Friday, 25 January 2013

Mysterious Packages


Random sychronicity brought me two postal gifts at once.

The book:
Dyson’s Delves Limited Edition on Lulu
Lovely maps, adventures and lined notesheets, maps similar to those found at Dyson's Dodecahedron

The figures:
Dwarven Mages sculpted by Mick Leach of Eastern Front Studios
Eastern Front Studios - Facebook Group -lots more pictures of figures and sculpts in progress.

Curious about DnD 4e? Free intro adventure PDFs

H1 Keep on the Shadowfell
Free on DriveThru
Still not yet played Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition?

Just a little bit curious?

Here’s some of the free introductory titles in Wizards range on DriveThru ...

- D&D "Quickstart"
- H1 Keep on the Shadowfell
- Khyber's Harvest

D&D "Quickstart"
I’m still not sure about 4e, I own the core rules and some modules - they look rather pretty, and the combat seems very dynamic …but, but still … a little confusing to my old-school eyes, and where’s story, where's the actual role-playing gone? God knows what DnD5/Next will be like.  Hey-ho, shiny, keep the game alive, roll the dice -live the adventure etc.

I have hard copies of the Shadowfell modules - a highlight being the fold out floorplans. These are included in the PDF of H1, but with very narrow print margins. For free, it’s nice little run of encounters (at least to read - for my shame I talk of this product and have yet to play it)

Khyber's Harvest
If you liked the Wrath of Ashardalon boardgame or Castle Ravenloft you’ll adapt quickly to these starter docs. If you already play DnD4 - you can point new players to these files. :)

Wizard’s Dungeons & Dragons 4e
on DriveThruRPG:

-Bb 25.01.13

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

WotC publish older D&D PDFs on DriveThru

Wizards of the Coast are selling older edition D&D products on DriveThruRPG

D&D Basic Rules (Moldvay-Cook)
on DriveThru $4.99
What does it mean!?
I've just heard.
How did I miss the announcement!?
My head is spinning.
My mouse hand is feverishly clicking....

So let's get this straight... official copies of older edition D&D and modules are now available in PDF form on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG. And not just the free consolation stuff that they used to give away on the Wizards' site. Titles here are from Basic D&D, AD&D, right through to 4th Edition.  It's currently an eclectic mixture at best, but I'm ecstatic because (without even thinking) I've just bought (Moldvay) Basic Rules, B5 Horror of the Hill and T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil. Regarding the latter, like everyone else in the early 80s, I owned T1 Village of Hommlet but it took so long for ToEE to arrive that I think I started spending my money elsewhere.
Compared smelly second hand stuff to Ebay - the prices aren't so bad for the older edition products: $5-$10 - For some players it will be the only way they will see these archaic tomes.  The more recent edition products are possibly orientated at the tablet-at-the-game-table market - since the 4e glossy hardbacks are still on sale elsewhere.

The Moldvay Basic Rules look great.  It's faithful facsimile scan.  The text is selectable and copyable.  The contents don't appear to be hotlinked/tagged - which will disappoint some PDF perfectionists - but it's a tiny ruleset by modern rulebook standards.  You don't get too lost in 64 pages.  The black and white line art illustrations are all in there - it's a high contrast scan - there is slight pixelation and some tiny details are lost, but at a mere 7.5 MB the document is extremely portable.

Temple of Elemental Evil (AD&D)

on DriveThru $9.99

Some of the most interesting illustrations
known to gamers can be found in
AD&D Fiend Folio
(including those by my fave artist
Russ Nicholson)
on DriveThru $9.99
I will be watching their store with relish over the next few months. :)
This is the best thing since 4th edition Tunnels & Trolls PDF, and Empire of the Petal Throne...

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Paizo 10% off in February

10% product discount in February 2013 at Paizo web store in way of thanks for their successful kickstarter.

“To celebrate the success of the Kickstarter—and to thank you for putting up with all that messaging!—we’re giving everyone a special discount code for use in the store during the month of February. Just enter the code 
during checkout between February 1 and February 28, and receive 10% off of one entire order! This is an untyped bonus, so it stacks with other discounts; if you’re a Pathfinder Adventure Path subscriber, you’ll receive your Pathfinder Advantage discount as well. This discount code does not work on subscriptions, backorders, preorders, gift certificates, pledge drives, books from Completist Publications, or non-Paizo electronic products, but there are tens of thousands of fantastic gaming products it does work on!”

-Email from Lisa Stevens, CEO, Paizo.

This is cool.
Just for a short moment I'll stop slamming kickstarters. ;)

Saturday, 12 January 2013 20% off books in January with code

Books & eBooks from 20% off- Enter code JANBOOKS13 - Save up to $25

at checkout.

I've just saved EIGHT (8) whole American dollars (I can't remember what that is in British Shillings) on a copy of Dyson's Delves Limited Edition -just for the glory and inspiration!
(Try here if link broken)

Happy Print-On-Demand and eBook Shopping! ;)

Dungeon crawling with the kids

(Cross posted to Inked Adventures.)

If you've tried to create your own dungeon crawl game or tried to play something resembling D&D with your own children then you'll appreciate most of Rab's observations in his blog, The Geekly Digest

Rab has been working on a children-friendly Fantasy RPG called GoblinQuest (working title). In the play-testing with his sons I'm honoured to see that he has been using the Inked Adventures Modular Dungeon Sections. Check out his blog for more information.

(All photos courtesy of Rab's Geekly Digest)

Thursday, 10 January 2013

QUERP Compendium and Blueholme Prentice Rules

I still seem to have my "random head" on, so some well thought-out observations on floor plans in my in-tray will have to wait. 

Browsing social networks today has brought my attention to a couple of products which may or may not be on your personal radar, but both appeal to me from the fast-play aspect (and introductory) of roleplaying games.

QUERP Compendium
by Shane Garvey and Jamie Wallis (Greywood Publishing)

I’m very tempted by this Quick Easy Role-Play 4-books-in-one-volume publication- I think I have only the main rules and maybe a bestiary already.
“The QUERP Core Rule Book, The Player’s Companion, The Gamesmaster’s Companion and the Bestiary. … Each of these books have been weaved together and given added content to this the decisive QUERP Rule Book.”
It’s a 6-sided dice system -with perhaps a nod towards easy-play gamebook style mechanics, like Fighting Fantasy - a perfect introductory roleplaying game.

Downloadable PDF DriveThruRPG
$9.99USD 7,64Euros £6.23GBP

Although I'm currently struggling to find the QUERP Compendium in a printed book format - the previous on Lulu can be found in this list.

Blueholme Prentice Rules
-compiled by Michael Thomas / Dreamscape Design

If you like your D&D along the lines of the blue D&D Holme’s edition then you might like this free old-school D&D retro-clone (Three levels, Parry rules, d6 damage for all weapons etc.). Or you might insist that your friends read this PDF since you would be a fool to actually lend out your precious blue rulebook. ;)  This is an easy to play, simulacrum of a hotly debated D&D transitional system.

I'm still flipping through my copy. Impressive. A worthy addition to the collection - looks pretty loyal to the J Eric Holmes ruleset.

Edit: The rules say that players wishing to go beyond 3rd level are recommended to seek out "Blueholme Compleat Rules" which covers PC levels up to 14th, presumably yet to be published. I must investigate further.

DriveThruRPG PDF $0

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


Map of Stonemarten Village (own photo) from Grail Quest Book 2 The Den of Dragons by J.H. Brennan. By reading the section number based on where you chose to visit next on the map you got a real sense of exploration.

Recently Tin Man Games have announced that they intend to produce interactive texts for mobile devices based on the original books.

Random quick post ends. ;)

Monday, 7 January 2013

January Sale at DriveThruRPG up to 55% off with code

For this week DriveThruRPG has over 50 games for 40% off normal price (until Monday Jan 14th).

Within this list of New Year New Game sale products you can get a sneaky further 15% off the listed price if you use use this code at the checkout page:


Heh, heh, I see what they did there ...
Happy New Year New Game for 2013 !

- Remember that shopping is for life and not just for Christmas. ;)

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Tunnels & Trolls kickstarter achieves goal + own thoughts

One of the nice things about not mentioning Kickstarters in this blog is that when I'm looking through news-feeds and blog rolls is that I can literally ignore two-thirds of the messages and just concentrate on discussion about games past and current, new releases and so on.

No Kickstarters, no Indiegogos - it's a great little filter.  Try it sometime - or maybe you already do.

However, I cannot avoid acknowledging most new developments in the universe of Tunnels &Trolls...

It's edifying to see the quieter, but vibrant,  T&T communities see its heroes ride back into the limelight and action with 8th Edition Kickstarter attaining well over it's goal of $26,000 (USD, that's £16,000 in GBP) -with a month to go before the deadline.  By the time you read this, that goal may yet be a small percentage of the final figure pledged.  Congratulations are due to Flying Buffalo and everyone involved for putting together packages that their pledgers really want.

I want to see the T&T brand and communities thrive, but I just still have mixed feelings for Kickstarters which ask for multiple thousands of dollars in the be-all and end-all of projects.  My beef is with Kickstarter culture in general, not with T&T ? Flying Buffalo. 
I think a lot of my hesitation about Kickstarters is that we just haven't access to them in the UK -at least not as long as the American and Canadians have.  Since I'm a big fan of print-on-demand books and low cost PDFs, and am try to sell a few things myself, whilst taking the odd commission for art and royalties for co-operative products, my concept of revenue, costs and profit is at odds with the figures I see proposed by Kickstarters.  In my other life I work in the voluntary sector (in mental health support) and I have an arts degree. Friends and colleagues have occasionally bidded and filled in huge application forms with tiny amounts of funding.  I am no stranger to the notion of raising money for a noble cause, so in a way I'd probably approve of crowd-funding projects if they were purely employed to enrich communities with art, climbing frames, gardens and baby units for example.  (It has been pointed out to me whoever that Kickstarters are usually business based, and so the communal charity examples don't really apply here)

No one can deny Kickstarters are a great way of spreading news of a company or possible product, but are Kickstarters really appropriate in the capital hungry market place when there are often other means?  Is this really as good for the customers/players/pledgers/fans as it first appears?

As per usual, assuming that only a couple of folks are party to my status updates (because I'm a bit naive leke that), I was muttering generalisations on Facebook about how this seemed like a lot of money for a translate-and-reprint of the French edition (on Lulu) with some maps, coins and postcards and promises of online community support... You get the idea - a bit dismissive and very generalised.

To her credit, Liz Danforth herself (T&T editor, artist and celebrity in denial) came on and defended the T&T Kickstarter:

Liz Danforth:
We expect it to be a lot more than a tweak of the French edition (though we thought that would be the case when we first imagined doing this). Ken is doing a top to bottom rewrite. The fact that we got funded means we'll be doing more content for stretch goals. A LOT more content. 

Truth is, this enables us to DO this project. Some businesses can do their works and sell them, and that's great. Steve and I, in particular, work daily to make our bills -- that's what being a freelancer means. FBInc can't afford to pay us ahead of time, and we can't afford to do it on a maybe it'll pay off later. Kickstarter is, genuinely, the community coming together and voting with dollars to make something pretty special happen that simply could not happen otherwise, or at best years from now and much less nicely.

The changing world of the direct connection between makers and consumers means the makers all get told "Find a different business model." We are.

It's certainly a business model that a lot of RPG publishers are adopting.  In the case of Flying Buffalo Inc, here's a company that has had better times (perhaps in the RPG heyday of the 70s and 80s), but are loans and overdrafts not an option anymore? I totally understand the need to maintain career level wages, and as the KS description points out printing and production processes are cheaper now (although what was meant by that was that a higher quality product can now be created, which is fair enough).  I've never been involved in venture capital, or finding "silent partners" in companies, but I'm guessing that crowdfunding is much more why accessible of raising revenue in advance in the absence of a bank loan or credit in these Recession skin-to-rib-thin times.
Right at this moment, small publishers compete with established brands for funding.  This sounds like a good thing - this is what the internet does best.   But in some ways for the small publishers will be losing out to famous projects - perhaps it might be worse than in an open marketplace.  In this case, currently, Flying Buffalo is similar to a small indie publisher - it's just the brand is well known - I certainly doubt they have fallback security that larger companies like Paizo and WotC/Hasbro have.  I'm pretty sure that Paizo's Kickstarters are mainly about franchise publicity under the guise of community involvement.  I'm not convinced that Paizo need crowd-funding to push ahead with anything that they perceive as sustainable, but maybe they're just saying - "hey, join the party". 

The cynical voice and entrepreneur in me, also doesn't believe that when a Kickstarter fails that the publisher will drop the project idea entirely.  If you believe in something enough to put your head above that parapet to rally backers, can you really walk away from the idea when the deadline arrives and you're only half pledged?   This project will end, but I believe the product will return, a lot sooner than later.  Remember that a failed Kickstarter is a marketing opportunity as the creative individual laments the destruction of a possible roleplaying utopia.  Who will save beautiful Krypton, now?

With RPG rulebooks, how do I know that what I paying for will be any less special than another, possiblycheaper, publication in a few months time?  Pledgers are probably fairly wise to this, and as if often pointed out to me, many perks are often truly exclusive.  In a world of collector's markets, hand-crafting, Ebay, Etsy, limited print runs, celebrity signings at conventions - those unique touches added as perks (coins, postcards, credit mentions) are very much the norm in fan/hobby markets.  Naturally we often want to see a product get released and "out there" - and we accept that the might be part of movement to establish a product in a larger marketplace - much in the way that when you buy the first edition of an RPG rulebook that it is to be expected that a revised playtested version with better illustrations may be out next year. (Glances, briefly at his own copies of Starships and Spacemen and Stars Without Number - both totally superseding by revised publications, perhaps due to popularity)  Exclusivity and limited edition collectability seem to be a big part of Kickstarter/Indiego projects. 

This aside, sometimes projects can be presented in a way that implies that this is the last chance for the creation of a special product.  If no-one is interested the company claims that it will move on, but it will be a terrible shame etc.  If you don't pledge now, will the thought of unborn universes torture you forever more? If you walk away, are you wishing doom upon your idols?  By not being involved, did you just kill the best-RPG-idea ever? 

I don't think so. 

If it's a publication - it'll be back, even if it just reappears as a text-only Kindle book, yours for dollar in two Julys time.  Of course, if the kickstarter has pledgers receiving hand knitted dice bags as well as holographic DM's screens, then you probably are taking part in a once-in-a-lifetime offer.  Pledge that $250 before Tuesday.  No, really...

It's really good to read, in Danforth's reply, that Tunnels & Trolls pledgers are paying for a full rewrite of the rules - but hopefully not too different in terms of game mechanics (...must resist mentioning ... DnD4e ...).  However, there's this chicken and egg part.  If something isn't "ready to roll" it's hard to guarantee the quality, cost and delivery date.  This leads me to the assumption that in many KSs a text draft is already finished in part. By using cheap stock art and employing older illustrations (if they have the rights) revenue can be generated with that text in POD or small print runs - or with specially signed limited editions.  Naturally, this is just a different business model with a fairly limited return, but it's what smaller RPG product publishers might already be doing. 

Many of the projects I am interested in buying are documents with a handful of illustrations -which can be sold with no production costs as PDF ebooks, but yes, we roleplayers sometimes prefer the hardbacks and boxes... Maybe it's the smell. ;)   I just think that in some Kickstarters the target cash numbers are too high - they're factoring in profits in advance, but for T&T, the love for the brand is through the roof anyhow - their target figure here is totally academic - that's love you're looking at, love infused with nostalgia and gamer pride.  The T&T communities are hungry for "official" products (not just reprints of the old) - very recently the gap as only been partly filled by a handful of indie solo games and the odd "with approval" titles.  Acquiring any English language edition in bound-printed form is almost a spectator sport.  In this way, this is truly an enthusiastic "reboot" of the main/classic brand.

Scanning some of the Erik's posts over at Tenkar's Tavern blog it has become apparent that pledgers do not appear to have the same rights as customers. It's perfectly possible for writers, artists and publishers to become ill or distracted and therefore not deliver or provide returns - if the money gets spent, there's nothing to repay the pledgers with.  So a sensible business would need credit buffer to start with. If a reliable trustworthy business, who is likely to deliver on time and in full, has credit, then why do they need a kickstarter to raise funds with? Pledgers are not patrons or shareholders -and from what I can tell- even have consumer protection. If companies want to establish an advanced estimate of profit then why not canvas the online communities and run a system of pre-orders?  Incidentally, Erik also goes to great length explaining the differences between pre-ordering and Kickstarters.

There's a "chancer" logic to Kickstarters which doesn't seem right. I know artists and authors aren't paid by the hour, but without transparency of knowing what everyone will be paid, it's hard for other people in the industry to sympathise or relate to multiple ten thousand dollar figure goals.  In the same way that anyone involved in a start-up company might expect to be paid below an industry average.   Annual-based wages are sometimes factored into popular computer game Kickstarters, again with reference to wages of other workers in the industry.  To run things at low costs does not mean that some creator-publishers are any less professional, in fact, less risk can mean that we're still around for a customers at a later date (that's if the other day job or responsibilities doesn't encroach too much).   I'm not sure what the answer is there.  Somehow this is all bound up with hobby-based lifestyle choices and full-time business ventures. Again with large goal figures, as a pledger I'd be tempted to ask for more business plans.  Also, with those expenses, are we really to believe that you don't already own a desk and chair, and that one product is supposed to pay your office rent for a year? 

Again, I have to say I pretty much adore many of Flying Buffalo's products, and I like reading and re-reading several T&T rule editions, but my personal and seemingly secular viewpoint is that I wouldn't support a Kickstarter as a way of buying a new edition.

On top of all this, all lines of communication online are now saturated with the equivalent of panicked begging letters - it's like a new version of spamming.

I am not the first person to wonder "How many small businesses go bust from sudden over expansion or a massive order?"  This is big money and fast turnarounds - maybe only established publishers and experienced managers can cope with these mechanisms.  Think about it. In the end, Kickstarters favour the companies which need them the least. 

Other than my misgivings about Kickstarters as a process, I'm genuinely happy for everyone involved in this T&T venture because it shows that so many people want T&T to have the status that it deserves, and I certainly wouldn't want freelancers and employees, like Messrs Loomis, St.Andre, Danforth et al, to drift too far from the Trollish forge.  These are all nice approachable guys - often surprised at their following online.  Certainly they don't bombard there customers with adverts of modular interlocking campaigns or bi-weekly subscriptions for images of CGC art.  But maybe this is the turning point when we get to see these nostalgic-hippy-gamers taste the blood of success.  ;) I doubt it - after all "personal integrity" does sell as well.

Just last night, Liz Danforth wrote an inspiring piece on how Kickstarters can be part of a personal journey to reconnect with similar minded people and create things that are new and positive.  

From my own RPG-player-reader-fan perspective, I can relate to this. I know that quite a few of us, more mature tabletop-gamer-fans, suddenly found ourselves, after a time in the adult wilderness, discovering online communities who shared an interest in older (old-school) games.  As dads, managers, been-there-done-it, senior-ish folk, we found that we had "returned", "arrived" or "come home" to role-playing games.  This isn't just about nostalgia, it's about mutual support, respectful validation and personal growth.  Liz's view on crowd-funding is much like this, i.e. life can be turned around by connecting with a community and travelling forward together with a single vision.  Perhaps, not everything touched by significant quantities of money is necessarily a type of capitalistic trick?  I find this positivity refreshing, and maybe I'm often looking at all of this purely in terms the actual product and the financial exchange, when the act of taking part in a passionate micro-democracy can feel deeply empowering.  

Argh.  But I like being cynical!

I'd be intrigued, however, to see how the industry works five years down the line - I just don't want to see everything else washed aside because we're all pitching, bidding, pledging and backing and with no-one having a simple "buy-now" option.  ;)

-Billiam B.
 January 2013

(and ... thanks for reading this far!)

Friday, 4 January 2013

Thoughts on Fantasy Maps

Fantasy Maps.  We loves them!

These are some insomnia inspired burblings which I rattled out on Tumblr the other night. Please forgive the poetic generalisations and bad grammar.
(All art by yours truly)

It’s interesting to think that when we draw fantasy maps in an antique style we will use a combination of symbols and representational 2D art - for mountains or forests for example. Draftsmen and architects are required to render real or yet-to-be landscaping and buildings in ways that are both accurate to scale or exactly distorted to match a viewer’s perspective.

Real and fantasy maps can please the viewer in terms of the appreciation of the artist’s craft and technique, but also as a creative vision - a communication of the mind’s-eye with detailed embellishments. The viewer can also experience a sense of vast open space, no matter what their surroundings are. We can wander around in tiny areas of maps (something done long before the the click and zoom-in of today’s technology).

Maps are immersive. 
They are virtual realities - simple and accessible.

Hadramkath Raging Swan Press on DTRPGPerhaps it is no coincidence that Tolkien’s works and fantasy books by CS Lewis became so popular whilst also having a terrain map. Perhaps AA Milne’s map of Pooh’s environs including the Thousand Acre Wood appeal in a way that mere words or scenic illustrations don’t. We are exploratory and territorial beings - a location and a sense of place is important to us. Sometimes when we are dropped into other people’s worlds its perhaps only good manners for our hosts to provide a map!

In tabletop fantasy role-playing games world maps and dungeon plans become very real and solid places. The mathematics or the game mechanics provide the thump and weight of obstacles and adversaries, as essential as any “physics engine” in a computer game. Without the game mechanics the map is merely a soft ethereal journey - a dreamlike exploration of other places. For a gamer knowing that “You are here” isn’t just about orientation, its about measuring their survival of recent encounters and bracing themselves for the next location.

Follow me - add me, friend me and all that, and I'll return the favour. ;)

Not entirely related, but here's an animated gif of my geomorphs (made with GIF+) and a new promotional graphic for my Inked Adventures 'Basic Pack:

Inked Adventures
Hand Drawn Geomorph Tiles
Product Page on DriveThruRPG

Inked Adventures
Modular Dungeons Cut-Up Sections Basic Pack
Product Page on DriveThruRPG