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Even more dastardly, dangerous and downright dirty GM tricks, traps and tactics that will make your players love you!
781 backers pledged $19,902 to help bring this project to life.

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What is Play Dirty?

Fifteen years ago in the pages of Pyramid Magazine, I challenged the standard format of "GM advice columns" with "Play Dirty." Instead of advocating for fairness and honesty, I told GMs to lie, cheat and steal. Do anything and everything to entertain your players. Stop at nothing. Pay any price.

The advice was both the highest and lowest rated column in the magazine's history, creating division among its readership. But most importantly, it made everyone think about how they ran their games.

I collected those articles in a book and it has simultaneously become one of the most famous and notorious GM advice books in gaming history. Now, fifteen years later, it's time for a sequel.

Play Dirty 2: Even Dirtier continues the trend its predecessor began. PD2 presents even more nasty, underhanded and deceitful tricks to get your players emotionally involved in your characters and your world. John pulls no punches, using everything from new technologies and old conman tricks to give you all the tools you need to get your players to care.

Examples

If you're unfamiliar with the Play Dirty philosophy, let me sum it up in one sentence:

You should stop at nothing to make sure your players are having fun.

I advocated cheating. Misreading dice. Taking away character sheets. Conspiring with players to act against other players. In short, taking the old advice of "be fair and arbitrary" and throwing it out the window.

Dire Peril Jessica
Dire Peril Jessica

In the chapter Killing Characters, I talk about the example of "Dire Peril," a mechanic I use in most of my games, introduced to me by the amazing Jess Heinig. The idea is simple: in my games, player characters cannot die unless their death is meaningful. It's just that simple. Conan doesn't get killed by a stray slingshot bolt from a kobold. That's the very definition of absurd. So, generally, I say characters can't die without their players' consent.

But if I invoke "DIre Peril," that means "Your character is about to take an action that can kill her without your consent."

At my local Houses of the Blooded live action event, Jessica Kauspedas decided she was going for revenge against another. So, when she showed up, I walked behind her with a "Dire Peril!" sign held over her head. Everyone knew that if they messed with Jessica's character, there was a chance their own character would die without permission.

Jessica told me she had no intention of killing anyone at the game, but the other players didn't know that. Adding the threat added a unique tension to the game. The threat was all she needed.

If you want to see more examples of what Play Dirty looks like, check out the Play Dirty playlist on my Youtube channel. Here are a couple of examples.

In the chapter The Kobold and the Beautiful, I took a standard dungeon adventure published by my friends at Super Genius Games and turned it on its head. Instead of playing the adventurers, I had my players take the roles of the kobolds in the "dungeon." They knew the adventurers were coming and had to figure out a way to stop the dirty humans, dwarves and elves from stealing their well-earned goods.

In The Dirty Dungeon, I introduced the idea that the players can make their own adventures, complete with a map, history and everything else. It's a system that rewards their creativity and takes all the work off the GM's hands. Its a system that works with any game.

Chapters!

Introduction: The Magician
The GM and the magician have the same goal: getting people to believe in things they know aren't real. Can we GMs learn from the skills and tricks magicians use? Of course we can!

The Friendly Game
My friend Matt introduced the concept of the "friendly game" to me as a rule for table top strategy and board games. I've brought it into RPGs and it has since changed everything about how I GM.

The Social Meat Grinder
A phrase coined by Jess Heinig ("John's games are social meat grinders"), I show you how to apply social pressures to characters that attack them in ways that have nothing to do with their armor class, hit points or saving throws.

Power to the Players
A response to the question, "How do I keep my characters from becoming too powerful?" The answer: Let them be as powerful as they want.

Exploitation for Fun and Profit
Running a Mage: the Ascension game gave me an opportunity to turn the whole world against one character. Literally.

Killing Characters
Don't. But if you have to, do it with style and purpose.

Happy Halloween
A revamp of an old essay I wrote for Flames Rising website about how to use haunted house techniques to scare the living lights out of your players.

Sylvie Hates the Bye-Bye Box (including a Follow-Up with Chris Colbath) 
When my friend Chris asked my advice on how to write a story that would challenge his young daughter's "attack first, never ask questions" behavior, I came up with a scenario that was one of the meanest things I've ever thought up for a character. This version of the essay includes a "follow up" with Chris, how he used the advice, what he changed and how it all worked out.

The Kobold and the Beautiful
Take any published dungeon crawl. Any dungeon crawl. Then, have your players take the roles of the monsters while you take the roles of their characters, hacking their way through the dungeon. See what happens.

Kick in Your Heels
You don't want villains, you want antagonists. An essay on how professional wrestling bad guys ("heels") are the perfect model for antagonists in your favorite game.

Con Games
Want to spice up that one-shot you're planning for the next game convention? Have I got advice for you!

Rewards!

For those who help us bring Play Dirty 2 to life, we have some special rewards!

At the $10 Minion reward level, you receive PDFs for Play Dirty and PD2.

At the $20 Scoundrel reward level, you get the PDFs plus a hard copy of PD2.

At the $40 Villain reward level, you get the PDFs, plus hard copies of Play Dirty and PD2!

At the $60 Mastermind reward level, you get the PDFs plus Play Dirty and PD2... plus a set of PLAY DIRTY DICE! These are... ahem... "special dice" just for the GM. They look just like your normal dice, so they're easy to smuggle in. Comes with instructions on how to use them!

At the $80 Custom NPC reward level, you get all the benefits of the MASTERMIND level (PD, PD2, PD Dice), plus, after consulting with me, I make an NPC for your campaign. The NPC has a full list of goals and motives, custom made for your players to utterly despise!

At the $100 Featured Article reward level, you get all the benefits of the MASTERMIND level (PD, PD2, PD Dice), plus, John writes a custom-made Play Dirty article just for you in Wicked Words Magazine! Of course, you get a digital copy of the magazine.

At the $250 Dirty Dungeon reward level, you get all the benefits of the MASTERMIND level (PD, PD2, PD Dice), plus, John designs a "dirty dungeon" for you and your players. This custom-made adventure will drive your players crazy! INCLUDES A MAP!

Finally, we have the $500 WICKED ADVENTURE! You get the PDFs plus Play Dirty and Play Dirty 2 books, Play Dirty Dice AAAAND.... John designs a complete adventure/campaign for your group. Included: NPCs, setting, secret agendas, plot map and relationship map. Custom-tailored to your specifications.

We also have the special $30 Retailer reward level: you receive 3 copies of Play Dirty 2!

Stretch Goals!

$3,000: The Glamour Girls
If we reach this stretch goal, I will include The Glamour Girls chapter to the book. This chapter details a year-long campaign I ran with four women all playing changelings in a modern fantasy setting. It includes session-by-session write-ups, behind-the-scenes notes and an after action report. Want to see Play Dirty philosophy in action? This is the chapter for you.

$4,000: Zardrax the Destroyer
Fresh from the Bear Swarm Podcast comes the Most Epic Adventure of All Time: Zardrax the Destroyer of Worlds. In collaboration with the original creators of this campaign-shattering monstrosity (and my favorite episode of Bear Swarm), you'll get a detailed outline of the adventure as well as GM tricks and advice. 

$5,000: Play Dirty Redesign
We want to redesign the original Play Dirty book for a few reasons. First, we want to make it available in ePub. In order to do that, we need to redesign the book from scratch. Also, if we redesign PD, I get the opportunity to write a new introduction for each chapter!
$7,000: Illustrations for Play Dirty!
Want chapter headers for both the re-designed Play Dirty? If we hit this stretch goal, each chapter will have an illustration by Inga Indrašiūtė. She recently gave us the incredible cover for Wicked Words #6, which you can see below.
Wicked Words #6
Wicked Words #6
$8,000: Illustrations for Play Dirty 2!
If we hit this stretch goal, Inga Indrašiūtė provides us with illustrations for Play Dirty 2!

$10,000: Marissa Kelley!
If we hit this stretch goal, we start new digital book that includes other writers sharing their meanest, most underhanded, most cruel and dirty tricks. We begin with Marissa Kelly (author of the Epyllion RPG) and a story most dastardly.

$12,000: Mark Diaz Truman!
When we hit this stretch goal, Mark Diaz Truman (The Play's the Thing, Our Last Best Hope) shares his own thoughts on Playing Dirty.

$14,000: Jesse Heinig!
When we hit this goal, the world-famous Jesse Heinig (Star Trek: Online and Dying Kingdoms among dozens of others) opines on the benefits of Playing Dirty.

$16,000: Random Dice Generator and NPC Trait Generator!

We're gonna make Play Dirty your invaluable GM resource. You'll want a copy of the book on the table at all times. Why?

Because in the margins of each page, our beautiful and talented layout artist, Jessica Kauspedas, has suggested we have two things: dice and NPC traits.

Flip to a random page and you get a random roll. We'll have a d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20 on each page, set in the margin. You pick a d-type, flip to a page and you've got a roll.

Also, in each margin, we'll have an adjective: "loyal," "friendly," "deceitful," "envious," "courageous," etc. When your players meet an NPC, just flip to three random pages and you've got three adjectives to describe that NPC.

Random dice rolls and an NPC generator RIGHT AT YOUR FINGERTIPS.

What's more, WE'RE DOING IT FOR BOTH BOOKS!

Risks and challenges

The risks for this Kickstarter are simple: writing the book, printing the book and shipping the book.

The book has already been written, so we have that covered. Printing the book is something we've successfully done with three other Kickstarters as well as shipping the book.

We want this to be a quick, in-and-out project. We receive the funding, send the book to the printer and send it out to backers.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 1 or more About US$ 1.00

    PATRON - A thank you in the credits of PD2 for helping our project.

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    MINION!
    You receive PDFs for Play Dirty and PD2.

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    SCOUNDREL!
    You get the PD2 SOFTCOVER BOOK plus the PDFs for both Play Dirty and PD2.

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    RETAILER! Get the PDFs plus three (3) PD2 Books for your store.

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    VILLAIN!
    You get the PDFs for both PD and PD2, plus Play Dirty and PD2 books!

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    MASTERMIND!
    Everything in the Scoundrel level, plus Play Dirty GM Dice!

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    TRUE MASTERMIND - You get both PDFs, both books (PD1 and PD2) and the Play Dirty GM Dice!

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    CUSTOM NPC!
    You get all the benefits of the MASTERMIND level (PD, PD2, PD Dice), plus, after consulting with John, he makes an NPC for your campaign. The NPC has a full list of goals and motives, custom made for your players to utterly despise!

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    FEATURED ARTICLE IN WICKED WORDS!
    You get all the benefits of the MASTERMIND level (PD, PD2, PD Dice), plus, John writes a custom-made Play Dirty article just for you in Wicked Words Magazine! Of course, you get a copy.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    DIRTY DUNGEON!
    You get all the benefits of the MASTERMIND level (PD, PD2, PD Dice), plus, John designs a "dirty dungeon" one evening adventure for you and your players. This custom-made adventure will drive your players crazy! INCLUDES A PROFESSIONALLY DESIGNED AND ILLUSTRATED MAP!

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    WICKED ADVENTURE!
    You get the PDFs plus Play Dirty and Play Dirty 2 books, Play Dirty Dice AAAAND.... after a consultation, John designs a complete adventure/campaign for your group. Included: NPCs, setting, secret agendas, plot map and relationship map. Custom-tailored to your specifications.

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Funding period

- (30 days)