Time is running out! Less than 17 hours left until the end of the Pre-Order period for Encryptopedia. Why is this important? Because at the stroke of midnight that Pre-Order will no longer be available.
What’s the pre-order deal? You get Encryptopedia + the first adventure written for Encryptopedia, “Live and Let Dye.”
“Live and Let Dye” is a stand-alone systemless adventure designed to build upon and execute ideas brought up in the Encryptopedia sourcebook. It has adventure, conflicts, intrigue, romance, and mysterious artifacts. Will you try and save the family of an agent wanting to come in out of the cold? Will you apply your charm and wit to befriending a minister of state? Will you be able to get away with tricking a powerful wizard and an ancient conspiracy at the same time? Will you be able to restore the good name of a magnificent artist? Live and Let Dye will give you a chance to do all these things.
I was a guest on the Play Better Podcast! Please take a moment to listen and consider subscribing. In it, I talk a bit about the White Wolf days, and about the new product “Encryptopedia.” Cameron, Ryan, and Molly are excellent podcasters and they cover board games, card games, and roleplaying games.
When I first started roleplaying (when I was 8 – nearly 40 years ago), I had no clue what I was doing. I tried to learn D&D from the blue-covered box set with the dice and the crayons – but let’s face it, it wasn’t written for 8-year-old audiences. I didn’t actually get D&D until I played AD&D with some friends, and started running games the second game I played. I had no idea how the rules worked, but the story was what I loved.
Now we have a couple of generations of people who have spent years and years playing in and running games, and this has created a host of game players who already know how to create challenges for their players, design cool characters that fit their personality and playing style, and otherwise do the heavy lifting of the game portion of the rules.
What prevents some people from sitting down and playing is not that they don’t have a favorite game, it’s that they need some story to run. They need a background, ingredients for their soup. To me, a systemless sourcebook can solve this problem handily: you don’t need me to tell you that the Goblin King has 40 HP, AC 18 and does 1d8 / 1d8 / 2d10.
On the other hand, you might need me to tell you that the Goblin King received a grievous injury from an adventurer in his youth. If someone notices the limp in his walk, and does something about it (healing, or giving him a fancy, sturdy cane, or ease his pain with some willow bark tea), he may decide to free them instead of kill them by roasting them alive for a feast. You might need me to tell you that a slumbering giant worm that has been fed garbage for the last 50 years might wake up in hunger if the goblin community which has been feeding it stops doing so (either because they migrated, or were all killed by wandering murder hoboes).
You might need me to tell you that the local Baron has made an arrangement with the Goblin community to “exile” some of the worse criminals he catches along the King’s Road, only this exile is actually being chained in a clearing long enough for a Goblin patrol to pick them up and carry them back to eat them. In exchange, the Goblins don’t come into town or bother anyone along the Road, but if they steal a cow or a pig or two, that’s “foraging” not “stealing.”
It’s this kind of thing that exists in a systemless sourcebook. You could take this information and make a FATE game out of it, a Savage Worlds adventure, a GURPS story, or just use it for good ol’ Dungeons & Dragons. It’s up to you.
That’s part of why I wrote Encryptopedia and Dye Another Day as a systemless sourcebook, so that you can take what you need and leave the rest. In the future, I may consider doing a fully licensed version of Encryptopedia with all the stats and prestige classes and what-not, but not at the $9.95 price point – something like that would be a much larger project.
To be clear, system does matter. The material I’ve created will be received differently by FATE than it will be by D&D. Your game experience will be much different. But the trappings of story, the milieu, that is what you’ll find in my sourcebook.
I hope this has helped you understand what I mean when I say “systemless.” Thanks for reading!
I am currently wrapping up production on the first adventure for the Encryptopedia sourcebook material, “Live & Let Dye.”
This adventure focuses on the activities around a very important social event, the Dyer’s Guild Ball. Every year, the Dyer’s Guild hosts Color Season, where they debut the newest alchemical dyes for textiles and paints. The Dyer’s Guild Ball is held shortly after, both as a means of showing off the youth of the city and introducing them to society, and as a way to show the beauty of the new colors in elaborate suits and gowns.
Of course, such a genteel and civilized occasion can also engender the most interesting of activities in the shadows. All the city’s nobility attend the Ball, and the place is a hotbed of political and romantic intrigue. It’s also a perfect cover for some serious subtlety, a quiet dance of death and secrets that takes place underneath it all.
In addition to the detailed description of the entirety of the Ball and its social landscape, the adventure details five scenarios that can either be played singly or all interwoven to form a complex tale of subterfuge, intrigue, romance, loyalty, and justice.
I have really enjoyed writing this adventure and the story will be available for free as part of the special Encryptopedia Pre-Order. If you do not have the cash to spend $9.95 on the pre-order, you may choose to wait until February 14th, 2015, when I will release the adventure as a separate project, available for sale at $4.95.
Only a few people have pre-ordered Encryptopedia. I prefer to think of these folks as “the Ring of Elites” – y’all are great and I am very appreciative of your patronage. Every time my inbox lights up with a sale it’s like a combination Yule and Birthday present all in one.
Not only will they get Encryptopedia first before everybody else, they will also get an adventure to get their fantasy spy games started.
One of the things I’m loving about crafting this adventure is that I am able to open up story settings that you normally don’t see in typical fantasy adventures: in the “haut monde”, I have the story go from a fancy ballroom to elegant dining chambers, to the interior of beautiful carriages and secret, intimate lovers’ niches. In the “demi-monde” I have opportunities for stealthy visits to the highest halls of power, desperate fights on river barges, and a duel to the death in the high ropes of a theater.
If you are already one of my Elites, stay tuned – you may be getting future special gifts just because of your early adoption.
If you’re not an Elite and decide to wait, on February 14th you’ll have to purchase the adventure separately. So take a moment to head over to the Drive Thru RPG page and pick up the Encryptopedia pre-order, and join the Ring of Elites today!
I have been working on a new fantasy espionage sourcebook for SCM – Sam Chupp Media. This is going to be a “systemless” sourcebook in that I’m providing setting, ideas, and structure so that you can take your favorite game system and apply what you’ve learned from the sourcebook to play.
In the book, I offer some sample characters to fit the roles of various fantasy espionage agent types that I’ve created. Because it is unlikely that I’ll be able to afford character art for these, I have tried to write some descriptions of them as I see them in my mind.
I want to share some of these with you, and perhaps get your well-considered feedback on them.
Description: A lithe, tan brunette with wild curly hair and shining hazel eyes, wears her black and dark green Lunargenti Army uniform except when incognito.
Description: Short and curvy, ruddy skin, straight brunette hair with green eyes, prefers to wear simple tunics and trousers and her favorite broken-in boots.
Description: In her form as Leticia Ul Kuhar, the owner of the dancing school, she has black hair, piercing onyx eyes, dark brown skin, deep midnight hair, and a perfect dancer’s figure with classically Amishkan curves. Kyra was born with peaches and cream skin, green eyes and blonde hair, she has always been taller and sturdier than other girls though she moves with a delicate grace.
Description: He has carnelian skin, topaz eyes, long onyx hair and full beard, he is solid, stocky and sure in his walk and manner.
Description: Very short with a generous figure, her auburn hair is curly, her green eyes bright as emeralds. She has rosy pink skin with freckles and prefers to dress in earth hues, very sensible clothes like tunics with leggings. She does not like robes and will not wear them.
Description: Dark moss green skin with skin tags and bulbs, four arms, very muscular, Tpin is very tall, having to bend to get through most doors at 7 feet. His eyes are laurel green, his tusks are regularly polished with either a silver or a bronze tusk-cap. Tpin wears the working uniform of the Honorable Old Masters’ enforcers: a black cotton work blouse with dull silver buttons, designed to accommodate his extra arms, and cross-laced leather breeches that allow maximum range of movement. Because of his naturally hardened feet and talons, he carries heavy black felt and leather footcaps so he may traverse delicate floors without scratching them.
My intent here is to have descriptions that paint a picture I also want to be inclusive.
To be clear, I don’t recall coining the term “the Chupp test” but I am pleased that it is in use. I keep a vanity Google search going in my name; and you should too. That’s how I found the test.
The term was probably coined around the same time I was doing Internet Representative duties for White Wolf Game Design Studio (as opposed to White Wolf, White Wolf / CCP, or Onyx Path). I ran a MUSH called The Storyteller’s Circle and I would do online conferences on TSC plus AOL chat rooms. That was Web 0.5 rather than Web 1.0 or 2.0. During those conferences I would hint about upcoming products and discuss lots of Old World of Darkness (oWoD) minutiae. So that is where I got a lot of questions like, “Why would anybody want to play an Akashic Brotherhood / Bone Gnawer / Child of Set”?
The best definition of meeting the test is “is this Character Class / Clan / Tribe / Tradition / Guild / Kith / Splats/Whatever compelling enough that it makes you, the player, interested in playing it?” Also, it is a good rule to gauge the success of written materials said splats.
So the answer to that question should always be “because it’s cool.” Which leads me to Travis Williams‘ Game Design Law, “Make It Cool.”
I’m a content creator and as such I really do wish my copyright to be honored. Living by any sort of “harm none, do what you will” credo (or “treat others as you would have yourself treated”) means that I don’t want to be an intellectual property pirate. I prefer to pay for my TV shows, films, books, comic books, audiobooks, role-playing games, etc.
But it galls me, sometimes, to pay for a work I’ve already purchased. And yet, I frequently find myself having to re-buy a property just because it’s in a format that suits me better – such as an e-book or audiobook. That’s why, when I heard about the BitLit App for my Android phone I knew that I had to give it a shot.
It’s not what you’d call the easiest of customer experiences. I had to try 10 times or so to get the app to recognize Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. You have to take a picture of the cover, the app has to scan it, and then tell you whether it was recognized or not. Finally after the 10th try, it told me that I indeed had scanned the cover of Cryptonomicon. Next step was to write my name in block letters on the copyright page.
This is very hard for me to do. I’ve been taught all my life never to write in a book. I feel odd doing it, but some sacrifices must be made for progress I suppose. I snapped the picture and it scanned and….thankfully got it right on the first try. Whew.
The app then said that I had a discount coming for re-buying Cryptonomicon: I could purchase it for a mere $1.99. Seeing as how the Kindle edition on Amazon is $4.99, I thought it was a pretty good deal, so I went for it.
This sent me to Harper Collins’ Digital River fulfillment house to actually complete the transaction, which went well enough, then had me download (!) another e-book reader (!) purpose-built for the publisher. Great. Now I have three e-readers on the device. But fine, whatever, I love Neal Stephenson, I love Cryptonomicon, let’s go for it. I log into the e-reader using the same credentials as I did for the Digital River fulfillment, and see the cover of Cryptonomicon as if it were one of my books. Good show! However, when I click on it, nothing happens and then I get a “File cannot be completed” error.
So, OK, my frustration level is pretty high at this point. I know, I know. First world problem. But still. I’m starting to tally up time spent versus cost saved and it does not look like a good equation. I hop on Twitter, let @BitLit and @HarperCollins hear my tale of woe.
Lo and behold, this morning, it worked. This e-reader of HarperCollins is completely clunky, but eventually I get it to where I can actually read on it, and all is well.
So, in summary:
My pain point in this process was nearly over the line for me. This needs to be a much, much easier process. Perhaps the scan recognition could be more accurate. Perhaps there could be an alternate proof-of-purchase process?
A “regular folk” trying this out wouldn’t have spent more than 2 minutes on it, then may have turned to piracy to get the eBook anyway. Money lost.
Ultimately, there is obviously money to be made here. I’m happy that the $1.99 that I spent will, theoretically at least, go back to Mr. Stephenson eventually. I’m just not happy about how difficult it is. But, I suppose, comparing difficult with impossible, I’d rather have difficult. I just don’t think this project will truly soar until it becomes a whole lot easier to handle.