Plagmada -- the Play Generated Map and Document Archive -- is kickstarting a book of homebrew D&D modules made by game-geeks in their misspent youth. The lead title is the remarkable The Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord, created by 13-year-old Gaius Stern in 1981. The book will contain other homebrew adventures, and is seeking your contributions, which you can email to firstname.lastname@example.org, for inclusion in the book, which will be called "The Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord and Other Adventures from Our Collective Youth."
Matt writes in with news of the Reaper Miniatures Bones Kickstarter, which has hit an eyepopping $1M with five days to spare. Reaper makes paintable RPG miniatures and paints, and they're rather good (I have several sugrued to the top of my monitor, bought expertly painted at the Orcs Nest in Covent Garden).
Matt sez, "Even if you just want paints it's a great deal. The paint sets are $18 more for a set of 12, which is half or less what you pay retail. For minis the $100 is up to 182 plastic minis. Reapers claim, and the reviews agree, that their products are flexible hard to break and don't need primer (though you can use it). Among the minis there are some that are steampunk (the Chronoscope minis). Who wouldn't want a cybernetic gorilla? There are pirates and horror as well. You can also add for a little more cash a clockwork dragon, a jabberwocky, and a set including Cthulhu."
Some of the highest pledge levels include minis cast in sterling silver, as well as original molds.
Reaper Miniatures Bones: An Evolution Of Gaming Miniatures (Thanks, Matt!)
I thought Grimm Wisdom's "5 reasons to play D&D" was a great list -- and it made me want to get my 4-y-o out of bed and have a go at the stripped-down version we play with random toys, polyhedral dice, and miniatures. But I blogged it instead -- here's the first three, I'm gonna get the kid up:
1. Dungeons and Dragons is about imagination. It is sitting at a table, with some books, paper and pencil (or their electronic equivalent, PDFs and spreadsheets), and using the power of your mind to throw yourself into a fantasy world. Everything that your characters do is something you decided for them to do. This is no video game designer laying out choices for you. In my 20-plus years of gaming, our characters have started wars, ended wars, rescued people, killed monsters, started towns, started criminal organizations, thrown parades, stopped parades, bought bars, built temples, in addition to countless other things.
2. Dungeons and Dragons is structure. No creative endeavor, be it art, music, writing or performance, can exist without a framework of r
ules and boundaries. Our English language is built on 26 letters and our music 12 notes. It is the creative person’s mission to build something in the context of that structure that is worthwhile and maybe even entertaining.
3. Dungeons and Dragons is social. You can’t play this game alone. It requires at least two people, and typically four to eight. Interacting with other people, especially face-to-face, is important. It just is.
Here's 13 minutes' worth of the old (rather dreadful) Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, overdubbed with plausibly banal and profane dialog from a group of RPG players whose campaign the cartoon depicts. It's pretty danged funny in places, though 13 minutes is a bit much for the one-note joke.
Dadtucks (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
Ethan sez, "The personal archives of legendary Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson -- some 10,000 items -- were abandoned by his heirs and lost in storage facility in Minnesota. Now they've been found and catalogued, and they're being auctioned starting this Sunday. Here's a story about it and an exclusive preview of Sunday's auction."
“It was by pure chance that the new owner attempted to find the meaning of some of the boxes of paper rather than deciding that there was no gold or jewelry to be found, and just tossing it all into the nearest dumpster,” wrote Cox on his company’s website.
Cox contacted Stormberg, whose company specializes in handling and evaluating the collections of RPG game designers and artists. They teamed up to buy and save the collection. Cox made an offer to the local auction company. The company agreed and The Collector’s Trove took possession of the materials for processing and auctioning. In an interview with GeekDad, Stormberg would not put a price tag on the collection, but he did say, “it was a substantial amount of money” — more than Cox had ever paid for an entire collection in 18 years of buying and selling for The Dragon’s Trove, which has had its hands on many of the largest and highest quality collections in the world...
...Stormberg said that “About 30% of the items are what I call product: published games, game accessories, periodicals, and books.” The remaining 70% of the collection is “non-product”: all those letters and scribbled notes, maps, objects, and personal and family items. There is Arneson’s Smith Corona: Mark IV typewriter; a set of lead crystal goblets etched with Arneson’s family heraldry; and a model ship made of metal. “Dave loved the age of sail and all things to do with naval military history. Indeed, one of his first published games was Don’t Give Up the Ship which he co-wrote with Gary Gygax and Mike Carr in 1972.”
Among the highlights: unpublished manuscripts that did not make it into the final draft of Dungeons & Dragons that date as far back as 1973. There are even older items from 1971 and 1972 “dealing with the Blackmoor campaign and the Castle itself,” Stormberg said. These may reveal secrets about the game’s origins. Domesday Book Newsletter, among the rarest and highly sought after collectibles by Dungeons & Dragons collectors.
On Tor.com, Mordicai Knode asks Wizards of the Coast to consider a more diverse set of portrayals of fantastic personages in the next edition of Dungeons and Dragons.
A Modest Proposal For Increased Diversity in D&D
That being said, I think it is useful for some rough generalizations. Like the fact that in the Fourth Edition Player’s Handbook there are only four black characters. There are more diabolically red skinned people — tieflings — then there are dark skinned people. By a…fairly wide margin. Still, an improvement over the Third Edition Player’s Handbook in some respects. In the third edition, you’ve got Ember, the human monk — but other than her initial appearance under the class description, she’s absent from the rest of the book. Some artists have depicted Regdar as black, and he along with some of the other character have a generous color palate, by which I mean that their ethnicity is fluid on the page. They are hardly pale but neither are they a deep brown in skin tone, lending them a lot of flexibility for reader identification. (Scott McCloud of Understanding Comics would be proud.) And just for kicks, I flipped through an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition Player’s Handbook; there is an illustration so purple it could be ambiguous, but no, that book, like so much of yesteryear, is entirely Caucasian. Lots of crazy mustaches, though...
I’ve heard a litany of excuses for why there are predominantly white people portrayed in roleplaying art, but I’m not buying it. Maybe your claim is that the people buying the game are primarily Caucasian? Since when did it become a bad idea to have a product that appeals to a wider demographic? Dungeons & Dragons exists in the real world. A world where there are people who aren’t white. People who might want to start playing, if they saw themselves reflected in the product. Why artificially limit your profits by only pursuing a narrow demographic? and what, do you think white players are incapable of identifying with people of color? I don’t agree, and I’d point to the widespread acclaim that Order of the Stick has gotten; even if your motive is unmitigated greed, I can think of 1,254,120 reasons to support a diverse cast and complex story telling.
On Singularity Hub, Aaron Saenz interviews Rich Burlew, creator of the D&D-oriented webcomic Order of the Stick, whose record-breaking Kickstarter project raised more than $1.2 million.
SH: Has this fundraiser altered your business model or were pre-orders for the books (through the reward system) so dominant that you’re in the same model, just on a larger scale?
RB: Definitely the latter. The fundraiser has been incredibly successful in generating sales (as well as wider interest in the comic) but ultimately, I can’t run one of these every few months and expect to get another million dollars each time. The likelihood of me ever getting anything close to this response again is very low, so I’m treating it as a one-time opportunity. That’s the main reason why I’m trying to use as much of the excess funding to make permanent improvements to my business—buying new equipment, upgrading the server, and so on. That way, when the attention dies down and I’m back to doing things the way I’ve always done them, there will be concrete long-term benefits to me and the readers.
SH: What was the secret to your success on Kickstarter, and how much do you think can be repeated by other projects in the future?
RB: The most obvious secret is to already have an audience to sell to. The best way to get that audience is to put out a product of reliable quality over a long enough period of time that potential backers have no doubts about your ability to pull off whatever it is you’re promising to pull off. I’ve been drawing The Order of the Stick for almost nine years, and I’ve already printed and delivered seven books in that time. While some of them have had the sort of production delays you would expect from a small business, the fact is that I had a pretty good track record when it comes to self-publishing. So when I went out and said, “Hey, I need some funds up front if you want to get more books,” no one thought that I wasn’t capable of actually turning those funds into books. And because I’ve drawn well over a thousand pages of comics, most of them viewable for free, they also knew the exact quality level to expect for any additional stories that I threw in to sweeten the deal. That level of confidence is essential if you want a lot of people to give you money for something that doesn’t exist yet.
Beyond that, if you start a Kickstarter project, tend to it constantly. I see a lot of projects that put up their initial pitch and then never touch it again until it closes—and then they wonder why it wasn’t funded. Stay involved in your project: post frequent updates, respond to comments, and engage with your backers. Make your pledge drive an event that people want to be part of instead of just a purchase. When you sell a book, you’re competing with every other book out there. When you sell an experience, it’s always one-of-a-kind.
One of the things that gets missed when we talk about the evolution of "business models" for creative labor is that the pre-Internet system made virtually no money for nearly everyone who tried it ("don't quit your day job"), returned something like a living for a small minority, and handed out lottery-ticket winnings to a statistically insignificant few. The Web's business models for creative endeavor make virtually no money for nearly everyone who tries them, return a precarious living to a small minority, and, as we see, deliver lottery-ticket dividends to a statistically insignificant few.
This is not to take away from Burlew's remarkable achievement, his preserverence, or his skill. But Burlew (and Amanda Hocking, and others) are no more proof that the Web "works" than all those people who grossed $1.08 on eight years' worth of Google AdSense are proof that it fails. As cool and awesome as Burlew's story is, it's the wrong metric for measuring the success of the Web as a creative medium.
Instead, we should ask ourself how many people got to try it out, how many audiences were served, how many creators reached audiences, and how diverse the gatekeepers between audiences and artists have become, so that one tastemaker's prejudices don't end up warping discourse and markets. I think on all of these metrics, the Web is doing very well by creators.
And yeah, it's handing out some lotto jackpots, too, and that's awesome.
Tavis sez, "A mind-blowingly recursive poster that represents the AD&D rules for procedural dungeon generation as a flowchart which is drawn as a dungeon. From the The Mule Abides blog at NYC's intersection between role-playing games, the gallery art scene, and how Kickstarter can jam 'em together. Cory's linked the Mule before as HOWTO have a D&D party for 8-year-olds; also featured in this post is a nifty Kickstarter for the first publication from the Play-Generated Map and Documents Archive, similarly linked for Homemade D&D module, 1981."
Tim Hutchings, who maintains the most excellent PlaGMaDA (Play Generated Map and Document Archive) has recovered a bizarre but strangely compelling amateur RPG about dolphins and he's producing a published volume (with guest art) on Kickstarter:
Everything is Dolphins occupies a curious place. While it is clearly the work of someone new to the design of role-playing games, it also displays the some of the sophisticated sensibilites one would expect from an old hand. Rather than the excess of complexity that clutters most freshman efforts, Everything is Dolphins offers concision and simplicity. The author gives few examples to illustrate how to use the system and no sample adventure, leaving much to the player’s imagination (and effort). With its bare bones, lacunae, and undeniable beauty, Everything is Dolphins is the role-playing game analogue of outsider art.
Included in the lengthy Appendix of the book you will find scans of the author's original game notes and lots of playtest material. The inclusion reveals to us where the game began, how it was played over time, and what it looks like when it's played. And the game notes and documents are fun to look at.
Everything is Dolphins - an RPG and art book (Thanks, Tim H!)
(Image: Sean McCarthy)
On Instructables, CaseyBorders's recipe for making stained glass 20-sided dice. A bit tricky to carry these around in your grandad's old Crown Royal bag, but otherwise, they make some pretty smashing (ahem) RPG accessories.
Now we need to cut 20 triangles out of our sheet of stained glass that match the template that we created. The easiest way to do that is to cut a stip of glass the same height as the triangles we cut in the jig. In the example pictures we used a strip that was 1.5" wide because our triangles ended up being 1.5" tall. Place the strip flush across the bottom of your cutting board and set your angle guide to 60 degrees. Follow your angle guide with your scorer so you end up with a 60 degree angle cut off the end of your glass strip. Depending on the kind of glass you bought you might simply need to flip it over to get the other side of the triangle, but the glass in the demo pictures is textured on the back, so we can only cut on the front, so we need to change our cutting guide to 60 degrees the other way. However you end up doing it, make sure that you are making your cuts and angle adjustments as precisely as you can, because if the triangles are not correctly shaped they will not make a good-looking d20.
Once you have 20 good pieces we can etch the numbers on them. Place each triangle in one of the holes of the cardboard template on the laser cutter's cutting surface. Now you can use the same file that we used to make the template but be sure to set your laser to etch only! We don't want to cut around the holes again!
Courtney sez, "The D&D themed webcomic Order of the Stick has been running a Kickstarter campaign to get some of its out-of-print books back onto shelves. It's now broken $350,000 and is one of the top 10 funded projects of all time on Kickstarter and the most funded comics project of all time."
I've been self-publishing my comedy-fantasy-adventure webcomic The Order of the Stick in paper format since 2005, but one of the hardest parts about doing it all on my own is keeping the older books available. This project is designed to get at least one of those books back into print. The Order of the Stick: War and XPs was the third compilation of the color webcomic, covering a bunch of cool battle scenes like this and this and even this.
Tim H sez, "A recent and amazing donation to the PlaGMaDA.org [ed: Play Generated Map and Document Archive] project: A beautiful, hand-made homebrew addition to the classic TSR Against the Giants series."
I wish I had the modules and monster sheets I painstakingly made in my youth. I used to cram them into envelopes and mail them, full of hope, to Dragon magazine. I suppose it's possible that they're in a filing cabinet at Hasbro or whomever ended up owning TSR's materials.
Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord
(Thanks, Tim H!)
Gnat sez, "The only thing cuter than this Game Master asking TeX gurus for help making his RPG notes 'look like they were scrawled by a gibbering madman, unhinged by the horrors he has witnessed' is the serious responses, with examples of output. He even got an answer saying how to typeset an Elder Sign! Truly, there is nothing more awesome than typesetting geeks helping gaming geeks."
I want to type up some spells from the RPG Call of Cthulhu and give them to my players. I could just type them up in Word or LaTeX, but that seems too....neat. I'd like to make these things look like they were scrawled by a gibbering madman, unhinged by the horrors he has witnessed. Bonus points if you can add any traces of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos.
Less poetically: Typefaces to make it look scrawled or handwritten, preferably with a quill or calligraphy pen. Ways to make the word spacing less regular (Abuse microtype in some way?) and ways to put in drop caps are the kind of things I'm looking for.
Bonus points if you can tell me how to typeset an elder sign.