Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pondering the Greater Good

Yesterday I talked about how if the cruelty of man is in many ways inconceivably evil to the average person, how could we understand supernatural evil?

Today I wonder the same thing... about the forces of good.

I'm not interested in goodness in terms of calm and peaceful times. In the context of a role-playing game, such times might as well not exist. If things are calm and happy and that situation is not at all threatened, chances are your game's focus will quickly move elsewhere. Content characters make for bad adventurers.

Good under stress, now that's interesting. Good that's threatened, good that has lost the ability to deal with the world on its own terms... that's what this post is about. Anyone can go berserk when threatened and tear their enemy to teeny tiny bits when threatened, and not be blamed for it. But acting justifiably is not the same as being good in my eyes. Adversity introduces a man to himself, as the saying goes.

It's difficult to think of goodness under pressure in the real world, as life is almost never about good guys and bad guys. That's one reason why it's fun to play around in imaginary worlds where good and evil are more concrete entities. Even in games with a bit of moral complexity, figuring out the right thing to do may be difficult, but making the good choice is often pretty easy.

I've thought of an unquestionably good thing.

D-Day. The assault on Normandy Beach has to be considered a turning point of World War II, correct? And stopping the Nazis can't in any way be considered a bad thing, right? Taking up the fight against evil is a good thing to do, right? But for the soldiers on the ground, that was an absolute killing field. A slaughter. The Allied Command knew they were sending countless young men to die, ripped apart by bullet, bomb, and mine. But wasn't that the right thing for them to do in the situation they were in?

Real-world religion probably has the examples most applicable to the point of conceptualizing supernatural good. Look to the Old Testament. There is some righteous destruction (in more than one sense of the term) happening there, and things which seem inexcusably cruel to me. But certainly Jews and Christians do not think that the actions of God in the Old Testament are evil. Quite the opposite.

I would think that if the PCs in a role-playing game were to become agents of a Good power, or at least become involved in the schemes of the same, they wouldn't feel very good about the situation at all. I daresay from the perspective of mortals (who would absolutely not be informed of the Grand Plan, and probably be unable to ever comprehend it anyway), there would be no observable difference between the forces of Good and Evil.

In a multiverse where Absolute Good and Absolute Evil are in conflict, who's to say that the utter destruction of the PCs' entire plane of existence isn't just a tragic necessity, a smaller loss for infinitely greater gain elsewhere, in Good's efforts to fight Evil?

"Would you ever really want to see an angel?"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pondering Great Evil

All of these are real devices/methods used by official sanction, both secular and religious, at various points in history. Men who thought they were doing what needed to be done invented, ordered, and administered these punishments. While many of the people involved were no doubt considered sick bastards even during their own time, many were just people. Could be you, could be me, if times and attitudes of enlightenment in the surrounding culture were different.

Just men. Ordinary men in primitive times.

Times that are heavily reflected in the milieus we choose to role-play in.

I could make this one of those "controversial posts" about how, in cultural context, Lawful Good characters could indeed find the use of these devices and methods justified without endangering their alignments. Paladins in particular. But I'm quite content with the idea that people we would label as "Good" within a game might indeed be "Good" as we, and not our characters, would understand the term.

What makes this interesting to me is that in ancient and medieval times, such punishments were invented by ordinary people. Even if we accept the idea that this was all the domain of only the most extraordinarily cruel and vicious and depraved examples of humanity, no matter the inspiration, it's still just a product of man.

The supernatural exists, by definition, in fantasy role-playing games. Demons and devils and millennia old dragons and twisted elves and goblins and trolls and undead spirits exist, and are all supernaturally evil in ways man can not be. (I'm now thinking Hellraiser is an inspiration; at least it's flashing heavy in my mind right now.) Their plots and aims and ideas of justice and "just" punishments - to say nothing of what the philosophies of the unspeakably cruel, by comparison, examples of their kind would be - must be far beyond human ability to comprehend.

Or, in terms of a role-playing game, imagine and present as an in-game element, narrative or otherwise.

I guess this is why I largely make the "bad guys" in my games human. Humanoids, especially the smaller ones, are easy enough to grasp (add in the National Geographic-inspired imagery of a pack of wolves running down and devouring an elk to a cannibal humanesque cruelty), but the smart creatures? The mind flayers and gith and abeloth and the rest? I wouldn't know how to accurately portray that sort of thing. To me, assigning wholly human traits to the supernatural, a la classical mythology, is rather lame and selling the entire concept of otherworldly beings far, far short.

So they show up in my games, but always incidentally, always for rather unexplained or even seemingly stupid reasons (the players might as well treat them as random).

I suppose this might be one reason I wasn't outraged by Carcosa. If anything, it seemed tame to me in that the rituals were so obviously human-borne cruelty rather than the setting-explained result of Snake-Man experimentation. It should have been far, far worse, but we as writers literally lack the words to describe sadism we can't even comprehend in the first place.

It also occurs to me that so many RPG campaigns, perhaps in an effort to make things seem more epic, skip over antagonistic human elements and base any plots or quests on direct supernatural plotting or activity, where perhaps sorcerous (or clerical...) manipulation of those elements might seem more "true," and not revealing so much of the outer worlds in such concrete, gameable, human terms as is necessary if the personalities, circumstances, and lairs of the dimensional others are to be instigators. But "Stopping the Dark Lord GGrrnnargh" is somehow more appealing and urgent and satisfying a quest than, "The wizard Apost'Rophe is going to summon and bind a demon, we must stop him!"

It's a shame that all those "outer planes" spells from AD&D don't much get used. But why would they, when early on it was established that demons walk the Earth (or Oerth, to be more accurate) just because, and the characters meeting them were supposed to be high enough level where fighting them was possible. So why deal with the mumbo-jumbo when the objects of the mumbo-jumbo were already there? In a different world Tsojcanth would have had different effects.

Evil is a tough thing to get one's mind around. And so, perhaps, are rambling posts.

(images from here)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Old School Renaissance" Category at Noble Knight Games

Right here. It can be found under the "Browse by Genre" menu item on the left side there.

Spread the word, will you? I talked late last year and earlier this year about us needing our own "IPR" type of central mail-order house. Noble Knight isn't exactly a small and specialized venue, but Aaron over there loves the old stuff (I found out via the Acaeum that he owns the original Otus cover artwork from Deities and Demigods!), and of course he's going to support and back an idea that gives his shop some focused attention and sales.

If you're publishing a project that fits (and to avoid dilution or confusion I do believe the things under this header will be material for 0e/"Basic"/1e and their clones), do contact Noble Knight to see if you can be carried as well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Green Devil Face #3 Deadline: June 30. Less Than a Week!

Next deadline likely won't be for a couple/few months, and this will be the first fresh issue to be distributed by Noble Knight, so don't miss this one. All contributors receive a print copy of the issue their work appears in, and they retain full rights to their work.

We even have a new logo that Jeff Rients made. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Noble Knight Games to Distribute LotFP: RPG Releases

I'm no good at press releases and hype, but I do want to say that this is really frickin cool and I have been bouncing off the walls for the past week waiting for confirmation that sample copies of Death Frost Doom and Green Devil Face #1 and #2 had arrived at their offices and that the arrangement was a go. Noble Knight has been my online store of choice for many years now, and I've never had anything less than stellar service from them, whether I was living in Atlanta, Orlando, Vaasa, or now in Helsinki.

I expect this will be beneficial from a business standpoint, as I have no doubt that many more people will become aware of my work due to its presence on Noble Knight's site, and I also have no doubt that many people hesitant to order from some guy on the web will feel much more confident ordering from NK. Noble Knight will be labeled as the "official North American distributor" in all release announcements and on the LotFP site storefront.

The first shipment to them will go out as soon as my business establishment paperwork is cleared here.

I've also approached Noble Knight about creating a category on their product list to collect all the new traditional items under one heading for easier browsing. There are already a number of products available there from various companies (and hopefully more to come!) with nothing to indicate that they are for the same family of games, and I thought the situation could be easily corrected.

The question is... what to call this section? (the arguments of the past weeks aren't so pedantic now, are they? :P) I think "Old School Renaissance" would fit perfectly as its been in use for well over a year now, but I thought some Community Discussion might help rather than me acting as Secret Independent Plotter with the seller guy. :)

A Prediction

In five years' time, the emergence of the Old School Renaissance (or whatever it's supposed to be called this week), and it's inspiration to semi-pro publishing, will be named as an important reason why gaming stores have survived turbulent times.

Soon after this fact starts getting bounced around (which will be hotly disputed by everyone that had spent the past five years rolling to disbelieve and telling us that all this retro stuff was sinking the hobby and killing everything the whole time), the trend will go into free-fall, so all the disbelievers can argue that it never amounted to much in the first place.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reminder: Skype Game June 23rd 7pm Eastern

Holy crap, that's tomorrow night! I thought it was Wednesday... I always do these reminders too late. grrr.

Let me know if you're playing again.

Or if you want to play, and I'll let you know if any spots open up.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Necromancer/Goodman Back-and-Forth

You know... it's difficult for me to say anything, because Goodman Games put out my book, and they are putting out the Dungeon Alphabet and they have their 1e modules and they continue to support various things of interest to the OSR.

I had a rather large rant/response to the whole deal, but... it's just not my place to say it.

What I will say is the online reaction is exactly why these people don't bother to ever really say anything about the business side of things. It's not like they were using a lot of words to say not much at all like that Leeds fellow after the pdf fiasco, but they are both being treated like shit out there in onlineland.

Thanks, everyone. You've made it extremely easy for the people that know things to not bother telling the rest of us about it.

Why would they? If they told you what time it was you'd yell at them for being so high and mighty as to own a watch without even worrying about whether they were actually reporting the correct time.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hitler's Character Dies

Someone at Dragonsfoot found this.

Of course, this proves that 3e is the Nazi edition of choice. :P

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How I Got Into Fantasy

I got into D&D in late 1983, shortly before my 9th birthday. But I don't think my mother would have bothered to introduce me to the game, and I might not have taken to it so, if I was not already primed to like fantasy stories.

Details are hazy, and for all I know I could be forgetting or misrembering large swaths of relevant history. Hell, the story might be true but happened a couple years later - people do move more than once. But this is my best recollection right now, and it was definitely before my introduction to D&D.

The year was either 1979 or 1980. I was 4 - 5 years old. My brother had just been born and my parents' marriage was in the shitter. Soon, my father was out of the house. He found an apartment, and apparently the previous tenant had not cleaned out his belongings before leaving. Part of that stuff was a crate full of comics.

Savage Sword of Conan and Conan the Barbarian comics, to be exact.

They were in ratty condition. Many were without covers, but reading Black Colossus and A Witch Shall Be Born and Shadows in Zamboula and People of the Black Circle (and Worms of the Earth!!!) and Hawks Over Shem and Horror from the Red Tower had quite an effect on me at that tender age.

I guess I was lucky that my parents were so permissive, although at times I suppose it begged the question of their sanity. My father also took me to see the Conan the Barbarian movie when it came out in 1982 and (although he really regretted this one when Leanna Quigley started dancing...) Return of the Living Dead in 1984. My mother showed me Andy Warhol's Frankenstein soon after we got a VCR, so that would have been late 1986, early 1987. Who the hell shows that movie to a pre-teen? (Mom does!)

I'm not sure whether I was introduced to Elfquest before D&D, but I do know I started reading comic books early in 1983 (Justice League of America #216! Can't remember a damn thing about it except the cover!).

Afterwards, the floodgates were open. I attempted Lord of the Rings before age 10, and have been a bookreader ever since.

I will say that the current Dark Horse reprints of Savage Sword of Conan are both very awesome and acutely disappointing at the same time. Awesome because the stories they do reprint, especially the Howard adaptations, are just beautiful and savage and satisfying all these years later, even having reading the original Howard stories. Disappointing because many of the backup features, including the essays, are excellent works in their own right, and certainly a million times better than the adaptations of the shitty Conan the Liberator and the Andrew Offutt books.

Seriously, would you rather look at Barry Windsor-Smith's rendition of Worms of the Earth or 140 pages adapting Conan and the Sword of Skelos? The Valeria story (a Roy Thomas original) Island of Pirates' Doom (which ran in SSOC 73-74 and 76-79) is something I'd like to have again as well. I hope this is a rights issue and not a Dark Horse editorial decision to just feature the main stories.

But if you thought Vol 5 of the SSOC collection was a serious drop in quality from previous volumes (I do!), don't worry... better days are ahead. More Roy Thomas originals and less adaptations of substandard work.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why 'Rulings Not Rules' Sometimes Breaks Down For Me

I began with the Mentzer Red Box and learned the game that way.

I had most of the AD&D combat and saving throw charts memorized before I was 10 (I was very popular in school, as you might well imagine... and no, I don't have them memorized anymore).

I played 2nd Edition tons and tons when it came out in 1989. I remember when the Players Handbook came out, before the others, and I was staying at my grandparents' house soon after, just rolling up hundreds and hundreds of characters.

I was back to AD&D when I started a game here in early 2006. I switched to BFRPG at the end of 2007. In the past year I've also become familiar with OD&D (and ran a game for a couple of months using a heavily-houseruled version), Moldvay/Marsh/Cook, and Holmes. Now I also have a Labyrinth Lord game I run online every so often.

They're all frickin' different in the tiniest of details! I can't keep all this shit straight in my head! AAAAHHHHHHH!

When I tell the players, "We're playing Game X," they should be able to read the rules to Game X and know that's how things are going to be. You don't know how often I, or one of my players, assumes that a spell works in this game exactly the same way as in that very very similar game we're familiar with. When dealing with a new player who hasn't played any version previously, this kind of thing is particularly bad.

So in the matters that the book describes, we go by the book to prevent my unconscious game-swapping from unfairly impacting the players. Yeah, I make changes (thief skills getting distributed by the player a la 2e!), and the rules in my favorite games leave so much to interpretation, and I intentionally pull some cross-edition hijinx (Deck of Many Things in my BFRPG game, mwahaha)... but the things that are in the rules, are the rules.

And the players are allowed to overrule me if it's down in black and white. Unless the rules break is previously planned on my part, then they're shit outta luck, but at least they immediately know something is "wrong."

Seems fair.

Blog Housecleaning and Other Notes

You've likely noticed that I've put up a new header. From left to right, there are details of art from No Dignity in Death, Insect Shrine of Goblin Hill, and Death Frost Doom, all by Laura Jalo. How's it look?

I've cut out half of the old recommended blog posts and renamed most of the remaining ones. Anything you think I should have in that section?

I've made a couple adjustments to the link list. Am I missing anybody/thing?

Does anyone use those RSS follow buttons or can I get rid of them?

Any other suggestions for the appearance or format of the blog?

In other news... I should have confirmation on a mail-order distro deal this week (which will include Green Devil Face, which actually surprises me because it's a no-margin product). Hopefully the pdf vendor I'm hoping to use will accept me as well, but that will likely take a bit longer to determine. I will be joining RPGNow, just because it would be dumb not to... lots of incidental traffic there.

Green Devil Face deadline is June 30! Get your submissions in!

I am in search of an accountant locally, as I really need to crunch some numbers to proceed with my various applications. I know scientists, lawyers, several medical professionals, a gaggle of engineers and other tech types... but no accountants. Figures. With no employees and all business activities being conducted from home I'm hoping I'd be quite an easy account. :P

With all this other stuff happening, it looks like the next Online Game won't be until June 23 or 24 after all. Who's in?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Random Esoteric Creature Generator Free RPG Day Promotion...

Saturday, June 20 is Free RPG Day! Game stores all over the world are participating; see if your local store is on the list here!

Now the Creature Generator isn't being given away for free... but it is involved in a discount offer. Download and print out the awesome coupons here (seriously, I laughed my ass off when I saw this) and go save!

In addition to the Creature Generator, Goodman Games also has several things out now of Old School interest: Rob Conley's Points of Light I & II, Castles & Crusades modules (easily convertible to your AD&D edition or simulacrum of choice), plus a whole load of other stuff I'm not familiar with and things for other editions (I have no idea if their 1e stuff gets into stores...)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Death Frost Doom - Finished

I got the final pieces of art today, dropped them in the layout, and made two copies to send to distributors so they could determine it's up to snuff.

Death Frost Doom has got a ton of art, unattached cover with dungeon map on the inside... 28 pages (no OGL) plus the cover/map.

On sale as soon as I can.

And for my late-night Labyrinth Lord players... here's a guy you might remember:

I Hate Fun- One Year Later

The original.

Has it been a year already?

All this time later, I still get many hits from the TVTropes website, and a couple weeks back the SomethingAwful forums seemed to be interested as well (interested in ridiculing it, to be exact). The thing has gotten all sorts of people linking to it, and even many people emailing me to tell me how wrong I am... almost like they're pleading with me to change my mind.

The original essay was first written in 2007 to be the intro of an issue of my heavy metal zine, decrying the download culture and 'that album was great... but what will I listen to tomorrow?' transitory nature of a fanbase that seemed to put no real value in the music forming the basis for their scene and in many cases their lifestyle. My marriage was dying fast at the time of the first writing, and that surely impacted how it came across. (Oh hell, I've already told a couple people so I might as well say it... that first part was about my ex.)

One year later, seeing the arguments about 4e and how the edition wars were raging, I saw similarities in the fanbases of metal and RPGs. The two seem to share quite a bit. Rewriting the second half of the essay to turn it into a rant about RPGs instead of heavy metal was easy. The I Hate Fun name was invented at this time and it was nothing more than a catchy title for the post. At that time, I had just moved to Helsinki and was effectively homeless, sleeping on a married couple's floor in a one room apartment. That surely impacted how it came across.

So here we go. I've not looked at I Hate Fun in many months, and so I will see it with fresh eyes, putting another wild year's perspective on it, maybe explaining things that were not well explained the first time around, and perhaps even noting where my views now differ.


I do not hate fun, and I have to think that anyone that really took the title literally is a moron, and I suspect that many of the people trying to argue with me about it and ridicule me for it didn't read much more than the title and maybe a couple paragraphs.

What I do hate is the use of "fun" as any sort of objective thing, as many do when discussing RPGs. "Fun" does not mean anything in a universal sense; saying something is fun, or not fun, is as objective as saying, "I like peas." Yet people, especially online, will argue about things that are fun, or not fun, as if making the proclamation that something is fun somehow wins an argument. It does not - it kills discussion and argument. Invoking "fun" in any explanation or reasoning equals sticking your fingers in your ears and screaming "I'M NOT LISTENING I KNOW BETTER THAN EVERYONE LALALALALALALALALA."

Using the word "fun" in any meaningful way requires quite an explanation of what is meant by fun. The original I Hate Fun is in a lot of ways simply an essay describing what it is I do, and do not, mean by fun.

The very idea of wanting to be entertained is an exercise in self-nullification.

Perhaps a better way of putting this is, "The very idea of wanting to be passively entertained is an exercise in self-nullification." I do believe that things you put effort into doing are far more rewarding than things that you just sit back and receive. And the things that really excite me compel me to get more and more involved in them. I can't play an instrument, but I couldn't very well just be a metal listener. I had to do more, be involved, and thus I started my zine. Role-playing is quite work and time-intensive on its own, but I couldn't just stand to be a player. I had to referee. And beyond that, become a commentator and a writer and a publisher.

I can’t socialize. I won’t.

This is not true. I can. I just hate doing it. It's probably worse these past three and a half years in Finland, since I haven't picked up either of the languages all that well (curse the ubiquity of English!). But I can go out and hang out and enjoy myself, but after it's done I feel like I've wasted my time. Nothing's been accomplished. I just need a few people to bounce ideas off of and to tell wild stories to (and to hear wild stories back). After that, other people are kind of... superfluous? Thinking about it from 'outside,' it sounds horrible, but I've long said that "Good music is better than people," and certainly I'd rather curl up with a good book than have a social life. And for the last six months I've been living with someone I care for very much so that makes it easier to not seek more companionship... but let me tell you, never having a day alone is very frustrating.

But I don't consider gaming to be "socializing," because it's not just idle conversation (not supposed to be, anyway... I know I go on about irrelevant shit at the start of sessions here, but that's mainly to repeat stories that have already amused Maria, and far be it from me to only tell an amusing story once...), but actually doing something.

Now more about fun:

People want to be entertained by their role-playing, people want to sit down and get what they want out of it every time, and they want it quickly. They don’t want to work for it, and they don’t want to risk that it won’t happen when they try to play.

This is how I’ve come to interpret people when they use the word “fun” in relation to role-playing games. People wanting quick-fix, feel good entertainment exactly as they like it with as little effort as possible.

And I hate it.

Well that's all defined right there, isn't it?

A lot of the post at this point was basically being against the idea that role-playing was all about wish-fulfillment power fantasy. As I later wrote, "I'm in a different hobby than all these other folks." To me, sitting down playing pretend in order to compensate for inadequacies in real life is very, very sad.

There was also discussion about encouraging more "lifers" and less casual players. Now I'm not against casual players. I'm against them setting the tone for games. But of course what that means can become clouded. I would certainly never consider D&D, as it's been published for the past 10 years, as being aimed at a casual gamer. Not with all those expensive books and ridiculous list of character powers and detail to be kept track of. But undoubtedly the focus on temporary effects, healing surges, and other features of the 4e system are to encourage a certain sort of faster-paced play that's more generally appealing.

Take the introduction to Mentzer’s Basic Set. It is the finest introduction for D&D that was ever penned, explaining the basics of everything from classes and their abilities to combat in just seven pages – of storyform prose, not rules blather. And the first-time D&D player has an 80% chance to fail that saving throw against Bargle’s spell. An 80% chance of losing. Aleena dies. You can’t save her. You must run from the ghouls or you die. Some would say that traditional Dungeons and Dragons was poorly designed because first level characters were weak and that there was an uneven playing experience. It never seems to occur to these people that traditional Dungeons and Dragons was designed perfectly and that play experience was intentional. Mentzer’s introduction shows what Dungeons and Dragons is all about, and it’s not flashy heroism. It was never about that until Gygax was removed.

I spent a lot of time talking about and around this, but this sums up my feelings on danger, success, and the D&D experience. This is a statement of fact as far as I'm concerned, and not an invitation to discussion.

I've been accused of One True Wayism. Well... it's my blog. My way. If it's really that offensive to you... stop coming here!

It's a pain in the ass to deal with people who have a "been there, done that, and found it immature" attitude when they don't even know where there is or what that even entails. Fucking hell, it's like someone not wanting to visit China for the Olympics for fear of the fallout from the two atomic bombs that got dropped there during World War II.

Yes, I know that China was not the country that got nuked in World War II. I typed this bit correctly and purposefully. People seriously used that line as evidence that I am a fool, when they are the ones completely missing the point of what is being said here.

Gosh, looking back there's so much good stuff here. I was half-expecting to look back on this and cringe a lot. But while the original post does jump from point to point a bit, and some of the wording isn't so flattering, I will stand behind the original post and its meaning 100%. And I love this bit:

The purpose of standing up and making noise is for the silent crowd that watches from the sidelines. We need to make sure our game isn't defined by people who don't like it, we have to be visible and make noise so these people see the earlier versions of the game are being played and are perfectly viable options for them. We have to make sure they know there is a history and a legacy and a depth to this hobby which can be explored. That there is life in this hobby beyond the shiny new release, which is to be given up once the trademark overlords decide it has outlived its usefulness and decides to create an even shinier, newer release. The silent crowd should always be reminded that the "industry" can never dictate the possibilities at their game table.

So I guess I don't understand the uproar. I defined my terms and made my argument. Why are people so threatened by the idea that someone will have a firm opinion on a subjective matter and then say so in their own space?

I ended with song lyrics last time, but I can't think of a good whole song to end with this time. So... here are bits of two!

When time is ripe to revive the past
Let us see who stands triumphant

"A Tale of Pagan Tongue" from Borknagar's The Olden Domain

We're fighting by the dawn
We're fighting after sunrise
We fighting for a chance to see our life to be
And you won't take us alive

We're fighting in the dark
We're fighting after midnight
We're fighting for a fantasy reality
In case our dreams are right

On we fight!

"Fighting" from Pharaoh's The Longest Night

"(awaiting your quote to be inserted after you read the post, just like last year, Matt...)" - Matt Johnsen

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Group X is a Bunch of Knuckleheads!

Because of Reason Y!

(sorry... sorry... just keeping up with fan demand)

Green Devil Face Not On Sale!


One of the conditions of all this business establishment and grant paperwork I'm filling out is that "business activities are not to have begun before a decision has been given."

But Green Devil Face launched a couple months back. It's not a profit-seeking project (that would be scummy considering I ask for free contributions, although I will mention that for my trouble of hand-assembling 77 copies I have cleared enough money to cover the comp mailouts and have a diner lunch), but it is a product I sell for money, regardless of the margin, and that could monkey up the whole process. I'm not eliminating all traces of GDF's existence (all the previously written bits on the blog, and hell, this notice) and I've already explained the situation and shown copies of GDF to my caseworker, but I don't want some other office worker doing an internet search, seeing them on the site, and stamping DENIED on my grant application for it. If they reach this blog, then they can read more about what it actually is and at that point if it's still enough to screw up my applications, so be it, I'm guilty.

The June 30 deadline for submissions for the next issue is STILL VALID. I expect all this administrative stuff to be handled by then, and if not, it won't be long into July. Work on upcoming releases is not stopping - Death Frost Doom would literally be on sale tomorrow if I didn't have to wait on applications and paperwork, and No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides is shuttling along with artwork and graphic design progressing daily.

Just a note about all this business talk... when things launch, it's not going to be world-shattering or change the face of gaming. I don't have any delusions of making money hand over fist (my caseworker was... shocked?... when I laid out my business plan and expectations and I think he wondered why I'd bother). But I will sell some copies at least, a little money will be made, and I'd like to be official about it. Running an official business, even a tiny one, would sure look better on a residency renewal application than being caught running a business under the table, right? That there is a possibility for a startup grant... it's not a large amount of money at all, but it'll allow me to chase the dream and see what happens (and buy a proper paper cutter... and maybe book an ad in a place or two... and maybe print Insect Shrine's cover in full color)... so... damn right I'm going to try.


I Hate Fun... one year later.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

In Depth Discussion About The Tower From Fight On #4

Matthew Slepin gives his opinion on the Sword & Sorcery vs High Fantasy talk going around (here is a good treatment of it), and pulls my piece The Tower into the discussion. Read that, and my response, here.

I'm generally thrilled with what he wrote (being compared to Clark Ashton Smith? w00t!) but of course I had a minor complaint and that's what the discussion (not rant or argument) is.

Interesting that this discussion comes up now. A slightly reworked version of The Tower is part of Death Frost Doom (the adventure originally came in at 24 pages, and 28 pages is the limit for the postal price class, it fits thematically, it gave me an excuse to actually pay Laura for that free piece she did to accompany The Tower in Fight On!, so why not?).

Monday, June 8, 2009

Update on LotFP Activities

The forthcoming LotFP adventures are no longer imminent. But that's good news.

I've taken the first steps acquiring a business license and being official with this whole thing. I have appointments and classes tomorrow and Thursday this week, where I'll see what administrative hoops I need to jump through. I have also discovered that there is a grant that businesses started up by foreigners can receive. The application process for that takes 4-6 weeks, but business activity is not supposed to start until after the application is processed. And who knows how long the actual business registration nonsense takes.

Of course I'm going for it.

Here is the status of projects in production:

Death Frost Doom is 100% written, edited, proofread, playtested, and cartography and layout are complete. Well, sort of. Doing the layout last night revealed two holes to be filled in the layout. Laura's been good on quick turnarounds for these smaller projects so hopefully I can get a couple illustration to put in there and then this really is 100% done.

I have a preliminary agreement for distribution through a major mail-order vendor, but I need to send them a sample copy before this is finalized. I will send that copy as soon as I get this last illustration and will announce that deal (or never speak of it again :P) as soon as they receive their copy and make a decision. I will also be sending another sample to a pdf vendor I want to use.

No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides is 100% written and playtested. It still needs editing and proofreading and the cartography is not done. Six art pieces have been completed for it, and the prelim sketch of a seventh piece has been approved. After editing and proofreading I will do a quick layout to see where (if?) holes need to be filled and commission any needed art at that point. The People of Pembrooktonshire supplement (to be released alongside the adventure as an optional add-on) still has a lot of work to be done on it but if I have to wait 4-6 weeks to present anything, it will be finished by that time.

Insect Shrine of Goblin Hill is still the most problematic. The core of the writing (Gorsamfeld Inn, the Insect Shrine, and the Goblin lair) is done, but several "side adventures" are in half-written form (I advertised a 64 pager, so a 64 page mini-campaign is what I plan to deliver). Getting the business grant means I could pay off the artists immediately and remove the financial barrier to release, but the project has been so tumultuous with poor planning and inconsistent periods of work. Finishing the writing should not take so long, but so much needs to be playtested (are you up for it, Skypers?). Cartography still needs to be done, and this is a very location-intensive adventure. Yet if I have those 4-6 weeks or more of not filling orders or doing anything but creative work (and attending business classes...), it is entirely possible that Insect Shrine could be released at the same time as the other two adventures.

Of course, it's possible that my grand plans fall through and whoever runs this business grant program will take a look at Green Devil Face and say "Nope, this breaks the rules, no grant!" Green Devil Face is not what I'd call business activity (I make in the neighborhood of a quarter off a 3€ sale of an issue), but we'll see what the bureaucrats say about that. It's already been on sale for two months (selling 77 copies between the two issues, by the way) so it's too late to do anything about that anyway!

If for some reason the wait time becomes irrelevant (faster answer, win the lottery in the meantime), I will simply roll out what I've got as it's completed.

I've also got a lawyer coming over tonight for a "business dinner." Unfortunately he's not an IP specialist, but I'll take the free legal advice I can get and at the very least he can point me in the right direction. You see, I don't want to "brand" and "market" my efforts using euphemisms but if I'm going to make this an official business venture, I'm going to be a bit careful and do it right.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Random Esoteric Creature Generator: What Have You Done With It?

The Random Esoteric Creature Generator For Classic Fantasy Role Playing Games And Their Modern Simulacra.

It's been out on store shelves, both physical and virtual, for over six months now. In the blog world, that's ancient, and so I'd like to talk about it for a bit and give my first released RPG project some more time in the spotlight while I'm waiting for the latest sales statement. :D

So... what have you done with it?

Have you taken any of the advice given in the essays? How did that turn out?

What are some or the better creatures that you've made with it?

Has it made a positive contribution to your games?

About Last Night's Game... Reports!

Several players from last night's game have written about it on their blogs.

Running with Dice.

The Dwarf and the Basilisk.

Back in '81.

You'd think these people had signed an NDA or something... (they haven't).

The adventure is essentially complete, with the main things left to do are proofreading, layout, plus one more map needs to be readied for print. Oh yeah, a marketing plan would be nice. :P

I think I might take this publishing thing seriously. On Monday I'm talking to some agency dealing with foreigners starting businesses, as well as a lawyer. Release date will depend on what they have to say and what hoops I need to jump through. I have a feeling this is about to become a much bigger pain in the butt. Happy happy joy joy. :D

Friday, June 5, 2009

"I am a nobody in real life!"

I see this attitude a lot in the general gaming community to explain the dislike of low-level classic D&D play, or a dislike of Call of Cthulhu play, and to explain why the escalating power of D&D makes the game "more fun" and why games like Exalted and such are fun to a certain breed of player. I just saw another example of this mentality today.

Now I can understand wish fulfillment and power fantasies, even if that's not why I game. Superhero games are good for this. "I want to fly!" "I want to be able to lift a tank!" But that's a somewhat different thing. In real life, some things simply aren't possible, and if they are, there are consequences to those actions somewhat more serious than needing to roll up a new character. I have a suspicion it's a bit more entertaining to pretend to be a criminal on the run than to actually be one.

But this idea that playing a low-powered (or "normal") character is no fun because you feel unexceptional in real life?

That's pretty fucked up.

Those rare times I actually get to play instead of run a game, yes, I want to be a badass! I want to "win" and complete whatever objective I have in the game, but I don't expect any game to just hand me that experience as a default! And I am certainly not projecting some idea of who I wish I could be if only I had the balls or the luck to be so onto my game persona.

(I wonder if this is related to why people are completely disgusted with things like torture or other real-life atrocities, let alone Carcosa-like activities, appearing in their game... why, if Joe is playing the steadfast reliable warrior noble he wishes he could be in life, what does that say about George who decides his character wears an executioner's hood and cuts off orc fingers to get information? Or if Bob wants his next character to be a girl?)

Make your next character somebody you would never want to be in life. Maybe someone you would take great pains to stay away from. I'm not talking about making a character that smells or steals or being completely anti-social so that nobody would like them. I mean try someone with a different political outlook. A different religion. Money-hungry. Environmentally careless. Someone with "conservative family values." An assertive Type A Personality. Whatever. Just someone that does not represent who you are or who you wish you could be.

And then go make an effort to be the person you want to be in real life, in real life. You want to be somebody? All it takes is a plan and a gun. Want to be somebody better than that? You just need a better plan and a better tool. There are no guarantees (you could end up like this guy), but you have a better chance of getting there by trying than by gaming. So go go go!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Reminder: Tonight's LL Game (Plus Miscellaneous Stuff)

Remember to log onto Skype (and add me if you haven't) at about 6:45pm Eastern Time or so. We start at 7.

We've got one more slot if anyone's interested.

Also... I've changed the display of the Other Stuffies to Read so only the latest 25 blogs to be updated are visible. It was getting ridiculous with 75+ blogs, some that haven't been updated for months, taking up space on the side of the page. They're all still there if you click the 'show all' link, and this way I haven't actually deleted anyone.

Also, if you're on Facebook, I've added that 'networked blogs' widget at the bottom of the right hand side. *nudge nudge*

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Availability of Magic in a Campaign

I like to keep my game worlds magic-poor. There simply aren't high-level clerics in every town, and there are not high-level wizards, or even low-level, scattered throughout the countryside. This allows me to have a world which more or less makes sense without having to account for what a lot of magic would do to the world.

The PCs can be spellcasting classes of course, and I'll throw in an NPC here and there, but these guys are rare in the game world.

There is no resurrection in my campaign. Sure, I roll for spells on scrolls randomly so a Raise Dead might, might, show up sometime. But "awww Joe died... haul him back to town and let's visit the temple," simply doesn't exist in my game. Dead is dead.

There aren't even any clerics to cast Remove Curse or Remove Disease. In my game, everyone's waiting for the cleric to gain one more level so she gets access to these spells. One character has been afflicted with a rhyming curse for months of real time now, and just recently was shrunk to one foot in height (It didn't help that two Remove Curse spells have shown up on scrolls and the clerics in question have blown their failure rolls both times for casting spells above their level).

This creates other situations. A first level magic-user becomes potentially a real problem for a village or town because they are so rare that not only is there no contingency plans in place to deal with them, there is no perceived need for such a thing. I don't have to ask, "So why don't clerics just keep everyone fed and healthy?" It's just a world, with the weird stuff off to the side.

I also keep magic items rare. There are no magic shops. You can't go into town, not even a big one, and pick up some healing potions. I hand out potions and scrolls frequently as treasure in dungeons because I don't fear one-use items, and that gets interesting because I always randomly roll what sort they are and then forget about them once the players identify them. A couple weeks ago an encounter with a dragon, which could have been a party-killer, turned into a simple, yet tense, initiative roll. The player with the Potion of Dragon Control, which I'd forgotten I'd ever given out, won initiative and the dragon was simply commanded to fly, fly away.

I also keep monsters correspondingly rare. They're either in the deep wilderness, or in a dungeon, or else their presence indicates that Something is Wrong. But the average person (not average PC!) in my campaign world can expect to never have a first-hand experience with the supernatural.

But after reading this post, it's occurred to me that I might be doing it a bit strangely. Raising a second level character? Eek!

(Not that there is a total lack of magic in the campaign... just in the civilized lands. I think I've mentioned the brownie who kept a fox-coup that kept getting raided by a giant chicken. Did I mention the three orc brothers, one who lived in a straw house, one who lived in a wooden house, and one who lived in a brick house being harassed by a werewolf? Or the frog that after being kissed turned into a bullywug princess who fell in love with the one who broke her curse? This stuff side by side in the same campaign with the political adventures and the creepy horror and the rest... but I do fit my gonzo crazygonuts in there, thankyouverymuch. Another example is the Deck of Many Things I put in a dungeon, unguarded even, and watched one player pretty much deep-six two characters over the course of two weeks with the thing. But it's a (HUGE) gamble to use the thing and nobody else will draw. They were talking about handing it off to a particularly dastardly NPC...)

So how freely available is magic in your game?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It Begins Again - One Year Later

A year ago, I had just moved to Helsinki from Vaasa and I made a flyer to gather up a group in my new city. It took a little bit of time before play began, but the campaign continues... we just had our latest session this past Sunday.