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.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...