Indie Talks Episode 45 – Jonathan Nelson and Jen Page

snow white

In this episode I’m joined by Jonathan Nelson who’s got a wonderful Snow White adventure cooking on Kickstarter! Or at least he will, starting tomorrow! Jonathan is the creator of the Snow White RPG adventure for Pathfinder and D&D 3.5.  He can also be found at Adventure a Week and Nerd Trek. Jen Page (an Indie Talks Favored Guest!) joins as as well to talk about her role in the stretch goals of this soon-to-be-live Kickstarter.  Both Jonathan, Jen and I also talk at length about the act of being creative and what it takes to capture those creative moments in useful ways. Drop the the Snow White Facebook page for info before the Kickstarter kicks off.

Like what you hear? Support the podcast through Patreon! $2 a month from you allows me to create a lot more content, get more great guests and improve the quality of the show!

We would love to get your feedback about our show! Contact me with comments:, follow me on twitter @trollitc, and also check us out on iTunes! Hell, you can even catch us on Stitcher.  While you’re at it, there’s the Indie Talks Facebook page and the Indie Talks Google+ page. MySpace…well, I won’t go there if you wont. Please do rate this podcast on iTunes, and leave feedback through any of these links!

Kick The Box Dec. 9th 2013 Edition

Kick The Box

Dec. 9th Edition

This week’s edition of Kick The Box is going to be a little shorter than your use to and I apologize for that. My usual time spent trolling on Kickstarter, digging up the latest shinies was cut short this week with the death of my Grandfather. But, I didn’t want to totally disappoint my readers and I did want to show off the two games I did find last week. But, enough about me, and on with the show.

Heroes of Ismia

Project by: Reed Raymond

The city of Ismia was nearly destroyed by the great Demon Siege. During the twenty years after the siege,  Ismia’s villagers and town folk have worked hard to rebuild the city towards it’s former glorious past. With every passing day, the pain and suffering that had befallen the townsfolk shoulders starts to wane. Now a  new evil is starting to forge its way upon the land, again threatening the peace and tranquility the people of Ismia have worked hard for. This time could be the last time.

You and up to three other companions can choose up to four Hero Classes, a Fighter, a Rogue, a Wizard, or a Cleric, to set forth and venture into the lands of Ismia to see what the new found evil is that threatens the city. Each hero also has four races, Human, Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling to add to the variety of your characters and replayability of the game.

Shipping within US is included. Shipping outside of the US varies from $30 – $50 depending on the pledge level

Pathfinder Dice Arena

Project by: Luke Peterschmidt

Tired of adventuring in the Pathfinder Universe, saving princesses, slaying evil monsters, and becoming rich upon your wildest dreams?

Pathfinder Dice Arena tournament competition is a dice rolling game set in the Pathfinder Universe, but instead of adventuring and discovering new lands and dungeons, your favorite hero finds him/herself in a tournament building up moves to create high scoring offensive and defensive combos.

If your looking for a easy to set up, fast paced Pathfinder game that is already fully funded with a couple of the stretch goals already kicked wayside, than the need to look farther is no more.

Shipping within the US is included. Check the Kickstarter page for shipping prices outside the US.

Thank you again for stopping by my little corner of the Interverse and spending some time with me. I should be back into full swing next week and have some new shinies dug up to share with you!


The Player’s Perspective: Proactive v Reactive Players


Hello there folks, I am back with another viewpoint from the player’s perspective. Today I want to talk about a topic that made me decide to start writing these articles in the first place. When it comes time to sit at the table and play are you proactive or reactive?

Let’s start at the beginning, all players fall into one of these two categories. The proactive player takes charge of the situation and takes action. In doing so, they move the plot forward and keep things rolling. The action taken does not need to be relevant to the current plot hooks. Simply by taking action they are causing an event to unfold that will move story along. Examples of this can be as simple as a warrior inquiring about available mercenary work in a local tavern. The point is, rather than waiting for the GM to sink the plot hook in and pull them along, they go and look for the hook. On the other hand, the reactive player often waits for the GM to prompt them into action. This player is still making things happen; however, they are not the catalyst of change.

The players are the protagonists of the story, which implies a certain level of necessary action. If the hero of the story just sits on their hands then nothing happens and that is not much of a story. I cannot count the number of times I have heard a player complain of being bored or feeling left out; meanwhile, during the game they took no effort to integrate themselves into the action. The PC’s in any game are always amongst the most significant people in the world, which is why we are telling a story about them in the first place. Long story short, you are the hero SO DO SOMETHING!

As a player I cannot help but be proactive, it is simply in my nature. At times this can create issues at the table. Taking the proactive urge too far can come across as selfish and start to deprive others at the table of a good time as one player dominates the spotlight. If you have this issue at the table it is most likely the result of one of two things. First, you have a GM that is either playing favorites or needs to work on pulling everyone into the spotlight. This is most common amongst inexperienced GM’s. Let’s be honest, running a game is a juggling act and takes a certain amount of finesse to pull off well. The best way to fix this is to talk with the GM, if they address the issue and attempt to fix it then you are in a good game, if not just find a game more in line with your needs. Second, and probably most common, you have a one proactive player with slot of reactive players. This combination can give the appearance of one player stealing the spotlight.

For example, I was playing a Pathfinder game being run by my brother. The campaign had been running for roughly 9 months before I joined the game. At my first session I quickly found myself embroiled in plots that had nothing to do with me and quickly felt out of place. Naturally the other PC had a lot history and back-story driving things that I had no part of because it happened before I joined. Instead of being a spectator I started making a place for myself in the framework I was given. I took actions that made sense for my character and found ways to integrate myself into the story. Instead of waiting for the GM to write me into the story I wrote myself into the story. Eventually I started becoming a center point of the story because I was doing things to progress the story, I was taking action. This resulted in the others players at the table complaining about what they called “the Jason Show”. The thing was that the GM was not writing this plot for me specifically, I was only at the center because I was taking action and interacting with the world the GM created. There was nothing special about what I was doing; I simply took action instead of waiting for the GM to tell me where to go next.

Quite simply, I guarantee, that if you are proactive as opposed to reactive both you and your GM will have more fun. By taking a proactive stance you are providing everyone else more to work with and it can turn into a domino effect. A group of proactive players is crucial to well executed collaborative storytelling. Even if the players don’t always agree on what to do, the conflict between them can make for great stories, provided it remains in character. Even if you pay no heed to anything else that I write just remember, be the hero and DO SOMETHING.

The Player’s Perspective: Negating the Premise


Some years back I was helping some friends of mine run a LARP. It was actually a reasonably large operation; we had around 20 to 30 players if memory serves. When discussing my LARP activities with non-gamers, I found myself describing it as an improvisational acting group. At the time it seemed to make sense and was a lot easier than telling folks that every other weekend I pretended to be a vampire. While I was using this as a ruse to hide my geek activities from those in my life that wouldn’t understand, it was, on some level, true. When you really break it down, role-playing games are projects in improvisational acting.

The degree to which this idea relates to your gaming table is subject to your group’s play style, but on some level, it still rings true. Everyone at the table is playing the role of one or more characters, there are no scripts (although extensive notes may or may not be used), and the outcome is uncertain.

So why am I talking about improv, and how will it help you as a player? Well in improv there is a very important rule: do not negate the premise. The idea being, when you are working with someone and they throw an idea out there, do not shut it down and try to make things what you want them to be. Instead, work with what they gave you and build on it. When employed correctly at the gaming table, this can be the difference between a great session and a night of disappointment and resentment.

Let’s face it, everyone at the table wants their time to shine. So when the quiet guy in the corner finally speaks up and does something, only to have it shot down by others at the table because they think it is dumb or want to do something else, how is the fun of the group being served? By no means do I mean this as a pardon for the completely ridiculous, but on anything short of the absolutely absurd what is the harm of going with the flow? I am willing to bet that you will tell more interesting stories that way and everyone at the table will have more fun.

At times this will require players to compromise current desires for the sake of the greater story. In turn, this means that everyone has to trust each other to work towards the goal of telling a great story together and having fun.

I am sure most of you out there have been playing a game where there is that one person at the table that just does not want to do what the rest of the party is doing. Now when I am a GM, I absolutely love this, because it gives me a lot of ways to pull the party into the story. But even as a player, I can use this to my advantage.

For starters, it is always possible that this character has an idea for the current scenario that is better than my own. Sometimes even if I do not see the merit of the character’s actions, it can be the catalyst that brings me to the solution that was eluding me. Finally, there is always the option to use the character’s acting out as a distraction.

In one of my former gaming groups, one guy insisted on charging into battle every time, no matter the circumstances. At first this would drive me crazy because I normally play the strategist/scheming kind of character, and this would invariably throw a wrench into my finely-crafted plans. Eventually, I realized that nothing was going to stop this guy from his mad charge into battle, and getting angry over it was pointless. So I started planning for this guy to charge blindly in and often times used him as a distraction to make sure the enemies never knew where I was coming from.

At the end of the day, if all you want is to be the hero of the story and get exactly what you want, then it is far easier to play a video game or write a story. When you sit down at the gaming table, you are doing so to have some fun and tell a story with friends. Everyone involved has a vision of what that story should entail. The surest way to make sure that the vision comes to fruition is to make sure that you do not negate the premise.

Epic Level Artistry: Devin Night

Welcome back to Epic Level Artistry, where we get to hear from the artists that illustrate the RPGs we know and love. For our second installment we have Devin Night, a designer, illustrator, teacher and family man out of the Midwest. In addition to designing crafts and weapons for your characters to drive and wield, he also creates overhead tokens, a really awesome tool GMs can bring to the gaming table or gaming screen. Devin was awesome enough to take the time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his art and gaming career. Check it out!

Displacer Beast by Devin Night

How did you get into making overhead tokens? I learned about their existence through the Tabletop Forge Kickstarter and honestly, they’re very cool.

Thanks. I started making tokens shortly into using Fantasy Grounds. It came with a base set of letter tokens for marking character position on a map. Once I realized they were .png files I made some really simple orc tokens. They were crude but as I kept working on the tokens over the years the style has matured and the tokens look better.

Between producing such great work at a high volume and having a family, how do you manage to keep from going insane?
It would be hard to prove that I’m not. Creating is what keeps me sane, I love making stuff, any kind of stuff, from the tokens, to illustrations, game pieces and also shelves. There just isn’t enough shelving designed to hold board games, or art supplies or miniatures. Custom shelving is what I do whenever I need to make something with power tools. But the bottom line is that creating things keeps me feeling good about myself. Also I’d like to mention that my wife is very supportive and my girls are totally awesome.

Do you have time to illustrate your own characters for campaigns you’re in?
I will sometimes sketch things from my games, but I haven’t really had time to do that for the past couple years. I’ve been working on so many projects over the course of the past couple years that when I have downtime I think about doing more… but I usually just end up relaxing instead. Being creative all the time can be very draining. I used to illustrate everyone’s characters. Now I make tokens to represent them in game.

What’s your favorite Classico pasta sauce? (you don’t have to actually answer this one, I just saw the images in your portfolio and thought I’d ask)
I did a bunch of work for Classico right out of college making mock-up boards for a lot of their products and possible product ideas. It paid well and was a great experience, sadly I have ever only had one flavor, which I can’t remember.

What’s your favourite system to play? Is there a setting/system you love making art for in particular? What is it about this world/system that inspires you?
I have been playing DnD for 30 years. I have dabbled in other systems and own a ton of boardgames. Just recently I decided I needed a break from DnD and I have a really yearning for some sic-fi. So once I get the current batch of tokens done I plan on making a set of tokens that are space/sci-fi in nature. Throw in some robots and aliens and I may have a whole new line of tokens.

Old Temple by Devin Night

Do you prefer to GM or play as a PC? Do you find this affects your art?
I actually prefer to DM. I love the story telling aspect and I think I love getting the players to work with me to advance the story. When I GM I’m ore likely to make the maps, handouts and tokens needed to make the game feel more cohesive.

Do you find yourself more drawn to drawing locations or people? Do you have them fleshed out before you bring pencil to paper (to use an old idiom) or do the ideas and the image kind of grow side by side?
I love locations, I could have easily been an architect if my math skills weren’t so horrible. Even though I do a lot of character drawings I feel like I need to improve a lot in that area. I don’t draw as many places as I would like to either. I think it’s just a matter of not having the time to get to all the things I want to do. I like places with history where the people changed the place and where the place changed the people. When I make maps I try think about how a natural environment becomes the home of a group of people, and then how that group of people would change the place to suit their needs.

What’s your preferred medium to work with? Do you work digitally, on paper or some mix?
I work almost entirely digitally now. I used to hand draw everything then color it digitally. Now I do all my rough sketching on paper… I think it’s still the best way to conceptualize. However once I have a rough sketch I go right to re-drawing and coloring on the computer.

How much time would you say you spend in a week making art? How much time in a week would you say you spend gaming?
I spend about 4-6 hours a day making art. I would spend about 10-12 if I didn’t have other things that I needed to do. Like eating, moving around, and taking care of the girls. Now that the girls are in school I’m getting more time to focus on work but I would still love to add about three more hours to the day. I just recently broke up with my gaming group, well more like took a break. We have played regularly every Tuesday night for over five years. It’s fun but right now my heart is just into creating art, and the 3-4 hours we were playing just seemed to keep me away from doing it. I still like to fit in a couple hours or an evening when I can to play board games with friends or family.

Aether Pistols by Devin NightAre there any trends, either genre-wise or technique-wise that you’re seeing in RPG/game art that you’re enjoying now? Is there anything you want to see more of or things you don’t like?
I’ve always been a closet Anime lover. I like very stylized and clean art. But there is just amazing art everywhere you look and on any given day I’ll see something that just makes me want to try and push my own work that much further. There isn’t much I don’t like except maybe bad art 🙂 that includes some of my own past work.

Whose art do you like the most? Whose art would you say has influenced you or do you try to emulate?
The list of great artists worth trying to emulate would be a long one. It would also change depending on what project I wanted to work on. I really like Wayne Reynolds and Steve Prescott as far as illustrators go. Full disclosure, Steve and I are pretty good friends who graduated from CCAD together with several other talented people. It was freshman year that I decided to go into design as a direct result of seeing how good Steve was. I figured if I couldn’t compete with him and some of the other guys I would get more computer classes in. Back then Computer classes were reserved for Design majors and getting to use them was easier in the Design track. I have several pieces of Steve’s art hanging up around me and it keeps me pushing to get better at what I do. Fortunately I found a niche making overhead token art that not too many people seem interested in doing.

 What tools do you use to make art? What tools/items do you need to game?
Mechanical pencil and paper to get started. Then a 27 inch iMac and Wacom Tablet running Photoshop and Illustrator to make the digital art. Sometimes I will open up Carrara to do quick 3d models of the things I need to draw, or given the time use 3d modeling to complete an illustration. Virtual gaming has really changed the way I play games, though I still buy tons of board games and recently invested a small amount into making my own dungeons using Hirst Arts Castle molds. Making three-dimensional representations of dungeons to play games on just seems so cool. Also the girls will really like it when it’s done.

Skeleton Mage by Devin NightWhat projects have you worked on in the past? Can you tell us what you’re currently working on or have in the queue?
I don’t know for sure when this will be posted, but I’ll guess that my Kickstarter has finished and I’m making 200+ tokens of monsters. I’m also making 30 custom character tokens for the Tabletop Forge Kickstarter. I help Rite Publishing with their monthly ezine Pathways doing the layout for the covers. I’m working on maps for the En Publishing Zeitgist campaign and did 12 ship maps for the Naval Warfare Kickstarter. I work a lot with small publishers and indie game developers as well. I just got asked to help with a very cool project, but it’s in the early stages and I can’t talk about it yet.

Are there any pieces you’re particularly proud of? A favourite character you managed to pin down or something really funny/touching/dramatic you captured?
Usually the last piece of work I managed to finish. Like most artists I’m pretty critical of my own work so I’m never really satisfied with things when I look back on them. Most of the work that gets posted to my blog makes me happy at the time I put it up there.

What would be a dream job/commission?
I’ve always wanted to run a hobby shop, one with really big tables for open play and lots of sunlight. I’d also really enjoy working for most major board game companies like Fantasy Flight, my job description would have to include walking around and dipping my fingers into every game and every aspect of those games. From rules, to art, layout, game design and mini visualization. I wouldn’t be happy with just dealing with one tiny aspect of any part.

When you’re not making art or gaming, what are you doing?
If I’m not making art or gaming I’m thinking about it. Sometimes when i have no choice about working I will visualize myself working through a project and make a step by step outline of how to approach a project. When I do get back into the chair the majority of the work is done, I just then need to perform the action of doing it. This summer I spent a lot of time running around with the girls, swimming, biking, and a little camping.

Dragonkin Weapons by Devin NightDo you have any advice for people who are trying to find artists to hire? To artists trying to get their work out there?
Look around, there are a ton of great artists, and they are easier than ever to track down and work with. I have worked with more people that I have never met than people who I have ever spent time with. Hang out forums where they post their work. You can get a good picture of an artist by their posted work and how they handle themselves publicly. If you are an artist trying to get exposure.. do your work, do a lot of it, share it with others. Don’t expect to make a ton of money early on, but don’t give it away either. Art is job and even if it is fun, it’s still work. Once you get a job do your best to fulfill the needs of the client in a timely manner and keep communications open.


If you’re interested in seeing more of Devin’s tokens and art you can check out Devinnight’s Token Blog and his portfolio at Immortal Nights. With so many great projects he’s working on, I’m so glad he took the time out to talk to us; hope you enjoyed reading about his experiences and seeing the great art he’s bringing to the RPG world!


Are you an artist interested in being interviewed for Epic Level Artistry? Send an email to trisj at backthatelfup dot com with a bit about yourself and a link to your portfolio. We’ve got a few slots left for this year and will be starting up again in 2013. Happy drawing!

GE17: Meet Ben and Brent

Ben Gerber & Brent Newhall cover for Jonathan while he’s engaged with real life stuff for his first home.

Brent and Ben sneer at real life, preferring to spend our time on the internet. Where it’s virtual, and friendly. They do what comes naturally, which is talk about themselves.

They discuss their upcoming projects, talk a bit about board game design, and Ben also does a month in the life of a indie publisher, where the cover about the numbers. Total units “sold” (including free stuff), total gross and total net $$$ and the fact that a lot of people who get a free copy to review it, don’t end up reviewing it.

Many thanks to Ben and Brent for covering for me while I was indisposed.

Don’t forget to listen to Episode 16: 5 Great Soundtracks, if you haven’t done so yet.

Continue reading “GE17: Meet Ben and Brent”

The ZOMG! Indie Talks Podcast sale!

Indie Talks launches tomorrow! ZOMG! My new podcast hits the etherwaves with episode #0 on June 6th.

On Indie Talks, you’ll get to meet the people behind independent gaming. Also the people in front of it. And those slightly off to one side of it. As I’m preparing to record episode #4 tonight, and launching with my little introduction tomorrow, it occurred to me that I, too, am an indie game developer.

This means that I answer to no one but myself. Am master of my own fate! Can achieve anything! And I get to say when my stuff goes on sale.  So a sale it is! Get $12.95 of my best selling stuff for the nice, round sum of $5.00.

This sale will last a week – until Indie Talks episode #1 with Tracy Barnett goes live on Wednesday, June 13th. What you get:

  • Argyle & Crew – Adventures in the Land of Skcos
  • Argyle & Crew – The Little Book of Big Ideas
  • Devious NPCs and Curious Creatures (Pathfinder)
  • Herbology of Aruneus (Pathfinder)
  • Mirkmoot’s More Magical Mayhem for Creatures Great and Small (Pathfinder)
  • The Supplicant – a new Character Class for Aruneus and Pathfinder (Pathfinder)
  • The World of Aruneus – Contagion Infected Zombies (Pathfinder)
  • The World of Aruneus – Orcs! A new Player Character Race (Pathfinder)
  • Mirkmoot’s Magical Accouterments for Creatures Small and Great (Pathfinder)


Devious NPCs and Curious Creatures on sale for $1 through this week

Because it’s a short week and you may not have as much time to prepare for your upcoming Pathfinder or d20 fantasy campaign, I’ve put Devious NPCs and Curious Creatures on sale for $1. It’ll stay this way until Monday next.

Lotsa ideas in this here book to help you out.

Devious NPCs and Curious Creatures is a document designed to give GMs interesting creatures and NPCs to mesh in to their ongoing Pathfinder games. The creatures and NPCs are designed for low- to mid-level campaigns.

These NPCs and creatures are a bit different from what one may normally encounter, and should give the PCs a chance to include some role-playing in to their encounters, rather than basic combat with the same old creatures and NPCs.
GMs are, of course, free to use these creatures and NPCs however they see fit, and should always remember that above all they and the players should be entertained and have a good time playing.

Included with every creature or NPC is at least one hook — an idea that can be used to make the PCs actively interested in an outcome further than simply slaying the beast or overcoming a singularly evil NPC.

These hooks can make the game that much more interesting by putting the PCs in a position where morals need to come in to play and the alignment of their characters should encourage active role-playing.

In addition to unique creatures and NPCs, you will also find several adventure seeds — ideas which can be dropped in to your current game, perhaps to germinate in to a reoccurring theme or simply for use as a one-off idea.


  • Beast of a Thousand Broken Hearts
  • The Rat King
  • The Wink – Material plane
  • Sandrunners of Aolith
  • Vrook and Squishy


  • Erkaling
  • Gregory deVolint
  • Dingle, King of the bears

Adventure Seeds

  • Frost Giant’s Sorrow
  • The Show Must Go On
  • The Big Ones

Disbelief 2: The Disbeliefening

The Suspension Bridge of Disbelief
Thanks to flickr user DaveOnFlickr! CC BY-SA 2.0

A few weeks ago, a commenter lamented that I didn’t give specific examples when it comes to the suspension of disbelief, breaking it, and potentially getting it back. I aim to misbehave please, and thus I’ll try to expand upon that idea a bit more. Here are some sure-fire ways to break the suspension of disbelief and rip your players out of the story:


Clunky Mechanics

Ultimately, they are called role-playing games, and there have to be some rules otherwise it’s just shared storytelling (nothing wrong with that, either). When there are rules, especially rules which take a lot of time to play out, that are difficult to understand, don’t really mesh with game very well, or are more tedious than actually fun, you run the risk of pulling back the curtain on the fantasy world you’ve delicately set up. There are many examples of crappy rules, but one that immediately springs to mind is the grappling system from D&D 3.5.

Now, grappling is a big part of 3.5 D&D. Many monsters do it, and they do it very well. It’s difficult for a seasoned player to create a character that doesn’t have some way of escaping from a grapple. However, the rules are quite horrible:

1. Initiate the grapple by moving into your opponent’s square.

2. They make an attack of opportunity. If they hit and deal damage, you fail to grapple.

3. Make a touch attack to see if you can “grab” them.

4. Make opposed grapple checks to see if you can actually “grapple” them.

You could argue that the whole system of attacks of opportunity is clunky and breaks the SoD, and I wouldn’t fight you too much. I think they make sense (let your guard down, get attacked) but sometimes it seems like it would have just been better to give you an AC debuff instead. Whatever. The problem with grapple, for me, always came around step 3 and 4. You have to make two checks, one to see if you can even be in a position to grab your opponent, and then another to see, ostensibly, if you can hold on.

I don’t know why this couldn’t be handled with one check. The reason for the above rules makes sense (grab, then grapple), but ultimately it pulled my players out of the game because everyone always seemed to forget there was a touch attack involved, then a grapple check, and then you didn’t really even do anything that round, instead you had to wait until next round when you had to make another grapple check to maybe do something to your opponent (like stab him with a dagger or bite his face off). Suffice to say, grappling was extremely clunky, and what exactly you could do while you were in a grapple (cast spell? use a weapon? move the grapplers?) was constantly a question.

A good rule of thumb here is that if you have to constantly reference the rule from the rulebook, you’re breaking the suspension of disbelief; if you have to step out of character to look through the rulebook for what you’re able to do, that sucks and it has brought you out of the game. You stop visualizing what your character is doing to that orc and go elsewhere.

Pathfinder made it a bit better (took away the opposed rolls), but not much.

Continue reading “Disbelief 2: The Disbeliefening”

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