Friday, 8 December 2017

Dragons have come to Frostgrave!

Which is my dramatic way of saying that Spellcaster: The Frostgrave Magazine, Issue 2 is now available!

You can currently purchase it from RPGNow as a PDF for $6.

A print-on-demand version is currently awaiting approval of the printed files, but it should be up any day now. The printed version will cost $9, plus shipping.

The magazine will hopefully be offered on Amazon in the near future, although, at the moment, I am having some formatting issues that are delaying it.

There are plans to make this issue available in all of the same languages as Issue 1.

To answer a question that many people have asked, I will be looking at getting Issue 1 redesigned in the new format and also made available as print-on-demand. I don't yet have a time scale for that.

Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys the new issue. Feel free to tell me what you like and don't like about it, so that I can hopefully make Issue 3 even better.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

What is Kickstarter For?

One of my oldest and best friends, Barrett Stanley, is currently running a Kickstarter to try and fund the second issue of his science-fiction comic, Heartbreak Quadrant. I have, of course, backed the project, because I like the comic, but mostly because I really want to help my friend fulfill his goal of becoming a full-time comic artist. And that, to me, is what Kickstarter is really all about.

A few years ago, I backed my first Kickstarter project, Afterlife from Anvil Industries. I loved the look of their models, and once the Kickstarter had funded, it seemed like cool new models were added every day. It was exciting to watch the pledge levels go up, and I felt like I was winning prizes every time a new level was hit. Six months or so later, I received my figures. They were superb – really, I heartily recommend them, but, the truth was, I was no longer excited by them. My interest in them was six months ago. I had moved on.

I learned a really important lesson from that kickstarter. I am such a wargaming butterfly that I can never predict where my interests will lie in six months (and that’s a pretty quick turn-around for a lot of kickstarters). There really is no point for me in pre-ordering. I’d much rather have the money in my pocket to order something I want and will enjoy right now. Even if this means I end up paying ‘more’, or missing out on a few exclusives, I will still get more value for my money by waiting.

No, for me, Kickstarter only matters if I am truly helping to create something that otherwise will not exist. Without Kickstarter, I doubt my friend would be able to raise the money for his comic book, especially without the marketing power that comes with a Kickstarter. And, it doesn’t matter if the comic comes 3, 6, or 12 months later; I know I will be glad that I was a part of its creation.

I believe that this was the original goal of Kickstarter, to be a force for creative possibility, and, I believe this is still when it is at its best.

Take a look at Barrett's comic and see if it's something you'd like to be a part of making exist. Also, keep an eye out here, as next year Barrett and I will be working together on a project that is likely to be of interest to a lot of wargaming fans.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Exchanging Signatures with John Kovalic!

This goes under 'Great Geek Moments'!

This past weekend, I was in London for Dragonmeet, a small, but growing role-playing convention. I was helping out on the Osprey Games stand, and chatting to people about Frostgrave and Ghost Archipelago. Over the public address system, I heard that John Kavolic was signing on the upper floor.  For those not in the know, John Kavolic is one of the best-known and most-popular game artist around, thanks in large part to his illustrations for the mega-best-selling Munchkin and its 937 (or thereabouts) sequels. That said, for me, John will always, first and foremost, be the creator of The Dork Tower. This comic came along just when I needed it. I have a nearly complete run of the comic book, and am seriously glad that it has continued as a web-comic. A few months ago, I traded a couple of tweets with John about Frostgrave!

Later in the show, I was passing by and saw there were only a couple of people left in line, waiting to get signatures from John (he had, at that point be signing for several hours). I figured I'd never have a better chance to say hello, so I jumped in line. When my turn came, I said hello and, somewhat sheepishly, introduced myself as 'Joe, the guy who wrote Frostgrave'. John immediately leaned over, took a Frostgrave wizard sheet out of his bag and said, 'Can you sign this?'.

Taken aback, I protested that this is not how this whole thing was supposed to work. He was supposed to be signing something for me! Though, at that moment, I realized I had nothing for him to sign, because I hadn't really expected this encounter to happen. In the end, we made a trade. I signed his wizard sheet, and he signed a Munchkin card for me, even embellishing it with a little Frostgrave sign.

I didn't want to take up much of his time, as the line had grown again behind me, and I needed to get back to the stand, but what a wonderful experience. I would later learn, via twitter, that John bought the copy of Ghost Archipelago that Osprey Games had donated to the Dragonmeet charity auction!

I'd also like to take a moment and send a big Thank You to the great guys from the HATE (Hackney Area Tabletop Enthusiasts) gaming club, who spent all day running a really sharp looking Ghost Archipelago demo. I stopped by a couple of times and everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun, which is the point, after all.

What a day! I managed to escape only buying one book, a personal record. I'm sure I'll talk more about that later.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Spellcaster 2: Coming in December!

After several months of work, Spellcaster 2 is almost ready! It should be up for sale in December, hopefully early December, but I'm not going to commit myself to a specific day.

As you can see from the cover (once again featuring stunning artwork from Dmitry Burmak), the lead article for this issue is dragons! I've gotten so many requests for dragon rules in Frostgrave that I just couldn't resist it anymore. Not that I really wanted to. These aren't the kind of monsters you are going to roll on the random encounter table. These guys are bad news...  There is also a dragon-hunting scenario, for two warbands working together.

It's not all dragons though. The issue also includes rules for traps in Ghost Archipelago, including a full trap list themed for the Lost Isles. This section also includes a solo scenario that makes full use of these traps.

Beyond that, for a bit of fun, I have included some rules modifications and a scenario for using  Frostgrave to fight mech battles in the far-flung future!

That's the main features, there are a few other things in there as well.

Having learned a few lessons from Issue 1, I have made some changes to this one. This issue is longer than the first one, is in A5 format, and features professional internal layout and design. It does also cost a dollar more at $6.

One other major change - this issue will be offered print-on-demand through RPG Now / Wargames Valut and hopefully through Amazon as well. Not sure of the pricing on that, but it will be more or less $6 plus the cost of production.

I'll let everyone know when it is ready to go!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Me and My Kepi

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned how the little drawing of my head in Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy made me look like I was wearing a kepi. Well, a friend just reminded me that I have actually be portrayed wearing a kepi once before...

A few years ago, when I was organizing Osprey Publishing's attendance at Salute, I arranged for popular artist, Peter Dennis, to come to the show and do some painting on the stand. Peter is well aware of my affinity for, and ancestral connection to, the American Civil War, so while on the stand at Salute, he asked me to pose as though I were leading a Confederate charge. I didn't know what it was for, but I was happy to oblige.

A few months later, Perry Miniatures released their new box of plastic Advancing Confederate Infantry, and there I am, pistol at the ready, urging my troops onward!



I don't know, I think I look pretty good in a kepi.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Good Reading

I’ve read a few really good books lately, so I thought I would share!

Anti-Fragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Sometimes you can actually feel your brain expand as you read; that was the case for me while reading Anti-Fragile. In this book, Nassim presents a new way of looking at the meaning of fragility, and, more importantly, it’s opposite. He then uses that idea to examine various aspects of human life and culture, forcing the reader to really think about some of the core beliefs of how the world works.
            It’s not a perfect book. Occasionally, he uses a couple of fictional characters to help illustrate his points, but I found this generally obscured what he was trying to say. Also, some parts were so complex, they either went over my head, or I found that I couldn’t muster the mental energy to even try and follow them. 
            Still, that aside, there is a huge amount of interest that can be taken from this book.

Despite the title, this book is mostly an autobiographical look at Chris Hadfield’s career as Canada’s top astronaut. A career that included three trips into space, including rides on both the Space Shuttle and the Russian Soyuz, a trip to the Mir space station, and a term as commander of the International Space Station. This book made me realize just how far behind I am in understanding current human space exploration, a subject I’d like to keep up with more in the future.
            Along the way Chris Hadfield does have some interesting things to say about life and how to make your life count.

After more than a decade of working for Osprey Publishing, I no longer have any direct dealings with the military publishing for which the company is famous. That said, it is why I originally joined the company, and I still try to read the books whenever I have the chance. During my time at Osprey, Leigh Neville has been the go-to author when it comes to modern special forces topics. His Special Operations Forces in Iraq and Special Opeartions Forces in Afghanistan are must-haves for SF fans, and I think this book is even better. This new book is a terrific summary of the US Army Rangers over the last few decades. It includes a summary of all of their major actions (and they seem to have been involved in just about everything) as well as a detailed look at their changing weapons and equipment during that time. If you are a modern wargamer, you are definitely going to want this one in your library.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Social Mechanics in Game Design

It's a good month for me in the wargaming magazines! Not only did my solo Ghost Archipelago scenario appear in Wargames Illustrated, but I've also got an piece in the new Wargames: Soldiers & Strategy no. 93.

This piece is more of an editorial. It delves into the question of how to take into account social interaction while design wargames. I won't say much about it here, because I said it there (if you will).

The piece earned me a really nice tweet from everyone's favourite wargamer, Henry Hyde:

Great piece in latest @wssmagazine by Osprey's @ReniassanceTrll - food for thought for #mniatures#wargaming rules writers - including me!

Thanks Henry! (I still miss Battlegames!)

As an added bonus, the piece includes a sketch of my head that makes me look like I'm wearing a Civil War ear kepi (it's actually a baseball cap).