Monday, December 28, 2015

Corrected Alpha Blue Files

I'll provide Kickstarter update links below, but here's the long and short of it: there was some weird layout stuff going on with the Alpha Blue PDF and print files.  Glynn and I (with the help of a couple KS backers) found other things to correct as long as we were dealing with vanishing commas.

I'm glad that this found its way into the book, because the Interstellar Caliphate entry alone might have been interpreted as Islamophobic, which was not my intent.  The Elvehjem Azahd came out of a conversation I had with a Muslim American soldier who wasn't exactly sure how to feel about Alpha Blue's treatment of "space Muslims".  He vetted (and was pleased with) the Elvehjem Azahd splinter-group which now appears on page 89.

Here is the pre-correction KS update.

And this is the post-correction KS update.

If you already purchased your CreateSpace softcover of Alpha Blue, please let me know where I can send the corrected PDF.  Also, I'd be happy to provide a reduced price softcover replacement once the print files have been approved.



p.s.  The CreateSpace print version of Alpha Blue is already fixed and available for purchase.  It also comes with a free PDF, just email me your receipt or order confirmation.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

CreateSpace Alpha Blue

Here is the link to the softcover Alpha Blue on CreateSpace (Amazon's print-on-demand service).  It usually takes 2 or 3 days from approving the proof - which I just did - for books to show up on Amazon itself.

And the proof looks great.  I love the subtle alien script and circuitry silhouettes in the background.  CreateSpace also uses a slightly thicker, cream-colored paper, which I happen to like, as opposed to the ordinary stark white paper of DriveThruRPG (it usually takes an extra week or two for the softcover to show up there).

If you purchase the print version via CreateSpace, send me proof of purchase (forward your receipt, invoice, or something so I know you did it) and I'll email you the PDF for free.


p.s. I thought this was pretty cool.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Price Point Backlash: The Cost of Awesome

If it had just been one or two isolated incidents, I wouldn't have written this post - but there were a small handful of outspoken gamers who seemed to be offended by the initial $14 PDF for Alpha Blue.

The straw that broke this particular camel's back was a guy named Tom L. who gave the book a 2 star rating and a sentence fragment bitching about the expense.  Scroll down this page if you'd like to admire Tom's work.

That seems strange to me for a variety of reasons... and here they are:

Both The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence and How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss were roughly around the same page count and both of them started at a higher price than $14 for the PDF.

1.  As you can see by the visual aid in the top right corner of this post, I had lunch at Paisan's today.  With tip (cause I'm not that much of an asshole), I paid a little over $14 for a sandwich and mountain dew (I also paid a dollar for parking in the ramp).  That seems normal to me.  Sure, I could have lunched for less, but I like nice mid-range places that aren't too low or high.  Is a full-sized RPG book (even an electronic one) not worth the price for lunch?  Maybe it depends on where one lives...

2.  Most gamers actually prefer PDF.  The sales bare that out (or is that "bear"?).  I'm not sure if the vast majority of PDF customers are aware, but if the print version costs more than $5 than the PDF, that's the publisher (not the print-on-demand manufacturer/distributor) punishing those who want their product in print.  They simply want more money.  I usually price my softcovers at $4 more than the PDF and that's only to cover the extra printing costs of DriveThruRPG and Amazon.

But back to my original point, the PDFs are more popular.  So, why would anyone ask how I can charge so much for "only a PDF".  It's not like the Alpha Blue PDF is written on virtual toilet paper.  It's the electronic version.  That has real value and, in some cases, it's what customers would rather have.

3.  I put in a lot of effort for that $14 PDF.  I estimate about 4 months and 100 hours with the combined total of artist and layout hours coming in at about half that amount.  That doesn't necessarily mean Alpha Blue is any good, but my creative sweat should count for something.

4.  If I had priced the book at $12, would that have prevented the backlash?  I don't know, probably.  If I could go back in time and price it at that, I would.  But if I now reduced the price by $2 after less than a week of the PDF's release, would the original buyers be pissed?  I have no idea.  I might, if it were me.  I'd love some feedback on that front.  Typically, I slightly reduce the price of my books after they've been "on the shelf" for 2 or 3 months.

5.  Alpha Blue is an 8.5" x 11" book, rather than the typical 6" x 9".  I think that makes a bit of difference.  The PDF is bookmarked (a Kort'thalis Publishing first!), and there are awesome maps and character sheets that Glynn Seal of +MonkeyBlood Design created.  Without buying the game, you can download them for FREE!!!

Hopefully, this doesn't come off as an angry rant or screed.  I'm genuinely curious to know if I missed something, am out of touch with the times, or have a valid point.  Perhaps the economy is worse off than I thought?

In any case, I'm extremely grateful for the original backers of this Kickstarter project, those who've already paid good money to acquire the PDF at DriveThruRPG, the ones waiting for a print version, and everyone who has supported me over the years.  Thanks, y'all!


p.s.  I threw a little Alpha Blue bonus content up on Draconic Magazine yesterday.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Alpha Blue PDF Released

Obviously, there's big stuff happening in space opera news this month.  From here to eternity, December 18th, 2015 shall be remembered as the day that Alpha Blue's PDF went live.

Seems like there was some other bit of space opera business going on... but I can't remember what it was.  Oh well, probably wasn't important.

Reviews should be filtering in soon.  If you've had a chance to look it over, let us know what you think of Alpha Blue!  My wife asked me this morning how it scales with my previous books.  It's really hard for me to tell.  You guys will have to be the judge.  However, I did tell her that I personally believe it to be one of my best.

This is the most sci-fi of all my works.  So, it should benefit those who want to keep the science fantasy balanced (since most of my earlier stuff leans towards fantasy).  For those Kort'thalis Publishing fans who always wanted tables for coming up with an alien species, mutations, and sexual positions.  Your long wait is finally at an end.  ;)

Here is the KS update where I provide links to the space station and starship plans.

Here is the KS update where I provide the Alpha Blue character sheets.


p.s.  Print versions of the book should be available in early January.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Who's In Charge Here?

Usually, +Kasimir Urbanski (aka TheRPGpundit) and I see eye-to-eye on things (RPGs, magic, entertainment, etc).

Recently, he blogged about the insidiousness of "narrative control"... or allowing the players to dictate what happens during the game.  In my opinion, his argument became a bridge too far.  Or, at least, it appeared as though he was throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  I thought it worthwhile to point out my disagreement.  Perhaps it's not really a disagreement at all, but a slightly different perspective.

At this point, some of you might be scratching your head, wondering what the hell he's going on about.  Well, back in the 00's, a particular niche of the RPG community gained a certain amount of prominence.  Enough to sustain an indie, albeit short lived RPG industry.  Do people still buy Sorcerer, Dogs in the Vineyard, and My Life With Master?  I have no idea.  But only a decade ago, such games were considered moderately popular.

The basic idea was that players could GM just as well - if not better - than the GM himself, dipping their creative control oars in the water (either whenever they felt like it or when the game's rules gave them permission).  Also, sessions and campaigns should focus on weaving a story, rather than the fun or strategy of  treating RPGs like a game.  Additionally, the emulation of a certain genre or format had to take a backseat.  This new philosophy of roleplaying was closely aligned with The Forge, an online forum that propagated these ideas.

One of the more inflammatory statements coming out of the narrativist / story-game movement was that D&D caused brain damage.  By that, I believe, they meant that older (70's through 90's) RPGs were "badly designed" and did not fit in with the Creative Agenda of Narrativism, even going so far as to compare what we commonly understand to be the roleplaying game experience to child molestation.  Really?  WTF, guys!?!

Thankfully, that whole era of RPG design turned out to be a dead-end and pretty much petered out by 2010.  There's still an understandable amount of hostility aimed at those still preaching player narrative control.  Although, there must be so few storygame holdouts that I wonder why RPGpundit even bothers.  Still, it does us well to remember our history, lest we are doomed to repeat it.

I think we can all agree on the following...

  1. Player agency is a good.  Players continually forcing their ideas onto the GM and the game world is bad.
  2. There shouldn't be any kind of absolute law that binds the Game Master to a particular rule, play style, or game mechanic.
  3. Immersion is important for the roleplaying experience.

On the first point, I don't believe "the danger of player-agency over the [game] world" is as much a danger as RPGpundit supposes.

On the second point, player and character wants should have an influence on the game, but to a much lesser extent than what Ron Edwards would have us believe (though, I'm not sure even he believes in that type of thing anymore).  That doesn't mean GMs should just roll over anytime the PCs want something, but every once in awhile, the "living world" should conform to their will.  Think of it as the Law of Attraction, if that helps.  The real world occasionally conforms to our individual and collective will, so why not a roleplaying game?

The GM should never be a slave to the players or any agreed-upon dramatic arc.  He's the boss, benevolent dictator, or good king.  One part entertainer, one part narrative coordinator, and one part referee.  I'm of the opinion that players frequently have good ideas and that it doesn't do the game any harm to occasionally use their suggestions.  Which brings me to...

Number three - immersion is not lessened by rolling dice to decide if such and such a thing exists, occurs, or reacts a certain way.  The GM has a lot on his plate and he knows the game world better than anyone else at the table... and yet, how could he know for certain if a book on a particular subject is contained in a 1,000 book library (let alone a 10,000)?  Shouldn't the gods decide such things more often than not?  What about the oracular power of dice?

After all, isn't the library and all the books it contains real (in our imaginations, if nothing else) while simultaneously being a minor backdrop in a larger story?  I mean, the point of this hypothetical adventure isn't - I hope - to explore a library.  Chances are, it's the saving of a princess, acquiring more credits, or protecting the city from some unspeakable thing.  In essence, the library serves the story.  But that doesn't mean a GM who allows a PC to find a botany book is a slave to the story or that particular player.

While RPGpundit isn't against rolling to see if a book on botany can be found in the library, my preference is to always roll when the outcome is a gray area.  Just as I'm likely to roll (see my 33% solution in How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss) every time a player brings up a question or suggests something that's not only possible but intriguing, as well.

To me, that's part of what makes it a "living world".  The idea that a GM might lose his authority or ruin the immersion because of his flexibility and fluidity seems absurd to me.

As to the distinctions between a fictional world and virtual world, that will probably have to be its own blog post.  Defining "reality" is not easy.

In conclusion, this is just a snapshot impression of the gigantic discussion issuing from his aforementioned blog post and my thoughts on the matter.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

New Investigative Horror Scenario

I finished the text for Alpha Blue last week.  Glynn is almost finished doing the layout.  [Get your interview questions submitted now, before it's released!]

I had last Saturday free for roleplaying but didn't know what to run.  These days I only get to GM about twice a month.  So, it makes sense that I would come up with a little something and use my upcoming session as a sort of preliminary playtest.

There were so many different genres, products, systems, and worlds to choose from, but I ended up deciding on The Outer Presence.  Partly due to a conversation I had with +Brandon Watkins months ago about reptile people within the hollow earth and my desire for a humorous ripoff of Delta Green.

The system for The Outer Presence takes place in our modern world around the 1970's, investigating weird and horrifying stuff.  However, I envision the game to be more like The Tomorrow People or Jon Pertwee era Doctor Who than Call of Cthulhu - even though Lovecraft will always be a huge influence on my writing.

Character creation was short and sweet, providing a balanced group of a-holes, wack-jobs, and addicts.

The scenario I concocted contains reptoids disguised as humans (did some research on David Icke and his conspiracy theories), time travel to the far future, shoggoth-like nastiness, and an agency that monitors all the crazy stuff influencing our world, its people and culture.

All I had was a couple dozen bullet points.  So, it was short, and there was quite a bit of improvisation on my part.  Some things didn't fit as neatly into the scenario box as I had anticipated.  But the players were excellent, driving the play forward and occasionally making cool suggestions - like the translucent strands hanging from the ceiling - having them worm their way into the pilot's orifices was a stroke of genius.  I believe my friend, +Tim Virnig came up with that one.

Anyways, it was a good time.  TheRPGpundit recently reviewed How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss.  In my opinion, he was dead wrong about the d100 table of colors.  That happened to be the only random table I rolled on all session.  The non-human PC (I sort of pictured him looking like 70's David Bowie) was shot during the adventure and his blood turned out to be mauve.  Mauve, damn it!  That's an important detail.

All ended well.  The PCs were even asked to join a secret organization who watches the watchers, none other than Theta Chartreuse!

When I'm finished with the scenario, it should have enough meat on its bones to support about 6 hours of play.  If it's somewhere between 10 - 20 pages, it'll probably just be a PDF.  If it spirals out of control into something larger, there will be a print version available this Spring.

Thanks for reading!


p.s.  Almost forgot... here's my favorite quote of the session, "As you manhandle her through the portal, her heaving reptoid bosom is exposed."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Q&A with Dan Davenport

The prolific RPG reviewer, Dan Davenport, virtually sat down with me yesterday to ask me questions about stuff.  Mostly about The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, but our discussion wasn't confined to just that.

I also fielded a few questions from others in the chat room.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Science Fantasy

What's up, guys?  It's been awhile, hasn't it?  Did you miss me?  Is this blog post going to be nothing but questions?  Hmmm?

Basically, all I want to do is shout my appreciation for an internet essay written in February of this year.  It's about science fantasy and it's pretty awesome.  About the only 80's science fantasy stuff they didn't reference was The Ice Pirates and Starchaser: The Legend of Orin.

But that's ok because this article gives the former its day in space court.

Yeah, both of those are worth reading.


p.s. Regarding my upcoming sci-fi parody Alpha Blue, the art is done and the writing should be finished tonight.  Next stop - layout city (it's like suffragette city and space city combined... except with less suffragettes, less space, and more layout).