The Lost Year

It’s been almost 11 months since the last post. It’s been a rather tough couple of years, but things are back on track.

Let’s catch up a bit.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job!

As many of you know, most tabletop game designers can’t pay their bills on their creations alone. It’s a costly niche industry that requires a strong fanbase to pay the bills. As such, many of us have to pay the bills with a day job or career.

Not too long after the “Home by Dark” Kickstarter, the game studio I worked for shut down. I was deep in layout for the book when I had to find a new job. I didn’t want our first product to be late, so I dug in and completed it while I hunted for work.

Not too long before I finished pre-production, I found a job. Once the book shipped, I took a couple of months off to catch my breath before working on the 12 playsets I promised as a stretch goal.

Little did I know that this was going to be the worst job of my life. Soon, I found myself doing repeated 80+ hour work weeks. I didn’t want to let down the backers that I promised those playsets to, so I started work on blasting through those playsets as quick as I could. It was exhausting and I missed the deadline on about a quarter of them, but they all got done.

By the time all 12 playsets were done, I was exhausted and had quit that insane job after it started affecting my health. I found some temporary tech work and used the job as a life preserver. That brought me up to about this time last year.

My responsibilities were complete for Home by Dark and I was very excited to work on my next thing. However, I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do next. I had accrued a folder of ideas over the last 2 years, but nothing in there really leaped out at me. That’s when I realized what was wrong:

I was burned out.

I’d start working on one idea, but nothing would spark. I couldn’t think of a plotline that sparked my imagination. I’d start writing but find something else “more important” to do. In addition, I knew that my current job was a temporary contract which meant I needed to focus on sharpening my skillset for the next round of interviews.

A Little “Me” Time

At that point, I decided it was time to just shut off for a bit. When you’re exhausted, running faster won’t fix it. I spent the late summer catching up on video games. I played through 3 Assassin’s Creed games (Syndicate may be my favorite pre-reboot AC), Shadows of Mordor, and all 4 Uncharted games. I caught up on a lot of movies I’d been meaning to watch. My creativity tank was empty and it was starving for fuel.

Let’s Get Going

I finally felt like I had gotten my spark back around last Christmas. It was then that I started putting my ideas together for the next game. I actually wrote up a very rough game loop and brought it with me to GameStorm last March. I guess that was the first public playtest of the system, though it’s barely recognizable to what it’s already become.

New project’s first playtest at GameStorm! That’s a lot of playing cards…

New project’s first playtest at GameStorm! That’s a lot of playing cards…

It’s not ready to be announced just yet, but I’ll have something to talk about in May. I will say that it’s a bit more like a traditional tabletop RPG with some of my favorite character- and relationship-driven concepts from story games. It’s one of three projects coming up very soon.

What About That Patreon?

I was very excited to put together a Patreon last summer, but I didn’t feel like I’d be able to give people quality content at the time. I still feel like Patreon would be a great idea for me. I have some thoughts on essays for game play, narrative design, and assorted other whatevers.

I have really thought about pairing it with a podcast. I love to talk. Anyone that knows me can attest to that. I’ve been told I’m entertaining (which is the polite term for ‘annoying’), but I just don’t know about creating a solo podcast. Carrying the airwaves for 30 minutes at a time is no small feat.

These are some of the things I’ve been thinking about. They all sum up to “not yet.” So, the Patreon is on hold for now. I hope to do something about it soon, but I’d rather give you guys great consistent content rather than drips and drabs.


In short, more things are coming down the pipe from Protagonist Industries very soon. I’m rested and excited about what’s to come. We’ve got some new stuff to show off this year and some exciting announcements about it this summer!

That’s it for now.

Do you have any thoughts about what’s coming? Do you think a podcast is a good idea? A horrible idea? Leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter at @lethil.

Talk soon, gang!

-         Jason

P.S. Our friends over at Monkeyfun Studios are currently Kickstarting their next game, A Town Called Malice, which is based on Home by Dark’s Story Pillar system! If you dug HbD, you’ll absolutely fall in love with Malice. Back it!