31 March 2012

More content this week

I have two blog posts scheduled for later this week. Perhaps a third will materialize later. On of the posts is a pointed opinion piece about Saint Gygax, which will no doubt ruffle some feathers.

I am not a fan of creating rules just to have more rules, especial in the context of this hobby. I hope to present settings or content or inspiration for your own house games. That seems the real value of these OSR blogs.

09 March 2012

Little Flanders in High Relief

Stuart Robertson has posted the illustrations that I commissioned from him for a Labyrinth Lord adventure I call The Manse on Murder Hill. The adventure happens in a small village called Little Flanders, which I will talk about in another post.

I am very pleased that Stuart was available to work on this project. I am a first-time module publisher, although not a first time writer. Many, many things can go wrong in this process. However, Stuart showed a lot of enthusiasm for this project when I shared with him the very rough draft I had at the time.

You can't buy enthusiasm.

Stuart's illustrations are excellent. I am a huge Mike Mignola fan (and by extension, a Jack Kirby one too). The artwork captures that high contrast, low detail style that I love without being derivative. It also has got an old school feel without aping the original TSR illustrators.

Role playing uses the best graphic processors in the world: our minds. However, the occasional illustration seems to fire off our imaginations far more than words alone.

As I work on tightening up the manuscript and layout, I am confident that the product is now in my hands to screw up. Stuart has more than delivered on his part.

08 March 2012

Every gamer's dream

From Dragon #82, published February, 1984 comes this ad for the seventh annual winter fantasy convention from TSR.

That kid creeps me out. The kid's fantasy creeps me out. Frosty the Snowman vs. sad knight Pinocchio? The whole ad could easily be for NAMBLA.

I need a shower and some whiskey.

07 March 2012

A complete line of components

From Dragon #50, June 1981, comes this wonderful glimpse into the gaming industry.

It is an ad for a game manufacturer, which is to say, they offer publishing services specifically for RPGs and board games.

What do they provide? Dice? Check. Spinners? Of course! Die cut counters? All day, everyday. Maps? Dude, they have game technicians ready to review your needs.

For such a company to exist and advertise, it implies a demand. This was a time just before "TV games" invaded every home. Even then, people had time and money for leisure. The game market was on fire, like some sort of analog dotcom boom. A lot of little startups, like Patch Press, were trying to get a piece of that sweet, sweet hobby pie.

Everyone want to have a cash hoard, to have "Gygax money."

Actually, I see something like this happening now with the OSR community. Just look at the success of recent projects like Adventurer Conquerer King, The B/X Companion and the Dwimmermount kickstarter. The "Patch Press" of today are companies like Lulu, DriveThru RPG and Dragonsfoot.

I don't expect the hobby to generate a lot of wealth this time around, but the cost of production is so much lower than ever before. Some one or two people will make a tidy sum.

Life (and hobbies) will find a way.

05 March 2012

Silk screened in brilliant gold

A momentous issue, Dragon #50 appeared in June 1981. Because of the weird publishing schedule of the first several issues, this was Dragon's fifth anniversary. As you can imagine, there are many editorials reflecting on the success of the magazine and the state of the hobby. The future was so bright then, they probably needed to wear to some of protective eye gear.

What's interesting about this ad, which appears toward the back of the issue, is it again reminds me powerfully of the pre-Internet era. This is an ad for a t-shirt. There is one design, some tricked out dragon. You get two choices: shirt size and color (blue or black). That's it! The vendor also probably bought a bunch of t-shirts already to meet the anticipated demand.

Do you kids even recognize the abbreviation in the corner, s.a.s.e? That's Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope. These days, we just expect to see the catalogs of vendors instantly online for free.

Heck, if a site takes longer than 15 seconds to load, I am gone, baby.

However, customers were a lot more patient then. In those days, vendors would have to send you printed colateral. And that costs money! I think that by asking customers to send their own stamped and addressed envelope, vendors were connecting with people who are really interested in their product.

Dare I say that this was a primative spam prevention mechanism in the postal days?

I would love to know the success rate of these early advertisers.

03 March 2012

TaskboyGames web site

As a housekeeping note, I will be using TaskboyGames as the central place to advertise the modules I hope to publish on RPGNow.com. I will still blog here using the magic of hyperlinks.

It's a branding thing.

02 March 2012

Help fund the Dwimmermount Kickerstarter

James Maliszewski of Grognardia is attempting to publish his Dwimmermount megadungeon as a real flesh and paper product. This would be an excellent OSR artifact.

I have kicked in a few rupees. I encourage you to do so as well at any amount you can.

Your ad here

From The Dragon, #35, March 1980, is this form for the short-lived Dragon want ads.

In the Before Times, people with common interests would advertise for all kinds of goods and services in printed publications, like Dragon. That Dragon's circulation was big enough to sustain this service goes aways to showing how big the hobby was at that time.

In an article from the same issue, Gygax mentions that TSR was pulling in between $2-4 million that year and that Dungeons and Dragons was the most popular game that year including monopoly and scrabble. Also the circulation of Dragon was around 50,000.

Is your mind blown yet?

So what kinds of things were being advertised in The Dragon?

  • A service to paint your miniatures realistically
  • An inexpensive electronic 1-100 "randomizer"
  • Fly Flight, the fly swatting simulation (think paper and pencil not computer)

I suppose BBS, eBay and social media take the place of want ads these days, but still these are great to read.

01 March 2012

Welcome new readers

I suspect that the onslaught of new readers comes mostly from Stuart's fine art work I commissioned from him. It pays to advertise.

Although this is a fairly new blog, I have been punching out blogs for over a decade now. Wow. I need to absorb that.

In any case, I hope you find a few posts of interest here.

Tell them you saw it in The Dragon

This ad comes from The Dragon, issue #35, published March 1980.

It's an ad for fantasy bookplates.

Let me back up. In the 80s, there were these things called "books," which were like e-books, but more papery. And each book contained only one manuscript. And this wasn't because of some harsh DRM scheme; the technology allowed for only one story per book. I think it was a RAM issue or something.

Anyway when you had a particularly nice hardcover book like the Player's Handbook, you might want to mark it to discourage other people from stealing it from you. I did this with crayons, but fancier people might employ a "bookplate," which was a nazzy label affixed to the inside cover of a book. Often you would see bookplates used by libraries to identify their property.

Oh, so there were these places full of books called "libraries" that you could enter FOR FREE and read any book there FOR FREE, just like a Borders or Barnes and Nobles but without the coffee. And unlike Borders or B&N, you could borrow the book FOR FREE. Can you imagine how primitive that was? Where was the free market in this scheme?

So this dude or lady made some bookplates and took an ad out in The Dragon, whose readers were likely to have hardcover books. You see the business opportunity already, don't you? It's call market research.

Now, there wouldn't be web sites for another 15 years or so. That means you couldn't just download the PDF version of the bookplate, printed it on your Star Trek lazer printer and tape it to your DMG. No, you had to write for the catalog. Write a letter! Like a damn monkey! And then, you'd have to wait days, maybe WEEKS for the thing to show up in the mail. Only then could you make your selection of bookplate and write ANOTHER letter BY HAND to get the actual thing you wanted in 4 to 6 WEEKS.

Can you see why there was recession after recession in the eighties?

You kids have no idea how good you have it now.