Amagium: The Arroyo Cases – Board Game

Amagium: The Arroyo Cases (ATAC for short) is a companion game to my novel, AMAGIA, and the assorted short stories set in that same world. It occupies the middle ground between a traditional tabletop RPG, and an elaborate board game, similar to both Gloomhaven and Thornwatch. Key features include:

  • A focus on tactical combat and magic detective work
  • Customizable, narrative-driven missions 
  • 3-on-1 asymmetric play

Themes & Roles
Three players assume the roles of Keepers: officers rigorously trained in magical combat and criminal investigation. Keepers comprise the police force of the Amagium, a global order which is responsible for legislating, licensing, and moderating the supernatural in a world where every human has an in-born capacity for magic, known as a wyrd.

This three-person team, or Venture, will face fae, shapeshifters, vampires, demons, and other familiar mythological creatures, as well as original entities, human criminals, and terrorists opposing the Amagium. Closing cases entails more than combat, however. Players must search for evidence to determine the true nature of threats, save lives, and avoid actions that will bring shame upon the Amagium.

The fourth player assumes the role of a Fate Master (or FM) who selects and runs a Case File by controlling enemies, throwing in unexpected obstacles, and guiding the general course of the scenario. An FM can be as antagonistic or merciful toward the Venture as they wish, but the game is designed in the spirit of giving the other players an enjoyable challenge and fun story to tell. Crushing the Keepers at every turn will make for a dour experience, but a nail-biting loss is often more satisfying than an easy win.

Every playable Keeper is defined by the following features:

  • A character mat listing:
    • Attribute Values (12 points distributed across 4 categories)
    • Health and Wyrd maximums
    • A unique ability
  •  A 6-page grimoire listing a total of 18 unique abilities
  • A 30-card Reflex Deck and a 30-card Skill Deck 

These characters can be customized with load outs that include anima (ammunition for powerful grimoire abilities), 2 Standard-Issue Equipment Cards, and 1 Special-Issue Equipment Card.

After the Keepers have chosen their characters, the Fate Master selects a case file which includes:

  • A unique map that serves as the gameboard for the case
  • Distinctive plots that can play out on that map at the FM’s discretion
  • Entity cards, describing the stats and behaviors of enemies and neutral parties
  • Enemy Action Decks, defining enemy groups’ initiative and turn options
  • Various tokens to set up the board
Werewolf Entity Card
Case map
Fate Master’s Board

Core Systems
Keepers’ gameplay is primarily governed by two decks of cards: Reflex and Skill.¬†Reflex cards govern initiative and reactive character actions, whereas skill cards govern proactive character actions.

Characters draw three reflex cards at the beginning of each turn, and decide which card they want to use as their initiative for that round. In addition to determining turn order, these reflex cards afford bonuses to offense or defense.

The Skill Deck determines whether players can achieve the abilities they attempt from their grimoire, by adjusting their total attribute pool. The attribute pool is divided between four categories:

  • Arms (inherent physical abilities – strength, agility, etc.)
  • Masks (inherent mental abilities – wit, expressiveness, etc.)
  • Gears (trained physical abilities – technique, proficiency, etc.)
  • Tomes (trained mental abilities – education, focus, etc.)

Every draw from the skill deck represents a distinct approach to completing a skill, and is akin to a dice roll, except that players may repeatedly draw from the Skill Deck in a single turn, with bonuses stacking or contradicting one another. Managing attributes, and being able to improvise in combat when your approaches don’t go according to plan in combat is a crucial aspect of ATAC.

The game is still in early development and undergoing private beta-testing. More than anything, it is a way for me to flex my design muscles in between bouts of writing.

ConQuesting – Live Convention Questing Experience

ConQuesting is a cosplay photo-scavenger hunt my wife and I host annually at DragonCon. Select your quest, track down your favorite pop culture icon and return to the quest givers to claim a souvenir reward! Follow our Facebook page to join in the fun. We are tentatively planning on attending DragonCon 2021.

How does this work?
The core concept is pretty simple:

  1. You select a quest
  2. You complete it (usually by snapping a photo of a specific costume, prop, or nerdy reference)
  3. Show us your picture as proof
  4. Receive a loot pouch containing a humble reward
  5. Share your pic on our Facebook page for maximum bragging rights

There are two kinds of quests. Mystery Quests are written on souvenir scrolls. These quests are one-of-a-kind and fairly easy, requiring little-to-no familiarity with any specific franchise or fandom. Alternatively, you can challenge yourself with an Epic Quest! These do not have physical scrolls. Rather, you handpick a quest from your favorite fandom listed in our Epic Quest Tome. We carry physical copies of the tome with us in-person, and we will post links to our quests as the event draws near.

Where can I find you?
2021’s schedule is forthcoming! Check our Facebook page for announcements, follow @Sarcasmancer on twitter, and @goconquesting on Instagram for moment-to-moment updates. We sport massive, battle-standard signs that make us easy to spot, and we are generally in costume.

Will you come to my con?
If you are interested in having us attend your convention, please shoot an email with the details to!

The Interpretive Spiral – Master’s Thesis

I went to Georgia Tech to study video games and video game criticism, with a particular emphasis on the ways games tell stories and create meaning for players. My faculty advisers were Ian Bogost, Celia Pearce, and Janet Murray. Elizabeth Losh was an external faculty reviewer. Two years of independent research and writing culminated in my masters thesis: The Interpretive Spiral: An Analytical Rubric for Videogame Interpretation, which presents a methodology for ‘close-reading’ single-player video games.