Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Two Important Occasions

First of all, my daughter is three today! Three years has gone by very quickly. Three years ago, Mrs R and I were both exhausted. I remember this distinct moment of, "What... None of you are staying to make sure we don't mess this up?" when the last family members went home after coo-ing and ahh-ing over CJ.

I think at some point just after Christmas I'll have managed to hook CJ onto some kind of RPG; we're already making up stories together, and she's interested in board and card games too. Some kind of ten or fifteen minute RPG with some minis or toys, plus simple dice or yes/no questions to resolve things should be doable. I'll report back as and when we do this.

The second occasion is also interesting: today is five years since I sat down to play Apocalypse World with Patrick Stuart MCing and David McGrogan also playing. Apart from two sessions of high school D&D, this was my first game. I picked the Gunlugger class because it seemed right. (I think Dave and Patrick would argue that this first character has been the template for every character I've played since; I think things are a bit more nuanced than that)

That first session really drew me in: I was hooked. And the last five years has gone by quickly. Alas, maintaining a weekly game slot over that time hasn't been possible, but I enjoy playing when I can. I think about and read about games every day, and am still in the slow process of cultivating a daily writing process.

Five years from now, my daughter will be eight, and it'll be ten years since I started playing games. And I'll be forty... Hopefully, somewhere in that time I'll be able to play some good games with her, but also find space to play in a couple of long term games too.

To the future!

Monday, 19 September 2016

(Almost) On Holiday

I'm going on holiday at the end of the week. Long overdue, much deserved, and there'll be very little in the way of rest because my daughter (who turns three tomorrow), and my wife and my wife's parents are all coming too.

Between now and the taxi picking us up on Saturday (ugh, 3:15am!) I'm technically still on the clock in my day job, except that tomorrow we're going out for the day to celebrate CJ's birthday, then Thursday is another relative's birthday, Friday will be packing and panicking. So today and Wednesday for work. Yet here I am posting, of course.

The holiday will give me a chance to advance some game plans (some of which I can allude to, some of which I can't talk about), as there will be some times when my family are siesta-ing, and I'm not one for daysleeping. I'll be plotting and scheming:
  • first, Issue 4 of A Random Encounter is somewhere between a third and halfway through the production process. I can get a rough timeline sorted out while I'm away, but I need to do a follow-up interview. That won't happen until I'm back, and then there's more transcribing, art and so on. New ETA: November.
  • second, Project DANDELION: an idea I've been toying with for a while, and actually, being on holiday is the perfect time to work on this. DANDELION is a kind of prototype, and I have grand dreams but also grounded plans for this. Expect me to share this prototype thing hopefully by the end of October (I can work on this well while away, and then type and layout etc when I get back).
  • third, game prep for playing Night Witches. I floated the idea on G+ a few weeks or so back, and there was enough, "Sounds cool," comments to make me go for it. I've got the pdf on my phone, and I'll have plenty of notepaper, so may as well start jotting stuff down and figuring it all out.
And that's all I can really talk about that.


A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to meet up with David McGrogan, Chris McDowall and Patrick Stuart - coincidentally, the subjects of the first three issues of A Random Encounter! We played a great game of Fiasco using a Warhammer 40K-themed playset (I'm not all that familiar with 40K, but got approving murmurs when I declared that an arch heretic character was a Blood Angel Space Marine); more importantly than that they agreed to the following publicity shot:

"Dammit Dave, open your eyes!"
If anyone's been thinking about getting print copies of any of the issues of A Random Encounter, now's a great time, because in a few days I won't be shipping anything for over a fortnight. If you order by midday on Thursday 22nd then I'll definitely get it in the mail before I go on holiday. If you're happy with pdfs then you can get them from Payhip and DriveThruRPG with no problems.

More on future projects soon. If anyone's played Escape The Undermaze or Thursday Night, the print extra games that come with print copies of issues 2 and 3 of the zine then let me know how they worked for you. Or even if you've just read them and have some feedback, drop me a line.


Friday, 2 September 2016

Games I Want To Play

Up in the top navigation I have a page called "Games I Have Played". I started it back when I first started the blog. I thought it might be a neat way to collect what games I had played. I think I had an idea to do something which was almost like a micro-review; I didn't update it very often, and haven't looked at it for a while. I'm sure there are things that I've missed.

In the last few days though I've been thinking more and more about running a game, partly because I've not played anything regularly for a month or so while noisms Ainu Moshir game is on hiatus. I played in a game that Patrick ran a few weeks back, which was good, but also served to point out to me that I've not got a lot of gaming done this year.

So, in no particular order, here are some games that I've been thinking about playing lately:

Friday, 26 August 2016

A Random Encounter #3

Hurrah! It's here! Issue 3 is now available from the Zines page in print, and there's links to the pdfs as well if that's more your thing.

It took a while to get this issue together, but as with many projects, it just finally fell into place like a weird chain of dominoes. The lead domino was Patrick Stuart, my interviewee for the issue: I interviewed Patrick in April and then again in August after Maze of the Blue Medusa was a big winner at the ENnies. Patrick was awesome, and shared a lot of really rich material for the zine; we explored where his interest in games comes from, how he makes what he makes, his motivations and more. Patrick shared so much that this issue has ended up at 36 pages including covers, instead of the 24 of Issues 1 and 2.

The next domino was getting two great artists onboard: Scrap Princess and Jeremy Duncan. Scrap has produced a great cover that follows the series theme of "show the interviewee having a random encounter in something they've made"; she also created a lot of really great original illustrations based on her collaborations with Patrick. I asked Jeremy to create some art based on my favourite False Machine blog posts - his Kamikaze Librarian and Lanthanum Chromate dwarf are awesome, and the Kamikaze Librarian also graces the back cover of the issue.

Another domino was time: finding time to pull everything together has been a real challenge in the last few months. But hitting crunch time has also shown me that this is what I want to do more and more of. There is a real thrill to making something and putting it out into the world (and also that slightly panicked moment when you pull out the credit card to pay for the print run, and wonder if people will buy it!) - and it's also a bit addictive, because you realise more and more that making stuff is not impossible.

The last domino for Issue 3 was the print extra. I really enjoyed making Escape The Undermaze, a one-page microgame, for Issue 2, and the feedback that I got for it was quite positive. I've made a decision to create a microgame for every issue from now on as a print extra - and I've also fallen in love with the format a little bit too. The microgame for Issue 3 is called Thursday Night, and is another short game with minimal rules but hopefully enough inspiration to drive a tense game of a bad situation.

So: the dominoes have fallen and Issue 3 is here. Please check it out in whatever format you like best. If that's pdf then you can get it from Payhip here and from DriveThruRPG here. And if you like print then order it from here and I'll get it in the post to you as soon as possible.

Thanks for reading this, hope you check out Issue 3 of A Random Encounter, featuring Patrick Stuart!

PS - if you've not got Issues 1 and 2, you can get them from the zines page too!

Friday, 22 July 2016

Odd Oracles

I'm working on two issues of A Random Encounter at the moment, and turning some ideas over in my head. I was transcribing my interview with Patrick Stuart for Issue 4, and we talked a bit about blogging and why he started, and it got me thinking about when I started blogging about games. This blog started on 21st March 2012, but on the same day I posted something on a Tumblr that I used to use, about the very first game that I GMed: In A Wicked Age.

I like In A Wicked Age: the Oracles that produce the inspiration and elements work really well, they produce a rich fantasy world at the table with no prep, and I think that playing it a few times gets you in the flow with the dice mechanics. There's a bit of AP in the post, and I was playing with Patrick and David, so it was a good game. There were also a couple of musings about the Oracle idea itself:
[Patrick] mentioned that there were “Oracle hacks” of the game, and I can understand why this would be quite cool to do. Because the set-up is so fast, straightforward and fun, it’s quite a freeing game to play. ... In my head I’m already imagining urban fantasy possibilities, superhero settings and even - dare I say it - zombie game settings…

We hacked together an Oracle or two and played some Tales From Zero Point, which was an element of a bigger space setting that we created collaboratively. I loved that the Oracle could produce a great game with no preparation. We could turn up and really tune in to make a creative story; and at the same time, I still felt that it was a bit clunky with the mechanics, and as someone running the game I wanted something to help support making NPCs and places - even just little possible story threads for the players to explore (I'm not a railroad fan).

For a little while now I've been turning over mashing an Oracle-setting-generator-thing with the Into The Odd resolution mechanics: a strip-downed game that could get people up and running quickly with no prep. Draw some cards to get character and setting inspiration from an Oracle, and while PCs roll dice to flesh out their characters, the GM can roll some dice or draw cards to flesh out the setting in an organic way. I think it's possible to do this in a reasonably small game, that provides a lot of prompts and support for the GM and the players to come up with the backdrop for a great one-shot every time they play, or which could organically create a sandbox-y story - each session being either an "episode" or just the next steps.

And now that this idea is back in my head again... I guess I have one more thing to add to the to do list... :)

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

An Odd Idea: Mechsuit O.D.D.

On top of working on A Random Encounter I have an on-again/off-again relationship with a hack of Into The Odd set in a semi-hard sci-fi setting at the edge of the solar system. Into The Oort, if it ever gets finished, will have spaceships, zero-gravity derring-do, exploration of ancient human megastructures and centaurs. (really)

Despite having only so many hours in the day and enough creative pursuits already, my brain keeps saying, "Nathan! Hey Nathan, think about this..." I blame Chris McDowall: he wrote a game with a very easily hacked set of mechanics. This post is the latest "odd idea" that I've had... It has some blanks and some spaces which are currently boxed out with [] square brackets because I haven't got that far yet. But I think I will, sooner or later...

Mech suit by flyingdebris

Monday, 11 July 2016

In The Works

The last few months have been difficult. A couple of busy periods with the day job, plus family medical drama put RPG and zine stuff on the back burner. Even writing this post was delayed. I sat down to do this last night, and then my daughter, who had been a little out of sorts all day threw up. I spent most of last night asleep on her bedroom floor, and most of today wandering around in a semi-zombie state.

Difficult is relative, in reality, I'm a very fortunate guy. Among many things I've been using to buoy myself up recently has been Neil Gaiman's instruction to "make good art" - come what may, just get on with it. Listening to a couple of guests on the Tim Ferriss Show podcast has helped too, particularly Seth Godin and Kevin Kelly. Onwards and upwards, and all that.

In the next few months then, here's what you can expect from me (with some indication as to where they are in terms of completion):
  • A Random Encounter Issue 3 - Vandel J. Arden
    • Main interview done, transcribed and first editing pass done. Follow-up questions thought through and sent out. Cover commissioned. Print bonus in the works. Interior art in the works. ETA: end-July/start-of-August.
  • A Random Encounter Issue 4 - Patrick Stuart
    • Main interview done, will start transcription this week. A couple of follow-up questions identified. Cover commissioned, along with interior art. Print bonus is a mystery at the moment but a couple of ideas are tickling my brain. ETA: end-August/start-of-September.
  • Fort [working title]
    • It's coming up on the one year anniversary of Oddpool, and I had a couple of pages of follow-up ideas for the areas around that haunted and cursed place. Fort will be a Pocketmod-sized supplement about the area to the west of the river, a hold-out of civilisation and a strange place. People who think they're normal, living between a dead city and miles of marshland, but who are a bit... odd. (may or may not be inspired by the geography and locales of my hometown and surroundings) ETA: September/October.
My home office is starting to look like a small self-publishing outfit - which, I guess is kind of what it's becoming. As well as two issues of A Random Encounter, a re-print of Oddpool and two more issues of the zine on the way soon, I have the print runs of two other things that I've done in the last few months. These are for my dayjob, but couldn't have happened without my experiences of self-publishing RPG things.
As Issue 3 moves closer to completion I'll be announcing subscriptions - which will work out at the same cost as individual issues, but I'll throw in pdf copies as well for instant gratification - I have candidates for Issues 5 and 6 who have been tapped and given positive responses. So subscriptions to begin with will be for up to the end of this year/Issue 6. I have a big list of names for 2017, but if people are happy to support subscriptions I want to make sure I can deliver the goods.

I'll be posting RPG ideas more in the coming days as my brain needs space to vent while I get on with transcribing audio, editing three podcasts for my day job and working on admin and emails. I need to find creative outlets! I think I'll be offering a game or two for AntiGenCon this year, so just working through some ideas for that too... Currently a game of Maze Rats is winning out, but I might also run Escape The Undermaze too.

Want to know more about anything here? Comment below or email me! Thanks for reading, N.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Zine Subscriptions Are Coming

Issue 3 of A Random Encounter is coming along slowly but surely. It's taking longer than the previous issues. Last week I finished one work project and started another the very next day; I've gone from a mentally challenging project to a mentally taxing project. I'm planning then re-planning, spinning ideas around and then seeing what comes back. I'm advertising, sharing and getting out of my comfort zone.

Which hasn't left a lot of time for transcribing, I'm afraid, but it is moving forward, and as it does I'll start the layout process, breaking up the pages and so on. Each issue gets easier and harder to do – easier because I know how it's supposed to look and I'm used to doing certain tasks or looking for certain features; harder because my standards are getting higher with each issue, I want each issue to be even better than the last.

I'll be setting up subscriptions sometime soon though, as this is something that people have been asking about since Issue 1. My plan is to offer subscriptions through to Issue 6, which, all being well, is going to come out in early December. Issues 3 and 4 are in production, with interviews recorded and artists in the loop. I've just reached out to creators to interview for Issues 5 and 6, and gotten positive responses from both.

My plan for subscriptions is that they'll be print and pdf bundles effectively:
  • On release day, subscribers will get the pdf sent out to them before it's live on Payhip or DriveThruRPG and print copies in the post before anyone else.
  • There will be two subscriber plans for 2016, essentially offering Issues 1-6 (for anyone who has not got the first two issues) and Issues 3-6 (for anyone who has), all with UK, EU and World shipping options built in.
Subscribers will be helping to lay the financial foundations for the rest of this year's production: I want them to get the best deal that I can offer. Shipping from the UK is not cheap and eats a huge portion of the print cost, but I still think it is better than me offering the zine as POD (for now at least).

Throwing this topic over to you, dear reader, for comments. What else do I need to think about in terms of offering a subscription for A Random Encounter? If you do a zine and have offered a subscription before, what have you found to be the interesting/challenging/valuable points about doing so? What are the non-obvious advantages/disadvantages of doing it? Was it worthwhile for you to offer a subscription? Any thoughts/comments will be gratefully received!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A few thoughts on playing

I mentioned in the last post that I had joined the pre-medieval Japan 5e game that noisms is running on a Sunday morning. This is the first campaign that I have played in for a long time – in fact, I'm really struggling to think about how look it must be since I have played in a regular game. A couple of years maybe...

I'm not going to AP about it all, you can go read noisms' wonderful, atmospheric descriptions. My character, Pasekur, a heroic former-NPC ranger who had been helping the party, was pretty lucky – lots of 20s, lots of useful skill checks – until he wasn't. First of all losing his axe on a fumble, then falling victim to a natural 20 from an opponent who clubbed him on the head with a rock, instantly killing him.

Taking over Toitoi, Pasekur's sister, was a little tricky. I'd not rolled up a character in 5e before. Not that this is hard, but it's just different. Over 90% of the games I played or ran in 2015 were either Into The Odd or hacked from it, and I think the others all came with pre-gen characters. While it was simple enough to play 5e, rolling up a character in a system I wasn't au fait with anymore was weird.

All that said, I like my druid – a class I've never played before – and am enjoying playing her. The setting oozes atmosphere. I've no idea how much prep that noisms has done, but the game feels seamless. There are no “loading times” - hang on a minute, erm, yeah, so, hmm – when we ask about something there is a response.

Like when I started playing RPGs in 2011, the more you play the more you want to play. June is a busy month, but I'm hoping to run something in that time... I'm sure I'll post about it here when I do.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Playing Soon: a rambly little update

The last couple of weeks have been frantic and strange. There's some illness in the family unit at the moment (which is thankfully on the way to being treated); work has been frantic as there's been a lot of it on recently but also frantic-state inducing because there is a little less than in previous years; I'm spending spare time when I find it slowly but surely working on Issue 3 of A Random Encounter, and trying to figure out if I have capacity to run a modest little Kickstarter in the summer*...

It's been a busy week! Yesterday, in my work persona, I launched a book that I co-wrote with a friend, and that's been a whirlwind - both to get it from idea to published in under four months, and also to attend to all of the launch day prep and work. And I'm on the cusp of announcing an independent workshop, which is the first time that I'll ever have done something like this and is hugely scary and exciting at the same time (the unknown and the great challenge).

But! All of that is being pushed to one side, because slowly and surely I am playing more games, and this is good.
  • A few weeks back I ran a game at OSR Day Manchester, and played another one.
  • I've played in the two most recent sessions of noisms' Old Japan 5e game, which has been a lot of fun (even if my ranger got killed by a bird-man wielding a rock).
  • A friend that I play Netrunner with has expressed some interest in playing an RPG soon, and I'm thinking Deep Carbon Observatory using The Black Hack...
  • In interviewing Chris McDowall for A Random Encounter, he expressed an interest in playing Apocalypse World - he's wanted to play it for ages but not had the chance... We're looking at dates now for a short Hangouts campaign.
Anyway, this is just what's going on with me. I have a 100-copy print run of Oddpool waiting to be assembled, and which I might offer as an incentive for people to help me shift some more issues of the zine. I'm definitely going to set up subscriptions for the rest of this year too, as I think I have interviewees in place for Issues 5 and 6 (just got to get confirmations, but it's all really exciting!).

Last thing then I'm going to sign off: I saw this awesome little CYOA zine being shared on G+ and just had to get it. The idea of solo or CYOA stuff has gone around my head from time to time over the last few years (due to the difficulty I have every now and then of making time for games) so this has me excited that this could be a viable little outlet for awesome ideas.

*I might not run the Kickstarter, but I might do a few little microgames and offer them as a print-only bundle... Watch this space.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Projects Update, April 2016

Just after I released Oddpool in September, I wrote a short post about the various projects that were on my to-do list stuck on the wall next to my desk. Following something that I had seen Warren Ellis do in his regular mailing list email, I had decided to give them "cute" or "vague" names, descriptors that might only be tangentially related. Over the last six or so months my priorities and interests have changed, so here's my updated list of names and where I am now:
  • Project STUDIO3: this is Issue 3 of A Random Encounter, where the focus is Vandel J. Arden. I've interviewed Vandel already, and now that Issue 2 is out, I'm starting the transcription process. This is on track for a mid-June release.
  • Project STUDIO4: Issue 4 of A Random Encounter. I did the interview for this yesterday, and I'm aiming for mid-August for this one.
  • Project OORT: I'm working on Into The Oort slow and steady; I didn't have the time or focus until recently to put the hours into this, but I'm getting there. It's taking longer than I thought, but it's coming...
  • Project ESCAPE2: this will be the updated version of the print extra that came with Issue 2 of A Random Encounter. It's a little A5 micro-game. I had a lot of fun playing it recently, and I've heard from others who are going to give it a go soon. I think it's pretty good, but as part of another project (TBA) I'm interested in making this as slick and well-presented as possible.
  • Project SHADES: this has morphed from what I had envisaged originally, but I still see this as a near-future, gritty, Cyberpunk-y sort of thing. Expect to see something of this over the coming months.
  • Project JAGD: a recent idea for a one-shot game. It has phases that I'm trying to link together, but is sort-of random, sort-of procedurally generated. Like so many things in life and games, it's about the journey. Expect to see something of this over the coming months.
These are the things in my head at the current time, and I think my wife and I are going to also be working together on the writing for Project SOLO, which I mentioned in the last post. You'll hear more about STUDIO3, STUDIO4 and OORT in due course: out of the others mentioned here, which do you want to hear more about?

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

d100 Ship Names for the Oort Cloud

Out in the Oort Cloud people use spaceships. Sure, you could have a lot of fun playing a game about asteroid mining, or what happens on the last human outpost, but for my money you can have more fun flying between different places and causing trouble looking for interesting things along the way. That means spaceships.

I've posted a work in progress idea before about what ships are going to be like in the game, both game-mechanically and setting-wise, but one thing I've not mentioned is names. I am a massive fan of the late Iain M. Banks. The names of the Culture Ships in his novels are astounding; I love the thought, the humour, the outlandishness and sometimes the way a name can make you go "Huh? Why that?" While the spaceships in Into The Oort are going to be much, much lower down the technology ladder than a Culture GSV, two aspects of their names are things that I want to follow: the ship classes and their names.

I'll follow up in another post about ship classes, but for today I want to share a starting point, d100 spaceship names. If you're playing Into The Oort you're free to do what you want, make some up, come up with a cool setting idea and have them be derived from that. Or you can use some of my names, from the list below the cut. And if you do check them out, scroll down to the end for another thing to expect from Into The Oort.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Reflections: Escape The Undermaze

I said at the end of my last post, an AP of my little game Escape The Undermaze, that I was still reflecting and thinking things through, and I still am to some extent. I set out to make a "Minimum Viable Product" version of Into The Odd, complete rules, setting ideas, encounters and locations, plus the motivation for the adventure but all as small as possible. It fits on a single side of A5 (I created a simple "cover" as well) and clocks in at just over 500 words.

Reflections on running it:
  • It was fun to take inspiration from encounters the party hadn't met yet (and might never meet), and weave them in to the fiction. So, for example, the big bad is an undead scientist who "wants to perform a living autopsy." When the party found a dead body, I was inspired to have this person be a victim of the creature, even though they might not encounter her: the corpse was found with innards on the outside, but surgically removed and neatly arranged.
  • Despite my "complete rules" provocation above, I ended up writing "This game is incomplete, but functional" in the game text, and I stand by that. During play I used luck rolls, changed descriptions of locations and details of encounters simply because they felt appropriate to the unfolding story.
  • For the longest time I've had a mini-manifesto idea in my head about resourceful use of items; the thought came one day when looking at the item list in Lamentations of the Flame Princess at all of the non-encumbering items and thinking, "This is like a dungeoneering problem solving tool-kit!" Which is not an original thought, but never mind. For Escape The Undermaze I made 75% of the equipment non-weapon-y, everything from chalk to rope, beer to bread. It was great to see people using a broken bottle and a stick as an improvised spear, using a flute to calm an animal and soap to create a slippery surface.
  • I organised the game and setting information in a certain way, and think it's fit for purpose, but also think that if when I do a second edition I'll make the page as an image rather than try typesetting in Open Office. There are seven key pieces of GM rules that are set out, and I'm sure they could be both better worded and better laid out.
  • It was a lot of fun to run!
I want to run it again actually. I could possibly be tempted to try and run it over Hangouts in the near future... It's currently only available in print as a bonus to Issue 2 of A Random Encounter, but I'm wondering about making it more widely available in pdf. If you've seen it - as a print purchaser or contributor - what do you think? Is it neat enough to sell as-is in pdf?

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Actual Play: Escape The Undermaze

Yesterday was a Manchester Games Day, and me, Chris, Barry and Nick met up to play some games. I was excited because I had offered to run Escape The Undermaze, my tiny little RPG about thieves trying to find a way out of a labyrinth beneath a dead scientist's house. The game's mechanics are stripped-down from Into The Odd, and everything about the game and setting is on a sheet of A5. I made it as an experiment, was 95% sure it would work, but still hadn't tried it with a group.

The cover side of Escape The Undermaze

The thieves were:
  • Chris, playing as Gizzard, we weren't sure if that was a first or last name;
  • Nick, playing as Trevor Mountjoy, a disgraced officer;
  • Barry, playing as Evans the String, a wily thief capable of Macgyvering out of any situation.
Technically everything below is spoilers of a sort: the sequence of Undermaze locations and encounters are generated from tables and a simple procedure. If you were to play this these would be shuffled around based on what the procedures spit out; plus you as player or GM would be inspired to use the ideas differently. I guess I'm saying, this AP has details that are both unique to this game and potentially common to any game of Escape The Undermaze. Sort-of spoilers below the cut!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Getting Physical

On A Gaming Podcast About Nothing, that podcast that Dave and I will return to at some point, I've often been criticised for being an RPG hoarder. In the past I've downloaded every free pdf that someone has offered, tried to support every game that has flagged my attention and tuned in to every little one-page thing that looks interesting. I've slowed down on that, partly through a realisation that I was reading so little of the stuff that I'd bought or found - and using even less - partly through a lack of time and money to buy things, but also partly after some honest reflection: I just prefer to read and use RPG stuff in a physical medium.

As an aspiring publisher, I see the other side of that now as well. I think this was crystallised in my mind recently when chatting to Chris McDowall for A Random Encounter:
How has the last year or so been?
...It was just incredible to have that feeling of, “There's this many people that want to pay money to have your product on their shelf.” I'd given away these other free games and they'd probably had hundreds of downloads. But I know that when I go on RPGNow and download a free pdf, 80 or 90% of the time I never get around to opening that pdf, and the vast majority of the time I never get around to using it. The fact that someone has paid for Into The Odd at least makes me hope that it's being used.

If I make something, free or paid, I want people to read it, use it. From the limited anecdotal research I've done, thinking about myself, talking to others, I've come to conclude like Chris that the main way to get people reading something, playing a game or whatever is to get it in print. Physical products are simply more likely to be used.

Following my train of thought from yesterday, since I don't need anyone's permission to make something or to publish, then I have no excuse other than any I conjure up for myself (I don't have time, people might not like it, how will I get it done? etc). I asked some questions at the end of yesterday's post too:
  • Which project do I think will be the most fun?
  • Which project do I think has the most potential for me to learn something?
And for now at least, when it comes to the small project that I want to work on in-between the regular, ongoing project of A Random Encounter and the longer-term project of Into The Oort, my answers are:
  • One where I'm doing something small and different, which can be made physical easily;
  • One where I force myself to do something new, to practise a new skill or develop an existing one.
The second point sounds a little obvious, so I think I need to work on fleshing that thought out. In my day job I'm always encouraging people to "Plan -> Do -> Reflect -> Review" so it's about time I did some of that too. As I follow my playing around with ideas, I hope some time soon to have something to show for them, even at a rough stage. Anyone want to see what I'm working on when I have something to share?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Pick Yourself and Pick The Project

I've been watching and listening to a number of talks to help motivate me lately. In particular, I seem to have gravitated towards Seth Godin; I read a number of his books a few years ago, with Poke The Box being a firm favourite, and I get his blog posts in my email every day. I listened to his two hour interview on the Tim Ferriss Show recently, which sparked my attention to go and look for more things of him talking.

A couple of favourites that I found on YouTube and listened to while doing the dishes of an evening include this one and this one - both worth a listen, whether or not you're doing the dishes at the same time. Somewhere in and amongst all of these recent things, two points have popped into my head and won't go away. I'm not sure where I encountered these insights in my listening and reading (I re-read Poke The Box recently too), but know that they came from Seth.

The first thought is about picking yourself: whether you have a boss or not, whatever your profession or job, stop waiting for someone to choose you. Despite being self-employed for years, this has been a hard thing for me at times. Waiting until you hear from someone in order to approach them for work. Waiting until you get this or that and henceforth have the right conditions (they'll never be perfect). Recently I've really accepted this, I've chosen myself to do interesting work - both in my day job, and in this little (for now!) RPG business that I'm running.

The second thought is one that I'm still struggling with, or rather a consequence of the second thought that I got from listening to these talks/books. I think in Poke The Box, Seth Godin raises this idea: "if you want to get better at juggling you have to throw more balls." I.e., if you want to do good work you have to start more projects, you have to start things and work on them and see what happens. You can't umm and ahh over whether or not the idea is the best it could be, you can't wait until you have enough money or no risk or the perfect team or the best circumstances. You have to take an idea when it comes your way and start the project that leads to a new something being in the world.

And I get that: I really do. I don't have any resistance to that concept.

I just don't know which project to pick! Hashtag first world problem, I have so many ideas, what can I do - what a goddamn hack! But this is what has been hanging me up at the moment. A Random Encounter is fine, Issue 3 is underway now that Issue 2 is out and available to buy (hint hint), and I'm probably going to interview for Issue 4 next week. Into The Oort is ticking along in the background, I add about a page a week to my document and make notes on how to resolve some of the mechanical issues with it.

But my brain is telling me that there is something else that I need to do. A small project to break things up. And I have a concept. My brain is jumping up and down and SCREAMING at me that, like a zine which is just an interview with one person, there is something else that I've thought of that is interesting and which I am sure would be interesting to lots of people in the RPG community. I have my concept and I have a couple of variations on the theme that have evolved from that core concept: but how do I pick? I just don't know.

Do I pick the thing that could be done in the least amount of time?
Do I pick the thing that involves fewest collaborators, so there aren't other contributions to keep track of on the production side of things?
Do I pick the thing that would be lowest risk?
Do I pick the thing that I think will be most attractive to others' tastes?

None of these seem like the right approach to finding an answer... So far, where I am, the two questions that have lead me to the small project I'm currently pursuing are:
  • Which project do I think will be the most fun?
  • Which project do I think has the most potential for me to learn something?
These are the questions which are helping me. YMMV, of course. What are the questions that you ask yourself when you're trying to decide between projects?

Monday, 18 April 2016

A Random Encounter Issue 2 is out!

I've been a bit buried under work lately, trying to get this and that done, so haven't been making time to blog. I surface every now and then on G+ to try and hype A Random Encounter in a non-spammy way, and this is my hopefully non-spammy blog post shout-out now that Issue 2 is finally finished!

I say finally, but actually it turned around pretty quickly, around six weeks since the last one came out. Issue 1 is still available in print too, but the rest of this post is all about Issue 2, where I interview Chris McDowall, creator of Into The Odd. Just as with talking to Dave McGrogan for Issue 1, it was really interesting to hear about how and when RPGs hooked Chris, and also to chat for a good long while about how he makes games and how he approaches design choices. I'm still learning how to interview really - I've been interviewing people on a podcast that I do for nearly four years, but this is a different sort of challenge.

What I liked about talking to Chris was his commitment: this is something that I'm finding I can only really articulate now that I've got the issue finished and it's out. In reflecting on putting it together, editing down and organising information, one thing that really stands out is how committed Chris is. He frequently talks about doing things well; Into The Odd was a project that evolved over years; he has a clear aesthetic idea in mind for constructing his game and the supplement that's going to follow it this year. Maybe commitment is not the right word actually, maybe the word is vision: Chris changes his mind about stuff (as he says in the issue), but he's got something in his mind about his games that is like magnetic north, something he's working towards.

And I'm not just praising him because he did the second issue of my zine! Jonny Gray made a great colour cover showing Chris on the streets of Bastion. The issue also features great art pieces by Kathryn Jenkins and Anxious P. inspired by the setting of Into The Odd. Check it all out on the zines page.

Coming Soon! Posts about something other than A Random Encounter! Posts about Into The Oort! Hints about a thing I think I'm going to do this summer (hint: rhymes with stick-parter!)! And probably the odd post about A Random Encounter, because I can't help myself...

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A Mote In The Oort Cloud

Issue 2 of A Random Encounter is almost ready, but that's not what I want to talk about today!

What do I want to talk about? I suppose the clearest way to put it is words, words and terms. I'm picking up the threads of Into The Oort to take it further, hopefully towards a playtest bundle that people can try in the next month or so. In my day job, one of the workshops I deliver has a bit about the words that people use, how using certain words influences how people think about the topic at hand. The session is about exam preparation, and very often people frame discussion of the exam as "surviving" it - which reinforces negative associations with the event.

One of the last posts that I wrote about Into The Oort was on hexes and distances. When you run the calculations, the region of space that Into The Oort takes place in has around 500 billion hexes, each of which is a vast volume that could comfortably fit the inner solar system in it. Don't worry: Into The Oort is not going to come with a 500 billion hex campaign document! Despite the incredible size of things, these hexes are themselves tiny compared to the total volume of the Oort Cloud...

A word that I've had in mind for a while is the word mote, and as Google helpfully points out this means "a tiny piece of substance; a speck". That's what a hex in the Oort Cloud is, it's a speck, a tiny thing in the vast cosmic perspective.

While I expect that players and GMs will refer to them as hexes, and while I will have hex-shaped divisions on maps in the playtest and in the book, my thought for now is that I will refer to them as motes throughout the book. Because that's what the people living in the Oort Cloud call them, a permanent reminder that they are utterly tiny against the backdrop of the universe.

This isn't the only example I have in mind, but it is the one that I'm closest to a decision on. Aside from posts about A Random Encounter in the near future, I'll try and make some of my thoughts about Into The Oort more concrete by posting them here. If you've got any questions about it then drop me a line and I'll see if I can answer them!

Friday, 4 March 2016

GMing Soon After A Long Break

The last few days have been pretty exciting, what with properly launching A Random Encounter, and at the same time I've been blitz-reading my way through a couple of books on start-ups and entrepreneurship - don't worry, I'm not about to enter this manic phase of starting lots of new businesses, because I think that way lies madness.

But it has got me thinking quite expansively about possibilities for future projects. I'm happy with how well people have taken to A Random Encounter, and there's a wave of people posting zine selfies that is quite good fun. I'm pleased to say that I have the outline of a plan to get another five issues out this year, all being well.

So now it feels about time to start playing games again, after a bit of a sabbatical. I have a semi-fortnightly games night with a friend that has become quite Android Netrunner focused lately, which is great, and something that I'll probably picking up a starter set of soon. But my friend's also an RPG fan, albeit I don't think he's played for a couple of years. So some time in the next few weeks we'll be leaving Hopesend Port, heading off across the wastes and exploring the Iron Coral for a game of Into The Odd...

It'll be my first game of 2016 and, I think, the first game I've run in over six months. Yikes. Following on from noisms' thoughts on imagination exercises, I'm wondering if there is a similar but more specific set of GMing exercises that people can do to build up their GMing ability. What do you think?

What can I do to get the old engine fired up again?

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Finally! A Random Encounter #1 is out!

I am very happy to announce that A Random Encounter #1 is here! Check it out:

Not pictured: insanely big box of envelopes for future distribution needs.
The pre-orders are now winging their way around the world, and I'm getting envelopes prepped for the rest of the print run. I've ordered plenty of copies - I think - but am happy to be proved wrong by everyone ordering them all.

Issue 1 features an interview with David McGrogan of Monsters and Manuals and Yoon-Suin fame; we talk about when he got interested in games, how he likes to play, how he makes things and more. He told me about the origins and development of Yoon-Suin, and his plans for the future with his forthcoming zine The Peridot. I feel incredibly lucky that Matthew Adams was available to do the cover for this issue, and the rest of the issue features more art by Matt, a piece by Kelvin Green and some tweaked photo art by me.

Click through to the Zines page to order your print copy now, and you can find details of the pdf edition too:
I'm so glad that the print copies have finally come in, especially after the disappointment of last week with the whole print run being messed up. This afternoon, getting the print run from the UPS guy, checking it over, packing envelopes - it's all been a huge thrill. Thanks to all of the pre-order folks who have helped me offset this investment, and who have been so understanding when the week's delay happened. You're awesome.

Tomorrow I get back to work on transcribing issue 2 - who am I interviewing? You'll have to buy issue 1 and check the last page!

The woman at the Post Office smiled nervously when I said, "See you soon!"

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

The Folder

I have a bookshelf of RPG books at home which isn't even half-full. After nearly five years of play I have a handful of systems in paperback or hardback, and a couple of others that I've printed from pdfs. It's a tiny amount of games really, especially when I see the backdrop of some pictures or YouTube videos on things like Indie+.

I also have The Folder, which has tipped past the 2.5GB mark but thankfully shows some signs of slowing down. When I had a little more disposable income I was omnivorous when it came to RPGs. Something old school? Buy it. A free little homebrew game that sounds a bit silly? Try it. A weird game that I love the sound of but will never convince anyone else to play ever? I must have it.

It struck me a little while back that it might be interesting for me to actually work through The Folder, see what I have there, see what I actually want to play and what I don't. At the moment it's not terribly well organised. I can look through at a glance and see the names of everything, but have no idea what some of it really is any more. There are some Bundles Of Holding that I got on the strength of one or two games, and I don't know what the rest is.

(and of course there are some games that I really, really love, and haven't had the chance to play in a long time... But I'm working on it)

So: my plan is to spend just a little time each week working through everything and setting up some sub-Folders: Love, Want To Play, Probably Not - and probably set up some categories within that, Big Games, Small Games, Supplements. I'm tempted to even organise that as a grid of folders, like Love-Big Games, Probably Not-Supplements and so on.

This could also be a big procrastination effort to thwart the part of my brain working on hacking a game... But who doesn't love projects...? And maybe I can find some gems in The Folder while I'm organising. I'll share some as I'm working on it.

(prompted by once again looking at GHOST/ECHO and thinking, daaaaaaamn that's good...)

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.

Friday, 22 January 2016

2016: The Year I Start Self-Publishing

2015, another year, another promise to blog and create more unfulfilled - or was it? I didn't blog as much as 2014, but I played more games than the previous year though, and one game in particular - playing a new game/setting by noisms in August - inspired me to make Oddpool.

It was around this time that I started thinking about making a zine. I had an idea in particular, which was wanting to explore the motivations of RPG creators. The original inspiration was the TV show Inside The Actor's Studio; I love the depth that the host James Lipton goes into, the way he unpicks the why of his guests. I wanted to see why people make games, what they get from them, what they like about them - and as someone who wants to make games too, perhaps learn something along the way.

So in 2016 I'll publish my zine, A Random Encounter, where each issue is a single interview with an RPG creator. I've recorded the interviews for the first two issues, and issue 1 is coming together now. I've commissioned a cover from a terrific artist for the issue, and am looking around for someone to work on issue 2.

Issue 1 will be out by the end of February, and I'm aiming to be bi-monthly-ish. The first issue's interviewee will be announced soon. And I'm going to start thinking and prepping for issues 3 and 4 next month too.

Oh! And in 2016 I hope to have Into The Oort out in some form or other. I need to make it more of a priority in the next few months, pulling a playtest package together is the first order of business.

Who knows, maybe I'll find time to blog a little more too...