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How Do You Promote Your Games?

black box movement

Today I want to answer another reader question. “How do you promote your games to get attention to it on DriveThru?

There’s no easy answer to this question. When I decided to pursue a creative career, I had the option of going back to school for an MFA in creative writing or getting a business degree. I went with the latter. When I’m not working on the next book for Dancing Lights Press, I’m reading books on marketing. A lot of my time is spent researching the social media keywords and SEO.  I analyze what types of products sell well, and spend a lot of time on finding the best titles. Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve also worked what the best days to release products on Drive Thru are, and even what time of day will bring the most attention.

How Do You Promote Your Games?

The simplest answer I can offer comes down to two things: build a mailing list and release new products regularly. You can’t write one book, drop it, and wait for something to happen. DriveThru allows you to email customers. They need to have purchased something from you, and they need to opt it, but the feature is there. Let people who bought the first book know about the second.  And the third. And the hundredth. If you’re making good stuff, you develop a fan base that will turn up and buy your new thing consistently. It takes time, but that’s how I did it.

 


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.

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[Hippogryph] Using Elements in Play

hippogryph system

Using Elements in Play

The following is an abridged excerpt from the Hippogryph Codex on how to use elements in play. References to page ## will of course direct you to actual page numbers in the completed book. 

There are two major things that you can do with an element. Invoke allows you to leverage an element that you control or are free to use. Compel lets you take advantage of another character’s element, or one that’s not already open for your use.

Invoke

To invoke an element, spend a hero point before making a die roll. You can also invoke elements for free, if you have a free invoke from you or an ally creating an advantage you can use (see Advantages on page ##). In short, an advantage allows you to either take a +2 bonus to your roll, or to re-roll a failed result.

With an invoke you may also add an important or unlikely detail to the story based on an element in play. Don’t spend a hero point when the element has already been established as true. Pay when it’s a stretch or when there’s no relevant element already in play.

Most of the time an element is invoked, it’s a character element or a situation element. Sometimes you’ll invoke an opposing character’s elements against them. This is called a hostile invocation, and it works just like invoking any other element. There’s one small difference—when you make a hostile invocation, you give the hero point to the enemy. They don’t get to use the hero point until after the scene is over. This only applies when a hero point is actually spent on a hostile invocation. Free invokes do not require the exchange of hero point.

Examples of Invoking: Using Elements in Play

  • Manuel’s background is that he grew up in this city. He wants to invoke that to establish that he knows a merchant who sells the thing the group needs. He spends a hero point and it becomes true.
  • Havel knows that his opponent has children. He wants to invoke that to gain an advantage as he tries to persuade the opponent to surrender peacefully. He give the opponent a hero point and gains a bonus to his Charisma roll.
  • Kira wants to use their low-light vision to read the runes painted on the cave wall. Since their ability to see well in dim torchlight is an established fact, no invoke is necessary.

Compel

Elements can be compelled to complicate the situation and earn hero points. To compel an element, the guide or a player offers a hero point to the player whose character is being compelled. You must tell them why an element is making things more difficult or complicated. To refuse a compel, you must spend a hero point and describe how your character avoids the complication. If you don’t have any hero points, you can’t refuse a compel.

When offering a compel, make sure that the complication is a course of action or major change in circumstance, not a denial of options.

Examples of Compelling: Using Elements in Play

  • Antonella knows that Mathu’s problem element is stuttering. During a difficult social interaction, they decide that Mathu would be nervous and this problem would manifest itself. They offer a hero point to Mathu, who accepts the compel. The interaction is more difficult because Mathu has to try to deal with their stutter.
  • Peyton knows that there is a thunderstorm raging outside. They offer a hero point to the guide, wishing to compel the villain to be distracted by the flashes of lightning. The guide accepts and the villain is distracted, making it harder for them to notice Peyton sneaking past.
  • Devorah is being chased by their opponent, and has a choice of two paths. The opponent is far enough behind that they can’t see which path Devorah takes. Using a compel, Devorah spends a hero point and asks the guide to make the opponent choose the wrong path. The guide accepts the compel, and Devorah gets away.

Events and Decisions

There are two general kinds of compels: events and decisions. An event compel is something that happens to a character because of an external force. That external force connects with the element in some way, resulting in an unfortunate complication. A decision compel is internal, where the character’s flaws or competing values get in the way of better judgment. The element guides the character to make a particular choice, and the fallout of that choice creates a complication for them. In either case, a resulting complication is key. Without the creation of a complication, there is no compel.

Guidelines for Compelling

There are a few additional guidelines for using compel:

  •  Any element can be compelled. It doesn’t matter if it’s a character element, situation element, or complication but it must be something that affects the character being compelled.
  • Anyone can offer a compel. The player proposing the compel must spend a hero point, but their character does not have to be involved in the scene. The guide then runs the compel.
  • A compel can be retroactive. If a player finds they have roleplayed themself into a complication, they can ask the guide if that counts as a self-compel.
  • A compel can be withdrawn. If the group agrees that a proposed compel wasn’t appropriate, it should be withdrawn at no hero point cost to the compelled character.

Hostile Invocation versus Compel

Don’t confuse hostile invocations and compels. Though they are similar in that they give a character an immediate problem in exchange for a hero point, they work differently.

A compel creates a narrative change. The decision to compel is the guide or player proposing a change to the story. The effect can be broad, but the target gets the hero point immediately if they accept the compel, and can choose to refuse the compel.

A hostile invocation is a mechanical effect. The target doesn’t get a chance to refuse the invocation. While they do get a hero point, they don’t get to use it in the current scene. As with any invocation, you will need to explain how that element makes sense to invoke.

Earning Hero Points

If it’s not already clear, you can earn hero points by allowing your character’s elements be compelled. This serves to complicate the situation or make your life harder, but you gain points that can be used later at crucial moments in the adventure. You may also get a hero point if someone uses your element against you in a hostile invoke or when you concede (page ##).

Remember, each session you start with a minimum of 3 Hero Points, or the amount left over at the end of the last session. If you were compelled more than you invoked in the prior session, you’ll show up at the next session with more hero points banked.

Using Elements in Play

Watch for more excerpts from the Hippogryph Codex later this week.


About the Hippogryph System

Hippogryph is a d20-based, story-driven tabletop fantasy roleplaying system. It is the collision of the D20 System and Fate RPG, but like the legendary creature it is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t off-brand D&D with Fate aspects stapled on, nor is it a collection of feats, spells, and class abilities translated into Fate terms. Hippogryph is a unique system that blends established legacy fundamentals with flexible, DIY story game ideals. Info Page ¦ DriveThruRPG ¦ Our Shop


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.

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Is the Lack of Art a Disadvantage?

black box movement

Today I want to answer a question sent in by a reader. Is the lack of art in Dancing Lights Press books a disadvantage?

“I wrote a few small books in a fantasy world, and like yours, they have little to no graphic art to accompany it to reduce the cost of production. How do you go about to mitigate, if not outright nullify, that disadvantage?”

Barriers to Entry

First, stop calling it a disadvantage. It isn’t. As you stated in your question, it reduces the cost of production. This allows creators with limited resources to overcome that barrier to entry. It also reduces the price point for cash-strapped players. In spite of everything else going on, 2020 is going to be the best year so far for Dancing Lights Press. A lot of that is because people who can’t afford to back a $50+ fully-illustrated hardcover on Kickstarter right now can afford something like the DoubleZero Core Book, a complete system priced at $4.99 for the PDF.

Know Your Audience

Second, you need to understand who you’re creating for. There are people that collect, and people that create. I’m not saying there’s no overlap, but collectors want pretty books to put on their shelves. They like a lot of art, full-color interiors, all of the glitzy production value. Those aren’t our customers. Creators just want the information they can use to build characters, worlds, and adventures. They want to make their own stuff, rather than lean on pre-generated material.

Be Useful

Third, and this builds on both of the above points, there’s the matter of utility. How much art is actually useful, let alone essential, to a roleplaying manual? Maps can helpful, as are illustrations of unusual monsters, unique weapons, and strange magic items. Beyond that, though, how does the fully-painted picture of a woman casting a spell on page XX help me to run my campaign? In what way does the 364th illustration of a guy drawing a sword help me to create a better player character? How does line drawing of a tavern keeper improve the mechanics?  I’d rather have a book filled with material I can use.

Is the Lack of Art a Disadvantage?

The only place where having a lack of art is a disadvantage is when facing certain expectations within the hobby. There is a perception that because things have always been done a certain way, that’s the correct and only way to do them. It’s fine if your personal preference is to have a pretty book with a lot of art. To say that no one will buy your stuff if it doesn’t have art in it is demonstrably false. Dancing Lights Press have over 150 best selling titles on DriveTHruRPG, the majority of which have no art. I’m in my fifth year of doing this for a living full time. I’m creating the things I want to create, the way that I want to create them. I don’t feel that I’m at any disadvantage whatsover.

 


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.

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[Hippogryph] How to Create Characters

hippogryph system

How to Create Characters

The following is an abridged excerpt from the Hippogryph Codex on how to create characters.

There are multiple steps to creating a Hippogryph System character. The process is the same for player characters and supporting characters. It’s suggested that you read this whole chapter first, then refer back to individual sections as needed.

Character Creation Summary

  • Pick Elements (choose 5)
  • Assign Ratings to Attributes (9 points)
  • Select Skills and Assign Ratings (20 points)
  • Pick Features
  • Calculate Hero Points
  • Calculate Stress and Complications
  • Add Finishing Touches

Elements

Elements are word or phrases that describe something special about your character. You begin with 5: a background element, a concept element, a problem element, a connection to another player character, and a rounding element.

Attributes

Each character has six abilities that represent their raw talent and prowess: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These are individually rated from 0 to +3. You have 9 points to assign at a cost of 1:1 (i.e, a +2 rating costs 2 points).

Skills

Skills are trained abilities and things learned through experience. Your concept element will offer suggested skills, but you’re free to choose any. They are individually rated from 0 to +3. You have 20 points to assign at a cost of 1:1 (i.e a rating +3 costs 3 points). All other skills default to a rating of 0.

Features

Features are maneuvers, tricks, or even pieces of equipment that make your character unique and interesting. They’re individually rated at a cost of 1, 2, or 4 points. You have a total of 10 points to spend on Features.

Hero Points

Hero Points allow you more control over the destiny of your characters. Rather than being entirely at the mercy of die rolls, turn can turn success into failure, and even alter the degree of success, but spending Hero Points.
You begin each session with at least 3 Hero Points. If you had more than 3 at the end of the last adventure, they carry forward and you have that amount. For example, if at the close of the last session you had 5 Hero Point, you start the next adventure with 5. If you ended the last session with less than 3, you always begin the next session with 3.

Stress and Complications

Stress is how your character withstands the mental and physical toll of their adventures. You have three points for physical stress, plus additional points equal to your Constitution rating. You have at least three boxes for mental stress, plus additional points equal to your Wisdom rating.

Complications are temporary elements that your character gains when they are injured or harmed. A character can have up to 3 complications, one mild, one moderate, and one severe.

Finishing Touches

Give your character a name and physical description, if you haven’t already. Make some notes about their personality, their likes and dislikes, and things about their back story. These are details that don’t affect the mechanics, but make playing the character interesting.

Character Record Sheets

There is no character record sheet for the Hippogryph System. The do-it-yourself, toolkit vibe of the system means you can take as much or as little space writing out your elements as you choose. There’s no way one standardized form can accommodate that. We recommend using paper or a notebook. This allows you to write out your character’s abilities and document their adventures and changes to their elements, modifiers, and equipment over time.

How to Create Characters

Watch for more excerpts from the Hippogryph Codex later this week.


About the Hippogryph System

Hippogryph is a d20-based, story-driven tabletop fantasy roleplaying system. It is the collision of the D20 System and Fate RPG, but like the legendary creature it is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t off-brand D&D with Fate aspects stapled on, nor is it a collection of feats, spells, and class abilities translated into Fate terms. Hippogryph is a unique system that blends established legacy fundamentals with flexible, DIY story game ideals. Info Page ¦ DriveThruRPG ¦ Our Shop


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.

 

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The Eagle and The Horse

hippogryph system

The Eagle and The Horse

Let’s get this out of the way up front: this system is highly derivative and breaks little new ground in tabletop roleplaying design. That’s intentional. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. The Hippogryph System had to feel familiar and comfortable. The way it operates had to be simple and intuitive. There had to be a solid foundation that gave us common ground for discussion, yet still leave room for you to tinker, create, and modify it.

To me, all arguments about tabletop roleplaying systems come down to what the proper balance between wargaming versus storytelling should be. Some people firmly fixed rules with only a hint of character development and plot. Others want a story-first approach, with a few mechanics to reinforce the needs of the unfolding tale. I want to explore the middle ground. The focus here isn’t on the eagle, which in this metaphor is the storytelling, with its artistic hopes and lofty ideals. Nor is it on the horse, the rules set with its wargaming pedigree and the steadfastness and dependability that come with it. I want to look at the whole creature, the hippogryph. I want to explore what this amalgamation of a beast can be.

The Hippogryph System began as a hybrid of the D20 SRD and Fate Accelerated. Wargaming and storytelling. Locked-down and free-form. The horse and the eagle. Not a conversion of one to the other, but a whole, new thing incorporating the strengths of both. I like how it turned out. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it for what it is.

Middle Ground Between The Eagle and The Horse

I want to explore the oft-overlooked middle ground. The focus here isn’t on the eagle, which in this metaphor is the storytelling, with its artistic hopes and lofty ideals. Nor is it on the horse, the wargaming-pedigreed rules set with its steadfastness and dependability. I want to look at the whole creature. The Hippogryph. Rather than get caught up with distinct and separable parts, I want to look at what this allegorical amalgamation of a beast can be.

The system you’re about to read began as a hybrid of the D20 SRD and Fate Accelerated, another contrasting pair. Wargaming and storytelling. Locked-down and free-form. The horse and the eagle. What I’ve tinkered with was never a conversion of one to the other, but incorporating the strengths of both. Over time it evolved into its own thing, albeit with the marks made by the original influences still clear. It eventually became the thing that I needed it to be, and now I share with you.


About the Hippogryph System

Hippogryph is a d20-based, story-driven tabletop fantasy roleplaying system. It is the collision of the D20 System and Fate RPG, but like the legendary creature it is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t off-brand D&D with Fate aspects stapled on, nor is it a collection of feats, spells, and class abilities translated into Fate terms. Hippogryph is a unique system that blends established legacy fundamentals with flexible, DIY story game ideals. Info Page ¦ DriveThruRPG ¦ Our Shop


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.