Friday, June 23, 2017

Within the Dungeon Interview: Kicksnarker in Charge Eric Franklin

Armed with a well-bristled beard and a healthy thirst for games, Eric Franklin joins me for a chat about Kicksnarker, a G+ community focused on providing a critical, often cynical, and sometimes comical take on all things crowdsourcing.

Eric thanks for agreeing to this and welcome. So, for those poor and downtrodden souls who have no idea… What is Kicksnarker? What motivated, or why did you decide to create this community?


The man behind the beard (link to blog)
Kicksnarker is a community which was originally there so people could vent their frustrations with crowdfunding. Late projects, uncommunicative creators, and (of course) things that were just plain stupid. There was a project I had backed that I was venting about, and someone tagged the project creator into my (personal) vent post. It was awkward and weird, so I decided that I needed a rant space.
 
Is there a method to all this madness? Any tips for Snarker Sleuths?
Snarker Sleuths? I assume you mean "people who are looking for stupid things in crowdfunding."  If you're looking for stupid, it's really not hard to find. Pick your hobby, and search that category on Kickstarter (or IndieGoGo or your platform of choice). I guarantee you'll find dozens of stupid projects that aren't worth anyone's time or attention.

 
“Just plain stupid” and “stupid things” are you thinking of specific crowdfunding projects? Or what is an example of a project or two, which spikes the stupid meter?
I find projects that re-invent the wheel to be stupid. Like this one, that reinvents the bundling board. This project is an example of a zero-effort project where someone heard there is money to be had, but doesn't actually demonstrate how or why they deserve your money. People who overestimate their own talent create projects that are accidentally funny, like this one.  All three of those, by the way, have appeared in the community in the last month.  Projects that fix imaginary problems are another thing that, for me, falls into the category of "stupid."  Like this. Or this.

 
If there was such a thing as the “Seven Deadly Snarks” or a ranked list of the most common campaign crowdfunding mistakes, (before funding) what would that list start with? Why?
Here's some of what I look for when deciding whether or not to back a project:
 
- Is the pitch coherent? When you're selling yourself, grammar and punctuation (and spelling) do matter.

- Do your pledge levels make sense?  There was a project a few years ago that had the game for one price, the dice as an add-on for another price, and the game with the dice for a third price. It was cheaper to buy the game and add the dice on than it was to buy the bundled pledge level. I've also seen a number of projects that have limited pledge levels where even if every level sold out, it wouldn't hit its goal.
- What do your stretch goals look like? I've seen too many projects sunk because the stretch goals cost way too much.

 
What’s been your best experience with building the Kicksnarker community? What’s been the worst experience? Or at least, one you’re willing to share. Is being a moderator in the community really like herding cats? Do you think the community is successful? Why or why not?
My favorite thing about the community is how it's grown. Most of the community members are gamers, and nearly all of them have a well-developed sense of sarcasm and the absurd. It's led to a unique culture that I really appreciate. My favorite thing ever? It was the April Fool's gag that Sarah and I pulled on the community in 2016.  We spent months putting that together.  My least favorite? Drama. We have a number of strong personalities in the community, and they occasionally do clash. Usually it's a respectful clash, but (despite what the FAQ says), we hate banning people.


April Fool’s gag? Does it have anything to do with your Top 100 List: Things that Eric Franklin Dislikes? (or stage left) 
That top 100 was a direct response to the community from Lee's Lists, because we mocked their product a few times. To be fair, we mocked several other rip-off products that were similar, too - it's not like we singled them out.  The April Fool's Gag is linked above.

 
Since founding Kicksnarker you’ve found new and interesting ways to spend more money, or less money?
I've become pickier about what I'll back, but it seems like I wind up spending the same amount of money.

 
Have you ever backed a project which didn’t deliver, or one which you were so disappointed in the final product, that you considered pulling your beard out in pure angst? Care to name it? 
Yes.  I backed Far West, which is infamous in tabletop RPG circles. I also backed Power Chords, which was well before Far West, and has yet to deliver. And Alas, Vegas, but that might be delivering eventually.  MIskatonic School for Girls delivered, and I kindaZ wish it hadn't. It needed quite a bit more playtesting, and they forgot to include the fun in that one.

The complete list of what I've backed is here.  If it's in orange, it's completed. If it's in blue, it's only waiting for stretch goals. That doesn't give you good/bad on the fulfilled, though.

Who is the target audience for your community?  What do you wish new members of the community knew before posting?

The target audience for the community is human beings. Because monkeys have terrible grammar. My preference would be to have members join the community and just read for a few weeks before posting.  Read and/or comment only. Don't just link things, either. We want content. Tell us what you find stupid or objectionable or cause for concern. If you want us to check your project for red flags, it's best to do that prior to launch. And don't expect us to help - if all you do is "help make my project better," we'll probably ignore you.

What sort of advice would you give a first timer who is interested in backing a crowdfunding project?

Keep your eyes open. If it looks too good to be true, don't sink a lot of money into it. Don't pledge money you can't afford to do without, just in case. Assume that the project will be late and won't be as awesome as it looks. There are awesome things out there, but they are few and far between. Before you pledge, check Amazon to see if something similar already exists cheaper. Because it probably does.

What sort of advice would you give a first timer who is running a crowdfunding campaign?

Project creators? Don't jump in blind. Back a few projects - and wait for them to complete. This teaches you what the climate and culture is like. Be VERY careful with your stretch goals.  Double and triple-check your math on everything. If it's a writing project (including an RPG), have it written before you start. Remember that Kickstarter takes a cut of your total and so does their credit card processor. Remember that some cards won't go through. And don't drag your feet - freight costs go up regularly and never go down. Don't just do a blanket "rest of world $X" for freight, either, because Brazil and Australian freight will kill you if you're not prepared for them.

Playing Devil’s Advocate: If you owned and ran a crowdfunding site how would it differ, from what is currently available? What do think crowdfunding companies can do to improve their future?

Kickstarter used to review every submitted project. Unfortunately, they grew too quickly to be able to keep that up. My ideal platform would be very similar to Kickstarter, but it'd still have that personal touch. It'd also have better protection for backers in case of non-delivery. I have no idea how I'd work that, though. It's why I'm a backer and not a crowdfunding site.

Some folks say, “Backing a crowdsource project is an investment.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

It's not an investment. It's a gamble. Kickstarter especially has gone out of their way to state that they're not an investment, because there are a number of laws and regulations that apply to investment, and they don't want to be tied up by those regs (and I don't blame them).

Eric thanks for doing this and we are just about at the end… Do you have an elevator pitch for Kicksnarker? It’s not for monkeys for sure (damn those monkeys), but why should humans consider joining the community?

Kicksnarker's tagline is a pretty good elevator pitch: "Mocking things we might be capable of loving."  So many of the things we feature are almost good. People who are thinking about starting a project should join and read the "Tools for Tool-Users" category - it has useful links and post-mortems and the like. The FAQ is long, but it really should be read. It gives you an idea of the culture we have in the community.
To the KICKSNARKER!!!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

RPG Gag Comic: The Yahtzee Confrontation


I'm running out of these (I don't have to write content today) savers... I will have to make some more!

Friday, June 16, 2017

RPG Gems: SFF Audio Podcast

SFF Audio Podcast
In the last three to five years there has certainly been an uptrend in RPG writers & creators who borrow, whether in an official or unofficial capacity, from classic works of fiction. Lucky for us, many of these works are in the public domain and if you've ever wondered where all this great RPG material originates, or you're just an unabashed fan of fiction to begin with; you might consider mashing some internet buttons and adding SFFaudio Podcast to your list of favorite sites. What's SFFaudio Podcast?:

About

As it stands there are over 400 audio podcasts to date. You get can started and browse that list here. And if you haven't left yet and the works of Robert E Howard (Conan the Barbarian), H.G Wells (War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau), or Philip K. Dick who's work has inspired more movies then most are aware (wiki)... How about you at least consider checking out my absolute favorite audio render of H.P. Lovecraft's (click the title), The Statement of Randolph Carter; Narrated By: Wayne June.

Navigation Note: The player is at the bottom of the page of each audiobook podcast, I'm attaching a pic, cause its a little less than obvious. This screen capture is of Bram Stoker's Dracula. A recent edition and which you are welcome to give it a click and be directed to the SFFaudio site.

Bram Stoker's Dracula (Bottom of the Page)
         

Friday, June 9, 2017

RPG News: Onyx Path Publishing; Lack of Professionalism Works Both Ways

"Throw a D20 in any direction, and you'll be hell bent to not to hit a disgruntled RPG freelancer."

If I have this correct, and it's a modestly messy if: For reasons uncertain, Onyx Path Publishing (OPP) recently "un-optioned," Exalted 3rd Edition Line Developers Holden Shearer & John Morke. I say un-optioned, because as I've put the this picture together it seems clear that duties as a line developer at OPP is... A work for hire position? Similar (but, "oh-no" not the same) as a regular work for hire freelancer... But with a way-cooler-and better position title. (meh) Yeah, I don't make friends easily... 

In an interesting post Mr. Shearer took to Facebook, to air a grievance about some of his "cutting room floor" material from the Exalted 3E Kickstarter being repackaged and sold without payment. If you want to get the full picture, Mr. Shearer's Facebook Page is here. Below is a screen capture of the initial post:


Attribution: This news comes via (mashing random buttons) theRPGsite and so following a podcast of events by: Sponsored by Nobody (to that podcast) Who have also put together an imgur gallery, which consists of former OPP freelancers (imgur gallery link) twittering away.

While admittedly the podcast is a bit hard for me to listen to, and it's a bit too much from a consumers perspective, there is some merit to parts of the discussion.

The fact that Holden' notes 90k words were not being paid for (and cut) by OPP is a surprise, in only that he wrote that many, without being paid... (that's my professional asshole perspective) On Twitter (imgur post above) the number is 150K for the Orichalcum Edition, which is still in production from the Kickstarter...

I'm I the only one to think that a line developer... developing lines (words) that aren't published in the bulk of the production, is as much a problem for OPP, as it might be the writer... And now that writer is no more? It doesn't bode well for either; the company or the writer.

This is the RPG Edition of throw enough shit and some of it will stick, but that's not to say whether it has merit, beyond noting dysfunction of everyone involved. On one hand we have a number of freelancers outing (of note, recently let go or no longer working for) the company, on the other we have the company and a number of freelancers defending said company. The real problem is that ethics and professionalism aren't the same dance.

Certainly, line developers, freelancers and anyone producing creative work for a company in a work for hire capacity and especially if that company puts that work up for sale, should be paid an agreed amount, for an agreed amount of work (a contractual tongue twister). There is no doubt.

Work for hire employees should also carefully read the contract provided. With most RPG companies what you find is that "your work," is no longer yours once you turn it in. If you put your signature on that line, you've agreed to that. And sometimes pay for that work, and especially if the writing is repackaged, is entirely optional.

Professionalism, works both ways.

In honor of that... A little Ellison!


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

RPG Review: I Need RPGs to Review!

I write role-playing game (RPG) reviews for Knights of the Dinner Table (KoDT), and for EN World's RPG News and Reviews page. If you're interested in a product review, use the Contact Me (button above) or click here to get my email.
 

NOW ACCEPTING PRINT/PHYSICAL PRODUCTS ONLY 

If I've already corresponded with you and agreed to do a review (PDF), you're good. I've got your RPG in my files. Due to the slew of submissions going forward, reviews for PDF products are closed.
 
For the review request: Type in the subject line of the email: Review Request; include the title of the product. Include details about what the product is in the body of the email. 
 
Most of the reviews I produce, are for complete RPGs or system neutral products. If the product does not fit this criteria, you are welcome to contact me, but it is very rare that I produce reviews concerning adventures, or writing which focuses on the mechanics, rules or tweaks of an established system.  
 
In addition to the above mentioned publications, reviews are posted on this blog and shared in my communities on Google Plus and Facebook. Reviews for KoDT are owned by Kenzer and Company and re-published here with permission one year from the reviews publication, per specific issue. Reviews written for EN World may or may not be republished on this blog. Long story short, that is up to me (in how I format the review for EN World).   
 
It is rare when I do not have a virtual PDF slush pile, and there is always a wait. Products are reviewed in the order they are received, unless the publisher is willing to eat the cost of shipping a physical product to my address; these are bumped to the head of the line  (And also and because it is 100% important to note, a physical product mailed to my front door-while wonderful, does nothing to sway the review).
 
As a freelancer I cannot guarantee a review of the product you send will publish or the location of the review itself. I will certainly pitch and write the review, but it's at these companies own discretion whether the review publishes. Under no condition will the review of one product be written for both companies. Worst case, the review will not appear for either company, and only on this blog as well as shared with my G+ communities and Facebook. This has not happened yet, but it easily could. Welcome to being a freelancer 101.
 
I do not guarantee a positive review. I take into consideration what each specific product is and what it attempts to accomplish; and as best as I am able, review each RPG on it's own merits and faults. Sometimes, I will have the opportunity to introduce an RPG to my player group by playtesting it. Sometimes I create a character, or (literally) calculate the mechanics. Of these three, creating a character (or two) is the most common, and reflected in the review. If I playtest it, it is rarely reflected in the review.
 
Thank you, and I look forward to reviewing your RPG! 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Revew Burp: KoDT #244 & Writing RPG Reviews for EN World

Disclosure: Links to RPG products and the banner below, include my drivethrurpg.com affiliate identification. I received a token % if you purchase something. Purchasing though these links is one way to support this blog. Thank you.

KoDT #244
Strange Stars
Knights of the Dinner Table issue #244 is out. This issue has my review of Strange Stars. Trey Causey has written three space opera setting books, in system neutral, OSR and Fate Core format.


This product wasn't my cup of coffee. It's well written, the production value is top notch, but as far as putting forth a "setting," eh... A quick trip over to their seller page on drivethrurpg.com and you'll see my opinion is in the minority; the system neutral version is an electrum seller.


OD Pirates & Dragon
As I mentioned with Submissions Open (tag) EN World is paying freelancers for RPG news and reviews. My review of OneDice Pirates & Dragons was posted on the front page a couple of weeks back. A version of that review is also here on this blog.


Admittedly, I'm really enjoying what Cakebread and Walton are doing with the OneDice, line. If you prefer to get a look before purchase, Cakebread and Walton have you covered with the OneDice Quickstart which is Pay What You Want (PWYW). I think OneDice is a super awesome introduction or gateway RPG for youth, as well as folks who have never delved into the hobby.

Best Selling RPGs - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

Friday, June 2, 2017

RPG Revew: Mermaid Adventures

Disclosure: This review contains affiliate links to RPGNow.com. I receive a token % if you purchase something from the landing page. It's one way to show your support of this blog, and its content. Sincerely, thank you for that support.


Mermaid Adventures
Mermaid Adventures
By: Eloy Lasanta
Published By: Third Eye Games
Scouted By: J.L. Duncan

Welcome to a review of Mermaid Adventures, a complete role playing game (RPG) available in portable document format (PDF) at drivethrurpg.com and rpgnow.com. Mermaid Adventures was brought to the surface via Kickstarter to the tidy sum of just over 5k internet bucks.
Indeed, there is a growing market of games aimed at introducing a young (or younger) player base to the fold of RPGs. Mermaid Adventures is one such, but there are a few pleasantries about this game which distinguish it from some of the games I’d happened upon over the years. We need not play the name-games-game, but some of these “other creators,” should consider taking some notes.

Clicking off the first couple of pages on my PDF copy the first thing to be appreciated is that the games list of play testers, include members of its target audience. Ahem, “other creators,” ages four to eleven. While you might not think this is such an innovative idea, you’d be surprised at how many RPGs while designed for kids, fail to include the target audience (or even playtesting at all) in the mix. Just saying…

 I was impressed by the overall organization and design of this book. Certainly, Mermaid Adventures is not a large volume at just over 100 pages cover to cover, but everything contained therein feels or seems to be where it should be. I’m not exactly certain where this sentiment comes from, but my ego tells me it’s because: everything is where it should be! The game is properly organized; I’ll leave it at that.

The illustrations are bright, colorful-as well as plentiful and should appeal to the young gamer, more specifically I would argue girls, a bit more than boys, under the age of ten. Tables are well placed throughout with the pertinent information to each section. The book is structured without a multi-column format, which makes the print larger than typical as well as easy to read. For the most part Mermaid Adventures passes the eye test, so let’s move the review to what I like to call “the fiddly-bits,” otherwise known as game content and mechanics.

Creating a character in Mermaid Adventures is broken down into four steps. The first of which is picking a species of Merfolk from a list of eight varieties. Each type of Merfolk has some special abilities and provides the starting base for character attributes. For example, Lobsterfolk have a hardened body, Rayfolk can flatten their body, while the Jellyfolk have a see thru body, in the right lighting, etc. etc. Overall, each Merfolk is pretty interesting in the range of available abilities to start with and so each has their appeal in playing them.

Each Merfolk starts with a base number for each of the four character attributes with character creation. With step two, players receive five additional points in which to distribute among the character’s attributes as they desire. The Attributes are Body, Mind, Charm and Luck. As you might surmise, all conflict or contest resolution will be determined on these scores and will aid the number of dice rolled relevant to the situation. Each attribute, fits and will be used in game, exactly where you would intuitively guess it should.

Step three of character creation is the option of rolling on random charts to determine superficial things about a character; hair color, clothing etc-etc. This section is a bit of optional fluff, whether characters roll or the players determine it themselves is left to the Navigator (GM). Any good parent knows, you don’t tell a four year old the color of her character’s hair. She tells you. That is that and to quote the late great Professor Snape, “Obviously…”

The last and final step of character creation is selecting four qualities which will help make each character unique. Qualities are character perks, which will impact game rolls. These extra qualities are in addition to those awarded with the type of Merfolk that has been selected. The quality: Sneaking will give a bonus success, when attempting, you-guessed it- do some sneaking! Mermaid Adventures offers a decent sized list of qualities, including magical qualities if you wish to include magic with your game, which will assist players, while providing some additional utility to each character.

Mechanics in Mermaid Adventures involve the use of black and white six sided dice and is a D6 system with a bit of a tweak. Fear not, if you are a Seattle Seahawks fan (like this reviewer) and possess only green and blue dice. If I can figure this out, I have faith that you will as well.

Success on a specific roll (or how many are required) is determined by the Navigator (GM). The difficulty level (1-5) determines the number of black dice rolled, while the characters Ability and Quality determine the amount of white dice rolled. Success for either is rolling a 4, 5, or 6. Overall triumph on a specific task is getting more counted successes on the white dice, than the black.

My one criticism is that overall the mechanics for dice rolls are a bit too fancy for my taste and I think the four, five and six year olds might agree with me: small hands and all. There’s nothing wrong with setting a target number a notch higher (perhaps 3-10) and requiring some straight rolling. Let’s not forget it’s hard enough for a six year old to keep a dice roll on the table let alone wield more than one successfully. The four year old might forgo rolling altogether and wonder instead what a handful of dice tastes like! Luckily no doubt the navigator will be there to navigate and forgive me Mermaid Adventures I kid, yet I’m serious. Add to this comparing success vs failure between the two toned dice and as I said it’s just a bit too fancy. I’m sure this system works but something simpler could work as well; and to be clear this is not a criticism of four to six year olds…

I couple of nice sections are the pre-generated characters which the players could utilize or a navigator could use as non-player characters (NPCs) and the sections that stat out creatures of the sea natural and fantastical.   

Progress Points are the game’s experience point system. As a character in Mermaid Adventures progresses they get points awarded by the Navigator after a session. The player can choose how to distribute those points to build their character and for the most part the system is set up for rewards that will happen once a single adventure is concluded. Keeping the target gamer in mind this is a very simple and effective system.

Advice sections for the Navigator and role-playing are pretty basic stuff for an experienced gamer-but no doubt credit is due for including them. There is also a cute story at the beginning of the book which (gives a narrative of play) I found delightful enough to read to my daughter as well as the section which gives a good example of what gameplay will be like. I like products that boast being a complete RPG to maintain key sections, which explain the role of players and basics of roleplaying-it just makes good sense-and Mermaid Adventures ties it all together with a creative approach.

The final chapter of Mermaid Adventures consists of five short adventures. Beside an interesting mix of adventure, I would say nothing ground breaking here, however something to consider, is again-the target gamer. The adventures maintain a basic approach at introducing RPGs to a younger gamer. Dare I say a gamer who’s attention span is a bit more easily influenced to distraction and who’s, (Are we there yet?) mentality would be more pleased at arriving sooner to the conclusion of the adventure, rather than later. Two dolphin fins up for this section.

To close, Mermaid Adventures provides a good introduction to roleplaying. As a product it does a good job of not forgetting who this game is designed for. If you skipped ahead to the final couple of paragraphs of this review: Kids! This game is for kids. The layout is crisp and the game rules are easy to follow. The art is very appealing or at least my seven year old hasn’t stopped bothering me about playing it, since peaking over my shoulder, whilst I was thumbing this review.

Speaking of which, the five sample adventures are certainly enough to get a Navigator started. So it looks like I will be making a visit under the sea relatively soon. Perhaps we’ll see you there!