So it begins…

So it begins…

Those boxes in the picture need filling and I am in the home stretch. The major components for the last phase before shipping are either in my hands or verifiably a few weeks away. In honor of the huge amount of work ahead of me I woke up early and did some work.  What follows is a short aimless rant about workflow mapping and me. I don’t blame you for stopping your read right here. All my time since sunrise has been prepping/planning the soon to be RAM busting InDesign document for the Death & Taxes Layout(s). I learned the hard way in 2013 what happens when you just start layout, as opposed to doing a modicum of research and testing. Last time I did not plan the page settings, master pages, master page inheritance, base styles, nested styles, object states, hyperlinks, bookmarks, indexing, TOC Headings and calming pill acquisition. For the first time in my life I did a workflow plan without having somebody force it on me. It was less entertaining than you would expect but I am glad I did it. While going over steps of the workflow I tested some of the more advanced tools for large documents and books. Most I was only remotely aware of 6 weeks ago. In the process I re-created the already finished but not released PDF for The First Sentinel. It is much nicer than the one I did last month. I can’t stand to look at the old one now, thus I am either getting better or more delusional. What the files for Whisper & Venom would look like to me now is stomach churning. Death & Taxes will be much better looking than Whisper & Venom plus it will not take 5-6 weeks (of 12-20 hour days to complete). If it does I will blame Adobe. They add options and tweaks faster than I can be bothered to know about them. They probably just do it to drive traffic to their online tutorials for a sinister purpose.What that that purpose might be I haven’t a clue. I am certain it involves evil laughter around a smoking conference room counting their (formerly my) money. Enough rambling. I opened and named the InDesign just before I hit post. So here I...

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This is for Jim Ward

This is for Jim Ward

This proved to be quite a popular post on Facebook. I had only posted it to relate something to Jim, but its popularity compared to everything else I posted says something about the longevity of Mr. Ward’s creations and games in general. From Facebook…. I live in what could easily be described as a Podunk little town. Today I was wearing my Metamorphosis Alpha t-shirt (its the height of fashion) and while at the convenience store a young woman commented, “Is that the game where you are on a lost spaceship? My grandfather and I used to play that all the time when I was a little girl. Where did you get the shirt?” “The same place I met the gentleman who wrote the game.” “You met him? Will you see him again?” “I see him a few times a year.” “Tell him Thank You if you remember, I have great memories of my grandfather and that game.” That’s for you James M. Ward, your fans in small towns are getting more youthful than...

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Feral as related to alignment

Feral as related to alignment

A post on the Acaeum got me thinking this morning about how I, as a pretend writer, attempt to write depth into our adventures. The relevant post is here. The quote that fired up the neurons is from the post Steve Marsh regarding the cosmology of his world’s Plane of Shadow. It functions as an entry-way to the negative material plane for the material plane it is connected to (a subset of Shadow) and it works as a layer from the shadow to the negative energy planes, one of the (perhaps many) ante-rooms to the abyssal levels and realms…. and [as prisons they] may be permeable so that more life can enter as new fuel for it.  Those imprisoned are already in a lesser hell. The ante-rooms of the abyss, or lesser hells, are fascinating when considered in game cosmology. Not the least of which is their role in avoiding the narrative trap of faceless ultimate evil versus shining virtue. Those light against dark struggles often miss the most interesting type stories to read, or in our case, play. The gray areas are where the stories exist. Sagas and epics are for Ulysses and Beowulf, game scenarios are, in my mind, for the motivated everyman. The ‘lesser hells’ as entries allow for varying levels of evil to be encountered for many purposes. The above caught my eye as I was recently reading the manuscript in question (gifted to me by Steve Marsh at the North Texas RPG Con). Apart from being about the coolest thing I have ever received the manuscript had a paragraph in it about alignment which, interestingly enough, dovetailed with another bit of writing by Mr. Marsh almost 40 years ago. The 1980 article, about Nymphs oddly, was in my ‘new’ copy of The Dungeoneer #18 (thank you BadMike and Mythoard). Steve’s description of magic types expressed in the 1980 article and the more detailed erudition in the manuscript both used the word feral. The direct connection of chaos to feral nature was very interesting to me. Although I used read long treatise about alignment- having long since stopped out of frustration, it is surprising I would write about it- this was the most precise and valuable description relevant to alignment I had ever seen done in a short paragraph. Steve attributes this origin to Pol Anderson’s Three Hearts, Three Lions, but this was the first...

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Playtesting Advice from Michael Curtis

Lately I have noticed quality information about game design in the updates from Goodman Games Kickstarters. At my very first GaryCon I met Michael Curtis. I already respected his work, the Dungeon Alphabet was the second RPG item I had purchased in 20 years, and having met him I know he is a machine at making lots adventures. A one man content army if you will. One thing that never suffers in his work good design. In this update from a few weeks ago he talks about one of the reasons. A lot of the time, mistakes reveal themselves on a simple rereading of the adventure. You catch an error that slipped past you while you were in the clutches of “DM Enthusiasm,” imagining how cool this adventure/plot/NPC was going to be when the players ran into it. You slap your forehead, make a few corrections, and you’re back on track. …. I had one such experience while playtesting Fifth Edition Fantasy #4: War-lock. It wasn’t quite as bad as I make it out above, but only because I caught the problem moments before the players were about to and made some corrections mid-course. Had they discovered the glaring weakness I inadvertently wrote into the adventure, they could have defeated the War-lock’s minions with a simple hold person spell applied liberally. Suffice to say, that strategy no longer works in the adventure. But, had I merely wrote this adventure and submitted it untried to Goodman Games, it could have gone down in history as the easiest 5th level adventure in RPG history. Always playtest if you can. This applies to any adventure that’s going to be experienced by anyone outside your friends and regular players. Whether it’s a professional submission or something you plan to run at a con, take the time to give it a run through. You’ll be amazed at how a gigantic error can easily hide in plain sight until it’s too late. Read the rest here. As I said in the last post I use a Feedly client for posting so they may have posted it elsewhere but I thought it was good enough to...

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What the Gnome reads on the Internet

Tenkar posited a question about reading habits of RPG fans generally and OSR types specifically. I was as surprised as he was that he could meet someone at THE old-school con (NTRPG) and get only blank stares after he introduced himself. But he did and asked for his readers take (link). This is the comment I posted (edited to make me look smarter)- This is a windows into how deep the rabbit whole goes after discovering the OSR. I use an RSS reader app that updates constantly on my phone. I have about 5 gaming related categories and hundreds of individual feeds. Generally, I start here, read the posts at the Acaeum (I don’t pretend to collect anymore though I buy plenty of material, mostly from small press guys you all know), Then I check the rest of the ‘news’ type blog feeds (OSR Today etc), G+ I try to limit to scanning as it could take hours to just pull myself away. These are my daily reads. I have a section of feeds dedicated to blogs that post creative content that I read twice a week at minimum. It includes some blogs that only post 5-10 times per year.  The content is top notch and I know they would get lost without the being on my feed. I have a section that ‘professionally’ related I check infrequently, maybe every other 4-5 days. Cartographers Guild and the RPG net games industry forum fall in this category (which also includes Adobe CC feeds, design tips, Roll20 posts etc). Finally I have my forum feeds (odd74, DF, RPGNet, ENWorld etc). I am not going to rank preferences but I find some odious and most overwhelming given the volume and frequency of posts. I scan them occasionally but I use the search function weekly. I search for my products in case there is something I can address, Cons I attend, Product names I am interested in buying etc. I rarely post unless I have something to add or the thread was started by Mike Badolato and requires an insult My general take from all of these is the very active forums attract and serve a useful purpose for active players and GMs. While blogs have more visibility with creators and potential creators. I have just started keeping my own actually after I realized how much I use them in purchasing decisions and networking...

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The Great Big Head of Jeff Talanian

The Great Big Head of Jeff Talanian

That is the great big head of Jeff Talanian on my TV. Designer, author, one time Gary Gygax collaborator and all-around good guy Jeff was also helpful to me. I was able to locate the box company I used for Whisper and Venom on his recommendation. He has a short time left on his new Kicckstarter (here) that I know will be delivered better than promised. You should back it by clicking here now. When you get back I want to tell a story about the great big head and its belated advice. Ok, the story… Most box companies are leery of new publishers and/or small print runs. While they never tell you no outright, they will send you a quote that, to be generous, is interestingly priced (my favorite quote was $18 per box). While I was about 4 months out from Whisper & Venom’s Kickstarter I attended TotalCon. Good Con but it was more diversity of interests than I was used to, which was reflected in the vendor hall. My purchases were limited a Frank Mentzer module from Eldritch, a knitted Cthulu ski mask and a my copy of AS&SH. While making the purchase I inquired about who made the boxes and without hesitation he told me it was Marion Paperbox. This was a huge favor to me. I asked if he regretted the choice and he said no, he loved box sets. Fast forward to 2014. After having shipped over 120 boxes I was in my living room packing the last 30 Pathfinder sets. At this point I was exhausted and just barely covering my Kickstarter costs thanks to shipping. While packing I listen to podcasts and watch narrowly focused YouTube videos. That day Jeff was a guest on the Mythwits show (link), which on my 50″ HD TV enlarged his head beholder style. After an interesting first half they discuss the economics of games. I was able to pay attention regardless of the three days on next to no sleep of fulfillment. When asked if he would do a boxed set again the giant head of Jeff Talanian said, “I love the box set format but the logistic and costs s of assembling and shipping, particularly international shipping, is prohibitive.” Sitting boxing up sets for expensive international shipping I listened to that great big head contradict himself with those words. And wept Just kidding. He...

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