Small Ruins: Finished

It usually doesn’t take me long to finish a paint job on a small piece of terrain, not the least of reasons that I tend to be sloppy and rush it. I did run into a few problems with this one, though. For one thing, my usual can of light gray paint totally dried up, so I ended up using some craft paint that was a lighter gray, making for a more severe color contrast. I’m also not keen on how the mossy parts ended up, but I need to really consider using flock instead of foam greenery.

Second RuinSecond Ruin 2Second Ruin 3

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WIP: Small Ruins

Here’s a WIP shot of some small ruins that I’ve been working on. It is made using the very versatile Ruined Tower Mold from Hirst Arts. I’ve made others in a similar vein; my hope is to perhaps put together a “set”

Small Ruins

I’ll post some pics of the finished product. I might be considering selling a few pieces of the set, to raise a little “mad money” for other molds and hobby material.

What could save the roleplaying game industry? (Part 2)

In my apparently continuing series on what could bring new people into purchasing RPG’s, I present the following:

Bring back the boxed set.

“That’s just nostalgia!” I hear some readers cry, but hear me out.  I, and most RPG enthusiasts in their mid-thirties or thereabout, got their start on the boxed set of Dungeons& Dragons.  And I didn’t buy mine at an FLGS, I bought it at Sears.  That’s right, younger readers, Sears carried D&D.  Now the RPG industry doesn’t need Sears carrying RPG’s, it needs Wal-Mart to carry RPG’s, which means packaging RPG’s as a game, not a book.  Wal-Mart’s game section: big.  Wal-Mart’s book section: pathetic.  Draw your own conclusions, but packaging would make a difference.  In addition, a boxed set contains everything the novice player would need: rules, adventure, and dice.  As it stands now, the new kid needs to first a) go to an FLGS they’ve never been to before; b) buy the right rulebook(s), c) somehow psychically tell how many and of what kind of dice  you need to buy, and d) pick out an appropriate starter adventure module.  Package them together in a box with artwork that doesn’t look like porn, and then market it as a game to the box stores, priced somewhere around $30.  Include a mini-catalog of other products, perhaps even a coupon for subscribing to your magazine.

I realize that marketing the game to major retailers doesn’t help the FLGS, but in the long run, it will.  New players become veteran players, get more sophisticated tastes, and will want to connect with other players, which is where the FLGS should be coming into its own.  I could write more on what would save FLGS’s, but that’s another day.

What could save the roleplaying game industry?

It has been announced that there is going to be a “Free RPG Day” this June. It is a homage to the Free Comic Book Day the major publishers put together to encourage new readership. Free Comic Book Day worked in this household, because it got my son interested in comic books (they included early-reader options for guys like him). Free RPG Day, however, is being met with cynicism in certain places. The arguments are (in my own distillation) that the offerings are underwhelming, only RPG veterans will participate, and this isn’t really what’ll inject new life into the hobby.

While I’m not one to turn away free gear ever, and I’m loathe to agree with RPGnet smarks, I understand the cynicism. Most of the free stuff is supplements, rather than introductory rulebooks which would be a more natural gateway into the hobby. It is also not an apples-to-apples strategy with Free Comic Book Day. With FCBD, you have companies that publish dozens, if not hundreds of comic books giving out a free sample of their core product–what you got for free is an example of what you buy, at an essentially one-to-one level. With FRPGD, you are getting secondary products or limited versions of what you would bu, not a true example of a core product, namely a full rulebook.

Of course, most RPG companies can’t afford to just give away a core rulebook for free, because unlike say, the miniature wargaming community, the money’s in the main books as much as the secondary material. Also, a tremendous amount of free product in the form of introductory rulebooks are already available on the internet. You can get GURP’s Lite, etc. right now without having to wait for June. That’s not to mention the freebie bin at .pdf warehouses like DriveThruRPG.

But hey, it is a plan with the right intention, if not a perfect implementation, and a major company may yet step up to the plate and give out a major release loaded with advertisements for all the various modules, sourcebooks, etc available. If I was to pick a company that could really go a long way with this, I’d say Palladium Games could release the core rulebook to Palladium Fantasy–it isn’t necessarily a major mover, it’d get people buying the bazillion sourcebooks they publish, and it would stick it to all the Palladium critics out there.

But what could save the RPG industry? Well, I’m not a business analyst, but I do have some ideas.

Create multi-gamesystem publishing houses. In the book publishing world, large houses publish books of different genres, using their collective bargaining power to increase revenue, as well as have a editorial staff guarantee quality issues and publishing deadlines. One dilemma that I hear lamented by RPG store owners is the difficulty of discerning what will and will not sell, while small independent RPG writers languish in obscurity hoping to be picked up and discovered by the RPG clientele. If you had large publishing groups shopping RPG’s by marketability, advertising their products en masse, and maintaining a certain amout of oversight in terms of quality and timing, RPG retailers could work directly with them. By not having the publishing house be married to one single system, they can also be more sensitive to market trends without being beholden to continuing to support an RPG whose time is done. In some ways, the .pdf warehouses are already doing this by leveraging certain products to the front of their websites that they know will do well.

I don’t see this being a big hit with game designers themselves, especially mid-range developers who may not appreciate someone else’s editorial supervision and the inevitable lack of revenue in a paper-thin industry. But it isn’t my only idea.

Lower the prices on basic rulebooks

Right now, it’ll cost you about $100 to run Dungeons & Dragons, because the necessary material is spread out over three books: the Player’s Guide (which has most of it), the DM’s Handbook (which has experience points, etc.), and the Monster Manual. Many other major RPG’s following similar pricing structures: RuneQuest, GURPS, even the Hero System “I can stop a bullet” rulebook.

Games Workshop, and many other companies on the other side of the gaming store aisle have begun to realize that you need inexpesnive “gateway” options for new players. GW has Battle for Macragge, and Skull Pass. Privateer Press includes the basic rules in all their army box sets. Some RPG manufacturers are already doing this (see above) but I think more could be done. Now, I realize that, again, miniature companies make their money on miniatures, not rulebooks–but a $100 upfront investment on a game is going to make any new player blanche.

I’ll stop now, more later.

Hunting around for the right game

I’ve been hoping to get my brother, who is a teenager, into wargaming.  He’s shown a lot of interest in sci-fi wargaming, especially Warhammer 40K with its bizarre aliens, demons, etc.  Unfortunately 40K is very, very expensive, with a fair-sized army running you easily several hundred dollars.

So I’m looking for a less expensive sci-fi game that has plenty of crunchy gooeyness.  You can play 40K with a small number of figures (“Combat Patrol”) but my experience has been that the games are both short and a little lopsided.  That mostly because the games are still played with units, rather than a “skirmish” format.

One possibility would be Urban War, which has plenty of guns, a fairly easy ruleset, and is played with a small number of figures.  It is a little low on the “crunch and goo,” although I should check out the Koralons.  Another would be Rezolution, but I’m less familiar with that game (having not read the rulebook despite owning it for months).  I know they have the alien-possessed army, which might suffice.  I’ll be looking for reviews by someone who has actually played it.

On the upside, there’s nothing like spending a day off eating soup and cranberry bread toast with my daughter.

Things I’m working on right now

Right now, I’m running a Castles & Crusades campaign. C&C is a “rules lite” version of Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve been running the campaign for almost a year now. You can find the campaign journal here.

I often build terrain for wargaming and roleplaying using bricks made with Hirst Arts molds. Right now, I’m considering building a modular dungeon using the new cavern molds. I’ve also been working on a small gaming table that could be used for small skirmish games like Mordheim.

I’m also, obviously, messing about with this site a lot, trying to get exactly the right feel for it.  As a result, there may be a brief period with a lot of changes that occur to the blog’s appearance.  Thanks for being patient.