Category Archives: Games

The Sky Belongs to the Monsters: Introducing Radio Free Kaiju

The Sky Belongs to the Monsters: Introducing Radio Free Kaiju


After I made Community Radio, I had the idea to do a series of “radio” games, each in different contexts and genres.  Where Community Radio is in a Nightvale-esque world,  Radio Free Kaiju is a world where giant Godzilla-sized monsters rose up and won.

In Radio Free Kaiju, giant mutant monsters forced us to tear apart our world with nuclear weaponry just to have some chance of surviving against them. We built outposts and cities underground to hide from the surviving Kaiju. Humanity hopes to rebuild, but each outpost has only some parts of the puzzle needed for that. One outpost may have a rare material to make a special new bomb while another outpost has the only scientist capable of designing a solution with it. With the internet destroyed, there are few ways to communicate with other outposts to assemble the means and methods for humanity’s resurgence.

Radio is our last hope.

Through radio we can guide in those brave enough to travel Topside, bringing valuable resources and information from outpost to outpost. With radio, humanity could unite against the Kaiju, and step into the sun once more.

Never have the airwaves been more important.


Radio Free Kaiju is a storytelling experience for 3-6 players in a Kaiju-ravaged earth. When playing it, some players will take the role of Broadcasters, detailing life in the outposts and setting up potential news of the world outside.  Some players will take the role of Topsiders, brave or foolhardy travelers who are nonetheless needed by the outposts for barter, salvage and exploration. Topsiders will describe their adventures as prompted by the news from Broadcasters and effected by random, sudden events.

While the game will have some post-apocalyptic elements, what I’ve been working for in honing this idea is capturing a sense of wonder. I want to set up scenes and mood where you are doing something normal or tedious for your survival, and then the world injects with some large event. Obviously, with Kaiju this means you might be picking the trash while Godzilla appears fighting another monster just hundreds of feet from you.  But it can also be electric dust storms that scintillate with light; sudden breaks in the sun-blotted sky where you can feel the true heat and warmth of the sun of your skin; following a long-hidden path to and underground river with enough clean water to quench the thirst of an entire outpost.

If I had to boil it down further, I’d say that Radio Free Kaiju aims to be a radio drama and improv experience that evokes “grit and wonder”. Players will be literally world-building through play, and then using that world-building and improvisation to feed back into the giant twists the framework will introduce to them.

Like many of my releases, it will be compact but meant for a lot of interesting and emergent play.  I’m aiming to make it something that’s compelling with just 1 hour to play, but also something that can be deepened and expanded over time. I’ve talked about wanting shorter storytelling experiences, but what I really strive for is getting to the fun part of group storytelling faster. Setting a “playable with 1 hour” limit helps me to focus design to fit that constraint.  Once you’ve got a game that is good in a short time, you have a game that is good in a longer time as well. The trick from there is provide additional structure for “going long”.

It’s taken a while to get from the base concept of Radio Free Kaiju to here, but now that we are here I am excited to get something play-testable out the door this month and I hope you are excited as well!  You can get a playtestable form this week by signing up for my Patreon or you can wait patiently for the full PDF to be released.

Five Fires: “Tribe”, the Quest System.

Five Fires: “Tribe”, the Quest System.

So on thing I’ll include with Five Fires are pre-made “quests” for players that they pick during character creation.  That gives players some initial problems to solve and to drive play with.  Eventually I feel that players will want to make their own quests though, and I want to give them the tools for doing that.  Here is the the rough system I developed for it, codenamed Tribe (“called Quest”, get it?).  I’ve done some basic tests with it that show promise so I’ll refine further.



The “Tribe” system is all about letting players determine what they want to do, and giving them steps with how they get there. It provides basic steps and lets you fill the specifics in for your character and game.  The GM can then focus on making trouble for the players as they try to complete their chosen quests.

Players make quests by declaring something they want, (“I want to save the princess”), picking a scale (“it’s really a major thing”), how hard it will be (“It will be really difficult”) then deciding a reward (“My character will become a hero and earn the “famous” trait.”).  That’s it.  The scale of the quest will determine how many successful steps you need to take (Failing a scene means you suffera asetback, and have to do something else to get on track).  The difficulty determines how much trouble the GM can make for you in different scenes.

There are three basic types of “Quests”.

  • Quick Quest: 1 -2 steps temporary reward. can get some big but ephemeral boosts from these.
  • Minor Quest : 4 steps.  minor permanent reward.
  • Major  Quest:  8 steps. major permanent reward.

In addition, there are certain “Quests” and events that will insert steps for you. Sometimes the GM can put special obstacles in front of you that force you top do something else before you can complete a specific quest.  Other times you might have a class related quest with some special instructions.  Whenever a quest varies from using the steps here, it will be explicitly called out to you.

Your last step of the quest always has to deal with the object of your quest.  Choose where that will happen, and write what you’ll do in the last step.  Roll on the charts below for each other step.

You the player will know the steps in advance, but the character you control won’t know.  Your character will be learning what he needs to do after each step.  Make sure to work that into your descriptions of the scene.

For each step:

  1. Roll on the Actions Table
  2. Roll or choose from other tables the action tells you to.
  3. Roll difficulty.  Note whether the GM can make trouble (T) or make double trouble (TT) at this step.

Tribe Charts

What to do?

1.find guidance (where & who)

2.gather clues/information (determine from where and

3.deliver something (determine for who, to whom, and to where)

4.overcome a personal problem (determine what it is, who it involves (can be yourself, and where it is).

5.get assistance (from who or what?)

6. recover an item (from where?)

Who ( pick one)






skate punks

graff Artist


street sage

street samurai

info broker


or pick someone from your contacts list.



1. Brooklyn

2. Queens

3. Manhattan

4. Bronx

5. Staten Island

6. The Dungeon (the underground)




1-5 The GM can make trouble

6 The GM can make double trouble.



1-4 The GM can make trouble

5-6 The GM can make double trouble


Really Hard

1-3 The GM can make trouble

4-6 The GM can make double trouble.


When you fail the roll for a step, you suffer a setback.  Your step is not completed, and you must also do something else in replacement of that step.  Roll that step over, and then complete that step to progress.

A Sword & Soul Primer

A Sword & Soul Primer


What is Sword & Soul?

Sword & Soul is a genre created by the writer Charles Saunders, which takes inspiration from Sword & Sorcery, but places African-based mythology and characters in central roles. From Milton Davis:

Robert E. Howard created many fascinating characters during his brief life but the one that stands out in most minds in Conan, the Cimmerian barbarian brought to life in movies by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Howard’s stories were filled with brutal action, monsters and magic. Howard was also one of the few writers who frequently included black characters in his stories. Despite this, he was still a product of his times. The black people of Howard’s fictional world were fierce and formidable, but they were usually led by a person of fairer complexion.

Fast forward to the early seventies. A young man by the name of Charles R. Saunders became enamored with the Conan mythos. As he read these stories an idea formed, the result being Imaro. Imaro was a hero destined to be created, the result of the cultural and political explosion affecting African Americans during the sixties and seventies. Here was a character just as strong and courageous as Conan, but he was black. His world, Nyumbani, was a fictional reflection of ancient Africa, its people based on the various kingdoms that existed on the continent prior to European intervention. It was Charles who invented the phrase Sword and Soul when asked to describe his brand of fantasy fiction.

It might seem a needless distinction and separation to  some, but utilizing common themes with different source material for culture and mythology makes Sword & Soul novels distinct and entertaining, and definitely a solid basis for gaming.

Obviously I can identify with the protagonists without worrying about problematic issues breaking me from the fiction, but there’s so much more to it!  Saunder’s Imaro novels carry a strange power at least the equal of Conan, and reading Davis’ Meji brought a great sense of wonder in it’s elegantly crafted world and tale. To think that all that’s going on is Conan with a palette-swap is to miss out on some really great work!  Here’s some material to get you started.


Charles Saunders writes with skill and with power, and his tales of the alienated Imaro coming into power and acceptance is a great read, so start with the first and keep going!

I love the Meji books by Milton Davis.  This tale of two twins separated at birth but whose destinies intertwine is a page-turner.  I will run a game in this world sometime soon.

Two great anthologies of Sword & Soul short stories.


  • Nyambe. This is the classic D&D supplement for adventuring in an African setting.  Not perfect, but definitely worth reading.
  • Spears of the Dawn. Created by the author of Stars Without Number, pretty much a near perfect match for the genre.
  • Ki-Khanga. Currently in playtest from MVmedia , but hopefully this will be out soon and we can say more about it ( I will be in the playtest, and am really excited about it!)

There’s not a lot here, and I hope this changes!  I am working on it.


Imaginary Africans.” A retread of his Dragon classic, “Out of Africa”, Saunders gives a great overview of some basic mythology and factors to consider. Must read.

Multicultural Fantasy.” Saunders on getting started writing the fiction he wanted to see an exploring all sorts of cultures in fantasy.

Marvel and Me.” Charles Saunders talks about almost being able to do a spin-off African character from Conan

Dorothy, We Ain’t In Kansas Anymore: The Building of a Non-Eurocentric Fantasy World!” Balogun Ojetade discusses the journey towards publishing his works and creating the Ki-Khanga RPG.

Why do we need Black Speculative Fiction?” Davis gives a very good answer to a frequently-asked question.

Fiasco Playset: Candy Apples and Razorblades

Fiasco Playset: Candy Apples and Razorblades


We have a ghoulishly great Halloween treat for you, children. A one of a kind Fiasco playset, free of charge, and guaranteed to give you bad dreams for days. It will be a scream!

Okay, I’ll stop with the terrible Cryptkeeper impersonation. Fiasco is one of my favorite games, and I always thought it would be easy to write a playset. It wasn’t as simple as I thought, but I’m happy with the results. If you play Fiasco and enjoy scary stories about people getting into all sorts of messes on Halloween night, I think you’ll enjoy this.

A couple thank yous. Thanks to Bully Pulpit Games for making Fiasco. Be sure to check out their official playsets released each month. Second, thanks to “The Man Unmasked” for the playset template (download it and make your own!).  Thanks to Twitter people @dtrmcr and @triskaljm for some object suggestions. Finally, thanks to my wife Ashlee for whipping up a cover image.

It should be  a very fun to playset to use with Soundcrime #4. Let us know what you think, and if you’re interested in more playsets at Thoughtcrime!

Download the Candy Apples and Razorblades here.

Worldbreaking the 13th Age: Etherkai, the Nightmare Dragon

Worldbreaking the 13th Age: Etherkai, the Nightmare Dragon


Some of you may be familiar with my failed project of the Worldbreakers (Never heard of the Worldbreakers? Check out my old site… ).  I left that mostly behind with At-Will, but I’ve been playing a lot of 13th Age lately.  I’ll talk more about why this is the game that fans of pretty-much-dead 4e fans really should play later, but for now I just want to share a little rendition of a classic Worldbreaker monster for you, rendered for 13th Age.


I realized that Worldbreakers actually have better hooks to do the things that I want them to do in 13th Age.  We lose precise tactical movement but guess what we don’t need? Precise tactical movement. Worldbreaker fling you across the map, make impossible leaps, tear the earth asunder….it’s actually easier to describe this with a loose system than it is a tight system (though describing it well in a tight system is very fun and a good challenge). I’m going to share with you Etherkai’s story, and you can get the playtest PDF here.  If you want to playtest and offer feedback, that would be awesome!


Does this mean that Worldbreakers are back? Maybe?  If Worldbreakers become some sort of product, anyone who was on my failed KSer is first on the list for what it comes out to.  Right now, I don’t know.  13th Age looks like it it will be way friendlier to 3rd party creatives, as does its community.  Right now I think I’m just going to have fun, and I’ll share my fun with you as I do it.


Etherkai, the Nightmare Dragon


The dragon Etherkai commanded incredible psychic and draconic powers, which led him to believe he would inevitably rule the underearth. This belief led him to the path of the conqueror, and he used his powers to subjugate many lesser beings. The conquests came quickly and easily, and soon his holdings were vast

His arrogance grew just as quickly as his empire and after many decades, conquest bored him. Once, food and cruel amusements were enough, but now Etherkai craved his followers’ adoration. He wanted them to worship him as their god.

Etherkai ordered them to open temples and hold services in his name. He then proclaimed himself the God of the Long Night. Thinking his worshippers were convinced of his divinity and in his thrall, Etherkai fell into a false sense of security and relaxed his grip on his empire.

With Etherkai’s guard down, his people searched the vast caverns of the underearth for a savior and they found an altar to a forgotten god. Desperate, they offered small sacrifices and offerings and in return they received small miracles. Old wounds the dragon had dealt them were healed, sight was restored to the blind and aged limbs were given youthful strength. This small god—his followers came to know him as The Chained God—was just as cruel as Etherkai, but his divinity was real. More importantly, the Chained God knew something Etherkai did not: a god can terrify and punish and take anything it wants…except its worshippers’ faith. Faith only comes if you give something to your worshippers they cannot find anywhere else. The Chained God was cruel, but not arbitrary, and he could show restraint while Etherkai was wanton and indulged his whims for violence and blood.

The Chained God gained followers quickly, trading power for worship and obedience. Soon, he asked them to trust in him. He would lend them his power, and they would use it to depose the fake god, offering as tribute Etherkai’s body and mind to the Chained God for eternal torture. When Etherkai next came for his tribute, he found rebellion instead and the would-be god’s people wrapped him in chains of bewitched metal, dragging him to the temple of their new lord. That day, Etherkai’s torture at the hands of The Chained God began. It did not end for more than a hundred years and the dragon’s screams filled an area of underearth soon called the Howling Caves.

It is unclear how Etherkai escaped, but the effects of his torture are obvious: countless wounds, burns that refuse to heal and a hyena-like cackle that is an audible image of his broken mind. He roams the underground realms, his quest for revenge against The Chained God and his former worshippers holding his broken mind and broken body together and moving them to action. When that ambition is frustrated, he bides his time by sharing his pain and insanity with any unfortunates who cross his path. Those who know of Etherkai speak of a mad dragon whose warped psychic powers tap into a realm of distorted dreams. Living on the verge of death and completely insane, he is the Nightmare Dragon. When he awakens, his cackle echoes through the underground realms.


Etherkai PDF

Death by a Thousand Posts

Death by a Thousand Posts

Here is a roleplaying game that you can play in a short period of time. In this fictional world you take the role of someone who is trying to win an argument on an internet forum of some sort. To play, you’ll need some four-sided, six-sided, and eight-sided dice, some sort of tokens, and some index cards. Like most games you’ll find on the blog, it’s something to playtest and try out.  If you try it out or have questions, contact us.


Depends on the players! Decide if your character wants to derail the thread, or make a good , long thread. If conflicted, split the group into posters and trolls, and go at it.

d4s are Fact dice. Use these to drive your point home, and to make truly convincing arguments. Facts are vulnerable to debating tricks and flaming, but when you get enough of them together, it becomes difficult to argue against you.
d6s are Debate dice. Debate dice allow you to control the structure of an argument. Debate dice aren’t as solid as fact dice, but they can allow you to muscle over basic facts, and sometimes redirect rage dice.
d8s are Rage dice. You can’t win an argument with Rage dice, but you can make everyone regret they were in an argument with you.

Making characters

Making a character is simple. Each player takes an index card and folds it in half. Write your character’s name on one side, and your online handle on the other side. put the card in front of you so that your online handle faces the other players.

Each player gets 1 each of Fact, Debate, and Rage dice (a d4, a d6 and a d8). In addition, each character can pick two dice of any type. This could be two extra fact, or two debate, or 1 debate and 1 rage. Once you pick your dice, place them behind your handle.

Last, give each player some index cards and a writing utensil of some sort.

Starting the Game

To start a game, someone has to start a thread. First see who has a thread idea. If only one person has a thread idea, just let her create the thread. If more than one person has an idea, have each player roll a debate die. the highest roll makes the thread and the first post.

Making posts

When you make the first post on a thread, are making one of three basic thread types:

Education: “I am going to teach you something about X.” Write a short sentence or phrase about some topic on your index card. At the bottom write your handle, the “Fact”, then roll yourfact dice. total up your ones, and put the sum after “Fact”.

Start a Debate: “What do people think about this?” Write a short sentence or phrase about some topic on your index card. At the bottom write your handle, then write “Debate”, then roll your debate dice. Total your ones and put the sum after “Debate”. For every 6 you roll, choose someone to get an extra rage die.

Tear Something Down: “I hate this thing!” Write a short sentence or phrase about something you can’t stand. At the bottom write your handle, then write “Rage!”. Write the number of your highest die after it.

Responding to the first post.

The rest of the game is about responding to posts. To respond to a post:

Roll your dice. You’ll use these dice to see what response you can give. All posts must respond to another post, even if the post is a non-sequitir.

Pick one type of die that can make a valid post with it. You can attack, support or derail another post. All posts should be numbered in the order they appear in the thread.

When you attack a post, put a mark on the attacked post, then write a short sentence detaliing how you attacked the point. If a post has three marks on it, it is discredited and the creator of the post immediately loses a die. Discredited posts cannot be attacked, derailed or supported. On your post, write the die type used. Your post strength is equal to half your highest die. write that number next to the die type.

When you support a post, you write a supporting statement and add the number of ones from the dice you use to the strength of the supported post. For every 1 & 2 you roll, add 1 to the strength of the supported post. Your post strength is equal to half your highest die. write that number next to the die type.

When you derail a post, take some detail (imagined or otherwise) from the post you are derailing
and then change the topic. Split the strength of the post in half, rounding down. Your post strength and the derailed post strength are equal to the halved value.

No post can have a strength higher than 8.

Using dice.

To make one of the post types, you must choose on die type from what you rolled, and exceed the post strength of the post you wish to attack, support, or derail.

If you use fact dice, you can add the two highest dice you rolled together for a total. For an attack, halve this value. For derailment, use the highest and lowest die. Any 4 you use with fact dice is removed.

If you use a debate die, only use one die. Any debate die that rolls a 6 is removed, and you can give someone else a rage die or a fact die. In a derailment, double your debate die (a roll of 6 is still removed)

If you use a rage die, use only 1 die. You can only support Rage posts. If supporting a post would raise its strength higher than 8, instead give a rage dice to a poster of your choosing. Halve your rage die when trying to derail. If you use a rage die of 8, give it to another player.

If you can’t make any valid posts, remove one die of your choice from your total, and change a die from one type to another if you wish.

Running out of dice.

When you have no dice, you are out of the thread.

Ending the game

The game ends after twenty posts are reached (“good thread!”), when only rage dice remain between all posters (“flamewar”), or when all posters run out of dice (“boring thread”).

Paper, Rock, Dice

Paper, Rock, Dice

I love fighting games, and I know a lot of other people do too.

Or, I know a lot of people want to love fighting games.  But most people don’t want to train for hours and hours just to do the basic moves and then practice hours more just to approach competence.  To most hardcores, the execution of these arcane patterns is the core of fighting game activity.

I’m not going to argue against skill-building, because I enjoy that. But I think that combos and move execution are just one part of the genre, while the greater aspect remains free of the burden of the purely physical: the art of reading.

Not reading books, but reading your opponent.  What does your opponent what to do? How are you going to counter it?  How can you train your opponent to react in the way that you want?  Once you start reading your opponent, you can play psychological tricks on him to force him into your traps.  You want him reacting to what you do, attempting to predict your moves but always one or two steps behind you.

The beauty of it is that your foe is doing the same thing to you at the same time.

At the heart of any fighting game is  you’ll find a war of psychology and information, both exposed and hidden. At the core of every good fighting game you’ll find layered game of paper, rock, scissors:

Consider a strictly equal game of RPS with clear payoffs. We’ll play 10 rounds of the game, with a $1 bet on each round. Which move should you choose? It makes absolutely no difference whether you choose rock, paper, or scissors. You’ll be playing a pure guess. Since your move will be a pure guess, I can’t incorporate your expected move into my strategy, partly because I have no basis to expect you to play one move or another, and partly because I really can’t have any strategy to begin with.

Now consider the same game of RPS with unequal (but clearly defined) payoffs. If you win with rock, you win $10. If you win with scissors, you win $3. If you win with paper, you win $1. Which move do you play? You clearly want to play rock, since it has the highest payoff. I know you want to play rock. You know I know you know, and so on. Playing rock is such an obvious thing to do, you must realize I’ll counter it ever time. But I can’t counter it (with paper) EVERY time, since then you could play scissors at will for a free $3. In fact, playing scissors is pretty darn sneaky. It counters paper–the weakest move. Why would you expect me to do the weakest move? Are you expecting me to play paper just to counter your powerful rock? Why wouldn’t I just play rock myself and risk the tie? You’re expecting me to be sneaky by playing paper, and you’re being doubly sneaky by countering with scissors. What you don’t realize is that I was triply sneaky and I played the original obvious move of rock to beat you.

Sirlin is smart about this stuff. As he lays it out, once you know my outcomes/payoffs, and once I know that you know, our lives become interesting.  In real time we are engaging in a dance, jockeying for position to control space and see who will truly punish who with a good counter. On the tabletop we can see this at play with Yomi or Brawl.  Heck, one can make a pretty good argument that Magic the Gathering exhibits these same properties.

My entry into this territory is humble but promising. It’s called Dicefighter and how it was born was like this:  I was going over a hack for Don’t Rest Your Head (I will tell you more about that later), and the elegance of the dice pool system was just gnawing away at my brain.  At the same time I’d been thinking about fighting game strategy and how it is often obscured by execution elements of the genre.

The first draft was crafted up in a few minutes, and we’ve had a few playtests since.  We are always looking for more playtesters! The game is simple and fast, but not simplistic;  there are strategies to work out, and countering your opponent correctly is one of the core activities.  If you guess correctly while forcing your opponent into an error, you can score some pretty devastating hits.  All you need are some six-sided dice (multiple colors is preferred but it is manageable without) and a buddy!  Oh, you’ll also need the PDF. With a character like Brogue:

To be honest, nobody knows this guy’s real name.  How are often are you going to ask a man with hands bigger than your head “what’s your name?”  This 7 foot irish wrestler with the impenetrable brogue just goes with the nickname.  He seems amiable enough, but that only means he smiles and he suplexes a competitor into the dirt, or laughs heartily when he piledrives you.  But that’s the game sometimes, isn’t it? You get thrown headfirst on the pavement and a smiling red-headed giant is saying things you can’t understand.

why wouldn’t you want to try this game?

Would love to hear your thoughts if you play this.