Saturday, July 4, 2015

Do You Allow Mundane Pyrotechnics in Your Games?

I'm in the Poconos for the holiday weekend. We missed the fireworks in one town last night and the event closer to home got postponed to tomorrow night due to the weather.

It all go me thinking - do you allow mundane fireworks in your campaigns? I'm not necessarily referring to gunpowder and the the baggage that entails, but alchemical fireworks that go boom, make sparks, bright colors and the like.

Not powerful enough to blow open a stuck door or a lock, but maybe enough to startle or entertain.

I haven't done so, but I'm thinking about it as well as how far my players might push the envelope ;)

So, do you or don't you?

Race as Class or Racial Classes?

I was never big on Race as Class, probably because I started playing with AD&D and not B/X. It wasn't until I came across ACKS and it's racially themed classes that I saw the potential of Racial Classes. When I decided to do a release based on halfling racial classes for Swords & Wizardry, ACKS was certainly an inspiration.

I don't think racial classes are necessary but in the right campaign they can add depth.

Do you use race as class, racial classes, none of the above?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Some Further Thoughts on RPG Industry Awards, Especially as They Concern the OSR

I'm not going to be discussing the ENnies much with this post, except to remark that they are the industry standard when it comes to awards. Origins awards don't have the same kind of bling in the eyes of the gaming public. The fact that the ENnies are backed by the largest gaming con - Gen Con - and one of the most trafficked RPG fan sites - EN World - certainly doesn't hurt. They also cover (in theory) every corner of the RPG gaming universe.

For the OSR we have the Three Castles Award. Most don't realize this, but the Three Castles Award (which is judged by panel of judges that are from the gaming industry) is judged primarily based on design merits (I'm sure other biases also come into play, as such is human nature) . Also, the publisher or a third party has to submit copies to the NTRPG Con for the entry to be considered.

Pretty much all of the yearly winners and finalists from past few years of the Three Castles Award have been the cream of the crop but there are many titles that don't get recognized that most certainly deserve recognition.

Some folks in the previous ENnies post joked that the OSR should have "Tenkies" or some such. Besides the fact that the jokingly proposed name is horrid, any such move to a recognized OSR Award for Best of "X" needs to include the whole OSR Community (beyond just blogs and G+.) Preferably, it would include forums and publishers big and small. I'd rather see the community decide on the top 10 in each category (assuming there are 10 in a category, we are a niche within a niche) and an esteemed panel of judges picking the top three. It keeps it from becoming a popularity contest and lessens the effect of stuffing the ballot boxes.

Oh course, this is just stuff being thrown out there for critique and suggestions. There is no real game plan except for realizing there is no game plan.

And no, I'm not volunteering. This is all firmly in the category of "what if?" at the moment ;)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Kickstarter - Nuclear War Card Game 50th Anniversary Edition

My God but we played the SHIT out of Nuclear War in my college gaming days. Couldn't get enough players together for a D&D session? Nuclear War and Chaos Marauders were our go to games.

Blow up the world and everyone loses? Sign me up!

30 bucks for the 50th Anniversary Edition, which has already funded in about 3 day. It's by Flying Buffalo. No brainer, right?

Well, Rick says estimated delivery is December 2015, but then hedges his bets:
I have been in the game business for 45 years, so I am confident that I can manage this project. However there are always many possibilities for delay. The dates I have picked for completion are only estimates. (I repeat - these are not promised delivery dates. They are only estimates. Doing a good job on the artwork takes time. )
So, it's an estimated date and don't hold him to it.

Why would Rich need to say that? Why not simply pick an estimated ship date further out?
Also, I am still in the process of finishing my (much delayed) Tunnels & Trolls project. The final book is not quite finished, but many of the rewards have already been mailed out...
Nobody backed for a T&T pencil or whatever else was mailed out. None of it is memorable. What is memorable is the 6 copies of dT&T that will be 2 years late next month.

Until I have what I actually backed and was due two years ago, I'll need to pass on this and wait for retail. Besides, this one has already funded. Maybe these funds will expedite dT&T. One can only hope.

How the Hell is a 7 Year Old PDF Marked Down to $30.70 a Deal of the Day? (Mini Rant)

Corporation was released on RPGNow in May of 2008.

Feel free to charge $47 for a seven year old PDF, but marking it down to 31 bucks does not make it the Deal of the Day. And don't anyone say "It's $47 because of all the pages!" 256 pages is pretty standard for a game book these days and 31 bucks is still overprices by about a factor of three.

This Deal of the Day shit seems to be a way to squeeze some extra cash out of old, overpriced RPGs. Sure, there have been some exceptions, but they have been few and far between. Most of it is "Here's some old shit you didn't want before but maybe you'll want now!"

Still, I guess Corporation is as good a title as any for organized robbery ;)

(edit - they are figuring the sale price from the Hard Cover price, not the PDF)

(edit edit: Sale price $15.33, Deal Price $30.70? - deal for WHO?)

Is "An ENnie" Anything More than a Popularity Prize?

When it comes down to it, are the ENnies anything more than a popularity prize?

First off, the judges aren't industry professionals (see below) that are judging the works by professional standards. The judges are self nominated and the ones with the greatest social media reach are going to be the ones that come out on top and get picked.

Then there's this for the 2016 judge self nomination:
not have any professional relationship with any RPG publisher during the period from January 1st, 2014 to August 1st, 2016
That cut's off just about every professional and semi-professional in the industry, because if you aren't working making games you aren't making money from games.

Secondly, the companies that want to be considered must submit physical copies of their product (if it is available as such - the unofficial, unlicensed Mass Effect FATE hack was only available digitally - so send away, as it cost nothing.)

Now, you don't send copies to a central location that packages it up for judges all over the world. That would keep expenses reasonable, especially for the smaller publishers. Nope, you have to send those copies out to each judge. How much money was wasted sending individual packages to Turkey?

Interestingly enough, this means that nearly every publisher on RPGNow could submit their work for free.

Oh, did I mention all of that free gaming material is for the judges to keep? Only the top 5 finalists are listed per category, but there are dozens of entries for most categories I am sure.

Now, I heard (can't confirm so I won't mention the name) that at least one of the judges from this year's ENnies is trying to crowd fund a trip to Gen Con this year. Shit, just sell a portion of the pile of gaming supplements you got for free and you should be good to go. Literally. It's called eBay.

Then when the votes start for the five finalists in each category, the ballot stuffing begins. It's as bad as the Baseball All Star voting, but the ENnies are given actual weight by those in our hobby.

I'm not sure how things could be run better, but I think removing the self nominating aspects from judges and submissions would be a start.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Stock Art Madness Has Revived My Muse - Last Few Hours to Get Purple Duck Stock Art at 50% Off

It occurred to me that today might be Canada Day (it is) and that meant that the Purple Duck Everything is 50% off Sale would be ending tonightish and I need stock art.

So, I bought a ton of stock art from +Purple Duck Games and then poked around a few other companies.

Some samples (BTW, as I use stock art on here at The Tavern, I'll link to where you can find it at RPGNow - today it's just a sampling of what is awakening my muse.)

Gary Dupuis from Purple Duck Games
 Maciej Zagorski from Forge Studios

I've got plans for these and more. Let's see what I can get to after dinner and before Tavern Chat later tonight.

Behind the Bar - Tweaks and Forthcoming Content

June was a bear of a month. After I returned from NTRPG Con my free time was literally at a premium - time and a half because the bureau realized it didn't spend enough overtime during the previous 11 months.

Over the next few days were are FINALLY going to award the Post 5k / NTRPG Con gifts to all those that are waiting, although anything that requires  trip to the post office will have to wait on next weekend to finally ship.

It may seem there was a dearth of gaming content at The Tavern in the month of June and there was. There were multiple reasons for that - lack of free time was one but a desire to get a proper OGL in place was another. I have some free time this week and I have what should be a proper OGL for the website ready to go. OGL for the Pocket releases for the Patreon Backers is also being finalized.

This does mean there will some White Star / Swords & Wizardry content hitting the blog over the next few days. Huzzah!

Don't forget Tavern Chat tonight at 830 PM Eastern ;)

Whatever Happened with the 5e OGL / GSL / Whatever the Heck it Was Supposed to Be?

Today is the 1st of July. The D&D Starter Set was released on July 15th, 2014, nearly a year ago. Even before release, there was talk of a 5e OGL, GSL, fan creation license and other such schemes.

Have any of them come to fruition? Not that I have seen.

It hasn't stopped 3rd party publishers from publishing products for 5e, but they have used either the original OGL or used copyright law (can't copyright games rules, just their presentation) to get around the lack of an open license for 5e.

Is the lack of an open license for 5e going to hold back the popularity of it, especially when one compares it to Pathfinder?

Do you think there will be a license - open, fan or otherwise for 5e?

Tavern Chat Tonight - 830 PM Eastern

Just a quick reminder that the weekly Tavern Chat is tonight at 830 PM Eastern.

Topics may include "Even Further to Far West" and "Nystulian Madness." ;)

See y'all tonight!

Far West - Missed May Self Imposed Deadline - Now Missing June - Welcome to July

He's the Man with the hands - Red Hands

Ask me if I care about Far West anymore?

No, seriously, ask me.

Okay, no, I don't fucking care anymore except to see:

a - how late it will finally be

b- how shitty the final product will be

c - if and when the physical product actually ships (I'm doubtful on this)

d - if my portrait is the worst in the book

So, here we are in July 2015. My money is on November 2015 for the PDF and I'll be well into retirement before I ever see a physical copy - if I do.

But hey, Gareth is looking for recommendations from other RPG creators in the industry to fluff up his profile. Good luck sir.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mike Drops "Nystul" - The Wandering Wizard Wants Your Patronage on Patreon

A tip of the hat to +Dyson Logos (and +Joseph Bloch ) for bringing one of my favorite serial Kickstarter failures back to my attention.

Mike Nystul (as he is wisely trying to distance himself from none other than himself) is looking to raise backing on Patreon to support his creation of new games. Nowhere does he mention using the monies raised to actually produce the games he has already been paid for via his Trifecta of Kickstarter Failures.

Now, I have to give the Wandering Wizard credit where credit is due - he doesn't allow the fact that he blew over $75,000 (less fees) from three Kickstarters on a Dwarf Con and a failed business venture (not spent on the Kickstarters themselves) keep him from fleecing more people. He did it with Nystul's Castle over at Indiegogo and now he's trying to use Patreon.

edit - here's the link directly - Mike does his best to not use Nystul anywhere in the pitch, but it's in the link itself - poor Mike - https://www.patreon.com/nystul?ty=h 

Well played Mike. By the time the new folks realize what kinda fucking flake you are, you'll be moving to your next scam.

Is it safe to assume that Nystul's Aura no longer serves it's purpose for you?

ENnies had a Mass Effect - How Legit ARE the ENNies as an Industry Award?

+Christopher Helton has an excellent article on the copyright infringing Mass Effect "Powered by FATE" RPG reaching the ENnies finals. Go read it and then come back. We'll wait for you.


There we go.

Interesting, right?

Now, I'm not sure which is more surprising:

1 - That the writer of a copyright infringing RPG supplement, who actually submitted this very work to two other RPG award panels, thought that somehow this would not get flagged. Oh, and that getting attention to his work would somehow escape the attention of the powers that be (Bioware) is basically stupid.

2 - That the ENnies didn't flag this before passing it one to it's esteemed panel of self nominated judges. Wait, you knew that, right? Not only do publishers have to self nominate (and send hard copies of their work if it's in print - 1 copy per judge) but the panel is self nominated and pretty much voted on by their social media popularity.

So, what kind of vetting process goes on before passing on the material to the ENnie judges? Ignore that question, as the answer is obvious.

It didn't just get nominated in one category either. It got nominated in three: Best Electronic Book, Best Free Product and Product of The Year. Yes, product of the year.

Now, even if there wasn't a review of the entries before they were passed on to the self nominated judges, you think it would have been done after the five finalists per category were submitted, but apparently the answer is "no."

Maybe the folks behind the ENnies could add the IPIAs - Intellectual Property Infringement Awards. It would make for some interesting internet drama if nothing else.

Overall, it just shows how the relevance of the ENNies is decreasing each year, especially if they can't police their own award process.

There is an interesting thread on this whole issue at ENWorld. It makes for an entertaining read.

Empire of the Petal Throne - Back on the Shelf

When I picked up my copy of Empire of the Petal Throne on eBay a few years back I got it for a very good price - around $125 or so - and although the box was slightly crushed it was still in it's original wrap. Yes, my copy was unopened - for about 5 minutes after it arrived.

I opened it and marveled at the pristine contents of the box, much as I did yesterday when I came across it while reorganizing my game collection. I must confess, I've yet to read the game itself, but I do love the presentation. The cover art for the box is top notch and a true eye catcher.

The maps are vibrant, even 40 years after printing, and the paper is thicker than I would expect. I could easily find myself using these maps with other RPGs if it weren't for the fact that they are so damn collectible. Ah well.

There are 2 sets of reference sheets included in my box. One is slightly discolored, as i suspect it was the one constantly rubbing the rulebook or maps whenever the box was moved (and especially in shipping.)

The rulebook, which I forgot to take a picture of, use comb binding. I'm not sure how well the pages would stand up to repeated use, but it looks like it would make for a pleasurable reading experience.

Ah well, back to the shelf for another year or two...

Monday, June 29, 2015

How Many RPG System Rules Do You Actually Play?

I've spent the better part of the day today going through piles of gaming shit stuff that just doesn't fit where it's supposed to. I have accumulated RPG systems and their supplements for so many years I literally have my gaming material in 2 states, not to mention storage, the basement and a closet in another room besides my "gaming area."

One day I'll catalogue what I actually have, but it occurred to me me that not only have I forgotten many of the rpg system rules of the games I used to play and run (RoleMaster / SpaceMaster / MERPS, WFRP, the Pacesetter System, RuneQuest, Traveller, CoC, Gamma World, GURPS, Champions, Rifts and other systems that escape me at the moment) but I have a ton of systems I just never learned.

Then we look at the more recent acquisitions and with few exceptions they just aren't being played. Most of the OSR stuff can be considered a single system, just with different tweaks, so my preference for Swords & Wizardry means I can still grab adventures from Castles & Crusades right on through Dungeon Crawl Classics and over a dozen systems in between - but I generally only run S&W as my OSR system of choice and convert from other OSR systems on the fly.

Tunnels & Trolls is simple enough (once you get past the horrible organization of T&T 5e) that I can run it without referring much to the book. Far Away Land is the ONLY recently published rule system that I grokked right away and can run with minimal if any rules searching.

That's it. D&D derivatives, T&T and FAL. Three systems that I can grok these days. Dozens if not hundreds that I own and will never play - either for the first time or the first time in 20 years.

How many systems do you actually play compared to owning?

Kickstarter - The Thin Blue Line: A Detroit Police Story (Savage Worlds Modern Horror Setting)

The Thin Blue Line: A Detroit Police Story Kickstarter is a setting book for Savage Worlds (Horror Supplement required - don't say you weren't warned ;)

As you can probably suspect, I bring my biases to the table here. I've yet to see a well done RPG ruleset or setting that handles police work well. Notice I didn't say handled it accurately, because that would include a load of boring shit with occasional pieces or heart stopping adrenaline rushes. You want to stress the later and push the mundane to the background. So, making a police heavy setting into a horror setting is an excellent way to focus on the exciting.

I liked the video. Short and to the point. Less is certainly more when it comes to Kickstarter videos, and this video explains just enough. I'm not sure if the little girls who pipes in an answer was a plant or not, but it worked well.
Melior Via successfully ran and fulfilled a Kickstarter for Accursed (a dark fantasy RPG setting for Savage Worlds) in 2013. We learned a great deal from the project, and we are using the lessons learned in undertaking this one.
They also took a 2 year break more or less between the two Kickstarters, so I suspect they'll be ready for this one.

That being said, there is only one Kickstarter in their history. Amazingly, it was pretty much on time. With this Kickstarter, print copies are at cost via OneBookShelf, which is probably the way for all but the big boys to do core physical rewards these days.

Did I mention Rach loved the video pitch?

I'll probably be backing this, even if I can't fully wrap my head around Savage Worlds as a game system.

Kickstarter - Age Past Dungeon Keep RPG Set

Where to start on Age Past Dungeon Keep RPG Set?

I guess the video. News flash - video of bacon cooking cutting into the rest of the video isn't "cool" or "hip" - it's fucking annoying. Oh, and the video is over 10 minutes long. No one cares enough to watch the whole thing. Really. If you go past 2 minutes for the hook video you've lost your fish.

Now, look at the absolute clutter in the pic above. Not a good pic. It does point one important thing out - lack of grid or scale. If you want lightweight WITH scale, you have Blue Dungeon Tiles. Laminate that can be written on with dry erase. Basically, coated paper with a grid.
There has always been a disconnect.  RPGs are paper products, essentially always apart from the tabletop aspect of the game, and most accessories are made from physical materials such as plastic and metal.  The same people making one are not usually great at making the other.  We have seen many solutions, some good, some bad, and many are very expensive.  We need something new.  Something that works.  Something that anyone can take anywhere he goes... but, it has to be elegant and sleek, and it has to work.  Something totally bacon.
What the fuck is it with "bacon?" I love bacon. I don't refer to non-bacon products as bacon. Is this something regional?

close up doesn't look any less cluttered
 Hey. Look, for 10 bucks you can get and Age Past RPG which isnt mentioned anywhere else on the page except the rewards (it was the previous Kickstarter tho.) Talking about the rewards - how many choices? Too many. It's confusing.

Listen, I'm no going to bother with the vetting here. If for some reason you want laser woodburning to map out your dungeons on your table, this is your choice. Probably your only one. There are better choices for the rest of us.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sometimes We Forget the Echo Chamber We "Social Media" In

I like to do a reality check at times. It's needed to be properly grounded in all things, but especially in social media, including blogging.

The reality is that a very large portion of gamers, if not the vast majority, do not do social media. They don't blog or read blogs, don't do Facebook or G+, don't read or post at Dragon's Foot or the Arcanum. They play games with the same group they always game with, or show up at the game store every Saturday Night and just play.

They don't care about editions wars. OGL or GSL or CC. Race as class or multi-classing. They don't know The Tavern from The Manor from The Pundit from the Greyhawk Grognard. They don't give a shit, and wouldn't in all probability even if they did suddenly know about the social media going on behind the games they play.

The play is the thing.

Sometimes, events get caught up in social media to the point where we forget what we are actually posting about - games. Why do we post about games? Because we are passionate enough to do so. Can we drive trends? Sure. Some of that influence may even trickle outside our little echo chamber. Still, we are an echo chamber. To ourselves our voices may sound really loud and influential at times. For the most part, it is a pleasant illusion.

Alright, time for me to get back to my hallucination of being the writer of a popular gaming blog...
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