Share the conversations – Week 4

This is it everyone! We are heading into the final stretch of National Game Design Month, so hang on to your hat!

Now is the time to do those last minute fix-ups and give your game another play (or a first play!). Tell your friends all about it, and share your experiences with anyone and everyone who will listen!

This week there is no specific link-up for your conversations. With the finish line so close many of you will be completing your work or putting the finishing touches on your game, playing it and so on. When you are ready, head over to the 2013 Slayers page and link to your finished game or any other work you want to share. The 2013 Slayers page will become an easy-to-navigate point to find everyone’s work from this year. You will be able to add your link to that page until December 24th.

Good luck, everyone!

Share the conversations – Week 3

Three weeks in already – can you believe it? I hope you are making great progress – some people are already playing their games, trying them out, tweaking and refining. This can often be a tough week and the motivation to keep going can be hard to come by, but don’t worry – YOU CAN DO IT! The end is fast approaching, so why not buckle down and give it your best shot!

Share anything about your game design journey, and don’t forget to visit a few of the links as they appear below – leaving comments, offering advice and generally supporting each other is a really important part of this whole event!

Have you been playing your game this week? What has been difficult, surprising, or fun about your game design so-far?

Share the conversations – Week 2

I hope your first ten days of game design and demon slaying have been exciting, fun and successful! Keep up the hard work and continue to make progress on that game. I was amazed at how many people linked up to their blog posts and other thoughts on game design last week and am looking forward to seeing how your work progresses as we move towards the mid-point of the month.

The title for this post says “week 2” but I am not sure if that is accurate as we are kind of a week and a half into the month already – oops. I am going to continue the format of calling each of these posts “week 2”, “week 3” etc, but feel free to post links about what you have done at any point in your game design journey. (Journey – did I really just call it a “journey”, that’s the English teacher coming out…)

Once again, hit the blue button below to add your link and pic. If you get the chance, please visit a few other people’s links and leave a comment or two – it is great to find a comment from a new person on your blog, or an encouraging statement, or a brilliant piece of feedback!

So, what have you been up to this week?

Share the conversations – Week 1

Okay, here’s the idea. Wherever you decide to talk about your game, game design or your general NaGa DeMon experiences, share that stuff here. I am going to put up one post like this every Saturday (I know, today’s not Saturday, but I wanted to get it out before November started!) so we collate a weekly “snapshot” of the conversations that are happening. This post will stay “open” until next Friday, then a new one will open on Saturday November 9th.

I will also create a page closer to the end of November so that everyone can link-up their actual game, or a post related to their completed work.

How do you share your conversations? Well you can leave a comment at the end of the post, but what you really should do is use the blue “add your link” button below. You can link to a blog, forum or Facebook post, a website, images or anything else that has a URL. Add a picture to make it pretty and a short title and you’re done. At the end of the week we will hopefully have a bunch of easy to navigate links that will take us to each other’s thoughts, ideas and experiences.

Once you’ve added your link, by all means get back to working on that game! It would also be really cool if you visited one or two other links, left a comment on that person’s blog or FB page or whatever they have linked to.

So, how has your first week been?

Talking about talking about games

November is getting close, boys and girls, and I know a lot of you are already preparing for your quest toward game design greatness – good on you! As you ponder your awesome game ideas, gather your thoughts and/or resources, and generally limber-up ready for November make sure you plan time to talk about your games.

While NaGa DeMon is presented as a “competition” where you compete with yourself to design a game and play it, it has always been my intention that this event was mostly about talking about your processes, your triumphs and tribulations – sharing your successes, your tips and tricks, your advice and generally supporting each other. And I would like to say, right up front, that past participants have done a fabulous job of this.

Each year there are lots of questions along the lines of “what am I allowed to do” and “can I…”. While there is an official criteria of “creating, playing and talking about your game in November”, this year I will be primarily focused on the talking bit.  In 2010 when I began NaGa DeMon I was coming from a place where a group of us were trying to encourage people to get involved in game design, and (in particular) actually completing games in order to share them with the world. That’s why the criteria is so specific regarding creating and playing.

Creating games is still the goal of NaGa DeMon, but this year I  want to go further, I want to say that it doesn’t matter whether you are creating a brand new game, or dragging out “that game” you have been slogging away on for years; it doesn’t matter if you start it on November 1 or November 20 (of 2013 or 2012), and it really doesn’t matter if you finish it. It doesn’t matter whether you are creating a card game or RPG, boardgame, iPhone app, or first-person-shooter. It honestly doesn’t matter whether your game is completely original or based on open source material, or inspired by your favourite film. All of these things are valid ways to start, get involved with and participate in NaGa DeMon. What does matter, though, is whether you genuinely participate by talking about what you are doing, on Facebook or G+, via Twitter, on your blog or over at your favourite forum. You don’t even have to discuss what you are doing with other NaGa DeMon participants (though it would be great if you did) – just talk about it wherever you like to talk about games, whether that is online, in your garage, or at the local game store.

I still encourage everyone to have a red-hot crack at the “official” NaGa DeMon event where you come up with a cool idea and use November to Create the game, Play the game and Talk about the game, and I will still be offering those DeMon Slayer badges for all you winners. But please make time to share your experiences. Some places you might consider talking about your game design adventure include:

The NaGa DeMon Facebook group

@TheNagademon on Twitter (use the hashtag #nagademon)

The NaGa DeMon Google+ group

The forums over at

The forums over at

Over at Board Game Geek or RPG Geek

I will soon be unveiling a cool way for you to connect up your discussions and conversations, and to easily find what other people are talking about. Hold on to your hats, because the NaGa DeMon is coming!

24-hour Demon? Hell yeah!

By now you have already heard. The news is all over the internet. and Rob Lang from The Free RPG Blog are running a 24-hour RPG competition. And it will run during November! Read all about it here.


I love this year’s theme, and the constraint of using a pocket mod is brilliant.

So, what does this mean for you bold Demon Slayers? It means you can smash the whole “design a game” part of NaGa DeMon in a single day, and be in the running for glory in the 24-hour RPG comp, too! Many people say that November is waaay too busy to go designing games (there is all that Thanks Giving turkey to eat!), so this might be the perfect solution for the time poor, idea rich amongst you.

Anyone considering this?



November Approaches

It’s that time of year again, when our palms begin to sweat with anticipation and the old brain cogs begin to turn, chewing through ideas and plotting the assault on the NaGa DeMon. Over the next couple of weeks i will put up a couple of posts regarding this year’s National Game Design Month. One will be my general thoughts on “what exactly this is all about” while the other is (hopefully) going to introduce a trial run of something that will make keeping track of everyone’s projects a bit easier.

Check out the 2013 tab in the menu for buttons and banners you can use to show your support of NaGa DeMon, and don’t forget to spread the word! Last year had an amazing response and I hope to see lots of people enjoying themselves again this year.



5 Questions with… David Pidgeon

This interview was written by Andrew Smith and originally appeared at on April 24th, 2011. The Stockade was a website dedicated to encouraging Australian game designers to get up and create their games, much like NaGa DeMon! The Stockade has been “finished” for a very long time now, and its web hosting expires very soon, so I thought I would share some of the still-relevent articles here.

We turn our attention back onto Australian shores for this FQW… One of Australia’s most chatty RPG designers is David Pidgeon, font of many game ideas. He’s been working on Dirty Princesses for a little while, and has recently started a fiction blog.

What do you consider when writing setting material?
I consider whether it would be interesting to me if I was new to the setting. I want it to be evocative, informative but also to leave enough gaps to make the setting my own.

Which games impress you, and why?
I’m impressed by a lot of games, but more specifically by games that tightly tie the themes of the game to the system. Games like Dogs in the Vineyard, Apocalypse World, Polaris, Freemarket and Burning wheel (with its toolkit ruleset) do exactly that.

Tell us about the first game you made, published or not.
The first game I made was called Arena and was a miniatures game about gladiatorial battles in a fantasy setting. It was fun at the time and very simple. One friend still wants to play it!

What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m working on the same game I’ve been working on for quite a while now, which is Dirty Princesses, the game of adventure, growing up, and kickass princesses with swords. It’s been giving me troubles but I feel like I’m getting there.

What’s in your design notebook that you just haven’t finished yet?
The main game haunting me is Ghost Road, which is an RPG/tabletop miniatures hybrid about post-apocalyptic car action. It’s going to be light, fun and encourage people to customise little toy cars.

David’s work can be followed at the Dirty Princesses blog, as well as the Obscura Fiction blog. And for extra chattiness, he’s on twitter.

Game Chef 2013

Game Chef 2013 is about to begin – anyone participating?

What IS Game Chef? It is a competition that has been running for more than a decade, where participants are given a theme and a number of “ingredients” as inspiration for a new game. In the past it has been roleplaying game heavy, though it you do not have to create an RPG. It officially begins on May 17th, though it will totally depend on what part of the world you are in as it is already May 17 here in Australia – it’s nice to live in the future! Game Chef runs for 9 days, after which you will read and “judge” a number of participants work (think “peer feedback”) and recommend one to move on to the next round of judging. It is all done in good spirits and with much pleasant-ness. There’s a blog and a forum.

I don’t know if I will be participating. I am on projects now, so it will depend on how much the theme / ingredients grab me. Let me know if you are giving it a go.

5 Questions with… Fred Hicks

This interview was written by Andrew Smith and originally appeared at on May 8th, 2011. The Stockade was a website dedicated to encouraging Australian game designers to get up and create their games, much like NaGa DeMon! The Stockade has been “finished” for a very long time now, and its web hosting expires very soon, so I thought I would share some of the still-relevent articles here.

Forgive me if I have a little fanboy moment here. This FQW is with Fred Hicks, designer of one of my favourite games, Don’t Rest Your Head. But that was from many years ago, and today he’s the Co-President of Evil Hat Productions and the Art Director for Hero Games. On with the interview.

The Evil Hat approach to customer interaction is notable for being transparent. While you’re developing games, even just the ideas for games, how do you decide what to publicise and what to keep close?

There are things which aren’t ready for people to run with out-of-context. That’s the key thing to remember with transparency. When you put a fact out there, it’s able to and even likely to take on a life of its own, independent from the context in which you present it. So I try to ask myself, “Will this fact intrinsically shed a positive, constructive light on the project?” Sharing the stuff that excites you and is likely to excite others is a good way to go, here.

That’s not to say we can’t admit to our failures. I think that’s important too, when you’re adopting a posture of transparency. Admitting to your failures gets people in your corner; it humanizes you, and creates an opportunity where your fans can help you out. But that takes careful consideration, too; sharing a failure has to be done in a way that recognizes those opportunities and acts on them. You can’t say, “We’re pushing this back by six months. The writing isn’t ready,” and just leave that hanging there. You’ve got to go further. Talk about what sucked and why you’re torpedoing it (the fans will hear, “We’re being saved from crap. These guys are committed to putting out something of quality.”), and talk about how the decision connects to your overall vision for the product (“We’re failing short-term, but here’s how that rocks long-term”). Whenever possible, give the fans a way to help you get back on your feet, too. Helping creates a sense of investment, of stake. Plus, it’s help!

You can’t go this alone. You’ve gotta connect to your customers, to form a relationship, and to make that relationship strong, constructive, and positive. Transparency is a means to that end.

(Also I can’t help myself. I’m predisposed to evangelism, to bringing folks into the tent and making them a part of the show. It’s fun!)

As a designer, which games impress you, and why?

I gave myself a few days to think about this one. I’ve realized, for one, that roleplaying games rarely impress me. Part of that is — funnily enough — I’m crap at reading, at least when it comes to RPG texts. I can be impressed by a clever rule or a smart strategy for getting people excited about the game, but I still feel that RPGs have a big leg up over other games in that their experience lives so much outside of their rules. (There, I’m impressed by players and GMs more than anything.)

Certainly, some RPGs are more rules-dominated than others (and the extent to which they’re perceived as rules-dominated is different for each and every player there is), but the fact remains there’s plenty of space for someone to play around in that isn’t bounded by that stuff. How many times have you heard (as one example), “We had an incredible session last night. We never rolled the dice!”? That’s what I’m talking about. With an RPG, the rules get us started, but it’s the interaction that carries us along and brings us home. RPG rules can ride shotgun to the rest of that stuff, can enhance or impede that experience, but they’re one of those hobbies where the great stories usually come from coloring outside of the lines rather than in them.

That’s not to say something like Fiasco or Dungeons & Dragons 4th Ed can’t knock my socks off. These games and others have excited me, and it’s centered around some aspect of the rules. I’m a gearhead, in that regard. I like looking under the hood and checking out the engine. Whenever possible, I strip it for parts.

Which is what brings me to the stuff that really impresses me, more regularly: board games. Board games don’t give you as much room for coloring outside the lines, so those lines have to do their job particularly well. Good board and card games — Shadows Over Camelot, Pandemic, Forbidden Island, Dominion, and others — have to come out the gate really well-tuned for performance. As a designer I recognize the balancing act that goes into creating something like that, so when I experience the game I’m also vicariously experiencing the process of designing it, just a little. It’s like a person well-versed in CGI being impressed by the work done on a Pixar film.

Thinking about the interaction of board game elements makes me smarter as a designer for RPGs, too, I think. For example, Shadows Over Camelot was weighing in my mind heavily when I took to refining the design of Don’t Rest Your Head. Rob Donoghue had said to me, “Take away all the story stuff here, and show me an interesting dice game, then bring the story back in,” and that’s what got me over the hump to create the dice mechanics seen in that game.

Anyway, I’d like to see more RPGs designed with the lessons of board games in mind. Looks like you uncorked a bit of a rant there. :)

The Dresden Files RPG went through significant play testing. How did you structure that phase? Would you do it that way again?

A: Well, there were the years of writing and internal play testing, some of which involved jettisoning the whole revised Fate chassis and starting over. That story’s found on the website, so I won’t dig into it here.

We grabbed several largish groupings of game groups (a dozenish groups in each, I think) and split them out into two or three stages, getting access to the rules as we iteratively factored playtest feedback into the design.

To me this just seems like the standard way to do these things. Is it remarkable? You tell me. I think it’s what you should do, though likely not on that scale (we were able to use dozens of groups; you don’t truly need more than a handful, and shouldn’t break your back trying to find ‘em).

What was unusual, I think, was that we were deliberately anti-non-disclosure with our play test groups. We actively encouraged them to blog or forum-post or podcast or what-have-you about their play test experience. This was a risky thing — it meant a lot of info could get out there, not all of it positive, and we wouldn’t be in direct control of how that message traveled. We did our best to frame our pro-disclosure agreement with our play testers in a way that would get them to provide context with their posts: this is an unfinished thing, not necessarily indicative of the final product, etc, and also to make sure to focus on constructive and positive stuff when sharing — which may sound familiar to folks who’ve read the answer to the first question above. It was a risk worth taking, though, especially given how long the development process had run. We needed to get some good signal out there on the interwaves, and that needed to come from folks who weren’t us; while we had plenty of folks who were willing to trust us, we also had plenty who were skeptical due to the time we’d taken. Letting the playtesters talk about the product, to confirm that it was as far along and as fun as it was, meant there was third party confirmation of anything we were saying about it. That, was gold.

Would I recommend a pro-disclosure orientation with your play testing? Of course. Why suppress enthusiasm from your alpha fans? Why minimize awareness of your game?

If you could work with anyone else on a game, who would it be?

That list is way too long. I’ve already started in on it, post-Dresden (and a little during, since we got some Ken Hite going on there) — that’s why we’re working with Jeff Tidball on Zeppelin Armada (our first card game), and will be working soon with Cam Banks and Jeremy Kellar, among others, on another project. Ever since Don’t Lose Your Mind, I’ve wanted to work with Benjamin Baugh again, and that’s in the works right now too. We’re getting to bring Jess Hartley in on a Dresden supplement we’re working on; I’ve wanted to collaborate with her for a while too.

Rather than get into the entirety of the list of folks I haven’t worked with yet, I’ll mention a few names — folks I’d like to do Something with, whatever that is, in no particular order: Will Hindmarch. Chuck Wendig. Jason Morningstar & Steve Segedy from Bully Pulpit. Kevin Allen Jr. Hal Mangold. Steve Kenson. Robin Laws.

And if we succeed at growing Evil Hat into something bigger over the next few years — that’s our goal, now — maybe we will.

Lastly, will we ever see a published version of Escape or Die, or did it meet its doom under an avalanche of other projects?

It’s been on the back burner for a while now. I’ve hit upon something I want to add to the rules, to provide a little more regulatory framework on getting people to narrate more than too little, but less than too much, but I think if I can do that and — importantly — find the time to write it up, I may turn it into a little $2 or $5 PDF product.

But it’s Evil Hat, so of course I’m not going to put a date on that. :)

Thanks to Fred for fitting this into his hectic schedule. Don’t forget to check out Fred’s blog and also the ever-growing game catalogue of Evil Hat.