Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why Self-Publishing?

There's something of a stigma associated with self-publishing. People have this idea that if you didn't go through the rigorous selection process involved in having someone else publish you, then your work is no good. So why do people do it?

If you're writing for a niche, self-publishing is often the way to go. Professional publishers often look for books that they think will sell several thousand copies in bookstores across America. If they think your book will only sell a few thousand, or even just a few hundred, they will pass you up. Oz is considered to be very niche, so it is very hard for Oz writers to get published traditionally.

Other writers may self-publish simply for the joy of seeing their name in print. This is largely where we get our concept of "vanity presses."

Self-publishing is increasingly common in the RPG sector. This is largely due to the niche nature of the industry, as companies focus on providing support for their existing successful products instead of taking risks on new properties. Also, many publishers are gamers and game designers who started their companies in order to get their babies published and everything else is secondary.

So now that I am a publisher, what am I going to do with it? Will I keep this godly power to myself? Or will I use my powers for good and help some other guy get his work out there?

I don't know. I don't know if I'm going to be successful. If I can't pick a winner that I've created, I'm certainly not going to take a risk on something that someone else sends me. Once I've got a success or two under my belt, we'll see.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Importance of Being the Narrator

One thing that many newbies may not be familiar with when it comes to tabletop RPGs is the role of the Narrator, or Game Master.

One of the main things that a Narrator does is create the impetus for adventure. When I was first researching Oz RPGs (to see if anyone else had a similar idea), my Google searches turned up a lot of topics on various forums that were "Let's start a Wizard of Oz RPG!" The first few posts are where characters are decided (who's the Scarecrow, who's the Tin Woodman, etc.), then the next few posts are everyone saying hello in character. That's when the thread just dies. Without a Narrator, there's no one to say "And then the Winged Monkeys come flying in!" or "Glinda needs your help!" leaving the characters with nothing to do but exchange silly pleasantries. Some of these RPGs are able to go on longer if the players are willing to be proactive and create situations for their characters, but this seems to be fairly rare.

One thing that I found interesting was how some Internet-based RPGs will have "Stealth Narrators." That is, the moderators or other people-in-charge will have their own characters, just like the other players, but these characters are the movers and shakers in the setting. In an Oz RPG, this would be characters like Glinda, Ozma, or the Wizard. This allows them to guide the story (or stories) much like a typical Narrator in a tabletop game.

And of course, one trick that the Internet allows for is the assumption of multiple identities. So a Narrator can be signed in as Ozma and tell a player "Go talk to Glinda." Then the Narrator signs in on the Glinda screen name and lets the player interact with Glinda.

One downside of this approach is what is known as the "GMPC." This is where the Game Master has their own Player Character embedded with the rest of the party. Some GMs do this with the best of intentions, having someone there to provide a little boost to the group if they need a hint or a little backup. And since supporting cast characters are not limited to the same level/ number of points/etc. as the other players, this GMPC often winds up being more powerful than the other characters in the party. Often, the game devolves into "The GMPC Show" with this character providing most of the story potential and firepower, making the players feel like spectators instead of protagonists.

Another important function of the Narrator is the mediation of action. In a tabletop RPG, this involves handling usage of the rules as well as settling arguments and keeping everybody focused on the adventure. Because it is very possible for a discussion of the peace negotiations between the Flatheads and the Skeezers to derail into a debate about the physics of Robotech given the right group of people (All you gamers out there, tell me you haven't seen that happen).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

And Now The News

I started this blog to keep everyone informed about my RPG project. Then I got tired of silly little updates that basically equaled "No news yet" and started blogging about other stuff. Now when things do happen, it's fighting with all the other stuff in my brain.

As I write this, I am one illustration away from having all of the art for the book completed. Once that is turned in, then the layout can be finalized and the book can pretty much go up for sale.

The only thing that could create a significant delay beyond that is the ENnies. It would certainly be nice for my game to be considered for such an award (and maybe others if they come up). But the cutoff for the latest round of awards is April 30th.

My challenge is that in order to enter, the game must not only be released to the public by April 30th, but I must provide 6 copies for judging. That not only requires money (and the game itself will not have been on the market long enough to pay for itself in this regard), but proofing time (Print-on-demand may be a modern miracle, but it isn't perfect yet). And if a problem does turn up in the proofs, that'll delay things even further.

My current options are:

1) Scramble to get everything done by April 30th. This may result in a sub-optimal quality and less chance for an eventual award.

2) Delay the print version, releasing only the PDF version before the deadline. PDFs are much harder to mess up in transmission. The downside here is that the print version would not get a fair shake.

3) Delay the release of the game until I have enough good quality copies to be eligible for judging. If this means waiting until next year, so be it.

4) Deliberately delay the release until after April 30th. With no deadlines to worry about, I can prepare for next years' ENnies in relative peace. A May release does have a certain appeal, given that I can release it on L. Frank Baum's birthday (May 15th)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Character of the Month: Gord the Rogue

While this would normally be when I post an Oz character with full game stats, today is also the second anniversary of Gary Gygax's death. So in his honor, I've decided to stat up one of Gary's signature characters, Gord the Rogue.

Name: Gord the Rogue
First Appearance: Saga of the Old City
Template: Wanderer
Size: 3

Athletics: 3 (Fighting with dagger and longsword)
Awareness: 2
Brains: 2
Presence: 2
Sneaking: 3
Wits: 2

Traits: Deadly Weapon

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