Thursday, July 1, 2010

Self-Grading LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing

As the real guts from the box start to come back from the printer, I have a better idea of what this all looks like. Here are my impressions.

The Box
I'm still rather stunned. I thought as long as the colors reproduced correctly that it would look pretty cool. What I got was packaging as good as this hobby has ever seen.

Interior Cover Art
Maybe cheating a bit since the Rules and Referee books have close-ups of the box art characters, but they deserve a bit more spotlight. I think the Magic cover is awesome and different, and the almost-but-not-quite-finished Tutorial cover is striking... and different. Tower of the Stargazer is quite simply the best Mullen piece I've seen (and it's MINE!) and Weird New World captures the content of the adventure as well as any module cover ever has - and both are different from each other and everything else in the box. I had thought about using one artist for all the booklets to create a unified look, but I'm so glad I did this instead.

Interior Art
The budget and seat-of-the-pants nature of the project starts to show here. Some of the pieces are magnificent and some of the pieces are just good enough to not fuck the whole thing up. No, I won't say which is which. I think I have a cool and different vibe from other RPG books, and it'll certainly scream "LotFP!" But if you look at the top-line productions in RPGs today (Warhammer RPG 3e is the prime example I'm thinking of, and so many books look so pretty all the way through), my game just can't match that cover-to-cover quality, and that's the standard to judge against.

Conception: December. Debut: July. I knew I was going to come down to the wire as far as writing, and I definitely needed to give the text to a few other people for editing and proofreading (not the same thing...!). Handing everything off to someone else to do layouts just wasn't possible in terms of time or, frankly, money.

So I did the layout myself, and anyone will be able to see that I'm no pro at it. On the other hand, everything will be perfectly readable (well, if you consider my modules readable - I didn't get the nickname Lord of the Fine Print all those years ago for nothing, although the font is bigger for my RPG releases than they ever were in the metal zine) and I didn't fuck up my books or anything. But even though 20 different people (!) worked on this thing, the DIY roots of the project will be fully evident.

One shame is that I definitely under-commissioned artwork for the main booklets and over-commissioned artwork for the modules. Again, I had to commission everything early in order to have it ready to go when the writing was done, so what else could I do but guess early on and hope I can close at the end. For future projects with no firm deadline like this I think I'm going to write, edit, lay out, and only then commission art to fill the holes.

Slick on the outside, raw on the inside is an honest assessment of the project as a whole. But I do think that's better than slick all the way through, and definitely better than raw all the way through.

Character Sheet
Jeremy did Awesome.

It's Christmas! Factor
So you have this awesome box. And you open it. You'll find six booklets with full color covers. You'll find dice. A pencil. Character sheets and graph paper. Oh what's this, a Recommended Reading booklet? Oh, there's writing on the inside panels of the box that can only be seen after taking stuff out? And that introduction sheet that was the first thing to be seen, that was certainly different.

Not one person on this planet will open this box and think, "What, that's it? Nothing else?"

Gaming Utility
This was designed to be played. Cross-compatibility notes make it easy to swap out subsystems between your favorite versions of The Game and I think I've made it different enough to where it's not completely redundant.

Pride Factor
It's been a hellish six months, full of angst and worry and doubt and hard work. It's not over yet, not for me and not for a few of the people I'm working with. I'm going to have to cancel or move my normal games between now and Ropecon because frankly with all the boxes piled up around here (and TONS more on the way), there's nowhere to put anybody anymore. My wife's orderly apartment is really in shambles because of me, there's this huge financial cost hanging over my head from putting all this together, and I'm sure all my artists and other helpers hate the shit out of me because I work them like government mules.

You guys have seen a few pics of the box, but I've held it. I've seen the proofs of the first couple booklets that will be going inside. I've put in a few hours putting all the insides of Tower of the Stargazer into the covers. Before this week it was a mass of nerves wondering if I was making an overwrought piece of crap, I was wondering if I had it in me to do something this big. Now it's not a plan, not an idea, not a hope. It's real.

And we did good.


  1. Congrats! Enjoy the moment.

    I'm ready to help unclutter your apartment by purchasing one as soon as you'r ready to take pre-orders!

  2. Hey man you worked hard. Im glad you got an A in the end!

  3. I know this is a big ad and everything, but I really was worried about how it would turn out.

  4. Well, while I agree with looking at the box components and rating them makes sense as well as some intangibles, I propose other metrics tied to an overall, holistic user experience of the product:

    1) Look & Feel
    2) Robustness & Clarity
    3) Functionality / Ease of Use
    4) Consistency & Compatibility
    5) Fulfillment - e.g., is it one-stop shop
    6) Differentiation & Advantages
    7) Delight & Surprise

    From what I understand not having handled the product, your potential great grades are with 1), 2), 3), 4), 7). #7 is the most important and, few products fit this impressive mould. Lots of wow factors with all of them. I think when we swim in the material and feel the energy, and feel we can use it flexibly, and are empowered and encouraged to leverage our imagination with it... well it is going to be awesome.

    That said, the audience MAY (I stress May) perceive a more mixed performance with "Fulfillment" and "Differentiation / Advantages".

    What I mean here with "Fulfillment" is, some choices with limited content such as magic items, creatures, selective nerfing, and standard goodies missing. We'll see how it feels when we immerse into it, but the gaming audience wants these materials (usually...)

    The differentiation/advantages point is also arguable, the Weird Fantasy approach, and amazing adventures are pluses not always found. But one may argue some of the talents and effort would be better focused upon building a setting, and/or style aide rather than developing another "ground-up" OSR version. A short way of putting it: Is there anything compelling from a game-play, or rules and content perspective that is truly innovative or advantageous over prior incarnations?

    So listen, I am so excited to get it my friend!!!!!!! You deserve all the kudos for this, very few non-iPhone products nearly all seven of my metrics