AquaVertigo Publishing

Gamicon 2024

Another Gamicon is in the books!

Corridor Games on Demand had a presence with our Indie Games on Demand sessions and a Playtest Workshop.

It was a fun experience, but after I send this single post I’m going to bed to get some much needed rest.


Guest of Honor

Nat Barmore: Co-Designer of the Dread RPG. Nat ran a number of games and featured in a couple panels.

It was good to see and talk to Nat again as it’s been years since he’s attended Forge Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin. Our dinner at Taste of India was a nice ending.


Nat Barmore and James Shannon during the RPG Design Seminar. I was scheduled to also host but was delayed due to RL matters. Photo by David MK.

RPG Theory

Sure you’ve played a RPG, maybe even run one but have you ever contemplated what makes a RPG a RPG. Join our guest of honor Nat Barmore, co-designer of innovative RPG Dread, in a discussion about how the interactions of the rules, gms and players make role playing games the engaging hobby that they are.

Discussions included content on the history of RPG theory, studying it for its own sake, and application of it towards design.

RPG Design

Designing a RPG is a daunting task between world building, mechanics and making sure that it engages its target audience.  Join our guest of  honor Nat Barmore, co-designer of innovative RPG Dread, and others, to  learn what it takes to build a successful RPG.

Discussions included the experience and thought behind Dread, as well as on distribution.


Photo by David MK.

As some of you may know, I’m mostly into RPGs, but my family and friends often gather for board games. A board game of late that we’ve played in both picture and word format is Codenames by Czech Games Edition.

While at Gamicon I stopped by the Dealer Room and found a used copy of the picture version in good condition with a 20% store discount on it for $8.00 and brought it home for us to share with folks.


The Zone, Indie Game Grab Bag, Friday evening

Photos by David MK.

THE ZONE is a journey into a place of beauty and horror, inspired by Annihilation, Stalker, Roadside Picnic, Uzumaki, and the SCP Foundation. 

This is a game where you play-to-lose, knowing that your fate was already decided at the start. Only one of you will make it, but every single one of you will be pushed to the brink of your capacities.

Facilitated by James Shannon, he and the rest of us four other players slowly explored the card based surreal play-to-lose horror ttrpg.

Setup included the creation of a spiral with different special cards placed under or on top of the spiral location cards. There were may options to use for character creation and all were evocative of the tone and setting (similar to the movie or book, Annihilation).

I played the Engineer with an obsession to Be the Hero and a phobia of Being Known. I was also the first character to perish and the game supports how this happens, like many things, with open-ended narration, and includes the players in the game after their characters are gone.

There are a handful of prompts that you or other players can also use to reinforce or challenge themes. I feel the game does this well with its art direction and mechanics overall.

I have to admit that when I played this was crashing from recent lack of sleep so I don’t feel that I was able to fully participate. The game demands a lot of collaborative narration which may not work for some folks. I couldn’t give it my all and I’m interested in playing the game again when I’m less exhausted.

Found: Desperate Times, Saturday afternoon

Photo by David MK.

The Mission to Save the World comes first, and to do that, your consciousness was sent back in time (into another person’s body who should have died) to stop a catastrophic event. You travel with others like you who share your origin, pain, and capabilities at times while also running from the Foundation, a ruthless research company that claims it owns you. 

Found is a shared consciousness conspiracy Primed by Cortex RPG in playtest that’s inspired by The Pretender, Orphan Black, Sense8, and Travelers. Mature content warning. Will create characters and then play with breaks and safety tools.

I ran Found with the scenario of Desperate Times in response to players in a Found series suggesting I watch the TV show, Travelers. After 2-3 episodes I was hooked on the show and fell into tweaking Found for this.

It actually didn’t take much to get the Travelers’ version going for the design. I mapped the Origin Pathway Distinction to the Future life, the Focus Distinction to the Team Role, and the Change Distinction to the Past Life the characters were now inhabiting. I de-emphasized the ability for the PCs to be able to “be” in shared liminal spaces and was able to convey the sharing and sensing via the implant tech each had.

The Past Life creation involved each player choosing a detail and then going around the table with other random suggestions in a kind of improv character description exercise that turned out to be fun and interesting. We did this again in the opposite direction for challengers/confidantes too.

Once the players got the hang of the Cortex Prime system, they were mostly self-sufficient. All were eager to jump in and work together to save the world.

The adventure went great and and the team was successful in changing history, but at the cost of a team member and their mobile HQ-jet.

Eye of the Magi, Indie Game Grab Bag, Saturday evening

Photo by David MK.

You, a member of the Magi, the national magical military, are assigned to capture an escaped prisoner and return them to the Vault before they can harm anyone again. 

Eye of the Magi is an alt-history game in playtest focused on the lives and missions of magical practitioners using the Paragon system (used in Agon 2nd ed. and Deathmatch Island). It’s inspired by Motherland: Fort Salem, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Shadow & Bone.

I ran Eye of the Magi for the second time ever with mostly new to indie games players and we had a fun time.

  • As I read the table I realized that I needed to reduce complexity in the game so I did not use the conjunction map.
  • I also didn’t really get into the spending of Spark or Fate/XP and for this group I feel like this was a good call.
  • No one engaged with the background moves so I may opt to drop that but it may be due to playing a one-shot with new to the game folks.
  • We did test Distinction more and it seems to be working.
  • The use of Family Name vs. Magus Name wasn’t as effective with this test.
  • Style and Domains were fine.
  • Due to time constraints I did abridge the Battle and had some simple rolls for simple tie-breakers with magic, so not the best test of contests with rules as written.
  • However, each time I run the game I see where blind spots are and note how to make it clearer for me.

In this test, given how four of the five players knew each other as friends, I leaned into this and we definitely explored more melodrama which was absent mostly from the first playtest. One of the players has a degree in history so we used that in creating details about the world and the magic order. This group or circle was based in Vienna, Austria and their magi had a strong connection to the community, with many of their families as descendants from the Holy Roman Empire. The main office was based in France and it was fun to explore the tension between both.

The hunt for the future was less focused in this test because the players were having fun in the setting with the NPCs. As this was set in an alternative version of our world, they tracked down someone with information about the fugitive and ended up barging into the AirB&B in Switzerland. Instead of fighting this person they used their presence to have a party to get him talking, crying to get him to soften his stance, and questions to probe his motivations. Magic as emotional weapons served them well. The contest was won and the circle of magi got the info they needed to locate the fugitive on the outskirts of Russia.

The confrontation was messy with their target sharing their motives and intents. The cadets returned to the main office with the fugitive only to learn the terrible truth and then figure out what to do about it as the session ended.

Playtest Workshop

Photo by David MK.

One of the more recent members of our Corridor Games on Demand group requested we try a playtest workshop to help four of her students with their micro RPGs so we submitted and facilitated that for Sunday, 10am-2pm.

We had two sessions with a break in the middle and a debrief at the end.

We had a total of 12 people, with six people sharing games for feedback. One was a board game and the other five were RPGs.

It seemed like the participants had a good experience and we have feedback and ideas on how to make improvements for a future version of this.

Next Steps

Make it through the upcoming RL work weekends.


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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