Tips from the Philanthropist

You might know Rob Lang from his most awesome The Free RPG Blog and all his efforts over at He is also a huge supporter of NaGa DeMon, and has the following tips to help you through the next thirty days. Ignore them at your own risk!

Tips for getting yourself through November without going bonkers

I miserably failed NaGa DeMon last year but finished NaNoWriMo in 2007. I’ve also managed to finish a bunch of 24 hour RPGs. Here are some techniques I used to get through these time critical competitions.

1. Look at the month

Before you start, look at the month. Are there lots of family engagements? When are they? Do they need preparation? How long will they be? Write a list of all the events you’ve got going on.

2. Get your organisation tools ready

I’ll be using Trello to organise myself. Trello is a free, well featured list keeper. I also use a physical notebook at all times, so when I am at work, or walking to work, or shopping, or while my dear wife is talking to me, I can jot down ideas. Get your tools ready now.

3. Have a plan

Know what it is that you’re going to do before you start. Define your game. Have an idea inside your head about, what the scope is and when you’ll know if you’ve finished.

4. Set milestones

For each 3 day period (each day is too much), have an idea of how much you need to have done. That’s easy for NaNoWriMo, because you’re chasing 50,000 words, so it’s 1667 words a day. For NaGa DeMon, there’s no word limit but there is a series of requirements to make the game playable.

Don’t forget that you’re going to need to play it too. Easy if it is a computer game, much harder for RPGs. Plan it. Book the game, tell your players that they are an integral part of your NaGa DeMon. Do this now, while your mind is still fresh.

5. Expect burnout, watch for it, keep extinguisher handy

You will find that your creative juices flow hot on the 1st of November but will naturally dry up. Expect it to happen. Don’t fear it, grip it by the horns. I like to have something fun and easy to do in my back pocket for when burnout arrives like an unwanted drunken Uncle at Christmas.

You know you’re burning out when you start hating it or you find yourself watching America’s Next Top Model and thinking it’s good

6. Get support

No-one is going to do it for you but having other people struggling alongside is important. Tell friends and family you’re doing it so that they know you’re undergoing a challenge in November. When you approach burnout, or hit it, tell everyone. Get onto the social media (see right hand side), they are ALL active so you will find other creators like you.

7. Stick to your plan, avoid scope creep

If you have an idea that is not integral but is worth capturing, write it down and stay on with your milestones. You milestones were written in the cold light of day, keep to them.

8. Deal with getting behind

If you find yourself sliding behind your plan, karate chop the scope of your project. Avoid planning to make it up. That works ok for NaNoWriMo where you are hitting word targets but NaGa DeMon is about hitting feature targets. Better to chop and keep going rather than stop. Don’t just leave it to tomorrow. Make a decision, cut scope and move on.

9. Deadling with roadblocks

When you slam into a section that you can’t figure out then put some sort of marker in your project (I use XXXXXXXXXX) and come back to it. Make progress where you can and return to the roadblocks. Deal with them later, you subconscious will be working on them while you nail other sections. Mark them properly and they’re not going anywhere – the edit pixies won’t touch them with a barge pole.

10. It’s a marathon, not a sprint [Optional]

I work better in small chunks. If I have an evening of doing “stuff”, I’ll do the chores, do a bit of creative (such as writing this) and play my bass guitar. I could just spend all evening creating but by breaking it up, burn out is less likely to happen. This is optional because I know that I love to lose myself in coding and can be pretty productive if given a day.

11. Keep communicating

A great way of staying motivated is by broadcasting your progress. You may not get a flood of replies but the act of updating sets a marker in your own mind. Full on blogging might require a little too much effort but microblogging is certainly where it’s at.

12. Don’t be hard on yourself

Human nature will force you to compare yourself to others online. As they sail to finishing their 400 page RPG epic in 30 days while you’re scratching out mechanics on the back of an envelope. Don’t be hard on yourself, it’s OK to fail. Failing is good. Failing means that you know how to do it better. Being brilliant all the time is boring. I hate people like that.

Best of luck with NaGa DeMon 2012, you’re not on your own.

Lessons on Demon Slaying

I wrote this post after NaGa DeMon 2011. I was pretty down on myself as I had not achieved what I had set out to do. However, as any good roleplaying game will tell you, there is experience to earn when you fail as well as when you succeed. So I am “re-printing” it here, with just a few edits, so that you might learn from my mistakes. – Nathan

Now that it’s mid December, I guess I better get started on talking about my own NaGa DeMon experiences. I don’t think I have been purposely avoiding talking about November (I have been busy, and sick, and stuff), but I have not rushed out to share because, for a while, I felt like a bit of a failure. You may remember that I chopped and changed what I was doing and then switched plans again after November had begun. I should have realised then that with everything going on around me, my head was not in a particularly creative space. Still, I got things done and learnt some lessons.


So, I planned to update my RPG Verge. I added a fair bit of background / setting detail, which was a process I really enjoyed. I also spent a long while thinking about the mechanisms that drove the game, what I liked out of the original game, and what I wanted in the revised version. My first and overriding desire was for more “crunch”. Most of the games I have written have been relatively “rules light”, with simple action resolutions that got out of the way quickly so players can concentrate on the stories being told. This is something I like, but my previous games have tended to be quite limited in terms of campaign / extended play. They are short, focused games about a very specific situation or group of characters. The “stats” and “skills” and other mechanisms in games like Space Rat and The Beast of Limfjord are not built for months or years of gameplay. The setting I was creating for my new game deserved to be played in for years, so the game needed to be robust enough to allow for this.

What a great and noble idea, right? Well, yes. But, by about week 2 I began to feel like I had bitten off far more than I could chew. There is a lot of work in writing a crunchy game system and to be perfectly frank, I tend to be far more interested in setting and plot than mechanics. This was an important lesson I have learnt this year. It’s surprising, too, because I typically read the “fluff” of a game after the rules. So how much did I get done? A list is in order:

  • Expanded on the description of the city, including details about commerce, politics and day-to-day living
  • Described the “species” of people that live in the City
  • Sketched out an action resolution system, based on one of the many OGL rulesets out there
  • Outlined character generation, though not the specific details such as racial abilities

Cardinal sins and silly decisions

That list isn’t too bad, I suppose. In hindsight. Unfortunately after a couple of weeks of working through this I got it into my head that I would never finish the work before the end of November. Instead of just buckling down and working harder, I decided to switch tacks again! I thought “I’ll just whip up a “Verge hack” for my game FU.


What was I thinking? After a few days of fiddling around I realised that I didn’t need to do anything to FU to mod it for Verge, which would mean the hack would consist entirely of the background details and no rules. I had pretty much wasted those few days. I perhaps should have just got on with my work at this point, but I did not. Instead i moped and kicked myself around the house for been so foolish.

It looked like I wasn’t going to finish anything this November.

In the end I cracked out an idea I had filed away a very long time ago. (Yes, I started another project.) A miniature battle game inspired by anime giant robot battles. I wrote it up in  a couple of days and had a couple of run throughs by myself. It seems to work okay, and I will share it with the world when I have had a chance to play it properly. It is based on the Battlefield Evolution rules by Mongoose Publishing, which were released under the OGL (the developer’s pack is hard to find, but you can get it here). While this game is no longer supported, it is one of my favourite sets of rules. My game strips it down to the bare basics, removing anything that does not add to the feel of big robots fighting each other.


While I did not succeed in the ways I had set out to, November 2011 has provided me with a number of lessons. For the last couple of weeks I felt like I had “failed” at NaGa DeMon. While I did not complete the game I had wanted to, I did get work done. It took me ages to decide what I wanted to do, and then I changed my plans for almost no reason. In the end, NaGa DeMon 2011 has been a learning experience for me.

Thing I learnt include:

  • Set a goal and drive to it. If you chop and change nothing will get finished!
  • Go in with a plan.
  • The setting originally created for Verge is awesome, and needs to be expanded further.
  • I find writing miniature rules straightforward.
  • I need to work on finding ways to focus.
  • Persevere!

Enough for now. I’ve got things to finish! :)

Demon Hunter: Ben Gerber

Demon Hunter is where we grill a NaGa DeMon participant about games, their goals for November, and more. Read on to meet today’s Demon Hunter, Ben Gerber!

Hi Ben! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Ben Gerber. I’ve been running the multi-author blog Troll in the Corner since September 2008. It’s dedicated to all things table top with a hefty side helping of other geek related stuff. I’ve been publishing my own RPG content through DriveThruRPG since mid-2010. I started with Pathfinder expansions and have been gently working my way into my own mini-RPGs.

My first really successful product was Argyle & Crew, a base game of extremely light RPG rules for kids, where rather than worrying about a character sheet with all sorts of numbers and explanations scattered over it, you have a sock puppet, called a Soppet. The players are limited only by their imaginations and a very loose set of rules, although there is a basic dice mechanic available for those who want to do a little more with it.

I’ve since published Encounters ~ Plots ~ Places, a 60 page, system neutral source book for just about any fantasy RPG. It’s full of detailed NPCs, items, places and encounters. I’ve also developed Something Went Wrong, a mini-RPG in which every player gets a turn at being the GM and it’s a race to the last surviving character. SWW takes about 5-10 minutes to set up and plays in an hour or two.

Which games impress you and why?

I’m really enjoying story based games right now, things like Fiasco, School Daze, and whatnot. I’m interested in how they use game mechanics to facilitate story, rather than dictate it. Although I’ll always have a soft spot for the games I played as a teen in the mid to late 80s as well.

How are you participating in NaGa DeMon this year?

I’ve got three projects currently in the works. I plan on using NaGa DeMon as a push to finish at least one of them

First is Aruneus – the setting that started this all for me. It’s a high fantasy, zombie apocalypse setting that utilizes the Pathfinder rule set. It’s been 100 years since flesh eating zombies have decimated the world. Now things are starting to come back from the edge, but the undead are still a huge, environmental threat.

Next is Upgrade Wars, a deck-building, tactical combat game I’ve been working feverishly on for the past few months.

Lastly is a game who’s setting I’ve mapped out but the mechanics are spotty at best. It’s tentatively called No Spill Blood and takes place on an earth far in the future, when humans have up and left or otherwise vanished.

What are you expecting to be a challenge over November?

Time. It’s always time. I’ve got a day job that can get fairly intense, my wife who I enjoy spending time with, two fairly young kids that I love. That basically leaves the times when no one is awake but me to work on these things.

What are you looking forward to over November? 

American Thanksgiving and having an excuse to need to work on these things.

Who would you most like to play a game with?

I’d love to gather together a contingent of folks who are in the public eye and know what Dungeons and Dragons is and then play something completely different with them – say Fiasco or SWW.

Thanks for participating!

My pleasure!

4 sleeps to go…

Okay, so it’s Sunday in this part of the world so that means NaGa DeMon is only four sleeps away! That seems awfully close, and I don’t feel anywhere near ready yet! I have a kinda-vague idea what I will be working on in November, but I would like to do a little more planning. There is also a lot more I would like to do for the NaGa DeMon “event”, too. At this stage I expect this website to be updated at least a couple of times a week, so it will be worth your while popping by or even subscribing (the RSS feed button is just over there on the right). Some wonderful people have volunteered to answer some questions as part of a feature I will be calling Demon Hunters, and I will also give you a weekly “pep talk” to keep you going (hopefully…). Later in the month I hope that some of you will begin achieving your goals and begin sharing your experiences in a little article series that we will call Demon Slayers! More details on that later.

Today, I want to give a big THANK YOU! to all the people that have gone out into the world and talked about NaGa DeMon. The response to this year’s little event has been nothing short of amazing. AMAZING! My mind is totally blown by the enthusiasm of participants (whether you plan on creating a game or not, I consider you a participant in this amazing ride). So, thanks to all of you for talking about NaGa DeMon, offering advice and feedback, and just getting involved. Everything I have done for this year’s event has been because you have all been so excited about it. At the risk of turning into a cliche, you have totally inspired me this year!

I am really excited about the coming month. I know you are, too. Now, I’m off to prepare!

Tips for NaGa DeMon

So, you’re planning on creating a whole game in November. Maybe it’s something new, little more than a spark of an idea, or perhaps it’s that heart-breaker you have been slaving over for decades. Here are a few tips to help you achieve the mighty goal of completing your game. Most of these are based on concepts from Chris Baty (founder of NaNoWriMo) and his book No Plot? No Problem!.

  • Tell people what you are doing and brag about how totally successful you will be – that way you run the risk of embarrassing yourself if you fail! (There is nothing like fear of failure to drive you on!)
  • Don’t tell your work colleagues what you are doing. Every sick day and every minute you spend on the computer they will assume you’re actually doing NaNo. Which may be correct, but you don’t want them to think your skiving!
  • If you get stuck on a chapter, topic or detail make a note in a different colour or ALL CAPS and move on. It’s a great alternative to stopping your momentum to go research something.
  • Don’t edit until you’re finished. Just DON’T. Finish the rules text, try it out (or give it to an unsuspecting friend), then adjust as needed.
  • Aim for finished, not perfect. This is your first draft of the game, so your prose does not need to be perfect and your cards don’t need to be the same quality as Magic: The Gathering. If you have a solid prototype that playtesters can use, then that’s pretty damn good, right?

These are ideas that have worked for me. I hope you get some mileage out of them!

2012 Conversations

Hi all and welcome to NaGa DeMon 2012! There are people all over the internet, and indeed the world, talking about games, game design and their own projects. Click here to get to the Conversations page and leave a comment with a link to the forum, website, social media location where you will be sharing your experiences.

What are you waiting for? Share!