Monday, September 13, 2021

Ten Ideas From Ten Years Ago

So you may have noticed that they've began reprinting classic (translation: old) D&D adventures in deluxe hardcovers with modern-edition conversions alongside essays from various luminaries reminiscing about the original books.

Longtime readers may remember: I told them to do this in 2011, the same year Mike Mearls (one of the essay-writing luminaries in there) said "Hey man. I really dig your blog. I send links to it around the office often enough that I should probably be paying you a consulting fee or something." Which they eventually did.

So, I took a look at some other ideas from ten years ago that maybe someone might want to use:

1. My First Dungeon Kit--Someone should get out their Cintiq, scrub this up and sell it for 50$ a pop. Or, better yet, make it a website.

2. Handwriting fonts--Great if you want to print a hand-drawn map but then you make a mistake, just make your handwriting a font.

3. Information Design That Doesn't Suck--Information design in RPGs has improved somewhat since I made this post, but people still haven't really got it. A lot of games look better but you still can't find tables when you need them, or like Skerples will use bullet points for dungeon room descriptions but then the bullet point says "Cold and dark"--yeah, dipshit, it's a dungeon. You just took a tool used to save time and space and made it waste time and space all over again.

4. Comb-bound Books--From this entry. Not to make your regular book look cheap, but for content specifically designed to lay totally flat--a book full of die-drop tables and two-page-spread dungeons. And the comb should be nice and thick like that cupcake book.

5. Tiny spellbooks--From the same entry. A spellbook for players the size of a deck of cards. Get on it.

6. Interaction matrices--These kinds of charts where you examine how each element in a set interacts with each other are still underutilized. I remember the original Unearthed Arcana used them to show how different species interacted with each other (antipathy, hatred, toleration, etc) but there are so many other ways to used them.

7. One-page character generator--Ten years later and WOTC still can't figure out how to do it.

8. Gigacrawler--Gigacrawler was two ideas: Sci-Fi dungeoncrawler and crowdsourced library content (spells, items, etc).

This seems eminently doable in 2021, especially because there are so many video game models to go off of and it's probably not too hard to build web tools to allow anonymous authors and vote-on-able content.

You make a new kind of proton gun, write it up, upload it to the site anonymously, then everyone who thought it was good upvotes it, everyone who used it in a game gets 2 votes.

You could even have a system where--at a certain vote threshold--a thing got illustrated.

9. Procedurally-generated dungeons using distance from the entrance as a variable--Like this. Basically, the further you are from the entrance, the greater the chance of weirdness, danger, and treasure.

10. Fill-in the Blanks Dungeons--This seems like a no-brainer. In the current environment, anything WOTC releases will be A) Roundly criticized for real or imaginary content problems and B) Sell like cakebusters. So why not release something where the content is up to the customers? You rope in all the old schoolers by enabling good-old-fashioned do-it-yourself content.


Honorable Mention: This one's only 7 years old, but somebody finally used this idea today, so...

Fred Hicks getting off social media-- The harasser who heads Evil Hat made attacking people and then immediately claiming he couldn't engage or provide proof of what he'd said for mental health reasons to a fine art. People have been telling him to stop doing this for, like, ever, most recently from fellow indie-RPG harasser Brandon Leon Gambetta.

Today he announced that he finally got the memo:

Since he's "listening", if you--unlike many of Fred's victims--are not blocked, you might wanna ask him to make efforts to undo all the damage he's done by not realizing this sooner and make reparations to the people who's lives he helped destroy by lying on the internet.



Oh there's a new module up in The Store--The Stair and The Vizier's Secret. Go buy it.


Simon Tsevelev said...

Huh. Twitter tells me Fred Hicks doesn't exist. Perhaps I'm too slow.
Notes about old ideas: I still think your kung-fu stuff is the best thing for playing out various fighting styles.
And the "level up locally" trick is great for making players more interested in what's happening around.

Zak Sabbath said...


Erased. No first strike personal attacks.

Zak Sabbath said...

don’t promote abusers on this page

rich bitch said...

Hey Zak - I like that book. What would it cost if I was a "rich" as my name implies and I wanted to own the only copy?

Zak Sabbath said...

@rich b

It's mostly full, but I was planning on doing a few more things to it before I moved to the next notebook, so it depends when you bought it. If you want to talk business, email me: zakzsmith AT hawtmayle dawt calm

Zak Sabbath said...

@Karl the Sorcerer

You're going to be asked a question and--remember the rule: everyone has to answer questions here. This is a place where we only have real conversations:

What would be the point (for me, not for you) of putting out a book before I am decancelled?

If you want a book -- YOU --you specifically, the fans, need to decancel me. You need to take action. You need to do different things than you have done until now. That is my price.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Karl the Sorcerer

You don't seem to understand what has happened at all.

Again, question:

Imagine you get googled for a living--also not for a living--all people do when they meet you is google you. That's my life. I cannot tell any stranger anythign true about my life without them then googling me.

Are you imagining that?

Now imagine your google results are filed with false accusations of literally the worst crime our society can imagine?

So: I can't "relax and enjoy life" my life has literally been destroyed. This has nothing to do with money. My life has been annihilated.

1. Do you understand that? y/n

2. Did that not occur to you?

3. Do you not realize that -gamers did that by spreading that misinformation- ?

Zak Sabbath said...

@Karl the Sorcerer

You're still not understanding:

This isn't about "feelings" or "online"

I literally cannot initate a conversation with any stranger--socially or professionally--unless they are paid to talk to me. In REAL LIFE.

1. Do you grasp this isn't about "feelings" or "online" these are the practical material conditions of my life? Like: every day.

2. Do you understad being a good artist or you buying things will not change that?

3. Do you understand that changing my google results would change that?

4. Do you understand that, therefore "Only you, Zak, can..." etc is a lie? You can doo hundreds of things

Zak Sabbath said...

@Karl the Sorcerer

You were asked questions--you didn't answer them.

All of your comments will be deleted and you'll be banned if you don't answer in 24 hours or if your next comment does not contain answers

As for your questions:

1. Impossible to say as we are mid-process.
2. Decancellation.
3. Suicide.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Karl the Sorcerer

You were asked questions and did not answer--you're banned.

Kyle T said...

"I literally cannot initate a conversation with any stranger--socially or professionally--unless they are paid to talk to me. In REAL LIFE."

Can you expand on this? The effects of the censure in the RPG and tabletop community have been pretty well-documented but I don't think its impact on your work in the art sphere has really come up.

Zak Sabbath said...

@Kyle T

It shouldn't have to. Give it a second's thought, Kyle:

Although only gamers were stupid enough to immediately believe and spread the accusations, the rest of the world has google and uses it.

What happens when you see a painting by an artist or meet an artist, then you google them, and the google results are wall-to-wall crazypants felony accusations?

Kyle T said...

Got it, thanks for clarifying.

Kyle T said...

Follow-up. It's also unfortunate that none of those people, ostensibly well-outside the RPG community, haven't done the ask questions and seek evidence process when they find those accusations. I'd hoped for better.

Zak Sabbath said...

@kyle t
doesn’t even matter: all things being equal, if you have a choice of who to interact with or do business with and you just heard about someone and the person where there’s absolutely no question is obviously privileged over the person who there is some doubt about.

DFais89 said...

The comb-bound books option seem so obvious that it's always surprising to me that no major publishers use them. I've had multiple books over the years where I've chopped off the spine and gone into a Staples and comb-bound on my own, and any PDF I ever print, I do the same.

If I was to offer an uneducated guess, it would be that the big publishers are concerned that spirals/combs don't fit/conform to the aesthetics of what it means to be a "high quality" book if there's not a pretty, hard spine with their brand name all over it.

zce said...

dude are you planning on killing yourself


Zak Sabbath said...


I am not planning on it. I am planning on winning. If I win I won't have a reason to kill myself.

But if this does not change there will be no life left worth living.