Category Archives: Random musings

Blogs vs. Social Media–From a RPG Blogger’s Perspective

Since I started this blog almost 10 years ago, a lot of fellow RPG bloggers have stopped blogging or moved their activities from their blog to social media. I am quite active on Facebook as well,but even though I haven’t blogged that often recently, I am not planning to close down the blog anytime soon. There are a lot of reasons why I will not do so, and I’ll use this post to share some of my thoughts on the matter.

RPG Bloggers of all countries unite … 
Back in 2008 the RPG Bloggers Network had just started. If I am not mistaken it were mainly the people behind the Critical Hits blog and Philippe-Antoine Ménard who started the whole thing. The RPG Bloggers Network was meant as a community of like-minded RPG bloggers and featured a central site which aggregated all member sites’ blog posts. The site was a hot mess consisting of a WordPress page with a RSS plugin which more often crashed and burned than not. But all these technical issues aside, it was my #1 place to go if I was looking for RPG-related news, interesting articles, reviews, interviews et cetera.

In addition to that the small, but growing community was very active. Everyone read everyone else’s posts, commented, gave advice, and helped new voices to be heard. It was an exciting time. Quickly the network had become quite large and reading a day’s worth of posts from the RPG Bloggers Network was akin to drinking from the proverbial firehose. It was not perfect, but it worked. A lot of people who started blogging in these days actually made the jump into the RPG industry.

Unfortunately the RPG Bloggers main site was exploding all the time. Maintaining it was obviously a chore, and adding new sites, editing member entries, etc. was a very manual process. It was pretty clear that this was doomed to fail eventually. I don’t exactly remember how things went down, but the RPG Bloggers Network changed hands eventually and the new owner announced a lot of improvements. But unfortunately not much, if anything at all, happened. The network still existed, but slowly it started to fall apart at its seams.

Continue reading Blogs vs. Social Media–From a RPG Blogger’s Perspective

Looking after the pennys

I kind of suspect that most GMs harbour some kind of desire, however small, to make a living from gaming. After all if you look at the success of the Forgotten Realms haven’t we all created just as good a campaign setting? Haven’t we all written adventures as good if not better than the off the shelf adventure modules?

All GMs almost by default are creative. We know our chosen game systems almost inside out. I am certain that any one of use could write and stat out and adventure at the drop of a hat.

And don’t get me started on writing your own games…

So, as many of you know I like creating stuff and selling it on the OneBookShelf network, RPGnow and DriveThruRPG etc., I have created many adventure hooks that typically sell for 99¢, random die tables, the odd supplement and my own game that sells for $7.99. I also publish a fanzine on a monthly basis both on OBS and on Amazon as print and kindle. None of this is earning me big bucks but it is fun, the barriers to entry in self publishing is very low, the new skills you need to learn are fun and the creation process is quite satisfying.

You will also undoubtedly know that I quite enjoy solo role play. It is more satisfying than watching TV and like most GMs I have more games than I will ever be able to play with my regular players. Solo play lets me take those games for a spin.

Most of what I create is branded as ‘system neutral’ meaning that I don’t include stats for any particular game system. It is just an adventure outline, pen portraits of NPCS and suggestions of monsters or foes for the encounters. Finding monster stats is not hard it is the creative idea for the adventure that is the bit that is worth paying the 99¢ for.

In total I have maybe 100 documents that I have published or co-authored and in general they collectively earn me about $2 a day. It is no great income but it does mean that I can basically pick up anything I want at any time from RPGnow and it costs me nothing. My publishers commission is accumulating faster than I am spending it which is rather nice.

So last week I created a little HTML/Javascript tool that I shared here for Fudge Solo Play. So far there have been 25 downloads of it and I kind of hope people are enjoying it. So this weekend I wanted to have a go at 7th Sea. I have not played the 2nd Edition but it does look awesome. So me being me the first thing I did was rewrite Karl Hendricks One Page Solo Engine to fit the D10 mechanics of 7th Sea. I then updated my Fudge HTML page for 7th Sea and built a Dice Roller that accounted for the exploding dice and the roll 4 keep 3 (4k3) mechanics of the game. So that was Friday afternoon while I was quiet at work (you know how Fridays can be when no one wants to return your calls).

Incidentally, I have recently bought myself a second hand copy of Adobe Creative Suite 4 just so I can make better looking RPG products. I am still very much learning how to use Photoshop and InDesign having moved up from CS2 to CS4.

Having now got a 7th Sea solo engine I cannot stop myself from trying to put together a published version using InDesign. To tempt me even more John Wick Presents actually have a free InDesign template to help people create good looking supplements and a Community Created Content programme so you can sell them through their own OBS portal. This is just too good for me to turn sway from. So Saturday evening is spent creating my document. There is a sample page…

I am really pleased with how it turned out. So on Sunday I published it on the Explorers Society portal and over night it has sold 13 copies. This makes it my fastest selling document so far.

Needless to say, Friday I wrote the rules up, Saturday I did the page layout and Sunday I published it via their community portal so as a result I never got to play the game at all. What it does demonstrate is just how fast and easy it is to go from idea to published product. So easy in fact that any one can do this. Michael publishes for free just so others can enjoy what he has created. I do it for money but not for mercenary reasons. I was once told that if I don’t value what I create then why should anyone else? I took that to heart and have stuck to it ever since.

So the next time you have a dull weekend ahead why not give self publishing an RPG product a bash? You never know, you may surprise yourself or make enough commission to get a free game!

What’s New with the Stargazer?

I have to start with an apology. A couple of weeks back I promised to post more often, but unfortunately life had other plans. As the saying goes: the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

One thing I noticed over the years is that for me blogging and actually running games go hand-in-hand. Each time I took a break from GMing, my blogging schedule got erratic. It seems I get more and better ideas from posts when I am actually behind a GM’s screen. On the positive side I have actually played in quite a few games lately: Mutant Year Zero (and its spin-off Genlab Alpha), Numenera, Shadowrun (in its venerable third edition), Traveller, and last but not least I actually made a character for an upcoming Jovian Chronicles game!

But all this has been overshadowed by the sudden death of my best friend. I’ve known him for over 20 years now, and he shared my love for roleplaying games. He introduced Rolemaster to me, and I still have very fond memories of him playing in my Shadowrun campaign during my College years. He also always had an open ear when I felt down and needed someone who was willing to listen to my ramblings. A bit over two weeks ago his wife informed me that he took his life. He has always struggled with depression but no one had seen it coming. As you can imagine it was a great shock to everyone who knew him. I still wish it was all a bad dream, waiting to wake up from it any minute. I had a lot of plans for my vacation around the Easter holidays, but in light of recent events I was just not able to get anything done.

But what I realized is that I definitely need to start running games again. In an earlier post I wrote about the anxiety that keeps me from doing so and I think the only way to overcome it is to jump into the cold water and take on the GM’s mantle again. I want to run games, I have so many campaign ideas in my head, the only thing holding myself back is my stupid brain.

A game I have been looking at for some time now is Cyberpunk 2020. Cyberpunk is one of my favorite genres, but Shadowrun just couldn’t really scratch that itch. Yeah, it has cyberpunk elements in it, but in a way it’s just D&D with guns. The player characters are usually not working against the system, they are not really “punk”, but cold mercenaries, only interested in the money. Perhaps some groups run it differently, but in my experience it basically boils down to this. Cyberpunk 2020 is closer to the original vision of the genre and hopefully allows me to run stories like envisioned by William Gibson and his peers. The retrofuturism of the game only adds to the allure. Continue reading What’s New with the Stargazer?