So, you want to become an indie publisher

So, you want to become a indie publisher, and you wrote me for advice.

Err. Yes. You won’t like my advice. It’s not much, so not to waste too much of your time.

I’m terrible at publishing.

My best advice is to not do what Paolo does and do what Kevin Crawford does. He does it much better, and  the first issue of his free magazine has a guide on Kickstarting stuff.

For the basic of the business, contact your local small business office, and most importantly pay your taxes. The last thing you want is a letter from a tax authority. The second last is IP infringement. Do not ever try your luck at either. Ever. Get good law and tax advice instead. Also, absolutely do pay people if you agreed that you would pay them.

For printing, go POD. It will also take care of shipping. Doing otherwise is incredibly time consuming and risky. Unless you do silly volumes, forget about printing stuff yourself.

For trademarks, make a logotype that works. I believe the Eye of God (I did not give it that name, it had it for centuries before I was born) and the Lost Pages name do more for traction that anything I’ve ever written.

For publishing. I publish only stuff I love. I should publish instead stuff that goes well with my other games. Or with other games.

Love does not make you follow good business practices. Love makes you mad.

I do this because I’m in love, and would not recommend it. I got incredibly lucky falling in love with the work of Roger, Brendan, Chris, Eric, Patrick, Mike. And also with the other people I’m working with. No names because jinx.

I have no other good advice except, if you do it for fun, don’t, because it’s not fun.

Incredibly thrilling, boring, hard work, yes. Fun, not.

I do it my way because I’m stubborn as a goat and failing again and again does not break my will. Doing it as I do means falling in love with the most uncaring partner you can find, dark triad level bullshit. You will cry. You will be up at night. You will regret doing it. You will cry.

Publishing won’t hug you or kiss you to sleep nor sent you wistful, panging, moving love letters. End of story.

Extra content: related advice! This is useless because you are not me, so treat it as a cautionary tale instead.

If you want to make books like I do, you have to seriously love paper. Learn bookbinding, printmaking, layout by studying them and fail them by making stuff that is harder than what you can do. Repeat the study-fail until you are satisfied with your form. It won’t last long. Develop an aesthetic, and then appease it until you want to develop a new aesthetic. Redo the layout for a book five times until it feels right. Pick at most one strange font, use it sparingly and do the rest with reliable workhorse fonts.

When you complete something, put it out. Even if it’s free. Even if it sucks. Especially if it sucks.

If you want to write what I do, I recommend chucking out from your mind all fantasy written after Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata. Instead, read other stuff. Read religion. Read magic. Read politics. Read metalworking, horticulture, travel books, history, art, cooking, design, computer science, military architecture, illicit book trade.

Read and play a lot of games and learn what makes you click.

Learn that what makes you click is not what makes other people click.

Struggle forever between the two: art is baking your cake, but sharing the cake is obviously a bigger pleasure.Cake is delicious.

After you do this,  you will find that you did not forget the fantasy. Not all of it, at least. For example I forgot Tolkien, and a bunch of other stuff. What’s left, is there to stay, and will be your bedrock. In my case it’s Calvino and Pratchett and Borges and Benni and Dunsany and the Arabian Nights and the history of Caliph Vathek. I got lucky, as it could have been Tolkien.

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a joint message (with goat)

Hi everyone—it’s Paolo and Zak,
We want to keep this short, to avoid miscommunication.
First thing to say is that we are talking again after many years and that’s good, we said what we had to say to each other.
Paolo apologized to Zak for not bringing up issues he had with him sooner, more directly and before blocking him.
Zak apologized to Paolo for immediately categorizing him as a troll who could not ever be reached by reason when this happened, which made addressing the issue later harder.
What we have to say to all of you is that the best way to deal with conflict is to talk, in private, to the person who you have a conflict with.  It took us years of acrimony to even begin, but it was resolved in a matter of days.
If this is hard? Then try to get someone to help you talk to them. Sometimes a friend can say what you have to say for you, even if you are scared.
What doesn’t help is anyone involved or not involved talking to big groups on social media about it, including vaguebooking and complaining about “drama”—that makes the whole problem worse, because that can easily degenerate into pecking parties and shaming. Social media complaints should be the last resort of someone who has no friends in common with whoever they are in conflict with who can act as safe intermediaries—or someone you have total ideological mismatch with, like a Nazi. The two of us are not in either of those situations with each other and if you are reading this you probably aren’t either.
This advice goes for all of our friends who have gotten upset about any of this lately. Gossiping about it or them doesn’t help, but building networks of people who understand each other and understand each others’ good faith does.
We also want to thank the people whose reaction to seeing we had a conflict was to immediately contact us privately and help us resolve it.
Thanks!
Have a goat 🙂
2846636d8b479164c92451c0672e2ede-1.jpg
PS: Anyone who wants to talk, Zak’s email is zakzsmith AT hawtmayle and Paolo is paolo awt lostpages co uk

Grand Grimoire of Cthulhu Mythos and Wonder & Wickedness – putting Cthulhu butter in my Sorcery jam

At my table I do this thing where players can pretty much ask me to use any spell from any source and, after some deliberation and twiddling, I let them.

Enters the Grand Grimoire of Cthulhu Mythos. The 7e CoC magic rules are interesting but do not map directly on Wonder & Wickedness, and I want a way to handle them directly with not much problems.

The porting of course implies that your game is old school, with its specific ways. So a lot of premises are different, and we need different outcomes. The approach is as it follows:
Do not use sanity costs. Everyone knows magic is real, and that faeries do in fact live in the hedges between the oat fields and the orchard.

Each spell uses only slot, or one mana point. If a spell allows overspending, each extra slot or mana point accounts for 5 MP, and they can come from ambrosia, mana tar, magic vessels or power stones. When mana runs out, take 1 damage for each MP the spell costs. So, yes, you can cast a lot.

POW costs reduce wisdom: each 5 whole points reduces wisdom by 1 for a month. Leftovers are ignored at the end of the adventure. Likewise, use the adjusted wisdom + unspent spells or mana when you need to roll a contest using POW, and the victim can instead elect to make a roll using their save instead of wisdom. In Mageblade! use wisdom plus the Caster focus instead of using the unspent mana.

Mageblade! casters have two ways: they can either learn the Jevnacack Praxis and cast as above, or they must use overcasting. This means that if they pass all the overcasting rolls the spell does not cost that first point of mana, and if they fail the rolls they can spend one mana point to reroll any roll. And of course they can run out of mana while doing that, which makes for some terrible news, as they either take damage from the cost of the spell or suck up the consequences of the failed overcasting rolls.

I also recommend letting anyone cast those spells, even if they have no mana. The first time a spell is cast by a non-caster, make an intelligence roll to see if it’s been learnt. Then use the overcasting rules as above, but the damage in hit point is paid in advance, and if one of the rolls fails the cost is either paid again or the spell fails.

Rogue’s Luck in Mageblade! combat

Mageblade classes all focus in something specific. For example fighters have a bonus in combat rolls. This bonus is called Focus, and it depends only on the character level, starting at +3 at level 1, so level 1 fighters have +3 to hit.

Rogues focus on luck, which means they have Focus free rerolls every day. They can use those for initiative rolls, skill rolls, damage rolls, even to hit rolls that hit them.

This is interesting because it essentially gives rogues the ability to get away with something if they really really need to. I really really need to climb that wall? To win initiative and leg it? To vanish in the crowd? Reroll until you succeed.

To hit someone’s face? It gets better. Not only you can reroll to hit, but this has an additional effect: critical hits proliferation. Each character has a 5% chance of a critical in combat. But if you miss and reroll you have another 5% chance. And at level 1 you can reroll 3 times a day, which makes for a bit less than 19% of taking a critical hit, if they decide to dump their luck in a single round, for example if cornered.

That would not be the most effective use of rerolls though: simply rerolling on a miss is more effective, and stretches the Focus a bit more.

MAGEBLADE! the adventuring natural philosopher and Extra Resilience optional rules

Mageblade healing is somewhat inferior compared to other recent fantasy RPGs, so here are a couple of optional rules that help help with party resilience, but not their overall strength.

Better Life through Surgery: The first one is simply to increase the Surgery healing from 1d4 to Focus. I’m not sure if the focus should be the surgeon’s, the patient, the highest of the two or the lowest of the two. My gut feeling tells me that it should be the surgeon’s: there are good arguments for any of those amounts, but all Focus amounts in the game scale related to the active character, and I do not want to trow off people with that one weird rule that works completely differently.

This makes Surgery a better skill, and hopefully there will be more skill options soon for an educated adventuring person.

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from vixen vintage: http://www.vixen-vintage.com/2013/06/inspired-by-lady-adventurers.html

Because I really want to play this ->

… but with goggles, guns, grenades and a grappling hook.

I want to play a character that is a gentleman and a scholar, and while the book has Surgery, Engineering, Exotic/Dead Foreign Languages, Research, Diplomacy, Gather Information and Bullshit, and Climbing and Swimming are definitely an educated person’s kind of outdoorsy activity.

Of course there are more, like Pharmacy, Geography and Law in MB!: Silk Road and Sailing or Piloting in MB!: Tales of the Wind, and stranger things in MB!: Vyrnaccean Science.

The second rule is somewhat similar to the short rest concept from recent games like Into the Odd and possibly D&D (but I’m not sure, I played 4E and 5E a grand total of three times).

Resilience: a character can spend two turns after an encounter to get a proper rest. They can then recover 1d6 hits if they have been wounded or 1 mana if they spent any. Each character can rest this way Focus time per day.

This is great for everybody, without making characters stronger. It stared as only healing 1d6, but adding the mana option gives other classes some more occasions to shine. It mostly get around the problem of the five minutes adventuring day in the following ways:

  • front line people get some healing, so last for more encounters
  • mageblades get extra blademagic and devotions, so can use them in more encounters
  • rogues get even more mana to spend as luck, for extra shenanigans
  • casters get extra mana, which is great for extra malevolence and magic shields, but still does not let them spam the same spell over and over again: the hard limit of 1 cast per spell per day is still enforced.

Also, the extra mana means more attempts at saves. And nobody wants to fail those!

 

MAGEBLADE! and OSR Vehicular Shenanigans

MAGEBLADE! uses a roll-under mechanic for every check: roll 1d20 and get equal or under your stat. Dexterity roll? Just roll under your dexterity. Attack roll? just roll under your Melee or Missile (they start at 12). Resist a Charm spell? Roll under Wisdom.

More than one agent is going at it? everybody rolls, whoever gets the highest success wins. So if you’re struggling a clash of wit with a tax inspector, and you succeed your intelligence roll with 13 and the tax inspector succeeds their Extract Money roll with a 14, you succumb to taxes and have to pay.

But how do you handle vehicular shenaningans in this game? Use the Core Rule and roll a Piloting/Sailing/Driving/Cycling contest! Rogues have better access to skills and their Focus Ability essentially having free rerolls every day, so rogues are the best candidates for vehicular shenanigans.

I mean, rogues are also the best candidates for shenanigans in general, but whatever.

Prepare to improvise a lot as these rules strive for generic usability rather than detail. Also, MAGEBLADE! has skills (albeit very simple skills) accessible to all characters, so if you use this for other OSR games maybe replace the Piloting rolls with dexterity rolls, and give +2 to rogue-types.

Anyway: vehicles have stats, exactly like characters:

  • Focus: a modifier added to the piloting skill of the pilot. It’s added to the skill, not the dice roll.
  • Level: the bulk of the vehicle: subtract it from the piloting skill. Unlike for characters, it is not related in any way to the vehicle’s Focus.
  • Hits: how many wounds they can take before completely failing. Damage taken from anti-personnel weapons like swords and rifles is divided by 6, rounded down.
  • Defence: the vehicle’s armour. 0 for no armour, 2 for light, 4 for medium, 6 for that fine steel plating. Defence protects not only the vehicle, but also characters in it: exposed characters do not benefit from it.

With many excuses to Miyazaki-san, but just to explain what is the main inspiration for mageblade, have some examples:

  • Bicycle: Focus -3; level 0, hits 1, Defence 0. Carries 2, both exposed.Image result for miyazaki bicycle
  • Jet glider: Focus 4; level 2, hits 6, Defence 2. Carries 2, both exposed.largeAnimePaperscans_Nausicaa-Valle.jpg
  • Hydroplane: Focus 3; level 3, hits 12, Defence 1. Carries 1. Attack: twin MGs (2d6)Image result for porco rosso
  • Tank: Focus 0; level 5, hits 30, Defence 6. Carries 4. Attack: Cannon (1d12), MGs (1d6)
  • Small Airship: Focus 1; level 4, hits 20, Defence 3. Carries 5. Attack: 2 x MG (1d6)
  • Carrier airship: Focus 1; level 6, hits 25, Defence 4. Carries 40. Attack: Cannon (1d12), 5 x MG (1d6)
  • Moving Castle: Focus 0 (6 if elemental-powered); level 8, hits 50, Defence 5. Carries 60. Attack: 4 x Cannon Turret (2d12), 2 x Cannon (1d12)
  • Flying Island: I have no idea but maybe level 12, hits 80, Defence 9.

Vehicle combat is organized in rounds, but those rounds might be longer than normal rounds: for example, you can decide to use a minute round for ship combat. Each round the two pilots roll initiative, the loser declares their action first, then all roll a skill contest. Only the winner of the contest gets to do their action successfully:

  • Boarding: the two vehicles collide, the winner deciding if softly or violently. If violently, each vehicle takes 2 damage per Level of the other vehicle, and all on board the smallest take 1d6 damage plus 1d6 per size difference. Afterwards it’s possible to somehow board the other vehicle.
  • Manoeuvre: the winner gets to do one of the following:
    • add their success margin on the next piloting contest
    • get some distance between them and the other vehicle: when the distance gets over a threshold (for example 3) the vehicles disengage from shenanigans due to distance or other circumstances.  The threshold depends on the vehicles and environment: planes in the clouds will have a different threshold than bikers in a city or a bicycle trying to hide from a plane in a village.
    • recover some distance between them and the other vehicle, and win initiative the next round.
    • accomplishes some daring manoeuvre the Referee previously agreed not to be entirely impossible.
  • Shooting: the winner can shoot with all manned vehicular weapons on the loser, while the loser can shoot with half of their manned weapons on the winner. The vehicle guns can each be used once: attackers can each try to shoot with a d20 roll on Missile or Artillerist (or Dexterity for you OSR types). If they pass, the roll must also beat both the target target’s piloting roll and the target’s defence to deal damage; if they beat the piloting roll but not the defence the vehicle is fine but exposed characters might be hit. Damage is dealt to straight to the hits of the target vehicle. People on vehicles can also take damage: keep on reading.

When a vehicle is hit people on the vehicle can be hit too. First divide the characters in groups by location (so if two are in the cockpit and one is on a wing, there are two groups), then roll 1d(vehicle level): on a 1 characters in the first group are hit, on a 2 the second group is hit, etc. Hit characters must save.

  • exposed characters suffer the weapon damage multiplied by 3 if they fail a save, or 1d6 if they save. Also
  • unexposed characters take 1d6, no damage if they save.
Image result for sherlock hound
Of course you want critical hits: in that case do not deal extra damage, but come up with some terrible shenanigans. Maybe the vehicle can’t do something specific unless it’s fixed, or must manoeuvre successfully at least once every 3 rounds to avoid shutting down, or something similar. And of course characters can go out, get exposed and try to patch stuff up.
Many thanks to Richard G.

MAGEBLADE: magicky swag to buy

I almost never let characters buy magic items. Make, yes; buy, not really.

But in the first Mageblade in the City of Khosura there’s a priest called Caius bin Caius that sells potions. So we tried. And we liked it. So, there you go.

Here’s the list of stuff commonly available for sale if there’s an alchemist:

  • Blazing Oil: 20c: Catches fire super-easily, deals 1d6 damage for 2 rounds.
  • Oil of Fire Protection: 300c: half damage from fire. If a save is allowed to reduce or deny damage, an extra save is allowed to reduce or deny damage.
  • Healing Geode: 500c: Once per day heals 1d6 cuts or blunt damage at the cost of 1 mana.
  • Thaumaturgic Gem: 500c: Once per day heals 1d6 burn or cold or acid damage at the cost of 1 mana.

And this from a pharmacist:

  • Healing potion: 50c: heals 1d6+3 damage.
  • Antidote: 100c: counters poison effects.
  • Life potion: 250c: heals 3d6+5 or 3 sips for 1d6+3.
  • Balm of Restoration: 2000c: Heals 1d6 stat damage. It’s also a material component for the Death unto Life spell.

And this from an Apotropaist (or the kind of witch that removes evil eyes or whatnots):

  • Goat: 4c: it’s a goat, it bleats, it screams like a human. It’s great for sacrifices or monster fodder. It poops at random.
  • Blessed Water: 40c: deals 2d4 to undeads.
  • Hamza: +4:300, +6:900: protects the character from ill luck. When the character fails a save, add the bonus of the amulet creator to the roll: if the new total passes, the character saved and the amulet breaks.
  • Candle of Respite: 1200c: it removes the curse, but only if the creator level is at least the same as the curse caster.