Friday, July 29, 2011

Monster: Rot Pudding

A quick preview of a monster that will be showing up in Knockspell #6:


Hit Dice: 8

Armor Class: 6 [13]

Attacks: 1 (2d8 + disease)

Saving Throw: 8

Special: Disease, immunities

Move: 6

Alignment: Neutral

Challenge Level/XP: 9/1,100

Rot puddings are nasty subterranean creatures with slug-like bodies made of some viscous substance, looking much like a dark grey jellyfish. These puddings are scavengers in the dark caverns and hallways of underground places. The carrion diet of rot puddings makes them into seething incubators for all kinds of disease, and although they are themselves immune to sickness they are highly contagious host-creatures that can transmit all manner of plagues by the merest touch.

The diseases carried by a rot pudding can be transmitted in various ways during a combat with adventurers. First, if the pudding itself hits a character, the character must make a successful saving throw or be infected. Secondly, if the pudding is hit by a bladed weapon (not a piercing or blunt weapon), the wound will squirt a pus-like substance which will cause the attacker to make a saving throw or contract the disease. There is also a third possibility: if the pudding is burned by a fire larger than a torch, the disease from its surface will temporarily be burned off into a cloud of noxious smoke, which (unless there is some fairly strong source of moving air) will be roughly ten feet in diameter and will drift in a random direction each round at a speed of 1. Anyone in the cloud must make a saving throw or contract the disease. There is one beneficial effect of burning away the surface contagion of a rot pudding, which is that the creature’s touch will not cause disease until 3 rounds have passed.

The disease, if a character is infected, has the following effects. The character will immediately be wracked with pains and aches, affected as per a slow spell (able to act and move only at half normal speed). After a period of 24 hours, the character must begin making saving throws once every 6 hours. The first failure of such a saving throw causes the character to fall into a comatose state. The second failed saving throw causes death. A cure disease spell will cure a diseased character, and although a neutralize poison spell will not remove the disease it will grant a +1 on all saving throws. A character who is infected with the disease also become contagious, although the contagion is much less virulent than the concentrated effect of an actual rot pudding. Anyone approaching within ten feet of an infected person has a 50% chance to have to make a saving throw against contagion, and if the saving throw fails, the disease is transmitted in the same form as if it had been contracted from the pudding.

Rot puddings are immune to cold and electricity. A cause disease spell will cure one half of any damage that has been inflicted upon the creature.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Please Tell Me What I'm Missing

I'm writing the Editor's Note for the upcoming issue of Knockspell Magazine, and I'd like to mention a laundry list of various things of note that have happened in the OOP fantasy RPG gaming scene since the last issue (which according to lulu was published in March 2011, although it sure seems longer ago than that).

I want to make sure that I don't miss anything that was a big event (events and publications). If you've got something you think should be included in my list, please let me know about it in the comments.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The mystery of "Direct Magic"

I just noticed something I have never noticed before. There is a spell called "Direct Magic" on p22 of the Greyhawk supplement, with a range of 6 and a duration of 2 turns. There is no description at all (which is why I missed it before, I suppose -- it looked like part of another spell description).

Moreover, even that range and duration are suspect because the ventriloquism spell just beneath it has precisely the same range and duration. In other words, one can only suppose that there was a spell called "Direct Magic" that was edited out or left out. Only the spell title remains (level 1 MU spell).

A mystery!

Has anyone ever mentioned this before on a message board or forum?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dis-Imperialization of the USA

Joe Bloch made a relatively innocuous post about NASA over on his blog here, that judging from the first few comments might turn into somewhat of a firestorm. In essence, a post about the fact that 42 years ago the USA was pioneering space travel, and that now we have ceded the field.

Although I think this is the first time I've done this, I'm going to post a bit of politics.

The United States stepped up into the role of a global superpower, not so much as a reaction to the imperial aspirations of Germany and Japan, but in response to the rising tide of a communist ideological alliance. And during the period of the cold war, we were doing the right thing. However, it pushed us into the mindset of empire, and the USA is not constituted as an imperial society. The things you have to do as an empire are often fairly horrible -- take a look at Roman responses to rebellion, take a look at British reprisals for Cawnpore, etc. It also got us hooked on the idea that stepping back from world-spanning power represents a decline in the nation.

That's dead wrong. Maintaining an empire is so expensive that it can only be maintained through a tributary economy. You have to maintain a massive standing army, an infrastructure for striking into places you wouldn't care in the slightest bit about if you were just focused on defense -- even a fairly proactive defense.

This is what the USA is facing right now; we are overextended and based on a skewed vision of what American power is, we are unable to back away from Imperial aspirations, activities, expenditures, and entanglements. We can't swallow the idea of backing down to the position of a very large, very strong nation that doesn't have ultimate global power. But I say that's not how the quality of the USA ought to be measured. In fact, we were wisely cautioned by some of the founding fathers to avoid too many foreign entanglements.

It is not a surrender to do what the British did, and downsize our aspirations. We should focus on defense, leaving our striking power to more of an "expeditionary force" model, coordinating that with Canada, the UK, and Australia, together with other key allies. Britain, no longer the Empire, can still hit like the Hammer of Thor when needed ... we could size down to that, or proportionately larger, and improve our domestic quality of living significantly by cutting away the vast size of what we've got on deck now. It would free up money to actually look after our veterans rather than having VA hospitals be the worst of the worst. We could get back into space exploration. Back into pure sciences.

The USA is measured by our country, not our empire. We aren't great leaders in many ways, and we certainly can't stomach what it really takes to be an empire. I'm not saying we should -- I'm proud of us for that.

But the exigencies of 1945-1989 have receded. Like Cincinnatus, it's time for us to return to the farm and tend our own land. We are corrupting and overextending ourselves by trying to hold onto a throne that desiccates and poisons us. It's not surrender to do so, it's a return to normalcy and a return to the policy of looking after Americans.

And being able to get back into space instead of seeing NASA as nothing more than the designer of our spy satellites.Link

Getting ready for Drawing Day

Since I don't have a space for doing art stuff on my desk (which is crammed with computer and books), every so often when there's a lot of illustration to do I will repair to the kitchen table with pens and paper. It's about that time again, since I need to do several little illustrations for Knockspell and some maps. These excursions away from the desk are a bit of an adventure. When I draw it's a bit like Forrest Gump's saying about life: it's like a box of chocolates, and you never know what you're going to get...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Texas Renaissance Festival (commercializing?)

Although no one else in my family actually plays D&D, we've got a pretty fantasy-oriented family culture. My wife loves the Renaissance Festival and Baldur's Gate, my sons both play Oblivion, my daughter loves Harry Potter. So, if there's a loud crash from the kitchen, you're likely to hear someone shout, "Failed my saving throw!" or something similar.

Every year, we go a few times to the Texas Renaissance Festival, which is a really huge and sprawling renfair. It's the largest one in the country, and I have to admit that it is slightly (not a whole ton, but slightly) more commercialized-feeling than other renfairs I have seen. Granted, that's not many, but I've seen a couple of others.

Anyway, we got the little brochure for this year's festival, which will be in October and November, in the mail a couple of days ago. And I am looking at it with skeptical eyes. There is now a "king" whose picture shows up, like Burger King or some other trademark, on the program cover for each of the themed days of the fair. He's smiling in a pirate costume for "Pirate Adventure" weekend, he's smiling in a great-kilt for the "Highland Fling" weekend, etc. Each weekend has a theme. That's questionable enough, but having the same guy modeling each one has a decidedly "brand name" feel to it that wasn't there back when the covers had crowd scenes of regular people on them. He's front and center on each one, too.

I have a bad feeling about this, although possibly it's just a more corporate skin to it, and the fair itself won't have an increase in the commercial feel. If it keeps creeping closer to Disneyland, it's eventually going to lose us.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Designing monster books

One of the reasons I was asking about the article "How Dungeons & Dragons Changed my Life" yesterday was because I wanted to find this quote from Tavis Allison: "The art in the oldest books is weird and crude and like a medieval manuscript; even when it was new it reeked of some strange past..."

...and the reason I was looking for Tavis's quote is because I'm starting to work on a revised Monster Book for Swords & Wizardry with a lot of new monsters and illustrations. This project is barely on the drawing board, so we're talking serious vaporware at this point in time; this blog post isn't an announcement to drum up interest, it's about some of the first principles involved in writing a monster book.

It's that "reeked of some strange past" which I wanted to think about. There are two ways in which a monster book is read. On one hand, it's a tool for the DM to use in constructing adventures and campaigns. But on the other hand, it has to inspire the DM to do so. These two functions have different, and somewhat contradictory, forms, if we're going to stick with the principle that "form follows function."

For a monster book to be best usable by the DM, it should be flexible in terms of how it says the monsters are used. After all, if a DM wants to have ghouls that are transformed humans rather than actual undead, that's creative stuff, and the monster books shouldn't get in the way of that. A monster book written purely with the goal of being a flexible tool for the DM might offer lots of different alternative descriptions for the monsters, or perhaps alternate stats. Alternatives, alternatives, alternatives.

But there's a problem with alternatives. At a certain point, a raft of alternative options causes the book to become boring to actually read. At every turn, the DM-reader is being reminded that he's reading a game "manual." At no point does he really get that sense that he's got a "medieval manuscript reeking of a strange past" before him. Presenting a monster purely as a manipulable tool for use in a game loses the descriptive magic which makes you want to play the game, or use the monster, in the first place.

This raises two questions in my mind. First is the question of just how "authoritative" to be in the description of a monster. Should one say things like "Super-ghouls are never, ever found except in dungeons?" "Super-ghouls are almost never found except in dungeons?" "Super-ghouls are never found in dungeons unless the DM decides otherwise?" "You, as the DM, may decide where super-ghouls might be found in your campaign?" Obviously these are some very different approaches.

The second question is about theme. Monsters can "feel" like they come from several different genres of literature, and lumping some together doesn't work particularly well if you are aiming for that "strange past" feeling. A "Lasagna Monster" fits well in a sort of gonzo-original-D&D book like Chaosium's "All the World's Monsters," but doesn't particularly evoke a strange past. The TSR books, although they contained some weird monsters, stuck to their guns and avoided letting the books reflect the humor of the actual gaming table too much. It could also mean making some decisions between alternative genre-versions of some monsters. As one example, the OD&D shadow was not clearly described as an undead monster (as I recall). It could have been a Lovecraftian dimension thing just as easily, from the description. On the other hand, AD&D decided to remove it from that ambiguous state, drop the Lovecraft feel, and make the shadow an undead critter. No corresponding monster replaced the lost half of that ambiguity.

I haven't started to make any judgment calls based on these thoughts; but I wanted to assemble the thoughts so I know the shape of the challenge. When you compare a book like "All the World's Monsters" to the "Monster Manual," you see two very different types of books.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Question - where can I find ...

A while ago, several bloggers linked to an article written about D&D, and it had to do with how the D&D generation now controls everything, or something like that. The only thing I really remember about it, and the quote I'm looking for, had something to do with D&D feeling like it was the description of a world that existed. I know that's incredibly vague, which is why I can't find it through Google and need to draw on you guys to figure out what article I must be talking about.

I seem to recall that some people didn't like the fact that it was written for a publication which has political leanings -- liberal leanings, I think.

Also, it's not this article:

The article I'm thinking of was similar, but a lot longer.

Help .....

Friday, July 15, 2011

Design Deskbook 2: Monsters

Several people have been asking me about getting copies of the second adventure design deskbook, which focuses on monsters. Remember, there is going to be a compiled copy of these available relatively soon from Frog God Games, but in the interim I've put up a pdf at lulu. It has a black and white cover, not the original maroon-backed one, and, again, there will eventually be a complete version of all four deskbooks available.

However, if you really want a copy of the pdf right now, and many people have written to me about this, you can get a copy from HERE.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Monsters as Inspiration

Recently, I've been reading through the Fiend Folio because it ended up on my desk. Sometimes the D&D books just seem to float around, ending up places in a sort of Brownian motion. It's an interesting phenomenon I can't entirely explain. That aside, however, as I said, I've been browsing the Fiend Folio. In general, it's not my favorite of the monster books, although I like most of the art quite a bit. It has a gritty, dark feel to it that's not so much the folkloric feel of the Monster Manual or the somewhat clinical Monster Manual II. Nevertheless, many of the monsters are a bit silly or a bit contrived. Reading through them, though, I realized that several little adventures or encounters kept popping into my head. And I stopped and thought about this for a second.

I've said several times that my adventures tend to begin with a visual image, and that's true. Yet there might be a bit more to it. It may be that reading monster descriptions has a tendency to create those visual images as they derive from a monster description. When I visualize a monster based on its description, I often get a glimpse of the background behind it, summoned forth from my subconscious ... and since I wasn't thinking about the background when the monster picture got created, the backgrounds can sometimes be quite unusual, the same way that dreams create unusual settings out of nowhere.

It might be that the best adventures don't necessarily come purely from a visual image, but from the combination of a visual image plus some less-clear addition to the visual image that crops up somewhere in the mentally-supplied background. A picture of Angkor Wat might have the subsidiary, dreamlike impression that "something ripples that water," or "something moves in the shadow of that doorway." And then the interpretive part of the brain starts to fill that in, working its way from the vague into the specific.

The mind works in bizarre ways, sometimes. I've never been able to really pin down the mental process of coming up with ideas, and heck, maybe it happens in several different ways at different times. But perusing a monster book seems to be a really good way of letting background visual images crop up out of nowhere.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Let's not go there

Normally I'd put this into the comments on a blog rather than jumping to my own blog, but I think it's worth saying in a full-scale blog post. It is a very, very bad idea to speculate in any sort of public forum about the identity of the YDIS guy, or, really, anyone who stays anonymous on the net. I don't mean to sound like I'm scolding Austrodavicus, although I guess I am, but mainly I want to point out something that he may have missed in making a public guess about who the YDIS guy might be.

The problem is this: whoever gets accused of "being" someone else has no way to refute that accusation. The accuser has basically thrown mud on someone who cannot provide any proof that the accusation is invalid. You can't prove the negative. In fact, even if the YDIS guy got on his blog and "admitted" to being someone, could you necessarily believe that statement? Of course not. Most likely the YDIS guy would think it was totally hilarious to see someone else being vilified in a case of mistaken identity.

Austrodavicus doesn't make a completely blind accusation, since he provides links to a couple of places where his accused person makes message board posts that are reminiscent of the writing style of YDIS. But I can think of at least a couple of people who can and do occasionally write that way when they are pissed off. Taking a couple of quotes in isolation, cobbling it together with someone's known opinions (the guy accused by Austrodavicus doesn't, for example, think highly of the blogging scene) might be fine for private speculations between buddies in a context like private messages or emails, but it creates a possible public slander of someone who is innocent and can't prove it. That mud sticks; it creates suspicions in peoples' minds; it is not fair.

I think that post is something where Austrodavicus didn't really think through the possible consequences if he's wrong about his guess. Not that I personally think Bill would care one way or the other, but what if he does? Part of the accusations that have been leveled at YDIS is that he targets people without knowing them personally, creating a lot of pain for someone out of the blue if they happen to be sensitive about it. Austrodavicus has done just that, even if Bill didn't care. Who can say if he cares or not? Who can clear his name of that kind of accusation? Making a public speculation about the identity of a very-disliked person like YDIS shouldn't be done unless there's a lot more proof than a few posts where the tenor or the content is similar. There is no way to disprove it, and thus no way to repair a reputation.

I've had this sort of thing, in a much less problematic form, leveled at me before, the most upsetting one being when someone claimed I had written something on the net that I'd never written. Try to disprove that accusation when it's possible for someone to delete posts, and where the assumption would simply be that I'd deleted the never-existing post.

If bloggers were to get into a public speculation and counter-speculation, naming names, there will be lots of people who get their reputations attacked -- and only one of those accusations would (or might) be correct -- every single other accusation would have been leveled at an innocent person. And it could never end, since even an "admission" by YDIS would be utterly suspect.

Although it will never happen

... since I like compiled books, and don't like pdfs at all, it would be cool if somehow all the various blogs out there were compiled and organized into a single, huge book. You'd have a massive, rambling tome of advice, musings, and resources. It wouldn't be all that usable unless someone were to organize it, which would really and truly be the problem. A bunch of people could conceivably create such a thing by contacting lots of bloggers, but it would be that organizational component that I think would bust the likelihood of such a project. Somebody would have to edit it, or it wouldn't be anything more than a collection of topics thrown willy-nilly into a giant pile of text. The other problem is that everyone has an off day now and then, and it would be a bit touchy for that editor to be put into the position of telling someone that there are posts that really don't meet the standards of the rest of the book. And without that, there would be weak points -- I don't think any blogger out there would really claim that all his posts are of the highest possible quality. Certainly mine aren't.

Nevertheless, all the writing that has been done over the years makes for a formidable body of work -- probably, indeed, the availability of the internet has created more polished material than was available in the seventies and eighties, where people simply knew that no one other than a few friends would ever read it. When that's the case, why bother to turn scribbled notes into anything more readable? Now, if you're looking at some scribbled notes, it's not a big leap to decide to finish it out a bit and post it where quite a few people will read it and benefit from it.

It's just a thought experiment, since really I don't think it would be possible to organize a project like that -- I certainly wouldn't want to go to all that grief. But it would be really cool if it somehow materialized. While I'm at it, though, I'd like a million dollars and my youth back, too.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Most awesome megadungeon

I have seen some awesome megadungeons from various people in the old school community over the years -- bits of Allan Grohe's Castle Greyhawk, Stefan Poag's Mines of Khunmar, some unpublished parts of Bill Webb's Rappan Athuk, and even those couple of photos of the real Castle Greyhawk that were visible from behind Gary at some convention or other.

However, when I was DMing at NTRPGCon, someone showed me the map of one that just blew me away with its ... I don't know ... epic quality is I guess the best description of it. If you happen to run into Austinjimm at a convention, ask for a glimpse of his dungeon, because it will take your breath away.

His blog is here, although I don't think there are any pictures of the actual dungeon in there.

D&D Archaeology

Something I realized about what Frog God Games is doing at the moment. It's something I should have realized earlier, but it's one of those things where I knew what, but didn't quite twig to how interesting it is until a couple of days ago.

As we all know, back in the day, TSR was a highly litigious company that worked very hard to quash any third-party products that were for D&D, either on a trademark basis or on a copyright basis. There were several small companies that folded as a result, including companies that were definitely violating the IP laws. The result of this is a hidden and largely lost body of work from the old days, some of which probably sucks, but some of which is probably really great stuff.

The Black Monastery module that we're working on right now is one of these products. The module itself wasn't the object of litigation, it was a product that was essentially finished at the time the original game company folded in response to TSR activity. Bill got the license to publish it.

How is it possible to do this? The answer is that the legal IP landscape has changed radically since those days with the advent of the open game license. PROVIDED that there wasn't a legal settlement that would quash a specific module (and this is a very important proviso!), in some cases the modules produced at that time can now be published for an open content game: not just retro-clones, but for things like Pathfinder or 3e as well. In other words, an archaeological dig has been opened up.

This is what's happening with The Black Monastery. I don't know if Bill Webb has found others or not (and I don't think so), because there's a fairly specific set of parameters that must be met -- you need a license from the original company, it can't be subject to a legal settlement that specifically prevents republication, etc. Nevertheless, the project to look around for quashed modules that are really from the old days is a fascinating approach. As a legal matter it's quite different from the retro-clone approach, but it's another neat tool that rises from the implications of the open game license.

Note: I am NOT talking about reproducing modules without the permission of the original IP holder; that is NOT legal. It's just that if you HAVE that license, and there's not a pre-existing legal settlement that would get in the way, the changed IP landscape has eliminated some of the grounds that originally blocked those publications. Legally, they are no different than a module written yesterday.

That's an interesting project. I hope that more of these can be found.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Upside of Unprofessionalism

In my last post, here, I talked a bit about the various quirks and limitations of the way I handle the "business" of selling the things I write. My personality quirks create and define the shape of how I'm organized on this, and all I can do is try to warn people up front about things like if I have to go to a post office it can take weeks before I work up the motivation to do that. That's one example. And how, even though I've never cheated anyone, I don't handle or borrow money -- this is a general rule for people with bipolar disorder.

Those are limitations, but there is an upside to being only a semi-pro. The big upside is that I'm freer to follow the trail of creative ideas with more time and energy than I could if there were back office matters like mailing and accounting taking up my time. Because there isn't any kind of publication schedule, it gives me more freedom to switch from a project where my creativity isn't working and shift over to something where the ideas are jumping.

I don't mean to suggest that a full-service publisher, or a one-man shop that's better organized than me can't produce great materials, but the odds are stacked in my favor. A casino doesn't always win in every game, but they make money -- in the same way, it's possible for a guy running a better organized business to produce a better product than me, but over time I think what I write is going to be slightly better on the edges. You can't measure quality in units, but if you could, I think my freedom of action would stack up more quality units per hour, or per product, or something, than a guy who have to divert time and attention to the other parts of a business.

If I don't think something is the best it can be, I have the luxury of putting it aside for a while until I get the inspiration for that missing piece. If I need time off from everything game-related, I can take that time and come back rejuvenated (this, I think, just happened again). I avoid the parts of this whole process that, for me, are a chore. In other words, I steal the benefits of being a freelance writer but still get to produce or control the entire work from text to art to layout. Freelance writers don't get to do that; it's the guy running the business who gets the reward of assembling the totality of a piece of work.

When I get the luxury of putting together a complete resource, I can't say that everyone, objectively, will conclude that it's of higher quality than a work where several people deployed their particular talents in cooperation. In fact, I think many, many readers would prefer the high production values of the more "professional" result. However, I think there's also a spirit and an energy to something that's produced with some rougher edges, finished out on its own schedule, and reflects the overall vision of the module in the totality of art, cartography, text, and layout. These things have a fire to them.

On the other hand, of course, lots of artists are more capable of rendering my own mental images than I am, so there are definitely limitations on the ability to do this all the way. Nevertheless, by being unprofessional in terms of the "business" side, playing hooky to act like a pure freelancer, I think I produce material that if not "better," at least has more fire to it. It might not be a perfect orchestration, but it has the energy of a kick-ass garage band.

That, I think, is the upside to being unprofessional in terms of the actual business of producing cool modules and resources. You have a better chance to succeed big or to fail big. I lost money on the art book I produced some months ago, and I'm proud to have lost (or spent) that money to produce an art book of the visual side of recent old school modules. On the other hand, I apparently hit a "commercial" home run with Tomb of the Iron God ... which I really only thought of as a meat and potatoes module. And Spire of Iron and Crystal, which is the module I'm proudest of, has basically been right at the middle of the road in terms of popularity. When there's no way to predict how any particular resource will be received by people, I have the reward of knowing that no matter how well it sells, or how it is treated by reviewers, it's a product that I'm proud of.

Again, I'm not saying that a more professional publisher *can't* do this, I'm just saying that I have more time and flexibility, which gives me a slight edge each time to produce something that I think is the best it can be (whether it's well received or not).

This sort of brings me full circle to the recent events in which a blog publisher (who has restarted HERE) pulled his blog in response to an attack post on another blog. The mental protection against that sort of attack has to be internal -- the internet does not provide much external support. That's not a criticism of our community, it's just the way the internet itself channels and shapes discussion. Nevertheless, the real rewards of publishing have to be based in personal satisfaction with the product, or at some point someone on the net will manage to get under your skin.

Which is why at heart, the unprofessionalism of the way I work is ultimately linked to that objective -- being proud of the work itself rather than focusing on pride in the business. I do my best on the business, but my best is kind of ratty on that side of things. So as much as possible I try to shift the business side over to people who enjoy it, and keep all the stuff I enjoy. because that way, I have the maximum amount of time available to wander in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the actual writing and art without facing the responsibilities of being a good business.

Which is why I rely on warning people about my flaws, rather than trying to fix those flaws. In my case, at least, putting more focus onto the business would cause me problems in terms of the product -- that';s probably not the case with everyone, but it is with me. So when I say I'm unprofessional, I specifically mean about the business side of things, not the quality of the product. I could be better at this, but by doing so I would turn a hobby into work. But warts and all, I'm a hobbyist publisher, and that's what I like, and I would probably slip a lot if I tried to be something else. It's a matter of recognizing what I can and cannot do, and working around that.

It stays fun. :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Professionalism (my lack thereof)

[quick edit - this will turn into a two-part post because I tend to focus on the downside of being unprofessional, and I think there's a corresponding upside as well]

The topic of professionalism by people who are selling game materials as opposed to giving them away seems to have come up a couple of times recently; directly, in the case of Austrodavicus's posts about a dust-up with Pacesetter Games a year ago, and indirectly in terms of how it's dickish to attack a free publisher, as is the case with this most recent situation where a blogger pulled his blog because of an attack by another blogger. I won't go into that one because I'd rather not draw attention to the attack blogger: "don't feed the troll" is the way to handle trolls.

And another set of things that have brought it to my mind; (a) I forgot to send Pete Mullen a check and was a month late, and (b) I have been non-existent on the net for about a month.

This leads me to something that I've often said about myself, but wouldn't expect anyone to have been hanging on my every word about it, so I'll mention it again. I don't make any claims to be professional about what I do. That might sound, well, unprofessional, but the fact of the matter is that I don't have the capabilities to be professional, and I try to work around that instead of banging my head against a limitation that's too much of a stretch for me. That's a weakness, especially since I probably spend more time, although not in the last month, on D&D than many of the other publishers out there. With bipolar disorder and an anxiety disorder, I don't hold down a regular job, and I basically look after the kids and the house. Not only is my free time probably somewhat more than others have, more importantly it's flexible time. I can get on the computer when I want to, not just when a 9-to-5 is done with. So I really ought to be striving for a higher level of professionalism, and I don't. This really applies to the business side of Mythmere Games -- I focus everything on the quality because I can do that, but it's because of my limitations that I print things POD -- I avoid taking money for pre-orders, I avoid having to mail checks as opposed to using paypal, and I let lulu or RPGnow handle money, printing, and mailing.

I have had a tendency to tweak books after the initial publication, thereby screwing over the early adopters. I often miss emails from people, or fail to remember that [internet name] is the same person as [real name], is the same person as [email address]. I am perennially late on Knockspell deadlines. In some cases, I have totally fired off some vicious public attacks on people who make personal attacks on me like calling me a liar or saying that I publish stuff to make the boatloads of money they envision me to be making. Those are flaws, and (with the exception of trying not to tweak books) I try to work around these rather than fixing them.

The reason for not fixing them is that it would be a change to the whole reason I am in the online oldschool community. I'm a hobbyist, not a real publisher. I don't pretend otherwise. I always try to warn people that at some point I will drop off the net for months at a time because I'm in one of the downside swings in the bipolar cycle. Another example, from a smoking-area talk with Rob Kuntz -- he took me to task initially for the fact that while I agree maps work best in a module when they are separated from the rest of the booklet, my maps are included in the back of the book rather than being separate. His point was that I am publishing something that I admit is less than perfect. He changed his mind, though, from the answer -- publishing separate maps requires using a traditional publisher. You can't do it if you're using POD. And I am not willing to climb that mountain by dealing with the whole raft of additional issues involved with dealing with printers, taking money, and mailing things. I have always tried to get partners to handle that side -- whether that's Frog God Games, Black Blade Publishing, or lulu. I work around the weaknesses, and try to warn people about this, rather than making huge changes in my life that are difficult for me just in order to be more professional.

This isn't as much of a cop-out as it sounds, since if I tried to do that side of things I would absolutely leave people waiting for things for months. I would be bad at it, and it's better to recognize this head-on. I just try to warn people ahead of time about where my particular failings are -- the areas where I simply don't measure up, and where I know I don't measure up.

I think -- and definitely hope -- that the matter of professionalism is really a matter of telling people up front and in advance that "these are the areas where I fail, and can be expected to fail from time to time, and either cannot or will not improve."

In other words, I try not to make anyone think that I'm anything more than somewhere in the gap between a true publisher and a hobbyist publisher.

This isn't, by the way, a response to anything anyone has said about me, it's a response to finding Pete Mullen's check still on my desk instead of mailed. And reading Austrodavicus's post about a publisher other than me, and also the fact that I didn't post anything for a long time over the last month or so. But occasionally the emphasis people place on professionalism in our little publishing world makes me very uncomfortable because I don't claim to be one or live up to that standard. I do what (a) I can, and (b) am too lazy to make huge changes in my personal life in order to be what I'm not.

I do try to be honest and up-front about it, though. Hence this post.