Sunday, April 28, 2013

May 2013 Kickstarter Updates

Yeah, I'm a few days early but its the weekend. There are still some Kickstarters I want to back. There are a ton I haven't backed. There is a lot of doubt in my mind, as to how useful Kickstarters are to the end user. There are some where the freebies can be tempting enough to make one have an impulse buy, such as the Dwarven Forge terrain one going on now. There are others that appeal to me due to their unique nature like the Kensai one or the East Asian Village one. Funds being what they are though...

I've only supported two since my last report. I received my tax refund from the state. Last year I didn't as it went straight to parking tickets. They also charged me to use my money in that manner. Thank you Chicago! And then people wonder why the city population is shrinking eh? I went in for Drake and Dungeon Crawler.  My love of monstrous miniatures will be my downfall. Especially as I'm still waiting on so many to hit the shore.

28mm Demons & Devils: Late. Communication has been good. Turns out one of the perks, King of Dragons, aka Tiamat, was well underpriced and is one of the pieces that's going to cause this to be even later. Ah well.

1650s Rulebook:  Due last October. Communication has been terrible. I know I'd never back anything these guys do again even though the figures are awesome. I'd just order them after they were cast from some third party website or live without them.

Assimilation Alien Host: Not late yet but man, with all the drama going on involving Trollcast, Red Box Games and other bits, like Ed moving, I would be very surprised if this came in May.

Imbrian Arts: Remember when I mentioned drama with the above kickstarter? Imbrian was part of it. They were supposed to have several figures already sent out to certain level backers and well, that hasn't happened due to the Trollcast issue. We've seen some of the metals coming out and they do look fantastic so I'm hopeful with this one.

Reaper Bones: I signed up for a higher custom level pledge and Reaper responded by putting the complex orders at the end of the list because, you know, complex! In addition, I also signed up for a year of metal and Reaper hasn't actually put out any figures in months. Curious to see where that one winds up. You know, for example, an extension of the 'Year of Metal'. I suspect we'll get an 'official' answer on that one soon as the Reaper folks were busy with their convention.

Red Box Games: Tre is a fantastic sculptor. I'm glad he tried out a new method of delivering the goods. This one though is pretty much a disaster. Going on... seven months late.

Relic Knights: They already got ahead of this one and announced... yeah, late. Massively late. If I didn't back for some exclusives I'd have asked for a refund right away. I am weary of incompetence at these higher levels. This wasn't some small job, it pulled in $900,000+.

Tectonic Craft Studios: Dan is a nice guy. I met him at Adepticon. This is still a disaster. It will be almost one year late. I'd buy stuff from him again that was fitting a need or purpose, but man, actually funding another Kickstarter or anything like that? Not going to happen.   

Dwimmermount: Does anything need to be said about this one? Mind you, the communication has been great. Tavis has been in front of this one the whole time. While I probably won't back anymore Kickstarters, I will continue to watch and buy items that meet my interest.

It Came From The Stars: The book is on the way. I count no chickens before they are hatched as we still haven't got the final PDF. Another one that's going on a year late. Another one I put in for stuff for a year and well, they really haven't done much in that time period so a wasted perk even with the extension.

Midgard Tales: Something like vie months late going on probably six or seven? M'eh. I never liked the patron angle from Open Design because your paying a little premium to be part of the design process and really, I just want the goods so I'll always weight in the future unless it's some fantastic deal.

Pathfinder Online: So in January they met their funding goals and they still haven't been able to get people the freeibes even? You know, the PDF of already existing material? This one will be interesting to watch as it moves on.

Steampunk Musha: Wow. Failure all over this one.  I understand people get sick. I understand people have real life issues. But this is another one that's supposed to be from a game company. A game company that's allowed their 'official' website to go black.  One that mind you, has been putting out other material. This one went without an 'official' update for three months and we've head some improbably things like, "I thought the site was being updated!" even as they talk about how its an important project and will see the light of day! I gotta tell you, if it's an important project, you wouldn't "think" it's being updated because you would keep yourself in the loop in an actual professional manner and not have to have people bothering you on different social sites. Ugh. I have a lot of doubts about this one due to the unprofessional manner in which the game company has kept up to date on things. While Dwimmermount has its numerous issues, Tavis kept everyone in the loop. In the age of instant communications, a three month black out is unacceptable. These guys and my money? Never again.

So to me, it doesn't appear there is a huge difference if you're doing miniatures or role playing books. Running a successful on time Kickstarter appears to be something very difficult and something only a handful of companies have done in the past. I'm looking forward to seeing how Kickstarter continues to evolve as a means of funding as well as taking responsibility for the different aspects of a Kickstarter.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Prince of Ravens by Richard Baker

I mentioned, some time ago, Amazon having a few Forgotten Realms novels for sale for $2.99. Prince of Ravens by Richard Baker was one of them. The same book in the same format is now $6.15. I wonder where Amazon comes up with these prices eh?

I finally managed to get around to reading it. It's not a bad yarn but I have some 'issues' with it if you will. Let me say that there will be spoilers.

In designing your campaign, there are many options. In resuming a campaign, there are many options. Prince of Ravens takes one of the heroes of the Forgotten Realms and puts him in the 'new' setting of the Forgotten Realms some one hundred years after his own timeline. The immense problems in terms of suspension of disbelief hit hard and fast for me.

For one thing, if I read a book by say Mark Twain or Harold Lamb, or something from an even older time, the language is different. Oh sure, it's still English but the way words are used, indeed, the very words used, are massively different in style and tone.

If I go to an old neighborhood, the buildings are different. The very designs are different. In some areas, the buildings may be so worn down and dilapidated that its a safety hazard even to be near them.

Food changes. The types of food popular now are not in any way, shape or form the foods that people even fifty years ago were eating.

Jack, the main hero who is time lost, basically comes into Ravensbluff going, "Man, it sucks that everything and everyone I ever loved is dead, but hey, some style changes to clothing and I'm good to go again man. Awesome."

The problem with a generic setting like the Forgotten Realms is fully showcased here in that it remains a generic setting for this tale as Jack is able to easily fit into the modern world with such little difficulty that its evident the more things change, the more they stay the same.

So what's my point? In a fantasy setting, all of this can be explained with a wave of the hand. Yeah, pretty much. But I guess my point is, in designing your campaign, you still wind up using all the static elements that were used so predominatnly before without bringing in the things that were supposed to make the setting what it is now, like Swordmages, like Dragonborn, like Spellplague, and other bits, that Richard has used in other novels, don't change the setting.  It may be strange to think it, but companies can still write stories about their characters in those 'olden' times. How many Batman, Spiderman, and even Conan origins have we been subject to? Learn from the properties some of your more fantastic elements seek to emulate.

One thing that Richard does well here, which is a tremendous paint in many role playing games that are detail intensive, is multiple parties of adventurers with the unexpected popping up. For example, Jack is looking for a book. They encounter some villains and battle. As they move forward, they encounter another group of adventurers. Plus some more villains and their leader! While not breaking out into a three way brawl, the battle in a role playing game, like Rolemaster or 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons, could be a huge time sink as you now have multiple groups of characters to run as the GM and interact with the players.

There are also cases of characters 'breaking' the rules. One of the characters is the 'warlord' who is immune to all magic, both good and bad. At the end of the novel, Jack loses his own spellcasting ability and the 'warlord' gains access to magic. In a point based game like Hero or GURPS, that might be considered a 'radiation' accident via the old Marvel Super Heroes where there were in game reasons for why your character changed.

If players want to change their characters, see if you can build it into the game itself as opposed to bringing in a whole new character but only do so if it fits the feel and mood of the campaign proper. You don't want Spellplagues and Wildmagic and other nonsense popping up every other session because someone wants to play the latest and greatest class race combo.

Prince of Ravens is a very character driven story and provides a quick look as to how an out of time character might interact with the new setting and finds it same as it ever was.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spears of the Dawn

Spears of the Dawn is a game with a bit of history to it.

First, it's funded through the Kickstarter process. This in and of itself might be enough to make some people shield their eyes and turn their heads. The thing about Spears of the Dawn though, is that it actually game out a little ahead of time.

Second, it challenges the reader to do better by the gaming community. The author talks about using Scribus, OneBookShelf, OGL material and asks that if you don't like the game, make something better. I don't get the vibe of "You ain't got no game" or nothing hostile like that. I get the vibe that the author is endorsing people to be creative and put their efforts out for the masses in a good way. Probably why he's released the art for the game as public use for gaming too eh?

In between different bits, like looking at apartments and waiting to see what's going on with where I currently live, I've been pinging between Spears and other PDFs. On my computer, the file comes across fine. On my Toshiba Android Thrive tablet, using something like ezPDF, the heading files lose almost all of the detail, leaving only the capital of each word.

While I haven't read the whole book yet, and will hopefully come back to it soon, I wanted to point out the in game mechanic of having the characters be Spears of the Dawn. In games where the culture doesn't default to noble knight, shifty rogue, enigmatic wizard and pious cleric in a pseudo Middle Age Europe, it can be difficult to get a group together. It can be difficult to have a starting point for the game. It can be difficult to know what the players are supposed to do.

Another game, long ago mind you, Legend of the Five Rings, saw this potential problem in its first edition and recommended that the players be Magistrates who must uphold the law, work together, solve problems, and do right not only by their clan but by the Emperor!

Spears of the Dawn is a calling, a caste, a title, but from what I've seen this far, it's not a game mechanic. The people of the Three Lands have come out of war only recently against a dark and evil force that has many pockets of malice behind them and it is up to the Spears of the Dawn to battle against those monsters.

It's a great plot device that allows a diverse group of characters to get together and take to the dungeons with a bit of a background. It's one that can be used for multiple characters. It can be as deep or as shallow as the game master wants to make it. For those who might not be interested in that venue though, there's a sourcebook/adventure out by Sine Nomine Publishing already, House of Bone and Amber.

I haven't read through enough of the game rules to determine what is new and what is old school in game mechanics. In many ways it seems at first glance to be lot of old school including some of the old stand by for gaming stats: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma, rolled 3d6 straight in line.  Bonuses are relatively small starting at +1 from 14-17 and +2 for 18. One of the nods to old school, or at least I consider it a nod, is the use of a silver standard. Many times one of the cries against the old Dungeons and Dragons is the sheer amount of wealth characters can accumulate.

In a non-campaign moment, one of the things I was looking at in terms of the stat generation, was either a nod to the old Rolemaster game system, or a case of parallel development. Many moons ago, in Rolemaster, if you didn't have at least a 90 in your prime stats, you could swap out your stat for a 90. Here, in your class, while you do roll 3d6 in order, you can put in a 14 for your prime score. While it's not going to be as awesome as an 18 in say, 3rd or 4th edition, or anything, especially in an OSR style game, it does provide some options for those players who have to have some better stats then the minimum eh?

Another non-standard bit, is rolling hit points. While it's a random roll, it's a random roll every level. It uses the lower end hit dice types, so fighters using d8 for example. The 'thing' though is that say at 3rd level, you can roll 3d8 for your hit points and take the better of the two, the new ones or your original ones. That's a bit of a strange system for me as it can have some flux in lower level characters who roll poorly but doesn't seem too useful as advancement happens and dice start to 'average' out on weight.

I hope to get back to Spears of the Dawn soon. It looks like a nice campaign setting that could easily be yanked out of the OSR system for exploration by characters from other systems or settings.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Savage Sword of Conan Volume One

As I'm going through my books, some reorganized, some being boxed up in case I have to move, one of the series I've gone through again and again, is the black and white compilations of the old Savage Sword of Conan reprinted by Dark Horse Comics. At a cover price of something like $17.95 when I bought it, probably cheaper through Amazon, you would be hard pressed to find a better visual deal.

When I say visual, I mean that it has a lot of well known comic artists ranging from Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema, Jim Starlin, Al Milgrom, Walter Simonson and others. The cover itself is an old Boris image and probably not one of his better ones. While the background and skeletons and material look fantastic, Conan himself looks like he has some intenstinal problems and the lady looks like she's just turned her head to avoid seeing something.

But the stories inside also contain a wealth of inspiration both visual and written. Some of it drawing on Robert E. Howard's original material but much of it new. Well, new at the time eh?

So what could a role playing GM take from it?

Atali: In the first story, one I believe reprinted from the comic proper, and one done up by the master himself, Conan meets Atali, the First born of Ymir, the Frost Gian't daughter. While she has no combat role in the encounter, she does lead Conan into an ambush and is whisked away from trouble by her father before Conan can have his way with her. Seemingly innocent people leading characters into ambushes is an old favorite of Robert E. Howard and he's used it in many situations. In some instances, the person leading the ambush doesn't even have to be 'innocent' looking but may have something that the players need.

Red Nails is the next story up. It showcases Conan and Valeria of the Red Brotherhood against a decadent city of savages who've fallen from their once timeless strengths. Some try to sacrifice Valeria for the promise of everlasting youth. Some Conan because he's simply too dangerous to keep around. There is an ancient item that in D&D would act as a wand of disintegration or something along those levels. The war between the internal factions also makes a good set up for a good 'hex crawl'.

Another bit here is the fate of the horses. The characters aren't in visual range of their horses, but they hear something happening to them. "Horses in terror and agony and mingled with their screams, the snap of splintering bones." It also showcases that in isolated regions, some strange monsters may pop up as Conan winds up fighting a dinosaur in this far off region.

Among the old adages here, Conan comes into contact with more treasure that he could ever possess or take back. "Precious jade? Surely not in such quantities!" The walls themselves are covered with it. If as a GM you put in vast decorative wealth, don't be surprised if the player's try to steal it. On the other hand, it is a common trope in Sword and Sorcery settings.

In another yarn, The Secret of Skull River, the inhabitants of a small town are poisoned, turning into horrid mutant things suffering from boils and a leprous appearance. This is a byproduct of magic being done at a nearby tower. In addition to the poisoning effects, the wizard has turned brothers into what can be described as either hill giants or ogres. This method allows the GM to put some monsters that might not fit into a standard Sword & Sorcery campaign by using magic to turn normal people into limited monsters that may never show up again but can fit the bill at the time. One interesting twist here, is that Conan winds up befriending one of the giants, Grandall, who only seeks to be human again.

This isn't necessarily another 'standard' but even in some of the old fantasy video games, when you beat an enemy, you can 'befriend' that enemy or use them in your party. The GM can set up the character to have a 'health bar' that resets on the players side if the players beat the monsters but do so in a way that brings the monster to their side. This can be as simple as communicating with it, some odd ritual if they need the monster or something else that fits he campaign.

Curse of the Undead-Man starts off in a manner that some games can use. For example, if your players have been like mine, at times they may have too much freedom. They may be pondering things to do. They may be debating and discussing and the game may not get started for hours. That's when you bring the game to them. Curse starts off with Conan merely walking down the street and having first one group running into him seeking to escape from some pursuers, and then another group, this one armed and waiting to deal death, seek them out and in doing so, run into Conan. It also brings in Red Sonja, who at this point, we've not seen as readers before, but knows Conan. The recurring NPC or the 'guest player' make a good fit here.

Black Colossus is a story I've covered in a different post. This one is a single issue as opposed to the five issues that Dark Horse took to tell it in the graphic novel. This one benefits tremendously from John Buscema's art in its showcasing of 'cyclopean blocks and shattered stone images amid the sheer breath taking sweep of the naked desert beyond." It also brings in the hand of the "railroad" in that a princess in dire need seeks wisdom from the temple and her god Mitra bids her "Go you forth alone upon the streets of your capital and place your kingdom in the hands of the first man you meet there." Who of course turns out to be Conan. Another example of the story coming to the characters.

A Witch Shall Be Born has a few goodies to yank. The first being 'the evil twin'. The second being 'the mark'. Mind you in this case the evil twin has the mark so it's one and the same here. In other settings though, having a birth mark of a certain type can put the characters in a position of notoriety or fame. The evil twin can have many implications. For example, if the players are new in town, they may be mistaken for someone else. They may be the 'evil' twin so to speak.

The Savage Sword of Conan has many unique monsters with great visuals. The black and white ink work showcases the Cimmerian age well.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The King of the Crags by Stephen Deas

While roaming about at Half Price Books a few weeks ago, I stumbled across The King of the Crags. Looking at the Kindle Price of $7.99, that's not outrageous but not more attractive than having the hardcover for about half that price.

The first book, The Adamantine Palace, was one that had a lot of good set up. I enjoyed it enough that I bought the second book in The Memory of Flames, and if I see the third and fourth books in the series for a good price, will purchase them as well.

Stephen Deas provides a very large cast of characters for the reader. Much like Mark Lawrence, Stephen has a way of quickly moving characters around in importance. Perhaps its best to acknowledge the father of the main character killers, George R. R. Martain while I'm at it.

The book continues to build the setting in history and mythology. Characters continue to evolve or well, not, and act in manners contrary to their best interest. This isn't unbelievable behavior mind you. I myself just went to the Cubs game and it was like... thirty degrees out so not in my own best interest eh?

I'll be discussing some spoilers below. The short of it is that if you want a fantasy with dragons, with a wide variety of characters, with a slowly unveiling tapestry of events, this is a good series for you.

Now onwards!

1. Kill your idols. I've mentioned this a few times and as authors continue to work with the idea, it can be more an more realistically applied to role playing games with the ability for the GM to point out examples of where it happens. Mind you, when I say kill your idols, I'm not saying the GM has to go out and slaughter the PCs. It's easier to kill NPC's. You can introduce NPCs who have complex plots, various duties, detailed back story, give the players a taste of it, and then horribly butcher them. The NPCs can be of a more simple nature. They can be allies that may not offer the players anything except a mirror to show them how they might have been. To give them a sense of camaraderie. And then you kill them. This happens in different ways in the book. Some of them you can see coming, others of them you get taken by surprise. If you can keep your players on their toes, this isn't a bad thing.

2. False History: This is another field that gets hit often. In the 'real world', Obama, at least in some parts of America, is hailed as bringing gas prices to unheard of heights. That's funny because I remember paying similar, if not higher prices when the previous persistant happened to invade an oil producing country. People quickly rewirte history to showcase their thoughts and believes. The victors do make the books. Having said that, there are often people who know the truth of the situaton. The GM should have a few 'record keepers' in his campaign that have 'hidden knowledge' that may not change what happened, but may have changed the how it happened. Imagine if drow are invading the surface world and doing their usual thing of slavery, murder, and sacrifice, but imagine they were invited to the city by the king in order to eliminate some rivals. Or that the king's recent mine collapsed and crushed a drow city in its fall. Or that the dwarves come to the players for assistance and only later on find out the dwarves tried to open a volcano on the drow. The whole "nothing behind the curtain" trick can be used for all manner of reasons.

3. Reskinning: The idea of taking one monster's game abilities and making it another monster, is an oldie but goodie. There are times though, when it goes beyond skinning. For example, the dragons in this series are beasts of burden. However, they are only such creatures while they are under alchemical influence and power. When free of that, they are almost elemental forces of nature that have few equals. When looking at what role monsters play in the campaign, don't forget to take into account the abilities that may be non-combat in nature. Dragons that are dumb beasts aren't that rare for example but dungeons and dragons versions are often hyper intelligent spell casting ancient beasts of power and lore. Drakes and other variants often fill that beast role. But it is something that can be hammered out if the GM is interested in that.

In Rolemaster, they had a variant of the High Man that was even older and more physically powerful. Great Men or something? It's been a while. Anyway, in Dungeons and Dragons, what if Ogres are the remnants of these former empire rulers? In the various Robert E. Howard stories of fantasy, the old rulers have often become degenerate imitations of their former glory. Having ogres be the former rulers of the world whose glory only rarely pokes to the surface in some exceptional individual can make for a whole different type of campaign.

4. Heavy Is the Head That Wears the Crown. In The King of The Crags, there are many princes, nobles, rulers, advisers, and other individuals of importance. One of them is the leader of the Adamantine Guard. These soldiers are a powerful force that owes allegiance to no one king and are there to keep the peace. But they have a leader themselves and that leader is not often a wise, kind, or just person. What happens if that one person who is between the rank and file and that ruler decides, "Yeah, we're not doing that?" The weight of responsibility is an important one and players who, in older editions or OSR style games, may find themselves in command of armies or organizations, may have to take responsibility a tad further than leading dungeon crawls.

5. The Evolution of Magic: In the series, the Alchemist are the ones who keep the dragons docile. They learn much of their craft from the Blood Mages. The Blood Mages are the originators of the styles, but their resources were different. Turns out when you need sacrifice to power your sorcery, well, when there are perhaps less powerful versions that require less sacrifice, your time may be up. In your own campaign, are these family tress of magic? In Rolemaster, the Arcane was a style of magic that was more raw and primal than Essence. In further volumes, Elementalism allowed users to tap into another type of magic. Knowing how things interact, where they come from, and why they work the way they do, at least in terms of how they came about, can give the spell casters more role playing opportunities much like Dark Sun took advantage of with Defilers and their opposite.

The King of the Crags provides a good read and builds up the characters while tearing down others.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Black Stranger and Other American Tales by Robert E. Howard

Robert E. Howard is best known for his sword and sorcery contributions including Conan, Kull, and Solomon Kane. Each of which has had movies, comics, and other good stuff developed around them. Having said that, Robert E. Howard also contributed a lot to the horror genre. Mind you, things weren't quite so broken apart that Conan never experienced some horrific situations.

In many ways, the heroes of the horror tales, are more similar to August Derleth's tales in which there is opportunity to battle against the horrors as opposed to the original Cthulhu myths proper where well, even finding out about how insignificant you are was enough to send your pansy ass shrieking to the abyss.

I was lucky enough to pick up this volume, along with several others in the Bison Books reprints for cover price. Now the only two I don't have, that I'm aware of, are the Boxing Stories and Lord of Samarcand, both of which tend to veer up in price. Perhaps those two were limited, or even more limited printings. On the other hand, I've read most of Robert's work before thanks to the old Baen reprints way back in the day and the more recent Del Rey publications.

This volume, starting off with the Black Stranger, makes me smirk when it has "Other American Tales" on its cover because the Black Stranger is actually a Conan novella. I'll be discussing some specific spoilers below so if you'd rather not know specifics, read no further. Short review would be it's Robert E. Howard and unlike say Tolkien, Robert manages to put more story in a handful of pages, or at least more action, than Tolkien does in sixty.


1. Starting in the middle. As the tale opens, Conan, unnamed at this point, is in the middle of a dead run. His equipment stripped from him, his body ravaged by minor cuts and bruises, he is on the lamb from a legion of Pict enemies. When running your own campaigns, if you have enough trust and buy in from your players, don't be afraid to start in the middle. Have them roll dice for initative. Have them already be in the middle of the story.

2. The Human Foe: While there are supernatural entities here, Conan's main enemies are those who like himself, are reavers and pirates. He has to spend more time navigating the quickly turning truces he forges among the powers in the manor and pirate boats, then he does fighting against the Picts and the Black Stranger himself.

3. Treasure is Fleeting. In 3rd edition and onward, the game made some changes to how a character was assumed to be armed. In this volume, Conan boasts, "What are a handful of jewels to me, when all the loot of the southern seas will be mine for the grasping?" (pg. 76) It's a feature of the Sword and Sorcery genre often where after horrific odds and suffering and loss, the character gives up some or all of the meager treasures to others more in need of them. Mind you, it often doesn't matter to these characters because they are so self assured that more will be coming down the pipeline, they are free with the funds. In a game where the treasure is built into the balance, if the GM makes no effort to compensate for those level assumptions, either in allowing players to have more powers, abilities, statistics, hit points or something, then there is no reason why the players would do so. They will NEED that treasure by the book to survive.

Marchers of Valhalla, The Gods of Bal-Sagoth, and the Horror From the Mound, showcase another interesting facet of these older tales. That its okay to destroy cities, civilizations, and indeed, whole island if it serves the story. Marchers of Valhalla and The Gods of Bal-Sagoth have differences in the way their approach their methodology, but the end result is the same.

In your campaign, ahead of time, have those ancient and decaying civilizations whose glory is held on only by the thinnest of threads that can be snipped by the players if events work out that way. Having the players so equipped that thousands may live and die on their choices, gives them a much greater impact on the setting.

On the other hand, if you do as Robert E. Howard and others have done, and make these isolated civilizations, places that are difficult to find, places that are not normally easy to access, then while the players still have such an ability to impact that society, the overall campaign will only be minimally impacted.

Mind you, in today's society where you can travel sixty miles in an hour or less in a car, the spread of civilization in olden times might be so vastly different that no real mountain range or other magical needs of keeping civilizations separate from each other may need to apply. Distance itself may prove to be the solution.

Black Vulmea's Vengance hits a theme that Robert is good with. Throwing characters together that have no reason to trust each other outside of their mutual need for good sword arms and keen eyes. The initial 'heroes' hate each other due to the deeds each has performed against the other but by the time the novel ends, they at least have tolerance for one another. In role playing games, it can be difficult to have such a situation in terms of the players trusting each other.

On the other hand, if you have players who are okay with such back stories being woven, and they know ahead of time that if they can work things out for the good of, you know, actually playing the game as a team instead of breaking the party down loyalty lines, then it can be well worth doing so. In one of the Elric tales, when he is attacked by pirates, one of the pirates turns against his 'allies' and helps Elric overcome them. The two remain good friends until the typical Elric ally fate falls on that individual.

Another aspect of the old tales, at least by Robert E. Howard, is that equipment is transitent. This isn't to say there aren't fine and quality weapons out there. Even Conan is given a magic sword at one point in the old stories. But rather, by having the characters be more... self sufficient, the characters are the showcase of the story. In certain genres, such as the superhero one, this is far easier to do than in others, like Cyber Punk, where much of the game revolves around who has, or at least knowns how, to use their toys the best.

If looking for some short stories and novellas to get the images of action flowing, Robert E. Howar'ds The Black Stranger has a lot to offer.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Kickstarter April Edition

Ramble ramble ramble...

Kickstarter for me has turned into a place where money goes either to die or enter into a state of hibernation like Ripley in the Aliens movie where she misses her pickup by such a long time that when she wakes up her kid is dead of old age.

I know, we're "supporting the arts!" but I have to tell you, for that, we're getting some of the lamest updates I've ever seen when talking about 'behind the scenes! "Man, I had a head cold you wouldn't believe! Nothing updated. Sorry dog! Can't help you."

Here's the thing for me at least. A lot of the ones I initially backed were for role playing games. If you can't get some previews, some art, some discussion about your research into the product, where your inspiration is coming from, what made you select some artists, or any number of useful things, don't come to me as a backer with "you're supporting the process!" because most of these process posts are so incredibly lame that if you approached a project manager with them you'd be fired on the spot.

With the advent of the Internet, with YouTube, twitter, and so many other social media options, the fact that most of the ones I've backed hide from their backers and only respond to individual posts instead of, you know, updating the Kickstarter itself? Your doing it wrong.

Onto the late projects!

28mm Demons & Devils: While it's only now officially 'late', remember, no one PROMISED anything would be done in March. That was only an estimate dude. You can't be holding anyone to that stuff. And in the meantime, they haven't sent out the old pledge backing so you know, we can actually order what we've paid for. Then again, I went in for their Facebook exclusive miniature which was done after their Kickstarter so yeah, good work Joe.

1650s Rulebook: Supposedly printed. Will see it in American shores... soonish?

Imbrian Arts Miniatures is now late. Miniatures were supposed to start flowing in Feb and follow up the rest of the year for people who were at a certain level. Turns out Jody isn't going to do that method he initially was in Trollcast due to timing issues. Some have said there's a lot more going on behind the stages and Ed needs to step up and clear his name so to speak. Between this and Red Box I'll be very curious to see how Assimiliation by Ed goes. I'm also curious to see how the Cthulhu Mythos I'm backing, also using Ed, goes. Good luck to everyone involved here. From an outside perspective, it seems a mess.

Reaper Miniatures Bones:Okay, not really late, but late for me as I'm one of the people that backed at a higher level so no generic level and that means more stuff to pack later. One day I will understand the mentality's of the Kickstarter worker. "This person has spent more than 90% of my other customers. I will ship his shit dead last. Screw this guy for supporting me at this level. Dumb bastard!" No, seriously, I get that there are complexities involved in dealing with orders that are not standard or normal, but often, in that dreaded 'real world', when you put in a large or deluxe order with a 'real' business, you generally get taken care of BEFORE the people who are ordering one or two offs. This whole methodology will probably never happen but a man can dream.

Red Box Games: Love Tre's figures but man this has turned into a disaster for the guy. Not only this Kickstarter but the one that followed. Seems to be 'bad blood' between Tre and Ed now in terms of whose responsible for the fiasco.

Note in the comments Tre mentioning one of the things I pegged almost at the start. That if you're a business doing small batches for large orders, you and the person you are serving are screwed. Everyone has to put in more man hours to make it work. If you have an order for 800 broken up into one hundred separate orders instead of one order, or any number under that total number, more trips to the post office, more time packing, more packing supplies consumed, and so forth and so on. It's an ugly situation to be in. This doesn't include things beyond your control like say, a postal hike.

It's one of the reasons why where I work, the large orders are preferred in terms of 'getting the work out' because its more productive to 'touch' a bin once for one hundred pieces then it is to touch that same bin one hundred times for one piece each time. Oh well. Looking forward to seeing it whenever it hits.

Tectonic Craft Studios: Going on a year late. In the meanwhile, he's been doing conventions, setting up trade with internet stores, and selling stuff online. While one can understand the need to do these things, telling the customer in the meanwhile how lucky they are to be getting such great deals didn't fly over to well and I'm actually not the worst jerk in this supporting faction now. People getting tired of reasons and wanting to see their goods. I myself find that its going to be an uphill struggle for him because of things I've mentioned in the past. Comparitive prices to Games Workshop terrain for example.

Tentacles & Eyeballs: The dude here has taken, what for him, was a bone breaking punch to the jaw, got up and said, "Win!". He's turned some of the material that was taken out from the C&D into some fantastic monsters with some great paint jobs.  He made more than he should have and then allowed people to buy in at kickstarter prices. While it's late, he's keep everyone in the loop, no one's had to hunt him down for information, he's provided pieces as they were being done, and has gone above and beyond in my opinion.

Dwimmermount:More drama than your favorite soap opera. I'm glad that the guys have got the rights they need to take care of things. Tavis has been class act here while James deals with a terrible situation. Should have been done months ago in my opinion but hey, people don't want to intrude on such a terrible scene and I can't blame them.

It Came From the Stars: Supposedly on its way. Looking forward to seeing the end result as I'm actually having time on the weekends to do things. Painting and role playing may make a comeback in this life yet!

Midgard Tales: Honestly have no clue what's going on there. I'm actually not worried about it NOT coming out and not really interested in the project any longer. Too few updates, not a lot of clarity for my dumb ass as to what's going on and well, it's something I wish I'd just waited on and maybe bought in the store.

Pathfinder Online: Not late but there were levels with rewards that included PDFs that already exist. They were deliberately put into a special level to encourage people that even if you weren't doing the game, you'd be getting a good value. Those should have already been sent out and maybe it has, but this is another one where I'm not digging through comments and other things to see where things stand in terms of the pledge manager.

Steampunk Musha: Hasn't been updated in months. The game site for Fat Goblin Games, last time I checked, was down. The company has a web presence but hasn't made mention of this game yet. Dead?

In terms of "new" Kickstarters, I've let a ton go. There were MANY miniature ones I wanted to back and a few RPGs. The only one I have backed recently is Wicked Fantasy by John Wick. I like some of the ideas we've seen and he's been good about updating the page with you know, the actual material that will be going into the book. Oh, maybe Fate too? Didn't know if I mentioned that one.

John's I backed because I like a lot of his work. I might pick it up in the store. Fate I backed because it was a fantastic deal and it looks 'fun'. There appears to be community build up around it.

For the most part, I'm done with Kickstarters until I see and hear a rapid improvement. As I've heard things the opposite though, I don't think that will be an issue. For example, let's take Nystul's Infinite Dungeon. I did not back this one at the time. I already had a mega dungeon and more on the way. However, look at who recommends backing it..

"Support this Kickstarter. I'm sure you won't be sorry. Mike's incredibly creative."

- Monte Cook

"For all you gamers wrapped up in the old-school revival, you don't get more old-school than Mike Nystul. How many other gamers were around early enough to get a D&D spell named after them? How many designers were writing sourcebooks about demons back when TSR had banned the word from the game? Let Mike haul you back into the dungeons that thrilled you as a kid and remind you why you were afraid to go in there in the first place!"

- Matt Forbeck

"Mike Nystul is a brilliant designer and the best DM I ever played with. Imagine someone with the ability to peer right into why you play D&D in the first place, who can then create a game with the perfect balance of challenge and reward -- that's the work of Mike Nystul."

- Aaron Loeb

How do you then look at anything these guys say in the future about a Kickstarter? Couldn't Monte have given Nystul a copy of his book on running Kickstarters? The whole thing, from an outsider prospective, looks a mess and it's one that was supported by many industry insiders. I don't think that any of these guys are going to take a direct hit on their rep, but then again, if you backed one of these projects because you were like, "Man, Monte Cook says I will not be sorry! Awesome!" Anyone know if Monte is stepping up with free PDF's of his latest game for those backers?

Anyway, that's enough rambling.