Centurion Report for 27 Jan 2013

Lack of usual Sunday activities left me time to work some more on Centurion: Legionary of Rome. I finished off the Principate as a Setting section and got a really good start on the Running the Game section. I’m hip deep in advice for designing adventures. I need to get more work on my D&D Next playtest adventure for next weekend’s Game Summit convention, so next week will have a lot of that in it, but that’s okay.

I wanted to have 75 to 80% of the writing for Centurion done by the time I started crowd-funding it. Let’s see how that’s going.

Sitrep as of 27 Jan 2013.
The Rules: 100% written, but not 100% tested. If the crowd-funding campaign is successful, it will need to go through a third-party editor. Presently stands at 7,520 words.

Running the Game: 75% written. Presently stands at 3,560 words

Gaming in Military Settings: 100% written. Presently stands at 3,130 words.

The Late Republic: Structure of Government 10% done, Structure of Military 10% done, The Late Republic as a Setting 100% written. Presently stands at 4,260 words

The Civil Wars: Events and Personages 0%, The Government and Military 0%, The Civil Wars as a Setting 100% written. Presently stands at 3,390 words.

The Principate: Structure of Government 0%, Structure of Military 0%, The Principate as a Setting 100% written. Presently stands at 3,360 words.

Bottom Line: The project now stands at 25,220 words. At the standard 250 words per page, that’s 100 pages. A better metric – for me – is that Sword Noir was around 32,670 words, and the size of Sword Noir is the minimum for which I am aiming. Given a target of 33,000 words, I’m 76% there. This means I’ve hit the minimum amount of writing I wanted done before I would go to crowd-funding.

Strap on your helmets, people. We’re going to crowd-fund this bee-yatch.

Still won’t be starting until March, but rest assured we will be starting.

Rewarding Centurion

As the time for the crowdfunding Centurion: Legionary of Rome draws closer, I’m trying to get all the ducks in a row. I’ve pared down the list of reward tiers.

Here are the reward levels I’m considering.

1. $ 10 – Legionary. The Centurion PDF, including any stretch goal additions

2. $ 25 – Centurion. The Centurion print and PDF (maximum of 200)

3. $ 65 – Primus Pilus. Everything for Centurion level plus the opportunity to name one of the example characters used throughout Centurion and contribute to the example text, with final edit being done by the author. (maximum of 5)

4. $ 75 – Praefectus Cohortis. Everything for the Centurion level plus the opportunity to create one of the iconic characters for the Late Republic, Civil Wars, and Principate period settings that will be included in Centurion as an NPC. (maximum of 3 per period setting)

5. $100 – Praefectus Castrorum. Everything at the Centurion level, plus the opportunity to participate in a Centurion one-shot run by Fraser Ronald over Skype. (requires the use of Skype and a willingness to be flexible for scheduling) (maximum of 12)

6. $150 – Tribunus Laticlavius. Everything at the Centurion level, plus the opportunity to participate in a Centurion one-shot run by Fraser Ronald at Gen Con Indy 2013. (requires attendance in Indianapolis, Indiana at a date and time specified by Fraser Ronald between August 15 and August 18, 2013) (maximum of 10)

Doing the math, if all the maximum levels of support in the various tiers are met, I’d only need 6 backers at the Legionary level to fund. If everyone chooses the Legionary level, I would need 560 backers to fund.

The raw numbers also make worried about selling at a price higher than the reward levels cost post-crowd-funding. It will likely end up with be a modicum higher (like the PDF for $10.95 or something like that), but if I lower the reward level costs, the numbers required to fund become beyond what I believe I can reach.

There is still about 5 weeks before this begins, and while that might seem like a while, it isn’t. I’m already moving on things like fulfillment and preparing the project page. I’ll have to start locking things down soon, and reward levels is one of those elements.

Centurion Falls to Next

I should be working on Centurion: Legionary of Rome, but I also need to get everything ready for running a D&D Next game at Game Summit on Sat, 2 Feb. The game is going to be “Get Tamodar,” and I also need to expand it from the one pager I used at Cottage Con. On the fly might be fine for beer & pretzels, but I want to actually deliver a good gaming experience, so I’ll need to fill in the adventure just a bit. Updating the characters to the new playtest format – which I have to admit works much better than the old character sheets – is also taking some time. There have been a few changes (no more Warlock, it seems, though now there is a Monk), but nothing too major, so I’m using the Cottage Con pre-gens as the basis for the Game Summit ones.

Also, I need to finish editing episode 83 of the Accidental Survivors Podcast, which should have been up today.

Back to work!

More information on D&D Next here.

More information on Game Summit here.

More information on “Get Tamodar,” including registration, here.

You can find the Accidental Survivors here.

Challenging Centurion

In Centurion: Legionary of Rome RPG, there are NPCs, but when you are going up against an NPC in something other than combat, the Challenge – as it is called – is built with a few other factors.

Challenges have Concepts, just like characters do, but in a Challenge, the Concept is what you are trying to achieve.

Challenges with NPCs in them have Traits, and those Traits are derived from the Traits of the NPC.

Challenges often have Elements, which may originate with the NPC or may come from the surroundings, complicating factors, or a narrative device affecting the situation.

Each Challenge might also have an Aspect. If the PCs are successful, they gain an Aspect die based on the Aspect of the Challenge. Aspects are a mix of bonus dice and experience pool, and they are from three important characteristics respected in Rome: Duty, Honour and Valour.

How does that all come together?

Taking some challenges from the last game, I can offer some examples.

There were a series of Challenges that occurred as the PCs attempted to gain a package from an NPC. This NPC wasn’t a villain, he was a legionary tasked with a job by a superior officer. Attacking him would have likely led him to fight, and we’re not talking fisticuffs here. So the PCs had to find a way to get the package from him.

The first thing they tried to do was figure out where he was going. To do so, one of the characters asked him to drop off a note to an old mistress on the way to Rome – the PCs assumed the package was being delivered to Rome. If the Challenge proved successful, the legionary agreed to do it, or he otherwise tipped off the PCs to the direction in which he was travelling.

This was a step toward getting the package, not actually getting the package itself, so the PCs would get no Aspect dice for success. However, if they wanted to use Aspect dice as bonus dice, this Challenge was a Duty Challenge, as intercepting the package was part of orders to the PCs delivered by their commanding officer.

We decided the Concept was “Involve Other in Mission,” as that’s what the PC was doing, involving himself and his task in the mission. The request wasn’t too difficult and it didn’t really put the NPCs task at risk, so I decided it was an Average difficulty, giving it a d6.

The attempt was a Social one, as the PC was attempting to persuade. The NPC’s Social was d6.

Finally, I added the Element “Under Orders.” The orders had been delivered to this NPC, a legionary and not an officer of any note, by a tribune, a very high-ranking character. That’s a pretty damn big deal. I gave that a Good difficulty, as getting him to bend those orders would certainly be difficult, but it wasn’t against his best interests or likely to lead to severe punishment. That left “Under Orders” with d8.

Finally, the Complexity of this Challenge was Demanding, meaning the PC needed three successes.

So, when the PC made the Test, he rolled against 2d6 and 1d8. The PC would likely have also rolled three dice, based on his own Concept, his Social Trait and an Element that could be linked to the Task. I believe the Element was something like “Silver Tongue.” By spending Luck, the PC could have used a second Element. The PC could also have gained more dice by spending Duty Aspect dice.

For each success, the PC could place a Condition on the NPC. For each success the NPC gained, he could do the same to the PC. The PC was successful, and left the NPC with the Conditions Gullible d8 and Underestimate d6. These Conditions provide dice to an opponent in a Test. The PC was left with the Condition Suspicious d8, which could cause him some trouble down the road.

Conditions can be removed at a cost of one Luck for 1d6 of Condition. A d8 is equal to 2d6, so the PC would need to spend two Luck to remove the Conditions.

But we weren’t done. Another PC then needed to find the package. The Challenge ended up looking like this:

Where is it? d8
Mental d6
Moderate (this refers to the Complexity, so this Challenge required two successes).

You’ll notice this Challenge doesn’t have an Element. Not every Challenge will. I’m sure I could have cooked up an Element to use, but if it is not glaringly obvious that an Element should be used, why fight to get one? The Challenge works just as well without one.

The PC was successful, everyone got another Luck token, and the poor legionary ended up with the Condition “On the Horse” d8. The PC’s task had been made much easier because along with the dice from the PC’s Concept, Trait, and Element, the PC gained the d8 and d6 for the NPC’s existing Conditions (Gullible and Underestimate). The PC, though, got the Condition “Thief?” d6, as the NPC had gained a success and noticed the PC’s scrutiny.

Finally came the moment we had all been waiting for. Another PC tried to switch the package for another package – basically a quickly located rock or chunk of wood hastily wrapped and hoped to be the same basic weight as the package. Finding an item for which to switch the package was not a Test. It was a great idea and really helped build the scene, so why would I punish that by insinuating the possibility of failure? I mean, think of Raiders of the Lost Ark if Indy didn’t fill the bag with sand. The scene would have been good but not as good. I want the best, most fun scenes possibly in my games.

The player didn’t ask me if he could find such an item, he told me he had found the item and wrapped it. Cool. Let’s go with that. That’s awesome.

That’s how it’s played.

So, the final Challenge actually had an Aspect die as a reward, and it was a Duty Challenge (as mentioned above, this was in answer to direct orders). This is what the Challenge looked like:

Switcheroo d8
Physical d8
Attached to the Horse d8

The PC’s attempt was certainly assisted by the now 2d8 and 1d6 in Conditions on the poor legionary. By the end of the scene, the package had been switched, and the legionary had a further d8 in Conditions (Easily Distracted).

That poor guy likely lost his job as a scout if he ever did make it to Rome. I – as the GM – didn’t have enough Luck at the end of the game to remove all his Conditions.

So that’s a sneak peek at Challenges in Centurion. A better explanation, including how one would prepare Challenges for a game and further, how to build them on the fly, will be part of the rules should those rules get crowd-funded in March.


Release the Hounds! All Centurions are Go

Centurion Image
Centurion Logo Designed by Rob Wakefield

The Ottawa Warband and I recently completed another good night of playtesting Centurion: Legionary of Rome. This was to test new mechanics that were part of an overhaul about a month ago. This is the second round of testing for these mechanics, and I am very happy with how everything is working. Now we’re looking at the long-term mechanic of Advancement. Do the character advance too quickly? Too slowly? By the time the crowd-funding campaign gets going in March, the Advancement mechanics will have been tested.

Here’s the breakdown of what you can expect to find in Centurion and where I am in production.

The Rules: 100% written, but not 100% tested. If the crowd-funding campaign is successful, it will need to go through a third-party editor.

Running the Game: outlined but no writing done

The Late Republic: Structure of Government 10% done, Structure of Military 10% done, The Late Republic as a Setting 100% written.

The Civil Wars: Events and Personages 0%, The Government and Military 0%, The Civil Wars as a Setting 100% written

The Principate: Structure of Government 0%, Structure of Military 0%, The Principate as a Setting 50% written.

In all, I’d say about 50% of the writing is done and 80% of the research is done. I am very confident that I will have this project at least 75% done when the crowd-funding campaign goes live.

Rob Wakefield, who did such amazing work on the graphic design for Sword Noir and Kiss My Axe is onboard for Centurion.

Kieron O’Gorman from Mayhem Graphics is onboard for art chores. Having seen lots of Kieron’s work, I’m pretty excited to have him visualize this game if the crowd-funding gets going. I’m investing in some initial artwork from Kieron before the campaign so I’ll have something to show when the crowd-funding starts.

More later on reward tiers and further plans.

You can find Mayhem Graphics here.

Centurion: Again with the Number Crunching

I’ve been doing the numbers for Centurion: Legionaries of Rome. While I want to keep the costs down, I also want to pay everyone that is going to be working on this, including myself. The costs associated with just the production of the product would be around $3000. That is definitely a doable target. I would have to add in percentages for the crowdfunding platform and payment services, both which could run upwards of 10%, so that means $3600.

This is all without printing books. That’s the rub. Adding on printing costs is going to also add on shipping costs. I’m looking into fulfillment services which might help alleviate some of that, but then the question becomes “how many books to print?” Honestly, at the numbers I’d be looking at (around 200 to 300), it’s going to end up being a digital/PoD service. One Book Shelf’s deal with Lightning Source makes that look tempting, and I have some idea of printing costs, as Centurion should end up about the same size as Sword Noir.

Looking at printing and shipping 250 books, then the cost of forward shipping them to various destinations, it looks like that would add on about $ 1250. That would put this attempt at around $ 5000.

This is what I have come back to each time I have done the numbers. $ 5,000 seems to be the number. I need to find out about fulfillment (or the backers would have to be really, really patient as I hand package and mail all those books) which is going to change the shipping costs and might increase (decrease? doubtful) the costs. This also impacts on reward levels. How much will I be charging for this when I release it? More number crunching involved there, and I really hate number crunching.

I think the basic reward level to get the full PDF and any extra from stretch goals is going to be $7, while it’s going to be $20 to get the printed version. That means when I sell these, the PDF will likely be $ 8.99 while the print will be $25. That’s a lot more than I charge for Sword Noir, even if one includes the shipping, but I have come to believe that is more because Sword Noir is priced too low than that everything else is priced too high.

SEP Price Increases

In two weeks, most of our products are going to increase in price. If you’ve been thinking about buying something, you’ve got two weeks to do it before the price increases.

About a year ago, I lowered the prices for all of SEP’s products. I had hoped this would help move more product. With a fair amount of data in for a period with no new releases I can pretty much say that the lowered prices really don’t seem to have had much of an effect.

Now, there was no way to do a control group, so there may be many other factors affecting the situation, but right now I don’t see a need to keep the prices of our products low. I’m going to increase them to keep in line with similar products from other publishers.

This is your two week warning. If you were thinking of buying, you’ll be paying more for whatever it is after two weeks.

You have been warned.

Monthly Sales for December 2012

Welcome to 2013. Watch your step.

A summary of 2012? I reached the culmination of one spurt of design energy with the release of “Suffer the Witch” for Kiss My Axe, and then lay fallow (save for finishing some short stories) until I got the bug again and made an initial stab at Centurion: Legionary of Rome, which led to Head Crushers, which led to a quiet period when I hit an impasse in the design, and then the recent decision to move forward with a new design of Centurion through crowd-funding.

2013 will hopefully bring a completed Centurion by Gen Con (did I mention I’m definitely attending this year? Yay me!). Over the Christmas holiday, I also started seriously thinking about reviving Head Crushers and releasing it as a short, maybe 30-page product, for about $1.99. The question becomes can I clean it up to an acceptable level without interfering in my Centurion work. On this, I will promise nothing, just tease.

And the big news for the New Year? Sword Noir: a Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery has finally reached profitability. The total budget for Sword Noir was $ 1338.59, and as of 31 Dec 2012, the revenue from it has reached $ 1,339.37. Okay, not even a dollar of actual profit yet, but at least it is in the black. Sword Noir was released 3 Apr 2011, so it’d just under two years to pay it off. That’s earlier than expected, but not by much.

I don’t expect Kiss My Axe to move into the black for another two years at least. No one hold their breath, please.

Total Sales for December 2012
Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms, 1

Covert Forces
In Her Majesty’s Service, 1

Line Zero, 1
Operation Nearscape, Free Product, 1

Sword’s Edge System
Crossing the Millers, 3
Kheufer Scrolls, 5
Kiss My Axe, 2
Suffer the Witch, 4
Sword’s Edge System, Free Rules, 14
Sword Noir, 5

Total Sales to Date
Albenistan: Election Day (Modern Dispatch 113): 32
Khorforjan Gambit: 105
Qalashar Device: 118
Raid On Ashkashem: 159

Arcane Kingdoms
Arcane Kingdoms: 41
Gifts of the Elder Gods: 36
For Simple Coin: 57

Charity Products
Relief Effort: 55

Covert Forces
Canada’s Combined Security Reconnaissance Section: 101
Covert Forces: 100
Covert Forces Redux: 164
In Her Majesty’s Service: 139

Cyber-state Avatar Toolkit: 36
Line Zero: 36
Operation Nearscape, Free Product, 325

Sword’s Edge System
Crossing the Millers, 102
Kiss My Axe, 138
Suffer the Witch, 78
Sword’s Edge System, Free Rules 1179
Sword Noir 356
The Kheufer Scrolls, 149