Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pondering Trends in RPGs, and an update or three

While there is still a strong and vocal contingent out there who support the "toolbox" approach to rpg's, championing the idea that the best games are setting-free and flexible enough to do whatever you like with them, it seems to me of late that the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way. That is to say, people are looking at games--especially fantasy games--and saying, "I'm sure it's a good system and all, but what do I need with another generic fantasy game?"  These people (and there are a growing number of them, it seems) are starting to look for packaged settings again.

I started thinking about this recently from observations I've seen on blogs and message boards. When I first put out Spellcraft & Swordplay it sold like hotcakes and got a ton of positive reviews, including ones from such luminary blogs in the old school community as Grognardia.  Unfortunately, graduate school happened, and the increased workload forced me to put Elf Lair Games on hiatus. By the time I came back, S&S had faded from the public consciousness and the (let's be honest) glut of old school fantasy games on the market has made it next to impossible to generate any new buzz about it. Sales have been pretty slow as a result.

I'm turning to support materials as a result--let's face it: to be a living game, every game has to have support. Thus, I'm hoping to get our first adventure module out the door soon--"The God in the Dark"--which will be usable with just about any old school game, and will also serve to introduce the forthcoming "Wasted Lands Roleplaying Game," which will be a flagship game for ELG that packages a pulp Howardian/Lovecraftian setting with the O.R.C.S. rules system. For this game I plan to pull elements from my Age of Conan hacks as well as from my original "Wasted Lands" blog postings (removing references to demihuman races in the process) and see what happens.

I still have what I hope will be an epic trilogy of adventures planned, surrounding the machinations of a vampire queen and the surrounding communities, which may end up as a mini-setting for S&S if all goes well. We'll see what happens there.

I'm also working on Twelve Parsecs and have been debating whether to include a packaged setting with it.  I think toolkit games are still okay in the science fantasy/space opera field, as that hasn't yet been overly saturated.  Still, it looks like that's the next target to see saturation so I'm of two minds. I think I may take a page from James Maliszewski's Thousand Suns RPG and include what he calls a "Meta-setting," which is sort of the best of both worlds.

I don't know.  Just some things to think about. As of 3:00 this afternoon I'm off work for 11 days, and at least 8 of those will actually be free days during which I am gearing up to try and get a lot of creative work done. Wish me (and Elf Lair Games) luck in the new year!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Twelve Parsecs News: Impromptu Game Design Rocks.

In my decade-plus of doing professional game design, I've learned that sometimes it's when you sit down to do something else, and just end up randomly working on one of your design projects that your best stuff comes out, and you get the best work done.

I have commissioned an artist to do some work for Twelve Parsecs.  She is a fantastic artist, and working to get her name out there, so she's working for me at a level that I can afford, which is refreshing.  I'm still hoping to get Elf Lair to the point where I can pay professional artists what they deserve.  For now it'll be great having an awesome artist who is a really cool gal on board for this project--hopefully I'll be able to increase her compensation on future projects...that is, if you all continue to support us strongly!

Anyway, I sat down to night to e-mail her the draft as it stands so she could begin getting ideas. When I opened the file to make sure it was the right one, I just kind of started typing...I've now completed rules for cybernetics and for cyberjacking for the game. As with the rest of the manuscript, it's still a bit rough, but I did cybernetics using an Elite Path of the Tech class (the Cyborg Elite Path), and the cyberjacking rules are very fast, short, and elegant.  This is not a cyberpunk game, so there's not extensive rules on the inner workings of computer systems, or how hackers interact in the darkest corners of cyberspace.

That's not to say there won't be a cyberpunk sourcebook somewhere down the line...this game is just a generic toolkit, so I didn't want to overshadow the other elements of sci-fi with cyberpunk tropes.  The rules as they stand, I think, are pretty elegant, and work off of Ability Checks just like everything else that is Powered by O.R.C.S.

I think (I hope) you guys will dig it.

Anyway, now all I really need to do is whip up some sample vehicle stat blocks and do the psionic power descriptions, and she should be ready to go. 

That's not to say she's close to being done, obviously...those psionic powers are going to be a bear to get done.  Not difficult, mind you, just a lot of grunt work.  Writing spell, psionic, or other power descriptions is always a horrible bit of grind work.  And of course, after that I'll need to get some playtest groups together, obviously, and do some rewrites and edits before layout begins (and all of that is AFTER Eldritch Witchery and my S&S adventure modules are done), but yeah, it's coming along.

And all because I just kinda started typing tonight...neat.

Regarding Our old Lulu Store

I've had a few e-mails lately and wanted to clarify: if you search online and come across a Lulu store containing Elf Lair Games products, these products are out of date and no longer current! Until I joined Drivethrurpg, my company store was on Lulu.com. I left the Lulu files active at the request of some fans who wanted the support to remain available through that site for the old versions that they had purchased. Elf Lair Games WILL not be supporting these old editions in the future.

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