Seize Everything
Seize Everything

No Honor Among Thieves

I’m out of college, now, and with that fresh release into the world I have found that I still want to make games. I have also found that getting a full-time job is a little more difficult than I had thought. Before graduation, I believed that I’d gotten everything sorted out, that the applications I’d sent would surely result in a position, hopefully in a game studio somewhere. Three in-studio interviews and countless phone screenings later, it turns out that the sort of jobs I want tend to go to people with more experience. Welcome to the recession, I guess.

I’m still sending out resumes, of course, still looking for a perfect job. Hopefully one of the phone screens I did last week will result in something. Until then, I’m also working on a game, because of course I am. I’ve got no one to play all the tabletop, board and card games that I’m used to enjoying–all my friends are either graduated and doing their own thing or back at college, and I’m stuck in this near-empty house sending out resumes to people who, despite what I desperately hope, probably won’t go for the fresh college kid as opposed to literally anyone else. So I’ve got some time on my hands, because even I can’t continually write cover letters all damn day. And because I get twitchy when I’m not creating something new, I’ve been working on a game. I designed the system, playtested it a few times, and then completely overhauled it after those playtests didn’t turn out to be as engaging as I had hoped, and now I have the base of what I hope will be an interesting card game. Basic playtesting of version two is set to commence sometime this week.

Alongside designing the game, I’ve also been thinking a lot about Kickstarter. For anyone who doesn’t know, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform, where you can put up a project and ask people to pledge money towards a set goal so you can finish the project. If the campaign doesn’t reach its goal in the allotted time, no one is charged and no money changes hands. It’s a system that I’ve been looking at for a few years now, as it’s grown in prominence and I’ve seen things on it I’ve wanted to back. It’s an idea that I’ve found fascinating–a combination of artistic dreams and grassroots capitalism, inventing new ways of interacting with the system. It’s gotten to the point where my annual trip to the PAX East gaming convention in Boston has been taken up largely by attending panels about it, consisting of and being moderated by people who have run successful campaigns and published their games themselves using the platform. It’s an interesting thing, this creature known as Kickstarter. Every day you can watch people feed it their dreams in the hope that it will turn them into reality. Some of them succeed, some of them fail.

I had given little thought to potentially running a campaign on Kickstarter myself until late in my final semester of college. I was at a career fair, stepping up to talk to a guy from Amazon’s games division. He asked me if I was a designer or a developer, and I said I felt I was more of a designer.

“So,” he said, “have you run a Kickstarter yet? If you’re a designer, there’s no real reason not to.”

That question has been stuck in my head since then. I feel like there’s a hundred reasons not to–lack of time, lack of an idea, fear of failure. But I’ve got more time than I can deal with right now, and I’ve got an idea taking shape among my spreadsheets and Google docs and paper prototypes and blank dice waiting for their faces to be drawn. All I have to do is deal with the fear of failure, of finding out that people don’t like my grand idea, and that is a fear that can be chipped away at bit by bit with every playtest and every step towards making the thing look good. It’s no different from running one of my big play-by-post strategy games that I’ve been so fond of these past few years. All it takes is effort and care and a willingness to spend days on end writing and polishing, and the patience to put in the research to make it good (shout out here especially to Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games for his wonderful Kickstarter Lessons blog series, which I’ve been reading this week on breaks between running a few first-step balance passes over the various sets of cards I’ve been working on. Reading through his blog posts is pretty much the reason that I decided to start blogging again, after not writing anything for a while).

So here we are. We have an Amazon recruiter making offhand comments to students at a career fair, a crowdfunding platform that has seen amazing successes and tragic failures both pass its way, and a game idea that I had in the shower and then spent three months slowly refining before I even felt comfortable giving it a title. The stage is set. For act one, I’m going to try and blog about something at least once a week related to the usual gaming themes I’ve written about over the years, or progress on the game I’m making, or Kickstarter, or whatever else I feel ought to be written. It will do me good to just write for a while, I think.

Enter stage left: No Honor Among Thieves, a game of fantasy heists and betrayals, heavily inspired by deckbuilding games, The Resistance and The Lies of Locke Lamora. Special thanks to the people who helped me playtest it back when I was still calling it “the heist game,” especially Mark, Kathlyn, Jake and Colin, who playtested the very first version with me and ended up having to deal with a severely unbalanced game being utterly dominated by the drunkest person at the table. Your incredulous laughter and patience with my first draft rules were both appreciated.

Let’s make a game, shall we?

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