“The Secret of Cedar Peak” released!

After putzing around with layout in Affinity Publisher, I got fed up with its style management — it just didn’t work for me. I am used to the style management of word processors, and I had written the whole text in LibreOffice Writer. So I just gave up on Publisher and made an ok layout in Writer itself. I used the sketches of the art as placeholders. And then I got the actual art from Amber the illustrator, and I put that in. The PDF needed a bit more futzing before it worked nicely with a screen reader. I wanted to make sure that visually impaired gamers could use the scenario too!
Meanwhile, I found a good template for a single-page website and constructed a website for Capybarbarian, ‘my’ publishing label. And I upgraded my hosting so I did not have to buy a separate hosting solution for it, which also was a day’s worth of work…

But now it’s published, and it’s up on DriveThruRPG and!
I’m proud of the result, but marketing is not my strong point. So far, I’ve only made two sales, which is certainly not enough to recoup my costs of the illustrations. I’ve already decided to write sequels, and maybe combine those with some smaller adventures into a kind of mini-campaign and make the starting city the center of a little sandbox. And I’m ok with writing stuff because I like doing it, but I’m not going to invest anything in art if no-one is going to buy it anyway. I might do a ‘prolonged crowdfunding’ by putting up an art-less version of the product, and once enough have been sold to cover the cost of art, I’d commission that and add it in. Everyone who already bought it would get the updated version with the art automatically.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.

Nougat de Montelimar

For many pastry recipes, you need sugar syrup at a specific temperature. We have two digital thermometers for that purpose, but we’ve been having a lot of trouble with them: they just wouldn’t stay on and switched off immediately. After some research (and a failed attempt at making nougat), we found that these digital ones use some kind of metal sensors — and it makes sense that these get all messed up because of our induction stovetop. After all, it’s not a big stretch to posit that a powerful chaotic magnetic field would interfere with a delicate sensor made of metal!
So after some research, we found an analogue thermometer to use. And using that, we were able to get the sugar syrup and the honey the right temperature to make Nougat de Montelimar! It’s delicious, and I’m sure we’ll make it again some time.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.

The rise of Capybarbarian

After spending many evenings putzing around with the layout in Affinity Publisher, I lamented the fact that the text style management in that program was not as good as it is in MS Word. (I work(ed) professionally with MS Word, and I’m pretty confident in my ability to maintain a strict text style system in my documents.) And then I realised that I wrote the whole scenario in LibreOffice Writer, which has the same kind of style management as MS Word…
So I scratched the layout in Affinity and went to work in LibreOffice Writer. After two evenings, I had the layout all done. Well, that will teach me, I guess.
I’ve done some adjustments to the text and had to make it shorter in a few places to ensure a new chapter would begin in a new column, but it is now in its final form. I’m waiting for the final versions of the illustrations — I’ve placed the sketch “placeholders” in the text for now in order to finish the layout.

When you register with DriveThruRPG as a publisher, you’re asked for a name. I could use my own name, but where is the fun in that? Only well-known authors do that, with possibly ‘Productions’ or ‘Games’ as a postfix. I thought long and hard, and decided on ‘Capybarbarian’. The capybara is my favourite animal, and of course the barbarian is a class in Dungeons & Dragons. The contrast between the capybara, that always look so incredibly relaxed, and the raging barbarian should be an interesting contrast.
I’ve commissioned a logo (a capybara barbarian, of course), registered the domain name and created a single-page site that will be launched to coincide with the publication of the scenario — probably in the first week of January. I need to figure out the hosting situation first…

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.
hand-eye coordination

Home stretch… maybe?

Although today is the ‘official publishing day’ for the RPG Writer’s Workshop, I won’t be publishing today. I had planned it like this, but it does give a little pang of regret not being able to join in on the publishing frenzy!

Today, I’ve gotten a healthy respect for the job of doing the layout, now that I have to do it myself…

A friend of mine, whom I play a lot of RPGs with, went through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. He’s a professional translator, so he had a lot of grammar and spelling corrections to make — stuff that evaded me. And since he is a game master as well, he could also give some real good advice on how the information is presented. Super useful, and I have processed all his remarks.
Tonight I should get the first sketches for the artwork from the illustrator! Super excited about that too.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.

RPG Writer Workshop

I haven’t posted here in a while, and that is because the RPG Writer Workshop has started, and writing my adventure scenario is taking up almost all of my time.

I tested the scenario out with a group of local Pokemon GO players who had expressed an interest in playing an RPG — I had two newbies and one veteran at the table, and a good time was had by all. And the adventure worked pretty well, but during writing I, of course, changed quite a few things. You have to take every possible semi-logical course of action in mind, instead of just going with the flow of your particular group. So I added quite a few scenes that might come up, which was fun to do but also took a lot of time.

I have the text of the scenario all written, there are just a few more tweaks I need to do. And I want to check whether the numbers work, so I want to run a group through the dungeon to see where they end up. Or I might just simulate that.
I have contracted an illustrator who is going to provide art! Really excited about that — though it does mean I need to reach a certain minimum sales volume to offset that investment. And I have to do things like providing references, which I’ve never done before. It’s a learning experience, to say the least!
I’m going to do cartography and layout myself, and I’ve started on designing the cover.

I have bought Affinity Publisher in their Black Friday sale, so I should be able to produce an attractive PDF with that. Still considering if I should create the stat blocks myself, or just make use of a site that formats them for you and just paste in the images.
I don’t think Affinity Publisher supports tagged PDF output, so I am also considering adding a black-and-white PDF for printing and accessibility which I’d make with LibreOffice, which would not have backgrounds and coloured text. The only program that seems to be able to do all three is Adobe InDesign, but I’m not going to get myself stuck in that ecosystem!
And if I’m offering two versions of the PDF in one go, I might as well go all-in and add player versions of the maps in PNG format so you can make use of them in your favourite virtual tabletop.

I signed up for the DM’s Guild track, but I have decided to publish under the OGL instead, because I want to retain full control over the end result. I’m going to go with a price of $5, which is low enough to be ‘beer money’. I hope that will lower the barrier for buying it.
Still considering what to do with marketing, too.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.
3-eyed cat

The Galahad Principle, and how it works for us

I recently came across this article about something called ‘The Galahad Principle’, in contrast to the ‘Pareto Principle’.

I frequently find myself settling for 80% solutions: most of the time, it’s good enough, and the extra energy needed to get it to 100% is simply not worth it. I can be remarkably flexible when it comes to working around these last 20% of a lot of things! But that post also remarks upon something that I recognise: only when you’re at 100%, you can trust ‘the system’ completely and do not need to expend energy for a workaround every time.

Two weeks ago, I attended Agile Camp NL, and I had a blast! I only knew the organisers vaguely, so I had some socialising to do — which I’m not very good at, but somehow the environment was very conducive to making new friends. And we were helped by some of the ice breaker excercises. Since the theme of the ‘camp’ was the agile way of working, we had to answer the question ‘what makes your way of working agile?’ in duos.
My workplace claims to be agile, but is actually pretty static and locked-down, so there’s not much agility in what I do in the office. But I thought of how I use routines in my daily work.

Saying you’re agile because you use routines is kinda weird (which is why it’s such a good icebreaker), but if you follow the Galahad Principle, it makes sense. For instance: we have cats (as you all know), and every day we have to clean the kitty litter. The bag of dirty litter goes into the trashcan, which is outside our back door. The back door has to be locked when we go to sleep. And there is a heavy curtain in front of the back door, which we close on cold winter nights to better keep the warmth in.

We have set up a routine, which goes as follows:
– The door is not locked before the kitty litter has been cleaned (nothing so frustrating as standing with a bag of dirty litter in your hands and having to rummage through a drawer for keys — not to mention the (un)hygienic aspects of doing so);
– The curtain can’t be closed before the door is locked (otherwise we can’t see that the door hasn’t been locked yet and we might forget it).
We follow this routine 100%. So if the curtain is closed, we know that the kitty litter is done and the door is locked, so we do not have to do anything else with the back door when we go to sleep.

And having this routine actually saves a lot of time and energy, precisely because we can trust it — because we follow it 100%. If we had followed it only 80% of the time, it would have been useless. And the time saved means we can expend that energy to something else that needs doing.
Automate the boring stuff away, or create a routine and keep yourself to it, and spend your (mental) energy to stuff that matters.

(Also: I still need to write up all of the awesome sessions I attended at Agile Camp, but I’m also behind on the course work for the RPG Writer’s Workshop, and that has priority for now.)

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.

The Spiel 2019 loot post

Yesterday, we visited Essen for the annual Spiel tabletop gaming exhibition. My purchase list was empty, but as usual we didn’t return empty-handed… We left a bit after 9 am, and went straight to P10, the off-site parking with lots of capacity, as the parking near the Messe itself fills up almost immediately. We were not going to make the same mistake as last year, when we spend a lot of time in a traffic jam past the Messe, and ending up at P10 anyway.

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We had a delicious pulled beef burrito to end the day, and left the fair as it was winding down. 19:13 we were back at the car park, and it took us some time to find our car back — next year we really need to make sure we take a look at the signs! We were back home before 9 pm, which wasn’t bad at all.
It was not as busy as I remember from last year — but then we went on the Thursday, which perhaps draws more deal and novelty hunters. Yes, hall 3 was jam-packed, because that’s where all the big stands from all the big publishers are, but the rest of the halls were quite navigable. And hall 5 and especially 6, where most of the ‘fringe’ stuff was (like RPGs…) were nice and quiet (relatively). Not sure what we’ll do next year (a lot also depends on klik’s working schedule), but I certainly didn’t regret going on Friday.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.

Decolonising my D&D scenario

One time, when I ran a scenario to introduce a family to RPGs, I designed a scenario that was chock-full of colonialism and casual racism: the ‘wood people’ were natives who were capable fighters but were superstitious and needed the party to ‘rescue’ them from the monster living in their woods, the (hob)goblins lived in squalor and were irredeemable evil — and it was all set in some kind of ‘frontier’.
I’ll be running a scenario to introduce some people to RPGs again, and my thoughts turned to the scenario I could run. This intro one worked quite well, so why not re-use it? Well, my thinking on these kinds of topics has progressed over the years, that’s why. So it was time to once again read through this post about decolonising D&D, and think of a way to change things for the better.

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And which that, I should have a scenario that is just as intense as the initial version (or even more intense, because there is more involved behind the scenes than just ‘lol, goblins are evil’), with fewer racist undertones and less ‘white saviour syndrome’. Perhaps there is more fine-tuning to be done, even outside of the immediate context of this scenario. For instance, I need to find a mode to be able to use goblins and orcs as adversaries without painting them as irredeemable evil that only exists to be exterminated, but I will need to invest more thought into that before I’m comfortable with presenting that concept.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.

Texel 2019

It’s been quite a while since I posted on here. So why don’t I break the silence by showing you some photos I took from our trip to Texel last week? My mother in law had invited us (just like last year), and we stayed at the same camping in a ‘chalet’ (basically a trailer without wheels).

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We also went to the Beachcomber’s Museum, which exhibits stuff that was found on the Texel beaches (or literally robbed from beached ships!)
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On our last day on the island, we went to the Slufter, a ‘national park’. The dunes have been dug away there, creating the original tidal flat landscape.
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Afterwards, we had a pancake lunch at De Cocksdorp, the northern-most village on the island. We had drove past there on our way to the lighthouse, but we hadn’t seen the village center itself. So we walked down the main street, all the way to the stairs over the dyke and onto the beach.

We had been eating out a few times, and in the village where we were staying, the restaurants are all quite… ‘touristy’. So basically merely okay food for a relatively high price — something you also saw reflected in the reviews guests had given. But we walked past the restaurant Topido in De Cocksdorp that I had seen earlier, which had consistently good reviews. It’s run by a couple, only nine tables, and they use locally sourced ingredients.
That evening, we would be going to the Indian place, but they only did take-out that day. So we suggested going to Topido, and luckily for us, they still had a table open!
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I think we’ll be eating there next year too — it was truly delicious.

Crossposted from my blog. Comment here or at the original post.