Saturday, February 27, 2010

Writing Fiction for Children (And Me)

I have always been interested in writing--and not just for rpgs but writing fiction.  I like to write stories.  I'd like to someday try my hand at writing a novel--if only for myself.  Of course, 100, 200, 250+ thousand words is a lot, and even the thought of that is daunting to me.  But I do want to try to write something longer than ten to fifteen pages.  I think that I have hit upon a way to write a little each day and eventually end up with a sizable story.

My daughter is six.  Each night, my wife and I take turns doing bedtime with her.  It always involves talking about the day for a little while, reading, hugs and kisses, saying goodnight, etc.  My daughter really enjoys being read to, despite the fact that she is a voracious reader in her own right who begins each day reading in her bed before one of us wanders in to tell her it is time to start getting ready for school.  Many of the books that she reads are about horses or ponies, unicorns, fairies, and other fantastical things.  Nice.  (And unlike many out there, I haven't even approached the idea of D&D with her yet.)

What I have decided to do is write her a story.  In addition to whatever other bedtime activities are going on, I will read her one page each night of the story that I am writing for her.  One page every other night equals 500-600 words every two days.  Not too difficult.  Shouldn't be a problem.  And I'll write something fantasy related, so I get some personal pleasure out of it as well.

I haven't thought too much about the story or what it will be about, but over the past three days, we've read the first two pages.  She seems to be enjoying it.  I think that it is a great way for us to bond and for me to work on my writing.  Who knows?  Maybe I have a future in children's literature.

Weekly Features

One of the reasons that I started a blog was to have a place where I could follow my interests and work on projects as I have the time and energy to do so.  And where, even if I only type 250 words, I feel that I've accomplished something.  The idea of serializing my work greatly interests me also because I have a thousand interests and being able to follow whichever I choose at a given time seems to ease the burden.

I can have an idea, type 500 words, then move on to my next idea, and later come back to the first and add another 500 words, etc.  Eventually, by coming back enough times, I might have enough material to actually publish and put it up for sale.  Writing in this way also prevents writers block for me.  If one topic is blocked, then there is always something else that I can write about, or another map that I can draw, etc.  And if a topic stays blocked long enough, perhaps it wasn't worthy of much effort in the first place.

Several blogs have weekly features where the writer posts about a specific topic once a week (or some other periodicity).  I think that I am going to actively pursue several weekly features for the reasons that I listed above and because it will force a deadline on me to go back to those things that I am most interested in.  While those (freedom of topic at any given time versus a requirement to write about a specific topic at some periodicity) are almost diametrically opposed, I think that finding the balance between them will make me a better writer, map-maker, producer-of-content, etc.

The hard part will be in deciding what interests of mine are worthy of a weekly feature and then forcing myself to consistently produce.  One is already floating out there, and I have ideas for several others.  Which ones that bubble to the surface remains to be seen.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Product Lines

If you've read here, here, or here, you are familiar with the fact that I decided to try to become a publisher of rpg materials while 3.X was still the king and before 4E was announced.  Because I had no interest in trying to learn 3.X (as my general perusal of the books left me dizzy--among other things), I decided to take advantage of my other interest--maps.  Consequently, I called my little company The Fantasy Cartographic and released seven products, all of which were map-centric.  Then, when 4E came out, I found myself interested in it and wanting to produce material for it.  (I suppose one could question whether I am a true old-schooler...)  I then released a few products for the 4E system that had nothing to do with maps.

I find myself wanting to continue pursuing both, but I am worried that, because my publishing interests are so far apart, I'll dilute whatever (tiny) brand awareness exists for TFC.  I've therefore decided to split my products into two different "Product Lines".  I have logos for each already designed--which I think is important in trying to build awareness.

All future mapping products will fall under the "Adventure Maps" banner.  It's logo, personally designed by myself (as if you couldn't tell), is here:

Those products that I will release for 4E will fall under the "Radiant Spear" banner, which is also the name of my 4E campaign.  Its logo, which was not designed by me, is here:

The next step is to take these logos and divide my current products at  Or I might wait until I actually release the next products and then divide everything.  All I have to do it actually complete some of my offerings that are in the pipeline.

Of course, these two lines don't really take into account the last type of products that I want to produce--gaming material for one or more of the retroclones, including my Science-Fantasy project.  I suppose that I'll need to come up with a third product line, including title and logo, to include all of my old school efforts.  Anybody want to help?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Females. Have you seen any?

I was writing a post earlier today about bloggers within the OSR, and I was typing and came across a sentence where I was about to type "he or she".  Why?  Because while it might be clumsy, I was assuming that it would be applicable.  But then I stopped and thought about it. 
Are there any female bloggers in the OSR?

Frankly, I can only think of one female blogger who writes about rpgs--and she does so only tangentially. That is Geek's Dream Girl. And based upon everything that I can gather, she is definitely into the new school.

I'll ask one more time:  Any females blogging in the OSR?  Does anyone know of any? Anyone?

Of Like Mind

I'm a relative newcomer to the OSR.  I know most of what I know about it by lurking around the OSR blogosphere.  Over time, as I have read more and more of the various bloggers, I have found that there are several whose opinions on most things match my own, whose sensibilities seem similar to mine, and who I can count on to always post something that interests me.  I have also found several where those only rarely occur.

I tend to find that the more I read of a given blogger, the more he or she seems to fall to the average.  What I mean by this is that as I become more familiar with any given bloggers' views, I typically tend to like less the ones that I really like and dislike less the few that I really dislike.  I suppose that that is proof that, for the most part, we are all similar in more ways than we are different.  That's a good thing, because it tells me that I am hanging out with the right people.

[Not to say that the same hasn't happened with rpg bloggers outside of the OSR--it's just that I am obviously of like mind with more people here than there.]

Because I am relatively new, I am still coming across people and places that I haven't heard of or read about before.  It's always a little exciting to find something (someone) new and realize the goodness.  So that happened to me today.  I came across, and read just about all of, Original Edition Fantasy.  I've enjoyed it so much that it will now find a spot on My Daily Read.  Thomas Denmark is a pretty cool dude and way talented.  Here's hoping that he won't fall to the average.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Business Thoughts from the Bottom Feeder

A little while ago, I wrote a little post entitled Just Do It about getting into the rpg business.  I'm always on the lookout for interesting reading and new perspectives.  Today I had to look no further than My Daily Read--a nice article from our friend at the Bottom Feeder about success in business.  In his case, as a designer of computer games, but the wisdom holds for any creative, money-making venture.

And if you were to look a little further back, some other info on the making of money--from software.

Just Do It!

One of my main interests is the business side of rpgs.  It's why I started The Fantasy Cartographic two years ago.

I know a lot of people who are trying to "break into" the rpg business.  My question is, why?  Not why try to break into the business, but why not just do it?  The cost to entry is zero--not counting your time.  Just go out, put together a product of some type, and then go to any number of sites that will sell it for you, set up an account, and voila! you're in the biz.

I'm sure that some people would say that this really isn't breaking into the business.  My only reply is that you have to start somewhere.  Just do it.

I've been doing it for over two years now.  Have I made a lot of money?  No.  Am I well known in the world of rpgs?  No.  Am I even well known in the much smaller world of the OSR?  Heck, no!  But here is what I know:

- I've made a little money--enough to pay for this little hobby of mine.  It is effectively self-sufficient.

- I've learned a lot about creating a written document that looks professional (to some extent)--which is much more than just writing the document (although that, in itself, can be difficult).

- I've learned a lot about setting goals and working my butt off to accomplish something.

- I'm having a lot of fun.

Back to my 'Just Do It' idea.  I'll compare it to something that my older brother said a long time ago that really rang true to me when he first said it, and it still rings true.  We were talking about SETI--you know, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence, where people are basically searching outer space for aliens, typically using radio telescopes and looking for radio sgnals that cannot be naturally occuring.  I was saying that I was interested in supporting it in some way and that I thought it was a good idea.  My brother looked at me and said that it was the worst idea in the world and a complete waste of time.  What?!  "Rather than spend money looking for aliens, instead spend the money to put us into outer space.  I'll be their freakin' alien."

You're damned right!  So with that, I'll say it again: If you want to get into the biz, just do it!

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Blog to Follow

So I recently came across a new entrant in the blogosphere: Unfrozen Caveman Dice Chucker.  (Actually, 'recently' is not quite right as I came across him some weeks ago.)  I read his entire blog as his (like mine) is still in its infancy.

He's caught my attention.  Hopefully, he can keep it running.

Unfortunately for him, with an absolutely chaotic title like that, he really has no place to go but down.

Year of the Dungeon Partnership

So Tony Dowler over at Year of the Dungeon recently asked readers of his blog for help in compiling his drawings into monthly compilation pdfs.  Since Year of the Dungeon is part of My Daily Read, I jumped on the opportunity to work with Tony in some way.  He graciously agreed, and TFC is putting together the February compilation!

While this isn't cartographic work per se, it does give me the opportunity to work with maps in a project and, more importantly, collaborate with someone whose work I admire.

By the way, if you haven't checked it out yet, I recommend How to Host a Dungeon by Tony.  It is a fun little diversion and an enjoyable method for 'designing' dungeons.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Evolution of the OSR

As someone new to the OSR but who is definitely interested in furthering it, I find myself thinking about where it has been and where it is headed. To clarify thoughts in my head, I’ve written a brief synopsis of its history. Be aware that in no way do I believe this to be definitive or detailed, but it is in rough terms what I have come to understand about the evolution of ‘old school’ gaming to this point. If there is anything patently incorrect in this synopsis, I hope that those of you who are more aware might comment and correct me. 

From ancient times to early 1980s: Roleplaying games began as an outgrowth of various kinds of tabletop wargaming, fed by wargaming clubs and associations and a motley collection of fanzines and newsletters. The first, and arguably biggest, rpg (D&D) was written in the mid 1970’s and spread like wildfire. It experienced a good bit of evolution in those nascent years as did the roleplaying hobby in general. Most games during this time can be characterized as ‘rules-lite’ meaning that there were NOT rules for every conceivable situation that might crop up in a game, and it was expected that the DM/GM would adjudicate based upon the preferences of the gaming group and common sense (however one wants to define that).

The 1980s: A crazy time for the roleplaying hobby as it exploded into popular consciousness. Although D&D remained the big daddy, numerous other systems were written, played, and discarded. D&D itself experienced many changes, some as a result of the devil-worship scare of the mid-1980s and some as a result of corporate, financial, and interpersonal politics. By the end of the 1980s, roleplay gaming started to shrink somewhat as computer and video games became more ‘immersive’ and the publicity (positive and negative) of the games earlier in the decade waned.

The 1990s: If anything, a period of roleplay gaming decline. Gamers found other things to play, including more computer and video games and then a (for all intents and purposes) new type of game—the collectable card game. D&D fell further relative to the hobby itself as other rpgs grew in popularity; for some, D&D was “so 1980s.” For others, however, D&D continued to be the game of choice.

The Early 2000s (Early-Aughts?): A new renaissance (at least for D&D) occurred as the 3rd Edition of the game was released along with the Open Gaming License, which basically allowed anyone to legally publish game material provided they followed a few stipulations. Numerous companies, large and small, formed to take advantage of the OGL. The hobby exploded, although never reaching the popular consciousness to the level that it had in the 1980s. Within the ranks of D&D players, always a wide and varied lot, there existed a group who did not like the direction that the new edition of the game had taken. It was more ‘rules-heavy’, left less to the imagination, and resulted in a different style of play than was popular 20 years earlier. At the same time, the rise of the internet fostered a vibrant online gaming “community,” including gaming commerce sites, forums, chat rooms, and a growing number of blogs.

The Late 2000s (Late-Aughts?): The effects of the internet continue to be felt, and moreso than ever. The online gaming community splits into several smaller ones (if what existed before can even be considered a monolithic community). Those people who favored ‘rules-lite’ gaming began to think of themselves as part of a renaissance of support for a style of play that had fallen into disfavour in the mainstream gaming community. This group of people began to refer to themselves as members of the Old School Renaissance. And so it was born.

As stated above, this brief synopsis of history as I understand it is purely to align my thoughts on the topic. With this understanding, I hope to accomplish I’m-not-sure-what. But I found it useful nonetheless.