Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Hammer Drops!

The Death Frost Doom review promised earlier is here.

I do have some comments:

I vehemently disagree with him about Jalo, Otus, and Pekul art being in any way substandard. If you want to argue it's not the tippy top in quality, well, depends on the piece and the function. Some of their work certainly could be done by others, and perhaps better. But some of their work is absolutely perfect. I'll put Laura's piece for the High Priest Temple against any illustration anywhere for delivering the atmosphere, for instance.

About the map, he's not so wrong. The second printing of Death Frost Doom saw the dead areas of the map filled in (but I goofed and got rid of the compass points and scale and had to put in a little notation paper...) which did greatly improve its appearance. Now, ask 50 people what format they want their PDFs in, and you'll get 50 different answers, from my experience. Do you want it on the screen or easily printed out? How best to serve all parties? Putting a map in with an incredible amount of black into a pdf seems to be a big no-no.

The reviewer did indeed provide me with a better map which would be suitable for PDF use (now that's constructive criticism!). The third printing, with other appearance changes (branding and a pitch on the covers, mostly), is coming sooner than later. When those are ready, I will make all of the changes to the PDF. Now maybe that doesn't do people much good now (although the maps are functional, if not at all pretty), but some of these PDF vendors only allow a limited amount of downloads after a purchase so updating them frequently would screw customers more, by my reckoning, if I made a change whenever an error was corrected or other improvement made.

In a related note, the one-column thing is unique to my PDF formats for modules. I've seen numerous complaints in many places about products that just use the print layout for PDFs, and how columns make it more difficult to read on a computer. So that's why I do that.

As for not putting the title on the cover... well... I would prefer not to. It was my thinking early on that since everything was just internet-only, all the identifying information would be on the website and so I could avoid besmirching the product itself with "commercial interests." Obviously that's naive and so I've begun incorporating more standard cover conventions, and this too will be updated when the 3rd printing is available.

Death Frost Doom was my first major release where I was greatly concerned about the overall look, and it shows. Even as it is map-wise (and now I think the first printing cover is much less impressive than the second printing, and I hate that the early adopters have a not-so-shiny version, but what do I do, keep things not-as-good when doing a new printing? That doesn't make sense...), it's a marked improvement over the presentation of the first Creature Generator printing, which would have been the only previous release where the graphic design was given any sort of thought at all.

I've been paying much more attention to the production values since that time, inching towards improvement along the way. Those who have both Death Frost Doom and The Grinding Gear will be the best judges of whether I have succeeded.


  1. So melodramatic James! perfectionist, you!

    Production value is all to the good, and certainly helps to sell copy, but quality product will build the business...and the positive reviews and word-o-mouth on Death Frost Doom are going to carry more weight with your target audience (OS players) than slick production value. These are people playing with little brown books for gods' sake!

    : )

  2. Yeah but good production values paired with excellent content is best. :)

  3. I think that art is perhaps the most subjective aspect of any rpg material. Obviously you liked it a lot--or you wouldn't have included it.

    And I have to agree: Good production values paired with excellent content is best.

  4. For what it's worth, a couple of comments...
    Maps: The blog in question is about cartography. Nick kind of blew it by reviewing the whole piece. I'll add his blog to my links, because I love the map part of the adventure module experience. However, in the post he had a link to Philotomy Jurament, but he didn't put a f**king link to the module on any of the numerous places it exists for sale. That's a big FAIL. I can nitpick, too...
    DFD was only five dollars for the PDF (I would've paid ten, by the way) - I'm thrilled that it even had maps and would've bought it even if it was just story scrawled out in black crayon on scanned pieces of paper towel.

    Getting Clicks: Everyone's entitled to their own 'review' of a written work, but I think Nick would've had a more useful posting (notice that DFD reviewing was mentioned in two whole postings) if it was a review of DFD's maps (and only the maps). I found it revealing that there were two postings mentioning 'the review'. It seems Nick was well aware that DFD has gotten much praise and that he was going to be very critical. I would love to know how the traffic stats on his DFD review post measure up to some of his other posts. You know, because I'm just curious...

    The Art: I love that Mr. Raggi put art in a prominent position in DFD. I thought the 'Edvard Munch' style art was perfect for the content of the adventure. Putting 'whole page' artwork on the cover was a stroke of genius - it instantly makes the work stand out on every store that carries it because even in thumbnail form, it stands out among all the colorful covers of other works.

  5. My print copies of DFD & NDID are beautifully made, so yes, you've succeeded. The reviewer's first mistake was in settling for a pdf. I buy some OSR stuff in pdf, but, after receiving the two items mentioned above, for Christmas, I won't settle for anything less than print, when it comes to LotFP products. So again, yes; Prod. Values matter.

  6. I pretty much disagree with everything the reviewer said regarding art for RPG products. The artists I connect with original D&D (like Otus, Trampier, Darlene, etc.) and the artists I connect with the OSR stuff (like Mullen and some others, including your Jalo) pursue a varied aesthetic that I like.
    The stuff currently being published by WOTC just turns me off.
    Why is something that is derivative of stuff produced 30 years ago less valid than the art that WOTC is using now (which seems derivative as well, just from different sources).
    It's a game I first discovered ~30 years ago, so my experience of it is going to be different than a 15 year old's in 2010. It seems natural to me that we wouldn't respond to the same aesthetic.
    I don't like when critics of the OSR use 'nostalgia' as an insult.

  7. It’s very interesting. James himself, in the post ( that prompted me to write a review, said, “But what to do? Pursuing this is going to mean drama and hurt feelings. Whoever bothers to do this has to have a thick skin, and probably should have no publishing aspirations of their own ("revenge" reviews are an ugly thing, especially when well-composed, and even fans of a particular product or author will engage in this behavior). It'll be a lot of work to do for not so much reward.”

    He proves once again that he knew what he was talking about.

    @ sorcerersofdoom: No link to the module. A “big FAIL” or a minor oversight? I have to say that I am embarrassed that I didn’t include a link, so thank you for pointing that out. There’s a link included now.

    I’m not sure how focusing a review on one specific portion of a product would make the review more useful to anyone. If I was going to do that, the review would have been five words long: “They were functional but ugly.” Prior to posting the actual review, I did send a map of the Shrine to James, for free, for him to use, if he desires, in the next printing. I promise you that it is a lot nicer looking than what was in the module—and it looked like it came out of a product from the early days.

    The review was split into two posts, because my schedule yesterday was crazy, and I wanted to get up what I had when I finished the first part. And if I thought that James was going to come across the first part before the second part was ready, I probably would not have done that. I was as shocked as the next guy when he referenced my Part One before I uploaded Part Two.

    And, yes, I was aware ahead of time that I was going to be critical. THAT is EXACTLY what James asked for in the post that I referenced above—people to be more critical in their reviews of OSR material.

    As far as traffic stats go, I’d love to know the difference as well, especially since I’ve been blogging for only two weeks now. I doubt that ANYONE has seen any of the other posts. (Again—I’m not really sure how James saw the Part One.) Yes, I am quite confident that every other post had ZERO readers before today.

    @ limpey: Is it possible that the stuff being published by WOTC today turns you off specifically because it is being published today by WOTC?

    “Less valid” is never a phrase that I used. And I stressed in the review that I believe art is subjective. My opinion is no better, or worse, than yours.

    You seem to believe that I am a critic of the OSR. Not so, at all. In fact, I am a HUGE proponent of it. I just believe that “old-school” products don’t need to look like they were published 30+ years ago to be good products or to be accepted in the movement.

  8. @Nick: I apologize for being harsh to a new blogger. I am, quite simply, an asshole.

  9. @ sorcerersofdoom: Thanks for the apology.