Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Mysteries

This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

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So the Kickstarter is doing pretty well...

I'd say it's exceeded all my expectations, but the truth is for this campaign I genuinely didn't know how to make a forecast. 

Electric Bastionland had a lot of unknowns during its Kickstarter, but it was also a much simpler creature in many ways. The campaign was essentially relying on people that knew about my games and wanted to buy one in a big fancy book. The campaign certainly went beyond that, but I at least had that as a starting point. 

With Into the Odd Remastered there are a load of elements thrown in that I have no idea about. I know how many people bought Electric Bastionland, so that's a figure I can work from, but I don't know:

  • How many people have a copy of Into the Odd
  • How many people have read about or played Into the Odd in the past seven years without buying their own copy
  • How many of my blog and stream viewers would actually buy a book
  • How many people are drawn in from Johan's following of MORK BORG acolytes
  • How many people are drawn in from Free League's following
  • How many people just look at the new RPG Kickstarters and back things that they like the look of
  • How many people will be drawn in from the various external video/podcast things I'm appearing on throughout this campaign

So if you've spoken to me about this campaign and I've been coy about making predictions, rest assured it isn't just part of my faux modesty, but it's genuinely just too much chaos for me to put into order.

Now while the forecast baffled me, I do love a premature autopsy. 

Yeah, it's not been 24 hours yet, but I think it's fair to call this first day a success.

Why? I have some hunches, but let's save the specifics for next week.

 

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Into the Odd Remastered is LIVE

And we're LIVE!

Click just about anywhere on this post to go to the Kickstarter page and get your copy of Into the Odd Remastered.

Friday, 17 September 2021

Business

This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

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I touched on this in a bumbling way on the stream, but I'm afraid it truly is time for the least interesting editorial of my career. 

It's time to talk Business.


Or at least the business decisions that I face as a one-person operation working from my desk. I have a Manifesto for game design, so shouldn't I really have one for the business side of my work? I like to think these things through so that I can arrive at decisions by drawing on some greater ideals, rather than just following my gut. 

A couple of disclaimers first, though. 

Firstly, while I've been doing this full-time for over a year now, please do not take any of my thoughts as expert advice. The business is still running, but it could be a fluke as much as anything else. If you want business advice then there are much more established people than me to listen to.

Secondly, while I'm happy to be transparent about these things in the hope that others might find it useful or interesting, I also respect that other designers have legitimate reasons for not wanting to throw open the doors to their personal and business finances. Just because I talk openly about something doesn't mean I expect others to do the same or go further.

Right, that out of the way, what is the point of Bastionland Press?

Well, I needed a registered business to be able to do this professionally, but why am I in this strange limbo of being a designer-publisher but also working with other publishers?

Naturally it all comes back to Electric Bastionland. For that book I did as much as possible myself. Alec was hired to do the art, RRD were hired as consultants to help me through my first-time, and Mina got the final files print-ready. The book was printed in Latvia and is stored and dispatched by a distribution centre here in the UK. 

The Kickstarter was a huge success, and sales have been good ever since, which has been the majority of what pays my salary each month. 

So the natural business decision would be "now do that again, and this time you don't need the RRD Guidance". 

And I will do that again. There are definitely some 100% Bastionland Press books in the future.

But other doors were open, and I was in a fortunate position to be able to take a few risks.

I first worked with Free League on one of their Forbidden Lands stretch goals back in 2017, before Electric Bastionland was near. Nils was a fan of Into the Odd, and that's what got me that little bit of hired work. It's easy to think that everything started with Electric Bastionland for me, but Into the Odd continues to be the unsung hero here. 

It paid quite well, but after doing a few other stretch goals like this I've since confirmed that it isn't something I'd want to do a lot. So what do I want to do a lot? Obviously I have the blog, podcasts, streams, but they're really just there to serve the actual games. And what's the point of the games? I want people to actually play them.

So the idea of getting a remastered Into the Odd out to a whole load of new players was appealing to me. But what's the trade-off? Adding in Free League to manage the printing and distribution would mean less profit per book than if I ran things myself, but their involvement would open up the game to customers that I just haven't reached with my terrible marketing team and slapdash wholesale department. 

To put it bluntly (and vastly oversimplified): If I can get my game out to ten times as many people and make roughly the same amount of total profit, I'll take that deal. 

And that's it really. Into the Odd is still owned by me and any creative decisions have been made by myself and Johan. 

I made a similar decision to publish The Doomed (formerly GRIMLITE) through an established wargame publisher, with release some time in the vague future. Again, there's nothing to stop me just making this book myself, but this is a new market to me. So this is more of a full collaboration, where the publisher will be contributing commissioned miniature photography, illustrations, marketing, and getting the thing into shops. 

So in short, appreciating the luxury of the current position I'm in, I can trim this all down to three things I want and three things I don't want.

I WANT TO

  • Spend time designing and talking about games within my little rules-lite flavour-heavy niche
  • Get the games made to a high quality
  • Get those games played by as many people as possible

I DO NOT WANT TO

  • Be a social media personality as marketing
  • Write predominantly for hire
  • Lead a sprawling empire of employees

I said that you shouldn't take my advice, but if you're feeling slightly lost in your career then this whole process really helped me pick the right track for the future.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Born to Play, Doomed to Die

When a rule is born into one of my games it cries out as it draws first breath, and I look down with contempt. 

I do love the pathetic little thing, and I can't help but think of all the deeds it might accomplish, all the fun we could have together. 

Then I stop myself, lean to its ear, and whisper.

Tell me why I should let you live.


Going back to Into the Odd after Electric Bastionland has pushed me face-first into examining my rules. After so long explaining the changes in EB, I'm catapulted backwards to the ITO rules page, examining it with old eyes. Like Merlin living life in reverse, I can't unsee the future of this game. 

At least I thought Electric Bastionland was the future.

Into the Odd wouldn't sit back and retire. I kept hearing people talk about it, making hacks, choosing to play it over the new gigantic hardback. Just a scrappy underdog? No, people were actually explaining why they preferred this old game. They even preferred WIL to CHA!

That's not to say I haven't enjoyed the process of exhuming it and sending it to the tailor to be swaddled in finery. The plan was always for ITO to stick around as a smaller, quieter relative to EB, but I hadn't fully expected it to survive.



So approaching this project from a necromantic angle, the plan soon became to do a Remaster rather than a revision. Paying tribute to the original and presenting it in as authentic a revivification as possible, rather than trying to fix anything about it. A shimmering ghost representing their ideal form, rather than a monstrous marvel of forbidden engineering.

Of course there were genuine problems. Wordings could be improved, and I was never fully happy with the included Arcana, so they all got some attention. I knew I wanted to put some extra content in there, so brand new Arcana were added to the heap, the Oddpendium got beefed up slightly, and the Iron Coral exploded into rampant growth, now a fully blown dungeon worthy of your expedition. 

Then I looked to Electric Bastionland, its neon lights always tempting me. I could add in the Scars table but... then I'd have to change the advancement rules and... NO, show some respect! I throw my EB book out of the window and I hear paving slabs shattering. 

But I do indulge a little. Rules that have fought hard for their place are granted access. Deprived is my golden child, ushered fawningly to the table. They're so well behaved, always there when you need them but never in the way. Bulky comes with them. Sure, they're not quite as well-groomed, and sometimes I even forget their birthday, but we've got room for one more.

Wait. Do we have enough room at the table? 

We do, but isn't it always nice to be able to stretch your legs? I sharpen my axe.

I see some misshapen figures tucked on the far corner. They look comfortable, but I've been watching them for a while.

Swap any two Ability Scores after rolling gets it first. I suspect they knew this was coming, as I never really spoke to them for long after they arrived.

Make a WIL Save to bend an Arcanum to your will gets the second chop. Where their sibling was forgettable, they were rowdy and disruptive, and not in the good way. I had to re-engineer my bone magnet because of them.

Two in, two out.

I put my axe away. Now we can play. 

Thursday, 9 September 2021

GRIMLITE is Doomed

Hear ye! Hear ye!

Today's the terrible day that we all knew had to come eventually.

I can't keep calling this game GRIMLITE, so everybody's favourite game of apocalyptic horror hunting is now The Doomed and a couple of the factions have had a new coat of paint. 

As mentioned on my stream, this game will be getting some serious attention soon, with a proper release on the horizon. Our future is full of doom and horrors. 

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Colleagues

This Bastionland Editorial was originally sent as a reward to all Patreon supporters, and is released freely on this site a week after its original publication.

If you want to support my blog, podcasts, and video content then head over to my Patreon.

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When I decided to make Bastionland into a full-time career, practically everybody I told said the same thing.

"Aah, I bet you'll go crazy working on your own all day!"

I boasted that I'm a misanthropic hermit, and working alone sounds like a dream! Though I did plan on using coworking spaces for the occasional change of scenery. 

Then March 2021 came to an end, along with my previous job, and suddenly I was working from home but also so was practically every other person in the country.

So all those conversations faded into irrelevance. I was sharing a workspace with my partner, and there were much bigger isolation-based fears to tackle beyond my workday.

Over a year later, and we still both work from home, albeit in separate rooms. We sneak coffee breaks together and the occasional walk around the block, and talk about our day as we prepare dinner. 

But I must confess, I do miss having colleagues. 

I've always loved having time to myself, but looking back on previous jobs I hadn't realised quite how much I enjoyed relied on having somebody there doing the same thing as you. Somebody to complain with about that rude customer. Another person that's annoyed by an unreliable supplier. A familiar face to ask for help when you can't remember where that shared file is stored.

At the risk of shattering any remaining doubt of my uncoolness, I actually quite enjoyed those sprawling strategy meetings and weekly catchups. Maybe four people. Somebody to give the spark of an idea you wouldn't have had alone, or perhaps turn your own half-joked suggestion into something viable. Yeah, some meetings were hell, but only I'm pining for the good bits.

Now, like so many others, I'm working solo. And not just remote, but literally the only employee of the company. I've had collaborators, I have other designers that I can ping for a chat, and lots of social media contacts to reach out to, but it's not the same. 

When I started this job I spoke to my partner about creating a little discord server for people working in similar situations, a sort of UK RPG water cooler, but everything I've seen from social media over the last year has put me off that idea. That shared complaint about a bad customer can take on an ugly new form when you digitise the negativity. It needs real air to dissipate. Screens trap it below the glass, turning rotten. 

Maybe I'll take a walk instead.

Monday, 6 September 2021

Into the Rough


Nobody in Bastion just plays golf for the enjoyment of the game. There's always a secondary purpose, commonly a business negotiation, high-stakes bet, or legal trial. 

Maybe if you're out in Deep Country then you'd do it to take in the fresh air, but this is Street Golf, and the best thing for your health is probably just to get finished up as soon as possible.

From the very first tee, ensure that nobody is able to give the game their full attention. Conversation, encounters, and strange urban phenomena should all be getting in the way. 



Holes

Typically courses are made up of 9 holes, because we've all got other things to do today. 

Approaches

Each hole is made up a number of Legs, each of which must be completed in sequence. Each Leg can be approached in three different ways. 

Orthodox: You aim to follow the standard line of the Leg. Roll 2d6 and take the lowest single die. You complete the leg in that many strokes. 
Athletic: Applying pure physical power to your shot. Make a STR Save to complete the leg in a single stroke. If you fail, mark a stroke and try again, changing your approach if you wish.
Technical: Utilising a modern technique to improve your game. Make a DEX Save to complete the leg in a single stroke. If you fail, mark a stroke and try again, changing your approach if you wish.

Certain holes will reward or punish certain approaches, with some making them outright impossible. 

Special Shots

Aside from just tackling the leg in the normal manner, you can obviously try something weird. The Referee should splash their face with cold water and remember this is an RPG, then adjudicate such actions in the manner to which they are accustomed. 



FAMOUS HOLES 

Details marked in parentheses should be kept secret from the players until they complete the hole. 

The Remnant Mire - Hole 1 (Par 3)
First Leg:
A long, slightly hooked drive over a flattened heap of corrugated iron. Whistling wind behind you.
(Athletic approach can use any Ability Score).
Second Leg: Open concrete ground scattered with discarded razorwire. When you line up your first attempt, roll CHA. If you fail, you're trapped behind Razorwire and cannot make an Orthodox attempt.

Blursbody's Walk - Hole 6 (Par 4)
First Leg: A short drive up a steep, cobbled street lined with shuttered breweries. Strong malt smell. Orthodox approach cannot be used. 
Second Leg: Narrow bridge over to the green. Dried up canal below.
(If an Athletic approach fails then mark an additional stroke).
Third Leg: Short putt required over cobbled ground. Athletic approach cannot be used. 

Phantom Lake - Hole 7 (Par 5)
First Leg: A narrow alleyway that requires the perfect shot. 
(Orthodox attempts roll only 1d6. Athletic shots use CHA if lower than STR)
Second Leg: Another long drive over the lake itself, always whispering to you.
(If you spend more than two strokes here a Wet Phantom will follow you for the rest of the course, mocking you)
Third Leg: Marshy ground surrounding a fenced-off green. Technical approach is not possible.
Fourth Leg: Even softer ground on the well-trimmed green. The ball appears to sink as it awaits your shot. If you had to wait for another player to reach this leg then Orthodox and Technical approaches are not possible. 

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Into the Odd Remastered


WATCH THIS then come back


Into the Odd is reborn. 


The remastered version of the 2014 TTRPG revisits Industrial Bastionland, giving the original Into the Odd a lavish hardback, full-colour restoration with expanded content. 

The book is written by Chris McDowall (Electric Bastionland) with graphic design by Johan Nohr (MÖRK BORG) and will be printed and distributed by Free League Publishing (Tales from the Loop, The One Ring, Forbidden Lands).


More details to be revealed over the next few weeks.

FOLLOW on Kickstarter

Launching 21st September 2021