Monday, August 31, 2009

Dear Mr. Ron Edwards

I was quite interested to find you had an article in the new Fight On!

Luckily I advertised in the new issue so I received one of the advance "contributor" copies earlier this evening. After checking that my ad is OK, the first (and thus far only) article I read was yours.

Your essay on the pussification of the presentation of D&D and the timidity of the Old School Renaissance in addressing that was interesting, and I agree with much of it. Just today, someone who really should know better is showing the exact signs of capitulation that you're talking about. My response there came before reading your article.

But near the end of your article, you mention me, and I wonder if you really know what you are commenting on.

Are you familiar with this blog post I wrote last year? How about this one? Or how I spent a large part of the first date I had with the woman I now live with talking about Carcosa?

But let's talk about allowing the Creature Generator to be edited by the larger publisher that I allowed to take over the project.

I released the original edition of the Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and Their Modern Simulacra on April 23, 2008. I sent copies to several publishers who also deal with old-school releases, among them Goodman Games. On May 1, Joseph Goodman contacted me about the possibility of Goodman Games re-releasing it for general retail distribution.

I had several conditions that were not part of the original offer, and on May 31, 2008 I received a contract offer I found agreeable. On June 2 I sent it back, signed.

One of my conditions, and I hope I'm not violating my contract here, is that I have final approval over the text. I didn't just allow changes to be made, I had to actively approve them. But we''ll get to that in a moment.

Let's talk artwork.

Here is the original Creature Generator cover (click for larger version):

I thought this was awesome. And Aino isn't just some random person on the internet that I recruited to do some art for me. We have been known to be seen in public together on occasion. She was cool enough to work with me for my vision for the book, which was inspired by the similarly-nude artwork in the original Monster Manual. (and let's face it, this was the only way I'm ever going to see her boobs)

I also talked about the interior artwork for the book extensively in past blog posts here.

And not a bit of it was used for the Goodman Games version.


One, Goodman Games has its own stable of artists that it uses. Two, the interior artwork in the original version wasn't exactly exemplary (I think we can all agree that Aino's piece in Death Frost Doom is superior to any of her drawings in the original Creature Generator?). Three, leaving all commercial considerations aside and not worrying what distributors or retailers would think about the above cover art... it was not suitable for a professionally printed book.

Those that have the print version can attest it doesn't look as good as the image above. It was not delivered to me at a high resolution. The various graphic elements that were pulled from who-knows-where were not hi-res, so the entire picture was not hi-res. To be suitable for professional publication, it would have had to be re-done from scratch. And it wouldn't be me commissioning it this time.

You really want to say that I pussed out in not insisting that Goodman Games use this cover art (which does not and never did exist as a whole in color) for their release? Seriously?

Now let's talk about the text. Pretty much the entire introduction was indeed rewritten. In fact, someone over there at Goodman Games took it upon themselves to rewrite that introduction themselves. There was no way I was having a book with my byline released with text I didn't write (and I thought the version submitted to me was not so great), so I rewrote it myself.

And it did need to be rewritten. The original introduction was a profanity-laced rant against Wizards of the Coast, having pretty much nothing to do with the Creature Generator itself. In my rewritten version, I was able to promote my dedication to traditional D&D without coming across as a complete asshole. What else changed?

I added a few more entries to the animal table. If you have the original version, add Caterpillar, Cockroach, Flea, Ladybug, Mosquito, and Termite to the Insect column (and roll d3 then d6 on that column).

In the Creature Motivations table, under the "Mating" entry (inspired by Alien), it originally said this: "Very important: Referees should not use this as a license or even a suggestion to rape characters in play, and the creature won’t be trying to fuck characters in the middle of combat." That last clause was removed.

Under the "Putting It All Together" section, "it’s not just a glop of thrown together shit," became, "it’s not just a glop of thrown together-together ideas."

Those are the sorts of changes that were made to the text. That's the editing.

The only change that was made that I perhaps should have stood up to was that the "Racism" section at the end was changed to "Prejudices." But the actual text about making opponents human and using racism in the game as a narrative element and not being afraid of creating objectively different strains of humans instead of mindlessly using orcs or goblins, and the line, "The game is fiction, and a referee should never allow comparisons between his real-life attitudes and how he handles orc analogues in his game," are all intact. The only difference in this section is that it talks about using "prejudice" instead of saying, "racism."

But I didn't see it, and don't see it now, as really a big deal and I don't think it waters down of the content of the book one little bit.

When Goodman Games took the book over, I had sold 19 copies of the Creature Generator (and sent off over 30 more to Insect Shrine pre-orderers as a gift). Under Goodman Games' stewardship, it has of course sold many, many times that amount. And the actual content of the book, the entire point of the book, to make new and unusual monsters, was unchanged save for the removal of profanity which had nothing to do with the aim of the project to begin with.

And that's fun and games. I took a bath on my printing of the Creature Generator and was happy (more or less) to do so because it was my project. I set it up and released it to the best of my ability at the time. When handing it over to Goodman, it's not like I was suddenly rolling in the money. Everyone here knows freelance rates in this business, especially for first-timers, don't exactly add up to a living wage.

I mention this because right now I'm having a go at doing this full-time. No safety net. Not a hobby. Attempting to make a living selling this stuff. And here are two details of one of the pieces of art (the Goblin Kitchen) to appear in my next release (Insect Shrine of Goblin Hill):

... drawn last year by a girl who was 17 at the time.

Here I am, Ron, an "obvious example" of a guy conforming to "Victorian societal values" and "dialing back" offensive material in order to "protect the hobby."

You sure nailed that one, didn't you?

I've Identified a Difference Between My Gaming Philosophy and Others'

Reviews of No Dignity in Death and People of Pembrooktonshire continue to trickle in (including private emails and IMs) - today has a batch of reviews on Chgowiz's blog here - and I notice a common element of the reviews.

"Some DMs might quibble that no stats are given for the NPCs, but that makes this book useful in that its system neutrality makes it accessible to all." - from the review linked above.

"I was mildly disappointed that Raggi made no effort to place these NPCs within the game context of D&D and its clones/simulacra..." - from the Grognardia review.

Those are just the publicly available comments of that sort.

The "system neutrality" is a by-product of my philosophy, after-the-fact residue, not an intentional feature of the book.

Everyone is 0 level (with maybe, maybe, a half dozen examples that are level 1, and that one magic guy who would technically be higher level but it now old and senile and is effectively just a normal guy that remembers just one spell), with generally average stats, and those with better stats made obvious in the text. And 3/4ths of the people under thirty being a bit more physically gifted and a bit less mentally gifted if you're using that one character in your version of the town.

And that's spread between the two adventures.

Stats for everyone else would look like this:

Bob Jones, lvl 0, STR 12 INT 9 WIS 9 DEX 10 CON 12 CHA 11

... repeated literally over 100 times with only the most minor of variations.

It didn't even occur to me that people would wonder if and how any of these people were statistically unusual (and I figured that People of Pembrooktonshire was included in the last line of the Overview on page 3 of No Dignity in Death). In my games, leveled characters really don't fit into or exist within society very well. Town guards, kings, important people... level 0, with few exceptions.

Oh, and Shorten also gave me a plug here. Much appreciated!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

OK, International Readers... tell me about Your Local RPG Webstores!

For North America, I've got Noble Knight.
For Finland, I've got Arkkikivi.

If you're in these territories, I'm good. But I want to expand that network.

Who are the internet RPG sellers in your country?

People of Pembrooktonshire - The Grognardia Review

Here it be!

Also, all six of LotFP's releases are in Noble Knight's top 10 (!!!).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

LotFP:n julkaisujen suomalainen myyjä: Arkkikivi

Kaikkia LotFP:n tuotteita voi nyt ostaa Arkkikivi-nettikaupasta, "Muut tuoteet"-osiosta.

(All LotFP print products are now carried through Arkkikivi’s webstore, under the Muut tuotteet section.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Information Doesn't Spread

We often get so caught up in what we're doing that we forget that effectively nobody else has any idea what we've been up to.

I've found the problem of information and isolation gets worse, not better, with social media - blogs, forums, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Certain people read our stuff, but we often forget that not everyone does, even if they're aware that updates are happening, even if we think it should be of relevant interest to them, and especially if we know they've been reading in the past. Just because people see our updates sometimes, we assume they're doing so all of the time. Not so. Not a lot of people seem to go cross-platform, either.

The "Mentzer announces company plans in an extremely casual manner, Grognardia comments" showed the rift between "factions" within the OSR as it lit up Dragonsfoot and the RPGsite. People weren't "edition war" nasty, but the eagerness to dismiss the "other side" was disturbing. "Old guard" vs "bloggers" vs "forum-goers," eh? Does that strike anyone else as... rather silly?

And it's been hitting home for me the past few days.

Just today, I was made aware that my new ad campaign slogan "The New Age of Old School" is close to Elf Lair Games' slogan "The New Class of Old School." It's been on all the latest versions of their books, and on their merchandise. I had no idea, and I'd done some proofing on an early version of Spellcraft & Swordplay. Some people who are quite active in the scene commented on that ad thread last week and didn't mention it so I assume they didn't know either. S&S has a significant amount of interest, but it seems to be in different circles than the ones I run in.

One guy contacted me to let me know that he's selling off most of his RPG collection, but keeping my stuff. The person he sold a good amount of material to, including early TSR rarities, wanted to know why he was unloading everything. In that conversation, it was pointed out that a large portion of the stuff he was keeping was authored by me. The response? "I've never heard of James Raggi." From a hardcore active online oldschool D&D guy. I'm not surprised one bit, but the person that forwarded the info to me was.

In the past few days I posted two polls to, tagging them as specifically "Old School." The poll about which old D&D module was best has gotten 83 votes. My poll about the best new "Old School" material? Seven responses, five of which went to one author's work. People don't know about this stuff, even if they are online and active and know about the clones and the fact that people are doing things.

And it continues. Yesterday on EN World, someone asked if the OSRIC community was still doing anything, and didn't know what Swords & Wizardry was about. That's a weak example on its own but I don't catalog or bookmark all those I see, and anyone who bounces around the forums knows this pops up frequently. (I'd had to see the results of a Dragonsfoot awareness survey of new OSR goods...)

A Finnish gamer went to Gen Con and was specifically looking for new "Old School" stuff. He found nothing. That's pretty astounding, and while I know at least a few copies of Shorten's S&W Quick Start were there, and surely XRP must have had some material available somewhere there, but overall this does show how absolutely bush league we as a movement still really are.

I know some of you are fine with that, and to really embrace organization or commercialization would spoil a lot of the fun for you, but I firmly believe that if Gary and company didn't pursue that path back in the 70s we wouldn't be here now and these games would be all gone and truly dead, unnoticed by most of us and the world. Even counting the woodgrain box as just a hobby effort (which is a stretch beyond credibility in itself), did you get started on Holmes? Moldvay? Mentzer? AD&D? 2e or beyond? Then you got in because of deliberate and crass commercialization of the role-playing hobby, so don't start with your complaints about it now.

I think the Gen Con situation was something of a wakeup call. Over the past couple of days a few people have taken the TARGA bull by the horns and are starting to actually do something. If they do what they say they want to do, it will help immensely.

But right now I'm looking at you.

Yeah, you.

This isn't a call to arms. I'm not trying to instill some sort of sense of responsibility to buy anything you don't want to buy or proselytize the movement if you're not so inclined.

But some of you do care, and do try to spread the word. Realize that just having a blog doesn't cut it - you're just getting a subset of the people who read the blogs, which is merely a subset of the people online who are interested in this subject, who are merely a subset of the people who are interested overall, all of whom are merely a subset of the people who would be interested if they were informed about it at all.

When you retreat from a forum because of whatever reason, you're not just isolating yourself from whatever bad influence that you're trying to avoid, you're also preventing whatever you have to say from being heard. The isolation goes both ways. The blogs are largely an echo chamber. We're talking to ourselves here. We're not providing more focused content or any such hogwash we want to tell ourselves, we're shipwrecking ourselves on deserted islands and expecting other people to go sailing. That some people have made attractive island resorts out of the experience doesn't make the rest of us any more special.

The lack of information about what's out there is appalling. Let's take Expeditious Retreat Press' OSRIC modules. I do believe they were first (if not, then losing that race by a nose) to support the OSR with third-party material using a clone's "brand name." Getting into stores, no less. How many reviews have you seen of that line? How much talk about those adventures? Finch's Pod Caverns is known of course, but there are a bunch of other books in the line by Alphonso Warden, James Boney, and Andrew Hind, among others. I haven't seen much about them, and it's very easy to interpret "no talk or buzz" as "must be bland and uninteresting, if not outright bad." That can't be true, not for all of them, yet what evidence do I have to the contrary? This is the fourth year that the line has been active so they must be selling them in decent enough numbers. To a bunch of mutes, apparently.

If you have comments that you put online, don't just put it in one place. You have a blog? Good for you! Also post your comments on Dragonsfoot. KnK. EN World. Whatever other forums you visit. Did you write a formal review? Don't keep it to yourself. Post it on the big sites. If it claims to be about RPGs in general, your review belongs there. Period. Regardless of the poster base's preferred topics.

What about that purchase you made from Lulu, or Noble Knight, or RPGNow, or Your Games Now, or wherever? Chances are it has a customer review function. Those don't have to be Shakespeare. If you liked something (or hell, if you didn't), write a couple or three sentences at the place you bought the item. That's all it takes.

I'm not saying people should crash 4e threads to talk about old school or just up and talk about the OSR out of nowhere. In fact, don't do that. The Forge followers followed that course of action some years back and it did nothing but annoy the shit out of people. But submitting reviews? Participating in polls on the subject (even if you don't care to place an actual comment)? Saying a few words in a topic that is of relevance? Yes!

No, we're not going to become a mass phenomenon again. But we've got so much more potential than what we're doing now, and we've got no reason to hide.

Stand up for the things you enjoy.

No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides is #1 at Noble Knight

Pathfinder is #2. I was thinking Pathfinder was going to have to sell out for NDiD to reach the top spot.


*does a little dance*


Also as I type, five of the top ten over at Noble Knight are LotFP releases.

(interesting that according to the "
Customers who bought this item also bought:" lists, I'm not getting casual browsers at all on NK or very much on RPGNow... you're showing up for my stuff, buying, and leaving. If I had a lick of business sense I'm sure that would mean something significant!)

Thanks everyone. :D Carry on.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Perspective of a Non-Gamer and Other Silly Stories

So I'm discussing my advertising plans with Maria. I've taken out paid ads in Fight On! and EN World and to get awareness up (wherever they argue about Old School, I am there!), and I was looking at a few other things as well.

One of those things was Kobold Quarterly. I explained to Maria that it's out of my budget right now... and she started laughing.

Big loud laughing.


"Kobold Quarterly is the most ridiculous name for a publication!"

... and I hadn't ever thought twice about it.

I also got a telemarketing call from a salesman trying to sell me Kauppalehti, a Finnish business newspaper. No need, thanks, but the guy made sure to tell me that he was looking forward to making the call to me anyway because of the unusual name of my business. hmph. It's supposed to attract odd imaginative people, not telemarketers. :P

But it looks cool on a Mastercard. :D

Work continues tonight on Insect Shrine. My main issue is making sure the Insect Shrine doesn't look or feel like the Duvan'Ku shrine in Death Frost Doom. I tend to work along a set number of ideas, which will become an issue because the following project's locale bears a lot of similarity to the 'home base' in Insect Shrine. Ah well, gotta have some creative signatures I suppose.

My mailer idea fell through. I was thinking that just using normal envelopes is a real risk when sending merchandise overseas, and it's a minor miracle that nobody's reported a shredded arrival. I had my printer price cardboard protective mailers with the Insect Shrine cover printed on one side just to make ordering from me even more festive... but the price came in at almost 2€ each unless I ordered more than a thousand. No way. I'll look elsewhere for protective mailers, and unfortunately they'll just do the job, and not be a party in your mailbox.

And I've promised Chgowiz a review on his S&W Quick Start which I need to do sometime soon as well (my angle: Who is it intended for and how well does address them, and how well do the intro rules and starter dungeon represent traditional gaming?).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Note About Compatibility

"Compatible with Advanced, Original, Basic, and Expert fantasy RPGs published between 1974 – 1983 as well as modern “Clone” games including Labyrinth Lord™, OSRIC™, and Swords & Wizardry™"

Here is the thinking behind this.

This pretty much covers OD&D, Holmes, AD&D, B/X, and BECM. (I do believe I am within my legal right to claim compatibility with old D&D, but I don't in my ads because someone's always going to bring it up and say that I'm doing a bad thing, and having to stick in the disclaimer that I am indeed not affiliated with Wizards of the Coast and I am an independent publisher using the trademark without permission... the legalese is extensive enough.)

I'm not using any Unearthed Arcana or Survival Guide stuff, so that's the 1983 cutoff.

Technically the Rules Cyclopedia is out of the cutoff, but we all know that's just the Mentzer edition reorganized.

2e... of course it will work with core (PHB + DMG) rules, but I'm certainly not going to use anything from the brown books, and definitely not Skills and Powers, so I thought it easier to just leave it out instead of saying "Yes, but..."

The lack of declared compatibility for Basic Fantasy Role-Playing is explained here. But those rules are still what I use for my Sunday games.

I was wanting list Spellcraft & Swordplay for compatibility, but I haven't sat down and played it, and I can't vouch for whether the magic system, combat, or the way monster attacks are dealt with are equivalent enough to truthfully say you could play S&S with my stuff with no undue conversion.

Since my first projects are low-level, there isn't a lot of the "proprietary" D&D magic and all that goes with it. I've had people mention they're using my stuff with Warhammer, Pathfinder, and I think someone mentioned Call of Cthulhu. I guess the current releases are pretty light on stats, but when I release stuff that looks more like "standard D&D" (and Insect Shrine will have a lot more of this sort of thing), I have a feeling that stuff will require more and more work to be compatible with anything other than what I am declaring.

Have I missed anything?

The PDFs are On Sale!

Yeah, nine hours early.


Your Games Now.

Be aware of the bundles if you want to save a couple of pennies.

Now I'm off to update all my spam posts, my homepage, then start my banner ad campaigns.

So go buy buy buy! And if not... well... hope the next release catches your interest.

And the books are still on sale both at my site and Noble Knight, if for some reason you were confused. :D

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pathfinder Can Run, But It Can't Hide

I have four books in the "Most Popular" rankings over at Noble Knight.

Before I continue on in my delusions of grandeur, first let me say thanks to all of you that put those books in the rankings. In the grand scheme of things, I know that ranking high in sales at one vendor is only a minor thing.

But I also know that ranking at one vendor is much better than ranking at none. Especially when it's the only official print vendor I'm working with so far (get the webstore updated, Eero...).

Pathfinder was already out of stock over at Noble Knight when my stuff became available, and I was sweating for a couple days as I waited for things to appear in the rankings. When Grognardia's review hit, everything jumped up the rankings immediately.

And when Pathfinder came back in stock, it was #1 immediately, again, and as such bumped all my stuff down a spot.

But this morning, No Dignity in Death and Death Frost Doom climbed up again. They're closing in on Pathfinder. Its days on top are numbered!

And before I end this post I want to thank all of you that are going to allow those two books to overtake the big bad book and its little bonus bestiary, too.

After midnight tonight (Helsinki time), the PDF edition of Green Devil Face #3 will go on sale at Your Games Now and RPGNow. After midnight tomorrow night, the PDFs of No Dignity in Death and People of Pembrooktonshire will go on sale at those places. I look forwarding to almost but not quite hitting the top spot there as well. Again. :P

In other vendor news, RC Pinnell's Sanctum of the Stone Giant Lord has debuted at Noble Knight. As a continuation/side quest of the original G-series, it's about as good, and true to the general atmosphere of the original series, as you're going to get without traveling back to the late 70s and actually prodding Gygax to follow up on that unresolved plot thread.

In other LotFP news, I'm looking at protective mailers and a banner for future convention appearances. (stop the presses for that news, eh?)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Your Thoughts on the Production Values of the New Books

It's getting about time to think about budgeting for Insect Shrine's printing, and since I tried some new things in the production of No Dignity in Death and People of Pembrooktonshire, I guess I should ask what you thought before moving forward.

How do you like the covers? Not the artwork, but the physical material and finish?

Do you notice the difference in the text layout between the books? Which do you prefer?

I know having a pull-out section reduces the "collectability" of the books, but my concern is usefulness for play (which makes me committed to saddle-stitching and the A5 format as well). Is there something with the production (not necessarily map quality - I think I've got a guy that will be making maps for me on this project so that quality will increase) there that I should think about? I don't think the "map on the inside of the cover" makes sense if I'm going to have half a dozen maps, so they need to go elsewhere.

One thought I'm having is doing mini-poster pullouts, perhaps two if physically possible.

Of course, I will work to fix things like making sure I have true full bleeds for the full-page illustrations and leaving hanging section headers like the "Day 5" on page 17 of NDiD.

So what production issues do you think I should be aware of for my future releases?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Grognardia reviews No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides


"It's a bold, original product that shows off the true potential of the old school renaissance to use the wisdom of the past as a springboard for new ventures that avoid the mistakes of the past."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Question For You Guys Concerning Print vs PDF Release

Does it make a difference to you that I release the PDFs a week after the print version goes on sale?

I'm sure it miffs the PDF buyers a small bit, but does it make a difference to you print buyers?

I do it because I want first-day print buyers to have a chance to have their purchase in their hands no later than the first PDF buyers. Since it's all mail-order right now, that means there's going to be a lag between purchase and arrival.

(I don't do the "pdf with print purchase" because I don't want to undercut distributors by offering a perk for ordering direct, and it's hard enough trying to get people to carry it without trying to require them to pass along order information for PDF delivery as well.)

If people do care, then I'll continue to do it this way. If it really doesn't make a difference, then no reason to stagger the releases.

So let me know. :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides, People of Pembrooktonshire, Green Devil Face #3 Now Available!

In North America, order from Noble Knight Games
(and check out Noble Knight's Old School Renaissance section!)
Worldwide, order direct from LotFP!

(Coming Soon: In Finland, order from Arkkikivi)

PDFs will be available from Your Games Now and RPGNow on August 27

No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides
40 A5 pages
5 page PDF Preview

In the distant past, a woman died in agony. A victim of secret forces. In a present so close you just missed it, a woman died suddenly. At the hands of one who now looks you in the eyes. Tomorrow, a woman will just begin to die slowly, as one so chosen died a decade ago. And a decade before that.

No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides tells the tale of a peculiar town of Pembrooktonshire, the home to many mysteries. Here happened a horrible crime whose perpetrator runs free. Here happens a strange festival and sporting competition with dire consequences for its participants. Here happened the tale of an explorer seeking his fortune, and taking several local youths with him into oblivion.

An overzealous holy warrior. A storybook highwayman. A couple outcast for their forbidden love across racial lines.

Civilization is more wicked than any dark wood or deep dungeon.

No Dignity in Death is an adventure module for low-level characters. There are three distinct adventures described within, each fully usable independently or as a linked series.

People of Pembrooktonshire
36 A5 pages
5 page PDF Preview

Isolated, insane, proud. This is Pembrooktonshire!

Inside this book you will find writeups to 137 of the most bizarre, wicked, and unsettling NPCs ever assembled between two covers, as well as details about the town itself.

Everything included in PoP is modular, so you can take as little or as much as you want in order to fashion the town in a manner that suits YOUR campaign! Do you want to run a horror game? Standard fantasy? Comedy? A surrealistic farce? A nightmare dystopia along the lines of 1984 or Brave New World? ... Or all of these at the same time? People of Pembrooktonshire gives you the tools.

Although written as an optional add-on to No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides, most of the NPC descriptions are independent of that module and from each other, allowing you to use them, with very little modification, in any fantasy setting, campaign, or game.

Green Devil Face #3
16 A5 pages

A variety of traps, challenges, and tests of bravery from a number of authors come together between two perilous covers! Included in this issue:

  • Pool of Fideceal: A Vexing Dungeon Furnishing by Alfred John Dalziel
  • The Heat of Greed by Andreas Davour
  • The Hypercube of Doom by Andreas Davour
  • Sparkling in the Night by Andreas Davour
  • The Zigzag Path of Doom by Akseli Envall
  • Beware the Red Stream by Caleb Jensen
  • Between a Rock and a Hard Place by James Edward Raggi IV
  • The Great Golden Ball by James Edward Raggi IV
  • This Is Seriously Unfair By James Edward Raggi IV
  • Affluentarium by Settembrini
  • Swallow of Summoning by Chris Weller

All LotFP releases are compatible with Advanced, Original, Basic, and Expert fantasy RPGs published between 1974 – 1983 as well as modern “Clone” games including Labyrinth Lord™, OSRIC™, and Swords & Wizardry™.

Mentzer, Kask, Ward, etc Forming New Company

Some details here.

Some important bits:

We want to publish new and innovative OGL products with an Old School approach (defined for the moment as rules-light, very dependent on DM quality, heavy on innovation & enjoyment), addressing many different OGL-based game systems, including BFRP, Savage Worlds (Pinnacle), Hackmaster (Kenzer), Castles & Crusades (Troll Lords), and Pathfinder (Paizo).

We would like to include OSRIC (Ronin Arts), Labyrinth Lord (Goblinoid) and RuneQuest (Mongoose) but haven't talked with them yet about permissions. The first two are very probable; we'll see about Mongoose.

S&W wins an Ennie this past week and isn't mentioned? OSRIC attributed to Ronin Arts?

6. Are you well-off? We'll need MONEY! Yeah, this is the ugly part. We're nowhere near ready to start collecting cash (haven't even completed the corporate filings yet), but here's what I'd LIKE to have:

a. Major investors in blocks of 5,000 $US, for which you'll get preferred (dividend-paying) stock. (I really want to keep company control, which is a different type of stock, and I don't care about dividend income.) Realistically we'll need at least a quarter mil (which is only 50 blocks) to stoke the base financial engine. I already know 30+ well-off folks who can afford it. Did I miss you? Talk to me.

A quarter of a million dollars? This is going to be serious.

I really hope that they complement and expand what the OSR has been doing these past few years instead of competing with or stepping on it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


As the new stuff jets towards Noble Knight, I'll have six things out there: Three proper books and the three Green Devil Face zines. My "marketing" is limited to this blog and the advertisement sections of forums right now. Who reads the advertisement section of forums?

I do have the review copies out, but reviewers are not obligated to actually do anything with them, and certainly not in any way obligated to give a positive review.

So I'm thinking ads. I've contacted a few gaming magazines and websites about rates and such, but I want to run my full-size print ad by you guys so you could tell me what you think. The goal is not necessarily to sell any one product, but just to raise awareness that I'm here and putting stuff out. Critique away!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Insect Shrine Status

This is next on the release list.

What's done:

36 pages of material, written in various stages over the past several years. All the meat (Gorsamfeld's, the goblin village, the insect shrine itself) is done and has been done for quite some time.

12 full-page illustrations will be part of this, and that's all done. When everything is done there will undoubtedly be holes in the layouts that will need some more art.

The number of maps needed is still undetermined. I'll be talking to my printer later this week because I have an idea about making the main map an A3 poster-sized pullout. I need to see what the costs would be on such a thing and if they can attach that within the booklet.

The "uninteresting" areas (no traps or inhabitants or treasure) of the goblin tribe and insect shrine still need to be written up, and the three side-quests need to be expanded from their outlines.

Everything that is already there will need to be reviewed and probably a good portion of that will be rewritten, if for no other reason that to prevent the whole thing from being some sort of Frankenstein's monster of writing done several years apart.

I'm shooting for a mid-September completion date on all this, and then it needs much further playtesting than has already been done on the long-completed stuff. I'll likely announce a week of open Skype gaming. Stay tuned for that.

Once that's done, it's time for proofreading and layout (right now assuming we're looking at 64 pages including maps) and printing and mailing, and finally, finally, you playing.

After that will be a much smaller (maybe 16 pages?) project, The Grinding Gear. After that the Stone Hold Asylum (the adventure itself is written up, it's the diary handout that's not), and I have some "special limited edition" ideas for that one.

That should take us close to the end of the year, and after that I'm out of prepared ideas. Idea kernels running around in my head are a follow-up to Death Frost Doom (not a direct sequel, but another old Duvan'Ku site), perhaps finishing the Random God Generator, or maybe something eminently publishable will pop up in my weekly game between now and then. The Sunken City area from The Olden Domain sessions I ran earlier this year is a possibility. And I may always want to commit commercial suicide by exploring my idea for a Carcosa adventure, working title: "9,383,000,000,000,000 Miles From Home."

But thinking that far ahead is just dreaming about ponies right now. I have real, tangible projects on my plate, and those definitely come first.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Tale of Courageous Hobbits and Dead Wives

Back from Oulu. Took the scenic route on the return trip, so it was over 10 hours in the car.

Apparently a lot happened while I was gone. Swords & Wizardry placed in the Ennies, which is good for them, good for all of us, and good for me as long as everyone remembers LotFP releases are fully compatible with that game. :D

But right now, as I'm supposed to be processing a couple orders that came in over the weekend and preparing the package for the Official Finland vendor for LotFP (anyone else want to step forward for other countries?), I have a little tale to tell about No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides.

I never really wanted to be a full-time publisher. Or should I say, I really didn't intend to put in the work necessary to be one. I was happy putting out my one or two projects a year, available from just my own site, hoping that maybe one or another project would get "picked up" again by a bigger outfit, and being happy with my contributions that way.

... but Brave Halfling Publishing had made it known that they were accepting submissions and getting my name in print in different places was for some reason appealing. An email confirmed BHP was interested in publishing some of my work.

So I looked through what I had in my folder ready to go. First I was going to do one of my puzzle dungeons I'd annoyed my players with sometime back. I hit a wall when writing the actual manuscript (my adventure notes aren't much to look at and would require telepathy to understand as-is). I just wasn't feeling it. So what else did I have in my folder?

"Dead bride. Dead bride. Dying bride." I came up with a few ideas to combine those all into one adventure, and I made a few artwork thumbnails to show the visual presentation I had in mind. BHP was using a "B&W... and red" cover format for their "original edition" releases, and so I did my cover concept in that style. And I submitted it. John (Boss Halfling) liked the idea, so I went about writing the actual thing, and a couple drafts later had something I thought was ready.

My reasoning for seeking an outside publisher:

  1. I really didn't want to deal with getting artwork. Laura hadn't completed the Insect Shrine artwork at this point, and it had been almost 9 months. Every other artist I'd dealt with had either declined a further project or simply disappeared after agreeing to work for me. I thought gathering art for another project would take another year and I didn't want the stress. Not to mention making the maps...
  2. I'm horrible at selling. At least I was at that point. The original Creature Generator did a little over 20 copies, FFV did half that. Green Devil Face was still in the future at this point.
  3. As a Serious Publisher, BHP would get its releases into places that I, as amateur publisher, couldn't.
  4. I was hoping that as a publisher, BHP would perform some hard-core editing duties on my work.

Of course, what I really wanted was for someone to release the thing exactly the way I wanted it released, just without my doing any of the grunt work. After sending exacting art specs and distribution demands and blah blah blah, John let me know that perhaps I'm expecting too much and that it "wasn't the right time" for our collaboration.

I'd already released Green Devil Face by this time this happened (and proving I was capable of sales), and had already announced (and started work on) Death Frost Doom.

Since Death Frost Doom art was already commissioned (and being completed much faster since I told Laura that she didn't need to use that huge A3 paper for the original pieces), I decided to complete and release that first.

But since I was taking No Dignity in Death back in-house and was going to do all the stuff I didn't want to do in the first place, I decided that maybe I should just go all the way with it and do it right. Or at least as right as I was capable of.

As Death Frost Doom was completed, I looked into registering as an official business. Then I found out about the government subsidy for new full-time businesses. In preparing my presentations to convince the caseworkers about my business plan, I convinced myself it was possible (probable is a different story of course).

That was all eventually approved. I was open for business, and things have been going well. Death Frost Doom is in the three-figure sales figures (barely, but it is there) after less than a month in release. It caused a big splash at Noble Knight (I was told that the original shipment to them was expected to take months to sell out). I have two new books plus another Green Devil Face that will be officially released as soon as the post office delivers the big package to Janesville, WI. I'll be finishing the deal for that second Official National Vendor (as I mentioned above) this week, and I really hope their order ends up selling out astonishly fast as well. If I can build a distribution network like that, vendor by vendor, country by country, I may sell numbers so small any "real" publisher would cry and cancel the line immediately, but it just might be enough that I can still do this full-time even when my subsidy ends.

And I have three more projects fully conceptualized and ready to knock out, and in one case, almost totally complete already. And plenty more ideas for what to do after those are done, just waiting to be filtered and fiddled with to determine what's good enough and what's not.

I like my chances.

And now Brave Halfling is preparing for proper distribution supporting games from larger publishers. I like their chances too.

I can't be all dramatic and say "BHP rejected me and thus inspired me to start up a real publishing company just to show 'em," but I can say that if they had accepted No Dignity in Death with all the conditions and demands I had attached to it, Death Frost Doom would never have been at Noble Knight, I'd probably be charting my follow-up release for sometime early next year, and I'd still be applying for "dumb-shit-foreigner-can't-speak-the-language" level jobs.

It's really funny. No Dignity in Death was written first, and as I readied Death Frost Doom for release I was terrified that it was going to be seen as an ordinary dungeon crawl, and I didn't want to be pigeonholed that way, and it was a shame NDiD wasn't coming out first so people could see how wild my ideas were before going into the DFD dungeon.

Now that Death Frost Doom has gotten reviews beyond anything I ever could have hoped (I've gotten some nice emails and IMs beyond what I've linked as reviews), is selling steadily and well, and now that the review copies for the next releases are arriving, I'm terrified that No Dignity in Death and People of Pembrooktonshire are going to be incredible disappointments to people. We'll see.

It's going to be a wild ride, and it's only just begun.

Update from Oulu II

Sorry about the formatting, this hotel computer has a crappy browser...

Anyway, day 2 of Jalometalli was real fun. A couple of interesting realizations.

1- About half a dozen people I know from Helsinki (including LotFP artist Laura Jalo) made their way up here for the fest. I also met one of my old players from Vaasa.

So I see more people that I know in Oulu at a show than I ever do in Helsinki. Bizarre.

2- What's heavy metal about? Just today, there were bands singing about philosophy, Satanism, Cthuliana, serial killers, historical events, mosh pits, alien conspiracies, marijuana, earth-air-water-fire "elements," and more I can't think of at this very moment (not to mention I don't know all the songs played today!).

Heavy metal isn't really about one thing. You can't pigeonhole it.

I think D&D is like that too. It has a very wide possibility of applications, just like metal, and sometimes I like to pursue the unusual applications... and sometimes I like the meat and potatoes.

But it all fits.

3- All weekend, we heard the same thing from the stage. "This is the first time in the 25 years we've been together that we've been to Finland!" Or 10 years or whatever. Someone at this fest really did something special, both for the fans and the bands.

And a very large portion of this crowd was kids. Not old farts (although there were plenty of us), but teenagers not old enough to drink (18 in this country). Showing up for a festival full of metal bands whose heydays were in the 19 friggin 80s before they were even born. And they weren't rejecting it, they were embracing it as their absolute music of choice, despite all the modern music out there.

I don't have to mention why that might be relevant to this blog and the subjects it usually talks about, do I?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Update from Oulu

An 8 hour drive, and for a few days I'm closer to the top of the world than I've ever been.

It turns out that the hotel we're staying at... four stars (you should see the breakfast buffet!). That guest list I was on for the festival? VIP all-access badge!

The first day of Jalometalli was interesting. The best bands were of course the old-school ones, simply because I think none of these bands ever broke big, and when you're a working-level band for 25+ years (and both Rage and Voïvod have at various times, not sure about right now, been full-time musicians but certainly never "mansion and a Ferrari" level) you have to be good to bother keeping going and to keep people's interest. Sólstafir was the one interesting newer band but they were awfully droney for my tastes. Most of the other bands were newer and of the "this is our genre and we wear it like handcuffs" variety.

Of course, the difference between the US and Finland were very evident. Spiritus Mortis, Finland's oldest doom metal band (established 1987) closed out the night. Their new singer Sami Hynninen doesn't participate in the same reality the rest of us do. At one point he stipped completely naked and was seig heiling while fiddling with himself while singing songs like "All This For Love," a lovely ditty about a man who kills his entire family. This is an all-ages show, mind you. He was like this for over 10 minutes, and he was hands-on much of that time. The rest of his band was various shades of cracking up, embarrassed, and rather peeved, depending on which guy you looked at.

Well it certainly wasn't boring.

But... but... some of the bands have literary connections! Deathchain is a completely Lovecraft-inspired band, complete with a guy dressed up like Cthulhu (!) on stage. Rage went through a heavily Mythos-inspired phase of their career. Of the bands I'll be seeing later today, Dawn of Relic is all about the Lovecraft as well as Chambers and Carcosa. A ton of other bands have a song here and there about this stuff. (this is not so much a Conan-and-Elric themed metal fest, Stormwarrior possibly aside, but there are plenty of such themed bands over on this side of the pond)

But to really make this post topical to the blog and D&D... I continued my "buy a new set of dice in every new city I visit" tradition by visiting Oulu's Fantasiapelit store.

Better yet, across the plaza from the hotel is the Oulu public library. Keep in mind this is a town way up north with about 110,000 people living here and not another sizable city for many hours' drive.

This library had nearly a full set of Paizo's Planet Stories books (not that I've seen any of them for sale in any bookstore I've visited in Finland), and more spectacularly, 1970s digest-sized hardcover editions of a lot of Poul Anderson and Jack Vance books, many titles of which I'd never ever heard of before. All this in English, mind you.

I wanted to steal that red Three Hearts and Three Lions book so bad, you can't believe.

This place is pretty awesome. More metal today (Atheist and Agent Steel are the expected highlights, but also ARTILLERY! The 80s are alive, as Whiplash and Death Angel will also demonstrate! Scary how many "20-25 year veteran metal bands that never made it" you can run across), then a roundabout drive back home down the coast (looking at a 10 hour car trip day).

Then Monday I sit back down to working and filling a few orders and getting back to some people's emails and settling down for the big final work push on Insect Shrine.

Also keep in mind that if this shipment takes the same amount of transit time as the last one, the Noble Knight stuff will be on sale this Friday. But past performance is no guarantee of future results, and all that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

NDiD and PoP Info up... and PDF Previews!

No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides promo blurb here.

People of Pembrooktonshire promo blurb here.

Green Devil Face #3 list of contents here (scroll to the bottom).

PDF previews of NDiD, PoP, and Death Frost Doom are here.

Crazy days ahead. I got everything mailed out yesterday, including the big box to Noble Knight and 17 contributor and review packages, including to people within the OSR that decry the use of pre-packaged adventures, including to general RPG reviewers that aren't part of the OSR, and even to one guy that one would think would support the OSR but seems to have a real nasty attitude about it.

If we want to grow, we can't be satisfied with easy applause or be content to stay in a little box in the corner. A "niche of a niche." We have every chance to be bigger than that. And I'm putting my money where my mouth is.

The official word from the post office is that the package to Noble Knight will take up to 24 working days. But last time, it took just 10 days (including holidays and weekends). They'll likely have the products listed on their site before I have them on mine (by just a few hours, hopefully), but as soon as I notice it, the forum spam onslaught is on!

If you are already interested in any of my releases, and if you are interested in the profile of this whole traditional revival thing (and if you're in North America; would be silly to ask this otherwise), I'm asking you to keep your eyes open and order from Noble Knight (from here) right around the time everything becomes available. Death Frost Doom hit #1 on their sales charts before selling out, but competition was weak. Mostly Free RPG Day castoffs.

This time, my stuff should hit that store right around the time all the hot GenCon releases are making their way there. Real competition.

Let's kick all their asses.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No Dignity in Death and People of Pembrooktonshire... Printed!

I need to commend the people at Valopaino. I submitted two projects to them yesterday, both formatted completely different ways. Not only did they work with me pretty much all day yesterday (I was down there four times!) to get correct proofs done, but the final proof was approved at 4pm yesterday, and at 8:18am today I got the email that the job was ready to pick up. All that and they were the low bid from my all-day printer tour a couple weeks back!

These won't be on sale until they arrive at Noble Knight, but all mailings should happen today, so hopefully we're looking at 10 days like last time.

(and don't forget to read the three previous posts I put up this morning... :D)

My Magazine Feature + One Page Dungeon Contest Prize

... just because I've been lazy about posting these.

Here's the prize I received for my One Page Dungeon contest entry The Infinite Tower:

Here is the first spread of the 3-page article about me and us:

This is a bit uncomfortable because just by looking at it, it's almost implying that BFRPG and OSRIC are mine. However, the article makes the truth quite clear.

Of Editing and Eternal Woe

Two things first: One, I will mention several authors in this post. In no way am I comparing myself to them, except maybe to specify where my "wanna-be" aspirations lie.

Second, keep in mind the Mishler post from several last month. I obviously don't share his pessimism, but he makes several good points.

I am so lucky to have Maria. She's been very supportive of this whole publishing venture, from allowing me to sit on my butt and write and revise instead of needing to go out and get one of those real job things, to making several up-front investments , to doing the trimming on the booklets, to being my proofreader. I don't want to go so far as to say "I couldn't do it without her," but those of you with the first version of the Creature Generator or Fantasy Fucking Vietnam surely can see a difference between "just me" and "with her assistance."

She's a pretty good proofreader. No, she's not a native English speaker, but she spent over seven years living in England. Her accent is English. I sometimes have trouble remembering she's a Finn because of this.

(It's weird, because while none of these people are Stephen Fry or anything, and there sure are enough that stumble all over English, there are an astonishing number of Scandinavians that have mastered English to the point of being able to pass as native speakers in the US or England, depending on which accent they pick up... and they don't have the annoying slang so I peg these people as speaking better English than most Americans.)

But yeah, good proofreader. I'm not going to say anything stupid like, "LotFP releases have no typos," but they certainly are much cleaner reads than they'd otherwise be.

But she isn't an editor. She never attacks my writing style in the opening sequence, forcing it to undergo a grueling training montage and gain its revenge in the finale.

And you blog readers know how my writing can sometimes get lost up its own ass.

Now I'd like to consider the things I've written for publication to be a bit clearer than that. And yes, Maria has caught some embarrassing contradictions in the descriptions. Yes, she's looked at some passages and pointed out that they were unintelligible to anyone not talking to the same invisible people that I do.

But I understand how a good editor magnifies a good writer. To me, editing goes beyond checking for typos, homophones, tense agreements, incomplete sentences, and gibberish. This is why Maria is credited as proofreader and not editor.

I've never been "professionally edited" before. Either that, or I'm far more gracious than I suspect... the process of changing things for the Goodman Games' version of the Creature Generator was very simple. "This needs to be changed for this reason." "OK, here's the new text." "OK!" But I imagine an editor being a person that doesn't care about the text as written or the feelings of the writer, but can read a work, determine what it is attempting to accomplish, and then being willing to go to war with the existing draft and the writer to better realize that work.

I'm equating an editor's work to violence because most truly creative people I know are very headstrong, and perhaps at least slightly insane, and usually sensitive about their work. And of course most people want applause, and people's friends are going to tell them how good they are. Being honest with an artist about their work, especially an amateur artist, often causes quite the scene.

It's an impossible task when it comes to creative works. As the editor of Green Devil Face, I've questioned some entries and kicked back a few for revisions, but generally I err on the side of "not pissing off these people who are graciously sending their work to me."

Then I start to wonder about how some of my favorite authors have been edited. Can you imagine being the guy responsible for taking the red pen to a Jack Vance manuscript and telling him "lose that, more of this, perhaps this part should go over here instead"? Trying to deal with Clark Ashton Smith and determining what's essential to something like The Monster of the Prophecy and what's unnecessary chaff? Impossible!

But maybe I shouldn't worry so much, or aspire to any sort of unreasonable textual perfection. Modern gaming books often seem like they're not even proofread. And neither the 1974 D&D booklets nor the first three AD&D hardcovers were edited in any meaningful fashion.

Death Frost Doomers, I Need Advice

Products up on RPGNow really should have a preview.

How many pages should such a preview be? I'm thinking four or five.

For those of you have have DFD...

Which pages should they be (from the printed version)?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

People of Pembrooktonshire wraparound cover (by Laura Jalo). It, No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides, and Green Devil Face #3 go to press tomorrow (well, GDF will still be hand-assembled). I should know more tomorrow about how long that will take to complete.

When the printers have completed their job, the big package (including more copies of Death Frost Doom) goes off to Noble Knight, and the review copies will be mailed that same day. The day that everything arrives and goes on sale at Noble Knight, I will also put everything up for sale on my site.

6 days after the print versions go on sale, the PDF of GDF #3 will go on sale at Your Games Now and RPGNow. The day after that (these places discourage "spamming" them with too many new releases at once), No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides and People of Pembrooktonshire go on sale as PDFs at those same places.

... and phase three, PROFIT!

Right guys?


NDiD is 40 pages, including maps and handouts, with a glossy cover with some COLOR and lots of art! PoP is the optional modular accessory to NDiD, 36 pages with a glossy cover and not so much art. Green Devil Face #3 will be a bit shorter than last issue.

More info on these releases coming soon (read: I haven't started writing the preview blurbs).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Another GDF Review


I hope Auld Skool Review manages to be a quality review site. We need them. If it manages that, I hope it gets the readership and publisher support to motivate Howarth to keep going.

It should have submission guidelines and contact information right there in the "About Me" area, and once a few reviews have been posted, an alphabetical list of reviews should be in the sidebar, linked of course to the reviews themselves.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Green Devil Face Review


So Who Are the Essential Critics?

Who do you read to get an impression on new RPG products?

More than half the people that got complimentary copies of Death Frost Doom haven't so much as acknowledged receiving it, let alone said anything about it publicly.

That's hardly a crime (and that's almost my default mode when receiving unsolicited things), but it's not something that keeps them on my mailing list.

So who should be on it?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The 137

I just finished the 137 character writeups for People of Pembrooktonshire. Now that goes down to the Proofreading and Quality Control Department here at LotFP Corporate Headquarters (aka "18 inches to my right where Maria will sit on the couch and take the red pen to it and question everything about it") while I do the introductory pages.

This is going to be a 36 page companion book to the No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides adventure module. They will be released simultaneously.

Still waiting on the cover art but I hope to go to press with both of them on Monday. 250 print run on each. Cross fingers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

LotFP Stuff Reviewed

"Its genre is like a crazy mix of Tolkien, heavy metal, Lovecraft and three doses of sword & sorcery; I’m completely in love, and want a whole campaign book of this stuff."