Monday, 29 February 2016

Oddpool OOP

Following a flurry of activity around Christmas-time it was only a matter of when, not if, I would sell the last copy of Oddpool from my tiny print run. One of the pre-order people for A Random Encounter picked it up the other day and so now all of the Oddpools that I made are gone!

Come to think of it, I don't even have a copy...

As I've said a few times before, Oddpool started as a little gag gift to give to some friends at a games night (Patrick, David and Chris, who were all by that point successfully published in the indie RPG-o-sphere). After their encouragement, it didn't take long for me to see that this was my way to start taking RPG projects forward. And once you start making things, and you realise that you can make them, you realise that the only thing stopping you from making more things is yourself.

(this even extends to blogposts; until recently I would have told you, "Oh, I don't have as much time, oh this is happening, that is happening," but really I'm the only thing in the way)

Anyway, Oddpool is out-of-print, for now at least. I have a couple of ideas for a few other small micro-zines, so I might see how they pan out over the next few months and maybe do a couple of print runs, then offer them all up as a kind of micro-zine pick and mix? That's my current plan anyway.

For now, there are still the Payhip and DriveThruRPG options for getting pdfs, both of which include pdfs for printing Pocketmods and a mobile phone screen friendly version.

Oddpool - go on, you know you want to...

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Best Laid Plans

The first issue of A Random Encounter should have been in the mail already. I had to go away for work on Thursday and Friday, but had fully expected that when I placed the order for the print run I would be able to dispatch the pre-orders on Saturday morning. And then...

The print run was printed incorrectly, on two counts; first, 98% of the copies had their interiors assembled incorrectly. The pages had all been printed well, but then had been folded the wrong way when they had been stapled in. Meaning that the first page of the zine was in the middle. Not only that, but - in some ways, even worse - the covers had been printed too dark. I hadn't noticed this at first as I was so overwhelmed by the interiors (nearly) all being wrong, but the covers for the print run have come out a lot darker, as if too much black ink has been used. It really overwhelms a lot of the detail that Matthew Adams has put into the image.
Issue 1 on the left, prototype on the right.
It really stands out on the creature, far less detail on the print run, like it has been swamped out by heavier dark lines. Likewise the city in the distance is barely visible in the copy on the left. The only thing that has changed between the two images is Matt adding the title and issue number, the difference is in the printing.

Sigh. Anyway. The printers know about this, I talked with them about it on Thursday, and have been able to send them a full email about it detailing what has gone wrong with the order. They've got that in their inbox and have told me that if they had the complaint in full by 10:30am Monday they would dispatch a corrected print run the same day.

What does that mean? Well, fingers crossed, it will arrive some time on Tuesday and then the pre-orders will be in the mail Wednesday at the latest. Whenever they arrive I'll take them off pre-order, and put the pdf for sale on Payhip and DriveThru. Which means that if you want a print copy and a pdf copy thrown in, now is the time to pre-order!

Thanks again to everyone who has already pre-ordered, you're total stars. For your patience I've sent the pdf copy through already, but if you've pre-ordered and not received this email then get in touch and I'll send it again.

Official launch post coming in the next few days!

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Retroclone Title Inspirer

I'm not complaining when I say that I have 101 things on my brain at the moment. The day job is keeping me busy, fatherhood is awesome, there's always a two minute DIY job around the house that takes an hour and I'm bouncing off the walls happy about starting out as a zine publisher.

I did NaNoWriMo years ago now and they had a line as part of their advertising pitch that busy people were perfect for doing NaNo. Busy people have ways to cope with being busy most of the time: they manage everything, keep plates spinning and friends, family and customers smiling.

That sentiment is something that I've come to appreciate more and more. As I said on a G+ post yesterday, even if you enjoy your work, it's still work, it still takes effort and so on, but you do at least enjoy it. And that's cool too.

All of that aside, I am very busy, so why the heck am I thinking about writing my own simple OSR/D&Dish system? Come on brain, give me a break!!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Into The Labyrinth

On Saturday afternoon, whilst thinking about publishing and work and other things, my wife was baking a carrot cake and so I was looking after our almost-two-and-a-half year old daughter, CJ. CJ is old enough now, and has been for a while, to watch a movie. After a morning of running around and building Duplo megastructures, it felt OK to sit down for a few hours and watch something.

CJ loves a handful of Disney and Pixar movies, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (aka, "The Food Movie") and also Tintin, but we're trying to broaden her movie repertoire. Labyrinth has been on my mind a lot for the last month or so. And it's not that scary for young kids, right?

As it turns out, no, it's not; it's far more scary for thirty-something fathers who have seen it a dozen times or more in their life, and who have read a couple of academic papers about the movie and the symbolism therein. CJ was fine and kept up with her usual movie commentary:
  • "Who's that?" "Sarah." "Sir-rahh." "Very good, love." "What's Sarah doing?"
  • "An owl! ... Where baby gone?" "The goblins...are hiding him..."
  • "Who's that?" "(lump in throat) The Goblin King." "What Goblin King doing?"
And that was just the first ten minutes. It's a joy watching a movie with CJ, because she's at the age where she wants to know everything. And once she gets past the first half hour and has a handle on who and what things are she just settles down and watches. So past when Sarah meets up with Ludo, I could stop my commentary for the most part as well.

Watching the movie then, thinking about Labyrinth, games and blogposts I've read recently, the following setting started to jumble together...

Into The Labyrinth
How did you get here? You're not quite sure. The walls stretch forever in either direction, and remind you of childhood, of singing and dancing and hair, big hair. But now there is silence. A whisper of wings fluttering nearby, an empty pond and a stone door fallen on the floor. An entrance. And still silence. There seems no way around, and away in the distance, at the centre of the walls and paths is a city, and beyond that a castle. It doesn't look that far...

...but it's further than you think.

Concept: start with a base of Into The Odd, simple mechanics and chargen, maybe a slightly tweaked starter package table. No Arcana. The Labyrinth is procedurally generated as the PCs explore, and strongly flavoured by the movie - but set some time afterwards. Factions of goblins. Features from the movie, but now decayed or time-worn by what seems like millenia. The Labyrinth itself is one giant trap, and can only be escaped at the centre.

Goblin groups, traps, travelling back from a hex to a previously visited location doesn't necessarily lead you back. Have hexes and locations be about features and flavour, people and monsters rather than describing a series of left and right turns. From the outside the Labyrinth is near infinite, inside it takes about thirteen hours, moving at a hex per hour, to get to the centre. But time runs weird in there.

If anyone mentions the late Goblin King in the presence of goblins they will stop whatever they do to shout, "Long live the King!" The goblins are aware of a ruler in the castle beyond the Goblin City but are not sure who it is. Everywhere is trapped but not every trap is dangerous; everyone you meet is dangerous but not everyone wants to hurt you. Paths lead to adjacent hexes, tunnels lead to nearby hexes, underground tunnels lead far, far away within the Labyrinth.

Any player/character who starts a phrase with "I wish the goblins would..." will most likely find that wish fulfilled in an unexpected way. At the centre of the Labyrinth is a fractured Escher-scape and a broken clock that is on the cusp of chiming thirteen. If it can be made to chime then a party of adventurers would find themselves waking up somewhere familiar "as if it were all a dream" except that they would have any treasure and possessions that they had in the Labyrinth.

So yeah, that's what I was thinking about...

Advert! A Random Encounter #1 out soon!

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Working on a Sunday

Is it work if you love what you're doing? Yes, but at least it's enjoyable.

I've just placed the order for the print run of A Random Encounter #1, my zine - the first issue of the first zine I've ever done, the first time I've ordered a print run - I'm kind of excited. After testing the waters with Oddpool, and figuring out the mechanics of making something - by no means mastering the mechanics at all - I felt quite happy to take the next step and do a 100 copy print run.

A Random Encounter is also going to be available in pdf, but I want the print run to be here before I launch the pdf on Payhip and DriveThruRPG too. I also ordered myself some "sender address" stickers to put on envelopes. It was an annoyance to write my address by hand on 25 envelopes for the Oddpool print edition, so writing 100s of labels this year for A Random Encounter (and maybe some other projects) would have got really annoying really quickly.

"But, Nathan," I hear you ask, "What is A Random Encounter #1 all about?"

I'm glad you asked imaginary reader: it's a zine where I interview RPG creators about the games they play, the things they make and how they try to do both well. That's the one liner pitch I keep refining. You can pre-order issue 1 on the zines page, but here's the description from that page, plus the cover:

Issue 1 of A Random Encounter focuses on David McGrogan, aka noisms, whose blog Monsters and Manuals was the starting point for one of 2015's indie RPG success stories, Yoon-Suin. We talk about how Dave got into games, the origins of Yoon-Suin, his creative process and a lot more. Matthew Adams has produced an amazing colour cover, and the issue features more art by Matt, Kelvin Green and me. 22 interior pages, colour cover and a back page advert for something called Oddpool.

A Random Encounter #1 is available to pre-order now, and I'm expecting to get all pre-orders in the mail on Saturday 27th February (based on when I'm expecting the print run to arrive). It will also be available for £2 in pdf from Payhip and DriveThruRPG then too, and pre-orders will receive a pdf copy of the zine in addition to their print copy.
The interview for issue 2 is recorded and being transcribed now, and I think I have an interviewee for issue 3 too (TBC). I'm aiming to do four or five issues per year, but honestly this is already so much fun I'm wondering how to make time to do more. If you like the look of this, please pre-order a copy, and if you know someone who might like it then tell them too, thanks.

Gameable things coming soon now that my brain is not thinking about how to publish something!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

A Random Encounter, issue 1 - SOON!

In less than 20 days I'll release issue 1 of my zine, A Random Encounter, an interview zine where every issue is a long form interview with an RPG creator. Here's how issue 1 starts:
What was the first game that you GMed or DMed?
That's a really good question... I don't know. I must have DMed D&D first, but I think the first that I can remember is Cyberpunk I must have been playing D&D before that. The first time that I can clearly remember doing it was Cyberpunk

How old were you and what were the circumstances?
No, no, no - it wasn't Cyberpunk! It was Advanced Fighting Fantasy. I was probably 11 or 12, just starting secondary school.

Over twenty years ago.
Yeah, yeah, scarily...

I'm working on layout now, and awaiting the final bits of artwork. Early next week I'm hoping to be sending for a proof copy of the print edition followed by a print edition pre-order later in the week. I'm so excited about this, something I've been planning and working towards since last summer is almost here and finished! (apart from the business of sharing it, selling it, shipping it and all that stuff; the thing itself will be done and that's a good thing)

Oh, and before I forget, in issue 1 the spotlight will be turned on David McGrogan, aka, noisms, creator of Yoon-Suin and the blog Monsters & Manuals - I'm guessing if you're reading this blog you've probably heard of him. But do you know how he prepares to run a campaign? What his process is like as a creator? What games he really wants to play but hasn't had opportunity to yet? What he considers to be a perfect gaming moment? His answers to the questionnaire typically submitted to guests of Inside The Actor's Studio? Do you know??? No, you don't. But read issue 1 of A Random Encounter, coming soon, and you will!

Friday, 5 February 2016

A Tiny Experiment

In the first issue of my forthcoming interview zine, A Random Encounter, I asked my interviewee if they had been given any particular advice about publishing or making games from others. They mentioned a couple of things, but one thing in particular jumped out to me:
It was James Raggi that told me not to just use Payhip but to make sure I used OneBookShelf because you get so many sales that way from people who are looking for something to buy and they just stumble across your product.
This was particularly interesting to me; I knew that my interviewee had released something on Payhip initially for pdf (and Lulu for print-on-demand), but it being on OneBookShelf had passed me by. They went on to say that they now got virtually no pdf sales via Payhip, it was all on OneBookShelf.

Oddpool has been on Payhip since September - and the last print copy is in the drawer just next to me if anyone has a few quid lying in their Paypal back pocket! - and Oddpool is small and niche. I didn't think it was necessarily worth me putting it on OneBookShelf, or if it was even possible for me to do it. But my interviewee's words kept coming back to me, and after I decided that I was going to make sure A Random Encounter was on OneBookShelf it dawned on me that it might be good to put Oddpool up there first, make sure I'd had a test run of checking all of the settings etc.

It was put up on OneBookShelf and approved just over nine days ago. I linked to it once or twice on G+, set it as pay-what-you-want with a suggested minimum of £1 and left it at that. I've mentioned Payhip quite a bit over the last five months, regularly - and hopefully non-annoyingly - reminding people that Oddpool is there. I checked in just now to see what the sales have been like on OneBookShelf up to last night.

Short version: OK, so I'm not a millionaire from a Pocketmod! But here's the comparison:

Payhip - available for five months - 43 PWYW sales, 7 paid, total revenue after fees = approx £5.
OneBookShelf - available for nine days - 89 PWYW sales, 7 paid, total revenue after OBS royalties = $7.05 = approx £4.87.

Small sums of money relatively speaking, and as a guy with a maths background I'm not going to jump up and make wild claims or extrapolate ("Oh my gosh, if I'd just used OBS for the last five months then I'd have earned so many $s!") - but clearly being on OneBookShelf makes a difference, I'm guessing most of all in terms of visibility. People are already there looking for pdfs to put in their basket and can see your title. I'll be interested to see how A Random Encounter fares, and am tempted to run another experiment, advertising the link on G+ for the print direct from me and for the pdf via Payhip, but putting it on OneBookShelf with little fanfare for the first month to see what happens. Worth doing?

Has anyone reading this done any experiments in terms of how they sell or make their work available?

PS - find out what other questions I ask my interviewee in the first issue of A Random Encounter, coming soon!
PPS - find out the identity of my interviewee next week!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Vacant Ritual Assembly and Something Stinks in Stilton

Or: Nathan does quick reviews of two zines to remind you that he has a zine of his own coming out this month...

I think the idea to do something like a zine first came in to my head when I saw Vacant Ritual Assembly, the zine that Clint Krause produces under his Red Moon Medicine Show banner. I've picked up all five of the issues from this volume and loved them all. There's a good amount of playable material in every issue and the latest was no different. Combine that with short interviews with other creators, artwork, news and ideas about Clint's future releases - every issue is a great little package. And it's only $4 in print including postage! Go check it out. (issue 1 is PWYW on DriveThru)
Something Stinks in Stilton arrived through the letterbox yesterday. I've not bought The Undercroft by Daniel Sell before, but I'm going to pick up some of the back issues when I have a little spare cash. Stilton is kind of a special issue, and Oli Palmer's adventure is statted for LotFP, but it wouldn't take much to run in another system. Adventurers are asked to go and investigate mysterious circumstances, which will lead them to a horrific situation in the cheese-making town of Stilton. The adventure and description resonates with the themes and horror in so many of LotFP's official releases. It's creepy and unsettling - as is the cover, in a good way - a feature I particularly loved is the possible timeline of events: nothing binding or railroad-y, just super-useful to the DM. The art supports the text pretty well and it was interesting that the zine was printed full colour throughout: important adventure details are picked out in bold red text. The cover has a real tactile quality with slightly raised print, and it feels special. You can find it here.
For a prospective maker and publisher I haven't read many zines before: what others should I check out?

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Coming Soon: A Random Encounter

A Random Encounter is my interview zine, the first issue of which will be out on or before Monday 29th February. It's currently shaping up to be 24 pages, words by me, art by me and a few others, and available in pdf and print - the former from Payhip and DriveThruRPG, and the latter direct from me.

Which all sounds very clean and clinical... As I've said before, I love Inside The Actor's Studio, and my intention with the zine is to interview people in depth - find out why they love games and why they love making games - I want to get their opinions, hear how they make stuff, why they make the choices they make, see if there are any ideas for making stuff that can be generalised. I'm not expecting that after ten issues I'll have figured out the Eight Things You Must Do To Be Successful In The DIY D&D And Indie RPG Blogoplex! but there may be some pointers that stand out that aren't so obvious from first glance.

Issue 1 has been a long time coming. I started the mental prep work for this over six months ago, and began trying to arrange an interview with my first interviewee then. Scheduling conflicts kept mounting up to the point that that person is now the subject of issue 2 - but I have at last been able to interview them, so that's good.

I've learned quite a bit from trying to pull this one together - OpenOffice may not be the best software to do layout in, perhaps I need some more little illustrations for the interior, what the heck and I going to put on the back cover??? - but these are all good things to think about and get to know. It all helps for the next time, and just the act of working on something makes you think about all of the possible next times that might come about.

Making stuff makes you want to make more stuff.

More notes on A Random Encounter soon, and I have plans for a little series of posts on something else that I've become quite enthusiastic about in the last year too. Check back when you can for details.