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.


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