Stories You Play

Home of RPGs by Matt Snyder, including Dust Devils, Nine Worlds, 44: A Game of Automatic Fear, and The Ladykillers

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The Ladykillers cover peek!

My newest RPG design, The Ladykillers, is ready for playtest. I’m actively looking for groups to playtest the game. Everyone in your group receives the full PDF copy for free, plus any other PDFs of my games you like, and a nod in the published version.

I’m wrapping up layout now, and delighted with this cover design I put together:

The Ladykillers RPG

Announcing The Ladykillers RPG

November is a month for creative projects completed within the month. So, in solidarity, I will release a new mini RPG this month!

The Ladykillers

You died before your time. At least for a while. Someone, somewhere gave you another chance. The woman you were has returned to the world. You’re free again. But it all comes with a heavy price. Call it justice. Call it God’s wrath. Curse it if you want. Redemption is out there. Release. Peace. You would kill for that. And you’ll have to.

A Role-playing Game

The Ladykillers is a role-playing game. You take on the role of a lady returned from the grave as an assassin.

Your ladykiller’s job is to take out everyone on the hitlist. They are monsters. Sometimes literally. They probably deserve it. The thing is, you’ll see some other people along the way that might get hurt. No one said it would be easy.

Play with your friends. One of you will be the guide, and her job is to push the other players toward their goals and portray all the other supporting characters, friend or foe. Everyone else plays her own ladykiller.

Playing is easy. You spend most of your time talking to each other about what happens in this imaginary story you’re all dreaming up together. And, there are some simple rules to make things more interesting.

Dust Devils now in Bundle of Holding offer!

dust-devils-coverI’m very proud to share that Dust Devils is now available in the latest Bundle of Holding offer. This is a pay-what-you want bundle for DRM-free PDFs that helps support charity!

First, you get awesome games in this indie bundle, including

  • Sorcerer, by Ron Edwards
  • Annalise by Nathan Paoletta
  • Mars Colony by Tim Koppang
  • Dog Eat Dog by Liam Liwanag Burke
  • Our Last Best Hope by Mark Truman
  • And, of course, Dust Devils by me.

I’m extraordinarily excited about this bundle. These are seriously high quality games, and you can get all of these for $11, or a few of them for smaller donations.

Second, this helps boost two worthy charities, Heifer International and War Child. These are both causes important to me (and even to Dust Devils via cattle – yay!).

Dagger & Shadow RPG playtest now available

Dagger & Shadow is my upcoming game of thieves, swordplay, sorcery and dark alleys. I’ve started playtesting the “alpha” version. It includes the core rules for characters and game play.

Meanwhile, I’m also working on the rules for running your own guilds and gangs. This section will kick the game up a notch with game play for factions. It lets your group run their own guild and expand their influence and actions across the city.

If you’re interested in the alpha version for review or playtest, here’s the link:

Dagger & Shadow playtest alpha

Once the other section and game master advice is complete, I’ll issue a beta playtest. With enough feedback and a full game, I’ll get ready for publishing my first game in since 44. Very excited!

Dust Devils music

I stumbled on some great music for Dust Devils inspiration. It’s a band called The Builders & The Butchers. Their album Western Medicine is great!

Also reminds me of the EP The Last Pale Light in the West by Ben Nichols. It’s directly inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridien.

And, there’s always this atmospheric instrumental by Earth called Hex: Or Printing In the Infernal Method. I listened to that one while writing the “revenged” edition of Dust Devils.

Announcing Dagger & Shadow RPG

I’m very excited about my game-in-development. It’s call Dagger & Shadow.

It’s a fantasy RPG, a game of urban adventures filled with thieves, dark sorcery, and sword-play. The game is heavily influenced by Fritz Leiber’s fantastic Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series, along with a whole other batch of fun fantasy novels featuring thieves, assassins, swordsmen, and dark alley adventure. Another big influence is the Thief video game series, long one of my favorites.

Dagger & Shadow will use a new system I’m working on for the game. In many ways, it’s my most “traditional” RPG design to-date. It has character classes, uses good ol’ fashioned dice, and doesn’t have an “end game” state.

The game’s cleverest feature is the dice and action mechanics. Players roll pools of d6s, adding the highest 2 for a target number. But, any 6s rolled amp up the action with something called Edges. These are specific moves and maneuvers players can mix and match, allowing their characters to create exciting combinations of action.

Stay tuned. I’ll offer up a playtest in a couple months.

Back in the saddle again

Hi everyone. An update is long overdue.

First, on the Dust Devils front, I’m in the process of updating the PDFs so they’re more compatible with up-to-date technology. There are no real content changes here, but it should mean the PDF will work better on various digital devices. I’m still extremely proud of Dust Devils, and it continues to provide me some beer money from time to time.

Second, I’ve been tinkering away on a new design. I’m creating  a fantasy game that’s all about thieves, rogues, and guilds and cities. The working title is “Thievery,” and it’s the result of lots of design noodling that resulted from Indigo, which I’ve mentioned here previously. In other words, Indigo isn’t dead. I’ve got a long way to go to make it something other people might actually use in their designs, but I’m hopeful it will pave the way for more games of my own.

Well, now that I’ve actually announced publicly I’m working on this, I better deliver! I’m the first to admit things I work on don’t always complete. I know that’s frustrating for some, and it’s definitely frustrating for me. So, thanks for your continued interest in my games, and I hope to bring Thievery and more to you within 2012.

Meanwhile! Check out It’s a fun blog I started with the purpose of sharing fun gaming ideas. It has little game hacks, name generators and scenario ideas — that kind of thing. There are some posts there already by myself, Jason Morningstar and Ralph Mazza. If you’re interested in contributing any ideas, I’d love to hear from you.

Catching up

Things are pretty quiet for me on the game design front. Don’t count me out just yet.

School’s in session

The main cause is graduate school. I’m getting my MBA at a challenging university, working full time (and then some), and raising two kids with my wife. As you can imagine, things get crazy. And, when class is in session, my leisure time is scarce.

I only take one graduate class at a time, in part because it’s tough to do with the kids. And, I get tuition reimbursement from my day job, but it only covers three classes per year. Hence, the long haul. For me, it’s a five-year program. I’m in my fourth year. Almost there, but not quite. I’ll finish sometime next year, either in summer or even fall 2012.

The house

Oh yeah! If you know me, you may have heard about my nightmare story about selling my old house. Well, that finally happened in October. Canada and I now live in an AMAZING house, and we’re still euphoric. The way things went for us, we pretty much wake up every day thrilled with our situation (and half expecting someone to snatch it away!). It certainly removed a very serious frustration from our lives, and we’re much better off now.

Reading & writing

Last winter, I also took a look at what I was doing with my time and how it could change. I missed reading fiction, in particular. So, I put a lot more effort into that, and resurrected my reading & writing blog, It’s been a real pleasure to do that so far.

That change also sparked my interest in writing again. I haven’t accomplished anything on that front, and I realize how much this competes for my time along with everything else. Once class started again this spring, any writing efforts I’d tried fell apart immediately. I’m still sorting out how to balance all this out, to be honest.

What about Indigo?

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already familiar with my plans with Indigo, an open design that publishers could use to build a collective audience. I’ve posted about it previously, and I started a Google group about its development last fall. I’ve been silent there for a couple reasons. First, all that busy life stuff I mentioned above. Second, because I realized (Keith warned me!) that the group wasn’t the right way to go about this.

So, I’m sorry to group members for my silence and not explaining more. I hope to keep Indigo on life support long enough to reach better goals. But, I don’t think the group is the right way to proceed.

The funny thing about my hibernation as a game junkie is realizing how much I miss the creative process, and the satisfaction that comes from it. I really miss creating and collaborating. That collaborating part really fell away over the years, and it probably contributed to my frustrations with design and the indie scene as a whole. That’s a whole other topic, though.

Playing again

Things come full circle. The irony of me being away from the indie RPG scene and not doing much design is that I’m now having the most fun playing RPGs I’ve had in the last 7-8 years. I’ve written previously about how my local group and I have enjoyed playing Pathfinder. While the house situation put that on hiatus last summer and fall as I moved, we’re back to regular sessions. My group is having an absolute blast, and it’s the first time in years I’ve seen them so motivated to play. Usually, real life stuff gets in the way, and getting schedules to match is a pain. But, the last few months have been fantastic.

It’s a reminder to me of a couple things I took for granted. First, it’s been an eye-opener to see borders between the indie scene and more traditional gamers and games come into clearer focus. I see a lot of what I think the indie scene as I knew it did “wrong” in terms of not giving some people what they wanted out of games. Second, it’s also a sharp reminder how much actual play must be the foundation of designing fun games.

What now?

I wish I could say confidently where I’ll be in a year regarding my games and Indigo and other things. I just don’t know that, and can’t until my busy life gets a lot less crazy.

I have some ideas about what I’d like to see, but a lot of those take effort and collaborators. I’d like Indigo to get off the ground with an actual game launch and a kind of SRD that others could use to design with. I’m afraid I’ve probably let my relationships among designers atrophy; that’s one of my regrets. I didn’t intend it.

Illumination: Nine Worlds’ prologue

This is one of my favorite bits from Nine Worlds. It appeared as the book’s Prologue.


“I know what you’re thinking, Alex,” Prometheus said. “Everyone wants to know two things when illumined. First, you’re going to ask me how this all started.” He waved his hands. “How the universe came to be like this. How you have any awareness or power at all in the first place.”

“You’re right. I was going to ask you that. So, can you read my mind?”

“No. No, I can’t do that. Let’s just say I’ve done this before. The questions are always the same.” Prometheus’ lip curled in a wry grin. “Why should you be any different?”

Alex had no reply, and silence crept between them. He looked out the rosy glass window of the strange piscine vessel they had boarded in the train station. People were everywhere. Most raced to meet their connections. Some waited along the wall reading newspapers, eating sandwiches, or drowning out the world with headphones.

Not a soul seemed to acknowledge the huge bronze and glass fish hovering in the steam near Terminal 3A. No one except for a small boy who stood staring, mouth agape at the glassy red eyes of the fish, from where Alex surveyed scene. Alexander waved at the child, and the child cowered behind the legs of a woman that must have been his mother. He heard Prometheus chuckle.

“What about the second thing?” Alexander asked coolly, still staring at the boy.

“You don’t miss much, do you?”

“Not much.”

“That’s good for you. The second thing you’re going to ask me is what you should do about it — about the hidden war, the powers that be, the ignorant masses of humanity. …” Prometheus motioned to the bustling travelers outside.

“Right again. So? You’re the big, bad Titan, right? Surely you have some advice for what I should do now. Or, maybe what you’d like me to do?”

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you, Alex? I’m loathe to disappoint you. The choice is yours.” Prometheus leaned back and sighed. “I have no earthly idea.”

44: A Game of Automatic Fear now in print!

My game 44: A Game of Automatic Fear, which is a free online on this site, is now also available in print from

Get 44 for only $8!

44: A Game of Automatic Fear

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