Saturday, June 18, 2016

[Rock Opera '79 RPG] Into the Red Zone

I've been finishing up Rock Opera '79, the RPG of rock rebellion. And working on my dice-stacking chops. Twenty. Nine. Dice. Catch 'em in the right light, and they glow like the telltales on your big brother's equalizer. This game shall rock.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Cheapskates are Out There

This provocative article about cheapskate RPG buyers has been making the rounds lately and everyone's got an opinion. Including me, I guess. Here's how I see it.

Not an RPG enthusiast.
The cheapskate RPG buyer is a real creature. The one who goes on about how something is too expensive, when what he really means is that he would rather not pay for it. They text you and say things like, "Before I spend FIVE DOLLARS [on your 64-page full color game PDF with original art on every page], can you guarantee there are no typos and that the rules are extensively playtested? Why exactly should I buy this book?" I just get to a point in the back-and-forth where I tell them, "No one's ever found a typo in my work and I'd love to have your business, but I think we should break up because you're too flirty, baby."

I am fortunate not to have to sweat five dollars on a latte or on a PDF that looks interesting, but if I were that hard up, I wouldn't be spending it on RPGs. I would be spending it on booze and lottery tickets. If you're really strapped for cash, just buy a few used D&D hardcovers and stick with them as your rule system forever. Or find a free rules set. The Frugal GM compiles some of the best free or super-cheap stuff out there. The underlying reason why RPGs are a shitty retail category to start with is that you can play them for years without buying anything new. The real frugal types are the ones you don't hear from because they are making do with what they've got or taking the DIY route. God bless them for it.

Given the cheapskates and the buy-nothings, small-time game publishers can't expect to produce for such a niche market and make anything close to a living by it. The audience just isn't there. No one is owed a living through any entrepreneurial venture, including small-press publishing. Especially since you can publish with virtually zero overhead costs if you do print-on-demand of PDF. The only thing you need to pay for is artwork, and frankly most small publishers use public domain artwork or tacky PhotoShop collages, or like me, make do with their own artistic ability.

Fair pricing? If I tallied up the hundreds of hours I spent making Dungeonteller and wanted a modest return of $10/hr over a several-year-period of sales, I would have to price the PDF at $20 or more. My actual price for the whole game on Drivethrurpg is just $5 because that's where my desire for compensation meets my desire to actually have a substantial number of people play the game. People who buy my books are getting a goddam bargain and I'm okay with that as long as I get some love, some honest reviews of my work, and no one acting like they're being fleeced for something that I worked on for three years.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

[Adventure Design Tool] After Action Report

To help you design an adventure (any genre), pretend you're the leader of a party that just completed a mission or quest and that you're being interviewed or interrogated about what happened. Start from absolutely zero -- the plot of the adventure will suggest itself as you go along.

1. Tell me how Jones died. Don't spare any details.
2. Smith looks like she's aged about ten years in two days. How the hell does that happen?
3. You told me what you feared most going in there. Were you right? Tell me about the moment that froze your blood.
4. How'd you get that scar?
5. You're not telling me the whole truth. What are you hiding?
6. Did you get what you came for? Was it worth it?
7. What are they really like?
8. What happens now? There are bound to be repercussions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

[Dungeonteller Actual Play] Venture Hold

Our heroes: warrior, pixies, paladin, wizard.

Our snow-day D&D group realized that no more snow days would be forthcoming this year so we just picked a random day to continue our journey through the Venture Hold Dungeonteller module. The PCs left the cave troll they had befriended pining for company (and bacon and chocolate), and wended their way to a harpies' lair. The harpies were fended off by one of the pixie's briar patch spells long enough to arrive to the fight a scratched and bloody mess. The PCs dealt with them without too much trouble, just a few scratches and a lingering stench in the air. One of the harpies tried to snatch the warrior's flaming sword which was not the brightest idea.

Having cleared the dungeon level, they crawled down the interior of the huge centipede carapace that provides a link to the next level, and came out into a trading station run by revenants, managed by a high-level NPC who'd been reported missing -- oh, and he's now a revenant too. They saw that he was wearing two of the green-bejewelled rings that serve as MacGuffins in the adventure and was about to hand them off to the evil cult that needed the rings to incarnate their beastly spider god. Thinking fast, the pixies covered him in a swarm of mice, showered him with some baffling pixie dust, and managed to yoink both rings off his fingers before he knew what had happened. It didn't take long for him to notice, though. He sent his revenant guards after the PCs, who climbed back up the giant insect corpse and led them right to the cave troll, who blocked the revenants from further pursuing them. Victory!

Back at the surface, they presented the rings to their employer, Sir Whimsy Bonaventure, who let them keep his share of their plunder. The paladin in the party was made a full knight! Sir Whimsy has now tasked them with returning to Venture Hold to destroy the evil cult and smash the spider idol they venerate, to ensure it can never be brought to life again.

If you're wondering what Dungeonteller is, look here