Sunday, November 27, 2016

Four Stages of Post-Playtest Game Editing

You have a game. It works when you are there to explain it. You've playtested it. And you've incorporated that playtest feedback to make your game work even better. Your game is cooler than it's ever been. That's it, right? Now you just need to cut and paste all your notes into one file and.send it off to your buddy who does layout, eh?
Wait. Not so fast.
Your game.may be better than ever, but outside of a convention, people aren't buying your game. They are buying your game documents. They are paying for your instructions on how to reproduce your awesome game. That means you need another editing process. You need to develop your game text into the best set of instructions you can produce. 
In other words, before layout there is a post-playtest game editing process in which you develop the text itself to make sure that it is helpful for players wanting to learn your game AND, if possible, fun to read. 
That's a tall order. Where should you start?
I admit that I treat post-playtest game editing like the final process I use when writing a sermon. I picture this editing process as four stages, and when I edit, I try to complete all four. 
(But each editing pass can accomplish at most one and a half of these stages. That means that, ideally, I'm going through each post-playtest game three or four times.)
These categories are in series. You can't reach a new one until you've finished te previous.

1. Clear

Does the text make sense? Are each of the sections labeled and in an order that helps the reader? Is anything missing? Does anything need to be defined, repeated, or put into a visual aide like a table or flowchart?

2. Playable

Do players know how to set up and start the game? Does each kind of player or facilitator have clear instructions for their role? Do we know when to stop and what to do when we are finishing the game? Is the order of play well-regulated? Do I always know when I am supposed to act AND what I can choose to do next?

3. Emotionally Engaging (Fun, broadly defined)

Is the game built to evoke a certain emotion or does it emulate a certain genre of storytelling? What are players supposed to feel or act like during the game? Has the tone of the game been made so clear, explicitly or implicitly, that players know when they have accidentally violated the tone of the game? If the game has a strategy for best play, is it obvious?

4. Cleverly Written (Strong Narrative Voice)

Does the narrator have a recognizable personality? Is the style of writing  consistent? Have I eliminated distracting or mood-killing elements from the text? Will the reader be pleasantly surprised by the writing itself?

I hope this is of some value to you in your post playtest editing process. You are free to use your own methods. The above categories are descriptive of my approach, not prescriptive for yours.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Daddy versus the Medical Bills

The best way to help is by donating to Paypal.

This is my son Sam. He is five years old. He's a great kid. He and I need your help.

A few weeks ago, he had breathing-related medical emergency. We rushed him to the ER and he spent five days in hospital. 

He's feeling much better. Thank God. But I, his daddy, have a big problem. The medical bills from those days in the hospital are big. Like "drain your savings and then keep going" big. On top of that, because I had set certain bills to be paid automatically, I have accidentally spent much more than I can afford on these bills.

Long story short, our family needs financial help to cover necessities like groceries and daycare for the next two to three weeks until my wife and I get our next paychecks. We have accidentally overpaid our medical bills early, so we need at least $1,200 to help us survive until the end of the month.

We are working with the hospital to pay the remaining bills a little at a time. We are talking to extended family to help cover expenses where they can. We're budgeting our expenses carefully and only spending what we absolutely have to.

But my family needs help as a result of our one-time emergency medical debt. If you can, please help.

The best way to help is to donate to Paypal. The second best way to help is to share a link to this article on social media. The third best way to help would be to buy some of my games. See the links on the side of this page. Keep in mind that I only get a percentage of the profits from these games. It helps, but not as much as Paypal.

In the end, do whatever you are comfortable with. If you can help, you have my deepest thanks. And Sam thanks you, too.
The best way to help is by donating to Paypal.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Tip for Finding New Character Names

If you are looking for plausible but odd names for your characters, just check your spam filter. It's full of fake names.
Here are a few from mine:
Millicent Ramirez
Bruno Christensen
Adolfo Petersen
Ernest Malone
Ronda Livingston
Cesar Byrd

Now tell me that Cesar Byrd isn't an awesome character name!

Your spam filter is also a good place to find business names, but I wouldn't use those names for any of your commercial projects, in case the original owners take offense. But for your personal rpg group or for non-commercial fanfic, go ahead and use Defender X or Shadowfall Productions or whatever strange business names you find in your spam filter.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Run! Fire!

I just put these rules together. Feedback welcome. Feel free to tell me that they are confusing or broken.

Run! Fire!

A card game for 3 players. 15-20 minutes.
In this game, you play three ranchers trying to escape a huge grass fire. Will you help put the fire out? Will you panic and run? Who will survive?


3 players
Deal each player 3 each of Fire and Run. (Use red cards for Fire and black cards for Run)
Make a central deck of 2 Fire and 2 Run
Each player starts with 10 coins


Every player plays one card of their choice face down into a pile in the center. The tallest player is dealer this round. The dealer draws one card from the central deck, shows it to all the players, and puts it face down in the pile. Each player then bets.

To bet, lay down a card from your hand face up. Place at least one coin on that card. (Betting represents your decision whether to help extinguish the fire or run and try to save yourself. If you play a face up Fire card, you are trying to fight the fire. The more coins you place on it, the more committed you are to extinguishing the fire. If you place a face up Run card, you are trying to save yourself by escaping the fire.)

After each player bets, the dealer shuffles the pile of face down cards. He plays one card in the middle of the table face up. He then places the rest of the cards on the top of the central deck. If this card matches the face up card a player has bet, that player is a winner this round. Everyone else loses. The winners split all the coins that have been bet. If the coins cannot be split evenly, give the extras to the dealer, even if the dealer lost this round. Place the face up card that you bet with back in your hand.

The player to the tallest player’s left is the new dealer. Players play another card of their choice face down in the middle of the table. The dealer takes one card from the top of the central deck, shows it face up to all the players, then shuffles it facedown into the facedown pile. Then everyone bets. (If you have coins left, you must bet at least one during each round.) Then the dealer plays one card from the facedown pile face up. Players who match that card with their bet card win. Split the coins among the winners, then place the card you bet with back in your hand.

The position of dealer then rotates one more time, so each player has had the chance to deal once. Play another round just like before.


Now, each player shows their remaining cards face up, and everyone calculates their score. Any player with more than 10 points lives. That means you escape the fire and win the game.


Look at all the players' cards. If more than half are Run cards, the ranchers were not able to work together and put out the fire. (Those who lived are the folks who ran away. Those who died are those who tried to extinguish the fire.) Run cards are worth 2 points. Fire cards are worth 0 points. Coins are worth 1 point.


Look at all the players' cards. If more than half are Fire cards, the ranchers were able to put out the fire. (Those who lived worked together bravely to extinguish the fire. Those who died were the ranchers who panicked, made a wrong turn, and got caught by the fire.) Run cards are worth 0 point. Fire Cards are worth 2 points. Coins are worth 1 point. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

7 Ways to Reuse Abandoned Games

What do you do with abandoned tabletop games? Think of card, board, or roleplaying games that you own that you no longer play. Maybe the rules don't interest you anymore. Maybe they interest you, but you no longer have someone to play with. They are missing pieces. They are too expensive. For whatever reason, you have abandoned the games you used to play. But is there a way you can still use them?
Let's talk about a few ways to repurpose those games so that you can still get some use out of them, or at least have fun with their components. Now, I don't know what kinds of games you have lying around, so I've decided to phrase these ideas as questions. We're relying on your creativity to figure out how they apply to your specific situation.

1. Physical Components: Can you use the art, cards or board pieces in another game? Maybe the art would make a good inspiration for another rpg. The board pieces could be replacements for another game.

2. Rules Hack: Can you change the rules to skip the part of the game that doesn't work for  you? There's no game police telling you that you have to play a whole game of Monopoly. You can skip to the end, if you like.

3. Spiritual Sequel: Can you write your own game that uses this game as inspiration? Our hobby has a long tradition of fantasy heartbreakers, that are essentially someone's attempt to use D&D as inspiration for a new game. Though not all of these are great, some of them are. Can you make a "heartbreaker" based off of a card or board game you abandoned?

4. Swap: Can you trade this game away to one of your friends for another game? This may feel like cheating. You aren't hacking the game. You are literally reusing it by giving it to someone who wants to play it. In return, they probably have a game that you've never tried that they are willing to give you.

5. Update: Are there alternate rules for this game available on the Internet? Playing with revised or updated rules may help renew your passion for the game. Are there errata that have been breaking the game? Nerfing those can make a world of difference.

6. Doing It Wrong: The French poet Paul Valery wrote "That which has always been accepted by everyone, everywhere, is almost certain to be false." What can you do to break this game, to use it incorrectly, or to play it backwards? How can you make a new game by using the old game wrong?

7. Steps: What section of the original gameplay was the most fun? What did you love to do in the game? How can you borrow just that part of the gameplay and do it in a different game?

Here are seven ways to squeeze a little more fun out of tabletop games you've abandoned. But I'm sure there are more methods. What other ways can you think of to reuse, repurpose, or recycle tabletop games that you used to love? Send your tips or examples to

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Here's a subsystem you can add to non-combat larps with 10 or fewer players. Although it seems like it just adds combat to the game, what it really does is play with the idea of consent and bullying by adding the threat of player elimination to the atmosphere of the game. In other words, it changes the mood of the game and the negotiations between players by adding a subtext of potential violence.

You need:

A larp that doesn't already involve combat or player elimination10 or fewer players, preferably 3-6.Toy weapons, enough for half of the players. I prefer toy guns that make noise when fired.1 coin


Starting here, read these rules aloud to the other players. Read all of this section and the following section, How to Play. Before playing, players take turns flipping the coin. Start with the oldest or tallest player. On a heads, you get one of the weapons. When you run out of weapons to hand out or when everyone has flipped the coin once, move on to playing the game.

How to Play:

Play the game as normal. However, at anytime after the first ten minutes of play, any character with a weapon may attack another character. To attack, aim your weapon at the other player and announce that you are attacking. Other players around you should pause and watch what you are doing. You now flip the coin. On heads, you hit. On tails, you miss. If you hit, flip the coin again. On tails, you injure the character. This has no mechanical affect, but the player of the injured character will probably assign some affect to his character in the story. On heads, you kill the character. That character is no longer part of the larp. That player should sit out the rest of the game. (This may break some games. Feel free to adjust the rules on the fly.)Play of the game then resumes as normal. After you have used your weapon, you must wait at least 10 minutes before you use it again. If you ever miss twice against the same person, give that player your weapon. Their character has disarmed your character. If a character is ever injured twice, that character is dead.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Last Week to Kickstart Singularity

We've got one week to go and just over $1,000 left to raise in order to reach our goal for Singularity. If you haven't heard yet, this is a live action game for 4-6 people. It's a scifi version of a dating show like the Bachelor. Interested? Then back it today!
I just got word that Caitlynn Belle will finish her final design changes on the game in the next two weeks and that Thomas Novosel has started working on a style guide for the layout. That means that we are on track for a tight turn around. If we reach our funding goal of $3,000, we should have pdfs for people by June. (Maybe earlier. Cross your fingers.) Depending on how smoothly things go at the printer, backers should have physical copies in their hands by August.
Keep an eye out for another announcement today or tomorrow that contains images of one of the character sheets for the game. It should give you a good idea of Thomas' plans for the layout of the book.
If we meet our goal, it will be Ginger Goat's fourth physically printed book, after Heroine, Girls Elsewhere, and Dangers Untold. As with all our games, Singularity is feminist, pro-diversity, and narratively driven. If you liked our other work, I'm sure you will like this one, too.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Do you have a futuristic or robot costume? Not from a licensed show? Are you willing to post your #transhumanselfie for me?
​Ginger Goat wants them for a Kickstarter video for our transhuman dating show.
All body types, genders, etc. are wanted. No nudity for this one, please. Your bods are beautiful but I want to make a kid-friendly video.
If we use your selfie in the Kickstarter video AND the project funds, I will send you a pdf copy of the game (or an extra pdf copy, if you also back the game.)
To enter, all you have to do is post your #transhumanselfie on Twitter or G+ where I can see it, then make sure I have a way to contact you. If you're not sure I know how to get in touch with you, you can always email us at
What kind of costumes are we looking for? Aliens, robots, cyborgs, futuristic humans, anything you can imagine! Don't worry about what's in the background of the photo.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Animal Professionals of Place Place Number: A Solo Writing Game

I had a game idea for Ole Peder GiƦver​'s #3nano16 game design challenge as I was falling asleep last night. 

Animal Professionals of Place Place Number

APoPPN is a one player writing game that takes the form of writing a formal playtest feedback letter about a game that doesn't exist.
1. Write a letter to a GM or game designer. Choose someone whose work inspires you and who knows you at least by name.
2. Thank them for the chance to playtest their latest game. Give it a name in the form of [Animal] [Professionals ] of [Place] [Place] [Number], eg "Squirrel Jugglers of Star Moon 5."
3. Tell them about something that you liked about the game. Compare it to a game or movie that you love. If possible, describe an interaction between characters in your playthrough of the game. Name the characters after people you work with or go to school with. Last names only! Name the players after gamers you know.
4. Tell them what confused you about the game. Quote a rule from their game that doesn't seem to fit. (Use a sentence from page 42 of the book closest to you as this rule quote. You can quote it exactly or use this real book as inspiration for your rules quote.)
5 Thank them again for the chance to playtest their game. Give them a genuine compliment about their (real) previous game designs or GMing.
6. Sign your letter with the name they know you by
7. Mail, email, or post your letter online where the intended recipient will see it.
8. (Optional) Include a link to the text of this game, so they don't think you're completely bonkers.
This game is copyright Josh Jordan and is released under Creative Commons Attribution. You may repost these rules wherever you like.