Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Updates and an "Ancient Sample"


The progress on Castle El Raja Key is proceeding nicely and it's looking more and more like an end of January release.

I am also preparing for publication (most likely in PDF form because of its immensity) the release of "Lost City of the Ancients" (aka Lost City of the Elders).  From my auction scans I pieced together the map which was unfinished at the time of auction.  However, not all parts align perfectly (probably my inexperience with Photoshop).

There are over 100 jpeg and pdf files related to this as well as many other MS pieces I have added since then.  The product is way beyond PPP's means to publish in print format due to its size and content, which has a heavy weight on maps (with the combined 40 x30 color hex map there are at least 15-20 other maps from interior buildings, sewers, etc) and illustrations, and probably over 60,000 words of text.

Due to this I have apportioned my time thusly:  Castle El Raja Key levels, Old Castle Levels, Memoirs and have added this project as a PDF only, which will allow it to be released, otherwise, it's a no-go.  I have had hundreds of inquiries over the years about this project.  Its scope has always been too large for a print endeavor and would eat away at my time to a severe degree just ordering its parts for print, but in PDF it becomes viable in the not do distant future (mid to end 2010).

Though I generally dislike polls, I would like to poll at least the readership here to get an idea of the reception of such a PDF product which would otherwise leave a part of RPG history resting in the hands of those who bought the originals at auction several years ago.  I have no idea what I would charge for such a thing, as well, but  the content will be huge, including a short story of EGG's first adventure into it.  Here's an extracted part from the Intro:

"...Historically this is the first off-world (or planar) adventure from the Original Campaign.  The city as is historically recorded existed out of the current time stream and out of known space.  It was a place of unknown and unfathomable events.  So too was it an experiment and thus of great interest to those vested in discovering the arcana that derived from it.  Its legend is only whispered among the seekers of arcane knowledge and its mere mention summons images of dread demons and less savory kin called from the depths of cold space.  Its total history will never be known lest the god who created it foretells such a time when this might pass.  Its ancient magics and beings have defeated the greatest of wizards, driving many to an early death or into the oblivion of irretrievable insanity.

The inspiration for creating the city is manyfold:  rolled into its vast and ancient mysteries are the vagaries of a god’s experiment gone awry and the resultant chaos, of loss, rebirth and the horrors unleashed from tampering with the ultimate of forbidden magic. It hints at the mysteries of the Pyramids, of the dreaded wastelands and cities of ancient Hyperborea as richly described by Clark Ashton Smith, of the interstellar intrusions of primordial beings by Lovecraft, of the lost continents of Atlantis and the myths of Lemuria rolled into one, and in many parts it embodies the stricken City of Brass as related in Burton’s tale with all of its vainglorious emptiness and ancient opulence. It is the desert which whispers of curses yet to come, the lonely place on the hill, the twice forsaken edifice, a ruin of ruins.  In awe inspiring streets, beneath burnished towers casting their last and dreadful double shadows, and amidst boney hands still clenching their final triumphs of life, there lurks within and about it an ultimate power that only death will reveal...."




43 comments:

Cimmerian said...

It's a quandary!

One problem with PDF is that I for one like to have a physical product and am less likely to pay as much for the electronic form. In this day and age of wide spread computer viruses & other computer miss-adventures it's almost certain that some unlucky gamer will lose their electronic copy. Will there be an option for downloading the PDF in the future for those who have lost theirs? The few times a year I get around to a table game there is usually not a computer in sight which leads to my next question. Will the PDF be organized in such a way that it will give table-usable print copies, especially maps? A worry might be if the pages were designed with colored backgrounds, or dark colored maps, etc., and the printouts needed at game time were printed on your buddies 10 year old B/W printer! I was hesitant to even mention the last sentence cause I like some good color artwork! It goes without saying how important this product is historically, and I for one will be glad to see it come to fruition! If PDF is the only option it is still better than having no product at all! I can see where you can also offer more Castle El Raja Key with the PDF option vs. a hard copy & that is a plus.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Good points, all.

The matter of cost and time is of course paramount with this product. PPP cannot afford to print everything, and certainly when products reach a size and scope that the costs would be through the roof (i.e., in this case,LARGE full color map, 20+ extra 8x11 color maps, illustrations exceeding 30+) with a bound book or two books)) then not only can we not afford to print it, but, IMO, we would have to offer it at a very high price or do pre-orders when it was ready for print (which I am against doing) to put it out.

If the consensus seems against PDF, then the best PPP could do is print the main map and have that available for purchase, perhaps. Otherwise if it looks bad for the PDF then the project will languish, never to be printed (at least by us).

bubbagump said...

A poll, eh?

I'd buy it, whether pdf or not. Like many others I prefer a hardcopy for my own reading pleasure, but I have absolutely nothing against the electronic format. In fact, as more and more of my own material makes its way onto the hard drive, I find myself increasing my reliance on electronic documents. I now run my games with a laptop ready at hand since it's a lot more convenient than lugging tons of printed pages around and I never know when I might have to consult some obscure passage from notes I haven't looked at in months.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Hey, BG... Very big of you, considering that you'd probably be the editor of said work... ;)

Blair said...

In todays world there is nothing wrong with a PDF-only release, and this thing sounds waaay to awesome to not see the light of day!

Grendelwulf said...

PDF! PDF! PDF! PDF!

In this day and age, there are many means to backup your files. Least of all is burning them to a CD/DVD. Print them out if you really need to!

I'm with bubbagump; if only I had my laptop back in the day...what a joy it is not to be physically carrying half of my gaming book library with me all of the time. It's all on hard-drive...and backed up too!

LotGD, please...PDFs are fine if it is the most productive way for you to share your legacy with us.

Ciao,
Grendelwulf

Fabiano said...

If it's PDF or nothing, then it is obvious (at least to me) that PDF is the right thing to choose.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

The interesting point is that I agree with every sentiment as expressed here. I Totally Prefer printed matter and have not resorted to using mu laptop for other than back-up purposes. As I am getting no younger, however, and as I've noted before in other posts here, I worry that much of what I have on my auction discs (3 CD's worth, 300+ files, it's a huge amount of RPG matter and other design material that I have conceived of since 1972) will never see the light of day. I have begun organizing some of the matter in order of perceived importance and LCOTE topped the list for RPG material (as did El Raja Key material). My intention is to get the greater part of these discs out in a 1-2 year period, probably available for PDF download from Noble Knight Games as they become available. Aaron Leeder and I are working on the intricacies of that including keeping in mind very reasonable pricing for these products.

grodog said...

Rob---

I'd prefer to see a print option along with the .pdf, if at all possible, even if its only POD via Lulu.

You could also investigate the ransom model used by various RPG publishers as a pre-order type model with a money-back guarantee: the ransoms done for Delta Green products are a good model to follow, in that there are pre-set funding targets set on fundable.com and if not met, everyone is refunded; see http://www.arcdream.com/store/product.php?id=9999 for some info/details. (Fundable.com itself is apparently toast now, but the model still holds true, and I'm sure there are other guarantors out there).

Allan.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Thanks Gro.

The amount I would have to charge and the time to complete it, collate and package it, just precludes the negates the printing option. Print forces a whole different set of organizational standards which are very time consuming for HUGE projects such as this. Looks simple, right folks? NOT. Just that one map will be a chore from drawing, to labeling, to choosing the matte background, to layout, proofing, shipping back, receiving, folding, collating, inserting and autographing and numbering. Just for a map. It adds at the very least 15-20 dollars BY ITSELF to the product cost--It's very large...

Now add in 20+ color maps (and I have not stopped rendering these as yet, the number could easily breach 30 for the city primary-tertiary locales, and then add in the front cover, back cover, plus 30+ interior illos, plus layout, graphic design and such and this becomes an unwieldy project to this point, not to mention MS length (a very good estimate is 60,000 words, but will probably be more).

So, the final verdict was already arrived at. Rather than waste time in offering this as a 50-75 USD print project which would take 1.5-2 years to properly bring to print (that given my current schedule), this will either languish or see the light of day as a PDF. Again, the massiveness of it dictates the medium in this case. Now, if another publisher who believes they could handle such a massive thing were to come forward I certainly would give them a listen. :)

The Acrobatic Flea said...

If it's the simple choice of pdf or nothing, I'd go with the pdf. This is the sort of product I love to read, but would end up printing out the pdf anyway as I loathe reading long documents on a computer screen.

My only possible solution to the printing issue would be a serialised or episodic release of the material in affordable, easily digestible chunks.

Andreas Davour said...

grodog is on the right track if you want to print it. Personally I think the interest in the history of the hobby alone should make it feasible, but you have the sales figures, Rob.

One way to make it easier could maybe be to make the text a printed product and have the maps as a pdf supplement to be printed as needed.

If the heart of the problem is that this might take time off from projects you'd rather spend time on, then it is a moot point, isn't it? Personally I'd love to see more stuff in general. I think quantity is a value in itself. :)

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Morrning Ladies and Gents. And have a safe New Years Eve if you are gallivanting this evening. I'll be having a flute at home. This insures that I make all of my "saves". :)

As for the recent commentary, all good suggestions. My main answer is "those darn CDs" again. If I start printing each and everyone of those things on it, well, no one will ever see the entire contents and most likely only a tiny fraction of them. That might not matter to some, then it might matter to others.

In the end I will consider all options. But whether it matters or not, consider this point. Greyhawk Castle was never truly published; neither EGG nor Dave Arneson wrote their memoirs, which I consider a _great loss_. I am getting no younger and have a lot to write to finish my career with an at least "well done" tip of the hat attitude of having made it full circle as a writer and designer. In apportioning that time I am keeping that in mind at all times, so when I address matters of time and productivity I always keep a balanced view ahead. If I believed I could add more to the sequence i've suggested to complete this as a print product, I would.

Thanks for everyone's comments.

Isungr said...

Chello!

Hey, I'm jazzed about it. More material from a master. I'll take what I can get at this stage. I was able to buy the all of the 1e core books before WotC pulled the license on those. I really need to get that large Kindle....:)

Druvas said...

I like the idea of making the maps available in print and then the associated pdf for all the encounter keys, etc. I can imagine that this is an enormous task, but I am sure there are many people that would lend any assistance. Have you considered approaching the Trolls? Since they will not be able to release any more Castle Zagyg stuff, perhaps your products could be meshed with it? They seem capable of producing large detailed box sets at a reasonable price. Or perhaps yours could be a series of smaller releases? Just my 2 cents. Either way, I'll be buying it!

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Yeh, the maps are the actual real huge expense of this project.

I'll put this to bed all at once in no installments.

It's looking pretty good for PDF and maybe with the large map (have to keep searching for the best prices).

Does anyone have a clue where very large hex paper sheets of the size used (from the Armory) might be purchased these days?

bubbagump said...

I might get to edit that? Dude, I'm your man!

(*Bubbagump rubs his hands together greedily, drooling at the chance to run his fingers through even more gaming goodness!*)

grodog said...

@ Rob: I'd be surprised if some of the free hex generator programs couldn't generate large hex sheets. I haven't gone looking since I've got some one of my old players made in CA for me (on Greyhawk map sheets sized paper).

Allan.

Endymion said...

I can imagine it would take an enormous time investment to get this beast into print form. I'd be very, very happy with a pdf. I think I actually prefer to get the raw, unprocessed notes and maps you generated back in the day (although anecdotes are always welcome) -- those notes, etc. (of which I got a taste in Bottle City) seem to capture the spontaneous genius/creativity of the original campaign and of the game more generally. Any efforts you can make along these lines would be greatly appreciated.

Happy New Year, Rob and company!

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Hi Mark,

I am examining all the options, of course. A few folks have written me about this as well. Thanks for al the input. This monster is growing with every passing moment, however. It's a very large city with a huge background and vibrant story line. PDF would make it much easier to continue expanding its parts and for adding the actual scanned notes and images, of course.

JediOre said...

For my two cents worth, I'd produce the PDF in such a format that those who want to print it and have it bound have that chance after they purchase the product. (Like me, I work next door to our college print shop and they will print me up a single bound copy of any PDF I bring them since they know me). I'd really have the extra large map available to purchase separately however.

I can't speak for everyone, but I'd be willing to purchase a PDF of the product, knowing I have the resources to have it printed and bound, and a hard copy of the large map.

Take care (and back to my masters class),

JediOre

grodog said...

FYI Rob, DF has some hex sheets in their downloads section @ http://www.dragonsfoot.org/fe/#FEDM3.

A good hex generator is at http://zho.berka.com/goodies/hex/.

Allan.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Thanks Gro, Bu I really need to find a supplier with full fan-fold ones, not those I print and tape together.

Druvas said...

Rob,

I found a stack of the old Armory graph and hex sheets at my Father-in-Law's thrift store a few months ago. It's a small pile, but I'll dig through it and see what I have shortly. If you want any of them, I'll be happy to send them to you.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Thanks again Druvas!

grodog said...

Rob: you need these for creating content, or selling as a product??: once I get my plotter running (hopefully in the next few months), I can certainly print you sheets as needed.

Allan.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

For possible redrawing of the map if I cannot get the pieces to fit. Thanks, hopefully I will be well on my way by then. :)

JoseFreitas said...

I would buy the PDF, probably not the print version. I will be 100% forthright and open, sometimes the physical quality of the products coming from small publishers like PPP does not (completely) justify the price. On the other hand, I love reading it and using it as inspiration for my games, and definitely want to buy it. But...

1. I suggest that the maps, even if big, have an option to print on Letter/A4 size. I'd rather print the maps in 10 or 15 different pages than go to the work of having to do break up myself.

2. No black or grey background. It's a pain to print at home.

3. What sort of price is anticipated for this product? What would the page count be?

grodog said...

@ JoseFreitas: I'd certainly like to hear more about how you think the books aren't up to snuff??: I've found PPP's books to be among the higher-end from OSR publishers in terms of physical quality of the products.

Allan.

Don Tucker said...

If a print version under $35 was produced, I'd buy it. Barring that as a possibility, I'd definitely purchase a .pdf!

Druvas said...

Allan,

You have a plotter...?! I bet you could make a small fortune printing large pieces of hex-graph paper... I have searched high and low for someone that sells it and nary a soul does as far as I can tell. I'm talking about something the size of half the WoG map. I'd pay you some $ to print me a few pages that size...

As for print quality of small press stuff like PPP, Jose Freitas, you couldn't be more wrong. Heck, even some of the stuff available on Lulu is pretty damned good.

Druvas said...

Allan,

You have a plotter...?! I bet you could make a small fortune printing large pieces of hex-graph paper... I have searched high and low for someone that sells it and nary a soul does as far as I can tell. I'm talking about something the size of half the WoG map. I'd pay you some $ to print me a few pages that size...

As for print quality of small press stuff like PPP, Jose Freitas, you couldn't be more wrong. Heck, even some of the stuff available on Lulu is pretty damned good.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Yeah. The only place I found after an hour of searching sells rolls for 60.00USD plus shipping, and I skipped that: http://www.imagineimage.org/thegridpaperfactory.htm

It seems that everyone is suggesting on forums discussing this to use templates and print them up then paste/tape together, which isn't the same thing and can cause misalignment and future scanning difficulties (due to taping). Even the folks at Boardgamegeek were searching high and low for these.

Druvas said...

Hmmm... At least you found someone that does it. This is the first place I have seen that will print grids on large paper sizes.

Looking at their site right now. $60 is a bit steep, but I might pick one up if I can convince the Succubus to release the funds ;-)

I think it would be pretty awesome to have a canvas as large as TSR did for the Darlene map to doodle on.

grodog said...

I'm emailing an old roommate who printed up the large files for me while I lived in CA, to see if he still has the ones he created, and if so, I'll see about getting my plotter up and running in earnest.

Allan.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Hey Druvas, The package arrived safe and sound today! I want to thank you publicly for helping with the project. I'll make sure to note you in the list of honored folk when I publish this beast! -- RJK

JoseFreitas said...

Grodog, I will refer you to my review of Bottle City over at Dragonsfoot.

http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=38&t=28355&p=541430&hilit=bottle#p541430

I am talking of a cost/production value comparison. I like the production value of the modules OK, but I think they're slightly overpriced. I am well aware of costs for small printe runs, etc... I worked in the publishing industry for years. I am NOT saying the products are bad, simply that they're somewhat expensive. I am obviously not talking about the ideas and value of game play inside, which should be obvious, since I want to buy the product even if on PDF. Plus, living across the Big Pond as I do, shipping adds some amount to the price I'll pay.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Yes. There's the pros and cons here, of course. Most people assume that bringing a project such as this to fruition is easy work. It is not. In fact, I made less than minimum wage for the hours in writing, directing art, working with layout, proofing and assembling and mailing BC.

That our products have become instant collectors items and are signed and numbered and limited edition also figures into that, For instance, a copy of one of the runic CAS1s sold on ebay for I believe 92.00 and not too soon after being released. The remaining copies (besides my two remaining author copies) are selling on Noble Knight for 29.95 (I believe) and they were issued at 14.95 (then 2nd printing 15.95). I also made less than minimum wage with that project.

Bottle City was a chore and a new product approach and required a lot of time to complete. The end result has been described as a "masterpiece" by some and it has been favorably reviewed for content. When comparing TSR adventures (who produced print runs in the tens of thousands and thus got DEEP discounts), of course, the limited run status of these (small numbers of print runs) foretells a higher pricing scheme which in the end does not offset my expenses in whole.

This is what I do. I do not work another job and thus do not have another source of income. Many folks in the industry work another job and then press out adventures and books with low prices attached to them and with less forethought to quality as well, so there is no comparison there.

I talked with NKG's owner, Aaron Leeder, in person just yesterday as we were again meeting over our new arrangement for distributing PPP product, and he said that PPP product is consistently the highest seller in the OSM, the highest rated for reviews in his knowledge and consistently high in value overall. He also rated Jim Raggi's works very highly and I concurred with him there from what little I know of Jim's works.

So the real proof is in the pudding, as they say. When one invests a great deal of time effort and expense, one normally gets rewarded for same. Expect the same high quality of products from us as well as a growing demand for these from collectors and appreciate fans, which place these in the high end category and immediately increase their resale value due to the back-end demand. That in itself should tell you something of their overall worth.

Druvas said...

Allan,

If you manage to swing large hex-map sheets, you would, nou doubt, be a hero to many!

Rob,

It was my pleasure. And I appreciate the sentiment and the mentioning. I look forward to meeting you and the others I have corresponded with on DF and GaryCon2 in March!

Andreas Davour said...

Rob (and others),

Have you checked out this place for hex paper? http://www.gamingpaper.com/

I have no idea if it's the size you need, but it sure looks handy.

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Yeah, I watched some of their demos on YouTube. It looks great for the price for general gaming paper, but for design it lacks for the fact that erasing pencil leaves shadows:

http://www.youtube.com/user/GamingPaper#p/u/10/WflLENRuUVs

However, I am tempted to order some for general use and game use, as it looks great.

Thanks Andreas.--RJK

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

In other news, good ole Guy Fullerton was able to assemble the map of LcCotE (in this post) and it is now a complete file. Now to print it out in oversize format and finish the drawing!

Thanks Guy! :)

Andreas Davour said...

Ah, so it's one use paper. Too bad. I didn't know they were on YouTube!