I might be one of the only writers who devotes vacation days to math homework.

Every year, my wife and I try to get away for a few days to focus on our respective projects and spend our evenings working on a creative project together.

Earlier this month, Steph and I headed to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for our annual Artist Retreat. Even before we knew our destination, I had big plans this year. After spending the past 10 months working, here and there, on worldbuilding and other preliminary plans for a new tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG), I was going to get down into the nitty-gritty, number-crunching details.

That’s right: game mechanics.

A numbers game

Rather than leverage an existing open-source TTRPG system, such as Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons (D&D)—as I’ve done for The Curse of Er’Mah’Gerd and other freelance projectsI decided to create my own system for this next project, tentatively titled The Last City of Mirth. Why? Well, I suspect that will be the topic for a future post. Suffice it to say, I have chosen to start from scratch.

Over the course of four days, I dedicated 8,890 words to the crunchiest characteristics of game design. I’d love to say I knocked it out of the park, but I’m reminded of a certain quotation about 99 ways to make a lightbulb—or, rather, 99 ways not to make one. Oh well, you can’t make an omelet without cracking a few filaments.

I am happy to report, however, that I’m reasonably certain the raw concepts I came up with could work. With more time. More energy.

More math.

Musings of a mad mathemagician…

In the days following our artistic getaway, I find my mind trying to make sense of statistics and numerical relationships in my dreams. I’m not ready to dive back into such arcane arithmetic during my waking hours, though. No, I’d rather wait until the Muse of Game Mechanics whispers sweet sums into my ear.

In the meantime, I’m content to adopt an adage borrowed from a friend of mine: “I’ll think about it by not thinking about it.”

The beauty of working on my own passion project is I am beholden to no one else’s deadlines. If I hit a temporary dead end, there are plenty of other paths to explore. Such as outlining some side quests, filling in missing details for various factions, and further developing the 11 unique sapient species forced to cohabitate in and around The Last City of Mirth.

No matter how you add it up, I still have a lot of work ahead. What fun!

Dice, dice, baby

Some of my nerdier readers will have already connected the serendipitous dots between working on a brand-new TTRPG in the city of Lake Geneva—the birthplace of D&D, arguably the world’s first TTRPG.

(Incidentally, this wasn’t the first time Steph and I pilgrimaged to this mecca of medieval fantasy. When we were teenagers, we visited a gaming store owned by none other than Dragonlance author Margaret Weis and somehow earned an invite to a pre-Gen Con party with other writers and editors of D&D fiction. But I’ve already name-dropped my way through this anecdote in prior posts.)

This time around, my wife and I saw the humble abode where Gary Gygax first put pencil to paper as he mutated wargames into something new and fantastical. Alas, the nearby museum dedicated to D&D’s early days wasn’t open while we were there.

Nevertheless, we took full advantage of the geeky atmosphere.

We selected resin as the medium for this year’s shared exploration. In addition to making dominos and runes, we created colorful sets of gaming dice as well as a couple of resin boxes to store these strange polyhedrons.

Steph also transformed her childhood jewelry box into an amazing mimic, an iconic D&D monster.

Jewelry Foolery box?

Artist Retreat is a fun tradition that celebrates creativity for creativity’s sake. Sometimes projects go unfinished. (I’m looking at you Bigfoot, Big Heart musical!) And not every pursuit bears financial fruit. (No worries, my beloved pixel-art webcomic.) Not every endeavor needs to turn a profit to be fulfilling.

At least that’s my belief and why I look forward to these annual “working vacations.”

Results may vary.

You do the math.