What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook - 7th Print Edition

Monday, April 3, 2017

Castles & Crusades: A $15 Players Handbook

I need more time to actually relax and enjoy myself. Castles & Crusades has been my go to FRPG for years now and I realize that it's been a over a decade since I've picked up my first Players Handbook for C&C. The book has gone through multiple printings and is gearing for a 7th print run right now on Kickstarter. In some ways, the book has changed a lot over the printings ... but not so much in terms of the actual content. You can gather a group of players each with different printing and still be on the same page as far as rules are concerned. It's a rules light game that is a good balance of what I was looking for.I love this game a lot.

I'll write more about the how the game feels mechanically in a couple of days. For now, I want to talk about the evolution of the Player's Handbook.

It started off as a booklet in a white boxed set. Before Swords & Wizardry had their white box and before other various OSR clones did their own white box tribute, Troll Lord Games did it first with their white, collectors edition box. Three booklets in a box containing all the basics you needed to play! It was a proof of concept as no one at that time had used the SRD and the OGL to recreate d20 version of the D&D game that was a nod to the classic versions of D&D that many people grew up with. Sure... it was rooted with a slightly more modern system design with ascending armor class and a unified d20 mechanic to resolve a variety of challenges, but it was so elegant when unhindered by the mountain of skills and feats and a requirement of miniatures that Third Edition forced you to contend with.

From there, the first printing of the Player's Handbook was made possible and... well... never had I seen a more abysmal display of layout and editing in a 'professionally' released gaming product. Had I come across Castles & Crusades in that guise, I would have closed the book and walked away. It was a more complete game and on par to contain some of the things one became accustomed to seeing in first edition AD&D.  Unlike the booklet that had the four core classes... the PHB had 13 classes in all... from Assassin to Wizard!  A much greater and detailed selection of spells as well as an array of demihumans to choose from.

I was one of the lucky ones though as I came upon C&C with the 2nd printing of the PHB.  The text was basically the same but it was finally laid out correctly and pleasant to flip through.  Both 1st and 2nd printings where black and white and printed on white paper. A good stock that took pencil (and ink) well which made some people happy. The game was new so there were errors and mistakes littered throughout the book. I have met more than one person that marked up their books accordingly. I was not one of those people.

The cover artwork began to change slightly with the third printing but the biggest change was the paper.  It went to a higher quality but thinner stock of paper while retaining the black and white look.  There were LITTLE variations to the text and the most significant change was to the poison tables.  The thinner stock also meant the books were slightly thinner as well. Many loves this new printing but others didn't care for it as much.

Up to this point, the books have also remained at a bargain selling at $19.95 a book. You could get the Players Handbook and the Monsters & Treasure book for the same price (if not cheaper) than the current 3rd Edition PHB!

The next printing was a big thing for Troll Lord Games though and they were making a concentrated push to expand the game. All books in their main line were getting reprinted and all sported the same dark olive green trade dress. The 4th printing of the PHB also represented the most changes in any of the printings. New material was added and a couple of classes got revamped. Notably, the Barbarian class moves away from being a berserker to a regular barbarian befitting a variety of cultures. The Monk on the other hand moved away from an oriental themed influence to a slightly more western one. There were new spell and multiclass options also presented in the volume. The book also saw a $5 price increase.

The 5th printing was another big step even if it was a bit of a misstep. It was the first printing of the PHB which would see color and the art and pages all got colorized. Have you ever seen a black and white movie that got colored after the fact?  It doesn't always work out does it. The same thing happened here. Some pages and pieces of art looked good while others looked worse. It was significant nonetheless and, aside from errata, no content changes happened here.

The last printing is probably the finest printing we have to date.  It is also full color but TLG went back and made sure the color was done perfectly.  It got an expanded page count but not so much because content, but because they chose to make the font slightly bigger and more legible. The font had always been on the smaller side for these books but the new look is bigger and crisper and suits the book very well. Some of the text was clarified a bit and a lot of errata was corrected. The book has a $39.95 price tag if I'm not mistaken but, given the quality of paper, color, and increased page count, no one should be surprised. In my case, I treated myself and made sure my copy was a leather copy.

I've owned easily a couple dozen players handbooks for C&C books over the years and often gift copies or even sell some of them second hand. I've kept my third printing, fourth printing, and definitely will be keeping my sixth printing. I like to see the book getting arguably better with each printing but I honestly figured that the 6th printing would be my last printing.

The current kickstarter is for the 7th printing and they got me by offering a collector's cloth edition with my name embossed on the cover. That sounds nice and I'm of course happy to support them.

Why should you support them? How does $15 for a full color hardcover sound?  That's right, they are planning a deep print run and, at the same time, want to thank current fans and supporters that might already have the books to allow for an inexpensive upgrade. They also think that $15 is a great incentive to buy the game to see if they like it. In other words not a lot of risk.

And there are stretch goals and add-ons to consider.

If it sounds like you might be tempted, I invite you to check out the current Kickstarter campaign HERE.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Day After Your First Kickstarter

Kickstarter has been around for awhile now and many people flocked to it thinking it a great way to make some money quick. People have seen many great Kickstarters come and go of varying degrees of success too. There are the ones with happy endings, there are the ones which are painfully late, and then there are the spectacular failures. As a backer, I have backed well over 100 campaigns now and MOST of those have had happy endings. A couple have languished in a special kind of hell and will likely never see the light of day. In other words, you win some and you lose some. Regardless, there are MANY lessons to take in.

In my case, I took a lot of things to heart when I put together my first Kickstarter to help fund the 'Mother of Mortals' novel. The first thing I did was not start a crowdfunding campaign before the book was finished! I only launched when I had the proofs in hand. That being said, they were the first proofs and a whole lot of corrections have gone in and I'm getting ready to send the files in to get a second set of proofs done. In other words, these additional corrections were done by the time the campaign ended last night!

The campaign made it's goal and the goal was deliberately set to be a modest one. $2,500 in Canadian Funds which works out to just under $1,900 USD. Arcana Elements, the imprint I set up under Arcana Creations for the publication of fiction and non-fiction is an unknown and $2,500 was a bit of a stretch but I had a good mix of tiers and this ultimately helped fund the project. Shipping charges were factored in the campaign as well and since the reward fulfillment has an anticipated quick turnaround, there shouldn't be any surprises. Since the majority of the rewards are being drop shipped, shipping costs were also kept relatively low too.

Advertising. Well, while we made our funding goal, if it wasn't for the collector's level tiers, I don't think we would have been as fortunate. I really hoped for more backers but, as an unknown publisher of fiction released a work by an unknown novelist, I can't complain either. Family and many friends help support the project but we did make some new friends as well and, if they really like the book, they are the some of the ones that may come back to the next one and bring a few more friends with them. I opted to limit financial investment towards advertising because I didn't see much use for it on social media. Facebook proved VERY frustrating though. While the initial cover art we released before the Kickstarter was shared and received many interactions, the moment I had a Kickstarter link, I quickly realized that only a FRACTION was being exposed to that post. Clearly, Facebook is interested in your advertising dollar. I did some paid advertising just to see if it would make a difference and it looks like I didn't end up losing money doing so but the net results would have been the same had I saved that money instead. It might make more of a difference if I dropped some serious cash but that is well beyond the scope of the projects I've been doing.

Now that the campaign is over and since the money won't be transferred to me for at least a couple of weeks, I can rest a bit. I will need to set up the surveys and begin gathering information and do a bit of work for the collector's hardcover (mostly set up the dustjacket) in the next week or so but, I think I can rest a bit and start thinking about other projects in the queue.

This Kickstarter has been quiet compared to other larger and fast paced ones but, between my regular 9-5 and getting the book finalized and running the campaign, I'm still pretty tired... but happy too.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Kickstarter: 10 Days Left for Mother of Mortals

Mother of Mortals Kickstarter

 As of right now we 88% funded!  And we still have 10 days to close the funding gap (a balance of $285!!).  I am pleased to see this.  Still a ways to go and, obviously it would be nice to exceed the funding goal as well.

So... where are we at with the book itself?  The second round of edits / fixes are being implemented and should be done in the next day or two.  An additional chapter is being put in based on some of the feedback we received as well and this should be in place during the course of the week.  All in all, we are almost ready for a second (and likely final proof) before the softcover trade goes into full production. The limited run of hardbacks we are doing will then undergo a similar proofing process before they are ready for production.  Thankfully, the interiors are pretty much identical for BOTH.

If you haven't pledged but you think you might be interested, I encourage you to check it out HERE.

If you want to read a sample, you can read the first chapter HERE.

Most importantly... please share and spread the word!  :)


Monday, March 6, 2017

The Essense of D&D and Skills

Lately, when I've been talking about the essence of D&D it's really about what is part of that D&D experience we all share when playing. Given that the game is essentially the granddaddy of tabletop role playing games, many things inherent with the system can be found in other systems and game that have come out over the years. If we consider core mechanics and game 'functions' from one flavor of D&D to the next, there are some common points found in ALL them. Again, these same things are even present in the newer retroclones and other games clearly derived or heavily inspired from it.

Armor Class, a 'Vancian' method of spellcasting, Hit Points, and class-based level advancement are core pillars to the game.  Efforts have been made to 'fix' perceived problems and many different games try to do so and sometimes become their own thing.  One thing D&D is not is a skills oriented game.

When the game first was making the round in the 70's, there was really no system of skills. However, as a precursor to second edition, both the Oriental Adventures book and the Dungeoneer Survival Guide introduced the concept of Non-Weapon Proficiencies. More was done with this in the Wilderness Survival Guide which helped to flesh the material out further. By the time it was decided move on to a second edition, a system of weapon and non-weapon proficiencies was finalized.

Here's the thing though... I don't really remember using or relying on this very much when I did play second edition and this was basically the system my friends and I used in conjunction with the older AD&D material and some Metzer era D&D sets. We also didn't use things like weapon speed factor either.  Weapons proficiencies did matter though and was a lot more relevant to what we needed for the game.  The only skills routinely used were the Thief skills which had it's own percentile sub-system.

Third Edition represented a shift.  It took the class skills away and put them all into a list to be chosen from during character creation.  Some classes had more points to spend on skills than others but the list was not exactly short, and there were different costs depending on your class and what you wanted to take.  Then there was something called 'synergy' between skills which affected other things. It was more book keeping but it was generally liked and yet, by Fifth Edition, the skill list didn't only get smaller but the amount of skills one could select from got severely cut down.

If we consider some of the games derived from D&D like Swords & Wizardry or Castles & Crusades, we find that there is no 'itemized' skill system during character creation aside from maybe some class skills like one would expect to find with the Thief / Rogue. These two games have become favorites of mine, in part because of the streamlined simplicity and philosophy of these games. These systems are not burdened with an extra level of depth by shoehorning a skill system.  Just like Original D&D, a skill system isn't really needed for this to play well.

Lately, I've been playing some Myth & Magic (a much maligned and failed Kickstater to bring out a retro-clone of second edition).  It's fun but that's because it brought the right pieces together for someone who played second edition for years. It too has a skill system which feels like a good compromise between the second edition proficiency system and third edition. There are many skills to chose from to give plenty of variety and choice.  However, the more I play, the more I wonder if such a system is all that necessary when compared to, say.. the mechanic used in C&C. Myth & Magic does fill the need of creating (on paper), a character which is more detailed in terms of character makeup. But again, is it strictly necessary?

So... on THAT note, apparently Troll Lord Games has sold out of their 6th print run of the Player's Handbook.  It's a great game and apparently they will fund the 7th printing via Kickstater in just over a weeks time (March 15th).  It is still my 'goto' FRPG that scratches that 'D&D itch'.  I imagine pricing will be much like their last printing which means $29.95 USD (a full color hardback) but there are always a few perks by doing this via the TLG Kickstater and, given this is a flagship product, it will be quickly funded, developed, and shipped.  I'll report more on that when it launches.

Finally, and speaking of Kickstarters, as I have mentioned before, our first published novel, Mother of Mortals, is currently being kickstarted! Feel free to check it out and spread the word! The first chapter of the novel is being offered for free via a link on the Kickstarter project page.  You can find the Kickstarter HERE.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mother of Mortals NOW ON KICKSTARTER !!

Mother of Mortals Kickstarter

Good evening to all of you... it is my pleasure to announce that the Kickstarter Campaign for Mother of Mortals: A Tale of the Nepheleid is now LIVE!

You can find the Kickstarter HERE

Remember that pledge levels are all in Canadian Funds which means the advantage of a stronger US dollar will make a difference.

Rewards start at $8 CAD for an electronic copy of the novel with the regular physical copy going for $20 CAD.

More details in the days and weeks to come.  This is a three week campaign.