Monday, March 29, 2010

Customer Service

The RPG Blog II pointed out that MWP pricing for the Cortex .pdf didn't make any sense. So they changed the price!

My Kingmaker Pathfinder issue showed up with a broken spine, I emailed Paizo and they are sending me a new one.

Good customer service does still exist.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Old School Tweets

Anyone know of any good old school tweeters I should be following? I am rmckee78 on there too

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Porn Stars
Lion Tamers
Republican Congressmen
Southern Baptist Ministers
Yale Graduates
Music Critics
IT Professionals
Video Game Designers
Public School Teachers
Stay-at-home Dads
Garbage Men
Whale Trainers
American Idol Contestants
Pen and Paper Game Designers
RPG Bloggers

I'd gladly play D&D with any of you. Yes, even after this week RPG Bloggers.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stonehell: Advancement

I recently was asked in a comment if there was enough gold in Stonehell to support the training costs in OSRIC for gaining a level. According to the OSRIC rules it costs 1500 gp per level to gain a level in training costs. I am using the entourage system in my game so there are 4 players but each also has a dedicated henchman. I would like for there to be enough gold on the first level for all of the primary characters and main henchman to advance to level 2, even if some of the henchman don't get enough XP until later. This means there will need to be around 12,000 gp.

Some notes about my calculations:

1. This includes only the first level of the dungeon even though we also are playing the above ground areas.

2. I am including only treasure. I am not including the gold gained by selling weapons and armor taken off corpses. I am assuming that most of this goes to equipment, supplies, hirelings etc.

3. I am not including obscure things like selling natural resources to an alchemist.

Here are the rough amounts for each area:

1-A: 2700
1-B: 6500
1-C: 10000
1-D: 1483
Total: 20,734 gp

I am well over the required 12,000 gp. Even if they do not find all the treasure and some 2nd level characters die and additional expenses are incurred we have a good safety margin here.

So far it seems safe to apply training costs from OSRIC in Stonehell. In fact it almost seems like there would be too much gold laying around unless you do charge for training.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bad News for Catalyst

One of the RPG darlings of the last few years is in bad shape. From by way of Fear the Boot:

OK, as you may well have been able to surmise from release schedules, Catalyst Game Labs is in a bit of a financial pickle, and it is somewhat unlikely that they will retain the license to make Shadowrun products. This is not because Shadowrun hasn't been selling enough to cover expenses, but merely because a significant quantity of money is missing outright. Reliable sources put this figure at roughly $850,000. Which sounds like a lot, and it is. It is roughly 40% of Catalyst's entire sales for last year, missing over a three year period. There will of course be lawsuits, and there are already people drawing up legal documents accusing Loren Coleman of having hired people to construct an extension on his house through the company as "freelance writers" and somehow reporting an estimated $100,000 of convention sales as $6,000. Whether that is actually true or not is - of course - a matter for the courts to decide. And decide they presumably will.

But what that means for Catalyst as a company is pretty bad. It costs several dollars to print a book even when the pdfs are finished and ready for publication. A print run of say, 50,000 books (like the print run of Runner Havens) would cost somewhere between $150,000 and $250,000 to print and ship to distributors. And while it eventually sold to distributors at ~$15 a book (a total take home of $750,000), it did so over a period of three years, during which time they were paying interest on loans and paying for storage, and advertisement and so on and so forth. A book like that isn't actually taking home half a million in profits. Which is a bad thing, because it means that even if there was a complete book printed and ready to sell, even a total and rapid sell through would not pull the company out of the financial hole it is in - and the shortfall means that it does not have the cash on hand to start the ball rolling with a new major printing.

The tiny amount of drachmas that are left in the coffers are being used to print up tiny print runs of books that have sold through - another 3,000 books of Runner's Companion for example (~$15,000 to start up, maybe $30-40k towards paying creditors if it sells out). There simply is not the startup cash to bring upcoming books like the SR4 sixth world almanac or corporate guide forward. The writing is there, but the printing costs are not. Beyond that, the freelancers have not been paid, and some of them are withholding copyright until they are - meaning that even a tiny print run of these new materials is simply not possible.

Many SR writers are quitting, have already quit, or have handed in notices contingent on demands which - word on the street - will not be met. And CGL does not even own Shadowrun, it leases the intellectual property from Topps. It seems unlikely that they will be able to make their licensing payment when the contract comes up for renewal - in a couple of months. At that time, CGL will cease being able to print Shadowrun or Battletech materials (they would presumably keep the license to Cthulhutech and Eclipse Phase for at least a little while longer, because those are separate contracts).

So what does this mean for the future of Shadowrun? It probably means that someone else will create a company and start making Shadowrun again. After all, freelancers work for very little, and a well selling book can bring in tens of thousands of dollars in profits. $850,000 of embezzlement is seemingly enough to sink the company (whoever ended up with the credsticks), but I must point out that there was indeed eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars to steal, so Shadowrun is not - as a concept - insoluble. And I also point out that something similar happened to Shadowrun before. Indeed, twice before, as both FanPro and FASA before it collapsed under the weight of people not paying debts and having bags with dollar bill signs vanish mysteriously in the middle of the night. It's somewhat... poetic considering the subject matter of the game itself.

It is entirely probable indeed that when a new company comes to take the licence, many familiar faces will appear in the new company as if they had never left. Certainly back when FanPro collapsed back when I was working for the company, I simply started working for the new company as if nothing had changed. This happened back when FASA collapsed as well - those members of the team that were not extracted by Microsoft simply started turning in writing assignments to the new boss.

And yeah, I regularly go on shadowruns against Catalyst to find out what new releases are in store. Don't you?


Monday, March 8, 2010


Glad I am not the only one who likes thinking about them

Hackmaster GMG

I was going to review the Hackmaster books some time in the near future, but there is nothing I can say about the GMG that Labyrinthian didn't say here. The book is an excellent resource, it is full of great stuff no matter what version of The Game you are playing. I will probably still talk about it later, but I wanted to pass the link along.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Good Indoor Mapping Software

Anyone know a good program for making square graph maps? I know about Hexographer for outdoors stuff, is there anything similar for inside? I have some maps I want to be able to post on the blog.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Taming the Savage Beast: Dragon Subdual

Way back in the 1980s a young boy was paging through his Mentzer Basic Set and noticed a section about subduing dragons. You could fight them with the flat of your blade, and capture them. Even sell them for money. Oh the possibilities...

Historically there are two different methods for subduing a dragon, you can reduce it to 0 hp with subdual damage, or you roll against a ration of damage done over total HP. 4th Edition charts new and interesting territory on this subject.

Chainmail: While dragons are in the fantasy section of Chainmail, nothing is said about subduing them

OD&D: OD&D uses a ratio method where a ratio is kept of total damage done over the dragon's total HP. Each round percentile dice are rolled, if the roll is less than the ration the dragon is subdued. The rules cap the number of people attempting to subdue a dragon at 8.

The characters can choose to sell the dragon for 500-1,000 gp per hit point, or they can keep it in their own service. If they sell the dragon it leaves the game forever. If they keep it they must remain in a commanding position or it will attempt to escape or kill them.

AD&D 1st Ed.: The players must announce their intention to subdue before the start of combat. Silver, Gold, Platinum, and chromatic dragons cannot be subdued. I am fairly certain that by chromatic dragons they are referring to the monster known as a chromatic dragon (Tiamat) not the class of dragons known as chromatic.

1st Ed. uses the same ratio method as OD&D but allows 11 characters to attempt to subdue the dragon. A subdued dragon can be sold for 100-800 gp per hit point. Subdued dragons can be ridden. A dragon can stay subdued indefinitely as long as it is strongly held, well treated, allowed freedom and given treasure. Older, more powerful and spell casting dragons are more likely to turn on their holders and take their realms and holdings as their own.

Holmes: Characters can attempt to subdue a dragon only if it is encounter while it is asleep. They must inflict subdual damage equal to the dragons HP, but subdual damage does no change the dragons breath weapon damage. A subdued dragon can be sold (no guidance on price) or forced to serve. A dragon will only stay subdued for 1 month and will then attempt to escape.

Moldvay/Mentzer: This uses a subdual method similar to Holmes but makes some changes to what happens after the dragon is subdued. The dragon will attempt to escape if given a chance. The subdued dragon must be sold. The sell price is 1,000 gp per HP.

Rules Cyclopedia: Identical to Mentzer except it says "can be sold" where Mentzer says "must be sold"

AD&D 2nd Ed.: While this edition has non-lethal combat rules, I see no specific rules for subduing a dragon. That said, there are a lot of books for 2nd Ed. In fact there are several different versions of the Monster Book out there. It could be somewhere I did not look.

3rd Edition: Has subdual damage in general, but no specific mention of subduing dragons. It is possible that there are rules for this in the Dragonomicon. I am separated from my 3.x stuff by 700 miles and only had a 3.0 core set to work off of.

4th Edition: Rules for dragon subdual are given in the Dragonomicon: Metallic. A dragon is subdued when bloodied. The rules provide for scaling the rewards based on how many characters are bloodied. A subdued dragon will grant passage, aid, or information. The rules also provide for a Duel of Honor. Here the dragon knows ahead of time that the party is shooting for subdual and any characters that are bloodied must leave the fight.

Labyrinth Lord: Uses the method where it must be dealt enough subdual damage to reduce it to 0 HP. The dragon will attempt to escape unless restrained and can be sold for 1,000 gp per HP. The AEC suggests the ratio method be used.

OSRIC: Says that you can challenge a dragon to a fight till subdued.

Hackmaster: Has non-lethal combat rules but no specific subdual rules. They do have rules for selling and uses dragon bits though.

C+C Collector's Set: No mention of subdual of any kind.

S&W Core: Uses the reduce to 0 hp through subdual damage method. Says the dragon can be sold and will attempt to escape if not frightened or impressed.

S&W WB: No mention.

I'd like a method that combines the ratio method and adds the Duel of Honor. I'd want the method to have robust support for selling the dragon or forcing it to serve you.

I am a bit surprised that none of the methods is based on a morale system, even in editions where that system was present. The ratio method and 4E's method are the closest to dealing with it as a morale issue.

A Long, Strange Trip

Two ago a former player of min passed away. He was about 30 years older than me, so he would be in his early 60s now if he had lived. One of his children recently sent be a box full of hid RPG stuff. It is full of all kinds of cool old stuff as well as a DVD with a bunch of Judges Guild .pdfs. I have no idea how legal these .pdfs are but amongst them were some fan made products, including a few by Gabor Lux.

I have remarked before that Gabor Lux is very prolific in the two old school magazines and there have been several of his articles that I really enjoyed (in fact there is an adventure in FO5 that is great). I have been meaning to search around to see if he has a blog or website for a while and decided that this was the perfect time to do so.

While I did not find a blog or website my search brought up this very level headed review of Carcosa. This was something else I have been meaning to pick up so I started checking out some of the posts by Geoffrey on Dragonsfoot. I found two, about the possibility of using the Holmes box set as a complete game especially interesting (here and here). So I ordered Carcosa, I got my file last night and am going to make my booklet today.

But the original mystery is still unsolved, where can I find out more about Mr. Lux's Fomalhaut setting and does he have a blog or website?

Akso if anyone knows of any other cool posts like the ones I linked from Dragonsfoot let me know. I love that kind of stuff.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Whitebox Arrives

My Whitebox arrived today from Brave Halfling. It looks good, I have to go to class but I don't see any obvious quality issues. Let me tell you, it is chock full of stuff too.

Now I need to find a way to make Akrasia's Swords and Sorcery mods from Knockspell into a booklet that I can put in there.

I also want to get a copy of Carcosa, I have been reading a bunch of threads by "Geoffrey" on Dragonsfoot and I like this guy's style. I am not talking about the "mature content" stuff, I'll wait till I see that myself, I am talking about his ideas for the Holmes box set. More to come..