EXFIL & The Legacy Challenge

EXFIL placed 3rd in the Sporktopia Legacy Challenge at The Game Crafter! The Judge (Chris from Sporktopia Games) gave some great feedback which you can read for yourself by downloading the pdf. He also left an incredible 5-star review on the game page for EXFIL.

This was an amazing experience for me as a game designer and I can see that my abilities are slowly improving. I’ll be working to make some of the suggested improvements, but overall, this was a huge success. Thanks to all my playtesters and supporters!

KidCON 2018

I organize and run a casual gameplay day for my friends and their kids. We call it KidCON. This was the 2nd year in a row and we just had a ton of fun. We kicked it off by playing a few board games (sparkle kitty, kung fu zoo, and star trek five-year mission) while we waited for the remainder of the crew to arrive.


The gist of the CON is that the adults are there to teach the younglings how to game. So, in that vein, we pulled out the big guns and run an epic session of D&D using the introductory adventures The Lost Mine of Phandelvor from the D&D Starter Set. It was awesome!


From there we broke up into several play areas and the games were on for the rest of the evening. Everyone had a good time. I think I can speak for most of the gamers to say that Roar-a-saurus was at the top of the list for some crazy fun.


The whole con was a smashing success. I’m looking forward to next year already. Here’s an album showing off some of the fun moments!

Solo RP with Mythic GM

I’ve always toyed around with the idea of solo roleplaying, and occasionally I even give it a go. I tend to be very narrative with my playstyle when it’s just me.

The other day I discovered a great add-on for Google Documents called Solo Roleplay Tools, and it has the Mythic Game Master Emulator tool as one of the options. Following is an actual play report using this addon.

In addition to the GM tool, I used the Fate Accelerated system for characters.

The colored text is results returned from the Mythic GM system based on questions I asked during my play session.

I lay manacled to a table with rusty chains about to be tortured by an insane wizard. Just your average day as a member of the Adventurer’s Guild.

“Are the keys to the manacles within reach?” (Unlikely vs 5: 35%) Roll 39: No
“Has his madness left him vulnerable?” (Somewhat Likely vs 5: 65%) Roll 88: No
What is in the room? Judgmentally Simple

Things were looking exceptionally bad. I could see no key or other implements within reach that might help me escape. While the crazy pointy-hat wasn’t really paying attention to me, it also didn’t appear that I could take advantage of him in any way that would help either. I looked frantically around the room as my options slowly dwindled away. Nothing. There was really almost nothing in this room except a small table that the Wizard was bent over.

Random Event: NPC action: Lie Information
“Does the wizard know he’s lying?” (Unlikely vs 5: 35%) Roll 67: No
Why does the wizard think I’m here? Delightfully Mysterious

The wizard turned toward me, slowly, menacing me with a raised, bushy eyebrow.

Rude Sportsman

“Well, well, well,” he said. “I know that you are a spy sent by that hack of a Sorcerer, Egeorht.”

“Do I know Egeorht?” (Very Unlikely vs 5: 25%) Roll 31: No

“Uh,” I replied.

“Oh, don’t deny it. I can see it plainly as I see the beard on your face. Admit it,” he said. “This will be much less painful if you do. Just tell me what you are here for?”

I said, “Listen, I don’t know anything about this Egeorht. But, it sounds like you don’t like him very much. How about we make a deal?”

“What kind of deal?” The insane man’s interest was piqued.

“I will find this Egeorht and steal something from him for you. Name it, and it will be done.” I was desperate, and not above deceiving my way out of torture.

The Wizard eyed me for a moment and I could see the wheels turning in his head as he considered the offer.

Deceive roll (me) 4dF ( , +, , +) = 2 [+1 Clever for a total of 3]
Deceive roll (wizard) 4dF (-, , , +) = 0 [+1 Clever for a total of 1]

He capitulated. “Very well. But know this. I have eyes everywhere. If this is some sort of trick I will find you and you will not escape the pains that I will visit upon you.”

“Yeah. Scary magical badness. I get it.” I replied.

His bushy eyebrow raised even higher, if possible, and he glared at me before unloosing my bonds.

Chaos factor: 6

*With magical help from the Insane Wizard I am able to track down Egeorht, another Insane Wizard ( of course ). I arrive at his castle, err.. dungeon.: (4) Scene Interrupted: New NPC: Return Masses*

From a small hilltop overlooking the ruins of a castle, I heard the rhythmic thump, thump of marching. Figures emerged from the treeline, marching along a well-worn path toward the ruins. Great! I timed my arrival perfectly with that of a returning army of …

Size: Very large | Health: 6 | Speed: -2 | Defense: 6 | Offense: 6
Animated | Health: 4 | Speed: -2 | Defense: 4 | Offense: 2
Intelligence: Mindless
Description: GM decision, Made of stone
Abilities: can see/sense in the dark; needs to be repaired to heal damage; does not need to eat, sleep, or breathe

Stone Golems
Good At (+2) Smashing things, Endurance, Bad At (-2) Thinking for themselves, Moving quickly
Aspects: Mindless Animated Stone Guardian, Sloth-like Speed

giant stone golems. Why? Why did they have to be golems? Magical terrors that need neither food nor sleep, two things that I was very short on. I had only one thing going for me, they weren’t so smart. In fact, they needed to be directed by very specific commands. At least I had that going for me.

Scene Aspects: Ancient Ruined Castle, Stone Golem Army

“Is there a way in?” (My Perception vs Its Fortifications: 80%) Roll 48: Yes

After an hour of scoping out the castle, I finally found what I was hoping for. On the East side of the ruins was an overlooked entrance, hidden beneath collapsed and delipidated columns. They might have been beautiful sculptures at some point in the past because I could see dull and worn out arms and faces in the wreckage. Beneath their long-dead gaze was a small opening. I’d have to remove a few large rocks to get through, but it could be done.

The Golems were patrolling at regular intervals, but whoever was in control of them didn’t appear overly concerned with anyone getting inside because they strolled by every 10 minutes. Plenty of time to work my way in. As the patrol moved by and out of site I sprinted down across the rolling grass and into the ruins of the castle. After a quick survey of the opening, I begin to pry away the rocks that would need to move in order for me to fit through.

“Is there a magical security measure that would alert someone to my approach?” (50/50 vs 6: 65%) Roll 41: Yes

Heavy footsteps crunched on rock before it dawned on me. “Idiot!” I thought. I was trying to break into the castle of a Wizard and it never even occurred to me that this place might be magically warded. Luckily the wards weren’t explosive or worse.

I tore into the rocks with haste trying to peel them away and scramble inside. Lucky for me, the Golems were not known for their speed.

Dig Quickly (me) 4dF ( , -, -, ) = -2. Spend a Fate Point to invoke Sloth-like Speed for a re-roll.
Re-roll 4dF (-, +, , ) = 0 – [+3 total with my +3 Quick]
Move Quickly 4dF (+, -, +, -) = 0 [-2 for slow movement for a total of -2]
Success with style.

I pulled out a loosened rock near and a small rockslide cascaded down from above it, removing some even large stones. The opening was easily large enough for me to slip into now and I dove in as the two stone guardians came around the fallen pillars and stopped outside the opening. I held my breath, pressed against the walls of the entrance. They didn’t investigate further than the pile of rocks that had fallen away from the entrance. Instead, one of them picked up a large boulder and tossed it into the opening, sealing me inside. If I was lucky, no one knew I was in here, if not … a typical day at the office.

*Stuck in a collapsed tunnel leading into the heart of a wizard’s ruined castle: (8) Scene Unaltered*

I slowly crawled my way deeper into the ruins. My body was covered in scrapes and bruises and at one point I had to squeeze out of my armor to get past a choke point that was nearly too thin. By the time I reached an entryway that had enough room for me to stand upright I was a bloody, sweaty mess.

I took stock of my surroundings and noted that I was in a small closet. There were the remains of a large rat, a wooden bucket that was mostly dust, and an old, bristleless broom. The wooden door leading out was not locked, but it sure was loud. I cringed as the decrepit thing cried out when I pushed it open. I stopped when I thought there was enough room for me to creep through and listened.

“Did anything hear me open the door?” (My Stealth vs Its Perception: 10%) Roll 88: Exceptional No

Surprisingly, I heard nothing. Just a deep silence that was even more creepy than if I’d heard a horde of stony feet descending upon my position. Something was very wrong and the hairs on my neck stood on end. I drew my swords as I slid out of the closet and into what appeared to be a very large aviary. The ceiling disappeared into darkness at what I guess to be about eighty feet. It was hard to know if it went higher because of how dark it was. At the center of the room, hanging from the ceiling, was a massive wooden log with huge scratch marks all over it. Much of the walls were collapsed onto the floor, yet that massive wooden perch remained suspended from the ceiling, but I’m not sure how.

I moved toward the perch, quite curious now. I was cautious and moved slowly, but the floor was slippery from the silty sand created by decaying stone. I was maybe twenty yards from the perch which hung about twenty-five feet off the floor. As I pondered the sort of creature that may have once used that perch I heard a soft, voice.

“Mmm, It’s been some time since I’ve had a guest.”

The voice was deep and bassy and filled with a hungry desire that made my skin crawl. My body felt much the same way and tried to jump out its skin but it couldn’t move at all. The icy tendrils of terror slithered over me and held me in place. I mustered all of my will and attempted to move once again, but I felt a strange resistance that pressed back upon me.

4dF (me) (+, , , -) = 0 [+1 Forceful for a total of 1]
4dF (It) (+, , +, -) = 1 [+5 Forceful for a total of 6]

A redoubling of fear pounced upon me, crushing my will back down into the pit of my stomach. From the corner of my eye, a large shadow skulked past and disappeared behind the wreckage of ceiling. While the thing spoke it moved around but had not yet revealed itself.

Its hissing voice spoke again, “What are thee here sidhe half-breed? What would cause thee to take such a foolish venture?”

The grip of fear loosened ever so slightly and I gasped, not aware that I was holding my breath. I tried to speak and coughed, found my voice and tried again. “I’ve been sent to fetch…

What was I sent to steal? Foolishly Creepy

…the skull of Khazara.” It was no use lying about it at this juncture. My only option was to play this out.

“Does the creature know about the skull?” (50/50 vs 6: 65%) Roll 29: Yes
What powers does the skull purport to contain?
New PC thread: Carry Danger
New PC character: Dispute Misfortune
New PC thread: Usurp Elements

“Ah, him.” The voice sounded disappointed. “It’s always about him. That man was a fool in so many ways. He never would listen to reason.”

“What?” I said.

The creature pondered a moment and then said, “It’s of little concern to you know, but generations ago there was strife in the kingdom. Not the petty strife you think is here now, but real, world-shaking strife.” He broke off with several hmms and hrmms, maybe trying to recall some of the long lost details.

“Go on,” I said, prompting him to continue and in no hurry to see where this would go when he was done reminiscing.

With a mutter he, at least it sounded like a he, continued. “Khazara was a great man who thought that he could solve the kingdom’s problems by usurping the throne and instituting a new regime. He believed that the King was too short-sighted. Too light-handed. Maybe he was right. Rebellion was rampant, there were massive earthquakes and floods everywhere which certainly didn’t help the situation. After years of research and gathering resources and trustworthy people he decided it was time and launched his plan into action. It was all supposed to start with a grand spell that he had been perfecting which was supposed to render the population more susceptible to sway. No one had ever tried anything of the sort before, it was quite impressive if I dare say. Foolish, but impressive. And, as you might expect, something went horribly wrong on the eve that he unleashed his new magic.

“Did he blow something up?” I asked.

“Worse,” the voice said. “He succeeded.”

“Huh?” I said.

“I don’t think you understand the terror that is the race of men, the entirety of them, open to the sway of a single mind.” The voice sighed deeply. “You see, one of the men in his retinue turned against him. On the eve if the spell’s debut it was not the mind of Khazara that the people heard and bowed to but that of the traitor Ysbelle. Oh Ysbelle,” he said the name with a wistful almost delighted lift in his voice. “Beautiful and charismatic. A voice like a siren, that one. But as evil as a horde of Furies from the Seven Depths.”

“You knew the Queen of the Seven?” I knew my history, and she was one bad mamba jamba.

“The very same,” he said. “You know the histories. She was very mad and her reign nearly destroyed everything.”

“What does this have to do with Khazara’s skull,” I asked.

“Oh, that,” he snorted. “It’s said that the possessor of the skull can recall the spell that he used that night. Silly superstition really and I don’t believe it for one minute. However…”

A massive form suddenly drew up out of the shadowy recesses of a large pillar and I nearly wet myself. The fear I had felt before was but a foretaste of the true terror that now stood before me. The creature’s body was nearly fifty feet long and made entirely of fleshless bone. Atop a long snake-like neck was a massive skull with giant fangs and where the eyes should have been were two points of blood red light that seemed as if they would bore through me and into my soul. A dracolich. The most feared combination of undead and dragonkind.

My vision swam at the edges as darkness tried to overtake me and I vomited because of the intense pressure that the beasts physical presence wrought upon me. I’d heard about dragonfear, but feeling it first hand was nothing short of the most terrifying, excruciating pain I’d ever felt.

The dragon laughed deeply and it leered at me and it sniffed at me, albeit not physically since it had no nose. I closed my eyes and felt the hot wetness of tears streaming down my cheeks and nose and tasted the saltiness in my mouth. My death was upon me.

“Since I cannot take the chance that the rumors are true, I cannot very well let you leave here with the skull,” the dragon said. “So, what am I to do.” He traced a claw along my belly drawing a line of blood and I screamed.

“No!” It was the only thing I could say because any other word was too long for me to pronounce. The creatures terrible will withdraw enough for me to speak.

I panted heavily and said, “Mad… wizard.” It was all I could get out.

“Does the dragon know about the mad wizard?” (Very Likely vs 6: 90%) Roll 31: Yes

The creatures head turned abruptly and he dropped down so that one red eye filled my vision. He gazed at me deeply. “What did you say?”

“Mad wizard,” I choked out once more. “He sent me here to get the skull. I’m just the first. There will be more coming.” It was the first thing that sprang to mind. It was only sort of a lie. Taking into account what I had just learned about there was a fair chance that I wasn’t the only one the wizard would send for the skull. Besides, I’ve already told you I’m not above lying to save my own tail.

4dF (me) (+, , +, -) = 1 [+3 quick for a total of +4]
4dF (dracolich) (-, +, , ) = 0 [+3 for careful]
Spend a fate point to invoke the Dragon’s Overly Cautious Nature for a total of 6 vs 3. Succeed with style.

The dracolich let out an audible snort, he lacked the physiology to actually snort, and then pulled back from me. “You could be right, I can’t have others coming here.” He was speaking to himself now, ignoring me entirely. I felt the terror subside even more as his focus drew away from me.

“I can help,” I said, trying to keep the desperation from my voice.

He looked down at me. “Perhaps,” he said.

Random Event: NPC positive: Usurp Nature

The creature suddenly let out a hiss and its massive head, which head been snaking back and forth, stopped. The thing groaned and sputtered as if it were fighting something. With a jolt, the beast screamed, “No!” Then it leaped into the air and with a piercing creak it unfurled its wings and pumped them once. I was buffeted by a windy vortex left in the dragon’s wake as it shot upward and disappeared into the blackness with a shriek.

The dragonfear fully left and I crumpled to the ground. My breath was coming ragged gasps and my mind was racing. What had I gotten myself into? On the one hand I had an insane wizard threatening to kill me and on the other hand, a dracolich who seemed undecided. I didn’t know much about magic, but I knew enough to believe that crazy wizard could actually find me and would actually kill me. Even crazier was that I was seriously considering siding with a dracolich the make sure that wizard didn’t get his hands on the skull of Khazara.

Know Thy Combat

You: You enter a dark cave, your torchlight slowly creeping across the floor to fall upon a pair of huge, green feet. As your light ascends the figure, you see a two-headed troll-

Roger Rogue: I crit-strike him for 500 damage.

You: You see the bloodied, crumpled remains of a troll on the floor…

We’ve all experienced the horror of a sweet critter getting taken down so fast we don’t even have time to get a single attack off. The players, of course, revel in this, and you try to roll with the punches and pretend like it’s no big deal. But, inside, you’re pretty damn bummed.

Balancing combat is a hard thing to do, and it’s not something you can do doing preparation alone. You need to be able to do it on-the-fly and be adaptable. A few things can help with this during your game prep:

  • Know thy system
  • Know thy enemies (PCs)
  • Know thy options

Know Thy System

Whether you are partial to D&D, Fate, Dungeon World, The one Ring, or what have you, you need to be intimately familiar with your system of choice. This knowledge will provide you information about your options when things go south. Think of it like playing a piano. You need to understand you have 88 keys and you can mix and match them without ever venturing outside them.

It’s important that you get comfortable with adding game elements during play that you had not originally intended to add. It is no more dishonest to add elements during the game than it would be to switch octaves during a song, especially if it makes things more interesting.

If the monster goes down too quickly, have more baddies rush in and attack. Make the enemy a straw-man who looked tougher than he really was and send a second one (although, the players may not like that one, hey, I’m not perfect here) or have the baddie be the pet of something even worse and make the players pay the piper later in the adventure. Revenge is a dish best served cold!

Know Thy Enemies

Enemies?! You can’t think of your players as the enemy! Yes. Yes, you can. Because in this moment of combat they are your enemy. If you treat them otherwise, then everyone loses out. You lose out when they wipe the floor with your baddies because you were afraid they might be too hard, and the players lose out on the opportunity to be pushed to the limit of their abilities and pull out a last minute victory that will go down in the annals of your gaming history.

The number one thing you should remember is the end result of losing does not have to be death. Maybe the monsters take the downed fighter and use him as a bargaining tool to get the PCs to back off. Or, in a TPK, the party wakes up tied to some maniacal contraption that will be used to sacrifice them to the gods. Remember, there are much worse options than death. You need to learn to be creative in the moment.

Know Thy Options

You recall I said there are 88 keys on a piano, but let’s not forget that great musicians can go off-keyboard. How about banging the key cover against the body of the piano to create a beat or drumsticks along the top, or maybe even use those little peddles at your feet to change things up.

All this is to say your options are not limited to your current system. Just because there is no specific ruling in your game of choice that covers a specific course of action by no means requires you to say “That’s not possible”, let the players try and make up the ruling as you go. You’re smart, I know you are.

The best thing you can do is to explore other gaming systems and borrow big concepts from them and retrofit them into your game. No one system is perfect.

I know, I know. The purists out there are aghast right now. Get over it, your system isn’t the perfect one and you know it. The sooner you admit it, the more fun you and your players will have.

Get your gaming fix

Get your gaming fix

When the kids are battling you for attention, work is pounding down your door with a double-bladed axe and your wife is looking for her white knight, how do you get your gaming fix?

Weekly gaming sessions are a bygone era with the hustle-bustle of being a grown up. Even a monthly gaming session might be an elusive beast hidden deep in the forest of life. What’s a yearning gamer to do?
Here are a few tips to help take the edge off while you eagerly await the feel of your dice in your palm:

Read a book

It sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? But, let’s be honest, this is where true roleplaying started. If you’re anything like me, when you read a great novel you are already gaming in your head. You put yourself in the role of a character and consider what sort of stats and special abilities they have. It’s not exactly roleplaying, but it can be enough to just give you a taste. Sometimes,

Stat out characters

I watch a lot of kids shows. Usually, the same ones over and over again until I’m dreaming about it. You parents know what I’m talking about. I discovered that I can get a little gaming fix by filling out character sheets for the characters in the show as I watch with the kids. I’ve statted out the characters from Cars and Finding Nemo so… many… times. It’s fun to imagine the plot of a good kid’s movie–like Big Hero 6–as a full on campaign.

Solo Roleplay

I’m very much on the fence when it comes to Solo Roleplaying. There are a ton of resources out there for doing it, and doing it well, but something about it just feels weird, like drinking alone (well, maybe that’s not so weird.) If the idea of Solo Roleplaying appeals to you, I think SoloRoleplayer.com is a good place to start.


Writing might take a little more brain power, but, like reading, it is a classic way to experience a story in any setting you can imagine. There are many free online writing tools (like Google Drive) or you could go old-school and grab a pen and notebook and long hand write. It’s actually very therapeutic.

Play by Post

PbPs may require a bit more commitment, which may take a bite out of the valuable time you don’t have. I’ve found that if you keep good boundaries and only post once per day at maximum, it’s not that bad, actually. Sometimes, just going through the character creation and application process can give you a taste of what you’re looking for. Storium is a superb implementation of a Play-by-Post-ish game I was very impressed with – you could even play it solo if you wanted a little less commitment.

Nothing can ever take the place of storming the castle face-to-face with your friends, but amidst the torrent of life, sometimes you can gain the favor of the gods and receive just a glimmer of gaming goodness.