Designing Women – Jennifer Martin

Jennifer Martin is using LARP and TTRPGs to explore tired tropes, the far reaches of space, and one really angry goose. The BigBadCon LARP Coordinator is also the Production Coordinator for Bully Pulpit Games.

What got you started playing games? 

I came back to RPGs in 2010 after I’d been a stay at home mom for a few years. I needed to get out of the house and found a Pathfinder group via meetup. Through that group, I found a group in Chicago that ran indie games and I played Fiasco- my first indie game- in 2010. In 2014, I went to Origins, GenCon and Metatopia and started connecting with folks! I tried my hand at designing starting in 2013, but didn’t release much until a game I co-wrote for the Golden Cobra larp contest in 2016 – Glass Ceiling, which won an Honorable Mention!

What are you working on right now? What inspired this project?

Manic Pixie Dream Girls Anonymous, a larp about a support group for reformed Manic Pixie Dream Girls. It was inspired by my real life efforts to reform and not be cast as a MPGD, as well as 28 Days with Sandy Bullock. 

Our Life in Space, a ttrpg about a ship full of diverse aliens who became family. I’m co-writing this with Adam Robichaud, who is a friend and fellow space game nerd.  Low drama, low conflict- it’s inspired by Becky Chambers’ Wayfinder series of books.

What’s your least favorite part of the design process?

The space after the initial wave of enthusiasm wears out- I often get around this by collaborating, but if I’m on my own and I don’t know how to move forward, I’ll put a game down and work on something else. I used to get really anxious about playtesting- being worried that people wouldn’t like my game or that it would fail, but running games in progress at Metatopia has helped that!

Do you find the community supportive? 

Yes! I built connections by meeting people at cons, who I now interact with online. I don’t think you have to go to cons to be a designer, but in my case it was helpful to play games that designers were playtesting to see their processes and how they design. From there, I refined what works for me and what doesn’t- I don’t have a local group so playtesting looks different for me.

What do you hope players get out of your game?

For MPDGA, I want players to feel central to their own stories and I want them to break out of the caricature of their characters.
For Our Life in Space, I want players to explore what it’s like to live with beings that are different from you in a low-drama setting.

Whats the game you’ve enjoyed most that you’ve played recently and why?

I finally played Dialect a few months ago- I knew I’d love it because I love everything Thorny Games makes, but I extra enjoyed it because we played the Sing the Earth Electric backdrop, so I basically got to play Wall-E. My trash robot roamed the planet devoid of life, searching for resources and interacting with other robots. We made up words and eventually our language died. Sad robots are very much my jam.

Why do you think folx gravitate to TTRPGs? What draws them in?

Humans love to tell stories! They entertain us, engage us, and show us how we could be different. TTRPGs give us agency we don’t have in our day to day lives and that feels powerful! 

Favorite TTRPG moment? 

It’s hard to choose, there’s been a lot! Watching my Soldier in Band of Blades activate temple warding by getting set on metaphysical fire might be my current favorite, though! (Watch me play on Twitch or catch up on YouTube)

Whats on your plate this moment?

Managing the Fiasco Kickstarter, which is a little like which is a little like playing Fiasco, except I got Jason and Steve to bury the evidence for me (watch the Kickstarter video to see)!

What advice would you give a new designer?

Don’t wait until you’re ‘ready’, just put words on the page and see where that leads you. Ask lots of questions that you don’t know the answers to. Put your games up on!

You can keep up with Jenn at her website and twitter.