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Saturday, June 22, 2013

How Do You / Would You Market Your OSR Product?

Last night's "Marketing Your RPG" panel was hosted by the Blonde Frog. Although some of the advice was applicable to smaller (hobby) publishers, most was aimed at larger publishers. That makes sense, as the panel was composed of folks representing Frog God Games and others with fairly large footprints in the hobby.

The OSR does not have a large enough footprint in general to use many of the advertising and marketing techniques in question. Our strength is the tightness of the OSR community, which I saw first hand with the Basic Fantasy RPG and Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Days. There are some amazingly creative members of our community that enjoy giving back to the community.

It's a community that is very accepting of "fan and hobbyist" created works and can also be highly critical when those hobbyists attempt to make the step to professional. If they slip we tell them. Often vocally. It is simply how we are.

This also means that projects can live or die based upon the rep of the people being it, as word of mouth is our hobby's main method of marketing. That doesn't mean a good rep will necessarily make a project successful, but a poor rep can kill it before release.

The OSR, with a few notable exceptions, pretty much works for beer money and a pat on the back. There is nothing wrong with that, but I for one would like to step up to buying more microbrews ;)

So, any words of advice for your fellow hobbyists?

Mini Review - The Imperishable Sorceress - (Free RPG Day DCC Release)



I enjoy the DCC RPG releases in general. They are usually well written with twists one doesn't get in a standard OSR styled adventure. The Imperishable Sorceress, the first half of the Goodman Games Free RPG 2013 release is a fine example of this.

+Daniel Bishop manages to put a full adventure's worth of gaming into six pages of text, a full page piece of art and a full page map. If you've never before come across a DCC RPG map from Goodman Games, the included map is a fine example. I've said it before many a time, I'd love to see the DCC RPG Adventure Maps released as prints for framing. They really are that good.

At six pages, there isn't much I can say about the adventure without giving much away. Like most DCC RPG adventures, it's not a typical dungeon crawl - it's much more swords & sorcery than that.

I'm looking forward to running it. The Imperishable Sorceress should work fine in a three hour hangout slot, which after bullshitting is the average amount of play time my groups seem to get in. Hey, Goodman even has some pregens ready for download!

"Marketing Your RPG" Panel "On Air" With Rachel Ventura


I watched the whole thing live last night and it was very entertaining and even a bit informative - some interesting personalities were on display ;)

I wish they had included someone like +Joseph Bloch , +James Raggi or Kevin Crawford - the independent small guys that are successful at their craft. The advice given was mostly (not all) aimed at projects that could afford an advertising budget that probably amounts to more than the more successful OSR projects even take in. The secret to successful OSR publishing (besides putting out a damn good product) is word of mouth for a large part, as you probably don't have an advertising budget.

I did receive an invite to be on the panel, and for that I am flattered (thanks +Rachel Ventura ) but I really don't think I'd have been able to add more than I did in the chat window. I'm not a publisher of games. I'm a writer of blogs :)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mini Review - Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls "Preview Pack" (Free RPG Day)


Flying Buffalo released a preview of the upcoming Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls RPG (to be released this summer) as their Free RPG Day contribution. Let me touch on the high points before I hit the low point.

The included rules preview cover characters up to 5th level, including spells. I love T&T spells for the shear simplicity and brevity of their write ups. The OSR could learn much from this, as I doubt any OSR game could fit five levels of spells on a single page and still cover what is needed.

It also includes the classes (all? most?) from the upcoming dT&T release. Biggest change is upping the power of the basic Warrior class, which I had planned to do with house rules. No need for that now I guess ;)

I didn't see mention of "Spite Damage" with each natural "6" rolled. Perhaps that's gone now.

The actual Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls short form rules appear to be very playable. I'm not sure if my own previous rules knowledge is filling in the gaps, but I suspect a good GM could run a short campaign using these rules. He wouldn't want to start will the included adventure, unless he was looking for a truly short campaign of about one encounter.

The Chambers of Z'Tpozz The Mad Dwarf is nominally for 4-8 characters of levels 1-5. Maybe if you had a group that was near the high end in numbers and level there would be a chance of survival if not success, but newbie characters need not apply.

Interestingly enough, they include three ready to use pregens (notice how the minimal suggest characters is FOUR). The are a very good example of how T&T races are not balanced against each other, and why I'd have my group go either all trolls or no trolls - there is no power curve with trolls - they overpower all else. I had hoped this would have been addressed with the new edition  Ah well.

The included adventure has a running clock that can kill the party if they don't move fast enough, but as most encounters will handily kill a party of the average 1-3 level PCs (and probably higher) the running clock isn't much of an issue.

Is it a fun adventure? It looks to have potential, but a group of new players, especially with newly rolled PCs and possibly new to gaming will be left with a poor taste in their mouth.

There is also a free to download dT&T solo you can request from Flying Buffalo. Haven't gotten far enough to request that yet.

So, I'm overal happy with the rules as presented and continue to be amazed at how concise they are and yet still playable. It's a shame the included adventure isn't playable with the rules, at least not past the first encounter and TPK.

Thanks again +Tim Shorts ;)


The Rest of My Free RPG Day Picks Arrived Today - dT&T and DCC RPG


A huge thanks to +Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor for sending these along to me. I missed out on them on Free RPG Day, as they were sold out at Noble Knight's online store by 830 Saturday morning.

I have a lot of reading in store (not including the $150+ worth of GURPS I bought as a bundle for $50).

Enough chit chat - some reading so I can do some reviews ;)

Are There Any OSR Quickstarts Besides the Two Swords & Wizardry Ones?



I can only think of two OSR Quickstarts: Frog God's Hall of Bones for this years Free RPG Day and the classic Swords & Wizardry Quickstart.

Am I missing any?

How would you put together an OSR Quickstart (system is fairly irrelevant to this question)?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A 7 Minute PBS Documentary - "Dungeons & Dragons and the Influence of Tabletop RPGs"


Shout out to +Gnome Stew for bringing this video to my attention. Certainly an interesting seven minutes of D&D Documentary video. Shame that some of the clips seem to show 4e ;)

A Look at Free RPG Day's "Hall of Bones" (Swords & Wizardry)


Hall of Bones was the Free RPG Day 2103 release for Swords & Wizardry. I've heard some grumblings on the blogshere and such that it was lacking, and I understand the arguments. The thing is, those arguments are coming from within the OSR. Hall of Bones is not aimed at current OSR gamers. It's aimed at roleplayers that need an introduction to the OSR - primarily Pathfinder players I suspect.

On that level is works. It's a decent introduction to OSR gaming. The adventure is short, but if you plan to explain the rules and put them into action, you don't want a multi-session adventure. You probably want something that plays to the end in a short session, and that is what you have here.

I'm glad I picked it up even if it is of very little use to me, as it shows me that Frog God Games is serious about growing the Swords & Wizardry Game, and that is very good news indeed.

"Shotguns & Saddles" (OSR Western) Goes Wild and Neoplastic Press (Teratic Tome / SlaughterGrid) Goes "All In" on PWYW

I'm either in a reviewer's heaven or a reviewer's hell, as I just can't keep up with the releases that I really want to read.

Shotguns & Saddles is the new OSR Western RPG release by +David Bezio . You might remember him from a little OSR game X-Plorers. I'm very excited to check this out and I'm already toying with the idea of borrowing elements from Deadlands when I get the chance to run it. I mean, it's OSR, so I have compatible magic spells and walking dead things ;)

Neoplastic Press (aka +Rafael Chandler ) has gone all into the "Pay What You Want" pricing at RPGNow. If for some unknown reason you've missed out on the Teratic Tome, SlaughterGrid or one of Raf's other releases, you literally have no excuse not to check it out now. (when you get to the Neoplastic Press page at RPGNow, you will see suggested prices. Click on the PDF in question and you will go the the PWYW page).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Call For Submissions to the Unofficial OSR Zine

I've got vacation time coming up from the real job. I'm off the first week of July and the week that covers the end of July / first week of August. I'd like to devote much of that time to reviewing / editing submissions to the Unofficial OSR zine.

What are we looking for? Monsters, adventures, spells, magic items, classes, house rules, design thoughts, series of articles, whatever the fuck is on your mind that your think others might want to read and is OSR related.

In all seriousness, this zine should belong to the OSR community and as such needs to be written by the community. If all you wantred to read was my thoughts, this blog would suffice.

The plan is to cover all of the OSR games out there, dependent of course on the articles submitted. Can't publish articles for AS&SH or LotFP Weird Fantasy and the like if no one submits them. Some articles may be "generic" OSR, some may be more system specific. Some may be multi-system stated. Depends on the submission.

The Unofficial OSR Zine pays in "beer money" - either thru RPGNow credit or Paypal. "Beer Money" is $5 per accepted article or piece of art. Grumpy Dwarf (that's us / me / whatever) gets the rights to publish your work in the PDF issue it's initially published in until the end of civilization, and the right to publish it in a print on demand collection of the PDFs in question. You keep the copyright. You can republish it as you will.

We are also offering free 1/4 page ads for any and all OSR zines out there, in print or PDF. This is a community project, at least from my POV, and giving back to the community is the least I can do.

Want to know where the RPGNow affiliate credit this blog earns goes when it isn't given away in some random contest? It will be going to pay the "beer money" for this zine until it breaks even.

Send inquiries, ideas, submissions, threats to tenkarsDOTtavernATgmailDOTcom. Put "zine" or some such shit in the subject heading.

Oh, and for those that are inquiring about submitting articles for OSG (Old School Games) send me an email and we'll figure out if it fits.

First Impressions - Better Than Any Man - LotFP Free RPG Day 2013 Release


Say what you will about +James Raggi , but when he connects he hits it out of the park. Better Than Any Man is probably his best release yet.

The art, the maps, the presentation, the fold out cover, the screwed up real life history - 96 pages of James at his best and it's all for free. Alright, it was paid for by Kickstarter funding, but it was available for free on Free RPG Day.

I'm so looking forward to really digging into this. I just got my copy today from Noble Knight Games and have just done a quick skim of this. Didn't even open up the Star Wars Quickstart and the Swords & Wizardry one seems to have been aimed at newbies to the OSR (as well it should be).

Better Than Any Man is aimed solidly at those in the OSR and it really hass been excited to read it. Not so sure how representative it is to James's recent releases, as this seems at first glance to be very playable and not the recent party fucks that James has done of late - entertaining party fucks, but party fucks none the less. This seems like a sandbox setting with a very interesting plot. Hopefully it lives up to those impressions. I'll work on the review over the weekend.


For Those That Say a G+ Hangout RPG Session Can't Equal Face to Face...

This past Saturday was our group's first session in three weeks, not counting a short Hangout with a handful to test the new DSL at my folk's place in the Poconos two weeks ago. We usually take 30 to 45 minutes to get settled, catch up, tell stories, bitch - all the usual stuff that goes on in a Face to Face game, except we aren't sharing snacks and farts.

This time we never even got to game - we literally hung out for 3 hours just talking and laughing our asses off.

It's been damn near 18 years since I had that happen to a game I was running, and that was with my old high school / college group.

Our online group has come together and bonded much like most good face to face groups. That is a thing of beauty to behold, even if it did frustrate me a bit a the DM. Then again, the whole point of gaming is to socialize and have fun IMHO, and we certainly did all of that, so I really can't complain...

Face to Face or Online - Which is Your Preferred Method of Playing Your RPGs?

There is a certain intimacy that in Face to Face gaming that you don't get with most Online / Hangout / VTT sessions. It's also easier to see if your players are distracted or fading.

Online offers a much larger pool of players for your group. Our current group consists of players ranging from the east coast of North America to the west coast, from Florida to Canada and in between.  Kinda impossible to pull that off Face to Face.

Running sessions online also cuts down on time lost to commuting to the game site. Oh, and you only have to clean up after yourself ;)

Both methods have pros and cons, and in the ideal situation I think I'd prefer face to face. That being said, my ideal gaming group spans 3 times zones and two countries, so I'll take the ideal group over the ideal method in this case :)

Face to Face or Online? Which is it for you?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thoughts on a "Mad Libs" Style Mini Dungeon

Sometimes thoughts come from out of the blue and trip you up bad - they derail your ability to think of anything else.

This is one of those times.

As I sit here thinking about some regular sections and such for the Unofficial OSR Zine, the idea of a "Mad Libs" styled Mini Dungeon came to mind. Instead of using nouns, verbs and the like, it would be things like "choose humanoid", "choose mindless undead" and "giant _____" in the room encounters. Could even work out a system for traps too.

Maybe it's silly, but no two dungeons would run the same. Besides, silly can be fun too.

If you have no idea what Mad Libs are, Wikipedia defines it as:
Mad Libs (from ad lib, a spontaneous improvisation) is a phrasal template word game where one player prompts another for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story. The game is frequently played as a party game or as a pastime.
Maybe under the title "Spontaneous Dungeons".

Or maybe i just need some sleep ;)

 

Mini Review - Verloren The Rufescent and the Atramentous (LL Mini Setting and Adventure Hooks)

Where to start. Verloren is a city ripped from it's place in time, moved forward or backwards no one is truly sure. It is, effectively, an urban sandbox of sorts.

The map of the city is unlabeled, and in truth, probably not needed. The city is in the midst of moral decay. The hooks, and there are many, don't coincide to places on the maps - they are linked to personalities and events.

See, this isn't an adventure and to come to it with that expectation would leave the prospective DM frustrated. It's a series of hooks and story elements that can come together as a bigger picture, but the DM and the players are going to be the ones to put that together. It's a toolkit of sorts. A very disturbing toolkit at points.

Unless the DM is comfortable running game sessions from the seat of his pants, Verloren is going to need significant prep work, not the least of which is how the players react to the shift from normal city to one quickly decaying.

The big plot hook behind this all? Pretty interesting, and I'm not going to ruin the surprise.

Negatives? I already mentioned the virtually useless city map. As there really isn't much need for it (the DM may be well advised to possibly map out a very localized block or two for some of the hooks) being useless isn't so much a problem, but it would have been nice to have some locations / hooks labeled.

You need to watch the video to find out it's for adventurers 5-13 as it isn't spelled out at the RPGNow site.


The blurb:

Verloren is a city hanging in the balance.  Either it will fall to an ancient evil or triumph based on your actions.  Enclosed are city details, maps, nine original monsters, and interesting non-player characters for encounters in and out of Verloren.  In this fantasy supplement, players will face powerful monsters and explore a decaying city to discover the secret of The Change and save the thousands of inhabitants.

    9 Original Monsters
    Over 20 Original Illustrations
    3 New Spells
    Lots of NPCs and Story Hooks
    2 Maps


A Kickstarter That Needs a Priest - ZEITGEIST AP hardcover compilation (Pathfinder & D&D 4E)

Well, I gotta give it to Morrus - he certainly knows how to grab attention ;)

In all seriousness, what little work I've seen from E.N. Publishing has been fairly good (admittedly that is from the 3e days), but as I play neither Pathfinder nor 4e, this is all wasted on me.

If I did play either, the $60 price point for the color HC edition and all of the stretch goals in PDF is probably the sweet point.

Just 118 more backers for the "Divine Intervention" ritual attempt :)

Of Blogger and G+ and the Piss Poor Mish-Mash of the Two

I'm an active blog poster. I probably post on average three to four times a day over here at The Tavern. Each of these posts also get shared on G+, and I guess I'm fairly active over there too. Heck, as of today over 4,000 fine folks have included me in their circles. I'm flattered.

My experiment of trying out the use of G+ for comments in Blogger lasted a few hours. It prevented those without G+ accounts from commenting, which I thought was pretty damn limiting as many of my blog readers and commenters aren't active on G+.

So, the communities overlap to a large extent, but the blog and G+ are also a bit separate.

Now, I posted a comment on a Blogger blog yesterday that had G+ integrated into the comments section, and it turned my comment into a publicly shared post by me on G+, which lost much of the context of the comment as the blog was linked to, but not quoted from by G+. I wasn't looking to fan any flames, but to get the original poster's thoughts on a specific question.

My comment basically started it's own thread, which was not my intention.

Looks like I'll be avoiding commenting on blogs that have G+ integrated in their comments section until Google figures this shit out.

Monday, June 17, 2013

What Are the Best OSR Gaming Supplements Out There?

Yes, I know it's a question that's very subjective. Still, it doesn't invalidate the question.

I have two favorites, for very different reasons.

The Teratic Tome, because it is amazing to behold (both in print and PDF). The unspoken setting behind many of the creatures presented must be brutally amazing. Did I mention the art is awesome and there are so many creatures I want to find ways to sneak in Rappan Athuk?

The second is the Tome of Adventure Design. I really should do a post a week, creating adventure locations and the like using the table in this book. The amount of inspiration in this book is beyond my ability to quantify - lots doesn't come close. Get it in dead tree format if you get the chance - there is nothing like flipping through this book to make you want to run a game session.

Now, despite my two picks above, I am sure there are numerous other choices that are just as worthy, if not more.

What are your picks?

Review - Monsters & Magic - Part 2 - Checks Please!


If you are still thinking "D20" with Monsters & Magic, please stop (although if the name automatically is translated as "Might & Magic" you probably played the same computer games I did). M&M doesn't use a D20, it uses "Checks" built with 3d6 plus modifiers for resolution.

Heck, sometimes you dont even need to roll, you just go with attribute score + trait bonus if you'd rather not leave it to chance. It's kinda like "taking 10" in 3e - not that I've played more than a single session of 3e, but I do own and have read the books back when they were new. No stress? Figure out your Static Check - as in "doesn't change".

Action Checks are probably the most common checks in the game. Want to attack, persuade, cast a spell, pick a pocket or any of potentially dozens of other actions? You need to make an Action Check.

Resistance Checks are used in traditional save situations and as a passive resistance. In most circumstances the rules suggest you would use the Static Check, but apparently you can choose to roll it as a sort of active defense, which could be higher or lower than the passive Static Check.

Then we have Ranked Checks, which is used for things like initiative, contests and competitions and the like.

If it seems a little confusing it very well might be, especially if you are coming at this from the OSR side of things and not one of them "new fangled" games like Fate or Dungeon World. Once you start adding trait bonuses, armor bonuses and damage dice to the checks I need to step back for a minute and grab a beer, as now things start getting a bit complicated.

This is where I'm no longer standing on solid ground, and for the purposes of this review I'm going to reproduce the Damage Dice & Armour Bonuses Table from page 37.

Are you following along at home? A "Golden Carriage" has a "Damage Die". "A Member of Nobility" gets an "Armour Bonus".

It took about half a beer to get past this and remind myself there are two types of damage in this game, two types of armor class.

If you are going to bring "social combat" (for lack of a better phrase coming from my fairly insular "Old School Gaming" background), this is probably the way you would have to introduce it to me. Don't bother thinking that I'm standing on steady ground at this point, but it makes more sense to my sensibilities than Fate does. Actually, it may go so far as to help me understand Fate. Or not, but there is hope.

Crap. Actions are next. Which are pretty much the types of things you can make a Check to attempt to do. This is really where you find out how the Effect Engine figures out your success or failure (and margin of such) and helps you interpret that based on the action you were attempting (as well as the applicable Resistance).

I need another beer I think ;)

Some RPG Definitions I'll Be Using on This Blog

There is an on going debate as to what falls under the OSR and what doesn't. So, I'm setting some definitions for use here at The Tavern. It should make some things easier, at least from my perspective. I'm open to new definitions, but not the whole argument of what does or doesn't fall under the OSR.

So, what is the OSR or Old School Renaissance here at The Tavern? Any AD&D 2e or earlier game system, clone or derivative.  Pretty simple. If it can trace it's roots directly to early D&D or AD&D, it's OSR. (note - this is the definition i'm using HERE starting now. Use your own definition over THERE ;)

Next is OSG or Old School Games. Tunnels & Trolls, RuneQuest, Traveller, Rolemaster, GURPS, the old Pacesetter line and the like are Old School Games. The OSR is a subset of the OSG.

New Wave - Fate, Apocalypse World, Dungeon World and the like are new wave to my eyes. I don't seem to grok the new wave stuff so well but I try.

Indie - Savage Worlds, Umbiquity System and similar systems are under my general Indie Label.

The OSR and the OSG are where most of my interest lies, as long time readers of this blog should know.

Eh, I needed some accurate tags for all of these blogposts, and the above is a start. Feel free to add your suggestions below, such as "Shite" for the WoD line or Insane for the crunch laden Hero line (which is also OSG I guess ;)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Winner of the: Tell Us About Your Favorite Monster and You May Win a PDF Copy of "Monsters & Magic" is...


Dave and his Gelatinous Cubes!

Congrats Dave, you are the random winner - I need you to send an email to tenkarsDOTtavernATgmailDOTcom so I can send you your code for your free PDF copy of Monsters & Magic. Thanks to Mindjammer Press for the PDF copy.

Hopefully back to reviewing M&M tomorrow - it was a busy Father's Day weekend ;)


An Interesting Old School Kickstarter - Whisper & Venom (Old School Styled Setting / Adventure / Minis in a Box)



I find Whisper & Venom to be a very tempting Kickstarter.

It's got all the things that tempt me - an old school setting, and old school adventure, mini and a box. There really is something to be said about boxed sets.

So yes, I'm very tempted even tho' I probably already have more minis then I'll ever attempt to paint in a lifetime (assuming my Reaper Minis ever arrive - sigh).

See, this is the quote that gets me really hopeful:
We wanted to make the single best fantasy role-playing game product possible. One that was designed with old-school role-playing games in mind but interesting and exciting for any fantasy role-playing system.
The problem is that $75 is the sweet point to get all of the stretch goal, many of which have been met.

At the current stretch goal, you get:

A Guide to Whisper Vale

The Whisper & Venom Adventure Sourcebook

an 11" x 17" two sided map

a set of dice

10 minis

oh, and a PDF copy of the adventure and setting.

Did I mention the Jeff Dee art?

It's not a bad price point but I have some much money tied up in Kickstarter RPG promises.

Eh, maybe I'll ask for it as a birthday present ;)

The OSR Made a Great Showing on Free RPG Day 2013


Let's look at the RPG products actually offered for Free RPG Day in Print - which means we cross off the retailer shirt, the dice tower and the Chessex and Q Workshop Dice. Which brings the 16 offerings down to 12.

The Cosmic Patrol Quickstart is a left over from last year and the Tuese'al Quickstart is only per box, so it's presence is negligible. If we remove them from the count, we really have 10 products being offered in print and new.

Of those 10, 4 are solidly OSR, and as I consider Tunnels & Trolls to be OSR, it's actually 5 out of 10.

"Hall of Bones" for Swords & Wizardry

"Better Than Any Man" for LotFP's Weird Fanyasy

The DCC / XCrawl Double Adventure from Goodman Games

"A Pot of Broken Bones and Halfling Broth": for Castles & Crusades

and lastly "Fire Dwarves of Zorr" for dT&T

not a bad showing at all.



Even RPGNow Recognizes the Death of Free RPG Day 2013 PDFs

How do I know they recognize it? They sent out an email titled "Hundreds of FREE RPG Quickstarts, Maps, Adventures & more!". Many of the items linked? You guessed it - they are from previous years' Free RPG Day promotions.

I'm not complaining about the links. Free is free. I'm just surprised how little attention was paid to the PDF side of Free RPG Day this year, especially for the gamers outside the states.

Some of the grouped links sent by RPGNow:

Quickstarts

Adventures

Maps

The above links are free all of the time, not just for Free RPG Day.