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Saturday, September 5, 2015

White Star Now Available in Print - Softcover & Hardcover POD



You've been asking for it and now it's finally here.

White Star. In Print!

I had nothing to do with it getting released in print, but as I have the author's softcover proof of White Star, I know how good the print version is.

If you bought the PDF before, you should have an email from RPGNow with a discount code.

Otherwise, you can grab your copy of White Star through The Tavern's affiliate link and help keep the taps flowing ;)

State of The Tavern - September 2015 - Midnight Tours, Tavern Chat and Other Fine Adjustments

Not me, but probably how I will look tonight
So, starting tonight I'm now working the midnight tour at work. Well, actually,starting at 730 tonight as I have some overtime on the front end - normal work hours will kick off at 930 the night before. Technically I'm going in tonight for Sunday -which doesn't really give me much of a Saturday.

What does this mean for The Tavern, it's readers and my Patreons? Just as I was fully adjusting to working evenings my body's internal clock is in for it's biggest shock yet. I may find some of those creative juices return as I'll be home for the later afternoon and evening hours or I may be a zombie due to lack of sleep. No idea at this point. I guess the next few weeks will tell.

One major change. Tavern Chat is moving to Thursday Nights, 9PM to 11PM Eastern. I get off at 6AM Thursday mornings for what amounts to something that supposedly resembles my weekend but I'm working Wednesday nights, so the old day would never work. Not saying I'll be able to be coherent Thursday night, but it should be entertaining none the less ;)

The next six months should be an interesting ride...


Friday, September 4, 2015

Pathfinder Online Looks to be Over Before it's Done - Goblinworks Lets Go Nearly it's Entire Staff - Ryan Dancy Resigns

Now THAT's a Dead Goblin

Remember the Pathfinder Online Kickstarter? It was basically to raise seed money to get larger investors interested in the property. My God did Paizo push this hard and fight back against the naysayers.

Of course, the game system itself had nothing to do with the actual Pathfinder system - it was using the name and maybe setting material but that was all.

In any case, it's all gone bust now:

Lisa's Community Address

Posted by: Mike Hines Sept. 2, 2015

To the Pathfinder Online Community

From the beginning of the three year journey to create Pathfinder Online, the one constant has been the support of our community and for this I thank you.  We have had ups and downs including heated debates on design, implementation and overall gameplay.  We have literally battled together (or against each other) and I know you enjoy playing the game as much as I do.  I also know that the community comes together during tough times, and it is probably no surprise that we are currently in a tough spot right now.  There are a number of things that have occurred in the past two weeks that you need to be brought up to date on.

As we have been on this journey to create Pathfinder Online with you for over three years now, we have striven to be as transparent as possible with you.  We just shared the following message with the community during our weekly Keepside Chat.  In full transparency, here is a quick run down of the state of our game:

-EE10.2 is on ZOG for final testing and should roll out to live on Thursday or Friday morning.
EE11 is targeted for the end of September

-Ryan Dancey has had to resign from the company for personal reasons (Lisa Stevens will be acting CEO)

-Finances are tight at Goblinworks, which has resulted in the layoff of the majority of Goblinworks staff

-CTO Mark Kalmes, Art Director Mike Hines, and Designer Bob Settles continue to push the game forward (your monthly subscriptions are what keep these three employed and the server up)
Goblinworks is in talks with multiple game publishers to take the game on and bring it to Open Enrollment

I know that is a lot to take in, so I will share what details we can below:

Game status (EE10.2 and EE11)
We are in final testing before pushing EE10.2 to the live server with its fully revamped and improved new player experience, buy orders for the auction house as well as auction sales histories, settlement chat, and the new crystal ogres monthly event, as well as turning the previous event (The Wrath of Nhur Athemon and its Shadow counterpart) into an ongoing escalation, and making a bunch of bug fixes and improvements.  The team has been working hard on this and on EE11 for most of July and August.  EE11 is done in design, almost entirely done in art, and just needs a bit more programming to get it to the point where we can test. It will take settlement activities to the next level by allowing you to customize and build your settlements the way you want to.  Building a settlement will be a large group task, with lots of raw materials to gather and refine before buildings can be erected.  We will also have the dark elves monthly event ready, providing more PVE content for those who are focused on that aspect of the game.  The core team has the goal of shipping  EE11 by the end of September, and we'll keep you updated on our progress.

Ryan Dancey
Ryan Dancey needed to resign from the company for personal reasons.  We were very sad that he needed to leave us, but supported his decision because it is in the best interests of Ryan’s life outside Goblinworks.  In Ryan’s absence, the board of directors has appointed me Acting CEO.

Finances
We have always known that we would need a certain amount of money to make Pathfinder Online a reality.  Some delays in getting the game to market coupled with some anticipated funding falling through have left us about 75% short of the money we need to finish the game (emphasis mine) and bring it to Open Enrollment.  We knew that we could cut our burn rate (the rate at which expenses burn your cash reserves) by having folks participate in Early Enrollment and that was always the plan, though we never thought that the Early Enrollment subscribers could carry the company to Open Enrollment.  We knew we needed that full investment amount to do that.  We had numerous times this year where the full funding was dangling in front of us only to be snatched away at the last moment.  Very frustrating, but we moved forward and kept looking for somebody to come through with the money we needed to see the game through.

Due to the commitment that you have made to the game, your current subscriptions are able to keep the core team employed and the servers live.  We will continue to move the game forward with that team and keep the servers live as long as the continued financial support from the community is there.  But that means we need you, the Pathfinder Online Community, to continue to support us with your monthly subscription fees.  They are very literally what is keeping the servers paid for, and keeping our core team employed, working on EE11, and talking with various potential partners about purchasing the game so they can finish it. If you wish to see the game through to its finish, we need you to support it financially for the next few months, and if you know people that want to support it, encourage them to subscribe now.  (During this period, we will offer only month-to-month subscriptions.)

On August 28, we had to lay off the majority of the Goblinworks staff.  Continuing to push the game forward are CTO Mark Kalmes, Art Director Mike Hines, and Designer Bob Settles.  We have been keeping the staff abreast of our efforts to find funding for Pathfinder Online and that we would likely have to lay them off on the 28th.  We felt it was super important to give our employees warning so they could plan their lives accordingly.  Their efforts to line up new jobs led to some of the rumors about layoffs.  So why didn’t we announce this earlier?  Because there was and still remains a chance for Pathfinder Online to get its funding and continue forward, so it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that we would have to lay the staff off until Friday, the 28th.

Future
For the past few weeks, we have been shopping Pathfinder Online to a number of other game publishers, looking for a good fit to take the game on and fund it over the finish line.  There have been quite a few companies coming out of the woodwork to discuss this with us and we are in ongoing talks with a number of them about the possibilities.  More companies enter the fray every day.  These kinds of things take some time, though we are motivated to see them through as quickly as we can.  At any moment, one of these publishers could agree to buy the game and we could quickly ramp up to full tilt again.  Due to confidentiality, we can’t provide information on these negotiations.  Rest assured that you will be the first people we tell when there is news we can share.
This isn’t a super rosy picture, but we aren’t dead yet!  The Goblinworks team and the Pathfinder Online community have been underdogs for pretty much the entire project’s history.  But we have persevered and survived.  Sometimes it is darkest right before the dawn.  When I was at White Wolf, we were close to having our electricity and phones shut off in the month before Vampire: The Masquerade released and became a huge hit.  At Wizards of the Coast, we had to lay off the entire staff for 9 months before Magic: The Gathering launched and became one of the most successful games in history.  You have my word that I will work relentlessly to find the right partner to take Pathfinder Online through to the finish line.  The team has brought the ball down the field to the red zone, and now we just need somebody to punch it over the goal line.

I will be hosting another Keepside Chat on Wednesday, September 8th at its normal time of 5pm PST.  You can join the chat live by going to:
Golarion.mumble.com
Port 3093

The ability for us to make Pathfinder Online has always been entirely dependent upon you, the Pathfinder Online Community and the support you have given us.  I would like to thank the Pathfinder Online community for your fierce dedication, support, feedback, and drive to see this game made well.  The only reason to make Pathfinder Online is you, our customer.  I hope you will stay with us over the next few months as we search for that proper partner to finish the game.  It is your support, literally, that will allow this to happen.  Without you, there is no Pathfinder Online.

You have my eternal gratitude,

Lisa Stevens
Acting CEO
Goblinworks Inc.

You can go read the original and the FAQ at the Goblinworks blog.

Review of Black Powder Black Magic, a DCC RPG Fanzine (Guest Poster Jim Wampler)



See? I told you there were some guest posts in the hopper ;)

Review of Black Powder Black Magic, a DCC RPG Fanzine
by Jim Wampler

If anything marks the tide change in the growing mainstream popularity of Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, it’s the presence of a plethora of Third Party Publishing support like Black Powder, Black Magic Vols. 1 and 2.

Ostensibly presented as another member of the legion of DCC RPG fanzines (over six separate publications at last count), Black Powder, Black Magic is in fact a new game setting for DCC RPG, one billed as mixing “six guns & sorcery,” which really would have been just as apt choice of a name for the system.

But BPBM’s “six guns & sorcery” approach is also a well chosen call-back to gaming in the halcyon era of the 1970s, a period which DCC RPG itself is designed to emulate in playstyle and feel. Those of us who go back to those days well remember playing our first Boot Hill games. The typical player strategy of the day was to slowly badger the GM by turning Boot Hill into a D&D type game by any means necessary. “No Fireball spell? No problem. We’ve got a case of dynamite and shotguns” was our mantra back then.  Thus, a setting like Black Powder, Black Magic gives old school style players exactly what they want. In a much more straight forward approach than past games and settings (Deadlands, I’m looking at you), BPBM presents the wild, wild west of the mid-to-late 19th century as an alternative history in which a substance called “demon ore” has been discovered and exploited, the U.S. government has all but forbidden travel to the “Dark Territories,” and a boom town like Brimstone is the perfect place for a player character to make a name for himself or die trying.

The first two volumes of BPBM couldn’t be better presented for players and judges to get started. Vol. 1 presents the basic campaign setting, rules for generating level-0 characters including occupations, starting equipment and trade goods, a common names table, and even the clever “Token of the Past” and “Motivations for Heading West” tables to help players easily slide into the setting. Rules for firearm use are of course covered (and could be handily adapted for use in a modern era DCC RPG setting). All of this is followed by the moody and intriguing level-0 character funnel adventure “The Devil’s Cauldron.”

The recently released Vol. 2 only ups the ante, by presenting all the rules necessary to convert the classic DCC RPG classes to the new setting. Want to run a fighter, wizard, cleric, or thief in the Dark Territories? The conversion rules are here. The rules for the cleric class are especially nice, with options for running everything from a Protestant Preacher or Native Shaman to a Chinese Mystic or a Cultist of the Old Gods.  Notably, two new setting-original classes are given: the Gambler and the Prospector (notable for actually being able to sense and find the vital demon ore). More BPBM classes are sure to follow in Vol. 3.  Vol. 2. also contains my single favorite item from the first two volumes — a full Patron writeup for BPBM: John Henry, the Steel Drivin’ Patron. Everything you need is there, from John Henry’s Invoke Patron results to his Patron Taint, Spellburn effects, and new spells. The second book then ends with some new monsters for BPBM with the promise of more to come in subsequent volumes.

So while Carl  Bussler and Eric Hoffman’s Black Powder, Black Magic bills itself as a DCC RPG fanzine, it’s really much more like the Little Brown Books of original D&D, albeit with considerably better organized rules, better typesetting, and excellent art by Todd McGowan. A sure sign of the warm reception these booklets have received is that as of this writing, the first print run of Vol. 2 has sold out. Fortunately, Vol. 1 is currently still available and a new print run of Vol. 2 is in the works. So what are you waiting for? Saddle up and ride hellbent for leather to Stormlords Publishing and go get yourself the DCC RPG setting that will make your players want to always have the sun at their backs, because a PC always needs an advantage.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Amazon Payments vs. OBS: A Cautionary Tale (Guest Poster Pete Spahn)

I have a couple of guest posts in the hopper. This one kinda jumped the line as it it relevant to the current hot topic in our corner of the universe...

Amazon Payments vs. OBS: A Cautionary Tale

OBS and censorship is in the news now. You can look up the details if you need to. Suffice to say, a product was released on OBS, it was deemed offensive and removed, and now there's going to be some type of reporting/flagging system to arbitrarily help decide what's offensive and what's not.

Knowing gamers like I do, I'm gonna take a wild guess and say that there's already someone out there purposely creating a product that's guaranteed to be offensive. When that happens, I guess it'll be flagged and reported. And then someone at OBS is going to decide to remove it.

There will be an outcry from the public. The internet will shake. Monitors will crack asunder. Keyboards will ignite with the typing of a thousand keys. And then, based on some of the comments I've seen over the past few days, it'll be time be time to put up or shut up. Publishers will have to decide whether or not they want to continue selling their products through the largest and most visible retail channel in the industry, or turn their backs on OBS and seek greener pastures.

I'm not here to sway anyone on that decision. I have my opinion obviously, but that's not what this article is about. This article is a warning to publishers that not all distributors are alike and some of them are potentially ruinous for a small press publisher.

How so?

Well, the tale begins almost a year ago when I engaged in one of several successful Kickstarters (TROPES: Zombie Edition). At the time, Kickstarter was attached to Amazon through their Amazon Payments program. How it worked was that you registered with Kickstarter, who handled the processing of all pledges, and you registered separately with Amazon Payments, who handled the actual distribution of said pledges to your bank account. Both organizations took their little piece of the pie of course, which ended up being about 10% of the total funding (give or take).

TROPES: Zombie Edition funded and was released on time along with all the perks and Stretch Goals awarded to various Backer levels. Yay!

I moved on. MONTHS passed. I started working on other projects and began preparing the campaign for my next Kickstarter.

Then, out of the blue I receive an email from Amazon Payments. Apparently, one of my mid-level backers had initiated a chargeback dispute with their bank/credit card company saying they had never received their products. What???

OK, these things happen. First thing I did was check to see what the backer was entitled to. Then I checked the backer mailing addresses (snail mail and email). I then checked my RPGNow confirmation emails to make sure PDF links to all products had been sent to the proper email address and print copies had been shipped to the proper mailing address.  Everything checked out on my end.

So, here's where it gets interesting.  Apparently, the way Amazon Payments handles a chargeback dispute is by giving you two options:

1. you can either refund the money to the customer.
2. you can have Amazon Payments act as an intermediary between you and the customer's bank/credit card.

Amazon Payments does not have a third option where you can talk to the bank/credit card and try to resolve the dispute yourself.

So, here's the kicker---Amazon Payments charges you $10 for Option #2, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT THE DISPUTE IS RULED IN YOUR FAVOR.

Read that last sentence again and then I'll recap here, so we're all on the same page.

You sell a product. You ship a product. Customer contacts Amazon Payments and states they never received said product. You can either refund the customer's money or pay an additional $10 to let Amazon Payments arbitrate.

This means that at minimum, you are out $10, just for collecting emails, shipping confirmations, etc. and sending them to Amazon Payments. And to top it all off, any customer can initiate a chargeback AT NO COST TO THEMSELVES. All they have to do is say they never received your product!

And keep in mind, this is $10 PER CHARGEBACK! So if you have numerous disputed transactions, the cost gets higher and higher.

Don't believe me? Read it here:

https://payments.amazon.com/help/201749650

https://payments.amazon.com/help/201749690

I contacted Amazon Payments customer service several times to verify and we exchanged some lengthy (somewhat irate on my part) emails about the fairness of this policy. I explained that this could easily ruin a small press publisher, or even a seller of low-cost items and here is how:

Let's say you want to sell an OSR sticker for $5 per sticker. Let's say it costs you $1 for the sticker and envelope, so you're selling a hundred stickers or so a month, making a nice profit without overcharging, and feeling pretty good about yourself.

Now let's say I'm a sketchy businessman. I too want to sell OSR stickers, but you've already cornered the market. So what I do is get a hundred of my sketchy online friends to each order a sticker. You ship the stickers in good faith. But then me and my buddies file chargeback disputes, saying we never received the stickers, because remember, there's NO FEE at all for us to do so.

This presents two options for you as a seller. Remember, you are already out $100 worth of product (100 stickers at $1 per sticker).

1. Refund their money. Which puts you out a total of $600 ($100 in materials plus the $500 you refund, which if you're like me you've already spent on new product)
2. Get Amazon Payments to arbitrate. Which puts you out $1,000 ($10 for every transaction).

So how does that apply to us in the RPG industry? Well, say you're a small press publisher who decides to jump ship from OBS and start selling through Amazon. Say you're one of those controversial publishers like RPGPundit or Zak Smith or even James Raggi at times and you've got a ton of people who hate you and what you represent. How hard to you think it would be for some of these dysfunctional keyboard warriors to drum up 100 or 500 or 1,000 other dysfunctional keyboard warriors (many of whom might not even know what an RPG is) to put you in your place? They order your products (books, zines, mins, etc.), and then initiate chargeback disputes saying they never received them. Then you can refund their money and be out product costs or have Amazon Payments dispute and be out thousands of extra dollars.

Oh, and I just checked Amazon Payments to see if they had changed their policy at all and surprise, surprise, they have! THEY NOW CHARGE $20 PER CHARGEBACK DISPUTE!

I honestly don't know what OBS's policy is for resolving similar disputes. I'm going to assume that since they handle all sales and distribution it won't cost you nearly as much (if anything). This post was not meant to be an OBS rallying cry---just a friendly warning to make sure you read all the Terms and Conditions and know what you're getting into before you sign up.


Pete Spahn
Small Niche Games

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Tavern Chat Tonight - I likely Won't Be There

Tonight has the potential for overtime. It is likely I'll miss again.

1000 pm Eastern for those that can attend.

Have a beer for me :)

Reposting an Email - DriveThruRPG's New Content Policy (and some comments from myself)

I finally saw this email when I rolled outa bed this morning. What Matt McElroy details is far from a perfect solution to the past weekend's drama. I don't think there IS a perfect solution to address products like Tournament of Rapists (which judging from the title and the description that was included with the product posting, I'm beginning to think the author's intent was very much a "Troll" release - he just got WAY more reaction than expected.) Status quo wasn't going to work for OBS's business model so we knew change was coming. I suspect the content policy and the policing of it will change as OBS get's a handle on things.

Now, for all this talk of censorship I see being thrown around - OneBookShelf has the right to publish or not publish as it see's fit. I really don't see a problem with them refusing to distribute a product that they find to be offensive. Do I think their solution to the issue that is detailed below is going to work? I suspect there will be abuse of the system. I expect the system will change over time in response to such abuse. And I really hope Stewart remembers to stay away from social media in times of crisis.
At DriveThruRPG, we trust publishers to upload and activate their own
new releases without anyone at DriveThru reviewing the product before
it goes public. Because this system worked so well for the past 14
years, we had no need to create an "offensive content guideline.” To
avoid anything approaching censorship, we simply adhered to an
unwritten policy of not banning any RPG product. 
There is, however, a growing problem. Sometimes, RPG creators design
content that goes beyond disturbing. For example, we recently — and
rightly — received criticism for selling an RPG supplement called
"Tournament of Rapists" for four days on our marketplace. 
In hindsight, we realize that we should have suspended that product
from sale immediately, pending further internal review and discussion
with the publisher. For a variety of reasons, we relied on our
standing policy of not banning RPG titles, even in the face of a
product so offensive that the policy was inadequate. We understand
that we were wrong to do so. 
A New Policy 
It is time to change the approach we have used on DriveThru. Our prior
stance, that "censorship is unacceptable," was tantamount to shirking
our responsibility. As market leaders, we are in a position that
requires us to be leaders also in keeping the RPG hobby inclusive and
safe. 
We do not believe there is any set of bright-line rules that
adequately define what content is offensive, so going forward, our
offensive content policy will simply be as follows: We'll know it when
we see it. 
We will tend to err toward including content, even where it challenges
readers and deals with sensitive issues, as long as it does so
maturely and not gratuitously. Any product in which racial violence,
rape, torture, or a similar subject is a treated as a central feature
will be subjected to careful scrutiny. 
We will also code customer-facing options that allow customers to
report potentially offensive content to us. If a reported product
seems questionable, we will suspend it from sale, pending a full
internal review of its content. 
We appreciate all of our customers and publishers, who have been
patient with us while we examined our policies and processes. Thank
you for giving us the benefit of the doubt; like you, we are human
beings trying to do the best thing. Like everyone, we sometimes make
mistakes along the way. We will strive to learn from those mistakes. 
For more information, please see our CEO Steve Wieck's post on our blog here:
http://oneblogshelf.blogspot.com/2015/09/offensive-content-policy.html

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Business is Bad Because of "Tournament of Rapists" Backlash


Just some basic observations:

- Tournament of Rapists went up at the end of last week and the social media backlash was mostly over the weekend.

- Yes, some small publishers pulled their products from OBS

- Yes, some customers declared they were no longer going to shop at OBS - I saw one go so far as saying he was deleting his account (backups gone - ah well)

- I suspect the small dip in sales (or the small cliff they went off of) is barely noticeable (if it IS noticeable) and all will be back to normal in a week or two.

- In the case of Gareth, I would expect the backlash would have been over Far West, the never shipped pre Far West Buckaroo Bonzai game and his never ending series of excuses

- Or is this now an excuse as to why printed copies of Far West will be forever delayed - ToR killed the cash flow

Well played Gareth. Well played.

Edit: There isn't enough time to link a drop in sales to Tor at this point. Someone is crying about the wrong wolf.

Battle Tavern - A Work in Progress by Jim Magnusson


Yesterday afternoon +Jim Magnusson and I were bouncing some quick and dirty ideas back and forth. Less than 24 hours later, this is the third version of the work in progress that's resulted in that small exchange of ideas.

Is it a "Battle Tavern" or a old school Mister Softee truck that sells beer? Somehow I visualize the first ;)

Jim is simply amazing. And quick. Holy shit!

I'm looking forward to the finished piece more than you know :)

Monday, August 31, 2015

How Not to Handle an Upset Customer Base via Twitter (and other observations)

Apparently I wasn't the only one offended by the Tournament of Rapists release over the weekend. The author knew what he was doing with both his release time and description of the product - released on a Friday to ensure reactions would be over the weekend when the OBS staff are off and a description that was meant to troll as evidenced by his "just download the free preview to see what it's really about" line.

Now, if OBS couldn't address the issue right away (they first removed the Pathfinder tag and put it behind the Mature virtual wall at OBS) they probably should have avoided social media. Remember, every social media post or comment has been saved by someone, somewhere.

Jessica Price (a project manager at Paizo - her post on this matter is linked and is worthwhile reading) reached out to OBS via, of all things, Twitter. OBS's owner should never have stepped into the conversation which was, up to now, the usual customer service non answer.


Steve, you don't mock your customers. It leave a very bad taste in their mouth. (there's more to this conversation here)

The whole situation was poorly handled by OBS, although the product in question is no longer hosted at OBS.

BTW, none of this is a free speech issue. It's a business / consumer issue. OBS can host / sell whatever they want with whatever publishers they desire. Publishers can deal with them or not (although they are the PDF / POD gorilla, and avoiding OBS is likely avoiding sales.) Consumers can shop there or not.

See, it's a free MARKET. In the end, dollars talk. I suspect it's in the best interest of OBS to get a handle on issues like this to prevent the walking away of dollars, as they gained nothing from this fiasco.

As an aside, I'm not saying Tournament of Rapists should be banned. Self publish and self distribute all you want. I personally don't feel it belongs on the OBS site.

The thing is, instances like this are bad for OBS's reputation. And the social media response? Someone should cancel Steve's Twitter account.




Sunday, August 30, 2015

I'm Guest Posting Over at the Frugal GM Blog

+Christopher Stogdill asked me to make a guest post or two over at the Frugal GM blog and I'm happy to oblige him. Chris has guest posted here at The Tavern a number of times and it's about time I return the favor.

Join us at the Frugal GM as we talk about Go To GM Resources.