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

Keep Me Off the Streets!

Lester : November 3, 2015 1:27 pm : Announcements, Fiction, Game Design, Miscellany, Popcorn Press, Spanish

homeless Seriously, do you want something like this running around loose?

You may have noticed more social media from me lately. I’ve gone through a major life change: I left my old job, moved my household to Loma, Nebraska, and am again working full-time in hobby games & related entertainment—this time freelance.

If you’re a fan of my work—old or new—you can help decide if the world sees more of it.

Word of mouth—and maybe a buck—is all I ask.

Here’s a quick overview of projects a single buck can help:

  1. Aquelarre: Perhaps the best RPG not available in English. I’m doing the translation to English for Stewart Wieck of World of Darkness fame. Your dollar can help make this the best edition possible.
  2. The Pastime Machine: I’m writing an irreverent novel in sonnets, one sonnet a week. A buck a month gets you the whole thing, plus influence on its direction. More backers means you get additional novels for that same buck!
  3. D6xD6 RPG: The free rules of my multi-genre role-playing game are online at For just a buck, you can pick up your choice of settings at DriveThruRPG and help support further expansion of the line.
  4. Popcorn Press: My small-press publishing house produces poetry and fiction by a range of authors. Ebook versions are under a buck on Amazon and DriveThruFiction. You can also find our print-and-play card games for under a buck on DriveThruCards.

More things are in the works: A supers dice game, a few board games, the D13 RPG. Join the Popcorn Press mailing list to stay abreast.

So how about it? If any of these things strikes your fancy, or if I’ve given you a moment of joy in the past, consider dropping a buck on one of these projects—and tell somebody else about them.

Help keep me off the streets, and working away at something fun for both of us!



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About My Old Aquelarre Review

Lester : October 22, 2015 1:52 pm : Announcements, Game Design, Review, Spanish

Horror Reviews

Back in 1992, in DRAGON magazine #186, I wrote a review of several horror games that intrigued me—including Aquelarre (the first edition). I believe the game’s allure is evident in that old review, but I concluded that the American public probably wasn’t ready for it. Today, 23 years later, I’m working on an English translation. So what changed?

Wow. So much. Where should I begin?


Two decades ago, there was pretty much only one path for getting a game to the public: distributor to retailer to gamer. The only way to build awareness was by advertising. And printing options were few. Sure, some small-press hobbyists sold a few copies of innovative titles in plastic bags by mail or at conventions (see Pentacle in that same review). Or they printed a few copies at Kinkos (see Lost Souls in that review). But the major publishers had to commit considerable money, time, and resources for a title to stand a chance. And even then, it was a gamble.

Today, the Internet makes it possible for publishers to directly contact the public, including retailers, to find people interested in a particular title. Crowdfunding allows those people to champion things they like. Printing options are many, and they reach around the globe. Even publishing resources are easier to manage: Consider that while TSR had to maintain a building full of people and equipment to get anything to print, Stewart and the rest of Nocturnal Media and I are now able to work from home offices.


Notice that my old review said the “American public.” Today we’re speaking instead of an English-language edition. As mentioned above, publishers are now able to reach a world-wide audience. That’s hugely significant.

But over the past two decades, even the “American public” has changed. In 1992, TSR and other publishers were still worried about public backlash over the “Satanic” influence of role-playing. Gaming was fairly insular. It had not yet spread far from its white, male, wargaming roots. Even D&D still reflected its origins in tabletop miniatures combat.

Today, nerd culture is actually celebrated. Fantasy, sci-fi, and horror films abound. Movie and TV stars (Vin Diesel and Wil Wheaton, for example) publicly share their hobby. Eurogames are prominently displayed in mall toy stores, with multilingual text on their covers. Game conventions are now no longer merely wargaming and tabletop role-playing, but just as much about computer gaming, card gaming, comics, and cosplay, with a diversity of races, genders, and cultures represented.

At the same time, Latino culture in the US has become ever more evident. My childhood love of Spanish is finding welcome in “Para español, oprima el dos” phone messages, bilingual medical fliers, and bilingual signs at my local Home Depot.


In 1992, Aquelarre was in its first edition. It is now in its third. During the past two decades, it has gained polish while remaining true to its original historical and mythological origins, and it has built not only a devoted following in Europe, but also a considerable interest among English speakers everywhere. People want an English edition as never before.


In 1992, I was still not far from my childhood religious origins. TSR’s concerns about a public backlash resonated with my own residual evangelical Christianity. I was still coming to embrace a career in entertainment—for the joy I saw it provide people—despite a former pastor Puritanically chiding it as “America’s sinful preoccupation with fun.” (Obviously, he never read C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters.)

Today I’m over that. Life can be hard, and having some game time with friends is invaluable. Plus, role-playing fosters all sorts of social skills. Aquelarre is about heroes facing deadly evils and difficult moral choices. And even if you play a truly evil character for a few hours, that can be enlightening.


All things considered, I still believe 1992 was not a propitious time to publish an English version of the game.

Ah, but 2016—that’s a different story. The time is perfect to join us in an Aquelarre!

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¡Una Obra de Amor!

Lester : October 20, 2015 12:36 pm : Announcements, Game Design, Spanish

It’s official!

Nocturnal Media—owned by Stewart Wieck of White Wolf and World of Darkness fame (Vampire: The Masquerade, et al.)—is Kickstarting an English version of the classic Spanish RPG Aquelarre!

I have the happy task of being the translator. (w00t!)

This is no simple fantasy setting, but instead a world of legend and history, set in the Iberian peninsula during the Middle Ages. Five kingdoms vie for power, while angels and demons vie for human souls—not to mention creatures of Spanish fairy tales. Courtiers, knights, churchmen, and cutpurses; Catholic, Moor, and Jew; steadfast people of faith, and masters of mad mystic arts all pursue lives of adventure in this fascinating time.

Translating this all to English will keep me occupied for the next 10 months, and I’m thrilled at that thought!

Please give the Kickstarter project a look, and tell all your friends! Thanks much.


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