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Author Topic: Near-Definite Setting Compendium  (Read 4082 times)
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« on: February 06, 2008, 12:40:41 PM »

I was skiing yesterday, and a publishing project came to me. For those who don't know, I'm much more accomplished as an indie publisher than as an indie game designer; I've published six games and designed one, to be exact Wink The editorial, layout and generic bookmaking duties are pretty fun when consumed in moderation, so it's not rare that I come to have an idea of a possible product. This time the idea is a rather complex one, though, so I thought that I should ask the boards for opinions.

As we know by now, Clinton released the entire text of TSoY under a commercial CC licence a bit ago, making it theoretically possible for anybody to republish the text of the game in book form, even profiting from it. All well and good, and we've been discussing republishing TSoY with Harald and Jonathan, provided that Clinton needs that kind of sideline support and doesn't care to republish himself at some point. However, what came to me yesterday going down a hill was that I'd really like to make a setting sourcebook for Near with a comprehensive intent, including and expanding upon all the various material we've created for Near during the last years.

I don't know yet what the compendium would be called, but these would be the major goals:
  • Campaign seeding handbook: there's always been too much material about Near to utilize it all in a single campaign, so we might as well make the best of it and compile everything into a large reference work, complete with advice for navigating and compiling a campaign. This would include Clinton's original material and everything else of quality that I could get the permission to use, each chapter attributed to whoever's material it'd use. The idea would largely be to have all the useful crunch in one place and represented in an edited, compatible manner. There would not be generic rules, as this would be for folks who already pretty much know the rules by heart, or have the rulebook.
  • Work in progress: the name of the work would probably be something like "Near Setting Compendium #1" or something, to signify that the setting material is non-canonical, non-authoritative and a developing process. If it's well-received, we could make a point of publishing a new version in a couple of years, if the setting continued expanding with interesting material.
  • Editing and book design that faciliates use as a reference and overview: probably larger, traditional size and page-specific layouts that make sense and group material based on usage. For example, all central Three-corner material in one spread. Large navigation helps to make finding things in the book easier and a logical order for everything. Illustrated in a nice, understated manner to make the material look just as colorful as it is.
  • Maps of Near and editorial descriptions of different interpretations and versions that have appeared of various points; celebration of differences with no particular effort at representing an overbearing canon. Internally, however, heavy editing and finangling to make everything inside the covers hang together in a sensible, if interpretatable manner. Not all ever designed Secrets should be included, for example; only those that have meaningful setting significance and can't be trivially reinvented are really necessary. Not even all the original material need to be left in by the editing process.
  • Material edits to refresh, balance and clean up old and new material to a homogeous standard. Some original crunch could stand updating, for example. While at it, all crunch would be written to the same standard of fluff, with conscise character and campaign ideas listed.

As for the specific contents of the book, anything Near-related and available would be fair game for compiling into a tasteful and plentiful whole! I'm thinking of vampires from Absalon's tomb, telepathic ratkin, minor culture extravaganza, quest rules, Qek knotmakers, apegoblins... and that's just from the Finnish edition. Going into my own files we have armies marching across Near, mystery cults, huge amounts of Three-corner stuff, generic Near-compatible crunch by the troves... and then there's Clinton's half-finished book of cults with moon and sun cultists, crazy monarchist artefacts and whatnot. Going into the forums of course reveals a wealth of material; my original inspiration for this was Josh's new southern initiative with trolls, dwarves, wolfmen and whatnot. I've myself written my own share of strangeness on the forums, as have others. Finding and compiling all the interesting stuff would certainly be bothersome for anybody wanting to use these throw-away bits for gaming. But put it all into one 150 page book with good layout, and I think it might be an interesting and worthwhile product.

Practically speaking, the way I'd like to do something like this would be to simply leech all kinds of interesting material under the CC licence and take my own sweet time editing, laying out, illustrating and producing the book, to be published completely under a CC licence text-wise. Then I'd probably publish it with POD techniques, with perhaps a small initial print-run. A major question is whether I should set the price-point to just cover the hard expenses and leave it at that; I suspect that Clinton would like that, for instance, but my own inclinations range more towards pricing anything like this at the point the market will bear, pocketing any profits. It's a matter of respecting the work and self-respect; I remember thinking yesterday that I probably don't think like Clinton and some other folks in this because content-production and publishing are my current job, while Clinton's doing it more as a calling and a hobby. Ideally I'd garner some hundreds of bucks in profit for my work in extensively editing and producing the work, after paying for any necessary art and whatnot; I'd imagine that something like this should sell a hundred copies at least, roughly speaking. And if anybody liked the material enough to put it up in the TSoY wiki afterwards or anything like that, well enough; that's what the CC licence is for.

Anyway, what I wanted here was to call for reactions to this. For example, what does Clinton think, would this trample on how you've planned to develop TSoY? Or Josh and Troels, would you mind CC licencing the tasty morsels you've developed here, so I can steal them legally for a book like this? Does it bother anybody if I'm all greedy and plan to profit from something like this, or would it stand better with you if this was done as a public service, if done at all? Or anybody, really: is this an useless idea, or does a book like this seem like something others would like to have? Am I even the right person to do the editorial overview for a book like this, or would somebody else have a better eye for the whole?

Considering my current work situation and a very interesting other project that came up just today it's not very likely that I'd be finished with this kind of undertaking for a while, but it's the kind of thing I could well imagine working on in smaller bits, whenever time allowed. I'd also take a lot of community feedback and requests, of course, so that the things folks find interesting would find their way into the book. (Hah, a ransom approach: let me use your material in my book, and I'll write that chapter about cyclopean rhinoceros you've been asking about.) So it might be a year before it'd be finished, even. Not like there's a particular need to hurry.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2008, 12:56:15 PM »

Eero,

Holy crap, you scooped me! I've been planning for the last month to talk with some forum members (already talked with Josh, and you were next) about doing something similar. In my mind, I was calling it "Lonely Planet Near" after the famous series of travel guides. The part I was most worried about was getting others' OK on me reusing some of their stuff: I also planned to make it a nice, for-profit book, and add a bunch of original material by me. (Hobbies are fine, but they have to pay for themselves.)

I know what I'd like very much: I would like to write and edit an English version of this, incorporating a lot of the Finnish stuff that you added, Eero. It'd be CC-Attribution licensed, of course, so others could reuse it, and anything I used from others would be attributed to them. And I'd love for you to print it in Finnish, so that both editions got the same info - and obviously, you'd edit it differently, because the English version would have some reprinted stuff from the original Finnish version.

So, my big stumblers on working on this have been:

- The cost of good art.
- Getting permission.

Otherwise, I've been chomping at the bit to start. I have a high-level outline I've already written.

You're great at this stuff, though, Eero, and now I feel like I'm scooping you. This was my secret GenCon project, but I don't want to step on your toes. What do you think of the possibility of working together on this?

- Clinton
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2008, 01:00:58 PM »

Hah! I just realized you even kind of scooped my map idea - I wanted to begin each chapter with a map of its subsection, but have the maps not square up into a coherent whole, further demonstrating the inaccuracy of cartography in Near.

I wanted to throw out one other idea: I've also got an outline for a book I want to write about how to play TSOY better, how to be the Story Guide, and how to reuse the system for other settings. If working together doesn't sound great, having me write and edit that, and you write and edit a setting book might be really nice. I'd love to have both in English and Finnish, and I'd love to be the publisher of both in English, but there's a lot we can work out there.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2008, 01:29:52 PM »

Hee hee, great minds think alike. Well, regardless of juridics, TSoY is your game, so obviously you have primacy for doing stuff like this. I'd like to have an opportunity to proffer good suggestions, though. For art, you might wish to consider my brother, who made the cover for the Finnish edition and has just gotten better since then; his main edge on the art market is that he's an indie rpg publisher himself and might well be willing to work for a share of the profits if he thinks the project is good. He also likes TSoY, which isn't always a given when I pick the games we translate Wink

Of cooperation: I will be most happy to offer my suggestions and advice, but I'm not sure if full cooperation would satisfy me. I tend to want to do things just so when writing, editing and doing layout, so independence is important in that. I know that there's nothing wrong with your ideas and that you'll make a great book, but if I started thinking of it as my book, I'd want to control every little thing, which would just get stressful when I'd be thinking about the other person's feelings at the same time. That's why I much prefer either helping you a bit with your book, or piloting a project where I have the prime responsibility.

I was thinking about a Finnish version earlier, but decided that I don't really think that Finns deserve one; they've been pretty lazy in buying the actual game book, stingy as they are Wink They all know English anyway, so I'd be totally happy selling them an English-language setting book. A Finnish one would probably just sell a dozen copies or so, which would be pretty much the same number an English one would sell.

And of maps: of course they have to be contradictory. They also need to show things that are not in the text, to inspire creativity. A big color map of the whole Near would be nice, too, just for the aesthetics of it; it would also be useful to have one big map to show things in relation to each other when a campaign is being started and players have to figure out what is near what. Even if the map was characterized as totally unreliable in-setting, it's useful for the players.

Of an advice book: I totally support that. But you do realize, if you're going to publish both a setting book and a play advice book, it makes total sense to make the setting book include the original setting material, and make the advice book include the revised rules - so in effect, the two books combined are like an extended version of the original game. The rules could stand some slight rewording and clarification in places, anyway.
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shadowcourt
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Posts: 153


« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2008, 01:38:49 PM »

To say I'm excited about this would be a huge understatement. And yes, for whatever form it materializes in, I'm totally happy to have stuff that I've contributed used/reworked/whatever.

It makes me think I'd really better brush some of that stuff up in the next few weeks, though. I'm glad I didn't hold back about starting the Goren conversation.

Yay, new material!

-shadowcourt (aka josh)
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Troels
Member

Posts: 77


« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2008, 01:50:20 PM »

Ooh! Shiny!!

Nifty new stuff for my new favourite game!

You are both overwhelmingly welcome to use my TSoY ideas. I'd be honoured.

That would be Troels Ken Pedersen, of Copenhagen, by the way ;-)
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sabbatregent
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René López


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« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2008, 12:34:58 AM »

Yay! More Near!

For whatever is worth, you can see our own take of the map of Near here (under Mapas). The map was the result of an interesting discussion about the rivers and cultures, and I know there's a sketch of Absolon's Way somewhere. Many of the Spanish translators of the game have already started creating some material for the game, and I'm sure they will be happy to share if you're interested.
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TSOY in Spanish: La sombra del ayer
Frank Tarcikowski
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Posts: 277

Hamburg, Germany


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« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2008, 08:49:51 AM »

Clinton, the Lonely Planet is totally out. The Rough Guide is what you should keep in your backpack. Also, "Rough Guide Near" sounds kinda cooler, don't you think?

- Frank
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If you come across a post by a guest called Frank T, that was me. My former Forge account was destroyed in the Spam Wars. Collateral damage.
oliof
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Posts: 449

Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland


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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2008, 09:01:49 AM »

All I put on these boards is open for grabs for these projects, under a CC license.

Clinton: I received the first sketches of near-specific CC-licensed artwork last week. It's becoming a reality. Stay tuned.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2008, 09:38:44 AM »

Harald,

CC-licensed art? Wow - now that's exciting.

All,

Real work - in terms of collating and editing and what not - has begun. I will be contacting you personally in the next few weeks if I have questions, and will keep updates on the board. I have another game that I've almost finished, and I have to squeeze it out first, but then a return to Near is my top priority.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
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