The Goal-Oriented Sandbox

One of the games I’m running right now is something I’m calling “Centre of the World,” because the urban location for the opening of the campaign is supposed to be a city that considers itself just that.

I included the pitch for “Centre of the World” in a previous post, but here it is again:

The group are minor agents for the Urban Prefect in the city of Hadrapole – once an outpost of the dread Aeolean Empire, and now the most prosperous and powerful city in the world, trapped between its old masters and the Holy Kingdoms, a collection of squabbling states bent on exporting their messianic religion. In the middle of this powder keg, strange, ritualistic murders begin to occur. Think Lankhmar meets Constantinople meets Seven.

The style that I intend to use is a “goal-oriented sandbox.” The idea is that there is a goal or set of goals – in this case centred on a series of murders. As the GM, I have a variety of information – who is doing it, their plans, relationship charts, and a timeline. What is not set out is how the PCs should or can approach the problem. Further, all that information I have is support, it is not “canon.” The PCs actions and the players’ desires can change how this all unfolds.

I have done this before, specifically in the published adventure the Khorforjan Gambit. What I found what that this method of running a campaign or adventure is much easier done when one is not publishing it for others. Everything that one as the creator might short-hand or accept as a given needs to be spelled out in a published adventures, so the reader has all the necessary information available.

It will be interesting to see how the goal-oriented sandbox unfolds, given that my players are pretty creative and involved.

You can learn more about Lankhmar  at Wikipedia.
You can learn more about Constantinople at Wikipedia.
And you can read about the movie Seven also at Wikipedia.

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Mission Creep, Mission Crawl

Last post, I shared with you my offers for the two groups that will continue the Riggers playtest. There were two games left on the floor: Mission Creep, Mission Crawl and the Vanguard.

From the Image comic the Activity

Which makes me sad, because I was quite excited to run Mission Creep, Mission Crawl.

I really enjoy running espionage or covert action campaigns. While in the past those have been mostly covert special operations force campaigns (military), Mission Creep, Mission Crawl was going to be closer in tone to Dark Horizons, the short novel I published for free. I’m not going to lie to you – Dark Horizons is not my best work as it lacked an editor and I was generally under pressure to deliver the chapters on time. However, I had a lot of fun with it.

I didn’t intend for MCMC to include psychic powers or magic. This was going to be very much a relatively grounded game. I got excited for the plot, which was pretty intricate. It’s something I’m still thinking about and might try to work through as a piece of fiction. Given that I’ll be developing two campaigns and am still in the middle of my Master’s program, I don’t know how much time I will have.

Also? It needs a better title.

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Edge of Inspiration: Rigging for Running

As I mentioned in my last post, the Riggers playtest is going well, but Dream Riggers has woken. I have to admit that I was getting into the creation of the campaign, but the results at the table dulled that enthusiasm. I corrected that problem by splitting up my gaming group into two, but enthusiasm for the campaign had waned.

I gave the groups choices, and these were what was on offer:

Centre of the World (fantasy)
The group are minor agents for the Urban Prefect in the city of Hadrapole – once an outpost of the dread Aeolean Empire, and now the most prosperous and powerful city in the world, trapped between its old masters and the Holy Kingdoms, a collection of squabbling states bent on exporting their messianic religion. In the middle of this powder keg, strange, ritualistic murders begin to occur. Think Lankhmar meets Constantinople meets Seven.
Lankhmar: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lankhmar
Constantinople: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantinople
Seven: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_(1995_film)

Warlords of the Wastes (post-apocalypse action)
Post-apocalyptic with a group seeking a way home from a foreign land after the assassination of their leader and destruction of the army of which they were a part or with which they had travelled. Think the 47 Ronin meets Anabasis meets Fallout.
47 Ronin: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forty-seven_Ronin
The Anabasis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anabasis_(Xenophon)
Fallout series: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallout_(series)

Mission Creep, Mission Crawl (espionage thriller)
You are the Contact Team of the Clandestine Activities Special Executive – CASE – sent to disrupt North Korea’s recruitment of a Russian physicist in Almaty, Kazahkstan. Think the Mission: Impossible films meets the Bourne move series meets The Activity.
Mission: Impossible films: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission:_Impossible_(film_series)
the Bourne series: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bourne_(film_series)
The Activity: http://theweek.com/articles/466307/most-secret-secret-units

The Vanguard (fantasy)
You have been recruited into the Vanguard, a mercenary company that traces its roots back to the last legion of the lost Aeolean Empire. The company seeks the banner and eagle of its ancestor legion, two items of mythological power. Think the Black Company meets the legions (as portrayed in Centurion: Legionaries of Rome).
The Black Company: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Company
Centurion: Legionaries of Rome: http://swordsedgepublishing.ca/tag/centurion/

One group chose Centre of the World and the other chose Warlords of the Waste.

More on those later.

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Too Many Riggers to Dream

From out of the mists of too much work I have emerged. My two concurrent courses are done and I am down to one. I am hoping that I’ll have more time to write and game, so hopefully you will be seeing more of me.

That’s not a pledge, that’s an aspiration.

The playtest for the system that is going by the name Riggers has gone really well from a developmental standpoint, but the campaign itself fell down. This seems to have squarely been a factor of too many players.

I remember the days when I was straining to get three players together in the days of my Viking campaign. For Dream Riggers I had eight players. Eight. Now, granted, usually we had six or seven at the table, but that was way too many.

From the movie Mirrormask

There are those who regularly run with large numbers of players. I don’t. My sweet spot is between three and five – four preferred. With seven or eight, there is not enough time for everyone’s character to get the spotlight regularly. Fights – which the system allows to be pretty quick – lasted long periods because of the number of characters involved. People could not get very invested in their characters because their characters often weren’t involved in a third to a half of what was happening in any give game.

So I split the party. The players, that is.

I now have two groups of four. While the scheduling has become an issue – so many games, so little time! – I am excited to get back to intimate games in which I can really focus on the players and their characters instead of trying to manage a full table.

Though not all my problems have passed.

But that’s for another time.

You can read more about Dream Riggers here.

You can read about and listen to my Viking campaign here.

You can read more about my Viking campaign here.

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The 2015 Numbers

Last post was discussing events in 2015. This one is about sales. First are the totals and next are the numbers from different venues, like Amazon or distribution sales.

The sales are better this year than last because of an increase in the number of places I’m selling my games. Still not ready to quit my day job yet.

TOTAL SALES

Systems
Centurion: Legionaries of Rome, 70
Kiss My Axe, 13
Nefertiti Overdrive, 49
Sword Noir, 75

Spec Ops
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section, 4
Covert Forces Redux, 6
In Her Majesty’s Service, 7

Adventures
Albenistan: Election Day, 3
Crossing the Millers, 11
Khorforjan Gambit, 3
Qalashar Device, 3
Raid On Ashkashem, 3
Suffer the Witch, 4
The Kheufer Scrolls, 11

Supplements, Fiction, other
Arcane Kingdoms, 5
Gifts of the Elder Gods, 3
Modern Dispatch 104: Line Zero, 1
Modern Dispatch 120: Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit, 2

Sales By Venue

Drive Thru
Systems
Centurion: Legionaries of Rome, 30
Kiss My Axe, 13
Nefertiti Overdrive, 35
Sword Noir, 28

Spec Ops
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section, 4
Covert Forces Redux, 6
In Her Majesty’s Service, 7

Adventures
Albenistan: Election Day, 3
Crossing the Millers, 11
Khorforjan Gambit, 3
Qalashar Device, 3
Raid On Ashkashem, 3
Suffer the Witch, 4
The Kheufer Scrolls, 11

Supplements, Fiction, other
Arcane Kingdoms, 5
Gifts of the Elder Gods, 3
Modern Dispatch 104: Line Zero,1
Modern Dispatch 120: Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit, 2

Amazon
Centurion, 7
Nefertiti Overdrive, 2
Sword Noir, 9

IGDN Distribution
Centurion, 6
Sword Noir, 5

Gen Con
Sword Noir, 10
Centurion, 9

IPR
Sword Noir, 24
Centurion, 18
Nefertiti Overdrive, 12

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How I Survived 2015

2016 you say? Where did that year go?

Let’s see what happened in 2015 for me.

Nefertiti Overdrive
On 13 January, the Nefertiti Overdrive Kickstarter began with a target of $3,000 Canadian dollars. It closed on 10 February having raised $4,892 CAD. The amount that made it into my bank account was $4,387.19 CAD

The costs? $5,381.15 CAD
Editing $711
Art $1836.95
Design $905.00
Printing $800.13
Shipping $1,128.07

So, yes, I was in the hole $993.96 and this was mostly due to the drop in value of the Canadian dollar against the US dollar. I lost about $1,200 on the difference in value, so I would have come away with a little money in my pocket if the exchange rate had held.

All’s well that ends well, as Nefertiti Overdrive has been selling well and we are on target to get out of the red relatively quickly.

Bundle of Holding
Centurion: Legionaries of Rome was part of the IGDN Bundle at Bundle of Holding in February. This was my first experience being included in a BoH. I’ve purchased a few of them. There’ve been so many great collections I just couldn’t pass up. It was a great experience, yet another reason to be happy to have joined the Indie Game Developer Network. I got to be in a bundle with curse the darkness by Matthew McFarland at Growling Door Games, Edara by Carl Harrison and Ryan Schoon at Caelestis Designs, Fortune’s Fool by Jay Stratton at Pantheon Press, Misspent Youth by Rob Bohl, Psi-punk by Jacob Wood at Accessible Games, S.P.L.I.N.T.E.R. by Devon Oratz at End Transmission Games, Wu Xing by Eloy Lasanta at Third Eye Games, issues 4-7 of The Fate Codex magazine from Magpie Games, and a local favourite, Spark by Jason Pitre of Genesis of Legend.

Impressive company.

Gen Con
I was able to attend Gen Con 2015 and I had hoped to have the Nefertiti Overdrive books ready for it. Unfortunately, Gen Con was a couple of weeks early and the book was delayed in the layout phase. I had a PDF out to the backers before the convention, but no books. I was still able to run some games of Nefertiti Overdrive, and it was a great chance to get to know some of my colleagues at the Indie Game Developer Network.

Gen Con also provided the chance to sell a few books and it got me in touch with Indie Press Revolution, which now carries SEP’s systems.

Definitely a great investment!

Nefertiti Overdrive in Print!
And it was great to get the books out to the backers at the end of September. Much later than hoped, but there had been some issues with the cover and the time it took for proofs to get to me. Still, only one month late with delivering the book.

CGX
I attended Capitol Gaming Expo the first weekend in October with the plan to run some Nefertiti Overdrive and hangout with the crew from Ottawa Story Games community. I sold a few books – which was cool – met lots of awesome people, but didn’t actually get to run anything. This has not deterred me, and I plan on being at the next CGX in April of 2016 (and also at CanGames).

The Masters!
And I started a Masters program in October. It has taken up a huge amount of my free time, and so SEP and my Sword’s Edge blog have both suffered. I’m actually taking a break from schoolwork to write this. The program is set to take two years, but I hope to have it done by March 2017. We shall see.

Bundle of Holding, Take Two!
Nefertiti Overdrive was featured in the Indie Cornucopia +3 Bundle of Holding which kicked off 25 November. It was an insane collection of games, including Blood Red Sands, Circle of Hands, The Clay That Woke, The Gaean Reach, Starfall, and Urban Shadows. That puts me in company with Ralph Mazza, Ron Edwards, Paul Czege, Robin D. Laws, Paul Mitchener, Andrew Medeiros, and Mark Diaz Truman. Kind of makes one feel like one has arrived.

And that was my 2015. Next post I’ll share the numbers with you. Ignoring the Kickstarter, SEP did okay for sales in 2015. Nothing spectacular, but enough to make me happy.

As I hope you are in the coming year.

Stay frosty!
Fraser

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Merry Christmas!

I haven’t been working myself to death this holiday season, just almost. Along with my job, I’m taking two Masters courses and the along with 4-8 page reports every week, sometimes – when I’m very lucky – with one week off, I also have to write two short essays of 500 words – properly sourced – for the forums, and then need to discuss with properly sourced 250 word responses. That’s at least 2,000 words of academic work per week, usually closer to 9,000.

For the most part, it’s okay, but around Christmas, it’s a bit much. I fell a bit behind, but am catching up, which means I’ve been playing some modded Fallout 3 and – my Christmas present to myself – a few hours of modded New Vegas today.

And I hope you’re treating yourself to whatever you consider a treat. Whether you are a religious or secular celebrant of the season, I hope you’re able to decompress a bit, enjoy whatever you enjoy, and share some happiness with your fellows.

 

All the best!
Fraser

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