the character does. Simply put, fight games don’t make much sense.

There’s a scale at work, of course. Some games make more sense, with a deliberate intention to ground the storytelling in something serious. Some games, on other hand, are pretty silly, and don’t really care about how silly they get.

Anyway, Guilty Gear.

Continue reading

Game Pile: Channel Trailer 2021

What’s this? This isn’t Game Pile at all? Well, sort of. It’s a video about my Youtube channel, what it’s for and why I use it to put up Game pile articles. It’s meant to double as my channel trailer over on Youtube for those people who don’t come and look at the blog. It’s weird to me to consider that there may be people who watch over there but don’t read over here, but hypothetically, that’s what Youtube is about.

Script follows!

Continue reading

4e: Methods & Practice

Here’s a valuable lesson for tabletop RPG designers of all kinds I want you to learn from 4th edition D&D. I’ve been brewing on it for a while and I think I can summarise it cleanly thus:

Methods & Practices should not be Entangled.

There, that’s it, that’s the tweet.

… And I guess I should explain it more.

Continue reading

Setting Up Your Feedback Loop

Every day I wake up and work on a big project. It’s a long, slow, ongoing project. There’s always a book, always a document, always a report, always some recording to do. Every single day, that means I spend some time engaging with something.

This means that I have a feeling, immediately afterwards, of what I want to do with the rest of my day. Around noon, I can spend some time making myself lunch, talk a bit with my partner, or put something on the TV or my second monitor that would work as a good entertainment source and let me wind down for a bit.

Then there are chores that need doing, which I try to schedule to do during the middle of the day, or close to it. Some need to be done later; for example, I can’t clean up after making dinner until after I’ve made  dinner, but thinking about dinner early in the day means I may think to plan and thaw some food for dinner later. One of the errands is taking the dog for a walk, requiring me to disengage, daily, from my computer and its space.

And I do this with a notebook open on my desk, so that things I need to do, or thoughts I have or want to work out, I can do on a thing that I can then look at, later, at a glance.

Continue reading

Let’s Look At Some Assets And Brainstorm!

I need a catchier name than that for this.

Okay, look, something I do, regularly, is go looking for game assets I can use. I am, as a designer, kind of aesthetically flexible. I don’t tend to design games with a vision of how they should look ahead of time. And what’s more, I tend to be resource-inspired. If I see a new mechanic, or an art asset or something, my natural desire is to creatively explore it, to say ‘hey, I’d use this for this.’

I’m also uh, cheap? Like I don’t like the idea of my games as these ongoing costs. I want to buy assets, address my needs for a design, and be done. That means instead of comissioning an artist, I’d really like to buy their existing art as art assets rather than hire an artist to make things. It’s funny, too, because if the artist designs a thing and just makes it look right, great, that’s their choice and decision and I don’t have to try and tell the artist how to make it more, I dunno, ‘fwoowshy’ or appropriate to my needs.

I’m an odd boy, I know.

This is something I’ve been planning on doing for a while! How long have I been waiting on doing this? Well, the first draft of this article, and that name, is from January.

2019.

I gotta shake off that awkwardness, and just do it, so here’s the plan. I’m going to show you an asset pack, and tell you what I think about it, and what kind of games I’d think of doing with it.

Okay, so here’s the asset I found when I went looking that I want to talk about: Golem Battler Pack for RPG games by Anvilsoft. The images here are obtained from there.

Continue reading

Announcing: The Disney Animated Canonball, Season Two!

We have another month and another drop of a Disney Animated Canonball season! The first season was successful beyond my wildest imaginations, because I imagined I would launch it and it would get uh

one listener?

Anyway, season two covers what we call the Twilight Of The Walt, or Halfing Your Ass, a season that starts with Cinderella and concludes with The Jungle Book. This season brings with it the increased attention of animation techniques like Xerography, attention to Milt Kahl’s famous swaggle, and some insight into the critics and cast behind these movies. The movies also get generally better, which means there’s a bit less dire boredom.

You can get the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and any other good podcasting service that’s checking the standard RSS feeds? And failing that, you can head to the website.

How To Be: Disney’s Robin Hood (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.

This month, I felt it was time to approach the challenge from a different angle, of taking something with an obvious, easy, simple solution and then exploring around that. And for that, we’re going to look at a classic character, a character who’s so well known we don’t even remember we’re referencing him when we reference him. A folk hero, a hero who defined a generation and set thousands of people on their path that would determine the kind of person they’d be.

We’re going to look at Robin Hood.

Specifically, the 1973 Disney’s Robin Hood.

Continue reading

CoX: Wolfbit

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.


Cody always knew someone. He was the kid who knew everyone shifty, who could get you favours, who could find you things off the books. He never really worked out why he was good at it, why he could remember these trades so well, why he could read the people around him for what worked, what made sense about them.

When the wolf woke up, it made a bit more sense.

He’s a fixer, a bit of a crook, certainly a bit grubby. There’s a lot of ways poor people make things happen in the city, and in the dark spaces, sometimes you hope to find the wolf.

Continue reading

We Are The Night: Aspirations, Contusions, And Bullshit

These articles document the ongoing process of examining the things required to make a Blades in the Dark hack. The premise is using Blades in the Dark to emulate a heroic vigilante environment, akin to the settings of Gotham City from We Are Robin, or Ikebukuro from Durarara!!

This time, I want to talk about a mechanical change to the injury system. We’re going to talk about Harm and Trauma, and ways to change that system.

Continue reading

Henry Orenstein

I’m going to tell you a story. It jumps around a little, to future and past, and it has a big twist in it that I’m going to need you to trust me on. Because of that, the fold – and content warning – is coming later than you’d expect.

This story, started, for me, on the Transformers wiki.

This is a Rubsign. It’s a small piece of plastic that’s heat-reactive. When Transformers started out as a brand, there was an immediate push to make cheap knockoff toys with similar ideas. In order to ‘protect’ the brand and ensure kids only wanted to buy the genuine Transformers, they developed something that they could pretend was part of the play pattern: a small symbol on the robot’s body that had the silhouette of either the Decepticon or Autobot faction, and you wouldn’t know for sure if you didn’t heat it up, usually as a child, by rubbing it with your finger.

Transformers, and their gimmick of ‘transforming’, is essentially, open source. You can’t copyright it or even copyright the techniques of a mould. This is one of the reasons there’s so many knockoffs of those toys — the actual technique of a transforming toy is pretty much uncopyriteable method.

The rubsigns, however, were made with patented technology; not only weren’t other people allowed to put them on their toys, but even worse, they simply couldn’t make them because the method for their creation was proprietary. What I thought as a child was a clever way to represent a disguise, for a moment of tension in the narrative, was really just a corporate control collar, a thing that meant they could draw a hard line between their version of the idea and the other, shitty ones, so I could ensure my collection of second hand transforming robot toys was properly branded.

Rubsigns are a cop is what I’m saying.

But, they had to be invented.

This is Henry Orenstein. Learning about the origin of the rubsign meant learning that to my surprise, the patent for them is not held by The company per se, but is instead partially owned by Hasbro, and partially owned by this one dude, Henry Orenstein.

When I found his name in the Transformers wiki, the wiki stated, perhaps boldly: His life is more interesting than Transformers.

Bold claim.

This is professional Poker. It’s a well known game that involves players playing for extremely large sums of money, often with similarly large sums of money involved in the buy-in. It’s grown in popularity over the past twenty years, in part because of improvements in presenting the game to an audience. Back in 1995, a patent was filed for a device known as a hole camera, which let the broadcasters collect the information about the players’ hands without doing anything that disrupted the natural flow of the game. The hole camera was used in 1999, and that’s about when poker started to pick up in public discourse.

And the patent for the earliest hole camera (which isn’t used much any more) is to a guy named Henry Orenstein. So important was this – and his winnings and his achievements lifetime – that he’s been inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.

This is a Johnny Seven OMA, which were made by Topper Toys. And that’s a company Henry Orenstein founded to make his toys after being annoyed at how expensive dolls and toy guns were for poor kids. Topper Toys eventually folded into another brand, Deluxe Reading, which I understand if you are a hardcore toy collector, really into things like barbie accessories and cross compatibility, is very important to the hobby.

This background was how Henry got the attention of Hasbro, and wound up working with them on acquiring new toy properties. That meant he was in position to be in Japan, looking at Takara and Microchange toys, and come back with the idea of acquiring both toy sets, and rebranding them as Transformers in 1980.

Interesting dude, right? He should write a memoir.

Except he did already:

And now, when we jump back in the story, I have to say: Content Warning: Nazis.

Continue reading

4e: Sneaky Feys

It’s said, that humans learned magic from the gods; some say that humans learned it from studying the universe around them. Some, in the oldest and darkest stories, say that humans learned magic from the fey, because they couldn’t wait to see how badly we fucked it up.

One thing I love about D&D 4e is the way that making a character is pretty simple and robust. Rather than gate things like werewolves and werebears behind layers of power back in third edition, the game finds ways to let you play that straight up, out of the gates. Same with Vampires, and, if you want, you can play all sorts of weird character types out of nowhere.

If you want to play a weirdo, fae-realms inspired fey creature, you have options too! And, of them, the Satyr and Hamadryad, are bad. Fortunately, though, Fox made some better ones, and I’m going to give you some feat support for them!

Now, this is a bit of a different direction in the kind of 4e content I make. This isn’t about something from established books, this is something based on the character heritages for 4th edition that Fox made. It’s going to be about feat support for the Gruuwar, Pooka, and Firbolg heritages she wrote, and put up on The Square Fireball.

Continue reading

T-Shirt Megapost: Subject Outlines 2

Yesterday I started on showing off this month’s t-shirt designs, and boy there are a few this month.  I would normally put t-shirt designs at the end of the month, but in this case, I’m actually getting these shirts in time to wear them for this semester… which is also the same time any of my peers might want to see them.

Sonic The Hedgehog logos are really quite good. It’s a standardised font, it’s a standardised formatting, and the rest of the logo is done with individual specific details for the media in question, like Mania’s springs and whorls. This was really, really easy to make and it looks great.

I think sometimes it’s easy to fail to appreciate just how good the branding is for Sonic.

Also, there’s a version of this with ‘& Knuckles’ on it, but it honestly doesn’t look as good and means the joke ends on a second punchline, and that sucks.

This was based on the suggestion of my dear friend Shelf, who pointed out that while yes, it looked like a Final Fantasy logo to start with, I needed something crystalline in the middle. Fox also pointed out that it’s where a splash of colour happens. In this case, it’s a silhouette of an elk.

Because elks are cool.

The elk is a gradient that then got ran through a cubism filter to make it look kinda crystall-y.

Speaking of that cubism filter, get a load of that crystal in my extremely home-made leadership matrix. The matrix is entirely out of gradients otherwise.

The text is really interesting because my memory of the gradient on this is really vibrant – a really rich red, a really deep blue. But if you go back and look at the G1 logo for Transformers, it’s… positively understated.

This gradient is made up, in order from the top of the image to the bottom, a gradient of blue-to-white; a line of garbage hand-drawn then smoothed and smudged to look a bit more like a mountain range; a gradient of red to white. The bottom of the garbage line gets blurred into the red-white gradient, and that’s how I got that effect.

I’m really proud of all these things that don’t require me to like, do much drawing vs making my designs with shapes, rotations and symmetries. There’s a lot of that here.

And finally…

God damn.

I wanted to make a shirt with the design from the Vaporwave Designer meme program. But the thing is, that’s not only not at a proper resolution for shirts, but it’s also really busy for a design when I can’t control all the elements of the shirt. I can’t cover the entirety of the shirt, to give it the proper background. I can’t do gradients either – less-than-full opacity, when printed on a shirt, is printed on white and creates a nasty white silhouette.

With those limits, instead of duplicating that style, I wanted to make something that evoked it, in colours I like. And thus, we get this hodge-podge of ‘wow, look at all the effects I can do.’

If you’d like to check these shirts out, maybe buy a sticker or a shirt… well, check it out here.

T-Shirt Megapost: Subject Outlines 1

ha ha ha or maybe we’ll have another lockdown after I write this post and the next one and these shirts will instead not get worn at class but oh fuck it here it is anyway


I like wearing my shirts to class. You maybe have seen my bumper collection of Loss shirts that I wear to teach a class about memes. One shirt that got a yell of laughter last semester was my ‘Have You Read The Subject Outline’ shirts.

Well, as this post goes up, I’m going to be teaching again this semester, and I made a bunch of other shirts of that joke so I have a full matching set for the semester. Here, then, are the first half of them, with some notes about how I made them.

The actual phrase Have You Checked The Subject Outline scans to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cadence. Thanks to one Glench, a tool exists on the internet for building a framework for that kind of design.

In this case, the output of the creator just gave me the angle/style of fonts, and then I went and recreated them myself once I had someone else doing math on the arc of the letters.

The Fullmetal Alchemist logo is composed of letters, with specific kerning and details, that I seem to have installed as part of a system package. To get this look, I pulled the spacing in tight for the body text to make sure that the two most similar words fit the same bounding box. Then, it was a matter of giving it a pair of outlines – which I noticed, a lot of things rely on outline-thicker-outline, which does look great.

This is mostly just sets of gradients; one gradient for the red body, another for the red outline, same for the greys and silvers.

Note that in this design because the original logo doesn’t have a hanging element (the foot of the J), I had to then restructure things a little; I couldn’t just make SUBJECT and OUTLINE separately, because otherwise the bottom edge of SUBJECT would overlay on the top edge of OUTLINE. In this case, I put the topmost layer (the inner body text) paired together, with SUBJECT on top; then under those two, the outlines, then under that, a grouping. Then I had to make space to make sure the outline on the J fit.

Design number three went through a lot of iterations. There’s a free font for minecraft, but to get the 3d effect I had to do a lot of struggling. First, create two layers of text, with a distressed/non-distressed font. Then I used a perspective tool to make it tilt backwards.

Once I had that, I took a copy of the bottom layer, the un-distressed one, and gave it a vertical motion blur a pretty big distance, then made a folder for the blurry one. I copied it a dozen times, merged those, and then made a copy and got rid of all the contrasty bits to make sure it was a ‘solid’ shape rather than a blurry one.

Then it was a matter of just trying out a lot if graphical effects to see if I could get a ‘dirt’ vibe without using textures I didn’t own and wasn’t allowed to use. I did toy with pixel blurring photos, but that got me inconsistant pixel sizes, and that was super annoying and looked a bit crap.

That’s half of these designs, we look at the next set tomorrow!

The Too Perfect Problem

All forms of tricks need to avoid being too perfect.

You might notice that a lot of magic performances, certainly these days, rely on doing something that make you laugh. It’s extremely common to see a magician incorporate some form of oafishness or buffoonery into their act. This is tied to the fundamental principle of controlling attention. First, the magician demands attention, and then they use the fact they have demanded attention to subvert the idea that they deserve it.

Then they prove they do.

Continue reading

Announcing: The Disney Animated Canonball, Season One!

Hey, do you like me?

Aw, thank you.

I mean anyway, do you like hearing me talk about movies?

Well, Fox and I have a new podcasting project: The Disney Animated Canonball. It’s a podcast where she and I watch every movie in the Disney Animated Canon, then talk about them. It’s being designed to operate on a season basis, where every season comes out in a block so you can binge the whole thing. Rather than ask you to show up week to week, instead, here’s an entire season of audio to dive into. Want to hear me and Fox talk about Disney media for nine hours? Well, here it is!

This season covers the first block of what we call the ‘Golden Age’ of Disney. That is, it starts at Snow White and includes hits like Pinnochio and Dumbo, but it also farts out at the end with The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr Toad, a movie so bad and with a title so dreadful I was genuinely unsure if I’d heard the title right.

You can get the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and any other good podcasting service that’s checking the standard RSS feeds? And failing that, you can head to the website.

We Are The Night: Actual Constables Aren’t Bluecloaks

These articles document the ongoing process of examining the things required to make a Blades in the Dark hack. The premise is using Blades in the Dark to emulate a heroic vigilante environment, akin to the settings of Gotham City from We Are Robin, or Ikebukuro from Durarara!!

This time, I want to talk about a setting difference that’s going to present a problem with the factions in We Are The Night: Police.

Continue reading

T-Shirt: Team Vaccine

As of when I write this, I am unvaccinated. Here in Australia, vaccination has happened on a schedule that we might conservatively call ‘a bit of a mess.’ Since February I’ve been aggressively checking the schedule to determine when I can get vaccinated, with an eye to being as soon as possible.

The category I belong to, according to our current government schedule, is ‘Balance Of Remainder,’ which is to say ‘everyone who isn’t old or a conservative politician.’ And so… time to cheer for the team.

Here’s the design, on a shirt:

You can get it on Redbubble.

How To Be: Goliath from Gargoyles (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 authoritive 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.

This month, we’re going to look at a challenging build; we’re going to be looking at a powerhouse of muscle and stone, in the form of Goliath from the Disney series Gargoyles.

Not Attracting The Worm

Rhythm games fascinate me.

I can’t make them, not really. Not with my tools and skillset.

See, here’s the thing: I am a low-tech creator. I have some nice systems like computers that let me make my things look prettier, but ultimately, I’m not coding machines. I am not making mechanical devices that can serve as timers. Ultimately, because of the medium I work in, the things that dictate the types of games I can make are ‘what can people manage’ and ‘how can I do this with cardboard.’ There are some things I really wish I could make happen that I just can’t with my rules, and my current understandings of games.

Particularly, one thing I can’t really just ‘add’ to games is rhythm.

I’ve experimented with it – in the tiny flick-em-up Wobbegong-12, there’s a mechanic where players, if they don’t want to play in real time, have to all count down together to three, in order to power their carts. But that mechanic is kind of fuzzy and uncertain. After all, if players are counting down together, three, two, one, flick, what happens if someone falls out? The only enforcement is themselves, and other players, and the game is so silly it doesn’t really have a punishment system.

 

 

But if I want to make a rhythm game, like the whole category of videogames, I don’t have the means to do that, at least right now. What’s more I don’t even have the fundamental skill underpinnings to try. I don’t know what makes rhythm good. I can’t dance. I don’t know how to identify the beat, and every time people remark on this with me it’s with this incredulous ‘surely you can do this’ kind of reaction that makes me feel stupid. Which is embarrassing and we’re moving on.

It’s not like rhythm games aren’t doable with the tools and implements I have. Every clapping game, every call-and-response song, every make-up-a-rhyme, a bunch of grievance songs, almost any kind of singing, dancing, or clapping that involves playing with the possibility of the sound is itself, a kind of rhythm game. And those are games that just seem so impossible to translate, to put into a context that I can share them with people.

After all, the main way we have to convey rhythm is to show people, rather than to tell people.

 

 

What I Can’t Do With Food

I’m in my late thirties now. I don’t like admitting that, I still feel like basically a large teenager. But I have been living away from my parents for twenty years, more or less, and it’s only recently that I realise regular daily cooking has made me a competent home cook. After all, I don’t think of myself as a cook.

But I mean how much can you do something every day for years and not make it something in your skillset?

Back in January of this year, I commented, a little flippantly, that I was going to give up on some things. That I was going to stop trying to be good at some things and just focus on things I already knew how to do, or that looked reasonably easily translated from things I already knew.

How’d that work out?

Perhaps obviously: Content Warning, Food Continue reading

Revising the Botch

I released the Botch in 2016. I made this game in a week, with the help of a friend who had similarly manic energy creating the art, and what resulted was one of my most successful games.It’s not Dog Bear successful (though, same artist!), but it is a game I still think of fondly, can pitch easily, and sells well at conventions.

Remember conventions?

I don’t think that I’m perfect. Every person I’ve taught about making things, I tell every thing you make is making you better at making the next thing. And I have a lot of games – a big library of games. And some of them, with years of progress and learning, I’d like to revisit and improve. Since The Botch is one of my best, I’d like to start with that. I’m going to share with you some notes about improving and changing The Botch and ways it’s going to change in light of pressures that aren’t my fault.

Continue reading

4e: The Swallowers

There are tales told, in the deep and dark places of the world, about vast, floating multi-eyed magical monsters, their minds full of hate, seeing a world of imperfection and foulness that they refuse to abide, wanting to reshape and destroy it all at once. There are tales told about their variations and mutations, things that they see as vulgar but necessary – smaller versions of themselves, foul mutations and permutations.

But there are other variations, ones they don’t mean to make.

Swallowers are chaotic, anarchic creatures, who look like the famously powerful tyrants of the underdark, but sharing none of their ambition and hate. Instead, what they have is curiosity, bubbling up from within as they bounce and float around the world, exploring the world.

Continue reading

Letting in the Draft

This isn’t about drafting in games.

This is about the process of being creative, and part of how I sustain this blog working the way it is. Undeniable, part of it is practice – just writing every day means that writing every day gets easier. Some projects need a lot of writing, and there are some days when this blog is getting a thousand words out of the ten I wrote in a day. But that’s also my luxury – I am in a job where a lot of what I do comes down to communicating, either in words to one person or on paper to a group.

Still, I have days where it’s hard. Yesterday was difficult, and there have been other days when it’s been difficult. Today, though, I was able to pull up this article, this little stublet, and go: Oh hey, dang. I can work from this. I can belt out a few hundred words on this idea.

A few days ago, I was struggling to write. So what I did was pulled open the blog draft box, and I wrote ten little stubs. Just a single sentence of ‘write about this thing, at one point, in the future.’ And then, a few days later, when I was struggling again, I checked it out. I looked at the ideas I’d put there. Some of them, I went: That’s dumb, or, hey, I have a better version of this already, or this will be a lot of work. Some got changed, some got deleted.

This one got expanded.

This is about practice. This is about spending the time and effort to make sure that you can look at what you do and be satisfied with an ‘enough.’

This is enough.

Explaining to you how I got to enough is enough.

And it’s enough for you too. Don’t beat yourself up for modest goals.

We Are The Night: Speaking The Notion

I wanna make a Blades in the Dark hack?

This is a little trickier, for me, than you might think. I have a lot of system mastery of some games, but Blades in the Dark is both elegant mechanically and frictionless in action, which means that the normal things I start to tinker with might not work. I find myself trying to respin a spiderweb.

I’d normally look to templates, or look for a series of guidance on that matter. And uh, like, the main video series with insight into it is both pretty old and pretty cumbersome to grapple with and the video is much more ‘two dudes have a conversation’ and one of those dudes is Adam Koebel. Plus, a lot of the advice is more ‘hey, you can use this to do things like this’ without giving much actual concrete information about system purposes and the way things change. It’s just not a fun scene.

Back in 2019 I made some posts as I explored what I’d need to make a 4th edition mod called Hunter’s Dream. In the end, I hit most of my goals for what I’d need in a top down structural way, and the remaining work is just about executing on it – filling tables, and stuff, and 2020 happened and that kind of project wasn’t really pursuable. Still, documenting ideas is kind of my job right now, and the actual process was really interesting. It was writing about the thinking of my process of making and documenting that process.

How did we start huh.

Well, the way I started on Hunter’s Dream was by outlining the thing I wanted the game to be about. The fantasy I wanted to enable. Then I looked at the systems in the game, and the things that the game rules needed to be able to include, like an ovearching theme. I talked about mechanics I knew I wanted to include. And then I looked at that, and took into account what work I’d need to do to realise it.

Well.

Okay.

Here then, is the pitch:

No, wait, here’s the notion.

I like Clay and Corey. I think they are great. I think they have great minds for character design and storytelling and problem solving. I think that playing with them in an RPG would be cool. But I don’t want to make them have to learn a point based bullshit-em-up for a RPG system to make superheroes, because all superhero TTRPG Systems I’ve ever encountered have been shit. But what isn’t shit is Blades in the Dark with its fluid sense of narrative and cinematic willingness to play with time and planning.

And from there we get a plan:

  • I want to make a game that lets you play the Dollars from Durarara!!, Robin from We Are Robin, the Spiders from Into the Spider-Verse and operators from Global Frequency.
  • I want players to feel like a modern-day ‘gang’ that represents a surrogate vigilante government for people whose government has abandoned them.
  • I want characters to wear colours or signs or symbols that say we belong, you don’t.
  • I want to make a game that shows you what you’d fight for.

Blades in the Dark is already a game about a gang, with a unified theme and presence, that controls an area, fighting with factions around them to achieve your ends. In Blades it’s all pre-emptively designed to the conclusion ‘that sucks and you’ll die soon.’ What I want is the idea that players can build their little story about saving their sector, beating some villains, having that taste of victory, all in an environment that feels like stories I enjoy, and that speak to a truth about what All Cops Are.

And now I have mentioned the idea. It’s somewhere. And I have to follow through on it if people respond to the idea well.

Right now, the name I have for this project is We Are The Night. It may change, because that’s also the name of a German Vampire Lesbian Erotic Thriller. But we’ll see.

How To Be: Daryun (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 authoritive 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.

We have a bit of a special one this month: Not a character I know, or am familiar with, but who has been in my life and around me for some time. We’re going to look at the character Daryun from The Heroic Legend of Arslan, a novel series some thirty-five years old, which was reimagined and reinvigorated through the heroic work of Hiromu Arakawa. So, imagine a deep, long-running heroic fantasy war epic, which then had one of the greatest living manga-ka come through and give it a bit of a brush up.

We’re going to talk about a hot prince’s best friend, who he loves so much he was buried with him (but, in a not gay way, if you believe the fandom wiki): Daryun.

T-Shirt: HAPP PRIDE

This month, I wanted to do some pride themed shirts like last year, a shirt a week, but I just didn’t have a lot of inspiration for them, and, uh…

Look.

One of the things I like the most about pride is flags, because I am a huge dork. I don’t go to parades, and I’m a bi dude so Pride is also this common space where I get to watch myself get erased and forgotten and – like, lots of stuff in that space that kinda sucks. But flags, flags are cool!

I also liked my candy hearts design from earlier in the year, and I like the way they’re these like, badly printed, nearly-good representations of the things they’re representing. I like that a lot, and so I made this design that used my candy heart design and some flags I like.

 

Here’s the design, on a shirt:

 

You can get it on Redbubble.

CoX: Vent

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.


 

“So, are they fire, or rock?”
“Oh my god, they can’t be both,”
“Or something else, in between?”
“They’re going to have to make their mind up.”

It’s tough being a lava-powered enby. Humans can handle the ‘my skin turns into lava’ part but they get all weird about the ‘gender’ thing, like that’s somehow the big deal. Elementals don’t know what the gender thing is even about, but they’re also really bad company when you talk about music and fashion.

Vinn’s doing the best they can, with what they got.

Continue reading