Saturday, April 12, 2008

Waiting for Shadowfell

The Keep on the Shadowfell adventure is due out May 20th. I'm at the point where I really, really want to see some of the details. For example, a list of monsters would allow me to start painting or collecting miniatures. The town layout and notable NPC's might be useful in allowing me to avoid duplicating effort and would help me flesh out the town.

I figure there's probably a kernel of usefulness in the published town that I'll want to salvage before I go off and create my own. If this is the home base for the campaign, and I'm world building and not adventure writing, then that town should be very solid, with lots of NPC's and detail. It will certainly resemble a Phoenician town, so I have that in mind, but I'll have to decide where it goes from there, especially making it more fantasy oriented.

At the same time, we've got some very cool adventures for the end of the Iron Crown campaign. I've got at least two cool set pieces that need building. One may get shipped from a guy who built a set piece for his campaign but no longer needs it. I think we should have a little clearing house for such items. I certainly don't want these things when I'm done and they represent many hours of construction.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


This blog wasn't set up properly to forward me comments, so I'm just now getting to the ones from the last week. Nobody was posting before except Jess. Thanks Jess!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Ass Pain Revisited

About six months ago I wrote a post of the top 5 most difficult to deal with game manufacturers. Lately I've got good things to say about some of them. They're not all on the right track, but good things are happening:

  1. Rackham. You could hear the collective groan when Rackham (my #1 ass pain) teamed up with Fantasy Flight Games (my #5 ass pain) for US distribution. Distribution of the game did seem to improve, but at a cost. That cost was the price that FFG charged for their services, which amounted to 2% of my margin from my primary distributor. This put us back to the old metal days of Rackham pricing, where we looked at what we were being charged, scoffed at the MSRP, and priced product at margins we could afford. Manufacturers "suggested" retail price. As for Rackham product, AT-43 has inched up our top game charts, while I've declared the new Confrontation DOA.
  2. Wiz Kids. This is a company that has lost relevance for us in the last six months. We're completely finished with anything "clicky" from them. We'll never order clix again, unless it's a special order. Pirates releases far outstrip the demand for the game. We're down for a single box of the next set, due out this week (already!), and then we'll probably see a slow slide to nothing over the next year or so. The company continues to have problems coordinating "big box" and "hobby channel" distribution, with game store owners regularly complaining about early releases at Target, for example. I see them as a very small company that used to be very big, trying to do big company things unsuccessfully.
  3. Fantasy Flight Games. Here's a very big company, that used to be small, that still does things like a small company. FFG rocks. They have great products and they've just acquired very popular lines from Games Workshop, notably the new Dark Heresy RPG but also games like Talisman. However, they lack street dates on any of their products and lack communication about their problems. I was slightly embarrassed after I lambasted them in the game industry forum a few months ago, only to have them respond with an honest explanation of what had happened, explaining situations well out of their control. If companies like this would only communicate with us, we would be very understanding and we could explain it to customers so their frustration level is reduced. Today's ass pain was the realization that new Dark Heresy products were released in the UK already, while the US market has a wait of several weeks, at least. This has happened with Black Industries before, so it's not new, so it seems FFG has inherited their own ass pains.
  4. Upper Deck. I dare say, they're starting to listen. Last week they released a hobby exclusive Yu Gi Oh gold series pack. This $25 pack had incredibly rare cards and it was only distributed through hobby stores. I think these hot packs demonstrated the true demand for Yu Gi Oh product, something we could only see when Target and other big box stores were temporarily removed from the equation. My 15 boxes sold out in three hours when our Yu Gi Oh crowd arrived, something I've never seen for this game. Upper Deck is listening, but the biggest ass pain is their continued attempts to artificially inflate demand by limiting quantity. It's a frustrating strategy for game stores, especially managing cash flow. Compare these: The next Magic set will be released in May. I need to order enough product to get through the weekend until I can place another order. Now lets look at the new World of Warcraft set. Limited supply means I have to order enough to get me through June. Upper Deck has just shifted a huge burden onto my shoulders, while Wizards of the Coast is partnering with me to sell their product.
  5. Mongoose Publishing. They dropped their in-house printing, with its warped covers and low quality. I won't touch any of their existing product lines, which I consider irreparably damaged by this fiasco, tainted by incompetence, but I will be selling their new Traveller release, printed by a professional. Battlefield Evolution is officially dead and I would be incredibly reluctant to try a new miniatures game from Mongoose again.
What am I looking for in a good company? Consistent communication including street dates, quality product, appropriate margins, adequate supply, and protecting their product in the hobby chain (not selling direct, or through mass market). I don't know any company that has all of these, but four out of 5 is acceptable, provided the product has enough quality to be sold:

Rackham WizKids FFG UD Mongoose

Quality X X X X




Both Games Workshop and Wizards of the Coast get my best marks. GW has a reduced margin while WOTC often gives preference to mass market by breaking street dates.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Metal Ages

Bronze sword

The historical development of Labash and the surrounding region is tied to the use and trade of metals. Just as Iron Crown thrives primarily as a source of trade in precious metals, the major historical developments in this new world are tied to metals.

We begin with the Bronze Age. Bronze weapons and tools are made primarily from copper, with tin or other minor alloys added or occurring naturally. The Badari empire grew to power during this period, their armies of supernatural beings unopposed. The weapons of the time were made from copper, mined profitably from the lands of Labash.

The Iron Age emerged with the help of the dragons, who passed on the secrets of iron to the dragonborn so they could strike at the devils summoned by the tieflings of Badar. These creatures were only harmed by enchanted or cold iron weapons. These weapons were comprised of new metals, iron and tin, both of which were abundant in Tash. Local power shifted once again, from the south (Badar) to the north (Tash). Labash suffered during this time, but eventually they discovered a solution.

The Iron Age II period occurred with the widespread use of iron weapons, thanks to Labashi trade in iron ore from the lands west of Badar. The Labashi grew wealthy from this trade and eventually the Tashtak relented and traded their own weapons throughout the region, weapons of much higher quality. At the end of this period, the Labashi civil war occurred and regional trade was severely disrupted.

The Mithral Age is what some call this narrow period that succeeded the Labashi civil war and the destruction of region trade. A vibrant land trade in precious metals developed, but this time in exotic metals crafted by dwarves and elves. Mithral and adamantine had existed long before this period, but with tin supplies dwindling, these metals became more widespread.

The Age of Steel followed the Mithral Age. It's the time we are in now, with Labash recovering from its warfare and trade restored. The Tashtak no longer control the local supply of tin, but they control something much more important: the secret to steel. Dammeshek, the capitol of Tash, holds this arcane secret. Dammeshek Steel is now widely coveted everywhere, and part of the Labash recovery is in the trade of these finished weapons (but not their method of creation). Many Dammeshek Steel weapons are double edged, with a slightly darker edge of cold iron juxtaposed against the shiny razor sharp steel edge. This is so that the wielder can take advantage of the steel edge most of the time while having a means to vanquish devils if necessary. Dammeshek Steel is still very rare, much like mithral and adamantine. The steel is highly prized for use in creating magical weapons and armor (considered Masterwork).

What will happen next? The spread of steel will likely occur next, provided others can make reasonable copies of the Dammeshek technique. On the battlefield, one is likely to find a mishmash of weaponry, with spearmen with bronze tips and iron short swords while heroes may use ancient adamantine blades or state of the art Dammeshek Steel.

Dammeshek Steel