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Two years down, and we start the third.

August 19, 2009

As I wrote last year, when forming Rogue Games we view GenCon as the official launch point for all things we want to do. GenCon, for us, is not only a time to enjoy, but the time when we see the most gamers. GenCon offers us a great time to announce what we want to do, and where we hope to go, not only as a company, but as gamers.

GenCon 2009 is over, and if pressed to sum up my feelings with just one word I would say:

Overwhelmed.

Last year I was humbled, this year I am overwhelmed. Why? I was not prepared for the reaction to the games James and I are doing. We are truly fortunate to have found a home in this hobby. We thank you for the support, and for playing our games. If you stopped by the booth and shared your likes and dislikes, thank you. If you bought our games, thank you.

As I did last year, and as I do every year, this post not only serves as a GenCon recap, but the yearly mission statement for Rogue Games. For those who talked with me at GenCon, you know how many cool things are in the works. For those not in attendance, here is everything you missed.

GenCon 2009

This show was without a doubt, a smashing success for Rogue Games. We sold nearly the entire stock brought to the con. Talking with both IPR and Studio2, sales of our product in their booths was strong as well. I was not sure how our sales would be affected with three places to buy our books, and I was happy to see the effect was minimal. Compared to the sales figures from last GenCon, we had a 50% increase in sales in our booth. I was, and continued to be stunned by this.

I learned a lot this year at GenCon, and the big thing is that I need more help. I was not as prepared as I thought I was, nor was I ready for the amount of people needing to talk to me. Next year I am going to have to bump up the help in the booth.

An attempt was made to do demos, and though we had some run through Games On Demand, I am going to have to rethink this from the ground up. My desire to personally run demos is a good one, but without booth help, I just cannot do it all. I am glad my lovely wife, Ariana, and Graeme Davis were there to help, because it was crazy. The other thing I need to do is rethink the booth’s layout. It is time for a little polish to the presentation. Nothing fancy or over the top, but I have to work on signage and the like.

The Colonial Gothic eBook Collection CD was a big hit, and people liked being able to get a taste of Colonial Gothic without buying the book. This will be done next year, and if all goes well, Thousand Suns will have one as well. The Dice Pack was a good idea, but turned into a value added feature to the package deal I ran in the booth. The dice will be back next year, because let’s face it; you can never have too many d12s.

The best idea I had, was also the most effective – The Colonial Gothic Primer. Copies of the first chapter were available, and many people took copies, only to come back after reading it to buy the game. James and I knew the Primers we do are a good thing, but I saw their power at the show. Next year copies of Thousand Suns Primer and Shadow, Sword & Spell’s Primer will be in the booth. I am thinking of including them together in a nice little package.

In all GenCon was very good, and some very cool things are coming out of it for Rogue Games. Like what? Read on.

Colonial Gothic

Ok, let’s get the big news out of the way first: Graeme Davis has signed on with Rogue Games and will be serving as the Line Developer for Colonial Gothic. A formal press release is to come, but this is something that needs to be announced with this. What does this mean? I have help in getting more Colonial Gothic out the door. With the growth we have seen in the past year, I and James just cannot do it all. Graeme is coming on board to help us out, and help me carry out the vision of Colonial Gothic. This does not change anything; in fact, it has allowed me to assemble an 18-month production schedule which will see the release of 6 new books, and a slew of original PDFs.

Yeah, you read that right.

With the revised Colonial Gothic out the door, and work on that done, the fun really begins. Here is the rundown.

Colonial Gothic: French Indian War

This will be the next sourcebook released, and this will be out early next year. The manuscript is now in editing, and this book covers what the title says, the French Indian War. Written by Bryce Whitacre (Colonial Gothic: Defeated Dead), this book is going to have some very cool things. It also carries out the vision James and I have always had with this game – exploring the entire period, and giving you other historical periods to play in.

Colonial Gothic PDF Adventure

Due out next month, this adventure is in editing and will be a good one. Set in Massachusetts this adventure is another example of the type of Colonial Gothic adventures you can run. Once the editing is done, it goes into layout, and more than likely will be the same size as The Defeated Dead.

Colonial Gothic Halloween PDF

Like I did last year, there will be another PDF out in time for Halloween. I have finished the first draft, and this one is on schedule. As to what it will deal with, well, that is for me to know. J

Colonial Gothic Thanksgiving PDF

This one is a new one, and is being written by Jennifer Brozek (Colonial Gothic: Elizabethtown, Grant’s Pass). Manuscript will be in house soon, and I am really looking forward to seeing the reaction to it. Looking at the time of year this will be coming out in, you can probably guess what this PDF deals with.

Colonial Gothic: Gazetteer

This will be out next summer, and covers the original 13 colonies. Graeme is writing this one, and this will be a nice supplement giving you the information you need on the colonies. In addition, this is not going to be the last gazetteer you will see. We plan on covering the rest of the New World, as well as other regions.

Colonial Gothic: New France

This manuscript is about 91% complete and I should have it in-house by the middle of next month. This book covers New France, and is the first of what I have wanted to do, open up the rest of the New World. As for release, maybe the end of next year/early 2011.

Colonial Gothic: Bestiary

The second book written by Graeme, and this one covers, well monsters. The outline is done, and Graeme will be starting this, when he finishes his other book. This will not be out until 2011, but is on the schedule and will be a nice addition to Colonial Gothic. The goal of this book is give you the creatures from folklore and have them ready to drop into any Colonial Gothic game.

Future Books

There are two more books planned, but these are a little ways down the line. Both Graeme and I have a plan for a published Colonial Gothic campaign, which answers the cries for more adventures. This campaign is in a very rough sketchy stage, but what we know is that each part will have something you can take away and reuse for your own games. For example, a little sourcebook about Boston and the like. If you know of Graeme’s work on the classic Enemy Within for Warhammer FRP 1E, you know he knows how to create a campaign. This is coming, and when things get more confirmed and less sketchy, you can expect a lot of updates on this.

As for the original PDFs/eBooks, by the end of this year we will have released five. Next year I hope to release six. Nothing firm yet – mostly ideas – but three of them are outlined.

Not included above is my much mentioned Philadelphia adventure, which has grown and grown. I do not know if this would make a better original book or a PDF only release. Once the manuscript is done, I will make the call.

In summary, Colonial Gothic is the game James and I knew it could be. We learned a lot during the last two years of the game’s life and these lessons really helped us become not only better designers, but writers as well. Personally, I am gratified to see the reaction the revised version of the Rulebook has gotten. I am thankful that you showed patience with the rough edges of the first version of the game, and stuck it out. Here on out, the game is only going to get better. There is now a clear vision for Colonial Gothic, and more than ever, we are happy as Hell with what the game has become.

Thousand Suns

February 2008 saw the release of Thousand Suns, and as was the case with Colonial Gothic, James and I took our time with the game, and let it find itself. In that time we have released two books, which have made the game better, but also has shown us that the rulebook needs a little revision. Unlike Colonial Gothic, the revision for Thousand Suns is not as drastic. After much debate, and much thought, we have decided that the rulebook will be revised.

Before you start screaming, hear me out.

The rulebook needs a revision. There are areas James wants to tweak. Rule questions that need to be answered, and areas needing to be cleaned up. In addition, the book needs to be better organized, and the layout really needs to be fixed. Simply put, a revised edition is needed for the game. Thousand Suns revision will not be drastic, the rules will not change. The revision is a chance for us to fix all the mistakes, and make the game easier to use. In addition, it needs more art, and it needs more polish.

As was the case with Colonial Gothic‘s revision, James and I do not want to be like other publishers. You bought the game. You support the game. You should not be forced to buy it again. That is why, anything new added to the game, will be put on the Rogue Games website as a free download.

That’s right. A free download.

If you bought the rulebook, you will be able to download all the new content as a PDF for free. Period. I know new editions and revisions often cause a lot of anger. As a gamer, the last thing I like is when I have to buy a new version of any game I enjoy.

The work is already underway for the revision, and James will be announcing an open playtest in a few weeks. The plan is to release the revision May 2010. As was the case with Colonial Gothic, as the revision is underway, a lot of ideas have come and a clear vision is in hand for the game’s future. To put it more succinctly: if you want more Thousand Suns, you are going to get a lot more Thousand Suns.

Thousand Suns: Starships

This will be the next book out for Thousand Suns, and this will be out next year. This book will expand the rules on starships, and will be fully compatible with Thousand Suns Revised. This will be a fall 2010 release. Manuscript is due in-house in a few weeks, and we have a writer fast at work on it. Once the manuscript is in hand, art direction will begin. I cannot wait to execute the vision James has for this book.

Future Books

Thousand Suns: Aliens

This sourcebook presents additional alien traits, as well as many examples of alien species for use in a campaign. Also included are further guidelines for creating non-sentient aliens, with examples of many to drop into an ongoing campaign.

Thousand Suns: Giant Leap

This is a sourcebook devoted to the early days of space exploration in the Thousand Suns timeline, when the Terran first explode into space and chart new worlds, laying the foundations for the First Federation. It’s a sourcebook for use by players and GMs who prefer an optimistic, vibrant take on Imperial SF. The book includes rules for running an exploration campaign, as well as advice on how best to reflect the more utopian vision of the future that this era brings to mind.

Thousand Suns: Before the Fall

This is a sourcebook devoted to the final days of the First Federation, as it begins to collapse, throwing the galaxy into chaos. The book includes expanded rules for robotics (for Von Neumann’s War) and genetic engineering (for the Gene War), as well as advice on running a campaign during these turbulent times. This is a “dark” sourcebook for players and referees who prefer their science fiction to have a harder, grittier edge. Also included would be rules for fomenting rebellion, creating insurgencies, and establishing an independent power base of one’s own.

Thousand Suns: Worlds of Adventure

This sourcebook presents four sectors (Core, Civilized, Marches, and Wildspace) along with descriptions of some of their worlds (including maps, local animals, etc.). In addition, there are “free” planets not tied to any particular sector that the referee can pick and choose to drop into his campaign without any difficulty. The entire purpose of this book is to give plenty of new planets from which to choose, either as site for adventures or as homeworlds for player characters.

Shadow, Sword & Spell

If you stopped by the booth, you saw the following:

photo

This is the game we’ve mentioned on and off for a long time. Those who asked about it, learned a lot, and went away very happy. If you were not at GenCon, here is what you missed.

Shadow, Sword & Spell is our fantasy game, and uses 12°. The game is pulp fantasy inspired by the writers of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft. It is humanistic pulp fantasy, and by that, this is not the fantasy with elves and the like. What James and I want to do is create a game allowing you play pulp fantasy, and allows you to toggle in any of the mentioned authors to make the game feel more like their writing. This is a game James and I have always wanted to do, but could not agree on some areas. Finally, after a lot of work, and discussion, we hit on what were the stumbling blocks, and found ways to fix them. Though this slowed us down, I am glad we did this. We have a much stronger game, as well as a clear vision of what we want to do. So what do we want to do? Have fun.

Shadow, Sword & Spell: Basic

Due out July 2010, this will be a complete game. Everything you need to play is in this book, and the book will not be longer than 128 pages. The goal is to make Basic the book you turn to start your hero and make him grow.

Shadow, Sword & Spell: Expert

Due out August 2010, this is the end game, by that, what happens when your hero becomes so powerful that they find themselves running a kingdom? Like SS&S: Basic, everything you need is here, and the book should be no longer than 192 pages.

To think of it another way, SS&S: Basic, allows you to create Kull, and play his early adventures. Expert then allows you to play Kull, ala “By this axe I rule.”

If you have seen what we have done with both Colonial Gothic and Thousand Suns, you know we like small games, with rules that do not get in your way. You will be able to play Basic as is, without any worry. Hell, if you want to just play Expert you will be able to do that as well.

After both of these books are out, there will be a third one, Shadow Sword & Spell: Advanced. This book is the kitchen sink, and provides you rules allowing players to play fantasy races, include different features and add-ons, and basically give you more options for your game.

Playtest for SS&S begins in the Fall. We just need to assemble the various pieces of the game, and figure out the logical breaks. As we have done with Colonial Gothic, and will do with Thousand Suns, we will announce when we’re ready for playtesting, and we will be looking for your help.

Future SS&S Books

Once Basic and Expert is out, there will be the same amount of support you get with the other games (wiki, free downloads and original PDFs). In addition we have roughly four supplements planned out which introduces different styles of fantasy. The goal with SS&S is to create a toolbox type game that provides you the guidance and advice to run different styles of fantasy.

Other Rogue Games Things

Two big things to talk about: original fiction/non-fiction and the PDF guarantee.

Ficition/Non-Ficition

Slowly James and I are looking to publish both non-fiction books and original fiction. This is something that has been part of the plan since Day One, but like everything we have done, we have gone slowly with this so we can do it right. We are closer now with getting ready to move forward, but this is on the table and is part of our plans. More on this as we get closer to going forward.

PDF Guarantee

Early this year we started working with individual brick and mortar stores to have them be able to offer the same bundle deals we do online, by that, buy the book get the PDF for free. At GenCon I talked with a lot of individual store owners about this, and if all go well by the start of the Fall we will have a total of 20 stores working with us offering the bundles to their customers. In addition, I talked with one major distributor who likes this plan so much, we will be talking about marketing this to all stores who order through them. For James and I, this is a major priority for us. Why? Same reason as before, we want you to play our games. If you buy our games online, you get the PDF, if you buy it at your local game store, you should be able to get the PDF as well. I am excited that more and more retail stores are seeing the benefit of this bundling, and I was overwhelmed by their reception to the idea. I am working very hard to get as many stores as I can to take part. When they hear how easy it is to take part, they are even more ready to sign on.

How easy is this program for a retailer?

Every time the customer buys one of our books, the retailer collects their name and email address. This they email to Rogue Games, and then we send the customer the PDF. That’s it. The store does not have to worry about anything but emailing the name and email address.

As more stores sign on, I will let you know.

Conclusion

2009 was a great year for us. 2010 is going to be better. Every year we learn something new, and what we learn makes what we do better. Rogue Games is not the same company it was in 2008, let alone in 2007. What we will look like in 2010 is vague, but it is quickly coming into focus. James and I thank you for your support. We thank you for your interest in what we do.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2009 5:44 pm

    While it’s a shame that THOUSAND SUNS needs an update so soon, I have cetainly found a few typos and such and cleaning these things up will make the game a lot better. I’m not sure what additions or structural changes James has in mind, but I’m certain they will be nice!

    I’m pumped up about SHADOW, SWORD, & SPELL and certainly would have bought it at GenCon on the spot if it had been ready to go. It will be interesting to see how the Basic/Expert/Advanced split occurs and what material gets stuffed into which volume.

    I’m glad I discovered ROGUE GAMES and will continue to “talk it up” on my message boards!

  2. August 21, 2009 5:54 am

    I agree with Marv on TS Revision, but after playing the game, and having more people play, we have learned a lot and see areas that can be refined and improve. I hate that we are doing a revision, but as I learned with Colonial Gothic, sometime you need to bite the bullet and make a game better. I can safely say, that this revision is not as drastic as Colonial Gothic’s was. James simply wants to correct typos (there are more than we would like) as well as make the game easier to approach. Right now, the structure is a really downside, and the book could look a little more “friendly.” Still, as was the case with CG, anything new, will be up for a download, and James and I will be transparent as to what is going on. In addition as those who bought the PDF on Drivethrurpg/RPGNow can attest, we gave them a free upgrade on their original Colonial Gothic PDF when we released revised. We will do the same with Thousand Suns.

    SS&S is something that I have been dying to talk about for awhile, but held off. The break down is going to be based on what you do before you became “Named Level” and what you do after. The Kull example is an example, Conan pre king and post king is an example as well. Advanced is all options.

    James and I know how we want to break the game up between Basic and Expert, but we plan on asking the Playtesters for their input on this as well. The goal is to make both books (Basic and Expert) playable on their own, and even better together.

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