Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eldritch Witchery, Back to Basics

TIM: Hey all, guest blooger Tim Brannan here.  I wanted to take some time and talk a bit about where I was in the upcoming Eldritch Witchery book for the Spellcraft & Swordplay game.  Not sure of a release date yet.

I am returning to work on Eldritch Witchery, my guide to witches and warlocks for the Spellcraft & Swordplay RPG. The idea is simple really; make a witch class for the game. But I want to do this class justice and not just do a retread of the material I have written for other games.

So I am going back to school.


I have been rereading old Dragon and White Dwarf magazines from the 70s to the early 80s to get a proper feel for the game as it was then. What were people talking about and doing in their games. I have also been going over my basic assumptions. Why is a witch needed if we already have Clerics and Wizards? What niche does a witch fill in a Sword and Sorcerery game? For this I am indebted to Jason Vey who has been giving me a crash course in all things Pulp related. Conan (whom I never really read and now understand I know next to nothing about), the works of Robert Howard and how they relate to Lovecraft. Plus I have been thinking a lot about my own influences for D&D. Clark Ashton Smith is a big one for me. I have been rereading all my old D&D books and notes. My first witch character was made in October of 1986, I wrote my first set of rules (20 pages) around her.

What has this done for me?

Well I have a pretty good idea what I want to do and how I want to do it and it is different than say my d20 version of the witch, or even the magic I wrote about in Ghosts of Albion. What does a witch do in the world of Spellcraft & Swordplay. Well the witch is more connected to the primal nature of magic. I hesitate to say “beyond good and evil” but maybe before good and evil. She is like nature. I also want to incorporate a lot of what is old folklore and fairy tales about witches. So these are defiantly more Baba Yaga than Sabrina.

What do Witches Do?

In any game you need to figure out where a character’s niche will be. What is it that the character will do, what can she do and what will she bring to the adventuring party. Where does she fit in this world organically. I also want keep in mind the classical or stereotypical powers of the witch; casting spells, making potions, the evil eye, curses, charms, turning people into animals, flying on brooms, consulting with familiar spirits. The witch then for me needs to provide that air of mystery in a world already full of magic and magical-using characters. She needs to have something special about her, I want the other characters in the group to say, “We need her, she is a witch!”

Hopefully players will say the same thing.

Next time, more on the occult powers of the witch class.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Personal Blog

If anyone's interested in my more mundane comings-and-goings, I've begun a personal blog at http://grey-elf.blogspot.com/

I did this so as not to clutter up the Elf Lair and Wasted Lands blogs with off-topic postings.

Feel free to pop over, read, comment, whatever.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Status report

Well, folks, here's the deal.

I have too much on my plate at the moment. This means that something has to give, and right now, the only thing I've got to give...is Elf Lair.

We are not done. Just on indefinite hiatus. I intend to get up and running again just as soon as I figure out how to deal with the stresses of everything I have going on. Unfortunately that means that until the end of the year at least, Elf Lair is closed down.

Fortunately I haven't yet officially set us up as an LLC.

It's cool if you want to keep checking here for updates, as I'll post them as I have them, but hopefully we'll be very visible when it's time to come back. I want to put some money away to do this thing right when it's ready to take off, and hit everyone with a marketing blitz when we're ready to go.

I realize this is a disappointment to our fans, but all I can say is, nothing can prepare you for what hits you when you enter grad school. Between that and my day job, my time is utterly monopolized. I'm told that after you're in for a semester things calm down a great deal. We shall see.

Monday, August 31, 2009

As things calm down...

The wedding is next week. Within 2 weeks or so I'll know how badly classes are going to kill me.

Best case scenario: I hope to have Twelve Parsecs in playtest by October. Whether we see any releases before that depends on Tim's work on Eldritch Witchery and Vampire Queen.

Thanks for your patience, everyone. We're keeping you updated as we have info to post :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

More Detailed Update

A bit more of a detailed update than the one below, since I'm sure some folks are wondering what's going on, or if I'm going to let this grand experiment die off.

Elf Lair is (mostly) a one-man operation. Tim gives his input, thoughts, and advice as he can, but he's a busy guy with a lot of expenses of his own (both financial and time-related). I have to call on volunteers to help me edit and proof documents, and that generally isn't conducive to cutting down typos and errors as much as they could be cut down.

Add to that the fact that I'm working on a novel (with interest from a potential publisher), a major freelance project, and gearing up to start grad school in the fall...and the grind has worn down on me.

I'm not saying I'm quitting. Far from it. What I am saying is that Elf Lair has suffered from its inception from inefficiency that needs to be eliminated. I wrote S&S on a whim, from early experimentation with using Chainmail as a basis for role playing. When it was complete I figured some people might be interested so I threw it up for sale. Never expected that a year later I'd be nearing 500 units sold by nothing more than word of mouth and a few postings on message boards!

That many sales means we have a solid fan base, and you guys deserve to have the best delivered to you, by a properly run organization. Until now I have admittedly been haphazard with things, making corrections as I go and letting certain things slide. That needs to stop. Sure, Lulu is conducive to that, but just because you can do something doesn't mean it's the best way to go about it.

So what does all this mean?

What has been going on behind the scenes is a lot of thinking and re-organizing. I'm recharging my batteries and clearing off my plate so that I can sit down and decide exactly how Elf Lair needs to be run. I may look for investors so I can provide you all with high-quality, professionally printed product in distribution. I also desperately want to move away from Lulu. I understand OBS is gearing up (at last) to get their PoD service up and running; I'll be watching that development closely.

Elf Lair Games may have started on a lark, but it's starting to take on a life of its own. I see that as a great thing, and I want to do right by the people who have supported us. So I need to recharge my own batteries and see what I need to do, to give us a place in the industry as a real player. I can only fly by the seat of my pants for so long before I have to step off and work it out; otherwise everything's going to fall apart. And none of us want that.

So I hope you all understand that and will keep watching, playing, posting, and supporting Elf Lair as it moves forward. Thanks again, everyone.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quick update

Just so you all know we haven't dropped off the face of the Earth.

Life happens, as it tends to do, and sometimes brings with it chaotic schedules and a general feeling of burnout that is detrimental to a one-man operation like ELG. I'm not closing up shop--far from it, I still intend on releasing all the stuff I advertised. But I'm taking a short break to recharge the mental batteries. Been focused too much on producing gaming material for other people instead of doing it for my own enjoyment.

The down time should be brief; hopefully by September sometime I'll be back on track.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Monstrous Mayhem Deluxe Release

As promised, we have released the Deluxe edition of Monstrous Mayhem. This version contains only the material that did not make it into S&S Deluxe (which is still a pretty hefty page count!) In addition, we have added "Thug Rules" (also popularly known as "mook rules") to the mix in the Appendix.

Because the Thug Rules were not available in the original MM and I am loathe to make people buy the same product twice to get all the rules, we have made the Thug Rules available as a free download (which also includes collected errata for the first and second printings of S&S).

Now the bad news.

I was able to discount the softcover and e-book versions of this slightly (though not as much as I'd hoped), but not the hardcover edition, which is already priced so low we could never hope to have it in stores (seriously, we make *very* little off of the hardcover versions of these books). This is the down side of dealing with Lulu and their high "production costs."

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the "deluxe" MM, and get some use of the free thug rules.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Amazing post

For those who lament the editing and typographical errors in micro-press games, and those who complain about price points (though we've had none of the latter thus far), take a look at James Mishler's Adventures in Gaming: The Doom of RPGs: The Rambling, which breaks it down in fantastic detail.

Monday, July 13, 2009

S&S Basic Available

Despite Lulu's suckage, the Spellcraft & Swordplay Basic Edition is now available. The basic edition of the popular retro fantasy game contains a streamlined (but complete) version of the rules and character progression to level 3, this 48-page book is a perfect introduction to the new class of old school, ideal for introducing new players to the game, or for just having an extra set of rules at the table!

A gift to our fans, Spellcraft & Swordplay Basic Edition is FREE as an e-book, and can be purchased in a saddle-stitched, 8.5 x 11 booklet for $7.00.

Lulu sucks balls

Seriously. I hate Lulu. Their "manufacturing costs" are outrageous, their shipping rates are insulting, their customer service questionable. If anyone from Onebookshelf is reading this, PLEASE, I BEG YOU, get your PoD services up and running. Many of us in the indie game are waiting with baited breath for that day. I'm tired of feeling like I'm gypping customers when I have to charge them $7.00 to purchase a saddle-stitched book that's only 48 pages long (and that's without making any profit for myself).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Formatting Gaffe in S&S Deluxe

I discovered an unfortunate formatting gaffe in the columns on page 126 of S&S Deluxe today, which really should've been caught in proofing but just wasn't. Shit happens, but it pisses me off when it does.

Anyway, the gaffe has been fixed. If you've downloaded the e-book, please re-download (Remember: it's FREE through Friday!) and if you've purchased a hardcopy, I have made available a PDF of the offending page, fixed, which you can cut to size and stick in your book, with my deepest apologies.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Elf Lair Games Free RPG Days

Since we here at Elf Lair didn't have our product ready for Free RPG Day, we would like to, as a gift to our fans, make the Deluxe Spellcraft & Swordplay e-book available FOR FREE from Wednesday through Friday of this week.

No strings, no catches: Wednesday, July 8 through Friday, July 10, head over to the Lulu store, and download the Deluxe edition of S&S for free!

This promotion will be followed by (as soon as I finish cleaning it up and designing a cover) the Spellcraft & Swordplay Basic Set, which will be 100% FREE in e-book format, and available in print for a very nominal cost. The Spellcraft & Swordplay Basic Set is a stripped-down (but complete) version of the rules, allowing for no Elite Paths and only the first three levels of play. It is 48 pages and 8.5 x 11 in size.

The Basic Set will be free in e-book format, permanently. We've had TONS of requests for a free starter kit version of the rules, and we've listened. I hope to have that available within a few weeks.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Growing Pains

They say you can't please everyone, and as Elf Lair takes steps towards growth into an actual publishing company, I'm finding more and more that's true.

Since the Deluxe Edition came out, I've had a few complaints that I'd really like to publicly address. The crux of these complaints are twofold:

1. Some people don't want to download errata and/or have it posted on our forums. They want me to give them a free PDF of the updated game.

2. Some people are outraged(!?) that we didn't smash Monstrous Mayhem in its entirety into the Deluxe Edition of Spellcraft & Swordplay.

Now, these complaints haven't exactly been legion: there have been four, to my count. But these four have been exceptionally public, and at least one of them is from someone who previously was a vocal supporter of ELG. I do like to try and maintain a good public face, so I would like to address the complaints here in hopes that I can be clear in Elf Lair's policies and the reasons behind them.

Folks, I understand where you're coming from, but in regards to the free/discounted update downloads, Lulu does not give me access to the identities of people who purchased the game, which means I have nothing other than your word that you've got it. Nor do they give me the ability to offer discount coupons like some of the other e-book dealers.

Let's be honest: every single one of us knows that Lulu is far from the best service out there--in many ways, it's crap. Their shipping sucks, their customer service is mediocre at best, their production costs are outrageous, their turnaround time S-L-O-W, and their options for storefront customization basic at best. I am not fond of Lulu. But they are, unfortunately, the ONLY game in town that does what they do, and offers the control that they offer over your project. So for the time being, we're stuck with them.

Given that I don't actually have access to the identities and contact info of customers who buy S&S through Lulu, while some of you out there I know for a fact bought it, others I don't, and if I start giving out free copies to a few people I have to give them to everyone, which quickly makes actually trying to sell the game moot. I did this once, due to my first loud detractor, and suddenly people came out of the woodwork saying, "What about me? Why don't I get one, too?"

Eventually, when DriveThruRPG/RPGNow get their PoD service up and running I'll be looking to move there, as that will give me the ability to offer discount coupons, updated downloads, etc., to customers. As long as I'm at Lulu, however, my hands are tied. Now, I could split my store and offer e-books through DriveThru and print through Lulu for the time being, but I expect people would then complain about having to go to two different places to get their e-books and print books in that case.

In addition, why is it that it's okay for companies like Eden, Palladium, etc., to put out errata documents, but not us? Why is it that Troll Lord Games and Catalyst Game Labs can incorporate errata and rules changes in every new printing, but nobody complains that they should get a free copy of the book, and yet when we do it--just because we're small and upstart--people want us to give them the new version, even though the pre-existing one is perfectly functional? Maybe I'm misreading but it feels like a double-standard that's in place because we're a bit closer to the fan base than some of the more traditional publishers are.

Finally, since I don't have a way to give out free download codes, the truth is that even with the identities of people who have purchased S&S in place I couldn't e-mail copies of S&S Deluxe because it's over 12 MB in size (even after I ran it through file compression in Acrobat) which is over the attachment size cap for AOL, Verizon, Comcast, Yahoo, Gmail, AND Hotmail (all of which have a hard limit of 10-11 MB).

I also can't help but feeling if I were a larger, more traditional publisher people wouldn't be raging about me releasing a new edition of the game that doesn't have everything they wanted in it. S&S is a light game. It's designed to be a light game. The rules we incorporated into Deluxe don't change that or add additional layers of complexity. The rules that are still in Monstrous Mayhem are rules that are OPTIONAL and NOT NECESSARY TO PLAY THE GAME.

Seriously; I meant it when I said that it's NOT a required update. There's nothing NEW in it. I wasn't kidding about that. I'm sorry that a few folks feel like I should've given them the full package of S&S and MM in one big book, but from my end that really feels like people demanding something for nothing, for no reason other than they want more for less. There seems to be a belief that if I smashed the two books entirely together, it just wouldn't cost as much. That may be true and it may not--I'd have to see what Lulu's production cost would be for a book that long. I could get into the licensing issues regarding some artwork I commissioned for MM that I'm not permitted to use in any product that is not an edition of Monstrous Mayhem, but suffice it to say, I'd lose some art if I did that. Some folks may not care about that, but it's a wasted investment if I axe that artwork.

Seriously, I don't want to drive customers away or be seen as though I don't appreciate your business because I do, really. You ladies and gents are what keep Elf Lair alive and progressing towards bigger and better things. Seriously, if I'd known it was going to cause this much of a storm I never would've bothered with the deluxe edition--I'd have just left it, warts and all, the way it was. We're really trying hard to take the next step with Elf Lair, and the more we have to focus on what now in retrospect seems a mistake in releasing S&S Deluxe, the longer it's going to take to finish upcoming projects like Vampire Queen, Eldritch Witchery, Apotheosis, Eiru, and Twelve Parsecs.

Finally, there have been a few grievances that we shouldn't expect people to look here on the blog for news and updates. Given that we've posted that the blog is the official place to keep up with ELG news and updates, I don't think it's that big an assumption to trust that our customers check here for what's going on with us.

NOW, with all that being said, I will look into doing whatever I can to fix these issues, and will post here when I've come to a decision about how to put peoples' fears and doubts to rest.

Thanks for your continuing business--I hope that this blog didn't seem too ranty, self-pitying, or unappreciative. I think we're going through a few growing pains at the moment, and I guess that's a good thing: even the complaints mean people care and are taking notice of Elf Lair as a company, and we have seen that and appreciate it. Hopefully you'll continue to be pleased with our product overall.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Spellcraft & Swordplay Deluxe Edition released!

Elf Lair Games is proud to announce the release of the Deluxe Edition of Spellcraft & Swordplay.

This 176-page game incorporates all errata to date and includes revised and expanded material, including new Elite Paths, unarmed combat, naval combat, disease, new spells, and more. It is our intent that this will be the final version of S&S to hit the market, barring any true second edition years down the road.


The great thing about PoD is the ability to fix errors as you go, but you can only take that so far. So it is our hope that this version of S&S gives our fans and those who have been undecided the game they've always thought and hoped S&S could be.


As a final note, if you already own S&S AND Monstrous Mayhem, there's no need to purchase this book--it doesn't have anything that S&S and MM don't already include.


The Deluxe Edition is available at our Lulu store, accessible from our web page at http://www.grey-elf.com/. The hardcover retails for $28.00, the 5.5x8.5 softcover for $15. An e-book edition is also available for $6.50.

Monday, June 22, 2009

12P work...

Well, I got a holy crapload of work done this weekend on Twelve Parsecs. The vehicle rules are progressing well, and I think people already familiar with the system will pick them up instantly. As with most stuff powered by O.R.C.S., they can be as complex (if you include the tactical minis stuff) or simple (if you freeform it) as you like. Generally speaking vehicles work just like characters, with the same 6 Ability Scores (though they combine in unusual ways with PC Abilities--a PC, for example, would make an Intellect check to use a ship's FTL drive, but capped by the ship's Strength, which represents its engines).

Ship combat works off of Ability Checks rather than weapon vs. armor as does man-to-man combat, but I think it works.

Anyway, after I finish with vehicle rules I'll probably get the psychic powers written up--been putting that off. Then I'll decide how detailed I want to get with cybernetics, robotics, and computer hacking systems. After that, "rogue's gallery" and "vehicles" appendices and it should be about ready to move to playtest, editing, and layout.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Twelve Parsecs cover art!

Well, folks. Here it is: a preview of the cover art for Twelve Parsecs. Enjoy!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Progress

Well, Twelve Parsecs has taken off at breakneck speed the past couple days. I'm well into the vehicle rules, now. With these done it'll be about ready to start playtest, though without Mystics or cybernetics involved (as I've not done psychic powers or cybernetics rules).

If you follow this blog and would like to be in on discussions about our games and products or whatever, PLEASE by all means stop by our forums at http://elflairgames.proboards.com/ and contribute! I've just put up a forum for 12P and would love to hear about what people would like to see.

Also, I'm pleased to announce that the S&S boxed sets are now OFFICIALLY SOLD OUT. The last four went to my FLGS today. Will we do another run in the future? Depends on a lot of factors, the most important being whether I can find a better, more economical way to do it than sitting at my dining room table for hours ad nauseum stapling booklets by hand and stuffing boxes. Seriously, just doing 30 of them took me WEEKS of work.

If I can find a way to produce the booklets without having to do it by hand, and if I can find a good box supplier (better than the one I used which screwed up three consecutive orders, sending me all lids and no bottoms), then yes, it's a possibility down the road. But for now, they're sold out.

Thanks for your continuing support!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Twelve Parsecs

Twelve Parsecs is creeping along. A few other things have distracted my attention of late, not the least of which are a major freelance project which I was going to back out of, but which the guy talked me into sticking with, and the fact that I GOT ACCEPTED TO GRADUATE SCHOOL.

However, I have just taken steps to license a GORGEOUS piece of art for the cover. Once that's all settled I'll see about posting a preview. We're looking to have a real art and layout budget for T.P. (hopefully it doesn't bite us) and if that works out, you'll see much nicer, higher-end product from us in the future. This includes Eiru and Apotheosis (which has yet to be given its final title).

Just a quick update. Not much else to post. Sally forth and battle on!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Oops!

A few minutes ago I posted a ranger variant...that wasn't meant for here; it was meant for my other blog, The Wasted Lands, which is dedicated to OD&D. Apologies if anyone thought I was posting an S&S Ranger Variant.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

WOOT

Our revenue from Lulu this month was our best yet by THREE TIMES what it's been in the past. That means you guys continue to spread the word about S&S! Keep it going, folks! With your help we're going to have some very slick product on store shelves very soon!

Friday, June 12, 2009

On and on we go

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days. Nothing really new to report. We're still selling great on Lulu, work continues on Twelve Parsecs, and I've begun to put some notes together for my Swords-and-Sorcery game, while Tim works on Vampire Queen and Eiru. I'm waiting on some in-house playtest comments from a board game I'm developing, then I have to find someone willing to manufacture it, if it's deemed worth manufacturing. The first edition may just be a "do it yourself" set of rules (the board can be drawn on any 1" hex grid, and minis can be used for pawns) on Lulu.

The trials and tribulations of trying to become a real publisher when I don't have a real bank account. Heh.

That's all for now. Sally forth and battle on!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

THE PLAN

Just like the Cylons, we have a plan.

Unlike the Cylons, we know what our plan is.

For now, for the time being, Spellcraft & Swordplay will remain in print-on-demand through Lulu. We are still going ahead with the expanded version of S&S--I will divide the store into separate pages for various product lines, these being Basic S&S and Expanded S&S right now.

It has been brought to our attention that the wide use of public domain art will hurt S&S's chances on game store shelves, and after some careful soul-searching, I tend to agree. S&S is my baby and I love it--as, I'm gathering, do most of you. But presentation matters a LOT in game stores.

So here's the plan.

S&S stays PoD for the time being. Fear not, however: we will continue to support it, and Tim Brannan is currently working on our first adventure module. He's also got a second sourcebook in the works.

We will be using all the profits from S&S for a real art and layout budget on our three (yes, THREE) upcoming games. These games (1 mythic fantasy, 1 weird sword and sorcery, and 1 space opera), we will attempt to get into distribution. Hopefully, with these games on shelves we can make enough to revisit S&S, give it a real art and layout cleanup, commission a great cover, and it can join the rest of its brethren on store shelves.

It is also likely that if all goes well you'll see us at one or more cons next year, and I plan to have copies of the Pocket Edition handy to sell.

Soon as I get my proofing comments back on the Expanded edition of S&S, it'll go live, at which point I'll tear through Monstrous Mayhem to produce a version of it that will go with Expanded S&S. Like as not I'll remove the 9x6 softcovers of S&S and MM basic, leaving the hardcovers and pocket formats. The Old School versions will, of course, remain.

And just to re-iterate one more time: IF YOU OWN THE REVISED S&S AND MONSTROUS MAYHEM, YOU WILL NOT NEED TO PURCHASE THE EXPANDED EDITION--YOU'LL GET NOTHING NEW.

So that's where we stand, now. Sally Forth and Battle On!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Distribution woes...

It's possible that Spellcraft & Swordplay may not see distribution. I've advice from someone whose opinion I trust greatly that visually speaking, the game isn't up to store standards, though he says it is a great game that he has no doubt is perfect for PoD and will build a strong fan base. This makes sense--I had NO art budget and the layout is modest at best. It was distressing to hear, but not unexpected.

So what does this mean for Elf Lair? It doesn't mean we're giving up, I'll tell you that much. There are other avenues I have yet to examine--one or two direct-sale fulfillment houses who may be amicable to working with us. We'll still be re-examining our sales model on Lulu to tighten it up a bit. We have three other core games planned, two of which are fantasy games powered by O.R.C.S.

We may well end up keeping S&S as a PoD and direct sale generic system, while trying to adopt a higher production value for the upcoming games, so they can find a place on store shelves. It's just a matter of coming up with the funds to do that. To this end, Spellcraft & Swordplay (and its sourcebooks and adventures) will aid in funding our growth as a company. All the profits from the S&S line are going towards developing and building Elf Lair Games. And some day, perhaps, we'll be able to afford a really clean version of S&S with professional artwork, which will find its rightful place on store shelves.

We'll get there. With your continued support it'll be sooner rather than later.

Thanks for hanging in there with us!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Elf Lair Games "Paraphernalia"

Due to a number of requests from fans, I've set up a cafepress store where you can get tote bags, journals, travel mugs and stickers for S&S and Elf Lair. I also have a Zazzle store where you can buy T-shirts, hoodies, coffee mugs, beer steins, hats, and mouse pads (with more products coming).

In any case, the stores are here:

http://www.cafepress.com/elflairgames

http://www.zazzle.com/thegreyelf

I'll likely update the designs periodically as we become more advanced in terms of art and layout. For now both stores are open for business, though as Zazzle adds more options I'll be gradually moving away from Cafepress, which is just too limited in what I can do and how I get paid. Plus, you can buy from the Zazzle store right at the top of my blog, and there's something to be said for that.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Me and my accidental games...

I seem to be getting adept at accidentally writing games. Now it's a board game that is reminiscent of Blood Bowl, but again has its own flavor and strategy and is a lot less complicated than BB was.

Best of all, the game can interface with S&S or just about any other class-and-level-based fantasy RPG.

The gist of it (sans game mechanics) is posted over at my Wasted Lands blog as "Orcball!" but I'm now calling it Skull-Smasher. I've just put it into playtest. We'll see if it merits selling.

In other news, I'd like to clarify something. It's been brought to my attention that I've referenced all of our different "editions" of S&S without clarifying what the difference was. I've assumed too much knowledge out of the gate, and it's true, I shouldn't do that. So, just to clarify...there's no textual difference between the editions of S&S.

Our strategy (which seems to have worked) was to put S&S out in a bunch of different formats to cater to a number of different tastes. We have the "Old School" edition, which is 3 little brown booklets. We have the "standard" 6x9 edition, and we have the digest-sized "pocket edition."

Unfortunately, when you go into distribution, unless you have a LOT of money to blow on printing, you don't have the option of maintaining all these different formats. So I am forced to choose. That's what the recent blogs have been about.

Truthfully, I probably shouldn't have used "Edition" when titling these, but rather "Format." In any case, the books are the same as far as the text content. There are layout differences and some differences in artwork, but ALL of the text is identical across the editions. So when I talk about re-examining our sales model, I'm just talking about which size formats we're keeping and which we aren't.

Hope that clarifies things somewhat.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Distribution and the Old School Edition

or, "Why You Won't See the Old School Edition in Stores Any Time Soon."

The Old School Renaissance is a great and amazing thing. I've been a booster for it, and involved with it since shortly after OSRIC first came out. I was involved with the development of ZeFRS, a lesser-known retro clone of the old TSR Conan rules (done with the blessing of its original creator, Dave "Zeb" Cook.)

I love Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, and OSRIC. This is a movement of which I am proud to be a part and with which I'm thrilled to be associated.

That being said, as a burgeoning RPG publisher, I have to tread with great care. Being associated with a movement like this is a great thing--it's something to be proud of. And yet, a publisher involved with such a movement needs to ensure his product has legs beyond the movement if he wishes to expand his venture, like I want to with Elf Lair Games.

I think that, while the Old School Movement has been great for those of us who want to bring back those old games, there's also more that can be done to bring new gamers, younger gamers, into the fold. This is why I do not identify S&S as a retro clone. It is why I incorporated so-called "new school" streamlining to my rules system, allowing for ability checks and background skills that allow for customization and flexibility in character design. It's why I have consistently moved more towards a unified resolution mechanic: 2d6 plus modifiers vs. TN 11. Hell, arguably even our combat system can be broken down to that by changing the weapon vs. armor type table to show modifiers instead of final results (but that would too closely resemble the old AD&D weapon vs. armor table, which is gloriously unpopular--it's far faster just to say, "this is your TN after base modifiers are accounted for.")

In any case, while the Old School Edition is fun, it was mostly a "gift" to our fans in the Renaissance. When we move into distribution, we have to take care not to irrevocably tie ourselves to the movement as "just an old school publisher--I mean, just look at their games!" Because trends in the industry change, and we have to be malleable enough to change with them.

Now, I am an old school publisher. Not only do I not deny it, I'm damn proud of it. However, I also like to think that Elf Lair is more than an old school publisher, that we can have a broader appeal. Our sales on Lulu have been staggering, and it's those sheer numbers that convinced me to pursue distribution. But the Old School books are not our best sellers. Indeed, of the four editions we have up (including the e-book) they're at the bottom of the list.

Not to mention, the Old School Edition is surprisingly expensive to produce.

I'm not saying--or at least, shouldn't be saying--that you will never see the Old School Edition on shelves. I've looked into (and continue to seek) options for doing another, larger boxed set run. But it won't be our first release, or probably even in our first few. We have three other games on the docket--two fantasy games and a sci-fi game that are all powered by O.R.C.S. There's also one or two adventure modules in preparation. Only after we've secured our own niche and identity on game store shelves will we revisit the idea of distributing the Old School Edition of S&S. I'll leave it up on Lulu, though, for those who dig it, and it's available now on Amazon (though you need to search by the individual names of the booklets or by my name due to my stupidity in product IDing).

So that's where we stand with that. I hope that makes sense, and I sincerely hope that our fans within the old school movement don't think I'm snubbing them. I'm really not--I'm just working on balancing old school with general appeal. I also think (and hope) that fans of the Old School Edition will dig the new cover art for the final, "deluxe," expanded edition of S&S that will hopefully see a place on store shelves.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Two steps forward...

Well, I have turned down my initial offer, so distribution is not imminent, but is certainly still on the docket. Just means we're back to our original plan. Fear not; I still fully intend to get S&S and all of Elf Lair's products to come on store shelves within the year. There are other irons in the fire, and I am determined to do this the right way.

Friday, May 29, 2009

On and on...

Distribution potential continues to move forward...and sideways...and backwards...and kind of wibbly-wobbly off to the diagonal directions. I'm working a few angles, getting some anonymous advice from industry contacts, and trying to examine this from all directions before I decide what to do. While S&S is definitely an "old school feel" game, and I'm proud to be part of the Old School Movement, I don't want to pigeonhole the game--I'd like to reach as wide an audience as possible while still catering to the old school fans.

On that front, I've worked out the final revision for S&S, and am thinking my sales model is going to change.

I am going to leave the original pocket edition and "old school" pamphlets of S&S and the pocket edition of MM up for sale. The 9x6 versions will come down. This version will be re-dubbed "Spellcraft & Swordplay Basic," and will likely remain available only through the web.

The version that is going to see print in stores is expanded with all of the Elite Paths from MM except for Bard, the expanded unarmed combat rules, the disease rules, and the naval combat rules from MM. This version will be dubbed "Spellcraft & Swordplay Deluxe," and will be followed by an abridged (and likely less expensive) Monstrous Mayhem which includes the rest of the stuff I didn't transplant.

Deluxe will (hopefully, if all goes according to plan) see print in stores, though I haven't decided on the size format. Likely 9x6 or 8.5x5.5 (I will probably do both on the Lulu site for the time being).

Eventually, of course, my intent is to do print runs of these games--Basic and Deluxe--and handle direct sales myself.

Again, still working out all the details, though.

More as things progress.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Holy Amazonian Developments, Batman!

I got an e-mail this morning that Spellcraft & Swordplay has been selected to appear on Amazon's Marketplace! Apparently a ton of us in the old-school game have gotten similar e-mails (perhaps even every RPG publisher on Lulu), but wow! That's pretty cool.

The prices are higher on Amazon--to cover costs, Lulu imposed a 30% markup. But still, that's pretty rocking, to see my company represented on Amazon.com.

Developments continue on the mysterious "soon into distribution" opportunity. I hope to be able to have a concrete announcement soon, but I will say if this happens the version of Spellcraft & Swordplay you'll see in stores will be the long-promised "Final Version."

Nothing will be changed to invalidate the versions you already have--I will likely incorporate some things from Monstrous Mayhem, as it's questionable whether the distributor will carry the sourcebook. Thus, a few of the Elite Paths (probably just Necromancer and Druid, though I'm waffling on replacing the Paladin with the Ranger, as the latter fits the mood of S&S better), the mass combat rules, unarmed combat, and some of the monsters will likely go into the core book. I'm not 100% on what will and won't go in, yet. I may then do an "abridged edition" version of Monstrous Mayhem (which would cost less) which just includes whatever didn't make it into the final core book.

The Lulu storefront will change dramatically--if I can even still sell through Lulu. It might go away entirely in favor of direct web sales. In any case, I think this will be the best way to go, given that I'm going to have to re-examine my pricing structure, and won't be able to make revisions and changes as we go anymore. I'll need to make sure S&S is in a truly polished, final version.

The Old School Renaissance in general is poised to make a huge leap forward, folks. Look out world; here we come!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

Just a quick note to wish everyone a happy Memorial Day and a reminder to take some time today to reflect on the sacrifices our soldiers have made (and make every day) for all of us. These are guys who deliberately put themselves in horrific, constantly life-threatening situations day after day just to ensure the safety and security of the rest of us at home. Kudos to the troops wherever they may be, and eternal gratitude.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Interesting developments

Can't say much right now, but a potentially exciting development has popped up which may enable us to get into distro much sooner than originally anticipated. Alas, if we take this deal our prices may have to go up, as the profit margins in distribution are far smaller than they are in direct sales or through Lulu.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Time it keeps a-turnin'

So I doubt this post will be as long as the first, as it's only been a day and there's not much new to report. The responses to the boxed sets have been truly astounding. I've been flooded with e-mails regarding the possibility of having any left over. These I must (to be fair) address first-come, first-serve, so at this point I think I'm definitely sold out.

That being said, if interest continues to be expressed, I'll certainly continue looking into options for a larger run. Printing and boxes are the big hurdles--if I can find a way to pull it off while still keeping costs manageable, it may very well happen.

The Space Opera game. Okay, since people seem very interested here's what I can tell you so far...but before I do, PLEASE do not take this as an announcement of impending release. This project is FAR from complete and to be considered in "development Hell" until further notice--it's NOT by ANY MEANS something people should stash away cash for now, or expect to see in the next 2 or even 3 months. Too many publishers get too excited about upcoming projects and "announce" them before they're ready to go, and then when the projects don't materialize, people (rightly) get pissed. I don't want to be one of those guys. So right now take this as ideas I am developing and nothing more.

The working title for the game is Twelve Parsecs. It's every bit as much of a settingless toolkit as Spellcraft & Swordplay and the two will be entirely compatible, though TP won't be released under the Open Game License, so you'll need to do a bit of back-engineering work to use them together (figuring out what terms are analagous to what terms, mostly, and I'm keeping that as intuitive as possible).

The game is specifically space opera/science fantasy. Do NOT expect to see hard science, real-world physics, or radiation rules broken down by RADs. This is a game where starships explode spectacularly in outer space. For those Asimov fans out there, my apologies but I can't write what I don't enjoy, and I enjoy Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica, not hard sci-fi.

It will include some enhancements and advancements to the system--exploding (and imploding) dice for critical successes and failures (called Supernovas and Black Holes, respectively) are an example of one such enhancement.

I do intend to include rules for vehicle combat, as well as modern (and futuristic) weapons (obviously).

I hope to include rules for cybernetics, but we will see if that'll make the core.

There will be psionics and mystical powers rules, which function similarly to the magic rules from S&S.

Alien races are covered with four examples, and quick guidelines on whipping up new ones for your game.

Will there be a bestiary? Honestly, I don't know. Maybe a rogue's gallery would suffice better--some standard stats for space marines, evil armored troopers, smugglers, etc.

Where it stands now: I have character creation mostly done--one class and two elite paths need completed, as well as the list of psionic powers, backgrounds, and one other new customization option I'm dropping in. The rules of the game will mostly be transplanted from S&S, so if you know S&S, you'll pick TP right up. I'll need to finish transplanting those, and revising them for sci-fi rather than sword & sorcery, then do up the expanded rules needed for a futuristic game (guns and high tech armor, among other things).

So that's where we stand on Twelve Parsecs™ at this point. I'll post updates as I progress, though within the next month or so I'm starting work in ernest on a major freelance gig for another company that will likely consume a great deal of my time. Can't say anything about that one (NDA's and all) but suffice it to say it was an honor to be approached for the project and to me it's worth putting Elf Lair on hold very briefly for this one chance to do something really huge (to me).

Again, thanks for following along, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued support. With your help and encouragement, before you know it you'll be seeing our logo on game store shelves (and dare we hope major chain stores, too?) within the year.

Sally forth and battle on!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Blog Launch

Well, all, here we are: the first blog for Elf Lair Games on Blogspot. Some of you may be aware I was doing semi-regular updates on Lulu when they had a blog function, but they killed that functionality, so I've been hem-hawing about doing another. I decided what the heck. It's nice to give people a place they can keep up with the goings-on as we try to build Elf Lair into a real publishing company.

At this point Elf Lair is about 70% me, and 30% Timothy Brannan, who's done a lot of behind-the-scenes work, been an invaluable sounding board, and is doing "free" writing (that is, he's working for copies at this point) for me. He may come on board as an official partner at some point, but we have to work that out, still.

So, what's new? The (very) limited-edition boxed sets of Spellcraft & Swordplay have shipped, save two that I have to send out today. Then I'm going to contact the 3 or 4 holdouts from whom I haven't yet heard, and I may still have a few for sale (I've already gotten four requests, though, so we shall see!) James over at Grognardia gave a wonderful review of the set, and as always I'm grateful to him--he's been a supporter ever since S&S first game out.

The sales of this boxed set are going directly towards setting Elf Lair up as an official business and producing an actual print run (ISBN and all) of Spellcraft & Swordplay, which we hope to see on game store shelves within the year.

On that note, I'd like to address something. We've taken some flak from certain vocal members of the Old School community for not making S&S free like other games such as OSRIC, Swords & Wizardry, and Labyrinth Lord, but I'd like to clarify that S&S is not a retro-clone like those games. It does NOT seek to reproduce an old system. Rather it is heavily inspired by the early days of roleplaying, but it is very much its own game. This is not to say I have anything against the guys producing S&W, OSRIC, or LL--indeed, Dan Proctor is a longtime acquaintence of mine from my freelancing for Eden Studios, and is a stand-up guy all around (and LL is probably my favorite of the retro-clones). S&W and OSRIC are absolutely phenomenal products and I'd heartily recommend them to anyone who enjoys old school gaming.

But what we are looking to do is build Elf Lair into a full-fledged game company, and S&S is our first flagship, which we hope to use as the basis for many products in the future, such as adventure modules, campaign settings (which may or may not be full games unto themselves) and even other genres. I have likened it to OD&D as Troll Lords' Castles & Crusades is to AD&D. So if you lay out C&C, OSRIC, and AD&D on one hand, and S&S, S&W, and OD&D on the other, you get an analagous relationship, with S&S filling the C&C role on the OD&D front. Same feel, very different rules.

I am currently working on a Science Fantasy/Space Opera game that uses the S&S system as its base. Don't want to say too much about that right now as it is in the early stages of construction, but I think fans of S&S will be more than pleased. I think the ideas flowing out are just a great deal of fun.

It won't be OGL, but will be compatible with S&S, this accomplished mostly by simply renaming the same concepts (ability scores, for example, are Strength, Agility, Toughness, Intellect, Willpower, and Presence, all of which have a direct parallel to the OGL abilities).

We had thought to call the S&S System the O.G.R.E. System (Old-school Generic Roleplaying Engine) but I am told that may conflict with Steve Jackson Games, who have a game called OGRE. So we may have to come up with a new acronym.

Thus, we are going to call the system the Old-school Roleplaying Core System (O.R.C.S.).

Well, I guess that's about it for the first blog. I'll try and keep updates here as I have them to post, and welcome! Don't forget to visit our store at http://www.lulu.com/elflairgames and our message boards at http://elflairgames.proboards.com/

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