Thursday, July 14, 2016

In the corner pocket...

I think it shows how tired people are of political wrangling that the absolute most-active post on my facebook page is about cargo shorts. If you're going to wrangle, make it about Wranglers. Fashion criticism of yours truly brought to you in Technicolor by my much-more-stylish spouse.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Fun Old-School Discussion with Moe Tousignant

Starting on July 7, I had an interesting discussion about the structure of a couple of retro-clones with Moe Tousignant, who is something of a games expert, running lots and lots of game nights in Canada, and thus extremely familiar with the general structure of games, how they work, and what makes some fun while others are less well-designed for fun.

Moe had started reading the Swords & Wizardry pdf, and had the following comment on facebook as he was reading:

"I'm finding it hard to see what makes this any different from the other games of its type. Every OSR game reads very similar," and then, later: "Found some bits I did like, multi-classing and dual classing seemed to be handled well. Alignment seems to be based on Mike Michael Moorcock vs. Tolkien (or wherever D&D got their alignment system). I dig the few extra abilities Fighters get. At least I'm finally starting to see some differences."

I happened to be in that sort of mood, so I jumped on the thread with some thoughts. Granted, I created something of a wall of text, but I came up with the following: 

Hi Moe, you're absolutely right that the system itself is extraordinarily similar to other OSR games, just because as a retro-clone it tries to reproduce a system that was very similar to the other D&D versions that came out prior to 3d edition. All the retro-clones are highly similar, and then you see the sudden massive shift in the 3E-based Pathfinder retro-clone-method. S&W is to some degree an outlier because OD&D (the S&W source system) had more areas that were basically gaps left for the table to rule, which is why the S&W book has lots of areas where "there's no rule here, but here are some of the historical ways that people ruled it." Initiative is the biggest one of these gaps -- there wasn't an initiative system in OD&D until one of the later supplements. What I tried to do with the book was to (a) codify and combine supplements, (b) present the system in a way that's more readable for people who learned to read an RPG book using the organizational presentation used in AD&D and beyond, (c) provide a pathway for people to begin an introductory game from what is at a more advanced level a welter of potentially-confusing options and gaps, and (d) offer those alternative versions of tested house-rules for when people essentially understand the game and want to try out the various other options. So if you're looking for what's unique in S&W as opposed to other OSR systems, it's actually the *gaps* that are the unique features, not so much the places where there's a firm rule. That's where OD&D really differed from the post-OD&D systems.

Most other retro-clones also have interesting design-backgrounds and author intents. Labyrinth Lord, which is a clone of Moldvay Basic D&D, tries to reproduce an approach that was (at the time) quite the opposite of OD&D -- namely, an emphasis on a more elegant rule-system that was internally very complete. Still open-ended and designed on a concept of a high level of DM fiat, but without the need to house-rule any fundamental portions of the rules (such as initiative). The rules of Moldvay basic, as reproduced by Labyrinth Lord, have a much more defined outer boundary than OD&D, and it was that outer reach where the house-ruling and the high-creativity are supposed to kick in, based on a firm foundation of a well-defined, elegant, clear system. In OD&D, the house-ruling and high creativity are required at the very fundamental level of the essential rules, which is nowadays probably considered bad game design. My "default introductory path" through the rules, in S&W, was intended to help people jump the gap over the vagueness of the basic rules, and then return to that creative-point once the basic functioning of the game is well established and people can be comfortable with the idea of options that strike right to the core of the game's basic rules.

It's these relatively subtle nuances that distinguish the clones from each other. As playable systems, resources for one retro-clone are almost entirely usable with another clone rule-set. As approaches to the "feel" of a game, though, they are quite distinct and nuanced. For those who aren't stalwart aficionados of the old games, a discussion of retro-clones sounds as bizarre as a wine-tasting discussion (or beer, as the case might be :) ). And frankly, those distinctions aren't really important at that level of subtlety to almost anyone. The "old school" experience generally has to do with the open-endedness of the rules, and all of them have that common quality.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Kickstarter News: City of Bard's Gate Headed for Stretch Goals
If you like fantasy cities, you're probably already watching this Kickstarter, but the news of the day is that it has funded at the $70,000 level and is now headed into stretch goal territory with 60 hours left to go. It's hard to say how many of the goals it will hit, but Frog God Kickstarters tend to have a massive surge within the final 48 hours or so. At least another $10,000 will flow into this project before it finishes.

The cloth map is incredible, and the book is going to be massive in the tradition of Frog God releasing one or two giant, epic books per year. This will indeed be an epic book, in full color, and while it's perfectly usable as a stand-alone city in any campaign, it's also tied in to over a decade's worth of Necromancer Games and Frog God Games adventures. Basically, it's the "City State" of the Lost Lands world setting.

Very much worth taking a look.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Spawning of Haskins!

Chris Haskins of Frog God Games, Nord Games, and Tabletop Library is officially a dad! The baby is a healthy boy, and all of us are waiting impatiently for him to eventually join a gaming table in the footsteps of his illustrious and very tall father.

So here's to wishing Chris a good night's sleep at some point in the next couple of years, if he's lucky.

I am putting Chris's affiliate number into this link, so if you want to buy anything from Tabletop Library today (or at any point), go through this link (not the one on the side over there), and Chris will get an extra share of the amount of your purchases. ALSO: if it's the 4th or 5th of July when you read this, remember to put in the code HAPPY-4TH so you get the 25% discount for 4th of July.

I'd say it might give Mr. Haskins an extra bit of beer money, but it's all baby-formula money for a little while, Chris!


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Flashback to the Present (a new review of S&W)
It has been a while since there was a review of Swords & Wizardry, since the game's several years old now, but Endzeitgeist has just posted a review on the Tabletop Library site. This is actually rather important, in my view, because Endzeitgeist is known as possibly the pre-eminent reviewer of Pathfinder books, not old-school rule sets. So this represents another step into the mainstream gaming audience for old school rules. Obviously, that march has been going on for quite some time, but this represents a new piece of the mainstream terrain.

I've linked to the page (you might have to hit the "reviews" tab to see the review. The pdf is free, and if you haven't taken a look at these rules, I encourage you to follow Endzeitgeist's advice and do so. As he points out, this is Original D&D (as close as you can get, anyway) in a codified and re-organized format.

While you're on Tabletop Library, browse around and take a look at some of the other products, too. Publishers get paid a higher percentage here than they do at the big competitor.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Bard's Gate Kickstarter: Final Week
Bard's Gate is a city of burgeoning political and mercantile power, filled with intrigue and danger. Almost every large book by Necromancer Games and Frog God Games has some sort of tie to Bard's Gate, since it's historically the "big city" of the Lost Lands campaign. The Kickstarter is for a full-color, greatly-expanded city book, and is available for Fifth Edition, Pathfinder, and (best of all) Swords & Wizardry!

If you're doodling around with a Lost Lands campaign, or if you want to import a city into your own home campaign, this book is a must-have. The Kickstarter is in its final week, so take a look now!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Two New 5e Resouces - One free, one inexpensive
We had a couple of new Fifth Edition products at Tabletop Library today. One is free, and one is the first in a series. The Deep Magic series is by Kobold Press, and is a serialized conversion of their Pathfinder Deep Magic book. This first part of the series, Clockwork, contains some stuff that's definitely new in terms of Fifth Edition:
  • A Clockwork domain for clerics, featuring Improved mending, Channel Magic, and Clockwork Apotheosis
  • The Great Machine pact for warlocks, with three new invocations: cloud of cogs, heat of the furnace, and voice of the machine
  • A Clockwork Mage school of wizard magic, with new abilities including Clockwork Savant, Clockworker’s Charm, Metal Shape, Golem Form, and Clockwork Mastery
  • 45 new and updated spells, including chains of the goddess, gear barrage, hellforging, robe of shards, and more!
Clockwork is currently only $2.99 for the substantial pdf, which makes it a smoking good deal if you're building unusual ideas into a 5e campaign.
Our other new Product is a free one-page generator for books found in a library, published by Rusted Iron Games along with several other free one-page resources.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Old School "Syndrome"

Note: this article only really talks about old school D&D, not about other game systems, even if they date back to pre-1980. Certain parts of it can probably be applied to other games, but I don't think that the analysis necessarily translates.

One of the factors involved in the Old School Renaissance (which is now pretty naissanced, to coin a phrase) has always been quite a bit of argumentation about who's "in it" and who's "out of it." At the very beginning, Rob Kuntz emphatically rejected the idea that he was in an OSR, since he'd been playing old school all along. Many people got very dogmatic about a certain set of "tests," and different "tests" were a popular topic for quite a while. Rob saw the proliferation of "tests" as being the manifesto of a "movement," and since he considered himself not to be part of a movement with exclusions, he opposed the entire idea.

That may have been a correct read on that particular phase of the OSR, actually. It hit a dogmatic patch early in its self-definition, which is also the reason, I think, that RPGPundit also rebelled against the idea that the OSR had any particular value. This despite the fact that his own opinions dovetailed fairly closely with what most of the OSR people were saying.

Anyway, I'm not going to even try, in this article, to propose any kind of overarching definition of the OSR, especially since it still has a variety of different expressions. However, I'd like to mention a very incisive comment by a poster named Wheggi. His comment was that old-school gaming isn't defined by any particular set of attributes: it's more like a syndrome, where if enough factors from a larger set are present in a game, it can be called old-school for lack, frankly, of a better term.

I'll propose a few of these factors, but what's interesting is that some are purely historical, and others evince a system approach that stands outside of its historical context. I tend to think in terms of that ahistorical system approach as being old school, although I also have personal preferences in favor of lots of the other factors -- I just wouldn't consider those other factors to define borders on the definition. I also think that some or many of the historical-context factors can serve to make a game more old school than another, without necessarily making it better or worse.

My own, overarching view of what old-school means is that the rules are open-ended, meaning that the players aren't constrained to particular actions on a character sheet, and that there is a great deal of interpretation, or refereeing, required on the part of the DM. This generally means that "rules-light" is a factor, but not necessarily. You can have an extensive set of rules that don't constrain the DM, they simply define player options. D&D 5e is thus in my mind considerably more old school than D&D 4e, and even 3e. As a rule-set, anyway.

However, here are a few other factors, and REMEMBER I'm not saying ANY of them are independently a defining feature of old-school gaming. Most people will react to several elements with "that's not old school at all," which is my point. The thing is that all those people who reject particular elements ... will pick a DIFFERENT combinations of elements to criticize. Which makes all of them relevant, and none of them dispositive. Also, just because I say something is ahistorical doesn't mean that it's not also part of the historical context, it just means that it can be seen as an old-school principle that isn't purely lodged in time.
  • The open-ended, few-rules-on-DM approach I just mentioned (purely outside historical context, it's a game-design and play-method principle)
  • Actual rules from the old days, not a retroclone or a later-produced edition (part non-historical, mostly historical context)
  • Black & white art, the printing methods used in the early time period (this I consider only to be partly historical, since it's actually something else as well, not just the way books looked in the early days of D&D, but also the way they looked during the Medieval period being presented).
  • Blue maps on graph paper (okay, that's purely based on historical context)
  • Maps are very much diagrams, with few artistic elements (partly historical-context, but also a non-historical preference for having maps that are easily read during play)
  •  Gygaxian prose. (Mainly historical, but as a writing style it does have some independent, non-historical effect in terms of flavorful reading)
  • Using retro-clones in preference to newer games, even if you don't use actual original rulebooks. (In many cases this is due to the fact that retro-clones have a large audience, available and often-free pdfs, and new products coming out, so it's more of a community and convenience issue than a game-method -- I guess that's non-historical).
  • Killer DMing style. This sucks, and is one of the potential failures of an open-ended gaming style, not a defining attribute.
  • Letting the dice fall where they may. This is different from aggressive killer-DMing, and I think it fits in as a characteristic of old-school gaming as long as you realize that many, many old-school DMs don't necessarily stick to this approach all the time. Frank Mentzer is, I think, one of the group that focuses on player skill as an offset to the game's purely random element. On the other hand, I think the "dice fall where they may" is an outgrowth of the wargaming roots of the game. It's also a definable, non-historical style of play. So I'll include it as a non-historical element of old school gaming, and a good example of how not every element here is required to push a game into the "old-school" category. 
  • Weapons and armor remain within historical boundaries, not reaching anime proportions. (I think that's actually a non-historical element, although it's mostly aesthetic)
  • Rocks fall, everyone dies. (Non-historical, this is simply a gaming method that takes common sense into account rather than using dice in silly situations. However, filling your adventure with this sort of lethal-but-common-sense trap approach can still fall into the killer-DM category, which is poor adventure design)
  • Zero to Hero. This is non-historical, having to do with the strength of starting characters relative to regular people. Many people in the oldest days would still start the characters at higher level than first. It provides, though, a human scale to the heroes, making the game grittier even when the game is at higher level, so it's a definite contrast to newer approaches in which the characters have a sort of super-human feel.
  • Sandbox, not railroad. This is both historical and non-historical. It's clearly a matter of design and play-style, which is independent of historical context. However, it's very much connected to the fact that during the 2e period a series of highly railroady adventures were published by TSR, and that most post-2e published adventures are also far more railroaded than what was common in the pre-2e era. This is one of the areas where 1e and 2e people tend to squabble about what's "old school."
  • Whatever edition you started with is old school. Very common psychology, obviously not actually relevant in any objective sense.
  • No diplomacy checks or other die rolls that can substitute for role-playing that sort of encounter. This is ahistorical, and I think it's a fairly major element.
  • Level tends to be more important than character attributes. This is ahistorical in the sense that it is clearly an attribute of the game's design rather than the way in which it's played. It's also probably the one feature of old-school that absolutely doesn't map onto other games than D&D, and doesn't even map onto other games existing in the late 70s.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Gamehole Con registration starts tomorrow

Registration for Gamehole Con 2016 opens this Saturday, June 25 at noon CST. Gamehole is a fast-growing RPG convention in Madison, Wisconsin on November 4th-6th. Alex Kammer, the con's organizer, asked all of us special guests to spread the word about the convention's registration, so I am dutifully doing so.

Gamehole is an excellent convention, and a great place for OSR folks to meet each other and game. I met lots of cool people last year, and I was pretty psyched to be invited as a special guest this year.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

OSRIC is Ten!

Allan Grohe has pointed out that OSRIC is 10 years old today. Man, it seems like it was only a few weeks ago that Stuart Marshall and I released it ... with the expectation that only fifty or sixty people would ever find a use for something as weird as this "retro-clone" thing we had dreamed up.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Small Publisher Tip: The term "Full Bleed"

If you're like me, as a small publisher, you're learning some sides of the business in bits and pieces. In my case, I had the writing skill, but no graphics or printing knowledge. And sometimes, if you're learning things in bits and pieces, you'll get the wrong understanding of some of the jargon used by the other guys involved in the process. In fact, the better they are, the more likely that they'll assume you know something you don't.

In my case, one of these misunderstandings was about the term "bleed," when applied to printing a cover. I managed to go at least three years with a mistaken understanding of what this meant. As far as I understood it, "bleed" was just a layout artist's weird way of saying that the artwork was supposed to go to the edges of the page. Almost all the time, you can tell an artist that the graphic is "full bleed," and they'll just say, "okay," and you'll get what you need.

However, it becomes an issue if you want two pages to lie next to each other and match up at the borders (this is how my mistake got revealed). Because here's what "bleed" really means:

When the artist produces something with full bleed, it means the graphic is actually bigger than the space you want to fill. It's slightly larger, in the case of cover art, than 8.5 x 11. Part of the artwork is designed to spill off the edge of the page, and this is called the "bleed."

What's that all about? Isn't this whole process digital? Well. if you think about it, there's one part of the process that isn't entirely digital. Think about how, when you print a document, your home printer shakes a bit as it moves blank paper into place and prints on it. The presses used by book printers do the same thing. They vibrate, they shake, and they jiggle while printing. Thus, the page of paper can't be guaranteed to be EXACTLY in the right place. The bleed is a bit of excess picture that will get printed if the page is off center by a fraction or two of an inch. If the graphic is precisely and exactly the size of a sheet of paper, you risk having a white line along one side if the paper is off center in any direction.

So, if you're printing on lulu or somewhere similar, and you've ween white lines along one edge or another of the cover, it's because you didn't have any bleed outside the margins of the page.

This little note will probably only help a few people who make the same mistake I did, but since it happened to me, it might have happened to other publishers with no graphic/layout experience.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Adventure Design Starting Points

I've had several people ping me in the last couple of days, including my Sorcerer's Apprentice, about starting points for designing an adventure. From talking to lots of gifted people over the last few years, I think I can definitely say that there is no objective "right" starting point. The most common things I have heard tend to divide between those who write monsters first, and those who draw maps first.

In my case, it's usually the map first, starting with really tentative sketches. Then coming up with a basic idea and writing it as the "Background" just so there are words on the blank page (a completely blank page is a real inhibitor for creativity).

Then I put some numbers on the map and begin filling in what's in those numbers. This process totally changes the background, and it often means going back to earlier encounter areas and changing them to match the new ideas that are developing. There's a lot of inefficient re-writing, but usually it's worth it as the adventure develops into something I really didn't expect at the beginning.

The final product is usually completely different from the starting point, and being surprised by the outcome is definitely part of the fun of writing an adventure. You never know what you're going to find in your own head.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sometimes I don't know why things are important

When I first wrote OSRIC, I couldn't put my finger on why I felt it was so important. I've got another interesting example of that, on a smaller scale, and I'd love to hear some input.

I'm working with a teenager who's writing their first module for general consumption. The very first thing I did -- and I don't know why -- was to have them open a commercial module and read it for 5 minutes, telling me what they were looking at as they went.

The result was a lesson that most of us know. No one reads a module sequentially. You flip around from introduction, to maps, to interesting locations you see on the map, etc.

What I don't know is why I felt so intently that this was a FIRST lesson in writing a module.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fathers Day Sale at Tabletop Library

The coupon code is Fathers-25 at 25% off, now through Monday.

Neat idea re: wandering monsters

In most old-school games, especially in the types of sandbox adventure where there's no time sensitive mission involved, wandering monsters provide the only disincentive for spending infinite amounts of time checking every wall and every item, thereby eroding some of the crucial decisions that make the game fun. Wandering monsters are, essentially, the measurement of time ticking.

Many people don't like wandering monsters because the whole concept is a bit unrealistic -- infinite numbers of monsters roaming around? But they play an important structural role in a sandbox adventure, one that needs a substitute if you eliminate the concept based on realism.

Over at The Dragon's Flagon, Waywardwayfarer has proposed a tiny little trick for making the wandering monster checks a bit easier to track. It's basically a change in probabilities so that the check can always be made each turn instead of using one check on staggered turns.

Take a look - it's simple and elegant.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Until Death Do Us Part. (Not about gaming).

Several people already know this, but I'm a straight guy in a same-sex marriage. After 20 years of marriage, my husband realized that he's transgender -- a man, not a woman. Lots of people asked us if we were going to stay married, and I think the answer to that is pretty obvious. You get married "until death do us part." I married my best friend, I didn't marry for sex. I live in an unusual marriage landscape now, in terms of what other people think, but I'm proud to be married to Ian and love him with all my heart, just as I loved the female "incarnation" before. Being trans doesn't change who a person is; they don't suddenly become a "discard."

But that's all only by means of introduction to the issue. See, yesterday Ian happened to be at a gay bar, hanging out on the porch with friends from his LGBT circle. And yesterday, in another state, at pretty much the same time, someone opened fire in a similar gay bar, killing 50+ people. Except for an accident of geography, Ian and I could have hit the point of "Death Do Us Part."

In 1991, I worked on the 96th floor of Two World Trade Center, one of the floors that was hit directly by the planes in 9/11 ten years later. That's only a tenuous link -- I don't feel like I dodged a bullet there, because I was a long time gone -- but it did reinforce that every once in a while you have a direct connection to "large" issues.

We live in Texas. And unlike many people who have made sweeping statements about leaving the country if a Republican takes the White House, we've looked pretty closely at moving to a different state if the executive branch suddenly stops eyeballing what the states are doing with their individual citizens.

But then, and geographically in this case, there's that "until death do us part" issue. I'm proud to be a native Texan, even if the rest of the state seems to have absolutely gone off the deep end recently. I don't like the political or the social atmosphere here, but I've also got a characteristically Texan attitude about it, which is that no one, and that's NO ONE, pushes me off my ground. Not other Texans, not anyone. I stand my ground.

ISIS hates gay people just as much as a big contingent of Americans do, and from BOTH of those vectors I see it as a direct attack on what America, and Texas, actually stand for. I don't have any sort of deep analysis of the connection between a massacre in Orlando, anti-LGBT politics in Texas, working in the World Trade Center, and so on, but I have the same reaction to all of them.

Dig in. Stand your ground. And fight. That's what protects a free society, nothing else. I don't mean fighting on foreign soil, I mean fighting right here, for the country's soul. A free society has an extremely difficult line to walk: protecting ourselves without becoming the enemy. Many of us see the balance differently, and that's fine, as long as we all see that there's a balance. If we ever lose sight of the fact that there is a balancing act, though, then we are lost.

There are going to be several take-aways in the aftermath of this massacre, I think. But whatever they are, there's an overriding message already. Freedom is a matter of "until death do us part." You have to hold onto it to keep it. And it's not just the freedoms you like for yourself -- it's the freedoms you don't like, for people you don't like. It's all connected in a fragile web that other people would love to tear apart.

Don't let go of your people, don't let go of your freedom, and understand that part of the battle is going to be fought on behalf of people you don't like one bit. That's how it works. All of us civilians in free societies are still, ultimately, soldiers. Our militaries try to keep that from happening, but civilians are still the final line of defense. And we have to stick together: Until death do us part. Rest in peace to these Americans who died because they lived in freedom. You were ours, and now you are gone.

Death has parted us.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Goals and Plans
So I'm back from North Texas RPGCon, and I'll probably blog about it soon. Couple of days. Right at the moment, all I've got on that is, "it was great!" Plus, Tenkar did a great job of providing excellent blogging coverage while the con was still ongoing.

So, today is my day for catching up. I had a couple of "rest" days when I took care of family housekeeping-type stuff, and I'm back around on the net to catch up on the gaming stuff.
What I really want to move forward with is Tabletop Library, which is my current pet project. The RPG market needs a second large online retailer of pdfs, and we're trying to start that up.

The Goal:
Basically, on a project like this, a rising tide lifts all boats. There's a cycle that can be either virtuous or vicious, depending on how it's working. Basically, the publishers need to see sales before they get excited about adding new products, and the customers need to see new products before they get excited about visiting the website. Behind it all, the affiliates (who are key to rising visibility) need to be brought into the loop by sales -- much like publishers.
So, I've got a tri-fold mission for this month, which is to bring in all three groups: publishers, customers, and affiliates. My number targets for June are these:
  • 10 new affiliates
  • 10 new publishers
  • 200 new customers

Here's the benefit for each group:
  • Affiliates: we offer a longer tail (30 days) than our big competitor, with the same payout. There's no downside to simply adding our link to your site, and the publishers are paid better when you do.
  • Publishers: we offer a higher payout than the competition. Ours is 75%, theirs ranges from 50% to 70%, and at 70% you're committing to an exclusivity clause that bars you from selling anywhere else. Not only is the payout better, but we do lots of specific support for products on social media.
  • Customers: We think our website offers a better experience when you visit, and like the affiliates, you're supporting the publishers by getting them a better payout than they get elsewhere. We have some exclusive products (mainly for 5e, but there will be more), and this list of products you can't get anywhere else is growing.

Come and take a look, possibly sign up to be notified of sales (we do GOOD sales), possibly sign up for the newsletter if you are intrigued with our ideas. Supporting us in this project is something that will, eventually, help all of us. I'm not going to bore anyone with the economics, but competition is good for everyone in a market. Help us to build this competition -- we can't do it alone, that's the nature of competition.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Creeping Conventionality

It's that day when suddenly a convention has crept up on you, and you suddenly have to (1) Shop so that the family doesn't starve during your absence, (2) get some shorts that don't have the back pocket ripped out, (3) make sure someone feeds the birds while you're gone, (4) pack, (5) consider that the dungeon isn't exactly ready for adventuring, and (6) pick up the dry cleaning. You have to be time-efficient.
One piece of advice I can give to con-goers preparing for a trip is this: try to do two jobs at once, like updating your blog at the same time you make your to-do list...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Another Memorial Day sale - Tabletop Library
I already posted one of the Tabletop Library Memorial Day sales going on, in a previous post. Here is another, coming from the (unaffiliated) Tabletop Adventures. Until June 1, all of their products are 20% off. As a personal note, I think their "Bits of" products are awesome, although the crunch in them is for 3e. I'm not familiar with Against the Darkness, which is their RPG, but anything with the word "Vatican" in the description makes me sit up and take notice. Here's the description:
Do you have what it takes to stand Against the Darkness? Find out in Tabletop Adventures’ exciting game of modern Vatican horror, conspiracy and investigation in which demons, ghosts and vampires exist to torment and feed upon an unprepared humanity. The only defense is a small and steadily shrinking cadre of holy defenders.

One-day $2.99 sale on Undeath RPG
This isn't one of my own products; it's from FeralGames. I haven't read it myself yet, so take it for what it's worth, but the premise is very cool. It's on a very deep sale today -- Memorial Day only -- on Tabletop Library.

It's a $7.99 product selling for $2.99.

Premise: You are dead and have awoken in Limbo, in order to reach the hall of Heroes you must climb the Mountain and gather souls.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Bard's Gate Double-Rewards with Tabletop Library

The Bard's Gate Kickstarter is live! All hail the city of a Thousand Gods, one of the central features of the Rappan Athuk Lost Lands campaign!

And there's a twist to this Kickstarter as well ...

Take a look at this news blog-post from Tabletop Library about ADDITIONAL stretch goals for Tabletop Library customers, whether you're backing the Kickstarter or not! That's all customers of Tabletop Library. All of them.

We’re excited to announce our cooperation with Frog God Games on the Bard’s Gate Kickstarter. This project funds an epic, full-color book describing the iconic fantasy city of Bard’s Gate, and the Kickstarter is already on track to a massive success.
And we thought to ourselves -- because we do that sometimes -- “Why limit stretch goals just to people who pledge for a Kickstarter? If it does well, let’s give everybody some stuff!”
So here’s the plan – it’s a type of cooperation that hasn’t been done before between an online retailer like us, working with a publisher like Frog God Games. If it works well, we’ll do this with other Kickstarters in the future to help boost their signals.
For ALL registered customer here at Tabletop Library, if the Bard’s Gate Kickstarter does well, we’ve arranged with Frog God Games to put up some of their Bard’s Gate related products for free until (just after) the end of the Kickstarter. So don’t forget – if you’re not already registered as a customer at the, you should register now to be included in these goals!
Here is our schedule of the Tabletop Library Double-Rewards for the Bard’s Gate Kickstarter:
  • $25,000: Gulf of Akados Region Map. If the Bard’s Gate Kickstarter reaches $25,000 in pledges, we will put the Gulf of Akados poster map (pdf) up as a free product until just after the end of the Kickstarter. The Gulf of Akados is the region where Bard’s Gate is located.
  • $45,000 Sinnar Coast Region Map. If the Kickstarter reaches $45,000 in pledges, we will put the Sinnar Coast Region poster map (pdf) up as a free product until just after the end of the Kickstarter. The Sinnar Coast Region contains the Bard’s Gate colony-cities of Eastgate and Telar Brindel.
  • $75,000 Rogues in Remballo Adventure Module. If the Kickstarter reaches $75,000 in pledges, we will put all three versions of the module Rogues in Remballo (5e, PF, and S&W) up as free products until just after the end of the Kickstarter. Rogues in Remballo concerns matters involving the House of Borgandy, a banking family in Suilley that has extensive financial dealings with Bard’s Gate.
And there may be more … stay tuned!
Tabletop Library Staff

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Ongoing 10% Tabletop Library Sale
Another little news item -- Tabletop Library has an ongoing 10% off sale until the end of the month, with the discount code EXTRA-10. Virtually every digital product on the site is part of the sale. Also, the publishers are getting an extra 10% cut to offset the sale, so there's no downside for them if you load up on everything you can fit into a digital cart.

For those who are trying to evaluate the costs and benefits of publishing for 5e under the Open Game License or under the DM Guild License, may I recommend the following:

And for a Swords & Wizardry adventure, the estimable Guy Fullerton can always be relied upon:

BTW, if you buy something and like it, REVIEW it. Even a short 5-star review can be an immense help to the publishers.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Enough Shilling! Back to Monster Killing!

So, I made a couple of posts that were advertising. Time to offer a monster.I sketched a little picture of the Grumprock that's basically "before and after."

The grumprock is a creature of the elemental plane of earth, but they are encountered on the material planes more frequently than other elementals since they form as polyps on large rock formations, eventually breaking away and wandering about, although they never go fer from their parent rock formation. They resemble ordinary boulders when they are inactive, which is most of the time. However, if they are hungry or disturbed, the top of the grumprock opens to reveal the creature's interior, which is much like that of a mollusk. The grumprock's interior extrudes a very long, triple-tongue that it uses to grab its prey and smash them around until the shells are broken and the creature is dead. Each of the tongues attacks independently, and if it hits, it winds around the victim. Anyone entrapped in this way can attempt to break free each round by making a saving throw just after being smashed. Smashing begins on the round after the victim is enfolded in the tongue, and causes 1d6 points of damage automatically.
Grumprocks are always surrounded by a pungent smell, which is rust monster pheromones. Rust monsters are attracted to the grumpocks by this smell, enfolded in the tongue, smashed open, and eaten. The area around a grumprock may be marked by the smashed shells of rust monsters if the grumprock has remained in the same place for long enough.

Grumprock: HD 6; AC 0[19]; Atk tongue (special); Move 3; Save 11; AL N; CL/XP 8/800; Special: tongue.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tabletop Library 25% Off Sale!
Tabletop Library is starting a big weekend sale today, celebrating the inauguration of new site features, publishers, and products!

Type GRAND-25 at checkout to get the 25% discount -- most products on the site are included in the sale.

Joesky Tax: Does anyone still pay the Joesky tax? It's the premise that if you're making a non-gaming post, you should include some content with it. I don't have content, but I have a really good link to Greg Farrell's NPC generator for Swords & Wizardry, also usable with pretty much any of the old-school editions. Take a look!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Milo's Daily Deal?

So, pretty soon we're going to be starting a "Deal of the Day" program at Tabletop Library. And this is a picture of my Leonberger puppy, Milo. Chime in if you think we should use his picture for the "Deal of the Day" page and call it Milo's Daily Deal. Chewing on that grass stalk, he looks like he's all ready to wheel and deal for the big bucks.

The other option is probably a picture of a merchant.....

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Name of the Rose (or, of the blog)
So it might not be visible to everyone, but I've changed the name of my blog from Mythmere's Blog to Finch's Folio. The reason is that some of my RPG interests have shifted a bit from just writing about gaming to writing about the RPG market in general. Partly that's because I got fascinated with the whole "guild" approach going on at OneBookShelf ... I'm quite against it, by the way, but that's another story.

Anyway, I'm going to be writing on a different mix of topics than before, although still lots of purely gaming stuff. I got affiliated with Tabletop Library over the course of the last couple of months (again, an indirect result of the restrictive "Guild" system), so I'll have various comments on that.

In the meantime, for any readers who have their own blogs, take a look at the affiliate program at TTL and see if you'd like to participate. The link to set up an affiliate account (if you're already registered) is (or HERE). If you're not registered, the home page is

More later!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day

Happy Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day!
Thanks to Ryan Thompson of Gamers & Grognards for organizing all the activity, along with James Spahn, and Erik Tenkar. This is always a busy day for me...
In celebration I've discounted the Eldritch Weirdness Compilation on Tabletop Library, since it's one of the more ... interesting things I've written, most of it during a pretty bad fever that happened to boost the weirder side of the creative parts of what I call my mind.