State of the Eye: Six Years of Lost Pages

edit caveat: the wordpress editor is kind of flaky so some things in the text might be weird. Sorry!

Lost Pages exists because nobody wanted to publish me.

Lost Pages is a vanity press.

Lost Pages is six years old.

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It’s been some special six years. I’ve done things my way, entirely because I felt it was the way to do them. Some ways were effective, some enjoyable, some fulfilling, some very very stupid, and some failed spectacularly.

Most importantly, it made me grow and change as a person, and some seriously bad stuff happened, and it’s great that I survived the ordeal. Surviving is usually better than not.

However, I have been broken for a while. Badly broken. For a long while.

I could do nothing. My creative output has been terrible and, since Lost Pages has responsibilities toward other people (to make it short: I owe royalties to authors, and I owe delivering the products I sell), I had trouble handling this too.

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Fortunately I am quite pragmatic. So, I individuated some weaknesses, and tried to set up ways to cope with them.


Health problems make me useless for stretches of time.

Being useless is not good when you are running a small business.

So Lost Pages must cope without having me at the helm for a while. And me shoveling coal. And loading/unloading cargo. And whatnots. While having other other jobs.

I printed mostly locally and shipped orders myself. This let me handle printing quality better, but it also meant I was shipping myself all the products. This also let me sell boxed sets. And books I bound. Which is overall great for delivering my vision, but is work intensive, and If I can’t function, I can’t deliver. Which sucks. For everybody.

For you because stuff gets delivered late. For me because it makes me feel a failure, useless, and wanting to write less because it makes me feel like a useless failure. All of these are entirely self defeating.

So I decided to make it more sustainable and more resilient, by changing fulfillment strategy. In most cases, the initial print run will be printed locally and shipped by the fine folks at Melsonian Arts Council. Daniel is already selling Lost Pages books, and if you have a taste for my books, you’ll like Daniel’s too. When the copies runs out, books will be made available on POD in the usual spaces.

This also means that I’ll be able to do the stuff I like, instead of shipping stuff.


The other issue is creative. It’s not about publishing, but my writing.

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I understand that the OSR is a big tent, but it’s terribly Anglo-American, and weirdly Calvinist, and not conforming to to the Cultural Hegemon is taxing. If you are American, or British, and have no clue about what I’m talking about, do not worry: you are probably seeing it from the inside, and I’m the weird one.

Which is true. I’m literally the exotic one here. I am alien. Now try to imagine the situation where you move somewhere else and everyone thinks you are the weird one, and nobody really understands you, and everyone is really weird, all the time.

If you are a nerd you probably felt it. Alienation sucks.

Now imagine writing about your nerdy stuff for people that just do not get it.

But.

This is not a language problem. Blaming it on the poor language skills of foreigners is easy because it is obvious it makes them hard to understand. And, importantly, it blames their lack of fluency: learning languages is not easy, and nobody really blames anyone for trying and getting stuff wrong.  Lack of fluency is often self-evident and correct, but does not cause the problem. The issue is somewhere else, and it’s less visible.

I can fail to make make myself understood for many reasons, all impairing in different ways. Let me list some:

  1. I have a weird accent.
  2. My grammar is often broken.
  3. I use weird phrase structures.
  4. my arguments are based on things you do not understand.

While my failures are “all of the above”, I’m talking about case #4 here. Which is the real obstacle on the quest for meaning delivery, which is pretty much the entire point of writing. I find it magical that right now you are hearing my thoughts in your head, and we probably never met, and you are several time zones away. It never ceases to amaze me.

Right now I’m planting thoughts in your head. I’m writing for you to read my mind.

Writing as an alienated person for readers that are part of the Cultural Hegemon is partly cultural suicide, partly simply a performance. The Hegemon does not have to abide, or adapt. The Hegemon writes for whatever they like, and reads what they see fit.

So the Hegemon can’t really understand what the alienated is writing about, the same way years ago I did not understand things like, hurr, root beer and, dunno, grilled cheese sandwich. So you kind of have to do this weird dance with your culture, where you replace the ramparts and foundations that have been there for generations and hope just hope that it will work and will be understandable even when you replace wine and olives with root beer and grilled cheese, while still doing justice to your culture and not making a mess, and making something you like and understand.

Explainer: I’m Paolo, and I’m Italian, and I do food metaphors because where I’m from food is at the core of cultural identity, and I picked root beer and grilled cheese because I can pretend that somehow my average reader is a stereotyped Midwesterner I’m making up in my mind. And that Midwesterner really, really loves root beer and grilled cheese. So to make this work, replace root beer and grilled cheese with your favourite food and drink, and then replace the food metaphor with a metaphor that is relevant to your culture but not in mine, and then try to repeat the exercise yourself for someone else. Oh, I forgot, you also have to translate it in a different language, and still watch out for error type #1, #2, #3.

I mean, I guess. My only knowledge of Sassafras comes from the Smurfs, probably one of the most important elements in my personal Appendix N.

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This is writing or translating for different cultures. Sometimes it works. Often it does not. But you always, always betray your thought. Or at least trade part of it for something else that means something different. It’s the only way to make it work for someone not from your culture. Walking between olive trees that have been alive in the middle ages means something completely different than walking among the sassafras. If sassafras is something you can walk through. I have clearly no idea what I’m talking about.

The point is, I’m kind of tired of this dancing. So I might try to write more for me and less for you. While I have all the interest in having my authors succeed and sell well (Hi y’all! /waves), I have no issue if what I write sells terribly.

I mean, money and praise are nice, but at the moment I’m getting enough self validation from other parts of my life that I do not care if I sell poorly.


One last thing: I had a mental breakdown due to work related stress earlier on this year, and I’ve been signed off sick for a few weeks. This happened after years of bullying at work, and being forced to work stupid hours, working during holidays, and routinely being subjected to racist bullshit. Since then the situation much improved, but I am still worn thin.

So I’m going part-time with my day job. This will let me spend more time on self care, and publishing, and writing, and making software, and making art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Preorders open: Chthonic Codex vol I: Cryptic Creatures, Pergamino Barocco Paperback

Hey you all,

Two products are prereleased today, and are available for preorders:

First, Chthonic Codex – volume 1: Cryptic Creatures. It comes in PDF, Print + PDF and three limited editions: Boxed Set + PDF, Codex Edition and Boxed plus Codex Edition.  The fancy limited edition will be shipped next year, while the rest should be shipped within the next 2 weeks. It’s the monster manual of the Chthonic Codex setting, as well as being a stand alone monster book for Swords & Wizardry and other retroclones and Adventure Fantasy Game.

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Second, the Pergamino Barocco, paperback edition! PDF or Print and PDF! This cover might not be final, but it’s going to be reasonably close to the final version.

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And, last, here’s the new Lost Pages website. I’ll keep all my product information there.

New Releases: Kefitzah Haderech – Incunabulum of the Uncanny Gates and Portals – Adventure Fantasy Game R7

As previously mentioned quite a few times, Me and Albert wrote a book on portals and dimensional gates. It’s mostly system agnostic, so if you play Everway it will be useful too.

Now Kefitzah Hadereach – Incunabulum of the Uncanny Gates and Portals is ready.

It covers portal topics like why are portals cool?, what should I do with them? and how do I build them? and a small “Appendix N” about inspiring portal-enabled media.

It also comes with a muleload of tables to generate portals and everything related, including PORTATRON, the one-stop-system of portal generation.

KHIotUGaP (not an official acronym) also contains The Infamous d666 Quick Portal Destination Table, which does what it says on the tin. Because we wanted to have a d1000 table and have the longest OSR table as some kind of joke, but then we realized that 216 portal destinations ought to be enough for everybody.

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32 A5 pages in black and white. Available on the Lost Pages webshop in both PDF+Source and Print+PDF+Source. The print version will be shipped next week.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.

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While you are at the shop, the new version of Adventure Fantasy Game just came out of the LaTeX compiler. This is the seventh revision of the handbook, it fixes a whole lot of problems with the first printing. 108 pages A5 in black and white, plus a colour map. Available on the Lost Pages webshop in both PDF+Source and Print+PDF+Source. The print version will be shipped next week too.

warm up your engines… new release imminent…

The new webshop is up, the new release of Adventure Fantasy Game and Kefitzah Haderech – Incunabula of the Uncanny Gates and Portals are print-ready, everything is OK for launch.

But I’ll delay it a bit more. SCRAM and all that.

I’ll be off to Berlin for five days and I don’t want to start a new platform AND a release a new product AND not being able to answer to emails.

You can have a look at the final Kefizah Haderech cover though.

For sale next week at 2.50$ for the PDF+Source and 5$ for Print+PDF+Source. 32pp A5 B/W. More informations to follow…

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RPG shelf, part 2

Follows part 1 here.

As I went to the basement I also took pictures of some boardgames, mostly because they occupy the same space.

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Next to a tentacle-rapey box of Windows NT I must have obtained through an old client, some good boardgames. The two boxed still in their (opened) wrapping are Ogre Deluxe and GEV Deluxe. I love them to bits.

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Yeah, boardgames.

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Euro and USian boardgames pacifically coexhiston the same shelf here.

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Then I noticed that a bunch of my games was mixed with related stuff, so I went for some context. Stuff on design, writing, game design and game writing. And hintbooks for games. Why are Might & MAgic Collection, Iron Heroes, Magic Item Compendium and Type 4 there? Because in their own way they are brilliantly designed for a given audience and objective. MM4 rocks, by the way. Why is Keep on the Shadowfell there? Because it’s the worst designed piece of shit I’ve ever read. Everybody at the table gave up less than halfway through because of the sheer disgust. I wish I was kidding.
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More game/design stuff, over politics and some spillover from the warfare shelf. They inform my campaign settings.

On the left, a corner of my Perl shelf, not pictured as full of books fully unrelated with gaming.

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A bunch of d20 stuff. I ran Arcana Evolved/Unearthed for years in a setting that became the Western League and a d20 Greyhawk campaign for 9 years, its end described at point 16 here. I stopped playing it because some of may players made it about playing against the game system to optimize builds rather than playing, you know, adventurers.

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I love boxed sets. Two copies of Tales of the Lance because a dude never returned mine at a convention, and then vanished.

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A bunch of Kaos and Rune (Italian RPG magazines from the ’90s), some 1st Edition handbooks, PDF printouts and a bunch of Mythus and Lejendary Adventures material.

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Non WotC d20, Martelli da guerra (Italian WHFRP, 1st edition), MERP, a bunch fo stuff you can read from the picture and, on the far right, early Das Schwarze Auge and Kata Kumbas.

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Killer, some Miguel Angel Martin comics, Dragon Magazines. I have all copies since 230 and a bunch of the old ones. At the end it got so bad I’m glad it died. Some Dungeons too.

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More Kaos, More Dragon.

Ok, I’m done here in Milan. Part 3 will be about the Glasgwegian RPG shelf.

RPG shelf, part 1

Blah pictures blah meme blah RPG shelf blah blah. This is part of what I keep at my parent’s in Milan. Sorry for the crappy pictures.

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OSR stuff in big format. Fight On! issues and Kata Kumbas live there but at the moment they’re scattered around my parent’s. Binders on the right are either printouts of websites or character sheets. The wrapped book by the black box is Quest of the Ancients, an OSR gem. Moldvay was bought in that state of disrepair.

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GURPS. A handful are scattered around my room, else they would fill the space completely. On top it’s GURPS lite and some characters.

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My incomplete Greyhawk collection, novels on the left topped by the tiny AD&D reprints. Adventures on the right, including Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun. Sadly I don’t own Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth but I have Realms of Horror. I know, it doesn’t count.

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Miscellaneous A5/digest, cables, postcards, dice, junk, and more OSR stuff in small format.

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Wargames and military history. The Anabasis and Sun Tsu on top, where they ought to be.

Portals: from here to there in no time at all

Travel in the Middle Ages was full of dangers and uncertainty. On the other hand magical portals can make travel much quicker and safer.

Most of the post was written as the players I told you about before started toying with a portal in the Uplands, and I had to come up with destinations. Then I started working on it, then Albert from Underworld Kingdom/World of Ortix joined in, then we decided that maybe, just maybe, there’s enough to be written to fill a small booklet. So there you go, two of the worst procrastinators of the OSR (we are getting better though! Albert is actually finishing a lot of material nowadays and I’m, well, trust me) joined forces to bring you swag. So here you’ll see a really really brief treatment of the topic and a small excerpt of the final content.

Anyway, bridges and fords might be washed away, roads might be blocked by fallen trees or brigands[*], forcing travelers to take long detours. Portals on the other hand warp space and time, pin it on a physical aperture due to sympathetic magic principles while negating the illusion of distance between two places and allowing to step through the stabilized warp. Or something equally silly.

My formative experience with portals was made under Waterdeep in a videogame called Eye of the Beholder, which lets you trample around what might or might not be a much much smaller (and actually completely unrelated) version of of the Undermountain until you die or you slay the titular monster. So, if you see something like this:

You only need to open it with the appropriate key to make it go all crazy like this (please ignore the different stone background):

beholder portal open

And then open (again, different stone background):

beholder portal fully openThen you can have a stroll on these freaky stepping stones on the black abyss with not even a single little star and reach the other side, which can be very close or very very far away. YES, no brigands on the way, took only two hours, the slaughter of a goblin tribe and 2000gp to buy the key off a shady dude in town instead of three weeks on riding across the wilderness under the rain. I told you it would be convenient.

Anyway, there are three important concepts about portals: structure, destination and opening. The book will treat them more extensively, but you can have some small excerpts first.

Structure

The structure is how a portal appears. The portals in the pictures above look like number 1 in the table below. Roll 1d6.

  1. a wall with an ornate (gilded, carved etc.) basrelief or friese of a gate or door.
  2. a door. it looks like an ordinary door and works like a door. If properly opened it swings open on the destination.
  3. only a marked location. When opened a flight of stairs opens, leading down.
  4. a huge mouth with humongous fangs. Or maybe it’s a real mouth?
  5. a big stone/wooden/bone/crystal/metal/whatever arc.
  6. a well or pit in the ground, when opened filled with a rainbow mist.

Destination

The destination might be somewhere in your campaign 1d1000 miles away. Or 1d1000*1d1000 miles away. Or some other random place. Either decide or roll 1d10 on the table below.

  1. an hidden treasure room. Unfortunately, the magical passage closes after passing through it and probably there’s no other way to exit the room, maybe except some hidden passages or thin walls.
  2. a tower in a city made of brass, surrounded by a sea of flames.
  3. a beach of an island in the Aegean sea. There is a sheep pen close by, vineyards and olive trees. You can see a cave in the cliffside as well, with 1d6 hungry cyclops (LVL 13 giants) living inside.
  4. underwater, 100 yards away from a castle made of red coral, 3d6*10 mer-people lead by the King of the Waves (LVL 4+1d6 multiclass fighter/cleric/mage)
  5. the private quarters of a lich.
  6. the realm of a demon prince
  7. a desolate and forgotten mountain stronghold
  8. a dragon’s lair (there’s 75% chance that a dragon is present, guarding the treasure)
  9. an ancient graveyard or subterranean tomb complex
  10. a dungeon, level 1d10.

Opening

To open a portal you need a key. As Planescape and myths teach us, keys can be whatever. It’s usually somehow related to the circumstances of the portal-building. Roll on all the following tables first, then join the dots and feel free to ignore those that don’t fit your game:

the key is… (roll 1d6)

  1. a physical object, touching the portal. 2-in-6 of needing a specific object, for example the sword of the High King. Examples: roll 1d6:
    1. a key
    2. a jewel
    3. a stone
    4. a weapon
    5. water
    6. a stone
  2. something physical, but with metaphysical connections, touching the portal. Examples: roll 1d6:
    1. blood of a sorcerer
    2. blood, sweat and tears of the builder
    3. dragon breath (bottled is fine too)
    4. ectoplasm
    5. mana tar
    6. holy water
  3. an emotion or feeling, truly felt within close distance. Examples: roll 1d6:
    1. anger
    2. lust
    3. hunger
    4. despair
    5. terror
    6. pining
  4. a specific time. Examples: roll 1d6:
    1. twilight
    2. a specific time of the day
    3. when the stars are right (a specific moment of the year, like an equinox, solstice or 4:30AM 12 days before the last day of autumn)
    4. some astronomical alignment or opposition
    5. an eclipse
    6. 1d100 hours/days/weeks/months/years after it opened last time, reroll every time
  5. a sacrifice, right under the portal. Examples: roll 1d6:
    1. a burnt offering of food
    2. an animal slain, blood sprayed on the portal
    3. a weapon blade must be broken
    4. a gem must be shattered
    5. fasting for 1d6 days
    6. mutilation of a small but significant body appendage, roll a d6:
      1. ear
      2. eye
      3. nose
      4. tongue
      5. a finger
      6. any will do, like hair, a wart or nails
  6. an action must be carried out in front of the portal. Roll 1d6:
    1. a specific magic glyph must be traced on the portal
    2. 1d6+1 people must have a specific kind of steamy hot kinky ritual sex around the portal
    3. a specific magical/mystical ritual must be celebrated in front of the portal to open it
    4. the password must be (1d4)
      1. shouted
      2. spoken
      3. sung
      4. traced on the portal
    5. a prayer must be (1d3)
      1. sung
      2. spoken
      3. silently recited
    6. a spell must be cast. Roll 1d6:
      1. a unique spell designed specifically to open this portal
      2. Knock or equivalent
      3. an elemental-based spell cast on the portal, element depending on the “related to” result
      4. any demonic/necromancy spell
      5. any clerical or theurgic spell
      6. any spell but it must be cast directly on portal (like trying to heal it)
  7. an event, happening somewhere relatively close to the portal (a few hundred miles, or in the same part of the continent). Roll 1d6:
    1. the death of the king of the land or something equally pretentious
    2. a cockatrice hatches from a cock’s egg
    3. the last copy of a spell is burnt
    4. the first lightning from a nearby summer storm
    5. a star falls
    6. famine strikes the land
  8. two keys are needed to open the portal, either both keys at the same end or one at each end. Roll twice on this table. Reroll results if for some reason make the portal impossible to open. If rolled more than once, keep on adding keys.
  9. This portal can be used with different keys (2d6). 2-in-6 chance of different keys leading to different locations.
  10. Some part of the portal that is currently missing. It may be a part of the sculpture, a missing gem in the portal’s decoration or something similar. If you want to be fancy and love in-jokes, the key is the keystone of the arch (or equivalent) which at the moment is collapsed on the ground.

and it’s related to… (roll 1d6)

  1. one of the two sides, 50% chance each.  2-in-6: the link is one way only toward the relevant side. 2-in-6: the key can instead open d6-in-6 portals to the same side as well, but always one-way only and always toward the same end. Example: a wooden ring made from the tree that stood where one of the portals stands.
  2. both ends. Example: the portals’ architraves are made from the same stone block, the key is a small leather pouch containing the stone powder created when the architraves were sawn off.
  3. something else. Possibly something off-world that the PC will find, like magnetic cards. Whatever.
  4. well, there are two keys, each one-way only. Roll twice.
  5. and more. nothing specific, actually anything like that will do.