What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Sunday, November 24, 2013

State of Arcana Creations - 4th Quarter, 2013

It feels like the month of November, much like the weeks that preceded it, is just zipping by.  This means busy times and if I was solely working on Arcana Creations projects, this would be great.  Unfortunately, like pretty much everybody else, I have a regular 9-5 gig that keeps me busy as well as pay for the bills.  It is what it is.  But there have been a few significant goals I set at the start of this quarter that I have been meeting.

Towards the end of September, Arcana Creations created it's own storefront on RPG Now.  The older Castles & Crusades releases published through Brave Halfling Publishing have a new home as a result and an effort has been done to slowly build up and expand our catalog.

Of particular note is the efforts to bring out more Swords & Wizardry material.  When I first set up the store front at RPG Now, one of the first products was 'The Vile Worm' for S&W.  It was a bit of conversion work that was done and offered for free way back during S&W Appreciation Day.  I never bothered keeping track how many copies were downloaded when I hosted off my own space but I kept it free and available during all that time.  With the migration to RPG Now, I decided to make it freely available for while longer up to mid-October.  That would mean that it would have been free for 6 months with the last of those months being hosted up on the new storefront.  Naturally I let people know that this was happening, and fellow readers and bloggers spread the word.  Thanks to those nifty reports that are available when one has a store through any of the One Book Shelf services, I now have some numbers.  While it was free, there were over 500 downloads in those 4 weeks it was hosted on RPG Now.

Now, before any of you get any ideas and start churning out your own product thinking 'easy money', the reality that the actual purchases with the price increase to a single dollar have been less than 2% in the four weeks that followed and I'm cool with that.  For me it confirms something I have known all along: Swords & Wizardry has a decent fan base.  Since then, I have released two other S&W titles which were conversions based on previously released Castles & Crusades titles.  These were, 'A Trick on the Tain' and 'The Ruins of Ramat'.  Sales for these seem to be a constant though slow trickle as far as numbers are concerned but it seems that some people are taking notice.

Is there any love remaining for Castles & Crusades?  I hate to say it but, it does seem to be a greater love for S&W than there is for C&C based on my past experiences but I think there is still plenty to go around.  With that in mind, I will be taking the time to do a C&C conversion of 'The Vile Worm' to be released towards the end of the month.  At that point, it will be really interesting to compare some of the sales figures between the two.

As to other projects and previous announcements... I mentioned the release of four things in particular this quarter and early 2014.  The good news is that we are more or less on track with some of the work involving these things.  When I made that series of announcements, I was unsure of exactly how I was going about these things as I was still working out some details.  I have made decisions since then and I have pretty much decided how I am proceeding.  I have already have made the initial inquires with the artist I have in mind for the products and after doing a lot of number crunching, I have decided to go with some sort of crowd-funding option.

The decision to go with something like Kickstarter or Indiegogo was not taken lightly.  A lot of us have seen problems with Kickstarters and as someone who has backed MANY projects, I have been disappointed with more than a couple of them.  I know that others have been soured by various experiences as well.  In this case, the projects in question are nearing completion and the art is one of the last steps.  The layout is something I'm toying around with because I intend to change things up a bit in order to be more intuitive and useful for in-game use.  Lastly, the Ballista Fast Play rules I mentioned also factors into my plans.  Once what I refer to as my 'proof of concept' is done, I will be launching the funding campaign but not before.

The wait is deliberate though because, when it does launch, rewards will be delivered quickly upon the completion of the funding drive.  The goal would be to deliver digital copies within a couple of weeks of the end of the campaign and hard copies 6-8 weeks after the campaign end.  More on that later.  The other reason for the delay is the holidays.  As it stands, the campaign will be starting soon enough but that would put the end of the campaign dangerously close to the holidays.  The solution to this issue is either to start it later or simply make the campaign longer than a month.  What will likely happen is do a bit of both.

The one thing I didn't really talk about is how the project fits in to my support of C&C and S&W.  The answer is that I will continue to support both of these games in one fashion or another going forward.  I love Swords & Wizardry and I enjoy and primarily play Castles & Crusades with an increasing amount of 'tweaks'.  There is no reason why I wouldn't show my love for both.

Beyond that, I'm still looking towards the future and I have a couple more projects that will be tackled in the new year for productions during the 2014 year.

To visit the store front for any of the PDFs, you can do so HERE.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Swords & Wizardry: The Ruins of Ramat

The Ruins of Ramat is an adventure that has gone several incarnations and revisions since it was first published by Brave Halfling Publishing in early 2009. Two versions were initially published – one for Labyrinth Lord and another released for ‘Original Edition Adventures’ to denote compatibility to the original edition of the world’s most popular role-playing game.  Arcana Creations was subsequently recruited that same year to bring Ramat to Castles & Crusades with the additional goal to expand the adventure.  It’s been four years since that version has been released and this Swords & Wizardry conversion is based on that version of John Adam’s Ruins of Ramat.

The Original Edition Adventures version was the first version I came in contact with and was my first dealings as a customer of Brave Halfling Publishing.  Little did I know that, some weeks later, John would be calling for my assistance for some Castles & Crusades conversions which led to the creation of Arcana Creations.

It is now available at RPGNow over HERE at a special price of $1.50.  This price won't be sticking around forever though because come the month of December, the price will be bumped to the regular price of $2.50 for this little, introductory adventure.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Last Call: Sale on the PDF for A Trick on the Tain (S&W)

Today is the last day to take advantage of the sale price on the Swords & Wizardry version of 'A Trick on the Tain'.

What is it?  It's a low-level, wilderness-based adventure that takes place in a northern-tundra type environment.  Presently priced at $2.50, you can check out a preview at RPG Now, HERE.  Price will be bumped to $3.50 at the end of this day.

That is all.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Alignment Axis

Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos.

Alignment plays an interesting role in some of our RPGs where as others ignore them.  Depending on whom you ask, some gamers would do away with them completely were as others stick by them and argue that certain games effects are affected by or have an impact on a character's alignment.  I suppose it does make certain things easier when you codify it.

When I first started playing AD&D the notion of choosing an alignment didn't really strike me as odd but that might have been because so many other things were a bit odd when I was creating my first character.  Having been brought up on stories, mythology, movies, and comic books, I had a fair grasp of what was good and what was evil.  By equal measure, I understood what was law and that chaos was the absence of law and pretty much an embracing of anarchy.  Neutrality was just neutrality so none of this is something I gave much thought about.

It wasn't until years later that I did give it more consideration.

In classic D&D ... you have three alignments: Law, Chaos, and Neutrality with Law generally being associated with 'good' and Chaos being associated with 'evil' (but not always... good and evil are based on intent).  With AD&D, more depth was added when ethics were separated from these original concepts  Where you once had three alignments, you now had a total of nine which ranged from Lawful Good to Chaotic Evil.  These seemed to be more representative of many common archetypes though it feels a bit more 'cookie-cutter' to me.

A lot of this became a lot clearer to me once I read a lot more Moorcock -- the Eric series in particular.  There you have the forces of Law in constant struggle with the forces of Chaos but are these strictly good or evil?  To me, the Elric character is certainly of 'Chaos' but I wouldn't necessarily put him as evil.  Of course, with Games Workshop... the forces of Chaos are universally twisted, warped, and evil.  In fact, I've thought about doing away with alignment completely in my games, and other times I felt like just adopting the Law / Chaos dynamic instead.  It certainly worked well enough in the past without over complicating matters.  Is there another option?

A couple of games have tried to do something a bit different though usually this is centered on a cosmetic aspect of the game (the fluff) as opposed to a system.  How the new Fellwater RPG handles this issue was very interesting.  First, it's not a simple two sided argument of good or evil.  These are more like 'world views' or philosophies and a much more detailed replacement for a conventional alignment system.  In the game, the author refers to them as Sources.  When I asked him about it, this is what he had to say:

The Source represents the character’s overall world view, as well as that which the supplies the character with her energy. It is comparable to D&D’s “alignment”, but it does not represent stations on a spectrum between good and evil. One could also compare the Sources to the “Roads” in Vampire. But the eight Roads described in Vampire are very specific models of good and evil: so specific they attach to specific clans in most cases. They aren't comprehensive world views. But the Sources in my game are comparable to the general world views of monotheism (divinity), pantheism and taoism (nature), the dharmic traditions (consciousness), and scientific rationalism (forces). The fifth source (emptiness) may be comparable to existentialism or nihilism, but it is a 'source' of my own creation for the sake of the game. I got the idea for the sources by reading books on the anthropology of religion, and the works of philosophers like Albert Schweitzer and Michael York, and of course my own life-long study of folklore and philosophy. My hope is that they will enrich people's gaming experience, but also enrich their thoughts about their own world views.

Now, some of these might seem a bit abstract at first but, to give an example from the text (a draft of the manuscript):

The intentionality of Divinity is order: whether this is the rational order of a just and fair society, or the oppressive order of a domineering state, or even the simple order of a clean house and well-organized garden.

By embedding a slightly more detailed philosophy to the character, it may help give a greater dimension to the character you are trying to portray as well as a better set of guidelines for their behaviors and responses.

Curious to know more about the Fellwater RPG?  You can find out more by following the link HERE.


Monday, November 11, 2013

How Games Tell Stories...

What follows is not something I wrote but something I felt makes a lot sense to me and I think it will make sense to some of my readers out there too.  It's reposted with kind permission of Brendan Myers, writer and designer of the Fellwater RPG I wrote a bit about a few days ago, which you can check out HERE.


How Games Tell Stories, and How to Turn a Story Into a Game

Good games are games that tell interesting stories. Any kind of game can tell a story, from ancient classics like Chess, King’s Table, and Go, to complex military simulations like Warhammer. Characters appear; problems beset them; solutions are sought and struggles are endured; and events in the world unfold. At the end of the story, the original problem might have been solved, in a glorious victory. Or it might remain unsolved, in ambiguous stalemate or tragic defeat. But in either case, a story is a character who changes because of a problem.

In games, of course, the characters are the players, and they change by growing stronger or weaker in the course of play. And the problems they face are the competing players. The story might be so short it could be told in a few sentences: “A leader raised an army, and went to the field of battle to face a terrible enemy. The armies fought each other with all their might. Great acts of heroism were seen, but also great acts of treachery and cunning, and many men on both sides died. Eventually the leader and his army won the day.” That story could describe real-world battles like the Siege of Stalingrad, or mythological battles like the events of Homer’s Illiad. But it could also describe the events of a session of Dungeons and Dragons, or a chess tournament, or the Super Bowl (although one would hope that no one really died). In every case, there’s a story being told.

It’s easy to see how a story can emerge from a game: the act of playing the game is basically the same as the act of telling the story. Less easy to see is how a game could be made that replicates the events of a story that has already been told. Such games, of course, are commonplace: video games based on popular films are the most obvious examples. There’s also war simulation games, for tabletop and for computers, that replicate various historical battles. But games based on pre-existing stories present new challenges to the designers. 

First of all, stories are made of words, sentences, descriptions, characters, plot arcs, events, feelings, and dramatic experiences, and the like. Games are made of those things too, but games are also made of numbers. Chess pieces, for instance, have a capture value, and a mathematically quantifiable movement function. Characters in an RPG, and units in a military simulation, have hit points, attack and defense values, movement rates, and other numerical attributes which define how they behave, and how much of a challenge they present to players. So the game designer who wants to turn a story into a game has to find a way to tell a story using numbers instead of using words alone.

Here’s another challenge for the designers. A game based on a pre-existing story can offer players only one way to win the game: the players win by replicating the events of the story, and they lose by failing to replicate that story. Now, it’s not hard to understand why such games are popular, even though the victory conditions are so specific. After reading the Harry Potter books, for instance, one might want to explore the wizarding world on her own, and become Harry or one of his friends, and achieve Harry’s victory for herself. After reading some military history, you might want to know what it felt like to be General Eisenhower or Prime Minister Churchill, planning the Normandy landings. But the players and the game designers already know how the story ends – or how it “should” end. It ends in exactly the way the story says it ends. That is the very meaning of that kind of game. But the game designers still have to offer an unique experience to players. They have to offer interesting challenges, meaningful freedom to act and to strategize in the course of play, and real prospects for failure in order to make victory feel sweet. This creates a kind of paradox: the game has to offer that freedom and challenge to players, but at the same time it must preserve a pre-ordained conclusion.

I’m a novelist as well as a game designer. This summer, while finishing my third novel, it occurred to me that a tabletop RPG that I had been tinkering with for almost 20 years could be set in the same world as the novels. And that’s how I discovered those two challenges. I’d have to find a way to tell my story using numbers as well as words. And I’d have to find a way to offer freedom and challenge to the players whilst preserving a specific narrative arc. 

To the first challenge, I had to re-read my own books and look for anything that could be measured mathematically. I asked questions like: in what ways are some characters more powerful than others? Which characters are smarter? Which are better fighters? Which have more economic resources? And at first I was unhappy with this process. As a novelist, my characters are like people to me, and almost as real as my friends. And I didn’t like putting them into little mathematical boxes. But I remembered the arguments of philosopher David Hume, who observed that things are made of their properties (their size, shape, colour, weight, etc.), and it’s basically impossible to imagine an object with no properties. So although I didn’t like “digitizing” my characters, I sucked it up, and made the game.

The best solution to the second challenge was to offer players a kind of third option. Instead of creating a game where the only way to win is to conform to the story, I offered ways to allow players to tell a different story. Let’s call this third option “revision”. Sid Meyer’s “Civilization” series is an example of this: the game gives players a chance to “rewrite history”, just as its advertising slogan says. RPG’s based on films like Star Wars, or books like Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings”, are also examples, when they allow players to create their own characters, and not just take over the role of Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins. Now this option may appear to defeat the purpose of creating a game based on a pre-existing story. The stories that players of my game will tell will be their stories, not mine. In the “revision” option, the game designers do not fix the narrative arc of the story that emerges from the game. Instead, the designers fix the “world” of the story. They fill in the background of history, and draw the maps, and lay out the social or political arrangements, define special terms or even whole languages, and in general they create the logical field in which all the player’s movements and choices have meaning. Thus, for instance, players of the Lord of the Rings RPG are not re-enacting the books or the films. They’re not re-telling the story that JRR Tolkien already told. But they are living in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Gamers often find that to be just as satisfying as re-enacting a story from history or fiction. In the same way, players of my game will tell their own stories, but live in “my” world. And as a game designer and a novelist, I find that solution very satisfying, too.


Brendan Myers applies what he talks about when going about to create his new game, the Fellwater Tales RPG presently being Kickstarted.  You can find out more about the crowdfunding efforts HERE.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Swords & Wizardry: Trick on the Tain PDF

Only 5 days left to take advantage of the sale price to celebrate this new release for Swords & Wizardry.  It is presently $2.50 until November 15th in PDF at RPGNow!.

You can get it HERE.

Aside from that, I'm already working on the next PDF release for S&W which I expect to be a bit later this month.

That is all.  ;)


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fellwater Tales RPG Kickstarter

Well, this morning I promised I had some Kickstarter news and I do of various sorts...

First and foremost, I want to call you attention to an interesting new RPG project being launched.  No, it's not mine but the author and designer is a friend of mine and it is a project that seems very promising.  Of course, there are have been and will continue to be many, MANY Kickstarters as it's become more and more the thing to do when wanting to publish an endeavor such as this.  So, before going any further...

  • Yes the game is largely written already.  There's a bit more that needs to be done to finish up but, I have seen the primary text for the game which comes in at over 180 pages thus far.  All text, single spaced, and art.  When you check out the kickstarter and you see reference that this system has been worked on and off for the past couple of decades, and then see the text, yes... you it shows.
  • This isn't his first Kickstarter.  Brendan Meyers is a published author of more than 10 books and he has done a text book through Kickstarter.  This book in question is titled 'Clear & Present Thinking: A Handbook in Logic and Rationality' and is intended as a textbook in colleges and universities in the subject of philosophy / critical thinking.  The electronic version of this text book is free and, available HERE.  It was a successful project that pulled in over three times the required amount with just over 700 backers (including myself).
  • This isn't his first gaming project.  A short while ago, I reviewed a game of his called Iron Age: Council of the Clans.  It's a game I rather enjoyed and you can read about my experiences with it HERE.
So, for those you shy away from Kickstarter, he has a mostly finished product, he has experience with Kickstarter, he is an established writer as well as a gamer.  So, with some concerns alleviated, why would any of you be interested in another role playing game.

A fair question and one I will endeavor to try in answer in detail in the weeks ahead -- to be fair I've got about over 180 pages to digest.  I'll try and summarize it though.

This game is primarily a skill based system and doesn't have 'levels' in the sense we understand other game systems.  Each character has a set of stats termed 'virtues': Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Charisma, Perception, and Centre ranging from 1 to 7 and uses a point-buy system.  A player also chooses a path (which is basically like a profession), a lineage (your heritage), and source (closest thing would be alignment but not in a good and evil sense).  A point-buy system is also used to purchase skills for the starting character.

The system itself functions on opposed-rolls utilizing a d20 and adding the relevant stat (virtue) and skill ranks to the die roll for a total.  If it is equal to or higher the target or opposed roll, then the task being attempted is a success.

Of course, a game system is partially about the flavor and there seems to be tons.  If someone where to ask me what this game is closest to in terms of comparison, I would be a bit hard pressed to find a single example if you consider flavor and system.  I suppose it would be a cross between the Nephilim RPG and Vampire: The Masquarade though less dark than either.  With the flexible skill system and approach, you could even throw in a dash of the Elder Scrolls in there too.  The basic premise in the game is that you are essentially descended from the ancient gods.

All of this I will go into more detail in the weeks ahead but I heartily recommend that you check out the project HERE.

A couple of last points... Arcana Creations will be beta-testing the system which is why I have access to earlier documentation of the game.  If you are interested, you will quickly find out that this is a Canadian Kickstarter which won't be a problem as far as the exchange rate is concerned but won't be handled by the usual Amazon Payments as you might have expected.  It seems to be a Credit Card option only.

What about an Arcana Creations Kickstarter?  Yes... I am looking at one and possibly launching something very soon.  I am still doing some research and completing aspects of the projects before I try and raise money for it though.  ;)


PDF Product Reminders...

Just wanted to remind my readers about a couple things that are happening right now:

'A Trick on the Tain' was released for Swords & Wizardry a few days ago and is currently selling for $2.50 and is a tundra-based wilderness adventure that could be adapted easily enough to fit a regular winter-like setting.  As of November 15th, the price will go up to the regular price of $3.50

You can find it HERE.

With Christina Stile's newest release for Castles & Crusades, a gaming aid on Granite Dwarves, it occurred to me that the recent adventure I had converted was a good fit with her recent release.  After discussing it with her, we are happy to offer a BUNDLE combining the original C&C version of A 'Trick on the Tain' and the Granite Dwarves gaming aid.  The bundle is $5.50 which is a deal if you consider the regular price of the adventure alone for C&C sells at $4.95

You can find it HERE.

All in all, it looks like it's going to be another busy week for me and I don't think I'll be getting any painting done.  I am resuming one of my C&C campaigns that's been on hold for over a year now so I'm pretty happy about that.

Besides that, I've got some Kickstarter news to cover but that will have to wait tonight.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Weekend R&R: Fantasy Races Unlocked - Granite Dwarves

About a week ago, I wrote up a small review on a new digital release for the Castles & Crusades RPG called 'Fantasy Races Unlocked - Kobolds'.  Personally, I think there should be an exclamation mark at the end of the title because Kobolds, like Goblins, are freakin' awesome.  That said, I found this small gaming aid a very good start of what could be a promising series and I had heard there was something in the works.  Imagine my surprise when the new installment was made available.  The second in the series is 'Fantasy Races Unlocked - Granite Dwarves'.

Ok... I know what some of you may already be thinking.  It might be something along the lines of, 'What... more dwarves?  What makes these different and why should I care?'.  Ok... maybe nothing as harsh as that but, you get my point.  I was understandably curious and wondered what kind of angle would present this self with this new gaming aid.

Well, when I went through this title, I wasn't disappointed.  Actually I am really excited about it and I think that this is a solid step forward in the series.  It continues in the excellent direction that the first one takes and offers a bit more in the process.  And, damn it... I want to play a Granite Dwarf!

As I mentioned in the review I did for the Kobolds release, I have a soft spot for this kind of accessory as it reminds me of The Complete Book of Humanoids published by TSR.  As a fan of C&C, I was happy that the it, much like this one, followed the format of the races as presented in the Players Handbook.  Now, without going into a lot of detail for these types of dwarves, know that their environment is much colder, harsher, and unforgiving than what a regular dwarf is accustomed to.  Think of a boreal or sub-arctic environment.  You can safely put those stone carving notions of the traditional dwarves aside and while they share many racial traits, there are new ones that stand out.  And, like the previous accessory, you have some Alternate/Optional Racial Traits listed that you can swap one of these for a standard one.  This is a feature I love the most about these aids as it gives a bit more diversification beyond what one may expect from a game like C&C.

Where this accessory stands out from the previous release is the addition of a bit more material.  You have sample characters, encounter information, a new creature, and a couple of new items.  The sample characters provided come in the guise of a typical, 1st level fighter and a typical, 5th level cleric.  The encounter guidelines help supplement the information already provided in the aid but also introduce the 'Frigid Goblin'.  A complete stat-block is provided for the goblin in the familiar C&C format.  The new items are simple but interesting with just enough flavor text to make them enticing to what to introduce them in a game.

While this new gaming aid is a notch up in terms of value for the potential buyer (it is also selling HERE are RPGNow! for a mere $2), there is a singular limiting factor with this accessory and that is the region where these dwarves are likely to be used in -- at least at first glance.  I think the Granite Dwarves can be adapted easily enough to fit other environments or settings and this is, at the very least, a great example of a template to follow.  All you need is a bit of imagination.

Of course, the reason I was excited was the realization that they could be fit in as-is to the region outlined in 'A Trick on the Tain', a C&C module Arcana Creations put out about three years ago and recently released as a Swords & Wizardry conversion on RPGNow! just yesterday.  With that in mind, I quickly contacted Christina Stiles and we have decided to create a bundle on RPGNow! that combines both the Granite Dwarves gaming aid along with the original C&C version of 'A Trick on the Tain'.

If you are interested in just the Granite Dwarves release, you can find it HERE but if the idea of the aid bundled together with an adventure appeals to you, you can find the bundle HERE for $5.50 in PDF.


Friday, November 1, 2013

One Last Trick...

I hope my readers and fellow gamers have had a great Halloween yesterday.  Halloween traces it's historic roots to a Celtic festival known as Samhain which started at sunset and lasted till sunset the following day.  With that in mind and in the spirit of Halloween, I thought I'd offer up one last treat... or rather a trick for Samhain.  Click HERE to go there directly.

Three years ago, Arcana Creations with Brave Halfling Publishing put out an interested adventure entitled, 'A Trick on the Tain' for Castles & Crusades.  It attracted some minor attention when released and garnered a couple of promising reviews, such as the one on Grognardia which is found HERE.  I figured it was time to bring this to be closer in line with Swords & Wizardry since the Vile Worm release for it continues to be popular.

This version of the Trick on the Tain essentially cuts out the appendix which was largely irrelevant for Swords & Wizardry and sacrifices some of the artwork in order to keep the release small but it also has a lower price tag and all of the scenario text has been altered save the conversion itself.

For a limited time, it will be on sale at RPG Now! (and DrivethruRPG) for $2.50 instead of the regular $3.50 price.  You can find it HERE.  It will return to its original price on November 15th.