This was a huge year for Gem Room Games! Life has been moving so fast that it’s been hard to see what we’ve accomplished, so let’s take a minute to reflect:
We kicked off 2022 with a new idea: Gem Room Games Pass! It was a plan to give our mailing list subscribers free access to new work through our monthly newsletter. The first year of GRG Pass was 2022: Year of Hex + Settings - an exercise in creative sustainability, map format experimentation, and succinct writing that would result in 12 settings, dungeons, and unique hexes ready to drop into any hexcrawl. We’d release one every month.
The first entry to our 2022: Year of Hex + Settings was The Hollow Lake. A bog with a secret below its waters, The Hollow Lake featured an influential amphibian-folk world church, a beaver logging clan, a charming portrait of the Frog Pontiff Croakulon IV, and multiple secrets hidden below.
We also launched gemroomgames.com, on which you are reading this very year review!
AND as we got ready for a busy February, Dan GM’ed the first ever Actual Play of 9 Lives to Valhalla on Plus One Exp! The adventure he spun up for the stream was the seeds of what would become The Wreck of the Murderous.
February was huge - we had our first ever kickstarter, funding 9 Lives to Valhalla as part of #Zimo2022! Inspired by the first little zine game we’d collaborated on back in 2016, 9 Lives to Valhalla was our ode to death metal viking cats and taking down tyrants (even if they’re the GM). Both the game, our announced stretch goal of color printing throughout, and the unannounced stretch goal of a companion adventure funded within the first day. We were ecstatic and there were 27 days of funding to go!
We talked about it a lot. John MacGuire interviewed us on The Hambone & Friends Show, we chatted with Craig Duffy from Lunar Shadow Designs and Joie Martin of Drowning Moon Studios as part of a ring of interviews on Yes Indie’d Pod, stopped by The Top Shelf to get fancy with friends, and visited Gem Friend Jeremy Gage on Draw Your Dice.
Also the GRG Night Bot talked about it a lot on twitter. We loved the GRG Night Bot.
Dan also GM’ed the second-ever 9 Lives to Valhalla AP on the Happy Jacks network!
Was that all? No! Mid-month we dropped the second entry to our Year of Hex + Settings, The Wizard’s Co-Op! There were reckless wizards, escaped monsters, untethered experiments, and even passive aggressive notes about chore charts!
With a minute to breathe, we put out our third Hex + Setting, No Bandits Pass. This winding mountain pass advertised a lot of things (fossils, dragon eggs, bats) but explicitly no bandits. Not one. Would we lie?
In the free time after crowdfunding, Dan also went on the RTFM Podcast with Aaron King and Maxwell Lander to discuss 13th Age.
Our fourth Hex+ Setting, The Shops at Hellfist Citadel, was also our entry into the Crossword Dungeon Jam! The dungeon within the titular testament to eternal war-cum-burgeoning outlet mall was drafted atop a crossword puzzle. The tricks and traps came from our own brains.
We also put out a post-mortem for the 9 Lives to Valhalla funding campaign, because we had thoughts. We’ve had a lot more since then, but haven’t blogged about them.
We were also psyched for Ghenna Gaming’s AP of Dukk Borg!
We moved! Our office, our family, everything, whizzed up the coast at breakneck speed from sunny Los Angeles to - ok, less sunny Portland, where we’ve been finding our feet ever since.
Moving didn’t slow down the fifth Hex + Setting, Zyxord’s Gullet! Did we feel like Xzibit, putting a dungeon in your dragon? Yes, yes we did.
From our castle of cardboard boxes came the sixth Hex + Setting, The Salamander Consulate. This volcanic portal to the Fire Salamander realm started with a sketch scratched in the dirt of a backyard in LA and became our entry to the OSR June Jam from a Portland basement.
While wrapping up so many things set to release in August, we put out the seventh Hex + Setting: Tomb of the Sun God. A giant orrery, self-contained ecosystems, ancient prayers, and a dead sun god focused our thoughts on summer.
August was huge! 9 Lives to Valhalla and its companion adventure The Wreck of the Murderous went out to backers! We then tried to breathe for a minute, having crowdfunded, written, edited, play tested, made lots of art for, laid out, and printed both zines in only six months.
Meanwhile, we published The Weaver’s Observatory (our 2-player Tunnel Goons adventure about seeking to change your destiny by climbing the tower of Fate herself) with assistance from the Chapbook Co-Op, getting it into 4 stores in the process!
AND we put out the eighth Hex + Setting, The Electrum Quarter! This one dropped you into the titular vibrant neighborhood, home to the Glitterfist Bank & Trust, a combination fire station/liquor store, and a rat in a man costume petitioning for signatures.
Meanwhile, our discord worked on the Gygax75 challenge. Of course, the true dungeon treasures were the friends we made in that discord channel along the way. (No, really, they’re great.)
AND we got on tiktok. Whew!
For the ninth Hex + Setting we gave into a love of tables and wrote a big one of everything explorers might find in the stone maze of The Giant’s Thumb, including lots of cultists, mushrooms, park rangers, and a very healthy Lost & Found box.
The tenth Hex + Setting got real spooky in Horror at the Harvest Husks Head-Scratcher. There was a special autumnal menu at the local diner, a pumpkin-tossing contest, even an Autumn Harvest Dance! Oh, and cannibalism too.
We were also real excited to learn that One Shot Network played three episodes worth of our very own High Magic Lowlives!
November was another big release month. We opened our own shop, where you can buy physical copies of our games, direct from us!
AND 9 Lives to Valhalla and The Wreck of the Murderous made it into retail stores, both ours and stores run by other people! This officially wrapped up the 9 Lives to Valhalla kickstarter, woo!
The eleventh Hex + Setting also started to shine a spotlight on a mystery that had been showing up in every Hex + Setting so far. Sure, Omni Station 4 was about a territory war between space pirates and space marines, but it was also about archaeology.
We’ve been wrapping up the year by playing games on our discord, which has become a great place to chat and play.
We also released our least-expected piece of merch, the “Yes I’m a Game Designer” tee, which continues to make game designers laugh while raising funds for Trans Lifeline.
As one more joy at year’s end, we were thrilled for 9 Lives to Valhalla to be included as one of Plus One Exp’s “Favorite Games We Played This Year.” Gem Friend Kegan.exe warmed our hearts when they declared it “the year of Gem Room Games.” Totally adding quotes to the next print run.
And of course, we finished out the year with our twelfth Hex + Setting: The 13th Portal. The year was coming to a close and we got all emotional about the changes in our lives in this one, while illuminating the portal mystery that had been referenced all year.
That was 15 new products! Three of which are in print! Our games are now available (in print!) at over half a dozen retailers (including us)! And all that while we handled a sudden relocation and all the emotions and logistics that came with that! And did so in the middle of fulfilling a kickstarter!
Honestly, we’re exhausted, but it’s great to see how much we got done even when we felt like we were running thin. It makes us feel really good about what we can look forward to in the next few years.
Happy 2023, everyone!