[Shirt] "Anyone willing to suck can create."

» Based on a quote by Rob Donoghue on Twitter.
» Download: Vector EPS | High-Res Transparent PNG
» Rob's Cafepress
» Released under Creative Commons Attribution license.

There was some discussion about whether this quote was too suggestive, but Rob insisted that a less crude "Anyone willing to fail can create" lacked the same punch.

[SageFight] Solis vs Lenaire

As you well know, the first rule of SageFight is "Tell everyone about SageFight." I'm doing my part by teaching my co-workers into the fine, ancient tradition. Here I am teaching how to duel, but I end up getting schooled. Here are screencaps I took to highlight some key techniques often seen in the Duel version of SageFight.

1) It's pretty typical to go low for an early advance. It's a more natural movement than going high. Also, your target is usually below shoulder-level.

2) Often, you'll get into these little shoving matches, much like jedi shoving their light sabers against each other. Much more dorky, though. :P

3) Now here, Adam has the upper hand. Literally. He's about 6 inches taller than me, so he can easily push my arm down if I maintain contact.

4) Indeed, he transitions into a dominant defensive move, shoving my hand away with his own.

5) So we break contact and prepare for a new sequence of attacks and defenses. I attempt to lure his aggression by letting my hand hang limply.

6) Adam goes in for a block, but I've evaded contact and prepare to strike from behind his back.

7) Ack! Adam anticipates my gambit. He catches my arm from underneath while also pulling his shoulders back.

8) Woosh. It's all over now. He's used his body weight to go upright once more, shoving my arm well away from the line of attack, leaving my torso defenseless.

9) And that's point Lenaire.


[In the Lab] An Organic Pente Kind of Thing

Here are the basic rules thus far:

2 Players
Each player has a set of 15 stones.
Each player, on their first turn, puts their stones on the table. The first two stones must not touch each other.

Put a stone on the table touching another stone. A stone cannot touch more than two other stones, so lines start growing across the table. Your stone will go at the end of one of these lines.

If a pair of stones is sandwiched between two stones of another color, that pair is removed from the table and returned to the player. You do NOT keep captured pieces. Any loose stones remaining after a capture can be the beginning of a new line.

The game ends when one player runs out of stones.

I wanted a 2-player abstract playable at a restaurant with the little sugar packets they usually have available. Usually, they'll have your choice of plain sugar and an artificial sweetener. But no board and no other gaming props available, so anything as complex as Hive won't work. I also want to avoid a dexterity game, since those tend to get messy and I'd hate to make a busser clean up after gamers. :P

The mechanics right now show interesting emergent properties, like creating organic lines across a table. Also, pieces you capture end up back in possession of your opponent. With limited supply of stones, this could be interesting strategic tension.

I haven't quite figured out a good victory condition, though. Perhaps these mechanics should change, too.

Thoughts on a good victory condition or something to make this a little more interesting?

[Do] Pilgrims of Justice League and Star Trek

In response to my call for pop culture-inspired pilgrims, Marc Majcher posted his take on the cast of classic Star Trek:
Pilgrim Randy Conductor gets in trouble by chasing after girls, and helps people by getting everybody to work together.
Pilgrim Stoic Owl gets in trouble by holding back his feelings, and helps people by dispensing wisdom.
Pilgrim Grumpy Needle gets in trouble by making sarcastic remarks all the time, and helps people by making them feel better when they're sick.
Pilgrim Confident Wrench gets in trouble by overestimating his abilities, and helps people by fixing things for them.
Liz Hooper offered her interpretation of Batman and Robin:
Pilgrim Lonely Gadget gets in trouble by trying to do everything by himself, he helps people by using his clever inventions.
Pilgrim Lonely Gadget's compatriot, Pilgrim Cocky Tumbler gets in trouble by thinking he can handle things he can't, he helps people by using his gymnastic skills as a martial art.
And Jonathan Korman went the whole nine yards, creating the entire Justice League:
Pilgrim Noble Stone gets in trouble by being too earnest, and helps people by being strong.
Pilgrim Spooky Toolbox gets in trouble attracting crazy people, and helps people by always being prepared.
Pilgrim Haughty Shield gets in trouble by ignoring what people expect of her, and helps people by getting them to tell the truth.
Pilgrim Goofy Wheel gets in trouble by joking around, and helps people by rushing to where he's needed.
Pilgrim Fierce Wing gets in trouble by jumping in without thinking, and helps people by fighting monsters.
Pilgrim Serious Ring gets in trouble by ordering people around, and helps people by making things they need.
Pilgrim Lonely Smoke gets in trouble by feeling out of place, and helps people by being thoughtful.
Thanks, peeps!  Got any pop culture pilgrims of your own? Share them in the comments. :)

[Happy Birthday, Robot!] One more GenCon story!

There was one HBR game I personally facilitated afterhours at the Embassy Suites. The players were Jay, Maggie, Gregor and Jen.

Like many of the other sessions at the Embassy, we kind of pulled people in randomly to get a full group. That always makes for a fun session and plays to HBR's strengths as low-prep icebreaker for a new group. Everyone had fun contributions and made the story you see below.

By the way, that Jen is the very same Jen from The Walking Eye podcast. Check it out, it's cool stuff.

[Do] What Remains of Character Creation

Just sent the first three chapters of Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple to editing. If you've followed the development of this game over the years, you'll notice the biggest change is that there is no character creation. Well, at least not in the form that it once was.

At first, I was trying to emulate the "tutorial" process in Dogs in the Vineyard. Later, I added the relationships from Spirit of the Century. What followed was a very fun process, but one that was rather different from how the game actually played. Also, because I couldn't find much time to playtest, those precious first hours were occupied with character creation and not the game itself.

I came to terms with the fact that the Do I want to design is a storytelling game, not a role-playing game. I hate disappointing people who hoped for an RPG, but that's just not where I have fun designing.

So, I am taking all the "tutorial" advice from character creation and putting it elsewhere in the book, mostly in the Example of Play chapter. They'll be sidebars, commenting on the choices players are making in the running example.

As for the character creation process itself, that will be its own game with a different skin. The basic procedures will be the same, but with a new theme. For more on that, look for posts about Galaxy Camp in coming weeks. Actually, it may not even be called a game. More of an activity. Semantics. :P

What character creation remains in Do? For now, it's just creating your pilgrim's name and interpreting what it means. It is not its own chapter. Rather, it is simply part of the steps of preparing for the game, right along side gathering pencils and paper:

Creating a Pilgrim
To create your pilgrim, you will write a sentence about her on a slip of paper called the Passport. Creating your pilgrim is simply a matter of filling in the blanks in this sentence:
Pilgrim (Banner) (Avatar) gets in trouble by _______ and helps people by______.
This sentence describes everything you need to know to get started. Her history can be developed as you tell your story. For now the most important thing is to decide her pilgrim name and what it means.

Step 1: Choose your pilgrim's Avatar.
Write a noun in the second space of the sentence. The easiest way to pick your pilgrim's Avatar is to name an object in the room you're in.
For example: Ryan looks around the room and sees a window. He writes, “Window” in the second space of the sentence.
Step 2: Choose your pilgrim's Banner.
Write an adjective in the first space of the sentence. The easiest way to pick your pilgrim’s Banner is to describe the previously chosen object in one word.
For example: The window looks cloudy to Ryan, so he writes, “Cloudy” in the first space of the sentence.
Step 3: Describe how your pilgrim gets in trouble.
Using your pilgrim’s banner as inspiration, describe how she gets in trouble. Her banner is a metaphor for some personality quirk or recurring stroke of bad luck that leads her to trouble.
For example: Ryan interprets “Cloudy” to mean that his pilgrim is prone to daydreaming. She is often distracted by flights of fancy. He writes, “daydreaming on the job” in the third space of the sentence.
Step 4: Describe how your pilgrim helps people.
Using your pilgrim’s avatar as inspiration, describe how she helps people. Her avatar is a metaphor for the skills, tools or other abilities that let her help people, including her friends and herself.
For example: Ryan interprets “Window” as an opening in an otherwise solid wall. Using this as a metaphor, he writes, “creating windows of opportunity” in the fourth space of the sentence.
There are also some example pilgrims to choose from, that would look something like these contributions. And that's it. Hopefully people who enjoyed the former character creation system will still enjoy playing its new incarnation as Galaxy Camp. Meanwhile, Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple can fly or fall on its own terms as its own game.

Update: Dang, a bunch of pop culture pilgrims over here.

[Happy Birthday, Robot!] Mega Man vs. Dresden Files

Anders Smith just posted two Happy Birthday Robot stories he created while playing in 2-player mode with his brother. The first is sort of a prequel to Mega Man:
“Happy Birthday, Robot!”
“How are you feeling?” asks Dr. Light.
“A little nervous,” replies Cut-man.
“What if the others all laugh at my blades?”
Dr. Light shakes his head, smiling in ignorance.
“You are a perfect creation - the ones who laugh just don’t understand!”
“You’ll show them all!” he concludes, “Just ask Dr. Wiley!”
“He has a wonderful present behind this door.”
“With his help, and mine, why, you’ll change the world!”
So Cut-man stepped through to meet his destiny.

And the next story is based on the Dresden Files, using a new opening sentence.
“I need help, Harry Dresden!”
Harry sighed, “Why did it have to be gnomes?”
But Harry was certain they must be stopped.
Chicago’s lawns were doomed to wilt otherwise.
Bob told Harry gnomes were afraid of flamingos.
“Real ones aren’t cheap,” said Harry. “Where can I get them in January in Chicago?”
“You don’t want real ones, harry; plastic ones work best - living plastic.”
“Wouldn’t that create a scourge of demon flamingos to menace Chicago?”
“Of course not - that’s what the Celtic black dogs are for, afterward!”
“Now once you’re done with them, you’ll probably need a hag…” Harry stopped Bob at this point.
Harry wondered if the lawns of Chicago weren’t better served by inaction, and sighed again.
Michael suggested calling a gopher-removal expert.
I love how silly these stories can get while still being somewhat coherent. Thanks for posting them, Anders!

[Do] TV and Movie Characters as Pilgrims

It's time for some old-fashioned nerdy fun: Statting up your favorite TV and movie characters. First off, here is how you make a character in Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple.
Creating a Pilgrim
Step 1: Choose your pilgrim's Avatar.
Pick an object or thing. For example, "tree," "cat," or "window."

Step 2: Choose your pilgrim's Banner.
Describe that thing in one word. For example, "green," "sleeping," or "cloudy."

Step 3: Fill in the Blanks.
Your pilgrim's name is "Pilgrim (Banner) (Avatar)." For example, "Pilgrim Green Tree," "Pilgrim Sleeping Cat," or "Pilgrim Cloudy Window."
In play, your pilgrim's Banner describes how she gets into trouble. Her Avatar describes how she solves problems. So, by way of example, here's the cast of Avatar: the Last Airbender.
Pilgrim Silly Squirrel gets in trouble by being irreverent and helps people by winding his opponents.

Pilgrim Right Bandage gets in trouble by believing she's doing the right thing and helps people by healing their wounds.

Pilgrim Sharp Stick gets in trouble because of his quick wit and helps people by improvising new inventions as needed.
See how that works? Give it a shot yourself. What would you name the cast of Firefly? How about Buffy or Futurama?

[Happy Birthday, Robot!] Review on Critical-Hits!

I am squeeing over Gerald Cameron's review of Happy Birthday, Robot! Definitely some of the nicest things anyone's ever said about the game.
"Simple Rules – Made for Anyone to Learn From"
"A Thing of Beauty – An Invitation to Creativity"
"All in all, the game would fit into any child’s book collection, and doesn’t seem that out of place in a collection of roleplaying games, either."
You can read the rest of Gerald Cameron's review on Critical-Hits.com. Squee. ^_^

Game Ideas

I'll occasionally post random game ideas on my Twitter. This is a collection of some of the most recent ideas over the past several months. Some of these may become full games, some not. This is just a sample of where my brain wanders.

  • Idea: Lowering the coin trigger in HBR and adding a story goals before deadline might encourage more coin-sharing.

  • RPG Idea: Each player says "I'm in love with ___." Then plays a character another player just described. Makes a quick relationship web.

  • Idea: Draw two clauses. Choose one. Unchosen clause gets +1 point.

  • Idea: Index cards, each w/ a clause. Split deck. On yr turn, reveal top card of both decks. Choose one. Unchosen card remains, gets +1 VP.

  • Possible add-on to previous idea: Target Number is whatever you rolled last. Ex: Roll 17 on 3d6? Cool, but that's your TN for your next roll

  • Idea: Dice pool. Target number. Roll over: Gain Resource A. Under: Gain B. Endgame Trigger: A or B over X. Any emergent behaviors? Hm...

  • Idea: RPG starts w/ blank protagonists+setting. Play defines Aspects for both/either. Exploration+definition instead of conflict resolution.

  • Idea: Chess-like game. Use any object as game piece as long as it fits in a board square. Mechanics based on width/height?

  • Idea: Long scarf made of smaller scarves tied together. Each scarf-bit is like a merit badge. Wearable character sheet? Randomizer somehow?

  • Game Idea: RPG: Actions phrased in who, what, where, when, why, how terms. Some of these are random d6, some not. (Idle Wildlings thoughts.)

  • [Game Idea] Reiner Knizia dice pool + ORE. Roll xd6. Gain action points equal to lowest result, but all results feed into long-term engine.

  • Game Idea: Players give each other chips in small boxes. Game involves guessing how many chips you received vs. how many you really got.

[Happy Birthday, Robot!] Special Guest: Isaiah Mustafa

Anders Smith just posted this Happy Birthday, Robot! story on RPG.net:

Happy Birthday, Robot!

Robot sings songs and I like him too, but he smells.

He doesn’t wear Robot deodorant and he eats stinky socks.

Robot says: “Yummy socks! Mmmm!” and rubs his tummy, but suddenly, in burst Isaiah Mustafah!

“Robot, you should smell like me, like a man, but you don’t - look at me!”

“I’m on a can, made of gold - where are you? You’re in space!”

Robot, now very confused, plays lots of smelly sounding songs.

He dreams of being a shiny chrome robot Isaiah Mustafah, but gold-plated...

On a can. “I’m a horse!” And then Robot buys Old Spice, but it explodes!

Robot flew out into space, except he was already there, but he’s a bird.

He’s a magical Robot with chrome and gold wings on fire!

Robot streaks across the sky in nothing but his undies with Spiderman on them.

Spiderman hangs on for dear life, “My spidey sense is tingling!”

Funny how the stories told by grown-ups often make less sense than the stories told by kids. :P


SageFight is a dance-like game for three or more people. It's fun to do in a playground or park. You don't need any special equipment besides your body and a willingness to look silly. You can find out more about SageFight on the official Sagefight website.

SageFight: Melee

Rule 1: You have to tell everyone about SageFight. More people make it more fun. One way to do this is to document your SageFights – in photos, videos or text – and share them with others.

Rule 2: At the beginning of a SageFight, everyone gets around in a circle at arm’s length from each other. It's best to have everyone's hands overlap a little bit.

Rule 3: Take your most awesome martial arts stance. Do not move.

Rule 4: A time keeper will give a signal at regular intervals, either by calling it out or clapping. Think of it like a metronome. We like to use the stomp-stomp-clap from Queen's "We Will Rock You."

Rule 5: On the signal, you switch to another stance, but must keep your balance and must not move after switching your stance. When you switch your stance, you can move your arms, torso, head and/or one foot. The other foot remains rooted in place. A well-executed SageFight has each SageFighter flowing between a series of stable, static poses.

Goal: Try to tap another SageFighter hand with the palm-side of your hand. If your hand is hit, you are out. If your palm touches someone else’s palm, you’re both out. If you are the last person standing, you win SAGEFIGHT!

SageFight: Clan vs. Clan

When you have a large enough group of SageFighters, split them up into two rival ninja clans. The two clans line up and face each other in a tense stand-off. Each clan has a MASTER. When the master of a clan gets tapped out, the whole clan loses. Remember: Protect your master!

SageFight: Duel
Also Known As: "Masters without Swords"

Rule 1: Fencers take stances along a straight line. For example, a line of tiles along a hotel lobby floor or the stripes on a basketball court.

Rule 2: Begin by touching arms in a mannerly fashion, like crossing swords.

Rule 3: The timekeeper will tell the fencers to break. Then the fencers take their most awesome fencing pose.

Rule 4: The timekeeper will start keeping a rhythmic beat, just like in regular SAGEFIGHT.

Rule 5: Score one point by touching your opponent’s torso with the palm-side of your hand. If you step off the line or lose your balance, you’re out and your opponent scores one point.

Goal: After scoring a point, stop keeping time, back away, strike a new pose, and start again. Be the first to score 2 points.

There is a lot of jostling and crossing “swords.” You feel very much like a jedi knight.

The SageFight Handshake



Pip•Pip is a strategic board game of conversion and compromise. It is inspired in equal parts by Sudoku and Triple Triad. The game usually comes down to the wire, with the winner achieving victory by the skin of his teeth. I hope you enjoy it!


There are two players, both with a handful of six-sided dice. One player has light dice, the other has dark dice. Determine randomly who goes first.

On your turn, roll a die and place it on a space within a 4×4 grid in the middle of a chessboard, making sure that the result you rolled is still facing up as you put it in place. Also make sure that the die is squared with the grid of the chess board, not diagonal or anything crazy like that.

The Store

After you roll, if you don’t like the result, you can set that die aside and keep it in your store. Then you roll another die and place it on the board or put that one in your store too. You may only keep up to three dice in your store in this manner.

When you have dice in your store, you may either roll a die on your turn as normal or instead pull a die from the store and place it on the board.

The store must be empty by the end of the game, so that means if you have three dice in the store, your last three moves must be spent using dice that you have previously discarded and which your opponent has expected you to use eventually.


If you place the die in a space horizontally or vertically adjacent to an opponent’s die, check the numbers on the two dice that are facing each other. Not the numbers on top of the dice, but rather the numbers on the sides of the dice that are adjacent to each other.

If your number is equal to or lower than your opponent’s number, nothing happens. If the number on your die is greater, your opponent’s die is converted to your color. Conversion only occurs between dice that are horizontally or vertically adjacent to one another, not diagonal.

When an opponent’s piece is converted, replace it with a die of your color, making sure that it has the same number facing up and the same orientation that your opponent’s die had.

In the example above, the blue die is placed next to a yellow die. The blue die has a 6 facing the yellow's 5, meaning the yellow die is converted to blue.


Continue placing dice and converting die colors in this manner until all the spaces in the 4×4 area are filled. Once this occurs, the game is over and the players tally their scores.

The light player counts numbers on top of the light dice that are on the light spaces and adds them up for their final score.

The dark player counts numbers on top of the dark dice that are on the dark spaces and adds them up for their final score.

Whoever has the highest total wins.

Marc's [Happy Birthday, Robot!] session at GenCon

Marc ran Happy Birthday, Robot! for Games On-Demand at GenCon 2010. Games On-Demand is a great space if you're looking for a GM to run an indie game you're thinking about buying (or just playing your favorite game with a new group). Many thanks to Marc for running HBR and to Scott Acker for organizing Games On-Demand.

Kristin's [Happy Birthday, Robot!] session at GenCon

I was very lucky to have two great volunteers running Happy Birthday, Robot! at GenCon 2010. Kristin and Marc actually played HBR shortly after I released the first draft as a Google Doc last year, so they were quite experienced with the game already.

Anyhoo, Kristin ran HBR at the Embassy Suites for a trio of players we gathered up from the lobby. This is the story they created together.

Thanks, Kristin!

Seth Ben-Ezra reviews [Happy Birthday, Robot!]

Game designer Seth Ben-Ezra reviews Happy Birthday, Robot! after playing it with his kids. It's a pretty in-depth review, covering the basics of play but also a lot of thoughts on the game design itself. I'm glad the instructions and presentation all made Seth feel confident in being able to teach the game to others.

At GenCon, I realized the great joy of designing "teachable games," or games that could easily be passed on by literal word-of-mouth or simple example. That's a subject for another post though. Meanwhile, check out Seth's review!

[Happy Birthday, Robot!] Sold out at GenCon!

I'm happy to report (if you haven't already seen from the many tweets) that Happy Birthday, Robot! sold out at GenCon. If you missed your chance to get it at the con, you can order it from Evil Hat or from your friendly local game store.

There is some other big news about HBR coming down the pike, but it'll have to wait a few weeks for details. In the meantime, I'll post stories from GenCon throughout the week.

Importing XML into Blogger

Blogger won't import XML files exported from another blog service. Suggestions for how to get around this? (Yes, I'm sticking with Blogger.)

How much for Robot Dice?

Ordered more blank dice and printed up more stickers to make these customized dice for Happy Birthday, Robot! These are well-made plastic dice from Koplow Games with weather-proof vinyl stickers.

I'd like to sell these at GenCon, but I don't know how much I ought to charge. When you factor in the cost of materials per die, it comes out to about a dollar and some change. (Kinda scary, now that I do the math.) I'd like to sell these as sets of three, but I doubt even hardcore GenCon buyers would pay $4 or $5 for three hand-made dice.

After some discussion, looks like I'll first be offering the dice for about $4 for a set of 3, with the purchase of the book being even $30. If no one bites, I'll lower the price, possibly down to free as a promotional item. I'll also be bringing sheets of stickers for $1 for the DIY crowd.
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.