Category Archives: Making

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

T-Shirt: One Flesh One End

I didn’t start this year expecting to be profoundly affected by The Locked Tomb books. As I write this, I have only finished three of them BECAUSE THE FOURTH ONE ISN’T OUT YET, but sometimes, a design haunts the brain and wants to get out. Hey then, here’s a fanart design that I hope doesn’t violate a fanart policy.

And here it is being worn by a digitally stitched-on model

If you want to see this design on things, you can get it here! I would personally recommend, if you are in some way a giant jacked gay lady, that you should get a version of this shirt without sleeves, as it would make Gideon Nav proud (I think).

Desert Bus ’23 Game Jam Game: The Coffee Question

Okay here’s a weird, non-standard thing.

See, I made my game jam game. I put it on this site. I hated it and brewed about it for a bit. But i believe in tracking my mistakes as well as my successes, so I figured it was better being done and moving on. But then a few days later, before the jam ended, I got a different idea and wanted to act on that, and so I did. What that means is this article has two distinct parts.

Part 1, here, before the fold, is me just showing you a game and linking to its itch page. After the fold is Part 2, the original version of the article, which is written by a more bummed out version of me.

The game I made is called The Coffee Question, and it’s based on the idea of trying to remember a complicated order for the whole staff when you run down to get people coffee. It’s a small game, only 27 cards, and it’s fully cooperative. You play it in two rounds, and have to try, collectively, to memorise an order of the food you’re there to get. Consider it a lesson about writing things down. It’s also built around a lot of different references to what I think of when I think of Desert Bus and food, though some concessions have been made to make the things hard to remember.

I think it’s fun! I recommend it! I like cooperative games for Desert Bus, feels more charitable. You can go get it over on You can also get it here:

The rest of this article is preserved for archival purposes, and the other game is there for consideration, but really, don’t worry about it. The game is fine I guess, but I was really upset by the whole process. This one also had the same kind of upset but after writing about how you should route around those problems, not doing that in my followup shows how silly I can be.

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Sonic Rushdown

Gotta go fast!

Sega as a company has what seems to be a pretty prosaic attitude towards fangames. You can use their art and sprites and characters in fan media, even fan media that makes a videogame, and as long as you’re not asking anyone to pay money for it, they seem to be fine with it. It’s not a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as much as it is a “Won’t ask, don’t sell” policy, and it’s a policy I might be stretching to its theoretical limits with this.

I made a Sonic the Hedgehog card game.

They exist already. Sonic the Hedgehog has a host of card games already. They’re almost universally terrible, games that rate somewhere around Snap. Now, the fact that Sonic the Hedgehog has shown up in a bunch of terrible games is unremarkable – both in that tie-in board games are often terrible, and statistically, Sonic the Hedgehog games are just as often terrible.  It’s rolling some loaded dice, is what I’m saying.

Wanna see what I came up with?

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Game Concept — Bad Advisors

Did you hear what the king’s advisors were talking about? Well, I heard from one of them, that they think that the other advisors are too focused on their wine, or their parties, or their lovers, or enriching themselves. Why, you didn’t hear it from me

This is a concept writeup for a card game. The aim is a single-deck, form factor game which needs no sorting, you just shuffle it up and go. My aim is for a game that fits into our $20 range on Invincible Ink, so think like an ordinary deck of playing cards in terms of size.

As a setup note, this game imagines each player is pretty translatable to one another. You start the game by shuffling up a deck and dealing it out to everyone. The vibe here is something like Cockroach Poker.

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T-Shirt: Valid To Eat Fingers Jujutsu Kaisen Shirt

I like the anime Jujutsu Kaisen. I like odd memes that make sense mostly if you’ve boiled your brain in Tumblr long enough that the conversation has cooked away and left nothing but meaning-chunks behind. Together, that resulted in this design:

And here it is, on a shirt!

This design has enough permutations that I thought it best to make a whole collection of them. You can have them in solid black, solid white, transparent lines, black text and white background, and of course, the gradient version I favour. They’re also on masks if you’re particularly weird about people being near your mouth!

How To Be: Harrowhark Nonagesimus (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.

I’ve had this one in the drawer since like April, I didn’t realise just how much I was going to enjoy digging into it two books later.

Oh and hey, sorta-but-not-really spoiler warning? I don’t mean to spoil the books to examine the character, but there is some inextricable hairs that come off with this particular bandaid. Particularly, if you know nothing about the books, there’s a vision of ‘proper’ fandom that says I shouldn’t do anything that gives you any impression of anything in the story, that I should somehow make a hermetically sealable piece of media because someone hypothetically should know nothing about the book when they first engage with it. This is silly. Telling you that, for example, in Harrow The Ninth we get to see that Harrow is a really good necromancer, that shouldn’t be considered as a violence against engagement with the books.

I liked the books, by the way, I think you should check ’em out.

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Game Concept — Lysen Co.

Welcome to your new position of Commisioned Human Resource Dispensation here at Lysen Co Food Technologies! We trust that you’re going to do your best for the betterment of all mankind as represented by the correct and accurate construction of optimal ‘tiger team’ panels for the full-time distribution of actualised test partners! Don’t worry, we know you’d never let us down – no member of our employment family ever has!

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Shirt 23.09 — Cui Bono Asked And Answered

If you’re not familiar with it, Cui Bono is a Latin aphorism that has become something of a loanphrase in English because there’s nothing quite like quoting an old dead dude to legitimise your complaint. It means ‘Who Benefits?’ and it’s used in conspiracy circles to encourage you to keep imagining more and more reasons for something to be the responsibility of those people. Thing is, almost always, the answer for ‘why would they do things this shitty way?’ is capitalism. And so:

No small irony in that I made this design on the second of May, back when I was ruminating on whether or not I stick with Redbubble at all. Still looking for alternatives, so maybe this gets edited later.

You can get this design in one of four colours, green, blue, pink or tan.

Cox: Mu’Tant

This is an explanatory writeup of one of my Original Characters (OCs). Nothing here is necessarily related to a meaningful fiction you should recognise and is shared because I think my OCs are cool and it’s cool to talk about OCs you make.

Roughly one person in a thousand has enough Mu blood to get the attention of the primal forces that drove the magic of antedeluvian Oranbega. Roughly one person in a thousand had the rare linked genes that help the mind tap the process, and most of the Mu you see use intense concentration and sensory deprivation to maintain that mindspace, to use that power.

Tanner, however, got lucky. A simple mutation, a hiccup in his DNA, and that whisper of Oranbegan power is, to him, a shout. When these powers came into their own, the boy took to the streets of Paragon to use his powers, without the oversight of the Mu hierarchy or Arachnos.

At least that’s what he tells people.

And it’s not like they need to know.

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Justum Bellum Sidus: Making a Plan

One of the classes I teach is about the critical engagement with a videogame text (or paratext). One of the things we do in this subject is to engage with the class materials ourselves to show the students what’s involved. Basically, ‘hey, this is about engaging in something that interests us.’

I proposed, for my pitch, the idea of a video essay that examined the idea of just war in the videogame Starcraft 2. I picked Starcraft 2 as an example for a few reasons:

  • It’s more recent than a lot of my videogame interests. It’s more contemporary to my students’ age group.
  • It’s got a thriving esports scene, a real world paratextual surface, so there’s an element of the game to examine.
  • It’s not something immediately obvious to me, so I’m not just cheating and answering a question I already know.

With that in mind, here’s a little audio of me thinking through my process for how I’d work on this project, in the early days.

Okay But What Gimmicks Can I Make?

Alright, I talked about gimmicks, which I find interesting, because, you know, they change the timing of a trick. They also unfortunately, change the economics of a trick, because in a lot of cases, there are some things you just can’t do, as a person, unless you’re absolutely amazingly good. Back in the day, the magicians had to work to be that good, but these days, there’s an economics to it that creates the category of, well, moneygicians.

whoah, authentically compression artifacted

I want to share a few short videos here, and let me tell you, magic as a community, with its particular kind of patter, can be really uncomfortable to share freely. Anything you look at here, the channels are probably okay, but also, don’t be surprised if like, one of these dudes is into NFTs or something. If you chase videos in this space you might wind up seeing someone doing old timey patter about dames and oh, take my wife, and yaw, ya see, and that sucks, especially to see people still doing it in like, 2019.

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Game Concept — Moonshiners!

Alright, alright, I know I’ve been thick on the ground for game ideas lately. This one’s even more frustrating than normal because I feel like I could convince a university colleague to pump out AI art and beta test it with me in a weekend but I feel like that would be an abuse of our limited time right now.

Here’s the core of it: You’re all Appalachian, redneck ass criminal booze makers and sellers, classic moonshiners. To maintain your business you’re travelling into town every month with a load of product, and while you’re there, you offload product, you recruit gangsters, and you make money through a series of auctions.

Also, you’re werewolves.

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Game Concept — Shaky Hands

This is going to be one of those ‘write up a game idea’ posts I do – if that’s not your jam, that’s okay! It’s just going to be me taking notes on an idea, and trying to explain it to a general audience. In this case, I’m not approaching a game aesthetic or art resources, but instead I’m approaching a purely mechanical idea to see what fictions can connect to it and what material components I’d need.

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CoX: Juke

This is an explanatory writeup of one of my Original Characters (OCs). Nothing here is necessarily related to a meaningful fiction you should recognise and is shared because I think my OCs are cool and it’s cool to talk about OCs you make.

…the police are the crime…

Dead drops and drunk tanks. A door left unlocked. A hole in the guard patrol schedule. An undersecured door, a familiar password, a moment of forgetfulness, or believable forgetfulness. In Praetoria, you could get a lot done by leaning on the way that everyone thought everyone else was corrupt.

Juke was one of them. Secret police, that is. You could only go along for so long, though, until it all went wrong. That’s when he found friends, found rebels, but not the resistance. Instead, it was dead drops and secret messages, and now, nobody knows anything he had to do with the revolution.

So that sucks.

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T-Shirt: Support Your Local Things

I think at some point I just want to make sports logos of everything that isn’t really appropriate as a sports logo. Anyway, here’s a The Thing as if that’s a sports logo!

You can get this sticker or shirt design here! What’s more, because I made such a big file, it’s available to jam on a bunch of different designs I don’t normally get to use – like you can get a jigsaw of this reference to the 1982 movie The Thing. I don’t know why you would want it, but it’s an option!

I didn’t set up the microskirt option though that seemed… weird.

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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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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Filling Out Factions With Combinatorics And Colour

One of the three most important codified innovations of game design in Magic: The Gathering is the colour wheel system. It’s not that this is the first card game ever to have factions (after all, what are suits, really), but of having an uneven number of factions, who match up with one another in terms of alliances and opposition. It’s a prime number, so there’s no even way to divide them up to create coalitions, everyone works together and against one another, and also, notably, it gives players an immediate philosophical flavour onramp saying hey, does this work for you, and then you can act on that. They are five essential operating vibes.

A lesson you can use from the Magic: The Gathering colour wheel, and which you can use in your own worldbuilding or game design is creating matrices of combinatorics. Or rather, you can give your players colours to fly.

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Reflecting In A Mirror (Writing Advice Stuff)

There’s a nonzero chance that this one is going to be really, really self-indulgent and kind of maudlin and maybe even preachy, in that particular way of a boy who turned forty yelling at young people when he hits a point and feels like he failed at something nobody was ever grading him on. I got a bad grade at being Talen Lee, a thing that’s possible to have and yet, somehow, I always expected.

This has been kicked off in part by reading The Locked Tomb books, and should therefore be seen as an absolute mark in their favour, even if I don’t think you’d ever be able to get out of them what I got out of them.

Here are the lessons in summary form, so you don’t have to read the rest of this mess:

  • Characterisation is story. The way characters approach things, what they look at and how they care about them is part of how you tell the story.
  • Embrace community. Building friendships with people who are interested in your work, and whose work you are interested in, will help you get better at making things.
  • Buy My Book (Don’t Buy My Book). You need to convince people to engage with what you’ve made and that means being willing to share it with them and even ask them to look at it.
  • You Have To Love your Work. The biggest failing all my work has is that I’m embarrassed of it, and horrified by the idea of putting stuff in it that I care about for fear of revolting people around me. Don’t do that, centre the things you care about.
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Bonus Design: Time Loop Pins

The line goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. Tonight, the picture is this:

It was inspired by a tumblr post I can’t find right now. That tumblr post suggested having multiples of a badge like this, which I find very, very funny.

It’s not really a proper t-shirt design but it was the only thing I was able to manage tonight that’s reasonably shareable while working on bloodwork and its emergent complexity.

If you want the pin, you can get it here. I do not know if you will or would.

This isn’t this month’s t-shirt design, mind you, it’s just something that I did tonight that I think is funny.

23.07 — Shinigami, But The Cool Ones

There’s a particular genre of shirts I design to wear in front of my students that give them the subtle messages that I am a huge nerd and also they should check the subject outline. I have one, a Naruto shirt, which is consistent at getting students’ attention, but here’s the thing.

I’ve not watched Naruto.


When the Big Three came down, I didn’t wind up buying into Naruto. It didn’t connect to me, but Bleach, man, that series did. I think because I thought Rukia was cute and a boy. But point is, if I have a Naruto shirt, I owe it to myself, to my honest representaiton as a fan, to have a shirt that matches my own cringe, not just the cringe of others.

This design, which I do not imagine anyone but me wants, is available on my Redbubble store.


This is an explanatory writeup of one of my Original Characters (OCs). Nothing here is necessarily related to a meaningful fiction you should recognise and is shared because I think my OCs are cool and it’s cool to talk about OCs you make.

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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