Category Archives: Roleplaying

Tabletop Garden: Ego Driver

We’ve finally completed the most recent campaign of my actual play podcast, Tabletop Garden. In “Ego Driver“, a group of misfit killers participate in a postcolonial road war in a postapocalyptic world. It draws from Mad Max: Fury Road, Trigun, Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, and Wacky Races. I’m super proud of how the campaign turned out, despite an embarrassingly long hiatus in the middle while I struggled with my own mental health issues.

I’d really love it if you checked it out, and if you like it, shared it with your circles. You can start with the first episode:

If you’d like more insight into how I planned the campaign, or how I feel about it looking back, you can sign up to support my Patreon, where I’ve just published over an hour of postmortem retrospective discussing things like how the players shaped the narrative and how I now feel about the extensive Michael Jackson references:

Become a Patron!

I’m real pleased with the story my players and I put together, and I’m looking forward to sharing the next campaign with you soon. It’s currently in recording and editing, and if you want a sneak preview, check out the end of the postmortem above!

Actual Play Podcasts Do Not Portray Actual Play, Actually

Actual play podcasts are not what the name suggests. They’re a form of podcast that purportedly serializes a recording of a group playing a tabletop roleplaying game. The listener hears the dice rolls, the out-of-character discussions, and the social interaction that surrounds the in-character story being told at the table. The apparent appeal is the fun of hearing the “actual play” occurring when creating an interesting story.

But actual play podcasts are a lie.

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Tabletop Garden: New RPG Podcast

I’ve started a new podcast! It’s called Tabletop Garden, and it’s an “actual play” show where a rotating cast plays tabletop roleplaying games and talks about them.

Tabletop Garden is an actual-play podcast where we collaborate on short, self-contained stories about interesting characters, and we do it with an agenda. Throughout each campaign we discuss values, techniques, and how to play with intention.

Our first pilot campaign uses Mechanical Oryx by Grant Howitt to tell a tale of looming violence in the solarpunk postapocalypse. During each campaign, episodes will release weekly. Check out the show at tabletop.garden.

Rosette Diceless Released

At Future Proof Games, we just released a tabletop/live-action roleplaying game called Rosette Diceless. For those who have followed me for a while, this is a distant descendant of my 2009 beta release, LORE. We’ve been playtesting it for a year or two, and we’re looking forward to hearing what other folks use it for.

As with the rest of Rosette, Rosette Diceless has an agenda: it is dedicated to a consensus-based, story-first, and improvisational approach. We believe that this creates the best social environment for creating and expressing stories that incorporate everyone’s creativity.

You can pick up a digital copy of Rosette Diceless on itch.io, Kindle, or DriveThruRPG. We’ll have a paperback print-on-demand version on DTRPG soon; if you get the digital version before then, send us a proof of purchase to info@futureproofgames.com and you can pick up the print-on-demand at the bundle price.

Check out Rosette Diceless on its website!

Helping RPGs Play Themselves

Rosette LogoA big secret of tabletop RPG design is that roleplaying games play themselves. Get the right group of people together and they’ll have fun telling a good story, regardless of which edition of which game they’re playing. The hard parts of RPGs are things the designer can’t control: social dynamics.

What good are rules at all, then? Rules serve two purposes: to enable and constrain the play. The rules of an RPG serve to make the creative process easier by enabling story, and they constrain the scope of the story to keep the group within a manageable narrative space.

In my role as lead designer on Future Proof Games‘s upcoming tabletop RPG Rosette1, I’ve made tons of decisions regarding how the rules work. By the request of one of my patrons, I’ll go over that process from a high level.

Continue reading Helping RPGs Play Themselves

  1. Formerly LORE.

How to Fix D&D 4e Combat

If you like this blog post, you can help support my writing by pledging a small monthly donation in exchange for exclusive content on my Patreon page.

I’ve been running a Dungeons and Dragons fourth edition campaign for going on five years, and it feels like we’ve finally figured out how to fix the combat system. D&D 4e is intensely tactical, more so than any other edition, and I find the grid-focused combat quite fun, but it suffers from some severe problems. The biggest of these for us is that combats stretch on too long without enough excitement. Here’s how to solve that.

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The Perils of a Long D&D Campaign

A map of the campaign setting I’ve been running a Dungeons and Dragons 4e game called “Urgo” for almost five years. All of my original five players have been replaced except one. It was always a high-magic, swashbuckling campaign featuring airships and demigods, and it’s escalated from there. The player characters are level 16 of 30 and we’ve reached a point in the game where it takes some effort to maintain the tone and even more effort to properly prepare. For some background, here’s the current situation:
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Courtly Intrigue LARP Rules Part 1

I’ve found myself longing to play in a Live-Action Roleplaying Game that focuses on courtly intrigue. What I mean by this is the social sparring, witty repartee, and backroom dealing that happens among aristocrats in the movie Ridicule or among university professors jockeying for tenure. I’ve experienced some of this when playing Vampire: The Requiem using the Mind’s Eye Theatre rules, but that game has a major problem for me. Characters can kill each other with strange powers, so someone playing the political game has to also worry that the person they’re verbally sparring with can decapitate them with a swipe.

I’m working on the rules, but I want to design in the open so that I can get feedback and suggestions. Here are my base concepts for the game:

  1. This will be a LARP in the American Theatrical style. No foam weapons, and the game runs similarly to a tabletop roleplaying game.
  2. Sessions take approximately four hours and can be linked into an ongoing game.
  3. The game can be played with minimal intervention from a Game Master, although an organizer may help with bookkeeping.
  4. The game can be played while standing and moving around, with limited interference from out-of-character mechanics.
  5. Direct combat is not useful. Any victories or defeats will happen through social interaction.
  6. Special in-character skills or abilities may help a character, but they will not take the place of social intrigue.
  7. While a player’s strategy and charisma will be helpful, a player lacking social skills or cleverness can still have fun and influence things.

My idea so far is a combination of concepts from the card game Whist, the TV show Survivor, and the mancala game Oware.
Continue reading Courtly Intrigue LARP Rules Part 1

The Fall of Stronghold

An image of an unfinished RPG terrain board with some miniatures, walls, and craft toolsIn tabletop roleplaying games, it’s often tough to provide backstory and broader setting information to the players. Reciting a summary or printing handouts is seldom effective; even if players pay attention, they’re less likely to remember events in which they did not participate. In the Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition campaign I’m currently running, I ran into this problem, and addressed it with the Cutscene technique.
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Cardstock Dungeons


I play in and run tabletop RPGs. For many games, like White Wolf’s World of Darkness series, all you need for supplies is paper, pencils, and some dice. However, some games call for a more elaborate setup. Since at least its third edition, Dungeons and Dragons, the perennial mainstay of the form, has pretty much required some sort of gridded surface and tokens for use in battle. The combat system depends on knowing how many squares (inches) away two combatants are, and many rules deal with the exact position of characters as compared to enemies and scenery. For years, I’ve used a slightly-misaligned Chessex battlemat and wet-erase markers for the surface and environment layout, with simple wooden disc-shaped tokens labeled in tape for combatants. Lately, however, I’ve found myself yearning for a more visually evocative battlescape, and I think I’ve found it in the form of Fat Dragon Games’s 3D cardstock terrain.
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