Tab Creations

Producers of fine historical and hobby games.

Development Blog

Game development thoughts and other musings from the Tab Creations Collective.

Dime Adventures: Lost Continents

In today's preview of Dime Adventures, our upcoming pulp alternate history roleplaying game, we take a look at the lost continents that have existed around the world. We also want to remind you that the Dime Adventures Kickstarter launches a week from today, January 10th!

A number of lost continents once existed on Arth. While these ancient lands may be destroyed, they live on legend and in what they left behind.

Atlantis

The most famous lost continent is that of Atlantis, an island empire that once existed in the Atlantic Ocean. Its civilization was advanced for the era, with great walls constructed of brass, tin and a precious metal known as orichalcum. The ambitions of Atlantis were great; its armies conquered many lands in the western Mediterranean, bringing the conquered peoples back as slaves. At the height of its power, however, the island was destroyed in a single day and night. It is said that the people of Atlantis angered the gods, and they tore the land apart before it sunk into the sea.

Mu

In the Pacific Ocean, the continent of Mu once stretched from Easter Island, to Hawaii, to Guam. This land was inhabited by the Naacal people, among others, who possessed an advanced civilization for the day. Oceangoing voyages from the island influenced many nearby cultures. The continent, however, was an unstable one. It was held above sea level by the expansion of underground volcanic gasses. In a short but cataclysmic event around 9500 BC the pockets of gas burst in a great earthquake; the broken land fell into a fiery abyss, and the seawater rushed in to consume the ruins of the civilization.

Lemuria

Lemuria is a lost swath of land that once connected the Indian subcontinent to Madagascar. While not a true continent, it was said to have been home to a strange race of creatures. While humanoid, these Lemurians stood 7 feet (2.1m) tall, laid eggs and were hermaphroditic. They were said to be masters of the sorcerous arts, especially astral projection. No cataclysmic event is recorded destroying Lemuria. The land simply ceased to exist sometime around 6,000 BC. Perhaps it fell victim to some great mystical accident, or maybe a great ritual caused it to depart from the world entirely. Reports exist, however, of surviving Lemurians seen in and around Mount Shasta, along North America's Pacific coast.

Dime Adventures is our upcoming pulp alternate history RPG. Its Kickstarter is scheduled to begin January 10th. In the meantime, you can sign up to be notified when the Kickstarter is ready.

Dime Adventures: Antarctica

In today's preview of Dime Adventures, our upcoming pulp alternate history roleplaying game, we take a look at Antarctica, a continent of unexplored lands and hidden terrors

The mother of all blank spots on the map, Antarctica has been known to the outside world for less than a century. At first glance, a frozen wasteland filled with endless ice piled upon endless ice, the southernmost continent yet holds many mysteries left to be uncovered by daring explorers and their ilk.

But Antarctica is also an ancient continent, with a forgotten history buried beneath its mundane-seeming ice. Dark things dwell in the forgotten crevices of the world, and distant Antarctica has the darkest of all.

Dominion Mountains

The Dominion Mountains have yet to be glimpsed by human eyes. They are an enigma, a mystery yet to be solved. There have been many strange reports of disappearances, lights in the sky, unexplained auras and harrowing sightings, over the years, surrounding Antarctica, and the Dominion Mountains lay at the heart of these strange encounters. What humans would discover there if and when they finally make it to the Dominion Mountains would shake even the bravest of souls.

Mount Terror & Mount Erebus

These twin volcanoes stand on Ross Island and continuously ooze magma from their many crevices into the sea below. Where the magma meets the sea, great amounts of steam and other gases are released, making it truly a land of fire and ice. This presents a hazard to would-be travelers. These volcanoes also have one of the only standing magma lakes in the world.

Ross Sea

The Ross Sea is a frigid and largely untouched wilderness, pristine in its beauty but deadly in its natural fickleness. As one gets closer to the continent, the sea gives way to ice. The Ross Ice Shelf stretches across endless miles of ocean. Those few foolhardy explorers who have journeyed to the ice shelf and lived to tell the tale have brought back rumors and mad ramblings of things buried deep in the ice—barely visible as the sunlight filters down through it. They speak of massive and unknowable bodies, unreachable by human hands deep under the ice cover. They gibber about going mad at the mere sight of these primordial frozen behemoths.

South Georgia

This British island off the coast of Antarctica were recently home to a number of small whaling settlements. From the late 1800s until recently, these settlements served as seasonal bases for a few hardy whalers and sealers who trolled the local waters looking to make it rich.

More recently, however, the settlements have been left abandoned, their doors ajar and their equipment ruined. The abandonment appears to be sudden—in some buildings, food has been left on the table and personal affects left untouched in their places about the rooms. The British navy ship that reported the abandoned settlements also reported that the ships were left on the dock—untouched. And that no people, or bodies for that matter, were to be found anywhere on the island. The cause of the whalers' sudden disappearance remains a mystery.

South Pole

No human being has yet set foot at the South Pole. It is a hypothetical point on the continent, a milestone in human progress that has yet to be reached. And despite the failure of the British-funded Discovery Expedition to reach the pole (1901-1904), it is only a matter of time before human beings push to the most remote and southernmost point on the planet and claim the prize.

The Discovery Expedition came to an end under mysterious circumstances. When the expedition left the last civilized base in South America and made its way to the southern continent, it would at first send back regular messages. However, as the expedition continued, the messages became more erratic and began to contain strange content. The explorers spoke of seeing mysterious auras on the horizon, finding evidence of unexplained formations in the ice, and even of the curious and tragic loss of several members of the expedition. The last communication sent back never made it. The Discovery's messenger ship was found drifting in the ocean with no crew on board. On the ship was a sealed communique that contained only a short message asking for aid, a list of dead expedition members and some ramblings about the auras.

In fact, the True Form Foundation is publicly offering a grand prize of $100,000 to the first expedition to successfully reach the South Pole and return again with proof of their accomplishment. This prize has stood open for three years now, and the strange failure of the Discovery Expedition has left the door open for other groups to try their hands.

Tierra de San Martin

This is the largest peninsula in Antarctica, sticking out from the main landmass and extending northward. Of all the lands on the Antarctic continent, this one has seen the most human exploration, with a number of expeditions to the peninsula and a few lonely seasonal research stations still remaining along its coast. The few who live in these research stations are a haggard and largely mad lot, working away at their scientific research that consumes them enough to bring them to the ends of the earth.

Dime Adventures is our upcoming pulp alternate history RPG. Its Kickstarter is scheduled to begin January 10th. In the meantime, you can sign up to be notified when the Kickstarter is ready.

Dime Adventures: The Ninth Depot

In today's preview of Dime Adventures, our upcoming pulp alternate history roleplaying game, we take a look at one of the world's many secret societies. The Ninth Depot has protected the world from dangerous artifacts for over a millennium.

The Ninth Depot is a secret society founded by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka sometime around the second century BC. Over the centuries the society has grown and evolved, passing down its secret duties to generation after generation. The purpose of the Ninth Depot is to secure and lock away both knowledge and paranormal artifacts that would prove dangerous to humanity if they fell into the wrong hands.

The form the secret society has taken has changed over the years. In recent decades the Ninth Depot has infiltrated and embedded itself within the colonial government of Bombay. It operates a large and heavily secured warehouse in the countryside outside the city. There it stores the massive collection of dangerous artifacts that the secret society has amassed over the centuries. Most recently, acquired artifacts are stored in individual containers designed to seal in their malicious influence. Each of these containers and the artifacts they contain are indexed in a card catalog kept by the “librarians” of the warehouse. Some of the most ancient artifacts, however, have never been cataloged. These artifacts predate the warehouse, having been moved from older facilities maintained by the Ninth Depot.

The society recruits and regularly sends out members to track down rumors of strange happenings that might yield artifacts. These members are given credentials as agents of the Bombay colonial government. If sent elsewhere, they might also pose as members of other governments or authorities the world over.

Dime Adventures is our upcoming pulp alternate history RPG. Its Kickstarter is scheduled to begin January 10th. In the meantime, you can sign up to be notified when the Kickstarter is ready.

Dime Adventures: Danger & Excitement!

A few weeks ago I posted the first two installments in a series of game design articles about our upcoming pulp alternate history RPG, Dime Adventures. Today I am continuing the series by taking a closer look at how the game handles the danger and excitement of combat, as well as the resulting recovery period.

To begin this article, let me start by making a simple assertion: 

Pulp is the genre of heroic, over-the-top action in its rawest form.

That is, in pulp adventures it doesn’t matter it doesn’t matter if you steal bits and pieces of other genres. Take the bits you like and have at it! The pulps were filled with all sorts of genre-bending fiction, from adventures on Mars, to globe-trotting action, to cosmic horror, to fantasy worlds. What all these disparate tales had in common is a sense of heroism—of the conflict of right and wrong, good and evil—and a sense of high-flying Action, with a capital A. 

Want to steal Count Dracula out of Victorian fiction? No problem! Throw Dracula into the mix and then punch him in the vampiric face!

When I sat down to design the Dime Adventures combat system, I wanted to capture that same sort of high-spirited action, so I outlined my design goals:

  • Combats should be fast. They shouldn’t bog down with dry technical details that would take away from the feeling of high-spirited adventure.
  • Combats should be dynamic. The situation should be able to change from round-to-round. They shouldn’t become predictable, repeated slug-fests.
  • Combats should feel dangerous and exciting, but in a way that highlights their over-the-top nature rather than in a way that would make them feel gritty.

One of the most important questions to answer when designing any RPG combat system is: How many hits does it take (on average) to drop an opponent? This not only has an effect on how long combats take to play out, but it also has a huge effect on decision-making in the combat system.

Let me give an example: If I can take 10 hits before I drop, then I can easily afford to risk one or two hits in order to try something risky or to make a prolonged decision about the battle. Each hit doesn’t mean much, and so the stakes remain low until the last few hits.

On the other end of the spectrum, if it only takes one hit to drop me, combat is very dangerous for me. I would hesitate to start it unless I was convinced that I stood a good chance at either dropping my opponents before they could counterattack, or avoiding whatever attack they threw at me.

Deciding how many hits the average character can withstand then involves a trade-off. Too many hits and the combat loses its sense of danger as well as its speed, too few and it loses its sense of action and dynamism. Also keep in mind that the number of hits can be different between PCs and NPCs. It’s quite fitting for a pulp hero to be able take out a henchman with one punch. The inverse, however, isn’t true.

In the end, I decided that minions and most NPCs should drop with a successful hit or two. PCs, on the other hand, as well as major villains, should take about four successful hits. 

I also wanted it to be exciting and somewhat unpredictable exactly when major characters would drop. I decided to go with a system where heroes and villains don’t risk dropping until they hit 0 health, and even then every hit only increases the chances they they drop, rather than being a guarantee. This gives a sense of excitement as the character makes an action versus unconsciousness or death. It also means that abilities or other events can key off of a character reaching 0 health—the rough halfway point in the hero/villain death spiral—adding to the dynamism of a battle.

Next my thoughts turned to recovery. It would be realistic for a character beaten half to death to take a while to recover. Broken ribs aren’t negligible, after all. But this didn’t really fit the feeling of the pulp genre, where heroes might take a serious beating, but at the end of they day they soldier on to defeat the villains. 

Instead I decided that healing should be comparatively quick. This also promotes a sense of dynamism, as the situation can change from being beaten down to healed up with some first aid and a night’s rest.

These decisions in mind, I began to hash out the details.

Stay tuned for more Dime Adventures design posts in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, you can check out an open playtest of the game here!

Dime Adventures: Big Damn Heroes

Last week I posted the first in a series of game design articles about our upcoming pulp alternate history RPG, Dime Adventures. This week I’m going to continue discussing the game design by taking a look at my design of the character creation process.

If you read last week’s article, you’ll know that I defined four design goals for the sort of pulp heros our game supports:

  • Pulp heroes are broadly competent.
  • Pulp heroes are larger than life.
  • Pulp heroes live by their personal creeds and are distinguished by their idiosyncrasies.
  • Pulp heroes should have fun abilities.

With these goals in mind, I thought a bit more about the sort of characters featured in the pulp genre and I reached a conclusion: 

Most pulp heroes fall into a broad archetype, but each have their own unique twist on that archetype in some way.

Let me give some examples: Indiana Jones is the quintessential globe-trotting tomb raider, but he’s also an archeology professor. Doc Savage, too, is a globe-trotting adventurer, but he’s also a physician and a master of martial arts. The Shadow is a masked vigilante, but he is also a famed aviator. Similarly, early Batman is a masked vigilante, but he’s also millionaire playboy, Bruce Wayne.

I wanted these sort of unique twists to be reflected in Dime Adventures. When players made characters, I wanted them to start with a broad archetype, but I didn’t want them to be limited by it. I wanted each character to have its own unique twist. I wanted a player to be able to say “I am a hard-boiled detective and I was raised by wolves, therefore I’ve learned to track criminals by scent!” or “I am a hard-boiled detective and I dabble as a medium, channeling the spirits of dead crime victims!”

In the end, I decided that character creation in Dime Adventures would begin with picking a background, a broad archetype, and then adding to that archetype unique stats, additional skills and traits chosen by the player. I also decided that each character would have a listed personal creed and idiosyncrasy, which would help define what makes that character interesting and unique. Finally, I made a note for later that I wanted players to be rewarded for living up to their creed and idiosyncrasy in play.

With this system in place, a Dime Adventures stat block ended up looking something like this:

Nikolai Dragoslav, Crime Doctor!

Background Doctor

Creed “Always do a little extra [shady] business on the side.”

Idiosyncrasy Always sizing people up, both medically and as threat evaluation.

Str 3, Dex 7, Spd 6, End 5, Int 6, Per 5, Chr 4, Det 4

Defense 9/18, Willpower 7/14, DR 0, HP 8, Wealth 5, Lifestyle 6, Moxie 5

Skills Awareness 1, Empathy 3, Guns 1, Investigate 3, Lib-Arts 1, Medicine 4 (first aid), Science 2, Socialize 1, Stealth 2, Streetwise 2, Thievery 3

Traits Status (Doctor), Jack of All Trades, Sneak Attack

From here my thoughts turned to character advancement. From our earlier game, Shadows Over Sol, we already had a system written where each session characters advance in the skills and stats that were used in play. When this happens, the player writes “an experience” after the relevant skill. For example, if the character used the Animals skill to tame a tiger, she might write “tigers” or “animal taming” next to the skill. Furthermore, these experiences can be called upon in play to grant a bonus to actions where the experience applies. If the character gains enough experiences in a skill, its rank increases.

Thinking it over, this advancement system also seemed like a good fit for Dime Adventures. I wanted character advancement to reflect the game’s narrative. Furthermore, I wanted players to be able to point to individual experiences listed on their character sheets and say, “I got this experience from the adventure where I bested the tiger-man of Bengal!” To me this seemed very pulpy.

By this point the framework for character creation was in place. I still had work to do filling out the list of available archetypes and abilities, but I felt good about the underlying structure. This accomplished, I then started to think about action scenes and combat — the heart of adventure genre! But that leads me to a different area of game design, and that is a different post! 

Stay tuned for more Dime Adventures design posts in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, you can check out an open playtest of the game here!

Dime Adventures: Beginning the Design

Tab Creations has only been making games professionally for three years, but we’ve been making RPGs as a hobby for going on fifteen. In that time we’ve been involved in more campaigns than I can count and ran everything from Savage Worlds, to GURPS, to D&D, to Freemarket, to Starshield, to Marvel Super Heroes. We’ve ran numerous house settings as well, from a game of action-packed Indian myth that would become Against the Dark Yogi, to a sci-fi horror game that would become Shadows Over Sol.

In the past, one of our longest-running game worlds was this strange pulp alternate history game, taking place vaguely at the turn of the century. It had monsters, it had super-tech, it had dinosaurs and magic powers. It had it all! And over the years we kept coming back to this game world time and time again.

So fast forward to 2015. Shadows Over Sol hed been written and sent off to the editor. Its possible supplements hed been outlined. We’re were beginning to get back art the first artwork in preparation for its Kickstarter.

We usually have in lull in this part of our development process, when a game has been written and tested, but we haven’t yet been thrown into the hectic whirlwind that is running a Kickstarter. This is usually the point where we sit down and lay out some plans for what we want to develop in the future, and the direction we want to take the company.

So we’re pitching ideas for our next game to each other and someone mentions the strange alternate history setting that we’ve used in many of our personal campaigns for ages. We then talk a bit more and decide that the time is right for it. Thus began Dime Adventures’ road to publication.

Fast forward again a bit. I’m sitting down with my notes from our many Dime Adventures campaigns and making explicit the game’s design goals. I find that having a design document not only helps me keep focus when I’m crafting a game, but it also helps make clear to playtesters what the game is attempting to do.

For the game’s tone, I wanted it to be thrilling pulp action! For the game’s theme, I wanted it to be turn of the century alternate history, with a healthy dose of the strange and paranormal. The rule of cool should prevail!

Theme and tone in hand, I moved to underline what I wanted for the player characters. I came up with four character design goals.

  • Pulp heroes are broadly competent. While different heroes may have different specialties, they’re not focused to the exclusion of all else. They should be able to be thrown into and deal with a variety of situations.
  • Pulp heroes are larger than life. They inhabit a world of action and adventure, and they should be as thrilling, if not more thrilling, than anything they run up against.
  • Pulp heroes live by their personal creeds and are distinguished by their idiosyncrasies. Many pulp heroes are distinguished by their code of honor. They are heroes after all! Similarly, many have their own quirks and idiosyncrasies that make them memorable. 
  • Pulp heroes should have fun abilities. Beyond the mere fiction of the game world, playing a pulp hero should be thrilling as well, and players should have thrilling abilities to call upon.

Reviewing them, these looked like good goals. With that, I began a first pass at the design. And that, my friends, is another post. Stay tuned for more Dime Adventures design posts in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, you can check out an open playtest of the game here!

Combat System Design

I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about RPG combat system design. After all, combat systems are a major emphasis in many (if not most ) RPGs.

Combat system design is a fun/time optimization problem.

These days I think about combat system design as a fun/time optimization problem. That is, ideally you want to maximize the amount of fun you get out of the combat system per unit of time spent. Obviously, how much fun you get out of something is quite subjective, and how much time you want the combat system to take up is going to vary with the design goals of the game, but I still think this is a useful optimization metric to keep in mind when considering potential rules for a combat system. Here are a few ways this can be applied:

  • If a rule in combat takes time to resolve, but doesn’t add to the system’s fun in some way, it’s probably a bad rule. Example: If scoring a critical hit means rolling on a critical hit table, but most of the results are some variation of “add a few bonus points to damage,” it might be better skip the table entirely and go right to adding a few points to damage. Alternatively, the table might be made interesting enough to justify the time it adds to combat.
  • If combat isn’t an emphasis in your game, it’s okay if the combat system isn’t all that exciting, so long as it’s super-quick to resolve. Example: If I’m running a game based after telenovelas, it’s okay not to have an in-depth system for combat maneuvers, ambushes, suppression fire, etc. So if two rival suitors pull guns on each other after a shocking realization, it’s fine if the combat system is just “make an opposed guns roll.” The combat itself doesn’t have to be all that interesting - just quick - so that the game moves on to the interesting parts.
  • Even if combat is a major part of the game, it’s good to have a way for uninteresting combats to resolve quickly. Example: If a two-bit thug points a gun at Batman, this isn’t an interesting fight, even if combat is a major focus in supers games. The GM shouldn’t have to break out minis, initiative rules, counting hexes/squares, etc. Batman should just knock the gun away and take the thug out! A good GM will recognize this and run the situation accordingly, but it’s amazing the number of games that recognize this situation in their rules as written.

Another important realization about combat systems is to recognize that they are basically a just mechanism to resolve a particular type of scene in the game - specifically, combat scenes. Ideally, every action made in combat should contribute to progressing the resolution of the scene, or to making the resolution interesting in some way.

A Combat system is a mechanism to resolve combat scenes. Every action should move the scene towards resolution.

This is an important realization because in many traditional combat systems, a large number of actions don’t significantly contribute to the scene’s resolution. The quintessential example of this is attacking and missing in combat. When this happens no real progress has been made by either side to resolve the situation, the stakes have not been raised and usually the outcome of that attack isn’t particularly interesting.

In our Saga Machine games, this is the primary reason that, defensive reactions aside, the math is heavily stacked in favor of attacks hitting. Attacks that connect progress the game state by reducing the defender’s health, and bring the scene closer to resolving. Furthermore, most of the time that attacks miss, it’s because the defender took a defensive reaction. Since those always have a cost in AP/prana, the game state is progressed in a different way, with the defender having fewer AP/prana resources.

A combat system is a cycle, within which are smaller cycles. Each cycle has its own resources and its own pacing.

That leads me to the final, insight that I want to bring up in this post: The vast majority of combat systems consist of some sort of cycle within cycles. These are repeated over and over again until the scene resolves. In fact, roleplaying game sessions themselves are a sort of cycle within which the the smaller combat system cycles are placed.

The most obvious example of this is the traditional combat round: everyone gets a turn, takes action(s) and then that process repeats. Each round is one cycle. Within that, each turn is its own mini-cycle. In Against the Dark Yogi, for example, that would be: take an action, resolve it, repeat until out of prana or until an action requiring a flip is played.

Each kind of cycle has its own pacing and its own resources. For example, in many combat systems, an important resource for combat overall is HP. As the combat progresses, HP is lost, moving the game state forward towards the resolution of the scene. Within a combat round, an important resource is actions. Each character gets some number of actions and then uses those to affect the state of the game.

Ideally, every cycle should offer the opportunity to do something fun that progresses the game state. For example, on her turn, a player wants to be able to do something interesting that helps out her side in the combat. One reason why stun/shaken mechanics are disliked in some parts of the RPG community is because they frequently are implemented in a way that denies players the ability to do this. Similarly, healing mechanics can be controversial because they can be seen as reversing the progress of the game state, giving the sense that state is just “treading water” rather than bringing about a resolution one way or the other.

To sum up my post: Visualize combat systems as this interlocking set of cycles. Each cycle you want to squeeze out as much fun as you can in a timely manner. And every time you do this, you should be moving the game forward, towards the resolution of the combat scene.

Shadows Over Sol: Printing Proof

The first printing proof for Shadows Over Sol arrived the other day. It looks amazing! Unfortunately, there is an issue with the lower margin. This means that we're going to need to correct the issue and then order a second printing proof. It also means that the print version of the core book won't be released until early-to-mid February.

Meanwhile, however, we're hard at work preparing the unlocked supplements and other bits for release. Tomorrow we plan to release the GM Screen Inserts. We plan to release the Consequence Cards next week. Files for Ready-Made Heroes and Shiny New Toys are also being prepared

Shadows Over Sol Cost Breakdown

We're coming up on the first week since the funding period for the Shadows Over Sol Kickstarter ended, and in this week we've been hard at work putting all the pieces in place for a smooth and timely production process. We've also taken stock of our expenses and done our initial estimates.

Below you will see a graph that breaks down our estimated expenses. Note that these are subject to change as reality rears its ugly head, but thankfully we've planned a degree of padding for just such a case.

Shadows Over Sol Cost Breakdown

The different sections of the graph can be read like a clock, starting at the top and proceeding clockwise around the pie chart. For example, you can see that the art and layout budget for the core book consumes roughly a quarter of our costs. The various unlocked supplements consume roughly another third. Kickstarter itself (as always) takes a slice of the pie. Our "Oh Crap! Fund" is a pool of money that we've earmarked for any unforseen expenses that crop up during the production process. There are always a few of these, and we've found that it's best to plan for this ahead of time.

That's it for now! Expect our weekly summary of Shadows Over Sol progress to be posted in the TabBlog tomorrow!

Our Publication Process

When we at Tab Creations publish a new roleplaying game, we have a regular process that we like to go through in order to ensure that the game meets our quality standards. Using this process, a new roleplaying game supplement passes through a series of stages before it is considered complete. As we recently concluded the funding period on our Shadows Over Sol Kickstarter, an influx of new backers is likely wondering just what to expect as the game goes through its final production. The various steps we use to produce a game are detailed below.

Publication Flowchart

  • Outline: Before we even begin writing a new roleplaying game, supplement or adventure, we first make an outline of what we want it to include. This both helps us estimate word count (and thus production cost), but also if we are hiring a freelance writer, it helps communicate our expectations for the work.
  • Writing: This is often the longest step in the publication process, but as it involves creating the central part of the supplement, that is to be expected. In this step the writer completes a draft, we inspect it, make some notes and then any requested corrections are made.
  • Editing: After the writing is complete, go over the manuscript with a thin-toothed comb. This involves both proof-reading, as well as editing for content, making sure that the supplement does not contradict the rest of the game line and maintains a consistent tone.
  • Art Direction: The text in more-or-less final form, we have a better idea how it will flow in publication. This allows us to commission art. For longer works, such as a core game book, we will commission art in several waves. For a shorter work, such as a small adventure, all of the art will be commissioned at once.
  • Layout: With the text and necessary artwork in hand, layout on the work can begin in earnest. In practice, the layout step often overlaps with the art direction step, using sketches or placeholder artwork in the layout to mark where the final art will fit. Finally, once the layout is done, we look over the entire work to make sure that everything is in order.
  • PDF Published: Once the game is all put together in PDF, we usually release it to DriveThruRPG. The work is published, but our work is not quite done. If we are publishing an EPUB or MOBI version of a game, we'll create those documents in this step as well.
  • PDF Corrected: After the initial PDF is published we then wait a couple for feedback to come in. Even with the best practices, the many eyes of our customers are better our few at spotting any typos and other small errors that may have slipped through the production process. By waiting a bit, we can get these fixes integrated into the text and update the game's files before they're committed to print. With this update we usually also release the EPUB and MOBI versions of the game.
  • Printing Proof: The document updated, we then order a printing proof, to ensure that the files have arrived at the printer without error. This process takes a couple more weeks, which can be frustrating when waiting for the print version of the game to become ready, but it also ensures that no one gets a bugged print run. This has helped prevent some pretty massive headaches for us in the past.
  • Print Published: Finally, once we've received the printing proof and okayed it, we flip the switch and release the final print version of the game.