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Markdoc last won the day on March 16 2016

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About Markdoc

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  1. A couple of points. One of the nice things about Hero is it's not either/or. A character with "Archeology 15-" can exist in the same game as a character with "Mediterranean History, 12-, Etruscan Archeology 12-, Bronze Age Cultures 11-". The first is a knowledgeable generalist, the second a specialist. What type you play depends on the game, your group, their playstyle, and your preferences. Secondly, while as GM, I would be happy with either presentation, I have long used "Professional Skill Modifiers" that function the same way as "Linguist" or "Jack of all trades". They give a -1 to the purchase cost for related skills (basically, it is kind of the "Unified power limitation for skills". That's there so that the skill monkeys who want lots of skills don't get spanked so hard by the cost. Additionally, I have put together for quick games cheap packages with a list of skills and (occasionally) talents and just say "If you want to be an X, just pick 10 points from this list". None of these suggestions to changing skill use are restrictive: a player who wants can design more precisely, but a limited range of choices can be a very good starting point for a new player. cheers, Mark
  2. If they have pay per view AND it's legal to purchase convention delegate votes they could have a ticker running allowing people to bid in on a vote by SMS for their favoured candidate. You know, the more I think about it, that's a perfect match for today's GOP. Decide the candidate by direct purchase! Let the market decide! cheers, Mark
  3. Markdoc

    In other news...

    I think you mean, "What about when this becomes a sexbot"? I'm not seeing any tasks for "sexy-looking robot" that are ahead of that in the development process. regards, Mark
  4. In fact, if we loop back to what we were saying earlier about "presentation" these two viewpoints are entirely compatible. Hero system has a basic skill list - but nothing says you need to use any or all of those skills in your game (and in fact in many heroic level games, certain skills are - by default - off the table, because they don't fit the genre). All of these skills are built off the basic mechanism: buy 8- for 1 point, 11- for 2 points, or 9+CHA/5 for 3 points. (Personally, I would like to tweak those numbers, but that's another issue). which you can use to define any skill as broadly or narrowly as you like. There is also the weapon/vehicle FAM rules, and I agree with Vondy that they are an anomaly that adds about zero utility to the game. As it stands, you can spend 20 points on being a superb driver, and not know how to drive a vehicle. So it's entirely possible for a fan publication (or for that matter an official Hero publication) to both be entirely compatible with the core rules, and use a short thematic-based skill list. In my "quick-play" Fantasy Hero mod. I simply let the players choose a 10 point skill package representing their background and called it good: that worked just fine. In the same vein, a GM (or module writer) can say "Here's how we are going to handle skills" and as long as the core mechanism is respected, the outcome will still be entirely Hero-compatible. cheers, Mark Edit: Vondy said basically about the same thing.
  5. Markdoc

    Tollenses Battle: Bronze Age Fantasy Fodder

    I was thinking more of the fact that most of the levy were buried without armour, though the fact that fragments of iron rings were found with the skeletons suggested that some of them were wearing armor when killed. So the fact that it isn't in the mass graves doesn't mean that it wasn't used. cheers, Mark
  6. Markdoc

    Lesser Evils 2016: America's Presidental Race

    I've been reading that. But I find it unconvincing. Scott Adams has a long track record of making predictions ... which don't come true. However, he is right that Trump is a master persuader - which is a nice way of saying that he's manipulative and media-savvy. Trump's had a long and lucrative career of persuading people to lend him money and them convincing them that they will never see their money again unless they lend him more money. It doesn't mean that everyone (or even a majority of people) will fall into line though. Scott Adams has some pretty weird ideas about how things actually work. But I don't think what's happening now to the GOP is because Trump is a briliiant strategist and an amazing speaker. He is a very effective opportunist, but what I think is what is happening now is a conjunction of a certain kind of candidate + a certain kind of situation ... in this case, a base that strongly, strongly disagrees with its leadership, and a candidate who offers a plausible way for the voters to stick their finger in the leadership's eye. The GOP got Trump, the DNC got Bernie Sanders. Outside the US, France has Marie le Pen, and the UK has Nigel Farange and Jeremey Corbyn doing a slightly left of US version of Trump/Sanders. It seems to be a generalised phenomenon. Trump's very good at attracting media attention - he's been doing it for decades. But far from persuading everybody, he seems to energise people who want to stick it to the GOP's leadership and repulse most everyone else. cheers, Mark
  7. Markdoc

    Tollenses Battle: Bronze Age Fantasy Fodder

    Funny, I was thinking about the mass of unarmoured dead at Visby, when I was writing my earlier post, but because I was in hurry didn't note it cheers, Mark
  8. Yeah, it's one reason I said Monte Cook games was a better comparison than FFG. I chose Green Ronin because of M&M obviously. Both make the point - which is that neither Superheroes nor generic rules are an apparent hindrance to sales. cheers, Mark
  9. Not really - there are a few deceased games that looked slick but didn't promote themselves and there are plenty of indiegames that actively promote themselves but don't look slick. FATE, for example has similar design style to 6E Hero system (heck they even both have the whole gorillas and biplanes thing going) which is good enough, but not slick. Presentation and proselytising are both aspects of getting people to want a thing, but they are different ways or, perhaps more accurately, different stages of the process. cheers, Mark
  10. Markdoc

    Tollenses Battle: Bronze Age Fantasy Fodder

    That's all true ... which is why the warriors at Tollenses were shooting flint arrows at each other, while their contemporaries in Assyria or Mycenae* were wearing heavy armour, building seige weapons and shooting bronze-tipped arrows at each other. By that stage - around 1200 BC - there were already armies with large numbers of armoured troops in the mediterranean era. They weren't - as far as we can tell - the bulk of the army, but neither were they rare, or all nobility, apparently numbering in the hundreds if not thousands in the Assyrian armies that were destroying the Hittite empire around the time this battle happened. Edit: this should not be taken to mean that none of the warriors at Tollenses werewearing metal armour - bronze armours are found in burials of the Urnfield culture, which stretched across central Europe at this time. It's just that this far north, armour was probably much rarer than in the mediterranean cultures. Such valuable armour is unlikely to have been left on the battlefield. cheers, Mark *This is a reconstruction of the so-called Dendra armour, known to us from one complete set, several parts for other sets and some illustrations - all dating from 1-2 centuries before the battle at Tollenses. You can read some notes and se ethe photos done by some reconstructors here. I'd take much of what they write with a grain of salt, since a lot of it is speculation, but the armours depicted are all based on real remains.
  11. I think that what Tasha meant is that if you are not a major player, you won't see the kind of funding that TSR had in the old days, though to be honest, even that is underestimating the real market considerably. To put it in perspective, TSR back in 1996 - the year of peak sales - had fewer than 100 full time employees (not all on RPGs, though), compared to Pathfinder today, which has a bit over 40. Add in the more than 300 WoTC guys (again not all, nor mostly, on RPGs, but still) and their version of D&D, and there seem to be about the same number or more people employed full time on D&D at big gaming companies than there were in the old days. So there are decent-sized companies with full time employees putting out regular product .... for D&D. Plus ça change .. Given the diversity of the market (and what we can see of sales figures) D&D is still the 800lb gorilla, but its sales actually appear to be a significantly smaller % share of the market than they were in the mid 90's, even though they now appear to be larger in nominal dollar terms. We are really just guessing when it comes to market share, but for the sake of understanding this, it's not terribly relevant if the rest of the market is 30% or (my guess) 50%. Because what has really changed is the number of people in that space. When I started gaming in the early 80's there were - literally - fewer than a dozen gaming companies publishing material. By the mid-90's, that had grown many-fold. Exactly how many, I don't know, but Steve Jackson estimated more than 50. But I just did a quick google search and stopped counting RPG publishing companies after 300 ... Lucius is right - everybody and his brother's dog is in the vineyard, publishing RPGs, these days. To thrive in this space, a company has to be able to offer something that people really want to buy, because one thing is unmistakably clear, which is that the market is far more competitive than it used to be. But you know what? In this space, there are 'not D&D' companies that are thriving, so it can be done. To take a random example off the top of my head, Fantasy Flight Games has (according to their company profile) between 50 and 200 employees and booked 41 million USD in sales in 2014 (that's the last year of sales before they were acquired). They do more than RPGs, but they have a regular release schedule for their RPG line over recent and coming months (and they produce gorgeous books ... drool). So ... there are actually also companies with full time jobs putting out regular releases in the 'not D&D' space as well. As an aside, that's why I don't buy the "shrinking market" argument: once you actually start looking at the individual players who are successful you realise how much product they are moving and how much money they are making. It's a lot ... If all that's true - and it really does seem to be, because otherwise the numbers are impossible to explain - then there is clearly space for companies to thrive in today's RPG market. So, I ask again - why not Hero? I asked three times, and didn't get an answer, so here's my guess If we look at a publisher that is not games + RPGs, but are focused on RPGs, like Green Ronin or Monte Cook Games, you get a more direct comparison to Hero. Both started as single person companies: now Green Ronin has 12 employees, Monte Cook has 8. Both are apparently doing well, with comments about increasing sales - both appear intermittently on IcV2's top 5 sales, which tracks the sales of physical product via shops, confirming the sales talk from the companies. These companies (and they are not unique) are yet more counter-arguments to the 'shrinking market' shtick: there were damn few gaming companies other than TSR and WoTC employing more than a 2-3 people 20 years ago. Now there are quite a lot. So let's look at what they have in common. First off, slick production. Their websites look good, their product looks good. I don't care for their gaming systems, but I kind of want to buy their stuff anyway, for the same reasons I buy art books. Second, multiple products. This allows them (I believe) a broader customer base and a staggered release schedule for different products (which means a continuous revenue stream). I'm pretty sure the same people are not playing "No Thank You, Evil!" and The Strange. There is probably a fine line between too many products and not enough, but they seem to be straddling it comfortably. Third, they actively market their games and themselves, both with physical product and online. Fourth, both lay heavy focus on their gaming worlds, not their gaming system. Nobody bought Numenera because they desperately wanted a game with a dice pool mechanic, or Dragon Age because they wanted another SAGA-system style game. No, they bough the books (in large quantities for the latter) because they wanted to play in those game worlds. Thereafter they diverge - Monte Cook has their own lines and concentrates on that, apart from some side work for D&D. Green Ronin has a number of well-known licenced brands (which appear to be among their best sellers) as well as their own lines. That suggests that there is not just one way to be successful. Now there's one thing about the gaming market which has always been an issue (other markets, like software, have the same problem) which is that you are selling a non-consumable product. Once the customer has bought your product they don't need to buy it again. Your only revenue stream is either upgrades (new editions) or add-ons (modules, adventures, figures, etc). You can see this effect in sales figures. When Green Ronin brought out the M&M RPG, for example, it swiftly pushed up into the top 5 by sales ... but then disappeared (remember these are only sales through brick and mortar gaming stores - online sales are still apparently OK) once the people who wanted the game had actually bought it. You can see this effect with almost all the games, where new editions provoke a spike in sales, which then subside. Why do I bring this up? Because Hero games has one product: the Hero rules system, and produces relatively few add-ons (Genre books, modules). That, just by itself, puts them into a difficult place. Add to that the problem I mentioned before: that the rules are presented in a form that is not accessible to starting GMs and players, plus the fact that visually the books just don't compare to those from the more successful companies (thus giving the noobie GM even less reason to even pick it up and open it. Last of all, there is no compelling setting to encourage people to even try. Almost all of the people I know who play Hero system were introduced to somebody who was already playing it - there is no easy entry path. To take one example, I really liked the concept of Tuala Morn. I'm a sucker for larger than life Celtic heroes (Just thinking about it, I feel like I'd like to run that kind of game, now). But in terms of production values, it was - honestly? - pretty horrible. You had to actually want the book in advance to pick it up and buy it (Note: I bought it anyway). In terms of content it was a good, solid Celtic legend-based RPG setting, though I have to admit I was hoping for something more epic. I felt like I wanted this and I got this. Not terrible, by any definition. Just not something that said from the first page "Oh god, I want to play this" Without an easy entry path and the visceral pull of "You want to play this game" from the outset, the current situation does not surprise me - in fact, it seems more or less inevitable. Buuut ... there is a patch of light, The fact that Hero games is still here and we are discussing this at all is, to my mind because the game system itself is incredibly robust - probably the best simulationist rule set we have. So I think there *is* a bigger market for it ... if it were marketed and packaged to make entry to the system easier. I am pretty sure that presenting it in the same style as it's been the last decade or so is not going to change anything. cheers, Mark
  12. Markdoc

    Tollenses Battle: Bronze Age Fantasy Fodder

    it could be. But Egyptian royal troops were actually pretty well armoured by the New Kingdom era (actually ahead of their contemporaries in equally hot places in neighbouring countries). It might be because Egyptian society was highly conservative in a lot of things, or because they used a lot of Nubian mercenaries, who came from regions without ready access to the ores needed to copper or bronze arrowheads (the Egyptians used a lot of copper weapons, also for a longer period than their neighbours). Or it might simply be that flint was cheaper and Egypt had a big, expensive army to maintain, so they were looking for minor savings ... we don't really know. cheers, Mark
  13. Agreed. A while back, I wrote up one of my old Fantasy Hero campaigns: Adventures, maps, backgrounds, equipment, NPCs, GMs notes, etc and made it available to GMs. Essentially it was an adventure path before that concept was formalised: a pick-up-and-run series of adventures designed to take PCs from 100 points to 250+ points over the course of a couple of years's regular play. There was clearly interest. I know a few GMs on these boards used it, and I distributed more than 350 copies, even though marketing was restricted to having it on my website or on a few of the fan websites that sprang up (ie: essentially nothing. The GMs who asked for it, found it themselves). If even a quarter of those GMs actually ended up running the game, that translated to several hundred Hero system players. And given the comments I got back from GMs who did run the game, a significant number of them were new to Hero system and so were most of their players. The catch, of course, is that I was giving it away for free: I have no idea how many people would have paid for it. Given the amount of work required, I am pretty sure it would not have been commercially worthwhile even if they all had paid for it. So to echo what Christopher says, if we want this sort of material to be available, we need to make it ourselves cheers, Mark
  14. Markdoc

    Tollenses Battle: Bronze Age Fantasy Fodder

    Flint is OK if you are shooting at unarmoured targets, but shoot it at a bronze breastplate or even very hard wood, and it goes 'poof'. You can make it sharp (sharper than bronze, in fact), but it's very brittle. And it's light - far lighter than bronze - which reduces penetrating ability against harder armors (and also limits its use in heavier bows). Last of all, it's brittleness means that flint weapons were often one-use only: whereas metal arrowheads can be (and we know, were) scavenged and reused. So mass production isn't the problem - there are mass production sites for flints all across Northern Europe where the stuff was literally dug out by the ton, shaped and then carried off for trading (though of course, large scale casting in bronze is still easier, if a lot more resource-intensive). Danish flints, for example were traded in large numbers hundreds of kilometers from their origin. The problem is simply that flint isn't great for war arrows where your target might have decent armour. So in a bronze-age culture with plenty of resources, the flint* war arrow went out of style very quickly. They are found on ancient battlefields in the mediterranean, but by the time of Troy, war arrows were bronze headed (Homer specifically notes this, for what it's worth). People did not stop using flint - you can find Greek scythes with flint teeth and flint scrapers dating back to 200 BC or so (though by that point only poor rustics used them), but flint arrows had stopped being used on battlefields in Greece a thousand years before that. Egypt is a bit of an exception. In Egypt flint arrowheads continued to be used for a few centuries alongside bronze ones, and historians have been arguing about why for decades. Everywhere else, not so much. cheers, Mark *not just flint: pre-bronze age, obsidian and bone were also used, and in Greece and Italy, obsidian arrowheads outlasted flint ones by a few centuries.
  15. Markdoc

    Thoughts on PD and ED in Fantasy

    It's a good point, but the -1 default limitation means that you are not actually making any rules changes, just bundling together PD and ED at the same price as in the core rules. cheers, Mark