Friday, July 30, 2010

POSR Blog Reviews LotFP: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing


Bonus points for the Estuary of Calamity reference. Holy blast from the past!

PDF Customers... Need Your Opinion!

What do you think of this format for PDF releases?

Note what you're using to look at the pdf (laptop, ipad, whatever).

Fantasiapelit Stocks LotFP: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing. I Have Proof!

The entrance:

The new release shelf:

New RPG Circus Podcast Episode Featuring Mmmmeeeeeee Now Online!

Recorded just this (early) morning!

Contains a bit of pure ranting if I remember right. I wonder if it came out meaning the way I meant it or if I just sound like a maniac. Again.

Listen to it here!

On Vacation Sunday - Thursday

Just a note that orders made from the LotFP Webstore after 5pm today (Helsinki time, about 2.5 hours from now) won't be shipped until Thursday August 5th.

I'll still be around through Sunday morning, but then I will be gone gone GONE until Thursday. No net access. *eeeeek* The apartment here won't be empty while I'm off to wherever the hell this place is that I'm going so don't come around and try to rob the place please. :P

From the People of Pembrooktonshire Reject File

I just found this scribbled note while cleaning out my "office" area:

Amsterdam the Hamster
Immortal mindreading rodent - is a pet and mascot of the library and town archives - records of all crimes, births, deaths, etc. Knows every secret of the town and its residents and more besides. Yet cannot communicate this and doesn't particularly care - he's a hamster.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What Does the RPG Section of Your Local Game Store Look Like?

The store just over the bridge At Puolenkuun Pelit Espoo has a section that looks like this:

Spanish Review of LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing!

Very graphic-intensive. I kind of wish that they didn't spoil the "hidden messages" inside the box, but ah well, they paid for it and I guess they can show it off. The maps to the included adventures are shown, and that may well be spoilery, so beware! I guess if you've already bought the thing, or know you will, you might not want to look at this because it may spoil the wonder of popping open the box.

If you're one of those weirdos that like to be an informed consumer before laying down your money, well, here you go:

First part.

Second part.

Conclusion: "Creo sinceramente que es una buena compra."

A Fact and A Confession and a Plan and A Quiz

At least two items that I mailed from the local post office on Monday reached destinations in the US yesterday. Holy cow.

When I announced this project back in December, I had no concept of actually finishing it. I couldn't imagine being where I am right now. Holy crap!

Anyway, thanks to those that have purchased, and thanks to those that will purchase.

I'm on vacation next week, during which time I'll be sketching out my level for Otherworld Miniatures' Labyrinth Lord line. Yeah, vacation. I'll write that up when I get back, and then I need to find out what's up with Luna after spending 10 days in the hospital after the car wreck. I'll do a small benefit PDF adventure if circumstances call for it.

And then it's on to serious Death Ferox Doom work. I've set a pretty high standard for production values now so every release has to be special... I think Hammers of the God kicks all sorts of ass (and I hope it doesn't get lost in the hype around the box!) but that approach won't work for the new one. But I have an idea...

What do Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, and Tomb of Horrors have in common?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Four days late, I finally repriced the store so shipping costs are reflected in the basic price.

LotFP stuff is in local stores here in Helsinki, it'll be filtering through the rest of Finland soon, and the other distro packages have gone out. I expect to start seeing LotFP stuff stocked in US webstores by the end of next week.

Some of my Ropecon overstock has been purchased by local vendors, so Arkkikivi in Finland now has a very wide selection of OSR goods, and stuff by XRP, RC Pinnell, Mythmere/Black Blade, Pied Piper, and more is sitting on an actual physical store shelf in Espoo.

If you want to see LotFP stuff in your local game store (in North America, anyway) tell your store to contact Warpath Games, as they are handling US distro.

Here's a breakdown of all the individual advance orders by location:

Canada Alberta 2
Canada BC 2
Canada Ontario 5

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ropecon After-Report and Mega-Mass Mailout

Ropecon was a bit of coming down to Earth.

You see, I had gotten over 100 pre-orders from individuals before Ropecon opened. Think about that. Nobody knows what the vast majority of this thing is like. There are no reviews yet. Even the photo review on Dragonsfoot and the Acaeum came after the majority of the orders were placed. It is a premium-priced RPG product. That's amazing if you ask me. There's interest! And I had some people talking the whole thing up a lot locally, and I thought Ropecon just might be a real blowout success.

It wasn't. Not a failure by any means, though. It was a mild success.

I sold 26 boxes there, many to people who didn't know who I was, what the OSR thing is, just on the strength of my pitch and the production values. (I'm no Lou Zocchi when it comes to pitching to people stopping by the booth, but I did a damn good job if I do say so myself).

The Dungeon Alphabet was also a hot seller, as was Points of Light, the Creature Generator (Goodman chooses their old school releases intelligently, I guess it's fair to say), and Expeditious Retreat Press' Magical Medieval Society was an unexpected hit. That they were at Ropecon as guests of honor last year probably didn't hurt.

Basically, system-neutral stuff sold well. For all the internet talk and bluster, the vast majority of people I talked to had no idea about the OSR or anything of the sort. They remember the old Red Box. Mentzer was the only edition to be translated into Finnish, and that was the late 80s. I am told that the translations were horrid, being inconsistent from box to box (the BECM boxes were all translated, not sure about Immortals). The only modules ever released in Finnish for the old game were Castle Caldwell & Beyond and Rahasia.

Think about that. Think if the D&D you played growing up couldn't even keep its terminology straight within the same set of rules and the only modules you ever saw were Castle Caldwell and Rahasia.

This doesn't count the hardcores who certainly knew what was up, but when we have RPG veterans in Finland who know their shit inside and out yet have no friggin clue what Keep on the Borderlands is like... let's just say there's some work to do. The overall concept that we old-schoolers take for granted in the States just isn't part of the RPG culture here and it never was.

Actually, for the pre-Vampire era, I'm told if you were serious about RPGs, it was Runequest that was your drug of choice, not "kiddie D&D."

So the "module" culture isn't in place. No "classics" that are part of the public consciousness beyond internet talk. Which meant all the Advanced Adventures, all that Mythmere Games stuff, all that Kuntz stuff I brought along just sat on the shelf without being considered, no matter how much I talked up how brilliant Finch or Kuntz are at writing adventures. Maliszewski's Cursed Chateau sold a few copies, but Talanian's Sightless Serpent didn't sell one.

My modules sold decently because people like to buy stuff from the guy standing in front of them, I guess.

So it'll take some work. Hopefully the strong convention presence and booth presentation starts paying off when the LotFP box starts showing up on store shelves (Puolenkuun Pelit Espoo will have it tomorrow) and the buzz starts growing from people who have seen the guts of it rather than its pretty face. Get a core base going, then maybe they'll be back later for more. How can they not when the game is that good and these other releases are great?

And I hope to have the opportunity to start laying that groundwork in several countries that have good RPG scenes and decent-sized conventions, but no oldschool scene to speak of - at least not one that's letting itself be known.

It's a different world in the internet bubble, and while that bubble is responsible for 107 advance orders, there is a whole wide world out there ready for conquering that have no damn clue - and if they do have a damn clue it's full of misconceptions and misunderstandings of what the game was all about and what it could be all about. I'm going to do everything I can to spread the word.

And all advance orders placed as of Monday morning have shipped! It was indeed a Mega-Mass Mailout as we descended upon the post office with enough boxes to choke a mule.

Actually, 1 box might be enough to choke a mule. 2 for sure. But it was more than two boxes, so the saying is still technically accurate, if not very informative.

Honestly though, the European orders received before Thursday morning went out on Thursday. So if you're European and selected priority shipping, I'd be checking your mailbox today and tomorrow. It turns out I don't need those 5 page customs webforms filled out for items under 1000€, so I went ahead and did all those mailings. The vendor and distributor mailings will happen tomorrow since I will need to fill out those forms and visit the customs office. I only confirmed that with the tax office today, and had I know I would have started mailing out the non-European orders on Thursday as well. But everyone's order has been mailed as advertised, so no bitching from the peanut gallery please.

To say again: All 107 individual orders, even those made just this morning, have mailed.

PS. I screwed up the multiple item discount for one guy at Ropecon on Sunday. Somehow I applied the promised discount to just one item instead of all of them. I tried to find you after realizing my error, but couldn't after a couple go-rounds in the building. If you're someone that got a bundle discount from me in the vendor room Sunday, email me with the list of items you bought. If you're the guy, we'll arrange for me to transfer the 15€ in question to you.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

LotFP Demo Results at Ropecon

Says the guy running demos for me while I was in the vendor room (Kaubamaja):

"A straight 8 hours of refereeing can be a bit draining. Tired, but well fed now. Top marks for the guy who's fighter got eaten by a grey ooze. He immediately stood up, walked over to kaubamaja, bought his own copy of the game I was demoing, returned to the table, made a new character, and continued exploring."

I remember that guy. I was wondering why he was in such a hurry and not interested in my sales pitch for bundle discounts. ;)

Since a lot of people (relatively) had already bought the box, and a couple people had already run Tower of the Stargazer yesterday, I do believe it was Finch's Tomb of the Iron God that was being run in the demos today.

Someone, he can say who if he likes, ran Death Frost Doom as a regular event today as well.

5 more hours in the vendor room tomorrow and then I do a panel and then home.

Up to 104 individual pre-orders, 96 distro/vendor orders, a couple dozen Ropecon sales so far, plus the freebies means the print run of boxes is 1/3 spoken for.

Monday starts the mega-mass mailouts.

ENNies voting ends tomorrow, so VOTE Grinding Gear for Best Adventure and LotFP for Best Publisher!

Pre-order the game now or forever hold your "shipping included" pricing.

Time to get back to packing and addressing orders. No rest for the wicked...

There Is No Old School Renaissance

That these items, and dozens more like them in PDF and print, have been published in the same general time frame bya multitude of publishers is a complete coincidence. Honest.

LotFP: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing Skill System

Up early before Ropecon Day II, and I thought I'd give my thoughts behind the "skill system" of LotFP: RPG.

I thought about the classic Thief. The past several years have seen a re-examination of the class, noting that its percentage-based skill list was different from pretty much any other subsystem of the game. Hell, the idea that they had skills that nobody else had caused a problem for some. And my own pet peeve was the fact that low-level thieves could climb well, and really that was it.

How to address these concerns?

d6 rolls are used for a lot of things in the game. Searching for secret doors, opening doors, initiative and surprise. Others have had the idea of using d6 for thief skills, so combining the "things characters can do" into the one basic mechanic made sense.

That thief skills are abilities unique to thieves was a topic that's come under examination. "If only the thief has an official skill to find traps, that means nobody else can try!" Well Labyrinth Lord gives everyone a 1 in 6 chance (did Moldvay Basic as well? Must check...) to find traps, thief or no, so why not extend that to all thief abilities? Everyone can do what the thief can do, just as attacking in combat is not something unique to fighters... but thieves will be better at it.

Some classes/races have special abilities. Dwarfs have all that stonework stuff going on. Halflings can hide. Elves find secret doors more often. Why not fold those into the same d6 "system" then and not have outlying resolution systems for those?

Last was the "thieves are good wall climbers at low-level, but can't do anything else reliably for some levels." What crap this is. Ever since 2e, I've loved the idea of customizing the thief abilities. It makes sense that different characters would concentrate on different areas. So that was in.

There were a couple other areas like Languages and Foraging that I wanted my own system for, and thought they should be folded into this "skill system."

Lastly, I thought a couple of the thief skills could be presented a little differently. "Open Locks" is an awfully specific label for fiddling with small mechanical objects, isn't it? "Hide in Shadows" and "Move Silently" seem to be very close to each other. Why are they separate skills? So I did some adjustments there.

Whenever I would play in someone else's campaign (a sadly rare event), I liked being a thief. But he wasn't a thief, he was a skilled Indiana Jones type explorer. A "gentleman adventurer" was how I'd phrase it, searching old ruins looking for gold and artifacts. But the idea of the backstabbing rogue that was part of a thieves' guild was so entrenched that it was difficult to find a party that wouldn't treat my character as a criminal. So the name change to Specialist was done to keep the options open as to the presentation of the class. Want to be the classic criminal type? Done! Want to be an exploring professional adventurer? Done!

I decided to allow this specialist class to improve any of the now-larger skill list, not just the traditional thiefly skills. Want a guy that can find secret doors and generally search for stuff REALLY REALLY well? Now you can. Want that cunning linguist that seems to understand every tongue on the planet? Now you can. Sure, it's going to be NPCs that will bump up some of these skills to high levels, but giving Referees tools to screw with the players is always fun, especially when the players have the same access to these tools that the Ref has. SCORE!

The result of this thought is what you see on the official character sheet. But it's not so complicated as all that. You don't need the fancy sheet to record your character details. because all of these skills start at 1 in 6 standard, you don't have to write all these skills down if you're using a scrap of blank paper or an index chard as a character sheet. It's only if you have a special racial ability, or if you're a specialist/thief with their skill bonuses, that you have to note it down.

And that's the same as it always has been.

I know the character sheet looks a bit busy for an old school style game, but with all the effort of putting material in the box to welcome new players, I thought having a character sheet that had everything on it to lessen the need to look at the rulebook during actual play might help any hypothetical newbies out.

So that's the story there. Taking ideas that have been kicking around the OSR, using my own gaming history and inspiration to personalize the ideas, and running with it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Well I Screwed That Up

The big presentation tonight was a disaster.

For the presentation in Tracon I made no preparation and talked off the cuff and was told I was entertaining.

Tonight I made outlines and was aware of the camera and was trying to be upbeat and positive and a representative of all the good things about what we do. I also kept to a one hour OSR/one hour LotFP format.

Awful. I'm not meant to be an informative straight man - I'm a ranter at heart and I have to be let loose. It felt unnatural when I was doing the "history of D&D and the OSR" like a boring history teacher and just downright wrong when trying to not bring controversy, or worse yet diffuse it, in the talk. I mentally blanked a few times and was just goddamn fucking awful. It was painful to be up there and probably painful to witness. And I stretched it to an hour.

The second hour was the opposite. I was talking about my stuff, the history and reasoning and behind-the-scenes fun bits of my projects and why I've conducted business the way I do, it felt good, the audience seemed engaged, laughed when they were supposed to, didn't laugh when they weren't supposed to (so I could do my fake "I can't hear you!" type schtick), and then time ran out just when I was getting to the part about the guts of the actual game.




If I was going to be "Mr. OSR Representative" I should have run down the basics in the first fifteen minutes and then taken an hour and a half to talk up my game in my natural style. I wouldn't have been awful in the first bit and would have had enough time in the second.

What's weird is I am better at running games if I'm well prepared and my improvisation skills aren't so great when I don't have a solid base to riff off of. The exact opposite of my public speaking.

Ah well. I hope that video is never seen by anyone.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

You Want to Know *Exactly* What's in LotFP: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing?

The comp copies went out earlier in the week, and they've started to land.

Take a look at one person's photo report here.

You can still order at (economy) shipping-included prices here.

Ropecon starts tomorrow, and we'll be busy morning noon and night through Sunday. Then starting Monday it's mega-mass mailout time. See you all then.

Well... Crap

I just learned that Luna Duran was seriously injured in a car wreck over the weekend. She's going to be OK, but apparently it's going to be a long road to recovery.

Luna has been a reader of LotFP for almost ten years, and modeled for the snake demon character on the cover of the LotFP box set.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that it seemed that she was more enthusiastic about the whole thing than I was. She recruited a photographer in her area and took over two hundred pictures to use as reference for the artwork. The quality of the cover, and thus all the positive attention that the game has received based on that, is due in no small part to Luna's dedication and willingness to do everything necessary to make sure it was done right.

I'm bad about the whole "keep this person in your thoughts" thing, but when you guys look at the a project - not just this one, but any project - just take a minute to appreciate that there are real people behind it all, and of all the things they could have done with their short time on Earth, they chose to spend time doing this.

Happy Birthday to LotFP!

It's now midnight, and LotFP was officially born as a business on July 22, 2009.

Celebrate by ordering a box set and maybe some other stuff. :D Better hurry, shipping won't be free after I get home from Ropecon on Sunday night (Sunday morning/early afternoon for most of you reading this).

Oh yeah... Ropecon... the 23rd... tomorrow!

Holy crap!

(am I freaking you out with the time difference now? mwahaha!)

Fun story of the day: I'm trying to start planning how I'm going to approach Death Ferox Doom... and I couldn't find my adventure notes! No maps, no keys, nothing! OH SHIT. Did I throw it out during the current madness?

This is reason 893434 why you make players map out the darn dungeon and why they keep the notes at your house. I found their map and was already mentally filling in all the blanks (it's been many months since I ran the thing). It would look like it did when I ran it.

But false alarm, I found my notes!

Anyway... deals are in the works and the best is yet to come!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tools of the Trade III

(or, how to show the ways to test your wife to make sure she really loves you)

Here's what's happening at LotFP HQ:

Box assembly! You wouldn't believe the mess when the boxes first came. They're all flat and have to be folded before being filled. Here is a stack of empty boxes from the first night of folding:

The place was an absolute mess because there were all the boxes filled with the individual components of the box in addition to the boxes to be filled. And then the filled and ready-to-go boxes had to go somewhere! It was bedlam!

Yes, that's a handtruck in our living room.

But I'm in the home stretch for filling the boxes. I've been able to clean up the area a little as the component boxes empty out:

Our clothes storage area in the bedroom has been commandeered for storing filled boxes (oh look, you can see my leg in the corner!). We are also storing the display rack for Ropecon on the floor of the bedroom, but that's not shown.

My current work station (note the table was moved from the earlier arrangements; it helped free up lots of space... we can actually eat meals at the table when we move the empty boxes here, and we can sit on the couch again too!):

We're up to 76 orders from individuals, 40 from vendors and distributors. For the first time ever, my business was in the black yesterday morning for about an hour, and that was after paying the invoices for the biggest of the Ropecon imported merchandise. Then we mailed all the comp copies. And the credit card bill came with all the Ropecon import shipping costs and some artist fees. And the printing bills haven't arrived yet.

But for an hour, I was profitable! Here's hoping I see that again in a few weeks...!

There is evidence that my distribution partner in the US is indeed working it. Cool. Can anyone hook me up with anybody in Europe... I have no idea where to look (besides Esdevium in the UK).

Thanks to everyone that has ordered, thanks to Phil Reed and Rob McDonoghue for the plugs.

I'm telling you guys who haven't ordered but are interested, order now. In a few weeks you'll have a lot of other options for getting the game, and some of them might be cheaper (I only control wholesale prices; I don't dictate how much stores mark them up after that), but by the time they're stocking you'll have your copy already. And if you're reading this blog, you're a supporter, and I make a hell of a lot more on a direct order than selling to the shops. ;) (how's that for pitiful begging?)

Make that 77 direct orders. Another just came in.

Ropecon is in three days. People are spreading the idea that my game is the only big release for the convention. The public will see and they will know.

Back when I was announcing this project I said "Death or Glory." I was wrong. It's both. Because I'm going to kill. :D

Sunday, July 18, 2010

LotFP Order Totals So Far

After three days:

63 copies ordered by individuals (with orders totaling 131 items), 40 ordered by vendors so far (but I haven't gotten numbers from what I expect to be the two largest vendors/distributors yet). 50 will be going to IPR.

Ropecon starts Friday. We're ready.

Contributor and other comp copies go out tomorrow. Orders start mailing a week from tomorrow.

Zak has said a few words about the game here.

Amos has posted a couple of art pieces from the game here.

Have you ordered yet? I'm telling you, when the reviews start coming in, you're going to be sorry that you waited to order. You'll look at the review and think, "I could have had it in my hands already."

Seriously. ;)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Hidden Cost of What We Do

Earlier today I posted about how I've turned our two-room apartment into a warehouse. I've basically trashed our living space in pursuit of my dream. My wife has been so supportive but as this has become a thing rather than a plan it's obvious that it's distressing her. This is the woman who, when I moved in, replaced all my furniture (bookshelves, CD shelves, computer desk) at her own expense because my stuff clashed with the decorations.

And now I've done this.

This makes my mind wander over to that large pile of boxes that contains other publishers' stuff that I'm carrying for Ropecon. What has been sacrificed to produce that material?

I'm sure there are exceptions, but these aren't teenagers producing this material. These aren't people with my advantages, having government programs to help start a business and wives that allow them the luxury of not getting a real job while they give the whole game publishing thing a go.

These are people with wives and children, careers, real responsibilities, who sacrifice time and effort and money away from important things to create this material of high quality and professional production values for us. And they don't expect a living out of it, and in many cases not even a serious second income. They do it out of love.

To my wife, and to my fellow publishers and their families, I recognize the sacrifices you make in the name of games. Thank you.

PDFs of the New Stuff - It'll Be Awhile

Short version: It'll be awhile. Here is an earlier PDF (taken down because with the project finished, an old slapped-together thing should not be representing the project). It's rough and not identical to the final text but all the ideas are there. Download it here.

Long version because I just woke up and am stalling the start of work:

It might be awhile before the PDFs are available. Dealing with the physical version has to be a priority.

The print version is A5 size, and PDFs can't be that format. Well I suppose they could but that would be weird and there would be a ton of complaints. So the whole project has to be laid out again.

The final materials for the box just came yesterday (the photos on the pre-order were done with the final proofs). I managed to assemble just 31 of them yesterday. I hope to do 100 today (up at 6:30am!, and 100 for the next several days until all 600 or so are done.

There have been 54 orders so far, and those have to be packed. A 5 page customs form (for tax purposes) has to be filled out for each one leaving the EU (over 75% of them). I'll have at least 3 very large packages going to Noble Knight, IPR, and hopefully a regular distributor in the US as well. And when they're all ready it'll probably take hours and hours to mail them because the post office requires this long label to be filled out at the counter for overseas packages. There's also a ton of comp copies to go out (contributors mostly) that need packing but those don't need the extended customs forms but will need those labels.

There's Ropecon, which will take up the entirety of next Fri - Sun. Of course I hope to sell tons, which means the accounting and such will take up a chunk of the following Monday.

The wife has already booked us a vacation in a cabin in the middle of nowhere for the first week of August. I've basically turned the entire apartment into a warehouse (the wife is doing her sewing out on the balcony, and even the couch is filled with empty boxes because there's nowhere else for them right now and we don't know if we'll need them for shipping stuff yet so we can't toss them) so no working, at all, during that trip or she'll kill me. :D

I expect to be able to get to work on the PDFs after returning from that trip, but then there is the hope that the people who made the original batch of orders will be receiving them around that time and starting to post their reviews, which should trigger a new round of orders, which will monopolize my time. I don't have a staff here, it's just me and whatever I can con my wife into doing (and she's got a full-time job and has been more than patient enough with all this shit as it is!).

I also have to deliver a dungeon level that I promised to Otherworld Miniatures by the end of August, and it would be good if I didn't wait until the end of August to start it.

But eventually, PDFs of everything will be available, including the free formatted PDF (but art-less! I'm copying Labyrinth Lord!) with the Rules and Magic booklet material.

I don't expect to even look at the next LotFP project until September, which probably means a November release if I don't fart around too much and if art and cartography can be done in a reasonable time. Oh wait, wasn't I going to deal with a higher grade of graphic design as well? That'll take time figuring out.

Oh hell, and this is with me doing this full time?

yeah, no complaints if things are active enough to keep me this busy - better than working at the quickie mart, but things will take time. Hopefully not as much as I'm figuring and things can get done here and there earlier, but who knows. Part of the fun is not knowing what the hell I'm really doing and have people get excited about it anyway. :D

edit: I also want to explain why there are no free pdfs with orders of print material. I wanted to offer that (even though the PDFs would come later), Evil Hat's program they set up for The Dresden Files RPG is awesome, but... well, the sales tax here is 9% on books, 23% on other goods - including PDFs of books. Orders taken from within Finland or the EU need to have that tax applied, which is why the box costs the same going to European addresses as it does going overseas even with very different shipping costs.

Orders going outside of the EU don't have that tax applied (but I have to fill out that 5 page form I mentioned so that it doesn't apply - the simple green customs form, or the fact that overseas shipping costs are very distinct from European shipping costs at the post office, don't matter to the tax man). Or should I say, physical orders going outside the EU don't have that tax applied. PDFs would require the tax to be applied no matter where it's ordered from.

Now it's one thing if RPGNow or YourGamesNow is selling my PDFs. Those sales are happening in other countries through other agents and I'm just getting royalties from the sales they make. But if I advertised a PDF with every sale made direct from me? That "free" PDF would increase the cost 23% for all overseas orders of everything, and European book-only orders, since it's implicit in the purchase of the item. So... no "Free PDF with Purchase!" here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

ENnies Voting Begins! Vote for Pedr--- er, VOTE FOR LOTFP!

The ballot is here.

Vote The Grinding Gear for Category 7: Best Adventure! I'm up against Paizo and Fantasy Flight and Green Ronin and Pelgrane Press, and let's face it, if you don't vote for me, who will?

For Category 21: Fan Award for Best Publisher, you can vote for up to 10. I suggest you include the following publishers in your 10 votes:

Bat in the Attic Games
Goblinoid Games
Lamentations of the Flame Princess
Mythmere Games
Pied Piper Publishing

and Arkenstone Publishing because Eero's been helping our cause out here in Finland!

Vote Vote Vote Vote! Show everyone that we're here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Now Taking Orders for LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing

Orders will begin shipping on July 26.

The LotFP: RPG store is here.

New Releases

LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing box: 50€ worldwide, economy shipping included. You can upgrade that shipping method if you'd like (only one upgrade needed even if you buy multiple boxes). If you order before I get home from Ropecon on July 25, you can add Hammers of the God for 8€ (you must be ordering a box to get this price).

Hammers of the God adventure module: 10€ to Europe, 11€ elsewhere
Tower of the Stargazer adventure module: 7€ to Europe, 8€ elsewhere
Weird New World adventure module: 10€ to Europe, 11€ elsewhere

Hammers, Tower, WNW Combo: 24€ to Europe, 27€ elsewhere

Tower of the Stargazer and Weird New World are included in the box set.

Death Frost Doom is back in stock with a 3rd printing, and of course Grinding Gear, No Dignity in Death, and People of Pembrooktonshire are still available.

Orders without the box included will ship Priority.

I won't publicize this anywhere else until tomorrow morning. You can if you want to.

If there are any questions you have, or any details I've left out, or if you run into any problems, do let me know. :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Proofs for the final two booklets of the LotFP: RPG box may be ready today, and a third booklet should be ready for pick-up.

(note that I put The Grinding Gear up for sale when I had seen the final proofs, not when I had received the completed printing)

It feels weird, having all these goals and hopes and ambitions for the box, and now being on the verge of having a thing that must stand on its own. It feels odd that the people reading this are the most likely to buy it are also the ones that need it the least.

I want to make this clear: While it doesn't map to any particular edition, it is another simulacra and across-the-board compatibility was a primary goal. I hope I have made something that is unique in tone, is attractive as an artifact, works, and will be interesting to read even for veterans, but it is basically a variation on things you guys already have. This isn't revolutionary or innovative.

The original purpose of making the game was to get a foothold in markets where the other simulacra publishers haven't yet penetrated. I live in Finland but couldn't get my modules in stores because none of the games they support are in those stores. I suppose I could have worked to import Labyrinth Lord or Swords & Wizardry, but I saw a chance to grow my business and hit a market that won't see my product as "oh god not another one..." I want to sell my modules everywhere, and didn't want to depend on the distribution of other people's products to do it. Hell, just having a game seems to give a publisher more weight with the distributors and stores more than a company that's just producing supplemental material. Even if I did hook the country up with LL or S&W it wouldn't mean my stuff would get anywhere next to it. I had to release a game under my own "brand" to make this work.

I made it different because it would be foolish and rude to just reprint the Open Game Content of others with new branding slapped on top of it. I made it the same and used Open Game Content because I love the underlying game that forms the basis of all our clones and simulacra and adventures and settings and have no intentions of leaving it behind. My modules are not changing format, not in the slightest, not even in the statblocks. They are still for OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry, and now they are for LotFP: Weird Fantasy Role-Playing as well.

I do provide cross-clone compatibility notes and plug by name "competing" companies and games and publications within my game. Even if someone unfamiliar with anything decides my game looks cool and picks it up at random, they will know that my game is but the latest that celebrates a greater tradition, and they'll know there are other visions than mine that are producing great things. If I manage to reach new people I hope those people enjoy all of our work, not just mine.

Ropecon is in a week and a half, and I'm looking at taking my show on the road around Europe, going to the people and growing that way. Are RPG convention-goers in Finland and Germany and Sweden and Italy and England and wherever else already inundated with all the clones and everything that's been going on? I don't think so. And if they are, hey, I've still got something to offer them because my modules rock.

But I have no doubt that the lion's share of the sales, at least initially, will come from readers of this blog and those hip-deep in the community already. You are collectors and supporters and players and I thank you for that. Your support will help me to spread the word to new people and to continue to do modules and other cool things that can stand up to comparison to what the big dogs in this hobby are producing.

And if you don't need another game, Towers of the Stargazer and Weird New World, the modules in the box, are available separately. Hammers of the God is a separate adventure being released simultaneously with the box. You can use these with all the usual suspects.


So now that the crafting is done, what do I think of it?

I'm scared! It's not a concept anymore, it's a thing I have to live with and all hopes for a growing business are placed on it. It's a product that promises production values with a not insignificant price tag and it's going to be delivered to the most demanding and critical audience on Earth. For all the bluster and talk of what's possible, I still fear I'm not the right guy to do all those great things. What if I have bitten off far than I can chew here? What if I'm not good enough?

I know how it was made. I see all the flaws. I don't doubt that other people will see them. The question is whether or not the product gets crucified for them or not.

I'm happy with the overall look. The box looks nice and the booklet covers are quite striking. On one level I wish I had sprung for different covers for the Rules and Referee books, but Sheppard's cover art did deserve to be seen in greater detail. I wanted a photorealistic cover and I got it.

Inside the books, things aren't as sharp, but I've already given myself the C grade for layouts. It'll all be perfectly readable and clear (as much as my modules, anyway), but there is a certain "dude got a new layout program and was playing with it" quality to it. As books and other elements were completed and returned from the printer, I found errors that should have stuck out beforehand. The character sheets don't spell melee with the French accents like the rules do. The fading of the Hammers of the God back cover image somehow got lost for the final production PDF so the promo text gets lost in the picture in places. Little details like that. Drives me up a frickin wall, will give the whole thing a bit of an amateur mark, but do not affect the essence or usability of the material one little bit. I had four people looking at most of this material and I bet there are still typos, too.

Quite the learning experience. My next releases, without the hard deadlines and without such an ambitious amount of material being produced at the same time, will be handled differently to address these things.

The hard deadline (Ropecon wasn't going to move if I needed more time) did bite the box a little bit, and it's in Weird New World that it shows. It turned into far more of an experimental release than I had originally conceived, but a continent-sized sandbox was just not going to work as a normal adventure. The maps were death to do. Ramsey did a great job on the large map (will be an A3-size foldout full color hexmap), but the effort of that meant he wasn't getting the other two (much) smaller color maps done on time. Eero Tuovinen stepped in for one of them, and so it looks cool, but the third map was done by me. No matter what the ENnies say, I am not a noteworthy cartographer to say the least, and I fear my graphic contribution will be an eyesore. It'll be a usable map but that's about all.

Some decisions I second-guessed as I was making them, such as how to handle the artwork and layout for Tower of the Stargazer (it needed to be a short budget module and I had just written too much stuff for it) but there would have been doubt however I chose to handle it.

I had to pick up my old Mentzer book to compare to make sure that I didn't unintentionally copy any text (Mentzer Basic was my introduction to the game) in the first adventure section of the tutorial material because for all the changes in details and writing, it's close. Mentzer's format is the absolute best I've ever seen for introducing game concepts. I ruthlessly and unashamedly ripped off the format, but I worry that my homage in following the basic story within that format will be seen more as a rip-off. At some point you just have to hold your breath and trust that you've done something that's the same enough yet different enough. But I fear I'm going to catch a little hell for pages 4 - 12 of the Tutorial book.

So yeah, there are flaws, and I don't ask anyone to ignore or overlook them. I just hope they are insignificant against the whole of the work. After spending so much time on this, and all those all-nighters in the last few weeks, my perspective is pretty skewed - I simply do not, cannot, see this project in the same way as a customer will view it.

But you know what? I felt the same way when I released the Creature Generator. My very first RPG writing, a flawed product to be sure, and it ended up getting picked up by a publisher that has spread it around the world. I still get complimentary emails about it almost two years later.

I felt the same way about Death Frost Doom. My first release as an official, professional company. It too is a flawed product, but people seemed to like it nonetheless.

So maybe I don't suck. I'm a rough-around-the-edges guy and always will be, so things won't be perfect no matter how much I try. If the box does well, if the business grows a step, I can get some reliable people (and pay them) around me to pick up the slack, mostly around graphic design, where my skills fall short.

This box is miles away from the production values of those first handmade copies of Death Frost Doom or that photocopied first edition of the Creature Generator. What I do next year will be done better than the box. And yet whatever that is will have flaws which are then corrected and improved upon for the releases after that.

It's a process. I hate it, I just want to be there instead of having to start here, but there really isn't a choice, is there?

And if I rant like a fanatic sometimes, it's because I am a fanatic. There's no facade here. I am excited about what other people are doing and I think I have exciting things to contribute and I will stand up for them. I hope the passion that fuels my words here also infects every release I put out.

Even you jaded bastards will see things in this box that will make your eyes pop out in disbelief.

tl;dr: Ordering will begin soon.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

No Gods, No Masters

"But we would hope that underlying our entire investigation is the realization that our idols might be destroyed."
- Chris Black, METAL Episode One: Diamonds and Rust, 1999

So I have in the boxes behind me 46 publications not written by me and not published by me (44 if we want to disqualify Fight On! because I have articles included in those books). They include books written by:

James Boney
Joseph Browning
Rob Conley
Michael Curtis
Matt Finch
Andrew Hind
Rob Kuntz
James Maliszewski
Moritz Mehlem
RC Pinnell
Jeff Talanian
Alphonso Warden
Suzi Yee

... and that's not including all the contributors to the Knockspell and Fight On! articles.

That also doesn't mention the publishers that help bring this stuff to the people, such as John Adams, Joseph Goodman, and Jon Herschberger.

Even more, that doesn't include people that have created books that I'm not carrying, like Bill Barsh, Guy Fullerton, Jimm Johnson, Geoffrey McKinney, and Dan Proctor.

That doesn't include the people who have done other work for publication such as Mario Barbati, Nicholas Bergquist, David Bezio, Joseph Bloch, James E. Bobb, Marv Breig, Daniel Collins, Mike Davison, Nicolas Dessaux, Cameron Dubeers, Doug Easterly, Clint Elliott, Vincent Frugé, Andrew Kenrick, James D. Kramer, Salvatore Macri, Stuart Marshall (deserves bold, don't you think?), Greg Oppedisano, Dominick Pelletier, Phil Reed, Charles Rice, John Riley, Michael Shorten, Artemis Silversmith (can that possibly be a real name?), Randall Stukey, Jan Willem van den Brink, Jason Vey.

That doesn't include everyone that's done work on all of these things, whether supplemental writing, artwork (I probably should make a separate artist list...), editing, etc that make a publication actually happen.

That doesn't include all the bloggers who continually put gaming content on their blogs for these old games (I can't even begin to start listing those, so just click around to your right there in the blogroll, they're easy to find).

That doesn't include all the people I overlooked in making those lists, and the ones I'm not even aware of in the first place.

That doesn't include all of the people who just run and play the games who aren't at all connected to publications.

It is the work of these people that excites me, that cause me to say the work of the OSR is better than the work of TSR. People creating, taking their own vision, their own inspiration and hanging them on the framework that already exists, feeling free and ready to bend that framework as they wish, and not having to answer for it to their peers, to any authority, or to the past. People creating and releasing those creations, for love and money. These are things that TSR actively discouraged and disparaged while it existed.

And I stand beside them, every one of them, as an equal. It is the work of these people, the work of the Old School Renaissance, that inspired me to pick up my own pen and to do some of this myself. I didn't have the confidence or the need before OSRIC, before Pied Piper, before Basic Fantasy RPG, before special 1E Dungeon Crawl releases for Gen Con. Nobody knew who the hell I was before I read the writing of James Maliszewski and Jeff Rients and David Bowman and was inspired to think that maybe I could do that too.

We do not stand on the shoulders of giants. The "giants" which are spoken of are men. Just men. They are creators and wonderful inspirations that continue to provide enjoyment and wonder, but they are not holy figures. They are not sacred.

We build our monuments to honor them because we recognize that they have done great things. But because these monuments contain our own creativity, our own passion, these monuments all have the potential to be worthy enough to stand on their own. Some of these monument makers will themselves be mistaken for giants, and they in turn will inspire those who will one day step out of the shadow of their inspirations.

Anyone who says that this can not possibly happen will be buried under their own irrelevance. Anyone who says that this is not happening right now is being willfully ignorant of all the truly great work being constantly released by many people.

The past does not have exclusive rights to greatness, and the accomplishments of the past are not barriers through which we are forbidden to pass.

Fight On.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A More Considered Response

Read it.

Kask obviously disagrees with things I've said, and I don't mind that at all and I find such disagreements healthy. But he seems to completely misunderstand other things I've said to the point of utter incoherence.

I had typed out a 3000 word response, but this personal sniping is horseshit and there's no point in doing so over blogs and the internet. Escalation won't help.

There are people out there who support what both "sides" are doing and are wincing at this situation.

I ask one of them to act as a go-between. I'd like to talk to Kask. On the phone, on Skype, whatever is most convenient for him. I'll eat long distance charges, I'll make myself available at any time, day or night, at Mr. Kask's convenience.

The disagreements will likely remain disagreements, but I hope to at least clear up any misunderstanding in a personal manner.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Additional Ropecon Notes

In addition to the presentation on the OSR and LotFP I'm giving 8 - 10pm Friday July 23 in the Auditorium, I've been added to a "Game Design and Horror" panel alongside Keith Baker, Friedemann Friese, and Mikko Rautalahti. That will happen 3pm- 4pm Sunday the 25th, also in the big Auditorium.

Keith Baker made Gloom. I like Gloom. This is cool. :D

Also, I said I'd be carrying the entire line of Otherworld Miniatures, but their giants are temporarily out of stock so I won't have those for the con.

Friday, July 9, 2010

LotFP Nominated for an ENnie!

Here is the full list of nominees.

The Grinding Gear is nominated for Best Adventure.
edit: Thanks to Laura Jalo and Ramsey Dow for shaping the presentation of the adventure!

Death Frost Doom got an Honorable Mention for Best Cartography.

Also of Old School interest is Labyrinth Lord getting an Honorable Mention for Best Game.

All Games Considered is nominated for Best Podcast, and I was interviewed on there this past year so they're my favorite.

They are also accepting nominations for Fan Award for Best Publisher here. If you enjoyed Death Frost Doom, No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides, People of Pembrooktonshire, or The Grinding Gear, considering nominating LotFP for this category. Lamentations of the Flame Princess is the company's full name, and the website address is


LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing Credits

... if I've left anyone out or spelled anyone's name wrong, someone better tell me by, say, midnight Sunday-Monday Helsinki time.

James Edward Raggi IV
Writer, Layout Design, Publisher

Caroline Byrne
Maria Kyytinen
David Macauley
Zak Smith
Editing and Proofreading

Luz De Luna Duran
Box and Referee Cover Model

Laura Jalo
Magic Cover Photography

Kevin Mayle
Weird New World Cover Artist

Peter Mullen
Tower of the Stargazer Cover Artist

Marjut Mykkänen
Box and Rules Cover Model

Cynthia Sheppard
Box and Referee and Rules Cover Artist

Amos Orion Sterns
Tutorial Cover Artist

Eero Tuovinen
Box Graphic Design

Karoliina Valli
Magic Cover Model

Ernie Chan
Dean Clayton
Laura Jalo
Kevin Mayle
Amos Orion Sterns
Interior Artwork

Ramsey Dow

Jeremy Jagosz
Character Sheet

Matt Johnsen
Adventure Logos
Miscellaneous Helpings and Sounding Board

Chris Hogan
Michael McClung
David Larkins
James Murphy
Scott S.
Jukka Särkijärvi
Juhani Seppälä
Recommended Reading Essays

Corentin Evens
Anders Korsbäck
Mikael Malmivaara
Elsa Rintala
Juhani Seppälä
Jere Suvanto
Mattias Wikstrom
Tuukka Virtaperko

Dave Arneson
David Cook
Matt Finch
Chris Gonnerman
Gary Gygax
John Eric Holmes
Steve Marsh
Stuart Marshall
Frank Mentzer
Tom Moldvay
Dan Proctor

I Don't Get It

I'm not "fat," I just weigh too much.

I'm not "married," I just have a wife.

I'm not part of the "OSR," I just play the older games or simulacra.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Are YOU Part of the Old-School Renaissance?

Answer the following questions:

  1. Are you playing pre-1989 D&D, or a simulacra unofficially based thereon?
  2. Are you publishing material for those games?

If you answered "yes" to either one of those, you're part of it. If you answered "yes" to both of those, you're so deep into it that you're a spokesman.

There are no membership rosters, no leaders, no applications, no secret handshakes, no consensus, no commitments, and no choice.

The OSR is a description of things people do, and anyone who does those things is part of it.

If you don't want to be part of the OSR, you have but one option: Stop playing the games, and definitely stop publishing for them.

Even worse for you, some people apply the OSR label to a great many games, so even if you put down your D&D, you might not escape.

Just face it.



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Note About Pre-Orders

Everything left for the box is going to the printer on Monday... whether it's ready or not.

That sounds ominous, but all it means is that I might have to draw a couple of the small maps on Weird New World myself late Sunday night and play with the layouts on a couple pages here and there to eliminate layout holes.

I expect to have them back and have the first boxes assembled on Wednesday or Thursday of next week, and would begin taking pre-orders within hours of that.

Read this post about the problems with the Dresden Files pre-orders.

If I have more than a couple dozen pre-orders (or that many orders in a short period of time after release), I will have these problems. My wife packs the orders, because she's good at that sort of thing, and she only has so much time to do this because she works a full-time job. Filling out the customs forms for exporting goods like the game box will take a bit of time for every order, and I'm the only one to do that and then the stuff has to be mailed.

Here is going to be the timeline:

July 14 or 15: Expected date of receiving the last of the box components, pre-orders begin. I will be keeping a public tally of pre-orders received (40 vendor pre-orders thus far!).

July 23 - 25: Ropecon. LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing debuts and is available for sale to Ropecon attendees.

July 26: Shipping begins.

This is the priority for shipping:

  1. European orders. These require no customs forms to ship, so getting them out the door is a matter of walking to the local post office.
  2. Distributor and vendor orders: These will then be shipped Economy class.
  3. Out-of-Europe Priority Mail orders. If people pay for the quicker shipping, they move in front of the people who don't.
  4. Out-of-Europe Economy Mail orders.

Those last three requires me to fill out a form online for each package and then go down to the local customs office with the packages before being able to mail them.

I estimate being able to ship 20 - 25 packages a day, which probably means I actually will be able to manage 10 - 15. Whatever the number is, I will work full-time, tirelessly, to get everything out the door, and email each person when their package ships.

So that's the plan. Any suggestions would be appreciated, but shipping before Ropecon isn't realistic... putting over 600 boxes together will likely take so long that nothing else will be happening between completion of printing and the convention.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The OSR is Better Than TSR

There. I said it.

I just received about 70 pounds of books from the US (addressed to "James Elrond Raggi DCLVI" by some comedian). It is much of the combined work of the OSR. It's missing only two publishers of note - one didn't answer my emails (you failed yourself there bigtime) and one didn't have any non-rulebooks to sell to me (I'm being a corporate asshole and only carrying my core game for Ropecon).

I'm not counting Lulu-only publishers with that, even though two such publishers were able to give me good enough discounts that I ordered some stuff.

So I've been looking through, checking their condition and layout and this and that.

And really... the OSR is producing better stuff than pre-1989 TSR. Post-89 TSR as well but everyone already knows that.

Think rulebooks. Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, and OSRIC are clearer in language, formatted in a superior manner, and are just all-around more usable than the original books while delivering the same game experience.

The supplementary material is far superior. Yes, there are some classic modules from the old days of TSR, a few of which stand so tall that we'll never compare. But not all of them are quite so classic. In fact, some of them are utter shit. Even the worst of the OSR published adventures are better than the worst of the TSR adventures, and the best of the OSR adventures stand proudly alongside the best of the classics in terms of quality.

The non-adventure supplements rock as well. From the Creature Generator to the Dungeon Alphabet to Mythmere's Design Deskbooks, our material certainly is better than the Treasure & Monster Assortments and the Geomorphs of days past.

The magazines are better. Dragon had great stuff, but every issue was packed with material for games we weren't playing. Fight On! and Knockspell are are directly relevant, cover to cover, to the games we are playing.

Eero Tuovinen made a great point to me over the weekend - TSR's great (creative) failing was that they didn't behave like a book publisher. A book publisher will release a great many books by a great many authors dealing with a great many subjects, and they generally do not treat every book as needing to reflect the "brand" or "image" of the company. The TSR releases were certainly all made to conform to the standards and creative vision of the company, whatever they were at the time of release.

The OSR is not bound by such restrictions. So many unique personalities with their own views of how things should be are showing us their particular visions. The variety available for anyone interested mind-boggling. Sure, this creates market saturation, but I firmly believe that every quality product, even if there are 1000 of them, increases our prestige and viability. And there seems to be no end to the quality products in the OSR.

I'm looking at the works of all these publishers, all these creators, and I'm looking at the success some are having with their work.

We're not a niche of a niche anymore. Still a niche, but we've moved up one niche factor.

And I'm goddamn proud to be part of it.

And guys... seriously...

Business is about to pick up.

PS. Matt Finch is a genius.