30 August 2013

Oh, and Fate

One major omission from the previous list of games was the Fate Core kickstarter stuff. Fate Core itself is a great update of the system, but I'm especially interested in Fate Accelerated Edition (FAE). FAE strips the system down even further and looks like it will hit a sweet spot of simplicity to run and play.

Plus, the campaign generated a stupid amount of extra content.

I've been reading through the two volumes of worlds, and there are a few that look like great fun. Fight Fire, Jason Morningstar's firefighting drama setting has looked great right from his early development notes, and the finished version is full of cool stuff. There are a few more that also look neat, and they all bring some new ideas to inspire your games even if you don't use them as-is.

Green Ronin added a Fate Freeport book which includes a full Fate/D&D mash-up, as well as a bunch of fantasy pirate goodness.

And, as they have always done, Evil Hat have made the Fate Core system open content so you can look at the rules for free. Technically it's pay-what-you-like, but that still gives you the chance to try it for free.

28 August 2013


Time to write some stuff here again! I'll kick off with some quick reviews of all the games I've got since hollowpoint. There's quite a lot of them, especially with the Kickstarters from earlier.

Starting with the most recent and following in the order of me remembering them:

  • Owl Hoot Trail takes a stripped down D&D based system and applies it to a fantasy western setting. Lots of great flavour in the classes and the western-ified versions of hobbits, dwarves, elves, and goblins. A good chunk of the book is devoted to a meaty introductory adventure that looks to have a good two or three sessions to kick off your game. I haven't played this yet but I can't see anything that will break in play, and I intend to get some play arranged as soon as possible. 5/5 (provisional).
  • I got my pretty hardcover of the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Rules & Magic book from the IndieGoGo campaign last year. It is very pretty and nicely bound. Still my favourite old school game, too. Note that it includes even more hardcore-shock imagery than previous versions I have seen; not for kids. 5/5
  • I've read the PDFs of Numenera, from the Kickstarter last year, but still awaiting the book (hopefully it is on the way). Basically cool, and the character generation is quick and very neat. Planning a one-shot for my regular crew's next game to see how it goes (the main book has a few introductory adventures, plus I have one funder extra; I'll play one of those). System is fairly simple but with a few knobs and levers. I like the setting, but it might have been a little better described in broad strokes and the rest inferred from the rules and gadgets. Worth a look if weird far-future science fantasy is appealing (especially Dying Earth or Book of the New Sun). 4/5  (provisional).
  • I got Carolina Death Crawl which is a lovely set of cards and great (if horrible) scenario. I played this with the regular crew when someone was absent (preventing regular The One Ring episode), and it fell a bit flat. The problem comes from having to set your own scenes and create your own opposition (although the cards help with both). Having a GM to do that might make things run better, for my tastes at least. 3/5.
  • Dungeon World is good! That said, I've mainly run the stripped down World of Dungeons instead (generously seasoned with things from the main DW book) using Planarch Codex: Dark Heart of the Dreamer (both may be found in the treasure trove). Also, let me give a shout out to Adventures on Dungeon Planet, which is a kick-ass sword and laser science fantasy supplement with a huge bag of awesome stuff. 5/5
  • And while we're on dungeon crawls, Torchbearer is also really cool and on the "to be played" list, as soon as the book is finished and shipped here. It's a spin on the Mouse Guard system which focuses on dungeon crawls as a primarily resource based problem: how do we do achieve our goal with the supplies and abilities we have available? 4/5 (provisional).
  • Dog Eat Dog is a really elegant, simple system that deals with colonialism, resistance, and assimilation in a (by default fictional) Pacific island nation. Although reading it through, it seems a super light system, in play there's just enough to make the story really work. I've only played the one game, but it quickly became emotionally hard-hitting. There weren't any simple answers for our people, and that was with a fairly black and white contrast between occupier and native cultures.  5+/5
  • Another Apocalypse World descendant, tremulus, takes on Lovecraft. There's a lot of great stuff here - in particular the Ebon Eaves setting, where the group answers a questionnaire and the answers allow the GM to look up what's really going on in the town based on the results. It looks like it will make a good setup for a one-shot, and has loads of great seeds for stories in the entries. Some of the other parts I'm not so keen on - I feel like the classes and basic moves didn't move far enough from the source: to really get a Lovecraftian game, the changes need to go a bit deeper. 3/5
  • Speaking of which, I have the PDF of Sagas of the Icelanders, which also uses the Apocalypse engine. This is a fantastic historical game, with a focus on 9-10th century Iceland. Bursting with cool stuff and with a really neat take on the moves (there aren't any general basic moves: men, women, and children each have their own sets). Looks great, but haven't had a chance to play yet. 5/5 (provisional).
  • I've now had a chance to play fellow-Wellingtonian Dale Elvy's EPOCH survival horror game. It's great, really gets a good survival horror vibe right away and the flashback mechanics to flesh out characters, as well as it being your own choice how badly you get hurt in each act of the story, work well. I've even written a scenario that's going to be in the upcoming war story-themed collection (it's set during the 1939-1940 Winter War, when the USSR invaded Finland). 5/5
  • Stalker is a great setting book, but I really didn't like the diceless system. I ran a one-shot with a World of Dungeons variant as the rules (inspired by Jason Morningstar's AP reports for a game doing this), and that went pretty well. Fair warning: the main text of the book is in Comic Sans, which is disconcerting and a little hard to read. 3/5
That's most of my games this year. I'll keep you posted when I run the provisionally rated ones.

18 May 2013

Game Chef 2013

It's on this week! Details: http://gamechef.wordpress.com/. Aspiring game designers, I recommend taking part as a way to stretch yourself a bit and try out some game design ideas. It's good fun.

It's crazy, the theme and ingredients are all pictures in a bold, iconic style from http://game-icons.net/.

My mind was pretty blank at first, but now I have a solid idea. I'll see how it goes!

13 April 2013

Monster of the Week: Year One

As I find reading about other game publishers' sales interesting, I thought I would give you a summary of how Monster of the Week has gone, now that it's been about a year (specifically, a little more than a year since the IndieGoGo campaign ended and a little less than a year since my first print run).

First up, the campaign gave me 50 electronic and 123 book orders). I put pre-order buttons on the website after the campaign was over, and got a few pre-orders a month.

The first print run was at the end of June, of 200 copies. Shipping out the funder copies and pre-orders took an evening of packing and a morning at the post office. The number of packages was too much for their receipt printer, causing some consternation.

I also set up the book to print on Lulu at this point, hoping that this would lead to more reasonable shipping than I could offer from the antipodes. I also made the PDF available on DrivethruRPG/RPGNow in November 2012.

As I was getting pretty low on copies, I had a second print run of 150 done in December.

Moving into just plain sales, I've had the following results since July 2012:

MonthDirect PDF SalesDrivethruRPG PDF SalesDirect Book SalesLulu Book Sales
July 201220N/A919
August 201220N/A1112
September 201226N/A119
October 201218N/A52
November 20121321512
December 2012634514
January 2013730143
February 201342160
March 201343444
Totals (including campaign and pre-orders)18414020075

That's total sales of 324 PDF and 275 print copies, making 599 all up as of the end of March (up to 608 as of today).

I'm not sure what conclusions to draw from such a small amount of data, but here are a couple of things:

  • DrivethruRPG/RPGNow adds a significant number of sales (I took part in the GM's Day sale, too, which gained a number of extra sales).
  • I noticed a few cases of a mention somewhere leading to a few extra sales, and also from some convention games.
  • There's definitely a big burst of sales followed by a slow dropoff. I had a couple of things (Christmas, DrivethruRPG sale) that bumped sales out of the dropoff temporarily.
In terms of money, the fundraiser just managed to cover the costs of all the stretch goals, editing and art, the first print run, and shipping. Since then, overall steady sales have led to a modest profit over the year (enough to buy me an Xbox 360 and XCOM to play on it, as well as paying some bills) but unfortunately not anything like enough to consider giving up my job as a software developer.

On top of my own sales, there's an Italian translation that's just been launched (via Narrativa) and a Russian translation on the way (via Studio 101). The Italian edition includes all new art, which looks very nice (although I haven't seen a copy in the flesh yet, just photos of them).

Overall, I'm very happy with the results! I was confident enough of the game that I knew it would sell, but I was expecting sales more in the range of one- or two-hundred in the first year. I've made contact with a number of fans over the course of it all, which is great - especially hearing about other people playing and enjoying themselves!

06 February 2013

hollowpoint review

I've played two games of hollowpoint recently - one at Kapcon games on demand, the other with my regular group.

It's a great system for one-shot action. Both games ran at a breakneck pace, with crazy action scenes quite naturally developing out of the conflict mechanics.

The games were fairly different in detail: at Kapcon, we had a mob revenge/reprisal scenario. This week, I had a team of anti-terror agents working for a mysterious organisation in 80s action movie style.

Despite the rather different feels (albeit both action), the system handled both with ease. For the anti-terror mission, I changed two of the skills from the default (which suggest 100 Bullets or Reservior Dogs in feel) to give the agents a more military edge. This is suggested in the book, with a fair range of examples to give you ideas.

The system is simple enough to explain quickly, but has a few emergent effects that mean there's rarely an obviously best choice about how to approach a conflict (for the agents, is it worth asking for help - with the possibility of rebuff?; for the GM, do I introduce a principal character and split up my dice pool?). That makes the mechanics of the dice a bit more interesting than many simple systems, especially those intended for ease of play as a one-shot.

Another nice feature is that players choose if and when their characters die. If your agent takes two hits, you can choose to "move on". If you take that option, you reinforce the shared teamwork dice pool, and make a new (higher ranked) agent to come in and fix up the (obviously screwed up) mission. It's very fun to have the new character come in with the explicit requirement that they take time to chew out the rest of the team for their failures!

Highly recommended for nasty, violent action games! If the slogan ("bad people killing bad people for bad reasons") can fit the action scenario you have in mind, hollowpoint will almost certainly fit the bill. I'm sure I'll be taking to conventions as a reliably fun, easy to run option.

Additionally, I made myself some reference sheets to cope with the rules in these first games, which you are welcome to grab if you think they'll be useful. There's a GM summary, an agent summary, and cards with the agents' special abilities by rank.

21 January 2013

Kapcon 22 Games Played

I've been posting quick accounts at NZRaG. Rather than typing them again, I'll just leave the link there. I've still got Sunday to fill in as I write this.

 I'll post reviews of The Quiet Year, Hollowpoint, and possibly some of the other games played. Quick version: they're both great, as was my game of World of Dungeons/Dark Heart of the Dreamer.

 Durance remains great. It was interesting to see similarities and differences between yesterday's game and my previous one.