Category Archives: writing

What’s New in 2021?

Hey, uh… so. I’ll dive right into it.

I’ve got some tabletop roleplaying games out in the world that people can check out!

First is Arium, and if you’ve been following along on social media, you know that Adept Icarus ran a crowdfunding campaign last Fall to get it into print. Now it’s available IN PRINT and digital formats over here on the Adept Icarus website! The game turned out really well if I do say so myself. Here are the two core books released so far (and some of the internal art).

A little about Arium: it’s a love letter to creating worlds and giving RPG groups more control over the story, places, and people in their games. I got to work closely with a team of incredible folks to put it together, and that experience alone is worth the effort.

Arium: Create is all about creating that world, and you’ll have fun doing it. As I’m fond of mentioning on Twitter, WORLDBUILDING IS PLAY (or at least it should be.) The crew that wrote, playtested, and ultimately published this book has ensured that it is a 100% true statement. Besides being fun, Create‘s rules will ensure that the entire group loves what they, uh, create. How do I know this? We’ve put it to the test with tons of game sessions with diverse groups. Without fail, gamers love the world they put together, and while the rules of the game enable this, they do it in the most natural way possible. Everyone jots down ideas quickly (it’s timed), and then they look for ways to combine those ideas to make them even more awesome. Finally, the group votes, and only the favorites of the entire group make it into the canon of the world. It’s fast, easy, and a total blast.

Arium: Discover brings streamlined and easy-to-follow rules for roleplaying that will work with pretty much anything a group can imagine. If your groups haven’t branched out much from 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, that’s just great! Discover won’t be a huge leap in terms of learning new ways to do things. If you’ve tried tons of different games, you’ll see some things that are familiar from games like The Great American Novel or FATE, but you’ll also see some of the typical patterns of old-school RPGs. The goal with Arium: Discover is to keep things streamlined and enable your group to tell the story they want to tell, in the world they want to tell it in. It’s streamed on many different Twitch, Youtube, and Facebook Live channels, and folks tend to love it!

So yeah. Check out Arium! Onward to the other big game that’s released both digitally and in print for quite some time. Yes, I’ve been neglecting this blog. It’s Zorro™: The Roleplaying Game by Gallant Knight Games. This game is, by far, the most ambitious project I’ve been a part of to date, and I was both a writer and a producer for the game. In many ways, Zorro™ prepared me for the work on Arium, and I owe GKG owners Alan and Erin Bahr a ton of appreciation for taking a chance to involve me heavily in the project. It was the experience I needed!

It was a privilege to work on a game from this iconic franchise about the first Latinx American hero. Not only that, he’s one who I’ve enjoyed watching on the small and large screens from my early youth to today. I got to write critters, quickstart characters, and even an adventure seed (and more) for this book, to say nothing of working with amazingly talented folks in the RPG industry. The writers, the editor, the layout, and of course the publisher were all top-notch, and I can’t say enough good things about them! Their skill and professionalism encouraged me to up my game (pun both intended and not intended) in ways I could scarcely have imagined prior.

All in all, it’s been an action-packed couple of years. If RPGs are your thing, check out Arium and Zorro™!

Coming up this year, I’ll continue to work and help deliver Arium crowdfunding stretch goals: Arium: Bridge, Arium: Flash, and Arcadia Planetary Amusement Recreation Kingdom. They are all in varying states of completion. You can follow along with the public Arium Kickstarter updates here, if you’re interested. Also, I’m adapting my old short story, Rue From Ruin, to an RPG ruleset called Wretched & Alone by Chris Bissette. For those who read any of Rue, you’ll know why I think it’s a perfect fit from name alone. Oh, and it will maybe, MAYBE have a soundtrack too. Keep an eye out for that someday!

What’s Up With Arium? Actual Plays.

Hey all! Zorro: The Roleplaying Game is now available in digital format via DriveThruRPG. Did you know? A link, if you’re lazy like me: Zorro.


While the final bits of the Zorro project are in the publisher’s hands, I’ve turned my primary focus to Arium (my RPG passion project) over the past couple of months. Well, primary focus after time spent dealing with unforeseen work and life circumstance. And scavenging for toilet paper. You get the point.

Some good news: the Arium team is marching toward completion, and while that is in progress, we’ll be hosting a weekly actual play on the Adept Icarus YouTube channel. Swing on by if you’d like an idea of what we’ve been up to!

Watch Arium Actual Play Episode One!

Zorro: the Roleplaying Game

Hi friends! More announcements rolling in. Please bear with me. This is why I’ve been so quiet recently. I’ve been working on top secret stuff!

I’m a co-producer and writer for the upcoming Zorro: the Roleplaying Game by Gallant Knight Games. Zorro Kickstarts starting this Wednesday at 10AM Mountain. Expect my social media feeds to be full of Zorro news for a while. I APOLOGIZE FOR NOTHING. Bringing this spectacular game to life during the 100th anniversary of Zorro is a once-in-a-lifetime gig, and I’m gonna be talking about it. A lot.

Truth is, when Alan Bahr told me he was getting the rights to make a Zorro RPG, I was ecstatic for him and GKG, and I knew I had to work on the project. Zorro was the first true North American vigilante hero and one I’ve loved since I was a kid playing with stick swords in rural Oregon. My dad always loved old shows and movies of daring do, and we watched the greats together whenever we could tune in on our old console TV. It’s one of my favorite memories of him.

It’s a delight and an honor to be a part of bringing a complete Zorro RPG to the tabletop for the first time ever! I’m over the moon to be working with Gallant Knight Games and the fantastic team lined up for Zorro. I’m excited to up my participation in the game industry and learn from the experienced folks I’m getting to work with!

The Kickstarter is live now! Check it out!

On Paying For Professional Writing Critiques And Coaches

Starting With Caveats. How Typical.

Yes, yes, yes– of course, you have to have something written first (or at least a sizable portion of it). I recommend the words of Neil Gaiman as a source for this brand of inspiration.

“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”

― Neil Gaiman

This advice is even more relevant to me in the face of the experience report I’m about to offer. Trust me, my friends, I’ve written a glorious failure or two in my time. My draft folder is full of them. I have unfinished things too. It’s all part of the experience.

Thoughts, Reasons, and Ugh– Programmers.

I’m going to bring my experience programming computers into the frame. Why? Because as a group of people, programmers are perhaps the only individuals who can compare with writers in terms of being introverted, shy, and generally unwilling to work with others.

Let’s face it, we’re all just nerds of one variety or another. Yes, I made a broad generalization about almost everyone in my social circles.

My ostracisation is imminent.

A new programmer/coder/developer (or whatever you’d like to call us), straight out of college or someone going the DIY route, is green. When I was new, I’d finish an application, and it was not good enough. It was so obvious. I’d look at what I’d written a year, a month, or often only a day later, and I’d start to see the weaknesses.

The fastest way on earth for a programmer to level-up is to finish successful projects. You work and fight and research and scour the web and ask friends and eventually– you complete a fluffernutter. And it feels GOOD. Then, you give the fluffernutter you’ve built to someone who uses it.

What do they do? They break it.

They abuse your glorious fluffernutter.

They don’t use it in the ways you intended. It hurts. You created this fantastic fluffernutter so people could fluff nets with it, and they didn’t use it right. They didn’t understand. All because you didn’t know the best way to build it.

Sound familiar yet, writers?

Being a new programmer with the cloud or a mobile app store to deploy code to, is equivalent an indie author who publishes the first thing they write without any professional editing.

We’ve established that finishing is essential. Finishing helps us get to a state where real feedback is possible but isn’t there a way to improve quickly? There is for programmers. They engage in behaviors meant to amplify the cycle time of their learning.

Get Guidance From A More Experienced Person.

For coders, this can happen through pairing (sitting side-by-side writing the same thing together with only one person at the keyboard), code reviews, quick work cycles with smaller pieces of work, regular sessions with a mentor, or spending time in an apprenticeship.

Corporate America has all the incentive in the world to get programmers up to speed quickly. Coders are in short supply, they usually work at a company with peers, and hence, the development and use of all the methods described above.

Wait, You Just Said A Bunch Of Stuff About Computer Programming.
Is This A Trick?

In writing, we’re often an even more solitary crowd than coders, so what can writers do that maps most closely to code reviews and pair-programming and apprenticeships? Writers don’t usually have the benefit of working with a host of other writers unless they are working for some large publication or a school or a writers room for a TV production or some such thing. If you’re writing prose– hm.

There are a couple of options at your disposal:

  1. Join a writing critique group. If you’re lucky like me, the group will be an unending delight, but limited in their time to continually review your amateur work. **
  2. Pay for a professional critique by a writing coach, published author, freelance editor, etc.

**There are so many other reasons to join a writing group, but that’s a different blog post.

Gah! You Finally Mentioned Paying For Critiques.

Here’s the deal. As absolutely fantastic and essential a writing group is, those folks need time to write as well, and of course, you’ll want to reciprocate critiques/reviews. I’ve likely passed the halfway point in my life, and time is the only asset that really matters beyond having enough money to meet basic needs. We can never get more time, and it is always ticking away. It is unfair of me to demand more of it from my writer and editor friends than I have available to give to them. I also can’t rely on my family, because they are too close to me and don’t want to hurt my feelings.

Once I made these determinations, I decided if time was my limiting factor, then money was not going to be the thing holding me back as a writer. I’ve been writing plenty, but I have to wait interminably to go back and look at my own work before I can get past the “I JUST WROTE THIS AND IT IS AMAZING” glow and really learning anything from my mistakes. So, I started looking into paid critiques.

I might have been inspired by some anthologies and writing projects from Kickstarter initially. They had rewards like: “Back our book project for $100, and we’ll also do a professional edit on the first 20k words of your manuscript”. I researched some of the authors offering this service and found one (who shall not be named) who had an impressive resume of dealing with many of the hurdles I was trying to overcome in my WIP at the time, The Galaxy and All Her Charms. The Kickstarter method eventually paid off in spades, but it took a LONG TIME. It was about nine months later when I received extremely detailed, thoughtful, and beyond helpful notes and line edits.

Great. In Nine Months I Can Get Good Feedback?

Yes and no. You are indeed welcome to wait the requisite amount of time to gestate a human, but there are better, more direct ways to get this kind of feedback. During my 9-month wait, I ended up hiring another author/editor to do a detailed critique of the first 2500 words of Rue From Ruin. I received notes almost as long as the excerpt I sent for review, and it cost me $55.

So you can go this route, and you can also hire a writing coach (I recommend a couple folks I know: Lauren Sapala and Angie Fenimore. Look ’em up. They’re on the Googles.)

Hiring someone directly can be scary. If you aren’t sure you’re going to like the type of feedback you’ll get, ask them to review a sample for you before you pay. Most folks will agree.

Tightening the feedback loop and getting an earlier view on the kinds of mistakes I’m making in my writing is an immense help. It flattens out my learning curve, and I get over dumb mistakes far earlier. The only trick is having a bit of thick skin (a skill writers need anyway). My critiques have been professional, and even kind, and they also speak their mind.

Take it from a guy who almost always has to learn things the hard way, paying for professional eyes early in your writing process is worth it.

Cold Shadows: The Black Book

You can buy a thing I wrote!

I’ve been teasing on social media about having something published for a while. Soon it won’t be a novelty, but the norm. I have no plans to stop writing, and by nature of the famed throw mud on the wall principle, eventually, some of that muck is going to stick.

In the meantime, tabletop role-playing gamers (yes, like Dungeons & Dragons, Mom) can check out some of my work right now.

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When Gallant Knight Games reached out to ask if I would be interested in writing for one of the three core books for their super successful Kickstarter game, Cold Shadows, I checked my calendar, shelved the rest of my writing projects, and said ‘Heck yes!’ Probably not in that order.

At any rate, this is a game I was already super excited about. Previously, I’d played Blood & Honor, the game the rules are based on, and I backed the Kickstarter and anxiously awaited release. Little did I know, I’d be writing several thousand words for Cold Shadows myself. I even have an author tag on DriveThruRPG!

Just to set expectations The Black Book is a core book for Cold Shadows, but it is meaningless without Cold Shadows, and I also recommend Cities in Shadow. Both are brilliantly written (not by me) and together make up the complete game.

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Between the three books, you have a fully immersive cold war era spy RPG. If you aren’t familiar with DriveThruRPG, you can preview the books so you can check them out without paying. Right now these are only available in PDF ebooks, but soon they will also be available in print-on-demand as well. Kickstarter backers will be getting their copies in a few months.

If a government agency like the FBI or NSA show up at my house asking around about my web browsing habits, I probably won’t be too surprised. I googled some fascinating stuff for The Black Book, and I also used some of my world travel experience to add some fun details. If you’re so inclined, check it out!

P.S. If you use The Black Book in your campaign and wonder how it turned out so well, GKG had a wonderful team including top-shelf editor Wendelyn Reischel. If there are any errors or problems in the text, they are certainly mine.

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