Posts in Blog
Creating a Twitter clone with Zapier

One of the things that I struggle with personally is deciding exactly how “connected” I want to be in my day-to-day. Currently, I use social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, for two reasons:

  1. Posting weird Yu-Gi-Oh screen-caps for the podcast

  2. Keeping tabs on important family updates

As weird as I feel about freely giving Facebook any more of my data to sell, it’s also how I found out that my mom was getting remarried, so I feel a sort of obligation to keep it around. (This was a while ago now, and she at least called before the ceremony, so we’re all good.)

The thing is, I don’t want to be obligated to any one company when it comes to either of the above things. I would far and away prefer losing a bit of functionality, even paying a bit of actual money, for the comfort of knowing that what I say to my friends and family stays within that circle, and only gets sent elsewhere when I explicitly opt in. Even with GDPR and social platforms making renewed efforts to keep my data “safe”, I feel that there’s something to be said for knowing exactly where my information is kept. I want to be able to go and see the bytes, I guess.

This isn’t a new concept, and I’ve tried out projects like Mastodon, diaspora*, or even to see if it was possible to create something that I could convince my friends and family to use, while satisfying my need to not give Zuck any more free labour.

The quick answer: I haven’t, yet.

But, I’ve made some interesting progress.

I recently started working for the automation platform Zapier (and please know that everything I’m saying here is completely my own personal view, does not reflect the views of the company, etc., etc.), and in playing around with the product, I realised that it gives access to two pretty powerful tools:

  1. The ability to send/receive webhooks

  2. The ability to update an RSS feed

The latter of the two I had already seen used in a number of articles regarding podcast hosting, which may be something I circle back around to. But I wanted to know if I could use these two things to build something like what I was picturing: A way to post “content” within a small group, and know exactly where my data is.

It has a few limitations, which I’ll cover briefly here and then maybe more extensively later on, but you can see the result here:

A couple big things:

  1. There’s literally no security on it, so don’t trust anything written there.

  2. Due to the limits in Zapier (because there had to be some limits), it can only handle 100 posts per month, and displays only the 50 latest posts.

While this definitely disqualifies the solution from wide release, it could be a viable solution for small groups. Because the RSS feed and all of the processing is hosted entirely by Zapier, and can be run using a free (free-as-in-free, not free-as-in-beer) Zapier account, there’s nothing saying that the “client” file couldn’t be kept offline. All you really need is the HTML/JS powering the form and displaying the RSS feed, and an internet connection.

There are still some tweaks to be made here and there, but in the vein of “here’s a weird internet thing I’ve made”, I felt it warranted sharing. From here, there are a few other projects I’d like to explore, given the time:

  • Internet-powered games played on phones or laptops in the same room (a-la Jackbox)

  • Free podcast hosting (as mentioned above)

  • Chatroom-esque spaces that only exist for a short time

  • Determining what an ad-free, user-run social network (that actually works — sorry, Ello) might look like

BlogTylerinternet, project, wip
Big Life Changes 2018

Two years ago, almost to the day, I was on the phone with Lauren. She was visiting a friend in London, and they had been waiting at a train stop after a day trip to visit Durham (in the north of England). 

“How was it?” 

”It was...” it took her a long time to come up with the right words, “it kind of turned into an interview?” 

Durham Castle

Durham, site of Durham Castle and Durham Cathedral, the national heritage site where St. Cuthbert is interred, is also home to Durham University. It’s known for a lot of things, one of which being many locations for the first few Harry Potter films, but it also has the fourth best archaeology program in the world. Lauren, both a Harry Potter fan and increasingly interested in pursuing a career in archaeology, went for a visit and a campus tour. 

When no tour guides were available, the school called up the head of the archaeology department, who happened to be on campus, getting ready for the start of the next term. 

After an hour of walking around campus and discussing archaeology, conservation, and the differences in how our countries handled such things, the tour came to a close. 

 ”I’ll just count this as your entrance interview,” he said, “I’m looking forward to your application.”

This past December, Lauren got a letter in the mail. She had been accepted to study Conservation of Archaeological Artifacts at Durham University, starting October 2018. A program that only ten students are accepted to each year. 

So: that’s the big news. We’re moving to England!

Her term begins the first week of October, so we’ll be packing up and leaving mid-to-late September. Between now and then we’ll be selling a lot of our stuff, storing the rest, and finding a place to live.  


That’s kind of where you come in.  

Some of you may already know this, but I’m already a British citizen, which is part of what makes this move possible. I’ll be looking for work while Lauren’s in school, and will likely work a few part-time jobs here and there to pay the bills. Like always, we'll find a way to make ends meet. But, while supporting my partner in her dream, I’m taking the opportunity to try and live out mine: make a living (or part of one) writing and making games.  

If you follow my blog or any of my posts online, you probably know that this is something I’ve considered doing for a while, but now I have a reason to ask for money for it. If you like the things I write, or the games I make, or just want to help support our crazy move halfway around the world, I want your help. Here's how:

If you like what I do and want to buy me coffee sometime, consider making a one-time donation to my Ko-Fi page:

Naturally, I'll be keeping you all up to date with our move and the next leg of this crazy adventure we're going on, so don't worry about missing out. I know times are tough for everyone right now, so if you can't help out financially right now, that's super okay. Just reach out and say hi! Whatever support you can provide, in any form, is incredibly appreciated. 

More updates as they happen!

BlogTylerupdates, life, support
This is A-Yu-Gi-Oh!

 “This Is America” is a phenomenal song and video from Childish Gambino, and may be one of the most important music videos of this decade. 

Unfortunately, the video just happens to sync perfectly with a whole bunch of popular songs, and thus a meme was born.  

Without giving too much more away, I contributed to that meme today, and I’m very sorry: 

"Solo: A Star Wars Story" and the Expanded Universe

Before we get too far: This is not a review of Solo, and there will absolutely be spoilers ahead. I'll see how far I can get before they come up, and there will be a clear indication for when they're about to start, but you should know that they absolutely will be here.

What follows is kind of a rant, and I apologize in advance.  

Solo, much like Rogue One before it, is an ambitious attempt at smoothing the harsh cut between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Both movies come in the still-undulating wake of Disney cutting ties to all "unofficial" Star Wars content, and replacing it with their own. Rather than allowing the public (and a good helping of professional writers, artists, developers, and filmmakers) fill in the gaps left by the main Saga, Disney opted to do the work themselves, seizing empiric control over what's known as the "Star Wars Expanded Universe". Everything created before that point was de-canonized, and rebranded as "Star Wars Legends", which is a polite way of saying that it was taken out back and shot. Star Wars fans have plenty of feelings about that move, and I won't go into detail about them here. Largely, the consensus is that "Star Wars is over" and the series has been thoroughly ruined by corporate greed. 

I... only sort of agree with that. 

Star Wars is kind of a tough nut to crack. The “main” story (which I consider to be episodes 4 through 6) adheres so strictly to the Joseph Campbell-esque hero’s quest, that its ending does feel pretty complete. The evil is vanquished, the student has become the master, the scamp gets the girl, and so forth. There isn’t much left to tell there that wouldn’t somehow re-trod that same ground. As a result of this, everything that has been added to the “main” saga has felt relatively tacked-on. 

And I don’t mean offense by that— The Force Awakens is a wonderful movie, and even The Phantom Menace still has a place in my heart. But, realistically, they don’t do much to affect the universe set by the original trilogy. The thing that makes these additions interesting is how they introduce settings, and fill them with characters and details that bring the world to life. 

As a young teen, some of my favorite books were the Star Wars Encyclopedias, a Scholastic Books product that tried its best to make the franchise feel educational somehow. There was an encyclopedia for each movie, and they went into the smallest details about every character, prop, and concept contained therein. I would spend hours learning about the various lightsaber stances taught by the Jedi, the ingredients of a death stick, the different species of flora and fauna native to Naboo, and so forth. It was the density of these details that brought the universe to life for me, and kept me interested despite the lackluster story of the prequel trilogy.

It's the same density of detail that interested hundreds and thousands of authors to write their own stories set in the universe, adding all sorts of flavor to the existing universe. This is how we got stories like the daily lives of Stormtroopers, the interpersonal drama of moisture farmers, the last thoughts of a Rebel pilot. This is also how we got Admiral Thrawn, who I guess is coming back into the canon now, which I'll have to learn more about.

These stories, while they often referenced events of the original trilogy, existed firmly outside of them. They added detail and filled in the gaps and allowed us to better imagine ourselves in the world where the force is real, beat-up X-wings zip across sandy dunes, and we really can be anything we want to be. The main story and characters were still there, and we could appreciate them from a distance, but these stories preferred to get lost in the weeds and explore on their own. 

It's understandable why so many people are angry about Disney deeming these stories as "non-canon". They were, for lack of a better analogy, the New Testament for Star Wars fans-- a message meant for everyone, inviting each person to a galaxy far, far away. Then, to add insult to injury, they've started creating their own offshoots and expanded universe content? Of course fans are angry, I think that's natural. 


But I don't think that this means that Star Wars is over.  

For starters, they can never take my Expanded Universe from me. I will cherish every moment spent imagining alternative Jedi weaponry, or the obscure games played in back-alley casinos. I personally triple-dog-dare George Lucas to come to my house and take my copy of the Christmas Special. Also there is nothing anyone can do to erase my battle droid fan fiction. Nothing

But more than that, this effort to re-do the Expanded Universe reflects, I think, a recognition that people want to see what's at the edges of this world. As a Disney subsidiary, Lucasfilm gets to create these side-stories with an actual budget, and we get to vote with our dollars regarding what we do and don't want to see more of.

It also means that the side-stories are all managed from one place. While this can contribute to the feeling of corporatization that so many complain about, it also means that these stories exist in the same universe in a more tangible way, which is where Solo really shines.

If you want my opinion, this isn't the end of Star Wars. This is the start of something new.


I'll start with the one thing I thought was weird: the dice. So prominently were they featured in the first act of the movie, I think Lucasfilm realized that no one knew what the hell they were in The Last Jedi, and had Ron Howard film them from every conceivable angle. 

Okay, now for what I liked:



But not for the reasons you think. Sure, it was nice that we get to see Han in a relationship before Leia (because of course he was), but more important: we get to see what Han could have become. Qi'ra, a fellow runaway indentured to Lady Proxima, moves from position of servitude to position of servitude, patiently biding her time until an opportunity presents itself. When she finally gets out from under Dryden Vos' thumb, she absolutely could have gone with Han and maybe have been happy leading that life. But she knows too much, and she knows that going with Han is not the safe play here. No matter where she goes, she knows that she will continue to be either beholden to someone, or hunted by them. "Everyone serves someone", she tells Han early on, and she lives by that. She knows that the safe play here is to lean into the Crimson Dawn, and usurp Vos as an information broker. While she's still serving someone (who I'll talk about later), this position affords her a degree of security. For Mass Effect fans, this gave me similar vibes to the Shadow Broker storyline, which I loved. 

I also love that storyline because it gives us a glimpse into the seedy underbelly of Star Wars that actually does something. In A New Hope we see Mos Eisley, the wretched hive of scum and villainy, but nobody there is doing anything particularly scummy or villainous. Save for an infamous blaster duel, the cantina reads very similarly to an Elks lodge, and doesn't pose the same threat that the setup tries to give it. It's refreshing to know that crime is a real industry in this world, and has real teeth to watch out for. 



A lot of people will list L3 among the best characters of the year, and with good reason. She's funny, poignant, and introduces the idea of human/droid sex into the Star Wars universe.

But she also raises questions that are important to the Star Wars universe, specifically about robot sentience. This is something that is in the cultural zeitgeist lately, with shows like Westworld and games like Detroit: Become Human and Nier: Automata taking center stage. Up until now in the Star Wars universe, while droids have often been a favorite character, they have been firmly placed in an "other" category. "We don't serve their kind here," is a line that rings true with too many people, and not much is done to rectify it. Rather than stand up for his friends who changed (and effectively saved) his life, Luke asks C-3PO and R2-D2 to wait outside. 

In Solo, L3 serves as the droid Spartacus, and in addition to actually leading a droid rebellion, shows us in a mechanical sense how many of the beings that we see in the background are being controlled. She demonstrates several times that when that control is removed, many droids would rather be doing something else. As a series that is finally starting to put women and people of color into positions of power, it's good to see this equality begin to extend to all sentience. 


Enfys Nest

The thing that I appreciate most about Enfys Nest is that not much is explained. We get bits and pieces of backstory (their mother wore the mask previously, for example), and a demonstration of what the so-called marauders are capable of, but the film doesn't go too deep into any one thing. We could have gotten so many things-- the origin of the mask, the location of their home planet, the technology powering their unique hover-cycles, and so forth. But we don't, because it's not important. 

What is important is what Enfys Nest represents. At the end of the film, Enfys tries to recruit Han to join... something. Something new, something big, something that doesn't have a name yet. It's a chance, a hope, a rebellion. While that last word they use will either delight or frustrate you, it reminds us that there is an optimism in this world still. After a whole movie where actions are motivated by a need for survival, and each success is met with a betrayal, this optimism is a welcome presence. It reminds us that in the face of hardship, we do not always need to become cold or harsh, or attempt to run away from our problems. We can always choose to lean in, to run towards danger with a smile on our face and our friends at our side.

Screen_Shot_2018_04_18_at_11.06.51_AM.0 (1).png

The Name

This is a quick one: I love how they named him Solo. It brings up so many more questions about the naming schemes in the Empire. Is this a John Snow situation, where all nameless bastards are given a common last name? Are there other Solos out there? If Han had a twin, would he be Han Duo?


Darth Maul

This is the last one, both because I've written a lot (too much?) already, and this is my main point: the introduction of Darth Maul at the end of the movie represents Disney/Lucasfilms commitment to the promise that they are creating their own Extended Universe. 

While I haven't yet watched Star Wars Rebels, I'm sure as hell going to now. In animated the series, now the only canonical TV show in the Star Wars universe, it's revealed that Darth Maul survived his fight with Obi-wan in The Phantom Menace. He returns, a bit worse for wear, with robot legs and a new lightsaber, fashioned from the parts of new weaponry introduced in the show. 

That same Maul, those same legs, that same saber, appear in Solo. The events of a television show, which existed pretty much entirely outside of the main arc of the Star Wars saga, have directly affected a plot point in a Star Wars motion picture. Whether or not they'll go anywhere with it, I guess that remains to be seen. I hope they do, even in small ways. Maybe Qi'ra makes an appearance in Rebels? Again, I haven't seen the show yet, I'm not sure. But what this proves is that the relationship of Star Wars movies to other media is no longer a one-way street, and what happens in the other properties can (and should) have an effect on what we see on the big screen. 

Up until now, we've only seen shows, comic books, video games, and so forth, based on the Star Wars movies. Solo represents a significant change in the other direction. Moving forward, who knows what we'll see? Movies based on the video games? The conclusions of plot points started in the comic books? 

If Solo works-- not just for us, but also financially for Lucasfilm and Disney-- it can represent a huge opportunity for the franchise, and for the creators who love it. The Expanded Universe may be dead, but its spirit lives on in this gesture. Ideas can come from anywhere, and the canon has more than enough room to expand.

Star Wars isn't over. Star Wars is just getting started. 

BlogTyler Robertson
Help Me Finish This Game

A while ago, I was sent this Tumblr post, which many of you will likely have seen: 

God help me, I started working out what this might look like. These sat in my Notes app for a bit, and have lingered long enough. Please, for the love of all that is good: Help me fill in the blanks and finish game.

Critically Acclaimed at the Sundance Film Festival: The Tabletop Role-Playing Game

Congratulations, your film made it to Sundance, and critics say they're looking forward to it! Only problem is, you haven't written it yet. You're more of an avant-garde director, you tell people, and let the characters write themselves.

This game is about being the characters in a witty, hipster-y, rom-com-y feature film that's sure to do well at Sundance, and will make waves at Tribeca. 

1. Character Creation


Assign -1, 0, 0, +1, +2, +3 as you like to the following:

  • Gumption
  • Chutzpah
  • Moxy
  • Childlike Wonder
  • The Cut of my Gib
  • A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi

2. Basic Moves

Get out of Uncomfortable Situation

10+ you successfully escape the uncomfortable situation without causing offense
7-9 the Narrator is going to give you a worse outcome, hard choice, or price to pay
On a miss, things get weird

Help Out

When you help another player with a move they are making, roll +Moxy
On a 10+, your help grants them +1 to their roll.
On a 7-9 your help grants them +1 to their roll, but you also open yourself up to an awkward situation
On a miss, you walk right into an awkward situation without helping
Note that bonuses don’t stack. If two players successfully help out, the target character only gets +1 to their roll.

Read the room

When you try to get a feel for a situation, roll +Childlike Wonder
On a 10+ hold 3
On a 7-9 hold 1
While you are in this room or situation, you may spend hold 1-for-1 to ask the Narrator a question from the following list:

- What happened here?
- What are people trying to hide?
- What is the biggest threat?
- What’s my best way out of this?
- What should I look out for?
- What’s going to happen next?
- Are things going to get worse before they get better?

On a miss, you reveal some information to the room or someone you’re talking to. The Narrator may ask you some questions, which you will have to answer.

Witty Banter

When you exchange biting words with someone, roll +The Cut Of My Gib.
On a 7+, you and whoever you’re talking to become engaged in verbal repartee, and inflict embarrassment on each other. The usually means that you inflict embarrassment equal to the interpersonal skills you have equipped, and the other person deals embarrassment to you.

When taking embarrassment, you subtract the amount taken from your Self-Confidence. If you are lowered to 0 self-confidence, you proceed to a "Second-Act Montage".

If you roll a 10+, choose one extra effect:

- You gain the upper-hand: take +1 forward, or give +1 forward to another player.
- You are especially witty today (deal +1 embarrassment)
- The other person gets tongue-tied (take -1 embarrassment)
- You put them exactly where you want them

On a miss, you suffer embarrassment, and do not deal any embarrassment to the other person.

Manipulate Someone

This move is used when getting someone to do something they don’t want to do. To get them to do what you’re asking, you’ll need a good reason, or some kind of leverage.
Once you have given them a reason, tell them what you want them to do and roll +A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi.

For a normal person:
10+: They’ll do it for the reason you gave them. If you asked too much, they’ll tell you the minimum it would take for them to do it (or if there’s really no way).
7-9: They’ll do it, but only if you do something for them first, to show that you really mean it. If you asked too much, they’ll tell you what (if anything) it would take for them to do it.
On a miss, your approach is totally wrong: they’ll take offense or get angry.

For another player:
10+: if they do what you want, they mark experience and get +1 forward
7-9: they mark experience if they do what you ask
On a miss, they decide how angry or annoyed they are at you. They mark experience if they choose not to do what you asked.

To The Rescue

When another player is about to suffer embarrassment and you swoop in to protect them, roll +Gumption.
7+: You protect them, but you’ll suffer some or all of the embarrassment meant for them
10+, choose an extra:

- You suffer less embarrassment (-1 embarrassment)
- All eyes are now on you
- You inflict embarrassment back
- You hold the other person back
- On a miss, you make things worse

Movie Magic

At the end of the day, you’re still living a movie, so a lot of weird stuff is possible. When you want to accomplish something that isn’t necessarily possible in real life, roll +A Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi.
10+: the improbable movie magic comes through without issue. Choose 1 effect from the list below.
7-9: it works... imperfectly. Choose 1 effect and 1 glitch.

On a miss, it’s out of your control. This isn’t going to end well. The narrator picks 1 effect that happens immediately, but does not expose you to immediate embarrassment or awkward situations. They may also choose one glitch that could change that.


- Inflict 1 embarrassment on a target
- Confidence Boost (Your interpersonal skill gains +1 Embarrassment and +magic)
- Do one thing beyond human limitations
- Prevent a single person from finding something out
- Remove a person or bad influence from a place
- Introduce a new character
- Communicate with someone you do not share a language with
- Learn a secret about someone
- Heal one point of self-confidence


- The effect is weakened
- The effect is of a short duration
- You take 1 embarrassment
- You draw immediate, unwelcome attention

The blanks still to be filled:

  • What roles would players actually play as? What unique moves would they use?
  • What would a typical session set inside a hipster rom-com look like? 
  • How will you know when it ends? 
  • What tools can we give the Narrator for creating a plot-line and propelling the characters forward?
BlogTylergames, rules, wip
Procedural Tabletop Game Creation... Game.

A few weeks back, Lauren and I got to teach a few friends how to play 5th Edition D&D. While the whole thing has been streamlined by Wizards and clearly leans towards new players, we were hard-pressed to find ways to explain rules without referring back to previous versions of them. While things like proficiency bonuses or hit dice calculation should be easy enough to explain on their own, the context of what these rules used to be helped us shape a narrative for the gameplay itself. 

For those of us who have played most of the versions of long-running games like Dungeons & Dragons, or many variations of a game like the Powered by the Apocalypse suite, one of the ways that we help make sense of rule systems is by comparing them to each other. The similarities and differences help us create a shorthand that helps us get internalize the mechanics and dive further into the real meat of the game.

So then I had this dumb idea. 

What if there was a game where an underlying structure of the game was to create more of the game? 

Imagine a game in the Powered by the Apocalypse style, but instead of players selecting roles and backstories and such right off the bat, we begin with only a set of basic moves and a general character description. The GM defines the general setting (fantasy, science fiction, superheroes, etc.) and play begins. 

As the characters act in the world and begin to make rolls (with the usual 2d6 used by the system), they keep track of their rolls both below 7 and above 9. For every roll below a 7, the player marks a "New Rule" counter. For every roll above 9, they mark a "New Move" counter. Once one of the counters reaches its limit, the player gets to add something new to the game, and the counter resets.

If the "New Rule" counter reaches 5, the player may add a new rule to the game that must affect all players. Ideally, these should be kept simple, and the GM is allowed to veto where necessary. For example, a new rule could be "Short swords deal 6 damage" or "The last person who bought food for the group gets to go first" or "Making a good speech in real life gives you a +1 bonus to diplomacy". You can also elect to remove a previously-made rule, however there must be a majority agreement of the players present to do so. If a rule is removed this way, keep a record of the rule and the date that it was removed (and optionally who it was removed by). 

If the "New Move" counter reaches 3, the player may create a new move for themselves, which their character will have access to going forward. This move must conform to the standard rules, and have a specific trigger, success result, and mixed success result. Optionally, it may have a failure result as well. The GM has veto power for new moves, and you cannot create a move that matches an already-existing move. For example, a player who wants to be stealthy can create a move like this:

When you sneak up behind someone, roll +Cool. On a 7-9 hold 1, on a 10+ hold 2. You may spend hold one-for-one to achieve an effect from this list:
  - Deal your weapon's damage
  - Steal 1 gold
  - Steal a loose object
  - Plant a small item on their person

Once a player has made two moves this way, they may define a role for themselves. The player's two moves are now that role's basic moves. If a new player joins the game (or if someone has to make a new character) and there is no one else currently playing as this role, they may select this role and automatically receive the basic moves. Any new moves created by player who created this role are now the role's advanced moves. New characters who select this role after it has advanced moves may select one advanced move in addition to the basic moves.

In the event that a character selects an existing role at character creation, then creates a new move as they play the game, they are now multi-classing. Keep track of the new moves, and once the player has created two of them, they create a new role, following the same rules as before. On this player's character sheet, list both the original role and the new role that the player has created. The new role can also be selected by new players. 

Once all of the players present have created one new rule and two new moves, you have reached a new "edition" of the game. Write down all of the new rules and moves and keep track of the date. After the first edition, every time all of the players have created one new rule or one new move, that is a new edition. Continue to keep track of the changes and dates, potentially in a group document using Google Drive or Dropbox. 

Because the GM never rolls, their job becomes more about improvising with the characters, and introducing obstacles that fit the direction that the players want to go-- both in story, and mechanics. 

Again, this is probably a bad idea and no good at all, but I'd like to try it. 

Experimenting with Instagram Story RPGs

Over the last few days, I've been experimenting with using the new-ish Poll and Type features in Instagram Stories to create a loose choose-your-own-adventure format story. The story was called "VOID COUPON // CYBERPUNK JANITOR", and if you're on a mobile device, you can see it in the highlighted stories here:

The story centered around a character named Void Coupon, whose only skills in life are being a Cyberpunk and being a Janitor. As the story progressed, Void would reach a point where the audience could vote on which aspect they should take action with: Cyberpunk or Janitor. I'd then write the next chunk of the story with the winning aspect in mind. Here's a small sampling of what some of those turning points looked like:

For the most part, I think the experiment paid off really well! I got lots of good feedback from my friends who read it, and maintained a fairly consistent reader base throughout the story. With a little more prep next time, I'm excited to come back to this idea in the future. 

Pros: Instant feedback, fun surprises, and an excuse to write a cyberpunk game for my friends. It's a great way to force myself to write something relatively interesting every day. 

Cons: Had to write something new and interesting each day, which apparently I’m not accustomed to yet. We’ll get there. Also, “Cyberpunk” didn’t quite fit in the allotted space for polls, so I shortened it to “cybrpunk”. For future reference: Instagram Polls have eight-character lines.

It also provided a great excuse to release a micro-RPG I've written called CYBERPUNK DAY JOB. The is game based in the same world as the Cyberpunk Janitor story, and fits on a single 8.5-by-11-inch page. You can read about it and download the free PDF here:

One-Shot Games in Long Campaigns

Recently I had the privilege of running a Monster of the Week one-shot for my partner Lauren and co-host Jimmy, and it had me thinking about the nature of the quick "one-shot" gaming sessions, and their place in the role-playing community. 

While role-playing has come to the fore in the last few years, thanks to media paragons like Critical Role or The Adventure Zone, it's remains difficult to really bring new fans into the fold. Take, for example, one of my favorite podcasts Friends at the Table, which I've been trying to get Lauren into for over a year now. Because the show has been going on for years now, the emotional beats rely on at least being generally aware of the history of the characters (some of which have been a part of the story for years).

The hosts do a good job ensuring that enough of the relevant plot points are known even to new listeners, but there's something missing there when you just hop in mid-story. Not to mention each episode is at least an hour/hour-and-a-half long, which is reasonably restrictive for a podcast where you're coming into what's effectively the middle of a years-long conversation. This is similar to the reason I haven't truly started watching Critical Role on a regular basis-- why am I going to settle into watching a 4-hour video, just for it to be mostly in-jokes that I don't get?

Conversely, we run into the opposite issues with media focus on one-shot games. While it's easier to see the start and end of the story, getting the "in" on the in-jokes or character arcs, the brevity restricts how close we can become to the players and their characters. While the lows of a one-shot adventure are much higher, the highs are much lower. You see this in podcasts like Party of One, the latest mini-arcs of The Adventure Zone, or the aptly-named One Shot Podcast. While moment-for-moment these pieces give a decent overview of a game's mechanics, and all are produced to a level of quality that deserves attention, they lose the emotional impact provided by longer-running campaigns.

For example, things like player banter, character deaths, or plot resolution tend to have more weight behind them when you are given the time to really flesh out the characters, the world, and the relationships. The same is true while actually playing the game. Longer campaigns, while more difficult to start and maintain, provide more opportunities for moments of genuine celebration or mourning. There seems to be an inverse relationship between length of a campaign and its lasting emotional impact, and if there's a sweet spot somewhere between the two, I don't know that I've found it yet. 

So, back to the game I ran the other night: as a group, we fell into what seems like a decent compromise between campaign length and emotional depth. For the last few sessions of Monster of the Week, Lauren has been running a larger adventure for Jimmy and myself, which had just wrapped up for the RPG equivalent of a mid-season hiatus. We decided that we wanted to play something, but didn't want to go through the trouble of establishing whole new characters and a new universe to romp around in. We wanted to know what we were dealing with off the jump, and make it mean something. 

We decided to keep the universe of Lauren's original campaign (which, due to a good roll and a few poor choices, we have coined "The Agents of DIPSHIT (Department for Internal and Public Safety and Health: Inspect Taskforce)"), and Jimmy continued to play his current character Deke, the over-paranoid conspiracy theorist. Rather than continuing the current story, we reverted to a flashback, exploring some more of Deke's earlier life and time with his mentor, a character named "Sunshine" that Lauren rolled up on the fly. 

Thanks to making it a flashback, we were able to do a lot of things that ultimately didn't affect the world at large (Guy Fieri is a Flavor Vampire, for instance), but allowed us as a group to set up some fun things that happened in our regular game. For instance, Jimmy failing a big magic roll at the end gave me a space to introduce my main character, the ghost of a K-Pop star named Donny Spektre. 

The whole thing only took about three hours of total playtime, and by the end of it we all felt pretty good about our contribution (while some of it was admittedly just silliness for silliness' sake). 

Perhaps there's something there, running one-shots in a single Marvel Cinematic-style connected universe? What do you think? Are there any podcasts or video streams that do this that I should get into? Should we make one together? Let me know. 

BlogTyler Robertson
Cancer in Fantasy Games

In October, my dad passed away after a four-year battle with cancer. As he was the one that introduced me to Dungeons & Dragons, as well as role-playing games as a medium, here's something I've been thinking about a lot:

If real life were like Dungeons & Dragons:

People across the land are dying of a mysterious disease. Following an ancient prophesy, four heroes travel the lengths and breadth of the land, fighting their way through deserts and mysterious jungles. In the deepest forest, after beating back swarms of mysterious beasts, the adventurers come to a clearing, revealing the entrance to an ancient tomb. In that tomb, they are welcomed by the mad wizard Malcero,  who stands at a pedestal before a summoning circle that spews black smoke. Into the air, he released the foul disease Cancer, which brings forth the demon Klemnallannon with every soul it claims. In an arduous battle, the tale of which shall be told for centuries, the heroes defeat Malcero, sending Klemnallannon and his Cancer plummeting back to the seven hells. The lands have been purified once more. 


If D&D were like real life: 

People across the land are dying of a mysterious disease. You go to your job waiting tables at the local tavern, hearing every now and then about the wizards who seek to study and understand the disease. Many say that it is impossible, that this swarm of death is just the way of things. You shrug, largely ignoring it as it does not affect your daily life. When a loved one succumbs to that disease, you find yourself giving a copper piece from each payment to one of the wizards,  in the hopes that it may combine with the copper pieces of others to become an amount sufficient for the wizard to give their cure to the masses. One day the land may be purified. In the meantime, you go back to waiting tables. 



The 15-Step Powered by the Apocalypse Hack

Recently, I’ve put a hold on a few personal projects— partially due to life events, though mostly due to good, old-fashioned New Year’s self-doubt and writer’s block. I’ve realized over the last few months that I kept trying to perfect the system of the games I was making (more on those forthcoming) without paying enough mind to how much fun I was having while making them. If I didn’t enjoy making the game, I realized, I probably won’t have much fun playing it. So, fair warning, the next few things I post will probably be broken or buggy or what-have-you, but I’m okay with that for now. 

As a writing exercise to break myself out of that slump, I wanted to jot down a simple system for everyone’s favorite hack: the Powered by the Apocalypse game. Several of my favorite games right now are PbtA hacks (The Sprawl and Monster of the Week, for example), and while each one can be radically different in tone and scope, the core principles remain basically the same. Here, in 15 steps or less, I’ll walk you through the basics of designing a hack of your own:

  1. Pick a theme, and stick to it: Westerns, Sci-Fi, Gym Class, Anthropomorphized Turtles, whatever
  2. Write down one thing that players in that world can’t live without. Things like “health” or “oxygen” or “pizza” or “self-respect”.
  3. Write down five attributes that fit into the template. They can be called whatever, but fit the following general theme:
    1. What keeps the player’s “health” and helps them take it away from others in a very direct way. Examples: Strength, Meat, Brawn, Muscle, Grit
    2. What helps the player avoid danger, and create danger for others in an indirect way. Examples: Dexterity, Swift, Cool
    3. What helps the player know things that can be learned through traditional means. Examples: Intelligence, Savvy, Smarts, Edge
    4. What helps the player interact with other characters. Examples: Charisma, Style, Moxy
    5. What helps the character interact with the thing that embodies the spirit of the theme that you picked in step one. Examples: Weird, Wyrd, Synth, Qi, Spirit
  4. Players get bonuses to those attributes between -1 and +3. Usually the spread looks about like this at the start: -1 / 0 / 0 / +1 / +2
  5. Write some basic moves, using the standard PbtA system of rolling two six-sided dice, and adding the relevant attribute. Remember, a total of 6 or less is typically failure (though you can gain 1 "experience"), a 7-9 is a mixed success, and a 10+ is a no-questions-asked absolute success. Again, these moves can be whatever you need for your game. Typically, they will follow along this general theme:
    1. Attempt to take “health” from another character, roll + “Strength”. 10+ you do it, and maybe a little extra. 7-9 you do it, but “health” is taken from you as well. 6- “health” is only taken from you.
    2. Attempt to find things out about the world, roll + “Intelligence”. 10+ ask 3 questions from the list. 7-9 ask two. 6- answer a question about your character, in-character. (Write down a list of 5 questions that a normal person from your theme would ask if the line at Starbucks is taking too long.)
    3. Withstanding bad circumstances, roll + relevant attribute (decided by narrator). 10+ you did it, 7-9 you did it but have a lingering cost (usually cosmetic), 6- you don’t do it, and you suffer a mechanical cost (such as subtracting one from a relevant attribute).
    4. Help or hinder another character. 7+ they take +1 or -2 forward, your choice. 7-9 you expose yourself to danger. 
    5. Convince someone else to do something they don’t want to do. 10+ they do it, 7-9 they do it in exchange for something, 6- it’s up to them. 
  6. Copy and reword those moves as necessary, changing the specifics. Usually, this means changing the “select one” lists from gaining a positive thing to avoiding a negative thing. For example, create a copy of move 2 where instead of picking questions that get answers, you pick how you avoid detection, and don’t get screwed over. 
  7. Write down five-ish unique names for character roles. What are there only ONE of in this world? For example, in a western game, there is typically only one Sheriff. 
  8. For each job, pick the attribute that they best reflect. 
  9. For each job, rewrite the two or three of the basic moves, keeping the job’s main attribute in mind. Make it easy to be good at the thing they’re good at. For example, the Gunslinger may make moves similar to taking health, but rolls a dexterity attribute instead, and opt to take no damage on a success. The Documentary Filmmaker may have a move that lets them ask one extra question when following a story. These moves are the job’s standard moves. 
  10. Write four more moves for each job. Make them weird, and don’t worry about game balance. Make a move that makes the job look like the most that job can be. These are the advanced moves, available only after the character has reached a certain amount of experience (usually between 5 and 10 points). 
  11. Write ten single-sentence bad things that happen all the time in this world. Be general. Things like “the shit hits the fan”, “you have a bad day”, “your least favorite song comes on the radio”. These are the basis for your moves as the narrator. Keep them handy for reference.
  12. Create obstacles for the players to come across. These can be traps, environments, or characters. Write down a list of ways that these things can negatively affect the players if they fail a roll. Things like: 
    1. deal a little damage to the player’s “health”
    2. deal a lot of damage to the player’s “health”
    3. enact one of the bad things from step 11
    4. make the player vulnerable to another obstacle
    5. inhibit the player from using an item
    6. prevent the player from using an ability of theirs. 
      Rank the difficult of these obstacles: easy, medium, difficult, boss. Easy obstacles select only one of the items from the list, medium items select two, and so on.
  13. Have each player write down the ways in which their character is connected to two other characters. Call these something appropriate to the theme, such as “bonds”, “owed favors”, or “beliefs”. At the end of a session, if a player acted especially well on these connections (ie, good role-playing), grant them experience. 
  14. State a thing that the players should want to accomplish: save the world, save the girl, save some money, build a barn, what-have-you. Place obstacles in between the players and those goals.
  15. Ask “what do you do?”

Alright, there it is. Not perfect, certainly not complete by any means, but there you have it. Let’s try it out:

Let’s say that I want to make a game based on Downton Abbey. I only need this to be a one-off, so I’m going to come up with attributes, basic moves, roles, and two standard moves for each role. 

In this world, the thing that players can’t live without is STATUS, which each character begins with 6 of. Their five attributes are:

  • WIT

Players may assign the following numbers to their attributes in any order: -1 / 0 / 0 / +1 / +2

Basic Moves:

  • Comment. Roll +RHETORIC. 10+ target loses 1 STATUS. 7-9 you and target each lose 1 STATUS. 6- you lose 1 STATUS. 
  • Query. Roll +EDUCATION. 10+ ask 3 from list below. 7-9 ask 2. 6- reveal a secret. Take +1 forward when acting on the answers.
    • Who has the most STATUS here?
    • What is the history of this place?
    • What is the history of _________’s family?
    • How is ____________ vulnerable?
    • What is ____________ hiding?
  • Excuse Yourself. Roll + Relevant Attribute (Narrator’s choice). 10+ you excuse yourself politely. 7-9 you excuse yourself, but at the expense of STATUS or an item (your choice). 6- you make things worse for yourself somehow.
  • Embolden or Embarrass. Roll +SNOBBERY. 7+ target takes +1 or -2 forward, your choice. 7-9 you become involved in the situation. 
  • Convince. Roll +FASHION. 10+ the target does what you want them to do without question. 7-9 they ask something in exchange. 6- it’s up to them.



  • Scold. When you make a Comment, on a 10+ you may select two from the list below. 7-9, you may select one:
    • Target loses 1 more STATUS
    • You lose no STATUS
    • Target takes -2 forward
    • Another player takes +1 forward
  • Not Dead Yet. When you see a character lose STATUS due to another player’s actions, roll +SNOBBERY. 7+ gain 1 STATUS. 10+ give a character -1 forward. 6- the narrator may make you vulnerable to an uncomfortable situation.


  • Ahem. When making a Comment, roll +SNOBBERY instead.
  • Keeper of the House. When using Query, also ask “Who does _______ belong to?”


  • Rousing Speech. When aiding another player, on a roll of 10+ give the target +2 forward.
  • Years of Service. When excusing yourself, you may always opt to roll +SNOBBERY.


  • I was there when you were born. When you successfully embarrass a target, they take -1 ongoing against you. 
  • Medical expertise. When using Query, you may also observe the target’s physical behavior to learn about their health. Take +1 forward when acting on what you learn. 


  • Alluring. On a failed Convince roll, you may make it a mixed success, at the cost of a more difficult request from the target. 
  • Well-read. When making a Comment roll, you may opt to roll +EDUCATION instead. 

The setup and obstacles: your family has come into a large sum of money, and the relatives are coming over. Entertain them with dinners, tours of the town, grand celebrations, whatever you like. Most importantly: make them go away. There’s a knock at the door, what do you do?

And, there we have it. Not quite finished yet, as we need to create some Narrator moves and specifics about the obstacles, however I would need to brush up on Downtown Abbey to fill that in more completely. Things like, “introduce a new family member that no one’s heard of” or “propose marriage” would be conceivable in this setting. 

Hopefully, using just a few general rules, this has helped inspire some of you to start making the game you’ve always wanted to play. Remember: it doesn’t have to be perfect, or even all that good. You just need to have fun doing it. 

BlogTyler Robertson
My first published Chrome extension!

Dealing with some downtime today, I decided to finally go through the process of publishing a Google Chrome extension, just to go through the steps. A half-hour later, behold! The fruits of my labor:

Inspired by the Do By Friday podcast, I made a new-tab extension that gives you a new challenge each week, on top of your own to-do list. It's simple, but, I like that. 

A few notes about the publishing process:

1. There are a bunch of things that you can add to your extension's manifest, and I didn't have a lot of the ones I ended up wanting (like "author", for instance). I recommend reading through the full list here:

2. First-time app uploads cost $5.00, then you can upload 20 apps or extensions. Not super surprising, but something to keep in mind. I can definitely see the argument where one or two in-app purchases help pay off the initial cost (and then some).

3. I'm really bad at creating promo images for things I code! Everything there, including the logo, is a screenshot of the screen. Next up on my list of things to do should be working on simple logo design (in general, not just for this project). 

If you use Tab By Friday, let me know!


BlogTyler Robertson
Making my own Dice Bags

A recent trip to the craft store with Lauren resulted in the purchase of a leather hole punch, 25 yards of leather cord, and a couple bottles of leather stain. Since Lauren already had the scrap leather from a previous project, I jumped straight into making bags for the one thing I always want on-hand: dice. 


Somewhat foolishly, I went in without a pattern, and have two of the triangular "lembas bread" bags, and the taller component pouch more-or-less finished up. The triangular ones fit dice surprisingly well, and work great for a standard seven-die set. The larger one fits about a liter of dice, and is even tall enough for pens and pencils, and wide enough for spell cards. 

Up next, using a stitching awl!

BlogTyler Robertson