Oct 3, 2016

Clouds are Lifting - Another Personal Post

I've been able to write again. For the last few weeks I've had at least a few hours a day when I can write coherently. I'm not able to follow conversations sometimes, but that's because they happen in real time and it's hard for me to get words out. I know what I'm thinking but there's a delay getting the words out.

My brain is broadband but my mouth is dial-up.

Writing doesn't have that problem. It's asymmetrical. I can look words up. I have to do that a lot. Sometimes I ask my wife about words which has to annoy her. It took me two days to recall the word virtuous last week. My wife used it in conversation and I was finally able to finish a conversation we'd had two days earlier because my point relied on that word.

Mini Six: Work is already underway. There won't be any major announcements before next year. It will be released by the end of 2017. That's as narrow as I can make it right now.

Aug 30, 2016


The status report is that things haven't changed.

I went to Gen Con (on a Saturday) and had to leave after only a few hours and basically missed the entire convention. I've made it to only one of my group's game nights in the past three months, and I can concentrate in bursts, but it's unpredictable.

I can't commit to anything at this point but I do know that considering that September is upon me, I wouldn't time things to have any cash in hand on December 31st even if everything was ready today, because of taxes. Things don't look that rosy anyway.

I still don't have a timeline because stage one is getting my brain working again (literally) then stage two is making up for lost time at my day job. These aren't insurmountable goals. My neurologist is very cheery, reminding me that this situation is not unusual and that there's every reason to expect to get back to my old self at 100% or very near it.

I'm going to try to write up something for you guys soon. I don't know what yet and I'm not feeling creative enough at the moment to imagine what, but that's my mission.

In the meantime, how many of you love Stranger Things on Netflix? It's becoming an obsession for me. I've watched it in full three times now, and I'm still not tired of it.

Aug 6, 2016

Gen Con 2016

I visited Gen Con today. It's my favorite time of the year. In the best years I get to go all four days, but sadly this year was another single day visit year.

I get a charge out of being in a sea of tabletop gamers. My favorite event are the seminars.

The dealer's room hasn't been very heavy in RPG product in any year I've attended, but it seemed really sparse this year. It was more than none, but it was the lightest I've seen before. What I noticed this year was booths selling board games or card games with occasional banners advertising upcoming Kickstarter campaigns for RPG products.

The market has changed entirely - I get that, but I was disappointed that I didn't run across *any* surprises I was interested in this year. A few years ago I came across one of my favorite RPGs of all time, Warbirds, and I hoped to have an experience somewhat like that, but this wasn't the year. Like I said, there were some there, but it was the least I've seen.

Even the consignment area of the auction was skimpy on RPG content.

I'm not saying that this is a portent. I think we're kind of in a revival of tabletop RPGs, it's just that the economics of my favorite con and the modern market have reduced the role of RPG book sales there.

I don't go to buy game books though (it's just a fun bonus to talk to creators and pick up stuff I've never seen), so of course it was still fun.

Then I had a medical situation and had to leave earlier than expected. Attending for only one day, leaving early, and not having the surprise of discovering an unknown RPG made Gen Con 2016 my least favorite. It was still fantastic, just less than I hoped.

Jul 26, 2016

Not much to update. Maybe some musings, personal and otherwise.

Since I wrote last I had about a week where things seemed to be getting better. Of course there was a setback or I wouldn't have open with that.

I'm epileptic, and even though things were okay for decades, my brain is older and not dealing with things so well now that it's had some miles put on it. I had some seizures, I lost my license (until I go a certain period seizure-free), medical restrictions at work which complicate things (not to mention getting to and from work), and it turned out that the medicine I'd been for a long time is now known to cause brain damage.

So I've been trying various new medications. I'm still taking the old one - you can't just quit, but when I find a new one that works I'll go off the original one. This hasn't been so great. Apparently I'm one of the "sensitive" ones who experiences some of the more serious side effects. I'm in what seems like an everlasting try-a-new-drug loop. Conveniently, they all have roughly the same side effects.

So over the past few weeks I've had the interesting experience of not knowing people's names even though I've known them for years, had a lot of trouble finding the right words, had difficulty walking at times, and with coordination, and describing my thinking as "cloudy" seems like an understatement. I've had embarrassing emotional outbursts in public, and just been downright weird. Oh, and I'm exhausted. I don't simply get tired easy, I wake up exhausted most days and it gets worse from there.

I use abuse caffeine by the gallon to get by.

The reason I can write normally to some degree is because it's not in real time and I can edit, edit, edit.

It's not the disease causing all of these issues, it's the drugs. Trial and error is sometimes the only way to do this.

The reason I'm making this public is because if? (when!) I run a Kickstarter campaign, this would be part of that "Risk" category at the bottom of the page. I like transparency in the people I do business with, so there you go.

Of course, it's almost to the point with RPG Kickstarters that they should have some boilerplate down there under Risk which says something like "Warning: the people behind RPG KS campaigns are notoriously flaky. Expect delays to triple or quadruple the schedule for delivery, and multiply that by three for a first campaign."

Today is the start of another drug. With luck it will be an improvement. I'm tentatively hoping to keep my plan to attend Gen Con on Saturday this year, so if there's any cool Mini Six related thing anyone knows of (I expect not), let me know.

A year or two ago I was at Gen Con (actually this was probably a little longer now that I think of it), I found a copy of the first print run of Mini Six for sale in the consignment bin of the auction. That was bittersweet. It was cool to see my name on a book tucked in with other "real" RPGs, but to get there someone had to have bought it from us but decided it wasn't for them. I failed that gamer. I got over it, but still.

I bought it on that Sunday, for $1.00 since it was obviously not going to sell. I still have it somewhere.

Now when I go, I always check the consignment bin. Those 600 copies are rare in the wild, but I still look. I haven't spotted one since.

Finally, Michael H. wrote a flattering review of Mini Six, and the game had an unusual uptick in downloads this week. Related? Thanks Michael!

Jul 10, 2016

The RPG Kickstarter curse?

The medical condition which has caused me trouble lately has been progressing in a disappointing way. Reading or writing for more than a short while has been hard due to the medicine. My driver's license has been temporarily suspended (medical, not a DUI, I swear!) After missing a few weeks of work, I'm back. Luckily I've been able to ride to work with a coworker.

I'm normally pretty good at my day job. Not so much now. I'm under tons of restrictions which make me a pain in the ass. My boss has been very understanding. I'm grateful. Things should improve in the next few weeks or a month or so.

Tonight my cousin who is only two weeks older than me and had the same condition passed away, which is definitely not the expected outcome for me, but it's hitting hard for obvious reasons.

Mini Six Revised is still in the works. Usually it seems the way these things work is that a little guy like me announces a project, throws it up on Kickstarter, then they flake out or legitimately face a major life issue and everything get delayed interminably. I always suspect that the creator has frittered away the campaign money or learned at the worst time that finishing a project is harder than starting it (or both.)

The vague "I have health issues" explanation seems to be the most common choice when this happens. I feel guilty by association playing that card at this time, but there's the saving grace that the only thing I'm doing at the moment is causing disappointment since there hasn't actually been a Kickstarter campaign.

I've written before that I'll only launch a campaign if it's as airtight as I can make it, and this current episode is only making me commit to that more.

There's been a little progress on Mini Six Revised since I wrote last, but much less than I'd planned to have by the middle of the month. Work continues and I'll continue to update. Expect an update again before the end of the month. I don't know what, if anything, I'll have to show at that time, but I do want to touch base.

PS: To the reader who asked about the OSR files, oops! I moved hosts and forgot to change things around a while ago. I'll have to recover them from an old hard drive. I'm sorry!

Jun 28, 2016

Pre-Kickstarter Status

There's nothing big to report at the moment, but I'm trying to get back into the habit of keeping folks in the loop.

The only news I have at the moment is personal. I've been facing a semi-serious illness which should get better in a few weeks. This has some good and some bad effects, but I'm able to write. There's not much to say about that yet.

By the end of July I hope to start sharing progress and excerpts.

Back to writing and browsing Reddit.

Jun 16, 2016

A Complication, and a Way Around It

This isn't the post I thought I'd be writing yesterday.

My quest to revise Mini Six has become a little more complicated, but I've figured out a way around it. I'm not trying to be dramatic, but I have a health condition which is flaring up again and causing a less-than-negligible amount of stress. The thought hit me, what  if I was in the process of running a Kickstarter campaign and this happened? What if I had difficulty following through with delivering the book because of this?

I've seen and supported Kickstarter horror story campaigns which didn't go the way they should. The truth is that KS has become a way for one-man operations like myself to leverage support through the gaming community to produce what we couldn't otherwise, but there's a risk to a one-man operation. Especially in the tabletop gaming industry where dreams often conflict with reality.

My way around this is to have absolutely all of the work which can be done ahead of time done before launching. This means that I need a complete manuscript before day 1 of the campaign. Writing Mini Six Revised isn't my only responsibility though. A lot of it comes down to project management.

So I'm going to also do as much of that management ahead of time (and have a plan and timeline in place for everything else which can only be done after launch.) In theory, I'm going to set everything up to be on autopilot which I can. Finally, my wife, Amy, is going to take over the rest in the event that there's a serious problem which prevents me from continuing. She's more than capable of doing so - she's a long time gamer, and she is better at managing my affairs than I am.

That's all a very unlikely worst case scenario. The upside to all of this is that when we launch our KS campaign, all I'll have to do is the remaining management. That management is by no means trivial, but it's going to run as smooth as it can and there's going to be a "punch sheet" of every step along the way.

When I have my plan in a more concrete form, I'll share it with the community before the campaign. Then everyone can play along as the tasks are completed along the way.

Jun 14, 2016

Mini Six Revised: Phase 0 (Planning) part 1

Pushing forward with the idea of improving Mini Six, I've started drafting up a plan for getting from here (the idea) to there (the finished book.)

This is a work-in-progress so I expect many ideas to change along the way.

I started by going to the publisher's resource page on DTRPG and using the function to email everyone who had ever downloaded Mini Six from their sites. (As an aside - I prefer calling it RPGNow instead of DriveThruRPG. Am I the only one?)

You may have received this short email, which explained that I'm considering a Kickstarter campaign for Mini Six 2: Electric Boogaloo Mini Six Revised, and a link to a survey about fan interest. That survey included a long preamble, but only three multiple choice questions and one (optional) field.

1. Would you like to see a refreshed version of Mini Six?
2. Would you consider supporting a Kickstarter campaign for Mini Six Revised?
3. Format? Digest or Full Size?
4. The last question asked for the email address of those interested in being contacted when and if an Kickstarter happens.

RPGNow's system let me know that the email had been sent to about 2500 folks. I don't have anything to compare it to, but Mini Six was already old news when I first offered it on RPGNow, so I'm proud of that number. (I know that it has been downloaded over ten thousand times from my old server before that, but sadly, I have no way to contact those readers.)

I also reached out in very limited ways through Facebook (which I really don't use much) and Reddit. My social networking skills are very weak. This is an area I need to improve. Successful Kickstarter campaigns are usually run by shameless self-promoters.

Lots of you have figured out by now that I tend toward shyness and being reclusive. I'm not active in any online gaming forums aside from Reddit (where I'm not well known - look for mrzoink.) Lots of you are probably shy and quiet too. We understand each other.

Alright, 2500 folks got the invite for comment and as of this moment 171 of you have responded. That's pretty good news for the project - there is some audience. I realize that this would be a self selecting audience. Those who responded to my inquiry would be among those most interested in Mini Six.

I also now know that I may have inadvertently broken the terms of service for RPGNow's publisher email feature. It seems to prohibit linking to another site. That survey isn't on RPGNow's server so I apologize. Ignorance is no excuse, but I didn't know. I could swear that I've seen links to other publisher's websites when I've received those sorts of messages, but regardless, I won't repeat that action.


Of 171 respondents:
164 of you expressed interest in Mini Six Revised.
4 of you had reservations (regarding format or material.)
1 of you told me that you have no interest in Mini Six Revised.
The remainder did not answer the interest question.

71 readers said they would probably support a KS campaign.
68 readers said they might, but they would need to be sold on the idea.
27 readers said they might be interested in supporting the idea later (not through KS.)
3 of you expressed other concerns.
1 of you stuck with their story of having no interest in MIni Six Revised.
The remainder did not answer the Kickstarter question.

100 of you preferred the digest 6" by 9" format.
69 of you preferred traditional 8 1/2" by 11" format.
The remainder did not answer the format question.

About a dozen folks emailed me with further comment and advice. Thanks to everyone who sent me a message. I'm not going to copy every message here, but I may expand on a few points which came up in the survey and through email. If I failed to respond to anyone through email, I'm sorry. I think I got everyone.

Print on Demand versus Traditional Print:
Oh man, I love the feel and the smell of a book done right. I wish I could do a traditional print run, but there are several factors which make that an impossible dream for me. It's been about two years since I've looked into the numbers, but I doubt that Mini Six Revised will reach the economy of scale necessary to make this an affordable option. In the end, I expect Mini Six Revised to eventually sell more than a few hundred print copies but fewer than 1000 - but that's going to be over an extended period.

The smallest practical traditional print runs are in the low hundreds, but the prices are astronomical at this end of the pool. Then there's warehousing and shipping. I don't have a place to store them, so that's an additional expense, and shipping - I've been down that road before.

When we first made Mini Six, we offered it for sale through the mail. We sold through the first print run pretty quick (a month or two), then sold a print run of a few hundred more over the next six months or so. (I don't remember exactly, but I'm close enough.) Phil was able to store them at his place, and he took care of shipping on Saturday mornings. The only way to keep costs reasonable was to use the USPS for shipping. About a third of our customers were outside of the US, but most were right here in the continental US.

Some weeks we lost entire shipments. Of course our policy was to replace the books lost or damaged in shipment, but it was so many that when we finally sold the last of them we were happy to let it go out of print.

That experience has soured me on warehousing and shipping books.

In real life I work in receiving, which involves more shipping than the job description might imply. I'm familiar with the common failures of Fed Ex, UPS, USPS, LTL, and even courier. I just don't want to be involved in shipping physical books.

So money, warehousing, and shipping leave a traditional print run as something I can't and don't want to attain.

Digest vs "Full Size:"
I laid out the pros of each in the survey but in a nutshell it comes down to the following:

Digest Pro: Format renders better on most tablets.
Full Size Pro: Easier on those who want to print at home.

As many of you picked up on already, my preference is the digest size, and a clear majority of you agree. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's an overwhelming majority though.

I even received several messages pleading on behalf of the "full size" format. I recognize that for some folks the passion must run deep.

I'm nearly committed to the digest size for digital and print, but I'm considering a full size option as a stretch goal in a Kickstarter campaign or just pulling the trigger and offering both sizes up front.

The pro of this plan would be that it's the best of both worlds. The cons are that it complicates offering this on RPGNow in the future and that it means that there's twice the layout work. It may not be practical, but I'm pursuing the idea.

My next post will be showing you what I have in terms of planning for the actual campaign.

Estimated time until campaign launch: TBD

Jun 13, 2016

Mini Six Revised

There have been at least half a dozen false starts on Mini Six Revised over the years.

I'm thinking about it once again. I'm in the tentative planning stages for a Kickstarter Campaign to launch it. There's still quite a few decisions to make and I'm not going to pull this trigger without a solid plan in place.

Some of you may have received a questionnaire in the last day or so. I only have three questions, but there is a long preamble. You may skip the foreword and just answer the questions if you like.

I'm not going to promise anything which isn't deliverable, but I'm trying to gauge up front how much interest there is in the project. I've got some useful feedback already. Thank you!