What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook - 7th Print Edition

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Valiant Defenders of the Castles & Crusades Society

The origins of the Castles & Crusades Society was formed by Gary Gygax back in 1968 as a chapter of the International Federation of Wargamers.  The C&CS published a newsletter called the Domesday book which contained amongst other thing various rules.  These formed the basis of 'Chainmail' which would form the basis of the original Dungeons & Dragons RPG.

In acknowledgment of these roots, Troll Lord Games named their flagship product after the society.  The game, Castles & Crusades, was one that sought to keep the spirit of an older style of play alive and was inspired by the creations of Gygax and Arneson.  The development of the game also had a lot of input from the gaming community.  If you look at the player's handbook, you will find a list acknowledging and thanking many people.  This community formed the basis of the new society which adopted the old name as well.

At first, there were numerous fansites devoted to C&C and there were proclamations and updates as well as a few initiatives to kick the society into high gear and spread the word.  But somewhere along the way, the small crew at Troll Lord Games got busy and concerns for the society fell to the wayside.

After floundering for a couple of years, one member of the society (and co-author of the Monster's & Treasure book) stepped forward and breathed new life into the society.  He tried to give it purpose and direction.  A few stood by his side to try and make something more of it.  They started putting out a fan-based electronic publication named the Domesday.  The efforts to carry the burden seemed to be shared by few though and while there was an effort to even put a contest in place, support from the rest of the community seemed to be a bit sparse at times.

The torch to keep the society together passed onto another member and just a few months ago, Troll Lord Games pledged some support anew and a bit of life and direction was breathed into the Castles & Crusades Society once more.

Up to the announcement, there were four issues put together by members of the society, and the fifth is still being finalized.  The few who have contributed have helped to keep the flame burning and their contributions are appreciated.  In 2010, the Domesday returns in a format more fitting to a newsletter with a page count of no more than 10 pages per issue but much more numerous (and possibly monthly).  Earl Seskis, the present High Squire of the Society, has been forming and finalizing the shape that the Domesday will take.  The contest that was started to help bolster the society now has winners which appear below:
  1. Grand Prize - Belinda Kelly (Storm Queen)  for "Damek's Fujara"
  2. Michael Spires (DangerDwarf) for both "Nastala's Lament" and "Grimslade's Grimoire"
  3. Patrick Wong (Ssfsx17) for both "Crown of the Troll Lords" and "Rorzak's Pendulum"
  4. John Wright (seskis281) for "Baetylus of Nindaral"
  5. Chris Maler (thegreenman) for "Mixwell's Legendary Tube"
  6. Daniel Corwin (Frost) for "Manistus the Scriviner"
The winner receives a copy the "Umbrage Box Set" from Troll Lord Games and every one of the finalists also receives a copy of "The Ruins of Ramat" from Arcana Creations.  These entries will be published in the upcoming volume of the Domesday.

To sign up with the Society, view past issues and material created by them, or catch up on some news, please visit their site HERE.

M

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Secret of Ronan Skerry Sale

While plugging AGP's clearance sale, it would be maybe wise to plug the one that Brave Halfling Publishing and Arcana Creations is doing. ;)

You can visit the BHP site HERE to purchase.



M

AGP's Last Call?

Earlier this week, James Mishler of Adventurer Games Publishing made this announcement. Basically, four of their print products are being cleared out. These are the only full-sized products AGP has done since they've started doing business a back. They are 'XXXI', the '2008 Wilderlands Jam', 'Monsters & Treasures of the Wilderlands I', and the first (and sadly only) issue of the 'Adventure Games Journal'.

When he made this post, he included the numbers he had remaining but warns that any copies still left on hand would be destroyed when the sale end on January 4th. A few thoughts crossed my mind when I read about this clearance sale. One was naturally was 'why'? After discussing this with a couple of my peers, it was suggested it may have been for tax-related purposes. Now, I know that retail stores have to account for their store inventory at the beginning / end of year and that inventory is effectively taxed. Taken in that light, it makes sense.

I shudder to think of the alternative though. Personally I think AGP has a future despite the problems it has faced in the past couple of years. The last thing I would like to see is Mishler throwing in the towel. I don't think that's happening though I think AGP is continuing to change how they operate. The newer digests are an example and I would be surprised if he had many copies of the digest books printed in advance.

As it turns out, the other books which had a print run of sorts have proven to be the exception. Though I hope these four are not the last (I'm personally hopeful we'll eventurally see issue 2 of the journal), it may be a while before AGP's foundation is secure enough to try again. While I have no idea what the sizes of most of these print runs were like, I do know the size of the print run for the first.

'XXXI' was a print run of 310 copies. The obscure looking name is derived from the fact that the release coincided with the 31st anniversay of Judge's Guild. It was released for GenCon 2007 and, based on the post, has sold 236 copies since it was released (up to December 15th, 2009). Personally, I would rather see 310 copies sold before the deadline imposed (January 4th, 2010) and if there is only one thing you were considering buying from his sale, let it be this one.

It will not be reprinted... it will not be held back... it will simply be 'gone'.

I own a couple of copies myself and I own at least one copy of the other products. I heartily recommend all of them and, if my own finances were a bit better this season, I would glady buy more.

M

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Time Really Flies...

Especially when your days have looked something like this:

  • Get up at 7:00am to get ready for work (currently still on a contract)
  • Travel to work (time it takes varies on the day)
  • Work from 9:00am to 5:00pm
  • Try and get home for 6:00pm
  • Fix Supper for myself and my significant other.
  • Eat and try and relax until 7:15 - 7:30pm
  • Go to the Veterinary Hospital to visit my cat for 8:00pm
  • Stay till 9:00pm (visiting hours are one hour in the evenings)
  • Arrive home around 9:30 - 9:45pm
  • Catch up on a few emails and try and wind down.
  • Try and hit the sack around 11:00pm
This was pretty much repeated every day since we initially took her in.  I'm really please to say that Medea *is* back home and we've had her back since Friday night.  I still think there's not enough time in my days as it is but at least having her back will free up a bit of time and I can actually sleep easier.

Now, I spent a good chunk of my weekend getting caught up on a few things and one of the things I did do a lot of was going through some more gaming material.  Basically, I'm pulling stuff from shelves and putting them aside, cataloging and pricing a chunk of it for that sale I alluded to a week and a half ago.  For those waiting for this, I should finally have the first batch of stuff posted online in a couple of days.  The majority of this batch are AD&D / D&D / d20 material.

On a different note, Brave Halfling Publishing and Arcana Creations is having a small sale to celebrate the release of "The Secret of Ronan Skerry" into stores.  Details will be posted here tomorrow as well as the BHP site.  A link will be provided as soon as it's set up.

Thanks for the support!

M

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Kitty Update...

A week after surgery, Medea is now out of intensive care. She still has a way to go but if all goes well, we may finally have her home by the weekend.

M

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sourcing from the "World's Most Popular FRPG"

These days, I'm going through much of my gaming collection and while I've settled on Castles & Crusades a couple years ago as my fantasy RPG of choice, I am reminded of my tendency to use material from various editions of Dungeons & Dragons. 

When I started AD&D, my first PHB and DMG were 2nd Edition books.  I picked up 1st Edition material but it was all used within a 2nd Edition game and didn't really pick up the little differences since there was almost no work involved to use older material with my 2nd Edition game.  While I loved AD&D, I got burnt out on it around the mid-90s.  Little did I know then that TSR's days were numbered.  It was with excitement that I picked up 3rd Edition when it was released in 2000 and I loved many features of the new game.  The reliance on miniatures was a bit off-putting since I never really bothered with them in my AD&D games to begin with but overall, a lot of good stuff.  As time wore on, I became increasingly dissatisfied with certain elements.

C&C gave me a couple of the refinements I liked from the newer edition of the games yet had it's design firmly set in the past.  Because it seemed to bridge the editions as well as it did, I began to use material to supplement my C&C games from AD&D, classic D&D, and 3rd Edition.  However, depending on what I used tended to indicate where I would look first.

For instance, I don't tend to bother looking for monsters in anything from 3rd Edition or afterward.  I do appreciate certain books that have come out for 3.x that exist to create and modify creatures as well as the thought out concept of templates.  I believe this is a reflection of a 'free form' sense of design versus a structured and systematic one that fans of the later editions demanded.  The monsters seemed tougher in 3rd Edition than they were in previous editions and older versions seems to be a better match to a C&C campaign.  That's not to say that they were impossible to use -- they were very easy to use if you simply ignored certain things like the detailed attributes and Feats.

Of course, when it came to adventures and campaign material, it didn't matter what edition it might have been written for.  A good story remains a good story and the systems were all closely related enough to run them with very little effort.  In my current C&C campaign, I have probably run more of the Dungeon Crawl Classics from Goodman Games written for 3.x than any other edition -- they were just that good and that much fun.

If I was looking for ideas for rules, options or variants, I found that I looked more towards 3rd Edition for guidance more than anything that predated it.  Once again, this was probably because it seemed there was a more concentrated attempt to design and balance the mechanics in this edition more so than other previous ones.

When I look at what some others do, I know some that prefer sourcing from the Metzer D&D sets or 1st Edition AD&D to supplement their C&C games and others who know little of D&D before 3rd Edition and use what they are most familiar and comfortable with.  In that way, some C&C games have Feats where as others adopted the old Weapon Mastery system.  The great thing about all of this is that no one who plays C&C seems to mind what various people are doing with it.  It's all done in an attempt to make the game their own -- even if it becomes reminiscent of just another edition of the "World's Most Popular Fantasy RPG".

The question you have to ask yourself is if this is a strength of Castles & Crusades or a weakness?

M

Sunday, December 6, 2009

TLG's Annual Holiday Sale

For the past couple of years, Troll Lord Games has had a '12 days of X-Mas Sale' which usually was a great way to get some of their product at fantastic prices.  This year is no exception -- you can view details of the sale HERE.

While my own finances are quite tied up, I know others who would love to take advantage of this.  Some of these would make excellent gifts for your fellow gamer or even yourself.  The $10 'Christmas Cheer' is certainly good value for the dollar with three print modules/accessories and are a safe bet for the collector since these aren't out in stores yet.  What's really impressive though is the 'Yuletide Gem' at $20.  For $20 you get both the latest revisions of the PHB and M&T together in one 'flip book'.  For someone looking for an inexpensive play copy to kick around or knows someone else who is looking to try C&C, you just can't go wrong with the value.  Finally, the 'Crusading Noel' is a couple of perfect bound compilations that brings together the first 20 issues of Crusader Magazine -- a great way to get the early issues of the Crusader and keep them on the shelf.

There are a total of 12 different offers to look through and consider.

M

Some News...

In the past few days, I've received some kind words of support from my readers and friends.  For that I really do thank all of you for the time you've taken to pass on those words of encouragement.  I've also had some requests for updates amongst some of those well wishes.  Medea is still at the hospital and being cared for 24/7.  She is still in intensive care and seems to be improving but there was a little 'blip' which had the veterinary doctors a bit concerned.  That said, at this stage it's just a case of a 'wait and see' scenario.  The nature of the hospital enables us to visit her everyday and we take advantage of that.  While in our presence, we do see her force of character and will to live.  This is perhaps the most encouraging thing for me right now.

As for myself, I feel lost without her around but I'm still able to do what needs to be done.  I'm still trying to get that list compiled and thrown up for those interested in the sale and, all going well, I will at least have part of it up during the course of the week.  I've been fighting a nasty cold since Friday so things have moved slower than I would have liked.

I remain hopeful and optimistic and I really hope that she'll be home with me soon...

M

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Personal Update and Challenges...

Well, for those who have been following regularly since I've started this blog, you may have noticed a genuine attempt to update it often enough. I haven't updated it as often as I would like in the past week and a half. A month ago, I had mentioned some of the problems we have been having at home with my cat and though we had what looked like a happy ending was actually an indication of other problems.

She fell ill once more this past weekend (Sunday morning to be exact) and it quickly went from bad to worse. By Tuesday (yesterday) morning, she was already taken in to the hospital to see a specialist. My cat... her name is Medea... was also jaundiced when she was taken in. I suppose the good news is that a clear determination was able to be made with the problem which was confirmed with a few more tests but was starting to look quite grim. She went into Surgery today and then a complication gave her a 50 / 50 chance at best but she made it out of surgery and though her blood pressure is quite low and her condition is still precarious, her heart is strong. Her status is being carefully monitored and will be over the next few days. Hopefully Medea will make a full recovery because I so miss her very much.

This all comes to a cost though... I've had to take a very hefty financial burden in order to cover all the costs incurred with this visit. While Canada has a great public healthcare system, my cat doesn't fall under that plan even if I consider her a member of my family. This debt I've accepted needs to be dealt with swiftly though and the sooner, the better.

In the next few weeks and months ahead, I've decided to have a bit of a 'fundraiser' of sorts. I had already though of doing one before any of this had happened. The difference is that, at the time, it was intended to solely fund future projects, software, and equipment for Arcana Creations. Now I have another purpose as well and this one is a bit closer to the heart. I have amassed an interesting array of gaming material over the past few years and I'm certain that other gamers will appreciate some of these more than I. I figure that these can help pay the bills or other things I either want or need.

This sale will be posted here (of course) and a couple of the forums I frequent. Probably all will lead to a page I'll set up with items... prices... and other pertinent details. Items that don't move will either have a price revision or wind up on ebay since different gamers and crowds focus on different things. The only other thing I'll add is that it won't all go up at the same time. Trying to part with a book is like pulling teeth. I expect I'll try and get this done in small batches.

Should I falter, I guess all I need to do is consider her to strengthen my resolve a bit:


News of the sale will be up when it's ready I guess. I'm not sure when this will be.

Now... in the next few days, I seriously owe my readers a couple of interesting posts. I will deliver these posts. Thanks for reading!

M

Updates...

It's been confirmed.  I've received word that the full sized edition of the 'Secret of Ronan Skerry' has been sent to the distributors a few days ago which means it's just a matter of time before it starts showing up on the shelves of reputable game stores.

Aside from that:
  • 'DB6: Dwellers in the Darkness'  is out and should soon be announced as available from TLG for C&C
  • 'Of Gods & Monsters' has also been made available in PDF format at various electronic retailers such as RPGNow!  Actually, it's been available for a week or two...
  • The next Dragons of Aihrde accessory should be out soon and I suspect will make it out before the end of the month and the next Dwarven Glory installment is also rumored to be coming out in the next little while.
I hope to have more news soon...

M

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

Friday, October 30, 2009

What is this 'SIEGE Engine' anyway?

Some people who have heard about Castles & Crusades may not know much about it. Others may have read a reference about the 'SIEGE Engine' but not actually know what this is referring to. I'll be honest and admit that I haven't tried to systematically try to explain what it is very often and usually I explain the concepts to a new player during character creation. Most of it is quite intuitive and I haven't had a player who didn't understand the key concepts. However, a basic explanation and background might be beneficial to those who stumble upon this blog.

Basically, the SIEGE Engine is the underlying system and mechanic which the game is built up on. Now C&C has many similarities to what I refer to as 'classic D&D' and AD&D. It is a level-based game whereby you choose a character archetype to play and each character has six key attributes to help quantify their strengths and limitations.

With both D&D and AD&D, you had certain differences aside from one of them being referred to as 'Advanced'. The only reason I bring this up is that AD&D also led to the introduction of a proficiency based system. This was basically the introduction of a more complete skill system to the game. At first it was introduced as an option, but with the advent of AD&D 2nd Edition, it became recognized as a core concept. Classic D&D on the other hand didn't have this kind of itemized skill system. It kept things relatively simple but in no way was this inferior. Both games had their strengths and people preferred one over the other as more of a matter of taste. Both games also had certain classes with key skills (notably the Thief) and resolution for these special skills were built into the class. They both used a similar system of Saves -- a five category system to answer the needs of a Fantasy role playing game. However, the game also had different methods to resolve different sort of tasks. Some things required a high roll and the dice and others a low roll. Some used a d20 and others used percentile dice.

WOTC changed the shape of the game when they bought TSR and put out what they called 3rd Edition. No longer was there a differentiation between D&D and AD&D; it became one line which clearly progressed from AD&D 2nd Edition. They took the various ways to resolve saves, skills, and abilities, and unified the manner in which these were resolved. Only one die-type was needed -- the d20.

Now, what does all this have to do with Castles & Crusades? Well, 3rd Edition also introduced a new style of play and a level of book keeping that some just didn't like. Suffice to say that some gamers longed for an older style of play and something that was considered 'rules-light' to better achieve this. There was no doubt that key improvements had been made with the advent of 3rd Edition but there already existed some some great, foundational material.

Work on Castles & Crusades began and the SIEGE Engine quite simply was the attempt to reconcile certain features from the newer 'd20 based' system but be in keeping with the older style of games that came before it.

For skills, it adopts the philosophy found in Classic D&D -- there are no itemized skill lists though certain classes (like that Rogue again) had skill-like abilities built into the class. However, one key difference exists. This is the designation of certain abilities as 'Prime'. These Primes represent an additional advantage the character has with regards to those specific abilities for the purposes of task and skill resolution as well as saving throws. The designation of a Prime means that the associated ability need not be high score for the character to be competent at doing certain things. A fighter may naturally be strong because of his stats but may also be modeled as an intelligent or wise tactician because of which stats have been designated as Prime stats.

One way to perhaps illustrate this concept would be an example of a character who knows how to use a particular ability to their best advantage compared to someone who doesn't. In this way for example, someone who knows how to best use their strength to complete a task may end up doing better compared to another character who doesn't even if they happen to be the physically stronger of the two.

As briefly mentioned these primary attributes will also affect saving throws. C&C links different saving throws to each of the six main attributes which hadn't been the case. Though it means that there is no 'dump' stat for each character now, the selection of primes can make a significant difference and help offset a low ability score. The game rational is that the character has probably 'worked' to compensate for this shortfall.

Each attribute will have a modifier attached to it, which will also factor into these die rolls as will the actual level of the character. In this way, a 8th level character will be much better at accomplishing the sort of tasks or making his save compared to what he was like at 2nd level.

The inclusion of these Prime Attributes helps to provide an additional level of 'customization' than what Classic D&D offered but without adding the complexities that AD&D only began to introduce. Finally, it also uses the d20 to accomplish all these things but remains consistent in how it's done.

I guess that rounds off the basics on what the Siege mechanic represents for C&C. I'm just hoping I did an adequate job at trying to explain it.

M

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Yet another Blog...

It's been a little less than two months since I decided to focus my efforts and form up Arcana Creations -- a design studio of sorts with the purpose to help produce material for my favorite hobby. With the efforts made on 'The Secret of Ronan Skerry' about to go to print and into distribution, and with the recent release of a digest-sized conversion of 'The Ruins of Ramat' for the Castles & Crusades role playing game, my friend John from Brave Halfling Publishing had another idea.

'Why don't you start up a blog?'

Well, I gave it some thought. The idea on one that also dealt with C&C, the Siege Engine, and some of the things I'm doing didn't seem to be a bad one either. However, I realize that some of the regular bloggers do so successfully with dedication and effort. Since my focus would also gravitate towards C&C and the Siege Engine, I thought that 'Under Siege' might be an apt name for the blog.

Hopefully, this will prove to be a enjoyable experience -- both for the reader and the writer.

M