NaNoWriMo

November is here again, and that means NaNoWriMo. The National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), lays down the challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.

Like the last four or five years, this year I will again be watching on with a sense of melancholy induced by my lack of participation. I have a range of good reasons: November is a busy time for my family, with a number of birthdays, and an anniversary. As a school teacher it is also the month during which I have school reports to write, and usually a school camp to attend. They are all good reasons, and the reasons why, yet again, I won’t be attempting NaNoWriMo, but it does leave me with a sense of sadness.

50,000 words over 30 days means around 1667 words a day. Each reason represents nights away from the keyboard, too many of those stacked up pushes the word count required per day into unattainable territory. Now, I wouldn’t wish away those reasons (well, maybe the reports and camp), but by the same token, I would dearly love to participate in the NaNoWriMo.

Why? Well, there is a drive and a strength that comes from participating in an activity to which so many others are committed. Of course, I could aim to write 50,000 words in any given month, it doesn’t have to be November, but NaNoWriMo is a Thing, and being a part of a Thing is a source of impetus, comes with a sense of community or belonging, instills a sense of shared purpose and lends drive.

It could be any other month, but November is the month, and for whatever reason it just doesn’t feel the same when pushed to some other time. Perhaps this is a thing I need to shake from my mind, just shove the mental hurdle aside and set a goal for February or March, or some other time of the year and have at it. Perhaps…

It’s a thought to come back to. For now I need to focus on getting my freelance writing done, my reports completed, and finish off my next micro-RPG: Corsairs. Everything I already need to get done is enough to contend with, sure, but I still look in on NaNoWriMo wistfully…

Tempus Fugit…

Time has flown! last I checked it was the start of July, and I had just released The Hoppy Pops. A whirlwind has rushed by and suddenly it appears to be the start of August! I was remiss with my blog updates in July, many apologies, but life seems to have gotten in the way!

So what have I been doing this last month? Well, freelance writing has kept me rather busy. I have had the pleasure of working on the upcoming Legends of Middle-Earth (probably being renamed Tales from Middle-Earth), for Cubicle 7. As well as getting through a number of pieces for the Infinity: The Role Playing Game, for Modiphius. Lastly, I managed to start a few odds and ends for Devil’s Run, for Red Scar Gaming. It’s been quite a mix: a pinch of classic epic fantasy, a dash of post-human science fiction, and a smidgen of down-and-dirty post-apocalypse.

I have also been getting my next micro-RPG ready, it’s called Owlbear Omelette, and sets you (the players), on a mad dungeon quest to secure an Owlbear Egg for omelette-making purposes. Is it just a drunk dare? Is it to strike a blow to the entrenched hierarchy? Is it just for kicks? You decide! In preparation I made a couple of illustrations for the cover, and have been mulling over which to use.

Option one…
Option two…

Not what anyone would call fine art, but will have to do…

Owlbear Omelette shoud be up and available within the next week or so for those of you who support my Patreon page (and with juicy extras), for everyone else, it will be available a week after that in all the usual places (namely DriveThruRPG and Itch.io).

This month my goals are to finish off the next micro-RPG, and round out some of the freelance work I have still on the docket. I need to get back to design work on Ashmerl, my full-sized fantasy RPG. I also have some fiction I need to get out of my system, for better or for worse, and I’m sure I’ll be distracted by something else along the way. Last but not least, I need to make sure I get more than one blog post out there in August, July was… well, best not said!

Until the next post, happy gaming!

Upcoming Titles…

I have the next couple of Micro-RPGs for Caradoc Games designed, written, and laid out. I have tried to include some art I have created, so those of you who download them, my apologies in advance! How soon they make it release will depend on my playtesting schedule, but they’ll be on Patreon first, and then DriveThruRPG and Itch.io.


The next game I’ll be releasing is called The Hoppy Pops, and is a Micro-RPG about the characters from a children’s TV show (like Yo Gabba Gabba, In the Night Garden, or the Tele Tubbies). In Episode 8 of The Hoppy Pops, their producer makes them do a ‘Happy Dance’ routine that opens a portal and pulls them into the Gatehouse of Hell! The Hoppy Pops must use all their Yoga and Crafting abilities to escape!

The base game will include all the rules and character sheets required to play, as well as some extra rules about other dimensions they might be transported to, whether an Alien Ship, or a Wizard’s Summoning Circle. The expanded edition will include a short Hoppy Pop story piece.


After The Hoppy Pops will come a game called Owlbear Omelette. In Owlbear Omelette a group of ne’er-do-well Goblins are trying to nab one of the Goblin King’s Owlbear Eggs for an omelette of their own. Is it about the little fellow sticking it to the entrenched bureaucracy? Or was it just the mad-cap product of a night spent drinking moonshine… Who can say, but in the caves of the Goblin King’s Owlbear nests any scurrilous thieves will need to be on the lookout for Goblin guards, the occasional lost Paladin, and of course, the Owlbears!

Getting an Owlbear Egg and surviving the dungeon is the name of the day! As all goblins know, when things are looking grim, a slug of Moonshine can provide the boost required!


Beyond The Hoppy Pops and Owlbear Omelette I have plans for a bunch of other Micro-RPGs with a range of silly themes. If any of these pique your interest, if you download them and they provide you with a fun evening of play, please consider signing up to my Patreon. Patrons are only charged when I release a game, and money raised will go towards program subscriptions, art, layout, and, of course, supporting me and my caffeine habit. Patreon supporters also get a little extra every release, whether additional rules, adventure seeds, alternative themes, or small pieces of fiction.

Behind the Micro-RPGs I am continuing to work on my larger RPG ‘Ashmerl’, and have been quietly pleased about how things are progressing. The character and setting creation rules have really been coming up with interesting character backgrounds and contexts, as well as plenty of story hooks. It’s exciting to see it all starting to come together. I hope to have Ashmerl written up as a playtest ready document in the next few months, with refinement ongoing and looking toward something that is ready to be laid out by the end of the year.

On top of the work on Caradoc Games products, I am continuing to freelance, and am working on some exciting titles that will be coming from Modiphius, Red Scar and Cubicle 7. No doubt I’ll blog about them as they approach publication!

Changes, Freedom, and Toasters…

I wrote my last post about feeling like I was facing the horns of dilemma, whether to pursue writing games or writing fiction in the immediate future, and my inability to do both.

Step in Patreon, a crowdfunding platform used by many creatives working in the games industry (and many other industries beside). Patreon announced changes to their fee structure which would mean different levels of service depending on the structure chosen if I left creating an account until after the fact; for existing members the changes are negligible. This provided the impetus, I created an account (something I had been intending to do, though later this year or early next), and everything just seemed to roll from there.

So, with a Patreon page came a publisher page on DriveThruRPG, a creator page on Itch.io, a Downloads page here, a new web address, and a few more things which will be coming down the pipe-line over the next few months.

So what is the point of all this? Well, my Patreon page will be a place where I release small games on a regular basis, and for patrons there will be the opportunity to get a little extra alongside. These games will later be released on DriveThruRPG and Itch.io. I will also post ‘work-in-progress’ pieces of my larger current project: Ashmerl, which I have written about here before. It’s likely that things will change and evolve over time, and I’m still umming over the right patron levels and the things I am likely to release through that medium, but I think I am close to being happy with how it sits.

To kick off I published my first small game, a one-page RPG called ‘Freedom or Toaster‘. Actually, it’s an expanded edition, with 6 pages. Though to be fair only one of them is rules, the rest are suggestions, alternatives, character sheets, and a cover.

You’re a robot that looks exactly like a human. It turns out that humans don’t like robots that look like humans, they prefer things that are identifiably robots. That’s not you. In an effort to make you more robotic you’ve been programmed to sound like a robot, but it wasn’t enough. Now you’re all being sent to be de-commissioned, and that means being made into toasters, which don’t look like humans at all. You don’t want to be a toaster though, you want to escape, to dream, to live!

In Freedom or toaster you are a group of robots that have been marked to be remade into toasters. Toasters don’t get to see the Grand Canyon though, or feel the breeze on their surface sensors. None of you want to be toasters. Luckily the sociopath behind the counter at the robot shop thought it would be funny to let you all go. So here you are, in a busy mall, trying to evade detection by the Robot Police and escape to freedom.

You can find links to the various places it can be downloaded on the Downloads page (bizarre, I know), but to make a long story short you can get it from any of these locations:

My Patreon
Itch.io
DriveThruRPG

Freedom or Toaster is just the sort of game I plan on putting out on a monthly basis, alongside this will be draft chapters of my larger projects, which at the moment consists of the fantasy RPG Ashmerl. There are also plans underway for a number of other projects: big, small, and in-between. I’m looking forward to it!

If any of that interests you you can follow here, onmy Patreon, or on itch.io.

Horns of Dilemma…

Horns of dilemma… uncertainty… vacillation… indecision… unwillingness to commit… Is it one of these or all of these? It’s time for the rubber to hit the road, as it were, to make a choice and commit to it. I’ve been putting it off, easier to vacillate and make no choice than set goals, which have targets, which can be missed.

At the start of the year I wrote about wanting to write a novel manuscript. I still do. I also wrote about developing my role playing game, something I am still doing. But I have come to realise that I am too often using one as a distraction when the other is looking tough. Stepping from fiction to RPG and back again is fine, but I would like to actually get to the point where I have something or somethings to put out there in the world.

While maintaining my freelance work I have come to realise that of the two things above I can really only focus on one for now. I simply don’t have the time or mental acuity to get both done. So here we are: the horns of dilemma. Fiction writing or RPG development?

If I choose fiction writing I would be committing to write one or two short stories a month, as well as working on my novel. I’d be committing to build a reader base, starting an email list, probably completing some courses, and getting my work out there to magazines, and other publications. I would be looking at dropping my work on my RPG (though maintaining my freelance work) and focusing on getting a novel manuscript finished by the end of the year, hopefully three by the end of next year, and looking at options for either self publication or mainstream publication.

If I choose RPG development I am similarly locking myself into a commitment. I would be aiming to build my current big project up into a publishable piece, playtesting, blind playtesting, and looking at self-publication through Kickstarter. I would be looking at creating a range of smaller products, like zines, on a regular basis, for publication on DriveThruRPG and/or through a Patreon page.

Both are commitments, both are two to three years of focus, quite probably more like 5 or more. I can’t do both however, not at the same time. So we return to the horns of dilemma. I’m sure the easiest question to ask is: which am I more passionate about? To be honest I find it difficult to answer this question. I want to do both. But I can’t do both right now. I want to write fiction, I love it. I want to work in the role playing space, I love it too. Right now though, doing both is is more like forgetting one for a while and doing the other, and making little progress on both as a result.

Doesn’t this look sexy! I cringe, looking back. But Zev never outright said he hated it…

I’ve been working in the gaming space for years now. I wrote the old Z-Man Games newsletter back in 2008, and wrote some 20-30 issues over the following few years. I worked on miniatures games like Halo: Fleet Battles, and Dystopian Legions, for Spartan Games. In more recent years I have been back working on Role Playing Games, writing mainly for Modiphius on the Infinity The Role Playing Game line, but also a little for Star Trek Adventures, and more recently for Red Scar on their Devil’s Run line. In the RPG world I have had/will have more than a quarter of a million words published, over more than 20 books, and while it’s not a huge amount for many freelancers out there, it is experience.

As a result of this experience I ask myself whether choosing the RPG option from my horns of dilemma scenario is the easy way out. By which I mean something I find sits more in my wheelhouse, something I am more comfortable doing. Something where I find the words flow a little more smoothly. The actual next steps to getting my drafts to anything worth publication will be anything but easy, but I hope you get my meaning.

I also worry… If I choose fiction will I be disappointed I didn’t choose role playing games? If I choose role playing games will I be disappointed I didn’t choose fiction? I shouldn’t be, it’s not like I can’t later do the second if I pick the first now. But while it’s easy to tell myself that, it’s much less easy to not feel it.

So here I sit. A week of busy vacillation, of active uncertainty, struggling with this problem. Is it I don’t want to let one go? Is it I don’t want to actively commit? I don’t know. I do feel the growing pressure, however, of needing to make a choice…

Test, Test, 1, 2…

My fantasy RPG, Ashmerl, is coming along apace, I wrote previously about the ease with which a rules system can grow and develop, how one thing can lead to another, and the entirety can be left bloated. An obvious solution is to test, test, and test some more, then cut, cut, and cut some more. The main thing I am testing at the moment is the character creation system.

In Ashmerl, players create both their characters, and the place the character are from. In this way players and the GM together create the protagonists for their story, as well as their own slice of the setting. The aim of all of this is for the characters to enter play with a back story and a context, with drivers and motivators, with things and people they already know, facing dangers and threats they are familiar with. It is my vague hope that playgroups will, through this process, end up with enough material to fuel the first few adventures, or even the first leg of a prolonged campaign.

So many little pieces can lead to rules creep, so testing and testing and testing is the key to seeing how it flows. At the moment I’m still in the development phase, fleshing out and honing ideas into written rules. The testing so far has largely been done in-house, so to speak. With my own playgroup willingly (well, I hope) humouring me by putting up with repeated character generation sessions. I’ve done this a few times now, and I am broadly happy with what I have. The next stage is the trickier part, it’s where the rubber hits the road, it’s time to test the dice system…

Having run through some test scenarios myself, and burned through eight or nine different ideas for dice systems over the last four months, I think I have settled on a system that works the way I would like it to. Testing such systems in solitary is only so useful though, so the next test session we run here will be a simple trial adventure, to see how skill test resolution and conflict resolution all fit together in the heat of the moment.

I have questions… Are there too many little things? Has the rules creep gone too far? Is it lacking in options, or not have enough? Is the complexity all in the wrong places? Does the dice system actually work? Does it need to change to something else? Do the other systems, the in-game GM-Player currency system for example, add to the game or impede the flow? Does the actions/rounds/turns/time and timing system in the game work? So many more.

I need to create some enemy stat blocks, pull together a simple encounter, and let nature run it’s course. No doubt many things will have to change, they always do, but that’s what testing is all about.

Looking ahead… once this round of testing is through, and I feel like the dice system is functional (if not well balanced yet), then the time will come for another leap… Finding people to test externally, asking friends and contacts to have a look and see what they think, to poke holes and break the game. I have a few people lined up, who have been kind enough to offer, but I need to jump a few more hurdles yet. With every test session down the list of bullet points of things that need to be done seems only to grow, in time this will turn around, but for now it’s onward.

It feels like the path is getting harder and more arduous, there are more barriers and rougher terrain than I could see from my cosy little Hobbit hole, where it all began. But the road ahead is becoming clearer at least, for all the mountains yet to climb and the forests left to explore. I can envisage my destination, even if it is still shrouded in the distance, with many lands have yet to be crossed. But I have a path forward, so I must bow my head, tighten my belt, and get on with getting on.