Shameless Self Promotion, DTD 12″

When playing DTD, one of the things that can prove challenging is staying true to the immersive quiet nature of it, while flexing one’s creativity.

If, like me, you prepopulate your playlists for Scenarios, might I suggest the following. Write down some of the names of the artists, as well as any significant locations, details, etc that could prove to be inspirational. So, if a person is looking for a name, allow if come to them organically, or perhaps even hand out the names and details (album name, etc) with each song, quietly, allowing the players to be inspired.

As an example, some details from several songs in a playlist:

  1. Robert James Smith, Simon Gallup, Matthieu Hartley, Laurence Andrew “Lol” Tolhurst, Seventeen Seconds
  2. Ian Burden, Jo Callis, Joanne Catherall, Philip Oakley, Susan Ann Sulley, Philip Adrian Wright, Dare, the album famed rock critic Lester Bangs was listening to when he died from an overdose.
  3. Polly Jean Harvey, PJ, Flood

And, one does not have to use the names and detail as they are exactly; be inspired. Robert might be Bobbie, Seventeen Seconds might become an integral part of the story, etc.

In an early draft of Dance ‘Til Dawn, this was a major part of game play, if a player needed a name or location, the DJ provided one from details of the song. It, obviously, proved very cumbersome, but I think the idea has some merit as prompt assistance.



Shameless Self Promotion: Cold Sleep

Here is a Dance ‘Til Dawn Scenario and Playlist I call Cold Sleep:

Yes, you were born here. But your parents were not. They, of course, come from the motherland. Now, it all comes down to this. Everything you have worked for. Tonight is the night you kill the President.

It is 27 songs long, thus three acts of 9 songs each, and is 1 Hour and 48 minutes, so in the span of 2 hours you can have a great time with friends.

Goto 10: Convention Prep

My next convention is not until the Spring, but soon I will be asked to submit panel and game ideas, which means I need to start thinking about them. I like to try and offer new panels every year, even if past panels were a success, I at least try and update them, but often like to try and approach them in a new way. Games is always tough, as I like running, and I want people to be excited for them, so, how best to sell the gaming experience I am offering.

  • Last year I offered up my Hearts of Riverdale game. Unfortunately, there was one of the 2 other RPGs for the whole con scheduled opposite it. Poor planning. But there was some interest, so I may offer it again.
  • Dance ‘Til Dawn was well received, and is very easy to run, so I will probably offer that up again as well.
  • I think I will try and offer one more game, but am unsure what I want the system to be, or the setup.


Some ideas I am toying with.

  • Superkitchen was a ton of fun, if we can do it again, we will.
  • The Archie panel, with season 2 of the show and some new titles, seem like it woudl be fun to revise and update.
  • Game Design- I am thinking about something relating to Game Chef.
  • 3 Times Big 2: A discussion of three characters each from the Big 2, and how they are significant female characters and how through them, much of each respective universe is reflected.
  • Game Design- conflict resolution, you’re doing it wrong.

Panels we have done before that were a lot of fun and always get considered (with appropriate revision and updating):

  • Women in Film: Mad Max, Melissa McCarthy, and Magic Mike.
  • Project Super Runway: Superhero Costumes.



Vinyl Diving: St. Paul


Akin to the combing of back issue bins and hitting yard sales looking for comics missing and obscure (the Will Payton Starman is a character who had long a series running almost 4 years, yet I had never encountered until I began my greatest journey: sorting 100 long boxes of comics) is the refound interest in vinyl.

I’m no aficionado, nor do I even own a record player/ turntable, but I appreciate combing through stacks with friends who are.

And, I have taken it upon myself to randomly grab something no one has heard of, purchase it, and put it on said turntable, without any research.

This brought me in contact with St. Paul.

The first notes hit, and I chimed in, it sounds like The Time.

Want to know why?

Because, St. Paul was a member. Paul Peterson’s nom a play on his residence in St. Paul.


He has a Prince connection, having been hand-picked by the Purple One to join the Time, he was in Purple Rain, and is still making music today.

His daughter is making music even.

In Dance ‘Til Dawn, I state, and I mean it: every song is a piece of art. We owe to ourselves to expose ourselves to new artists and art. It may not change your life, but it might give you something you can hold onto.




DTD: The Emperor’s Champion

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“The Emperor has gathered the champions of all the clans to compete for the right to be his bodyguard, a most-esteemed privilege.”

For a different aural storytelling experience, presented here are the Act I songs for the above Scenario for Dance ‘Til Dawn.

For a wholly different RPG experience, if all the players save 1 flake out on game night, give Reflections a try.


Game The Game: GameChef 2016

“The Theme is Technology. The Ingredients, of which you must use at least two are: alarm, sunlight, sketch and dance. You have one week to design your game. Begin.”

Chair of the Game Chef Arena, June 2016

Screenshot 2016-06-10 14.14.42I have wanted to do something for Game Chef for many years now, but the Theme and/ or Ingredients never really spoke to me. In addition, June is always very hectic, with my real-life job in the most critical time of the year, plus I am usually knee-deep in summer convention prep.

It is easy to watch any cooking game show and come up with one’s own recipes. But, I am no Morimoto, and the comfort of my couch is certainly not the heat of a kitchen.

In Game Chef, one must use the Theme and Several of the ingredients and write and design a complete game in 10 days. There are mysterious message boards where fellow game designers post. Many are embracing a sci-fi theme, embracing Technology this way.

Me, I approached Technology in a different way.

I am a simple man, and I viewed technology as what it is, and what is available to many in this real world.

Technology as an integral component of the game.

I had this idea of using Pandora (or similar music-streaming service) as part of the randomizer.

And then I recalled the Happy Days dance marathon episode (S4E8 “They Shoot Fonzies, Don’t They”), because they had to keep dancing until the music stopped.

A motorcycle mishap forces the Fonz to push his broken bike for twelve miles just before he partners with Joanie Cunningham for a grueling dance marathon.

And, I had recently rewatched My Cousin Vinnie which took place in a town with an alarm siren  signifying the start of the day.

I liked the Alarm idea.

My initial idea was a game with a setting involving vampires and humans coexisting in a steel town, where the Vamopires could work the night shift. The soundtrack would be parts 1950s Rock and Roll and Punk Rock for an anachronistic type feel.

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Initial seed songs: “Night Time” by The Killing Joke; “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers; and “I Don’t Wanna Grow up” by the Ramones.

3d8a12f2461ff24cb3c39e71677da7c7The idea of creating a Pandora station with these three songs and hearing what songs would be played via their algorithm really intrigued me.

Games should be about the unknown.

Music can often play a strong part in films and television.

So, I wanted to design a game that did this also (Ribbon Drive by the incredible Avery McDaldno is a game that also uses music very effectively.)

I wanted to play with this.

Music would be one of the randomizers.

Music would help drive the fiction of the story.

This story would end at some point in time, a time hinted at, but not known exactly.

Players had to do something before the story was over, rather, they would end up doing something before the story was over.

“A cross-country road trip before reporting for duty.”

Screenshot 2016-07-18 13.25.22

“The man who killed Gramma on her birthday is due to leave the country in one day.”

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“The alarms have been tripped, the police will arrive in 15 minutes, and the safe is not yet cracked.”

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“The annual dance marathon.”

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I have worked with a timing mechanics as one method of driving action in specific ways in game design before, I would do this again.

All of these scenarios have a very specific end-point.

The end is coming, but we may not know exactly when.

Film/ Television Influences: Streets of Fire (anachronistic), Miami Vice (TV), Reservoir Dogs, Before Sunrise, 25th Hour, Run Lola Run, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Twin Peaks.

This is a game. It is a game of narrative control. It is a game about communally telling a story. It is a game about working towards the inevitable. It is a game about audio immersion.

What happens when the road trip adds a hitch-hiker?

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What happens with the man who killed Gramma wasn’t alone in the car?

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What happens when it is discovered the bank manager and the getaway driver are having an affair?

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What happens under the bleachers at the dance marathon?

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It’s not whether or not you win or lose, it’s how you play the game…

I wrote like mad, I was inspired. Technology was using music as a Randomizer, the Alarm was the end of the song signifying a shift in narrator, Dance was the use of music, and Sunlight was the Scenario coming to a clearly defined end. Additionally, accessibility was encouraged. Aside from the GM (called quaintly the DJ) everything else would be accessible to those who might have vision issues. The music and the narration were the keys to the game. No character sheets. No writing. Just talking. Telling a story. Storytelling, if you will.

DanceTilDawn_cover_2(1)And then, I noticed the 4,000 word limit, and I was over 6,500 words. So, I rewrote it, and cleaned it up.

I called in a favor, and I had a cover. I taught myself a desktop publishing program, and I laid the whole thing out.

It was complete.

I didn’t advance to the semifinals.

But, does that make me think my game was incomplete?

No. I have run it several times, and each time everyone enjoyed themselves, one game even had several players holding back tears.

I printed up 50 as an ashcan version.

Screenshot 2016-06-10 14.12.55

I am going to go back with the reviews from Game Chef and clean some stuff up, not restricted by the word limit, but I am happy with the feedback, both from reviewers and others that were interested.

Feels Fiasco-ish (that’s a compliment) but the singletons mechanic is a great twist — love the idea of one player getting to ferret away the Z.

Many of the entries had a setting more closely tied to the theme and ingredients, and that is cool. One entry used sketch as in comedy sketch, which is awesome (I read it as to draw). I am proud of my incorporation of theme and ingredients and accessibility.

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Dance ‘Til Dawn is an RPG designed to emulate Scenarios that have a definitive end. Music will be played in the background of the game, and this music can influence the story as it unfolds, both in mood and details. Players will be aware of the passage of time throughout the Scenario, and will collectively explore the world and Scenario and the conflict(s) present within.

In addition to being an FCC-licensed DJ, I was also active in zines “back in the day,” so if you’d like a print copy, and you live in these United States, send $6 and your address to: Barak Blackburn, PO Box 43, Deerfield, MA 01342.

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I will be publishing it as a pdf at some point and hope to run it through Indie Games On Demand at Gencon.

It was a successful exercise for me, and I look forward to next year.