[19:02] <+KevinCrawford> Thanks, Dan. For those who’ve come by, I’m Kevin Crawford, the sole manifestation of Sine Nomine Publishing. This particular Q&A is on Starvation Cheap, my most recent Kickstarter effort. It’s a supplement on planetary warfare for my free Stars Without Number sci-fi RPG. Despite that, I’m happy to answer other questions that might crop up about my other games
[19:03] <+KevinCrawford> Such games number Spears of the Dawn, Other Dust, Scarlet Heroes, and Silent Legions, all sharing the same systems sensibilities with an avid interest in sandbox campaigns and GM tools.
[19:03] <+KevinCrawford> That said, I’ll be glad to start taking questions now.
[19:03] <~Dan> Thanks, Kevin! The floor is open to questions!
[19:03] <&Sam> How do you see this supplement interacting, if at all, with something like Skyward Steel?
[19:04] <&Sam> I’m thinking in terms of say, combining naval and planetary combat actions.
[19:04] <+KevinCrawford> I like to keep my supplements somewhat self-contained, so readers don’t feel obligated to get a whole library to make sense of the latest book. But the two fit together quite comfortably, really, if you want to run a space ‘n turf campaign with naval PCs and ground-pounders.
[19:05] <+KevinCrawford> The biggest difference is that Starvation Cheap provides strategic mass combat rules, whereas Skyward Steel doesn’t offer specific large-scale combat guidelines.
[19:05] <+GenoFoxx> just how devastating is the most powerful weapon? and who would have access to it?
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[19:05] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, Guest16! You can set your name with the /nick command; e.g., /nick Dan 🙂 )
[19:06] <+KevinCrawford> The two supplements “make sense” together, however, in that the rules for armies and military units can be read across into the cargo spaces and life support limits of Skyward Steel ships, so you can figure out just how many regiments that fleet of troop carrier ships can move.
[19:06] <+KevinCrawford> As for your question, GenoFoxx, it depends on what the tech level of the defenders is.
[19:07] <+KevinCrawford> If you’re dealing with a bunch of tech-primitives at TL0-TL2 and you have a spaceship in orbit, well, life is going to be extremely unhappy for them. There are rules for orbital strikes and nuclear attacks, and there’s a reason that most lostworlder princes put “anti-space defenses” at the very top of their shopping list with far traders.
[19:07] <+GenoFoxx> just call me crazy and go full on Level 5
[19:08] <~Dan> Any Death Star-like planet busters?
[19:08] <+GenoFoxx> I know that is very to extremely rare for anyone to access to but it does happen
[19:09] <+KevinCrawford> TL5 ranges from “much better than anything you have” to “plot device space magic”. There are guidelines for throwing a TL5 force against TL4 regulars, but specific pieces of tech can range from power supplies that never run out to “If the enemy gets this working, we lose.”
[19:09] <+KevinCrawford> For example, TL5 land mines are semi-sentient, and they really hate you. They like to burrow under where you’re sleeping and wait for you to wake up.
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[19:11] <~Dan> (Did you see my planet-buster question, Kevin? 🙂 )
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[19:12] <~Dan> wb, KevinCrawford1!
[19:12] <+KevinCrawford1> Bah. Infernal wobbly client I’ve got. Missed all since (done)
[19:12] <~Dan> Did you see my planet buster question, Kevin?
[19:13] <+KevinCrawford1> Nothing explicitly labeled as a planet buster, but that’s because any ship is a planet buster against low-tech enemies. If they don’t have braker guns or other planetary defenses, any ship can drop an asteroid on them given enough time.
[19:13] <&Le_Squide> Is there any integration with the mecha rules from the expanded corebook, or do they just fall under the ECM umbrella?
[19:14] <+KevinCrawford1> They’re part of the ECM umbrella. You _need_ ECM on your battlefield. You lose it against TL4+ enemies, and horrible things happen to you.
[19:14] <~Dan> ECM?
[19:14] <+consilium> ‘Electronic CounterMeasures’.
[19:15] <&Sam> consilium beat me to it.
[19:15] <+KevinCrawford1> Quantum electronic counter-measures. Lose them, and a TL4 can drone your command staff before breakfast.
[19:15] <~Dan> Ah! Gotcha.
[19:15] <~Dan> Also, good evening, consilium!
[19:15] <+consilium> “Don’t get hacked/jammed/shorted-out/otherwise have your squiggly bits of your important gear turn bad”.
[19:15] * +consilium wave!
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[19:15] <+KevinCrawford1> It’s also why armies still love artillery; you can’t ECM a falling shell.
[19:16] <+KevinCrawford1> And yes, there are rules for PCs calling in artillery strikes on people who hurt their feelings.
[19:16] <+KevinCrawford1> (done)
[19:16] <~Dan> Actually, if I could back up a bit: Is this setting-specific?
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[19:17] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, miracula!)
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[19:17] <+KevinCrawford1> Loosely, in that it fits with Stars Without Number’s basic background. But the war generation tools and the mission tags are all genre-specific rather than setting-specific. It’s mil-SF; gravtanks and laser rifles and mud and sudden, gruesome death.
[19:17] <+KevinCrawford1> I wrote it to play nicely with just about any standard sci-fi setting.
[19:17] * ~Dan nods
[19:18] <+KevinCrawford1> (done)
[19:18] <~Dan> Sounds a bit like Hammer’s Slammers, OGRE, that sort of thing. Fair statement?
[19:18] <~Dan> Starship Troopers?
[19:18] <+KevinCrawford1> Yep. Those are the inspirations for the missions and situations it’s meant to create.
[19:19] <+Burn0ut> Your GM specific content is some of the best on the market, how does this game add to that?
[19:19] <~Dan> Is there any particular focus on space vs. planetary combat?
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[19:19] <~Dan> (Howdy, BPIJonathan!)
[19:19] <&Sam> Space combat is pretty much covered in Skyward Steel.
[19:19] <&Sam> But I’ll let KevinCrawford1 answer. 😦
[19:20] <+KevinCrawford1> Starvation Cheap tries to deal with a GM’s basic mil-SF problems of variety, verisimilitude, and context. A battlefield’s a battlefield, and while it’s all very exciting, it’s not clear just how PCs are supposed to _mean anything_.
[19:20] <+KevinCrawford1> It’s utterly implausible to imagine they can shoot enough enemies to make a real difference in a major battle, so how does a GM turn a conflict like that into an evening’s entertainment?
[19:21] <+KevinCrawford1> For this, I’ve got guidelines and tools for creating “missions”- particular tasks that the PCs are supposed to accomplish. If they can pull it off, it’s going to nudge the battle’s outcome in their favor.
[19:22] <~Dan> I’m assuming you have mass combat rules to adjudicate how the battle as a whole is going around them?
[19:22] <+KevinCrawford1> There are “mission tags” the GM can put together. Each one describes a basic problem on the battlefield- Angry Biosphere, Mutinous Troops, Hopeless Confusion, et cetera.
[19:22] <+BPIJonathan> I dont know if this has been asked: All I own is SWN Core, can I use this without having to get anything additional?
[19:23] <+KevinCrawford1> Beneath each tag it’s got a list of 12 possible objective types that the PCs can be called on to accomplish- like “Hold a bottleneck long enough to fix gear” or “Destroy a captured gun emplacement”.
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[19:24] <+KevinCrawford1> Each also has six complications to the situation, like “The tech fails at the worst possible moment” or “The wrong thing was sabotaged by the enemy, confusing everyone involved”.
[19:24] <+KevinCrawford1> The GM uses these tags to assemble a mission, dresses it up with the other encounter and event tables in the section, and ends up with a mission-adventure they can use for a night’s play.
[19:25] <+KevinCrawford1> And yes, BPIJonathan, this works with the free version of SWN without anything else required.
[19:25] <+BPIJonathan> I have a paid for version. 😀
[19:25] <+KevinCrawford1> And yep, Dan, the mass combat rules are designed to be simple and quick. 2d6+your force’s strength versus 2d6+their force’s strength. Compare to a table, apply damage to the units.
[19:25] <+KevinCrawford1> Then you’ll be all set, BPI
[19:26] <+KevinCrawford1> The focus is pretty exclusively on ground combat, though it covers what kind of bad things happen if the enemy manages to get space superiority over a world.
[19:26] <~Dan> And the missions the PCs can accomplish will affect that calculation?
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[19:27] <+KevinCrawford1> If they achieve their primary objective, the table shifts one level in their favor. Achieve all objectives, primary and secondary, and it shifts two levels.
[19:27] <+KevinCrawford1> Achieve no objectives whatsoever, and it shifts one level against you.
[19:27] <~Dan> (Howdy, Geek2theRight!)
[19:28] <+KevinCrawford1> I wrote it to be a simple matter, because very few groups share the same level of interest or talent at actual wargaming. (done)
[19:28] <~Dan> How does the potential for nukes (and, presumably, worse things) being flung about affect ground combat in the setting?
[19:29] <+KevinCrawford1> TL4 troops have easy access to nuke snuffer tech, which damps thermonuclear explosions. It’s very hard to completely disable this tech, but it can be done- and against primitive enemies, they haven’t got it at all.
[19:29] <+KevinCrawford1> If you end up naked, however… well, nukes are not hard to make at TL4.
[19:30] <~Dan> Are there worse things than nukes available?
[19:30] <+KevinCrawford1> Oh, vastly worse. They don’t get used a lot, because very few enemies are interested in wiping out their civilization in the backblast of some pretech monster-virus.
[19:31] <+KevinCrawford1> Still, if they’re crazy or desperate enough, they might not care that they’re dooming their planet to unspeakable destruction.
[19:31] <&Le_Squide> Are there any elements that people have requested for this book (or for SWN in general) that you decided didn’t fit and thus omitted?
[19:31] <+KevinCrawford1> Detailed mass combat rules with a genuine game aspect are very popular in some quarters. The problem is that I can’t really be sure the entire group will be interested in that sort of thing.
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[19:32] <+KevinCrawford1> Since Starvation Cheap is built to get the entire party into the decision-making process for strategic warfare, it has to be lucid enough that they don’t have to master a second game to perform reasonably.
[19:32] <&Le_Squide> Any chance we’ll see something like this for the Red Tide setting?
[19:33] <+KevinCrawford1> It’s possible- and really, the rules here can work fine for Red Tide, since they’re abstracted out to a degree.
[19:33] <~Dan> Red Tide?
[19:33] <+KevinCrawford1> A divison is a division, after all, and swap “tech level” for “available magic or weird natural powers”, and you’re set.
[19:34] <+KevinCrawford1> The game world I use for Scarlet Heroes and the Labyrinth Lord books “Red Tide”, “An Echo, Resounding” and “The Crimson Pandect”.
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[19:35] <~Dan> Ah! Gotcha.
[19:35] <~Dan> (brb – please continue)
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[19:36] <&Sam> What prompted you to go full color with this supplement?
[19:36] <+KevinCrawford1> An obligation to improve my skills. I’ve got a basic grasp on the proper use of b/w illustrations in a book, and while I’m no artist I can put out something that looks good and respectable. Color art? Not so much.
[19:37] <+KevinCrawford1> If I ever want to put out a game in color, I need to find a good stable of color artists and get practice at dealing with its special considerations in book production and art direction. That’s expensive.
[19:37] * &Sam nods.
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[19:38] <+KevinCrawford1> And I do want to put out a game in color. Ejiwa Ebenebe has recently done a superb chapter frame for my alt-Tudor game I’ll be working on next year, and I want to see more of that in the book, all illuminated-16th-century style. But again, that takes money.
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[19:39] <&Sam> On an almost wholly unrelated note: I wish you’d been able to do a Q&A for Silent Legions, because that game is rad. But do continue.
[19:39] <+KevinCrawford1> It would have been grand, no doubt, but Silent Legions nearly killed me. And then Starvation Cheap nearly finished thejob.
[19:39] <&Le_Squide> Is that definitely your next project? I noticed that you seem to have named what Advanced Exemplars and Eidolons is building up to Godbound?
[19:39] <~Dan> Well, you are certainly welcome to do so, Kevin. 🙂
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[19:39] <&Sam> Yeah, let’s do the old Godbound thing, since that’s next up.
[19:40] <+KevinCrawford1> Yea, verily. Advanced Exemplars & Eidolons is going to be out as Godbound, and it’s a tricky one.
[19:40] <+KevinCrawford1> It’s not hard to make a game system that creates demigod-level PCs. It’s easy, in fact. The problem is how exactly to give these PCs a worthy set of challenges in a world that respects their abilities.
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[19:41] <+Almaz> There have been various eras of human warfare. Our current era is increasingly based on the principles of information warfare, but before that there was trench warfare, and then before THAT there was formation warfare… Mil-scifi has sometimes intentionally based itself on previous eras, e.g. WH40k paying extensive tribute to trench warfare. What does Starvation Cheap’s warfare “look like” in that sense?
[19:41] <~Dan> (Howdy, Xenesis!)
[19:41] <+Xenesis> Hi dan
[19:41] <+KevinCrawford1> Starvation Cheap ground warfare looks like David Drake, Almaz, more or less.
[19:42] <+KevinCrawford1> With a dose of SEAL Team Six for good measure, and some psychics. Very much small PC fireteams doing dangerous things off alone.
[19:42] <+Almaz> Mmk.
[19:43] <+Almaz> Thank you!
[19:43] <~Dan> Remind me of how powerful psychic powers are in SWN, and how much impact they can have on the typical battlefield?
[19:44] <+KevinCrawford1> Glad to answer. I figured that general model would be the one most relatable to the widest variety of users, plus Space Verdun is something you play with a storygame.
[19:44] <+KevinCrawford1> Psychic powers aren’t dramatically powerful, Dan- certainly not WH40K Librarian-level- but they let the psychic cheat.
[19:45] <+KevinCrawford1> They let them do things that people just shouldn’t be able to do, and so canny planners can use that to hit enemies in ways they can’t reasonably anticipate.
[19:45] <~Dan> Ah. So there aren’t any Akiras wandering the battlefield.
[19:45] <+KevinCrawford1> With a telekinetic, grenades become homing missiles. With a precog, ambushes stop working. With a biopsion, there’s no such thing as an incapacitating injury.
[19:46] <+KevinCrawford1> Nope. No unstoppable psychic war-beasts. Well, in a standard campaign, No telling what you’ll find out toward the edge of civilization.
[19:46] <~Dan> Do I recall correctly that the psychics of Other Dust would fall into that category?
[19:47] <+KevinCrawford1> Yeah, the psychics of Other Dust were some of the most powerful human psychics in existence. There’s a writeup of one in the Cult of the Still Lady freebie on DTRPG.
[19:48] <~Dan> Are they Akira-level?
[19:48] <&Le_Squide> Was Silent Legions particularly draining? (Curious because of your previous comment)
[19:48] <+KevinCrawford1> I’d say it depends on the psychic in question, Dan. The Wraith’s not going to be loud as the Still Lady or the Tyrant, but he’s going to have his own brand of scary to deploy.
[19:48] <+KevinCrawford1> And the difficulty with Silent Legions, Le_Squide, was that it had _so many moving parts_.
[19:49] <+KevinCrawford1> Bad tables are easy to write. You just barf down 4/6/8/10/12/20 entries and go on. _Good_ tables get harder and harder to write the more of them you string together, because the entries in each have to complement and cooperate with the others.
[19:50] <+KevinCrawford1> So for complex random-generation tools like those for the Mythos, or worse, the adventure generation tools, required countless adjustment passes to make the pieces fit together as best as I could make them.
[19:51] <+KevinCrawford1> The tags were excruciating too. Tags are damnably hard to write, because it’s not enough to just lay down a trope, like “Corrupt Clergy”. Fine, put it down, write a paragraph about what it means, but then you have more to do.
[19:51] <+KevinCrawford1> You’ve got to write Friends, and Enemies, and Complications, and Places, and Things. Four examples of each, and each example has to pop, so a GM can see an adventure hook right there.
[19:52] <+KevinCrawford1> So that’s 20 ideas per tag. And with, say, 60 tags….
[19:52] <~Dan> Sounds like quite a learning experience.
[19:52] <+KevinCrawford1> I was tearing out my beard by the time I saw the end of that.
[19:52] <&Le_Squide> oof! If you had to do it again from the bottom up, would you have done anything differently?
[19:53] <+KevinCrawford1> Oh, certainly. You can always do things better the second time around. I look at all of my books and see things I could’ve done better. But it’s best to turn that into work on the next book, and fold that education in there.
[19:54] <&Sam> Since you’ve covered pretty much everything in your SWN supplements thus far, will it be time to go with a new edition after all this?
[19:54] <+Burn0ut> ^^ 🙂
[19:54] <+KevinCrawford1> I’ve got a revised version penciled in for 2017. That’s part of why I’m working on my color art direction skills, so I can do a decent job when it comes time to revise and clean up the game.
[19:55] <&Sam> I saw you mention the possibility of such a thing happening at some point over on RPGnet.
[19:55] <+KevinCrawford1> It’ll be compatible with the current game; just more Stuff in it, in a better package. The same free version, plus a core version with Extra Stuff.
[19:56] <+KevinCrawford1> Next year I’ve got the alt-Tudor game to get put away, and possibly Godbound if I can’t get it done this autumn. But after those are settled, I’d want to go back to SWN. It’ll be six years since I put it out, so it’s time for a cleanup.
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[19:57] <~Dan> Oh dear.
[19:57] <&Sam> He exploded!
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[19:57] <~Dan> wb, KevinCrawford2!
[19:57] <&Sam> Yay, he’s back!
[19:57] <+KevinCrawford2> This is a cantankerous client. I think it’s telling me I should go work some more. But are there any other questions lurking?
[19:57] <&Sam> Any plans to collect all the free material you’ve put out, like the Mandate Archive stuff, into a POD?
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[19:58] <+KevinCrawford2> Vague conceptions of doing so, Sam. It’d be tough to round it all up into something decent-looking, and I hate to charge customers for materials twice in any form.
[19:58] <&Sam> Understandable. I just like the idea of having it all bound and pretty. 🙂
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[19:59] <+Burn0ut> So by saying it’ll be compatible, it won’t be unified to 2d6?
[19:59] <&Le_Squide> Are you talking about a second edition re: time for a cleanup?
[19:59] <~Dan> (Howdy, jinx!)
[19:59] <&Le_Squide> (Ah! Missed that line, disregard)
[20:00] <+KevinCrawford2> Yes- a revised edition rather than a break from the rules. It’ll still have the same system- 2d6, target-20 hit, classes, levels, etc. You’ll be able to use all the existing material with it. It’ll just have additional GM helps, some more character generation options for those who want things complicated, and so forth.
[20:00] <+Burn0ut> thanks 🙂
[20:00] <+jinx> (Thanks Dan! Glad to be back.)
[20:01] <~Dan> Do you need to head out, Kevin? I have you scheduled for 2 hours of “regular time”, but it’s totally up to you.
[20:01] <+KevinCrawford2> Well, I think I can linger if this pesty client lets me.
[20:01] <~Dan> Alrighty then!
[20:01] <+KevinCrawford2> I also think that the mechanical compatibility of SWN with existing old-school games and content is one of the major reasons for its success.
[20:01] <+KevinCrawford2> I don’t want to threaten that by charging off into the weeds of mechanical inspiration.
[20:02] <~Dan> What are your thoughts on the business model of the free core rules?
[20:02] <+KevinCrawford2> I couldn’t possibly have succeeded without it.
[20:02] <+KevinCrawford2> If I’d put a price on SWN or even pay-what-you-wanted it, I’m quite confident it’d have sunk soundlessly beneath the waves.
[20:03] <&Le_Squide> Anything that’s particularly surprised you about your fanbase since you started?
[20:03] <+KevinCrawford2> It gets a little complicated here, but it has to do with the network effect and the way OBS’ mailing lists work.
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[20:03] <~Dan> (Howdy, JamesGillen!)
[20:03] <+JamesGillen> hi
[20:03] <~Dan> OBS?
[20:04] <+KevinCrawford2> SWN is the entry point to my work. It’s the big, shiny, useful free thing that anybody can point to as something for people to try, because it’s free and there’s no sense of obligation about it.
[20:04] <&Sam> OneBookShelf, I think.
[20:04] <+KevinCrawford2> OneBookshelf, the company behind DTRPG/RPGNow makes a mailing list for a publisher of everyone who’s downloaded their stuff. Even their free stuff.
[20:04] <~Dan> Ah! I see.
[20:04] <+KevinCrawford2> So by having a big, enticing freebie there, a lot of people download it. And a lot of people go onto my mailing list. Just as they do every time I put out another freebie.
[20:05] <+KevinCrawford2> As a consequence, I’ve got 45,000 people who take my mails.
[20:05] <+jinx> –that’s a note worth taking, hm. Thank you!
[20:05] <~Dan> Would you recommend that approach to other indie authors, then?
[20:06] <+KevinCrawford2> It depends. It worked magnificently for me because I was able to monetize that work with future for-pay games and supplements. If all I ever had in me was that one book, I’d have gotten no recompense for it.
[20:06] <+KevinCrawford2> But to my mind, that’s okay, because if all you’ve got in you is one game you’re probably not going to make any money at this business anyway.
[20:06] <~Dan> Oh, sure.
[20:06] <+JamesGillen> great point
[20:07] <~Dan> Does Starvation Cheap keep the focus on ground combat, or does it cover atmospheric and naval combat as well?
[20:07] <+KevinCrawford2> The key is absolutely unceasing work. _Never stopping_. I have a 9-5 day job. My day consists of getting up, going to work, coming home, eating supper, and working until it’s time to sleep.
[20:08] <+KevinCrawford2> I take a few hours on the weekend for errands and sanity purposes, but I simply _never stop working_ otherwise. It’s the only way to make the best use of the chances I’ve been given.
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[20:09] <+KevinCrawford2> As for the focus, Dan, it’s fundamentally ground combat. Air and naval combat are abstracted into the mass combat system, though you can have naval-based objectives for a sea-oriented battle if you like.
[20:09] <+danohead> Hi Kevin
[20:09] <+jinx> Do you still have the time to maintain RPGs as a personal hobby, running or playing them? Or does that find its way into a more-structured work task with playtesting and such?
[20:09] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, danohead!)
[20:09] <+KevinCrawford2> I do playtesting with friends, but actually getting to play, myself? Not often. Not often at all.
[20:10] <+KevinCrawford2> It’s a question of momentum, really. I’m in a very comfortable position right now, but that will go away in a hurry if I go silent. Sine Nomine’s sales have doubled every year since I started. I don’t think it will this year, but still, it’s been very good to me.
[20:10] <~Dan> Are there dedicated air and naval craft in the SWN setting, or are they all multi-purpose spacecraft?
[20:11] <~Dan> That’s fantastic, Kevin!
[20:11] <+KevinCrawford2> Some sample air units are given in the gear and vehicles section, and rules are provided for air units, but if you want to customize sea or air vehicles you’re best off grabbing the Engines of Babylon supplement.
[20:12] <+KevinCrawford2> I’ve always been a big partisan of small publishers looking to their own possibilities here. There really is money in this hobby if you’re willing to treat it as a business.
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[20:14] <+KevinCrawford2> Sadly, there’s always more enthusiasm for the _idea_ of writing something than for the actual work of writing, editing, layout, art direction, and tax accountancy. But that’s why there’s profit in actually doing the dirty work.
[20:14] <~Dan> Indeed.
[20:14] <&Silverlion> Lots of hard work.
[20:14] <~Dan> I’ve seen several mentions of Godbound… What is that?
[20:15] <+KevinCrawford2> You’ve never known the magic of RPG publishing until you’ve been up at 3 AM trying to fix an ink coverage problem Lightning Source has kicked back.
[20:16] <+KevinCrawford2> Godbound is an OSR-based game of PC demigods, men and women who’ve inherited the apotheotic fragments of ancient Made Gods, divine golems created by the fallen past.
[20:16] <&Silverlion> Or fix a layout issue from a hired layout person. Or…
[20:16] <+jinx> Do you think you’ll hit a state where you can taper off the momentum of production, either to allow you to focus more on the artistic angle (things that inspire you, but might not be as commercially viable), or more on the business angle (marketing a body of work that already exists)? Or do you think you’ll always need to maintain the same level of productivity to avoid sinking?
[20:17] <+KevinCrawford2> Eventually, jinx, I expect to hit an equilibrium point where the upside of new products balances the decay of older works. I haven’t hit it yet, but it’ll come eventually. By that point I’ll be able to tell whether I’ve got an IP that’s actually worth anything independent of me.
[20:17] <+KevinCrawford2> In the meanwhile, that’s why God made passive index fund investing.
[20:17] <+consilium> Do you consider art assets and graphics to really have so much importance? I hear a /lot/ of talk about a lot of different projects and games delayed because of problems entirely due to art assets and making them exist, but I’ve seen a lot of more obscure works with little or no non-text content, and I consider them some of the best games one could find.
[20:19] <+KevinCrawford2> Art and other conventionally-imagined “production values” do have meaningful importance to a lot of people. They have very little importance to others. The question is finding the right point of balance in production expenses and efforts.
[20:19] <+consilium> So how do you find that balance? What tells you “okay, I’ve put enough time/money/work into putting pretty pictures, I can work on other aspects now”?
[20:19] <+KevinCrawford2> Matt McElroy recently commented that OBS is seeing “high production value” products sell in noticeably better numbers than lowballed products, and he has access to the real numbers. The question is how much correlation is going on.
[20:20] <+KevinCrawford2> Because the shiniest, glossiest books are often put out by the biggest names, who already have marketing advantages. How much is the production, and how much is the IP?
[20:21] <+KevinCrawford2> And you find the balance by harsh experience, consilium. That’s another reason I’m doing Starvation Cheap in full color. I can match the numbers to Suns of Gold for like-to-like supplement comparison and see what the market says.
[20:21] <+consilium> Fair enough, thanks!
[20:22] <+KevinCrawford2> Godbound will be my first full-color game, and I’ll be able to match it to Scarlet Heroes as a rough like-to-like and see if the extra flash is worth it to my customers.
[20:23] <~Dan> Forgive my failing memory, but SWN is a 2d6 roll-under system, correct?
[20:23] <+KevinCrawford2> 2d6+Skill+Attribute mod, beat the difficulty number.
[20:23] <+KevinCrawford2> For combat, it’s OSR-traditional 1d20+bonuses+enemy AC, beat 20 to hit them.
[20:24] <~Dan> Ah, I see.
[20:24] <~Dan> Why the two approaches?
[20:25] <+KevinCrawford2> Backwards compatibility. Keep the hit point totals and attack bonuses within OSR-standard ranges, and you’ve got 40 years worth of network effect to help you.
[20:25] <~Dan> Fair enough. Do you find that using AC in a scifi setting poses any problems, though?
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[20:26] <+KevinCrawford2> Nothing to tarnish the advantages, no. Millions of gamers understand AC just fine, so anything else would have to be awesome enough to outweigh that near-instinctual familiarity.
[20:26] <+jinx> A trend that’s been identified with the ‘most’ ‘mainstream’ RPGs (Pathfinder and D&D 5e being the examples that jump immediately to mind) is the separation of the vocal minority that has an online community and presence, and the majority of relatively silent consumers who play their games in private, network-facing silence.
[20:26] <+jinx> Based on your experience, do you think this is true for ‘indie’ RPGs as well? Or is there a greater reliance on community, social networking, and indirect marketing?
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[20:28] <+KevinCrawford2> I think it has to with the marketing reach of the games. Most indie games have an audience largely restricted to online-active gamers. They can’t get into game store distribution, so it’s DTRPG or bust. As a consequence, these games tend to cater to online minority tastes.
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[20:29] <+KevinCrawford2> Which is just fine, if you’re okay with just serving the online minority. If you work hard enough, long enough, you can percolate out into the wider hobby through online-active players and GMs who introduce their tables to the game.
[20:29] <+KevinCrawford2> But if you confuse the vocal sentiments of a lot of online players with the wishes and interests of the Great Silent Masses, well, you’re not going to get much further than a forum favorite.
[20:30] <&Le_Squide> Is there a reason you went with roll-under abilities for E&E, instead of 2d6+blah? (or 2d8 instead of 2d6 for Scarlet Heroes?)
[20:30] <+KevinCrawford2> Sine Nomine is a tiny one-man imprint with relatively minimal forum buzz. For June, it was also the 15th-largest-selling publisher on DTRPG, if I’m reading my reports correctly.
[20:30] <+jinx> I see, thank you!
[20:31] <+KevinCrawford2> If you have patience and try to build a big tent, you’ll get players with or without forum buzz.
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[20:31] <+KevinCrawford2> And for that, Le_Squide, I wanted to make raw attribute scores more significant.
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[20:32] <+KevinCrawford2> I could’ve turned it into a roll-over prospect by just subtracting the attribute from 21 or something, but that’s a multiplication of effort that doesn’t seem worth it in complication.
[20:32] <+jinx> (Social media plays a significant role in my dayjob, so this is particularly salient for me. Much appreciated!)
[20:33] <+KevinCrawford2> I am very bad at social media, jinx, but bull-headed persistence covers a multitude of sins.
[20:34] * +jinx cackles. “Ain’t that the God’s honest!’
[20:34] <~Dan> So is it the case that Starvation Cheap mostly deals with combat and vehicles in the abstract?
[20:35] <+KevinCrawford2> Mass combat, yes. If the players aren’t involved, it’s something you resolve with a die roll and move on. If players are there in the middle of a fight, however, it gets granular in the old-school way.
[20:36] <+KevinCrawford2> If they want to bounce a tank, they better have an RPG or a lance charge or a nut with a laser cutter and a contempt for his own life. Individual engagements get played out traditionally.
[20:36] <~Dan> Right, but does the book stat out military vehicles?
[20:36] <+KevinCrawford2> Yes, it’s got gravtanks and APCs and TL3 tread-tanks and technical and all the traditional chariots of woe.
[20:37] <~Dan> Ah, cool.
[20:37] <+KevinCrawford2> Actual play at the table tends not to involve many vehicles, however, because PCs usually get out in a hurry. They want to interact with a location, and it’s tough to do that inside an IFV.
[20:38] <~Dan> True.
[20:38] <+KevinCrawford2> Vehicles more often play the role of monsters; big scary things to hide from.
[20:38] <~Dan> Although… you mentioned mechs are involved, IIRC?
[20:38] <+KevinCrawford2> They’re not hardcoded in, since they’re Core-book exclusive, but yes, you can plop a mech on the battlefield and it fits with the other vehicles.
[20:40] <+Burn0ut> Do you watch swan song? if so, who is your favourite character? and have you learned anything from watching someone else run your game?
[20:40] <~Dan> Are your mechs the clunky “walking tank” Battletech variety?
[20:40] <+KevinCrawford2> Adam Koebel’s GM turns have been fascinating to watch.
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[20:41] <+KevinCrawford2> Those have been the most useful bits of Swan Song to me, because they’re hours and hours of interaction with the faction system in a very gritty way. I’ll be going back and re-watching all of them before I clean up factions for revised SWN.
[20:41] <+KevinCrawford2> And my favorite character? Mr. Sicarian, of course, for so valiantly avoiding seemingly-certain death on multiple occaisons.
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[20:41] <~Dan> (wb, jinx!)
[20:42] <+KevinCrawford2> And it depends on the mech, Dan. Heavy shock mechs tend to be clanky, but light mechs might have grav-based flight.
[20:42] <~Dan> Ah, cool.
[20:42] <+KevinCrawford2> And psimechs, well, they might have a lot of things.
[20:43] <~Dan> Do you have OGRE-like supertanks?
[20:43] <+KevinCrawford2> Not explicitly, but that might be fun to scribble out in a freebie article for The Sandbox.
[20:43] <+jinx> (Thanks!)
[20:43] <+BPIJonathan> (Im sorry, I have go. Was nice getting to hear from you Kevin)
[20:44] <+KevinCrawford2> Glad to have you by, BPIJonathan.
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[20:44] <+Burn0ut> As someone who is looking to buy silent legions, what is the major differences between the cult turn in SL and the faction turn from SWN?
[20:44] <+Burn0ut> are*
[20:45] <+KevinCrawford2> Movement. The faction turn in SWN presumes interstellar distances, where it’s not really reasonable to have everything accessible from everywhere. The cult system in SL acknowledges that most locations in a region are easily accessible from anywhere else.
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[20:46] <+KevinCrawford2> Other than that, it’s very similar, albeit with the addition of values to locations which add to a cult’s power and available assets.
[20:48] <~Dan> In what remains of regular time, Kevin, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?
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[20:49] <+KevinCrawford2> For those interested in Godbound, you can see the latest beta of Advanced Exemplars & Eidolons at (Link: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B4qCWY8UnLrcTk9PQ253a05TV2M)https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B4qCWY8UnLrcTk9PQ253a05TV2M . I’ve made a lot of changes in the first Godbound beta, but the rough outlines are there.
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[20:50] <+KevinCrawford2> Expect to see more of that over the next few months, as I get Starvation Cheap arted up and shipped to backers.
[20:51] <~Dan> Excellent!
[20:51] <+KevinCrawford2> Speaking of which; the Starvation Cheap Kickstarter wraps up in 68 hours at (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1637945166/starvation-cheap-planetary-warfare-for-stars-witho)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1637945166/starvation-cheap-planetary-warfare-for-stars-witho
[20:51] <~Dan> Looks like it’s going rather well. 🙂
[20:51] <+Burn0ut> going to grab it 🙂
[20:52] <+KevinCrawford2> Substantially better than I expected for a supplement. I wouldn’t be surprised to hit 1,000+ backers by the time it closes Sunday.
[20:52] * &Sam cheers.
[20:52] <+KevinCrawford2> And that’s mighty generous of you, Burn0ut. You can get the beta link in the first backer-only update.
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[20:53] <+KevinCrawford2> I’ve got an artist absolutely tearing up the slots on it, so I’m hoping to get it ready to ship by the end of September.
[20:53] <+Burn0ut> you’re one of my favourite content creators 🙂 its my pleasure.
[20:54] <+KevinCrawford2> Such charitable sentiments encourage further excruciations. Hopefully Godbound’ll prove useful in turn, with proper tools for creating challenges and foes for superheroic adventurers.
[20:55] <+KevinCrawford2> Any other questions before I return to the unsleeping toils of the book mines?
[20:55] <~Dan> Please feel free to come back to do a Q&A about Godbound. 🙂
[20:55] <+KevinCrawford2> I’ll look forward to the prospect. Thanks for having me on tonight, Dan; it’s been a pleasure to chat with people.
[20:55] <~Dan> No more questions here, Kevin. If you’ll give me just a moment, I’ll get the log posted and give you the link.
[20:56] <&Sam> Thanks for dropping by!
[20:56] <~Dan> Thanks for spending time with us!