The Intrigue Engine – A First Draft

Hey all,

Sorry about the delays in getting the latest version of Spark out the door, but that should be ready in about a week or so. Until then, I bring you a free little mini game called the Intrigue Engine.  It’s a little thought experiment inspired by Rob Donoghue’s Mighty Brain.

Feel free to take a look, to comment and to pilfer any clever bits.  It’s mostly Amber and Durance smashed together with a light sprinkling of Polaris in there.

The Intrigue Engine First Draft


P.s. The GenCon seminars, including the “Intro to Indie RPG’s” one, will be up very soon.

Your First RPG

This is a section of the Spark RPG that I will regretfully have to cut during the revision process while I prepare version 3.5 of the beta. If anyone is looking for a write up on logistics for new gamers, please feel free to grab this wholesale.


Your First RPG


You need to schedule some time when your group would be available. Discuss what day of the week you will be playing on and how frequently you plan on meeting. Try to determine when you plan on starting and finishing each session as well; I prefer 3-4 hour long sessions.

Every group has its own expectations on attendance at games. Some people can reliably block off game night, while others may have personal responsibilities or erratic work schedules.  The system can accommodate players who only participate infrequently but it’s up to you to figure out what’s comfortable for your group.

Play Space

You need fixed and dependable space to play the game. It could be the home of one of the players, the GM’s apartment, a gaming club, or even an online environment. Discuss what the best play space might be for the group. If you are playing in someone else’s space, be polite and help clean up after the game.

Food and Drink

I find it helpful to talk about food and drink before I start playing a game. Try to discuss any meal arrangements, snack foods, allergies, or beverage preferences. Games are much more enjoyable on a full stomach!

The Massive Microscope Hack

Microscope, by Lame Mage Productions, is an amazing game.  It gives you all of the tools to create your own epic history, outlining the epochs and describing the events within. If there is one complaint, it is that the game only accommodates a max of 4 people per game session.  When I was running it at Games on Demand at GenCon 2012, I wanted to share the experience with more people than the game allowed, so I started to hack.

I dragged in a total of 7 other players to play a massive game of Microscope.  The eight of us came together with the broad concept and the palate of the game world. Once we had that determined, we created a total of three bookends.  We created the Start Period, the Climax Period and the End Period.


At that point, we split into two even sizes groups. Group A explored the span of time between the Start and the Climax, while group B explored what happened between the Climax and the End.  Both sides shared the Climax period and all of the Legacies.  Most importantly, we had sporadic communication between the two groups.  I asked the other group if they had established a particular important location, for example.  We also notified each other about facts that we had established about the world.

For scale, we ran an eight-person game of Microscope in 2 hours. I limited each group to two new Periods between their respective book-ends, and we were able to flesh things out beautifully. The only thing that would have made it better was a full 4 hour time slot, so we could explore the setting in more depth.

Hope you find this helpful! I will have some updated information on Spark shortly.

Spark RPG Open Beta: Revised Version

Thanks to all of your kind feedback, I have revised the Spark RPG open beta text. You can find the expanded text, with slightly improved formatting, under the link below!

I would love to hear what you think about this iteration of the game. I welcome all feedback especially more constructive criticism so I can further revise the game. The layout is still rudimentary, but I think that the text is a bit more functional.

I will be happy to run this version of the text for you at Games on Demand at GenCon. I hope to see you there!

Thank you for your time!

Open Beta Feedback and Revision

Hello all.

I have gotten some incredible feedback on the first version of the Beta, enough that I am now revising the game text to prepare the next version of the beta.  I wanted to let you know what the major findings are and explain my next steps.

Findings and Flaws

  1. I utterly failed to explain how Fate worked or how it interacts with the Beliefs.  This will get its own section in the game text, either within the Introduction or Mechanics. I would love your feedback on which area would be appropriate.
  2. I need to promote and expand the setting-creation and faction mechanics, as that is one of the areas that make my game unique.
  3. The advancement system that I included in the game, where you simply bought yourself new Attributes, Talents and Conditions with Fate, doesn’t quite work out.
  4. The layout and cross-referencing in the text were poorly done. The next version of the beta will still be laid out via word processor, but will be better graphically designed in improve comprehension.
  5. The text fails to teach effectively or communicate my passion for the game. In short, it’s a dry reference text to the detriment of people trying to get into the game.
  6. I didn’t really understand my audience. I was writing this game for story game designers and people who had never heard of RPG’s before. The next version of the text will be calibrated to serve players of story games.
  7. I need to provide large amounts of descriptive advice on how declaration work and how they serve to encourage roleplaying.
  8. I need to remove all references to Proxies, rename them “Influence” and describe in great detail how they function in play. Influences are to be used in all Conflicts where you are not using a PC to support or oppose the declaration.
  9. I need to generally reorganize the text and work most of the advice and examples directly into the game text. I had originally intended on strictly separating the different kinds of content, but that has proven to be an ineffective technique for game organization and teaching.
  10. I need to explain the resolutions and why you should pick any given one during a conflict. The Walking Eye playtest was very PVP and they went for the throat, so I need to explain why you would want to use some of the kinder resolutions in play.


Next Steps

I am attempting to revise the text and release the next version of the game as quickly as I can, for another cycle of open beta playtesting. I will be running a number of game sessions at GenCon during Games on Demand with the most recent iteration of the rules, and I would love to invite you to participate.

Thank you for reading