205720I am pleased to announce that this week, my setting, “Uranium Chef,” has been released through Evil Hat’s Worlds of Adventure Patreon. You can buy it here (pay-what-you-want) at Drive-Thru RPG The game is about a reality cooking show in space, but as I’ll show in this blog post, you can hack it for all sorts of constructive competitions.

But first, a word from our sponsors:

If you didn’t know it, I’ve been working with Tangent Artists to create a brand new Fate Adventure, Dungeon Tours Ltd. Can you take a rich noble on a safari through a fake dungeon without them guessing the truth? It’s “Dungeon Keeper” meets “Leverage,” with a dash of “Trading Spaces.” 

Right now, DTL is in Open Beta; but the last day to sign up is March 5th. Make sure you sign up here!


The game “Uranium Chef” is not limited to reality cooking shows in space; even the book mentions how you can port it to any other cooking contests in other settings (ex. fantasy; anime high school).

In this article, I want to push the boundaries even further, and demonstrate that you can use the same mechanics with any creation game show. Let me present to you:


For the last few centuries, technology has stagnated in all fields but one: simulacrums. These puppet-like lifeforms, made with a mix of cybernetics and bioengineering, have been implemented in everything from combat to domestic work force. Most simulacrum factories focused on churning out realistic and pleasing simulacrums by the millions.

As far as we know, the malchemist Hag-Queen Zaggria was the first to pervert the technology to another purpose: making monsters. She created her own laboratory, called the Fear Factory, and used it to create a slow but steady stream of nightmarish horrors. Most of them were commissioned by conquerors, who magnified them in size and used them as weapons of war. Some of them were used in fiction- they were the starring villains in movies and neutrowave shows. It is rumored that the Hag-Queen Zaggria once spent a year on a monster for the sole purpose of scaring her brattish nephew into behaving. To Zaggria, all that matters is that the client pays up front, and that they’re satisfied with the result.

Now, Hag-Queen Zaggria has opened the doors to her laboratory, and will be training her replacement. With the support of Mongongo Studios, she is hosting her own reality TV show competition. Many applicants will apply, but only the season winner will be chosen (and receive the 4 billion space-buck prize). Can you win her favor by creating the most inspired monsters in the galaxy?

Who are the Player Characters?

The PCs are creative monster-makers from every corner of the galaxy. These include:

  • Black-sorcery-wielding malchemists
  • Mad scientists, teknolocks, and xeno-engineers.
  • Disgraced doctors and unlicensed surgeons
  • Disgruntled toymakers
  • Haunted artists and puppeteers
  • Special Effects and make-up experts (who now get to make the real thing!)


Luckily, the creators have plenty of android helpers to help with the science and dark magic; thus, even a shaman from a backwater planet with no experience with technology can create an impressive cyborg monster. The hardest part is supplying the vision!


Builder Approaches

Instead of six culinary approaches, there are six builder approaches. There are: Beautiful, Creepy, Cute, Ferocious, Gross, and Weird.

  • Beautiful – The approach for creating monsters that are beautiful to behold; this can be for animal that are elegant, or for humanoids that are alluring. Examples of beautiful creatures include: cats; unicorns; dragons; swans; vampires; sirens; incubi / succubae.
  • Creepy – The approach for creating monsters that are scary in an unconventional sense. Creepy monsters tend to mimic something normal, but are somehow out of place. Examples of creepy creatures include: the Slenderman; clowns; Children of the Corn; manikins; tooth fairies; dolls; Michael Myers.
  • Cute – The approach for creating monsters that are cute and lovable. Sometimes these are for friendly monsters, or for monsters that lull the victim into a false sense of security. Examples of cute creatures include: Pokémon; Chucky; Gremlins (fuzzy or evil); Ewoks; the Muppets; the Bumble; Gollum; Sigmund the sea monster.
  • Ferocious – The approach for creating monsters that are mean, threatening, and dangerous. Examples of ferocious creatures include: tyrannosauruses; tigers; demons; gorillas; Jason; Godzilla; the Wolfman.
  • Gross – The approach for creating monsters that look (and especially SMELL) gooey, disgusting, and dirty; alternatively, this can also be for morbid monsters that have their internal organs showing, or are leaking bile, blood, and other bodily fluids. Examples of gross monsters include: slugs; blobs; zombies; corpses; Freddy Krueger; Leatherface.
  • Weird – The approach for creating monsters that are strange and alien; this can include featuring inhuman qualities (such as insectoid, plant or robotic), or sometimes it’s merely the absence of humanoid features (ex. neither eyes nor mouths). Examples of weird creatures include: bees; praying mantises; grey aliens; jelly fish; sea stars; Venus fly traps; Mecha-Godzilla.

Side Note – Destroy All Monsters

In the set adventures, the monsters don’t really do any actions. However, if you plan to have your animated monsters take actions, assign them a lead reality approach based on their lead builder approach:

  • Beautiful – Flashy
  • Creepy – Sneaky
  • Cute – Quick
  • Ferocious – Aggressive
  • Gross – Careful
  • Weird – Clever



Creating a Monster

Creating a monster is very much like a creating a dish. There are a few small differences:

Instead of using the term, Dish Aspect, this show uses the term “Feature Aspect.” Similarly, features are grouped into Main Feature aspects and Side Feature aspects.

Instead of a “Plating” aspect, the monster has a “synthesis” aspect – up to this point, to monster, has been nothing but a lifeless hunk of muscle and metal. It is the synthesis stage that binds the parts together and brings it to life (this normally involves a lot of lightening and maniacal laughing).

Adapting Courses

In “Uranium Chef,” some challenges require a chef to create multiple courses. In the “Fear Factory,” show we instead use the term Categories. These can be split up several ways:

  • Multiple monsters – The creators might be required to create multiple monsters, each with their own category. (This is common in challenges when there are 2-3 creators on a team).
  • Adaptations – In addition to making a monster, the monster must also have a specific number of special features; these are called adaptations. For an example, see the sample episode, “Sieging is Believing.”
  • Body parts – Most Robeasts are built small, and then enlarged; however, if a team has to build a giant monster in actual size, you might want to separate the monster in different limbs and major body parts (ex. arms; tors0; and I’ll Form the Head).


This week, you have been grouped into teams of two.

Your challenge: The client this week, and one of the judges, is the warlord Empress Graxahna. She has commissioned you to build her a Robeast (i.e. a biological war machine) that will be used when besieging an entrenched city.

Each team will pick an inspiration, and an obstacle that their monster will overcome.

Inspiration: Your team will use one of the following life-forms as inspiration:

  • Mammals
  • Reptiles / Amphibians
  • Arthropods
  • Marine Life
  • Birds / Dinosaurs
  • Plants / Fungi

Warning: The judges hate it when you are too literal. If your inspiration is Birds, and all you do is make a really big eagle, they’re going to be disappointed.


Obstacle – Your robeast will be designed to circumvent a specific type of city defense.

  • THICK, TALL WALLS – We can make our robeasts tall, but they keep building the walls bigger! Can you bypass it?
  • PLASMA MOATS – Some cities are protected by a magnetic dome, filled with white-hot plasma. Can your monster swim through it and survive the heat?
  • EXTREMELY STRONG DEFENDER ROBOTS – The defenders often have a giant defender robot, strong enough to punch through anything! Can your monster survive it?
  • TOWER DEFENSES – The cities are defended by watchtowers, armed with rocket launchers and laser cannons. How can your monster get past them?
  • RATIONS / SUPPLIES – Laying siege makes food and supplies. Can your robeast be self-sustaining; or, better still, can it supply the troops with food and/or ammo?
  • MORALE – The defenders are often far too optimistic. Can your monster weaken their morale?


The GM picks a team, who will pick both their inspiration and their obstacle at the same time.


Each teams will create a monster in two stages: the monster itself (course 1) and the adaptation (course 2).

The contestants will be building a human-sized robeast, but can choose to have it magnified up to 100 meters tall after completion.

 Example: The group decides to make a giant Kangaroo Rat robeast that can leap over walls. The monster itself has a main feature aspect (Wiry Rat Body – Ferocious: Value 3), a side feature aspect (Large Black Eyes – Creepy: Value 2) and a final synthesis aspect (Cyborg neural net – Weird: Value 1). They create the adaptation in two steps: a main feature aspect (Robotic Legs – Weird: Value 3) and synthesis aspect (Fuzzy Hair Overlay – Cute: Value 2).

JUDGES – The three judges this week are:

Hag-Queen Zaggria (loves Creepy), warlord Empress Graxahna (loves Ferocious), and Science-Prince Lotan (loves Beautiful).



Lastly, I did include several thanks in the Uranium Chef book, but I wanted to thank a few other people:

  • I can’t take credit for the Uranium Chef concept; that goes to Fred Hicks and Tazio Bettin, who first included images of the fictional cooking show in the Fate Toolkit. I couldn’t help but look at those crazy images and think about how much fun it would be to play. Thank you Fred, and everyone else at Evil Hat, for letting me take a crack at it!
  • Likewise, I want to thank Brian Engard for the Conditions rules (also in the Fate Toolkit) which I used in Uranium Chef.
  • I’d also like to thank Cheyenne Rae Grimes and Nicole Winchester for their fantastic article in the Fate Codex “Adding Reality to your Fantasy”; also to Mark Diaz Truman for making the content free to use. The original draft for Uranium Chef included a number of their reality TV show rules; most of them didn’t make it to the final edition (due to word limit), but it was a huge inspiration to me none the less. I highly recommend it to any GM who wants to add even more drama and executive meddling into your Uranium Chef game (see Fate Codex – Volume 1, Issue 7).

Up to the Test – 5 Tricks to Tweaking Your Playtest


Next month, Tangent Artists will be going back to GenCon. Two years ago, we had a great time showcase our WIP at the First Exposure Playtest hall, and we were so pleased by the experience that we had to sign up with them again.  We’ll be getting four slots to show off our two new games, Penny-A-Pitch and Eco-Schism.

When we first went, we had thought of it as a way to showcase and network.  If there’s only thing that disappointed us about last First Exposure, it’s that we didn’t really get much exposure; we’re used to conventions, when you spend 8 hours giving 30 second pitches to hundreds of people. Rather, it’s an intense 2-hour session with the exact number of people you need to make the game work. In our hubris, we went to a playtest hall expecting to get very little feedback, only publicity. O, how wrong we were.

As we prepare for our next session, I thought I’d share with you what few nuggets I’ve learned about running playtests (mostly from mistakes).

1. Know Your Pitch

When you sign up with the First Exposure Playtest Hall, they ask you to submit a short pitch and a long pitch. The long pitch is a short paragraph, tiny enough to fit in a tweet. The short pitch is a sentence. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being the “booth babe” at a convention for ten years, it’s streamline your pitch and have it memorized. Most strangers tune you out after less than a minute, so you have only one or two sentences to get them interested; this is called the elevator pitch.


As for our two new games, here’s the two versions:

Penny-a-Pitch – Short: A game of Midway Moguls.
Long: A light worker placement game of Midway Moguls. Mama Maxie is retiring, and whoever buys her Ferris Wheel will literally run the show. Can you sucker enough rubes to make the cash, while still keeping Maxie happy?

Eco-schism – A game of weak links in the Food Chain.
Long Adds: The Alien Mothership is asking your genetics department to rebuild the extinct ecosystem of planet Earth; but you’re not satisfied being just another cog in the machine. Prove that your “improved” fauna can dominate the food chain!

You’ll notice that the short version of Penny-a-Pitch leaves out the “light worker placement” addendum. Why? Because in a one-sentence pitch, any discussion of games and mechanics is irrelevant. You might be able to stick “card” or “board”, but focus on the flavor, not the gears.

2. What’s the Point?

This one was taken from Mark Rosewater’s podcast series, “Ten Things Every Game Needs.” If someone is going to play your game, the most important thing to convey is “how do you win?” Despite the fact that it’s the last thing that occurs in a game, there’s a reason they always stick it near the beginning of a rulebook (for the other reason, see #3.)

Why is this important? Because the playtesters need to be focused on what they are supposed to achieve. It gives them a mission, an objective, and something to be excited about. If the testers are confused about how to win, they’ll fail to see the point in anything else.

Also, if you’re playing with the group, and you’re the only one who knows how to win, you likely will. (See #4).

3. Don’t Frontload the Rules

When playing games on their own, most players don’t read all of the rules until after they’ve started. Similarly, you should not explain 100% of the rules when the game starts; just get them the win condition and enough to get through turn one or two.

4a. Do Play Yourself

Lead by example. Add yourself to the test; you can lead by example, show the rules in action

You can, of course, hover around and try to orchestrate from beyond, but this can come off as bossy. Sure, this frees you up to go around and explain cards that people have in their hands, but if the cards aren’t clear without your explanation, it’s probably not clear enough.

4b. Don’t Play to Win

I remember joining in one designer’s game test, during which the designer blew the other tester and myself out of the water. “Don’t feel bad,” they said with a chuckle after an easy win, “I’ve played it a lot.” I can’t tell you how much of a turn-off it was. I didn’t want to play again or buy it, I just felt frustrated.

If the game is composed of several rounds (like poker), it’s definitely fine to win a hand or two to show the other players how it’s done. However, your role as the play test leader is this: to explore the frontiers.

When a new option is made available, if other people aren’t exploring it, do it yourself. If everybody is choosing option A, try option B; even if B is a bad choice, they’ll learn from your mistake what the pros and cons are. They’ll see, “it’s bad for a player to do X now, but it might be useful to do X when Y is in play.”

Don’t stick with one strategy, take the “sampler” approach; be the jack of all, master of none. That way, if a player spreads around like you, they might tie. If they narrow their energies towards a specific strategy, they have a decent chance of pulling ahead of you; that way, even if they lose the overall game, they’ll feel accomplished that “at least they had more X than you.”

5. Make it Clean!

Try to make the game look as pretty as you can. Start your first few tests one index cards, but then upgrade to something more streamlined.

Cards: this trick I learned from the DC Metro group, “Break My Game” (click the link for their Meet-up page). Type up your cards, print them on simple paper, and add them to card sleeves. To give the cards thickness, add a playing card behind them (you can buy one or two card decks from the dollar store for 99 cents). Voila! Now you have something slick, stiff, and shuffleable! If you can afford card sleeves of different colors, you can easily sort your cards into different deck types without having to print on both sides of the paper.

One thing I’ve learned on my own: buy colored paper. It’s a lot cheaper to print black text on colored paper than to print color on white paper.


Also, if you have the time, include art. It doesn’t have to be fancy, either; simple and iconic is easier to print, and easier to keep consistent. I recommend the site game-icons.net, which has thousands of images you can use for your prototypes. All of them are free to use, and come in a default, clean black and white (although you can play with the slider to add color and/or a border).

Hope that’s inspired you a bit for your tests. If you’re going to GenCon, I hope to see you there! Until next time, Game On!



The other night, I had a chance to watch a live performance; it was a group of actors and impersonators that specialize in political satire. I did care not for it, but I will not mention the name, as the performers themselves were very talented and hard working, and I don’t want my bad review to reflect on the actors in any way.

My girlfriend (scratch that- as of this week, my fiancee) asked me why I did not enjoy all of it.*  “You like Colbert Report and Daily Show,” she said, “why not this?” It took a bit of analyzing, but I finally put my finger on why this particular show didn’t appeal to me:

*It didn’t really matter what answers I gave her; she still accused me of being an old fart.

1. Most of the jokes avoided the issues of philosophies of the characters. They went into Huckabee being religious, and the fact that politicians lie, but didn’t seem to go any further than skin deep; Trump has funny hair, Obama has big ears, Hilary has a vacant stare; the democrats distract, the republicans are crazy, etc. At best, this is light frivolousness; at worst, this is superficial muckracking.

2. It was bi-partisan in nature, doing its best to rib on both the left and the right; given the fact that they are in DC, this can be seen as a savvy move, as they are less likely to alienate half of their audience. However, I couldn’t help but feel like one almost canceled out the other. It didn’t feel like a cry from the moderate middle against the extremes, or a call for compromise; it just seemed to devoid of any legs, drifting aimlessly from one borrowed viewpoint to another without committing to anything.

In contrast, the Daily Show often takes intense issues and philosophies and boils them to their core; more often than not, you’re not laughing at the people being lampooned as much as the ideals. It some instances, the Daily Show follows the old movie adage, “show, don’t tell” – you don’t say that someone’s a hypocrite, you show a story about WHY they’re a hypocrite. The audience learns about an issue they never knew, or an important figure they were ignorant of.

On the Colbert Report, the opposite was the case; Colbert’s cold-hearted host character would often be forced to change his rigid views to match a forever progressive world; his struggle to learn and adapt, filled with tears and revelation, made the new events fresh and humanistic.

In the aforementioned live comedy show, most of the characters just walked onto the stage, did a few jokes, and left, like a bad stand-up routine; nothing changed, no one made any real human connection. However, there were a few exceptions; one of my favorite pieces involved President Barack Obama lamenting about getting pulled into war with Syria, and finding solace from a commiserating George W Bush, who was also pulled into the Middle East. They were transformed from thin caricatures to real people that shared a bond.


With this in mind, I would like to propose a tweaked definition of


Why so serious?

comedy and tragedy, based around this concept:

1. Comedy – in which the characters learn to be better people.

2. Tragedy – in which the characters are given the opportunity to learn to become better people, but do not.



By this definition, a comedy is about flawed individuals who fib, fumble and fail to get what they want, and generally learn the life lessons necessary to become better human beings. The liar turns honest. The overly righteous person learns to relax. The stuttering lover learns courage.

An old benchmark for “is it a Shakespearean comedy?” is, “did someone get married at the end?” With this model, that still works; isn’t marriage about two individuals learning to be a functional union?

Bad Comedy

Bad comedy, we can surmise, is the opposite:

A badly written comedy is one in which none of the characters learn to be better people.

If a comedy is 100% custard pies and meaningless car crashes, you don’t have a story (at least, not one worth telling). If the heroes don’t improve and/or the villains aren’t taught a lesson, the experience was a frilly waste of time.

That’s not to say that EVERY character needs to learn. There are plenty of Jack Sparrows and supporting characters that stumble around, making sure others get their better future; and like Jack Sparrow, many of them do have their own brief moments of improvement and enlightenment (even if they are conveniently forgotten when the sequel roles around.) In the cases of the Marx Brothers’ films, the clowns make up 70% of the movie, but even they help the lovers get together and rattle the villain’s brains. For a classic example, in Moliere’s The Misanthrope, the title character and his on-again/off-again betrothed come close to amending their ways, but don’t; their best friends, however, learn, grow and get married.


Just like a comedy is about people learning, a strong tragedy is about about people failing to learn. Othello fails to learn that he should trust his wife more than his old war buddy; Hamlet fails to learn that bloodshed only leads to further bloodshed; Juliet fails to learn that the cute bad boy really won’t change, etc.

A good tragedy is all about the little brass ring of hope and enlightenment, and watching the characters reach for it; but it is just out of reach, or more painful still, they pull their hand back at the last moment.

Bad Tragedy

Thus, here is my take on a poorly written tragedy:

A badly written tragedy is one in which the characters are never given the opportunity to learn.

Just as a bad comedy contains a lot of whimsy with no change, a bad tragedy doesn’t give the character a chance to change; if there is no brass ring or lesson to learn, then there’s no missed opportunity for redemption; rather, the characters are being railroaded towards disaster without any real choice or control.* They aren’t characters making tragic decisions, they’re just cardboard stand-ins that the author couldn’t bother to give any life; alternatively, they are decent human beings who are have bad things happen to them for seemingly no reason (I haven’t seen it, but I’ve been told the Michael Keaton film “Birdman” was guilty of this).

*I suppose the lesson the characters could learn is, “life is like being railroaded towards disaster without any real choice or control,” but that’s a pretty ham-handed way of showing it. Macbeth, for example, toys with the themes of fate and destiny, but still gives the characters the ability to affect their fates (or at the very least, the illusion of choice).

I’m not a fan of many modern tragedies, in that many of them don’t seem offer any chance of redemption. It’s like watching a bunch of kids hanging on to a playground roundabout that’s going faster and faster; there’s no mystery about what will happen next, the kids will all fly off. In a good comedy, the audience is curious about what clever tricks will be employed to bring the plot line to a satisfactory conclusion; in a bad tragedy, the only unknown factors are when and in which order the characters will fly off to their doom, and that’s not quite enough to engage me as an audience member.


Satire is slightly different, in that it is a comedy in which the main characters MAY learn, but are not required to; in this way, the plot line may more closely parallel a tragedy*. Rather, it the audience that learns the lesson. However, like the Daily Show, some of the best satires have an ordinary, Everyman character (like John Stewart) who can react to the craziness and arrogance around him, and who can learn (or pretend to learn) alongside us.

*For example, Chekhov considered many of his tragic plays, like the Cherry Orchard or Uncle Vanya, “comedies,” despite the fact that they are, well, NOT FUNNY**. They really are about foolish people who bring about doom; in this sense, they are satires about a dying way of life, with a clear message for the audience to pick up upon.

**Maybe they’re funny by Russian standards.



What is this literary rant doing on a gaming blog? A few things:

1. When crafting any story or campaign, it’s a good idea to know how to craft a story.

2. Several games have popped up in the last year that focus upon storytelling, particularly about tragedies. Such examples include in Fiasco by Jason Morningstar, A Tragedy in Five Acts by Michelle Lyons-McFarland, and The Play’s the Thing by Mark Truman. I haven’t had the pleasure of playing any of the three, but I hope to before this time next year.

3. For your one shot games, I propose a simple thing you can tack on at the end. I give you:



I’ve run several one-shot games before at gaming conventions, and at the end of the long drawn out fight with the baddie, I always felt bad whenever I dropped the suspension of disbelief like a fire-curtain and said, “That was it! Thanks for playing! Bye!”

I now propose the following: after any one-shot game, hand each player a blank post-card. The players will take a minute or two to write down what happens to their character after the story is done. Their fate might be as dramatic as “turning a new leaf,” or “to walk the earth like Caine”; it might be as simple as “taking a nap” or “getting shawarma.” After the players have written them, have them share if they like. If you want, the GM can even write one for a villain or major NPC.

Why do this?: It eases the players back to the outside world (in that they are thinking of their character from the outside), but ends on a powerful note; they have full control over the character’s fate. Did they learn? Did they fail to learn? Did they gain what they sought, or are they saving that nugget for another day?

More importantly, it turns the random rolls of the dice into a full story, with a solid end.

On that note, readers, I want to wish you a Happy New Year. Until next year, GAME ON!

Monster Showcase – The Exquisite Corpse



For this week’s Monster showcase, I wanted a monster that brought out one of Fate’s strengths: the written word. With Fate Core, words are more than a way of communicating information and categorizing one stat from another, they are the bricks and mortars upon which the game is founded.

I present you a comedy/supernatural monster, “The Exquisite Corpse.” It is named, of course, after the French surrealist party game from the 1920’s (also known as Consequences). In the game, players write down a word on a piece of paper, hide it, and pass the paper to the next player. This is continued until a complete but nonsensical sentence is formed. For example, one of the earliest recorded sentences, which gave the game its name, was “the exquisite corpse shall drink the new wine.”


Description: The exquisite corpse is an unusual undead being, consisting of several body parts stitched together dunstan creepyand reanimated through science or sorcery. It is a built for beauty rather than brute strength, and each part in the monster’s composition was carefully selected. If the handsome parts don’t quite match, this can result in a gait that is more jaunty than shambling.

High Concept: Miss-matched Charming Reanimat

  • +4  – Rapport
  • +3 – Fight, Physique
  • +2 – Provoke, Will, Notice
  • +1 – Deceive, Athletics, Contacts

Stress: 4 Physical, 3 Mental

Say What?: The Exquisite Corpse is a master of double-talk, providing pedantic answers or promises that, upon reflection, mean nothing. When others try to pry out answers and promises out of the corpse (with Provoke or Empathy), it may oppose with Rapport instead of Will; if the Corpse successfully resists, the inquisitor will mistakenly believe they have found the answer they were looking for until the end of the scene.


The Exquisite Corpse starts with only a High Concept, but will have other aspects added on to it. These additional aspects are written by the players in a random fashion. The framework for each aspect is:

The Exquisite corpse _adverb_ _verb_ the _adjective_ _noun_.

Assign each of the missing words (adverb, verb, adjective, noun) to a different player, and have them write it down where others can’t see.

If you’re looking for something to write your game notes on, why not try the Fate Accompli erasable note-cards? The Kickstarter’s fully-funded, and hitting stretch-goal after stretch-goal. It ends on August 20th, so make sure you check it out now!


After players have written their assigned words, compile them together. Depending on the number of players, it might be best to write four or five sentences, and pick the best three; look for sentences that tell you something about the corpse’s motivations and weaknesses. Here are a few samples (I promise, these are completely random):

The Exquisite corpse tensely instructs the sudden quilt
Interpretation: he is an informed figure that takes his jobs and his hobbies very seriously.

The Exquisite corpse widely tests the frantic peace
Interpretation: she is a troll, who loves to disrupt the status quo and to sabotage negotiations for everyone; or perhaps she is contracting you to disrupt a treaty.

The Exquisite corpse easily visits the robust toad – Interpretation: the corpse is a speedy individual, who knows where to find the toads you need as a potion ingredient.

The Exquisite corpse wetly covers the complete throat – Interpretation: the corpse is not a vampire, but is still obsessed with necking.

The Exquisite corpse swiftly punishes the stiff grade – Interpretation: I don’t know what this means, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.


After you have an idea of what the character is like, you may want to drop the randomness. However, there’s nothing to say that you can’t continue on in the adventure this same way. For example, the term “Exquisite Corpse” is sometimes used with Round Robin stories: one author will start a composition, but leave it unfinished, passing it on to the next. The later writers are allowed to read what has come before. For example, you can try this set-up:

The exquisite corpse sits down at your table and flashes you a mossy grin. “I have a job for you… well, it’s a three part job, but I think you can handle it. First, you will need …”

Each player must:

  1. Finish the previous sentence.
  2. Add a complete sentence of their own.
  3. Start a third sentence, but leave it unfinished.


I feel that players want to play. As I’ve theorized in the “Can You Picture That?” blog a few months ago, anything that is playful and creative gets players to flex their muscles, and to get them in the frame of mind that this is a story that they are creating, not reacting to. I have yet to try this specific style myself, but am anxious to (I suspect it might be a fun side adventure in the latest Fate World setting, “Nest.”) If you try it out, tell us what you think!

Until next time, folks, keep on rollin’!



This week’s entry will cover roleplaying games in general, and end with a Doctor Who hack for Fate; but I want to start with a tangent:


Art by Monica Marier, used with her permission. Tangent Artists claims no right to Doctor Who, or any of the other billion BBC owned characters.


I love Magic the Gathering.  I don’t play all that much (it’s hard to find opponents when you’re a goofy, casual player and all of your friends are busy,) but I love the symmetry of the color pie.

Each faction has their own place in the chart, but the placement is not arbitrary. With any color, the two neighboring colors compliment it, and have some overlapping strengths. What’s more, the opposite colors have diametrically opposed abilities, and even better still, opposed philosophies.

I thought of this when I started working on Masters of Umdaar: I noticed that the different approaches, by accident or design (I’m betting the latter), had natural opposites. For example, the “Flashy” approach, all about drawing attention to yourself, is the exact opposite of the “Sneaky” approach. I don’t want to take any of the steam out of Umdaar when ii publishes, so I’ll leave the rest a surprise.

Instead, let’s see if we can find any in Fate Core. Here’s a few that jump out at me:

  • Athletics – your ability to move – is the opposite of Physique – the ability to resist being moved by others
  • Contacts – your knowledge of living people and your connections to them vs. Lore – your ability to find information on your own, from the present or past.
  • Deceive – the ability to cheat people and mimic real feelings –  vs. Empathy – the ability to emotionally help people and detect the real feelings of others.
  • Fight – to deal damage up close and personally through direct contact vs. Shoot – to deal damage indirectly without close contact.

Of course, some of the Fate Core skills don’t have an opposite- for this reason, I think a few skills could be added or tweaked, but we’ll get into that during another post.

Today, I’m going to use the idea of opposite skills to experiment with something else: ZERO SUM SKILLS.


Zero Sum Skills would work like this: imagine you all of your skills in your hacks are arranged into opposing skill pairs. For the first example, we’ll use Jung’s Four personality Types: Sensing vs. Intuition, and Feeling vs Thinking.

  • Sensing vs. Intuition – Jung defined these as two opposing ways to receive information and ideas.
  • Sensing individuals prefer using touch, taste, sight, smell, and the other concrete senses. They deal with outside stimuli, and live in the present.
  • Intuitive individuals gather stimuli from less tangible ways. This include through “sixth sense” premonitions about the future, or fanciful images of imagination and dream. Intuitive individuals respond mostly to internal stimuli, and often focus on the past or future.

Now, let’s turn those two into Skills, and build a character. This character has a limited number of points to spend between these two opposite skills; how about 4 points?

If the character is very intuitive, maybe a Psychic, you could add +4 points to Intuition, with Sense +0. Likewise, if the character is better at physical clues, such as a Detective, you could add +4 points to Sense, giving you an Intuition of 0.

4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4
Sense x x x x Intuition

However, you might not want a character that’s entirely one or the other: how about a Detective that’s deals with facts, but also knows that sometimes you have to trust your gut?

4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4
Sense X X X x Intuition


Thus, you get a Detective with Sense +3, and Intuition +1. Alternatively, you could have it be an even split, with +2 in each.

Now, to test this further, I needed a Fate skill list that wasn’t FAE, and was shorter than the Fate Core list. So, I decided to think of a new game setting that I could test it out with.

Now, I know what you’re thinking:


In honor of the debut (Re)Generation Who Convention in Rockville MD on March 27th, I’ve put together this hack:


You’ll use the following skills to create your character: you can make an original character, recreate your favorite companion, or even play as one of the incarnations of the Doctor (there’s lots of precedence for having several in one place.)

Look over the skills pairs below: you will pick one to be at 4, and the opposite skill at 0. You will pick two skills to be at +3, making those two opposite skills be +1. The last skill will be split evenly, giving you +2 in each.

Thus, the skill tree will look like this:

  • +4 – one
  • +3 – two
  • +2 – two
  • +1 – one
  • +0 – one

Here are our skill pairs, which we divided into Physical and Emotional (more details on the breakdown later.)


  • Brains vs. Instinct
  • Scrap vs. Scamper


  • Evoke vs. Provoke
  • Purity vs. Deviousness

PHYSICAL SKILLS – Interaction with the physical world

Brains vs Instinct – Because you can’t have a Doctor Who setting without letting people show their braininess.

Brain – Includes: book-smarts; ability to research facts quickly; formulating plans; pulling from experience. Actions: overcome, create an advantage. Cannot be used to attack or defend (without stunts).
Pro-Brain Characters: The Doctor; Martha; The Great Intelligence; The Master
Time Lord 101
– The master gains to +2 Brain when creating an adventure related to knowing information about science or history.
Cyber-brain – Cybermen are beings of logic, not emotion. They can use Brains instead of Purity when defending against Mental attacks.

Instinct – Includes: reacting quickly to danger; acting without a plan; making knee jerk decisions; dumb luck. Actions: overcome, create an advantage. Cannot be used to attack or defend (without stunts).
Special Rules: Reflexes – Instinct can be used to defend against surprise attacks and traps. Generally, can only be used once per scene.
Special Rules: Initiative – When rolling for turn order in conflicts, add your Instinct to the roll.
Pro-Instinct Characters: Donna; Wilfred; Weeping Angels
Doctor Donna
– Once per session, Donna may use Instinct as Brain for all actions for the rest of the scene. However, after the scene, Donna immediately takes a Consequence.

Scrap vs. Scamper – Scrap vs. Scamper – With many settings, I wouldn’t put the opposite of “physical attacks” as “scamper,” but there are soooo many Doctor Who characters that aren’t fighters (sometimes not even MENTAL fighters) and who spend most of their episodes simply running away.

Scrap – ability to deal damage in a fight; the ability to defend against damage; the ability to destroy obstacles; the ability to bounce back when physically hurt. Actions: Overcome, Create an Advantage, Attack, Defend (physical).
Pro-Scrap Characters: Captain Jack; Soltari; Daleks
Ex-termi-nate – If a Dalek has one or more allied Daleks with it, it gains +2 Scrap when attacking, provided it loudly yells out “Ex-termi-nate” first.
Jack’s Dead Again – Captain Jack can never REALLY die. If Jack is killed, he is merely taken out of the scene. At the start of the next scene, roll 4dF and add his Scrap- if the result is 2 or more, he is returned from the dead, with all stress and physical consequences removed. If the roll is failed, he is still dead until the start of the next scene, when he can try again (don’t worry about dragging his body around, he’ll just magically show up.)

Scamper – athletic ability; dodging attacks and opponents; sneaking around; staying out of danger. Actions: Overcome, Create an Advantage, Defend (physical). Cannot be used to attack (without stunts).
Pro-Scamper Characters: Rose, Sarah Jane, Lady Christina de Souza
“Low” Priority – If Susan encounters an opponent and successfully uses Scamper to defend against a physical attack, she immediately gains an aspect with a free invoke regarding how the villains overlook her. She only receives this aspect once per scene, and only if she has allies in the same scene with her.

EMOTIONAL SKILLS– Interaction with the social and mental world

Evoke vs. Provoke – Evoke vs. Provoke – Fate Core includes the skill provoke, which allows characters to draw out the negative emotions of others. It only makes sense that there is an opposite skill (although, I think I’ll save that for a further discussion.)

Evoke – inspire positive feelings in others; make friends; seduce; draw attention to yourself; heal the mental consequences of others. Actions: overcome, create an advantage. In social conflicts, it may sometimes be used to “attack” (ex. when convincing someone to ally with you.) It cannot be used to defend.
Pro-Evoke Characters – Rory, Rose
I’m a Nurse – Rory can use Evoke to help heal the physical consequences of others as well as mental consequences.
Last Chance – Doctor – Once per scene, if lives are threatened, the Doctor can use Evoke as if it were Provoke to make a threat (mental attack) against hostile beings.

Provoke – bring out the negative emotions of others; conquering others through fear. Actions: overcome, create an advantage. It can also be used to attack, but this is often limited to social conflicts.
Pro-Provoke Characters – Amy, Daleks, Peri
Harbingers of Hate –
When Daleks successfully use Provoke and deal 2 or more stress, the first 2 stress must to taken by a Minor Consequence, if possible.

Purity vs. Deviousness –  I’m not 100% happy with the names on this one, but I think it works. (and again, stresses the importance of purity in Doctor Who.)

Purity – your resolve; your honesty, and ability to convince others in your sincerity; your ability to recognize when others are being honest with you others; your ability to keep your resolve and convictions when others try to influence you; your ability to collect yourself after being psychologically beaten. Actions: overcome, create an advantage, defend (against evoke, provoke, and deceive.) Cannot be used to attack.
Special Rules: anyone with Purity 4+ gains +1 stress box.
Pro-Purity Characters – Rose, Martha, Amy
I Believe in the the Doctor: If the Doctor is not present, Amy gains +2 Purity when defending against any mental attacks.
Pure Hearts Alike: When using Purity with create an advantage to when make new friends and forge bonds, add your Purity and also the Purity skill of the target to your roll.

Deviousness – your impurity; your ability to lie, cheat, and obfuscate; your ability to know how devious minds think; your ability to manipulate others without their knowing it. Actions: overcome, create an advantage. In social conflicts, it may sometimes be used to “attack” (ex. when manipulating others in a debate.) It cannot be used to defend against attacks, but may be used to resist attempts to discern your true motives.
Special rules: Chameleon – “Deviousness” is a skill with chameleon-like quality. Whenever a character uses it to overcome, create an advantage, or attack, the defender will be told that the character is using Evoke, Provoke, or Purity. Even when disguised as “purity,” it cannot be used to defend against attacks, although it can be used to resist attempts to discern the character’s true nature and intentions (in which case, it shows to others as “Purity.”) After a character has succeeded against a chameleon-Devious action three times (succeed with style counts as 2), the sneaky character can still use the skill, but it appears Deviousness instead of as another skill. Once a character has seen through the disguise, they can also tell any trusted allies, who will likewise see through the camouflage.
Pro-Deviousness Characters – River Song; the Silence; Autons; the Master; Zygons
Escaped Again! – River can use Deviousness as Scamper when physically breaking out of any type of confinement.
Doppleganger – When Zygons use Deviousness with the chameleon ability, they not only mask their skill, but also their true identity, appearing to be whatever person they want. If someone sees through their “chameleon” skill use, they see through the disguise as well.

Here are a few sample PCs.

High Concept: Frenetic Last of the Timelords
Trouble: Must help the defenseless
Aspects: We Only Kill as a Last Resort
Been There, Done That, Occasionally Remember

Brain +4 / Instinct +0
Scrap +3 / Scamper +1
Evoke +3 / Provoke +1
Purity +2 / Deviousness +2

Sonic Screwdriver – so long as you have the screwdriver, you gain +2 to Brain when overcoming inanimate or mechanical obstacles in your way. It doesn’t do wood.
Timelord Tenacity – You have an additional minor consequence.

High Concept: Mysterious Time Traveler Criminal
Trouble: Bad Reputation
Aspects: I Don’t Play Nice
One Step Ahead

Brain +3 / Instinct +1
Scrap +3 / Scamper +1
Evoke +2 / Provoke +2
Purity +0 / Deviousness +4

Escaped Again! – River can use Deviousness as Scamper when physically breaking out of any type of confinement.
That’s Doctor Song – Doctor gains +2 Brain when knowing information about the species or history of the universe.

High Concept: Handsome Semi-Government Agent
Trouble: What’s YOUR Name?
Aspects: Very Experienced
Man on Top

Brain +2 / Instinct +2
Scrap +4 / Scamper +0
Evoke +3 / Provoke +1
Purity +1 / Deviousness +3

Jack’s Dead Again – Captain Jack can never REALLY die. If Jack is killed, he is merely taken out of the scene. At the start of the next scene, roll 4dF and add his Scrap- if the result is 2 or more, he is returned from the dead, with all stress and physical consequences removed. If the roll is failed, he is still dead until the start of the next scene, when he can try again (don’t worry about dragging his body around, he’ll just magically show up.)
Vortex Manipulator – once per session, you may use Deviousness instead of Scamper to avoid a threat. If successfully, are transported to a different location or/and a small jump in time, and may take one person with you.

High Concept: Sassy Temp
Trouble: Big Mouth
Aspects: Don’t Underestimate Me
Sucker for a Pretty Face

Brain +0 / Instinct +4
Scrap +2 / Scamper +2
Evoke +1 / Provoke +3
Purity +3 / Deviousness +1

Doctor Donna – Once per session, Donna may use Instinct as Brain for all actions for the rest of the scene. However, after the scene, Donna immediately takes a Consequence.
Bites Back – If Donna has been insulted or attacked with some type of Provoke, she gains +2 Provoke when attacking that opponent.

Clara Oswald
High Concept:  The Impossible Girl
Trouble: Controlling School teacher
Aspects: Actually Listens to the Plan

Brain +3 / Instinct +1
Scrap +1 / Scamper +3
Evoke +4 / Provoke +0
Purity +2 / Deviousness +2

Gift of Computers  – Gains +2 Brain when using create an advantage to hack or research through computers.
Parlay –During a physical conflict Clara can use Evoke with create an advantage to attempt to create a Parlay aspect.  If successful, the conflict temporarily becomes a mental conflict (ex. a debate), and no opponent may make any further physical attacks- they can only use Evoke, Provoke, or Deceive to deal mental attacks as they talk it out. This lasts until the conflict is won or conceded (by either side), until Clara is taken out of the conflict, or until one of Clara’s allies makes a physical attack, in which case, discard the Parlay aspect. Clara can only successfully create a Parlay once per session. (GM’s don’t forget you can compel a feisty PC into breaking the peace!)


One of the things that sets Doctor Who villains apart is that, for the most part, they so tough. There are very few “mooks” that are defeated en masse; rather, most threats are severe enough that the heroes spend almost 40 minutes running away from it. There are two ways to handle this:

1. Competent Villains – most of the average villains the heroes encounter will be at the same level as the PCs – this means one Dalek is an obstacle for a group of four heroes, but not insurmountable. A ship filled with hundreds daleks, however, is a reason to concede!  If the number of threats is small, like a lone monster, it is likely at a much higher level than the heroes.

2. Impossible Villains – Some threats, whether it is a single beast, or a cadre of Cybermen, are just invincible as they stand. They have normal stats and PCs can use their Scrap to weaken them and to slow their advance, but they do not suffer stress. That would take a while to explain, so I think I’ll save that for next week’s post.

However, it’s not a bad idea to throw a few small threats in there.


For these NPCS, either give them either +4 in only a two pairs, or give them a max of +2 points for each pair.

High concept – cyborg rodent
Aspect: small and slippery

Brain +1 / Instinct +3
Scrap +1 / Scamper +3
Evoke +0 / Provoke +0
Purity +0 / Deviousness +0

Basic – Cybermats are pretty basic, and cannot execute plans more complex than surveillance, attacks, or basic sabotage. They are, however, immune to all mental attacks, as they have no minds to sway.
Element of Surprise – If a cybermat has a stealth-related boost or aspect on itself, it may use Scamper instead of Scrap to deal attacks, which can only be defended against with Instincts. After the attack is done and any invokes have been used, the cybermat is exposed; destroy the “stealthy” aspect or boost.

Soltaran Scout
High concept – short bio-engineered warrior alien
Aspect: stronger than they look
Warrior code
Achilles’s heel (or neck)

Brain +2 / Instinct +0
Scrap +2 / Scamper +0
Evoke +0 / Provoke +2
Purity +1 / Deviousness +1

Weapons malfunction – Soltarans receive +2 Scrap when defending against conventional human gunfire.
Scout ahead – If Soltaran scouts successfully use Brains to create an advantage in regards to assessing their military opponents and surveying battlefields, they gain an extra free invoke.


High concept – machine-clad alien invaders
Aspect: Removed of so-called “weak” emotions
The Dalek race must prevail

Art by Monica Marier, used with her permission. Nope, still don't own this character.

Art by Monica Marier, used with her permission. Nope, still don’t own this character.

Brain +3 / Instinct +1
Scrap +4 / Scamper +0
Evoke +0 / Provoke +4
Purity +3 / Deviousness +1

Ex-termi-nate – If a Dalek has one or more allied Daleks with it, it gains +2 Scrap when attacking, provided it loudly yells out “Ex-termi-nate” first.
Messengers of Hate – The first time a Dalek successfully uses Provoke to mentally attack and deals 2 or more stress to the defender, the first 2 stress must be absorbed as a Minor consequence, if one is available. The consequence gains a free invoke as normal.

I think that’s enough for a start- next week, we’ll break down when to use Zero Sum skills, and more on the “Impossible Villain.”


Ecognomics – America’s Next Top Business Models


Last week, we crunched some numbers for different Kickstarter payoff models. To recap it slightly, if you were to pay your creators $2100, you would need the following number of sales:

PDF Model – To pay artists, need to reach goal of $2600, which would take 260 sales of $10 pdfs.

Book Model – To reach goal of $2600, need to sell 65 books at $40 each. However, to pay the artists $2100, you would need to sell 116 books (making your “real” Kickstarter goal about $4640.)

An accurate representation of our financial planning sessions.

An accurate representation of our financial planning sessions.

There are a few other business models to consider, though. One of which I heard of through Evil Hat’s Fred Hicks: the stockpile system.


It works like this: the sale price for a paper book is exactly double the cost. Now, in a PERFECT world, the “cost” of the includes the payment for the artists and writers, but considering how high the prices are for on-demand printing, for this demonstration “cost” will solely equal printing and shipping. We’ll assume for the sake of calculations that our staff is patient enough to wait for the payoff later.

Looking back at the printing price break, the books become much cheaper when you order 100 of more. So, let’s assume the goal of the kickstarter is to purchase 100 books from the printers. An individual book costs 15, including S&H to us, but we have to apply the 10% for taxes, and 10% for kickstarter’s take, so let’s divide $15.00 by .8, which comes to $18.87. That means we sell the book on kickstarter for double that, $37.50 (and assume any additional S&H to far off locations is added on by the backer.) We set the goal at 100 times the cost, or $1,887. (Compared to last model’s goal of $2600, that’s pretty modest).

Now, let’s imagine you reach the goal exactly: all it takes is 50 sales. Here’s the breakdown:

Revenue: $ 1887. Cost of 100 books: $1500. Taxes & KS’s take: $337.40. Immediate Profit: $0.

That’s right, the immediate payoff to the kickstarter is 0 profit. However, what the creator DOES receive 50 books that have been completely paid for (and the intangible benefit of having 50 books in the hands of hopefully happy customers, who will potentially buy more of your products and spread word of mouth). This means you can do whatever they want with these 50 books. You can sell that conventions or an online store, and keep every penny. They can drop them at the local game store, which might give the creator 50% of the profit.

So, let’s see what you get if you sell those 50 books:

Sale Cost (each) Total Profit Profit to Goal Ratio: Minus Artist Cost ($2100)
$20 (Consignment) $1,000.00 52.00% -$1,100.00
$35.00 $1,750.00 92.00% -$350.00
$40.00 $2,000.00 105.00% -$100.00

You’ll note, of course, that even at $40.00, you’re still short the estimated $2100.00 to pay the creators. Easy enough to factor in: if the sale of 50 books yields $2000.00, how many books do we need to plan for to make $2100?

50     x _X_

2000  2100

x = 52.5 post kickstarter book sales. We means we have to change our kickstarter goal to pay for 105 books. We could recalculate from scratch based on 105 books, but to save time, let’s cross multiply again. (Confession: Most math I learned in high school has been generally useless in my day-to-day life. However, when my elementary & middle school teaches always repeated, “you’re going to need this,” they were right.)

100   x 105

$1887     X

Which results in a goal $1982.00. Thus, we were able to take a kickstarter for under $2000, and turn it into $2100.00, while still giving Kickstarter Inc. and the IRS their share.

PROS of this Business Model:

  • You have much more control over the product prices.
  • You have a much wider span of time to sell the product, rather than depending on a narrow window.
  • Instead of profits, you could potentially extend any gains towards more books, extending it infinitely- using the profits from the first 100 books to buy the next 100, which buy the next 100, etc.
  • Potentially gives you a low KS goal, with a high percentage pay-off (compared to last week’s models).


  • If you can’t make the additional post-kickstarter sales, you don’t get any money. It’s a gamble.
  • Payment Timeline – The cost, as this small level, doesn’t pay for the creators at first, which means they must wait for sales to pay them (and if I was an artist, *I* wouldn’t let someone pay me based on sales.) The only alternative is the project head pays the artists out of pocket and (hopefully) gets reimbursed for it later.
  • Reach – A Kickstarter is a great way to spread the word about a product, which will hopefully stay in people’s minds later. However, once the kickstarter’s over, you now have to fight to retain interest and to get people to buy your physical book. This means they have to buy through your website (which may need advertising to get people there), through a convention booth (which costs money), or through a 3rd party store (which will take at least 50% of the cover price.) Even the best game books in the world peak in sales after a few years.
  • Sustainability – In a perfect world, you could have each 100 pay for the next 100, on to infinity. In the real world though, there is a finite number of people who are willing or able to purchase your product. Any business model that is based on endless growth is unsustainable (e.g. Ponzi schemes, the Roman Empire).
  • Bookkeeping – Even if your artist IS willing to work for a share of the sales, this leads to some heavy bookkeeping. Our convention booth, for examples, sells lots of different products, which means you’d have to meticulous of how many of each book you sell and make sure that money doesn’t get mixed into the other company funds.
  • Tax-Timeline – If you earn $1887.00 money in one year (let’s say, 2015) and invest all of that money into the printers in 2015, you’re looking at relatively low taxes- you earned little-to-no profit, as it was offset by costs. However, if you wait until 2016 to pay the printer, your 2015 company income is not offset, so you’re paying a lot more. I don’t know exactly HOW much more, which is another flaw in doing this model- you might need someone who knows current business tax law for your state.


The last model I’ll discuss has supposedly been around for a while, but to give credit where it’s due, I first saw it used by the Silent Legions Kickstarter. This is how it works:

This kickstarter requires your product to be available on a website that prints its own products. Most of these print stores let the creator sell the product at a higher price (ex. $40 for a book), but allow the creator to purchase it themselves for the cost (i.e. for their own resale.) A popular example of this is DriveThruRPG and it’s sister sites (DriveThruComics, DriveThruCards, etc.)

The “Print-it-Yourself” model works exactly like the PDF model, except that if gives the backer access to the same “at cost” rate as the creator. Here’s the version as Kevin Crawford phrased it:

Pledge $20 or more

GRIMOIRE COLLECTOR: Get immediate access to the beta PDF and get the full PDF when it is released. Get an at-cost code for ordering your choice of the softcover or hardcover POD print edition of the book from DriveThruRPG, which should come to about $11 for the hardcover and $6 for the softcover, plus shipping. In addition, you’ll get your name added to the list of special Kickstarter supporters in the PDF and printed book.

Pros of this system:

  • Buyers have the option of buying physical books (sometimes in hard or soft bound)!
  • There are 0 printing costs to the kickstarter host.
  • You can sell the pdf at one tier, and the “book” at a higher tier. (Mr. Crawford set his “pdf only” level at $10.)
  • You’re effectively selling a $26-$31 book under a $20 price tag, without decreasing your profit. Psychologically, it’s easy to sell (which is why items are labeled as $1.99 instead of $2.00).
  • The book cost isn’t included in kickstarter goal cost, which inflates the 10% you have to pay without increasing the profit.
  • Some companies, like DriveThru, use local printers, allowing them to keep costs to the backers the same in many different continents.


  • You are dependent on the limitations of the Print Store. For example, I’ve heard DriveThru’s color pages aren’t very high quality at this time. (Note: not from personal experience.)
  • Some people find it inconvenient (and they are not necessarily wrong.)
  • The printing cost of the individual books are potentially higher, due to the fact that you’re not printing in bulk.
  • The at-cost promo code would technically allow a backer to buy any number of your products at cost, rather than one. This means it kind of relies on the honor system, but as long as someone is not reselling them without our permission, I don’t really mind.


Having crunched all of the numbers, I suspect that our first kickstarter, the Fate Accompli is going to fit into the Stockpile system- the art is relatively light, so it’s not like we need to shell out thousands for art and editors. The goal is to print at least 100 sets from a local printer- which means the first 50 sets off-set the costs of buying the next 50 sets. If people end up ordering more than 50, then we’ll likely take what’s left over from the cost as income to us *yay!*

With the next kickstarter, we’ll likely use the Print-it-Yourself model, as the extra art and editing raises the cost to the point that adding it in physical printing is just not viable. This every stretch goal gives 100% of the revenue towards the goal.

Next week – Stretch Goals!



In which Dave gives you a preview of the card game Dystopio, and a strange approach to the creative process.

Let me start, as is befitting a member of the group named “Tangent Artists,” with a little background. I have a friend who’s writes fiction as a hobby. While she publishes a small portion of it, she is less than enthusiastic about the rest… so she DELETES IT. Removes it from her hard-drive and the world, never to return. The very idea of this keeps me up at night. That is an act of heresy on par with wrapping myself in a burning flag while clubbing an orphaned baby seal with a crucifix and cursing at my grandmother. It’s simply not done.  I never throw away anything I write: my hard drive contains old ClarisWorks and .txt documents from the dawn of the internet. I have three composition notebooks containing a novel I wrote by hand during NaNoWriMo, which I have yet to transcribe into digital form (I’m holding out for a cheap voice recognition software). I have tiny pocket notepads with the home-made Magic the Gathering card ideas I dreamed of during middle school history classes (Wizards? Call me!). I throw nothing away.

Sadly, “nothing” includes non-literary items too. I’m a terrible packrat, with no sense of organizational skills. I have an orange Home Depot apron that I keep in my closet just in case I need it for a costume someday. I have stacks of Styrofoam packing lying around, in case I want to make scenery for a game I never play anymore with friends who want to play it even less. It may have some advantages (my car always seems to have a silly hat in it, and not by design), but it also makes finding stuff an ordeal.

photograph by Николай Аввакумов,  distributed under an Attribution 3.0 Unported http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

photograph by Николай Аввакумов, distributed under an Attribution 3.0 Unported http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

Flashback a little less than a year ago: Around the same time this blog started up, I started working on a new card game. I was inspired by Stalin’s 5-Year plans; his first five year plan took four years, his second took seven. It reminded me of the Eddie Izzard line about Microsoft:”lt’ll be done by Saturday… Tuesday… next week…  We’ll bring it out when we’re *%$#ing ready, right?” To me, there’s something darkly comedic about the whole thing, resulting in a game about players trying to create the most brutal and oppressive regime they could. The working name of it is Dystopio, and we’ve made sure to pepper with allusions to serious works like 1984, A Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451, as well as pop culture settings like Tank Girl, Judge Dredd, and Death Race 2000. I made spent a weekend making mock-ups on index cards, played it with the Tangent Artists, and took notes on the feedback.


Earlier this month, our group was planning to go to Brunswick Games Day, where I had hoped to run a pick-up game of Masters of Umdaar. However, I had also planned to test Dystopio out, but was unable to find the mock-ups.

“Hey, no worries, I’ll just write them down again.”

To my horror, the only notes on my computer were nearly a year old. They had my rough brainstormed ideas, but nothing concrete.

I remembered the basic mechanics: every player has a Plan. It counts down from 5 to 0, going down by one each turn. If it reaches the end and the player possesses the necessary Projekts (one specific one, and one general one), then the player wins. If the player doesn’t possess them, then the Plan fails, and the player has to start at year 5 with a new plan.

Example Plan: Human Hatcheries. Requirements: Projekt – Genetic Engineering + 1 Ministry of Education Projekt.

Of course, my notes didn’t have the A + B = C information… all I had was my rough list of dystopian themes and several different names for ministries (in honor of George Orwell, the British term “ministry” sounds more imposing than the American “department.”) So, I rewrote them from scratch, brought them to the show, and ran a few games, and got more feedback.

And then I found the old cards.


You hear all of the time about editors and English teachers saying, “write it again.” For a packrat like me, that’s harder than it sounds. Our work is our children, and even when trying to write from scratch, I’d intentionally try to make it close to the original as possible. Even in our brains, we are packrats, refusing to throw anything anyway.

Now, I would never advice you intentionally lose your notes. Likewise, I understand that certain projects have a deadline that doesn’t allow you months to forget your previous phrasing; but the end result is fantastic.

Essentially, I now have two complete versions of the game to compare with each other, picking the best of both. It’s like having a co-writer that happens to be you. Unintentionally, I was renaming weaker cards and coming up with odd rules that I wouldn’t have come up with before.  Here are some more examples:

Old combo: Gov-recreation drug + Ministry of Facts Projekt = Touchies Movies 

New Version: Recreatio-Drugs + Ministry of Safety Projekt = Super Soldier Steroid.

Old: Mandated tv + Ministry of Freedom Projekt = Murderball 

New: Mass Diversion + Ministry of Safety Projekt = Murder Sports

When in doubt, it also means that losing a work is not the end of the world. Even if it’s not quite the same, that may be a blessing in disguise. One way or another, that idea is like Minerva, buzzing around in your skull until you let it out.

Happy crafting!

* I lose a lot of stuff. I sadly missed posting last week because I wrote an entire blog post on my laptop and, you guessed it, lost the laptop. It turned up in coworker’s car.