Results From the PARPG Play Test

MeatSo @Rolling20s and I were finally able to discuss his visit to SCARAB two weekends ago as well as the results of his play tests of the Probability Angels RPG. As I mentioned last week, the whole concept of attending smaller, regional conventions was scrapped. @Rolling20s ended up leaving the convention and driving north to a house full of friends where he was guaranteed a play test.

First, I want to thank, @celeloriel, @daniel14159@TheUniverseGM@cadorette, and @nezumi_hebereke for agreeing to be guinea pigs. Helpful, fun, witty, and intelligent, they proved to be most able guinea pigs indeed. Please give them a hand, ladies and gentlemen.

Their play test was recorded and I finally got a chance to listen to it this morning. There was a lot more good than bad, in my opinion, but clearly lots of things need work.

For starters, there’s a ton of information to get across before the players can dive in and actually start playing. This is normal for any game, you have to get a sense of the rules before you can play, but briefly explaining a new dice system and the world of Probability Angels is quite a challenge. @Rolling20s had his hands full. I mean I cant even explain my world.

We’re attempting to build this so it can be run at conventions, so I think some front loading of information is to be expected, but a much quicker and cleaner version needs to be worked out. One of the players came up with: “You’re immortal justice ghosts! Now start rolling dice!”

Which isn’t too bad.

I’ve learned from writing synopsis after synopsis until I want to barf that the urge to put in every cool little detail you’ve come up with has to be quashed. You have to know that you can’t cover everything. You should put in enough to hook the reader, even if it’s somewhat misleading or glosses over some big details, and then trust them to catch up. Same concept needs to be implemented here.

Secondly, some of the mechanics on the dice side of things need to be tweaked. That is something that happens on into infinity for games like this, you can always tweak things. So that wasn’t a surprise.

The worst thing to come out of this experiment, though, was that @Rolling20s has decided that he can’t represent me, with the attention that a sponsor deserves, at future conventions. He is currently working on two other games of his own design, Shadows of the Collegium and School Daze, not to mention anything else he comes up with (most of which is quite awesome), and he came to the conclusion that his attention was too split to run the PARPG as per our current arrangement.  He still wants to shape this into a workable game and run it, but as a fan not as a marketer. This wasn’t a big shock to me as his to-do list has been growing and growing recently and I’m glad that we both realized it.

That being said, in my mind @Rolling20s is still the guy, even if he doesn’t think he can be the guy. He’s just the guy. I have no other guy in the wings, for starters, but, also…he’s just the guy. So I’m calling this a hiatus. I don’t know what word he is using.

Anyway, the plus side of the play test was listening to all of these strangers have fun in my world. And I think they were having fun. Interruptions and confusion and gaffs aside, there were some moments of pure awesome buried in this gaming session (not to mention a reference to one of my favorite shows, Archer).

There is meat here. Succulent, delicious meat. Currently, how best to prepare and serve this meat is a mystery. But there is meat. Do not doubt it.

I’ll put it like this. @Rolling20s and I have managed to put a game together where people were laughing and having fun for an hour and a half while their characters wrestled with the notion of whether or not a dragon running amok inside of an iceberg was real.

I consider that quite an achievement.

Looking Forward

I was hoping to discuss how the most recent convention/play test/Probability Angels RPG marketing thing went, but it’s getting late and @Rolling20s is still on the road and I won’t be getting a full debriefing in time to write this.

Chalk that up to poor time management on my part. I forgot what day of the week it was due to the three day weekend. That counts as poor time management, right?

Anyway, I do have some information. One play test was undertaken at the convention and the few players involved had a ton of fun. However, we appeared to have picked a convention that wasn’t ideal, it was difficult for @Rolling20s to get players for our particular type of game, and the first session had to be outright cancelled. So he bailed and headed north to meet up with some friends in the Baltimore area. These friends were definitely the right kind of gamers and he was guaranteed a good play test with a full table (there were only two players at the session he was able to run).

I feel like I should have a map on the site with a “Where’s @Rolling20s?” pin on it or something.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve heard except for some tweets here and there. I’ll do a full breakdown next post.

In other news, I will be undertaking another book tour in a couple of months.

I did a book tour back in the fall and was, frankly, underwhelmed. I was confused most of the time, did not feel like my hostess was promoting my book as much as she was cramming it into any site that would take it, I answered a humongous set of questions that have yet to appear anywhere and, well, it didn’t do much for me sales-wise.

This was, again, mostly my fault. I wanted to see what these book tours were all about and I tried a very very cheap one. I got what I paid for, but I did learn how they work and that I really enjoy answering interview questions.

For awhile now I’ve been toying with the idea of doing another one if I could find the right host, but that was an absolute nightmare.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this but people on the internet are insane. When I contacted book tour sites people were writing back in all caps, people were writing back in gibberish, people were writing six emails in one day and then not responding to me ever again. One lady seemed okay, but then she promised me that if I hired her I would get the number one spot on Google for the search term “urban fantasy author.” That’s a big red flag. It says, over and over again, in Google’s how-to pages and webmaster pages that no one can ever guarantee a top slot. Ever. I asked this lady what she had meant by her email, giving her a chance to explain herself, and she replied, “It’s a secret,” and then used some emoticon I’ve never seen before.

However, just as I was about to give up, I tried one more site that offers internet book tours and was completely blown away. I was contacted professionally and promptly, and when I did manage to set some time aside for a phone call all of my trick questions were answered correctly. The woman who runs the business was smart, kind, and, most importantly maybe, wildly enthusiastic about marketing books.

So I have that little adventure to look forward to in the coming months.

Otherwise my life has been boring and cold with a few showers of postseason football.


Convention Number Two

If you hired us, you never would have died in the first place

Your foot taps nervously on the ice, a light crunch sounding from the ever-present frost sucking onto the floor of the Fortress of Solitude. You’ve spent the last three months of your afterlife inside of this iceberg, but you still haven’t gotten used to it and the cold air molests the back of your neck, your wrists, your face, trying to slither its way into your clothes and freeze you to death.

Jonathan’s cavernous voice is echoing all throughout the huge ice chamber and even as your back grows cold from an errant draft of air your stomach churns like boiling lead.

Graduation. This is it. Three months of training and your final test is about to take place before you can become a true member of the Guardathings.

So that’s how it starts.

This weekend @Rolling20s is headed to his second gaming convention,  SCARAB in South Carolina, as a marketer for Joseph Devon Industries. You may remember our first attempt at this back in October. I sent @Rolling20s to a smaller convention with a table set up in the sales hall and no business cards. It was not a rousing success, sales-wise, but we learned a lot and decided on a new course of action. Instead of manning a table with minimal passing foot traffic, it might be a lot more effective to design a tabletop RPG based on The Matthew and Epp Stories and have @Rolling20s run said game at the next convention.

Which is exactly what we did. And what the opening paragraphs of this post are about.

We didn’t work out every detail of the game we developed, but we did put together a hell of a one-off adventure using the FATE dice system which stars you as a Guardathing about to graduate to active duty inside Jonathan’s ice fortress. Just one final test left and then you can start your first detail!

Guarding Kyo!

Yeah. Then things continue to get worse from there. Hee-hee.

I’m rather proud of what we’ve put together and I really think it’ll be a lot of fun, draw people in, and hopefully sell some books.

Results will be reported next week as well as, hopefully, some recordings of game play.

Now get out there and get to work; those testers aren’t going to guard themselves.

The $.99 Price Point in Publishing

ninety nine cent booksThere have been a lot of articles recently, and not so recently, about how much e-books should cost. Obviously this will always be up for debate, but over the course of last year somehow Kindle self-publishers landed at $.99 as the correct answer for now.

Why $.99? Well for starters that’s the lowest you can go. There’s also a lot of allure in those double digits to the right of the decimal point. Something priced at $1 seems, somehow to our brains, to be much more expensive than something priced $.99.

iTunes and the iStore probably have a lot to do with it, too. $.99 has been their reigning price point for awhile now (though individual songs are creeping back up) and I think it just makes sense to people that digital whatzimahoos should be $.99.

As I mentioned, there’s been a lot of dicussion about this. Some people think it’s good idea, there’s a nice breakdown from earlier last year over at CNET.

Some people think it’s a horrible idea, this article from the Huffington Post thinks $.99 cent books are going to undermine the market and cause a price war that will never end.

I’m not here to discuss the ins and outs of this too much. I’m just here to say that no matter what people think, or write, or preach, or argue, or believe, the fact is simply that $.99 IS the price point for Kindle books.

How do I know?

Because I dropped the price of Probability Angels to $.99 a few weeks ago and I’ve sold more copies since then than I did all of last year. I do have a new ad campaign running based on this price drop, but I’ve run ad campaigns before and never seen results like this.

Is this good? Is this bad?

How should I know? But it is what it is and reality can never be ignored, no matter how pretty your arguments are.

Frankly, I’m of the opinion that future authors will generate revenue from a wide variety of sources, and not just on royalties from book sales, so I’m not particularly worried.

Plus, as I mentioned, the price of music is creeping back up so I don’t entirely think $.99 is the permanent price for an e-book.

But it IS the price of e-books right now.

Full stop.