Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dead or alive?

 I have read various missives over the last few days about the OSR and its relative health or lack thereof now that WotC is going to provide electronic (note, not necessarily PDF) versions of their old stuff.  Well I'd like to posit the following:

1) Most current OSR inspired folks have most of these already in book or PDF form.
2) One can currently, with some effort, find PDF's of many books/manuals/ modules already.
3) A lot of folks will buy the missing bits of their collections and then use them in OSR games.
4) WotC is NOT supporting nor creating new material (so far) based on the previous editions.

If your vision of the OSR assumes its only strength or legitimacy is based on the lack of TSR/WotC product in market...then indeed it would be on life support...for another 12-18 months.  If your vision of the OSR goes beyond this? Then rejoice because there are a lot of ancient tomes that you can look to and improve, expand or become inspired by creating something new.

For myself, OSR represents something beyond just making another Grand Olde Game rules set or  accessory.  Instead, it represents a do it yourself mind set.  Rather than waiting around for someone to make the game or accessory I want, I'll just do it myself! Sure that's been core to the hobby--but somewhere in AD&D 2e era it got lost as TSR produced more an more material, it became easier to just go buy something new....and then bitch about it.  Same thing in 3e...4e...and I will guess 5e.

I am thankful for the growing dissatisfaction with 3e+ editions of D&D and the rediscovery of personal ingenuity and initiative shared amongst a community of like minded creative types looking to share their own trove of tables, terrors, and treasures.  I have discovered some really talented people and some outstanding and unique products, free or otherwise. This creative storm has provided me with an opportunity to explore some of my own ideas and designs,like Rogue Space and the upcoming TFT inspired Heroes and Other Worlds. Yes even non-D&D inspired games are part of the OSR, which is an often overlooked strength of the movement.

I don't see the OSR so narrowly defined as D&D pastiche and whose life is based only upon the whims of WotC. Instead I'd argue the success, influence, and energy of the OSR has redirected the activities of many companies, even WotC, into areas they long thought shuttered and abandoned. Yes the OSR will change with time, that is the nature of everything. I do not believe the OSR spirit, creativity and talent will become lost by an expansion of its boundaries into lands previously labeled off limits. Instead I hope by back tracking new treasures might be discovered.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fear of the Dark?

Dark City Games just released a new programmed adventure, Shadows in the Dark.  If you are a fan of the classic TFT programmed adventures, then its like a library of gaming goodness!  Each includes basic rules, counters and map just like the Metagaming adventures of old!

My own game, Heroes & Other Worlds, will mesh very well with their programed adventures so when it is released, there will be a broad range of compatible adventures right from the start!

If you have not played one of their modules yet, head over and check out their full line, I highly recommend their modules!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ultimate D&D: a plan

Hasrbo's WotC division has decided to increase the profitability of their D&D division by bringing back previous iterations of the game "in electronic format."  Could be apps, but I'd bet e-book.

Now this provides an interesting opportunity for WotC.  Every new accessory, module, or other splat book created going forward could have 6 versions: B\X D&D, 1ed, 2ed, 3.5ed, 4ed, 5ed!  All one has to do is edit the stat lines. Publish 5ed...and make the other editions of the same book ebook format only.  This would effectively create "a one product to rule them all" approach to every game future accessory you publish!

  1. Shows company support for the brand, its fans and history from every generation.
  2. Only printing/inventorying one book (5th) which supports your current version and marketing at retail.
  3. Revenue up (probably double at least) for every new accessory book you make.
  4. Electronic versions are high profit!
  5. Requires a small team (minimum 3 people) for each previous generation product line to verify/create stat blocks. 3.5 edition and 4th may require 6-10 each.
  6. Opportunity to print hard copy "hobby only" editions of specific ebooks which have demonstrated high sales.  This would let you make money 2x on the same product, support the core channel with exclusives, and minimize inventory holdings because you are producing something with known high demand.
  1. You are adding head count to manage stat block creation/ editing for each previous, and already abandoned iteration of the game
  2. Translating product to other generations may prove a time consuming task creating uneven release schedule across the line, or it could delay flagship (5th) releases if one tries a universal release date.
  3. It could create competition with your flagship product in the market creating a softening of 5th ed sales at retail taking your brand out of the mass market placement opportunities.
  4. Some previous edition(s) may not be profitable enough to maintain full support.

I could go much further into the weeds with a business plan, but I don't work for WotC and there is more than enough free genius there already.

Overall the massive profit potential, no inventory holdings and small headcount increase, from a bean counting perspective, makes it a project worth aggressively pursuing. Leveraging the creation of one item to gain sales cross such a broad spectrum of customers is an outstanding use of resources and exponentially increases your profitability on each new item made.

This is the D&D advantage and it pulls from Pathfinder's player base while reaching anyone who has, or will play the game.

From a fan/player perspective? This is mana from heaven! Whatever edition of the grand old game you are getting NEW content!  All generations/editions of fans are playing they same product creating a massive unified community. Sure not all will be in print, but who cares? It is NEW CONTENT for any edition of the game you like!

If I were WotC, to further advertise this and to promote the brand, I'd make e-reader covers (Ipad, kindle, nook etc) with images that look like the cover of many classic game books!  (Moldvay Basic, 1 AD&D Players Handbook, 2 AD&D DM's Guide, etc.) Advertise your ebook plan, and give gamers a cool hook to be excited and proud of their edition.   

Greg Leeds, give me a call if you want to talk.

Friday, August 17, 2012

All D&D products coming back


Apparently WotC announced @ GenCon that all of the D&D back catalog of products are coming back "in electronic format."  My gut says ebook, not PDF, but time will tell.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Welcome to Lithus

Hereticwerks begins exploration of a new sector for Rogue Space.  The will begin a weekly series exploring the Lithus sector.  They have published a free introductory adventure too as an entry seed into the Lithus Sector.  I am personally amazed to see so much creativity and talent create a whole new sci-fi sandbox for my wee little game.

I can't wait to explore more of Lithus weekly at Hereticwerks myself!

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Work continues on my TFT inspired RPG Heroes & Other Worlds. Part of the overall plan is to also have a 'zine to support it called Cauldron.  My hope is Cauldron will be a shared labor between myself and you the player.  A place for new spells, new creatures, random charts, sand pail settings and even short adventures! (programmed and refereeed)

One of the things I loved about the golden age of gaming was discovering new ideas and options in each magazine issue. Whether it was The Space Gamer, Dragon, Different Worlds or any of the other gaming mags of yore, each provided a variety of short and interesting potential additions to your game.

Considering the wealth and variety of talent in the blogosphere, I look forward to seeing what sorts of magic bubbles up in each issue. Once HOW releases I'll put up a Cauldron contribution email address if you want to add your own wing of bat to the Cauldron's brew.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


As I continue to work on a final version of my TFT inspired game Heroes & Otherworlds, I thought it would be worthwhile to breakdown Melee.  This little wargame  is the genesis point for the madness I find myself working on.

I think that it is important to note the Melee/Wizard/TFT system, like Chainmail/OD&D, spring from the wargaming roots of the hobby. Melee itslef is a wargame which can be used to adjudicate combat in RPG's--but it does not (beyond including fantasy creature archetypes) present itself as an RPG. Melee never discuses creating characters nor adventuring, only creating figures and combat.

Figure Creation
Instead of the D&D way of randomly generating 6 attributes, Melee builds figures of 2 attributes using points the player can add to a base of 8.  Your 2 attributes (Strength/Dexterity) determine weapons your figure can use, how much damage it can take and how likely it is to hit someone in combat. All combat, damage and other uncertainties are resolved using six sided dice.

Armor does not make you harder to hit. Instead the heavier the armor, the slower you move and the harder it is for you to hit others! The benefit of armor is that it absorbs damage taken. So lightly armored characters move faster and act sooner...but heavier armored figures are harder to kill.  It is a unique give and take system and quite different from the D&D combat model.

Combat Details
As a wargame, Melee delves into combat details and modifiers for engaged vs disengaged figures, dodging and defending, figure facings, (rear flank, etc.) creature sizes as represented by counters.

Map and Counters
To play Melee (and Wizard or TFT) a map and counters were required.  All Metagaming adventures (except Tolenkar's Lair) came with map and counters. The TFT system required use of Melee/Wizard. The hex map and counter use goes back to the wargaming roots of the system.  It is interesting to note that as D&D moved away from its wargaming roots, Melee/Wizard/TFT retained its wargame roots.

Why it worked
It was SIMPLE: simple to explain, simple to make a figure, simple to adjudicate, and simple to play. My hope is the foll HOW RPG will retain this simple logical elements while straying towards RPG use rather than further codifying a fantasy wargame experience.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Werk of Heretics

Sometimes the awesome that is others astounds and continues to surprise me.  In this case, it has to do with the new content coming from Hereticwerks!

They just posted today a great FREE adventure for my little sci-fi game Rogue Space.  The skill, imagination and design of the adventure is exactly the sort of ideas that I hoped for when people play Rogue Space.  Better yet? The adventure is actually a prelude to the full sector they developed for Rogue Space: LITHUS!

If you aren't following Hereticwerks and their many projects (OSR & otherwise), your are missing out on some of the most creative ideas and inspiring werk on the web.