Ugly Talk

A branch of the Drunk and Ugly podcast, Ugly Talk discusses concepts from film, TV, videogames, and other forms of media and how to apply them to traditional games. Join us as we discuss things, because we know things.
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Feb 21, 2018

Speedrunning is a rather esoteric hobby of trying to beat games as quickly as possible under specific conditions.  It's difficult to say where it began or what the first speedrun was, but on this day in the year of our lord two thousand eighteen it's grown into a large community that contains many smaller subcultures.

To the outside observer, speedrunning may seem like a fruitless or impossible task to pick up, as observation of the fastest run shows that runners immediately understand the whole game and execute it to the finest degree in ways not conceived by the developers.  What is actually being observed in each speedrun, however, is the end product of dozens of hands in perfecting a route and hours of practice before finally reciting the sequence in a run.

No man is an island, and there's no wrong way to play.  In this episode, we talk about this concept as it relates to tabletop gaming with our friend Greg Bennett of Technical Difficulties.

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Jan 31, 2018

What's the difference between a gimmick and a core mechanic?

In this episode, we discuss various games with strange ideas and odd control schemes in an effort to get to the bottom of this discussion, and also how this can be applied to your own games, be they tabletop or otherwise.

Strap yourself in and be ready for some spoilers.

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Do you have some writing ideas for Posthuman Studios?  Check out their current writing contest!

Dec 23, 2017

The Cry of Mann was an interactive webseries that ran from October 23rd until November 2nd of 2017, performed by the members of the sketch comedy group Wham City. 

The series followed the trials and tribulations of the Mann family who have been waiting for their patriarch, Tank Mann, to return home, hopefully in time for the annual celebration of TROOL Day.  Each family member has their own individual struggles and the family business seems to be unraveling without Tank at the helm. 

The main crux of this series was that the whole set was lined with telephones and viewers were prompted repeatedly throughout each episode to call in and talk to the characters.  This was first thought to be a novelty or a way to scrape more lore from the world but as the series continued it became apparent that interaction with the characters would alter the course of the story.

This particular style of fiction is so novel and unprecedented that we were not entirely sure how to define or describe it.  It seemed like something of a black box stageplay and an ARG all in one.  To help, we called in our friend the Review Cultist of Al Dente Rigamortis to help sort it out.


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Nov 22, 2017

This month we readdress last years topic on cultural storytelling. This time we are looking at American Culture as can be seen through the lens of American Horror cinema. This does a bit to get into, so give it a listen. We talk about ghosts, film, horror franchises, Travis gets burpy, and the hidden political subtext of Saw. It gets weird. Check it out.

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Nov 1, 2017

Gobblin’ is an original RPG setting and system where players control goblins settling and exploring a post-apocalyptic Earth. The creatures who crave violence, stupidity and chaos have just found the perfect means to obtain it.  Travis talks to Greg to better understand this game about everyone's favorite miserable minions.

Remember to check out Gobblin on Kickstarter!

Sep 20, 2017

This panel was recorded at Gen Con 2017.  The panelists were Travis, Matt, and Greg Bennett of Technical Difficulties.

Horror beyond time and space! The unknowable horror of the universe! But is it really all the same? This panel is an exploration of the evolution of Lovecraft's works in the modern era. And how what we experience today might changed due to the influenced by other mediums.

Aug 30, 2017

This is a panel from Gen Con 2017. Travis talks about Ludonarrative Dissonance (Fludonarrative discobiscuits if you're hungry).

If you've been in the video game blog-o-sphere at some point, you have heard of LND (I'm not typing out the entire word you can't make me). But is it necessarily the pejorative term as its become in video game circles. Listen to this panel from Gen Con that gives the answer: NO. Most of all if anything LND is a feature most Tabletop GMs and Players are intimately familiar with, but haven't realized there was a term for. As such, listen in, learn a thing (maybe), and speak up if you have questions. Welcome to Herding Cats: Ludonarrative Dissonance and Players. (Dammit you tricked me into writing the full things again...)

Do you want to take part in a playtest of Gobblin': The Goblin RPG? Send an email to

Jul 31, 2017

The Story of Your Life is a short story by Ted Chiang following a woman whose understanding of an alien language has vastly altered her perception of reality.  This story was later adapted into the multimillion dollar Sci-Fi motion picture Arrival.  Experiencing both of these media, the throughline can be easily found, but the two stories are vastly different in their construction to aid in conveying their core message in a written format and a visual medium.  In translating writing concepts between media, we have picked apart specific ways the story has been adapted to make it work better, and we will pass these teachings onto you.

Media Referenced in this Episode

  • Lessons from the Screenplay (inspiration for the episode)
  • "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang
  • Arrival film based on SoYL by Ted Chiang
  • Daikatana by John Romero
  • "Wild Cards" series by George RR Martin
  • Persona / SMT series published by Atlus
  • Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei (Digital Devil Story: Goddess Reincarnation) by Aya Nishitani 
  • Persona 3 by Atlus
  • Digital Devil Saga by Atlus
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
Jun 21, 2017

Hello internet!  We return to you this summer to talk about the return of a revered but short series from the 1990s.  Twin Peaks was a TV series by David Lynch and Mark Frost about the murder of the Homecoming Queen Laura Palmer in the sleepy town of Twin Peaks, Washington.  We share the experiences and explore the town through Dale Cooper, a federal agent called in to investigate the murder.

The M.I.C.E. quotient is a writing foundation credited to Orson Scott Card, known most notably for his science fiction series Ender's Game.  The basic idea as listed in the acronym is that every story seed falls into the categories of milieu, idea, character, or event.  You will have many of these story ideas overlapping and building upon one another in the course of your story, but the important thing is that you resolve them in the reverse of the order you introduce them.

The structure of the early episodes and the subsequent failure of Twin Peaks can be heavily traced to MICE (among other things), and in this episode, we will discuss MICE through Twin Peaks, and how you can apply it to your own writing.

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May 29, 2017

Stasis is a 2015 science fiction horror game developed and published by The Brotherhood, a South African studio comprised of the brothers Nicolas and Christopher Bischoff.  In the year of its release, it was awarded Adventure Game of the Year by

The plot of the game draws heavily from Event Horizon and Dead Space.  It follows John Maracheck, a family man and school teacher who wakes up from cryostasis on an unknown and apparently abandoned vessel known as "The Groomlake.  Injured, unarmed, and alone, he must search out and rescue his family and escape the dying vessel, all the while learning the horrifying secrets it holds.

Through the course of this episode, we discuss the story and design decisions of Stasis along with James and Kevin Colmar.  We discuss what we think could have been improved, as well as design lessons to take away in our own writing.

Apr 1, 2017

Hello Internet!  Apologies for the wait, but the March Madness applies to more than college basketball.  In this episode we hit on a topic that we have wanted to cover for probably over a year now:  Tales from the Wood.  For the entire time since we played this game we have been really thinking on how we can make it better or at least better adhere to the themes that it seems to be aiming for while also making it a more cohesive system in general.


In this episode, we discuss the design and writing choices of this game, what mistakes we feel it made, and ways we would try to correct it.

Mar 2, 2017

Hello internet!  In this episode we continue our discussion from the previous episode on ways to break down media, where we now focus on the supreme way: Deconstruction and Reconstruction.  

In a deconstruction, a medium is taken apart, usually by playing the subject matter completely straight and considering how the signature elements would work in the real world.  In a reconstruction, the criticisms pointed out by deconstructing are accepted and modified in such a way that they feel faithful to the core work, but don't require the same caveats they once did.

In the course of this episode, we will analyze several deconstructed and reconstructed works, find the connecting threads between the relevant media, and find a way to use it in your own writing.

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Jan 31, 2017

Hello Internet, and welcome back to Ugly Talk.  In our first episode of 2017, we're discussing patterns in media remixing and creation by examining and comparing some very different video games.  Namely, we are comparing Punch Club, an early 2016 mobile fight manager simulator with a number of very goofy themes, to the more recently released Final Fantasy XV, a AAA multi-hour JRPG that wears its previous influences on its sleeve.  In our discussion, we break down the ideas of parody, bricolage, pastiche, homage, and plagiarism and how to consider taking elements from other media to remix into your own games.

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Dec 22, 2016

Welcome back to Ugly Talk!  We've got one more to close the year out, focusing some feel good TV.  Black Mirror is a project by the great Charlie Brooker, humorist, satirist, critic, etc, etc.  Brooker has produced many short run television series, mostly comedies, but all of which seem to deconstruct the world of entertainment around us and call into question that which we have either ignored or normalized.  Black Mirror is the extreme of this deconstructivism as via a Twilight Zone lens of sci-fi conceits to shine a light on some element of media we already live with.

In the episode, Travis and Matt look at how Brooker's deconstructive nature and its influence from the British culture and how you can apply these mindsets to your games.


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Dec 1, 2016

Sam and Matt did another panel on publishing indie RPGs.  This year they picked a name that meant something and also Sam was able to make it to Gen Con to talk about it.  It quickly turns to a roundtable discussion and Q&A about common problems while publishing and both of them talk about their experiences publishing Sordid Dystopia, both good and bad.

Oct 26, 2016

In this episode, we discuss the ubiquity of Creepypasta and the easy fodder it makes for horror video games.  We discuss games that successfully adapt the material into a new medium, the ones that simply copy ideas, the endless clones of successful games, and what sets them apart.  To aid in our exploration of the realm most creepy and most pasta, we bring on the Review Cultist, host of Al Dente Rigamortis, to elaborate on these never-ending internet campfire stories.

Reading List

Check out Al Dente Rigamortis on Patreon!

Oct 15, 2016

HP Lovecraft is undoubtedly a driving force in the ever-changing face of horror in the modern age.  While but one of a movement, his works changed the basic inspirations of horror from a universe of divine punishment doled out by monsters to a universe that couldn't be bothered to care if you lived or died.  His talk of ancient powerful beings from worlds beyond the stars and the insignificance of mankind were fantastical and horrifying in ways the stories of vengeful monsters couldn't be.  In the modern age, Lovecraft's work is still highly influential, but the original stories are a bit lacking in modern sensibilties.  We discuss those who took inspiration from Lovecraft and made horror exceptionally weird.

Matt and Ross Payton from Role Playing Public Radio hosted this panel at Gen Con 2016.  Travis was supposed to lead this panel, but due to personal issues he was not able to make it to the con.

Sep 21, 2016

Welcome back to Ugly Talk!  This episode, we know things about our experiences with This Is The Police.  In playing this game, we learned a bit about Noir storytelling and Gameplay / Story balancing, as well as the meaning of impactful storytelling, the illusion of choice, and dissonant characters.

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Sep 14, 2016

At Gen Con last year, Travis and Matt let the fine con attendees in on the secrets they had learned about online roleplaying via their time on The Drunk and the Ugly.  Also along for the ride was Aaron Carsten of Role Playing Public Radio, talking about his recent experiences running games online and the differences from his time at the table.

Aug 11, 2016

Over the weekend, we attended Gen Con, where we hosted several different seminars.  Kevin and James join Matt on this one in describing their campaign design philosophies to the attending audience before opening the floor for questions, advice, and discussion.

Jul 28, 2016

Welcome back to Ugly Talk!  This month, we know things about Film Writing and the Three Act Structure.  Travis is out of town on business, so Matt brought in Kevin Colmar and Charlotte Adams to discuss what they know about filmmaking, film writing, film direction, and what of it can be applied to games and how. 

Jun 8, 2016

Support Red Markets on Kickstarter!


Welcome back to Ugly Talk!  This month, we know things about Red Markets, the game of economic horror where the world has ended and the rent is still due.  Along with Matt and Travis, we have the one and only Caleb Stokes to talk a bit about the game, where and how it started, the influences that brought it into being, the development process, and also how things have changed since our initial playtests (and even since the playtest campaign that is happening on Role Playing Public Radio).

May 30, 2016

This month we are discussing the Powered by the Apocalypse system Monster Hearts, a game that aims to recreate the feel of shows like The Vampire Diaries and Being Human and other sorts of supernatural teen drama.  We go through a basic breakdown of how Powered by the Apocalypse works as well as the specifics of how they work in Monster Hearts and the new mechanics added.  We talk with this month's special guest Axe, the gamemaster who ran Camp Rosewater and The Harvester for The Drunk and the Ugly.

Apr 1, 2016

Hello internet and welcome to Creepy Talks, a show wherein we discuss creepy stories, horror films, spooky computer games, and the important elements that make each of these things work and how we can tie them back to spooky stuff.  This month, we discuss the reading of Creepy Pastas and how we've turned them into creepy collaborative storytelling experiences.

Mar 24, 2016

Hello Internet!  Welcome back to Ugly Talk, a show wherein we discuss RPGs, film, computer games, and the important elements that make each of these things work and how we can tie them back to the traditional games media.

This month we are discussing two different approaches to open world puzzle videogames:  Croteam's The Talos Principle and Johnathan Blow's The Witness.  One is a more "traditional" game that takes you on a ride on the rails with the illusion of choice but many intentional and obvious blockades to progress, and the other has no obvious narrative, no handholding, and no limits on where you can go and what you can do.  The comparison between the two caused us to think on the classic conundrum of where the player ends and the character begins.  Sit down as we talk with this month's special guest Sam Graebner, an experienced gamemaster from our sister show The Drunk and the Ugly.


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