Weird Roleplaying Starter Edition

I am releasing a free starter edition for Weird Roleplaying, a universal RPG system designed for for quick character creation, streamlined preparation and gameplay, and easy adaptability to any genre, setting, or source material.

As far back as 2013, I started looking to develop rules-light RPG rules that could be used with a wide array of adventure modules and setting material. I wanted to be able to run games in different genres, using anything I found interesting, without having to learn new systems or switch between systems.

Of course, I started by looking at the universal systems that were out there already. But they were either too minimal or too rules heavy, or they didn’t have the kind of straight-forward approach I wanted. So — as these things go — I wrote my own rules. Inspired by weird fiction throughout the ages, I called my game Weird Roleplaying.

I tested a couple core variants before I settled on the current system, and I’ve been running my games with it ever since. If you grew up playing old-school games like original D&D, Gamma World, and Call of Cthulu, like I did, the feel of these rules will be familiar. And yet, Weird Roleplaying is a thoroughly modern, streamlined ruleset that makes it easy to run games in any world you imagine.

The starter edition is a fifty page, black and white, print-ready rulebook that includes six quick-start settings. The bare-bones setting material is ready to use as is, and provides clear examples of how to tailor the core rules for different genres.

I am working on a complete rulebook that will have a color cover, illustrations throughout, additional content, expanded setting materials, and possibly even some adventures. Keep your eye out for future updates regarding a possible Kickstarter and launch date. Until then, I hope you enjoy the Weird Roleplaying starter edition as much as I have.

Free Revised Edition of Giant Available Now

GIANT in now available as a free download, ready for hours of print-and-play giant robot battles and skirmishes. This is an updated revised version, with a few errors corrected. Here’s the back-cover copy:

“Future wars are waged with huge humanoid machines known as giants. Human pilots are encased in neuro-conductive capsules behind layers of armor plating, their senses and nerve impulses merged with the artificial systems of the giants they control.

“Giant is a wargame played with paper, pencils, and six-sided dice. Inside is a complete game, including rules, a visual reference, a record sheet, a master battle map, and eight ready to play maps with various terrain. It’s perfect for travel or when you want an action packed game with minimal preparation.

“Each player controls up to three giants, chosen from fifteen different types. Arm them with missiles, guns, and lasers. Then send them into the battle!”

I designed this game back in 2015. I wanted to make a giant robot wargame that was simple enough to be quickly learned and played with nothing more than pencils, paper, and dice. It had to have just the right amount of complexity to provide strategic and tactical challenges, narrative excitement, and the promise of endless possibilities. Finally, it had to generate interesting, vivid, action-packed battles! During a year of development, writing, and play testing, Giant stayed true to that vision. I drew a bunch of illustrations, wrote some flavor text, and did a traditional acrylic painting for the cover. The final 20 page rulebook includes everything you need except dice and a pencil.

You can still support this game and others by purchasing a print copy of Giant from LULU with a glossy saddle-stitched cover for $4.99. Or purchase any of my other games, post reviews, or make a donation here. Your support is greatly appreciated!

Download the free rules, stand-alone record sheets, blank maps, and a print-and-play map pack below or on the games page.

Rulebook
Record Sheet
Blank Map
Map Pack

Here are some examples of finished games (click for larger images):

Dungeon Solitaire Retrospective: Part 6/6

Dungeon Solitaire for the Ages

An early game of Labyrinth of Souls

When I first set out to create Dungeon Solitaire, I had in mind to create a kind of classic solitaire game — something that could withstand the test of time. I grew up playing a lot of games. Solitaire and Dungeons & Dragons were around throughout my childhood. In creating Dungeon Solitaire, I can see now I sort of combined what I loved about them both into a single game.

Concept art by ML

The first few games of Tomb of Four Kings I played were magical. I knew I was onto something, if only for my own enjoyment. Soon I was enjoying the game so much I wanted to share it with others. Since then, it has only gotten bigger and better, and more magical.

As I write this, there is a global pandemic going on. My school job is canceled for now and my martial arts teaching is on hiatus. I’ll be working from home until things get better. I just launched a book and I’ll be working on more writing projects. I’ll be working in my backyard, cooking dinners, and doing what I can to support E. as she works on the front lines of this crisis. Other than that, if I can contribute anything to help the world through this, I will. Maybe playing Dungeon Solitaire will help somebody somewhere pass the time or forget their worries. I hope so. Tomb of Four Kings will always be free and all you need is a deck of ordinary cards to get started.

Dungeon Solitaire phone app design notes

Going forward, I have plans to release an omnibus rulebook, tarot-sized cards, and some t-shirts in the coming year. I have been trying to get a Dungeon Solitaire phone app off the ground for a couple years now, but circumstances have led to various setbacks. I’ll continue to work at getting it done with the help of one or more partners, and hopefully we’ll see that happen at some point.

Labyrinth of Souls rulebook layout concepts

Special thanks to Josephe Vandel for suggesting we collaborate, and for creating the incredible art for Labyrinth of Souls and Devil’s Playground. Thanks to everyone who backed these games on Kickstarter for helping Dungeon Solitaire reach its full potential. Thanks again to Elizabeth Engstrom and Christina Lay for making the Labyrinth of Souls fiction project a reality. And thanks to everyone who has supported these games, posted reviews, and spread the word. It’s been wonderful journey, and I am more than happy to keep it going.

I can only hope that more people discover the magic of Dungeon Solitaire. I don’t know how popular it could become … and it’s not that important. What’s important to me is this: many people have found some joy in it, and in my own estimation — admittedly biased — I think the game succeeds as a classic for the ages. I can’t imagine ever really tiring of this game or not being entertained by picking up again, playing a few games, and delving into the depths of the dungeon.

Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls & Devil’s Playground

Labyrinth of Souls novels

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Dungeon Solitaire Retrospective: Part 2/6

Labyrinth of Souls Designer’s Notebook

Designing the Labyrinth of Souls game

Game design is a wonderful interplay between logical and narrative elements. I really enjoy both aspects of design, and the chance to combine them is one of the reasons why I love making games. This post will cover my thoughts on game design in general and my design notes from Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls. It’s a bit long for a single blog post, so I’m just going share here the PDF Designer’s Notebook I made for the Labyrinth of Souls Kickstarter. Everything is contained within: the origins of Dungeon Solitaire, major influences, design philosophy, testing methods, original images, and thoughts on the various challenges, solutions, and variations that went into Dungeon Solitaire.

Click here or on the title page below to delve in. Download if you want … and enjoy. :)

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Dungeon Solitaire Retrospective: Part 1/6

Enter the Dungeon

An early game of Dungeon Solitaire

Back in 2015 I sat down on a bed with deck of playing cards to design a game that involved dungeon delving, exploration, and monster slaying. I never could have imagined where this would lead. In so many ways, this game has exceeded every expectation I had for it, and in some ways, it has really changed the course of my life.

Labyrinth of Souls and Devil’s Playground

Later that year, I teamed up with artist Josephe Vandel to launch a Kickstarter for an expanded tarot version of Dungeon Solitaire. Now, five years later, there are three Dungeon Solitaire games, with a whole bunch of variations, that reach all over the world. With the exception of maybe Antarctica, Dungeon Solitaire has been played on every continent. Please correct me if anybody has delved into the dungeon from the south pole.

Christina Lay with ShadowSpinners Press

A series of Labyrinth of Souls stand-alone novels (nine so far) have been published by ShadowSpinners Press. They feature a host of veteran and award-winning authors, as well as talented newcomers. Everyone has been a delight to read. In all likelihood, this is the only independently designed and published game to have its own fiction series. In October, I’ll be at the World Fantasy convention for the third time to help promote the Labyrinth of Souls novels and all the Dungeon Solitaire games.

Looking ahead, the success of this game helped cement my publishing skills and encouraged me to pursue more game design. I am planning to release an Dungeon Solitaire omnibus edition rulebook and tarot-sized cards later this year. And in the months and years ahead, I expect you will see releases for games like Weird Roleplaying, Grimstone Fantasy, an expanded edition of Giant, and Warbound.

Chariot concept by ML

In addition to my ongoing game design work, the success of Dungeon Solitaire helped along — directly or indirectly — a number of other projects. My novel, The End of All Things, is in the Labyrinth of Souls series of stand-alone novels. My latest book, That Which is Before You, is a work of spiritual non-fiction that has its roots in something extraordinary that happened during the time that I was writing Labyrinth of Souls. And all this has laid the groundwork to publish further works, including a complete trilogy of fantasy novels that I wrote over a period of twelve years, a collection of my short stories, and at least three more spiritual non-fiction books.

So looking back — and ahead — Dungeon Solitaire has had a huge impact on my life and my writing/game design career. I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to put out so far, and there’s a lot of great work yet to do.

Most of the year, I still have a day job, so I just move ahead with the time I have. As a one-man publishing operation, I really enjoy getting to do a bit of everything, from design, writing, and testing, to editing, layout, and proofing. It’s hectic sometimes, but I love having so much control over the vision and execution of each project. I have also been blessed to work with and get feedback from some incredibly talented people. I am so grateful for them and for all the people who have backed the Dungeon Solitaire Kickstarters. You’ve changed my life, and that’s quite wonderful. And I’ve been so happy to be able to share Dungeon Solitaire with gamers around the world.

If I can be shamelessly honest for a moment, I am still a huge fan of this game myself. I think it’s awesome! It is everything I wanted to create in a dungeon-delving card game, and so much more. And it’s just fantastic to see like-minded souls discover its magic.

Playing Devil’s Playground

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

World Fantasy 2019

[Note: the website is currently undergoing an update and redesign. Thank you for your patience while the details are sorted out.]

At the mass book signing with Christina Lay and Stephen T. Vessels

I had a great time at the World Fantasy convention this past weekend with ShadowSpinners Press and some fellow authors in the Labyrinth of Souls fiction series. Can’t say I saw much of LA, since I did not leave the Airport Marriott for three days, but the weather was nice, the conference was great, and the company was outstanding. It is truly a wonderful experience to be in the midst of so many creative and inspiring writers and artists.

The crowds gather in LA Airport Marriott

The ShadowSpinners table had a lively showing in the book room, and I had a great time answers questions about Dungeon Solitaire and the Labyrinth of Souls. I signed a few books, did a reading with fellow authors Christina Lay and Stephen T. Vessels, and managed to get to a few talks and panels. I was particularly interested to learn a bit more about audiobook production and particularly taken with the beautiful art of Reiko Murakami.

The ShadowSpinners table and chief editor Christina Lay

With another successful appearance, we are planning to make an even bigger showing next year in Salt Lake. We’ll have more books, more authors, and more games. Hope to see you there!

Art print by Reiko Murakami (available on her website)

Devil’s Playground Progress

The Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground Kickstarter was a big success. Thanks to 314 backers we topped out at $13,605 in funding, and added eight substantial stretch goals to the project and some Kickstarter exclusives. I’m very excited to share this game with all our backers, and still anticipate shipping on time in June.

I’ve been very busy this last week doing final play-testing for the stand-alone game, putting together a rough draft of the entire rulebook with all stretch goals included, getting a start on creating the interior diagrams and tables, and coordinating with artist Josphe Vandel on the remaining artwork and card formatting. All the elements are starting falling into place, and everything is looking pretty awesome so far.

There’s still a ton work to be done though, including further play-testing on stretch goal games and variants, editing, re-editing, and re-re-editing the rulebook. Finishing final tables and diagrams and doing the interior layout. Then book and box covers, Then card proofs, book proofs, backer surveys, shipping logistics and finally orders! It’s a lot to do, and I will be on a tight schedule the next two months.

dp-playtesting

Devil’s Playground play-testing in progress.

Stay tuned here and on the Kickstarter page for further updates as the project moves forward. They probably wont be as frequent as I would like because I’ll be focused on the game itself, but don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. In the meantime, check out all the amazing Dungeon Solitaire games and Labyrinth of Souls fiction that is already available.

Three Days Left for Devil’s Playground Kickstarter

It’s been an exciting month, and an amazing success so far thanks to all the enthusiastic backers and supporters of the Dungeon Solitaire games. The Devil’s Playground Kickstarter smashed its initial funding goal in under 24 hours, and has gone one to hit seven stretch goals. We are on the cusp of another stretch goal with three days left to get in on the Kickstarter.

Time to get into the dungeon, and get in on the great rewards! There are high quality red-back cards for both the Devil’s Playground and the Labyrinth of Souls games, both featuring incredible, original artwork by artist Josephe Vandel. Included in the rulebook are a stand-alone dungeon delving game, Labyrinth of Souls expansion games, an all new card-based territorial wargame with multiple variations. And by getting in now, you will get two Kickstarter exclusive cards with special rules for incorporating them into your games.

In these last three days, please help spread the news by sharing this post or the Kickstarter page with your friends and gaming groups, on your blogs and especially on social media. This kind of word of mouth really makes a difference.

There is nothing more I can say, except to thank you deeply for all your support, enthusiasm, and encouragement. These games can only reach their full potential with the support of backers like you. And so I leave you with a few words from the introductory material for the Devil’s Playground rulebook, words taken from Malhak the Great’s Tome of Demonology:

At last, thoughts fall like shooting stars in the gravity of awareness. Some burn with the light of blinding suns, others with the light of a dim candle. But all catch fire and burn out. Nothing ever remains. Yet until that time, the soul is a house divided. It is a devil’s playground, at war with itself and everything it encounters.

I have seen the pox-ridden skies Illeanth, and the vermilion seas of Yoon. I have conversed with voices in realms of unending darkness. I have nosed perfumes so exalted that a single whiff bore a thousand years of bliss. I have walked with the first ragged tribes of humanity, and I have tasted ashes in the fallen ruins of their great civilizations. I have seen the arcs of eons and heard the silence that reigns in the depths of space.

And yet, all of these experiences have been but dreams within dreams within dreams. For in the emptiness between thoughts, there is no good or evil, no up or down, no light or darkness, no backward or forward, no past or future. There is no sight, no sound, no taste, no smell, no feeling. There is only that which cannot be uttered.

Until the sun rises beyond the distant mountains, until the spring comes, until we wake again, we remain lost in a dungeon of our own making. Until the illusion of the mind itself is destroyed, we wander in its depths. And though we ourselves designed the patterns its winding halls, we do not know the way out.”

The Art of Josephe Vandel

Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls and Devil’s Playground have both been the fruit of a wonderful collaboration between myself and artist Josephe Vandel. The rich world of dark fantasy he has created in the cards has been the perfect representation of the adventures, ideas, and themes I have been endeavoring to evoke in the rulebooks. And yet he has surprised me again and again with the scope and the imaginative originality and detail of the artwork.

Josephe’s skill as an artist were evident from his prior work, but the Dungeon Solitaire art has exceeded my expectation at every turn. So many pieces arrived on my screen to wide eyes and an agape jaw. The unexpected, the beautiful, the horrific, the weird, and the wonderful are all on display. He has delved deep into dark realms of the psyche, and researched rich architectural details. Time and again he has delivered pieces that are highly original and highly evocative.

We were absolutely thrilled by the funding success and reception of the Labyrinth of Souls, and are super-excited that so many backers have already made the Devil’s Playground Kickstarter such a success. We’ve had a lot of fun working together to create something incredible and unique for the gaming community. We talked quite a bit about what the Labyrinth of Souls and the Devil’s Playground are about thematically, and while Josephe has always been incredibly receptive to feedback and any direction I wanted to give, it has rarely been needed. I have been more than happy to give him plenty of latitude to express his vision, and the incredible results speak for themselves.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with Josephe and for his contributions to Dungeon Solitaire. He has created something extraordinary in the Labyrinth of Souls and Devil’s Playground decks. At once, his illustrations are evocative, dark, and filled with symbolic depth. And ultimately, the cards have the same classic and timeless quality I hoped to achieve with the rules. Taken as a whole, the decks present a unified vision and a grand space for the imagination to play in.

This is just some of the incredible art featured in Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls and Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground.

Check out the Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground Kickstarter now!

Devil’s Playground Kickstarter is Already a Great Success!

The Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground Kickstarter was launched on February 1st, and reached base funding in under 24 hours! It has since smashed through five stretch goals, and we are well on our way to the sixth. New stretch goals have been announced and new card art by Josephe Vandel has been revealed in a number of updates. And there’s more to come as we move into the middle of the campaign.

Thanks to all the backers have pledged already, and all our supporters who have shared the Kickstarter with friends and gaming groups, and on their blogs and social media. This kind of word of mouth really makes a huge difference!

I am super excited about all the content we’ll be including in the game, and looking forward to hitting more of our stretch goals! Support the Kickstarter now, and help us get there.

If you haven’t check out the dungeon-delving fantasy card game that is Dungeon Solitaire, the original game, Tomb of Four Kings, is available for free, and is playable with a standard deck of playing cards. The greatly expanded tarot game, Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls, launched with a hugely successful Kickstarter in 2015. The rulebook is available in print on Amazon and other online book retailers, and in PDF through DriveThruRPG, and custom tarot cards are available through Gamecrafter.

The Labyrinth of Souls has also inspired a series of stand-alone novels published by ShadowSpinners Press, with books by Elizabeth Engstrom, Christina Lay, Eric Witchey, Stephen T. Vessels, and myself so far, with new books on the way by Mary E. Lowd, John Reed, Cheryl Owen Wilson, Lisa Alber, Cynthia Coate-Ray, and Pamela Jean Herber!

I am more excited than ever that Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground is now in the works, once again expanding the labyrinth into the uncharted realms of the imagination. We’re going to deliver another great game!