Call of Cthulhu
In what’s become something of an annual tradition, I’m taking a look back over the year in a RPG retrospective. By that, I mean to talk about stuff that happened over the last year in various RPGs I’ve been involved with over the year. And events at ORC Edinburgh of course.
I’ve had little chance to do much PC or Xbox gaming this year, although I loved the free mod of Half Life‘s Black Mesa (which has a cracking remixed soundtrack for free too) and played through it. It recreates the original Half Life game but with new graphics, audio and game-play. Worth a look – the next part Xen will be worth the wait I reckon. Still no news on Half Life 2: Episode 3 either. I’ve also backed the Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter (see below), because I loved that game so much on the BBC micro (and, yes, I did reach Elite status).
Edinburgh’s tabletop gaming scene got itself a new venue in August – the Edinburgh Games Hub. Their Tollcross basement has become something of a Mecca to all kinds of tabletop gamers – CCGs, boardgames, war-games and of course RPGs. I myself can be found there on Thursday nights, continuing the adventures of Diogenes “Basilisk” Valexos in our Rogue Trader RPG. I’d have provided a link but their website has been hacked and shows no sign of getting fixed any time soon, but you can find them on FB at https://en-gb.facebook.com/GamesHubEdinburgh. They also have a boardgames and miniatures shop in the basement, 6S2Hit.
As well as Rogue Trader, which I didn’t make it to half as often as I would have liked, we started the year off playing on the Dresden Files RPG on Wednesday nights, followed by the Pathfinder (Isador) game. My workload hit nightmare levels though and I was forced to drop the Wednesday night games.
Yet again, I didn’t make it to Conpulsion, the Edinburgh RPG convention run by Edinburgh Uni’s RPG club, GEAS. I really must try and make it there. I’m considering running my eBranch game there as a one-off next year. It uses the Call of Cthulhu rules, and features physic spies and Brian Lumley’s Wamphyri vampires. It is set in the New Forest, close to Southampton where I was born.
ORC Edinburgh – RPG Retrospective
No RPG Retrospective would be complete without me mentioning ORC – Edinburgh’s Open Roleplaying Community. ORC Edinburgh saw many new faces and also a number of new games, and we had a lot of fun at the pub meets throughout the year. This gave us a chance for many of the community to socialize outside of scheduled games and actually lead to the creation of at least one group. However, the last one wasn’t quite so well attended and the venue let us down somewhat.We’ll need to think about an alternative next time.
We definitely need more GMs at ORC – we had games running at the Meadow Bar, the Games Hub, Illegal Jacks and also Cafe Renroc. Unfortunately these were often on the same day – many of our GMs are also players too, but some of us (like me) rarely get the chance to play. This is partially my choice, but some of the other GMs would love a chance to kick back and let someone else do the work (and so would I really). And of course anyone wishing to try their hand at GMing should feel free to do so.
Call of Cthulhu was definitely popular this year at ORC. We had two home-brew campaigns running (and one still is) and the also Cubicle 7′s Shadows of Scotland campaign – which was over-subscribed at one point! I’d thought about running my Arunstoun setting, but didn’t need to in the end. It did feature in Cthulhutech though! I considered running Masks of Nyarlathotep, but it has significant flaws and pretty much suffers what I call Cthulhu Syndrome where the PCs get drawn to a remote location for a minor reason and the players just know the Mythos is involved.
I put my Cthulhutech game, Through the Looking Glass, on hiatus (to give me a break really). The Dark Edinburgh setting really worked and I’ve been looking forward to getting my mitts on the new Burning Horizons supplement. With Pacific Rim out in 2013 (Guillermo del Toro‘s new movie featuring giant robots – mechs or mecha), I can see there being a few mecha-based games turning up in the future (Cthulhutech or otherwise). Wildfire, the makers of Cthulhutech have had a bad year with distributors so I hope things pick up for them in 2013!
Pathfinder was also popular this year at ORC and continues to be a successor to D&D. The campaign paths of Jade Regent, Raging Swan, Carrion Crown, and Kingmaker all put in an appearance, along with Dee’s Critical Missions home-brew. Nuno’s Shapes of Grey home-brew setting returned in Pathfinder form too. For those of us looking for an alternative to 4th Ed. D&D, Pathfinder provided the necessary fixes it seemed.
This naturally brings me to 4th edition D&D (4e). Oft-requested by players, yet only a handful of people were willing to run games. I’m not going to go in a debate about the version wars, as I’ve posted about that elsewhere. EmbraCraig continues to run Perils of the Nentir Vale at the Games Hub fortnightly, but Jill has wrapped up her War of the Burning Sky game. Radonir’s Scales of War continues to run, although he had some early recruitment problems with players.
At ORC, I began running the WFRP Enemy Within Campaign. As campaigns go, its tough to beat – there’s a lot of background info, not fluff for once, and I’m enjoying running it immensely. I’ve a good bunch of players to work with too, most of whom are enjoying themselves immensely I hope. I started recording the sessions but they’re such a large size that I’ll need to work on compressing them down to a manageable size.
However, my biggest disappointment of the year was Marvel Super Heroes (the original set from the 80s). We had a full session of character generation, but a third of the group then dropped out. As a result I (somewhat petulantly, I admit) decided to cancel the game in its entirety. I’d planned to run the Nightmares of Futures Past storyline, having fond memories of when we played it back in the late ’80s.
We even had a game of Vampire: The Masquerade scheduled to run at ORC at one point. For one session. Then the GM involved disappeared. VtM is one of those games that seems to be something of a Macbeth for ORC RPGers! Every time someone mentions they want to run it something happens, and the game only lasts a few sessions. Many of hose who liked the original VtM have now moved onto the Embraced and Isle of Darkness LARPS (I’d never be able to suspend my sense of disbelief for LARPS – I’d continually have to bite my tongue). I’ll possibly be running Werewolf: the Apocalypse in the future so who knows? Maybe we will get a proper Vampire campaign at ORC too!
And of course there’s D&Dnext, the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons RPG. Surprisingly there’s not been much interest in the Playtest packs at ORC. I think that everyone has largely adopted a wait-and-see attitude, possibly brought on by the whole 4e debacle. There’s a couple of games going on, but no one is seriously participating right now.
We also ran a few pub meets that I’ve mentioned elsewhere – these have rapidly proved to be a great way to meet other players in a non-RPG setting. So that’s the year at ORC really. Here’s to another year of great RPGs there!
2012 for me was the “Year of the Kickstarter”, or more likely “Year of the Stretch Goal”. Also “Year of the Stretched Bank account”. I backed a number of Kickstarter campaigns, some of which are still ongoing.
- Werewolf the Apocalypse: 20th Anniversary Edition – I had to really. Some many fond memories of running that World of Darkness game!
- Reaper Miniatures Bones – where I picked up A LOT of miniatures. I’ll never get around to painting them.
- Horror of the Orient Express for Call of Cthulhu. A classic reprinted, with new handouts and materials.
- Legendary Realms Terrain – this terrain looked great but didn’t make its funding level unfortunately.
- Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary. Why not?
- Shadows of Esteren: A medieval horror RPG – a game which looks amazing.
- FATE Core rules. It’s the least I can do if I intend to use it (STILL ONGOING on KS).
- Kingdom Death: Monster boardgame. A seriously freaky game, with some seriously freaky miniatures (STILL ONGOING on KS).
- YOU ARE THE HERO: a celebration of 30 years of Fighting Fantasy (STILL ONGOING on KS).
- ELITE: DANGEROUS. I’m of two minds about this, on the one hand Frontier have laid off staff and the KS is probably asking for too much, but I’d love to see a proper version of Elite again (STILL ONGOING on KS).
So that’s it. My RPG Retrospective. Sorry if I rambled on a bit, but it has been quite a year. Merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year!
I’d originally written a whole spiel on Kickstarter campaigns for RPGs as part of my last blog post but saved over by accident! For those unaware of Kickstarter, its a funding tool owned by Amazon that allows people to pledge cash towards a project, with “stretch goal” rewards. It has been used with great success by a number of projects that are RPG related – notably the Order of the Stick reprint drive and the recent Reaper Miniatures drive. At the moment I’m supporting the reprint of the classic Call of Cthulhu boxed set, Horror on the Orient Express.
At one point, Kickstarter was used by smaller projects to fund their startups. Nowadays it is becoming used as a marketing tool as well by some of the bigger companies. One of Kickstarter’s strengths is that if the funding goal isn’t reached, no money is taken. It’s in the interest of a Kickstarter Project (KP) to encourage people to pledge an amount obviously, but the use of stretch goals can encourage a projects backers to part with more cash. Stretch goals are points during a project where backers gain a reward of some kind. A souvenir of some kind or something extra like a free adventure when that point is reached, that can make the campaign unique. These goals can in themselves help increase the pledge levels.
Unfortunately many KPs probably don’t make it or don’t really engage with prospective backers. They don’t plan out their campaign properly - they simply see it as a revenue stream. Here’s some things that I think most KPs forget:
- Shipping information from the get-go. Postage to international backers can be expensive, so work it out.
- Planning the pledge levels. You can’t change them on KS once you have launched the Kickstarter campaign.
- Using stretch goals is a great way to encourage backers to pledge more, but work out the costs. If you’re offering a signed copy of a book at a certain level, and get 10,000 backers, you’ll need to sign them! If you add more to pledge level rewards, remember that shipping might change.
- Make the event unique – more than just a final copy of the book. Throw in some extras (such as replica train tickets or floorplans, like the Horror on the Orient Express KS).
- Communication with backers is a must – through KS itself or social media such as FB and Twitter. Most backers will check the KS page first. Its also a good idea to check regularly during the campaign and update the project.
As a business tool, Kickstarter is invaluable to those starting up their own RPG. Not only does it give you an instant established fan-base, you can also use it to connect with a whole new audience as well as the chance to test the waters as it were. I’m pretty sure that a number of small-press projects would never have made it. However, there’s no guarantee of quality at the end of the process. In an industry that has increasingly begun to hinge on PDF sales of their products. I’ve always found the whole print vs. PDF argument somewhat moot. If you’re going to print a product, you’ll likely send the proofs (bleeds and all) to the printer as a PDF. Whether its Quark or Indesign or MS Word, the PDF is pretty much what you send to any print house – be they Amazon, Lulu or a dead-tree printer . My thoughts are that any game should be a professionally-published PDF. If you’re unclear on how to do it, you shouldn’t be trying to get your game out there. And for gods sake get someone else to edit it.
If there’s one thing I hate, its a badly produced PDF. Text should be readable and the reader should be able to copy from it. It should also be laid out in a reasonable fashion, aligned in columns – and readable on any mobile device. It should also be bookmarked. I appreciate not everyone has access to DTP software like Quark or InDesign, but Open Office or similar still offer pretty good tools.
I’m no entrepreneur, but I like to think I’ve acquired some business sense. Several years ago, myself and a friend launched a PBM (play by mail) games partnership. We approached it as business, not just a hobby – and as a result we made a profit. We worked out the time taken for development, the materials involved, and the cost of doing business! RPGs are often a labour of love on the part of their creators and it is often far too easy to slap together a PDF, secure some cheap artwork, then slap it on the ‘net for $30. However, if you take the time to test it, invest the time in marketing and “polishing” you’ll get a much better response to your project.
At the end of the day, take a look at KS campaigns that failed, and what they were offering. Also, consider the glut of RPGs and their systems on places like RPGnow or DrivethruRPG. What will make your game stand out?
Kickstarter campaigns may allow you to raise funds to get a book published, but the quality of the product rests solely upon the creator.
I’ve got myself involved in some Kickstarter campaigns again. I’ll expand upon my thoughts about Kickstarter later, and why the use of it has now become a valid business revenue stream, later. One of the campaigns I’m involved in is the now very well-known Kickstarter Reaper miniatures promotion – 200+ plastic miniatures for approximately $100 – which has made the top 5 Kickstarter campaigns of the year (if not all time) raising $1,500,000 so far.
The other one I’m involved with is the re-release of the classic Call of Cthulhu boxed set, Horror on the Orient Express.
I’d planned to make this into a long post on the pros and cons of Kickstarter, but accidentally overwrote the up-to-date version I’d prepared (D’oh!). I’ll redo it again!