Saturday, February 19, 2011

Westerns Have a Good RPG Feel - An Afternoon of Watching Gunslingers

I started out by watching The Quick and the Dead, followed that with the original True Grit and wrapped it all with A Fist Full of Dollars. Very different movies but all had a similar theme of redemption.

Then again, westerns are American mythology, so I can understand the similarity in themes between westerns and RPG adventures: revenge, justice, gaining some gold, etc.

This could make for an interesting series of posts, if I ever get to all the other posts I want to get to ;)

Pricing the PDF Product Properly and Profitably - Answering My Own Questions

So, on Wednesday I asked a lot of questions about PDF pricing, but I never answered any of them myself. I figure I probably should give that a try - so here it goes:

Is there a ratio between PDF and Paper pricing of the same item?  I'd guesstimate a proper PDF price to be about 60-75% for items under $10 in print, and 35%-60% for items about $10 in print.  This is not written in stone.

What price point is too high, no matter the number of the pages (size)?  $31.99 is damn high.  Not sure if it is too high, but it certainly isnt customer friendly.

Is there a page to price ratio that you, as a consumer, use to evaluate PDF value?  10 cents a page for items under 50 pages, with the cents per page dropping as the product gets longer... there is no exact science

Do certain publishers deserve a premium price for their PDFs? If so, why?  I don't really have an answer for this, but some publishers certainly think their PDFs  deserve a premium price.

Is FREE a selling point for you, or something the consumer should avoid? Does a $1 price point imply more value then FREE? Why?  I enjoy free stuff, and the OSR has lot's of amazing stuff priced for free, so I think free works well.

Does top shelf art add value to a PDF the same way it adds value to a paper product?  Art adds to the impulse buy when flipping thru a printed product in a store... PDFs lack that ability, so I'd have to say art is less important for PDFs.

Are lower production values accepted for a PDF product then the same in paper?  Probably.  

Does finding a PDF product is also available as a Print on Demand product add value to the PDF? How about a PDF / POD Bundle?  If something is available in POD, and you get the PDF for free, I'll probably grab the bundle over just getting the PDF alone.

Those are my answers.  I have a blog, therefore, I am an expert.  NOT!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Stay at Home Vacation = Work + Play

I'm on vacation next week, and with the possible exception of the holiday weekend starting tomorrow, it will be an "at home" vacation - which means i have a lot to do around the house.

The non-fun part will include lots of cleaning, disposing, removing and reorganizing (assuming such things were actually organized in the first place).

Fun parts will hopefully include - a Solo a day, whether T&T, Bean!, MS&PE or whatever - an hour or so of gaming a day should rock. Besides, I still need to do the solo system comparison.

Working on my VTT powered Tunnels & Troll campaign - I really need to get this up an running.

Get thru my reviewer's pile of products to review. We will see how this goes.

All that and spend time with my son. He's off too. Which is, of course, the reason I chose this week to be off ;)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mini Review - B1 Journey to Hell (for OSRIC)

So, as to keep a balance in PDF cost in the items I post about, I present B1 - Journey to Hell from Sacrosanct Games.  For a mere 4 quarters, 20 nickels (none wooden), 1 measly dollar, you get about a dozen and a half pages of adventure for your party that has reached legendary status in OSRIC (or any of the OSR family of RPGs).

As an aside, about 25 years ago I put my party on an adventure thru Hell - fudged stats, levels 16-22, DM PC, vorpal blades (the beheaded Asmodeus)- the best of Monty Hall from back in the day.  I've yet to run a PC of my own, or DM for a party in which any character made it past level 11 in the years since then.  So I'm not someone that can tell you if this new Journey to Hell is balanced or not for levels 18-20.  I certainly can't say how well it works for the Altus Adventum version that is also included in the package.

I can say that I've already found a section that I can steal and modify for use in another game, so I figure most should get their buck's worth, even if not used as written.

From the blurb:

In a desperate bid to bring his queen back to life, King Heltrhop made a foolish pact with the demon, Astaroth. Astaroth has possessed the king, trapping him in hell. Now the party must make a journey into hell itself to rescue the king and save the world from a demon invasion.

B1, Journey to Hell is an adventure for both the OSRIC (or other favorite old school version) and the Altus Adventum 2nd edition role-playing games.  Versions for both systems are included.  It is based off of Dante's Inferno, and takes the heroes into Hell itself in a bid to save the king.  This adventure is designed for characters level 18-20 (OSRIC version) or Legends (Altus version).

While not being directly linked to the A1-A4 series of  $1 adventures from Sacrosanct Games, there are a few references to those modules.  While none of those are required to play the game, having them would put a lot of things into better context if you had.

Pricing the PDF Product Properly and Profit - A Look at the Castle Keeper's Guide

I've seen some "loud" reactions to the pricing of the CKG in PDF on my blog, other blogs, forums... it isn't pretty. Amazingly enough, the feelings toward Troll Lord Games are still highly positive, but there is a bit of a disconnect in the PDF pricing of the Castle Keeper's Guide.

Lets look at how TLG has priced the 4 different releases of the CKG:

Hardcover - $39.99

Softcover - $29.99

Digest Size - $24.99

PDF - $31.99

In my opinion, the PDF version should never be priced more then a print version. TLG is selling the PDF at a 20% discount from the hardcover price, which still makes it roughly a 28% mark up from the digest size. Why buy it in PDF?

A better price would be a 20% discount from the digest size, putting it at $19.99. Of course, I'm just talking outa my ass, but that's what we bloggers do ;)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Castle Keeper's Guide for Castles & Crusades Released on RPGNow

Holy Crap, this thing is huge.  The PDF is 292 pages long.  It will take me a long time to get thru this to even attempt a review.  Most likely I'll have to review it in sections.

It's almost mythical in nature, as the Castle Keeper's Guide has been talked about pretty much since the release of the C&C Player's Handbook back in 2004.

At first glance (and only the first 40 pages or so) it reminds me a bit of Unearthed Arcana for AD&D, but that isn't accurate really.  It's more a feel then reality.  This seems like so much more.  Options.  Options.  Options.

Damn, sensory overload ;)

From the blurb:

The long awaited arrival of the CKG is finally here!
Rule Book, 280+ pages
Alea Iacta Est - The die is cast!

Upon Foundations of Stone
Beneath the walls and towers of adventure, beneath the ground upon which the adventurer treads, lies the foundation. It is that which holds the construct, which drives the challenges, which brings the flavor of a world’s imaginings to light. It is the maelstrom of creation through whose eye the game of heroic chance plays out.

What Lies Within
The Castle Keeper’s Guide includes a host of new material for the role playing enthusiast. From world creation, to dungeon designs, managing non-player characters, character attributes at high levels, spell use and cost, equipment its use and wastage, the tumult of storms, from warfare to combat, monsters, treasure, death and more. The Castle Keeper’s Guide provides the CK and the Player with a host of new tools for their use; tools designed to enhance play, not hinder it; designed to be malleable from gaming table to gaming table.

A sample of what you will find in the CKG:
  • Alternative methods of attribute generation
  • The featured classes expanded to the 24th level
  • Equipment: outfitting for a setting, saving throws, usage, costs
  • Expansion on the Magic with components, spell costs, holy symbols, water, and more
  • The NPC: how to run them, hire them, loyalty and more
  • Monsters and Magic as NPCs
  • The Crusade in the future: guns, canon and more
  • The World Above: over view of outdoor campaigns
  • The World Below: over view of underground campaigns
  • The Characters, gaining levels, land and more treasure
  • The Siege Engine, breaking it down for your table
  • Character death. The end should not be the end
And so very much more . . . .

The CKG is the perfect expansion to everyone’s table.

The Trollish Taproom - The Many Sizes of Tunnels & Trolls 5e

Tunnels & Trolls really hit it's stride with the release of the 5th edition rules.

On the left is a second printing (Jan '80) of the T&T rules.  Later printings (including 5.5e) blow up the cover art to encompass the whole cover.

The smaller book with the orange cover is a second printing (also Jan '80) of the Tunnels & Trolls 5th edition for the UK.  This edition is secured by two staples, the art is a line drawing on orange cardboardy paper (that dog ears nicely.  Other then that, it's pretty much a carbon copy of it's larger sibling the best I can tell.

The yet smaller book on the far right (with the nice flash glare - go me!) is the Corgi printing (1986) of the Tunnels & Trolls rules.  It's printed on mass paperback quality paper (which means poor).  It is however, probably the easiest size for normal reading habits.  Corgi publishing is the company that decided to excise many of the sillier T&T spell names, so if that is keeping you from jumping on the T&T train, you might want to track this down.  You could also pick up the T&T Double Solo's that Corgi put out - most are still available from Flying Buffalo Inc at very reasonable prices.  Each includes a shortened version of the T&T rules, but as the character advancement and spell lists allow for advancement to level 11, you have an additional added value.

I have UK versions of some of the earlier T&T Solos, which I may post to compare to their American siblings at a later time.

Pricing the PDF Product Properly and Profitably (Say it 5 Times Fast)

Anyhow, the topic comes up on the blogosphere fairly frequently... what is the proper pricing of a PDF?

To my mind, there are many questions that need to be answered before the first question can be addressed...

Is there a ratio between PDF and Paper pricing of the same item?

What price point is too high, no matter the number of the pages (size)?

Is there a page to price ratio that you, as a consumer, use to evaluate PDF value?

Do certain publishers deserve a premium price for their PDFs? If so, why?

Is FREE a selling point for you, or something the consumer should avoid? Does a $1 price point imply more value then FREE? Why?

Does top shelf art add value to a PDF the same way it adds value to a paper product?

Are lower production values accepted for a PDF product then the same in paper?

Does finding a PDF product is also available as a Print on Demand product add value to the PDF? How about a PDF / POD Bundle?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Twofer

When your 17 year old son wants to double date, there can be only two possible reasons: your wallet or your car. Tonight was both ;)

A romantic dinner for 2 became a diner trip for 4. Still had a good time.

Back to game related posting tomorrow. Tonight it is time to sleep...

How Official is "Official"?

Back in my AD&D days, pretty much anything published by TSR was considered "official", with Dragon Magazine articles often being referred to as "semi-official". Third party supplements, what little there were, were "not official" - they could be used by the DM, but pretty much never by the PCs.

The D20 / OGL explosion blurred many of the lines of what was / was not official for 3e, for good or bad.

With the OSR and the birth of clones / retroclones / simulacrums - there really isn't a definition of official anymore. Each ruleset is by definition a set of house rules, no matter how close they cling to their original brethren.

Actually, the strength of the OSR in my opinion is how fully the community embraces house ruling of the various rulesets. Make it your own.

Which is another reason I think I turned my nose at Tunnels & Trolls the first time I was exposed to it back in High School... it was being house ruled even back then. I wanted structure, and T&T wasn't structured like AD&D. I bought into the EGG line of "official play", but even the father of RPGs didn't follow that rule.

I'm happy to be playing games that embrace house ruling these days.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mini Review - A Traveler's Tale (A Tunnels & Trolls Solo)

Flying Buffalo Inc is slowly but surely adding to it's available collection of Tunnels & Trolls Solos, which is a damn good thing.  Much of the play that T&T gets its with solo adventures, and a limited well to dip into means limited gameplay in the end.  Besides, adding a new release every month or so keeps people like me actively talking about Tunnels & Trolls, so it's a win / win for everyone.  That being said, I wouldn't mind seeing a good introductory standard (read non-solo, but party and GM) adventure being released in the future.

A Traveler's Tale was originally written by Ken St. Andre for White Dwarf magazine back in the early 80's under a different title, but has been updated for the new 7.5 rules released by Fiery Dragon.

So, what do you get for your $2.99?  About 40 pages worth of solo adventure written for a character within the level range of 1-3.  It's been my experience if an adventure says "for characters with less then 100 combat adds" like this one does, you want to come fairly close to that number without going over.  It certainly helps with survivability.

As for the adventure itself, I only played thru a few paragraphs so far.  Possibly the most disturbing / entertaining piece I've seen so far it the drawing of the erotic dwarven dancing girls - I think I'm scarred for life ;)

From the blurb:
Would you rather fight dire wolves in a blizzard or spend the evening drinking with a one-eyed dwarf in a cozy tavern? That's a no-brainer, right? You might want to reconsider, because you'll actually be safer with the wolves. This is a solitaire adventure intended for 1st to 3rd level characters with fewer than 100 adds, using the Tunnels & Trolls 7.5 rules. 

How Important is Producing Product for a Game Line?

I ask this, because WotC is apparently planning to release less 4e products. At the same time, if you look at the Underdark Gazette blog, OSR products are being released more often then ever before. Heck, even Tunnels & Trolls has been hitting a release or so a month recently (I'll be doing a mini-review on the latest tonight).

Is there a sweet point? Is more always better? Is a line that is suffering cuts (4e) being trimmed to a healthy state, or is this the beginning of the end?

The hobby suffered from the D20 Implosion in the recent past. Can it prevent the same from happening again?

One plus that rarely gets mentioned about PDFs, and even Print on Demand (PoD) publishing, is that neither will fuel another D20 Implosion - there won't be a glut on gamestore shelves. Then again, with a switch to PDF and PoD publishing, there won't be many games at all on gamestore shelves.

Is the future of the RPG industry linked to the internet for good or ill?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena - Round 2

Anyhow, I told my girl / woman / she who will soon control the discretionary spending - about my experience last week watching the first episode of Spartacus.  She decided she wanted to see what I was talking about.  Not wanting to re-watch the first episode, we started up the second episode (I filled her in on who pissed on who - etc).

Thankfully it wasn't AS graphic as the first episode.  I'm no prude, but throwing the sex scenes in for "historical accuracy" is a load of bull.

Thankfully, this episode was more story, less gory.  We may continue with the series.  As my girl said: "hey!  they put a penis in this episode - cool!  Finally some equality."  Me, I'm enjoying it for the combat scenes mostly.

At least it wasn't as painful to watch as the first episode of Conan which we had watched just prior to Spartacus.  The pain!  heh

Mini Review - Ironwood Gorge - (for OSR Clones)

Ironwood Gorge is a low level adventure for use with the various OSR clones / simulacrum / etc.  It's the second in a series of adventures (The Sanctuary Ruin is the first part in the series) but very easily works on it's own.

What you are given is about 3 (and a piece more) pages of maps.  Mostly caves, it should prove fun to fun as a DM (and be a biatch to map as a player) to run.  The adventure itself should play out over 2-3 sessions in my estimation (perhaps more depending on play style), and should be good for a level or two worth of expo for the players by the time they complete it.  There is no map of the outdoor area: this adventure is made to be dropped into a world, not define one for you.

You get four new monsters, three new magic items and four new spells in the appendix.  There are pregen characters included if the party needs quick replacements (the dwarf and halfling have "race as class", but that means "fighter" for those not in the know).

A nice addition to the stable of OSR adventures.

From the blurb:

"Orcs have returned to the once quiet border province of Blackmarch.  The Bleak Tower and its meager garrison are all that stand against the tide.  Their only hope lies in a ratag band of adventurers willing to venture into the perilous maw of Ironwood Gorge..."

Ironwood Gorge is a fantasy role-playing adventure for 4-8 characters of levels 2-5, designed for older editions of the world's most popular fantasy role-playing game and its clones such as Labyrinth Lord and OSRIC.  The material is also easily adaptable to any other class and level based fantasy role-playing game.  Ironwood Gorge serves as part two in the Blackmarch sequence of adventures, but is built to function just as well as a one-off adventure, a drop-in-a-hex location for sandbox games, or as a kick start to a new campaign.

The module includes keyed maps detailing both the Bleak Tower: a living, breathing refuge for adventurers; and Ironwood Gorge: a cave complex with over 100 keyed areas of traps, monsters and mayhem. The module is illustrated throughout with original artwork and includes appendices detailing new monsters, magic items, and spells.  Whether you are looking for an out-sized adventure to usher the hardiest characters to the intermediate levels, or a fully-realized location to plunder for maps and ideas, Ironwood Gorge is a treasure from the old-school of gaming...
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