All posts by Peter R.

I have been blogging about Rolemaster for the past few years. When I am not blogging I run the Rolemaster Fanzine and create adventure seeds and generic game supplements under the heading of PPM Games. You can check them out on RPGnow. My pet project is my d6 game 3Deep, now in its second edition.

Raising Azazel (a FUDGE game)

So you may remember that I wrote at the start of November that I was going to do the NaGaDeMon challenge this year.

I managed to write and publish my game, going by the name of Raising Azazel. It is a PWYW on Drivethrurpg.

The challenge I signed up for was a FUDGE specific one. There are lots of different challenges in the NaGaDeMon community and the FUDGE one suited me and was  technically a bit easier in that the core mechanics are already tried and tested. It then became more about creating the setting and the story background and then customising FUDGE to bring it all together.

A month is surprisingly short when you set a deadline at the end of it!

The game I released was virtually unedited, had only been played once and in hindsight has some rather important omissions such as there is space of the character sheet for experience but absolutely no rules for experience in the game.

I did create lots of bespoke art for the finished, and I use the word finished lightly, game but every single piece is in exactly the same size and format. If I were to do the page layout again I would recreate most of the art.

I wanted the rule book to be almost a graphic novel with all the background and game setting depicted that way. As it is you get one page of the graphic novel and then a few odd panels dotted through the book. Graphic novels are hard to write if you are rather talentless as a writer!

Still talking about layout there is one example explaining a rule that is separated off into a boxout but none of the others are. I think they all should be so they are easier to find.

Something that I had seen in Terry Amthor’s Shadow World books that people seem to love are his vignette scenes at the top of each chapter. I had wanted to recreate that but the problem is that these require artistic talent as a writer. I did come up with something rather cool. I grabbed a couple of public domain books, one on devil worship in the 19th century and one on astrology. I then changed the odd word here, inserted my characters names for historical figures and such like and used these as extracts from fictitious books. I think they were quite cool but I think I need one at the top of every chapter so that the layout is consistent.

On the topic of chapters. I thought that it would be cool to have the chapter names and headings in Latin as there is a church conspiracy running through the game. This was a bad idea! Did you know that Chapter Six in Latin is Caput Sex? That is neither scary or cool.

So I have a choice now. I can confine Raising Azazel to the depths of OBS, never to be mentioned again or I can revise, edit, fix and improve the game. As I enjoyed the work I have done on it so far I rather fancy the second option.

So I am planning to try out Indiegogo. In the new year, I am stacked out right now with projects, I am going to launch a campaign and try and get some funding to do the bits I cannot do well done properly. It will also teach me something about how Indiegogo works and how to run a campaign.

If you are still reading this and you haven’t already seen the link to Raising Azazel on the Stargazer’s World MeWe group then could I ask you to have a look and give me some critical feedback in the comments? I can then evaluate it and build a todo list that will become part of the Indygogo campaign.

Here is that link again http://bit.ly/RaisingAzazelSGW

No OSR for me!

I have never really paid much attention to the OSR movement. Firstly, I didn’t really understand if it was Old School Revival or Old School Renaissance. Then I didn’t know what counted as old school. I mistakenly thought that it was a move back to the style of gaming that we all discovered in the 70s and early 80s. It then appeared that that isn’t the case and OSR is a just limited to D&D retro clones.

I think within 12 months of owning the D&D basic set, red box, I was writing house rules even if I didn’t know that the phrase ‘house rule’ meant or even existed. We were modding our games on a monthly basis. We absorbed every new spell, character class, monster, magic item and rule suggestion when ever we saw them. Initially there was loads of D&D material in White Dwarf magazine and that was easier to buy than Dragon magazine.

As soon as you saw how other people were modifying the game then we all started doing it. I can remember the first time my character got hold of a musket. I quickly went from D&D to Boothill to Traveller and then Runequest. Boothill was a brief liaison and I can put Gamma World in that group as well.

As soon as I discovered RuleQuest and Traveller with its on target combat system I had to have hit locations in D&D. Once you have hit locations then armour by the piece is a natural extension.

Once we had Gamma World we basically had D&D compatible high tech equipment. I think it was 1979 or maybe 1980 that I discovered Gamma World and I only ran one adventure and that had mutant chickens called Gallus Gallus513. That name has stuck in my memory ever since. One day I will manage to slot a mutant chicken into a game with that name.

It must have been 1981 that I discovered Rolemaster. This is back in the day or the rules being sold as drop in house rules for D&D and we could drop lots of our own house rules and use these awesome books instead.

Once I had all of rolemaster I house ruled that to make it a bit more like RuneQuest, which I think came out first, possibly 1979?

The point of that little jog down memory lane is that is RuneQuest old school? Is rolemaster old school? Rolemaster Classic is a basic rerelease of Rolemaster 2nd Edition and the 2nd edition was pretty much just a tidying up of those piecemeal D&D house rules. There is still a huge amount of Dungeons and Dragons DNA in Rolemaster Classic right down to magic users not wearing armour for absolutely no good reason at all and everyone taking Sleep as their most useful 1st level spell.

I suspect that if I published a Rolemaster adventure and stuck the OSR labels all over it there would be howls of protest.

Even given that OSR really means the resurrection of old D&D rules in infinite variety I don’t really understand the appeal. I understand that no one is forced to play OSR or D&D the reason we stopped playing it surely is because it really wasn’t very good.

Other games flourished and we had the proliferation of so many different games because those games could do what they did better.

I cannot even see it as a desire for simpler games. D&D was never simple. The DMG was basically 300 pages of exceptions to the basic mechanics. Rolemaster was labelled chartmaster because of the visual onslaught of and entire book of charts, Arms Law, but D&D had more charts and tables but scattered far and wide.

I am sure it is a case of if you ‘get’ the whole OSR thing then it makes perfect sense. What started me thinking about this today was that I was asked to do a review for an OSR game. As is my habit I looked up any other games that the publisher had produced and as this was an indie developer I ended up looking at his MeWe profile as well.

One of the things about OSR seems to be that it has attracted a lot of what I would consider unpleasant people, that is what the reaction to the logo was all about in Michael’s recent post. Well this game was written by one of those people. There was no way on earth I was even going to read the game based upon the personal posts by the author.

I have had some tense discussions with people on forums especially in rolemaster circles where I strive for ever greater simplicity in my play and they revel in the micromanaging of every detail. In the Rolemaster community we are discussing the idea of a competition to create spin off mini RPGs ‘powered by’ a core of the Rolemaster rules. I am all in favour of this sort of thing and bringing Rolemaster to genres and audiences it has never appealed to before. Those with opposing views are saying that you cannot go outside of fantasy or sci fi as any realistic simulation of wounds would mean that the PCs would die from infections if there were no magical or high tech healing. I don’t agree with them but I can understand their point of view, this would be a fun competition and not compulsory homework, their gaming table, their rules.

That is nothing like sort of argument I am seeing in even my brief encounter with the OSR, I cringe to use the word, community. I can now understand why the logo’s owner would not want it associated with some of these games. I honestly had no idea. It is obviously not D&D’s fault, nor the OSR concept that breeds hate speech and intolerance. I don’t really understand why it has coalesced around OSR. If OSR went away they would not all suddenly become liberal pluralists. They would hold the same views if they were playing any game or not gaming at all.

Where did all this come from?

I was doing a bit of digging and I came across this. It is from White Dwarf magazine issue 2, August 1977.

Look at the italic text. It looks like the dark side of role players had been there right from the start. I guess I was just too young at the time to see it. Maybe, the OSR community in moving back into old style D&D gaming has stepping into an area of gaming that has already been there quite happily for decades without drawing attention to itself.

I don’t know and I don’t really care. All I know is that any ideas I had of trying to suggest that Rolemaster was a perfectly valid OSR system is now firmly in the ‘bad idea’ pile. I won’t be doing that any time soon.

Is Kickstarter a double edge sword?

A couple of weeks ago, as a consequence of the g+ exodus, I got into a conversation with another indie game developer.

The gist of the conversation was that this person was just starting out with their very first game, not quite at the play test stage. It was immediately obvious that they envisioned making tens of thousands of dollars and giving up their day job.

I know that it is possible to create a successful game but I do not know anyone who has successfully made a living at it. It seems to be generally accepted that indie produced ‘paid for’ games generally sell around 100-200 copies each.

There are always exceptions but that is the generally accepted figure. So if you are making $10 a copy then you stand to take $1000-$2000 from your game. As a game designer then that has big implications. If a full page piece of art can cost $500 then two such pieces could wipe out everything you will ever earn. In effect if you work for the artist not the artist working for you.

I told the person I was talking to that one thing I wish I had done was start the social media accounts for Devil’s Staircase last October when I first had the idea rather than three weeks ago when I suddenly wanted public play testers. I could have trickle fed nuggets from the games development over the year and build a bit of a following. When I then wanted playtesters I would have had anywhere from a few tens to possibly a couple of thousand people to reach out to.

It is my intention to crowd fund Devil’s Staircase and it would have been equally useful to have an audience to put the word out to when that starts next year.

So I have been looking at crowd funding and I had rejected Kickstarter in preference to indiegogo. The amount of money I have invested in Devil’s staircase is so small that it would have looked petty to kickstart for just $500. It also seems really important in the long run to have a successful kickstarters behind you as your track record. It is possible that the door is closing on the kickstarter method of games funding for the indie developer. I suspect that in 3 years time rpgs funded that way will come from a small cohort of companies with a track record of funding and delivering games.

The deciding factor for me to go for indiegogo, over kickstarter, was the funding model. With KS you have to reach your target to get any funding at all. If you miss it by a single cent then you get nothing. This encourages people to add ever more enticing stretch goals to try and make that initial target.

Indiegogo has a different option and that is variable funding. With variable funding if you get what is pledges regardless of the amount and your target.

The two options suit different people. If you absolutely have to have $1000 to actually create even one of your products, say a card based game and you have to have the cards, then getting $800 means you cannot fulfil your pledges. This is bad. On the other hand if you are fulfilling via drivethru and the game is PDF and POD then the same $800 will still buy in freelance writers and art.

I have already paid for the writing so I can guarantee that the game content is there, I have licenced an entire gallery of images for my game and turning those images in usable game art is a matter of applying exactly the same photoshop filters to every image to give them a consistent look and feel. So I have my art. Given that I have the rules, the book text and the art it doesn’t really matter if I get $1, $10 or $1000, I know that I can give my backers their game.

When you do crowd fund you do not get all the money pledged. The platform takes a straight 5% and the payment card transaction charges up to 3%. It is also taxable income so that could be another 20% or more.

John Wick Presents raised $1.3Million for 7th Sea 2nd Edition. If you did that as an individual in the UK you would have to pay just over half a million dollars in income tax immediately!

I am sure you have seen the news that John Wick Presents has just laid off all their staff and is winding down its production rate?

I suspect part of the problem is that if you have been paid today for the work you need to do for the next three years or longer then you are going to have to manage that cash fund every carefully. You cannot go back and ask for more if any unsuspected snags suddenly come up.

The other problem with the kickstart and stretch goal model is that if everyone who has funded you has already bought your game and all the future books as well, where are your future sales going to come from? You have basically emptied the barrel before you start.

With indiegogo it seems like a lower pressure environment. The platform still puts you under a little bit of pressure to make your targets big and raise more money but they are on commission so the more you raise the more they earn. That pressure is far greater on KS where you have to succeed for KS to make any money.

I have a little bit of a personal challenge and that is to earn about $250,000 from games. That is the price of a small farm or small holding where I can live and have a few more (ten or so) horses. Nothing is really dependent on the success or failure of that goal, it would simply be nice to think that a) I ‘bought the farm’ but in a good way and b) I could point at something and say that is what RPGs bought me. As long as I live until I am 180 years old, I am right on track.

I am very much into low stress and just for fun game creation. Kickstarter is most definitely not the tool of choice for that style of game design!