Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Holidays!

I hope all of you have an out of this world Holiday



X-Files Santa autopsy?


Sunday, 23 December 2012

Out Now!

Just in time for the Christmas season we have managed to publish three new product for your consumption or for the gamer on your list.

Ploys and Plots by David Nicholas Ross

Ploys and Plots offers ways to spice up games with cinematic flair. Use your skills in new ways and discover new feats that enable you to use clever tricks that grant major advantages, memorable schemes based on reading foes’ movements like a book, and words that can strike at an opponent’s very core. The feats and new skill uses contained in this collection are designed to reward players for roleplaying, for intelligent tactics and cooperation, for making good use of social and deceptive skills, and for playing characters with high mental ability scores even without casting spells.

A skill and feat collection for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game system

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Items of Power and Ambition
by Sean Holland
Magic is power and magic items are the physical distillation of that power.  No wonder so many people are seeking to gather and claim them.

Can you defend your Dragon Claw Staff from all comers?  Can your magic stop the Golem Helmed warriors of the Lady of the Ebon Way?  Will the Black Banner help you to lead the People to freedom?  Or will the slavers armed with their Whip-Swords and Centipede Nets drag you all down into the pits?

Take up arms and spells and fight for your place in the world!


Items of Power and Ambition is a new magic item supplement for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game written by Sean Holland and illustrated by Tam├ís Baranya.
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Purple Mountain III: The Feasting
by Perry Fehr

Purple Mountain III: The Feasting is a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game compatible module designed for four 3rd-level characters that uses the medium XP advancement track. Play it in any campaign setting with a mountain-based megadungeon, or as a stand-alone dungeon with a mega-dungeon feel.

Purple Mountain III: The Feasting
Purple Mountain III: The Feasting combines the combat and daring-do of  exploring dank, mysterious tunnels with the fascinating interaction of a 'sandbox' underground community!  Vicious underground dwellers, forgotten shrines to a dark god, ancient curses threatening to wipe out whole races- all give your party a chance to shine, and make a little coin doing it!

The Purple Mountain series is designed to be a classic mega-dungeon. You know the kind...
It doesn't have a grand plot or even a consistent theme level to level. Instead, it has pathways to the subterranean realms, prisons for demons, ancient ruins, lost civilizations, legendary weapons, mysterious magic, mines, slave pits, elemental nodes, water-filled passages, mazes, trick doors, traps, haunted levels, classic monsters (ropers, trapper, mimics, otyughs [especially otyughs], owlbears), dragons, monsters too big to have ever fit down those hallways, and artifacts!
A classic mega-dungeon with everything wrong and right about it!

VTT Maps are provided with this purchase. If you would like battlemaps Crooked Staff Publications sells them cheapy for each Purple Mountain release.
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All three of these releases are available now or will be available soon from our vendors:

d20pfsrd: http://shop.d20pfsrd.com/collections/purple-duck-games
Paizo: http://paizo.com/companies/purpleDuckGames
Rpgnow: http://www.rpgnow.com/index.php?manufacturers_id=3367





Friday, 21 December 2012

Not the end of the world.... BUT....

I woke up this morning and the world is still here but the forum and shopping cart databases seemed to have come to an Apocalypse of their own :)

We are working on getting that fixed.



Thursday, 20 December 2012

Unboxing of the beast

This is a HUGE kit, the box is 12"X10"X10"!

You can see by the use of stacking trays, foam and a vacuum formed insert, we have taken great care to protect your investment.

Enjoy!














The screws are used on ball joints and other components that need tension to work properly.
You can quite literally leave this kit poseable for months or years of play if you choose, the tension created by the ball joints is more than enough to have the kit retain its pose. At any point a drop or two of model cement will lock everything into a fixed pose, but until you decide exactly what pose you would like… you are free to play.

Watching the legs and torso move with working hydraulics is a pretty fun experience ;)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Stage 1 ship date

As of today we estimate stage one will arrive in the WGF Utah warehouse the last week of January.

I will have more pics to post as they come in from WGF China.

Here are a few shots of Ada, a Kickstarter special mini and the first of the female Stormtroopers to see plastic.

Cheers!
Mark





Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Some shots of the plastic and the current release schedule.


I am currently elbow deep in prepping stage three models for the Kickstarter, I must apologize for not being on top of my emails, as this aspect takes me away from the day to day operations.

I thought it would be best to give an expected release date here so that you have some frame of reference when these kits will be available for general purchase. The Kickstarter backers are my main priority but all the kits will hit the supply chain shortly after the backer’s items have been shipped.

I do not have retail pricing yet, and will likely not have them until each phase is ready to head out the door.

Stage 1 release: February
28mm scale Leviathan Crusader

28mm scale left hand Vulkan

10 man rifle squad

20 man Stormtrooper set

Stormtrooper accessory set

Eisenkern support weapons set

 

Stage 2 release: March
 
28mm scale Leviathan Mortis

28mm scale Leviathan weapons

·         Beowulf/Grendel

·         HEL Cannon

·         Nova Cannon

·         Ripper Saw

·         Mauler claw (left and right)

15mm scale Crusader

15mm scale Mortis

15mm scale Leviathan Weapons

·         Beowulf/Grendel

·         HEL Cannon

·         Nova Cannon

·         Ripper Saw

·         Mauler claw (left and right)

 

Stage 3 release: May

Eisenkern Command squad

Valkir heavy troopers

Heavy trooper support squad

Heavy trooper assault squad

Eisenkern APC

APC upgrade kits

·         Stuka Zu Fuss

·         Zeus
 
Female Stormtroopers
 

On to the fun stuff….

Here are some shots of the completed plastics courtesy of WGF China. I will add more shots as they become available.
 
Cheers!
-Mark
 











 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

New Vendors

Fehr from Fehr's Ethnology.
I just thought I would take a moment to announce that we are now live at the d20pfsrd shop as well as Paizo, Rpgnow and Gumroad.

Our products can be found here: http://shop-d20pfsrd-com.myshopify.com/collections/purple-duck-games

Shopping at the d20pfsrd store helps keep their site up and running as well as allowing us to earn a larger cut of our own retail price.

Things at the printers:
- Purple Mountain III
- Items of Power and Ambition

Other Things in the Works:
- Purple Mountain IV, V, VI
- Fehr's Ethnology - Qatar
- Plots and Ploys
- Lands of Porphyra
- Heroes of the Fenian Triarchy
- Heroes of the Siwathi Desert
- More DCC

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

High-Level Storytelling Design

Introduction
I recently started to play the demo for the upcoming adventure game Primordia. I really like the art-style, the setting, themes and the characters (perhaps with the exception of a somewhat annoying companion). Despite this I am finding myself not being that engaged when playing it. The main reason for this is that the game is in a very traditional point-and-click form, which means that it is mainly all about solving puzzles. Despite some good design and an in-game hint system, its gameplay back-bone is holding it back.
Note: This does not mean that Primordia is bad game though, more on this in the end notes.

At the same time we have currently been in the middle of going over some design thinking in our upcoming Super Secret Project. We have been trying to evolve the type of high level design we have used for our previous games and in that process encountered a few problems and come to a few intriguing insights.

The problems I had with Primordia and the issues we have had with our own project are closely related and deal with the high level design used for games focusing on story-telling. This sort of design is what this post will be about. I will start by going over the basic problems, then cover more recent advancements and finally outline our own approach.


The Immersion Conjecture
Since the middle of the 90s or so, the image of adventure games as the kings of videogame storytelling has slowly dwindled. Instead they have given way to more action oriented titles and nowadays most of the major storytelling efforts lie in the action-adventure genre. What has happened is that the puzzle-centric design has been replaced by one where some sort of core mechanic makes up the bulk of the experience.

I think neither of these approaches is a good way to properly do storytelling in a game. The problem with both are that they have a strong focus on the competitive aspect of games. In both of these designs the main goal is not about being immersed but about beating challenges. I have discussed this to great lengths in the paper The Self, Presence and Storytelling. The points important for this discussion are the following:

  • Challenge-oriented games have a core design which I call "black box design". This means that the main goal for the player is to intuitively figure out the game's underlying systems and to beat them.
  • When the focus is on a system of a game, it detracts attention from, or even directly contradicts, its fiction. As a result it diminishes the story aspects of the game.
  • The main focus of  games with storytelling should instead be on creating immersion or, more precisely put, a sense of presence. This is done by having a strong continuous input-out loop between the player and game.
Before going into high level approaches that focus on immersion, the normal adventure design need to be discussed. 


The Puzzle Approach
This approach is pretty much how all of the classic adventure games are built. In essence, they are made up from a set of interconnected tasks that need to be completed. In order to get to A you need to B and C, C requires that D and E are done and so forth. The entire game basically becomes a big puzzle for the player to solve.

This approach has its root in the very first adventure games ever made: Adventure. The game started out as a mapping of a cave system that the author, William Crowther, had been part of exploring. When making an interactive version of it, various puzzle elements, partly inspired by D & D, were added. Apparently the author did not find the virtual exploration of the caves engaging enough on its own. Something more was needed, and the puzzle elements was added to fill that void; a decision that would go on to influence the coming decades of adventure games. (I wonder how different history would be if Crowther had added some Dear Esther-like narrative instead!).

The reason why this approach is so successful is because it makes it very easy to weave an interactive environment together with a story. The puzzles always give the player various tasks to do which provides motivation to go forward. More importantly it serves as a mean for the player to become part of the game's world. It makes it meaningful to converse with characters and it forces players to understand how the virtual world works.

This comes as a cost though. Because the focus is on constantly providing riddles and quests for the player, the game must have a story that support this. There must be a reason for the player to question characters, ways to provide clear goals, plenty opportunity to set up obstacles and an environment that support clever puzzles. The result of this can be seen very clearly; most adventure game are either some variation on mystery/detective story or a classic, fairytale-like, grand quest one.

On top of this comes the problem discussed in the paper, namely that the constant scrutinizing of the game's world eats away on the player's make-belief. It is simply not possible for players to let story-engagement be their main focus. If they fail to stay in a puzzle solving mindset the game will refuse them to advance. This often leads to the somewhat weird situation where playing the game with a guide is more enjoyable than playing it the proper unguided way.

These problem have been known for quite a while, and in recent times some games have popped up that try to do things differently. I will now discuss the most widely used, and most successful, alternative.



The Linear Plot Approach
The basic premise for this approach is to craft the game like a normal non-interactive story. One then looks for parts were it is possible to insert some sort of player interaction and add these to the otherwise passive experience. (This is not how would go about creation such a game exactly, but it describes the type design quite nicely.) The first game I know that did this was Photopia, and it used it very successfully. It is widely regarded as a highly rewarding and emotional experience. The approach has been more popularized by Fahrenheit, which unfortunately got a much more negative response. More recently the approach gained a lot of success in Telltale's adaption of The Walking Dead and here this approach have really showed its advantage to a bigger audience. I think it is by far the best usage of a linear plot design done so far. To The Moon is another, and different, example that also uses this approach to great effect.

What makes this approach so effective is that it is much better at keeping up the narrative momentum. When using the puzzle approach, it is highly likely that players will get stuck and taken out of the experience. With the linear plot approach this happen very rarely since the game is so focused. Right before it is time to give the player control, the protagonist can pretty much explicitly state what is needed to be done without it feeling out of place.

What I find striking about this approach is the very strong scenes that the games let you take part in. Heavy has the basement capture and self-mutilation scene. Walking Dead has the staircase stand off and mercy killing scenes. By having a very strict and controlled path throughout the game, it is possible put the player inside very specific scenes that would have been hard to set up in other kind of games.

Another big advantage is that it allows for a lot more diverse stories, as there is much less pressure on building everything into a puzzle structure. The approach has focus on the presence building qualities of the game medium instead of the competitive (black-box) aspects. Games like Photopia and Walking Dead clearly show how effective this is and there is probably a lot more that can be explored here.

Of course all is not well with designing a game in this way. There are some areas that are really problematic. The main issue is that there is not really much interaction, especially when it comes to building a sense of presence. The basic premise of the approach is just this, so it is really an intrinsic fault and not that interesting to discuss. However, more subtle, and intriguing, problems arise when it comes to picking the actual parts where the interaction happen. Two main issues arise here.

One is that it is very hard to have some sort of consistency in interaction, partly because activities can be so diverse and partly because they happen so rarely. Heavy Rain went the route of QTE's and the result is not that good. While there are some really good scenes, as a whole there are just too many arbitrary button presses. Walking Dead does it a lot better with having a few types of more intuitive input, such as aiming a cross-hair and mashing a single button. But the infrequent usage and not always clear functioning makes this problematic still. Dialog usually work better, but that interaction lacks a tight feedback loop instead. (However, an interesting way in which both games try and make this more immersive if by having a time-limit and banging on about how every choice has consequences).

The other issue is that much of the sense of exploration evaporates. Whenever players are given a space to explore it is very confined and static. The cause of this is that the game always need to make sure that you can go back into "cut scene mode" after an interactive section is over. There is a bottleneck that needs to be reached with very specific requirements met. This means one has to be very careful about moving characters, changing the environment, and so on, in order for the next cut scene to feel coherent. There is also the problem of keeping the quality of characters when starting a less controlled section that lack the tightly polished look of a cut scene. This means only so much can be done with characters during these more open sequences. Finally, because you need to have some overall unity in the control scheme, any open sections can only have the simplest of input. Usually only movement is allowed and the rest handled by some sort of menu like system (basically like a point-and-click game). In the end interaction during these part come off as clunky and contrived.

There is also a big problem when it comes to production. Simpler games like Photopia and To The Moon do not suffer so much from this, but in a game like Heavy Rain it is very evident. Because much of the game is not actively played but passively watched , the need for high quality cut scenes is a must. It needs to be made sure that the player can be engaged when the presence-feedback loop is weak or completely missing. This means tons of assets, which in turn requires the game to be planned far ahead. For instance, Heavy Rain had the complete script written before the production started. And then all motion capture and voice recording needed to be done before gameplay could be tried out. When it comes to making the actual game there is little room for change and iteration, and one basically has to stick with the script. This is a big disadvantage for interactive media as much of the real good stuff can come from unexpected directions.

While linear plot design gives a better sense of flow in the narrative and a more coherently immersive experience, it still feels lacking. The main problem is that there is so much interactive down-time and great loss in the feeling of exploration. There needs to be some other way of doing things. For our upcoming Super Secret Project we wanted to try a different route and craft an experience where you play the whole time.



The Scene Approach
The design that we have come up with is something I will refer to as the "Scene Approach". The basic idea is that you give the player an area, a scene, where they are free to roam. When appropriate players are able to leave and enter the next scene. Each scene should have a strong focus on some form of activity and/or theme  and be self contained. Moving on to the next scene should be evident, either by a very simple interaction (e.g. opening a door), some form of activity (e.g. starting a generator) or by reaching some sort of state (e.g. waiting for a 2 minutes). The same underlying base mechanics should be used throughout the game and interactions should behave in a consistent manner. The wanted end result is to have an experience where the narrative flows throughout the game, but retains a tight interaction loop and a strong sense of agency. It is basically about taking the better interactive moments from the linear plot approach and stretching them out into scenes with globally coherent interaction.

Is this really possible? The moments in the linear plot approach have been carefully set up and are normally extremely focused and contained. Is it really possible to recreate this in a more open environment and without any cut scenes? The scene approach cannot possibility recreate every situation found in a linear plot game, but if done correctly it should be possible to come pretty close.

The first requirement is that the levels need to be designed in such a way that players are rewarded and driven towards behaving in certain ways. For instance, in early designs we tried to give tons of freedom in what players could do, but much of this freedom resulted in actions that went against the narrative. This is negative freedom. Instead we have tried to limit actions into "what makes sense for the protagonist to do" and do so without breaking any sort of consistency. This is positive freedom. The goal is then to eliminate the negative freedom and maximize the positive one, which is very simple to say but have proven hard to do in practice.

Even with a neatly designed scene, all is not set. There is still the problem of communicating the goals. Early on I thought that it was just a matter of having an interesting enough environment and players would partake in the activities provided. The problem is that the larger the environments become the harder it is for players to figure out what is of interest and what is not. It is also very easy to loose ones sense of direction and become unsure of what to do next. This problem is even more severe now that we pulled back on the problem solving focus. Players are not in the mood for constantly looking for clues but are instead focused on soaking up the narrative and having an immersive experience. This is how we want them to be, and should thus not be something that hinders progress.

To get around this, we have had to made sure that the larger a scene is, the more clear and obvious your end goal becomes. Also, any activity in a large area should always be optional unless it is closely related, both spatially and conceptually, to the object or state that makes the game progress to the next scene. Whenever the player is required to carry out some activity, the scope of a scene need to be decreased. The greater the freedom is in terms of possible actions, the less actions must be compulsory.

The scenes themselves are not the only problem though. A perhaps even greater concern is how to connect them. At first I thought this would not be a big issue and that you could get away with pretty loose connections. Problems arise very quickly though, the main being that the experience simply stops making sense for the player. There must be some sort of logical connection and narrative flow between each scene. If not it becomes increasingly harder for player to figure out what they should be doing. This means either lowering the degrees of positive freedom or to have more set up for each scene. The first option gives something like Thirty Flights of Loving and the second is basically to use the linear plot approach. We do not want to do either, so having clear connections is a must.

This results in an a sort of curious conclusion. One of our goals in storytelling is to rely as little as possible on plot in order to give an experience with a strong sense of agency. However, in order to provide as much positive freedom as possible, it is essential that the scenes are put together in a very tight and engaging fashion. In other words, on a scene level there is a great need for a strong plot in order to have as little plot as possible in the actual scenes.

In turn this limits what kind of scenes that are possible. Now that the connections need to make sense, it is not possible to simply fill the game with scenes that lends themselves very well to our core mechanics. So far we have to been able to pull this off quite nicely, and we are slowly wrapping our minds around these concepts.


End Notes
This is not some final verdict on how to improve upon the adventure game genre. It just summarizes a bit on the design direction that we are taking for our next game. Nothing is final yet, so I am not sure how it all will turn out in the end, or how much of the above we will be actually using. This is at least our current thinking and what we are working on now.

Also have say few ending words on adventure games in general. It might sound in the beginning like I loathe traditional click and point games, but this is not the case. I have enjoyed playing a lot of adventure games, and using puzzle approach for high-level game design is a very valid one. The best adventure games really take advantage of this, for instance Monkey Island and Broken Sword. These games are made in a way that makes the design really works and creates a really memorable and unique experience. However, for some games, like Primordia, my main draw is not to have this kind of experience. In this game I am more interested in exploration and getting immersed in the world. The classic puzzle design does not do this properly and I feel as if my experience is not as good as it can be. Primordia is still a good game and it uses the setting nicely to create some interesting puzzles. But it feels like they could have taken a lot of the game's essence and packaged into a form that would have delivered it much better.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

New Developments in the Purple Duck Offices...

Not that there really are offices but still this is what has been happening:


  • Legendary Classes: Medium is out to playtesters right now. We should be getting some feedback, next week or the week after.
  • Perry is hard at work developing the Lands of Porphyra and harmonizing all the work that was put in by our authors.
  • Joshua just turned in Heroes of the Siwathi Desert today and I've handed it off to Perry to edit.
  • I'm currently doing layout on a magic item book by Sean Holland that I am calling "The Armory" but that name is just a place holder for now.
  • Art is being worked on by Gary, Carlos, Tamas, and Ryan for a variety of projects. 
  • Monsters Unleashed/Monsters of Porphyra will be released next year. The art is still coming in for it and there is writing that needs to be done on it when I am not doing layout. 
  • We have had a few setbacks on some of the Purple Mountains but Purple Mountain III is out to subscribers right now and should be on sale to the general public in PDF and print sometime in December. 
  • Our newest releases right now are Encounter Pages II and Fehr's Ethnology: Urisk (9/10)

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Lands of Porphyra - The Northlands


By Gary Dupuis
THE NORTHLANDS
“I done all four a’ the Red King’s gulags, and it never hurt me none.  Well, except maybe the fingers…” – ‘Thumbs’ Johansson, thief for hire

Capital:  The Red Tower
Settlements:  The Breakers (3,700), The Deeps (4,050), Irontown (5,500), The Red Tower (850), Salttown (2,800) The Gulags (100-300 each)
Ruler: The Red King
Government:Dictatorship
Races:Dragonbloods, Half-orcs, Half-ogres, Humans, other slave races
Faiths:  Ferrakus, Ithreia, Myketa
Resources: Basalt, dried fish, iron, marble, salt, silver, timber, zinc
Languages: Common, Giant

Border Conditions: Porphyrite borders with the Jheriak Continuance, and the Wyrm’s Yard, which is technically part of The Northlands.  The central North Polar Region is rarely sought, and thought to be lifeless.

HISTORY
The Northlands have always been a harsh and unforgiving place.  The NewGod War did not change that in any positive way.  The driving away of the Elemental Tyrants may have only destabilized what passed for civilization there, leading to a collapse of the tenuous links to the south, not been completely restored to this day.
   Those in the Northlands pursued a hardscrabble life, eking out a living amongst the cold and rough terrain, trying to avoid predators, both two- and four-legged that prowled the wastes.  That all changed with the arrival of the mercenary warlord who would become known as the Red King.  Moving carefully, the Red King betrayed those who hired him and seized the Breakers as a base of operations.  His forces, the Red Host, systematically conquered the rest of the Northlands over the course of a decade.  Initially, settlements would resist and the Red Host would slaughter the defenders and pillage the place, but later, people just surrendered to the inevitable.  Irontown was the last major settlement to be brought into the fold, capitulating when the Red King himself hammered on the town gates. 
   Powers of note that did not bow down to the Red King were the Jarls of the Fire and Frost Giants, for even the Red Host was not powerful enough to conquer the Jarls in their fortresses.  The Red King has shown them his power, however, by destroying several small communities of giants that were isolated from their brethren.  Another area of curious defiance is the no-man’s land known as The Wyrm’s Quarter, a porphyrite-barriered region on the border with the Steppes that contains an enigmatic extinct volcano and the surrounding hills, all containing clear deposits of porphyrite.  That a vastly powerful dragon or clan of dragons has claimed this territory is plain to all, but disagreements continue as to its origin and nature.   Some connect the dragons with Paletius, who has a known affinity for the giant reptiles; with an internal eruption of porphyrite (and the legend of the Porphyrite Dragon); or with the erstwhile and forbidden parentage of the Red King himself.

CURRENT EVENTS
Little is known about the Red King’s origin beyond the obvious: he is an ogre mage with red draconic heritage, massive and strong almost beyond imagining.  His sheer physical presence masks a cunning and varied intellect that he rarely shows except to his closest associates.  His rule is distant for most of the villages across the land, but harsh when defied- and the gulags are rarely less than half filled.  The gulag system enforces the knowledge that, as long as the taxes and proper respect are paid, the Red Host does its best to keep the roads maintained and safe, and keep giant raiders at bay.  The mines, which are the source of the Red King’s wealth and power, are worked primarily by slaves, which the mines have constant demand for.
   The conflict with the giant Jarls continues at a low level, with groups of giants raiding for plunder and the Red Host trying to catch them before they can cause too much damage.  The people of the Northlands maintain watch towers and hiding places to avoid being taken unawares- and being taken as slaves.
   As the Red King has finally seemed to age, after several hundred years, he has begun to turn his eye outward from his obsessive control of the Northlands to the Dry Peninsula; Kesh, Jengu-Na, and the Lotus Blossom Steppes.  The Sikoyan Tundra, a natural muskeg-ridden barrier, has begun to see roads built of basalt, and suppression of the nomadic Sikoy people and their reindeer herds.  If he decided to plunder, say, the Yeti Wastes instead, the entire peninsula would breathe a sigh of relief.
  
SETTLEMENTS
The Breakers, on the east coast of the Northlands, has one of the very few good natural ports on the north Opal Sea, but is located among a set of vicious rocks and breakers.  A pair of tall lighthouses, the Eyes of the North, ensures that ships are guided safely into part.  It is the only trade-port out of the Northlands and it is home to a considerable number of fisherman and merchants.  The Red Host maintains a strong navy here, with a wide variety of shore batteries to defend against attack.
   The Deeps, probably the northernmost city on Porphyra, exists to support a huge open pit mine that brings up slabs of marble for export.  Northland yaks pull the stone to the Glace River where it is floated on rafts down to The Breakers or unloaded under the Red Tower and shipped by road.  A Red Host fort, clad in marble fragments watches both the slave workers and for giant raiders.
    The Gulags: Specialized prison camps used for disciplining Red Host rule-breakers and civilian criminals alike: the rule of slavery is for outlanders only.  There are four of these grim camps, and the price of parole after minimum sentence is The Walk- leaving the gulag on foot.

The focus of each gulag is as follows:
·       Gulag Red –almost exclusively for Red Host convicts, it keeps an eye on the Jheriak Continuance, and has twice been completely eradicated by would-be invaders.
·       Gulag Black- For political and dangerous prisoners, from all over the world, it is called the ‘Loneliest Place on Porphyra’. 
·       Gulag White- Built into a great calving glacier west of the Continuance, convicts are roped up the sheer sides, and slide their way out on sealskins that they must hunt themselves.
·       Gulag Blue- More of a penal colony, holding debtors and families on the somewhat clement shores of the Sea of Ithreia.

Irontown, source of the weapons and armor for the Red Host, is completely walled, being the nearest major settlement to the lands of the giant Jarls, within sight of The Maw-volcanic capital of the fire giants and The Slab- glacial rift-home of the Ice Giants, land-bound cousins to the maritime Frost Giants.  Ballistae and catapults festoon the ramparts of this Red Host recruitment town.
   Salttown possesses an extensive network of tunnels beneath it, with chambers, rooms, and even temples carved out of the salt itself.  The mines of Salttown are worked by free townsfolk, using slaves for only the most dangerous tasks.  The Salttowners maintain a strong militia, led by Ithreian rangers that cooperate with the Red Host in defense of the town.

INTRIGUES
·       One of the few things the Red King needs is information, and it is something that he is willing to pay well for. He is too cautious to trust any single source of information, so reliable and effective spies will find themselves well rewarded.
·       The Red Host is always looking for brave scouts willing to locate and disrupt the forces of the Giant Jarls.  Those who prove themselves skilled in such tasks will be provided with specialized anti-giant weaponry for further missions.
·       Gulag Black, the darkest hole on Porphyra, holds a prisoner with information that is vital; so vital that he needs to be found and rescued, from the ultimate prison.

REGIONAL TRAITS
The following regional traits are common in the Northlands. 
   Gulag Survivor: Not many are tough enough to walk out of the gulag, but it makes those few even tougher.  You gain a +1 trait bonus to Fortitude saves, and cold resistance 1.  
   Red Host Training: Those that serve with the Red Host are hardy and learn tricks for fighting the giants that raid the Northlands.  You gain a +1 trait bonus to Survival, and gain a +1 trait bonus to confirm critical hits against giants.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Happy Birthday Hidden in Plain Sight!


Hidden in Plain Sight has been out on the market for a full year now.  The free trial has been downloaded 9162 times, and there have been 7248 purchases.  The purchase-to-trial ratio is 79.11%.

Here's that weird sales graph again, for the official full year numbers.  Click to embiggen.



Needless to say, the sales of HIPS, and the feedback that I've received, has far exceeded my expectations.  In fact, I admit that it's made it a little more difficult for me to get motivated to start a new project.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Guess what landed on my doorstep!


Here is a look at some of the sprues and an assembled trooper. It’s a bit dark out so I needed to use my desk magnifier lamp to get some shots. I will try to get some larger clearer images when I can get some decent lighting.

I am quite frankly amazed at the level of crisp detail they were able to reproduce while dealing with the direction of pull from the mold halves. WGF did an amazing job…. My hat is off to them.





 
 
A few spru shots before I tore into them ;)