What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Immortal Figures: Gods of Olympus

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sometimes Projects Take Lives Of Their Own

With the release of the 'Ruins of Ramat', work has begun on the submitted manuscripts for 'Foamy Tankard' as well as 'The Trick on the Tain'.  The Foamy Tankard is being designed to act primarily as an accessory for the Castles & Crusades game.  It was originally intended to be a digest and we hoped to get it out sometime in December.  At least that was the plan...

At the most, we are a small team of people working on a project but about three-quarters of the work usually rests in the hands of one person at a time.  Not as much progressed on my end as I would have liked considering the other work on my plate but ideas were exchanged nonetheless.  Next thing, you know the projected material for that project just doubled.  I think the accessory will benefit from the changes though and, as I think about it -- I find that it is a book that I would want to own myself.

Energy is also being devoted to our big release for next year -- Victorious!  For those who follow my blog as well as the one John Adams keeps (Confessions of a RPG Publisher), you may have noticed two interesting entries...  One was entitled "A Gentleman's Opinion" and the other "A Gentleman's Rebuttal".  Both of these pieces were written by the talented Mike Stewart, the author of the upcoming Victorious RPG and various releases by TLG such as Castellan's Guide to Arms & Armor,  the Verdant Rage. and one of my favorites -- Shadows of Halfing Hall.  More goodies will be coming down the pipe in the time leading up to the release of Victorious.

Of course, work does continue on some of the other projects and my current priority is the upcoming 'Trick on the Tain' module which is targeted for an early February release.

M

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Gentleman's Rebuttal

In response to A Gentleman's Opinion
From the "Letters to the Editor"
London Times January 6, 1897

By Lord Peter Almscroft, O.G.D.

Dear Editorial Staff, London Times;


First let me compliment Master Devinchilde on his certitude of opinions. Not many persons can speak so absolutely of morality and propriety with such obvious knowledge and authority. We all could doubtlessly be better men by listening to his views.

I must, however, take issue with his comments upon the 'SuperMankind' and their various benefits to our city and country. I think that recent events must inevitably lead the objective reader to the inescapable conclusion that such persons are of great assistance to the forces of Law and Order within the environs of London and its subordinate communities. There are certainly those who abuse their supernatural powers and abilities, but for each nefarious villain and villainess there are stout hearted British men and women to bar them from their criminal schemes. For every Hooligan there is a Vigilante determined to say them 'Nay'!

While the use of masks and costumes are not a regular aspect of law enforcement to date, some small amount of reflection on the issues provide several simple reasons for their use. To wit;

First; unusual costumes ensure that they are not confused from those among the civilian population they wish to protect. Like the blue uniform of the Bobbies and Peelers (if I may use their Cockney nicknames) they provide an immediate source of recognition to bystanders and criminals alike.

Second; it is regrettable but inevitable that those among us with powers beyond those given to man by Nature, that those of evil mien will attempt to use those held dear by the Superior personage against them. We have already seen how loved ones are occasionally taken as hostages by criminal gangs to influence those within the Yard as well as judges. Does anyone feel that the acquaintances of the SuperMankind would be any less immune? Masks obscure their identity and therefore provide some surcease to their beloved friends and relations.

Third; it is true that those ladies who are counted among the SuperMankind do frequently wear apparel that is unusual when compared to the fashions considered 'appropriate' in today's society. I would remind Master Alexander that much of today's fashions would have been considered risqué less than a century ago. Indeed, Liberty Gowns and Bloomers led to arrests in public not thirty years ago! But times change, and I for one welcome such.

In addition to the above reason, another more practical rational is obvious. If one is engaged in bloody combat to preserve the life and liberty of innocents, corsets and petticoats are not good accoutrements to wear in such circumstances. I will not even consider such heroines as The Dancer or Angel performing their avocations in hoop skirts or high-heeled boots. Why, the idea is laughable!

To sum up an already over-long missive, I give an unqualified 'Hurrah!' to those in Great Britain, America and even the European Continent who decide to use their powerful talents for good. We could all learn a lesson from such persons and their willing sacrifices for the common weal.

Sincerely,

Peter Almscroft, Lord of Somersworth

Postscript: I will not deign to reply to the comment of the Peers being the natural leaders of the realm. Being among this exclusive company myself, I have full knowledge of just how prepared the scions of title and prosperity are to lead the people of Great Britain. Which is, for the majority, not much.

= = = = =

VICTORIOUS!  Role Playing Game - Coming in 2010

Older Game Mechanics & d20

I've had a couple interesting conversations lately on older game mechanics, older styles of play, and the newer trend that focuses on a streamlined and unified mechanic (the d20) to resolve most tasks.  This is particularly important when one considers Castles & Crusades which is a blend of elements from the old and the new.

One of the chats I had was dealing with the notion of 'spot/search' checks.  You see, the recent digest module Arcana Creations released was 'The Ruins of Ramat' which was a conversion of a scenario that was originally designed for Labyrinth Lord.  As a conversion, I put in Challenge Levels to use with C&C.  However, in the Labyrinth Lord version, there were none of these.

Before 3rd Edition, if there was a secret door... panel... or whatever, true to the style of game it emphasizes, you would find no 'target numbers' or 'challenge levels'.  The GM could either hear the players out to see what their characters were doing to search the area.  A roll on the d6 was often suggested to find secret doors with a 1 resulting in a non-elf finding it or a roll of a 1 or 2 for the elf.  When D&D 3.x came about, characters could learn to hone their skills to spot or search for something and this was all done with a d20.

There are clearly advantages with both.

The classic method didn't usually become just another roll.  It really demanded player interaction and could also become a puzzle in itself to solve.  Successful players seemed more meticulous.  However, depended on who's campaign you were playing in or simply who you were gaming with, it could rapidly become tedious if the group dynamic didn't mesh well.

The streamlining that the d20 system brought about made certain things easier -- which may be why certain designers felt the need to complicate other aspects of the game.  ;)  In all seriousness though, it provided for a way that characters 'could' improve as they became more experienced.  This was great compared to the previous method since it wasn't necessarily dependent on the same odds on the die or the mere whim of a GM.  However, the situation probably got worse instead of better.  Picture an entire party controlled by players that all do a 'mandatory' roll per room and then moving on if nothing yielded a result.  The focus of this game quickly became a quest for combat as opposed to an adventure in exploration.

What about C&C?  Well, being that it adopted a d20 mechanic, the instinct for many might be to just make a roll.  This is despite the fact that the game doesn't actually have an itemized skill system.  However, Elves and Dwarves both get a bonus to find things merely by walking.  They would use a d20 and the Seige mechanic along with it.  This means that certain members of that race would be better than others -- especially if you consider the way Primary Attributes work.  Does that mean that humans can just make a roll to try and locate a door?  Well, not necessarily.  However, various other modules and sets released by TLG do give Challenge Levels for things like Secret Doors.  That means you need to roll right?

Wrong.

The heart of the issue here is that role play and logic should trump game mechanics and rules.  Obviously C&C will appeal to different types of gamers though.  Some players will come from an older edition of D&D perhaps and see a lot of C&C that they recognize and can relate to.  I'm certain those gamers won't be rolling the dice as often for certain tasks that others would.  By the same token, there will be those who come from 3.x and 4th Edition and are seeking something a bit lighter and different.  They may not necessarily know anything before 3.x and will run there games in a manner consistent with how they are used to playing.  Both are fine.

When Gygax worked on the Upper Works, there appears to be something of a compromise.  The text give various Challenge Levels to find certain things but in the introductory section of the set, he suggests the classic d6 for finding some of these.  He acknowledges that certain ones may be more difficult to find and further suggests using higher die types.

Since C&C does reach out to a diverse group of gamers, there will hardly ever be a perfect product released for it.  There is but one thing I can suggest:

"The Rules are your Servant, Not your Master!"

If the material presented suits you, then great... feel free to use it but don't neglect the contribution the players can make or underestimate your own abilities.  On the other hand, if you or your players don't need the 'safety blanket' of certain mechanics, continue doing what you've been doing for years... just ignore what doesn't work for ya and press on!  ;)

M

OK... this is just COOL!

Well, I heard it whispered that the print run for "The Secret of Ronan Skerry" was shipping out sometime this week and I even heard that a couple online retailers had started listing it.  Poking around, I came across THIS.

I'm really excited and though the retailer got the title spelled incorrectly, I will happily let it slide given that they appear to be a German retailer!

Awesome!

If you know of other stores listing it online, please feel free to drop a note.

M

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Adventure Games Publishing

A few days ago, I posted about the 'Economics of Hobby Publishing' and one of the things I tried to impart was the need for the hobby to support these tiny publishers.  One of these publishers is AGP.  There is no question that James Misher is a talented fellow who is passionate about the Wilderlands setting.  Adventure Games Publishing was founded back in 2006 and was set to publish material set in the Wilderlands of High Adventure which was based on the classic Judges Guild campaign setting.  These were to be done for Castles & Crusades.

When the formation of AGP was first announced, I have to confess that I knew next to nothing about the Wilderlands.  My exposure to D&D came in the late 80s and I was living in Germany at the time which meant what I had access to was a bit more limited.  Thankfully there was a steady stream of TSR material available from a small book store which included Dragon and Dungeon magazines.  I only started looking at the Wilderlands because of the mention of a new company that was supporting the game that I was playing.  I found a copy of the "Player's Guide to the Wilderlands" which Necromancer Games put out and started with that.  I dug deeper into the setting and everything I read, I liked.

"XXXI" was AGP's first release and was limited to 310 copies and went on sale at GenCon 2007.  Within a month, AGP announced Adventure Games Journal subscription which would have been a stunning achievement had it gone as planned.  I ordered a copy of XXXI as soon as it was available and was blown away at the sheer detail of it.  I was hooked and became subscriber #26.  As I didn't have a lot of money at the time (I had just moved to Montreal and was in between jobs), I settled on a 3-issue subscription.  Each 'issue' was a copy of the journal which in turn was accompanied by a gazetteer.  Since I owned little Wilderlands, this seemed like a great way to start.

At first, there were a few delays but this was completely understandable.  Eventually, the first issue of the Journal was released and I was happy.  I was a lot more satisfied with how the Journal measured up to my expectations compared to the Crusader and I was thinking about running a campaign in the setting.

Sometimes things just don't go as planned.  I never did a Wilderlands setting and AGP suffered what could be best called a few 'setbacks'.  In the beginning of October, 2008... a second issue of the journal had yet to materialize and the first gazetteer was not completed.  Subscribers received a detailed letter/email apologizing and offering refunds or a generous amount of page credit in lieu of their subscriptions.  I was happy to stick by his side as a subscriber though and James kept on writing.

Along the way, he has put out some outstanding material.  My favorite (aside from XXXI) is his "Monsters & Treasures of the Wilderlands" book.  In late September of this year, AGP released a series of digest products.  There are 11 in all and a lot of these had been released on PDF but never in a printed format.  With the various changes and growing pains, AGP was trying a new direction.  It was one that I gladly support.

I didn't get the digests at first -- I was hoping that demand for them might have been keeping Mishler busy but I recently decided to cash in a lot of my page credit to get them.  They came in today and I've very pleased.  The covers are very simple... no fancy artwork occupy the cover and most of the booklets just have text.  They are well written but the pages themselves are nothing fancy.  Even the covers come in a variety of colors.  There's a certain 70s 'vibe' to the stuff but with a much better paper and print quality.  Frankly, it adds to the charm of the booklets and I hope to see more of them down the line.  Between these digests and the M&TW book before it, most of my credit is gone now and I'm a very satisfied customer and subscriber.

I can honestly say that James Mishler has done right by me.  If I knew then, the challenges that AGP was to face when I was considering a subscription, I still would have done it.  Mishler's material is just that good.  And despite the Wilderlands 'name' associated with the products, the majority can be used in ANY campaign setting with little to NO modification.  AGP is a perfect example of a small publisher that deserves a growing fanbase and the support that goes along with it.  If you haven't picked up any of the AGP products yet but have thought about it... pick one or two and I don't believe anyone would regret it.  If really unsure which product to pick up, consider "XXXI" which is AGP's first product.

James... if you read this, I do wish to thank you for your efforts.  I eagerly await your future endeavors.

M

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Updates...

Not much has happened since the last round of updates but Crusader #21 has been making it into the hands of various subscribers. I'm happy to say the same about the print copies of the Ruins of Ramat.

This recent issue in the Crusader seems focused on the Tainted Lands and a few other things in 'theme' with October. I have a review of Tainted Lands in the upcoming issue of the Domesday, and my sources indicate that it should be out *very* soon!

M

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Economics of Hobby Publishing

I define a 'Hobby Publisher' is someone who publishes material more out of an interest of the material being developed an printed but isn't something that one can financially rely on.  In this case, I suppose the word 'hobby' could also refer to the nature of the material -- in other words, gaming material.

Money has begun to leave my pockets as Arcana Creations is beginning to get things published.  Thankfully, this is done in partnership with Brave Halfling Publishing which means the blow to the wallet is a bit lessened.  However, I have been doing a lot more number crunching lately and these sort of calculations could affect how other projects are approached in the future.  While I never had any illusions on the costs of producing material for RPGs, I can say that I do have an ever-growing respect for those Hobby Publishers that do.

Some of these seem to be more focused on using a POD (Print-On-Demand) service such as Lulu.  I can certainly see the appeal of using a POD -- especially if you are also the principal writer.  There is little to no worry about have printed stock just sitting around and little cash is really needed as an investment.  Really, someone with a computer and some software (which all could be open source) may only have to worry about the writing and the art.  If they are talented and do both, the only 'cost' it may come down to, is time.

The other route is truly doing it yourself.  Arcana Creations and BHP has been progressing along this route... Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Adventure Games Publishing are also going at it their own way.  Black Blade Publishing is doing official 1st edition conversions of Goodman Games' "Dungeon Crawl Classics" line and have recently announced that they are going to produce material from Mythmere Games.  This is a welcome change since print material had previously been exclusively available from Lulu and hopefully, this will become the growing trend for Hobby Publishing

When looking at the numbers, and contemplating this sort of publishing, I couldn't help but think back at the various posts that James Raggi (LotFP) and James Mishler (AGP) had written about the subject.  I especially recall a series of posts that ruffled a few feathers back in July.  You can read one of them HERE.  Now, I'm not going to say that I agree with everything Mishler talks about but the basics ARE there.  If I was solely interested in Arcana Creations as a money-making proposition, doing just a bit of research would have lead me to the conclusion that there are better opportunities elsewhere.  That said, I'm not looking to lose money either.  It needs to pay for itself to continue and there needs to be some growth to allow for larger and better projects.

Is it worth it?  Sure it is.  It is a tremendous amount of work and the key motivating factor to doing it is because you love to do it.  You need to love the material you are putting out and it tends to be the sort of material you would be interested in seeing.  When Jim Raggi released his Random Esoteric Creature Generator (1st 'uncensored' printing), I don't think it had as much to do with money as it did with the importance of the content he was trying to release.  It was cheaply produced and priced accordingly but I can't begin to tell you useful it's proven to be.  The material contained in the booklet is simply fantastic.

If you like the sort of material being released by various micro-presses and hobby publishers, please let them know or simply help spread the word.  Greater exposure is always nice -- especially when some are also contemplating at getting their books into distribution and stores. 

Of course, the best paid compliment would be to simply buy one of their books.

M

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Odds & Ends ...

Well, I started work today at my former place of employment. It's a 4 week gig which could result in more work beyond this contract. The extra money is sure to come in handy as the holiday season begins to draw near. With a full time day-gig, I have to re-think and better plan out my work with Arcana Creations a bit more carefully. ;)

As I mentioned yesterday during what will become a weekly roundup of updates, the Secret of Ronan Skerry is going to print. The people at Troll Lord Games will be printing this module on the behalf of Brave Halfling Publishing and Arcana Creations. A slight adjustment had to be made to one of the pieces of artwork in the module and the artist was more than happy to oblige. For purposes of comparison, I include both pieces here:



Now, given the broader audience that TLG is trying to reach, I actually agree with the changes. I suspect my mother might have had some questions about Advanced Dungeons & Dragons if she saw some of the art in the books when I had started playing the game. While there is nothing offensive with the one on the left, it is no more revealing than the iconic piece as illustrated by Darlene in the back of the original Dungeon Master's Guide. Both versions are equally good and convey the same thing -- this is what's important.

The art for the Secret of Ronan Skerry is done by Andy Talor ... more samples of his work can be found HERE.

M

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Updates...

  • The Ruins of Ramat has shipped to those who have already ordered their copies. Each purchase of the physical copy of the module also gets you a complimentary copy of the PDF. A PDF-only option is also available now.
  • The full-sized version of the Secret of Ronan Skerry is on its way to the printers and will be in the distributor's hands soon enough. This should start appearing at various game stores in December.
  • Work has begun in earnest on the next two projects to be released through Arcana Creations and Brave Halfling Publishing. The next digest title is "The Foamy Tankard" and the next full-sized title is "The Trick on the Tain". Both are coming soon!
M

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TLG's New Path

It's been a few days since I last posted.  This weekend saw the AAR conference in Montreal and we were hosting a couple of guests since the evening of my last post.  Our guests left yesterday evening and the restricted access to my computer (which is located in my study and serves as a guest bedroom) has been lifted.

:)

One of the things I've briefly saw over at Troll Lord Games was the announcement of the Pathfinder conversion of the older d20 "Book of Familiars" release.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?  On the whole, it's probably good.  TLG has a wealth of d20 material that isn't been touched right now since the d20 System Trademark License was revoked with the release of 4th Edition.  The original plan was to eventually convert the lot of this d20 material for use with C&C but this process has been rather slow.  The most recent conversion to C&C was the "Heart of Glass".  Work to convert from d20 to Pathfinder material should be very minimal which means TLG could benefit at providing support to the Pathfinder game.  The only worrisome thing here would be the thought of many other companies deciding to do the same.

The last thing we need is a surge of all this Pathfinder material in the way that there was an over abundance of d20 material in the early days of 3rd Edition.  My hope is that there is an effort to convert these d20 titles to C&C as well as Pathfinder.

M

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Development of Victorious! announced

Arcana Creations in collaboration with Brave Halfling Publishing is pleased to announce the development of "Victorious: Heroic Adventure in the Age of Super-Mankind".

This is a new game built upon the SIEGE Engine from Troll Lord Games.

In recognition of November 5th and the inspiration that the works of Alan Moore, and many others, continue to provide ... we have put together this little ad:

http://arcanacreations.com/works/post.jpg

For more information, be sure to visit the Brave Halfling Publishing forums... a forum for Victorious! will be added later on today.

M

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More Updates

Well, I got a whole bunch of the stuff done that I actually planned for today.  The articles need a good read through before I submit them which is fine.  I'll do that when I get up tomorrow morning and after I've had a necessary dose of caffeine.

I got all the work that I needed to do for that announcement I mentioned.  I won't spill the beans just yet but the announcement should be posted tomorrow.  I'll be mentioning it here, on the TLG forums, and the BHP forums.

Lastly, I also want to thank those of you that have sent me encouragement and other kind words as I get this blog up and going and with the expressed concerns on the welfare of my beloved pet.  I've had her for over nine years now and she has been ever at my side.  :)

M

Deadlines for Me ... Changes for TLG

Well, I've been recently involved in a couple of discussions and debates on C&C and the SIEGE Engine. I'll be commenting on this a bit later today. For now, I've got a couple looming deadlines for material I promised to submit. A couple are reviews for the upcoming, and last, issue of the Domesday as well as an article on Arcana Creations.

I also have to prepare something of an announcement for later in the week.

Both needs to get done today but thankfully I see the light at the end of that particular tunnel.

In the meantime... some food for thought:

Troll Lord Games has had its share of challenges since Trigree Enterprises pulled the Lejendary Adventures, Castle Zagyg, and Gygaxian Fantasy World licenses. Coupled with these changes, TLG has also had to adjust given the release of the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons. When these things happened, TLG presented to the fans that this could be an opportunity to build on the C&C and SIEGE Engine brand. After a difficult year when everybody is facing troubled economic times, Steve Chenault expressed the concern that TLG was a 'One Pony Show' and that they were going to look to expanding the number of games they supported and published.

Now that we less than two months remaining, I'm forced to consider the releases that C&C has seen in the past year. This year saw the new printings of Monsters & Treasures and the Player's Handbook, the C&C conversion of the Heart of Glass, Black Libram of Nartarus, A5 and A6 as well as DB5, the Tainted Lands, and Of Gods & Monsters. There were also the character sheets and mapping sheets, the first tournament module for C&C, and a module for Star Siege.

Unfortunately, more than a couple of items listed have had issues attached to them. The M&T had a 'stat block' left out in the layout process, problems with the initial release of the Heart of Glass had to be rectified, and there remains concerns with the Tainted Lands box set (which I do discuss in my forthcoming review of the product). Problems outside of TLG's control caused an inordinate amount of delays with the new printing of the Player's Handbook which snowballed and derailed attempts for publishing Of Gods & Monsters in hardcover.

While I love the material that TLG produce and agree that expansion into other product lines is a good thing for the company, I can't help be a bit concerned considering the problems they had with their flagship line.

M

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Personal Update

As I mentioned in my previous post, my cat was taken to the veterinary hospital early yesterday. I am happy to say that she is back home now and has eaten some solids. This is the first time she has actually eaten any solid food (the vet's included) in the past five days. I imagine it will still take a bit of time to get her up and going again. The regiment of pills I have to give her during the course of the next couple weeks will certainly be a challenge but things are looking up.

I'll be able to better concentrate on a few things I was doing for Arcana Creations which I had been falling behind on. :)

M

Monsters & Villains

Well, it's now well past midnight as I write this on Halloween and this year's holiday has not been a good one this year. On a personal note, I spent a good portion of the day at the Veterinary Hospital and my little siamese cat who is normally by my side when I do all matters of writing is in their care tonight. The evening was quite sedate as some of you can imagine.

My evening for the most part was spent in watching a few movies in the comfort of home. Being the time of year, there are no shortage of interesting films. Some are more gore... others with a hint of the fantastic and horrific... and then there are others which offer a nice dash of suspense. This year, I watched movies that I had seen many times before and, much to my better half's delight, we started off with "Interview with the Vampire". This was followed by the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and the evening closed off with the original "House on Haunted Hill". It was watching these movies that gave me the idea for this particular post.

What I would have liked to do, and others have probably done, was sit down around the table and do a bit of gaming. I'm sure some have chosen to pull out "Tainted Lands" and give that a whirl since that boxed set includes a scenario that's ready to go. Others will pull out some old favorites -- maybe revisit the original Ravenloft module or just have some sort of session with more undead... more gore.. and more atmosphere. I think that's pretty cool. It was watching the movies though that I was reminded what can make a good 'horror' scenario worth remembering.

You see it doesn't have to involve a lot of 'supernatural elements', the 'living dead', or anything demonic. If it does, it certainly doesn't have to be legions of them. Interview with the Vampire is a good tale but, how many vampires are there? For the most part we are dealing with 2-3 interesting characters. Rocky Horror certainly has an interesting character portrayed by Tim Curry but on the other hand, no character was really all that memorable in the House of Haunted Hill. Then again, Vincent Price is always fun and awesome to watch. A single vampire or interesting character... a single element of the bizarre... or a single twist can go a long way. Horror in your game doesn't have to resemble an 80's slasher flick. There is also no need to go on and on trying to establish a certain atmosphere for everything the players interact with. Finally, if you feel that some of these things are toned down too much, then a single but fun twist can make the whole experience come alive.

In other words, sometimes less is more.

One idea would be to have a 'monster hunt' which has the characters chasing down a single but unknown creature. Have the characters piece together clues to what this thing they need to eliminate might be. Keep these clues vague enough to have experienced players stumped or make incorrect assumptions. Make reliable witnesses difficult to find ... though maybe some remains of some could help with a more grisly feel to the game. Provide options and allow the players to follow up on these. When the chase comes down to what appears to be a natural conclusion, feel free to throw in another twist or an intriguing Villain.

Incidentally, a good C&C conversion of an older d20 module is available for free and does start off with a 'monster hunt'. For those who haven't tried it, the adventure titled Lion In The Ropes is worth checking out.

My own holiday gaming tribute will be a bit belated due to unfortunate circumstances but it will happen. In the meantime, allow me to wish all of you a happy Halloween!

M