Guys, Listen, I Have So Many Opinions About Monsterhearts Skins

I’m preparing to run a Monsterhearts campaign again, and one of the players asked ‘did you ever write anything about the individual skins’, so, uh, this happened. Apologies in advance for prolonged opining.

(I’m keeping this to the basic, come-with-the-book skins. There are other good ones, but I personally think that the basic skins can’t be beaten for flexibility and solid design.)
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Introcomp ’16: Astronomical Territories, Narrows, Deviled Kegs

Introcomp is a regular minicomp for the beginnings of interactive fiction games, now in its fifteenth year. (Disclaimer: I am married to the Introcomp organiser.)

Like the Spring Thing, it has historically been a very variable bag. Sometimes it has been used as a launching-board for already-substantial works-in-progress like Cryptozookeeper; sometimes you see the opening sections of really hefty works like The King of Shreds and Patches or Scroll Thief. And on the other hand, sometimes you get half-implemented skeletons of prototypes of ideas from first-time authors. Like many minicomps, a lot of its value lies in offering a compact version of the release process, with the added benefit that you don’t have to come up with an idea tight enough to work at that scale.

Introcomp games are rated on one question: how much do I want to keep playing this game? A lot of Introcomp games go just as far as demonstrating that the author has an initial idea, when what I’m really looking for is evidence of the development of that idea. If you just want to pitch the premise of a game, an intro is honestly not all that good a way to do it. An intro’s most useful for giving the player some direct familiarity with what the actual experience of playing your game might be like.

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Bring Out Your Dead: Eulogies II

A few more games from the Bring Out Your Dead jam for games unfinished and abandoned, spoken of briefly. Continue reading

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Bring Out Your Dead: Eulogies I

Some brief commiserations on other people’s unfinished work, released in the Bring Out Your Dead jam. Continue reading

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Bring Out Your Dead: Matchmaker


My final Bring Out Your Dead entry is Matchmaker (other working title: The Sheep Hook Up). It was my Giant Procedural Folly.

Premise: there’s a city-state somewhere handwavily in Europe. (I never settled on a name for it. Characters are fun to name; cities are tough.) It has long been ruled by a noble class,  but they’re getting decadent, over-fond of refined culture and elaborate entertainments. Meanwhile, a middle class of artisans and merchants has established itself and is looking to climb. Combine this with the tendency of rich, leisured teenagers to act out, and the barriers of class are in peril.

The king re-institutes an old office, the King’s Witness. It’s a job for a sorceror. Sorcery, in this world, is closely linked to spycraft, and it slowly, fundamentally erodes you. Experienced sorcerors have no permanent form, having become constantly-shifting mosaics of identity. Very experienced sorcerors…

Your job is to take this year’s set of marriageable young nobles and make sure that they pair off with one another in suitable ways. No elopements, no secret pregnancies, no triads, no marrying foreign nobles and moving away, no serious homosexuality, and absolutely no love-matches with commoners. Continue reading

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Bring Out Your Dead: The Shotgun Adagio

OK. The next Bring Out Your Dead game I am way more conflicted about: The Shotgun Adagio.


I missed a trick by not rendering the subtitle as che l’aura nera sì gastiga.

It’s much more ancient than IFDB2, and I am in a much more conflicted state about whether to publish it, because it is such egregious garbage in such a wide variety of ways that I have long been intensely grateful for the hard-drive crash that scrambled my source code and saved me the retrospective embarrassment of inflicting it on the world. I was a not-very-mature seventeen when I started writing it, and effectively abandoned it at some point early in my first year of university, after a merciful hard-drive crash wiped the most recent version of my source. (What there was of it had already been through a few rounds of testing. I still feel kind of guilty about wasting their time.) Continue reading

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Bring Out Your Dead: IFDB Spelunking 2

ifdb1My first contribution to this bonfire is IFDB Spelunking 2. (, personal site.)

So, bear with me. In 2012 I ran Cover Stories, a game jam where people supplied cover art, and then other people made games based off the cover art. One of the images I supplied for it got picked up by Joey Jones, who wrote IFDB Spelunking. Joey used IFDB’s ten random games feature, played the games and recorded his experience.
IFDB Spelunking was part of a long, if sparse tradition. In the 90s they employed the framing of Mystery Science Theater 3000, along with its basic technique: pick a truly atrocious work, then offer a snarky commentary to go alongside it.

CoverI loved the idea. One of the things which came through particularly in Joey’s run was that it seemed as though he’d had a fun time in the process, despite or even because of mild frustrations. And it was such a straightforward template! It virtually invited you to make your own.

With some re-rolls to eliminate games I had already played, I picked ten. Seven of these were available and playable – Mountains of Ket, Samhain, Sweet Sixteen, Dracula Episode 2: The Arrival, Down and Out at the Big Creepy House on the Poison Lake, Take One and ARGH’s Great Escape. Continue reading

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