Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Silent Sage Publishing RPG Catalog

Welcome to the Silent Sage Publishing RPG catalog. All of the items linked here are free of charge. From time to time, links will be updated to reflect new and improved material. While it may appear small now, there will be more products added in the future.

BEYOND THE WALL

Flatland Games' fantasy adventure RPG combines rules from the newer editions of the world's most popular fantasy RPG with the simplicity found in the same game's older editions.

SBW1001 - BW1: GM and Player Reference Pack
Status: In revision but available as a work in progress! (Details here.)
You can download the full document here
When adventuring beyond your village, it always pays to be prepared - and that goes for the gamemaster too! In this product you'll find:
  • Color and black and white six-panel GM screens
  • A never-before-seen bonus color GM screen 
  • Regular and form-fillable character sheets
  • Character and adventure tracking logs for the GM
  • Indices for NPCs and monsters in all current material available from Flatland Games
  • Listings for cantrips, spells, and rituals found in the same material, including "Beyond the Wall - Further Afield!
It's dangerous beyond the wall - take this with you! 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Point Of No Return

So, a lot of things have happened this week. We've seen an increase in campaign rhetoric from both sides now that the DNC is done; Jerry Doyle, who played Garibaldi on Babylon 5, passed away; and I've decided to no longer do RPG material for profit.

CUE RECORD SCRATCH "Say what now?"



Let me repeat that for you. I'm no longer doing RPG material for profit.

So the big question is: why? I've already made known my reasons for creating stuff as well as my lack of enthusiasm toward the popularity games behind various RPG awards, but there's a number of reasons.

OBS and the Outrage Brigade: This has been a thorn in my side for some time and just recently (tonight, in fact) I reached the tipping point. This wasn't a matter of money or popularity, but of principle. People who have read my blog in the past have seen me voice concerns about OBS' apparent relationship with the hobby's Outrage Brigade, the almost pathological need some people have to find things to be offended by, and the disturbing fact that some publishers use all of this as a way to silence their competition. Of course, that was just the tip of the iceberg. At this very moment, I'm steering my ship toward open seas after seeing the Outrage Brigade lay another turd mine in Postmortem Studios' path.

For those of you who don't want to click away from this entry, I'll give you the abbreviated version. Postmortem Studios has been the target of this activity in the past. This time, the target of choice was Hentacle, a card game that, while it will never appear on my hard drive or shelf due to its sordid and distasteful subject matter, was being sold on OBS' site without issue since 2004 or thereabouts.

Some will openly argue that since the First Amendment clearly states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," that the matter is settled. OBS is a private company, not a part of the federal or a state government, and so Postmortem Studios and James Desborough have no legal footing. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. The First Amendment protects the advocacy for and expression of ideas that some may find distasteful, despite its exception for obscenity.

Now before you come at me with torches and pitchforks, let me note that I do have a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication, was a working journalist for close to a decade after I graduated from college to the Real World, and have knowledge of the Miller Test. While the Miller Test is certainly valid, the issue of community standards is the sticky wicket here. There are three things in the Miller Test that need to be met in order to declare something "obscene."
  1. Whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards", would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
  2. Whether the work in question depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions as specifically defined by applicable state law,
  3. and whether or not the work as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.
Now, the first two apply to community standards on the local and state levels. The third aspect, however, is the check against the first two; it applies to the national level. In other words, while someone in Rochester, MN, may find an item under scrutiny to be obscene, someone else in Rochester, NY, may not. Want an even more in-depth look at the matter? Check out the article Mike Godwin (yes, that Mike Godwin) wrote on the matter.

Of course, the Miller Test isn't the only issue complicating matters here. While OBS is indeed a private company located in the United States, the gaming community is not limited to the U.S. What may be declared obscene or otherwise offensive here in a variety of states may not be looked upon the same way in a nation across either ocean. Additionally, Postmortem Studios is located in Great Britain. A lawsuit filed against Mr. Desborough here in the U.S. isn't going to go very far unless you have the money to get you a very good lawyer. Additionally, open flames and pitchforks are are not welcome on aircraft - the TSA says so. Good luck keeping those torches lit as you swim across the pond to serve the papers, folks.

Well done, and thanks a lot, OBS. It's been real and it's been fun, but it hasn't been real fun.
That in and of itself would be enough to raise my blood pressure, but wait, there's more! The Outrage Brigade is known for its selective goonery. While they managed to get Hentacle banned, they missed the Lovecraftian expansions offered by Postmortem. One would think that OBS would want to maintain consistency and review ALL the supplements under that line.

In the past, the Outrage Brigade has managed to ban Postmortem's Gamergate card game, a questionably titled supplement for for Skortched Urf's Black Tokyo line, and temporarily banned Venger Satanis' Alpha Blue RPG (it was later reinstated). All of these are items that I will never buy because of their terrible material and premises, but I support the rights of the designers to produce this material. Why? Because it's only a matter of time before even the most innocent of game designers finds their home or workspace surrounded by Outrage Brigade goons chanting "Think about the children! Think about the children!".

Way to go, OBS! You're batting .05-4 here - and that's me being far from remotely generous.

The takeaway from all the above legal blathering is this: Effective immediately, Silent Sage Publishing's current and future RPG offerings will no longer be found on any commercial site and they will be available free of charge. All announcements of future products will be made here and elsewhere online as deemed necessary by management. Appropriate links to sites where the products are available will be provided with the announcement and the links will be archived on this site in a catalog entry.

This will not affect any current or future fiction offerings from my wife and myself; those will be made available from Amazon/Createspace as well as other outlets both online and brick-and-mortar. (EDIT: For those of you wondering where the RPG product links are, you can find the beginnings of the RPG catalog here.)

Pressure To Perform: I don't always do well under pressure. Couple the perceived pressure of the Outrage Brigade breathing down my neck, the pressure of making a profit, and my own lack of a local community, and you can see why this change is necessary. I knew from the get-go that I was not going to become a rich man, no matter how much Beyond the Wall needed a GM's screen and reference pack. The decision to step away from doing this for profit means much less pressure in this and many other ways.

Moving away from for-profit RPG work means I can work with whomever wants to work with me and not worry about dividing up royalties, let alone waiting for the publisher to send the check. It also means I don't have to worry about pricing myself and my fellow designers and writers out of the market.

My perception is that gamers are notoriously cheap, hence a lot of the howling about PDF pricing versus hardcopy pricing. I know my wallet and I bristle slightly at having to pay $24.99 for a professionally made PDF. Also, gamers don't always hold fan products to the same standard as professional-for-profit books and PDFs. After all, Gygax and crew as well as the folks behind Judges Guild put out material that was typeset on typewriters, composed by hand, and mimeographed/photocopied. I'll admit I'm not made of money. I may have to use black and white art inside my products and possibly even reuse art from time to time, but I promise to adhere to a professional standard of quality in my goods.

So, all in all, it's a winning situation for everyone. You get quality material for free, I don't have to worry (as much) about the Outrage Brigade and money, and my blood pressure stays normal so I can produce more good stuff.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Traveling With D6 Space, Part 1: An Introductory Commentary

Long ago, when I was still avidly exploring the realm of RPGs beyond D&D, I indulged my unfulfilled interest in Traveller. It started with the ill-fated fourth edition (Milieu 0) and then expanded to GURPS Traveller (Strephon lives!) and the reprints of the Little Black Books (LBBs) as Big Floppy Books (BFBs). At any rate, I could see that the editions didn't really all jive with one another and set about finding a fix, namely using West End Games' D6 system.

I distinctly remember first finding Jeremy Reaban's conversions of Traveller to D6 Star Wars online and basing my work off that set of conversions first along with material from the green D6 core book. When WEG introduced the three hardcover rulebooks, I worked a little more on them and that was pretty much it. I ran an excellent convention scenario (Rubicon Double-Cross) which combined "Rubicon Cross" and "Exit Visa", but after that I never really ran Traveller except for the Mongoose edition.

Why this was never a thing the world may never know...

Now that Mongoose Publishing has left a bittersweet taste in my mouth and memory (alongside a portion of the Traveller community), I'm more than happy to go back to the D6 system as my go to mechanics for Traveller. Why? Consistency for one thing, also because it's more cinematic and not so stubbornly gear- and hard (-science) headed.

Don't get me wrong, I like details in ship design just fine. CT and MT's systems weren't too bad, MgT's were iffy in some ways, and T4 had some major issues. I didn't even hazard an attempt using any edition of Fire, Fusion, & Steel, as the T4 edition had issues and I didn't know what to make of the TNE system. While D6 Space does have detailed starship design rules, they have their own eccentricities, and to be honest, I just want to run the game and have fun, not figure out how much tonnage and square feet need to be devoted to the frozen watch's cold berths.

That being said, while the two systems are d6-based, things don't always map out directly, which isn't surprising since Traveller has been converted over to the GURPS, Hero, d20 (T20), and Twilight 2000 systems (TNE), all of which required some gymnastics and shoehorning to make even the remotest of fits. Despite my dislike of d20 for anything but D&D, I think the most unusual system conversion I saw was a conversion of the alien races to Alternity in Dragon Magazine ("New Frontiers" by Stephen Kenson in issue #270, to be exact). Still, why there was no attempt to bridge the gap between Traveller and the D6 System during that conversion craze is beyond me. The only speculation I can give comes from a brief discussion within an RPGNet thread about Traveller and a response from Peter Schweighofer indicating that any kind of official D6 Traveller material would be improbable due to West End Games gearing up for Bill Coffin's Septimus RPG at the time.

So what exactly does it take to convert Traveller over to D6 Space? It takes a lot of love, research, massive fiddling with numbers, and some polishing and sanding to get everything just right. Oh, and being a bit insane helps as well - at least that's what Mr. Flibble and the King of the Potato People tell me...

Never doubt Mr. Flibble. It makes him VERY cross...

I should note that in addition to Mr. Reaban's own notes (which have been lost to the ether) I made use of the following material when originally working on these conversions:

I'm sure that's not all the resources I used, but it's a good start. Please keep in mind, this series is NOT intended to be a massive conversion of EVERYTHING Traveller over to D6. It's meant to only be a framework for those who want to give something fun and different a shot. While you'll find in-depth notes on my ideas for D6 Traveller in the next few parts of the series, you won't find anything like a critique of Hiver policy toward meat-eating K'kree, D6 stats for Emperor Strephon or essays on the color of jumpspace.

All material written and posted will be done under Far Future Enterprises' Fair Use Policy, found here.

To quote Wash Hoban, "Hang on, Travelers..." :)

The Traveller game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright 1977 - 2008 Far Future Enterprises. Traveller is a registered trademark of Far Future Enterprises. Far Future permits web sites and fanzines for this game, provided it contains this notice, that Far Future is notified, and subject to a withdrawal of permission on 90 days notice. The contents of this site are for personal, non-commercial use only. Any use of Far Future Enterprises's copyrighted material or trademarks anywhere on this web site and its files should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights or trademarks. In addition, any program/articles/file on this site cannot be republished or distributed without the consent of the author who contributed it.



Saturday, July 23, 2016

Lesson Learned: A Special Message From My Friend And Fellow Author

It's not often that I do this sort of thing in general, but my best friend and fellow author is going through a situation with a bookseller that no author should have to suffer. He felt so strongly about it that he posted a video message to Facebook about it. Someone (management, I presume) was supposed to call my friend and let him know his books were going in the clearance bin before July 13th. That didn't happen, and so a week later (this past Wednesday, July 20th), he went to pick them up. Hastings, which is currently going through bankruptcy proceedings, refused to turn over his books per his contract with them. In fact, they told him that if he tried to pick up his books, the police would get involved.


In a discussion on my friend's Facebook page, it was noted that this hiccup could be related to the bankruptcy proceedings, which could place a higher priority on unsold inventory, instead of sending it back to the publisher and/or author. While I don't know the particulars and fine print of the contract, one would think that a book/entertainment store chain would like to keep its nose clean by honoring the spirit and word of its contracts with any publisher while they search for a buyer for their failing business.

I'm sure there are some people out there right now again going "Why post this? Do you want to poison the well?! Do you want to fail?" As I've explained before, I don't expect my RPG material to be sold in print, let alone be a household fixture in gaming groups. However, I do have a series of science fiction novels in the works and it behooves me to put this out as a warning to my fellow self-publishers - be careful who you do business with. Ask questions of other self-published authors. Also, have someone - namely a lawyer, or at least a paralegal - look at the language of the contract before you sign, and always, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask questions, especially with regard to returning unsold copies and how bankruptcy might affect this.

That's not to say my friend didn't do his due diligence. He's well networked in the self-publishing community, and I'm sure he asked questions until everybody was tired of typing. Still, things like this happen, and when they do, it leaves a bad taste in one's mouth for a long, long time.

That being said, while my wife published her first children's book ("The Reindeer Tree") through Amazon's Createspace (with help from Concierge Marketing), I can't say enough good things about independent bookstores and the role they play in distribution. The Bookworm here in Omaha has been gracious enough to hold a number of book signings for local, self-published authors, one of which my wife and I attended as publishers. We are very grateful for the help they and Lisa Pelto of Concierge Marketing have provided.

I just wish things had turned out better for my friend.