Monthly Archives: April 2017

Considerations For Game Industry Work

So, assume for a moment that you have to pick from a range of projects available to you, and you can’t do them all. This isn’t necessarily a matter of being blessed with 7 companies all offering you too much freelance. You might be offered one or two simultaneous jobs by a long-time source of work. Or you might be asked to outline which of several lines you want to work on during an interview. Or you might have no work coming in from other sources, so you need to pick a project of your own to develop.

However it happened, you need to pit project outlines against each other, and decide which one you are going to do. So, how do your compare apples to cthulhupunk airship murder mysteries?

Here are some factors to consider.


How much are you getting paid, and WHEN are you getting paid. This is not the end-all be-all of these consideration, but you have to include it. How much, under what circumstances, starting when, and ending when, if the money? I have taking pay rates that were 20% of my normal take, because the publisher promised (and delivered) “Payment by PayPal within an hour of turning it over.” I’ve also had times where 10 cents/word in 13 months sounded better than 8 cents/word in 6 months. I’ve taken royalties for the life of a product over flat rates, and vice versa, based on my needs and hopes. (I almost never accept royalties for the first 1 or 2 years of sales, because that discounts things like compilations and rereleases, which have made me tens of thousands of dollars over my career, but even then the right terms would make me do it.)

Know what money you have, what money you are getting, how much you TRUST that you’ll get that money when you are supposed to, and what money you need. If you have regular payments coming in or a “day job” that means your writing/game industry money is all gravy, you can take bigger risks and wait longer periods than if you need $50 to make a care payment next month.


The less you need the money, the more you can worry about fun. I have honestly considered defining “professional game designers not as people who make enough money to cover their expenses with industry work, or people who get paid for anything game-related, but as people who get paid to do game work they don’t find interesting. (I then decided I’m not the fucking high poo-bah of who is a game industry professional and gave up on the idea of defining squat, but I DO think people who can and do make money on game projects that don’t excite them have a useful and rarer professional skill.)

Not every project needs to be fun, but learn what you like and what you don’t, AND how it impacts your speed, satisfaction, burn-out potential, and so forth. If I love a project, I can do it faster and be happier, and that absolutely gets considered in my choice of projects.


Do you want to be better at what you do? Then value those opportunities that will help you grow. I have taken jobs, and even worked at companies, specifically because of the quality of designer, editor, and producer that lets me interact with. Working with great creative in different task and different kinds of projects very much helps me grow my skills. While I have never worked with anyone without learning SOMETHING from them, there are certainly people I learn more from than others.

Where possible, convince these people to be part of your own game company and pay them a cut of all the money you make, so they feel encourages to just sit around and say smart things. J (This is an advanced technique… )


This is harder to define, and not everyone is going to have the same career goals, but it’s worth looking at what projects will position you to do the things you want to do later in life. This can include taking types of projects you don’t have a track record with. For example when I had developed a strong reputation as a specialized game mechanics “crunch’ guy, I began looking for more adventures and worldbuilding projects to work on. And then right after those got published, I find myself in a game company interview being asked if I had done any adventures recently. (Phew.)

You may also find it useful to work with new people. A small project that doesn’t much interest you may be entirely worth taking if it gets your foot in the door with a company, property, or person you want to work with more. DON’T let yourself get taken advantage of (and if they want to, reconsider if you want to work with them), but do consider the value of taking on things outside your normal schedule or preferences to prove you can do a good job for them. I have, for example, taken more than one assignment on a Friday that was an emergency that needed to be done by Monday. Those never paid extra, but they did still pay well, and they let me prove I was reliable, useful, and able to work under crunch-time conditions.

Visibility can also be important. I did, in fact, “work for exposure” early in my career, writing reviews for TSR’s AOL content for no pay, and contributing to pro-am netbooks that were sold for money, without receiving anything but a credit. Those were both useful and paid off for me. Nowadays I’d recommend you NEVER do what I did, but it can totally be worth it to write for a blog or Patreon or social media without a guaranteed paycheck, assuming you own the material and that when money comes in you get your cut. I’m also fine with doing free work for projects that no one makes money on, like fan sites and charity projects, but beware. Those rarely boost your visibility any more than a good blog of your own material that you can control and own the rights to.


No one but you can decide which of these factors are most important to you, and there are lots of other things that might influence your thinking. If you find something morally or ethically objectionable, don’t do it. If a friend did you a favor and needs one in return, feel free to cut them the same kind of slack you would if they needed someone to watch their pet for a vacation or pick up soup when they were sick… as long as it isn’t an ongoing thing.

And always check your assumptions in the middle, and at the end of each project. If it turns out you find satisfaction more important than money, it’s worth knowing. If you love doing something as a hobby but hate doing it as a job, it’s good to know. If you find it easier to make money writing games you hate than your existing corporate job, it’s good to know.

Contemplate, weight, balance, reconsider, and be ready to do the whole dance again for your next project.


And always, always find a way to turn every job into an ad for other ways for you to make money.

For example: “If you actually found that worth reading, why not become a patron, and support my efforts to blog on various topics?”

(Seriously, if this was helpful to you, why not throw a few bucks my way?)

A Fat Man’s Fashion Concerns

There’s no moral or point to this post, just my thoughts and experiences on what it’s like to worry about clothes as a fat man. It’s not really career, gaming, or geek-related, so feel free to skip it.

In many ways, I think it would make sense for me to ignore fashion entirely. I’m a 430 lb. man, plus or minus 2-3% of that depending on when you catch me. I am regularly mocked, and rarely even assaulted, based entirely on my obese appearance. Wearing a custom fit 3-piece suit doesn’t change that (I happen to know), and thus there’s a part of me that would like to paraphrase She-Hulk’s line “I’m six foot seven and bright green! People are gonna stare no matter how I dress!”

Sadly, I lack that level of self-confidence.

So, I strive for a level of comfortable casual 99.5% of the time, and dress up (as uncomfortable physically, psychologically, and sartorially as that always is) as needed for funerals, weddings, formal parties (which I mostly just avoid), and job interviews. Over the years that comfortable casual has evolved into jeans/khakis/dockers, an undershirt and a Henley (though with the occasional polo) and sneakers. Colors stick to a pretty narrow palate of grays, browns, blacks, darker blues, purples, reds, and greens, and rarely white.

I own a few things that fall outside of this. A mustard yellow Henley, for example. (The colors for fat men’s clothes are often described in food terms – I have much more mustard, chocolate, eggplant, and mint clothing than I do yellow, brown, purple, or green.) But that’s fraught with peril. I once wore the mustard Henley with khaki pants, and up[on entering a room literally silenced ongoing conversation as everyone stared at me in shocked silence at so much tan-to-yellow in one place. I counted to five before anyone managed to speak or look away.

I neither desire, nor manage, such attention well.

I like white, but it attracts too much attention. A white shirt on me can look like a spotlight trying to flag down passing planes. I do own some white undershirts, but they attract stains… and while dressing well doesn’t cut down on abuse, a fat man with a food stain does invite it.

I keep a Tide stick in my desk at work, so that a careless bite of lunch doesn’t send me into such a panic I have to flee home fighting tears.

Darker shirts are much more forgiving of a drop of food, and less likely to have an old stain I don’t notice become obvious in juuuust the right light. Light gray is about as bold as I get for outer shirts at this point.

I also prefer dark undershirts, because I can’t afford to replace my shirts often. At my size even t-shirts are often quite expensive, and sales are less common and more likely to only include things like bright orange camo patterns with a big red bear on the back… which I simply cannot wear. Cheap stores don’t go to my size. So I tend to wear my shirts until they are worn threadbare, and don’t have the luxury of giving them up with they develop tiny wholes. But a black undershirt generally conceals a tiny hole in a navy blue Henley. A white undershirt highlights such imperfections, limiting them to be matched with as-yet pristine shirts or my few light gray choices.


Wearing a shirt with obvious flaws and holes is at least as embarrassing as wearing one with a food stain. I tend to check them every day, so see if this is when I need to retire one, and spend a few hours online trying to buy a replacement I can afford. Stores are a disaster for me, and I have almost entirely given up on them.

I have noticed that no one seems to care about the color of my socks. Even the most offensive of fat-shamer doesn’t care if my socks are white, black, purple, or have little brown bears all over them.

Often my geek choices are limited. There are t-shirts I would wear… that don’t come in my size. This is also often true of company shirts, vest, and jackets, though a work-around can generally be found.

At conventions and other geek-heavy events, I suffer a lot less harassment at the event itself… and a lot more just outside its borders. So that’s a wash.

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Turning Down Work is Part of the Job

I turned down an offer of work today. On a cool project I’d love to do, too.

Now, this is unquestionably the right decision for me. I am behind on a lot of projects, and booked out for months and months on Starfinder opportunities and other things. I can’t, responsibly, take on anything else right now. When I had a thin wedge of availability, I filled it with high-priority items I think will pay a lot of career dividends, and even that was as much excitement as smart planning (though it did get my Business managers approval).

But my Freelancer Reflexes remain strong. The idea of someone offering to pay me to make games, and declining, rubs me the wrong way and often sets of waves of near-panic. I mean, if I turn down work, people will stop offering to me, right? And then I’ll have huge gaps in my production, and everyone will forget who I am, and I won’t be able to get any work, and I’ll go broke and starve.

Yes, it’s not rational. But it is part of what drove me for so many years.

But being a GOOD freelancer, even a good creative employee, means giving the people paying you their money’s worth. And that means you can’t take on so much work that you either rush any of it, or end up not being able to complete it on time, or maybe at all.

Those are hard lessons to learn. Most freelancers I know, myself definitely included, make the mistake of agreeing to too much early on, and then re-make that mistake from time to time.

You can’t do everything. You need some down time. More work will come. And, in my experience, telling someone that you’d love to do a project, but right now you are overbooked, never causes them to write you off forever. Frequently, producers appreciate that you know your limits, and make notes to contact you for other projects later on.

So yes sometimes turning down work is part of the job.

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#Microfeat: Power Cast

Why are weapon users the only ones who can boost power at the cost of precision? Of course, with spells things are a little different…

Power Cast

You can make exceptionally deadly spell attacks by sacrificing accuracy and penetrating capacity for raw power.

Prerequisites: Ability score that determines your bonus spells 13, caster level 1st.

Benefit: When you cast a spell that requires an attack roll or allows a saving throw for half or to negate, you can choose to take a –2 penalty on all attack rolls and a –1 penalty to all concentration checks, caster level checks to penetrate SR, and saving throw DCs for effects you create this round to gain a +1 bonus on the spell’s effective caster level for everything except caster level checks to penetrate SR and concentration checks.

When your caster level reaches 4th, and every 4 levels thereafter, the penalty increases by –2 for attack rolls and –1 for checks and save DCs, and the bonus to caster level increases by +1.

You must choose to use this feat before casting any spell, and its penalties last until your next turn.

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The One Universal Spell-Like Metamagic

The feats Empower Spell-Like Ability and Quicken Spell-Like ability follow the same set of rules on when you can gain spell-like metamagic, how often you can use it, and what spells you can apply it to. By boiling those rules down to a universal set of guidelines it’s possible to have a single balanced monster feat that allows any metamagic feat to potentially be applied to any spell-like ability. This allows a GM to give monsters all the options player spellcasters have, without having to create scores of new feats.

Universal Spell-Like Metamagic

Select one metamagic feat, subject to this feat’s requirements.

Prerequisite: Spell-like ability you can cast with a caster level equal to at least 2 + double the spell slot adjustment of selected metamagic feat.

Benefit: Select one spell-like ability that meets this feat’s prerequisites. If the spell-like ability’s spell level is higher than 1st level, your caster level must be at least double the metamagic feat’s spell slot adjustment plus double the spell-like ability’s spell level. Three times per day when you use this spell, you may gain all the benefits of the selected meamagic feat. This does not allow you to use a spell-like ability more times per day than you are normally able to.

Special: This feat can be taken more than once. Its effects do not stack. Each time you select it you must select a combination of metamagic feat and spell-like ability you have not already selected with this feat.

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Campaign Elements: The Wolf’s Head

Sometimes a campaign really needs a mastermind criminal with a vast organization at his disposal. Preferably someone with extensive resources, but who also prefer to keep a low profile. Such crime bosses may serve as foils, contacts, patrons, nemesis, or just background elements the GM and players can work off of as stories develop.

Of course, it helps if such master criminals and crime groups are cool and enigmatic.

So this is an idea of one option to fill that element. It focuses on the master criminal, the Wolf’s Head, and touches lightly on the organization, the Crime Guild. These descriptions are kept intentionally broad. A GM should be able to easily adapt the Wolf’s Head and Crime Guild to any genre, any game system, and any world or time frame. They can be pastiches for Lex Luthor and LexCrop, Moriarty and his Network, the Godfather and the Five Families, or Jabba the Hutt and his scum and villainy. Alternatively, a GM can use this as a starting point to build a whole new kind of organized crime group.

The Wolf’s Head

The Wolf’s Head is a mastermind villain and organizer of all forms of outlawry. He or she holds the highest position in the Crime Guild, a combination of organized crime cartel and training-ground for talented individuals. Each Wolf’s Head carries the position’s official scepter of office, a long cane with a silver wolf’s head and the words caput gerat lupinum (“may his be a wolf’s head” in Latin) engraved around the base of the head of the cane.

The Wolf’s Head traces its origin back to writ’s of outlawry in early English common law (or any older nation in worlds lacking England). An outlaw was literally being “cast out of the law,” no longer subject to the protections a person received from the law and thus able to be treated as a wolf. The write included the words caput gerat lupinum, and in many cases was considered the most serious possible sentence.

According to Crime Guild history, one of the earliest people declared an outlaw under this system build a vast network of outlaws, and took the first Wolf’s Head title. Over the centuries that organization has come in contact with, and absorbed, the thousands of organized crime groups from every continent, nation, and ethnicity, forming the massive, worldwide Crime Guild. While the goals of the Crime Guild vary somewhat, they tend to remain institutional – focused on earning and protecting money, influence, and power and building a large cadre of loyal agents. Many guilders are important members of other groups, ranging from crime families to law enforcement agencies, but some few work directly for the Crime Guild. These generally answer directly to the Wolf’s Head, and through them the Wolf’s Head is free to pursue any goals he or she desires, as long as the Crime Guild on the whole continues to grow and prosper.

The holder of the Wolf’s Head title changes periodically, and apparently at random to outside observers. Each Wolf’s Head must nominate one Alder of Crime every 3 years (though killed alders need not be replaced). Each Alder is able to secretly vote to “retire” the current Wolf’s Head (though they can change this vote at any time). Such votes are kept with several ArchNumbers (Numbers being living cogitators who keep all the Crime Guild’s records, and ArchNumbers being senior examples). The Wolf’s Head also ranks the alders, from best to worst, and gives that information only to the ArchNumbers (and can change the rankings at any time).

If at any point 2/3 or more of the current Alders have voted to retire the current leader, the Numbers inform the entire Crime Guild. At that point all Alders try to kill the Wolf’s Head. If they succeed within 30 days (also known as the Hunter’s Moon, as the alders hunt the ultimate wolf), then whichever alder still alive that was highest ranked by the previous Wolf’s Head becomes the new Wolf’s Head. If not, the current Wolf’s Head retains the position, and the ArchNumbers ensure every alder that voted to retire him is killed (to cull those who mistakenly thought it was time to change leaders).

This post is Charitably sponsored by The Open Gaming Store! In addition to giving you a choice of free pdfs with every order you make above $20, this is also the store that supports the awesome webmaster of the rules archive at!

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My Teachers: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and RPGs

Science fiction taught me that being smart and creative was valuable.
Fantasy taught me that monsters can be defeated by both champions and brave common folk.
Roleplaying games taught me I could make friends.

Ctheckers: The simple board game of cosmic insignificance


It started as a joke. It still is, really, But I wrote up the rules for Ctheckers! (Which is even sillier than Golem Chess!)

Gameplay is as standard checkers, with the following changes.

On the bottom of the checkers of each side, make the following notations:
Cth: This is the Cthecker. Ia! Ia! Each side has a single Cthecker.
Cu: Cultist. Each side has eight cultists.
Ny: Nyarlathotep. You’ll also need chess pieces for this piece – a pawn, bishop, king, knight, queen, and rook. And a d6. It’s an elder god, things can get complicated. Each side has one Nyarlathotep.
R.C.: Randolf Carter. Each side has one Randolf Carter.
Nec: Necronomicon.

Once all checkers are marked, flip them so the markings are concealed and shuffle them. Once you no longer know which of your checkers is which, place them on the checker board as normal.

When a checker is captured, and when it reaches the far row of the board to be promoted, reveal what the checker is by flipping it over. Then follow the rules for each checker as noted below.

Cthecker: If the Cthecker of either player is revealed, either by being captured or by being flipped over as a promotion when it reaches the far row of squares, the game ends and both players lose. The coming of the Cthecker is bad for everyone, and nothing else you insignificant humans has done matters at all.

Cultist: If you reveal a cultist by capturing it nothing special happens – it is captured and removed from the board. If you reveal a cultist as a promotion when it reaches the far row of squares, you stack one previously taken cultists from your side, and one from your opponents side, under it. The top cultist in this stack now acts as a king from checkers. However, as soon as it moves, the next top cultist also acts as a king, and you can move it independently. But if you do, you reveal your opponent’s cultist, and IT now acts as a king which your opponent can move normally on his turn.

If you or your opponent do not have enough previously captured cultists to stack the correct number under a promoted cultist, place however many you can and proceed normally.

If all eight of your cultists are captured, you lose the game.

Cultists think they are working toward a goal, but mostly they just spawn more powerful cults, not all of which are working toward the same goal.

Nyarlathotep: If Nyarlathotep is revealed by being captured or reaching the far row and being promoted, it is not actually captured. Instead, it assumes one of its many forms. Roll 1d6. One a 1 it becomes a chess pawn, 2 a bishop, 3 a king, 4 a knight, 5 a queen, and 6 a rook.

Unless Nyarlathotep is in its king form, no piece can take it except another revealed Nyarlathotep. If Nyarlathotep is in king form it can be taken by being jumped or by having an opposing Nyarlathotep land in its space. Unlike other pieces in Ctheckers, Nyarlathotep can capture your own pieces (but is not required to if it has the opportunity). If your Nyarlathotep is taken you lose the game.

When your Nyarlathotep is revealed, place the chess piece it becomes on top of the original Nyarlathotep checker. While it is on your checker you can move it as the corresponding chess piece. You capture any piece you land on the space of (ending your turn) or jump over (as a knight). At the end of your move, roll 1d6 to determine the new chess piece Nyarlathotep acts as, and place any captured checker of your opponent under it. This is still considered your piece, but only your opponent can move it, as his turn, if he wishes, and he can capture your pieces when he does so. Once your opponent moves Nyarlathotep, roll the d6 to determine its form again, and place your original checker under it. You can now move it again. Repeat as each of your moves the piece.

If your opponent has not had a piece captured, he cannot move Nyarlathotep until he does have a piece, and it remains stationary until your opponent has a piece captured or the game ends.

Nyarlathotep has many forms, and his plans are impossible for mortal minds to comprehend.

Randolph Carter: If Carter is revealed as a result of being captured, flip him like a coin. If the checker lands top-up, promote him. If it lands bottom-up, he goes mad and is replaced by a captured cultist from your opponent, which your opponent now controls. (If your opponent does not have a captured cultist, nothing else happens).

When promoted, Carter moves like a king. Also, when he is promoted, you may look under one checker of your opponent. This is not considered to be revealing that checker, and you do not have to tell your opponent what you learn. You can even lie about what you learn. The rules specifically say that is okay. After being promoted Carter is allowed to look under a checker of yours as a move on your turn, but if he does so he goes mad (as if coming up bottoms-up in the case of being captured).

Carter is a human scholar and traveler through dreams. Maybe a madman.

Necronomicon: If your Necronomicon is revealed, it remains in play, but you can no longer move it, and it cannot be captured by your opponent. It can be captured by you (and if you can capture it you must, unless you can capture a different piece in the same turn). If you capture you own Necronomicon you look inside and are torn apart by invisible demons. Also, you lose the game.

Either you or your opponent may sacrifice a promoted cultist, removing it from the game, to move a revealed Necronomicon. If you have revealed Randolph Carter, you may sacrifice him to remove your own revealed Necronomicon from the game. Either of these actions counts as your move.

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More than 175 Pathfinder pdfs for $39.95!

From now on, Rogue Genius Games will be maintaining the Purple Duck Games store on To celebrate, we have a HUGE bundle of their entire Pathfinder backstock compiled into one bundle you can pick up for $39.95 for a limited time! More than 175 products, with a retail value of over $600! Just so you can get caught up on this great line! But the offer only lasts until the end of the month!
I know it’s April 1st, but this is happening! PDG will still do their thing, making the same great content as always, and we’ll make sure it’s available to you on
If you are already a fan of PDG, nothing really changes! You’ll just be buying things from the Purple Duck section of the Rogue Genius store on
If you aren’t already a fan, this is a great chance to get caught up! 
So check out the bundle, check out their awesome selection of products, and join me in a big, hearty quack!