OSRIC ebook RC1 (release candidate) ready for testing

OSRIC 2 ebook cover
OSRIC 2 ebook cover

eBook is complete! Having combed through the thing one last time this morning, I have posted the RC1 (release candidate) on the Usherwood blog. At this point, I need as many people as possible, on as many different devices as possible, to go through and bash the content for anything and everything. I think I caught all the issues, but that’s the thing; I *think* I caught everything.

Here’s a (partial?) list of what I was specifically looking for in my last pass;

  • A numerical indicator is not separated from its unit of measure by a line/paragraph/page break. For instance “100 gp” or “90 ft” always appears on the same line, no matter what line length you are viewing it at.
  • All quotes and apostrophes use typographer’s (curly) quote marks, not vertical “hash” marks.
  • All in-text references are hyperlinked.
  • The longer measurement (height vs. width) of all images is 400 pixels.
  • Hyphenations in tables that indicate a null value are set as em dashes.
  • Spell names and magic items referenced in the narrative are italicized.
  • It should always be “to hit”…not ‘to hit’ or to-hit or “to-hit” or any other permutation when discussing an attacking roll specifically.
  • A multiplication symbol is used when indicating multiple quantities of something. We (I) had a mixture of multi symbols and “x’s” occurring throughout the narrative and treasure notations.
  • If a paragraph starts with NB:, it should be formatted as footnote (small) text with a bold lead-in. If a paragraph starts with Note:, it should be formatted as a normal paragraph with a bold lead-in.
  • When a spell is reversible, the word “(Reversible)” is smaller and roman appearing next to the spell name in its description.
  • When used by itself, “HD” appears all caps. When preceded by a number, it is lowercase (i.e., 2+1 hd). The same rule applies when denoting hit points.

“Features” you might notice;

  • Some (but not all) top-level heads are forced to the top of a new page. This usually has to do with where I broke the XHTML files in order that the content will load faster.
  • All tables should be set to 100% of the column width. A few tables have content that will span more than your viewable window.
  • Hyphenation may appear within headings, and other awkward situations. I cannot figure out how to control hyphenation zones, or how to turn it off in an ebook CSS. If you know how, please enlighten me; hyphens in headings really piss me off. (I know the rules for controlling this in CSS for web pages, but it doesn’t seem to carry through into ebook formats. But, maybe it’s a just a quirk of ebooks we have to live with for right now.)

Given all this, as far as I can tell, I am ready to release this upon the World! But, I want to make sure it really is as 100% as I think it is. So, have a look at the  epub and/or the mobi which you can download from the Usherwood Adventures website, and let me know anything you may find.*

If you alert me to performance issues (slow loading, missing/non-displayed content, over-lapping content, whatever) make sure to let me know what device you are looking at it on. I have been testing the file on Adobe Digital Editions 2 on Mac, iBook on an iPad 2, Kindle Viewer on Mac, and Kindle Previewer on Mac.

I would like to give credit to all ebook testers on the Contributors page. So anyone who has provided feedback from the Alpha version on will see their name under the listing “ebook Testers.”

* I may choose to let some things go.

Good gaming,

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OSRIC ebook ready for Beta testing

OSRIC 2 ebook cover
OSRIC 2 ebook cover

Beta 1 ready for you to download!

Cruise over to the Usherwood Downloads page, to download the file(s) and get the info on this latest release.

Note about the ebook cover: I wanted to indicate visually that this ebook serves both the Black Blade Publishing hardbound book, as well as the Usherwood Publishing POD A5. Thus, the combined images. Feel free to comment on that as well if you wish.

Good gaming,

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OSRIC eBook ready for Alpha testing

The alpha eBook is ready for downloading and testing. The file is content-complete, and the primary navigation is working. However, as some of you may be painfully aware, tables in ebooks remain…well…somewhat less than user-friendly. So, I have converted three of the tables to graphics (leaving the remainder as normal HTML tables). The tables in question are the Strength and Dexterity tables in chapter 1, and the Nighttime Encounter table in Chapter 4. All other tables exist as exported out of InDesign.

Have a look and let me know your preferences/observations (with the tables specifically, but with the ebook as a whole if you wish) before I go through the task of converting them all to graphics (which will take a bit of time). When providing feedback, please let me know what device you are using it on.

You can download the files from the Usherwood download page. The file is available in both ePub and MOBI file formats.

Good gaming,

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Revised OSRIC 2nd Edition eBook in the works

OSRIC A5 cover

I’ve been lax in getting a conversion of the most recent version of the OSRIC SRD converted for eBook readers. However, I am now actively working on this now. As with the previous edition, this will be available in both *.epub and *.mobi file formats and will be a free download. This version will contains all edits and treasure values included in the last Black Blade and Usherwood Publishing editions. The files should be available by the end of August 2013.

Good gaming,

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Lest we forget Revolvers & Wizardry!

The Gunslinger PC class for the Revolvers & Wizardry supplement
The Gunslinger PC class for
the Revolvers & Wizardry OSRIC supplement

…[sigh]…after an energetic start getting the Revolvers & Wizardry supplement started (for the planned Door of Infinite Portals re-boot), I kind’a got stalled over the summer. However, work continues (even if slowly) and artwork begins to come in. Here, I present the first piece to be completed (from the pencil of Peter Szmer); the Gunslinger.

Update (08/14/2013): Also just in; the Doctor and the Frontiersman (previously; the Highwayman).

The Doctor PC class for the Revolver & Wizardry OSRIC Expansion.
The Doctor PC class for the
Revolver & Wizardry OSRIC Expansion.
The Frontiersman PC class for the Revolvers & Wizardry OSRIC Expansion.
The Frontiersman PC class for the
Revolvers & Wizardry OSRIC Expansion.

Good gaming,

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Oh, I cannot express how sick of seeing this I am…

So, many of you out there are probably unaware that your Usherwood Publishing editor-in-chief/publisher has been engaged in a lengthy job hunt (16 months and counting, though a couple opportunities have made me aware of themselves this week, such that by next week the search may actually come to a happy close). Be that as it may, I continue searching as though there’s nothing immediately that may come to fruition.

I am a client of several head-hunters, and receive daily job announcements from them. It never amazes me to see what a prospective client/employer expects you to do, and what they expect to pay you to do it.

And today’s job announcements are no exception. Take this announcement for example;

…Position: Photo Editor (Photoshop Whiz!)
Location: Seattle
Status: Freelance
Estimated Duration: Weeks, possibly ongoing
Starts: Next week
Rate: $13+/hour DOE

Job Description:
Our client, a high end fashion retailer, is in immediate need of 2 photo editors to work onsite.

To qualify, you must have exceptional skills using Photoshop CS 6. Candidates who have strong experience in Illustrator CS 6 will be at the top of our list!

You will be working on photographs involving models and fashion, so please understand how to work with skin tones, models, etc. Responsibilities also include color correcting, resizing, batching and creating web ready graphics and doing background extensions…

So check it out; you want a Photoshop ‘Whiz’, who possesses ‘exceptional skills’, as well as ‘strong experience in Illustrator’. You want me to ‘color correct’, create ‘batch routines’ as well as ‘doing background extensions’. And you’re willing to pay me a whopping $13 an hour!…as a non-benefited freelancer? Seriously? And this is a ‘high-end fashion retailer’? Nordstrom maybe? (Their headquarters are here in Seattle.) And they can’t afford more than $13 and hour? To a non-benefited freelancer? I am dumbfounded. I am absolutely underwhelmed by your understanding of what these skills cost to develop and master. I am even more appalled that a recruiter of professional creative talent would let this go out to their talent pool. ‘Insulted’ does not even begin to express how I feel about this. If you’re a graphic designer also, I am sure you ‘get’ exactly what I am talking about.

The rate of pay offered would seem to indicate a more entry-level person would be more appropriate; say, a newly graduated youngster, or someone with a certification as opposed to a degreed and experienced designer.

BTW: I posted this commentary here at Usherwood Adventures, because it would be incredibly unprofessional to post it at my design/portfolio blog while engaged in a job search. However, I just had to get this off my chest somehow…it’s just so…ridiculous.

Good gaming,

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…awe, you make me blush

“Kramer is seriously a nut job.”

I love this comment by one reviewer of the Valen’cya’s Horde adventure; by my interpretation, the comment is in regards to my continued efforts at making all Usherwood products as detailed and topic-appropriate as possible (though specifically, I believe the reviewer is addressing the execution of cartography).

Read more of the review here.

Reviews for the rest of the Bone-Hilt series can be found at; Yrchyn, the tyrant, The Shattered Skull, The Shadowed Keep, In the Halls of the Mage-King.

Good gaming,

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In response to reviews…

Well, not all reviews. Ordinarily, I try real hard not to troll reviews of Usherwood products. However, I came across one that I feel I must comment on. However, I feel that to do so directly on the site where the review was posted would be highly unprofessional. So, hopefully putting my thoughts on the Usherwood blog will seem slightly less unprofessional. I wont call out the reviewer personally, but I will break the review down into its constituent parts here.

So, without further ado, let’s get started;

Foray into the Wilderness is a free product, and there’s a good reason why. It is a horrible product not worth the money.

Sorry you feel that way, but actually it’s free because it is a novelty product, just as all the other adventures that appear within the High-Adventures from Middle-School product line. ‘Novelty’ meaning, it’s intended to be a quick read of nostalgia for how were playing back in the late 70’s through early 80’s.

The artwork is mediocre (and that’s being generous). The font used simulates handwriting and makes it illegible. The document tries to simulate being written in a notebook. Instead of being quaint, it makes it doubly difficult to read.

Heya, if I am not making money on a product, you can bet I wont be spending too much in the way of artwork. The cover art (by Daniel Lorentsen) is stock art available through RPGNow.com, and I felt lucky to find it. Simulating handwriting in the font and on notebook paper; yes, an intentional design element. The original intent for all these products is to simply scan what existed at the time we created it. Unfortunately the author’s handwritten originals were in a pencil so light as to be completely unusable. Thus, the use of a hand-writting style script.

The content itself seems to have been written by a 5th grade munchkin player. From what I can see, we have a few notes on what could possibly be the start of a properly written adventure.

A 7th grade munchkin player actually.

Essentially, there a badly drawn map with 7 encounters. The encounters themselves provide just the barest of information on the type of monster and treasure. There are no proper descriptions or background information.

Refer to the marketing verbiage that is included with all the HAMS projects; Usherwood Publishing has spared all expenses to present to you this line of ‘classic’ First Edition and OSRIC™ compatible fantasy-based roleplaying game adventure modules. We haven’t even bothered to type-set the manuscript, because really, why bother? These adventures may not be good for your matured sense of high-adventure, but they should be good for a laugh or two.” I am not sure I can make it more clear than that what you should expect from these products.

After that, there’s a GM Adventure log, with an empty Notes page, an empty Module Title page, and empty Summary Matrix, Weapons Matrix, Combat Matrix, and Spells Inventory pages.

Well, you got that much correct anyway.

It almost looks like the author took old notes from when he was 13 years old, scanned them and tried to pass them off as a proper module. If that is the case, either keep it to yourself or complete and polish the module properly.

Again, refer to the marketing verbiage that is included with all the HAMS products.

The module ends with advertisement for additional products from Usherwood Publishing. Here’s a tip. If you include a sample of your products, make sure the sample is at least of some type of quality, not the junk you provided.

Not sure if you’re commenting about the quality of the HAMS products, the map making products, or the Bone-Hilt Sword products here. However, I stand by all Usherwood Publishing products, and it saddens me to see them categorized as ‘junk’.

I, for one, will not purchase any products from Usherwood Publishing.

I really don’t know how to respond to this final sentence of the review. I wont try to convince the reviewer of the value of the HAMS products. He obviously thought he was getting some other kind of product. I can only say, next time, read of the whole description of what you are downloading before downloading it.

Good gaming,

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Commentary: Clash of the Gods

So, Clash of the Gods is a History Channel “documentary” about the Lord of the Rings. I am watching right as I write this commentary.

I shake my head. Where did they get these Tolkein “historians”. First, it stands out to me that one of the interviewees described Frodo as “a historian of Middle Earth, whose concern for Middle Earth drove him to seek the ring of power’s destruction.” If you have even read the books, you know this to be patently false. Frodo is a well-to-do, pampered, if out-going, hobbit, more concerned for the safety of the Shire than for that of the larger world. His instinct was to hide the ring, or give it to Gandalf so that the evil forces looking for it would leave the Shire in peace. Not to destroy it upon his ownership of the ring, as is suggested by the History Channel show.

There’s many other inconsistencies with what I understand from reading Christopher Tolkein and various Tolkein Scholars that just don’t make sense. For instance, History Channel really kind of downplays the importance of JRRT’s development of the elfish languages, and his creation of the Lord of the Rings in order to provide the necessary history of elfish languages. They give much more importance to Tolkein’s experiences in WWI and his faith as a Catholic (and, they actually place much more importance on this than any other Tolkein influence), than anything to do with elfish language, Welsh history, Norman history, and Viking history than anything else as inspirations to the creation of LotR.

They also make a direct connection to the name of Mordor, to the term ‘mort’ and ‘murder’. I’ve never heard of or made this connection before. Interesting. The interviewees also claim that the race of orcs at least partially represent capitalism. Really? I am not so sure about that. I think they simply represent evil.

They also bring up the old Gandalf = Jesus argument. Patently ridiculous. I have always hated this suggestion. Clearly, to me anyway, Gandalf is not a derivation of Jesus.

They also make the claim that Tolkein “fought along side four of his friends in the trench warfare in the Battle of the Somme,” (the names of these friends are not mentioned in the HC show). My understanding is that while JRRT hoped he would serve with his friends, they ended up becoming separated, serving in the same battalion, but within different squadrons. Plus, they site Tolkein as serving within an infantry unit, whereas my understanding is that he served as a cavalry horse trainer.

At the end, the History Channel makes the statement that Frodo is a “flawed hero.” I don’t buy that at all.

Is my understanding wrong, or does the History Channel have it wrong. I am confused now.

Good gaming,

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Usherwood Adventures; The Board Game (pre-Kickstarter)

I have been cogitating on the possibility of this product ever since my very earliest days of getting involved in ‘professional’ adventure writing. Having worked on the project off and on for some time, I am nearing a stage where my outline is becoming solid enough to begin work on the specific mechanics, rules, and artwork.

Set-up: The game will be an OSRIC-based, modular design with customizable maps for cavern, dungeon/sewer/castle, outdoor, underwater, and airborne scenarios. The basic game will come complete with counters, die, cards (treasure, action, trap, etc.), instruction sheet (duh!), and enough customizable map tiles to provide adventure within all the settings mentioned above (or, combinations of all of them). My goal is to make it as rules-light as possible. It will be a game designed for 2 to 10 (or more?) players. It will be played as three teams; heroes (team 1; a selection of standard and Usherwood OSRIC races and classes) vs. monsters (team 2; ‘monsters’ can be either non-human creatures, or human adversaries) vs. game (a random adversary controlled by cards, providing random encounter possibilities for both hero and monster teams). The hero tiles will be strongly (if not directly) based on the pre-generated player characters that appear within the Usherwood Adventure modules. All creatures will be based on their equivalent that appears within the OSRIC SRD and all Usherwood Adventures modules. Also, I will be incorporating as many of the OSRIC SRD rules as makes sense to do so.

Winning the game: Winners will be determined by a points system. Points to be determined by completion of specific goals assigned to either team; hero or monster. Treasure accumulation will only occasionally determine a winner.

The Adventures: The game will come with a variety of customizable scenarios, as well as a free-form play mode that will allow players to get involved in a completely random series of events and changing goals. These scenarios will take place within the scope of the Continent of Vermé; although knowledge of the campaign setting will not be necessary for playing the board game, some knowledge of the setting may be helpful in the completion of some scenarios. Players can also purchase separate ‘expansion’ customizable map and card decks that will be based on published Usherwood Publishing products (i.e., Yrchyn, the tyrant, The Shattered Skull, The Shadowed Keep, etc.).

What I need from gamers: I need three or four teams who will commit to play-testing the rules and mechanics using prototype game pieces. Typically, this will be comprised of rough artwork generated from an inkjet printer. Play-testing teams will be required to play test the game multiple times (each time a new beta is prepared, and again using the final release candidate), and each pass will come with a form to provide feedback. Feedback will be required within a specified period of time (to be determined, but I am thinking it will be within a couple of weeks following each version release). You will also be asked to provide input on rules additions (not simply commentary about the rules provided to you). What you’ll get in exchange is my thanks (of course), credit in the rules documentation, and a copy of the final game following manufacturing. Manufacturing will be dependent on a successful Kickstarter campaign following successful playtesting. So, the ability of playtesters to assist in helping to raise Kickstarter funds will also be graciously accepted.

If you and your gaming compatriots desire to be involved in this opportunity, please send me an email expressing your interest. The email should include; each player’s name (or, preferred alias), gaming experience (though OSRIC experience will be looked upon as a plus, it is not required for your team to be selected…experience with Usherwood Publishing products specifically will get you extra brownie points), professional background (writing experience will get extra points!), gaming philosophy and style, and what is looked for in a board game (try to remember, this product is a board game, not a roleplaying game). Additionally, please provide; your group’s history of gaming, a team name (for example The Shattered Skull), and primary email contact (an usherwoodadventures.com email account can be provided to your team on request, for example; (shatteredskull@usherwoodadventures.com). Also, include any play-testing in which your team has been involved on previous products, if any (not having experience in play-testing will not prevent your team from being selected). Selected teams will be required (as individual participants) to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The agreement will remain in effect for five (5) years following final manufacture of the game.

Selected play-testing teams will be notified September 2013. I expect play-testing to take place October 2013 and conclude April 2014, while manufacturing will take place between April 2014 and July 2014. Those dates however are an estimate only, and subject to change. A special release party may be planned after final manufacture, but before the packages hit store shelves. I have a location selected in Everett, WA where I would hold such an event, if it happens. Should the event take place, all play testing teams will be invited to join me as my guests (travel arrangements will be made at the teams’ expense…I try to be generous, but I can’t be that generous). The event will allow guests to play the game in a community setting, where the camaraderie of fellow gamers will be enjoyed with good food, good drink, and great live music (I even have a band selected…although they don’t know it yet). The event may also include special industry guests also, if I can swing it.

Good gaming,

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