Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: New Year's Resolutions In Review...

GOod Morning, All:

Today, I reviewed my 2010 Gaming Resolutions, figuring that doing so helps me to evaluate what I have accomplished in the past year. Besides, tomorrow I need to post my 2011 Gaming Resolutions.

I failed to accomplish my first resolution for this year, publish four products. I did publish three books/supplements: MyD20 Lite Player's Guide, Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting, and Book of Races. I still feel good about what I got done, as I grossly underestimated the impact that a new baby would have on my available time. That I got three things completed in 2010 is pretty good, comparatively.

I succeeded in my second resolution, blog thrice weekly. I covered a wide range of topics in the 250 posts I've made this year, and actually posted an average of 4.8 posts a week. That's another feel-good moment from reviewing this year's resolutions.

In regards to my third resolution, publish four fanzines, I did not succeed in the slightest. However, I did transfer my editorship (and essentially the ownership of the Stellar Reaches fanzine) to Alvin Plummer mid-way through the year. He managed to publish four issues in the remainder of this year, accomplishing my resolution, but not through any effort on my part. I cannot claim it as a victory for me, but I do think making that decision was the best thing for the fans.

So, roughly, I feel like I hit it 50/50 this year, in terms of meeting my resolutions. Next year, I hope to do better. How did you do with yours?

With Regards,

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

PSA: Another Lulu.Com Coupon Code...

Good Afternoon, All:

Here's a quick note to let you all know about another Lulu.Com coupon code. This one is WINTER305, and grants you 25% off of your book order. This coupon code is good until January, 5 2011 at 11:59 PM.

Hope This Helps,

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Good Morning, All:

To all my friends who celebrate today, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace, the gladness of Christmas give you hope, and the warmth of Christmas grant you love.

Season's Greetings,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Solstice!

Good Evening, All:

To all my friends who celebrate today, I wish you all a very Merry Solstice and a Happy Yule! May you be blessed by the light of the returning Sun, that the coming year shall be one of good tidings and great joy.

Bright Blessings,

Samardan Press: Looking At What Sells...

Good Morning, All:

This morning I looked through the sales numbers for various products I have sold under the Samardan Press label. Here's a rough breakdown of total PDF sales to date, by product:

TitleTotal Sold
Book of Races18
Fantasy Concepts Campaign Resource125
Flynn's Guide to Alien Creation149
Flynn's Guide to Magic in Traveller71
Hammersong's Legacy7
Modern Options: The Tome of Talents18
MyD20 Lite Player's Guide42
OGL Alternatives: Alternate Advancement System55
One-Act Adventure: Vengeance By Proxy12

From the numbers above, it really looks like my best sellers are my Traveller products (except adventures), followed closely behind by Fantasy Concepts. Obviously, campaign settings such as Hammersong's Legacy are not good sellers at all, followed closely behind by adventures. I'm not really looking at the singletons that I started off with. System-wise, my best avenue would be to pursue Traveller, followed by Fantasy Concepts. Swords & Wizardry does not appear to be my thing, product-wise.

With that in mind, I'm inclined to put my efforts toward the following directions with future products:

  • I should focus on Traveller above other systems, because the rate of return is higher.
  • Despite the fact that MyD20 Lite isn't doing well, I will continue to develop it, simply to make sure I have the version of D&D I want to use for future fantasy games.
  • System books and supplements do better than adventures and settings, so I should focus on those.
  • I should also try a few experiments into products of other types beyond just the basics I've tackled here.
  • Stellar Quest will also make it out, just because it was fun to research and develop, and I know that there are a few fans of the project here among the readers.

I'm sure that this blog will continue to talk about Old School gaming, as that's the campaign style I prefer to run. I may also make a few more Traveller posts, if there's interest. While I'm not publishing with the goal of making a profit, but rather for the fun of creating works that others can enjoy, I have found that with today's economy, my Convention trips are easier if I have extra spending money earned from my product sales. So I suspect that I'll need to focus if I'm going to have a better Gen Con this year.

With Regards,

Friday, December 17, 2010

GM Mentoring: Adventure Creation Through Myth And Television...

Good Evening:

I often find inspiration for adventures in the television series I watch or the stories of mythology. Often the best ideas come from a blending of the core concepts from two unrelated sources, and then running with the resulting Frankenstein creation, smoothed out to fit the events of the campaign itself. Let's work through an example, by way of illustration.

Let's start with a story chosen from mythology. It often helps if we look at a religion that is not common to the usual experience of the gaming group. As mine is primarily made up of Christians, choosing a non-European mythos is highly recommended. While I started thinking initially in terms of oriental myths, I eventually decided to try something a bit closer to home. With that in mind, I searched Google for Polynesian myths and found an interesting site that mentioned a number of legends we can pull from. I liked the following for an adventure idea:

In Tahitian mythology, the supreme creator deity was Ta'aroa, also called Rua-i-tupra (source of growth). Ta'aroa emerged from a cosmic egg and started the process of creation. To fill the emptiness around him, he used part of the egg to make the sky and the other part to create the earth. Satisfied with his accomplishment, he filled the world with all the creatures and things that are now found in it. The Tahitians believed that Ta'aroa sent both blessings and curses, and they tried to appease him with human sacrifices.

This evening, I also watched a show on the Smithsonian Channel entitled "The Mystery of the Hope Diamond." One of the stories of the origin of the Hope Diamond curse can be found on Wikipedia:

According to these stories, Tavernier stole the diamond from a Hindu temple where it had been set as one of two matching eyes of an idol, and the temple priests then laid a curse on whoever might possess the missing stone. Largely because the other blue diamond "eye" never surfaced, historians dismissed the fantastical story. Furthermore, the legend claimed that Tavernier died of fever soon after and that his body was torn apart by wolves, but the historical record shows that he actually lived to the age of 84.

We start the process by breaking each down into their component pieces, or at least the pieces we want to use for our adventure idea. From the myth snippet above, we can grab the following tidbits:

  • A creator deity emerges from a cosmis egg, and uses part of it to create the sky and the rest to create the heavens.
  • Then he filled the world with all the different forms that occupy it now.
  • Human followers tried to appease him with human sacrifices.

From the Hope Diamond legend, I found the following pieces that might prove interesting in an adventure:

  • An adventurer steals a gem from an eye of an idol in an ancient temple.
  • A curse laid upon the stone afflicts any who possess it.
  • The original adventurer died of a fever and his body was then ripped apart by wolves.

Putting those ideas together, I came up with the following adventure concept:

The temple of an ancient cult devoted to a Creator God was once robbed by a band of adventurers. The biggest score of the heist was a gem stolen from the main statue of a wolf-headed Creator God; however, the theft came with a price, for the cult had lain a curse upon the stolen gem. One by one, the adventuring band has succumbed to a deadly disease. Now, the last surviving member, in the hopes of removing this disease, is seeking adventurers that are willing to escort him back to the temple, to return the stolen gem to the eye of the statue. The biggest challenge isn't the wilderness through which the survivor and his crew will travel, but the human-sacrificing cultists and sacred dire wolves that demand blood to atone for the theft of their God statue's eye.

This adventure could pack in a lot of cultural flavor, and creates a fairly unique motivation for the adventure that is different from most that I've run. Most of the adventures I run tend to be going to a location in order to steal/acquire the contents of that destination. Here's a scenario that features taking an object to a destination, despite danger to life and limb. I'd be interested in seeing what my players would do with the scenario. What are your thoughts on it?

With Regards,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

MyD20 Lite: Designing a Trap...

Good Evening, All:

In working on the MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide today, I developed a quick section on designing traps that is similar to the section I have for creating new monsters. I’m providing a sneak peek at that section below. In addition, I’m providing some basic traps for simply plug-and-play use, and a few other tidbits as well.

Designing A Trap
When building a trap from scratch, the following table offers some suggested values for use in the trap's stat block, based on the desired Challenge Rating (CR) of the trap.

CRXPAttack BonusAttack DmgOngoing DmgDifficultyMax Spell Lvl

CR: The CR of a trap is equivalent to a monster of the same Challenge Rating.
XP: The XP value of a trap is equivalent to that of a monster of the same Challenge Rating.
Attack Bonus: For traps that utilize an attack roll, such as those involving weapons, this is the suggested attack bonus for such attacks.
Attack Dmg: For traps that utilize attack rolls or that inflict damage once after being activated, this is the suggested damage that could be inflicted by the trap.
Ongoing Dmg: For traps that inflict ongoing damage, such as poison traps, this is the suggested ongoing damage value.
Difficulty: For traps that require a saving throw instead of an attack roll, this is the suggested Difficulty of that save.
Max Spell Lvl: For traps that emulate a spell effect, this is the maximum level of spell suggested for a trap of this Challenge Rating.

The Attack Damage values are based on the Moderate Damage column I provided in a previous post when crunching the numbers on monsters, while the Ongoing Damage values come from the Least Damage column of that same post. These are, of course, based on CR, not Hit Dice. So, what do you think? Any suggestions, comments or other thoughts?


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

MyD20 Lite: Missing Topics in the Referee's Guide...

Good Evening, All:

As I work through the MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide, I'm finding a few topics that are not covered, but perhaps should be, if I want a more complete guide for the gamemaster. Here are the topics I am considering for addition to the guide:

  • Traps
  • Conditions
  • Environment & Wilderness Exploration

There are almost certainly more topics that could be added, to provide a more well-rounded gaming experience, but I think these are likely to be the minimum needed for a good game. While Fantasy Concepts was a campaign resource designed to be used with existing 3E materials, MyD20 Lite is intended to be a complete stand-alone game in its own right. When all is said and done, I am hoping that I do not need to reference any other gaming material except when searching for ideas and inspirations. At least, that's my goal in terms of developing the core of this system.

The Inner Earth adventures of the World Within will use the core MyD20 Lite system, with an alternate spellcaster to replace the Mage and Priest classes. So, whether my next fantasy campaign is vanilla fantasy or the World Within, I'm looking to use this system for my next campaign. I am definitely looking forward to it.

With Regards,

Saturday, December 11, 2010

MyD20 Lite: Stock NPCs Revisited...

Good Afternoon, All:

I'm torn on the concept of stock NPCs. As I've done more reading into 4E, I've found that there's a different way that NPCs can be created instead of building PCs using the character classes. What 4E does is fairly simple, and easy to implement. In essence, 4E adds a small subset of a class's features to a monster through the use of a "class template". From the perspective of MyD20 Lite, that would be something as simple as:

Warrior, Experienced (approximately 4th level)
Hit Dice: +4 Hit Dice. (Be sure to modify BAB, Saves, Bonus Damage, Difficulties and other elements as necessary.)
Saving Throw Bonuses: +2 Fortitude, +1 Reflex.
Weapon Mastery: This creature has a +1 bonus on attacks and a +2 bonus on damage when using weapons from a single weapon group.
Warrior Talents: Choose two talents from the Warrior class.
Challenge Rating Adjustment: +4.

Or, for a spellcaster such as a Mage, something like:

Mage, Experienced (approximately 4th level)
Hit Dice: +2 Hit Dice. (Be sure to modify BAB, Saves, Bonus Damage, Difficulties and other elements as necessary.)
Saving Throw Bonuses: +1 Reflex, +2 Will.
Arcane Spells: This creature has 10 spellpoints, and carries a spellbook with up to five 1st level and five 2nd level spells.
Mage Talents: Choose two talents from the Mage class.
Challenge Rating Adjustment: +4.

I'm sure this same concept can be used in other retro-clones. To determine the number of bonus hit dice to add, I would find the number that is closest to the attack bonus and base hitpoints for the class at that level. If those differ, I'd lean more towards hitpoints, I think, than attack bonus. After that, the rest is pretty easy.

But I'm still trying to decide exactly how I want to do it. I just had this thought and decided to share it, in case anyone had a comment on it, either positive or negative. So, what do you think?

With Regards,

Friday, December 10, 2010

PSA: Lulu.Com Coupon Codes...

Good Morning, All:

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When considering the use of these coupons, please take a moment to review the products I've got up for sale at Samardan Press. I've created a wide range of products in support of Traveller and retro-clone fantasy gaming. I would really appreciate your patronage and your consideration.

With Regards,

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A General Update: Thoughts of Future Posts...

Good Morning, All:

My apologies for the recent slowing of blog posts, but the web application we have been developing at work has a Go Live date of today, so we've been hard at work. I'm now in overtime, and when I'm not working, I'm trying to have some family time and get a little sleep. In this case, little is the operative word.

However, when things let up, which I hope is after today, I would like to get a few posts out there. Here are a list of topics I'd like to pursue:

  • Fellgorge: I'd like to develop a city map and some details for the city of Fellgorge, since it has become the de facto hub of the current Madlands campaign.
  • MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide: I'd like to work on finishing that up and getting it out there so that gamers can actually play MyD20 Lite the way it was intended, as a complete system of its own.
  • The World Within: I'd love to continue making posts on the details of the World Within as I find inspiration to do so.
  • Of Campaigns Past: I'd like to continue detailing my past campaigns, and see what I can come up with as an amalgamation of all of that work.
  • Stellar Quest: Since I'm running games at Owl Con using this system, I'd like to wrap it up and get it out the door.
  • Reviews: I'd like to try to do a few reviews again, at least one a month. It would be good to do one this month to start the ball rolling.

I have other ideas, of course, but I'm curious. What would you, the reader, want to see discussed in the coming weeks?

With Regards,

Friday, December 03, 2010

Of Campaigns Past: A Multitude of Races...

Good Evening, All:

Work has been quite hectic of late, and I haven't had much of an opportunity to focus on gaming as I would have liked. However, I know that I need to make at least one more post this week, so I'm taking a few minutes to discuss the races of my previous campaign settings, as part of exploring my past games for items to mine for my own elusive "perfect milieu". In this post, I figure I'd list some of the many races I've used frequently in games past.

First, though, I think I'll briefly mention my use of races. In most of my campaigns, I tend to offer a lot of races, particularly in the beginning of my GMing career. I believe I was influenced by a wide variety of sources. Star Wars, in particular, was one great influence. At a young and impressionable age, I enjoyed the cosmopolitan nature of the many species of the cantina scene, among others. My favorite novels growing up were Planetary Romances, often populated by a wild and diverse range of races.

Common Fantasy Races: A majority of my worlds have had a number of common fantasy races. I always have humans as an available character option. In addition, I often include elves (often with an asian flavor), dwarves, halflings and orcs. I truly dislike gnomes, because I've never seen them played well, so I don't include them as options.

Common Planetary Romance Races: I often have one or more races that are inspired by the Sword & Planet novels I enjoy so much. For example, exotic humans with skin tones of strange hues, such as cerulean or crimson, are common in many Planetary Romance adventures. In my case, I've frequently used a blue-skinned human race I call the Merimen, who are exceptional merchants, as well as a crimson-skinned human race known as the Merokee, who live in a tribal society similar to that of the Native Americans of the Great Plains. Inspired by the green men of Barsoom, I commonly use a four-armed giant humanoid race I often describe as having ogre-like features, save for the four arms and a much fairer complexion. These four-armed giants are known as the Tarthani, and are perhaps the most frequently encountered non-standard race of all of my campaigns.

Uncommon Races: There are other fantasy races I've allowed as character races in previous campaigns, including minotaurs, goblins, kobolds, hawkfolk, serpentfolk, mantisfolk, lizardfolk, catfolk, dogfolk and even ratfolk. In particular, I found a good number of the races from Fantasy Flight Games' Mythic Races to be wonderful additions to my campaign worlds. In particular, I enjoyed using the Coivald, Rezorbek, Artathi, Ooloi and Siarrans (like medium-sized Tarthani).

While I've tried worlds with fewer races, I always seem to come back to a more cosmopolitan world. I suppose that means the ultimate "perfect milieu" for me would have to include a wide variety of racial options, beyond the standard handful that often are the only races described in a Player's Handbook. The hard part about it, I guess, would be to create a cohesive whole for all of them in a world where each have their place. That reminds me of the setup behind the Nine Kingdoms of Arn campaign, which I will dive into sometime next week.

So, what kind of races do you like in your campaign worlds? Do you play with unusual races, and if so, would you mind sharing some thoughts on them? What races have given you the greatest sense of enjoyment as a player? As a Referee?

With Regards,