A pair of old six-sided diceIn the fall of 1984, during a layoff from General Electric, I sold a “capsule review” to Steve Jackson’s Space Gamer magazine. A month later they accepted my “Mind Duel” board game. Within a year, I was working full-time as a designer and editor for GDW, then TSR, with a bit of freelance for FASA, West End, Flying Buffalo, and others. Nowadays (after an interlude spent in educational publishing) I’m publishing myself—and other people—via Popcorn Press.
Photo by sean_hicken

State of the Smithy

Lester : October 14, 2016 10:36 am : Announcements, Commentary, Fiction, Game Design, Poetry, Popcorn Press

“Blacksmith at Work” photo by Derek Key, CC by 2.0

A year ago, I had an audacious plan: Finish translating Aquelarre, write a sonnet weekly for The Pastime Machine, release a monthly 6-page D6xD6 RPG expansion, publish another poet or author monthly, launch a D13 RPG Kickstarter this fall, manage an annual Halloween anthology, attend a half-dozen conventions, and possibly publish a dice game and a couple of Monster Con card game expansions.

Today, I’m staring at a bucketload of unfinished business. My Aquelarre translation is overdue. I’m behind on The Pastime Machine. The monthly D6xD6 schedule is on hold after just two releases early in the year. I have a stack of unpublished poetry books and novels (including one posthumous title by an old friend). My D13 RPG project is delayed indefinitely (with a half-dozen illos already paid for). I’m barely able to leave my house. And the dice and card plans are in limbo (also with some art finished). While this year’s annual Halloween anthology, Lupine Lunes, is still a go (with family help), that project is much lower key than in the past.

So what happened?

You may know that I’ve have a neurological condition for a decade—a diagnosis of “more-than-migraine/less-than-seizure”—and over the past two years I’ve suffered some related prescription side effects. Add in new family responsibilities—including a daughter’s foot amputation—and I’m fairly overwhelmed.

As a generally upbeat, hopeful guy, I kept planning for the future, expecting things would sort out eventually.

I still believe they will, but the sorting out is taking longer than I had hoped. And part of that is facing the idea that I just can’t keep up the pace. I’m at diminished capacity. It’s sobering, but I can’t keep expecting to “recover.” This may be my new reality.

I love my work. Translating Aquelarre has been the opportunity of a lifetime, but I’ve been talking with Stewart Wieck (the publisher) about getting help. On the side, I’ll continue drafting a sonnet a week for The Pastime Machine. And with family help, we’ll finish Lupine Lunes. I can’t even think about the rest right now.

But one last thing: I apologize to everyone who was counting on me for more. That weighs on me. I’ve done my best, and my best wasn’t good enough. I’m truly sorry.



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Pharmacology Roulette

Lester : September 3, 2016 9:41 pm : Announcements, Game Design

Pharmacology Roulette logoMy friend Jamie Chambers and his family have been going through a rough time, specifically with his teenaged daughter Liz’s cancer battle. So when Jamie asked me to join in the #fun4liz project, I immediately said “Yes!”

It took awhile to keep that promise, but recently I gave him the rules for Pharmacology ℞oulette, a crazy little dice game that fits on a business card and uses pretty much all the polyhedral dice you have in your home. Seriously, you’ll need a pile, especially if you have four or more players. It’s a “beer and pretzels” game with a twisted sense of humor. Jamie says Liz thinks the game’s drug side effects are a hoot.

Click the linked title or picture in this post, or type into your browser bar, to get a copy of your own. Proceeds go to Liz’s recovery expenses. Besides the physical copy, you’ll get a PDF you can download immediately to start playing.

And while you’re there, be sure to check out the other offerings, like my buddy Steve Sullivan’s Escape from “Manos” Hands of Fate adventure. MST3k fans will know immediately what that’s all about. :-)

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Fashionably Late

Lester : April 16, 2016 2:20 pm : Announcements, Commentary, Free Games, Game Design

Graveyard Shift coverI’ve been role-playing for ages now—pretty much from “the beginning“—and gamemastering for nearly as long, besides reviewing, designing, and publishing RPGs. I’ve played thousands of sessions, hundreds of different game titles, with hundreds of different people—and still discover some delightful new nuance of role-playing from time to time.

The most recent “aha” moment came during a Gary Con session of Angela Roquet‘s “The World of Lana Harvey, Reaper’s Inc.,” using the D6xD6 RPG rules.

The D6xD6 RPG is a fairly experimental one-stat system that adapts well to lots of different settings. Its core rules are free online at, with five sample settings. A couple dozen other settings based on novel lines I admire are available as add-ons.

One of those novel lines is the Lana Harvey setting, starting with Graveyard Shift (which is free on Kindle). It deals with the adventures of a group of junior reapers (including the titular Lana Harvey) trying to survive the perilous machinations of gods and demons in the afterlife.

Sometimes, for a break, they go shopping.

So when Angela and I started working on the role-playing chapter for this setting, we talked about including fashion as a special rule. Basically, whenever a character enters a scene, the owning player has to take a moment to describe the character’s clothes, hair, makeup, and accoutrements. I “tried it on for size” with a group of complete strangers at Gary Con.

To say it went over well is an understatement. From my perspective, it seemed as if I’d discovered a secret key to the gamer psyche. Everyone at the table went into great detail about his or her character’s wardrobe—from the guy with the combat boots, ripped jeans, Ramones T-shirt, and razor-blade earrings; to the fruit-hatted temptress in a slinky red dress with black stiletto heels and death’s-head dueling pistols; to the blonde in an electric blue skirted business suit and pumps; to the gal in cowboy hat and shirt, blue denim jeans, and cowboy boots; to “Christopher Lee in a cowled robe—with sword cane.”

Let me be clear: There’s no game or story benefit from this description; it’s purely for fun. And every player went full tilt. Their descriptions made me grin, even laugh out loud, and the details made the ensuing action so crisp and convincing. I can’t wait to play again!

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