Two New PDFs

The last couple of nights I’ve been busy with non-essential writing. [Sorry. I happens sometimes.] Inspiration hits and I don’t have a lot of willpower. I’ve made two new PDFs that are system neutral.

One is another addition to the Alphabet Soup line of pdfs that includes Lexicons and 1d100 charts. This one is about guilds, providing political fodder for fantasy campaigns. Heck. A little work and these could be corporations in a cyberpunk game.


The other one is a new line of PDFs that I’m developing — essentially fantasy worlds on one page. The first was written by Chrystal Andros about a world of decadent monarch who plunder their own family’s wealth. There will definitely be more of these in the series.


Love and Sex and All That Gooey Crap in Games

Traditional roleplaying games are about adventure. And adventure is a key ingredient for understanding why so many gamers balk at the idea of playing something ‘different.’ I could talk/write for hours about gamers who say, “that game is weird” when they mean, “That game is not about an adventure. What do I do in it?” In fact, many people keep calling their products roleplaying games, even when they aren’t because the phrase roleplaying game is so indelibly linked to adventure gaming.

What do you do in D&D? Go on quests to find treasure.

What do you do in Traveler? Go to outer space and hunt down bad guys and treasure.

What do you do in Deadlands? KIll outlaws and zombies and zombie outlaws and take their ghost rock (treasure).

What do you do in Shadowrun? I have no idea. Pretend it’s not D&D with guns?

All snark aside, our expectations of what we’re going to do in a game suggests that if a game is outside the comfort zone of adventure, killing werewolves with AKs, or exploring unknown worlds, it becomes hard to understand “what will I be doing in this game?”

• • •

For whatever reason — and I don’t have a good answer here, perhaps maladroit teens with social anxiety — adventure games are about people with no past, no human relationships, and no connection to anything other than the present. Save the prince? We better do it now. Sneak passed the guards? We don’t have time to do anything but kill him and get inside.

Just once I’d like to see the PCs investigate who the guard is, follow him home, and then have a private conversation with him there about how much it’ll cost to sneak into the tower at night. Or even better, dig up some dirt on him or leverage a favor.

• • •

If I wrote the back text of a game book that reads:

“Welcome to the Lands of Arnas. The World has been broken. A cataclysm has befallen the land and the people suffer. Wild beasts roam the earth. The sun has turned black. An ancient evil has awoken. The end times are now.”

There would be no question in your mind what you’d be doing in the game, despite the fact that the game doesn’t say, you’re adventurers trying to heal the land. But what if you bought it, got it home, and realized it was the setting for a love story? Or a human drama piece about barons and warlords vying for power? What if I told you the game was about five children with the power to unmake creation, who haven’t been born yet? Or the gods would grant the world a reprieve if the PCs could only decide which of them should die?

All of a sudden, you’re confused about what you’ve just bought into. It’s not about overland travel, riddles, treasure, and goblin tactics? What is this game?

None of these questions are wrong, by the way. But there’s a convenient perspective that roleplaying games are adventure games, because a 40-year pedigree of game design has found one element of dungeons and dragons to riff on… killing people and taking their stuff — you know this meme as murder hobos.


There are a dozen ways to interprets what is going on in this picture (as it relates to games).

Now. There’s nothing wrong with playing games about killing stuff. In fact, I like those kinds of games, too. But I like lots of games. And I want the things I do to matter. Why can’t I save the village and then fall for someone in the village I just saved? Or maybe fall for someone in the village, which is my impetus for saving the village in the first place. What if I’m from that village and I know everyone there. Of course I’m vested in saving it now.

Which brings us to games about human relationships. Adventure games rarely get passed the “how do you know each other?” question to express ideas beyond, “we all like gold.” But modern games are growing more complex than that. How people are related to one another is a fundamental question to nearly every non-traditional game. Fiasco spends 90 minutes before the game starts answering this question.

[Protocol does it in 10 minutes. Plug.]

Characters can love one another in games. We can develop stronger bonds and assume a past between characters with a simple 5-10 minute chat before the game starts, as we build the foundation of the story. I’ve run entire sessions of Vampire and Blue Planet that were just about the back story. I once ran a Vampire campaign and the first six sessions, the characters were still human and hadn’t turned yet.

And unlike traditional games where we worry about “Where are we camping tonight?” and a 1000 other moments of minutia, characters can have romantic relationships without ever exploring the awkwardness of describing their sexual congress. We just assume it’s something that happens.

Which bring us to another strange part of gaming: Love. Now. I won’t get into a debate about love just being chemicals in the brain trying to tie us into secure relationships that are beneficial biologically and that romantic love is just a made up thing. The fact is, 99% of humans understand that love is something they can’t control and it’s a vital part of the human condition.


We dedicate almost all of our energy to attracting people to us. We want them to smell our hair, or notice our bodies, or our eyes, or our talents. Or whatever. Even when love isn’t sexual, it’s still a base human desire to be wanted and needed. And yet, we never explore it in games. We build this realistic worlds, argue about halfling movement rates, debate whether or not dwarven women have beards, list every f**king item in our backpacks, and build feat trees for our characters so we’ll know what we can do at level 9.

But talk about love during the game?


And it makes no sense. Now. I know most of my gamer friends are hairy men with bad breath and the last thing I want to do is roleplay a scene with them about lizardfolk copulation, but it’s kind of stupid that we can’t.

Or can we?

I’ll do and say a lot of things at the game table with people I trust that I would never publish. Look over my games. They are all about human drama, but not a single one is about sex. Unless you make it about that. For all my posturing in this post, I don’t think roleplaying games should be about sex. Call it my puritanical upbringing, but there’s a division between everything else we do in our lives… and sex.

Which is so hypocritical, I know.

We can encourage players to take on the roles of other genders (including TG characters in the latest editions of some games), and yet we can’t get to this place where gender even matters, because the games we play about everything but relationships. And I’m not saying you game like this, but find a page in any mainstream RPG that addresses human relationships on a deeper level than, “Why are you together?” and I’ll send you a free PDF about robots who hate each other.

It’s easy to say, “Well roleplaying games aren’t supposed to be that realistic.” And to you I say, “What are you doing reading a post about love and sex in roleplaying games if that’s your point of view?” Some gamers can’t play a female character because it’s “too weird,” but playing a dwarf from an alien culture and physiology is just fine?!? It’s no wonder we discount the value of human emotion and relationships in roleplaying games, we don’t know what being human is.

Check out Walking Dead Season 1 and 2 by TellTale games for more examples of real human relationships in games.

As always, my endings are awkward.

What He Posts Next Will Leave You Speechless

It’s been a strange month. But who cares about that? Let’s get into it…

I hope by now that people have a sense that I am no-nonsense and straight-forward. My writing style is concise, emulating my lack of patience for noise. People taking too long to say what they mean and obfuscating their true intentions behind pandering marketing and ‘perfect-timing’ posts is the worst. In fact, anything disingenuous irks me.

But the past two years of game designer have been an education in just how obvious the noise in marketing is more important than the product. Or at least, more important than I would like it to be.

Recently, I had a conversation of what it’s going to take for Post World Games to start being successful (that’s right kids, I really don’t make a passable living at the moment). I got a lot of amazing advice. Really. I’m not being sarcastic or anything. I listened. I fought it all. But I listened.

Over the past month, I really haven’t wanted to work. I’ve completed over 60 projects this year, so I’m due a break. But it’s more than that. The work continues and I love what I do. But I’m tired of the fight to “get more sales.” This isn’t the 1950s and I can’t just be a successful author without self-promotion.

But. I hate self-promotion. I hate it so much, I have probably mentioned it about 200 times in the last two years.

I could go on about it, but I won’t.

Asking someone to do something they don’t like or aren’t good at won’t net good results.

And generating ‘community interest’ in a disingenuous way doesn’t mean you’re going to be making good games.

I write what I want. And when I want to. It’s a horrible business model, but it’s honest. I’m not working on a zombie game because zombies are hip. I’m working on a zombie game because Anthony and I stumbled upon a genius idea that I’m sure fans will hate. That’s an example. I’m not going to digress about zombies.

So. As the end of 2014 approaches, I continue to work on games, plan my kickstarters, and look toward a different philosophy in 2015. More posts. Less games. More community, I guess. But in a way that I am comfortable doing.

Which brings me to the present. There are about 50 to 200 people who are just amazing supporters of my work. The latest kickstarter made 2750 in its first day. Great for a company of my size. But apparently, it could have done more. Apparently, if I was on google+ and and all these groups all over the net, community-building I would be doing better. I would have had a 10k day or something. I see other games on kickstarter generating a lot of buzz and I wonder if the quality ever matches the funding results. I don’t back them, so I don’t know.

I still believe in the artistry end of what we do. I don’t make Apocalypse World hacks because AW is popular. I make what I think is a good marriage of style and substance; function and form. So. I want to keep making good stuff. I don’t want to spend 6 hours a day talking about what I’m making.

An aside:

Yesterday was a slow day on the new Kickstater. After a 2750 dollar day, I saw $1 in backing on day 2. That’s a strange slowing down on backers. So instead of racing around making myself crazy, I used the day to finish up two of the new Protocol Games. I’m always going to focus on making better games for everyone. That’s something you can expect. If you know a better, smarter path to help me build more ‘community’ around the Protocol system — and I’m convinced it should be as popular as Fiasco — I’m all ears. I know there are dozens and dozens of designers in the same boat I am in — working hard and wondering why the results aren’t there. None of them put out 60 products this year (instead sarcastic grin), but we all share the same commonality of getting anyone to notice what we are doing.

Anyway. Before this becomes a soapbox/pity party, I should sign off. Once again, I need to thank all the people who are supporting my efforts. My inbox is always open to chatting about games. Also, there’s a comment box below. Use it.

Protocol Games Series, Kickstarter (Redux)

Company: Post World Games
Contact: jim pinto
The 2015 Release of Bastille Day

Post World Games has announced 15 new games in the Protocol Game series, all with a new a cleaner new look, streamlined rules, more examples of play, and advice to help even the most novice player. This new series is paired with a new Kickstarter, launching November 17th. The kickstarter includes stretch goals for more games in the series, exclusive rewards, a special edition deck of cards, and guest writers.

The Protocol Game series is a ground-breaking look at story roleplaying games. Taking the scene-framing style and making it approachable and adaptable for all players, the game ensures that everyone gets equal say in the game, regardless of skill level or confidence. And the range of over 30 games in the present catalog means there something for everyone.

And they’re only $4 each and cheaper by the dozen.

The original series of Protocols are available through and The new kickstarter launches mid-November. In the mean-time, here’s a preview link to the project.

Bastille Day, Dramatic Game Engine, Protocol, More Toolcards, The Carcass, Souljar Games, What’s Next?

As we near the end of the year, I am absolutely stunned by the volume of work I produced this year, and still didn’t hit most of the goals. I wanted to have my Sci Fi game out this year (also using the Dramatic Game Engine), as well as start the teasing for a game called Banesidhe (which is about two years in the making — on and off). And now I’m announcing more games, while I still have 11 Toolcards decks to do.


And. To top it all off, I am running another Protocol Kickstarter of 15-25 more games before the end of this month.

You will all get the memo.

But that’s not all, I have two more Carcass expansions planned and I am still a partner in Souljar Games, which is taking more and more of my time. Care to feel my heart rate?

So. Here is my attempt to walk you through what is coming next and which order you can expect them.

The Protocol Kickstarter is next. There’s a preview link here: It launches on November 18 or 19.

While that’s going on, I’ll be designing and finishing some of the Toolcards decks from the previous KS, writing on Bastille Day, playtesting the Dramatic Game Engine some more, and revealing some updates of what we’re doing with it. Bastille Day will be an early 2015 promotion, with release in the middle of the year. Anthony Moro and I are working on it together, so if it’s late, it’s because the rules are late (me). I hope to have weekly updates about our progress on Bastille Day.

Finally, in between all that I want to finish the Carcass companion book — An Abattoir of Flies, which adds a lot of information that probably should have been in the core book. I know. I know. But I wrote the game in two weeks. It was an experiment. And when it’s time to do a second edition, it will be a massive book filled with great ideas and advice.

The Carcass: Unearthed is already done and coming soon. It’s a collection of five pseudo-paranormal character classes. They can be played collectively or just peppered into your existing Carcass games.

Let’s see. I’m making two more board games for Souljar Games between now and GenCon, and there’s talk of another Cairn book (which I’ll be doing the graphics for) and maybe a deck of Cairn cards. I don’t feel comfortable making Souljar announcements, since we haven’t finalized everything yet. But I can tell you it’s keeping me busy.


Did I forget anything?

Death of Ulfstater is Live!


Death of Ulfstater is a story roleplaying game about the death of a Viking King and the actions of his vassals during the traditional week-long mourning. Players take on the roles of the vassals, using the week of mourning to promote their agendas and sully the reputations of the other vassals in a final effort to prove they are the most worthy of sitting on the throne.

As the game progresses, we not only learn what kind of vassals served under Ulfstater, but we also learn what kind of person Ulfstater was. In the end, Ulfstater will be set ablaze and the smoke will carry his soul to one of the four Norse afterlifes — Fólkvangr, Hel, Helgafjell, or Valhalla — and a new King (or Queen) will be crowned.

Death of Ulfstater is structured similarly to most GM-less, scene-framing games, with one clear exception — scenes are about only two participants trying to show-up one another in a zero-sum power grab. The other vassals can “dog-pile” onto a situation, trying to get a piece for themselves, but Valor and Drama points can be used at critical moments to focus the action and push people into or out of play.

Though the game comes with five pre-set characters, there are rules for making your own at the table during set-up. Key questions help ensure everyone has a role and everyone has “a place at the table.”

Taking turns, the vassals of Ulfstater each use one of their five stats (only once per game) to target another player and outdo them for Ulfstater’s throne. The target gains a valor point with each slight, making it more difficult to outnumber a weakened adversary. Dice are rolled and if the “attacker” wins, points change hands. Those not in the scene can influence play by giving away bonus dice to one of the participants. In a five-player game, this can be significant.

The game goes around the table 4 or 5 times (equal to the number of players), with a speech about Ulfstater after each round by the vassal who ends the round. Ulfstater’s stats can go up or down during play as a result, creating a meta-kingmaker effect.

In the end, all players have an equal number of turns and an equal number of uses of core abilities (Fate, Family, Magic, War, Wealth). The person with the highest total in two stats vital to Ulfstater’s reign wins the game and becomes the new king… though should Ulfstater have died a coward, it’s a throne no one will want.

Death of Ulfstater is now available at Drive Thru RPG

Protocol Kickstarter II

My next kickstarter is at the end of November and runs through December. It’s for the next 15-25 games in the Protocol Game Series.

It will include a new page format, rules advice, and cleaner typography. Each one will be its own individual book and if the KS does well-enough, all the old Protocols will be updated to the new format as well.

There is also an OMNIBUS option, will all the games in one massive book (or maybe cut into two books) and the option to buy all 60 PDFs.

I’m still building the kickstarter page, but any feedback or advice is appreciated. I also have guest writers this time around. If you know someone who would like to be considered as a stretch goal guest writer, please contact me privately.

The Carcass Campaign: Actual Play


For those unaware, The Carcass was a game I wrote, edited, playtested, and produced in two weeks. It’s 88 pages long and an experiment of my design limits. Now that I’ve had four months of perspective on it, there are things I would have done differently with it. Which is why I’m working on the companion pdf, as well as planning a full-bore edition in 2015.

All that said, I’m proud of what this game offers for less than $10.

Over the last four weeks, my friends and I have played in a campaign of The Carcass. Since most GMless games do not offer this kind of experience, it was interesting to the game go this long. We also explored some of the issues that come with a game lasting so many sessions. I had two characters die. As did Andy. We built about a dozen extra NPCs as the game went on and I found that certain elements of the game need to be refined and explained further. Too many players still don’t understand how to use drama points effectively, etc.

But none of the players have read the book, either. So, I accept my role in not explaining it perfectly.

Anyway. On to the actual play.

I’ll try to remember everything as best as I can.

The characters. Rose, the marker (scout). Jojo, the hatchet (thug). Horace, the curate (historian). Jacob, the drone (worker).

We also created four NPCs, two of whom were witches (though that term means something else in the game), one of whom was a drone, and another who was a soldier.

Our tribe was called the Chosen. We had a neutral relationship with the Soldiers of the Stone and we were at war with the Night Razors (and losing). We lived in caves and ate mostly mushrooms. One of the biggest problems facing the tribe was sterility. No one was getting pregnant and the youngest person in the tribe was 12. We would later learn that the other two tribes also had similar problems.

By the end of the first session, we had determined that it was the mushrooms (and perhaps a lack of sunlight) that caused the problem. So some of the women in our tribe had left to live above ground, seeking protection amongst the Soldiers of the Stone. All the while Jacob clung to the idea that the mushrooms were good for us and Horace jockeyed to be a passive-aggressive (kind of sniveling) leader of the Chosen.

splash1In the second session, Rose was kidnapped by the Night Razors, while half of the Chosen moved in with the Soldiers of the Stone. Their leader, Brutus, was about to have children with both Rose and Jojo (as well as an NPC). Let me say this, I’ve never really dealt with pregnancy in a game before. And certainly not in this manner. Having the calender advance in this manner that we would see the birth of these children was amazing.

During Rose’s capture, she revealed the secret of child-birth to the Night Razors — a fact that had been lost to them.

Horace gave up his leadership of the Chosen (leaving Jacob in charge of eight people) and began angling for a job as a sniveling sycophant (to Brutus). And when that failed, he tried to curry the favor of the Night Razors by kidnapping one of Jojo’s babies, which ultimately led to his death. Being dead in the Carcass does not stop you from playing and it allowed us to test a new rule of buying a new character with 10 drama points.

Of course I bought Brutus. And once I became Brutus, Jojo and Rose started plotting HIS death.

This happened near the end of session two. We thought we were nearing the end of the story, but clearly we needed a third session to explore the finale.

badass2_colorThe third session started slowly enough, but ramped up when the Soldiers of the Stone slaughtered the Night Razors, taking some of their numbers into our tribe and routing the others. Jacob and the Chosen were absorbed into the Soldiers of the Stone, without consideration, in some hegemonic move to cement relations and strength the tribe. This would be Brutus’ undoing, as he moved to secure the tribe’s future, people saw him as weak.

Brutus married Rose, thinking this would create tribe stability, but Rose was viewed by the tribe as disloyal and crazy. She had amassed a great deal of trepidation to reflect this. So the marriage wasn’t the success that Brutus thought it would be. He then arranged for his brother Axel (now played by Andy after Jacob’s death) to marry Jojo, which also didn’t produce the results he wanted. Jojo complained that ‘fertile’ people should be protected and treated better and when Brutus acquiesced to her demands, this made him look even weaker.

One of the NPCs, Kane, challenged Brutus’ authority and brutalized him in a fair fight. It was the first of many moves to humiliate the once powerful leader. When he regained his strength, Brutus fought Kane a second time and lost again, in an exact duplicate encounter.

At this point, Jojo and Axel began to plot Brutus’ demise. All the while, Rose wanted the same thing. Brutus was a bit of jerk personally, but he was doing everything he could for the tribe’s benefit. The players even realized this for a brief moment, but still followed through on their plans.

I want to point out as an aside, that Diana believed Jojo was a good person, but she never missed a chance to upset the apple cart and plot to overthrow any character who was in charge. She later complained about this aspect of the game, never realizing she was half of the equation of manipulative people capitulating against the authority. Personally, I have no problem with people trying to overthrow the leader. That’s part of the game and what I designed. But you can’t complain about selfish D&D characters and then choose Chaotic Neutral as your alignment.

orc gladiatorSession four opened with more hate for Brutus. By the fourth scene of the game, Brutus was dead, poisoned by his own wife. And within minutes of taking the throne, Rose was soundly beaten by Axel in combat. The game spiraled for a little bit, until Rose made a move to seek out the remaining Night Razors and have them attack the Soldiers of the Stone, ultimately teaching Axel a lesson for his actions.

The game ended with a massive battle that was the best to date. The combat system in The Carcass really works if you honor the spirit of it and try not to make it some other game. Here another’s place in the rules where the example is strong, but more player advice on what you’re doing would be helpful.

Again. Two weeks of writing.

In the end, Axel was killed by Rose and a half a dozen Night Razors. Jojo fought off some bad-ass Night Razors and protected her children, and half the tents in the Chosen tribe were burned to the ground. Rose later died from suicide after her baby came down with a fatal fever and she realized the cost of her ambitions. At least, that’s what I think the message was. With no one to oppose her, Jojo became leader of the Soldiers of the Stone.

But at what price?

My final analysis is that I will probably never tire of this game. Though I recognize my friends need a break from it, this game still is exactly what I wanted it to be, albeit it lacks about 20 pages of advice and examples.

What’s next?

I’m working on rules for actually being a sycophant, some powers you can level up to, some advanced uses for drama points and where they go in specific situations.

The Carcass is available at Drive Thru RPG.

You can find additional character classes on the site as well. Expect the companion book by the end of the year, which includes mutations, powers, and some new classes, as well as rules for a zombie future.

Artwork by Tamas Baranya.