Category Archives: News & Reviews

Gaming All Day, Gaming All Night

Today I thought I would do a bit of an opinion piece just to break up the number of game read throughs I have done recently.

I like to think that deep down all of us would like to spend all day role playing and not have to go to work. So how viable is that?

Micheal has a patreon profile which doesn’t bring much money in but if you contrast that with The Angry GM he is earning $1110 (and counting per blog post, based on 4 per month. That is $4440 x 12 $53,000 a year for writing one blog post a week. There was an article I read this week that put the US poverty line at about $23,000/year so you are not going to starve on $53k. So yes you can write about games and make a living off it.

Blogs are about the easiest option. They used to be far more popular than they are now, as social media has taken off blogs have somewhat diminished. It is easy to make money on a blog but much much harder on social media. You cannot just plonk some ads alongside your content and get paid like you used to.

Blogs fall into some basic types. The Angry GM is an opinion blog. Review sites make money from small commission payments when you refer a reader who then goes on an buys something. Stargazer’s is largely a review site. In its hey day it had 10k readers a week and that would have generated a reasonable income but not enough to live on. I don’t know the figures but I do know that Michael still has a day job.

Some blogs are magazine sites. Gnome Stew is one of my favourites. The advertising on sites like Gnome Stew earns in the region of $2 per 1000 pages seen. They typically get 17,000 visitors per month, each views a guestimaged 6 pages per visit based upon their site design and they publish new content 12 times a month. Multiply that all up and you just over $800 a month. They have a little Patreon following taking them up to a $1k a month. They also sell their own books. How much that brings in I cannot easily guess. Using typical figures for online sales and the size and price of their books I would put it in the region of $30k/year. So Gnome Stew probably earns about $50/year like The AngryGM.

If you don’t want to blog about roleplaying than you can create and sell games. I have produced dozens of supplements over the past couple of years from full games to simple plot hooks for adventures. Not one thing that I have produced failed to sell. These days of PDF downloads and sites like OneBookShelf (drivethuRPG, DM’s Guild and RPGnow) make becoming a small publisher very easy indeed. Making serious money from it is, in contrast, extremely difficult. Ever since Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms setting as picked up and adopted as an official setting it has seemed tantalisingly easy to write and sell your own adventures or setting. After all, we all write adventures for our players  week in, week out. Surely we can write an adventure module or path and make a killing? There is a big gap between what us a normal GMs produce and the adventures released by WotC or Paizo! Probably the biggest differences are Art and Playtesting. Just about every game played has some house rules or loose interpretations. These can make an adventure that works for your group go very pear shaped every quickly when another group tries to play it. The Art question is another thorn in the side of the independent publisher. The cover and interior art can make or break a game or supplement. Art is also not cheap of you commission it.

We are all storytellers. I also think that quite a few of us harbour the idea of writing up our campaigns to create a novel. Drivethufiction allows anyone to do that. You can easily write just a single chapter and sell it for a few pence as a PDF. I produce a fanzine for one of my favourite games and that sells as a PDF but I also create and sell a kindle version and paperback. In total I have published eight issues of the fanzine plus a print version of one game and the first supplement of that game. Interestingly, I sell more printed copies on Amazon than I do on the RPG sites, where PDF is far more popular.

How much you are going to earn through self publishing is a rather open ended question. If you focus on one game system and the publisher is open to third party supplements then the size of the gaming community is the size of your market. This means that 5e and Pathfinder attract the most attention, so it is harder to get noticed but if you make something popular then it will make a lot more money.

It is certainly possible to mix and match all of the above suggestion and create a completely game-centric income for not a lot of work. That would then free up your time to play games with your friends. Even if you don’t make enough to give up the day job it is easy to make enough that you can have any game you want when you want it and not have to worry about it, just worry about the bookshelf space instead.

So, with New Year’s resolutions just around the corner maybe a little secondary income could be an ambition?

Mutant:Year Zero

I have read just about everything that is available to get for free several times in the past couple of weeks and this looks like an awesome game and I really want to play/run it.

I am mechanically minded so I will start with my impressions of the detail of the system and work outwards to the bigger picture.

D6/D66/D666

I love this mechanic. At some point every GM is going to start to write their own adventures and being able to scale from six options to the 36 possible outcomes of the D66 to the 200+ options to the D666 is so simple, consistent and elegant. The mechanism gives you as much granularity as you could possibly wish for. D6 for initiative is simple enough and D66 for criticals gives you enough variety that injuries mean something. I don’t know what a hit point looks like but a broken nose means something. It seems that most fighter types will be able to take 5 points of trauma and weapons seem to do a typical 2 points per hit. This implies that fights are going to be short and bloody, no slug fests here.

The game play seems to be very social, something that I have been increasingly aware of recently both in my own games and in games I have reviewed. I like this but, as has been noted elsewhere, M:YZ is not a game for online or PBP play. It needs that sort of ‘around the table’ discussion and collaboration.

Character creation from what I have seen is really fast and easy to grasp. I am not a fan of dice and random rolls in character creation. This is a personal choice and I can see the occasional amusement of playing a warrior with a terrible strength or constitution. I would not want to do that every time. M:YZ thankfully uses a simple point buy system of sharing 14 points amongst four attributes and ten points amongst 12 basic skills. There is just as much emphasis put on relationships as there is on attributes and skills. This is something I wholeheartedly agree with. The only random factor in the rules I have seen is your mutation. In the quick start rules there are three mutations per character and you roll a D6 to select.

The Setting

I really like this vision of the post apocalypse. I have fond memories of Gamma World and to some extent this is a more grown up version of that vision. The setting is a role player’s setting, not a dungeon crawlers or hack and slashers setting. In that Gamma World version everyone wanted powered armour and big weaponry, from what I have seen the emphasis is more on collaboration and internal struggles with your fellow mutants and the survival of your ark.

My one and only concern is over the setting though and it is possibly completely irrelevant or wrong. There is something about M:YZ that reminds me of the original Call of Cthulhu (Chaosium?) game. I think it is the hint of an underlying menace. There are warnings at the front of the rules for players not to pry further into the rules regarding this. I wonder if once this secret is known, if the game will lose some of its return value. Even if I am right, does that detract any from the game? I think without that undercurrent the setting would lack a certain ‘something’. The setting is extremely hostile and even your mutations are out to get you. I do not think characters are going to live very long if you try and go out all guns blazing, or using a bat to try and solve your problems. This is not that sort of game. I suspect that unearthing that hidden story may never happen for a great many groups.

Finally, I would like to mention the job that Free League Publishing have done with the game materials. The writing is excellent and the art is more than adequate to imagine the setting. Page layout is possibly a bit of a nerdy thing to get excited about but it is of such massive importance to how we respond to a book. If you cannot find what you need then the rules appear opaque. If the pages are too dense with text then the rules become difficult to absorb. These are the little things that, although no single one makes or breaks a book, can change our perception of a rulebook and therefore the game. M:YZ was laid out by an extremely talented page designer.

I don’t do scores, I think games are too complex to boil down to a single ‘marks out of ten’ or ‘stars out of five’. I can imagine that reviews before me have given this game nines and tens and it would be well justified. I know I am picky and hard to please but this game is probably the best game I have read in a decade.

A Look At Awaken

Awaken_CoreA while back Zoltan Lečei from The Games Collective, a Croatian game developer,  contacted me and told me about their game Awaken which had been successfully funded by Kickstarter in 2015. Awaken is a Dark Fantasy Roleplaying Game with awesome artwork and an intriguing setting. Over the last few days I have been leafing through the book multiple times and I have to admit, I like what I am seeing.

The 217-paged book (Disclaimer: Zoltan provided me with a free PDF copy) is a sight to behold. What immediately becomes obvious that a lot of time and effort were put into the look of the game. As I mentioned before the quality of the exterior and interior art is awesome. Same goes for the layout. I’ve included a couple of art pieces from the book as examples throughout this post.

Awaken_BloodRitual

The game itself focuses on the Vasalli, people who spontaneously developed powerful abilities which go along with minor cosmetical changes. The supernatural powers of the Vasalli are said to be a gift from God, but their usage comes at a price. Vasalli unable to control their powers get corrupted in mind and body.

The setting is the Alliance of the Great Cities, eleven nation-states situated on a large peninsula, which barely survived a war against the underground-dwelling Vargans. These very-same Vargans have now returned and are a threat to the Alliance once more.

Awaken_Liboria

From what I’ve seen so far Awaken takes inspiration from many sources. The Vasalli are somewhat reminiscent of the Exalted. The Vagrans remind me of Dragon Age’s Darkspawn. The rules and some of the concepts are cleary inspired by White Wolf’s Storyteller games, but instead of using ten-sided dice, Awaken uses pools of d6. There are also huge colossi created by terrible rituals which transform multiple Vassali into one huge creature giving up their lives and individuality in the process – body horror at its finest.

Even though some inspirations seem obvious, from what I’ve seen so far, Awaken manages to mold everything into a coherent setting combined with a set of simple rules. Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to read the game thoroughly or even play it, but I looks intriguing enough to warrant a closer look.

Awaken_Battle

If you are into dark fantasy settings there are currently many games to choose from. Aside from Awaken, there’s Dragon Age, Shadow of Esteren, Symbaroum and many, many more. What speaks most in favor of Awaken is the awesome artwork, an interesting setting which is its own thing despite being inspired by many sources and the rules-light mechanics. Of course there are also a couple of problems. The book definitely needs some more editing. I noticed several small typos, and sometimes it becomes obvious that the texts were not written by native speakers. But my first impression of the book is definitely positive.

Again I have to stress this is not a proper review, since I haven’t had the chance to really get into the finer details of both Awaken’s setting or rules. I can only recommend that you check out Awaken for yourself. You can get the game in print or digital form from the official website or from RPGNow for $19.99 (PDF) or $49.99 (Hardcover) respectively. There’s a also a Print+PDF deal for $49.99.
If you want to check out what Awaken has to offer, there’s also a free (or rather PWYW which includes free) quickstart PDF.