Tuesday, November 30, 2021

WHY I PUBLISHED... #1: The Book of Antitheses!

'allo all!

On October 25 we made 10 new releases available from https://www.lotfp.com/store/ ; eight for sale, and two freebies to entice purchase.
I'm going taking a few minutes every day or five to explain why I decided to publish the items I did, and I will do so in order from what I expected to be the most generally acceptable to what I expect to be the most controversial.
Now coming in at #1: The Book of Antitheses!
It's been a little bit before this final entry because I've both been swamped with other publisher duties, and frankly I've never known what to make of this book.
When Jobe pitched it to me, my thinking was "well, I have absolutely no idea what he's talking about, but why not?" When the book started to take shape, my thinking was "I don't understand this at all. What is this? I guess I'll just have to publish it to find out what happens." The process of understanding what it is that I would be publishing became like an LotFP adventure itself... yeah, it starts innocuously, but by the end I was entangled in some sort of cosmic horror that would be with me forever.
Because the beautiful, and terrifying thing about Jobe Bittman, is that he really seems to just not give a shit, in the best and fearless of ways. Telling him "no" seems to me to be an act of cultural vandalism, frankly. This stuff needs to be out there in the world, changing it. But... that change might itself be cultural vandalism. I have no idea. But that's the best place to be, not knowing what something is exactly or how it will be received. That means it's real.
I'm sure I've told this story before, but when Jobe had first turned in his draft for Towers Two, it was right before the UK Games Expo, in 2014 or 2015, I forget. So I read it on the plane over to Birmingham, and it was just insane. Cuntwhip? Deathfuck magic? The antagonist's goal is to WHAT for WHAT purpose? I had two thoughts as I touched down in Birmingham and then made my way to the venue to set up my booth... "this is going to kill my company" and "I can't wait to tell EVERY SINGLE PERSON I MEET ABOUT THIS PROJECT I'M DOING!" I remember cornering Monte Cook and Shanna Germain near the elevator in the venue and not shutting the fuck up about it. (I also remember being at the airport going home from Gen Con 2017, ending up in the same waiting area as those two and telling my already ex-wife I'd brought with me "Those are the people I'm rebelling against!" as a public spectacle. In good fun, really, but who the hell knows how it was actually received.)
Some of the early bits of Antitheses were intriguing to me. Jobe brought in Benjamin Marra, "a Grammy nominated artist," and my first concern was "does this guy know what he's getting into?" I wasn't familiar with him, it was immediately after The Events of 2019, and I had nightmares of some mainstream normie artist being recruited and then being horrified at what his art was attached to in the final product. But I was sent a copy of Marra's American Blood and had a chat with him, and of all the problems I'm volunteering for with this book and this job... this wasn't one of them.
Jobe also wanted to know if we could have a hole in the cover of the book. I'd seen such things in softcover books, but never hardcover. But the printer said that's not a problem.
OK. So we had a concept I didn't understand, a product that I had no clue about how I'd present or what use it could possibly be to anyone, and I couldn't have been more excited. The way I imagine some gamer that's only ever played WotC D&D or Pathfinder and then coming into contact with LotFP, that's how I was feeling with this. No fucking clue what was going on, and loving that I had no fucking clue what was going on. This was going to be a great big major thing for LotFP!
One thing I glommed onto was the numerology section. Now numerology is one of the things that ruined Coast to Coast AM for me after George Noory took over the show, all numerology and angels and a lot less of the hardcore weird that Art Bell would present. And here was some friggin numerology in this book proving that the very roots of the industry were Satanic. I had to remind Jobe that he was publishing for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and maybe acknowledge that in the numerology section. 😛
And now that I'm talking about that section, I guess it's time for a little discussion about how real this all is. I have no idea if all the math adds up in that section. I assume Jobe ran the numbers, I don't even know if the editor did... but as far as I'm concerned, numerology that is mathematically accurate and numerology that doesn't add up is all equally nonsense. I published this book because it's interesting and prickly and an entirely different state of mind than I have or that as far as I know any gamers have, and that's enough for me. I don't believe the "magick" in this book is any more real than the butt parasite weapon in Monolith or Xaxus or Wiki Dot Pod.
Does Jobe believe it? I... don't know. I think I asked a couple years back, but frankly it's irrelevant to me so I didn't retain the information. As far as I'm concerned, I'm publishing gaming material. "It's all made up," is my stock in trade and hardly a strike against else I'd publish, so I wouldn't consider it a strike against this one either. If he does believe it... well... good for him. Maybe he began the whole thing as a joke and worked himself into a shoot. It's not my job to judge or police someone's beliefs, it's just my job to make sure the material is presented well.
So after the layout was completed and the artwork started to come together, I really started getting what Jobe was doing. Seeing it all organized rather than a giant text dump does wonders for comprehension sometimes. (too bad I can't afford to have every first draft submission laid out before trying to read it. 😛)
And the "magick" on offer? It's not so different from what I do before games. Because there's what I call "wizard" magic, and then there's what I consider the pretentious label of "magick" applied to basically meditation and mental focus techniques. And I have anxiety and panic before game sessions. "Oh my god, a bunch of people are coming over and then I have to not waste their time and I hope the game is fun AHHHHHHHHH PEOPLE WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE PEOPLE" kind of mentality. I've never ever not once hosted a game where I wasn't hoping that everyone would get sick and not be able to come at the last minute. Anxiety is real!
So I have some techniques, rituals if you will, to get me calmed down and focused before a session starts. They aren't the same techniques that Jobe details in Antitheses, but I've never seen any similar thing addressed seriously in a game book before. Referee/GM advice in game books is about how to prepare THE GAME. How to run THE GAME. Not how to prepare YOURSELF, not how to run YOURSELF.
So it hit me like the clicheverbial ton of bricks: I don't believe at all in what the book is saying, but I believe 100% in what the book is doing.
Holy shit. This book really is going to be huge.
And then there was the adventure, where Jobe has his usual "I belong in a loony bin" imagination runs wild, what with the butt-faces and 'Poor People' listed in the adventure's bestiary, presented in a novel way and I can't wait to hear the play experiences from people in the wider world.
There is the fact that the book is an in-game object, so there's this thing where it exists for both the real people around the table and the characters they're playing, and how that works. (are there really guns small enough to fit through the hole? Was Jobe working with a larger hole in his playtests? have fun with that one)
Then there was the issue of the runes. The method I used to read them was cheating... and we took some steps to make sure others can't do that. All that stuff is actual writing. More content for the diligent (or the not-so-diligent once some buttface posts a transcription).
Then there was the foreword. Jobe had trouble getting someone to do that, and the list of names he both proposed and tried to recruit I'm sure would result in many annoying comments. The person who did do it, J.F. Martel, was perfect. He cohosts the Weird Studies podcast ("a series of conversations on art and philosophy, dwelling on ideas that are hard to think and art that opens up rifts in what we are pleased to call 'reality.'") and is a published author (his book Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice is very interesting)... and he delivered 4000 (!) words for the foreward of Antitheses, really digging into some things. And the message? At least the one I strongly received from it? The evangelicals were exactly right about D&D and the reason it didn't transform the world is because people only saw it as an entertaining diversion.
And that... that's disturbing. One of the driving forces of my life has been imagination and creation (more enjoying others' than doing my own most of my life) and encouraging and fighting for freer expression of the same, which is necessary since much of my taste is... let's just say not very classy, so it's under constant attack, so it needs defense.
But what if all the accusations are true? What of the defense?
Well... I've already addressed this in years past. Something along the lines of "If the King in Yellow was a real play and it truly caused madness and death, that would still not be grounds for censoring or banning it."
That's what I think.
So what if I'm wrong about what gaming is, and the effect it has (and also wrong about the actual effects of my "edgy" tastes and publications), but also at the same time still right about the defense? Or what if I'm wrong about the defense because what I do isn't what I think I'm doing?
ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh my brain hurts.
What if I haven't published a game book?
What if unbeknownst to me I've published a book that is real, and speaks only the truth?
Do you read Sutter Kane?

Sunday, November 21, 2021

WHY I PUBLISHED... #2: The Butchery of Agnes Gooder!

'allo all!

On October 25 we made 10 new releases available from https://www.lotfp.com/store/ ; eight for sale, and two freebies to entice purchase.
Packing and shipping from that initial avalanche of orders is DONE! But while there are other duties, I'm going to take a few minutes every day or five to explain why I decided to publish the items I did, and I will do so in order from what I expected to be the most generally acceptable to what I expect to be the most controversial.
Now coming in at #2: The Butchery of Agnes Gooder!
So late last year, I was thinking of how the catalogs I'd pass out at conventions were a good way to hook people. Product descriptions, a good piece of art to hook people in, I think it's one of the few promotional ideas I've had that was just gold star quality... (developed because I hated the constant banter of trying to hook interest and sum up the game to random passersby... carnival barker plus flyer is more my speed in that environment) But all our 2020 conventions were canceled, and 2021 was not looking good either at the time (we ended up not traveling internationally for the conventions that did happen), so I had the idea of doing a freebie thing to encourage more direct orders.
The idea was an A3 page folded to A5 size, to easily add to orders and not add to the postage weight. On one side of the page would be "cover" art, product information and general boilerplate stuff. On the other side would be an A3-sized adventure (which would dictate what the art would be).
So I made an open call for pitches, and ended up getting four or five of them submitted. But of course the first one was going to cost a whole lot more money than budgeted... because this fuckin' guy had an idea that would require TWO folded sheets, and two additional pieces of art, because there was a sort of paper doll thing going on with it. So clever, so good, so greenlit.
It's definitely in the deep end of the LotFP pool as far as content. And not everyone who likes LotFP likes the nasty stuff. Because contrary to what you may have heard, we do release a good amount of material that works with general audiences. And now people after the easier stuff is going to get some hardcore LotFP that they didn't ask for.
And I started stressing about it ten months before it was released: https://www.facebook.com/groups/lotfp/posts/2451894658453200
The thing about LotFP, a big problem, actually, has to do with the question "Is this a good idea?" I imagine most other publishers don't stress too much about this. I think they're able to separate "Does this appeal to me personally?" and "Will this sell well/is this a good idea for my business?" and separate their personal taste from their professional activities.
Me? "Does this appeal to me personally" is all there is. What is the bloody point of going through all the hassle of running a business, of living with the chaos and constant uncertainty that comes with being a small-time operator in the "culture industry," if not to trust myself and be me in choosing projects and how they are presented?
So... the intended cheap freebie that's just had its art cost tripled and printing cost more than doubled (the second sheet requires special folding), that'll piss off some unknown number of my most valuable customers to boot... the concept appealed to me, so fuck it, it happens.
Sorry to all you Glynn Seal fans who only wanted a completely inoffensive book of maps. 😛
So much of this business is just saying "fuck it" and leaping into the void with blind faith that there's a soft landing at the bottom. The entire industry is a bad idea to begin with... "Hey, let's codify and sell ways for people to play pretend with each other! You know, things people can already do without outside help!" was iffy enough as it is as the basis for an industry, but almost 50 years later adding on "... even though there are already a million choices out there, many of them available for free!" So yeah, "is this a good idea to release?" really doesn't even have a rational basis to even be asked because if I was so worried about good ideas I'd be selling insurance or something instead of ever doing this in the first place. So fuck it.
Anyhow, to me personally (I do remember my ex-wife telling me to never follow the golden rule because I'm so weird that following it would only offend everyone else) the thing shouldn't actually be offensive to anyone who was a fan of NCIS or Silent Witness. But RPG people are bizarre.
And the cover art pictured here was not part of the original idea... but it needed a cover, and considering what the inside art pieces are, I decided to take the idea from Deicide's Once Upon the Cross cover art since it would apply very well here.
The back cover format we'll be using for these things is an adaptation of the Grindcrusher compilation cover art. That thing was so valuable to me when I was just starting to get into death metal and grindcore in 1992. It's been released with a variety of different color schemes for the cover, but the one we used here is the same as the cassette copy I had back in the day.
The other promo freebie concepts that were accepted will be released in the months and (hopefully not too many) years to come. Buy from the EU webstore so I run out of copies of this one and have to move on to the next!
WHY I PUBLISHED #1 soon! You should be able to figure out which one it is.

Friday, November 19, 2021

WHY I PUBLISHED... #3: Asterion!

'allo all!

On October 25 we made 10 new releases available from https://www.lotfp.com/store/ ; eight for sale, and two freebies to entice purchase.
I'm going to take a few minutes every day or five to explain why I decided to publish the items I did, and I will do so in order from what I expected to be the most generally acceptable to what I expect to be the most controversial.
Now coming in at #3... Asterion!
I was first pitched the project in August 2020. It had a basic layout, was very short. My response was, "How would you feel about expanding this concept into a proper adventure for publication?" and also had the note "would need to sophisticate up the minotaur a bit (couldn't just be SEX MONSTER, have to be something 'real' and able to be interacted with in real ways in there)."
We went back and forth for a couple weeks, then... time passed. I had honestly forgotten all about it.
So this past June, I get an email with an updated product, with a fresh, slick layout and all, with this note: "You said Asterion couldn't just be a horny man bull and I took that as a challenge to prove he could."
I admired the chutzpah of the author in defying my notes, because it actually worked. It was still a short ziney sort of thing, so my thinking was as a quick, simple concept it was OK in a way it might not have been if it was a 48 page adventure of horny man bull.
But the truth was the devil-may-care attitude in the product (in full form right there on the cover!), the atmosphere created by only using Metropolitan Museum pieces in the layout as art, and the fact that this was all intended in the spirit of naughty fun very easily won me over. I wanted to release this!
Since it was so short, it wasn't going to be a hardcover book or anything, so I wasn't going to print thousands of them and try to push it through retail. As a direct-order-only limited run? Why the fuck not.
One problem. It really is all about a horny man bull who wants to fuck you whether you want to be fucked or not. People get... testy... about that sort of thing in media in general and gaming in particular. Especially when presented in a decidedly unserious way. (I treated myself to the Boiled Angel collector's boxed set from my take of the spectacular sales last year's release cycle, so that tells you right there what my thoughts are on that matter... just imagine the finger-involved gesture I'm making right now at the frowny-faced brigade right now)
I do believe that anything that happens, or has happened, or might happen, or could be imagined happening, belongs in fiction, and anything in fiction belongs in gaming. And if this sort of thing specifically can be in novels and movies and music and GREEK FUCKING MYTHS, it can be in gaming. Other people disagree, but then that's why there are multiple people all making things according to their own philosophies and taste.
But I didn't want to hear the blah blah blah over this with all the other blah blah blah I was likely to hear with this release cycle, so I just put it front and center in the promo material. People have seen their twitch channels crash when dealing material even in the general direction of this sort of thing, and there have been controversy and all sorts of shit when people introduce this kind of material in convention games.
So that's what the promo blurb said. This is what it is, you either want it or you don't. No surprises.
Then there is the disclaimer blurb on the back cover... that comes from a copy of 120 Days of Sodom I have, produced in 2008, which contains this blurb on the copyright page: "This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today. Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race have changed before allowing them to read this classic work."
whaaaaaaaaaaat? That's what you're worried about kids taking away from that story? They're having a laugh with that, right?
But the idea of parents presenting 120 Days in Sodom to their kids to read was hilarious to me, and the idea of parents sitting down to play Asterion with their kids is similarly hilarious, so... that explains the back cover.
Fun fact: A couple days ago DriveThru informed me they will not carry Asterion. Someone remind me at the beginning of September to put together a real presentation next year for Banned Books week because we've got quite the collection of publications that have been banned from one venue or another.
#2 soon! It's not going to be getting any friendlier!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

WHY I PUBLISHED... #4: Wight Power!

 Here we go...

'allo all!
On October 25 we made 10 new releases available from https://www.lotfp.com/store/ ; eight for sale, and two freebies to entice purchase.
Packing and shipping from that initial avalanche of orders is DONE! But while there are other duties, I'm going to take a few minutes every day or five to explain why I decided to publish the items I did, and I will do so in order from what I expected to be the most generally acceptable to what I expect to be the most controversial.
Now coming in at #4... Wight Power!
First off, I want to say that this post is the opinion of the publisher, James Edward Raggi IV. The author has his own thoughts on his instagram page, the first post of which is here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CVdNX4hJpuy/
Now this is at #4 in possible trouble for one reason: All the possible controversy is in the title. And the title is simply wordplay, since the adventure takes place on the Isle of Wight and one of the possible complications in the adventure is a reanimated corpse. And as naive as this may be, as much as I knew that people's knees were going to jerk hard at the title (I kept the title secret until it went on sale because I didn't want to catch all the shit without people being able to see the truth of the matter for themselves), I believe that what something is, is far more important for judging a thing, than what something could be mistaken for being. And I released things this time around, three of them in fact, that are substantively more subversive and disturbing in their actual contents than this book.
And there isn't anyone that's going to tell me that something so stupid as the concept and ideology behind "white power" is so important, that the words are so sacred, that wordplay and puns and generally goofing on it is some blasphemous act. Fuck off with that shit. I have no respect or reverence for "white power," either the words or the concept, and neither should you. I also have no respect for people who would insist that I should have respect for it, either the words or the concept, and neither should you.
And I don't know who needs to hear this, but "wight" and "white" are words with different origins and different meanings. Anyone who says they are the same thing is wrong, or is lying to you.
Anyone who has read any of the actual book and still says that the title is some sort of racist signal, or anyone who knows who the author Alex Mayo is and still says that the title is some sort of racist signal, is either a blithering imbecile, a vicious liar, and probably both.
But I know how people are. I know how the internet is. I knew that people were going to react to the title, I knew that most people don't look into things, I knew that certain people were going to assume the worst when they saw the title, and I knew that certain people were going to use the title as a weapon against LotFP, honesty be damned.
So then... why when Alex pitched me the title and concept along with a few others, was I immediately drawn to this one? Why would I volunteer for at the minimum being harassed by morons, and at worst being branded for all time (the association is only an internet search away!) as an absolutely horrible person (by those that don't already think that of me, of course)?
Because fuck you, that's why.
I'm going to break it down more than that of course, but that's basically it. Do we have the freedom to create or don't we? If we do, then fuck off and leave us to it. If we don't, then I don't want to be here anymore, in this job, on this Earth. It's the only thing that makes life bearable. I'll go out with middle fingers extended.
And I've felt kind of neutered the past couple years. I don't deal too well with real-world things. It's one reason why I enjoy fiction and art and publishing and all the things that occur in the mind and imagination and don't participate in the real world so much. So when Alex offered this to me, it felt like I was being confronted with Big Questions in Life.
Who am I? What do I believe in? Am I going to keep my head down and be scared of twitter rando opinion forever?
And I've told this story a bunch of times before, but it's relevant and worth repeating: One reason my tastes are as they are, one reason my tastes are as they are, one reason LotFP looks the way it does, is because of the Satanic Panic and general anti-D&D attitudes in the 80s. That devil-may-care 70s attitude towards presentation in the original books was simply superior, and they ruined most everything by watering down what they presented and how they encouraged their player base to water down their imaginations.
The forces today that want to bowdlerize creative work and sand down all the interesting edges and features aren't the same as the people who did so back then, but their influence and pressure is having the exact same effect. I don't have any respect for the people who put negative pressure to conform to certain views in the 80s, and I certainly don't have any respect for the people who are doing it now.
Your modern day Pat Pullings with their misdirected trauma, and your modern day Thomas Radeckis with their bullshit social theories about media, can all go eat shit. Leave people alone.
oohhhh trivia: When deciding how to reveal this book to the world during the release day livestream, I had something more fun in mind than just taking it out of a bag to show off the cover. The idea I had was to pretend like I had no idea how "wight" was pronounced. I was going to say I thought "wight" was Welsh in origin, and pronounce the word in that exaggerated Blackadder-phlegm-joke way. I'd say "Wicchhgt Power! It takes place on the Isle of Wicchhggt" and act completely clueless about it resembling a sinister phrase. But I didn't trust my acting ability to make it seem even remotely convincing, and I definitely didn't trust my ability to do it without cracking up.
And underneath the catchy title, there's one hell of an adventure there too. Faction play, a mystery, weird science, and multiple threat vectors. Sort of like how Towers Two had a lot of insanity laid over what was essentially a small-scale old-school sandbox setting.
#3 soon!

Sunday, November 7, 2021

WHY I PUBLISHED... #5: 6X6X6: The Mayhemic Misssile Method (Tenscore and Sixteen Ways for Sorcerists, Witches, and Other Thaumatrophs to Defend Their Indefensible Persons)!

'allo all!

On October 25 we made 10 new releases available from https://www.lotfp.com/store/ ; eight for sale, and two freebies to entice purchase.
Packing and shipping from that initial avalanche of orders is ongoing, but I'm going to take a few minutes every day or two to explain why I decided to publish the items I did, and I will do so in order from what I expected to be the most generally acceptable to what I expect to be the most controversial.
Now coming in at #5... 6X6X6: The Mayhemic Misssile Method (Tenscore and Sixteen Ways for Sorcerists, Witches, and Other Thaumatrophs to Defend Their Indefensible Persons)!
Holy balls where do we start with this one? Last winter, while waiting for Antitheses to be completed, right around I did that call for collaborators... I receive an almost fully formed draft of a book all about magic missiles (or, as the book calls them, "misssiles").
There was an immediate conflict: I have one conception of Magic-Users as utility players, not combat artillery. Removing fireball and lightning bolt from the spell list was done long ago, but for the (still far in the future; the current rulebook will get at least one reprint which should last a few years) "next edition," I had an idea to remove absolutely all 'direct damage' spells from the list.
On the other hand, this thing I had just expands on something already coded right into the LotFP rules: "Each Magic-User’s Magic Missile is unique in appearance and always looks the same. When the caster writes a scroll, the resulting Missile looks identical to the normally cast version. When using a scroll written by another Magic-User, or memorizing a spell out of another’s spellbook, the resulting spell will look like that other caster’s Missile. Each different ‘signature’ for a Magic Missile must be researched and/or transcribed as if it were a different spell."
With 216 variations on the magic missile spell (the 6x6x6 title is a double entendre, referring to both the blasphemous nature of magic and the die mechanic used to randomly determine the variation), plus six separate frameworks by which magic missile can work, with each combination being researched/prepared/cast as a separate spell, the book provides 1296 variations of a single spell. I was seeing the book as something akin to the old Champions sourcebooks, "the Ultimate Energy Blaster" sort of thing (with a lot of the missile variants suggesting and having effects beyond just the damage rolled), which had the added bonus of making individual MUs unique in some way, even with the most generic of spells. Plus so many of the effects are going to be incongruous with individual campaign flavors, and I see that as a complete plus because that's what the very nature of magic is, an out of context intrusion into a world.
So this was either going to be a product with possible crossover mass appeal because what game doesn't use the most basic of pew-pew spells (absolutely everyone can use this as-is in their next game), or an incredibly niche exercise in pedantry.
So what the hell... let's do this!
The first concern was going to be whether to try to push this as a general audiences game aid or to go all LotFP with it. The answer to that one was pretty obvious. There were some pretty gnarly effects in the book, and some pretty bizarre effects, in the text, and it seemed like a complete waste to not highlight those in the artwork. I asked the author how much I was allowed to LotFP up the art (authors do have a strong say in how their books are presented!), and the answer was "As for interior art, I approve gruesomeness, if that's what you mean by LotFP. I prefer it cartoonish--Robocop, Evil Dead 2. But I request no genitals." No genitals, no problem! I consider 'Robocop' to be is pretty damn gruesome (but of course I have the director's cut in mind more than the theatrical cut when thinking of the movie... it that cheating?). OK. Let's go NUTS.
So yeah, I took this thing that could appeal to every damn body if they got to know about it, and made it something that'll repulse a great percentage of them. But mass appeal madness eats your brain, so I thought it should instead be as genuine and cool as possible.
But there was the problem of the cover. Individual pieces inside the book are no problem to conceptualize, just pick an entry and illustrate that, but how to do a cover that encapsulates the entire concept? Ideas went back and forth, but in the end I thought that any representation would somehow be limited or generic. So came the idea of just presenting a foiled text design and sidestepping the issue in favor of a classy look. The gold foil on purple cloth looks absolutely magnificent in the final product, if I do say so myself.
For the interior, to go all 'Robocop' gruesomeness will require anatomical realism to have the requisite impact, so Yannick Bouchard was the only person that could do it.
A layout that's going to be all table/formatting rather than the usual text flow, cloth and foil cover, Bouchard doing all the art. This was not going to be a cheap book, and I knew it before proceeding down this path. Fuck it. Full-effort failure is worth more than half-ass success.
One thing I didn't expect, as I was going through the text to figure out which entries would be best to illustrate, at first I thought I was being cheeky in putting metal references in the art briefs... but... ahhh... it wasn't me being cheeky or putting my influence on someone else's work, I was just reading what's in the frickin book. Like the entries in item #200 wasn't a dead dead dead giveaway.. oh yeah, that is Paul Di'Anno's arm we used as a model for the accompanying illustration across the spread. But I'm often bad in picking out such things when I'm reviewing drafts, as my concerns are general atmosphere and structural cohesion more than detail flair; that's the writer's job. (For example in Kelvin Green's work, I only discovered his recurring bits when fans started asking about them... hell, I learned about one thing he repeats every time just yesterday!)
So anyway, on page three is a Doug Johnson (Defenders of the Faith, Screaming for Vengeance cover artist) inspired piece that's pretty much saying what this book is all about. Yeah, that thing is a magic missile spell and this is what we're doing with the concept so get on board right the fuck now. Then the next picture is one that I hope makes people puke because it's dental trauma... but the fun thing about a lot of these illustrations is that the weird and gross stuff is showing what happens to the caster as their form distorts to shoot the missiles.
I'll specifically shout out p49's full-page illustration for being so ridiculous as to be sublime, and the final illustration on p64 is so LotFP to the core that I think I should put it on a roll-up stand so everyone passing by our convention booths when we return to the world next year has to look at it.
This book turned out beyond-anything-I-could-have-dreamed-when-it-was-first-presented-to-me awesome and it fucking rocks and if you haven't ordered it yet you are a fool. Because not only can you use it as-is in your game, you can just read through the first few pages and start using it in your game TODAY. So easy and adaptable.
#4 in a day or two! We are now crossing the rubicon.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

WHY I PUBLISHED... #6: In a Deadly Fashion!

'allo all!

On October 25 we made 10 new releases available from https://www.lotfp.com/store/ ; eight for sale, and two freebies to entice purchase.
Packing and shipping from that initial avalanche of orders is ongoing, but I'm going to take a few minutes every day or two to explain why I decided to publish the items I did, and I will do so in order from what I expected to be the most generally acceptable to what I expect to be the most controversial.
Now coming in at #6... In a Deadly Fashion!
Courtney submitted the first draft of this adventure on November 30, 2015. The final draft, after playtesting, on February 15, 2016. Why did a 48 page adventure take five and a half years to get released? Not going to go too deep into it but tTto scrap that and get a new artist, but then we lost the layout person including editing changes that had been communicated to the layout person but never communicated with me, the new layout person had to recreate the old layout blocks pretty much from scratch but retain the old person's structure because art had already been done to fit the old layout, but then we lost that artist so then a new artist had to come in and of course had to do a fresh editorial review... I hope everyone involved in the delays gets an evening of uncomfortable indigestion. (I've already done my evening.) But basically this is how time works with LotFP and it got done in the end and that's all that matters.
This adventure is all about hobnobbing with clothing-obsessed rich folk and trying to find out why the bodies are piling up, without joining the pile. I thought the fashion angle was a novel framing device and gives everything a very distinct atmosphere, and it's delivered in a tight package that'll be good for a night or two's gaming, and I think it's going to sit very well in the LotFP canon when all is said and done.
Anyway, I am over the moon about how the book came out. It looks fantastic, as befitting a fashion-related adventure. Rich Longmore really outdid himself. The cover is one of the most striking in LotFP's history, the friggin endpapers and background texture are so so so so so good and how often do you see anyone bragging about such things? It has a candidate for the most exciting LotFP action scene pieces in its pages, and another picture that I think will become a signature of LotFP... you'll know it when you see it because it's just so jolting and gratuitous and hilarious (a combination which then comes around to being ESSENTIAL!).
And I love the idea that once this gets into stores that someone will randomly page through it and there's someone with a clock head in one piece of art, and it's never explained in the text because it's one of the PC stand-ins and so there's nothing in the book to explain it. And of the 7.9 billion people in the world, one surely will want to know what the hell is up, and what a rabbit hole they'll have to go down to figure out who that character is and why does she have a clock head. (Search for Portal Swarth in Youtube and watch the live video that comes up to find the basic inspiration for the look.) So I guess that's a bit of publisher indulgence thrown into someone's book, but hey, if you were hiring a group of player character adventurers, if one of them could break the laws of physics through the mystic arts... that they look a bit peculiar isn't the greater concern here.
And there's lots of art. Lots of it. And that's its own publishing decision. LotFP publishes books that are multiples of 16 pages for cost reasons, because of the way paper is used in the printing process (giant-ass sheets that are printed on, then it's cut and folded according to page size), if we did a multiple of 8 (I don't know if we can do four or two with stitch binding, but we definitely could with glue binding) it's still using the same amount of paper as the multiples of 16 and thus we pay for the paper, even we're not using all of it. Something like that.
So we get into a situation with these shorter books (and now speaking generally about all such books I've published, this isn't something unique to the book at hand) where 32 pages would be cramped and without the art needed to bring the ideas to life... but maybe 48 pages is a bit much to be efficient. So what do I do? Go for maybe a more efficient but uglier book? Let it breathe by filling the space with artwork? Tell the author to pad the word count so the text takes up more pages? Increase the font size? Or just use a multiple-of-eight page count and not care about the inefficiency in cost? Some combination?
It's a fascinating dance of economics, creative inspiration, information design, and art direction.
(The problem seems to disappear if we're talking about a decision whether or not to do a 144 page or 160 page book. Adding an art spread or three throughout that book to get something to 160 pages isn't even a concern.)
One cool thing about LotFP is that we look at these things on a project-by-project basis, with no predetermined look or format hard-coded into the "product line."
The case of this adventure, I think the "get it to 48" instead of "compress it to 32" greatly aided the entire presentation. The whole deal with macaroni fashion is rather visual anyway, and especially those notable late-page full pagers/page and a half art pieces would probably have never come to pass if we had 16 (or even eight!) less pages to work with.
#5 in a day or two! This is where it starts to get SPICY.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

WHY I PUBLISHED... #7: Terror in the Streets!

'allo all!

On October 25 we made 10 new releases available from https://www.lotfp.com/store/ ; eight for sale, and two freebies to entice purchase.
Packing and shipping from that initial avalanche of orders is ongoing, but I'm going to take a few minutes every day or two to explain why I decided to publish the items I did, and I will do so in order from what I expected to be the most generally acceptable to what I expect to be the most controversial.
Now coming in at #7... Terror in the Streets!
The original plan was to send Terror in the Streets and the Book of Antitheses to press in October 2020, as a quick turnaround after the summer's releases. TitS was ready... but Antitheses was not. So what to do?
Instead of putting Kelvin to work on another project, I decided like a total publishing genius "Hey! While we're waiting, let's make more content for the adventure and we'll do a big ol' boxed set!"
There were all sorts of plans for the box... even to have a 7" record in the box. (The publishing rights ended up being something too involved for me to navigate, since the rights fees are tied up in the final price of the product, and in this case it would have cost me 8000€ just for mechanical royalties on two tracks and I couldn't find anyone at the Nordic music publishing agency to give me the time of day to explain this was to just be a component inside of a greater project and not a fancy presentation for a 7". Sucks since I did get a couple tracks for it.)
While I was wasting time pursuing that, Kelvin was working on a book of sidequests to TitS (mainly "stuff that happens around/starts off in Paris," and not really connected to the main adventure) and so the project ended up looking like two parts from my perspective: A more grounded "main adventure" that is along the lines of "A Jack the Ripper type situation, but in Musketeer era Paris," with sociopolitical ramifications. It's not strictly historical, there is some supernatural weirdness and "enhanced reality" lurking about, but it's more subtle than in most adventures but it'll be fun if the players get lulled into a false sense of security and it bites them right in the butt. And there's one suggestion I made in this one that I am inordinately proud of. I can't remember why we had Yannick Bouchard do this cover instead of Kelvin doing it. I remember thinking at the time that it might be a bit edgy to have Notre Dame burning on the cover but I expect nobody would have even noticed now if I didn't mention it because of the freak shows that ended up being released alongside this book.
The bonus book, Huguenauts (an intentional misspelling of Huguenots, giving a clue to what one of the sidequests is all about), is just bugfuck nuts weirdness ranging from the campy to the quite sinister. Great stuff in here. It's... difficult. It's such good stuff that it's a shame to keep it limited edition in the box, but on the other hand the box needs something special. I didn't want to do the "oh Japan wants an exclusive bonus track, guess we need to do a cover song or instrumental" move with it.
And then Kelvin designed a custom die, all six sides, so we had something to go along with the social unrest mechanic in the main adventure, made some handouts, and a bunch of paper cutouts/miniatures because I always thought that was cool in a couple of old TSR things in the 80s. We had that done in Poland.
And then... the box. The bloody box.
Turns out for a proper game box that even 550 copies is a really small amount to manufacture and it's going to be expensive as hell to do. I could have gone for a printed cardboard folded thing like the old 2010 and 2011 LotFP boxed sets, but no, my conception from the beginning was that this time we were going to do a PROPER BOX dammit! But as it turns out, doing a proper box in these quantities meant that the box cost more to manufacture per unit than everything in the box combined. ffuuuuuuucck. But that's why it's the price it is.
Then there was a matter of sealing the box. It wasn't going through the distribution chain, so we had some leeway. Shrinkwrapping would have been the most professional way to do it, but the printer would have charged like 59€/hour to have someone manually putting all of the components into the box, so I did that myself. And it wasn't going to work having them ship me all the stuff separately, me putting everything into the box, and then shipping them all to the place to do the shrinkwrapping, then sending it all back to me. So I needed another way to seal it. I came up with the wrap idea with the sticker, and I was going to be an asshole about it. My idea was that by using the paper wrap with a sticker used to seal it shut, people couldn't open the thing without tearing the wrap and leaving all the sticker gunk on the box. Brilliant! Collectors would have to buy TWO if they wanted to see what's inside AND have a mint copy!
Didn't work, which serves me right. I was asked if I wanted paper or vinyl stickers, and what do I know about stickers? Vinyl would be shinier and prettier, so I chose that. Damn things peel right off. uugghhhhhh.
I don't think I'll be willing to put myself through another boxed set anytime soon. Hopefully you'll find them to be a neat collector's item though.
phew. This one was a bit of a whine. But if you end up enjoying it, then it was all worth it.
#6 in a day or two!