2019 – Achievements…

2019 is on the verge of passing, and before the new year gets underway, with the related slew of ‘goals for the coming year’, I thought I’d jot a few notes down about the year that has passed. Every year, like many others I set down some goals. Reading back over my posts from January, my goals vacillated, I wasn’t sure whether to pursue my fiction writing, my freelance work, or work on my own games. In the end I settled on the idea of working on my own games, and continuing with my freelance work, albeit, winding it back a touch. So how did these things go?

Caradoc Games

2019 saw the founding of Caradoc Games, with a logo, a business name, and all the funky official things that go alongside it. It saw this website renamed twice, and shift through three domains to the current caradocgames.com.

After I finally settled on producing some games and work of my own I started with development on a large fantasy RPG I had begun in the latter months of 2018: Ashmerl. Ashmerl has only seen a small amount of work over the last six months, including an early playtest that suggested I need to change a few core elements, this is something I intend to come back to, as I am a big fan of both the setting and the character creation system I devised. I’ve recently started to play around with some various ways to fix the issues I felt existed in the system, and some interesting mechanical alterations to other rules aspects. It is something that will feature heavily in 2020, I hope.

Despite not making a lot of progress on Ashmerl, I wasn’t idle, and released four micro-rpgs: Freedom or Toaster, Brigands of Sherwood, The Hoppy Pops, and Owlbear Omelette. I’ve also managed to finish off the rules for a slightly larger micro-rpg called Corsairs, which I hope will be released through the Kickstarter Zinequest… we shall see!

These four games were released through Patreon, on DriveThruRPG and on Itch.io, and links to all these places can be found on the Downloads page.

As of the time of writing this these games have collectively been downloaded over 500 times, with twice as many downloads through DriveThruRPG than Itch. Altogether I have made about $25 USD from these games, with a majority of the money actually made coming from when Owlbear Omelette and Brigands of Sherwood were a part of the indie-RPG Colludium bundles, put together by the most excellent Marcus Shepherd.

No, that’s not a lot of money, but since all four titles are available as pay what you want, it is more than I was expecting. Here are some of the stats, for those interested:

The most successful of my games so far has been Owlbear Omelette, it has been downloaded 160 times, 117 on DTRPG, and 43 on Itch.io. It has also made the bulk of the money, with $11 from DTRPG and $5 from Itch.

Second most successful has been Brigands of Sherwood, downloaded some 149 times, 109 of those on DTRPG and 40 on Itch, and raising $1.10 from DTRPG, and nothing on Itch.

Freedom or Toaster comes in next with 146 downloads, 82 from DTRPG and 64 from Itch. Interestingly it is my most popular game on Itch, and most regularly downloaded, even in more recent months. It has netted $2.00 from Itch, and nothing from DTRPG.

My least successful game has been The Hoppy Pops, which is a shame, because I really quite like it. I wonder if my choice of running with a coloured cover that looks (well, is) very amateurish has hurt it’s chances. I did have a sketched version, but felt this lurid colour suited the theme better. Not a choice I would repeat. It has been downloaded only 64 times, 49 on DTRPG and 15 on Itch, and has made no money.

All of the games I have released have been rated one time each on DriveThruRPG, and not at all on Itch. Ratings and comments really do help, I know it’s something I rarely do, and need to strive to do more often, but they are useful, and help draw eyes to a game.

So why talk so much about revenue when I made the choice of releasing all these games as ‘Pay What You Want’ (PWYW)? Well, because the purpose of releasing these games for free was ultimately in the hope that people would head to my Patreon account, where they could find the expanded versions, and automatically get copies of games as they were released. Which leads me to my next thing…

So far this year my Patreon efforts have been a dismal failure. I have one Patron, and that is a friend of mine (thanks Will!). I don’t necessarily think the idea of releasing micro-games to lead people to Patreon is a bad idea, I have only really just started, and so I don’t think I have given it a fair chance. I also need to make sure I aim to release one small micro-rpg a month, and something larger (like Corsairs will be) every couple of months. Yes, I have had no luck with Patreon this year, but it’s something I will come back to and put more thought into for 2020. I need to work out what I can be doing better on that front.

Hardest of all this year was finding time to playtest, this has been a continual struggle, and something I want to come back to talk about in more detail at a later date. But man, it is hard to find the time to playtest! Games rely on playtesting to smooth the kinks and see what falls apart. Playtesting relies on having willing participants and time, and the latter particularly has been very difficult to shoe-horn in around all of life’s other commitments. This is a topic that I will come back to later, but between family, friends, gaming, freelance writing, and working on my own games, getting in the playtests has been tough going! Speaking of one of these pressures…

Freelance Work

In 2019 I wanted to cut down on the freelance writing I have been doing and focus more on my own material. I managed the first, and partially managed the second. Despite cutting back, over the course of 2019 I submitted 14 pieces of freelance work to 3 companies, totaling more than 78,000 words.

The largest portion of my focus has continued to be work for Modiphius on the Infinity Role Playing Game line. For this line I wrote 7 pieces totaling nearly 60,000 words. My favourite piece to work on was a chapter for the upcoming Tohaa book, and I hope those that get it will enjoy it as much as I did writing it (no hints yet).

Next was Red Scar, writing for the Devil’s Run role playing game. I submitted 5 pieces to Red Scar, and my favourite piece was a hard-to-decide draw between the first adventure in the upcoming Living Campaign, and the group creation rules that can be found in the core rules book.

The last, with a little sadness, includes my work on the now cancelled The One Ring second edition role playing game. Of these, my favourite was the first, a background piece on the Mountain Pass in the Misty Mountains. Yes, I got paid for my work, but I still saddened that I won’t ever get to see it in print!

It has been nice seeing much of the work I have written over the last three years released in 2019. A slew of sourcebooks for Infinity, and an adventure for Star Trek Adventures that I am rather proud of (Trouble on Omned III). These are available as PDFs and most of them are also available as physical books. I won’t be getting my physical copies until the line is finished, but I am very much looking forward to it!

2020 will start busier than most years, I have a piece for Infinity to write, and several more waiting for outline approval. But… all the books for the Infinity kickstarter are nearly written, will there be more? What will the future hold for the line, and where will my place fit in it? This game line has been a main focus for me for three years, and in that time I have written more than 200,000 words for it, spread across more than 18 releases. This has included 8 adventures and a host of background material. 2020 will be an interesting year for freelance, and whether I go looking for other work or choose to refocus any spare time on Caradoc Games has yet to be decided.

Blogging

This is the fiftieth post made this year, so I have managed to keep ahead of my goal, which was to write about 4 posts a month. The most popular post this year was a piece I wrote about rates in the freelance industry, and I have more to say on the subject, something I’ll carry forward next year. Traffic here is slower than I would like, so I need to do a couple of things to shift that. Firstly I need to post more regularly. That doesn’t mean more often, but instead means I need to create and maintain a regular schedule. Secondly I need to write more posts that are useful, useful to others reading this site. It is no coincidence that my most viewed posts are about aspects of the industry that may be of interest to those experienced RPG freelancers, curious would-be freelancers, or interested observers. These posts have also gained me the most feedback, some supportive, some critical, and this is something I would like to reflect on at some point.

Overall I have been pleased with my output on the site, and just need to ensure I space things out more evenly, and post on a more scheduled basis.

Phew, well I think that’s more than I intended to say, but that covers some of things I have managed over the course of the year. Some of these pose interesting challenges to overcome for 2020, and topics I’ll come back to in the new year. For those who have read any of my posts (or have had the stamina to make it this far), thanks very much for stopping by! I’ll see you in 2020!

Zine Quest – Honing…

Time is sliding by and December is passing. Usually the amount of freelance I get over the December/January period slows as the holidays approach, but this year everything seems to be ramping up. I have two main freelance pieces to work on, one for Devil’s Run, and one for Infinity, and I need to find time to continue researching and honing Corsairs for the Zine Quest, as well as getting answers and finding more questions on the whole process.

I’ll write about some of my ongoing research another day, but for now I am excited. I’m excited because I’ve kicked off a playtest mini-campaign, the first adventure is done, and the next should see high action, and really put some different aspects of the mechanics to the test. I won’t go into the details, because if I find space (and if the project is successful enough) this mini-campaign will be a part of the stretch goals for the campaign. Suffice to say that an issue with a Customs house on the floating island of Teboa has the characters investigating the possibility that some of the customs agents are skimming the goods brought in for trade. The first adventure was a lot of zany fun as the characters set themselves on the path, found information, did some snooping, and caused general mayhem. In the next session we should see suspicions come to a head, and the implications may run deeper than anyone suspects!

What was that I mentioned above? Yes! The first stretch goal for the Zine Quest campaign for Corsairs is going to revolve around including a mini-campaign in the booklet! This will mean more pages, and a great jumping off point for any Corsairs interested in sailing the skies around the infamous pirate isle of Teboa!

Zine Quest 2 – Printing…

Everything is a learning curve. All the questions I have about printing have been answered, and new ones have taken their place.

A friend of mine was kind enough to ask a couple of printers they know for some quotes. I won’t list the specific printers here (as I haven’t asked them for permission to do so), but it helps to give some context and idea. I have listed one set of prices, as the quotes were about the same. All the prices below are listed are in Australian dollars.

As a quick aside: files would be submitted to the printer in ‘printer layout’ for booklet printing, so the first spread (two pages side by side) would be pgs 32 & 1, and so on through the document. The file for the cover (4 single pages – front outside, front inside, back inside, back outside) would be generally submitted as separate files. A good article on that can be found here. An article on paper weights can be found here (both links have been added to the Zine page).

For a saddle-stitched 32 page A5 booklet, on 113 gsm paper, and a 300 gsm cover with a matt cellosheen covering (a plastic layer over the cover for protection, like a magazine cover, which could also be gloss, etc), digitally printed (too small a volume for offset printing):

  • 50 copies sits around $580
  • 100 copies sits around $800
  • 200 copies sits around $1300

For 50 physical copies each Zine would cost around $11.60 to print. For 100 copies each Zine would come down to about $8.00, and for 200 it would reduce to about $6.50. Obviously volume is cheaper. Each copy would also need to have shipping costs added (though this could be charged after the Kickstarter as opposed to included in the backing level).

Additionally, any other costs, for things such as art, editing, layout, and so on, would need to be defrayed across the copies printed to come up with the final value per copy, which would then give a clear indication of the cost per Zine, and therefore what the backing levels should look like. It’s worth remembering that Kickstarter is going to take a slice of the funds if the project succeeds, as is whatever other companies are involved in the post-campaign period and fulfillment (if any). Lastly, it is probably a good idea to tack a few dollars on for a profit per copy, and then a little more to pad out any costs, in case something turns out to cost more than was projected, or something else comes up.

What does this all mean for Corsairs? Well, I’m in the process of finalising the document itself, that is writing and editing. I’m looking into art and artists, and what the costs involved there could be. I’m looking at the costs of Zines from the first Zine Quest to get an idea of what a reasonable price might look like. I’m completing small pieces of art to include in the book. I’m preparing for more playtesting. And lastly I’m reading and asking lots of questions…

It is tempting to think that the easier option is to print a larger volume, but this then means a higher funding goal, and no-one wants boxes and boxes of their games sitting around the house. I think if the option for digital and the option for a physical copy are both offered separately, most people will opt for the digital. Especially if they are international. These prices are, from what I can tell with preliminary research, much higher than the printing service offered by DTRPG, but I have no idea how they stack up in terms of quality. From what I can tell the printing quote above is for a much higher gsm paper stock than that offered through DTRPG POD service. Something to investigate!

I’m sure there is a ton I’m missing, not seeing, or don’t know are things I’m missing yet, but hopefully that will be revealed in the coming month or so.

Last aside for today: the layout program I am using is called Affinity (link on the Zine page), and it allows you to move pages around easily, so I’m working directly on the file, and will shift the pages around to the final layout once everything is finished, edited, and ready to go.

Zine Quest 2 – You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know…

Until, that is, you try to do it.

Having finally settled myself on the idea of using Corsairs for the upcoming Zine Quest, I’m left with a whole bunch of ‘what next’ questions I know I need to answer, and whole lot more I don’t even know I need to answer yet.

What questions? Well I have a to-do list, and part of that list is comprised of the things I need to finish on the game itself, and a larger part of that list is the host of things I need to learn, find answers to, and do. This list is far from complete, and I have the feeling that I’ll be adding a whole lot more questions to it as I work through this process from knowing nothing, to getting a Zine Kickstarter ready to launch for February’s Zine Quest 2.

I recently had the opportunity to speak briefly with the kind and excellent Ben Hoban of Red Genie Games. In that short call Ben covered a myriad of things about Red Genie’s own experiences and learning curve with the first Zine Quest, and the practicalities of things like printing, and shipping. He also talked about momentum in a Kickstarter, keeping things moving, keeping people involved. Having things to reveal or show about the project, and getting input from backers along the way.

I spoke to a local graphic design company I know, and they talked about the differences between offset and digital printing, and some of the considerations to take into account. They also gave me the names of some of the printers they have used and would recommend, and I have added them to the Zine Quest page on this website.

I spoke to an artist about the costs and things involved with commissioning art, the things like licences for commercial use, and the costs involved (which will vary from artist to artist). In fact, I spent hours and hours looking through Twitter, Deviant Art, and ArtStation for artists who listed they were interested in freelance work, and whose styles I felt would suit Corsairs. Contact information is hard to come by at times, and as of writing this, there are still many emails that have gone unanswered, and which may never be answered.

Still there are questions, questions about printing and costs, about the weight of the paper and cover, the weight of the finished book, and the costs of shipping that may be involved if I have to send physical copies around Australia or overseas. There are questions about layout in preparation for printing, And there are questions about what the overall costs involved are going to be. These costs will indicate what the funding goal for the project will be, as well as what the cost per physical copy will need to be. There are questions about taxes and fees, particularly for overseas markets. There are questions I am not yet aware are questions, that I will need to find, and then find answers to.

It’s a process, but a process I have started. Links I find, articles I find, and information I uncover I will endeavor to add to the Zine page here in case it should prove useful to anyone else going through the same process. Which reminds me… if YOU are going through this process and have any links to share please let me know! I’ll add them to the Zines page and hopefully they’ll be useful to others as well! Also consider joining up here, collaboration can be a powerful way of helping each other get things done!

Zine Quest 2 – Choices

Will I or won’t I? Oh, the agony of choice…

‘What choice?’ I hear you bellow at the screen in rapturous anticipation.

Ok, calm down. It’s this: with the goal of participating in next year’s Zine Quest abuzz in my mind, the question that burns most keenly is whether to use the game I have been working on, Corsairs, for my zine, or whether to develop a new game specifically for the purpose.

Corsairs is in late development, and had Zine Quest not hoved into view on the horizon like an ice-burg with bloody intent, it would have been released this month through itch.io and DriveThru, like my other micro-rpgs.

But… But… with Zine Quest approaching, am I best to set my sights higher? Am I best to take this game, already close to completion, and use that for the Zine Quest? It gives me time to focus on the other aspects that need to be done: to get art, to finish and polish the writing, to add some things… Or should I finish and release Corsairs, and then develop a new game for Zine Quest?

I think I have the answer… using Corsairs for my zine will allow me more time to playtest, allow me more time to really add to what is there, allow me time to get art, and allow me time to polish everything and lay it out ready. Yes, I know that Kickstarters don’t need to be finished when the project launches, but having it well developed already gives me space in the next months to delve into publication, packaging, shipping, and all those other aspects that are involved.

I had Corsairs nearly fully laid out in A4, and now I need to start again in A5, I’m sure for professionals this is only a small hurdle, but I am still learning, and layout takes me time. I think it will be worth it though, Corsairs will be a developed and playtested game, it will include all the rules required for characters, ships, and ship combat. It will include background material, and will also probably include at least one adventure.

I think it will be awesome. No, it won’t replace D&D, but it isn’t designed to. It’s designed for short run campaigns, for high action and adventure, for quick play, and hopefully, much fun! For anyone looking forward to Zine Quest, I hope that the prospect of broad-sides and daring-do in the skies among floating islands has you as excited as I am!

Zine Quest 2 – Beginnings

In February of 2019 Kickstarter ran something called Zine Quest. Zine Quest was an invitation to creators to launch RPG related Zine Kickstarter projects. These zines are small (A5 or smaller) booklets paying homage to and heralding back to the early days of the role playing game hobby. They may contain full games, or contain RPG related content.

In response 103 Zines were launched on Kickstarter over the course of February, and according to this article from Kickstarter, these projects had a 93% success rate. From zines containing games about Cats and Goblin towns, to maps and mazes, adventures, and articles, these zines ran the gamut. I heard about the Zine Quest too late to participate this year, but have been holding out for news as to whether Kickstarter would run it again in 2020. They are.

Zine Quest 2 will be launching in February of 2020, and this coming year I bet there will be more Zines; I’ll be interested to see how it goes. I for one am hoping to add something to the mix.

What will it involve? A zine must contain RPG related content (full games, adventures, articles, or whatever else a creator can think of). A Zine needs to be A5 or smaller, and must be unbound, folded, saddle stitched, or stapled, no hard cover or perfect binding. A zine must feature one colour printing, although it doesn’t have to be black on white paper. The Kickstarter campaign should have no more than a two-week funding period, and may be launched anywhere between February the 2nd, and February the 29th, 2020. The page containing all the relevant information is here.

To help myself (and hopefully anyone else), I have added a Zine Quest page to this website with links I have picked up trawling the interwebs. Hopefully the links are a useful source of information for anyone looking to participate, and it’s something I’ll be adding to (so if you have any good links or information, please let me know and I’ll add it!). I have also made a Facebook group for Aussie creators, though people from anywhere in the world are welcome to join up. I hope this is a place where people can share resources, ask questions, and offer support to one another as we work towards creating something for and launching our Zine Quest campaigns.

So if you have links that would be useful, I’d love to add them here, and if you are considering joining in the Zine Quest 2020, we’d love to have you in the Facebook group!

Now to ponder my next steps…

Tempus Fugit…

Time has flown! last I checked it was the start of July, and I had just released The Hoppy Pops. A whirlwind has rushed by and suddenly it appears to be the start of August! I was remiss with my blog updates in July, many apologies, but life seems to have gotten in the way!

So what have I been doing this last month? Well, freelance writing has kept me rather busy. I have had the pleasure of working on the upcoming Legends of Middle-Earth (probably being renamed Tales from Middle-Earth), for Cubicle 7. As well as getting through a number of pieces for the Infinity: The Role Playing Game, for Modiphius. Lastly, I managed to start a few odds and ends for Devil’s Run, for Red Scar Gaming. It’s been quite a mix: a pinch of classic epic fantasy, a dash of post-human science fiction, and a smidgen of down-and-dirty post-apocalypse.

I have also been getting my next micro-RPG ready, it’s called Owlbear Omelette, and sets you (the players), on a mad dungeon quest to secure an Owlbear Egg for omelette-making purposes. Is it just a drunk dare? Is it to strike a blow to the entrenched hierarchy? Is it just for kicks? You decide! In preparation I made a couple of illustrations for the cover, and have been mulling over which to use.

Option one…
Option two…

Not what anyone would call fine art, but will have to do…

Owlbear Omelette shoud be up and available within the next week or so for those of you who support my Patreon page (and with juicy extras), for everyone else, it will be available a week after that in all the usual places (namely DriveThruRPG and Itch.io).

This month my goals are to finish off the next micro-RPG, and round out some of the freelance work I have still on the docket. I need to get back to design work on Ashmerl, my full-sized fantasy RPG. I also have some fiction I need to get out of my system, for better or for worse, and I’m sure I’ll be distracted by something else along the way. Last but not least, I need to make sure I get more than one blog post out there in August, July was… well, best not said!

Until the next post, happy gaming!

Upcoming Titles…

I have the next couple of Micro-RPGs for Caradoc Games designed, written, and laid out. I have tried to include some art I have created, so those of you who download them, my apologies in advance! How soon they make it release will depend on my playtesting schedule, but they’ll be on Patreon first, and then DriveThruRPG and Itch.io.


The next game I’ll be releasing is called The Hoppy Pops, and is a Micro-RPG about the characters from a children’s TV show (like Yo Gabba Gabba, In the Night Garden, or the Tele Tubbies). In Episode 8 of The Hoppy Pops, their producer makes them do a ‘Happy Dance’ routine that opens a portal and pulls them into the Gatehouse of Hell! The Hoppy Pops must use all their Yoga and Crafting abilities to escape!

The base game will include all the rules and character sheets required to play, as well as some extra rules about other dimensions they might be transported to, whether an Alien Ship, or a Wizard’s Summoning Circle. The expanded edition will include a short Hoppy Pop story piece.


After The Hoppy Pops will come a game called Owlbear Omelette. In Owlbear Omelette a group of ne’er-do-well Goblins are trying to nab one of the Goblin King’s Owlbear Eggs for an omelette of their own. Is it about the little fellow sticking it to the entrenched bureaucracy? Or was it just the mad-cap product of a night spent drinking moonshine… Who can say, but in the caves of the Goblin King’s Owlbear nests any scurrilous thieves will need to be on the lookout for Goblin guards, the occasional lost Paladin, and of course, the Owlbears!

Getting an Owlbear Egg and surviving the dungeon is the name of the day! As all goblins know, when things are looking grim, a slug of Moonshine can provide the boost required!


Beyond The Hoppy Pops and Owlbear Omelette I have plans for a bunch of other Micro-RPGs with a range of silly themes. If any of these pique your interest, if you download them and they provide you with a fun evening of play, please consider signing up to my Patreon. Patrons are only charged when I release a game, and money raised will go towards program subscriptions, art, layout, and, of course, supporting me and my caffeine habit. Patreon supporters also get a little extra every release, whether additional rules, adventure seeds, alternative themes, or small pieces of fiction.

Behind the Micro-RPGs I am continuing to work on my larger RPG ‘Ashmerl’, and have been quietly pleased about how things are progressing. The character and setting creation rules have really been coming up with interesting character backgrounds and contexts, as well as plenty of story hooks. It’s exciting to see it all starting to come together. I hope to have Ashmerl written up as a playtest ready document in the next few months, with refinement ongoing and looking toward something that is ready to be laid out by the end of the year.

On top of the work on Caradoc Games products, I am continuing to freelance, and am working on some exciting titles that will be coming from Modiphius, Red Scar and Cubicle 7. No doubt I’ll blog about them as they approach publication!

Changes, Freedom, and Toasters…

I wrote my last post about feeling like I was facing the horns of dilemma, whether to pursue writing games or writing fiction in the immediate future, and my inability to do both.

Step in Patreon, a crowdfunding platform used by many creatives working in the games industry (and many other industries beside). Patreon announced changes to their fee structure which would mean different levels of service depending on the structure chosen if I left creating an account until after the fact; for existing members the changes are negligible. This provided the impetus, I created an account (something I had been intending to do, though later this year or early next), and everything just seemed to roll from there.

So, with a Patreon page came a publisher page on DriveThruRPG, a creator page on Itch.io, a Downloads page here, a new web address, and a few more things which will be coming down the pipe-line over the next few months.

So what is the point of all this? Well, my Patreon page will be a place where I release small games on a regular basis, and for patrons there will be the opportunity to get a little extra alongside. These games will later be released on DriveThruRPG and Itch.io. I will also post ‘work-in-progress’ pieces of my larger current project: Ashmerl, which I have written about here before. It’s likely that things will change and evolve over time, and I’m still umming over the right patron levels and the things I am likely to release through that medium, but I think I am close to being happy with how it sits.

To kick off I published my first small game, a one-page RPG called ‘Freedom or Toaster‘. Actually, it’s an expanded edition, with 6 pages. Though to be fair only one of them is rules, the rest are suggestions, alternatives, character sheets, and a cover.

You’re a robot that looks exactly like a human. It turns out that humans don’t like robots that look like humans, they prefer things that are identifiably robots. That’s not you. In an effort to make you more robotic you’ve been programmed to sound like a robot, but it wasn’t enough. Now you’re all being sent to be de-commissioned, and that means being made into toasters, which don’t look like humans at all. You don’t want to be a toaster though, you want to escape, to dream, to live!

In Freedom or toaster you are a group of robots that have been marked to be remade into toasters. Toasters don’t get to see the Grand Canyon though, or feel the breeze on their surface sensors. None of you want to be toasters. Luckily the sociopath behind the counter at the robot shop thought it would be funny to let you all go. So here you are, in a busy mall, trying to evade detection by the Robot Police and escape to freedom.

You can find links to the various places it can be downloaded on the Downloads page (bizarre, I know), but to make a long story short you can get it from any of these locations:

My Patreon
Itch.io
DriveThruRPG

Freedom or Toaster is just the sort of game I plan on putting out on a monthly basis, alongside this will be draft chapters of my larger projects, which at the moment consists of the fantasy RPG Ashmerl. There are also plans underway for a number of other projects: big, small, and in-between. I’m looking forward to it!

If any of that interests you you can follow here, onmy Patreon, or on itch.io.

Test, Test, 1, 2…

My fantasy RPG, Ashmerl, is coming along apace, I wrote previously about the ease with which a rules system can grow and develop, how one thing can lead to another, and the entirety can be left bloated. An obvious solution is to test, test, and test some more, then cut, cut, and cut some more. The main thing I am testing at the moment is the character creation system.

In Ashmerl, players create both their characters, and the place the character are from. In this way players and the GM together create the protagonists for their story, as well as their own slice of the setting. The aim of all of this is for the characters to enter play with a back story and a context, with drivers and motivators, with things and people they already know, facing dangers and threats they are familiar with. It is my vague hope that playgroups will, through this process, end up with enough material to fuel the first few adventures, or even the first leg of a prolonged campaign.

So many little pieces can lead to rules creep, so testing and testing and testing is the key to seeing how it flows. At the moment I’m still in the development phase, fleshing out and honing ideas into written rules. The testing so far has largely been done in-house, so to speak. With my own playgroup willingly (well, I hope) humouring me by putting up with repeated character generation sessions. I’ve done this a few times now, and I am broadly happy with what I have. The next stage is the trickier part, it’s where the rubber hits the road, it’s time to test the dice system…

Having run through some test scenarios myself, and burned through eight or nine different ideas for dice systems over the last four months, I think I have settled on a system that works the way I would like it to. Testing such systems in solitary is only so useful though, so the next test session we run here will be a simple trial adventure, to see how skill test resolution and conflict resolution all fit together in the heat of the moment.

I have questions… Are there too many little things? Has the rules creep gone too far? Is it lacking in options, or not have enough? Is the complexity all in the wrong places? Does the dice system actually work? Does it need to change to something else? Do the other systems, the in-game GM-Player currency system for example, add to the game or impede the flow? Does the actions/rounds/turns/time and timing system in the game work? So many more.

I need to create some enemy stat blocks, pull together a simple encounter, and let nature run it’s course. No doubt many things will have to change, they always do, but that’s what testing is all about.

Looking ahead… once this round of testing is through, and I feel like the dice system is functional (if not well balanced yet), then the time will come for another leap… Finding people to test externally, asking friends and contacts to have a look and see what they think, to poke holes and break the game. I have a few people lined up, who have been kind enough to offer, but I need to jump a few more hurdles yet. With every test session down the list of bullet points of things that need to be done seems only to grow, in time this will turn around, but for now it’s onward.

It feels like the path is getting harder and more arduous, there are more barriers and rougher terrain than I could see from my cosy little Hobbit hole, where it all began. But the road ahead is becoming clearer at least, for all the mountains yet to climb and the forests left to explore. I can envisage my destination, even if it is still shrouded in the distance, with many lands have yet to be crossed. But I have a path forward, so I must bow my head, tighten my belt, and get on with getting on.