Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Midgard Campaign Setting: Dark Roads & Deep Magic

Two weeks ago, I discussed picking up a RPG playtester resume credit from Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts and Book of Lairs Kickstarter. This week, I’m looking at Kobold Press’ 5e campaign setting, Midgard, the early access to playtest materials that they’re offering, and their stretch goal that will open this campaign setting up to let anyone write and publish in it.

Midgard Campaign Setting

Midgard Campaign Setting: Dark Roads & Deep Magic by Kobold Press

Kickstarter campaign ends on Friday February248th, 2017 at 4:00 PM EST.

Their Pitch:

Five years have passed; high time to update the Midgard Campaign Setting, and add Deep Magic, adventures, and player options galore!

Welcome to Midgard’s shadow roads, traveler! The way is winding and dangerous, but the rewards are great for the adventuresome and bold.

The rewards for the Midgard Kickstarter include 3 primary books, plus a slew of thrilling adventures and crunchy expansions! The core rewards include these volumes:

Dusk Queen of the Shadow from the Midgard campaign setting

Midgard Campaign Setting for 5th Edition and Pathfinder RPG: A 300+ page volume describing the Midgard regions, from the Northlands to the Western Wastes, and from the Southlands to the Crossroads. With detailed locations, cities, rulers, heraldry, plots, and adventure hooks galore, plus full details of the various pantheons, masked gods, and dark gods, there’s enough here to fuel years of adventuring!

In this updated edition, you’ll get the expanded Blood Kingdom of Morgau and updates to Zobeck, the Cantons, the Western Wastes, and other regions. If we meet our goals, we’ll also  add the Shadow Realm and Blood Kingdom as standalone chapters, and may even open the golden gates of Khandiria… It’s a rich and standalone edition of the setting.

This book is available in both a regular cover and in a special limited edition with leatherette cover, bookmark, and stamped gold foil, plus a handbound leather edition.

Midgard Heroes Handbook for 5th Edition: Full details for Midgard races, variants, archetypes, and backgrounds—everything you need to play trollkin, ravenfolk, kobolds, and others! You’ll also get more than a dozen new cleric domains, new weapons and equipment, and Deep Magic spells and traditions such as Clockwork Magic and Ley Line Magic. Stretch goals will add even more Deep Magic to the book, plus expanded races and broader options for existing ones.

Midgard GM’s Screen

Midgard Player’s Guide for Pathfinder RPG: Collects all of Midgard’s racial lore, class options, feats, and equipment under one set of covers—plus new material for ley line magic, and more. We hope to expand it with shadow magic and other stretch goals. Developed by Paizo staff developer Amanda Hamon Kunz.

Eldritch Lairs: A series of short 5th Edition adventures written by James Haeck and other designers, somewhat like the Prepared! collection of one-shots. This starts as a set of PDF stretch goals, and it will become a print volume included with the premium tiers once the collection is big enough (it will be an add-on for Basic pledge tiers).


Pit of the Dust Goblins from the Midgard campaign setting

Their tenth update: Open World of Midgard

From the earliest days, the Midgard Campaign Setting has been an open world: pre-Kickstarter, patrons brainstormed elements of Zobeck, the Margreve Forest, and the horrors hidden beneath the Ironcrag Mountains. Over the years we’ve kept that door open, with an open freelance submissions policy and frequent design contests to bring new talent into the field.

Well, now we’re taking a big step beyond that. If we get enough backers on this Kickstarter, we’ll launch Midgard as an Open World on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.

What will it mean for Midgard to become an Open World? Glad you asked! Like the Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft in the DM’s Guild program, Midgard will be open for anyone to use and publish locations, adventures, characters, lairs or other playable material (under certain conditions). In this case, it would cover supplements that are compatible with 5th Edition, Pathfinder RPG, and 13th Age RPG.

Midgard Table of Contents

How close are we to that goal? We need 2,000 backers to form a strong enough nucleus of new designers to attempt it; we’re currently at just over 1,000 backers, with a little more than 2 weeks left. That means we definitely need your help to make it happen. It’s possible, but it’s not a slam-dunk.

What gets us there? Every backer of the project counts toward this goal, regardless of dollars pledged or rewards chosen. That means if all 4 players in your local game pledges $1, we’re 4 backers closer to the Midgard Open World. Any and all of those backers get first peek at Backer Updates in this project, which might also inspire them to roll up some homebrew encounters or build out that archetype they’re always talking about. It’s up to them.

Why Open Midgard? The reality of a small press is that we can never keep up with the demand for new material, and we’re always scouting talent. This approach helps with both, by providing additional Midgard adventures and resources, while opening up a way for talented-but-unknown designers to be recognized. Our hope is that participants in an Open Midgard will also become freelancers who keep the setting vibrant and join the Kobold crew on future official releases. That’s the plan; all we need is a large enough set of backers to launch it!”


Midgard Open World

Egg’s Thoughts:

I’m building a RPG resume by purchasing creator opportunities on Kickstarter. This Kickstarter has pledge levels that offer early access to playtest materials for one of the largest third-party publishers. As a bonus, if the campaign reaches 2,000 backers then Kobold Press will make the Midgard setting an open world.

What’s an open world? In this case, it’s a RPG setting that you can publish content for (with certain restrictions). Want to set an adventure and characters in the Midgard’s Ironcrags and publish it for profit? If this stretch goal is achieved, that will be an option.

In a perfect kickstarted world, I’d want to playtest as much of Midgard as possible and use that knowledge to create worthwhile new content within the Midgard setting. With every new backer on this project, we’re getting closer to my goal.


Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at – Writer & Artist
  • Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for 5e available at – Playtester

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck

No vanity-press-buy-a-RPG-creator’s-credit this week. Instead, let’s focus on a publication to improve my RPG adventure module writing skills.

How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck by Goodman Games
Kickstarter campaign ends on Tuesday, February 14th, 2017 at 11:50 PM EST.

How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck

Their Pitch:

“Advice on how you can write great adventures – from the company that has published more than 200 top-notch adventures!

Many years ago, when Goodman Games was first starting out, many sage elders in the industry gave Joseph Goodman advice on what to publish. The most common advice received was: “Don’t publish adventure modules. They don’t sell.”

What we have learned since then is that advice is largely true. Poorly written, uninteresting, uninspired adventure modules do not sell.

But the good adventure modules – the exciting ones – that ones that read well and play well at the table – they become treasured memories for us all. They become legends. These adventures are the shared experience that builds our community. We remember our exploits, ask each other how a different group handled that encounter, and lament the secret doors we may have missed. We tell our friends about the climactic finale; we are in turns surprised and devastated and thrilled as we navigate the encounters. And most importantly, if an adventure is fun to play – if the game master and the players both have a blast – then we tell our friends, and they play, and they tell their friends, and that adventure becomes a community builder. It is played thousands and thousands of times. It becomes a legend.

How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck

This book is about how to create tabletop RPG adventures that become those legends. This book is about how to write great adventure modules – the ones that gamers can’t stop talking about.

This is the primer that every game designer needs to have on his bookshelf. I’ve been in the role-playing game design industry for more than forty years. In many of those years my products were the best selling products out that year. I learned many new things from this set of articles. I have learned things that have improved my design skills, so I know they will improve yours as well.

The essay writers include:

Jobe Bittman, Mike Breault, Anne K. Brown, Timothy Brown, Stephen Chenault, Casey Christofferson, Chris Clark, Michael Curtis, Chris Doyle, Joseph Goodman, Allen Hammack, Jon Hook, Kevin Melka, Brendan J. LaSalle, Lloyd Metcalf, Bill Olmesdahl, Steve Peek, Jean Rabe, Merle M. Rasmussen, Lester Smith, Harley Stroh, Jim Wampler, James M. Ward, Skip Williams, and Steve Winter.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

How to Write Adventure Modules That Don’t Suck

I want to be a tabletop role-playing game freelancer. I have some creator credits and experience that I’ve bought through RPG Kickstarters. What I don’t have is a mentor. HtWAMTDS is not that, but it is written by individuals that would be ideal mentors. The book promises to share their thought process for designing modules and adventure paths.

The cleverest part of Goodman Game’s Kickstarter is the updates, they’re samples of the book’s philosophy. Unlike so many projects, this one creates a clearer and clearer picture of what you are purchasing every time they add a new post.

To be clear, there are no vanity press rewards here. Instead, for as little as $12, you can get the PDF of HtWAMTDS and learn from those that have gone before and made money in this industry. Seems like money well spent.


Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at – Writer & Artist
  • Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for 5e available at – Playtester

Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Vanity Press – Tome of Beasts

“I want to be a freelance RPG writer… so then, uh… why am I buying RPG playtester credits for my resume?”

Covers for the Tome of Beasts and the Book of Lairs

First, what’s a playtester? That’s an individual who puts an unpublished/untested game through its paces. They play and look for successes and flaws and communicate their findings back to the creator for consideration.

Second, why do I want to playtest something? Two reasons.

  • It’s enlightening to see how the sausage is made
  • Networking

Unlike my prior purchases, I’m not buying RPG experience for myself. This time, I’m showing that I have enough experience to improve someone else’s work.

This is my journey to freelancer and it starts with selecting the Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Vanity Press.


Alseid from the Tome of Beasts

Tome of Beasts by Kobold Press

In October, 2015, Dungeons & Dragons 5e was 15 months into their commercial lifecycle when Kobold Press kickstarted the Tome of Beasts and the Book of Lairs.

Why did they create the Tome of Beasts? At that time, 5e had a lone official Monster Manual of all the critters to fight. Volo’s Guide to Monsters was unannounced and 13 months away. The largest resource for third-party monsters was either homebrew or Frog God Games’ Fifth Edition Foes. The Fifth Edition Foes had been kickstarted the same month that 5e launched (along with two other 5e books). They generated nearly $64,000, so there was precedent that showed fan demand. Despite the monster foes, homebrews and various one-offs for 5e, there was a desire for even more monsters. Enter Kobold Press and their offering, the Tome of Beasts.

Why did they create the Book of Lairs? 15 months into the commercial existence of 5e, there were a number of official adventure paths but not as many standalone dungeons or monster lairs. Just want a dungeon for your characters to crawl with a hook, monsters, and treasure instead of a whole campaign? Kobold Press‘ Book of Lairs is for you.


Ravenfolk Art

Let me type a few words on Kobold Press. They are one of the largest 3PPs (third-party publishers) in gamedom. They wrote the first two official hardcover modules for 5e – Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat – and have proven to be a consistently nice group of folks. Kobold-in-Chief Wolfgang Baur, hobbylancer Ben McFarland, Kobold Minion Dan Dillon, and more have decades of combined professional RPG experience creating… well, throw a dart at any quality RPG product and chances are someone there had a hand in it.

Why Kobold Press is dear to my heart is spelled out in their FAQ. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert but I think – THINK – that they used to crowdfund and, to a degree, crowdsource their products.  Effectively, kickstart their RPG content the way I blog about before there was a Kickstarter. They were ahead of the curve in a way that foreshadowed what I want to achieve. Their FAQ hints at what I’m hoping to achieve – resume building through patronage.


One of the holes in my resume is credited playtester. Is it an important part of your RPG resume? Yes. It shows you have the skills to look at a game that is 90% to 95% of the way to publishable and find that last bit needed to make it shine. Playtester credits “prestige” is ranked by what company or project that you are doing the playtesting for. As I said, Kobold is a large 3PP so I want to have that on my resume.

Nihileth from the Tome of Beasts

Kobold’s Tome of Beasts offered playtesting and more. For this Kickstarter, I put in $180. What did I get for that?

  • Full-color, hardcover volume of the Tome of Beasts with leatherette cover, foil stamp, ribbon bookmarks, and special endpapers, plus the PDF edition for easy reference – $49.99 / $29.99 / $54.99 (Print + PDF)
  • The Book of Lairs in print and PDF – $29.99 / $14.99 / $29.99 (Print + PDF)
  • Printed pawns – $34.99 (Price from, currently unavailable)
  • All digital maps – $9.99
  • Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition (PDF) – $4.99
  • Cat & Mouse Adventure (PDF) – $3.99
  • Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition (PDF) – $4.99
  • Raven’s Call Adventure for 5th Edition (PDF) – $2.99
  • Tomb of Tiberesh Adventure (PDF) – $3.99
  • Prepard Encounters (PDF) – $5.99
  • Battlebards Sound Boards – ???
  • Total MSRP – $156.90

That encompasses the monsters, lairs, adventures, and sounds – the tangibles. What did I get that I can put on my resume and speak to:

  • Early access to playtest versions of all lairs and monsters for review and comment
  • A monster-design seminar with the Kobold Press design and edit team
  • Monster Submissions – All backers were eligible to submit a monster to the Tome of Beasts, and Kobold Press printed the best in the book
  • Feedback on the monster I submitted during the process and after
  • Vanity press upcharge – $23.10

I won for the extra $23.10! I got to playtest several monsters and provide feedback (the results of which I was able to see in the final product… now, whether it was my notes or every reviewer’s thoughts, I don’t know but changes were made).

For the Tome, I got to playtest monsters with several friends including John McGuire, Sir Leland Beauchamp, and my fiancee and we are all listed in the book. That’s a moment I reflect on from time-to-time, we got to have fun and put that fun into print.

Queen of Night and Magic from the Tome of Beasts

Experience-wise, I got to attend a virtual seminar with Wolfgang Baur and Dan Dillon to hear what makes a great monster and ask questions. With that education, I submitted a beast for their monster submission contest and got professional feedback from Wolfgang. I did not win but Dan gave me his thoughts and it amounted to [paraphrasing] not bad.

One of the challenges of buying credits is that the publisher has an obligation to make your submissions, whatever they are, work since you, you know, paid to be in their product. Since you are a customer, feedback from the publishers may be filtered. The monster submission for the Tome of Beasts was a contest open to every backer. Because it’s a contest, they were under no obligation to print my submission. I didn’t win but, based on their feedback, my beast had been in contention for one of the final slots. I lost because others were better, not because mine was awful. To get an unfiltered ‘not bad, not perfect, but not bad’, was encouraging.

For $157, I got some amazing 5e products. I get use out of them more often than any other 3PP I own. For $23, I got to provide feedback on a book that has gotten a lot of love, virtually meet the Kobold-in-Chief and Kobold Minion No. Dan (I don’t know his serial number… oy), submit a monster and get useful feedback that helped me to grow as a creator. That was $23 well-spent!

Vanity press RPG playtester’s credit number one complete! On to number two…


Covers for the Midgard Campaign Setting and Hero’s Handbook

For anyone interested, vanity press RPG playtester’s credit number two is available now on Kobold Press’ Midgard Campaign Setting: Dark Roads & Deep Magic.

Want to playtest the revised Midgard campaign setting for 5e or Pathfinder? There are a number of pledge levels on this Kickstarter that let you playtest the setting. I’ll delve into the ins and outs of what vanity press options are available through that Kickstarter before it ends on February 24th. In the meantime, I suggest you check it out.


Kickstarter information:

Tome of Beasts: 400+ New Monsters for 5th Edition by Kobold Press
Raised $191,431 starting October 5th, 2015


Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at – Writer
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at – Writer & Artist
  • Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for 5e available at – Playtester

NES Games Left Off The Classic

Every year there is the IT toy/thing. Most years I am far too out of it to even know what the THING could be. However, given that I do occasionally partake in that odd thing we call video gaming, I knew what at least one of the THINGS were going to be this year:


NES Classic.

I gave it a go when Amazon first put them up on their website, and like most people I could never get through as every other person on the planet apparently wanted one of these consoles. I did my one attempt and figured I’d pick one up in February after the craze died down and the supply caught up with the demand.

Yet, I’m lucky in the friends I have. In particular, my old college roommate is a machine when it comes to getting these sold out items in a way that makes my head spin. So imagine my surprise when he had a gift for me this Christmas.

In the days before I had an original Nintendo, I often would hope for rain when hanging out with my buddy who lived down the street, as that would finally allow me to play these video games everyone else was talking about. Of course, scrolling through this set of games, those old memories flooded back. Various codes, long since buried to time, popped into my head again. Later when I was in college someone on the hall had a Nintendo which still worked (some decade later) and many rounds of RBI Baseball or Tecmo Bowl were played into the late hours.

After I busted open the Classic, well, we might have had to bust out some Tecmo Bowl action that night. You know, for old time’s sake.

Scrolling through the 30 titles, I’d say a quarter were ones I’d never played before (a couple I hadn’t the first clue as to what exactly they were).

It’s kind of like getting a greatest hits record from a band, only to find out they might have missed a couple of obvious choices, and maybe some of the ones included… meh.

The following isn’t to say I’m unsatisfied with the product. I’m certainly not privy to possible legal reasons a game was or wasn’t chosen. But I do think if they ever released more games for it (not sure how that could happen since it doesn’t appear to be expandable), these would shoot to the top of my own “Want List”:


Pro Wrestling

You’re not going to find Hulk Hogan or Sting or Ric Flair in this Pro Wrestling game. No, you’ll have to make due with such characters as King Slender, Giant Panther, Kin Corn Karn, Starman, The Amazon, and a couple of others. Here’s the thing, the game shouldn’t be very good. And at times it does turn a bit into a button smasher. But it has a couple of things going for it:

There is a storyline mode… kinda.

I’m not talking about the current WWE games with your ability to map a course to Wrestlemania. This is defeating 4 or 5 opponents in a row to get your first title, and then needing to defend it 2x against every wrestler in the game. Only then could you square off against the Great Puma in a match where your title and his title were up for grabs.

During this gauntlet, my friend and I would trade off on matches (if only to make sure our fingers didn’t break off!).

But the other reason is that this is a 2 player game, which the Classic only has 6 of (meaning simultaneous play), helping to fill that much-needed gap.


R.B.I. Baseball

Listen, if you want to spend way too much time and effort on a baseball game, you can get all the MLB 2k16/17/whatever you want. For me, too many nights were spent in my dorm neighbor’s room learning how to strike him out. Adjusting the speeds, steering those late inning pitchers as they labor through the last of the line up.

Unlike Tecmo Bowl, there was no “just play the Raiders” type of glitch in this game (or at least not one we knew about). No, this was just about picking your team (if it was represented) and dueling it out with another person.

A slight caveat to this game, I’ve never actually played the one player version of the game. Since I didn’t own it, I only played against other humans (normally in some elaborate tournament set-up for a bunch of people on the hall).


Dragon Warrior

Technically this slot on the Classic is fill admirably (Final Fantasy isn’t a slouch at all, nor are the Zelda games), but in this expansion pack I’m building, there is always room for one more RPG game. Selfishly (well, these are all selfish choices) I’d want to see this game again because I never got to beat the original even though I owned it, worked my way all the way to the very end, and even confronted the last boss (Dragonlord).

You see, when you reach him there is enough time before the big fight for a conversation. In it, Dragonlord offers to split the world with you so that you both rule. Now, I know I’ve been fighting this whole game to save my people from this terrible tragedy. I ALWAYS wear the White Hat…

Yet for some reason I agreed to it. The screen fades to black, everything goes red, and that’s the end of the game.

Considering what a pain it had been to get to him in the first place, I needed to take a break from all the game for a while, and never made it back to answer No.

I need to answer No.


Metal Gear

I don’t know much about the actual story of the game. I’m pretty sure you’re a guy, Solid Snake, who needs to blow up a base because the fate of the world is at stake. You needed to be cautious. You needed to sneak around. You needed to be COVERT.

You see, this was a game where you had to take your time dealing with the various levels. This was really the first game where it forced you to play differently than you’ve possibly played before. Brute force wouldn’t get you very far.

And yes, it was frustrating at times when an enemy spotted you just before killing you. It was also sometimes a pain in the ass to reach the other side of a seemingly simple board. Oh, and it helped to know where some of the special equipment was located.

Something about the idea of altering your play style. I think that’s worth another look or two.

Plus, it feels like a proper predecessor to the alarms of the police in the Grand Theft Auto series (with less stealing cars and more saving the world).


Honorable mentions: Spy Hunter, Paperboy, Castlevania III, Blades of Steel, and Rygar.



John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Circles of Imora

Want to put collectible card game (CCG) designer on your resume? This is for you and you alone.

Circles of Imora – The Beginning

Circles of Imora by Dominik Hanisch
Kickstarter campaign ends on Saturday February 18th, 2017 at 4:59 AM EST.

Their Pitch:

Get one of the first 100 copies of Circles of Imora and become a member of the development board. COI is a brand new Card Game.

Circles of Imora ® is an action packed, brand new and easy to learn Card Game and comes in a full playable deck with 100 cards. Construct an army for survival on Imora, then expand your Deck with further expensionDecks to come. 

If you want to become a part of the final development and an important step to grow the community – then back us! We need you to achieve something big.

– Edition available in English and German.

Circles of Imora ® is designed for 2 players (Age 13 and above), competting with their individually assembled armies. Each player is allowed to expand its deck up to 60 cards. 

The game consists of successive, dependent fights. Each fight will take place in one of the 4 available skills. Additional bonus features can affect the game before, during or after a fight positively or negatively.

At the beginning of the game each player has 20 life points. After all the cards are played the final score decides who has won. If a player previously falls on 0 points he has lost the game immediately.

– the package contains 100 cards of the nations and territories of Imora as well as special cards to strengthen/ to defend your army during your fight.

Circles of Imora – Card Detail

We’ve been working for over two years to invent, create, develop, design and test the game. Now we’re ready to complete the developing process and it comes down to licence the illustrations, build the community and doing the fine adjusting in the gameplay. 

Your chance as part of the final development-Team:

  • choose/ vote for Characters names
  • choose/ vote for Characters looks
  • help us finalize the game functions
  • help us to complete the game internally
  • help us to balance the gameplay
  • become influencer for the emotional appeal
  • become our reference and test community

We wanted to put this project on Kickstarter because it’s the fastest way for us to get the game into the your hands and build a community – with your help! We think this game is great and we need you for the fine tuning, for the final development to bring it to the market. So, if a world full of epic battles, is a world you want to be part of then please back this project.

With best regards,

The Circles of Imora Team (Will and Dominik)

Egg’s Thoughts:

This project is not for the casual fans, it’s for the super fan that wants to leave their mark on the CCG industry. Literally, you either make a pledge without a reward or you add “The Developer” pledge and you help create the game. This is the future of crowd-anything. Crowdfund + Crowdsource! Take my money and my ideas!

I love it!

* * *

Their Vanity Press Reward (this their only reward level):

Pledge CHF 380 or moreABOUT $379
The developer

Become one of our developers and influencer for Circles of Imora – The Beginning. Your inputs, ideas and actions to improve the game regarding functionality, balance and fun are highly appreciated.

  • One physical Copy of the first, exclusive edition of the Card Game. Signed by the creator
  • You can create a custom Card with us – within reason (no invincible characters).
  • You can participate as VIP on our exclusive Events (Testing, Launch Partys and Championships).
  • You’ll be listed in the games credits under “Developed by”
  • First info, copy and relase dates of further extensions Decks for pre-testing and your feedback.


  • One copy of the first Edition (PDF) – pre sent in June 2017

* * *

Circles of Imora – Cards

Closing Thoughts:

If any project was created with me in mind, this is it. My blog is about buying vanity press RPG writing rewards from Kickstarter to build a resume. I’m doing this to move from wanna-lancer to freelancer. This is the first project I’ve encountered where the *ONLY* option is to be a developer. You sign up and you’re making the game.

This project is not RPG, it’s CCG but it speaks to me in so many ways! If I pledge, I get to write for it and it will expand my presence in the wider gaming world.

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – The Gods Have Spoken

When Jim Shooter took over as editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics, he instituted several writing directives that can be summed up as reintroduce your concept every issue because that issue is someone’s first. I try to live that with this blog series. Every blog entry for my RPG resume building experiment has a re-introduction that covers:

  • I’m a RPG wanna-lancer
  • I want to be a paid RPG freelancer
  • To make the transition, I’m buying a resume of RPG writing credits through Kickstarter RPG projects

As the experiment goes, it’s a matter of time (needing more time to write and waiting for the time when the dots of this experiment connect) and seeing what the gods say…

To that end, let’s review the RPG vanity rewards of the Kickstarter for The Gods Have Spoken.

* * *

The Gods Have Spoken (5th Edition RPG Supplement) by Dread Unicorn Games
Kickstarter campaign ends on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 at 2:11 EDT.

The Gods Have Spoken - Art by Justin Wyatt

The Gods Have Spoken – Art by Justin Wyatt

Their pitch:

“Twenty-eight new fantasy gods arranged in three new pantheons for your 5E game. New domains and player options that fit the gods.

The Gods

The Gods Have Spoken offers a fresh take on the gods, not just a rehash of the Greco-Roman pantheons, but new pantheons influenced by history and religions from around the world.

The followers of the Old Gods were long ago forced out of their lands and into the wild places . Today druids and elves keep the faith alive, while cults of the Old Gods seep back into the teaming cities where once they were banished. The world tree and nature are central to the pantheon.

The followers of the pyramid-building Thirsty Gods came across the sea and pushed out the faith of the Old Gods. A warlike people, they too have fallen to more recent invaders. Still the pantheons continues to be followed in many places, including the halls of the dwarves.

The Bright Gods are worshiped by the newest conquerors of the worlds of men. Their sacred number is three, and the gods of their pantheon are divided into three groups of three. Bits of the older pantheons have been incorporated into the current beliefs and rituals of the Bright Gods.

Add these gods to your world, or take bits and pieces that work best for your campaign.”

The Gods Have Spoken Art by Justin Wyatt

The Gods Have Spoken Art by Justin Wyatt

Egg’s thoughts:

Here’s the vanity press options they’re offering:

  • Make a holy relic magic item
  • Make a holy relic magic item and a saint (NPC) for one of the gods

As they stated, these are new options for Dungeons and Dragons gods so there’s a chance to create something integral to the religion. Or a fanatic.

Yeah, probably a fanatic.

Cathedral of the Holy Convergence by Sparrow Buerer

Cathedral of the Holy Convergence by Sparrow Buerer

Their vanity press rewards:

“Pledge $50 or more

The Relic Maker

Name and describe a magic item of your very own. Use your character’s name if you want to! Binky’s Staff of Clerical Cat Herding?

We’ll turn your creation into a balanced magic item for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.

(Of course, we reserve the right to reject offensive or problematic names and/or descriptions.)

Receive a black-and-white soft cover edition of The Gods Have Spoken, a digital color copy of The Gods Have Spoken, and your name will be listed on the book’s Acknowledgements page. This backer level includes all digital stretch goals.

* * *

Pledge $100 or more


Name and describe a saint (or other holy person) for one of the pantheons (or even a saint-without-portfolio) and we’ll add it to The Gods Have Spoken. Name it for your favorite character, pet, and so on.

(Of course, we reserve the right to reject offensive or problematic names and/or descriptions.)

Name and describe a magic item of your own, (as in the Relic Maker backer level).

Receive a color hardcover edition of The Gods Have Spoken, a digital color copy of The Gods Have Spoken, and your name will be listed on the book’s Acknowledgements page. This backer level includes all digital stretch goals.”

* * *

The Gods Have Spoken - Justin Wyatt Art

The Gods Have Spoken – Justin Wyatt Art

Closing thoughts:

Rarely do you get to build a part of a religion unless you’re the DM. With this, you can think of a cleric, paladin, or druid that will be a featured NPC with their own relic to strengthen their position in the religion.

Creating a magic item or an NPC needs to service a setting more than anything. With this pledge, your NPC saint could be someone or something (it’s D&D, why not Saint Beholder?!) that completed a task so important for their goddess/god that they become a linchpin for the religion. This option allows for a cool, directed NPC that advances the religion in whatever campaign it’s added to.

Best of all, “Patron Saint of NPCs” looks good on a resume.

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Why Kickstarter RPG Vanity Press Rewards? Why Not Self-Publish?

Why am I dead set on buying role-playing game writing credits via Kickstarter? Why build a resume through paying to work for other creators? Why not, you know, self-publish my own RPG content? There are a number of options to sell third-party RPG publications:,,,, (of course) and more. So why not be my own boss and dive in?


I’ve touched on my major obstacle to doing more, time. I lack it so it makes more sense, for now, to do small parts of larger, collaborative projects.

Another major concern I have is being seen. I want what I write to be read. Would I develop a following out of the stone blue?

Then there’s the one my creditors care about the most – Profitability. Would I make more publishing than I hope to make as a freelancer?

Some of the answers to those questions appear in One Year on DM’s Guild, an entry by Jacob Driscoll on his blog The Wonder Waffles. In the article, he discusses his RPG sales in 2016 on the Well worth a full read.


Without reprinting all of Jacob’s research, here are the *edited* parts of his article that are pertinent to what I do (see his article for a fuller picture):

Productivity (Supply)

  • I’ve made a total of 16 Products […] Prices ranged from Pay What You Want (potentially free!) to $5.
  • These products have had about 340 Total Sales, in all, or a raw average of about 21 sales per product.

Profitability (Demand)

  • I’ve made about $250 profit for myself in royalties …
  • That profit works out for me to about $2.06 per page, or, hourly, $0.50/hour. Or, by word, about three-tenths of a cent per word.
  • On a per-product basis, I’m looking at an average of $16.19 profit per product. That breaks down to about $0.70 per unit …”

From the perspective of my vanity press experiment, there are some worthwhile pieces of information to be assumed from this. After buying two of Jacob’s products – People of the Eternal: Races of the Astral Plane and Hereos of the Eternal: Classes of the Astral Plane – and some Googling, Jacob has more experience in freelance RPG creation than I do. Because of his position ahead of me, his results are worth referencing as a roadmap for the road not taken.


For this comparison, the most important difference between Jacob’s path and mine is our methods. I’m hoping to buy writing assignments, do a solid job and move from being a wanna-lancer that pays to write to a freelancer that gets paid to write. Jacob is jumping right into production and profit and contacting RPG fandom without working for a third-party publisher.

That deserves emphasis. He’s making money while I’m spending it. Jacob’s generated profits ($250) equal to what I spent on my first RPG Kickstarter vanity press reward ($250). He’s WAY smarter than me.

That said, I’m experimenting and that’s worth something. Testing a hypothesis has value… right? Right? I mean, what’s, ah, what’s money?

I mean, other than everything… hmm… uh, <sniffle>… back to topic…

kickstarter-logoJacob points out that, to-date, his per word pay rate (the normal measure for a RPG freelance writer) is $.003 (3/10ths of a cent) per word. While I have not jumped to paid writing gigs, many RPG publishers advertise freelancer rates of $.01 and $.02 per word and $.03 per word and $.05 per word, between three and sixteen times higher than Jacob’s current take. That said, I believe (and clearly Jacob does as well since this is the direction he’s moving) that he will grow a fanbase over the years and in the long game see more money.

In measuring his first year’s accomplishments, Jacob notes his total units sold in 2016 are 340. While that does not represent 340 individual fans, he’s been seen by a number of fans. In the article, he talks about the pricing methods he’s using to attract customers and get a greater amount of sampling. I am lockstep with him on the need for fans to see your work. It’s part of why I chose to buy onto Kickstarter projects. Because they funded, I know they were successful and that any work I do will get eyes on it. As an example, my short (few hundred words) location seed in Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e was seen by at least 850 RPG fans. No one bought it because of what I wrote they bought it for the genius of what Sasquatch Games created. In that amazing campaign setting, the fans got to see what I added and, I hope, will look favorably on trying my future freelancer work because of it.

If Jacob is bringing in a check and building a fanbase and establishing himself, why don’t I? Why am I not going Jacob’s route?


It’s still time. He’s putting in an estimated 10 hours a week. I have difficulty being certain I’ll have that week after week. But also there’s the exposure. I believe that saying I worked on X projects is more likely to turn heads and generate interest in future works. Then there’s the money. In the near-term, freelancer work has the potential to pay more. In the end, there’s my experiment. I think that there is value in a story. Saying you bought your way into your job, well, that’s a story worth telling.

Thanks to Jacob Driscoll for writing his article and John McGuire for pointing it out to me.

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Itherverse

It’s 2017. I’m a wanna-lancer looking to become a tabletop role-playing game freelancer. My plan to get there involves buying a resume via Kickstarter vanity press options. So, what’s out there to buy?

I pledge for Kickstarter RPG rewards that allow me to write something in the kickstarted project – a NPC, a magic item, an adventure, etc. I get experience writing and build a resume while breaking into the game side of the industry. There is another side of gaming (there’s several, actually) but magazines were a critical part of the industry when I first started playing. They were the place to develop ideas, share smaller products that did not warrant their own release, reviews and advertisements for games, and they allowed gamers to connect and feel the international community. In other words, the printernet (print + internet… you get it, right? Right?! Oy…). Today, the print magazines are largely in decline. Enter Itherverse, a gaming eZine hoping to fund via Kickstarter.

* * *

Itherverse: Multi-Genre RPG Adventure eZine for any System by Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 at 5:27 PM EDT.

Their pitch:

Itherverse Website

Itherverse Website

Monthly ePub packed full of pre-written RPG scenarios for use in any table-top system or game setting using our quick conversion tables


Hello and well met, fellow Game Masters and Players of tabletop dice and story-telling role playing games. You are going to LOVE what we have put together for you today.

First, let me address the Game Masters , but I have something for Players too, so stand by.


Have you found yourself searching high and low for pre-written, play-tested, adventures and material that will work with YOUR setting and more importantly, YOUR game system.

  • Medieval Fantasy
  • Western Frontier
  • Space Marines & Pirates
  • Gnarly Sea-Faring Pirates
  • Post-Apocalyptic Mutants
  • Super Heroes & Villains
  • Zombies
  • Modern
  • Horror
  • etc..

ITHERVERSE is a monthly e-publication (or e-Magazine if you will) that will be packed with just what you need. EVERY MONTH, as a subscriber, you receive an email link to your copy of the latest release (and depending on how our stretch goals go, we very likely may offer printed and mailed versions), but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

Did you hear me a moment ago?

These adventures, scenarios and encounters have been designed to work in ANY game setting and easily convertible to ANY game system. Emphasis on EASY!

The Itherverse motto is “It’s YOUR game, play by YOUR rules” and we’re not changing your game in the slightest, only providing you with exciting new content and an easy way to use it.

Egg’s thoughts:

Itherverse Example Pages

Itherverse Example Pages

Unlike most RPG products I have pledged for, this is not a module or sourcebook or setting. It’s a magazine/eZine. One of the “old” ways into the industry that Chris Pramas suggested in his article about breaking into the industry:

People often ask me how they can get started in in the game industry and I used to have a standard patter about it. In the 90s I would tell writers to start with magazine articles. Dragon and Dungeon were always on the lookout, and there used to be options like Shadis, Valkyrie, and Arcane. So sell a few articles, I’d say…

As Chris himself points out later in the article, that’s dated advice because “[g]aming magazines, always a tough business, have largely gone by the wayside.

Itherverse offers an old fashioned avenue into gaming, getting published in a magazine. It’s hard for me to write that what was done in the 90s (my high school/college decade) is retro, but there are elements of that time that are… quaint today. I know there are several gaming magazines that are still going but the only one I buy is Knights of the Dinner Table. I know, it’s not a magazine, it’s a comic with game magazine elements that grew out of Shadis gaming magazine. But, KotDT is the bulletproof gaming magazine – it’s a comic, it’s a magazine, it covers RPGs and nerd culture, it’s got something for everyone in the industry.

Since game magazines are not in vague at the moment, Itherverse offers something unique, a chance to be in on the magazine scene. By pledging for their Kickstarter, you get a chance to state that you broke into the game industry via mags.

Their vanity press rewards:

Itherverse More Example Pages

Itherverse More Example Pages

Pledge $300 or more LEVEL 8: GUILDMASTER

Collaborate with our Creative Designer to not only name something, but to create it from the ground up. Have a monster idea you would like to see in print? Have you designed a weapon, machine, new race, complex trap, simple story idea, or other similar item. Don’t just name it, but we will talk on the phone, exchange emails and/or web cams if necessary to put together a rudimentary concept.

NOTE: Itherverse must be granted exclusive royalty-free rights to the design concept; however, supporter will receive a co-design credit byline and a membership upgrade to 6-months. + Reward #1 through #7


  • Autographed, 1st Edition 
  • PDF, monthly for members 
  • Contributor: Credit 
  • Your Design Collaboration 
  • Membership (6 months) 
  • Special Thanks: Credit 
  • Sponsor Credit, 1st Ed & Web 
  • Autographed Poster 
  • Put Your Mark on the Game

* * *

Pledge $400 or more LEVEL 9: SUPREME WARLORD

Collaborate but on a much LARGER SCALE. Don’t just submit one idea but work together with our Creative Designer on an entire adventure or a group of items. Discuss the plot, setting, enemy tactics, room descriptions and contents. Basically co-design an entire section of the publication, even if it is not an adventure but some other idea. We will talk on the phone, exchange emails and/or web cams if necessary, multiple times, to put it all together.

NOTE: Itherverse must be granted exclusive royalty-free rights to the design concept; however, supporter will receive a co-design credit byline. + Reward #1 through #8


  • Autographed, 1st Edition 
  • PDF, monthly for members 
  • Put Your Mark on the Game 
  • Special Thanks: Credit 
  • Autographed Poster 
  • Contributor: Credit 
  • Membership (6 months) 
  • Sponsor Credit, 1st Ed & Web 
  • Larger Design Collaboration

* * *

Closing thoughts:

I try to frame these posts in a positive and uplifting light. And, I mean, how can I not? This vanity press pledge gives a wanna-lancer gaming credit via a gaming magazine! That’s a win! However, there is one downside:

This project opened on 12-26-16 and as of 1-3-2017, it has generated only $186 of the $25,000 goal. The chances of it funding are low (not impossible, but low).

That said, do not let that number stop you from helping out. The best part of Kickstarter for the backers is if you pledge, you are not charged a dime unless the campaign reaches its funding goal. If you want to put money in, do so without the worry that the campaign will fall short of its goal and you just paid into a project that cannot be achieved due to financial challenges. Kickstarter lets you pledge with some piece of mind.

I hope this project makes it and it helps someone achieve their goal of writing for a gaming magazine!

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Validation – Chris Pramas of Green Ronin Publishing’s Thoughts on Breaking into the Game Industry

Chris Pramas of Green Ronin Publishing (publishers of Fantasy AGE, Mutants & Masterminds, A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying, and D&D 5e’s Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide among other role-playing products) wrote a post about how to break into the game industry. It is an excellent piece covering the practical ways to become a game designer. I recommend reading it for all of his thoughts.

Green Ronin Publishing Logo

Green Ronin Publishing Logo

Chris’ blog, falling at the end 2016, is an apt sounding board for a year-end review. For what my experiment – purchasing role-playing game writing opportunities via Kickstarter to build a resume and advance from RPG wanna-lancer to RPG freelancer – I want to compare the parts of his article that relate to my process as a gauge for how well I am doing.

Where is Chris Pramas at as 2016 closes? President of Green Ronin Publishing with a slew of games he’s designed and the awards to testify to their quality. He has two-plus-decades of experience seeing freelancers break into the game industry. With his position in the industry, his thoughts will make an excellent progress marker.

Where am I at the end of 2016? I’ve leveled from fan-with-a-plan to fan-acting-on-a-plan with a few pleasant RPG credits and I was invited to join this blog. With my day job and life leaving limited time to work on creative pursuits, I’ve enjoyed this year as I ramped up my skills and consistently met deadlines.

Let’s compare my plan to Chris’ suggestions. (All quotes are pulled from Chris Pramas’ article.)

Green Ronin Publishing - A Song of Ice and Fire

Green Ronin Publishing – A Song of Ice and Fire


“[…] create a blog and write about games.”

I started buying vanity press RPG writing credits in mid-2015 and started blogging about the results fourteen months later. To spread out the blog’s content, I have not covered all of the writing opportunities I have bought to-date. At the close of 2016, I have 10 Kickstarter RPG writing credits (published or forthcoming), 1 RPG art credit, some RPG work-for-credits, 1 trip to Gen Con, and a comic book mini-series pitch approved. I’m not out of the wanna-lancer stage but I’m taking baby steps to get there. With content and a consistent theme for my blog, 2017 should be a good year in my journey to freelancer.

“This costs virtually nothing […] writing regularly is good practice.”

While blogging does cost “virtually nothing”, the route that I chose, buying RPG writing credits, does have a cost. Being financially invested heightens my interest in finding time to make this happen. It’s less about wouldn’t-it-be-nice and more about I-need-to-make-that-money-back.

The same thought process applies to regular blogging. Having a blog that runs two to three Tuesdays a month, while not a hard deadline, helps to build deadline “muscle memory”. It also makes the most of the money and time I’ve invested in these by turning each Kickstarter into a part of the narrative of my quest.

“[…] I suggest writing actual game content. […] pick a game or two that you like and start writing material for it. […] Design some monsters or magic items. Write a short adventure. Make some NPCs with adventure hooks. If you start creating useful content, you can develop a good reputation in the game’s community. This may eventually lead to freelance work.”

The beauty of buying a RPG writing assignment is being given a small, specific project to develop that you know will be published. As Chris suggests, I am developing a monster or a magic item or whatever the assignment is. However, instead of putting it onto the internet and hoping that gamers and publishers see it, I am putting these short projects into successfully crowdfunded RPGs that will be read by editors and fans. It is Chris’ advice turned up to 11.

Celltar Drumthunder. Art by Egg Embry

Celltar Drumthunder from Ember Design Studio’s Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Street. Art by Egg Embry

“At the very least you are developing a body of work that is easy to show off. If a developer asks you for a writing sample, you’ll have ready material for that.”

My plan has always been two birds with one Kickstarter pledge. Bird one is, of course, the writing and credits themselves. The opportunity to be handed an assignment from a publisher, work for them, get published, and, hopefully, open a door to become a RPG freelancer. As Chris suggests, I have submitted my published work as writing samples. Bird two is to blog about the experience and build interest with gamers for the product I’m in and the work I’ve contributed to it.

“Writing reviews can also be useful. It can show that you can think critically about games. Checking out a wide variety of game material is never wasted time either.”

Writing about the purchase and the creation process means, in a limited way, I get to review the product that I was in. With respect to these reviews, since I am not an unbiased observer, I don’t do an in-depth discussion. But, these blogs are a chance to bring up the product and cast a new perspective on it with some minor production information.

Some of the RPG assignments are for systems that I have limited experience with. My comfort zone is Dungeons & Dragons 5e. But, through purchasing assignments, I’ve added development work in Pathfinder, W.O.I.N., Call of Cthuhlu 7e, and touched on Castles & Crusaders. Doing this has exposed me to a growing list of game material, lockstep with the suggestion from the President of Green Ronin Publishing.

Green Ronin Publishing - Mutants & Masterminds

Green Ronin Publishing – Mutants & Masterminds


“[…] I’ve mentioned a couple of ways to break into freelancing already but there are others. Some companies do open calls from time to time. You will end up in a big slush pile but it’s a chance at least.”

In the year and a half I’ve been experimenting with this, I’ve only submitted for one RPG freelance assignment and that was under a month ago. Why did I wait this long?

  • It’s easier to buy an opportunity because, through the logic of commerce, they have to work with you because they took your money. For freelancing, the reverse is true – You have to work with them if you want their money. That means their schedule, their style, their notes, their way. I want to make sure I’m ready to follow other people’s rules before I raise my hand.
  • It seemed almost pointless to cold submit for projects with no resume. With no prior experience, I expect it would be a long while before anyone takes a chance on me. Now, I have some entries which have led to intern-esque opportunities.
  • I mention time a lot because I have very little of it that I can spend in front of a computer writing. That situation has improved recently so it is time to try these type of opportunities.

“You’ll also find game design competitions out there. You may not win—you probably won’t, in fact—but good work can get you noticed and may result in freelance opportunities. Once you get a gig, the most important thing to do is hit your deadline. If your developer asks for revisions, do them in a timeline fashion. It is better to do solid work on time than produce something of sheer genius months late.”

Through the Kickstarter for Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts for 5e, about 100 backers and I submitted monsters for consideration in their book. Twenty were selected. Mine was not one of the selected entrants. However, I did get quality feedback from Wolfgang Baur and Dan Dillon on the design that improved the monster. Dan shared that mine was in contention for one of the final two slots (as were about 20 others). I lost but, based on their thoughts, I was not hopeless. Taking their advice, next time I’ll have a better idea of what to do.

Green Ronin Publishing - Fantasy Age

Green Ronin Publishing – Fantasy Age


“[…] The biggest game changer though is crowdfunding. […] I’ll just note here that sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo make it possible for game companies to overcome the biggest hurdle most of them face: funding. […] Just do your homework before trying your first crowdfunding campaign. There is much to absorb about the process and the best practices of crowdfunding […]”

While I’m not racing to be a publisher, what I am doing would not be possible without crowdfunding and their decision to offer writing opportunities as rewards. Without those two things, I do not believe I would have a path to become a freelancer.

* * *

I only touched on some of Chris Pramas’ article. But based on it, I’m doing a number of the right things and I’m doing them my way. 2016 has been a successful year in terms of dipping my toe into the game industry. As I head into 2017, I have more products coming out and other irons in the fire. I am ready to make 2017 the Year of the Wanna-lancer!

* * *

I want to thank my gaming buddy, Sir Leland Beauchamp, for sharing Chris’ article with me. And Chris Pramas for sharing his insights with the world.

As the year closes, I want to thank Erica and our nieces and nephews for making every day worth living, my parents for their spirit of independence, the members of the Tessera Guild for letting me play in their sandbox, Michael Phillips at Midcity Comics for all of the good conversation and motivation, all of the RPG publishers that I have had the privilege to work with and all of the wonderful content that they’ve produced, and Michael Bugg‘s RPG group that keeps me in-character. Without each of you, 2016 would not have been a success for me.

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

The Ultimate Video Game Quiz

So you think you know video games?

Or maybe you know someone who claims to be a video game god(dess)?

In my new book, The Ultimate Video Game Quiz, I put gaming know-it-alls to the test. The idea came from my son, who proudly proclaimed he knew everything there was to know about video games. Only…when I hit him up with obscure Metal Gear questions, requested the location of every heart piece in Twilight Princess, and asked him how to find all the 1-up mushrooms in the original Super Mario Bros, he fell silent.

Um…errrrr…can I think about it?” he said.

And that got me to thinking.

What if I made a book to test the full breadth of knowledge possessed by gamers? What if I crammed my geek experience together with that of all my buddies? And what if I tested the entire world to see who’s the most knowledgeable video gamer ever?

So here we are – 114 questions deep.

Don’t worry. In the Ultimate Video Game Quiz, I don’t get obnoxiously obscure, and I try to stick to mostly classic games. Though of course I’ve sprinkled a few off-the-grid questions around. I’ve got gamer friends who wouldn’t let me off the hook if this book were too easy. They’d go all Ganondorf, Ridley, and Bowser on me.


* * *

The idea is this:

Each page contains one, two, or three questions.

The next page has the answers.

There are four sections, with each section containing progressively harder trivia.

Except for the final section, each question answered correctly is worth one point, no matter how easy or difficult.

After you (or your friends) get through the whole book, add up all your points.

1-15 points – You’re not a hardcore gamer. Thanks for playing! J

16-30 points – You’re pretty slick, but you haven’t quite cracked gamer god status. Go play Witcher, Metroid Prime, Grand Theft Auto 5,000, and Dark Souls III. Then we’ll talk.

31-50 points – Most impressive. All I’m sayin’.

51-70 points – You are a true gaming scholar. Or you used Google extensively to cheat. Either way, your dedication is commendable. Let’s hang out sometime.

71+ points – First of all, no person to whom I’ve administered this quiz has ever scored higher than sixty-something. Second of all, if you actually, legitimately scored this high, you’re probably a pro gamer or own every single gaming system ever made. Congrats. You win.

I encourage readers of The Ultimate Video Game Quiz to write their answers and point totals in this book. After all, it’s only a few bucks, a far cry from some of the enormous novels I’ve written. It’s light. It’s fun. It’s for every level of gamer.

And that’s exactly why I wrote it.

* * *

Buy the Ultimate Video Game Quiz for only $5.99 right here.


If you like it, leave a review! 🙂

If you like books chock full of interesting questions, you’ll probably like this.

J Edward Neill

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Island of Moaning Voices

Happy holidays! Looking for a unique gift for a role-playing gaming fan? How about giving them the opportunity to write for an RPG? On certain RPG Kickstarters, there are vanity press rewards that let you buy the option to create a non-player character that will be immortalized in a RPG product. For a select few, that is the perfect stocking stuffer – the gift of work!

Wait… Work? Hmm… That’s like a tax refund… I’m getting my money back! Yippee… sorta… So, this holiday season, the suggestion is to pay to work for a gaming company? Uh, why?

Your mileage may vary but the reasons I do this are:

  • Build a resume! My goal in buying RPG writing credits via Kickstarter is to build up my resume and experience to move from a RPG wanna-lancer to a RPG freelancer.
  • Be creative! Do you or a friend have more ideas than time? Here’s a chance to unleash just a taste of that creativity on the world.
  • Be immortalized! …at least until the next edition of the RPG system this product is written for comes out.

Tempted? Here’s a possible RPG Kickstarter with some vanity press options to consider.

* * *

Island of Moaning Voices: Setting

Island of Moaning Voices: Setting

Island of Moaning Voices by Entire Party Killed
Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, December 28th, 2016 at 15:37 EDT.

Their pitch:

“An extended adventure module compatible with Fifth Edition, designed for 4-6 characters from level 1 (or more) to 10.

What is inside this book?

  • A complete adventure for 5th Edition, suitable for level 1-10 player characters
  • A whole new island to uncover and explore, involved in the history and politics of two Kingdoms
  • New rules to explore the wilderness
  • More than 20 New monsters, creatures, NPCs, spells and magical items

The Island is available as a PDF or a full-color hardcover volume of 112 pages and, in addition, you can have a 24″ x 36″ Full Color Map and a Full Color Master Screen, with an innovative system of Initiative management.


It is an epic adventure that can engage groups of players for countless sessions and make them grow from level 1 to 10. It is a whole new island of adventure, mystery, exploration, struggle for survival but also political intrigue and dark plots that can unfold and develop further in the, already planned, sequels. You can immediately start to play with the pre-generated characters or use your own, even if they are not novice ones! The Duke may call it Prosperity Island today but, for the inhabitants, it is still old Moaning Voices and it “welcomes” people of all kind and powers!

Island of Moaning Voices is a 112 pages sandbox adventure for characters of level 1-10 (or more, in the sequels, if we reach certain PLEDGE GOALS) with rich graphics and original contents, set in an exotic and mysterious island. It’s an OLD SCHOOL flavored setting but in line with the simplicity and flexibility of the 5th EDITION game. In the adventure module, presented both in the inexpensive PDF version and in the elegant hardcover volume, there will be many NEW MONSTERS, CREATURES, SPELLS and MAGIC ITEMS! Moreover, NEW RULES for terrestrial exploration will let the players to use the strategic hexagonal map to discover this fascinating setting. A part for the fantastic locations, there is a surprising story and many plot twists! Island of Moaning Voices represents the frontier for the inhabitants of the rich seafaring Duchy of Belqualam, an only partially explored frontier, definitely wild and fraught with dangers. Furthermore, there is the recent discovery of a precious arcane metal whose properties are still not completely understood. The metal, called “Prosperium” to bring good luck to the beginning community, makes the Island a strategic center for the economy of the Duchy and its military supremacy over the neighboring Kingdom of Halethia.

However, the exploitation and colonization of the Island have been particularly difficult. In an effort to clean up the island from the many hostile presences, the Duke thought of gathering there a large number of Adventurers. He has been very successful in this endeavor thanks to a gimmick: since a few years ago, in fact, he organizes the FRAG FEST on the island. It is a month long festival whose main attraction is THE GREAT HUNT, a series of organized events and competitions designed to decimate the population of hostile creatures of Moaning Voices.

What of you? Will you be brave enough to undertake the journey to the Island and become a Hunter? Wealth, Glory or simply Death … what is it really in stock for you?”

* * *

Island of Moaning Voices: NPCs

Island of Moaning Voices: NPCs

Their vanity press rewards:

“Pledge €180 or more
About $191
Sculptor of Fate

In addition to Landlord goodies, you can work with us to create a main NPC of Island of Moaning Voices, with his own background, personality and traits. Our artist Domenico Neziti will realize his portrait.

Remember, it could be your player character too!


  • PDF versions of the 112 pages Book
  • PDF Map of the Island
  • Hardcover, 112 pages Full color Printed Book
  • Printed Map of Island (24” x 36”)
  • Dungeon Master Screen (about 8.5” high and 3 x 11” wide)
  • Work with us to create a main NPC”

* * *

“Pledge €400 or more
About $424
Lord of the Island

Like Sculptor of Fate but the NPC you created with us will also be central in one of the main events of the plot. You will help us to shape the story, so you will really be the Lord of the Island!


  • PDF versions of the 112 pages Book
  • PDF Map of the Island
  • Hardcover, 112 pages Full color Printed Book
  • Printed Map of Island (24” x 36”)
  • Dungeon Master Screen (about 8.5” high and 3 x 11” wide)
  • You will create a key NPC in one of the main events of the plot”

* * *

Island of Moaning Voices: The Great Hunt

Island of Moaning Voices: The Great Hunt

Egg’s thoughts:

Choose the Sculptor of Fate reward to create a NPC and see it illustrated by Domenico Neziti. Do the write up and, with that, you will influence this artist’s work. Alternately, you can choose to be the Lord of the Island and not only write up your NPC and have her/him/it drawn but also help guide the plot of the adventure. Along with all of the print and PDF products, you will have a hand in building this fantasy society and creating a member of that world.

With seven days to go, this project still needs to raise 87% of their funding. If you want to create an NPC, back this project. They’ll appreciate the support. If it funds, the world will read your, or if you are giving this as a gift, your friend’s, creativity.

Have a happy holiday!

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Sunken Temple and Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland

Behind the scenes, I’ve made strides in my scheme to buy my way up from RPG wanna-lancer to RPG freelancer. Still working at getting into RPGs professionally, but strides are being made all the same. The root of my plan is buying role-playing game writing credits via Kickstarter to create a resume. Currently, here are some of the Kickstarters that are offering vanity press options.

I’ve chronicled the NPC that I created for Ember Design Studios via their Kickstarter for Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Street. My guildmate, John McGuire, wrote up his experience creating a NPC for the same products here. As it happens, EDS is running another Kickstarter and they’re offering more NPC creation options.

* * *

Sunken Temple, an RPG adventure for 5e, Pathfinder, & WOIN by Ember Design Studios

Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday, December 18th, 2016 at 12:00 EDT.

Sunken Temple Art

Sunken Temple Artwork

Their pitch:

Lost beneath the waves for untold millennia, the Sunken Temple has been seen again. Inspired by the works of HP Lovecraft. 

Sunken Temple is an adventure written for 5e, W.O.I.N., and the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It takes place in a mysterious range of never-before-seen mountains and is suitable for use in any setting. The module is inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, particularly The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and At the Mountains of Madness. 

The project includes: 

  • An adventure suitable for 4-5 characters of 6th-level. The playstyle is predominately a dungeon crawl, with a horrific element appropriate to the source material.
  • The temple includes several wings, each with a different feel, assortment of baddies, and their own malevolent purpose – with additional wings ready to be unearthed through stretch goals! 
  • Game stats and original artwork for several traditional Lovecraft beasties (deep one, star spawn, night gaunt, and rat thing) and a few originals of my own devising. 

Sunken Temple will be available in print, PDF, and through City of Brass.

City of Brass

City of Brass

Egg’s thoughts:

This project will have versions available for 5e, Pathfinder, and – best for my resume – W.O.I.N. That adds another system to my list. Adding to its draw, this is another project that plays in Cthulhu’s sandbox.

For EDS’s last Kickstarter, I created Celltar Drumthunder. It was fun, easy, and formed a part of a set of memorable Christmas gifts as I gave two other NPC creation slots to my buddies, John McGuire and Leland Beauchamp. We tied the back stories of our non-player characters together.

For this adventure, EDS is offering two types of NPCs, sailors or more prominent characters (captain, etc). Since this is a similar opportunity as with Yrisa’s Nightmare, let me offer Sunken Temple the highest praise I can give – John McGuire, Leland Beauchamp, and myself are all investing in it and all paying the extra to create more NPCs. The experience was good enough to warrant repeat business.

That brings us to the 6th Kickstarter update to their campaign, the vanity press rewards:

Sunken Temple art showing the reason the temple sank - Too many C[thulhu]arbs!

The reason the temple sank – Too many c-thulhu-arbs!

New Addon: Make a Sailor

With the unlocking of Voyage of the Sea Darter there is a chance for those of you who want to leave a more lasting mark on Sunken Temple to do so.

Sea Darter boasts a crew of about 20 sailors. Several of them will have minor roles in the adventure, and the more and diverse personalities that they have, the better. So, if you’d like to take a swing at creating a sailor that will appear in this finished aventure, just add $20 to your pledge.

Now, maybe you want to have a more prominent impact both on the project funding and the characters in the adventure. If you’d like to nab one of these slots, add $50 to your pledge and message me, so I know which one you want and make sure we don’t have everyone adding the same ones. For each of these that someone claims, I’ll also commission extra artwork for the character.

The limited roles include:

  • Captain
  • First Mate
  • Navigator
  • Mutinous Sailor (I’m not saying there’s a mutiny but just in case)

* * *

Hypercorps 2099 Wasteland: 5th Edition Apocalyptic RPG (5E) by Mike Myler

Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday, December 18th, 2016 at 11:59 EDT in the evening.

Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands for 5e - Mutants

Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands for 5e – Mutants

Their pitch:

Venture into the ruins of civilization! Fight nuclear fallout and wild warlords! Try to survive and thrive in Earth’s atomic twilight!

Pockets of Earth are decimated by nuclear war in 1969 after the Bay of Pigs escalates into World War 3 and atomic weapons are unleashed across the planet. The alter sapiens of the world put aside their differences and use their abilities to create safe havens across the globe, saving those they can from nuclear devastation. Almost a century and a half has passed since the atomic apocalypse and through tireless scientific effort, areas of the world are becoming livable once more and civilization is creeping out to seek out life once again under the sun—though doing so means surviving in the Wasteland and many believe they were better off locked away in their shelters.

Help us make a 120+ page campaign setting source book for taking your D&D game into the apocalyptic future of an alternate Hypercorps 2099!

Egg’s thoughts:

This setting is an alternate timeline deviating from their main setting which is a variant timeline from our own. The idea of multiple timeline settings presents a campaign idea – learning the origins of these worlds by dimension jumping the PCs from the Hypercorps 2099 timeline/setting to “our” timeline to find out why the altered sapiens and fantasy races never emerged. From there, travel to the Cuban Missile Crisis to see the start of Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands before traveling to the “current” wastelands setting. There’s a nice story in seeing the cause and effect of the worlds and how the players can influence it.

Add the vanity press post apocalypse Kickstarter rewards and this is a winning setting! Not only do you get to design a wasteland warlord and/or a NPC, you also are involved in the art discussion. You will get some say with the artist on how the character(s) will look which is a nice bonus.

Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands for 5e - Cyborg

Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands for 5e – Cyborg

Their vanity press rewards:

Pledge $250 or more

Wasteland PDF, Wasteland hardcover, 5 session mini-campaign through for you and four friends, and you will help design and order artwork for one of the warlords in Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland!

  • Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland Hardcover and PDF
  • Hypercorps 2099 5e Hardcover and PDF
  • 5 Session Mini-Campaign Through for You and Four Friends
  • Help Design a Warlord for the Wasteland (Includes Art Order)

* * *

Pledge $500 or more 

Wasteland PDF, Wasteland hardcover, campaign through for you and four friends (minimum of 10 sessions), and you will help design and order artwork for a unique NPC survivor of your own design and one of the warlords in Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland!

  • Hypercorps 2099: Wasteland Hardcover and PDF
  • Hypercorps 2099 5e Hardcover and PDF
  • 5 Session Mini-Campaign Through for You and Four Friends
  • Help Design a Warlord for the Wasteland (Includes Art Order)
  • Design a Unique NPC for the Wasteland (Includes Art Order)

* * *

Closing thoughts:

Both projects will be fun to see brought to life. Cthulhu or mutants? Both are going to be fun to fight!

I’ve already pledged for EDS’s Sunken Temple. I’ve worked with them before and they are easygoing. I expect a top shelf product with plenty of extras. I’m really excited about this one! And that’s no slight to Mike Myler’s Hypercorps 2099: Wastelands. I believe it will turn out nicely as well. He is presenting an interesting world and solid vanity press options.

Both have an extra bit of win, they could be purchased as Christmas gifts for the RPG fan that has it all… save for creator credits.

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Kickstart the Character – Creation Process of Kaiya Blackmoore

It’s not just my fellow guildmate, Egg Embry, who has dabbled his toes into the Roleplaying Kickstarters. I have kicked in for a couple, here and there. Sometimes it was because of the game, sometimes because of the creators, and sometimes just because.

However, it wasn’t until Egg presented me with a fairly unique Christmas present last year that I ever got to participate in the creation side of the process. As he alluded to in his post “Kickstarter Reward Level: Vanity Press – Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Street“, myself, Egg, and our friend Leland all had the opportunity to come up with a trio of characters that would appear in Yrisa’s Nightmare.

Yrisa's Nightmare.

Yrisa’s Nightmare.

One of the things you tend to do when you roleplay, no matter the system, is create characters. Obviously you create the ones you are going to actually play, and then after you get them going you think of about 100 more that might be cool to play. I have folders upstairs of all the characters I’ve ever played in a game, but lost to time are the others who might have had backstories or perhaps some were just a collection of stats, never to see the light of day past some random afternoon or evening.

I like to think that this bit of daydreaming has come in handy for writing fiction. Novels normally have need of tons of characters – each the hero of their own stories. Perhaps some of those lazy Sunday D&D characters have gone onto a second life within some story without me even realizing it.

This was a little different, as this would be a character who needed to “fit” into the world Lucas Curell had created. And while it wasn’t stated anywhere that the three characters needed to be tied to each other, we felt like it might act as a cool Easter Egg for anyone reading the adventure.


Egg actually had his character, Celltar Drumthunder, mocked up by the time Leland and I came onboard. Here was a good-looking guy who travels from town to town playing his music wherever he can find a tavern with attentive patrons (or at least the kind who might part with some hard-earned coin). Of course, he repays their kindness by allowing them to invite him into their homes where he generally takes their most valuable of possessions. Through some form of magic, the people only realize it is gone, and not that Celltar might have taken it.

It was Leland who thought “I think it would be neat to brainstorm a connection between them, then make the character. If they blend together, it would add story.”

Would they be a gang? Or…

“One could be a bounty hunter looking for someone who is stealing these heirlooms.”

But then…

“Or maybe the lost love who is still under the spell.”

There was Kaiya right there. I took the lead on her character. Then a little later the thought of a Wererat was mentioned who would become “Sully” took shape (who Leland wrote up). And it was really there that the connection made some sense and how they tied together made some level of sense. The key points and connections were:


A noble who was going to marry a noble woman.

He was cursed at their engagement by a thief.

Possibly mention he’s hiding from his ex-bride.


Cursed a noble at his engagement party.

Tried to use a spell to marry a noble woman.


First groom was cursed, and they did not marry.

Almost wed to a bard who put a spell on her.

Rats in the Street. Featuring Wererats.

Rats in the Street. Featuring Wererats.

Now there was some concern that these types of connections might not work for Lucas. Perhaps it might be too overt. Maybe it just couldn’t fit in the world he was trying to craft. Heck, maybe we were trying too hard to put our own spin on these characters and doing the “group thing” was not a great idea. Still, we decided to work them up.

Worst case, we thought, we could use these characters for something else on our own.

The great thing about working with others on any kind of story/character/fiction is that you have someone to bounce ideas off of. People who can see something slightly different from you are able to do. And last, but not least, is that you have built-in editors to help make sure you’re not misspelling every other word. What followed was a series of back and forths among the three of us as we worked up a first draft, then a second, and then a final draft in a format Lucas was looking for.

Appearance – This is not only their physical appearance, but also trying to convey some level of insight into their actions. Sully might have been a “lost soul”, but he still held himself in a “regal manner”.

Personality – I’d say this one probably ties most to the actual roleplaying of the character by the Game Master. Celltar was “certain that the world owes him”. “Lazy, liar, and showman.”

Goals – These felt like something which would boil our characters down to their basic instincts. What did they want to do? And maybe how would they get there? To transform into someone they always wished to be. To restore themselves. To get through life as easy as possible.

Hobby – This was as simple as “drinking” or losing themselves in research.

In Yroden (where we lay our tale) – Here was our thoughts on how and why the character might be in Yroden (and thus how they might tie into the actual adventure). This was really the crux of the character and really would determine whether or not the character(s) would end up being used.

Now done, we sent it off and waited…

When Lucas responded he said he loved the interplay between them, but had a twist in mind for using them. Kaiya would actually appear in Yrisa’s Nightmare where the other two would get referenced. However, Sully and Celltar would get their proper appearance in the companion adventure Rats in the Street – especially since that one featured a gang of wererats.


From the City of Brass Character Entry for Kaiya Blackmoore


And that, as they say, was that. The characters appeared in their respective stories, and my own hope is that some Game Master out there has not only spotted the connection, but worked it into his own story. Maybe Kaiya is out there helping fight wererats alongside some adventurers. Maybe Celltar has finally found the wrong person to charm. Maybe Sully has found a cure after all.



Kickstarter information:

Yrisa’s Nightmare, an RPG adventure for Pathfinder and 5e by Ember Design Studios
Raised $2,680 starting November 13th, 2015

If getting a NPC into an adventure is on your Christmas 2016 wish list, Ember Design Studios is running another Kickstarter and is offering two options to get your sailor NPC into the mix (see the 6th update on the Kickstarter). Sunken Temple, an RPG adventure for 5e, Pathfinder, & WOIN by Ember Design Studios
Raised to-date (this Kickstarter is still going at the time of this writing) $5,431 starting November 18th, 2016



John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at

Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Vanity Press – Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Streets

“If I buy my way into RPG freelancing, will I ever be taken seriously?”

To obtain a job and be successful at it, generally, you need the applicable skills for that profession and you have to prove you possess said skills. I want to move from a role-playing game wanna-lancer to a freelance writer. My proof that I have those skills involves buying writing credits in RPGs via Kickstarter. Stocking my resume with vanity press entries. But if my resume is all vanity press, will that make me a laughing stock instead of someone to take stock in?




Yrisa's Nightmare.

Yrisa’s Nightmare.

Before I dive too far into these thoughts, let’s touch on how the Kickstarter vanity press idea works? Some RPG Kickstarters offer rewards that let you submit content to their game. They offer an opportunity to write and you pay them for the opportunity.

Due to my schedule, this is ideal. It lets me write something with a low word count, typically a few hundred words like an adventure hook, a NPC, a location seed, a monster, or a magic item that will be printed and credited to me.

This is my journey to freelancer and it starts with selecting the Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Vanity Press.




For my first purchase, I participated in Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e where I provided a location seed in their campaign setting. Another opportunity that presented itself was Ember Design Studios’ Kickstarter for Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Street.

Yrisa’s Nightmare, an RPG adventure for Pathfinder and 5e by Ember Design Studios

Yrisa’s Nightmare is a supernatural mystery set in a viking fort town. Your characters arrive, supernatural attacks happen to them and those around the settlement, and your party either uncovers why these attacks are happening or they don’t get to leave. Ever.

Rats in the Street. Featuring Wererats.

Rats in the Street. Featuring Wererats.

Rats in the Street (5e) by Ember Design Studios

Rats in the Street is a city adventure in the same world as Yrisa’s Nightmare. This time, you’re facing a gang of wererat thieves and you have to piece together the clues to stop them.

Launched in November, 2015, both adventures come from Lucas Curell the creator of the online RPG tool, City of Brass. The concept – viking mysteries – interested me but I collect Kickstarter writing credits. To get my $75 they needed something extra on top of:

  • Print and PDF copies of Yrisa’s Nightmare for either Pathfinder or 5e – $25 via Kickstarter / $25.53 (taxes and shipping to me) via
  • PDF copy of The Song of Aracos for 5e – Kickstarter Bonus / $4.95 via
  • PDF copy of Rats in the Streets for either Pathfinder or 5e – $5 via Kickstarter / $4.95 via

That extra sauce that captured my wallet was the:

  • World Builder add-on – “Work with [Lucas Curell] to create an interesting NPC for the village of Yroden or nearby countryside.
    Remember, Yroden will be released using a CC BY-SA 4.0 license so only select this option if your comfortable with that. These characters will all be included in the web supplement, and in the finished adventure.”
  • Vanity press upcharge – $15 x 3 = $45
Celltar Drumthunder. Art by Egg Embry

Celltar Drumthunder. Art by Egg Embry

The opportunity to create an NPC expanded my resume from just a location seed to a character. I bought the ability to create three NPCs for Yrisa’s Nightmare. It was just before Christmas 2015 and these seemed like fun gifts for my RPG buddies, John “Cursed Sword” McGuire and Sir Leland Beauchamp. What did we do with three NPCs? We alluded to a shared history through them.

Lucas picked up on the shared backstory and saw a clever way to use the characters. He put Kaiya Blackmoore as an important NPC in Yrisa’s Nightmare. In that adventure, Sully and Celltar Drumthunder appear as part of the supernatural effects that drive the tale. In Rats in the Street, Sully and Celltar take on some of the larger NPC roles within the adventure. The characters unite these adventures through their shared easter egg (no pun intended) backstory.




UPDATE – 2016-12-07 – John McGuire did a write up of his character and the process here.




City of Brass

City of Brass

Credit where credit is due. Lucas took these characters, saw their backstory and potential within his world, and wove them into the fabric of his tales in Yrisa’s Nightmare and Rats in the Street. The steps to bring this to life – pay, bat ideas between John and Leland, write, draw, submit, read, smile – were all easier than I could have asked for. These adventures have been delivered and enjoyed. Vanity press RPG writer’s credit number two and RPG art credit number one complete! On to number three…




To my initial question, will I be taken seriously if my resume is all vanity press Kickstarter rewards? It was a worry. Then Sir Leland* and I went to Gen Con 2016, my first Gen Con. There we had the opportunity to meet Lucas and play through another adventure he created,  Bella’s Yarn (5e), another excellent adventure. I really liked playing mideval detective to solve that mystery. For his part, Lucas was awesome. Instead of treating me like a joke because I am trying to buy my way through the door he was happy to talk gaming, and Kickstarters, and RPG websites. He treated me like a welcome addition to the community. It cured my concern.

Will I be judged for my start in the industry? Likely. Will that be the end of my quest? No.

*The “Sir Leland” reference is because my buddy’s name is Leland Beauchamp – Amanda, Jeremy, John, Chad, Robert, the whole Tessera Guild, we all know Lee – anyways, in high school, he named his D&D knight, Sir Leland. Could you imagine if I tried that? Ser Egg. Only George RR Martin could pull that off…




Sample NPCs from Yrisa's Nightmare.

Sample NPCs from Yrisa’s Nightmare.

Kickstarter information:

Yrisa’s Nightmare, an RPG adventure for Pathfinder and 5e by Ember Design Studios
Raised $2,680 starting November 13th, 2015

If getting a NPC into an adventure is on your Christmas 2016 wish list, Ember Design Studios is running another Kickstarter and is offering two options to get your sailor NPC into the mix (see the 6th update on the Kickstarter). Sunken Temple, an RPG adventure for 5e, Pathfinder, & WOIN by Ember Design Studios
Raised to-date (this Kickstarter is still going at the time of this writing) $4,273 starting November 18th, 2016




Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:


  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Did I Miss? – The Faerie Ring

Current State? Role-playing game wanna-lancer. Mission? To become a RPG freelancer. Plan? Pledging for writing credits in other creator’s RPG Kickstarters.


From The Faerie Ring by Zombie Sky Press.

That’s the situation now, but what about the past? Are there any un-mined RPG writing credits in Kickstarter’s long tail of products? As it turns out, yes.

The projects I didn’t back… Some are professional and, likely, memorably fun but charged more for their vanity press pledge levels than I could afford. Some were great looking products but did not have a vanity press option at all. One of the latter was The Faerie Ring for Pathfinder and 5e. I did not pledge but I follow them on Facebook and they have posted a writing opportunity…

The Faerie Ring for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and 5E by Zombie Sky Press

This Kickstarter is in the rearview having started on November 30th of two thousand and fifteen.

Their pitch:

The Faerie Ring expands the fey options for both players and GMs using either Pathfinder Roleplaying Game or 5E and creates new opportunities for meddling where you probably shouldn’t. It introduces new fey monsters, playable fey races and other character options, fey big bads or patrons (or both!), fey cities and planes and other locales, and more.

This project aims to highlight the fey: to build their mythos with the strong personalities of powerful fey lords, to build their mystery with extraplanar fey locales and adventures, and to build their influence with fey character options.


This picture encapsulates the wanna-lancer to freelancer journey. From The Faerie Ring by Zombie Sky Press.

We’re updating and remastering the two existing PDF releases (“Prelude” and “Red Jack”) and incorporating them along with nine additional chapters of brand new content as The Faerie Ring: Along the Twisting Way in two printed volumes: a Campaign Guide and a Player’s Guide. Plus, a third book in PDF, the Magic Guide.

The Faerie Ring began over 5 years ago and launched Zombie Sky Press. And though the project’s been silent for a while, we’ve been quietly designing the whole time, and now, we’re ready to unveil our plans. The original “Prelude” is linked in the Update section for everyone to check out.

Egg’s thoughts:

Not out of intention, but every RPG game I’ve played has been set in a human-centric world. The concept of the fey fleshed out to be more than the occasional antagonist is interesting. This product seems likely to offer both the flavor and crunch needed to make the faerie races, monsters, magics, and societies feel grounded and workable. Had there been a vanity press option, I’d have happily put in my coin.

But, a year later, there is an option.


From The Faerie Ring by Zombie Sky Press.

Update #23:

Public Update and a Call for Magic Submissions

We Want Magic Submissions! 

As we pull together the Campaign and Player’s Guides for The Faerie Ring, we’re thinking more and more about the Magic Guide. So we’re calling for magical pitches. Interested in submitting something for consideration? Accepted pitches will be commissioned at 5 c/w.

For design contributions, please put together a pitch of one or more ideas for the Magic Guide that you’d be interested in working on. We are certainly looking for individual spells and rituals—and I’ll be asking for those at a later date—but we’re currently looking for other things, like fascinating optional subsystems related to magic and the fey. For the pitch, give me a description of what you’re proposing and the presumed word count (assume you can’t have more than 2,000-3,000 words per idea, though great pitches may be given more room). These can be for either 5E or Pathfinder (if accepted, we’ll convert if possible), or maybe, they’re largely flavor with minimal to no crunch; let us know in the pitch. Send pitches to scott(at)zombieskypress(dot)com by December 1, 2016.

Get your ass to Mars.

Kuato Lives! From The Faerie Ring by Zombie Sky Press.

For example, the concept of the moonshadow will be a part of the Magic Guide. This will detail how the moon’s passing affects different fey in different ways (but all fey feel the effects of the moon in some way).

Here’s the PDF that started it all back in 2010. It’s getting some updates for the new release, but it is offered here as inspiration: The Faerie Ring Prelude.

Egg’s closing thoughts:

To this point, there has been safety in paying for the opportunity to write. Once they have my money they can’t fire me without a refund.

What Zombie Sky Press is offering is work-for-hire. Submitting to write comes with no guarantee of acceptance like a Kickstarter pledge does. This situation requires skills not born of my bank account. They’re offering the first major test in my mission: Have I reached the level (oy) where I can move from paying to write to being paid to write? Am I ready to jump from wanna-lancer to freelancer?

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Apocalypse the Risen RPG

I am building a resume of tabletop role-playing game writing credits by buying them from Kickstarter. The goal is to go from a RPG wanna-lancer to a paid freelancer. It’s… well, it’s my personal demon. To that end, there is an option to pay to write about that or any type of demon.


* * *

Apocalypse the Risen Campaign Setting

Apocalypse the Risen Campaign Setting

Apocalypse the Risen RPG (Pathfinder Compatible) by Rust Portal Games


Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016 at 10:18 EDT in the evening.


Their pitch:


Can you survive the undead and demonic horrors ravaging post-apocalyptic Earth some 25 years after the Rise? Pathfinder Compatible RPG.


Apocalypse the Risen Campaign Setting is a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible post-apocalyptic fantasy horror RPG based on Earth, twenty-five years after the fall of society, an event known as the Rise. This full color hardcover campaign setting will be heavily illustrated and over 400 pages.


Ghost, Emotes All by Preston Stone

Ghost, Emotes All by Preston Stone

Apocalypse the Risen thrusts you into the role of a resolute survivor, forging through the ashes of humanity on an Earth besieged by demons and the dead—known as Risen. Twenty-five years after the collapse of society, humankind and their new allies now fight back, staggered and beaten but never broken.


Is it the survival of your Colony that drives you onward in the hunt for precious resources? Or perhaps hatred for the evils walking the Earth that fuels your righteous anger seeking redemption?”


Egg’s thoughts:


First, like so many Kickstarter RPG projects, the art is rich and amazing. The book will look glorious with this level of art.

Second, you get to design a demon. I mean, does it get more metal than designing a demon? No, no it doesn’t.


Their vanity press rewards:


Descended Draft, Seraphim Banner by Rodrigo Vega

Descended Draft, Seraphim Banner by Rodrigo Vega

“Pledge $349 or more



You are the Light against the Darkness.



  • Design a Demon! Apocalypse the Risen includes a detailed demon creation system and we will put it at your fingertips. Give us an idea, a name, a concept, or dig deep into the demon creator and we will work with you to design a demon to be published by Rusted Portal with designer credits for you.
  • Apocalypse the Risen Campaign Setting Hardcover
  • Access to Stretch Goals unlocked during campaign!
  • AtR Character Portfolio Pack (18 Sheets)
  • Apocalypse the Risen GM Screen
  • Apocalypse the Risen Campaign Setting PDF
  • “Adrift” AtR One-shot Adventure PDF
  • Nine 8th Level Pre-Generated Characters PDF”


* * *

Shonk, The Holy Wood

“OMG! Demon metal me?! Yeah-no!”    – Shonk, The Holy Wood!


Closing thoughts:


The project looks stunning, the concept – post-apocalyptic Earth – is, while not wholly original, a fresher patch of farmland than replanting yet another crop of pseudo-western Europe setting-seeds. It looks like a world where action will carry the story and the conflicts of good and evil are defined.

The vanity reward is designing a demon. How do you make a demon fun to run for any role-playing group? Pinhead would not work for every table and, because of that, making a fitting demon would take some thought. The hardest part of this task is likely to be not basing the demon on one of your old role-playing buddies… That might be impossible.


* * *


Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer


Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:


Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – The Dread House and Salt in Wounds Tabletop Setting

I want to freelance in the tabletop role-playing game industry. To get there, I’m buying a resume of writing credits via Kickstarter rewards. So far, I’ve largely bought into D&D 5e. But the RPG industry is wider than D&D and I want to add as many systems to my resume as I can. That makes these projects of interest to me.

"Fascinating." - Mirror Mirror Robert Jeffrey

“Fascinating.” – Mirror Mirror Robert Jeffrey II


* * *


The Dread House (Pathfinder/5th Edition/Call of Cthulhu) by Hammerdog Games


Kickstarter campaign ends on Saturday, October 29th, 2016 at 3:00 EDT in the afternoon.


Their pitch:


The most haunted house in the world, presented with multiple storylines, in multiple time periods, and for multiple RPG systems.


Dry leaves crackle under your feet as you make your way up the hill towards the dark manse, your path lit by a bold harvest moon. The taste of rain is in the air and you hear a distant peal of thunder. The townsfolk begged you not to come up here. Not tonight. Especially not tonight.

The Dread House

The Dread House


You reach the grounds as storm clouds slip across the moon, darkening the yard. You make your way carefully to the front door but find it barred from the outside. It would take a crowbar and some muscle to get in this way. The windows are high off the ground but seem breakable. You test your theory with a large rock, and the glass shatters as the first bolt of lightning slashes across the sky. You climb up and through the broken pane, carefully turning and lowering yourself to the floor of the room inside. The townsfolk may be afraid of this place buy you aren’t.


“Good Evening” says a deep strong voice that makes you whirl with shock. Your eyes search the darkness but you see nothing. A flash of lightning verifies to your eyes that you are alone.


“I trust you will be staying?” says the voice. “Excellent, it’s been a long time since we’ve had company.” Lightning flashes again. The drawing room is empty of everything but old furniture. You turn and scramble to the window, ready to leap through it and to the ground below. But the window isn’t broken any more. Somehow it’s healed.


You stop to puzzle this impossibility for the briefest of moments. That’s all it takes. The voice in the darkness gets you, and nobody hears you scream. You should have listened to the townsfolk. You should have come better prepared…for The Dread House.”


Egg’s thoughts:


The Dread House is a series of adventures set in different eras that utilize different systems – Wizard of the Coast’s D&D 5e, Paizo’s Pathfinder, but, most important to lil’ Egg Embry, Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu. Call of Cthulhu is not on my resume. Add to that the concept – a haunted mansion that exists from medieval times to present – offers a growing tale and world to explore. Character’s actions from one era can be felt in the next. The vanity press offer – “an adventure, encounter, or monster in the Dread House” – combined with the chained nature of these adventures will, I hope, allow me to write something a little longer than many of my Kickstarter vanity press pledges.

The Dread House's Gentleman Ghost

The Dread House’s Gentleman Ghost


Their vanity press rewards:


“$150 or more

Architect of Dread


An undead professional, you seek to further your career even after death. You gain a copy of The Dread Wedding and all PDFs. You will participate in the development process of an adventure, encounter, or monster in the Dread House. No prior experience is required but the more experience you have, the more you can contribute. You will gain a credit as a developer. [Freight Extra]”


* * *


Salt in Wounds Tabletop Setting for 5th Edition & Pathfinder by J. M. Perkins


Kickstarter campaign ends on Thursday, October 27th, 2016 at 2:03 EDT in the afternoon.


Their pitch:


A gore splattered, monster-fed, city based dark fantasy setting for your favorite Tabletop RPGs.


Salt in Wounds is a fictional city; a detail-rich dark fantasy setting designed specifically for tabletop roleplaying games (although it can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates intricate works of imagination). More specifically, Salt in Wounds is a city whose culture, economy, and existence is beholden to the reality of the giant, regenerating kaiju called the ‘Tarrasque’ which is imprisoned within the city center so it can be butchered over and over again.


Salt in Wounds City Map (Rough Draft)

Salt in Wounds City Map (Rough Draft)

There are few monsters in role playing games more iconic than the Tarrasque: the ‘end game’ boss that’s been terrorizing high level characters (and delighting players) for decades. The Salt in Wounds setting takes the beast in an entirely new direction: as the perpetually slaughtered ‘natural’ resource that has been feeding the population & fueling economy of the sprawling metropolis of Salt in Wounds for the last two centuries.


Since 2015 I’ve been fleshing out the city, its inhabitants, and setting the stage for adventure: first on the Ennie nominated gaming website Tribality and then on its own page I’ve written fiction, created monsters, and worked hard to create a compelling, incredible world just begging for exploration & play. Here’s just a sample of some of the work that’s already been made public about Salt in Wounds:


Now, with your help, I want to take my mishmash of ideas, player options, lore & creatures and turn it into a proper series of books & supplements that will inspire your Pathfinder, 5th Edition, and other gaming for years.


Egg’s thoughts:


Salt in Wounds. Any city with a title for a name (like King of Prussia, Pennsylvania) screams out, “Visit me!” more than, say, one of the early titles of my home city, Marthasville [Note – Marthasville, where Superman and Batman get on like chocolate and peanut butter.] Title alone states this is an engaging product. J M Perkins has a fully realized city with enough real estate to share some pretty views with the public. The reward – design one of the 13 main families in the city for both D&D 5e as well as Pathfinder – has curb appeal. This reward could lead to a dynasty write up, information about their home, magic items, and NPCs. Lots of potential to show your RPG writing skills.

Salt in Wounds. I spy a Tarrasque.

Salt in Wounds. I spy a Tarrasque.


On the other hand, by the time I noticed this one all of the rewards were gone. Fiddlesticks. I believe the individuals that chose this one picked a great vanity press option. I cannot wait to see the results.


Their vanity press rewards:


“Pledge $250 or more



You rule Salt in Wounds, and you get everything listed above, three additional pieces of Sway, and design considerations (see text below for more information).



  • Name the Harpoon Release Command Word
  • Help Design a Meridian House
  • Swag x 6


Limited to only 11 (there are 13 Aristocratic Meridian Houses, and two Binder-Lordships have already been claimed by patrons) you get all the above rewards + an *additional* 3 pieces of Swag (for a total of 6 pieces of Swag) and you get design considerations for your chosen Meridian House, invitation to an exclusive design session hangout, and you select the legendary ‘command word’ of your house’s immoveable harpoon. Legal possession of this command word grants Binder-Lords their authority within the city of Salt in Wounds and can be used to actually free the Tarrasque.”


* * *


Closing thoughts:


The Dread House offers the chance to add Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu to my list of vanity projects. Sold. Salt in Wounds lives up to its name because it looks amazing but all of the writing rewards are spoken for. Regardless of my salted wound, I think both of these projects are going to be fun. I’m looking forward to seeing how they progress.


* * *


Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer


Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:


Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom and Manastorm

My journey from tabletop role-playing game wanna-lancer to freelancer involves buying into the right projects (chronicled here). To build my vanity press resume, I review a number Kickstarters. Here’s a few standout projects with vanity press options.

* * *

Manastorm – A Pathfinder-Compatible Campaign Setting by Terran Empire Publishing

Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 at 9:06 EDT in the evening.

Manastorm's Zula Pyromancer

Manastorm’s Zula Pyromancer

Their pitch:

“Manastorm is a new campaign setting set on a planet located in the Milky Way galaxy. Shin’ar is a world of high magic and epic fantasy!

What is Manastorm?

Manastorm is the inaugural product offering from Terran Empire Publishing. It is a new Pathfinder Compatible campaign setting featuring 16 new playable races – each with their own hybrid class – and 6 new prestige classes.

The planet of Shin’ar boasts 10 expansive regions to explore, from dust- choked ruins to far off enclaves guarded by logic driven automatons.

Manastorm introduces players to the Manasphere, a bubble of radiation that surrounds the planet, given off by mana crystals found deep within the planet’s interior. The Manasphere allows those who can tap into it’s unlimited power to fuel fantastic feats of magic and wonder. Players will be able to create new magical items from mana crystals that allow the user to cast stored spells on themselves or others, as well as allow spellcasters to renew spent spell slots. Players must be warned though, the overuse of mana crystals can result in Mana Poisoning, and eventual death and rising as a Mana Zombie.

Manastorm's Kalarin Rogue

Manastorm’s Kalarin Rogue

The planet suffers from events known as Lunar Quickenings. The Dri-jen moon, the smallest of the planet’s two moons, has an erratic orbit. When it moves close enough to the planet, the moon causes all mana crystal deposits within the planet to react wildly. Bursts of raw mana saturate the Manasphere and cause fluctuations in its behavior. During these times, portals to unknown planets and planes of existence spontaneously open all over the world, depositing countless people and creatures on Shin’ar.

The vast majority of the peoples encountered on Shin’ar are not native to the planet. Many races have migrated to the world during Lunar Quickenings and found themselves stranded when the event ended. Portals to others dimensions or planets can only function during Lunar Quickenings. The Manasphere does not allow the opening of gates or portals outside of Lunar Quickenings, and it has a way to punish those who try to circumvent this. These events last for an indeterminate amount of time. Some have come and gone in the span of a few years, while some can last over a millennium.

Lunar Quickenings allow GMs and players to include all kinds of “homebrew” races and monsters. While Manastorm will offer more than enough to begin to play wonderful and exciting adventures and campaigns, the Lunar Quickenings make it so anything and everything can be encountered on Shin’ar. Terran Empire will also be hosting competitions to include new races and monsters from fans into future products.

History has been disrupted multiple times by these Lunar Quickenings, often with the release of demonic entities and other fearsome creatures, some of which could not find their way back home before their portals of origin were closed. Here is where our story begins: a Lunar Quickening has raged on for the past 38 years, only recently ending and leaving the world to recover once more.”

Egg’s thoughts:

This patchwork world is purpose built to seamlessly port your homebrew Pathfinder lands/creatures into. Add to that, this third party Pathfinder campaign setting feels ready-made to upvert for Paizo’s upcoming Starfinder system/setting (2017), it is like you’re getting two products in one. While not written in their pitch, this setting recalls the best of DC comics’ Adam Strange and his Zeta-Beam trips from Earth to save the planet Rann. For me, Manastorm screams unabashed sword and jetpack barbarian-fi!

John McGuire, American Novelist

John McGuire, Novelist, Moleman Bent on Conquering the Surface World, Amazing Role-player

Their vanity press rewards offer a little extra vanity, not only do you get to write an NPC for their product line, but for $35 more they’ll draw the NPC. I’m likely to request a character modeled on great American novelist, John McGuire.

Their vanity press rewards:

Pledge $90 or more
Most Learned

Reward – Full color hardcover book of Manastorm: World of Shin’ar; Credit in our “Special Thanks” section; Terran Empire game token; Hand drawn “Thank You” card; Poster Map of Shin’ar, PDF (Full) of Manastorm: World of Shin’ar, World of Shin’ar Book of Maps (softcover), PDF of World of Shin’ar Book of Maps, Terran Empire Bookmark, Create a NPC

***Special – Most Learned Backers will be given the opportunity to create a NPC to be used in future Manastorm products and Adventure Paths!***


  • Manastorm: World of Shin’ar (Hardcover)
  • Terran Empire Game Token
  • Hand drawn “Thank You” card
  • Map of Shin’ar (Poster)
  • PDF of Manastorm: World of Shin’ar (Full)
  • World of Shin’ar Book of Maps (Softcover)
  • PDF of World of Shin’ar Book of Maps
  • Terran Empire Bookmark

Pathfinder, the logo

* * *

$125 or more
Elder Sage

Reward – Same as Most Learned plus more!

***Backers at this level will also get a small color portrait of their character created and a Limited Edition Art of Shin’ar book!***

***Portrait will be delivered after delivery of book, completion and acceptance of NPC created.***


  • Manastorm: World of Shin’ar (Hardcover)
  • Terran Empire Game Token
  • Hand drawn “Thank You” card
  • Map of Shin’ar (Poster)
  • PDF of Manastorm: World of Shin’ar (Full)
  • World of Shin’ar Book of Maps (Softcover)
  • PDF of World of Shin’ar Book of Maps
  • Terran Empire Bookmark
  • Art of Shin’ar (Limited Edition Softcover)
  • Portrait of NPC

* * *

Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom by Metal Weave Games

Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 at 9:00 EDT in the evening.

Their pitch:

Lady Ceidwen of the Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom

Lady Ceidwen of the Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom

Discover the forsaken. A systemless, soulsian-inspired book of NPCs and creatures to take your games into dark new worlds.

All backers, who receive a PDF or more, will receive two free PDF statbooks of their system of choice.

Any additional statbook will be a $5 add-on.

Systems so far supported: D&D 5th Edition, Pathfinder, Shadow of the Demon Lord, OSR/AD&D, Cypher System, Dungeon World, FATE, Savage Worlds & 13th Age.

Embers is a systemless art and lore book designed to inspire GMs and players, much like the Baby Bestiary was. However, instead of adorable creatures, we have a line-up of dark fantasy characters and creatures to invade your games.

Egg’s thoughts:

A systemless offering, this product requires AAA writing to stand next to its epic-level artwork. The art is the selling point for this project. Based on its quality, I believe that the final product will look exceptional. If you’re writing for it, you’ve got to rise to breathtaking prose to go next to these portraits.

Their vanity press rewards:

Art from Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom

Art from Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom

Pledge $400 or more
Forlorn Lord


  • Name in backer credits
  • PDF of Embers
  • Print of Embers
  • Create a surviving character with us

* * *

Pledge $400 or more
Forlorn Beast


  • Name in backer credits
  • PDF of Embers
  • Print of Embers
  • Create a surviving creature with us

 * * *

 Closing thoughts:

Each project brings interesting art options. I am intrigued by both. Getting a chance to design within Pathfinder for Manastorm would expand my work into a system beyond 5e (albeit a related system). Going systemless will remove the “crutch” of rules all together and require a focus on creativity to match the art of the Embers of the Forgotten Kingdom.

I pledged Manastorm. Getting to design a character to appear in a third party Pathfinder product, with a hoped-for conversion to the upcoming Starfinder, AND getting original art in the deal, it’s a winner and the right choice for lil’ Egg Embry.


Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge & Luminous Echo

My goal? To write tabletop role-playing games professionally.
My plan? To pledge for RPG Kickstarters that let me write as a reward.
My reality? I pay-to-play to build my resume.

So far, I discussed my contribution – monetary and writing-wise – to the Kickstarter for Sasquatch Game Studio’s 5e campaign setting on Kickstarter Reward Level: Vanity Press – Primeval Thule. If my path inspires you to do the same – buy writing credits – then here are some of the RPG vanity press rewards currently on Kickstarter.

* * *

Luminous Echo (D&D 5E, Anima, Pathfinder compatible) by Project Lux

Wen-M art for Luminous Echo (D&D 5E, Anima, Pathfinder compatible)

Wen-M art for Luminous Echo (D&D 5E, Anima, Pathfinder compatible)

Kickstarter campaign ends on Friday, September 30th, 2016 at 11:07 EDT in the morning.

Their pitch:

“Luminous Echo is a world containing ten years’ worth of lore, characters, artifacts, and amazing weapons by world renowned artist Wen-M.

One world, forever divided into two realms. The Dream World, a realm of magic, immortality, and mysteries. Mhodica, a realm of solid matter, stone, and certainties. For as long as either realm could remember, they were precious little more than myth to each other.    

Though once stories of witches, wizards, ghosts and goblins were considered nothing more than stories to frighten small children, the age of certainty is coming to an end. A darkness is stirring which threatens to shatter the equilibrium of the two realms forever.

The only way to avert this catastrophe is for the people of Mhodica to accept the existence of magic, and for the people of the Dream World to accept that the world of Mhodica exists for something more than their own amusement.

Luminous Echo is half art book showcasing the work of Wen-M and half an outline of the world, as well as many characters, weapons, stories, and places.

They set the stage for those who purchase the book to create a variety of adventures in the RPG system of their choosing.”

Egg’s thoughts:

Why would you want to be in this book? It’s so pretty! So, so pretty! You will be happy with the words but even happier with the art! A huge incentive to pledge for their vanity press option is that Wen-M, this project’s artist, will draw a picture of what you write about and you get to keep the sketch.

Need another perk? It will be available for D&D 5e, Pathfinder, and Anima gaming systems. More systems = more exposure.

More Wen-M art for Luminous Echo (D&D 5E, Anima, Pathfinder compatible)

More Wen-M art for Luminous Echo (D&D 5E, Anima, Pathfinder compatible)

Their vanity press rewards:

Pledge $350 CAD or more
Custom Designed Weapon

You will receive all rewards in the “Signed Book and All Printouts” tier + custom designed weapon in full color with short story in the book, with the signed original sketch from Wen-M.


  • Your name in the credits
  • Digital Sketchbook
  • PDF book
  • Hardcover Book – Signed
  • All 11″ x 17″ Prints – Signed
  • Your custom designed weapon in the book
  • Original sketch of your custom designed weapon – Signed

* * *

Pledge $750 CAD or more
Custom Designed Creature

You will receive all rewards in the “Signed Book and All Printouts” tier + custom designed creature in full color with short story in the book, with the signed original sketch from Wen-M.


  • Your name in the credits
  • Digital Sketchbook
  • PDF book
  • Hardcover Book – Signed
  • All 11″ x 17″ Prints – Signed
  • Your custom designed creature in the book
  • Original sketch of your custom designed creature – Signed

* * *

Pledge $1,600 CAD or more
ABOUT $1,238 USD
Custom Designed Hero

You will receive all rewards in the “Signed Book and All Printouts” tier + custom designed hero in full color with short story in the book, with the signed original sketch from Wen-M.


  • Your name in the credits
  • Digital Sketchbook
  • PDF book
  • Hardcover Book – Signed
  • All 11″ x 17″ Prints – Signed
  • Your custom designed hero in the book
  • Original sketch of your custom designed hero – Signed

* * *

Pledge $5,000 CAD or more
ABOUT $3,868 USD
Custom Designed Clan/Family

You will receive all rewards in the “Signed Book and All Printouts” tier Build your landmark in the setting with this custom designed clan with a Clan Emblem of your design, and up to 5 characters with their stories in the book!


  • Your name in the credits
  • Digital Sketchbook
  • PDF book
  • Hardcover Book – Signed
  • All 11″ x 17″ Prints – Signed
  • Your custom designed Clan/Family in the book
  • Original sketches of your custom designed clan/family – Signed

* * *

Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge (5e, Pathfinder) 01

Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge (5e, Pathfinder)

Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge (5e, Pathfinder) by TPK Games

Kickstarter campaign ends on Sunday, September 25th, 2016 at 5:11 EDT in the morning.

Their pitch:

Author William “Mindflayer” Tucker (Kenzer and Co.), brings his brand of danger to TPK Games in the form of two great adventures.

Two Dark Fantasy Adventures, Two Great Systems, Just in Time for Halloween!

We are looking for your support to help us publish two great dark fantasy 64-page adventures for the Pathfinder and 5e Dungeons & Dragons games. We love both systems and will be dual-statting the adventures so no matter which is your favorite, we’ll have you covered. Your investment will help us bring more art and layout to the project.

It is well known that Total Party Kill Games brings the pain on dark fantasy adventures, so you won’t be disappointed in either of these new titles.

More art from Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge (5e, Pathfinder)

More art from Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge (5e, Pathfinder)

Egg’s thoughts:

Two modules for D&D 5e and Pathfinder. The main one is all sorts of bugbear goodness! Can’t go wrong with bugbears!

(Bugbears, they look NOTHING like the name implies… NOTHING!)

This Kickstarter campaign does not have a vanity press option. However, it does have four print advertisement pages. The reward offers ad space for your gaming-related project. With four days to go, they had all four print ad pages left so I took a chance and contacted Brian Berg (Slaughter at’s co-creator). I asked if I could take one of those four print pages for $100 and, instead of submitting an ad, submit a monster or magic item or whatever would fit into their module. He said yes. That made my day!

Their vanity press reward (technically none so please read the section above and reach out to TPK Games before deciding to pledge the $100 level expecting to write something):

$100 or more
Print Advertiser

We’ll place your PRINT AD in our adventure books. This advertisement must be gaming related. We reserve the right to refund your money and not run your ad based on content.

* * *

Closing thoughts:

Both of these projects are going to be fun. I’ve already pledged for Slaughter at Splinterfang Gorge and will document what comes of the pledge in the months to come. Review them both with a thought toward your name on the credit’s page.

* * *

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at

Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Vanity Press – Primeval Thule

“Can I buy enough RPG writing credits to springboard from vanity press to a paid freelancer?”

Since my first game of D&D with J Edward Neill, I’ve seen tabletop role-playing games as an opportunity to tell stories professionally.

Jeremy Neill. Honest.

J Edward Neill was my first DM. Honest.

However, it’s not a profession that I pursued. I plead “responsibilities” – day job of nearing two decades, kids, over a decade into my mortgage, excessive comic book and TV consumption, you know the chorus to this song. I have not made time to create, to move from wanna-lancer to freelancer.

In 2015, that changed.

Certain projects on Kickstarter let you purchase the opportunity to submit content to their publication. The barebones of the idea looks like:

  • A publisher pitches a product on selling rewards to crowdfund it
  • I pick the reward that lets me write for their product
  • I pay, I write, they edit, they print, I rejoice

The writing is nothing too intensive, nothing that eats time. An adventure hook, a NPC, a location seed, a monster, or a magic item, just a few hundred words – my words, my name in the credits. This is my journey to freelancer and it starts with selecting the Kickstarter Reward Level: Vanity Press.




Primeval Thule 5e by Sasquatch Game Studio

Primeval Thule is a Conan versus Cthulhu inspired campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. Created by Richard Baker, David Noonan, and Stephen Schubert of Sasquatch Game Studio, they have written for D&D 3e, 4e, and – their most relevant product to this Kickstarter – Princes of the Apocalypse for 5e.

Interested in a free sample of Primeval Thule? Try Primeval Thule Traveler’s Guide to get a taste of their world.

For most gamers, the high-concept description, creator’s bibliographies, and setting sample decided their level of interest in backing this Kickstarter. For me, it was the $250 Dungeoneer Reward:


The cover to Primeval Thule for 5e

  • Hardcover and PDF versions of the Primeval Thule 5e Campaign Setting – $49.95 / $19.95
  • A large pullout map and PDF of the Thule continental map – Cost bundled with the book
  • A GM’s screen – $25
  • A large pullout map of the city, Quodeth – Cost bundled with the GM screen
  • Six player reference cards and PDFs – Cost bundled with the GM screen
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e GM Companion – $7.95
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e Players Companion – $7.95
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e Red Chains adventure – $2.95
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e Watchers of Meng adventure – $2.95
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e Secrets of the Moon Door adventure – $2.95
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e Night of the Yellow Moon adventure – $3.99
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e The Lost Tower of Viondor adventure – $3.99
  • Total MSRP – $127.63

All great offerings but the sentences that opened lil’ Egg Embry’s wallet were:

  • “[Y]ou’ll be invited to name a dungeon, ruin, or adventure locale and provide a brief background or description which will serve as the basis for our development of that site. (The copyright to the name and description you provide will be held by Sasquatch Game Studio, LLC. We reserve the right to reject and/or applaud inappropriate, vulgar, or unsuitable suggestions.)”
  • Vanity press upcharge – $122.37

This image from Primeval Thule page 126 pops for me!

Their reward – pay-to-play or, for my situation in the era of credit cards, swipe-to-write – fit my time budget and my love of D&D. Combined with Thule’s barbarian-nightmare setting, their first-rate production values, and, top of my Christmas wish list, my words and name in print, I saw a path to freelancing with Primevel Thule as the first step.




The Mammoth Graveyard.

There is a valley where mammoths go to die. Centuries of their ivory wealth litters the ground in testament to its consecrated importance. Overlooking those graves is a primordial, decaying fortress built onto a godly-proportioned mammoth’s skull and ribs. The ruins whisper of lost treasures, violence, a dead god, and a plea to escape. But no one does…




Sasquatch edited my submission, elevating it to Robert E. Howard-lite, and printed it as a sidebar within their 5e edition of Primeval Thule Campaign Setting. The process was effortless – pay, write then submit while professionals handle the editing. The books have been delivered, read, and greatly enjoyed. Vanity press RPG writer’s credit number one complete! On to number two…


Thulean Cyclops from page 228




Kickstarter information:

Primeval Thule: 5e Campaign Setting by Sasquatch Game Studio LLC
Raised: $52,811 starting July 16th, 2015

Primeval Thule: Pathfinder, 13th Age, and 4e Campaign Settings by Sasquatch Game Studio LLC
Raised: $75,232 starting July 2nd, 2013




Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:


  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at

The Top Three Video Games of Every Decade

Ok. So. Let’s get this started.

First, a few disclaimers:

1. This list doesn’t include sports games, indie titles, fighting games, or sandbox games. And it’s not because I don’t love those kinds of games (a few favorites are Limbo, Inside, Killer Instinct, Crackdown, and Tecmo Bowl) but more because I’m focusing on the big guns. The literal game-changers. The kinds of games one can sit with in a dark room and lose oneself for days.

2. Also, this list represents my personal favorites. These might not always align with popular opinion…I get it. Rather, these are the games I grew up with and love as part of my life experience. In other words, don’t get butthurt if you don’t see Madden 7,000, Halo, or Grand Theft Auto on here. These games are all cool in their own right, but didn’t impact me as much.


Here are my top three video games for each decade, starting with the 70’s.



In 1978, I was just two years old. I didn’t have a game system. My only real exposure to the medium was during my dad’s trips to the local tavern, during which he’d plunk me down beside him while he played Asteroids. So…in other words…I played these games a decade after they came out, which serves only to illustrate just how awesome they were and still are.



Combat (1977)

Combat was one of the first games I ever handled. Featuring two-person, head-to-head matchups between tanks and planes, this bad boy was awesome. I consumed 100’s of hours with friends and family blasting and getting blasted to smithereens. After everyone else got tired of the action, I’d sit down by myself and practice shooting from angles and while moving. My dedication to Combat was a sure sign of an addiction soon to come.




Breakout (1976)

Beautiful simplicity is how I describe Breakout. You’re a paddle hitting a ball and blowing up bricks. Much like other games at the time, the difficulty was ever rising. The ball moved faster…your paddle got smaller. This game was hard in a way modern games don’t really embrace anymore. You were going to lose. It was only a matter of time.




Adventure (1979)

Not just among my faves from the 70’s, but definitely an all-time favorite, Adventure was pretty much the industry’s first attempt at building a role-playing game. You’re a dot, and your only mission is to return the holy grail to the golden castle. Only trouble is, the dragons are after you. Somehow, as a little kid, this game terrified and enthralled me. I must’ve played it a thousand times. And again, unlike modern games, victory was not assured. If the dragons get you, it’s game over.



The 80’s for me were a fun, fun time. I had three game systems: Intellivision (with the little slip-on gamepad covers) an Atari 2600, and the original NES console. For a kid growing up in a place where winter reigned for 5-6 months a year, video games were key to my not becoming a career criminal. I’m kidding….mostly.



Treasure of Tarmin (1983)

Without a doubt, ToT was my most beloved game on the old school Intellivision. It was difficult, engrossing, and scary (to an eight-year old.) The theme was more complex than 70’s games, but still direct. You’re a guy in a vast labyrinth looking for a fabled treasure. An army of monsters and traps lies in your way. You will die…a lot (much like a retro Dark Souls.) The scariest part of the game still resonates with me. I remember the noises the monsters would make when they cornered you. Played in the dark, it was enough to capture my imagination for many years to come.




The Legend of Zelda (1986)

Do I really have to tell you how awesome the original Zelda is? In an era of arcade style clones, Zelda broke away from the pack. As one of the first games allowing players to save games (without a clunky, 30-digit password) it broke every mold. I can still remember sitting in my dark bedroom during winter. Everyone else was asleep. I didn’t have a game guide or a map. I played Zelda hardcore…and still do sometimes.



Metroid (1986)

1986 was a good year for games, and a great year for a game geek like me. When Metroid came out, the first I glimpsed of it was at a friend’s house. He let me play it for all of fifteen minutes before (justifiably) taking his controller back. I was hooked. Completely and utterly.  The only hard part: I didn’t get to play it again until a year later. And then, after I stepped into Samus’s boots, I didn’t play anything else for months.



The 90’s were a strange time for me. I skipped several years of game-playing entirely, but also spent months at a time locked in my room at night, playing until my head hurt. The raw brilliance of the 80’s was over, and a new era of polished titles hit the market. Moreover, I hooked up my first PC computer, which opened up an entirely new world of entertainment for me (and the rest of the world) to consume.



Sid Meier’s Civilization (1991)

In 1991, I got my first real job. I was in lawncare in the deep south, which meant days and days of grinding away at grass in 95+ temperatures. I loved it. But what I loved more is that before each workday began, I drove to my coworker’s house and played a few hours of Civilization while waiting for the rest of the crew to show up. If you’ve played Civ, you know about the addiction. One more turn, people. Just…one…more…turn.




Baldur’s Gate (1998)

This was the first game I played on my very own PC. As a diehard role-playing guy (dungeon mastering inspired my epic fantasy book series) Baldur’s Gate put into pixels everything I needed. Build a party, gather weapons, master spells, and go forth to battle a powerful evil. I mean c’mon…who didn’t love this game? Right?




Diablo (1996)

It’s true Diablo came out before Baldur’s Gate, and also true I didn’t discover it until nearly the turn of the century. But ohhhhh, when I sat down to play it for the first time… The dark themes and unbelievably good music sold me immediately. It was creepy. It was engrossing. And truthfully, it was one of the first action games allowing players to win using such a vast variety of tactics. I always played as a wizard…because I like dying a lot apparently.



By the time Y2K rolled around, video games had become mainstream. Everyone I knew had at least one system. It was no longer something only nerds did in their basements. It was a part of daily life, a stress reliever far more powerful than regular television. I was extra lucky in that I had a girlfriend willing to let me play for hours every day (before shoving me aside and taking the controller for herself.) In other words, the 2000’s were a beautiful time.



Beyond Good and Evil (2003)

Before playing it, I had no idea games could be this absurdly fun. I’d always played top-down isometric games or standard platformers, but this game took a newer, crazier, more beautiful take on things. If you’ve never played BG&E, you owe it to yourself to pick up the remastered version. I honestly can’t even remember the complete plot (because it was pretty out there) but I can definitely recall how much fun I had playing it.


Half Life 2

Half-Life 2 (2004)

When I picked this game up (as part of the Orange Box) I’d never before touched the Half-Life universe. But by the time I was done fighting headcrabs, using grav-guns, and scaling giant alien towers, I’d played it through three times without touching any other game. Half-Life took storytelling to a new level. It was also serious in a way other games hadn’t quite mastered yet, embracing its dark, futuristic subject matter without the need for laughs. Just writing about it makes me want to go back and play it again…because seriously it’s still better than most modern titles.


Dragon Age Origins

Dragon Age Origins (2009)

I didn’t care about the two sequels. I never minded the kooky combat controls. I liked the original Dragon Age so much, I wanted it to last forever. Maybe it’s because I’ve always wanted to date a girl like Morrigan (ha) or because Alistair is pretty much every doofus I’ve ever befriended. Whatever. I’d never before had a game make me agonize over which dialogue option to choose.  And I’m not sure I ever will again.


 The 2010’s

Is that what we call ’em? The 2010’s? Hell if I know. What I can say is that the modern era is the greatest time ever to be a gamer. Retro games, indie titles, and unbelievably realistic graphics are all a thing now. It’s true games are getting a bit ridiculous to pay for ($60 for a typical modern title) but it’s the price we pay for quality. And usually…it’s worth every penny. Also note, it’s possible or even probable that new games will come out before 2020 that are good enough to make this list. Technically that means this part of the list is 2010-2016…and therefore somewhat incomplete. Probably. Maybe.


Mass Effect 3 (2012)

Let’s forget about the kickass action. Let’s pay no attention to the amazing cutscenes. Let’s not even discuss the unreal amount of customization. ME3 is all about decisions…decisions. With one slip of dialogue, your characters can be lost or changed forever. Which in a way makes this the ultimate thinker’s game. Who gets to live? Who gets to die? I loved the entire Mass Effect series. It probably helped to inspire this novella. And it definitely pulled me into the story without any resistance on my part.  I hear there’s a new Mass Effect coming out someday soon. I’m there.



The Witcher III – Wild Hunt (2015)

It’s true I’ve gushed over The Witcher before. What can I say? It’s probably my favorite game of all time. Heartstopping action. Smokin’ good graphics. An absolutely killer story. I’m not gonna apologize for all the superlatives. The tale of Geralt, Siri, and the world-swallowing war they fall into is among the best in gaming history. I liked games like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and Far Cry, but really they don’t even sniff the same league as The Witcher.


Doom 2016

Doom (2016)

Twenty years ago, I remember the original Doom. I played it after high school. I played it during high school. I got fired from a job for playing it. I lost countless hours death-matching friends and even girlfriends. And now in 2016, the heavens have opened and delivered unto me a gift I’ll not soon forget. Doom 2016 is fast-paced to the extreme, gory to the max, and fun as HELL. It taps into all the retro glory of the original while bringing a whole new level of intensity to the mix. I mean…have you fired the BFG yet? Have you?? Please…make more Doom games like this. Thanks.


Honorable mentions:

Utopia (1981)

Burgertime (yes seriously) (1982)

Super Mario Bros (1985)

Metroid Prime (2002)

Halo 2 (2004)

Zelda – Twilight Princess (2006) Gamecube version

Crackdown (2007)

Deus Ex – Human Revolution (2011)

And many, many more…


Test your own video game knowledge right here.

For a different brand of entertainment, try this.

J Edward Neill


Star Wars : My Thoughts Before We Wake

featuring art by the late great Ralph McQuarrie


I’m writing this from the past.

All the way back on Tuesday, December 15, 2015.

Because today, Friday, December 18, is a big day. For me. For a lot of us. I wanted to write this post ahead of time. Before today. Before it happens. Before we see it. Before the Awakening. Before the results of all this hype and hope and speculation and excitement are known. Will we be disappointed today? Will we be thrilled? Will our prayers be answered? I don’t know and for the purposes of this post, I don’t want to know.

So I’m writing this from the past. star_wars_r2d2_c-3po_ralph_mcquarrie_desktop_1920x1080_hd-wallpaper-1054461

Last night (for me, here in the past), The Force Awakens had its premiere at the Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Which means that people have seen it. A large group of people, a lot of them famous, a lot of them on Twitter. And, while I trust that none of them are going to run and tweet “Oh my God! Han Solo is just Dexter Jettster wearing a Mission Impossible Mask!”, I have deleted Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and any other social media app off my phone; deleted the bookmarks in Google Chrome. From Monday until Saturday, I am in as much of a media blackout as is possible in this day and age.

Because I don’t want to know.

I’m not a spoiler-phobe. I actually find that trend more than a little annoying, as I wrote about a while ago HERE. Do I want to know the story? The surprises? The ending? Fuck no. But mostly, I don’t want to know what people think about the movie. I don’t want to read Kevin Smith tweeting “HOLY SHIT STAR WARS IS SO GOOD!” or Patton Oswalt saying “Bad news guys…”. I don’t want to know what the critics have to say. Not a single fucking one. Not because I don’t like critics, but because I have no interest in what other people think about the movie.

I only care about what I think about it.

Two reasons for this:

1. There are at most a dozen people in this world whose opinions on film I actually respect. Who I can talk movies with in a way that satisfies me. Whose praise or condemnation of a film can actually sway my desire to see it. Does this make me a snob? Fuck yes. I embrace being a snob. I don’t care what most people think because I think I know better. It’s an ugly truth about me but a truth all the same. I feel that way about all movies; with Star Wars I feel it tenfold.

2. Knowing the general consensus on a film’s quality undoubtedly taints your experience in watching it for the first time. If the praise is effusive, often times you are disappointed by what you see because it was merely “good”, not “amazing” as every keeps saying. For me, I call this the Something About Mary effect. Conversely, if the word on the film is bad, if people are ripping it, if the cursed Rotten Tomatoes (boy do I hate Rotten Tomatoes) rating is low, you go into it expecting bad and you look for the bad. All you can see is the bad. And you don’t want to feel like an idiot for liking something that everyone else hates. Or you can go the other way. You’ve heard the film is bad, you go see it, enjoy it, and think “That was much better than everyone is saying. I don’t get it.” That happened with me on The Dark Knight Rises. The word wasn’t great on it but when I saw it I enjoyed it. Looking back, I realize those low expectations inflated my opinion of the film. I bought it on blu-ray the day it came out and haven’t been able to watch it all the way through even once. I find it mediocre and disappointing.

star-wars-mcquarrie3I don’t want to walk into the theater today with that baggage.

I’m bringing in enough with me as it is.

Because, well…

I love Star Wars more than you.

Since I don’t know who you are, dear reader, it’s understandable if you find that statement laughable.

But I love Star Wars more than you because Star Wars is my thing.

And it has been since 1980.

When I was four years old, my parents let me stay up to watch the network television debut of Star Wars. It was hosted by Billy Dee Williams (which is how I know it was around 1980), from a badly mocked-up version of what I would later learn was the Mos Eisley cantina. (Did you know it was owned by a Wookiee named Chalmun? Of course you didn’t. No reason you should. But I do. Because Star Wars is my thing.)

Like so many people, the first time seeing George Lucas’s Star Wars changed my life. I was never the same after that. I had, at the age of four, fallen truly, madly, and deeply in love.

I obviously don’t remember every detail of that night, but I remember enough. I remember the opening shot of the Blockade Runner (the Tantive IV) and the Star Destroyer (the Devastator) coming over the top of the screen and thinking the child’s equivalent of “holy shit!”. Being terrified of Darth Vader. I remember the cantina, obviously. Ben cutting off Ponda Baba’s arm. Meeting Han Solo. Seeing the Falcon for the first time. I have very strong memories of the trash compactor and, after that, the image that probably stuck most in my mind: Luke and Leia swinging across the chasm in the Death Star. Of course, the getaway fight with the TIE Fighters was amazing (“Don’t get cocky!”).

But what left an indelible impression on me was the final assault on the Death Star, later known as the Battle of Yavin. It enraptured me in a way I had never experienced. Starting with the scene in the briefing room where they break down the plan (I have this thing. Don’t know what it is, but my favorite scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark is when Indy uses the chalkboard to explain to the guys, one of them the actor that played Jek Porkins in A New Hope, how the Staff of Ra worked. Don’t know why that is.) and then of course the visuals, the action. It was so damn exciting and tense. I had no idea what was going to happen next. I had seen very few movies, so it never occurred to me that of course the hero was going to save the day. I was four. I didn’t know that it was an automatic thing in movies like this. I was terrified for Luke every step of the way. He’s just a kid from a farm! This is so dangerous! How is he going to make it out alive?


Ships crash. People die. Darth Vader starts mowing down Y-Wings in his funky looking fighter (TIE Advanced x1). It was all too much.

Then Luke switched off his targeting computer.

I stopped breathing.

Then, it happened. The moment that brings me chills every time I think about it, let alone see it. Seriously. Right now, seeing it in my head, I’m getting that feeling.

Just when it looked like Vader was going to shoot Luke down. Just when the Rebellion was about to be blown to oblivion, a miracle happened.


The Falcon came down out of the sun and saved the day.


They came back! Han and Chewie came back! If you were an adult, you probably knew it would happen. Because that’s how movies work. The cynical loner always grows a heart and comes back to help. But as a child? I had no idea it was coming.

And when it did, I felt it for the first time.

The jolt. The shiver. The surge.

For all I knew, at that moment, 35 years ago, it was The Force Itself.

That feeling, you know? The potent injection of emotion that seems to shoot up your spine when you see, hear, read something that just hits you in a place you never knew you had. It’s the white soldiers cheering “give ‘em Hell!” to the 54th Massachusetts as they leave to die attacking Fort Wagner. It’s a brave vampire slayer leaping to her death to save both her sister and the world (“She saved the world. A lot.”). It’s the “Ode to Joy”, when that damn chorus comes in and the bliss crackles like electricity under your skin.

I was paralyzed with… I don’t know what that feeling is. It’s a cocktail of emotions, universally known but undefined. Just that… rush. That feeling.

It was the first time I had felt it.

It was riding my first roller coaster.

It was losing my virginity.

Drinking my first beer.

I have George Lucas to thank for that. And I thank him, as all fans should, for giving us this gift.

I also wanted more.

star_wars_movies_atat_ralph_mcquarrie_fan_art_1280x800_wallpaper_wallpaper_2560x1600_www-wallpaperswa-comThe first Star Wars trilogy was an enormous hit. Millions and millions of people are fans of the films. Made Lucas a brand of his own, the most successful independent filmmaker in history. The original trilogy is beloved the whole world over. Especially The Empire Strikes Back, nearly universally considered the best of the films.

But my love affair didn’t stop in 1983 when Return of the Jedi was released. I didn’t think “Well, that cool thing is over. On to the next thing.”

I was in love. I still wanted more.

And to get more, I had to dive deeper. And there wasn’t a whole lot there.

I’ve seen the two pretty-awful Ewoks TV movies more than a dozen times each. Why? Because they were Star Wars. Same with the “Droids” and “Ewoks” cartoons. I read the seven available Star Wars spin-off novels, including the very enjoyable Han Solo and Lando Calrissian series. I read the lackluster Marvel comics.

But between 1983 and 1991, it was slim pickings for a kid who wanted more of his favorite thing.

But in ’91, a novel was published. Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. It took place 5 years after Episode VI and heir-to-the-empire-coverstarred all of the original characters, and introduced a few new ones, including one of the great Star Wars villains (hell, characters) of all time. Soon after, in the world of comic books, Dark Horse got the Star Wars license and released “Dark Empire”, which took place a year after Heir to the Empire. It was a bleak story about Emperor Palpatine rising from the dead to take one last stab at conquering the galaxy.

With those two pieces of fiction, the entity that would eventually be called the Expanded Universe was born. It would live and grow for almost a quarter of a century.

And I experienced all of it. Every novel. Every comic book. Every video game. Every role-playing game. Every encyclopedia. Star Wars became much more than three movies for me.

Even through the Special Editions and the Prequels, the Expanded Universe thrived. The novels and comics kept coming. Some were great. Some sucked. Most were in the middle somewhere. But the Star Wars galaxy continued to grow outside of the movies. In the case of the prequels, it often times eclipsed it in terms of quality. When 2005 was over, and Revenge of the Sith had come and gone, Star Wars wasn’t over for me like it was for so many others. I hadn’t abandoned it because of the quality of the prequels. Because to me it was so much more than six films. The movies were the most important aspect, sure, but I enjoyed the prequel era. While Lucas’s movies were bad (at times horrible), with several great moments, they spawned so many interesting stories between the cracks. In comics. And fiction. And in the spectacular “Clone Wars” television show.

I can imagine losing faith in Star Wars if all you know is the films. I don’t begrudge anyone for being done with the franchise after the prequels. Nor do I blame people for hopping back on in hopes that The Force Awakens is awesome. Please, come back to Star Wars. But also understand that some of us never left. Not out of blind loyalty, but because we’re fans. Not fans of the Star Wars movies; fans of Star Wars as a whole, the entire multi-media giant it has grown into.


Now George Lucas is out. Disney, Kathleen Kennedy, Lawrence Kasdan, and J.J. Abrams are in. The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi.Everyone is excited to see what things are like, what’s happened, what’s going, three decades after the death of the Emperor and Darth Vader. So am I. Except, I’ve already seen it. The novels hit “30 years later” a long time ago. In the (now defunct) Expanded Universe, a lot happened in those years. Weddings. Births. Deaths. New villains. New heroes. Wars. Adventures. Tragedies. Triumphs. A fully fleshed-out timeline that has been built upon that first wonderful Timothy Zahn novel.

None of this has any bearing on The Force Awakens. This is a new timeline. A new vision. One that only includes the films and animated TV shows as “canon”. And I’ve come to terms with that. It’s fine. It’s all make-believe bullshit anyway. But it will be impossible for me to not bring all that (fictional) history with me. That knowledge is in my DNA. It’s part of what makes me me.

J.J. Abrams is without a doubt a Star Wars fan. But, if I had to guess, not the same type of Star Wars fan as I am. He loves Star Wars and I think he is going to make a film that represents it well. Except, his Star Wars is not my Star Wars. My Star Wars galaxy is so much bigger than most people’s. The question is really going to be, for me, is “is what J.J. loves about Star Wars the same thing I love about Star Wars?”. Maybe, but maybe not.


What do I want this new movie to be?

I want it to be a good story.

I want it to feel like Star Wars.

I want the Kurosawa screen wipes between scenes instead of dissolves and cuts.

I want Harrison, Mark, and Carrie to be Han, Luke, and Leia.

I want Rey and Finn and Poe to be great characters that I will enjoy watching carry on the saga.

I want it to feel old and new.

I want someone to say “I have a bad feeling about this.”

I want John Williams to make me bawl like a baby.

I want it to pay homage to George but not be an homage to George. There’s a difference. Ask Bryan Singer.

I want Kylo Ren to be badass.

I want Captain Phasma to be badass-er.

I want it to be its own movie but also earn the title “Episode VII” and feel like part of the greater saga.

I want it to be good.

I want it to be great.

I want to love it.


What do I not want?

I do not want Luke Skywalker to be evil.

That is the one thing that could turn me off of Star Wars for a very long time. Make me lose faith in the new regime. I think it would betray the original films, the films that everyone behind The Force Awakens say they are trying to do right by.

“Where’s Luke?” has been the refrain as the hero of episodes IV through VI has been absent from the poster, the trailers, the TV spots, and the toys. “Where is Luke?!?”

There could be many reasons why they haven’t shown Luke Skywalker in any of the promo material. Maybe he’s not in it that much. Maybe he’s only in scenes that are later in the film and they don’t want to spoil anything. Maybe his entrance into the movie is so motherfucking Orson-Welles-in-The-Third-Man-awesome that they want to hold onto it. Make us wait for it. Because when I see Mark Hamill playing Luke Skywalker, 32 years after he did it last, I’m going to cry. The quality of his reveal will determine whether I just get misty-eyed or curl up into a sobbing ball on the floor of the theater. I want his entrance to floor me. I want to feel like a kid again.

He could also be a bad guy. That would be a legitimate reason not to reveal him until we see the film, as some have speculated. I really hope that’s not true.

Because I don’t know what I’d do. They would have to do it REALLY well to keep me watching.

They could have Jar-Jar and Wickett talk about midichlorians for two hours and I’d still be there for Episode VIII. But making Luke the bad guy…?

Let’s hope not. MCQ-emperor

As this posts, 1:20 pm, EST, I am sitting down with my father and brother at the Regal Cinemas Atlantic Station theater in downtown Atlanta to watch The Force Awakens in IMAX 3D. The last time I saw a Star Wars film in the theater with these two people that I love: 1983. So that, in itself, will be special.

If you are reading this within two and a half hours of me posting it, I am currently sitting in a darkened theater with an appropriately StarWarsian mix of hope and fear. I don’t need this movie to be good. If it’s not, I’ll still be a Star Wars fan tomorrow. I’ll be sad Star Wars fan, sure, for a while, but I’m not walking away. When my baseball team has a bad game, a bad season, even a bad decade, I don’t stop wearing their caps. I don’t stop rooting for them, watching their games, going to see them when they come to town. And even if the last year was horrible, I still start the next season with hope that they’ll get it right this time.

I feel the same way about Star Wars. In all of pop culture, there is nothing that is nearer to my heart. That’s why I wanted to write this before seeing the film. To express my undying love. No matter what I am experiencing at this very moment, I will be a Star Wars fan tomorrow.

As for my opinions on The Force Awakens, I will express them. On Saturday I will be recording another episode of the NEEDLESS THINGS podcast where we will have a round table discussion about the film. The episode will be available online soon after the film comes out, if you really want to hear me talk about it. I’m sure I’ll have one or two or five hundred things to say.

I may even let the other panelists talk. If I’m feeling generous.

Thank you, George.

Good luck, J.J.

It’s time. You psyched? I’m psyched.

Let’s do it. Here we go.

Punch it, Chewie.


May the Force Be with You,

Chad J. Shonk
December 15, 2015

My Top 7 Video Games of the Modern Era

A billion years ago, I hurled up a list of my Top 6 Video Games of all time.

 It’s time to expand on that idea. Refresh it. Modernize it.

Since the birth of my son, my availability to play games has been seriously reduced. As in, it’s fallen off a cliff. I used to be an addict, throw giant Halo parties, and stay up way past everyone’s bedtime. But now when I add in writing and painting, I’m limited to about 3.5 minutes of Xbox time every other night.

Even so…

I manage to squeeze a little in.

Here are my top 7 games from the last five or so years. These aren’t my favorites of all time, but they’re pretty damn awesome. After writing a few thousand words, slathering up a new canvas, or pounding down a few drinks, I reward myself with these. They’re like little electronic elixirs. They’re delicious.




#7 – Plants versus Zombies (The original)

Don’t judge me. I know it’s a kids’ game. I get that it’s easy, cute, and totally contrary to the super-grim stuff I usually like. Despite all this, PvZ had me hooked within 3 seconds of meeting Crazy Dave. If Walking Dead had pea-shooters and potato mines, I might watch it. Nah…prolly not.




#6 – Halo – The Master Chief Collection

Normally I’d never consider a shooter for a top game. I liked Borderlands and Gears of War and all, but only as time-killers. Halo is somehow different. What I really love about the entire series is the story, the smoothness, and the ability to kill get killed by my friends for hours on end while pounding whiskey. And now that they bundled all the games into one giant package (which an awesome friend gave me as a gift) I’m hooked again.


Shadow Complex

#5 – Shadow Complex

For the uninitiated, Shadow Complex is an old school side-scroller set in the near future. It’s a splash of Metroid, a dash of Contra, and a tiny droplet of Mega Man. It’s too short a game to be considered higher than spot #5, but it’s still awesome for what it is. Quick, dirty fun. You get to blow stuff up and use your brain at the same time. Hard to beat a puzzle game that includes rocket launchers.


Half Life


#4 –  The entire Half-Life series (On the Orange Box)

Ok. So I know I said I didn’t much care about shooters. You got me there. But Half-Life is more than a shooter. It’s got the best (and most tragically human) story. It’s got a physics engine rivaling super-modern games. And it’s got headcrabs. I mean…who doesn’t want a game with headcrabs? And giant, skyscraping robots? And a protagonist who uses a fucking crowbar? Half-life = #winning


#3 – Limbo

If Limbo were a full 10-15 hour experience, it might take top honors. The first time I saw the spider, I shat myself. The game only lasted a few hours (if that) but I must’ve died 4,000 times. It’s all so bloody perfect. Limbo has the atmosphere, the puzzles, and the perfectly-paced action to keep a dude like me hypnotized. It actually helped inspire a few of my paintings, including this one.


# 2 – Thief 4

I might get killed for this one. Back in 2004, I fell in love with Eidos’ Thief, Deadly Shadows. The game’s whole mythology hooked me. So when the newest Thief came out, I gobbled it up. Well: The game was buggy, easy to get lost & confused in, and sometimes unfair. Didn’t bother me a bit. Thief retained the shadowy atmosphere of the original game. I got to steal gold from assholes. I got to swoop down from rooftops and maul unsuspecting guards. If they still cried out, ‘Taffer!’ right before dying, I might’ve bumped this game to #1. And the real catch: I couldn’t even finish it. My Xbox crashed and deleted my save data before the end. One day I’ll return to it. One day.



#1. The Witcher III – Wild Hunt

In the history of ranking video games, this decision is easiest of all. The Witcher III is the perfect game. It has a sprawling landscape that feels even huger than Skyrim. It has deadly, precise combat. It has magic, alchemy, and character customization unrivaled in the business. It’s got a killer soundtrack, beautiful graphics, and a storyline that feels like an entire trilogy of really good movies. I wish I had more time to drown in this game. It’s as good as anything I’ve ever played…or am likely to play in the future. If you like RPG’s, get it. If you like video games at all…get it.

Honorable Mentions:

Mass Effect 3 (Like playing a great sci-fi movie)

Doom 3

Portal (The cake is a lie)

Games Everyone Else Loves that Bore Me to Tears:

Dragon Age Inquisition (The first one was the only good one)

Minecraft (They made tedium into a game)

Grand Theft # 5,000,000, Assassin’s Creed # 700, and Maddon 3016 (Yawn)

 * * *

So. You say you like video games? Test your knowledge with this quiz.

J Edward Neill

The Legion of Lego

It’s my kid’s birthday next week.

He’ll be 4. Pretty much the best age ever.

In his honor, I thought I’d share some of the weird, wacky Lego dudes he’s constructed over the last year.

See, he and I have this game. It goes a little like this:

  • I buy a Lego set and spend an hour or two building it
  • He immediately disassembles it and builds something different
  • I drink to drown my Lego sorrows

I joke…mostly. Seriously, I love building Legos with him. His imagination is up for anything, anytime. And sometimes (meaning all the time) the crazy blend of superheroes/villains/random dudes he creates cracks me up. He knows it makes me laugh, and so he does it every chance he gets.

 I present to you:

G Man’s Top 10 Super Villain Random Anti-Heroes

Lego 2

Super Sauron Riddler with Flame Pants and Coffee. He’s full of caffeine and ready to conquer Middle Krypton.

photo 3

It’s the eagle from Lord of the Rings. As ridden by Princess Uni-Kitty. If I’m Sam and Frodo suffering on the slopes of Mount Doom, I’m pissed if this is my rescue squad.

photo 2

Gandalf. Wearing stormtrooper armor. With a batarang in hand. Standing on the top of Barad Dur. In other words, this is how Sauron was REALLY defeated.


photo 6

Instead of ‘when pigs fly,’ G Man decided he’d change the saying to ‘when Minecraft skeletons ride Nazgul horses.’ Same thing, really.

photo 7

I’m pretty sure I dated this girl. Robot. Thin. Carried a longbow. Nice hair. I can’t remember why we broke up.


photo 4

Anyone remember that movie/Sat Night Live sketch, The Coneheads? Ok, so G Man’s never seen either. Whatever. Imagine you’re a shrink and this dude’s sitting on YOUR couch…

photo 5

Some random guy with a Sauron hat lording over a parapalegic zombie with sweet hair. With a bullhorn. And a shovel. No other kid has ever created this scene. I’m sure of it.

photo 1

So when the Flash died, he got into the stock market big time. That’s in the comics, right?


photo 8

When I asked G Man what this scene was all about, he said, “They’re eating fish for dinner.” I’m thinking, ‘Does Gollum really have the biceps to carry that sword?’


Lego 1

Lord Business kicking Vetruvius off the counter. (The kid never really approved of Lord Business NOT winning in The Lego Movie.)

Somebody buy the G Man some green Creeper Legos.

He’s got some terrifying ideas for ’em.


J Edward Neill

 Check out my Coffee Table Philosophy series here

Surprise Book Release – 101 Questions for Women


Book III in the Coffee Table Philosophy series is here!

The most challenging entry yet in the Coffee Table Philosophy series, 101 Questions for Women picks up right where its predecessors left off. Designed with women in mind, but consumable by everyone, it’s the perfect companion book for small get-togethers, huge parties, and quiet nights under the stars.

Once you taste one Question, you’ll want to devour them all.
For 10 preview Questions, click here.

101 Questions for Women

Available now in softcover format and for Kindles galaxy-wide.

Front Cover 101 Questions for Women

Just one book left in the series…

…101 Questions for Darkness

J Edward Neill

Dragon Age: Inquisition

When I pre-ordered Alien Isolation over the summer I made the mistake of having my teenage daughter by my side. I was lured by forces beyond my control to also pre-order Dragon Age: Inquisition. At the time, I told my daughter this would be a Christmas present. Then the game released and Tumblr began regaling me with screencaps. There was no hope from that point forward. The game case is still going to be wrapped and put under the tree, but we’ve been playing the game since Thanksgiving. According to my daughter, I’m the best mother in the world.

One of the best things about this game has to be the character creation engine. The possibilities are endless. So instead of giving away all the game secrets, I thought I’d share my character Aeira. I’ll be in The Hinterlands if you need me.

Alien Isolation

Alien Isolation Xenomorph

You had to know this was coming…. This is the video game I’ve been waiting for, for a long, long time. I pre-ordered Alien: Isolation sometime over the summer–months ago. I’ve never pre-ordered a game. The only thing I wish I had now was a bigger flat screen TV!

 And yes, I recorded this opening of the game myself! I was grinning like a 10 year old at Christmas.

Xenomorph by Amanda MakepeaceIf you don’t already know, I am obsessed with H.R. Giger’s Xenomorph. I’ve been enamored with the monster ever since I saw Alien on TV when I was around 11 years old. The film terrified me but the creature was such an amazing work of art I found even at that age I couldn’t look away. By the time I was 13, I was also reading the comics and drawing Xenomorphs straight from the pages. There are many things I’ve drawn and thrown away as a young artist, but these were not one.

So yeah. I’ve been waiting for this game. I’ve been waiting for video game graphics to reach the level needed for a quality game, made by people who know what an Alien game should be. And let’s face it, you could almost say this game was made for me. The main character, Ellen Ripley’s daughter, is named Amanda.

Amanda Ripley

Alien Isolation - 2 DiscsBecause of some turmoil going on his my house at the moment, I didn’t pick up the game the day it released in stores. I picked it up over the weekend but still didn’t have a chance to play till yesterday. I didn’t mind waiting. My family comes first and the game wasn’t going anywhere, though I should have at least installed it over the weekend!

Alien Isolation is two discs and took longer to install than I imagined it would. If you own an Xbox 360 you can probably guess what happened next… There was an update to install too.


Once that finished I had to download my add-on content. One, Crew Expendable, comes with the game. The second, Last Survivor, was a bonus I received from GameStop for pre-ordering the game.

The game was worth the wait. It doesn’t take long to live up to its name. You begin the game as part of a team to investigate the discovery of the Nostromo’s flight recorder. Before Amanda and the others even board the trading station Sevastopol, she is separated from them. Alone. Isolated.

I haven’t even seen an alien yet and it’s had my heart pumping.

Alien Isolation

That’s all I’ll say for now. I don’t want to ruin the game for anyone who plans to buy/play. But if you’re interested in reading a more detailed review, that includes insane GIFs of the various ways the alien will kill you, take a look at this Alien Isolation review from Kotaku.

This is Amanda, geek obsessed artist, signing off.

CO-OP Gaming: The Best Way To Game, Part Deux

So wow, that week turned into a month…..


And what an eventful month it’s been.

But back to my top two co-op vidya’ games.

3. Halo: Combat Evolved/ XBOX/ Release Date: November 15th, 2001

I’m going to spoil something for you: my last two spots are going to be FPS’s.

Sorry to all the FPS naysayers. I’m by no means a hardcore Call of Duty, or Battlefield aficionado.

So you can breathe a collective sigh of relief that this list isn’t going to head in either of those directions.

Storming the digital beaches of Normandy, or running through the streets of a war torn urban metropolis just doesn’t do it for me.  Never had much fun playing those types of games.

But give me a horde of religious fanatic aliens, and oh yeah, fun times all around.

Not saying that the Space Marine trope hasn’t been done to death, but that’s another discussion for another day.

Halo: Combat Evolved


Let me take you back. Back to a somewhat simpler time. The year was 2001. I’d just started college, and my weekends were sometimes spent hanging with my best pal, Phillip.

Phillip was (and I think still is) a straight up, hardcore gamer. Not just a dude who loved playing games hour, upon hour’s on end. This was a guy who truly appreciated video games. He loved gaming. All aspects of the art form.

Some of my most fun times talking video games, and just playing them were spent with the ‘ole Phil-meister.

Dude if you read this: HIT ME UP!!!!!

But I digress. Phillip had gotten the new fangled XBOX, and this little game,  that was soon to become a decade spanning monster of a franchise, Halo: Combat Evolved.

So, in my little world, the FPS genre only included the classic N64 Golden Eye 007 and Wolfenstein.


Hang Time (And I'm Not Talking About the mid- 90's Teen Comedy)

Hang Time (And I’m Not Talking About the mid- 90’s Teen Comedy)

My mind was blown open to high h^%* with the galaxy spanning adventure of Master Chief and company.

This was the first time that I saw the XBOX pushed to its impressive limits. Of course we now live in an age where PS4 and XBOX One would blow such a system out of the water, but for its time the XBOX was the shiznit.

With the aide of Phillip, I found myself running across impressive snow draped alien  vistas, battling hulking behemoth’s known as Hunters in frantic close quarter combat, and driving like a bat out of hell on a Warthog as the world went to crap around us.

As with most of the titles on this list, late nights were constantly spent trying to beat this game, and fun times were always had. Even now there are parts from this game that I can still remember, and for a guy whose played a lot of video games in his 32 years on this world, that’s saying a lot.

14 ammo rounds until certain death......

14 ammo rounds until certain death……

But what sticks with me the most is teaming up, and kicking some alien butt, via split screen shenanigan’s. Sure, we’d flip the Warthog over a cliff, or accidentally lob a grenade or two at each other mistakenly.

But after laughing our butts off, and respawning, Phillip and I were ready to push back the tides of the Covenant and the Flood.

Fun times indeed.

Honorable Mentions: Halo: Reach, Halo: ODST, Halo: 2-4



1. Left 4 Dead/ Left 4 Dead 2/ XBOX/ L4D: October 17, 2008, L4D2: November 17, 2009

Gotta get this out of the way first: I love zombies.

World War Z, the novel, is a must read. The original Night of The Living Dead is a classic piece of barrier breaking genre film making. When people talk about the Holy Trilogy of films, I lean more towards the Romero side of flicks, rather than the Lucas camp.

The Walking Dead (comic series). Return of The Living Dead. Ash. Dead Alive. House of The Dead (as crappy as the flick was). 28 Days Later (and I know they’re not “traditional zombies”, but that movie is a great addition to the zombie movie genre). Capcom’s “Resident Evil”.

And the Left 4 Dead series.

Numero Uno

Numero Uno


Numero Dos

Numero Dos


I can wax on all day and night about how much I love these two games. About how they rank up there with some of the greatest video games I’ve ever played.

My ride.....

My ride…..

But I know I’ve only got so much space on this blog, so I’ll try to keep it succinct.

Basic premise of the L4D franchise: you’re grouped with three other survivors of a zombie outbreak, and are placed in various scenarios where you have to fight your way through endless hordes of zombies, and other infected creatures.

The game is a FPS which, at least for me, only intensifies the feeling of dread and anxiety which permeates both these games. There will always be countless instances where a swarm of zombies will run at you at top speed (sorry for all you Boyle zombie haters, these ain’t the shuffling ghouls), unless you can dispatch them in enough time with dwindling ammo.

The environments in this game also set a creepy mood, ranging from an nighttime abandoned hospital, to the sunlit French Quarter avenues of New Orleans fame.

Teamwork is essential to this game. Teamwork. Teamwork. Teamwork.

.....or die crew.

…..or die crew.

Now, of course you can just blow your way through each level, with no strategy, just picking off zombies, Tanks, Hunters, Smokers, and Witches.

::Shivers:: Don’t even get me started on the Witches.

But in my opinion, to truly appreciate this game, it should be played with three other folks, with some sort of a plan in mind. Definitely, don’t become one of those ultra tight butt folks who treat the game as if it’s a real life or death mission.




Have fun with it, but just try to have something of a plan.

Case in point: on the last level of the aforementioned hospital stage, your final fight for survival takes place on the roof of the building. You head here to await rescue from a helicopter, but in the interim, you have to fight the living dead. Final showdown and whatnot.


Before the zombies began attacking us, we wound up stocking up on ammo, setting up gas cans as booby traps, and placing ourselves in such a fashion that we could deal out the most damage to the monsters.

Fun times. 🙂

The calvary's on its way.....

The calvary’s on its way…..

Overall this is a must have for any fan of zombies. Even if you don’t play video games, this is the game that should force you to learn how to play.

Imagine having an opportunity to recreate some of your most favorite tense filled, survival moments from any of the Romero flicks, and you have the Left 4 Dead franchise.

There were times in this game where I literally jumped in my seat, while either playing online, or playing on a LAN gaming session with three other friends.

Rumors abound about a third game being worked on by Valve. Here’s hoping it kicks as much butt as the first two installments.

Both games (along with a crapton of DLC/ downloadable content) can be found pretty much in any brick and mortar gaming store, and on Steam.

Honorable Mentions: Game of The Year Editions/ L4D & L4D2

So that’s it for me. If ya can, please drop a line or two in the comments section about your own favorite co-op games. And if you’re ever on XBOX Live and want to run some rounds, hit me up.


Playing Magic Again

Life at the moment is out of control, hectic, a mad dash–busy. I’m preparing for my first Dragon Con Art Show, and hopefully many more to come, as well as being a mother and looking after a new kitten. Hence, this isn’t going to be much of a post. I just wanted to let everyone know I’m playing Magic the Gathering again, and kicking ass. I haven’t played the popular card game in about 17 years–that’s another story. My younger brother brought a ton of cards over the house this past weekend and asked if I wanted to play. I lost the first game, but I won the remaining three. In the final, game I demolished him. We had a great time and I remembered how much I love playing Magic. Thanks, little brother!

Roleplaying for fun and profit

It’s not a secret, not really. I wasn’t embarrassed… not exactly. Much in the way that many things I have done in my life which fall under the heading of “geeky” or “nerdy”. Before the days when telling people about comic books was shunned.

I mean, I keep hearing about how the nerds won. As if it was for the very soul of the world. That they’ve done what we all predicted would happen when that first “nerd” started messing around with the family computer. They have overthrown their jock-overlords and have claimed the top of the mountain.

Rise up in the cafeteria and stab them with your plastic forks!

Rise up in the cafeteria and stab them with your plastic forks!

Throughout middle school, through high school and college and for some time afterwards I role-played. And I think it has made me a better writer.

How’s that? Well, let’s see.

Character Creation – One of the biggest things in role-playing is that initial character creation. Maybe you are trying to balance out the team that already exists, or maybe you’ve had the nugget of an idea swimming in your head for the last few weeks and now you get to try it out. Sure there is the rolling of dice for your stats, and you would love to roll well to get them higher. But the character is something more than just numbers. There is a history there. A personality that you want to play with and figure out. Sometimes it is tropes, the disgraced knight, the reclusive wizard, the thief who walks the line between good and evil.

But the best characters are those ones who begin to mold themselves as you play them. As your Game Master puts you through the paces on an adventure. As the other players begin to speak with you character… a true personality emerges that you could have never expected… not 100%.

In writing, at least for me, I’ve found it is much the same. I may have the barest idea of how a character will react to something, but time and time again, when that moment comes something crazy happens.

The character surprises me. In the same way that those characters I role-played needed to act a certain way a month after I created them, so too does the written character need to be true to themselves. In fact, I sometimes learn more about them in that moment than I did in any of the moments previous to it (and then I have to go back and tweak a couple of things to help seed that “turn” or “moment”).


World building – A lot of times this is the domain of the Game Master, but a good player can help develop the world in lots of different ways. Through their personal histories: maybe your uncle is a local lord (what is he the lord of? are you in line for his property? would someone want you dead to get their hands on it?), perhaps your best friend died in a conflict across the great sea (was it a conflict or a war? is this the first volley or the last? ), or maybe the village you came from was burned to the ground (who did it? why? are they still coming?).

I’ve heard that writing for comic books is a lot like playing with someone else’s toy box: you want to leave it with more toys than it started with. A good Game Master will take these toys from you and weave them into their world, creating more cohesion, and more stakes for the players.

Heroes – Most of the time I have played the hero (or one of the heroes) of the story. And in that I push the villains as hard as I can. I want to escape their death traps, foil their master plan, and save the maiden. But if I’m paying attention, I can see the obstacles that the Game Master is throwing in my way. You see, it is his job to not quite let me win… at least not for a while. Small victories will keep you going until that final big battle.

In my writing it is the same way. My job as the writer is to figure out what my character wants to achieve and then put as many obstacles in the way of them succeeding in their goals. In overcoming those setbacks, I learn more and more about how my characters think and feel and maybe even what it might take to completely break them.

Villains – I’ve played a couple of villains through the years. And it is fun. It  is fun to mess with the other players and sometimes even catch the Game Master off guard with a line of play. Mostly I’ve found that while sometimes the Game Master isn’t looking to flat-out kill your character, another player who is opposing you has no such qualms. That’s where fast thinking comes in handy. But it is also the point where you can fill a villain with more traits than just “he’s evil”.

Not that there is anything wrong with that!


The End – I’ve played in epic novel length campaigns. They have that feel of a good book series where the heroes get a victory towards the end of the book, only to have something else happen which will propel the series forward for book 2 and 3 and 4. So I can identify where a good breaking point for a chapter, a section, and even the end of the book should be. It is a more subtle thing, but I believe it is there all the same.

Plus it never hurts to end something so that later you can get those heroes out of the mothballs and send them on their one final adventure. Everyone likes a last ride story, right?

Sadly, the closest I come to role-playing these days are playing Dragon’s Age (waiting for the next one!), but I take those old sessions to heart. What might have been cool and what moments might have caused groans. Either way I continue to sift through my memories to see if there is more buried treasure somewhere in there.

I’d like to think there is tons.


John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!