Discover more from The Adventure Gaming Periodical
The Adventure Gaming Periodical by RV Games
Issue #1: An Interview With Marco Serrano of Spicy Tuna RPG
Today I’m really excited to announcement an evolution of this newsletter. We are now The Adventure Gaming Periodical or The AGP.
We are expanding the format into a weekly Queer gaming magazine focused on the broad genre of adventure games, which was the late 1970s-1980s term that encompassed ttrpgs and wargames. We chose this vintage name because magazine is still a house organ for RV Games. It is modeled after old magazines like Dragon, Fire & Tactics, or The Space Gamer.
For now, I will still be writing most of the content. We will still feature Mothership house rules, RV Games WIP writing, and small experimental games. A subscription to this magazine still gives you access to our Microsub for our year long experiment publishing six Microgames. We will still talk about RV Games releases, but it will mostly be through links at the bottom of issues, our product launch communications will now be exclusively handled by BackerKit. This means you are able to choose whether you want to subscribe to our mailing list, this magazine, or both.
Our content will feature more interviews, essays, and reviews in addition to the RV Games posts that we have been making. We also hope to feature writers other than myself, and we hope we announce more about that soon. We keep our lens Queer, but all of our content may not be explicitly Queer focused, and we do hope to feature Queer writers over others.
The Adventure Gaming Periodical is a reader-supported publication. To receive new issues and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. You get access to a Microgame subscription, free games, and discounts as a paid subscriber.
An Interview With Marco Serrano of Spicy Tuna RPG
For this inaugural issue of The AGP, I spoke with Marco Serrano of Spicy Tuna RPG about his currently funding Mothership module Outsourced: The Luko Fin Corp Deception, solo gaming, and balancing family and trying to make it as an indie publisher. This book features gorgeous artwork from Evangeline Gallagher, an adventure by Christian Sorrell of MeatCastle Gameware, and solo rules from Alfred Valley. This interview was conducted via text, so it was cooperatively assembled and edited to build the interview below.
Tell me about Outsourced: The Luko Fin Corp Deception. What is your elevator pitch? What are you most excited about with this project?
Outsourced is an intrigue filled survival module. The crew was sent to their death, the ship rigged to crash. If they survive, they’ve learned the mission was manufactured to fail. Now, they must navigate who to trust, continue their career under restrictive contracts, or somehow break free.
The hardcover book contains the backstory and motive of the people behind Luko Fin Corp, two horror filled planet settings, each with detailed toolkits to generate stalking horror missions, a ready to play bunker escape adventure playable with an optional solo procedure, and a mercenary appendix to spice up characters and shore leave.
Simply put, Outsourced: The Luko Fin Corp Deception is the kind of book we want to keep making. It’s designed for flexible play. Easily ran as several one-shots or an interconnected survival campaign. Toolkits and random tables in the book give extended use after playing the adventures. It’s all the utility we want in a module.
As a solo play developer myself, I’d love to hear more about the solo rules for Outsourced coming from Alfred Valley. What kind of system is it? What makes it unique?
The solo rules for Outsourced use a slightly reformatted version of Alfred’s Combined Systems Semiotic Standard oracle released with Thousand Empty Light. The spin for the Jiri Clovis Bunker Escape was introducing complications in the form of hypnotic suggestions.
Before you begin, you roll to determine 5 triggers from the list of 50 in the Semiotic Standard. The 5 triggers are placed into the Psychic Conditioning table. Each time these triggers are rolled your character has a compelled reaction. You might feel overwhelmed to present yourself at the Processing Office, or become suddenly disinterested in weapons and become more confident when unarmed. There are hellish illusions and urges to turn in other Resistance Force members too. Each compelled reaction should change the narrative and/or your character in chunks.
Further reactions are triggered as you advance into higher levels of the bunker, and in the case you are detained and “reprocessed” you gain 5 more triggers and all of the sudden you must be doubly clever.
I think it fits particularly well with Chrisian Sorrell’s bunker escape, because advantages in the adventure are awarded through building connections and cleverly bypassing security. That and/or garnering support for a riot…and anything in between those options. The solo rules reinforce this by making combat completely optional and presenting new complications which change the way you interact with NPCs and plot your escape.
What made you want to add solo support for Outsourced? Do you plan to support solo play in more modules moving forward? Do you think that the market for solo modes and games is expanding?
I fell in love with a few solo rpgs recently, and have a growing affinity for them. The two main stand outs for me were Blurred Lines by Gontijo and Thousand Empty Light by Alfred Valley (There’s been many since). These two games welded the gameplay and design in such a beautiful way, solo became a bit of an obsession of mine.
Then I saw Fey Light Studio hired Alfred to do the solo procedures for This Ship is a Tomb right before our campaign for Constant Downpour Remastered launched and it was abundantly obvious to add a solo procedure to the game.
The main goal we had working with Alfred was to provide a unique way to experience the module as a solo player, even if the player was potentially a previous warden of the adventure. I think Alfred knocked it out of the driveway with the Constant Downpour ruleset and we hired them again for Outsourced - with much more time in advance so the solo rules could make it printed inside the book. (Spoiler - Alfred knocked it out of the driveway again for Outsourced!)
We want to support solo as often as possible. I can see times where it doesn’t make sense, especially for smaller projects, but for the most part it’ll be included in the same book.
That’s a great question about the solo mode/solo game market. My guess would be yes! Rune, Reap, Miru I & II, Notorious, Artefact, Fallen, Pilgrimage of the Sun Guard, Thousand Empty Light, Anamnesis, Waffles for Esther, Lay on Hands, Outliers, and more have gathered a ton of positive buzz and have great numbers to show for them. I know Jamey Stegmaier from Stonemaier Games and Jason Tagmire from Button Shy Games have talked about solo modes as a necessity for board and card games (an adjacent space), and the recent evolution of these wants more than likely translate to rpg players.
What you’ll see from Spicy Tuna is mostly solo as a unique way to experience multiplayer games and adventures. But we have some solo game releases on the docket (in an undetermined place in the future), one being a reworking of the Soldier Splashing All Alone solo procedure (the solo ruleset for Constant Downpour) into its own module with it’s own hex map, terrain, and areas of interest to interact with. Another is a game of mazes I started to develop. That’s the current plan anyways :)
I’ve heard you discuss being a parent before, and I like to ask other indie creators about parenting while doing this work. How do you balance coordinating a studio along with having a family and any other responsibilities that you may have?
This is a long one. I’ve been self-employed since before I had kids, and my oldest, 7, was born (when I was 25) during a very financial do-or-die time so I’ve sadly been very absent at times, overcorrected during others, and struggled through a lot of it. I’ve had 3 more kids and have adjusted and tried a ton of new things since then. This is what works for me currently:
The most helpful action I’ve found is to define protected time with family. Non-negotiable times generally split between kid time and spouse time if applicable. Ideally this includes large sections of time (ie weekends), but in my case with 2 babies under 18 months old, we’re more flexible with work hours all around and it’s hard to guarantee a weekend or getting off on Fridays when the kids get off of school.
My current protected times for the kids include: >Getting the oldest two ready for school/pre-school and dropping them off. This is always more rushed and less quality time than I want, but it’s great to hug each other goodbye and be present at drop off.
>Lunch or break around 1 PM to spend time with the youngest two. This is just a long and easy break I get to spend with the babes. I also get great conversation with my wife.
>Dinner time with the family slows us all down and we get to talk about our days, school, books, experiments, big brain builds, and anything else. Family dinner is very important to me.
>Bed time routine with the two oldest where we read books, ask nighttime questions, say our gratefuls and our favorite parts of the day.
I’m also with the baby from 9 PM - 1 AM where I’m sometimes just hanging out, soothing, and reading out loud, but it’s not protected time because I’m trying to work as much as I can during that time to keep up with work.
The rest of my day is ideally standard work during the weekdays, but with young kids and sleep deprivation it varies dramatically.
After setting aside specific time for the family, the next step is to take a series of actions that shield these protected times from outside stress, work worry, and the lot. This is the hard part, but a lot of these compound and make doing all of them easier. Here are the actions I take:
Learning how to switch off. I personally love working, building new businesses, and doing creative work and it has been very hard to turn off my mind when it’s time to be with family. Even when it’s pure excitement or in-your-brain-writing, there’s a toll that’s paid if I am not switching off. A few things that helped me is spending the last few minutes of work making a list of things that need done when I’m back at my desk, trying to steal an additional minute after that to decompress without guilt, immediately letting my wife know what’s stuck on my mind when I get off, and big long breaths.
Focus on positive things/practicing gratitude. I think this is one of the most important things to do regardless, but it’s essential to having great time with your family while running anything. A few times a week, or a few times a day sometimes, it’s more beneficial to take 10 minutes to list out and focus on happy interactions, positive happenings, and other things I’m generally grateful for than it is to spiral out. This is especially helpful when the update is requested on Kickstarter, or the negative review comes in, or the reach isn’t where I wish it were, or I noticed a mistake in print, or a ridiculous comment is made about a project I’m proud of. Being intentionally grateful is the best tool I have for it and it’s necessary to get my brain in the right place which is necessary to get good work in and to get good time in with family. Being grateful for small things works better for me than large things. For example leaf colors being brighter on a cloudy gray day, or smiles, or a comfy-ish chair, or that I’m doing something for myself, or a good laugh, or my mouse pad has a wrist rest, or I can switch the Pandora station, or my friend texted me, or someone complimented something I made - instead of focusing on the greatest things like having healthy kids or dinner time is coming up.
Communicate and negotiate expectations before starting. This is mostly with a partner or spouse. It’s important to understand limits, how far you can go, how alone can the other person feel, what duration can you push through, what are non-negotiables. Everything generally takes four times longer than I think, so I try to communicate in that way. Being realistic is the most important thing here, although it’s the part I’m still the worst at. Idealizing short hours with massive results isn’t usually how it works. I’ve found it’s often more important to discuss possible time allotted than amount of work completed. Check in to make sure these expectations are being met and make sure everybody is comfortable speaking up when they feel the expectations aren’t being respected. Redefine and renegotiate when a new kid is born or something substantial happens.
I really enjoyed putting together this conversation with Marco. As a mother, full time professional, and a publisher, it’s really important to me that as a creator community that we talk about and acknowledge family and wellness and balance, and I appreciate his insight into how he manages it all. I’ve previously spoken with Sean McCoy about this, and I will continue to ask other designers about how they take care while pursuing their passions.
Coming Soon to The AGP
An interview with watt, the creator of Cloud Empress
More WIP house rules and essays from Advanced Rules