Gloom Digital on Kickstarter!

Gloom Kickstarter Image

It’s been almost thirteen years since I invented the card game Gloom in my basement in Boulder, Colorado. As a longtime fan of Edward Gorey, Charles Addams, Gahan Wilson, Lemony Snickett and others, I wanted a game about telling the most miserable tale. Over the years a number of new versions of Gloom have emerged. In Cthulhu Gloom you want your family of investigators to go mad and come to an unhappy end. In Fairytale Gloom you want to find the unhappiest end to your tale. And in Munchkin Gloom, you want to describe the worst dungeon adventure in history. I love playing them all, because I love seeing the stories that emerge from each game.

Now, Skyship Studios has taken to Kickstarter to create a digital version of Gloom. Initially, they are developing the game for the PC; if it is successful, they will develop a tablet version. The game will support both single player and online play, allowing you to craft your gloomy stories with friends across the globe.

Gloom Gameplay

Creating a digital version of Gloom is a tricky business, since storytelling is an integral part of the Gloom experience. But every medium has something to offer. In Skyship’s Gloom, the characters themselves will come to life (before tragically dying). The characters will be animated and speak for themselves, providing their own take on the misfortunes that come their way. Beyond this, Skyship is continuing to explore ways to bring the flavor of Gloom to the digital experience.

Just to be clear: I’m not part of Skyship Studios and I’m not running this campaign. However, I am thrilled that Skyship is working to bring my game to life in a new medium, and look forward to playing it.

So if you like Gloom, please check out the Kickstarter here!

Latest News and Eberron Q&A!

EPSON MFP imageI’ve spent much of the last few weeks sick with the flu, but I’ve finally bounced back. I’m continuing to work on Phoenix: Dawn Command, and I’m excited about how the adventures are coming together. I’m still not 100% certain what we’ll be doing at Gen Con and whether there will be full demo sessions, but at the very least I’ll have a get together to discuss the game and show you how it works. The above image is from one of our stretch goals – a challenge created by the amazing Jason Morningstar.

In other news, Fairytale Gloom is out in the wild… though it doesn’t seem to have reached all stores yet. I’m keen to hear what people think. If you’ve had a chance to play and have any questions or comments, let me know!

And finally, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the vast backlog of Eberron questions. I’m afraid I still have no concrete information about 5E Eberron development; I’m hoping there will be news of some sort at Gen Con. Today’s questions focus on warforged, the Silver Flame, and the devious daelkyr…

A very interesting point in my opinion is the conflict between the ideals of the Flame and the corruption and racism of the Church. For example about warforgeds. How are the lives of warforged living in Thrane?

This is a complicated issue. To begin with, let’s talk about racism in Thrane.

The 3.5 ECS says nothing about endemic racism in Thrane. This is a concept that was introduced in Five Nations, a book I didn’t work on. It’s not a concept I personally endorse. There’s nothing in the core beliefs of the Silver Flame that sets humanity apart or above other races. At its ultimate core it is about defending the children of Eberron and Siberys from the children of Khyber. Broadly interpreted it’s about protecting the innocent from supernatural evil… not “innocent humans.” ALL noble souls can strengthen the Flame after death, and it was originally kindled by a noble sacrifice made long before human civilization existed. Many sources feature nonhuman Thrane clerics of the Silver Flame, and one of Tira Miron’s most trusted allies was an elf avenger. Aundair doesn’t have a human majority, yet Thrane’s templars put themselves in harms way to defend Aundair from the lycanthropic threat. If anything, I would expect Thrane to have LESS racism than the other Five Nations as it is grounded in a faith that is driven to protect all innocents. So speaking personally: I didn’t come up with the idea of excessive racism in Thrane and it’s not something I embrace at my table or in my writing.

WITH THAT SAID: If I were to embrace Five Nations’ depiction of racism in Thrane, I would say that it is a relatively recent development that seems to be getting worse every day… And that it is in all likelihood a manifestation of Bel Shalor’s growing power. The Shadow in the Flame thrives on drawing out the darkness inside of people, and this would be a logical manifestation of that. I’d call out the fact that it IS in opposition to the principles of the Flame, and have a few notable voices (such as Jaela) trying unsuccessfully to steer people back to the light.

The warforged are a special case. The Church doesn’t accept that Cannith could artificially manufacture souls. Thus warforged don’t fall into the category of “innocents to be protected.” A warforged is like a sword: a tool to be used in the battle. The Treaty of Thronehold gave the warforged freedom, but it can’t give them souls… and thus, in the eyes of the faithful, they remain things. What’s been said before is that Thrane warforged often end up in various forms of indentured servitude. They are seen as tools, and the Treaty hasn’t changed that.

In my campaign one of the players is a warforged paladin and most of the hierarchy doesn’t even look at him as a living being. As my players are growing up to mid-high levels, I’m thinking: what if keeper of the flame would create him a cardinal? How would the hierarchy react? How the people? Would it be a playable role?

Certainly. In MY campaign, you can’t decide to be a paladin; you have to be called. Cannith couldn’t build a paladin. Thus, the warforged paladin is proof to those with eyes to see that warforged DO have souls and can be part of the Flame. It would be something many Thranes would have difficulty accepting, but it could ultimately cause change across Thrane… or it could trigger a hostile backlash, especially if natural doubts were fanned by the Shadow in the Flame. And as such, it is an extremely playable role.

One thing I am curious about is why did the Treaty of Thronehold include the destruction or disassembly of all of the creation forges? Why do that when you’re also including in there that all warforged are considered individuals rather than property? The way I see it, it’s like neutering an entire race…

The fact that the Treaty of Thronehold helps the warforged is incidental. Its primary purpose was to limit the power of both the Five Nations and House Cannith. At the end of the war, every nation had warforged armies of various sizes. Disbanding these armies was a symbol of standing down from military footing. In my opinion, the original draft of the treaty ordered that all warforged be destroyed; shifting this to freedom for the warforged took a serious amount of lobbying on the part of sympathizers who’d worked with warforged over the wars. But the primary intention was eliminating standing armies, and I doubt that even many of the sympathizers considered this “the birth of a new race.”

Meanwhile, the destruction of the creation forges was a way to rein in the power of House Cannith. Left unchecked, Cannith could produce armies of warforged. Already there’s reason to question if the Five Nations truly have the power to enforce the Korth Edicts; no one liked the idea of Cannith being able to field an army of its own.

So both of these actions were about the balance of power in Khorvaire, not a grand vision of the sanctity of warforged life; in all likelihood, it was a near thing that the warforged weren’t destroyed along with the forges.

Maybe the Keeper could create cardinal a paladin orc?

This seems far less likely to me. I’m actually playing an orc paladin of the Ghaash’kala in a 5E Eberron campaign (a home game run by a friend). One of these days I’ll post some of what I’ve written about the Ghaash’kala over the course of the campaign. The short form is that my paladin would have no interest in being part of the hierarchy of Thrane. He comes from a completely different culture and a different tradition of the Flame. The excessive hierarchy and traditions of the Church seem frivolous to him; he is a warrior used to being on the front line of an endless war. I could see Jaela doing something to more officially acknowledge the Ghaash’kala as comrades in faith – but I don’t think appointing one of them to be a cardinal in Flamekeep would work out well for anyone involved.

Do you think the Lord of the Blades could have some connections with an Overlord? Maybe the mourning was caused by the freeing of an Overlord; or maybe the Becoming God is nothing but a living machine for channeling the energy of an Overlord. Or maybe he is trying to create with warforgeds something like Elves did in Aerenal.

All of these things are certainly possible if it’s a story you want to tell. The Lord of Blades could have connections with an Overlord. He could even be a Lord of Dust who’s only masquerading as a warforged. Try this on for size: We’ve never said where warforged souls come from. This is because warforged souls are tiny, tiny fragments of an Overlord, tiny enough to slip through the binding of the Flame. The Becoming God is a vessel that will ultimately absorb all the souls of the warforged and recreate the Overlord. So once the vessel for the Becoming God is completed, the “Lord of Blades” may start setting up situations to kill warforged – because when they die, their spirits are sucked into the vessel of the God. The trick is that each individual soul is innocent and unique, as long as it can keep from being reabsorbed. So a warforged PC is thus a part of a great evil – but by staying alive, they are preventing that evil from being reborn and turning its power to a good purpose.

I remember somewhere you wrote that it COULD exist a good Daelkyr, even if it still would be somehow crazy. Have you ever played something like that? Could the Daelkyr join the Silver Flame? Do you think Gatekeepers would fight him anyway?

I touch on this in a reply to a comment in my blog post on The Daelkyr And Their Cults. The critical point of the issue is that you could have a “good daelkyr” in the sense that its overall agenda is intended to help the people of Eberron. However, that doesn’t mean that agenda would appear to be good to everyone else. Daelkyr are as alien as alien gets: their idea of doing good might be to change all humans into changelings, to spread a linguistic virus that transforms Khorvaire into a group mind, or something like that. In the long run this might actually promote world peace and harmony, but it’s not likely to be something the existing cultures welcome. Even a daelkyr who simply wants to protect Eberron from other forms of supernatural evil – so one that serves the same purpose as the Silver Flame – would be likely to do so in a way that’s inexplicable to humans. One option I’ve thrown on the table is the idea that the daelkyr created Dragonmarks; perhaps that’s their way of trying to help humanity against other evil forces.

The main thing is that I personally wouldn’t have a daelkyr show up in Flamekeep and have a rational discussion with Krozen and Jaela (or the PCs) about how they can join forces to fight evil. If I wanted to do this with some traditional force of evil I’d use a Lord of Dust or a Quori. The Lords of Dust are native fiends of Eberron and the Quori are tied to human dreams, and as such there is a basic foundation for understanding. While in my mind what defines the daelkyr is that there is NO foundation for understanding. The mere presence of a daelkyr causes confusion, and if it focuses its attention on you it can inflict permanent mental damage. To me this is a side effect of the fact that it’s a powerful telepath whose thoughts are so innately alien that the telepathic broadcast breaks human minds. If you touch its mind, you will go insane. To quote the ECS…

The mind of a daelkyr is a labyrinth that can swallow the thoughts of lesser creatures. Any creature who attempts to read the thoughts of a daelkyr or otherwise study its mind must make a DC 29 Will save or suffer the effect of an insanity spell.

Note that this isn’t an active power. It’s not something the Daelkyr CHOOSES to do. It is simply what happens to any creature of Eberron that touches the mind of a daelkyr.

And for all these reasons: Yes, a Gatekeeper would fight him anyway. Because ultimately it doesn’t matter what his intentions are. He’s a fundamentally alien entity who doesn’t belong in Eberron, and who innately spreads madness and corruption simply by virtue of his presence. Which may be a tragedy if he means well, but there it is.

So I’m certainly open to a story about a daelkyr who’s trying to help the people of Eberron… but I’d make his help enigmatic and potentially dangerous, not some sort of simple “creepy ally.”

Is a human mind as alien to a daelkyr as a daelkyr mind is to a human, and if not, why not? Do daelkyr suffer similar problems if they read the mind of a creature from Eberron?

No. In general aberrations are alien creatures, but you can use detect thoughts on a dolgrim, beholder or mind flayer without getting your brain fried. It’s not simply that daelkyr are alien; it’s that they are primal immortal entities who ALSO happen to be indescribably alien. So a daelkyr looking at your thoughts will going to find them very alien and puzzling… but so incredibly tiny and insignificant that it doesn’t really have a big impact.

Personally, I would put the relationship between human and daelkyr as much like the relationship between a fruit fly and a human. From your perspective the fly’s life is trivially short and relatively meaningless. Look at a single fruit fly: can you tell me what it’s thinking or the purpose behind its actions? Do you believe it feels emotions or has dreams or thoughts as you do? Meanwhile, do you think the fly understands YOU? You’re so vast that all it can really perceive is your foot or the finger descending to kill it; it doesn’t even have a full picture of what you are. Comparing lifespans you are essentially immortal. And again, do you think it understands WHY you do what you do? Perhaps you’re a scientist running an experiment in genetics. Perhaps you’re a bored child pulling the wings off insects for the fun of it. Perhaps different daelkyr represent these different things… so Belashyrra is pursuing a vast experiment (one that will take many, many human generations to show any results) while Dyrrn the Corruptor is simply the child frying ants with a magnifying glass. This allows the one daelkyr whose actions, however bizarre, do involve a vast scheme – and the other whose cruelty is purely pernicious.

Now if you WANT a daelkyr to take a personal interest in a PC as part of a storyline, go ahead. It happens that they’re a particularly remarkable fly and the culmination of a particular experiment and it’s actually keeping an eye on them to see how it plays out. But it still doesn’t understand or empathize with them; they are still just insects, even if they happen to be interesting ones.

Doom, Gloom and Eberron Q&A


Since the Phoenix Kickstarter campaign ended, I’ve been working hard on finishing the writing for Phoenix and that’s going to be my focus for the next few months. However, I don’t want to completely drop off the face of the earth, and I’ve got a big backlog of Eberron questions to get to.

First, news: Fairytale Gloom comes out this week. I’m very happy with the game and I look forward to hearing what people think of it. One thing I like is that you’re working with characters you already know – which makes it easy to come up with a new story. Furthermore, Fairytale Gloom doesn’t use preset families; instead you assemble a family from the cast of 20 characters. So you can assemble the cast of a classic fairy tale… or you can decide that Snow White, Red Riding Hood and Cinderella are secret agents working for the mysterious “Granny.”

Beyond that, there’s big news in the world of Kickstarter. For those who aren’t familiar with The Doom That Came To Atlantic City, in 2012 a guy named Erik Chevalier licensed a game I’d designed with my friend Lee Moyer, and went to Kickstarter to raise the money to produce it. He raised four times the amount he was asking for; told everyone that he was making the game; and a year later revealed that he was out of money and had never actually gotten around to making the game. Here’s my post from when I received this news. Because Erik had broken his contract, the rights to the game returned to Lee and I. We worked out an arrangement with Cryptozoic where they made the game and game everyone who backed it a free copy. It wasn’t an ideal solution – Erik had promised many things that Cryptozoic couldn’t provide, especially since they were doing it entirely as a gesture of goodwill to the people who’d been robbed – but thanks to Cryptozoic the game exists and made it to the backers. For the last two years there’s been no further news… until yesterday. The FTC has leveled a $112K judgment against Erik Chevalier as punishment for his duplicitous practices. Supposedly he’s also enjoined to honor his pledge to refund backers. It’s of limited effect as Erik is apparently broke – but I’m glad to see SOMETHING done about this. Crowdfunding is an amazing thing. Thanks to people who have put there faith in me I’m producing Phoenix  a game I could never have produced on my own. It’s a chance to bring things in the world that might never exist otherwise, and I hate seeing that trust abused.

So, that’s the short news here: I’m still working on Phoenix, Fairy Tale Gloom will be on shelves any day now, and there is finally some degree of justice for Doom backers.

I have a big slush pile of Eberron questions that I’ll get to as time allows… here’s a few to get the ball rolling again. At this time I have no news about any developments with 5E Eberron. Rest assured, I’ll share news if and when I have any. Now on with the questions…

The Mourning is the big obvious “no canonical answer” Eberron mystery. Any others in the setting that you particularly like?

Where do warforged souls come from? What do the Daelkyr want? What were the Quori of the previous age like? What exactly are aberrant dragonmarks, and why are they starting to appear again after lying dormant for so long?

When running Eberron, what is the single most important thing to remember? How does Eberron differ from other settings?

I don’t think there’s one answer that covers all Eberron games. If you’re more on the pulp end of the spectrum, then you want to look for ways to make the PCs feel remarkable. Never have a fight on solid ground when you could have it on the back of a moving lightning rail or an airship plummeting from the sky. Emphasize the villainy of the villains and the stakes of the conflict, and make sure your players feel like big damn heroes. All of this changes when you go to the noir side of the spectrum. In the mean streets of Sharn, things aren’t so clearly defined. It’s hard to tell the heroes from the villains. Stories don’t always end well – and sometimes it’s best when they don’t. In a noir campaign your want hard decisions and difficult revelations.

But there are a few things that can apply to any Eberron game, and these are things I try to call out when I’m creating an Eberron adventure for a convention or charity event. One of these is the war. Khorvaire is just two years out of a horrific war that ended with the utter destruction of nation. How did the war affect the player characters? Who did they fight for, or why didn’t they fight? How can its impact be felt in the adventure – whether it’s the scars of the conflict or the tensions of the current cold war? How about the impact of industrialized magic… how can you show magic being used as a tool within society?

When running con games I call out elements of the setting that are especially unique. In previous games I’ve used parties of Dhakaani goblins; monstrous agents of the Daughters of Sora Kell; and a Blood of Vol undead equivalent of the A-Team. It’s a way to immediately impress on people that things aren’t what they’re used to – that monsters aren’t always bad guys and that the bad guys aren’t always monsters.

Eberron is a world that is waiting for heroes. Do you think it’s a world with a place for a campaign for high level evil characters? Beside that forces of evil look already preeminent, I am worried that a ruthless high level cleric or mage could easily overpower any human institution.

This question comes up a fair bit. There’s a lot of different ways to answer it. But the first question I have is what’s the experience your players are looking for? In choosing to be evil, what do they WANT their story to be like? In my opinion, RPGs are about building a collaborative story. As DM, your challenge is to build out that story, to make it challenging and interesting. In choosing to be evil, do your players want to simply achieve wealth and personal power? Do they want to create a criminal empire? Do they want to depose rulers and take over Khorvaire? Each of these stories builds room for different sorts of opposition. An equally important question is what they want the tone to be… is this story more pulp or noir?

Personally, I see an “evil” campaign as leaning more towards noir. The typical noir story has very few heroes… but deals with the fact that villains will happily prey on each other. In a noir story, I’d reveal that the world is a lot darker than anyone realizes. I’d play up the number of organizations that are secretly controlled by the Lords of Dust, the Aurum, or the Dreaming Dark. I’d work in the extremely ruthlessness of organizations such as the Trust, the Citadel or the Chamber. I’d have my villainous PCs constantly on edge for the threat of betrayal, assassination or dangerous revelation. Sure, that institution LOOKS like an easy target… but that’s because you don’t realize that the “low level cleric” running the temple is actually an epic level rakshasa or an Inspired. In short, in a noir villain campaign, I’d pit the PCs against other villains who are every bit as powerful as they are – or more so – and in a far better starting position.

On the other hand, perhaps the players WANT a pulp-style evil campaign in which they are the worst villains the world has every seen. In that case, I’d play down the Lords of Dust and Dreaming Dark; if the players WANT to be the coolest villains around, it’s not so much fun to be constantly tripping over older evil conspiracies. Instead, I’d create heroes. Eberron is intentionally designed as a world in need of heroes because the PCs are expected to fill that role. If the PCs instead choose to play villains, as DM I’d create the heroes that would usually be PCs. Let’s have Tira Miron reborn as a new crusader of the Silver Flame. Trade out the Lord of Blades for a heroic warforged uniting his people into a force for good… a Professor X instead of a Magneto. Perhaps the Twelve assemble a team of dragonmarked champions as their own answer to the Avengers. For that matter, you could bring in any of the protagonists of the Eberron novels; the reason novels aren’t canon is because we don’t want these heroes treading on the toes of the PCs, but if the PCs don’t want the part, why not? Alternately, you could have a truly powerful group of heroes – heroes who always seem to come back no matter how they are defeated or destroyed. The ultimate revelation is that these champions are actually shapechanged dragons – agents of the Chamber acting to preserve their preferred path of the prophecy. They always return because even if killed, a new dragon can assume the role of the fallen champion.

Basically, the default assumptions of Eberron assume the PCs are heroic. If they aren’t, change those assumptions. Create what you need to create to present the challenges the PCs want to deal with. And don’t be afraid to LET the PCs disrupt existing organizations, if that’s the story they want to be part of. LET them throw Kaius out and take over Karrnath… because once they’ve got territory to control, you’ve got a lot more hooks to work with.

That’s all for now!



GenCon, Gloom, and Twogether!

GenCon2014I’m back from GenCon with a few new games to try out. While I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to play games, it was an inspiring trip and an opportunity to catch up with lots of old and new friends. There were also a few important announcements that I wanted to share.


The second edition of Gloom is in stores now. You can find more information about it here, but I wanted to highlight a few things. This is an improvement to the existing game, not a complete transformation. While there are significant differences, it is possible to mix old and new cards together. With that said, if you own the first edition but still want to get the second edition, I’m working on something that will let you get good use from outdated cards… expect more news on that in a few weeks. if you have any questions about Gloom Second Edition, ask below.

However, there was another piece of Gloomy news at GenCon. I’m teaming up with Atlas Games and Steve Jackson to produce MUNCHKIN GLOOM. You may wonder how this works… after all, the goal of Gloom is to tell a sad story while keeping your opponents happy, while the foundation of Munchkin is backstabbing your friends while you amass ultimate power and wealth. Well, how exactly do you GET all that power and wealth? Munchkin Gloom takes a look at the other side of the coin, placing you in control of a dungeon full of monsters whose lives are about to be ruined by a band of obnoxiously overpowered adventurers. We’ve got a lot of fun ideas and I think it’s going to be a great flip side to the basic Munchkin saga. Munchkin Gloom will be out in 2015, along with Fairy Tale Gloom.


It’s been a long time coming, but my wife Jennifer Ellis and I are finally launching our own game company: Twogether Studios. I’m best known for creating Gloom and Eberron, and Twogether will reflect the principles seen in both of these. We intend to create engaging products with a strong emphasis on storytelling and imagination. We are working on RPGs, card games, and other ideas, and expect to launch our first Kickstarter in February 2015 to fund the production of a game we’ve been working on for the last year. If you want to keep up with what we’re doing, you can follow us on Twitter at @Twogetherstudio, or keep an eye on our website. I’m very excited about our plans for 2015!


I’m afraid this weekend didn’t produce new information about Eberron support in Fifth Edition. The D&D team at Wizards of the Coast has a lot on their plate right now managing the release of the new books, and I suspect it’s going to be a little while before they can focus on this. However, it’s something that is still in motion and I’m excited about the possibilities, so hopefully there will be solid news in a month or two. In the meantime, I’ll be getting a Q&A out later this week. And for my part, I just put together a half-orc paladin of the Silver Flame (from the Demon Wastes) to play in the 5E campaign I’m playing in. More news as soon as it’s available!

What’s Going On With Gloom?

SDCC Booth


Gloom Second Edition is due to hit stores this week, and I hope to be playing it at Gen Con. But what is Gloom Second Edition? What’s different, and why was it changed?

Starting with what’s different, Atlas has a helpful list of significant changes on their website. The fundamental structure and layout of the game hasn’t changed, and it is possible to play with first and second edition cards mixed together into one deck. Here’s a few key points…

Look at Cthulhu Gloom. Like Cthulhu Gloom, the second edition uses timing icons to specify when card effects are resolved, and it has the tombstone images on death cards. One improvement over Cthulhu Gloom: Event cards now have a central image that gives them the same silhouette as Deaths, so you can’t recognize them from the back of the card.

Troublesome cards have been changed or removed. There have always been a few cards that have been too powerful (Body Thief), too confusing (Til Death Do Us Part), or simply awkward (any card that has an effect that resolves on your next turn). Some of these cards have been removed completely; others have been streamlined.

Expansion Symbols. A long-standing issue has been the difficulty of pulling out an expansion once you’ve mixed it in with your core set. Now all cards have symbols that indicates what set they belong to, making it easy to play with just one expansion at a time. In addition, the art for the story icons has had a facelift. 

All of these things are the results of ten years of playing Gloom and bumping into things I wish I could change. It’s not a complete redesign; it’s just an opportunity to improve a host of little problems. Think of it as a Designer’s Cut (I wanted to add a commentary track and some deleted scenes, but it just didn’t work out). Let me know what you think of the changes, and if you have any questions ask here!


My next project is Fairy Tale Gloom. We all know that many of the fairy tales we know and love turn out badly in the end, whether it’s the Little Mermaid dissolving into foam when she fails to win her Prince (spoiler alert!) or Snow White’s stepmother being forced to dance to death in red-hot iron boots. Fairy Tale Gloom gives you the opportunity to establish once and for all just which classic character had it the worst… though the winner is expected to come up with a moral for their story!

Fairy Tale Gloom is a stand-alone game that supports 2-5 players. It’s possible to mix it with any other set, and in the promo card Atlas has been handing out this summer – The Looking Glass – is intentionally compatible with both Fairy Tale and classic Gloom. However, like Cthulhu Gloom, it uses a few icons you won’t find in other sets, so you’ll water down the effect a bit if you mix it together. There’s some interesting twists in FT Gloom, but at this point we’re not sure when it will be out – certainly not until the end of the year – so I’m going to wait to dig into the details until we have a release date set!

Gloom aside, it’s an exciting time. I’ll be at Gen Con and PAX Prime, and I’ll post my Gen Con schedule in the next few days… along with a new Dragonmark!


Sundry and Geeky Gloom News

Ten years ago I made a game called Gloom. In 2012 Gloom was featured on an episode of Geek & Sundry’s awesome series TableTop, with Wil Wheaton, Meghan Camarena, Amber Benson, and Michelle Boyd. In 2013, Atlas and I teamed up with Geek & Sundry to produce a special TableTop-themed Gloom expansion, which was given away on International TableTop Day.

TableTopGloomCoverWell, it’s 2014, and International TableTop Day is happening again – on April 5th 2014! Last weekend I had the good fortune to be at the announcement party, and it sounds like Geek & Sundry still has some copies of TableTop Gloom on hand. We only did a limited run on it, so no promises that they’ll have it at any particular ITD event… but they might! So if you missed TableTop Gloom last year, look for a ITD event near you.

One of the highlights of the party was playing the game with Meghan Camarena – better known as Strawburry17 – her brother David, and my friend Satine Phoenix. So I got to play TableTop Gloom with one of the people who played Gloom on TableTop, which was a awesomely palindromic way to end a day. On top of which, we killed Wil Wheaton. Twice.

Strawberry GloomOf course, as long as I’m talking about TableTop Gloom, I’d be remiss if I didn’t post a link to the video I made last TableTop Day, with The Doubleclicks and Molly Lewis!

I’m working on a few Gloom-related projects that I’m not quite ready to talk about, but there is one interesting thing happening RIGHT NOW. Artist Len Peralta is producing a new series of Geek Trading cards: Geek-A-Week Year Five Two, and I’m in the roster for the set. Looking at it, my first thought was “I want to play Gloom with these cards!” I talked to Len, and if the Kickstarter hits $20,000 I’m going to put together a set of Geek-A-Week Gloom cards using his artwork. To be clear: This won’t be a fully produced expansion on translucent plastic; plastic cards are expensive to produce, especially in a small run. Instead, this will be a single sheet for you to download and print on cardstock, taking eight of Len’s geeks and translating them in guests and characters for Gloom. Since characters are always on the bottom of the stack, it doesn’t matter if they aren’t transparent. But if you’ve ever wanted to tell a terrifying story in which Patrick Rothfuss traps Neil Gaiman on a train just in time for them both to be murdered by The Doubleclicks and Anne Wheaton, help make this Gloom set a reality! Plus, it means that I’ll get to be on a Gloom card, and I’ve got some ideas for that.

GAW GloomI’ve been meaning to write a Gloom Q&A for a while now, but I’ve never gotten around to it. So… what do you want to know about Gloom?


Time for Gloom: Unquiet Dead

The last few weeks have been tied up with The Doom That Came To Atlantic City, but I have other projects in the works. Soon I want to start talking about the new RPG I’m working on, but today I wanted to talk about the next Gloom expansion: Unquiet Dead.

For anyone who’s not familiar with it, Gloom is a transparent card game in which you control a family of eccentric characters. You’re trying to construct the saddest story possible, and as such your goal is lead your family to misery and death while keeping your opponents happy, healthy and alive. You can see Gloom in action in this episode of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop – or in this video, featuring Molly Lewis, The Doubleclicks, and me!

The original Gloom features the Slogar family, including Lord “brain-in-a-box” Slogar and his cadaverous daughter Melissa. Unquiet Dead expands on this and pulls ghosts, ghouls, mad scientists and all manner of other spooks into the spotlight. Perhaps you’ll be confined in a coffin, have to hide from Hyde, or have a full honeymoon after you’re Wed to a Werewolf. But what are a few of the things that really make this expansion stand out?

Even a man who’s pure of heart and says his prayers by night can become a duck when the moon is full…


Unquiet Dead includes a number of “Undead Modifiers.” These are similar to the transformations of Cthulhu Gloom – modifiers that actually replace the central image of your character with a new picture. This means that the effects of the card stay with you even after the text is covered. So if you look at “Woke up as a Wereduck” above, you’ll see that it says “Undead; Beast, Duck”. Once you become a wereduck, you are ALWAYS considered to have the Beast and Duck story icons… and you’re undead.

Undead characters are considered to be both alive and dead. They count towards ending the game and count towards your score… but they remain active, and you can continue to play Modifiers and Events on them. This can be both a blessing and a curse; you can make things worse for your wereduck, but your opponents can continue to cheer you up. No one ever said a vampire couldn’t find true love! Or sell the movie rights to the story! And speaking of stories…


Stories give your families something new to fight over. A Story is a card that starts in the middle of the table. To claim a story, you need to have a certain number of a particular story icon in your family. So after once of your characters is Perturbed By The Pudding and another is Sickened By Salmon, you find yourself with two Goblet icons. That lets you claim to the “Icebox of Doctor Caligari” Story – and you keep it until another player has more Goblets than you do. As long as it’s in your possession, it provides you with a useful ongoing ability. So Stories give you a reason to push your family in a particular direction – and the back and forth of trying to keep your opponents from stealing your Story adds a fun twist.


In classic Gloom, many Untimely Deaths provide a bonus if the dead character has a particular Story icon. A character who’s Sickened By Salmon loses an extra ten points if he Chokes on a Bone as opposed to being Burnt By A Mob… because the original tale dealt with food, and the death logically follows. Unquiet Dead continues this approach, but now you can get a wider range of bonuses from matching deaths to the logical characters. For example, if you happened to be Worrying About Wolves before being Run Down By The Pack, you’ll have an opportunity to kill an additional character; and if your character is already wealthy when she Took It With Her, your draw limit could be increased by one for the rest of the game.

Unquiet Dead comes out in October 2013, but if you catch me at an upcoming convention (Wizard World Chicago, Gen Con, Dragon*Con) you might have an opportunity to try it out early! Until then, check out more of the Undead modifiers in Atlas Games’ latest preview.

TableTop Day & My Trip To GloomCon!

Happy TableTop Day! Atlas Games and I produced a special set of promo cards for the day, and if you’d like to see them in action, now’s your chance! I had a chance to play a game with Molly Lewis and The Doubleclicks, and the video highlights are here.

One question that may come up is just how to work Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, or Doctor Hannah into your regular Gloom narrative. Perhaps it’s a wacky Gothic episode of the Guild. Perhaps it all takes place on the holodeck. In our game, we took a different approach and set our game at GloomCon, the most miserable convention in the world. When you’re Pestered By Poltergeists, well, it’s probably a Poltergeist marathon; and when you’re Put Into Prison, it’s obviously that Klingon charity prison. Gloom has a generally Victorian flavor, but it’s all about the story you make together; if your group comes up with a different backdrop, it can make for a very different experience.

If you’re in Portland, I’ll be at Rainy Day Games at 2 PM and Things From Another World at 3:30 PM. Wherever you are, I hope you have a fantastic TableTop Day!



My plans for TableTop Day!

We’re just a few days away from International TableTop Day. Games are afoot! Afeet! Whatever! I’ve learned a number of new games this month – Agents of SMERSHUnexploded Cow, Emperor’s New Clothes, Deadwood Studios – and I hope I’ll learn a few new ones this weekend. Of course, I also plan on playing one of MY games…

Atlas Games and I put this set of cards together to say “Thank you” to TableTop for introducing new people to so many games that we love. It’s going to be available at as a free promo at TableTop Day events that are receiving support from Geek & Sundry. If you go to the Event Locator, if the event has a star, then they should have this promo set… though, of course, supplies are very limited and it’s up to the event managers to decide how to distribute the cards.

This TableTop set includes Stories and Guests, two types of cards that aren’t found in the standard Gloom deck. Guests appear in the expansions Unwelcome Guests and Unpleasant Dreams, while stories are found in Cthulhu Gloom. The pack includes rules for using the cards, but I wanted to show you how they work. With that in mind, I invited Molly Lewis and The Doubleclicks over to play a game with the TableTop cards. I’ll be posting the video highlights of the game soon, so you can be prepared when you get your hands on your very own Gloomy Wil!

The Doubleclicks are awesome, but the real star of the show is the photobombing Mister Pants.

Meanwhile, if you live in Portland, you’ve got a few chances to play Gloom with me on TableTop Day. I’ll be at Rainy Day Games from 2-3 PM, and then I’ll be at Things From Another World on Broadway at 3:30 PM. I hope I’ll see you there. And if not, have a Gloomy and Awesome TableTop Day!

Check back tomorrow to see the video!

Gloomy News 2/28: TableTop Game Day and BGG!

While I’ve done a lot of posts about Eberron, I’ve made another game you might be familiar with… a thing called Gloom. Over the next few weeks I’m going to write a little about Gloom, so if you have any questions on Gloomy subjects, now is the time (and this is the place) to ask!

First, the big news: March 30th is International TableTop Day. Geek & Sundry is encouraging gamers around the world to get out and play some games. To help with the festivities, Atlas Games and I put together a nine-card expansion… TableTop Gloom! Now you can share Anne’s agony when she Bumped The Board! TableTop Gloom includes two Stories and two Guests. Stories are one of my favorite elements of Cthulhu Gloom, and I’m glad to have a few to use with standard Gloom. So while you heap misfortune on your family, you’ll also have the chance to see who can claim the TableTop Trophy of Awesome and who will end up on The Loser’s Couch! TableTop Gloom won’t be for sale; it’s a promotional item that will be sent with other support to stores hosting TableTop Day events. So if you want a copy, find a place where you can play some games!

In other news, when I passed through Chicago a few weeks ago, I played a little Gloom at an excellent game store called Cat and Mouse Games. While I was there, I had an opportunity to talk to Beth Heile of Board Game Geek, and the interview has just been posted at BGG!