Protocol Custom: Holy DIver

Posted: April 17, 2014 in Gaming


I’ve finished and released a new protocol game that was not part of the plan. And because I am behind on the last six games, I’ve decided this one is free for everyone. Though, like a tip jar, you are welcome to leave a few coins in my inbox.

Holy Diver is a story roleplaying game homage to Ronnie James Dio. With characters and events drawn directly from the lyrics of Ronnie James Dio songs (from Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and his self-titled work), the game is a strange trip through the golden lyrics of the metal god himself. Specifically, the game is about fantasy adventurers on a quest to the Silver Mountain, to see ‘the Witch’.

The adventurers may never come home.

Toolcards 2 (coming soon)

Posted: March 30, 2014 in Gaming

News coming soon. But I will be looking for ideas for decks. So. Put your thinking caps on.


(stripped right from the pages of the book)

Perhaps the worst thing to happen to fantasy gaming was elminating assassins and turning thieves into rogues. “The game” stopped being about callous murderers plundering tombs and searching dead bodies, and instead it became a visit to the ren faire. With hit points.

Man, I hate bards.

Guilds became places to get better equipment, learn new ways to gain +1 on attack rolls, and super-secret clubhouses to hang out in when poor choices made PCs fugitives.

(Why even bother?)

To complicate the evolution of this medium, the game was never meant to be used for urban fantasy gaming. Fantasy gaming contempories of the 70s were designed to be about warring miniatures moving 9”. The framework upon which every iteration is built has nothing to do with social interaction and spheres of influence. That’s all stuff great gamemasters have layered into their campaigns after killing module B2. But it’s not really useful when company after company is trying to sell substantive sourcebooks about the “orcs du jour.”

So a book like this either needs to do many things, which dilutes it, or one thing, which limits its usefulness.

It’s the curse of any writing project.

So. There’s a lot of logic behind why the guild is going through an identity crisis. For old school gamers looking for “roles,” the characters in this book have clearly-deliniated gimmicks that cannot be infringed upon. And for gamers looking to create a web of personalities to interact with, the recent changing of the guild’s operations by Annlynn gives gamemasters that flexibility.

To make matters worse, old and new school game mechanics share little in common. The modern character sheet now has 85 things to track where the old school sheet had two. And at the end of the day you’re still rolling a d20 to see if you “hit.” So why all the information?

(I don’t have an answer.)

Compounding the frustration of such an endeavor is the attempt to make characters who have rich backgrounds and complex problems, yet provide stat blocks that don’t solve things “with magic” and/or seem disproportionate from their theme.

Essentially, this was not an easy book. Yet, I want to do it again.

In the process of writing this, I’ve learned a lot about how modern game design is producing bad GMs. Like a modern cubicle farm, mediocrity and laziness has been disguised by systems that cover everything, and the PCs can argue for clemency in lieu of anything. I’m not sure that’s the kind of game I want to write for. Is that the kind of game you want to play?

I suspect the GM buying this book is better than average, so sometimes I catch myself holding someone’s hand when I know they don’t need it.

For that I’m sorry.

(Also, I’m sorry for the preachiness of my tone.)

(And all these parentheses.)

pars pro toto

Individuality is the mainstay of roleplaying games. Customization means no two fighters are alike. Teamwork is defined by the group achieving something in tandem, not necessary having a “team mentality.” So writing a book about so many criminals who all have selfish agendas, yet respect the code of the group is counter-intuitive to game play that rewards individual achievement (XP).

The word Solomon was carefully chosen. And in this context it means something different from lower to upper case. In one instance it is pars pro toto. In another instance it is totum pro parte. And if you’re still not convinced I’m a genius, read that part again.

This book may feel flimsy at times and uninspired at others. That is intentional. Not every player in the criminal game can be an all-star. But everyone has a pathos and everyone has a hubris. Every character succeeds or fails because of himself or herself. Think of this book as your toolbox to creating lasting and memorable urban campaigns.

Thanks for joining me on another book.

— jim pinto

Solomon Guild is available at drive thru rpg.

Game Storm 2014

Posted: March 14, 2014 in Gaming

Update on my convention schedule.

I will be at the Portland Area game convention, Game Storm, March 20 to 23.

Below is the list of events, but I’m sure to run some pick up games.

Thu 2PM

Fri 11AM
Protocol Game Series, Five Broken Swords

Fri 2PM
Dying Memoryes

Sat 11AM
Protocol Game Series, Zombieskin

Sun 2PM
Protocol Game Series, Eons

Protocol Games 20, Le Carnival

Posted: February 13, 2014 in Gaming


Le Carnival is a story roleplaying game about the human oddities (freaks) of a carnival during the Great Depression era. The Carnival travels the backroads of the Midwest farm belt and the Southern states, visiting towns far off the beaten trail. Characters are carnival freaks who hopelessly seek a degree of familiarity, clinging to the idea that somehow the Carnival is family. In fact, the “Brotherhood” of the Carnival is based only on who earns the most for the ringmaster, creating a twisted sense of meritocracy. The only true currency: fleecing the clueless rubes in the uneducated reaches of America.

“Dude it reads like a dream…. dont tinker its perfect.”
— Michael Reddick

Not to be confused with the amazing GMZero version, this new $3 short-hand edition of George’s Children is now available using the protocol game mechanic. If people like this, expect me to do it again.

Inspired Nostalgia : Room 51

Posted: January 28, 2014 in Gaming


I was 11 years old when I first played D&D. My buddy at school ran me through B3, the Palace of the Silver Princess during lunch. We didn’t have any dice or paper. He just read from the module. I was a fighter who got stuck in a web and had to burn my way out while fighting spiders. Then I met a woman in the dungeon who threw a dagger at something behind me and killed it. That’s really all I remember of my first game.

But he later ran me through B2 (the classic) and let me borrow it to read after. I still don’t know what any of the numbers meant in the encounters and tried running it myself for people, but I wasn’t very good at it.

But then something happened, I looked at Room 51 on the map and I wondered… “what’s this?” Checking the book, the description alluded to the idea of the dungeon going deeper and DMs could link it to another TSR book


Wait for it.

“Make something up yourself.”

Room 51 forever changed me.

Dungeons and Dragons was always fun for me as a kid. As little as I got to play of it, the hours I would spend making characters and reading the rules and examples… I cannot really express in words what those days did for me. It’s complicated and I certainly owe Dave and Gary a debt of thanks for that, even if their game never got as much play as I would have liked.

D&D would lead to other games, like the original Marvel Super Heroes, Twilight 2000, Chill, and GURPS. Eventually I would get to college and discover more great games, work in a game store, and then stumble into the gaming industry. I would go on to write on over 100 products, work on card games, board games, and even a miniatures game.

But I never forgot Room 51.

Room 51 would become my credo (almost). Trying to recapture that inspired advice to “break the rules.” I always found myself writing one extra page of GM advice. One more sidebar on how you can use this “variant.” One more sentence at the end to tie it all up as best as I could.

And if I were a better writer, Room 51 would be on everyone’s lips. All the time. Everyone would look for an inspired way to use something mundane and turn it inside out. People would remember that seminal moment in their gaming history to recapture lightning in a bottle in a way that nostalgia only can.

If I were a better writer, I’d find a stronger ending right about now.

15 Protocol Games All in One Place

Posted: January 27, 2014 in Gaming


Save $1 on each one by buying this bundle.

And game 16 in the series is now available here.



available on drive thru rpg

Coyote: Protocol Games 8

Posted: January 14, 2014 in Gaming

Coyote is a complex game. Especially for this series. It involves the kinds of realism that adventure gamers shy from. By default, it brings up questionable conversations of national identity and the rights of immigrants. It is a dark game.

I recently uncovered a map of immigration throughout Europe, that might be useful to people who want to play Coyote without doing the common Mexican-American border issues so prevalent in the United States. This game does not ask you to have a political agenda to play it. In fact, I think people who are against immigration may have a unique perspective on how to play Coyote. You can find the map on the link below.

Coyote available here.