Thursday 16 May 2013

What to do?

A long time ago I wrote a possible index for Veins Of The Earth. It’s here.

I have done quite a lot of work on it and a lot has changed. The rest of this is an assessment of the work I have done so far and estimation of what I still need to di, with an idea of what the finished book might look like.

All of this leads up to a question  about what to do with all this. That is an argument about money. I invite you all to contribute your thoughts to this argument about money on the internet. Remember my rules.

So. First I needed an encounter table. I decided it needed living parts, so I started making monsters. Got a little side-tracked.  

The bestiary, ‘Pariahs of Creation’ is looking like a 1st draft might be done in the next month or three. Then I need to go back to the table and the caves and re-order those. The whole thing together looks like a combination of these things.
3 life without light extremophile and fungal personalities, treasures, magic, politics. Cracked and ancient evolutionary paths. Ancient genetics from the dawn of life. Forgotten Phylum.
10 the shape of the space small scale immediate/tactical cave generator.
17 people you meet and why they want to kill you npc's (is there such a thing underground?
19 encounters 2 part encounter table, geographical and animate

What else needs to be done and what would the book as a whole look like?

I am thinking I will probably end up combining these three things
2 corpse of a river in the body of the sea. Karst diagram, most likely entrances. How Karst works, what it's like.
15 nobles of the deep Random table for generating rivers, water features, water generally.
24 larger cave system equivalent to street system.

They will become another large table I am currently thinking of as the ‘flows’ table. Its purpose would be to give you a larger scale view of the systems of caves around you, how they were arranged, how they came to be.  It wold tell DM’s the pattern in which to arrange their systems, not exactly, but a general format. So that, when people moved from system to system, they could tell they had gone into a different area, just from the arrangement of the caves.

It would also be a table of rivers, and of mines and some other things. This is not as stupid as it sounds.

Cave systems are only created a number of ways.
- Rivers and water. (In the real world this is the major way. Water + limestone = caves)
- Mines and workings (In a fantasy world there could be layered millennia of these)
- Lava tubes, theoretical chemical bleeds from beneath the earth (Could be true, there are sulphur created caves in (I think) Mammoth cave system in America that may be there even without water coming from above.
- Weird magical shit (God Ichor caves, magical re-ordering, Godzilla-warrens e.t.c)

What combines these things is that in every case something flows and it creates spaces in the rock. The nature of the flow changes the patterning and arrangement of the caves. Water and Lava and god Ichor are obvious Strange chemicals from beneath also. Mines follow the patterns of minerals, so that sort-of works too. With deliberate workings it gets a bit more complicated, be we could (at a pinch) say that capital, or trade or political will flows like water or like a river so the nature of the intangible abstract affects the formation of cave systems in the same way.

What else would be in the book?

I wanted a series of small dungeons that would give people places to travel between and reasons to travel. Currently I think of this as the SpiderSilk Road. It would combine elements of the following things:
5 the vampire court/and others
6 the fungal underground railroad
7 the hive of glass

One dungeon is half-done. Sky-Stone-River-Place. It needs a lot of work to make it any good. Ultimately I want one dungeon for each intelligent race and maybe one or two more. Thinking of adding the Deep Carbon Observatory and Dark Biosphere Investigations. Though those may end up as introductory rival organisations that give you reasons to go deep underground. (Of course the Civillopede will appear as an NPC. A Monster and a mini-dungeon)

What else?

1 Grow Your Own Planet – I still like this idea, both as a way of bringing players into generating a larger scale game space and also as providing a ‘world map’ that lets you know where you are and where you could go. My current vision of this is like an earth-curve with upside-down trees.

4 his body blocked the route
8 classic climbs
9 Cave Crawl Rules
14 breakdown Including
Hallucination table
21 dying in the dark what happens when the lights go out or (they search your body)

I imagine these all being combined into ultra-simple cave crawl rules. (At it’s most basic, half your players encumbrance budget, a big list of things to go wrong when they go over budget, build the sensory/detail aspects into the failures list for people who don’t want to actually have to learn everything about caving before they go pretend caving) The purpose of the rules should be to encourage people to to properly paranoid/obsessive about rope, light and encumbrance, to reward those who are, and punish (in interesting ways) those who are not.

Hallucination is an actual monster now, the Rapture. I think I will make that a more potent presence in the game. Not an actual monster like the Pariahs but an intangible living thing, waiting and watching, always present, ready for you to get tired and make a mistake, insinuating itself into you silently and invisibly. It’s more fun (I think) for players to have a kind of active relationship with insanity rather than it just being a blank force like gravity.

There should be benefits to being close-to-crazy as well. You adapt to the Underdark mentally (and perhaps Physically). If you come out you are like an Underworld veteran, wearing smked lenses in the sun, agoraphobic, hypersensitive, pale and dark-adapted.

12 black market
16 extremophile/fungal treasures and tools
18 maps and guidesv
20 I search the body

Stuff and things. These will need work. Could be one table maybe.

13 the impossiblity of darkness  - This one is important. I still envision a Light Economy as being a very important factor in driving/limiting exploration and travel. Light is a quasi-currency in fact. Always running out, always needing to get more. This should also key into making the players obsessed with light and the kind of light they have. It should highlight an important factor which is the living, liquid relationship between light and darkness. Players in this book should not simply be moving into a dark space, they are divers in a tiny fortress of light. Dark follows them, worms its way into every available crack, retreats unwillingly before them. Each kind of darkness is different and each kind of light is different. It seems impractical to write about but I am not sure that anyone has written about it in that way before, anywhere. So that would be nice to do.

Other things

11 whispers in the dark – not sure about this one, I like it but maybe at the end.
22 speliothaumaturgy

The Question(s)

Should I sell this stuff?
How should I release it?
(of course these questions interrelate.)

Selling Pro’s
- People are more likely to pay attention to something if they pay a nominal amount of money for it, I want people to actually read it not keep it as a pdf on a forgotten drive..
- Can have a big fancy copy with hardback covers and art in it. (I designed it not to need art but I would like to have it.
- I would technically be a published writer.
If I did want to sell it for money should I do it myself, lots of work at stuff I am not good at (ie layouts) and no idea how to market anything.  Or offer it to a publisher?

Not-Selling Pro’s
- I did tell my friend months ago that I might give it away free,
- If you want people to use it then just put it in people’s hands, let them decide if they want it.
- People all over the blogs have given away stuff that is often better than this.
- If it wasn’t for the blog and the people reading it and commenting then this would never have happened or been done.
- HONOUR. Would Worf sell it? Would Picard? Sometimes you play the game, sometimes the lesson is not to play.
- Won’t make any money, will die poor anyway, may as well do the right thing.
- Scared of Kent.

How should I release it? Bits-and-pieces, or all-at-once?

In-bits-and-pieces Pro’s
- Oh god it took so long to do, so, so long. The rest may never be finished. Can I wait another year? Two? I feel like I’m going crazy working on this dark weird thing no-one cares about. I need my madness validated. Have to get something out there.
- I want something out there with my name on it so I can point to it and say ‘look, this is something I can do’
- The full thing may be massive. Even the bestiary is going to be about 70 pages? Will anyone want the giga-thing?
-Paraiah’s could stand quite well on it’s own.

Bit’s-and-pieces cons.
- It will have a much bigger impact as a whole thing.
- Just because the bestiary got massive you have no idea if the rest will. In fact you will be actively trying to keep it under control and shorten it. So you could end up releasing a thing, then a petty little extra thing to go on top.
- You have absolutely no emotional self-control. You eat every biscuit in the pack. You drink everything in the fridge. The only reason you’re not fat is because you stopped buying food. You should listen to other people on this one.
- It feels more aesthetically and culturally potent to have a big, whole thing that is distinctively itself and nothing else. It creates a powerful nexus of attention that draws people into the imagined world in a deeper way, therefore becoming a better piece of art. (This is the vast-tome, welcome-to-my-alterworld school of RPG design)


  1. Well you already know I'm firmly against releasing it in parts, I want one big scary dark dripping book.

    I had no idea so many other things were going to be in it though and holy shit am I even more excited now somehow yes. There definitely needs to be a Whispers in the Dark section.
    If you really want to give something away for free you can have a free PDF, but I think you should sell this, you're self-deprecating but this stuff is fantastic and I want a big gorgeous book that holds it all so sell it damn you.
    As for sell yourself/shop it to a company I'm no expert there, but I can't imagine there NOT being interest in selling it for you.

    God you said so many things up there that I can't address them all but there isn't a part that I'm not excited about.
    Make it and sell it as one big heaving living breathing ultimate nightmare tool please.

  2. I liked Gavin's approach for Theorems and Thaumaturgy: PDF for free, print on demand at cost. The way I see it, I get a lot of stuff for free and want to give something back. If I count the hours and assign the rates I could be earning by working more, it's clear to me that any money I'll ever make with RPG publishing is going to be peanuts. The way I see it: If I don't like doing it for free, then perhaps it's not worth doing at all. I personally also don't value things I paid for more than things I got for free. I just have more of the free stuff I don't read. My book shelf is full of things I bought and didn't read or didn't finish reading, unfortunately. There's no harm in having unread copies of our stuff on the hard disks of strangers.

  3. Just take my money already.

  4. I'd pay for this. Not like, the whole thing for everyone of course. I mean I would buy it. The material you've published on your blog has been great. A friend of mine kickstarted a book and it drummed up way more support than he ever thought it would get, so much so that he had to end up planning a hardback version. That's always a thought.

    Otherwise, a PDF and maybe POD if people want it.. I'd give you some cash for a PDF.

  5. Sell it. Sell it as both, PDF:Print bundle, like on DriveThru RPG or wherever. I would definitely buy the bundle.
    Sure, people all over the blogs give stuff away, as you say, but very very very few of them are doing stuff as cool and imaginative as what you do.
    I very much am looking forward to buying this.

  6. Okay, more useful answer:

    And don't get caught up in trying to write a cyclopean encyclopedia rex. Big projects SHOULD be broken up into little ones so you don't get overwhelmed. I vote Pariahs separately.

    And yes, I would pay American dollars to have your brain disgorge it's contents into my bookshelf. Bills.

  7. Publish it and take my damn money please.

    P.S. I think it's Carlsbad you're thinking of: created by SO2, creating enormous bubbles in the stone, rather than the more modest and cramped caverns of the Kentucky caves like Mammoth.

    1. I belive you may be right about Carlsbad, how embarrasing. Mixing up cave systems really is a schoolboy error.

  8. I would buy it and publicize the hell out of it on my tiny little corner of the net.

    The end format is not super important, but it would be cool to see this lovingly bound as a real book with stitches and art and everything.

    Regarding as parts or as a whole, it's hard to say; I don't have a good sense of the size of the contents as is. My naive preference would be all in one, but as mentioned above scope creep can be an issue.

  9. this sounds like something i want to read in whole

  10. What Brendan said. I'd buy more than one of it. I'd try to get the FLGS to carry it.

  11. I'd buy it. Your monster designs intrigue me.

  12. I'd buy a 6x9" or A5 size hardback for sure. I think I'd use this in my Traveller game as well as my C&C game. You might consider a very abbreviated PDF with a few basic shortened tables as a teaser or "gateway drug" to the full purchase product.

  13. My vote is for the big book, with art, for money. I understand the promise of money may actually have no effect or a detrimental effect on your internal drive to complete the thing but having to pay does have an effect on the way people consume and appreciate your stuff and recompense for the effort will probably assist in inducing further projects i.e. City without Name, which is good for us in the long run.

  14. I would really like to see this! It looks very exciting.

  15. You should sell it. Once you sell something it gains value in the minds of the people who buy it, and this makes them much more likely to use it. Free stuff gets downloaded in vast quantities but then just languishes on hard drives, ignored.

    1. Yep,I'm inclined to say this is also the case for paid-for pdfs. Years ago Raggi said something to the effect of; if a ruleset or setting doesn't exist as a published artefact that can sit on a game table it doesn't really exist.

      That is the territory that needs to be colonised. That of being a thing with weight and texture that people paid cash for and are going to squeeze fun out of goddammit!

  16. I realize that even to a one-man DIY RPG project my paltry American Dollars don't signify large, but you have a guaranteed purchase from me if you decide to sell.

  17. I will/would totally buy this in published format via Lulu. Just don't get to bogged down in feeling like you have to have this Goliath tome containing every possible nuance and continuation of your ideas. Would love to illustrate it too!

  18. I'll second the above voices: I WILL give you money for it - monolithic, bits and pieces, print, pdf, however it comes.

    But god, one big printed book sounds perfect.

  19. Wait til you can release it as one oozing tome, do a free pdf and a nice dead tree version

  20. small scale immediate/tactical cave generator.

    I am really, really excited to see this. Something that thinks about the space rather than just drawing another map.
    Everything said here makes sense to me, although I will say I read and use free stuff actually more than the stuff I've paid for. It just happens to work out like that.

    These are good and original ideas (original to me, anyway). I'd love to see them all together.

  21. Good grief man!
    I hardly buy RPG products but this one I am so pumped about. Put it all together in a big beast of a tome (or something like a 3-booklet set, or whatever the fuck you have to do, just get it out there in print form). I'll pay for it. I'll buy one for the other guys in the D&D game to keep at their houses, just so they know what the score is. I've been totally hooked since I read about the Trilobyte Knight.

  22. Set yourself a deadline to publish a free pdf. Don't worry about art and do a generic layout. After that you and lot's of other people will be excited about seeing a more finished product.