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Data from Top Downloads From Other Companies, August 17-September 21

Aug 17
1.5* Paper Minis- Pathfinder Module: "The Dragon's Demand" Pathfinder Paper Minis
2. The Genius Guide to More Monk Talents (PFRPG) Super Genius Games
3. Player's Guide to the Rothenian Plains (PFRPG) Kobold Press
4. Ultimate Battle (PFRPG) Legendary Games
5. The Genius Guide to the Talented Monk (PFRPG) Super Genius Games
6. Faerie Passions (PFRPG) Legendary Games
7. Convergent Paths: Fey Archetypes (PFRPG) Rite Publishing
8. New Paths #6: The Expanded Gunslinger (PFRPG) Kobold Press
9. The Genius Guide to the Talented Cavalier (PFRPG) Super Genius Games
10. Rule Zero: Critical Hits (PFRPG) Minotaur Games

Categories:
1 Paper Minis
3 Supplemental Rules
6 Player Material

Themes:
Monks (2), Faeries (2), Kingmaker-supplemental (2)

Publishers:  Ratings Authors
Minotaur Games 1 N/A Jason Bulmahn
Pathfinder Minis 1 5* "Callous Jack"
Rite Publishing 1 4.5* Mark Siefter
Kobold Press 2 N/A, 4.5* Adam Roy, Crystal Fraiser
Legendary Games 2 5*, 5* Jason Nelson, Russ Taylor, Todd Stewart
Super Genius Games 3 N/A, 3*, 5* OKCS?, OKCS?, OKCS?

Ave cost: $4.49 (# below Ave: 6)
Med cost: $3.99 (#5, The Genius Guide to the Talented Monk)
Hi cost: $9.99 (#4, Ultimate Battle)
Low cost: $1.99 (#2, The Genius Guide to More Monk Talents)


Aug 24
1.5* Ultimate Battle (PFRPG) Legendary Games
2. Player's Guide to the Rothenian Plains (PFRPG) Kobold Press
3. The Genius Guide to the Talented Cavalier (PFRPG) Super Genius Games
4. Paper Minis- Pathfinder Module: "The Dragon's Demand" Pathfinder Paper Minis
5. Rule Zero: Critical Hits (PFRPG) Minotaur Games
6. Ultimate Rulership (PFRPG) Legendary Games
7. The Genius Guide to More Monk Talents (PFRPG) Super Genius Games
8. Faerie Passions (PFRPG) Legendary Games
9. New Paths #6: The Expanded Gunslinger (PFRPG) Kobold Press
10. Heroes of the Jade Oath (PFRPG) Rite Publishing

Categories:
1 Paper Minis
1 Setting
4 Player Material
4 Supplemental Rules

Themes:
alternate classes (2), wuxia (2), kingmaker-supplemental (3)

Publishers: Ratings Authors
Minotaur Games 1 N/A Jason Bulmahn
Pathfinder Minis 1 5* "Callous Jack"
Rite Publishing 1 4.5* Frank Carr
Kobold Press 2 N/A, 4.5* Adam Roy, Crystal Fraiser
Super Genius Games 2 N/A, 3* OKCS?, OKCS?
Legendary Games 3 4.5*, 5*, 5* Jason Nelson, Jason Nelson, Russ Taylor, Todd Stewart

Ave cost: $6.29 (# below Ave: 7)
Med cost: $4.99 (#2, Player's Guide to the Rothenian Plains)
Hi cost: $14.99 (#10, Heroes of the Jade Oath)
Low cost: $1.99 (#7, The Genius Guide to More Monk Talents)


Sep 02
1.5* Rule Zero: Underlings (PFRPG) Minotaur Games
2. Ultimate Battle (PFRPG) Legendary Games
3. Ultimate Rulership (PFRPG) Legendary Games
4. Mythic Monsters: Demons (PFRPG) Legendary Games
5. The Genius Guide to the Talented Cavalier (PFRPG) Super Genius Games
6. Paper Minis- Pathfinder Module: "The Dragon's Demand" Pathfinder Paper Minis
7. The Genius Guide to More Cavalier Talents (PFRPG) Super Genius Games
8. Faerie Passions (PFRPG) Legendary Games
9. The Genius Guide to the Talented Monk (PFRPG) Super Genius Games
10. Psionics Expanded: Advanced Psionics Guide (PFRPG) Dreamscarred Press

Categories:
1 Paper Minis
3 Player Material
6 Supplemental Rules

Themes:
cavaliers (2), kingmaker-supplemental (3), monsters (3)

Publishers: Ratings Authors
Dreamscarred Press 1 4.5* Dreamscarred Staff
Minotaur Games 1 5* Jason Bulmahn
Pathfinder Minis 1 5* "Callous Jack"
Super Genius Games 3 N/A, 3*, 5* OKCS?, OKCS?, OKCS?
Legendary Games 4 3*, 4.5*, 5*(2) Jason Nelson, Jason Nelson, Russ Taylor, Todd Stewart, Tom Phillips

Ave cost: $6.05 (# below Ave: 6)
Med cost: $4.99 (#8, Faerie Passions)
Hi cost: $9.99 (#2, Ultimate Battle)
Low cost: $1.99 (#7, The Genius Guide to More Cavalier Talents)


Sep 07
1.5* Rule Zero: Underlings (PFRPG) Minotaur Games
2. Ultimate Battle (PFRPG) Legendary Games
3. Mythic Monsters: Demons (PFRPG) Legendary Games
4. Ultimate Rulership (PFRPG) Legendary Games
5. The Genius Guide to More Cavalier Talents (PFRPG) Super Genius Games
6. The Genius Guide to the Talented Cavalier (PFRPG) Super Genius Games
7. Faerie Passions (PFRPG) Legendary Games
8. Paper Minis- Pathfinder Module: "The Dragon's Demand" Pathfinder Paper Minis
9. Beasts of Legend: Boreal Bestiary (PFRPG) Legendary Games
10. New Paths #6: The Expanded Gunslinger (PFRPG) Kobold Press

Categories:
1 Paper Minis
3 Player Material
6 Supplemental Rules

Themes:
cavaliers (2), ap-supplemental (4), kingmaker-supplemental (4), monsters (4)

Publishers: Ratings Authors
Kobold Press 1 4.5* Crystal Fraiser
Minotaur Games 1 5* Jason Bulmahn
Pathfinder Minis 1 5* "Callous Jack"
Super Genius Games 2 N/A, 3* OKCS?, OKCS?
Legendary Games 5 3*, 4.5*, 5*(3) All Staff, Jason Nelson, Jason Nelson, Russ Taylor, Todd Stewart, Tom Phillips

Ave cost: $5.76 (# below Ave: 5)
Med cost: $4.99 (#7, Faerie Passions)
Hi cost: $9.99 (#2, Ultimate Battle)
Low cost: $1.99 (#5, The Genius Guide to More Cavalier Talents)


Sep 14
1.5* Rule Zero: Underlings (PFRPG) Minotaur Games
2. Advanced Races #2: Darakhul Ghouls (PFRPG) Kobold Press
3. Mythic Monsters: Demons (PFRPG) Legendary Games
4. Ultimate Battle (PFRPG) Legendary Games
5. Dark Fey (PFRPG) Kobold Press
6. The Genius Guide to More Cavalier Talents (PFRPG) Super Genius Games
7. Mythic Magic: Core Spells (PFRPG) Legendary Games
8. Paper Minis- Pathfinder Module: "The Dragon's Demand" Pathfinder Paper Minis
9. Sandpoint Townsfolk Pathfinder Paper Minis
10. Ultimate Rulership (PFRPG) Legendary Games

Categories:
2 Paper Minis
3 Player Material (Mythic Core Spells might be player or supplemental)
5 Supplemental Rules

Themes:
Mythic (2), kingmaker-supplemental (2), monsters (4)

Publishers: Ratings Authors
Minotaur Games 1 5* Jason Bulmahn
Super Genius Games 1 N/A OKCS?
Kobold Press 2 5*(2) Adam Roy, Ben McFarland
Pathfinder Minis 2 5*(2) "Callous Jack"
Legendary Games 4 3*, 4.5*, 5*(2) Jason Nelson, Jason Nelson and Jonathan Keith, Tom Phillips

Ave cost: $7.06 (# below Ave cost: 7)
Med cost: $4.99 (#9, Sandpoint Townsfolk)
Hi cost: $19.99 (#7, Mythic Magic: Core Spells)
Low cost: $1.99 (#6, The Genius Guide to More Cavalier Talents)


Sep 21
1.5* Rule Zero: Underlings (PFRPG) Minotaur Games
2. Advanced Races #2: Darakhul Ghouls (PFRPG) Kobold Press
3. Dark Fey (PFRPG) Kobold Press
4. New Paths #7: The Expanded White Necromancer (PFRPG) Kobold Press
5. Paper Minis- The People of Belhaim Pathfinder Paper Minis
6. Mythic Magic: Core Spells (PFRPG) Legendary Games
7. Ultimate Battle (PFRPG) Legendary Games
8. The Deductionist Base Class (PFRPG) TPK Games
9. Tome of Horrors 4 (PFRPG) Frog God Games
10. Ultimate Rulership (PFRPG) Legendary Games

Categories:
1 Paper Minis
4 Player Material (Mythic Core Spells might be player or supplemental)
5 Supplemental Rules

Themes:
alternate classes (2), kingmaker-supplemental (2), undead (2), monsters (4)

Publishers: Ratings Authors
Frog God Games 1 N/A Scott Greene
Minotaur Games 1 5* Jason Bulmahn
Pathfinder Minis 1 5* "Callous Jack"
TPK Games 1 5* TPK Staff
Kobold Press 3 5*(3) Adam Roy, Ben McFarland, Marc Radle
Legendary Games 3 3*, 4.5*, 5*(3) LG Staff, Jason Nelson, Jason Nelson, Russ Taylor, Todd Stewart, Tom Phillips

Ave cost: $7.97 (# below Ave cost: 5)
Med cost $4.79 (#8, The Deductionist)
Hi cost: $19.99 (#6, Mythic Magic: Core Spells)
Low cost: $2.99 (#1, Rule Zero: Underlings)

Compiled Results:
Categories:
1 Setting
7 Paper Minis
29 Supplemental Rules
23 Player Material (Mythic Core Spells might be Player or Supplemental, I've listed it as Player Material)

Themes: (products may qualify for mor than one theme)
Aug 17: monks (2), faeries (2), kingmaker-supplemental (2)
Aug 24: alternate classes (2), wuxia (2), kingmaker-supplemental (3)
Sep 02: cavaliers (2), kingmaker-supplemental (3), monsters (3)
Sep 07: cavaliers (2), AP-supplemental (4), kingmaker-supplemental (4), monsters (4)
Sep 14: mythic (2), kingmaker-supplemental (2), monsters (4)
Sep 21: alternate classes (2), kingmaker-supplemental (2),undead (2), monsters (4)

Consistent Themes:
6 weeks Kingmaker-Supplemental
  * AP-Supplemental
5 weeks Class Materials
  * monks (1 week)
  * cavaliers (2 weeks)
  * alt classes (2 weeks)
4 weeks Monsters
  * faeries
  * undead

Compiled Month Costs
Average: $6.27 (# below Ave: 40 out of 60)
Median: $4.99 (# below Med: 27 out of 60)
High: $14.15 (Distribution: 3 above/3 below; Range 9.99-19.99)
Low: $2.15 (Distribution: 1 above/5 below; Range 1.99-2.99)

Compiled Company Distribution
Dreamscarred 1
Frog God Games 1
TPK Games 1
PF Minis 7
Rite Publishing 2
Minotaur Games 6
Kobold Press 10
Super Genius 11
Legendary Games 21


What Does This Show?
Some interesting things, I think...although I'm pretty sure this isn't a substantial enough data set to consider this very definitive.

First, it seems that 4.99 is a good price point where customers are willing buy a product. Second, while the wisdom suggests that players are a wider customer base, the larger number of sales seem to be for GM-oriented materials, like supplemental rules, monsters, and AP supplemental materials. High-priced pdfs seem to be much larger files, or part of print bundles. The lower priced pdfs seem to mostly below the median, but there are over half of the pdfs above the median, so the price point isn't overwhelming deciding factor. Nothing exceeds 19.99 on the pdfs, even Frog God's large ToH4, and none of them seem to have Hero Lab files listed, which doesn't seem to have made an impact.

Legendary Games really shows a larger footprint; they have a catalog of 32 products but have claimed 21 of the 60 slots. Minotaur Games has been consistently in the top 10 with only 10 products, and I think this is directly attributable to the author's position beyond Minotaur. Pathfinder Paper Minis are the only real regular paper mini product in the list-- likely because they're complementing existing modules, which Legendary Games has shown to be a good option. Legendary is banking on the fact that their freelancers are Paizo's freelancers, and so there's an implied state of their work being "Unofficially Official." Kobold Press and Super Genius appear to ramping up a weekly release schedule. None of the other publishers have enough presence to merit commentary.

Unsurprisingly, the 1st ranked product usually has a 5-star rating. However, lacking a rating doesn't seem to prevent a product from showing up, and there is a 3-star product on for several weeks.

I haven't taken advertising into consideration. I really can't tell that based on the reports and I'm not surfing the web enough to know if they've been posted some where specific.

-Ben.

A New Abel Runner 5 is on the path.


Gencon is 71 days away, and so I've decided I'd like a little less of me to show up there.

I'm trying out the Zombies, Run 5K Trainer. So 8 weeks of workouts to get me going...

We'll see how it goes. I'm figuring this is one way to put this back into my routine, because frankly, there's been a little too much time at the keyboard and not enough time on the heels.

-Ben.

Join me in Mythic Europe!


Allow me to tell you of my greatest RPG love, Ars Magica.

I am decidedly biased, as I've managed to make my way into the author's pool, which is by invitation only, but I love this game, so writing for the line was one of my personal triumphs.

Why is Ars Magica a fantastic game? Let's start with mechanics and move on to setting.

Ars Magica uses one die for resolution, the d10. Almost every challenge is a character's Characteristic (what might be called Statistic or Ability score in another system) + Ability Score (Skills in the most popular RPG) + a d10 roll. Now some rolls are "standard," they take the flat result of the d10 and add it to the Characteristic and Ability. Other rolls involve a "stress die," where the d10 can explode on a roll of 1, or botch with a roll of 0. When your dice explode, you roll a 1 and then roll again. Your next roll is doubled, unless you roll a 1 again-- in which case you double the result again. Continue this process until you stop rolling 1s. For a botch, you roll a 0, then roll again. If the second roll is also a 0, then you've botched, and something spectacularly terrible happens with your failure. All rolls are made against an Ease Factor-- in fact, Ars Magica is the game which introduced this mechanic; you might recognize it as a DC. Did I mention that Jonathan Tweet helped create Ars? Certain other rules modify this mechanic, but this is the core.

Characteristic+Ability+d10 roll.

Combat? Attackers use Quickness + Weapon Ability + d10 stress. Defenders use Dexterity + Defense Ability* + d10 stress. The attacker needs to beat the defender's roll to do damage. (*Defense Ability might be Dodge or Weapon Ability, defender's choice)

My personal best was a roll of 1->1->1->4, or 4*8, for a total of 32 plus the Characteristic and Ability, which came to a total of 43. That guy was pasted.

Initiative? Quickness + d10 stress.

Spells? Stamina + Technique&Form + d10 stress.

Ability checks? Characteristic+Ability+d10 roll, unless failure has terrible consequences, then d10 stress.

Notice the pattern? Sure, the formula might get an occasional complication, but that's it, at the very core.

And magic.

Oh, magic, you sultry siren.

The name of the game is Ars Magica, so the magic lies at the core of things. There are many ways to produce the same effect, and it very much allows for the creativity of the player. There are 5 Techniques (Change, Create, Control, Destroy, and Understand) and 10 Forms (4 Elements, Animals, People, Plants, Spirits, Images, and raw Magic power) which comprise the Arts. Your wizard can specialize, generalize, cast spells he's researched, cast an effect spontaneously (but that will likely be weaker than what he's researched and will tire him out faster), and even incorporate foreign magic into his own powers. Create charged items. Create enchanted devices. Create a potent talisman with many powers. Bind a familiar. Teach an apprentice. Write books. Study from texts or the raw stuff of magic. There are seven or so rules which Hermetic magic can't break; other than that, go nuts. The flexibility is absolute joy; play a few sessions and you'll grimace at the next time you need to make a "daily spell list."

Other fantastic aspects of the game? You have multiple characters. A magus or maga (your wizard), a companion (who might be a knight, a werewolf, a faerie, a magical beast, a merchant, a devout priest, a minor noble, a master craftsman, etc.), and any number of grogs (the meatshields, I mean, the men-at-arms) who protect the magus. Characters use virtues and flaws to determine the stories you want to actively pursue and the stories you want to be surprised by during gameplay. You can easily try multiple concepts because you have many characters who live together at the covenant.

Ah, the Covenant, the secret character. The covenant is the place the magi all live and share. It is the shared character of their home, a place that can be as fantastic as you wish to make it and develop. It might be in a hidden cave, an old castle, a lost temple that can only be entered during a thunderstorm, or a villa in the middle of Florence. Building it is part of creating a saga's legacy, the tenor of a covenant is reflected in their choice of home and the care they invest in it. Each choice has an impact on how we pay the bills, buy lab equipment, train and maintain the grogs, and relate with our neighbors-- all of which drive stories.

The game is deadly, too, but mostly for grogs and occasionally companions. Magi often have spells which make their survival more certain. However, it runs on a seasonal time-scale, so you see a real passage of time. People start to suffer the effects of age after 35. Our last campaign covered 11 years of time, from 1153 to 1164.

Ars Magica also encourages "troupe play," meaning we take turns being the GM. This is useful, too, because it means when Sam is  running a story with my magus and Jim's werewolf companion and some grogs, and Jim can't make the session, well, I can run a different story with Sam's magus and Ben's companion, and Tracy can try running a grog to get a feel for things with his teenage son. When one of those arcs is done, Jim might pick up the Storyguide's role, and we can continue with the threads discovered in Sam's or my stories.

In terms of setting, Ars Magica is played in Mythic Europe of 1220. Angels, demons, dragons, faeries and magical beasts are real and true. Crusades. The Reconquista. Mongols. Pagans. Jews. Christians. Muslims. Templars. Feudalism. The growth of commerce. The rise of guilds. Pirates. Explorers. Missionaries. It's all here. You don't reskin it because you're getting it straight from the source, you might just twist it with a bit of magic, be it Infernal, Divine, Faerie or even non-Hermetic. The whole history section of the library and bookstore is your supplement shelf. Sure, there are quite a few good books from the line, but you can spend 45 minutes drifting through wikipedia and be set for your next session, with NPCs written by *history.* The Order of Hermes provides twelve different "Houses," providing ample fodder for internal wizard politics and complications, and the Code of Hermes (along with the power of the Divine) prevents your players from simply walking all over the mundane world. There are *consequences,* whether they're delivered by nobles, fellow magi, or God's Angelic Host.

The system's been around for nearly 10 years now, so it's been pretty well tested-- there are a couple of well known loopholes (with suggested workarounds), a (mostly) quarterly fanzine, and a product line that's projected for at least another three years.

That's Ars Magica, and I love it. I think you will, too. Give it a try...

-Ben.

NOTE: This Entry is part of the February Blog Carnival. You can see the other entries linked in the comments here.

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Who am I?


I realize I haven't really done one of these posts, and I do have this page linked from places, so I'll scoop my paizo profile and put it in here:

I once beat Zeb Cook in a Greyhawk Trivia Contest. I lived on a desert island for two years while I was an officer in the US Air Force. I like to brew my own beer, make my own chinese food, and fence saber; although I do none of these as much as I would like anymore. Premises guarded by man with shotgun three nights a week-- you guess the nights. While D&D's a first love, Ars Magica is swiftly becoming a greatest love and Cthulhutech my secret mistress. L5R taught me you can lose initiative without ever needing to roll and I like the old-school vibe of Savage Worlds. I'm good for 4E, but it depends on the DM. Pathfinder remains a hearty staple. :)
Once upon a time, I wrote a few adventures for Living Greyhawk, primarily for Keoland, Ulek, and the Sheldomar Valley. You can find my work in issue #7 of Kobold Quarterly, I wrote "Dwarven Airships" and the web supplements, "Templeforge Skycasters," "More Dwarven Airships," "Action:Skill Challenge (4E)," "Action:Failure (4E)," "The Frostfang Yeti (4E)," ] "The Deathspittle Bombardier (4E)," and the deadly "Passage of Devouring Waters." My entry for King of the Monsters was Kankodraa, Scion of Dagon. I wrote "Ticking Hounds and Clockwork Hunters" in issue #10. They've let me review books for issue #16, #17, and #20, and issue #17 also had my piece on trophy heads. The website won the Silver ENnie and the magazine won both the Gold for Best Writing and the Silver for Best Accessory, all in 2009. The website won the Gold for Best Blog in 2010. I also did a piece on 4E fumbles for Enworld, but you'll need to be a subscriber to see it. Or ask me.

You can find my work in the ENnie-winning (2009 Silver for the E-book!) Tales of Zobeck, where I wrote "Redcloak Ruckus." I've even got a bit in the OGL Zobeck Gazetteer. I worked on Halls of the Mountain King, where I wrote "Roots of Madness," contributed to and playtested other portions. I completed the 4E conversion for "Roots," "Grand Lodge," "Dark was the Night," and "Deeper Darkness" chapters of HotMK. I also contributed to the Pathfinder conversion of Imperial Gazetteer,where I hammered away at mechanical bits like spells and items, flavor text and stat blocks for the monsters, and (in a point of special pride) designed the PC darakhul option. I contributed to both Courts of the Shadowfey and the web supplement-- I think Knuckletooth's one of my favorite characters, and keep an eye out for the conversion. I wrote the dreamburning mechanics in Coliseum Morpheuon, I was the designer for Breaking of Forstor Nagar, I wrote "Grandmother's Fire" for Tales of the Old Margreve, I designed the Aware Arcana in the Book of Monster Templates and wrote a Pathfinder anthology of urban crime/steampunk/noir adventures, Streets of Zobeck (2012 GOLD Ennie for Best Adventure!) and its web supplement. If you sit on the side of the screen without all the enjoyable art, you might want to take a look at 101 Boons, a project I spun up for Rite Publishing and Pathfinder, but it could translate to other fantasy systems with very little heartache. I worked with the incomparable Matt Banach and Clinton Boomer on a 5-room dungeon intended to complement Coliseum Morpheuon. Think of it like Pathfinder Inception. I contributed a good deal to (and in particular, most of the stat blocks) the new Pathfinder Zobeck Gazetteer. Zobeck's almost like a second home to me at this point. ;) I've got a good six spells 1001 Spells, which was a little something. You can also find at least a baker's dozen of my handiwork in the Midgard Bestiary. I helped with some editing and conversions for Adventure Quarterly #1. I contributed some bits and pieces to the Midgard Campaign Setting and the huginn(tengu) bloodline in their FREE preview. I was the developer for Journeys to the West and led _The Pirates of the Western Seas_. I've been quietly guiding _The Martial Arts Guidebook_ for Rite Publishing, and picked up leadership for _Legends of Midgard_ and _Midgard Tales_, where I wrote "To Resurrect the Steigenadler." I've been playing around at custom work in HeroLab, too, but we'll see how that works.

Although not out until January 2013, I'm quite proud of my RPGSuperstar-disqualifying work in the upcoming hardcover(!) of Ars Magica's Antagonists. It's a book that could translate to any fantasy RPG, though, just in case you're curious.

I've also contributed to/helped edit issues #1-11 of  Sub Rosa Magazine, an Ars Magica fanzine for Fifth Edition. Issue #8 even includes an interview I happily conducted with Paizo's Lisa Stevens. I've completed work on two undisclosed projects in playtest, and another in design.

I love reviews; I think they're a great way to provide feedback and share what you thought about a particular project. However, I like reviews more when they're well written. What constitutes "well written?" I've ranted about that over here.
If you dig Middle Earth, you might enjoy these machinima episodes I wrote. Here's the first, the second, or the third. They were a lot of fun to write and have a combined total of about 2.3 million views.

Soooo. That's what I've done, more or less, in the last 5 years of trying to write RPG supplements as a hobby. :) And it's probably how you ended up here.

I don't write here frequently, because, well, I'm writing projects. But if you've got a question, ask.

-Ben.

Loose the Nagademon!


November is 5 days into it, and I've been working a bit on my National Gaming Design Month project.

I'll admit, I'm cheating a skosh-- I'm working on a contracted project, rather than a new game, but the idea is there and I want it done this month, so it's a good motivation.

But the Iconics are now done. The playtesting is cranking to a close. The art briefs are turned over. The other project is nearly done, the first revisions are done and the third revisions can wait a bit and the second revisions can leer at me from the wings.

For now, I need to hammer out an outline and some topics and a goodly pile of story seeds, because that seems to help inspire me along the way.

Good luck on your own demon, if you're working on one. I feel like I've got my own tiny horde.

-Ben.

Questionnaires


So I picked this up from Zak of D&D with Pornstars over here.

And I figured I'd answer it when I should be doing edits.

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

The Dreamburning mechanics from Coliseum Morphueon.
2. When was the last time you GMed?

December 17th, 2011. 
3. When was the last time you played?

January 14th, 2012.
4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

Something for Delta Green or Cthulhutech. One day soon I'll be running Faery's Tale Deluxe for the short people in the house.
5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

Get a cup of coffee, review my notes.
6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

Food. But I gravitate to Red Vines.
7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

It certainly can be. I will, invariably, beat the hell out of my voice.
8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

Debating whether to leave the Order of Hermes for the Order of Prometheus, realizing it meant going to war.
9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?

It depends. There's usually a bit of table chatter, and that's a habit we're looking to break.
10. What do you do with goblins?

Put their heads on spikes...although it's been a while since I had to deal with goblins.
11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

It's all grist for the mill.
12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?

The last adventure was one long MST3K moment, so I'll have to go with that.
13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?

Ultimate Magic (Pathfinder), I was looking for a spell, I think. Really read? The Cradle and the Crescent (Ars Magica). Honestly, I rummage through books for about three systems on a nearly daily basis. Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, Ars Magica.
14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

This depends totally on the subject matter. I will say I love Jonathan Roberts and Sean McDonald's cartography like a parent who must pick a child to save from a burning building.
15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

I think it has, yes.
16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)

There was a Living Greyhawk adventure with some great NPCs a while back...but that was probably 2007?
17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

Ahhh, I'd have a gaming table with inset combat terrain, that I could preconfigure and reveal at the right moment, a remote control audio  set with two tracks--one for soundtrack, one for sound effects, remote control lighting, individual playing stations with IM options between players and GM. There would be underslung book storage for either side of the table. Snacks would be in the room, but the fridge would have no light. I would likely have a prop chest nearby.
18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?

Paranoia and Fiasco.
19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?

The Dark Tower board game and Archaeology Magazine.
20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

One who's invested and wants to be there for the game, rather than for the social gathering. I want the game to be 
21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?

Living on a small island and the demands necessary to run the island. It translated well to what was necessary to run a small city.
22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?

Not off the top of my head, no. I'm pretty much at a "If I need it, I make it," level of play.
23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?

My wife, who listens and knows what I mean, but she's not quite ready to try playing. I think she'll get into it when I bring my son and daughter into it.

EDIT: I've had to lock the comments on this due to the ridiculous number of bots lately. If you need me to see something, mail me.

So you like RPG products, and you figure RPG designers like to have their products reviewed, and if you start doing enough reviews, you figure you can start getting some free products to review and so you'll never have a drought of free material to use and read.

And that's cool. I'm all for it. But I have a little caveat.

Stop writing reviews that suck.

Seriously.

Stop now.

Likely, you will not, because you do not realize your review sucks. Let us discuss some ways your review will suck.

1. You will give me the pagecount breakdown.
    I shit you not, and I know that once upon a time, I was guilty of this crime myself. But let's face it-- I can usually see the table of contents from the preview or the product summary. Do you really think I need to know the exact number of pages allocated to feats or monsters or the OG-freaking-L? the TL;DR version? No, no I do not.

Would you like to know why? Because I don't want a book report. I don't need to know exactly how the author divided the book or focused on particular topics or chose to break down the subject matter. These things are unimportant, unless you are writing your review for Mrs. Cleveland's 2nd grade English Composition assignment.

1.A- What to do instead:
    Tell me what you liked about the book, how it inspired you, what you drew from the content. Sure, if you wanted more of X and less of Y, that's an acceptable thing to mention. If something seemed particularly off, or unintentional, or even inappropriate, that bears commenting. Telling me how the material got you thinking about your next game or an old game or a game you've been planning but haven't yet run is much better than showing me your reading comprehension is roughly higher than that of a dretch. This is the most important point of this post. I will repeat it, to be pedantic and annoying and hopefully make it stick. Tell me what works in the book, why it works, and what it makes you think about doing with the book--yes, that sounds dirty, and it's absolutely intentional.

2. You will use words like "meh."
    "Meh" is not a useful word for a review. You may think it is a convenient shorthand for "ambivalent," or another way to say "unimpressive."

It is not.

    "Meh" is the quickest way to look like a reviewing jackass. "Meh" shows no forethought or consideration and leaves me wondering what about the (artwork/writing/design/editing/layout) was "meh." If I want "meh," I'll swing by the FLGS and ask the bored register-monkey who only plays CCGs what he thought about the treeware version. I'll poll a bored table of gamers about the midnight madness adventure they stomped in an hour-fifteen. "Meh" tells me absolutely nothing and irritates me while you are at it.

2.A- What to do instead:
    Tell me what was uninspiring and why. For the love of the tiny baby savior of your choice, we play games of make-believe and imagination. Use your big-kid words and tell me in whole, complete thoughts why something in the book failed to impress you. Anything less, and I will expect you next to grunt and point while slapping the ground with a stick. If you're half-assing your review, why should I expect you did anything other than half-ass skim the text, and if that's the case, then wtf are you doing wasting my valuable time with a review which should have died in a text window you forgot to refresh before posting? Have some goddamned pride and actually explain your point of view complete with why you felt something was good or bad or in between.

3. You decide to talk about all the things you would have put in the product.
    It is very kind of you to tell the author and publisher how you clearly see the features they should have contributed, if only they had your wisdom. Keep your charity to yourself and stick to the material provided. I'm sure you're a fantastically talented GM, but I don't want to know about some other product you imagine. I want to know about this product.

That said...

    If there are missed opportunities, I want to know about it-- Should the author have logically covered something and didn't? Note the absence and talk about how this particular gap in content could have improved the existing material-- because then I have an idea of what I might need to do if I want to put this product to my own nefarious uses. But don't just say, "Oh, it needed X and would have been so much better for it," without explaining why. (See that again? We want to know "why." The author wants to know why. The prospective buyer wants to know why. Your justifications matter.) If the missing material is something you'd simply like on a personal preference, then note that, as well. Reviews are usually a matter of YMMV (your mileage may vary) and what you see as absolutely essential I may find to be a complete waste of wordcount and page real estate.

Finally. Have some pride and put your review through a spell check. Tuck in your shirt, comb your hair, let someone read over what you're posting if it's more than two paragraphs. Or at least plug it into a word processor to confirm you've made an attempt at complete sentences. As much fun as it is to trudge through three quarters of a page of your semi-literate ramblings, half-formed texting abbreviations, and emoticons, I prefer it so much more when it's free of blatant misspellings and gross abuses of grammar.

Now, having said this, I realize writing reviews is like any other form of writing-- you will improve over time, given you actually have a desire to do so. And I know my early attempts at reviews were often atrocious examples of how to bore the hell out of your elementary school teacher. I leave them unedited because either I cannot change them, or (as I prefer to think of it) they serve as monumental reminders of what I once belched forth on the Internet and called "a review." Once someone pointed out how I could improve my review style and do better, I endeavored to do so, and I think that change is evident.

So consider this our come-to-Jesus post, held over virtual beers and fried calamari, wherein I have laid the terrible truth bare to you. Your reviews suck. They still suck, and they will continue to suck until you give a rat's ass and start doing more than vomiting up a poor excuse for insight. Please stop sucking.

thanks bunches,

hugs and kisses.

-Ben.

Dec. 21st, 2011


Today is the 150th anniversary marking the establishment of the United States Medal of Honor. I had the distinct privilege of meeting a recipient at ROTC dining out-- it was pure chance, because he was attending a different function, but saw us and decided to come congratulate the newly commissioned officers.

His name is Peter C. Lemon. I believe he is the template from which calm, pure indefatigable badassery is wrought. Why, you ask? Let me tell you how he earned his Medal of Honor...

The date is April 1, 1970 and the day's business is no joke. 

Peter Lemon was 19 years old, and fighting for his life.  He suffered from shrapnel wounds inflicted earlier in the morning-- a mortar which killed his close friends, the other three members of his fireteam. His Fire Support Base had come under attack, and it was being overwhelmed by nearly 400 enemy soldiers. Their attack focused on the portion of the perimeter Specialist Lemon's unit was defending. 

He had participated in fending off two prior attacks, suffered the mortar wound and was in the first aid station after suffering a second wound while carrying a wounded comrade to safety when a third wave attempted to smash through the defenses. While medical personnel furiously worked to evacuate casualties from the first aid station, Peter "acquired" a working machine gun and took a fairly exposed position on the berm surrounding the base camp, continuing to fire as nearly 20 enemy soldiers charged his position. 
He suffered a third wound in that assault while fending off the enemy using machine gun and rifle until both jammed. He resorted to hand grenades when the enemy tried to take advantage of the malfunction and attempted to overwhelm him. Dispatching all but one of the enemy, he charged the fleeing attacker and killed him in hand-to-hand combat. Dodging more grenades and small arms fire, he returned to the berm and held the position from the enemy until he passed out.

He awoke in the first aid station, continuing to help defend the station and refusing treatment until more seriously wounded were flown to a field hospital. He did not succumb to his injuries. Every man in his platoon was hurt.  Three of his closest friends died.  His own wounds required more than a month of hospitalization and yet, when I met him, he seemed vibrant and energetic as he nonchalantly approached our gaggle of lieutenants and wished us good luck in our careers. I remember he wore a tuxedo and his medal of honor and a few other medals on his breast pocket. He carried what looked like whiskey on the rocks and spoke to us with a casual, genial ease that exuded calm confidence.

There are little under 3500 recipients of the medal. They receive invitations to all future Presidential Inaugurations and Inaugural Balls. Their immediate children are guaranteed admission to any of our military academies. Military personnel of *any* rank are encouraged to salute *them.* If you ever want to read about absolutely mind-boggling acts of gallantry and heroism, get lost in the Medal of Honor rolls for an afternoon.

Tags:

How Hershel Knew Sophia Was In The Barn.


Ok, so here's how I know that Hershel had to know Sophia was in the barn in the midseason conclusion of the Walking Dead.

Season 2, Day 0: Herd event, Sophia is lost in the woods. During the search, Otis shoots Carl.

This is important.

Rick takes Carl to Hershel, who then begins the process of saving Carl. Otis and Shane go for the supplies at the high school. 

Back at the road, Daryl and Andrea go out looking for Sophia.

This timeline is crucial, because it's in this span where Sophia is bitten, escapes and dies, and then makes her way to the farm to be captured. This means Herschel and Otis or Jimmy, possibly someone else must have helped put her in the barn-- as that's a two, probably three person operation. One person on the leash, one person on the entry door to the barn, and one person on the far side of the barn, drawing the attention of the walkers.

She can't have arrived later, because the Atlanta survivors had set a watch, and would have seen Sophia being put in the barn. It can't have happened while Carl was being tended but before Daryl, Andrea, and Dale arrived, because Otis was with Shane, Hershel and Patricia were with Carl, Maggie was going to get Lori, which only leaves Beth and Jimmy to put Sophia in the barn-- which could have happened, but then Jimmy would have to be either the most mentally challenged 17 year old male left alive or the most psychopathically capable liar, because he then later joins the search for Sophia, working hand in hand with Rick to find her.

Which means Hershel and likely one other surviving member of the Greene family not only knew Sophia was in the barn, but allowed the Atlanta survivors to continue searching for her-- after Daryl's injuries and the loss of the horse, after seeing them deal with the possibility she was alive when finding her doll.

The only way they might not have known she was in there was if Sophia got bit fairly shortly after Rick left her, stumbled towards the farm before dying and reanimating and Otis put her in the barn, by himself, before going hunting. This seems impractical for the simple fact that putting a walker into the barn required more than one person to do properly, and the Greene farm survivors, whatever their faults, at least seem to have figured out how to safely put a zombie in the barn without having the whole farm get overwhelmed.

Soooo.

The most likely conclusion leads us to the fact that Hershel knew Sophia was in the barn, and purposefully kept that information from the Atlanta survivors-- possibly to keep them preoccupied while Carl recovered well enough for them to depart to Fort Benning, at which time he might have (presumably?) told them the truth and offered to keep her there in the barn until a "cure" was found. Given his view on the walkers, I don't think he would have staged a "discovery" of the girl, knowing the Atlanta survivors (tearfully) just kill her. Which, overall, makes him just about the biggest monster we've seen so far; a deranged, manipulating, lying old man who can't accept the truth of the walkers, doesn't have the charity to recognize a good survival situation when it pulls up on his front lawn, and is too cowardly to come clean once the ruse is up.

If the Atlanta survivors had known Sophia was dead right away, they could have focused efforts on cleaning out the surrounding area of supplies-- using the horses with Maggie and Jimmy, and then splitting the take with the Greene survivors while not placing as much of a burden on the existing goods. Daryl wouldn't have suffered his injury, and they wouldn't be "going through the antibiotics so quickly." The scrambled poop sandwich of Season 2.5 is going to fall squarely on Hershel's plate. His choices were reprehensible, and the consequences could be pretty bad, too, depending on how things continue.

A Well Deserved Rest


At long last, undisclosed Ars Magica project #2 (UAMP#2) has come to its first milestone with the completion of my final edits on the third portion of the manuscript!

Yes, it was as painfully convoluted as the previous sentence implies.

And so now I'm prepping for another Gencon, finishing some edits for Sub Rosa-- side bonus, I believe I'll be interviewing Lisa Stevens at Gencon!-- and doing a little Pathfinder design for Rite and Open Design, which is a big relief after the crushing weight of the UAMP#2. I do, however, know a ridiculous amount about 13C REDACTED, so ask away if you have a burning desire to learn more about 13C REDACTED.

With what's left of the year, I'd like to do some posts reviewing the various kickstarter projects I've been supporting, reading up on ZFS, and perhaps catching up as a patron in Midgard and Dark Roads. I'm looking forward to autumn and catching up on a lot of things. :) 

Here's to a productive season!

EDIT: I'm closing comments because I keep getting spambots with garbage comments.

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