Thursday, December 21, 2023

Knock! News

I have some exciting news to share: I have been brought on board as the editor-in-chief of Knock! magazine moving forward.

Eric Nieudan, the once and future editor-in-chief, is still very Merry and Mushmany. He has just brought me on so he can focus on the other Merry Mushmen projects. (Speaking of, I really enjoyed the free playtest of Dungeon, Inc., where players play the dungeon's monsters endlessly cleaning up and resetting traps for rude adventurers.) 

By the way: I'd love to see you on the Merry Mushmen Discord. Come chat with us about games!

New Submission Portal

Since I'm coming into this role as an erstwhile contributor to Knock!, I wanted to make sure the submission process was smooth and simple. To this end, I've made a new submission portal on the Merry Mushmen website:

Now taking submissions for Knock! 5 and 6

The Workflow

My intention is that you'll get an email for each step in this process for transparency. (Watch me rue these words.)


If you have an article, a dungeon, a class, a random table, a magic item, a trap, etc. that you want to submit, we've love to see it! Because we might be able to use one thing but not another, please only submit one thing at a time, but feel free to submit as much as you want. 

Two big things here:

  • We need your name as you want to see it in print
  • We need your email so we can talk to you if we decide to accept your submission.

Because everything will be pulled into our chaotic neutral layout by Olivier the Layout Lord, plain text format is preferred. If you have a specific graphic that is needed to make the piece work (like a hand-drawn map for a dungeon), please submit that too. 

Pondering the Orb

We will ponder everything we receive. 

Because Knock! is a kaleidoscope of content, we might take one thing or another (sometimes leaving things we really love on the cutting-room floor). The book works because it's a collage of lots of different things, so we value variety. If a piece is rejected, you can submit it again a bit later and we'll see if it fits in better with a future volume.


If accepted, I'll place the text into a Google Doc and make edits for our house style and for print/space considerations. 

Author Approval

I'll email you a copy of the Google Doc so you can see the tracked changes. Accept them or push back to make the changes better. Let's talk about the piece! 


Once everything sounds good to both the editor and submitter, we'll pass things on to Olivier, High Graphic Artist. He'll make the words look good

Manic Last Touches

Of course, putting everything together into a magazine is a near endless series of edits, re-edits, typos, touchups, collapsing, expanding, inserting, moving. We'll be fitting everything together until the book is ready to print. If we need anything else from you, we'll make sure to reach back out.

Prep for the Campaign

Once the book is mostly assembled and we're prepping the crowdfunding campaign, we'll reach out to all contributors to get details for payment and to get final sign off. 

20 hours left on the Knock! 4 Kickstarter 

Don't miss out!

The Knock! 4 Kickstarter is in the home stretch with just 20 hours left. If you haven't already backed, don't miss out on completing your collection. 

(I am just a contributor on this volume, but my "1937 Hobbit as a Setting" post made its way in, so I am very excited.)

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Reasonable Reviews

Recently, the RPG social media sphere reheated one of the classic controversies du jour: Should RPG critics write a review of an RPG product they have not played?

Some insist that playing a module / an adventure / a zine / a supplement is a minimum requirement. Not just a minimum requirement, but a bare minimum requirement. How could it be any different? How could you write a review of a music album without listening to it?

Is it reasonable to write a review of an RPG supplement without playing it first? 

Reviews I like

In the most recent episode, Brad and Yochai were joined by Amanda Lee Franck to review The Reach of the Roach GodThe Reach of the Roach God consists of three adventures and supplementary text (I learned from the review).

Brad had run the first adventure, a Quiet Lake (using Spenser Campbell's Slayers? Haha!). 

Amanda had run the second adventure, Spider Mountain Temple. She regretted that she jumped straight to this adventure instead of running the first one first. 

Nobody had run the third adventure, City of Peace. Everybody on the podcast highlighted they thought this adventure seemed the most challenging to run and they weren't sure how they would start to go about it, although they liked certain things about it.

As always, they gave an overview of the product and talked about what they liked and didn't like in the product. Subjects of discussion included: 
  • the quality of the art
  • the amount of art
  • the position of the art on the page related to other content
  • the NPCs
  • the boxed text
  • the procedures
  • the maps
  • the keying of the maps
  • the (custom!) font
  • the layout of the pages
  • the terseness and humor of the writing
  • the relationship of the art to the text, etc. 
(This content seems to be the same regardless of whether or not the hosts have actually played the product or not.)

Was this a reasonable review of The Reach of the Roach God?

Reviews I do

I have tried to review a few RPG products. I tried really hard to do a good job. It was a difficult task to do well (and I'm not sure I did do well). So I do not do RPG reviews.

I do have a job where reviews are a regular part of my job. 

Product reviews

  • Is this feature aligned with the overall strategic goals of the company?
  • Does the feature solve the actual needs of a specific user profile? Does it balance the needs of multiple user profiles? What are the tradeoffs?
  • Is this the right level for an MVP? 
  • What metrics will be used to determine next steps?
  • Are there bugs in the MVP?
  • Are these bugs launch blockers?
  • What is the correct positioning for this product?

Design reviews

  • Are the CTA buttons the right size?
  • Do the navigation buttons make sense?
  • Are elements that look interactable actually interactable?
  • Is the design responsive to screen size?
  • Is the UX copy primed for translation?
  • Is the color contrast accessible?

Technical writing reviews

  • Are the instructions consistent? 
  • Are the screenshots up to date?
  • Are unhappy paths documented?
  • Do code samples exist?
  • Do code samples have proper formatting and highlighting?
  • Will the sample code provided actually run if you copy and paste it?
  • Is the language in active voice?
  • Are the headers descriptive?
Because my job is in software, I am not an end user. I do not do the job that our end users do. Nobody I work with uses the product that my company produces on a day-to-day basis

Is it reasonable to provide reviews for a product I do not use?

User testing and feedback

For all of the above, something that is missing is the feedback from actual users. Did we get it right? 
  • Are we providing value to our customers? 
  • Is the UX delightful? 
  • Is the documentation helpful? 
We spend a lot of money and a lot of time to try and get these answers out of real users. Our business depends on it. 

Does the the need for user feedback invalidate the other types of reviews provided during the product development process?

Is user feedback helpful in the same way as other types of reviews?