Sunday, November 2, 2014

RPPR's Game Designer's Workshop: Playtester's Progress

Believe it or not, I am still alive and working on games. Things have been uber-crazy the past year and seem to only be accelerating. You can hear more in-depth updates about my life and game design in the latest episode of RPPR's GDW: Playtester's Progress.

For those of you not of the podcast bent, here's the "too long; don't listen" update on Hebanon Games.

Personal News

Hebanon Games is no longer in immediate danger of going under because it's CEO and entire workforce (i.e. me) starved to death. After an insanely long and arduous job search, I've finally found another teaching position at a school I'm very happy with. The kids need my help, the staff shares my goals, and I'm rewarded for my efforts. It's all-in-all a vast improvement over my previous full-time job, and it pays much better than the hodge-podge mixture of part-time/night-shift/freelance work I'd been surviving off of for the past year.

That said, the commute to my new job is over an hour (one-way), and I'm working under a bigger course-load than I've ever experienced before. The crippling poverty and depression are alleviated, but they've been replaced with a hectic schedule geared away from game design. It's a good thing overall, but production has slowed and will continue to crawl at a snail's pace until the summer.

Time to write full-time again will come though, and I wouldn't have made it long enough to get there were it not for people continuing to support my work by buying into the No Soul Left Behind Kickstarter, purchasing The Devotees, and promoting No Security in print. While that money isn't enough to buy healthcare or anything, it was literally the difference between having a home and being turned out into the street on multiple occasions. I can't thank all of you enough. I never intended this stuff to be a full-time gig, but the fact that it supported my family for the most difficult year of our lives is something for which I will be eternally grateful.

Red Markets

I've been working on my baby this entire time. While progress is slow and piecemeal, I'm light-years closer to completion that I was at the start of this little project. The rules have gone through five rounds of playtesting. At this point, the game runs a mean one-shot, and I've played several successful randomly-generated and designed scenarios with a variety of groups. The rules aren't perfect, but they are definitely at the "tweaking" phase rather than the "throw out and despair" phase.

I have fun running Red Markets, and my friends have fun playing it. That's closer than I could have ever imagined being even six months ago.

Right now, the rules are in "Caleb-ese" (chick-scratch notes that constitute the bare minimum I need to remind myself of things I already know). I'm in the middle of drafting them into legible chapters that other people can use to teach themselves the game. From there, I'll be playtesting the macro rules (campaign play, roleplaying incentives, character advancement, etc) with the RPPR group and distributing a closed Beta playtest to some fans on the forums.

From there, it's just a matter of drafting the macro rules and all the setting material. Then we are ready to start the commercial and art direction stuff required for the Kickstarter.

How long will that take? Well, see the employment stuff above: next year at the absolute earliest, and that's dependent upon scoring a lighter course-load for next year and a productive summer. What I can say is that the project will get done; I've progressed far enough and seen enough potential in Red Markets that failure is no longer an option.


The only real sad part of getting this new job is having to cut back on the work I take from other companies. I love working with people like Arc Dream and Posthuman Studios, and I was originally planning to use GenCon to increase the stable of clients in my freelancer files. I'm having trouble enough finding times to meet current commitments though. I'll be taking jobs as they come from my current collaborators, but I'm going to hold off on working in any more systems until I get Red Markets done.

Everything Else

I hit up GenCon this year and it was the best ever...just like every other year. I also got some great testing done at Springfield GAME this year. In general, I'm looking to increase my convention presence this summer and into next year, perhaps producing an ashcan draft of Red Markets to sell at the IGDN booth and/or running the design gauntlet that is Metatopia.

I'm getting really into board and card games, making pie-in-the-sky plans to throw my hat in that arena after Red Markets.

I'm still on the twitterz at HebanonGCal. I mainly talk about game design stuff, so give me a follow without fear of hearing about what I ate that day.

RPPR is great as always. I don't get to play nearly as much as I used to, but I'm trying to get in on a game with the guys at least once a week still. GDW with Ross is stimulating as always, and I often ponder doing another, two-folks-talking podcast in the traditional format, but I can't decide on a topic.

Anyway, that's anything and everything. Thank you for continuing to follow Hebanon Games. We'll keep you posted as we can, and I hope y'all are still around when we have something to show for all your time and devotion.


  1. it's so good to hear that you've gotten back to helping these keeds! in a way that sounds less soulcrushing than what inspired No Soul? formally wishing you fewer Kafka comparisons.

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