Lightheart



Adventures

058: Game Design & Incorporating Safety Tools in your TTRPGs with Kienna Shaw

 

Kienna Shaw is our guest today. Kienna is known for doing more things than we were able to discuss in an hour, like the TTRPG Safety Toolkit, safety consulting, game design for a bunch of games on Itch.io, DM’s Guild, and a Candlekeep Mysteries adventures, and a whole lot of actual play streaming. We focus mostly on game design and safety tools in this conversation, but I could have spent hours chatting with them about all the amazingly cool things she does. I know y’all are going to love this episode!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Time Stamps

  • 00:00:00 Introduction & Updates
  • 00:02:23 Kienna Introduction
  • 00:07:45 Getting into Actual Plays
  • 00:10:22 How Kienna got into game design
  • 00:14:00 Designing solo & micro ttrpgs
  • 00:27:03 Arcon–knowing when to update a game into a 2nd edition
  • 00:33:34 The Safety Toolkit & consulting on safety tools
  • 00:48:32 What has been the most challenging part?
  • 00:51:09 What has been the most rewarding part?
  • 00:52:28 Salty Sweet Games
  • 00:53:35 Where can people find you?
  • 00:54:23 Wrap-up

Find Kienna:

Show Affiliates / Some of Courtney's favorite things

  • FloDesk Easily create gorgeous emails. Get your 1st month free & 50% off for your first year.

  • Found Familiar Delicious coffee meets Dungeons & Dragons artwork. Use code lightheartadv for 10% off your order.

  • Friday Afternoon Tea Grab a cup of tea with blends based on your favorite nerdy series. Use lightheartadv for 10% off

  • Dice Envy creates beautiful dice in a variety of materials. Use lightheartadv for 10% off your order

  • Buzzsprout is my fabulous podcast host! Try it for free & receive a $20 Amazon gift card if you sign up.

Transcript

Courtney:

Hello & Welcome to Episode 58 of Roll Play Grow, the podcast for tabletop entrepreneurs, creators, and fans. I am Courtney Stover of Lightheart Adventures, and in this podcast, we talk to the creators behind the brands in the tabletop roleplay gaming space about who they are and how they are turning their passion for gaming into a career. 

Kienna Shaw is our guest today. Kienna is known for doing more things than we were able to discuss in an hour, like the TTRPG Safety Toolkit, safety consulting, game design for a bunch of games on Itch.io, DM’s Guild, and a Candlekeep Mysteries adventures, and a whole lot of actual play streaming. We focus mostly on game design and safety tools in this conversation, but I could have spent hours chatting with them about all the amazingly cool things she does. I know y’all are going to love this episode!

If this is your first time tuning in to Roll Play Grow, hello! This podcast is a part of Lightheart Adventures, which is a small company I co-founded with my husband. We also do blogs, one-shots, and maps that you’ll find over on our website, lightheartadventures.com. This podcast updates on Fridays, and I get to chat with so many amazing folks across a wide spectrum of industries within the TTRPG scene, so be sure to subscribe to Roll Play Grow on your favorite podcast player. I’ve got some absolutely AMAZING guests coming up, and you will not want to miss them!

That is all for now, so sit back and enjoy this conversation with Kienna.

Courtney: 

Hello friends. I am joined now by the amazing TTRPG designer, writer, and streamer Kienna Shaw. Hello, How are you?

Kienna: 

I’m good. Thanks. How about you?

Courtney: 

Good. It’s been a pretty easy Saturday for me, but I know that you were pretty busy this morning.

Kienna: 

Oh yeah. I, I, I went from streaming, quickly showed some lunch in my mouth and here I am.

Courtney: 

I appreciate you being here. I know that’s that’s a busy day.

Kienna: 

well, thank you for, for asking me to be here.

Courtney: 

Yeah. So just to kick things off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from?

Kienna: 

Yeah. So I am a Chinese Canadian, a TTRPG creator. I wear many hats in the space, but yeah, I’m, I’m a queer trans Designer writer, streamer safety tools and safety consultant. I don’t have a single thing to encapsulate what I do. So it’s just a full, long sentence, basically.

Courtney: 

yeah, I was saying right before we started recording, but I was like, ah, you do so many things. I don’t know how I’m gonna keep this to an hour. Like, I mean, I’m gonna, we’re just not gonna be able to cover everything, but that’s okay. Well how did you first get into gaming?

Kienna: 

I mean, I’ve always been a very creative child. I was very involved in doing theater and writing. I did get into interactive fiction a bit in high school. I loved like the children adventure type of books. And so I, I really delved into like how to write that way and stuff, but then I kind of put aside for a while. But it wasn’t until I got to university actually, and I was living alone, away from home, for the first time and, you know, ever, and I was having a bit of a, a, a creative crisis as you can when you’re 18 years old. And I wasn’t sure what I was doing when a YouTuber I followed at the time said, Hey, come watch me over on the Wizards of the Coast channel. We’re playing D&D. And I was like, what. What’s D&D? What’s that? And so I am part of that generation of TTRPG people who got their start by watching streams. And so that was my introduction and it was that realization of like, oh, this is what I wanna do. Like, I wanna be involved in in games and this very new way, cuz I, I loved video games, but this was a completely different, you know, collaborative storytelling thing that I was like, oh wow, this is, this is what I was missing. This is what I wanted. And I kind of dove in head first from there.

Courtney: 

that’s awesome. So obviously you are in your actual play stream, but are you in any other campaigns right now that are just, you know, like at home with friends?

Kienna: 

So I started off gaming with like doing a home game by myself. And this was me like only having learned D&D by watching other people play it. And a, a pirated copy of the player’s handbook. And I was like, wow, I guess I will DM a game for my, for my friends, my, my high school friends and their partners. And it was very much like I would learn it as we go. And that was like a home game. And then I shifted almost basically all into actual play campaigns for a very long time. And I’ve only started doing home games again recently. So doing, you know, some D&D at home in terms of like actual play campaigns, I’m also over on Anarus’s channel where we’re doing an Iron Sworn campaign which has been super fun. And before that we were doing a dungeon world campaign. So this is all set in the same world, it’s been very, very fun to do. But yeah, most of my focus has been in terms of play has been with Masks of Nyarlarthotep over on Salty Sweet Games, which has been a ton of fun. And we’ve been doing that for two and a half years now. So

Courtney: 

It’s such a long time.

Kienna: 

yeah, yeah. We really have been doing it for a very long time

Courtney: 

okay. So you’re on three different actual plays that are going regularly.

Kienna: 

Mostly just two now, just the, just the two. Yeah,

Courtney: 

Okay. And then also your home games. So that’s, that’s a lot,

Kienna: 

yeah. And, and this is actually very little compared to what I used to do. When I first involved in the space, I was involved as a actual play performer and, and later producer. And this was again, I was still in university. I was doing school at the time and I was working part-time but I was also very involved in the streaming space at the time. So I think at one point I was doing, you know, up to seven shows a week which looking back on it now, I do not know how I did it. I was just like, how, how did you do full-time studies and work part-time and also do all these shows every single week. I really don’t know. I don’t recognize that cause that, that version of me anymore. Yeah, so it, it used to be really involved in that. And then I, I kind of pivoted away into doing other work and other stuff in this space that are equally as fun and interesting for me. And also give me a little more flexibility on, on what I like to do and not have myself pigeonholed into a specific thing.

Courtney: 

So did streaming and performing and actual plays come before game design.

Kienna: 

Yeah, I think, other than the, the, the interactive fiction trying fiction that I was doing when I was like 17, I really didn’t get into game design until I was a couple years into being, you know, fairly involved in the, in the actual play scene.

Courtney: 

Okay, we will definitely talk about game design in a moment, but first I would love to know how you got involved with like the very first actual play that you were a performer in.

Kienna: 

Yeah. So this came via Twitter. I was, I was talking about about TTRPGs and someone was like, Hey, you should go and like, check out this channel. And this channel followed me on Twitter. And so I did and I, I went up on Twitch and I really enjoyed their stuff. And so I was in the chat all the time and they had a community game that they ran that, you know, people could sign up for who weren’t their mainstay performers and, and be in a one shot. So I did that a few times. And apparently they liked me so much that they were like, Hey, so do you wanna like, come on as a, as like an actual proper cast member? So yeah, so I, I went into that and then from there I made a lot of friends and, and connections that led me to, to other channels. None of them exist anymore. Unfortunately they all were spaces that were not the healthiest, and so they, they did fall apart over time. But you know, there was still a important foundation in, in how I got started and how I found my space of people that I’m still friends with. And that still mean a lot to me and still part of my support network in the gaming space.

Courtney: 

How long ago was that?

Kienna: 

Oh gosh, that was I think I was looking it up the other day and it was like, Five years give or take? So that’s a weird thing to think about yeah, cuz that’s, that’s like all of my young adulthood, I’m I’m turning 25 in August. So

Courtney: 

I mean, that’s a long time to be performing and growing in the community, but that’s awesome.

Kienna: 

yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s definitely been really interesting cuz even in the last five years, like so much has changed in this space and it’s, you know, it’s, it’s really fascinating to watch how more diverse and inclusive and you know, how different the format is even to this day. It’s, it’s been a very interesting thing to see. And I, I sound like I’m, oh, I’m so old and watching this, it’s like, no, I’m, I’m still very young and still like seeing this and seeing new voices come in and it’s all really great just continuing to see how it, it, it grows.

Courtney: 

Oh, absolutely though. Like even within the last six months or year, I feel like something has finally clicked and it’s just getting to be a lot more diverse and a lot less of the same old cis het white guys that

Kienna: 

Yeah.

Courtney: 

it still wants to be all the time, but nah. So you started playing in actual plays and then it turned into like seven times a week.

Kienna: 

Yep.

Courtney: 

So at what point did you decide that you wanted to try designing your own game?

Kienna: 

Yeah. So I was a lot of the people that I was playing with at the time were, you know, people who were writing and designing and I was kind of really enjoying that. And I was doing, you know, a lot of my own adventure and campaign writing just for my own personal use, right. To run a series on, on Twitch, you kind of need to develop some of those skills, right. About how to construct adventures and how to, how to construct those types of things. And so I was getting really interested in, in that and really what was the push for me was at the time I think this was 2019 or so there was a huge wave of indie creators on itch,io starting to, to publish out their stuff. So, you know, I was getting exposed to so many other games that were out there. And the idea that, you know, a single person can make a game and still, and like to put that out there in the world. And I thought that was like really cool. And this all came into, you know, play with itch.io game jams especially tabletop game jams that were happening. And I, I saw one that was for the Emotional Mecha Jam and I was like, oh, that looks really cool. This, this looks really up my alley. Like I love Pacific Rim. This exactly the kind of thing that this is for, but you know, the deadline is it’s tomorrow. I don’t think I have time. Like I maybe have an idea, but I, I just don’t have the time to like sit down and like make a game and, and, and get it out. And I woke up the next day and my school, which infamously has never closed down in like seven years was like, Hey, so the storm. Snowstorm outside is bad enough that we are actually close today. And I was like, well, I guess this is a universe telling me that I better sit my ass down and try to write a game. And so I did, and it was like a very… it’s not my best game. It’s still up on my, on my itch.io page, but it was really important for me to put that out there to, I sit down, write it in the span of about, you know, I, I joke that I, I, I blacked out and, and, you know, 12 hours later there was a, there was a whole ass game on, on itch.io that it was so important to, to realize that I was able to, I was capable of making this type of stuff. I could do it on my own and that I had a really great support group of friends. I played the stream that night, actually the same night that I submitted. And they were like, everyone go play Kienna’s game. I’m like, ah! But like having that support and having, you know, people believe in what was a very silly, you know, two page game that I made which I later refined. But, you know, a thing that I wrote in, in the course of a day was important enough and interesting enough for people to check out and to pay money for it. So yeah, so that’s how I got my start. And, and from there, I just kind of kept going as you’ll see this as a thing where like, I’ll start something and then I just dive head first into it. It’s just what happens. It’s it’s the type of person I am.

Courtney: 

mean, I love it. And now, like you look at your itch.io page, you look at your DM’s Guild page, and you have so many games and supplements and things you’ve been involved in.

Kienna: 

Yeah, it’s, again, it’s, it’s so interesting to look back on the past five years and to be like my, my pathway and where I’ve been as a, as a creator has changed so much. And it’s, it’s really interesting to kind of track my, my very unconventional path through the space and, and see where, you know things have changed and, and really for the better.

Courtney: 

Mm-hmm so, one thing I’m curious about is that I know a lot of your games are solo play or meant for only two players. So what is it about this like smaller system or what have you that appeals to you as a designer?

Kienna: 

Yeah. So I guess what I really like when I’m, when I’m trying to design games is I try to capture very unique and specific emotional spaces. So I’m usually not making games that are like systems that can support all different kinds of stories. Like obviously with a, with a shared theme. But you know, when you’re playing urban shadows, for example, it could go so many different ways. Like it could be a very goofy game. It could be a very serious game. It could be a very, you know action packed thing. I’m more interested in trying to hone in on a, on Simulating a specific vibe or specific environment in a specific emotions? Well, not a specific emotion, a specific array of emotions, basically. And so I really like the format of solo and two player because it’s very intimate. And in many ways the game text and what I’m writing and me as an author becomes an important part of that game play where, you know, you don’t have another player. Yes. But you have the game text and therefore me writing it as your other. As the, as the other person, basically at the table was the, the thing that you’re, you’re pulling against. And it’s a lot easier to hone in on that kind of, of feeling. And when I say specific, I mean, very specific, like I got inspired to write a game based on the one montage cold open for an episode of, of Good Omens. That was, that was the two main characters the devil and angel, Crowley and Aziraphale, just, you know, meeting at different points of history. And like just having their, their cute little conversations when they meet again, like, you know, in ancient Greece versus, you know, in revolutionary France versus, you know, modern day London. And so I built a game that was all about emulating that, that, that feel that, that space of two people who are constantly meeting each other across time and are likely in love with each other or love each other in some way. Even though they’re not supposed to, because they’re, you know, two other worldly beings and, and having earth and the different parts of time be important parts. So it’s very, very specific. But that gets me, that lets me really hone in on like mechanics and prompts and writing that really evokes the, the types of, of things I’m looking for.

Courtney: 

Yeah. So for that specific example, I would love to dig into the process behind how you did come up with the mechanics for it.

Kienna: 

Yeah. So it’s actually very, very mechanic-light. I really like writing prompts and like prompts that just are kind of very pointed questions that help lead people into, you know, specific conversations and specific interactions. And so I was thinking about it and, and breaking down what I wanted from, from that feeling of, you know, watching the two– this angel in this devil meet across time and space, all on earth, all kind of secretly, cuz they’re not supposed to meet with each other. And so I was like, okay, so we have to set up the premise, like we have to set up that initial tension. And so even in these very open space, prompt answer games, I do put a lot of constraints on it to, to do that specific kind of emotional space. And so I specifically went, okay, so you have to be otherworldly beings. You have to be forbidden from seeing each other. You have to only meet on earth. And you have to kind of always have tension to your conversation in some sense. So I set out these, like these three basic rules at the very beginning of the game where, you know, you’re otherworldly beings, you love each other. And you can only meet on earth. And then from there I was like, okay, so what are some, some interesting places they could end up being at? And so I made like tables, basically the whole, the whole game is basically just tables. Whereas I, here are some options about where you could be. And you know, people can roll a d10 or they can just pick one if they would like to. And then I, you know, I also pick up, you know, some, some examples of what they could be meeting about or what’s, what’s going on around in the world, around them as they’re meeting. And so I again, made another chart that was like, here are some examples of like, what that could look like and what is happening right now. So for example, there’s there’s stuff about like what time period is it? Where are you in the world and what mundane place have you found yourselves in? Like, it was important to me that there was mundane. It was not like, you know an important monumental historical moment. Like, it’s more interesting to talk about. Very important of the worldly being just kind of being in normal everyday situations. And then, you know, there, the scenes options or stuff like a favor or a close call or confession or warning, something that gives, you know, the players, something to build off of, of what that scene is. And then finally I give them three options about well, you do three different questions to end the scene. Which again, fold into that tension of like, how do you say goodbye? Or you ask, are you looking forward to seeing me again? Or what promise do you make to me something to set up for the next iteration. And so I was like, okay, so now we have what all those like scenes in the montage are quote unquote, and then have to look at what the ending is. And so I was like, okay, Good Omens ended because the apocalypse happened and everyone knew that you were secretly meeting and, you know, they were trying to stop you from, from meeting up again. So it’s all about the, that last ending question, which do you choose to stay together against all odds encapsulates that kind of feeling and what I want people to be taking away from this. Because they are just spent a whole game talking about how these people come together against all odds anyways. And in the end, do they choose to be with each other after everything? So, so yeah, it was a very lengthy answer about that game, but it was a lot of just like what quest, what are the right questions to ask, to get the types of open answers that continue to iterate upon each other and learn about each other.

Courtney: 

Yeah. I mean, that sounds so interesting. I just can imagine the like tension that has to come up throughout playing that game and just, it sounds like a really cool kind of introspective scenario to be able to play through it with someone.

Kienna: 

Yeah. And, and that’s a lot of where I wanna be is I want it to be introspective and I want it to be players be able to look at the relationships between, you know, each other and between the world around them and their, you know, themselves and the game text itself. Those are all really interesting aspects of developing games for me. And I’ve been, I’ve been lucky enough that people also seem to enjoy that. When I was describing a lot of these games to people, one of my friends was like, so these are tiny games with big emotions. I’m like, I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before. And it’s now the tagline for for my itch.io page. Is that what these are? They’re tiny games with big emotions. They’re very streamlined. They’re very small, usually only a couple pages, but they are meant to evoke large emotions! Big feelings and, and thoughts about stuff.

Courtney: 

Are there any of them that you’d say that maybe you struggled with a bit more than the others, or maybe just more than you expected?

Kienna: 

Oh, yeah. So there’s a, a game that I wrote that’s called Come Home. And that was that was for a jam that a game jam that I was co-running. And I was like, again, don’t do what I do. Do what I say, not what I do. I do not recommend doing your games last minute, but somehow that’s the way I’ve done so many of them because I will come home about 24 hours before the deadline of my own jam, my own game jam that I set up myself. Because that’s, that’s who I am as a, as a creater apparently. And Come Home was a, the, the jam was all about feels and space as in like outer space. And I, it was very much like how can you like look at outer space and focused on the emotions that happen here. Whether it’s emotions about outer space, big emotions that happen in space. It was, that was kind of what we were aiming for. And so I ended up creating a game called Come Home, which was all about based off of a treat that I really like a treat poem that I really enjoy where it’s about an astronaut being space. And you know, they’re, they just wanna go home and it’s both ground control and the stars say come home. Because. For an astronaut, what is home? Right? What is, what is their home for them? And so I was like, okay, this is a great game for me to, to try to go for. And then I was like, okay, this is gonna be a three player game. This is gonna be, you know, it’s the astronaut, it’s ground control and it’s it’s the stars. And then I was like, how do I, how do I make this interesting? Right. And so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what, what I could do prompt wise that, you know, could be more interesting for three players instead of just, you know, a single player or two. I spent a lot of time being like, how do I make this equal so that, you know, people don’t feel like they have to, when they take one role, they’re not like pigeon hold into one thing only. And so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make that work. And you know, I, I’m pretty satisfied with what I came up with. I, I decided that it was gonna be a rotating thing. So like, you don’t have a single role. You take the role of one of the three player characters, quote unquote for one scene, and then you swap in a circle so that, you know, you, you spend time involved in the stakes of all the characters rather than, you know, just one of them. And I ended up using photos like photos from, from NASA or from National Geographic letting people kind of delve into those, those resources out there to use those as prompts to be like, Hey, so like when it’s time for the, for ground control to say, Hey, astronaut, come home. Look at what’s here on earth for you. And then the stars is being like, Hey, astrnaut, come home to us. Look at what you discovered out here in the world and be able to pick out the amazing pictures that, that NASA has published and all that. So yeah, that was definitely more of a challenge for me, cuz I was like working with with more players and I was working with a more unconventional, like route of getting answers from people which I normally don’t do. And I normally am a, a words person, I guess

Courtney: 

Yeah, that makes sense. So okay. We said a lot that your games are these small, like micro or solo play ones, but I know that you’ve also worked on some larger games too. And so I’m curious if there’s anything about your design process that changes when it’s part of like a larger game, whether that’s collaborating or if you’re taking lead on it.

Kienna: 

Yeah. So a big part of it has been collaboration is, is recognizing for myself, at least, I am really bad at like at mechanics in terms of like dice or like anything that is, if I have to figure out the math of, I, I’m not good at that. And so finding people to, to work with there, and then also for, for bigger projects, it’s again, where I loved TTRPGs, it’s because it was a collaborative storytelling thing. And for the biggest stuff, I was like, I need to work with someone or bounce stuff off of another person to, to really push stuff forward because, you know, I like what I write. I like what I do. But I also recognize that I thrive when I’m, I’m a close partnership with someone else. And so a lot of my games on, on itch.io, especially my bigger projects are with my friend Jason Cutrone. Who I met via via streaming spaces. And we, we have made a lot of stuff including Arcon, which was our cyberpunk system agnostic setting book which has just been recently published. And so, yeah, so it’s a lot more just like talking through it with people and like having live documents where we can just put ideas down and, and look over what other people are doing, cuz like, you know, we all have really cool ideas and we can pull those ideas together to make some other really cool stuff. So yeah, so a lot of my design process then I, I end up, you know, instead of doing everything, I’m taking different roles in it. So like, you know, we’re editing or making sure everything’s cohesive or looking at, you know, here are some, some ways to write stuff. Here’s you know, my section, but like let’s just see how we combine it with other people’s and just, you know, understanding that I am not perfect at everything and that’s okay. And that’s where working with other people is great. So a lot of working with other people and it’s, it’s really been a blessing to be able to work with some really lovely people, both with self-published stuff and also for, for contract projects for freelance stuff. Cuz you know, being able to build something together is, is really cool.

Courtney: 

Since you brought up Arcon, we’re gonna go to that and then I definitely have some follow up questions on all of your freelance work as well, but for Arcon it’s got a second edition out right now. So I would love to maybe hear a little bit about just the story of that game, like how you got connected with Jason and then, you know, what was it about the first edition that you decided that you wanted to update it into another edition?

Kienna: 

Yeah, so, Jason and I met because of some mutual friends and because of Twitter and he and I, you know, started just playing some home games with each other and they started doing text RP, cuz you know, just a fun, it was a fun thing for us to play together and create things together. And eventually we got to a point where we were doing this cyber punk text RP. And we, and this is about the time that, you know, Cyberpunk 2077 had just been announced and all this stuff. And we were like, this is a really cool world that we’re making. What if we just built this out a little bit more and, and put this out into the world, like we’ve made by that point, we have made a bunch of games together, a bunch of solo games solo journaling stuff. But we’re like, why don’t we try to make something a little different and, and create this this setting that we kind of just made up on like off the cuff and as our, our own RP went into, you know, something that other people could use, especially since, you know, we were trying to be like, maybe we could like take the text RP and like pour it into a, an actual game system. And all the cyber punk systems out there are very, like, have their own world to it. And this and these worlds were not, you know, aligned with our own principles and values about what Cyberpunk could be, especially in a more modern day- cuz a lot of cyber punk has baggage. It has Orientalist baggage. It has baggage about about humanism and, and ableism, especially in the form of cybernetics. And you know, the idea that if you have more cybernetics, you’re less human and that didn’t quite fit with us. And so we were. We were like, what if we created a world that other people could, could put in? And that was a more, you know, modern refresh of what the, the same issues and core themes that are in the cyberpunk genre are. So yeah, so it really just started to us, you know, in a Google doc, just writing down, like what could this world be and what information would someone want to, to put Arcon into their own games. And it just kept building building until, you know, we eventually had a, a hundred plus page book that I laid out myself and that we, we put together and we put onto itch.io and we took the, the model of itch funding, which is a form of crowd funding. That’s done on itch.io with the idea of like, Hey, like it’s just the two of us, but it would be great if we could, you know, If we could get some art in here, cuz we’re just using royalty free like photos right now. And it’d be great to like, have someone actually properly edit this because it’s just the two of us working on this. And so we needed money to do that. We didn’t, we were able to donate all of our capital to make this thing cuz we wanted to make, to make the original edition’. But if we wanted to improve it, we needed money. And so that’s where the, the itch funding crowd funding came in. And when we were doing it, we, we launched that. We’re like, yeah, like, well we have like a whole year on the itch funding campaign. Like we won’t even have to think about it too much. Like when we hit certain sales goals, like we’ll be able to start doing stuff and adding more stuff to it, but you know, we’re not in rush. And then I’ve proven very wrong, very fast. As we, we went through our initial funding goal in seven hours. And we did all of our stretch goals, including additional ones we hadn’t thought about like adding in new authors and doing a print run in the span of a, of a, like a couple weeks and like, oh, okay. um, And so we had so many new things to add to the game, to add to the setting book and to you know, a, a real opportunity to work with some pretty amazing craters in this space that were like it, it’s not enough to just have, you know, here’s an a here’s. The first edition, plus some errata, like it was important to us to incorporate all this stuff. And that meant us also having to write new sections and new pieces of it. And it was just so much of a change that it made sense to make it the second edition. And we were very lucky that we were able to partner with Metal Weave Games who provided us the support to do a print run. Cause you are not able to do that. Especially in the time of of the supply chain and paper being very scarce right now. So yeah, we were very lucky that Andreas has reached out to us and we were able to work with him to get the book over on Metal Weave Games. And so it’s the first, it’s the first project where, you know, I basically managed a whole team to, to create something. And that was really cool. There was definitely a new experience. And I learned a lot from that. But yeah, it was, it was just so much of a even looking back and forth between the first and second edition. There’s, there’s so much change in there. And I was very lucky to have an audience that enjoyed it enough that, you know, I, we could get the money to, to make it a bigger, better project for, for all of us basically, you know, benefits us all that we were able to do this.

Courtney: 

I think it’s really awesome, that like just how much you were able to like further develop it and help it grow and that it was so successful within seven hours and just kept growing like that’s. So that’s such a good story.

Kienna: 

yeah, it’s, it’s really great. And a lot of it, again, couldn’t have come without the support of a platform that I helped develop and also, but just like a support network of, of amazing people. Being able to talk with the people at Dicebreaker and they featured Arcon during its itch funding campaign. And so we were able to get more eyes on it working with streaming communities like Huetopia where we worked together with a game designer and developed a, an actual play series that, you know, got eyes on it and was a really cool way of seeing the world. It like actually in life and stuff like that, like actually being used in a way that we could, we could see it and got other people interested in that. A lot of it comes down to to the community that we had. A lot of it comes down to the network of, of people that we were able to work with. But yeah, it’s kind of, it’s kind of strange to, to think about how, like, we really just went, Hey, what if we did this? And, and we did. And it, it works.

Courtney: 

I wanna switch gears a little bit because there’s something that I definitely wanna make sure that we spend some time talking about, and that is your work on the safety toolkit. And then the, just the consulting that you’re able to do around safety tools.

Kienna: 

Yes. Yeah.

Courtney: 

I guess real quick, just in case any of our listeners are not familiar with the safety toolkit, can you give us a little bit of a overview about what it is and the tools that are specifically in there? And then I would love to know what the inspiration for that was.

Kienna: 

Yeah. So the TTRPG safety toolkit is a free community resource that compiles a bunch of safety tools and support tools that have been created by people across the industry into one accessible place. So when we talk about safety tools, we talk about you know, systems and, and mechanics and stuff that are used to help communicate when people are having fun or when people need to, to, you know, take a break or when content that happens in the game, because it’s an improvised experience needs to shift so that everyone is still enjoying themselves. Because we are prioritizing the players at the table, And how they feel and their enjoyment over the story. So, you know, no matter what happens in the, in the story, it can always change because it comes from the brains of the people who are playing it. And safety tools are just ways to help facilitate that. Especially since it can be very difficult conversation to have. It’s the same way that, you know, when you are in a sports game if you’re, you have a referee, you have a way to handle when someone gets injured or you have a way to handle when someone needs to take a break. Those are all, you know, just normal parts of the game. And so that’s where safety and support systems are, are, you know, the same idea. These are just ways to, to make sure that everyone is it’s still in having fun with the game and also like set, you know, guidelines on how to, how to interact with each other and play with each other. So yeah, so that’s what the, the toolkit is. So it’s just, it’s basically a Google drive that has, you know a guide that I designed with my co-curator Lauren Bryant-Monk. It’s got some links to some amazing resources out there and, and tools and all that stuff. Also, we’ve got translations which have been kindly donated to us from community members. We’ve got panels recordings of panels and, and transcripts of those recordings of panels in there as well. And it’s just, it’s a ever growing thing, because, you know, people are still creating new safety tools and, and support systems that suit their needs. And at the end of the day, the toolkit is there as a way for people to one learn about safety tools, two access them easily because you know, it’s, it’s just one centralized location and three have a bunch of different options. Because one safety tool may not work for another person. Every person’s needs are different. And so, you know, the number of tools and systems that are out there reflects that. And so coming back to where I was inspired by to, to make this I, this, again, stem back into when I was in the actual play community and doing, you know, games all the time. It was in when I was in one of my channels that I was in very a lot of the times they were like, Hey, so let’s try out this thing. We’re gonna use the X card. And this is a great way to, you know, if something is happening in the game and you–it’s just not working for you, it’s uncomfortable for you hurting you in whatever way you can just type in X and we’ll know to, to rewind and change that up a little bit. And I was just like, wait, this was an option the whole time? Could I have been playing still for like over a year? I think two years at that point. And I was like, wait, this is an option? This is a thing that we could do? That blew my mind. And so I was like, wow, like all these, this would be great to be putting into like other games and stuff. Like more people should know about this. And so because I had never heard of, it could have been like the first documents were, were put on like, or links and mentions of it were put on stuff like the Forge or Google plus, and those all disappeared. And so I was just like, I’ll just make like a quick like, document. That’s just like. Puts up some of the tools that I’m learning about and links them back to the original stuff. So, you know, people know how to use them in, in their games. And so I just did that and this was really meant for my friends, but I put it on Twitter and it exploded a little bit. Mostly cuz it, it was a combination of people being like, wow, I’ve never heard of these before. These are amazing. I wish that I was using these before. And some people being like, Hey, you should also consider adding these tools that I use at home or that I’ve heard about because they’re not mentioned here. And I had never heard about them before. And at the time safety tools was a very controversial subject. And so I also got a lot of harassment and a lot of people being like, how dare you baby, me and my games. And like, how dare you try to try to tell me how to play. If you, if you need safety tools, like you shouldn’t be playing games, whatever. And so I realizing many things. There are tons of resources out there that people just never were able to find, because as much as we say, the internet is forever many of it isn’t and archiving very difficult. And two, like it actually had a positive impact. Like there were more people who were like, wow, this is great. And this is stuff that I want involved in my games more. And so I, I sat down and I started, you know, trying to create a new version of the guide that was, you know, encompassing more tools. And so I, I reached out, you know John Stavropoulos who’s the developer of the X card. I reached out to the person who made the O card Kira Magran who, you know made this, this other tools. And I kept building on what people just kept sending me and, you know, I got into some really great conversations with the designers and being like, Hey, it’s okay if I include this, I’m like, yeah, go ahead. And it got to the point where Lauren then reached out to me and was like, Hey, so I’m gonna go to a convention, local convention and talk about safety tools. You wanna come and talk with me there? I was like, yeah, sure. At the time I would still figuring out what to do with this. Like how do I make this, this safety resource, the best it can be? And we came across the idea of the toolkit which is the idea that, you know, we’ll put everything we can in there as many options as possible you know, provide people all the options that they can and continue growing that. And so we launched the toolkit at the convention. That was our, we were like, we don’t have a, we can’t, we don’t have any AV here. Like we don’t have a potential to do a like a slideshow, whatever. So what if we just gave them a link that they could go to and go read up on all this stuff themselves. And it just kind of grew from there. We, we put it out on the, on Twitter for the, the larger audience and it, once again, exploded But I would say that, you know, again, our work is in We, we haven’t designed any of the tools in there. And all of our, all of our work is just about pulling together everything. So that things work out and we’re very very precious about, about credit. It’s something very important to us that people credit the designers properly, just because again the original resources get lost. And so people were like, Hey Kienna, you designed this. So I was like, I did not. the, the names of the people that designed it are in the resource that I gave you, you should be crediting them instead. Yeah, so it, it became this, you know, having to balance this responsibility of, of education archiving, and also, you know, making sure that the right people are credited with their stuff. But it’s been, it’s such an easy way to, to introduce people to this concept, which had been around for a very long time. A lot of the work that’s been done and it had been done in the past, had 10 and 15 years it just didn’t have the mainstream push that it needed to have. And the, the safety toolkit did help with that. As advocacy with the the fact that it somehow won, won an Ennie a couple years ago. So that’s been, you know, it’s been a whole journey. And even in the past couple years, it’s been so fascinating to watch how much safety tools have become accepted and like actually like a very normal practice in games. Like you see it in, in actual plays and you see it in books and in systems and all this stuff as just like, yeah, this is just a normal thing that we talk about now, when, when I first started going into it’s, like, it was a very minor idea. And so, yeah, so we’ve been seeing a lot of development. Pushing forward safety design and especially pushing forward safety tool design that’s specifically made for specific games. So instead of having a generic tool, like the X card that can be put into any game, a lot of games are trying to build in safety and inclusion of of, you know, player responsibility and respecting each other’s enjoyment right into the game itself. And that’s where my consulting work comes in. It’s being able to, to do that put that right into the, the foundation of a game so that, you know, that’s the starting point. The baseline is that we are all here to enjoy playing together. We’re all here to respect each other’s boundaries. We’re all here to, you know, work together and, and be together in this game.

Courtney: 

Yeah. I definitely think like it’s been a huge resource for me personally, to have just all of it curated into one spot. So I wanna thank you for that. Um, so I actually have a question from one of my patrons about being a safety consultant and, we haven’t really talked about that too much yet, but at what point in the process do you come in when you are acting as a consultant? Is it like towards the beginning of the game development process? Is it after the game is mostly formed and you’re just kind of doing a last check for safety tools. How that work?

Kienna: 

We encourage it as early as possible. Just because it’s easier to, with any form of consulting. It’s easier to incorporate principles when you are there at the very start, rather than trying to work backwards from when it’s almost done and you have to go, well, one of your foundational things is not working. So we need to, we need to pull the pull apart, everything that’s built on it until we get to the foundational issue, and then we can rebuild everything. Oftentimes though I’m being brought in when stuff is in development. So there’s enough texts there to kind of go through and say like, okay, we wanna want a good path. And also because we’re often I’m also developing new systems and tools, like for, for example, for Iron Sworn and Iron Sworn Starforged and for Die RPG. We came in when, you know, there was a good chunk of the draft done and they say, Hey, like where can we incorporate some new and unique stuff within our, you know, safety sections and, you know, some mechanics that we could be building in. And, and it’s helpful to have a good portion of the game, like at least put down on paper so that you can see where it’s going to, to work with that. Especially since often the game designing will have a specific vision for what they’re trying to evoke in their system and where like, where the likelihood is of some dangers or, or pitfalls that could happen. So yeah, so ideally earlier, but often in the development process, like we’re not usually being handed a, Hey, this could be published tomorrow, go check this out. That’s probably the worst case scenario. It’s very much a, Hey, like we’re going through a lot of this, but can you, can you make sure that we’re not doing anything really bad with this, or are there ways that we could, and rather I think the better way to prove is like, how do we improve, you know, where we are right now with where a game is. So yeah.

Courtney: 

Is there anything in particular that you tend to recommend for like every game, regardless of the setting, the system.

Kienna: 

I don’t, I don’t really think so because I, I mean, there are very popular ones. So ones that I use very often, like I said, I’ve talked about the X card. There’s also script change. There’s also, you know, the Luxon technique. People talk about lines and veils all the time and start and wishes, but I, I try to avoid saying, you know, these are the ones I, I would recommend, or these, the ones that you should be using, just because again, everyone is unique in how they communicate and how they need their needs met. And I find that when, whenever someone says, this is the only safety tools you should be using, it’s is not great. Because people just don’t always vibe with that. And it’s okay that people are gonna have different needs and that there should be different options. Like you’re how I say it is that, you know, it’s better. The toolkit is meant to give you a full array of tool because you know, when you have a nail, a hammer is great, but when you have a screw, a hammer is not great. So you use the screwdriver instead, right. And having all those options there just makes it better and gives you more flexibility to work with the people that you are with at that table.

Courtney: 

Totally. So when you are consulting on a game, like how do you decide, how do you know, like what recommendations to make?

Kienna: 

Well, it’s a lot of just talking through and being like, okay, are you making sure that you’re setting up the foundation for people to be able to communicate what they’re okay with? What they’re not okay with? Both before, during, after a game. That’s the basic guidelines though, right? Is like, how, how can people tell, tell you as a, you know, at a player, as a GM ,whatever that they’re, they’re having fun and enjoying it before, during and after you’re in the middle of play. And so the foundations there, is it them saying, okay, so can, are we, are we making sure that the game has that, are we making sure that people are, you know, we’re giving the principles to people and then giving them the, the options and resources to go off and go find the stuff that they like. A lot of systems do and designers have their ed ones and they go, this is what I use. And that’s, I think is okay. As long as they also say this one might not work for you. Go check out some of this other stuff. I think that’s just the most important part is like, can you set up the foundation of the principle of care that everyone is supposed to care about each other, and about the, you know, about everyone’s enjoyment over, you know, the drama or the, the story of the game, and then pointing people towards where they can learn for themselves and develop stuff or even more simply, you know, find a way for people to engage with safety stuff in the game itself. So having mechanics that are built into the game itself rather than, you know, a third party thing that’s added on top you know, it, it just makes it even more normalized and easier for people to use cuz they just engage with that safety mechanic the same way that they engage with any other mechanic in the game.

Courtney: 

That makes a lot of sense. I’m encouraged and I hope that more games definitely start incorporating it from the get go.

Kienna: 

Yeah, and I, I think we’ve been, we’ve been seeing that it’s been, it’s been really fascinating to, to watch that. Again, watch that change. It’s been, it’s been fascinating.

Courtney: 

yeah, definitely. Oh, my gosh. Oh, we are almost at time and I’m really sad cuz I feel like I’ve barely skimmed the surface with you.

Kienna: 

I

Courtney: 

Okay. Well I guess real quick, before we wrap up, I’ve got a couple questions that I like to ask in every interview. And so for the first one, I like to just acknowledge that we do all of this stuff cuz you know, we love it. We love these games. We love the experiences that come with it, but there are definitely some challenges to working within the tabletop RPG space. So is there anything in particular that you’d say over the last, I think we said five years, that has been particularly challenging for you?

Kienna: 

I mean, for me, it’s a lot of, it has been one, I’m a marginalized person I’m you know, visibly femme, and I’m also very vocally queer and a person of color. And so that’s a lot of, you know, bigotry and a lot of systems that work against me. But more uniquely, I think a lot of the challenges that I, that I came across with balancing. The need to be a prominent person in the space and the, the desire to create where I’m, I’m trying to balance who I am as a person online and, and, you know, I, I do have a fairly sizable following and trying to balance the responsibilities I have there as someone with with an audience with the fact that I also, I just wanna make stuff and I don’t necessarily wanna be famous. And you know, having to, to be someone who is ethical and making sure that I’m putting back into the space, if not positive, at least neutral energy. And that is compounded by the fact that I’m a marginalized person. People have different expectations of how I have to act online and what I have to do with my, with my platform and what I have to do with stuff I make because they have certain expectations of me as a marginalized person versus, you know, if I was a white dude. And so it’s, it’s been a unique challenge and it’s been a lot of me, renavigating how to use social media and renavigating, you know, my, what I wanna do in this space. Like again, I have pivoted away from actual play. You know, I’m no longer doing five shows or seven shows a week. I’m doing, you know, two maybe and focusing a lot more on writing and designing. Cause that’s what I wanna do. And again, it’s, this, this has had been a lot of my young adulthood. And so it’s a lot of me figuring out my own shit and who I am as a person all on top of this. So it’s, it’s been a unique journey and it’s been I don’t think I would trade it for anything else, but there have definitely been challenges. But thankfully I do have a, a great support system of, of friends and, and, and loved ones who are, who are there to, to help me out.

Courtney: 

Yeah. I just also thinking about, yeah. Trying to navigate all of that in your early twenties, like, god, that that’s a hard enough time but yeah, so I guess to flip it around, is there anything that you’d say is like the most rewarding, exciting part of it all?

Kienna: 

I mean, I think it’s just rewarding to, to put stuff out in the world and know that people are, are engaging with it in some way or enjoying it in some way. It’s. Like in terms of my, my game stuff is always so great. Whenever people are like, Hey, I, I played this and I liked it a lot. And I’m like, that’s, you know, that made my day or for, you know, actual play stuff, you know, having people be there in the chat and being there with, for us as we ride the highs and lows of a campaign and, you know, the emotional moments and the action pack stuff. And for the, for the safety stuff is the, you know, just having the knowledge that it has helped people. And it’s even if it has only helped one table be a better place for the people there, then that that’s what really matters. And so, you know, just, just, it’s, it’s sometimes hard to be an artist or to be a creator and just put stuff out there and hope that it, it comes back to you in some positive way. And I’ve been very lucky to have that response, to have a, a, you know, A community that goes, yes, we like this stuff. Keep going, please. So, yeah.

Courtney: 

that is always super encouraging. well, okay. I know we like didn’t even talk about Salty Sweet Games, like at all. So I mean, this would normally be the spot where I’d, be like, oh, are there any upcoming projects that we haven’t talked about that you wanna mention? So I’ll still ask that question, realizing we didn’t even talk about this like huge thing that you do on a regular basis.

Kienna: 

Yeah. So um, As as mentioned the Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign that I’m on is over on Salty Sweet Games, which is a channel that I co-produce with my other friend, Lauren, I have two very important Laurens in my life. It gets kind of confusing sometimes with my very important friend, Lauren Irwin. Together, we have been running the channel as just, you know, a place for us to, to play and perform. And we’ve been doing this this campaign for a really long time. And it’s just, it’s just a nice small space for us really at the end of the day. But we have a really also great dedicated community of people who, who watch us over on Twitch and over on YouTube who seem to like what we do and had been with us with different campaigns that we’ve also done alongside Masks. So yeah, so that’s, I’m, I’m very, fairly regular over there.

Courtney: 

Kienna this has been amazing. If people would find the games, we talked about, wanna hire you as a consultant or just find you in general, where should they go?

Kienna: 

Yeah. So I am mostly over on Twitter. That’s over at KiennaS. I also do have, you know, links there for all the stuff we talked about. If you wanna check out the TTRPG safety tool itself it does have its own Twitter account which is a TRPGSafetyKit. And it’s a Bitly link that you can just go and check out at any point. And you know, if you’re interested in actual play stuff that I do regularly that is Salty Sweet Games over on Twitch and YouTube. And that’s, that’s where I am. I’m, I’m scattered across the internet and I always am basically.

Courtney: 

Thank you so much for coming in today. Like this was really informative. Like I’m really excited to just keep following all of the amazing things that you do.

Kienna: 

Yeah. Thank you so much again, for, for inviting me on. This was, this was a great conversation.

Thanks for dropping by! We would love to know who would like us to interview, so please drop a comment here on the blog, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Discord to let us know who your favorite creators are! If you’d like access to more maps and content, including downloadable PDFs of our adventures, check out our Maps Patreon or Podcast Patreon. We’re able to do what we do because of all our amazing Patrons!

Recent Episodes

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *