AquaVertigo Publishing

2023 Retrospective

Here is my single post for this week that lists what I’ve focused on and where I believe I’m headed.

2023 has been a crazy year for gaming. I’ve gone all-in for AquaVertigo, making progress on the creative work a priority. And I couldn’t do it without the experience and support from others, be they in person or online.

To My Fans

Thank you to everyone who has playtested games with me.


Conventions continue to play an important role in my ttrpg experiences. I get to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.

Games on Demand Online

I wasn’t able to participate this year due to conflicts with other events, but I’m looking forward to running games for this group of amazing people in 2024.


One of my favorite in-person gaming conventions because it’s nearby and because I and some friends get to share indie games through our group, Corridor Games on Demand, during the weekend-long convention.

  • I was on and helped lead the design panel, for which I created the panel tool, For the Panel to help manage the Q&A portion.
  • I ran a playtest for Legends of the Realm and Starfall. It was the first time I’d ever run Starfall and it was a great time.

Forge Midwest

One of my favorite in-person gaming conventions because it’s all about indie games.

Playtesting Legends of the Realm at Forge Midwest, 2023.

  • Ran two playtests of Legends of the Realm, which really helped me to examine and revise the parallel play between quests and tales. Also, added the idea for instigating an event in the realm through reputation shifts.

May the 4th Be with You

This was a mini-Star Wars-based online convention through the Open Hearth Gaming Community.

  • I ran Rebel Blackbird, a hack of Lady Blackbird.
  • I was scheduled to run Flames of the Rebellion, Rex’s Regs, and To Glory and Beyond, but RL things made that impossible.

Gen Con Online

I’ve been participating with Gen Con Online off and on for a few years now, mostly as a GM and I decided to do it again.

  • I ran pre-con tests for Scum & Villainy, Space Station Omega, and Starfall to make sure I was prepared. I’d never run Scum & Villainy before. For all tests, I appreciate the help from members of the Open Hearth Gaming Community.
  • I ran Epyllion, Scum & Villainy, Space Station Omega, and Starfall successfully. I always get a kick out of running Epyllion and it may be my favorite PbtA game to run.

Cortex Con Online

This was the first organized all-Cortex-based game convention ever and I had the pleasure of leading it with help from members of the official Cortex Discord community. It was a lot of work to promote the event across the many social media and Discord channels, but was a great first go at sharing our love of Cortex games with fans, old and new.

  • I ran an Intro to Cortex Prime, Aethernity x2, Found x2, and Space Station Omega x2.
  • The intro session was something I’d not done before but was exciting and seemed helpful to those new to Cortex Prime.
  • Space Station Omega was a wild ride both times, though the first session almost included the station getting destroyed in the opening moments.
  • Found was riveting with the characters beginning to understand their role in the conspiracy.
  • Aethernity was amazing with each session highlighting the possibilities for world-exploring wonder and political treachery vs family values.

Corridor Con

This fall Corridor Games on Demand ran a short one-day version of Corridor Con. We had a small gathering and as a group ran two games.

  • Played The Shape of Loss, designed by another member of our group.
  • Facilitated For the Queen.

Shared Hearth Gaming Convention

The same weekend as Corridor Con, the con for the Open Hearth Gaming Community happened.

  • I ran two sessions of Legends of the Realm with revisions and the experience was amazing.


With COVID-19 and other challenges in the world, I saw a steep drop off of momentum that had been building up into 2020. It was a long slow effort to return to, or rather, to figure out what this would look like now and how I might fit it into my life.

Revised the Website

It had been a long time coming (since before 2019) and I was pleased to finally put in the time and energy to revise the website for AquaVertigo.

Started a Patreon

I launched my Patreon in early August, usually writing at least one to three posts a week. I’ve only had to cancel a couple weeks due to RL conflicts.

Expanded Social Media Channels

I, like a lot of others, are not sure where to be online, so I’ve branched out to several to test the waters. If you’re curious to see where to find AquaVertigo in most places, here’s the one-stop option,

I started a Discord server for AquaVertigo as an invite-only at this time. If you are interested in joining, please let me know.

Gameways Podcast

We’ve actually got some episodes up, with more to edit and post. The podcast,, explores games in our lives and through our friendship and connections with other gamers.

Advent Calendar

Momentus Advent of Ure Hex Crawl is done for 2023. It was an interesting self-reflection experiment. I feel like the OOC version was a good starting point for conversations and I may revisit some of the prompts/answers. In contrast, the IC version had more excitement for me as it continued on and became more linear in nature than I had intended. Also, I could respond to the IC version for three more years before all of the hexes are completed.

MAU Hex Crawl Stats Final, David MK.

Samples from the MAU Hex Crawl project, David MK.

Expanded Game Offerings

Entered a Scenario Competition

  • There is a themed ttrpg scenario competition hosted by a local game convention and I’m entering at least a couple scenarios. The theme word is “arsenic.”

Reorganized All My Games and Designs

This was a big task to do, but it makes me happy to have things sorted in binders and on shelves instead of in file tubs. I went through lots of old papers and reduced my collection of old to make way for the new.

Reading/Watching Games

Playing and Rating Games

  • A Complicated Profession: Fine | Would play again
  • Alice Is Missing: Interesting | Want to play again
  • Cairn 2nd ed.: Fine | Interested in reading and trying Runecairn (I have a copy)
  • Candlelight: Interesting | Group is trying to find a time to finish play
  • Deathmatch Island: Interesting | Not interested in playing again
  • DramaSystem for two people (playtest): Fine | Might try another scenario
  • Dune: Interesting | Would like to play again and possibly run
  • Fall of Magic: Interesting | Would play again and just got a physical copy
  • Fate of the Quadrant: Didn’t play but did make a character (Andorian security officer), Fate version of Star Trek Adventures | Might try playing again
  • For the Queen: Interesting | Would play again
  • Hammerheads: Interesting | Would play again and have made progress on a Melodrama Mech version called War Song
  • Heart: The City Beneath: Interesting | Not interested in playing again
  • Hearts of Camelot (playtest): Interesting | Would play again and possibly run
  • High Magic and Lowlives: Fine | Not interested in playing again
  • Masks: A New Generation: Interesting | Would play again and possibly run
  • Model Z-12: Interesting | Would play again and possibly run
  • Orbital Blues: Interesting | Not interested in playing again
  • The Quiet Year: Interesting | Would play again
  • Rusalka: Interesting | Would play again
  • Star Trek Adventures: Interesting | Might play again
  • Starforged (Ironforged): Interesting | Might play again
  • Voyagers (playtest): Interesting | Would play again

Running Games

  • Aethernity (playtests and convention)
  • Dark Well (playtests)
  • Epyllion (convention)
  • Flames of the Rebellion – didn’t run – SW: Andor
  • Found (playtests and convention)
  • To Glories Beyond – didn’t run – Lasers & Feelings SW
  • Legends of the Realm (playtests and convention)
  • Rebel Blackbird (convention)
  • Rex’s Regs – didn’t run – Cortex Prime
  • Starfall Hard Zone (playtests and convention)
  • Scum & Villainy (playtests and convention)
  • Space Station Omega (playtests and convention)
  • Time & Tempus playtests (playtests)

Designing New Games

  • To Glory and Beyond: A one-page Lasers & Feelings hack for Star Wars where you play as stormtroopers
  • Off the Shoulder of Orion: The first game I’ve intentionally created to be solo-ish. In it, you explore the moments connected to the hunt more than the hunt itself. It’s about examining the thoughts and feelings of the hunter and/or hunted rather than the violence.
  • Several snippets of ideas for games shared in various Patreon posts

Open Hearth Design Workshops

This was a wonderful new set of scheduled sessions to help game designers work through ideas and get focused feedback as desired. It helped me greatly with a couple of works.

Status Update on Games

  • Aethernity: I have made significant progress with the gameplay, spurred on by the sessions I ran during Cortex Con. I love the strangeness of this game and the kinds of stories told through it. I would like to revisit my notes from the sessions and draw out more of the essence into a written document beyond a character keeper. That’s when I’ll know I should press forward.
  • Along the Road: I have not made progress on this design.
  • Armageddon Accelerated to Overdrive – Fate to FitD journey: I haven’t had an opportunity to properly assess where and how I want to proceed or end the design of AA. Last winter break was a massive delve into my collection of Fate games and I’m both reducing and increasing my collection in that space. I feel like I may release a Fate version of AA when my mind can return to that space. That may also be when I return to research of FitD for a suitable option of the design as AO. In my head it feels right, but there is much work ahead if I pursue it seriously.
  • Dark Well: I have recently worked on a number of revisions and editing and started a new series playtest focused on the changes before I adopt them and update examples to match. Updating for use online has been time-intensive, be it for Roll20 or Foundry VTTs.
  • Eye of the Magi – SRD for Paragon: My intention is to ready this for Gamicon or Forge Midwest in 2024. I need to reread the ruleset and just run it, bumps and all to see what happens. The setting content may include a kind of pick list series to help define the focus for the genre.
  • Flames of the Rebellion: I need to rewatch the Andor series again to capture what I was aiming for and finish the draft for playtesting.
  • For the Panel: This is on hold at the moment. It seems good enough for now and I have more pressing work at hand.
  • Found: This game gets better each time I run it because of the amazing players who also believe in the game. The recent series playtest will see how changes can help it be what it can or must. I just watched the TV show Orphan Black: Echoes and am working my way through the Travelers TV show, which also fits in nicely with the premise of the game.
  • Hero for Hire – playstorming: This has paused mostly, but no big hurry here either.
  • Legends of the Realm: The most recent playtest was done over two sessions and I can see that as the game exists I’ll need guidance or a different approach to running the game as a one-shot because the strength comes from having time with the story. Need to pull out my notes and revise from that and then the visuals, but it’s getting close to a strong draft to have others run and test.
  • Love & Rockets: I got this published on my store.
  • Space Station Omega: The scenario I’ve tested through several one-shots holds up great and I feel like I have a system I can scale out with other scenarios for groups to use. The game works fairly well due to being built on Cortex Prime. I’ll have to dig in for rough spots to smooth over.
  • Starfall Hard Zone for Apocalypse World: Burned Over: It’s good, but there’s a fair amount of figuring out how to communicate the ideas writing I need to do and then the additions like the Agent playbook and more I have to return to.
  • Starstream – Farscape via Cortex Prime: This is on pause for now.
  • Time & Tempus: Had great design discussions and a decent playtest but it needs some core work, so it’s paused for the moment until my brain can find another way.
  • Vigilance: I have not made progress on this design.
  • War Song: Great help on the coding for the character keeper from a friend in the Open Hearth Gaming Community–thank you! This wouldn’t take much time to turn into a short-form game like I’ve done with a couple other IPs for Cortex Prime, but it would be best for me to keep it paused for now.

Next Steps

Maintaining accountability with the time I have will be critical in 2024. If anyone has a good sense of which social media platforms to stick with, please let me know!


Let me know what you think. Was this helpful or insightful?



DMK, the founder of AquaVertigo, is a creatively curious artist, author, designer, educator, entrepreneur, and organizer based in the Midwest, USA.

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