Monthly Archives: June 2020
(Photo by Tab10)
I’m interrupting this week’s at-your-table game content to discuss the state of the industry. We’ll get back to fund stuff, but this is important.
I’ll start with some recent history.
The 2016 U.S. east coast blizzard made a noticeable negative impact on print RPG sales. Stores were shut down, people did not go out. It hurt. Companies suddenly were not selling like they had been, but expenses didn’t go down at all. While it didn’t drive anyone major into bankruptcy, it did have serious impacts. Budgets were slashed. Plans for new hires were axed. Raises were cancelled. Projects were scaled back. Not necessarily at every game company–some had very deep pockets from parent companies or investors and could just take the hit — but more companies than not had to change plans to survive.
Sales of PDFs did not see a significant uptick. Sales did not spike to higher-than normal levels after the snow melted and life got back to normal. Inventory for products created just before the blizzard did sit around longer. Some never sold. The expected money that would have been made that season was just gone.
Obviously the past few months have been worse. Worse for publishers, worse for companies, distributors, and individual creators.
But if the current upward pandemic infection trends continue and/or a second wave is bad? It doesn’t have to be the whole country to kill already struggling companies. The 2016 blizzard was a bit less than 1/3 of the US population, and everyone knew it couldn’t last. But it’s economic impact on gaming was widespread and serious.
There’s a reason so many ads currently begin with “In these uncertain times.” No one knows when a vaccine is coming. No one knows how bad the current rising numbers are going to get, or if they will spike again in the fall. In the US, there does not seem to be any national plan to handle this pandemic. Some places are depending on voluntary steps. Others are mandating masks.
Unlike 2016, there’s could reason to fear the impacts could keep going, or get worse, for a year. I hope a vaccine comes out before that, but I can’t depend on it. Not as a writer, and not as a citizen trying to pay the bills.
So even as governments open for business, sales are still down. They are improved over total lockdown, obviously, but companies aren’t getting the lost money from the lockdown back. Ever. The blows taken in the next few months don’t have to be as bad as the lockdown in order to kill stores and companies, and drive creators out of the industry forever, because everyone already took several serious financial hits.
If you want professional ttRPG material in the future, there are things you can do, now and in coming months,
Support your local stores if you safely can. Some stores are doing curbside pickup, some are doing delivery.Some are allowing a small number of people wearing masks in at a time. I don’t want anyone to risk their health for games, but if your safety measures allow for contactless delivery, and you have the money, those stores are still hugely important. They sell more, total, than online places (yes, including Amazon). And they bring more new people into the industry.
Support game companies. Buying from a local store absolutely counts, but if that’snot an option for you for whatever reason, look to see if the publisher has their own online store. Look to sign up for mailing lists and get special offers. If you have to buy through online stories, try to find a game-specific store you like and buy through them. The huge distributors don;t care about RPGs, and they’ll survive or not with no regard to how many dice and game books they move.
Finally, support game creators directly if you can. Even those who have full-time on-staff positions with game companies often make ends meet by taking on additional freelance… and that freelance is greatly reduced right now because game companies are tightening their belts. If you have a creator you particularly like or enjoy the work of, find if they have a Patreon, of Ko-fi, or other means of receiving money.
Because if the stores go, the game companies will suffer. if the game companies go, the creators will suffer. And if the creators go?
Then there’s much less chance the game content YOU want will even be created.
And, yes, I have a Patreon. I am a full-time freelance and contract writer now. I pay for my own insurance, pay my own social security and self-employment taxes, have to make quarterly payments on income tax, and then try to pay all my bills with what’s left of the money made on words.
Eugenics, as a concept, is evil. It does real harm.
Things that promote it are problematic-at-best.
That includes a lot of my very favorite entertainment options, from many RPGs to the Lensman series.
I need to do better in not just supporting it, but fighting it.
The game balance of the Starfinder Roelplaying Game is perfectly maintained if EVERY character, regardless of playable species, gets to choose between +2 to one ability score, or +2 to two scores and -2 to one score.
I may just make that my default from now on.
Here’s the final post for the week, playing with fun options for the weapon damage benchmarks per level for Starfinder I posted on Monday.
Since those benchmarks allow you to determine the damage of nearly any weapon at any item level (grenades and special weapons are special cases), they are half of what we need to allow you to upgrade Starfinder weapons. If you want to have your laser pistol be improved so it does more damage, just select an item level on the EAC small arms table with a benchmark that’s better than your current damage, and increase the pistol’s item level to match.
The big question left, of course, is “how much does that cost?”
Enter the Weapon Upgrade Pricing chart.
To determine the cost of such an upgraded weapon, find the first value on the chart that is more than it’s current cost. Then go three steps down the chart from there for each increase in item level. That entry is the new value of the weapon. Pay the difference between that new value and your original value, and your weapon is upgraded. (Upgrading a weapon requires the same time, resources, and skill at building a weapon of the new item level from scratch).
(art by 3droman)
For example: Carl has a 5th level wyrmling dragon rifle, a longarm which does 1d8 fire damage and costs 3,020 credits. But his character is 7th level, has money to spare, and he wants to upgrade the weapon. Looking at the benchmark table, he sees that if he upgrades his longarm to 7th level, it’ll do 2d6 damage. Much better!
His friend Ali the mechanic has the ranks and tools to do the upgrade. All Carl needs to know is the price.
Looking at the Upgrade Pricing Chart, he sees the first value higher than 3,020 is 3,250. Since he increased two item levels he needs to go six steps down the chart, which is 7,000 credits. Since his weapon currently has a value of 3,020, he needs to pay the difference — 3,980 credit (likely in UPBs) to get the weapon upgraded.
Weapon Upgrade Pricing Chart
You can also use the chart to estimate the cost of other kinds of equipment such as armor and even magic items… but that’s a different article!
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So, Monday I posted a big entry with long lists of tables that gave benchmark damage values for weapons of all types at all item levels in Starfinder, and mentioned there were lots of fun things we could do with a list like that. Here’s another one.
We can eliminate weapon damage being primarily determined by item level.
There are lots of good and well-thought out reasons why damage is tied to item levels in Starfinder, and it works great for the core game, but it makes some setting hacks harder to pull off. In particular, it doesn’t work well for genres that encourage players to get attached to specific weapons (the Colt revolver Shanna the Gunslinger left you when she rode back into the Outlands, or the longsword your Grandfather carried in the aberration wars two generations ago, and so on).
So, let’s say we wanted to use Starfinder for a pure fantasy campaign, rather than science-fantasy. Perhaps a game set in Solstice, with charters constantly looking for new dungeons to explore.
We’ll call is DungeonFinder… for now.
And we want people to fight with swords and axes and bows in DungeonFinder, rather than plasma sabers and laser pistols. So, first, we make a few fantasy weapons. (This isn’t an exhaustive list, just a short set of examples).
For now we’ll list the prices in “cr,” which could stand for credits, crown coins, copper reals, or whatever. For this example we can treat 1-handed and 2-handed as properties for now (to keep these on fewer charts), allow boost on things without charges, and list the range increment of thrown weapons after the thrown property.
Basic Melee Weapons
Weapon Item Level Cost Damage Critical Bulk Properties
Club 0 0 cr 1d2 B Knockdown 1 1H, Thrown (10 ft.)
Dagger 1 10 cr 1d3 S L 1 H, Thrown (15 ft.)
Mace 1 25 cr 1d4 B Knockdown 1 1H, Boost (1d4)
Maul 1 10 cr 1d6 B Knockdown 2 2H, Boost (1d6), unwieldy
Spear, light 1 15 cr 1d4 P L 1 H, Reach
Spear, heavy 1 25 cr 1d6 P 1 2 H, Reach
Staff 1 5 cr 1d4 B Knockdown 1 2H, Block
Stiletto 1 50 cr 1d3 P Bleed (1d3) L 1H, Conceal, operative
Torch 1 1 cr 1d2 B & F Burn (1d3) L 1 H, One 1-hour charge
Advanced Melee Weapons
Weapon Item Level Cost Damage Critical Bulk Properties
Battle Axe 1 50 cr 1d6 S Wound 1 1 H, boost (1d6)
Great Axe 1 100 cr 1d10 S Wound 2 2 H, boost (1d6), unwieldy
Great Sword 1 110 cr 2d4 S Bleed (1d8) 2 2 H
Short Sword 1 30 cr 1d6 S Bleed (1d4) L 1 H
Longsword 1 50 cr 1d8 S Bleed (1d6) 1 1 H
Rapier 1 150 cr 1d6 P Demoralize L 1 H, Block, feint, operative
THEN, we say if you are proficient with a weapon, when using it you do either its listed damage, or damage from the appropriate benchmark table using your class level (or perhaps equal to your base attack bonus if we want to give soldiers more of an edge) as the item level.
Magic weapons can have fusions… or really powerful ones could actually do damage at +1 or +2 levels on the benchmark chart.
Slings and throw darts can be Small Arms. Crossbows and longbows Long Arms.
But MAGIC WANDS can be small arms too! Your cogamancer might have a wand of lighting that’s just a 1d6 ranged electricity attack with arc on it…
This allows for a HUGE range of weapons, all of which need only be designed as a single item level, since damage will scale automatically.
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