Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Proofs for the final two booklets of the LotFP: RPG box may be ready today, and a third booklet should be ready for pick-up.

(note that I put The Grinding Gear up for sale when I had seen the final proofs, not when I had received the completed printing)

It feels weird, having all these goals and hopes and ambitions for the box, and now being on the verge of having a thing that must stand on its own. It feels odd that the people reading this are the most likely to buy it are also the ones that need it the least.

I want to make this clear: While it doesn't map to any particular edition, it is another simulacra and across-the-board compatibility was a primary goal. I hope I have made something that is unique in tone, is attractive as an artifact, works, and will be interesting to read even for veterans, but it is basically a variation on things you guys already have. This isn't revolutionary or innovative.

The original purpose of making the game was to get a foothold in markets where the other simulacra publishers haven't yet penetrated. I live in Finland but couldn't get my modules in stores because none of the games they support are in those stores. I suppose I could have worked to import Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry, but I saw a chance to grow my business and hit a market that won't see my product as "oh god not another one..." I want to sell my modules everywhere, and didn't want to depend on the distribution of other people's products to do it. Hell, just having a game seems to give a publisher more weight with the distributors and stores more than a company that's just producing supplemental material. Even if I did hook the country up with LL or S&W it wouldn't mean my stuff would get anywhere next to it. I had to release a game under my own "brand" to make this work.

I made it different because it would be foolish and rude to just reprint the Open Game Content of others with new branding slapped on top of it. I made it the same and used Open Game Content because I love the underlying game that forms the basis of all our clones and simulacra and adventures and settings and have no intentions of leaving it behind. My modules are not changing format, not in the slightest, not even in the statblocks. They are still for OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry, and now they are for LotFP: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing as well.

I do provide cross-clone compatibility notes and plug by name "competing" companies and games and publications within my game. Even if someone unfamiliar with anything decides my game looks cool and picks it up at random, they will know that my game is but the latest that celebrates a greater tradition, and they'll know there are other visions than mine that are producing great things. If I manage to reach new people I hope those people enjoy all of our work, not just mine.

Ropecon is in a week and a half, and I'm looking at taking my show on the road around Europe, going to the people and growing that way. Are RPG convention-goers in Finland and Germany and Sweden and Italy and England and wherever else already inundated with all the clones and everything that's been going on? I don't think so. And if they are, hey, I've still got something to offer them because my modules rock.

But I have no doubt that the lion's share of the sales, at least initially, will come from readers of this blog and those hip-deep in the community already. You are collectors and supporters and players and I thank you for that. Your support will help me to spread the word to new people and to continue to do modules and other cool things that can stand up to comparison to what the big dogs in this hobby are producing.

And if you don't need another game, Towers of the Stargazer and Weird New World, the modules in the box, are available separately. Hammers of the God is a separate adventure being released simultaneously with the box. You can use these with all the usual suspects.


So now that the crafting is done, what do I think of it?

I'm scared! It's not a concept anymore, it's a thing I have to live with and all hopes for a growing business are placed on it. It's a product that promises production values with a not insignificant price tag and it's going to be delivered to the most demanding and critical audience on Earth. For all the bluster and talk of what's possible, I still fear I'm not the right guy to do all those great things. What if I have bitten off far than I can chew here? What if I'm not good enough?

I know how it was made. I see all the flaws. I don't doubt that other people will see them. The question is whether or not the product gets crucified for them or not.

I'm happy with the overall look. The box looks nice and the booklet covers are quite striking. On one level I wish I had sprung for different covers for the Rules and Referee books, but Sheppard's cover art did deserve to be seen in greater detail. I wanted a photorealistic cover and I got it.

Inside the books, things aren't as sharp, but I've already given myself the C grade for layouts. It'll all be perfectly readable and clear (as much as my modules, anyway), but there is a certain "dude got a new layout program and was playing with it" quality to it. As books and other elements were completed and returned from the printer, I found errors that should have stuck out beforehand. The character sheets don't spell melee with the French accents like the rules do. The fading of the Hammers of the God back cover image somehow got lost for the final production PDF so the promo text gets lost in the picture in places. Little details like that. Drives me up a frickin wall, will give the whole thing a bit of an amateur mark, but do not affect the essence or usability of the material one little bit. I had four people looking at most of this material and I bet there are still typos, too.

Quite the learning experience. My next releases, without the hard deadlines and without such an ambitious amount of material being produced at the same time, will be handled differently to address these things.

The hard deadline (Ropecon wasn't going to move if I needed more time) did bite the box a little bit, and it's in Weird New World that it shows. It turned into far more of an experimental release than I had originally conceived, but a continent-sized sandbox was just not going to work as a normal adventure. The maps were death to do. Ramsey did a great job on the large map (will be an A3-size foldout full color hexmap), but the effort of that meant he wasn't getting the other two (much) smaller color maps done on time. Eero Tuovinen stepped in for one of them, and so it looks cool, but the third map was done by me. No matter what the ENnies say, I am not a noteworthy cartographer to say the least, and I fear my graphic contribution will be an eyesore. It'll be a usable map but that's about all.

Some decisions I second-guessed as I was making them, such as how to handle the artwork and layout for Tower of the Stargazer (it needed to be a short budget module and I had just written too much stuff for it) but there would have been doubt however I chose to handle it.

I had to pick up my old Mentzer book to compare to make sure that I didn't unintentionally copy any text (Mentzer Basic was my introduction to the game) in the first adventure section of the tutorial material because for all the changes in details and writing, it's close. Mentzer's format is the absolute best I've ever seen for introducing game concepts. I ruthlessly and unashamedly ripped off the format, but I worry that my homage in following the basic story within that format will be seen more as a rip-off. At some point you just have to hold your breath and trust that you've done something that's the same enough yet different enough. But I fear I'm going to catch a little hell for pages 4 - 12 of the Tutorial book.

So yeah, there are flaws, and I don't ask anyone to ignore or overlook them. I just hope they are insignificant against the whole of the work. After spending so much time on this, and all those all-nighters in the last few weeks, my perspective is pretty skewed - I simply do not, cannot, see this project in the same way as a customer will view it.

But you know what? I felt the same way when I released the Creature Generator. My very first RPG writing, a flawed product to be sure, and it ended up getting picked up by a publisher that has spread it around the world. I still get complimentary emails about it almost two years later.

I felt the same way about Death Frost Doom. My first release as an official, professional company. It too is a flawed product, but people seemed to like it nonetheless.

So maybe I don't suck. I'm a rough-around-the-edges guy and always will be, so things won't be perfect no matter how much I try. If the box does well, if the business grows a step, I can get some reliable people (and pay them) around me to pick up the slack, mostly around graphic design, where my skills fall short.

This box is miles away from the production values of those first handmade copies of Death Frost Doom or that photocopied first edition of the Creature Generator. What I do next year will be done better than the box. And yet whatever that is will have flaws which are then corrected and improved upon for the releases after that.

It's a process. I hate it, I just want to be there instead of having to start here, but there really isn't a choice, is there?

And if I rant like a fanatic sometimes, it's because I am a fanatic. There's no facade here. I am excited about what other people are doing and I think I have exciting things to contribute and I will stand up for them. I hope the passion that fuels my words here also infects every release I put out.

Even you jaded bastards will see things in this box that will make your eyes pop out in disbelief.

tl;dr: Ordering will begin soon.


  1. After all of the dumb shit over the last few days, I am somehow less excited now than I had been. Its lost some of its luster.

    May your efforts get you what they truly deserve.

  2. And this time I actually have money! It must be a sign. :D

  3. At least you acknowledge the bluster!

    And yes, very excited for this labor of love.

    I will let you know, even though my opinion matters little, if I feel your talents should have been better focused upon developing a "Weird Fantasy" setting compatible with ALL systems, in lieu of clone v103.x. After all, you admit your buyers are core gamers who do not need a bunch of pencils, character sheets, encumbrance rules iterations...

    I mention this in the same post you referenced above, where you graded yourself.

    In any event, it is an event, and I will no only get it, but show it off to many folks and garner opinion.

  4. Very tempting even for someone who is an AD&D First Edition types...
    While I might never think this work exceeds that of Gygax, your reasoning for creating this work is a valid one and I hope you earn the success you deserve.

  5. Very Cool...I am looking forward to buying and playing it. Thanks for the heads up.