why did I write an rpg: some navel-gazing

At some point over the weekend — said weekend was cold, raining, and generally gross, which made work a grind and my brain search for distraction but fail to have energy to do much constructively — I had a somewhat incoherent train of thought that went basically like this over a day and a half or so:

“There are other setting ideas kind of rattling around aside from the plane-hopping one, and hell I’m practically admitting that the plane-shopping supplement is also basically a setting; should I post up somewhere a ‘generic’ version of the rules I use for my pocketrpg?”


“If I posted up a generic version of the rules somewhere, wouldn’t it make sense to add a ‘feel free to use these to make stuff’ note or something along those lines in case someone would like it?”


“An ‘SRD’ or a make-stuff note is kind of extraneous isn’t it, there’s piles of games that people would rather use/would get more out of/already tinker with and oh gawd the brainweasels are closing in”


“But doing a Whole Thing every time I might want to post another minisetting or whatever also kind of feels presumptuous? Or ridiculous? Or something?”


“Oh gawd I need this weekend to be over, I can tell I’m doing terrible things to myself here”

… and from there (by this point I was trundling around on Sunday evening), I wisely chose to divert myself away by indulging in the recording of the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade and hauling several comforting textbooks on dynastic Egypt to work, which did help. It also had me ruminating on a different-but-related topic by the time last night rolled around:

Why did I write an rpg/these rpgs/these rules?

I mean, the first answer is also the simplest: because I wanted to. All of the various iterations have boiled down to “because I wanted to”; so will the ideas I’m still nibbling away at, because this is a hobby for me and I like to create, and rpg things are one of the things I like to create.

The actual path for this pocketrpg thing went basically like this:

-Two summers ago(ish) I was at work and had a moment of “I wonder if I can fit a tiny system+enough flavour for an implied setting into a pocketmod?”, and proceeded to peck at the notion for a bit. Nine Black Jewel Moons was the result, which I then promptly also reskinned into a cyberpunk-with-psionics version (Neon Burning Skies) because why not. A few folks liked this, which was reassuring.

-Not leaving well enough alone, I made a companion pocketmod for NBJM with some magic items and more setting snips and a few ideas for rules additions. (originally I was also going to do a companion for NBS and I still have the scribbles, but to this day it’s never actually materialized …)

-About the first time it looked like Fantasy Flight was about to kill off L5R *bitter laughter* I tried my first take on “here is a different type of setting, please see NBJM for the rules” and wrote Steel Blossom Dreams, my little pocketmod take on what I got after shaking my fist at a lot of L5R’s … L5R-ness and hauling textbooks to work. (said books are probably why SBD owes as much or more to Heian as to later eras.) At the same time, I was experimenting with a setting-with-map-in-a-pocketmod, and in the end tried to sort of thread the needle to make Six Swords Rising usable with or without SBD, though the two were (tenuously) connected.

(I am tempted to give SSR an overhaul and expansion, and maybe a different map, and probably lean even harder into being a fantasy setting not meant to emulate any specific thing, I freely admit. it would also make borrowing over the one thing I kept-ish from L5R, descriptive clan/family/whatever-you-like-in-your-setting names, both much easier and far less fraught.)

(… I also just really like pocketmods >.>;;)

-Hilariously, expanding past pocketmod-size was entirely prompted by my being thoroughly annoyed by several years’ development in a completely different arena — the Fire Emblem srpg franchise — and throwing up my hands and yelling fine I’ll make my own, then! … And then I did, if by “made my own” I mean “emulated the tropes common to FE characters with traits and equipment and then wrote another small setting from scratch while including a few nods to FE plot tropes here and there”. I’d use my mini rules (+ the companion bits) as a base and expand a tiny wee bit, and add a wee gazetteer, etc. And so, Lost Emblem Saga. Which also had a few folks like it, which was also reassuring.

Equally hilariously is this is where I actually started calling these things my “pocketrpg” because — this is 100% true — since what I wanted to do would never fit on one sheet, I would make something that once printed out, would be the size of the quarter-page handmade notebooks I make. Which conveniently fit snugly in the back pocket of my work pants.

Yes these are literally pocketrpgs and I am not even sorry.


-Some time shortly after LES, I started thinking I’d like to use its expanded rules (I’d elaborated on magic a little, among other bits), originally from NBJM/Jewel Moons, to actually expand out Jewel Moons itself into a similar pocketrpg. This was not so much prompted as a sort of “I think I’d like to do that …” and then I started tinkering. Oops?

What eventually because Wandering Jewel Moons took a lot longer to pull together, but there were more hurdles (even more pandemic brain; other ideas, like what became Wilusa, City Of Chains, itself spinning from my first ideas of the “mini-not!Planescape”; etc) to get past to do it. But I did. And a few folks like that also.

This is a lot of rambling to basically still say, at the end, I did it because I wanted to …

There are and were other games I’ve done. The Blue Lotus Hack (which is out there on the interwebs) is a flavour tweaking of The Black Hack 1e with a setting/bestiary/magic items selection attached, and I also used TBH 1e for a conversion of Final Fantasy (yes, the original; no, this one’s not out there on the interwebs) including the whole bestiary. Some day I might finish the “space hack”; sometimes I muse on seeing if I can switch it over to pocketrpg or pull what system it has out altogether.

But, it was nice to make a little game framework of my own? Even if, in my personal opinion, there are plenty of folks who do much better — and yes I can name quite a few without batting an eyelash — I wanted to make it, and it made me happy, and I can use it to be that framework for other things I write. I just need to keep taking a newspaper to the brainweasels over it.

I still want to make more things for the pocketrpg (which if I ever do pull up my britches and post a generic version, for folks to use or otherwise, probably needs some kind of name). I need to also keep on telling myself that that’s fine. This is a hobby, after all. I like to make things, and I like to make little notes about little worlds.

This has been a lot of babbling and if you’ve made it this far, congrats *lol* There’s no grand conclusion, alas, not to the babbling and not to the questions that kicked it all off. But sometimes, it’s like that –?