[Shirt] “Anyone willing to suck can create.”

» Based on a quote by Rob Donoghue on Twitter.
» Download: Vector EPS | High-Res Transparent PNG
» Rob’s Cafepress
» Released under Creative Commons Attribution license.

There was some discussion about whether this quote was too suggestive, but Rob insisted that a less crude “Anyone willing to fail can create” lacked the same punch.

Interview on Little Metal Dog

Interviews with Daniel Solis
The Little Metal Dog is a podcast with some focus on the UK gaming scene, but also game professionals in general. Episode 9 highlights games for kids, including Happy Birthday, Robot!

Then we discuss Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple and its relationship with HBR. Namely, that HBR introduces the very essential elements of RPGs, then Do introduces just a little bit more while still maintaining the essential story-building gameplay.

Michael is very pleasant to talk to and we could’ve gone on quite a bit longer. Oh boy, though, my stammering is such a harsh contrast to Michael’s velvety English accent. Hear for yourself!

» Little Metal Dog: Episode 9

[Do] “Swallowed Whole”

by Ben Lehman

This is a letter for use in playing Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

Dear Monk(s)
Hi how are you! My name is Melanie. I come from a very small planet.
There is me, my house, my cat, and two trees (see drawing).
I am not so good, because my planet has been eaten by a whale.
It is a very small planet. I woke up and I was inside a whale. I don’t want to get (more) eaten.
Please help!
your freind
Melanie (age 8)
P.S. Drawing is on the other side.
P.P.S. I will make you cookies.

Goal Words

[Do] “Is it Safe to Allow Cabbages on Roller Coasters?”

by Peter Aronson

This is a letter for use in playing Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

Popsicore Worldwide Family Theme Parks, Inc.

Dear Monks,

I’m probably not the guy who should be writing you about this problem, but my boss, George, has locked himself in the executive bathroom with a case of gin and won’t come out. Not that I blame him, except, you know? I do. Still I can understand.

Things were pretty simple here at the Popsicore Park until recently. We sold tickets and junk food, kept the rides running and park clean (a big job that, what with the rides, kids and junk food). I mean it was hard work, yeah, but not exactly mentally taxing if you know what I mean.

When the Sky Cabbages first came to our world it didn’t make much of an impact here. Yeah, it was pretty weird that our world was being visited by six-foot-around talking sky cabbages, but it didn’t have anything to do with the daily round of repairs, cleanup and crowds. Not even when a bunch of crazies called “The Coleslaw Front” started attacking the sky cabbages at random with bombs and machetes. But then the cabbages discovered than they loved amusement parks. So they started showing up in droves. So of course they showed up here at Popsicore Park.

That gave us with a number of problems. First, since they were six-foot high, the cabbages are tall enough for all of our rides. But they’re also six-feet wide, which is a bit of an issue. We could have simply have turned them away, but the sky cabbages waved a lot of money at George (who began to develop a bit of a twitch at this point), so he signed some sort of contract with them and told me to figure something out.

Well, most of our rides are based on a standard cart design. I figured that if we replaced all the seats with a padded floor and sides and added some extra safety straps, we could accommodate one sky cabbage per cart. I told George this, and he told me to change over a quarter of the carts on each ride to carry cabbages. (At this point his twitch got noticeably worse.)

Well, we closed for three days in midweek for the changeover, and planned to reopen on this Friday with a big ad campaign about how we were now “cabbage friendly.” George figured since a lot of people were curious about the sky cabbages, so we’d pull in a lot of regular people, too. And he’d probably have been right, too, if the High Slicer of the Coleslaw Front hadn’t gotten on the radio somehow and broadcast a threat to send a thousand thugs with machetes to slice up the cabbages if they dared show their, ah, leaves, at our park.

Well, just as George had decided to not open the park on Friday after all, a delegation of cabbages showed up, waving the contract George had signed and told him in no uncertain terms that they weren’t afraid of the Coleslaw Front, and if the park wasn’t open on Friday, they’d sue.

That’s when George went out and bought the gin and retreated into the bathroom, leaving me in charge. This leaves me with two big questions I was hoping you guys could help me with: first, do I open the park or not tomorrow; and second, even with the modified cart, is it safe to put a giant cabbage on a roller coaster?

Thanks for your help! I’ll stick this letter in a helium balloon and let it go — with any luck it’ll float to your temple in time.

Hazel Harrington,
Chief of Maintenance
Popsicore Park

Goal Words
“a thousand thugs”
“executive bathroom”
“Hazel Harrington”
“Hazel Harrington”
“Hazel Harrington”
“modified cart”
“Popsicore Park”
“six-foot tall”
“six-foot wide”
“talking Sky Cabbages”
“talking Sky Cabbages”
“The Coleslaw Front”
“The Coleslaw Front”
“The Coleslaw Front”

[SageFight] Battle of the Bridesmaids

My wife Megan was the bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding this weekend. Being a resourceful SageFighter, she tried out a new technique using a bouquet. I can’t say it’s any more effective than traditional SageFighting, but it’s certainly pleasant smelling.

In other SageFight news, Kevin Allen Jr. tweets the following:

Hey @danielsolis yesterday @ a nude beach I got a bunch of naked strangers to sagefight. They had a great (& not-that-awkward) time.

Under normal circumstances, I ask for pics or vids of SageFights, but in this case I imagine it’s quite NSFW. Thanks for spreading the fun, Kevin!

‘Til next time…


Marain Script around the tubes

Marain Script was featured on the homepage of Iain-Banks.com and on this MetaFilter post! Awesome.

There is lots of great feedback from the Iain Banks forum on this thread, too.

Thanks for sharing it, folks!

SageFight as a Madness Talent in Don’t Rest Your Head

Andrew Smith posted a tongue-in-cheek Madness Talent for Fred Hicks’ insomniac horror game Don’t Rest Your Head. In the game, Madness Talents are exhaustion-fueled abilities that give you superhuman powers. The superhuman power that Andrew came up with? SageFight:

“But you played the game every day in your mind. As you walked down the street you could hear the beats of the movement all around you. The train. The joggers. The stock market. And now, even the universe itself has opened up its beat to you. That constant driving rhythm, like a drum in your mind, synchronising everything that exists like some great clockwork machine.”

Yeah, that fits DRYH pretty well. Check out more at Andrew’s blog. Thanks, Andrew!

» Andrew Smith’s Blog: Tabletop Manifesto
» More about SageFight

[SageFight] Solis vs Lenaire

As you well know, the first rule of SageFight is “Tell everyone about SageFight.” I’m doing my part by teaching my co-workers into the fine, ancient tradition. Here I am teaching how to duel, but I end up getting schooled. Here are screencaps I took to highlight some key techniques often seen in the Duel version of SageFight.

1) It’s pretty typical to go low for an early advance. It’s a more natural movement than going high. Also, your target is usually below shoulder-level.

2) Often, you’ll get into these little shoving matches, much like jedi shoving their light sabers against each other. Much more dorky, though. 😛

3) Now here, Adam has the upper hand. Literally. He’s about 6 inches taller than me, so he can easily push my arm down if I maintain contact.

4) Indeed, he transitions into a dominant defensive move, shoving my hand away with his own.

5) So we break contact and prepare for a new sequence of attacks and defenses. I attempt to lure his aggression by letting my hand hang limply.

6) Adam goes in for a block, but I’ve evaded contact and prepare to strike from behind his back.

7) Ack! Adam anticipates my gambit. He catches my arm from underneath while also pulling his shoulders back.

8) Woosh. It’s all over now. He’s used his body weight to go upright once more, shoving my arm well away from the line of attack, leaving my torso defenseless.

9) And that’s point Lenaire.


[The Leftovers] Working on New Maps: Requests?

Heyo, so I’m probably going to have some free time on a plane the next two days. Probably going to put together some new maps for The Leftovers. Here’s the Spleen as an example. (Click to embiggen.)

I’m tinkering with The Pit, The Bunnies’ Burrow and The Room of Spiky Things. If you have thoughts on new dungeons, post your ideas. For example:

The Bunnies’ Burrow



The Pit



Any requests?

[Do] TV and Movie Characters as Pilgrims

It’s time for some old-fashioned nerdy fun: Statting up your favorite TV and movie characters. First off, here is how you make a character in Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

Creating a Pilgrim
Step 1: Choose your pilgrim’s Avatar.
Pick an object or thing. For example, “tree,” “cat,” or “window.”

Step 2: Choose your pilgrim’s Banner.
Describe that thing in one word. For example, “green,” “sleeping,” or “cloudy.”

Step 3: Fill in the Blanks.
Your pilgrim’s name is “Pilgrim (Banner) (Avatar).” For example, “Pilgrim Green Tree,” “Pilgrim Sleeping Cat,” or “Pilgrim Cloudy Window.”

In play, your pilgrim’s Banner describes how she gets into trouble. Her Avatar describes how she solves problems. So, by way of example, here’s the cast of Avatar: the Last Airbender.

Pilgrim Silly Squirrel gets in trouble by being irreverent and helps people by winding his opponents.

Pilgrim Right Bandage gets in trouble by believing she’s doing the right thing and helps people by healing their wounds.

Pilgrim Sharp Stick gets in trouble because of his quick wit and helps people by improvising new inventions as needed.

See how that works? Give it a shot yourself. What would you name the cast of Firefly? How about Buffy or Futurama?

[Do] Sunday Afternoon Group – Episode 1

Actual Play of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple
This is a story created by playing Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

The Pilgrims

Pilgrim Reaching Book gets into trouble by overestimating what he can do and helps people by knowing stuff. (Written by Anders)
World Destiny: 0
Temple Destiny: 0

Pilgrim Wooden Bell gets in trouble by being stiff and helps people by warning of danger. (Written by Daniel)
World Destiny: 0
Temple Destiny: 0

Pilgrim Tattered Card gets into trouble by looking like someone unsavory and helps people by taking chances. (Written by Marc)
World Destiny: 0
Temple Destiny: 0

Pilgrim Fancy Tablet gets in trouble by being too elaborate and helps people by making them feel better. (Written by Nolan)
World Destiny: 0
Temple Destiny: 0

The Letter

“Swallowed Whole” by Ben Lehman

The Story

Upon arriving at the whale, Pilgrim Reaching book recalls whales are allergic to grass, and attempts to make the whale sneeze.

The whale inhales sharply, sucking in Pilgrim Reaching Book and sneezes, causing the world to be stuck in its blowhole.

The whale inhales sharply, sucking in Pilgrim Reaching Book and sneezes, causing the world to be stuck in its blowhole.

Pilgrim Wooden Bell tries to get through the blowhole, but gets herself stuck on some trees.

Pilgrim Wooden Bell calls the remaining pilgrims to pull her out of the branches.

Pilgrim Tattered Card dives into the mouth of the whale, finding Reaching Book and leading him to Melanie’s house on the planet.

After helping Wooden Bell get down from the trees, the Pilgrims find Melanie sobbing hysterically so Fancy Tablet does his best to console her.

Fancy Tablet manages to make Melanie feel better, but her crying makes him inconsolably sad himself.

Looking around inside the whale, Reaching Book realizes the whale ate Melanie’s world because he doesn’t have enough sky plankton to eat.

Pilgrim Wooden Bell warns the pilgrims about sky whalers chasing the whale out of its usual habitat AND THEY’RE RIGHT OUTSIDE!

The whalers respond by throwing a net over the meddlesome Pilgrims, but only Pilgrim Wooden Bell is too slow to get out of the way.

Pilgrim Tattered Card thinks that the sky whalers might like some of Melanie’s cookies, and offers them some if they’ll let the pilgrims and the whale go.

Unfortunately, the whalers like Pilgrim Tattered Card so much that they decide to make him part of their crew!

Pilgrim Fancy Tablet, seeing an opportunity to make up an elaborate plan, forgets all about being sad and starts plotting against the whalers.

Pilgrim Reaching Book remembers seeing the knots for the net in a book somewhere, and extricates Wooden Bell.

Pilgrim Reaching Book knows the knots quite well, but underestimates how heavy the ropes are and becomes buried beneath them.

Pilgrim Wooden Bell calls the cat to play with the ropes, freeing Pilgrim Reaching Book.

The cat gets so frenzied by playing with the ropes that he tries to eat Pilgrim Wooden Bell.

Tattered Card explains to the whalers that he is a Pilgrim, not a Pirate, and convinces them to take them all back to the Temple in their sky boat.

When they arrive at the temple, they find the gates barred, and angry-looking monks glaring down at Tattered Card, whom they think has become a pirate.

Pilgrim Fancy Tablet yells out their story to the monks, calming them down enough to convince them to open the gates.

Pilgrim Fancy Tablet’s fancy cloak is caught on the prow of the pirate ship, making it seem like he’s leading the pirates as they storm the temple.


With another handful of grass, Pilgrim Reaching Book provokes another colossal sneeze from the whale, sending Melanie’s little planet hurtling into the whalers’ boat.

Pilgrim Wooden Bell lures the cat onto the whaling ship to scare off the whalers away from the temple.

Their ship smashed to flinders by Melanie’s planet, Pilgrim Tattered Card leads the remaining whalers back into the Temple, where they give up whaling and become Pilgrims themselves.

As the monks gather the Pilgrims together for a hearing, Melanie arrives, overjoyed with all the help the Pilgrims gave which gives the monks no choice but praise them for a job well done.

New Names

Pilgrim Reaching Guidebook gets into trouble by overestimating his abilities and helps people by knowing about the plants and animals.
World Destiny: 2
Temple Destiny: 5

Pilgrim Clumsy Bell gets into trouble by being clumsy and helps people by warning them of danger.
World Destiny: 5
Temple Destiny: 1

Pilgrim Friendly Card gets into trouble by talking to people he shouldn’t and helps people by taking chances.
World Destiny: 4
Temple Destiny: 3

Pilgrim Fancy Voice gets in trouble by being too elaborate and helps people by talking.
World Destiny: 1
Temple Destiny: 4


Shane was supposed to be in this group, but he couldn’t make it so Anders filled in. This was my first time gaming on Skype, but it went fairly smoothly. I handled all the stone-management and kept a live ustream vid for any visual references. When goal words were used, I just striked them on the letter’s page. The players all seemed to like getting their pilgrims in trouble a lot, but only once or twice skipped the opportunity to use a goal word.

More Game Ideas

This post is part of a series compiling random game ideas I tweet occasionally. Some develop into full games, some not, I leave them here for my own future reference.

  • Game Idea: A train/railroad board game rethemed for a parade. Visions of Paprika in mind.
  • Game Idea: Chess var. Open w standard pawns. Other pieces set aside. On turn, move a piece or place new piece behind pawn. Cont. as normal.
  • Game Idea: Play involves laying out cards for combos. (Doubles, Triples, etc). Can use other player’s cards + your cards for other combos.
  • Reading “More Information Than You Require.” Struck by idea for game based on Batman ep “Almost Got ‘im”
  • Game Idea: Oshi, with slightly larger board and triomino pieces. On your turn, move or rotate one of your pieces.
  • Game Idea: Tiles w Straight/Turning paths. Tiles move 1 space unless passing over another tile; follow paths til reaching open space.

[Belle of the Ball] Seeking Artists

I plan on building a prototype of Belle of the Ball. I seek artists with a skill at clean, cel animation-style cartoon character designs. (Think Guillotine and Wok Star.) If you’re interested, email me a a link to your portfolio at gobi81@gmail.com.

Here are the specs for the job:
* Head-and-shoulder portraits of quasi-victorian nobles
* File Specs: Black and white line art
* Dimensions: 1″ square
* Because of the small size, each portrait should have a simple, strong features.
* I’ll handle the coloring and post-production, so no shading is necessary.

Once again, that email is gobi81@gmail.com. Hope to hear from you soon. 🙂


The artists have been found! Congratulations to Mori McLamb and Liz Hooper.

[Do] Sunday Afternoon Group – Episode 2

Actual Play of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple
This is a story created by playing Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

» Previously, Episode 1

The Pilgrims

Pilgrim Reaching Guidebook gets into trouble by overestimating his abilities and helps people by knowing about the plants and animals. (Written by Anders)
World Destiny: 2
Temple Destiny: 5

Pilgrim Clumsy Bell gets into trouble by being clumsy and helps people by warning them of danger. (Written by Daniel)
World Destiny: 5
Temple Destiny: 1

Pilgrim Fancy Voice gets in trouble by being too elaborate and helps people by talking. (Written by Nolan)
World Destiny: 1
Temple Destiny: 4

Pilgrim Strong Willow gets in trouble by rushing into tasks and helps
people by building compromise and consensus. (Written by Shane)
World Destiny: 0
Temple Destiny: 0

The Letter

“Spun of Crystal and Gold” by Sophie Lagacé

The Story

Upon arrival at Greymist Estate, Pilgrim Reaching Guidebook asks to examine Grandfather Greymist, hoping to know some herbal remedy for his condition.

Upon arrival at Greymist Estate, Pilgrim Reaching Guidebook asks to examine Grandfather Greymist, hoping to know some herbal remedy for his condition.

As Amber opens the door for Pilgrim Reaching Guidebook, the doctors rush into the room, overwhelming Reaching Guidebook with their suggestions and protestations.

Pilgrim Clumsy Bell rescues Pilgrim Reaching Guidebook by shouting to the doctors that lawyers are on their way, causing them to flee the estate.

Pilgrim Fancy Voice begins poking around the automatons in the room, asking questions about everything in sight, until Amber Carnelian shouts “That’s it, your a genius!”

Motivated by this praise, Fancy Voice continues poking until one particular flourish draws a twitch from an automaton, causing it to snag on his clothing.

Pilgrim Strong Willow speaks with the automaton grasping Fancy Voice and convinces the robot that pilgrim Fancy Voice can be released.

Strong Willow’s speech works a little too well, as the automatons release everything, they’ve been holding onto… including there secret weapons.

While the other pilgrims are busy messing around with the automatons, Reaching Guidebook examines Grandfather Greymist to determine what’s causing his illness.

Pilgrim Reaching Guidebook pokes and prods at Grandfather Greymist, accidentally flipping a clockwork switch, resulting in Grandfather Greymist grasping Pilgrim Reaching Guidebook with an iron grip.

Backing away from the giant robots with their terrifying weaponry, Clumsy Bell runs into a large angry man glowering down at her – Uncle Victor!

Pilgrim Clumsy Bell warns Victor of the danger his father’s secrets are in now that the robots all have weapons charged and ready.

Pilgrim Fancy Pilgrim begins to bloviate about the virtues of peace and the menace of war, his long speech lulling the automatons into lowering those secret weapons.

Now convinced of the rightness of pacifism, the automatons set out to convince humanity of this, with Fancy Voice forcibly recruited as their spokesman!

Pilgrim Strong Willow rushes to the aid of Reaching Guidebook, but Amber Carnelian doesn’t know what’s going on so she begins attacking Strong Willow.

Squirming around in the old man’s iron grip, Reaching Guidebook manages to squeeze an oily fruit’s juices into the joints of the clockwork arm, causing things to slip enough for him to pry himself free.

Pilgrim Clumsy Bell tells the pacifist automatons that Uncle Victor is a warmonger and profiteer, thus distracting them from their worship of Pilgrim Fancy voice.

However, Clumsy Bell’s violent defamations convince the automatons that she is a threat to peace as well, so one of them is assigned to restrain her while the rest deal with Uncle Victor.

Pilgrim Fancy Voice still has enough of the automatons attention to get one of them to separate Pilgrim Strong Willow and Amber Carnelian.

Fancy Voice’s command of the automatons and his grandiose style convince Amber Carnelian that the pilgrim must have taken a bribe from Uncle Victor, so she lays about him to prevent him from causing further mischief!

Pilgrim Strong Willow exposes the clockwork nature of Grandfather Greymist to Amber, convincing her that Pilgrim Fancy Voice is not in fact one of Uncle Victor’s cronies.

Amber denies the terrible news and runs at Strong Willow, who raises his arm to defend himself, but before the two can collide (again), Grandfather Greymist stands, revealing his twirling mechanical parts and menacing Strong Willow.

Pilgrim Reaching Guidebook takes on Grandfather Greymist and in the struggle reveals a secret weapon: a blaster that knocks Reaching Guidebook to the ground.

Fortunately, the notebook, where Reaching Guidebook keeps his samples and notes, absorbs the force of the blow is mostly absorbed (although it’s mostly incinerated) and he zips away before a second shot is fired.

Pilgrim Clumsy Bell warns the automatons that the most dangerous weapons in the room are themselves, causing a paralyzing logic loop.

Pilgrim Fancy Voice crosses through the crowd of automatons and convinces Uncle Victor of how unprofitable the automatons actual are.

Pilgrim Strong Willow manages to convince both Amber and her grandfather that he is not a threat to either of them and they both agree to stop hitting him (for now).


No longer needing (or able) to hide his mechanical nature, Grandfather Greymist resumes his work, finally showing Amber /all/ his secrets.

Uncle Victor loses interest in the automatons as war machines, leaving Amber to found a new company selling BRAIN TRANSFER technology.

Pilgrim Fancy Voice makes the automatons feel better about being so dangerous and convinces them that there are plenty of peaceful uses for blaster beams and rotating blades so that the automatons start a workshop of their own, making new bodies for all of the people on the planet.

Uncle Victor realizes the error of his ways and vows to himself become a pilgrim and enter into the worlds and help others. That and sell pilgrim insurance on other worlds that may have pilgrims visiting in the near future.

New Names

Pilgrim Reaching Satchel gets in trouble by overestimating his abilities and helps people by having something useful with him. (Anders)
World Destiny: 6
Temple Destiny: 7

Pilgrim Twisting Voice gets in trouble by being misunderstood and helps people by talking. (Nolan)
World Destiny: 9
Temple Destiny: 4

Pilgrim Strong Lens gets in trouble by rushing into tasks and helps people by telling the truth. (Shane)
World Destiny: 0
Temple Destiny: 7

Pilgrim Clumsy Decoy gets into trouble by being clumsy and helps people by drawing attention to himself. (Daniel)
World Destiny: 7
Temple Destiny: 6


Wow, we JUST barely made it out of this letter with a Parades ending. The last goal word was literally used in the last turn of the last round. I thought this might be a fluke, but it looks like this is actually the norm. Turns out 20 Goal Words is just the right amount for four players to just barely scratch out a happy ending. Three players can do it, too, but they have to be judicious with their stones very early on.

[Happy Birthday, Robot!] One more GenCon story!

There was one HBR game I personally facilitated afterhours at the Embassy Suites. The players were Jay, Maggie, Gregor and Jen.

Like many of the other sessions at the Embassy, we kind of pulled people in randomly to get a full group. That always makes for a fun session and plays to HBR’s strengths as low-prep icebreaker for a new group. Everyone had fun contributions and made the story you see below.

By the way, that Jen is the very same Jen from The Walking Eye podcast. Check it out, it’s cool stuff.

Welcome, Drabblecast Listeners!

It’s the last month of fundraising and the results so far have remained astonishing. We’re double the initial fundraising goal to print the first run of the game. Pre-orders continue apace and all pledges help defray the costs of sending free games to libraries and schools. To help with the effort, we’re bringing out the big guys.

All this month, the fantastic weekly short fiction podcast The Drabblecast will be promoting Happy Birthday, Robot! The Drabblecast brings excellent audio short fiction, music and many other auditory delights each week.

On episode 161, you can hear master storyteller and audiowizard Norm Sherman’s excellent reading the “Switcheroo Machine” story. Here’s a link to the episode. You can comment on the episode on the Drabblecast forums.

Stay tuned for further Robotic fun from the whole Drabblecast crew!

We met the goal in 24 hours!

I want to thank all the backers who pledged their financial support to this game with such enthusiasm. I obviously over-shot that deadline or under-shot the $ goal, but either way we won!

Thanks to popular demand (and because the deadline was set 70 days from now) I’m making two special offers:

* Any further $10 pledges are pre-orders for the full-color PDF and black-and-white printer-friendly PDF.

* Any further $30 pledges are pre-orders for the PDF+Print bundle. (Not signed/numbered, but still hardcover full-color books.) That covers your shipping and handling, even if you’re outside the U.S. (Feel free to chip in extra if you want to cover those extra costs, though.)

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Happy Birthday, Robot! in the classroom

Those are actual kids in the classroom playing Happy Birthday, Robot! Innumerable thanks go to Cassie Krause for running the game for her class. They were split up into groups so they could play on their own. Teacher’s comments:

“One of the girls that was playing is far below grade level in all subject areas, and she did a GREAT job of participating and writing the sentences.* She has actually begged me all week to play.* She felt success in this writing activity, which is something that she doesn’t feel very often during writing time, because she struggles to correctly articulate her words. However, with the idea of not having to write a complete sentence, because someone else could help finish it, it motivated her to write the best she could.

“[…]My principal was asking me about HBR, because he saw the story on my board.* He knows that I’m a gaming nerd, and likes to give me a hard time about it.* I showed him the dice, and the PDF to read through.* He said that this was amazing, and wondered what would happen if we put in some of the other conjunctions as well.* Have some dice that have “and” and “but”, however, also have dice that say “or” and “yet.”* It would give the kids exposure to using the other conjunctions as well to the main “and” and “but”* Needless to say, he was really impressed with the whole thing!”

A game that helps kids with learning disabilities AND turns school principals into game designers? Rock. 😀

Here are the stories they came up with.


Happy Birthday Robot!

Robot was very happy but his friends were not.
Robot went to his friend’s house and he got lost.
Robot was scared because he didn’t have a way to get home.
He tried to call the police, but the police didn’t show.
Robot went to the nearest store, The Oil Shop.
His parent’s were there looking for him all day.
Robot’s mom and dad were happy and they said he could never leave.
Before he left his mom and dad said, “Happy Birthday Robot!”
And they sang him “Happy Birthday!”

Written by Mark, Jordin, and Derrion


Happy Birthday Robot!

Robot went out to eat at his favorite restaurant and had fun there.
The Robot and his friends went to the park and then we wanted to go home.
Then Robot wrote about his day in his journal, then Robot took a nap.
The next day it was his birthday, he had a surprise party.
And they had lot and lots of food.
Last, he opened his presents with lots of job.
Then Robot and his family and friends watched him, play with his things.
Robot had lots of fun.

Written by Ashaiana, Keyonna, and Nesha


I want to send free and discounted copies of the game to schools like this one. Pre-orders of the PDF or Print+PDF bundle help make that happen. Thank you so much for all the help you’ve pledged, backers. Keep spreading the word. 🙂

Pebble Rebel

Pebble Rebel
Pebble Rebel is a strategy game for two players. Each player has different goals and different ways of playing, but still get in each other’s way.

» Thanks to Pete Figtree for coming up with the title!
» Original art source: Memo Angeles, Black Rhino Illustration and ensiferum

You need four sets of colored stones, fifteen stones in each set. Keep these stones in a bag or bowl nearby. The game board is a 6×6 grid. Arrange twelve stones on the board as shown below.

Turn Order
Two players take turns. One player is called Pebble. The other player is called Rebel. Pebble takes the first turn.

The Pebble
On her turn, she may move a stone on the board in straight horizontal or vertical lines as many times as she wishes to until the stone reaches its final destination. She may not pass through any occupied spaces along the way. Diagonal movement is also not allowed.

In the example above, Pebble moves the black stone down, then left. She is trying to build a line of black stones along the bottom of the board.

The Rebel
On his turn, he randomly draws a number of stones equal to the number of moves Pebble took. Then he places those stones on any unoccupied square.

In the example above, Rebel draws two stones because Pebble moved a stone twice. He then places those stones on the board. He chooses these spaces in particular to block Pebble’s efforts.

If Pebble gets four stones of the same color in a row, horizontally or vertically, she wins. (Diagonal four-in-a-row does not count.)
If Rebel fills up the whole board, he wins.

The above example shows how Pebble or Rebel could win.

In the example on the left, Pebble succeeded in creating a four-in-a-row, thus winning the game.

In the example on the right, Rebel successfully filled up the board before Pebble could get four-in-a-row, thus winning the game.

Pebble’s play style suits fans of puzzle games with randomized elements, like Tetris or Bejeweled, but against a much more clever computer. Pebble has to be sneaky, arranging a four-in-a-row using as few moves as possible.

Playing Rebel is great for button-mashers, “take that” players, and those who just choose tactics on a whim. Still, Rebel must be wary of placing stones where they might easily be used by Pebble.

Before the board fills up, there will probably be an obvious “checkmate” situation, in which it is clear Pebble cannot create four-in-a-row. 

[Do] “Once Upon a Time”

This is a letter for use in playing Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom terrorized by a giant silver rat. The silver rat could travel faster even than bad news and gossip, and would flicker from one end of the kingdom to another; grabbing food from the people’s hands and mouths and gulping it down before they could swallow even a crumb. Everyone was soon faint from hunger, even the childless old king and his nobles. So the king made an announcement: anyone who could slay the rat would be adopted as his son and heir, and rule the kingdom when he was gone.

Many heroes came to slay the rat, but they all failed, and the rat swallowed them all down (“Snap! Gulp!”). The kingdom was starving and all hope seemed gone when the most unlikely of heroes walked into the palace. It was a calico cat, and she wore tall boots and a three cornered hat all of red leather, and at her side was the Sword of Swiftness.

The battle between the cat and the rat was terrible! Back and forth across the kingdom they fought, until at last the silver rat was exhausted and turned to flee. But the cat slew the rat, and cut off his head and took it before the king. And there, amidst great feasting, the king adopted the cat. And then, in the fullness of time, the old king died and the cat put aside her three-cornered hat of red leather for the crown of the kingdom. And the people, remembering the rat, cheered.

But the cat remained a cat, and soon found she had no desire to rule a kingdom.

However, unknown to the cat, the crown of that kingdom was magic and could only be put down at death or by the will of the people. And the people loved her for saving them from the rat. Then one day the cat had a wonderful idea! She would write to the monks of The Flying Temple, and they would send pilgrims to free her from her burden. So she wrote them a message, and tied it with ribbons in three different colors, and threw it over her shoulder at sunset.

The End

Goal Word
“calico cat”
“calico cat”
“childless old king”
“Sword of Swiftness”
“Sword of Swiftness”
“silver rat”
“silver rat”
“silver rat”
“son and heir”
“three-cornered hat of red leather”

Marc’s [Happy Birthday, Robot!] session at GenCon

Marc ran Happy Birthday, Robot! for Games On-Demand at GenCon 2010. Games On-Demand is a great space if you’re looking for a GM to run an indie game you’re thinking about buying (or just playing your favorite game with a new group). Many thanks to Marc for running HBR and to Scott Acker for organizing Games On-Demand.

The Leftovers in “The Pit”

Here’s a new map for The Leftovers! The Pit is a relatively easy dungeon to get through in that it’s small. However, that means the danger words and items are packed in tighter together, so it’ll take a deft wit to work them into halfway coherent sentences. Test the limits of your olfactory senses against The Pit!

» Download: The Leftovers in “The Pit”

[Do] “Worlds Collide”

This is a letter for use in playing Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.

To the Monks of the Temple in the Center of the Sky,

My deepest apologies for this letter, but our need is great.

I am Yotta, assistant to the Great Sages of Juku, may the sun grace them always. Our beautiful desert world is home to many fierce and colorful tribes, who have made their homes in the vast sandy wastes that cover our planet.

The Great Sages have long observed the sweep of the planets through the sky. We have always been near to the water planet of Ishita; indeed, this is whence comes our rain, on the rare occasion that rain falls on Juku. Our worlds grow closer and farther apart as the gravities of other worlds exert their influence.

Recently Ishita’s orbit has become disturbed by the influence of the massive world Rova. The Great Sages, may their words uplift us all, have calculated that Rova will pull Ishita directly into us on its next pass. Ishita’s coming will be a deluge the likes of which our arid clime has never known, to say nothing of the Phloerals who live on Ishita. However, the Great Sages, whose wisdom sparkles like the sands, say that the orbits of the worlds are the Will of Nature and command us not to interfere. They seek to teach us the meaning and power of acceptance.

I write this letter of my own, against the wishes of the Great Sages. We do not know where to turn. Even if it were allowed, we have no means to shift an entire planet from its course. Our way of life faces an utter upheaval that I cannot bring myself to accept. Please, we need your help.

–Yotta, assistant to the Great Sages

Goal Words
“Desert Planet”
“Great Sages of Juku”
“Great Sages of Juku”
“Water Planet”
“Water Planet”
“Water Planet”
“Will of Nature”

Design Diary: “New” starts, but does not finish. [Part 1]

Had a funny little moment yesterday. Might be useful to elaborate a bit as a part of a larger discussion of game design specifically and getting things done in general.

I am writing the next draft of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple based on edits from Ryan Macklin. As a part of this process, I built up a lot of new Actual Play reports by playing several concurrent games on Skype. Since then, I’ve also kept in contact with those players asking for any advice that might make it into sidebars or addenda of the published game.

It was in that discussion that Mark Sherry, he of the genius mathematical brain that has helped me through many hair-brained game ideas, came up with a new idea for Do‘s procedure.

Some background. In the present rules, an overview of which you can see here, the color of stones you keep does not have an affect in the short term. Only the number of stones you keep matters. The color has an impact at the end of the game and at the end of a series of games, when your accumulated choices flavor how that ending plays out.

Some more background. The email list was discussing some tips on how to choose a good pilgrim name. This advice generally revolved around avoiding a situation where your name is too limited in its possible interpretations. When you describe Pilgrim Rolling Fist as solving problems with his fists, then he’s probably not going to help people with his charming smile. However, if he helps people by defending against injustice, well, that opens many other narrative opportunities.

So, Mark’s idea. Make color of stones matter in the short-term and allow both words in your pilgrim’s name to be used as metaphors for getting into trouble and helping people. Then, when you choose light or dark stones, you are deciding whether it is the Banner that is helping people and the Avatar getting you in trouble or vice versa. An interesting side effect of this is that at the end of the game, you can make it so that the word that got your pilgrim into trouble the most is what ends up changing. Your pilgrim learned from her mistakes and grows up from the experience.

This is a provocative idea and tempted me greatly. Let’s see how it turned out in tomorrow’s post.

New Sketches from Rin Aiello!

Rin sent a ton of new first drafts for the next batch of Happy Birthday, Robot! illustrations.
You can pre-order a PDF or Print+PDF bundle here. New pledges also allow more free books to be sent to Kids Need To Game, a charity encouraging more gaming among kids in 1st through 9th grade. Here’s that URL once again:


(If you want to see more of Rin’s artwork, visit http://www.rinaiello.com/)

SageFight live on-stage! (Also, free logos!)

Kevin Weiser and Nora Last are living up to Rule #1 of SageFight by demonstrating the game live, on-stage at open mic night.

Oh, did you know you could get vector EPS and transparent PNGs of the SageFight logos for your personal use? Get them all here.

» Download: SageFight-Logos.zip


I designed Embargo in 2006, inspired by a two-player kind of Chinese Checkers called Halma. The rules below are from an adaptation you can play online at ItsYourTurn.com.

For simplicity’s sake, this is a two-player version. You can play with up to four players, too, each player taking control of one of the four corners. You can play this on a regular chess board with generic tokens moving along the lines and vertices of the grid.

The object of Embargo is similar to Chinese Checkers: move all your pieces from your “yard” (the spots where your pieces start) to your opponent’s “yard”. Your yard is the light-colored section of the board where your pieces are initially placed.

The pieces are initially set up on opposite corners on a 9×9 board. The screen shot below shows the starting position for Embargo:

Pieces move along straight lines for any number of empty spaces, like chess rooks.

Pieces cannot move through Walls (see the “wall” section below), except when Tunneling (see the “tunneling” section below).

When two pieces of the same color line up in a straight line, one or more walls can form. Pieces cannot move through walls of either color, except when tunneling. In other words, a wall blocks pieces of both colors from moving across it.

The position above shows walls formed by both players.

The red dots in picture above shows the legal moves for the circled green piece. The red X shows where the green piece hits a wall, and thus cannot move onto that square or beyond it. Also, if the green piece were to move to either side, it would either extend or shorten the wall that’s attached to it.

When you have a move that either SHORTENS or EXTENDS your own wall, those moves are legal. (See example below.)

The picture on the far left shows the beginning position of the board, before any moves are made. The middle picture shows an example of a move EXTENDING a wall. The right-hand picture shows an example of a move SHORTENING a wall, which is legal.

When you make a move that SHORTENS a wall and goes through a perpendicular wall at the same time, that move is legal and is called TUNNELING. It just means that you have moved your piece through a perpendicular wall as you shorten your own wall at the same time. (See example below).

When you tunnel, you can also choose to “bust” a wall, by landing in between two pieces that form a wall. The example below also shows a “wall busting” move being made.


The picture on the far left shows the piece chosen to do the tunneling. In the middle picture, the green piece has TUNNELED through the orange wall, to emerge on the other side of the orange wall. Green is able to do this because this is a move that shortens the green wall. In the right-hand picture, The green piece has landed IN BETWEEN the two orange pieces forming a wall, and has BUSTED the wall. The two red X’s show where the orange wall used to be.

This move can only be made when you are shortening a wall. If the green piece had not been part of a green wall, it would not be able to move through the orange wall like it did above.

The 25 move rule:
If you have a piece left in your yard on or after the 25th move, then you automatically lose the game. Make sure all your pieces are out of your yard by the 25th move of the game.

Winning the game:
You win the game when all your pieces are in the enemy yard.

Key strategic point:
You always want to make sure that you have at least one piece deep in enemy territory very early in the game. You can then use this piece as an anchor to pull your other pieces through the tunnel to the enemy yard. If you neglect to put a piece in enemy territory, it’s quite possible that your opponent can build an impenetrable wall across the middle of the board that you can’t cross.

[Do] What Remains of Character Creation

Just sent the first three chapters of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple to editing. If you’ve followed the development of this game over the years, you’ll notice the biggest change is that there is no character creation. Well, at least not in the form that it once was.

At first, I was trying to emulate the “tutorial” process in Dogs in the Vineyard. Later, I added the relationships from Spirit of the Century. What followed was a very fun process, but one that was rather different from how the game actually played. Also, because I couldn’t find much time to playtest, those precious first hours were occupied with character creation and not the game itself.

I came to terms with the fact that the Do I want to design is a storytelling game, not a role-playing game. I hate disappointing people who hoped for an RPG, but that’s just not where I have fun designing.

So, I am taking all the “tutorial” advice from character creation and putting it elsewhere in the book, mostly in the Example of Play chapter. They’ll be sidebars, commenting on the choices players are making in the running example.

As for the character creation process itself, that will be its own game with a different skin. The basic procedures will be the same, but with a new theme. For more on that, look for posts about Galaxy Camp in coming weeks. Actually, it may not even be called a game. More of an activity. Semantics. 😛

What character creation remains in Do? For now, it’s just creating your pilgrim’s name and interpreting what it means. It is not its own chapter. Rather, it is simply part of the steps of preparing for the game, right along side gathering pencils and paper:

Creating a Pilgrim
To create your pilgrim, you will write a sentence about her on a slip of paper called the Passport. Creating your pilgrim is simply a matter of filling in the blanks in this sentence:

Pilgrim (Banner) (Avatar) gets in trouble by _______ and helps people by______.

This sentence describes everything you need to know to get started. Her history can be developed as you tell your story. For now the most important thing is to decide her pilgrim name and what it means.

Step 1: Choose your pilgrim’s Avatar.
Write a noun in the second space of the sentence. The easiest way to pick your pilgrim’s Avatar is to name an object in the room you’re in.

For example: Ryan looks around the room and sees a window. He writes, “Window” in the second space of the sentence.

Step 2: Choose your pilgrim’s Banner.
Write an adjective in the first space of the sentence. The easiest way to pick your pilgrim’s Banner is to describe the previously chosen object in one word.

For example: The window looks cloudy to Ryan, so he writes, “Cloudy” in the first space of the sentence.

Step 3: Describe how your pilgrim gets in trouble.
Using your pilgrim’s banner as inspiration, describe how she gets in trouble. Her banner is a metaphor for some personality quirk or recurring stroke of bad luck that leads her to trouble.

For example: Ryan interprets “Cloudy” to mean that his pilgrim is prone to daydreaming. She is often distracted by flights of fancy. He writes, “daydreaming on the job” in the third space of the sentence.

Step 4: Describe how your pilgrim helps people.
Using your pilgrim’s avatar as inspiration, describe how she helps people. Her avatar is a metaphor for the skills, tools or other abilities that let her help people, including her friends and herself.

For example: Ryan interprets “Window” as an opening in an otherwise solid wall. Using this as a metaphor, he writes, “creating windows of opportunity” in the fourth space of the sentence.

There are also some example pilgrims to choose from, that would look something like these contributions. And that’s it. Hopefully people who enjoyed the former character creation system will still enjoy playing its new incarnation as Galaxy Camp. Meanwhile, Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple can fly or fall on its own terms as its own game.

Update: Dang, a bunch of pop culture pilgrims over here.

88 Copies of “Happy Birthday, Robot!”

That’s what 88 copies of HBR looks like, yup. So, I’m going to be personally signing and numbering and mailing several of these babies to some generous backers. I’ll be emailing you shortly (like, in a few minutes) asking for your shipping address.

(Those of you who ordered a book without my rambling scribbles, I’ll need your shipping addresses, too.)

Talk to ya soon!

Art Roundup

Quick mockup of the cover, using one of Rin Aiello’s illustrations. What do you think? Too much panda?

Here’s some more art from Rin Aiello!

Pre-orderers, you should expect your PDFs early this week!