Saturday, March 31, 2018

The New Legend of the Galactic Heroes Debuts This Week

The new series debuts on Japanese TV this week. Of course this means subtitles will come within days. (It's that fast now.) Yet I still feel a sense of dread. Oh, hey, here's the new Opening Theme song...

Oh dear.

*deep breath*

Send brandy. All the brandy.

Friday, March 30, 2018

World Class Bullshitters: Vice Admiral Gender Jedi - WCBs116

Disney can't stop dumping on the fans and this week is no different. We also discuss the validity of flat earthers....sorry

Disney can't stop raping Star Wars' corpse.

And yes, this franchise is kill. Between the financial information and the exposure of how much a train wreck the Solo film is, you know good and well that this franchise is kill. Mouse Wars: A murder wearing the skin of a once-great franchise to use it to lure the unwary to their deaths.

And that's just the news on Mouse Wars. There's more.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Super Robot Wars X is Out in Japan! English Version SOON!

Super Robot Wars X is out in Japan. That means the English version comes out in less than a month. Time for some hype.

I am hyped. I loved the hell out of V, so I'll be there with bells on when this available for Anglophonic players.

Hopefully the story bears out its premise, and all of the included properties manage to work well as they did in V, but we'll soon see how that shakes out. Gameplay videos from the Japanese release already flood YouTube.

But there's another reason to pay attention: to see what #AGundamForUs has to do to get outside our own niche.

The narratives for these games are mashups, but they've gotten smarter over time and paying attention to how a given game's story mashup worked (and why) will go a long way towards figuring out what genre elements have resonance with the audience, which don't, and why.

The previous game built its mashup around the plot of Space Battleship Yamato 2199 as the frame. Every other series had its plot blended into it, including the original plot created for the game. At this time, I don't know what the framework is for X, so I am curious to see how they're blending together so many different properties (and what decisions they're making) because if the writers for the SRW games can show me something useful for my efforts then why not pay attention and learn what they've got to teach?

Remember that, though we deal in prose, we're working with a medium that is usually visual (Manga) or audio/visual (Anime) in its most popular forms. This has to include relevant videogame adapatations, and none in the mecha world is bigger than Super Robot Wars. Even if you don't play any of them, catch a play through if you can, preferably with a host or chat audience that knows the lore (if you don't), so you can see first-hand what's been done with X as a story. Then go watch the sources they mashed-up for this game (and others).

Think of this as part of scouting the audience, as market research, because you're going to succeed if you get what they're after here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

BattleTech: We Have a Release Date!

Speaking of #AGundamForUs, here's today's good news:

Looking forward to it (and to a machine that can run it). Good luck, Harebrained!

If this hits, and I expect that it will, then I think the expansion will go much like the original tabletop wargame did: with dense urban maps, then with player-controlled non-Mech units, and finally a related game that's all about the AeroSpace experience. Now that Harmony Gold is no longer a relevant concern, I hope that the other games using this property come to market soon (and don't suck).

Which means we're due for a new wave of tie-ins to promote the game, and that also means that more momentum for #AGundamForUs (however removed).

Monday, March 26, 2018

Time To Get Off The Reservation Before It Becomes a Death Camp

Who needs schlock horror? This is plenty to terrify you.

Click through and read the entire thread. Take notes, especially if you are a heavy smartphone/tablet user or on Windows 10.

When you're done with either draining the liquor store or being released from the mental ward, read on.

This is why it is imperative that Alt-Tech get supported here and now. I already swapped to Brave for my browser, DuckDuckGo for search, and have accounts at Gab, Minds, Steemit etc. I remain on Twitter and YouTude due to Network Effect isssues, and I avoid Facebook outside of linking to the blog these days. If I get banned from SocJus Media, I'll be okay.

The problem right now is Google. That CIA front did a great job of inserting itself into the center of Normienet, and getting out of it if you don't have disposable income to spare is very difficult. Between Search, email, and video (YouTube)--all provided at high quality for free to users--it's not surprising to see that most people opted in out of convenience.

What Alt-Tech has learned is that convenience is a big thing driving the Network Effect. If Grandma can use it with aplomb, then your network growth is going to be HUGE once a critical mass come on board, so you just need to hammer that home until you get there.

In short, Massive Network = Noob-Friendly World of Casualcraft.

Gab's showing signs that it will manage to be so positioned once Twittter's convergence rots itself so badly that it collapses. DuckDuckGo is just as easy as Google, but without the bullshit filters Google does to keep users in their own bubbles. The various YouTube replacements, in iterative fashion, are learning that convenience is key and that means a user interface that is easier than YouTube's to master as well as policies and (increasingly) technologies that make censorship impossible.

All that's needed now is a top-level host that can't cave to SJW pressures (official or otherwise), and we'll have everything but the financing sorted. For that, we'll need Alt-Banking to step up.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

World Class Bullshitters: The Decline of Star Wars

You know there's nothing on TV today, so here's both parts of the World Class Bullshitters series on the decline of Star Wars. Settle in, have your notepad handle, and get informed.

Friday, March 23, 2018

World Class Bullshitters: Mouse Wars Messes Itself Some More

It's Friday. Unless you're into Ancient Aliens, chances are good that there's nothing on TV worthy of you attention. That's where the World Class Bullshitters come in, and man do they have an episode for you this week.

In this episode, see:

  • How Mouse Wars put mission-critical plot elements into the audiobook of The Last Jedi but not the movie.
  • How Mouse Wars introduced elements that fundamentally undermine the entire paradigm of the setting.
  • How Mouse Wars demonstrated such fundamental incompetence at storytelling that no one involved is fit for purpose.

It gets worse. Have booze handy, folks.

There's a bonus. Here's part one of a two-parter on the decline of Star Wars; I'll post part two when it's up.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

We Were Warned: The Tells in the Opening Sequences of our Entertainment

YouTube makes it easy to follow the change in the anime world over the decades. Anisong is sufficiently popular that several users make playlists or clip videos showing plenty of them along a theme. This one? Gundam openings, starting a PS2 remake of one of the original series' openigns and ending with Iron-Blooded Orphans.

You can see in these openings theme sequences all of the tells that JD Cowen and others have talked about previously about how the business went wrong since the late 1990s. You can also see in similar playlists how the 70s Super Robot scene went stale as the years progressed, allowing the original series to break out despite its first run being less than successful.

It's not just the animation techniques and quality. You can see in the music and lyrics the same tells of a healthy or ailing culture at the time of production. What you see here in the opening does give you a sense of what the show proper is like; for those skilled in composition of artwork, you can glean vital information just by watching the openings.

The first impression you get from the opening is often the correct one, with the times you go wrong often the result of deliberate concealment or subversion of audience expectations. Go take a stroll around Anime YouTube, focusing on openings and endings, and you'll find the patterns that let you see at a glance what we've been talking about the last couple of days.

And yes, this is not confined to the mecha shows.

So when you're going about making your contributions to #AGundamForUs, don't be shy about making a playlist of show themes, sequences, etc. that have the vibe you want. For example, I'm clearly taking this as inspiration:

And this:

In addition, of course, to this:

And plenty of non-anime influences. The ingredient list is not a short one.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Time To Build Our Own Mecha, Boys

Brian Niemeier wrote a post at his blog today commenting on a Gigguk video documenting the decline of mecha anime as a genre.

He's not wrong. Neither is Gigguk.

Left unsaid is this: fixing the issues is on us. We have to step up to fix the problem, and that means "culturally appropriating" the HELL out of this genre. Just as we've now got #StarWarsNotStarWars going on, it's time for #GundamNotGundam (or whatever your show of choice is) and that means it's on the indie world to write the stories (with proper pacing and other elements noted as too-often lacking) that blow up good and hard into the next mecha anime revival wave (something not seen for over a decade).

While it's not all wrack and ruin, it's clearly not as good as things once were and the institution lacks the ability to renew itself at this time due to entirely external influences holding down any good will from more than a few established franchises. The same tells of an ailing culture are in play here, most importantly being the persistence of retrenchant dominant franchises and other established IP while original works are more miss than hit.

Despite their missteps, both the Gundam and Macross franchises remains #1 and #2 in the category overall. Gundam wrapped up Iron-Blooded Orphans not that long ago (and its English dub run concludes in a month in North America TV), has had nothing but praise for both Thunderbolt and Origin (One-Year War retreads), and another Build Fighters is due soon. Macross Delta did well enough, and now we're looking at some anniversary works being talked about, but the #2 franchise has hit a lull and that's worrisome. We just had a new Mazinger Z feature film released globally, and the other famous giant robot franchises remain regular presences in the Super Robot Wars series of games.

Meanwhile, folks watching Darling in the FranXX (sic) complain about the plot, characters, etc. on the regular in the weekly Reddit threads.

The new shows feel a lot like the anime versions of a Fantasy Heartbreaker tabletop RPG. They have a gimmick, but otherwise build around a feel from one of the dominant franchises, so you're looking at "Like Gundam, but (x)." and that sometimes isn't enough. (The Super Robot era of the 70s had this problem something bad, which is why the original Mobile Suit Gundam was such a welcome change.)

But we don't need to wait for Japan to unfuck itself. We can do this ourselves now, starting with the writing and publishing of the novels a lot of anime (of all genres) use as source material. From there it's not that far to move into independent manga production, or into making our own audio productions. Only the actual anime production itself remains a Bridge Too Far for most of us at this time, and that will resolve itself as the tools become cheaper to acquire and the skills easier to learn and master. (We already have a few examples of short anime productions that hit, such as Voices of a Distant Star from over 15 years ago. It can be done.)

And I'm already on it. You folks are welcome to join the party.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tabletop RPG Publishing: Unless a Black Swan Hits, Don't Do It For Money

The medium of tabletop RPGs is one of the strongest examples of The Network Effect outside the Internet and Telephones. The reason is obvious: a tabletop RPG is worthless without other people to play it with. This means that as soon as one specific games acquires a majority position within a marketplace it becomes very hard to disrupt, such that you have to wait for the dominant game to sabotage itself to have any chance at usurping its position.

This is why Dungeons & Dragons has remained the #1 tabletop RPG since 1974. Even its brief faltering in the late 1990s, and its stumbling in 2008, didn't really lead to its fall- and, in fact, the only real competition it has ever faced has been by its own prior editions (including Paizo's off-brand knock-off, Pathfinder).

Different genres have their own dominant games. Horror is the realm of Call of Cthulhu, and Science Fiction in general is the realm of Traveller. Shadowrun dominates cyberpunk, and mecha games start with Mechwarrior (the RPG for BattleTech) due to the dominance of the source wargame to this day. Then there's RIFTS, which is a beast to itself that dominates Kitchen Sink games. It is easier to find groups for these games than for damn near any competitor.

This is why making a tabletop RPG, if you are not one of these games, is rarely smart to do as a stand-alone product. You do them solely as adjuncts for a larger property, as self-sustaining support for the source property, in order to satisfy a secondary audience that is friendly to the source but otherwise can't engage it as they like.

Why do I say this?

Because there are levels of tabletop RPG publication that one should consider before jumping into it. The guy behind Basic Fantasy is at the hobbyist level; he makes just enough to ensure that this effort pays for itself. That's fine, and most people who do tabletop RPGs would be best off aiming for that modest level of success. This is also where those who produce playable content for an RPG adaptation of a larger media franchise ought to aim- including the big boys using big media properties.

Trying to make a profit? Now you're in for it, unless you're the one with the dominant network of users. There is only one sensible way to do this: find an empty niche, and fill it so that YOU are the dominant brand for that niche. That's how those not-fantasy RPGs got their positions. Not even Warhammer can produce an enduring tabletop RPG, and they're THE fantasy wargame brand.

Far too few get this, which is why so many try and fail to make it in this business. I've seen so many come and go that I know better than to try to roll that boulder uphill.

So, when I get around to publishing my own, I'll take the self-sustaining side-project approach. I'll do it so people who read my stuff can engage in their own adventures in my sandbox, and thereby get more out of the setting material I create for the stories and any revenue I get will be a pleasant supplement and not a necessary mission statement.

Monday, March 19, 2018

World Class Bullshitters: The Truth About The Last Jedi's Box Office

Time for some Hollywood math, courtesy of the World Class Bullshitters.

It's not good news for Mouse Wars or Culty Kathy. The revenue targets display marksmanship quality that makes Stormtroopers look competent. In a sane and competent corporation, Culty Kathy would be hanging from the neck until dead for her gross incompetence- and then the husk burned on a funeral pyre- a fate guaranteed when the Han Solo movie fails to meet expectations and bombs good and hard.

Disney isn't run by an inoompetent twat. Bob Iger will cut her loose soon, if only to save his own ass, and hopefully clear out the Story Group with her and thus end the infestation of Social Justice Bullshit. The decline and fall of Star Wars is the biggest example running of a phenomenon that will soon be known far and wide by these words:

Get Woke, Go Broke

It's time to blow up the Mouse Star. Bring this Narrative Warfare front to an end. Sink Solo.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Tabletop RPGs Are Not For All Things: Why Mecha Tabletop RPGs Suck

Palladium lost the Robotech license. There's been some talk about someone else picking it up. There's been talk about just getting a license for Macross. After some consideration, I think it'd be best to not pursue either property for use in publishing a tabletop RPG.


Because, as with BattleTech, the appeal is the giant robots going at it. Not being an idol singer. Not being a bridge bunny. Not being a useless twat that doesn't get to have any shot against the enemy. It's all about being a mech pilot--a literal mech pilot--and that means you want a wargame. (This is why BattleTech is best as a wargame, and the RPG is a joke.)

This is why there is far more action--and success--with videogame adaptations of various sorts than tabletop games. It's also why even the most well-known tabletop RPG examples remain obscure at best compared to Dungeons & Dragions; the combination of a narrow space for viable gameplay vs competing media alternatives shows that tabletop RPGs are a bad medium to make that happen.

All of the things you can do in a comic or anime series to make a mecha fight sequence engaging don't work in tabletop RPGs; the players don't want the bullshit storygaming fake drama, don't care, and will kick it in the kidneys until it pukes up blood and dies if forced to deal with it. Why? It's not fun. Giant robots blowing each other up with extreme violence is fun. Videogames do that better. Boardgames do that better. Miniature wargames do that better. Tabletop RPGs, despite being a wargame derivative, are shit at it by comparison, so it is not hard to figure out why they don't succeed.

You have to blend giant robots into other genres to get any traction, and even then they tend to drag things down because players want to get on with the giant robot smashing. It's that dominant of an influence, which is why you don't see many genre-blends that include them, and counter-balancing it requires equally-dominant elements. (Yes, I just explained why RIFTS can and does work, whereas Splicers does not.)

So let them go. Let all other properties where there is a similar phenomenon going on go. Tabletop RPGs, as a medium, are not for all things. Let the bad fits go and you'll be better off for it.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

What a Tabletop RPG Needs To Be Now: Part 7

It's time to bring this home. What does a tabletop RPG need to be now?

  1. Online: Your customers go to your site, where you link to the System Reference Document you maintain. That document is where all the rules and mechanics that you use in the content that they buy is found, and because you maintain one master document you never need to make new editions. Your game is evergreen in every way that matters, and people LOVE stability in products that they use- and you don't need the cost or overhead of a print publishing operation or a physical retail hustle to make this happen, so don't.
  2. Simple: Your design needs to something a prospect needs to come into cold (no preparation) and stupid (no prior knowledge or experience), and go from sitting down to playing in five minutes or less. That prospect needs to be engaged within 10 minutes, and well on their way to familiarity within an hour. "Character sheet" means a page out of a notepad or spiral-bound notebook that you use in school, not a custom-made form that rivals IRS tax returns for complexity. Embracing liminality makes this happen.
  3. Regular Content Production: This is what makes you the money. Publish playable content early and often, putting it out there where customers actually shop online: Amazon. Give away the rules; sell the content- and sell it cheap so it's an evergreen impulse buy (That means $5 or less, usually $3 or less.) This is a core way you adapt the Galaxy's Edge model to serve your purposes. The ideal is something new every month.
  4. Strong Support for Game Masters: This is going to be something you spend a lot of time doing on the site, on your Twitch and YouTube channels, and so on. You do this, and you will increase your business by making prospects confident in their ability to run the game- not just play it. In time, you can get into the business of curating the best fan-made stuff; the more that people play your game, the more you can find ways to sell them content that they will want to buy.

If this can be summarized as "Original or Basic D&D's product size and complexity, but regular support in the form of convenience products and free skill development." then you're on the right track. Cultivate a play culture that supports open table gameplay, no time commitment (which is what boardgames and videogames use to compete favorably over tabletop RPGs right now), and otherwise actively recreate the original gameplay paradigm wherein tabletop RPGs facilitated their explosive growth. Replicate the conditions for success, and you will re-experience that success.

This is what it has to be now: digital, persistent, convenient, cheap, and simple. Get in and playing in the time it takes to boot up a PS4 and sdownload a game to the drive, or get dumped for alternatives that do just that.

Friday, March 16, 2018

What a Tabletop RPG Needs To Be Now: Part 6

The best practices in tabletop RPG design focus on making the most of liminality. (See the AD&D post on the sidebar.) This is why a game's rules and mechanics are best when they are few and easily applied to a wide variety of specific circumstances, making it really a rubric for the Game Master to issue rulings in a consistent manner. You want just enough substance to establish a context one can build upon, but stop well before your gameplay experience is more about working mechanics (Mech Piloting) than engaging the situation in terms of natural everyday language.

Take a look at the Basic D&D sets of Moldvay/Cook and Frank Mentzer (BECMI or Rules Cyclopedia) for the lighter end of practical, and AD&D's 1st edition for the heavier end- and then write your technical manual explaining how to use it in clean, simple language. You will see that this is what Wizards of the Coast aimed for with D&D's 5th edition. For all its faults, Palladium Books nailed the liminality aspect; it's part of the reason it's endured so long despite bad leadership and other chronic errors (such as how those books are organized).

What does this come down to in practice?

  1. Keep It Simple, Stupid: Your prospect should go from "What's this?" to playing their first game, with a character they created from scratch, in five minutes. Every last element in that process should be as simple and brick-to-face obvious as it gets, and the fundamental gameplay experience needs to be just as simple. You're selling virtual experiences, not storytelling bullshit (You will lose to competing media every single time if you try that.), so remember the wargaming roots of tabletop RPGs and focus on engagement with the situation at hand--upon "What Do You Do?"--and taking any urge to do otherwise out behind the woodshed to beat into a pulp and then drown to death in a vat of horse piss.
  2. Doing, Not Being: The game is about doing shit, not sitting around bullshitting about things that aren't doing shit while pretending to be someone else or engaging in writing room exercises while pretending to be playing a proper RPG. That's one of the elements playing into the continued domination of D&D; you're playing the game to seek adventure and recover treasure, becoming stronger if you succeed. In the course of pursuing objectives, you're going to do a lot of varied things; negotiate here, fight there, explore this place, develop that one, etc.- a swiftly-changing set of activities that otherwise require separate minigames to handle as competing media doesn't do liminality well (if at all), but tabletop RPGs do when made just right.
  3. Help the Game Master: The man running the game is the critical component. You need to give him all the help that you can so he can competently handle the liminality of the medium, and a lot of that can't be done with mechanics or rules; he needs confidence to make that happen, and confidence comes from acquiring familiarity with a thing. Take the time to talk directly to prospective GMs, and show them how it's done- another reason for you to engage via blog posts, podcasts, and videos/livestreams. Don't just give him a hammer; show him how to use it properly.
  4. Know Your Limits: In tabletop RPGs, the real limits aren't the rules or mechanics. It's the subject matter that limits the game; know the borders of your subject matter, and respect those limits. Don't sell someone Not Star Wars and then turn around to do Not Resident Evil- something a lot of people who really ought to know better somehow fail to comprehend, always to their detriment. On a related note, know your limits as a designer and publisher; if you can't do something properly, get help. You can work on improving your skillset after the immediate need has passed. (Related: Pay whom you hire well and treat them right. You not only get what you pay for, you are more likely to get more people wanting you to hire them down the road.)

Do this and you'll have something people will want to play, and content they will pay you for so they can play it without making a second hobby out of it. This means we're about to bring it all home. Tomorrow.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

What a Tabletop RPG Needs To Be Now: Part 5

All this effort doesn't mean a damned thing if no one knows you're there. That's what the hustle is about.

Tabletop RPGs rely on The Network Effect for their value. That's why very few tabletop RPGs are actually worth playing; you're going to have a hard time justifying your existence to users of the dominant network.

This leaves you with a choice: target the dominant network of users, or target a different demographic that the dominant network does not serve or satisfy. Your response to this choice will influence how your game develops, as you will change your rules, mechanics, and content to match the targeted users' expectations in order to fulfill their demand (and thus make sales, converting potential to actual users).

Okay, you do that. Now what? You have your System Reference Document up. You have a site for people to follow. You start building up an email list so you can guarantee contact to your users. You have your first few content products available at Amazon. How do you get more people to give your game the time of day?

In the old days, this mean hitting the con circuit and doing demos in store. This isn't important anymore. It's nice, but don't bother unless it is literally not at all an inconvenience. Just as most prospects shop at Amazon, most of them spend time online to socialize. That's where the eyeballs are, so that's where you need to be.

You may hate social media, but for you it's your equalizer. Just as you had better be blogging daily, you need to make use of Twitch, YouTube, etc. because online Disney and Bob are on level ground. This is not just you doing those things; it's also you showing up on others'. Find the podcasts that cater to your niche, and show up on them on the regular. Use the social media to drive traffic to your site and get folks on the list.

You need to get used to audio and video. Learn how to sell, how to demonstrate, how to pitch. Then start cutting videos explaining how your mechanics work. Do it live on Twitch. Archive it on YouTube. (Lather, rinse, repeat- especially if other platforms replace these two.) Keep your videos like this short; organize them into a playlist, and then embed it on your site.

Got a Discord server? Get one; it's free, fantastic, and easily-managed so it doesn't turn into a sewer. Combined with a Twitch channel, you have all you need to run online games before an audience- thus making demo games easy and convenient in a way that the old in-store and con hustle never was.

The point here is that you have a full toolbox of applications and services available now to allow you, the individual, to compete with the big boys and--at the least--make them fight for their position. It's never been better to be a small outfit or one-man band than here and now. The downside is that you have to assume all of the responsibility to make it succeed and keep it going, so you've got to learn a hell of a lot more than just how to design an entertaining game and write its technical specifications in terms that a user--a normie, inevitably--can readily comprehend.

Sure, the Network Effect is real, but your ability to make it work--coming and going--to your benefit has never been better. That said, there's a clear pattern to real lasting success; certain sorts of games are proven winners, and certain approaches are proven winners. You're not going to get anywhere reinventing the wheel, so you'd better know what works before you get into this. That's tomorrow's post.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

What a Tabletop RPG Needs To Be Now: Part 4

There are rules. There are mechanics. There is content. A RPG must have all three to be playable.

As a designer and publisher you do not need to provide all three equally to be successful as a commercial endeavor. This is because these three components are not equal in value. Rules and mechanics are useless without content to provide a context for the rules and mechanics to operate within. This is why I say that you can, and should, give away the rules (and the mechanics) for free and focus instead on selling playable content.

So what am I talking about?

Rules are governing statements of operation. "You must have a character to participate in the game." is a rule. Mechanics are systems of procedure, such as character creation and combat adjudication. In short, What To Do are the rules where as How To Do It are the mechanics. Where, When, With What, and Why is where your content lies.

Your System Reference Document is about rules and mechanics. Now do you see why you can get away with just putting up online and linking your content to it? Your readers, and users, care about the adventures they can have and all of that is content-related; where they can go, why they want to go there and do that, what tools they have at their disposal to solve emerging problems, and what they will face if they go there to do that- all content-related. Eliminating whole swaths of space by using a master document that they can just look up as needed makes getting on with gameplay faster and easier, and so makes purchasing more likely by prospective buyers.

Yes, you may need to add some free content to your SRD to demonstrate by example how your rules and mechanics work. That's fine, so don't sweat it and just do it; these are typically related to character creation and improvement, such as equipment, powers/gear, and character features (Classes, skills, or however you specify what a character can do- that sort of thing.) The trick here is to specify that your content examples are examples and not indicative of your entire product. This is vital if you're using the same ruleset for multiple genres, multiple settings, or both.

This approach also applies to settings, should you choose to offer one. Most of what a tabletop RPG publisher puts out is little more than a print version of a Wiki, so don't be a moron: make a Wiki for your setting, lock down editing privileges, and publish for sale only actual playable content therein. Your gods? Put on the Wiki. What powers a character serving this or that god can wield during play? Sell that. The location of Lord Scotland's castle? On the Wiki. The map? Image on the Wiki; print version for use at the table is for sale. A detail location guide, complete with several brick-to-face obvious features (Scotland's stat block, for example) that you can just drop in and use at the table? Sell that, and don't skimp on the quality of presentation.

Why do this?

Because tabletop RPG users are not equal in ability, or in desire, to make their own content. To varying degrees, they want or need someone to do most of the component creation for them and that is where you justify your existence as a tabletop RPG designer and publisher. By satisfying that demand, you bring in the revenue that will allow you to pay your bills and maintain your household (be it in whole or in part). Few understand this, including many who really ought to know better.

That brings us back to the hustle. Tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

What a Tabletop RPG Needs To Be Now: Part 3

In the last year we finally got a proven formula for indie author success when Nick Cole and Jason Anspach hit big with their SF series Galaxy's Edge. They aren't shy about sharing how they made it work, and they do talk about it in places where you don't need to pay a toll to get the knowledge. This was a big part of a recent Geek Gab appearance.

You own it to yourself to get up to speed on how Cole & Anspach hit big with this series, and what they learned bout how people deal with fiction. Most of it, in business terms, applies to tabletop RPGs- especially the point where readers follow genres, not authors. (Some doesn't, of course, but that's for another post.)

The point here is that you, being not one of the dinosaurs still slaved to a pre-Internet business paradigm, are in a good position to take full advantage of what Amazon offers you as a seller. You don't need retail shelf space. You can run everything on a skeleton crew (or just yourself), operate on a shoestring, and compete favorably against those behemoths because your will be leaner, meaner, and therefore faster to react to changing circumstances. Furthermore, there is no difference between you and the big players online; a site is a site, a blog is a blog, and a Twitch channel is a Twitch channel. It's all on your ability to hustle.

We'll get into the hustle some more later this week. Right now, take away the knowledge that there is a proven method for you to put out product on your own with sweet fuck-all for financial capital and no need for the publisher or retail chain (and thus the entire print-centered paradign). All you need to do is learn how to apply it.

Which means that we're looking at what sort of thing you want to sell.

It needs to have these qualities:

  1. Few, Simple Mechanics: The strength of tabletop RPGs is how they exploit and leverage liminality to achieve results that videogames require massive mountains of spaeghetti code to accomplish half as well. I've written about this previously so I refer you to those posts for more details. You need just enough rules and mechanics to give the Game Master a rubric for rulings, such as the Basic D&D editions, and let the rest fall upon the interaction of players and the Game Master. A mechanically-simple game is easier to learn, easier to master, runs faster, has looser tolerances so it can handle a wider variety of gameplay experiences by a new user, and avoids the now-known pitfalls of Mech Piloting.
  2. Clean Art Carefully Chosen: Writing rules and mechanics is technical writing. You won't need much in the way of art, but what you do need must be crystal-clear due to its utility in explaining how things work to the user. You have to choose carefully, and you better not cheap out if you commission work done. Black & White will be fine for mechanics illustrations; save the color for your playable content.
  3. Average Five Year Old: Take a page from the Evil Overlord list. If your writing can't be clearly comprehended by average Elementary school students, then you're doing it wrong; cut it out and rewrite it until you get there. Gygaxian verbosity is not good for technical writing aimed at ordinary people. Related: Glossaries Are Your Friends. While you ought to keep the jargon to the barest possible minimum, you will need some terms, so collect them into a glossary. Link liberally to it when putting the manuscript together.
  4. Shorter Is Better: Tomes are a turnoff. You want to keep what you're writing down to a minimum; this plays into the point on the game being fast to learn, play, and master. Only D&D ever got away with a multi-rulebook core product line, and that was an accident of history. You're not D&D. One master document, kept to the minimum necessary, is more than sufficient for actual needs.

And now comes the question of "What is content?" in terms of tabletop RPGs. Tomorrow.

Monday, March 12, 2018

What a Tabletop RPG Needs To Be Now: Part 2

The Internet changed everything. You can profit from this or be destroyed.

The publishing world, across all sectors, has been and continues to be fundamentally transformed. Tabletop RPGs are not exempt, yet those currently running the show still adhere to practices with their roots in a pre-Internet paradigm where shelf space and being in print matter most. This is over.

How do you do this now? Well, if you're one of the existing behemoths you can lumber along as you were for a while. But you're not one of them. You need to get with how things are now if you want to still be alive after those beasts finally succumb and die.

  1. Write The Master Document: This is your System Reference Document. You will put this online. You will let users read that for free. You will link to this document in every product you publish hereafter, taking advantage of ebook technology to link from a page in a book to an external document. You will link directly to the rule or mechanic you're referring to, making is easy and very convenient for users to look up that stuff as they go- and eliminate the need to publish a rulebook entirely. You will update this document when you must, but in doing so you will forever avoid the damage that new editions do to tabletop RPGs; you get the benefit without the cost- and instead enjoy a stronger brand over time.
  2. Launch Your Site: You will, in time, have two sites, actually. One is strictly for the SRD, so traffic to it doesn't wreck your front page. One is for your publishing efforts; this is how Paizo handles their SRD and it works great for them. Build up to this. At first, you will likely have to go with a free blogging site or free webhost and make the SRD a subpage linked at the blog's main page; you will need to shift when your traffic warrants a full site and a separate one for the SRD, and you should take that as a clear sign of success.
  3. Love the E-Reader: You're going to publish at Amazon. That's where the folks go shopping now. Learn to love MOBI and make good use of it. PDF is a stopgap measure, and the potentials you're hunting after want something they can read on their Kindles- not just PDF readers on their PCs. If you have something that hits really big, then you can offer a print version via Print On Demand; don't bother otherwise, unless it's a map.
  4. Impulse Buy Is Best Buy: You're selling what you do sell cheap. Don't be like the idiots in the traditional publishing world trying in vain to kill ebooks with stupid pricing models to encourage print purchases. The real indie publishing successes rarely go past $5, and many are $3 or less- with occasional giveaways when a new book in a series drops. Folks will not think twice of buying your stuff if it's cheaper than a run to McDonald's, especially if they automatically get a de facto free rulebook with every purchase. Kill barriers to entry, and customers flock to your door.
  5. Online Is Evergreen: Digital publishing is inherently evergreen. There is no warehousing cost, so there is no reason to not have what you publish persistently available for sale. While some categories of playable content are more popular and desirable than others, just about anything you publish is evergreen when you do it digitally and leave print as a secondary avenue. The flipside is that you need to take care that you're putting out there something you still want out there years from now, because Out Of Print does not exist.

There's no reason to go about this blindly. There is someone to use as a model to build from, and that's the guy behind Basic Fantasy. He's doing a lot of this, while remaining focused on a print-centered model; he's doing this as a self-sustaining hobby, but you can see how you can go from hobby to business from there with ease- and that's not accounting for things like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds.

But how do you go from here to there? There's now a proven path, but it comes from the indie SF field: the Galaxy's Edge story of success. I'll get on about that tomorrow.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

What a Tabletop RPG Needs To Be Now: Part 1

I'm going to spread this out over the week.

It is not 1974. It is not 1990. It is not 2000. The world is now online, and most people have and use smartphones and tablets. The same phenomenon that's fundamentally changing publishing in other categories is at work here. As such, the realities of past business models no longer exist.

Furthermore, the competition for customers is now fiercer than ever due to competition being not only within the category but also with other categories. For example, Dungeons & Dragons not only competes with Pathfinder but also with World of Warcraft, Heroquest (and others like it, such as Descent), and The Witcher 3. This competition served to define what the tabletop RPG is best at doing through the contrast of tabletop versus competing media.

What did this competition reveal?

  1. Mech Piloting is Bad For Tabletop RPGs: Going heavy on rules and mechanics, and their accompanying mathematics, makes the competing media offerings more attractive. Why? Because the game reliably slows down, warps player behavior to be confined to what the mechanics allow, and produces known aberrant behaviors that reduce the fun for most people. (We have goddamn parody comics about this, so don't you dare claim otherwise.) Competing media doesn't make players do that math, and the wider audience means that someone else will figure out how to optimize the performance of their character, so everything plays faster and easier from the get-go. Leave Mech Piloting to other media.
  2. The Internet is a Strength: Being a digital-primary game means that changing editions is no longer necessary. You can just update your System Reference Document to reflect changes in the rules or mechanics. Most people now have smartphones or tablets in addition to PCs, and they use those widgets to read as well as watch/listen. Failing to exploit this fact to your benefit is one of the big millstones around the neck of tabletop RPGs, as anyone that's had to cart around a pile of product or get players to buy the damn manual know too well. The old model is actively hampering your growth. Drown it in a tub and feed it to the pigs already.
  3. Scheduling Your Fun is Bullshit; Another millstone is the practice of closed tables, with fixed groups, scheduling play and refusing to do so if too many can't make it. This practice inhibits growth and it needs to be abandoned. The growing gaming sectors do everything they can to get their customers actually playing the game- and that means encouraging (even incentivizing) pick-up play that's drop-in/drop-out. It used to be like this in the early days, and that's when the growth was explosive; it slowed when this ended. The pattern is not hard to discern.
  4. Edition Changes Are BAD: Nothing splits a user base, especially for network-dependent products like tabletop RPGs, like an edition change. Each edition (if it is done effectively), in practical terms, is a separate and distinct product line that competes with each other edition. This is a horrible thing and must be avoided, Now you can, and the Internet is why this can be done easily and effectively. Stop. Resisting. It.

The combination is that a tabletop RPG is no longer not a digital product. It has to be one now, because the core of it now sits in an online System Reference Document, and you move your core there because that allows you to kill edition splits with a persistent master document that everyone can refer to using mobile and desktop Internet access options. Your rules are the minimum necessary to handle adjudication, and the same goes for mechanics.

You give the rules and mechanics away; you sell the content, because content is where the value lies and not the rules or the mechanics, and you sell ebooks (not PDFs, but epub/mobi files) first if not only and few print products (maps, mostly) via Print On Demand alone.

As for why? That I'll build upon over the week.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Geek Gab #134: Slay the Spire, A Wrinkle in Time, and Hurricane Heist!

Today's Geek Gab is a good one, folks. We're talking (well, Warpig rants about) A Wrinkle in Time and you want to make time for this episode.

I am not at all surprised that Oprah fucked up the book to serve the SJW Death Cult narrative. When NBC Nightly News gives your film air time to shill for you, that's a tell of how horrible your film actually is and that's one of the reasons you should not go see this bullshit waste of celluloid.

Fortunately the review of Slay The Spire and the developments in game design that lead to its creation are enough of an antidote to allow you to avoid reaching for the bottle that Oprah's poz-prompted pomposity would otherwise inflict upon reasonable people. And it looks like The Hurricane Heist is a solid Redbox Rental.

I've come to look forward to the Gab on Saturdays now, and I see that we've got a reliable regular turnout. That's a great thing to see, as it means that the Gab has a solid core audience now willing and able to tune in when the show it live, but now that chat is a persistent thing (which YouTube copied from Twitch, for a good reason) folks who watch after the fact can now also see what they had previously missed: the live chat. That should go some ways to further expanding the audience that can't be there live, as what's in the chat is often as entertaining and interesting as what Daddy Warpig and Dorrinal go on about.

As a bonus, here's Raging Golden Eagle talking about the success of Kingdom Come: Deliverance and why it shows that SJWs are really a toothless tiger that gamer and developers should never take seriously- and instead shun, shame, and shut out utterly.

Friday, March 9, 2018

A World Class Bullshitters Threesome: Podcast, Commentary, & Fav Goes Mouse Wars

Did not expect this. That said, it's still Mouse Wars and therefore not to be patronized, no matter how it turns out because so long as Culty Kathy and the Death Cult run things all you're doing is giving money to people who hate you.

Which leads me to my next embed below. If, for some god-awful reason, you're actually watching The Last Jedi then the World Class Bullshitters have something to save your sanity: a commentary track. Mute the film, turn on the subtitles if you like, and use this as your audio track instead. (And, for God's sake, don't buy the damned this. Do what E;R did, and either watch it online for free or download it for free- again, don't give money to people who hate you.)

And of course there's a new episode of the podcast itself. That's a threesome of World Class Bullshitters for you, folks. Enjoy your weekend.

It looks like both Captain Marvel movies are going to be utter shit. Neither Zack Levi nor Brie Larson look believable in their costumes, and that's the least of the issues.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Paizo Announced Pathfinder 2 (But Won't Fix A Damned Thing)

Paizo announces that they're doing a second edition of Pathfinder.

If only I had any faith that Paizo had a competent crew running the show. Then I might find this announcement encouraging.

The way to run a tabletop RPG business now is focus your product development on playable content, not on rules modules. Paizo ought to know this, as they do make their rules available online for free, which means that making a necessary change is quick and easy due to being digital. But no, they insist that they have to print (and not On Demand, but the old way with print runs) rules modules and publish additions on the regular. That, folks is bloat and bloat is the problem.

It also isn't necessary anymore. There is no good reason for a tabletop RPG company to be print-primary anymore when talking about rules manuals and their add-on modules. Digital-primary or Get The Fuck Out. Print is now a legacy business, and should be openly and avowedly treated so.

You want to print the stuff users use to actually play the game: adventures and settings. The rules are useless without content to play the fucking game, and most people (still) don't want to roll their own from scratch; at most they will tinker with something "official", especially if they're the sort that likes go on about how his table did Adventure X when bullshitting at the game store or the local gaming con. The maps, in particular, need to be printed to be made useful at the table.

There is also no reason to not automatically bundle a digital copy of every print product sold; you already made the digital file to create the print product, so shut the fuck up and make it a two-for-one by default. Just offer something other than PDF as a choice and you're golden.

And given that Paizo seems to want to double-down on the density of the fucking math, not offering automated character sheets is a basic bitch mistake that I fully expect them to make. No, Fantasy Grounds and Roll20 doesn't count; I'm talking digital sheets used on tablets, phones, and laptops at the table.

And yes, get used to seeing the widgets in common use. Most folks have one of them on hand, so they're going want to use them; stop being Sisyphus and just come up with a decent app already. The younger folks, and more casual folks, don't have the attachment to dice and paper that we old-timers and veterans do; this will shift with time, so get ahead of the curve already.

This rant's getting a bit long. I'll take some time this weekend to put what a tabletop RPG needs to be now in another post.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

World Class Bullshitters: The Snoke Prequel? Star Wars Rumor

Mouse Wars confirmed for having gone Full Retard. Dunning-Krugar Effect in action.

This is pants-on-head retarded. It's also weapons-grade bullshit, an asspull the size of the Death Star, meant to distract from the impending disaster of Solo as well as the burning wrecking that is The Last Jedi.

Culty Kathy has to go, by hook or by crook, and I care not how that happens anymore. If she ends up tossed into the Sarlacc Pit or fed to the Rancor, I won't give a shit; I'll just hope that everyone else that enabled her bullshit follows suit. Feminism is Cancer, Social Justice is Treason and Sedition, and Culty Kathy proves it. Cut the cancer out before the patient dies.

The sooner Mouse Wars blows up like the final Death Star, and Culty Kathy gets the ignominous end of Palpatine, the better. Put down these liars and frauds already.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Followup: What Palladium Should Do Now

I stated yesterday that Palladium should retreat, retrench, and refocus on its core original properties: RIFTS, Heroes Unlimited, The Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game. However, BAR-1 Studios reminded me of something to consider:

You & me have much the same assessment about Heroes, but I'd go as far as to drop Palladium Fantasy. In favor of Splicers & BTS

The thing is just about everyone does a high-fantasy game. And committing to an also-ran in an observed genre is pointless when the ideas in other settings are far more interesting.

He's not wrong. It's only by the inertia of habit and Uncle Kevin's stubborn insistence that the fantasy game continues to exist as a game to itself. In reality, it is nothing more than a heavily-ruled and hacked up homebrew of AD&D's first edition. The setting, save for one element (common among Fantasy Heartbreakers, and Palladium's fantasy RPG counts), nothing more than crap vanilla basic bitch Pink Slime fantasy. There is no good reason to not publish it as a third-party D&D setting product line.

Likewise, there is nothing about the Palladium ruleset to make it worth retaining over just using D&D openly. It would be to the benefit of the company to stop being fucking retarded about this matter, abandon the house system, and Just Fucking Use D&D. You're already well into Uncanny Valley territory as it is, so just finish the job, come out the other side and Be D&D.

And yes, you can still do that. The Open Gaming License is still in effect, as it can't be revoked. You can't call the system "d20" or "D&D", but neither does Pathfinder or any of the retro-clones of the Old School Renaissance and they all do just fine. Hell, you can (and Palladium should) follow Paizo's example: put the system, in its entirety, online for free as a System Reference Document. The real value is in playable content, not in rules manuals, and again Paizo shows the way there.

A revitalized Palladium would be a digital-first, digital-primary publisher. Give away the rules; sell what you can do with it, as that's where the real value in tabletop gaming lies. The only print products would be those whose digital sales indicate such a high demand that the hassle for a print alternative would be worthwhile, and then only as Print On Demand so all of the print costs get cut to a minimum. Convention sales would involve booth/table sales that allow people to put down their money and have the print product arriving when they come home waiting for them. Print sales would also include a digital copy as a default package deal, so those who buy at a con have what they buy in digital format to use during the convention while the print product gets made and shipped.

So a new Palladium would have RIFTS as its flagship game. Heroes Unlimited and Beyond the Supernatural are sidelines concentrating on different paralel timelines prior to converging into the flagship setting. The fantasy game becomes a setting supplement line for D&D, with a focus on what makes it distinct from other D&D settings (e.g. Wolfen Empire) and becomes the Ancient Past for a subset of the wider RIFTS setting. You can freely study the actual rules, such as they differ from WOTC/Paizo, free online; you spend your money on playable content instead- modules, settings, gear, powers, PC options, monsters, etc. that gives substance to those rules and context for their use.

Junk everything not a RPG. Sideline the other properties until the core lines are up and evergreen. Repeat the process one by one until every line is now part of that evergreen revenue stream series; cancel and cull those that don't perform, permanently. (Note: Some existing lines really aren't worth keeping as lines, but instead should be subsettings for RIFTS, Heroes Unlimited, or Beyond the Supernatural- such as Systems Failure, Nightbane, and After The Bomb.)

Palladium can do this. It just needs its leadership to get over itself and reform to conform to the new reality of the business.

Monday, March 5, 2018

My Life as a Gamer: Palladium's Robotech Loss Signals Existential Problem

I put out the word over the weekend that Palladium Books lost the Robotech license. Again. By the end of this month they have to liquidate all of their existing RPG and miniatures game product (including the PDFs), which means a fire sale is coming. The long and short is that Uncle Kevin severely under-estimated what making a miniatures game would entail, under-estimated the costs, got himself caught up in the chaos, and fucked it all up big time until it blew up in his face.

This reminds me of the "Crisis of Treachery" where we learned that Kevin mixed personal and business assets together, such that when he ran into this financial chaos previously it threatened to destroy him personally. If not for the massive bailout by the members of his personality cult that he calls his fans, Palladium would've ceased to exist years ago.

I expect that Uncle Kevin will find a way to keep Palladium running despite himself one more time, but that this is the last time he's endure this sort of thing. This is the second time his own faults and flaws have driven him to disaster within a decade, and for all that Palladium has a track record of endurance over the decades the conditions have so changed in the field that sticking to the old model has already ceased to be long-term viable, and the long-term will soon be the short term.

There is no way out for Palladium so long as Kevin remains the shot-caller and refuses fundamental reform of both product and business model. As much as Wizards of the Coast and Paizo get shat upon, justly so, they both have made moves in this direction; if not for the poz spoiling the results, their one-two position would not only be unassailable, but no competition would be commercially viable and thus most would cease to exist.

There is no law that requires Palladium to exist. If Kevin can't do what must be done, then shut down it shall, and Palladium will fall upon a heap of dead companies. Losing a piss-easy license, after fucking up a successful Kickstarter campaign, are tells that a company long past its prime has finally faced an existential crisis that cannot be ignored if it is to be overcome. If Kevin had a clue, he'd abandon licensed product altogether and recommit the company to RIFTS, Palladiun Fantasy, and Heroes Unlimited- in that order.

And doing that requires something else: a move away from the print-centric paradigm of old, and towards digital-primary where the audience (and the money) now lies, because monetization now has different options than back in the 1970s when Palladium first launched. If Kevin can't do that, then the wise thing to do now is to cash out, shut down, and retire. The Internet Changed Everything, and only those willing and able to accept that fact will endure going forward.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Spacedock Got the Real Folk Blues

Spacedock finally finished watching Cowboy Bebop for the first time recently. This prompted the video below.

That, folks, is joy put to words sharing what he enjoys with others. It's why I like this channel, and recommend it to others. A lot of what he does comes from the heart of an appreciative fan, and he--along with The Templin Institute--are worthy of your time and attention even if they talk about a show or film (etc.) you're not a fan of.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Razorfist: KINGDOM COME: Deliverance

Razorfist has his review of Kingdom Come: Deliverance up now, and man does he have a good rant going here.

Yes, this is a Recommnded result, so when you've got time and spare cash go get it. Then laugh at the SJW fucksticks flipping their shit that they couldn't shame this game into the failure ditch. If you're ready to go full-sim, here you go. Proof that PC bullshit does not sell, but hardcore commitment to vision and quality in execution does. Make it fun, and you've won.

Friday, March 2, 2018

World Class Bullshitters: Marvel Declares Summer Season Open on April 27th.

The World Class Bullshitters are back. This time, it's about Infinity Wars. Enjoy.

There's good news if you're a Marvel fan, bad news if you're a DC fan and there's no doubt that if you're a WCBs fan, it's your favorite night of the week.

The moved release date indicates that Marvel's management believes (rightly) that the new date will be better for Infinity War, and therefore the Summer Season de facto begins at the end of April. This is a big deal, and it says a lot about the stroke Marvel Studios currently wields (especially compared to Lucasfilm or Warner Brothers) that they can outright declare the annual Summer Blockbuster season to open earlier than ever before by making this move.

And the rants are good. I'm letting the crew speak for themselves.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Narrative Warfare: Attack of the Sparrows

Google locked Sargon of Akkad out of his Google account earlier today. This video signals that he's had access restored.

In his specific case, I do think this is negligence over malevolence- this time. I don't think that this is the case for others such as Baked Alaska or Andy Warski. There's a big reason for it, and folks like Bill Still of the Still Report have the story.

The "Trusted Partner" program mentioned months ago is now live, and the frauds that are the Southern Poverty Law Center are a big contributor to that Orwellian excuse for purging wrongthinkers. Frame Games Radio has a useful response: call them Commies. Racial Commies, since they are anti-White bigots (and, for the leaders, pursuing a High Sparrow strategy; this will fail, as it is in California and Minnesota, because they won't succeed in retaining control over the desired underclass and get replaced).

This is all about Narrative Warfare. If your enemy can't gainsay your narrative where your audience can see it, then you control what's believed and with it control over the culture- political control, and the power it brings, follows forthwith.