"Being a professional writer is like being a hooker. You'd better find out if you any good at it before you start charging for it."
- Bimbos of the Death Sun, Sharyn McCrumb
|June 7th, 2007
The first RPG product fromDream Machine Productions is ready to be announced:
I'm currently in the process of getting my PDF sales machine set up. If I don't hit any speed bumps, I'll be posting information here (and on the DMP website) within the week with a sales link.
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June 10th, 2007
City Supplement 1:
Dweredell is now available for sale through Dream Machine Produtions'
preferred vendor, Lulu.com!
You will also find it for sale through DriveThruRPG, although their
software is buggy at the moment and crashes whenever I try to upload a
cover image. It was also supposed to appear on RPGNow and the ENWorld
Download Shop, but -- as of this writing -- this has not yet been
achieved (for reasons unknown, since they're run by the same
organization that runs DriveThruRPG).
A print-on-demand hardcopy edition of City Supplement 1: Dweredell will be available as soon as I've had a chance to review a production proof from Lulu. In the future I anticipate releasing the POD edition at the same time as the PDF edition, but since this is our first product I want to review it and make sure it meets my personal standards of quality before asking anyone to lay down cold, hard cash for it.
However, in the interest of being perfectly up front with all of you, allow me to point out that City Supplement 1: Dweredell was designed as a PDF product. It only serves up 12 pages of content, which presents a pretty solid value for a $2 PDF product once you factor in the full-page map of the city and the special bonus map of the Tower of the Sorcerer. But as a POD product it's going to have a price tag of $6.49 (due to the minimum costs associated with any POD product). That's a pretty hefty price tag for a fairly slim package.
(To give you some idea of how much those minimum costs end up being, I end up making less money on the $6.49 POD than I do on the $2 PDF.)
So why offer it as a POD at all? Because there's no reason not to. It costs me essentially nothing to offer the POD option. And if someone wants a professionally published copy of the book, with a full-color cover and saddle-stitch binding, there's no reason I can think of for why they shouldn't have it. (Besides, I'm a raging egomaniac and I'm looking forward to holding a copy in my own hands.)
So why talk about the price here? Because in the future we're going to be offering larger and more substantial products -- products that probably make more sense for the POD format. And I don't want anyone ordering a POD copy of City Supplement 1: Dweredell, being surprised by its slim size, and writing off those future products as a result.
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|June 16th, 2007
Welcome to the new lay-out of the Alexandrian. With the advent ofDream Machine Productions, the Minnesota Fringe Festival production of John and Abigail and the near-future advent of several other projects, I felt it was necessary to make it a little easier to navigate around the site.
You'll also notice that, as promised earlier this week, Google ads have arrived. I know, I know. I'm a capitalistic whore. Hopefully you will find that I have been successful in integrating them tastefully into the site's new design.
Sales have been very brisk for City Supplement 1: Dweredell. If you haven't checked it out, yet, I think you should! (Of course, I might have a slight bias in this matter.) It remains unavailable on RPGNow and the ENWorld Download shop due to continued technical difficulties on the part of OneBookShelf, but you can still find it at Lulu.com and DriveThruRPG.
Tomorrow: Actual content.
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|June 17th, 2007
Today I've got a D20 dire animal template for you. This template is something of a "pseudo-peek" for Rule Supplement 1: Mounted Combat. I say pseudo-peek because, if it was a true sneak peek, it would be content which would actually be appearing in the book. It is, however, a tool I developed in order to create some of the content which will be in the book.
This template is being released under theOGL. It was developed from a template originally published by someone else (check the Section 15 of the OGL). Unfortunately, the original template was poorly designed in several respects and needed to be fixed. (Its most egregious error was creating a non-standard sub-type so that dire animals created with the template would be a completely different type of creature than standard dire animals. It then compounded this error by attempting to create a special-case rule in order to nerf the Ranger's favored enemy class ability. So, obviously, that's been corrected along with a handful of other minor errors and problems.)
Dire animals are larger, tougher, meaner versions of ordinary animals. Each kind tends to have a feral, prehistoric, or even demonic appearance.
CREATING A DIRE ANIMAL
“Dire” is an inherited template
that can be added to any animal that is not already a dire animal. A
dire animal uses all the base animal’s statistics and special
abilities except as noted here.
Dice: If the dire animal is
Small, it has 1 HD or the HD of the base animal +1, whichever is
greater. If the dire animal is Medium or larger, its HD is equal to the
minimum value listed for its size category in the base animal’s
advancement +2. If a Medium or larger animal has no advancement or its
size does not normally increase with advancement, then the dire
animal’s HD is equal to the maximum HD given the base animal +2.
Same as the base animal + 10 ft.
Class: Natural armor
increases by +2. If the base animal has not natural armor bonus, it
gains a natural armor bonus of +2. This bonus stacks with the bonus
gained from the increase in size.
Attacks: A dire animal retains all the base animal’s special attacks. The
damage of its special attacks is adjusted for the increased size and
ability scores, where applicable.
Qualities: A dire animal retains all the base animal’s special qualities. These
special qualities are adjusted for the increased size and ability
scores, where applicable.
All saves are good for a dire animal. The base value of each save is
equal to (1/2 HD) + 2.
Dire animals gain the following ability score increases: Strength +4,
Dexterity +2, and Constitution +2. These bonuses stack with any bonuses
or penalties gained from a size increase (see below).
A dire animal receives (2 + Intelligence bonus) skill points per HD, or
four times this amount for the first HD. Any skill given in the base
animal’s statistic block is considered a class skill for the dire
Same as the base animal, with additional feats gained normally from the
increase in HD. If the base animal has Weapon Finesse and the feat would
become useless after its increase in HD and Strength, then trade Weapon
Finesse for Weapon Focus with one of its primary natural attack.
Rating: Increased by +1. In addition, if the dire animal is increased to size
Large or larger, increase it’s CR by +1.
Dire animals can advance to three times their new HD.
A size increase affects any special ability the creature has that is
affected by size. Increased size also affects a creature’s ability
scores, AC, attack bonuses, and damage values as indicated on the tables
CHANGES TO STATISTICS BY SIZE
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|June 18th, 2007
I had mentioned a few days ago that I was holding off on offeringCity Supplement 1: Dweredell as a printed book until I'd had a chance to personally review a galley proof from Lulu. Well, the galley proof arrived in the mail over the weekend and, after a thorough review, I'm happy to report that everything looks simply fabulous.
UPDATE: OneBookShelf has gotten things straightened out, and you can now find the book on RPGNow and the ENWorld Download Shop.
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June 21st, 2007
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
I have just now returned from seeing Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End for the second time. I am struck by how similar my reaction to the Pirate of the Caribbean trilogy is to my reaction to The Matrix trilogy, and how dissimilar my reaction was compared to other people.
THE SHORT VERSION: In both cases, of course, I thought the first films were fantastic. I'm sure there are some who may disagree, but for me both were high-water marks among my cinematic experiences. Both movies were pure fun. With both movies, I left the theater with a giant grin spread across my face.
SECOND FILM: I was shocked to discover, after ecstatically watching The Matrix Reloaded at a midnight showing, to discover that a large number of people hadn't liked the film. And I was equally shocked, after watching Dead Man's Chest, to discover the same thing. (I'm even more puzzled, in the latter case, by people who say they prefer At World's End to Dead Man's Chest.)
For me, the success of both The Matrix Reloaded and Dead Man's Chest lay on two pillars:
First, the films expanded the breadth and depth of the mythology. I loved learning about rebellious programs like the Merovingian, fragmented remnants of previous iterations of the Matrix, the Architect, and the true purpose of the Prophecy. I loved Davy Jones and the revelation of Jack's bargain.
Second, the films delivered some really fantastic action sequences. For The Matrix Reloaded, the piece de resistance was undoubtedly the car chase sequence. For Dead Man's Chest, it was the brilliantly counter-pointed swordfight at the end -- with Jack, Will, and Norrington fighting in the waterwheel while Elizabeth and the two pirates had to share just two swords between the three of them.
Ironically, these are both things which I have heard other strongly criticize, much to my confusion. For example, I've heard a surprising number of people complain about "all the kung fu" in The Matrix Reloaded because, in their opinion, the end of the first movie suggested that Neo should have moved beyond the need for physical combat. (These are people who have, essentially, pre-written the sequel they wanted and, when the filmmakers didn't miraculously read their minds and deliver that film, they were disappointed.)
Similarly, a lot of the people who dislike Dead Man's Chest talk about how the movie was "suddenly" filled with magical ships and mythological creatures. At least some of these complainants have the self-awareness to realize this sounds a trifle odd when the first film featured undead pirates and gold cursed by Aztec gods, but they justify their complaint because, essentially, they'll accept one magical departure from our world, but not two.
This bugs me because, essentially, they're saying that all they wanted the sequel to do was redo the first film while shuffling the pieces around. I've never understood that approach to sequel-making and I've been very glad to see Hollywood moving away from it recent years: If I just wanted to re-watch the first film, I'd pop the DVD in and watch it. With a sequel I want to see familiar characters in a tale told along the same vein, but I want something new. I want the new film to take me places the old film didn't.
And, for me, The Matrix Reloaded and Dead Man's Chest both delivered that.
THIRD FILM: But what really draws a parallel between the two trilogies in my mind is not their successes, but their shared failure. For me, in both cases, the sequels were fantastic... right up to their conclusions.
In the case of The Matrix Revolutions, I felt that the Wachowski brothers put the entire dramatic weight of the trilogy onto Hugo Weaving's shoulders and said, "Okay, this monologue is the culmination of the entire trilogy. Land it likeKeri Strug and we can all go home." And then, much to my surprise, Hugo Weaving blew it. Maybe the script contributed, and certainly the editing didn't do much to help. But, ultimately, I felt the moment, the necessary elements were there, and yet... they didn't quite carry it off, for reasons I can't quite put my thumb on.
In the case of At World's End, the problem can be much more succinctly targeted: The entire plot of the movie was centered around getting all the pirates in the world together so that they could fight back against the armada of the East India Company. And they get all the pirates in the world together. And what do all the pirates in the world do? Absolutely nothing. And what does the armada do? Absolutely nothing. The film then compounds the problem by having Cutler Beckett act completely out of character not once, but twice: First by putting himself in danger (when he literally has an entire fleet of flunkies he could send to finish off the Black Pearl) and then again when he suddenly seizes up at a moment of crisis (despite the fact that we've seen him act cool and collected under pressure on countless occasions).
(My suspicion is that the writers and director originally intended to give us a huge sea battle between the armada and the pirate fleet, but they ran out of both time and money: The film was nearly 3 hours long and cost $300 million to produce even without the sea battle. Both those figures would have only ended up being even larger if a 10-15 minute sea battle, with all the requisite special effects, had been filmed.)
IN CONCLUSION: I have no grand statement or conclusion to draw from all this. I'm simply struck by the way in which both of these trilogies ended up, to at least some extent, squandering what could have been a triumphant crescendo on lackluster endings that didn't quite close the deal.
Of course, endings are not always an easy thing to carry off. Look at Neal Stephenson, for example.
But, on the other hand, look at Terry Pratchett. Pratchett consistently delivers endings which are not only satisfying, but frequently elevate the entire work to a new level.
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June 26th, 2007
A little over three years ago I recorded an audio book edition of H.P. Lovecraft's Call of Cthulhu. It was designed to be the inaugural entry in the Mythos Audio Library, to be followed by the much larger and more complex project of At the Mountains of Madness. Unfortunately, the original distribution plans for the audio book (and the Mythos Audio Library) as a whole fell apart completely before it could be released.
So I was quite excited, when preppingCity Supplement 1: Dweredell for release, to discover the Lulu.com also offers an audio CD service. I quickly went in, converted the audio files to the proper format, and started uploading them to Lulu. (A process which took a not-inconsiderable amount of time. Uploading 700MB takes awhile.) While the upload was proceeding apace, I was preparing a cover and CD label for the project.
But when it came time for the project to be completed, I received only an error from Lulu's web interface: "Cannot create ISO." After spending several days trying to get in touch with customer service, I finally succeeded and discovered what the problem was: For some reason, Lulu can't produce CDs with a length longer than 70 minutes (whereas the typical CD has a maximum length of 74 or 80 minutes.)
The length of Call of Cthulhu? 72 minutes.
I'm not sure what to do about this. I want the Mythos Audio Library to feature unabridged versions of the stories, so simply excising two minutes of audio is essentially impossible. I could simply split the audio book across two discs, but Lulu doesn't offer CD bundling. So not only would you have to pay nearly twice as much, you'd also have to order essentially two separate products just to get 2 extra minutes of audio. Plus the story is dramatically designed to be absorbed in a single gulp -- there's no good place to put an intermission.
(Obviously I would split the audio down the middle of the story if I did this, not just tack 2 minutes onto a second CD all by themselves.)
The other option is to convert the files to MP3 and offer the audio book as a download-only. I'd probably do that in any case, but I really want to make the CD version work somehow.
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