Tomo Moriwaki talks about his career in videogame design and how his experiences led him to the latest endeavor, Epic Tavern. In Epic Tavern, players are tasked with building up a tavern to cater to adventure needs AND with sending those adventurers on quests. Tomo talks about his goals to design an engaging gameplay loop that encourages players to spend more time with Epic Tavern; it was fascinating to learn about the decisions that are made to create a successful gameplay loop that cultivates that “one more turn” feeling for players!
He discusses obstacles to creating a game “like fantasy football for fantasty fantasy” and how the small team has overcome those challenges. Tomo educates me about the logic behind Epic Tavern gameplay, including the encounter system involved in questing.
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Keith Ammann joins me to discuss his book, The Monsters Know What They’re Doing, which provides highly-detailed tactical guidance for monsters in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. He speaks about the his interest in strategy games and how that influenced his approach to running gaming sessions.
He discusses how to run monsters realistically to further engage players and make their achievements at the table more meaningful. He provides examples from his book on creatures such as goblins and highly-intelligent monsters such as the mage. We explore multiple aspects of combat including complexity, difficulty, and morality.
The Monsters Know What They’re Doing reminds me of the write-ups for early 4th Edition D&D monsters, and that information is sorely missed in 5th Edition. I recommend the book strongly for anyone running 5th Edition sessions.
Enjoy the 58th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!
Teos Abadia joins Ego Check once again to talk about how wonderfully diverse the tabletop roleplaying game hobby has become in recent years. He details how he got involved in the Acquisitions Incorporated book for Dungeons & Dragons, and speaks to the philosophy behind the unique approach to D&D content. He discusses his hand in refining the final segments of the AI adventure within the book, and how delightful it was to work with the other members of the team on the project.
Enjoy the 51st episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!
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François Alliot, designer of the Reigns series of games, discusses his Tinder-inspired approach to probabilistic narrative game design. He talks about his quest to find a great “flow” for his games and how he wants to surprise players. We delve into the design of Reigns and ponder how adaptive game design might develop in the future. François shares his influences regarding the focus on emerging narrative games, and he also provides some news about what he is working on next – including a tabletop version of Reigns!
Enjoy the 42nd episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
James Haeck, Lead Writer for D&D Beyond and Coauthor of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and Critical Role’s Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting joins the pod to educate me about how Critical Role overlaps with elements of the RPG and D&D landscape – and how it also has carved its own niche. He discussed the evolution of Critical Role and how it only recently became an independent entity outside of Geek & Sundry and Legendary Digital Networks while also clarifying my prior misconceptions about Critical Role being “under” Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro. James and I ponder what Critical Role’s success may mean for tabletop RPGs and empathize with individuals that may question the money that is being raised.
I disclose my initial interest and envy from the success, and we both discuss the perils of focusing on the successes and failures of others while trying to create content. I thank James for delving into these questions, and we both acknowledge our lack of adequate solutions for these dilemmas. I shift gears with James to ask about how he got involved in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, and prod him for suggestions on how to get the most out of the content provided in the book. I selfishly wanted this information as my group my find their way into an urban setting soon! This is a worthy conversation, and I hope you give it a listen!
Enjoy the 40th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
In recent months, I’ve been slowly working my way through Red Dead Redemption 2. I started before the holidays, and the slow pace of the early game tripped me up. It took some cognitive adjustment (and a few tutorial articles) to get my bearings in this new version of the Old West. The game is beautiful, and gives players a vast canvas to devote countless hours to do – well, just about anything.
From hunting wildlife to donating to beggars to playing poker to bonding with a horse to furthering women’s rights to shooting up a “the whole damn town” with a frenemy, Red Dead Redemption 2 gives players a trainload of options for how to spend their time while controlling Arthur Morgan. In addition to tens of hours of primary plot lines to follow, which I’m still nowhere near completing yet, the game has various tiers of what I’ll label Random Encounters. It is these encounters – and how they could relate to a tabletop role-playing game like Dungeons & Dragons – that have been on my mind in recent days.
In games such as Red Dead Redemption, the NPCs drive the story forward. I mentioned above that a player can travel to specific locations on the world map to trigger the next story mission; the icons on the map are the names of important NPCs in the world. The player knows at any time during the game the NPCs that are available to trigger a story mission. I used this design to build my campaign.
Back then, I channeled my preparation time into creating prominent NPCs that players could interact with during sessions, knowing the general areas and missions those NPCs would trigger. It was a formula that worked well with my group, and helped me prepare for each session. Clearly, adventure books and modules accomplish this same goal; those texts provide details on important NPCs, and the DM steers the players in the direction of those NPCs to advance the plot.
Where Red Dead Redemption 2 is intriguing is that some tiers of the Random Encounters do not serve a purpose in the classic sense of game design. Completing the encounters does not increase skills, earn your character money, or unlock new items. The encounters are simply there; they exist to be experienced by the player. It’s rather strange because many other areas of the game drive you to complete specific actions to craft an item, earn more money, or improve your character or equipment in some way.
Kevin Hovdestad joins the pod to educate me about his years of work in the realm of Esports. He talks about his years of experience as a freelance journalist writing about Esports and how that led to career opportunities as a Director of Market for Catalyst Esports Solutions and most recently an Associate Editor with Blizzard Entertainment. He discusses the rise of Esports in recent years, and the potential bubble in the industry. He offers solutions for some of what ails Esports such as the need for a “Netflix for Esports” and finding ways for more people to easily consume and pay for Esports content. We discuss how games are now designed to be an ongoing service rather than a stable experience in addition to the ever-shifting landscape of Esports, and how the relationships between developers, players, sponsors and promoters is complex.
Enjoy the 36th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
Tom Eastman, President of Trinket Studios, joins me to talk about their new release, Battle Chef Brigade, which is now available on Steam and Nintendo Switch. Tom talks about the four-year development process for Battle Chef Brigade, and the challenges his team faced as an small independent company. He discusses the perils of marketing the game while fighting obscurity, and how Trinket Studios partnered with Adult Swim Games. Tom details how Battle Chef Brigade went through a rollercoaster in terms of scope and gameplay variations, and how they arrived at the current combination of mechanics and features. He answers my numerous questions about the design of the game, including how players are rewarded – rather than punished – for playing the game. We also get into the logistics of art design and voice acting. Tom concludes by talking about the mental toll of working on such a project and releasing it into the wild. If you have played Battle Chef Brigade or are simply interested in how games are developed, then this podcast is a must listen! And if you have yet to experience Battle Chef Brigade, go buy the game! It is an amazing experience that I am loving.
Enjoy the 26th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
My guest for Episode 9 of Ego Check with The Id DM is Shanna Germain, co-founder of Monte Cook Games, and an acclaimed writer and game designer. She covered many topics during our discussion, including her work as an activist and advocate in and out of the gaming industry. She speaks about her work with Monte Cook Games and how she balances the demands of writing novels and designing games. We spent an extended amount of time on the concept of grief in gaming, and this led into a discussion of politics and the recent statement by Monte Cook Games titled, Our Core Values. We conclude by talking about her roleplaying game for young children, No Thank You, Evil.
Enjoy the ninth episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
My guest for Episode 3 of Ego Check with The Id DM is Teos Abadia, writer for companies such as Wizards of the Coast and Kobold Press. Mr. Abadia is very active in the Dungeons & Dragons community, and you might be more familiar with his Twitter handle, @Alphastream. He has been adding comments to my articles on the blog since 2011, and has been a wonderful source of support over the years. I’m proud to have him on the show!
We spent a great hour talking about publishing original content for roleplaying game companies and what it is like to be heavily involved in the Organized Play movement for Wizards of the Coast. We devoted the second half of the podcast to a discussion on diversity in RPGs including where the industry has come from and where it can go in the future. Our conversation took place about one week before the election, and some of it seems to foreshadow the results. For example, while getting into a question, I voiced the following:
It certainly seems over time it’s becoming more diverse and that’s a wonderful thing. I think with that it brings some challenges – and you could even connect this to political factors going on in our country right now. As there’s more diversity, there’s a segment of the population that was rather enjoying the status quo and privilege that was there with what was happening before, and now things are changing – and people don’t like change sometime so that’s bad.
If I could go back and edit myself, I would succinctly say, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” That’s a quote that has been going around a lot these days. I am considering writing a personal post about the election, but I may just keep things to myself; I need to think on it more. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Mr. Abadia and I discussing diversity in RPGs.
He also shares some tips for writers and designers looking to improve their work, and we close out the show by briefly reviewing our favorite Pearl Jam songs. Because Pearl Jam is the best of all things!
Enjoy the third episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:
Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. My plan is to release new episodes the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month. The next episode will post on December 6th, 2016.