Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Year Gone

It's been a while since I've posted, and this seems as good a time as any, so here goes.

 Looking back, it has been a pretty awesome year for Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

Oz the Great and Powerful started the year off with a fairly strong sales boost, particularly over at Amazon.com. Although it's not an RPG specific site, it's a very good barometer of general interest.

The game was the subject of not one, but two podcasts at the Ruthless Diastema and I wound up doing 2 vidcasts with Pete Figtree (one solo and one as part of a roundtable discussion with some other really cool publishers and designers), the man behind Ruthless Diastema. This also led to a guest spot on the Indie Talks podcast that was also quite fun.

Somewhere in between all of that, I decided to experiment with Pay What You Want pricing. While the initial rush was actually pretty nice, activity rather quickly faded to the looky-loos. It's still nice to see when someone feels kind enough to buy it in print or pay more than a token price.

The biggest news of all came latest in the year. The Bundle of Holding. While Allen Varney had been trying to get Wil Wheaton's attention on the project for a while, he finally succeeded with his Family Friendly Bundle of games, featuring AiO. The Bundle of Holding is currently doing a series of "reruns" of early bundles, before the site had achieved its current audience. For the next day or so, he's offering up the original Bundle of Holding, which is a collection of novels whose authors worked in the gaming industry (including Allen Varney). Once that's done, I'm sure he'll have something else cool for you.

The real down side to everything has been the day job. It's made money tighter, and life more stressful than it really should be. Which is probably the big thing holding up Deadly Desert. Many people have described the original game as "joyful" and "full of love." But it's getting harder to find that "happy place" for that sort of writing.

I wanted to have The Wizard's Magic Bag out by now, but my layout person is having some personal issues that have delayed things.

I've got another project in the works, but it's still in the early stages.

See you next year!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What a Long Strange Trip it's Been

This last week has been one of the most exciting weeks in pretty much ever for me. The Bundle of Holding reached heights I never would have expected. That sort of thing happens when Wil Wheaton sends his Flying Monkeys after you. I would have spent the whole weekend staring at my screen clicking Refresh, but the page auto-updates.

There is a new Bundle of Holding up now, with an Asian theme. A couple of the games are actually from Japan amd translated into English, and one is even designed to teach you Korean as you play.

In other Christmas news, designer Kris Newton has brought back The 12 Doors of Christmas, a hilarious kinda-photocomic with "bonus material" following each entry for use in your Pathfinder compatible campaigns.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

All Bundled Up

This week, The Bundle of Holding is offering a collection of family friendly and introductory RPGs. Naturally, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is there. It's Pay What You Want for a sleigh full of games to play (minimum $4.95) and if you beat the average price ($12.47 as I write this) you'll get the entire set! AiO is one of the bonus titles, so be sure to aim high.

A portion of the proceeds from the sales will be donated to some really cool children's charities: Save the Children and the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

They've also implemented gifting, so you can choose to give a Bundle to a friend. The gift code you receive on purchase is not tied to any given Bundle, so you can even save it for another Bundle of Holding at another time.

In other news, The Wizard's Magic Bag is proceeding, but slowly. The writing is done and it has gone on to layout, which is taking time. Beyond the Deadly Desert has gotten some progress over the last month, but it is not complete. It is a big project and frankly, writing up setting is one of my least favorite parts of this project. But I have fans to please, so I will keep at it until it is done.

Now for a little bit of "Where are they now?" for contributors to Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

Amanda Webb, who provided a few illustrations for AiO, launched a webcomic, The Ascendants at http://legendsofaukera.com/.

Kris Newton, the writer of "The Jaded City of Oz", AiO's sample adventure, has come out with his own RPG. Feed: The Vampire Mythos RPG. He ran a Kickstarter for it last month, and was able to release it the day after the Kickstarter closed. While there are those who say that it seems like a fast turnaround for a Kickstarter, I'm inclined to think that he was a little closer to the ransom model than a proper Kickstarter.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Love and Monsters

I know I should probably be focusing my writing efforts on Beyond the Deadly Desert right now, but I'm in a little bit of a pickle.

You see, for most of the areas and regions of Oz and beyond that I've written about, I've been able to say something about linking your character to that place. Sometimes, it's about building your character as though they were from that area, like playing a bunny from Bunnybury. Other times, I talk about the benefits of having a friend from that place.

But there are a number of places beyond the Deadly Desert that are really very not nice. Particularly the regions that General Guph recruits from as he built his Army of Conquest in The Emerald City of Oz.

So I'm wondering: Should I make an effort to make the Growleywogs or Phanfasms playable or sympathetic, even though they had distinctly villainous roles in the story they appeared in? Has any Oz writer taken the opportunity to make any of those creatures into relatable characters? Or should I treat them as monsters or villains?

My view might evolve as I knuckle down into that section of the job, and get a better picture of what these guys are really like, but as I'm getting a run-up on it, that's what I'm seeing in front of me.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

And This Is Why I'll Never Win NaNoWriMo

Because today is the first day this month I've gotten to sit down and write anything. Between work and other scheduled activities (including a little gaming), I have been run ragged over the last few days. Last night, I finally got to bed at a human hour with no chance of anything else happening first thing in the morning. We'll see how long this lasts.

I still love NaNoWriMo (and NaGaDeMon for those who participate in it). Don't get me wrong. Because it's a good excuse, a kick in the butt to do the thing that you really want to do. And sometimes, that's what I need.

The day job and real life have left me pretty stressed and depressed recently, so I haven't been putting as much attention into some things. Like this blog, for example, or the thing that this blog is supposedly about. I've still got all the work I've done on Beyond the Deadly Desert, but it's been lying fallow for far too long. I think I'll take advantage of the excuse to blow the dust off of it and finish it.

I don't think it will be finished this month, but hopefully I can use NaGaDeMon to build up some steam and momentum and see how far that takes me.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My RPG Profile

This has been going around the last few days, and it's been so long since I've posted that I decided I should participate. The template is here (You'll get an "adult content" warning, but this particular page is safe.)

I'm currently running (at home): The Castle of the Mad Archmage megadungeon under OSRIC.

Tabletop RPGs I'm currently playing (at home): Well, it's at another guy's house, but he's running a 1e Mystara campaign.

It's kind of funny that most of my current gaming activity is old school games, when I generally consider myself more of an indie kind of guy. In fact, I initially started my own campaign as an experiment in seeing how old school gaming works in actual practice. The fact that this experiment has outlasted any other campaign I've run is kind of staggering.

I would especially like to play/run: I'll probably wind up running it, whatever it is. Especially if it's not D&D related. Burning Wheel, FATE, World of Darkness (probably with Vampires this time), the Last Unicorn Star Trek RPG

...but would also try: Nearly anything else on my shelf. And it's a big shelf.

I live in: Northern California

2 or 3 well-known RPG products other people made that I like: It's always hard to tell what's well-known and what isn't in RPGs. I love every GURPS book Ken Hite has written (Infinite Worlds, Alternate Earths 1 and 2, and the latest version of Horror). Castle Falkenstein has flavor out the wazoo. Promethean: The Created from White Wolf really touched a nerve with me.

2 or 3 novels I like: The Oz series by L. Frank Baum, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, and Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. It's also amusing to point out that I own the RPG for each of these series.

2 or 3 movies I like: I like Return to Oz, Rise of the Guardians and Pacific Rim.

Best place to find me on-line: you can read my main blog here and Tumblr from time to time. I also have a blog for another project/idea here.

I will read almost anything on tabletop RPGs if it's: Well written. The biggest mistake I think people make when writing about the hobby is assuming that it's all D&D. While D&D is the elephant in the room of the gaming hobby, it's not the only thing.

I really do not want to hear about: Power builds and munchkinning.
Free RPG Content I made for Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is available here. On my blog, I statted up a bunch of  characters from the Oz books and some other media and magic items.

Free RPG Content I made for PDQ is available here (link). Avatar: The Last Airbender was a really cool show, and I've seen a lot of people trying to hack various game systems to the purpose. Since the bending powers were so flexible, I thought PDQ was a good fit since you could just write "Airbending*" on your character sheet and be done with it. So I wrote up the main characters of the show using those rules.

You can buy RPG stuff I made about Oz here: Amazon.com, DriveThruRPG, Lulu.com, Paizo.com, RPGNow. A few other places too.

If you know anything about Oz it'd help me with a project I'm working on. Either Adventures in Oz: Beyond the Deadly Desert or writing an adventure.

I talk about RPGs on Facebook under the name F Douglas Wall. I also have a fanpage there for Adventures in Oz here.

I talk about RPGs on Google+ under the name +F. Douglas Wall.

I talk about RPGs on RPG.net under the name knarf.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Are You Off To See The Wizard?

You should be. For only one week, you'll be able to see this film classic in IMAX 3D at an IMAX theater near you. (Unfortunately, there are no IMAX theaters near me, so all of you will have to attend a showing in my name.)

But once you've seen the wonderful Wizard of Oz, what then? Especially if you've got kids or other Oz fans among your party, you will be overwhelmed with imaginative energy. So why not use that imagination to make your own Oz stories?

You could even make a game of it. Each person would have their own character that they control. But to make it interesting, one person wouldn't have a character, but instead have the authority to throw in new things for the other people to play around with. They would also have the authority to tell the other players that some of the things that they want their character to do won't work, or might work differently than they expect. But how to keep it fair? Dice, maybe?

You're in luck, because just such a game has already been written, designed and published! It's called Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. You can purchase it at any of the sites listed over on the right, or directly from your iPad, Nook or Kindle. You can get started quickly with the included scenario, The Jaded City of Oz, which includes a special guest appearance by the King of the Winged Monkeys.

Some of those sites also offer the Adventures in Oz Characters Pack featuring your favorite Oz characters all ready to print out and play. Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and even Toto are there!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Long Time, No See

Has it really been that long since I've posted here? Wow. I'm really slipping. Worse, I'm breaking my prime rule of blogging: Never fade away.

The second rule of blogging is: Always be doing something. You can't really blog unless you've got something to blog about. And that rule is something that I have been keeping to.

I know I've been working on The Wizard's Magic Bag for a while, and it is still happening. Just a few minor touches and it's off to art and layout. Depending on how quickly things come together, it could be as early as Halloween, but hopefully no later than Christmas.

I have also arranged to be interviewed on the Indie Talks podcast next Wednesday. It looks like we'll be doing it as a Hangout on Google+, so you might even be able to watch it happen live (there is still much I don't know about Google+ and Hangouts). I'll keep you posted as news develops.

Also, thanks to Amazon's new MatchBook feature, if you have purchased Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road from Amazon, you can get the Kindle version for free. At least I hope so. If it doesn't work, please let me know.

Things still to do: Get caught up on the sales info. If I'm going to tell you something, I should tell you everything.

And Beyond the Deadly Desert. Yes, I know I've been talking about it for years now. Since the income from the game is going to a number of places that aren't all game related, I'm going to have to Kickstart it. I tried it once and failed, so when I do it again, I want to everything right. Which means having the book fully written, having a cool video and a number of other things before I even think about kicking it off. And with the amounts of energy I've been able to muster lately, that's going to take some time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What Time Is It?

Adventure Time!

Many fans of the show (and if you're not watching it, you should be!) have noted the numerous D&D references throughout the series. Finn and Jake have fought classic D&D monsters in their many quests. Good, evil and neutral alignments have been referenced in various episodes.

For all of these reasons, people have been trying to homebrew their own Adventure Time RPG. A lot of these hacks try to use some edition of D&D or a retroclone as a base. But I think that a slightly different base is in order: Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

Why do I think AiO is such a good fit? (Other than the fact that this is my blog for shilling my game, that is?)

Fairly static characters. Like most characters in kid's shows, Finn and Jake do not grow significantly in ability over time. They become more complex characters with more backdrop and more depth, but generally stay at roughly the same power level. Putting them on D&D-style upgrade paths doesn't seem right to me.

Combat doesn't solve the problems. While Finn is a very heroic character who likes to fight and carries a big sword, he is not excessively violent. He prefers to help people rather than hurt anyone. He even plays fairly with his enemies, like his nemesis Ice King.

While I'm sure it's possible to start with D&D and start adding that sort of stuff in, why not save some effort and use a rule set that has it all baked in from the start?

Name: Finn the Human
Template: Child in Oz (I mean Ooo)
Size: 2

Basic Skills

Athletics: 4
Awareness: 3
Brains: 1
Presence: 2
Sneaking: 2
Wits: 3 (Brave heart)

Traits: Deadly Weapon

Friends List: Princess Bubblegum

Name: Jake the Dog
Template: Small Animal
Size: 1

Athletics: 3 (Stretching)
Awareness: 3
Brains: 2
Presence: 2
Sneaking: 3
Wits: 3

Traits: Stretchy Powers(see below) (1) Musician: Viola (1)

Friends List: Princess Rainicorn

 Jake's flexibility makes him an ideal candidate for an optional rule I've had in mind about "floating" Specialties. Even though a Specialty is associated with a specific Basic Skill, there are times when it makes sense to use the Specialty with another Skill. Jake's Stretching Specialty could be applied to Awareness as he stretches his eyes to look around corners or makes his ears bigger to hear better. Presence and Sneaking could allow Jake to disguise himself to fool people or get places that he shouldn't go.

Stretchy Powers

Power: Transformation, 2 points of changes (1)
Scope: Self/Person/Object (0)
Ritual: None (0)
Item: None (0)
Effect Power: 1

Design Notes: It does seem a little odd (even to me) that the ability to make 2 points of changes to yourself only costs 1 point. Though this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that this cost does not differentiate between positive and negative traits.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bad news

Sorry to disappoint you, Evillene, but I've got some bad news for you.

One of my goals for a long time has been store availability. And not just general store availability, but game store availability. My plan was pretty simple, with only two steps. 1) Save up enough money from the profits of the game to order a modest print run of 100 copies. 2) Get a contract with Impressions to handle getting those copies into the hands of the distributors that sell to game stores.

I had paid everyone off by January of last year, so by this February I had completed step 1. I had the money. I didn't order the print run then, since I didn't have a place to put the books until I could foist them off on Impressions. So I moved on to step 2, contacting Aldo at Impressions to get things set up. And that's when I hit the big snag.

Getting set up with all of the other places I sell through has been remarkably easy. There's been little concern of rejection, since there's very little risk on their part. Digital storage is dirt cheap. The only time cost is an issue is when moving that file to the customer, either using internet bandwidth or paper and ink to print it into a POD book. At which point, the seller collects that cost from the end-user and kicks me back a royalty.

So I was more than a little surprised when Aldo politely but firmly turned me down. Since I only had one product out, he said, the chances of it making any money for him was pretty slim. If I had at least 3 products, then there was a better chance that at least one of the products would be successful enough to pay for physically storing and shipping those inventories. I've sat in on many seminars at DunDraCon with Aldo, so I'm going to trust him on this one.

Then came the death knell. Almost immediately after accruing that much money, I started spending it. Not because I wanted to. Because I had to. My day job was in panic mode over Obamacare, so they were trying to pull an Olive Garden and keep as much staff as possible under the 30 hour limit. So in order to make ends meet, I had to dip into savings and my game profits in order to pay rent or buy anything that couldn't be bought with food stamps. (For the record, I'm not blaming Obamacare. I'm blaming my employer's reaction to the law. Especially since the relevant portions aren't even in effect yet.)

Things are stabilizing somewhat. I'm looking for another job that will give me full time hours. My manager at my current job (who I game with) is giving me as many hours as he can without going over the limit. I've got room to breathe, if not actually relax.

The Wizard's Magic Bag is written, but I'm getting a few more eyes on it before I go further. (If you want to be one of those eyes, let me know!) The initial burst of publicity from my Pay What You Want offering should pay for most of the production expenses (layout and art) as long as I'm able to spend it quickly enough that it can't go to rent.

Where to go from here? Probably Indie Press Revolution. They do some distribution, sell direct via their website and go to cons. The main thing that's kept me away from them so far has been my fear of their content standard. While lots of people have told me that AiO is actually pretty awesome, and I've actually made more than a buck or two off of it, there's still this little fear in the back of my head that it might not meet their standards.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tearing Down the Walls

When I was talking with all of the other publishers at Pete Figtree's last Hangout with all of those other publishers, there were a few things that came up that I want to talk a little bit more about. Here's one.

While we were talking about the advantages of Createspace in order to get on Amazon.com, I mentioned that when Oz the Great and Powerful came out, I got a notable surge in sales from that corner. (When I'm able to get caught up on my quarterly sales reports, you'll see the numbers.) I think most of the reaction I got from that statement was because the other publishers hadn't made a strong effort to reach outside the hobby.

To be clear, I don't think this was a flaw in any of their business or marketing plans. They have all done very good work and have found their own success and happiness, and I'm certainly not trying to stomp on that for them. And also, it is certainly true that selling a new game to an existing gamer is much easier than taking people off the street and turning them into gamers.

But I knew an RPG set in the land of Oz could be different. Nearly everyone knows about the Wizard of Oz. Even if they've never gotten around to watching the movie or reading any of the books, they all know about the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West and her Flying Monkeys. So part of my design process was to make sure the game was accessible to everyone who might want to play.

By and large, the strategy has worked. I've been interviewed on the Royal Podcast of Oz and the Atomic Array podcast. My game has been reviewed in Fight On! magazine as well as the Baum Bugle (a publication of the International Wizard of Oz Club).

For a little while there, I was the only Oz RPG on the market. But then competition started appearing. First Oz: Dark & Terrible, and now Savage Mojo has a project in the works. Now I realize that they are not really competition at all, because we're not competing for the same niche. Those products are trying to appeal, not only to a "more adult" audience, but to a specifically gamer audience. They make changes to the setting that make it feel a little more comfortable to action-movie oriented gaming sensibilities. Their iconic character is the Tin Woodman: strong, armored and ready to fight.

My iconic character is Dorothy. She's just a little girl from Kansas with no secret ninja training or magic powers. It's her heart that sets her apart. Her ability to make friends and stand up for what she believes in are what makes her special, not her ability to wield a railgun. And so it is in Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. Friendship is how characters grow. A well placed Impress action can turn the tide of battle, or end it altogether.

So to all of those indie designers out there, here's a little bit of advice. As part of your design process, put a little thought into who else might be interested in playing your game.It can lead you in some interesting directions.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Best Things In Life Are Free

Last night, I was honored to attend another one of Pete Figtree's Google+ hangouts. This one featured a roundtable of self-published game designers. Sorry about the lack of advanced warning, but it was something of a spontaneous decision on my part. It was a lot of fun and a learning experience for everyone involved, I think. And a learning experience for you, too, we hope.

And for those who are interested in how Pay What You Want is working for me, it's actually going rather well. I've been getting a nice little bit of traffic to the game. It's also been bringing in some money, which is always nice.

Now, I'm not as brave as Ben Gerber (one of the other panelists from last night), who put his entire product line on PWYW. I also don't have as deep a catalog as he does. But I will show you how my numbers compare.

First off, the equivalent period last month. (May 11-20th)

Total sales: 2
Total $ Gross: 15.98
Total $ Net: 8.26

Now Ben has more free products than I do, so even though I got less traffic than him during this period, I still managed to out-earn him because every transaction brought some money in.

Now let's see what Pay What You Want has done for me. (June 11-20)

Total sales: 57
Total $ Gross: 35.96
Total $ Net: 23.37

Note that these numbers only reflect PWYW purchases. There has been a little activity in other quarters, which is good, but not accounted for here.

Now, I did not experience anything to confirm Ben's first hypothesis (that he made more money because his customers thought his product was worth more than he was originally charging for it). Only one of my customers paid the regular price for AiO with everyone else paying some lower value. The most common price paid being $1.00.

I think the other three do have some value, though. PWYW is the new hotness, so all the trendy people are jumping on it. The front page attention I got from having to create a new product was probably a big part of my sales spike right there. And since a PWYW product is basically a free product with a tip jar (Thank you Fred Hicks for that metaphor), it means that a lot of people are trying things out because they don't have to put money down before they see if a product is any good. And then they can pay what they feel is a fair price for a product once they have made a decision about what a fair price is.

Whether this turns into a viable business model remains to be seen. But I am looking.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Filling Up The Magic Bag

One of the reasons for my silence over the last few weeks has been because I have been trying to focus on writing The Wizard's Magic Bag. And I think I can safely say that I'm 90-95% done polishing the text that originated from the blog, making it a bit less casual, but hopefully easier to read.

Now I'm just thinking of what I want to add. Because if it was all blog stuff, it wouldn't be worth it for you to buy it. I do have some things that I want in there, and I am working on getting them in, too.

But what would you like to see? What magical thing would you like to accomplish in your games? What magic item from the stories excited your imagination? Or maybe you'd like to see me import a magic item, rule, or idea from one of your favorite games into Oz.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Your Oz, Your Price

I know I haven't posted much lately, and with news like this, you're probably disappointed that I didn't mention it sooner, but life has a way of biting me in the butt.

Earlier this month, OneBookShelf, the guys who operate RPGNow and DriveThruRPG, implemented Pay What You Want pricing on both sites. This is mostly in response to Evil Hat, who wanted their Fate Core products available on that basis. But they did allow other publishers to use the feature.

So I decided to give it a try. After a couple of hiccups, I finally got it rolling on Tuesday. I wound up having to set up a new product, because PWYW didn't want to work on a product with a print option. Which means that at least part of the uptick in activity that I've noticed over the last few days has been because I've gotten back onto the front page again.

And what sort of activity am I getting? Well, a lot of people are grabbing it for free. That's to be expected since Pay What You Want can mean paying $0.00. But at least some people are paying for it. Some are paying 5 cents, others 5 dollars. It will be interesting to see how this plays out long term.

Here's a link to the Pay What You Want edition of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mombi the Yookoohoo?

Back when I was designing AiO, I went through the stories in significant depth to make sure that everything that happened in the books was possible in the game. But there were still some things that didn't quite fit. "Edge cases" we call them. And one of them was Mombi.

For those who haven't read the novels, Mombi is the former Wicked Witch of the North. Before she was replaced by a Good Witch (who was not Glinda), she hid away Princess Ozma so that the Wizard could assume the throne of Oz. We first meet her in The Marvelous Land of Oz where she has been reduced to a mean old woman who dabbles in magic.

But the kind of magic that she does is kind of surprising. Most, if not all, of her magic is shapechanging, or as it is called in AiO, Transformation. But that's a power that Sorcerers (the most common type of spellcaster, based mostly on Glinda and the Wizard) don't get. For a while, I thought that she might have it as a unique power of some kind, sort of the like literary Wicked Witch of the West and her telescopic eye.

It only came into focus within the last week. Maybe it was talking with Pete about the magic system and explaining exactly what a Yookoohoo is. Maybe something on the Adventures in Oz Tumblr. We may never know.

I realized that even though Mombi didn't fit well into the mold of a Sorcerer, she fit being a Yookoohoo nearly perfectly. The only magic that she uses that isn't a Transformation of some kind is using the Powder of Life, which is a magic item, anyway.

 Does this make her any less of a Witch? I don't think so. Remember that Glinda was described as a Witch in Wizard, but afterwards, she is generally known as a Sorceress. My personal theory is that Glinda was given the title of Good Witch because she was a magic user who was opposed to the Wicked Witches who ran the east and west. With the defeat of the Wicked Witches, Ozian politics was more able to accept nuance and Glinda asserted herself as a Sorceress, a practitioner of Sorcery rather than Witchcraft.

Therefore, I find it perfectly reasonable that Mombi took the title of Wicked Witch (or had it given to her) because it suited her role regardless of her precise powers.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Letting It All Hang Out

Well, I just got done with my first Google+ Hangout. Pete Figtree and I had a lot of fun talking about the magic rules and a lot of other parts of how AiO works. If you missed out on the fun as it was happening, you can see it here:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Making a Hash of things... Again

Oh, the things I do for my fans.

Some of you might recall the computer animated adaptation of The Tin Woodman of Oz that I reviewed a while back. Well, that team reunited and decided to adapt another Oz story. This time, it's The Scarecrow of Oz.

I'll start with what I did like about the movie: It did a decent job of tying the pieces of the story together. The Oz books have generally leaned toward the picaresque, with even the more plot oriented stories having some side adventure or unusual encounter along the way. So rather than winding up in Jinxland after some other adventures, Trot and Cap'n Bill find adventure while traveling to Jinxland.

I want to give this movie a lot of credit because it was made on a completely volunteer basis. Volunteer voice actors, volunteer animators and donated rendering time. From that viewpoint, it's kind of astonishing what amateurs can accomplish these days. But it never really lends itself to comparison with professional productions.

Particularly when it comes to Trot. Her eyes are often shadowed in a way that make her look partly like a creepy doll and partly like a creepy old lady. And the Jinxland guards look like they came from a video game, animated suits of armor with no evidence of a person underneath. I'm sure it was easier make one model and copy & paste it where needed, but it was one more thing that pulled me out of the story.

Overall, the character designs are in three major categories: attempted realistic (Trot) that looks odd, stylized characters (Gloria) that look interesting, and cartoony (the Witch, the Jinxland guards) that just don't work.

The story itself is changed from the book, though not as severely as Tin Woodman was. Perhaps the biggest change to the story is that it is set as a sequel to their previous film, even though Scarecrow came first in the novels (Scarecrow was #9 and Tin Woodman was #12). Well, that and the aforementioned tying the story together.

The Scarecrow is introduced earlier in the story, and is shown having an argument with his friend, the Tin Woodman, over his ability (or inability, as the case may be) to scare crows. Then there's a scene with the Tin Girl, who I didn't care for in the first movie, calling the Tin Woodman "Tinny." While I have no problem with pet names and the like, I would have preferred she called him "Nicky" or something. Something that shows she loves him beyond his tin nature, you know?

Scarecrow also meets Trot and Cap'n Bill earlier as well, meeting them in the land of Mo and participating in their encounter with the Bumpy Man. Button Bright fails to appear in this scene, or the story at all. They travel to Jinxland in a boat held up by balloons where they meet Pon, who was exiled from Jinxland because of his love for Princess Gloria.

Once they get to Jinxland, we meet Gloria (who is Trot's cousin in this movie), King Krewl, and Googly Goo. There's an attempt to make these characters look at least a little exotic, with Gloria wearing an elaborate outfit including harem pants.

The local witch is never referred to as Blinkie, mainly because the character has two functioning eyes. And while she does turn Cap'n Bill into a grasshopper, she doesn't manage to change him back. And the flying armada that saves the day is nor Orks, but crows, since the Scarecrow's inability to scare crows means that he can attract them in prodigious numbers.

Unlike their previous effort, none of the characters sing. There are a couple of songs in the movie, but they are in the background. Too much in the background, really. The sound levels are so quiet most of the time that you can barely hear the lyrics even when a character isn't talking over it.

In summary, the adaptation is at least a little more faithful than their previous effort, the animation is good on a technical level, but odd character designs and amateur writing and voice acting make it difficult to watch.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

What's in the Wizard's Magic Bag?

Okay, The Wizard's Magic Bag is slowly but surely becoming a thing. Although a lot of the stuff going into it is from the blog, it still takes some time.

For one thing, I'm rewriting everything that I had previously written. Not only with this allow it to have a unified voice, I'm also rewriting it trying to replicate the writing style that I used in AiO. I don't know how many of you have noticed, but the writing style in AiO is not what I use on this blog. It's much more simplified, though I try to avoid being overly simplistic. My primary enemy is commas. Not that there's anything wrong with commas, and I don't misuse them, but I tend to use an awful lot of them. In fact, all but one sentence in this paragraph uses a comma for some purpose or other.

For another thing, I'll be adding some things. Not just more magic items, but new magical options. Including some rules for letting your character chuck fireballs with the best of them, and an alternate system for sorcery based on Oz Points.

Here's the current list of what's going in:

Errata & Clarifications

This is where the "Effect Power is a penalty to your Brains Skill" is explained to those customers who don't read the blog. (Note: Make sure to include a link to the blog) The expanded Transmutation rules are going in there as well. This is first so that when RPGNow and DriveThruRPG show a preview on the product page, customers can get the patches for free.

New Rules

Here, we'll have rules for minor magics, battle magic, and using friendship as magic. Stuff that I haven't mentioned on the blog before. Something totally new.

Magic Items

Here's the big list of magic items from the books. I also want to touch on some interesting details and quirks of the magic rules, like when an item is just a spell, or having a magic item as a character's starting friend. I'd also like to try to find some room to discuss the story possibilities

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Part 2 of the Party

I just wanted to announce that Part 2 of the Ruthless Diastema Podcast series on Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is live over on Geeky & Genki. This one gives a basic rundown of the rules of the game. If you missed Part 1 from last Friday, it's here.

In other news, I have been invited to participate in a Google+ Hangout to discuss the intricacies of AiO's magic rules on May 13th. And if you aren't able to attend, it will be recorded and posted for later consumption.

It's been suggested that I get deeper in to this whole social media thing to try and promote the game. I've already got a fan page on Facebook and a small presence on Google+. I'm reluctant to join Twitter out of fear that I'll wind up posting a steady stream of inanities like everyone else there.

What do you think? Where do you get your social media buzz?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Q2 2012 Quarterly Report

Slowly but surely I am getting caught up to the current day.

 Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
Sales Channel/Product TypeAprilMayJuneQuarter TotalYTDLast YearGrand Total
One Book Shelf/PDF-527273131
One Book Shelf/Print-----12
One Book Shelf/Bundle----1110
One Book Shelf/Total-527285143
Amazon Kindle11138-8

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

For those of you wondering why I'm not participating in this year's A to Z blogging challenge, I think you'll see the answer on this chart. The sales for April set a historical low. The only times I have sold less product were when I had no product to sell. I'm tempted to blame the blogging challenge, since this is the only April to perform this poorly and the months surrounding April were not similarly suppressed.

Also for the month of April, OneBookShelf put together a charity bundle to support the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. (It's Child Abuse Awareness Month again this year, too). I donated the Characters Pack this time, since I had already donated the corebook to a previous charity bundle.

It may have been a "perfect storm"  of the two events that caused sales to drop like this. But it's enough to make me rethink my marketing strategy.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Few Minor Notices

This last week, we have lost 2 actors with Oz connections.

Annette Funicello, while famous for a number of reasons, was cast as Princess Ozma in a proposed Disney Oz film entitled The Rainbow Road to Oz, that unfortunately was never produced. (Jared Davis at the Royal Blog of Oz has more on that, including footage of Annette and the other Mouseketeers in costume as various Oz characters singing some of the songs from the proposed film).

Today, we lost Jonathan Winters, a brilliant comedian and actor, who appeared on The Shirley Temple Show in an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's The Marvelous Land of Oz as Lord Nikidik.

On a brighter note, Pete Figtree at the Ruthless Diastema blogcast has begun a multipart series on Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. I don't know how many parts he's planning on, but part 1 went up today!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Future Product Musings

Blog Content Product: It's been suggested that I take some of the content from this blog and turn it into a product. My immediate thought is to take the spells and items that I've posted, along with the improved Transmutation rules and do a "The Wizard's Magic Bag" supplement.

There is also the possibility of just doing a "Best of the Blog" sort of thing. The question is: What counts as the best? I could very easily tell you what my most popular posts are, but there's not a lot of game content in them. What do you guys think? What's the "Best of the Blog" for you? Is there something you wish I would write about so it can go in the "Best of the Blog"?

Either way, I couldn't see myself charging more than $0.99 for it. The content has been free for ages, so my only costs would be putting a little polish on it.

Beyond the Deadly Desert: No, this has not left my mind. Unless I win the lottery or get some other windfall of money, my plan is to try and Kickstart it again. I'm not going to make an official announcement until I have the book at least 75-90% complete and I have a video I can put on the Kickstarter site.

I've had an idea for how I want the cover to look for quite a while. I wanted to do something of a variant on the "Polychrome on the Sand Boat" image that was used as the cover for the Del Rey paperback edition of "The Road to Oz." But mix up the people who are riding in the sand boat to make things interesting. Just like on the AiO cover, I wanted to present an adventuring party that didn't adventure together in the books, but very well could.

I definitely want Tik-Tok on the boat. He's not only a Crafted character, but he came from the land of Ev before he moved to Oz. But who else? I'm tempted to put Betsy Bobbin and Hank the Mule in the boat, since that would cover my Animal character neatly, but all of those characters (Polychrome included) have shared an adventure (Tik-Tok of Oz). Maybe King Rinkitink and Bilbil.

And I wanted to do something with Polychrome as well. I've talked about how I want AiO to be an inclusive RPG, and while I think that Oz does pretty well on gender inclusivity, I think it's got a ways to go in terms of racial inclusion. While a specific ethnicity is not given for most characters, it has been assumed that Dorothy and her friends are white for so long that I don't feel like I can mess with it without being too revisionist. But since Polychrome isn't technically human, I think I might have a little more leeway in her appearance. Rather than simply have her drawn in some particular ethnic style, I think I would mix and match ethnic features, garb and other details while trying to retain the basic idea of a rainbow fairy. What do you think?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Adventures in Equestria

Okay, I'm not sure how much of an April Fool's gag this is, as it's intended to be fully playable.

Last year (though not on April Fool's Day) I did a write-up of Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I suggested that if someone wanted to be serious about it, they could do custom character templates to represent the character types from that show. Somewhere between serious and silly, here we go.

(For the record, I do not consider myself a brony.  I enjoy the show because it's well written and doesn't pander to its audience. I also have more fun geeking out about other things.)

Earth Pony

 Size: 3

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

Traits: No Hands (-1)


Size: 3

Athletics: 3
Awareness: 2
Brains: 1
Sneaking: 1
Presence: 2
Wits: 2

Traits: Flight (2), No Hands (-1)


Size: 3

Athletics: 1
Awareness: 2
Brains: 3
Sneaking: 2
Presence: 2
Wits: 2

Traits: No Hands (-1), Unicorn Magic (1)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When in China...

While I may not have been impressed with the movie as a whole, I did really enjoy the character of the China Girl. One of my disappointments with the movie was that we didn't get enough of her.

Now, if you own Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, you might be thinking of making a character like China Girl in your own campaign. Unfortunately, AiO doesn't make it easy for you. It's not impossible at all, but it would require juggling things around a little bit. You could use the Crafted Person template, then reduce Size down to 1 and use those 2 points to buy Basic Skills and Traits. Or start with the Small Animal template and spend 1 of your points to buy off No Hands.

Or you can use this shiny new template to create China People or a number of other curious Oz inhabitants.


Size: 1

Athletics: 2
Brains: 1
Presence: 3
Sneaking: 2
Wits: 1

Traits: Crafted

Customization Notes: Some toys are made of materials that have a hard time standing up to the rigors of adventuring, so consider taking a Weakness to represent that. China People would have a Weakness to Blunt Injury (Common, Damaging). A pastry citizen of Bunbury might have a Weakness to Getting Soggy (Common, Damaging). High Presence Skill and Presence Specialties are common among toy characters, whether it's the "lovely appearance" of a China Princess or a living toy bear who is "soft and cuddly." Sneaking skill and specialties can also be used when a character is likely to be mistaken for a mundane, non-living item.

Sample Character:
Name: China Girl
Template: Toy
Size: 1

Basic Skills

Athletics: 3
Awareness: 3
Brains: 2
Presence: 4 (cute little girl)
Sneaking: 3
Wits: 3

Traits: Crafted, Weakness: Blunt Injury (Damaging, Common)

Friends List: Oscar Diggs

Bonus question: What do you think of the Toy template? Should I have thought of this years ago and put it in the book?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My review of Oz the Great and Powerful

Well, I finally got around to watching Oz the Great and Powerful. It was visually stunning, I'll grant that. But I can't really say I liked it.

The opening black & white sequence is supposed to introduce us to Oscar Diggs back home in Kansas, a con man and philanderer. We are also introduced to the actors who will be portraying CG characters later. Zach Braff is in there a lot, while Joey King only gets a brief moment. She could have used more development, as her one line as a human seemed kind of random to me.

I don't know if this makes James Franco a good actor or a bad actor, but I found it hard to dislike him. He struck me less as a conniving con artist than as a politician who believes everything he says, at least for the moment he says it.

Once he arrives in Oz, his adventures mirror Dorothy's fairly closely. The first person he meets is a good witch then he goes to the Emerald City but can only get what he wants once he kills a Wicked Witch. Even the Dark Forest scene is reminiscent of the forbidding domain of the Wicked Witch of the West from the classic movie.

Then we get to the first big plot twist. This Wicked Witch is revealed to be a hot blonde named Glinda. And partly because she's hot and partly because we in the audience all know who it is, she survives the encounter and the plot then becomes one of the fairly standard Hollywood plots: Unlikely hero must learn to face his destiny.

One of the big conceits of the film is that the Wizard's prestidigitation wins out over real magic. And looking at how the magic is presented, it's not that hard. Because most of the magic that the witches use in the film is either zapping something with some kind of energy and flying. Which means that the Wizard's illusions automatically win because they cannot be blasted or flown at.

A couple of characters and their abilities were presented inconsistently in the film. Just about everyone who has seen the movie noticed that Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West will sometimes fly with a prop (bubble or broom) and sometimes without, with no real reason given. But also we have a very touching scene with the Wizard helping the China Girl get ready for bed (implying that she does sleep) while a later scene has her walking around the Poppy Field with no effect at all.

Finley and the China Girl (who gets no name beyond that) were overall fun characters, but were not really part of the story. Finley seemed mostly there to provide Oscar Diggs with someone to explain things to. China Girl is there to be cute and fragile.

I was really disappointed with the Wicked Witch of the West once she finally appeared. They used a lot of prosthetics to change the shape of the actress' face and the end result only really worked from a couple of angles. While we do see her vulnerability to water, it's never explained. Is it a general witch thing, or just her? Because it's definitely not part of the Wicked Witch transformation.

It's a good mindless fun, but make sure you turn your brain off for the whole movie.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

This Year's Haul

As is my usual tradition, I'll be sharing my DunDraCon haul with you in this post. I do this for a couple of reasons. First of all, it gives me an opportunity to geek out (and who doesn't love an opportunity to geek out?). Also, since not all of my fans are gamers, I like to show them some of the options out there.

Starting from the top of the pile, we have:

Dungeon World:  This game uses the rules of another game (in this case Apocalypse World) and rebuilds them into a D&D style game. It's a pretty thick book that I haven't gotten entirely through, but the system works on the basis of "moves." Some moves are unique to a character, like a skill or power, but other moves can be made by anyone, and the GM even has moves. While it looks like a potentially fun fantasy game, I have a hard time seeing it handle the good ol' player vs. environment, dungeon crawling playstyle of old-school D&D.

Monsterhearts (not pictured): This game also uses the Apocalypse World engine. Since it's a smaller game with fewer moves, it's somewhat easier to grok. It aims to model the supernatural horror/teen drama genre made popular by shows like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and True Blood. As it encompasses sex and violence as well as angst, you might want to be careful who you play this with.

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: The latest licensed game from Margaret Weis Productions. It uses a modified version of the Cortex+ system originally developed for their Smallville game, then modified even further for more action-oriented drama. Like most Marvel RPGs I've seen, they presume that you will be playing an existing Marvel character. This book provides a modest set of these, as well as tips for assigning stats and powers for existing characters. There is also a free download of random tables for creating original characters. (There are currently no rules for "point-based" or designed characters, but there's nothing stopping you from simply choosing on the random tables rather than rolling.)

Arduin Eternal: This one was actually something my wife bought. Many years ago, we found the two-volume Compleat Arduin set at a used bookstore. I thought it was a neat, if slightly kludgy system, but my wife fell in love with the plethora of exotic races. When she saw that there was a new, updated edition of the system, she did an impressive impersonation of Igor from the Dork Tower comic strip (catchphrase "IT MUST BE MINE!"). It looks much cleaner than the Compleat Arduin, though I have not yet looked to see if the critical hit charts still include the possibility of losing a buttock. (Yes, I just typed "losing a buttock." Meaning the character will sit lopsided for the rest of their days.)

Five Nations: A setting sourcebook for D&D's Eberron setting.

Stormwrack: A D&D environment sourcebook giving campaign options and adventure tips when sailing the seven seas (or however many seas there are in any given fantasy world).

Pathfinder Core Rulebook: Actually, we already have one of these. And all the other hardcover books that Paizo has published. But having an extra copy is always nice. That way, it takes two people looking up rules for all of the books to be taken up rather than just one.

Amazing Adventures: This is a pulp-style RPG using the SIEGE Engine, the same rules that power the Castles & Crusades fantasy RPG. Although it is a fun read and looks like it would be fun to play, I have a a hard time grasping the idea of a "level 1 pulp hero." When I think of pulp heroes, I think of people who are already at the top of their game.

Rifter #10: Due to a number of issues with Palladium's business practices, I prefer to buy their books on the secondary market. That is, used. In previous years, the Buyer's Bazaar has offered a decent selection, but this year, I only found one Palladium product. On the up side, the GM advice from Hugh King is worth its weight in gold for any Rifts GM.

Don't Rest Your Head (not pictured): A very surreal game about insomniacs who find themselves in the Mad City, a place of Neil Gaiman-esque nightmares.

Munchkin Deluxe: I already had Munchkin, but this was just too cool to pass up. The set includes not just the cards and die (just one die) from the original game, but a playboard with a very cool dungeon-style level tracker and Munchkin shaped pawns, more cards, color illustrations on all the cards, and two-sided cards for tracking a player's gender (which can change at the drop of a hat in this game).

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Adventures in Oz: Greater and More Powerful Than The Movie.

So Oz The Great & Powerful is opening in theaters tomorrow. But once you've seen the movie, what are you going to do? Watch it again? Maybe you'll check out some of the other Oz movies out there. Or maybe you'll pick up a book. The classic Oz books by L. Frank Baum are all wonderful reads. Then you might pick up the extended Oz series, including the works of Ruth Plumly Thompson. A quick search on Google or Amazon should turn up lots of places to start.

Or you could pick up one book that contains an infinity of Oz adventures. Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is not a single story or a collection of stories. It's a rulebook for a game of creating your own Oz stories.

In a roleplaying game, you don't have to be a great actor like James Franco or Mila Kunis to have fun. Your performance is only for the other people at the table and they'll all have their own characters to portray as badly as they want, too.

And the Narrator isn't like a movie director (like Sam Raimi), who tells all the actors what to say and how to say it. Their job is to present the challenges and scenarios that your characters will face. You don't even need special effects or expensive costumes. All you need is imagination, friends, paper, pencils, dice, and maybe counters of some kind.

You can even get the digital edition at a discounted price this weekend only. RPGNow and DriveThruRPG are offering 25% off (and 10% off the Print/PDF Bundle) as part of their GM's Day Sale running until March 13th. Paizo.com, home of the Pathfinder RPG, is offering 20% off as part of their GM's Day Sale, but theirs only runs until March 10th. Even Lulu is getting in on the fun, offering 20% off your order until tomorrow with the coupon code SPARK.

And for those who prefer convenience to price, you can buy Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road from Amazon.com or get it as an ebook directly from your iPad, Nook or Kindle!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Find A Path To Adventure!

It's March 4th again, and this year it marks the 5th anniversary of the passing of E. Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, the first roleplaying game. In his honor, gamers everywhere have declared March 4th GM's Day. To help you buy gifts for that Game Master, Dungeon Master, Storyteller, or Narrator that takes you on amazing adventures, RPGNow and DriveThruRPG have traditionally held a GM's Day Sale over this week. And just like last year, Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road is there. You can get 25% off all the PDFs and even get a good deal on print editions.

This year, it seems that Paizo has joined in and set up a GM's Day sale of their own. I don't know if they've done this in previous years, but this is the first year they invited me to participate. I consider this a step in the right direction from them and encourage you to encourage them to keep it going.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Wizard of Oz CCG on Kickstarter

For all you Kickstarter fans out there, there is currently a Wizard of Oz CCG looking for funding. There are two things that make this project particularly interesting to me. First of all, the designers have turned to the novels for their inspiration. Each of the expansion sets they want t0 do are based on the books of the Oz series. Secondly, I happen to know that some of the card art has been done by Loraine Sammy, who was kind enough to do the cover art for Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road as well as a couple of interior illustrations.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Adventures in Oz the Great and Powerful

So Oz the Great and Powerful is coming out in a little under 2 weeks. A new big-screen Oz adventure. Top Hollywood talent both in front of and behind the cameras.

Unlike Disney's previous attempt at an Oz movie (Anyone remember Return to Oz?), this one is trying to emulate MGM's Wizard of Oz. As a fan of the novels, I really liked Return to Oz since it was an adaptation of the next two books in the Oz series. But fans of the classic movie were disappointed that it didn't maintain the same tone as the previous film. Apparently, Disney has learned its lesson by aiming for MGM fans this time around.

Though the tricky thing is that they can't get too close. The movie's copyrights are held by Warner Brothers and they're not too friendly with Disney at the moment. In fact, I'm inclined to think that my copyright fight with Zazzle was part of the backdraft from these media giants sparring.

So Disney has tried to lean on public domain sources for inspiration. But just inspiration, it seems. While I was pleased to note that at least one movie trailer showed the Dark Forest and the China Country. I recognized them instantly from the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as places that Dorothy encountered on her way to Glinda's Palace in the Quadling Country. (Fun fact: The Cowardly Lion went on to rule the Dark Forest as King of Beasts as a result of that adventure.) But when I saw this map of Oz put out to promote the new movie, I found out that they had been moved to the Munchkin Country, which was somehow on the left side of the map.

While I'm disappointed that they didn't go for something more faithful to the original novels, I do understand why they did it. By having their own version of Oz, they have stronger intellectual property protections than if they had used public domain sources or Warner Brothers copyrights. Just like Ruby Slippers are distinct to the MGM movie, China Munchkins are clearly Disney.

Though I'm sure you didn't come here just to read my tedious explanations of copyrights. So here are some Great and Powerful Oz goodies for you.

If you want to see what a humbug Wizard might look like in the AiO rules, I already did that and you can find it here.

And a special magic item in honor of the movie:

Glinda's Travel Bubble

Power: Summon/Travel (3)
Scope: Self/person/object (0)
Ritual: Simple (0)
Item: Single Use (-2)
Effect Power: 1

The subject of this spell is transported via bubble to a destination determined by the caster/creator.

Notes: For some reason, every time I write up one of Glinda's spells, it comes out as a magic item. But then, she is the Good Witch of the South, so between her magical resources and healthy supply of Oz Points, she can throw around a lot of oomph fairly readily.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

DunDraCon 2013

It seems that I am not allowed to have a quiet Thursday when I'm going to DunDraCon. I tried to get the day off from work, but it was not to be. Thankfully, I was able to change an evening shift to a morning shift so my friend Mike didn't have to do too much night driving.

Just one travel photo this time, of a geodesic dome building outside Laytonville. It currently houses the Laytonville Community Christian Church. We see it every year as we drive down, but I think this is the first time we managed to get a photo.

We spent Thursday night at Mike's mom's house (and she was a wonderful hostess) and Mike drove us down to the hotel on Friday morning. Checking in to the hotel and picking up con badges was painless, as usual.

Although we expected that the Dealer's Room would be not be open on Friday (to give the dealers time to get set up), we were pleasantly surprised to find the Buyer's Bazaar open. Some people were set up selling the odd and unused bits of their collections. I picked up an old issue of the Rifter, but not much else grabbed my fancy.

Then on to seminars and games. Looking over the schedule, it seemed like they solved the problem of not having very many seminars by holding some of them twice. The first seminar that my wife attended was a knitting seminar. Although she's always been crafty (and there will be pics of that later), she had never previously picked up knitting. A little crochet here and there, but this was her first time with some big ol' knitting needles.

And since her grant application is what got us to this con, there will be quite a few pictures of her this time around. Though she has requested that I not use her name or link to any of the online spaces that the interacts in. Call it paranoia if you like, but she thinks of it as part of the cost of being online as a woman of color.

Perhaps inspired by the knitting seminar, or just the fact that we forgot to pack our badge holders, she dashed off to the kids room where the leatherworking guy was set up to help people make leather crafts. Without badge holders, she'd be stuck poking holes in her shirts with the pin backs.

Here she is working.

And here's the result.

While there may have been only a few seminars, there were a number of games going on. I couldn't decide what I wanted to go for on the Friday night session, so I put in a request for three games and let the con-game Sorting Hat figure it out. (I actually had four games that I was interested in, but the signup form only had 3 slots.)

I wound up getting into a game using the new Star Wars rules from Fantasy Flight. This was a system I was dubious about for a couple of reasons. First of all, the company released a public beta as if it were an actual product. A free beta, sure. A printed beta that was priced to cover the costs of its release, sure. Treating a beta like a product, not so much. And then there's the fact that it uses funky dice. And when a gamer says you've got funky dice, you've got funky dice. (Some of the dice in the photo were manufactured with those faces, while some of them are regular dice with stickers to replace the normal numbers with symbols.)

The GM was trying to run a fast and loose sort of game, which just left me with the feeling that the dice were giving out too much information. Because not only are there successes and failures on the dice, there are "advantages" and "threats," small things that go right or wrong independent of success or failure. While it's a very cool idea for a system to say "You succeeded, but scored 2 threats. You get most of what you want, but not quite everything", it didn't seem like the GM was incorporating that into her narration.

The players made this game fun, though. One of the pregenerated characters provided by the GM was Jessica Rabbit (Yes, that Jessica Rabbit. The character illustration was someone's fan art of Jessica in custom fit Stormtrooper armor), who wound up being played by a little old lady. Her attempts at being sultry made her sound like Treetrunks from Adventure Time. Though having her give makeup tips to a Hutt was my idea.

I later spoke with a friend who played in the Star Wars Mega Game that was held the next night (16 players, 5 GMs) and he felt the system was kludgey and awkward. He also got to play a Force user and was bothered that he was confronted with the Dark Side for doing fairly minor things like a Force Push. I heard that at least part of the justification for that the current rules were written for untrained Jedi. Hopefully more mature Force rules have made it into the final product (which I believe is out now).

My Saturday morning game wasn't until 10, and the Dealer's Room opened at 9:30, so I had a nice little bit of time to browse before I had to settle in to game. I don't think I bought anything at that time. Which is kind of odd, because I usually take the opportunity to pick up some gaming stones. Green ones to stand for Oz Points. I wound up having enough from all the stones I've bought previously, but you can never have too many gaming stones.

I also used the morning to print out character sheets (I actually use the Characters Pack as pregens), although I seem to have been behind several other people who had much the same idea. The only printer in the hotel that worked was low on ink and the character sheets were faded in a few places. Thankfully, my players were pretty good sports and we got all the important stuff filled in.

A few other pictures I took that day:

My wife letting her natural hair loose and showing her love for the MMO Rift. Although she proudly avoided becoming a "faction snob" while playing World of Warcraft, she is an unabashed Defiant fan in Rift.

The Society for Creative Anachronism combat demos.

Because I realize that there is a portion of my fan base who likes seeing guys with their shirts off.

Sunday featured my run at the Kids Room. Lots of shouting ensued to ensure that I was heard over the din of hammering at the leatherworking table and the other games at other tables. I commented on this to the Kids Room coordinator, but made sure to point out that I had set myself up for it. The first year I ran AiO at DDC (Back in '09) I had been given my own quiet room, but suffered from less than ideal attendance. Since the con staff love feedback, I requested that events on the Kids Room schedule be closer together so I could possibly pick up the runoff from other events for my game. So for the last few years, I've been putting up with the hammering and shouting because I pretty much asked for it.

Then it was time for a little more shopping (and I'll tell you what we bought in a bit) and getting the wife's game fully prepared. Mostly it came down to making the pregenerated characters, which takes time with Pathfinder. Especially once the characters are above level 1. While I was concerned that she only had a skeleton of a plot, she's actually a very improvisational DM and managed to fill most of her timeslot with fun stuff.

Although it didn't happen this year, I must tell you the tale of Princess Melanie. I can't recall what year this was, but we were sitting in on the same seminar. I want to say that she was in her full princess regalia, but that part isn't necessarily clear. She asked some questions of the panelists, and gave them some of her background. When she was a little girl, she dreamed of being a fairy princess. While this is a common dream among little girls, this particular little girl grew up and found a way to make it a reality. (I believe she entertains at children's parties.)

What did happen this year was me managing to reconnect with Princess Melanie (who happened to have a very young Princess-in-training along with her) and telling her how awesome I thought she was for being brave enough to forge her own career path. Even though some people might think fairy princess is not a career, it seems that they're just not being creative enough.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

This Year, DunDraCon Is Brought To You By...

Con or Bust!

My annual trip to DunDraCon is usually funded by my tax return. This year, however, things wound up a little differently. Between my day job and Uncle Sam, my refund was not very impressive this year. It was enough to get us there, but not enough to really do anything once we got there. So my wife, who is multi-ethnic, applied and received for a grant from Con or Bust! That covered our hotel and transportation, allowing me to put my tax refund towards having a good con experience.

When I found out about the Con or Bust! annual fundraising auction, I knew I had to contribute something. So I did. A signed copy of Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road. And don't forget to check out all of the other cool items that you can bid on. And if you have something you would like to offer, they are still accepting submissions.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Q1 2012 Quarterly Report

If I had kept up on my posting schedule, this would have been the first report to be displayed in the same year that its data was generated. But if all goes well (and I don't see why it shouldn't) that will wind up happening in a couple of months.

 Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
Sales Channel/Product TypeJanuaryFebruaryMarchQuarter TotalYTDLast YearGrand Total
One Book Shelf/PDF767202021124
One Book Shelf/Print------2
One Book Shelf/Bundle--111
One Book Shelf/Total768212121136
Amazon Kindle41-55-5

 Adventures in Oz Characters Pack
Sales Channel/Product TypeJanuaryFebruaryMarchQuarter SalesTotal Sales

A good strong quarter in terms of sales. Maybe not Christmas scale numbers, but certainly nothing to sneeze at, either. January got a nice little boost of publicity from the kind folks at the Atomic Array (and if you want me for your podcast, just let me know). February was, of course, my annual jaunt to DunDraCon (which I will be repeating this year as well) and during the month of March, the OneBookShelf sites held their week-long GM's Day Sale to honor the passing of D&D co-creator Gary Gygax. This was my first opportunity to participate in this sale and I look forward to doing so again this year.

You may have noticed that there's a small change to the upper table. I have removed the YGN listing and replaced it with numbers from my Kindle sales. Did I forget to mention that AiO is available on the Kindle? Well, it was kind of deliberate forgetfulness. You see, I don't own a Kindle myself, so I have no idea how it looks on the device. But people seem to be buying and keeping it (there is an option to return a Kindle book and I do have numbers on how often that happens).

The interesting thing about the Characters Pack sales is how many were purchased as part of the GM's Day Sale. As we've seen on this and previous tables, most people will purchase the bundle, getting the Characters Pack for free when they purchase AiO. In March, we see that trend reversed. Probably because the individual items were discounted, but the bundle was not. And also, 74 cents is a hard price to pass up for just about anything.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Q4 2011 Quarterly Report

You thought I had forgotten about this stuff, didn't you? Well, I didn't.

 Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
Sales Channel/Product TypeOctoberNovemberDecemberQuarter TotalYTDLast YearGrand Total
One Book Shelf/PDF3223285421104
One Book Shelf/Print----2-2
One Book Shelf/Bundle-4-49
One Book Shelf/Total3263326521115
Your Games Now/PDF------1

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

The big thing to notice on this chart is that huge jump in sales over at OneBookShelf during November. This was due to their first Teach Your Kids to Game Week that was held that month. That jump in sales was nearly equivalent to the initial sales rush I experienced over at OBS in September '10. (I'm sure you can imagine how upset I was that AiO was not picked for inclusion in 2012.)

CreateSpace also started generating numbers this quarter. All those Christmas shoppers on Amazon, I'm sure (I saw a similar bump this year, too). Now I just need to work on a way to get onto more people's Christmas lists.

This also gives us our annual totals for this year. 99 total sales for the year, mostly from OBS. 36 copies of the Characters Pack were sold, but only 23 people paid for it specifically. Some of the bundle purchases may have been motivated by the Characters Pack, but I don't quite know how to tease that information out of my raw data.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Obligatory End of the Year Post

Well, it's time to say goodbye to 2012 and hello 2013.

2012 was a decent year for sales. 77 copies across all formats. It may not sound like much, but it means that I'm still a contender. I don't plan on leaving the ring anytime soon, either.

I made my final payment to my last artist in January of this year. Which means that most of the money I've brought in from sales this year has been pure profit (Though see below for what I'll be doing with that profit.)

The blog was an interesting beast over 2012 as well. My most popular post from the year 2012 was Another Year, Another DunDraCon, my annual DunDraCon convention post. Mostly for the pics of the guy who brought his lobotomizer to show off. The post that got the most visits this year was actually from back in 2010. That's when I revealed that the girl in the chainmail bikini that I had photographed at that year's DunDraCon was in fact none other than Chainmail Girl.

The one post that is somehow remarkably popular even though I wish it wasn't is this one. I'm not sorry I wrote it as I think that my point was a valid one. But given that Mr. Skarka is a polarizing figure in the gaming industry, that post is just one more bit of ammunition for the inevitable mudslinging (mostly because of the shock value of the post title). I was especially chagrined to discover that this guy was the guy to do it.

Resolutions for the new year? Sure, I've got a few.

Get my house in order:  I'm not going to bore you with personal problems or stories from my day job, but a number of things have stepped up over the last year or so to really cramp my style. That needs to come first before I'm able to make too many other plans.

Get into stores: I'm sure you all know that this has been a goal of mine for a while. I've had a plan to do it for the last year, but I've just been waiting for the money. Well, the money has been accumulating slowly and steadily over the last year or so. By February, I should have enough to make a serious attempt at getting it done. Still a few i's to dot and t's to cross, but everything seems to be coming together.

Get back to writing: Partly related to that "Get my house in order thing". I may have been updating the blog pretty regularly, but I haven't made any real progress on projects beyond the blog. I tried to do a novel for NaNoWriMo this year and managed only 300 or so words. I need to better than that if I'm going to manage any of the other things I want to do.

Happy New Year and have an Ozzy 2013!
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