Friday, November 12, 2021

Reader Survey

I want to check in with those who are familiar with my output, even if it’s 2023 when you first see this post.

I’m gonna keep writing stuff, that’s never gonna stop, but within that parameter I sort of have a choice of what I write. There’s a lot of stuff that interests me, there are a lot of projects and mediums I want to do work in, so it’s no impediment to learn what those whose tastes are compatible with my output particularly enjoy or don’t enjoy.

If you have commentary you’d prefer not to/can’t post here for any reason, message me at

Where do you think I get the most bang for my buck and where do you think I most need work? What are you interested in seeing me pursue from the following categories?:

Artpunk Adventures: Weird fiction Artpunk role playing game scenarios

Maximalist Generators: Generators for complex systems in RPGs (e.g. previously I’ve done religions and cities, but in the future, say, magical conspiracies, impending historical contingencies, the backgrounds of powerful occultists and their extradimensional/extraterrestrial counterparts) 

Action Adventure Stories: Weird Fiction Action Adventure short stories

Artposts: Posts about art

Meta: Posts about how stories and RPG scenarios are constructed

Special Projects: Ongoing attempts to weaponize a synthesis of the systems of King of Dragon Pass, Liberal Crime Squad and Pendragon as a kind of long-time-horizon cabal-of-leaders tabletop role playing strategy/grand strategy wargame in various settings

Something else that you think I should try

What would you like to see me prioritize?

City-State: A set of probably seven or eight short action-adventure stories with weird fiction elements; I have four written except for a final edit, two in need of rewrite, and one or two more to do depending on inspiration.

Wyrmling: Space opera RPG about golden brain parasites spawned by a serpent at the center of the galaxy who go out to devour brains and thereby accumulate knowledge of the universe.

Starling & Shrike: Hardboiled Weird Fiction action-adventure campaign setting that a lot of my generators and short stories plug into.

Passwall Gamebook: Weird Fiction action adventure gamebook a la Fighting Fantasy that I’ve done a few posts for recently.

Twin Dragons: Black Library-style WH40K novel following the arc of an Arbitrator torn from paradise as an orphan boy and cast into a Hive World that is marked for death by a great intelligence.

Something else that you think I should try

Please include any general feedback and commentary as well. Thank you.


  1. Wyrmling sounds really interesting!

    This is only kind of tangential to the point of your post, but if you're asking for reader advice, you may want to revisit your blog layout a bit. It's very wide and the font small, which is less of an issue in mobile mode where it all gets reformatted anyway, but on my laptop, it can be hard to read sometimes. Ya I can zoom in and clean it up myself, but all the same.

    I actually used to have a wider format and smaller text as well, and I think people had commented on it as well, and so I eventually made the page more narrow and started using medium sized font, and I do think it is much more readable that way. Especially given that your posts tend to be pretty long, it would be a lot easier with a layout that was more amenable to long text.

    But back on topic, you're clearly an intelligent person with unique sensibilities, so anything you want to do, especially if it's something unlike what anyone else is doing, that fits the "maximalist" bill, I'm on board with.

    1. Thanks for the heads-up Max! I’ll address the format ASAP because readability (both physically and in terms of prose) is one of my primary desires for this enterprise. Thank you for the kind words, as well, likewise, and noted about the maximalist angle.

  2. Adjusting to the new format as I write.

    Wyrmling certainly sounds interesting. Your artposts are worthwhile, but I would also be interested in seeing any review or Appendix N-like material you would want to pull together.

    My instinct is to say that you should pull together the City-State material first, but I'm not very good about prioritising one project in my own right.

    I'll close by echoing maxcan's final sentiments - you've hit a promising vein, so please do keep going.

    1. Thank you Solomon. Your instinct that I should prioritize City-State is quite meaningful to me given your substantial literary experience. City-State is also the project that’s closest to completion. If I end up publishing it, would you be ok with me including Saxherm as-is (in The Crimes of Jack Daw), with your original descriptions and any further commentary you’d like to add?

      I will keep going! It’s inspiring and energizing to hear that you and Max feel that I’m on the correct path. After City-State, I will probably split my time between Wyrmling (which I’ve been playtesting) and the Passwall Gamebook (which I’ve been assaulting and have vast quantities of material which is yet to be digitized) because, like you said about yourself, my interest/attention tends to seesaw between projects, which I think is probably the norm for writers/artists and the like.

    2. Sorry, completely took my eye off this.

      By all means include Saxherm. The only change I might consider making is something to strengthen the polytheist element.

  3. Your artpunk stuff is how I initially found your blog, and I really enjoy reading it - especially the Starling and Shrike universe. I’m also really interested in the cabal-of-leaders rpg/wargame you mentioned, Pendragon has been an obsession of mine for years (I was a broke uni student when they released the first edition pdf for free, it was love at first sight), as has the ‘wide view’ grand strategy sort of thing. I’ve spent many hours in Paradox games and many more hours reading the actual history behind them.

    1. Excellent, I’m glad you enjoy the artpunk and S&S stuff, Ben, I expect to be working in that for a good while yet. Yes, the potential of a Pendragon-like system for adaptation into something more ergonomic, streamlined and customizable (for use in other settings) is phenomenal. Currently there’s nothing filling the niche at a lower level of resolution, which I think would be good to have. I’m a paradox guy too tho of course their stuff is best to derive from in broad strokes; hard to adapt directly.

  4. The new format is not bad! I didn't mind the old one, but this IS easier to read.

    I was initially drawn in by the artpunk dungeons. Overall I think I'll agree with what's been said already - the stuff I have enjoyed the most has been the S&S city-state stuff and (closely related in their own way) the maximalist generators. As a game world, S&S feels like the truest expression of your imagination to me. It inspires while still feeling immediate and relatable - this is a hard trick to pull off. How do I put it - there's so much ROOM in that world - enough to incorporate the artpunk dungeons and then some - and that means there are endless things to discover. Like, I think I could easily devour a sourcebook that was just city-state after city-state. At the same time, there's enough of the familiar there that I wouldn't feel completely averse to writing material FOR that universe. This is the main thing that most successful role-playing games have going for them from my perspective. Though most of the stuff I've seen has been written kind of "for" players who are S&S detectives, it's possible to picture a party made up of S&S detectives, bandit tribesmen, and possibly even a Cythian knight (who would be the first to appreciate that politics sometimes makes strange bedfellows indeed - and would betray the party if not for the unassailable blackmail material the S&S dick had on him). But even beyond this, I feel it's the easiest setting to add your own imagination to - along with those guys, a party might have a thief from Saxhearn, a doctor from Sarabande looking for a cure for the Wooden flux, and a former slave from Setroxia, all pitted against one of the heroin priests of Archzenith who is secretly funding antinatalist groups in other city states in a ploy to create the right kind of hopelessness in the population that leads to mass addiction.

    Even Wrymling, while certainly an idea able to stand on its own, I've already mentally slotted it into the context of the S&S world as it were - probably after checking out the taking of the Woodwose Maiden, which presented the Wrymling as a potential PC, but seemed right at home in the S&S universe. In other words, to me the S&S stuff really seems to be the foundation on which most of the other material I've read here hinges. But it's entirely possible that's just an assumption I have made. But I also think that the fact that it's possible to read the work that way is what makes the S&S stuff so great. It has the same quality as something like D&D - where the world almost begs for you to add your own layers of creativity to it. So many gaming "worlds" feel so highly specific to the canon the creator has already written but the ones that stand the test of time have enough gaps to let others contribute, and I think S&S has that.

    OK, so that's a long winded way to say I will echo what's already been stated - 1) nearly everything I've read here has captured my imagination in some way, so I don't have a huge preference on what you do next, and 2) I would love to see all the S&S and City-state material pulled together. And most of all I would LOVE to see some appendix N type stuff. I am keenly interested in what has inspired you to write the things you have written.

    1. No, I think you’re absolutely right about S&S being the true or primary conduit for creation for me right now; I think there’s enough whitespace that the door is open to places where I want to go, there and will be for some time. Regarding room (and whitespace in general), I think having had GMing be my primary creative endeavor up until this year means that I’m keyed to see worldbuilding and stories in terms of gameability; the world needs to start and stay open and possibly stay optimized for RPG play, even if I’m writing stories in it.

      I was thinking that if I wanted to do an advancement/development of a world’s plot for a campaign setting, I like the idea of breaking it into 3+ timelines; the original timeline where the future is uncertain, one timeline where a particular power becomes overlord or collapses, and then another timeline where human society generally develops in an unpredicted direction due to a philosophical/technological revolution, with each branch/period being a discrete package not weighted above the others, legitimate for play. That way I can fully explore a potential path while not cutting off other timelines (and the things they in particular offer) from new material, deepening characterization, or gameplay. I’m partially inspired by the three ages of the Dominions series and how they change/destroy the nations, or a variant mode of the Tarn Adams game Liberal Crime Squad (where you play a version of the Symbionese Liberation Army) where you start out having essentially already “lost” the game and begin play in a deadly dystopia.

      Creating a situation where it’s not kill-on-contact between an S&S agent and a Cynthian knight could be an interesting narrative opportunity, actually.
      The situation you describe sounds like an old school Warhammer Fantasy campaign, which I like- I think an overarching, grippable villain helps with a party with diverse motivations play out something like a self-directed plot absent a common traditional RPG goal the way you have in D&D and possibly Shadowrun (or a mission-finding character, like an S&S Agent, Jedi, Paladin, Inquisitor)

      That’s one reason I frame adventure hooks as being of a category, the idea being the group knows what they’re doing when they go out, what the shared narrative context for the game is.
      Freelancer: D&D with a dragons focus
      Freebooter: Something closer to Shadowrun
      Treasure Hunter/Explorer: D&D with a dungeons focus
      S&S Agent: Hardboiled Weird Detective/Spy Fiction
      Cynthian Knight: Dark Pendragon / CK2 1911

    2. Wyrmlings could definitely slot into the S&S game world, though there’s one thing I want to explore with the Wyrmling concept that might be hard in the S&S world: what it’s like going up against truly well-conceived and malevolent trap/security systems, truly dominant space empires, truly formidable villains, truly devastating futuristic infantry weapons (the “common thug gun”, pulse weapons, cause whatever surface they point at to explode, while firing with extreme rapidity; particle beam projectors cut apart anything within range, like a lightsaber except 30’+ long and they whip around as fast as you can move your hands; plasma cloudburst weapons that turn everything within range to slag).

      The reason for this is that a Wyrmling can always get “the codes”, can always get access and placement, can always get an advanced fighting platform, by getting inside disposable bodies and then into the bodies of the people for whom those security systems/empires/weapons were made (and via their natural bodies being small, somewhat hardened, and potentially able to melt their way through bulkheads once they’ve had some caloric development), AND by creatively employing the advanced technological and combat skills they’ve acquired from previous meals through the medium of the latest hosts.

      I appreciate your input, Dan. Right now I’m scheming on having a book with the City-State stories (Jack Daw, Fane of the Poppy, Cave Dragon, + a Bandit Tribe story and 4 Making Your Bones stories with 1 new one and a rewrite of the first two) and then another one with all S&S RPG content. Part of me wants to include the City-State Generator in the City-State book, certainly there would at least be an explanation + you guys’ descriptions of the cities, but I’m not sure if I should include the generator in City-State or save it for a potential S&S RPG book (or include in both?). What’s your view on this?

  5. I forgot to comment on that post, but the Taking of the Woodwose maiden was a lot of fun and I'm surprised more people haven't done CYOAs-in-a-post like that.

    With regard to posts & projects, more generators and city-state sound good to me.

    1. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Before I did the Woodwose Maiden I was sort of getting worried that a less-pulpy (but still pulpy) gamebook campaign could turn into a Planescape: Torment extended dialogue tree because the first third or so of the campaign so far (incl the Woodwose Maiden) is preparation by the player, and I wanted to make sure the medium was suited to dynamic action scenes; I can see how it is now, though by necessity there will be a fair amount of material a player won’t encounter unless they meta-read it or play it over and over. To me that’s ok because I enjoyed writing it all and I’m happy to have the player understand that things could have played out differently as they’re going along, even if they don’t read through it; however, I think it’s important at least for this gamebook that the fictional player character is committed to moving towards a very definite objective; it helps keep the possibility space within a workable scope. That said, in a final book there would probably only be 3 or 4 action setpieces as involved as the Woodwose Maiden, with a lot of little flash-fights with one or two rolls outside of them.


Art - First Run