Thursday, December 26, 2013

Frog God Games 2013 Holiday Grab Bag Unboxing

Saddle stitched adventures fore, perfect bound modules plus ToH III hardcover aft.

One Large Box

- S&W Dice set
- S&W Patch
- Orcus Sticker
- Rappan Athuk side view map
- S&W Encounter Cards
- S&W Monster Cards
- K4: The Coils of Set 
- K5: The Six Spheres of Zaihhess 
- K7: Tower of Jhedophar 
- K9: Elemental Moon 
- F1: Vindication 
- H1: The Bonegarden 
- L2: Vampires and Liches 
- G9: A Lamentation of Thieves 
- M3: Maze of Zayene 3: Tower Chaos 
Tome of Horrors III hardcover (3E)
Hall of Bones (S&W) - A Free RPG Day module, which I wanted since I can never make it to the event.
MCMLXXV, in Grimmsgate cover (S&W) - Have it already from the S&W Kickstarter, same mismatch cover coincidentally.
- ST10 - ST14: Slumbering Tsar The Hidden Citadel Parts 2 - 6 (PF) - Already have the ST hardcover.

The NG modules are great because I don't have most of them. Also very pleased with the miscellaneous items as they were kickstarter extras I didn't add-on at the time. Cost of the large grab bag was $100 plus priority shipping. Going by retail prices the box certainly more than makes up for its value.

A quick scan of eBay shows the modules going anywhere between $9 to $15 with the average price working out to around $10. Of course, since these adventures are not rare, they do crop up as auction lots quite often for very reasonable prices. With 15 full adventures at $10 a piece, the Free RPG Day adventure is about $4, ToH III is around $16, we're looking at $170 for the books alone. Combined with the other materials, I would optimistically value of the box at about $200. 

However, leave it to my luck to end up with 6 modules as duplicates of the few FGG adventures I already have. This immediately takes out $60 worth of value from the box. None of the items are particularly uncommon or even in demand given the existence of the excellent Slumbering Tsar hardcover and we've been flooded with the MCMLXXV module covered in the Grimmsgate skin. As my shelf space dwindles, I have to find some way to liquidate them.

Compared to acquiring out-of-print modules on eBay, with some patience, it is feasible to obtain these modules for a similar price. Overall it was a wash due to the duplicates in my collection. If the Slumbering Tsar modules had be just about anything else, the equation would change drastically.

Such is the way of random grab bags.

Kung Fury

Yes, please!

Currently funding on Kickstarter: Kung Fury

Also check out the SoundCloud pages for the people responsible for the movie's awesome faux '80s soundtrack: Mitch Murder and Lost Years.
They've been doing this for a while.

Kickstarter Round-Up: (Post) Christmas Edition

Right around Christmas Eve and even onto Christmas day, I've been bombarded by Kickstarter messages and announcements. A number of Kickstarter projects took the days of high Christmas to get some of their affairs in order. Mostly I received advanced-stage preview of their progress with some projects even choosing to time their full digital distribution of rewards to coincide with the holiday gifting tradition.

>> Some of the significant ones sending digital rewards include:

Ultimate Psionics
Dreamscarred Press sent the full 450 page PDF to their backers Christmas Eve. I've followed their updates with interest and they've each been comprehensive. Though a bit delayed from their original estimated delivery date, the project overshot their goal by a considerable amount and the project grew in scope. The wait was worth it as the final product is packed with psionic goodness for Pathfinder.

The book has professional quality layout (right up there with Paizo and WotC) and filled to the brim with full color images (again comparable with the M.O. of much larger companies). Another bonus is the PDF has been optimized to the point where a 450 page file loads and scrolls as smooth as books one-tenth its size without noticeable sacrifice in visual quality and clarity. Understandable as the file size is on-par with those much smaller yet unoptimized books. More companies should go the extra step to streamline their digital files. It makes the electronic file run better on tablets especially, which find their way to the game table (where a supplement wants to be).

Ballpoint Universe (originally College-Ruled Universe)
Not a tabletop game but a computer game in the "Schmup" genre using graphics derived entirely from drawings done in ballpoint pen on college-ruled paper (thus the name). I backed on a whim based on the art style in the second quarter of 2012. After a steady development phase, the game was sent in a thumb-drive months ago but the designers continually cleaned up the gameplay and added features. Once the game was up on Steam, the project created sent Steam Keys to the backers. I considered this complete with the delivery of the flash drive, but having a Steam key means I have an 'perpetually' updated version on my account, keeping the game relevant in my library. Ballpoint Universe receives a well-deserved "Got It" check mark.

Lady Sabre and the Pirates of the Ineffable Aether
The project creators (Greg Rucka, Rick Burchett, Eric Newsom) sent all the digital files to backers, including the graphic novel, the supplemental gazetteer, maps, desktop icons, wallpapers, and graphics. Physical rewards will go out around early Spring 2014 once they print and get prepped for shipping.

>> Other projects have technically shipped, but are using the holiday update to announce improved functionality or content.

Quantum Flux (formerly Spacial Flux)
This was a rogue-style wandering spaceship game. The project funded by a relatively low amount. Knew it was going to be a long shot even if it relied mostly on textual interactions with graphical enhancements. Project creator with the help of another party more established in game production managed to get this to a working Alpha/Beta stage. Then the project was handed over to the third party as a Beta and will continue development from there. This v1.0 (technically finished, but still Beta-y game) was the version uploaded to patrons this week. It's functional if not exactly as smooth as expected from a finished product. Not a bad effort for the funding level. I backed it at a low tier to throw some support for indie developers, and partly because FTL sparked my interest in rogue-like games. Hopefully as this gets onto steam and other platforms development will refine the game as its profile rises.

Sent out an update showing DLC in QA testing. This tactical shooter barely met its funding goal in early 2012. About 18 months later they launched their product and sent Steam keys to backers. The game was unfinished to say the least and its reputation took a hit. Rather than abandon ship after such an incident, the company has continually improved on the game, fixing bugs, cleaning up game play, and adding new areas. While I haven't kept up to date with the project, it is good to see the company owning up to their project and hammering away at the game. Maybe something decent will come of this someday, but for now, this remains an example of the difficulties of crowd-funded indie games (and I think developer Serellan even got help from publisher 505 Games).

>> Other projects don't have their primary reward ready for digital consumption, but they have offered a related gift to backers for their patience.

Shadows of Esteren - Book 2: Travels
After rapid fulfillment of the first two books of Esteren, a French medieval horror RPG translated to English, Agate Editions went for a Kickstarter for Book 2. The following for these lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced books has grown with each book and the scope of Book 2 grew. This was all accounted for in the Kickstarter with the fulfillment dates updated and split up before the project ended. Still the wait for the completion of Book 2 is longer than for the others and Agate Edition offered up downloads of Book 1 to backers who didn't already have it with the encouragement to share one copy if a backer already has it. This was a nice gesture to their fans, but also a good way to grow their audience. A game lives only if people play it.

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls
Deluxe T&T has been delayed for a bit and for the last few months, backers have been getting DTRPG coupons for free T&T modules. In May we received Buffalo Castle, in July City of Terrors, Saving Fang in August, and Dungeon of the Bear on Christmas. These are mostly older modules scanned into PDF or recently expanded upon. Nothing matches actually having the core rules in hand, especially since this is my first copy of T&T, but it is a nice gesture to keep the craven masses occupied and is a good use of their substantial back catalog.

>>And finally we get previews almost as good as the final product.

Guide to Glorantha
Moon Design Publications sent a 346 page backer preview for the holidays. If this is indication of the final product, as it looks like a partial layout and some completed graphics and images, this will be a tome to behold. Showing completed chapters is doing previews right no matter how much more work you have to complete.

Adventures in the East Mark - The Red Box
Sent out the text of the translated rulebook to backers. It's a good start for people curious about the game system sans any layout and art.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

A perennial thread at the Candlekeep Forums resurrected by white thread-necromancy around the holiday season are the web freebies from Wizards of the Coast site of yesteryear detailing Nicholas the Gift-Giver, his Northern Palace, and his Gnome Toymakers and Cooks.

Indeed, Santa has stats! For d20 anyway. Throwing aside the "if it has stats" mentality for the moment, I've always found this to be one of the more pleasant holiday themed articles from Wizards.

The pages are still there buried beneath the current site (now probably several redesigns since) and the links are enclosed below:
Also note the corresponding Nicholas the Gift-Giver wallpapers rendered in the sizes prevalent at the time including the widely used 640x480, the commonly found 800x600, as well as the rarer high definition at the time 1024x768.

Enjoy this blast from the spirit of internet past!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Via Singularity & Co.:

Calling all NYC (and surrounding area) RPG and table gamers! 
Singularity & Co. presents 'Secrets of the Lost Tomb' Game Night with Everything Epic Games. 
Singularity & Co. invites everyone with a love of pulpy adventure and thrills to join us and special guest Everything Epic Games as we showcase and play their new game, 'Secrets of the Lost Tomb' (currently running their own ALREADY FULLY FUNDED Kickstarter - 
Players will be transported back to a thrilling 1930's adventure universe, complete with collaborative play and brilliant artwork - 'Tomb' truly is a unique game of action and discovery! 
Email to get on the player list: 
Where: Singularity & Co. Bookshop , 18 Bridge St, Brooklyn, NY 11201 
When: Wednesday, December 18th, 6:30 - 10:00 (if you survive that long...) 
How much: FREE! 
Check out Everything Epic Games for more info about this awesome game:

Can't argue with FREE.

Would love to attend a gaming event in my area, but the time is smack dab in the middle of finals week. We'll see.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Updates from Project Eternity, Wasteland 2, and Shroud of the Avatar

Obsidian Entertainment sent an update through their Project Eternity Kickstarter yesterday announcing the official name of their game: Pillars of Eternity.

Along with some housekeeping pledge management site update stuff they included their new logo:

Good color choice.

More importantly, they posted a trailer using the in-game graphics, noting some of the animation is being refined.

Seems they're making good progress.

Not to be outdone, Wasteland 2 posted Update #40 this evening announcing the beta release for Windows to their backers.

Not to be left out, Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues also put up their Update #40 with details for backers on accessing their beta release.

Hmm, odd that, both Update #40.

I backed both Wasteland 2 and Project Eternity Pillars of Eternity. Though I missed Shrouds of the Avatar, I will likely pick it up on release. These are some of the biggest gaming projects funded on Kickstarter. It is good to see them making significant strides towards a finished release.

In fact, it is fundamental the games resulting from these projects turn out to be good in order to demonstrate multi-million dollar crowdfunded computer games from established companies or with the involvement of influential industry veterans are viable alternatives to the big publisher funded titles. Here's to them, may they succeed for the sake of these old school style CRPGs and their own company health.

Kickstarter Roundup: The "Got It!" Edition

Kickstarter updated the Backer History page for each user's account, including a handy check box marked "Got It!" if the backer deems the project completed. Clicking on it neatly marks the project with a Kickstarter-branded green check mark, which apparently also denotes a similar indicator on the project creator's list of backers.

As some participants in the Kicksnarker G+ community expressed, it's not as functional as a custom spreadsheet tracking all the details of each project, and I agree. However, I think it's still a useful bit of functionality that was a no-brainer to implement on Kickstarter's part, since the Backer History is already a comprehensive list of a backer's pledged projects. It's also a useful method for them to gauge backer satisfaction and project completion rate.

I went through my list and checked off completed projects. Due to the binary "Have It/Don't Have It" choice, the results show a drastic difference from my own spreadsheet, which included remarks for partial fulfillment and itemized rewards. When made to distinguish the Got It as fully complete projects only, my count of satisfied projects drops precipitously (granted a number of them are recent projects).

It can be disheartening to see, but considering the successes I've backed, I still think Kickstarter remains a useful system to fund projects. I feel it was worthwhile to see the good projects come to fruition rather than to dwell overlong on the tardy ones and the outright failures. Not that the missteps are forgotten.

So who are the winners who earned their green check marks?

Limiting this to my tabletop gaming related projects only, else the full list is much longer. In order of backing they are as follows:

Journey to the West: Pathfinder RPG Voyage (Kobold Press/Open Design): Physical goods received as well as one oversized PDF stretch goal. There is one outstanding PDF stretch goal, but seeing as the other PDF grew to three times its original size and the last PDF book is in editing (it too is larger than promised), I consider this fulfilled far beyond the content promised. I saw some backers comment it took longer than expected, but seeing as this involved an elaborate and rigorous pitch-and-design process it came in well on time by my reckoning.

Castles & Crusades: Classic Monsters Manual (Troll Lord Games): This was completed on time, but I missed the survey and for some reason my books were "lost" for a while. An email to Mr. Chenault easily resolved that after a time as the books were shipped back to him from another backer possibly with a similar name (a lesson on my part to keep tabs on my questionnaires, and thus my KS spreadsheet was born). I received the books with personalized notes. The Troll Lords rock as far as I'm concerned with this project.

It Came From the Stars: Bringing the Weird to Pathfinder RPG (Zombie Sky Press): Was fun to read the development process as project creator and lead designer Scott Gable and company used a system similar to Wolfgang Baur's Open Design. The resulting book and PDF are a beauty to behold (a weird alien beauty).

D-Day Dice Board Game(Valley/Radiant Games): This exploded from stretch goals and I received a lot of stuff from this, quickly too. I'm pleased with the product. I've heard Valley/Radiant Games and its owners have gotten into some legal strangeness with another of their funded Kickstarter projects to reprint an older game. Even then, from the updates of that other project it looks like they may have resolved the issues and are moving forward. Didn't back the other one, just know that D-Day Dice went smoothly and one of my earliest backed (and received) projects.

Zong Shi (Gryphon Games & Eagle Games): Backed this on a whim, liked the concept, and it arrived at my doorstep before I realized it had even shipped. This was the first Kickstarter product I received. Gryphon and Eagle Games have about 25+ games completed or ongoing, all funded by Kickstarter. From what I can tell, they're pumping out board and card games at a rapid rate. When one project concludes they have another project up shortly (or even concurrently) at the same time they are manufacturing others or shipping another. They function like a well-oiled machine (maybe a bit too prolific in some ways) with a comparably minimal of delays (as far as I can tell). I haven't backed another of their projects yet, but usually at least skim their new projects. Some companies are really putting Kickstarter to good use and Gryphon/Eagle aren't the only ones, but they've been doing this for a couple of years now on KS with some success.

Artisan Dice (Artisan Dice): One of the original (if not the first) wooden dice makers on KS. I received my sets. They work well enough but I got them for the novelty and as a gift for a friend (again novelty). I heard some of the more exotic woods could not be machined and that led to a few disappointed backers, but for the most part the dice have been shipped to most backers (as far as I can tell).

Quicksilver Worldbook for Pathfinder (UNIgames): A company with Jeff Dee's involvement, this was a weird fantasy setting with psionics and living liquid metal. After some delays (not even considerable by KS standards), I received the book. A spur of the moment backing and I haven't given the book more than a thumbing through. It's nice enough at a glance. 

King For a Day (Postworldgames): Similar to above, backed for the hell of it, looked interesting at the time. After some delay got my book and PDFs. Project delivered and it looks like what was pitched.

Midgard Tales: 13 Pathfinder Adventures (Kobold Press): This resulted in a beautiful hardback of adventures. Stretch goals also gave backers an adventure by Wolfgang Baur and a Legends of Midgard supplement. All of them look great. The only outstanding product owed is the standalone Freeing Nethus adventure, but it's in editing last I heard. I consider this more or less complete. As the expanded adventure for Nethus was a stretch goal and we're gotten several already, and I've never been owed anything I paid for by KP, I expect the last adventure to ship soon/eventually. The main hardback grew larger than originally planned (maybe a stretch goal was in there somewhere), so there's plenty to chew through in the meantime.

Adventures Dark and Deep: A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore (BRW Games): One of the positive legends of tabletop RPG Kickstarters. This arrived as projected or was it early!? Joseph Bloch (BRW Games) continued this success with the rest of the ADD books, each one earlier than projected. Unfortunately, I didn't make it in on the other ADD Kickstarters before they ended, my brain fumbled its save vs fascination with other inferior KS projects, backed losers instead of winners. I do have the ADD Players Guide hardback incoming from DriveThruRPG, hopefully that will make me feel better.

Traveller 5th Edition (Far Future Enterprises): Received this a while ago. The game is a bit dense and I'll probably never play any version of Traveller. I do like the dice included as backer swag.

Rappan Athuk (Frog God Games): Went for the whole festering demon horde on this one, add-ons galore. Besides the main book and stretch goals, I got Slumbering Tsar, some Necromancer Games modules, the Tome of Adventure Design, and the City of Brass Boxed Set. They all arrived within a reasonable estimated delivery time and well packaged. Due to the positive experience here, this was not my last dealing with the Frog Gods.

Dungeon World (Sage Kobold Games): This gem arrived without any fuss, then exploded in popularity on my gaming news and social feeds. Love the little supplement booklets that came with it.

Ace Detective: Storytelling Game (8th Summit): Got this for the use of pulp detective artwork from Black Mask. The art is unrivaled in atmosphere for obvious reasons. I also liked the detective theme. The game looks sharp and comes with a Mythos investigation expansion too.

Shadows of Esteren: A Medieval Horror RPG (Agate Editions, Studio 2 Publishing): Esteren came out of nowhere (well out of France actually) and seized attention with its gorgeous award-winning art and production. Aside from the art, the atmosphere of the setting is dark and foreboding, which is supported well by the visual design. Haven't the chance to play the game yet unfortunately.

Tabletop Forge: Virtual Tabletop for G+ Hangouts (Tabletop Forge): Okay, marking this as complete might be controversial as Tabletop Forge imploded before a fully functional version could be released. The updates go into detail. I don't consider this a lost cause because the creator salvaged what he could from this by investing the existing TTF efforts into competing virtual tabletop Roll20 (also a Kickstarter funded project). As I understand it, much of the funds went to (besides KS & Amazon's cut, expenses, taxes and the like) fulfillment of backer perks (gaming PDFs, maps, game time with designers).

Backers of TTF were incorporated into Roll20 as if they were charter members of Roll20's own Kickstarter with the perks that come with that. Essentially, TTF became a second crowdfunder for Roll20. Most of the art and map assets were introduced into Roll20. Since they were owned by their respective artists anyway and they could sell it at the Roll20 marketplace, they weren't left to dry either. TTF might have died, but it made Roll20 stronger. I also received my non-TTF perks from this project, a bunch of books in PDF format and a custom world map for my use as a homebrew setting map. To date it is one of the most unique Kickstarter rewards I've received.

Bulrup: The Mystical Card Game of Abstract Agriculture (Stonescrye Games): An interesting little card game, another impulse backing, liked the agriculture theme and simple but effective art design. I think it was just the designer and one artist's effort, maybe with some help from friends here and there. This was one of the smoothest projects I backed proving a small outfit can achieve success if they're organized and serious (and passionate) about their project.

Numenera (Monte Cook Games): Numenera delivered a sci-fantastic setting wrapped around Monte Cook's new d20-descended Cypher System. Monte set up for one book and ended up funding an entire product line, all before D&D 5E reached a suitable beta release. With his friend Bruce Cordell signing on to the company and leading development of another game, The Strange, based on the same system, Kickstarter has helped these industry veterans launch a new company with top-notch production values to compete on stronger footing in a market with entrenched gaming titans.

Reaper Miniatures Bones (Reaper Miniatures): Along with everyone else and their dog, I went in for at least the Vampire package. I now have more minis than I know what to do with and more than I can ever hope to paint. Probably the greatest relative value of all.

Swords & Wizardry Complete (Frog God Games, Mythmere Games): Probably one of the better values in Kickstarter I've backed. Came away shortly after with a beautiful hardback for S&W Complete, a hefty Monstrosities book (did not dawn on me how big a tome this was until it uncovered it from the shipping box), and some adventures. Normally more of a Pathfinder or 2E person, but if I had to choose an OSR game, it would be S&W, due mostly to this Kickstarter (and its association with FGG's dual system support). S&W Complete is also 'advanced' enough to make an easy segue for my 3rd edition-centric habits.

Art of Brom (Flesh Publications): Not technically a gaming project, but it's Brom who defined a good portion of my favorite gaming products growing up. The book is magnificent in reproducing some of Brom's best and most iconic works. This launched, concluded, and most importantly distributed early enough for me to get another copy as a Christmas present for a friend. I've backed a few art books (and comics) and many will miss the holiday season. I can never rely on a project as a gift until I have it in my hands. Fortunately, Art of Brom had everything ready beforehand.

Fate of the Norns (Pendelhaven): Didn't know anything about the game going into this project, but apparently it's been out for 20 years, this was for the anniversary reprint and update. Anyway, the art style attracted me to Fate of the Norns more than anything, that and the Norse theme. Believe it or not, this was another project mistakenly shipped to another backer and this time I filled out the survey. I discovered this when the project creator contacted me to check if I received my package. This initiated the process to correct the shipping issue and I received my book and runes not long afterwards. I appreciate the project creator touching base to make sure everything was alright which informed me of the problem and they were quick to fix it. Good follow up and customer service.

Tenra Bansho Zero (Kotodama Heavy Industries): A RPG playing with Japanese influences actually written by Japanese designers, with a translator who treats it as a passion project? Sure I'll give it a try. Tenra delivered and the project creator kept in steady communication throughout the process. Books look great, came with cool a bunch of kanji dice (pretty unique from my other dice), some supplemental player cards and GM reference sheets and book marks, and a manga. Stretch goals had some PDFs, which are in development, but I have confidence they will be completed. The books are out, people are playing the game, that's what counts.

Shadows of Esteren Prologue (Agate Editions, Studio 2 Publishing): Like the previous Esteren project, this arrived before I realized it shipped. The production values and art remain 'Triple A' quality. Due to the success of their third KS project, the Prologue PDF is now available as a free downloadable intro to the game. This is an excellent way for a game to gain traction and this is all due to efficient use of crowdfunding.

Fate Core (Evil Hat Productions): Fate Core set a high standard for value, timeliness, communication, total transparency, diverse ideas and settings, and low cost of entry for all Kickstarters to come (or since). It's almost unfair to other projects to have this bar of quality looming over them. Fate and Evil Hat are like the Master Race of Tabletop Gaming, but aren't snooty enough to rub it in people's faces (I jest, but only partly). Aside from a producing a cool system and a bunch of settings, I like that the people involved highlight the amount of work it took to reach their level success and the insane costs of shipping. Listen and learn from the best, future Kicksterterers.

Sorcerer Upgrade (Adept Press): Got this more for the influence of the game than plans to play it, but never know, this is actually closer to what my game-conscious friends prefer in an RPG than the more D&D type games. Backed and received the books with good communication from the project creator.

Ehdrigohr: The Roleplaying Game (Council of Fools): The game with the most creative ambiance and less-tread cultural influences I've encountered on Kickstarter without heading into gonzo territory. The setting was realized vividly with distinct art and strong prose. The book is in full color too, unusual given the inexpensive backing levels. Where others do that and crash, Council of Fools delivered all the while with enough updates to keep backers apprised of progress.

Razor Coast (Frog God Games): The infamous Razor Coast project, already a failed pre-order from Sinister Games during the early days of Pathfinder. After a long absence, the setting creator appeared suddenly one day with an apology and with another supportive freelancer acting as a mediator, who handle his refund account for him with disgruntled preorderers. Then it was announced FGG had purchased the rights to the project. While FGG hit a snag with the full color printing and overseas logistics, they managed to pull everything together and get the books out before or around Gen Con 2013 (from start to finish still faster than a lot of other KS projects). Problems can hit the most experienced and organized of companies, but what separates the good ones from the ones who end up being the topic of snark is that the professional companies deliver in a reasonable time in spite of the setbacks (or deliver at all). Razor Coast shows us late is a viable alternative to never, all things considered.

Dungeon Roll (Tasty Minstrel Games): With custom production molds for dice with non-standard symbols and a game box in the shape of a treasure chest (or the awesome KS exclusive mimic monster box) I thought for sure this would be delayed beyond all reckoning. Fortunately TMG demonstrated they are in control of their production schedule. Shipped through Amazon, which I heard was not timely for other backers, but worked well for me. I received a very cool game with the aforementioned unusual aesthetics. The instructions included a few blatant typos, which was unfortunately given the brevity of the document, but the quality of the other components is solid.

Mage Tower: Tower Defense Card Game (Super Mega Games): Hassle-free project, backed and received on time. Helps the product was ready to go from their contracted print/production company.

Lords of Gossamer and Shadow: Diceless Role-Playing (Rite Publishing): Rite Publishing approached the Lords of Gossamer and Shadow Kickstarter with an interesting setup. Most backer tiers contribute only to the game's development (editing, art, layout, stretch goal PDFs). For the medium tiers, acquiring a print book is offered as an at-cost coupon through DTRPG. Some might say that's backwards, paying for a product twice. This actually offers the most transparent way to deal with rising shipping costs, else the project creator would just incorporate the print & shipping cost into the tier's price and then roll the dice hoping shipping or production costs do not explode in the meantime. I'm comfortably backing the middle tier knowing I'm paying for development costs and stretch goals. Together with the at-cost print and shipping, backing the project still cost less than other projects with exclusive hardcover tiers.

Majus: A Magic Noir Pacesetter Game (Goblinoid Games): Backed and received shortly thereafter. If only all projects were handled so smoothly.

Short Order Heroes (Calico Games): Another one that shipped before many projects of similar scope or projected schedules.

Torchbearer (Burning Wheel): This one was easy as well. The resulting book feels at once like it would fit amongst the old editions, but with a subtle modern/deluxe flare to it.

Haggis & Ross Clan Deck (Indie Boards and Cards): Recently received and it already made a list for top games for the holidays under $20. Another positive for actually delivering product to backers, it means you can also distribute through regular channels and you know ... sell your game and make a wondrous thing called profit (this is the esoteric Step 3 to profit's Step 4). Dungeon Roll above also made the same list. The secret is out folks.

Numenera: Poster Map of the Ninth World (Maps of Mastery): Went in for the basic map, got it. That went well.

That's what I've got, satisfied backing of 36 projects to date. There are more on the way and some of the recent ones look to be capable of delivering. Several companies also reappear as creators on my recently backed projects including: Kobold Press, Frog God Games, Rite Publishing, Monte Cook Games, Tasty Minstrel Games, and Agate Editions/Studio 2 Publishing. I back with confidence because I've actually received stuff from them. Success begets success, but they put the work in to earn it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

World Building with a List of Races: The Dominant Ones

Continuing on the setting creation kick from the previous post, I mentioned using the setup of rolling five times on a d100 to pick out that number of races from this list of races on a Paizo forum discussion: Worldbuilding Exercise - Get 5 Random Races, Build a Setting, Build a Setting. Mind went blank starring at the races that came up, I had trouble making anything of them with just a list of five names. I didn't put myself in the mindset of treating it as a simple exercise and indeed wanted something more elaborate. Also, the some of the races happened to be the weird ones from Wizard's later 3.5E output. I would have to reinterpret them.

For now the list consisted of:
* Ratfolk: Probably the most interesting choice. Also, a fan of the Nezumi/Ratlings from L5R/Rokugan.

* Darfellan (powerfully build, seafaring humanoids with the coloration of orcas): Never liked them even though I found Stormwrack useful. In my opinion they fall into the biggest misstep of race creation, the humanoid/anthropomorphic animal race. Yes, I find this worst than humans with pointy ears or forehead lumps. Plus they look silly, it's hard to pull off the black & white color scheme.

* Dragon-based Humanoid (Wildcard, make your own): So these aren't Dragonborn, which are a separate entry (and partly why the draconic races appear so often in my rolling frenzy, they had two related entries which I conflated together).

* Illumian (human-like beings infused with sorcery with glowing sigils floating around their heads): Another weird one from Wizards, this time from Races of Destiny. This one is going to take some work.

* Dwarf: Simple enough of a start, perhaps even a bit too standard compared to the others.

Since I had the list and the dice roller up, they were handy tools to keep the momentum going. Refusing to settle with the first batch fated to me by the dice gods (what a cheat I am), I opted for a "best 2 of 3 mentality". The rule was the first five races to make it to three repeats become the power players of the setting, those with the dominant empires and most prevalent populations. This took many rolls and by the time I reached five dominant races, I had a handful of secondaries with two appearances or three if I considered similar races together. More rolls later I finished up and had a rough narrative of who's who based on who came up more often, when they arrived, who dropped out, and combining similar races together as offshoots, subraces, or successors. Much of it was arbitrary and spontaneous based on the scant information interpreted from the rolls, but as the web of connections grew, richer details and conflicts emerged.

At this point, of the original five races, three emerged firmly as dominant races while the other two were close runner-ups. Interesting interactions arose due to the order they appeared in the rolls. I decided to enshrine the original 5 as major movers & shakers of the setting, either currently or in the past, regardless of their present status.

The total result formed into this:

***The Dominant***
- Dwarves: The primary power of the setting, they are an ancient races who dwelt upon the world since the first of days and their influence has scarcely waned in that time. Their culture and civilization is older than most races have been active. Since they appeared four times in the Grand Roll before most races could get to two, "At the Four Corners of the earth" is a common phrase used to describe the staunch ubiquity of the dwarves. Duergar are also present in significant number.

- "Orcs": Actually Darfellan, but orcs and half-orcs came up more often after Darfellan peaked. Combining the concepts yields semi-aquatic orcs who are mighty seaborne raiders, activity which fuels their founding of sprawling and rowdy coastal and islandic empires. They are a weathered, hardy race whose fortune rises and ebbs like the tide. They have a longstanding rivalry with the dwarves and the ratfolk. Given their influence, half-orcs are not uncommon and act as intermediaries with humans and other races.

PFRPG, Paizo
- Humans: Actually Illumians, but after an early peak, Illumians never recurred in the Grand Roll where as humans did. They were the powerful Sigil-marked Ancients (now grown rare and reclusive) who gave way or degenerated into common humans. Humans took 13 sets to appear, the number may hold significance for the humans and their 'Sigilim' predecessors.

- Strix (dark winged humanoids with avian features): Counting their counterparts the harpies and their distant cousins the tengu they are even more prolific than they first appear. The avian races have always been a part of the world, but rose later than the others. For a time they were vassals or subjects but in the last few centuries their presence as equals to the other dominant races is unquestioned. The strix are mysterious and ambitious and have the tendency to walk alternative (some say dark) paths to achieve their goals. The harpies, possibly the same race, presents a more loquacious and familiar face in their interactions with the other races, but where as the strix have courtesy of offing you quietly and quickly in your sleep, the harpies are cruel fury incarnate when they require.

- "Wood Fey": Actually Treants, but after making the list they disappeared while Dryads, Elves and Uldra each appeared more often. To keep with the treant theme, might aim more for a plant-based humanoid (another choice that came up several times). This is the race requiring the most defining and elements might click into place as the other races are developed further.

Next will be the secondary races, those who don't quite have the continent-spanning influence of the dominants, but not due to being inactive. Indeed we'll see a few of the original races refuse to fade quietly into the annals of history and give the dominants a run for all they're worth.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

World Building Exercise with Five Random Races & A List of Fantasy Archetypes

Stumbled upon an old thread on the Paizo forums, Worldbuilding Exercise - Get 5 Random Races, Build a Setting, started by Mikaze based on another thread from another forum. The idea is to roll five d100s and compare the results to the list found in the thread. That gives you five races who will be the primary player races for a setting. Write-up the setting as you see fit, any where from a few paragraphs to whatever level of detail you desire.

I've been messing with the list over the weekend, using the Invisible Castle online dice roller. While my first set of five were fine, I went overboard and put the system to work in develop the races and setting. I used something like 35 sets of 5d100 rolls to flesh out the races and relationships using a few simple rules associated with how often and when a race appears in the rolls. Very soon certain trends appeared. Perhaps it was coincidence or maybe I was looking at the results with bias, but the dynamic started to look like one of my abandoned homebrew settings.

The exercise filled in a few gaps and reinforced ideas I had played with. Soon I folded the ideas from the exercise entirely into my homebrew. Some basic work still needs to be done to integrate the two, but this has the old homebrew well dusted off and ready for some refurbishing.

Ever a glutton for more world building, I used the Paizo board dice roller to run through the exercise again. Took a few tries to get results that didn't mirror the trends of my deluge of d100s (something like 175 rolls). Came across two sets involving gonzo collections of races and will reserve those to fuel later inspiration.

I went in looking for a traditional fantasy setup but found those specific results charged my creativity but zipped it along other directions. The randomness gives results that force you out of your comfort zones. Some of the reasoning for my excessive rolling laid in trying to develop trends rather than settling with the first set (even though my first set contained most of the races already in my homebrew).

Other times the dice spit out a sets that challenge your intent. It makes you consider alternatives, changes your desired world atmosphere, or even leads you to venture into genres you had no idea you wanted to try.

Ultimately after several more sets treading on my homebrew, I gathered the untried stragglers unique from my prior attempts to divine out a setting's concepts from dice. What follows is the thought process involved in that along with the rolls.
Paizo's PFRPG

- Construct-based Humanoid (user defined)
- Tanuki (short racoon humanoids)
- Samsaran (reincarnated blue-skinned humanoids)
- Serpentfolk
- Medusa

Going to throw a wildcard in there in case the serpentfolk and medusa ideas bleed together.

1d100 ⇒ 92: Construct - Okay, the Medusa aren't mythological medusa but human-machine hybrids with the snake element being artificial. The sorceries of this bond is related to the serpentfolk. Guess the medusa and samsarans will be stand-ins for humans. I prefer some version of humans be present in my settings to work as a starting point.

Since Medusa and Samsarans are human derived, still need one more:
1d100 ⇒ 67: Sasquatch, going the Wookie or Mok route.

Using the World Building Exercise 3 thread filled with a hundred fantasy archetypes/roles, I rolled two roles/occupations for each race to create a spectrum of expertise/focus.

- Construct Humanoid: 1d100 ⇒ 42 1d100 ⇒ 79 > Frontier Warriors & Wayfinders (take that as guides and maybe explorers of ruins)

- Tanuki: 1d100 ⇒ 96 1d100 ⇒ 37 > Defenders & Tribal Shamans

- Samsaran: 1d100 ⇒ 10 1d100 ⇒ 43 > Dilettantes & Masters of the Bow (by the gods, they're blue-skinned Elves)

- Serpentfolk: 1d100 ⇒ 14 1d100 ⇒ 84 > Priests & Tacticians

- Medusa: 1d100 ⇒ 73 1d100 ⇒ 34 > Enlightened Ones & Military Leaders

- Sasquatch: 1d100 ⇒ 94 1d100 ⇒ 77 > Skilled Apprentices & Driven Avengers

Only point I really want clarification on is Skilled Apprentices of what? The answer is 1d100 ⇒ 33 Knight of the Silver Sword.

Actually maybe we'll answer what otherworldly archetypes influence the more pious peoples or even the non-pious ones as a few run too close to theme to offer much variety. Included are impromptu rules for narrowing the rolls based on my first impression of the race/archetypes combo.

- The Constructs are influenced by a concept involving (roll three, reduce down to one singular overarching objective or origin): 1d100 ⇒ 71 1d100 ⇒ 38 1d100 ⇒ 29: Stargazer, Unwilling Mage, Pirate

Created by unwilling mages from the stars, the Constructs were used as raiders to despoil entire planets. A cataclysm separated and freed them from their manipulators, destroying what passed for their old civilization (a foothold on this world). They now travail the ruins of said fallen civilization, looking ever towards the stars of their birth. Perhaps they can one day gather the resources and magic to free their creators from the grasp of their ancient overlords.
by Eric Belisle
Paizo's PFRPG

- The Tanuki Tribal Shamans venerate spirits of (a dichotomy with an outlier, a trio, or some complex gamut): 1d100 ⇒ 8 1d100 ⇒ 11 1d100 ⇒ 7: Mysterious Wise One, Spellcasting Warrior, Land's Redeemer

A spiritual archetype for each adventuring role in their society with an overall goal to save or reclaim the land.

- Samsaran ideology involves (roll three, make it a byzantine affair) 1d100 ⇒ 611d100 ⇒ 99 1d100 ⇒ 86: Heretic, Agent, Rebel

Samsarans have a complex society balanced between agency and rebellion with some heretical outliers.

- Serpentfolk have a pantheon (of five at least) 1d100 ⇒ 851d100 ⇒ 10 1d100 ⇒ 28 1d100 ⇒ 53 1d100 ⇒ 14: Dark Curious, Dilettante, Bored Noble, Warrior of the Nameless Good, Priest

- Medusa enlightenment is a concept of two or more seemingly contradictory ideas 1d100 ⇒ 52 1d100 ⇒ 54 1d100 ⇒ 48: War Dancer, Rugged Frontierman, Berzerker Cultist

- Sasquatch have two wildcard factors, one positive, one negative 1d100 ⇒ 51 1d100 ⇒ 69: Crone's Ranger, Storyteller
by Florian Stitz, for Paizo's PFRPG

Need to clarity a few of the serpent gods (roll two, pick one)
- Dark Curious & 1d100 ⇒ 90 1d100 ⇒ 24 Scientist or Trap Master
- Dilettante & 1d100 ⇒ 31 d100 ⇒ 56 Sage & Skilled Veteran (couldn't decide 1d2 ⇒ 1, sage it is)
- Bored Noble & 1d100 ⇒ 68 1d100 ⇒ 85 Negotiator or Dark Curious
- Warrior of the Nameless Good & 1d100 ⇒ 40 1d100 ⇒ 19 City Speaker or Questing Knight
- Priest & 1d100 ⇒ 12 1d100 ⇒ 23 War Mage or Spellsword

 The detritus will form the basis of a dark pantheon:
- The Master of Traps or the Masters of the Trap, perhaps an aspect of the Dark Curious Scientist
- The Skilled Veteran, perhaps a dark warrior god of barbarians, tyrants, and atrocities opposes the erudite Dilettante, and probably the Noble Negotiator as well.
- The Dark Curious Scientist antagonizes himself/herself and is the nemesis of the Bored Noble Negotiator
- The Questing Knight (& 1d100 ⇒ 25 Beastmaster) is a crusader who is the bane of the urbane Warrior of Nameless Good.
- An dark arcane War Mage/Spellsword (& 1d100 ⇒ 70 1d100 ⇒ 79 Giver of Blessings, Wayfinder, Construct connection?) contests with the War Priest (& 1d100 ⇒ 451d100 ⇒ 10 1d100 ⇒ 77 Knight of the Realm (another variant of the Priest is the nemesis of the Good City-Warrior?), Dilettante (a relationship with the Dilettante?), Driven Avenger (influence with the Sasquatches?)).

These last few results needed a bit more as they're are all similar to priests/paladins or overlap with another deity.
by Andrew Hou
Paizo's PFRPG

The Medusa options didn't offer much for "enlightened", another three gives me: 1d100 ⇒ 21d100 ⇒ 13 1d100 ⇒ 8 Loremaster, Doomspeaker, Mysterious Wise One (connection between the Wise one of the Tanuki and the Medusa beliefs?).

The Medusa are mind-body-integrated, zen-raging, trance-channeling, apocalypse warrior-monks.

Feel like I need more granularity for the Sasquatches. 1d100 ⇒ 90 1d100 ⇒ 17 Scientist, Chosen One
(+) Crone's Ranger and Scientist: The Constructs are rangers, perhaps a Crone works into their history/culture and is connected with the Sasquatches. The Serpentfolk gods (Scientist and Sage) play a positive role for the Sasquatches
(-) Storyteller and Chosen One: Stories foretell a Chosen One who the Sasquatches will have to face or will be hunted by.

There we have it. The formatting is messy, but we have the framework for a setting using two d100 tables of races and archetypes complete with races, specialties, a pantheon and some initial relations and outlooks between the peoples.

Been stuck in a rut of writer's block over the last few months due to school. This exercise removed the initial barrier. There are enough hooks to bite on to jump into a stream of activity if only to develop the present setting points. Time and opportunity permitting, this might be a fun project to scribble away on.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Goodman Games 2013 Holiday Grab Bag Unboxing

The holiday grab bags offered from internet bargain retailers or daily deal sites have always tempted me. Having watched videos of unboxings, they're usually full of gimmicky gizmos, phone chargers, and miscellaneous USB dongles. I've managed to hold curiosity at bay knowing I don't need a box full of cheap junk.

What of the same concept applied to gaming? Never had a chance on that save.

Several game companies have used this method to clear out their warehouses to the mutual benefit of company and consumer. This is the first chance I've had to get a hold of one of these. Other years my near-holiday gaming budget had been absorbed by Paizo sales or tossed into the eBay arena, but this year not so much. I've thrown down for the Goodman Games 2013 Holiday Grab Bag box and for a similar deal at Frog God Games. Goodman Games is the first to arrive and here's what it contained:

The list from top to bottom:
- Goodman Games 4E product line promotional poster
- Laminated art print of a DCC module cover, Sailors of the Starless Sea
- World Championship Dodgeball (card game)
- Dungeon Alphabet, third printing (system-neutral book on old-school dungeon design, 64 pages )
- Wicked Fantasy Factory #4: A Fistful of Zinjas (4E adventure, 48 pages)
- DM Campaign Record (fill-in forms for notes with some handy prompts and charts)
- Level Up #2, July 2009 (4E magazine, 64 pages)
- Forgotten Heroes: Scythe and Shroud (4E character classes, 105 pages)
- Points of Light (system-neutral book of mini-settings, 48 pages)
- Age of Cthulhu: The Long Reach of Evil (CoC adventure anthology, 72 pages)
- DCC The Emerald Enchanter (DDCRPG module, 16 pages)

Many of these items are still being sold from the Goodman Games online store. The cost of the box was $30 (+ $12.35 shipping). Going by their listed price, the box contents are worth about $120, not counting the promo poster or cover art print. Of course, I rarely buy at full retail. Noble Knight has a slight discount on most of these items and the price for this would be in the $100 range. A quick search through eBay for the lowest prices of these books puts them at around $80. Split the difference puts us at $90, thus we received goods valued at about three times what we paid.

After a browse through, here's a breakdown of my first impressions in a Good-Bad-Ugly gradation, except I like to place the worst in the front.

The 'Meh'
The poster is for Goodman's 4E product line. I'm disinclined to put up a poster for a product line or edition I haven't played and have no gravitation towards.

The art print is of the cover, complete with the title and byline. Thinking on it, the print may actually be a printer proof of the cover for said module. Not a terrible thing, but it does limit its use as a visual game aid or a wall hanger (unless the module becomes legendary amongst gaming adventures).

Not interested in the theme of the Dodgeball card game. Care even less for the art. Moving on.

The Fistful of Zinja adventure has several things going against it. First it's 4E (but that's minor). It has weird but utterly generic and bland pseudo-manga-style art. Black text within a dark text boxes used in a black & white layout makes many parts of the text a strain on the eyes. Appropriate for the art it has a vague and superficial far eastern theme as if "zinjas" didn't give that away. Here they're some sort of shadow-linked (what isn't "shadowy" in 4E) otherworldly invaders who travel by inter-dimensional castle (à la Krull's Beast and Slayers). It takes more than naming an ambitious warlord and his demon corrupter a "shogoon" and "oni" to make them stand out. The adventure actually uses terms like finishing moves (not a terrible idea actually so this book has some uses), mooks, phat lewt, movie rights, and the Big Badass. Overall it seems uninspiring while trying unsuccessfully to cram the zany over-the-top flavor of anime and rule-of-cool genre tropes in a D&D format.

Not surprisingly, the items that attributed for most of the potential discount from the list prices where the dodgeball game and the zinja module.

The 'Spiffy'
The DM Campaign Record could be useful, plenty of space, good setting and NPC design prompts, a handful of useful charts.

Level Up #2 is a hodgepodge of 4E material (races, adventures, feats, artifacts/items, character options, etc.) but also edition neutral stuff to be expected from a magazine [reviews, interviews, questions, a brief ecology with most taken by 4E stats, and an article on a deity of Aereth (Goodman Games' in-house setting)]. Notably, it has an official WotC sanctioned article on the Villains of Eberron, part of it is about adapting the threats into 4E's adventuring tiers. Seems like a fun issue for a gaming mag.

Forgotten Heroes: Scythe and Shroud is a book detailing four new 4E classes, the assassin, the deathwarden, the necromancer, and the spiritsworn. Not going to get much use out of it, but the theme of death as a power source is a strong one in fantasy literature. The authors are Tavis Allison (Adventurer, Conqueror, King), Eytan Bernstein (freelancer with WotC amongst others), Brian Cortijo (freelancer, mostly Dragon magazine and Pathfinder, and also a Forgotten Realms fan) and Greg Tito (also ACK). I just happened to recognize the names, no idea they worked on this book. I can spot some neat ideas cropping up on just a skimming of pages.

Age of Cthulhu: Long Reach of Evil is a Call of Cthulhu adventure anthology, three adventures by three authors across the locales of Peru, Sumatra, and Tibet ("Incan ruins, erupting volcanoes, and madness at the top of the world") all set in 1920s. Okay you have my attention. Not exposed to CoC much, but interested in its material either way. The printing is done in a sepia brown, including the text. This makes readability a problem but compensates for it with clean layout and atmospheric art and artifacts (letters, clues, and evidence) to really immerse the group. The authors are Mike Ferguson, Rick Maffei, and Richard Pett. The former two I believe have several CoC adventures to their names, the latter also has some Pathfinder material, much of which is Mythos inspired or just plain creepy if the reviews are anything to go by. All in all, Long Reach of Evil probably had the right team and is one of the heftier books of this grab bag.

The 'Awesome'
The Emerald Enchanter, a module for the DCCRPG. This is off of Goodman Games' main product line complete with trippy fantasy art and funky old school-inspired rules set. This is nice and current and appreciated.

Dungeon Alphabet, system-neutral letter-by-letter guide to old school dungeon building and monster stocking. It's also a hardcover. 'Nuff said, it's something I actually wanted and would have gotten eventually anyway. Glad to have it.

Points of Light, a set of mini-settings by Robert Conley. Have always want this since I've seen OSR blogs mention it. Now I have it thanks to this grab bag.

So was it worth it to me?

Yes. Just the three awesome items covered the basic cost, everything else was just nice extras with some of it opening my awareness to products I didn't know about but might be interested in.

If you haven't tried a Goodman Games grab bag before, I recommend you try one for fun. Certainly beats a box of USB cables and screen protectors. Who knows you might get some nice old school inspired goodies or a useful other edition adventure or game magazine.