The Independent Insurgency
Interviews from the indie game design world.








May 2017
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Ron asked me to put up this conversation he recorded with James. It was really interesting and it made me wish I was there to ask more questions. Enjoy.

Direct download: independent-insurgency-032.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:51pm EDT

Episode 31: TTMN: Ron Edwards on twosie games WARNING: The Independent Insurgency is an "explicit" podcast.

This episode is 18.4 MB big and 20:08 long.

In this Talk To Me Now episode I talk to Ron Edwards of Adept Press and The Forge about a recent trend in indie game design: two-player games and single protagonist games. The two are not necessarily synonymous. This came out of my observation/contention that most fiction is about single protagonists, but most RPGs are not. We mention a load of games, and you can find info on them here:

Ron's own Trollbabe, S/Lay w/ Me, Sorcerer & Sword, and Spione
Kevin Allen Jr.'s Sweet Agatha
Julia Bond Ellingboe's Tales of the Fisherman's Wife
Seth Ben Ezra's Showdown
Tim Koppang's Mars Colony
Emily Care Boss's Breaking the Ice
Ben Lehman's The Drifter's Escape and Clover
Matt Weber's Showdown

The outgoing song on this episode is The Arrivals Gate by Ani DiFranco from the album To the Teeth. I spent a lot of time in airports on my way back from Gen Con.

Logo courtesy of Daniel Solis:
Direct download: independent-insurgency-031.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:32pm EDT

Episode 30: Emily Care Boss on Sign in Stranger In this design episode, I talk Emily Care Boss of Black and Green Games about Sign in Stranger, her game of alien exploration. Called "the Peace Corps in space" game, Sign in Stranger is about human beings who've elected to leave a quarantined Earth behind to try to build a life for themselves out in space, among aliens who at best regard them with curious pity for their benighted condition. I've played and enjoyed it, and since it's coming out at Gen Con this year, you can do the same.

WARNING: The Independent Insurgency is an "explicit" podcast.

This episode is 60.6 MB big and 01:06:11 long.

00:00:55: About the game
00:01:46: The "Mad Libs" thing
00:06:20: The interesting role of humanity in the game, reminds me of Asimov's Elijah Baley stories
00:07:45: A rare indie game with a strong setting
00:09:20: Science fiction and the Native American analogy, and an NPR piece on the subject (which I can't find), which then reminds me of The Celluloid Closet
00:10:41: Why such a specific setting?
00:12:24: One of the early playtesters, Clinton R. Nixon, felt it accurately captured his past experiences of going to live in foreign cultures
00:14:21: Jonathan Walton has a vision for the game that makes it rather like Red Mars
00:15:38: Goofiness
00:16:57: Emily talks about gaming at NerdNYC's Recess
00:17:36: Dadaist games like Eat Poop You Cat
00:20:26: Emily gets all John Stavropoulos (of NerdNYC) on me
00:21:13: Ideal number of players
00:23:20: How long is the play cycle?
00:27:01: Blue booking
00:30:05: Spotlight sharing
00:32:49: The way dice work, inspired by Otherkind
00:37:39: Why complete and publish this game?
00:41:26: Emily was recently inspired by Montsegur 1244 at Camp Nerdly
00:46:37: A dropped system where players—a la Misspent Youth and Dread (Jenga)—asked leading questions of one another.
00:49:40: Emily mentions "Loading the wrong ammo" and "flags," ideas created by Chris Chinn
00:50:03: What was difficult to fix?
00:51:17: Archipelago, shock: social science fiction, and Annalise all do some cool stuff with owning pieces of the world
00:54:42: Getting playtesters
00:57:05: SIS got some very nice exposure on The Durham 3 (who are now back in action!), from episodes 49 to 51
00:58:51: Emily has agreed to do a cross-longer-term-play exchange with Mendel Schmiedekamp
00:59:21: How many times has the game been played?
01:00:15: Defining success

There's a new The Hub City Stompers album called Ska Ska Black Sheep and I'm all excited about it. It's half new songs and half dub versions of older songs. I decided to start with what is probably my favorite track from the album to close this show, Ska Train to Dorkville.

Logo courtesy of Daniel Solis:
Direct download: independent-insurgency-030.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:14pm EDT

Episode 29: TTMN: Emily Care Boss on Pirate Jenny & RPGirl In this Talk To Me Now episode I talk to Emily Care Boss of Black & Green Games about two related topics: Pirate Jenny, the booth (number 2023) at Gen Con Indy 2009 featuring games designed by women; and RPG= Role Playing Girl (RPGirl), the zine about women in the gaming industry that she's worked on, which will be on sale at the booth. We touch briefly all of the new/interesting/focused-on games that you can find at Pirate Jenny, the purpose and function of the booth, and what you'll find inside RPGirl.

WARNING: The Independent Insurgency is an "explicit" podcast.

This episode is 25.2 MB big and 27:27 long.

00:35: Defining Pirate Jenny
02:01: Anna Kreider of Tasty Bacon Games has Thou Art But A Warrior, which is a Muslim knights setting supplement for Ben Lehman's Polaris, which I interviewed her about
02:28: Danielle Lewon's Cream Alien Games has Kagematsu, a game about the seduction of a samurai by women who need his aid; Danielle is the wife of Paul Czege
03:23: Kagematsu is based on a design by Scott R. Knipe; the game is partly an examination of Knipe's experience as a transgendered person
04:52: Kat and Michael Miller's Incarnadine Press will have Serial Homicide Unit, a game where you play civilians at the mercy of a serial killer, and the cops who are out to catch him; I interviewed the Millers about this game
07:14: Shreyas Sampat and Elizabeth Shoemaker's Two Scooters Press will have Homecoming, Elizabeth's game about the re-integration of returning war vets
08:24: Julia Bond Ellingboe's Stone Baby Games is releasing the full version of Tales of the Fisherman's Wife (which I interviewed her about), a game of sexy Japanese ghost stories
10:00: Emily's own Black & Green Games is going to release her game of alien exploration, Sign in Stranger, which will be the subject of a future episode of my show
12:56: Terry Hope Romero, awesome lady and totally famous vegan cookbook writer will be there running demos and helping out
13:58: The mission and purpose of Pirate Jenny
17:48: RPGirl is a zine by and about women in gaming
20:20: The interesting pricing scheme and profit-routing plans for RPGirl
20:50: Possible international people for RPGirl 2 include: Anna Westerling, Johanna Koljonen
21:18: RPGirl 1 is already pretty international, contributors include: UKian Charlotte Law (of Mongoose Publishing); Jenni Dowsett from New Zealand; and from from Denmark, the Gnavpotveksler project, run by Luisa Carbonelli, which came out of conversations at Fastival

The outgoing song on this episode is Little Plastic Castle by Ani DiFranco from the album Little Plastic Castle. It seemed particularly apropos to me, given that we're dancing around—and avoiding—defining what femininity and feminism are in this episode.

Logo courtesy of Daniel Solis:
Direct download: independent-insurgency-029.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:49pm EDT

Episode 28: J.R. Blackwell on Shelter in Place This design episode is part of a series from the Indie Design Roundtable from DexCon 12, which I was the moderator of. In this one, we talk to photographer, writer, podcaster, contortionist, awesome chick, and game designer J.R. Blackwell about her zombie LARP in development, Shelter in Place. I had to pass up a chance to play this the night before but I was glad we were able to talk about it, as it sounds pretty cool.

WARNING: The Independent Insurgency is an "explicit" podcast.

This episode is 45.5 MB big and 49:37 long.

03:43: The premise
04:38: Ultimately, what's the game about?
05:33: How is the game about what it's about for the humans?
07:27: What does it mean when you say "it's about fear?"
09:40: What mechanical pressure exists to make humans be jerks to each other?
11:44: We hear from someone who just played in the game
13:56: More testimony of the goodness from someone who played
16:45: Zombie game with a twist
18:47: Do you have questions for us?
20:10: Problems getting people to follow the rules
23:39: Prisoner's dilemma
24:24: The Road and The Walking Dead
25:33: Creative agenda clash, and why it's your fault when people don't follow your rules
30:00: State markers
32:00: Setting-interactive rules
38:31: Lightning round

The closing song is Night Of The Living/Deoch An Dorais by The Hub City Stompers

Logo courtesy of Daniel Solis:
Direct download: independent-insurgency-028.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:07pm EDT

Episode 27: John Stavropoulos and Jim Sullivan on MonkeyDome In this design episode, I talk to John Stavropoulos and Jim Sullivan of the Imagination Sweatshop (ISS) and NerdNYC about their new playstormed gamein-a-jiffy for JiffyCon Greenfield June 09, MonkeyDome. MonkeyDome was a vast collaboration including Jim, John, Emily Care Boss (of Black and Green Games), Jason Keeley, Epidiah Ravachol, and Terry Romero. It's a game where you see-saw between incredibly grim and really wacky moments in a post-apocalyptic nightmare, and it's available for free on the ISS website.

WARNING: The Independent Insurgency is an "explicit" podcast.

This episode is 56.2 MB big and 1:01:20 long.

00:59: I interviewed Eppy in the last episode about playstorming and MonkeyDome came up
01:17: What's the game about?
02:46: The game was designed in (almost less than) a week!
08:11: The difference between funny and zany.
10:22: Playable as an ongoing game?
12:06: The mechanics
19:52: What it means to learn a lesson
21:02: Endgame
25:14: The GameBlaster's Tools: The Fuel and the Fire
26:03: World creation and what the characters do in the game
29:02: Other games you came up with?
30:20: Jim mentions a game idea that's a lot like Jason Morningstar's Fiasco (which he talked about on Canon Puncture #66)
31:20: Who did you steal from?
32:07: John is always inspired by Eppy's game Dread
34:00: What had to be dropped that you liked?
34:44: The hardest thing to fix
35:24: Playtesting
36:43: Trial and Terror is the prior game-in-a-Jiffy for JiffyCon game
38:13: Division of labor and editing
43:06: The ISS used a site called A.nnotate which lets you upload a fully-laid-out document that others browse through and comment on
44:06: What the art (by Scott LeMien and John) is used for
47:11: Luke Crane loves John's flow chart
48:05: Why this form factor?
48:41: Marketing
50:21: Branding and credit
51:24: Defining success
53:46: Selling the game
56:58: The next JiffyCon may be paired with MaulCon

The closing song is Skins Don't Cry by The Hub City Stompers

Logo courtesy of Daniel Solis:
Direct download: independent-insurgency-027.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:30pm EDT

Episode 26: TTMN: Epidiah Ravachol on Playstorming In this Talk To Me Now episode, I speak with Epidiah Ravachol, writer of the best horror game I know of, Dread about a style of game design which is a combination of playtesting and brainstorming that he and some friends engage in (and, arguably, invented) called playstorming.

This episode is 23.4 MB big and 25:34 long.

00:35: We're at the home of Joshua A. C. Newman
01:34: Playstorming developed between bouts of making hate with Jim Sullivan
02:40: The first game playstormed (kinda) was Time and Temp
03:49: The gamebearer
05:36: Games in a Jiffy for JiffyCon: Trial and Terror and MonkeyDome
09:30: Techniques for successful playstorming?
12:06: What do people get wrong about playstorming?
13:00: The pitfalls of playstorming
14:55: Joshua joins us, opening the door to discussing his game in development, Xenon:
16:06: A list of games that have had some level of playstorming
18:09: Jason Keeley and John Stavropolous are seminal members of the Imagination Sweatshop, the group that they created to do playstorming

The outgoing song on this episode is Fuel by Ani DiFranco from the album Little Plastic Castles.

Logo courtesy of Daniel Solis:
Direct download: independent-insurgency-026.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:29pm EDT

Episode 25: TTMN: Vincent Baker on Clouds and Boxes In this Talk To Me Now episode, I speak with Vincent Baker about his "cloud and box" theory and accompanying diagrams explaining his take on the interactions between fiction and real-world materials. There are a series of posts on his blog about this: How RPG Rules Work; 3 Resolution Systems; Scale, Depth, Clouds, Dice; cloud-to-cloud; A Moment of Judgment; Dice and Cloud, Mix and Match; GM fiat put to work for the good; and Dice & Cloud: a Symmetry.

This is a longer TTMN episode than I intend them to be, usually, but I felt there was enough worthwhile stuff here that going long was ok.

This episode is 53.7 MB big and 58:40 long.

01:36: What clouds and boxes are
02:16: Ben Lehman got excited on Vincent's blog
04:02: The purpose of the diagrams
06:12: The problem with traditional games
10:00: Constructing a diagram via theater of the mind
10:26: The problem with "story games" (he's talked about with me, Joshua A. C. Newman, Emily Care Boss, and Ben, about which he expects to get death threats)
15:34: Where Vincent's interests are at now: rightward-pointing arrows (RPA)
17:30: An example of RPA from Vincent's pirate game Poison'd
22:23: My malformed objections
24:08: The high ground example
30:28: Danger or problem in focusing on RPA?
30:51: The GM's attitude toward play
35:41: A false ending
42:35: The GM's role in Dogs in the Vineyard is similar to what he found when running D&D and what he wrote into Storming the Wizard's Tower
45:14: I'd like to see GMless games that employ RPA
45:52: I played in a GMless game called Salt River that uses a version of Otherkind dice
51:25: Wherein I give up
53:25: Apocalypse World is like super-Poison'd

The outgoing song on this episode is Superhero from the album Dilate.

Logo courtesy of Daniel Solis:
Direct download: independent-insurgency-025.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:41pm EDT

Episode 24: Julia Ellingboe on Tales of the Fisherman's Wife In this episode, I talk to Julia Bond Ellingboe about her forthcoming game, Tales of the Fisherman's Wife. The game is set in medieval Japan and is a GMless game for telling ghost stories. Our discussion includes handmaking books, the difficulty of finding playtesters, and issues of appropriating others' culture.

WARNING: The Independent Insurgency is an "explicit" podcast.

This episode is 53.5 MB big and 58:25 long.

00:43: Set in the Edo period
01:48: The mechanics have you playing War
08:15: The title comes from a famous painting, The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife by Katushika Hokusai
09:11: Why design this game?
11:20: Thematic links between card suits and fiction
12:40: Is this an adult game?
18:15: My prior interview with Carrie Bernstein
19:29: What did you steal from?
20:11: 1001 Nights by Meguey Baker
21:33: What did you have to change from the ashcan?
24:13: What was difficult to fix?
25:36: The trouble with getting playtesters
26:37: JiffyCon and Double Exposure's Dreamation conventions
27:26: Editing the book
28:45: What use, art?
30:36: Getting the game printed (Collective Copies)
31:37: Layout and design challenges
35:19: Form factor
37:27: Marketing the game
38:05: Oh My, a "Sensuality Shop" that Julia would like to market the game in.
39:09: What is success?
44:06: Taking yourself out of the equation
48:43: The cultural sensitivity issues around designing a game about a culture that you're not a part of

The closing song is Tocotta and Droog by The Hub City Stompers

Logo courtesy of Daniel Solis:
Direct download: independent-insurgency-024.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:09pm EDT

Episode 23: TTMN: Joshua A. C. Newman on Human Contact This episode is 21.4 MB big and 23:44 long.

In this episode, I speak with Joshua A. C. Newman about the In A Wicked Age... game we've been playing in with Meguey and Vincent Baker. The game was about first contact between two human species at the fictional level. At the gamey level, we were making a real effort to make sure to provide world-fiction details, and we talk about that impulse in this episode.

During the show, we talk about Apocalypse World, Sign in Stranger, shock:, the oracle for Human Contact, The Brilliant Gameologists, and JiffyCon.

The outgoing song on this episode is Subdivision by Ani DiFranco from the album Revelling/Reckoning. I like it for this 'cause it's got interesting synchronies with the topics that get brought up in our game.

Logo courtesy of Daniel Solis:
Direct download: independent-insurgency-023.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:28pm EDT