Friday, April 13, 2018

Interviews & Lists

broo minis painted by Richard Bark, octorilla/walktapus mini from when Jonathan and I designed Dreamblade

I've done a few interviews in the last couple weeks, two about 13th Age Glorantha and one about monster design.

JM, Mark, and Nick's Iconic podcast on all things 13th Age-related has started up for a second season! Jonathan Tweet and I were guests for the first episode. We started by discussing the biggest design challenge we faced on 13G: fitting everything into a 190 page book. (Spoiler: we failed!) Our hosts were funny and fun and I'm looking forward to joining them again some time.

Also in the world of radio podcasting, The RevEnFuego interviewed me about 13th Age Glorantha for a BJ Shea's Geek Nation segment. Unlike the Iconic trio, the Rev wasn't familiar with Glorantha before he got hold of 13G, so we started with some of the runic, mythic, and Staffordian basics. As with the Iconic chat, we eventually landed among ducks. Along the way we talked a lot about 13G classes like the trickster that might also be used in 13th Age games that aren't set in Glorantha.

That was also the subject of a column I wrote for the Pelgrane Press website, New 13th Age Classes: A Swordmaster & an Earth Priestess Walk into the Dragon Empire. Originally I was going to write about all the new classes in 13G, but I opted to go in-depth into two (Humakti and earth priestess) as examples of what's possible.

Meanwhile in a text interview that had nothing to do with ducks, but one good question about Glorantha, Phil Pepin of High Level Games asked me questions about monster design, including a question that led back to designing miniatures games at WotC. That ties nicely into the miniature photographed above, a walktapus-by-another-name that Jonathan and I made as part of a Dreamblade set while at WotC.

Another thing we took along with us from WotC was a fondness for the OGL. We used it for 13th Age so that other people could create compatible products with the system and I enjoyed Wade Rockett's recent round-up of notable books compatible with 13th Age published by third-party publishers. There's a lot of great stuff here, and it didn't mention some of the cooler free stuff, like Tim Baker's Escalation fanzine.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

13th Age Glorantha: Delicious (to Trolls)

Of the little things I like about our 13th Age Glorantha book, one of the silliest is how pages 347 and 348 look like they've been eaten by moths. It’s the o Darkness section of our runic geography chapter. o Darkness is the rune of the trolls, and trolls a) eat anything; and b) herd giant insects. So it always makes me happy that pages devoted to troll territories look like they’ve been nibbled by bugs!

But did I say this was silly? It’s not really. It’s the kind of thing Greg Stafford planned when he envisioned Glorantha’s runes. It’s more cosmic than it is accident.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Heinsoo: Rainbow over the Wine-Zoo

How do you pronounce my last name? Yes, you, the reader, the comrade sharing this line.

If you pronounce the first syllable to rhyme with ‘wine’ and the second syllable to room with ‘zoo,’ you’re agreeing with nearly all English speakers. Well, American-speakers, at least.

If you pronounce the first syllable to rhyme with ‘rain’ and the second syllable to rhyme with ‘bow,’ you’re either Estonian (or maybe Finnish or Dutch), a member of my circle of family or friends with a good ear for language, or someone who has had me correct you two or three times already.

My wife Lisa (not a Heinsoo, by the way, she has a very cool name of her own that’s marginally easier to pronounce) advises me to give it up, and just let people pronounce my name the way they’re going to read it, because come on, who am I kidding? She’s probably right. When Shane Ivey of Arc Dream asked me last week about the pronunciation of my name for the upcoming Wrestlenomicon Kickstarter video, I could have let the original wine-zoo pronunciation roll. Because really, I don’t care if people say my name wrong. 

I just can’t bring myself to ignore our Estonian selves, not when I say my own name, or when someone asks. Who would I be if I’d grown up with a name that other people could pronounce properly? Maybe less of an unusual person, I say, being polite.. I suspect I wouldn’t be me, not in some odd ways that matter.

So it’s OK if you pronounce the name of my company to rhyme with Rob Wine-Zoo Games. I don’t mind, I expect it. But if you hear me talking, I’ll continue to rhyme my name with rainbow. And in honor of that pronunciation, here are four beautiful color treatments Lee Moyer (rhyme scheme starts with Wheee!) created of the logo for the new company, and two black and white versions like the one that appears on the cover of 13th Age Glorantha.

Friday, February 16, 2018

New Wrestlenomicon Two-Player Cardgame Playtest Opens

art by Kurt Komoda

I've been super-busy finishing game design projects before a vacation.

One of the projects, a twisted little two-player card game from Arc Dream Publishing called Wrestlenomicon, is about to open a month-long playtest. The version of the game in this playtest has taken a turn toward the lighter side, away from a couple rules and abilities we decided were too esoteric.

If you're a fan of some of my other card games, or you enjoy two-player combat games, or if you have been aching for the chance to impale a fellow elder god with Cassilda's Thong or crush them under a Barrel Full of Byakhees, you can sign up for the playtest by visiting the website!

I'm going to be traveling without much email for the next few weeks, so if you sign up and have any trouble getting the playtest kit, or have questions, contact Shane Ivey at

Sunday, December 17, 2017

this week in gaming


This week I absorbed the rules for four new games: Gloomhaven (cunning boardgame dungeon-crawler and Kickstarter darling) Magic Maze (unique co-op game getting in and out of a delightfully illustrated fantasy shopping mall), Wild Blue Yonder (the new version of Dan Verssen’s Down in Flames WWII air combat card game from GMT), and Centerville (Chad Jensen’s new Euro-style urban planning status and prestige game). So far the only one of the four we’ve played was Magic Maze, which was hilarious fun but demonstrated again that I’m a turn-based gamer and a real-time bumbler.

In the world of playtesting, we played a great session of one of my new card game designs that the publisher has not announced yet. The game has gone well enough for long enough that I’m going to finish up its rulebook and call it done as soon as I can carve out two focused days.

Also in the world of playtesting, Lisa and I played a friend’s new card game a number of times on a couple of nights, but that’s not announced either so I can’t write details.

And the Wednesday night RPG group enjoyed another session of the Over the Edge 25 campaign that Jonathan has been running for a while now. The campaign doesn’t have a name yet. Our other OTE campaigns seem to acquire a name when things go horribly wrong, names like “Ann Thunder Escapes,” when Ann Thunder was our nemesis. So far, so nameless.

Meanwhile in the world of actual work I’ve been acting as editor/layout overseer for the Book of Demons for Pelgrane. And getting art orders ready for three other Pelgrane books. And cobbling together the credits and appendices for 13th Age Glorantha, which Chris Huth is busy laying out the final chapter of. I’ve also been dealing with art direction on two other game-projects we’re not talking about yet, which raises the point that I’m often working as the art director for games I design or develop. That was something I leaned towards at the end of my WotC shift, when I was writing art orders for books I hadn’t worked on. But WotC had excellent art directors, trained for the job. In the world beyond WotC my untrained aptitude has frequently put me in the director’s chair.

When I get through the art direction, I’ll be back to developing Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Book of Ages, a fun 13th Age project with three different takes on portraying a world dominated by icons-over-time. Which means that this week, my only effort that qualifies as actual game design was a lunch time conversation with Logan Bonner about two in-progress card games. Extremely worthwhile, but I haven’t even have time to follow up on his thoughts. We’ll see if I can get back to design next week. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Winter update

This weekend: I'll be at Dragonmeet in London on Saturday with the Pelgrane crew. I love visiting London, and Wednesday I got to attend Arsenal's 5-0 tonking of Huddersfield, so all is well.

Work in progress....
The first five books mentioned on this list are Pelgrane projects for 13th Age. After that the list moves to other companies and other games.

[[cover art by Jessica Chung Ti Lee]]
Fire & Faith:  The third of the battlescenes books by Cal Moore, with ready-to-run mini-adventures for the icons who rely at least partly on faith: Diabolist, Crusader, Priestess, Great Gold Wyrm. The book didn't quite make it into print in time for Dragonmeet. Printed copies are showing up later in December, for now you can pre-order at the Pelgrane store and get the PDF.

[[cover art by Melissa Gay]]
Book of Demons: This one is in layout. Among the reasons the book will be notable is that it contains a rarity: a new 13th Age character class, the demonologist, something I put together after initial work by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and another early draft from Paul Fanning. Elsewhere in the book, the six hellholes Gareth created are wild. He'd written art suggestions that I said were not-doable, "tone it down, a lot, this is just too convoluted, no artist is going to want to handle this," I said. And then Cat Tobin went and proved me very wrong, finding an artist named Agathe PitiĆ© who pulled a full Hieronymus Bosch. 

Book of Ages: I'm midway through developing Gareth's wonderful combo of DIY chronicling and sample ages, full of monsters and magic and spells from the ancients. Not sure of publication date yet but it's next in the pipeline.

Shards of the Broken Sky: I've got a bit of final devwork to handle on ASH LAW's big adventure. Art is midway. Maps are still needing to be arranged.

Loot Harder: ASH's new book of treasure, with bits from a few couple other writers. To be published in 2018, either just before or just after Shards I believe.

13th Age Glorantha: It will be a 400+ page book from Moon Design. We recently shared Chapter 3: Playing in Glorantha with KickStarter backers. Six of the book's eight chapters have been laid out by Chris Huth. Layout finishes soon. I'll be handling indexing and other final bits when I'm back from Dragonmeet. I'm amazed by the final layout. Jonathan prefers not to see our books as they're in progress, he likes to wait until they are done--he's in for a treat!

Wrestlenomicon: A two-player card game from Arc Dream Publishing, presently in open playtesting, aiming to be on Kickstarter sometime in 2018 since its art by Kurt Komoda is complete and we're just getting the mechanics right. (See the previous post in this blog.)

Dragonfire: I didn't work on Catalyst's new Dragonfire game of D&D deckbuilding directly, but my business partner Jay Schneider did, and it's pretty much a second edition of the Shadowrun: Crossfire game our Fire Opal design group created, which is why Mike Elliot and Greg Marques and the rest of us are credited as designers. As a second edition, I think Dragonfire is an improvement over our Crossfire mechanics. I believe Crossfire may be getting an update soon to match some of the improvements, and I'm excited to see Dragonfire's progress in the months to come.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


[Hyades Head Slam, by Kurt Komoda]

Dennis Detwiller & Shane Ivey of Arc Dream Publishing came up with the idea of pitting Cthulhu vs. Hastur in a cosmic cage fight. They came up with dozens of funny card names and Kurt Komoda supplied wonderful illustrations. But the rules they started with didn’t live up to the concept and the art. Dennis & Shane decided they didn’t really have a viable game. And that’s when I got involved, meeting Dennis at a convention, hearing that they had a fully-illustrated game with no mechanics, and jumping at the chance to join the team.

I designed a couple systems that had interesting pieces but weren’t fun. Then I hit on the idea of presenting the fight as a battle between great slow-moving cosmic entities who launch attacks that unfold over time and space, arriving after the enemy has had a chance to see them coming and figure out what they might do in response. If it’s not actually a unique game mechanic, I don’t know other games that used the idea first. I’m sure I’ll hear whether the mechanics have unknown ancestors during this next piece of the process, a wide open-playtest.

If you’d like to be part of the playtest, you can sign up at This first (and perhaps only) playtest is going to run for something like five weeks. Assuming it goes well, the game’s developer, Sean McCarthy, and I will process the playtest feedback and get the game ready to roll. At some point thereafter, when they’ve recovered from other Kickstarter heroics, Arc Dream will run a KS for Wrestlenomicon . . . . since there’s definitely more that can be accomplished in this cosmic ring!
[[Fistful of Cultists, also by Kurt Komoda]]