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Sunday, January 18, 2015

A "What the F@ck?" Kickstarter - How to Game Master like a F@cking Boss

Yeah, I know that the real title of this Kickstarter doesn't use a @ in place of the letter "u" in the most versatile word in the English language. I do try to keep curse words out of the blog post titles as best I can, so @ it is.

In any case, Venger is back with a new Kickstarter - How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss.

Now, first rule of a successful Kickstarter is - have it written before putting your hand out. By his own words, Venger has only about a third of this done as he kicks off his request for funding.

I'm not impressed by the percentages mentioned above. Oh, and no cover art yet. Heck, no sample art at all.

edit: Cover art and artist name added to the Kickstarter page. Venger does listen to advice. Now if only the boiler plate could sound less like "get laid with Secrets of the Masters."

But there is this excellent example of wooden dice trays that Venger puts together by hand. Pledge $111 for one of these.



I know Venger has a high opinion of himself. More power to him. I would like to have the following explained (I know its hyperbole) - which "Game Mastering practices of yore" are "weighing our hobby down."
The time has come to set down what I've learned so that you, too, can wrestle the untamed crimson dragon that lurks in the shadows beyond the lowly Game Mastering practices of yore, weighing our hobby down.  To wrestle with the dragon and win... that is what I shall teach you!
Hey, we get the secrets of the "Hidden Masters!"
I'll be going over the entire Game Mastering process:  tips, tricks, techniques, outside the box practices of the Hidden Masters, state of mind, confidence, insecurities, combat to non-combat encounter ratio, improvisation, room for improvement, dos and don'ts, random tables, as well as, a number of other topics.  Everything you need in order to Game Master like a fucking boss!
Why the fuck do I feel like I've stumbled across some damn website trying to sell me "secrets" that will make me "a Fucking Boss", grow my penis, improve my memory, bring me untold wealth and help me lose 50 pounds in just 5 weeks?

Because it reads like the very same shit.

Want to improve your Game Mastering skills quickly and effectively and for free? Be a player in games run by different GMs. Take the bits and pieces that work for you and improve your skills. Most importantly? Have fun.

48 comments:

  1. So, you're of the opinion that a book on Game Mastering isn't worth pursuing or just that I'm not the right one for the job?

    The cover art is displayed on the Kickstarter page, as well as, my blog post. Twice on my old school gaming blog, actually, because it's on the most recent post and then on the far right sidebar. Also, I have some of the interior artwork stored on my computer with more on the way. Those who've backed my KS projects know I'm going to put quality and quantity into this next book. If it doesn't fund, then I guess you're right and I'm out the door.

    By the way, the $111 level includes more than just the sigil dice tray. You get a signed softcover of every gaming book I've created.

    Thanks for the mention, Erik. As always, it's been a pleasure. ;)

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    1. Actually, it's the opening frame of your video I guess. Which, if someone bothers to play the video, they won't see again until the page is refreshed. And no, it is not mentioned that the at in question is the cover art on the Kickstarter page.

      You are selling bottled tap water to folks that can get the water for free AND comping off like a sleazy infomercial huckster at the same time. I'd like to assume that wasn't your intent.

      I've read your other work, and I've been more impressed with your adventure writing than your house rules to tell the truth. This sounds like it's going to be more house rules.

      Of course, I could be wrong as most of it has yet to be written...

      Delete
    2. actually, while we are discussing the project:

      which "Game Mastering practices of yore" are "weighing our hobby down."

      I'd like to know, as I'm sure would everyone else in the hobby

      Delete
    3. You're right. Just having the cover art at the beginning of the video might not be enough. Will correct that oversight immediately. Thanks!

      As for the rest... you'll have to wait and see, Erik.

      Delete
    4. Nah, I won't be waiting or seeing.

      It's enough to know that you believe "Game Mastering practices of yore" are "weighing our hobby down."

      When you figure out which practices those are, I'm sure you'll share your wisdom

      Delete
    5. My con experiences have certainly proven to me that playing with different referees can really benefit one's own game. However, I think books that provide tips and tools for running games can be very helpful as well. I'd cite Gygax's DMG and Raggi's referee book for LotFP as great examples.

      When it comes to that kind of book, quality art can be a great addition but I don't understand why one would knock a book for not having it. One of the most useful gaming books I own is Finch's Tome of Adventure Design, and it has almost no art of real significance whatsoever.

      I don't disagree that having a completed document ready to go is optimal. Having said that, it's certainly not necessary to a project's success, as is demonstrated by the author's track record of delivering the goods.

      My read on this project is that it has more to do with putting together great adventures than it does with house rules, but time (and perhaps the author) will tell.

      Delete
    6. I'm referring to home games / campaigns mostly. Cons are a different animal with different expectations.

      Rotate GMs in your home gaming group (or groups if you are so blessed) and it will be infinitely better than any one person's written word when it comes to improving your GM skills.

      Delete
    7. Obviously, it's great that rotating referees in your home game has worked well for you.

      In my case, I've learned more about running great games from gaming at conventions - and from reading - than from taking turns as GM in my home group. I don't think that has to do with a lack of trying. Over the last 5 years or so, four people in my home group have taken turns at running games.

      While those games certainly lend perspective, what has really stretched my imagination and improved my own GMing is gaming with people with very different backgrounds and experiences from my own, and reading what those kind of people have to say about gaming. Seeing Harley Stroh run an epic combat, and Liz Larsen introduce the Weird into a scenario have really emboldened and enlightened me. In the same way, Matt Finch's primer and Kevin Carson's refereeing chapters have also expanded my horizons and made me a better GM.

      Anyway, I just really disagree with anyone suggesting that there aren't any new ideas for improving the way a person might run a game, or that those ideas can't be effectively shared through the written word.

      Delete
    8. I think the issue isn't that there's no room for a book like this, but that the pitch is lacking in information. I can assert that I can bring something new to the table, too. Anyone can. So what is it? What will make this different? It would be a siginifcantly better sell to provide a better framework or picture or what we're considering backing. Right now I know its going to be about 72 pages, and just from the page count I am suspect it won't dethrone or even hold a candle to other similar tomes (ruch as Robin Laws' book of Gming, or the Kobold guides, to use two examples).

      Anyway: better pitch with more emphasis on what will make this worth considering will = more interest, less uncertainty, and a likelihood the KS will get off the doom watch here (until its late, that is). Also, VS needs to stop comparing it to modules and other game books. We buy lots of modules because we use lots of modules....but only certain people will buy and use GM advice books, and those people need some direction on why this one will be worth the time to look into beyond vague, possibly dissmissive generalities about the nebulous "yore." I am not one of those people, by the way....I have no need for VS's advice. Self-help books face this issue all the time, and they solve their sales pitch by getting a gimmick, and schtick that makes them stand out. "Seven Powers of....," "How to Make Friends..." "Six Steps to a New You" etc. they have to do this: the market is flooded with these useless books vying for the attention of people who think they hold answers. GM guides are like a microcosm of the same.

      Delete
    9. Venger has enough of a following for this to probably succeed, even if it were a blank book for one to write in their own GM Secrets (not saying Venger is going to do this - I'm fairly sure he will put out a book with his very own "GM Secrets".)

      Delete
    10. What did people do before youtube made it possible to be a crazed eccentric with a following....my uncle was born too soon, apparently.

      Delete
  2. The dice trays don't look bad (not worth $111, but not bad). Except why are there scribbles all over them?

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  3. I respect anyone's attempt to make a living. But for something that's freely available pretty much everywhere, and isn't even written to boot?

    Sell me on why I should pledge when I can easily google something like this:

    http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/gaming/gmtips.html

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    1. Great question! Let me try to answer it by asking another. Why would someone buy another version of D&D when they already have one or more previous editions? Why would someone buy an adventure if they already own 20+ modules that could be mixed, matched, and skinned to create an unlimited supply of encounters and situations? Why do some people buy self-help books or hire a life coach? Multiple questions, but getting at the same thing... I believe I can bring something new to the table.

      Delete
    2. So what is it? What is "new" that you're bringing that isn't already out there as advice somewhere?

      Oh, I guess that would mean you actually have to write it first...

      Delete
    3. Venger Satanis said:


      "Great question! Let me try to answer it by asking another. Why would someone buy another version of D&D when they already have one or more previous editions? Why would someone buy an adventure if they already own 20+ modules that could be mixed, matched, and skinned to create an unlimited supply of encounters and situations? Why do some people buy self-help books or hire a life coach? Multiple questions, but getting at the same thing... I believe I can bring something new to the table."

      Erik's bottled water analogy sounds right on the money. You also sound eerily similar to my neighbor that once tried to get me to join Amway.

      Delete
  4. $2000 seems very...very low. For any project, really....from prior industry experience I wouldn't even waste time on a 64-72 page book for such a small amount. Has the hobby devalued so severely or am I off base here? Also.....what on earth would be so amazing that it can be conveyed in 72 pages that Robin Laws, to provide an example of someone who did this professionally already and with lots of clout, hasn't already wowed us with?

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  5. Man if that's the tray, that's some sloppy sigil work. One would think, if its part of the package, those would be finely crafted with a nice pen or something, not written as if it was done to get it done.

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    1. I use a wood-burner, not a pen.

      Delete
    2. Having done wood burning in the past, it is difficult to do anything that would compare to pencil or ink. It is not an easy tool for the artist (let alone amateur in my case)

      Delete
  6. I've already found a great book on how to GM well. Didn't require a kickstarter, it requires that one upload a file to Lulu.

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  7. Personally don't believe any book can teach one how to GM well. That's something you learn by doing. Would be curious to know what new ideas are supposed to be in this book. Sounds like there are none since the author can't speak to the question.

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  8. I have to say that, while perhaps Venger could have worded his pledge in a more pleasant or pedestrian way, that isn't his style. Just like the cover art and disclaimer of his books suggest, this style isn't for everybody. His work is not guilty, however, of having "style over substance". He packs his books to the gills with gm tips, house rules, and more in addition to complete adventure write-ups that you would expect. I like to compare his work to old White Wolf stuff... Dripping with style and unique layout that is difficult to sperate from the actual information contained therein. Like the old White Wolf books, this information is abundant and often useful in many different contexts.

    In summary, is Venger's work often abrasive, wordy, or internally preoccupied? Sure. Is it also intensely personal, made with love, and badass? You bet!

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    1. There are plenty of authors I buy from because of prior works....maybe if Venger were more well known this KS wold be less problematic, but honestly even includign a quote from what you wrote above might help frame the KS in a manner that helps those unfamiliar with VS in getting the idea that he's got some history and a following.

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    2. I think Venger could have gone with less prose, more facts myself.

      Delete
  9. I'm not sure why something like this is needed when the 1e DMG is available for about five bucks on ebay. Do people seriously think they are better qualified to offer advice for running D&D than Gary Gygax was?

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  10. I just can't stop thinking of this book:

    http://www.quantumgambitz.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/bruce-becker.jpg

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  11. I don't have a proverbial dog in this discussion but it looks like the author/designer is fielding reasonable criticism with a fairly open system of response. It takes balls to present art for commerce. EVERYBODY wants to kick and spit (Spitstarter?) when the guitarist steps forward and turns it up to solo a la "that ain't metal enough, man, that ain't punk enough man, I can play Eddie's riffs, man, s'not that great". Easy to hide and throw barbs behind a keyboard.

    What is refreshing about this above discussion - I daresay community - is the feature of open and honest dialogue. I don't know this Venger gentlemen or his mission from the dozens of others that come under review. Give the man credit for taking his vision directly to a fair and critical pool, and answering to points without spiraling-down into name-calling and all the other shit that kills the productive/creative components.

    Frankly, this process is better than finishing a product and finding out to your financial malaise that it just plain sucks. You've got some folks here invested enough in the Fantasy Community to help you improve your product, Venger. Utilize the resource.

    Keep the discussion going.

    -Rick

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    1. to quote myself over on Venger's thread in OSR Community on G+


      Venger Satanis would have gotten less of a response (or no post at all) if his boilerplate didn't read like every weight loss, learn to flirt, personal magnetism, etc - site on the web.

      I'd still like a sentence or two telling us exactly which "Game Mastering practices of yore" are "weighing our hobby down."

      This will tell more about the value of the forthcoming book than any of Venger's hyperbole. He may very well have ideas that have value, but we'll never know sight unseen.

      Delete
    2. I second that motion, Tenkar.

      A 1,000 word treatment can't be that difficult to muster, more/less so if financing is requested.

      By the way: are Kickstarter proceeds taxable (Uncle Sam, Aunt Virginia, whatever?) ?

      -Rick

      Delete
    3. Well it's because that was all hyperbole and there are no "GM practices of yore" weighing us down. Does anyone believe for a moment the wheel just got reinvented by a guy using a silly "scary" pseudonym?

      Delete
    4. @HuckSawyer - Kickstarter proceeds are very taxable. If you aren't using a LLC to run your Kickstarter, you'll be taxed at the personal income tax rate.

      This has bit more than one Kickstarter in the ass.

      Delete
  12. For those interested, I've just posted a short Q&A based on the constructive criticism received: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1575519826/how-to-game-master-like-a-fucking-boss

    Thanks for the comments, everyone!

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  13. I can't speak to the kickstarter but I can say that I own a couple of his adventures. While the style/content was ultimately not what I was looking for, I realize it was at least, a thing that some people do want. I enjoyed reading them. And from my experience comparing it to other amateur productions, it certainly came across as something that was crafted with some care. If I found VS's style and substance more to my taste, I'd probably back this because I feel like he'll deliver a legitimate product in his own signature way.

    A lot of the comments on here are coming off a bit overly antagonistic IMO. Just sayin.

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  15. So the book is about 1/3rd completed at the launch of the funding drive. And we really have no clear idea what it will address and how. Even the clarifications aren't all that clear.

    And then today, through another blog, I'm lead to Venger's blog of a GM questionnaire, which he cross posted to several G+ groups — http://vengersatanis.blogspot.com/2015/01/gming-general-discussion.html — and I can't help but wonder how much of the content of the KS project will be driven by whatever comes in on the survey.

    Skeptic-o-meter is still reading pretty high, here.

    And "How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss" seems to be morphing into "How to Game Master Mainly Just Fantasy Campaigns With Disgusting Things in Them as Does Venger, a Fucking Boss"

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    1. Part synchronicity, part market research (though I didn't realize it at the time). It should be no surprise that most of my gaming-related blog posts involve Game Mastering in some way... I'm the Game Master. It's what I do.

      Reading about dissatisfied Game Masters forced me to examine the vocation and what I might bring to the proverbial table. But healthy skepticism is a good thing. Keep at it.

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  16. I usually agree w the targets of ur Kickstarter posts but in this case I politely disagree. Venger at the very least has delivered on everything he has put on KS in the past. I admit that I am not a fan of DM tips in general as I feel experience is the best teacher, but I cant fault him for using some sensationalist terminology to drive people to the project. It seems to have worked in this case!

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  17. Psst! You, that Trayth guy! THIS is how you are respond to criticism of your Kickstarter. Yeah, I think the whole thing sounds weird and silly too, but at least VS has responded intelligently and politely.

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  18. I've paid more than $20 bucks many times for novels, issues & politics books, freakin' Baudrillard... with no illustrations, no PDF, & I can' t remember a word from many of them. Some were sent to goodwill unread after a year! I expect everyone reading this could say the similar, or at least confess to a getting a family bucket of K-fry instead of going to the grocery store.

    Hell, there's a Fifty Shades of Grey movie & you begrudge this?

    Here's hoping you get as much from the next twenty you drop as I will reading this book, no matter how little the world 'needs' it.

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    1. Thankfully this discussion convinced Venger some actual insight was needed as to what he was going to present beyond the hyperbole.

      The Kickstarter page has been updated with an actual example, so that those that aren't intimately knowledgable with Venger's works know what to expect to some extent.

      Of course, I'm still left wondering what "gamemastering practices of yore" have weighed the hobby down. I'll chalk that up to hyperbole and "ad speak"

      Delete
    2. To those people who haven't changed their Game Mastering practices in over a decade, I'd say this: you're not doing anything wrong but you could be doing things better. Unless, of course, you're already an amazing Game Master with no room for improvement. If that's the case, my book would be totally unnecessary. Save your gold.

      Delete
  19. Actually, more GM advice is never a bad thing, and compared to Champions of ZED, any Kickstarter campaign will look good.

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  20. Vindication... it feels pretty good. ;)

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