jay Dragon discusses Wanderhome

Interview Transcript

MARX: So, today we’re talking to Jay Dragon. Hi there Jay, and welcome to the podcast.

JAY: Hi there, thanks so much for having me!

MARX: Absolutely, no problem. It’s a delight to talk to you.

JAY: My name is Jay Dragon, I am a queer game designer, and a publisher at Possum Creek Games. I’m most well known for Wanderhome, and also Sleepaway and assorted other things. Yeah, I write tabletop role-playing games about liminality, community, identity, and the magic of the mundane.

MARX: You’re a pretty well-respected voice in the scene, so it’s great to talk to you.

JAY: It’s wild to be that! Two years ago I was a nobody, so time flies and all that.

MARX: Everybody has to be a nobody some time.

JAY: Oh absolutely.

MARX: It’s well deserved you know, your games get a lot of respect, a lot of credibility for being excellent, so yeah.

JAY: Thank you, I appreciate that.

MARX: I’d forgotten you’d done Sleepaway as well, that was one of the cooler games that came out, last year it was?

JAY: It was actually two years ago, time has become warped and destroyed but that was my first Kickstarter project. It was basically the first time I’d published something, and people really liked it. I was like, “wow, that’s neat, I guess I should do something else, maybe I should make a game about some animals.” People really liked that one.

MARX: So tell us a little bit about Sleepaway before we get into Wanderhome, I think it’s a cool game.

JAY: Yeah, sure! Sleepaway was my first foray with Belonging Outside Belonging, which is Avery and Ben’s system. That’s diceless, and GMless, or GMful. Sleepaway is a queer horror game about summer camp counselors trying to protect their kids from this monstrous shadowy shape-shifting creature, the Lindworm. I’ve been talking about it a lot on my Discord and such, because people have been getting into it and asking questions, sort of picking it apart. It’s funny, because I feel like style-wise, and even in terms of some of the mechanics, I feel very distant from it. Like it’s very near dear to my heart, but it’s my first book, so I feel like “oh, it’s my beautiful child, it’s my flawed, kind of lumpy at the edges child.” Whereas Wanderhome is the sleek, like woah, look at her, she could kill someone.

MARX: It got a lot of respect, I think people were really interested in it. It’s one of the bigger games that’s come out of the Belonging Outside Belonging movement I guess it could be called.

JAY: I don’t really love Belonging Outside Belonging as much as I did a couple of years ago. But, I think I’m kind of one of the premier B.O.B. writers and like, a lot of the other folks who are also among the premier B.O.B. writers kind of end up doing stuff with Possum Creek. Some of my other favorite B.O.B. games, like Our Haunt, or Balikbayan or Venture, they kind of end up in Possum Creek’s orbit in one form or another. We’re really trying to push B.O.B. to its limits. I’ve sort of found its limits, and I certainly, I don’t think I’ll be doing any other big games in B.O.B. just because I feel like I’ve hit the limits of this space. But I love it as a core, and I love it as a base, and the cool stuff it enables people to do really easily.

MARX: I think it’s a really interesting system. You mentioned Balikbayan and all that, all people we’ve interviewed this year.

JAY: Oh yeah. Wonderful folks.

MARX: It’s kind of cool that we get to speak to the people who’ve made Sleepaway, and stuff like Possum Creek games. I was very excited initially when I read Dream Askew. I thought this is a really cool idea, and I heard Luke of Wildwood Games was playing it as part of Feelings First, and I thought it would definitely be a game I’d be interested in playing, but also hacking it as well. There’s all these moving parts, and it seems so simple from the outset. I don’t know, I never actually found the idea of a game that I’d like to make in that system, so what sort of games do you think it serves well?

JAY: I think B.O.B., the obligatory, I think you could do anything, but B.O.B. favors games where the practical consequences are not outside of your control, and where it’s much more focused on emotional consequences and creating trouble for yourself. At its best, it’s for games about communities, I think the token system is really effective at focusing on people’s feelings, in a way that’s, I talk a little bit about this in Wanderhome, but the whole idea of success and failure isn’t the only model by which we can discuss the world around us. Like success and failure, one approach that’s almost scholastic to me when I think of success and failure, like in my daily life I don’t often fail. Like if I don’t get groceries today, it doesn’t mean that I failed my grocery check, it means that I did something else today.

MARX: Sometimes.

JAY: Yeah, sometimes. I don’t often experience success like success and failure, and I think B.O.B. is a system that doesn’t really think about success and failure, it’s much more focused on making emotional sacrifices in order to gain emotional strength. That lends, I think it really favors games that are about tight-knit groups of very messy people.

MARX: So like the classic Dream Askew itself, being about a queer community in the unfolding apocalypse, for instance.

JAY: Yeah, or Sleepaway being much about camp counselors who have their messy dynamics or, Gran Gunyal being the protagonist of this tangling gothic novel, B.O.B. really sets itself up for stories about people where, it’s like, you really wanna give yourself temporary setbacks. And you wanna do it early, and you wanna get the payoff later. I think that’s one of the reasons I’m kind of starting to hit my limit on it, I’ve kind of saturated it a bit too much, but I think its incredible strength is that it’s a game that’s very easy to design. It’s a system that is very forgiving to design in, because it offloads a lot of technical complexity into the prose. If I am a good prose writer, like if I am a good traditional author or poet, that does not mean I am a good forged in the dark designer.

MARX: Oh, yeah, 100%.

JAY: Like Ernest Hemingway, whoever, these folks could not guarantee design a forged in the dark game well. But B.O.B., if you are someone who is good at capturing the interiority of characters’ lives, and you are good at capturing a kind of  particular symbolic environment, you will design a competent B.O.B. game.You won’t fuck it up. As long as you have that skill, you’ll be alright. And so, I think that B.O.B. is really forgiving in that way, and it’s really good for folks who want to kind of get integrated into design, especially from a non traditional angle. And I think that’s why Avery put a whole section in Dream Askew Dream Apart about writing B.O.B., because I think she recognized both that, and also Dream Askew Dream Apart is the simplest possible form of B.O.B. What she pitches there is like, there is so much you can do with it design-wise, that she intentionally doesn’t do. When you play Dream Askew you’re like “wow, that’s cool,” it’s missing a certain something. And I don’t know if that was Avery’s intent, but I do think that’s part of the reason why a lot of people enjoy designing in it because you’re like “well, what is that certain something that Dream Askew is missing that I get to add?” It’s like the 90% thing where you feel emboldened to add that last little bit.

MARX: So, coloring in that sketch, if you like. Just adding highlights.

JAY: Yeah, exactly. Whereas I’m very intimidated by Blades In The Dark, I’m scared to write a Forged in the Dark game, because it’s such a, the system is like, it’s done, haha.

MARX: Yeah, it’s very tight, isn’t it

JAY: Yeah, what do I have to contribute to Blades in the Dark that Harper has not already contributed to Blades in the Dark? It doesn’t beg for me to design in it the way B.O.B. did.

MARX: I agree with you, Forged in the Dark, it’s like a classically difficult system to deal with isn’t it, because it’s very, very tightly wound. It’s got so many moving parts, there’s a lot to think about. And even if you build it up, playtest by playtest, mechanic by mechanic, that’s still going to take you a long time to get to a full system before you even get to thinking about what you want to change and what you want to color it with. Dream Askew and B.O.B. looks leaner on the outside, but actually there’s a lot of group dynamic complexity that comes out of it being no dice and no masters.

JAY: I think the reason why I’m getting tired of B.O.B. and designing for it is I’ve started hitting this point ehre, there’s kind of like this challenge in B.O.B. that Avery attempted to address, but perhaps did not fully address, I think there are other takes on it. But I feel like every single system has a little hiccup point, and I feel like a lot of B.O.B.’s is that it expects the group to collectively facilitate. And that’s very good when everyone is at kind of an equivalent level of comfort with the system, but overwhelmingly I’ve found there will be an asymmetric familiarity level, which is why I think the GM role is so popular, and why most Wanderhome games have a guide is because there’s an asymmetric familiarity level and having someone who is more familiar also assist in facilitation makes the game flow much better. And I think that you don’t have to have the most experienced person be the facilitator as well, but I think that many of my favorite B.O.B. games are in one way or another trying to solve that challenge, where it’s like, setting elements are not intuitive for new players. They are absolutely not. So, a lot of B.O.B. games have to go “well, if setting elements are kind of tricky, what’s another solution? What’s another way to approach them to make them more comfortable?” And I’ve come up with my own answers, Jami has come up with his answers, Luke has come up with their answers, Riley’s done stuff, you know everyone’s done their stuff, to kind of in one way or another solve that challenge.

MARX: I think that asymmetry is really interesting, typically with indie games in particular, you kind of have this thing where if you are an indie game group, you probably aren’t playing long games of indie games, you’re probably playing short campaigns or even just one-shots. And generally the person who brings the game to the table is going to have that high level of skill, if you like, or at least familiarity, and that is gonna make the experience really different for everybody else, because it’ll never work like everybody agrees to play one game. That’s not really how table groups work, I mean maybe at a convention but that’s a different dynamic. I think it’s interesting to think about that asymmetry and why it doesn’t work necessarily when you don’t have a facilitator or a GM role.

JAY: Yeah, I found in my experience Wanderhome works really well like either guided or unguided, but when I’m playing with a group of people I don’t know, I much prefer having a guide because having someone who can kind of just help you, like “Hey everyone, we’ve spent a little too long in character creation, here we are” like kind of pulling it together kind of in the same way that it’s helpful having a project manager or a team lead, just someone who can unify everything. And then, if I’m playing with my friends, I like having less of a guide or maybe no guide at all, because it’s like we all know what’s up, we all know how to integrate this stuff, it’s fine, we’ve got this.

MARX: That’s really interesting. We’re sort of skirting around the idea of Wanderhome there.

JAY: *laughs* The game that shall not be named.

MARX: Wanderhome’s an interesting game to me, because a few months ago I put a thread on twitter asking what games I should play with my children, and Wanderhome came back as the overwhelmingly, the overwhelming answer.

JAY: Fascinating! That’s so interesting.

MARX: Would you like to give a little introduction as to what Wanderhome is?

JAY: Yeah! I almost disagree with that. But yeah, let’s talk about Wanderhome. Wanderhome is a pastoral fantasy RPG about traveling animal folk wandering through the beautiful world of Haith. It is GM agnostic, it is a no dice no masters, no dice occasionally and a little bit of a master if you want.

MARX: That’s catchy.

JAY: And if you want to play as folks like the poet or the shepherd, or the ragamuffin, or the veteran, as you move through this world growing slowly over time as you go from place to place. 

MARX: It sounds to me like Redwalll, you know, I don’t know if you’ve read those novels.

JAY: Oh yeah, yeah, it’s a lot like chunks of Redwall. Redwall is a very violent book series and I think that its violence is easy to lose in nostalgia. But I’m very critical of Jacques in Redwall. But I don’t have to analyze Redwall for you here. But Wanderhome draws inspiration from Redwall, it also draws inspiration from like, in terms of the animal folks themselves, draws inspiration from stuff like Animal Crossing, or you know, Wind in the Willows. Also, a lot of inspiration from certain Miyazaki movies like Kiki’s Delivery Service, or My Neighbor Totoro, and additionally like Moomins. I always use Kiki’s Delivery Service as like, my pitch for what a Wanderhome session is like, because it’s like you are traveling from some unfamiliar place, you know, you arrive in this new place where you’re unfamiliar, you find some folks who offer you hospitality, you learn the place and you help out, and you kind of establish yourself there. And in Wanderhome eventually you move on to somewhere else. And Kiki’s is kind of a good sense of what that’s like, because I think oftentimes in tabletop RPGs we don’t really know what to picture when someone says nonviolent or noncombat, so Kiki’s is a good grounding point, even if it’s not really the same.

MARX: I think it’s really interesting to look at it, I see quite a few of these sort of animal, kind of sweet nonviolent pastoral games coming to the fore right now. I think it’s really cool I think it’s really valid, and is there a reason you opted for this kind of aesthetic or was it just kind of the touchstones that inspired you?

JAY: So originally wander home was post apocalyptic, and there was some stuff that happened early 2020 that made me really not want it to be post apocalyptic. You can still feel a little bit of the edge of that if you look closely at it, and I think the reason that I chose animal people in general is because animals have different politics to them. The animal body is different than the human body and it creates a lot more of a safety net in terms of exploring like, the animal body politic you know? Where like if you choose to play as a wolf, you can explore what it’s like to be a character who someone might assume is aggressive without having to directly correlate that or, you know, metaphorisize that into real world systemic oppression. It’s a little bit of a Safetynet where you can play in that space without being forced to draw an allegorical line that then becomes much harder to navigate or more fraught to navigate. I chose animals for that reason and also because they’re cute and they’re charming and it let me have a lot of cool animals in the illustrations. Which was certainly a big part of the consideration.

MARX: Easy to find artists, right?

JAY: Easy to find artists! Also a thing that I think about a lot is that like, when we talk about like gender and race, kind of in our public consciousness, gender for example is a thing that is a huge number of discrete concepts that get bundled down until one word, and by saying that word I get to evoke all of those concepts. So if I told you this water bottle is a girl, I’m doing something to that water bottle, and in your head the way that you relate to that water bottle changes suddenly, because I gendered it. It’s the same way like in different Romance languages, like a bridge might be feminine in one language, masculine in another, and the way they conceptualize that bridge would be different. And the thing about that though is that that has very big consequences, right? The act of gendering something, well you know, in the case of water bottles informative, in the case of people can be violent. And so I’m interested in what other language can we use, where if I tell you, you know this thing is that thing, if I apply the symbol onto the object, what other concepts can I use that would allow me to explore The space of what it is like to have a symbol applied to you, but in a way that isn’t the violence that we see in life. And so animals are kind of a good way for that right? Like if I tell you oh this water bottle is a frog, it’s a little odd. And maybe it’s not the same strength as if I say “this water bottle is a girl,” but if I say “this water bottle is a frog” it’s got a different shape to it in your head then if I say, “oh this water bottle is a buffalo.” 

MARX: Kind of absurd things to say about objects, right?

JAY: Oh sure, sure. 

MARX: in which case kind of like, the first when you were applying very strong concepts, potentially, that as you said could result in objectifying or turning it into some sort of systemic oppression. Whereas when you’re saying it’s a fraud, it’s even more bizarre in a way, and it forces you to look at different aspects of that, and concepts that you want to look at, you’re painting them through the lens of looking at them from, I don’t know, the traits of different kinds of animals. And that is-

JAY: and I think one of the big tricks of, often times in game design, is we want to give access to symbols without forcing the symbols. In Wanderhome for example, if I choose to play as a character who, yeah, is a wolf, and I choose to examine that wolf in a kind of wolf way, conceptually they would be seen as very aggressive but they are actually very timid and skittish. I actually use that as a lens to explore my trans femininity, you know a black man could kind of use that lens through stereotyping, you know if you were a trans when you could use it in a very different way than how a trans woman would, it’s like one symbol, the idea of this wolf, can mean different things to different people, and in a traditional book and a novel you kind of want to give that a little more rigidity, but in a table top game by having that be very flexible, you know, when people actually play the game they get to ground it. They get to choose how they want to ground it, and it is almost in a sense like a safety tool, right, that they get to choose how they ground it. And like maybe you just want to play a game where a wolf is a wolf, and there’s no meaning there, and that’s also good, like that also works fine, but the fact that it’s a free floating symbol is really productive.

MARX: Yeah, I think that kind of detached symbolism, it’s very interesting. How explicit are you about that in the prose of the writing different character types? Do you kind of vaguely hint at symbols, do you explicitly point to them, or do you leave it more open than even vagueness?

JAY: The trick that I found is basically like I try to have a solid mix. Where sometimes I have symbols that I think are very clear-cut, like if we go back to Sleepaway, the lindworm is a very clear-cut symbol. I’m explicit in the text that the lindworm is a metaphor for systemic violence and cycles of trauma. And you know on a personal level, the lindworm is very reminiscent of my own traumas and my own violences inflicted upon me slightly allegorized to make it about physical violence instead of other forms of violence. And that’s a very explicit symbol. You know, in Sleepaway, for some of those there’s the Underhill King, who is this muscular king with a skeletal stags head, who lives beneath the mountains with his ghosts and his satyrs, and he sits in a hallway that looks like a burial mound, and he will sword fight you if you wish to pass him. And so it’s like, what does he mean exactly? He means death, perhaps, maybe he’s about masculinity, maybe he’s about authority, maybe he’s about something else. He’s a little free-floating. It’s clear he means something, maybe he does mean femininity. I don’t know. Like it’s a space where you get to do kind of the last little bit of work to ground him. And there’s even Sleepaway where it’s like, what exactly does this mean? I’m not clear at all. Like what does it mean to say my gender is a swamp thing, it’s like OK I want my real life inspiration, but that is abstract to the point where it is a free floating little idea and I get to pull it down from the sky and put it wherever I want.

MARX: Yeah, I get where you’re coming from with that, that’s very interesting. The play group adds its own highlights to it, and if you don’t want to allegoricize something then yeah, you don’t have to allegorize anything. You can play straight if you want to. 

JAY: Yeah, exactly.

MARX: I think it kind of, in a roundabout way, brings me back around to what I said about the start when we were talking about Wanderhome. And that, how two weeks into the Avatar kickstarter, and it had already made billions of, gajillions of dollars.

JAY: More money than God, yeah. 

MARX: At that point I was like, well I could buy that game, or I could spend money on indie games that I think my kids will actually really enjoy. So I said, what would be good, only caveats, non-violent and not DND. Overwhelmingly, people were like, I think Wanderhome is the game you should try. From what you’ve described, I think that kind of aesthetic would be really nice for my kids. But, maybe I’m missing the point?

JAY: No, I think you’re right, I think you’re right. The thing that’s hard with kids is that I think, I think Wanderhome is a good family game. And I think actually, on reflection, you’re right to run it with your kids. If your kids are on the younger side, like if they are younger than, I think like six or seven, they might need help with some of the bigger words. It’s not written with kids in mind. I think that’s often times where I clarify, because I think people assume it’s a game for kids, when the reality is that it is a game that kids can enjoy. Yeah, if your requirements are non-violent and non-DND, I think wander home, and you know appropriate for kids, I think wander home fits the bill to 80. I think people often times assume that it is exclusively for kids or that kids are the primary audience, which is incorrect, because I think it’s much more, like the people that connect with it most tend to be nostalgic adults. You know? I don’t know about how you were when I was a kid, but when I was like 10 years old, I don’t want to play, you know forest bunny rabbit adventures. I want to play turbo max ego death 16, you know space marines kill, werewolf vampires. I guess maybe when I say that I don’t always think Wanderhome is good for kids, I mean it wouldn’t have been good for me as a kid. I would not have connected with it, I would have enjoyed reading it, but I wouldn’t have necessarily enjoyed playing it. But also, I realized, my experiences are not universal. I think it’s a good game to run with kids, I also just think, I get a little tired when people assume it’s just for kids. I think you are totally aware of that distinction. But I think, you know every once in a while someone assumes, and I’m like no.

MARX: You sort of mentioned there, what kids are like at different ages. I think, my six year old would probably engage really well with it. I think my four-year-old, probably not so much. When I was, 8, 9, 10, 11, I was reading The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and that kind of journey aspect, and going from interesting place to interesting place, and kind of having a sort of hero’s journey narrative condensed and stretched over, I don’t know, and indeterminable amount of pages, that really appeals to me. And I really enjoyed that, and I think Wanderhome would probably be a perfect game for me when I was a kid.

JAY: Yes. If that kind of stuff was what you wanted as a kid, I like to say my ideal audience are like, 11–year-olds hanging out at Barnes & Noble who like, stumble on this thing, and they’re like what’s this thing? What’s this cool book? And then like read it and think “wow, this is so awesome.” I think the appeal for older kids with Wanderhome, if they’re not the sort of kids who need, you know, explosions, to capture their attention, which I wasn’t always, but, I could sometimes be. Then Wanderhome gets you when you realize that it goes deep. Which is what I think is the trick of it. Because throughout the play books, throughout the lists, throughout all of that, I really like how one person described it in a zine. Which was, there are these little symbols that mark traumatized traits, that mark signs at this particular NPC, the trait associated with them comes with trauma. And, it’s this little double dagger symbol. And it’s ostensibly in order to make sure that, if, you know you don’t want to deal with that stuff in your game, you can spot it easily. But the reality is that as you read the book they become like little scar marks on the pages. And you get a sense of like, the fact that the world of Wanderhome is not a place that has been a perfect pastoral happy land forever. It’s not unfounded by time, like, in Wind in the Willows, it’s an eternal halcyon. But in Wanderhome, your characters fight in a revolution potentially. There are references to the revolution, their references to the people who want to rule this place. There are references to places still ruled by those people. The weight of war, and of mass disabling events, and pain and devastation show up sprinkled at the edges of the text. And when you start looking for them, and when you start being like, “I want to find the melancholy here,” you start digging in very deep and that’s when Wanderhome kind of gets you. The trick that I try to pull off is that, if you’re here for sweet bunny fun time adventures, it’s got you, you’ll be happy, you’ll get something out of it. If you notice the melancholy edge, and if you dig deep, you fall into the rabbit hole. And then you start being like, how do these characters fit together? What does it mean if our characters were all once part of the revolution? At this point when I play it with people, I go like, dark. Like one of my most recent games I played with a couple friends, where it was like, I was a little kid, and Brennan was the veteran, and he, like found me orphaned on a battlefield. And he adopted me. And so I’m a rambunctious little kid, but he knows like, what I’ve been through. And like, him and John’s character are both political refugees fleeing from this like, other land. And, the area we’re traveling through, is ruled by the king of the floating mountain. So we’re having to like, spend time with rebels, and hit border checkpoints as we like, go down this river. But the thing is like, we’re not focused on, it’s not a stealth game. It’s not a, you know, killing game. It’s a game about, oh it’s focused on the daily lives of the rebels. Let’s, you know, we’re staying at this university professors house. Let’s see what that’s like, let’s play with that.

MARX: It’s kind of like a slice of life, pastoral game. But it’s becoming more and more popular, you know there are more and more games out there that kind of deal with less the extraordinary, and more kind of the mundane, profane stuff that people deal with every day. And like, what it feels like to do that as this person, what it feels like to do that as that person. And as you said, there’s a lot of tying into personal or non-personal trauma There, you know, like societal trauma as well, right? I think that’s a really interesting space to explore, but also sounds really cute, so.

JAY: We’re in a spot right now where escapism is really nice. I think that the problem with a lot of escapism, and what people are realizing, is that your saccharine fantasy times where nothing has ever been bad feels really hollow when we live in a world where we cannot imagine what it’s like for the world to heal, you know what I mean? It is so difficult for me to picture communities of people who are not fundamentally shaped by trauma, and so I think that people are starting to find a lot of delight and pleasure in worlds that are hopeful, and, you know, like gentle and compassionate, and feel very loving. But aren’t dishonest about it, like the thing that I often say is that for me, you know sadness without joy feels grim dark and edgy, and joy without sadness feels candy-like and unreal. Like in Sleepaway, Sleepaway is a horror game, there’s also a lot of care kind of bundled in the middle of it. And then Wanderhome is a very caring game, but there’s a lot of her kind of hidden in the middle of it. And I think that’s kind of how I like my games, like I want worlds that are either I am trying to love someone in a brutal world, I’m trying to find moments of joy in a brutal world, or I am trying to, you know, recognize my only hurt while in a beautiful world, like the world around me is good, I carry this hurt, I’m trying to heal, you know?

MARX: I think that’s a really interesting space to examine, yeah. Sort of, I don’t know if it’s a study or if it’s just a truism, but people talk about, like, in times of economic despair, where people are feeling really not positive, like monster films becoming really popular? I wonder if kind of like the converse is true for TTRPG‘s, you know? Because there’s a lot of these pastoral and slice of life games that kind of take things down a notch, and it’s not so violent and realistic, it’s more like, how can we be good to each other?

JAY: I think what’s really striking is that, I think that we are driven to the extremes. I think especially since societally we, we were really fed up with more of the gray, muddy things. I think we are much more interested in things that take a bald stance. But I think it’s no coincidence that some of the largest games coming out of the OSR right now is stuff more like Mothership, stuff that is thematically and aesthetically very polar opposites of stuff like Wanderhome. Which I love, I own MÖRK BORG, I’m excited to own Mothership, they’re fascinating games, and what’s striking is that they show, like, there are many different responses to hurt. And I think all of these games, I think these kind of more brutal, gritty games, and these more sweet, you know kind of pastoral, slice of life games, they’re all kind of coming from the same desire, where it’s like we live in a painful world, and we want to take a stance. And we want to really have a feeling about it, and put that feeling into our art. And maybe that feeling is, “God I wish I was somewhere else,” and maybe that feeling is, I think often times with these grittier games, why are politicians just sitting there while the world is burning. You know, the world isn’t fair, I want to make a game about how the world isn’t fair, I want someone to hear me. And that, and so I think that there are many different responses. I think you’re right about monster movies, which is that monster movies themselves are really satisfying when the world is hard. And I think that all of kind of a lot of the cultural zeitgeist is really motivated by thinking about when the world is hard. Because, you know, it is. There’s an interesting thing I saw on YouTube I think, that was about the difference between Independence Day, which came out just before 9/11, and War of the Worlds, that was I think someone’s take on War of the Worlds.

MARX: Is that the Matt Damon one?

JAY: Maybe? Maybe it came out right after 911.

MARX: Oh, it’s really crap.

JAY: No yeah, it’s a bad movie. One of the differences is that, Independence Day revels in destruction in a very unreal way, because it’s very unreal for the people living in the 90s. Whereas the bad War of the Worlds movie goes way too hard on depicting suffering and torment and few of the actual horrors of seeing things blow up, because it was made right after 9/11 in America. I think games kind of end up in a similar space where it’s like, we can’t make Independence Days anymore, you know? It’s like, there’s no more fun for me in depicting like, you know, a pandemic for example, which was once a common thing people would reach for when trying to show how the setting is. And now, it’s like a common thing. I think overnight, you know lots of people, myself included, it’s like “oh this game referenced a pandemic as part of its world building, and I am going to cut that“ because.

MARX: Because we don’t want that, yeah.

JAY: Yeah, because we don’t want that. It feels real now. You know, there was a huge, like global cultural shift last year that has changed how all of us relate to each other and to our art. And it means that, I think it’s going to indicate a pivot, and it’s going to really indicate a lot more stuff. I suspect that is really invested in, taking a stance, even if they’re evil stances.

MARX: Absolutely. Sort of on that note, what other projects do you have lined up for the future, Jay?

JAY: Oh boy. Yeah, Yazeba’s Bed and Breakfast is the next big thing. That is a project that we have a whole team, not just me, it’s a great team of writers, and like folks in RPG‘s on that side, and a great team of artists who are making the slice of life game, I think you’ll think it’s really neat.

MARX: I will.

JAY: Thank you! It’s about a magical bed-and-breakfast, and the folks who live there. There’s a lot of cool mechanical stuff, for example there’s no set rules, the rules it gets are from each chapter, like it plays episodically like a mini adventure that each contain their own rule system. Your character sheet like fits into that, where like the character sheet has like Bingos and Woopsie‘s. One chapter might be like, oh those are strong weak moves, whereas another chapter might be like, actually were using coin flips as a randomizer and Bingos are like special maneuvers, and Woopsie‘s are fail states. And then another chapter might be like, those are the same thing, we don’t care, those are just actions we take. So there is like, mechanically it’s a very interesting, it feels like almost like a big thing. There’s like, what I love about it, is like it’s legacy. It’s very legacy inspired. And so, whenever you complete a chapter, you make a little bit of progress towards unlocking future chapters. You make choices about your character, those remain on your character, even as other people pick up that pre-gen character, play them, and so what you’re kind of left with, is like, if I ran a one shot with you, and you played as Gertrude, and you completed Gertrude’s journey, the next person to pick up Gertrude, the next person to one shot with, would be impacted by your choices.

MARX: That’s very exciting.

JAY: It’s a game that, at first glance, appears very static. You have these pre-gen characters with these preset environments. But, as you play it, it grows. And it grows and it grows and it grows. The play kit is available right now on itch.io, which kind of gives you a taste of, here’s some of the characters, here’s some of what it’s like to unlock things, but the full thing is gonna be a behemoth, and the Kickstarter is coming March 2022.

MARX: That sounds amazing. Please, everybody go and check that out. If you are from the future, as I imagine some of my guests will be, and it’s March 2022, you need to be following. 

JAY: I’m really excited for that project. A lot of the stuff we talked about with Wanderhome kind of plays up again. It’s an interesting thing.

MARX: It sounds wonderful. Might buy the play kit. 

JAY: Oh it’s free, go grab it, it’s like fifty pages and it’s free. I’m a lunatic. It’s advertising, you know? We’ll sell the book. 

MARX: Oh, absolutely. Well I think on that note, Jay, would you like to tell us where we can find you on the Internet?

JAY: Yeah, absolutely. You can find me on Twitter @jaydragsky, I am the most notable Jay Dragon on Twitter, cannot say I’m the only one, because I found out there’s another fellow who has the same name who does adult entertainment.

MARX: Interesting.

JAY: I know. I think for him it’s a pseudonym though. You can also find Possum Creek Games, which is the publishing company I work with. I’m the editorial director, we are on Twitter @possum_creek. We are also on Instagram, our website is possumcreekgames.com. We have a Patreon where I do lots of little discussions, I post articles in advance. Patreon is how we stay afloat because the industry is very feast or famine, you know how it is. And, yeah, go check us out, go buy our stuff, go check out Wanderhome. It is a very beautiful book, we didn’t even talk about all the art in it, so if you want to see some beautiful art and play a gorgeous game that I am pretty sure will be good for your kids, you should go pick that up!

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