[19:31] <+LiamGintySPG> Hello! I’m Liam Ginty, designer at Sandy Pug Games. We’ve mainly focused on Dungeon World and Fate content till now but have recently started making our own games. We had some kickstarter success with a small microgame called Orc Stabr and we are right now campaigning for a game called Americana
[19:32] <+LiamGintySPG> Americana is a game designed around murder mysteries, set in a fantasy version of the 1950s, you play as teenagers, build a magical fantasy town and then try to solve the murder of your close friend – who you also generate as a character during session zero
[19:32] <+LiamGintySPG> (done)
[19:33] <~Dan> Thanks, LiamGintySPG! The floor is open to questions!
[19:33] <~Dan> How serious is this game?
[19:34] <+LiamGintySPG> I’d say the tone leans more towards whimsy and quirky, but it’s still murder we’re dealing with, so we’re inherently dealing with some darkness there too. We’re shooting for something in the vein of Riverdale or the recent Nancy Drew comic book – fun, cheerful, colorful, except when it isn’t.
[19:35] <~Dan> Is it an alt-history America?
[19:37] <+LiamGintySPG> In a sense, yes. The setting is one where all this magic and wonder has been part of the world since the start, and things just so happened to develop along a line similar to ours – we emphasize that the world has fairly radically different values than our own, in particular we stress that cooperation and mutual aid and exchange took place far more often than
[19:37] <+LiamGintySPG> war did in the history of the setting, but the aesthetic is one of alt-history America ultimately.
[19:38] <~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, OliviaHill, Devadasi!)
[19:39] <~Dan> What fantasy races are available to play?
[19:41] <+LiamGintySPG> Thats kind of a funny question; So initially, as in, before we launched the Kickstarter, we had 8; Orcs, Humans, Elves, Dragonkin, Goblins, Undead, Dwarves and Were. Then I made a typo on one of the reward tiers, and now we’re kicking around a 9th species, which may be Tiefling or some kind of Tree person, not quite sure just yet.
[19:42] <~Dan> Do you include any interesting twists on the fantasy standards?
[19:44] <+LiamGintySPG> Absolutely, from the background of the species lore (the werewolves are from a planet far from earth, riding Halley’s comet to invade our planet hundreds of years ago, the Goblins are time travelers, lost hopelessly in a doomed timeline) to the setting itself, I always try to build my fantasy worlds with a heavy dose of the unusual or weird about them.
[19:45] <~Dan> Hmm… Time travelers and aliens. Are there any other sci-fi elements in the setting?
[19:47] <+LiamGintySPG> In the core setting, not a lot – where those two in particular intersect with the lore, there’s elements, but its more an homage to 1950s pulp fiction than any attempt to combine Fantasy, Sci-Fi and the 50s aesthetic. One of our alternative settings that we’re hoping to hit is heavily Super Sentai inspired, so a lot more sci-fi there
[19:48] * ~Dan nods
[19:49] <~Dan> How has magic affected the development of technology?
[19:51] <+LiamGintySPG> In the setting Magic is kind of the equivalent of atomic energy – it was very poorly understood, requires decades of hard learning to get any good at. It’s also deeply tied to the culture and histories of its people, and a specific kind of magic can’t be used without that same mutual aid the setting grew up around. This means that for the purposes of the game
[19:52] <+LiamGintySPG> your characters will be living in a kind of pre-magical revolution. Lots of gadgets, and the occasional big weird thing, but it’s not effected technology that much just yet. People have scrying stones instead of cell phones, but they’re short range and familial, people use magic for entertainment and movies, that kind of thing.
[19:52] <+LiamGintySPG> Primarily this is so that magic can inform the gameplay – we don’t want people just casting a spell to solve the murder, but we do want people to be able to explore fantastic and magical places during their investigation
[19:53] <~Dan> How powerful is magic? What sorts of things can an accomplished magician do?
[19:55] <+CatofManyFaces> i heard that everyone makes the dead friend together, how does that work?
[19:55] <+LiamGintySPG> If we’re talking about raw power, an accomplished magician, as in, someone talented at birth and who has trained their whole life, is gonna look a lot like a mid-to-high level D&D wizard who is very heavily specialized. A master of necromancy may be able to raise the dead, we have a character in the lore who was able to control a legion of werewolves from a
[19:55] <+LiamGintySPG> long ways away (though that spell broke)
[19:55] <~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, CatofManyFaces!)
[19:55] <+LiamGintySPG> More typical magic users however, are going to be much much less powerful. Your characters will be doing very very basic tricks, no more powerful than any other given Strength within the system
[19:56] <+LiamGintySPG> Think the difference between you or I playing basketball, and at-his-prime Michael Jordon beating the Monstars
[19:57] * ~Dan nods
[19:57] <+LiamGintySPG> Great question Cat! The Your Dead Friend mechanic is something I’m pretty proud of. Basically at the start of the game, after you’ve built your team, you also build another character, the victim of the murder. They’re given Strengths and Weaknesses just like your character is, and they have a special character sheet that stays present in the center of the
[19:58] <+LiamGintySPG> table throughout the game. This sheet is also a log of relationships this character has to everything else you uncover during your investigation, building around it like a kind of conspiracy map.
[19:58] <~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, Guest33!)
[19:58] <+LiamGintySPG> The actual generation process is collaborative, like city gen might be in a fate game, you all decide what strengths they have together, and what weaknesses too. The strengths come from any of the playbooks, and the weaknesses are invented wholesale, just like PCs
[20:00] <~Dan> Are the PCs all teenagers?
[20:01] <+Devadasi> How does the Dead Friend stuff play into/interact with the rest of the game?
[20:01] <+LiamGintySPG> By default, yeah, they’re all high schoolers. We subtly hint that you should probably set your game pretty close to graduation, just cause that gives you a lot of fun narrative beats to play around with.
[20:03] <+LiamGintySPG> Primarily right now the Dead Friend comes up via our assist mechanic – the games math is built as such that you’re likely to fail a lot if you don’t ask for assists from your team, but you can also ask for assists from the Dead Friend, whose Strengths you can borrow for rolls. You gain the ability to do this by doing a flashback scene with the rest of the
[20:03] <~Dan> (Welcome, NumberSix!)
[20:03] <+LiamGintySPG> table and the storyteller – lets say you try to pick a lock, well, you could really use a Lockpicking assist from Your Dead Friend. You describe a time when, perhaps Your Dead Friend unlocked your crush’s diary, or broke into school after dark for some reason. You play out this scene, with the table providing the NPCs etc
[20:04] <+LiamGintySPG> Then you return back to the game at hand, with new relationship and context with YDF. This way the character builds up throughout play, always centered at the middle of the narrative
[20:04] <+OliviaHill> This is a total stretch. But gosh if this isn’t a Q&A so I’m going to ask Qs and hope you at least amuse me with your As: How do you think the game would handle a multi-era play environment? Like, for example, It. Or Candle Cove. Or, as a real weird stretch, Stephen King’s The Body/Stand By Me?
[20:05] <+CatofManyFaces> so is the killer determined at start by the gm? or does it get determined by players?
[20:05] <~Dan> (Howdy, RayM!)
[20:05] <+RayM> (Hiya!)
[20:06] <~Dan> (LiamGintySPG, meet RayM, author of the forthcoming Modern RPG for Pathfinder. 🙂 )
[20:06] <+LiamGintySPG> Building games that are easy to hack and modify, and providing tools and explicit advice on how to do that is vital to me as a designer and a core value of the game – I think it’d be pretty interesting to try that sort of multi-era play, and I think it’d be pretty fun to make some mechanics to support it. Out of the box I think you’d have some issues with the
[20:06] <+LiamGintySPG> Obligation mechanics, and the Strength names, but those are easy to tweak
[20:06] <+Devadasi> How would you rate a comparison to other high-school age type urban fantasy style rpgs like, oh, say, MonsterHearts? Where does the comparison fall apart and where is it apt?
[20:08] <+LiamGintySPG> The way the killer is determined is actually left up to the table, we support both approaches, though I’d say heavily favour a collaborative determination of the killer – but even so, there’s some mechanics and narrative advice for making a storyteller-determined-killer playout well in the system
[20:09] <+LiamGintySPG> Monsterhearts is an obvious inspiration, Americana shares a lot of DNA, but whereas in my experience MonsterHearts builds a lot on relationships within the party, Americana focuses a lot of external relationships and exploring the town itself and its many gangs. Not to say that inter-party relationships don’t occur, but that’s probably where the focus
[20:09] <+LiamGintySPG> diverges for us
[20:09] <+CatofManyFaces> there are a lot of gangs?
[20:10] <+LiamGintySPG> The gangs are made up by the players during town generation, any given town can have a fair number of them though. Think Greasers and Proto-Goths, that kind of thing
[20:11] <~Dan> If the killer is created collaboratively, doesn’t that take away the mystery aspect?
[20:13] <+LiamGintySPG> I think it definitely changes it, though in my experience it doesn’t necessarily detract – a good GM is always able to take a players idea and turn it back on them and that’s the kind of thing we’re shooting for – but this is also why supporting both approaches is important to me, I know a lot of people really want that set-in-stone murderer and want to
[20:14] <+LiamGintySPG> puzzle it all out.
[20:14] <+CatofManyFaces> how are npcs handled?
[20:14] <+LiamGintySPG> Can I ask how you mean?
[20:15] <~Dan> Speaking of which, does the whole game center on solving the murder, and if so, doesn’t that make the game of limited utility?
[20:16] <+CatofManyFaces> like are the npcs written up using templates? do they get made collaboratively as well?
[20:16] <+LiamGintySPG> Ah gotcha
[20:17] <+LiamGintySPG> NPCs are a bit more traditional, a few imprortant ones are generated during town-gen, and those are collaborative, but it’s on the GM to come up with NPCs on the fly when you start approaching other groups or directions you didn’t expect. The book goes into some templates and typical archetypes, and advice on how to use them
[20:18] <+LiamGintySPG> The game absolutely focuses on solving a murder, and I don’t think that makes it limited – Most RPGs, when you get down to it, focus on a singular kind of intended play, and I think more focused approach to design can lead to a more fulfilling experience than trying to build a game that lets you do everything and anything.
[20:18] <+LiamGintySPG> Americana is about telling a particular kind of story, and I think by holding onto that idea, we can enable people to tell it in a really really cool way
[20:18] <+OliviaHill> Would you say that Twin Peaks is of limited narrative utility?
[20:19] <~Dan> Well, it depends if the game is “over” once the murder is solved.
[20:21] <+LiamGintySPG> I’d say that story certainly is. Once you’ve reached the climax of the story, you’re done with that particular tale. But a murder investigation can be a lot of things, and while it’s not something I’m spending a lot of time designing, murder mysteries often have sequels, second seasons, etc.
[20:21] <+CatofManyFaces> I looked at the kickstarter and saw a power rangers stretch goal, how is that going to interact with the closed story aspect of the core?
[20:22] <+LiamGintySPG> The super sentai setting/game is going to be a pretty different beast than the core game. Much more episodic in nature, the sort of game you might bust out during those one-off sessions between your usual games, beat up the bad guy and save the day, that kind of thing
[20:23] <+LiamGintySPG> I’d go into more detail about some of the mechanics behind that but we’re a ways out from funding that goal just yet
[20:23] <+CatofManyFaces> fingers crossed!
[20:24] <~Dan> How dangerous is the town? Are there fantasy monsters running around openly, or is it pretty safe?
[20:26] <+LiamGintySPG> I’d say the game intends for a pretty safe town – well, as safe as any town – but we feature domesticated drakes and other beasties in the artwork and stories and lore. I suppose how dangerous the town is is up to the table in question – one playtest group had a quarry that was home to a balrog, that was pretty cool and dangerous.
[20:27] <+LiamGintySPG> By and large the dangers we see characters engaging in are risks like playing chicken or having a knife fight with an angry greaser or doing some kind of low-level magic duel with a bunch of wizard nerds
[20:28] <+LiamGintySPG> Conflict driven by relationships and high school style politics, that sort of thing
[20:28] * ~Dan nods
[20:30] <~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, AndiSupreme!
[20:30] <~Dan> )
[20:30] <+CatofManyFaces> what’s the core die mechanic?
[20:30] <+LiamGintySPG> (Andi is our artist btw!)
[20:30] <~Dan> (Ah, great! Please make yourself at home, AndiSupreme!)
[20:30] <+AndiSupreme> (Hello!)
[20:31] <+OliviaHill> It’s sufficiently not-dangerous that a murder mystery can exist.
[20:31] <+RayM> (Hello!)
[20:31] <+OliviaHill> So clearly the expectation isn’t that it’s a slaughterfest.
[20:32] <+LiamGintySPG> It uses a D6 dice pool system first shown off in a game I made called Mirror – functionally, every Strength and Weakness is represented by one or more D6s, and you roll the pool of dice, see which of your successes hit, and which of your failures “missed” and determine what level of success you gain from that.
[20:33] <+CatofManyFaces> what sort of advantages and weaknesses are we talking about here?
[20:34] <+LiamGintySPG> Each playbook for our archetypes (Nerd, Jock, Royal, Artist, New Kid, Outsider) has a list of strengths which you pick from at Character gen, so, say, Jock has “Arm like a Bazooka”. You pick a couple of these and use them as the situation comes up
[20:34] <+LiamGintySPG> The weaknesses are entirely freeform, you make those up. Weaknesses are, in my opinion, where the most interesting parts of characters can come up, and we wanted to give people maximum expression with that
[20:34] <+CatofManyFaces> neat 🙂
[20:35] <~Dan> Do you have a character sheet that we can see?
[20:36] <+LiamGintySPG> Sure! -(Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LqFBHXVZSaUTM0ztl6bm9GMTCtCDIUIo/view?usp=sharing)https://drive.google.com/file/d/1LqFBHXVZSaUTM0ztl6bm9GMTCtCDIUIo/view?usp=sharing
[20:36] <+LiamGintySPG> There’s a full quick-start rules set in the campaign page, that includes all our archetypes playbooks and our Your Dead Friend sheet
[20:36] <+OliviaHill> I cannot stress how much I love the idea of diner menu as character sheet.
[20:37] <+LiamGintySPG> I have my incredible talented layout artist to thank for that. It’s sublime
[20:37] <+CatofManyFaces> my wife just squee’d
[20:39] <+LiamGintySPG> 😀 a small reminder that this is, of course, all work in progress, so you can expect some changes to specifics, but we’re pretty happy with this and the quickstart rules as a good slice of what to expect from the finished game
[20:40] <~Dan> The character sheet looks like it took some inspiration from Powered by the Apocalypes.
[20:40] <~Dan> Apocalypse
[20:41] <+AndiSupreme> the sea creature emerges
[20:41] <+LiamGintySPG> The game itself again shares a lot of PbtA DNA, its a system I love very much
[20:41] <~Dan> (Welcome to #randomworlds, mollusk!)
[20:44] <~Dan> I guess he decided to clam up.
[20:44] <+LiamGintySPG> Badumtish
[20:44] <+AndiSupreme> eyyyy
[20:44] <+CatofManyFaces> lol
[20:45] <~Dan> Is the game designed so that any playbook can be of any race?
[20:47] <+LiamGintySPG> Yep. We’re still toying around with mechanical benefits that species can give right now, and we don’t want to play into any harmful stereotypes about comparing real world races to fantasy species so we’re treading lightly as we go on that one. Right now its aesthetic, later, perhaps some kind of cultural/background special ability or Strength
[20:49] <~Dan> Oh! Before I forget: An online buddy of mine hosts actual plays of RPGs on his YouTube channel and is very interested in working with you.
[20:49] <+LiamGintySPG> Oh fantastic, let me know where I can reach out, or give them my email address. Happy to chat 🙂
[20:50] <~Dan> LiamGintySPG: I’ll PM you with his FB info, if you’re on there.
[20:50] <~Dan> (Howdy, Silverlion!)
[20:50] <+Devadasi> Speaking of species and cultural stereotypes. There’s a common trend in fantasy where orcs in one way or another serve as an allegory for people of colour. Bright was pretty egregious about it, to pick one example. Can you mention any concrete steps you’ve taken to avoid such racial comparisons?
[20:52] <+LiamGintySPG> Absolutely, that’s one of the things I was concerned about. I’d say the prime thing is my team has two sensitivity readers, who are both people of color who’ve been part of the lore writing process since the beginning.
[20:54] <+LiamGintySPG> Generally, we just try to stay clear of any kind of “tribal orc” or “savages” style writing for our Orcs, since that tends to be the root of a lot of those gross ideas. There’s a lot of smaller things that we do too – avoiding any “racial bonuses” right now, for example, and making sure our lore is explicit in Orcs, or whatever species, being very much its
[20:54] <+LiamGintySPG> own thing, without borrowing from existing preconceptions or stereotypes.
[20:56] <+AndiSupreme> And I can say too–just from my limited department–that there’s been back and forth on having a lot of positive representation in the art as well.
[20:56] <~Dan> Whoops!
[20:56] <+LiamGintySPG> Woops, sorry about that. Did I miss anything?
[20:56] <~Dan> wb, LiamGintySPG!
[20:56] <~Dan> Not much.
[20:56] <~Dan> [20:56] <+AndiSupreme> And I can say too–just from my limited department–that there’s been back and forth on having a lot of positive representation in the art as well.
[20:57] <~Dan> My concern would be the washing out of what makes a fantasy species distinct.
[20:57] <+LiamGintySPG> Yes, Andi has been a treasure in presenting a very diverse and inclusive world through their artwork
[20:57] <+Devadasi> :thumbsup:
[20:57] <~Dan> Like, how do you keep from the status of being an Elf purely cosmetic?
[20:58] <+LiamGintySPG> I think its possible, easier even, to create distinct and interesting fantasy species without leaning on harmful real world (often false) ideas about human races. I think most of my favourite fiction does this pretty well – Ursula K Le Guin, N K Jemisin, etc
[20:59] <+CatofManyFaces> i gotta bow out. thanks for the info!
[20:59] <+AndiSupreme> Thanks for coming!
[21:00] <+LiamGintySPG> Well, an idea might be that an Elven cultural strength could be their communal nature, or their connection to the spirit realm they call home. These aren’t harmful or play into any human-race comparisons that Elves sometimes get in fiction and fantasy.
[21:00] <~Dan> Fair enough.
[21:01] <+LiamGintySPG> But also there’s nothing, I think, inherently wrong with having species be primarily cosmetic, they all are in almost every game to a large degree – even D&D’s racial bonuses are fairly light weight in most of their editions
[21:03] <~Dan> I suppose the high school setting would serve to cast any negative stereotypes into stark relief — e.g., “species X isn’t is good at school”.
[21:04] <+LiamGintySPG> One of the core pillars of our world is that systemic racism simply isn’t a thing, but yes, that would be a natural issue that would arise from that approach to making a species, say, less “intelligent” than others.
[21:06] * ~Dan nods
[21:06] <~Dan> You described the town as being pretty safe… What about outside of town? Are there dangers like Trolls and Dragons running around out there somewhere?
[21:08] <+LiamGintySPG> With how focused we are on a particular kind of game, we haven’t given much thought or design to what might lay outside of town. I suppose you could expect fantasy animals, dragons, unicorns, griffins, that sort of thing. We do have a kind of Road Trip mechanic so that would work as a threat out there
[21:11] <+OliviaHill> Well also you’ve talked a bit about how you sort of design the town as a part of the process. So would it be fair to say that if you WANT there to be trolls and dragons and stuff like that, you can absolutely just run with that?
[21:11] <+LiamGintySPG> Sure, absolutely
[21:14] <+OliviaHill> I don’t know how much you’ve played with it yet. But what’s the most left-field experience you’ve had arise from the game so far?
[21:15] <+LiamGintySPG> Oh god, well, I’d say to start with one of our very earliest playtest groups just straight up made this appalachia game setting, full of unions and company town intrigue and everything, this was with a very bare bones version of the rules and it was just entirely not what I expected at all.
[21:17] <+LiamGintySPG> Then once I had a playtest group have the Dead Friend reveal the killer in a flashback scene, which was really something cool – they played through without having that knowledge effect the game too much, but it made scenes with the killer (One of the characters dad) really tense
[21:17] <+OliviaHill> Oh cool
[21:19] <~Dan> In the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
[21:21] <+LiamGintySPG> Its not super related to the game, but we love being multimedia with our approach, and so much of our setting comes from writing and artwork, so I’d be terrible if I didn’t point out a couple of cool side projects about or involving Americana
[21:21] <+LiamGintySPG> First off Andi, our artist, is running a CYOA on their blog, involving a typical Americana set up ( There is a body, there is a suspect, there are questions ), head over here for that – (Link: http://allegro-designs.tumblr.com/)http://allegro-designs.tumblr.com/
[21:22] <+LiamGintySPG> Next we have a bunch of talented writers working on stories for the game, including Jon Gilmour, designer of Kids on Bikes and Dinosaur Island! We’ll be posting those here – (Link: http://americana.sandypuggames.com/category/tales-from-americana/)http://americana.sandypuggames.com/category/tales-from-americana/
[21:23] <+LiamGintySPG> We also have an audio play, Tom’s Dead, that again walks through a typical Americana adventure. The whole team put in on this one, you can listen to that on your podcast app or on youtube, here – (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjIaeo8BDvo&feature=youtu.be)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjIaeo8BDvo&feature=youtu.be
[21:24] <+LiamGintySPG> That about wraps up everything for me. We have a stretch goal we didn’t mention that puts the game in a kind of Cold War Spy Setting, that’s very exciting!
[21:24] <~Dan> Oh, usual reminder: Gratuities are always welcome at (Link: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/)https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/ 🙂
[21:24] <~Dan> Thanks for joining us, LiamGintySPG, and thanks to all of you who showed up for the Q&A!
[21:24] <+LiamGintySPG> Thank you!
[21:24] <~Dan> Please know that all of you are welcome to hang out here whenever you like!
[21:25] <~Dan> Now, if you’ll give me just a minute here, I’ll get the log posted and link you!