Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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#TTRPGMaker Day 8 and 9: Routine and Process

These are very similar questions. My freelancing routine isn’t much of a routine. As a general rule, though, on a week night, after dinner I settle into my messy desk with a big glass of water and maybe some scotch, fire up the laptop, and look at what needs to be done. Then I write.

Process-wise, I start in a notebook where I usually write things by hand. This is more a convenience feature than a preference– I always have a notebook with me, and it’s very fast for me to write on it, compared to how slow it is for me to fight with Autocorrect on my phone. (Seriously, the lack of a keyboard on phones is the #1 thing keeping from using it as my main computer.)

From the notebook, I start an outline in MS Word or Google docs, depending on where I intend to share the work. Usually I go with Word, because it’s extremely familiar to me.

I work from an outline. I’m meticulous about outlining and using Word’s comments and tracking features to annotate what needs to be done or what needs to change in a document. That said, I still miss a lot of little things when I’m working.

From there, I do three or four readthroughs, particularly of things that players will see during a playtest. I add a version number to the footer, as well as the date. Print off a copy and take it to its first playtest, where I use the same notebook as before to make notes about feedback and write down my playtesters’ names. When that playtest is over, I take my notes back to the Word document and transfer them into the document in some way that’s meaningful. From this point on, every round of playtesting and revision increments the version number by .1, until there’s a major rules revision. Threadbare was version 3.5 when it finally went to press, and the post-press errata technically makes it 3.6.

There’s another round of writing and outlining and more writing. Usually there’s another round of playtesting as well. Then it goes to the beta playtester circle on Google+ for people to read and playtest and send their feedback.

What follows is more playtesting, unless there’s a deadline. For a new game, I try to take it to at least one convention for playtesting, and will usually run at least one online game to reach a wider audience as well.

At some point, it’s time to look into releasing the game. I either lay some money down for artwork, submit the game to a publisher or contest, or post it without artwork to the blog.

Gamex 2016 (Strategicon): What we played!

This weekend, I went to Strategicon, as I do two or three times a year. Memorial Day weekend is Gamex, and it’s usually well-attended and of course a lot of fun.

brehahaFriday night, I’d pre-registered for a game called Brew Ha Ha from UNCORKED Games! It has 24 left in its Kickstarter right now, and I highly recommend it!

The premise of the game is like Apples to Apples, Funemployed, or Cards Against Humanity, with a judge and each player submitting cards to tickle the judge’s funny bone. In Brew Ha Ha, however, each round starts with a 1-ounce beer tasting, and you pick cards that describe the beer. The judge awards a point to the “most accurate” description, and one point to their personal favorite, which may or may not be accurate, or maybe just funny.

In the course of a few rounds, we drank about the equivalent of a single beer, but had a lot of fun doing so! Really fun game, and one of the few “drinking games” where the point isn’t to do irreparable liver damage!

Saturday was a good day for kicking around, going to the vendor hall, and catching up with friends. I ran Threadbare at 2 and 8 PM, so I didn’t want to get too overtaxed beforehand. My 2 PM game was in the “family hall,” which was poorly marked, but consisted of a set of tables in the hallway. When only adults showed up to play, we moved over to an empty table in one of the gaming rooms. I ran the first run-through of “Flight of the Bumblebee,” a new adventure where you’re a scouting group for your community. For the 8 PM game, I had 7 players, and was reminded that 7 is just a bit too many for PbtA games (I never learn!)

Sunday morning was beach time, which was lovely! I took my kite out and we had a  great time flying it at Venice Beach. Lots of fun, lots of people working out (I guess this was the area known for lots of gyms and such!)

Sunday afternoon I played in Dave K’s new game, Bedlam Hall. It’s a (PbtA) cross between Downton Abbey and Edward Gorey. Wonderfully dreadful, and I can’t wait to see how he continues to develop it. I think it’ll be a very fun game once he’s ready to release it.

In the evening, I played in Toby’s game Jinkies! Also PbtA, Jinkies is a Scooby-Doo inspired adventure where you play the Scooby gang, solving a mystery and having adventures on the way. I playtested a new playbook that didn’t really fit in with the other archetypes. He’ll be revisiting that playbook as he continues to develop it.

Monday morning, we busted out Yellowstone, an Avalon Hill game about the national park. It’s basically Chinese Checkers with predators, and although we had fun, this was definitely our “bad game for the con” experience. It didn’t help that this was the game I personally brought to the con, and which I now own. Ah, well. It was fun anyway, and I got to play a herd of elk!

While I was out of town, Threadbare hit $9K in funding, and continues to go well. The Kickstarter has 8 days left, and I’m excited and hope it hits its next two stretch goals before it finishes up!

Threadbare is LIVE! (And some behind-the-scenes marketing talk)

As of last Wednesday, Threadbare is LIVE on Kickstarter!

If you don’t know, Threadbare is my role-playing game about broken toys in a broken world. It has a stitchpunk/maker aesthetic, but focuses on creating and building, rather than tearing things apart.

I’ve written about it quite a bit here in the blog, and I’m very excited that the game is finally live and funding.

But let me chat a little bit about one of the things I’ve done to promote my Kickstarter. Aside from telling everyone I know, and being a little shameless about podcasts and interviews, of course.

As you might or might not know, many years ago, I wrote a fantasy world-building guide, and then later I wrote a 30-day guide for world-building. For several years, I’ve had an “ad box” on those pages, quietly drawing revenue from Project Wonderful, which is an ad-share service largely focused on the webcomic and geek markets. It doesn’t do popups, and  I used it to promote Handknit Heroes a bit, but found that it was just a nice trickle of revenue that I left in my Project Wonderful account. Over the years, that has accumulated to a small sum in my account, money which I didn’t have to actually put into the account.

On Sunday, I posted an ad for Threadbare on the site and started spending what’s in my account. I’ve already had one sale due to the ads, which have been shown over 130,000 times (click through rate isn’t great, though). I was able to target them somewhat towards games/gaming, crafting, and writing sites. Most importantly, though, this didn’t cost me anything right now, when I’m trying to promote this Kickstarter without breaking the bank.

RPG Blog Carnival: Weather Roundup!

April Showers was the theme for this month’s RPG Blog Carnival, and I was very honored to host it!

Tables and Game Aids

Articles and Theorycraft

For my part, April ended up getting away from me thanks to a lot of unexpected travel. However, I had a marvelous moment this week running a one-shot for my niece and her friends in Missouri. We were playing my game Threadbare (coming soon on Kickstarter!), and her friends kept throwing around some great ideas for adventures and adversaries and obstacles. At one point, her friend Y suggested that we could have a big scary weather event, “like a toynado.” She might have meant tornado, but with Threadbare being all about toys… well, just look for a storm-chaser adventure starter in the next few months!

Thoughts on Being a Woman and Trying to Make Games

UPDATE (Nov 9, 2014): I’ve written a follow-up post with a bunch of helpful resources that came out of the discussion prompted by this post! Please check those out! 

I’m going to write about some of the obstacles I see as a writer and creator of games. These are in no way representative of the obstacles other people have experienced, and I acknowledge that my obstacles are unique to me, as a middle-aged, well-educated white woman from the middle class. These aren’t even obstacles that I have necessarily faced, so much as ones I can see even through my own experience’s filter.

This post is spurred by something a trollish person said a couple of weeks ago in a Google+ thread about gatekeepers and exclusion in gaming. The thread started with a thinly-veiled metaphor about exclusion in geek culture, but it expanded in the comments. Most telling about the comments was that, for the first several hours at least, they were all from men. Probably white men, but I don’t know– this is the Internet.

But back to the trollish. He remarked that it was very easy to make games, if you want to have games that reflect you or your experience, or just games that don’t limit women to virgin/whore/victim roles.

“All you have to do is have something to write in. You can make a game for less than $1000.”

This speaks of a privilege that is so invisible to the speaker, it astounds me. Anyone wondering about why this statement blows my mind should please go read Virginia Woolf’s excellent work, A Room of One’s Own, which is entirely about women not having a safe space to write. In the broader sense, it’s about anyone who lacks a space to write due to lack of privilege, but Woolf was a feminist of her time, so it’s written from the perspective of women’s issues (much like this post).

But anyway. Here are some of the obstacles to making games that I see, as a woman who is starting to make games. This is limited to tabletop games, and I use the phrase “game creator” here because “game designer” is not always what a game creator does– if you write an adventure for a pre-existing system, you aren’t really designing that game, though you are creating, and share many of the same obstacles as a designer.

Video games cost much more money and have even more obstacles, including “you will get death/rape threats just for daring to exist.” I’m not going to address those, since they don’t happen as much or as visibly in tabletop gaming. Yet.

Continue reading Thoughts on Being a Woman and Trying to Make Games

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