I’ll tell you, seasonally activated depression is a hell of a thing. I had it mostly under control this year, and felt better on a day-to-day basis than I have in years. But the winter draaaaaaaged on this year (we just lost snow last week) and the extra month of SAD kicked my ass a bit. Now that Spring has officially come to the Canadian prairies, however, I’m back to my usual high-functioning introvert self. So let’s finish off the April TTRPG Maker Challenge so that isn’t hanging, and then I can get us back to gaming goodness.
13 – Biggest Influence
The biggest influences on how I think about game design come from three main people: Monte Cook, Kenneth Hite, and Robin D. Laws. I’ve read their work for years, including much of the things they’ve written about game design. But I’ve also spoken with (in the case of Monte Cook) and listened to them (in the case of Kenneth Hite and Robin D. Laws) talk on a variety of topics, and found that many of their ideas line up with thoughts I’ve had about story and narrative design. So they would count as my main sources of influence, as far as how and what I want to create.
But as I try make sure my games are inclusive, I’m also influenced by folks like Kate Welch, Liz Courts, and Crystal Frasier, who I follow on Twitter. Equal parts horrified by the crap they deal with from the idiots in our hobby, and awestruck by their ability to persevere in spite of said idiots, they influence me daily. I want to create work that helps our hobby grow and be better. I really believe that I can create inclusive gaming material that is fun for everyone. That on its own won’t fix everything, but it will at least contribute to a healthier gaming environment down the line.
14 – What are your Dreams & Plans?
I touched on that above, but I’d like to create material that helps improve our hobby. To do that, of course, means creating material that is fun and exciting to play, or it isn’t going to do anything. Short term, I’d like to flesh out the campaign world I’ve created for two D&D campaigns. Long term, I have ideas for a few games, both board and TTRPG, that I would like to develop.
15 – Do you design in public or private?
Mostly in private, until I use what I’ve designed in a game, then it goes public. And then I will often post the refined Whatever It Is on my blog for the world to see.
16 – Any design partners?
Not yet, though my friend Scott and I have begun brainstorming together, which is helpful for getting outside my head on things.
17 – Favourite form of feedback?
Constructive. Positive or negative, don’t just bash it or gush over it, but tell me why it did or didn’t work for you.
18 – Current Inspiration?
Eric Campbell, the GM for Alpha’s Shield of Tomorrow, is my current inspiration. I admire his ability to weave together narrative bits on the fly, when his players throw the inevitable curve balls. I also admire the joy he takes in the act of GMing, and I strive to emulate that joy; right now, I still approach GMing a bit too much like work. Pleasant work, but still work.
19 – Game that’s most essential to your design?
I don’t know that any single game is essential to my design. Even though I’m currently working the most with the campaign world for my D&D 5e games, I do often think about how other game systems would affect my design. I find that helps keep me from falling into safe and obvious choices.
20 – Favourite design tools?
I can thank my day job for teaching me the ins and outs of it really well, but my Google Drive has become my favourite piece of design equipment. Being able to connect all the docs I’m working on and having them available wherever I am has helped my work flow immensely. Beyond that I don’t really have a lot of what I’d consider tools. As long as I have something to write with and something to write on, I’m good.
21 – How many playtests?
Since most of what I’m working on is for my campaigns, most things get played one time before I start overhauling it. What I find useful is that my players don’t know they are playtesting, so I find their reactions to things very honest.
22 – How do you document ideas?
I have a google sheet to capture ideas, and I have copious notebooks I scribble ideas in.
23 – People who’ve helped you?
The few times I’ve dipped my toe in writing for the public, my friend Amber E. Scott has been very helpful, and dare I say, kind. Anytime I brought an idea or a question to her, she was always enthusiastic and positive in her advice and criticism. And she’s, like, stupid levels of talented as well. Seriously, go read any of the stuff she wrote for Dragon Magazine, or any of the Paizo material she’s written. Then send her a thank-you.
24 – Most notable achievement?
Finally getting started.
25 – Being a TTRPG designer means…
…creating something that is complete enough in itself, but will also incite acts of imagination and delight leading to fun.
26 – Blogs, streams, podcasts?
I’m a bit of a packrat when it comes to these, I follow way more than I’m able to consume regularly. So I often end up binging. But of the ones I do consume regularly: WebDM and Matthew Colville are tied as my favourite YouTube shows, Shield of Tomorrow is currently my favourite play-through show, and I listen to Ken & Robin Talk About Stuff like a religion. I don’t follow any blog in particular, but I try to follow the RPG Blog Carnival around, as I find that usually gives me a pretty broad reading list.
27 – Feature a TTRPG designer.
My friend Amber E. Scott. Read all her stuff, and you will a) be entertained the entire time, and b) come away with a really good idea of how to write good gaming material.
28 – Favourite interview?
Not listed among my podcasts above, but I listen to Dragon Talk a bunch. Any of their interviews are pretty good. Anything with Matthew Mercer is good. And the time I moderated a panel for and got to ask questions of Monte Cook, was probably my hands down favourite.
29 – Your community.
Working from the inside out, my particular circle of regular players are pretty good. I’ve managed to winnow out anyone who wasn’t fun to play with, and they are all as tolerant and inclusive as I could want. The local community in Edmonton is generally a good one, with pockets of folks not yet on the inclusivity train. But they are either doing the work to change, or failing to come out to public events as they discover their brand of gaming isn’t tolerated. And the community I encounter online? Pockets, sometimes whole swaths of great folks, interspersed with douchecanoes. But I think the tide is starting to shift, and I will hopefully live to see my hobby reach an effortless inclusivity.
30 – Top tips and advice
Don’t be afraid to just start. I was for years, and it kept me from doing something I really love. Pick something you really want to design write, and do it. It will likely be bad and that’s okay. Put that wobbly, misshapen Thing in front of some players and let them sniff around it. Pick up the remains after they are done and work it back into a new, better shape. Talk to people you trust, and have them look at the Thing. Take the advice that sounds good.
Try and fail. Keep trying until the failing becomes sporadic. It may disappear entirely, but don’t worry if it doesn’t. The only folks who don’t fail, don’t try.