Thursday, January 1, 2009

Why Points of Light?

The RPG Pundit reviews Points of Light here

More than the other reviews of Points of Light he goes into the connection between the title, the product and the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons.

And there is a story behind that.

Points of Light had it's genesis in the work I did for the Wilderlands of High Fantasy (by Necromancer Games and Judges Guild). Many of my motivations was due to being a fan of City-State, the Wilderlands, and Bob Bledsaw. However one thing really got me interested was being involved with ressurecting an older format. A product having maps with numbered hexes and detailing locations keyed to the hexes. Something that I always found useful in the 30+ years I been DMing. As grand and great the boxed set of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy was, it is too expensive for somebody new to the format to buy.

After Dark Tower by Goodman Games was released I was searching for something new to do when I ran across an image of the Outdoor Survival Map. So on a lark I transferred the image to my computer and made a Wilderland Style hex map for it. I was starting to get involved with the Original D&D forum and thought it would be a great submission for Fight On! or even a product in it's own right. Not only with a map but with a series of entries keyed to the hexes like the Wilderlands. It would be cheap and serve as a great intro to the format. Also appeal to a segment of gamers because of it's associatation with the history of D&D.

A helpful Wizard employee PMed me and directed me to the person to ask for permission.

They said no. It was a polite and nice email but still no.

For some reason this irked me. "Fine!" I thought. "I will make a new map, use my original notes for the entries and find somebody to publish it."

Since I had a good experience working with Goodman Games. I pitched to Joesph Goodman via email.

I didn't explain it well enough. He thought I wanted to publish a book of maps only. Tried again, I still didn't make it clear enough. So I wrote up half of what was to become Southland and pitched it again. That did the trick and he accepted it.

The original pitch was for a nostalgia project. However Joseph Goodman wanted to tie it somehow to the upcoming release of 4th edition. Somewhere in the conversation the Rich Baker article on Points of Light came up. Southland somewhat fit the idea of "Points of Light" and I could easily make the remaining three lands revolve around that theme. After a trademark search turned up nothing for Points of Light in reference to gaming. We had a title.

I understood the risks in this. I pitched this as a similar product to the Castle & Crusade, and 1st Edition modules that Goodman already offers. By tying this to fourth edition I could alienate the old school market. But you can't just ignore the world largest market of roleplayers either. Goodman Games has to make sure that their main line of products reach the largest audience possible. This especially true for something new and untested like my proposal.

I figured I would stick with the original list of monsters. What stats there are would be HD and Class/Level. These items would be almost surely be in the new edition and help with selling the product to the old school market. I was also active on various Old School Forums. Since the Old School market had it first resurgance on the Internet in the first place as long I made myself avaliable I could correct any misconceptions about the product.

Two my oldest friends and gaming buddies, Tim and Dwayne agreed to be onboard with this project. A lot of the "bit and pieces" I drew on in my writings had come from the games the three of us were involved with. Tim became my editor, while Dwayne handled the writing of Acheron and Wildland. I completed Southlands, the maps, and Borderland.

Despite Acheron being the only land directly from my campaign of 25 years, Dwayne's memory is way better than mine. He remembered more of the details of Sarrath, Artos, the Boglings, and the rest of Acheron that I ever did.

So in the end, with the help of my friends and Goodman Games, I was able to do what I wanted. Have a product that introduced people to a forgotten format. A format that not just some theory or abstract notion but one that proven to work over the years for many GMs.

Finally when 4th edition was released the first thing I did was opened the DM Guide to the setting of Fallcrest and Nentir Vale. After all the talk of Encounte4zation I was surprised to see how much of the entries echoed the work I did on Points of Light. The actual dungeon of course was very much the reported fourth edition style. But the town and setting could have been ripped out and be a chapter of my product with some minor touch up.

This was a big relief to me as now all I have to contend with is the bias against third party products by many gamers. I didn't have to waste time justify the lack of stats because "Hey! It the standard set by Wizards for their products." I don't have to worry about the mess of the GSL either as I am not copying anything from 4th edition.

While I can't release the actual figures, I got one quarter's result in and sales seems to be ok for this type of product. Enough so that there will be another Points of Light in the Spring. The reviews by Grognardia, Jeff Rients, and others certainly helped making people aware. I appreciate the RPG Pundit taking the time to tell it how it is.


Unknown said...

Interesting. As I mentioned a while back, I have picked up Wilderlands of High Fantasy, and was very pleased with it. Points of Light appears to be very much in that style, and I am glad it is working out for you. I have not yet picked up a copy (nowhere to be found in my local game stores), but it is on my list of things to acquire.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Points of Light is one of the best products and reminder of JG days for me. Very inspiring!

All the best in New Year.

Scott said...

An interesting story. I might need to look into Points of Light myself. Usually I avoid "setting" products, because I use my own, but this one sounds intriguing.

I'm happy to hear it's working out.

Flynn said...

Out of curiosity, will there be a Points of Light 3? I have really enjoyed the first two, and would love to see more.

If you are taking suggestions, would you consider creating a region with an Asian flair? I'd also suggest exploring other cultural flavors, such as Arabic/Persian, African/Egyptian, Hun/Mongol, and possibly Polynesian. I'd love to see some of these different cultures explored in smaller settings such as those in your books.

Thank you for your time,

Robert Conley said...

Hopefully depends on sales of POL 2.

And yes eventually will do one with asian backgrounds.

Gary Ray said...
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Gary Ray said...

I'm a store owner, and I can tell you Points of Light turned out to be our best selling 4E compatible product (and one I use).

Robert Conley said...

Thanks for letting me know that.