What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Up for Pre-Order: Jack of Lies from TLG

Well, it looks like Troll Lord Game has put up a new offering for Pre-Order: Jack of Lies. It's a Sandbox adventure set in a city which promises to be very detailed making this more than just an adventure but a city supplement as well. Of course, the most interesting part of this is the author -- Casey 'Bowbe' Christofferson who has done a bunch of other work for Troll Lord Games (notably the Haunted Highlands series) as well as work for Necromancer Games (he was involved with the City of Brass as well as Bard's Gate). The book promises to be a 130+ page book which, if pre-orders exceed $4000 will be automatically upgraded to a hardcover. MSRP once published will be $20 for a softcover *or* $25 for a hardcover (should the $4000 goal be met). You can check out the details HERE.

Sounds interesting enough and the best part of this is that it's ready to print so the turn around on this would be very short unlike a couple other recent pre-orders which is still having parts revised and written.  In fact, the PDF could be yours within 72 hours or so within placing your order!

But there's a catch and one I really don't understand nor care for.  Pre-Ordering a physical copy of the book doesn't automatically get you the PDF.

You see, I don't get that at all.  The incentive to pre-order is essentially the possibility of a hardcover book instead of a softcover should enough money be raised.  In other words, there is a $5 savings if enough people pre-order.  But if you want a PDF as well as a physical copy, you need to add another $10 on top of the $20 for the book.  I may be mistaken but I could have sworn that, in the recent past, TLG offered the PDF for free if you were pre-ordering a physical copy of the book.  Even the last couple issues of Crusader magazine had a complementary issue of the PDF offered if you were a subscriber to the physical magazine.

So what gives and more importantly, what's the incentive to pre-order this book?

Aside from maybe getting the PDF which could result in being priced higher once made available on RPG Now! there isn't much of one.  Someone like myself could easily get the book by buying it at their local game store.  When it came to other pre-orders, I have frequently seen my local game store stock it before I even received my physical copy of the book from the Trolls.  Sure, being in Canada as opposed to the States (and at the mercy of international shipping) could be part of the reason for the delay but it always left a bitter taste in my mouth.  Of course, that $5 savings for me is completely undermined by the additional shipping I would pay to get the book to me in the first place.

Of course, you are offered options to spend more money and $50 gets you a hardcopy as well as a digital copy of the work plus some maps.  Maps are cool and two of them are 17" x 22" maps so that's nice and there's a pack of 20 other maps for quick and easily reference (I am assuming these are 8.5" x 11").  Is this worth and extra $20?  I'm not so sure about that and it seems like a couple of those maps should automatically come with the book anyway.

Personally, I may just go with the PDF since that is the trend I've been heading for when it comes to secondary gaming material -- and by this I mean something other than rulebooks or frequently used reference material.  I'm not saying I won't get a physical copy myself but I certainly won't entertain paying extra and excessive** shipping fees for it.

** EDIT: Not as excessive as I thought.  Other items left from a previous visit were saved in my cart which impacted the shipping total.  Once those were cleared, shipping was very reasonable and enough to reconsider my stance on ordering the physical book from TLG instead of waiting for it to come here.

I originally stated a $27.95 fee but this just isn't the case.  However this isn't to say that shipping through their online store isn't quirky.  When I first place the item in my cart, I could have sworn it showed just the one item but when I hit checkout, 2 other items from a previously unprocessed order popped in.  I had to remove them after the fact.  I have been able to replicate the bug just a moment ago with other items.  Besides that, I still have no idea why the casebound C&C screens cost almost $14.90 to ship when the book would cost less than $5.  It ain't perfect but sometimes you have to take what you can get.  ;)


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Weekend R&R: Monstrosities

A week ago, I focused on the Black Dragon lot from the Swords & Wizardry Kickstarter.  For Swords  & Wizardy Appreciation Day, I kept things brief and offered up an adventure (still freely available HERE).  And now, to finish off the week, I decided to take a look at the Monstrosities book for S&W.

When I first signed on and backed the Swords & Wizardry kickstarter, the decision to back it in a big way was a no-brainer for me.  Aside from White Box released by Brave Halfling, the only S&W Wizardy material I had was the free PDF versions and the Rappan Athuk PDFs.  At that point, I still didn't receive any physical copies from the Rappan Athuk Kickster and wouldn't for another couple of months.  In principal, I liked it -- it was a stripped down / back-to-basics of the games I primarily played which made S&W material perfect to adapt to my needs and system I chose to play.  My long-time readers will know this tends to be Castles & Crusades.

However, when I backed the Rappan Athuk, I couldn't back near to the levels I would have liked or do the sort of add-ons being offered.  Rappan Athuk was an *expensive* Kickstarter.  By comparison, I found the Swords & Wizardy Kickstarter to be relatively reasonable.  The Black Dragon package allowed for a bunch of books I did not have but did desire for my gaming library.  The Tome of Horrors complete was one such book ... I own the original Tome of Horrors for 3rd Edition and I enjoyed the treatment done but never go around to getting the second or third books.  Naturally, given my preferred game system and style of play, it didn't make much sense to try and get these two other books -- I didn't really play 3rd Edition though I have some of the books and I did have a lot of 1st and 2nd Edition resources which are a lot more useful to me.  One of the books listed was a Monster book for S&W.

I didn't know much about it and took as just a new monster book and promptly forgot about it.  I mean, the S&W rulebook has a very nice selection of critters to choose from and, well, with the inclusion of the S&W version of the Tome of Horrors complete, it seemed like the Monster book was just that... just another monster book.  I also thought that it was a new book.  In actuality, it wasn't -- the majority of the book was previously made available through Black Blade Publishing back in around 2010.  Much like other free S&W resources, you can still get a free DOC file of the book from the Mythmere Games site.  This doesn't devalue the book at all though -- it's just that I didn't know since I wasn't that involved with S&W to begin with back when I first pledged.

What makes both very different is presentation.  Sure, from what I understand, there are some new critters but really, it's also expanded to accommodate art for all the creatures and new text to give each creature an adventure hook.  At over 500 pages (556 to be exact), you are talking over 500 monsters (there is one per page) with the addition of tables and resources to further supplement the books utility.  What's telling is the utility of the book judging by the quality and inclusion of creatures which seem so very obvious to have in the first place.  Of course, you'll also find the selection of monsters from the S&W Complete book also in Monstrosities which make it the go-to place for your critter needs.  Another feature I like is the dual stat blocks... you have both the full stat block and the condensed version for every entry.

At a time where I am seriously considering downsizing the gaming library, Monstrosities as well as the other S&W resources are those I would hang on to as 'source reference material' in favor of even some of my 1st and 2nd edition books.  That is how much I appreciate this book and as much as I like the Tome of Horrors complete, Monstrosities isn't really a compilation originally made for 3rd Edition.  The first entry I looked up in my physical copy of the Tome of Horrors Complete for S&W was Orcus and imagine finding a hold-over from 3rd Edition in the form of a DC 44 Will Save against Fear!!  I can understand how this can happen, the Tome of Horrors Complete for S&W is even larger than Monstrosities.  I don't expect to find any of this sort of errors in the Monstrosities book which is just nice to know.  ;)

In terms of price, right on the Frog God Games storefront, you can find it for $49.99 and a limited number of signed and numbered copies are available for an additional $10.  Some may find this a bit expense but compared to the cost of other Frog God Game products of comparable size, this is an absolute bargain!  Consider that the Tome of Horrors Complete, Rappan Athuk, and the upcoming Razor Coast campaign book are all going for $100 each!  Note that I'm not suggesting that these other books are not worth the cost but some may find a $100 price tag a bit cost prohibitive.  If you prefer living in a digital world, a PDF copy of Monstrosities will run you $24.99.  Both are available HERE.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Happy Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day!

Today fans of Swords & Wizardry and the style of play it promotes are coming forth and celebrating the game as well as the original game that inspired it.

Swords & Wizardry is, at its heart, a rules light game where young and older players alike can gather call create characters, roll some dice, and share stories of adventure.  It does so by keeping things simple while giving power to the story teller (the DM or GM) to create worlds of adventure to be explored and plundered.

Above all, it is an RPG system that is accessible.  I encourage you all to the the time to visit all the other participants of Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day.  A full list can be found HERE along with details of contests and specials.

That said, Swords & Wizardry is going to continue to be talked about for quite some time and not just today.  Besides, talk is cheap.  It is with great pleasure that Arcana Creations presents the Swords & Wizardry adventure conversion of the Vile Worm! You can find the free PDF HERE

Thanks again!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Weekend R&R: Swords & Wizardry Complete

During the extended absence from the blogosphere, I was fortunate enough to get a package I had been eagerly awaiting since the Kickstarter was successfully funded on September 4th, 2012.

This was Black Dragon package from the Swords & Wizardry and the box was just LOADED with some goodies!

Before I delve into that particular Dragon Hoard, I want to talk about about S&W itself.  My first real experience with it was a few years back with what is known as the 'White Box' edition of S&W as published by Brave Halfling Publishing.  At the time, I had recently formed Arcana Creations and the first retail release, 'The Secret of Ronan Skerry' was just about to to be released into stores.  Mythmere Games had announced that Brave Halfing Publishing was going to publish and release a 'White Box' edition of the game and, once it was finally released a few months later, I was presented with my own copy.

Up to that time, I was moderately aware of it and I felt it was a good thing to have.  Much like Castles & Crusades, it was a game that took a couple of queues from newer editions and married it with a the classic feel and style of, well the original edition of the game (the three lbb's). 

What does that mean exactly... in the White Box edition, you have three classes (Fighter, Cleric, and Magic-User) and three races not counting human (Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling) to choose from.  It offers both ascending and descending Armor Class options as well as a single saving throw number (though you can always use a saving throw matrix consisting of different categories).  Like the original edition of the game, this is a simple game but one that has everything needed to game.  Beyond what is supplied, the GM will have to supply and for many, this will be fine.  It's rules light and easy to dive into and play.  The text and approach are certainly clearer than the original edition ever was but I suppose that this is to be expected after close of four decades of existence.

Swords & Wizardry Complete on the other hand consists of this plus and additional 6 classes with the addition of a Half-Elf as a racial option.  No love for Gnomes it seems.  ;)

The differences between Complete and the White Box don't end there.  The Complete version also includes various options or alternatives for a few things (such as the order of combat) as well as additional rules for Aerial, Ship, and Mass Combat as well as Sieges.  You have material and tables for dungeon and wilderness adventuring as well.  In short, material that goes very much beyond the scope of the White Box.  Naturally, the book also includes a decent selection of spells and other magics as well as monstrous menaces to the delight of the would-be adventurer.

It was the production done by Frog God Games that really made this game stand out though and when they announced their Kickstarter last year with the goal to produce quality, signature-stitched hardcover rulebooks for the game, I decided to go and back this project at one of the higher levels available -- the Black Dragon.

It was quite a haul ... the S&W Rulebook and Monstrosities book (both signed and numbered), a copy of the Tome of Horrors Complete for S&W, a copy of the Black Monastery, a pad of character sheets, graph paper, pencil, dice, a patch and a couple other modules (plus an extra one being thrown in as a misprint due to the wrong cover used).  There's even a coloring book.  Oh... and a canvas art print of the cover art used signed by the artist, Erol Otus -- pure awesome!

The canvas print has since been framed and hung up on the wall.  :)

In short, it's a lot of old school goodness.  Sure, it isn't a perfect clone of the original thing nor would I want it to be.  This is for the same reason why I prefer to use C&C over 1st Edition AD&D -- I don't mind the little changes C&C has made when it used the OGL and material from the SRD to create a game to give the feel of a game with that 'old school vibe'.  When it comes to S&W, I'm happier with a single saving throw number and not five to play with.  I'm happier to have different weapon damage and not just a d6 for all weapons.  Sometimes it's the little things and the little things with the game makes all the difference for me as both a player and a GM.  It despite these little things, it keeps everything simple and it's hard not to acknowledge the elegance in that simplicity.

In what has become a 'flood' of retro-clones and games sourcing from the same SRD made possible with an OGL, it is nice to see Frog God Games give this the professional treatment it deserved.  In doing so and with the game being as simple and lean as it is, it has created a 'source work' where many a gamer can fall back on.  This is something that many people and company have noticed and in the case of WOTC, have decided to respond accordingly.

The Swords & Wizardy Complete rulebook would make a fine addition on a gamer's bookshelf and, this particular hardcover edition has a MSRP of $34.99 and Frog God Games still has signed and numbered copies going for $10 more the cover price.  Some may find those prices a bit steep in price given that the book numbers only 134 pages including the index (there a six pages that follow with the names of the backers for 140).  If you don't mind a PDF, you can get it for $9.99 *OR* you can download the less inclusive Core Rules or White Box rules for free from Mythmere Games HERE.  These are certainly worth grabbing if only slightly curious.  If you want to purchase direct from Frog God Games to check out some of the other items they have for S&W or just purchase the main books, you can click HERE for their storefront.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

And We're Back!

Reactor ... Online
Sensors ... Online
Weapons ... Online
All Systems Nominal

After a couple of delays, setbacks, and Easter Weekend, I can happily report that a new computer is in place and work can resume anew on various projects I had on the go.  This past week, my main focus has been to restore my various files and programs onto the new computer and my blogging here will be resuming in regular fashion in the next coupe of days.

In the short term that I was down (about eight weeks or so), I think the traffic to the blog took a bit of a hit -- I see a 20% - 25% drop in the usual traffic I had seen the past few months so for those of you who are regular readers, I thank you for your patience.

Just earlier this evening, I had a bit of a chat with John of Brave Halfling Publishing and we both discussed some sort term plans and goals for Arcana Creations.  Since the beginning, John has been a great friend and sound board with various ideas I happened to have over the past few years.  He is, after all, the main reason why I started up Arcana Creations.

The game plan I established in my last post hasn't really changed but given that I am up and running a few days before 'Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day', I figured I would use the opportunity presented and have the blog participate.  All going well, I will have a small little surprise in store for my fellow gamers.