Thursday Self Promotion

Because of a friend who comes all-caps screaming into my Twitter DMs when they don’t feel I am promoting myself enough, what follows is a post of things I have recently released, am currently working on, and how you can help me do the things I do if you like what you see around here. I may make this a regular mid-month post, if for no other reason than to save my friend the trouble of messaging me.

So let’s start on this page and work our way outward, shall we? First up, I am a skilled editor of TTRPGs and speculative fiction. My rates and other information can be found on the Need an Editor? page on this site. My rates are reasonable and negotiable, so if you are looking for an editor for your next project please contact me with the handy contact form at the bottom of that page. I would love to discuss your next project with you. The page also has links to a selection of previous projects that are worth checking out.

I have recently been taking part in game jams over on Itch under my publishing imprint, Prairie Dragon Press. I have two projects available now: Game Master’s Quick Reference for the Bookmark Jam, and Editing for TTRPGs: A Primer for the Non-Editor for the TTRPG Resource Jam. Both are PWYW, with proceeds going to a fund which allows me to do free editing work for marginalized creators.  A third project, Toys Against Terror (working title) is coming at the end of the month for the Fluffy Horror Jam.

I write articles, editorials and reviews mostly, over at The Rat Hole. Articles go up on Mondays, with reviews popping up whenever my editor schedules them. There are plenty of other folx over there doing excellent stuff so the site is worth your attention. You can give them a follow on Twitter to get notified about new posts.

I am privileged to be one of the members of the Creator’s Catalyst Project, which exists to provide new and marginalized creators with access to editing, layout, and art for their projects. The link goes to our website and you can find all the information about applying there. If you don’t have a project but like the sound of what we do, you can support our efforts with a donation to our Ko-Fi. Funds raised there help us put additional resources into each project we take on, and possibly allow us to work on more than one project.

I also raise funds for Extra Life every year, and we are currently closing in on this year’s game day. I am currently at about 55% of my fundraising goal for this year, and I have a number of incentives available if you donate as an individual, or get your gaming group together to make a donation. You can donate safely and easily through my Extra Life Donation Page, and everything you give goes to support sick kids.

I think that’s it for now. There are a few things I have coming up that I can’t discuss yet and I reserve the right to come back and update as my faulty memory supplies new information. If you want to talk to me about anything here, shoot me a message using the contact form on the site, or message me on Twitter

Editing for TTRPGs

I recently completed a little project for the #TTRPGResourceJam over on Itch. I had meant to put together something to help non-editors for a while, and this jam was the kick in the butt I needed to pull it together finally.  Editing for TTRPGs: A Primer for Non-Editors is designed to help creators refine their own editing when they can’t hire an editor. But it’s also a guide to what to look for when you are ready to hire an editor for your project.

It’s listed as Pay What You Want, which means you can grab it for free. But if you can afford to throw a few bucks at it, the money I collect from this goes to a fund that allows me to take on free editing work for marginalized creators. Check it out and let me know what you think! If there are any questions the primer didn’t answer for you, please reach out; I am planning to update this on a regular basis.

Meanwhile at The Rat Hole

As part of September’s RPG Blog Carnival I have an article up over at The Rat Hole, about adding a bit of magic back into magic item creation in your game. Check it out, and I’ll see you a bit later in the week with another article.

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A reminder that if you enjoy my content here or over at The Rat Hole and would like to help support my work, I have a Ko-fi page for quick and easy tipping. Currently I am saving up to upgrade my computer so I can properly livestream TTRPGs for charity, so if that is something you’d like to help me with and you have a few bucks, I’d be grateful for the assist.

Of Grognards and Neckbeards…Again

Hey, so this post is for all the neckbeards and grognards out there who think their length of time in the hobby gives them the right to condescend to and gatekeep newer players. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, the tl;dr is: Just stop, you colossal fuckwits.
Look, I get being proud of how long you’ve been playing. I mean, years and decades of rules learned, games played, and stories told…it’s okay to take personal pride in that. Hell, were it within my power I’d hand out medals for Surviving THAC0 and Palladium…Just All of Palladium. I admit that I still take pride in system mastery, even now that it is no longer really necessary. I love being the person in my group who has read the manual cover-to-cover, dug deep into the rules and lore, and absorbed how it all works. I don’t know I’ll ever stop loving that, even though I do it for different reasons now (more on that later).
But from what I’ve seen, some of you hobby veterans think that your “time in service” gives you authority to decide when new members of our hobby have been naughty or nice. And…it doesn’t. As has been stated elsewhere and succinctly, you don’t get to decide someone else’s fun is wrong just because you’ve been playing a version of that fun for years before them. At best you sound ridiculous, at worst you are the toxic element in every online discussion, in every livestream chat, and at every convention.
I’ll give you an example from outside of gaming. I work for my municipal government. Until he retired a few years ago there was a co-worker who had been a clerk with the City for just over twenty-five years. Generally a nice fellow, friendly enough, but he would regale anyone who would listen about his time spent as a “fax clerk” (you can Google what a fax machine is, kids, the neckbeards here already know). Once upon a time, when the City had implemented the use of the fax to allow document submission, they set up a central room where the fax machines lived and the clerks there were responsible for properly receiving, forwarding, and filing faxed documents. It is exactly as exciting as it sounds.
Now, did he have a right to feel proud of that work? Of course. At the time it was new technology and he came up with and executed the procedures for how to deal with it. By all reports he did it well, so why shouldn’t he be proud of a difficult job done well? The issue, of course, is that he often tried to use his experience in running this fax room to give his opinions weight when we were discussing other things. Most of the time the result was sitting in a meeting listening politely until he finished trying to make fax machines relevant to our discussion. But it sometimes resulted in having to deal with (and a couple of times, make) harassment reports when he didn’t feel folx were “respecting his experience” (read: accepting his natural authority).
Why do I bring up this example? Because when you try to use your TTRPG veteran status to impress or intimidate newer members of our hobby, you sound just as ridiculous as someone trying to make fax mastery relevant to…well, anything. You are never going to get the result you think you want by weaponizing your imagined seniority. And it is imagined. The hobby is in such a state of flux at all times that any seniority you think you have is an illusion. Oh, you were one of the first people to play the Ghostbusters RPG? Cool story, grandpa, but there have been dozens of iterations of that game since then.
“So Brent,” you might ask, “does this mean we can’t talk about old systems or how things used to be in the hobby?” Of course you can. But you need to accept that having that knowledge and experience does not confer any authority to you or your opinions. There are folx coming into the hobby, as well as people who have been here a bit, who might have an interest in our hobby’s history. To those folx, what you have to say may be of interest as long as, and this is key, you aren’t trying to bludgeon them into submission with your imagined authority. When they are relevant, stories about the Old Days of TTRPGs can be entertaining. At least I assume so, the younger gamers I often run games for or play with seem to enjoy them, or at least haven’t found them so onerous as to stop playing with me.
And understand when you do swing that seniority hammer around, all you are doing is making it less likely anyone will listen to you, even if what you are saying turns out to be relevant. Verbally bludgeoning folx will not get your point across. But it will teach them that, based on the current available example, hobby veterans are opinionated, bullying arseholes. I don’t know about you but I don’t tend to listen to bullying arseholes about anything. I don’t give them my time on social media and I am pretty fearless about showing them the door when I run games in public. Once upon a time I had the line editor for a game (nope, not going to say which) escorted away from my table by con security because he insisted on aggressively haranguing myself and my players about “playing his game wrong” because he didn’t like the scenario I had written. I mention this not to brag (okay, a little, it’s not often your table gives you a standing ovation) but to demonstrate that if I’m not afraid of a game’s editor, how much patience do you think I have for a random grognard?
So take pride in what you’ve accomplished in the hobby, by all means. But rid yourself of any thought that this knowledge and experience gives you any sort of authority, moral or otherwise. As I have said before (and in fact in a tweet just today) the only thing playing all the previous editions of Dungeons & Dragons has given me is a head full of wrong information I have to remember around in order to play the current edition. Should I get a medal or some sort of plaque for enduring THAC0? Damn straight! Is it relevant when discussing the current Skill system in D&D and other TTRPGs? Not unless you somehow think we should bring it back, in which case I will fight you.
Do better, neckbeards and grognards. If you refuse to grow with the hobby, then stick with your current group and stop trying to stunt the growth of others.

Creator’s Catalyst Project

Say what you will about Twitter, but in the last couple of years it has been responsible for me connecting with some pretty amazing projects. Commenting on a thread on Twitter is how I found myself editing for the Uncaged Anthology books, one of the best editorial experiences of my career so far. It’s where I managed to find myself playing in the Clockwork Vines world with some amazing players and under the care of our Keeper, Honey.

And lightning has struck a third time. I replied to a post by Francita about wanting to offer free layout help to creators, saying I would be happy to donate some editing time for any creators she worked with, if they needed it. That led to a conversation between Francita, her partner Hector Rodriguez (a skilled and talented artist in his own right), and myself, about forming a team to provide our services to new and marginalized creators in the TTRPG space. That was yesterday.

Today I am excited and pleased to announce the launch of Francita’s brainchild, the Creator’s Catalyst Project! Our goal is simple: we want to help marginalized creators who might need a little extra push to finish a project, get their project ready for publication. Details are listed in the pinned Tweet and in the Introduction document, but here’s the elevator pitch. We have a set amount of in-kind donations each application period (time donated by the three of us) to put toward a project we choose from eligible applicants. We have set-up a Ko-Fi to take donations from the community; donations from each application period will be put toward the project we choose and help expand the scope of services we can offer. We will then work to get the successful applicant’s project finished so they can publish.

And this isn’t a slow process! Each cycle is thirty days; fifteen to accept applications and take donations, a few days to select and then consult with the successful applicant, then another fifteen to finish the work and turn it back over to the client, ready to go out in the world. This is great for any number of reasons, not least because the successful applicants will see an almost immediate benefit. But it also means our team gets to work on new and exciting projects on a quickly rotating basis, and any community members who donate don’t have to wait long to see the results of their generosity.  Plus you get a bit of advanced notice on cool things coming into the TTRPG space, so you can be first in line to buy the new creations as they come out!

If you’re a marginalized creator in the TTRPG space, I hope you’ll look over the information and apply; we would love to help you get your project ready for the world! If want to help the Creator’s Catalyst Project with our work, we surely would love to get donations so we can expand the scope on applications we receive. Ko-Fi even has a way to donate on a regular monthly basis, so if you want to show continued support for what we are trying to do we would be ever so grateful!

Keep your eye on this, I am excited to see the projects we can help find their way to market! And if you have any questions about the Creator’s Catalyst Project, feel free to reach out through the contact info on Twitter. We’d love to hear from you!

BrentCon!: A Little Extra for Extra Life

UPDATE: Sadly, due to some sudden and suspiciously timed last-minute cancellations, I have to cancel this for lack of players. I have made arrangements with the two remaining players so they will get games run at some point, and they’ve both been understanding. Frankly it’s disheartening to think someone or someones would take time out of their day to sabotage an event meant to help sick kids. But here we are.

So I’m going to take the day to feel shitty about it. Then I’m going to jump right in to planning the next BrentCon! Oh, sorry, little saboteurs, did you think your little trick was going to break me? Aw, that’s almost adorable. No, I’m going to keep doing this because it’s fun and it helps people. Maybe give a think as to why you’re doing what you do.

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Extra Life is running a Tabletop Appreciation Weekend this year, August 22 and 23 (Saturday and Sunday), and I want to run some games! Welcome to BrentCon!: the Brentiest tabletop con on the internet!

There will be three sessions total, Session One and Two on Saturday and Session Three on Sunday. I will take a maximum of five players per table, and tables will run as long as I have a minimum of two players. In order to get more folx playing, please only sign up for one session to start; if I have empty seats by the Thursday before, I will open things up so folx can sign up for more than one session. Session descriptions, along with links to the games in case you want a better description or perhaps to purchase, are below.

I have created a super handy registration form to sign up for a seat. Once you have registered with this form, please make your donation as soon as possible on my super handy donation page. When I see you have registered and donated, I will email you to confirm your seat.

Session One (On Hold)

A Kobolds Ate My Baby! adventure of my devising! UPDATE: Due to cancellations this session has been dropped in order to make sure the other tables run. If those tables fill I may re-open this, so stay tuned if you were really looking forward to this game.

Session Two (Saturday, August 22, 7pm-10pm MST)

A Stewpot adventure. The battles are done and you’ve inherited an inn. Time for the last adventure of all: retirement! Characters will be created during the session and all rules for this delightfully wholesome game will be explained.

Session Three (Sunday, August 23, 1pm-4pm MST)

An Under the Floorboards adventure. Under The Floorboards is a tabletop roleplaying game for 2-5 players about tiny people living in a giant, hostile world, inspired by The Borrowers. The focus of the game is very story-driven, with an emphasis on collaborative storytelling and world-building over stats and crunch. We will create characters in session and all rules will be explained, great for beginners or veterans looking for something a little different.

If you have any questions, please email me at brent.jans@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter at @DorklordCanada. Thank you for your generous donation, and I look forward to running a game for you!

Another Solar Orbit Day

Yep, today is my solar orbit day, or “birthday” as you huma–us, us humans, haha, call it. It’s hard for me to gauge how the past year went, as a global pandemic tends to skew the results. All in all I would chalk it up a win on points after a thorough review of the game tape. Working on Uncaged Anthology and other projects were definite high points and I would like more of that, please. Streaming with the folx on Clockwork Vines is a high point of every week. Not only does it mean a regular game (wealth undreamed of!), but the world Honey has created and the stories we get to play out in it are an absolute joy.

I am taking the rest of the week off to relax into my next solar orbit. But I wanted to take a moment and talk about ways you can wish me a Happy Birthday, if you are so inclined. First, you can just hit me up on Twitter and wish me Happy Birthday, I would love to hear from you! There are so many folx I have “met” through Twitter that I wouldn’t have otherwise, so always good to hear from you.

The Renaissance Gamer, his beard blue.

Second, I am raising funds for Extra Life again this year and would appreciate donations to that. Hitting the $200 mark this early in the year was amazing, and resulted in the blue beard you see, pictured. What will I do as the number goes higher? Who knows, but I would love to find out! Plus there are donation milestones and bonuses you can get for donating; all the details are on the page.

Lastly, and related to the second point: I want to do more streaming, specifically charity streaming. I have realized that my current laptop, while good for playing on streams, isn’t going to cut it if I want to host streams. So if you have a few bucks and want to help me get a new laptop for charity streaming, please visit my KoFi page and buy me a coffee. Or in this case, a percentage of a laptop. Who knows, there might be a session of Bluebeard’s Bride in the future…

That’s it for me though! Going to pour myself a libation and enjoy the rest of the day. Take care, all!

What I’m Watching

Happy Friday! Congratulations on making it through another week, you absolute legend!

Continuing to talk about things in the TTRPG space that I enjoy, let’s look at some shows I am watching that I think you should feast your eyes upon. I tend to watch shows on both YouTube and Twitch, with Twitch making up the bulk of my live programming and YouTube bringing me pre-recorded content. If I talk about watching the VOD for something, I’m usually referring to YouTube; the only time I watch VODs on Twitch is if the creator doesn’t repost their VODs to a YouTube channel. Also, I watch more than actual plays, so while there are some on the list below, you’ll also find a smattering of stuff from relaxing hangouts to crafting to board game reviews. Let’s dive in!

Our Family Plays Games – While I enjoy deep discussions of board game design and theory as much as the next nerd, I find that I mostly want to know “Is this game going to be fun to play? Why or why not?”. Our Family Plays Games answers that question for me every time. I only recently discovered their channel, after being pointed to them on Twitter, so I have been watching through the back catalogue while I work. And they are exactly as advertised, a family who plays games. So what you get is a very straightforward and enthusiastic look at board games from the only viewpoint that really matters in the end: did this game work at the table for us, why or why not? No fuss, no worrying about whether the game is popular, just a look at what worked, what didn’t, and would they play it again. Add in that they obviously have a love for board games, just a genuine excitement to play them and talk about them, and their videos have become something I look forward to every week. If you love board games and want to add some joy to your life while getting smarter about the hobby, watch Our Family Plays Games.

Gnomebrew – Another recent discovery is Gnomedic’s Twitch channel, and the delightfully relaxed morning chat show, Gnomebrew. Gnomebrew is nothing more (and nothing less) than Gnomedic and Aras Sivad (of Aras Sivad Designs, whose work you should definitely check out!) having a chat over their morning beverage of choice every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 9am EST. Which is 7am here, perfectly timed so I can join them with my coffee and breakfast, making a relaxed and often hilarious transition to my work day. And I’m here to tell you, starting the day with a smile is often severely under-rated. Even if something brought the day down later (I work in municipal government, it happens), I’ve never failed to start the day with a lighter heart after watching Gnomebrew, so I highly recommend you join them for coffee some morning.

Return to the Spiderverse – Full disclosure, I am a mod for Jason Mills’ Twitch channel, ItsProbablyOk, so you could assume a bit of bias. In rebuttal I could point out my track record of hyping up Return to the Spiderverse before I ever became a mod, but I’m not running for office and that’s not what we’re here to talk about. Played using the excellent Masks: A New Generation RPG, RttS asks the question, “What if at the end of Into the Spiderverse, we just didn’t end, though?” It then proceeds to answer with hands down my favourite super hero actual play anywhere, thanks in equal parts to the cast: Adam (Cecil Conners); Eric (Peter/Man-spider); Joey Nestra (Preston Parker); Aabria Iyengar (Miles Morales); Michelle Otis (Anya Corazon), each playing a Spider-Them; and the deft world building of Jason Mills. Masks is specifically written to follow the exploits of teen heroes, supers who have to juggle the demands of a higher calling with trying to live a normal teen life. And this group does it with heart, enthusiasm, and joy. As an older nerd I had my feelings shot off in the THAC0 Wars, so I very rarely get emotional when watching actual plays. Return to the Spiderverse has my feelings seesawing almost every episode; when they aren’t it just means the seesaw is stuck at one extreme or the other. If you can’t make it to Twitch every Saturday morning at 10am PST, or you want to catch up first, you can find previous episodes of Return to the Spiderverse on their YouTube channel.

Black Magic Craft – I love creating scenery for TTRPGs. When I was younger I volunteered at my local community theatre and I learned a metric bunch about scenic construction and painting. When I discovered that all those skills and techniques could be shrunk to work on the tabletop, I was thrilled! Of course, physical distancing means no sitting around the table for a while so my scenery crafting is on indefinite hiatus. But I can still scratch that itch by watching crafting videos, and one of my favourites is by a fellow Canadian, Jeremy, over at Black Magic Craft. I never fail to learn something, whether that’s a new technique, a material I haven’t used before, or a novel use for a material I’ve used plenty of times. I especially love that Jeremy isn’t afraid to show us his failures and missteps as he goes through a build. Too often crafting shows come off very smooth, like the crafter never made a mistake, and that doesn’t do any favours for new crafters looking to try their hand. By showing us when things don’t quit work, and how he came back from that, Jeremy does an excellent job of modelling a good attitude about crafting. And I personally find crafting videos relaxing to watch, so Jeremy’s good-natured approach and obvious enthusiasm are a comfortable watch every Friday morning. Even if you aren’t into crafting or TTRPG scenery, check out the videos to see really cool stuff that might inspire an encounter for your game.

Heliotrope – I have been listening to podcasts by Twelve Sided Stories, and loving them, for a goodly while now. Edited play sessions with audio f/x layered in? Yes please! Their latest show, Heliotrope, is played with the Hack the Planet RPG and is set in a grim climate-disaster dystopia and tells the tale of characters trying to survive in humanity’s last shelter against a world tearing itself apart. Besides an excellent cast (J. Holtham, Pooja SharmaMichelle Otis, Mac Beauvais, and Wes Otis)  and game master (Aabria Iyengar; seriously, if Aabria is running it or playing in it, watch the thing!), what sets Heliotrope apart is your viewing options. In the first of what I hope will be a successful experiment, you can watch the show as an actual play on Twitch every Friday at 7pm PST, and also you can listen to it as an edited play podcast when those start going up (anywhere podcasts are sold; I get mine on Spotify for the most part). The actual plays have been excellent so I anticipate the podcasts, enhanced with audio f/x, will be a step above. Super excellent? Extrallent? Whatever, catch them both places!

There you go, five things I am watching right now, in addition to everything I watch over at Saving Throw. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means, but these are the shows I make the time to watch, without exception. I hope you will check them out and let me know what you think. While you’re at it please share any shows that have caught your eye recently, I’d love to check them out!

Hanging Out in Salt Bay

If you normally come by for my shitposts on the state of the TTRPG hobby/industry, I’m not done with those. But lord love a kitten, does it get wearying to just talk about things that are broken. So today I want to talk about something I love: Pirates of Salt Bay on Saving Throw.

If you aren’t in the know, Pirates of Salt Bay is an actual play series that premiered sixty years ago, in 2019. It features Dirty Hank, a dwarf Monk, played by Eric Reichert; Addi Balmyar, a half-elf Arcane Archer Fighter, played by Havana MahoneyTrislynn Orana, a void tiefling Rogue, played by NegaOryxEoj Reymurts, a halfling Fighter (Champion), played by Teri Gamble; and Game Master Aabria Iyengar. The series follows the adventures and mishaps of the crew as they seek gold, fortune, gold, a way to overcome a great evil, gold, secrets about their past, and gold. And toast? More pets for Trislynn? And there is a cake knife, and Fair Juliet is a good ship, and…

There’s a lot going on, frankly, and I highly recommend finding the playlists on Saving Throw’s YouTube and giving them a watch if you aren’t all the way caught up. I promise it will all make sense if you do (Disclaimer: Promise not binding).

I came late to the Salt Bay party. It was on my list of shows to watch because I make it a habit to check out everything Saving Throw produces (and you should as well). But the first live show I watched was, I think, episode three or four of Season One. I was hooked and it jumped to the top of my Must Watch list; I caught up my plot gaps by watching all the VODs straight through in a day, including the Ghosts of Saltmarsh mini-series that set everything in motion.

But it wasn’t the excellent story that grabbed me. An interesting story idea still lives or dies on the strength of the characters telling you that story, and these characters could hold up the world (in multiple senses of that phrase; they are pirates, never forget). Each one was a unique, interesting person in their own right and I would watch a solo spin-off of any one of them. Even better, though, these individuals fit together to create a team, and eventually a family. When you consider that the characters were originally created with just a three-part miniseries in mind, that they meshed at all was amazing. Even when it’s planned that doesn’t always happen with the characters on an actual play and it was wonderful to watch the characters grow together over the seasons.

Even better, though, was the way the cast connected. I could tell from the first five minutes that these folx genuinely loved playing together, and that shone through in every aspect of the show. I’ve said this elsewhere, but this show is the closest I have come with an actual play of replicating the feeling of sitting around with a group of friends while they play an RPG. The joy they bring to the table, the love and respect they have for each other that allows them the space to be vulnerable and tell stories they might not otherwise tell, is inspiring. Every episode they model behaviour that, to my mind, should be the standard for TTRPG groups. I can’t help but watch and want to find ways to bring that same trust and respect to the tables at which I play or GM.

I could say more, and will say more in time. I hope you will take some time to watch the Salt Baes in action. Seasons One through Three are available on Youtube, including the Ghosts of Saltmarsh three-episode mini-series that started it all. The show is currently on break, though if you are registered for Gen Con Online this year (and why not, it’s free) you can get a free ticket to watch a Very Special Event streaming as part of Gen Con. As well, members of Saving Throw are running a number of panels and other events, so check those out as well; go to the Find Events page and type Saving Throw in the search bar. And as promised at the end of the Talk Back we are getting one more season of the Salt Baes; there are still stories to be told, toast to consume, and a baby to raise!

And if you want to hear me talk more about Pirates of Salt Bay, everything else Saving Throw produces, and TTRPGs (in roughly that order), Salt Bay Pirate Radio is launching soon. I had intended to get episodes out ahead of Season Three but then *gestures at world* so it had to go on the back burner for a while. It’s kept simmering away back there, though, and will soon be ready to serve!