Monday, December 27, 2010

RPG Now Publishing

Monday marks the official release of the Print on Demand service by RPGNow. They did a soft release over the weekend to iron out any last minute issues. Meaning anybody could have bought PoD products but they didn't advertise it until Monday.

This post is about choosing between Lulu and RPGNow.

The great thing is now the two major PoD Competitor are easily available to RPG Publishers. The first is Lulu and the second is Lightning Source using the RPGNow front end.

The are pros and con for both. In general it is easier for a publisher to setup to print on Lulu. Being easy to use is Lulu's hallmark. It is also a webstore which means not only you can get stuff printed but also sold. All of this means that Lulu's has been the place to goto for small press publishers.

Lightning Source as a larger range of choices and better prices for color. The combination with RPGNow means now we have a webstore to use Lightning Source with and not just any webstore but the goto place for RPG PDFs.

But it is not the same and you going to have to look at both to see what is right for you. The biggest difference is the setup. Lightning Source is more finicky, RPGNow does a good job in preprocessing PDFs to let you know what the problems are. However unlike Lulu you won't just be able to post something and have it ready to print that day. It going to take time and for the first timers you probably going to need to go through a handful of back and forth before you get a print worthy pdf approved. Note approval is purely technical. My particular issues were image format and font embedding.

I will go into detail on this when I prepare Scourge of the Demon Wolf for publication. Part of the reason I haven't gotten it out is that I really really wanted to try printing it on RPGNow first. I am not happy with the half tone process used in b/w printing for Lulu (or Lightning Source) and want to try color with my greyscale maps. RPGNow/LS prices win hands down in color.

As for the site cut of the prince it is a wash between Lulu and RPGNow. They calculated differently and it not big enough to make a difference. The nice thing about the prices is that there is a fixed cost for the smallest sizes for a 8.5 by 11 b/w books up to 44 pages that cost is $2.18, up to 104 pages it is $ 3.46. A good deal to lulu's $5.34, publisher grade for 104 pages. Shipping costs seems reasonable even to countries outside the US.

The range of page size can be found here.

I will give further details as I find them. Note to fans of the Majestic Wilderlands who are outside the US, MW is available in PoD from RPGNow. Check it out see if you can get a better deal than Lulu. Let me know as I want to make by product easily available worldwide in print.

I will end to say that the availability of PoD publishing through RPGNow could mark the beginning of a revolution in our hobby. Off of the top of my head nothing now needs to go out of print as the availability of the Great Pendragon Campaign (and other Chaosium products) now show. What would be interesting is companies drawing on their fanbases to make print ready files of beloved older editions and making them available in print again.

In addition the cost of small publishers drops again. While Lulu in of itself is nearly the same, RPGNow is oriented towards gamers and has a much higher visibility among the community. Another interesting features down the pike may to allow confirmed retailers to order books at a lower cost. Turning RPGnow into a quasi-distributor. While the number are not as good as a offset printing it would allow smaller publishers to get their products distributed into brick and mortar stores. The problem in the past has been retailers don't have the time to order from dozens of publishers. They need distributors manage the flow of products for accounting. Now with RPGNow in the printing business retailers may finally have that one spot to order small press products from.

As the development of the internet continues we are going to continue to see interesting times for our hobby.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

I wish everyone and their families a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

A special thanks to all my customers and kind words that people gave me throughout the year.

While not as productive as I hoped to be I do have several project nearing completion so there will be more.

Finally I want to say a special thanks to my wife Kelly Anne for being supportive of my efforts. It been a good year for being creative for her as her hair accessory business is moving along nicely.

To the New Year I am looking forward to seeing what everybody comes up and excited that the OSR is still growing.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Print on Demand at RPGNow

One Bookshelf, the managing company for RPGNow and DrivethruRPG, has been working with Lightning Source to setup a print on demand service for RPGs. I am not sure if they are out of their select customer phase yet but they are finally out of their long development process.

A while ago I uploaded a print version of the Majestic Wilderlands to RPGNow. So if you have access to the print on demand feature you can buy it in print.

I ordered a test copy and it was nearly the same as Lulu. Also because of the different page count cutoff* I added some more material as an appendix. Basically some more general maps (wind, current, climate). The short price list, and Calender. I posted both here and here for those of you that doesn't have them.

I also set it up so that the PDF comes with Softcover if you choose. Note that you HAVE to select this option explicitly. I don't have the option to remove the Softcover only option.

Unfortunately I didn't enable this right away and somebody already bought the softcover prior to this date (12/24/2010). So if you are that person and want the PDF email me and I will get it to you (by a comp copy on RPGNow).

For a buyer's perspective, the Great Pendragon Campaign, see Chicago's Wizard blog post. Finally I can get a copy of the Great Pendragon Campaign.

While it is was a bummer that their b/w wasn't any better than lulu (because they use half toning for greyscale like lulu) I am excited at their color prices which are WAY better than lulu's prices. Which means I can offer affordable books with full color maps and the like. The Lightning Source connection means they have different formats options than Lulu and best of all for the smallest page count they have a single fixed price.

*Printers work in units of 4, 8, or 16. When you get print on demand done if your manuscript isn't the multiple they use then there will be a bunch of blank pages at the end. Mind you are not paying for those pages but I like the more professional look of having the book completely filled. So for the RPGNow print I modified the Majestic Wilderlands to include material on those pages.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Starting Levels for older editions.

Tim of Gothridge Manor has some interesting comments on why he bought a Red Box Set. He is gaming with his wife, Ivy, and they just tried Swords & Wizardry. While it is simple to learn, characters die rather easily at first level. To newer gamers trying learn older editions this may be frustrating while learning the game.

D&D 4th edition in contrast beefs up hit points and has more options for a 1st level character to do things in combat. It is smoke and mirrors as the monsters likewise are beefed up and a 1st level characters will die just as horribly. But it will take longer, and the players will feel they have done more things before dying.

If I ran into a novice player or novice players that are not having a good time starting with 1st level with older editions, I would be to start off at 3rd or 5th level. The options are still manageable and you are a lot more survivable. I would also do this for a campaign that is esstentially solo play with a referee that has a single player.

I also recommend the XP charts found in Jeff Rient's Tower of Xylartarn. I use these for new players coming into the Gold Star Anime game in Edinboro. I also like how they take into account the prime requisite bonuses.

In the end the RPGs we used are tools to play a fun and exciting campaign. These are just are few more options.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dungeon Crawling in New York City

I was on a recent business trip to New York City. A couple of years ago I stopped at the Compleat Strategist but only had 15 minutes to shop. This time I had a little more time.

They only have a few old stuff. I will tell if you anybody want Chaosium's Superworld supplement they have about two each of an adventure and a companion on one of the bottom shelves. The store is packed with all manner of games and miniatures. With more time I went through carefully and found a pack of HUGE graph paper. FOUR double sided 21" by 32" sheets. Note the graph itself is 21" by 32" the sheet is slightly bigger. It made by SJ Games and it great. I am going to share two of them with Tim of Gothridge Manor.

You want the mega dungeon, I will give you the mega dungeon with these.

In addition I finally found a copy of the Dungeon Tiles Master Set: City. All I have is the wilderness set to complete the run. It pretty good and has a mix of scenery tiles (furniture, table, etc), building geomorph, shady part of town tiles, sewer tiles, and city wall tiles. The box is also used this time depicting a roof top area.

Once again my dungeon skill came in useful in navigating the NYC subway system. Although I did screw up the return trip by getting on the express instead of the local. I also put my new kindle to use and found a bead store a few blocks away from the game store. Boy there are a lot of people in Manhattan.

An interesting thing I encountered was when I was making a transfer and had to go up an escalator. The ceiling was really low I could have touched it if I stretched. Well it was so low that when I looked ahead it looked like I was level and everybody was leaning forward. When I neared the top it looked like it was dipping down.

It was extremely disconcerting and at first I thought I must have been tired from travelling. But I looked down and then up again and there it was again! So it got me thinking whether this would work in a dungeon. Basically have a staircase going up fairly steeply but have a really low ceiling. When people enter describe how now everything is level but you are leaning forward walking across a zigzag floor. With a gradual slope before the actual stairs I bet it would be a plausible trick.

Friday, December 10, 2010

GURPS Low Tech in Print

For you GURPS fans out there the GURPS Low Tech Hardback has been released.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why the Third Imperium is going to kick your low tech a**

Traveller has always been known for it use for slug throwing weapons in preference to energy weapons. At times it doesn't feel very futuristic. I mean how many ways can we deliver a high projectile target down range.

Well now we know.

The Army's XM-25 rifle.

The basic idea is that the rifle has a range finder and shoots a 25 mm (1 inch) shell. Inside the shell is a cheap computer chip that can track how far it goes before it detonates. This allows the shooter to cause the shell to explode BEHIND cover like a wall or embankment.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where is a good referee when you need one?

Ryan Dancey was the brand manager of Dungeons & Dragon during the 3.0 era. He moved on since then but from time to time posts his thoughts on roleplaying games. I am paraphrasing here, but in recent years he has grown to feel that focus of current RPGs is wrong. That it too much wargaming. And that it needs to be more of a collaborative game where the groups creates a story. That the main issue is that wargaming audience of D&D has gone away and along with other groups and RPGs need to change to adapt to the new market.

It is a nuanced view and one that doesn't preclude many of the traditional mechanics we like. You need to read his posts to get a full picture of what he is talking about.

And he misses the point.

The key to a successful RPG campaign is a great referee. That always been roleplaying game Achilles heel. If the referee doesn't do his job the campaign and group will fall apart. In the 30 years I been playing roleplaying games I seen many solutions to try to "fix" this. There the quest for the perfect set of mechanics. I consider D&D 4e to be the epitomize of this. This the quest to have a simple set of rules Risus and Microlite are good examples of this. There are quest to make RPGs more of collaborative story creation game.

And for 30 years these efforts including Ryan Dancey's miss the point.

In my opinion the fundamental rule of RPGs is this.

The player will describe or act out the actions of his character to the referee who will then proceed to inform the player and/or the group of the results.

This is what sets RPGs as a game apart from other types of games. Change this you may have a fun game but it is not an RPG anymore.

Like any creative endeavor you can't manufacture greatness. Either a person has it or doesn't. But you can teach anybody who has the interest how be a good referee. How to maximize the chances that a campaign is fun and compelling to play.

The leaders of the hobby and industry should focus on this rather taking solace in the quest for the perfect set of mechanics.

This is why I continue to write on sandbox campaigns and how to manage them. It not THE technique but I think it is a useful one as well as being one that I can hopefully teach well. Many of you reading this have developed other useful techniques. By continuing to share and learn we will make roleplaying games a lasting hobby and industry.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mongoose Publishing Annual Report

Mongoose release their annual report you can read it here. I am glad Traveller is doing well for them and I pick up various products in the line from time to time. Because of past and continuing editing problems their stuff is not an automatic buy for me. I mostly stick to the small format books.

I find the release of GDW's 2300AD exciting. I always like the line. For those of you don't know what it is; 2300 AD is a separate sci-fi RPG from Traveller. It is a continuation of the Twilight 2000 timeline. Mankind recovers and expands to the stars. What make it's different that it's tech feel more like Aliens, and other 80s/90s sci-fi movie than the classic sci-fi of Traveller. It also notable for using the best data for it's star map and for using three dimensions. Earth is still fragmented into nation-states which until then wasn't commonly used in Sci-fi RPGs. The leading power is France, following a by several second tier powers like the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, Manchuria and so on. The empire France rules is the result of a federation of territories that France united after the Twilight War and spans the globe. As of 2300AD they are on the wane.

Another interesting point about 2300AD is that it's background wasn't created arbitrarily. GDW created what became known as the Great Game moderated by a referee. Each player play one or more countries. Turns were taken until the timeline reached 2300 AD. I guess the French player did really well.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More D20 Hairstick, The Crimson Adventure

My wife, Kelly Anne, sells hairsticks. From time to time she sells game related items. The most recent is the D20 Crimson Adventure.

She also takes custom orders through her Etsy Store and Artfire Store. Just use the contact link to send her email with an idea of what you want.