Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Indie Jones

No, not that Indy Jones.

Just about everyone has heard of indie films, movies made on small budgets by unknown companies that manage to be a little more daring and avant-garde in their stories. But not many people know about the indie RPG scene. Like those indie filmmakers, indie RPG publishers push the boundaries of what makes a game.

While opinions differ (significantly in some cases, so be careful out there!), my understanding is that "traditional" games focus on representing the world, providing "reality models", much like the physics engine in a video game. They vary widely in how much resolution the system provides. Some of try to stay very close to reality, like GURPS, while most feature some level of "cinematic" or action movie-style realism, like the HERO system or Fuzion. The main advantage of a system like this is that it can be applied to a wide variety of worlds because the rules are generally applicable.

Indie games have rules that emphasize story and character over the world.

FATE and Burning Wheel are both excellent games that focus on characters. Both reward players for making decisions that are "in-character" even if it isn't the most practical or effective decision. While White Wolf is one of the major players in the RPG industry, it was one of the pioneers of this methodology, as characters in their game Vampire: The Masquerade had a Humanity score that would rise and fall based on the things that the character was forced to do to maintain their vampiric existence.

The games that focus on story tend toward telling a certain story with near-endless variation. My Life With Master gives players the roles of minions to a cruel and wicked Master (Suddenly, I'm thinking of running this game with the players being Winged Monkeys and the Master is the Wicked Witch of the West). The players then direct their characters through the process of discovering that not everyone is cruel and eventually overthrowing and escaping from the Master.

Adventures in Oz fits my definition of an indie game. For one, it is very much a one man show (me) with a minimal budget. For another, the game is designed from the ground up to tell Ozzy stories. If I had to define the archetypal Oz story in a sentence, it would be "Exploring Oz with your friends." The exploration aspect is covered in the extensive section on the Land of Oz, along with tips on making your own Ozzy locations to explore. The friendship angle is covered with the Oz Point/Friends List mechanic. Making new friends or helping friends that you already have earn Oz Points, which can then be used to get a favor from a friend on your list.

What's your definition of "indie"? What's you're favorite indie game?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ozma!

Tomorrow, August 21st, is generally considered to be Princess Ozma's birthday. In a manner of speaking, it might even be considered her 100th birthday. Even though the character was introduced in 1904's The Marvelous Land of Oz, we don't see her birthday celebrated until 1909's The Road to Oz. Since Road is celebrating it's 100th year, that would make 2009 the 100 anniversary of Ozma's birthday. It's circuitous and momentous at the same time.

While I did mention doing some kind of video, getting the finishing touches on the game has taken a good bit of energy on my part. Only within the last few days could I really consider myself done with the project. And even then, the project is not done. While I have concluded my writing duties, it still needs to go past my editor, then my layout person. If my layout person is doing their job right, they will spot locations where I need illustrations. Which means I will have to commission new pieces, which will take more time before the book can be released.

It is also time to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the premiere of the MGM film "The Wizard of Oz." On August 23, 1939, this classic film premiered in theaters across the country. While the movie does get props from me for introducing a lot of people to Oz over the years, it presents a very limited version of Oz. What's worse is that people tend to think that the movie is all that there really is of Oz. And the majority of adaptations and "sequels" tend to support this idea.

In slightly related news, Loraine Sammy has both of pieces of cover art that I commissioned posted on her site. One is for my game and the other is for my edition of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." Seeing both of them together makes it fairly easy to see what I did there.

One of the big challenges I'm facing in making this game successful is that there are really two audiences that I'm trying to reach out to: The Oz audience and the non-Oz audience. The game cover art is really an attempt to reach out to both. Each character in the illustration is similar in concept or role to one of the classic four Oz characters (Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion), but different enough that the non-Oz fan is going to look twice. Since they are established characters from later stories, the Oz fans get a little Easter egg that makes them look twice.

Having the cover art for the story be so similar helps reinforce that "Oz, but different" vibe and also serves as a bit of branding, letting readers know that they are from the same publisher.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Asked Questions

Now, I am nowhere near as cool as Jared, but people do ask me questions about Adventures in Oz.

When it is released, what form will Adventures in Oz take?

It will be released both as a softcover book and a PDF on The book will contain rules for creating and playing your own Oz characters, being the Narrator of a roleplaying game, and an extensive guide to L. Frank Baum's Oz, complete with suggestions for making your own stories and locales within the land of Oz. The PDF will contain all of this information in a highly portable electronic format.

My goal is also to make the game available wherever quality gaming PDFs are sold.

How much will it cost?

The book will sell for $14.99 and the PDF will be $7.99

What age group are you targeting with your game?

I have designed the game so that it should be playable by virtually any age. It will be marketed as a kids RPG, but my playtest group was composed of people all in their 20's and we had a lot of fun.

Do you have anything else in the works?

Indeed I do. I hope to publish my own edition of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" as illustrated by my talented team of artists by the end of the year. Also in the works is a cooperative effort between myself and James Wallace, bringing the characters and locations of his book "The Magician of Oz" to your gaming table.

Farther out, I'd like to do a supplement detailing the lands beyond Oz, such as Sky Island and the Land of Mo, and a book of adventures for those Narrators with limited time to prepare their own.

I haven't read the books, but I love the MGM movie. Will I enjoy your game?

I certainly hope so. I include a lot of information from the stories, so you shouldn't feel too left out. You might even be inspired to track down and read some of the stories.

I haven't played an RPG before. What am I missing out on?

But nearly everyone has played a role as part of some kind of game. When we were younger, we all played some kind of pretending games. The rules of the Adventures in Oz game are there to provide a more structured experience and to resolve questions that can arise during play, such as putting an end to the old "Cops and Robbers" arguments of "I shot you!" "No you didn't!"

You will need at least two six-sided dice (the kind found in most board games) and each player should have a piece of paper recording their character's abilities and other details.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Oz on Zazzle!

As of today, you will be able to purchase products featuring the Adventures in Oz cover art and logo over at Not only are they great products, but the profits from those sales help me pay the artists and other people who help me make the game a reality.
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