My 2015

2015 was a weird year for me, not that I really know what a “normal” year is supposed to look like anymore. In November of 2014 I got laid off from the job I’d had for nearly 5 years. For the 8 or so months that followed I looked for work, did freelance work for a board game publisher (some of which is going to be getting out to the public relatively soon), and worked more on self-publishing projects, including starting a Patreon. In June I got a contract job as a content moderator at a tech company, and my contract got extended so I’ll most likely be there into the middle of 2016 at least. A couple months ago I also started doing freelance work for a translation agency, which is a really nice source of supplemental income.

Magical-Fury-Cover

Playing Games
2015 wasn’t a great year for me in terms of finding time to actually play games. Thanks to changing circumstances, I basically did occasional playtests and sort of regular D&D. Since I’ve got about half a dozen games ready to playtest and a great pile of games I’d like to play (most notably World Wide Wrestling), I really should try to get a second gaming group up and running.

I ended up playing a decent amount of D&D5e, mainly because one of my groups of friends really wanted to play it. There are things I like about it, and some cases where I legitimately think it improved over 4e (and I’d take it over 3e in a heartbeat), but on the whole I still find it to be an emphatically average RPG, and very deliberately generic D&D. The more interesting things that we’ve discovered about the game in play have been in the designs of some of the various classes, the level of variety the different build options provide (something you don’t really get from the starter set or basic rules), and to a lesser extent in the specifics of certain spells. The publishing schedule on the other hand has been anemic to nonexistent, and by far the most interesting new 5e material has been in the form of the free Unearthed Arcana PDFs that have gone up on the WotC website. The advantage/disadvantage concept remains 5e’s most interesting mechanical innovation by far, and something I’ve seen pop up in a handful of other games to great effect.

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On the other hand I ended up playing video games a heck of a lot more, including Persona 3 and 4, Final Fantasy X, and the first two Dragon Age games. (I started on Dragon Age: Inquisition, but the UI bugs me to no end.) I’ve had to cut down a bit since starting a full-time job, but I’m still playing a good amount.

Design and Publishing
Although I’ve calmed down quite a bit from the frantic period of late 2014, I still published a good amount of stuff in 2015.

In January I published Magical Fury, a super-light sister game to Magical Burst, which has become one of my best-selling games. Along with some other games, I set up POD printing for it, and it’s sold quite well that way too. At this point setting books up for POD on CreateSpace and DTRPG has become downright routine for me.

One of the most notable new things I did was to start a Patreon, which has exceeded $200 in pledges from 60 patrons. It’s been hard to find time to properly work on games and especially to playtest, so I’ve only released 3 games through Patreon so far (Fullmetal President, Raspberry Heaven, and America’s Next Top Reality Show), but having some money for each one has at least let me get some art for them. I don’t get a lot of actual feedback from patrons, but they’re sticking around, which counts for something.

Patreon-Button

I also started selling my own games through Indie Press Revolution. We already sell through them for Star Line Publishing, so asking for Yaruki Zero Games to get listed there was more or less a formality. They took 20 copies each of Schoolgirl RPG and Magical Fury to Gen Con, and sold out pretty quickly, so I’ve made a point to keep them stocked with my books. I’ve generally found them easy to work with, and they in turn get my stuff into game stores. The other day I was in downtown Oakland, and when I stopped by Endgame and found that they had Mascot-tan, Magical Fury, Raspberry Heaven, Golden Sky Stories, and Maid RPG in stock.

Getting Raspberry Heaven out in the world after something like 7 years was one of the more amazing things I did this year. I wrote at very great length about it when it came out, but I’m generally really happy to finally have it finished, and I want to do more with the game and with other games that use some of the same structure.

Raspberry-Heaven-DTRPG

I feel like I’ve reached a new level in my understanding of RPG design, and in particular I’m finding I really like having the ability to step away from the wargame paradigm of RPG combat that D&D introduced (and relatively few games have substantially deviated from). Wargame-style RPG combat can be fun and effective, but there are any number of other approaches that can work better for other games.

I also put out a “5.0 Alpha” version of Magical Burst, where I basically slapped together a bare minimum of my current draft, just enough to play a session or two. On paper at least I’m very happy with where the game is going, though I haven’t really been able to find time to do the next set of refinements I want to make. Magical Fury was an important turning point in my thought about RPG combat, and the new version of Magical Burst has both Magical Fury style “skirmishes” and more traditional “full battles.” On the other hand I’m also working on Zero Breakers, which treats battles as an exercise in narrating a cool fight rather than a game you play to win.

I also finished and launched Faerie Skies for Golden Sky Stories, and while Fantasy Friends didn’t quite make it out before the end of the year, it’s very close to finished. I’m still in awe of how pretty the combination of Clove’s art and Clay’s layout made Faerie Skies. I’m also quite happy with how Fantasy Friends is looking.

I currently have as works in progress Saving Throw, Melancholy Kaiju, Assassin’s Kittens, Tsundere Sharks RPG, Zero Breakers, Pix, Kagegami High, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some. 2016 promises to be busy and generally game-tastic.

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9 thoughts on “My 2015

  1. For me, the lack of feedback is because I’m not actually hugely into the three games you made.

    But! And this is an important but, it isn’t due to bad design or anything. I look at them, and I see where the ideas come together, whether to simulate 4-koma manga or to simulate a short round-robin reality show pitch.

    The ideas come together *well*, and I see that as a reader.

    They’re just not the genre where I am super excited to play them. Since at the end of the day games require players, and the groups I’m with aren’t super into casual games like that, it isn’t something I can test or generate more feedback for.

    You aren’t a company, so in a big way you aren’t designing for your fans, nor continuously engaging them with dialogue. Instead, you are pulled every which way by what inspiration strikes you at a given time, and create games that way. The games are more genuine and honest that way, but as a quote unquote ‘consumer’ it makes it harder to follow the design process or feel like I have a voice.

    I’d love to talk about progress on adventure games you create, especially if you wrote more about your creative process and about nitty-gritty mechanics, for example, though I obviously can’t speak for your other $250 worth of patrons.

    If you ever make a more ambitious project where you are aggressively aiming to get audience feedback and help, then a community would organically develop. Since, as you describe, you are just creating “Weird Little Tabletop Games” I’m more a patron out of healthy curiosity than out of burning passion lol

    1. That is actually really helpful, and I think I will try to do more Patreon posts about my process and such. I don’t want to chase after making stuff that’ll sell a lot at the expense of the weird stuff I’m really passionate about, but OTOH I do think I could stand to let my Patreon stuff include some bigger, more ambitious projects that will invite and benefit from more feedback from patrons.

  2. I’ll take a look at the new Magical Burst—should be interesting, given that I liked previous incarnations even despite their rough edges.

    Also, apologies if this isn’t the place, but any new ETA on remaining Golden Sky Stories content?

    1. Fantasy Friends is currently waiting on a last little bit of art to smooth out the layout, and then after a round of checking it should be ready to go out to the world.

      Kyle Simon’s Household Gods piece has mutated into a diceless Powered by the Apocalypse thing. From what he’s told me it’s been going well in playtesting, though I don’t know when it’ll be ready.

      My editor continues to have a ton of Real Life stuff getting in the way of working on Mononoke Koyake (the latest being he urgently needs to find a job), so it’s hard to say when that will be done.

  3. Having followed your various works for a long time [THRASH! Magical World… which I still have copies of] and having recently purchased a number of pdfs from DTRPG, I thought I’d pipe in with some small amount of feed back… I use RPGs and their world books as inspiration and tools for writing.

    I like Magical Burst more than Magical Fury. MF suffers from the “lack of progression” that Tenra Bansho Zero does. Which means you play the game for a bit but there is no where to go. As a writing aid it is something like Fiasco… great fodder for a “one shot” where everyone dies at the end.

    In some ways I wish Magical Burst could “grow” with some “bolt on” additions like Mecha, Fantasy, or even High School comedy [think Teenagers from Outer Space]. I agree that there is more “depth” to a dark MG story than the typical MGs vs. the monster of the week. I think my favorite manga / anime / light novels are those that twist the stock tropes on their head and just for a moment make you think what it would be like to live in that world.

    “Entanglements” looks like it will be useful in story and plot development. I found the free one then bought the pdf.

    I bought both MAID and Tenra Bansho Zero and both give essential insights into the “Japanese mind” and the culture that surrounds it…. but it isn’t likely I will actually ever play them.

    One more thing– I’m glad you are willing to make your work available at DTRPG and the other places. When I stumbled over Apocalypse World I was rather shocked to discover it is not available except through one store front I’ve never heard of.

    I appreciate the time and effort you have put into your games… keep it up.

    1. Glad you like my stuff! :3

      Japanese TRPGs tend to be a bit more geared towards short-term play in general, but not as much so as games like Maid RPG and Tenra. Some of the most popular TRPGs there are games like Arianrhod, which has some distinctly Japanese (and distinct to that publisher) elements, but is overall a fairly traditional fantasy RPG with classes and levels and such. I know there are some really fascinating Japanese games in the pipeline (like Meikyuu Kingdom), but by and large they’re big undertakings that people are doing in their free time.

      Vincent Baker is one of the top tier indie RPG designers, and Apocalypse World is easily his single most successful game to date (the KS for Apocalypse World 2nd Edition passed $60k pretty quickly!), so he can afford to handle the sales of his games exactly how he wants to. Which is awesome for him, but for the rest of us DTRPG is by far the easiest way to reach RPG fans looking to buy PDFs.

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