The Results

Hello everyone!

Thanks again for all of your hard work. I really enjoyed reading all of your submissions, and there are some very strong games that came out of this. At the end of the day, I hope that YOU got something out of it!

I will be posting my comments on each submission here and on Story Games. They are rather sparse, due to the time I had to go through everything, but I have no problem entering into conversation about them.

But, as there are indeed prizes and winners and such, here they are. Let me emphasize that these are my totally subjective decisions…

The Winners

Best Game Overall : Hell 4 Leather, by Joe Prince. It’s just the cleanest, tightest, most ready-to-go of the games that grab me. Joe writes good games, and this is no exception.

Best Extra Credit: City of Refuge, by Alex D. I’m using this award to say “man, this game has SO MUCH PROMISE, please keep going with it.” Cuz it does.

Best Pair: In Repose by Micah Bauer and Mark Silcox. Both exist in that “story/RPG exercise” space, each has a minimalism and charm, and I they just pair together better than any of the other two-game submissions.

Best Outside The Box: The Plant by Jason Morningstar. My criteria for “outside the box” is what surprises me, and this game surprised me like whoa both in form and content.

Best Presentation: Atlantis 2037 by Tony Dowler. Appropriate layout, good font choices, presentation that really reinforces the theme. Charts could be a little sexier. But of all the submissions this is the one that immediately hooked me graphically.

Special Prize: Best game suited for players who have no experience with RPGs: In Repose by Micah Bauer. I gotta give this game props. It’s beautiful.

Special Prize: Bonus Art Prize: Hell for Leather by Sebastian Hickey. No contest.

Every Entry: I was impressed by every one of your entries in one way or another. Everyone who submitted a game is a winner! Hearty pats on the back all around.

The Prizes

For Best Game Overall: carry. a game about war. + any 2 PDFs of your choice.
For Best Extra Credit: Time & Temp (unbound print edition) + any PDF of your choice.
For Best Pair: Prizes: One of you gets Dance and the Dawn & one gets Urchin, + you each get any PDF of your choice.
For Best Outside the Box: Sweet Agatha + any PDF of your choice.
For Best Presentation: Keith Senkowski Art & Comics + any PDF of your choice.
Kevin Allen Jr. Special Prize: Sweet Agatha
George Cotronis Special Prize: $200 of original George Cotronis Art
Everyone’s a Winner: Your choice of Annalise or Dance and the Dawn PDF.
Special Publication Prize: If/when you publish the final version of your game, email me to see if you’re eligable for this (see below).

PDF options: Annalise, The Dance and the Dawn, Mist-Robed Gate, It’s Complicated, or Murderland.

I’ll be contacting the winners individually about prizes as well.


I would like to archive the contest entries on the blog. Pease let me know if you DO NOT WANT me to include your entry.

But Don’t Take My Word For It…

Keep working on these games if you still have any go juice for them, cuz they all have a lot of promise in one way or another. Also, remember the Special Bonus Publication Prize: any game that sees publication, in print, for money in a non-playtest final form will get the entire TAO Games digital library. Email me when/if you think your game is eligible.

Thanks again, folks. It was fun

Published in: on December 5, 2009 at 7:31 pm  Comments (1)  

Games In Progress

I’m going to use this post to link to the blogs, forum threads and whatnot where 2G1N participants are talking about their games. If you’re publicly talking about your game and I haven’t noticed, feel free to comment or email with the link.

Sebastian Hickey is posting about Hell For Leather on his blog. He also has threads on Story Games here and here.

Nick Wedig is posting about A Hatful of Rabbits on his livejournal.

Graham Walmsley is posting about A Hatful of Rabbits at Story Games in this thread.

Dave Cleaver is posting about City of Refuge on his blog.

Jason Morningstar is already done with a draft of The Plant. You can download it here and talk about it on Story Games here.

Tony Dowler is posting about Atlantis 2037 on his blog.

Bill White is blogging about Piper At The Gates of Dawn at his blog. You can also download a draft of it here.

Published in: on October 24, 2009 at 4:03 pm  Comments (4)  

The Assignments

Names have been wrangled, and after only a slight delay I present to you your 2009 Two Games One Name Contestants!

In Repose to be written by Mark Silcox & Micah Bauer. Constraint: Is is not necessary to write anything vs. writing is a key component to resolution.

The Plant to be written by Ash & Jason Morningstar. Constraint: Suitable for solo play vs. suitable to play via text message.

A History Of Giants to be written by Darcy Burgess & Sage La Torra. Constraint: Failure is the goal of the game vs. it is not possible to fail in the game.

Chained Souls to be written by Tim & Elizabeth Shoemaker: Constraint: Requires input from family members vs. can only be played around strangers.

Hell For Leather to be written by Joe Prince & Sebastian Hickey. Constraint: Uses physical motion as a key component to resolution vs. uses images as key component to resolution.

Gear-Crazy: Giant Steam-Bots and the People Who Love Them to be written by Chris Perrin & Joe/artexercise. Constraint: No character generation vs. no character improvement.

Love In Winter to be written by Joe McDonald & Remi Treuer. Constraint: Fairy Tale fantasy setting vs. no fantastic elements whatsoever.

A Hatful Of Rabbits to be written by Nick Wedig & Graham Walmsley. Constraint: Suitable for children vs. suitable for the elderly.

Piper at the Gates of Dawn to be written by Steve Dempsey & Bill White. Constraint: music is key to resolution vs. silence is key to resolution.

City Of Refuge to be written by Alex D & Dave Cleaver. Constraint: Real-world references are mechanically relevant vs. out-of-game interaction is punished by the game.

Atlantis 2037 to be written by Tony Dowler & Josh Roby. Constraint: Can be played while traveling vs. requires very specific components to play.

Congratulations to the 11 finalist names, and to our contestants. I’m excited to see what everyone comes up with!

Games are due in a little more than month: Sunday, November 22nd.

Thanks everyone!

Published in: on October 19, 2009 at 7:12 pm  Comments (3)  

The Shortlist

There are 22 folks who have tapped in to the challenge, and here’s the shortlist of game titles:

  • A Hatful of Rabbits
  • A History of Giants
  • Atlantis 2037
  • Catwalk.
  • Celestiana
  • Chained Souls
  • City of Refuge
  • Distant Relatives
  • Gear-Crazy: Giant Steam-Bots and the People who Love Them
  • Goblin Lovers.
  • Grandpa’s War
  • Hell for Leather
  • I Love The Dead
  • In Repose.
  • Love in Winter
  • Masks & Revolutions
  • Piper at the Gates of Dawn
  • Sing, O goddess
  • Sunday’s Best
  • The Fall Of The United States
  • The Martyr’s Brigade
  • The Plant
  • Twilight’s Last Gleaming
Published in: on October 15, 2009 at 5:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Tapping In

Thanks for all the name submissions, folks!

If you want to participate in the contest, here’s how you tap in. E-mail me your top 5 (or less, if you’re interested in less, but MAXIMUM 5) game titles from the list below. Please send this email to:

I will accept emails from now until Wednesday night, (10/14). If it’s it not in my inbox by the time I wake up on Thursday, it’s no good.

Once I know how many people are participating and I have the shortlists, I will use a popularity contest metric to create a list of game titles that is equal to the number of participants, and then everyone who’s in will rank that list, and then I’ll match you, and then you’ll write some games.

If the math is working out wierd due to the proportion of entrants to the spread of names, I’ll announce any changes as soon as it makes sense to do so. But I think this will work.

Feel free to kibbitz in the comments or at Story-Games, but it’s only official if it’s in my email!

The Names:

8 Dragon heads in a Sack
837 Incursion

A Bucket of Blood in My Foyer
A Hatful of Rabbits
A History of Giants
And My Axe
Arbiters of Zodiac
Atlantis 2037

Bad Asses and Thieves
Balthazar Mercury in: Voyage to the Great Red Spot

Captain Supermarket.
Cellophane Smackdown
Chained Souls
City of Refuge

Distant Relatives
DNA: Alteration

Eyes in the Night

Fortune’s Child
Franchise: Samurai
Fuck you, Sorensen

Gear-Crazy: Giant Steam-Bots and the People who Love Them
Goblin Lovers.
Grandpa’s War

Hammer of the Overlord
Hell for Leather

I Love The Dead
Imperialist Bastards
In Repose.
Iron Soldiers: Maim frame

Love in Winter

Masks & Revolutions
Midnight Division
Mona Bushpig

Naked Trade
Never Fall Down
Never Forget
Northern Lights and Broken Hearts: Sordid Tales of Icy Passion

Oh Pure and Ageless Song

Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Season of the Witch.
Sing, O goddess
Stutter Step
Sunday’s Best

The Fall Of The United States
The Hunter S Thompson Role Playing Game
The Mars Folly
The Martyr’s Brigade
The Plant
The Whore Of Babylon.
Third Dawn
This Little Piggy
Twilight’s Last Gleaming
Two Games One Name.

What Is A Heart But A Sweet Bit of Offal For My Dark Master?

Published in: on October 11, 2009 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lend Me Your Names!

Hey there,

Let the name submissions for Two Games One Name begin! Comment in this thread or on the Story-Games thread.

Update: Title submissions close by whenever I wake up on Sunday, 10/11. There’s a great list so far, between here and Story-Games! Keep an eye out on Sunday for the tap-in info.

Published in: on October 5, 2009 at 3:55 pm  Comments (2)  

New Challenge: Two Games One Name

I’ve had this idea kicking around for a while, and now seems as good a time as ever to pursue it.

Two Games One Name

The title of a game is extremely important in terms of setting tone for the game and the expectations of your potential audience. Not only is it identification of your work, it encapsulates it. Not to mention that a good title is good marketing.

I’m interested in seeing what happens when a game is inspired primarily by the title itself.


This contest is in four parts.

The first is simple: propose a name for a game. There will be a post on this blog where you can use the comments to do so, and also a post on the Story Games forum. Name proposals will be open for a week.

The second is the tap-in phase. Email me a list of the top 4 names for a game that inspire you. I will assemble a list of names, each with two designers attached to it. I will also post a list of the unused titles, which I think can still be useful to you (see below). Finally, each pair of designers will have a set of binary guidance choices that I will develop and assign to them. Between themselves, the designers work out which they will pick to include in their game.

For example, Jon and Shreyas are both assigned to “In Search of Glory.” I decide to give them the choices “Solo game or group game” and “Fortune-based resolution or drama-based resolution”. Maybe Jon wants to do a solo game with drama-based resolution (challenge!), so he emails Shreyas and they work it out.

The third: Write a game! Guided by the title and your pick of the guidelines, write a game. The guidelines are there to give some additional inspiration and force the two games into difference courses, but if they end up being not useful to you, you can still do well in the contest without using them. For extra credit, somehow include entries off of the “unused” list in your game in meaningful ways. There will be about a month for this. I give no guidance whatever to what “write a game” means. Just do it!

The fourth: Submit. There will be a submission process (email me a PDF, really). Send me your game by the deadline. I will read them all and give critical feedback. I will also be choosing winners! These are the categories that I’ll be judging in:

  • Best Game Overall – what blows me away the most and makes me excited to play
  • Best Extra Credit – what uses the unused titles in the most meaningful way
  • Best Pair – what two games of the same name would best be packaged together as a set
  • Best Outside The Box – which game surprises me the most
  • Best Presentation – yes, for better or for worse, I think appropriate presentation is important. Make it pretty!

I plan on not awarding a game more than one of these, by the way. If there are enough entries, there may be runners-up though.

There will be prizes – here is the current list:

(PDFs courtesy of myself and Two Scooters Press)

  • Annalise
  • The Dance and the Dawn
  • Mist Robed Gate
  • It’s Complicated
  • Murderland

(print games courtesy of myself, Dig 1000 Holes Publishing, Kevin Allen Jr Design and Red Moon Medicine Show)

  • carry. a game about war.
  • The Dance and the Dawn
  • Urchin
  • Time And Temp
  • 2 copies of Sweet Agatha, one for the winner of best “Outside the Box” and 1 for the game that is best suited for players who have no experience with RPGs.
  • Special Bonus Publication Prize: Any game that sees publication in print, for money, in a final non-playtest non-ashcan form will receive the entire TAO Games electronic catalog, as well as a physical copy of XXXXTreme STREET Luge, courtesy of Ben Lehman.

  • Special Bonus Art Prize: George Cotronis (aka northerain) will offer $200 worth of illustrations for the best horror/violent/dark-themed game. His portfolio:

Also, if I end up playing any of these I will of course give playtesting feedback.

I’m looking forwards to seeing what happens!

Published in: on October 4, 2009 at 3:39 pm  Comments (1)  

Playtest Report: In Frankenstein’s Wake

Hi everyone,

After far, far too long, I have started making good on the prizes for the challenge. Last night I brought the winning games to my Wednesday story-games meetup, and I ended up facilitating a game of In Frankenstein’s Wake for 4 players in addition to myself.

The Short Summary

The flavor of the game was well-received and had a high “cool!” factor. We were all impressed with the pre-generated characters. However, the amount and depth of the board-game elements in the rules made it difficult for us to see where the roleplaying aspect had any legs, other than the fact that it is nominally a role-playing game. At the end of our first scene of play we ran into a rules situation that I could not solve using the text as written, and also had no intuitive “right” answer. We then spent a good hour or so dissecting the game as it’s presented in the text, coming to a general consensus on a number of points:

  • This is either a great board game with un-needed narrative elements, or a cool roleplaying game that needs to be rebuilt to emphasize the “roleplaying” (specifically, character identification/fidelity and the creation of a narrative through play).
  • The characters have no way to mechanically affect each other, which is part of the “why should I roleplay?” problem.
  • While the pre-generated characters are interesting and mechanically “balanced”, they also have no explicit hooks or any way to personalize them to the players for any given session of play. Everyone expressed a wish that they at least had a paragraph description or backstory that the players could use as a basis for characterization and decision-making in play.
  • The game needs a flowchart showing how the results of scenes impact other scenes. It was one of those things that makes total sense once you synthesize the information, but to verbally describe how the scenes fit together was difficult and took a couple goings-over.

Rules Issue

The first scene was a Funding scene, where the other four characters were all present. The two players who had chosen their lowest stat collaboratively framed that a rich minor nobleman was holding a dinner at the university, and it was known that he was looking for an excuse to donate money to anything that would put his name on it. I played the nobleman (Baron Gunter von Booring).

We decided that it would be easiest if we started with one person and then went around the table, with each person narrating their characters actions and pulling in dice for traits. People narrated various amounts of traits on each of their “turns”, adding from 1 to 3 dice to their pools. Once we had gone around the table once, we kind of stalled, as we didn’t know if we should keep going or not. Everyone had made their initial pitch to the nobleman, and it felt weird ending there (as we could have kept on going into more detail), but it also felt weird going through another go-around of Traits, as it would mean that everyone’s character would be acting very erratically in a very short amount of time. Keep in mind, it was generally accepted that the optimum strategy to win a scene was bring in as many Traits as possible.

Finally, I said that we should roll and move on with the game, as I wanted to at least get through one “week” of play. I felt strongly that there needs to be more guidelines as to when a scene ends, either with mechanical stops or with someone specifically given that power – otherwise, it becomes an arms race between whoever wants to just keep on narrating in Traits.

Anyhow, we went to the dice, and the basic rolling and re-rolling went fine. However, once everyone had re-rolled, we still had two characters tied at 3 successes. What happens in this situation? Does it mean that nobody “wins”, and everyone has to Burn a Trait if they want to get anything out of the scene? Does it mean that they both get their margin of victory over the next highest score? Is there a tiebreaker of any kind? I spent a good 10 minutes scanning the rules, and found no mention of this situation, which I would think is pretty mechanically likely in multi-player scenes, given that players will tend to use similar amounts of traits and each dice is a success 50% of the time.

Once I re-read (and re-explained) the rules for burning a trait in a Funding Scene, there was a collective “huh”. Basically, everyone in the scene decided to Burn a Trait, and got a higher score than the “winners”, which, while noted in the rules as a viable strategy, seemed just weird.

Play stopped at this point, as we began the conversation with the results bulleted above.


So, I was actually really surprised that the game stalled as hard as it did – on reading, it hangs together very well. Frankly, the biggest issue was the question of “wait, why are we role-playing again” – literally, “whats my motivation?” Which was hilighted by the tie-breaking rule issue.

Eric, there’s at least one, and possibly more, really cool games in here. I think you should try playing it, if you haven’t, and keep a critical eye on whether the mechanics are doing what you want them too. I also have a whole list of more specific feedback to email to you soon. I really want to play the game thats lurking in there, but I feel like it’ll take some significant re-assesment and playtesting to, as it were, stitch it together.

Published in: on June 28, 2007 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

And The Winners Are!

Once again, I apologize for my tardiness in getting all of this done. But, finally, all votes have been counted and all scores have been tallied. Here are the winners of the 2007 BibliOdyssey Design Challenge!

Best Integration Of Images: The City At The Edge Of Sleep, by Mike Addison, with a total average score in the category of 8/10. Followed by:

  • Troll Lands (7.8)
  • Once More (6.8)
  • In Inordinate Fondness & Dark Explorations (6)
  • Friends or Fortune & In Frankensteins Wake (5)

Most Playable: In Frankenstein’s Wake, by Eric Boyd, with a total average score in the category of 8.5/10. Followed by:

  • An Inordinate Fondness (8.3)
  • Once More (7)
  • The City at the Edge of Sleep (6)
  • Friends or Fortune (5.5)
  • Troll Lands (4.6)
  • Dark Explorations (4)

Best Overall: In Frankenstein’s Wake also had the highest score in the category, with a total average of 7.25. As a game cannot take more than one title, the next highest was a three-way tie! The City at the Edge of Sleep, An Inordinate Fondness and Once More all received a score of 7. As City at the Edge of Sleep is also ineligible, the official winners of this category are both An Inordinate Fondness, by Mark Villianatos and Once More, by Mendel Schmiedekamp! The other scores:

  • Troll Lands (5.6)
  • Friends or Fortune (5.5)
  • Dark Explorations (5)

Congratulations to Mike, Eric, Mark and Mendel! I look forward to playing your games!

The individual pages will be updated with their scores and review links real soon now. There’s also a thread at StoryGames to talk about the winners, and the contest in general.

Thanks everyone!

Review: In Frankenstein’s Wake

In Short…

In Frankenstein’s Wake is Eric Boyd’s game of the race for Dr. Frankestein’s students and hangers-on to accomplish the Promethian task of creating life, in the wake of the Doctors disappearance. The game incorporates boardgame elements into a rotating competitive scene structure, reminding me heavily of The Shab-Al-Hiri Roach (which Eric notes as in inspiration in the design notes). I found this game well-written, conducive to it’s stated goals of pick-up-and-play-in-one-night, and just well-done overall.

Incorporation of Images

While the cover image certainly shows the inspiration behind the game, I found the rest of the images to be less interesting. They’re placed throughout the text to break it up and further illustrate the theme, but I didn’t find them particularly remarkable. I enjoyed the character portraits, tho they weren’t part of the image set – I’ll be making a note of Eric’s reference for them as well!


The rules text was remarkably complete, from a full intro and “what is this game about” section, to well-explained rules and useful examples, to a number of reference charts and visual aids. Not to mention the Materials deck. The game is written to be almost pick-up-and-play, and between the pre-gen characters, the reference aids, and the clear rules text, I feel like I really could run this game at the drop of a hat.

My only quibble is that I feel like there may be a problem with violations of the “Czege Principle” – that is, that it is almost always more fun/interesting/meaningful for someone other than you to be providing adversity for your character. How the game currently works, I can definitely see a good amount of scenes that you frame for your character, and then that you win, and you win narration for it. I feel like these scenes would be flat compared to the scenes with a mix of people framing, winning, and narrating.


This game is very strong out of the gate, and I definitely want to play it. My only concern (other than that of adversity not being potentially strong enough, as mentioned above) is that the dice differentiation may need to be either stronger or weaker. As is, the only reason to use high dice is to win narration, which may or may not really be worth having so many kinds of dice. It’s one of those cases that it may be worth streamlining the system down to one kind of dice (probably d6) and figuring a different thing for determining narration, or expanding the things that can happen with high (or low) numbers. It’s one of those playtesting things, and depends on how much more or less complex Eric wants the game to be.

But I certainly hope this one gets more development!


Published in: on March 18, 2007 at 3:33 am  Leave a Comment