What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Can-Con 2017... So Far.

When I first did Can-Con as exhibitor, Arcana Creations was still new-ish.  It was a small convention in Ottawa but an interesting one. With the cost of the table, and a friend who also had a few books to sell, we split a table and decided to go for it. The good news was that I sold enough to cover the costs of my portion of the table. The bad news was that this was ALL I made and the table wasn't that expensive to begin with!  Since we had come in to Ottawa from Montreal, we also had to factor in things one does when coming in from out of town to a convention such as hotel stay.

To be fair, the experience wasn't horrible and I still had fun doing it.

Since then, a couple things have happened. Over the past few years, I decided to come in as a regular attendee and in that time, I witnessed it grow. It is STILL a small and fairly intimate convention but there was a remarkable difference in attendance, and more importantly, traffic and the number of different vendors at the con.  The other thing that shifted is a broader appeal to what was being presented. More people coming in are looking at the gaming books and, since we have also released our first novel under the Arcana Elements imprint, our table has generated a fair bit of interest to appeal to a greater number of attendees.

For me, I also realized that I am spending more at this particular convention as well. My first Can-Con a few years back had me purchasing a single book. I ended up trading for another book at the end of the show with another publisher/author.

Now, with a day left to go, I already picked up eight books and I'm still eyeing a couple more! However, unlike my first Can-Con, I honestly have doubts I will have any copies left of 'Mother of Mortals' to trade! The novel has sold REALLY well today.

Any way, on the strength of the numbers for the first two days of sales, I have already committed our attendence for Can-Con 2018.  Ballista will be up and going by then so Arcana Creations will newer product to sell on top of the fantastic gaming product we already support and Arcana Elementas should have about three more books added to the roster!  Maybe even a follow-up book to our very first release if we are lucky.  :)

Here's hoping our final day of sales end up doing just as well, if not better, than the first couple.  :)


Sunday, October 1, 2017

A Six Month Hiatus -- UPDATES!

It's been six months since I last updated the blog and by the looks of it, my various posts have still gotten a decent amount of traffic during my absence. To my loyal readers as well as seekers coming across the blog by chance, I thank you.

Things have continued to be eventful and I have been busy since the Spring.

The first novel released under the Arcana Elements imprint I've set up was successfully crowdfunded and delivered ON TIME and the feedback we've received on it has been very positive! Two more books are going to added to the catalog by the end of the year. One is an academic work of non-fiction and the other is a great novel presently in the public domain. During the next week or two, I will be making specific announcements on what these two books are exactly and provide other details regarding their respective releases.

As for Arcana Creations, on the gaming front, things are continuing to progress albeit at a much slower pace. I have fallen behind on a couple of my goals as my time is demanded elsewhere. I still need to finish up the Castles & Crusades adventure, The Shaman of the Mire as well as finish up the long overdue Hide in Plain Sight. I am also revisiting previous releases like The Secret of Ronan Skerry, A Trick on the Tain, and Ruins of Ramat. I also have a couple more things up my sleeve. When looking at this previously released material, I made the decision to re-brand these adventures as well as the new releases going forward.

My commitment to Castles & Crusades as well as Swords & Wizardry is still there but these will now all be published as part of the Ballista line of adventures Arcana Creations will be focusing on. These are going be compatible with both these games as well as other similar FRPGs that share common ground with these two systems.

This isn't the first time I've talked about Ballista and I guarantee that it won't be the last. The idea of it has also changed considerably over the past few years too. This time, a fair bit of headway has been made in the past few months and I've come to a point that I feel secure enough start talking about it again.

Lately, the big push for Arcana Creations have been the upcoming shows for both CanCon in Ottawa as well as a local Yule Fair in Montreal. This means getting more stock and all the necessary preparations to vend at this two shows. I've also taken the Arcana Creations website down to set up an online store. It's still down but all that will be remedied in the next few days.

CANCON is happening on October 13th-15th, 2017 in downtown Ottawa and Arcana Creations will be there selling some gaming material as well as Arcana Element's first release, Mother of Mortals.  We will have an introductory selection of various products from Troll Lord Games (Castles & Crusades, Amazing Adventures, and Victorious) as well as our publishing partner, Brave Halfling Publishing. There will be other gaming odds and ends and plenty of dice. There may even be a pick up game or two during the weekend if we are lucky enough!  :)

You can find out more about CanCon HERE.

The Montreal Community Yule Fair will be taking place on December 3rd, 2017 though is a small scale event hosted by the Crescent Moon School of Magic & Paganism. I don't have too many details to share yet but both new releases by Arcana Elements will be available for that show as well.  With any luck, the first Ballista module will be there as well supported by much of the same product we will be showcasing at CanCan in a couple of weeks.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Castles & Crusades: A $15 Players Handbook

I need more time to actually relax and enjoy myself. Castles & Crusades has been my go to FRPG for years now and I realize that it's been a over a decade since I've picked up my first Players Handbook for C&C. The book has gone through multiple printings and is gearing for a 7th print run right now on Kickstarter. In some ways, the book has changed a lot over the printings ... but not so much in terms of the actual content. You can gather a group of players each with different printing and still be on the same page as far as rules are concerned. It's a rules light game that is a good balance of what I was looking for.I love this game a lot.

I'll write more about the how the game feels mechanically in a couple of days. For now, I want to talk about the evolution of the Player's Handbook.

It started off as a booklet in a white boxed set. Before Swords & Wizardry had their white box and before other various OSR clones did their own white box tribute, Troll Lord Games did it first with their white, collectors edition box. Three booklets in a box containing all the basics you needed to play! It was a proof of concept as no one at that time had used the SRD and the OGL to recreate d20 version of the D&D game that was a nod to the classic versions of D&D that many people grew up with. Sure... it was rooted with a slightly more modern system design with ascending armor class and a unified d20 mechanic to resolve a variety of challenges, but it was so elegant when unhindered by the mountain of skills and feats and a requirement of miniatures that Third Edition forced you to contend with.

From there, the first printing of the Player's Handbook was made possible and... well... never had I seen a more abysmal display of layout and editing in a 'professionally' released gaming product. Had I come across Castles & Crusades in that guise, I would have closed the book and walked away. It was a more complete game and on par to contain some of the things one became accustomed to seeing in first edition AD&D.  Unlike the booklet that had the four core classes... the PHB had 13 classes in all... from Assassin to Wizard!  A much greater and detailed selection of spells as well as an array of demihumans to choose from.

I was one of the lucky ones though as I came upon C&C with the 2nd printing of the PHB.  The text was basically the same but it was finally laid out correctly and pleasant to flip through.  Both 1st and 2nd printings where black and white and printed on white paper. A good stock that took pencil (and ink) well which made some people happy. The game was new so there were errors and mistakes littered throughout the book. I have met more than one person that marked up their books accordingly. I was not one of those people.

The cover artwork began to change slightly with the third printing but the biggest change was the paper.  It went to a higher quality but thinner stock of paper while retaining the black and white look.  There were LITTLE variations to the text and the most significant change was to the poison tables.  The thinner stock also meant the books were slightly thinner as well. Many loves this new printing but others didn't care for it as much.

Up to this point, the books have also remained at a bargain selling at $19.95 a book. You could get the Players Handbook and the Monsters & Treasure book for the same price (if not cheaper) than the current 3rd Edition PHB!

The next printing was a big thing for Troll Lord Games though and they were making a concentrated push to expand the game. All books in their main line were getting reprinted and all sported the same dark olive green trade dress. The 4th printing of the PHB also represented the most changes in any of the printings. New material was added and a couple of classes got revamped. Notably, the Barbarian class moves away from being a berserker to a regular barbarian befitting a variety of cultures. The Monk on the other hand moved away from an oriental themed influence to a slightly more western one. There were new spell and multiclass options also presented in the volume. The book also saw a $5 price increase.

The 5th printing was another big step even if it was a bit of a misstep. It was the first printing of the PHB which would see color and the art and pages all got colorized. Have you ever seen a black and white movie that got colored after the fact?  It doesn't always work out does it. The same thing happened here. Some pages and pieces of art looked good while others looked worse. It was significant nonetheless and, aside from errata, no content changes happened here.

The last printing is probably the finest printing we have to date.  It is also full color but TLG went back and made sure the color was done perfectly.  It got an expanded page count but not so much because content, but because they chose to make the font slightly bigger and more legible. The font had always been on the smaller side for these books but the new look is bigger and crisper and suits the book very well. Some of the text was clarified a bit and a lot of errata was corrected. The book has a $39.95 price tag if I'm not mistaken but, given the quality of paper, color, and increased page count, no one should be surprised. In my case, I treated myself and made sure my copy was a leather copy.

I've owned easily a couple dozen players handbooks for C&C books over the years and often gift copies or even sell some of them second hand. I've kept my third printing, fourth printing, and definitely will be keeping my sixth printing. I like to see the book getting arguably better with each printing but I honestly figured that the 6th printing would be my last printing.

The current kickstarter is for the 7th printing and they got me by offering a collector's cloth edition with my name embossed on the cover. That sounds nice and I'm of course happy to support them.

Why should you support them? How does $15 for a full color hardcover sound?  That's right, they are planning a deep print run and, at the same time, want to thank current fans and supporters that might already have the books to allow for an inexpensive upgrade. They also think that $15 is a great incentive to buy the game to see if they like it. In other words not a lot of risk.

And there are stretch goals and add-ons to consider.

If it sounds like you might be tempted, I invite you to check out the current Kickstarter campaign HERE.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Day After Your First Kickstarter

Kickstarter has been around for awhile now and many people flocked to it thinking it a great way to make some money quick. People have seen many great Kickstarters come and go of varying degrees of success too. There are the ones with happy endings, there are the ones which are painfully late, and then there are the spectacular failures. As a backer, I have backed well over 100 campaigns now and MOST of those have had happy endings. A couple have languished in a special kind of hell and will likely never see the light of day. In other words, you win some and you lose some. Regardless, there are MANY lessons to take in.

In my case, I took a lot of things to heart when I put together my first Kickstarter to help fund the 'Mother of Mortals' novel. The first thing I did was not start a crowdfunding campaign before the book was finished! I only launched when I had the proofs in hand. That being said, they were the first proofs and a whole lot of corrections have gone in and I'm getting ready to send the files in to get a second set of proofs done. In other words, these additional corrections were done by the time the campaign ended last night!

The campaign made it's goal and the goal was deliberately set to be a modest one. $2,500 in Canadian Funds which works out to just under $1,900 USD. Arcana Elements, the imprint I set up under Arcana Creations for the publication of fiction and non-fiction is an unknown and $2,500 was a bit of a stretch but I had a good mix of tiers and this ultimately helped fund the project. Shipping charges were factored in the campaign as well and since the reward fulfillment has an anticipated quick turnaround, there shouldn't be any surprises. Since the majority of the rewards are being drop shipped, shipping costs were also kept relatively low too.

Advertising. Well, while we made our funding goal, if it wasn't for the collector's level tiers, I don't think we would have been as fortunate. I really hoped for more backers but, as an unknown publisher of fiction released a work by an unknown novelist, I can't complain either. Family and many friends help support the project but we did make some new friends as well and, if they really like the book, they are the some of the ones that may come back to the next one and bring a few more friends with them. I opted to limit financial investment towards advertising because I didn't see much use for it on social media. Facebook proved VERY frustrating though. While the initial cover art we released before the Kickstarter was shared and received many interactions, the moment I had a Kickstarter link, I quickly realized that only a FRACTION was being exposed to that post. Clearly, Facebook is interested in your advertising dollar. I did some paid advertising just to see if it would make a difference and it looks like I didn't end up losing money doing so but the net results would have been the same had I saved that money instead. It might make more of a difference if I dropped some serious cash but that is well beyond the scope of the projects I've been doing.

Now that the campaign is over and since the money won't be transferred to me for at least a couple of weeks, I can rest a bit. I will need to set up the surveys and begin gathering information and do a bit of work for the collector's hardcover (mostly set up the dustjacket) in the next week or so but, I think I can rest a bit and start thinking about other projects in the queue.

This Kickstarter has been quiet compared to other larger and fast paced ones but, between my regular 9-5 and getting the book finalized and running the campaign, I'm still pretty tired... but happy too.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Kickstarter: 10 Days Left for Mother of Mortals

Mother of Mortals Kickstarter

 As of right now we 88% funded!  And we still have 10 days to close the funding gap (a balance of $285!!).  I am pleased to see this.  Still a ways to go and, obviously it would be nice to exceed the funding goal as well.

So... where are we at with the book itself?  The second round of edits / fixes are being implemented and should be done in the next day or two.  An additional chapter is being put in based on some of the feedback we received as well and this should be in place during the course of the week.  All in all, we are almost ready for a second (and likely final proof) before the softcover trade goes into full production. The limited run of hardbacks we are doing will then undergo a similar proofing process before they are ready for production.  Thankfully, the interiors are pretty much identical for BOTH.

If you haven't pledged but you think you might be interested, I encourage you to check it out HERE.

If you want to read a sample, you can read the first chapter HERE.

Most importantly... please share and spread the word!  :)


Monday, March 6, 2017

The Essense of D&D and Skills

Lately, when I've been talking about the essence of D&D it's really about what is part of that D&D experience we all share when playing. Given that the game is essentially the granddaddy of tabletop role playing games, many things inherent with the system can be found in other systems and game that have come out over the years. If we consider core mechanics and game 'functions' from one flavor of D&D to the next, there are some common points found in ALL them. Again, these same things are even present in the newer retroclones and other games clearly derived or heavily inspired from it.

Armor Class, a 'Vancian' method of spellcasting, Hit Points, and class-based level advancement are core pillars to the game.  Efforts have been made to 'fix' perceived problems and many different games try to do so and sometimes become their own thing.  One thing D&D is not is a skills oriented game.

When the game first was making the round in the 70's, there was really no system of skills. However, as a precursor to second edition, both the Oriental Adventures book and the Dungeoneer Survival Guide introduced the concept of Non-Weapon Proficiencies. More was done with this in the Wilderness Survival Guide which helped to flesh the material out further. By the time it was decided move on to a second edition, a system of weapon and non-weapon proficiencies was finalized.

Here's the thing though... I don't really remember using or relying on this very much when I did play second edition and this was basically the system my friends and I used in conjunction with the older AD&D material and some Metzer era D&D sets. We also didn't use things like weapon speed factor either.  Weapons proficiencies did matter though and was a lot more relevant to what we needed for the game.  The only skills routinely used were the Thief skills which had it's own percentile sub-system.

Third Edition represented a shift.  It took the class skills away and put them all into a list to be chosen from during character creation.  Some classes had more points to spend on skills than others but the list was not exactly short, and there were different costs depending on your class and what you wanted to take.  Then there was something called 'synergy' between skills which affected other things. It was more book keeping but it was generally liked and yet, by Fifth Edition, the skill list didn't only get smaller but the amount of skills one could select from got severely cut down.

If we consider some of the games derived from D&D like Swords & Wizardry or Castles & Crusades, we find that there is no 'itemized' skill system during character creation aside from maybe some class skills like one would expect to find with the Thief / Rogue. These two games have become favorites of mine, in part because of the streamlined simplicity and philosophy of these games. These systems are not burdened with an extra level of depth by shoehorning a skill system.  Just like Original D&D, a skill system isn't really needed for this to play well.

Lately, I've been playing some Myth & Magic (a much maligned and failed Kickstater to bring out a retro-clone of second edition).  It's fun but that's because it brought the right pieces together for someone who played second edition for years. It too has a skill system which feels like a good compromise between the second edition proficiency system and third edition. There are many skills to chose from to give plenty of variety and choice.  However, the more I play, the more I wonder if such a system is all that necessary when compared to, say.. the mechanic used in C&C. Myth & Magic does fill the need of creating (on paper), a character which is more detailed in terms of character makeup. But again, is it strictly necessary?

So... on THAT note, apparently Troll Lord Games has sold out of their 6th print run of the Player's Handbook.  It's a great game and apparently they will fund the 7th printing via Kickstater in just over a weeks time (March 15th).  It is still my 'goto' FRPG that scratches that 'D&D itch'.  I imagine pricing will be much like their last printing which means $29.95 USD (a full color hardback) but there are always a few perks by doing this via the TLG Kickstater and, given this is a flagship product, it will be quickly funded, developed, and shipped.  I'll report more on that when it launches.

Finally, and speaking of Kickstarters, as I have mentioned before, our first published novel, Mother of Mortals, is currently being kickstarted! Feel free to check it out and spread the word! The first chapter of the novel is being offered for free via a link on the Kickstarter project page.  You can find the Kickstarter HERE.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mother of Mortals NOW ON KICKSTARTER !!

Mother of Mortals Kickstarter

Good evening to all of you... it is my pleasure to announce that the Kickstarter Campaign for Mother of Mortals: A Tale of the Nepheleid is now LIVE!

You can find the Kickstarter HERE

Remember that pledge levels are all in Canadian Funds which means the advantage of a stronger US dollar will make a difference.

Rewards start at $8 CAD for an electronic copy of the novel with the regular physical copy going for $20 CAD.

More details in the days and weeks to come.  This is a three week campaign.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weekend R&R: Crypts & Things (Remastered)

I think I first heard about Crypts & Things about 5 years ago or so. At the time, I didn't think too much about it and I just pushed it aside as yet another OSR produced clone or variant of some sort of basic D&D derived from the OGL. Then, and very much now, there is just so much out there and it takes a bit to stand out. I knew that it was a variant of Swords & Wizardry but given time, and thanks to a couple of people I knew who positively loved the approach and feel, I began to take notice. So much so that I ended up backing the revised edition which was crowdfunded via Kickstater when it launched a couple of years ago.

While I tend to stick to Castles & Crusades for my 'D&D' experience, I have enjoyed Swords & Wizardry and view it a great reference and 'baseline' for me. As a publisher, I have supported both C&C and S&W in the past and will continue to do so this year. I also like much of the fine products produced by Lamentations of the Flame Princess for both the 'dark' and 'weird' content containing a very specific aesthetic. The one thing that C&C and S&W don't immediately give me right out of the gate is a 'stock' sword and sorcery feel. Don't get me wrong -- it's not hard to run a game with those elements in either system. But I have also come to find that that same 'D&D' experience has come to be its own genre.

Consider D&D for what it is for a moment. There's a lot of magic which employs a fire and forget system of magic which has multiple types of spell casting classes. When you look at the spell casters, you generally have two broad categories -- arcane and divine. Divine spell casters are primarily dominated by the Cleric class which are warrior priests of the gods casting spells but pretty handy to have in a fight and quick to cast healing spells so that the battle can continue. If you based this on they way that a lot of people play clerics, they are walking medics that can fight when they aren't healing companions and sometimes use their magic to help allies and hinder their enemies. There are other examples but this one serves to illustrate my point quite nicely and was the first that came to mind.

As someone who appreciates the fantasy written by the likes of Howard or Leiber, there are things presented in D&D (and the games derived and inspired from it) that don't immediately fit a swords and sorcery style. Crypts & Things, on the other hand, does and the newest version, even more so.

As a S&W variant, the changes employed are really nothing major if you consider them individually. Some of these things may be similar to house rules we all have seen or toyed with since the advent of D&D back in 1974. In this case, Crypts & Things incorporates a number of house rules which appeared on the Akratic Wizardry blog (HERE). But with all of these elements brought together in a rulebook, along with a complementary setting, readers are presented with an attractive package that should satisfy fans of the genre.

The system itself presents four core classes much like you would expect from a D&D derived system but with an appropriate setting 'shift'. You have the Barbarian, Fighter, Sorcerer, and Thief classes but you also have the inclusion of more 'exotic' classes which fit some sword and sorcery examples and were designed with the setting for Crypts & Things in mind. These include the Beast Hybrid, the Disciple, the Elementalist, the Lizard Man, and the Serpent Noble. Being sword and sorcery, there are no elves, dwarves, gnomes, or the like and the closest to non-human would be if you played (were permitted to play) a Beast Hybrid, a result of ancient experiments involving sorcery, or one of the Lizard People or Serpent Nobles. These exotic classes are not intended for PCs and should be considered very uncommon.

When creating the character, outside selecting the character class, everything else will be familiar to most gamers. The ability scores are ones most will recognize and are comprised of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These are generated by rolling 3d6 for each. In addition to these are Luck and Skill scores. In fact these are another notable departure from 'standard D&D' as these replace the concept of Saving throws.

Luck is described in the book as "a measure of the Character's innate quality to avoid trouble, stumble across useful items, and have just the right thing happen at the right time. It is tested over the course of the adventure and decreases as the Character gets fatigues or injured. Eventually even the most Lucky Character will run out of Luck." In short, I *love* this approach. It is similar to a concept I toyed with some time ago (but never implemented) and reminds me a bit of Luck in my current Call of Cthulhu game. In this game, Luck is determined upon character creation and acts as a pool you use and roll against. The roll is made using 2d6 and you need to get equal to or lower than your current luck score in order to succeed. Every successful attempt lowers the pool by one (making it harder and harder when you try and push your luck). Luck points are regained by rest and fully restored at the end of the adventure. Each time a character advances in level, the total luck pool increased by a point.

The Skill score however works more like the Saving Throw system does in Swords & Wizardry. It's is a roll against a static number which starts at 15 at first level and decreases as the character advances in level. A roll on a d20 that is equal to or higher than this number indicates success. In general, the Skill roll is to attempt a task not related to combat or magic that the character may attempt and be capable of trying or be knowledgeable in. These apply to both class skills as well as general skill attempts modified by bonuses and penalties as the situation requires.

To help flesh out the character, there is a step in character creation that maps out Life Events for the character distinguishing a character from the Free Territories to one from the Ice Coast. There are 8 regions and all with each giving a variety of events and benefits to differentiate the character. All those are focused on character origins. There is a second phase that involves the characters formative years and profession prior to becoming an adventurer.

The differences in Crypts & Things Remastered don't end with character creation either. While the game system is still rooted with the sort of magic system we have all come to know from D&D, magic is classified in one of three types -- White, Grey, and Black.  Any sorcerer can cast any type of magic and there is no distinction between clerical or divine magic or arcane magic. Casting black magic causes corruption and, in time, will present certain negative effects upon the caster. White magic on the other hand is a powerful beacon attracting evil and unwanted attention. Grey is pretty much safe. When a spell is cast, the spell is lost (much like D&D) but the caster can test their luck to try and retain the spell. Additionally, a sorcerer will have to use blood magic (bloods sacrifice) to regain Black Magic spells but, aside from corruption, it may also come at a cost of Sanity. Other little differences... there are not 'detect magic' or 'read magic' spells as this is something sorcerers are attuned to or trained to read. There are also no spells higher than 6th level but anything more powerful could be created by the GM in order to simulate a higher level spell in the form of a 'costly' ritual.

Sanity and Health. Playing around with black sorcery or encounters with diabolic and horrific entities is a sure way to drive the bravest and sanest adventure, stark raving mad. Since the genre often deals with darker and grim things, Sanity comes into play in Crypts & Things much like one would expect to see it in a game like Call of Cthulhu. In this case, the Sanity score is equal to the Wisdom score of the character and, reducing this to zero can be considered a bad thing. Sufficient rest will be required to 'heal' this mental damage though should a sanity score drop to below zero, will result in permanent loss of Wisdom.

Despite the potential mental fragility the game introduces, the heroes the players end up playing do end up more resilient. Hit Points in the game are superficial and when this is dropped to zero in combat, any further damage is applied to Constitution. This represents serious injury and each time they receive this sort of damage, they need to pass a Luck test or fall unconscious. Death occurs if the character's constitution score drops to zero. Only time or magic will heal Constitution damage and only when the character's Constitution is full restored can hit points be regained. At that point, hit points can be fully restored with a full night's worth of rest and even drinking a strong drink can restore 1d4 hit points. Cure Wounds spell do NOT heal back hit points... only lost Constitution.

With all that in mind,  and with the subtle little things the classes provide compared to their regular D&D counterparts, the rest of the Crypts & Things Remastered book gives you some sword and sorcery appropriate critters... a setting... and some adventures. The book is full of inspirational material to allow an enterprising group of players and game master to really dig in and make this a great game to play without straying away to what some may feel familiar and comfortable. All in all, it's almost 250 pages of material with some decent artwork and well written text.

It's a good book and a solid system -- a physical copy can be ordered through Drivethru's (RPGNow's) POD services in both softcover and hardcover formats as well as digital. It is entirely a black and white text but the price for the PDF is hard to beat at $13.00 USD, where-as a softback will run you $26.00 USD, and the hardback at $40.00 USD (all available HERE). The prices are decent for physical copies though preference of softcover vs hardcover is very subjective. I've never had a print issue with their POD service but went with hardcover myself to match my S&W books on the shelf. Another nice thing is that there are options that price the PDF with the physical copies with no extra charge.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Tale of Three Packages

In the past 24 hours, I was delighted to received three packages. Packages usually mean pleasant goodies and sometimes unexpected surprises. The first two packages were from From God Games and Antediluvian Miniatures. Both of those packages were Kickstarter related. The third package was somewhat of a mystery though but I had my suspicions.

Let's start with the one with Frog God Games. When they did the Kickstarter campaign to fund the latest printing of the Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook (the third printing), I decided to back it. Initially, I only went in for a PDF copy since I already had a set of the rules and I backed the 2nd printing campaign when it ran a few years back. I just couldn't resist the Erol Otus cover art and, I backed at the higher levels then which got me a bunch of extras like the Tome of Horrors Complete and a copy of Monstrosities. This time around, I was a bit more 'cautious' with my money largely due to increasing shipping costs to Canada and an exchange rate that really hurts my buying anything in USD currency. But, when one of the stretch goals materialized, and the Tome of Adventure Design was going to be reprinted in hardback, I jumped in with both feet and got a physical copy of the new S&W book as well as the ToAD as physical add-on.

The package got to me earlier this month and the box got banged up. I had concerns and I was right to have them. the corners of the books had pretty much been crushed and smashed. The problem? A very thing wrapped cardboard boxing with a thin sheet of small bubble wrap. The box corner edges were did not close flush with either and each corner was basically only protected by thin bubble wrap and tape to seal everything.

Now, to be fair, the people at Frog God Games did respond quickly and apologized for the inconvenience. They sent out a new set of books to me and this was the package I received yesterday after work. Sadly, they used the same packaging technique albeit the packing was marginally better. The book corners are better than they were on the first pair but not quite as pristine as I would have liked them to be.

Honestly, while I love their products, the packing they do now is so far inferior to the packing used to do, that I may reconsider ordering any physical material from them in the future. Better to get it in retail or order from Noble Knight Games.

The second package was extremely cool and this is the second time I get something from Antediluvian miniatures. This was a Kickstarter they did to bring back a familiar looking bunch if you were a kid in the 80's and ever saw D&D as a cartoon. The miniatures in question is the same party but much older and seasoned. As in, they aren't kids anymore. With that, I got a certain winged foe, a short and balding dungeon master and a few pig faces orcs! How cool is that?

The third and final package caught me by surprise but only because I wasn't expecting this for at least another week. The proofs came in for the first book to be published by Arcana Creations' new imprint. I am EXTREMELY pleased with how the book looks. They are still proofs and there is some tweaking that will be done but I'm not sure if there will be much done beyond tweaks. We have four people who are reading it and providing critical feedback and, once that is in, we will implement whatever that needs to be done and order a final proof before we greenlight the book for sale. On a related note, the Kickstarter is in the process of being designed / constructed but, with a bit of luck, will launch early next week.

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Weekend R&R: Call of Cthulhu 7e

“Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.
In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.” 

As I have written before, my first foray into the Call of Cthulhu ruleset was quite some time ago. It was over 20 years ago and I had played a bit of the fifth edition of the game. I had made a few characters for the game because bad things happen in this game and they result in one of a couple of things -- insanity or death. Sometime death would follow quickly after the character became insane. It was run regardless and I even had the chance to experience a chunk of the original 'Horror on the Orient Express' campaign. All in all, I didn't play for long and probably not much more than a couple of weeks. Yet the game had made it's mark on me and, after so many years, I returned to the game and began to run it late summer last year.

The main difference was that I wasn't running 5th or even 6th edition. Chaosium had finally delivered a 7th edition of the after a complicated and problematic Kickstarter fulfilment. It was born out of a crowdfunding campaign that was launched in May of 2013 and followed less than a year after the new, revised, and expanded Horror on the Orient Express campaign boxed set. Backing the Orient Express campaign was, in part, nostalgia. I had a copy of my 5th Edition rulebook so I figured I was good to go and the kickstarter offered tremendous value and the difference between the Canadian and US dollar was no where near as pronounced as it is now. But, when Chaosium announced the 7th Edition, it was a quick decision for me. It took over a couple of years for the first Kickstarter to materialise and much longer for the rulebooks from the second campaign to show up. A full three years in my case.

It was worth the wait.

The format of this newest edition took a few departures from the version editions of the game. The most significant being the decision to move away from one rulebook to two rulebooks. With 7th Edition, you now have an Investigator Handbook and a Keeper Rulebook. The Investigator Handbook has everything a player needs to create an investigator but, as far as rules are concerned, that's about it. The book is close to 300 pages and does have other things useful for the player and keeper alike. In particular, it has a lot of 'fluff' for playing in the game's default 1920's setting. A whole chapter is dedicated to the roaring 20's and the book also provides the complete text to H.P. Lovecraft's 'Dunwich Horror' and a host of other reference information. The Keeper Rulebook on the other hand is a beast of a book. Coming in to about 450 pages, it has all the rules the Investigator Handbook does not. All, the rules but just an overview of character creation. Notably missing from the Rulebook are the pages of occupations available in the Investigator Handbook. It's a bit of a shame since the books themselves are not inexpensive by any means. They are not overpriced either but gaming books these days are generally pricey to begin with. The lack of this might cause some hoping to save a bit of money just try and get by just buying the Keeper Rulebook but, unless you are are very familiar with the system, it is probably best to make the investment. The Keeper Rulebook also includes many examples to assist someone in running the game while offering a diverse amount of chapters on major different aspects of the game. The great things about these books? They are also in full colour.

What I like about a game like Call of Cthulhu is the decision to keep things relatively intact as far as the ruleset is concerned every time a new edition is released. Those familiar with past editions won't feel lost looking at this newest version but there have been a few changes and additions. The first thing those coming from previous editions of the game are the games in the numerical values of the stats. Whereas they once would range between 3-18 (a roll of 3d6), they are now converted to percentile scores. This helps streamline things making percentile checks much more universal than before. Related to this and the percentile based stats and skills are how checks are now conducted. Before, it was a static result but now, there are levels of difficulty (degrees of success) that also play factor. Aside determining success or failure when measured against the value of a particular skill, half that value is require for a Hard success and a fifth is required for an Extreme success. This system allows for a interesting way to do opposed rolls where the higher degree of success wins the challenge. That is how combat is generally handled.

Of course, Call of Cthulhu has gotten a reputation over the years of being a bit merciless towards player characters. Anyone who has read Lovecraft will appreciate the bitter end to many a character that appeared in his stories. The role of the investigator in this game is fraught with many perils. Fortunately, a couple of things have been added to the arsenal of the player to, perhaps, give a bit of a needed edge. Luck can be used a pool and spent to improve a player's roll and it is now possible to 'push' a check.  To push the check, the player gets to re-roll a failure with the understanding that another failure will bring with in consequences beyond simply failing the roll. Finally, there is also a bonus/penalty dice mechanic that is introduced which can improve the odds (or worsen them) as the situation demands. That sort of thing has recently been made popular with the Advantage mechanic in the newest edition of D&D.

Beyond these mechanics there are naturally other changes and additions but none of which are as important as the mechanics. There are new things like Chase Rules and an entire chapter is devoted to it and there is a section to roll up background info for your character. And so much additional background material but many will enjoy this sort of fluff.

Otherwise, Call of Cthulhu is a skill based RPG -- not a class/level based on. A character won't advance in 'level' upon attaining a certain requisite experience points. But they could advance in the skill they actually and successfully put to use in the course of a scenario. The isn't a boat load of health and it is entirely conceivable that a character will die easily if they go out of their way to get into a fight. Ultimately, it is a game of investigation and exploration with the purpose to piece together a story. Pacing and atmosphere will likely be very different from other games. It is also a very easy game to pick up and play and, this edition and these books are a great way to get into the game.

The books are readily available and the PDF version can be found HERE for $22.95 for the Investigators Handbook or HERE for $27.95 for the Keeper's Rulebook. Physical copies can also be ordered straight from Chaosium themselves for $44.95 and $54.95 respectively and they include PDF copies as well.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Update: Publishing Some Fiction

So... what have I been up to this week? This week was technically a vacation. By that I mean, I didn't have to contend with my usual 9-5 day job and I should have been having fun or relaxing. As it turns out, I wasn't really doing any of that but at least it wasn't the typical grind. Most of this week was spent prepping the first novel that Arcana Creations is producing.

At this stage, the completed novel has already been put through editing and layout. Actually layout had to be done twice since I was concerned that the margins I had set was could cause a few issues so I had to go back and re-work it. This more or less describes a lot of the sort of work I had been doing. I do it once and then, for whatever reason, I have to revisit it to correct a problem or oversight. While I've produced adventure modules before, a novel is a different sort of beast. The cover took longer than I wanted but that is mostly due to the fact that I'm using new software to do the work and I am pretty much learning as I go. After this is done, I'll probably go back and watch a bunch of tutorials to learn the program better.

With the production of something that is not gaming related, I decided create an imprint to publish these sort of books and I'm planning to do more down the line. With that in mind, I commissioned a logo which currently needs a last finishing touch before I start using it. I will have it sometime early Friday morning and, once I do, I'll be using it for the novel.

I fully expect that I will be ordering a proof tomorrow.

The next step will be to launch a small Kickstarter. With the project so close to completion, crowdfunding will be a great way to do a 'pre-order' of sorts. Beyond fulfilment, money raised will also help offset the modest costs of the project and help fund a small print run to do a small local book launch.  The campaign, once started, will run for about a month (like most Kickstarter campaigns) with fulfilment happening within a couple months of project end.  I guess that's what happens when you have most of the work done before launching a Kickstarter.

Here is a simple mock-up of the cover of the upcoming novel by Marisol Charbonneau titled 'Mother of Mortals':

That's all for now!


Monday, February 13, 2017

Weekend R&R: Tome of Adventure Design

The first adventure I ever created had me mapping out a dungeon on some graph paper and creating a chart of random encounters while sprinkling random treasure here and there. I don't even recall if there was a particular goal but I'm sure there must have been. I do remember that it was a high level adventure but, at the time, I didn't have many books and resources to draw from. All I had was a few modules, the 2nd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide, and a lot of enthusiasm.

I also remember an entry on the random encounter table that called for '1d4 tarrasques'.  But hey, I was thirteen and I remember that my friends and I had a lot of fun despite the ridiculousness of it all.

In the months since that initial foray, my adventures became a bit more intricate and grandiose. They were not mere adventures but full fledged campaigns. Sometimes I would use a classic published adventure module to spring into a much more complicated and interlinked story line. I had an abundance of free time back then but as I got older, and became burdened with more obligations and responsibilities, this was no longer the case. Relying totally on published adventures, isn't ideal for some people either due to personal preference or simply not finding what would be a good fit.

Fortunately, there has always been resources available in one form or another. There are supplements, articles, and chapters dedicated to dungeon design offering methods to create a randomly generated one. The same can be said of aids to create brand new creatures or modifying existing ones for a variety of games. There is no shortage of tips offered to those looking for a bit of help and there have been great books that just contain pages of random tables for a myriad of different things either. However, in all my years of gaming and designing, I have few books that have impressed me as much as The Tome of Adventure Design published by Frod God Games.

The Tome of Adventure Design is by no means a new publication.  Portions of the book was first published by a smaller press called Black Blade Publishing around 2010. The present volume consists of four parts (or books) which focus on different aspects of adventure creation.  The first part is titled 'Principles and Starting Points' where as the second is simply titled 'Monsters'.  Both of these were initially published as separate titles though I was only nominally aware of the first one being a separate release. The second part of the book consists of a section on 'Dungeon Design' and the last for 'Non-Dungeon Adventure Design'.

In many ways, the Principles and Starting Points section is where the book takes its first, and best, step forward. It starts off with some very sound and basic advice on designing the adventure and basically discusses the importance of key elements to make the adventure not only stand out, but hold up. "A good adventure should maximize meaningful player decisions" is the first thing that is written past the introduction of this section and treats this as the cardinal rule of adventure design. With that in mind, it discusses the elements to making a key adventure starting off with concepts of backstory, location, and opposition and then exploring other factors.  However, what makes this section of the book useful is not simply talking about concepts but offering up tables covering various facets of all  these in many different tables.  There are over 35 tables and all of them have many multiple components for many different combinations. Some are percentile tables but others actually need a d1000 roll.

Usage might vary for the section section of the book dealing with Monsters. While the cover of the book for the newest printing describes this book as a tool to use with Swords & Wizards or Pathfinder, the truth of the matter is that the book is basically has no stats to use with any RPG.  Essentially, a lot of this material could even be adapted to different genres of gaming though clearly intended for fantasy RPGs. Tables break this section down to various categories and types of critters and through these, they are detailed enough to spark the imagination. Each category also has a helpful information detailing it giving a baseline understanding for the person using the tables. The closest supplement I've come across and liked to what this section provides would be The Random Esoteric Creature Generator by James Raggi and yet, this section is over twice as long. Imagine for a moment what you could whip up by using both of these resources together...

The other half of the book is on Dungeon and Non-Dungeon design and are the last two sections. Now, there are already plenty of examples and resources for a random dungeon design and even the 1st edition Dungeon Master's Guide for AD&D has some great tables for this in the back of the book. When I look through these tables, it feels that more effort and consideration has gone into these pages. It is important to point out that this section builds upon some of the material talked about in the first section. Tables are included to help further refine some of this material. Aside from tables for the actual design of the dungeon, it goes further with tables of oddities, special features, dungeon dressing, and contents. There are close to 185 tables in this section! The followup section adds another 100 tables to deal with everything that might happen elsewhere than a dungeon which is not something you see anywhere near as often.

If you consider the book as a whole, you have a few hundred tables which can all be used towards the same goal and that is to help you create a great and memorable dungeon with a minimum of fuss. It's a book that comes in at over 300 pages with a consolidated index to help find specific things. It's no secret that gamers do enjoy their random tables and these have always had a place in our tabletop roleplaying games. While many books have been published with a bunch of tables to assist a game master, this books stands out for specializing in a single task -- to create a memorable adventure. It is entertaining to look through and can equally be a quick fix to create something with a minimum of effort. It is also an attractive book (all black and white) to have on the shelf at a relatively reasonable price. You can order it direct from Frog God Games where the cover price of the book is $42 USD, or find it on the shelves of your friendly local game store or, save a tree and a bit of money and just get a PDF version over at RPGNow! over HERE for only $21 USD. It is, quite frankly, a book I wished I had many years ago.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Hailing Frequencies Open!

Well, despite issues with Blogger.  I think I'll keep things going on here a while longer.  My website refresh I planned before the new year was not accomplished and with everything going on, I didn't do my usual year end / new year roundups as I have the past couple of years.

All of that matters not.

The book I had been working on (editing) has gone past that stage and has even gone through the layout stage. In other words, the majority of the work is done but a few more things need to be finished on that end.  I've already begun or resumed a couple other projects.  More on that soon.

I decided to get back in the habit of communicating here on the blog and the aim is twice a week.  One on Wednesday which will be when I dole out updates and info, or simply point the reader to something worthwhile or interesting.  The other will be the weekend which will see a return to some of my Weekend R&R articles (reviews basically), painting tutorials, or other bits of gaming goodness.

That's the goal but the work at Arcana Creations remains the priority in 2017.

Oh, speaking of which... Arcana Creations will be attending the tiny (yet growing) CanCon convention this Fall.  More on that as we get a bit closer to the date.

Signing off for now...