What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

MIA ??

For those who regularly check out my blog or just look forward to my weekly series I title 'Weekend R&R', you may have noticed that the blog has been a bit quite of late.

Or maybe you haven't since if you were at GenCon.

In any event, I'm still here and I've got a couple of incomplete posts in my drafts waiting for me to get back to.  My study is currently a disaster area as I've decided to re-organize my collection of books.  Add to the complexity of occasionally pruning a book or two in a 'discard' pile and total chaos is achieved.

Cats leaping off of book stacks does little to ease my increasing blood pressure as I aim to gain some sense of order.  Of course, I then take a second look at a the discard pile, reconsider some titles and I'm left with a truly eclectic series of books: Agrippa's "Natural Philosophy" mixed in with gaming supplements such as "GM Gems" and "PC Pearls" by Goodman Games.

Then I consider... I only really have myself to blame.  Maybe next time I should just buy another bookcase.

Just a few more days before I'm officially back blogging.



Monday, August 13, 2012

Weekend R&R: Myth & Magic Player's Guide

In the past few days, I've accumulated quite a few things I want to write about as far as various gaming books are concerned as well as other things that have either impressed or annoy me.  However, when I received the pre-release PDF copy of the Player's Guide for the new Myth & Magic game, I figured that this was perfect springboard to talk about a couple of things that have been on my mind.  For those who haven't been following what New Haven Games has been up to, they have been working on a game called Myth & Magic -- a fantasy RPG rooted in 2nd Edition AD&D design but adopting various d20 based refinements brought about by 3rd Edition.  In short, some might say that Myth & Magic is to 2nd Edition as Castles & Crusades is to 1st Edition and thus, not exactly a retro-clone in the strictest sense of the word.  For those interested in this game, you can get a taste by signing up on their forums and getting copies of the Starter Player's and Game Master's Guides.  This is what led me to the decision to back their Kickstarter effort for the production of the full-fledged Player's Guide and receiving the pre-release PDF of it.

I backed the project early on and I was initially eager about the project given my 2nd Edition roots.  However, as enthusiasm grew for the kickstarter and the discussion of some of the bonus material and stretch goals was being bantered about, I actually began to have some serious second thoughts about the project.  In the end, I let it slide given the strength of what I had already seen.

Flipping through the pages, I can say that this is going to be one sweet looking book.  The art is fantastic and, no small wonder here given that a bunch of the art was commissioned from past TSR-era artists.  The layout is clear and clean though with more wasted space (aka 'whitespace') than I would like BUT this is a pre-release copy and it may not necessarily reflect what the final product will look like.  I am hoping for some more of the type of art already gracing these pages.

As far as the content is concerned... what can I really say?  It really feels like a blend of the 2nd and 3rd Edition rulesets.  The proficiencies are here, the different XP progression for the various classes are still here, the inclusion of Talents (pretty much Feats), and a d20 based approached to task resolution and the three saving throw categories from 3rd Edition.  If you are familiar with both 2nd and 3rd Edition, then this will hold little in the form of surprises.  However, the rules detailed in the book are nicely outlined and the book does go to admirable extent to simplify and clarify the rules.  To be entirely honest, it seems to me that this succeeds at being a better '3rd Edition' and I do like it a lot.  You see, there were a number of little things that got me to set 3rd Edition aside and look towards other options.  I'm happy to say that Myth & Magic managed to do away and largely don't have those elements I find tiresome when I consider 3rd Edition.

So why did I start thinking about dropping my pledge for the Player's Guide if I seem to like it?  It's simple really... it's one of the reasons I got tired with 2nd Edition and TSR back in the 90's and something they repeated with 3.5.  Some of the bonus material that the backers are getting a additional/optional classes and races which will appear in a planned expansion (and so it begins).  This was set up as a stretch goal with a poll done to determine the races.  Of course I understand the problem with publishing a rule set for a game like this -- I mean, once you've got your core rulebooks, what else can the publisher sell you.  Any successful RPG game will follow this path and once it gets 'old and tired', they tend to rejuvenate the game with a new edition.  It's only a matter of time before we see Paizo consider updating their flagship game and they have already been putting out many other books to complement their core book for Pathfinder.  I doubt they will make some of the mistakes that WOTC have made though.  No, my biggest problem is that there is already talk about an expansion when the GM and MM guides still have a way to go before completion. 

It's also increasingly the problem with Kickstarter as a platform.  Stretch goals are put in to get more money rolling in but some of these goals end up diverting resources which could be better spent on the original project to bonus goals instead.  In the end, you may end up getting a hugely successful kickstarter but, because the cost of the project gets increased to cover the stretch goals, the project isn't really much further along.  However, this Kickstarter is hardly the worst of the offenders.  But with the Player's Guide about to hit the presses, it's only a matter of time before New Haven Games goes about getting the next Kickstarter set up for the next core book.

Not that I necessarily need it -- I have plenty of 2nd Edition and even 3rd Edition material to draw from as well as many other compatible games and systems.  While I like the Player's Guide and the system, part of me questions if the game arrived too late.  If I had stumbled upon this game around 6 years ago, there is a strong probability that it might have become my game of 'choice' because of my familiarity of the material and how it was put together.  Back in 2006, there just wasn't this multitude of simulacrum type games and retro-clones and Castles & Crusades was pretty much the first with OSRIC coming out shortly there after.  But now, there are tons available if one knows where to look so, is Myth & Magic absolutely necessary?  Simply put, there isn't enough 'innovation' here but if a cleaned up, 2nd Edition derived system with some d20 type streamlining sounds good to you, then you'll love what Myth & Magic has to offer.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Minor Updates

This weekend was a bit busy and the heat killed a lot of the incentive to get a bunch of work done but things *still* got done.

Yesterday was truly a scorcher and I went to my brother-in-law's cottage for most of the day and part of the evening.  Determined not to let all that time go to waste, I brought my tablet and dock as well as some resource material to do a bit of work.  Once again I sat down to tackle the system of magic I was developing for the Ballista system.  While work was not a continuous thing (a lot of interruptions since it was basically a party) I did get a whole bunch of work done though aspects of it will require further play-testing.  This aspect of the system has been something I've been wrestling on and off for a few months now and probably represents one of the more annoying and time consuming part of the project.  The framework seems solid now and I hope that only some fleshing out will be needed but playtests will ultimately determine that.

Getting back from the cottage last night felt like we entered an oven when we crossed the threshold of the door which ended up making things slow going today and very unproductive.

Sadly, Hide In Plain Sight did not get the attention it deserves this past week and, in part, this is due to the new wave of extreme heat that has been hitting the region.  The sole air conditioner crapped out around a week or so ago so that's made it unbearable.  It is entirely likely that I'll have to do something soon to help that situation to at least get the bedroom temperature back to comfortable levels in order to at least get a decent night's sleep.

On the flip side, I'll probably contact the artist I had started a dialogue with a couple months back concerning the artwork which needs to get done for HIPS --  possibly as soon as this week since I'm about ready for it.  I pray he has a comfortable work environment.  Once the art is done, I can likely set a release date and start on pre-orders for this C&C module.

PS - The pic has not much to do with this post at all... just wanted a Lake Monster pic since I was at the lake yesterday.  ;)


Weekend R&R: X-Plorers

Given that I've just received my copy of the X-Plorers RPG book and just loving so many little things about it, I decided to talk about it a bit more and give my overall impressions about this, and the genre for RPGs in general.  I've always loved Sci-Fi and, while many people will discuss the points that might make good sci-fi reading versus bad ones, the science fiction genre is one that many have brought to the gaming table in various forms.  I've picked up and played a few in my times and, often end up disappointed for one reason or another. Maybe this is another reason in a long list of why I tend to favor fantasy over science fiction in both books and RPGs.  Actually one could also question why I don't explore more 'Science-Fantasy' as a genre but that's best left for another time.

When I first got my PDF copy of the X-Plorers game some months ago, I admittedly didn't get much of a chance to look at it.  It's one thing to get a PDF because you're eager to go through it or simply use it in order to spare the use of a physical copy, but it's another to get it as a partner to the company who's releasing it.  At the time, I know I had other things to worry about and, while I liked the premise of the product, I had been let down before.  The idea behind this game was a 'what if' the game we come to know as D&D was not in fact a Fantasy based game but rather a Science-Fiction themed one?  In other words, imagine OD&D as a Sci-Fi game.

Ok... that *is* pretty cool but, well before I looked at it, I found out a couple of tidbits that didn't interest me much.  For example: Just 4 character attributes.  The notion that a character can be largely distilled to 6 stats seems ridiculous for some but to drop it down to 4 somehow felt like the game was perhaps oversimplified.  While you're at it, why stop at 4?  I also found out that there is just one Save as opposed to different categories signifying a trend towards simplification.  I like a rules-light game but I don't feel that a game should be simplified to the point that it becomes less interesting to play more than a one-shot.

I promised myself I'd take a better look at some point but largely forgot about it.  I suppose I allowed myself to fall into a trap of assumptions.  It was the same sort of assumptions that led some people to effectively 'snub' Basic D&D in favor of Advanced D&D when they were initially introduced to the hobby and not knowing any better.  I suppose the Holmes D&D set didn't help much either with how it essentially guided people towards AD&D once they got a feel for the game.  I couldn't really have been more wrong when it came to X-Plorers though.

In the years before I finally got a chance to examine X-Plorer's, there have been other games.  Some still are favorites for one reason or another like the Star Wars d6 system.  The d6 system is a great system even if it isn't perfect and the main complaint levied towards the system is the buckets of d6 you may end up needing to play the game.  I like the system since it allows for a fast and fun game and being rules light, it encourages the story telling and role playing aspects quite nicely.  Usually rules lights systems will be good for that.  I have used d6 to play other settings and even other genres and the OGL for d6 which is now available has really helped to keep the game alive.  Of course, AD&D was my 'first love' so my immediate preference would have been an AD&D in Space and I'm *not* talking about SpellJammer (I did love it though).  Now I was never fortunate enough to get involved in Traveller so, we'll forget about that but I did play some Sci-Fi using Palladium (Rifts) based games though, as anyone who has encountered or played any of those game will know what I mean when I say that this is the exact opposite of 'Rules Light' (especially if you consider the character creation phase).  So yeah, Sci-Fi gaming has been a bit limited for me.  I was really excited when I first heard about StarSiege and wound up doing some playtesting for it.

I thought that StarSiege would be the closest thing to what I was looking for but simply put, I was wrong.  The rules are well thought but there were aspects of the rules which didn't do it for me.  I do believe that those issues could have been retooled but the problems didn't really detract from the game.  The presentation on the other hand did and not in a good way.  I didn't mind at first but, as time went on, I quickly began hating the setup of the boxset.  I found the text didn't always make certain things clear upon first examination and, while still retaining a measure of compatibility, it largely went in different directions for others.  If one was looking to play a sci-fi game where you rolled your stats, chose a race and class, and started playing, this wasn't the game to do it with.  In my original review of it (from quite some time ago), I described it as more of a 'toolbox'.  Really, you need to have a good handle of what you want to do, and create a bunch of stuff you will need for yourself and the players before you could comfortably begin the campaign since resources are very scarce beyond a handful of examples provided. The box set was interesting since it was intended for a group: There were several Players Guides, a single GM Guide, and a small Setting Book as well as some dice and reference cards.  However, given that there is some duplication happening in the GM and Player Guides, the best and less expensive option would have been just to release it as a single book and expand on the setting or at least provide a comprehensive list of vehicles, ships, and equipment -- something that the original box set is short on.

With a physical copy of the X-Plorers book now in hand, I've actually had the chance to look at it closely.  My initial thoughts wee incorrect and, while the game is simple in its own right, it isn't inferior.  One of the nicer selling points of the game is the price to put it simply.  At a MSRP of $12.95 this beautifully illustrated (B/W art) with very durable and glossy color covers is certain to raise an eyebrow or two.  It's only 40 pages (we're talking regular sized publication and not digest) and the art just screams early science-fiction.  Frankly there's a great 50's Sci-Fi vibe throughout the book which alone will conjure up inspiration.  Characters have 4 attributes (Agility, Intelligence, Physique, Presence) and may be of one of 4 classes outlined (Scientist, Soldier, Technician, Scout) unless the opt to Multiclass.  Each class has a certain set of abilities/skills that go with them and the rest is pretty much 'D&D-like meaning that, if you've ever played D&D or one of the various games that is derived from it, you know how to play this game.  Aside from that, there is one chapter that talks about Space combat (as in ship-to-ship) as well as other odds and ends for dealing with travels in Space.  The one thing that the game doesn't cover is the possibility of being different species but this is hardly a game-breaker and could easily be added in if so desired.  Even so, given the vibe that the game gives, it suggests 'humans' travelling and exploring the stars, much like early Science Fiction shows would do as opposed to having alien crew-members.  Remember, Spock was half-Vulcan on a ship full of humans and pretty much unique in the classic Star Trek series which made it stand out compared to other books, movies, and shows in the 50's and 60's.  X-Plorer's is great stuff all around.

The book is nicely put together and, the one significant weirdness about the book is the placement of a page entitled 'How the Game Plays'. It *really* is something that belongs at the beginning of the book as opposed to close to the end... probably best placed before Chapter 1 and close to where the intro covers the 'what is a role playing game' section.  This does not detract from the book any and is just a mere observation.

X-Plorers should be easy enough to find and some FLGS may even be carrying a copy.  Of course, you can always order direct from Brave Halfling Publishing HERE and even I will have a few copies for sale on the Arcana Creations website in the next week or two.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Postal Service and Product Reselling

A few weeks back, just before I began (and I still need to finish) some modifications on the Arcana Creations online site, I mentioned that I was looking at doing some Reselling.  John from BHP thought this was a great idea, and a means for my fellow Canadians to possibly get some of his product that some people have had trouble getting otherwise.

The postal service just sucks for some people and, the case in point, a couple of incidents which have happened to me is cause for concern for stuff I've been ordering lately.  I won't go into much details but one package headed my way was a box of BHP goods and it should have arrived at the latest just over a week ago. I pretty much figured out this evening that the postal carrier responsible for parcel delivery is not doing their job.  They can't just drop the package but if there is no one home, they are supposed to leave a card in the mail slot notifying of the person in question to pick up the package at the local Post Office branch.

I guess I should be thankful that the Post Office branch sent me a FINAL NOTICE advising me to pick up the package before they ship it back to the Sender. Last week, I had a different package and, despite the address being clearly indicated, the card was just left in the lobby of the apartment building as opposed in my mail box.

The good news is that package was picked up and intact!  I will be filing an official complaint for these two recent problems since I have a number of other packages headed my way (DAMN YOU KICKSTARTER!)

Now that I have multiple copies of a few things, I do need to finish up some of the research I was doing in order to attempt the 'Reseller Experiment'.  Shipping is never cheap but it needn't be too expensive either and I have a variety of things which I would like to move.  The BHP package had a couple of neat things -- copies of both the classic Larm release for LL as well as copies of the newer single volume edition of X-Plorers.  Naturally I have a select number of AC products as well and there are a miscellaneous bunch of previously enjoyed gaming material which need new homes.  However, this isn't a full time gig so when I do have that section of the site up an running, it won't have an exhaustive listing of goods but rather a selection which will rotate every few weeks.

For newer items, I was toying with offering the product at a 33% discount off cover price since the intent is to offer those items and keep something as simple as $10 for the first item and $5 per additional item afterwards.  I don't know how well that would work in the long run when factoring in all costs and, depending on the item, I could lose a bit of money as far as shipping is concerned.  However, if the rest of the numbers I end up crunching it might workout.  Something like the Village of Larm has a MSRP of $12.95 would work out to being $8.68 plus shipping.  If I decided to do the shipping as I outlined above, it would cost $10 on top of that for a total of $18.68 which isn't so bad if you consider the original MSRP.  Savings work out nicely for multiple items though so it does make sense for the buyer to consider buying a couple of items as opposed to just one.

Ultimately, we'll have to see how well this all works out before I finalize any pricing options I'm considering -- especially when I start factoring in other concerns (like envelopes and boxes to ship this stuff in).

More updates to follow as they happen!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Swords & Wizardry Reality Check

Disclaimer: This isn't a post about Saving Throws

A day ago, Frog God Games started up a new Kickstarter to print up the Swords & Wizardry Complete in a signature-stitched hardback.  The goal was for $10,000 and four bonus stretch goals up to $20,000 were provided.  Within a 24 hour period, the project was funded and all four bonus goals were met.  This is fantastic news, right?  This means there is an overwhelming support for S&W, right?

No... not exactly.  I would say it's great support to a well executed Kickstarter following on the heels of Frog God Games' last great Kickstarter.  As I write this post, they've just past $24,000 but that represents just over 150 backers.  That averages about $160 per person.  People who want some higher tier exclusives and swag have done a great job at inflating the amounts collected.  Now, there's certainly some great stuff to be had, and, if it plays out like their last Kickstarter, there is more to come -- especially since there is more than a month left!

Note: These numbers were in the morning of August 2nd (EST)

So far, the goals achieved granted us the following: A Swords & Wizardry patch, new covers by Erol Otus, added material to the Monster book in the form of lairs and encounters, and finally, a coloring book!  The last item may sound a bit weird and really quirky but if TSR can put out a D&D based coloring book, then why the hell not?

With the original goals bust in the first 24 hours... what next?

Well, at $30,000 they are throwing in a ... pencil and some graph paper?  Hmm... interesting choice.  At least at $40,000 they are adding... um... two d6 (to accompany the dice set that the higher tiers are getting).  Ok... at least there is an interesting bonus goal at the $60,000 mark: Another module for S&W written by Bill Webb.  This one is worth the stretch and, in all seriousness, I'm sure the other stuff will be cool too.  ;)

Of course, they've opened up the option for people to add a copy of Rappan Athuk for S&W if they add another $100 to their pledge so that should at least help raise the total pledged a bit.

In the end, I'm sure this particular Kickstarter will do well.  Actually, it has ALREADY done well and it will just continue to do better.  With the extra quality being added to the production of these books which will greatly enhance their durability, some of these books could become as worn and well-loved as some of the classic TSR hardbacks.  In effect, S&W is positioning itself to become a solid reference manual for the OSR.  Admittedly, I have not laid my eyes on most of the other versions of S&W -- the only version of it I own is the wonderful 'White Box' which BHP put out a couple of years ago but it's clear that some people love it in its various incarnations.

For these reasons, the success of the Kickstarter can't be measured in dollar amounts at this point but rather the number of backers.  If this fails to yield more than 1000 backers, we all need to ask ourselves why.  However, if we reach many MANY backers, even if pledging at the lowest levels, that too says something and will help send a clear message of what we are saying as a gaming community.  We want to back more of the OSR and the products we love and play!

In the meantime, I hope that Delving Deeper gets a bit of love when it finally comes out because it seems likely that this new version of S&W will eclipse DD if kept under wraps for much longer.  As people who have pre-ordered and / or have been following this know, it is long overdue. The project is in the hands of Immersive Ink, an affiliate of Brave Halfling Publishing (much like Arcana Creations is partnered with BHP).  I've seen proofs for it (a month ago) and it's wonderful and it needs to be released.  Good things come to those who wait though and there is plenty of great gaming on the horizen!

In the meantime, if you want to check out the S&W Kickstarter, please click the link HERE.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Treasure Trove of Gaming Goodness!

Wow.  Sometimes I have say I get completely floored by some of the friends I have -- friends I've known for years as well as newer friends who really dig my passion for the games I play and the material I try and produce for them.

Someone I know retrieved boxes worth of gaming material from his parents place and offered most of it to me.  That in itself may raise a few eyebrows but the surprise that was in store for me was greater than I initially expected.  I did not know exactly how much material we were talking about, nor did I really know the condition of the stuff.  However, he graciously invited me over to loot the stuff.  I should be clear here -- he was giving this stuff to me.  I did know that some of the material was 1st Edition stuff as this is what he primarily played before he moved on to other games.  That night I found out he moved on from D&D around 1989 ... the dawn of the 2nd Edition era.  I also knew he had a first printing of the Deities & Demigods book and, he wasn't an idiot -- he new he could get some money for it and I gave him a fair rundown of its worth.

What was in the box?  We'll let's just say that I have quite a number of blog posts that this stuff will inspire me to write in the future but aside from 'well-loved' copies PHB and DMG (original covers) there was a host of other 1st ed books ... Manual of the Planes, Wilderness Survival Guide, the UA,and the MM2.  There were also a fair number of classic modules.  A lot of these I did already own but I have to say that the condition of some of these modules were beautiful... near mint copies of S1 to S4, the A series, a near mint copy of T1, D1 to D3 (D3 being monochrome), a handful of the I series modules as well as a couple of the UK modules.  He even had a copy of B3 still in shrink (which he kept for sentimental reasons).  There was also the Greyhawk box set and Greyhawk Folio (in a much MUCH better shape than my own copy) as well as the original grey Forgotten Realms box set and the box itself for this is like new.

Bottom line... TONS of stuff.

He also had a bunch of other stuff he kept.  He was a big Star Frontiers fan and had a lot of this stuff as well as other things such as a run of the old FASA Dr Who game (box set and various modules).  He had (pretty much) the entire run of the Dragonlance DL module series (save one which I will help him track down).  There were a few other odds & ends which will either be kept or found other homes.

I was really taken aback though.  The way he put it is that, he would rather see it go to someone who would appreciate it, use it, and draw inspiration from it than just getting a few bucks on ebay and other avenues of sale which, frankly is a bit of a pain.  I tend to agree with him.

As for the Deities & Demigods, after seeing it, I paid him nicely for it and gave him a few extra dollars for a couple of the interesting items (like the monochrome module).  He had a good chuckle when I offered money for the book but referred it to the 'Cthulhu Book' instead of the actual title.  It's been QUITE sometime I've seen one in as nice a condition as this one was in though.  It's nearly perfect save for a bit of staining on a couple of pages.

In any event, I've been a bit fortunate of late -- first the Greyhawk novels and the Adventure books, and now this sizeable lot of gaming goodness.  Now if I'm really lucky, some of the stuff I have on the way (and is overdue) will finally show up as well.  Got some stuff coming in from BHP which is getting to the point of being really overdue as well as some other Kickstarter related swag which is about to start rolling in.

I guess I've ultimately failed in my quest to minimize my gaming collection.  All that's happened is other different stuff is taking the place of anything that has left.  ;)