Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another Year Come and Gone

Well, Christmas is over and done with. I got some quality time with my family and I hope you all spent some time with yours.

Now to take a look at the past year and consider what path to take in the coming year.

Achievements for the blog:

Most popular post: While my initial post about Oz: Dark & Terrible garnered the most hits in this calendar year, the most popular post that I wrote this year was How Not To Promote Yourself On The Internet. It also qualified as the most commented post of the year, as well.

Apparently, snark sells on the internet. I got a bit of that myself in November thanks to the Mistress of Doom. The Mistress' blog has been taken down, but that little bit of "special attention" did some good.

Speaking of the Kickstarter, it qualifies as my lowest low point this year. Sales of AiO had been pretty slow, and I felt like I may have hit a ceiling in terms of getting customers. I figured the best way to get in more customers (or at least money) was to release another supplement. In order to get the money to do it, I tried Kickstarter.

As the month wore on and it didn't look like I was going to get funded, I was getting ready to throw in the towel. While I wouldn't delete the blog or my products (I don't really do fits of pique), I was going to step back from it and maybe try something else. Another blog, another game, who knows?

Then Teach Your Kids to Game Week happened. That made November my strongest sales month of the year. Certainly not the time to call it quits. Life is a funny thing sometimes.

Thanks to that sales boost, 2011 netted me 99 sales to date. Along with 108 from last year, I'm now at 207 sales overall. Not terribly strong, and not to my goal of 300 yet.

The Characters Pack, my first supplement, pulled in only 36 sales this year. Which is not bad, considering that it has pretty much paid for itself at this point.

So what is the future of AiO?

Like I said last year, my goal is too keep things small and manageable. The big things need the money that the little things generate in order to come about. So no more Beyond the Deadly Desert talk for a while.

It has always been in my plans to do adventures for AiO and things are finally getting to a point where I can hire writers and artists and such to do them. But wait! Aren't I a writer? Why am I not writing the adventures?

Frankly, the big reason is that The Jaded City of Oz, the sample adventure in the main book, was so crazy-awesome that I don't think I can come up with anything in the same league. Once the adventure pool has diversified some, I can definitely see myself giving it a go, though.

The blog will be changing some, too. I had originally intended this blog to be a marketing tool, so that people could see what I'm selling and why it's so awesome. But my desire to keep the blog on a weekly update schedule conflicts with that sometimes and the blog has become a bit more general. So, in marketing speak, the blog has become more about "conversation" than "conversion." While I don't think I can switch completely into "shilling mode", expect a little more product visibility.

What about my goal of getting into stores? Hasn't left my mind. I've got things to a point where I just need a bit of money to afford my initial inventory.

TLDR: I have lots of things I want to do, but I need my products to sell in order to do them.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Setting the Stakes

I know it's just a few days until Christmas, but I started something with last week's blog and I want to see it through.

Last week, I talked about the benefits of allowing a player, through their character, to fail. This week, we're going to look just a little bit deeper at how a Narrator can do this effectively.

In Evil Hat's game Spirit of the Century, they give a particularly good piece of advice. Whenever a player describes an action, but before you get out the dice, consider what would happen if the player succeeds at the roll. Then consider what would happen if the roll failed. Only roll the dice if both potential results are interesting. Otherwise, assume the interesting result.

Let's look at an example. A player has built a Scholar character with a respectable Brains skill and the Narrator has some information that they want this player to have. While the Narrator is considering calling for a dice roll, first they look at the result of a successful roll which is that the player gets the information. But what happens on a failed roll? The player doesn't get the information. If this information is needed to advance the story, then that means the story comes to a screeching halt until that player succeeds on that dice roll. This is what I meant when I mentioned the "Mandatory Skill Roll Bug" last week.

Since failure isn't interesting, the Narrator assumes success. They give that player the information they need to advance the story.

Now, if the information wasn't vital to the adventure, then failure becomes interesting. Because the adventure can continue, but in a different way. So if the Scholar was going with his friends to face the Nome King, this Brains roll could be to remember that Nomes are vulnerable to eggs. Going against a Nome without eggs is possible, but eggs make it much easier.

Setting stakes in combat is vital for playing AiO. Since nothing dies in Oz, the loser of a battle does not simply move aside for the victor. If the Narrator wishes to do something like this, they are free to do so, declaring that the enemy ran away or fell unconscious or similar. But that removes the possibility of certain stories. An example I gave on the Pulp Gamer podcast was a defeated dragon crying in the corner of its cave.

The other reason that setting stakes in combat is so important is the possibility of losing. Since characters will survive their defeat, all the tricks that other games use to protect them from it become less important. But that means you have to be ready for when it happens. And just like things I've been saying, failure should be just as interesting as success or else it's not worth rolling for.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Joy of Failure

While there is no way to lose an RPG, since it has no inherent win conditions, it is possible to fail at your intended objective. And that's a good thing.

Failure teaches you things that you'd never learn by succeeding. How to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. How to look for alternate paths to success.

Video games can claim this benefit as well, but what makes an RPG unique is the lack of a reset switch. If you fail in a video game, your character generally dies (occasionally in a cool explosion) and the game resets to a point before you failed and lets you try again. So you try again from exactly the same initial condition.

One thing that amused me about the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was an early mission that took me a few tries to succeed at. Each time, I would get in the car with all my "homies" to do a driveby on a rival gang. Each time, they would fire back until my car and all my "peeps" exploded (though I was usually good enough to get out of the car before that point). Then I would go get the mission again and all those people who died in that car are miraculously alive as if nothing had happened. The exact same people.

But in an RPG, you have to deal with the consequences of your actions. If you fail to sneak past someone, they don't reset and let you try again. You have to find another way to accomplish your goal that doesn't involve sneaking.

Some Narrators may do something like this on accident. They'll tell you to make a roll but assume that you'll succeed. And the situation is set up in such a way that the only way to advance is with a successful skill roll. I've seen this called the "Mandatory Skill Roll Bug" though some of you might have your own name for it.

Video games also claim to support critical thinking. This is true, as player must figure out the solution to a problem in order to advance the plot of the game. Find the right weapon or find the right pattern to use in the boss battle. Find the key to access the new area. Which is good if there's only one solution to a given situation.

In an RPG, multiple solutions are possible, because your choices aren't limited by what a computer can anticipate, but by what a player and Narrator are willing to imagine. Instead of hunting all over the game world to find the one item that will accomplish a certain task, a player may decide to attempt the task with a similar item or look for a way to accomplish it without the item at all.

"The Jaded City of Oz", the sample adventure in the back of the Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, does this sort of thing very well. Each scene along the parade route does not have a preset solution that the players must stumble upon in order to advance the story. And since the parade goes on whether or not any of the scenes are fully resolved, players can even choose to avoid or ignore the encounters without "failing the mission" or cause the story to come to a crashing halt.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why YOU Should Be Playing Adventures In Oz

If you're a gamer:

It's a refreshing break from all that traditional elves and orcs fantasy.

It's rules-light, making it great for beer & pretzels-style gaming.

The setting has surprising breadth, so if you wanted to turn your beer & pretzels game into a
campaign, it is certainly doable.

"Munchkin" is a perfectly valid character concept.

If you're an Oz fan:

"Scratch an Oz fan and you'll get an Oz story." And here's a great tool to help you get your story out. You can create nearly any Oz hero you can think of and take them on all new adventures. Or take the role of the Narrator and present your players with challenging scenarios of your own design or inspired by your favorite Oz book.

Even if you're not planning on playing, the setting material can be used by writers as a reference or source of inspiration.

If you're a Grognard (you know who you are):

It's based on the book. As a grognard, you are quite literate. Your old school gaming sessions were inspired by Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft, but we all know you slipped in an Oz book every now and again.

You want to pass on your gaming legacy. Some of you are doing this with your old red box or maybe one of the retroclones, and that's great. But for some of you, it's just not clicking for your kids. Why not try something with a little more whimsy? And as much as we want our kids to find non-violent solutions to their problems, why are we sending them to fight monsters? Why not try a game with rules for friendship that can turn into magic?

If you're gay:

You can actually put "Friend of Dorothy" on your character sheet and it will give you bonuses.

Right now Lulu is offering 25% off if you order this week with the coupon code COUNTDOWN. Order soon if you want it to arrive by Christmas.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I didn't think you guys would mind if I took a week off from the blog and spend time with my family for the Thanksgiving holiday. While I normally reserve the first post of the month for statting up something from the stories, I've got some stuff on my mind that I really want to get out right now.

By the time you read this, the Kickstarter for my setting supplement will likely have closed and failed. I've been watching the terribly slow rate of contributions for the last month, so Beyond the Deadly Desert has made equally slow progress.

It's hard not to be disappointed when things don't go the way you hoped. But I did learn a few things. Mainly that Adventures in Oz is not quite ready for prime time. Neither sales of the game itself nor the outpouring of fans was enough to bring another book our way.

So my next step is to get it there. Get it in stores (something I've wanted to do for a while, but have only somewhat managed) and get eyeballs on my game. Get people talking, get people playing. But I'm only one man with a very small budget. I'm gonna need some help.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Few Updates

Still doing what I can on Adventures in Oz: Beyond the Deadly Desert, so I just have the time to post a couple of news bulletins.

Over at RPGNow and DriveThruRPG, it's Teach Your Kids to Game Week. Not only is AiO at the top of the list (alphabetical order, of course), it's also on sale. Save 10% if you buy this week.

If you're anywhere near Jacksonville, North Carolina, don't forget to check out JaxCon this weekend. Oz author Ron Baxley Jr. will be there with illustrator Gwendolyn Tenille Adams to promote his book Cabbages, Kings and Even (Odd) Queens. He'll also come with not just one but TWO copies of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road that he'll be giving away

And finally, the Kickstarter over to the side hasn't gotten any attention over the last week and is starting to think you don't love it. There are less than two weeks left to contribute.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Beyond the Deadly Desert Preview: The Wheelers

For everyone who lost sleep over these guys in Return to Oz, I give you a slightly more Ozzy (or Evian?) take on THE WHEELERS!


But she looked at each letter carefully, and finally discovered that these words were written in the sand:


"That's rather strange," declared the hen, when Dorothy had read aloudthe words. "What do you suppose the Wheelers are?"

-- Ozma of Oz

The Wheelers try very hard to give themselves a very fierce reputation. They write warnings in the beach sand of their territory. They frighten everyone they meet with fierce yelling. Their clothes are brightly colored and elaborate.

It's all a show. Since the Wheelers have wheels instead of hands and feet, they cannot use weapons or other tools. While they can move swiftly on even ground, their wheels falter on rocky or uneven terrain. They only control a small territory in the land of Ev. Occasionally, they venture into other parts of the country, but their bullying nature makes them unwelcome guests.


A Revealing Question About Clothing

The simplest question is perhaps the one that could reveal the most about the Wheelers: How do they get dressed in the morning? Do they have servants or slaves of another race within their territory? Are they dressed by their mothers, who have developed hands or simply improved dexterity in their age? Or are they dressed by magic? Do they have magical clothes that go on by themselves, or a spell that every Wheeler learns to cast?

Their single appearance in the stories give us no answers to this question. Enterprising Narrators could come up with their own answer which could lead to any number of adventures.

[End Box-Out]

Wheeler Characters

The main thing to remember about building a Wheeler is their lack of arms. They should be required to take the No Arms trait. Playing up the bully aspect of a Wheeler would call for a high Presence skill, but low Wits. A Wheeler might choose to take a specialty in “wheeled speed”.

The Wheelers are unlikely to have Soldiers or Sorcerers, or else they would be taken more seriously by their neighbors.

Remember, if you want to see this book completed, please give to the Kickstarter. If I get the full amount, you can get access to Adventures in Oz: Beyond the Deadly Desert before anyone else. If not, you lose absolutely nothing.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cast an Ozzy Spell: If It's Not One Thing, It's Another

Any game designer will tell you that coming up with rules for magic is one of the toughest parts of the process. And making those rules fit the mold established by an existing work is even tougher.

One part of the rules I've never been fully happy with is Transmutation, the magical practice of transforming objects. In the book, I use a 1-5 scale to estimate the severity of change with few real guidelines. But I haven't had anything better to go on. Until now.

My current idea rates a transmutation on four points: Form, Function, Size, and Substance. Whenever a transmutation would change one of those things, the Power of the spell goes up by 1. If a category is severely altered, the Power can go up by 2. Let's run a few examples to illustrate.

Hanky Camp: This spell will transform 3 handkerchiefs into tents to allow a group of travelers to camp comfortably. From hanky to tent is a definite change to Form (1) and Function (1), as well as a severe change to Size (2). Substance is still very much the same, as both hankies and tents are made of fabric. Power 4

Mrs. Yoop's Breakfast: To start her day, Mrs. Yoop transmutes a pot of water into coffee. Form, Function, and Size are not significantly affected by the change. The main factor to change is Substance, making this only a Power 1 effect. Her “Rocks into Fishballs” spell is similarly a simple change in Substance, with the other factors staying significantly the same.

Try this rule out and let me know how it works for you.

Also, keep those contributions coming on the Kickstarter. According to that little widget over on the right, I'm only 3% funded and I have only 27 days to get the rest. And remember, according to the Kickstarter rules, if I don't get everything, I get nothing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Swift Kick In The Pants!

A lot of people know November as NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. While I may indeed have a novel in me, there's something else that I know you want more: Adventures in Oz: Beyond the Deadly Desert.

But publishing an RPG book isn't just a matter of writing it. Art, editing, layout and a number of other things are important as well. But all of those things cost money, and I don't have a whole heck of a lot of that. Sales aren't terribly strong in my little niche of a niche, so my motivation to complete the project has somewhat wavered.

Then I discovered Kickstarter. Rather than having to take out loans or owe my soul to family members, I can simply plead for the money I need in front of the entire Internet. My goal is to raise $3000 over the next 30 days. (Link Here:

There are a couple of particularly nifty things about Kickstarter. For one, if I don't make my entire amount, nobody pays anything. For another, creators are encouraged to offer prizes to their contributors. And I am. Smaller contributions will receive digital copies, while larger contributions will receive print copies. Some contributors can even receive a special thank-you in the book itself!

Hopefully, with these two powerful motivators, NaNoWriMo and Kickstarter, I can get Beyond the Deadly Desert into the hot little hands of my voracious fans.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Smith & Tinkering

Believe it or not, I actually am working on Beyond the Deadly Desert (And I'll have a special announcement in that regard in a few days).

One of the things I'm wrangling with is letting players take on the role of inventors like Smith & Tinker, the duo who crafted Tik-Tok. The options that I'm thinking of are:

1) A character who has purchased the Craftsman trait can make wonders given sufficient time and effort.

2) A character who has purchased the Craftsman trait can make wonders by following the basic procedures for making magic items (gather exotic ingredients/spend Oz Points).

3) A character must purchase the Craftsman trait as well as an additional 1-point trait in order to make wonders using the rules for making magic items.

The big question is: How rare are such geniuses? Was Mr. Tinker simply specialized in a different way than Ku-Klip the Tinsmith, did he have access to better materials, or did he have a much greater understanding of his craft?

What do you think?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Occupy Emerald City

Not Seattle, of course, but the Emerald City of Oz.

That's the premise of a rather interesting story I read some time ago called Up The Rainbow by Susan Casper. It was published in the December 1994 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine (which is the form I have it in). A quick Google search reveals that it was once available as an e-book, but none of the listed sellers are selling it any more. (If anyone can find a legal download link for this story, please let me know. It's a good story and I'd like to share it with you)

When the story opens, Dorothy Gale has died at the ripe old age of 93. Her granddaughter, Gale Osterman is therefore all alone, having separated from her husband earlier in the year and left her job behind to care for her grandmother in her final days. While it was generally acknowledged that Grandma Dorothy was THE Dorothy from the Oz stories, everyone thinks that she was merely the inspiration for the stories rather than the actual heroine.

As she's going through her grandmother's personal things along with her cat Spooky, she discovers a small stone with the letters OZ etched into it. A few moments later, they find themselves magically transported to Oz, where they discover that Spooky can now talk (and has a bit of a pottymouth).

After a bit of confusion, Gale is accepted as Dorothy's granddaughter and made a Princess of Oz. Preparations are made for a great feast to be held to mark the occasion. In the meanwhile, it's time for the Scarecrow to get his eyes repainted by Jinjur and Gale is sent along to give her something to do.

Gale and the Scarecrow are separated, leaving Gale to wander around Munchkinland on her own. While trying to find the Scarecrow and Jinjur, she winds up meeting some of the normal citizens of Oz who ask her to intercede on their behalf with Ozma. As she listens to these stories, she realizes that Oz isn't the perfect world Baum presented it as.Link
Although her passion for social justice faded when her marriage collapsed (her and her husband were both devoted activists), she finds it rekindled and helps organize the people of Oz into a protest movement. She even helps them paint signs with such clever mottoes as "Ban The Baum" and "Magic Is A Rite."

The land of Oz had never seen non-violent resistance. Glinda's girl army had no one to fight, even though the mob refused to disperse at Ozma's command. So they had nothing left to do but negotiate.

Now, many of you Oz fans are reading this and shaking your heads. Because you've all read stories exactly like this and they all suck. But this story showed no signs of being a Fix Fic or Author Tract, and Gale is definitely not a Mary Sue. Rather, the story focuses on Gale and how these events reignite her activist spirit. I found the main idea of the story rather close to an idea that was originally presented in Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The idea that "Whatever it is you want or think you need, you already have it."

Also, the complaints that the people of Oz have could present some interesting scenarios for adventures.

In the story, there's a little boy who would very much like to grow up, even though it means that he'll eventually grow old and die. Perhaps your players could encounter an Ozite looking to die by seeking out all of the dangers of Oz. Or a boy who wishes to undergo a Rite of Passage so that he may become a man. This is, of course, a magical rite that will transform him into an adult.

The story also challenges the ban on magic in Oz. Dr. Pipt may no longer be crooked, but all of the time and energy he spent learning his magic is now wasted without his ability to use it. Another character is a seamstress who could make magical clothing before the ban went into effect.

So what if your game includes a helpful sorcerer who is nevertheless persecuted because of his magical practice? Heck, what about Red Reera, who pretty much ended the Flathead/Skeezer War from her cottage? Although she chooses to remain hidden at the end of the story, what about later? What's going to happen when Ozma discovers her? Will her power be taken away, or will she be allowed to keep it in gratitude for her service?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

This Is The (Emerald) City

This week, we're stepping out of the Palace and hitting the streets of the Emerald City.

The most curious feature of the city, and all of Oz in general is its lack of money. While early stories mention money in passing, it is never a plot point. By Road to Oz, Baum had apparently decided that money didn't exist in Oz.

So why do people work if there's no money, no way to get ahead? Largely out of necessity. In communities as small as those in Oz (the largest population number we are given is 101), every hand is needed to ensure the success of the entire community. Most communities have a leader of some kind, whether they call that person Mayor, Duke, King or Queen. This person is generally well taken care of by their community, but exactly how well depends on how much the community is willing or able to provide. If the community cannot use all that it produces, the excess usually gets sent to a regional potentate (such as Emperor Nick Chopper of the Winkies) or directly to the Emerald City.

Larger communities (such as the massive Emerald City) make this sort of arrangement trickier, but not impossible. Princess Ozma (or more likely, some functionary) takes a direct role in the distribution of needed supplies to and from the Royal Storehouses, combining a degree of socialism with the relatively pure communism of rural Oz.

The Emerald City does have a number of shops lining its streets, but most of these are more accurately described as distribution centers. Emerald Citizens may go into any shop and ask for items that they want or need. Other shops are workshops, where craftsmen receive a share of raw materials from the Royal Stores and turn it into finished products before passing it on to customers.

The tradition of hospitality that exists throughout Oz is still upheld in the Emerald City. A number of inns, hotels, restaurants and pubs serve travelers and locals who need a night out, a place to meet with friends, or simply a quick bite between here and there. So if you feel like doing the whole "You all meet in a tavern" bit, you can definitely do that.

What does this do for crime? Between the lack of material need and the fact that nobody can be killed, there's not a lot of crime in the Emerald City. But the crime that does happen tends to be personal. If someone steals from you, it's because they want that object, not because they can sell it for a lot of money.

One crime that is unique to the Emerald City is that of Mooching. That is, enjoying the benefits of the Emerald City's distribution network without contributing to the welfare of the city. The easiest way to do this is to avoid work. Some gluttons take deliberate pains to accumulate all the goods they can acquire, but these criminals don't last too long. They will either get discovered in short order, or they will burn out on consumption rather soon. If you are caught breaking this law, you will either be given work or asked to leave the city.

Law enforcement is fairly weak. There are no police, but none are really necessary. Because of how the city works, criminals stand out. Thieves steal personal treasures, not costly knickknacks. Unlawful practice of magic leads to more powerful and more obvious spells. The Guardian of the Gates is most often called upon for law enforcement duties, as his previous responsibility of fitting green glasses to everyone entering the city has become irrelevant. He is not terribly clever, but he's friendly enough that he gets the help he needs to ensure the safety of the Emerald City and its people.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cast An Ozzy Spell: The Magic Book of Records

This book is said to be one of the most powerful magical objects in all of Oz. Within its pages is a description of every event as it occurs, no matter how small. Even though the book is very large, the amount of information within it means that the writing must be very small.

Power: Divination (2)
Scope: The Whole World (5)
Ritual: Complex (-1)
Item: Limited Use (-2)
Effect Power: 4

As with most information gathering magic, the Scope is determined by the area that is being scanned for information. Although the book requires no actual magical ritual to use it, it must be read closely and researched in order to gain useful knowledge, which takes sufficient effort that I'm making it worth a discount. The Limited Use modifier represents the fact that the Book is permanently housed in Glinda's Palace and anyone wishing to use it must travel there.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Emerald Sandbox

I know this is late, but it's taken some time to assemble my thoughts on this subject.

Last week, I talked about using the land of Oz, or some section thereof as a sandbox/pinball setting and creating things for characters to bounce off of. This week, I want to go to the heart of Oz, the Emerald City.

There are actually two levels to an Emerald City campaign: The Palace, and the City itself. Most familiar to Oz fans is the Palace, containing Ozma, Dorothy and all of their friends. It's where many stories start, end, or simply change.

The challenge of the Palace is that everyone gets along. A story can't really happen unless there's a conflict to resolve. Now, your characters can provide that conflict, trying to push their agenda and watching how their favorite Oz characters react to it. But if they just want to bounce off of the established cast, you should put more effort into strengthening the differences that the characters have.

While I tend to point to the Emerald City as the point where my playtest campaign fell flat, there were a couple of things that went well. Specifically, Bungle the Glass Cat and Jellia Jamb. The reason being that both of these characters had agendas. Jellia likes playing jokes on people and Bungle wants to be admired.

Coming up with conflicting agendas for the different characters doesn't mean that they have to become enemies or even stop liking each other. Take The Wogglebug and the Scarecrow, for example. Both of them are smart people, but go about it rather differently. The Scarecrow was created knowing nothing, and is eager to learn new things. The Wogglebug studied in the classroom of Professor Nowitall and is eager to show off what he knows. So the Scarecrow's agenda of "learn new things" can interact with Woigglebug's agenda "Show off what you know" in a number of ways, including a few that can create a story-worthy conflict.

Next week, I will stat some Ozzy thing from the books (If there's something you would like to see, feel free to ask for it) and the week after, I'll try to continue with a look at the mean (not really) streets of the Emerald City.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Building an Ozzy Sandbox

Latest results on the poll are a bit more encouraging. No one admits to having played the game (which sucks) but "No, but I really want to!" has 9 votes, beating the flat "No", which only got 5.

If you want to do a classic "Wandering Adventurers" campaign, that is totally doable (Just ask Woot) and there are tons of adventure seeds and ideas in the rulebook to support that. But what if you want to explore a single area in depth? That's when we start talking sandbox (or pinball, to use my preferred metaphor).

If you wanted to create a sandbox of original creations, both the Munchkin and Gillikin countries have plenty of unexplored space to put whatever you want. Or you could take advantage of the well-documented Quadling Country. The Emerald City is also a great setting for a campaign; Not only does it have immense variety within itself, but it can also lead to a variety of adventures in Oz at large.

The hard part about building a pinball machine from existing Oz material is that many of the countries exist by themselves, with no real relations to their neighbors. In fact some, like the Cuttenclip Village and Bunnybury, are strongly isolationist in order to protect their citizens. But there are some that can clearly benefit from connecting to other communities. For example, Bunbury and Utensia. Bunbury is populated by living baked goods, while the people of Utensia are living kitchen utensils. Perhaps, when a boy Bunn and a girl Bunn love each other very much, they take a trip over to Utensia. After much preparation, they are finally ready to put their little baby Bunn in the oven to be properly baked.

Suddenly, new adventures present themselves. What if Mayor Cinnamon Bunn's son fell in love with the daughter of his enemy, Herr Kaiser Roll and the lovebuns are dashing away to a honeymoon in Utensia? Worse yet, what if, in their hurry, they get terribly lost and head toward the Forest of Fighting Trees? Now, on top of the challenge of locating the lost couple, your players have to keep them from getting smashed into crumbs by the Fighting Trees.

Creating these sorts of connections will give your players plenty of pins and bumpers for their characters to bounce off of into all sorts of directions.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Speak Out With Your Geek Out

As part of the Speak Out With Your Geek Out event, I'd like to talk about something that really gets my geek engine revving. A lot of other people are taking on the really big subjects (RPGs, Star Trek, Doctor Who), so I have decided to take on a slightly lesser known subject: The Greatest American Hero.

I was only 3 years old or so when it first aired in 1981. In fact, I can't recall seeing a complete episode until I discovered the series last year on Youtube. I devoured every episode in a pretty short time.

The series stars William Katt as Ralph Hinkley, a teacher who is trying to make a difference to a class of miscreants and troublemakers. His life changes drastically (and not always for the better) when he gets a super-suit from an alien encounter and proceeds to lose the instructions. He is helped (somewhat) by an FBI agent named Bill Maxwell and his girlfriend (later wife) Pam Davidson.

I love this show because it combined two things that I love immensely: superheroes and comedy. Ralph never really got the hang of flying (or landing, for that matter). And in spite of the immense strength granted by the suit, he was never much in the muscles department.

My favorite episode was “Captain Bellybuster and the Speed Factory.” In this episode, Ralph teams up with Captain Bellybuster, a burger chain mascot who is working to topple the meth traffickers who are putting the squeeze on his boss. While many fans point to the first season's “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” as an episode with Ralph pondering what it means to be a hero, “Captain Bellybuster” is much the same, but with a bit more humor.

One thing I've wanted to do was run a roleplaying campaign using this series as inspiration. The main characters would be granted a super-suit, but no support in using it. It would be a sandbox/pinball campaign as the players try to balance saving the world, developing their (initially meager) powers and all the other priorities in their characters' lives.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How NOT To Promote Yourself On The Internet

Never heard of Drylor? You're not the only one. And that makes Ryan Tomasella one sad panda.

You see, Ryan wrote a fantasy novel called Drylor: The First Artifact. Then he self-published it. Now he expects to be viewed in the same light as J.R.R. Tolkien and Terry Brooks.

As some of you may know, I'm self-published. The key difference is that I am very aware of that fact. I don't assume that because some POD firm prints copies of something that I created, I'm now on a level with L. Frank Baum, Gary Gygax, or even Michael Stackpole.

Yesterday, he attempted to create a Wikipedia page about his fantasy world of Drylor. Within 20 minutes of the page's creation, it was flagged for speedy deletion because an editor presumed it was a hoax. Only after the page was deleted (and Tomasella made a few choice edits to a number of editors' talk pages) was it finally considered not a hoax. But the deletion stands because the content does not meet Wikipedia's notability criteria.

Word to the wise: Do not create Wikipedia articles if you are not notable. Stick to TVTropes, where there's no such thing as notability.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gaming in Oz

Looking at the poll over to the side, I'm finding the answers so far to be a little disheartening. 4 responses so far, all people who have never played Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. Only one of them selected something other than the flat "No" response.

Some of you might be telling yourselves that it's a kids' game, so you're saving it for when your kids are old enough to play. Or maybe you think it would be a hard sell with your regular gaming group. Or you can't think of any adventures that would suit the game particularly well.

Wrong on all counts. AiO has been played by grownups for as long as it's been played. If you think playing this game is going to make you have to burst into song or anything silly like that, you have really got the wrong impression. Sure, it's a game about friendship. But that doesn't mean it's all My Little Pony. (Unless you really want it to be.)

And with all the indie games out there that let you take a punch in the girlfriend or drag your character around by the Aspects, I can't see AiO being such a hard sell. Just tell your friends the origin of the Tin Woodman (Don't know it? Shame on you!) and they'll be all like "Dude, that's so cyberpunk but fairytale at the same time. I'm in."

If you can come up with adventures, you can come up with Oz adventures. In the campaign I ran, I had floating spaghetti, flying ninjas, and tea with the Cowardly Lion. Should another Oz campaign arise in my future, I expect even more awesome.

For the record, if that poll hadn't been so disappointing, this blog would have been about taverns in Oz and how you can all meet there.

So what are you waiting for? GET PLAYING!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cast an Ozzy Spell: The Witch's Kiss

First off, sorry about the late post. Work has been sucking the life out of me for a while now, and it's taking its toll.

You may have noticed that I have a new poll up. I want to know who's playing Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. So if you've ever earned, spent, or handed out an Oz Point, let us know!

Everyone who's read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz knows that the Good Witch of the North casts a spell of protection over Dorothy shortly after she arrives in Oz. But since the spell is never triggered in that story, or any other Baum Oz story, we never discover what it sort of protection it provided. Some later authors, including Eric Shanower, have provided explanations, so here's mine.

While it's easy for an author to say "spell of protection", as a game designer, I've got to figure out what that means. I ultimately decided that the spell is actually a Scrying effect. It lets the Good Witch of the North know when Dorothy is hurt or injured and allows her to use other magic wherever Dorothy is. Which is why no one dares to harm someone who has received the Witch's Kiss.

The Witch's Kiss

Power: Scrying (1)
Scope: Self/Person/Object (0)
Ritual: None (0)
Effect Power: 1

Although this spell does require the Witch to kiss the subject of the effect (a Simple Ritual), it does not require any activation once it is in place.

Remember, all this is only important if a player with a spellcasting character wants this effect. I consider this spell a perfect justification for putting the Good Witch of the North on Dorothy's Friends List. But if you've seen Dorothy's character sheet, her Friends List only has Ozma on it. What's going on?

Technically, Dorothy's Friends List is a mile long. But when I'm doing character stats, I build them according to the rules. Which means only 1 friend who isn't controlled by another player. Since Ozma is Dorothy's most powerful and iconic friend, she gets the spot. If you wanted to do a "Just Arrived" game with Dorothy controlled by a player, feel free to switch her out for the Good Witch of the North.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pick Your Own Picaresque

For those not familiar with the term, picaresque refers to a novel that is largely episodic, without an overarching plot. A number of the Oz books fit into this mold. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz and The Road to Oz are the most picaresque of the Oz stories.

The Emerald City of Oz is a curious example, because while the Nome invasion plot thread clearly demonstrates rising action building to a climax, it is interspersed with a very picaresque tour of Oz. Even in more focused stories, like Glinda of Oz, there are often small encounters that do not feed into the main plot.

The only stories that do not feature picaresque elements are The Land of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, and The Magic of Oz. While Patchwork Girl has characters wandering all over Oz, it is in support of the overarching plot of Ojo trying to rescue Unc Nunkie.

Gamers are familiar with the picaresque, though they might not think to call it that. Consider the typical "wandering adventurers" campaign. The heroes wander into town and discover some nasty bugaboo causing trouble. They seek out it's dungeon *ahem* lair, and stop the trouble. On to the next town. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you're running an AiO campaign, this basically means that you shouldn't be afraid to throw in something random and cool as your adventurers are on their way to the important stuff. Or throw in something random and cool when you can't think of an epic plot.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

And now for something completely different...

Inspired by this post.

One thing that's been missing from this blog has been adventure ideas. I put so many of them into the book itself that it felt like a pretty dry well. For the most part, I tried to avoid suggesting re-treading existing stories in order to emphasize the idea of making Oz your own.

But there is some mileage to be gained from going back to the classics. Just like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead provides some interesting insights into Hamlet, running an adventure that runs alongside an existing story can be fun.

For example, in The Lost Princess of Oz, four search parties set out to find Ozma, but we only see what happens to two of those search parties. What did the other parties encounter? What adventures did they have? The Magic of Oz is the story of how Trot and Dorothy got presents for Ozma's birthday. But what about some of the other gifts that Ozma received? What are the stories behind them?

And if you're ever stuck for a plot, just recycle an old one. Baum did it all the time. Ozma of Oz went on stage as The Tiktok Man of Oz and then came back to the novel series as Tik-Tok of Oz. Scarecrow of Oz runs Trot and Cap'n Bill through His Majesty the Scarecrow of Oz

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ozma's Birthday Sale!

From now until Saturday, August 20th, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is going on sale. You can purchase the print version (or the print/PDF bundle where allowed) for just $11.99, 20% off the cover price. That's the print version over at Lulu, RPGNow, and Drivethru RPG, or the Print/PDF bundle offered at RPGNow and DrivethruRPG.

And for those who have been paying attention, the PDF version has been repriced to $6.99, instead of its original price of $7.99. This is a permanent adjustment and is not part of the Ozma's Birthday Sale.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

While it's not my favorite topic, or one I have a lot of experience with, I want to touch on "dark gaming." Because people keep thinking that Oz: Dark & Terrible is a dark game.

In my mind, darkness is about evil as the dominant force in the setting. But one thing that people forget is that good is just as important to making a setting dark. Nothing makes us realize how dark it is like a momentary burst of light.

The Oz described in Gregory MaGuire's Wicked is dark because of the domination of the power-hungry Wizard. While Elphaba is an extremist, the fact that she is doing it for a cause that she (and we) believe is morally right, it is much easier to see her as the "good guy" in that scenario.

The Dark Oz comics published by Caliber show an Oz conquered by the Nome King, with a little help from Mombi. That's pretty dark right there. The only real ray of light here is the heroes, trying to free Ozma and restore her to the throne of Oz.

Oz: Dark & Terrible has lots of grey, but damn little true darkness. The Wizard has been transformed into giant animatronic head, but he is credited with genuinely good intentions toward the people of Oz. Glinda is trying to improve the lot of the primitive African Quadlings she rules over, but she's doing it by bringing in her fellow Gillikins to lead by example.

What little darkness we do get mostly comes in the form of Wicked Witches, notably the Wicked Witch of the West and Blinkie, the former Witch of the South. And both of them are simplistic, mustache-twirling evil (not that either of them have mustaches, but you get my point).

The other problem is that there is damn little light. Some character or aspect of the setting that is noble and good could make the whole setting a lot darker, even as it is, just by simple contrast. Judicious use of light could highlight those shadows ominously.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Oz Character of the Month: The Wizard (Again)

First of all, thank you to everyone who participated in the poll last month. A few more responses than the last one, which I find encouraging. It looks like L. Frank Baum is the winner as everyone's favorite Oz author. 9 out of 15 votes went to him. His successor on the Famous Forty, Ruth Plumly Thompson, came in second with 3 votes. The number 3 slot goes to James Wallace II, author of the Magician of Oz trilogy with 2 votes. Although he did try to "win" the poll by getting people to vote for him (I may not post much, but I do check my Facebook regularly, James ;) Only one unclaimed vote this time around, so I'm going to give it to Ron Baxley Jr.

Last month's Oz character was a non-magical version of the Wizard. This version is the Wizard from later in the series, after he learned magic from Glinda. Even though this version is technically more experienced than the version from last month, both of them are built using the same rules for starting characters.

If you're wondering why, it's for a couple of reasons. First of all, there really aren't any rules for building advanced characters in the game. The second reason is that point of posting characters in the first place is to show people what types of characters can be built using just the basic rules.

Name: Oscar Zoroaster P.I.N.H.E.A. Diggs
First Appearance: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (though the Wizard didn't learn magic until sometime before The Road to Oz)
Size: 3

Basic Skills

Athletics: 1
Awareness: 2
Brains: 4
Presence: 4 (The Great and Powerful Oz)
Sneaking: 1
Wits: 2

Traits: Sorcery, Magical Toolkit, Poet

Friends List: Glinda

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Adventures in Oz: An Inclusive RPG

While Heartbreak & Heroines seems to be cancelled, it has given us all some food for thought about the idea of inclusion in RPGs. Or at very least drawn attention to the fact that we're more exclusive than we think we are.

Like it or not, the typical gamer is male. So most of the marketing dollars spent in the RPG industry are reaching out to those men, playing on their desire to be badass fantasy heroes and be surrounded by nubile women. Although some of those nubile women are now fighting alongside the heroes rather than waiting to be rescued and claimed as a quest reward.

As soon as I set about writing an Oz RPG, I knew that I could not in good conscience cater specifically to this market. Because Oz really is a setting for everyone.

My first step came with the writing. While it is commonplace to use the pronoun "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun, I decided to avoid gendered language as much as possible. This does mean that "they" comes up a good bit. There are those who say that using "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun is bad grammar, which might be why I get a lot of knocks for my grammar in reviews. I only used gendered pronouns when I was referring to a specific, gendered character. (Chick the Cherub is going to get interesting when I do Beyond the Deadly Desert)

The next step was the art. While I did not make a point of asking for non-sexed-up art, I was very glad that I did not receive any. Many of the female Oz characters are frequently described as beautiful, but this is the sexiest piece of art I received. Notice that she is sexy without being sexed up. No revealing clothing. No distorted anatomy designed to show off T&A.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Women of Oz

My original idea for this week's blog was to look at the strong female characters of the Oz stories. Heroines and villainesses, rulers and sorcerers. But then I thought of the gamers in my audience (all 3 of you) and wanted to give them something a little more concrete than a book review. So then I thought about the issue of gender at the gaming table.

Tabletop RPGs, like many other geek activities, is predominantly a male activity. (In fact, the only geek activity I can think of that is predominantly female is cosplaying). I'm male, though I have gamed with women (notably my wife). My Monday night OSRIC campaign has one female player. Since her character has the highest Strength score in the party, we all call her "Boots", as she's the one with the best chance to kick down doors. My Thursday night IronClaw game has two female players, one of whom is playing a female Rhinoceros Pit Fighter.

But I know I'm not typical. There are horror stories floating around the net about female players being sexually harassed by the other players or even the Game Master. Like the group that played the world of Gor (JFGI) and had the one female character that spent most of her time getting traded around by the male characters.

The other night, I found this interesting little item: Heartbreaks and Heroines, a feminist RPG. I found it via this great big honking thread on RPG.Net, which is probably still growing as this gets posted. What is a "feminist RPG"? Apparently one that puts women in the primary roles and focuses on the emotional journey of becoming a hero and finding your place in the world.

But wait, if all feminists really want is equality and parity with men, why have a game that emphasizes women? The answer seems to be to create a deliberate imbalance in one segment (the players of one game) in order to create parity in the gamer population at large.

While the project is fully funded, I'm sure the designers would appreciate an extra buck or two to help propel the project even further.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Probably just the sour grapes talking...

Before I set about whining, I'd just like to mention an Oz author who did not make it onto my big list. Ron Baxley Jr. He wrote the book "The Talking City of Oz" which was originally published by March Laumer's Vanitas Press back in 1999. He recently teamed up with an Oz author who is on the list, James Wallace III, to write Of Cabbages, Kings and Even (Odd) Queens, an Oz/Wonderland crossover novel. Both of those works are in the process of receiving second editions later this year, so hold on to your wallets until these guys have a chance to wow you.

If you want Ron to be noted as your favorite Oz author, just choose "other" in the poll on the side and then add a comment to any blog post declaring your love for Ron. And do it soon, as the poll closes in just two weeks.

Now on with the whining,

Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road has not made a huge splash in the gaming world. That's not surprising, as I don't have a large promotional budget, or a big budget at all, really. So when the Ennies rolled around for this year, I decided to go for it. It seemed like the process was deliberately designed to be accessible to the little guy, so I thought I had a chance. Especially with the good reviews that I've gotten over the past year.

But when the nominations rolled around, it quickly became clear that this playground had already been claimed by the big boys. No room for the little upstart with a small budget and a big dream.

While I was munching on sour grapes over in the corner, I stumbled upon this. Wundergeek mostly focuses on the pit of misogyny that is the video game industry, but she does take some time for us tabletop gamers every now and again. I feel slightly better now, knowing that AiO would likely pass her criteria for a successful female depiction on the cover of an RPG. (Note that I have not asked her to examine this at all, so she has not endorsed this in any way shape or form.)

While there is only one female figure in the image, that female figure is A) centered in the image and B) not sexualized at all.

So I feel slightly better. There is some standard by which I am clearly better than those pesky Ennie nominees.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oz Character of the Month: The Wizard

While I didn't announce it last week, I did put up a new poll. I want to know who your favorite Oz author is. I put up a pretty broad list, but not broad enough, it seems. I'm hoping whoever cast that vote will tell me who their favorite Oz author is.

Also, tomorrow is the scheduled announcement for the Ennie Award nominations. There were quite a few entries, so it's still anyone's game. Watch this space, as well as the official Ennies site, tomorrow to see if I got the nomination.

There's a new poll up, as well. It's been up for a while, but I forgot to mention it last week. So who's your favorite Oz author, old or new? Inquiring minds want to know.

Now for our Oz character of the month. This a humbug version of the Wizard, as he might have been during his reign in the Emerald City or in his adventures leading up to Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. We'll take a look at a magically empowered version of the Wizard a bit later.

Name: Oscar Zoroaster P.I.N.H.E.A. Diggs
First Appearance: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Template: Wanderer
Size: 3

Basic Skills

Athletics: 2
Awareness: 2
Brains: 3
Presence: 4 (The Great and Powerful Oz)
Sneaking: 2
Wits: 2

Traits: Humbug Magic

Friends List: Bailum and Barney Consolidated Shows

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gaming Without A License

A recent review of my game wondered why I had chosen to slap a copyright on my work, rather than opening up my game with an Open Gaming License or Creative Commons license. This was something that I had pondered when I was releasing the game, but I ultimately decided against it.

For one thing, just because other people can reference my work is no guarantee that they will (or won't). Back in the early days of the Open Gaming craze, Gold Rush Games released their Action System as a universal game engine released under the OGL. It failed to take off and Gold Rush Games is no longer a going concern.

And since I'm just a guy with a dream, I had no expectations that I would make a big splash in the world of gaming (and my sales numbers are bearing that out). Certainly not enough to hitch my wagon to the idea of everyone being inspired by my work.

The other reason is quality control. As many long-time D20 players will tell you, there's a lot of crap out there for the D20 System. And I do mean crap. Because when the OGL was unveiled (back in the year 2000), suddenly everyone and their dog (especially their dog) tried to make a million dollars riding the coattails of the D&D brand.

Having a single official source for AiO material means that you can expect consistency (if not quality) out of the product line.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fording the Amazon, that is.

In last week's update, I mentioned that CreateSpace had finally accepted my files and that I had ordered a proof copy. It arrived last Friday and passes muster. As of this writing, it is available directly from CreateSpace, with Amazon following shortly. Once it hits the main site, a link will be posted forthwith. EDIT: Here it is!

Also, it seems that Lulu is closing down certain elements of their site. Such as their multimedia section. Which just happens to be where I stow my PDFs, since they don't seem to mesh with what Lulu calls an e-book. But since Lulu was kind enough to convert my PDF over to an e-book (EPUB format) for the iBookstore, I can also sell that over in the e-book section of their site (like so).

With so much news, I don't have room for my usual natter. But I'm sure it's only temporary, so I'm accumulating natter for when the news dries up.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Oz Is All Around!

Here's a bit of good news. I have recently begun work on Adventures in Oz: Beyond the Deadly Desert. You know, that supplement that I've been meaning to work on for about a year and a half.

What's been keeping me? A number of excuses, really. But the big one I like to point at is the fact that my old laptop died. Well, its floppy drive died. And that was the only way to get information off of it. That left me with only one desktop computer to share with my wife and not enough time to squeeze in everything I wanted to do. Enough to keep up the blog, but not enough to get any serious writing done.

So in the aftermath of the wedding, we got a nice little infusion of gifts and money. Enough to get a little something that I had wanted for quite some time. A cute little netbook. Enough computer to get me writing again, but not enough computer to distract me with MMOs. And I do loves me some D&D Online.

Also, you will notice that the blog is growing a few tabs. This is because I've gotten enough digs at my old site with my lack of HTML skills and poor updating habits. So I'm going to try to flesh out this blog into an actual site and have redirect straight here. Let me know if you have any tips or suggestions for this process or any content you want to make sure is included.

If you caught the blog a few days ago, you'll know that I got a couple of local shops to carry a copy of AiO. Not long after that, I got a notice from Lulu that they had completed the process of converting my book into an ePub and placing it on Apple's iBookstore. Although I had mostly given up on CreateSpace (their file review process is finicky and at least a little inconsistent), I finally got them to accept the files for AiO there. I've ordered a proof copy and it should show up sometime in the next week. If it passes muster (I have reservations on that front), customers will be able to buy Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road from that site.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the poll off on the right. It's helping me get a view on my readership. The majority (4 out of 11 responses) of you seem to have gotten the game from Lulu. This could be because it's where the link on my homepage sends you, or the fact that it's been up there the longest. There are two of you who have not purchased the game yet. I hope you guys are finding value in the blog, even if you don't own a copy. And as for the guys who voted "other", I'm curious where you picked it up if not from an official outlet. If you're pirates, it's clear that you were impressed enough with the game to track down the blog, so I'll take that as a compliment. If you picked up the physical book on the used rack at your local gamestore, I'm just a little curious as to where this store is. Maybe they'd like a few copies to put on their regular shelves.

I'll try to have a new poll up by next week, giving me a better picture of my fanbase. Thanks for participating in this one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Now Sold In Stores!

Well, kind of. I finally got around to scouting some somewhat local book and game stores (a little farther field than I normally go) up in Arcata, California. It's another city, so it's not a commute I like to do regularly. Another reason it's taken me this long is that I was afraid of getting turned down. For quite some time, there has been only one creditable game store in the county. And it's a game store that had lost my business many years ago (long story). Also, there was another local publisher several years ago (Vajra Enterprises, to be exact, though the fellow is no longer local), and I don't know if he got any respect from this game store. I saw a copy of his first game (Fates Worse Than Death) on the used rack at this store, but never on the regular shelves.

But then I recently heard of a new game store (specifically NuGames) in a nearby city. It's primarily a LAN arcade, but they do have regular Magic: The Gathering tournaments as well as supporting the D&D Encounters Organized Play program (though or some reason it's not mentioned on their site). The store's owner was very nice to me, but did warn me that it might be a tough sell. She did accept a copy for consignment sale.

My next stop was at Northtown Books. When I had been asking around my hometown of Eureka, this was a store that had been mentioned to me as someplace that was supportive of local authors. They asked remarkably few questions about the book and set about getting a consignment set up for the copy I had brought along.

So there are now two stores that have Adventures in Oz available on a consignment basis. Please tell people to buy them so that this can become a regular thing.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Marshall the Troupes!

No, that's not a mis-spelling. This post is going to be talking about what is often called "troupe-style" roleplaying.

The most common style of play in RPGs involves a player playing a single character until that character dies or retires. Then they create another character and plays through their adventuring life and so on.

Troupe-style play gives each player multiple characters to choose from for any given adventure. So if you were playing a Star Trek RPG, you would play your Starfleet Marine for a combat mission, but bring your Diplomacy Corps officer for a diplomatic mission. Or maybe your pilot who just happens to speak Romulan, since the diplomatic mission takes place near Romulan space.

For those following Barking Alien's Muppet RPG as he's posting it on his blog, you might notice that each player begins play with multiple characters. While each player participates in every scene/sketch, they do so as different characters.

Old School gamers already did something like this back in the day, pulling out one from a binder of character sheets depending on the difficulty level of the dungeon and the specific roles that need to be filled. MMO gamers do something similar with their "alts," bringing in their "tank", "DPS", or "healer" into play as needed.

It can also be used on a short term basis in a regular game to give all the players something to do. For example, in a recent D&D session (a friend of mine is running the game, not me) 3 of the 6 characters were called on to serve as the prosecution, defense, and judge in a trial. Which left 3 players (including me) with nothing to do as this trial scene played out. So my friend gave us witnesses to play so that we could be part of that dramatic scene, even if our regular characters weren't there.

Troupe-style play is also very Ozzy. While some series maintain a consistent core cast, there is very little consistency in the cast of an Oz story. While everyone remembers the classic adventuring party of Dorothy, The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion, that grouping has never occurred since. In fact, no more than 2 of these characters have ever adventured together again in the Baum canon (typically the Tin Woodman adventures with the Scarecrow, or Dorothy teams up with the Lion).

Baum would even change up the cast in mid-story. In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, he trades out the Woozy and the Glass Cat for Dorothy and the Scarecrow (an odd exception to the pattern noted above). So if you've got a player who is having a hard time settling on one character, you might want to let them create two and let them play in alternate adventures or find points in the story where they can switch off.

And one of the cool things about doing this in AiO is that even if a character isn't present, they can still have an influence if they are on another character's Friends List.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Oz Character of the Month: Tip

Before we tackle our main topic today, I just wanted to take some time for some announcements.

First of all, a number of you Oz fans are going to the Oz-Stravaganza over in Chittenango, New York. I wish I could be there, but the budget does not allow me significant travel (like across the country) at this point. However, the budget does allow for me to send a few books in that direction in the care of James C. Wallace II. So if you've gotten tired of reading me shill this book on the blog and want to see it for yourself, seek him out on the Author's Alley.

Second, there are only about 2 more weeks to take the poll over on the right. If you are a follower of the blog, or just keeping up with it, please post your answer. The more I know about my customers, the better I can take care of them. Once this poll wraps up, I plan on posting another to help me get more information on you guys.

And now for a new Oz character. As a number of you are aware, June is Pride Month. For some reason, Oz connects very strongly with the gay community. Quite a few of the Oz fans I have encountered on the internet are gay or otherwise queer. Many people point to Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman as a gay couple, especially when you see their relationship presented in The Tin Woodman of Oz (though how they are gay when they don't have a sex is a conundrum). But one thing that not everyone notices is that there was a transgendered Oz character.

In The Land of Oz, the main character is a young boy named Tippetarius, but the story ends with his transformation into a fairy princess.

Name: Tippetarius
First Appearance: The Land of Oz
Template: Child in Oz

Size: 2

Athletics: 2
Awareness: 3
Brains: 3
Presence: 2
Sneaking: 3
Wits: 3

Traits: Craftsman (Wood)

Friends List: Mombi

While Mombi may seem an odd choice for a friend, the appearance of the Wishing Pills later in the story seems to fit the plot device nature of how Oz Points work. And since he got them in something he took from Mombi, that kind of makes her his friend.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sorry about the late (and 100% Content Free!) post this week. You see, I'm getting married tomorrow. So you can imagine how this last week has been for me. I love you guys, I really do. I just love her more.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It Lifts And Separates!

Not that kind of support. I'm here to talk about support in RPGs. You know, sourcebooks, setting books, and other material that adds on to what you get in the main rulebook of an RPG. In fact, some gamers won't even consider a game until it's got a few supplements out.

Publishers love supplements too. Because they are another chance to make money from the same customers. They also represent another chance to catch new customers by highlighting something really cool about your game that you were forced to skim over in the core book.

Which means I am very glad to announce that there is finally a supplement for AiO. It's the Adventures in Oz Characters Pack (Lulu/Paizo/RPGNow/DriveThruRPG). 15 characters from the Oz stories ready to play in your AiO campaign. You may have seen some of these on the blog already but there are also characters that I have statted especially for this product. And all characters have received special treatment, getting put on their own full page deluxe character sheet complete with an illustration of the character., including some that were commissioned specifically for this project from Oz artist S.P. Maldonado.

I'll be watching this supplement's sales with interest. For starters, sales of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road have been rather lackluster. 131 copies between print and PDF over the past year. Maybe it's just that my shoestring promotional budget is actually thin enough to count as fishing line and I haven't been able to get out as much to promote the game.

When I contributed AiO to the DriveThruRPG Pakistan Relief Bundle, around 2500 people downloaded the game. I got two (positive) reviews out of that and did experience an uptick in print sales at that time. But what if I had had a nice little app-priced bit of bonus material out then? And now that I do, are they still interested?

Also, I've started a poll off to the side there. I want to know who reads this blog and where they get their RPGs (my RPG at least.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Confessions of an Oz/Gaming Snob

NOTE: This is the post that Blogger ate last week. They didn't get around to reposting it, so I am.

Just about any fandom has its share of snobs and elitists. This becomes especially problematic when the elitist attitudes drive off the n00bs, or even the more casual fans.

On the gaming side, this manifests as a sort of stigma against D&D. We deride its hack and slash focus and the excessive lengths some players will go through to "win" at RPGs. While we acknowledge that D&D is one of the most common introductions to RPGs, we wait for those players to branch out and start playing "real" RPGs.

I actually found myself harboring this attitude. When I met Kevin Andrew Murphy at DunDraCon, I discovered that he had been working for Paizo Publishing (home of the Pathfinder RPG, a successor to 3rd edition D&D) and made some comment about how I had "grown up" out of D&D some time ago (no offense).

He then proceeded to explain to me that D&D isn't just a stepping stone, but should in fact be viewed as a lingua franca, a common experience that unites all gamers. Even if D&D wasn't your first game, you've likely played it at some point in your gaming career.

So I try to keep an open mind on this, especially since I am playing in one D&D game and have recently launched an exploration of The Castle of the Mad Archmage using OSRIC. It can be hard at times, though.

When I first saw this video, I was initially unimpressed. The tune was catchy and the visuals were good, but the lyrics were all about hack& slash play (including the oft-repeated line "hackin' them all up"). While I try to avoid telling people that they're doing it wrong, the lack of context was bothersome to me. They seemed to be fighting monsters for the sole reason that the Dungeon Master put them there to be killed. We don't see what this fighting accomplished or why they were fighting in the first place.

On the Oz side, we have The Movie. The 1939 MGM musical with Judy Garland. It's been broadcast on TV regularly through the years and has sustained several DVD releases. But, like D&D, it's got that reputation as the "Lowest Common Denominator" of the fandom. We keep waiting for people to eventually pick up the books that made Oz into a delightful and rich fairyland.

I have no problem with this. It was a good movie and I enjoy it myself (Though it has been a while since I've seen it). But I will say that a rich fairyland will make for more interesting gaming. That said, you certainly don't need to restrict your adventures in Oz to L. Frank Baum's work. If you want to adventure in Movie-verse Oz or Wicked Oz, go right ahead. But you will have to put some of the meat on those bones yourself. Thankfully, AiO gives you the tools to do just that.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, L. Frank Baum!

For those who don't know, today is the 155th birthday of L. Frank Baum, the creator of Oz. And Oz fans everywhere are celebrating.

Jane Albright of the International Wizard of Oz Club, is putting together a video composed of contributed photos of Oz fans doing Ozzy things today. Here's my contribution, a photo of my with my book, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. I also decided to highlight my geek side by wearing a nerdy t-shirt and posing in front of my D&D shelf. If you want to contribute a photo of you doing something Ozzy today (like playing AiO), you can email it to

Also, I contributed a voice to Jared Davis' latest Royal Podcast of Oz, as the Wizard in the Little Wizard Story "Tik-Tok and the Nome King."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cast An Ozzy Spell: Out of Oogaboo

This is a fun one, because it touches on the interesting space between spells and magic items. The Travel power is generally limited to magic items, but this was clearly a one-time effect. Another reason one-shot items like this are useful is that manufacturing them doesn't require a roll. So if your Brains skill isn't what you need it to be to achieve a certain magical effect, maybe you should look into making it a single use item.

It's easy to imagine that characters like Dr. Pipt are on the low end of the Brains spectrum for Sorcerers and so rely on items rather than spells in order to avoid the risk of failure.

Power: Travel (3)
Scope: City/Race (2)
Ritual: No Ritual (0)
Item: Single Use (-3)
Effect Power: 2

This is the spell Glinda used on Queen Ann Soforth and the Army of Oogaboo to transport them out of Oz into the unknown lands beyond the Deadly Desert, kicking off the story of Tik-Tok of Oz.

Those of you following along with your book at home, you'll notice that I didn't include a Ritual modifier to drop the Effect Power down to 1. While this would have been more efficient choice, I felt that a magical effect of this magnitude should have a more significant cost. 2 Oz Points/exotic ingredients sounds about right.

Baum Proliferation Sale!

In celebration of L. Frank Baum's birthday on May 15, I'm offering a 15% discount on Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. Pick it up at in print or PDF, RPGNow, (print, PDF and bundle) and DriveThruRPG (print, PDF and bundle) through the links over on the right. (Use these links when ordering from RPGNow or DriveThruRPG, or else you won't get the discount.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sandbox Pinball

The idea of a "sandbox" RPG conjures a rather interesting image in the mind of the layman. The prospective player exists in an unformed expanse that is waiting to be formed by his actions. Their character sheet and the rules of the game are the bucket and shovel that the player uses to sculpt the setting into something truly awesome.

I actually tried to do something like this back in my Oz playtest game. Once the characters had made it to the Emerald City, I basically said, "Okay guys, you've made it to the Emerald City. What are you going to do now?"

Which failed. After a session or two of the characters not knowing what to do with all that sand, the party broke their oath to stay away from Utensia.

It was my recent acquisition of the Smallville RPG that helped me most with coming up with a good metaphor for this sort of open-world gaming. Character creation in Smallville is equal parts defining your character's abilities and defining their relationships, including drawing a "relationship map" that can become very complex as the process continues.

Items on this relationship map not only have lines linking them to the player's characters, but a rating describing how strongly each of the characters is connected to that minor character or location. Which basically explains why Clark Kent is always rescuing Lana Lang rather than Random Victim #4; His connection to her is stronger, so he is stronger in scenes and activities that connect to her.

So we have a complex map and a strong motivation to stay within it's framework. Sounds like pinball to me.

Rather than talking about sandbox gaming, we should instead talk about pinball gaming. Narrators (and increasingly, players) create a setting full of pins and bumpers for the players to interact with and bounce off of during play.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Death, Fireballs, And The Lack Thereof

One of the things that we talked about in the podcast (I've you haven't heard it yet, go to it!) was that Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road has a No Death Rule and a No Fireball Rule.

When I was designing AiO, one of my big questions was how to resolve the inconsistencies of the Oz stories. In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Tin Woodman winds up doing a lot of killing with his ax. The Road to Oz mentions a suicide. Later stories, however take a decidedly different turn, declaring death impossible.

But without death, there tends to be little risk in combat. One thing that particularly irritated me about Faery's Tale was that losing a fight meant that your character had to sit out for a scene. Probably a stern consequence for the young children that the game was designed for, but feels a little too milquetoast to be effective for grownups.

Ultimately, I decided that the worst thing next to death was living with your defeat. Opponents may take advantage of your reduced Wits score to use an Impress maneuver and force a concession. Or, as I mentioned on the podcast, beating someone down to 0 Wits could mean that they collapse into a bawling heap that you then have to deal with.

Now imagine that you've just had an epic battle with a dragon and you have emerged victorious. Instead of a dead body and a hoard of gold, the party now faces the dragon crying prehistoric crocodile tears and sobbing about how none of the other dragons will take him seriously now. Consequences? Yes. Death? No. Adventure possibility? Totally!

The Deadly Weapon trait and the Deadly Strike maneuver it allows is another opportunity for adventure. Although they have Deadly in their names, they are very much not lethal, but it does serve to convey their impact. When the Tin Woodman swings his ax, it's best to watch out. Seeking out replacement limbs from a craftsman of some sort or maybe a secret sorcerer is bound to be an interesting adventure. And the limbs that you wind up with can be fun, too. I seem to recall an Oz character from the Ruth Plumly Thompson era with a "game leg", an artificial leg that housed a number of games within it.

The lack of direct combat magic (fireballs, lightning spells and other fun zappy stuff) came about for two reasons. First of all, it never happened in the stories. In fact, I think the only time magic was used in a conflict was when Dorothy used the Magic Belt on Ugu the Shoemaker. The other reason is that the combat system didn't really have room to shoehorn it in.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Talking About Oz

Here's a little podcast released by the wonderful folks at that lets me and a couple other gamers geek out about Oz.

If you're checking out the blog in response to that podcast, here are a few items of interest:

First of all, over on the right you'll find links to all of the places you can purchase Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. RPGNow and DrivethruRPG also offer AiO in print via their POD service.

This blog entry contains links to reviews of Adventures in Oz, and this one is a FAQ about the game that I compiled some time ago. If you come up with new questions for me to answer, feel free to ask by commenting on this post, that post, or via email at

If you want some idea of the variety in the Oz stories, and the simple flexibility that the AiO system provides, check out the Oz characters and magic items that I've written up for the blog.

Finally, I do have an actual website over at that has printable Oz maps and character sheets for your downloading and printing pleasure.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Oz Character of the Month: Princess Dorothy Gale

I hope you guys enjoyed my little April Fool's joke last week. Unfortunately, RPG success is nowhere near rockstar success. I do hate to disappoint Adam, but there are no hookers or blow to be had here. Chris Pramas and Green Ronin are real (and awesome), but I have no real relationship with them. So even RPG success is currently outside my grasp.

Wednesday night, I participated in a roundtable discussion with a couple of other Oz game designers put on by the wonderful people over at Pulp It will be released as one of their Out of Character Podcasts in the next few weeks. Links will be coming as soon as it has been edited down into something listenable and posted at their site.

I know that this is usually the week where I post an Oz character or spell, and have I got a treat for you. I've been talking about this "characters pack" thing for a couple of months now and it is finally taking shape. So here's a little preview. A deluxe character sheet with stats and details for Princess Dorothy Gale. The characters pack will contain 14 other classic Oz characters as well, suitable for use by players or Narrators to bring a little more Oz flavor to your games.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Important Announcement!

As you know, I don't like to announce things until they're final, because real life has a funny way of happening.

But now that the i's have been dotted and the t's have been crossed, I feel safe announcing this. Chris Pramas of Green Ronin has bought out the rights to Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road and plans to provide support like never before.

His proposal came attached with synopses for a trilogy of adventure modules:

Descent into the Depths of the Earth, which would return to the land of the Mangaboos and explore the interior of Pyramid Mountain,

Vault of the Nomes, getting the PCs involved in Nome politics with the earth's supply of precious metals and gems hanging in the balance,

and Queen Zixi in the Pits, which brings the party to Ix where they must attempt to cheer up the Queen before her birthday celebration.

What's my role in this? Frankly, now that I've made my fortune in the RPG business, I am officially retiring and spending all of my money on hookers and blow (or something like that).

(April Fool!)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bundle Up For Spring!

As you know, I've been working on getting everything ready to sell the print version of AiO via DriveThruRPG and RPGNow. After a couple of false starts, everything is finally in order. Much hard work has gone into correcting the graphical issues, and it has paid off.

Now when you visit the Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road product page on those sites, you can choose to buy the PDF, the print version, or both. That's right, that Holy Grail of RPG marketing, the Print/PDF bundle is now available for just $14.99! It's like buying the book and getting the PDF for FREE!

Also, Lulu has sent me a discount code for their site. If you purchase the print version there between now and March 31 and use the coupon code MARCHSPECIAL305, you can get 20% off your purchase.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Time to Celebrate Oz!

First of all, welcome all Oz fans, old and young, new and familiar! And if you're just getting to this blog from the Oz Celebration, you're in for a treat.

My name is F. Douglas Wall and I am the designer and publisher of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. AiO (as I call it for short) is a roleplaying game intended to help you create your own Oz story with characters you create. All you need are this rulebook, some friends, some dice from your favorite board game, paper, pencils, and imagination.

In honor of the Oz celebration, for this weekend only, you can purchase the Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road rulebook for 10% off the regular price of $14.99. In addition, is currently offering free ground shipping with the coupon code GROUND305

If you've been intimidated by other roleplaying games, like Dungeons & Dragons with multiple thick books full of rules to learn, have no fear! AiO is only 136 pages long and is the only rulebook you need. It features simple rules that let you quickly make your own Oz character, advice on serving as the Narrator to guide other players through your own Oz adventures, and descriptions of over 35 locations from the original Oz stories with goodies for both players and Narrators.

And if you have any questions or want more information, this blog is updated every Thursday with new info on Oz, RPGs, and publishing.

See what others are saying about Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road:

"...after reading it, you'll want to start having your own adventures in Oz"
-- Jared Davis, The Royal Blog of Oz

"The game’s magic system, background material, and other elements nicely capture the tone of this classic book series"
--David Millians, educator

"An in-depth look at the land of Oz, incorporating TONS of detail..."
-- Jason Levine, RPG author

"Adventures in Oz is a labour of love which takes a more child-friendly fantasy world with different tropes than the classic Tolkein ones and presents a very playable game"
-- George Quail

"Like the stories, it has been designed for the youngest and oldest of children."
-- Jo Kriel

"... this game celebrates imagination and whimsy."
-- Jordan Block, Victorian Adventure Enthusiast

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dr. Nikidik, I Presume?

While Baum was not famous for consistency within the Oz stories, the differences between the two appearances of the Powder of Life were significant enough to affect how they were represented in the rules of AiO. But were they really intended to be the same?

David Maxine does accurately point out that while Dr. Nikidik's Celebrated Wishing Pills are indeed a product of Dr. Nikidik, the Powder of Life isn't necessarily. Though the connection is strong enough for Gregory Maguire to have Nikidik's appearance in Wicked include a demonstration of a prototype Powder of Life.

In The Road to Oz, we learn some more details of the fate of the Crooked Sorcerer. He apparently fell off of a precipice and died (this is apparently before Baum instituted the "no death" rule), leaving his possessions, including a small batch of the Powder of Life, to a distant relation named Dyna. This Powder was used to accidentally animate a blue bearskin rug, creating a rather pathetic creature.

But in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, we meet Dr. Pipt, who claims to be the inventor of the Powder of Life. He also claims that he gave Mombi (and ultimately Tip) the batch that was used to animate Jack Pumpkinhead, the Sawhorse and the Gump. He doesn't mention the Wishing Pills, so it's certainly possible that Dr. Pipt and Dr. Nikidik are two different people.

However, this does not tell us who died and left the Powder of Life to Dyna. Did Dr. Nikidik fake his own death? Or did he actually try to kill himself only to be thwarted by the magic of Oz? Maybe the bearskin rug knows. But without the lungs he used to have, he is rather unable to speak.

Although when you think about it, many things without lungs are able to speak in Oz. Maybe it's actually a curse of silence. So lifting the curse may be the first step in unraveling the mystery. Where it leads is up to you.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Disaster Averted

I know that yesterday, there was a lot of worry about the tsunami resulting from the earthquake that hit Japan.

My fiancee woke me up quite early because she had gotten a phone call warning of the tsunami and suggesting evacuation. (I later heard from a coworker who lived in another section of town that her phone call was soon followed by emergency workers showing up to evacuate her.) Eager to get back to sleep, and realizing that any kind of tsunami coming all the way from Japan isn't going to be terribly scary after expending so much energy crossing the ocean, I told her not to worry about it.

Before going back to bed, I did get her set up streaming local radio station KHUM, which was broadcasting news and information about what was going on. Streaming because we don't really have a radio in the house. Also, I figured if any link in that chain broke (power, internet), then it would be a good time to worry.

Time to worry never came. Although most of Old Town was closed because of fears of flooding, it never materialized. It was just a lot of disruption of business. Two items that came up on KHUM were bakeries that were unable to serve customers in their usual way (one had to close their Eureka store for the day and the other couldn't deliver to grocery stores that were closed) and were therefore having a huge sale for the customers that they could reach.

Crescent City, 100 miles to the north of me, did take significant damage to boats in the harbor. 4 people were reported to have been washed out to sea there, apparently ignoring ample warnings to stay away from the water.

When I got to work, I heard that they had had a very interesting lunch rush. Since we were one of the few restaurants in town that was open (and I'm pretty sure the only pizzeria), lunch was a madhouse. From there on, it went on to be a mostly normal day at work.

Now, for the people who didn't get off as lucky as myself and most of us on this side of the ocean, DrivethruRPG is holding a Red Cross fundraiser. They didn't take the time to gather a bundle of stuff to bribe people with, so the only compensation you'll get is the knowledge that you helped. And that's enough, isn't it?
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