Monday, June 29, 2015

Some idle thoughts on Twitter for this Monday Morning.

I've been trying to learn to love Twitter.

I really have.

I keep seeing this station promo on the Bloomberg Channel where they show a clip of some Twitter person (couldn't tell you who) saying something to the effect of "When you learn to use Twitter, it becomes indispensable." I guess I have yet to learn how to use Twitter effectively.

I sure as hell am starting to hate using it as a reader. The number of promoted tweets is becoming unbearable. There are days when I feel like I'm getting more promoted tweets than anything worth reading from some of the folks that I actually follow. And I don't re-tweet. Re-tweeting makes me feel like I'm polluting the stream (with things that have been re-tweeted by others already).

The limited number of characters gives me very restricted information most of the time, making it difficult to decide if clicking the link to a blog post or web page will provide anything truly interesting to me. I'm willing to admit, however, that I'm just as guilty of this as those that I accuse.

In the above regards, I think most of us have figured out that Google+ does a far superior job: 1) it allows us to post in a community where we know the posts will generally be of interest to us (because they are, to some degree or another, moderated by someone in charge of making sure the group stays on topic), 2) it allows the conversation on any particular topic to be read from top to bottom (rather than having those comments interspersed with other comments on other topics), and 3) the collapsable nature of the posts makes accessing longer content quite easy.

Where Twitter seems to thrive is in regards to live events (that is, things that are happening "now"). The format is not conducive to being a "journal" format (though many users tweet leads to posts elsewhere). But if you've ever tried to follow live comments hashtagged around a specific event (e.g., any TV show finale from the last few years), you know that the tweets happen too fast to actually try to keep up with them.

So, where does that put Twitter? I think even Twitter is at a loss to answer that question. CEOs of successful companies don't "step down" without knowing where they're going. In the interim, Twitter co-founder and Square CEO Jack Dorsey will take over (starting this Wednesday).

I had planned to use Twitter more at this past NTRPGCon, but two things happened: 1) nobody seemed terribly interested in what I was tweeting about the con, and 2) I was just too busy at the con to post more than a couple of tweets. I would rather talk to the folks in front of me than ignore them so I can push text out to people in the virtual community. Is that wrong of me? Is that the inherent flaw of twitter? Is Twitter the medium for people who AREN'T there?

Ultimately, I think Twitter was a great concept with a very limited execution. The only place Twitter seems to have succeeded so far (IMO), is that it, unlike many other tech-com companies, is actually profitable. How? By selling promoted tweets, of course! So many, in fact, that I'm pretty much done as a Twitter reader, even though I still continue to post. In fact, this will be automatically tweeted shortly after I post it. You'll probably see the first 140 characters of it (minus the characters for the link to the whole thing) buried somewhere between promoted tweets.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The System Surpasses 8,000 Downloads

It's been a while since I mentioned The System around these parts. The System is the universal RPG that I originally wrote as a high-schooler in 1985, abandoned when I realized GURPS had hit the market, then finally resurrected when I discovered the OSR back in the early part of 2011 (though had yet to understand what a retro-clone was... which The System is definitely not).

Some time on this Friday just passed, the free downloads of The System from my MediaFire link surpassed the 8,000 mark (which does not include downloads from co-located downloads, like the one at 1KM1KT).

If you've never heard of The System, it was actually the first New Big Dragon RPG product ever published (in the early months of 2011), and the one that set the ball in motion for what I've done since. Below is how the "original edition" appeared in the mid 80s (on the left) and how it appears now in the "25th Anniversary Edition" (on the right).



I'm quite willing to admit the game has its flaws... I mean, c'mon, I was 16 or 17 when I wrote it. (e.g., there is a very convoluted constitution-to-hit-point system, and there is an innovative but ultimately ill-conceived initiative and movement tracking system, and while it purports to handle supers among its genres, I can't claim that it actually scales to reflect the expanse of power levels between the weakest and strongest heroes). But over time, I have more and more appreciation for the fact that it uses d6s only, and led to some underlying things that Welbo and I would like to see become part of a "2nd Edition" of The System. (Should we ever get back to it.)

There have been some interesting developments over the last four years or so. For example, it was poised to become a guy in Brazil's replacement for GURPS. I've also received several emails over the years with people asking about using the underlying system as a framework for other games (both tabletop and computer-based), though nothing has ever materialized from those inquiries.

• If you want the full story on The System, check out this post.
• To download a free PDF from MediaFire, click here.
• To buy a print copy of The System from Lulu, head over here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Update: Basic Psionics Handbook

I realized recently that it has been quite a while since my last general/public post about the status of the Basic Psionics Handbook. I figure one was due. A lot has changed since my original inception of things, but for the better. Here's a general overview of where things stand.

Underlying System Structure Updates

Based on the suggestions of a couple of key people, the individualized psionic saving throw number has been eliminated in favor of a save vs. paralysis, modified by INT. I cannot tell you how much this simplified things, while still feeling... "right".

The system now uses a very simplified PSP model where major science/minor devotion costs for the "lower 5" chakras are 3/1 respectively, metapsionic major science/minor devotion costs are 5/2 respectively, and combat modes have PSP costs ranging from 0-6 (by the strength of the ability). Conversion of monsters/PCs/NPCs from other systems is pretty simple (based on a direction conversion from Oe/1e Psionic Ability into a psionic level/PSP # combination for this system).

WIS-based PSP acquisition has also been eliminated, and is now a "flat" rate of acquisition by psionic level and class. Mystics and psionic monsters/creatures get 5 PSPs per level, and monks get 3 PSPs per level.

As a related update, the Mental Class stat is gone, and psionic combat has been simplified. What was originally a "to hit" roll followed by a saving throw, is now a simple saving throw system with no additional "to hit" roll needed.

Character Classes

The refinement on the mystic and monk classes has been small, slow, and gradual. They both feel like they are in a really good place. Most of what changed here was retention of treasure and use of magic items. However, based on some materials that Steve Marsh shared with me from his Cupric Text zine from 1977 (as well as a direct suggestion from him), I've tweaked some of the level names for the mystic.

The 7 Chakras

The first six chakras are designed to stem fairly seamlessly from the 6 established psionic disciplines. For characters of the Mystic class, they are usually accessible in order, but GMs may allow 2 alternate acquisition paths: 1) a relational acquisition, where you can only learn a chakra connected to a chakra you already know, and 2) a "wild" acquisition, where you choose any chakra at such time as you gain an additional one. Regardless of acquisition method, the third eye chakra (metapsionics) must come last.

I have added officially a seventh (crown) chakra, but only as a pathway to becoming immortal. Its abilities, therefore, are not accessible by most mortal creatures. For now, the crown chakra remains a reference to the idea and concept, but without mechanics.




The Disciplines

These have been gradually refined as issues pop up with their use. The biggest change here was going to the simplified PSP (psionic strength point) cost structure noted above.

Psionic Combat (Attack/Defense Modes)

Okay. This is the section that has been getting the majority of the attention lately.

The first key change was going to a simple save vs. the attack to avoid its effects. A failed save for non-psionic individual means a mental effect (emotion effect, confusion, stun) or hp loss. A failed save for a psionic creature means PSP loss plus the individual effects per above. The additional effect is then mitigated based on the defense mode being used against that attack.

Now!!!... My insurmountable gratitude goes to Mr. Marsh for the following comment made recently about the attack/defense mode combinations, "...you can have defense modes that work in a rock, paper scissors fashion." That's what I'd actually been trying to do, but had never thought of it in such "black and white" terms (I was trying so hard to retain the intricate subtleties of Oe/1e attack/defense mode combos that I missed the forest for the trees). This really opened the door to combat mode simplicity. If you have your 1e DMG handy, take a look at pages 76-77 and ask yourself, "Quick! What's the best defense mode for each attack mode?" Unless you've actually used psionic attack/defense modes before, it may take you a while to answer that question. Now, take a look at the chart below and ask yourself the same thing (BTW, "—" means that attack mode has no additional effect against that defense mode, other than PSP loss)...



How simple is that?! Exactly, as simple as it should be for BX/LL!!! The above system is still being tested. I'll keep you updated, but right now the prognosis seems positive.

One of the things you may notice about the table above is the slight tweak to the names of the various modes, including the addition of a new one. The old Psionic Blast is now called Mind Blast, which is its original name per the Mind Flayer entry in Strategic Review #1. This is an area (cone) attack that affects all in its path (causing hp damage). The targeted/individual attacks of Mind Thrust (which attempts to short synapses) and Psychic Crush (which assaults the neurons) have been combined into Psionic Overload (causing hp damage to an individual target). You'll also see the addition of Superego Vortex; this is another item courtesy of Mr. Marsh's 1977 Cupric Text. If you have id and ego attacks, of course there should be a superego attack! I've also refined the id/ego/superego effects based on his ideas. Id attacks unleash underlying emotions (per the illusionist spell emotion), the ego assaults the victim with feelings of inferiority (causing stun), and the superego attack challenges the value system of the victim (causing confusion, per the MU spell). Again, any of these attacks against a psionic creature cause PSP loss (on a failed saving throw).

Psionic Monsters

I haven't really had a chance to dig into these yet, but I will need to refine the combat modes per the above. However, these are really simplified from before (since there is no need for a Mental Class stat, inclusion of INT rating, etc.) Apart from the name changes of the modes, a quick look at any of the psionic-using entries from Petty Gods (e.g., the god Xumaltet), which show you how simple these listings are now.


Okay. That's all for now. More to come after my July 4th weekend testing of the new combat modes.

Monday, June 22, 2015

"ORC" is a designation, NOT a license!

With Greg Gorgonmilk seeking to publish the new Gorgon Quarterly under the ORC designation, I feel like I need to clarify something... the ORC signifier is a designation, NOT a license. It has nothing to do with the content in the publication (which the word “license” implies). E.g., the OGL is a license. Rather, ORC is a designation, like a “flag” that says, "This is HOW this project put together," (people contributed freely/without pay, and the people publishing/organizing it are not making any money from this). A standard license (or lack of) must still be applied/used/considered for any content in a product flagged with the ORC designation. For example, while all the content in Petty Gods: Revised & Expanded was contributed freely (that is, without pay), all of the ownership rights (copyrights) remain with the individual contributors (meaning, there is no “license” for use of the content, as it falls under standard copyright laws).

The important thing to note here is that content and process are two different things. ORC is a "process" designation, not a "content" designation. In regards to the ORC designation, these two things have nothing to do with one another. E.g., something can be completely copyrighted and still be labeled as ORC content, if the person gave permission to use that content for free in that ORC publication (such is the case with Prof. Barker's article from Petty Gods). Also, it is possible that content that is considered Open Game content might not qualify for the ORC designation if the person who created that content got paid for writing it (e.g., if Greg Gorgonmilk paid me to write a new character class Gorgon Quarterly, and that class appears in the Gorgon Quarterly as Open Game Content, Gorgon Quarterly would no longer qualify for the ORC designation since I was paid to create that content).

BTW, since people are wont to call the guidelines for ORC logo usage a "license," I much prefer the term "Usage Requirements" for the ORC designation.

Friday, June 19, 2015

d30 Feature of the Week: d30 Worm Generator

Alrighty, folks! Right on the slithering tail of last week's d30 Snake Generator, today's PDF download is a d30 Worm Generator. This continues the new monster generator tables I've been working on. For those who've been playing along at home, here are the predecessors:
d30 Snake Generator
d30 Spider Generator
d30 Chimera Generator
d30 Blob Generator (Jellies, Oozes, Puddings, Slimes)
d30 Plant Monster Generator
d30 Giant Generator
d30 Sea Creature Generator
d30 Troll Mutations
(And I ask again, "Do you see where this is going?")

Click here to download a free PDF of d30 Worm Generator page from MediaFire.

Monday, June 15, 2015

New Oe/1e/BX Monster: Scytale

Today's creature, the scytale (or scitalis) is a creature found in Medieval bestiaries.

SCYTALE


DESCRIPTION
The scytale is a sluggish magical serpent that glows with all the colors of the rainbow. Any creature looking upon one must save vs. paralysis from its enrapturing and pleasurable hypnotic effect or become catatonic for 1d4 turns. The scytale then uses this opportunity to attack, its poisonous bite striking automatically against an immobilized target, and killing instantly on a failed save vs. poison. This magical glowing effect, and the hypnotic state it induces, both cease upon the scytale’s death.

The catatonia produced by the scytale is quite addictive, and live specimens of these creatures are quite in demand in underworld markets, regularly fetching prices of 1,000 gp or more.

Oe/1E STATS
FREQUENCY: Rare
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: 7
MOVE: 3"
HIT DICE: 1+1
% IN LAIR: 15%
TREASURE TYPE: Nil
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK: Poison
SPECIAL ATTACKS: See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: None
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Standard
INTELLIGENCE: Animal-
ALIGNMENT: Neutral
SIZE: S (3' long)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil


BX STATS
ARMOR CLASS: 7
HIT DICE: 1+1*
MOVE: 30'(10')
ATTACKS: 1 bite or 1 special
DAMAGE: Poison
NO. APPEARING: 1
SAVE AS: Fighter:1
MORALE: 7
TREASURE TYPE: Nil
ALIGNMENT: Neutral

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Small/Self-Publishing Panel Audio - NTRPGCon 2015

I had chance to host a Small/Self-Publishing Panel at the most recent NTRPGCon. Even for an 8 a.m. session, we had a great audience turnout, which proves to me that plenty of folks out there in RPG-land are interested in putting out their own material, and more importantly, learning lessons from those that have come before.

I do want to thank all of the panelists again. I know many of them passed up drinking on Friday night in order to be there for the early start time on Saturday morning, and I just wanted to express again how greatly appreciated their presence was. This panel could not have happened without their valuable input and insight.

Panelists:
Richard LeBlanc - Save Vs. Dragon (blog) / New Big Dragon Games Unlimited (moderator)
Eric Hoffman - Stormlord Publishing
Trey Causey - From the Sorcerer's Scroll (blog) / Hydra Collective
Chris Kutalik - Hill Cantons (blog) / Hydra Collective
Jeff Talanian North Wind Adventures
Zach Glazar - Lesser Gnome Games
Robert Parker - Hydra Collective
Matt FinchMythmere Games

Directly following the audio player is a breakdown of the entire panel discussion with time notes so you can skip around to listen (or re-listen) to the parts you'd like.
Click here if you'd prefer to download the entire MP4 file (68M).


Introductions
00:00:00 Introduction to Panel (Richard LeBlanc)
00:01:22 Eric Hoffman introduction
00:02:03 Trey Causey introduction
00:02:40 Chris Kutalik introduction
00:03.58 Jeff Talanian introduction
00:06:18 Zach Glazar introduction
00:07:18 Richard LeBlanc introduction
00:08:45 Robert Parker introduction
00:09:15 Why publish? (Zach Glazar)
00:10:55 Matt Finch introduction

Kickstarter Discussion
00:15:05 Kickstarter Introduction
00:15:55 Kickstarter Advice (Robert Parker)
00:17:50 Kickstarter Experience (Trey Causey)
00:18:54 Why Kickstarter (Eric Hoffman)
00:20:30 Kickstarter Skepticism, Preparation and Lessons (Chris Kutalik)
00:23:47 Kickstarter Complexity—Research, Preparation and Backer Transparency (Zach Glazar)
00:26:10 Kickstarter Transparency with Backers, Kickstarter Fees, Shipping Costs (Jeff Talanian)
00:29:51 Kickstarter Shipping Costs (Zach Glazar)
00:30:46 Kickstarter Preparation & Kickstarter Backer Response (Matt Finch)

Getting Started as a Self/Small Publisher
00:32:40 Starting Small as a Self/Small Publisher (Richard LeBlanc)
00:34:27 Starting Small, Taking Next Steps, Getting Help (Eric Hoffman)
00:36:12 Getting Help (Richard LeBlanc)

Sales & Marketing
00:36:37 Question from Audience (Jim): Sales Ceilings
00:37:10 Sales Ceilings (Eric Hoffman)
00:37:57 Sales Ceilings, Sales Curves, Sales Strategies (Trey Causey)
00:39:22 Long Tail Marketing, Value of Bloggers/Google+, Marketing a Product, Value of Outside Input (Richard LeBlanc)
00:43:30 Product Development & Sharing that the Community (Jeff Talanian)
00:45:27 Importance of Word-of-Mouth Marketing vs. Sales Ceiling (Matt Finch)
00:48:30 Building an Audience/Customer Base, Value of Reviews (Richard LeBlanc)

Print Resources
00:50:05 Question from Audience: Print Resources
00:50:14 Print Resources, Lulu Issues (Richard LeBlanc)
00:51:30 Matt Finch Leaves
00:52:25 Print Resources, Lulu Issues, cont. (Richard LeBlanc)
00:53:26 Working with Box Suppliers (Zach Glazar, Jeff Talanian, Eric Hoffman)
00:57:04 Under/Over on Vendor Orders vs. On-demand Vendors (Richard LeBlanc)

Product Bootlegging/DMCA Take Down Notices/Legal Issues
00:57:26 PDF Bootlegging, Filing DMCA Take Down Notices (Richard LeBlanc, Jeff Talanian, Robert Parker, Trey Causey)
00:57:56 Bootlegging Experience, Cost of Product vs. "Free" Bootlegs (Jeff Talanian)
01:00:03 Unintentional Promotional Consequences of Bootleg PDFs (Robert Parker)
01:00:34 Cost of Product vs. "Free" Bootlegs, DMCA Take Down Process (Richard LeBlanc)
01:03:15 Unlicensed Use of Artwork from Product (Trey Causey)
01:04:02 Bootleg Anecdote (Jeff Talanian)
01:04:22 Secondary Problems with Friends Sharing Products (Richard LeBlanc)

Production Issues: Expenses (Art/Printing), Layout/Typography
01:05:00 Opening the Floor for Questions (Richard LeBlanc)
01:05:41 Question from Floor: Expenses (Justin)
01:05:54 Expenses Answers (Trey Causey, Eric Hoffman)
01:06:30 Importance of Good Production Values/Layout & Typography(Jeff Talanian)
01:07:34 Subtleties of Layout/Typesetting (Richard LeBlanc)
01:12:10 10,000 hours of Experience (Zach Glazar, Richard LeBlanc)
01:12:40 Value of YouTube Tutorials (Jeff Talanian, Richard LeBlanc)
01:31:32 Value of Purchasing Fonts (Trey Causey, RIchard LeBlanc)

Seeking Outside Assistance (Value/Cost)
01:14:53 Question from Floor: Value of Outside Assistance
01:15:26 Value of Proofreading (Zach Glazar)
01:17:03 Copy Editing/Line Editing (Chris Kutalik)
01:18:38 Editing (Trey Causey)
01:19:06 Value of Exterior Input (Richard LeBlanc)
01:21:01 Kickstarter Backer Input (Zach Glazar)
01:22:18 Value of Exterior Input, cont. (Richard LeBlanc)
01:2328 Robert Parker Offers His Assistance
01:23:47 The Black Shirt Conspiracy

Flexibility of Digital and POD Formats
01:24:07 Comment From Floor: Digital Format Flexibility/Speed of Updates (Justin)
01:24:33 Updating Petty Gods/Flexibility of Digital and POD Formats (Richard LeBlanc)

Wrap-Up
01:25:42 Wrap-up (Richard LeBlanc)