NOT EQUAL to Stuff You Don’t Know

I have been busy doing other things. All Rolled Up has consumed 105% of my existence over the last several weeks. I probably didn’t realise how much time publicity and social media can require if you want to get something “out there”. I’m sure it’s something I can get better at over time. I may add another skill-string to my expertise-bow, so to speak.

In the meantime, Just Crunch has taken a hiatus that I had not intended. I look up at the calendar and see August – and recall that the last time I wrote much of anything must have been March. That’s almost half a year without writing more than a few paragraphs of copy. I may have been creative during that time period, but it isn’t that sort of creative.

However, I have to step slightly outside my comfort zone and attempt to do things I have done before. On the other hand, I also need to jump back into my comfort zone occasionally to do the things I’m good at already. If I want to get back into writing again over the next few days or weeks, I need to settle back into that comfort zone – and write about stuff I know.

In this respect, I’ve set myself the challenge of finding something to write a game about. Or, at minimum, a setting based on stuff that I know about using something Open Source.

Open Source – the grail for my ailing mind to get a grasp on. I love the Old School movement going on in the gaming market, but I feel a little left behind because I have never been a big player of the D&D system, whatever the iteration. I have the same problem with the New School of gaming that has taken the D&D system and streamlined it – the 13th Age thing, for example. I like the look of it and I can feel a whole of enthusiasm radiating off the back of it, but I have a hurdle to leap in not having any real love for the source material. I can sort of grasp the basics of old style D&D, but the new world of Feats and stuff… that has the tendency to leave me cold. I read that 13th Age has done it different or done it better, but if you hate celery then someone offering celery done better doesn’t necessarily give a more palatable prospect.

I understand that using a game system that exists already, with an Open Source agreement that gives certain amounts of freedom to use and re-use, means that I can concentrate on a setting and the good stuff that comes with it. However, if I can find a system that I grok to the point where it becomes second nature to write about it, to shape and flex it, then that doesn’t actually help much at all. Yes, using something Open Source opens up a ready market with people who already use the system and might take the material I write to use with their own campaigns; but if it comes across in the writing that I don’t really grasp the system at all, then I’m quickly going to lose that interest…

I have written generic content – like The Blessing of St Agnes and Stench of the Sea - precisely because I want to appeal to the widest possible audience. However, that very presence of generic content seems to make for a less accessible supplement for those wanting to run something with minimal effort. This seems to me another solid argument for embracing the Open Source. By taking a system that people already love and forming my material around that core, I present something immediately useful.

In the end, I have to make some sort of decision on this before pushing ahead with the writing, because the shape of the system might inform the writing that I need to do. Not point painting a portrait if I haven’t decided the shape of the canvas before I get started.

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Pay What You Want – by the Sea

Stench of the Sea coverI enjoy writing stuff. I wouldn’t spend time creating the games and supplements that I do if I didn’t get a kick out of doing it. Therefore – you can now get Stench of the Sea on Pay What You Want. If you want to know why, read on – or go grab a copy and then come back.

At the same time, I buy stuff to play with care and attention to my pocket. I read reviews, consider the options, balance the possibilities, and I only pay what I can afford for the stuff if I have the option. That often means that I will hang around eBay for a few weeks, or months, waiting for a second-hand copy to come up rather than buying something brand new. Equally, I will consider Amazon Marketplace or picking up a PDF instead of a hard copy. I have no qualms about reading of the computer or even a smartphone.

In the end, I have a trimmed down library of games that I have purchased because reckon they fit me or suit my immediate needs. I can understand the principle there that many people hold back from purchases because they’re not sure. When you see a product for even a few pounds (dollars, euros, etc.) you might opt for the Wish List rather than the Shopping Cart because you don’t have any reviews to go on. You need someone else to take the plunge before you, and then you need them to write a review.

I don’t know what stats around review writing are, but I’m guessing you don’t get a 1:1 ratio on sales and reviews. I guess you probably get a 10:1 or 20:1 ratio on sales to reviews at best. I have found that wringing out reviews can take a lot of patience indeed, and much personal plugging to get attention. I have actually taken part in the Iron Reviewer Challenge on RPG Geek this year precisely because I want people to have reviews to read. If a bunch of mad people (myself included) pumping out solid reviews every week can make a difference and offer a greater wealth of review material to reference – all the better. I’m willing to make that sacrifice for the needs of the many.

Anyway, where was I going with this, you might ask… Or you may simply have drifted away already. I write because I enjoy it, but people often don’t buy because they don’t know what they’re paying for.

The solution – allow the potential customer to pay what they want for your product, or at least some of your product.

I write Stench of the Sea for the joy of it, and I put a fair amount of thought and time into creating something with a lot of extra facility and support for the gamemaster. Not only does the supplement contain an adventure, it also contains a mini-dungeon (with a map by Tony Dowler), notes on a coastal village where the characters can base themselves for a while, details of the key personalities, their relationships and goals, maps of local monster lairs, reference cards for key personalities, creatures, and treasures, and a system for generating mines and caverns that involves paper clips, a Sharpie and a bit of minor creativity. All crammed into 72-pages.

I thought it worth writing, and I also think it’s worth buying and playing. I ran it for my local group and they thoroughly enjoyed it (mainly because they mercilessly made fun of me for my vanity in publishing this adventure, but also because they’re cruel that way). In the end they didn’t feel it had enough Steam Dwarves and Cloud Elves in it (actually it has none of either, but they demanded them so I added them into the adventure when I ran it).

Enjoy – Stench of the Sea Pay What You Want on Drive Thru RPG

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Celebratory Flash Sale

Bonanza

I’m casting a Minor Bonanza of Birthday Celebration for my 41st, and discounting all Just Crunch product by 25% for today (until today finishes in a little over a day, if you know what I mean).

You can get copies of Consult Appendix Z No 1 & 2, Stench of the Sea, Below Market Pryce’s, and The Blessing of St Agnes.

Head over to RPGNow to pick up the discounted PDFs: Just Crunch Games

In more general news, it’s now less than 2 weeks until UK Games Expo 2013, in Birmingham. I’ll be there for all three days, running games on Friday and Saturday, and helping out around the Arion stall (Palace Suite, P51) on the Sunday. I’ll have physical editions of Consult Appendix Z No 1 & 2 and The Blessing of St Agnes. Indeed, the Expo copy of The Blessing of St Agnes features extra hand-outs that it simply isn’t possible to include in the PDF edition (as they’re sticky note-like additions that you obviously can’t adhere to a piece of virtual documentation!).

I’ll also be promoting the brand new All Rolled Up game roll and dice bag, which you can find out more about over on Google+ or at the website – AllRolledUp.co.uk. The All Rolled Up (or ARU) offers a one stop accessory for holding all your dice, pens, pencils, beads, tokens, cards, and more besides. Check out the YouTube videos to see me walk through the details.

Hope to see you there.

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Cover Story

Interstellar Travel Events PlusWith thoughts pressing ahead to the end of May and the whole business of UK Games Expo, I have been busy preparing the papery versions of my three main supplements at the moment. Consult Appendix Z, both CAZ No 1 and CAZ No 2, and The Blessing of St Agnes will all be available in physical saddle-stapled format, with glossy covers.

In the case of St Agnes, the book has a weathered green leather cover-look. I admit that this comes as one of the standards for a basic bit of Lulu self-publishing, but to my mind it fits the adventure setting for some reason.

The second Consult Appendix Z volume, Another Bug Hunt, already has a great cover image from Nicholas Cloister’s Monsters By Email. Nicholas does some truly incredible work and you can subscribe to his Monsters scheme that makes some of the images you receive available for personal usage and others available for wider distribution, like this one.

The first Consult Appendix Z volume, Interstellar Travel Events, felt a little bit like a poor cousin. I used a public domain image from a classic science fiction magazine, black and white, but just what I wanted. I can’t claim to have corrected the balance significantly, but I have engaged in some basic colour retouching to make the picture less monochrome.  I have gone for a bit of a nebula thing and add hints of colour to the shadows and drive streams. Like I say, nothing exactly awe-inspiring, but the end result comes across as slightly less intense than the original.

I now have a box of these print goodies ready to roll – and I hope to drum up some custom at the event and retain the rest for customers keen to acquire physical copies later. Indeed, if you want any of these now – get in touch with me and we can sort something out in terms of cost, postage and so forth.

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Morphs and Blessings

Blessing of St Agnes adventure with extra bitsI have been tinkering with the idea of creating geomorph dungeon cards to a design that would allow you to use them when running a game of The Blessing of St Agnes. Once you’ve finished using them for the game, you can carry on using them as a random method of creating other dungeons and structures, but the core of the set would support laying out a map for the players as a point of reference to the adventure.

I like the whole (mildly therapeutic) process of creating the geomorph cards. I used a blank playing card stock for the geomorphs and draw on them directly with a Rotring Tikki Graphic 0.4 and a medium Staedtler whiteboard marker. The therapy comes from adding all the hashing that surrounds each element of the map. You add several of them in one direction, then turn the angle of the card and apply more, then turn and again. Eventually, you just start to fill in the gaps inbetween.

I have also been working on some additional content for the UK Games Expo edition of the Blessing adventure. You can get the Lulu-printed edition via Amazon at the moment, fulfilled by myself. It might seem odd doing it that way, but it means that I can include the special edition elements in the product that you get sent out to you, while Amazon processes the payments and such. What you get is a one-of-a-kind edition of the adventure, as all the extra bits get cut out and applied by hand. If I can sort out a way of printing the hand-drawn geomorphs on-masse, I will look to offering them as an extra – though I have no clue on the prices of availability. Something for me to consider and work on.

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