What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
After Winter Dark Campaign Setting

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Periodical Problems - Part II

I mentioned in my last entry the question of resources when it comes to the recent delays with the Crusader.  TLG's video blog (can be found off Facebook) confirms that this is very much the case in 2010.  Largely, projects like the Castle Keeper's Guide and a couple other large ones are the priority this year.  It's not so much an economic issue but rather a 'resource' problem -- meaning to say too few people working on many projects.

This is something I can relate with all to well.

The Castles & Crusades Society's efforts with their own free periodical was constantly suffering with this and still does.  While I'm no longer sure what will come of that, there are other ongoing efforts that might be of interest to some of the fans...

"Fight On!" and "Knockspell" are two periodicals which come to mind which some fans of Castles & Crusades may appreciate.  Fight On! had it's start in the spring of 2008 around the same time that the first issue of the Domesday came out.  I had written a simple review for the Domesday and wasn't even aware of Fight On! till mention of its availability began to appear on certain old-school gaming blogs.  This is a magazine that has managed to keep more or less on schedule and has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of size.  Knockspell on the other hand has only 3 issues to date and looks to have stalled a bit since last summer.  Both had been using a POD such as Lulu though Blackblade Publishing is now taking care of various releases out of Mythmere Games.  I expect the reason there isn't much more available in print is the cost that goes into publishing something like this.  I expect that Fight On! would do well if it cut the cord with Lulu and invested in a print run but the money required to do so might be challenging to acquire.  Once you get it out there, you also need to bank on the idea that sales will pay for the print run at the very least.  Once you start factoring in paying for the talent (artists and writers) on top of production, it becomes a very narrow margin of profit.

Of course with all the various fine blogs out there dedicated to the Old School Renaissance, there is plenty to read for ideas and inspiration.  Someone who isn't disposed to spend much money in a periodical like this can find lots of material to use without spending a dime.

However, there seems to be little support for SIEGE and C&C beyond what was first mentioned.  The only *active* third party options that exist for C&C is "Adventure Games Publishing" and my own "Arcana Creations".  AGP has had it's share of problems and AC is only really getting started.  It would be nice to see more available.

I would also love to present an alternative periodical for the fans.  Maybe after Victorious is released.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Periodical Problems - Part I

I've been a subscriber to various magazines and journals over the years though, ironically enough, never Dragon or Dungeon. I still bought them and I mainly collected them in the late 80's through till the early 90's but I tended to buy them right off the rack. I enjoyed them for the most part and they hold some great articles that keep a dedicated gamer coming back to them years later. Up to a few years ago, most of my magazine subscriptions were dedicated to computers and video gaming. However, when I rekindled my interests in Dungeons & Dragons back in 2000 with 3rd Edition, I still didn't bother with the mags. Part of it was a cost issue I suppose... part of it was content. The content didn't seem to match the joy and mystery I had when reading through an older copy of Dragon or Dungeon.

Crusader Magazine changed this trend for the most part. At first I grabbed a couple of back-issues when I first got into Castles & Crusades about 4 years ago. I had picked up issues 2, 3, and 4. The first issue was no longer available. It was with these 3 issues that I decided to keep following the magazine. This was an easy task since TLG was anything but regular with the release of these magazines. It practically became an embarassment (or maybe a running joke) when a 6-issue subscription seemed to span a couple of years. The subscribers mostly didn't seem to mind because the content (despite being a short read) was good. You could also tell that they were still trying to work things out with the magazine and, while issue 4 is one of my favorites in terms of content and theme, it was also the most cheaply produced. The quality of covers and paper used differed was so much inferior to the issues 2 and 3.

Over the course of a couple of years, TLG went to great strides and effort to bring a better focus to the magazine and 2009 was the best year for the magazine. They had brought in Jim Ward as managing editor and had increased the page count. The price for the magazine remained immensely affordable too. More importantly, they got two-thirds of the magazines out (8 as opposed to 12). While that may not sound too good, this was stellar compared to previous years.

Some of the fans weren't simply idling awaiting for the next issue either. The Castles & Crusades Society had also been putting out a free e-zine of material. Deadlines and release schedules were no better but it was free and it was a very small group of people doing all the work on their spare time.

Things have begun to slip again though. The last issue of Crusader (number 22) was received by suscribers in early January and the previous issue was the October issue (received well after the month). As for the Domesday, it seems to be on hold. TLG has brought the Society closer to the fold and the idea was to release a final issue of the Domesday and then move on to a much shorter monthly newsletter format. Due to various challenges, the last issue of Domesday which should have been released back in October has yet to be released and there has been no start to the newsletter.

Instead, TLG has an email newsletter it now sends out to those who sign up for it and the 2nd one was sent out just a few days ago. March is just around the corner and there is no sign of the next issue of the Crusader though TLG does have a few products recently released and a few others that are just about to come out.

As for the Domesday / Newsletter ... I'm wondering if the "Troll's Tusk" (the title of TLG's newsletter) is in response to the inactivity from the Society on this front or simply coincidental. In any case, it doesn't look good for the Domesday and future periodicals from the Society. I doubt that TLG will be succeeding at releasing the Crusader on a monthly schedule anytime soon too. In terms of the Crusader, I suppose economics and resources are largely the issue here.

More later today...


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When Old is New Again...

There has been some talk recently about the OSR becoming overwhelmed with the continual flood of new retro-clones amongst those which are already available. There have also been some interesting developments with some of the larger publishers around. While it's obvious that nostalgia plays a part in wanting to re-experience and play older games, some of the appeal is also with simpler or just better streamlined game mechanics. Other times, it might be a desire not to be tied down by a complicated set of rules.

Smaller groups and hobby-publishers are putting out, largely due to he OGL, games that run like an older and out-of-print game or material to support such games (whether it be the original game or a clone of it). Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, and Swords & Wizardry are three of the more popular and well known ones. These three in particular have also managed to reach a greater share of the market place with material being written to support the system or getting the system itself into a larger distribution network. The White Box Edition of Swords & Wizardry is receiving the Brave Halfling Publishing treatment and a version of this will be entering retail distribution later this year.

I believe that various other publishers have taken notice though. The pen and pater adaptation of the Dragon Age RPG is being released as a series of box sets which is reminiscent to how the old D&D box sets were broken up. Information can be found HERE.

Before Dragon Age though, you had Kenzer & Company release HackMaster Basic which sports a rather nifty Erol Otus cover which harkens back to the cover pieces he did for the Moldvay B/X D&D sets. More information can be found HERE.

What is interesting is the recent move by Wizards of the Coast. With what many would consider mixed success and reception of 4th Edition D&D, WOTC has decided to release a line separate from their main 4th Edition line which they are calling the D&D Essentials line. This September, they will be releasing a new starter set for 4th edition which includes... you guessed it... the basics. You will be able to play one of the four basic classes (wizard, fighter, cleric, rogue) as either a human, elf, dwarf, or halfling. Since the game is still 4th edition, there are counters and power cards, a book for players, and a book for the GM, and of course some dice. Oh... and another thing -- it's red.

It's a spitting image of the Metzer D&D boxset and it looks like they have a whole line of these planned in terms of support material. Since 4th Edition is set up for three tiers of play, it also makes an easy task of creating other box sets for the line. More importantly, it looks like this might be a way to get this into a wider distribution base (think toy stores people thanks to Hasbro's reach). The price is also 'right'. Instead of dumping $60 - $100 on the three core books, you can buy a $20 box set. Sure, it won't contain everything and it will maintain compatibility with the main 4th edition line but this does change the picture a bit. Who knows? It might be more successful for them to go this route because you know that these would be potentially less expensive to produce than the hardcovers. It's a great idea and, while I briefly owned and then sold my 4th Edition PHB (after giving it a fair shake), I confess that I'm intrigued by this approach.

Beyond this move, I have heard other publishers thinking of similar moves as people are starting to pay attention to what the old-school community is doing. While this is not a bad thing, there is a continual influx of material aimed towards the same people in the hobby. The waters are starting to look a bit cloudy and those who have already made a stake in this (Troll Lord Games with Castles & Crusades) will need to step up their game. Otherwise, they risk being taken away and lost in the current.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Working for the Weekend...

Well, as many no doubt did, this past weekend gave me a chance to spend a bit of quality time with my loving partner. Amidst my cooking and baking (yes... I cook and bake) on Sunday I found myself looking through a few notes for what's coming up this weekend.

Finally... after months of inactivity, my own Castles & Crusades campaign will be underway once again. Last we left the adventurers, they had finally arrived into Freeport. The players wanted a change of pace so I decided to do the new series of adventures planned to be a bit more grounded in urban civilization. Previously, the party had confrtonted the Witch Queen (using the 1E Saga of the Witch Queen compilation from Goodman Games) which entertained us all for many sessions. Before that, there was a whole series of adventures that led the party to the village of Hommlet which I adapted a new material to replace the expansive dungeon crawling evident in the Temple of Elemental Evil series.

Freeport is an interesting choice though. Part of the appeal is to try out and play around with some of the material supplied in the C&C Companion to Freeport put out by Green Ronin as a PDF. The city of Freeport has elements which has a 'Lovecraftian' vibe to it and the party (though small in size) is high enough level to start doing some really interesting things. Of course, one of the party members is an illusionist and I will be revisting the class with the player as we gear up for many more adventures this year.

This week, I will be polishing up the groundwork for the upcoming sessions as well as define a longterm series of plots. Besides this... work continues on the 'Trick on the Tain' and I'm delving more into the continued development of 'Victorious'.

More to come soon...


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Deconstructing the Illusionist

Well, I had been planning to tackle this topic for a while (as well as a few other tidbits from the new printing of the PHB for C&C).  People have talked about it quite a bit and the sticky point seems to come down to some of the new spells.  I have also weighed in on this but tried to leave my general opinions 'at the door' so to speak.

Really, the biggest change to the class is the inclusion of more spells.  This really isn't that big of a deal but some of these new spells did challenge the definition of what an Illusionist is and what the class isn't.  The biggest 'upset' in the lot of new spell additions was the decision to give Illusionists access to the Cure Wound / Heal spells.  Even more interesting is how these spells work when cast by this class.

Primarily, a recipient of a cure / heal spell needs to make a saving throw.  Failure indicates that the recipient is essentially fooled by the illusion and receives the benefits of the spell.  Success would mean the person sees through the illusions and no effect happens.  This ruffled some feathers.  From a mechanics standpoint, the reason to give this class access to these spells is clear, it broadens the responsibility of party medic and gives the class tremendous versatility in the game.

Of course, there was nothing wrong with the class before either but it was one that was often overlooked too.  The other new spells give the class a more 'defined' role and makes the Illusionist seem more accessible to a player that wouldn't have considered playing an Illusionist in the first place.

Personally, I feel that the Illusionist is one of the most powerful classes in the game when played correctly.

However, the healing aspect presents an interesting problem.  Not so much with the party since a player can voluntarily fail a saving throw though a CK may only allow this sort of thing with an 'in-game' reason.  It could be along the lines having a character voluntarily allow the effects only when they have experienced the benefits on one occasion (or in other words, failed their save in a previous attempt).  But what about if the target recipient is unconscious?

If the spell is truly illusion and the effects of the spell are partially brought on by the power of the recipient's belief... then it simply would not work if they are unconscious.

On the other hand, if the spell is more than just the 'power of mind over body', then it could work would it not?  But can you still call the class an Illusionist?

Another new spell, the Dragon Mount, allows the caster to create a mount of a dragon for him and his friends to ride and fly on.  While the companions may fall for the illusion, wouldn't the caster automatically realize that it is an illusion?  Would the mount actually work for him?

To be fair, the new PHB does explain and differentiate the magic of an Illusionist and that of a Wizard and essentially explains that the Illusionist doesn't merely create or facilitate a trick of the mind but is also able to bend reality.  Some of the fans resist this notion.  To those fans, I point out Minor and Major Creation.  Material created which, although with a limited duration, are not actually illusion.  These spells have been around before the newest printing of the PHB and serve to deepen the enigma.

When I look at the present Illusionist, part of me thinks back to the Rune Mark -- a d20 class introduced by TLG for the Erde campaign setting.  This class could also create things from thin air and also 'shaped' reality.  In truth, I find the Illusionist closer to the Runemark now than he was before.  While I suspect that this may be only coincidental, it does make the class an easy jumping point towards a C&C version of the Rune Mark.

People handle the heal spells differently from campaign to campaign depending on who is running the game.  I haven't decided exactly how I'm going to use them for my game though I will have to decide soon.  My next C&C game (which has been on hiatus for months) resumes in a couple of weeks and one party member is an Illusionist.

Aside from the spell selection, there are no other changes to the class.  To be honest, I think this is a bit of a problem.  If you look at the EPP progression between the Illusionist and the Wizard, starting at level 12, the Illusionist requires less experience to advance than the Wizard.  The Illusionist class also gets two class abilities (Sharp Senses and Disguise).  The reason for this was largely due to the smaller spell selection that the Illusionist had in comparison to the Wizard.  Both classes now have the same amount of spells -- not that this is much of an argument.  It's an easy matter to introduce a number of new spells.

While it is true that no class is equal to another, the reason for differentiating EPP numbers is to compensate for various classes and how they match up with one another.  I suppose things could stand to be tweaked.  This could be done by equalizing the EPP after level 11 for the two classes (and acknowledge the Illusionist still gets short changed in terms of combat magic which is why they have a couple of sklls as well), by taking something the Illusionist has, or giving a little something extra to the Wizard.  The easiest fix is the EPP fix but I'm really surprised that this wasn't in the new printing of the PHB.

Some of the new spells are good while others I do not care for.  This is probably one of my least favorite changes in the PHB and is one that I could have done without.


Falling off the Blog Wagon

Wow... It feels like I've hit the ground running since the start of this year.  Sure, I was able to find a bit of time here and there for the occasional post but it's been almost three weeks since my last post!!

I've had a few interesting ideas for some posts and there has certainly been stuff happening.  However, between my 9-5 day job and the bit of time I squeeze in with projects to do with Arcana Creation, time comes at a premium.  Of course, there's the whole social interaction with family and friends which helps take up that free time.

And then there's that blasted 'Dragon Age' game.  ;)

I've been having some fun playing the game on my Xbox and the game console is a great way to try and chill and relax when I come home from work just before I start fixing up supper.

During the course of this, I am also diligently working through the 'Trick on the Tain' manuscript which is the next C&C release by Arcana Creations.  There is still quite a bit of editing to do on it as well as a couple of minor additions to the scenario.  The artwork is well on the way of being finalized and require a few tweaks on some of the pieces.  It will be an interesting module.

As for tonight and tomorrow evening -- I will shake up my routine a bit to try and do a blog blitz and get into the habit again.  ;)