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I am also, but differently, Michael. I design table-top RPGs. Long term projects include Sword, Axe, Spear, & Shield, a game about ersatz vikings, several hacks of Blades in the Dark, and an as yet unannounced project about medieval giant fighting robots.

You can find out more about my work at


Day 30: hot tips.

Don't be afraid to try new games. Seek out systems written by people who don't share your experience of the world. Try to play and run systems as best you can tell they're intended to be run. You will benefit from expanding your experience.

Hey guys! I'm going to be streaming some game design at tomorrow at 7 PM CST.

I'm going to be working on group and campaign level stuff for Schola Arx Mysteria, my Forged in the Dark game about students at a boarding school for wizards.

Day 29: my community.

Locally, I have a board game night I go to pretty much every Friday and Saturday night. This is a pretty great pool of folk to pull in for playtesting and helps keep me engaged outside my head.

Otherwise: all you fine folks on Twitter, G+, and Dice.Camp.

Day 28: favorite interview?

No one's ever interviewed me.

I really enjoyed this really interesting interview of Adam Koebel here:

day 27: feature a designer

Chad Walker makes fantasy games rooted in real world disciplines. Cryptomancer gives players a great introduction to the basic concepts of encryption and operational security while being a game with orcs and wizards, for instance.

You can find Cryptomancer at

Day 26: blogs & stuff

The closest thing I have to a blog is my Patreon. I post about general design challenges and my games. Everything there becomes public eventually, but I use the early access feature to give my backers a two week head start.

I want to try out streaming design on Twitch. Guess I just need to pick a day and do it.

You can find my Patreon at

day 25: Being a TTRPG designer means...

Creating work that is fulfilling to me on a personal level. When I figure out a new mechanic, or finish a draft, I feel like I accomplished something for myself, outside of and beyond working for mere subsistence.

Just did a Patreon post where I walk through my design intent, and the rough mechanics, behind magic in Schola Arx Mysteria, my game about students in a boarding school for wizards. Become a Patron, check it out!

day 24: most notable achievement?

Just getting a draft to playtest is a big deal for me at this point.

I could say 'being invited to write a stretch goal for a Kickstarter,' but I'd like to finish the writing before I call it an achievement.

Andrew Gillis (@commutingcrow on Twitter) designed a whole game in public on Twitch.

Adam Koabel (@skinnyghost on Twitter)'s Office Hours Twitch show has priceless design and GMing advice.

@kiramagrann 's YouTube channel has a lot of great ground-level content about how she manages her projects.

@johnharper has a series of looong design hangouts on his YouTube channel. They're a big time sink to watch, but have a lot of interesting tidbits about Blades in the Dark's design (& general design).

day 23: helpful people.


Any designer who is public about their experiences, whether by blog, vlog, Tweet-storm, or Twitch stream. Here are some highlights:

@lumpley has some amazing design insight on their blog. I talked about some of it for Saturday's post, but there's a lot more gold there.

Rob Donoghue's blog ( is another great resource, which bleeds over to Twitter and G+ (or maybe the bleed is in the other direction?).

Kind of neither here nor there, but I do my freehand drafts almost exclusively with fountain pens. They feel better to write with than ballpoints, but are pricey, especially if the idea of paying for a pen feels weird to you.

day 22: documenting ideas.

The seed of every idea starts as scribbles in my notebook. From there I'll keep fleshing things out free hand until I have enough to be sure I have a full game.

From there I open a Word doc and start assembling my scribbles into the outline of a premise, core mechanic, and character creation summary.

Or, if it's a hack, I'll open InDesign and start making the playbooks, following up with important variations from the base in a Word doc.

So, I guess before you have *enough* playtesting, you have to find the *right* playtesting.

But, if you can't afford to go to cons and not a lot of folk are paying attention to your designs, you tend to be having conversations about your game with a small group of people, and that can hugely impact the sort of conversations you have.

If the only people you talk to about your game don't share your tastes or priorities, your game is never going to be done. This was the case for one of my old game groups. At a certain point I just decided to stop playtesting with them.

day 21: playtesting.

I've seen many established designers caution newcomers not to overplaytest and iterate; eventually you have to call a project done and put it out there, or else abandon it.

As for when it's ready? I really like Vincent Baker's idea of playtesting as trying on conversations about a game. A game is ready when you figure you could live with having the conversations you're having about your current draft for the rest of your life.

Software wise, I use InDesign for draft character sheets and layout, and Microsoft Word for writing drafts. But, almost everything mechanical gets brainstormed freehand with the ol' pen and paper first.

Day 20: design tools.

I'm going to have to go for Jared Sorensen's Three Questions: -What is your game about? -How does your game do this? -How does your game encourage or reward this?

Applying this tool is what really got me from being a dude who occasionally noodles 'what if' game ideas in a notebook to being able to actually get a project in a place where I feel it's a real thing that I can play.

day 19: essential ludography.

Blades in the Dark, for sure. One of my major projects is a hack (and I've noodled with ideas for a couple more), and it's had a significant influence in my other projects as well.

From Little Witch Academia we get the boarding school setting and the dynamic I want to see between the player characters.

From Howl's Moving Castle we get the idea of catastrophic war as both a looming future threat and a thing that is HAPPENING.

And from Fullmetal Alchemist we get the concept of State Sorcerers and the idea that there are powers that have a deep personal stake in this cataclysmic war starting.

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