Friday, December 30, 2011

Contest Ends Tomorrow the 31st!

I recently got a new forum header, which led to the question "What the hell is that thing on the table?" And there's a contest about it!

Go see the picture, and the contest details, here.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fooling Around with Game Design

So Carcosa and Isle are out and shipping, and I'm waiting on some contributor input before moving forward with the next projects.

In this "between time" I've been doing what we all do at one time or another, fiddle around with the idea of making a completely new game. Whether it will develop into a real thing or not, too early to tell, but it's kept my interest more than similar attempts over the past few years.

If you're interested in seeing what I'm up to (and just maybe get the first look at 2014's hot release!), I'm posting my thoughts and notes in my forum here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Well That's Going to Be a Bad Influence

Was stuck at the in-law's house yesterday for over 10 hours (and to think I used to dread the holidays when I'd be all alone... note to self: make sure the next wife is an orphan)... I take my notebook on these trips because, well, what the hell else am I going to do?

Didn't get much done because of course the TV had to be on, playing Christmas concert TV specials most of the time. Made me aggressive - but I bet being forced to watch Andrea Bocelli sing with the Muppets would do that for anyone. And remember the 90s when Nightwish was this absolutely bizarre idea? Now here's Tarja Turunen singing in a church in front of Finland's President. Nothing completely ruins a fun thing - retroactively, even - quite like respectability.

Damn yesterday was torture.

So the few notes I did take were all about some rather, ah, interesting monsters and spells. Of the "I did that that zombie attack picture from Grindhouse and I just published Carcosa so let's use those as a new normal baseline and explore where we can go from there," variety.

So that ends up with a bunch of "I can't really use any of this, can I?" stuff.

Oh, look, one of my Christmas presents was a copy of Alan Moore's Neonomicon. I really like Lovecraft and I really like everything I've read by Moore but I'd never even heard of this. How did my wife find it?

(looking around this morning, this is how Moore himself describes it, if you're unfamiliar: "Lovecraft was sexually squeamish; would only talk of ‘certain nameless rituals.’ Or he’d use some euphemism: ‘blasphemous rites.’ It was pretty obvious, given that a lot of his stories detailed the inhuman offspring of these ‘blasphemous rituals’ that sex was probably involved somewhere along the line. But that never used to feature in Lovecraft’s stories, except as a kind of suggested undercurrent. So I thought, let’s put all of the unpleasant racial stuff back in, let’s put sex back in. Let’s come up with some genuinely ‘nameless rituals’: let’s give them a name.")

(also, check out this analysis of the book... I wonder if any of these ideas could work for RPG books?)

After reading Neonomicon most of that "I can't really use any of this, can I?" stuff in my notebook seems rather middle-class now.

Which leaves a couple things that still have potential, and some idea corridors I wasn't before considering are now open.

If you're familiar with Neonomicon, you're thinking the worst of this right now. Which is good, because that sense of dread is the coolest thing ever. But I do have limits, as there are certain things I'm not willing to play out in a game with other people, either at my home table or with random people at a convention, so I wouldn't ask you to do so. But hopefully this can instead be something else entirely that takes you by surprise. That will hopefully be good. And make you think "You can do that?" while looking at it.

(oh, I also received Dread: The First Book of Pandemonium RPG. Haven't read it yet and am not familiar with it at all, although I'm told it should be right up my alley. First thought after a quick page-through is this book has no business being 8.5x11 format and whoever decided that was a good size for RPGs in general, and this one in particular, needs a damn spanking)

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Blog About the Isle of the Unknown

Booberry (the best of the monster cereals, so of course also always the hardest to find...), of the new Giant Evil Wizard blog, is writing a series of posts about Isle of the Unknown and the possibilities therein. Don't know how long Isle will be the focus, but it's the focus right now and that's cool enough.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Carcosa is "The Best of the Best This Year"

Don't take my word for it, go read the review here. Lots of pictures. (see a translated version of the review here)

Also, a new review of the Isle of the Unknown.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Contest!

I've got a new forum header image.

To celebrate (because packing and shipping hundreds of orders is kind of dull and I need some excitement), there's a CONTEST! With PRIZES!

Details here.

(and the LotFP main site has a new background image as well, have you seen it?)

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Friend Matt is Not Helpful

Well, when he's not designing logos for me he's not.

I'm trying to come up with a good 400 word blurb for Isle of the Unknown's "Featured Product" message on RPGNow.

Since I suck at this kind of this sort of thing. I can make cool stuff, publish cool stuff, talk your ass off about it... but I can't sum it up without being corny.

330 hexes of adventure, with over 100 unique monsters and more magic and mystery than you can shake a stick at! The Isle of the Unknown is a setting that can be inserted in any traditional fantasy role-playing campaign.
That's bland and sucky, right?

So maybe I should get sarcastic. Landed me a wife off of OKCupid, worth a shot.

330 hexes of adventure, with over 100 unique monsters and tons of magic and mystery and more. DAMN is it cool. See that cover art? How cool it is? The coolness of that cover is totally representative of the coolness inside this bad boy. The Isle of the Unknown is a setting that can be inserted in any traditional fantasy role-playing campaign.
hmm. So I ask Matt for some advice. His suggestion?

Without Isle of the Unknown your campaign is as naked, evidently, as everyone on all of my covers.
*sigh*

Update

The orders have been swarming in, and I thank you for that.

(Carcosa is less than 20 copies away from selling more than the original edition expurgated and unexpurgated combined; we're already there if including wholesale orders, but Geoffrey didn't do wholesaling so I feel dirty counting those for this purpose...)

However, actually processing all these orders is slow going! We got a bunch out the door today, we'll get tons more out the door tomorrow (well, it's after 2am so I guess I should say "this afternoon"), and the rest on Monday and we should be all caught up so that orders from that point will all be "shipped the next day." (will try to get all those who paid for 1st class shipping in the group going out tomorrow)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown Now on Sale in Print and PDF


Carcosa
Weird Science-Fantasy Horror Setting. 288 A5 size hardcover. Full description of what it is here, PDF preview of actual book contents here.

The PDF version (which comes free with a print order) is an absolute state-of-the-art example of PDF technology, with extensive links, layers, and bookmarking. Click around on the maps.

Isle of the Unknown
Island hexcrawl full of the strange and unusual, suitable for any fantasy campaign. 128 page A5 size hardcover. Full description of what it is here, PDF preview of actual book contents here.

The PDF version (which comes with a print order) isn't quite state-of-the-art with the interior cross-linking as Carcosa, is fully bookmarked and layered.

Extras
Both Isle and Carcosa have optional add-ons. 250 of these are available for each book. Each book comes with an A4 sized map printed on canvas-like material and a double-sided full color A3 poster (both sides of the individual posters are shown in the pics here). Extras for each book are 5€ each. They are added by default, so toggle it to "No" if you don't want them. But you want them.

Discount Offer 1
Pembrooktonshire Gardening Society members get 2€ off the print versions of Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown as long as there are extras left for each book. When the extras run out, the discount is reduced to 1€ per book (the same discount Gardening Society members get on all print products in the LotFP store).

Discount Offer 2
Missed out on the Grindhouse Edition? If you buy at least 50€ worth of stuff from the LotFP store (say, the new Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown books), coupon code ULFIRE will get you a 12,50€ discount off the Grindhouse box.

The LotFP Webstore

BONUS
The Euro is in the crapper right now, so all of you non-Euro currency people can enjoy the best exchange rate in quite some time...!

(finally, right?)

Books Arrived

The books have arrived and have been unloaded.

Two things need to happen before you can buy them:

1- I'm taking my helpers out to lunch now.

2- I have to do all the technical things to get the sales live. There are a good amount of things I couldn't prepare before the books came...

So it'll be some hours until sales go live, but unless I get hit by a truck, everything is in place for it to happen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Books Not Here

5:50pm and no delivery truck or phone call. Tried calling the printer earlier in the day, couldn't get anyone.

Me and the four people who waited all day here with me are thrilled.

Hopefully tomorrow.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Carcosa/Isle Update

From the printer:

"books have left us and the driver is supposed to call you tomorrow before the delivery."

Tomorrow it is then. No, I have no idea when sales go live. There are books to receive and haul up four floors, pizza to buy for the helpers, and various administrative/cleanup duties to perform first.

But live they will go.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

2012

That's how many PDFs were sold during this past week's Anniversary sale at RPGNow. Quite an increase from last year's 821.

It's done now.

THANK YOU.

Coming this week, hopefully Tuesday: Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown in print and PDF.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Did I Mention I Was On Google+?

Personal page. (chit chat, general gaming stuff, etc)

LotFP company page. (news, review postings, etc)

(Still waiting a firm confirmation from the printer about the arrival of the new books. I was given a "soft" Tuesday estimate.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Bit of Mischief

Just checking my stats...

The #3 search phrase used to find my blog in the past month: "naked elf"
The #10 search phrase: "hot elves"

Those that remember that post are feeling sorry for those web searchers right about now.

You'd think I'd get more hate mail than I do, right?

821

Last year I ran the big PDF sale and I sold 821 PDFs during the week.

I hit that number less than 45 hours this year.. Still five more days to go.

I take this as meaning interest in and awareness of LotFP is increasing (even the PDFs that sold tons during last years' sale are moving very well again this year) and all this publicity work I do has some sort of effect.

So forgive me if I take a second to pat myself on the back for successfully stacking up a nice buffer against the coming printing bills and then let me try to figure out how to turn discount PDF customers into Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown buyers in a little while. :)

Carcosa Cover - Problem and Solution

Just got the Carcosa cover samples that were sent Thursday.

Two notes: The green moon and stars will be a part of the cover, they just aren't part of these samples. And if these covers are accurate, this book will be a slight touch thicker than the Grindhouse box.

Anyway... I was told at the beginning of last week that delivery of Carcosa and Isle of the Unknown would happen today, the 5th. But on Thursday I was alerted to a problem...

It seems the metallic foil wasn't bonding to the cover material. In this first pic, you can see what we were going for, and how the problems would make the book unworthy of being sold:


The printer even tested pressing a different foil underneath first, hoping the metallic foil would stick to that. The results were better, but not near good enough:


Their suggested fix was the following material:


The printer says this has bonded as it is supposed to, and I've just thumbed it fairly vigorously and it's on there tight. You're going to have to abuse the book a bit to get that to start peeling, I think.

Note that aside from the added green foil (which will likewise now be non-metallic), this is the cover. No title, no marketing blah blah. There will be a thin b&w wrap with all that jazz so it's identifiable on a store shelf (and in distributor warehouses!).

(note that the cover silhouette, in addition to echoing the original edition's, is the same image as the book's frontispiece, seen here.)

This situation might be a happy accident. My intention for the book was to look fancy-dignified, not fancy-gaudy (or at all like a typical RPG book for that matter). Using the metallic foil was shinier and perhaps "more sci-fi," but maybe it was a bit too much flash.

Everything might be delivered at the end of this week, or perhaps the very beginning of next. phew.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Anniversary Week PDF Sale at RPGNow!

Tuesday is Finland's Independence Day. Wednesday is my birthday. Thursday is my wedding anniversary.

Calls for a celebration, and maybe this year it should be the same celebration as last year.

All LotFP PDFs are on sale over at RPGNow for $1.35 each effective immediately, lasting through the 10th.

Spread the word please. :D

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's (Almost) My Birthday!

Today was tax refund day in Finland, so I took my wife out to dinner. Then we hit a bookstore, and she got me my birthday present:


Over 100 stories by over 100 different authors including Lovecraft and Dunsany and Merrit and Blackwood and CAS and Bradbury and Leiber and Kafka and Bloch and Jackson and Campbell and Martin and Barker and Ellison and Brite and King and Kiernan and Miéville and Gaimon and Ligotti and TONS MORE. Over 1000 pages. Looks to me like a one stop shop for the Weird.

(book's website here)

They also had this hardcover Lovecraft edition, a beautiful looking book, gilded pages and all... but I already have a set of Arkham House hardcovers so I can't really justify the purchase.

Isle of the Unknown and Carcosa PDF Previews

Carcosa preview.

Isle of the Unknown preview.

There is a problem with the Carcosa cover at the printer, apparently the metallic foil isn't bonding well to the cover material. They are sending me a sample of their recommended fix (a different foil I believe), but it didn't arrive today. Independence Day is on Tuesday so even if it shows up Monday, arrrgggghhhhh delays.

(Isle and Carcosa are to be delivered at the same time so a delay on one is a delay for both)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Carcosa: What Is It?

Men of 13 Races fight for life and power, ignorant of their common past.

When other tools fail, Foul Sorcery is wielded without compunction.

Enigmatic and inhuman Space Aliens have crash-landed on the world.

Psionic Warriors turn the tables on the uncaring Great Old Ones with Strange Technology from the stars and beyond time’s provenance, risking Blasphemous Madness and worse to tame the Hostile Planet and push back the darkness... for a time.

CARCOSA is a weird science-fantasy horror setting compatible with traditional fantasy role-playing games. It includes:


  • a new character class: the Sorcerer who summons and controls Cthulhoid entities
  • a new form of magic, including 96 sorcerous rituals
  • an easy-to-use psionics system
  • dice conventions
  • dozens of new monsters
  • tables for the random generation of spawn of Shub-Niggurath
  • 5 colors of the desert lotus
  • countless high-tech weapons and items of the Space Aliens
  • Random Robot Generator
  • technological artifacts of the Great Race and of the Primordial Ones
  • mutations
  • 800 encounters on an outdoor hex map with an area of 34,880 square miles
  • the Fungoid Gardens of the Bone Sorcerer introductory adventure
  • and more, all extensively cross-referenced and indexed!
Carcosa was originally released as a homemade 96 page booklet in October 2008, intended as Supplement V to the "original fantasy role-playing game published in 1974." This new printing is thoroughly reorganized and expanded and illustrated, no longer claims a direct tie to that game, and is presented in a 288 page deluxe hardcover format.

Here are some reviews for the original Carcosa release:
Dragonsfoot reviews by Korgoth, Melan, Spinachat
Grognardia Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
Jeff's Gameblog
Some King's Kent

When Carcosa was released in 2008, it quickly became the controversial topic in old school gaming. As a fan I think the controversy was rather ridiculous (not liking it, fine, not buying it because of such content, fine, being outraged by a wholly fictional work to the point where you insult the writer and rage against those who weren't themselves outraged is silly), but even today people verbal take shots at the author in passing (and the book's been out of print for over a year!) so I think a thorough discussion of the portions of the book causing the controversy is in order.

The controversy is due to I believe just four rituals (out of 96 rituals, all of which take up 33 pages in a 288 page book - 18 out of 96 pages in the original edition) in the book, all dealing with dry descriptions of torture.

My own feeling about this is that these ritual descriptions are, if not absolutely essential, then at least overwhelmingly effective at communicating the absolute horrific and alien nature of Carcosa more than all the laser guns and mutant dinosaurs. It makes sorcery forbidden and dangerous in a way we're always told it should be in genre fiction and gaming flavor text, but never seems to be during actual play. It takes the perhaps too-familiar Lovecraftian bestiary and marries it to a magic system that many find beyond the pale. It is, in most situations, unspeakable.

They are not integral parts of play (refs and players must actively choose to make them part of their games), the text does not glorify or condone the acts either in the game or in real life, and nothing suggests that anyone should do these things or be OK with others doing them in real life.

As the publisher of the new version of Carcosa, I realize this will cost me some sales. But that's OK. Carcosa is not for everyone. Nothing is for everyone. Better to stand by the author's vision and intent than censor it or water it down scrounging for every last possible sale.

While I don't believe these disclaimers and warnings will prevent the controversy from flaring up again (argument and outrage pretty much dominated every single discussion about it a few years ago - which is why I spend so much time on it here), I can at least do what I can to get the word out to make sure that people who really would be truly bothered by this sort of thing don't spend their money on it.

Carcosa is the real deal, fearlessly imaginative, with everything dialed up to 11. The wondrous and fantastic, as well as the icky stuff.

Unsure if it would be distressing to you? Here are the author's own words about the whys and wherefores of Carcosa sorcery, including the text of the ritual that caused the most outrage:

Why Carcosan Sorcery Is the Way It Is

Carcosa will not be to everyone’s taste. I certainly have no quarrel with anyone who does not buy it. This post is to explain why I included the level of detail regarding the human sacrifice necessary for most sorcerous rituals on Carcosa.

Carcosan Sorcery is literally INHUMAN.

Humans did not create sorcery. The Snake-Men did. The (now thankfully extinct) Snake-Men originated tens of millions of years before man. These ophidian beings were not only literally cold-blooded, but they were also without emotion or pity. Imagine the eyes of a snake endowed with calculating intelligence, but no conscience whatsoever. These intelligent and amoral beings deeply studied the arcane aspects of existence, and in so doing discovered that a certain measure of control could be exerted over the very powerful Cthulhoid beings infesting both the world of Carcosa and the universe. This control could best be achieved with bloodshed. Snake-Men sorcerers, over countless millennia, honed and perfected their sorcerous arts. This included breeding the sub-human man-apes into the thirteen races of men, so as to be the most efficacious of sacrifices.

The Snake-Men subjected these hapless humans to the most horrific and degrading of fates in pursuit of sorcerous power. So please note: Carcosan sorcery (with its human sacrifice, rape, and torture) was created by an inhuman race that regarded us as we regard laboratory rats. The Snake-Men had as much sympathy for a human baby being sacrificed as we do for our veal dinner.

There is a grim justice in the ultimate fate of the Snake-Men: “At the height of their powers, the Snake-Men destroyed themselves by releasing ultratelluric forces impossible to control” (p. 111 of the expanded Carcosa book). In short, the Snake-Men paid for their sins. They were destroyed by their own sorcery.

Most Carcosan Sorcerers are EVIL.

In swords & sorcery literature, most sorcerers are evil. That is also true on Carcosa. Most sorcerers are reprehensible, disgusting, shocking, cruel, perverse, etc. Only a very few are otherwise, and they generally limit themselves only to the rituals of banishing (which do not require human sacrifice).

“Sorcerers Never Prosper,” or “Sorcery Doesn’t Pay”

The dangers inherent in sorcery are such that precious few sorcerers live to a ripe old age. Most eventually get destroyed by the Cthulhoid entities they conjure and/or attempt to control. Like the Snake-Men, sorcerers pay for their sins. And what the Cthulhoid entities do to sorcerers is a lot more painful than what sorcerers do to their sacrifices.

“So how can I use this kind of sorcery with explicit violence in a game?”

The explicit details can serve these two functions:

They make sorcerers GREAT villains for the player characters to slay. As a player I find it so much more satisfying to slay “the sorcerer who raped and killed adolescents” than to slay “the sorcerer who did some very bad things (details undisclosed)”.
They make PC sorcerers think twice before performing a sorcerous ritual. Several times in my Carcosa campaign, a PC sorcerer would be researching how to (for example) bind a certain Cthulhoid entity, and upon finding out the inhuman things required, DECIDED TO CEASE HIS RESEARCH. (“That price is too high.”) Many players will balk at sacrificing human NPCs when faces are put upon those NPCs, and when horrific details are given for what has to be done to those NPCs. Many players will refuse for their characters to kidnap an 11-year-old White virgin, rape her, and slay her. However, if the requirements of the ritual were vaguely worded (“requires one human sacrifice to be tormented and slain”), fewer players would balk. If the descriptions of the sorcery in Carcosa were less explicit, player character sorcerers would be more likely to engage in human sacrifice. The explicit language actually reduces (though it does not eliminate) the frequency of PCs sacrificing humans.

“Just How Explicit Is the Book, Really?”

M. A. R. Barker’s The Book of Ebon Bindings (published in 1978) was my model. Prof. Barker’s book is full of unflinching, clinical detail of human sacrifice, torture, and rape. Neither his book nor mine has the attitude of “Kewl! Blood and sex! Yeah!” Let us compare two passages from each work:

From the section on how to summon Gereshma'a, He of the Mound of Skulls (pp. 28-29 of The Book of Ebon Bindings): "In each of these three spaces let sacrifices be bound: in the northern pentagon a male human, in the western a female, and in the eastern an infant of not more than seven years...Then shall the evocator praise the Demon Lord and make the sacrifices. The infant shall be held head downward, and its belly shall be slit with the Ku'nur [the jag-edged sacrificial knife of the temple of Sarku]. When the blood is drained, the body shall be flung outside the diagramme."

From the ritual of The Primal Name of the Worm (p. 65 of the expanded Carcosa): “This one-hour ritual requires the sorcerer to stand in cold, waist-deep water and to there drown a Jale male baby. He must rend the corpse with his own hands and spill the blood upon a stone taken from the phosphorescent cave in hex 0607.”

From the section on how to summon Ka'ing (p. 66 of The Book of Ebon Bindings): "[T]wo of the evocators shall go to a female sacrifice, and while one engages in sexual congress with her, the other will slay her with a garrote made from her own hair. Then the other female sacrifice shall be treated in the same wise, and thereafter two female evocators shall perform the same act with the two male sacrifices, save that the garrotes shall be of the hair of the evocatresses instead."

From the ritual of Summon the Amphibious Ones (p. 70 of the expanded Carcosa): “This eleven-hour ritual can be completed only on a fog-shrouded night. The sorcerer must obtain the root of potency found only in ruined apothecaries of the Snake-Men. The sacrifice is a virgin White girl eleven years old with long hair. The sorcerer, after partaking of the root, must engage in sexual congress with the sacrifice eleven times, afterwards strangling her with her own hair. As her life leaves her body, 10-100 of the Amphibious Ones will coalesce out of the mists.”

As one can see, the level of detail and its clinical character is very similar in The Book of Ebon Bindings and in Carcosa. If Carcosa “crosses a line,” then it merely crosses a line that was already crossed 30 years earlier by The Book of Ebon Bindings. I regard M. A. R. Barker as one of the Five Great Men of FRPGs (along with Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, Bob Bledsaw, and David Hargrave). Prof. Barker’s credentials are impeccable. I am confident that I am on safe and appropriate ground when I use his publications as a guide.

In the end, it’s all merely a game, fantasy, and words on paper. None of it is real.
So if reading descriptions of imaginary aliens doing horrible things to other made-up aliens on a planet 153 light years away from Earth for the purpose of influencing fictional slime/tentacle monsters is truly distressing to you, do not buy Carcosa.

(A final note: By request, a month after its original release, Carcosa was also made available in an expurgated edition, removing the most-complained about elements from the book. After the outcry and the requests for such a thing, after all was said and done after two years of the original edition being on sale in both versions, less than 15% of the book's total sales, including print and PDF, were for the expurgated version. LotFP will not be publishing an expurgated version.)

Get ready everyone... it's going to be another interesting ride.

Any other questions you have about Carcosa?

Keeping Cthulhu Scary

Kenneth Hite's presentation at CelestiCon is available for download here. I'm only four minutes in and so far it's great.