Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ow! Stop Hitting Me With That Axe!

Everyone seems to love categories and labels. And the RPG hobby is no exception. One of the labels getting some discussion over at the Barking Alien blog is "Story game." Detractors of this type of game claim that they are simply railroaded stories that are passed down from designer to GM to player.

As the designer of one of these "story games" (links over on the right), I must disagree. AiO is not simply about recreating the adventures of Dorothy & Company word for word. It incorporates the broad themes of the stories, friendship and exploration, but anything you do with the rules and setting I've provided is up to you. (One of my Facebook fans even ran an adventure called "Beavis and Butthead Do Oz.")

One of the things that I think is going on is that many players out there are trained to view violence as the primary solution to many gaming situations. Since RPGs grew out of wargames and drew inspiration from adventure fiction, this is actually kind of understandable. Even in games and genres where "I hit it with my axe" is not the preferred solution as it is in D&D, these gamers will not complain as long as it remains a valid solution.

Many story games, however, take differing approaches to combat or put the focus on other areas of gameplay. This often means that "I hit it with my axe" becomes a sub-optimal solution or maybe even a bad solution to the scenario. So players are not really being railroaded by story games, but may be feeling restricted when that favored option is taken away from them.

 AiO is actually a good example of this. Although hitting things with your axe (or other Deadly Weapon) does have an effect on an opponent, it will not kill them. Once a foe is defeated, you still have to figure out what to do with them afterwards.

Because this idea is so pervasive, I worry that my game's potential success is ultimately limited. I have a friend who is a self-admitted hack & slash gamer who will sometimes ask me "Now when are you going to design something that people will actually play?"

What do you think, guys? How important is combat in the games you play? Could you deal with a game in which "I hit it with my axe"  was the wrong course of action more often than not? Are you playing a game like that right now? Are you playing AiO?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Just a little post to wish all of you a merry Christmas. I do have some more numbers I could be putting up, but who wants a boring dose of reality on this of all days?

Even if today isn't Christmas for you, I hope you have a blessed day today.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Q3 2011 Quarterly Report

 Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
Sales Channel/Product TypeJulyAugustSeptemberQuarter TotalYTDLast YearGrand Total
One Book Shelf/PDF46616262976
One Book Shelf/Print--112-2
One Book Shelf/Bundle-2245
One Book Shelf/Total48921332983
Your Games Now/PDF-----11
Totals89102757 42165

 Adventures in Oz Characters Pack
Sales Channel/Product TypeJulyAugustSeptemberQuarter SalesYTD Sales

In terms of big news for this quarter, I logged my first sale from CreateSpace. Since CreateSpace is an Amazon company, that meant a free listing on Although I could never manage to get my original files accepted back in 2010, I thought the file surgery that made my participation in the OBS Now In Print! program possible might be what I needed at CreateSpace as well. I guessed right and very quickly got things set up over there.
Also, this quarter marks the transition from PDF to EPUB over at Lulu. Since they were discontinuing their multimedia category (which is where I had stuck my PDF), they offered me a free conversion to EPUB and also went ahead and made it available on the iBookstore and the Nook.

Now that we have the opportunity to look back in time somewhat, it seems that nothing quite lives up to that first rush. Sales at Lulu and OBS dropped by about 50% over the same quarter last year. Once we get 2 years on, we'll see if that 50% reduction holds over time.

Down in the Characters Pack chart, I have added a new line labeled "Bundle." This is for copies that are distributed as part of the Corebook and Characters Pack Bundle. The price of the bundle is the same as the corebook by itself, so customers are basically getting the Characters Pack for free in these cases. Since they were effectively giveaways, it would be tempting to simply write them off. But looking at the bundle sales compared to the individual sales of either product can be illuminating. (The corebook part of the bundle is included in the OBS/PDF total of the main chart.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Teach Your Kids To Game Week Strikes Back!

Just like the Empire!

That's right folks! DriveThruRPG is once again having a Teach Your Kids to Game Week. If you've been looking for the right game to introduce your kids (or maybe even someone else's) to the joys of gaming, they've cooked up a nice little list of options.

But wait! Where's AiO? Not to worry. It's got a nice stable home over here on their Family Gaming page! Apparently the list of games for TYKTGW was so long that they had to do some prioritizing.

Mischief managed.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Q2 2011 Quarterly Report

 Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
Sales Channel/Product TypeAprilMayJuneQuarter TotalYTDLast YearGrand Total
One Book Shelf/PDF1-2310-60
One Book Shelf/Print1--11-1
One Book Shelf/Bundle1--11-1
One Book Shelf/Total3-2512-62
Your Games Now/PDF------1
Totals5821530 19138

 Adventures in Oz Characters Pack
Sales Channel/Product TypeAprilMayJuneQuarter SalesYTD Sales

This is where things start to get interesting. It's been my first full year as a publisher of an actual product. You can see that I've added an extra column to the chart so that I can look at how the quarterly totals compare to last year. And as we see, even though I was selling books in all three months of this quarter, I didn't sell as much as the month and a half that I had last year. But then again, last year did include that initial release rush.

Speaking of initial releases, this quarter also saw the release of the Adventures in Oz Characters Pack. Although it went to all of the places I sold PDFs, only 2 outlets got any kind of performance. I was actually surprised that one of them was Paizo.

The print edition of AiO actually became available at the OneBookShelf sites (DrivethruRPG and RPGNow) in the last week of March, but didn't get any nibbles until April. You may recall that I had some rather interesting trials in getting to an acceptable POD release from OBS.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

While I could bore you with another quarterly report right now, I don't think I will. You're probably reading this on your way to or from some family gathering, or while the turkey is in the oven. So I'll just wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.

I do want to take a moment to thank every one of you for reading and commenting on the blog over the past year. You are not only creating the future of this blog, but AiO as well.

And before you gird your loins to face down the Black Friday crowds, consider doing at least some of your shopping online. To help you with that, you can now buy the print edition of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road for 20% off at RPGNow and DriveTruRPG. From now until Cyber Monday, November 26, it's just $11.99 when you buy from those retailers. (Note that the links to RPGNow and DriveThruRPG above are a little different than the ones over on the right. That's because the links above contain the discount code for the special price.)

Also, Lulu has a coupon code valid starting tomorrow and running through Cyber Monday. DELIRITAS is good for 30% all of your purchases on that site (like Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road) or 51% off calendars (like this Ozzy calendar right here).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Q1 2011 Quarterly Report

 Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
Sales Channel/Product TypeJanuaryFebruaryMarchQuarter TotalGrand Total
One Book Shelf/PDF214757
Your Games Now/PDF----1

If you just look at the two lines labeled Lulu/Print and One Book Shelf/PDF, they look like they're tied. But that's not the case, because there are now multiple formats available at Lulu. Combining the two formats for sale at Lulu brings total sales up to 61, giving them a lead in overall sales. Interestingly enough, they did manage exactly the same sales totals for this quarter. Lulu strongest in the early parts of the quarter, with OBS picking up the tail.

Note the bolded line highlighting Lulu's total sales. This chart is going to gain a couple of those lines as format options expand over the year.

The pivot point was in February, when I attended my annual gaming convention, DunDraCon. Exactly why this shift occurred, I don't know. A boost in after-con sales at OBS might be an increased awareness of the game from the con, since the OBS sites are places that a gamer is more likely to shop than an Oz fan. But I've got no guesses as to why Lulu would drop off at the same time. It might be part of the general shift away from Lulu, but we'll see how that happens over time.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Q4 2010 Quarterly Report

I should actually be working on my NaNoWriMo project right now, but I did promise numbers and maybe some other kind of information.

This quarter included my first Christmas as an actual publisher with an actual product. One the one hand, it was exciting. On the other hand I did not want to be one of those callous merchants of artificial and manufactured merriment that seem to dominate the holiday shopping season (which gets longer every year).

Another big thing that happened this quarter was the release of Oz: Dark & Terrible, an "adult" RPG from a company called Emerald City Expeditions. It also served as the springboard to get me to record my first Adventures in Oz Podcast, an audio review of the game.

 Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
Sales Channel/Product TypeOctoberNovemberDecemberQuarter TotalYTD Total
One Book Shelf/PDF9752150
Your Games Now/PDF----1

One thing to notice this quarter is that digital sales trailed off closer to December. Probably because those customers view their PDF purchases as personal purchases, since digital items are less easily giftable. This big sales month for any format or vendor was November. The sales might have been boosted by interest in Oz: Dark & Terrible (a Halloween release) or as a pre-Christmas rush.

Or it might have been the Doctors Without Borders Pakistan fundraiser in late October of that year. Which is just an example of the power of giving something away for free. Enough people were impressed with AiO even though they got it free with their contribution that they sought out my other work. At this relatively early date, all that was available was the print version over at Lulu. The fundraiser also got me my first review. Not only was it a 5-star review, it was by someone who's books were on my shelf. That's one of the strongest compliments I can imagine and it happened!

This was also the quarter that I broke 100 sales.  As we all know, anyone can sell 100 of anything. The challenge is coming up with more of that. So I close out the year with 108 sales over the space of 7 months. 2011 is going to be the challenge. We see how next time.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Q3 2010 Quarterly Report

This quarter marked the release of AiO in PDF. 5 sites were chosen for this release: DrivethruRPG, Lulu, Paizo, RPGNow, and YourGamesNow. As you can see, they did not all perform equally. Print was the preferred format over at Lulu for some time. And this is the only sale I ever logged over at YourGamesNow. The only reason I haven't stopped selling there is that it's more effort to remove it than to keep it up.

Lulu Print showed a bump in August due to my first "Ozma's Birthday Sale" and the kind folks over at the RPG Circus podcast announcing it. 5 copies were sold during that time at the discounted rate.

The big news this quarter in terms of sales is One Book Shelf. Although it was only an active vendor for one month of this quarter, it very quickly moved in to the #2 position in terms of all time sales. It would eventually surpass Lulu, but that's a story for another time.

 Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
Sales Channel/Product TypeJulyAugustSeptemberQuarter TotalYTD Total
One Book Shelf/PDF--292929
Your Games Now/PDF--111

One Book Shelf is the company that operates RPGNow and DrivethruRPG. Both sites use the same back end, so my sales data from them is not separated by site.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A DunDraConUndrum

As I do nearly every year, I'm planning to attend DunDraCon this upcoming February. For the last few years I've run two AiO demos over that weekend. But I'm thinking of changing that. Not specifically in a downsizing way, either. Some thing I'm thinking of doing as well or instead are more promotional efforts. Such as:

Seminars: Rather than just getting a small group to play my game, this would involve a (hopefully) larger crowd that I can talk to about my game.

Running another game: One of the things I love about cons is the opportunity to try new games. But sometimes the games that I want to try out are not being put on the schedule. Which tends to give me the itch to put those games on the schedule by running them myself.

While I could theoretically do all of these things, I would be a very busy man. Busier perhaps than I am at my day job. Not exactly what I would consider a vacation. And since it is my one real opportunity to get out of town in a year, I'd like to keep it feeling like a vacation. So while I'm open to doing any of these things (including my AiO demos), I don't feel like taking on all of them.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Q2 2010 Quarterly Report

This has clearly been a long time in coming. Over two years, in fact.

I've been more than a little nervous about sharing this information. Not because it's supposed to be a big secret or anything. It's because I'm afraid that the numbers are so small. Which basically makes me the kid who doesn't want to shower in gym class because he knows he won't compare well to the other boys. But we all have to grow up sometime. So even though I'm no Fred Hicks (who made a habit of sharing Evil Hat's sales figures on his own blog and now on the Evil Hat website), I'm going to flaunt my numbers to the best of my ability.

Since I am so far behind, I'll be posting one quarter per week until I get caught up. After that, I hope to keep this updated on a quarterly basis.

The first quarter I started selling AiO was Q2 (April-June) of 2010. Actually, I only started selling halfway through that quarter. Almost exactly halfway, as my release date was May 15.

 Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
Sales Channel/Product TypeAprilMayJuneQuarter SalesYTD Sales

As we see, only one format and one sales channel. Not a big start, but not a bad one, either. And next quarter is going to be an eye-opener.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

With Friends Like These...

For quite some time, I've billed the Friends List/Oz Point mechanic as a way to encourage players to make friends and be helpful as they play. But what if we could use that motivation for evil instead? While you could theoretically rebuild the Friends List into an Enemies List, that would be more work than I would ask of you (though those sufficiently motivated to do so are encouraged to tell me about it). So right now, we'll be talking about evil friends.

If all the players agree, you might choose to do a wicked (though not necessarily Wicked) campaign. Players choose villains for their Starting Friends and earn Oz Points for helping their wicked schemes. All of the characters might have a single evil patron (they are all Nomes invading Oz and so all of them choose the Nome King as their Starting Friend), or each of them takes a different villain as their patron (such as the various Wicked Witches).

Another angle, and one that I think provides an interesting moral dimension to the game, is for the Narrator to sneak in a wicked friend. Perhaps your party of Oz explorers  finds an old woman in trouble and they help her out. They're ready to accept the Oz Point they've just earned for making a new friend and to add a new name to their Friends List. And the Narrator tells them "Mombi."

If your players know the Oz stories, they should be very wary of tying themselves to Mombi, the former Wicked Witch of the North. If they don't recognize the name, then they're ready for the next stage. Because Mombi wants something. It might be small and simple to start, and it will get the players Oz Points, so they'll probably go along. But eventually, they'll realize that she's up to no good.

What makes this interesting is that the characters are now getting Oz Points for doing something that is decidedly bad. And this bribe is just as strong (in fact it's the exact same bribe) as the one to be good and helpful. And depending on who else is on a character's Friends List, you get the ability to set up some interesting conflicts.

Suppose Mombi wants Glinda's Magic Book of Records. If both Mombi and Glinda are on your Friends List, that's bound to be an interesting choice. If you steal the Book for Mombi, you get an Oz Point. If you tell Glinda about the plot and help her thwart Mombi, you get an Oz Point. Which do you choose?

Another possibility that could work for a darker campaign: Allow the players to choose Starting Friends as normal, but establish as part of your campaign setup that these people are prisoners of the campaign's villain (and since some people may enjoy taking established characters as friends, this could have an interesting impact on the setting as a whole). And in order to help and free these friends, the players must do some favors for the villain. This creates the same sort of scenario where the players are rewarded for the bad things that their characters do, but lets them retain a veneer of heroism. And if the campaign allows for the prisoners to be released and/or the defeat of the villain, all the better.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sometimes, I ponder for a long time on a blog post. Other times, they just come to me. This is one of those.

It all started with our friend Joethelawyer. Apparently, he was in a group playing through a pre-packaged dungeon that, in his opinion, sucked. And this brought a few other bloggers out of the woodwork, writing about the value of pre-packaged adventures in general. The bloggers that I've read suggest that pre-written adventures are useful, but not always as something to present directly to your players.

Noisms over at Monsters and Manuals even goes so far as to suggest that running an adventure module as written is the creative equivalent of playing a cover song or remaking a movie. And that's something that I disagree with.

Because a module should not represent the sum total of the gaming experience provided. There are some badly written modules out there, that railroad player choice and force them through a single plot. But the better ones don't. The better ones give the players lots of opportunities to make choices and make their own story out of the module.

Two great examples of adventures that give players lots of room to make choices are The Castle of the Mad Archmage (by the brilliant Joseph Bloch) and The Jaded City of Oz, the sample adventure in Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. (You knew that was coming, didn't you? Purchase links are on the right.)

As a mega-dungeon, The Castle of the Mad Archmage has multiple angles of approach. There's no single path through the dungeon. There's not even a clear delineation between "plot encounter" and "side quest". (I've been running this dungeon for over a year and I'm still not sure that delineation even exists. It doesn't matter, though, because me and my players are having a blast.)

I'm running this dungeon as written, for the most part. It's so big and full of stuff that I don't feel I can prepare for it in a holistic way, so I've just been running it off-the-cuff. When I do modify the dungeon, it is mostly in terms of description. By virtue of being so vast, the descriptions tend to be terse and practical, without much in the way of "boxed text" for the players. So I make stuff up and add details.

For example, one section of the first level of the dungeon is a temple to an evil god. So at the entryway to this temple, I placed a small table with a coffee pot and some ceramic cups. Because even at evil church, they have coffee hour after the service ;)

There are empty rooms here (which I knew was one of Joe's complaints about the dungeon he played in). While I don't always fill these rooms myself, it can be fun to see what players try to do. Very often, they will simply leave them. Sometimes they'll check for secret doors, but sometimes not. The fun times are when the players decide to leave something behind in the room for the next party to discover. (This is actually something I heard happened quite a bit in Gary Gygax's original Castle Greyhawk dungeon. Gary maintained that dungeon as a persistent, responsive environment for his friends to explore. When a room was cleared of monsters or treasure discovered, that's how it was for everyone else. Likewise when the players made a deliberate change to the environment, such as writing on a wall or using a magic mouth spell to leave a message in the dungeon, Gary added it in. Sometimes these changes were helpful, but just as often, they were intended as tricks or traps set by one player against the other dungeon explorers.)

The Jaded City of Oz takes place entirely above ground, and is all the more open for it. It is a loosely linked set of scenarios, each one without a strictly defined solution. In fact, most of the scenarios do not require that their problem be solved in order to advance to the next. Although every group I've run this adventure with has engaged with every problem, they do not always come to the same solution.

Even when the solutions are similar, they're not always exactly the same. While most groups negotiate a peace between the Gloofers and the Blue Trees of Munchkinland (the first scenario of the adventure), I can only recall one group who implored the Gloofers to learn good forestry practices to ensure the health of the Blue Tree forest.

And then there are the solutions that are always different. The final encounter of the adventure, the Jaded City itself, has never been resolved the same way twice. When asked to present something that the Jaded Citizens had not already seen before, one group presented Bungle the Glass Cat (who was a member of the party). The session that I recorded at DunDraCon (and I really need to get around to editing the rest of it) answered this challenge with a giant bubble-blowing mecha.

Even though I've used these pre-written adventures extensively and with as little modification as possible, I have never been stifled as a DM/GM/Narrator while running them. My players have had broad latitude to make choices and my ability to respond to those choices is equally broad.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Time and Again

Last time, I took some time to write about the technology of Oz and how it relates to our own. Now I'm going to take a look at Oz history.

[21:17] <~Dan> Did you draw on elements from the entire series of Oz books, and does the game take place at any particular point in their chronology?
[21:17] <~Dan> Sounds like it's post-Wizard of Oz, at least.
[21:18] <+WizardofOzGuy> After a certain point in the series, about 5-7 books in, there develops a sort of status quo that never really gets challenged after that
[21:18] <+WizardofOzGuy> Ozma rules Oz, the Wizard and Glinda help
[21:19] <+WizardofOzGuy> Dorothy moves to Oz and has adventures with her friends

(WizardofOzGuy is me, of course)

In terms of settings details, I include everything I can from within the borders of Oz from all 14 of L. Frank Baum's Oz books. Which would technically make the "current" moment in Oz history just after Glinda of Oz, Baum's last book.

I think Dan asked this question to address the intimidation factor of having to learn yet another world's history and other details in order to play a new game. But there's not much necessary history to Oz. There is indeed some history to the land, but none of it is truly necessary to enjoying an Oz book or an Oz game.

I have made some suggestions both in the book and on the blog regarding "historical" gaming in Oz. Because some things do change over the course of the stories and some groups and Narrators might want to reset things to before a particular change. The example that springs to mind from the AiO rulebook is the Flatheads of Flathead Mountain. In Glinda of Oz, the story that they appear in, they start as Flatheads (people with no room for brains in heads that cut off just above the eyebrows) but end the story as Mountaineers (normal people with normal brains stored in the normal place). If you want to include Flatheads in your game, you will have to go back to when they still kept their brains in cans. Or pretend that Glinda of Oz never happened, which is much the same thing.

Exploring Oz in the Four Witches Era (before Dorothy's arrival) or during the Reign of the Scarecrow is more likely to change the tone or mood of your adventures than create any real factual issues.

And there's no clear calendar in the Oz stories. So even if one event happens after another, there are very few indications as to exactly how long that is. And then there's the concept of "fairy tale time"; The idea that time in fairylands flows at a different rate than the mundane world. The Wicked Years series does this to great effect. Although Son of A Witch details the growth of Liir from boy to man in the space between the first and second Oz books (and Maguire fits two more novels into that space as well), Dorothy is still a little girl when we meet her again in Ozma of Oz.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Time, Time, Time

For those of you who have read the transcript of the IRC Q&A I did a few weeks ago, I got a couple of questions that I wanted to give a bit more depth and attention to.

[19:54] <~Dan> On a related note... what is the tech level of Oz? I recall the Scarecrow (I think) packing a revolver in the movie.

Well, for those movie trivia buffs, the Scarecrow did indeed carry a revolver for a brief time in the film.

On the broader question of technology in Oz: There's a temptation to look at Oz as a historical relic. A product of the early 1900's. Especially after Disney's Return to Oz painstakingly recreated turn of the century Kansas for its opening scenes.

But if you actually look at the Oz stories and Baum's work in general, you'll see that he was very enthusiastic about the advances that were being made in science and technology all around him. One of his pre-Oz works, The Master Key, was a fairy story intended to illustrate the principles of electricity as they were understood at the time.

In The Patchwork Girl of Oz, Baum describes how he re-established contact with Oz via wireless telegraph (radio, basically) after he had lost contact at the end of the previous story. (In reality, Baum wanted to write things other than Oz and he knew that the only way the children would accept it was if he said that there was no way for more stories to be written. So he had Oz formally separated from the rest of the world at the conclusion of The Emerald City of Oz). Also in Patchwork, Baum introduces a character called Vic who is a living phonograph with a rag-time record on his turntable.

Those references might seem dated, but that's actually the point. Baum presented Oz in a very modern way back in 1913. It also helped make the land of Oz more comprehensible to his readers. Allowing them to believe that Oz was just as modern as the real world meant that he didn't have to explain the minutia of how Oz people lived and worked and let him focus on providing adventures.

Another interesting thing to note about the series is the clothing that the characters wear. Although Baum does not describe what characters are wearing usually, it was up to John R. Neill to draw them. And when he depicted the American characters, he tended to draw them wearing relatively modern clothes. And considering that his tenure with Oz stretched from 1904-1942, that makes for a lot of variation as fashions evolved. (Not that the characters were amazingly fashionable, but Dorothy generally looked like a little girl who could live on your street.)

So when you set up your game, don't necessarily try to force it to be a "period piece." But do be aware of the effects that technology can have on the structure of a typical Oz story. The big problem technologies are transportation and weaponry. The typical Oz story is a journey from one place to another, with lots of opportunity for small adventures and encounters in between. If cars or other types of rapid travel are commonplace, it will be possible to head directly to a destination very quickly without a lot of interruption. (Not that you can't have a lot of fun cruising down the Yellow Brick Freeway, if you were so inclined.)

I point out weapons technologies for a couple of reasons. First of all, war and destruction have never been major parts of Oz history or culture. It's unlikely that Ozma would encourage the development (or importation) of the sort of things that the militaries of the world like to parade around in. Secondly, because my combat rules lean to the unrealistic side. Players who want to fire an RPG (that's Rocket Propelled Grenade) at the Wheelers are likely to be disappointed with how the system handles the results.

Well, that wraps up my in-depth answer to that question. In the interest of keeping your head from exploding, I'll save the next topic I wanted to touch on for another post. See you soon!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

IRC You!

Last week, I was invited to participate in a Q&A session about Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road via IRC (Internet Relay Chat). It was a lot of fun to do and if you're interested in what went on there, the host of the Q&A, Dan Davenport, has posted the chat log over on his blog.

He has done a number of Q&A's with other indie game folks. You can check out the other transcripts here or see who's next on the roasting spit here. If you want to join in, just point your IRC client (I use Chatzilla for Firefox) to magicstar,net and join the #rpgnet channel. Even if it's not time for a Q&A, there are all sorts of neat people there to chat with (You might even see me there!).

Are there any Oz channels on IRC? Now that I've got an IRC client on my computer, I'm tempted to take advantage of it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Trouble With Magic

Whether you call it witchcraft or sorcery, one of the big problems of being a spellcaster in Oz is the fact that it's illegal. Argue with the details if you like, but it's proven itself to be a good policy.

But what if one of your players wants to have a magic-using character? While it's fairly easy to say no (I even sort of recommend it in the rulebook), let's take some time to look at the ways to say yes to magic.

Ignore it: Simply that. If your player wants a magic-using character, let them do it. If you're concerned with continuity, make it a "historical" game. From the time of the Four Witches Era through the Scarecrow's Reign and early into the Rule of Princess Ozma, magic was unregulated.

Avoid it: Allow a magic-using character, but keep them out of the Emerald City or any other place where their magical talent could get them into trouble. Or maybe set up your game so that the party is on the run, being pursued across Oz by the Soldier with the Green Whiskers, just like Richard Kimble was chased by Lieutenant Gerard or David Banner was on the run trying to avoid Jack McGee. (JFGI)

Skirt the law: While the law may prohibit the practice of magic, there is nothing wrong with being magical. Many of the queer and unusual inhabitants of Oz have some bit of magic in their background. Unicorns live in the Forest of Gugu and other magical creatures may certainly be found in various corners of Oz.

Register: This may be the climax (or at least major turn) of a pursuit campaign, or it may be a background event in a newly launched Sorcerer character. In my playtest campaign, we decided that our Sorcerer was an apprentice of the Good Witch of the North in order to avoid any potential issues. Exactly what registration entails is pretty vague. Some writers prefer treat it as a simple matter of paperwork, while others may enjoy a little Ozzy courtroom drama before handing out Wizard Licenses.

I actually like the idea of a trial for this scenario. Because I think Princess Ozma is going to want to make sure that any licensed spellcaster is going to use their ability for the benefit of Oz as a whole. This can either make the trial a fun scene as the players recall all of the people they've helped in their adventures, or an adventure hook itself, as the spellcasting character is asked to prove their intentions by going on a special mission.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Cardinal Witch Project

Now that I've gotten a certain amount of baggage off my chest, I think I'm ready to say something constructive about Witches.

In my last post, I mentioned the "Cardinal Witch Theory" and how I didn't care for it. The main reason I dislike it is that it is mostly used as an excuse to bring back the Wicked Witch of the West so that the writer can recreate that particular Oz story dynamic in their own work. Unfortunately, over the years it has become a cliche of groan-worthy proportions.

What can be done to rescue this tired, worn out plot device? Let's take it to its logical conclusion. And rather than using it to tell the same tired story, let's use it to open up new story options.

If the Cardinal Witch Theory were true, then the Mantles of the East and the West would both need new hosts after Dorothy's first adventure. Who are these replacements? There's no guarantee that the replacements would be Wicked. Both the North and South had Wicked Witches that wound up being replaced with Good Witches, so it's not a sure thing.

Here's an idea that would make for an interesting roleplaying scenario: Your party has discovered the next Witch of the West wandering around the Winkie Country. But she (or he!) is new to the power and hasn't decided if they are a Good Witch or a Wicked Witch. So the things your characters do and teach her will influence which side she eventually settles on. If a player wants to have a Sorcerer character and is interested in a roleplaying challenge, this could be a fun role for them.

And what about the North and South? We've met both the Good Witch and the (deposed) Wicked Witch of the North, so death or destruction is not necessary to pass on the Mantle of a Cardinal Witch. What circumstances are required to cause the power to move from one person to another? Can it be triggered deliberately? Or does the Mantle itself make the decision for reasons only it knows?

What if Glinda stopped being the Witch of the South? Would she still be able to use magic? Would she still be allowed to rule the Quadlngs? Why did she lose the Mantle? Who is her successor?

All of these questions can fuel several stories, whether you choose to write them down or play them out.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ever since Tim Brannon was kind enough to post his review of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, I've wanted to repay the favor by blogging about one of his favorite subjects: Witches. It's actually a subject that I haven't touched on very much and every time I stared at this screen trying to write that blog, I've been confronted with all the reasons that I haven't gone into depth of the witches of Oz.

1 ) Book vs. Movie. One of the most famous of the Oz witches is, of course, the Wicked Witch of the West. This is due to the very memorable performance of Margaret Hamilton in the classic MGM film. But the book version of the WWW is a different character with a smaller role in the story. I could go into depth, but that's one of the blogs I've been trying to avoid writing. Because if you've read the book, you know all of that already. If you haven't read the book, it tends to come off as movie trivia ("Look at all the things you don't really know about the Wicked Witch of the West!").

2) Cardinal Witch Theory. This is the idea that there must always be a Witch of the North, South, East and West. People tend to like this idea because it lets them put the Wicked Witch of the West back into play. But it's not supported by the rest of the series. Once the Wicked Witch of the West is defeated, the Tin Woodman takes over ruling her territory and does so for the rest of the series. There is also no successor to the Wicked Witch of the East. But of course, since all we see of her is a pair of feet under a house, we don't care about her as much.

3) There's more to Oz than the Yellow Brick Road. Look at the top of your screen. That's what this blog is called. Because one of the things that I wanted to do from the beginning was to reinforce and encourage the idea that Wizard is only one story of Oz. Not only are there several other Oz stories out there (that are a fantastic joy to read), but AiO is about creating Oz stories of your own. So my objective is to give you a broad range of ideas, rather than stick you with one story, one format, one style.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Just a quick one

First of all, the Christmas in July sale I mentioned in my last post does not end today, but instead continues until Sunday. So you still have a couple of days to save 25% on Adventures in Oz Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

Also, July 27 (today) is Gary Gygax's Birthday. He would be 74 years old today. For those who missed it the first time around, here's Gary's signature character Gord the Rogue statted for AiO.

This weekend is also the Winkie Convention in Asilomar, California. Good luck and Ozzy fun to all who are able to attend this weekend. I wish I could be there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's Christmas In July!

DriveThruRPG and RPGNow are having a Christmas in July sale this week. From now until Friday, you can get a whole bunch of cool stuff, including Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, for 25% off. Lulu is currently offering 20% off on their site with the coupon code SILVER.

I also got a very lovely Christmas in July Gift in the form of a new review (5 stars!). You can read it here, here or here.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Long Tail

I don't know if you've noticed that the blog has been getting a bit more irregular over the last month or two. There's a reason for that. A couple reasons, really.

The big one is that Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road has entered "Long Tail Mode." The initial rush to check out the new shiny is over. Now it's just a few sales a month. A check once or twice a year. And my efforts to promote the game via this blog are not changing that trend.

Does this mean that I'm giving up? Not on your life. This blog has been a part of my life for the last four years. The game itself has been a viable product for 2. That's not something you just quit.

It does mean that I'm going to have to re-strategize a few things. While I had hoped that profits from AiO would feed the rest of my publishing enterprise, it looks like I'm going to have to get more creative than that. I'm currently contemplating a crowdfunding drive to bring AiO into stores. What I do next will likely hinge on the success or failure of that project. I don't think I could give up publishing and blogging (it's in my blood now), but it will determine the shape that future projects will take.

While I'm not quitting the blog, I will be slowing down some. Other projects are commandeering my time and brainspace with non-Oz stuff. And also, after four years of pretty regular updates, it's getting harder and harder to find something that I haven't blogged about. So one thing I did over the weekend was add LinkWithin to the blog, so you can see potentially related posts from the last four years. And don't forget to check out the tag list over on the side to see what I have said about certain topics of potential interest.

Don't forget, I do listen to my fans. If you want to get in touch with me about anything, feel free to leave a comment on the blog, put something on the Facebook page, or drop me an email at

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Can't We All Just Get Along?

This one's a little ranty, but in a good way.

As I'm touring through the RPG scene, I see a lot of people looking for a game to try with their kids. And I'd love to recommend Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, but as they go into detail, I realize that AiO isn't the game for them. Because they explain that they've already taught their kid how to play a boardgame, and watched the youngster play video games. And so, they're now looking for some game to provide the "next step" towards roleplaying.

I find this incredibly irritating. Because there are two different parts to a roleplaying game: The roleplaying and the game. These parents are trying to start with a game and then add roleplaying. I can understand at least some of why they do it. By focusing on the game aspect, a new player can still have fun with the game elements even if the roleplaying doesn't really take off. And also, it's often how the parent learned to play. Remember that D&D spent some time as a revolutionary miniatures wargame before it was acknowledged as the father of RPGs.

And they're really selling their kids short. Because if there's one thing that kids can do even better than grownups, it's imagine. And that's the heart of roleplaying right there: Imagining that you are someone else, in some other place. So instead of starting with a game and treating roleplaying as optional, why not make it the core of the experience?

And one of the other downsides of this "game first, roleplaying second" view is that it tends to emphasize combat. Sample scenarios are often just a gridded battlemat with some terrain on it, some "bad guys" and just enough backstory to justify why we shouldn't feel bad when the bad guys fall down and don't get back up. And is that really what we want to be teaching our kids?

Why not teach our kids to be creative problem-solvers? Let's teach them more than how to choose the best weapon. Let's teach them that weapons aren't the only way to solve problems. If you're doing this in the games you run for your kids, whatever rule system you use, more power to you! I just happen to think that AiO supports imaginative play very well.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gamers Helping Gamers

Bill Walton has been a gaming advocate for some time. He's been maintaining the advocacy website The Escapist for over 15 years (and demonstrated that D&D spells don't work in real life), spearheaded the Read an RPG in Public Week (held twice a year wherever you happen to be) and been an all around stand up guy.

Well, a few days ago, he lost his home in a tragic fire. He and his family are safe and well. They've put together a page on their website to let everyone know how they're doing and what can be done to help them get back on their feet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Zazzle Update

Well, I got a reply from Zazzle. It was actually sent out on Thursday, but it got caught in my spam filter.

Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

Public Product Inquiry: 235188030175401790

Discussion Thread
Response Via Email(Mike) - 06/14/2012 02:58 PM
Hello Zazzler,

Thank you for being a Seller at!

We would love to offer every design that our users submit, however we must abide by all applicable laws and standards as well as our own content guidelines and copyright policies.

Unfortunately, your product was removed due to an infringement claim by Warner Bros. Studios.  While the artwork as you claim is original, the characters from the Wizard of Oz are currently property of Warner Bros.  As a guideline, designs from the Wizard of Oz that are currently prohibited for sale on Zazzle’s Marketplace are:

    •All inspired artwork and character renderings from the Wizard of Oz
    •Quotes from the Wizard of Oz Franchise
    •All tags and descriptions that reference the Wizard of Oz

Thank you for cooperation in this matter.  We hope that we can work together in providing our customers with one-of-a kind merchandise that can only be found Zazzle!

Best Regards,
Content Management Team
Zazzle, Inc.

I sat on that for a while. I wasn't sure if I would get anywhere if I pressed the matter further. And in either case, it was WB's fault for filing a spurious complaint. Just as my plan was brewing to petition Warner Brothers to stop harassing  Oz fans, I saw that the guys who are working on a new film adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had some luck getting their harassment cleared up. So I composed this little beauty:

As I'm sure several of my Oz brethren have explained at length, WB's copyright claims are too broad to be truly defensible. Most of the others affected by the takedown requests have been able to claim that the images on their products adhered fairly strictly to the public domain sources. My case is a little bit different. As you acknowledged in your previous email, the image that spawned my complaint is original work. So my argument is that the image is not only based on public domain sources, but also sufficiently original that WB has no claim on it.

The original image is still in my collection on Zazzle, but here's a copy for handy reference.

Let's go character by character, starting with Dorothy.

The main things that my Dorothy shares with the Dorothy that WB has copyrighted are the brown hair and the blue and white checkered dress. Both of these traits were first drawn by W.W. Denslow in 1900, putting them firmly within the public domain.

The main difference between the two characters in their shoes. My image gives her silver shoes, as she wore in public domain sources, while WB's Dorothy rather famously wears Ruby Slippers. My Dorothy is also clearly pre-pubescent, while Judy Garland can't fully hide that she was a teenager when she made that movie. Also, Judy wore her hair in pigtails, while mine has a single loose ponytail behind her.

My Cowardly Lion is notably non-anthropomorphic (meaning: he doesn't look like a guy in a lion suit) as in public domain sources. Although the public domain illustrations give him an oversized head and expressive face, mine looks very close to an actual lion. If there's a copyright violation here, it should come from National Geographic.

The Scarecrow has a painted face, lacking the level of detail and texture of the main human character in the image (Dorothy), while WB's Scarecrow is a man in very well done makeup. The fact that his hat is yellow is a minor detail, but small differences accumulate.

The Tin Woodman's head retains the skull-like aspect of W.W. Denslow's original depiction. The funnel hat was also originated by Denslow. His proportions are not upscaled to allow a human actor to occupy the tin suit (as in WB's copyrighted work), but are roughly human. His tin torso is even textured with the collar and buttons of a workshirt and he seems to have a belt around his waist. Public domain illustrations of the Tin Woodman feature him with clothing details worked into his body (typically a bow tie and lapels), while WB's copyrighted Tin Woodman has no clothing details.

There you have it. Clearly inspired by public domain sources, clearly original, and clearly free of WB copyright.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

You Can't Be An Oz Creator Without Knowing Something About Copyright

I'm sure a lot of you have opinions about copyrights. I do too. But in order to get my dream together, I had to put some effort into understanding the way they work right now.

In general, copyrights determine who has the right to profit from a work. Typically, this is the author/artist/creator, but "work-for-hire" and similar arrangements can result in the copyright being owned by someone else. (All the images used on my Zazzle products were created under just such an arrangement).

And profit is a broad term in this case. This can be the profit derived from getting the book printed and sold, either by a publisher or (increasingly these days) yourself. A creator also has the right to profit from derivative works (sequels, adaptations, etc) based on their creation.

There are ways that someone who isn't the copyright holder can profit from a copyrighted product, called "fair use" but they are fairly limited. It is fair use to provide portions of the copyrighted work in reviews, as long as you don't give too much away. A parody or satire of a work can functionally replicate it in its entirety, as long as it's for comedy. Transformative works (those that draw from several sources in order to create a new whole, such as a collage or "found art", as well as those mashups on YouTube where Buffy the Vampire Slayer and/or Blade fight Edward Cullen) may also draw freely from copyrighted works.

("Fan works", such as fan fiction, are something of a grey area. Technically, they are derivative works, but both fans and creators are studiously avoiding putting that to the test. Fans are carefully not profiting from their works, while creators have internalized what the RIAA has taught everyone by now: It's bad PR to sue your fans. I know of at least one effort to get fan work recognized as "fair use" under law, but I haven't seen any direct results of that.)

Once the copyright has expired, however, all bets are off. Anyone who wants to may copy the work to their hearts content and sell to anyone who will buy. Adaptations and sequels no longer need approval or payment to the creator before they can be produced.

The tricky part for an Oz fan is that some works have fallen into the public domain, while some remain copyrighted. Most notably, the original novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is in the public domain, while the film adaptation, MGM's The Wizard of Oz, is copyright protected. So any derivative work needs to stay very close to the novel rather than the movie to pass copyright muster.

Most notably, Dorothy's shoes in her first story are Silver, not Ruby. And most depictions try to skew Dorothy to be rather young, rather than resembling the teenaged Judy Garland.

The infuriating thing about this whole Zazzle mess is that I did all that research to make sure my depictions and presentation were legal, only to be shot down by someone who likely didn't.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

An Open Letter to

(A little background: One of the many ways I've been attempting to fund my publishing dreams has been by offering shirts, posters and other gewgaws with artwork I have commissioned for this project over at There's a clever little animated ad-thing over on the right sidebar. Earlier today, I heard from some other Oz creators that some of their merchandise had been removed from their Zazzle store. I checked up on my own products and sure enough, some of my products had been removed as well. Specifically, those products that featured the main cast of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I have sent this message in reply to every individual product takedown notice they sent me.

Please note that this news is still very new. I have only sent this out within the last few minutes. I will give them a chance to reply before deciding whether or not to continue using Zazzle. I'll keep you posted.)

This is in reply to your removal of my products from your store.

While I applaud your efforts to protect copyrights, perhaps you should exercise some due diligence when deciding what is or is not a violation.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900 and all of its text, characters and setting entered the public domain in 1956. Dorothy, Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow are all public domain characters. Certain depictions of those characters are copyrighted (such as their appearance in the classic Wizard of Oz film), but the characters themselves are not.

The image I used on my products was based on public domain sources, not copyrighted ones. It was commissioned by me and I possess the rights to use it as I did.

You are within your rights to refuse to offer my products on your site. Please acknowledge that I was within my rights to offer them in the first place.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Oz Character of the Month: Twilight Sparkle

Okay, so she's not an Oz character and this isn't April Fool's Day. The idea here is to present a "hack" for Adventures in Oz; tweaking the system to support a different setting or genre that still uses the same basic themes. Given the way AiO incorporates friendship into the mechanics, it seems a perfect fit for My Little Pony, another universe where Friendship is Magic.

Name: Twilight Sparkle
First Appearance: Friendship is Magic
Template: Sorcerer
Size: 3

Basic Skills

Athletics: 2
Awareness: 2
Brains: 5
Presence: 2 (Friendship)
Sneaking: 1
Wits: 2

Traits: Sorcery, No Arms, Unicorn Magic (1)[see below]

Friends List: Spike

Notes: Although the Large Animal template seems the obvious choice for a pony character, there were a couple of strikes against it. First of all, the Brains skill was too low to represent a character as smart as Twilight, and while Size 4 might be fine for a fully grown horse, Size 3 is probably more accurate for a pony character. Twilight has also removed the Magical Toolkit trait, since all she needs to work magic is her unicorn horn, but replaced it with No Arms, since she's a pony.

Unicorn Magic (1)

Power: Apportation 2 (1)
Scope : Self/Person/Object (0)
Ritual: None: (0)

This ability allows a unicorn character to lift and move objects as if they had Athletics 2 without having to roll to cast a spell.

There are a number of ways that I could have modeled the way Twilight Sparkle and other unicorns in Equestria are able to use their magic in the place of hands. I could have given her a Brains specialty for Apportation magic, but I wanted to use her specialty on something that would give her more flavor as a character. The point cost also neatly balances out the cost of the No Arms trait.

If someone were feeling more ambitious about it, they could create AiO templates for Earth Ponies (the Mighty Blow trait is perfect for Applejack), Pegasi, and Unicorns.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Heroes Have Always Been Paladins

While I had been working on a big deconstruction post of this article, he went ahead and put up this response. Which was something of a step in the right direction. But his list is overly detailed and misses the point.
What I think we need in the art direction for the next edition of D&D is heroes. And not just white, male heroes. I want to see heroes of all colors, genders, and orientations. Sure, characters of all descriptions have made it into D&D rulebooks, but not all of their depictions have necessarily been heroic. When a prospective D&D player looks at the pictures in the books, they're looking for inspiration for what their character can be and do. Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that male players are given lots of fodder for what they can be (lots of heroic male figures) and what they can do (lots of sexy female characters). What about female players? Where are their "role" models?

For example, compare Tisha (the character he mentions and shows in the first article) to the guy in the center of this image. Ask yourself one simple question: Which of these characters looks more heroic? More active? More capable of handing someone their own ass?

Now, my Flying Monkeys of the Interwebs, I have a mission for you: In the comments below, I want you to post links to images of women looking heroic. Genre or style is not important, and the image must not need context to represent heroism or other badassitude (If you want to post a pic of a female superhero, post an image of her doing something awesome, not simply a depiction of the character).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Couple of Belated Birthdays

As I mentioned last week, May 15 (Tuesday) was L. Frank Baum's birthday. Jared over at the Royal Blog of Oz has put together a few treats for the occasion. Check 'em out!

Tuesday also marked the second anniversary of the release of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. This Saturday will mark the first anniversary of the release of the Adventures in Oz Characters Pack. But where's my product for this year?

Well, don't forget that Adventures in Oz took me 3 years of dedicated work to produce and didn't pay all of its own bills until earlier this year. Though part of the issue is that I demanded that it pay its own bills. In August of 2010, I found myself moving and changing jobs, which put me in a very different, and not as bounteous, financial position.

And then there's the challenge of finding that next big idea. Do I continue with Oz (either small adventures or my Beyond the Deadly Desert project) or do I branch out and put some serious effort into another project I've got on the back burner?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Baum Proliferation Sale!

In honor of L. Frank Baum's birthday (May 15), I'm putting on my Second Annual Baum Proliferation Sale! From now until Thursday, May 17, you can purchase the print edition of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road for 15% off the normal price. That's right, rather than paying the already low price of $14.99, this charming game can be yours for just $12.74.

This sale is active at, DriveThruRPG and RPGnow.. Don't forget, Lulu has recently implemented an account-less shopping cart, so you can buy without the hassle of one more account with one more password. And although this price only applies to the print edition, you can add the digital download (PDF and EPUB formats) to your DriveThruRPG or RPGnow purchase for no additional charge.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Power of No

I know I promised to take a week off, but this just called out to me.

Seeing all the stuff that Wizards of the Coast is putting out as they sort out the new edition of D&D is always entertaining. Take this bit, for instance:

In this one, the writer talks about races and, specifically, what races are "core" to D&D. He considered tieflings and dragonborn to be "non-core" even though they showed up in the "core" Player's Handbook for 4th Edition D&D. The solution he proposes is to "flag" races as being common, uncommon, or rare, so a Dungeon Master can readily identify the "core" from the "non-core" even if they show up in a "core rulebook."

The idea has merit, but I'm not sure it goes far enough. Not in terms of labeling and structure, but in terms of DM empowerment. The d20 playerbase is nearly infamous for its adherence to inclusion. Specifically, if a DM doesn't allow a player to build their character using abilities from any and every supplement ever printed, even if said character is cheesier than Mayor McCheese himself, the player throws a mighty fit. The glut of d20 material out there for players to use has led to player empowerment to the point of player entitlement.

What the next edition of D&D needs, more than a labeling system, is a couple of pages (not just sentences, but full pages) in the Dungeon Master's Guide that tell the DM that it's his campaign and he has the power to say no to anything. Even if it's "core." If your D&D world has no elves in it, no matter how "core" anyone else thinks they should be, than players cannot build elf characters. If your campaign setting has a mighty dragonborn empire, then dragonborn become 100% core.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Time for a breather

Well, I did it. I blogged every day except Sunday for a full month. And boy, are my fingers tired! I'm looking forward to getting back into my regular weekly update routine, but for now, I need a small break from blogging.

For all of you just joining me because of the Challenge, thank you and welcome. If I have your interest in Oz and gaming piqued, I'll be announcing a sale next week so you can get a great deal on my book, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zazzle

To paraphrase Gallagher, I have been blogging this past month not only to amuse you, but also to sell you something.

You folks can purchase my game, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, in digital form (PDF or EPUB) or print (as a physical book) from the sellers directly to the right. (Not all vendors sell in all formats, but some do.)

But if you're not a gamer, or not interested in becoming one, you can still support my little endeavor by buying t-shirts, coffee mugs, and other items featuring art and logos from the game over at

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Mrs. Yoop the Yookooho

Mrs. Yoop is a giantess who lives in a giant-sized castle in the Gillikin Country of Oz. Her husband used to live with her, but her neighbors became upset when he started eating them. So they caged him up and sent him to the Quadling Country. Mrs. Yoop would have been captured as well, but her Yookoohoo powers allowed her to transform into a rat and hide.

Yookoohoos are magic users who specialize in transforming living beings into other shapes. This is a feat that even Princess Ozma herself has difficulty duplicating. Another Yookoohoo, who called herself Red Reera, lives near the northern border of Oz, not far from Flathead Mountain.

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for Ix

Technically, Ix starts with an I, but the X is in there. The land of Ix is ruled by a Queen named Zixi. Her story, appropriately titled Queen Zixi of Ix", is not technically an Oz story, but she made a brief cameo appearance in The Road to Oz, so it's connected to Oz.

The story was later made into a film called "The Magic Cloak of Oz" by the Oz Film Manufacturing Company. Hey, there's another Oz connection!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for WInkie Country

Winkie Country is the name of the Western quadrant of the map of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West used to rule here, until she was melted by Dorothy. In the wake of her destruction, the Winkies decided to elevate Nick Chopper, the famous Tin Woodman of Oz to the status of Emperor. He lived in the Witch's Castle for a while, but found it too damp for his tin body, so he had a Tin Castle built to his specifications.

Other places to visit in the Winkie Country include:

Bear Center: A small forest clearing that is the home to several living stuffed bears.

Herku: The people here take a magical elixir called zosozo that makes them so strong that they have enslaved giants to do all of their work.

Oogaboo: This tiny kingdom is ruled by Queen Ann Soforth, who once went out on a mission to conquer Oz and got a lot more than she bargained for.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for Valley of Voe

Although not technically in Oz, the Valley of Voe does appear in an Oz book, so it counts. During the events of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, our heroes find themselves in an idyllic underground valley. There is a small village there, but no people to be seen. The people are actually there, but they are simply invisible.

This valley is the only place in the world where the dama-fruit grows. This fruit renders all who eat it invisible. All the people in the Valley of Voe eat it so that they are safe from the marauding bears that roam the valley floor. Of course, since the bears can't see the people to eat them, they eat the dama-fruit too. So the invisible people must be on the lookout for invisible bears, which makes for a rather bizarre stalemate.

Another curious plant grows in this valley that produces a sap which allows anything coated with it to stand on water as if it were solid.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for Utensia

Although Baum loved puns and wordplay, it is perhaps nowhere more prominent than in Utensia, a land of living kitchen utensils. The High Priest is a colander (because it is holy) and the lawyer is a corkscrew (because it is crooked and accustomed to appearing at the bar).

Utensia gained something of a reputation around my gaming table. During my playtest campaign, the players repeatedly asserted tat they were never going to Utensia. They felt it was too much of a silly place, sort of like Camelot. So when they were ready to end the campaign, they did so with the declaration, "We're going to Utensia," (Thankfully, they were very good sports about ending the campaign and let me give them a few adventures along the way)

To this day, whatever game we're playing, if one of us makes a particularly bad pun, we declare that person "banished to Utensia!" (It's usually me).

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for TIn Woodman

The Tin Woodman started out as a normal Munchkin named Nick Chopper, until he fell in love with a girl named Nimmie Amee. Unfortunately, Nimmie Amee worked for a lazy old woman (in one version of the story, it's the Wicked Witch of the East herself) who did not want her to leave. So this woman caused Nick's ax to be cursed and start chopping limbs instead of trees. Every time this happened, he had a replacement limb made by the local tinsmith. Eventually, all his limbs had been removed and he was left with only his tin.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for Scarecrow

The Scarecrow is one of the smartest characters in the Oz stories. Second only to the Woggle-bug in raw intelligence, he is often the one with the clever solution.

He even got an Oz story with his name on it: The Scarecrow of Oz. It was adapted from a film made by Baum called His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz. More recently, there has been an attempt to make a computer-animated version of the story. It was on YouTube briefly, but all I can find now are teaser clips of partially finished animation.

(It may be that they're cleaning up the animation further, since Trot often got her eyes heavily shadowed which made her look odd. I'm crossing my fingers that they're recasting the Scarecrow voice. His voice was grating and sounded much like Snarf from the old Thundercats cartoon.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for Role Playing Game

While most of my A to Z postings have been about various Oz things, there is another side to this blog (and me).

I have been playing Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop RPGs for about 13 years and publishing my own for nearly 2 years. The only game I've managed to get out is Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, the first English-language RPG to use the land of Oz as a setting. (There was a French-language game that was released a number of years ago and I beat out Oz: Dark & Terrible by about 6 months.) But there are other ideas in the pipe, just waiting to be unclogged.

So if you've ever wanted to explore the land of Oz for yourself, check out some of those links over on the right and buy the game. If you've never played an RPG before, and don't quite know what all the fuss is about, check out my latest podcast to get a little taste.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for Queer

Please note that I'm using "queer" as a generic term for all of those people who don't fit into the neat little box of heteronormality. And I just wanted to say that I've encountered a number of you guys (and gals and otherwise) as I've made my way through the Oz fandom and you've all been awesome.

Some people wonder if any queer characters made it into the Oz stories. There are those who point to the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman as a gay male duet. Though I wonder how that would work because even though they have gender (they both identify as male and use the male pronouns) they do not have sex (biological or anatomical sexual characteristics). Unless there's something that Baum didn't tell us...

Though Baum did avoid even heterosexual romance for much of the series. He was writing mainly for children and you know how kids can be about "mushy stuff." Scarecrow of Oz is the first Oz story to feature romance as a plot point. A few books later, Baum gleefully skewered romantic tropes of his day in The Tin Woodman of Oz.

I've pointed to Tip/Ozma as a transgendered Oz character a few times. Although we meet him as a boy, the course of the story includes a sex change into his true form, that of Princess Ozma.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Patchwork

Scraps Patchwork, that is. The amazingly awesome Patchwork Girl of Oz
LinkShe's so cool and unique that I even put her on the cover of my own book.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for Ork

From Lord of the Rings to D&D, everybody knows what an orc is. Sometimes, they even spell it ork. But I'll bet that very few of you have seen an ork quite like this.

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Nome

For the record, that is not a misspelling or deliberate typo. That's the way Baum spelled it when he included them in his Oz stories. Though curiously, it is only in Baum's Oz stories that this particular spelling is used. Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus mentions a Gnome King, and when Ruth Plumly Thompson took over the Oz series, she reverted the spelling to Gnome for her story The Gnome King of Oz.

The Nomes and their ruler, the Nome King, have been one of the most persistent threats to the people of Oz. Witches come and go, but the Nomes keep on coming. First appearing in the third book in the series, Ozma of Oz, the Nomes attempted to conquer Oz in The Emerald City of Oz. The original Nome King is deposed due to his villainy in the events of Tik-Tok of Oz, and his replacement shows that he's not much better in Rinkitink in Oz. Even without his kingdom, the Nome King still manages to stir up trouble in The Magic of Oz.

These Nomes are elemental fairies of Earth. They are extraordinary craftsmen. Some say that they are capable of not only carving and sculpting gems and precious metals, but also know the secrets of creating these materials from scratch.

Gnomes in gaming hve always been spelled with a G and seem to have given up their earthy, crafting ways to the dwarves. They're generally friendly, if zany, very unlike the wicked Nomes that Baum created.

Stay tuned tomorrow for another fun crossover between Oz and the gaming world.

Worthy Cause Alert

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, so OneBookShelf is offering a fundraiser bundle. A $25 donation is all it takes to get a bunch of cool gaming stuff (including the Adventures in Oz Characters Pack) and support the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Munchkin

The Eastern quadrant of Oz is known as Munchkin Country. This is a rather famous section of Oz , as it's where Dorothy's house landed when she first arrived in Oz. Other than that, it's really rather boring. Munchkin Country is where many Oz adventures start, but heroes rarely stay there for long.

And now for the big question: Just how tall is a Munchkin?

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Munchkins Dorothy meets are roughly her own height. Since Dorothy is depicted as being a little girl, most people presume that Munchkins must be very small. Especially since this is how they are depicted in the film version.

My own theory is that Munchkins are only slightly shorter than normal people. While her age is not stated in Wizard, she is noted as being tall for it. I take this to mean that she is old enough to be going through puberty and in the midst of her first growth spurt. So the Munchkins may indeed be smaller than most people, but not by too very much.

There was also a narrative reason behind the size of the Munchkins in that first story. If the Munchkins thought Dorothy was a little girl, they wouldn't have allowed her to undertake any adventures. But since they're the same size as her, they presume she's fully adult and able to take care of herself.

Amusingly, the word "Munchkin" has taken on an alternate meaning in the gaming community. I took some time a while back to talk more about that bit.

Watch out for the next few entries, where I use words that have distinct meanings for my Oz readers and for my gaming readers.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for Lurline

If you're wondering how the land of Oz came to be such a magical place, just ask Lurline.

Lurline is the queen of a fairy band that enchanted Oz into the fairyland that it is today. She also left one of her own, Princess Ozma, to rule over Oz. Although she never appears as a character in any of the stories, it could be said that her presence is felt in each one.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Ku-Klip

Ku-Klip is the tinsmith who made the Tin Woodman the sparkling person that he is today. Because of the fairy magic that makes all the people in Oz immortal, there is no need for medicine or surgery. Instead, you call the local handyman to fix whatever ails you.

So when Nick Chopper began cutting off his own limbs (thanks to a cursed ax), he turned to his local tinsmith to replace his parts. Who did a very good job, all things considered.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Imagination

There is no
Life I know
To compare with
Pure imagination
--Willie Wonka
Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Imagination is more important than knowledge
-- Albert Einstein

Imagination has brought mankind through the Dark Ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams—day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain-machinery whizzing—are likely to lead to the betterment of the world.
-- L. Frank Baum
The Lost Princess of Oz

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for H.M. Wogglebug, T.E.

The Highly Magnified and Thoroughly Educated Wogglebug is one of the most famous characters to appear in the Oz stories.

What? You've never heard of him? Okay, so he didn't make it into MGM's big movie, or Return to Oz, which featured a number of other characters and incidents from The Marvelous Land of Oz (the book in which he made his first appearance).

But back in the day, he was big news. In 1904-05, people all over the country were asked "What did the Wogglebug say?" via their newspapers. In 1905, he appeared on stage in a play called (appropriately enough) The Wogglebug and also got his own Wogglebug Book.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Gillikin

The Gillikin Country of Oz occupies the northern quadrant of the map of Oz. It is looked after by the Good Witch of the North, whose name is not revealed in the stories. This is not Glinda, who is the Good Witch of the South. When MGM made the movie version, they simply put the two Good Witches into the same actress. For those of you who have read Wicked, Gregrory Maguire tries to split the difference here by having Glinda come from the Gillikin Country even though she assumes power in the Quadling Country (So she's from the North, but of the South).

There was also a Wicked Witch of the North, who was named Mombi. Although she was replaced by a Good Witch, she managed to hold on to a very powerful secret. The Princess Ozma, rightful ruler of Oz, was held by Mombi, magically disguised as a boy named Tippetarius (making Ozma the only transgendered character in Oz that I'm aware of). After the enchantment was lifted and Ozma ascended to the throne of Oz, Mombi was stripped of her magic. Where she is now is anyone's guess (unless they've read The Lost King of Oz).

Other notable features of the Gillikin Country include:

The Forest of Gugu: The largest forest of the Gillikin Country is ruled over by King Gugu, an immense Leopard.

Flathead Mountain: A mountain with a large flat headland at its peak. The Flatheads live here and carry their brains in cans, since their heads are flat where everyone else has brains. They've had a long-running feud with their neighbors, the Skeezers.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for Fuddlecumjig

Fuddlecumjig is one of the more interesting bits of the land of Oz. A small town in the Quadling Country, Dorothy visits during the story The Emerald City of Oz. The people who live there are called Fuddles and have a rather special talent: When startled or surprised, they break down into puzzle pieces and scatter themselves.

The Fuddles also make an appearance in the adventure The Jaded City of Oz in the back of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. In the adventure, the characters meet a mismatched Fuddle called Horbull. He got some of his pieces mixed up with another Fuddle and wound up getting the short end of the stick in the exchange.

This is one of my favorite sections of the Jaded City adventure. Mostly because I have some props. It's always cool when you can put a piece of the game world in your players' hands. As an added bonus, these puzzles give players something to play with.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Emerald City

The Emerald City is not only at the heart of Oz (being right in the middle of the four major countries of Oz), but it is also the heart of most of the Oz stories. Quite a few of the stories begin there and nearly all of them end there.

A few months ago, I spent a couple of posts looking at the Emerald City as a place for your characters to hang out and have adventures in. Rather than simply regurgitate that material, I think I'll just provide some links.

The Emerald Sandbox

This is the (Emerald) City

And if you are interested in purchasing Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, you can buy it at DriveThruRPG in print and PDF!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Dorothy

It's almost not an Oz story if it doesn't have Dorothy. L. Frank Baum learned that lesson rather quickly. His second Oz novel, The Marvelous Land of Oz, is the only one to not feature Dorothy. Every other Oz novel he wrote featured her in some capacity. In most of the stories, she is one of the main protagonists. In some others, she appears in some other capacity, such as to welcome the story's hero or heroine to the Emerald City or to rescue an imprisoned protagonist (such as in Rinkitink in Oz). But Dorothy is always there.

For Adventures in Oz game stats on Dorothy and info on the Adventures in Oz Characters Pack, click here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Children

“To please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one's heart and brings its own reward.”
-- L. Frank Baum

This is just a reminder that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Blog

Conveniently enough, today marks the fourth anniversary of this blog. I had been designing the game as something of a thought experiment for about a year beforehand, but developing the drive and the will to turn it into an actual product didn't come until early 2008. I would have started the blog on April 1st, but I was afraid it might come off as an April Fool's joke.

From the beginning, I was committed to a weekly update schedule. The idea was to keep the blog in front of any potential readers and also to push me into having something to say every week. Though as something of a side effect, I fear I might be more of a blogger than a publisher these days.

So to all of those who have been following my blog for all these years (or most or some or none), thank you! For those new arrivals, feel free to check out where it all began.

Purchase Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road!
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