Expanding my network

I haven’t been posting here that much — partly because I don’t have much to say. But I haven’t been off the internet, of course. I have been paying more and more attention to what’s happening within the RPG sphere. I’ve been forging some cool connections there — not that I expect to get a big break or something, but because it interests me greatly and there is a lot happening right now.
One result of that is that I once again play in an RPG campaign that’s streamed live on Twitch — I used to do this a lot, but it just wasn’t possible to get the usual group together and it all fell by the wayside. Playing in front of a ‘live’ audience puts some strain on your ‘performance’ (because suddenly you have to perform!) but it’s fun to do. I’m playing in a fun scenario in a home-brewed world with a good group of people that brought a nice mix of characters. We’ve had two sessions and I’m really looking forward to the next one.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on my scenario for The Sprawl, my favourite cyberpunk RPG. I’m getting a group together for the first playtest. The group of former colleagues that I played D&D with also expressed interest — that’s cool, because a lot of players stick with D&D and never try anything else if D&D was their start in the hobby. I am of the firm opinion that life is too short to only play D&D, so I’d be happy to introduce them to something else. And with The Sprawl being based on the Apocalypse World Engine, a lot of possibilities will open up for them once they ‘get’ it, as that rules system is used in many, many different games.

A power interruption. We had gotten a letter from the company that manages the power lines that they’d be working on the infrastructure on Monday, from 08:00 to 12:00. That’s quite a long time, and no power means no heating, no hot water and no internet. I had reserved a spot at the office, but on Sunday I really didn’t feel like going — who would want to sit alone in an enormous empty office while being forced to drink the horrible tea there? So I cancelled the reservation — I could always use my phone as a hotspot, and if everything else failed I’d just take that time off.
We made sure to have all of our electronics charged, as well as the powerbank and all laptops. We got up extra early so that Klik could take a shower and I cranked the heating up so that the house would get a bit warm. I also made coffee and tea and put it in a thermos to keep it warm. And sure enough, at 08:09, the power went out.
…and it turned on again at 08:28. And stayed on. As usual, we were overprepared, but we’re not complaining. And I was glad I had resolved to stay home, because the trip to the office would have almost taken longer than the actual power cut.

My car got a new battery. Last Friday, my car refused to open with the keyless entry, and when Klik had opened it up with the key, it refused to start. (I had already left in her car to do the grocery shopping.) I had road-side assistance from Toyota, which I called on Tuesday. Within an hour a guy with a tow truck showed up, and he quickly determined that it was the (small) starting battery that didn’t have any charge left. We started the car with an external battery pack, and I drove to the garage. They took some measurements and the battery said it was OK, but it’s getting on in age… So I decided to have them put in a fresh battery.

I pickled some red onions. Super easy recipe, but quite delicious. I like to put them on my salad.

Some local friends started playing Dauntless too. I know these people from the local Pokemon Go scene, and they own a Switch too. We are in some communal chat groups, and on Saturday they sent me a chat asking if I played too. It’s been a lot of fun to team up with them and to show them the ropes. But they’re quite hard-core and have been playing through all 50 levels of the hunt pass in less than a week!
I am a member of a guild, but most of the players there live in Australia, so I often don’t have anyone to team up with when I play in the evenings. And while it can be fun to team up with a group of random players, that is really “hit or miss”. So having people to go around the islands with and helping each other is a lot of fun. It’s what makes co-op gaming so fun.

My second D&D group is approaching the end of the scenario. They’re playing through The Forest Shrine, my second D&D scenario, and they’ve arrived at the ‘end fight’. The first time they attempted the fight, it almost ended in a Total Party Kill and the group had to beat a hasty retreat. Since then, I’ve talked to a few of the players about their character’s abilities and how that interlocks with the rest of the group. The second time around, their tactics were much better and they really coordinated their actions. It’s still an interesting fight, but they were never in the kind of danger they faced during their first try — even though the opposition is the same. D&D really rewards ‘system mastery’ in that way.
I already have an idea of a sequel, but I want to talk to the players first on what they would like to see more of.

In the early stages of 2020, I released my scenario The Secret of Cedar Peak, a scenario for fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. I had a sequel in the works throughout the year, but with everything going on, I just wasn’t in the right mindspace to write. But after playing through it with both my local group and the group of (now former) colleagues, I somehow became “unstuck” these past few weeks. I’ve done a lot of work tightening up the text, mostly based on the recommendation from two feedback readers.
On Thursday evening, while Klik was working (streaming her meditation lesson from our bedroom…) I put the final touches to the PDF, made sure it was all bookmarked correctly and created a black-and-white high contrast version that also uses the Atkins Hyper Legible font for readers with visibility issues. Today, I uploaded to Itch and released The Forest Shrine, my second scenario! I also made a bundle with the two scenarios, with the first one at 50% off. I called it the Kingshold Bundle, since that’s the name of the city that is the starting point for both scenarios.
It’s a sequel to Cedar Peak. I have some ideas for a third scenario and my two groups would be more than willing to play through that. But first, as some kind of proof-of-concept, I want to see if I can write a variant of Cedar Peak that is totally non-violent. D&D has violence as one of its core values, and I have gotten a bit bored of it. I want to see if I can take the same concept in a different direction. It wouldn’t work for D&D, but it could work really well for Ryuutama.

Late last year, I created a twitter account for my RPG publishing side-gig. I released the module very early in January, and I thought I’d start following other accounts in the RPG sphere there to see what they were up to. One of the accounts that popped up was DungeonTeller, a DM-for-hire who had resolved to post a magic item every day for 2020. A herculean task, to be sure, and that was even before the pandemic hit everywhere.
The magic items they posted were interesting and showed details of their game world. Some were silly, some where serious, but every single day there was an item posted. Fun and impressive, so for things like ‘follow Friday’ I hyped them up instead of myself, because they deserved for more people to see and enjoy their work. It was fun to comment with alternative uses of the items and discuss variants with them.
About a month ago, they tagged me with an invitation to show them one of my characters, and they’d design a magic item to go along with it. This resulted in the Scrubshrub Cloak for my character Camelia Mugwort, Halfling Ranger/Rogue. The best thing is that I’ve already gotten the OK of the DM of the game where I’ll be using the character to start out with the item in my possession!

One of the websites where I spend a lot of time is RPGGeek, the RPG-focused sister site to BoardGameGeek. (The two sites share the same back-end, and all content is available through both, but RPGGeek has different defaults for homepage and search options.) Every year, there are some gift exchanges that you can participate in. I hardly ever do, because I’m not that heavily into physical books anymore (with only a few notable exceptions), and I don’t see the added value of shipping heavy books across the world if I could get them myself without that added expense.
But this year there was an exchange that specified that the thing you send had to fit in an envelope, and it had to contain at least one thing that you made yourself. I thought that was a lovely idea — getting something hand-made by a fellow gamer is cool. And I had an idea of what I wanted to do…

It just so happened that we bought an A3 sized printer. I used to print stuff at work (with the express permission of the sysadmin, I must add), but now that I work somewhere else where there are no colour A3 printers and I hardly ever come at the office, that doesn’t work anymore. And Klik had some work that required her to bind books on A4 format, so it was time to take the plunge.
With a bit of fiddling to find the right order to print the pages in and manually flipping sheets over (it’s an inkjet that doesn’t do double-sided), I made a signature for my Dungeons & Dragons module The Secret of Cedar Peak. I mean, it had to be something I made myself, right?
I bound the booklet in sturdy board from a museum papermill and also traced the title with red foil on the cover. I also added the ‘city guide’ for the starting city as a little extra — I haven’t gotten around to publishing that one, maybe I should… Both booklets have a fold-out map at the back of the booklet!
The module is sold as a PDF, and I’ve gotten used to thinking about it like that. But seeing it bound and being able to leaf through it is really something else. That was a lot of fun to make, and I hope that the recipient enjoys reading through it.

Wow, I haven’t posted here in… like forever. Let’s do a little update.

Vacation. We went on the (now traditional) Texel holiday at the start of October. It was good to get away from it all for a longer time — we hadn’t had any summer vacation after all. The weather was not that good, but most days there were some dry periods so we did get to go outside (and to the beach!) almost every day. One day the weather held up, and we took a long hike over the beach and back through the dunes (which are a national park).
Going out to eat was weird, but kind-of okay. Disinfecting hands at the entrance, being seated away from others… It was probably ok? But some restaurants didn’t want to bother doing all the checks and didn’t want groups larger than two. Most stores were doing well with the COVID-19 measures too, but there was one store where the owner basically told us he didn’t care at all. We wished him well and disinfected our hands thoroughly when we left.

COVID-19. But meanwhile, the number of cases has been skyrocketing here in the country. The “hands-off” approach and lack of stern measures gave the predicted effect, and we’re back in the stage with strong measures — probably stronger than before. But of course some people are being idiots about it, so the measures were made even sterner in response.
I cancelled a face-to-face RPG session with local players, and some of the reactions I got were… not good. Not very motivating. We’ll see what happens with that going forward.

Work. So that also means that I’m still working from home, which suits me fine. (And my boss tested positive for COVID-19 a week ago, and I’m glad we haven’t had any face-to-face contact recently…) I’m getting more and more into my role, and I’m enjoying it. Colleagues are friendly and helpful, and I’m starting to understand more and more of the product and our market(s).
I also heard that one former colleague, who got fired in the same reorg as I did, will start in his new job on Nov 2nd. Really happy for him!

Gaming. I don’t think I’ve skipped a single day in Animal Crossing ever since it came out on March 20th. That’s half a year now… But we’re basically in a ‘maintaining pattern’, and we’re not undertaking any large-scale renovations. There are a lot of things I don’t really care about, such as getting all of the bugs and fishes for our museum, and I’ve stopped putting time into that. But I still want to get all the photos of all the villagers — and once we both have the photo, the villager can be rotated out for someone new. Yes, we have a spreadsheet to keep track.
As I wrote earlier, I’ve gotten really deep into Dauntless. It’s a lot of fun and kind of relaxing to queue up a hunt, spend about 15 minutes furiously hacking away at a virtual monster and then be done. I’ve put some money into it (it’s free-to-play so I didn’t have to) to get more load-out slots etc. It’s entertaining, and the makers deserve to get some compensation for that.
We also played through the demo of the remake of Pikmin 3. A lot of fun to discover the game together — I might just get it. We also tried out the co-op play, but that was confusing so we gave up on that very quickly.

RPGs. It’s been hard to get into the mindspace to work on my second D&D scenario. But I’m still running two groups through it, and it got better because of that. Maybe I’ll do some more writing this weekend.
I ran the ‘free RPG day’ scenario ‘Pellenicky Glade’ for the Root RPG, based on the boardgame. It was fun, but I was not impressed with the combat system. And someone chose the ‘mad arsonist’ playbook, so it ended like you’d expect. I rushed the ending too, because we were running out of time and I didn’t think the situation warranted a third session. It was a lot of fun, but I’m not sure I want to get the full game.
I’m reading through “Against the Darkmaster”, a modern variant of Rolemaster, the first RPG I ever played and that I love, warts and all. “Vs. Darkmaster” should give a smoother play experience with some modern subsystems added to it. Would perhaps be fun to run an old Middle-Earth RPG module with this ruleset to see how it compares.

The New Normal

We’re starting to get to grips with our new normal. On one hand, it’s been easy on me, but I also miss certain parts of my routine that I do not have an equivalent for at home. I only live ten minutes away from the office, but that bicycle ride back and forth always gave me the chance to clear my head, get out of ‘work mode’ and into ‘home mode’. That’s now missing, and it’s been taking its toll on me. I’m very sure I’m not unique in that, and I need to develop some kind of ‘ritual’ to set my mind.

Animal Crossing continues to be a delight. All decisions about the setup of our island are made by the both of us. Like always, we always agree on what the next step is. We’re going for a park-like environment, with lots of (fruit-)trees and flowers. We also installed an outdoor bath (though sadly you can’t get in it — missed chance here, game!). Apparently you can get up to ten animal inhabitants on your island, but it’s already pretty full with the five we have. There’d be no place for all our trees if you get that many houses!
And yes, we did get the online option for the Switch. The family membership is not that expensive, and we’ve had lots of fun playing together with friends. Visiting their islands, showing off ours, and exchanging materials for crafting and sending those along has proven itself to be a lot of fun.

At work, we’re trying to keep being social and feeling connected. The company Teams and Slack channels are used extensively for this. One group has a daily challenge: show your pet (or the pet you wished you had), show your nerdiest T-shirt, etc. One day, the challenge was to show your favourite book — and of course my favourite book is the one I wrote: my D&D scenario! Immediately, I got interested reactions. And so I’m going to run the scenario for six players (spread across four countries), and four had never played before! I’m really looking forward to it.
And with people having more time on their hands, online RPG’ing is really taking off. I’ve played in a two-session game of the Dragon Age RPG with a group I used to play with a lot. But then we kind-of drifted apart what with the demands of work and family — but now people have time to game again!

So far, we’ve been adjusting pretty well, but even for complete homebodies like us, we still had to adjust. And I’m not sure we’re all done with adjusting just yet.

I’m not sure if I ever mentioned this before, but I now have a local group to play Dungeons & Dragons with.

I’m in a messaging group of local Pokemon GO players, to coordinate raids. But of course it’s not all ‘business’ that we talk about, and I’ve gotten to know quite a few local people that I would otherwise not have been connected with. People help each other with small stuff as well, and that’s pretty neat!
One day someone was invited to a raid that was close to their home, but they declined because they were playing D&D at a friends house. Several people in the group remarked that they were curious about it and that they wanted to try it out to see what it was about. Turns out that I was the only one with game mastering experience, so I ended up with a group of three players, two of whom had never played before. I ran a version of “The Secret of Cedar Peak” for them, and they are credited as playtesters as well. Lots of fun, and I even ran a really short session for two of the players one evening.

Last weekend was a special raid weekend in Pokemon GO, and I participated in a little ‘raid train’ across the area with a group. As usual with these things, the group thinned out a bit, and we were left with five people for the last three battles. Two of these were the new-to-D&D players from the group. While waiting for a raid to begin, we chatted a bit (as we always do) and in the course of that conversation one of the D&D players mentioned that me and the other knew what their kitchen looked like. Visiting other Pokemon GO players is unusual, so that prompted some questioning, and we told that we had played D&D at the kitchen table there.
And then the two D&D players started to convince the other two that it was a lot of fun, and now I have a group of five players! I’m busy creating characters for the new players (which is not that easy if you don’t have any experience with D&D), and we’re scheduled to play next week Saturday!

Although today is the ‘official publishing day’ for the RPG Writer’s Workshop, I won’t be publishing today. I had planned it like this, but it does give a little pang of regret not being able to join in on the publishing frenzy!

Today, I’ve gotten a healthy respect for the job of doing the layout, now that I have to do it myself…

A friend of mine, whom I play a lot of RPGs with, went through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. He’s a professional translator, so he had a lot of grammar and spelling corrections to make — stuff that evaded me. And since he is a game master as well, he could also give some real good advice on how the information is presented. Super useful, and I have processed all his remarks.
Tonight I should get the first sketches for the artwork from the illustrator! Super excited about that too.

I haven’t posted here in a while, and that is because the RPG Writer Workshop has started, and writing my adventure scenario is taking up almost all of my time.

I tested the scenario out with a group of local Pokemon GO players who had expressed an interest in playing an RPG — I had two newbies and one veteran at the table, and a good time was had by all. And the adventure worked pretty well, but during writing I, of course, changed quite a few things. You have to take every possible semi-logical course of action in mind, instead of just going with the flow of your particular group. So I added quite a few scenes that might come up, which was fun to do but also took a lot of time.

I have the text of the scenario all written, there are just a few more tweaks I need to do. And I want to check whether the numbers work, so I want to run a group through the dungeon to see where they end up. Or I might just simulate that.
I have contracted an illustrator who is going to provide art! Really excited about that — though it does mean I need to reach a certain minimum sales volume to offset that investment. And I have to do things like providing references, which I’ve never done before. It’s a learning experience, to say the least!
I’m going to do cartography and layout myself, and I’ve started on designing the cover.

I have bought Affinity Publisher in their Black Friday sale, so I should be able to produce an attractive PDF with that. Still considering if I should create the stat blocks myself, or just make use of a site that formats them for you and just paste in the images.
I don’t think Affinity Publisher supports tagged PDF output, so I am also considering adding a black-and-white PDF for printing and accessibility which I’d make with LibreOffice, which would not have backgrounds and coloured text. The only program that seems to be able to do all three is Adobe InDesign, but I’m not going to get myself stuck in that ecosystem!
And if I’m offering two versions of the PDF in one go, I might as well go all-in and add player versions of the maps in PNG format so you can make use of them in your favourite virtual tabletop.

I signed up for the DM’s Guild track, but I have decided to publish under the OGL instead, because I want to retain full control over the end result. I’m going to go with a price of $5, which is low enough to be ‘beer money’. I hope that will lower the barrier for buying it.
Still considering what to do with marketing, too.