I. Dear Reader,
I’ve been playing lots of new games lately and something I’ve really come to appreciate is when a game tells me how to start playing. Usually, this involves giving me a step-by-step breakdown of what the first session looks like. And in my experience, this is a place where a lot of specificity is a good thing. Because I will just ignore anything that I don’t want to do anyway.
Here is an example of what I mean from the wonderful Band of Blades:
This is four simple pages. They tell you how to start your first session, including how to prepare and where the page numbers are for things you’ll need. The latter is particularly essential. They also tell you how the first mission should look - which is a great example of the game itself being designed with the understanding that it needs an on-ramp. (A lot of games don’t seem to think the first session needs to be any differant than the others.)
Now that is quite a simple example. Here's a more elaborate one: In DIE, the “control panel” layout for the spread about the first session becomes a kind of organizing document. It’s like a contents page.
Not only is this spread laying out a laser-focused structure for you to follow, that session structure is deciding where information goes in the book to some extent. I mean, those pages aren’t sequential by accident, right? It’s a very interesting move.
I’ve run both Band of Blades and DIE and these pages were extremely useful to me. With DIE, I was wrestling with a PDF and I'm sure it would’ve been so much better with a physical book. This is the page where your bookmark goes!
And because examples comes in threes, here’s another one from The Between which has an extremely elaborate section on how to run your first session.
The Between’s session one procedure is 13 pages and 15 steps. This seems like a lot but let me assure you, it’s not at all. It is extremely thorough while still being easy to read and reference. It provides you with lots of boxed text to read aloud. Which you are obviously free to use or not. But in that first session, you will probably need a provide a two line introduction to every playbook so your players can pick. Other games would have those two lines in another section about playbooks or maybe on the playbooks themselves. This game does that too. You could collect that information during prep. This game has just done some of that prep for you. And I appreciate it.
Yours without any starting troubles,
II. Media of the Week
Another Yes Indie’d episode this week: I speak to Jahmal Brown aka Mad Jay Zero about the RPG hustle, meeting Mike Pondsmith, and running big ambitious open table games.
If you’re interested in DIE, the RPG based on the comic by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, the Cannibal Halfling crew have a partial Actual Play up. I’m playing this game right now so expect my thoughts/reactions/anguished wails soon.
As always, a humble reminder that this newsletter, alongside the Yes Indie’d Podcast, has turned into a kind of part-time job. So if you’d like to support it on patreon, I would really appreciate that!
III. Links of the Week
Articles and Essays
Jeremy Strandberg posted his “Playing PbtA Games” chapter from the forthcoming Stonetop book for free on his blog. It’s a great resource and introduction to the playstyle.
Though, as he observes, it’s much more applicable to games where everyone is on the same team, rather than Apocalypse World style PvP games.
Dicebreaker report on the allegations of mismanaged sexual harassment complaints at Wyrmwood, the gaming table company.
The classic Lone Wolf series of game books is getting a reprint and might actually get a proper ending.
Interesting opinion: TTRPGs should read like magazines.
If you’re aware of the Record of Lodoss War anime and its roots as a D&D campaign, you might enjoy the original 200 page written replay of that campaign.
Steve Dee calls for a death to agency: “And then one day I just saw it: I don’t ever want to have to decide what my character does, ever again.”
If that sounds interesting, his game The Score is on kickstarter.
Polygon list out some recommendations.
Unwinnable magazine and the Vintage RPG podcast host a Zine Month Roundtable.
The Awards are back. I talked positively about their write-ups and winning selections for the 2022 edition. If you’d like to get involved, they are now soliciting nominations and judges for next year.
Hit Point Press are providing micro-grants to marginalized game designers via a Luminary Grant. Around 100-500$ per project.
Big Bad Con are setting up 15 minute meetings for marginalized designers to speak with industry pros. You can apply here.
The Diana Jones Emerging Designer award has two weeks left for nomination - yourself or another designer. A free trip to Gen Con, among other things, are up for grabs.
IV. Small Ads
All links in the newsletter are completely based on my own interest. But to help support my work, this section contains sponsored links and advertisements. If you’d like your products to appear here, read the submission form.
Nothing this week!
This newsletter is currently sponsored by the Bundle of Holding.
There are two Advanced Fighting Fantasy bundles. One with the 2011 edition core rules and another full of supplements.
Quick bundle for War of the Burning Sky, a huge third-party campaign or D&D 5e.
Hello, dear readers. This newsletter is written by me, Thomas Manuel. If you’d like to support this newsletter, share it with a friend or buy one of my games from my itch store. If you’d like to say something to me, you can reply to this email or click below!
This is great! I backed “The Score” due to being interesting in looking at an example of the low agency gameplay. I have played “Raccoon Sky Pirates” which uses a similar mechanic.
The Rituals section of DIE is one of the my favorite things. That game sets you up for success in a way that few other games manage to do. I just finished a DIE campaign and it was one of the most fun games I've ever played and I think that is due in large part to the tools laid out in the Rituals section (as well as playing with some absolutely fantastic people).