As a writer and designer I’ve worked on tabletop, digital and live games – my current project in 2020 is an alternate reality game for a major Australian university. I also run games-based workshops for kids of all ages. Find out about some of the games I’ve made or worked on below – some are even free to download and try at home! Please let me know what you you think if you play any of my games. You can also check out the Pop Up Playground web site for details of the games I made as head game designer.
Table of Tales: The Crooked Crown
My first videogame as head writer, Table of Tales: The Crooked Crown by Tin Man Games was released for PlayStation VR on April 16, 2019. It’s a digital twist on classic tabletop roleplaying games, set in a world of sorcery, swashbuckling and scoundrels, all overseen by the enthusiastic magical game master Arbitrix.
Table of Tales was a finalist for Best Narrative in the 2019 Freeplay Awards, and has had some great reviews:
“The future of tabletop storytelling … I lost time playing [Table of Tales]. Two hours passed before I realised it, simply because the music and story were so involving and fascinating. … It’s equal parts thrilling, fascinating and fantastic.” ★★★★½ – Leah Williams, The AU Review, April 20, 2019
“a proper, bona fide dungeon master … complete with the performative acting of different voices to represent different characters … paints vivid pictures of exciting, heroic action … a spot-on recreation of the best pen-and-paper RPG experiences and dungeon master performances” ★★★★½ – Matt S, Digitally Downloaded, April 24, 2019
“a blast to play … a charming little fantasy tale … it’s easy to find yourself engrossed in what’s going on … hard not to feel completely enthralled” 8.7/10 – Rob, Use A Potion, April 23, 2019
Dungeons & Dragons Resources
Playing Dungeons & Dragons for the first time can be daunting! One of the game’s strengths is that is has a rule to cover nearly every situation – but that also means there are a lot of rules you might have to learn. I’ve put the following resources together for new players in my own games, and thought I’d share them here.
- Character Picker – making your first character can be daunting, especially if you’re not familiar with the basic fantasy tropes of the game. I created this character picker using Twine to help new players make the big decisions for their first character. It doesn’t delve into the rules, but gives some pointers on choosing a race and class, and some general advice useful when making a character. Note that it only uses options available in the Player’s Handbook.
- Basic cheat sheet – this covers the basic rules you need all the time when playing, all on one A4 page. Includes important basic terms, rules for the most common dice rolls, and a visual guide to the different sizes of dice. (PDF, 1 A4 page, 303 Kb; version 1.1, updated March 2020)
- Combat reference – a summary of how combat works, including how turns work, the types of actions you can take, a list of the combat actions available to all characters, and a summary of how injury, healing and death. (PDF, 2 A4 pages, 93 Kb; version 1.4, added October 2019)
Coming soon: Amateur Hour Apocalypse
My newest tabletop game is nearly done! Amateur Hour Apocalypse is a comedy game about regular folk who decide to learn magic in the modern day – and accidentally unleash impending sorcerous Armageddon! Only they can stop it – assuming they can assemble the necessary ingredients for an ancient ritual they barely understand. And they only have two hours…
This game is in playtesting at the moment and will be my first fully-formed tabletop RPG, designed for one-shot games which aren’t entirely serious. Plans to crowdfund production of PDF and physical zine format editions had to be postponed, but I’ll get back to them eventually – watch this space!
Ben McKenzie’s Late Night Games Night: The Board Game
Ben’s last-minute six-nights-only late night board game show during the 2018 Comedy Festival definitely wasn’t just an excuse to make a flyer with a complete, playable board game on the back… But it was partly that. You can download a PDF copy here for your own enjoyment.
Ben McKenzie’s Late Night Games Night: The Board Game (A6 PDF, 663 Kb)
It’s a simple game that uses party-game style challenges themed around the games I featured in the show. The original final challenge was to see Ben McKenzie’s Late Night Games Night but you’ve missed that now, so here are some alternatives:
- If a fringe arts or comedy festival is currently on in your city:
- See any of the shows featured in the Safety House Guide.
- Collect a flyer from a performer whose show sounds appealing to you.
- Share your thoughts about a show you loved (with a link) on social media or a festival web site.
- If there’s not currently a festival on:
- Book tickets to a live performance featuring performers you’ve never seen before.
- Agree to play a game you’ve never played before.
- Go to a public playful or games event, like the ones organised for the Freeplay Independent Games Festival.
- Contact Ben and tell him about a challenge you created for a blank space.
- Let the other players pick one of the challenges on the board you haven’t done yet; you must pass that challenge to win.
- Forget about having a challenge at the end, you just win when you land on FINISH!
Every adventurer has to start somewhere! Dungeon Time is a storytelling game workshop for kids who want to get into fantasy adventure roleplaying. It involves simple, easy-to-learn rules for generating your own dungeon-crawling adventures – without even needing a Dungeon Master!
I first ran a Dungeon Time workshop at ArtPlay for the 2017 Melbourne Writers’ Festival, and have since run it for several libraries including Diamond Valley, Eltham, Mill Park, Nunawading and the State Library of Victoria, as well as a modified version at 100 Story Building as part of their holiday program. Watch out for its return in future! If you – or your kids – have been to a workshop and would like to play some more, I’ve made the character sheet available below, though you can also just make your own using some blank paper. If you’d like me to run Dungeon Time for a library, classroom or any group of kids, get in touch! I have versions suitable for 5-8 year olds and 9-12 year olds. (For older kids I have a separate learn-to-play Dungeons & Dragons workshop.)
Super Mega Battle Fight Time Go!
Life can be tough when you’re a teenager – and being attacked by monsters all the time doesn’t make it any easier! Super Mega Battle Fight Time Go! is a mini-RPG for a GM and 3 or more players. You play young adults suddenly gifted with the power to turn into masked superheroes, who must fight monsters – and the social challenges of being young adults! It’s inspired by Japanese tokusatsu TV shows like Kamen Rider and Super Sentai (aka Power Rangers).
Download Super Mega Battle Fight Time Go! (PDF, postcard-sized, 2 pages)
I wrote this tiny RPG back in 2014 for the ConTessa D3 Microgame of Stupefying Wonder challenge. ConTessa is a women-led online gaming con, hosted on Google+. The restrictions for the challenge were that you could only need paper, pencils and a 3-sided dice, and that the whole game had to fit on a single postcard (though two sides were fine). The winning entry was “The Guild of Orpheus” from my friend and incredible RPG designer Grant Howitt; you should check out his games, they’re some of my all-time favourites.
A Mysterious Wanderer in the Fourth Dimension
Can one hero really protect all of infinity? Perhaps – if they live multiple lives! A Mysterious Wanderer in the Fourth Dimension is a mini-RPG with no Game Master, in which a group of friends all play different incarnations of a “mysterious wanderer” who fights for good across time and space, sometimes failing but always reincarnating – until a final battle with a great Evil forces all their incarnations to team up for one last stand!
Download A Mysterious Wanderer in the Fourth Dimension (A5 PDF, two pages)
I think it’s pretty obvious what my influence is here. I have a fascination with breaking Doctor Who down and seeing what similar but very different things you can assemble from its essentials. This game was my first attempt at doing so for others to play. Intended as an entry for ConTessa’s microgame challenge in 2014, it wouldn’t fit in the space provided so I entered my other idea (Super Mega Battle Fight Time Go!) and finished this version later, with some helpful input from Grant Howitt and Patrick O’Duffy.
Even now it’s a bit squashed, and probably not quite finished; I’d love to give it a bit of polish. If you play it, please let me know what you think.