Why Actual Playtest?

Because role-playing games have changed. I think everyone’s noticed it - there are countless think-pieces about what the RPG scene took from the success of Critical Role and The Adventure Zone.

Nowadays, the power of role-playing games to comfort and inspire people is no longer limited to people who play them. People who can’t get a group together, who aren’t confident with the rules, who don’t know where to start can now experience a campaign run by passionate, caring people. When I was young, we had our friends and that was about it, and if our local group was hurtful or abusive we didn’t have many options. I was one of the lucky ones; my sister and I played with friends who were a touch awkward around girls but never outright exclusionary or cruel to us. But there are a lot of people, especially marginalized folks of all stripes, who never got to enjoy roleplaying games because they tried and found a toxic environment.

Nowadays, people are introduced to roleplaying as much by other people’s stories as by friends or relatives wanting to set up a group. People who can’t find a safe place to play in real life can have a campaign told to them, most often by warm people who make a point of affirming their audience. I think it’s beautiful. I love roleplaying, after all.

I mentioned this in the preface to Heroic Chord, but I’m coming out of a pretty dire stretch of depression. Like, full-on staring at the wall 0 feelings depression. It was pretty bad. Roleplaying (along with my excellent doctor) was instrumental in helping me rebuild my old passion and enthusiasm. Actual play podcasts played a big part in this, too. Before I started my game, or on days when we didn’t meet, I had podcasts that lifted my spirits and provoked my heart.

I’m a huge fan of The Adventure Zone. I mean, that almost goes without saying. But, I was especially inspired by the little test arcs they did between main story arcs. I remember thinking “wouldn’t it be wonderful, to make a game they would like to play, even as a little proof of concept?” (Hit me up, Travis. I’m not kidding. I can get you the manual for free.) That feeling evolved into “I need to use this format to tell my own story”, and Sword of Symphonies wouldn’t exist without it. Also, the boys are just plain good company. When I’ve been depressed or anxious, even if they couldn’t help me feel better, episodes of MBMBaM and TAZ have at least kept my head above water. I’m grateful to them!

I wish SO BAD we could be like Dames and Dragons. Don’t tell my cast but I am constantly comparing them to these beautiful people. (Seriously don’t tell them.) As long as I have been listening to this show, there has never been a time where I’ve been so far down that they couldn’t make me laugh. It’s never once happened, no matter how depressed, upset, or anxious I am. I crack every single time. This show is hilarious, consistently thoughtful and fun. It captures my favorite thing about roleplaying, too - it feels like you’re sitting around the table with friends. I’m grateful to them, too!

Finally, The Broadswords changed the way I think about Actual Play. I’m not the only one, right? I can’t possibly be the only one. It’s funny, but unlike a lot of goofy roleplaying podcasts, I don’t think I’d ever describe it as a comedy. It’s a gorgeous high fantasy drama, speckled with bits of comedy but otherwise telling a profound story without worrying about the expected conventions of the genre. I’m grateful for this, too! I think a part of why I can be free to go my own way is because I saw them do it first. (I am, I cannot overstate this, a chicken of the HIGHEST ORDER.)

Heroic Chord was inspired by this, by the role D&D is playing in my recovery. So, if it’s fun to play but no fun to listen to, then it’s not really meeting my goals. I want a game that can tell stories that make people happy, whether they’re in the room or not! Which means Sword of Symphonies is itself a test - a test of whether this game’s stories have what it takes to be to other people what actual play podcasts were to me.

Launch Day!

Welcome to Peach Garden Games!

Today is our official Launch Day. We have two (and a half) Sword of Symphonies episodes up. I cannot tell you enough how gorgeous this show has turned out, thanks to my beautiful friends and their charisma and hard work. I hope it makes you even just a sliver as happy as it makes me, because I’m thrilled about it. Thrilled to bits. Tiny bits. (and, I cannot overstate, NOT TERRIFIED.)

We also have two RPGs up right now! All That I Am, which could best be described as Doctor Faustus The Roleplaying Game is a storygame about selling your soul to demons. It’s on Drivethru right now on a pay-what-you-want basis, and might be the loveliest book interior I’ve ever done! Check it out if you’re as big an occult nerd as I am!

We also have Heroic Chord, the game that forms the backbone of Sword of Symphonies. It’s still in testing. That’s right, Sword of Symphonies isn’t just an actual play podcast -it’s an actual playTEST podcast. If you want to play along, give the game a spin, or just learn the rules behind the story, then download the manual for free! It’s an optimistic adventure about bringing hope back to a destroyed world, and I’m not only pleased with what I’ve done so far but excited to see where it goes.

Last but not least, contact us! It’s a playtest after all. Tell us your stories, or tell us if our story touched you in any way. Part of this test is seeing if this game can tell the kinds of stories that lifted my spirits when I needed them.

We're About to Launch and I'm Not Terrified

Everything is going to be just fine.

Here are the facts of the situation:

  1. I am a 33-year old pile of failures and neuroses making a big ole One More Try

  2. This is by far the most dramatic launch I have ever attempted

  3. I am terrified of virtually everything

  4. This may be my best work

I want to make people happy. When I was a younger writer, I wanted to be understood, to share the oddness, darkness, and surreality that dominate my worldview with anyone who had any chance at recognizing me. I think a lot of women writers might understand that feeling, like your darkness and fury and passion can only safely be expressed through fiction, where no one can tell you to “smile”. I was a dreadful Medusa, shrieking my solitary pain into the void in the hope that someone could look upon my true form and survive.

I don’t know how that girl became me. I think age just got me used to the idea that I was my own type of person with my own type of heart, and I stopped hungering to be understood and started instead wanting to find the other Medusa children. To make something that would ease their loneliness.

This is a lot for a launch post, I realize. Trust me, the earlier drafts were doozies. It got real dark!

I want Heroic Chord to be the kind of game that helps people feel less alone, the way D&D has for me. I want Sword of Symphonies to make people smile, to whisk them away somewhere else for a little bit and help them carry their burdens. Even ATIA, I want to reach those dark, passionate people and I want them to look at their own reflections in it and survive.

Okay, I lied. Obviously, I’m terrified. Submissions and launches never get easier, it seems. Maybe that’ll come for me down the line a little bit. I’m really, really scared I’ll fall on my face, or no one will listen, or any number of other increasingly bizarre outcomes. They’re all real bad. I’m extremely good at thinking of bad things.

But I can think of this one good thing, too - that someone who needs to hear this will find it and hear me telling them they’re not alone.