Friday, December 21, 2012

The Friday Roundup (122112)

With all else going on today, I almost decided to let this one go. Still, I like to be consistent, so here's this week's Roundup of my daily Picks.

It should be noted that I started out doing utterly random Picks for the first three days, mostly because I was still recovering from being seriously ill with bronchitis and near-pneumonia. However, the last couple of Picks were specifically chosen, and for obvious reasons.

The Moonbugs

The Moonbugs is a role-playing game, suitable for ages 6 & up, set on a far-off planet where ‘There Be Monsters’. You play one of these monsters, and adventure across The Planet of the Moonbugs, and beyond.  The game includes lots of already-created monsters, and there are rules to make monsters of your own, with a few simple characteristics, a power and a bane.
The rules are short but surprisingly detailed, with colourful illustrations, to make them accessible to children. There are simple rules to design robots and vehicles, and there is a starter adventure too. The Planet of the Moonbugs is described, and there are easy rules to make many more planets. The system is designed for children to enjoy, but it teaches real role-playing, and is fun for adults too.
What kind of monster are you?

35 Fantasy Towns and Cities

This PDF gives you 35 different realistic short descriptions of fantasy Towns. Cities and Hamlets you might run into. Includes Burg's Name, Description and Style of Government.

(Sorry, that's all they bothered to put. Still, it looks like a really useful product.)

BARBARIAN: Battle for the Throne

Track #1 - "Destiny Awaits" - 5:13
Track #2 - "Blood for Blood" - 7:08
Bonus Track - "Battle for the Throne" Arrangement - 8:52

The Barbarian has traveled far and suffered much. His final task is now at hand. The great stronghold of the enemy lay on the horizon. It is here The Barbarian must face his greatest foe. May his strength and courage lead him to victory!

WINNER - BEST INDEPENDENT ARTIST OF 2007 (Radio Rivendell Fantasy Awards)

Dronolan's Tower produces medieval fantasy music scored for orchestra and choir, in the grand tradition of epic cinema. Often compared to John Williams and Basil Poledouris, this music has found an audience among lovers of fantasy literature, films, and role-playing games.

Deadlands Noir

New Orleans, 1935. Whoever called this “the Big Easy” sure got that one wrong. Things are tough all over. Honest work is hard to find, and even dishonest jobs are getting scarce. The one thing that’s not in short supply is trouble. From shady thugs to crooked cops to Mafia soldiers, there’s plenty of characters out there looking to give an honest Joe a hard time.

And that’s not the worst of it.

There are stories going round about things that go bump in the night. Things you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley on a darker night. And those stories aren’t just coming from rummies or saps who read that Epitaph rag.

Still, there are a few heroes left in the concrete jungle. Steely-eyed private dicks, fast-talking grifters, wild-eyed inventors, and shadowy houngans still struggle against the encroaching darkness. With enough moxie—and more than a little luck—they might just be enough to turn the tide.

Deadlands Noir is a pen-and-paper roleplaying game set in the world of Pinnacle Entertainment’s award-winning Deadlands universe. It includes new Edges, Hindrances, and powers, as well as new rules for handling detective work, the state of the Union and the CSA in the Depression-era, a complete Plot Point campaign, and of course, more monsters and ghouls than you can shake a smoking .45 automatic at.

Deadlands Noir is not a complete game. It requires the Savage Worlds core rules to play. The PDF is fully bookmarked with a hyperlinked table of contents and index. The PDF is also layered to serve as its own printer-friendly version. Full color, full-size (8.5″ x 11″ pages), 144 pages.

Shaintar: Legends Arise (Players Guide)

Sean Patrick Fannon’s vision of Epic High Fantasy comes to life for Savage Worlds in this all new iteration brought to you by Evil Beagle Games.

"The heart of any lasting and memorable roleplaying campaign is the setting. Is it vivid? Alluring? Full of mysteries, as well as straight-ahead challenges?

If the answer is “Yes” to all of these, you are in good hands.

SHAINTAR is deep in “good hands” territory.

Just paging through the Players Guide makes you want to play, and it’s genuinely hard to create a boring character using this book; everything works together to make your Hero interesting. And that’s even before you get to the four detailed Major Enemies lurking in Shaintar. Or the rules for alchemy, or the tantalizing glimpses we get of the Black Lantern and Grayson’s Grey Rangers . . .

A winner. Get this book." -- Ed Greenwood, creator of The Forgotten Realms®

What Is This?

This is, essentially, a simple relaunch of the Shaintar: Player's Guide Beta that was first released by Reality Blurs in August of 2012. We've put a new cover on it, done by the exceptionally talented Susan Knowles.

Really, that's about it. No new edits, no change to the content. The main reason this has been done is to reflect that Reality Blurs is no longer the publisher for Shaintar; that is the domain now of my own publishing effort. Evil Beagle Games. Sean Preston and the RB crew are incredible folks, and they went all out on my behalf for quite a while. I will always be grateful to them for their efforts. They have some serious hits on their hands right now, not the least of which is the fantastic tremulus that is taking the game world by storm ever since their amazing Kickstarter.

With the advent of that wonderful surprise, as well as my finally deciding to strike out on my own as a publisher, we very amicably decided it was time for me to bring Shaintar back under my direct control.

So here is the first step in that process. Relaunching this Player's Guide under the Evil Beagle Games banner. There is much, much more to come, however; by now, you've likely heard or read announcements about Evil Beagle's partnership with Savage Mojo for production; the impending release of the full Shaintar: Legends Arise book; the planned Kickstarted for Shaintar: Legends Unleashed and a slew of other products for the entire line; and so very much more.

For now, enjoy this with our compliments – free, of course – and stay tuned for more.

That's it for this week, and Happy Apocalyptic Shopping, or whatever you're up to this weekend.


The Evil Beagle Post-Apocalypse Revelation!

So excited, I'm not even dressed!

And away we go!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

So Close... So Close...

Look! An awesome picture by my talented friend, Susan Knowles!

"What is it?"
It's the cover for the impending re-release of the Shaintar: Legends Arise Player's Guide.

"Huh? What? Er..."

Yeah, just trust me. Very, very soon this is all going to make a lot more sense.

In the meantime, let me introduce you to the cast depicted: 

Flying in is Jenessa, the aevakar archer/scout who works for the Grayson's Grey Rangers garrison posted in the city of Silverport in the northern Wildlands of Shaintar. She is played by my daughter, the one we lovingly call "Spawn" for public safety reasons for now.

She is flying in to report to the Paladin of Light, Cybelle (played by Lee Ballew) and Brian, the local librarian and a talented adept (played by Carinn Seabolt). Lounging lazily in the foreground (seriously hoping no one actually needs him anytime soon, except to share some tasty fish) is Ssessrei, the dregordian warrior and sometimes dockworker (played by Brandon Shiffler).

Instead of "heroes fighting in action poses," we thought it would be fun to give a more "day in the life of heroes" kind of image.

Oh, and even thought I still... can't.... quite... announce exactly what's going on, anyone wandering around the Evil Beagle Games site may be able to figure out some things right off. 


Monday, December 17, 2012


What felt like a relapse was just the bronchitis kicking me so hard in my remain testicle that I started seeing stars every time I coughed. Apparently I've been willy-nilly inviting pneumonia to take up residence in my lungs and elsewhere. It didn't quite get in (at least, we don't think it did, my doctor and me), but as one friend put it, "they've pulled out all the chemical stops" on this one.

So here comes the prednisone, the albuterol, and the Z-Pac, and back to bed I go.

Extra blargh!


Friday, December 14, 2012

The Friday Roundup (121512)

Although the tragedy of today (tragedies, really; some bastard in China stabbed 22 kids on the same day) almost made me forego this, I've decided the worst thing we can do is let fear and sadness keep us away from Life. So I am going to just push on and do my regular Friday Roundup.

I hugged my daughter a lot, I've sent all the positive energy I can out into the world, and this is one more thing I can do to keep my mind off the horror...

Umbrage of the Automaton (Über RPG: Steampunk scenario)

Umbrage of the Automaton and Professor Hawkstein's Steampunk Scavenger Hunt is the FIRST self-contained adventure scenario for beginning characters based on the award-winning Über RPG: Steampunk ruleset.

Join the hunt for fame and fortune by overcoming challenges created by the enigmatic Professor Hawkstein. Can you solve the ultimate mystery?

For 3+ Players.

Itras By (English)

Start a journey away from reality as you perceive it with your everyday senses. The means are elements from surrealism; an art movement from the 20’s which tries to portray the life of the subconscious. The method is roleplaying, a game where a group of people together create and partake in a story. The end is to free the thoughts from their usual patterns. The intention is to liberate impulsiveness and creative power, maybe even rendering everyone a slight bit wiser.

Itras By is a game turned into living fiction, where all participants are co-creators.


The FOLD FLAT terrain system allows you to create fully modular 28mm scale terrain layouts for your RPG or wargame. This set, BORDERLAND KEEP: Deluxe Edition, gives you everything you need to create your own keep design in a downloadable PDF format, and once you have the set you can print and build as many pieces as you like and never run out or need to purchase more. Additionally, our layer options allow you to customize your keep with options such as gargoyles, soldier statues, stains, ivy and more. This new PDF terrain set features our exclusive Fold-Flat designs, allowing you to fold the majority of your pieces flat for easy storage.  

This set includes: 
• 6" wall 
• 4" wall 
• Large tower 
• Small tower 
• Gate House 
• Stable 
• Large Interior Building 
• Small Interior Building 
• Stairs 
• Ruined wall 
• Ground tiles 
• Portcullis
• Wooden gate doors
• Ballistas
• 1" grid, 1.5" grid & gridless options

The GM's Real-World Reference

The best stories, settings, and NPCs are often inspired by the real world. This book will take you from endless wastes to soaring palaces, through thrilling events and heart-stopping disasters, and introduce you to figures both treacherous and heroic. 

Need a military commander? Have a look at some of history's most colorful generals, like Lamachus, Tomyris, or Götz von Berlichingen. Need a barren wasteland? Don't send your PCs out into the deserts of Generica again! Model their destination on the spiny thickets of Madagascar, the Pripet Marshes, or the Ténéré. Need something unusual happening on the borders of the kingdom? Rather than another rebellion or mysterious cult, why not have it be the exploits of the Captain of Köpenick, the rise of Lysenkoism, or explorers searching for Prester John?

This is not a history book. It's a reference for GMs. We know that nitty-gritty details won't translate into your game. What GMs need is story. Striking, attention-grabbing story that will make your players sit up and say, "Wow! Where do you get these ideas?" 

The book itself is huge: 221 pages on 160 topics. There are subjects from all over the world and from all periods of history. Each topic contains all the information you need to run it at your table, and none of the information you don't. Plus, each one ends with tips on how to use the subject. The document is easy to navigate, with a terrific index to help you find exactly the topic you need for your game.

Second City Boxed Set

Twenty-five years ago, Rokugan fought a terrible battle against an invading gaijin army known as the Destroyers. Although the noble samurai of the Emerald Empire were victorious, the conflict was devastating beyond all others, and the lands of the Great Clans were left in ruins by the fighting. To spare her people the threat of further war, war which would surely lead to the death of an Empire, the Divine Empress sued for peace with the forces of darkness, and then dispatched her vassals to claim the empty lands left behind in the wake of the Destroyers.

A generation later, the untimely death of a prominent magistrate in Rokugan suddenly elevates a group of simple samurai to a position of authority, but the magistrate’s unfinished business sends them to the Second City to see it to completion. There, influential samurai from the Empire have almost limitless potential, but the distractions from duty are numerous.

In the Second City, will honor prove stronger than steel?

This digital version of the original boxed set for the Legend of the Five Rings Role-Playing Game, 4th Edition includes the following:

  • A complete sourcebook on the Second City, and information on the Colonies beyond its border.
  • A sourcebook detailing the various individuals, groups, and agendas that comprise the Governor’s court of the Second City
  • A complete campaign that brings characters from a position as minor deputies in the Emerald Empire to major players within the Colonies, and perhaps back again.
  • A full map of the Second City, plus the original poster-sized map broken out into A4-sized panels, for home printing
  • Yogo Tanaka's journal
  • Ide Arahime's pillow book
So that's it.

Hug your family this weekend. A lot.

And, you know, maybe play some games with them.

Life is precious. All too precious...


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Shaintar News-ish Teasery

It is Wednesday, so I shall be bloggy today, even though I am still recovering from what has turned out to be a very nasty cold.

So let me use the Barking of the Beagle to tease out some plans regarding Shaintar, so that those who actually bother to read this (either on my Facebook page on on my blog) will get some advance notice about some really cool stuff. Note that I will have to be somewhat vague about some details; some specific coordination is required among specific entities before more specifics can be specified.

Yeah, sorry about that. Blame the cold medicines.

First off, both core books are written and edited. They are not vaporware, I promise. All that remains is the various elements of production required to do a book of quality - art, layout, graphic design. As well, they need to be produced in a fashion that will make them ready for the Digital Print Program that DriveThruRPG offers, so that they are immediately available as print products.

At this point, I can assure you that Shaintar: Legends Arise (the book that covers game play for both players and GMs from Novice to Veteran ranks as per Savage Worlds) is already undergoing that process as I type this. My plan is for you to have it in your hands shortly after the holidays.

I have a very interesting plan where Shaintar: Legends Unleashed (which covers Heroic and Legendary play) is concerned, as well as the *many* Guide Books, Faction Books, and Adventure Books that are planned and, in many cases, already written as well.

What's the plan, you ask?

Well, let's just say it's a rather kicky way to start up something pretty huge, and huge is what I will be going for by the time all is said and done.

If you've been paying attention to the new Shaintar Community on G+, you got another interesting hint that may help tie a few things together as well. Just sayin'.

Those of you who love and support Shaintar are precious to me, and your patience is incredibly appreciated. It seemed a good time to reward that with some assurances that plans are engaged and things really are happening. 2013 promises to be a great year for Shaintar.

Game on!


Bring Dice & Chips: Tell Me About Your PC

Click on the image to see the full-sized version.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Is Sick



Too sick to blog, so here's a picture of my goofy muttling, Riah.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Return of the Friday Roundup (120712)

Since at least a few folks indicated that they do like this feature, I am getting back to it. So once again, here's a Roundup of all the Picks of the Day for this week from DriveThruRPG -

On Monday, I featured the Second Annual Teach Your Kids to Game Week, started by DriveThruRPG last year and coming back swinging in 2012. This has garnered a great deal of attention, and I am particularly proud of having been part of the team that started it. This year, I helped design and develop FirstFable, a free product published directly by OneBookShelf, Inc. to support the cause of bringing more kids into our wonderful hobby.

Conspiracy Rules!

Conspiracy Rules is the first book of Dark Conspiracy III, an update to the original and in many ways ground-breaking urban horror RPG of the 1990s. This update brings the rules into alignment with Traveller: The New Era and Twilight 2000, version 2.2. The second book in the series, Conspiracy Lives, updates the setting.

Featuring internal fiction by Jason L. Blair and Matt Forbeck with original artwork by David Lee Ingersoll, Bradley K. McDevitt, and an original artist from the first edition, Earl Geier, this rules set contains:

  • Modified Chargen
  • Management of Contacts
  • Clarified rules for automatic gunfire and initiative
  • Updated weapons

Look for the setting book Conspiracy Lives coming soon.

Mermaid Adventures RPG

Dive into adventure and fun! Mermaid Adventures is a game that lets you and your friends become mermaids, forming friendships, fighting sea monsters and solving strange undersea mysteries. Great for families and players of all ages!


  • 8 different kinds of merfolk
  • Complete and simple rules designed for kids
  • Colorful, eye-catching illustrations 
  • 5 Sample Adventures to get you going

Monte Cook on Game Design: Recorded Seminar

Veteran roleplaying game designer Monte Cook discusses various game design topics, answers questions, and provides insights into tabletop rpg design.

This product is a recording of a live online seminar held using Adobe Connect software. You will be provided with a link to the recording upon your purchase of this product.


The Quests of the Fairie Queen are board games intended as an introduction to role playing for children. It is suggested that an adult take the role of game master, to help the players learn and play the game.

There you go, friends! It's a great time to be a gamer, especially with game-interested kids!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Peace on Earth (Or At Least the Table)

It really has been the season...

I've reached out to two people who were friends, and then were not for a time. The whys and wherefores are not really important. Bad communication, poor choices, and harsh judgment all played a part on all sides.

Regardless, one-too-many renditions of Lennon's “So This is Christmas” hit me in the heart like a shotgun blast, and I determined to reach out and re-connect. They have both welcomed this, and I feel magnificently better for it. Such gifts cannot be wrapped with a bow, yet they are shiny and wonderful nonetheless.

There has been drama on the home front, with deeply hurt feelings and overwhelming anger rampant. Then, with hard conversations and even harder self-reflection, peace was achieved.

We are a passionate lot, we gamers. We dream big, we feel big, and we often react in big ways. Pain runs deepest when its caused by those we love dearest, and gaming groups do tend to form bonds of love that create families-of-choice. When we fight, the fires flare, words are used as weapons, and doors often get slammed.

This is the season to open those doors, offer your hand and your heart, and get back to rolling dice together.

Life is too short; that's one of the essential messages of which this time of year is meant to remind us. Heed that message and find ways to heal hurts and regain lost friendships.

Thus endeth the message.

Game on.


Bring Dice & Chips: The Gathering

Click on the image to see the full-sized version

With my return to creating new Bring Dice & Chips strips for the DriveThruRPG Newsletter, I thought folks might enjoy starting the journey with the original strips here on the Barking Blog. This is the very first strip I ever created, using the rather nifty Stripgenerator tool.

So from now on, each Wednesday, I'll be posting the comics I did for DriveThruRPG (and, occasionally, some of the ones I did for DriveThruComics as well).

Because of the formatting of this blog, you will want to click on the micro-image of the comic so you can see (and be able to read) the full-sized version.



Monday, December 3, 2012

The Gift of Gaming

So I helped start a movement last year.

It's become something of a big deal, and I admit that I am really proud to be a part of it.

Last year, as part of the DriveThruRPG team, I helped put the thing together and promoted it. This year, my last duty as part of that same awesome team was to oversee the development of FirstFable, a game designed by Matthew McFarland and published by DriveThruRPG directly as a free product for all those wishing to bring the magic of RPGs to the young ones in their life.

So I would like to take this time to seriously encourage all of you who have kids, or know kids, or know folks who want to enjoy gaming with kids to grab this excellent book. While you're at it, check out all of the other amazing products that are targeted at this new, very special audience.

Not only can you give the gift of gaming to kids, but you can give us all the gift of seeing our hobby grow and thrive in the years to come as our kids start joining us at the table.



Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Roundups - Do You Care?

So I don't have time for my usual Friday Roundup of Picks of the Week for my blog.

My Star Wars-based deadline looms large, so gotta keep this short.

Straight up - does anyone actually CARE about the Friday Roundup? Does it do anyone any good?

Let me know, please. Thanks. Peace. Go, weekend, go!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Life, Love, and Dice

Almost every single day, my life presents some kind of interesting turn. I love that about this life - boring is no way to go through existence.

Today, someone came back into an active role in my life. That someone is incredibly special to Carinn and me, and we have no intention of letting them slip back out again. The Universe tells me, in no uncertain terms, that this is important.

I'm listening.

I've learned so much more about myself, what Love means to me, and the incredible capacity for and power of Love that is in my grasp. All thanks to Carinn.

We got a brief game in tonight - the "Princes and Pirates" campaign that Lee Ballew (of Colossal Clash fame) is running for us in my Shaintar setting. Gods, I've missed gaming! The holidays, housemates' job changes, and moving sweet Miss Mary into the Manor have set our lives in quite a bit of an uproar, but we are slowly settling things down and getting back to the table to inhabit our favorite characters and roll some dice.

In fact, that's what I am giving for Christmas this year - a lot of folks who've played in Shaintar for a while now miss playing their truly epic, Legendary characters. I've not run the "Big Guns Games" in a while, preferring to focus on the less powerful characters and their storylines.

So, as my present, I am setting up an entire holiday schedule (post-Christmas, around the New Year's holiday period) to give everyone a chance to get their make-the-GM-cry characters out and do untold havoc on my Shaintar setting.

Of course, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that might make things interesting...

Cheers, and keep those dice rolling!


PS - Seriously, who doesn't want a cool miniatures-style wargame for their iPad? Check out the 1879 Kickstarter, friends. That's the biggest deal about what we're doing there.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Random Observations (11/27/12)

So here I go, sliding back into blogging...

Random observations of the day -

* You know you've done too many medical procedures when you're blithely discussing how you're a human dartboard as yet another IV line is being stabbed into the top of your hand, and you can effectively doze while going through a C-T Scan while following the "Breathe/Hold Your Breath" commands.

* Flavored contrast is still runny concrete run through the ass of a honey badger.

* I am an incredibly lucky and happy person. I have virtually no personal financial assets and am scraping to get my projects all produced and through the door, yet I have zero doubt that they -will- get done, and done well. I have amazing contacts, wonderful friends, and a huge network of support for all that I do. I get to set my own hours, doing what I love to do, and I know I shall never want for a place to live or food to eat or exceptional companionship at any moment in time. Never mind my medical issues and the constant, nagging pain - billions suffer more than I shall ever know.

Thank you, friends and family, and thank you, Universe, for this life I am blessed with. I hope I give some small portion back for all that I have received.


PS - I am still very much involved with the revival of FASA, and this is a pretty big deal we're up to.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Been Delayed...

There's been a lot going on here in the Old Doghouse. Between my health issues (under control, but there's still some things I am dealing with), and some dramatic changes impending on our household (one of our household's mother is moving in with us), blogging hasn't been much of a priority.

Apologies for that.

Once things calm down, I will try to get back on a regular schedule.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

PROJECT `77 - The Whole Enchilada

This is something I've had floating around for awhile, and it remains highly relevant to what I am currently up to. 

So, this gets to be my Wednesday blog entry (a day early).


A Manifesto for the RPG Hobby

Sean Patrick Fannon, July 2006

Premise: There is a perceived problem for non-electronic roleplaying games (hereafter referred in simple terms as RPGs). Sales are reported down in most sectors. Game stores are not selling RPGs in anywhere near the numbers they once did, and many are giving up on them. Online sales of RPGs have picked up considerably, but not in the numbers that can sustain most companies without the employees (and, in most cases, the owners) maintaining outside jobs to survive.

Many believe we are losing players to online, electronic games that at least simulate many of the elements of classic RPGs. Others insist we are doing too little to bring new blood into the hobby. Both of these assertions make a certain amount of sense and are hard to ignore.

On the other hand, there are others who believe people are still playing lots of RPGs. Wizards of the Coast asserts that there are more RPG enthusiasts than ever before. There are certainly plenty of people playing RPGs at the various gaming conventions around the world, including a record number of living campaign players at this year’s Origins. 

The truth lies in the murky between, to be sure. Nonetheless, the RPG hobby really could use a major shove in an upwards direction. RPGs need to ascend in the public eye somehow. Something needs to happen to set off some fireworks and draw a few more eyeballs our way.

That’s what “Project: `77” is about…

Statement of Purpose: In 1977, I discovered Dungeons & Dragons, and the moment was a true epiphany that forever changed my life. It deeply affected many of those around me, and shaped the paths of many in this world that I call friends and colleagues. There was magic in that moment; the imagination filled to bursting with ideas, excitement, and a yearning for more.

What I propose is that we who live and work in the industry that produces such games here in the early part of the 21st Century do our utmost to recreate something of that moment for not only our extant fans, but for all those who may yet become fans of our still intriguingly novel form of entertainment.

It is my hope to lead by example; as such, I intend to incorporate Shaintar: Immortal Legends, Talisman Studios, and the Savage Worlds game system into a kind of “test case with a profit motive.” To this end, we will produce and sell books, as most companies in our position do. However, we will endeavor to do much, much more to create a culture around our property, one that sustains itself with creative energy and sustains us with continued support, both financial and otherwise.

If we are successful, it is my sincerest hope that other companies will be able to take something out of our example and accomplish similar goals. Perhaps if enough of us strive to recreate the magic of 1977, granting a moment of magical discovery in the hearts and minds of old and new fans alike, maybe we can coax a phoenix of some shape and size out of the ashes everyone seems to think we are currently stirring.

Presumptions, Assumptions, Assertions, and Ideas: In no particular order, the following elements are foundational to my plans for changing the (RPG) world.

Follow the Dead to Margaritaville. 

My friend and colleague Matt Ragsdale likes to tell the story about how, many years ago while playing multiple shows in a venue in Toledo, Jimmy Buffett spotted some people dressed exactly the same as some other folks he’d noticed at his previous show, many miles away. The next night, he saw the same people, dressed much the same way, and saw them again on the third and final night he played that venue. He actually stopped the show for a moment and asked these people if they were, indeed, the same ones from the nights previous. They responded very enthusiastically that, yes, they were and that they followed him to every show they could manage to get to. He remarked in his gently humorous way that it was like having his own “Deadheads;” his drummer (with perfect timing, of course) corrected him and said “No. More like Parrot Heads.”

A phenomenon of rather epic proportions was born.

The one-hit-wonder hit-machine concept works very well to make young men and women fairly rich (and the executives who manufacture such groups much richer), but it will do little for an RPG publisher beyond a brief moment in time of personal satisfaction. Selling a million copies of one thing is not the goal for us. Selling a few thousand of every single thing we create that relates to the property we are putting out there is much more reasonable goal to strive for; achieving that goal will sustain a small, well-run company for many years.

For the Truly Dedicated Fan, the Creator is King. 

Actors portray memorable characters, and we love them for it. For the true fan of fantasy and science-fiction, however, the creators of the worlds those characters exist in are far more compelling. J. Michael Straczynski (JMS to his fans, and “Joe” to those who claim true kinship with him) will forever be the prophet who brought the masses “Babylon 5.” Sarah, David, and Nathan may have the hearts of the fans, but Joss Whedon has their souls, and they will follow him wherever his muse takes them all next. Every name at the end of every list of credits rolling after everything Paramount can push out will be held up to the standard of the “Great Bird of the Galaxy,” Gene Roddenberry. 

Lucas burns on the pyres for what his fans feel he’s done to their Star Wars, while Jackson continues to bask in the adulation of fans who feel he properly re-invented Middle Earth.

Once a year, in either San Diego or Chicago, comic book fans swarm together and beg for just a few moments to pick the brain of the writers and editors of their comics. The artists are rock stars to be sure, and everyone is nice to the letterers, inkers, and colorists… but the writers and the editors must be sought out, must be talked to, must be thanked or admonished for what they have done lately.

Now then.

What if it mattered? What if it really mattered? What if you could connect with the creator of something you’ve invested your emotions and time in, and what if he cared? What if your interactions with the creation could be further enhanced by continued connection with the creator?

What if, by some miracle of shared gestalt, the two of you could make the creation grow and evolve – together?

Would you want to help create an adventure in the `Verse, with Joss looking on and offering ideas? Would you want to craft a story in Astro City while Kurt nodded, smiled, and said “Hey, wouldn’t it be neat if…?”


The Game Master as X-Box. 

RPG Publishers know the following to be true, but they have yet to truly exploit this truth to its fullest extent.

The Game Master is the world’s most powerful content delivery system. 

Game consoles deliver what is programmed. Novels and comic books deliver what is written and drawn. DVDs, movie reels, and the cable/satellite companies deliver what is produced and sent. Even in theatre, where the content can change night to night, and actors can respond in subtle ways to the mood of the audience, still does the audience receive a package of content to accept or reject, with the moment ending and the experience concluded when the final bows are taken.

Game books are not the primary content delivery systems for RPGs; they merely provide the foundational understanding of the content for the real deliverer – the Game Master. In no other entertainment medium is it as possible to deliver an experience that can immediately adapt to the input of the audience. The GM does this; the Game Master delivers the content the Game Writer/Designer creates. He delivers it to the audience – the players – on the behalf of the publisher and creative team. What’s more, he can deliver it over and over, ever changing and ever immersing the audience, ad infinitum (or at least until he burns out on it, or dies).

Publishers need to truly learn this, live it, and love it. The experience the end users have with their content is entirely dependent on how the GM handles the delivery; embrace this, and learn how best to exploit it. There is no clearer path to long term success for an RPG publisher than this.

If you sell a book to a GM, you’ve sold a book. If you sell a book to a GM and then help him to run a kick-ass game with your content, you’ve sold six-to-eight times the number of books (and related products) and added to your long-term support base.

Is this a statement of the obvious? It certainly should be. That makes it no less important to note and keep on the stove as you bring out the other ingredients…

The Culture of Content. 

Various news channels have been carrying the story about how many “Star Trek” fans, bereft of anything Trek on the small or big screen since the early demise of “Enterprise,” have adopted the technologies of today and are filming their own episodes. Some of these shows (shown for free on the Internet everywhere) are even considered pretty good, but that’s not the point.

Trek fans are creating content for want of it.

They’re not the only ones, it turns out. There are “X-Files,” “Firefly,” and all kinds of other “fan-isodes” coming alive out there; A/V versions of the fan fiction (“fanfic”) that’s been embedded in geek culture for decades.

Attack it from another angle; the last product published for R. Talsorian’s quirky Castle Falkenstein came out close to a decade ago. Nonetheless, Falkenstein-themed LARPs still draw a real crowd, dressed to the nines and ready to dance and intrigue the night away.

That vein of gold has yet to be truly mined, as far as I am concerned. To this day, there is nothing more truly immersive than a roleplaying experience. Finding a way to frequently and effectively immerse RPG fans into the Culture of your Content is a real key to sustained success. You want them to talk about your world between sessions. You want them to wear costumes to conventions based on your game. You want them to write fan fiction and share it with the world.

You want Trekkies. Of course you do. You know that. You have to be willing to do everything it takes to create Trekkies for your stuff. You have to wade into that pool, get wet, and hug everybody.

This means, naturally, that you must love your stuff at least as much as they do. You must be thoroughly invested in your material to make it really work. Otherwise, you’re just printing books (or filing data in PDF form).

If you want it – if you really want it to go beyond the moment of publication – you have to create a Culture of Content.

The Cult of Continuity. 

“What happens next?” will always be the most compelling question in the entertainment universe. The continued existence – and thriving – of soap operas is testament enough. The geeks of the world got caught up in it when David Lynch messed with our heads with “Twin Peaks.” Not too long after, the “X-Files” and “Babylon 5” really took us all for that particular “can’t wait until next week” ride. 

Now it’s “4400” and “24.” Even “Desperate Housewives.”

“Lost,” in particular, goes the very effective extra mile in terms of keeping people attached between episodes. Web-delivered content, often teased with alternate reality-style commercial aired with the show, drives the fans crazy between shows.

That, my friends, is heap big mojo.

What is a roleplaying campaign if not an even more immersive and compelling “what happens next?” experience for the participants? The idea, then, would be to create a way for the participants to feel and stay connected to the content between their game sessions. GMs often go the extra mile to do just that, but imagine what happens if they aren’t doing it alone.

What happens when you partner with your Game Masters to create a Cult of Continuity, related to your Culture of Content?

It’s a “Living” – What Paradigm and Zeitgeist Understand. 

The concept of connecting to a larger, shared experience is not a new one for roleplayers. In 1990, West End Games tried to launch the “Infiniverse” campaign for their TORG property. Though it foundered after a year, the idea was absolutely breathtaking. People were encouraged to take the results of their individual game sessions and report them to West End; a newsletter was published containing “rumors” that featured those events from other campaigns.

It took many years for the next major effort to really take off. The RPGA’s “Living City” was the beta test. Though it eventually crashed and burned (with a significant fan base that still laments its passing), the lessons learned became the foundation for quite a few follow-on efforts, both from within and without the House of D&D. Oddly, the one campaign WotC would probably most like to commit assisted suicide on, “Living Greyhawk,” is the one that grows in spite of their central efforts. This is, in all ways, due to the autonomy granted to regional groups to create adventures tailored to their claimed areas.

(Ironically, it was the Ohio-based Veluna region players that ensured Origins 2006 had its most successful RPGA program, in spite of WotC’s decision not to come…)

Other WotC “Living” campaigns have had muted success or have failed outright, but other such campaigns (most of which were once part of the RPGA until they were more or less kicked out; one is RPGA almost is spite of itself) have begun to flourish as their organizers have empowered the fan base more and more. Paradigm’s “Living Arcanis” is a powerful example of what happens when creators work hand-in-hand with fans to jointly administer a shared story. Zeitgeist, with the legacy of Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor to draw on and a clear idea of what their fans want, has very effectively coined the term MMRPG (Massive Multiplayer, but not online, yo) and has a rapidly growing support base.

All of them are growing. In the days where RPG publishers can’t figure out how to eat and print a book at the same time, and game stores are faltering like brachiosaurs after a comet, shared campaigns are growing.


People want to play, that’s why. They like facilitated games, and they like feeling like they are a part of something bigger. Something huge, epic, and far-reaching.

However, there is turnover, and there are plenty of players who feel like the “Living” campaigns get close to the mark but… something doesn’t quite click. The “module chase” gets really old after a while, and many find the illusion doesn’t hold up; they know that, ultimately, what they are doing doesn’t really matter to the world.

They still want what the “Infiniverse” promised – that their unique experience, their specific participation, has meaning in the grander scheme.

A way has been found…

If You Plan It, They Will Play – the Big Convention Events. 

The first real opportunities for the players of shared campaigns to have a sense of impact started happening at the one place where organizers could be sure to have central command of the entire experience, all at once.


Gamers still plan their entire year’s vacation around when their convention(s) of choice is scheduled. Sales are down everywhere else, but companies still bring in the bucks at conventions. Attendance, overall, has been higher in the last few years. Nowhere are the numbers higher than in the areas where one shared campaign or another is hosting a special “interactive” event. 

“Battle Interactives” are now to shared campaigns what Pennsic is to the SCA. Come one, come all, and let’s have a showdown of epic proportions that wraps up a major conflict with the key bad guys of at least one of the prime story arcs. Even if you’re just one of a couple of hundred “foot soldiers,” this time your experience is unique, and this time what you do or fail to do really matters.

The fans fill these events to bursting, and more are outside begging to get in. The limit is always based on how many people can be called in to help run the thing.

There are two key lessons I’ve learned from studying shared campaigns, conventions, and the rest of it:

1) Conventions have always been vital to a company publishing RPGs; that importance is increasing in recent years. Conventions are where you gather the faithful and reinforce the Culture.

2) RPG players crave impact on the settings they care about.

Next slide, please…

The Power of Impact. 

Glory, even imagined glory, is so much sweeter when it’s shared. Sweeter, still, when it’s shared with everyone who might possibly care about what happened.

One of the things that has stayed with me through the years I’ve been a professional creator is how very much my friends have been willing to contribute to my efforts. They’ve never asked for money, and only rarely have they ever had a strong urge to see their actual name in print.

No, all any of them have ever wanted – and make no mistake, every single one of them has wanted this – 

Their character in a book. A story, a picture if Santa is extra kind. Something that indicates “Kilroy was here” for all eternity. So much the better if that character can be referenced in some legendary, historical way.

Hell, I’ve wanted it. Reading through Scott Bennie’s “Gestalt Universe” document (which isn’t even really “published,” but such is the importance of Scott among Old School Champions fans, it doesn’t matter), I scanned voraciously for any mention of Agent Cromwell, my character in his campaign.

You know the story about Christian Slater and the last original crew Star Trek movie, “Undiscovered Country,” right? You know there are a ton of others before him, right? And let’s not forget Samuel L. and the prequels…

If they love your stuff, they will want to be as big a part of it as you will let them. If you are letting people be a part of your stuff, even more of them will love it… and love it all the more. It’s one of those beautiful recursive things, trust me.

I’ve often read or heard statements from RPGA fans, wishing against all hope that somehow their characters could be mentioned in some way, somewhere, in the official stuff.

Just imagine… imagine if that really were possible.

And why the hell isn’t it?

Even imaginary worlds are pretty freaking huge, right? There’s room for everyone, and there’s room for everyone’s stories. 

And, if handled correctly (and I really, truly believe this is possible; I am, in fact, counting on it), there’s room for everyone’s stories to matter, in some way.

Dice + Keyboard = 21st Century Success. 

I find myself thinking a lot these days about what would have happened if Gary and the three Daves hadn’t put together this stuff until around the mid-80s or so. Yes, I know, “inevitable development; someone else would have gotten there before then, 100 monkeys, etc..,” but just bear with me for this exercise.

Just imagine what the RPG community would look like had e-mail and, eventually, web pages had been available tools that early on.

This figures into my thinking when I assert that maybe, just maybe, we can engineer a kind of renaissance for RPGs. We’ve been playing with the tools, integrating them as they’ve come along. There are some very clever people out there who have done some very impressive things, keeping their business alive through adaptation to electronic media and online sales and all that.

But… have we really created a whole-cloth structure that includes all these wonderful communication tools at the outset of a property’s development and release? Have we created and delivered a roleplaying experience that involves the full set of tools right off the bat?

Another thought for you… the pendulum is swinging. It’s slow, and possibly imperceptible to those too close to the thing. But it is swinging its way back, I believe.

Have you noticed that even though computer games are getting prettier and prettier, they are pretty much the… same… thing… over and over and over and …?

Sure, there are some outstanding breakout ideas (I must admit to being more than blown away by the very concept of Spore, the kind of game that only works when you’ve got processors working at lightspeed). None of those breakout ideas, from what I see, are in the RPG realm. They’re gorgeous and fun, yes, but most of the “RPGs” online are really not much more than real-time strategy/action games.

Coming from the electronic design side, you aren’t likely to see the kinds of innovations I am seeking; World of Warcraft makes too damn much money.

And yet… 

It’s time to offer alternatives. We aren’t going to drag people away from the computers; that’s a fool’s errand. However, we can sure as hell give them a new way to be entertained using their PCs (and, who knows, probably the consoles as well, since they’re practically living room PCs now, anyway). 

Parents want their kids to interact with real people. Why else do you think Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon exist? “Dateline” has done a pretty bang up job of terrifying parents while demonizing MySpace, and I couldn’t be happier about it. Encouraging parents to seek entertainment for their kids where they actually have a chance to meet who the kids are playing with will be a huge boon for face-to-face gaming.

As well, the older generations are starting to get bored. Sure, they still play, and they aren’t dropping off in droves or anything like that. I just think that there’s a lot of them who’d be happy if a new/old style of play became available. You can believe a lot of them miss the old D&D days, but they know they won’t be happy just dusting off the books and finding people to play.

But if something new and interesting were being done, something that started with the “old school” dice and paper style but expanded way beyond that… well, now, it would be time to take a new look at the whole thing, wouldn’t it?

I am not trying to be unnecessarily vague here. I am talking about integrating a web presence and other 21st Century ideas (hell, I’ve even been looking at the whole cellular texting thing) to more fully immerse the players and keep everyone more continuously involved and connected with the Content. I’ve also been looking at how best to create a Community of Content where the Game Masters, my prime Deliverers, have a primo role with a strong sense of entitlement.

The details are still being laid out, but I think you can see where I am headed, now.

Bullet Points are Fun!

With this insane amount of rambling, it’s probably a good idea if I do some summing up.

For all our sakes.

  • The RPG Hobby and Industry as we know it seems to be in trouble. It certainly could use a shot in the arm.
  • Most RPG fans can all agree that the time they first got involved with these games was a magical, inspiring period of their lives. It would be cool to recapture that in some way.
  • Sustaining a fan base that truly supports you over time is the real key to longevity and reasonable business success for a niche market like ours. This will kick the crap out of any model that is based on selling thousands of books all at once.
  • RPG fans, like any group of geeks, have massive respect for and interest in the creators of the worlds they connect to. This desire to connect with the creator is a powerful opportunity to expand and extend the life of a property.
  • Game Masters are the life or death of an RPG property. Understanding their role and developing a plan based more purely on that role is essential to success, and to innovation. You don’t reach the players without them.
  • The Culture of Content – create it, sustain it, exploit it. You won’t go far without it.
  • The Cult of Continuity – the entire point of putting an RPG world on the market is to exploit this. Go all the way.
  • Shared campaign experiences = long life. Bring them all together if you are serious about what you’ve created and want to go the distance.
  • Conventions are your “tent revivals,” and the big events will draw your pilgrims. Accept that, go for broke with them, and you’re playing for real, and for a while.
  • Your world is meant to be played with. You know that. Acknowledge what they’re doing to it, and let it matter. You won’t believe the magic of that until you see it for yourself.
  • Yes, Web. Yes, the Internets. Blah blah blah – stop! Wake up. They aren’t just sales and PR tools. Make them, and the other tools out there, part of the game and you get “Keep on the Borderlands, welcome to Greyhawk,” 21st Century style.

As always, comments are welcome. I would like to reiterate that I am full-speed-ahead on applying these ideas to my own efforts. As well, I am interested in seeing others in the industry benefit in any way they can from what is shared here.