Monday, February 29, 2016

What Is The OSR Worth

Something I find interesting but by no means scientific.

I have seven books sitting in my cart at Lulu and I'm itching to use the LULURC code, because 25% off is great, but free shipping is amazing.  Now, I don't want to buy everything in there, because it still ends up being a chunk of change.  So, how do I decide what to buy?  As with most things involving money, I turn to math to help.

My definition of value for this purpose is simple; what's the best bang for my buck?  For a simple equation, I looked at the number of pages versus the dollar amount.  What am I paying per page?  I know there are various counter-arguments (art cost, layout/editing cost, softcover vs hardcover, size differences), but good plan violently executed right now is far better than a perfect plan executed next week.  Also, I have included 2 hardcovers into this simple sample of seven.

168 $18.00 $0.11
60 $6.66 $0.11
124 $15.00 $0.12
126 $23.54 $0.19
56 $10.95 $0.20
80 $18.55 $0.23
66 $15.99 $0.24

I sorted them by price per page, which is the price divided by number of pages.  Surprisingly, the longest book is the cheapest, with its main competition almost a third of its size.  The shortest book of 56 pages is the third most expensive per page.  The most expensive per page is the third shortest, coming in at almost a quarter per page.  A quarter per page would have made my senior thesis worth $10; not that anyone wants to read about a priori constructs of the human mind.  Okay, so you've seen some numbers; I'm going to split out the two hardcovers.

168 $18.00 $0.11 126 $23.54 $0.19
60 $6.66 $0.11 66 $15.99 $0.24
124 $15.00 $0.12
56 $10.95 $0.20
80 $18.55 $0.23
Now we can compare apples and oranges better.  In the hardcover category, the longer book wins by a nickel per page.  Does this imply a law of diminishing returns; do authors think the wordier they are, the less they are worth?  Softcover also sees a big gap, with three in what I would call the dime range and two in the two dime range.  Also, the two largest softcover books are in the dime range, while the shortest is in the two dime range.

Does this prove anything?  No; some of this stuff is chart at the table stuff, some of it is adventure stuff, some of it is self-contained game stuff.  Also, don't ask what's what and don't go trying to figure it out archaeologically; none of this is to denigrate any author or what they charge for their work.  Instead, it looks like some of the authors might want to think about charging more for some of their stuff.  I would like more people to think, hey, my creativity does have a dollar amount.  It also makes me wonder how do we price adventures, rulesets, random generators, and the like?  I don't really have an answer; in my world, adventures and random generators are worth $10 and rulesets are $20.  And even that doesn't hold true for me; I just backed an adventure Kickstarter for $20, which may be the new going rate.  I know a lot of that money goes to art, and art is nice, but I can live without a lot of art.  Maps are way more valuable to me, as is a good description that's not read aloud text.  I know other people may be the opposite.

I just wanted to highlight something that interested me and see your take.  If you do publish on Lulu, please let me know what influences your price point.  If you buy through Lulu, what influences pulling the trigger?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Further notes on The Dragon

Yeah, I can get repetitive or obsessive; reading through TD 22 from February 1979, on page 15 is a book review by one EGG.  The book in question:  The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs.  Allow me to quote:  "If the author hadn’t written it several years prior to the creation of D&D, it would be suspect that he was an addict of the game. As I have not read the book until recently, there is likewise no question of it influencing the game. Nonetheless, THE FACE IN THE FROST could have been a prime mover of the underlying spirit of D&D."  A pre-Appendix N review by the author of Appendix N.  I need to do more chronological research into Appendix N; an interesting experiment would be reading Appendix N chronologically by at least publication date, if not composition date.

Some thoughts on reading The Dragon

So, I’ve been delving further into the OSR and its origins.  In addition to acquiring PDFs of original rulesets and adventures, I started reading The Dragon from the beginning.  I learn more and more with each issue read.

I never really had access to the origin of the hobby.  My best friend Courtney was my gateway to most things RPG, although there were other avenues.  When he was the DM, we played mostly 2e, which was a grand adventure through the Temple of Elemental Evil (surprising we were running a 1e adventure in 2e).  He had 1e books and a subscription to The Dragon, but most of that was contemporary with the crossover from 1e to 2e.

Reading The Dragon from the beginning resembles archaeology.  I feel invigorated by my discoveries.  Learning new things about a game I felt I knew thrills me.  I think that may be the beauty of D&D; it is so simple to learn and grasp, but so open-ended as to allow a nigh-infinite number of permutations.  I felt I knew D&D, but I am learning it is like a wadded-up piece of paper; tight, small, but with layers and nooks and crannies.

Quick example that taught me a lot about both 0e and the OSR:  The Dragon #17 has an article on page 32 by Stephen Dorneman about angels in D&D.  “There is a need for beings powerful, yet not omnipotent, who would be in the service of the good gods. And so, in keeping with the Judeo-Christian tradition of D&D, propose the creation of a new class of supernatural beings, Angels.”  Check out what I emphasized in that quote; this is something I have read about on +James Maliszewski's  Grognardia and other old-school blogs.  The traditional interpretation of the cleric is that he is based on Dr. Van Helsing as portrayed in the Hammer films, with a distinctly Christian slant.  The quote also illuminates the cleric as portrayed by +James Raggi in Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

Stuff like this is why it is important to look back; not only can you learn about the origins of the hobby, but also you learn about modern OSR decisions.  By no means am I saying the quote is absolute; it is listed as a “D&D variant” article.  Nor am I saying this is why the cleric is the way it is in LotFP.  What I am saying is it helps me understand more about the hobby overall, which, like all knowledge, is invaluable.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Little About Little Old Me

This is not the beginning, although it should have been.  I have been reading a great deal of Old School Renaissance blogs for a long time now, and decided to get into the mix.  I have had the name for this blog in my head for a while; I knew I needed something distinctive that also said what it was.  I feel the name serves two purposes:  1) I've been working on losing weight for some time now, so the title is literal and 2) I am most interested in re-skinning ideas for role-playing game, specifically OSR, usage.

So, my blog will be about taking ideas (i.e. books, stories, movies, music, etc.) and molding that into something playable.  Obligatory history lesson:  I started playing Dungeons & Dragons at a young age (probably right around 10).  At this point in my life, a lot of my early experiences blend together.  I was probably exposed to Basic D&D and AD&D at about the same time.  I know the orange spine AD&D Player's Handbook, DMG, and original Fiend Folio were my first D&D purchases.  My first RPG was the Marvel Superheroes RPG Advanced Box I bought in a Kay-Bee Toys in the mall.  As far as DMing is concerned, using the beginning dungeon in the back of the DMG(?) was my first experience "behind the screen".  As a player, my longest D&D experience was with 2nd edition when I was in high school.  Often, I have been the DM (or referee, or whatever you want to call it) because I wanted to be involved in a specific type of game or had a specific idea I wanted to explore.  I think this is why the OSR has appealed to me so much.

I played Basic, 1st Ed, 2nd Ed, 3rd Ed, and ran 1st Ed, 2nd Ed, and 4th Ed.  (I did own the three core 3.5 books and some supplements, but never could overcome what follows enough to run or play it.)  In the Basic through 3.5 Eds, my biggest "disappointment" was the relative "weakness" of 1st level characters.  I also observed a general trend of monster bloat, or a great big pile of hit points staring down your 1st level character.  I think when I saw this in a 3rd Ed game, I basically said, enough.  Then, 4th Ed came out.  I checked out the hardcovers in the stores, and said to myself, "Gee, this doesn't look like D&D."

It wasn't until I saw the Essentials line hit the stores and saw a Red Box in Wal-Mart (!) that my interest really got revived.  I started doing some research online and discovered  Mr. Shea's website helped direct me how to get back into the hobby.  Around the same time, my son began to reach the age I felt he was ready to at least be exposed to role-playing.  So, I took the plunge and got him the new Red Box and I started picking up some of the Essentials lines around Christmas of 2010.  During 2011, I began to learn the rules and started formulating some campaign ideas.  Finally, my work schedule allowed me to set up a D&D game for my son and one of his friends.  We played the adventure in the Red Box, they made it through a few rooms before a TPK, and we had fun.

Then the 5th Ed announcement happened.  Okay, I thought to myself, I've been down this road of constant new editions, but let me see what it’s all about.  I got in on the first playtest document.  Let me explain a little more about myself:  I am a philosopher and counselor by training.  The first thing I did was read the playtest document as a text.  I remember reading the section about light and darkness.  I’m not for sure about the specifics, but I remember the sentence included “also known as night, shadow, etc.”  Basically, they were naming a thing and then saying it was also named other things.  I found this confusing and a really bad move for rules.  I informed Wizards of my opinion.  The second playtest document came out.  What I had pointed out was still there.  Furthermore, when the PHB came out, I looked the section up and IT’S STILL THERE.  

So I stepped back and began to survey the scene.  I have no idea now exactly how I got where; I think I discovered Grognardia from something on  Regardless, I went down the rabbit's hole and here I am now.  I'll try to post more later regarding what I'm using rules wise and why.