New on Desk #17 — The Quest for Lucre

I’ve had another peaceable spring week here in scenic Upper Savo. The family forestry team did a bit of a mobilization exercise in preparation for thinning some forest compartments later on; there’s still a bit too much snow deeper in the woods, but in a couple of weeks we might get into action in that department. Swans made a prominent appearance in the rural waterways and overhead, nattering at each other in the few ice-free dipping spots.

Aside from the on-going gaming, my big theme this week has been figuring out ways to make some money. More on that after the table of contents.

Making profits off the arts

As you probably know, I’ve had my own indie publishing imprint Arkenstone Publishing for what, 15 years by now. Publishing and selling roleplaying games was a particularly active hobby for me in the ’00s, but despite the passivity over the last decade, the company does still exist; I haven’t made any particular decision to close shop at any point, I just haven’t felt like doing anything commercial in the field recently.

So anyway, I learned last week that Arkenstone has some old operating losses from last decade that haven’t been off-set by profit and are in danger of becoming outdated in taxation. The tax office allows companies to deduct old expenses from new profit over a certain time-scale when calculating taxable profit, as otherwise you’d be paying taxes on a business that is actually not turning a long-term profit to pay those taxes from. Basic accounting stuff, I’m just laying this out for any summer children out there.

Well, as every middle-classer knows, everything’s better tax free. What this circumstance inspires for me is The Quest for Lucre, the challenge of figuring out some constructive money-making scheme for Arkenstone Publishing. The parameters of the exercise for now are as follows:

The Quest for Lucre, entrepreneurship project 2020
  • The deadline on the old deficit runs out at the end of the year, so that’s how long the Quest runs: whatever money is to be made has to come in before the year’s out. I understand we have some deficit that runs out next year as well, but that sounds like a 2021 problem.
  • The deficit total is about 2000 €, so that’s how much profit (revenue after expenses) Arkenstone Publishing should make this year to make full use of the old deductible.
  • The Quest needs to be a constructive and healthy activity; my livelihood doesn’t dependent on getting my gaming hobby to make new money all of a sudden, so it isn’t worth breaking any backs over.
The tax bear is the traditional Finnish personification of the tax office. The true boogie man of middle class mythology.

It remains to be seen how seriously I’ll be tackling the Quest, but it does seem like a fun excuse for getting off my keister and doing something constructive, doesn’t it? As I’ve discussed before, part of my motivation for restarting my blog this year was to seek for some new motivation and structure to increase my artistic productivity. The Quest for Lucre could conceivably play a part in that, so I guess thanks, tax office, for motivating enterpreneurship via basic accounting practice. I haven’t even earned the money yet, but I can already taste the sheer satisfaction of having some money that you don’t get a lick of, dear tax bear.

I’m open to thoughts and ideas on the Quest, by the way, so feel free to advice if you feel like you’re seeing something I don’t here. I’m hoping in general that writing this blog and getting the occasional thoughts from friends will help jog something loose for me, and that goes for the Quest as much as anything. I like the idea of making money off my art, as a source of validation if nothing else, but finding fresh inspiration is a work in progress.

Some ploys to consider for the Quest

Of course Arkenstone makes a little bit of money every year from what you could call routine operations, mainly long tail online sales of products we put to the market in the ’00s; people occasionally stumble upon our Finnish or English websites and throw some money this way. I think that amounts to something like a few hundred euros annually recently, so I won’t be reaching the Quest goal just by sitting by and watching money roll in – around 90% of the goal has to come from new economic activity. Something proactive is needed if the Quest is to be successful.

Convention sales are out; thanks corona

Looking back at Arkenstone’s traditional enterprise logic, easily the simplest way of making some moolah would be to go on the road and do some good old-fashioned face-to-face sales at rpg conventions and similar. I’ve always been hesitant about making myself part of a predatorial consumer culture by becoming a salesman without the best interests of my customers at heart, but I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on how to go about pushing product in the weekend marketplace of the hobby convention while respecting the humanity of the interaction. There’s no reason why I can’t treat the sales table thing as more of a consultation and learning opportunity, and a chance to meet new people in the hobby. I’m supposedly the expert, so if I can’t bring a boutique experience that is genuinely useful for your hobby, with some products that are actually right for you, then what the hell am I even doing?

This type of enterprise is old hat for Arkenstone, so I already have everything needed to turn a profit: a variety of old inventory (which I could always round out a bit where necessary), travel logistics down pat, and probably some old friends I could crash with for a weekend at wherever the convention might be. The inner truth about salesmanship is that it’s mainly a matter of showing up and giving people the chance to buy, putting in the hours at the sales table; even without any new products it’s pretty much a given that a few summer weekends at the right conventions would have a fair chance of covering the Quest goals. I could even switch things up a bit and go sell something other than Arkenstone’s usual hand-picked craftsman indie game fare, wouldn’t even matter as long as it’s a product to believe in.

But of course we are living in the plague era, so yeah… we are going to need something more than the obvious here. I really should have taken up the gauntlet on this at any point between 2010 and now. That’s hindsight for you.

Online sales instead?

The obvious alternative to face-to-face sales is to try and improve Arkenstone web sales. This could mean moving either paper books or digital products. I’m not entirely happy with most of these ideas, but I suppose they have some merit:

  • Old inventory would move faster (or at all) with some sort of discount campaigning, which would also serve as an excuse to advertise a bit. I don’t like this much because our visibility is so low in the first place, and those who know of the company and its products mostly already have all the old products that they want to have. Steep discounting is something you do on top of basic marketing, not in its stead.
  • I could do some marketing, perhaps combined with revising the Arkenstone websites to look more appealing and up to date. My biggest problem with this is that I’m not much of a social media person, and getting a Facebook account for the sake of promotion doesn’t seem like a good lifestyle choice; if the Zuckerberg teat doesn’t appeal for the sake of keeping up with my friends, it certainly doesn’t for the purpose of grassroots marketing.
  • I could get some old stuff into the currently popular online marketplaces, primarily DrivethroughRPG, which could improve visibility and result in improved incidental sales. It’s not very much work, and the specialized marketplace does a good job of attracting the actual demography of people who want to pay money for games.

Pondering the above, here’s an action plan that might have some merit:

Project PWYW TSOY

I could put my 2008 edition of The Shadow of Yesterday (the line consists of two books, Solar System and World of Near) up at DrivethroughRPG in pdf format using pay-what-you-want pricing. Most of the work would involve quality checking and updating the old pdfs to modern standards, plus deriving an appropriate World of Near pdf in the first place from the old print production workflow. About ~10 hours of work, maybe, or more if I discover some technical issues with the legacy materials.

The predicted outcome would be that at least some people might want to pay a bit for the books. Because World of Near has never been available in PDF form, its new availability would arguably be worthy of mention in the social media of the scene, so I might get some friends to tell their friends about it, etc. whatever half-assed marketing I might be comfortable with. Probably not a press release (no idea who I’d release it to), but maybe a mention at some blog or a few.

My thinking is that both Solar System and World of Near have always been basically free things anyway (they’re Creative Commons licensed), and while Solar System sold pretty nicely in the ’00s, World of Near was a bit of a commercial flop despite being a pretty serious work; putting the two up with pay-what-you-want pricing could inspire some reimbursement from people who have never even heard of the game. I’d be happy with the World of Near finding some wider readership; I think (biased as I may be) that it deserves more attention than it’s had, and that it might have ideas and viewpoints to offer to many gamers still.

This move also makes sense in that while both of these games used to have nice and simple online html treatments maintained by various people, as befits an open license game, those websites have largely gone down over the years. Increasing availability, particularly by making a pdf version of the World of Near available for the first time, would help maintain the game’s digital availability.

Considering the parameters of the Quest for Lucre, this one seems pretty promising: it’s not a huge amount of work by itself, there are good reasons to do it aside from maybe making some money, and I think there’s a good chance of making at least a few euros off it. Might be just a hundred euros (I might be expecting too much), but every bit counts for the Quest.

Get Patreon, write blog

This one’s a pretty simple idea, inspired by all the indie rpg superstars doing it: if I got a Patreon account and asked people to give me money, somebody might fall for it. Sounds good enough for an action plan:

Project Patreon

The concept of the patron-artist relationship here would be pretty straightforward: I’d ask you to throw a few rupees my way to encourage my writing. I’m thinking that the blog might be an useful tool of quantification and a basic publishing platform: pay me a rupee for one of those theory/design articles that I’m apparently writing this spring? Maybe help me choose topics, too? I’m pretty flexible, as we’ve seen at the blog, so it wouldn’t have to be about paying me to write about Cyberpunk 2020.

I’m not envisioning this as a particularly great source of income for Arkenstone, as this blog has like ten readers and where else would I find interested patrons. However, even a modest couple of shekels a month adds to the Quest goal, and this plan again has the virtue of not involving a huge amount of extra work: I’m trying to maintain a regular writing routine anyway, after all.

An indie publication /w crowdfunding

The real brass ring to grab for in succeeding the Quest for Lucre would of course be to develop and publish a new commercial product that Arkenstone could sell for all the moneys. While the Quest deadline is a bit tight for a low-profile launch (pretty mandatory in these corona days for an indie), the modern practice of crowdfunding makes success somewhat realistic: a successful crowdfunding campaign at even a modest scale could conceivably collect 2k € in one fell swoop, and I could have the money on hand this year even if the project only finished up next year.

Project Crowdfund

I haven’t been publishing actively over the last decade, but I have in fact been doing game design and development, so it’s not like I don’t have all kinds of potentially interesting material that could be developed into a commercial product. Just have to choose one and create a crowdfunding pitch, see what the audiences think about it.

Off the top of my head, some pretty obvious picks would be to finally write up some old school D&D stuff; publish an English-language edition of Fables of Camelot; get back into saddle with Solar System; get serious about finishing Subsection M3 with Tuomas; finish my ’80s hair fantasy story game “Project Elmore”. And that’s just what pops to mind, the possibilities are in fact near endless with a full desk, 8 months and an intent to rely on crowdfunding pre-orders.

The main drawback of Project Crowdfund is that unlike some of these other ideas, it involves significant amounts of work. Even just creating a good crowdfunding pitch takes several dozen hours of work, plus marketing the campaign so it actually funds… and that’s just to secure the funding, the actual work of producing the promised product would still be ahead. I do have the time, and doing something a bit more ambitious like this could be just the thing I need to find joy in creativity again, so maybe it would be a good idea.

Maybe I should go into it with the idea of preparing to run multiple crowdfunding campaigns over the summer and autumn until one catches on sufficiently to justify finishing the project. I do sort of like the idea of having crowd interest justify spending the time in pushing one of my desk drawer projects into a real product; it’d feel less like talking to myself if I knew that people want to spend money on this or that thing. What I don’t necessarily like is the stress, but I suspect that I’m unfortunately young to plan on spending the rest of my years avoiding publishing stress.

Branch out to other mediums

One option that I’ve considered is to have Arkenstone branch out a bit and do something else than tabletop gaming. Literature and video games are perennial considerations; I’m not opposed to self-publishing in those fields when and if I get inspired to finish some of the projects I’ve considered over the years.

The main reason to set this stuff aside for now, though, is that the development cycle on video games is too long (not for a regular agile indie developer, I mean, but for me; I can code a video game, but it’s going to be slow going) and the profit turn-around in prose is too slow. In one of these fields I likely won’t get the product to the market this year from a starting stand, and in the other the ratio of effort to revenue won’t become reasonable before the year’s out. Crowdfunding would fix both, of course, but I don’t really feel myself positioned to ask for advance payment on prose or video games; I am confident in my ability to deliver in a tabletop game development project, having done it before several times, but claiming the same in these sister fields would be irresponsible.

I do like writing, though. I guess if I absolutely had to attempt the Quest for Lucre on these terms, I’d delve into my desk drawer of unfinished writing projects and notes and try to scare up something under the wide umbrella of “pulp literature”; quick to write, pleasant to read, with a stable existing audience and sales channels. It would still be a total shot in the dark, as building audiences in literature takes time and it is very rare for anybody to sell much without having developed a backlog.

Heck, I might as well put down a project proposal in this as well:

Project Derak

It happens to be the case that I’ve co-written a couple of fantasy novellas with comrade Petteri as a byproduct of our long-running S/lay w/ Me campaign at Writin’ with Games. It’s rough first draft stuff, there’s some merit in there; we’ve talked about editing it for publication often, but haven’t gotten around to it.

A few weeks of editing work could turn around Derak in the Jeweled Swamp, the first story in the series, so it could get up there into the indie fiction markets with some time to make whatever money a fantasy adventure story does in the current market.

Of course, what money there is in fiction is… not much on average. If I was just looking at the odds of succeeding the Quest for Lucre, finishing up a novel draft wouldn’t be the best use of time. However, there are other reasons to write a book than an expectation of making money.

Find some work

Finally, probably the simplest way to make some profit for Arkenstone would be to find somebody in need of a consult and do a bit of work for hire. It’s what I mainly do in the serious end of my working life, after all. I suppose I should ask around with acquaintances in case anybody happens to be in need of an extra pair of hands in some culture industry project or other this year.

The biggest reason for not being too excited about this one is that while it does solve the Quest neatly, artistically it’s not that useful. I guess it would depend on what kind of prospects I could scare up.

Monday: Dragon’s Castle

Getting back to more concrete matters, our on-going rpg campaigns have been progressing steadily. Dragon’s Castle on Monday was even what I’d characterize as compact: we were finished before eleven local time, which is pretty good, as these international games tend to occur somewhat late in the day for us here in Finland.

The main feature of the session was that we added a fourth character player, which is generally something that you don’t do in The Mountain Witch after the game start; the game’s premise is that the players introduce their characters slowly, allowing the character relationships to develop and the GM to build the campaign’s direction around the characters. Having players come and go messes all this up rather neatly, which makes TMW anything but a pickup game. You choose your players and stick to them.

What made the exception here palatable is that the prospective new player was already familiar with the the game, and the Dragon’s Castle scenario, from having played it with me face-to-face last fall. It also happened to be the case that I had a couple of NPCs lying around, either of which could as well be turned into player characters. The challenge involved in accomodating another player seemed interesting and likely to freshen up the session, so when Antti seemed interested, I went for it.

We’d left the story into something of a cliffhanger last time, as the party of heroic monster hunters were rapidly rowing back from a failed parley slash sabotage attempt at the Flying Dutchman, the dread ghost ship of the Indian Ocean and Dracula’s personal pleasure yacht. The ship’s captain was the indomitable Eric LeCarde, wielder of the Alcarde Spear and generally bombastic Spanish hidalgo. Bombastic enough to run after the retreating boat after the heroes failed to sink the Dutchman, in fact, skipping dexterously over the water.

So yeah, what we did was that I gave captain LeCarde up and we made him a player character, which was amusingly straightforward to do despite the game not really having an universal character creation system. Captain LeCarde had already been established as ambiguously antiheroic in the last session, so it wasn’t completely beyond the pale to suggest that he could potentially turn on his master and ally himself with the heroes. I was totally ready with a plan in case the other PCs simply killed LeCarde, though, and we went to the game with Antti with the understanding that his job as LeCarde might prove short-lived.

We got some pretty cool fight choreography out of the tussle between LeCarde and the other heroes. My favourite bit was when the cutesy teenage vampire hunter Marie Renard sent her trained doves (yes, this is the other character I offered up as a potential new player character) to peck and scratch at captain Lecarde, who was running over water to catch the boat, and LeCarde coolly swatted down the one going for his eyes and leaped, hopped and skipped on top of the birds, launching a brutal assault on the boat from the air. Makes perfect sense once you accept that he’s light-footed enough to run on water.

The heroes ultimately overcame and captured the furious LeCarde, taking him with them to their own ship, the Temperance.As it happened, though, the natural compatriotism of players reared its head, and the other PCs proved ultimately surprisingly amenable to accepting captain LeCarde’s willingness to stand aside and let them enter the Dragon’s Castle. I’d probably have made a bigger deal of it myself, like putting him in chains and constantly threatening him with violence until he had a chance to prove himself for real.

Amidst the interrogation and other merry-making the spotlight was stolen by one of the other player characters, brave sea-captain Charles Summers: his encounter with captain LeCarde, who is in many ways his mirror image, finally shook the man sufficiently to make him confess his horrible secret to his allies. The player had this beautifully gothic backstory worked out for the character, with great implications for future development, and we were all blown away by it. Despite this being more of a told Fate than a shown one (the player mostly told us what the character’s problem is, rather than arranging for a direct situation in play to depict it), it worked out beautifully thanks to the player’s considerate playacting throughout the game; the story very much made sense in hindsight of the character’s puzzling portrayal earlier on. I’ll not repeat the story right now, as the newsletter is getting a bit expansive as it is, so it suffices to say that captain Summers is something of a fraud and a murderer, and he may not actually be the Fate’s favoured child that he’s supposed to be. As victim of the Dark Fate of Flawed Blood the faux-Summers may expect to hear from me in terms of further dramatic developments soon.

What makes this all the more beautiful is that, of course, Eric LeCarde is truly a byblow bastard of Nathaniel Summers. We’ll have to return to that angle a bit later on. The heroes will be entering within the walls of Castlevania in the next session, where the change of scenery might provide me with the tools to shake out all the horrible secrets that these so-called heroes are burdened with.

Thursday: Fables of Camelot

Where the Dragon’s Castle campaign is somewhat slow-moving and deliberate, the Fables of Camelot is generally overflowing with content, particularly as unlike the former it’s episodic: every session is supposed to revolve around a single adventure of the Knights of the Round. The story this time was particularly convoluted, such that not only did we have a tricky moral situation to untangle, but also merely following the story could prove challenging.

I promised after the session to write up a clear explanation of what the hell the adventure was even about, so I’ll lay it out quickly here. It is quite the chivalric romance!

In the week before Christmas Sir Bysador, a bold knight of the Round Table, met two travelers upon the road to Camelot. Lady Wynn was being escorted by an anonymous Black Knight on a quest to discover the whereabouts of her brother, prince Tared.

When Sir Bysador asked, Lady Wynn told him that the scissors and straight razor she carried were her only clue, as the comb belonging to the distinctive set was stuck in the head hair of her brother the prince when he ran wildly into the woods. An ugly witch had ensorcelled him into the shape of a great boar, you see.

When Lady Wynn asked Sir Bysador whether he had seen hair or sign of the great boar Twrch Trwyth, the good knight confessed that he was part of the hunting party that brought down the crazed boar a couple of years ago. Greatly saddened by this news, the lady extorted a promise from Sir Bysador to aid her in seeking vengeance upon the witch who caused the death of her brother.

In the spring, however, when knights errant embark on their quests, Bysador was not to be found in Camelot. His companions and friends said that he had already hurried forth to find that evil witch, abandoning Lady Wynn to the care of the court. His best friend among the Round Table, Sir Perceval, went with, for the two have been nigh inseparable of late.

King Arthur, when hearing about the matter, sent the rest of the player character crowd forth with Lady Wynn to find good Sirs Bysador and Perceval, little suspecting the true reasons of their avoiding Camelot. Either way, the knights were to find their boon companions and help them finish the job, finding the witch who turned people into animals. The great entourage set forth from Camelot, counting upon its numbers such distinguished heroes as Ever-Clever Sir Ebert of Borsford, Dame Lilly the Prepared and the Grim Saxon Einar Wainward.

After many adventures the entourage found themselves thoroughly lost in the enchanted forest of Brocéliande. Fairy folk, overcome with the joys of spring, stole some wealth from the Entourage, causing a chase that led the knights to discover their friends Bysador and Perceval engaged in an amiable dalliance with a spirit of the woods, one Nimuel of the Willow’s Wind. She was an outwardly friendly-seeming, even naïve nature spirit who admitted freely to having befriended Morgana ley Fay, a sorceress who lived nearby.

The fae lady had been a good host to the knights, who parted with her amiably after advising her on how to seek the attentions of Merlin the Chief Druid; Nimuel, you see, wished to construe for herself a more substantial human shape, but for that she needed the mastery over the the elements that could only be borne out of sorcery. Nimuel was a clever fairy thing, able to converse with animals like they were men, and to flit on the air, but she could not truly touch or be touched, and this vexed her greatly.

While most of the entourage were being entertained by Nimue, Einar Wayward, ever too suspicious to fall into fairy traps, discovered a castle nestled deep in the woods. He suspected the place to be the witch’s lair and raided it with great vigor. As is often the case with the brutal Saxon knight, the choicest parts of the furniture and assailings of the forest castle found their way into his loot sacks when his men overran the place.

The attack took the castle by surprise, but Einar was taken by surprise in turn when he found who the mistress of the place was: it was none other than Morgana le Fey, the estranged sister of the High King. There are some serious rumours about her among the Round Table knights, and Einar had seen her himself last winter, albeit from a far, when her witchery ways happened to cross with Einar’s manorial looting expedition. (Yes, Einar Wainward’s main occupation as a Knight of the Round seems to be robbing demesnes of their valuables. That’s how it goes sometimes.)

Despite his earlier acquaintance, Einar was too much of a gentleman to strike Morgana down immediately, which meant that Morgana’s erstwhile guest Lancelot du Lac had the chance to make an appearance from his tower, querying after the reason for the disturbance. The king’s champion being here with Morgana was, of course, rather confounding.

At this point the rest of the knights arrived on scene, witnessing the brutal way Einar had conquered his way into the castle. Spying Morgana among the captives was explanation enough for most, as the majority of the knights have had some chance to experience her treachery and questionable allegiance to the crown. Still, Lancelot seemed to hold her in high regard, interposing himself against any attempts at forcing Morgana into chains.

The knights were at something of an impasse, as the more observant of them certainly noticed that everything was not well with Lancelot, but even then putting themselves up against the foremost knight of the realm seemed like a foolish notion. Even the armsmen were hesitant, as the king’s champion was second to the king only as a military authority; they would not move against Lancelot lightly.

Morgana took advantage of the hesitation and offered her services to the knights: of course she knew of the rumours about the witch, and of course she wasn’t said witch! She could, however, help the knights find the horrid thing, should they listen to her advice. As Lady Wynn refused to name Morgana as the witch she had witnessed cursing her brother, the knights chose to listen to Morgana.

The way Morgana explained it, she suspected that a fleet spirit of these woods, one Nimue of the Willow’s Wind, was the dread witch that had so terrorized the countryside all around. As a fae thing she was a jealous being capable of changing her shape and those of others. The knights were obviously rather skeptical of Morgana’s self-serving tale, but as she suggested that the armsmen should comb the woods for Nimuel and present her to Lady Wynn to see if she might recognize her, there was little reason to refuse Morgana; after all, what would be the harm?

As the search for Nimuel would take a while, the ladies Morgana and Wynn took their leave of the knights to bathe and rest themselves. The knights did likewise, little suspecting that Morgana took this opportunity to bewitch Lady Wynn, ensuring that she would identify Nimue as the haggard witch of her memory when they should next meet. In this way Morgana protected herself, for she, of course, was the witch, with the talent of shifting her shape as necessary.

As the search extended to another day, the knights ended up spending the night at Morgana’s castle. Sir Ebert took this opportunity to arrange for skulduggery and spying regarding Sir Lancelot, a task that uncovered a horrible secret: Sir Lancelot had been confused into a vague fugue, uncertain of where he was and how long he had been here. He spent his time in his quarters, painting great frescoes on the walls about the carnal sin he engaged in with none other than Guinevere, the queen of the realm. Despite the paintings that revealed his heart’s desire, Lancelot was unable to talk overtly about the queen, flying into unreasoning rage at the mere mention of her name.

The investigation of Lancelot’s situation ultimately bore little fruit excepting the idea that Lancelot in his confused state thought that he had journeyed to Morgana in an attempt to “find help”. The knights were, however, unable to ascertain whether Lancelot’s current state was due to witchcraft or a more natural disease of the mind, perhaps one brought about by an illness of the heart over the queen. Was Morgana helping him, or the cause of his affliction?

After investigating Lancelot’s situation, there was yet more skulking in the night to be done. Sir Perceval attempted to join Lady Morgana in her bedchamber under the cover of night, following the lure of an old affair; it had been established long ago in the campaign that Perceval had once been counted among the lovers of the high Lady. However, the good knight was foiled in his amorous pursuits by Morgana being nowhere to be found: she had herself retired into the chambers of Sir Bysador, an exotic and beautiful knight she had taken to fancy during the day.

Now, Sir Bysador had been forlorn of the heart ever since three years back, when he encountered fair princess Olwen of Rhegedd, only to lose her to that politically potent boor, Sir Culhwch. The alluring confidence of the elder, yet unnaturally youthful, Morgana was needed to untangle a heart so long deprived of tenderness. Bysador found an honest tryst in Morgana, and the two spent much of the night discussing Bysador’s doubts about the code of chivalry.

The climax of the story grew near the next day when the armsmen finally discovered a path that would take them to Nimue’s clearing in the woods. The knights rode out with Lady Wynn, intent on having her clear the name of the beatiful and virginal spirit. As it was an “ugly hag” that ensorcelled her brother, the knights did not really expect anything but a complete exoneration for Nimue.

However, thanks to Lady Morgana’s cruel ploy, Lady Wynn to everybody’s surprise did indeed identify Nimue as the very same hag that she saw cursing her brother some four years ago. The knights were in a horrible tangle now, as they had taken Lady Wynn’s witness as their primary compass in this matter, and now she demanded them to put to death the likeable spirit with a frankly disney-riffic backstory and demeanor.

Sir Bysador was particularly put into a bind by the situation, as it was he who had promised to help Lady Wynn with her vengeance. The understanding he reached with Morgana the night before grew heavy on him as he realized that the sweet Nimue was the one Lady Wynn would have him slay. Even should he disagree, what was his alternative? To slay Morgana? At that moment Sir Bysador knew that he could no longer be a knight, not the way a knight of Camelot was supposed to be; recusing himself, Bysador rode away from the situation, leaving the rest of the knights to decide whether the hapless Nimue was to live or to die.

Perhaps sensing that the other Knights of the Round shared Bysador’s hesitation, Lady Wynn turned towards her quiet companion, the Black Knight, and asked him to help her finish the task. It may be counted as a shame to the rose of chivalry that there was hesitation, and that none wished to get in the way of the imposing Black Knight; the knights would rather have washed their hands of the entire business, leaving Lady Wynn to do what she would.

However, one cared to interfere, and it was surprisingly none other than the Grim Saxon, Einar Wainward: where Lilly had to unfortunately return to Camelot earlier, Ebert was conflicted by the political implications of resisting Morgana, and Bysador and Perceval were driven to distraction by her charms, only Einar held on to a firm and simple conviction in the midst of intrigue: that Morgana le Fey was a cunning witch, a shape-changer and rather obviously the villain of the story, no matter what cleverness she would use to entangle the knights. To let her conniving lead to the death of an innocent stood starkly against everything that the chivalric code demanded of a man of honor.

This was all the more impressive in that Einar was the only one of the knights who had recognized the Black Knight for who he was: he had encountered the mysterious knight, one Mordred of Orkney, before on his travels, and knew him to be a fearsome swordsman. It was far from certain that Einar would triumph against the blood-lust of the merciless and eager young knight in the flower of his might.

However, now that Einar had revealed his chivalry, the rest of the knights were ashamed by his bravery and inspired to action: with the host standing against him, the Black Knight could do little except offer an honorable duel to resolve the matter. The knights – quite correctly, I thought – desisted from accepting a duel from a stranger over a matter of justice in a situation where they held all the cards themselves. Instead, they attacked the Black Knight, and drove him away, saving Lady Nimue from a certain death.

The story ended with a greatly diminished party returning to Camelot, escorting the wondrous fae lady Nimue with them for her protection. It would have been a clear victory if not for the fact that both Bysador and Perceval chose to remain with Morgana rather than return, their faith in Camelot shaken by Morgana and Lancelot. Over the winter Morgana would play at love with the men, and introduce them to her son Mordred, whom she’d sent to escort Lady Wynn in her quest for the wicked witch some time back.

I hope that cleared up any confusion about what it was all about. The base scenario of the adventure is based on a few things in Mallory, but combined in a new way, so it doesn’t really qualify as a classical romance. Still a good story, I thought; I liked the premise of having one of the exceptional women (Morgana and Nimue) falsify the other as the guilty party, particularly for the depth of iniquity it indicated. Morgana had, after all, been Nimue’s first human friend, the one who taught her to speak human language and interact with the world intelligibly in general.

State of the Productive Facilities

I’ve finally gotten around to doing some more substantial writing; this week’s article was the point-buy rpg theory one. I’ll be trying to publish the rest of the remainder over the coming week. More on that later, this newsletter is long enough as it is.

6 thoughts on “New on Desk #17 — The Quest for Lucre”

  1. I’d be up for supporting a Patreon – it’d be my first – and would love to crowdfund anything D&D- and/or theory-related. It took me awhile to notice / locate your resurgent blogging activity but I binged on most of the content yesterday. =) Good stuff, from the remarks on movies and the gentlemen of the Agora sections to, of course, RPG analysis and design (CP2020, point-buy). Rock on.

    1. Oh, and the storyboarding essay was particularly interesting! I’d only really become aware of this approach last year or so (in the final months on http://www.story-games.com, thanks to posts by Emma the Excrucian) but reading a thorough analysis (and some good discussion in the comments) here was a treat. Thank you!

    2. Nice to hear that you’re been enjoying the blog and the newsletter! It’s been pretty satisfying to write so far, and it’s looking like I might get further than expected with my goal of writing the weekly newsletter for the entire year. I can even see a bit of a productivity increase from all this, there’s all kinds of stuff that I would probably not be doing without tricking myself into it via the blog. The C2020 Redux thing, for instance, would probably have been left speculative if the readers didn’t encourage me to work on it.

      I’d be up for writing more about D&D myself, but the topics lost in the first quarter polls consistently when pitted against the siren’s song of C2020, so that’ll be our theme for a bit now. In an alternate reality I’d be writing about wuxia D&D instead of wading up to my armpits in skill lists. I’ve two C2020 articles to write up before we do more polling (which I guess I should restart in May).

      I’ll need to look into the Patreon thing, it seems like it should be feasible even with just a few patrons. I’m envisioning something straightforward like a low suggested donation paid on a per-article basis, with the patrons getting more of a say on what we’ll investigate next. Although the purpose wouldn’t be to pay me for individual articles per se (more like pay me to signal continuing appreciation of the effort), I could see how tying the agreement to actual content delivery (instead of e.g. monthly) might help keep me productive without going overboard. For the patrons, it’d be ideal if a token show of appreciation would heighten interest in the created content and therefore make it more useful; you’re more likely to read something carefully if you’re participating in funding it, even on a symbolic level, I’d imagine.

    3. And you did get on Patreon with me! I’m seriously impressed by you signing up just for this, as I’m so very, very reluctant to sign up to anything myself. Thanks!

  2. What can I say? I’m really not fit to offer advice on making money from one’s art, as I’ve been consistently terrible at that so far.

    · World of Near is surprisingly missing from my collection, probably because it came out in a time when I bought digital exclusively as I couldn’t afford the extra for international shipping (not unlike now, actually). I remember it fondly (from a game played with friends) as containing a wealth of interesting and very usable material. I’d definitely buy a digital copy.

    · I endorse an English translation of Fables of Camelot, of course, be it a crowdfunding or whatever! You know I’ve been getting a lot out of this game especially as a teaching game for ages 9-14, despite not being much of an Arthurian buff myself and having basically drifted FoC toward “Dogs in the Vineyard lite” by taking your advice for a 3-4 scenes adventure structure *very* literally and strictly. There have been times I’ve actually considered writing an Italian-language version from scratch to meet a perceived demand. Should you be looking for more hands on deck on this project, count me in!

    1. Thanks for the note on Fabelot, I’ll keep it in mind. I don’t really have any firm ideas of what to produce towards publication, if anything. I sort of lost my taste for single-mindedly pushing towards publication when my ambitious fairy tale fantasy game got stuck in development hell a decade back, so it’s not exactly obvious to me what to pursue in that regard: my gaming is powerful, and there are many projects that pass the threshold of publishable, but it’s not a given that the motivation is there.

      Fabelot would be good, though, in that it’s a very proven design with a few elements that I am very passionate about. I think it might do well in crowdfunding, too, provided a suitable art team and an ambitious enough publishing plan – a boxed set seems like the fitting thing here, to make the game properly beginner-friendly.

      I’ve been thinking that I’ll look into the lower-hanging fruit in my list of possibilities first, and then perhaps move towards publishing something new. When I do, I’ll be interested in talking things out with anybody with experience on up to date indie online marketing strategies. If I’m going to bother to produce a new product, I’d rather aim with a little bit of ambition rather than just creating the product and leaving it to gather dust. A crowdfunding campaign managed with even just a smidgen of professionality would be a good start, I reckon 😀

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