Wednesday, June 15, 2011


As in, "doing projects."

Ready for a good long rambling read? I know you are!

Here's where things are right now:

Exquisite Corpses
Several things are still up in the air about the presentation. Ball's in Poag's court here; it's his byline and so his pride and reputation. We don't proceed until he's happy with what we're doing.

We're going with someone else to do layout. I'm waiting for a quote back from the printer about another option that will affect the page design, and once I get that we'll move forward. We need a basic layout before giving instructions on most of the art (for Grindhouse I ended up with piles of unused art because of plans changing between original commissioning and the project going to press, and I would like to not repeat that), so we've still got time to go here. Maps are 95% done though (100% done if we don't end up fine-tuning any more).

Isle of the Unknown
New art deadline is August 1. This has a clearer art direction. "Each monster gets a pic, each of the mages gets a full page pic." Most of the mage pics are done... maybe I should pop up a preview or two soon. And when all that's done, we'll bend the layout to fit this scheme.

All these things prove that I should never estimate release dates, not even as open as giving a season. Things get done when they get done, and rushing for some artificially set deadline just compromises the quality of the release. Sure we could have rushed Carcosa for Ropecon and GenCon, for instance, but it's going to be a whole lot better because we decided not to.

I Dunno What It Is Yet
The first third-party publication for LotFP: RPG might be released as early as next week. I have literally no idea what it is yet, what it's about, what the tone will be, or what. Watch this space!

Something Else in the Works
Fellow bloggers are working on a project to be released by LotFP. I'm told to expect one of these projects in the fall.

Then there are my projects.

Death Ferox Doom
Writing is pretty much done, but the artist I'm going to use here has Carcosa to do, and Carcosa is the priority between the two. (also, commissioning art for 348923742 projects at once is a good way to run out of cash to do anything at all) People are going to be in shock and awe at this one. It's going to push buttons, but that's just the cannibal gimmick - the actual adventure is breathtaking. But I may be biased.

Insect Shrine of Goblin Hill
I still knock it around a bit, but it was fundamentally designed as a D&D-style module, what with the goblins and the standard menagerie hanging about. The Insect Shrine itself is pure weirdness and can pretty much stand as written, but all that other stuff would have to be redone to fit with my current preferences and thinking.

1 and 20 Combat Result Card Deck (not the real title)
Roll a 1 or a 20 in combat? Draw a card! I don't want to call them "critical hits" or "fumbles" since my idea is to have results that are often disassociated with the actual combat action taken. A "20" doesn't necessarily mean a more spectacular hit with these cards, but a boon in general. Here are examples of the design ideas I'm working with:

Sample 1 draw: "Your fellow PCs may take some, all, or none of the XP you earn this session for themselves, to be divided as they wish"

Sample 20 draw: "Your attack actually misses and your foe gets an immediate free attack against you, but you gain +1 Wisdom from the experience"

The idea is to have as little of the boring "max damage!" or "2x damage!" or "arm injury!" results as possible.

Basically every combat turns into a potential campaign twister and source of amusement beyond who lost how many hit points.

Transylvania 1600 (not the real title)
I don't expect to start play on it until the fall, so this is a longterm project. I've got a load of history books on the way for research to get it right. The Ottoman Empire books have already arrived.

The idea is it'll be a sandbox full of neat stuff, with several larger events which move according to a timeline. Some will roll along regardless of what the PCs do, some the PCs can influence.

I'd originally thought I was going to make some BS Countess Bathory vs Count Dracula nonsense, but then my preliminary research found the Bathory name all over the list of Transylvanian rulers. Now one of the ideas is still going to be full of Countess Bathory vs Count Dracula nonsense, but it won't be BS.

(I'll also move the work I did on that 'Tuberculoids' idea into this sandbox. Styria, Transylvania, what the hell's the difference, never been to either place and it'll all be crap to people from either area anyway!)

Referee Screen
The cards I know I could publish with durable high quality cards and pro packaging and be competitive with Paizo's pricing for such card decks. I'm still waiting for the screen quote, so this may still be pie in the sky at the print runs that are realistic for me. I can't do something like Death Watch's screen, and thin screens like the old AD&D screen or Mutants & Masterminds screen is below my physical quality standards.

But what I am looking at is a 30cm x 84cm screen, divided up into four panels, on laminated, die-cut board. Getting a good price on high quality artwork is going to be a killer for that size, not to mention figuring out a composition that both gets across all the themes of the game I want to emphasize and doesn't look an incoherent mess will me challenging.

You'd be able to use whiteboard markers on this and wipe it off with dry cloth, so although it would be a bit awkward writing on a standing screen, customized or blank areas are possible. Hmm, if the basic screen is affordable, maybe I should ask about an option that'll have a panel or two flat on the table for the Ref side...

Ref Screen Extras
It's customary to include some extra bits with a screen. I have four ideas for 16 page booklets. I think I could reasonably get two in one screen. But which two?

The Gun Rules (not the real title)
This is definitely would be going in. 16 pages on guns and cannons circa 1600. Maybe a mass combat system and a retooling of the maritime exploration rules, depending on what fits.

The Book of Witchcraft (not the real title)
Rules for bringing the Malleus Malificarum into game terms. As I move more to a "Weird Earth" interest (against my own Ref book advice... typical), things like this interest me. What if all that stuff was real? This book would present an entirely new system of magic to work alongside the standard system, and give an explanation of how Christianity and Satanism are altogether separate and distinct from the current LotFP magic and alignment systems (add in the good/evil axis, or make a new Holy/Unholy axis? "My Character is Chaotic Holy!" "Yeah? Mine is Neutral Unholy!"). But witchcraft would not use memorized spell slots, and any character class (or 0-level commoner) could use it... if they are willing to pay the price.

Approaching the subject will be tricky as it deals with a lot of real world religions that real world people practice. But witchcraft as witches today practice is not the witchcraft of the Malleus Malificarum which completely changes the dynamic. The actual historic text is also horribly misogynistic. "All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable" and all that.

But working with anything historical, from the Inquisition to this sort of vigilante witch-hunting, from slavery to colonialism in Africa, Asia, or the Americas, is going to necessitate dealing with horrific things. And Weird Fantasy Role-Playing has that flavor. And I have no dog in this fight. I'm not a witch, I'm not a Christian, and no have interest in one looking better or worse than the other. Fact is Christians were fucking assholes to each other and to other religions in this time period, and if witches were as described in the MM, they'd hardly be sympathetic figures themselves. So...

Anyway, Luna (model for the snake demon up on the banner here as well as the frisky medusa in the Grindhouse box) is on board to be the insatiable witch in a series of photos to use as art. It's easy to keep photos in-period when you're not wearing any clothes, right? And we have to figure out where to find a goat's head, maybe a slaughterhouse or something. We'll see if this works out and looks good.

This is a fascinating subject and I want to do it, but I think it would be easier to get it into 16 pages and call it done than to do a 64 or 96 page supplement, which would be a major project.

A couple of short adventure ideas as well for inclusion in the screen.

The Monolith from Beyond Space and Time
In colonial New England, settlers want to move into this idyllic valley. Hell, even the Indians don't live there, so there's not even any conflict to be had. Just one problem... there's this weird rock there. It creeps people out. You're brave and adventurous explorers, take care of that for us?

The stone is of course the titular monolith, which indeed is from beyond space and time. Approaching the thing is difficult because of these distortions, and looking upon it is its own problems because sight is how its creators transmit information. You can leave it but it won't leave you no matter how far you run. And its guardian does not exist, so you can't stop it. But you do exist, so it can stop you.

I described all the ideas for all the grief this thing will cause PCs and players, and my wife asked, "What's in it for them then?" Don't know yet. See, the rewards and treasures are not the interesting parts of an adventure. Rewards are a consolation prize. "Here, this wasn't a waste of your time and complete masochistic enterprise!" The challenge of an adventure is everything interesting about an adventure, so that's all I've come up with so far.

The Thing In The Barn
Some wizard wants you to get some fragments off a meteor that fell off in the countryside near some village.

Of course things are a bit more complicated once you get there.

(it's interesting, I promise, but telling why would give the game away!)

About these 16 Pagers

I am hesitant to release modules in the format of Death Frost Doom, Grinding Gear, and Hammer of the Gods anymore. Grindhouse has outsold Grinding Gear and Hammers, to give you an idea. Whether they don't sell as much because they're "just adventures," or whether people really do prefer to pay for a more deluxe format than a saddle-stitched short booklet, I don't know. Or maybe a new release of this type would do quite well because my profile in the RPG community has climbed up a notch since the last one.

(this is a worthwhile topic for someone to explore: Do people who spend money on RPG products tend to prefer the things they buy to be a bigger and more impressive rather than cheaper and simpler formats?)

When it comes to actual costs involved, a 64 or even 96 page perfect bound book (like the Grindhouse Tutorial or Referee book) with a color cover is no more expensive to print than Death Frost Doom at a certain print run, which has not a drop of color anywhere in it. That's mindblowing and gamechanging.

So throwing out this Monolith idea as its own product makes me worried that it would just die on its own as a product. As a value-added bit to a bigger product like a screen? Might be seen and used more.

But would a 64 or 96 page adventure priced the same as the smaller booklet adventures (or nearly so, would need a bit more art than the smaller adventures) sell any better? (assuming equal quality, which is a wild card in all this)

It'll be interesting to find out.

A note about layouts and page counts and stuff.

Paper is cheap. You know those complaints about the headers in the Grindhouse Edition? The Tutorial and Referee books would have cost more to print at 64 pages than at their current 96. So if Carcosa's (or any of them) layout ideas means it's 32, 64, 96, however many pages more than if we slammed everything in, that increases the cost of the book a lot less than you think. (there might be other considerations that do increase the cost, such as a bigger book being more expensive to ship, but the actual number of pages in the book is not the price driver)

In particular, I want to mention that while Zak's example in Vornheim is truly excellent and will influence some decisions, we won't be aping it. Every project is different and has different needs. Sometimes you want to slam everything in there in as tight a space as possible. Sometimes you want to make something look like stereotypically so-called good design.

Nobody but Zak has Zak's instincts anyway, so a WWZD? mindset will only end in tears anyway.

This is the priority list for LotFP releases:

  1. Content. Without good content, presentation doesn't mean shit.
  2. Useability. RPGs are reference books, so the layout needs to serve the book's ease of use at the table.
  3. Looking good. After the first two items are taken care of, then we push the thing right to the moon and make the book a must-have by making it a thing of utter beauty (as determined by what the project is, not an objective standard that every project will conform to).

That's the theory anyway. Whether it actually works out that way is for you guys to decide.

So work continues. Eventually something will get done and then I'll be all like "IZ HEER, GIMME YOUR MONEEZ!" and you'll be all "HERE IZ OUR MONEEZ!" and I'll be all like "COOLZ, I CAN HAS MONEYZ TO FINANCE THE NEXT PROJECT NAO!!!!!"


  1. Re: your Transylvania adventure. If you need help on Hungarian names or beliefs, I'll be happy to help.

  2. "I am hesitant to release modules in the format of Death Frost Doom, Grinding Gear, and Hammer of the Gods anymore."

    I'm sad. :( I LOVE the small booklet format. It's perfect for the game table.

  3. I do too... the main reason is the detached cover is great for having a full-sized map.

    If that won't work anymore (and I did say I'm hesitant about them, not that I'm giving up!), I will make sure whatever format the adventures are released in are useful and don't get in the way of running the adventure.

  4. I love the small booklet scenarios as well ; the format makes them much more easy to incorporate into existing campaigns. How about trying a compendium format - half a dozen small adventures bound as a single 96pp volume?

    As to the rest, and from my point of view, the things I'd like to see most are the Transylvania book and the firearms booklet since they seem very relevant to the kind of 16th-century-ish campaign I'm hoping to run. At the other end of the scale, the things I can't get myself excited at are the cards and the witchcraft book.

  5. Alright, I'll have to get some cash ready for the summer/autumn. Looks like TONS of goodness are coming our way!

  6. Looking forward to seeing all of this come to fruition. I'm getting ready to run DFD for some of my players in my Vornheim game. We'll see how they do :)

  7. Well, every RPG book based on Transylvania I have had the misfortune of seeing was horrible junk, so it's not like it is hard to do better than them. ;)

    "I am hesitant to release modules in the format of Death Frost Doom, Grinding Gear, and Hammer of the Gods anymore. Grindhouse has outsold Grinding Gear and Hammers, to give you an idea. Whether they don't sell as much because they're "just adventures," or whether people really do prefer to pay for a more deluxe format than a saddle-stitched short booklet, I don't know. Or maybe a new release of this type would do quite well because my profile in the RPG community has climbed up a notch since the last one."
    That's too bad, because aside from Vornheim, those have been my favourites. It is a bit like how Necromancer Games stopped printing small modules after a while, or how James Mishler inexplicably moved from intriguing stuff to "100 Random Curses" and "100 Street Vendors from the City State"-type shovelware before going out of business. Don't be like that James.

  8. Uhmn... many interesting projects there!!!

  9. Very, very impressive and cool projects.

    I really hope evreything comes out as planned* (or better) !

    *Including, problems with French La Poste...

  10. I'm also a big fan of the pamphlet/booklet sized adventure/manual. Affordability and elegance go well together.

  11. Yeah, echoing what Melanie said - the rep was built on really excellent adventures, and the idea of moving into more settings is really cool, but don't lose the roots.


  12. That should be Melan... Stupid auto correct.

  13. I think you should start rolling like comic book companies and package up several of those existing modules into one larger anthology book.

    It seems like they'd sell, plus you'd get a chance to fix things you didn't like in the originals and people would get a chance to see the modules they wouldn't be likely to buy on their own.

  14. I love the small booklet adventures, too...that said I would love them even more if they were laid out like the pdfs with a higher page count and not double column with a small font. These eyes are starting to get a bit old...

  15. Adventure modules have never really been big sellers in comparison to rulebooks, since they are only really appreciated by less than half of your target audience (the GMs.) Including them with a screen is a sure way to get a module into the hands on the screen purchaser and provides incentive to purchase the screen.

    Also, like Zak S said, packaging them in an anthology would definitely be cool.

  16. Wow, not only are you going to get a bunch of my money but you're also huckstering me into buying the same product twice in many instances ;)

    Wish that monster book you mentioned was still happening!

  17. Also, in case you're seeking any Death Ferox Doom playtesting... MEMEMEMEMEMEME!!!

  18. This is the priority list for LotFP releases:
    1 Content. Without good content, presentation doesn't mean shit.
    2 useability = layout
    3 looking good

    You don't believe in 1.

  19. I also love the saddle-stitched, card cover adventures, I think it is a mistake for OSR publishers to try to package their adventures like modern ones. The small form is easy to use at the table and their length makes them perfect for an evening or two of gaming. Adventure anthologies often leave me cold, because for every gem there are often on or two that are fit in for fill.

    Some of these smaller projects sound like you might be better off taking Green Devil Face to a 96p printed format and using it to air smaller expansions and adventures.

    I support a screen in whatever format you choose, and if it is as deluxe as you say, you could forgo having any sort of printed insert if price point becomes an issue.

  20. I thought when Zak started talikng about doing comic style releases he was going to suggest multiple collector covers, maybe some foil issues or holograms.


  21. Sorry to get to the party late, but I kinda have to chime in... as someone who buys almost everything you release, my thoughts are these:

    64 pages for one adventure would be too much. One thing that I love about your modules is the efficient presentation - I can actually read the whole thing in an evening or two and remember enough of it to be able to run it effectively on the weekend. So please, don't do 64+ page adventures. 32 I could take, with a little bit more art than in past modules (So really more like 24-28 pages + art).

    I would have no issue, though with 'double feature' modules - two 32 page modules in a 64 page book. Especially if you did them similarly to the old Ace Doubles line of classic sci-fi books - basically, one book layed out upside down with respect to the other so that the book has two 'front' covers and split labeling on the spine. That would be awesome, and I would gleefully buy the shit out of them.