Shadowcraft: The Glamour War

I know that it has been a while since I updated Origins of a Dark God. There are a lot of reasons for this. But most are boring, daily life things. However, one of the projects I have been spending much of my time and word count on just went live on Kickstarter yesterday!


Shadowcraft: The Glamour War is a Fate RPG by ReRoll productions. And I am the setting write for it! As of this blog post we are over 30% of the way funded, and still gathering momentum. If you have enjoyed the posts on this blog, please go check out Shadowcraft. I am very excited about the setting, which you can read about on the Kickstarter page.

While Origins might go silent for a while longer as I write for Shadowcraft, know I will be putting my efforts toward bringing this unique setting to life.

Thank you for all the support this last year, and I hope you will consider backing Shadowcraft.

RPG Stash Busting Challenge Update 1 – Numenera

Not one to just post a challenge and not compete, I have started the first of my Stash Challenge games for 2015 – Numenera! I have a group of five people, all with characters made and ready for the first session next Monday.

Getting the group together was easy as I am running the game on Hangouts. Character creation was a blast, I even had one player ask me to create a foci for him on the fly (Sees Shatterpoints!). I have had the idea for the plot rolling around my head for a while, so we will see where this goes.  I am so excited that I even created audio clips for the first adventure to play during the session. So far the challenge is going far better than I had anticipated. Sometimes you just have to dive in!

My Updated RPG Stash Busting Challenge 2015 list:

Shadows of Esteren – [In the planning phase.]

Adventurer, Conqueror, King – [Limbo.]

Infinity RPG – As soon as I posted this list, I was invited to the Infinity playtest. So, I immediately got a group together and knocked out the intro encounter and we were hooked. [Damn it, I have to add this to the list but I got a playtest in so that has to count for something.]

Numenera ­– [Characters created. First session on the schedule.]

In Nomine – [A scarier Limbo than where ACKS is at.]

Also, I have a number of writers in the group, so I am hoping I can convince some or all of them to write session recaps.  If that happens, they will be posted here! So stay tuned for more updates, and please post your own!

RPG Stash Challenge!

Welcome to 2015! I have been thinking about 2014 vs 2015 and how I wanted to kick this year of blogging off. Unsurprisingly, the best idea came from my wife.

My wife is a crafter. Her bins of yarn, paper, stamps, arcane torture implements, and hole punches put my gaming collection to shame. She and her friends, in an attempt to prevent their craft stash from collapsing in upon itself and forming some sort of malevolent gestalt sentience, have challenged each other to ‘Stash Bust’ in the year.  Essentially, their goal in 2015 is to create, craft, and burn through their supplies to clear room for new material.

When I heard about it, I thought it was a great idea. I mean, I have tons of games on my shelf that I collected over the years. I am intrigued by them, I spent money on them for some reason, yet they have yet to see life at the gaming table. So I am putting out the challenge to any and all who will take it up.  RPG Stash Busting Challenge 2015. Comment here or on my G+ thread. List four games on your shelf that you want to bust through this year. Run said games. That simple.  To make it a true challenge, one shots don’t count. You need at least four sessions of a game for it to count. Give the game a chance. Air it out and take it out for a run.

My RPG Stash Busting Challenge 2015 list:

Shadows of Esteren – I have read all their books, and am supporting their Kickstarter but have yet to even make a character for it.

Adventurer, Conqueror, King – I have run a couple of sessions of this in the past. This year’s goal is Dwimmermount. Or at least get a group to D@W levels.

Mindjammer – This game captured my imagination and I want to get it in front of my group. They love Fate, and Mindjammer solves most of my group’s issues with the system.

Numenera ­– Another game that I have only run oneshots for after a failed campaign in 2013.

In Nomine – My first game-line that I collected for the sake of collecting!

What is on your list for 2015?

A Look Behind and a Look Ahead

Here we are at the end of 2014. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who reads my little corner of the internet.

This has been a full and crazy year. This blog turned 1. I broke 100 posts. I co-started a gaming podcast. And I have been drawn into some freelance writing projects. A lot of it is thanks to this blog.

Looking at the website stats 2014, Origins had 9,418 views from over 5000 visitors. That is mind boggling to me. I made 80 posts this year (not counting this one), and it seems most of you are here for my reviews. Which, while not why I started the blog, is ok with me.

Looking forward, what does 2015 hold for Origins of a Dark God? Honestly, who knows? Between Iconic, Masters, and the new writing jobs I have, I have a lot of extracurricular activities. However, I have some 13th Age articles that I am pre-writing for the start of 2015. In-depth Icon write-ups, creature ecologies and stats, and some new mechanics that I want to share. Also, I have plans for a world building exercise using the Adventure, Conqueror, King system.  Intermixed will be reviews as often as I can put them together, and general advice from my table.

I look forward to seeing what 2015 holds! See you all next year.

Something Exciting

Back in September, I reviewed Book 0 of Shadows of Esteren. I have devoured the rest of the books and hope to get a group of the game started next year.  That being said, the Esteren Team has launched a new Kickstarter, here.

The Kickstarter has three components.  First is the Occultism book. Occultism is a thema, much like their book The Monastery of Tuath. Monastery covered the religious themes of Esteren and included an adventure, and it sounds like this book will do the same for mysticism. This Kickstarter also includes the third album for Esteren, Rise. I have Of Men and Obscurities (their first album), and it is a great instrumental album that I listen to while working, in addition to using at the table. Finally, they have the Ghost Stories add-on, which includes two books The Black Moon Handbook (a kind of manual about ghosts) and Howlings (a collection of short stories).

They have made it super easy for fans of Esteren to jump in with this Kickstarter.  If you already have Esteren books, look for pledges with the title ‘Farl’ and you will be getting just the new material from this Kickstarter. New to Esteren and want to get it all? Pledges with the title ‘Varigal’ are geared towards you.

The Occultism Kickstarter runs through January 21st, 2015. Check it out here if you are interested!

I will be doing one more post this year, as Christmas and New Years fall on Thursdays.  Next Monday, I will look at this year in review and hopefully will be able to give some insight on where I will be going in 2015.

Jadepunk Review

Disclaimer: This pdf was graciously given to me by Ryan Danks of ReRoll Productions. All opinions within the review are my own.

I mentioned before I have decided to take a second look at the Fate system. There have been some recent additions to the Fate Universe that have really impressed me. The Dresden Files RPG captured the feel of the novels superbly. Atomic Robo RPG had me laughing while reading the core rule book. And Mindjammer has jumped to the top of a very short list of Science Fiction games I have to run. But nestled in all the Fate discussions I have had with friends recently, Jadepunk has kept popping up. In talking with Ryan Danks, the publisher and lead developer on the line, he offered to send me a copy. Well, I read it, and here we are.

Jadepunk – Review


Jadepunk – Tales from Kausao City, is a 139 page PDF available from ReRoll Productions or Drivethrurpg. For $9.99 you are getting a complete game. The system is powered by Fate. From my understanding of the Fate world, Jadepunk is more Fate Accelerated than Fate Core. That being said, Jadepunk serves as a great example of the Fate engine and good place to dive into that system. The game is extremely friendly to new players: new to Jadepunk, new to Fate, new to RPGs. The book is littered with little callouts which boil the system and setting down into brief overviews. It would super simple to grab those and make a GM screen or player handout with all the pertinent information.

So, what is Jadepunk? It is genre mash setting, westerns meet wuxia, with a generous helping of jade powered tech thrown in. The game takes place in Kausao City. This city is a jadetech marvel. White jade airships travel between tower skyscrapers of Green jade. Blue jade provides stable forms of energy and Red jade provides violate ones. The great nations of the world all are represented in Kausao City, seeking to control the flow of the Jade, which exists in abundance under and around the city. The rich look down on Kausao City, corrupt and greedy, seeking to oppress those beneath them. The writers sure know the punk genre. In my mind, you can’t call it punk without having oppression to fight against.

Characters play as a developing society of vigilante martial artists called the Jianghu. They are trying to bring justice to Kausao City. Martial Artists, rebels, jadetech engineers are viable character archetypes in this game. With fist, blade, and red jade six-shooters, you and your group fight for the soul of Kausao City, and tell stories worthy of Hero or Tombstone.

The setting is rich in flavor and focuses mainly on Kausao City. The major players in the city (nations, religions, ect.) get enough detail to give players and GMs a springboard to make this game their own. In fact that is especially true of Kausao City. While you are given rich information on the city, the writers want your Kausao to be uniquely yours. For example, when talking about using the map of the city, the writers don’t give you a huge key of places. Districts are sketched out, and important places are given write-ups.  But, then they suggest you mark the map up as you play, putting your game’s locations into the city.


I know I did not talk about the system side of Jadepunk. That was on purpose. Partially because I want to do a standalone Fate review, and partially because I feel that the settings are what make Fate games unique and interesting.

This is especially true of Jadepunk. The book gives you a great setting, mashing two genres in a fun way. If you like the idea of martial artists armed with six-shooters, fantasy westerns, or a fresh take on punk tropes, pick this game up. The layout and design of Kausao City is how I always envisioned releasing Shadow’s Reach from Ta’nar; invocative without being restrictive. You can also, drop the city into any campaign, and hit the ground running with western-wuxia goodness.

ReRoll already has a number of expansions for the game that you can purchase from their store. Also, as a side note, if you purchase from the ReRoll Store, 30% of your purchase is donated to charity. Treat yourself to a fun game and feel good about it while you do.

The Secret of Secrets

Imagine if you will that Star Wars was a role-playing game – the movies, not the actual roleplaying game. There you are sitting around the table, having split the party (never a good idea). While you are running through Cloud City trying to escape, your buddy, let’s call him Chris, is battling Darth Vader in the bowels of the city.

Natural 1.  Chris fumbles his defense roll and Fweem!! There goes Chris’ character’s hand. He makes his save and is holding onto the railing about to fall down a giant shaft. You are completely engaged with the dialogue flying back and forth between Chris and the GM, then this happens:

GM: If only you knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.

Chris: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!

GM: No… [whispers something into Chris’ ear].

Chris: [shocked] No. No! That’s not true! That’s impossible!

You sit and wait for the reveal, but it never comes. Weeks go by. After the campaign ends, the second Death Star destroyed, complete with many inside jokes between the GM and Chris, you finally ask, what was said back there?  Oh, that? The GM told me that Vader was my father.

How anticlimactic would that be?

Secrets (campaign or character) Are Only Awesome When Revealed!

Personally, I think that secrets are only cool when they are revealed. I have had players who come to the table with a cool character secret and expect to ride across the campaign with their secret intact. What is the point in that? RPGs are a social, co-operative game. Secrets, either the GM’s or the PC’s that are never revealed run counter to that. If your character is a dragon, hiding in a world where dragons are feared and hunted down, that is some great story material!! But don’t expect to not be put in situations where that will be revealed. I am not saying that secrets should be revealed in session one, but eventually they should come out.  Because when they do, they tend to be explosive.

A recent, nearly deadly, example:

In one of my 13th Age games, the party had been hired by a being of power, who had been bound to a graveyard and stripped of her name for an unknown crime against the gods. The players had been able to discover that although this entity had done the crime, the punishment was, after many eons, exceeding the crime. This entity was slowly being pushed beyond repentance into madness. The twist was that someone had assassinated all of the gods of knowledge to prevent anyone else from discovering this creature’s name, for true names hold power. The group was searching for the last of these slain gods, Azometh. They had discovered that he was not truly dead, but being held and tortured somewhere in the Land of the Dead.

In a recent session, two new players joined the group right before everyone descended into the underworld to free Azometh. The old group decided they did not entirely trust the new characters and kept the scope of their mission hidden from the new players. When they finally found Azometh, being tortured and repeatedly questioned by a Big Bad Evil Guy from my world for ‘THE NAME’, the truth came out. What happened next was an epic night of gaming. The new characters felt betrayed and could not understand why anyone would risk saving such a bound entity. One of the new players decided that no one should have the name (which would control the entity) and slew Azometh. One of the original players managed to contain some of the god’s essence within himself, while another (a forgeborn who sought to raise Azometh to worship him) went berserk and attacked her god’s slayer.

Suddenly, I had PVP in my game. The Fighter going after the cleric, the cleric trying not to die. The Sorcerer trying in vain to maintain his own identity while absorbing the power of a god. The players had a great time working through their character’s choices and the fallout of the revealed secrets.


I am not saying don’t have secrets in your game. I am not saying don’t come to the table with character secrets. But if you horde them and only reveal them after play is over, you are the only one who cares. If you take the risk of letting your secret come to light, not only do you get that enjoyment of a pertinent reveal, but the rest of the group gets to share in that. And your secret has the potential to change the scope of the game for weeks to come.  Which is more satisfying?

As a GM, present opportunities for secrets to come out, but if they are not yours, let the character decide whether or not to reveal them. They should have the final say, but giving them the opportunity or creating consequences for keeping the secret is fair game!


Jadepunk review is still in the works.  Between work and sickness, it has been a rough couple of days.

Good GMing & Finding Fate

Happy December. I hope your holidays were great! It has been a crazy couple of weeks for me, between work projects and grad school. But, this week promises to be the last busy one for a while! Which is great, as I have new reviews to write, podcasts to record, and game design to do! Ok, maybe not less crazy, but definitely more fun!

I have been digging into a lot of great books on GMing over the last couple of weeks. I have reread Play Dirty and Robin’s Laws of Good Gamemastering. I tore through Never Unprepared, and Unframed by Engine Publishing (reviews forth coming), and have Kobold’s Guide to Combat sitting on my desk next to me. It has been enlightening to review and absorb other people’s view on gamemastering and the hobby. I firmly believe that GMing is a skill. Like any skill, practice and study are key to improvement. I plan to be sharing what I am taking away from these books, as well as reviewing them, in the coming months.

Another set of books that are on my radar to read and review are a number of Fate products. For a variety of reasons, I have started looking into Fate Core and Fate Accelerated. I picked up Mindjammer, Atomic Robo, Jadepunk, and the Fate Core books. I have played Fate before, in its Dresden and Spirit of the Century incarnations. I am looking forward to digging into the nuts and bolts of this game, and seeing how I can apply it to Ta’nar.

Come back Thursday, when I will be looking at Jadepunk, a game powered by Fate.

The Translation Codex

Disclaimer: This pdf was graciously given to me for the purposes of review by Ryan Chaddock Games. All opinions within the review are my own.

I was about to crash for the evening last night, when I received an email telling me that I had a review copy of a book called the Translation Codex waiting for me.  I figured I would download it, flip through it and then head to bed.  Three hours later, I finally made it.

Translation Codex – Review


One of my issues with The Strange, it is a small issue but from what I have seen a pervasive one, is that the core rule book spreads the setting a little thin.  Earth, Ardyen, Ruk, and The Strange itself are major settings, and the book contains a number of other smaller recursions. They manage to cram a lot of information into the setting sections, but unlike Numenera whose setting enflamed my imagination, it was not until the adventures started coming out for it that I felt like I connected with The Strange.  Another major part of this feeling of thinness is the foci. While there are 25 foci, this is 5 less than the Numenera core rule book, and they are not universally applicable.

Why am I bringing this up? It is a problem that Monte Cook Games already has a book in the works to resolve.  It was an understandable issue due the nature of the setting and it doesn’t make The Strange unplayable.  All of this is true, but it still makes The Strange somewhat constrained for now.  However, Ryan Chaddock Games’ newest PDF is designed to address this problem.

The Translation Codex is a 142 page PDF, available for $5.00 from  This PDF contains 100 foci and 18 new recursion write ups.  100!  The book separates the foci between 5 broad genres and 5 more niche ones.  You can drop these foci into the current settings of The Strange, use them with the books provided settings, or mix and match them to create your own recursions.

The broad genres covered are: Low Fantasy, High Fantasy, Mad Science, Earth, and Psionics.  The narrow ones are: Lovecraftian Horror, Mythic (Greco-Roman), Space, Strange, and Wild West.  These are not just foci that expand upon the current core settings of The Strange.  Low Fantasy covers your Song of Ice and Fire, low magic worlds.  Mad Science and Psionics allow you to build an effective Super Hero recursion.

Each of the broad genres have fifteen foci, and the narrow ones possess five. As I read through them, I found ones that were spot on for their genres, as well as some creative surprises. For example, the High Fantasy section covers the standard Dungeons and Dragons tropes of: Cleric, Bard, Invoker, and Druid.  It also has the Carries the Weight of Destiny foci, which allows your players to play a character on Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

The Mad Science genre has a great side-kick foci Assists a Mad Genius as well as Plays with Portals, which I really want to play. Within the Earth genre, you find everything from action movie tropes, to professional athletes.  The Space genre contains only 5 foci, but they are ripped from Star Trek, so this is a huge win.  There is even a Red Shirt foci.


Excluding the obvious cross-use for a Numenera game, or the fact that you could use it to play in your own setting before the Cypher System Rulebook comes out, The Translation Codex provides a lot of meat for your Strange game.  The foci are as useable with the recursions in the main book as they are useful in creating your own.  It stands alone, and provides a much needed expansion for The Strange line.  At .05 cents a foci, The Translation Codex is an amazing deal.

Play Dirty – A Full Review

After my post on Monday, I had a number of people ask for a full review of Play Dirty. Being the magnanimous blogger that I am, and with the Kickstarter for Play Dirty 2 going on, here it is.

Play Dirty is 118 page PDF available through for $5.00.  You can get the hard copy (or the PDF) at John Wick’s website here. Play Dirty contains 11 articles that Mr. Wick wrote 15 or so years ago.  Be warned, Play Dirty is rough.  John Wick admits with his introduction to the book.  He chose not to edit the book when assembling it, for reasons that I will let him explain.  But they are reasons I can empathize with.  The articles within have been called controversial, divisive, and, more than a little antagonistic.  It is hard to tell if this tone comes across because it is the true nature of the author, or just the voice he chose to write in to convey his points. But the heart of Play Dirty, in my mind, is to provoke you to think about ways to push your game to be better.  John Wick is sharing his stories and experiences as a GM, to make you question how you run games.  A lot of them are shared out of context which can hurt the narrative.  But, as in my case some 8 years ago, his goal help you raise the quality of your game.

One note. Writing a review of a product is usually easy for me, but I have struggled with this one.  As Play Dirty is a book of GMing advice, reviewing a lot of the content defeats the purpose of buying the book.  And, as it was so seminal for my GMing style back in the day, I struggled with objectivity.  I will try to highlight the chapters that I feel either, exemplify the tone of the book, or the type of advice that it contains.

Episode 0 – Hit ‘em Where It Hurts & Episode 2 – The Return of Jefferson Carter

Episode 0, the article that lead to the column Play Dirty, talks a lot about character death.  And a lot about how to dick with characters in your games. Reading through it you may begin to wonder, why the hell am I taking advice from this killer GM? And that is fair, John walks you through a number of ways to use character’s advantages and disadvantages to abuse them.  This is a perfect example about the adversarial tone and the controversial advice I was speaking about above.  But, look for the lie this chapter contains.  As Mr. Wick admonishes, he says one thing but shows another. The second Episode provides more context to this episode, and it helps pull this opening article into perspective.

While these chapters portray an adversarial GM cackling maniacally as player after player quits his game, there is something else there going on.  There is a GM who is delving into themes and stories at time where Narrative gaming was in its infancy.  It is a bloody, messy affair that gave birth to what sounds like an amazing conclusion.  These chapters remind me that the characterization and struggles I love in literature are not exclusive from the stories we bring to the table.

Episode 3 – Living City

The Living City chapter is indicative of John Wick’s unorthodox GMing techniques found in Play Dirty.  Other examples of these can also be seen on his Play Dirty You Tube channel. (Check out the Dirty Dungeon Technique for another great example of this type of technique.  Seriously, that technique is gold and my players have loved every Dirty Dungeon we have created.) The basis of the Living City technique is to get your players to do the heavy lifting of city design and management.  Have them design, and even play if you are brave enough, the NPCs of the city.  Have them establish scene and location specifics as they come up.  Basically, push some of the narrative control of your story back at the players.  This not only lifts a huge burden off your shoulders, but ties the players to the story and the events of the city.  It raises their investment in the world and the story, which is always a good thing.  And, perhaps, is the defining goal of John Wick’s play style and this book.

Episodes – The Rest of the Book

There is a chapter on dealing with problem players that makes me cringe (and always has).  They are horrifying and brutal.  I can only imagine they would solve the issue of a problem player, by driving them from the table.  But, he does tell you real way to deal with problem players, which is not any of those techniques.  Talking with your players is the way to deal with issues.  It is this dichotomy that makes me believe that some of the antagonism is intention, to showcase the true advice.  He also tries to impart the idea which seems like it should be intrinsic to the hobby, but I deal with on a regular basis in store games.  RPGs are social, group events. Having fun in spite of everyone else is a surefire way to ruin that fun.

The rest of the book, in my opinion, is all about challenging player and GM perceptions.  Perceptions about mechanics, the nature of the game, the stories you can tell, even the nature of the player characters. There is a lot of great, easy to digest material in the remaining eight episodes.  These episodes are the less…. provocative, but no less informative.


As I said Monday, you will either love or hate this book, but you won’t look at your game the same way.  I stand by that.  I think that in the chaos of the original Play Dirty, John Wick shines the light on a lot of great GMing techniques.  At the time, it was one of the few sources of Narrative GMing advice that now pervades the hobby.  The Dresden Files RPG has more than a few of elements of the Living City.  The World of Darkness embraces the kind of story-based tomfoolery of the original article. While controversial, I believe that Play Dirty was on the leading edge of an industry wide shift in perspective.

Play Dirty is entertaining, and serves as a reminder (and for me, the source) of many of the techniques I love to use at the table. I have never found these techniques or stories as controversial as many on the internet did.  But, I have also had knockdown, drag out fights over how I run my games.  For $5 is it worth the read.  And for $10, you can get both Play Dirty, and Play Dirty 2 over at the Kickstarter.