What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook - 7th Print Edition

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Day After Your First Kickstarter

Kickstarter has been around for awhile now and many people flocked to it thinking it a great way to make some money quick. People have seen many great Kickstarters come and go of varying degrees of success too. There are the ones with happy endings, there are the ones which are painfully late, and then there are the spectacular failures. As a backer, I have backed well over 100 campaigns now and MOST of those have had happy endings. A couple have languished in a special kind of hell and will likely never see the light of day. In other words, you win some and you lose some. Regardless, there are MANY lessons to take in.

In my case, I took a lot of things to heart when I put together my first Kickstarter to help fund the 'Mother of Mortals' novel. The first thing I did was not start a crowdfunding campaign before the book was finished! I only launched when I had the proofs in hand. That being said, they were the first proofs and a whole lot of corrections have gone in and I'm getting ready to send the files in to get a second set of proofs done. In other words, these additional corrections were done by the time the campaign ended last night!

The campaign made it's goal and the goal was deliberately set to be a modest one. $2,500 in Canadian Funds which works out to just under $1,900 USD. Arcana Elements, the imprint I set up under Arcana Creations for the publication of fiction and non-fiction is an unknown and $2,500 was a bit of a stretch but I had a good mix of tiers and this ultimately helped fund the project. Shipping charges were factored in the campaign as well and since the reward fulfillment has an anticipated quick turnaround, there shouldn't be any surprises. Since the majority of the rewards are being drop shipped, shipping costs were also kept relatively low too.

Advertising. Well, while we made our funding goal, if it wasn't for the collector's level tiers, I don't think we would have been as fortunate. I really hoped for more backers but, as an unknown publisher of fiction released a work by an unknown novelist, I can't complain either. Family and many friends help support the project but we did make some new friends as well and, if they really like the book, they are the some of the ones that may come back to the next one and bring a few more friends with them. I opted to limit financial investment towards advertising because I didn't see much use for it on social media. Facebook proved VERY frustrating though. While the initial cover art we released before the Kickstarter was shared and received many interactions, the moment I had a Kickstarter link, I quickly realized that only a FRACTION was being exposed to that post. Clearly, Facebook is interested in your advertising dollar. I did some paid advertising just to see if it would make a difference and it looks like I didn't end up losing money doing so but the net results would have been the same had I saved that money instead. It might make more of a difference if I dropped some serious cash but that is well beyond the scope of the projects I've been doing.

Now that the campaign is over and since the money won't be transferred to me for at least a couple of weeks, I can rest a bit. I will need to set up the surveys and begin gathering information and do a bit of work for the collector's hardcover (mostly set up the dustjacket) in the next week or so but, I think I can rest a bit and start thinking about other projects in the queue.

This Kickstarter has been quiet compared to other larger and fast paced ones but, between my regular 9-5 and getting the book finalized and running the campaign, I'm still pretty tired... but happy too.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Kickstarter: 10 Days Left for Mother of Mortals

Mother of Mortals Kickstarter

 As of right now we 88% funded!  And we still have 10 days to close the funding gap (a balance of $285!!).  I am pleased to see this.  Still a ways to go and, obviously it would be nice to exceed the funding goal as well.

So... where are we at with the book itself?  The second round of edits / fixes are being implemented and should be done in the next day or two.  An additional chapter is being put in based on some of the feedback we received as well and this should be in place during the course of the week.  All in all, we are almost ready for a second (and likely final proof) before the softcover trade goes into full production. The limited run of hardbacks we are doing will then undergo a similar proofing process before they are ready for production.  Thankfully, the interiors are pretty much identical for BOTH.

If you haven't pledged but you think you might be interested, I encourage you to check it out HERE.

If you want to read a sample, you can read the first chapter HERE.

Most importantly... please share and spread the word!  :)


Monday, March 6, 2017

The Essense of D&D and Skills

Lately, when I've been talking about the essence of D&D it's really about what is part of that D&D experience we all share when playing. Given that the game is essentially the granddaddy of tabletop role playing games, many things inherent with the system can be found in other systems and game that have come out over the years. If we consider core mechanics and game 'functions' from one flavor of D&D to the next, there are some common points found in ALL them. Again, these same things are even present in the newer retroclones and other games clearly derived or heavily inspired from it.

Armor Class, a 'Vancian' method of spellcasting, Hit Points, and class-based level advancement are core pillars to the game.  Efforts have been made to 'fix' perceived problems and many different games try to do so and sometimes become their own thing.  One thing D&D is not is a skills oriented game.

When the game first was making the round in the 70's, there was really no system of skills. However, as a precursor to second edition, both the Oriental Adventures book and the Dungeoneer Survival Guide introduced the concept of Non-Weapon Proficiencies. More was done with this in the Wilderness Survival Guide which helped to flesh the material out further. By the time it was decided move on to a second edition, a system of weapon and non-weapon proficiencies was finalized.

Here's the thing though... I don't really remember using or relying on this very much when I did play second edition and this was basically the system my friends and I used in conjunction with the older AD&D material and some Metzer era D&D sets. We also didn't use things like weapon speed factor either.  Weapons proficiencies did matter though and was a lot more relevant to what we needed for the game.  The only skills routinely used were the Thief skills which had it's own percentile sub-system.

Third Edition represented a shift.  It took the class skills away and put them all into a list to be chosen from during character creation.  Some classes had more points to spend on skills than others but the list was not exactly short, and there were different costs depending on your class and what you wanted to take.  Then there was something called 'synergy' between skills which affected other things. It was more book keeping but it was generally liked and yet, by Fifth Edition, the skill list didn't only get smaller but the amount of skills one could select from got severely cut down.

If we consider some of the games derived from D&D like Swords & Wizardry or Castles & Crusades, we find that there is no 'itemized' skill system during character creation aside from maybe some class skills like one would expect to find with the Thief / Rogue. These two games have become favorites of mine, in part because of the streamlined simplicity and philosophy of these games. These systems are not burdened with an extra level of depth by shoehorning a skill system.  Just like Original D&D, a skill system isn't really needed for this to play well.

Lately, I've been playing some Myth & Magic (a much maligned and failed Kickstater to bring out a retro-clone of second edition).  It's fun but that's because it brought the right pieces together for someone who played second edition for years. It too has a skill system which feels like a good compromise between the second edition proficiency system and third edition. There are many skills to chose from to give plenty of variety and choice.  However, the more I play, the more I wonder if such a system is all that necessary when compared to, say.. the mechanic used in C&C. Myth & Magic does fill the need of creating (on paper), a character which is more detailed in terms of character makeup. But again, is it strictly necessary?

So... on THAT note, apparently Troll Lord Games has sold out of their 6th print run of the Player's Handbook.  It's a great game and apparently they will fund the 7th printing via Kickstater in just over a weeks time (March 15th).  It is still my 'goto' FRPG that scratches that 'D&D itch'.  I imagine pricing will be much like their last printing which means $29.95 USD (a full color hardback) but there are always a few perks by doing this via the TLG Kickstater and, given this is a flagship product, it will be quickly funded, developed, and shipped.  I'll report more on that when it launches.

Finally, and speaking of Kickstarters, as I have mentioned before, our first published novel, Mother of Mortals, is currently being kickstarted! Feel free to check it out and spread the word! The first chapter of the novel is being offered for free via a link on the Kickstarter project page.  You can find the Kickstarter HERE.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mother of Mortals NOW ON KICKSTARTER !!

Mother of Mortals Kickstarter

Good evening to all of you... it is my pleasure to announce that the Kickstarter Campaign for Mother of Mortals: A Tale of the Nepheleid is now LIVE!

You can find the Kickstarter HERE

Remember that pledge levels are all in Canadian Funds which means the advantage of a stronger US dollar will make a difference.

Rewards start at $8 CAD for an electronic copy of the novel with the regular physical copy going for $20 CAD.

More details in the days and weeks to come.  This is a three week campaign.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weekend R&R: Crypts & Things (Remastered)

I think I first heard about Crypts & Things about 5 years ago or so. At the time, I didn't think too much about it and I just pushed it aside as yet another OSR produced clone or variant of some sort of basic D&D derived from the OGL. Then, and very much now, there is just so much out there and it takes a bit to stand out. I knew that it was a variant of Swords & Wizardry but given time, and thanks to a couple of people I knew who positively loved the approach and feel, I began to take notice. So much so that I ended up backing the revised edition which was crowdfunded via Kickstater when it launched a couple of years ago.

While I tend to stick to Castles & Crusades for my 'D&D' experience, I have enjoyed Swords & Wizardry and view it a great reference and 'baseline' for me. As a publisher, I have supported both C&C and S&W in the past and will continue to do so this year. I also like much of the fine products produced by Lamentations of the Flame Princess for both the 'dark' and 'weird' content containing a very specific aesthetic. The one thing that C&C and S&W don't immediately give me right out of the gate is a 'stock' sword and sorcery feel. Don't get me wrong -- it's not hard to run a game with those elements in either system. But I have also come to find that that same 'D&D' experience has come to be its own genre.

Consider D&D for what it is for a moment. There's a lot of magic which employs a fire and forget system of magic which has multiple types of spell casting classes. When you look at the spell casters, you generally have two broad categories -- arcane and divine. Divine spell casters are primarily dominated by the Cleric class which are warrior priests of the gods casting spells but pretty handy to have in a fight and quick to cast healing spells so that the battle can continue. If you based this on they way that a lot of people play clerics, they are walking medics that can fight when they aren't healing companions and sometimes use their magic to help allies and hinder their enemies. There are other examples but this one serves to illustrate my point quite nicely and was the first that came to mind.

As someone who appreciates the fantasy written by the likes of Howard or Leiber, there are things presented in D&D (and the games derived and inspired from it) that don't immediately fit a swords and sorcery style. Crypts & Things, on the other hand, does and the newest version, even more so.

As a S&W variant, the changes employed are really nothing major if you consider them individually. Some of these things may be similar to house rules we all have seen or toyed with since the advent of D&D back in 1974. In this case, Crypts & Things incorporates a number of house rules which appeared on the Akratic Wizardry blog (HERE). But with all of these elements brought together in a rulebook, along with a complementary setting, readers are presented with an attractive package that should satisfy fans of the genre.

The system itself presents four core classes much like you would expect from a D&D derived system but with an appropriate setting 'shift'. You have the Barbarian, Fighter, Sorcerer, and Thief classes but you also have the inclusion of more 'exotic' classes which fit some sword and sorcery examples and were designed with the setting for Crypts & Things in mind. These include the Beast Hybrid, the Disciple, the Elementalist, the Lizard Man, and the Serpent Noble. Being sword and sorcery, there are no elves, dwarves, gnomes, or the like and the closest to non-human would be if you played (were permitted to play) a Beast Hybrid, a result of ancient experiments involving sorcery, or one of the Lizard People or Serpent Nobles. These exotic classes are not intended for PCs and should be considered very uncommon.

When creating the character, outside selecting the character class, everything else will be familiar to most gamers. The ability scores are ones most will recognize and are comprised of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These are generated by rolling 3d6 for each. In addition to these are Luck and Skill scores. In fact these are another notable departure from 'standard D&D' as these replace the concept of Saving throws.

Luck is described in the book as "a measure of the Character's innate quality to avoid trouble, stumble across useful items, and have just the right thing happen at the right time. It is tested over the course of the adventure and decreases as the Character gets fatigues or injured. Eventually even the most Lucky Character will run out of Luck." In short, I *love* this approach. It is similar to a concept I toyed with some time ago (but never implemented) and reminds me a bit of Luck in my current Call of Cthulhu game. In this game, Luck is determined upon character creation and acts as a pool you use and roll against. The roll is made using 2d6 and you need to get equal to or lower than your current luck score in order to succeed. Every successful attempt lowers the pool by one (making it harder and harder when you try and push your luck). Luck points are regained by rest and fully restored at the end of the adventure. Each time a character advances in level, the total luck pool increased by a point.

The Skill score however works more like the Saving Throw system does in Swords & Wizardry. It's is a roll against a static number which starts at 15 at first level and decreases as the character advances in level. A roll on a d20 that is equal to or higher than this number indicates success. In general, the Skill roll is to attempt a task not related to combat or magic that the character may attempt and be capable of trying or be knowledgeable in. These apply to both class skills as well as general skill attempts modified by bonuses and penalties as the situation requires.

To help flesh out the character, there is a step in character creation that maps out Life Events for the character distinguishing a character from the Free Territories to one from the Ice Coast. There are 8 regions and all with each giving a variety of events and benefits to differentiate the character. All those are focused on character origins. There is a second phase that involves the characters formative years and profession prior to becoming an adventurer.

The differences in Crypts & Things Remastered don't end with character creation either. While the game system is still rooted with the sort of magic system we have all come to know from D&D, magic is classified in one of three types -- White, Grey, and Black.  Any sorcerer can cast any type of magic and there is no distinction between clerical or divine magic or arcane magic. Casting black magic causes corruption and, in time, will present certain negative effects upon the caster. White magic on the other hand is a powerful beacon attracting evil and unwanted attention. Grey is pretty much safe. When a spell is cast, the spell is lost (much like D&D) but the caster can test their luck to try and retain the spell. Additionally, a sorcerer will have to use blood magic (bloods sacrifice) to regain Black Magic spells but, aside from corruption, it may also come at a cost of Sanity. Other little differences... there are not 'detect magic' or 'read magic' spells as this is something sorcerers are attuned to or trained to read. There are also no spells higher than 6th level but anything more powerful could be created by the GM in order to simulate a higher level spell in the form of a 'costly' ritual.

Sanity and Health. Playing around with black sorcery or encounters with diabolic and horrific entities is a sure way to drive the bravest and sanest adventure, stark raving mad. Since the genre often deals with darker and grim things, Sanity comes into play in Crypts & Things much like one would expect to see it in a game like Call of Cthulhu. In this case, the Sanity score is equal to the Wisdom score of the character and, reducing this to zero can be considered a bad thing. Sufficient rest will be required to 'heal' this mental damage though should a sanity score drop to below zero, will result in permanent loss of Wisdom.

Despite the potential mental fragility the game introduces, the heroes the players end up playing do end up more resilient. Hit Points in the game are superficial and when this is dropped to zero in combat, any further damage is applied to Constitution. This represents serious injury and each time they receive this sort of damage, they need to pass a Luck test or fall unconscious. Death occurs if the character's constitution score drops to zero. Only time or magic will heal Constitution damage and only when the character's Constitution is full restored can hit points be regained. At that point, hit points can be fully restored with a full night's worth of rest and even drinking a strong drink can restore 1d4 hit points. Cure Wounds spell do NOT heal back hit points... only lost Constitution.

With all that in mind,  and with the subtle little things the classes provide compared to their regular D&D counterparts, the rest of the Crypts & Things Remastered book gives you some sword and sorcery appropriate critters... a setting... and some adventures. The book is full of inspirational material to allow an enterprising group of players and game master to really dig in and make this a great game to play without straying away to what some may feel familiar and comfortable. All in all, it's almost 250 pages of material with some decent artwork and well written text.

It's a good book and a solid system -- a physical copy can be ordered through Drivethru's (RPGNow's) POD services in both softcover and hardcover formats as well as digital. It is entirely a black and white text but the price for the PDF is hard to beat at $13.00 USD, where-as a softback will run you $26.00 USD, and the hardback at $40.00 USD (all available HERE). The prices are decent for physical copies though preference of softcover vs hardcover is very subjective. I've never had a print issue with their POD service but went with hardcover myself to match my S&W books on the shelf. Another nice thing is that there are options that price the PDF with the physical copies with no extra charge.