Saturday, March 28, 2009

March 31 Approaches... You Will Be Swallowed by the Green Devil Face!

The deadline for submissions to Green Devil Face, the zine of traps and tricks to drop into your own dungeons, is March 31! Then I can start dealing with the people that made submissions and deal with things like formatting and such. Cross fingers that the release date won't be any later than mid-April.

If you want a copy of Fantasy Fucking Vietnam, I'd get one rather soon. When Green Devil Face goes on sale, FFV is going to be "reskinned," so to speak, as GDF #1, with a cover and new introduction. Aside from being a rather odd commentary about online "old school" politics of the time (oh so long ago), it was set up as a 'funhouse dungeon' not to have a cohesive adventure to run a group through, but to have a lot on individual neat bits that could be stolen... and that had absolutely no relationship to each other. The idea wasn't "Pay some bucks for my incredible wit!" It was "Pay a few bucks for this little idea mine... and the wit's on us!" (of course, the amount of actual included wit was subject to debate...)

With Green Devil Face going forward and being a bit more clear about what it is (with no "scene politics" for the new material... well, deadline's not up yet so no scene politics yet!), I thought I'd slap a fresh new coat of paint on the previous release. And since it's looking so far like the new GDF will be in the 10-15 page range (barring a huge flood of submissions of course), there's a chance that the two of them together could still be in the minimum postage fee weight. It's going to be as inexpensive as I can make it, but there's not much I can do about postage costs so anything I can do to make that postage cost go as far as possible...

The good news for me is I got a booklet stapler while in Sweden (for a fraction of the cost they sell them for here in Finland) so I can do everything in-house. Did a few test booklets this morning (you should see my sweet Holmes booklet now!) and they look just fine.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What We Need is All We Need

Something's been bugging me about Wednesday's post. Something rather obvious.

If that set could be a reality, in that form, that would be all that we actually really need. No need to point to another rules set, no "graduating" from there to a more advanced or complete form of the game. All of the levels could be included in the box, as higher levels are really just a matter of extended spell lists, and OD&D and Meepo's Holmes Companion show that it doesn't take all that many pages to detail them (even if there is Mentzer level detail to the spells, it wouldn't take that much more room). This could be it.

Not that further supplements and adventures wouldn't be excellent, and even vital to the game (see my notes on that matter here), but the idea that the intro set should be anything less than a fully playable, never-need-anything-else product is foolish from a hobbyist standpoint.

What we need is not an intro to the game to be readily available and easily digested by people. What we need is for the entire game itself to be readily available (and easily affordable!) and easily digested by people.

Now I'm envisioning a game book in the form of a magazine, 128 pages, with everything in it, and the Mentzer-style tutorial intro as an attached (centerpiece pull-out?) item. Attach a covermount CD with various optional rules and adventures and idea-builders and maybe historical essays on role-playing and different methods of playing. Two versions: Book-with-extras for the existing hobbyists, and the box version for luring in the kiddies. I think this could be done with a retail price of under $15 ($20 for the box?), especially if third party publishers sponsor the deal through ads (maybe a pay-for-inclusion on the CD, like the music mags do it?) in the back.

I would still put dice and a full-length adventures printed adventures (and the reading guide!) in the box. Remember that the theoretical audience for this is people who have never played before. Kids who will see the cover art and go "Cool!" Give them as much as possible to work from.

Third Anniversary...

... of my getting back into the D&D swing of things.

Check this.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What I Want From What We Need

Grognardia's got a note about the lack of a true intro set that would be available in normal stores next to all the other games like Clue and Monopoly.

If there's one thing we've all learned, it's that we'll all be stone cold dead waiting for the trademark holders to produce what we want, what we need, or what's best for the hobby or the game. What we've learned is that we can do it ourselves.

What a huge bother it would be, setting all this up and attempting to market it. And that's all this would be... pure marketing, with no existing market, since the whole point is to introduce people who aren't already in, and do it in a way that's self-contained.

My concern for the purposes of this post:

What should be in it?

6 booklets, dice, and a few sheets of reference charts, that's what.

Yes, six booklets.

The first booklet would be just like pages 2 - 22 in the Mentzer Basic Players Book. A tutorial, introducing the basics of the game. (This one should also be mass produced as a freebie giveaway in game stores and maybe with specialty mail order shops to be dropped in with orders)

The second booklet would be character creation, class/race abilities, the XP charts, equipment lists, etc. This booklet would probably be very short.

The third booklet would likely be the largest, as it would have all the rules of the game. The nuts and bolts, as well as spell lists and that sort of thing.

The fourth and fifth booklets would be adventures. One would be a dungeon adventure, with do-it-yourself dungeonbuilding/adventure creation advice. The other would be a wilderness adventure, with world- and campaign-building advice.

The sixth booklet, which would be just a dream (more than the whole idea) and least likely to get in, would be a reading (and viewing) guide. Appendix N come to life, if you will, discussing various elements of the genre and perhaps where the inspiration for certain mechanics originated from. Not in-depth critical essays or anything, just a breezy walkthrough. It will give the whole thing context, because there is no reason to expect that the 10 - 12 year old kid we'd be targeting would have any clue about Jack Vance or HP Lovecraft or even RE Howard, and a lot of the stuff in the game (MAGIC SYSTEM) is just going to seem so foreign and unrelatable to someone whose entire fantasy education is Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies.

Because this is just an intro set (and should be clearly marked as such), the booklets and dice can be made of the shoddiest materials available. I'm talking newsprint, with not even covers on the individual booklets. The art can be that evocative black and white traditional lineart. The box itself needs to be twelve kinds of heavy-duty cool though, with superior quality art and materials.

But the intro set should also be its own fully self-contained game, going to perhaps level 10 to 12 or whatever. Certainly advertise the other versions of the rules and entice people with all the cool add-ons and ideas to be had in them, and in the adventure modules, and in the game-enhancing supplementary products, but nothing more than the intro box set should ever be needed to play a game. We're trying to create gamers and hobbyists, not suppliers of a continuing revenue stream.

Monday, March 23, 2009

An Arneson Quote

"The most fun was when the players were stuck about what to do next. Some of the discussions were priceless!"

I don't know what it's like when you guys run games... but I agree with this. When the players decide to do something, then oh god, I have to manage resolutions and select/invent/pretend to know which rules to use and everything prepared after that point might have to be altered to take current actions into consideration... work, work, work!

But those times when players are not sure what to do next and are arguing amongst themselves and selling outrageous plans and strategies to each other... why, I'm having so much fun that I often don't even look at those wandering monsters dice I'm throwing!

Open Game Table is Out Now!

Ad copy from The Core Mechanic:

"Open Game Table aims to bridge the gap between the RPG blogging community and the broader table-top gaming fan base by showcasing the best talent in the RPG blogosphere. Within these pages are 47 blog posts from 32 top-quality RPG blogs, plus a Foreword written by RPG luminary Wolfgang Baur. After six months of hard work, I am very happy to say this anthology is finally here for your enjoyment!!!

Packed with the best in RPG blogging and over 60 illustrations, this book is Pure Gold. The anthology chapters cover a wide variety of topics for fans of all table-top roleplaying games, including:
  1. Play Style;
  2. Game Play;
  3. Characters & Players;
  4. Monsters & NPCs;
  5. Encounters, Settings, and Locations;
  6. Adventure Design;
  7. Campaign Setting Design;
  8. Classes, Action, and Equipment;
  9. RPG History & Commentary; and
  10. The RPG Toolbox.
This anthology is the result of the hard work of nearly 100 volunteers, authors, editors, judges, artists, and designers. A true grass roots effort; it is a tour de force of the RPG blogging universe.

The book is shipping from Lulu Marketplace and for $22.95. Soon, it will also be available from Indie Press Revolutions."

I've got two articles in there ("Guide to Adventure Writing" and "Is This How D&D Is Supposed to be Played?"), and other names you're familiar with (Maliszewski, Bowman, Rients) are also in there. It's almost kind of pointless promoing a book about exposing the blogs to general gamerdom in a blog (we know already!), but it would also seem weird to just ignore that it's out. My local game shop stocks some things through IPR so it might be cool seeing something of mine on an actual retail shelf, and if this project has any feet, it would be worth it just to get the West Marches essays out there.

Inspirational Music Videos

Not just songs, but music videos (official or not), that just get that role-playing style creativity spiking.


As one project races towards completion (I hope to have something to announce by the end of the week oh no I've jinxed it), and another looms large after that...

I stay off of message boards for the most part these days. I find that blogs make it easier to filter out junk. If a blogger appeals to your general tastes, you read him. If not, you don't. On message boards, you've got to learn half a million names and figure out what each is all about through a patchwork of topics, and then topics you're interested in get siderailed by people you wouldn't piss on if they were on fire, and...

Yeah. For the most part when it comes to gaming now, I just read the OD&D board, the blogs on the right when a topic seems interesting (more interested in reading theory and history and facts and opinions on the day's topics than about people's games), and (because I love a good car wreck and I find myself disagreeing with almost everything written there by everyone, top to bottom, and it's a deadly oppressive atmosphere to boot... like a meta-gaming 1984 netLARP. It's fun looking into bizarro world...).

The big advantage of blogs is you don't have to be considerate of other people. is my house as far as I'm concerned, and if I want to lean back and put my muddy shoes up on the sofa while scratching my balls, I will. That's what it's for, really.

I'm thinking of all of this because, well, Dave Arneson just threadcrapped me. Which is fair enough, I know I've probably threadcrapped my fair share on boards, and probably far more than I realize (since I really don't intend to do such things unless it's just ridiculous). But I have experience with how celebrities are treated and how they react to criticism... mostly on music boards. Musicians join message boards where their praises are gloriously sang, and then leave in a huff (decrying the rampant negativity) when someone dares criticize the smallest thing they've done. They don't address criticism and don't want to explain themselves to a critic. They just want to bask in the sunshine radiating from the asses of their adoring public. Then all the other posters, who enjoy having the musician there to witness their fellating, get mad at the guy who drove Mr. Prissypants away and then it's just a mess.

I have no idea if Arneson would react this way, but I don't feel like dealing with the drama if he does.

But I do fiercely disagree with everything he said, and I'm going to address it here, in my house. Listen if you wish.

Arneson's quote:

As I have said many times before. Work with what works for you. But be very aware that this adds complications and draw you and your players away from the real treasure, THE STORY. Always remember too that the PLAYER WOULD actually not know the monster stats etc. The have to learn them the hard way Maybe you pack train is loaded down with hundreds of obscure scrolls and tomes. Mine weren't.

"Roll the dice and I will tell you you hit!"

Where to begin?

Work with what works for you is about as non-useful as non-advice gets. It doesn't answer any question and actively suppresses discussion if you're not sure if something would for you in the first place. I'm asking because I don't know, right? And as if someone was in danger of dumping something that did work for them?

But that's nitpicking, because when this "advice" is given it feels like it's a reflex action of message board response (or a disclaimer along the lines of IMO where someone neuters their own opinion) and not really something people think too much about when they say it.

But be very aware that this adds complications and draw you and your players away from the real treasure, THE STORY. I can be uncharitable and say that this sounds like sour grapes that I might be using an only-Gary book with the version Arneson co-designed. I could be rather inquisitive and ask how exactly a fresh set of creatures to add variety to the creatures in the OD&D books might add complications, but then he might be thinking that the Greyhawk multiple attacks/variable damage system adds complications as well.

I could rip apart "THE STORY" as something to be treasured, as such a thing can not be safeguarded or drawn to or away from without destroying the very essence of why I play (to discover the story, not to write it!), but that's a fairly dead horse in this community. Although if we go along with the assumption that the story would be compromised by using the Monster Manual with OD&D, I'm still completely at a loss how that would happen.

If he really does mean that a slight mechanical complication of multiple attacks, or having to eyeball AD&D stats to OD&D (like old-timers, and surely after 25 years of gaming I may lay claim to at least that title, don't have constant experience eyeballing AD&D-Mentzer-2e (and back) conversions) really does damage the quality of plotline that the referee is supposed to be presenting to his players... well then... wow. And not a good wow. If that's the case, then I suppose we should be glad that the other half of the authorial duo took stewardship of the game.

Always remember too that the PLAYER WOULD actually not know the monster stats etc. The have to learn them the hard way goes along with "Roll the dice and I will tell you you hit!" This is dick refereeing. Not to mention it burdens the referee with more secrecy and bookkeeping than necessary. When combat happens, I freely give out a creature's AC and damage potential. I don't care what the player rolls, I just need to know if he hit, and if he did, how much damage he caused. Often a player's combat turn comes up, "Nope, nothing this round," if it's the party against one enemy. I roll enemy combatant to-hit rolls and damage in the open, so players get that information. Sometimes I give away hit points when it's the end of combat and winning and losing is coming down to who gets the next good swing in.

Maybe that gives away too much, but I figure once you're actually in combat with somebody/thing, you're going to be aware of the basics real quick. You'll know when a foe is on the ropes and ripe for the kill. First level characters aren't the incompetents they are often made out to be. A first level fighting man is a veteran for crying out loud. And if something is standard enough to be in a published monster book (you now, standardized), I figure legends have gotten around. Especially if a player guesses the monster from a verbal description rather than "You see a troll."

Maybe you pack train is loaded down with hundreds of obscure scrolls and tomes. Mine weren't.

Maybe my pack train is loaded with a great variety of tools so as to give me as many options, ideas, and inspirations as possible without being limited merely to my own imagination.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's Almost March 31, and This Wasn't Even My Idea

"I had a dream where I was wearing this skirt with the green devil face," she says.

"Uhhhm. OK," I say.

And she made it. She says she's wearing it for our trip to Stockholm this week.

Which is a good excuse to remind you of two things:

  • Green Devil Face submissions need to be in by March 31. I know every single person reading this has some weird trap they've always wanted to see in print. (Grimtooth, are you out there?)
  • I'll be gone the next few days, so those of you who enjoy trolling the blog have carte blanche until I get back.

Seriously though, if she's going to make a skirt based on a 1978 David Trampier illustration, she should probably play in an actual game a time or two. HINT HINT. :P :P

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I Have a Forum

Not that I've used it that much, but it is just sitting there, so if anyone wants to talk about anything even tangentially related to this blog or my RPG writing or anything at all that might seem to make sense together with the terms "LotFP" and "RPGs"... go here.

For an added bonus (and perhaps a source of embarrassment; I haven't looked at these posts in many years) you can search to the beginning of the forum and some of my RPG thoughts from 2003 or so when I was putting my own game together...

Friday, March 13, 2009


I'd planned to go "dark" for March and concentrate on a couple of projects (one to not be announced until it's finished and submitted, the other Insect Shrine) and get them all set to go (artist says after final exams in two weeks, the final two pieces will be done... we shall see, and if it's true, I want to hit the ground running on it and stop all of the completely deserved and justified sniping I get over it... I am dying to put out my own ideal of How It's Done and it's got to be right - something that both the Creature Generator and FFV release experiences will help with).

We see how well that plan went.

Main reason I wanted to concentrate on this stuff now is because I know I have a tendency to pile myself under a million projects because I see that I have time and I have this illusion that it's 2000 and I'm able to block out the whole world and just write 24/7.

Green Devil Face is something I want to nurture (get your submissions in!) and with the end of March target for submissions, I want some of this other stuff cleared out so I can do some justice to it. Just need to remember it's got a more specific purpose than the big zines right now and not to get depressed as it starts slow. :D

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fight On! #4 Duvan'Ku Supplement

In Fight On! #4, I have three articles: The Tower adventure, The Dread Sorceries of Duvan'Ku selection of new spells, and Fell Magick Items of Duvan'Ku detailing... magic items!

For whatever reason (space concerns, editor's brain sucked out by a mind flayer, pressure from Jack Chick and Pat Pulling, or maybe they just plain sucked) a few spells and a number of magic items were cut from the final articles.

Download those orphans here.

(And I'm looking for feedback on the articles themselves here.)

You Want To Know Why I Keep Plugging Noble Knight?

The ordered was placed Thursday. It shipped Friday.

Today, the Arduin Trilogy, Engineering Dungeons, Ready Ref Sheets, and Dwellers in the Mirage arrived in the mail, shipped from Wisconsin to Finland.

Everything was superbly packed and in the condition listed on the website. The shipping I was charged was exactly the postage cost listed on the envelopes.

The Value of Random Tables and Using Gaming Material Written By Other People

When I was a kid, I used to sit down with my Transformers. With my little plastic knights. With my GI Joes (both out-of-the-package, and reassembled custom characters). My friends and I would sit down and construct plots for the day's play (usually "here's the evil villain's plan," usually nothing more involved than the cartoons, although we did have a 'rebels in a dystopian future' thing going on with the Joe figures as well as a 'Die Hard with Space Aliens' thing). Sometimes, the friends weren't around, and I'd sit there with a situation set up, and then not play with the toys. Setting up situations is fun, but controlling and thus knowing what's going to happen isn't.

This is also why I can't write fiction. I can come up with characters. I can come up with situations. But when I think up an ending, I lose all will to actually write the story.

Today, I am a referee. People more commonly use the terms GM or DM, but it's not just an old school affectation that causes me to use the word referee. I really aspire to the ideal of objectively administering the rules and results based on the situation and what the players are having their characters do. I don't want to be the "Master" of anything, and being a "Storyteller" is so antithetical to what I wish to gain from my gaming that it's just offensive and I can't help thinking poorly (gaming-wise) of people who use the term.

To create the situations and the challenges creates a bias in play that makes being a 'referee' difficult. Since I don't create campaigns and worlds ahead of time and then recruit players to march through them, the players and their characters that will be participating influence my adventure design. Sometimes I cater to them, sometimes I'm intentionally trying to defeat their usual behavior, and sometimes I manage to get it right and an adventure location is just completely independent of outside influence.

But through it all, my creations all have one giant shortcoming: They are all mine. The advantage to this is I get to set the parameters, I get to define the atmosphere. "This is how the world is, and this is how the game should feel." I certainly don't mind the set pieces I come up with, the juicy bits of adventure and location. I certainly enjoy those being all mine. But I demand a certain level of naturalism, and it's the filling in of the necessary detail to satisfy that naturalism that I feel inadequate. I know what I put in more mundane areas aren't the things that would really be there, but what I feel would be there, and that's really a drag to me.

My point of view and my creative habits working for players and characters that I know... it just seems very limited sometimes, and sometimes I feel that for every trap, every menace, every situation, I can play out in my head what's going to happen and how. Sometimes I go overboard on detail in my own adventures based on that in an effort to make things more challenging.

It doesn't matter that in actual play things often don't go as anticipated (if it did, I'd have given up gaming long ago), but it is a sap on the creative process that it might.

Some might say I'm overpreparing, but I tend to fall into lazier and more predictable patterns when doing improv gaming. With preparation, I can see where I repeat certain things and then change them before they see play.

Random tables are a great boon in breaking up this sort of thing. They can, and will, give results that I would never have chosen on my own. They sometimes give results that I really don't like, but it's in those moments that seem most out of control that I am most interested in what happens, because the situation is no longer mine. I get to be a referee, and all my toys are out and it feels like they're playing with each other on their own.

But I'm still applying my interpretation to those results. Not that that's a weakness, but I still feel a certain homogeny to the affair. I'm still imposing my idea of how things should be onto details that I wish to be detached from.

I don't want to be the all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of my world. What I want is to simply be an observer in a world that is consistent with my creative sensibilities (and there is where it becomes quite difficult to be a player).

This is where gaming materials, adventures, created other people can solve the problem for me. It removes my creativity from the situation and allows me to administer the situation and see what happens, the same as any player. It seems more "realistic" and natural because things written by other people certainly have no bias or connection to my players' styles and methods, nor does it recognize the specific capabilities of the characters to be used (beyond a level spread, of course). I don't have to worry that it might overall be too easy or difficult based on my misjudgment of their capabilities. It just is, and the players decide to interact with it and there it is: Gaming.

It's more than that though. The same referee running for the same players for a long period of time is going to develop its own rhythm. By introducing material written by nobody connected with that gaming table, all rhythms are disrupted. The little tricks that the referee and players use to challenge the other are thrown out the window, and everyone must learn new tricks in order to deal with the new challenges that outsider material present.

Traditional gaming is all about player ability, and this sort of variety enhances the ability of everyone at the table.

See, I was the first kid on my block to get into role-playing, and for many years I was the guy that was always setting up games and recruiting other kids. I wasn't even in contact with gamers outside my groups for many years. If I knew someone that role-played, it's because they were in my game. That really retarded my development as a referee (not to mention my opportunities to ever play have been quite limited through the years). This outside influence (that some mysteriously disavow) is practical experience for me.

Creative development, imagination, and refereeing is a constantly changing and growing thing. That process of growth happens a lot faster (and better) if it's fed by unfamiliar forces. Because gaming is entirely creative, every single gamer you ever meet is a potential teacher and inspiration.

And that's why, outside of the greater good of the 'Renaissance,' I want independent material. It's also why I want to publish, because my unique perspective could inform others the way others' unique perspectives can inform me, and everyone gains more colors on their creative palette.

This is also why I prefer detail in material. I'm looking to inspired by things that are completely unremoved from my creative process. The more detail provided by other creators, the more that creation is useful in providing something different and unlike anything I would do in my games. If I'm asked to fill in a lot of the details, then it loses its purpose in providing a contrast to what I could do myself, as the devil is in the details and I am confident enough in my abilities to provide a quality 'big picture' without looking to outside sources.

Note that I really don't do much with campaign settings or 'adventure paths'. Part of the joy of refereeing is the ability to create and define the 'big picture,' and settings and grand plotted adventures take that away from me.

But when it comes to dungeons and temples and shrines and out-of-the-way locations that adventures tend to take place in, well, defying the terms of the big picture there doesn't impinge upon or disrupt the big picture. Bring 'em on!

... funny thing is, this isn't the post I was originally writing in head as I was laying in bed staring at the ceiling. The past few days presented one question I had a problem answering:

"And yet you still have not explained why there is some special magic when *I* print 50 copies of WG13 at Staples and mail one to you, rather than you going there yourself with a pdf on a thumb-drive and having them print it."

My inability to explain that magic doesn't remove the fact that there is some special magic that I feel when receiving someone else's creation instead of assembling it myself. There is the lame answer that the standard US and European paper sizes are different so it wouldn't look right if I just took WG13 down to Multiprint and had it made into a book.

There is the fact that I've turned BFRPG, B/X, OD&D, Holmes, and more into A5 pages and put them in binders (in BFRPG's case I made completely new layouts from the OpenOffice documents, twice, before printing those books out for my players), and they all now sit on my shelf here and look... sickly the same. More like just more stuff I'd do instead of things that were created by other people.

I don't want to do that to anyone else's creation. It just seems disrespectful and limited.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On Further Dogwalking Reflection

The "scratches" and "just glops thrown out half-assed" bits were over the line of the intention of the piece. It's not the effort I was meaning to attack (but using the terms 'scratches' and 'glops' and 'half-assed' did just that), but the attitude that an electronic file was a suitable final resting place for that effort. If I thought the efforts themselves were not any good I'd hardly be upset that they aren't going to be in print.


Well That Was Interesting: Followups

It's been an interesting few days. The hit counter for the site has lit up in a major way, and so have people's tempers.

Ahhh, like the old days. I actually got private hate mail! No death threats though. +358449558316 (so I think it's 011 358 449558316 that you would have to dial from a phone in the US) if you want to call one of those in (emailed death threats are lame). It's been about a decade since my writing inspired one of those, so get cracking! (that's a cell phone number, so it'll be a tad expensive...)

It was the two posts I wrote Saturday that did it. "Role-Playing is not..." got linked over at Enworld and almost derailed what was a cool a thread there. My response when people seemed to gloss over what I was saying:

It's like pizza. You can customize it as you like, a nice deep dish, or stuffed crust, with the works or maybe just veggies or a selection of meats, but a plain cheese pizza is still a pizza.

Now then, the other one. I am an awful cheerleader. When being blatantly encouraging, I can't help but feel like Rob Schneider making a cameo in an Adam Sandler movie (You Can Do It!) or feel like I'm imitating some scene from Leave it to Beaver or something. It's just corny, and feels wrong to do it. Such things don't move me to action, that's for sure. And action is what I'm trying to kickstart. And like the message of I Hate Fun was not that I indeed hate fun, the message of Don't Care was not that I don't care. (the original title for that post was originally going to be Old School Renaissance = Fail, but I couldn't twist that to mean different things...)

So far, it seems that some understood it, more took a look at their own net projects and blogged about why they do what they do, and in one case there was anger. One advantage to my writing style is I never have to worry about whether someone's holding back when they respond to me. :D From my clarification underneath the angry guy's post:

The point is I fear we're building a faddish and transitory "renaissance" here and that would be a tragedy considering the creativity and talent of the people involved and the quality work they're doing.

Content is the hard part, yet people are doing that readily. A more enduring (dare I say legacy-enabling?) presentation is easy after that.

Blogging and pdfs and how the web and computers are used is all very *now*. We have no idea at all how things are going to look in 5, 10, 15 years.

Yet books have proven to have lasting quality and have survived numerous shifts in cultural trends and pop culture. Disregarding print is not a good idea.

My dislike of POD (well, Lulu anyway) is simply that it is expensive and slow and poorly suited for the task, not to mention subjects the vast majority of the printed output of the renaissance to the whims of a company that really has no stake in what we do. See their recent sudden and inexplicable change in shipping rates and policies for one example. And people are reporting quality issues with certain types of artwork now...

My girlfriend pointed out that I've been doing self-publishing for over a decade, and (keep in mind she doesn't read the blogs and was just hypothesizing) perhaps I forget that most people haven't ever done it, so they might not know how easy it is. Or at least how not-daunting it is. I thought that view might be a little condescending, but I'm throwing it out there anyway.

One guy suggests a publishing how-to guide. I have ideas and directions to go in and know some of the basics of what needs to be done, but my own RPG publishing efforts have been riddled with errors and missteps, and my only real attempt ever at making money (as opposed to breaking even or just losing some) with my writing was sort of hijacked when two weeks after I released it, a bigger publisher approached me about re-releasing it for retail. I have things to contribute (mistakes and non-profit-seeking publishing do teach lessons) but a publishing guide with my byline would not be credible. That's for someone else to do.

I've got a couple of projects on my plate that are a tad more serious than FFV, and I'll be putting my suggestions into practice and putting the previous lessons learned to use. But I apparently work at a glacial pace these days. More of us making mistakes and achieving successes and sharing the hows and whys of them will only make it easier for everyone, and now that the playing environment has been nurtured a bit, it's time to lay down the lasting monuments that will be what this Renaissance will be remembered for in a couple decades' time.

Now go look that up in your Funk and Wagnalls.

A Useful Tracking Tool

Wondering if anybody's talking about you or something you've done? Want to track those pesky reviews that you don't get told about?

Use this and you'll get an email whenever your specified term is picked up by Google. (I got a good response sending this out to the bands on my Myspace list, might as well throw it out here as well for those that don't know)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Don't Care

So I start reading around this morning and suddenly there's Megadungeon Fever that's sprouted up this past week? And that projects are afoot? Time for my quarterly rant...

A couple days ago I spent my Noble Knight gift certificate, and it struck me how difficult (but not impossible and there's more on my wish list) it was to fill that $100 with stuff if I didn't want to just buy 30 year old stuff at collector's prices.

I've glanced at a lot of people's projects that are happening on the web so far. And it seems that the scratches they're throwing online are
it. Not a first step in development, not a statement of intent, just glops thrown out half-assed (it doesn't matter how big it is if it's just a sketch and some notes) and accolades taken in.

I don't care. They're
not finished.

If the Old School Renaissance is going to amount to little more than rules clones, limited-scope "single quest" or "dungeon bash" adventure modules, and pdf-only huge maps with scarcely any detail... what's the point?

I want books. Actual, in my hands books, that people have put their heart into and maybe believed and invested in a little bit so they aren't just thrown up on Lulu at no risk while some third party makes any profit there is to be made. There are things out there that are good, are ready, but they just sit on a website.

Call me old fashioned (I love hearing that from people deep in the "old school") but I believe things that are only online don't count for shit and might as well not exist in the end. (does anybody else here back up their blog content in case Blogspot or whoever is hosting your individual blog has an "oops" or a complaint and wipes your shit out?) I consider this blogging exercise one of communication and idea-exchanging, perhaps a way to test some concepts out before moving forward, not in anyway useful for actual

I'm not talking about "commercializing" the scene, either. Things worth having do take a bit of investment, and anyone who bitches about paying enough to compensate for that is just a shithead. Putting out your own projects doesn't suddenly make you An Official Business That Must Behave Like A Business, and you're not a thief for charging a few shekels for a project you've put a bit of time and money into. There is a difference between
your project and a product.

I want stuff that will sit on the shelf nicely next to all of the 70s and 80s stuff there now and belong, and know the money I spent for them went to the people that produced them. I want books that can inform my overall game, not just adventures that take up a session or three. I want things that will survive the current fad of "retro gaming," no matter if it goes on to its previous oblivion or becomes corrupted by eventual commercial success. I certainly don't want a notebook full of net printouts. I certainly don't want POD jobs (whose companies double-dip, as you know the starting print price includes a cut for them,
plus they take a cut of every sale...) from people who take so much pride in community participation that they treat shit submissions with the same respect as magnificent ones (I'm seeing that sort of attitude in some quarters).

Actually, you know what?

We can do
better than any adventure supplement TSR or Judges Guild (or Mayfair, or...) ever produced. We do not have to stand in their shadow. They are our starting point, our training manuals, not our end goal and not objects of worship. They are not untouchable. We can rewrite our own alternate history of where our hobby should have gone, with 35 years of hindsight. And we can reach real, non-obsessed people (non-bloggers, non forum dwellers) and change the course of the hobby today. But to do that, we need to give people (at least the option for) things that they can use at their table, things they can read sitting on the can, or on the bus, and not things that require them to be in front of their frickin computer all the damn time.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Role-Playing is not...

... what I once thought it was.

This thought came to me reading (yet another) for vs against 4e argument (that I was interested in for the discussion about the role and responsibility of a critic, not for the actual argument about the game).

Role-playing is not the characterization and speaking in voices and inventing a background and developing a persona that's a unique little snowflake. Your character's personality and "what would my character do based on that personality?" are add-on extras completely irrelevant (yet can enhance and perhaps make the effort enjoyable in the first place, make no mistake about what I'm saying here) to the basic activity of role-playing.

Fighting Man Level 1
ST 12, IN 8, WI 10, CN 9, DX 10, CH 9

That's your character and your role, right there.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Some Notes, Some Reminders

I'm working on projects that should actually see print, as well as some other non-RPG projects, so blogging will be non-constant (but not non-existent) for awhile.

Some other notes:

The Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and their Modern Simulacra PDF is on sale over at RPGNow for only $5.99.

Fight On! #4 is ready. I have an adventure in there as well as a number of new spells and magic items. Some of those had to be cut so I'll be releasing a (free) pdf with those once I get my comp copy and know which ones aren't in there. I want to continue to submit Duvan'Ku material to Fight On! so I'd like your feedback to this stuff (I've set up a thread for such feedback here) so I can know what to focus on in the future.

The Green Devil Face contest winners will be notified this week. Deadline for inclusion in the fanzine is March 31!

I've got about $100 to spend over at Noble Knight. I'm looking at Castellan's Guide to Arms & Armor of the Early Medieval Period and Towers of Adventure from Troll Lord. Can anyone vouch for their quality, general gaming applicability, and in the case to the Castellan's Guide, reasonable accuracy? I've got my eye on a couple other things but if I tell you about them you might snag them before I buy them. Damn out of print low stock things. :P Any other suggestions?

Just to give myself an opportunity at the end of the year to show how lazy I've been... my publishing goals this year: Get Insect Shrine out! Get other adventures released through at least two other publishers. Make Green Devil Face cool! Get something in Knockspell. Get at least two issues of the LotFP metal zine out. Release two more Random (stuff) Generators out myself. Remind me of this post on January 1.

One more thing:

EGG forever. Our continued play and our continued exploration and discussion of Dungeons and Dragons and its clones and derivatives says everything that needs to be said.