Humpday Links for May 22

Long time since my last post, ready to get back, yadda yadda yadda. Let’s get to the good stuff!

– Nerds, I present your new queen.  Bow down!

– I’m making it my mission to do this in every college dorm across Canada.

– Okay artists, it’s official: boob plate armour is dumb because it can kill you. Stop using it in your art.

– Yes, you’ve likely seen the trailer for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” But it’s cool, so watch it again!

– I personally would welcome a visit from Galactic Groomers.

– I love real life “nerds done good” stories, and the creators of “Cards Against Humanity” fit the bill.

– So if he’s cleaning up the world’s oceans at 19, what does he do for an encore?

I don’t care what the scientists say, if Canada wanted a Wall, we could build it; we’re Canadians, not Can’tadians.

– Miss those old gaming magazines like “The General” and “Ares”? The internet has your back.

– Speaking of D&D, these are just a few of the ads I grew up with. See? D&D was always cool!

– For the Whovians: sometimes you need a fancier T-shirt.

– Monte Cook has some interesting thoughts on technology and tabletop gaming.

Are you a Game Chef? Then get cooking, you only have until Sunday!

– Want to vlog for Geek & Sundry? Here’s how you do it.

– And finally: this is the sort of stuff I would spend my time doing, if time and money were no object.

Enjoy the rest of your shortened week; Friday will be here before you know it!

Find Your Work a Home

Late, short and sweet, that’s the story of today’s post.  Busied myself most of the day with writing of one kind or another, none of which was a blog entry.  But since I sailed right through Monday with nary a whisper I thought I’d at least take a break between my writing and editing to put up something.

One of the things I’ve turned my focus towards is RPG writing, and today was a good day for that.  Started collecting the details of encounters I’ve used in my home games (mostly Pathfinder), and as I polish them up I’ll post them here on the site.  But I also did some work for outside publication:

– While Kobold Quarterly has sadly gone away, there is still plenty of life over at Kobold Press.  The latest is their Lost Magic: A Spell Contest.  Entry is pretty simple, and since the  submission length is limited to only 500 words you really have no reason not write something up and enter.  If nothing else, use it as a quick writing exercise, something to get the creative juices flowing.  It’s what I did.

Wayfinder, the excellent community publication for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, has put out the call for submissions for issue #9.  This issue’s theme is the Darklands, and preference is given to articles focused on adventures underground.  This would be a great magazine for fans of the Pathfinder setting anyway, but two things make it extra special: it is produced entirely by fans, players and GMs like you and me; and it is offered free of charge (though once a year they print a dead-tree version you can purchase).  If you are looking for somewhere to get your feet wet in article writing, this is a good place to start.

I sent off my spell for the Kobold Press contest this morning, and my work for the Wayfinder submission continues.  If you are interested in game writing I’d suggest these as good places to start.  Just be sure, and I cannot stress this enough, to follow the submission guidelines to the letter!  You can write the most brilliant piece of gaming literature since Monte Cook wrought Ptolus, but if you don’t follow the guidelines it won’t even be read.  So I’ll say it again: follow the guidelines.

That’s it. I have editing I have to get on, so I’m running away for now.  But I’ll see you all back here tomorrow, yes?  If you have writerly comments to make in the meantime, please place them below.

Kickstarter and the Gaming Industry: Weal or Woe?

(Note: For this post, I’ll be focusing on Kickstarter as it relates to the gaming industry and community.  Some things may apply to other creative avenues; your mileage may vary.)

If you belong to the nerd community, you’d have to be living under a rent-controlled rock to not know about Kickstarter.  For those paying a cheap lease for granite ceilings, Kickstarter “is a funding platform for creative projects”, as per their website.  Basically, if you have an idea for a creative endeavour you use the site to promote it and raise funds.  If enough people get excited and buy into your idea, you get the funding they pledge and can move ahead.  If you don’t meet your goal, you don’t get the funding, and no one has to shell out anything.

It almost sounds too good to be true, right?  Especially when you look at the massive success stories.  Reaper Miniatures ran a Kickstarter campaign last August to raise $30 000 for their new Bones line. When the dust settled, the company had raised a little over 3.4 million dollars. Yes, I said million. With all the zeroes, yes. More recently, Monte Cook hit a couple of crowd-funding home runs: his campaign to fund his new role-playing game Numenera raised $517, 255 ( a skitch over the $20 000 he set out to achieve), and the Kickstarter for Torment: Tides of Numenera, a computer game set in his new world, more than doubled its goal with $2 million in just two days, with 28 days left to go in the campaign.

You might wonder, then, what kind of idiot wouldn’t run a Kickstarter for their new gaming project.  And it’s true, even if your success is not as pronounced as the above examples, you may still find the crowd-funding lucre you seek.  But it isn’t as easy as just telling people about this neat game idea you’ve had, promising it will be the RPG second coming.  Kickstarter is equally filled with projects that didn’t reach their goal. In some cases it isn’t hard to see why; sloppy planning, vague promises and unrealistic goals abound.

But seemingly solid projects, well-laid out and presented, also fail to fund.  Key reasons?  Maybe the idea was not as widely popular as the creator thought; what works in your home game may not translate to the general gaming public (and thus, why I stopped work on Blubber & Bannock, my alternate trail rations sourcebook).  Most often though, it comes down to gaining attention for the project.  I consider myself pretty aware of what’s going on in the RPG industry, at least as much as an “industry enthusiast” can be.  But for every Kickstarter campaign of which I become aware, a quick search of the Kickstarter site turns up dozens more I have and had never heard of.  Obviously, then, while Kickstarter can do a lot to help a project the onus is still on the creator to get the word out.  The internet is too vast to simply pitch your tent and wait for visitors.

The onus is also on campaign investors to be smart.  While it is true it costs you nothing if a Kickstarter doesn’t reach its goal, there is very little besides internet disapproval to guarantee delivery on your funded investment.  A quick Google of “Kickstarter Fraud” turns up a pretty solid list, with the “Mythic” debacle showing up quite often.  To be fair, though, most of the stories are close to a year old, so it seems on the surface that out-right fraud on Kickstarter was a self-correcting issue.  But life can and does happen, and projects can find themselves unable to deliver on Kickstarter promises for any number of good reasons.  Good reasons don’t make you money any less gone, of course.

But taken all for all, Kickstarter seems to have brought a definite boost to the gaming industry, providing unprecedented contact between creators and those who might play (and therefore are likely to fund) their games.  While this contact is of obvious benefit to creators and massively convenient and exciting for gamers, there is some push-back at the retail level.  Many Friendly Local Game Stores feel that Kickstarter cuts them out of the loop, eroding their position as purveyors of the new and wonderful in the gaming industry.  And that has some merit, as far as it goes.  True, in days of old my FLGS was often my first contact with a new and interesting game; Kickstarter has stepped into that introductory role almost exclusively for many if not most.

But I also think that retailers may be engaging in a bit of a straw-man fight.  Many Kickstarter campaigns include pledge levels directed at the brick-and-mortar stores, allowing them access to a potential “new classic”.  As well, nothing about Kickstarter fundraising excludes FLGSs from the same role they have always played, as promoters and boosters of already published games.  After all, the goal for most campaigns is not just to provide enough of the new game to hand out to supporters, but to get published.  To varying degrees the funding allows the creator to publish in numbers beyond that needed to satisfy backers, and that is the point at which FLGSs step into their familiar and comfortable role.  Really, Kickstarter offers the same opportunity to retailers and distributors as it does to us, the gamers: a look at the new and exciting projects in the market.  If there is retailer exclusion in the Kickstarter process, the retailers seem to be doing it largely to themselves.

So Kickstarter has become an undeniable element of the current gaming landscape, ignored at one’s peril.  What about the future?  I don’t think the basic idea of Kickstarter is going away any time soon.  The low-risk, high-reward possibilities of crowd-funding make it too attractive to disappear, now that Kickstarter and its competitors have made the process so damn easy.  While variations on the theme might appear from time to time, there is no question that for the foreseeable future creators will continue to sing Kickstarter’s praises.

*     *     *

If you are a burgeoning Kickstarter junkie, here are some other gaming-related campaigns that may be of interest:

Cheapass Games’ Deadwood Studios USA

Lester Smith’s Monster Con Card Game

9th Level Games Kobolds Ate My Baby! In Colour!

Green Ronin’s Freeport: The City of Adventure (Pathfinder ed.)

Alina Pete’s Weregeek Book 5: Random Encounters

 

What are your thoughts on Kickstarter and crowd-funding?  Have horror stories, or a potential KS gem you’d like to share?  The Comments await your coming!

5 Blogs I Read for Fun

I suppose it should go without saying that, since I write a blog, I must also read other blogs.  While that is weirdly not always so (I do know of one blogger who doesn’t read other blogs because “they generally all suck”… *sniff* But not mine, right?) in my case it is certainly true.  Besides the information they provide, reading other people’s blogs gives me insight into different writing styles, and most importantly different viewpoints.  And since I follow several blogs on similar topics, I can also get a sense of the prevailing winds of opinion on certain nerd topics.  And, contrarian that I am, allows me to write the occasional piece tacking against that wind if I think it’s warranted.

I’m not sure how many blogs would constitute normal reading.  I currently have about 75+ blogs that update through my Google Reader; add to that the ten or so that I read from webcomic sites I visit (guilty confession time: I like the Penny Arcade comic.  But I LOVE the blog updates that go along with them.  Something about his writing style speaks to me.) , and maybe a further 5-10 I read from links on social media oh god I forgot Tumblr, more like 15-20…okay, maybe that’s a lot.  In my defence not all of them update daily, though Wired and Geek Dad appear to have me covered by updating a bajillion times a day.  So let’s say that, daily, I read somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40-50 blogs.  Your mileage may vary, but I find that a comfortable number.

Out of all that, I’m going to suggest 5 blogs to you that I think you might get a kick out of.  They aren’t in any particular order.  They aren’t necessarily my top five blogs either; rather, a representative spread of the things that amuse me.

Slushpile Hell – I stumbled across this one a little while back, and it immediately spoke to my editor’s soul (how my editor’s soul could hear it through all that stone…).  For non-editors, the slushpile is the sometimes mountain of unsolicited manuscripts received by publishers.  Reading through it can be…a challenge.  Slushpile Hell is one literary agent’s journey through the slushpile, one mind-bogglingly bad query at a time.  Each post is delightfully concise and offers up just the right amount of weary snark I need in my blog diet.

The Chapel Perilous – Okay, my nerd-crush on Monte Cook is fairly well known in certain circles (and now this one), so my reading his blog should come as no surprise.  Interestingly, it was reading his blog that led to him coming to Edmonton as a GoH at Pure Speculation; of the names that then Gaming Coordinator Scott C. Bourgeois suggested, Monte’s was the only one I “knew” through his blog, as well as recognized.  So I suggested he be moved to the top of the list, which of course Scott had already done (his nerd-crush being as strong as mine).  I love reading The Chapel Perilous for its blend of gaming and personal posts.  Monte posts about the things that matter to him, first and foremost.  So when I read something about gaming posted amongst more personal material, I know the opinion he is giving is sincere.  And sincere passion in the nerd hobbies these days is like gold…if gold were still valuable.  Platinum, then.  At least electrum.

Total Fan Girl – I read other nerdy blogs for a variety of reasons: inspiration, information, entertainment.  Total Fan Girl gives me a healthy dose of all three, plus a perspective on the hobby that I find valuable as an Old Male Geek worried about inclusiveness.  Like me, she is a general-purpose nerd with a variety of interests, and her posts reflect that.  She is also a gateway into another of my media addictions, as she posts updates for the GeekMoms podcast.  Mostly I like her blog because she always brings me the really cool stuff.  And that challenges me to do the same.

Awesome Dice Blog – Okay, I’ve actually only been reading this blog for a few weeks now.  But in that time I’ve gone back through and read EVERYTHING! (putting the OCD back into OCD…five times!)  It first came to my attention through the Twitters because of a link to a very cool little time-line of dice throughout history.  Then in one of those internet happen-stances I received an email from Brian at Awesome Dice, asking if I would link to their site.  So I checked their site out, thoroughly (see above EVERYTHING), and said yes, of course I would.  Yes, they talk a lot about dice; if that isn’t in your wheelhouse then you might want to give a pass.  But the blog also covers a wide variety of gamer nerd topics, and includes video posts from Balthazar (yes, THE Balthazar) on…well, just about anything.  Here’s a sample:

So I highly recommend these guys for your daily dose of game nerdery.  Oh, and they also sell dice.  Awesome dice, so I’m told.

The Unknown Studio – Better known for the podcast of the same name, The Unknown Studio also has a snazzy and interesting blog.  While there are a number of sources I follow to keep up on what’s going on in Edmonton, this blog is probably the most fun I have doing it.  It’s worth reading for FML Fridays alone, but Adam Rozenhart also posts some really sincere and insightful pieces on my city and the people in it.  And he also posts some flat-out goofy shit.  The combination works, and like the podcast, keeps me coming back.

Okay, that’s me.  What are you reading in the blogosphere?  Share in the comments below, and maybe we’ll all read something new today!

Humpday Links for November 2

Not even NaNoWriMo will keep me from providing the freshest, most delicious internet links for you Humpday feeding pleasure!  Let us link, anon! [Exeunt, linking]

– Remember those science kits you played with as a child?  JBox and Gakken have teamed up to bring you adult science kits! One mad science lab coming right up!

– If you are a Pathfinder GM with a game night looming and nothing to run, Adventure a Week has your back.

Shirt Punch will make sure you have the chance to buy a new, geeky T-shirt every day.

– Did you ever feel that there needed to be a rock love song inspired by Silence of the Lambs? Yeah, me too.

– From the “Cooler than the Da Vinci Code” files, computer scientists crack a 250-year-old secret society’s code.

– The new web series Shelf Life shows us what our action figures get up to when we aren’t around. Wait, so mine have seen me naked? Excuse me, I need to rent a wood chipper…

– I’ll have a longer post on this later, but for now you need to head over and start reading Joey Heflich’s 700 Hours of Yelling.  Go ahead, I’ll wait…

These cosplayers just want us to be excellent to one another.

– So you thought it was pretty cool when Joss Whedon announced his Bellweather production’s Much Ado About Nothing, right?  It gets better!

– If, like me, you plan to support small geek businesses this Christmas, Geek’s Dream Girl has some good advice for you.

– Jen Page and Monte Cook are teaming up to bring us Geek Seekers, a web series investigating the paranormal.  See their totally real and not at all apocryphal origin story here.

– From The Nerdist, two little bits of Who behind-the-scenes fun!

Doctor Who is now poised to educate our children. And who better, really?

– This article may be three years old, but I happen to agree with Simon Pegg about why zombies don’t run!

I will give a prize to anyone that does this to their water coolers at work. Pics, of course.

– So Halloween is over and you are wondering what to do with your leftover pumpkins; got a slow motion camera?

– And finally, if you need a timey-whimey clock I think this will be sufficient to your requirements.

Enjoy the rest of your humpday, and if you have links to share by all means pop them into the comments below.  Me, I’m off to write some more…

 

Humpday Links for September 7

In honour of Random Acts of Publicity Week, I’ve decided to provide some links to my favourite books, games and authors.  Check them out, you may discover some really cool stuff.

– Let’s begin with Spider Robinson, one of my favourite authors of all time.  His writing in general and his Callahan books in particular, informed a lot of my attitudes towards matters of equality and equanimity.  I cannot recommend Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon enough, but track down Mindkiller, as well as the Stardance trilogy he co-wrote with his late wife, Jeanne Robinson.  Even if you don’t agree with everything he says, you may just find yourself enjoying the way he says it.

– And onto Charles de Lint, the author who was my introduction to the world of urban fantasy.  Before reading his novel Moonheart I had assumed that fantasy was firmly the province of made-up worlds filled with heroes and strange monsters.  Thanks to Mr. de Lint I know our world has heroes and strange monsters, too.

– Another of my favourite authors, though I discovered him later in my fantasy lit gestation, is Guy Gavriel Kay.  While he is best known for his Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, a wonderful blend of urban and high fantasy, he has also written a number of individual fantasy novels with the feel of historical fiction.  I recommend any of those works; Mr. Kay can do more with a single book than many authors manage with a trilogy or two.

– Moving away from literature and onto gaming.  Monte Cook has been my second favourite game author and designer even before he helped create the d20 version of Dungeons & Dragons.  Since then he has clinched that spot with Ptolus and Dungeonaday.com (now looked after by Super Genius Games).  Getting to meet him was one of the high-points of my game-geek career, no question.

– So if the truly awesome Monte Cook is my second favourite, who is my favourite?  None other than the Canadian creator of The Forgotten Realms, Ed Greenwood of course!  The Forgotten Realms is my favourite published D&D campaign world; I’ve been in gamer-love with it since its inception in the pages of Dragon magazine.  I am angling to meet Mr. Greenwood soon, having just missed him the last time I was at Gen Con.

– Table-top RPGs have long been my geek passion, and D&D was at the forefront of that for many years.  Owing, however, to my various disagreements with the design of D&D 4E, the Pathfinder RPG became my new game de jour.  Besides the “D&D 3.75” aspect of the rules reboot, I have fallen in love with Golarion, the world that became the Pathfinder RPG’s default setting.  It is every bit as vibrant and mysterious as The Forgotten Realms were to me, and tops the list of my favourite published campaign worlds.  Add to that the fact that I respect Paizo’s attitude towards its fans a lot more than I do WotC/Hasbro’s, and I don’t think I’m ever going back to D&D.  If you ever want to check out the Pathfinder RPG, just drop me a line…

– We’ll end on a not-so-guilty pleasure, a little game I like to call Kobolds Ate My Baby! (mostly because that is what it is called).  It is an utterly ridiculous, loud and fun “beer and pretzels” game, wherein you play kobolds out to find the only food that matters: delicious babies!  Along the way, hilarity and carnage ensue.  If you can track down a copy, do it!  It is the perfect game for combining alcohol and friends.

That’s it for now.  Have any links you’d like to share, or comments on the above? Put them below…