Things are pretty busy what with this and that (especially the solarpunk and utopias game jam and editing and publishing the associated collection of essays). That said, if you write, design, develop games, and you have something very cool and unusual and experimental idea that is looking for a home, do get in touch. Sad Press Games would be especially interested in games with political themes, storytelling engines, immersive storytelling, ludic writing, games about the future, games that help us to think / learn / imagine differently, generative aesthetics, data perceptualisation, games that create games, writing for immersive experiences, and things like that. Artists and layout designers, also please feel free to get in touch with your portfolios. Also check out the links list below for more interesting independent games.
System Reference Documents are lightweight rule sets which may be a minimum viable version of a game, and/or offered to game designers as a chassis to build upon or to hack. Sad Press has created some SRDs, all free to use and most oriented toward narrativist game design:
- Rules Art Games Stories (RAGS), based on a token economy.
- Spice, which has a distinctive approach to 'stats.'
- Hat Adventure, which adapts a Taboo-like mechanism for storytelling.
- Glimpse, inspired by tarot cards, memes, Mysterium and Dixit.
- Engine, which features a little more strategy and crunch than the others.
- Duplex, where every roll has a magnitude of success/failure.
... and more. There is also a crowdsourced list of SRDs and hackable games. Please feel free to suggest additions.
The Shrike is a GM-less storytelling game for one to four players, set in the skies above and the skies within.
RPGs were my first introduction to procedurally generated content and aleatoric storytelling. So I wonder: what happens when you procedurally generate RPGs themselves? This is an experiment in development. See the pilot here. I would love to do a lot more with this one day. Who knows.
Scenario Exploration Tool
Connections is a storytelling game and scenario exploration tool, designed to help experts, policymakers and other stakeholders narratively explore risks and opportunities associated with technological, ecological, and social change. If you're running a workshop or other event and you'd like to use Connections or something similar, get in touch and I'd be happy to advise on facilitation.
A deck of playing cards and story prompts. Not yet in PoD or print-and-play formats, but hopefully coming soonish.
Dungeons & Drapers
The rules are complete, although the setting and the Spellcaster's Handbook are not. Realistically I don't see much opportunity to continue work on Dungeons & Drapers in the near future, sorry! Why you might be interested anyway: Dungeons & Drapers is a fairly extensive (90 pages) fantasy RPG with an OSR energy, and quite a few interesting quirks, especially in its setting and its approach to healing. Also known as Hunger Games & Dragons. Play a candle-maker moonlighting as a mage. Try not to get swept into the Prosperous Game ...
Ends is a diceless system where you search for your lost friends in a semi-submerged New York City. Ends has no dice or random number generation, and has a really unusual approach to character progression, incorporating almost board game-like elements. It has some PbtA energy, although it's not really a PbtA game.
Fury Road Trip
Fury Road Trip extends Ends's theme of soft apocalypse. It's Mad Max: Fury Road meets road trips with family or friends. It's a game about getting mad. It's a hack of Remi Porter's Family Road Trip, and very faintly inspired by compassion-focused therapy. It was originally created for Conjured Games's Soft Apocalypse anthology (forthcoming 2022, hopefully) but ended up getting a little big.
Bunnies & Cyborgs
Not out yet. A GM-less one-shot mini-TTRPG about doing your best, written for Conjured Games's Soft Apocalypse anthology. A bunny is anything cuddly and a cyborg is anything that goes bloop bloop bleep bleep, and in this game you play dozens or billions of both.
The Sorcerer Sends for a Sandwich
The Sorcerer Sends for a Sandwich is a two-player storytelling game about taking the time to eat properly when you're taking over the world.
The Vale is a solo RPG ruleset for use in conjunction with AI Dungeon.
Daiquiries & Demigods
Daiquiris & Demigods, also known as Dungeons & Drinking, a featherweight universal system where drinking replaces dice. Play (if at all) with all the safety tools, and maybe a few extra of your own devising. The politics of this game are really something I should revisit.
Drama & Dice
Drama & Dice, a featherweight universal system with a core mechanic you can retrofit to most tabletop RPGs.
Shadows & Shapes
Shadows & Shapes, a lightweight dungeoncrawler based around a trick-taking card game. Of particular interest is the collaborative, puzzle-like aspect of combat.
Hacks, generators, and miscellaneous
- Dungeons & Dead Presidents, brief guidelines on adding gambling to tabletop RPGs. This could really do with a reboot one day, incorporating material about alternative and complementary currencies.
- Hack Health, an approach to HP and death in D&D (or any RPG).
- Ambershadow Ambler, an experiment in collaborative game / story authoring, using Twine. Star Trekky.
- Strange Cities is an excerpt from the larger Shrike generator, again using Twine. It explores speculative divisions of labor.
- Bardabracadabra is a ridiculous bardic magic supplement for use with any fantasy tabletop RPG.
- Dungeons & Decks is a ridiculous hack for using Tarot cards to cast magic in DnD and other fantasy tabletop RPGs. Instrumentalizes the numinous & numinizes the instrumental. What if you do real magic while you're doing fake magic? Includes Excel grimoire.
- Worldbuilding Inspiration is a living document of interesting-looking books for worldbuilding purposes, leaning postapocalyptic / solarpunk.
Tabletop RPG Concept
Dreams & Dystopias: near future mutant teen adventures, based on the diceless Disempowered by the Apocalypse (TM) rule set. Working on this is at the bottom of a really long list, but you may be interested in the very distinctive and curious conflict-resolution mechanics (Chess moves!). I created the alpha edition, created a few materials for a more streamlined beta edition (Gifts list and sample play), then got bored and stopped.
Skycrawl: to teach myself the interactive fiction engine Twine, I started building a little text-based dungeon crawler. It got a lot bigger than expected. You're very welcome to play. The setting is similar to that of Dungeons & Drapers, though without the "adventuring in secret" premise (it's set a little earlier, perhaps, in the Second Age). Related: here's a very short unseelie bit excerpted, and a YouTube video describing one of the techniques (using arrays to create locations). As of 2020, I may work on Skycrawl on and off, but the fragment is big enough to play and probably get killed by baddies (or ARE they?! I mean yes actually they are) before you reach its glitching edges. And if you do get to its glitches, maybe you can finish that story in your mind ... ?
This site is mostly Jo Lindsay Walton, sometimes writing as Alice the Candle. My other sites are here, here, & here. I'm on Twitter as @jolwalton. I run @sadpresspoetry with Samantha Walton. Despite the similar name, I'm not the author of a number of SFF novels including Among Others, Tooth & Claw, The Just City, etc. (But I recommend them!)
- Sad Press Games at DriveThruRPG
- Sad Press Games at Patreon
- Conjured Games at Patreon - game design co-op
- Conjured Games at Itch.io
- Steal Away Jordan - RPG about slavery (here's a review)
- SIGMATA - cyberpunk antifa revolt
- Eclipse Phase - postapocalyptic transhuman conspiracy & horror
- Dream Askew - queer post-apocalyptic word-(re)building
- Hack the Planet - cyberpunk cli-fi
- Spire - dark elf revolt
- #Feminism - an anthology of nanogames
- Songs for the Dusk - Blades in the Dark hack about progressive postapocalyptic heists
- Bluebeard's Bride
- Misspent Youth
- Dog Eat Dog - colonialism in the Pacific
- My Life With Master
- Shock: Social SF (GM-less storytelling exploration of sociopolitical issues)
- Red Markets
- Night Witches
- Risus: a free universal rules-lite RPG -- use its cliché-based aptitudes concept to improve Drama & Dice (and maybe Daiquiris & Demigods) immeasurably
- E. Chris Garrison's list of free RPGs
- Rob Lang's Free RPG Blog
- Jenna Moran's WTF
- Design Patterns: almost an RPG design notation system?
- John Wick's Flux - a multiverse meta-RPG
- Bounty Hunters of the Atomic Wasteland - another free post-apocalyptic RPG
- The Republic
- Runed Age magic system
- Fear Fetchers (I like Sarcastic Teen as an upgraded enemy)
- John H. Kim's RPG site (with many many more links)
- Emily Clare Boss's site (including games & fictional games)
- Icar: free space opera RPG
- Sufficiently Advanced: a posthuman / singularity themed RPG
- Stephanie Bryant's games
- David Schirduan et al.'s 200 word RPG challenge
Links: software, engines, tools
- All That Is Solid Melts Into Aargh! (SF&F fiction etc.)
- Vector from the British Science Fiction Association
- Jo's academic site
- The Sputnik Award - part award, part game, part participatory art project
- Lost Astronaut Games research network
- Sad Press Poetry
- Economic Humanities
- RPG Creation subreddit
- The Boarding Kennel: board games reviews
- Allen Stroud's games
- Mhairi Simpson's Be a Bard storytelling game
- Game Chef - annual RPG competition
- First Person Scholar - games studies articles, essays, etc.
- DiGRA: Digital Games Research Association
- The Twine Cookbook
- Analog Game Studies
- Night in the Woods (review)
- Ian Bogost
- Jane McGonigal (Reality is Broken)
- Katherine Isbister (How Games Move Us)
- Mary Flanagan (Critical Play)
- Layoff (activist / conscious digital game)
- Phone Story
- The SPIRIT - board game reviews + more