We Played Black Mass by Will Jobst

I’m really excited to talk about Black Mass, a game by Will Jobst. I think this game is incredibly cool and you should go buy it now on itch.io!


I actually bought a print version of this game from the indie section of my local comic book store. I love the hand-made zine vibes of the book- it looks like it was printed and pieced together at a kinkos print center (something I have done many times). It’s a TTRPG that is played not with dice but with a deck of Tarot cards. You have to provide the cards yourself but the book also provides instructions on how to use standard playing cards if you do not have a tarot deck handy.

The Game

Black Mass is a roleplaying game about two people leaving a community that doesn’t want them, to the woods that calls for them. Those travelers, Lydia and Catherine, confront their pasts to seek their own black mass, a moment of transformation, to put the tools of change into their own hands. 

Black Mass takes place during the Salem witch trials in and around Salem, MA. The players each take charge of the two main characters, Catherine and Lydia – or rather an aspect of each of their personalities.

Rather than making a character, players will choose a Persona to control. Each girl has many personas and each player will control one for each girl. To take actions in the game a player will use the persona to inhabit one of the girls and influence her actions and decisions.

The game is decidedly a more modern style of table-top game and relies less heavily on crunchy stats and more on collaborative story telling. It does however still require a facilitator or DM like figure rather than a totally DM-less experience (as found in games like Fiasco). I think the mix of free form collaborative story telling with a slightly guided and agonistic experience from the DM makes this game a nice bridge for players new to tabletop gaming but perhaps intimidated by the more crunchy experiences like DnD.

Actual Play

We had a group of 5 players plus me as the Game Master. While the game suggests playing the game in one sitting, for us it took two nights. We spent the first night picking characters and answering the season questions, and then we started actually playing the second night. The game is divided into two parts with a small break in between so doing it in two nights was fine (I just made sure to take pictures of the spread, and notes about everyone’s answers to the questions).

Before playing we established a tone for the game (“picking a season” in the game’s parlance) which determines the types of questions that would be asked. I also explained how the x-card works for new players, which is a consent tool. Any player at any time can hold up the x-card and as the GM I will make sure to redirect the story away from whatever the unwanted experience is.

The first part of the game involves everyone taking turns drawing tarot cards and answering pre-written questions about each girl. As each player gets a chance to build the back story of these girls they make a spread that works as a visual timeline of the girls lives.

Our spread at the end of the game

In our spread one side represents Catherine, and the other, Lydia. The questions include several major events that involve both girls- these cards are placed in the middle.

After we completed this portion of the game, I wrote a brief outline of what would happen to the girls. I had some ideas based on what everyone talked about- like it was obvious that Catherine’s father would be a major antagonist in the story. I planned on a couple moments (confronting the father in an abandoned church house, a mysterious trapper, finding themselves somehow under the frozen lake where their little brother drowned) and then figured the players would direct a lot of the action.

On the second night we began the actual play portion of the game. Players use their personas to inhabit one of the girls and control them like a character in any other TTRPG. Instead of rolling dice, players pull tarot cards to perform actions – Swords for ‘strife’ or physical actions, Cups for sneaky actions, and wands for perception type actions. Pentacles are used for the special actions that each persona can do. If a major arcana is drawn the GM is instructed to create a new story event based on the card (a table is given in the rule book).

The story that developed from our gameplay was riveting. Because the characters were so developed all the players came into gameplay with a real clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish. While some threads got left behind there were a few clear stories that all the players latched onto and together a very clear three act story fell into place.

Our story was of Catherine, a young woman spending her life in the shadow of fear cast by her alcoholic minister father and the brutal murder of her brother; and of Lydia, a young girl traumatized by childhood loss and who sees visions of a giant moose that beckons her and whispers to her of a safe place in the woods covered in moss. Together the two flee into the night to find a home for themselves.

Over the night, the girls confront Catherine’s father, a group of hunters, and the memory of the loss of Lydia’s baby brother. These experiences each recontextualize the girls, framing them less and less as victims and turning each into an arbiter of their own justice. As Catherine’s father lays in bloody pieces under her wood axe, and the death of Lydia’s brother is now a joyful delight, the two girls walk hand in hand behind the ancient moose into a dark and wet and mossy hollow in the woods to create a new world for themselves.

Final Thoughts

I loved this game! I think the conceit of using tarot cards to tell a story together is brilliant. Our group had a mix of experienced and new players and everyone seemed to enjoy and participate in the storytelling and game play. The original soundtrack to the game (made by Jobst’s brother) is fantastic and atmospheric.

Some of the instructions were a little vague in places, for example, the instructions on how to use the spread were very hard to follow. This just allowed us to sort of make our own way with it and it wound up being perfect for us.

I wouldn’t recommend this game for an entirely new group of players as I found my role as game master required a little management of creating interesting events for the players to interact with as well as allowing space for the players to create their own experiences. As long as the game master has a little TTRPG experience though I think this game is totally accusable to new players!

We had a great time and I can’t wait to play this game again with a different season and see how much the tone of the game will change. I also think this framework would be fun to hack into a new story entirely, simply replacing the season questions with questions based on the new personas you may create.

Go buy this game and support Will- and if you have any recommendations for other fun, esoteric, indie games please comment below or email me!

Creating an App with Vue 3 and Bulma

Creating a responsive Single Page Web App can be daunting, but using a good CSS framework can help. I like Bulma for its easy to read syntax, and because its column layout is familiar to me as someone who usually uses Bootstrap. By wrapping your Vue elements in Bulma classes, you can easily perform complicated conditional rendering and not worry about the app breaking, as all the elements will sort to the proper positions within the container.

For this example I am using @vue/cli 4.5.13, which you can install through Yarn or NPM. I am using NPM for this example.

npm install -g @vue/cli

With @vue/cli we can use the create-app feature to build our scaffolding:

vue create my-app-name

This will open a menu that prompts you to select the features you want for your app

Vue CLI v4.5.13
 ? Please pick a preset:
   Default ([Vue 2] babel, eslint)
   Default (Vue 3) ([Vue 3] babel, eslint)
   Manually select features 

Go ahead and select: Manually select features

Vue CLI v4.5.13
 ? Please pick a preset: Manually select features
 ? Check the features needed for your project:
  (*) Choose Vue version  
  (*) Babel
  ( ) TypeScript
  ( ) Progressive Web App (PWA) Support
  ( ) Router
  (*) Vuex  
  (*) CSS Pre-processors
  (*) Linter / Formatter  () Unit Testing
  ( ) E2E Testing 

Use space to select CSS Pre-Processors and Babel any other features you may want. Also make sure to select Vue 3. Press enter to move on. Continue answering the questions, but make sure to select Dart-SASS as your preprocessor

? Pick a CSS pre-processor (PostCSS, Autoprefixer and CSS Modules are supported by default):
    >Sass/SCSS (with dart-sass)
     Sass/SCSS (with node-sass)

Finish selecting your features and allow the app to scaffold. Navigate to the app and you should be able to run:

cd ./my-app-name
npm run serve

And see your app running. Now we need to install Bulma:

npm install bulma --save-dev

Next create a folder in /src/ called styles and then create /src/styles/main-styles.scss

and insert the following code:

@charset "utf-8";
//styles will go here
@import "~bulma";

Then we need to reference this style in main.js


And thats it! Let’s test it by adding a button to our home page. Navigate to the HelloWorld.vue component and add a button with Bulma styling


    <button class="button is-primary">Bulma Button</button>

  // more code

When you run your app the styling should apply:

Great! Now let’s add our own custom styling. Back in src/styles/main-styles.scss We should define a new primary color:

@charset "utf-8";
//styles will go here
$pink: #eb909f;
$primary: $pink;

@import "~bulma";

And now your App should look like this:

It’s that easy! For a full list of Bulma variables, check out the Bulma docs

Have fun!

BEATMASTER: Making a Rhythm Game

Design overview and first steps
art by Miko-Koro

BeatMaster is a music RPG designed and programmed by myself with art and other assets from Miko-Koro and music by MidiGogblin . In it players will take on the role of a young DJ as she fights the demons that have begun to pour out of an astral tear in the local club. Players will explore dungeons based on different genres of music, fight monsters with rhythm-based combat, and explore the city to find allies and equipment.

I hope to have a playable demo of this game completed by the spring of 2021. This series of blog entries will be my free form devlog. It will contain both anecdotes of development as well as more in depths explanations of my design and code.

I have never written a devlog before so this may be scattershot at times, however I do intend to post regular updates as development progresses. This first entry will give a general overview of some of the systems I have begun to develop, and future posts will contain more in depth explorations of these systems and solutions.

Design Pillars

Before I started any work on this project I had a few core concepts I know I wanted to build a game around:

  • Rhythm based combat
  • RPG style stat development
  • catchy original music
  • Light hearted and surreal story
  • Player dialogue choice

I have experimented with many of these concepts previously so I already had in mind how I would tackle the dialogue system and the RPG elements. I have also attempted to make a rhythm game in unity before as well so I was aware how challenging the musical elements would be. Because of this I started experimenting with the audio/rhythm elements first

How To Rhythm in Unity?

It is very important to me that the player is able to get into “the groove” of the combat, and I would like to see players bobbing their heads as they fight. The feeling of being in the groove is a such a core joyful feeling that musicians get to experience often and that is something I want the combat to express. However, because of the fickle nature of computer timing, making combat that relies on musical timing can be difficult. If the player is running even a single fps too fast or slow, over the course of the song the input timing can become offset enough to make the game unplayable and completely destroy the groove.

In earlier projects I have tackled this problem by syncing events to the time sample of a given audio clip, but I have never found an elegant way to make this scalable. I quickly decided to find a premade solution to save time on the audio-syncing and events. After some searching I decided Koreographer by SonicBloom was a good fit for my project. I got the base version as it seemed to have all the features I need.

Using Koreographer

Koreographer allows me to quickly add events with payloads to any audio clip. For example:

Koreographer plugin for Unity

I have added an event on every bar of the master track with the bar count of the audio. I can then register any script to listen to this event easily:

void Start()
    text = GetComponent<Text>();
    //Registers the method onNewBar with the Koreographer
                  "master_bar_count", onNewBar);
//Called by my custom event
void onNewBar(KoreographyEvent evt){
    int barNum = evt.GetIntValue();
    text.text = "BAR: " + barNum;


Unfortunately Koreographer does not supply an adequate solution to triggering and syncing multiple audio tracks at once. It provides a multiTrackPlayer however this requires all the audio tracks to be playing from the start. I will go more in depth on my solution to this later.

I had enough of an idea to start on art and combat.

Art Design

After discussing the project with Miko, we decided on a isometric 2d pixel art style with fairly large sprites (62×62 although this may get normalized to 64×64) which would allow for more detailed character design while still allowing for simple animations.

Miko also began working on some character design for the dialogue sprites as well as some environmental design. The story needs to be developed more before we are able to make much more progress on the characters.

We are going for a retrowave/occult mashup for the design of the game.

Rendering Animations

We are using Martin Hodler’s Aseprite Importer for Unity. Which is a great little tool. It’s only available through his github, but it’s very useful. It auto converts aseprite files into separate animations named after the tags in the aseprite files.

The walk animations are labeled and tagged
When saved in the project, the aseprite file is split into animations

I then set each animation to a state in the Hero Animator

Which are accessed and set by the IsometricPlayerRenderer script

private void SetMovingDirection(int dir, float moveMagnitude)
        bool isRunning = moveMagnitude > startRunSpeed;

        switch (dir)
            case 0:
                if (isRunning) { animator.Play("Run NW"); }
                else { animator.Play("Walk NW"); }


            case 1:
                if (isRunning) { animator.Play("Run SW"); }
                else { animator.Play("Walk SW"); }

            case 2:
                if (isRunning) { animator.Play("Run SE"); }
                else { animator.Play("Walk SE"); }

            case 3:
                if (isRunning) { animator.Play("Run NE"); }
                else { animator.Play("Walk NE"); }

                // animator.Play("Idle SE");

dir in this case is set by a method that splits a circle into a number of slices (in this case four) and returns the slice based on the Vector2 from the player input.

Speaking of player input….

Unity’s Input System

I decided to switch to Unity’s Input System from the defaults. I really like the design of the new system because it means I can reduce clutter in my Updates and it just feels more intuitive to me to use input callbacks.

ISSUES: I had initially built the project in Unity ver 2020.1.1f1 however after installing the Input System I was having issues with some of the callbacks not firing as expected. I had problems similar to a few other people posting on the Unity forums where no one had a very clear solution. However after updating to ver 2020.2 the problem seemed to resolve itself and the input system is working as expected. Phew.

As instructed in the Input System Quick Start Guide I created an Input Actions Asset.

I then added the Player Input component to my Hero prefab, and set the Behavior to Send Messages which allows me to use callbacks named after the Input Actions

  public void OnGreen()

    public void OnYellow()

    public void OnRed()

    public void OnBlue(){

    //Callback from Player Move Input
    public void OnMove(InputValue value){

As you can see I am using a Finite State Machine to decide what to do with the inputs. So if the player is in CombatState the east button will attack an enemy, but if the player is in RoamState the east button will open the menu.

As I write this I can see some inconsistency with my naming pattern. While Blue Yellow Red etc… makes sense for the Xbox gamepad I am using it is not great for other controllers. I may refactor this to read East North West etc…


Designing the combat has taken most of my attention thus far. I will do a separate blog on the evolution of the combat system when I am more certain of what it will be like.

Right now, the enemies are each tied to a different stem in the music. For example:

This enemy is connected to the SNARE hits of the song. It is targeted with the BLUE button. There are two separate Koreography events it listens for: snare_hit, which is when it is vulnerable, and snare_atk, which determines when it attacks. The Damageable Time is the window of error to be able to damage it.

When in combat the player uses the face buttons to attack different enemies. Each enemy is vulnerable on the various drum hits and beats of the master track. To damage the enemies the player must input the attacks in time with the song. The player also has the ability to block attacks.

I am still deciding if I want more of a turn based combat or something more like popular top-down action games like hades. I will go more in depth into this code once it is cleaner.

Next Steps…

Making games is hard, especially with such a small team. As I am still relatively novice, it is hard for me to have a super clear roadmap of what needs to happen, especially while we are still in a prototype phase. I know for sure that the combat needs to be fun and relatively simple. Most of my time will be focused on finalizing the combat system.

I will also be spending some time writing as well, as I think the story may inform the combat and gameplay in some places. I plan on writing some character breakdowns for the major characters. This will allow Miko to do more sprite work. I also hope to have a broad-strokes onesheet completed soon.

If you found any of these topics interesting I will be happy to elaborate more and share more code so please comment here or on my twitter.

Thanks for reading!