Saturday, September 28, 2019

Five Random Locations from The Tome of Adventure Design (with hooks)

I love the Tome of Adventure Design, written by Matt Finch and published by Frog God Games.  It never ceases to inspire me. Today I figured I'd play with one of the tables, generate five randomly named locations and add a hook for each. Let's see how well I do with Approach #1: Overview Approach ;)

Corroded Fortress of the Resurrected Wizard - The inland Sea of Salt is retreating and on its newly revealed shoreline lies a weathered fort of stone and iron. Long rumored to be the final sanctuary of a lich, lights have been noticed from its highest tower at night. Dare you enter the Corroded Fortress of the Resurrected Wizard?

Silent Demi-plane of the Diseased Tribe - In the Great Forest, beasts large and small have been infected by a wasting disease. The Druid Asalyn has put out a call for brave adventurers to enter a small rift in space that recently formed in the forest that has coincided with the disease ravaging her charges. Will you answer the call and enter the Silent Demi-plane of the Diseased Tribe and destroy the disease at its source?

Contaminated Abbey of the Jackal-Hunter - Prior Janeth was a pious warrior priest, who took upon himself the mission to remove gnolls and other goblinoid races from the region surrounding his abbey. Recently, a small number of humanoid shamans and witch doctors stormed the abbey and Prior Janeth has not been seen since. Church leaders are looking to hire a party of adventurers to retake the Contaminated Abbey of the Jackel-Hunter and rescue Prior Janeth should he still survive. Will your party accept the quest?

Earthen Keep of the Crocodile God - In the Black Swamp, the waters have retreated and the remains of an earthen keep have been revealed. Rumors of a dark god's temple within, containing riches and magic, have spread through the bars and taverns in town. Will your party explore the Earthen Keep of the Crocodile God?

Convoluted Brewery of the Skeletal Alchemist - An ancient dwarven brewery was discovered by an adventuring party in the Copper Hills, but only one survivor has returned to tell the tale of their defeat by the minions of an undead alchemist. Do you dare take-up the flag of the fallen? Will you travel to the Convoluted Brewery of the Skeletal Alchemist?

Use and abuse :)

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Friday, September 27, 2019

James Lowder Talks About TSR in the Early 90s (From Facebook with Permission)

James Lowder was kind enough to allow me to repost his Facebook post and associated comments regarding TSR in the early 90s. Enjoy :)

James Lowder
September 25 at 12:50 AM ·
1994. Facing brutal competition in the tabletop game market from Wizards of the Coast, White Wolf, and others, and a potential design staff drain to the blossoming computer game industry, TSR management responds by cutting the rates the staff received for company freelance projects. Given that TSR would, within two years, start missing regular royalty payments to authors, I have to wonder if this ill-conceived cost control measure was an early warning sign.

Addendum: The other agenda being forwarded here is TSR management's desire to own everything created by staff, even for company projects that should have been creator-owned, like some Dragon articles. (I owned my "Into the Dark" video review column in Polyhedron, for example.) Hence the routing of payments for freelance through payroll.


The company was terrible at framing these kinds of things, which frequently made bad decisions come across as purposefully insulting.


And while the royalty rates the fiction paid were not competitive with New York houses on the surface, the relatively guaranteed sales for the major lines, at least through 1995 or so, made the books very lucrative. Of course, as sales in the book lines declined, they didn't bump up the royalties, so they became a lot less lucrative over time.


TSR was selling a lot of product at that time. In fiction, the average Realms and Dragonlance novels were still selling over 100,000 copies in their first year. Dale Donovan, circulation for Dragon in 1994 was still around 30,000, right?
TSR's sales slowing down after the 2nd edition boom, and the rise of CCGs, likely played a part in prompting the rate cut.


Management followed this genius move by limiting freelance work even part-time staff could do with other companies. I was already halfway out the door because of the miserable way the book department was being run, but these financial restrictions made it impossible for me to remain a satellite employee and keep paying my mortgage.


I resigned less than a month after the memo posted above was issued, though work conditions were a greater concern. The freelance policies were just a final kick out the door. I recall some other longtime game department staffers leaving for computer game industry jobs around the same time.


upper management at TSR did not understand how to work with creative staff. They were actively terrible at it.


There was supposed to be some flex in start time and end time. I rarely made it in by 8, driving down from Greenfield and then New Berlin. Thus the wider than 8-hour window. That said, some of us did take long lunches to fit in games, and stayed later to make up for it.


Many of my fondest memories of TSR are playing games or talking industry news or music or whatever in the Games Library over lunch.


Shortly after this memo, management demanded first look at pretty much anything I did for anyone else, with some exceptions, even though I was part time and had a standing deal that there were not supposed to be restrictions on my freelance elsewhere. Given my problems with Brian Thomsen at the time, that was a poison pill. There was no way I could route all my potential freelance work through him.


I first resigned at the start of 1992 and the deal the company offered me to keep me on as a satellite editor was limited office time, increased freelance opportunities in house, freedom to work elsewhere at will, but a cut in pay and no benefits. Overall, it was a fair offer. In 1994, my TSR fiction freelance went away and was unlikely to return so long as Thomsen ran the department, the rates were cut for TSR game freelance, and the company said it was going to put the brakes on a lot of my external freelance. There was no way I could afford to stay, even if I had wanted to.


The sales numbers TSR was making for many of their products at that time supported the pay. 1994 was also a period where sales had started to slump, though.


The expectations for TSR freelance game design were certainly rigorous. You always had editors, but you did have to turn over your text with an eye toward the overall layout, which makes sense to me.


A lot of writers were turning things over as files by 1994, but there were authors who did not. A good desktop was pricey. From everything I have heard, TSR was ahead of the New York houses, as far as publishers using computers.


I did some writing work for a law firm once and they paid me more to watch their orientation videos than I'd gotten for a lot of game design freelance. No one works in game publishing for the money. :)


Oh, TSR had some issues with internal freelance that were not financial, but one of them was not Bruce Heard handing out assignments in games as spoils. And in books we put processes in place in 1990 or so where auditions were considered blind, so staff without fiction credits had no advantage. Brian undid those eventually.


some of the projects I worked on--early Dark Sun, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and Realms stuff like Avatar and Empires--were steps in the right direction. Some solid coordination went on with those. But I was the unofficial liaison with games, so after I left fulltime in 1992 and Brian Thomsen took over books, there was a sea change in the management's attitude about the relationship between books and games, and not for the better.


It was not a formal policy. The "no stars" idea was applied to various people at various times, usually whenever management wanted someone to do something and was refused. Around 1990, the book department had to fight to keep author names on the spines of books, because management went through a phase where they thought author names only caused distractions in bookstores. (Everything should be shelved and bought based on the product lines.) Around the time of this memo, Bob Salvatore ran afoul of the head of the book department, who targeted him as a unwelcome "star" and started separating him from Drizzt. Fortunately Wizards stopped the worst of that campaign after they bought the company.


The really dumb thing about the lack of advances was that it weakened the company's claim on the material covered by the contract, if things went off the rails. No consideration, no contract. I am glad for that, as it was one of the things that helped me claw back some material originally intended for Ravenloft when my relationship with TSR soured.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Lost Odyssey - Live D&D Experience to Benefit the Autism Society

Lost Odyssey is a benefit for the Autism Society. Deborah Ann Woll, perhaps best known for her roll on Netflix's Daredevil. It appears she will be the DM. Satine Phoenix and other notables (I don't know them;) will also be part of the show.


When? NOVEMBER 15TH, 2019  MAIN DOORS: 6:00PM  MAIN SHOW: 7:30PM

Goodies for attending: ALL TICKET PURCHASES come with a FREE 1-year subscription to Roll20 Plus, $15 store credit at FrogGodGames.com, 20% off at Dog Might Games, an exclusive DLC pack for the Neverwinter PC game, and more! — In addition, all VIP ticket holders will receive event-exclusive artwork, and a limited edition Book of Knowledge miniature courtesy of Eldritch Foundry!

If you aren't local: Not able to attend the show? Tune in to a livestream of the Lost Odyssey world premiere via Twitch and Tiltify, as the live event will be launching a fundraiser campaign where audiences can donate for their chance to receive thousands of giveaways in the ASA fundraiser! 100% of donations from the fundraiser will be going to the ASA.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Kickstarter - Hunters of the Chalice Lands

"A Dark Fantasy RPG OSR/ 5th Edition Lite Ruleset"

Hunters of the Chalice Lands is an interesting Kickstarter, not because of the rules, but because of the setting. More accurately, from the way it reads, it might have been better off as a setting book for OSR / 5e rulesets instead of mashing up its own, but time will tell.

It has funded and has attained its first stretch goal. Here is where some confusion may come in, as it refers to "internal" and "external" stretch goals in the pledge levels, and prices those pledge levels differently depending on whether or not it includes "external" stretch goals.

What should have been spelled out is that internal stretch goals mean additions to the core rulebook and external stretch goals are literally additional books. The wording is unnecessarily confusing.

Ah well, back in the days before retirement, when I could work overtime to supplement my Kickstarter backing, this is probably a project I would have backed. Now that my discretionary income is more fixed, its a Kickstarter I'll need to pass on.
Seven civilisations have come before, seven times the convergence destroyed everything, now you have a chance to stop the convergence before it kills us all. 
You live upon the chalice lands a continent in the great salt sea. Your land is a place of vast plains, towering mountains, tundra’s and scorching deserts; each hides a secret. 
Yours is not the first civilisation to inhabit the land, many have come before, and those have all been destroyed by the convergence, but their destruction was not complete, and many hidden treasures can be found deep beneath the land. 
Discover ancient technologies and magics, unique weapons and armours from any of the past civilisations as you adventure across the Chalice Lands. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Pay to Play Gumball Style Machines Kick Out In-Game Magic!?!

Red is fireball spell, pink is a healing potion, white is a light spell...

From an article at ICv2:

"A number of stores have also adopted a pay-to-roleplay program with participants paying for a seat in a RPG game offering an upscale experience. One store runs two sessions on a Saturday with six spots in each game, charging players $15 each for a seat at the table. Other stores with successful pay-to-play programs further monetize the sessions by stocking gumball style machines with plastic capsules containing in-game bonuses such as a +1 to hit, a potion of healing, or a certificate giving the player a rare pet. Sometimes these machines clear $50 to $200 per day with huge profit margins."
(Emphasis mine)

WTF is the world of tabletop gaming coming to?

What DM/GM is going to allow in-game bonuses from an in-store gumball machine?

Where the fuck are the stores with these machines?

Monday, September 23, 2019

State of The Tavern - Alexa, The Lost Voice and the Demonic Dungeon of the Bone Dreamer

Alexa ranks internet traffic from 1 to 15 million or so. Lower is better. Since Jully 11th of this year, The Tavern has been on fire, moving from approximately 570k to approx 197k in that time. Lower is better. This is, by far, the best trafficked The Tavern has ever been, and I thank you, the reader, for this. I'm simply stunned. For some comparison numbers:

The new traffic ranking has opened up some opportunities, particularly with regular press publishers, and we couldn't have done it without you.

As an aside, my voice has been all manners of fucked up since the drive home from ShireCon Saturday night. Can't blame the con, obviously, something was brewing in my throat before it, but all the DMing and talking brought it forward. Recording the Tavern Chat Podcast has been a hoot ;)

The Demonic Dungeon of the Bone Dreamer played out better than I ever hoped. Now, as asked about at the table at the con, work will commence and making it something for distribution to the OSR community. Should be fun!

Alright, about to drown my throat in hard liquor to sooth it. Yeah, that's the ticket! ;P

Sunday, September 22, 2019

News - Steven Johansson (KenzerCo)

Steven Johansson was a VP at KenzerCo. This post will be updated with further information as it becomes available.

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