The first season of Ludonarrative Dissidents was crowdfunded in June 2021, raising $4704 from 220 backers. The podcast depends on your support for survival, and we are grateful to every one of you. 

The first episode, Apocalypse World, was created as a pilot for the series and a taster for the crowdfunding campaign. All the other titles analyzed in Season 1 were selected by the Kickstarter backers. Some were voted on from a longlist of possible titles, others were games chosen by high-level patrons, and the final four were all stretch goals. The first episode of the main series, Blades in the Dark, was released on 28th June 2021.



In this preview episode, we look at Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World, the game that launched the ‘Powered By The Apocalypse’ revolution of player-led storytelling in the indie RPG scene. This episode, like most of the ones that follow, tries to answer the following questions:

  1. What does the game do?
  2. How does it do it?
  3. How do people play it?
  4. Why people play it that way?

Apocalypse World at DriveThruRPG


Blades in the dark

Blades in the Dark is a roleplaying game by John Harper about building a criminal enterprise, running heists, a city of eternal night, and more importantly, managing your stress at work. Its innovative structure has been hugely influential. Greg dispenses some words of wisdom about the future conditional tense, for the first time but not the last.

Blades in the Dark at DriveThruRPG


Outlaws of the Water Margin

Outlaws of the Water Margin is a self-published RPG by Paul Mason, based on the Chinese historical epic novel of the same name. Set in 12th-century China, the player characters are heroic outlaws fighting a corrupt government bureaucracy. Outlaws was never formally published but it did cultivate a player base in the 80s and 90s. By coincidence James was a playtester for the game and knows the designer, so he provides some background context for its development.

Special thanks to Christian Biklee, the backer who chose this game for us to review! This episode is dedicated to Nathanael, Paul, Ben, and Jordan, friends of Christian who played Outlaws of the Water Margin with him.

Outlaws of the Water Margin has never officially been released



Lancer is a sci-fi RPG focusing on tactical mecha combat in the distant future, featuring dozens of unique mechs with incredible powers and weapons. Although the presenters didn’t agree on its merits, Lancer is a must-play for groups who love d20 combat, teamwork, and giant robots.

Lancer homepage


night’s black agents

Night’s Black Agents is a espionage-vampire-thriller RPG by veteran designer Ken Hite and powered by the Gumshow system, a set of game mechanics designed expressly for investigative narrative games. Night’s Black Agents expands on Gumshoe so GMs can run espionage-themed games ranging from cinematic action-packed adventures to paranoid tales of intrigue. It’s fair to say we liked this one.

Night’s Black Agents at DriveThruRPG


delta green

Written by Dennis Detwiller, Christopher Gunning, Shane Ivey and Greg Stolze (yes, that Greg Stolze), Delta Green is a modern-day horror RPG based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Agents of the secretive agency Delta Green (which may or may not be an illegal conspiracy inside the US government) investigate and neutralize cosmic horror threats. Rules focus on the dangers and costs of facing the unnatural, physically, mentally, and socially. Agents can perish in an instant or watch their friends and families drift away as they spiral deeper into the darkness. 

Delta Green at DriveThruRPG



Continuum: roleplaying in the Yet is a game about time travel, and comes with quite a reputation. Designed by Chris Adams, Dave Fooden, and Barbara Manui, and published in 1999, it casts players as time-travelers, aiming to protect Earth’s past and future, while avoiding anything that might create a paradox. It also has rules for ‘time combat’, where time travelers can try to kill each other by introducing paradoxes into the timelines of their foes. This system is generally thought to be so complex that anyone who tries to play it will go mad. Do the rules in fact work? Greg, James, and Ross discuss this infamous RPG.

This is our second backer-commissioned episode, also chosen by Christian Biklee. Huge thanks again to him.

Continuum homepage


bluebeard’s bride

Bluebeard’s Bride is “an investigatory horror tabletop roleplaying game based on the Bluebeard fairy tale.” Players take on different aspects of the personality of the young bride as she explores Bluebeard’s mansion, looking  for clues to Bluebeard’s true nature and intent. No aspect fully controls the bride’s actions, and players take turns guiding her through the horrors of the mansion. Will the bride be faithful or disloyal to her new husband? Only the players decide through the course of this game.

Content warning: Bluebeard’s Bride is a  “game about the terrible realities of women’s lives.” It discusses  sexual assault, body horror, torture, murder, suicide, and other horrific topics. Our conversation about the game touches on these topics as well. Thank you for your understanding.

Bluebeard’s Bride at DriveThruRPG


ars magica, 5th edition

Ars Magica is a “role playing game about sorcerers and their allies in Mythic Europe.” It’s highly focused on magic, and play focuses around the covenant, a community of magi, companions, and their servants and guards (known as grogs). Players take up multiple roles in the game, playing as all three types of characters  throughout a campaign.

Ars Magica is a highly influential game that won the Origins Award for Best RPG and launched the careers of its original designers, Mark ‘Vampire the Masquerade’ Rein Hagen and Jonathan ‘Dungeons & Dragons 3e’ Tweet. For this episode we focus primarily on the current edition, fifth, but also talk about earlier ones.

Ars Magica 5th edition at DriveThruRPG


the quiet year

The Quiet Year is a storytelling game from Avery Alder about map-making and building a community after the apocalypse. “You define the struggles of a community living after the collapse of civilization, and attempt to build something good within their quiet year. Every decision and every action is set against a backdrop of dwindling time and rising concern.” It’s a charming and thought-provoking game, and we found a lot to talk about in this episode.

The Quiet Year at DriveThruRPG


thousand year old vampire

Thousand Year Old Vampire by Tim Hutchings is a solo journalling roleplay game: you chronicle the many centuries of a vampire’s existence, beginning with the loss of your mortality and ending with your inevitable destruction. Prompt-driven play and simple resource tracking provide easy rules for exploring your character’s human failings, villainous acts, and surprising victories. More than that, it’s stunningly presented, and has been the herald for a new movement of games about writing and creativity.

Thousand Year Old Vampire at DriveThruRPG


13th age

13th Age is a d20 fantasy role playing game designed for “experienced Gamemasters and players of all experience levels.” It features several new mechanics and character class designs unique to it, like the Icon  system and One Unique Thing. It was written by designers Rob  Heinsoo (D&D 4e) and Jonathan Tweet (D&D 3e). Is there enough going on here to satisfy jaded adventurers, or players looking for a game that takes the best bits of traditional fantasy RPGs and turbocharges them?

13th Age at DriveThruRPG


unknown armies

The first of our three “mirror mode” episodes, where we discuss games designed by one of the Ludonarrative Dissenters, Unknown Armies is a modern horror RPG. It presents magick as it might exist in a world informed by crime fiction and secret histories, as twisting wrinkles in reality created  by greater and greater risk, sacrifice, and obsession. It was created by LND’s own Greg Stolze, and John Tynes. 

Unknown Armies, third edition at DriveThruRPG


the extraordinary adventures of baron munchausen

In the second “mirror mode” episode, we explore The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen by James Wallis. It’s a humorous and competitive storytelling  game of telling tall tales, but more importantly was the first “story game”, a GM-free single-session game light on rules and heavy on narrative, and it opened the door to the Forge and the rise of indie games over the last two decades. During the game each player is challenged to invent a story of their adventures, while the other players attempt to interject and stage interruptions or distractions. The  player with the best story at the end of the game is the winner. 

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, third edition at DriveThruRPG


base raiders

Our third “mirror mode” episode ventures into Ross Payon’s Base Raiders, a Fate-powered superhero RPG about dungeon-crawling through abandoned villain and hero bases. Characters find super-power sources in bases or buy them from the black market. It was written by Ross Payton and first published in 2014.

Base Raiders at DriveThruRPG


dueling fops of vindamere (actual play)

Greg Stolze’s procedurally generated game puts  you in the corrupt, dissolute city-state of Vindamere, but don’t worry. You play the best people there, spoiled children of privilege with nothing better to do than pursue swordplay, flirt outrageously, and snack on delicious vol-au-vents. A single game session covers the social year from Ye Midwinter Balle through the prestigious Alle-Valley Fencinge Championeshippe. Your louche elite blade-swanks fall in love, brawl, sneer, and engage in truly petty social rivalries. It’s a hoot.

Dueling Fops of Vindamere at DriveThruRPG


If you click on any of the above links to DriveThruRPG and buy something, Ludonarrative Dissidents will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. You will not be charged more, and the game’s publisher will not receive less – it’s a win-win-win. Thank you for supporting the podcast this way.