Friday, May 31, 2013

Jack Vance Has Passed Away

And I'm so out of it, I didn't notice until today.

We are, of course, speaking of the author who inspired the "Vancian magic" of D&D.  He's best known for his Dying Earth stories which took place in the latter years of Earth's existence, when the sun was red and swollen, a realm in which technology was so advanced, baroque, and strange that it really was indistinguishable from magic.

The Brits seem to have a gift for writing obituaries and the Guardian has a good one for Vance.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

DIY Goes to the Cloud

On Saturday at Comicpalooza, Skirmisher Publishing had a panel in which they promised to announce the “biggest thing in gaming for 2013!”  So what did they announce?

Quite possibly the biggest thing of 2013.  And maybe the two years on either side of it, if they can iron out the rough spots.

Basically, Bookforge is a web page for selling gaming content in the smallest usable increments: classes, feats, skills, encounters, monsters, weapons, spells, rooms, etc. via micropayments (dimes, nickels, etc.).  Instead of buying an entire book for US $30+, you can buy the class and two feats you’ll actually use for US 75¢.  

What sort of content will be up there?  They’re starting with the entire OGL SRD (which will be available for free).  In addition to the OGL, you can also find content from Pathfinder’s SRD.  There are options to search under 4e, Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future, but those don’t appear to turn up any content as of this writing.  They’re also planning on including 5e Next, Savage Worlds, Fudge, d6 and Fate.  And they’ll put up everything they’ve published and have the appropriate rights for.  The goal is to have 100 authors and a million pieces of content by the end of the year.  

The content will be sortable by type, author, keywords, theme words (the example they mentioned was “power attacks”), genre, rule system, and the book it was originally published in.  They thought the last was important because they didn’t want you to accidentally buy something you already had on a bookshelf.  

You’ll likely still want to spend the pennies on it since you’ll be able to export collections of content in pdf form as sourcebooks.  The idea is clearly that you’ll create a homemade sourcebook for your campaign based on the content you pick and send it to your players so they have it to create characters with.  They also made mention of a dungeon generator that would work based on the options you picked, and that they were contemplating a character builder as well, though no ETAs on either just yet.

When you buy this content, you’ll have the option to record your own notes on it.  Some will come with art, others might come with notes from the author as well.  They’re talking about adding some clip art as well that you can buy to add to your sourcebooks.  

They will be accepting additional content.  They won’t put anything up until they’ve edited it and I forgot to ask what sort of turnaround they expected on the editing process.  The author’s cut will be something in the neighborhood of 20%.  They’re also promising complete transparency on sales and searches with the authors.  

So that’s it in a nutshell.  Frankly, if 5e Next is as flexible and modular as they’ve been claiming, this may be the killer ap that pushes it over the top.  Imagine being able to cobble together your race-as-class from Basic, monsters from the 2e Monstrous Manual, spells from The Book of Vile Darkness, and your favorite house rules from around the web, all bolted to a framework that embraces all of them without choking on crazy variety.  If WotC delivers that framework, Bookforge is the perfect compliment to it.

As of this writing, the interface is a bit bare-bones and clunky.  A search for "spidergoat" didn’t turn up anything and a search for "class" turns up a lot of feats and skills.  Searching "sleep" pulls up a lot of OGL and Pathfinder content but nothing under Labyrinth Lord or 4e yet.  I’m not sure how much of the content is actually up and how much of the trouble is my inexperience with the system.  In any case, there’s a lot of promise there, and if you’re playing any 3.x game, it’s clearly a valuable resource already.

Bookforge is described as being still in beta.  A video was shot of the announcement, but I haven't seen it posted yet.  I'll link to it when it goes live.