Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Manor #8 Tease

I'm tight lipped and no hints...except the one above.  Not going to say a thing.  Nothing.  Not a peep.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tempering Expectations: Kinda Sorta a Timeline of My 1st Product

Lately there have been a lot of new folks getting into publishing their own thing, whether it is a zine, adventure or supplement.  What I've also seen, is the rumblings of disappointment in the sales.  I'm not an expert, but I have a few years under my belt with small press publications.  So everything I'm writing is from my experience and it may or may not pertain to you.

Everyone has their own idea of success.  Some measure success by a certain number of sales, others measure success by the amount of money they can put in their pocket and then there are those that feel that succeeded by getting their product published.  None of these ideas of success it wrong by any means.  They don't have to stand alone from one another, it can be a combo or two or more and other ideas of success combines. 

With more and more gaming material being released some of these folks are disappointed by the response.  While I can't tell you what is good and what is not so good I'll just share some of the experiences I've had.

My first product I published was Knowledge Illuminates (KI) back in February, 2011.  I'd been blogging for almost two years, getting to know the OSR community and I caught the self-publishing bug.  While I was very excited to release KI.  My expectations were low.  I thought if I could sell 25 copies it was a success and if on the outside chance I could sell 50, I'd be thrilled.  My friend +Rob Conley, who did the maps, proclaimed I'd sell a 100.  I covered my ears, "I can't hear you!"  I didn't want to get my hopes up that high.  I hadn't even sold 1 yet.

I released KI and immediately had to go back and edit it again.  My excitement to release the product made me jump the gun.  And I wrote a post about Why I Should Listen to My Wife

The sale jumped out of the gate very well.  I sold 37 copies in February.  Hell, KI was #1 on RPGNow for about 10 minutes, but it was there.  Within a couple of weeks I'd already hit my goal and then some.  The main reason why KI did well was:
  • I had been around a couple of years and folks got to know me through my blog.  Got to know what I was about and were willing to give the adventure a chance.  
  • The other reason was they did reviews.  I asked a bunch of folks if they would do a review and sent them a comp copy to do so.  This alone helped out tremendously.  
  • And overall, the OSR was supportive and helpful, even when there was some controversy over the price I set.  I set it at $4.  My reasoning for that was, it was my wife's lucky number.  Who was I to deny the laws of the universe.  It got people talking and that helped.
  • I did the best job I could do at the time.
In March I sold 15 copies.  The sales came in one or two.  By the end of the month they had dried up.  In April I didn't have any more sales until +James Maliszewski did a review and he was responsible for getting the 13 sales I had that month.  So in the first three months I had surpassed my expectation by selling 65 units.  Holy crap, maybe I did have a chance at a 100.

May 2011 - 4 sales

June 2011 - 3 sales

July 2011 - 1 sale

August, September, October 2011 - 0 sales

While the initial success was great, it tailed off very quickly.  My problem at the time was, I had no follow up product ready to go.  

Since I have been doing The Manor, follow-up releases are huge.  With each new release I get more sales from my older products.  I was doing the numbers for this month sales and 10 new folks picked up issue #1 of the Manor that was released 27 months ago.  On non-release months these tail sales add up and keep you motivated.

Because I kept at it, released new products, continued to blog and get involved with giveaway/contests/Kickstarters, to date Knowledge Illuminates has sold 416 copies.  WAY more than I ever thought it would sell.

No matter what your expectation is, the key to to keep publishing the best product you can do.  Publish what gets you excited.  And for god's sake, have fun with it.  If you can transfer your excitement, the fun you had with creating the process into a written form, you won't have to worry about sales.  They'll come your way, but just don't wait for them.  Move on to the next thing that is making you want to roll dice.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dice Porn: Group Dice

I scored some Game Science Dice from +Michael Pace this past week.  Two sets of ugly dice and one set of color dice.  I hadn't bought any Game Science dice in a while so I was due.  I really, really like the ugly dice.  They remind me of my first set of dice.  Time to ink them.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Esoterrorist Game Coming Together

Here's a picture of what I've been working on today.

I've been working on the props, including large and small pictures, newspaper clippings, letters and a map.  I'll have some others to create, but what I'm working on now is the adventure structure.  It's built around scenes, loosely framed to give the players as much room to explore as they want and still have some frame of the adventure.  It's not a sandbox adventure, there is a beginning and an end, but there are several ways to get there. 

I plan on running this at Con on the Cob for the Monday Night crew.  An unscheduled time and place, we'll figure that out when we get there. 

Some of the things I still need to do is:
  • Get a good grasp of the GUMSHOE system.  While I've played in a game using the system in the past that was a year, possibly two years ago now.  So I need to get some uninterrupted time to absorb it.
  • Put the adventure down in scenes and timeline.  While the players will explore and wander some events happen regardless one way or another.  While the players may now have control of if it happens, they do have a lot to do with how it happens.
  • Take my newly found knowledge of the GUMSHOE system and integrate what kind of ruling should happen in the scenes as a reminder.
  • Finish off props. 
If it turns out well, I might do a free PDF release sans the props since I am Google ganking the photos and some other elements.  For a private game I don't have to worry about that.  Alright, off to get idea on paper.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Hint of What's to Come

The Monday Night gaming crew I belong to are headed to Hudson, OH to frolic in the fantastic weirdness that is Con on the Cob.  I'm creating an Esoterrorist adventure.  I've been using templates and reading a couple of canned adventure to get the feel of them.  Here's a hint to my future players out there.  Good luck.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Game Props Part 6: Music & Sound Effects

I am going to start off with you need to be very careful with these.  A little goes a long way.  If you over do it you're probably going to annoy the shit out of your players.

I've only used sound effects in one particular game that I can remember and I've kept away from the music because of my own annoying experiences with it.  Years ago I ran an Arthurian themed adventure.  I did a crap load of research, mixed it with elements of Chinese mythology and in key parts of the adventure I had sound effects.  I bought a couple sound effect CDs and used them to enhance the atmosphere.  One of the interesting ones I used was a thunder storm.  The players were engaged in a losing fight while to storm was raging and in the background a church bell began to ring, one of the players heard it and retreated to the small church for shelter.

I had the tracks written on a paper for sections of the adventure.  And I didn't overwhelm them with using a track for every step.  In this case I felt it enhanced the game.  Over doing it interferes with the game.

Example of over doing it...pretty much every Vampire the Masquerade game I've ever been in.  In Vampire's infancy it was novel and cool.  For whatever reason the vampires would all gather in these dark, night clubs that played very loud music.  Now the Storyteller would flavor the scenario with his own selection of music.  Very loud music.  The Storyteller would tell us we needed to roleplay with the music on because that was happening in the club.  I asked the Storyteller is it was okay to punch him in the face since that's what I'd be doing to the DJ at the club.  Yeah, yeah, I got issues, but they knew what they were getting into when they invited me to the game.

Here's where the players, it wasn't just me, didn't like the blaring music.  It interfered with the game.  I believe we avoided the clubs in the Storyteller's game because he would always want to play his music. 

Some folks like to play battle music during combat.  Which can add something to it.  One of my first experiences with this was running a combat with the William Tell Overture and the players got tense and rushed around the combat.  It was great to see the affect it had on them.  I did this to varying degrees of success later on.

These days there is very little music or sound effects used.  Once in a while the GM will play with the music buttons on d20, but nothing more than for a laugh.

With Halloween coming around there should be a lot of options available for creepy sound effects.  If you are going to use them just make sure you are adept with getting them set up and ready to play.  You don't want to halt a tense moment so you can find the scary music.  It becomes so not scary when you do that.  But if done correctly can add a real layer of atmosphere.  For the music...choose wisely.  Don't turn it up so loud the players can't hear one another.  Or save it for special occasions.  A small intro piece for an on-going bad guy is fun.  Especially when the players get to know the bad guy and you don't have to do anything, but play his entrance music and they'll react.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Game Props Part 5: Files & Photos

I've been working on a modern Esoterrorists game for when I meet up with the guys at Con on the Cob.  Some under the table gaming.  Last night when I was working on the adventure, I thought about how many more props you can use in a modern setting. 

First off, since my adventure is more of procedural there will be several folks to speak with and places to investigate.  One of the first things I needed to do was after figuring out the adventure was to develop a file.  It's easy enough to grab forms off the internet to give it a real feel.  And the organization that the players are working for doesn't like computers so I'm mixing a little 70's tech into it also.  Like the files are written on old paper, with a typewriter.  I accomplished this by a couple of simple tricks.  For the typewriter, I found different type fonts.  Easy enough.  There are many different kinds.  Secondly the paper, I went to the art section and bought the cheapest sketch paper I could find.  It has a texture to it that makes it feel older. 

Within the file there are also photos of people and places.  Last year Staples was having a sale on photo paper.  Big and small.  When I sale, I mean free.  I bought a few boxes that are close to Polaroid size or at least the smaller sized pictures and then some full 8.5" by 11".  With these and a good printer I can make some great older photos and newer ones.  The visual of the photo is cool to have when your players crack open that file.  And they aren't just greeted by a wall of text.

To also help with the look, I scavenged a couple of old files from work.  Beat up 6-tabs beasts that are ready for the bin, but thought they would look great.  Markings and scribbles on them.  Different textures from where labels were placed on them and then ripped off.  If I were doing an game set back in the 80's or 70's I would probably go with the plain manilla folder.

A great example of a game file from Propnomicon.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Path Not Chosen - Patreon Adventure

The Path Not Chosen is my 12th micro-adventure I have completed for my Patreon campaign.  It is a very simple encounter with a twist.  The adventure is free to the public, but if you like what you see and want to join my patreon please do.  I'm only $2 short of my next goal.  Sometimes I send surprises in the mail to my patrons.

Here's what folks get, a PDF of the adventure.  Most of the time it is a single-page, but I do allow myself to blather on more sometimes.  A color, hand drawn map, as you can see above.  The map comes in two versions, one has details for the GM to run the adventure and the second map is blank so you can use it with your players for the adventure or you could use the map for something completely different.  Maybe you just needed a map with a trail winding through a forest.  Now you  have one.

I design these adventures to be played within a few minutes of the GM first putting his or her eyes on them.  The adventure above is design for a party who is going someplace and the GM wants to throw a little something at them between here and there.  It takes no time just to throw a micro-adventure in.

Please head over to my Gothridge Patreon page and download some adventures.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Con on the Cob All Set

They didn't kick me out last year so I'm going back to Con on the Cob.  In fact, I'm going there for all four days.  From Thursday the 16th thru Sunday the 19th.  I really enjoyed myself last year.  This year the Monday night group is going to be there in force.  +Rob Conley will be there, he's going to run three games.  +Daniel McEntee will be there probably playing a short character who runs ahead of the party.  +Chris C. is hoping that I don't get sick again.  It wasn't a pretty picture.  By Saturday night I could have played a zombie and not needed any make-up.  And +Ken H is making the long trip.  He felt left out lest year and admitted he had a good man cry when we were all at the con.

Here's my schedule for the con.  I've got a loose schedule.  I wanted to leave time to eat, sleep and bullshit.  I also image we may just sit around the table and play a pick-up game.  It's going to be great to sit down with the guys and play around a table.

1:30 to 5:00 Expedition into Dwimmermount  
8:00 to 12:00 Death in Dust

That's right, Dwimmermount.  I'm on a quest to find 2000cp and big fucking rats.  And I am really psyched to play Death in Dust, its a Crypt world adventure.  Never had the chance to play it.

10:00 to 2:00 Blooddrinking Box

Keeping Friday schedule slim.  I considered doing a second game (another DCC adventure), but that means I'd be at the table from 10am to 6pm.  That's too much like a job.  Plus Chris will be arriving that night and we'll need plenty of BS time.  Especially with Chris and Ken.  Those guys can talk.  I can hardly get a word in. 

12:00 to 4:00 Tower Out of Time
7:00 to 11:00 Outpost in the Orclands

Another DCC adventure along with a 5e D&D adventure run by Mr. Conley.  Should be very cool.  DCC has a good representation at the con.  I think both the ones I signed up for are run by +Roy Snyder.  The lat time I played DCC was during the playtest.  And I promise +Jen Brinkman that I will not be careful when I play.  As I said, I will turn it up to 11.

Shadowrun: Welcome to the 6th World

I'm not sure if I'll be gamed out by Sunday, but I thought I would schedule one thing just in case I felt like sticking around for just one more.

I'm planning on taking Ivy's new tablet with me so I can take picture and blog from the con.  That is if I can pry it from her hands and sneak out while she's still sleeping.  I may have to slip some booze into her coffee.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Game Props Part 4: Fantasy Billboards

I've posted about my fantasy billboards I've used in the past.  Here's a post from 2009 and revisited the subject again in 2013.  Well I am doing it again.  This was probably one of my better ideas (although there wasn't a huge selection to chose from) to develop a community billboard the players could use.

We played at my house at the time and I had a section of the wall covered in notices, ads, announcements and sometimes threats.  The players would come in before the game and read through the billboard.  It gave them a focal point right away.  It engaged them into game without even starting.  It was a lot of fun and players really enjoyed it. 

I've google ganked from my own blog to show you some examples of what I used in the past.

First off we have an ad for siege weapons (misspelled, I wish I could say I meant to do that, but...) there were several merchants who would advertise their ware or skills here.

If you look down three pictures (the one with 3 small ads in it) you'll read a lady is asking for people to help find her husband.  None of the players bit on the adventure hook.  A few weeks later this note appeared.  It was interesting to see their reaction.  Just because they did not interact with the event did not mean things stood static. 

A weird ditty that might get the adventurers interested, but there is no information on where or who put this up.  However, if the players did show interested they would have had to camp the billboard to see who wrote it.

A simple announcement.  It blended in with the other announcements.  But it was an important plot point during that game session.

A mercenary band looking for work, then the initial note of Linda who wanted someone to help find her husband, but no one came and lastly, a note from a fanatic.  Fanatics posted often. Just like on Google+.

Janon was my rogue reporter.  He posted one-page commentaries of what was going on in City-State.  There would be a new Janon piece every week.  It was a ton of fun creating a fantasy TMZ.

Simple list of wanted people.  Once in a while I might mention a name that they would see on the billboard and they would all scramble to see if it was up there.  Sometimes they forgot that more than one person can have the same name.  It happens.  

There is some work upfront developing a billboard, but after the initial set up you can add a few pieces here and there to keep it fresh.  Just run with any idea you have.  Be weird as you want.  You can lace them with plot hooks, clues and develop storylines.  The effort I put into mine paid off huge and I know a few of the players still yap about it and it's been over 10 years.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Game Props Part 3: Coins

Nearly every fantasy game uses a gold, silver, copper monetary system.  And we talk about them some more.  I only did this once, but it seemed to have a significant effect on the players and that was to throw a money pouch onto the table as the offered reward.  It's one thing to say, "And if you do this heroic thing the lord will pay you 250sp as a reward."


But!  Try this.  Find an old Crown Royal bag (you know you have one somewhere) or a regular old dice bag, fill it with pennies (more on this later) and "If you do this heroic thing the lord will pay you..." then drop the bag of coins on the table.  There will be a visceral reaction.  There is something about the sound of metal coins thudding, followed by the clicking and sliding of metal on metal.  Now the players are no longer dealing with an abstract.  They have the coins sitting in front of them.

I know there are many coin props out there.  I just don't like plastic.  While it might have the look, it's the sound and weight that sells it.  There also metal coins available out there.  But for me, I haven't found any I like and they are a bit pricey.  Many of them look great, but they often have weird denominations on them and that doesn't work in my game.  I don't want a 5 scrawled on a silver coin.  A silver coin is just that, a silver coin.

A more affordable option is raid your coin jar for its pennies.  Get some silver and gold spray paint and go to town.  Copper, well since they're pennies...   If you want to get really fancy smancy you can take a hammer to them and squish them a bit.  Make their shape a little wonky.  Doing this gives you an inexpensive way to bring a cool prop to the table.

As I mentioned before, using dice bags are cool as money purses.  Or if you have someone at home that can craft some homemade ones even better.

While I have only used the coins during one adventure, it was very cool to see the players react to the actually coins being presented to them.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Game Props Part 2: Maps and Scroll Cases

I think maps were the first props given out in the TSR modules.  Some sort of players map you could copy and give to them.  Always a copy because 1) you don't want to defile your adventure module 2) the players grubby Cheeto stained hands and dexteritys of 4 would spill pop all over your map. 

Getting that map was very cool.  I don't remember what adventure module it was, but getting that map broke through a wall.  We had an artifact from the game we were playing.  Sure Monopoly had its fake money, but that wasn't a game of the imagination.  D&D, having that first map handed to you made the game that more interesting.

So of course what soon followed were homemade map handouts.  I think most of you grognards out there can back me up on this one.  To age the map we would take a lighter and burn the edges.  Never mind that it might be drawn on notebook or graph paper.  It was important to get that cool aged edge.

a properly google ganked image of the lighter edge technique

What happened more often than not you'd burn the entire map because you couldn't get the fire out.  Or you would burn off a section of the map that you wanted to keep.  Making aged maps was not for sissies . 

Another technique people use was using tea to age the paper.  I don't know about you, but I didn't have any tea in my home.  I had Coke.  Coke doesn't work.  1) it made everything sticky.  I hate being sticky.  2) the carbonation ate away paper fibers if you used the wrong kind of paper or 3) it devoured the ink off the page so it was an indecipherable mess.

use tea, as you can see there is no disintegration and it won't be sticky, very important
 If you wanted to get really fancy smacy and you'd almost be dabbling in arts and crafts at this point was making a map/scroll case.  I used a use paper towel thingy.  I colored it with paint, do some sort of half ass design and wa la.  Problem was I was never smart enough to figure out how to cap the ends.  So I would roll my freshly singed map inside and hope it didn't fall out.

This concludes Part 2 of my Gaming Props series.  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I Got Zombie Signs!

I went to the Halloween store with the wife.  She pushed buttons and then ran away in case the display jumped at her.  Displays were very cool and expensive.  Near the back I found these two zombie signs.  Metal signs.  I've been digging the tins lately and I think these will look nicely on my wall.  We met a couple inside the store and they asked where we got them.  I told them where they were, but that we had gotten the last one of the Zombie Research Facility.  The girl said "That's the one I want." 

Not today woman.  It's my zombie sign.

Game Props Part 1: Tarot Cards

I decided to do a short series on gaming props I've used in my face-to-face games.  Just some simple props that add to the atmosphere of the game.  To kick things off I'm starting with tarot cards.  I dug through my chest of cards and I see I have seven different decks.  I'm not a tarot card reader, but back when I was much younger and had hair, I collected them because they were cool.

The first time I used tarot cards in game it was to simulate a Deck of Many Things.  In the beginning this went over well.  Having the physical prop was too much for them not to dabble.  In the 1st Edition DMG there is a guide to using a regular deck of cards.  I used the Rider Tarot deck at the time.  And I assigned cards as close as I could to the cards identified in the Deck of Many Things.  Today you could use WotC DoMT generator or buy an actual Deck of Many Things.

While I was looking at all the cards I put off to the side I would see their design and think of different boons or punishments.  I wrote a post years ago called Deck of Many Things and Then Some, it provides an excellent example of what I ended up doing.  I made a Deck of Many More Things.  Here's an example.

Hazardous Journey
Tarot Card: 6 of Swords
Playing Card:  6 of Spades

Upon the players next journey any random encounters during the journey will not be random.  The encounter will occur and GM selects the most difficult creature/situation available on the list.  The creature will focus its attack on the character who drew the card.

Note: The GM will have to decide how many encounters the player will need to endure.  To activate this card the character should be going someplace that will at least take one day to travel.  

With the advancements with virtual table tops these days you could to something like this virtually.  Although there is not replacement for the tactile experience.