Category Archives: Game Design

Gary Con Panel – Goodman Games – How To Write Adventure Modules The Don’t Suck

I have played a few DCC funnels at conventions and a few modules at the gaming table. I’ve even been a player in a play test of a module. I can’t mention that, but if my name shows up in the acknowledgements, you’ll know which one(s).

DCC seems to have a lot of interest in their modules, so I wanted to hear what their designers had to say. If I never have a published module, at least I can use the information to help design my own sessions, and games at conventions.

The panelists were Joseph Goodman, Michael Curtis, Jobe Bitman, Brendan LaSalle, and Bob Bledsaw, Jr. There were 20-25 in attendance, among whom were 3 women. When it came time to ask questions, only one of the women asked a question. That’s a significant ratio. What I wonder, is were the other two just there with their male S.O.’s, or were they really gamers with an interest in such things. Just my musings, no data to back up any of it.

What follows are just the transcription of my hastily scribbled and sometimes illegible notes. There are a lot of good points here for planning adventures in your own games, in addition to developing modules for publication.

Joseph Goodman started off by telling us that they have done this seminar multiple times before, and this time wanted to start off with each person telling what things inspire them.

1.) Things that inspire us to get a good output.

Michael Curtis

  • All writers are readers
    • Always have a notebook when reading – make note of certain words that evoke ideas, feelings, etc.
    • Follow up on ideas an author does not pursue.

Jobe Bitman

  • Movies, especiall humor.
  • Camping & hiking
  • New museum
  • New locations and feeling what the experience is like and relate to a fantasy world setting.
    • For ex. hiking is hard work, and there’s no way characters pack all the stuff they say that they do.

Brendan LaSalle

  • Big reader
  • Movies
  • Good TV
  • Poetry
  • Music – Heavy Metal Power Cords
  • Steals a lot of bad guy lines from comic books.

Bob Bledsaw, Jr. (Insight on how his dad prepared for campaigns & modules, from all the materials he left.)

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Heilein, A. C. Clarke, poetry
  • Actually running campaigns
    • Notebooks filled with names of inns, NPC’s with brief designations, random monsters, and names & backgrounds for magical items.
    • Village book, fantastic weapons, Temple book, etc.
    • His father didn’t like to lead players.
    • Look at an inn as each class. How does a mage see this inn, a cleric, a thief?
    • What about a monster or obstacle is a problem for a cleric?
    • Leave world open

Joe Goodman

  • Goes to places with unique features
    • Elephant seal hatchery – they are 2,000 pounds and the size of a VW.
  • Monarch butterfly breeding ground – view through fantasy lens
  • Hurst castle
  • Wild zebras on beach near California coastal highway.
  • Alcatraz was a military island citadel before it was a prison.
  • Art and comic books

I think it was Brendan LaSalle who said these two things.

  1. Read Strunk & Whites Manual of Style once per year.
  2. Read what you have written out loud, or have someone read it to you with the Last Draft. If it doesn’t read well, it won’t play well.

A common theme was to playtest a module multiple times to get the flow and pacing right. You have to know how it will play out before you publish it. Someone said if it is a TPK every time, then it’s too hard. If about half the party survives, then it’s about right.

2.) One thing they love and one thing they hate.

Brendan

Love: Brilliant little detail, for ex. Legacy of Savage Kings has a dragon in a cavern with the coins of his treasure lovingly stacked along the wall.

Hate: No matter what happens, you can’t change what happens. He gave examples of NPC’s you can’t kill, or some other thing that no matter what they do it won’t change. It is better to think of what will happen if they kill this NPC, etc. Trust your DM (who will run the module). ALWAYS put the players center stage as the main characters of the story.

Michael

Love: Enjoys ambiguity to cause reader and player to imagine options, avoids set in stone. Leave it up to recipient to fill in the blanks.

Hate: Story should emerge and not be stuck in a narrative since it is a participatory game.

Bob

Be a storyteller, not a story dictator.

Jobe

Hate: Really long details with buried information the DM or player’s need. Make it easy to find.

Joseph

Players are the audience, but the GM is the customer. Word count for GM/Judge is wasted, 1-2 pages at most. Pages should be for the benefit of the players.

3.) How bring ideas together?

Bob – List of Hobbits, only with warrior sounding names. His father’s notes were rich in lore from the books he read.

Michael – Pick three things and create a riff on it. Then come up with a brief synopsis, elevator pitch.

Brendan – Do like Shakespeare – Steal/steal/steal. What if it is a murder mystery?
Take random ideas and throw them at specific thing for the background to see where it goes and what happens.
He is a firm believer in a crappy first draft, just get it done, then refine it.

Michael – If nothing else, do something that you enjoy and are passionate about. Find a way to make it an adventure.

Bob – Don’t let your own misgivings stop you from paying or publishing.

Joseph – Get practice, especially with random stuff.

Bob – Some people have favorite modules that are not what is the most popular. Someone will like it, even if not everyone.

4.) How break out of the linear mindset?

Michael – Don’t make decisions for the players, just set the scene.

Bob – If there is an intriguing hook, it will draw them in.

Mike – For publication there is a set word count. How might players overcome this obstacle. Come up with 3 or 4 things.

Brendan – Billy goat Gruff, but 25th level character. Create a setting and villains. You can’t cover all your bases. Trust your GM.

Joseph – Mental checklist of

  • Player choices
  • There is a chance for every player to shine.
  • Visual Descriptions – Use hulking humanoid instead of just saying orc.
  • No ziggurats – New and exciting ideas.
  • Good title
  • Good summary  – Focused enough to do a 2 or 3 sentence description – elevator pith.

5.) Bad guy development

Leave as many decisions as possible up to the players.

Base on someone you don’t like.

Don’t lock the front door to the dungeon.

Don’t leave necessary information in an inaccessible place.

No lock without a key. This can be a secret door, or another way around the obstacle. Always a way around it.

Brendan – Once you decide what he is, Imagine as your character or you personally. Such as a dragon or necromancer.
What will you do to stop adventurers?
What will you fail at?

Q&A

How get into the situation?/Start the setting for the adventure? (This was my question. I have trouble getting a good starting point for adventures.)

Brendan – In media res [In the middle of the action/story.] especially for a module, one-shot, or convention game.

Joseph – Robert E. Howard – In media res.

Brendan – Let the players screw themselves. Maybe they are all clerics, so they need hirelings to fill in the gaps. Always have a situation that requires dealing with magic.

Jobe – 1.) Be comfortable with system you are using, and just knowing the system might give you an idea.

2.) Avoid crating bottlenecks, have some secondary way to achieve the goal. A “key” to every lock doesn’t have to be literal.

Joseph – Easter Egg – Some benefit to players that test everything and one room *. Game changers – Players wreck the story line, handle it at the table.

Word count/size?

Brendan – Have a set number of encounters for four hours. For a convention setting, 6 to 8 encounters for four hours. Most modules can be played in four hours.

Jobe – Word count – Write as expressively as possible in the lowest word count.

Joseph – c. 10,000 words is about 16 pages in the format of Goodman Games’ modules.

How develop balance in a module? How do you know you have it right?

Brendan – Playtest/Playtest/Playtest as much as you can before publishing. Run at conventions, local game store with people you don’t know. A minimum of 3 times to playtest, once with friends, twice at conventions, no upper limit really.

Michael – Six months after it is released, you will know if the balance is right.

Jobe – If more than have killed, then still needs work. If less than half killed, then it’s probably pretty good.

Bob – Be prepared for anything. There should be enough source material to plan for unexpected things players do. Always leave a way out of a tough situation, but don’t make it easy.

Marmalade Dog 21

Marmalade Dog 21 was Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, March 18-20, 2016, at Western University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I had planned to attend today and play in the first slot, but I woke up with a stuffy nose and ear, and a sore throat.

We did not have an official OSR slot this year, like we did last year. I have decided that once we find out when Marmalade Dog is next year that I will step up and coordinate an OSR track. The exception is if it is the same weekend as Gary Con. Last year, the convention was in early February, so I asked if they know yet when it will be next year. The answer is that the university tells them what date they can have, or occasionally what dates they can choose from. So such a variable makes it understandable why it isn’t consistent with the month they have it. I live in southern Kalamazoo County, so am only about 20 minutes away from campus.

Normally the deadline for GM sign up to run games, and get free admission, for each day that they run a session, and a t-shirt, is December 31. I didn’t get signed up to run a game by then. In February, I looked and there were some OSR type games, but three sessions the first, fifth, and seventh, did not have any. So I signed up at the website for the first and fifth session, and was not automatically rejected. I never got an email for confirmation that I wasn’t rejected. So last weekend, I went to the website and checked, and my sign ups were on the list of scheduled games. I then hurried up and got ready.

Session 1: 3:00 pm on Friday. As with last year, no one showed up to my game. If things work out to coordinate an OSR track next year, we’ll have to drum up enough players to commit to a first session game.  I ran the same thing for Session 5 on Saturday.

Session 2: Friday was 7:30 pm – 11:30 pm. +Forest Ray ran a Swords & Wizardry Complete setting, called Muskets & Magic Users. It was S&W with muskets. We were first level adventurers hired by the town to go stop the pirates who raided their town. Non magic users got issued a musket that did 1d12, that fired once per round. Magic users got a wand of magic missile that had 5 first level spells per day and regenerated its charges overnight.

That was a fun little session, and my magic user used Charm Person to make a “friend” of one of the pirates that was on the raiding party that came into the tavern where we were. This made it easier to find the other pirates in the raiding party, secure their boat, and go out to their ship. We managed to take the ship and go clean out the pirate hideout, then go fight the dragon ship of the pirate queen. It was a fun game.

Forest always hands out goodies for his games, and we each got a bag of dice and a button with the name of his game, and the rules system. Forest came down from Lansing and got a hotel to run and play games all three days. In addition to swag, he brought 3 copies of Swords & Wizardry Complete for reference. I didn’t bring mine as I was already lugging three AD&D Player Handbooks, the OSRIC Player Handbook, and a DMG for my earlier session.

Muskets & Magic Users
Muskets & Magic Users

Charles, who played in one of my sessions of Homlett from last year, and was looking forward to my game Saturday night. He said he runs Swords & Wizardry sometimes. He actually lives in my town, but I lost his number. I put it in my cell so I can’t lose it. We also had a couple, Joseph and Priscilla, who played S&W for the first time and had a blast. They were both experienced gamers. He lives in a town about 15 miles south of me, so we are planning to get together IRL for gaming. She lives about a half hour away in the other direction. We had one other player, and I am blanking on the name. I did not think to take a picture of play at the table.

Session 3: 10:00 am on Saturday, I played DCC’s Frozen in Time as a 0-level funnel, by +Mike Carlson.  Mike came down from Lansing for the day. I played this funnel with him last year. Others had played it, but I didn’t remember most of the key details, so it was like a new adventure. I only remembered things as we encountered them. It was a good time. We had a full table with 6 players. Four of us were experienced gamers with DCC experience. The other two were a couple, Seth had RPG experience, and this was Gretchen’s first roleplaying experience. She had a good time. This couple lives about an hour away, in Benton Harbor, so they are having a challenge finding a group. +Clayton Williams from Lansing and +James DeYonke and his friend Dave, from Ann Arbor, one and two hours away, respectively.

DCC at Marmalade Dog 21
DCC at Marmalade Dog 21

Session 4: 3:00 pm, Saturday. +Forest Ray ran Da Orkz Iz Back, a White Star scenario. I meant to bring my White Star books, but didn’t think to set them out, or put in my bag before I went to bed. This was the first time I had played White Star. Mike Carlson joined in, as did Charles, Joseph, and Priscilla from the night before in Muskets and Magic Users.

Forest & Players White Star
Forest & Players White Star
White Star At Marmalade Dog 21
White Star At Marmalade Dog 21

This was a scenario that needed at least one Star Knight and one pilot with the rest mercenaries. I rolled up a very uncharismatic Star Knight, and we had two pilots and two mercenaries. We were hired to investigate the loss of contact with Altair 6, a relatively new colony. There was no contact with the Star Knight Monastery, the city, and the star port. We found that legendary orcs who were thought to be myth were real, and were working with a couple of Void Knights. My Star Knight couldn’t hit the Void Knight with his star sword. The rest of the party gunned down the other Void Knight and one of the pilots picked up his void knight sword and managed to stab the void knight I was fighting. In another combat, I finally managed to hit something with my star sword. I was much better when I was shooting my blaster pistol.

Da Orkz Iz Back
Da Orkz Iz Back

Session 5: 7:00 pm on Saturday. I ran a scenario based on an area of my home campaign that I wanted to flesh out – Ogre Island and the Black Crate. I will write up a separate article on this.

Sunday has two sessions, Session 6 at 11:00 am and  7 at 3:30 pm.

Session 6: Forest ran Mutant University using the Mutant Future system. I had planned to attend that before I woke up with a cold and no energy.

Session 7: did not have any what I thought were obvious OSR games. I was thinking of playing a game of Fate, which I have never played. Maybe next year.

What I learned from this experience.

  • I need to commit to this local con, since it is in my backyard. As long as it does not conflict with Gary Con or other things I want to do, I will go.
    • If it is the same weekend as Gary Con, I can still try to coordinate an OSR track, for any not going to Gary Con.  I can recruit an assistant to handle things of the actual weekend.
  • Last year, after I saw how much time it took me to get ready to run Village of Homlet, I decided it would have been just as easy to come up with my own scenario that I would know like the back of my hand.
    • This idea proved true. I used the opportunity to flesh out an area of my campaign I had been wanting to do for a long time.
  • People will drive from a couple hours away to come for Saturday. A strong OSR presence could attract a lot more people.
    • Advertising on G+ an other outlets could increase the attendance.
    • Keep the line of communication open with other players from the region.
  • If you run a 6 person game, you get one folding table that is just big enough. If you run an 8 person game you get two folding tables.
  • Swag is cool. Perhaps publishers would provide swag, or templates for GM’s to make their own swag.
    • DCC has some cool stuff with bookmarks, buttons, pens, pencils, and more.

Mark Hunt – An Interview – The Return of GangBusters

I knew +Mark Hunt from G+ and just happened to meet him at +John Reyst’s Open Gaming Store booth. I recalled seeing a post about Gangbusters, but it had not clicked that it was back. Mark has a license to the GangBusters game! I first learned of Mark with his prolific postings of items for White Star. Many know him for his DCC setting Drongo.

Mark was signing a Gangbuster’s box, and it had the look and size of what I remember from 30+ years ago. The guy asked Mark to sign it and I was really puzzled, thinking it was an original boxed set, until Mark explained that it was his game.

We talked about collaborating on some things in multiple genres/rule systems, one of them being Gang Busters! Wow! I haven’t played in 30+ years, so I guess I need to brush up on the rules….

I did a phone interview with Mark on Saturday, March 12th. Before I started asking interview questions, he mentioned that he is good for the next 3 or 4 years of putting stuff out on a regular basis.

Interview Questions

When did you get your start in RPG’s?
Summer 1979. D&D Red Box and Blue Box. One day in Jr. High, we talked about it in the  Lunch room & met up after school.

What games have you played?
Call of Cthulhu, AD&D, probably hundreds since then. Powers & Perils, Champions, you name it, I played it. I have played every year since then. I once played Champions two years straight.

What games have you ran?
I have ran pretty much just about every game. Which helped a lot with game design, you have to play games and know what is out there, if you want to make games.

I’ve been running GangBusters since 1983. I have enough stuff on hard drive to fill a dozen books without even trying.

What games do you still play or run?
GangBusters, D&D, Swords of the Empire, DCC, Basic, Swords & Sorcery, C&C, Call of Cthulhu, and boardgames, just games, our group tries to keep playing.

How many women players have you had in all of your games?
Dozens, our first group had women back in 1979, and 3 or 4 at a time all the way to the present. It’s easy.

Does you wife play?
No

Does it cause problems?
No, she plays computer games, some are RPG’s, just not table top.

What does she think of your endeavors?
She likes it, especially when they start cashing in. I take what I make and roll it into producing the next game.

Have you ever had a woman GM?
Yes, a few. They are just like everyone else.  I’ve played all over the world so I had all the kinds of game masters that you can think of.

You played all over the world because you were in the Air Force?
Yes for six years and it included the1st Gulf War. We used to play Twilight 2000 in Germany back in the 80’s. A game where we go to war with Russia and get stranded in Europe when it happens. We used all the strategies and tactics we knew, and we had more authenticity than most people.

You seem to have an eclectic taste in genres and historical periods, do you find it hard to focus with so many different irons in the fire?
No.

Why not?
I like to read all kinds of stuff. I know a lot about this, this and this. If there is something you need to know, read a book. My dad says, They hide things they don’t want people to know in a book. A game designer should always be reading, and learning more stuff.

You got your start, at least in my experience, of publishing ships, classes, and supplements for White Star. Was that your real start?It was actually Drongo, then Planetary Transmission and some free items for White Star.

NOTE: Drongo is a DCC compatible setting.

I know you have a Napoleonic era game in the works, and other things, what can you tell us about that?
Swords of the Empire will be ready by the beginning of next month. People can follow on the G+ page and watch development of it, and see how it has changed and evolved. I revise based on feedback from others’ comments in the community.

The latest project seems to be a runaway success – GangBusters.
Is that a game you played back in the day?
NOTE: See above, he’s been playing and GMing it since it came out in 1983.

What made you decided to go for a license to GangBusters?
It was just sitting there and I just asked if I can use it and it went from there. If I like it, there has to be others that like it. If I can sell enough and it can pay for the effort I put into it, all the better.

Is it an exclusive license, that is, are you the only one licensed to do anyting with GB?
So far, I’m the only one out there. I’m working on several things, just making stuff work. I can’t go into more detail at this time.

How hard was it to get the license to do this?
More or less I just asked Rick Krebs and he was receptive. I can’t get into any details on that either. There is stuff [other famous IP] that people can probably pick up if they put in some effort to research it. It is not impossible, is the best I can say.

What did Rick Krebs say when you asked him, was he excited?
Others had talked to him and it never went anywhere, so I showed him what I can do and he purchased it and reviewed it. When the writer likes it and says keep doing it, that’s a seal of approval.

Why the twist with the “Weird Tales & Paranormal Investigations?
Actually it existed in the original setting. In Polyhedron magazine, they had an adventure with giant bugs that took over a farm. I did not create it out of thin air, it existed in some shape or form in the original game.
The original game talked about various ideas for how to expand it. All I did was expand it. I read all the articles where they mentioned GangBusters. I am making it modular so you can use or not, or expand or not, cause at the end of the day it is still a game of cops & robbers. If you can’t find an adventure after a night of watching TV, with so many police procedurals that are on now, I can’t help you, NCIS, X-files, etc. Warehoue 13, Thin Man, etc. There is so much that fits.
Me – It’s seeing the connections.
Mark – Exactly. I increased the book size to show what you can do with it. It doesn’t have to be just gangsters. You can do journalists. The Incredible Hulk is about new reporter chasing the Hulk cross country. The players  could be a pool of reporters in an Enquirer type organization.
Me – GangBusters is set in the same time period as H.P. Lovecraft was writing.
Mark – I’m staying away from the Cthulhu mythos, there is more out there than just that.
If you want to play Call of Cthulhu play it, it’s a great game. If you want to go in different directions, play my game. Play GangBusters, there is enough out there to keep you busy

I really like the NPC card decks, what was your inspiration for those?
Old police mugshots. I make cards with mugshots, with enough stats to run. I made the first 18, then another 18, and eventually I’ll have a full deck of 52 cards. Literally take a card and you are ready to play. At Gary Con I passed out cards, and said, this is what stats mean and we were up and running in minutes. NPC’s, bad guys, players, etc. They are small and portable. Once you know the rules that’s all you need. Keep it in your wallet and you’re ready to play whenever and wherever. [See this YouTube video for a sample of the cards.]

Me – They make a great tool for a pick up or convention game for pre-gens. There was a lot of buzz from those who played in the games Mark ran.

It’s been mentioned on the G+ TSR GangBusters Community, that you plan to do a Kickstarter. I know that you have a goal to have everything ready before the Kickstarter and to keep it manageable. How much can you tell us about that?
I’m still working on it. Eventually there will be a box set, hard back book, GM screen, and modules, plus add ons will all be figured out and done. So once we hit our goal and are funded, I will order and ship. I did a test run of box sets, and people are impressed with what I have now. Some have shipped to Spain, England, all over world now. I hope a Kickstarter will help it reach a bigger area.

When might we get wind of the Kickstarter?
Depends on when I get done with something in the background – I can’t talk about it – then preparing for the Kickstarter will start to speed up.

What is the secret to your prolific output? I ask, because it is an amazing story that just floored me. I was giving you a hard time at Gary Con to slow down because you’re making the rest of us look bad.
Last year was my last chemo – I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and going through treatments. I said to myself, “If this is my last year, I’m going to do what I want to do,” and I literally drove myself to do these games, even if only 5 words in a day. After a year, I had a lot. I just hacked it out piece by piece. “Never give up, never surrender,” as they say. Marks’ wife can be heard in the background: “He’s not going to do anything else. By Grapthar’s hammer….”
To the outside world it appeared like I was cranking it out fast, it seemed like a lot real fast. As they say, an overnight success is ten year’s worth of work. A lot of games that blew up were simmering in the background and no one paid attention until they got done.

You mentioned you were seeking a license to do a game with a big name, and well-know IP, but it fell through. 
Any clues to other IP’s you have your eye on? (Probably not, since you don’t want to spoil it.)
Exactly. I’m always looking for more stuff, but can’t mention them, so I don’t get scooped. If it’s not being used, why not? A Lot of stuff is just sitting quietly. It’s not hard if you do the work and ask. The worst they can say is, “No.”
Drongo for DCC is mine and I can always go and do a BX version. As long as I don’t compete with one of their [Goodman Games] products it should be OK.

Any hints about projects coming up?
Oh geeze, let me look at my hard drive. I’ve thought about one or two retroclones, but will mention those when the time is right. I don’t want it all at once, that is, I want to spread it out. Cloaked Avengers is a new class for GangBusters in the next month, like the Shadow. You can add to an existing GangBusters game with mysterious powers. I’m also working on a WWI alternate history for GangBusters.  I plan to stage so it’s not out all at once, and do one or two adventures to flesh out stuff  I already have.

Joe’s Diner was 6 or 7 pages, then 18, then 32, then I made little booklets. The PDF is automatically updated, so it’s done. The only way to get it in book form is in the boxed set.
Me – That’s a smart way to drive sales.
Mark – Exactly.

Have you seen all the talk about yesterday’s press release about the new TableTop Library site?
Yes. I’m thinking about trying to sell stuff there, it’s one more avenue for sales.

Anything else you want us to know about?
Hit me up on G+ if you see me, and help out get the word out, Swords of the Empire, GangBusters , Fantasy game – no name yet. Everything is just falling into place so fast it is ridiculous. I might have Boxed sets [of the yet to be named and released fantasy game ] at NTRPGCon.

GangBusters boxed sets and T-Shirts, and Swords of the Empire boxed sets will definitely be at North Texas RPG Con.

– – –

Mark is a really nice guy, easy to talk to, and inviting. Other aspiring game designers were asking him to look at their stuff, and he was looking forward to it. He knows game mechanics. Just wjile talking about general ideas, he had an idea for something. Being in his presence, I couldn’t help but be infected by his enthusiasm for games. If we lived in the same town, I’d find a way to play in his games.

Mark is enjoying life and riding this dream of designing games and having a blast while doing it. I expect to hear exciting things in the coming weeks.

Kickstarter Update – My Backed Kickstarters and Their Status

I figured that I would take a break from my posts on Gary Con and do a long overdue update on the Kickstarters I have backed. The stalled, the failed, the late, and the in process.

My oldest outstanding Kickstarter is City State of the Invincible Overlord. It has a lot of issues, and November, 2015 marked a year that it was behind. Erik Tenkar posted an article on it today, so I won’t re-hash it here. I pledged at the $40 level.

The Great Kingdom is the next oldest project that I backed. It is D&D Documentary #2, that is stalled in legal limbo with D&D Documentary #1. I’m out $50 for this one. If I could, I would give my $50 to D&D Documentary #3, that I wrote about here.

Grimtooth’s Ultimate Traps Collection was slated to deliver in July, 2015, as per the information on the Kickstarter page. It was overly complex in my opinion, as there were multiple hard cover books, each with different content, essentially each a different book. While I have seen pictures on G+ of some who have received theirs, I must be in the group getting theirs with the second round of shipments. While it is late, I’m not worried as others have theirs. I backed at the $50 level.

The Planet Mercenary Roleplaying Game is one I backed for one of the options instead of the game itself. I read Schlock Mercenary, and like the 70 Maxims, so went for the hard back book. As per the last update, we may be seeing that soon.

I backed the Metamorphosis Alpha: Epsilon City at the $95 level. My ability to resist these things is tragically low. If only my blogging or other endeavors matched the outlay for these things…. It was slated to deliver in March, 2016, but it won’t hit that target. I think it will eventually deliver and be an awesome product.

The most adventurous level of backing for any Kickstarter is the Marmoreal Tomb at $150. It was slated for March, 2016 delivery, but is not going to hit that target. Both Ernie and Benoist had the flu and other minor delays. There are regular updates on the Facebook page of The Hobby Shop Dungeon, and the Kickstarter page. I know it will eventually deliver.

The B/X Monster Reference Index is another one by +Peter Regan. It was short, limited stretch goal changes, and I already have it. I’ll do a separate post on its awesomeness.

Fifty Fantastic Functions of the D50 by Goodman Games and the GameScience d50. This was a quick Kickstarter and delivered lightning fast. I got Lou Zocchi to sign it at Gary Con. There are lots of cool ideas in this book.

I backed the original ACKS and hadn’t backed any of their other Kickstarters until now. This time, I went with Lairs & Encounters. I must say, the preview of the lair maps are awesome! I backed at the $50 level. It is slated to deliver in March, 2016. Even if it slips into April, I won’t be disappointed.

I’m not much of one for card games, but the original Dungeon Solitaire rules intrigued me, so I gave into the KS for Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls.  I went for the $50 level for two decks. the art alone is awesome! It is slated for June, 2016 delivery and so far, everything is on track.

Because +Peter Regan is involved, I gave in to the Black Hack. As I was writing this article, I got notice of the need to fill in my survey. The PDF coupon will be sent to my email soon. This is slated to deliver in April. I backed at the 8 pound level, about $13 I think it was. I have no doubt, barring an issue with the printer or mail, I will get it on time.

I gave into the cuteness of the Baby Bestiary Vol. 2 and Vol. 1 Reprint. It funded on March 8th, and is slated for delivery in August, 2016. It was cool to see all the art in progress. I look forward to this. I gave in to the $75 level, since I missed volume 1.

Finally, there are three Kickstarters that are in their final days and weeks.

World Architect Cards are cool cards for building locations for a new world, or running a figure out what’s there style hex crawl. The fund drive ends March 16, so there’s still a couple of days to get involved. I went for the $35 level, which includes all the stretch goals. They need almost $500 for the final stretch goal: Layered Tiff Files Released to all backers at $10 and above.

The ABCs of RPGs – Books and Coloring for Adults and Kids! is a bunch of cool art. I’m a grandfather, so my granddaughter might like this when she is older. I also got one for myself. I hope I can get more in the future, if I am ever blessed with more grandchildren. The two coloring books and two activity book option is $30. The funding for this one is solid. If they get another $40,000, they’ll do it as a board book. Delivery is slated for August, 2016.

Finally, I have backed a gemstone dice Kickstarter, Cat’s Eye Gemstone Dice Polyhedral Sets, d6’s, & d20’s. I went in at the $45 level. The funding drive runs through March 30, and they are not yet halfway to their goal of $12,500.  Delivery is slated for June, 2016. I won’t be sad if this doesn’t fund. Yes, I want cool dice, but I went a bit overboard adding so many new Kickstarters to the list.

The year is young, and I need to hold back, in case there is something I just can’t do without. Just remember, I don’t have a problem….

 

 

Quick Interview With Jeff Perren

In my quest to get signatures from all of the special guests at GaryCon VIII, I tracked down Jeff Perren, in the miniatures warfare room.

He graciously signed his blurb in my program.

During the Growing Up Gygax session I had attended just a short while before, Luke mentioned that Jeff Perren had disavowed the fantasy portion of Chainmail, and that it was all Gary. So I asked him if he was getting ready to play Chainmail, at the sandtable where he was sitting, and he said, “No, Cavaliers and Roundheads.” Then he said something I didn’t expect. “I have never played Chainmail by the rules as published.”

He was gracious enough to let me get out my cellphone and let me record his re-statement of what he told me.

I stopped recording too soon. Jeff went on to talk about the last time he played against Gary in 2006. I believe the picture of them together in the program guide is of that day.

NOTE: If I am not the first to ask this question and publicize his answer, please let me know with a formal citation of the source.

GaryCon Day 0, GaryCon Day 1, GaryCon Day 2, GaryCon Day 3, GaryCon Day 4

Review – Day Trippers Game Masters Guide

This is a follow up post to my review of the Day Tripper’s Core Rules.

I was invited to review the entire system after my review of the Planet Generator guide. There are two other generators for Locations and Lifeforms from the GM Guide that are available on DTRPG/RPGNow. If you have the GM Guide, you don’t need to purchase these stand alone generators. My review of the GM Guide will be much shorter than the review of the Core Rules. I’m sure many will appreciate that.

Setting The Tone:

The GM Guide begins with a discussions of surreal and surrealism, and then goes into a discussion of it in science fiction and then RPGs. This might be eye glazing fodder for some. While a good presentation of the subject, I am not entirely sure it is warranted. We know that dreams and the chao are possible slip types, so many may find it a long winded way to say “weird”.

“Appendix N” Material:

There is a long list of resources for inspiration. The selection deals with “alternate realities, multiple dimensions, subjective worlds, bizarre lifeforms, surreal space adventures, and time travel.

This list is limited to one page and helps give flavor. There are things I’ve never read, some I have heard of. Thanks for making my read/watch list longer. There aren’t enough hours in the day to read all that I want to read, or watch all that I want to watch. (I’m the only with that problem, right?)

Other movies/TV shows I thought of are “The Fly” (original or remake), “Incredible Shrinking Man/Woman”, “InnerSpace”, adn TV shows: “Seven Days”, “Land of the Giants”, “Lost In Space”, and many others. As with other RPGs, almost anything can be an inspiration, even your weird dreams.

Details:

As expected, the GM Guide fleshes out things from the Core Rules. For example, NPCs get a whole page here instead of a paragraph in the Core Rules.

There are examples of how play proceeds, and 16 pages at the end that walk through generating your own adventure using the generators and forms provided.

Generators:

56 of the 120 pages are dedicated to 12 generators: Missions, Stars, Planets, Locations, Lifeforms, Societies, Drama, Character, Alternate Earth, Dream World, Multiversal Chao, and Time Travel.

Most, if not all of these generators can be used in other RPGs of any genre. As with all generators used in prepping to play, they are suggestive, and are a means to help you think of things to mix it up so each adventure is different.

You already know what I think about the planet generator.

The cool thing about these generators is how flexible they are. Many of them require two rolls, one using 1 to 3 d6’s to determine the general nature of the particular table, and another d6 for the sub-item in that category on the chart.

The parallel earth generator walks you figuring out what is different and when it happened, and how likely the characters are to figure it out, or how they might figure it out.

Page 88 has a cool flow chart to determine when to use a given generator in the course of developing a mission.

Questions:

From my review of the Core Rules, there are two questions for which I was looking for answers in the GM Guide:

  1. What happens to players that fail to return in 24 hours?
    Here’s a link to a G+ thread where my review is highlighted by the game developer. He mentions that the results of exceeding 24 hours is meant to be determined by each GM. In his game it creates an alternate reality, and they are “gone” from the original. What happens if a player isn’t there that session? The party would be split up.
    Rescue missions are discussed and they involve time travel to go to where the lost people are and insert them into the time stream in this reality a moment before the rescue ship leaves. It also mentions changed time lines/new alternate universes created, etc.
  2. Are the action/combat charts in one handy section of the GM Guide
    The charts are not in one location in the GM guide. I did find on the DayTrippers website that they have a GM screen.

Free PDFs – Follow Up:

All the forms that are available for free on DTRPG/RPGNow that I mentioned in my Core Rules review are in the GM Guide. However, the players hand out is not. I would recommend it be in the PDF so that the GM has everything in one place. The Traveller conversion PDF is not in there either, but that is not critical in my mind, since it is a special case for a single game.

In addition to including the free PDFs there is an Adventure Sketch Sheet to hold the bare facts about an adventure.

What I Like:

All the awesome generators! These generators do a great job of giving ideas, and would be helpful for developing one’s own generators, perhaps with more options.

There are 6 sample missions, examples of NPCs, a walk through of building a mission, all designed to help the GM prepare for game play, or figure it out on the fly.

The sandbox style of play is promoted by suggesting preparing outlines of missions, since the idea is that characters and other NPC’s are in the business of doing missions. Also developing NPC’s ahead of time for use as needed. The nice thing about he majority of NPC’s is that they have stats of 1, so you don’t need to write down all their stats, just the ones that are not one.

In addition to the generators, there are drama templates that guide the GM in preparing the mission/adventure. These templates include what kind of locations, gear, and NPC’s are needed to help you cover all the bases. This would be a handy tool for those new to running games. My only caution is to avoid a railroad, just as these rules do.

The advice in the GM Guide is if the players don’t notice your clues or pick up on them, it is a sign that you are doing it wrong. That is, you need to describe them better, give them an idea of why they should notice them, etc.

What I’d Like to See:

The only thing I can think to add, is that all RPG’s should have a section to clarify what types of dice they require. In the Core Rules 1 or more d6’s are mentioned. However, on page 35 of the GM Guide for node type determination, it mentions the possibility of using 2d4. I am OK with that, but this is the only place in both manuals that I am aware of that mentions anything besides using d6’s. As with most players of RPG’s I have dice to cover almost any situation, and even dice for which I don’t have the particular RPG they go with, but have them anyway. Since it is only in the GM Guide, it won’t impact players, but a heads up before then for this one-time suggestion for a scenario to use d4’s would be helpful.

Conclusion:

I’d buy this just for the generators. $12 for 12 generators is a good price if you are looking for that sort of thing.

I could run this game. I would want to play a game as a player first, or watch it played (see YouTube Video below). I’ll watch these videos later.

The mechanics are interesting and simple. There’s no guess work or fumbling with the manuals to see if you hit/succeeded. Until you get the hang of it, you might want the suggested results when something more than straight up success or failure happens. You’ll need the Core Rules handy for that.

The GM Guide is$12 on DTRGP/RPGNow.

There is also a GM Bundle that includes the GM Guide and the Core Rules for $25.98 (save $5 from purchasing individually) at DTRPG/RPGNow.

So far, there are two modules for DayTrippers available on DTRPG/RPGNow. I have not read them, so don’t know specifics. One of them is refenced in the GM Guide to illustrate the use of the Runsheet.

DayTrippers has its own website with other PDFs and forums.

I found two YouTube videos on topic. One is an interview with Tod Foley at Legends of Tabletop, and the other is actual play GMed by Tod Foley. I plan to watch them later.

 

 

Review – Day Trippers Core Rules

I did a review of the Day Trippers Planet Generator back in May. The author contacted me to review the Core Rules and Game Masters Guide.

I was interested to see what Day Trippers was, and why the name. Before I could get the time to read what I had downloaded, I saw that others had posted their own reviews of Day Trippers, so I made sure to avoid reading them until I had a chance to see it for myself. I read and reviewed the Core Rules before this review. This should help me understand how the players see the game, verses the “inside information” in the GM Guide.

I was concerned about how long it would take me to get through the books, but the Core Rules is only 44 pages. I got through half of it in one sitting. The other half I finished in another sitting.

I went in-depth in this review, far different from how I would review a movie. This should give you an understanding/feel of the game and creating characters and resolving actions.

The layout is clean and it is easy to read on my tablet. It has good art, and no typos or grammar errors that I noticed. The Table of Contents is hyperlinked. The index is not hyperlinked. This is not an issue, I am not aware of any index that is hyperlinked. The Table of Contents does not include the character sheet and ship sheet on the last two pages of the PDF. The rules are Creative Commons 3.0 UNPORTED LICENSE (CC BY 3.0). THEY ARE OWNED BY EVERYONE AND NO ONE. HTTP://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY/3.0/

It starts with a story to set the history and tone. It’s the campaign world setting. It was interesting and let me in on the origin of this concept in the mind of the game creator. As with any “default” campaign setting, it is up to the user to use it or not. In short, crazy super genius invents method to travel between dimensions. Once he proves it, other individuals, corporations, and governments get involved. There are locations that others find and keep a secret to use to their own advantage, in addition to well-know places, and places as yet undiscovered.

The premise behind the game is slipping between dimensions, different realities, planets, etc. It reminds me of the times older episodes of Dr. Who (AKA Tom Baker) moved sideways to other realities in the TARDIS rather than through normal time and space. I also was reminded of the TV show Sliders, although I think I only ever caught one episode of that show. It also reminds me a bit of the TV show 7 Days where they could only travel back in time seven days.

What I find hilarious in the backstory for how such travel was discovered, the acronym for the first device in my mind is TRAP, although it is referred to as TRA Pod in the text.  I then imagined Admiral Akbar, “It’s a TRAP!” I often come up with weird acronyms others didn’t intend.

There are terms used in the rules, Slip Space for the space/stuff traversed between starting point and destination, and Slip Pods for the devices that carry people through Slip Space.

There are five variations on slip travel, called Slips: Cartesian, Temporal, Para Terran, Subjective, Compound

  • Travel across the universe in this home reality. That is travel to other planets. (Cartesian)
  • Alternate Earths/Parallel Universes (Para Terran)
  • Time Travel, but limited to the time line of Earth 1. (Temporal)
  • Dream Worlds (Subjective)
  • The Multiversal Chao (Compound Slips – Which is a combination of two or more other kinds of slips.)

One Slips into one of 6 Nodes: Known Planets, Unknown Planets, Time Travels, Alternate Earths, Dream Worlds, and The Multiversal Chao. Dreams reminds me of the movie Inception, or places where stories are real. There is more than one story I am aware of about the characters and places in fiction are real. With all of these possibilities, there is no shortage of potential adventures. One can do any genre with these rules: science fiction, steam punk, western, spy, gangsters, fantasy, suspense, horror, sword & planet, etc.

The origin of the title of the game, Day Trippers, is that one is limited to 24 hours for the maximum length of time one can stay in their destination. If one does not return in that time, they cease to exist in the originating point. My question is, if they stay in this dimension/universe/timeline, that would mean they cease to exist, but does that mean they are trapped in different dimensions/realities if they fail to return? This is not clear to me in the Core Rules. As I read it, I would rule they are trapped in that other dimension. I will look to see if this is clarified in the GM Guide.

Character generation is a point buy. Each character begins with 100 CP (Character Points) to spend building characters. An interesting concept is that these CP can be saved and used during play for Progressive Character Building. CP are used to generate the stats for players, buy skill levels, and purchase equipment, just like using money.

There are ten classes: Amateur Explorer, Gonzo Writer, Grad Student, Politican/Nobility, Special Forces, Celebrity/Entertainer, Government Agent, Scientist, Soldier, Tourist.

There are six stats (ability) scores: Brains, Charm, Grace, Health, Might, Psyche.

The interesting thing about ability scores is that they all start with one and then CP can be used to bump them up to a maximum of six. The number one through six represents the number of d6’s to roll for each challenge/impediment one faces in the game. To bump a score from 1 to 2 only costs 5 CP, but adding more increases the cost. To bump the score of a starting stat to 5 costs 100 CP and 6 costs 200 CP.

CP is equal to one unit of currency, called a Mega, which equals one million dollars. One can go into debt to build and equip a starting character. The debt has to be paid at one mega a month. Experience Points, XP, can be used to improve one’s character or pay off debt. The equivalence of each CP/Mega/XP makes it easy to figure out and track.

The Total Character Value (TCV) is the sum of CP and XP spent to develop your character. This would be analogous to level in other games. Similarly, Potential is the sum of unspent CP and XP.

There is a list of skills that have a note of one or two stats that apply to their use. Some skills assume the presence of a kit, for example a doctor has a bag, a technician has a tool kit, etc. New skills can be added with GM agreement, and must specify one or two applicable stats for their use. Skills also go from 1-6.

Classes can also be used to boost stats and skills before adventuring begins. Stats and skills get boosted by one and debt is increased.

Crew is the name for NPCs, they have 1 in all stats and cost one Mega or CP for a year of service. Additional stats, skills, and gear can be purchased for them as with characters. “[T]hey are assumed to have an unglamorous but serviceable place to live.” This same assumption is made for characters.

Rank applies to those from military, political, or secret careers, also from 1-6. My only issue with the rank, is for military, it used army/air force/marine ranks for levels 1-5, and level 6 is admiral, a navy rank. An admiral of the same number of stars is equivalent rank to a general of the same number of stars, so I would change level 5 to colonel and make level 6 general. If you want navy ranks list them. Keep in mind that a navy captain is equal to an army colonel.

Retired rank translates to last rank-1 for resolving actions.

Fame is a stat that indicates how well known a character is and there are benefits from the level of fame from 1-6. One has to make an effort to maintain their level of fame, either by spending megas or doing something to stay in the public eye. It boosts charm rolls.

Debts can be to legitimate sources like banks, or loan sharks. The difference is in how they handle late payments. Such as, legal action vs. broken legs. Not paying debts on time can lower one’s fame.

Life Shaping is done via events that shape the life of a character. These events can be presented before or during play, or even between sessions. LifeShapers can be used to deal with problems, with a reasonable explanation. There are twelve slots available for LifeShapers, so one can only add so many.

Gear ranges from 0-6, with 0 being standard items that add no bonus to actions. Gear with levels 1-6 are increasingly more expensive and add plusses to rolls.

There is a list of sample characters provided that can be used to get players started, or be used for one shot adventures, etc.

Action resolution begins with difficulty levels from 1-10, 1 being a no-brainer to a 10 being insane. Any difficulty of 7 or higher is impossible without leveled skills and/or gear, since the max stat is 6. You roll the number of dice equal to the appropriate skill and keep the highest. This just improves your odds of rolling a 6.

After the roll is determined, the appropriate/applicable skill, gear, rank, and fame are added.

Actions can be unopposed or opposed. Unopposed is more direct. With an opposed action the “defender” also rolls.

There are five possibilities for all results:

  • Miss by more than 1       No, AND (something negative happens)
  • Miss by 1                               NO, BUT (something positive happens)
  • Hit Exactly                            YES, BUT (something negative happens)
  • Exceed by 1                          YES (Nailed it precisely)
  • Exceed by more than 1  YES, AND (something positive happens)

This makes it easy to determine the “flavor” of successes and failures. For example, taking out the guard in one strike, but he makes a noise that alerts other guard(s).

Combat works similarly to actions, but level of armor and weapons play into it.

Other players can help the character performing an action, such as opening doors. The helper makes a roll, but helping could be not helping. How many movies, TV shows, or real life situations have you seen where someone says, “Please stop helping!”?

Damage reduces stats by one, and since they are in alphabetical order, you work your way down the list. If there is multiple damage in one action, take one from the first stat, one from the next and so on. When a stat hits 0 you are stunned, when 3 stats hit 0, you are dead.

There are no luck points to burn to avoid a bad situation. It is all up to the player(s) using their wits to make their current mix of stats, skills, and gear work to their advantage. Being able to come up with a plausible reason why a certain stat or skill applies in a given situation is key.

Healing is likewise simple, if only one stat is down a single point, three days of rest. More than that takes longer rest, involves hospitals, doctors, spending Megas, and possible devices found in one’s travels. Healing heals one point in each stat in alphabetical order.

An exception to healing is damage to the Psyche, which requires therapy and/or medication and can take months or years. It requires a level 5 difficulty roll to heal psyche after each month of rest. This is an interesting idea for the horror/Cthulhu type genre where one can regain sanity.

Vehicle actions are resolved similarly to other actions and combat. The appropriate stat,  skill and their levels, plus the level of the vehicle are added to the roll.

The vehicle combat table has the same five levels as other actions, but the results are specific to vehicles, like one hit on a vehicle and a critical strike, or vehicle escapes.

Vector Slipping is the action of using a Slip Ship to Slip into one of the 6 nodes. The action roll for this again has 5 possible outcomes. One knows by the result of the roll how well it succeeded or failed, and possible complications, but the details require looking at the chart. (I hope to find pages of all these charts in one place in the GM guide.)

The stuff between here and there is deadly, not only does it require a Slip Ship, but it also requires a Survival Suit. Both must remain intact to protect the user from the catastrophic and get you back to your origination point.

There is a discussion of the use and consequences of damage to the survival suit.

There is an explanation of the construction of a slip ship, from carrying capacity in crew, to core ship components, to amenities and even weapons. Each piece has a level, higher being more expensive. There is a list of sample ships and their cost to give you an idea. Ships can be owned by a player, in massive debt, a group, or a benefactor/sponsor.

There are six types of missions, seven if a mission mixes two or more types: Exploration, Emergency/Rescue, Sightseeing, Surveying/Fact-Finding, Acquisition/Trade, Politics/Diplomacy.

There is an explanation of how to build a mission and quantify it.

The rules end with a brief discussion and charts for conversion to and from four other systems: PbtA (Powered by the Apocalypse) – [I had to google for that acronym.), d20, 1-20, and 1-100. This makes it easy to port other systems, such as clones like White Box, or specifically White Star to use this game.

After the credits and a one page index, is a one page character sheet, and a one page ship sheet.

This gives players and GM the bare bones to play this game.

I have left out that this is a story style game. I don’t have experience running or playing story style games, so I can’t comment on that other than this impression. It reminds me of what I have read about Fate, and observed in people playing Fate. I can see the appeal of the collaborative effort of building a story together. To me this type of game play being fun would depend on the right mix of people and how narrowly or broadly they adhered to the role playing aspect of it. If the point is to get together and have fun with the rules as a guiding framework, I could have fun. If the point is to adhere to strict interpretations of the rules and strictly stay in character during game play, I might not have fun. I think this is true of any RPG.

In short, with the right mix of people, I might enjoy story style games.

Speaking specifically about Day Trippers, I see many interesting things, like the point buy character generation. One could have a super genius that isn’t much good for the charm or physical, a tough brute short on brains, a beauty/charmer, or an average person. By eliminating rolls for stats, one has flexibility to play the kind of character they want. I think this would appeal to those who feel that scores are more important than how one plays and has fun with it.

One does not have to play the game as a strict story game. I’m all for use the rules you want.

I think there are some interesting ideas here. Personally, I don’t think I’ll find a group that will play this game, but I definitely see some interesting ideas, that like many games, I can use for my own creations in the various genres of RPG that I play and run.

The rules are $5 at DriveThru/RPGNow, so it is inexpensive if you want to have a look for yourself. There are also free PDFs of things that are not in the Core Rules, in addition to the character sheet and ship sheet at the back of the Core Rules.

  • DayTrippers Mission RunSheet – A one page PDF for developing a mission or adventure. Not form fillable.
  • DayTrippers Player Handout – This is a very helpful one page summary to explain to the player how the game works. It is not part of the Core Rules.
  • DayTrippers Lifeform Sheet – This one page PDF has fields to describe various life forms and they use the same six stats as characters. The life form could be anything from a “monster”, or animal, to a sentient being. Not form fillable.
  • DayTrippers Planet Sheet – This one page PDF holds the information on a planet and two locations, and has a world map on the bottom of the page. It is not form fillabe.
  • DayTrippers PC Tracking Sheet – This one page PDF allows a GM to track 4 characters. It is not form fillable.
  • Converting from Traveller – This one page PDF goes into depth about converting characters to DayTrippers from Traveller. This is more involved than the bit in the Core Rules.

Near Misses – Thieves

I had an idea for thieves picking pockets from an experience prior to my last game at UCON. The idea coalesced as I was in that dreamy, glad to be sleeping state before I woke up this morning. (I’m off all week; so I got to sleep in today to recover from both low quantity and quality of sleep the last few days.)

As I have mentioned in at least one other article, my Dad was a locksmith and I was drafted to help from the time I was about 13 until I went off to college. Dad gave me my own basic set of lock picks. I thought it would be fun to plop them down at a game, if I ended up running a thief.

I was getting stuff out of my bag, dice, paper, pen, pencil and other things so I wouldn’t have to keep rummaging in my bag during the game and slow things down. I was wearing many layers, including a jacket sort of like a hoody with out the hood. It has packets inside next to each outer pocket.

I put my picks in my pocket, or so I thought. I felt both sides of my hand feel fabric, so I thought it was in my pocket. I had just placed something else in that pocket and realized that I was about to drop it between my jacket and shirt instead of my pocket, so I corrected. I then checked and my picks weren’t there, so just as I was getting ready to bend down to get them, +Laura Rose Williams says, “Here, Larry, you dropped this,” as she hands it to me.

This morning in my dreamlike pre-wake state, this idea hit me, and I can just see a thief picking someone’s pockets and rolling 1 or 2 under what they need. So from now on, I will rule that a thief doing this, gets what they were after, or at least something, and they “pocket” it. Some kind soul will see them drop it and come up and give it to them in full view of all around. The “FUN!” will then ensue.

I did not play a thief as planned, +Laura Rose Williams wanted me to play a wizard along with her, which I did. So I got out my picks after the game to share what I was prepared to use as a prop.

CSIO Kickstarter – October Update

I got the CSIO Kickstarter October update in my email yesterday.

As has become usual, it is good news/bad news.

The good news is that the player maps and minis seem to be on track.

However, the bad news, while not a health crisis involves two complications.

First, their webhost GoDaddy is dropping support for SharePoint and Outlook, and did not warn them it was coming, so they have a short period of time to the new email platform. I did a quick google search, and it appears that the issue is Microsoft dropped support for some features of Sharepoint and Outlook, and are forcing people to Office365, or priced it so that GoDaddy had to force them, is more likely.

That GoDaddy waited until the last minute to tell them, I have no idea, never used GoDaddy. But my experience with Microsoft products in a web environment 15+ years ago convinced me not to use Microsoft products for my personal projects. I have no choice about using them in my day job.

Second, in addition to the unexpected time sink re-doing their website, one of the people working on the CSIO Book [the part I backed], has quit after a month of no progress. Here’s a quote on that, emphasis mine:

CSIO Book

We’re fleshing out the final two chapters of the CSIO portion of the book dealing with Crime, Punishment, Manumission, and other rule variants. This should be completed within the next couple weeks and then we can run over the Thunderhold portion, then start the final layout. End of November may be cutting things close. We want this out before the holiday season madness. On another note, the person responsible for mining all of the stats to put in a spreadsheet for checking has quit after a month or so of no progress (Bob III will probably have to pick up that load).

So it may yet be out this year, only a year late. I suspect that it will slip into early next year since one person strung them along for a month.

I think this is a prime reason not to launch a Kickstarter until the book is ready for layout. That is, the text is written and through all the various drafts, and been proof read and edited. Even a revision of an existing book, especially something as big as a city, can’t just be done quickly.

The other lesson to take away is, don’t let people drag you down. If the people who are supposed to do the work are not doing the work, cut them loose before it drags down the entire project.

Most people were worried about how the miniatures add-on/stretch goals would kill this product, and the thing that is dragging it down is the centerpiece.

Another example of how to do a Kickstarter is the B/X Monster Reference Index, which ends Sunday, October 4th, and I expect to have before the end of October. This is someone who does lots of Kickstarters one after the other, but the product is ready to go. It is more of a pre-order system, and stretch goals/add-ons are done in a way that make sense and don’t interfere with the weight of the project to skew the costs of international shipping. This is an example of finding a niche with a product target that is easy to hit for quality and on-time delivery. By creating satisfied customers and maintaining the quality of responsiveness to questions and suggestions, and delivering ahead of the promised delivery date, +Peter Regan has customers that will back most, if not all of his Kickstarters.

Because of his diligence, if he ever did have a family emergency, he has earned the credibility that we wouldn’t question it. This is a big difference between first time Kickstarters that go crazy with funding and stretch goals and suddenly are delayed by mysterious and uncommunicated illnesses. Many of these have been people with mental illnesses. I am not against people who struggle with their inner demons sharing their efforts with the world. But if you know you have this struggle, do the work and be ready BEFORE launch!

If you are relying on other people, get their part of it before you absolutely have to have it, and cut them loose if they do not keep you in the loop. Be professional about it and hold others to a high standard. One cannot avoid sudden illnesses and accidents, so it makes even more sense to have the work ready to go before launch.

If you have to send something off to printers, make sure to keep up with them and make sure that they will be ready to start once you have the funds to give them the go ahead. Make sure they are a reputable company with references.

Most of all, if it’s your first Kickstarter, make sure to ask others who have done successful ones what it takes.

Except for something else cool by Peter Regan, I’m not backing any more Kickstarters until I start getting my stuff. CSIO [due November, 2014], Grimtooth’s Traps Hardcover [due July, 2015],  Remix Mini [due October, 2015], Marmoreal Tomb [due March, 2016], MA Epsilon City  [due March, 2016], Schlock Mercenary 70 Maxims Book [due May, 2016].

The one Kickstarter for which I have kissed my money goodbye is the stalled in legal limbo D&D Documentary, The Great Kingdom [due July, 2015]. Due to legal mumbo jumbo, no one outside the proceedings gets to know what is doing on until there is an eventual settlement, whether by court decision, or agreement among the parties. I would pay to see both movies, so what’s the problem? Settle your interpersonal crybaby $#!^ and make one movie. I don’t care which. I can live without the $50 coming back. If either side has a GoFunMe for legal bills, they have all the money I am going to give them.

I could never spend another dime on RPG materials or ever order something online and be happy. I’d have more money for other things. I really need to do more to start using all the cool things I’ve bought for RPG’s over the last few years, plus all the accumulated free downloads. There is so much material that I could stop going online and never use it all. I only go online because I like all the cool ideas that others have come up with and how they have used them.

If I spent less time online, I would have more time to make my own ideas bear fruit for sharing with others….

The Map Is Not The World

I posted a review about two different published books of hex paper the other day. I shared the post on the RPG Blog Alliance Community, and had this comment: “But then those hexes put an artificial constraint on mapping. First map, then grid.”
I started a reply, and it just got longer and longer, so I decided it made more sense to make a post out of it.
I’ve had the title for this post for several weeks, and was gong to write about it anyway, this just seems to fit.
Each DM must do what works best for them, when it comes to mapping. If making a map and then adding hexes, squares, or whatever it is you use, works for you, great!

There are two kinds of maps – those for the player and those for the DM.

As DM I need the hexes as I plot where things are to gauge accurate distances, etc. I already have maps, the one drawn by my brother, the artist, after he saw my original map 25+ years ago, and was like, “Just, no….:. He drew it on hex paper. He chose not to see the hexes when he drew it.

The other(s) are a collection of maps I put together from zooming in, and I changed my interpretation of the original map. I goofed and need to get one consolidated map to fix stuff I was just dealing with mentally during play. That only works with the player’s in my in-person game. For my start up of an online version of the game with the same starting point as the original players, I need to fix it.

For players, I can draw it however I want, and scale and accuracy don’t matter. (Unless it’s a science fiction or modern setting where technology and accurate maps are easily available.) The players just need an idea of how things relate to each other.

For games, there are two styles of maps, accurate and properly scaled and artful maps. Some have the talent to do both at the same time on the same piece of paper/computer interface.

I don’t want to do the map in Hexographer, for example, and then give it to players, they can guess where the hexes are, and learn things before they encounter them.

My chicken scratches on hex paper is so that I know at a glance what is where. It is a tool for use in play. For hex crawl style play, this is needed. I have always played the hex crawl style, we just didn’t call it that back then. We just called it play.
The player’s won’t see this map.

My player’s will only have maps that are available to the people of my world. They also have to be able to find the maps, and try to get a peek, or beg, borrow, or steal them. I am thinking of maps in the style of ancient and medieval maps.

Maps of large scale with close to the accuracy of modern maps did not happen until accurate clocks allowed tracking and plotting position. If you have seen maps that exaggerate how big Florida is, you will get my point. It changed size drastically as more accurate measurement of time and distance occurred.

Such maps give one an impression of the world that can have interesting repercussions if you follow them literally.

Even modern maps, such as flat projections of the entire planet skew the size of Greenland, and other places, to a ridiculous degree. One has to use a very creative representation on a flat surface to get size, coastline, and distances accurate. The best way to represent a planet is with a globe. Even then, the kind with relief that indicates mountains and valleys does not have an accurate representation. I have heard people say, and read it somewhere, that if the Earth were the size of a bowling ball it would be smoother than a bowling ball. Also a bowling ball scaled up to the size of Earth would have ridiculously high mountains and deep valleys.

No matter how we try to map, we don’t have a way, that I know of, to allow a person to see a representation of the whole planet, that is accurate in all aspects and allows one to see the entire surface as with a flat map.

Unless our fantasy world is flat, we can’t make an accurate map.

We have two choices, spend a lot of time doing the math and adjustments necessary to account for distances as one moves North or South, or just fudge it.

I tend to be a detail oriented guy, but the level of calculation needed to do that and make it perfect takes a lot of time that I could be putting into more maps or other game preparation.

Even a science fiction or modern setting for an RPG with accurate map making technology and easily available copies, it is easier to hand wave certain things. If a planet hopping science fiction RPG, I won’t map every inch of a globe, if there is a known location the players are seeking. If they do a different planet for each adventure, I’m not mapping a planet and placing all the cities and towns, and then not using them again. I may not make a map to share with the players, but just have a description of the atmosphere, continents, climate zones, and tech level. If I couldn’t find an online generator, I would build a script(s) to quickly spit this out for me, or just roll like a madman, like it was back in the day.

Some people can spit out maps a lot quicker than I can. For me, it is a challenge to make them not all look alike, especially dungeons. I explain some sameness as a cultural thing of the builders. Does anyone design a dungeon and then add the grid? I don’t know of anyone back in the day who did it that way. We all grabbed the graph paper we could find, whether 4 or 5 hexes to the inch. My group favored 5 squares to the inch. I use both sizes now. My aging eyes have  a preference for the slightly larger 4 squares to the inch.

No matter what form of map we use to represent a solar system, planet, continent, country, city, village, dungeon, tomb, etc. It is not an accurate representation. Using the grid of squares or hexes to make an accurate plot, it only a two dimensional representation, height it missing. With no grid and whether hand drawn and scanned and further manipulated or drawn directly to computer via mouse or stylus and tablet, and made into a thing of beauty, neither is an accurate representation. Each only gives some of the information that is further conveyed by our descriptions of what our players see.

With theater of the mind, we can use a few apt descriptions and make those of us with less than fantastic map skills allow each player to construct the world in their own mind.

If we could generate directly from the mind what each of us “sees” for a certain world, I suspect that there would be very few parts of them match up exactly.

There is also another aspect to mapping. Use at the table for one’s own group, and publishing a product, be it a module, or a setting. For just a playable item, I can easily do it myself. For a map in a published product, I would either spend the time to get really good at making maps, or I would hire someone to do it.

The audience for the map tells a lot about the requirements for the map. I can have a few scribbles on paper, and I can run a game. If I want to take that idea and attempt to market it, I have to put a LOT more into it.

For me to take my world, or one of the adventures of my players, and make a publishable product out of it that stands a chance of selling, will take a lot of development to make happen. The few notes one can use to DM with quickly grows if one starts writing out what must be known to let someone else DM the same scenario. Even all that extra work to let others into my world, in  whole, or in part, cannot begin to capture the way I see it in my mind. There was an infamous Kickstarter for a megadungeon that, from what I have read online, illustrates this point. What works for the creator to run his creation, is often insufficient for another to pick up and do the same.