Magpie Games


Magpie Games
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Jun 12 2021


Eastern time
9:30 am - 6:30 pm



Magpie Games Design Festival

Welcome to the Magpie Games Design Festival! This one-day event is designed to teach the parts of Powered by the Apocalypse design and theory as we understand and practice them. Attendees will join two 80 minute seminars on PbtA design, participate in playtesting, and wrap up the day in a peer lead discussion group. 

What You Get
Attendees will experience an in-depth discussion on some of the fundamentals of Powered by the Apocalypse design, feedback on their own games, a chance to playtest their game or playtest the game of another designer and join a group of peers for a guided discussion. 

Ticket holders will receive access to exclusive Magpie Games Design Festival Discord channels, where they can discuss their designs, offer feedback to others, and engage in conversations on their perspectives of Powered by the Apocalypse. They will also be given a guide on playtesting their game and being a good playtester. This handbook will include a schedule for the day as well as tips on making the most of each activity.

The Schedule
9:30 AM eastern – 10:00 AM Eastern: Opening ceremonies
10:00 AM Eastern – 11:20 AM Eastern: PbtA Fundamentals with Mark Diaz Truman and Subsystems in PbtA with Brendan Conway.
11:30 AM Eastern – 1:00 PM Eastern: Holding Environments with Mark Diaz Truman
2:00 PM Eastern – 5:00 PM Eastern: Peer playtesting
5:30 PM Eastern – 6:30 PM Eastern: Designer lead discussion 

Opening Ceremonies
9:30 AM Eastern – 10:00 AM Eastern
Join us for opening ceremonies in which we welcome you to the design festival with a special message from the Magpie Games Team, including Marissa Kelly, Mark Diaz Truman, and Brendan Conway

The Seminars
10 AM Eastern – 11:30 AM Eastern

PbtA Fundamentals with Mark Diaz Truman
Join Magpie Games co-owner Mark Diaz Truman (Urban Shadows, Zombie World, Root: The RPG, and Cartel) learn about how Magpie Games designers engage the Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) engine. Drawing on nearly a decade of experience, Mark will explain how to set up a successful PbtA design, what features make the best PbtA games work, and how to avoid the pitfalls that wreak havoc on many new designs.  

Subsystems in PbtA with Brendan Conway
One of the biggest dilemmas of PbtA game design is how far your game should extend beyond its basic rules. Should your basic moves be simple, clean, and abstract enough to handle everything? Or should you have lots of smaller subsystems designed to go into greater detail on conflicts and arenas of import to your game? Join Magpie Games co-owner Brendan Conway (Masks: A New Generation, Zombie World, Root: The RPG) to learn more about the usage of subsystems within PbtA games—when they are of value, and when they can unbalance a sleek design. 

Both of these seminars will be hosted at the same time. You will select which seminar you plan to attend.

11:30 AM Eastern – 12:50 PM Eastern

Holding Environments with Mark Diaz Truman
While much attention is paid to systems and rules within roleplaying game design, often the construction of the setting and conventions of the story’s genre are critical pieces of how (and why!) a game functions. Join Mark Diaz Truman for an exploration of “the holding environment,” the bonds and structures that require the PCs to continually interact with each other and the game during play.

These seminars will be 80 minutes total in length. The first 60 minutes will be a tutorial, with the last 20 minutes being a Q & A session. Questions will be held until the end.

2:00 PM Eastern – 5:00 PM Eastern

A selection of submitted games will be scheduled for Playtesting. Each attendee will complete a form and be assigned a game based on their answers. Attendees are expected to participate in playtesting.

Each attendee will have the option to submit one Powered by the Apocalypse game for review using a form emailed to them. All games must be submitted by June 2nd. Designer tickets are $30 and are limited in supply.

A small selection of submitted games will be chosen for playtesting based on attendee numbers. All games submitted will be read and reviewed by Magpie Games, with limited feedback provided upon return. If your game is chosen, we will email you on March 7th to inform you.

To qualify, a Powered by the Apocalypse game must have:
– Basic Moves (or equivalent)
– Playbooks (or equivalent)
– Be designed by you or you and a team/co-designer
– Be in a document we can read
– Be a PbtA game, not a game using another system or design theory (BoB, BitD) or a unique system with PbtA pieces

If your game is not chosen, you will be assigned to a playtest based on the information you complete on the form. We ask you to engage in any game you’re assigned to with the goal of having that game succeed. Attendees who engage in bad faith will be asked to leave and may be denied entrance to events in the future.

All attendees are expected to participate, either as a designer or a playtester.

Designer Lead Discussions
5:30 PM Eastern – 6:30 PM Eastern

Each attendee will be randomly sorted into a small group of peers for discussing their experience at the festival. Each discussion group will be led by a peer designer or mentor affiliated with Magpie Games, such as a staff member, Curated Play GM, or one of the Ashcan designers. They will focus the discussion on the seminar and playtesting, as well as on the participants’ overall experience. 

If you are unable to afford purchasing a ticket for the event, but would still like to participate, please email our community manager, Kate, at to get sponsorship to the event.

If you have any questions, please contact our community manager, Kate at


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