Saturday, August 21, 2010

Carnifex Reviews LotFP: RPG and other Comments


My comments:

The price is what it is. It should cost $80 based on my costs, but I did not count art costs towards the final pricing. Short-run boxes are a bitch that way. I could have skimped on certain things and brought the price way down, but I had no idea if anyone was going to care and I feared I might have only one shot at it so I went all-out. No apologies.

Race-as-Class. If I were to change anything (and I'm not planning to in this case), it would be to remove the races so it's just the four prime classes. There's a sweet spot for character options and switches and for optimum game-play I fear I actually have too many. But I had to make Specialists and Fighters comparable to the spellcasters (and I toned down the cleric since they've always been THE CLASS in my campaigns despite having insanely low XP charts), so there ya go.

This reminds me of something else which is not connected but I think vaguely related: this post on reinforces my thoughts on Traditional vs. New - or should I say my play style versus assumed playstyles. I really think 3.xe and 4e players look at traditional PCs and think of things entirely in terms of combat and combat options.

"Magic-Users get to cast one spell and then are useless all day" is the sign of either a shitty player ("Whatever else can I do if my mechanical advantages don't apply?") or bad refereeing ("This dungeon, like every other in the campaign, is FULL OF COMBAT and menace behind EVERY CORNER so ZAP ZAP ZAP!").

With Weird New World, and things in Death Ferox Doom and other ideas I'm working on, I certainly tried to pull back the focus from necessarily being on the "15 minute work day." Certainly I try to build dungeons to where combat efficacy is not the be-all and end-all (some exceptions of course, but there always should be some exceptions to any stance taken towards designing adventures) so everyone, even if they are theoretically playing the 0 level, 2hp torch-bearer, can contribute.

This isn't an edition problem (although later editions do cater more to the "I want something mechanical to do at all times" folks, obviously), it's a player expectation problem.

And the monster book, as I take notes, is quickly becoming a book of Monsters You Really Don't Want to Fight. Plot-monsters, whereas the Creature Generator was pretty much just for making monsters intended to be fought. Things seem to fall into place - for things you fight, you don't want the players to have encyclopedic knowledge of their foes as that makes it more a meta-gaming exercise ("Don't hit the Shambling Mound with the lightning bolt, but do burn that troll!") rather than an extension of exploration and discovery.

But for a monster book full of things to be fought against, rather than battled, a more standardized form can work, as player knowledge gives them something to work around. There will be standard, known monsters in this book (lycanthropes, unicorns, dragons, etc) because the folklore behind the actual physical beastie is too rich to not be used (which it isn't if it's just placed in Room 8e with some combat stats), but there will also be "familiar" things which I haven't seen utilized for game purposes too much (Prophets, Witches, Shadow People), literary swipes I haven't really seen used in these games (Serpent Men, Martians, The Observers), plus some areas where I just go nuts (The Evolved, Jackal-Born, Knights of Science full class writeup, etc).

As for how the game is doing - It hit #1 at Noble Knight and stays there over new Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons products, it peaked at #6 on RPGNow (damn superhero *PDFs grumblecakes*), and it seems to be doing well over at Troll and Toad. It still isn't up at IPR (I think that's my fault gumming up the works there). and I've had no word how well it's doing elsewhere.

I do know I have about 160 left here (print run 620), and it hasn't been a month since release. Can you believe I have days where I'm resenting the fact that they're not all gone yet? :P

I am sending a letter to the Finnish tax office to get a specific clarification about free PDFs with purchase of a print product. If that's going to open me up to greater tax liability, I won't do it. Can't. If they are reasonable people, then I will offer free PDFs with print purchase no matter where you buy the thing (proof of purchase required of course). It's the Finnish tax office, so I expect the answer won't arrive for months.

I'm spending way too much for art for the next two releases. Death Ferox Doom will have more than 50 full-page illustrations, designed to be shown to the players, and the adventure should fill at least three sessions, becoming its own campaign if you get into it enough. The monster book (I need a name, don't I?) is penciled in to be a 128 page perfect-bound book and I hope to have an illustration for every monster in the book. 18,75€ pricing for both ($23.83 according to today's exchange rates) is the general ballpark of pricing I'm looking at, but all of this is just random planning.

It's quite late to be organizing it, but I'm going to try to be at Stockholm Spelkonvent September 17 - 19. Not word yet on whether I can get to Essen for Spiel in October.


  1. Jim wrote: I really think 3.xe and 4e players look at traditional PCs and think of things entirely in terms of combat and combat options.

    A good point, and one I've blogged about quite extensively. Later editions of D&D are 90% about combat and making your characters better at combat by min-maxing character builds, magic items, etc. The assumption is, that unless a character has things to do in combat all the time, the character is sub-par (boring, underpowered, a gimp, call it what you will).

  2. You're also on the top 10 list of Fantasiapelit's RPG products sold for the past 30 days. List looks like this:

    1. Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide (HC)
    2. Dark Sun Campaign Setting (HC)
    3. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Game 3rd Edition Core Set
    4. Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook (HC)
    5. Return of the Scarlet Empress (HC)
    6. Lamentations of the Flame Princess -The Weird Fantasy Role-Playing
    7. Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide (HC)
    8. Dark Sun Creature Catalog
    9. Pathfinder Bestiary 1 (HC)
    10. Kauhun Ja Pimeyden Kultit

    The rest of the list is mostly occupied by the regulars (WotC, Paizo, FFG). Noting that #10 on the list is a nineties Finnish translation of an old Runequest supplement, I'll make an educated guess that they've sold about 3-4 copies of the LotFP games.

  3. Don't let the review bother you. He's just got a different gaming aesthetic that doesn't mesh with your game.

  4. If you start from the assumption that D&D is about combat, then I suppose their assumptions make a sort of sense.

    But then, I'm not sure how you start with that assumption and then don't go on to realize that Charisma is the most important combat stat of the six in the classic games. ;p

    Really looking forward to DFD and the monster book. And yeah, it needs a better, more evocative name than just "LotFP Bestiary" or similar.

  5. With you 100% on the combat issue.

    For monsters, this is why bare-bones monster lists + simple systems to facilitate GM homebrews are best. Also, GMs being smart and messing with player expectations regarding immunities and so on. Would be neat to operate something like the "random immunities and vulnerabilities" chart from the Tom Wham boardgame Awful Green Things.

    I didn't have a picture of Essen as being a big RPG market event. But then I have never been.

  6. I'm impressed and pleased you care so much about the art. Too few do these days, and I'm not talking about RPG publishing exclusively. Any chance you're still looking for artists?

    The combat thing - I think it's all on the DM and the players, regardless of edition. I'm running some 3e games, actually, and while combat is a big deal (because my players enjoy it), I taught them to take other things into consideration by throwing stuff at them they had no chance of killing in a direct confrontation, or saddling them with innocents they had a vested interest in keeping alive. So far I don't feel like I'm swimming uphill against the rules, but we'll see as they level up.

  7. Always looking for artists. Email me a link to a gallery and rates.

  8. Someone else who uses "grumblecakes"!