Saturday, February 11, 2017

Into the wilds (of publishing)

Proving, once and for all, that Avremier 0e was not a fluke - the first supplement, Dhavon, is in the can.
Pre-order copies were printed and bound yesterday - now, they just need to be trimmed.

Plans for PDF and PoD editions of all Avremier books are still progressing. Stay tuned.

The next Avremier 0e supplement, Mauvolg, is already in the works. Updates will continue.

It seems this blog is transitioning from stream-of-consciousness D&D randomness to Mothshade Concepts Avremier 0e updates and peeks. For now, this is likely to continue.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fantasy Pair-O-Dice

Avremier is not my idea of a perfect fantasy world.

I open with this because I want to be clear. Avremier was not created to be everything I wanted in fantasy gaming. It also wasn't the result of my being a "frustrated writer." I am, in fact, a "published writer." It may be my writer's soul that shaped the Avremier setting.

Does Avremier include a lot of fantasy elements that I particularly enjoy? Of course it does. I'm not doing all of this as some kind of karmic penance. More importantly, Avremier includes a lot of fictional, historical, mythological, and sociological elements that I find interesting. The years I've spent running campaigns set in Avremier have helped me develop those elements, and to decide what works.

Don't misconstrue that last statement. I've kept some elements that don't seem to work. Either, because I particularly like them, or, because I feel they are essential to the setting. As I hear far too often in response to specific questions, "It's your game - do what you want."  I happen to feel it is a game that belongs to all the participants, but I may be in the minority.

So, I never really set about to create a fantasy setting that was better than the others. I never thought to emulate an existing fantasy world. Bits and pieces of inspiration were borrowed from many sources (some of which I've listed elsewhere), but mostly as reference for my own concepts - as shortcuts. Less work - more fun, right?

I was pretty clear on what I didn't want, but the rest came about organically through stories I wanted to share (not tell), and concepts I wanted to explore. Through the years, as my tastes and interests changed, so did Avremier. Today's setting is practically unrecognizable from the world I was building in 1984. While it may be a "best of" the various flavors and iterations that Avremier has endured, it isn't my ideal world. It was never meant to be. And, it never will be.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

From the Archives - Mara Imperium

The following is a behind-the-scenes look at a bit of Avremier setting development.

When creating some primordial gods for the setting, my mind settled upon serpents for their forms. Snakes are very primitive animals, in structure. They figure in many myths and folklore tales. And so on. The first such god was a gigantic “world serpent” named Erebus — after the earliest darkness of Creation. I had the idea to break my world in half by the actions of a titanic serpent that was imprisoned within, until it broke free. Kind of a Midgard Serpent in reverse. I do things like that. Well, this proto-serpent-deity spawned three offspring in the process. The three were named Naga, Coua, and Mara. I decided they would form a small, but influential, pantheon.

Erebus was known as the God-Eater. Erebus hunted and devoured deities of all kinds. Erebus represented the all-encompassing darkness of the void, swallowing everything — even light. Naga would be the serpent of earth and fire. A violent and volcanic force of destruction. Coua would be Naga’s opposite — a deity of air and fire, as well as the patron of couatls (coua…couatls…so clever). Mara was the only female of the group. She had more of her father in her, being an entity of darkness and desire. Where Naga was evil, and Coua was good — Mara was neither…like their father.

Erebus quickly abandoned its former prison, and its offspring. Left to fend for themselves, the fledgling deities immediately descended to the broken world below to learn what they could. Upon discovering they were gods, the three set about dominating and developing nations under their influence. Centuries later, these three realms are Matrupaj, Temruzael, and the Mara Imperium.

Matrupaj started out as a typical “evil serpent kingdom” kind of place. Over years of development, that has changed. Temruzael is a rather mythic realm influenced by Mesoamerican culture and religion. The Mara Imperium has always been the largest and most influential of the three. So, of course, it has enjoyed the most detail and development. Once I decided the Imperium would be ruled by some of the classic female monsters of Greek myth, the rest just sort of fell into place.

The Mara Imperium is beloved of Mara, the only female deity of the serpent pantheon. Thus, the Imperium is a matriarchy. Being older than human habitation of Avremier, the Imperium developed entirely without human influence. This allowed me to make the place as alien as I wanted. Government is organized into groups of three — three groups of three, to be exact. Those who rule from the throne are the gorgons. The gorgons come from three distinct bloodlines, modeled after the three gorgon sisters of myth: Medusa, Euryale, and Stheno. As Medusa was known as “the Queen,” her bloodline is “most royal.” Therefore, most Empresses have been of the “Medusan” bloodline. Members of this bloodline are noticeable by their “golden locks.” Those of true descent will have gold-colored snakes for hair. Those of the Euryale line have black locks, while Stheno’s descendants have red snakes for hair. Most of these features are adapted directly from the myths.

Other than gorgons, the other two bloodlines that form the upper castes of the Imperium are those of Empusa and Mormo. While less important, these two lineages have their own distinct traits. Suffice to say, the Imperium is almost always ruled by gorgons. Their capital city is even named Gorgosa. The middle and lower castes are made up of serpentfolk and other mutated humanoids. Those humans that now inhabit the Imperium are prisoners and slaves. Mammalian races are seen as inferior to the other citizens of the Imperium.

After the “core five” booklets for Avremier are finished, there are many more supplements already outlined for future production. Mara Imperium is one. It will focus mostly on the Imperium itself, with some details of Matrupaj and Temruzael as space permits. Hopefully, in 2018.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017: The Year of Avremier

Now that the Avremier setting has been unleashed upon the world in published form, the plan is to keep the momentum going. For "reasons," the Dhavon supplement did not get finished by the end of 2016. That lapse should be corrected by the end of January 2017.

Work on the next supplement, Mauvolg, is already progressing. We are hoping for a mid-year release. Other projects are also scheduled along the way. Some adventures. Some smaller (less-expensive) supplements. Some Duckin' & Braggin'.

Mothshade Concepts will be attending GaryCon 2017. We're planning to attend GameholeCon as well, later in the year.

The Mothshade Concepts shop for DriveThruRPG is in the works. PDF files are being mercilessly edited and polished for download and print-on-demand.

Mothshade Concepts and associated projects will be taken very seriously by those involved - namely, myself. Serious-to-the-point-of-quitting-my-day-job-seriously. If not this year, then a year soon-to-come. This is what we do. And, as long as we do what you want to support - it is all we care to do.

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016: the year in review.

The numbers:

Games run: 0.
RPG books written: 2.
RPG books published: 1.
Fledgling OSR publishing companies founded: 1.
Cons attended: 2.
Online artist accounts deleted: 1.
Online artist accounts put into use: 1.

2016 has been the year of Avremier and Mothshade Concepts. For the entire year, I've put aside my fiction efforts in favor of this crazy 0e project I've embarked upon. I created an homage to the original Greyhawk booklet, using my own Avremier setting, and people wanted a copy. Thus, the spark was ignited. Today, there is a production schedule to carry me well into 2018. My wife even sees me doing this full-time by then.

I'm writing. I'm editing. I'm drawing. I'm doing layout. And proofing. And publishing. And managing. And shipping. And marketing. And networking. And planning. And meeting deadlines. And going back for more.

There will be a Mothshade Concepts shop online for PDF and Print-on-Demand. There has been talk and consideration of plushies, shirts, prints, and mugs. It's insane over here.

In truth, it all started with my personal OD&D compilation project. That's where I take all the 0e material I can find in the original three-volume set + supplements, The Strategic Review, and The Dragon magazine - then I compile it all, edit for content and clarity, then organize it all into three full volumes for a comprehensive 0e rules guide. Then, I give it away as a free PDF. The first volume should be coming in the first quarter of 2017.

Because the limited print runs of the Avremier booklets keep selling out soon after they are announced, each booklet will have to be offered through online retail such as DriveThruRPG. Mothshade Concepts is not intended to be a print publisher. It is also a one-bug operation at this time.

Let's see what 2017 brings.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lay of the land - Dhavon

Not the full map - mostly the County of Brising
The Avremier campaign setting has been in development for over 30 years. In that time, I've set down few details that weren't necessary to run the ongoing game. Even my maps were fairly rudimentary, and subject to change as needed. Now that Avremier is being published, all of that has changed. It is time to set it all down in hard and firm detail. So, for the first time ever, the entire region of Dhavon is arranged and labeled. This process involved some difficult decisions. You see, the setting has gone through a number of iterations that have manifested as distinct points in history. I am now deciding which era of the campaign is appropriate for this project. Not to mention all the mapping.

Included is a screenshot from the working manuscript file. The Counties of Dhavon begin to take actual and permanent shape.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Avremier in Print - How We Got Here and Where We're Going

This entry will attempt to address all the questions and curiosities offered by those who have been following this project, and those who continue to support it today. Some of what follows has been said before, but I would like to put everything into perspective, as well as make an attempt to cover it all. It won't be short.

This is my first and only campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons game. Development of what would evolve into this setting began around 1982. Truthfully, there were glimmers even before then, but I consider 1982 the point at which it all started to come together as a place for gaming. I've never run a game in a published setting and I've never run a module. It's just been Avremier. Not that I don't have other settings and adventures on my shelves. Not that I haven't run characters of my own in the worlds and dungeons of others. I've just been developing Avremier for my entire life.

Until this year (2016), Avremier existed entirely as semi-organized and piecemeal notes intended solely for my own use. Nothing was written for others to read, understand, or utilize. In recent years, I've been looking back to the beginnings of the D&D game. My nostalgia was probably rooted in a longing for something I've long admired, but never owned: the original rule booklets first printed for the D&D game. The first three in the boxed set, plus the supplements that followed. Then, a reprint collector's set was released. Though I've had PDFs of the original booklets, my desire for physical printed copies was great. So, I ordered a set for myself. That was probably the trigger. That - and being introduced to Ernie Gygax.

My exposure to D&D has included every edition of the game, except 4e. I've read the 4e books, but had no desire to play. Every other edition, I have played - and enjoyed. Now, I find myself appreciating the pre-2e versions of the game more and more. With the growing OSR movement, I find myself in excellent company. Old-School is in fashion once again and I couldn't be happier. After acquiring the reprint set, I realized I still didn't have everything I felt I needed. The reprints were nice, but they weren't all faithful to the originals. That wouldn't do. Not for what I had in mind. So, I set about finding and buying excellent specimens of the original booklets for my collection and my reference. The surge of excitement and satisfaction as I completed the set with a pre-edit copy of Gods, Demigods & Heroes is hard to describe.

Now, I have long wished to have been there at the beginning. Those early days when this entire hobby/genre was being born and shaped. Holding those early booklets and reading through them takes me right back to that time - even though I was only about five years old then. Hell, I started writing my first fantasy story soon after. I have always been here. At the time, I hadn't seen any compilations of all the early rules in one convenient volume. All the rules and added options from The Strategic Review and The Dragon magazine. Everything that would become AD&D and beyond. So, I set out to do it myself. I started to research and compile all the information I felt was necessary. I started to write my own compiled and edited edition of the 0e rules.

At some point, I felt compelled to set my own Avremier campaign down in a coherent form. Mostly for myself. But also with some intent to share it with those who expressed interest in seeing it all for themselves. Some of my players. Some of my online friends and fellow gamers. The time felt right. In the end, I decided to create an Avremier volume in the format and appearance of the original Greyhawk supplement. It just felt right. Besides, it also seemed like less work than setting it all down in some later rules format - though, that is planned for future development.

The booklet started entirely as a personal vanity project. I wanted to see Avremier as a "little brown booklet" with the look and feel of the originals. I wanted to hold it in my hands. I wanted to see if I could even do such a thing. Yes, I can write. I can even draw. But, I'd never seriously delved into desktop publishing. I'd never put my own work into print - but, I was employed in a professional print shop. I obtained kind permission to do a small print run with my own paper and files. As is my wont, I posted a brief announcement on my Facebook page...because there are people that follow my projects - often to my great surprise. Well, they managed to surprise me further.

People wanted printed copies of my little Avremier booklet. People that had never played my game. People that have never played D&D. People that have never played RPGs. After I recovered from the shock, I realized there was significant planning to be done. The print run had to be expanded - I'd only planned on about ten copies. One for me, one for my current players, and a few to give away as gifts. Suddenly, I had cause to double the count. Actually, there was cause to triple it. Suddenly, I was a small, independent RPG publisher.

A wee bit of panic ensued. I didn't want to refuse anyone. People were seriously clamoring for copies. People were excited. That got me excited. It also got me a little anxious. This was no longer personal. People were telling me to take their money in exchange for my work. Suddenly, I had to produce the best little booklet I possibly could. I had to give everyone as close to their money's worth as possible. Yes, I HAD to. In my mind, it was essential. That's just how I am. It's an honor thing. As a result, I had to become something else - something more. I had to become Mothshade Concepts.

Yes, I created a tiny little company of one frantic guy and a home desktop PC. I got organized. I created a Facebook page for Mothshade Concepts. I outlined a production schedule. I started doing drawings for the book. I had my wife pose for a reference photo for the cover art - I wanted the cover to be as close to great as possible. I taught myself how to draw a hippopotamus - flying. I set up a rudimentary shipping process from my home office. I edited the hell out of my manuscript to make it as perfect as possible - even recruiting a few generous volunteers to help. Otherwise, it was all me. It had to be. This was my rite of passage. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it - from start to finish.

And I did. On-schedule. I was stunned again. I had reached a place I'd honestly doubted was accessible to me. I was a self-publisher. And, when I say "self-publisher," I mean it exactly as written. I published myself. I wrote it. I did the layout. I did the overall editing. I drew every piece of art. I created the PDF file. I printed the pages and cover. I put them together into a booklet. I packaged and addressed the finished booklets. With help from my amazing wife, I saw those bastards shipped throughout the world - yes, the world. There are people in Canada, UK, Denmark, and Australia with copies of this thing.
The rush was even greater this time. Mothshade Concepts was born and Avremier had been set loose upon the world. But, it was only the beginning. It is impossible to cram even a small portion of the entire setting into one little booklet - even one that included more pages than the originals. Avremier was only the first of a set. I had to create and publish the rest. That's where I am now. The second volume is nearly done, with at least three more to follow. My production schedule beyond that is daunting, to say the least.

The Avremier project is a heartfelt homage to the original rule booklets published in the 1970s. To own them does not mean you can sit down and easily run an Avremier game. That was not the intent when I started down this road. Things have changed drastically since. I will need to reach higher. There has been talk of Kickstarters. I'm making plans for that. Avremier will need to be released in a fully compiled volume that includes everything needed to actually run an Avremier game or campaign. There will also need to be editions compatible with later editions of the game. These are also scheduled to happen - eventually. As long as I am an army of one, it is hard to say how long this will take. I have detailed outlines of the foreseeable future of Mothshade Concepts' output. I am making contacts and friends in the OSR/RPG industry. I am learning as much as I possibly can along the way. I am taking this very seriously. Someday, I hope to employ minions to help make it all happen. I refuse to ask anyone to work for free - except myself.

Mothshade Concepts will be more than just Avremier. It will probably remain OSR-oriented, at least for now. Other products are already in the works. Everything from adventures to t-shirts. Referee and player aids to plush toys. Whatever our supporters want. Yes - "our." I have to think of myself as an entity now. It's about the only way I'll get through this without my head exploding.