What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Yarr! The Pirate ArrPG

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Real Magic

Today I read

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weekend R&R: Random Esoteric Creature Generator

I made mention in my last post about James Raggi and the difficulties he has had with the 'Insect Shrine' release -- a release which has never seen the light of day. The point I tried to illustrate was that sometimes things happen despite the best of intentions. I didn't mention that Jim had essentially rectified the situation with those who had pre-ordered. Needless to say, LotFP has done very well for itself since, and serves as an example of how a bad turn of events doesn't have to set the tone for other projects.

Kudos

Now, while on the subject of LotFP products, I thought it would be nice to talk about the first product I have had the pleasure to buy and use written by James -- 'The Random Esoteric Creature Generator' (henceforth referred as RECG). I ordered a copy of the book once hearing of it's release back in 2008 not knowing exactly what to expect. If I remember correctly, the price included shipping to anywhere in the world and a PDF copy of the work for something just below 5 euros. It sounded like a good bang for the buck and it sounded like something that would pay off real quickly for my game.

I loved the PDF when I received it, and was happy to see the physical copy when it showed up in my mail box. The paper copy was certainly not the polished looking product that we see today but there was something very nostalgic about it. Even the art exuded a certain 'old school charm'. This accessory has certainly made an impact in my game as well as the gaming community as another version was published by Goodman Games a year or two later. Despite the clearly polished look which the new version has been given, it is the original one that I peruse when I see need of it. It holds a special place -- secure in my C&C White Box (itself a tribute of sorts to the D&D Whitebox) along Geoffrey McKinney's Carcosa. Interestingly enough, LotFP has just recently put out a new version of Carcosa which looks beautiful and is on my 'Must Get List'.

The differences between the two version of the RECG are extremely minor but, in either presentation, it's an accessory I just love picking up and playing with. I have made some notable critters for use in my campaigns time and time again and, if I only could have a handful of gaming books, this would be one I'd want to keep. As it stands, it is a resource I have with me for when I need it thanks to the convenience of PDF -- it's one of the books I have loaded up on my tablet.

That said, what is it? Well, the title pretty much says it all. It's an accessory you use to create creatures with random abilities and features. It has tables covering Body Shape, Characteristics, Size, Movement, Attack, Special Abilities, Motivation, and quite a bit more. Depending on the version you are looking at, 26 to 32 pages of material is included in this little, indispensable accessory.

Suffice to say, it is an accessory that I cannot ever recommend enough to my fellow gamers. While I don't believe the original edition of the accessory is available anywhere anymore, the Goodman Games version is still available either as a PDF or physical copy. Noble Knight Games actually has it on sale right now for $6.49 which is basically 50% off the cover price. Oh... did I forget to mention that it was pretty much system neutral? If you don't have it... get it. :)

One last bit of trivia concerning this accessory -- I found it interesting to read that the roots of this project go back to some of the work that was being developed for the 'Insect Shrine'. A handful of tables for creature generation basically grew beyond the scope of the project it was originally intended for. If it hadn't been for that, this accessory may have never seen the light of day.

Thanks for reading!

M

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Standpoint on Pre-Order Issues

This is a topic I wanted to touch upon a couple of days ago but I decided to let it 'sit' a bit to try and gain a better perspective on the situation. Recently, I have read various disparaging remarks concerning pre-order situations -- some of which may be leveled at Brave Halfling Publishing but could apply to many other Publishers in the hobby. This saddens be a bit to be honest.

On the one hand, I completely get it from a consumer standpoint. I have (and do continue) to pre-order a variety of things. These are the occasional book, RPG item, or even video games. The most I have ever paid for a pre-order would be the Classic Monsters kickstart effort which works out to $100. Great value there but, judging by original timeframe, I should have had the PDF version of it for a couple of weeks now (it's supposedly at the printer right now). That said, it's TLG and, well, I'm kind of accustomed to waiting a while with them. All one needs to recall is the saga and many revisions of the Castle Keepers Guide. ;)

However, there have been some pre-orders which went from days to weeks, and then months. But this isn't exactly new either. There is a thread that talks about the very problem which is at the heart of the issue over on Dragonsfoot from back at the start of 2008, I encourage you to check it out HERE.

Of particular note, Jim (of LotFP) writes about the state of the 'Insect Shrine of Goblin Hill'. Judging by what he wrote, it had been about 15 months since he started taking pre-orders for the thing which puts it back to 2006. In Fall of 2009, it still wasn't released. In between of all that? Real life issues which included a divorce.

Given that I have also had my share of Real Life issues in the past, I can completely relate to this sort of unfortunate turn of events. Sometime the unexpected will take you for a loop but what gets me is how quickly some people out there quickly forgets that most of these are one-man operations to begin with.

James Mishler has great aspirations for his line of C&C Wilderlands material. He was going to put out the Adventure Games Journal and the first issue, though delayed by a few months, was fantastic. All in all, the model and publishing schedule he had set up never materialized and a few years later, AGP disappeared. During the course of the many challenges James Mishler has had to contend with, he tried to change the model of AGP a couple of times. While most of the subscribers were supportive and understanding, other questions such as why he was developing all this other material instead of focusing on the principal responsibility of putting out the journal for which he collected subscriptions for. As a subscriber myself, I was supportive but also wished some of his efforts were more concentrated on the journal. Personally, I didn't care if the format changed in the journal since ALL of his material was excellent. Bottom line though, is we can't always control what happens but when you are a one-man operation, the impact is compounded many times over.

John from BHP has also had his share of challenges in the past couple of years like many others. Delays with some of his projects such as Delving Deeper has given him pause and he is restructuring how future projects are going to be handled going forward. On the one hand, he does have some people handle different projects in order for him to better concentrate on other ones. My partnership with John is an example of this. Brave Halfling Publishing doesn't work directly on material for C&C -- Arcana Creations does.

Despite some of our difficulties, we tend to do it for the love of the hobby and not the money. If any of us stumbles and 'falls'... hopefully, we'll just be able to pick ourselves up from the ground and keep on going. I know I took a nasty fall and one of my biggest regrets is not being able to bring about the vision I had for 'Victorious'. Consequently, 2011 was not a good year at all for me. I'm working hard to change that for this year with the 'Ballista Companion Rulebook' as well as a few, longstanding C&C titles I've got on the back burner.

Of course, I never did any pre-orders for Victorious or other projects I didn't deliver on either. That alone differentiates my situation somewhat with how others were affected. I can say that we did consider it at some point but only upon reaching one of the final stages in development. This would have funded the initial print run. Other small publishers may do pre-orders to pay for other aspects such as art or even supplemental writing for a particular project. I think this approach is problematic at best.

My advice? Accept pre-orders from small, hobby publishers for what they are: An order for something that is still in development. Consider who you are dealing with. Have they released other material in the past or is this a first time thing? Consider the possibility that you may not get the finished product in your hands for several months. If you can't handle any of those terms, don't pre-order but please show us your support and encouragement at various cons, blogs, forums, and the like.

M

I Pity the FULE !

Hehe... I blog from my mobile phone, my tablet, the blogger web interface, and via Scribefire (a Firefox Addon/Extension). I ran into a couple of issues with my last post which prompted me to delete and re-post. There should only be one viewable now but depending on the feed reader, you may have a couple of them depending on the refresh. Of course, when I re-posted, I didn't notice the typo I had given it. It's been corrected now from 'Fule Clarifications to Rule Clarifications'.

I've also noticed inconsistency with how some of my written posts appear. This is likely due to the varying sources with which I write and post from. Apologies to those who have problems viewing said posts. If you do experience difficulties, please drop me a polite little note and I'll see if I can correct or at least find the root of the issue.

I'll be posting later on today and again tomorrow evening for my Weekend R&R post.

Thanks,

M

20 Rules Clarifications

Saw a couple blogs I follow which answered these 20 questions pertaining to their campaigns and thought it would be fun to play along. The original post can be found HERE.
  1. Ability scores generation method? 4d6 and drop the lowest die UNLESS it is a one (provides a range of 3-19). You think it generous? I don't given that it won't help them live much longer. ;)
  2. How are death and dying handled? Dead at -10 hp. Unconscious at 0 or below. Will bleed out and die at a rate of 1 hp per round at -5 or below.
  3. What about raising the dead? Rare... expensive... and requiring those seeking it to be favored by the Divine.
  4. How are replacement PCs handled? With contempt. ;)
  5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else? PCs and principal foes get individual ... henchmen, followers and mooks get group initiative.
  6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? Yes. A critical hit will deal anywhere from double to triple damage. A fumble is left to my whims.
  7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? Not really.
  8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? Absolutely!
  9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? There will be a lot of 'Kill or be killed' situations but there is always a chance for victory and there isn't (much) shame in running in order to fight another day.
  10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no? Yes.
  11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? Yes but these are usually avoidable.
  12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? I don't let it slow down the pace of the game so I grant some leeway as long as the player's maintain common sense.
  13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? Levels are largely experiential and no training is required to 'officially' level up. New spells are NOT granted automatically. Leveling can happen in the middle of an adventure.
  14. What do I get experience for? Defeating and overcoming challenges as well as roleplaying and strategy. Challenges can be anything from traps to killing monsters or avoiding perilous situations.
  15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? I like the common sense / description approach to trap finding and use dice rolling in conjunction with it.
  16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? Retainers are neither encouraged nor discouraged -- Morale is determined case by case.
  17. How do I identify magic items? Research and knowledge along with magic.
  18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? No... but potions may be available with a sizable donation at larger temples provided that the task/quest is 'sanctioned' .
  19. Can I create magic items? When and how? No... magic is rare and the efforts are just too time consuming for an adventurer.
  20. What about splitting the party? Sure.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Published Campaign Settings & The New Aihrde Codex

Published Campaign Settings are the sort of things I typically love but seldom make use of. When I do, I tend to stick to 'just the one'. Of course, there is nothing to stop me from mining others for use in my own game.

When I first started in the hobby, I basically grabbed the Forgotten Realms set... Keep in mind, that we aren't talking about what we all know think of when I mention the Realms now, but rather a setting that was still waiting to be massively exploited. When I started, all I had was the original 1st edition box set and within a year or so, accessories which numbered from FR1 to FR6. And even then, I chose to center my campaign in a small little valley known as Bloodstone Pass which linked the countries of Vassa and Damara. And that was it... I didn't really need much else. But because TSR decided to make a darling of the Forgotten Realms -- especially as it rolled into 2nd edition, novels became plentiful as were future accessories.

I ran a solid campaign in the Realms for a solid 5 years and then retired it. During that time, I easily had a dozen players, though only one session ever had all of them in attendance. As a player, I had a couple of friends that ran different settings ... one preferred Dragonlance and another did his own though influenced by Greyhawk. I suppose those were the 'golden years' and, on average, we did a couple of games per week. Running the Realms in the earlier days was pleasant enough in part because I didn't feel constrained by a setting that was OVERLY detailed. At first the novels were great because it gave the players a better sense and appreciation for the setting they also happened to adventure in. Unfortunately, the more that got published, and the more the mystery of exploring a setting dissipated. I feel I gave it a fair send off as ideas developed in the back of my mind for a setting of my own design.

My own ideas for a setting didn't really materialize for a few years but I didn't or play anything that was D&D related either. The chance to put some of this into action came about with 3rd Edition. Fun but brief would be the best way to describe it. Nothing wrong with the concept or setting I was putting together but 3rd Edition proved to be an interesting beast to manage and working full time has a different effect on what my social life than when I was a student.

Nonetheless, over the years I have bought many a book, supplement, and box set detailing a whole array of settings. This ranged from various incarnations of the Wilderlands... different offerings from TSR... Chaosium's interpretation of Thieves World... to quite a number of d20 iterations. There are many I have favored for one reason or another and some have made for an interesting venue for adventure even if for only a short time.

Eventually, and largely due to exploring their past d20 catalog, I found TLG's "After Winter's Dark" accessory. This was amongst the first material they put out -- right before the big d20 boom. This would have been 5 years before they published C&C. It was an interesting little accessory which was maybe 20 pages in length but it presented some very interesting concepts which were very similar to some of the concepts I had outlined for my idea for a setting. Similar... not the same -- but I loved the direction they seemed to take it. Then again, at 20 pages, it was a very brief look. The setting was called Erde (back then) and they put out a very interesting hardback for it as well. The greatest thing about the setting is that they give a good summary of the history but still leave plenty open for exploration and personal campaigns. The book is positively jam-packed for ideas and inspiration. In my opinion, the setting is very fertile for the imagination.

With TLG focusing on C&C, the "After Winter's Dark" accessory got a hefty refresh and is presented in a nice folio with maps and a couple of saddle stitched books detailing aspects of the setting. This was done 2-3 years back at the same time as they put out Gygax's East-Mark Gazetteer. At that point, they mentioned that the Codex of Erde (the main setting book) would also be getting a refresh. Well, it's taken a few years but a pre-order page has been put up for it HERE.

The final product is for a 250+ hardback coming with two 12"x18" maps which, judging by it's d20 predecessor, will have almost no crunch (less than 10%) making it viable for other systems other than C&C. MSRP is $34.99

Now while the price is pretty good -- the pre-order might be more interesting since they've patterned it off various kickstarter efforts ... different tiers. $15 gets you the PDF when it's ready and $20 gives you a softcover (perfect bound with maps) book along with the PDF. Great value if you ask me. There are other higher tiers where they throw in other interesting offers... I mean if you go for 5$ more than the MSRP, you get the hardback, PDF, and a Campaign Diary (tracker). The point I'm trying to make here is that these are decent values for the money.

But what about the original Codex? For those not caring about the 'C&C treatment', you can probably still find the d20 Codex of Erde for a reasonable price (new *or* second-hand). Noble Knight Games has a copy new in shrink for $9.95 or a NM copy for $9. Actually, just as recent this weekend, I saw a copy in the discount section of the FLGS for $5 (still in shrink). Make no mistake -- it's not crap but it was just one of MANY products that flooded the d20 market at the time. But if you're not going to run it but wouldn't mind mining it for ideas, a sub-$10 purchase for a hardback is not too shabby either.

In any event Erde (or Aihrde as it is now spelled) has been the setting I adopted for use in my own campaign and have for the past 5 years with C&C. It gives me the flexibility I want in a setting and provides a large and clean canvas to further customize my campaigns. Pretty important when time is at a premium these days. :) I'll be picking this up and will continue to use it ... at least till the new setting I'm working on for Ballista is done... or until I get fed up and cast the characters to Carcosa.

Thanks for reading!

M

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Spirit of the OGL

The Open Game License is a wonderful and powerful thing. The OGL came about in 2000 and was published by Wizards of the Coast to facilitate the spread of ideas and third support for Dungeons & Dragons (3rd Edition) with the use of an SRD they made available. It's been about 12 years now and the hobby has already seen the d20 boom and near collapse. Many small publishers have come and gone having put out various products to run with 3rd Ed. Others have chosen to use the OGL and SRD to create their own game or re-create others that have once been published. Castles & Crusades was one of these and there were many others to follow.

Recently, there have been a call to try and do another SRD for C&C. In principal, I don't think there is anything wrong with that. Unfortunately, I think there is a lack of understanding on the OGL as well as the spirit for which it was intended.

A good OGL will actually tell you what you can use as Open Game Content -- meaning that this material can be used in other products 'as-written', as needed provided that proper care is taken to cite the source and include it with the OGL which needs to accompany whatever you are using it for. A good OGL will tell you what you can't use, or at least provide guidelines. Some of the best examples can be found with various d20 products from Necromancer Games.

However, while permitted to do so, I'm sure that WOTC never anticipated Mongoose just take the text of the SRD and throw it together in a Pocket Player's Handbook to use as a substitute for their own PHB. Frankly, that's just bad form even if it's perfectly legal.

Why does this happen? Well, I suppose in some cases, it's as simple as a small publisher or individual who want to release stuff under the OGL that doesn't necessarily understand the whole thing or, maybe it's a simple mistake or omission of an important piece of information within the OGL. In other cases, it's also simple assumptions from fans wanting to use the material. They see OGL and think Open Game Content!

I had a good look at what was Open Game Content and what was not in the C&C PHB. It's quite nicely detailed and there is a lot of it. One of the things which is *NOT* listed as OGC is the 'Attributes & The Game' which detail the use of the Siege Mechanic. The Siege Engine is also listed as product IP. It's one of the very few things that is 'closed'. TLG has chosen to be very liberal with what they are allowing to be kept open.

But does this mean an SRD should include all the text, word for word from the PHB because it's declared OGC? Well, legally yeah. But I really think it's bad form if you do but that is just *my* opinion.

A few months ago, this sort of thing happened and a well intentioned fan did just that. There was something of an uproar from certain fans and ultimately, it was taken down. I'm not going to dwell on what should have been done or shouldn't. My understanding is that it was amicable enough and that's fine with me. But my understanding is that it was perfectly legal.

I just don't know if it was in the exact spirit of the OGL. That said, with the renewed discussion about a possible C&C SRD, it's only a matter of time before one surfaces and I think this is a very good thing.

M

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekend R&R: Realms of Fantasy - To Hell & Back

I mentioned last week what could best be described as a buying spree in the months following my initial involvement with Castles & Crusades. Because of it's compatibility, I was able to buy d20 as well as continue acquiring various older D&D and AD&D products. One of the things I stumbled back then was a sale that Mayfair Games was doing on their Role Aids line. This was years after Mayfair stopped producing this line and was clearly set up to sell all remaining stock which they still had in a warehouse somewhere. The books were sold in 'lots' which contained several titles. I had never really seen a Role Aids product before but the price was certainly right and it was 'compatible'. Some people like it and others less so but in all cases, there was certainly enough to mine from.

One of the box sets I received in my order was entitled 'Realms of Fantasy - To Hell & Back'. It was one that had looked particularly interesting since it provided some campaign / setting based material for Dante's Inferno. The box set was simple enough and, admittedly the production values are probably not as nice as some of the other offerings in the Role Aids line. It was basically a collection of 5 settings: Atlantis, Avalon, the Realm of he Fey (Faerie), the pits of Dante's Inferno, and Selene which takes it's inspiration from Ravenloft. The contents were simple enough, there were two books -- one of which focusing on the Inferno and the other detailing the rest of the setting. Basic fold out maps were provided as well as a series of hold-punched pages of monsters. These were hole punched and meant for inclusion in TSR's Monstrous Compendium binders.

The material contained in the books and sheets is good enough but clearly, the Inferno was the focus of the box set. It begs the question if this was meant as a regular sourcebook instead of the box set earlier on in the design process. While I have enjoyed the Role Aids line as a whole, this isn't my favorite. What it does do is remind us that you don't need much material to have a quality setting. Nigel Findley did a fine job with the writing of the material and enough information is there to fuel the imagination for many an adventure. In fact, the beauty of this set is the fact that any of these can be used in conjuction in a regular campaign since these are other-worldly realms.

There is decent value though lack lustre appearances might see this product passed over for other ones. Unfortunately, the only options available for purchase is restricted to the second-hand market. Noble Knight Games sells a VG+/NM copy at $15.00 which is a good price if the subject matter of the box set is one that would interest you. Personally, I believe that this set is best used as a foundation for a new of short-term campaign.

M

Odds & Ends

This weekend has been a hectic one.

Unfortunately, I've had to deal with a nasty cold for the past few days but I seem to be on the mend.  Despite this, we (my significant other and I) received a house guest this weekend and we attended a 'Murder Mystery' themed party on Saturday night.  The party itself was a complete blast!  I think what made the evening a success was the willingness for people to have fun and roleplay the parts they were given.  It probably helps (and is telling) when the majority of the party guests are gamers in one form or another.

The development of the party and the fact that it was going to be a murder mystery was very quick -- almost last minute.  But I had role in hand, the character was a loud, boisterous, and powerful man and the owner of a Vegas casino.  So with a bit of spare time earlier that afternoon I decided to do a bit of shopping. Aside from the props we picked up for our roles, we were able to find the time to take a slight detour to the local area game store.  I hadn't been there for quite some time, probably close to a year come to think of it, but I was a bit dismayed at what I saw (or didn't see).  I guess my disappointment has more to do with the fact that there seemed to be very little which was really new.  The store had plenty of Pathfinder and D&D (4th Edition) material as well as boat loads of older d20 material still stocking the shelves since they first came out many years ago.  Sure, there were a couple of intersting things -- Jim Raggi's LotFP Weird Fantasy RPG box set was an example but at about $78, it will be there for a long time.  I did pick up a copy of Villains & Vigillantes (the new reprint) for $16.00 which was a nice addition to my collection.

So, accessories in hand and a new book for me to look through,   We went to the party and dressed and played the part giving it my all!  Prizes were given and I took the 'Drama Queen Award' for an award winning performance, as well as the 'Dressed to Kill Award' for best costume.

Aside from all that fun, I talked and shared my plans about Ballista in greater detail with my friend (and weekend guest) as well as my other half -- both of which may take a bit more of an active role in its development.

In other news , I'm happy to say that the Rogue Mage kickstarter has met it's goal with stilll 2 weeks left to go!  There are many great kickstarter efforts out there and it's alsways nice to see that kickstarters for RPG startups are permitting these things to happen and succeed.  Not much else to say though... there are a few more things that are happening but nothing I can really discuss at the moment.  My second installment of 'Weekend R&R' will hopefully be up later this evening but between all the comotion of this weekend which is finally winding down, it might only be up tomorrow night.  I've only got a couple hours before I really need to hit the sack anyway.  ;)

Thanks for reading!

M

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Insight into the Ballista Rules Companion

I had mentioned the changes to Ballista a couple of weeks back and pretty much stated that I was moving away from the concept of a periodical to an actual system and sourcebook which could be used in conjunction with one's game of choice (provided they have roots and compatibility to D&D and SRD material). The OSR community has been blessed with many offerings over the years and, WOTC is actually doing it's part with the AD&D reprints.

However, I haven't gone into much details about Ballista at all and I thought I'd share a few little tidbits to give an idea where I'm going with this. Maybe even suggest a timetable or two. A bit of background first:

Now as much as I love D&D (and by this I am lumping all OD&D through to and including parts of 3rd Edition), no particular edition was perfect and I don't think they will ever be. It's all about personal preference after all. While there were elements I liked about each my ultimate personal preference is playing Castles & Crusades which is a nice blend of 1st edition AD&D with some refinements which 3rd Edition had to offer. All in all, core 2nd edition AD&D is what I played the most during the past 25 years (having been introduced into the hobby between the mid and late 80's). AD&D was always 'the' game for me though we did play other things if we wanted a small break from AD&D. Mind you, this included BECMI D&D as one of the different options we chose. ;)

Today, thanks to the OGL and SRD, we have more options and various of these make little modifications here and there where as others stay true to the original design. In any case, they tend to be all pretty recognizable. Sometimes a bit too recognizable. In the end, I think this is also my disappointment with the hobby -- there just isn't enough variation to distinguish most OSR efforts from others. There are certainly favorites among them and I don't mean to say that any of these are bad either but in the end, if you liked one particular 'flavor' -- say Labyrinth Lord but liked what another game did. It becomes fairly easy for someone to just incorporate that element into your Labyrinth Lord campaign.

I don't want Ballista to be 'yet another clone variation'. Some material will hopefully be fresh and accessible enough to make aspects of it really stand out. At the same time, I want the larger whole to be 'familiar' to those who pick it up for the first time. In the end, I would rather see it used in conjunction with the game you play -- whether this is the AD&D, C&C, Delving Deeper, Labyrinth Lord, 3rd Edition D&D, or whatever. If someone takes Ballista and runs with the system 'as-is', well they'll still get a complete and comprehensive package needed to do so.

Development for the Rules Companion has 3 phases:

1) Character Creation and Skills - This is largely done right now and most has been completed for several months now. Part of this section was the foundation of an article which was to be published in the first issue when the project was still being considered as a periodical. While the system still employs an Archetype / Level system, it differs in the sense that you don't chose a class but rather build one. In conjunction with this there is a basic skill list which needs to be finalized and a section for races still need to be considered.

Anticipated Completion: 2-4 weeks. There will be more playtesting done using characters created with Ballista but employing a rule set from an existing system (likely C&C). The playtesting will likely be conducted online via Skype or other medium towards the end of that time frame.

2) Magic - This subsection of Ballista is a pain in the ass but the theory and ground work has been laid out. It needs to be tightened up, simplified, and remain in scale with existing vancian systems in case people wish to replace or use this system in conjunction with existing magic systems. Did I mention this was a pain?

Anticipated Completion: I don't have a firm ETA as of yet on this but, I figure it will be about 6-8 weeks. Phase 2 of playtesting for this will stack with previously tested material in late March or early April.

3) Combat and Task Resolution: While there are elements new in the Ballista system, nothing is inherently problematic in terms of balance. It is decidedly grittier if using all the proposed rules in this section (as far a combat is concerned) but remains simple enough to use in-game.

Anticipated Completion: No more than 4-6 weeks. Playtesting at this phase involves complete trials of system as a whole.

Now, based on what I have revealed here, we should see completed rules documentation by mid-April. This includes much of the layout though art will still need to be contemplated. Along with the Rules Companion, material in the form of a Bestiary will be forthcoming along with a setting. This could add a few more weeks to the timeline depending on how the development goes and whether or not I continue to go it alone. For now, I'm keeping details of the setting to myself but it has been something which has been dwelling on my mind a lot the past few weeks.

Beyond the Rules Companion, I do hope to do a line of material for Ballista -- focusing mainly on settings and adventure but, by it's very nature, anything that carries the Ballista logo will be compatible with other game lines.

There should be a release towards the end of April for an adventure with a condensed or light version of the rules to showcase the system as a PDF. We may go as far as do a limited amount of digest print editions of this as well.

The Rules Companion should be a small little hardcover to give it a bit of durability and hopefully add a bit of style for the final product presentation. That's my hope anyway.

I will give more details as the book project progresses.

Many thanks!

M

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Throwing out the Orc Baby with the Bath Water?

One of the many blogs I follow is Jim's of LotFP.  He posted an entry today entitled "What's An Orc Baby's Maximum Strength Score?" as a criticism of some of the crap being tossed around on the WOTC forums talking about the design of the new edition of D&D.  From what I understand, the hot topic which got some people fuming was concerning 'Sexual Dimorphism'.  In what will serve to be a reminder, people who get copies of the AD&D reprints WOTC is putting out will see that, in terms of Strength males and females aren't equal and nor are males or females when comparing to their gender to those of other races.  When I started playing AD&D, I didn't mind that an Elf might not be as strong as a Dwarf and so on... in fact, it made a lot of sense to me back then.  The gender thing was something I just something I ignored.  There are *many* things that I chose to ignore and not use.

However, being someone who had read and followed his blog and publishing efforts for a few years now, I also did have a big laugh at something he wrote:

"Game design is not a checklist, and a good game is more than the sum of its mechanics."

I applaud this comment but I laughed because of who it's coming from given his previously demonstrated distaste for newer editions of D&D and some 'modern gamers'.  Truly, there is nothing wrong with that and I'm sure that without his perseverance and dedication to his vision, we wouldn't be able to enjoy the many fruits of his labors!  My point is that, mechanics *are* important -- if they weren't, Jim may have never found the need to create his Weird Fantasy Roleplaying.  On my end, I would never have been compelled to do the work I'm in the process of now with the Ballista Rules Companion.  Mechanics do count.

But I also know what he's saying here.  Regardless of the mechanic, a great game is about how the story is told, how we all interact, as well as the setting we happen to be exploring.  If there is no good story to be told, then not even the 'perfect game system' will help.  I hope I will enjoy what I see with 5th Edition is released because I was really disappointed with what 4th Edition had to offer.  I had the opportunity to play in a 4th Edition campaign and I had a blast but all that had to do with the story that was being told and the participants and nothing to do with the system.  Again, I completely get what Jim is saying.

Thanks for reading!

M

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rogue Mage RPG Kickstarter

I thought I would give a 'heads up' for those who follow my blog but haven't heard about the Rogue Mage Kickstarter. I have always been one who supported efforts for game designers to achieve their realized goal in putting out good, quality material. Small and independent publishing efforts for our hobby is really where it's at and I think it's what helps keep the hobby alive given the difficulties in this hobby industry.

In this case, Rogue Mage is a role-playing game based on a series of novels written by Faith Hunter but part of the game itself is writen by Christina Stiles who has been involved in some other projects in our beloved hobby. I've seen her work and her attention to detail and it's something that has been in development for the past few years -- including extensive playtesting folks. It's d20 based employing a point-buy system but sounds a bit streamlined compared to what we know from some d20 type games.

Anyway, I encourage you to find out a bit more about Rogue Mage on Faith Hunter's site HERE.

If this is something that sounds interesting, be sure to check out the Kickstarter efforts and support them if this is something you would like to see or, if you are like me, just like supporting more independent and small press RPGs. That link is HERE.

Thanks for reading!

M

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Weekend R&R: City Works (Legends & Lairs)

This is the first in what will be a weekly series ... "Weekend Retrospectives & Reviews" and hopefully they will provide me with an amusing opportunity to share and highlight my thoughts and experiences with a variety of gaming books and systems.

Now, with Mike Mearls being mentioned quite a bit recently with the work being done of the new edition of Dungeon's & Dragons, I thought I would kick off with looking at some of the things he's done in the past. Before he joined up with WOTC, he was a quite a prolific writer and designer in the hobby --amongst some of the stuff he's done, he worked quite a bit with Fantasy Flight Games and had significant contributions in the d20 'Legends & Lairs' series of books.

After being introduced to Castles & Crusades back in 2006, I began acquiring many d20 books as well as some older pre-d20 era material to supplement and source from for my various campaigns. I must of spent a small fortune on material between 2006 and 2008 but was always mindful of great deals when I could get them. By this time, D&D 3.5 was out in force but Pathfinder was nothing more than a new campaign setting by Paizo. This meant several years of huge amounts of d20 material been release -- some of which were designed when the OGL was introduced along with D&D 3.0.

Fantasy Flight Games was one of many game publishers that took advantage of the d20 boom but like many others... some of their products ended up being good deals as inventory was cleared. Fantasy Flight Games themselves have held in the past sales close to X-Mas and it was back at the end of 2006 that I stumbled upon one and their clearance of most of the Legends & Lairs line. City Works was one of them and I was buying these books, all decent enough quality hardcovers, at $5 per book. The book proved to be one hell of a bargain at $5 and part of the reason they were discounted was the simple reason that these were largely made to run with D&D 3.0. The rules differences between 3.5 and 3.0 were, of course, minor and this was hardly an issue for me given that I actually was running a C&C game. With it being largely being C&C compatible, conversions for any thing I might be interested in would have been a synch.

Crunch aside, the book provides an excellent amount of material which can be used for any game. The book itself is broken down in five chapters... Characters, City Basics, City Construction, City Adventures, and finally City Encounters.

Of the all the chapters, the first chapter has the most crunch but even then, takes a nice approach. It presents the typical fantasy archetypes (Barbarians, Fighters, Clerics, etc) and talks about the typical roles they may fill within a city based fantasy campaign. With one of these books meant for third edition, it obviously has a section for new spells and new feats but thankfully, this doesn't go on for pages. It provides a couple new character classes (the Acrobat, Assassin, and Pit Fighter) as well as some Prestige classes.

The next couple of chapters, City Basics and City Construction, really go hand in hand. City Basics really takes a good look at everything from possible origins and histories as well as influences of politics, factions, and economy. This chapter is pretty much 'crunch-free'. The following chapter though really is there to provide tons of information to better help the GM design a city block/section by block/section. If you like tables, then you'll like this chapter and none of these tables are system specific.

The last two chapters really are more for running a campaign within a city... there are more tables in these chapters and, once again, largely can be used with any system though, in some instances were they provide modifiers for various incidents or hazards, they are assuming a d20 based system.

The book also provides a 'preview' chapter of another book from the Legends & Lairs series and most did something like this. I suppose it helped 'pad' the book and provided an easy way to showcase other books in what was (and still in) and excellent and often under-appreciated series. The preview in this case was all fluff/no crunch section of 'Sorcery & Steam'. Quite nice actually though it might not be everyone's cup of tea. All in all, the hardcover runs at 175 pages and the original MSRP was $24.95 -- a good value for what it was. It's a book that seems to have held at least some of it's value though and I haven't personally seen many used copies of the books since I originally picked mine up. Noble Knight Games has a NM- copy of it for $24.00. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like a PDF copy is available at RPGNow! (though others from the line are)

All in all, a solid addition to your gaming collection *if* the price is right. If you don't have any sort of city book or have no idea where to begin to get a city campaign up and going, it's worth taking a look. On the other hand, if you've already been running a successful city based campaign, or already have decent material to draw from for running and designing such a campaign, you might not find much value besides the various random tables the book provides.

Thanks for reading!

M

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Epic Levels

James Maliszewski wrote an interesting post earlier today over at Grognardia entitled 'High Levels'. He presents a few interesting points to be sure and begins examining the LBB OD&D books and how subsequent supplements handled high-level play. The point being, the ever often complaint that the games seems to break down at higher levels and how his experience didn't really transcend beyond the 10-12th level range. More to the point, was the game ever really designed with that intention of high level advancement to begin with?

His conclusion? Likely not even if the game leaves the option open.

My opinion differs slightly... While I agree that the game was probably not originally designed with high level play in mind, I think many embraced the idea which is why it became firmly cemented in the game later on. All one has to do is take a look at the BECMI sets where D&D actively explores a level range between 1 and 36 (and even beyond!). The 'Companion Set' in particular also gives rule and guidelines for building and maintaining a stronghold as well as rules for mass combat. I feel that the idea here was to provide a different sort of life for the would be adventurer who now has become powerful and wealthy enough after years of successes. Different sort of challenges for a hero who has become a bit more note worthy. Of course, the 'Immortals Set' only suggest a much higher calling as a character becomes a demi-power in their own right as they transcend mortal bounds. Neither of these may be adequate for a campaign though -- I know I would never use the Immortals Set though it could work for one that was base in the heroic age of classical Greece.

Even if you did away with these other options, does the game really break down at higher levels or is the problem more with how the game is run and what resources are being made available?

I know that 3rd Edition play has it's issues but the 'breakdown' is just more visible because of how the combat tends to slow down at higher levels because of the multitude of FEATs and powers available. I don't think pre-3rd edition D&D is as bad though there are still issues if we consider the Wizards. I suppose the problem with the system is how powerful the magic gets at epic level play compared to the poor thief or fighter. Many think the Fighter a 'one-trick pony' and a thief the equivalent of a 'red shirt'. Each class has their strengths and weaknesses but spellcasting classes tend to really outshine them in the end.

This is probably why the campaign has to change and adapt to keep things fresh. While it is perfectly acceptable to have a spellcaster wield the power that he does, there should be times that magic nor might are the answer to resolve the situation the characters may find themselves in. Having a wizard blow apart an enemy army SHOULD have consequences and what might be an easy answer should have every assassin for leagues out to kill the wizard as a result.

However, there probably weren't many 'powerful' challenges / monsters created at the outset simply because the focus was probably for lower level play. With tougher challenges more limited what do you do? Throw more and more fodder at them? Create newer and bigger creatures? Why not just other villains and mercenaries just as competent as the party is? Sounds to me, that might be the easiest option and a great way to play out campaign backstory ideas you've been sitting on.

Mechanically speaking, this is where the SIEGE which can based on your opponent's HD and level keeps the game interesting and success is never a given for a particular task. I suppose one could tweak a few other things in the game if one wanted to run something meant for high level play. Check out how the 'E6' rules are set up if you haven't seen it before -- a brilliant set of rules meant to cap 3rd Edition play to 6th level to preserve the thrill of the game and prevent some of the breakdowns people complain about in the first place.

In any event, the only point one needs to remember is why you are doing it the first place -- the enjoyment to take part and tell a story. Some people may prefer to build up to these epic levels and may take years to get there. Others may opt to do a limited story-arc and create higher level characters for the purposes to play a particular style of game. A good GM and group should be able to navigate the pitfalls of higher level play.

One of my most memorable adventures I ran was through the Mines of Bloodstone (H2). It was brutal and pushed characters to ridiculous limits but it was fun! I do want to run it again but, on average, the couple of campaigns that I have progressing consist of characters about 10 levels short from the recommendations. Even then, I would have to change a few things since some of the challenges were a bit obscene. ;)

Thanks for reading!

M

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Critical Hits & Hit Locations

Here's a little something I came across when going through some of my notes. This is something I had initially thrown together for Zombie Siege (currently in development hell) and will be appearing (in some form) in the Ballista. Nothing fancy here but simple and functional. I find it's pretty easy to remember or, worse case, even jot down on a sticky note for your DM screen.

On a critical hit, roll 2d6:

Roll - Result (Game Effect)
====================
02 - Head shot / Right between the Eyes (Character Death)
03 - Weapon Arm / Primary Hand (Drops weapon or item. Triple Damage)
04 - Arm (Double Damage)
05 - Arm (Double Damage)
06 - Torso / Body Shot (Double Damage)
07 - Torso / Body Shot (Double Damage)
08 - Torso / Body Shot (Double Damage)
09 - Leg (Double Damage)
10 - Leg (Double Damage)
11 - Knee (Character Drops to Ground. Triple Damage)
12 - Right through the chest / Heart (Character Death)

Optionally, a roll of a two can be used for decapitations as well but the importance attached is death or near death. If you rather not kill a character, I suppose you could quadruple the damage, knock them unconscious, or just put them in a coma. Same thing for number 12, the intent was death but knocking a character out of the combat or ramping up the damage are options. Rolls of 3 or 11 could also be a simple severing of a limb if you are looking for something a bit grittier.

Why do this chart in this way? Well, there are 36 possible dice combinations with rolling 2d6 and of this, the 7 is the most common. On the other hand, to achieve a 2 or a 12, each only has 1 possible dice combination (2 ones or 2 sixes). The chart was built with these odds in mind.

Beware though, these could ramp up the grittiness of your campaign. Please enjoy responsibly!

M

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Skills & C&C

C&C has been out for quite a few years now and every now and then, I check in to see how new people are fairing with the game.  It's always refreshing to see the enjoyment and 'magic' that some of these players find when discovering C&C.  By 'magic', I mean the rush and enjoyment a lot of us experienced when we where first embarking into the hobby.  Invariably though, time and time again, the same nagging little issues are brought up with regards to C&C.  But hey, what game system is perfect right?

That said, I wonder why so many of these concerns are centered around the Siege mechanic and task resolution in the game.  Like any game worth its salt, the rules presented are basically guidelines which can be used if the the GM chooses to.  Personally, I think it's brilliant for a few very basic reasons:

- It bakes in and ties Saves to every stat (no more dump stats)!
- It presents a system for task resoultions without the need for a detailed and itemized skill list
- It does away with opposed rolls for task/saves (though easily put in if felt it is required)

Best of all, it is really a compromise between a system which had no skills (like original D&D) and those which put them in (2nd Edition and 3.x).  The thing here is that it really doesn't have to be complicated.  If people doen't like the way it constantly scales up with tougher opponents -- don't use that as the modifier!  I mean, when it comes to locks and a party is breaking into a tower owned by a 20th level wizard, does it *have* to mean, he put in the lock himself?  No!  Of course not!  He's got either got lackies or bought the lock from a local locksmith.  Same things does with a variety of traps and hazards put in place.   If you want opposed rolls -- just do away with with the challenge base altogether and just roll!

More imprtant that all of that, keep these kind of checks to a minimum!  Third Edition and d20 derived games tought us some very bad habbits by getting us to roll for skill checks every chance we get.  Ask yourself if the roll is actually needed.  More importantly, is the roll the ONLY way to get passed a challenge and, if it is, CHANGE IT.

The Siege system presents a simple way to handle task resolution without burdening the game system with unnecessary complexity.  It's not meant to be perfect, it is meant to be simple enough so that people can focus more on the story -- much like any decent rules-light game.  If it is not 'ideal' -- just tweak it!

M

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Rollercoasters

People who know me even a bit know that I love my gaming.  This isn't just restricted to pen and paper based role-playing games but as sorts from boardgaming to traditional cards to all sorts of video games.  I own an XBox 360 (and have for the past 3 years or so) and before hand, my video game fix was facilitated by a PC.  A video game, much like a campaign in a RPG can be a great medium to tell a great and compelling story.  Unfortunately, like an adventure scenario, players may feel railroaded along a predetermined set of encounters of challenges.

Now of course, videogames are going to do this -- it's a program designed from start to end to respond to a particular set of variables from start to finish.  However, some do it better that others.  You have on one end of the equation games like Fallout 3 or the latest Elder Scrolls game, Skyrim.  These are pretty much a sandbox -- you can do whatever you want within that sandbox and the actions and path you take will affect the outcome of the games in different ways.  Much to the game designers and programmers credit, this is as open as you can conceive a video game experience to be.  Most good games play like a good movie or novel -- they throw twists and turn and draw you in as you participate in unfolding the events that move the story forward.  A good story will make the participants forget that you are following a script.  Either of these approached when it comes to playing in a campaign is fine and with the players participating in writing the script, as long as the GM is a good GM, no one will know for certainly what will happen next.  There is nothing wrong with either of these two game designs.

The greatest sin is having an experience where it is painfully obvious and you are almost beaten on the head repeatedly with the fact that there is but one correct path for the game.  This is when the game experienced goes beyong 'railroaded' but really is a rollercoaster ride.  This is how I differentiate the two.  Railroading means being forced down a particular path but despite this, how the participants go down the path is still up for variation and choice.  At the very least, it is an illusion of choice.  A rollarcoaster ride means not only are you on rails going towards a specific objective, but all the twists and turns are identical.  This is game design at its worse.

I bring this up, not because of a bad campaign I ran or one that I've participated in but a video game I've recently been playing.  The video game itself wasn't a big hit and, from what I understand, it almost wasn't made or completed.  However, there were elements that I found really appealling and, for the price I paid, there was fantastic value for the dollar.  For the curious, the game in question is called 'Wet' (reference to wetworks) and I got the game new for $10.  Most might think that buying any game for $10 is asking for trouble given the typical costs of videogames but it was an older game and reviews were decent for it.  The game is a lot of fun actually and plays / feels like a Tarintino or Rodriguez produced flick.  Specifically, it is very 'Grindhouse' and brings to memory cheesy b-movies playing at a drive through.  Unfortunately, the game also has sequences which are simply very badly designed.  These sequences force the player through a series of moves at key points.  If your character is not in the right space at the right time, the character dies and you have to repeat the sequence over again.  And again.  And so on.  One sequence had you in free fall and you were essentially dodging debris and it was truly over the top and could have been very fun.  However bad design made if more frustrating than anything else and came down to you being forced to do sequences in an exact manner for the story to continue.  Nothing drives me more insane than very bad game design -- no matter the type of game you're playing.  Very few things will break the mood or distract you from the story more than this aside from discusssions (debates) in the middle of a game session because of a poorly implemented rule.  Either way, if forces the game / story to grind to a halt.

M

Friday, February 3, 2012

Problems with the Magic System

When you look at the system of magic in D&D since the beginning, it has always been influenced by the writings of Jack Vance. Well most people who have been the hobby a while know who he is though, sadly, new comers will wonder where the term 'Vancian' when referring to the magic system comes from. Put simply, it's the 'fire and forget' method of casting spells. The caster needs to memorize and prepare the spells to enable them to cast the spell at a later point. There is nothing quite like it but it was a great way to build in a way to limit spellcasters and allow them to grow as the 'level up' by gaining the ability to cast more powerful spells and a greater number of spells to boot.

The first spells introduced to the game were classic spells such as 'Sleep' and 'Magic Missile'. As the game got further developed and revised, more and more spells were added. At some point, game balance and a semblance of 'method' was evident when you looked at newer editions and revisions of spells in the 3rd Edition era of the Game. Some classic fixes to replace the system are spell points. Less powerful spells require fewer points than the higher ones but you are typically still limited by what level you can cast (like the classic Vancian system) but you don't necessarily have the problem of preparing a set list of spells. Of course, the 'Sorcerer' class from 3rd Edition also did away with preparing the set list of spells and exchanged freedom and spontaneous casting for fewer spells able to be used per day.

Now, while there is a distinct charm with a set spell list -- especially if you look at the older 'grandfathered' spells (a bunch of which are in the SRD), a Vancian system of magic can be cumbersome and restrictive. It's perfectly ok to want to limit your spellcasters and preserve a sense of balance in your game but given the fact there hasn't been many other viable choices, it can leave some people a bit frustrated or even bored with the prospect of playing a spellcaster. WOTC really decided to largely do away with it with 4th Edition and while the concepts of Rituals were cool enough, some thought it did the archetype of a spellcaster a disservice.

Personally, regardless of the approach one wants to take, it's the quality of the material on hand that makes or breaks the game. While I love D&D and the wealth of games that derive from it, one of the things that has remained a bit of a disappointment was how magic was approached in the first place. When looking at the wealth of information they could draw from (going from published setting to published setting), very little is concerned with magic. Sure, there is clerical or divine magic and then there was what wizards play with (arcane magic). The Dragonlance setting is probably one of my favorites since it gives a slightly better explanation that the other published settings. There is the influence of the three moons to the three branches of magic (white, red, and black robes) which are associated with three different deities. Depending if the particular moon was waning or waxing, the mages would get penalties or bonuses to their magic. They also had their centers of power (the towers). Divine magic was a bit simpler and was granted by individual deities to their clerics. However, even then, there was a point where this channel was not accessible and this reinforced the idea that power and favor from the gods could be cut off.

But with that said, other settings didn't go beyond this level of detail and many didn't come close to providing this MUCH detail. It was largely up to the DM to provide if they chose to. The creation of specialist schools (largely second edition) was just a way to differentiate but little else in terms of thought was put into systems of magic and the underlying foundation for the purposes of story telling was concerned. Things like spell research and spell components seem almost as a concept just thrown in at the last minute more than anything else. In the end, very little differentiates this system of magic from some of the newer video game take on magic.

Vancian magic is just one step away from power ups.

So, until a suitable alternative presents itself -- give some thought to magic, the divine, and other trappings fit and work together in your campaign. As for alternatives... I'm working on one which may work out for a bunch of people and this will be showcased in the forthcoming "Ballista Companion Rulebook".

Thanks for reading.

M

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Need to Clean House!

I have multitudes of shelves filled with books for a variety of different, pen and paper based, role playing games. I pretty much love them all for one reason or another. :)

But sometimes you come to realize the amount of gaming stuff you have, and how little of it you will actually use. I admit that I like a good deal and, because of when I started to game (back in the day), owning different systems to play many different genres or simply mechanical approaches was completely acceptable!

If I wanted to play a game in Middle Earth, it wasn't D&D that came to mind but rather MERP (Middle Earth Role Playing). Star Wars was Star Wars (ahem... there was only the West End Games d6 version), Shadowrun was Shadowrun, Traveller was Traveller, and Rifts was just messed up. You get the point. D&D (and forgive me if I lump all pre 3rd edition together here) was the game of choice as fantasy was my genre of choice. This was also before the 90's and TSR hadn't alienated me as a consumer yet. All I know was there were many games to be head all with their own systems and I had no qualms what-so-ever about checking them out and acuiring them if I happened to stumble upon them in a hobby shop.

Of course, the 90's kind of burnt me out on the whole D&D thing and while my interest was renewed with 3rd edition, aside from a small campaign I ran when it had just came out, I hadn't really touched it again till about 2005. In fact, I had hardly touched anything related to gaming in a period that lasted about a decade (between 1995 and 2005) and it was during this time where I parted with a couple of things. Unfortunately, when the interest got re-awakened again largely due to C&C and finally cementing a good gaming group, I came to regret a couple of these decisions and, in some cases, began tracking down things I had sold or given away as well as exploring other systems again.

To a degree, exploring other systems and older material in general became important to me for nothing else but because a lot of it was being 'washed away in a see of d20 OGL material'. At least this is what it certainly looked like when visiting my local hobby shop at the time.

I am older and a bit wiser now. It was initially an incident with my cat that shifted my decision to sell some of my gaming material a couple of years ago. And I did manage to sell a small chunk of the collection (which freed up about half a bookshelf). The money was welcome and helped with the bills but it felt oddly comforting to 'free myself' with material that I once loved but knew I wouldn't be using again. I've sold and traded a few things here and there, though nothing quite as substantial as the lot I sold then. For the curious: the lot was the majority of my TSR-era Forgotten Realms material (mostly 1st and early 2nd edition AD&D).

The unfortunate thing is that it can be a time consuming proposition to try and sell these online made more complicated when dealing with the realities of selling 'across borders' with the increased shipping rates it incurs. I have had about two crates of stuff ready to be sold for the better part of a year now and still a few items from a couple of years ago.

I also have a bunch of other stuff I haven't really thought much about and other stuff that I do have an attachment for but know in my mind, I won't touch. A few examples:

I enjoyed Shadowrun, and I have what I need to run a campaign (1st / 2nd edition). I have multiple rulebooks... 1 hardcover and a couple of softcovers as well as some key accessories for it.

I had a love for WEG's d6 Star Wars... I have a CRATE (30 or so books and around 10 of which are hardback) ready to go and that still leaves me with a bunch of that material to run Star Wars if Iwas so inclined.

I have a couple copies of Nephelim... a game which I thought was really cool but ultimately never took off.

I have the majority of the DCC run up to and including the Castle Whiterock. I am missing around 4 modules and considering which 4, it will likely remain incomplete. Even then... I love those products and I don't know if I can part with those.

As an example of some things I have parted with and then got again:

MERP... I had parted with the cool MERP box set I used to have with a few of the sourcebooks but, when Role Master Express was released, I got really nostaligic and just had to track down MERP once again. Fortunately in that case, I was able to get it without spending much money.

Anyway, the list can go on and on... Pendragon... Role Master... Rune Quest... Call of Cthulhu... Stormbringer... Twilight 2000... Twilight 2013... Traveller... Marvel Super Heroes... Rifts... TMNT... Tunnels & Trolls... etc etc etc

Add to that all that d20 material I have also collected in a short period of time and I think it's safe to say that my gaming collection is easily 5x larger than it once was and this was largely accomplished in the past 5 years.

I just need to break the collection down one piece at a time I guess. ;)

M

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kickstarters & Pre-Orders

I think kickstarters and pre-order specials can be neat even if they aren't exactly the same.

Both serve to help fund the project though some of the things that go through Kickstarter usually rely upon a certain amount of funds being raised in order for the project to come to fruition. When we had started putting together Victorious, we had planned to do some sort of pre-order to help offset the costs of our initial print run -- John and I had worked out approximate costs for publication for a run of 'X' copies with the larger balance headed straight into retail stores. All that was needed was to sell 'Y' number of copies. Anything left over from the initial print run would have either come out of our pockets and the extra money would have gone to cover previous expenses that the project incurred.

Aside from what didn't end up happening... Arcana Creation never went the Kickstarter / Pre-order route. The most I could see happening is a pre-order for something once it was in it's last stages prior to a physical production of the product in question and ONLY when Arcana Creations is back on track and regularly producing material.

As a consumer, I don't mind Pre-Ordering a variety of things (sometimes for the benefits of exclusives and other times to ensure I get a copy). I have seen some awesome Kickstarter efforts as well. One of the best in recent memory was TLG's Kickstarter for their 'Classic Monsters' book. Now TLG had made it clear that it was just using Kickstarter as a vehicle to help track and organize the pre-order efforts but I think they set a very nice example given prices and breakdown. They had seven levels of pledges -- lowest being a $1 donation and the highest being $100. In the last days of this 'pre-order' window, I opted for the $100 package.

This is what I'm getting in that package:

- A limited edition copy (includes colour plates) of the Classic Monsters book in Hardcover
- Hardcover copies of the PHB, M&T, and CKG
- Digital copies of all these books
- An adventure module (my choice)
- T-Shirt featuring cover artwork ofthe Classics Monsters book
- And finally, a collection of 20 promotional coins with pouch.

Definite value for my dollar in my books. Of course, other options cost far less and you got less material consequently. Then again, if you already had the other stuff, why spend as much right?

In my case, I had 'most' of the stuff but I didn't have a physical copy of the CKG and am behind with a couple of the modules. Given the typical cost of shipping to Canada and the inclusion of a T-Shirt, I'm still doing quite well and it's a 'break-even' proposition at the very least. The extra PHB and M&T will not be going to waste either... they could easily become gifts or simply extra reference copies at the gaming table. From the sounds of it, this package should be shipping out to me within the next couple of weeks.

Now while I did love their efforts with this, I was less taken with another effort which opened up within a couple of weeks of the last one. It just ended a day or two ago and while I took advantage of it to expressly pre-order the book, I didn't care so much for the other packages being offered. This time, TLG decided to run it off their own page and prices ranged from $1 to $175. Don't get me wrong, the $100 and $175 packages were neat and some of the lower ones interesting as well. I ultimately settled of $25 which is basically a signed copy of the book (softcover) plus a digital copy with the printed maps. It also gives me 5 more of those coins and my name goes in the acknowledgements. For $10 more, I could have named 'something' (the book is largely setting oriented) whether it be an NPC, town, river, etc. Decided the $10 could be better used elsewhere.

At $175, you got the accessory in whatever format you wished ... be it hardcover or boxset with single softcover or 3 booklets and the maps, a hardcover copy of the Monsters & Treasurs of Aihrde, the Winter Dark Setting Folio, a wooden box containing the carved wooden tiles of the runes featured in the new accessory, and a personalized PHB which contains the new class and game system specific information introducedin the accessory.

Some interesting value and some people did go for it (I think there were 6 available at the start of this but I don't know if all 6 were taken) but I didn't find the value matching the value from their first Kickstarter effort. That said, it is still in line with some of the things I have seen on Kickstarter.

While I support these sorts of 'funding' events, I have to say that the frequency between the first and second one that TLG did was probably too soon -- especially coming out of the holidays. I know I wouldn't have gone much higher ($50 included the book in hardcover but also included the folio which I already owned) but it was still nice to see that there was a good spread to choose from if you were so inclined.

Of course, money is not abundant so I haven't exactly been keeping up with some of the other interesting kickstarter efforts (for gaming product) but given the state of the gaming hobby and industry, it seems to be a growing trend.

M