What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Quiet or Plotting? (An Update)

Things have been quiet on the blog but that doesn't mean I've been inactive...

Since my last post about 10 days ago, I have finalized some of my Gen Con plans (like ensuring I have that time off) and while it's since quite a ways off, I can't help but be excited.  Got my taxes out of the day and as it turns out, I'm getting a nice little refund which will help cover costs of the trip.

I (as Arcana Creations) have also supported the 'Medusa's Gaming Guide for Girls' project put together by Christina Stiles.  I thought the project a worthwhile one and I do like the work that Christina has done in the past and is committed to continuing to do.  This kind of gig isn't easy so I'm always happy to see little project like these realized, if only because I've been there and still doing 'that'.

On 'that' subject, some news in case it seems like I've abandoned a few projects.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The projects I announced back towards the end of 2013 (fourth quarter) are still happening.  The only difference is the final form that these will take are more defined than they were.  I had talked and got quotes regarding art and was satisfied with the pricing but format and further consideration means I need to tweak my requirements.  The biggest problem was capital.  I have seen too many projects get crowd-funded only to get killed under pressure, demands, and failing to deliver.  While I am all-too happy to consider crowd funding the ultimate realization of some publishing projects, I refuse to do it without proper work having been squared away first.  One of these things is art and I felt it important to have not just text in hand, but have the art paid for (at the very least) as well.  Well, the wait for that last bit is almost over.  The needed funds to pay for the art has been secured which means that will be one significant milestone accomplished.  What does this mean and where am I at?

  • Text is written and largely edited.  Some of it (there are three releases) is already in layout.
  • Art commission will be made before the end of the month.
  • Maps are about 25% done for the three releases

A crowd-funding campaign will start at the end of this month or early April.  I will likely use Indiegogo as opposed to Kickstarter simply because of greater flexibility as far as payment methods are concerned (Kickstarter in Canada does *NOT* use Amazon Payments and only uses credit cards.  Indiegogo accepts credit cards and Paypal).

Quite frankly, the crowd-funding campaign will be more about the physical production of the releases (through One Book Shelf services) and getting it out to backers and having copies to spare for distribution..  If, hypothetically, the campaign were to fail, I still can go ahead with the project though it may be restricted to PDF with POD option.  The other good thing about getting a lot of this stuff out of the way is that I will have a few things to show before the end of the funding campaign -- always a nice thing to see and how better to reassure potential backers right?

At any rate, things are finally shaping up on that end though my original estimates of a 1st quarter release this year is looking to be closer to an end of 2nd quarter release.

Beyond that, my own personal game is advancing though some players were a bit disgruntled at the lack of 'benefits' and magic items they were getting in the campaign thus far.  I think this is largely motivated by the death of a party member and the fact that everyone in the party doesn't have magical weapons and armor yet.  These are the types of players that may be apt to find a magic shoppe in the campaign in order to 'gear up'.  There were also questions of when their ability scores might see an increase (because third edition allowed for that...).  Let's just say that, while I can be accommodating about certain things, I don't believe an extra '+1' here or there makes a tremendous difference given how I've seen the party comport itself in game. They are having fun though so, who knows, maybe I will throw them an extra bone.  In the end, everything comes at a price.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Roadtrip to GenCon 2014!

Well, what started as a 'what-if' has resulted in book hotel, transportation, and tickets leading to this year's Gen Con!  I have never been to Gen Con and, honestly, I have never been to a *real* gaming convention.  But I've been to conventions.  The wife is coming along too -- she is more of a casual gamer but with so much to do, she isn't at all worried about being bored.  We are also traveling with two other friends and, the try and cut costs were possible, have decided to make this into a road trip.  It will be a very long 16 hour road trip and likely a good test of friendships all around!

We're all looking forward to it though I do have a few additional things to attend to in the next month or so to make sure everything is set -- like renewing my passport.

Costs were quite reasonable, considering my share of everything is costing me just over $400.  The only thing I will have to worry about is food and spending money.  Given the nature of the trip, I think I'm doing quite well.

I think the greatest aspect of this trip to Gen Con is finally getting a chance to met a bunch of online acquaintances and possibly game with a few of them as well.

I think it will also mean that I will step up some of my selling before the trip to see if I can raise additional funds for the convention.  ;)


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Shipping Is Too Much!

This isn't the first time I'm commented on the cost of shipping.  A couple years ago, I mused about doing some reselling.  Basically, new product offered at a substantial discount but, if the buyer were to buy multiple items, the discount would quickly offset any expensive shipping when shipping elsewhere to Canada, the United States, and even some places aboard!

Great idea which I never followed through since I also had some of my personal collection (second-hand gaming stuff) I was looking to part with.  Over the past couple of years, I've sold stuff though usually it was in the form of a larger-than-life product bundle.

For instance, I sold an extremely large Star Wars d6 (from WEG) collection a couple of years back and last year I sold a very inclusive run of the Dungeon Crawl Classics module line.  Both sales went well and I think in both cases, the boxes cost about $60 - $70 to ship.  Very expensive but I was also selling the books for practically pennies on the dollar.  I've tried to do other bundles in the past but they don't always work out.  I do remember selling a bunch of extra Role Aids material I had and, comparatively speaking, shipping was cheaper (box was also smaller) and still fantastic value.

My quest of course continues and I have, for instance a bunch of classic AD&D modules I would like to sell.  Given what they are, I'm thinking selling them separately instead of together and possibly on ebay.  I was also thinking that certain hardbacks to try and sell those separately as well.  Well, out of curiosity, I decided to price shipping Necromancer Games' "Tome of Horrors" -- not the complete book as put out by Frog God Games, but the original first volume of the book.  It's a fantastic resource and, one of the best third-party products ever put out that made its mark very early in the life space of Third Edition.  Well, keeping packaging to an absolute minimum (size and weight are both important factors), I did my calculations and well on the Canada Post website and did a quote from my location to California (it's actually the same price to anywhere in the continental US).

Price of shipping?  $26.17 CDN which (with the most recent exchange rate I checked) works out to $23.60 USD.  So... Twenty-Four dollars before I even ascribe a cost to the book!  If I went with what Noble Knight priced their copies currently, the cheapest one they have is $20 which, I think is fair for the book.  However, even if I dropped it to a mere $10, it would still mean a $34 expenditure for a single used d20 gaming hardback.

Ok, granted it's a heavy book due to the paper type they used that is largely to blame.  If I were to ship the Castles & Crusades PHB, the same package would be shipped for about $10 less.  That's a *HUGE* difference and the breaking point is where the package ceases to be classified as a 'Small Packet'.  1 Kilogram is the magic number (1 kg is just about 2.2 lbs).  If you manage to ship something that is much lighter...  say a single module, then the shipping drops even further.  It would cost about $8 to ship a classic AD&D module and about $10 to $15 to ship 2-3 modules.

So... The results are somewhat discouraging.  I either continue going 'big' and offer a lot of stuff at great prices to offset high shipping costs or stay small and light as much as possible.

Of course, what I would really need is someone to buy everything I want in one fell swoop while paying a lot more than what Noble Knight Games would consider offering, and just be done with it.

Or maybe some sort of exchange service?  Though ideally, I think I would rather pair down what I have instead of replacing it with just different stuff.

Do any of my readers have any thoughts or suggestions?

Would any of my readers object to paying $35 for the Tome of Horrors (be it a hypothetical or actual)?

Talk to me folks.


Monday, March 3, 2014

GM's Day Sale (RPG Now!)

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the annual GM's Day Sale over on RPG Now!  Lot's of discounted gaming goodness and, while Arcana Creations doesn't have much available (working on getting some new stuff up in the weeks and months ahead), what is there are adventures for Castles & Crusades as well as Swords & Wizardry.

All 30% off.

You can go direct to the storefront HERE.


D&D Next, Higher Costs, and the FLGS

As usual, the internet is an a complete uproar with the leaked pricing of the new Players Handbook for D&D Next which Wizards of the Coast is expected to release this summer.  I read a lot of the reactions of the forums and some of the blogs and I find the responses largely humorous.

Too often, people are quick to make comparisons.  I've heard a few arguments comparing the $50 book to the Pathfinder Core book which combines the content of a Players Guide and a GM's Guide in one volume for the same price!  My other favorite: the 3rd Edition Player's Handbook sold for $20 when it came out!  And, better yet, at that price, I can buy both the Players Handboook and the Monster & Treasure Guide for Castles & Crusades!

All this is true *but* doesn't exactly reflect reality of the situation.

Consider Castles & Crusades for a moment.  When I first got into the game back in 2006, the second printing of the PHB and the 1st printing of the M&T were both available and sold for $19.95 each.  Seriously, this was a fantastic bargain when you compared other gaming books being sold at that time.  Both books were 128 page hardcovers, a nice but lesser quality paper stock, and entirely in black and white.  The  Player's Handbook was $30.  Since the 2nd printing of the C&C Players Handbook, two things happened.  One was the page count was increased by about 20 pages and the other was the price increased to $25.00 when this happened and, when the Players Handbook went into it's 5th printing, they went with color pages and another $5.00 price bump.  So, in 8 years, the Players Handbook for C&C increased by 50%.

If we consider that $30 price tag for the 3.5 edition of the Player's Handbook, the price increase is higher (about 67%) but not unreasonably so by comparison.  In fact, as it was pointed out elsewhere, back in 1979, the price for the AD&D Player's Handbook was $15.  It might not seem like much but, adjusted for today's inflation, that same price works out to just over $53 for the same book.  Remember, that book was smaller in page count (128 pages) and also featured awesome artwork (back when it wasn't old-school!). This also means that, by comparison, the premium reprints were a good price at $35, relatively speaking.  I point that out only because people will always complain about pricing.

Take for instance, a recent hardcover novel.  A $30 price tag is typical for a 300-500 page novel in hardcover format and, should you decide to wait for a mass market paperback release of the same book, a price of between $9 and $12 isn't unheard of.

Some people who posted went so far as to indicate the unaffordability of the books to get into the hobby and, the fact that this is just for one of the books fully expecting a three book paradigm as we have seen in the past.  Once again, two points: The cost of a new video game on an Xbox or Playstation is $60 and who said that EVERY person playing the game will need ALL THREE BOOKS!?  The first point is simple observation and I don't know how these young high school kids do it.  Being an avid fan of video games, I own an XBox 360 and have owned one for years.  I have MANY games on my shelf and I have witnessed many 'kids' buy games on day one.  I'm not saying they do this regularly nor do I know how it is they pay for these games.  Hell, I have seen many of these kids with iphones as well -- I won't make too many assumptions.  They can do it though and, oddly enough, when I just got into the hobby when I was 13 or 14, I managed to buy many AD&D books.  I got a bit of money here and there which allowed me to buy the books I wanted and then some.  I couldn't buy them all at once but, between me and my friends, we collectively shared our books since we were all playing a campaign together.  My first book was the 2nd Edition Dungeon Masters Guide... one of my friends bought the Player's Handbook and he also had the BECMI sets.  We all had our own sets of dice and, at first, we bought a few adventure modules which had basic stat blocks and what you needed to run the adventure.  Afterwards, we would use those same stat blocks to create our own adventures until I bought Volumes 1 and 2 of the Monstrous Compendium.  In short we made do and every player not each having a complete set of the core books was just not an issue.

Now, as to address some of the other points... the whole $20 for the 3rd Edition PHB was promotional and did not extend beyond the initial printings.  TSR lost a lot of good will and accumulated a lot of dept.  When Wizards of the Coast bought out TSR (this was years before Hasbro would buy WOTC), they finished putting out material that was well on it's way to being finished and set to work on 3rd Edition.  Knowing that there were many changes and to win back many some of the fans that they lost or, simply to get present 1st and 2nd Edition players to give 3rd Edition a serious look, they decided to put out the books as inexpensive as they could get without losing any money.  The plan worked and, in conjunction with the OGL, D&D was effectively saved.  Subsequent printings had a higher price tag.  Frankly, I would love if they did this sort of thing again.

Does this mean that you *need* to shell out $50?  Of course not and everyone knows that there are plenty of options when you can buy books at a significant discount.  The argument that these large chain stores and online e-commerce is killing the smaller bookstores and our beloved game stores isn't the whole story by far.  When someone says that buying off Amazon is killing a local retailer because you aren't buying from him, a couple of things comes to mind.  Did the owner of the small store actually plan on ordering a few hundred copies of this one book?  Probably not.  They may be tempted to order a bunch but chances are they won't order much than 25 copies of a significant title like the Players Handbook for the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons.  Even 25 might be a bit much considering any other gaming book might have something more manageable along the lines of 2-5 copies of any single book depending on the system.  They will simply re-order as necessary.  Did they sell more books back in the days before Amazon and the big chain bookstores?  Undoubtedly but the thing to remember is that the store isn't getting much money out of the sale of a book to begin with.  Just over a decade ago, I did work in a small shop that sold books and I routinely took care of these orders.  For any single book, the most the store made was 40% of the cover price.  That 50$ book would be a respectable $20 for the store.  But, again, that was at most and given the costs of running a store like the staff and the rent, you quickly realize you need to sell A WHOLE LOT of books or, books and other things.  A successful games store needs to diversify and has to rely on a host of offerings to be successful.  The collectible card game boom was one such way where a store could rake in a bunch of cash and video games, collectibles, and graphic novels are another.  There isn't one true formula and the success of the store does depend on customers.  However, just because I have the internet at my fingertips doesn't mean I have stopped buying elsewhere.  There is nothing that beats looking through a book if you were initially undecided.  More often than not, a customer that likes what they see in a store will also buy it provided that there isn't an additional mark up beyond the cover price!  Many stores will run games and offer demos and special promotions for customer loyalty and new releases.  Rest assured that, while many may opt to buy online, people will still buy from the stores including D&D Next.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Weekend R&R: Monster's Handbook (d20)

With the Critter Bundle I've put up for sale, I made brief mention of 'The Book of Templates' published by Goodman Games.  While a great resource, it isn't the only d20 book on my gaming shelf that fills this kind of function. In this case, one of my favorites is the 'Monster's Handbook' which is part of the Legends & Lairs series, a d20 book published by Fantasy Flight Games.  This isn't the first time I praise the books from this series and, it's worth mentioning the involvement of Mike Mearls as one of the main writers for many of these books.  For those who don't know, he's tied to the development of D&D Next (aka 5th Edition) set to release later this year.

Now, the Monster's Handbook is a sourcebook for creating and customizing monsters for the d20 system (pretty much D&D 3.x and other derived games).  The book stands out in a few ways though in that it's not just a collection of templates.  The first chapter is about modifying your creatures and, by extension, creating new ones.  Lots of tables dictating costs and how to calculate new challenge ratings as well as providing all manner of guidelines to help you in this process.  The book from Goodman Games does as good a job as this book actually unlike other d20 books that just seem to provide new templates.  The second chapter, which is just four pages, talks about creature tactics and, is concise and to the point giving the reader / user helpful guidance with the creation of the critter.

Of course, the majority of the book are templates and the remaining chapters of the book are each devoted to a category of monsters:
  • Aberrations
  • Dragons
  • Elementals
  • Fey
  • Giants
  • Humanoids & Monstrous Humanoids
  • Outsiders
  • Shapechangers
  • Undead
Each chapter is interesting in itself... discussing everything from classes, to skill and feats, to even items, both mundane and magical.  Many of these are new and suited to the subject matter of a given chapter and then specific new templates are provided to use whereby the changes are detailed and, special rules as explained as needed.  Each chapter also provides a ready to use example -- many of which are quite cool.

The biggest disservice of this particular book come down to how Fantasy Flight Games when publishing this material handled certain things.  Most of the books in the series is hardcover have about the same page count... 172 pages plus a couple extra pages for adverts and the OGL.  The Monster's Handbook had an entire chapter not included in the book.  It's listed in the Table of Contents as a Free Download from Fantasy Flight Games.  It is referred to as a 'Bonus Chapter'.  Of course, the book came out in 2002 and this presents a problem if you never grabbed this extra content.  It just isn't anywhere to be found anymore (but I count myself lucky that I have it).

I do enjoy the book and probably one of the biggest draws for this book is concerning the nature of monsters in 3rd Edition.  Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of issues with the system over all but there were some great aspects of the game design that deserves to be highlighted.  One of course is the unified dice mechanic and this is a good thing and I'm happy that other games that are closer to 'old school' in terms of philosophy have adopted it.  Of course, Castles & Crusades comes to mind but there are others.  The other though were how the monsters were done and constructed (for the most part).  With many of the earlier monsters appearing in the core books, there was a strong desire to create a systematic game balance no matter where you looked.  More often than not, they succeeded.  Balance eroded in time as more and more supplements were being pumped out and some of the problems were compounded by a variety of new d20, third-party, publishers trying to make a quick buck as they 'rode the wave of consumer demand'.  A lot of work and detail went in to the Monster Manual and then Monster Manual II as, essentially, the question of creating monsters came down to formulas.  Nothing was ever perfect so not all Feats (for instance) were created equal but the rest of it presented something that resembled more of a 'system' than just, 'going with your gut and instincts' when creating something new.  Of course, trying to use this for C&C or even Swords & Wizardry may ultimately be an exercise in pointlessness, a book like the Monster's Handbook was a valuable aid for those playing d20 material along with the rest of the Legends & Lairs series.

Sadly, any hope of getting a legal PDF of this book seems elusive as most of the series is just no longer available.  It's no longer even recognized on the Fantasy Flight Games website.  Fortunately, there is a second-hand market and this book isn't all that elusive.  Looking at Noble Knight games, you can secure a copy in NM condition for a mere $8.00.  Well worth the price *if* d20 / 3rd Edition still appeals to you for one reason or another.

Happy Gaming!


Giant Rats: Painting Guide

There is nothing 'giant' about these giant rats but, if I was only 25 - 30mm tall, these would be big freakin' rats!  I had a number of them from the first Reaper Bones Kickstarter and I thought it would be nice to do them all and just get them out of the way.  However, I quickly made more work for myself as I realized that I didn't want to do them all the same color.  I fact, I started off by even thinking of doing different color bases and alternate between black and white to give the appears of the classic black and white kitchen floor tile design.

Things changed as I started working on the rats so while it took me longer to do certain things, it was still a quick enough process given I was working with 24 models!

The big thing to change was the bases.  Each rate is on a tile base which is, in reality composed of 'tiles'.  The effect would have look a bit weird so I was already having my doubts as I was working on the rats.  What sealed it is when I worked on the white tiles.  Initially, I painted half the bases white but I applied a dark shade (wash).  The tiles became (predictably) grey but the lines were darkened as intended.  What I was originally going to do was do a drybush of white over the base which would have preserved the lines/cracks in the base but given me the brilliant white tile.  However, the grey looked so good and the best way I could describe it would be a 'dungeon grey' which, needless to say, worked really well.  As for the rats, a total of 4 colors were used: White, Brown, Grey, and Black.

The Specifics:

As usual, I predominantly used the Citadel paints from Games Workshop when painting these models unless otherwise specified.  Furthermore, I primed the miniatures using Gesso before applying my base coat.  My initial article on Gesso can be found HERE if you are not accustomed to working with it but would like to know more.

Base Coat:

Needless to say these are not meant to be a massive undertaking as far as painting is concerned.  With application of the base coat paint, most of the work is done with the miniature.

  • Ceramite White - Floor Tiles, White Rats, Teeth
  • Gorthor Brown - Brown Rats
  • Abaddon Black - Black Rats
  • Skavenblight Dinge - Grey Rats
  • Mephiston Red - Eyes


All models received a generous coating of 'Nuln Oil' which extended to the coating of the base.

Dry Brushing:

Keeping it simple, only two models received very light Dry Brushing.  I used 'Praxeti White' on the white rats since the shading turned these grey like the tiles.  The white served to bring it back to what it was while leaving some of the shading in the recesses of the fur and model.  I used a bit of 'Mechanicus Standard Grey' on the Black Rats just to give it a hint of highlighting.  Upon reflection, a very dark blue could have worked well instead.


I went back and used a layer of 'Evil Sunz Scarlet' to allow the eyes to stand out a bit more and... there we have it.  Two good sessions to do 24 rats to unless upon unwary adventurers!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

SALE - Goodman Games Critter Bundle (March 2014)

Well, I confess I was a bit surprised that last month's February Sale offer of the Wilderlands Bundle did not find a buyer.  I knew it was on the upper end of the spectrum as far as pricing went.  Pricing was more than fair but, given what was included, it amounted to something that some may have considered a bit high.

For this month, I decided to pull a series of books off the gaming shelf published by Goodman Games.  This sale is available for a LIMITED TIME ONLY.  These books are (in no particular order):

  • The Complete Guide to Rakshasas
  • The Complete Guide to Liches
  • The Complete Guide to Fey
  • The Complete Guide to Werewolves
  • The Complete Guide to Vampires
  • The Complete Guide to Dragonkin
  • The Complete Guide to Doppelgangers
  • The Complete Guide to Wererats
  • The Complete Guide to Drow
  • The Complete Guide to Treants
  • The Complete Guide to Beholders
  • The Book of Templates
What are these exactly?  Well the Complete Guides gives you history, ecology, how to use them; basically what amounts to a lot of fluff.  It also has d20 (3.x Edtion era) material and creature variants of all sorts specific to the creatures being covered.  Pretty fun stuff.  The Book of Templates is basically a way to modify and change existing critters into new ones for your d20 (3.x Edition game) and is a hardcover book.

All items are in FANTASTIC condition.

Interested? I am asking $80.00 USD for the lot.  This includes shipping to anywhere in Canada or the continental United States.  If living abroad and you are genuinely interested, please contact me and we will examine the possibility.  Payments will be Paypal only for this.  I can be reached at:

patbellavance (at) sympatico (dot) ca

Feel free to ask me questions and know that payment and address confirmation will be handled subsequently.

One last but IMPORTANT detail.  As indicated, this is a LIMITED time offer.  As much as I would be happy to sell these, part of me would be equally happy to hold on to these.  This offer will EXPIRE on March 31st, 2014 at midnight (EST) where it will be rescinded.