D&D Clones, Errata, and Self-Publishing

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Cloak-n-Dagger
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D&D Clones, Errata, and Self-Publishing

Post by Cloak-n-Dagger » Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:02 am

I've never self-published a game, book, or module but I've often thought, like many others in the hobby, that it would be cool to do so. Not so much for the purpose of "making a name" in the industry or anything like Jeff with AS&SH, but because I like the idea of putting together a game that is trailored specifically to my own preferences and likes. The other side is that I'm somewhat OCD about errata and other writing errors. Having control of my own product means I can update it, review it and ensure it's as close to perfect as can be before I decide to print a copy, whether for myself or someone else. It also means getting a printed copy is at cost, since there is no money to be made. Another aspect, I don't have to worry about anyone making changes or updates to a product that I don't like. This happened with Whitebox, Charlie updated his game with a new cover and I simply do not like it compared to the old one. I also seem to remember it looking a bit different on the inside too, different font used, which I don't think was as good. So, those are just some of the benefits to creating ones own product.

The downsides to the idea of publishing a game for myself is that I'm always second guessing whether it's necessary, I mean there are literally dozens of D&D and AD&D clones floating around in the internet, printed, pdf, commercial, free, etc. So why reinvent the wheel? There is time, effort, and even money involved if one wants to use good artwork, especially commissioned, all of which can be avoided by just using something already available.

I think for me it's just the feeing of putting something together that I can hold a final product of and say, "I did this!". Taking the time to craft something that speaks to one's own personal preferences is, in a word, just plain fun. With the advent of self-publishing via LuLu or DTRPG, it allows a hobbyist to take their own ideas and make something tangible. We've come far since the early days of tabletop gaming and early rpgs, back then fans still put out their own "zines" and "derived games" but it was much more difficult to circulate, not having mass communication like we do with the internet. Now, we're no longer tied down to what is available just in stores (even though I seem to buy up many games, lol), hobbyist can print out their own games and subsequent products with which to play. IMO, that is pretty awesome.

Thoughts? Comments?


“A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints” ~ Wilfred Peterson, American Author

grodog
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Post by grodog » Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:07 am

The writing/editing/errata/updates lifecycle is a bummer, especially when you've put your heart and soul into a project and find the bugs. I found a typo in our dust-jacket text for Tales of Peril. Grrrrrr.

Anyway, you don't have to like the errors, but they do happen, which is why second (and further, hopefully!) printings happen. When you're publishing digitally, errors are a lot less onerous to fix, and sting less than physical product errors, in my experience.

Anyway, having your own system, tailored to your own tastes, setting, genre, etc. is definitely fun. I've helped design a few over the years, and it can be a cool and collaborative process, or one where you dream it all up yourself, too---that's the beauty of design work in general (RPG or otherwise).

I enjoyed redesigning a very Vampire-like game system at my first RPG company in the 1990s and making it diceless. I did that with a friend, and I think we really nailed a design that reinforced what the game's themes, setting, and underlying philosophy were all about (fate/destiny).

I've still got a system we used in college but never published, and I occasionally think about revisiting it but haven't in awhile. It was a cross between AD&D + WFRP 1e + Top Secret in terms of its approach to character stats. We used it for awhile for our WFRP campaign, I think, but it may have been for after that game, now that I think about it some more. I'm not sure that this one ever ended up as a full system, unlike the diceless one above---I most remember the inter-related primary, secondary, and tertiary groups of attributes, rather than say how action resolution worked....

What kind of system ideas do you have percolating, Jay?

Allan.
grodog
----
Allan Grohe
Editor and Project Manager
Black Blade Publishing
https://www.facebook.com/BlackBladePublishing/

grodog@gmail.com
http://www.greyhawkonline.com/grodog/greyhawk.html for my Greyhawk site
https://grodog.blogspot.com/

Cloak-n-Dagger
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Post by Cloak-n-Dagger » Thu Oct 26, 2017 9:58 pm

grodog wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:07 am
The writing/editing/errata/updates lifecycle is a bummer, especially when you've put your heart and soul into a project and find the bugs. I found a typo in our dust-jacket text for Tales of Peril. Grrrrrr.

Anyway, you don't have to like the errors, but they do happen, which is why second (and further, hopefully!) printings happen. When you're publishing digitally, errors are a lot less onerous to fix, and sting less than physical product errors, in my experience.
At one point I came really close to giving up all printed products and upgrading my iPad to the 12" iPad Pro and then just going digital for everything, then I wouldn't have to worry with errata and typos, as long as the authors were updating their PDFs. I just found it so hard to give up printed products I couldn't go through with it. So I just endure and suffer through and hope for as little as possible like everyone else. lol.
I enjoyed redesigning a very Vampire-like game system at my first RPG company in the 1990s and making it diceless. I did that with a friend, and I think we really nailed a design that reinforced what the game's themes, setting, and underlying philosophy were all about (fate/destiny).
I hate to admit it, but I didn't realize you worked with at an RPG company prior to BBP with Jon. Care to give divulge some of the history?
I've still got a system we used in college but never published, and I occasionally think about revisiting it but haven't in awhile. It was a cross between AD&D + WFRP 1e + Top Secret in terms of its approach to character stats. We used it for awhile for our WFRP campaign, I think, but it may have been for after that game, now that I think about it some more. I'm not sure that this one ever ended up as a full system, unlike the diceless one above---I most remember the inter-related primary, secondary, and tertiary groups of attributes, rather than say how action resolution worked....
That's awesome, you should definitely consider dusting it off and, at the very least, take another look to see if it's something worth working on again.
What kind of system ideas do you have percolating, Jay?
Well, to be honest my first inclination like I said above, was to recreate another clone of OD&D or B/X and tinker with it until I have my own personal D&D version. The more I consider it, the more I have a hard time going through with it because there are just so many out there already and what I want to do could just as easily be a set of house rules when playing, no real need to go through with publishing something.

On more of an original system I've had two concepts floating around for a few years that have never gotten farther than notes in a note book and some templates for cards.

The first one is a system that I labeled, the BOP ,or Balance of Power, system. At it's core it's something of a dice pool system, but one that is played from by both the players and the GM. The players start off with dice based on their character skills/stats/levels, etc. The GM starts with only one or maybe none. The first combat encounter or instance where a skill roll would be required, the player or players take a die or dice from their own pool and roll to accomplish whatever task it is are up against. Once the dice are rolled, the GM then gets to take those dice and put them into their own pool. For example, lets assume the party encounters bandits. During the first round of combat, the GM has either one die or none and can take either one action or none. The players get an opportunity to take whatever actions they like, any dice then rolled go to the GM who now can either hold onto those dice or use them to take actions for the bandits. Once the GM uses a particular die that was initially rolled by a player, that die then goes back to that player to use in their pool once again. In the end, the GM may decided to hold onto 2-3 dice in their pool to use in the next encounter leaving a PC or two without one or more of their dice the next go round. So the game is balanced in that whatever the players use, the GM then gets to use back at them, back and forth keeping the power of the dice between the players and GM who can both decide how they are used to accomplish tasks.

The concept is still really very rough and I don't have specifics hammered by any means but I have two different ideas pertaining to the dice pool. One is the use of the standard set of poly dice, character skills may use a die from d4 up to d20 depending on how it's hashed out for skills and abilities. The other method is one I lean towards more and it's a simple d6 pool. I'm just not sure without writing something concrete and giving it a try, which one would be better suited.

I hope that made some semblance of sense, lol. I could probably explain it better in person with actual dice to show.

Now, the other game concept I had was actually more of an RPG/Card game idea of dungeon crawling where the PCs build the dungeon by drawing cards like corridors, doors, rooms, etc and placing them on the table. The GM has a stack of cards also but for monsters, traps, and hazards. There are descriptors on the cards that the PCs put down that the GM can use to place certain cards under the location cards and have the PCs "encounter" whatever it is when they move into those areas or rooms. So for example, a Darkened Corridor card might have "Dark" on the descriptor. If a PC doesn't carry a torch or light source, then the GM could play a monster card like a Grue, which has the same descriptor and can only be played in a location that specifies the "Dark" descriptor. I actually have quite a few notes on the card game concept that I started working on, I even created a prototype card in Photoshop just to see what it might look like, but never got much farther than that. Essentially the game would still be played by rolling dice for task resolution, but the cards would give players some input into building the dungeon or locations they explored.

Cards would also have levels associated with them so a GM could mix and match cards from a core set and any other "expansion pack" that had cards of the same level. This would let the GM build a nearly unlimited number of random dungeons and locations. Expansion packs would have new monsters, treasure, traps, locations, etc. Players could buy character sets which would have specific class related items, weapons, armor, and spells that they could use to customize their character as they looted and leveled throughout adventures. I'm pretty sure this game/system concept isn't very original today, I feel like there are already table top games that do something similar out in the market so I'm not sure if this one would be work pursuing at all.

So there ya go, those are the two or three most prominent ideas for my personal game design. I'm sure I have some other notes with scrawled ideas somewhere but I haven't done much digging recently.
“A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints” ~ Wilfred Peterson, American Author

Cloak-n-Dagger
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Post by Cloak-n-Dagger » Fri Nov 03, 2017 2:48 pm

Something I really enjoy digging into are old issues of Dragon, White Dwarf and other fantasy gaming magazines that were out back in the day. Some of the articles detailing alternate mechanics or systems made for interesting changes to the game. In my own version of the game, I would like to solidify some of the different approaches to how the game runs, make those rules core. One idea I had was using the system from a Dragon Magazine article that did away with DM rolls during combat and let the players, instead, roll a defense against attacks by the NPCs/Monsters. This gives the players more opportunity to roll dice and I think, won't feel like the DM/GM was the reason their character dies should it happen.
“A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints” ~ Wilfred Peterson, American Author

grodog
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Post by grodog » Sun Nov 19, 2017 12:11 pm

Cloak-n-Dagger wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 9:58 pm
grodog wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:07 am
I enjoyed redesigning a very Vampire-like game system at my first RPG company in the 1990s and making it diceless. I did that with a friend, and I think we really nailed a design that reinforced what the game's themes, setting, and underlying philosophy were all about (fate/destiny).
I hate to admit it, but I didn't realize you worked with at an RPG company prior to BBP with Jon. Care to give divulge some of the history?
Happy to. In the 1990s, Lawrence/Kansas City/Columbia area was a little silicon valley for the hobby industry. The largest RPGA club in the country was at KU, ThunderCastle Games was publishing CCGs in KC (Highlander and Towers in Time), and Pagan Publishing hadn't yet relocated to Seattle (and even when they did, Biohazard Games was formed by the folks who stayed behind). Pagan was my entry into the industry (other than my first freelance article published for White Wolf Magazine while I was still an undergrad), and I did playtesting for them (several scenarios from TUO and The Golden Dawn), some editing work I think, I wrote reviews for TUO (my review for Kult 1e was quoted by Metropolis Ltd. in their ads: "Kult is an evil game. You'll like it!" :D ), and I did some creative consulting on the first edition of Delta Green, Coming Full Circle, and Realm of Shadows. I kept in touch with Pagan after John Tynes moved to Seattle, as well as with Jeff Barber, who formed Biohazard Games after John left. I wrote one of the chapters in the main Blue Planet 1e rulebook, as well as one of landmasses in the first supplement Archipelago, too.

In Lawrence, some friends formed Epitaph Studios to publish Periphery, a hard SF game c. 1991 or '92-ish. One of those folks, and some other friends began to want to form a new company, so five of us started Event Horizon Publishing in January 1996. We published Hong Kong Action Theatre! and three supplements for it (one of which I wrote about 1/2 or 2/3 of, under duress---Hong Kong action was not really my thing), but John Phythyon (who later went on to work for Guardians of Order and Avalanche Press) really formed the company to publish his Twin-Peaks inspired game Heaven & Earth. That's the one that he wrote a very WoD-like rules system for, which Matt Harrop and I redesigned from the ground up as a diceless system.

By the end of the 1990s I was working for Sprint in Kansas City, and hating my work, and was recruited by Juniper Networks, so after getting married, Heather and I relocated to San Jose, CA for 5 years. During that time I became friends with Tadashi Ehara of Different Worlds (who lives in SF), and we published a d20 regional supplement written by a friend on ENWorld (Ryan "Destan" Smalley), based on his story hour gaming fiction (which was quite good). We also published the final d20-converted adventure for Rob Kuntz's Maze of Zayene series (M4 Eight Kings); he had published the first three with Necromancer Games, but that relationship fell apart. We worked on a number of other possible publishing options (including the old Gamelords unpublished Haven supplement), but they never quite came together. I'd been friends with Rob since 1987 (we met at DragonCon #1 in Atlanta), and as Tadashi's publishing wound down, I worked with Rob on his various Pied Piper projects (primarily Cairn of the Skeleton King, Tower of Blood, and Bottle City, although I had a hand in most of the PPP books one way or the other). As Rob's PPP wound down, Jon and I formed Black Blade Publishing in January 2009.
Cloak-n-Dagger wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 9:58 pm
grodog wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:07 am
I've still got a system we used in college but never published, and I occasionally think about revisiting it but haven't in awhile. It was a cross between AD&D + WFRP 1e + Top Secret in terms of its approach to character stats. We used it for awhile for our WFRP campaign, I think, but it may have been for after that game, now that I think about it some more. I'm not sure that this one ever ended up as a full system, unlike the diceless one above---I most remember the inter-related primary, secondary, and tertiary groups of attributes, rather than say how action resolution worked....
That's awesome, you should definitely consider dusting it off and, at the very least, take another look to see if it's something worth working on again.
I've thought about it from time to time, and may dig it up if the boys get interested in Warhammer or Top Secret. I'm sure the notebook it's in is with my WH or Ars Magica books.
Cloak-n-Dagger wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 9:58 pm
grodog wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:07 am
What kind of system ideas do you have percolating, Jay?
Well, to be honest my first inclination like I said above, was to recreate another clone of OD&D or B/X and tinker with it until I have my own personal D&D version. The more I consider it, the more I have a hard time going through with it because there are just so many out there already and what I want to do could just as easily be a set of house rules when playing, no real need to go through with publishing something.
That's where I am for the most part, systems-wise, these days. If I had a setting that really demanded a different system, I'd be fine building something off of it, but otherwise there are so many out there already that I have little desire to publish a new one for its own sake.
Cloak-n-Dagger wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 9:58 pm
The first one is a system that I labeled, the BOP ,or Balance of Power, system. At it's core it's something of a dice pool system, but one that is played from by both the players and the GM. The players start off with dice based on their character skills/stats/levels, etc. The GM starts with only one or maybe none. The first combat encounter or instance where a skill roll would be required, the player or players take a die or dice from their own pool and roll to accomplish whatever task it is are up against. Once the dice are rolled, the GM then gets to take those dice and put them into their own pool. For example, lets assume the party encounters bandits. During the first round of combat, the GM has either one die or none and can take either one action or none. The players get an opportunity to take whatever actions they like, any dice then rolled go to the GM who now can either hold onto those dice or use them to take actions for the bandits. Once the GM uses a particular die that was initially rolled by a player, that die then goes back to that player to use in their pool once again. In the end, the GM may decided to hold onto 2-3 dice in their pool to use in the next encounter leaving a PC or two without one or more of their dice the next go round. So the game is balanced in that whatever the players use, the GM then gets to use back at them, back and forth keeping the power of the dice between the players and GM who can both decide how they are used to accomplish tasks.
That's in interesting idea. I like the idea of the dice moving back and forth, but would probably tweak that with an ante---PCs and GMs both have to ante into the pool, and then the ante pile can be reallocated at various times/points, to replenish or expand each players available dice (including the GM with NPCs, etc.). It sounds like it might require a LOT of dice, though, and I'm not sure I'd want anyone to start out with a very small or zero sized dice pool. Perhaps you could "borrow" against future dice too, which could prove to bite you later, of course, too.
Cloak-n-Dagger wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 9:58 pm
The concept is still really very rough and I don't have specifics hammered by any means but I have two different ideas pertaining to the dice pool. One is the use of the standard set of poly dice, character skills may use a die from d4 up to d20 depending on how it's hashed out for skills and abilities. The other method is one I lean towards more and it's a simple d6 pool. I'm just not sure without writing something concrete and giving it a try, which one would be better suited.
Makes sense. Like it said, it's an interesting idea :D
Cloak-n-Dagger wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 9:58 pm
Now, the other game concept I had was actually more of an RPG/Card game idea of dungeon crawling where the PCs build the dungeon by drawing cards like corridors, doors, rooms, etc and placing them on the table. [snip] So for example, a Darkened Corridor card might have "Dark" on the descriptor. If a PC doesn't carry a torch or light source, then the GM could play a monster card like a Grue, which has the same descriptor and can only be played in a location that specifies the "Dark" descriptor. [snip]

Cards would also have levels associated with them so a GM could mix and match cards from a core set and any other "expansion pack" that had cards of the same level. This would let the GM build a nearly unlimited number of random dungeons and locations. [snip]
I'm pretty sure this game/system concept isn't very original today, I feel like there are already table top games that do something similar out in the market so I'm not sure if this one would be work pursuing at all.
Also sounds like a fun idea. I'd try to build this as an all-cards game vs. cards+dice myself---sort of like a more complex Incan Gold, perhaps.
Cloak-n-Dagger wrote:
Thu Oct 26, 2017 9:58 pm
So there ya go, those are the two or three most prominent ideas for my personal game design. I'm sure I have some other notes with scrawled ideas somewhere but I haven't done much digging recently.
Thanks for sharing them, Jay! :D

Allan.
grodog
----
Allan Grohe
Editor and Project Manager
Black Blade Publishing
https://www.facebook.com/BlackBladePublishing/

grodog@gmail.com
http://www.greyhawkonline.com/grodog/greyhawk.html for my Greyhawk site
https://grodog.blogspot.com/

Cloak-n-Dagger
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Post by Cloak-n-Dagger » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:52 pm

grodog wrote:Happy to. In the 1990s, Lawrence/Kansas City/Columbia area was a little silicon valley for the hobby industry. The largest RPGA club in the country was at KU, ThunderCastle Games was publishing CCGs in KC (Highlander and Towers in Time), and Pagan Publishing hadn't yet relocated to Seattle (and even when they did, Biohazard Games was formed by the folks who stayed behind). Pagan was my entry into the industry (other than my first freelance article published for White Wolf Magazine while I was still an undergrad), and I did playtesting for them (several scenarios from TUO and The Golden Dawn), some editing work I think, I wrote reviews for TUO (my review for Kult 1e was quoted by Metropolis Ltd. in their ads: "Kult is an evil game. You'll like it!" :D ), and I did some creative consulting on the first edition of Delta Green, Coming Full Circle, and Realm of Shadows. I kept in touch with Pagan after John Tynes moved to Seattle, as well as with Jeff Barber, who formed Biohazard Games after John left. I wrote one of the chapters in the main Blue Planet 1e rulebook, as well as one of landmasses in the first supplement Archipelago, too.

In Lawrence, some friends formed Epitaph Studios to publish Periphery, a hard SF game c. 1991 or '92-ish. One of those folks, and some other friends began to want to form a new company, so five of us started Event Horizon Publishing in January 1996. We published Hong Kong Action Theatre! and three supplements for it (one of which I wrote about 1/2 or 2/3 of, under duress---Hong Kong action was not really my thing), but John Phythyon (who later went on to work for Guardians of Order and Avalanche Press) really formed the company to publish his Twin-Peaks inspired game Heaven & Earth. That's the one that he wrote a very WoD-like rules system for, which Matt Harrop and I redesigned from the ground up as a diceless system.

By the end of the 1990s I was working for Sprint in Kansas City, and hating my work, and was recruited by Juniper Networks, so after getting married, Heather and I relocated to San Jose, CA for 5 years. During that time I became friends with Tadashi Ehara of Different Worlds (who lives in SF), and we published a d20 regional supplement written by a friend on ENWorld (Ryan "Destan" Smalley), based on his story hour gaming fiction (which was quite good). We also published the final d20-converted adventure for Rob Kuntz's Maze of Zayene series (M4 Eight Kings); he had published the first three with Necromancer Games, but that relationship fell apart. We worked on a number of other possible publishing options (including the old Gamelords unpublished Haven supplement), but they never quite came together. I'd been friends with Rob since 1987 (we met at DragonCon #1 in Atlanta), and as Tadashi's publishing wound down, I worked with Rob on his various Pied Piper projects (primarily Cairn of the Skeleton King, Tower of Blood, and Bottle City, although I had a hand in most of the PPP books one way or the other). As Rob's PPP wound down, Jon and I formed Black Blade Publishing in January 2009.
Wow, that's impressive. I have never played HKT, but I recall hearing about it back in the mid-90's. I did however delve briefly into Blue Planet, albeit 2nd edition. I stumbled across the game sometime in the early 2000s and found most of the books online through ebay. I think I owned it and read through it for about a year without having any opportunity to get it to the table. Eventually I sold/traded it off for lack of use. I really liked the concept though and thought it was one of the more interesting sci-fi RPGs at the time. I believe that was was during a time when I had a break-away from D&D and the fantasy, looking for rpgs in other genres.

I joined DF back in 2003, I can't believe over the last fourteen years, between all of the various shared forums, I never once heard anything about your history in the gaming industry. I honestly, and ignorantly, thought you were just another dedicated (A)D&D fan who eventually jumped on the OSR bandwagon, got together with John, and then delved into BBP together. Very cool to know everything that lead up to that especially working with Rob too.

As far as the system ideas go, they'll be put back on the proverbial shelf while the holidays take over and I'm wrapping up my adventures for GaryCon, not to mention I'm excited about the new RPG coming out from Fantasy Flight Games, Genesys. The core book is due out in a week or so and I'm looking forward to picking it up. If you're familiar with the new FFG Star Wars line or Warhammer 3rd edition, it takes that system and pairs it down to a generic system that can be used to run any genre, hence the name. I've never been a real fan of "narrative" styled RPGs, but the Genesys dice and rule system checks all of the right boxes when I'm running or playing it. I was actually running a campaign before moving down to Florida, with Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. My group had a lot of fun and I found the system both easy and fun. If you're not familiar with the system or the game itself, you can read more about it from their website: Genesys RPG, Fantasy Flight Games
“A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints” ~ Wilfred Peterson, American Author

Ancalagon
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Post by Ancalagon » Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:49 pm

grodog wrote:
Sun Nov 19, 2017 12:11 pm
<snip>
I'd been friends with Rob since 1987 (we met at DragonCon #1 in Atlanta), <snip>
Emphasis mine.
I was at that one, too!

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