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 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.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Print Edition Discounts on DTRPG

Happy Holidays, everyone. To celebrate the forthcoming holiday season, I have discounted the print versions of S&S and MM on Drivethru. This is a permanent discount: S&S core rulebook is now $25, and Monstrous Mayhem is now $10. Enjoy!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Spellcraft & Swordplay updates

Gotta say, folks, I'm a little disappointed.  I had a ton of people claiming they couldn't wait to see S&S in print from DTRPG, and I went through a lot of hoops to get it there.  It went live in late-mid October...and I haven't sold a single print copy of either the core book or MM.

Anyone taken a look and decided not to buy?  If so, why? I'm interested to hear what we can do to drive sales.  I realize it's a tough economy and yet another fantasy game may not be what people are looking for right now--those two things, in fact, are pretty serious hurdles to overcome.

S&S has sold fairly steady in the PDF arena; I'd like to garner some more hardcopy sales if I can.

So I'll try this.  What makes S&S different from OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, LotFP, or even, for that matter, Castles & Crusades?

Based on what fans have told me, what makes Spellcraft & Swordplay stand out from the rest is the fact that it is quite distinctly pulp in form and feel.  This was not a conscious decision by me when I put the game together--indeed, few conscious decisions were made as to direction.  S&S kind of wrote itself.  The story behind that is on my website; read it if you like. But after having read over my proofing copies, I've gotta say that I agree. It is quite pulp. A lot of the design decisions from S&S are very, very similar to the Age of Conan "hacks" for OD&D that I threw out there awhile back. The game is gritty, fast-playing, freeform, and lends itself very well to a game that would feature in the worlds of Robert E. Howard, Fritz Lieber, Lin Carter, or other similar pulp swords-and-sorcery works.

We had a rather positive review lately on another blog: Adventures and Shopping, and over at The Other Side Blog, Tim Brannan has posted a whole bunch of popular literary figures with S&S stats, and a few hints as to the contents of his forthcoming sourcebook!

I also think our mass combat system and ship-to-ship combat system are pretty sleek, as are our thug rules.

Certainly there's a lot to S&S that you could mine for use in other games, but I think at its core, O.R.C.S.™* is really worth taking a look at.

Elf Lair was going pretty strong when we first came out back in '08, and unfortunately I was forced to go on hiatus due to grad school.  I guess it's possible, or even probable, that people are skeptical about the company and games being back.

I'd like to reassure you that they are indeed back.  I just got the manuscript in hand for our second sourcebook, Tim Brannan's Eldritch Witchery, and it promises to be very sweet.  I've lined up an artist for Twelve Parsecs, and I am working on several adventure modules which will be released as time permits and I get the art budget for them. I'm squirreling away money from other freelance writing gigs into Elf Lair's coffers so I have a financial base on which to work, and we're going to make a go of this.

Our forums are still live, though conversation there has been dead for some time.  I'd encourage anyone who enjoys the game to head over there and check them out as well at

You can also follow us on facebook at

Finally, you can help by spreading the word!  Get other people to follow the blog and the facebook page. Send them to our website, and for Pete's Sake, get 'em to DTRPG!  If you like the game, review it and let me know where the review can be found!

*Oldschool Roleplaying Core System™ - our house system.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In case anyone cares or is curious...

....Y'know, just in case...

I have the manuscript for Eldritch Witchery in hand.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Monstrous Mayhem in print

Approvals came through. Monstrous Mayhem is now also available in print format through  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


That's right, folks: the Spellcraft & Swordplay Core Rulebook and the Spellcraft & Swordplay Basic Game are both now available in print from DriveThruRPG. And as a bonus, if you buy the hard copy, the PDF is FREE.


Monstrous Mayhem is in what I hope to be its final round of approvals. It should hopefully follow soon.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Been awhile!

It's been awhile since I made any kind of significant post here, but rest assured I have not been idle. The saga of print production continues, but there's good and bad news on that front.

I'll give you the good news first, since everyone always seems to give the bad news first.

The print problems have (ostensibly) been resolved!  I've got this bugger figured out, and as I suspected, once you learn the trick it's not all that difficult. So we're well on our way, folks.  Spellcraft & Swordplay will be in print very soon.

The bad news: it should've been yesterday for the Basic Game, but that's 100% my fault.  The proofing copies of the Basic Game and Monstrous Mayhem arrived, and I found some errors that needed to be corrected. I had an old product sheet at the end of the Basic Game which had inaccurate prices on it, and there were some major formatting issues with MM that arose during PDF conversion.

The annoying thing is, if I'd been just a bit more thorough in my previewing of the PDFs, they could've been avoided. Ah, well, I'm just glad that I didn't make them available to customers like that.

In any case, the errors on both books have now been fixed, and the files re-uploaded. Alas, it can take up to a week or more for Lightning Source to get the files approved for press. However, I now know that both books are good to go, so there won't be any need to go through the proofing process again--the moment they are approved for print, I'll be able to make them available.

I'm still waiting on the core rulebook; however, I don't anticipate any issues with that at all, as LS accepted my original Lulu-formatted document for the core book, so that should go pretty smoothly. As such, it's going to be very soon.

In other Elf Lair Games news:
  • Tim Brannan is putting the finishing touches on the manuscript for Eldritch Witchery, the long-awaited second sourcebook for S&S, and we're hoping to have that out very soon. I don't want to put an exact release date on it, as once he turns over the files to me, I will still need to edit it, do the layout, and proof it. Tim has the ability to blog here; if he wants to update at all, he can do so.
  • I am still hard at work on The God in the Dark, our first adventure module, and I will be working with Monica Valentinelli and Tim Brannan on an epic trilogy of adventures whose working title at the moment is The Vampire Queen Trilogy. The first two modules are in various stages of completion; the first will be titled The Hand of Nergal, and we are colloquially referring to the second as Return to the Palace of the Vampire Queen, though it's highly unlikely (for reasons obvious to many old-school gamers) that will be the final title. Personally I am partial to Valley of the Vampire Queen, but we'll see. I'd like to call the last one The Vampire Queen's Revenge, or Return of the Vampire Queen, but we haven't even started on that one yet. Again, if Tim has anything to add I'm sure he'll drop a blog.
  • Someone on our Facebook page asked about Twelve Parsecs, the sci-fi game I announced I was working on some time ago.  The good news is that's about 80% complete, in terms of mechanics. However, if I'm going to do that one, I want it to be done right, which means I want to be able to pull off professional layout and graphic design, and buy real artwork for it. All of that translates into a need for funding. So, if you want to see higher quality games in terms of production value from ELG, there's only one way for that to happen--we need sales!  Spread the word, get our name out there. 
I guess to whet your appetite, I can give you a peek at the cover for The God in the Dark...


Well, there you have it. I guess that's about all that's going on in the Elf Lair Games front. Game on!

Friday, October 7, 2011


Just got the word via e-mail this morning: all three Spellcraft & Swordplay books have been approved for print publication by DriveThru.


I have ordered my proofing copies; once they come in and I can confirm they look okay and don't need any more tweaking, S&S will be available in print from DTRPG, and hopefully in a nicer format than those available from Lulu.

As always, I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Printing Woes continue

Well, after getting the proof back for Monstrous Mayhem, of course I discovered errors in the text, which led to me having to make corrections that involved re-laying out large chunks of the book. Now I'm back to square one.

The other two, apparently, were the wrong PDF format. Yes, apparently there are multiple kinds of PDF format....

So yeah, still trying to get S&S in print and I'm confident that once I figure all this crazy stuff out it will be easy to do it repeatedly in the future. It's just getting over these first few humps...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Witch and Eldritch Witchery

I am working hard on putting the final touches on my next two books.  The Witch and Eldritch Witchery.

They are not quite ready for full on press releases or product announcements yet,  but I am very, very excited about them.

The Witch

"The Witch" is designed to be used with "Basic Era" games.  Games that were released in the late 70s and early 80s and whose legacy is being continued with games like Labyrinth Lord and Basic Fantasy RPG.

The Witch will feature a new character class, the witch, and witchcraft Traditions so you can play any type of witch from fantasy, pulp or faerie tale.  In addition there are going to be new monsters associated with the witch as well as tons of new spells and magic items.  Many of which I have playtested over the last 12 years and some even dating back to my original notes I had written on the witch back in 1985.
Also included are appendices for extending the "Magic-User" class into a proper Wizard and Demi-human witches, something I had never considered doing in '85.

Eldritch Witchery

Eldritch Witchery is a bit different.  First it is for the Spellcraft & Swordplay game specifically.  Though it should be compatible with nearly any "old school" game or clone.

Many of the ideas that were used in "The Witch" found a home here as well, though in a different way that makes this a very different sort of class.  Actually it makes it two different sort of classes since Eldritch Witchery includes a witch and a warlock class.  As to be expected there are magic items and spells for both classes included.  This book also extends the magic of wizards, clerics and necromancers found in the S&S core rules and Monstrous Mayhem.

This book will also introduce demons to the S&S game and a new demonic hierarchy.  Make sure you know your stuff before you go into battle against the demons, a Baalseraph will have different abilities than the Calabim who are different still from the Lilim.

Which Book should You Get?
I am hoping both!  There is some overlap (I can only say "an athame is a ritual knife..." so many ways) but I am taking great pains to make sure each book has their own feel and unique material.  You could in fact get both and have three different takes on the witch, each one doing their magic a bit differently.  The traditions and lodges are not repeated between the books (save for one at present, but it makes sense to do so). Eldritch Witchery has demons, but the Witch goes into greater detail with everything.   I would say that either can be played with any version of the World's Greatest Fantasy RPG circa 1975 to 1985 and any clone based on it.

Stay tuned, I'll be posting some characters created with both books and we can see how they fare.

The planned release date is right around Halloween.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One Step Closer to Print, and Regarding the Future...

At last! I got approvals for Monstrous Mayhem this morning and have ordered the proof copy to review.  I'm not sure why MM was approved faster than the S&S Core Book, but can only imagine it's because MM is much shorter.  Perhaps softcover gets approved more quickly as well?  Who knows.  In any case, one of the two is approved, which is definitely a step in the right direction, assuming that the proof looks good.

I won't be putting MM up before the core book; it seems disingenuous to put the supplement up for print sale before the core rules go up.  I will, however, now begin working on the design of the Basic Set for print--no, of course it won't be free--but it should be pretty low-priced.  I'll keep the margin low as I can.

Meanwhile, my friends, we need YOU to spread the word!  Tell people about Elf Lair Games, and about Spellcraft & Swordplay!  The more copies I sell, the closer I am to getting my head above water, and giving you all the kind of games and production values you really deserve!  I'd love to finish Twelve Parsecs and Wasted Lands: The Dreaming Age, but I'm not going to release them without proper layout and artwork--Spellcraft & Swordplay has a certain charm with its public domain art, and the production has actually been surprisingly well-received, with people saying that the medieval woodcut-style art really suits the game, but for my future works I want to step it up a notch.

Now, speaking of that, I've seen people gripe about companies releasing core games that reprint the rules within.  My plan is to do just that--as I release books in the future, they will contain the full rules to play.  I don't believe in making people buy multiple books to play a game--people only interested in The Wasted Lands shouldn't be forced to buy S&S.  

That being said, I also intend to tweak the rules as needed for each new game.  "Powered by O.R.C.S." will mean a certain recognizable core that is easily translatable between games, but Twelve Parsecs will have rules for guns, energy swords, dogfighting and starships, etc.  The Wasted Lands will feature a tweaked magic system to represent Howardian sorcery.  You get the idea.

Now, I can include a fully detailed rules section like one sees in Book Two of S&S, or I can do something like what AEG has done with their Legend of the Burning Sands game: give you a streamlined set of core rules, likely lifted from the Basic Set, enough to play the game, but lead you to S&S for more detailed rules.  There's benefits to both.  The latter approach is a sort of happy medium; allows me to release a game without the requirement for two books, but offering the second if more detail is desired.  The first gives the full core rules to those who buy any game, but inevitably will cause grumbling amongst those who somehow feel I'm cheating them by selling them the rules twice.  Not true, incidentally; whether I include the full rules or not isn't going to affect the amount of other game content in the book, and from what I've seen so far, even an extra 50 pages isn't going to be a huge price bump, assuming I stick with black and white interiors.  Glossy color books are expensive to produce, period. You wouldn't believe what they cost publishers to have printed--it's a pretty high end scam the printers have going on there.

I say "scam" in jest, of course.  I'm sure the cost of nice, glossy paper stock and full color offset printing is FAR from cheap for printers to produce.

Anyway, what do you all think?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Print Progress Update

Okay, folks.  I think (I hope) I got this worked out.  I have now uploaded print files for both the Spellcraft & Swordplay core rulebook and Monstrous Mayhem.  Assuming everything works out, we will hopefully have them available within a couple weeks--they should (fingers crossed) be available for me to proof within a week, after which they'll need to ship me the proofing copy.  Once I OK it, I can immediately make the books available.

As always I'll keep you all posted, but keep your fingers crossed for me!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Becoming a print publisher is rough!!!

So I've been trying to get my S&S books into print on DriveThruRPG.  The process has been frustrating, to say the least.  On Lulu, there is a very simple, user-friendly, step-by-step process to upload your files, which Lulu then converts to print ready format--they have an online template that you can use to do layout for cover files.  I had hoped that I could simply transfer my print files from Lulu to DriveThru and be done with it.

Alas, no such luck.  DriveThru uses Lightning Source, which is a more traditional printer.  This means they have very specific guidelines for layout when it comes to creating interior and cover files.  While my print-ready interiors seemed to upload fine, Lightning Source has rejected my first three efforts at cover files. It's a very exacting, fiddly, and detailed process that I don't quite grok just yet. Alas, I don't have the funding to hire a freelancer to do my covers for me.  On the up side, I think I've finally got it worked out, but I have to wait for my latest rejection to come back--seems I accidentally submitted while in the middle of updating files last night.

Please note I'm not lambasting DriveThru or Lightning Source.  I'm just frustrated with the learning curve--I'm learning to be a graphic designer, now, on top of a writer, editor, and publisher.  But in the end, this will benefit both me in the realm of developing new skills, and Elf Lair, as DriveThru is certainly a better and more visible source to support our games.

So, with any luck, we'll be in print on DriveThru within the next week or two.  Fingers crossed!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The God in the Dark

I spent the day today working on what will likely be the first adventure module for Spellcraft & Swordplay, entitled "The God in the Dark."  Not only will this be our first adventure module, it will serve as a preview for the forthcoming Wasted Lands: The Dreaming Age RPG, which will, of course, be powered by O.R.C.S.!

We didn't announce "The God in the Dark," as, like S&S itself, this one came about kind of by accident.  It served as a scenario I ran for my Age of Conan OD&D group, and I had the notes laying about.  It's a damn good module, if I do say so myself, so I thought that I'd flesh it out and release it as a teaser of things to come.  The manuscript is coming along nicely, and I've spoken to a few artists who may be in my budget to provide some illustration for it. 

In any case, for those in doubt, Elf Lair Games is indeed back in business. We have a lot of ground to regain--a few blog postings of late have shown me that a lot of folks forgot all about S&S during our down time.  We need our fans to step up to the plate and remind folks that we're out there!  Spread the word that the New Class of Old School is still here!

Elf Lair Games Website Live!

Elf Lair Games now has a website, which can be found at

And don't forget to stop by our store at!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Elf Lair Games joins DriveThruRPG!

That's right, folks, we are back, and proud to be joining the DriveThruRPG family.  Spellcraft & Swordplay, Monstrous Mayhem, and the S&S Basic Game are now all available at DTRPG in PDF format.  Soon we hope to offer print versions from there as well.  You can find S&S at the following link:
The Lulu store will remain active, but changes are coming--soon Lulu will house only the "old school" versions of S&S, and moving forward DTRPG and RPGNow will carry all of our new product.

This new product includes some exciting releases that have been long-promised and hopefully will soon be moving ahead full steam.  Products like The Vampire Queen's Revenge and The Hand of Nergal, our first S&S modules, as well as Eldritch Witchery, the second sourcebook for S&S, written by Timothy Brannan.  In addition, work has re-commenced on the long awaited Twelve Parsecs science fantasy / space opera RPG.

We are not presenting definitive release dates for these products as yet--we don't want to be one of "those" publishers--but rest assured we're planning to kick back into full production.  Late 2011 and 2012 should be a great year for Elf Lair, assuming we can keep up the pace we'd like to keep up.  Exciting things are ahead--stay tuned!

Here is our publisher page:

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