I interviewed +Steve Jackson, who of course wrote and published the game system for which I write, GURPS. +Jeffro Johnson said nice things about the interview.

Steve and I covered a lot of ground, much of which could have elicited an even larger response than I made during the interview itself. 

I’m going to excerpt parts of the transcript, and say what comes to mind. Hey, it’s a blog. That happens

*** *** ***
Doug: It was the axes are something like growth and profit, and so the high growth, high profit where you are just printing money is the Star. Low growth, low profit is the Dog, and what do you do with those – shoot ‘em.
Then there were the problem children, which were high profit, but low growth and then there was another one that was high growth, low profit. That’s the cash cow?
Steve: The cash cow would have to be high profit, low growth.
Doug: Yeah. Something like that.
[Note: Doug got this a bit wrong. The original BCG framework was growth vs. market share, with share being a stand-in for cash production or consumption, a proxy for profitability but not a direct analog. So high-share, high growth were the Stars, high share, low growth were the Cash Cows. The low-share, high growth were the Question Marks or Problem Children, while the low-growth, low-share were either the Dogs or, perhaps more pertinently, the Pets.]
Steve: In those metrics Ogre is the star because it’s profitable, but it’s also still growing.

As I mentioned in the transcript itself, I got this a bit wrong. One of the interesting twists on the original BCG model of “Stars and Dogs” is that another name for the low growth-low profit markets is “pets.” This is likely more apt for the GURPS brand at the moment. As Steve goes on to say, people still like it enough to be profitable, if only marginally, and so it stays. Not because of any particular force of business, but because he wants to  see it go on.

Doug: Which I think brings me to something we’ll weave in and out of. The relationship of Steve Jackson Games and its product set to some of the 800 lb. gorillas in the role-playing game industry: How did Munchkin Pathfinder happen?
Because I was sort of on record saying that (on my blog) “This is so unlikely to ever have these companies get together,” and I was really happy to be wrong, because it potentially opens up at least speculation about other things. How did that work out?

Steve: The executive summary would be we asked Lisa and she said “Ha! Go for it!” It wasn’t quite that quick, but it wasn’t slow. 

Perhaps I should not have been surprised by the evident collegiality here, but I sort of was. Of course, Munchkin Pathfinder will do nothing but support Patfhinder as it succeeds, so this was clearly, as Steve notes, win-win. But I also can’t help but wonder, in direct contradiction to my earlier comments on the subject, if a GURPS Golarion adaptation might be feasible.  

You’d want some sort of conversion guide that would either allow for the translation of Pathfinder monsters into GURPS, or give substitutes that provide the right feel. You’d do it with Dungeon Fantasy, and probably customize or adapt one of the magic systems to feel more like Vancian magic rather than going with the standard spell system so that the flavor would be the same . . . but you’d give advice for using other magic systems as well, for those that like them.

Finally, I’d want to stat out 50, 100, 150, 200, and 250-point lenses for some of the core templates that feature in Pathfinder. Much of that is already done in one way or another. The Knight (Fighter) and Barbarian (um, Barbarian) are already right there. The Ranger is a Scout; the Monk is a Martial Artist. Clerics are Clerics or Saints, Paladins are Warrior Saints or Holy Warriors (Warrior Saints are much more evocative, thanks to Divine Favor and +Antoni Ten Monrós nice work on the subject). The various flavors of Magic-User would need work to make them unique, etc.

All in all, it would work well, and provide a huge wellspring for all kinds of games. Now that DF16: Wilderness Adventures is out, a true “hex crawl” can be entertained, with dungeons thrown in for fun.

It would certainly be a boost in pre-published and available material for GURPS players. I’d have to think more on what the Paizo guys would get out of it – though even if I do say so myself, having the stable of writers that contribute to Steve Jackson Games be familiar with the Golarion world and writing content that could be used in Pathfinder would not be bad for either party. It’s certainly quite lucrative to dip toes into the world of Dungeons and Dragons-based games (my casual forays into talking about D&D5 broke daily records in views for me), and I think the material that would come of such a thing would be very good stuff.
All in all, it would work well, and provide a huge wellspring for all kinds of games. Now that DF16: Wilderness Adventures is out, a true “hex crawl” can be entertained, with dungeons thrown in for fun.

It would certainly be a boost in pre-published and available material for GURPS players. I’d have to think more on what the Paizo guys would get out of it – though even if I do say so myself, having the stable of writers that contribute to Steve Jackson Games be familiar with the Golarion world and writing content that could be used in Pathfinder would not be bad for either party. It’s certainly quite lucrative to dip toes into the world of Dungeons and Dragons-based games (my casual forays into talking about D&D5 broke daily records in views for me), and I think the material that would come of such a thing would be very good stuff.

Doug: Do you think there is a market for this sort of dimebag of awesome that we can throw at kids? Is Munchkin Adventure Time or Munchkin Princesses geared towards a younger set, or is it taking adventure of the fad that is Disney…I don’t know if “fad” and “Disney Princesses” goes together. . . it’s been 30+ years of beating us over the head with it.
Steve: Yeah, give me a fad like that every time. No. Those cards are both aimed at the adult viewership. We still think of Munchkin as a game for teens and up.
We know perfectly well that some families are playing with it, and that’s great, and one of these days there will be a Munchkin game aimed at the younger set. But that’s going to be our answer, rather than to…I don’t want to say it, but everybody will understand, but better than to dumb down Munchkin.

Oh, you mean like THIS one?

+Andrew Hackard noted that he nearly spit out his drink when Steve dropped this utterly opaque-to-me-at-the-time hint as to this game that was released a short time later. 

Yousa gots to watch that tricksy Steve – he drops hints and you have to be on your toes to pick them up.

Steve: Okay. Implicit in that question is the idea that keeping the same line going for decades and decades is necessarily right. It’s not necessarily right. You could make a good argument now, and you could have made a better argument five years ago, that GURPS ought to be turned off, because the market for table roleplaying had really shrunk by faster, easier to learn table games.
But I’m loathe to quit doing something that people like. And because we are not at all a public-traded company, I can get away with saying “Fine. This particular marginally profitable thing may not have played out yet, so we’re going to continue, and we are going to continue to try and develop it.” I can get away with that and someone who lived or died on quarterly returns cannot.

And here is where I read the implicit statement that GURPS as GURPS will be sustained as long as it can be done with at least its level of current success. What it won’t likely do is have extra resources thrown at it that could profitably be deployed to Munchkin, Ogre, or likely Car Wars when it comes out.

This is both good and bad. Good because my system of choice will continue to be supported at least at some level. Bad because the pipeline, as it’s called, will likely remain fairly tight, with risks that a larger market segment might take being minimized. 

We’ll see – +Sean Punch‘s LiveJournal makes noised about at least four projects currently going through for eventual release (more, actually), which is a nice haul. As this gets through, I hope people realize that this is definitely a case where being a collector tells SJG that “more please!” is a good answer. 


Parting Shot
We’re about to get to some really interesting stuff about Virtual TableTops and GURPS. Given that this is a reasonably controversial topic on the SJG Forums right now, I’ll save this for a post of its own. In short, I think that a VTT for GURPS would be Just Ducky, and the key is more about how to ensure quality control and IP protection. The former harder than the latter, I think.
Stay tuned and more later!

I finally forced myself to sit down and put nose to grindstone and finished editing the text transcript to the Firing Squad Interview I did with +Steve Jackson.

It took much longer than usual – I’ve had a lot going on at work with presentations, various internal meetings, and lots of conference calls. That and having a collicky 3-month-old has left me with little spare time and few brain cells to scrape together.

The text transcript is inserted into the original interview post and will be updated over time with appropriate links and pictures. It will get better as I take a half-hour here and there to provide more value-added content.

I still think the video is worth watching, and honestly I put many hours into post-production on that one, so I’d love it if y’all would look at it and let me know if the video overlays I did were worthwhile.

But I prefer reading interviews myself, so please go back, watch the video, listen to the MP3 track, or read the transcript.

Thanks for joining me on the Firing Squad, and thanks again to Steve for sitting down with me for an hour.

Last weekend, I interviewed +Steve Jackson!

I tried to get this on out on GURPS-Day, but the editing ran me past midnight and spooling the video took two freakin’ hours.

During an interview that was about 50 minutes long, we covered Ogre and the Kickstarter, Munchkin, his recently released 2013 Stakeholder’s Report, and of course we talked a bit about GURPS.

Thanks to Steve for taking the time to join me on the Firing Squad!

Firing Squad with Steve Jackson (MP3 Audio Only)

Text Transcript

Douglas Cole (Gaming Ballistic): Good afternoon and welcome to Gaming Ballistics’ Firing Squad. I’m here with Steve Jackson of Steve Jackson Games. It’s a pleasure to talk to you today.

Steve Jackson (Steve Jackson Games): Well, it’s a pleasure to be here, especially since I can do it from . . . here.

Doug: The working from home thing is never cooler than when you can do an interview without pants.

Steve: Not admitting to anything here.

Doug: I think that’s fair. I tend to get right into things and first ask a quick question about…I’ve got my Ogre Supporter shirt on – ta da! [Steve laughs] and…

Steve: No [something]’s required.

Doug:…exactly. How did you decide to go from “Gee, I’d like to re-release Ogre to “Let’s do it on Kickstarter,” and how did that process work in your mind when you decided to do it. Continue reading “Gaming Ballistic’s Firing Squad welcomes Steve Jackson”

SJG doesn’t do it often (hardly ever, really) but until Aug 27 GURPS stuff is on sale at 23% off over at Warehouse 23. 

As +Peter V. Dell’Orto notes on his own author page, there’s a bunch of stuff (one book and a few Pyramid articles) that you could pick up.

Go Buy Technical Grappling


“Grappling rules suck” is such a potent meme that it even showed up in +Rob Donoghue‘s recent blog post on DnD5, though as benign neglect. I really do think the core Control Point effect mechanic is not only fairly useful, but easily portable to other games, as +Tim Shorts and +Erik Tenkar know from a project I did with them that will appear, hopefully, sometime in the future.

The best thing I can say about my own rules, Peter said for me in a recent forum post:

Quote: Originally Posted by vicky_molokh  

Lame? With the +2 to pretty much everything per tentacle after the first two? Why? Seems reasonably powerful to me.

Peter’s Response:

Click Here and Wrestle with this!

Because grappling becomes “You’re not grappled, and fine” or “you’re grappled, but you’re stronger so you break free” or “you’re grappled, and it’s so strong you can’t escape.” It’s way too pass/fail, and all of our fights with grappling monsters have been that way and were not fun to run or play. 

Using CP makes it all so much more nuanced, and since starting to use it every grappling encounter has gotten more interesting – masses of grappling zombies, casual grabs in combat, and more. TG has made DF dramatically better. We went from “let’s try this” to my players saying to keep it in a single usage.

It has some complexity that needs filing down for DF in some places, but the core concept is better than the core concept it replaces.

Pyramid Issues


I’ll actually be posting a bit more on this later. +Sean Punch did a Ten for Ten article in Pyramid #3/70 picking out ten concepts that he would have included in Basic had they existed at the time. Some of his concepts are reinforced or augmented by some of the articles I’ve written, and I intend to point that out in gory detail. But later. 🙂

Addendum


It crept up on me, but this marks my 400th post since starting my blog on Dec 26, 2012.

GURPS Horror: Madness Dossier is out!

As you’ve seen in this space before, I’m a big fan of +Kenneth Hite‘s work, and this setting for GURPS Horror is no exception. I have to review why I was listed as a reviewer – I got a comp copy – but I got a preview of this one, liked it, and would enjoy running a campaign in the setting, I think. It’s more cerebral than my “find the Aliens and shoot ’em in the face” current campaign, while still including the “shoot ’em in the face” part.

That’s a nice balance. I can’t wait to read this final version, and I’ll post a review eventually.

The text transcript of my interview with Kenneth Hite is now live! Sorry it took so long, but there was a lot to go through and life got a bit busy this past weekend!

It was great to revisit my time with Ken by listening to it again, and for those who read faster than we talk, or want it in bite-sized pieces, I hope you enjoy the transcription.

This is a long interview, and an equally long transcript. I’ll go back over time and edit in links and fix any errors in spelling or transcription – feel free to point them out where they exist. The transcript is 19,750 words long, or basically a 24-page GURPS e23 supplement. So please enjoy it. Or even contribute to the Gaming Ballistic Interview Fund if you want to see more of such. OK, plug over. I give you Ken Hite.

When I took a look at the most and least seemingly popular/favorable Pyramid issues since the magazine’s third incarnation, a few issues on the bottom were very poor sellers, but really gave no indication of why. I wanted to revisit each of these and do an article-by-article review, in the same manner that I reviewed Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay or Pyramid #3/61: Way of the Warrior. While those links go to the root articles, so to speak, every individual article got it’s own post.

This starts the series on The Power of Myth.

Contents

The issue starts of with the mission statement of hitting up pieces of myth, in the general and specific sense, that you can’t just go look up on Wikipedia or Google. So by design, this one was going to be a bit esoteric.

The article titles are:

THE GOLDEN GENIZA OF EZKALI, by Matt Riggsby
SEVEN MYTHICAL ARTIFACTS FOR DUNGEON FANTASY by Antoni Ten Monrós
EIDETIC MEMORY: BABA YAGA by David L. Pulver
THE JOURNEY OF THE DEAD by Kyla Ward
THE BEAR MYTH by Alan Leddon
BABYLON RISING by J. Edward Tremlett
ART OF PROPHECY by Megan McDonald
RANDOM THOUGHT TABLE: MYTHING AROUND by Steven Marsh, Pyramid Editor
ODDS AND ENDS featuring Murphy’s Rules

So seven “meat” articles, plus the usual bookends setting up and closing out the issue.

One thing that strikes me is that while I know four of these guys well, I’d not really heard of Kyla, Alan, or Megan before (surely my fault, not theirs; I’m darn sure they haven’t heard of me).

My first impression, on reading the table of contents, is that I have no idea what the feature article is going to be about. None whatsoever. Matt dutifully explains what a Geniza is right away in his introductory paragraphs, but my first impression is that 9 of 37 content pages, perhaps 25% of the entire issue, are a total unknown, giving no hint what I might be paying for.

OK, then boom . . . seven cool toys for DF. If I play DF (and I do), this one is surely going to have some value to me, though one might wonder if they’re going to be too high powered for general use. Still, it plays down the middle of the plate for the best-selling genre in GURPS (and in RPGing, for that matter).

Eidetic Memory: Baba Yaga. Having not really heard much about Baba Yaga until reading the article, this one wasn’t an instant draw for me.

The Journey of the Dead? Hmm. OK. Maybe.

As a matter of fact, way, way more than maybe. This was my favorite article in the issue, but I’ll get to that later, when I do the detailed review.

The Bear Myth. I expect something having to do with Native American folklore here (and as it turns out, it’s a lot more than that).

Babylon Rising. Intriguing and inviting title. Makes me want to read it.

Art of Prophecy. I’m going to guess at this point that it has something to do with how to deal with destiny and foreshadowing in games, which if true, will be a really neat article if done well. Something like an RPG with so very much player agency (if done right) makes the whole destiny thing hard to pull off. After all, when you steer players to a particular place, people scream railroading pretty fast.

So would the table of contents have drawn me in if I hadn’t already had a subscription? Possibly not.

Now, granted, compare with Pyramid #3/57, which is only four issues old. I’m a gun nut, so this would have been a sale from the title alone. But even without it, you get 12 pages of modern gear, 2 pages on magic bullets, something clearly game-mechanically related, two articles on what looks like a particular type of gun, and the intriguingly titled “The Devil’s Chariot,” which is entirely evocative. And written by Hans, so double win.



The average number of non-subscription sales for a Pyramid issue after the first few months have passed is 260. The standard deviation of that is about 70. So anywhere between 190 and 330 sales, and the middle half of all those stable issues spans between 190 and 310 copies sold. Pyramid #3/38 has sold 182 copies (which is actually one more than when I did the analysis, so the long tail is thin, but real!). So it’s lingering at the top of the bottom.

I’ll give away the ending before I review each article. I think this one has some hidden gems in it, notably The Journey of the Dead.

What I’m going to do is rate each issue as follows:

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Did the article draw me in, was it well organized, and did it the writing engage me and make me want to (a) read it, and (b) finish it? A score of 0 means that the writing didn’t get in the way. -2 would be that the writing or organization detracted from the work, and 2 is something that was notable as something enjoyable to read, much less use. Honestly, +Steven Marsh is a good editor, and the articles that will make his cut aren’t likely to be detractors from the work. I reserve “dear God this is awful” as a potential scoring, but I don’t expect to use it much for Pyramid.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: This category is all that is good when one says “fluff” in a GURPS context. The things that make you go “a ha!!” about a rule (but not the rule itself), or a background that is rich and vibrant and tactile. Concepts that can be mined for goodness and inspire adventures, campaign arcs, or worldbuilding. A 0 here contains little that really drives the use of things – a rule that doesn’t solve an actual problem or enable enhanced narrative, an adventure that requires insertion into a very specific setting that isn’t common. A 4 is “I want to use this, run this, and my gaming is better for having read it, much less imported it into my game.”

Drop-in Gaming Utliity [0 to 4 points]: This is the ability to go from paper to game with minimal effort and pre-work. Things you can drop right in, start using right away, even in an existing campaign, that enhance without nerfing existing stuff? That’s a 4. Articles that are maybe awesome, but will require rebuilding an entire world around them, or can’t be used without wrecking the existing rules, or require four other issues of Pyramid or e23 supplements that aren’t really “core” to use? Closer to zero.

With that, we’ll get into the first article . . . in the next post!

Reviews of past Pyramid issues was one of the things that came up in my “what to next” blog post.

Before I take up the challenge of issue reviews of Pyramid magazine, I thought I’d do a bit of analysis and see which issues I’d review.

Of course, we can all go to the What’s Hot page and do the usual sort: show me all of the Pyramid issues sorted by either Average Customer Rating or Number of Sales.

OK, fine, take the best five and worst five, and have at.

Right? Maybe not. There have been 61 issues since the restart of the magazine in its third incarnation. In the overall sort, we have certain implicit information. How long ago it was released is a function of the issue number, and we know they come out once a month, like clockwork.

We also get the average customer rating, the number of issues sold individually. The 12-month subscriptions more or less add a certain number to this, and that number isn’t constant, but varies depending on how many subscriptions are active. Still, I’m going to neglect that, despite it being the highest sales number of all. If I really wanted to dig into things, I’m sure I could extract number of 12-month subscriptions by month, by doing 61 individual searches.

I don’t care that much. I’m just looking for overall trends in the data.

So, are there any?

Unsurprisingly, yes.

Stand Up and Be Counted


If I were to just look at the average customer rating to tell me which issues were the most popular, would that work? Well, that depends on who’s voting and how many vote. Let’s take a look at how many bother to register their approval or disapproval of each issue.

Each big purple line (hey, I’m from Minnesota) represents 12 issues, or one year. To me, it seems like I can draw two conclusions. People really got excited about the new Pyramid volume in the first six months, and after that stopped voting.

As you can see by Steven Marsh’s comment below, the real conclusion is that there were a LOT of people who got six-month subscriptions to volume 3, and that drove up the numbers.

After that, the expected number of votes on an issues could be seen to decrease by roughly one vote per four or five months. So perhaps issues of interest are those with the highest percentage increase of votes more than expected, and the issues that were disliked or ignored are those with the lower deltas.The first six issues are excluded from this, because of the “new and cool” effect.

+Steven Marsh, Pyramid Editor and e23 Guru, was foiled by Blogger’s comment page (alas). But he did email me to note:

 As a reminder (or background in case you weren’t aware), with the changeover from Volume 2 to Volume 3, we gave everyone who had ANY time left on Volume 2 a six-month subscription to Volume 3. This explains why some statistics are so much higher on those first six issues; hundreds of more people had those issues compared to any other.

What are the best and worst in this case?

Best 10
Issues: % Votes from Expected
Worst 10 issues: % Votes from
Expected
Pyramid #3/33: Low-Tech (best) Pyramid
#3/32: Fears of Days Past
Pyramid #3/36: Dungeon Fantasy Pyramid
#3/42: Noir
Pyramid #3/44: Alternate GURPS II Pyramid
#3/53: Action
Pyramid #3/34: Alternate GURPS Pyramid
#3/11: Cinematic Locations
Pyramid #3/54: Social Engineering Pyramid
#3/35: Aliens
Pyramid #3/50: Dungeon Fantasy II Pyramid
#3/46: Weird Science
Pyramid #3/13: Thaumatology Pyramid
#3/27: Monsters in Space
Pyramid #3/43: Thaumatology III Pyramid
#3/14: Martial Arts
Pyramid #3/52: Low-Tech II Pyramid
#3/49: World-Hopping
Pyramid #3/41: Fantasy World-Building Pyramid
#3/61: Way of the Warrior (worst)

So, “best” in this case really means “encouraged more people than usual to go out and vote on it at all, regardless of whether this is a good vote or a bad one. Pyramid #3/33 would thus win if a record number of people logged on to say how much they hate it. Pyramid #3/61 (the most recent, which may count against it) might be the worst because, well . . . it’s still being read, and not enough time has gone by for people to read and digest it.

One last thing: are issues that sell well more likely to be rated at all? A quick plot of Vote count vs. Sales shows that yes, the more who buy it, the more vote. Not terribly surprising there, and what you see is that while there seems to be a floor of about ten or fifteen votes, roughly one person bothers to vote on the issue for each 23 people who buy the issue.

Actual Customer Feedback


Well, number of votes might be interesting, but you get to rate an issue when you vote, from 1-5 stars. So a couple things here. No issue has received an average rating less than 3.29 (Pyramid #3/02, the Superheroes one). One is currently sitting at a perfect 5.0 (#3/60, Dungeon Fantasy III).

OK, fine, let’s just quickly look at trends

One again, we see the first year as an anomaly. The “worst 10 rated issues” and “the first ten published issues” are one and the same. The best of these 10 is #3/04: Magic on the Battlefield, and even that one lags behind all the others by a smidge.

Once you get out of the first ten issues, overall, the ratings get better by a touch over time, but it’s not a strong function. But perhaps that’s because the new issues get favorable ratings first, and the not-so-good ratings come in later. What do we think? Number of votes gets larger with time (duh), but do ratings get worse as the number of votes increase? Well, yes.



The first thing we note is that the first six issues greatly skew any potential answer. So let’s throw them out, and see what we see.

OK, so yeah, the more votes you get, the more that you expect the pool to go down. So which Pyramid issues buck this trend? Which are the most above expectations, and most below?

Best 10
Issues: % Rating Adjusted by Votes
Worst 10 issues: % Rating
Adjusted by Votes
Pyramid #3/33: Low-Tech Pyramid #3/43: Thaumatology III
Pyramid #3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay
Pyramid #3/34: Alternate GURPS Pyramid #3/07: Urban Fantasy
Pyramid #3/52: Low-Tech II Pyramid #3/14: Martial Arts
Pyramid #3/31: Monster Hunters Pyramid #3/56: Prehistory
Pyramid #3/54: Social
Engineering
Pyramid #3/23: Action Adventures
Pyramid #3/30: Spaceships Pyramid #3/22: Banestorm
Pyramid #3/50: Dungeon Fantasy
II
Pyramid #3/10: Crime and Grime
Pyramid #3/13: Thaumatology Pyramid #3/08: Cliffhangers
Pyramid #3/59: Conspiracies Pyramid #3/09: Space Opera

The blue ones appear in both “best” lists. The only issue common to the bottom of both of these analysis is poor, lamented Martial Arts.

Overall, though, it’s probably a better metric to look at deviations from the expected performance over time (the second list) than who rushes out to vote for anything (the first one).
But what is perhaps the best metric of all? Gotta be . . . 
Sales, Glorious Sales

You have to read the description, read the title, maybe read some reviews, and then run out and buy this issue on an individual basis (as opposed to a subscription) to count here, so there are some definite issues. If you see an issue that makes you so happy that you buy a subscription, well, that removes you from the running going forward.
Still, a straight-up plot of Sales versus Issue number (which is also a proxy for time) should tell us something here . . . 
The first thing, just eyeballing it, is that it takes something like 6-12 months (really 6-9, I think) for an issue to saturate. After that time, you see what’s popular, and what’s not. But a simple sort on sales is what’s going to tell the tale here.
But, before we do that . . . surely the number of sales is highest for the best-rated articles!
Nope:
Pretty meaningless. In fact, rating is so uncorrelated with sales that I’ll just go ahead and call those ratings utterly pointless. I noted before that other than those first six issues, you basically get an extra vote per 23 sales (dun dun DUN!!!!!).
So all of that noise later, and what do we get? 
Best 10
Issues: Total Sales
Worst 10 issues: Total sales
(1-55)
Pyramid #3/34: Alternate GURPS Pyramid #3/14: Martial Arts
Pyramid #3/33: Low-Tech Pyramid #3/38: The Power of Myth
Pyramid #3/13: Thaumatology Pyramid #3/27: Monsters in Space
Pyramid #3/12: Tech and Toys Pyramid #3/17: Modern Exploration
Pyramid #3/07: Urban Fantasy Pyramid #3/23: Action Adventures
Pyramid #3/44: Alternate GURPS II Pyramid #3/42: Noir
Pyramid #3/15: Transhuman Space Pyramid #3/05: Horror & Spies
Pyramid #3/25: Epic Magic Pyramid #3/49: World-Hopping
Pyramid #3/21: Cyberpunk Pyramid #3/32: Fears of Days Past
Pyramid #3/28: Thaumatology II Pyramid #3/02: Looks Like a Job for . . . Superheroes

Which issues were taken out of the running (and how many sales)?

Pyramid #3/56:
Prehistory (165)
Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay (215)
Pyramid #3/58: Urban Fantasy II (167)
Pyramid #3/59: Conspiracies (121)
Pyramid #3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III (155)
Pyramid #3/61: Way of the Warrior (95)

So none of these break into the top 10 (yet), which starts at 325 sales. Two are “dead last,” but Gunplay has already climbed out of the 10 Lowest category. 

Ballistic’s Report

What’s the point of all this? Mainly, it was hacking at the individual sales data to see if anything popped out. Of the lists provided, the Alternate GURPS and Thaumatology titles, plus Low-Tech, showed up repeatedly.
On the other hand, five of the best-selling issues were not in either list: Tech and Toys, Urban Fantasy, Transhuman Space, Epic Magic, and Cyberpunk. Note that two of these are probably maigc-oid (Urban Fantasy and Epic Magic), while the rest are sci-fi and (especially) gear and flash.
Of the least well performing, Martial Arts, Monsters in Space, Action Adventures, Noir, World-Hopping, and Fears of Days Past showed up in multiple lists, while The Power of Myth, Modern Exploration, Horror and Spies, and Looks Like a Job for . .  Superheroes have sold very poorly but didn’t show up on any of the “normalized” lists.
Future Reviews
So, fishing around in the data, I’m going to do some whole-issue reviews. 
First, I’ll take those that sold poorly but would not have been “predicted” to do so by other metrics:
Pyramid #3/38: The Power of Myth
Pyramid #3/17: Modern Exploration
Pyramid #3/05: Horror and Spies
Pyramid #3/02: Looks Like a Job for . .  Superheroes

Then, what about the surprising (perhaps) successes?

Pyramid #3/12: Tech and Toys
Pyramid #3/07: Urban Fantasy
Pyramid #3/15: Transhuman Space
Pyramid #3/25: Epic Magic
Pyramid #3/21: Cyberpunk
It should come as no surprise that the issues that do well are Alternate GURPS (nifty rules and explorations in a mechanics-heavy generic system), and fantasy, low-tech, gear, and magic. The best-selling genre and ifs offshoots.
More surprising are the issues that have done poorly. Perhaps there are some traps to avoid in looking at those.
Mostly, though, I take from this that the Customer Rating and number of votes are mostly meaningless numbers. We need a better way to dig into issues and articles and understand why they succeed and fail, and these quantities (at the level they’re reported) aren’t it.
Finally, one interesting last-minute thought: The low ratings of the first year might be related as much to “it’s not Volume 2!” as anything particular to the first twelve issues. “Not what I’m familiar with” is a real effect.


Thursday is GURPS-Day, and release day! We get more goodness today with Loadouts: Low-Tech Armor.


I had a hand in this one, as you cans see – I was listed as Lead Playtester. Interestingly enough, this title, so to speak, came last.


I was approached by +Steven Marsh a while back to see if I could potentially check up on the loadouts. Sure, I thought.

Then I got the manuscript. Holy. Crap.

Over twenty different historical warrior-types, each with anywhere from just a few to nearly two dozen individual pieces of armor, each written up, sometimes a bit cryptically, using +Dan Howard‘s Instant Armor style. All in all I think I calculated that there were something like four hundred individual pieces to validate. A lot of work went into this.

Yow. I needed help, and I knew it. I solicited the help of the six people who joined me in this task – mostly from the Technical Grappling playtesters, who’d been so very helpful to me during my own project. Then I divided up the loadouts into piles, each with an approximately equal number of pieces. I played manager, and when the first round of commentary was done, finished up all unvalidated pieces.

I then, just to be sure, scrambled the piles again, and a new person double-checked the loadouts.

Many comments were made, but that wasn’t really our job. We had plenty of time, since the Ogre was in the way, but we checked nearly 400 pieces of armor – twice each – in about three months.

I hope you guys all run out and buy the book, and if you like it, I’m sure there could be more. Loadout lists are like +Hans-Christian Vortisch infamous Big Lists of Guns. They might get a bit of eyebrow-raising here and there (‘did you really just publish 300 guns whose stats are nearly indistinguishable?’) but when the very next moment there’s a post on the forums saying “Hey, I have this gun here, which is a 5.56x45mm gun with a 20” barrel, but has a different name, what are it’s stats?” rather than just using the darn listing for the M16, you can see how players (or maybe just GURPS players) eat this stuff up.

With that, here’s the juice from the product page:

GURPS Loadouts: Low-Tech Armor
Available as an e-book on e23!

Written by Dan Howard * Edited by Jason “PK” Levine
Illustrated by David DayDan Howard, and Shane L. Johnson

GURPS Line Editor: Sean Punch
49 pages. PDF. * Price $9.99 * Stock number 37-1581
Always Available – Click here to buy!

Gird for Battle in Any Era

For as long as mankind has engaged in violence, we have sought ways to make the sticks, stones, and swords hurt just a little less. GURPS Low-Tech and GURPS Low-Tech: Instant Armor provide the bits and pieces needed to customize your defenses . . . but when you care about historical accuracy, want a provencombination of defensive gear, or are simply short on time, GURPS Loadouts: Low-Tech Armor has you covered.

  • Equip your warrior with any of 40 ready-to-use loadouts, each with precalculated statistics (including total cost, weight, and don time) and collected notes on variable DR (partial coverage, damage type, etc.).
  • Take advantage of new gear, including rhinoceros-hide armor, pectorals, Roman “scale mail,” Japanese face protection, padded jacks, and a wide range of shields and horse barding.
  • Add detail to your battles with expanded hit location tables for the face and abdomen, rules for the restrictive effects of rigid leg and neck armor, new options for arming doublets, and more.
  • Learn how the cultures discussed actually fought: the attacks they expected to face, the types of warriors on the field of battle, and the intent behind their choice of protection.

Whether you’re playing a historical game or one of pure fantasy, GURPS Loadouts: Low-Tech Armor makes equipping your hero a snap – and helps the GM quickly armor hordes of nameless NPC warriors – all in a realistic and believable way. Spend less time poring over equipment lists and more time using that gear to prove your mettle on the battlefield!

In Pyramid #3/61: The Way of the Warrior, we see a very, very focused set of articles: six articles plus +Steven Marsh‘s intro and Random Thought Table, contributed by five authors . . . and the lead article was co-authored!

That being said, this one was interesting. “How about a theme issue,” said Steven. BAM! And stuff rolled in. Lots and lots of it. The fact that we have two Martial Arts Designer’s Notes articles in here – long ones – only highlights the fun that is the other six.

This is the second issue I’ve done an article-by-article review on, and yes, that might have something to do with my having two pieces in it. Still, it’s very good, and very on-topic for me. So, here we go.

You can find my commentary on the first article, More Power to Dungeon Warriors, in the previous post.

Takedown Sequences ( +Douglas Cole )

Kneeling Clinch

Fortunately for me as an author, but unfortunately for me as a reviewer, I’ve got two articles in #3/61. Both are basically about GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling.

I can easily give a bit of “designer’s notes” on this one, and the upshot is that the posts I did giving a play-by-play certain fight scenes like Natasha vs. Herd of Mooks in Iron Man 2, or the fight examples I’ve done, were quite popular. So I figured I’d write up some basics (and not-so-basics) using the system.
Side Mount
Positions

Positioning is what we call it in class when you work on moving from (ideally) one advantaged position to another. In point-based sport grappling, getting a new position scores you points. In real-life grappling, the position transitions are executed when a higher level of advantage presents itself, or the current position is no longer quite as advantaged as it used to be. 
This article gives several positions and how to execute them in Technical Grappling. It also provides a bit of definition guide 
Guard
Each position is given a general description of what it’s supposed to be, with some variations listed, as well as how to execute each one using the concepts in TG. It’s not overly, forgive the phrase, technical, in that there are no “you must achieve X Control Points to be considered to have acheive the [blah] position” comments, as that’s a game-by-game choice. The purpose of the section is to allow a common vocabulary and to give a starting point for later moves. 
It is not strictly necessary to know any of this information in order to grapple in GURPS, or grapple using Technical Grappling. Another way to present this information that might
Upper Side Mount
have been more game-useful would be with general advice such as “first achieve X CP on the torso and Y on the arm, and execute the following moves.”  In the end, the more-generic (and real-world) information that corresponds to how grapplers are often trained was what I judged to be more useful. The readers will decide!
Grappling Sequences

The heart of the article, from which the real utility is derived, is the step-by-step guides to executing certain

Arm Bar

moves in GURPS, using Technical Grappling. Four sequences are presented, all starting standing and ending up in an advantaged position on the ground. 

Throughout, the article uses the concepts from the TG book. While you won’t be lost if you don’t have it in many cases, you must be at least familiar with the additional options presented in the book, including Control Points and spending them, as well as some of the new concepts for relative facing, position (used as a term of art here, rather than as the generic term for a grappling position above), and a few others. 
Shoulder Lock
Each sequence is given a list of events and transitions, and a shorthand roll is given with penalties already figured (Attack at -6, or Quick Contest, Change Position at -2, etc.). Also provided are suggestions for how to combine these moves into (cinematic and costly) Combinations, which will appeal to those with large point budgets.
Finishers: Locks and Chokes

The largest section in the article, six finishing moves are given in some detail. The first is, of course, the classic arm bar, executed as a sequence of steps. That sequence is

Mount Position

used in a BOX to highlight a new kind of combination, in this case called a Positioning Move. The combo allows moves that are usually done as one huge transition – and restricted to Posture and Position changes in various flavors – to be bought up as a Technique. GMs, as always, have final approval, and each move must be explicit. Still, it’s an interesting way to take moves that are usually done all at once and represent and execute them in one roll.

Ankle Lock
Other moves presented include the Ankle Lock and Knee Compressions which both target the legs, the “Guillotine” and Triangle Choke, targeting the neck, and a basic shoulder lock (Arm Lock in GURPS parlance) common in submission fighting. Each one is given the same treatment as the previous section: a step-by-step guide to pain, and guidance on how to effectively turn it into combinations. 
Parting Shot
Triangle Choke
I can tell you that this article started a lot longer. It included a bunch of defensive moves as well, but there was so much content submitted for this issue, I chopped out all of the defensive techniques, which cut out over 1,000 words. That being said, if this issue and article are popular, it would be trivial to write another one that was all defensive moves and reversals. Plus another one – and this one could get really long – on grappling sequences involving fighters using weapons. 
It’s a deep sea, and easy to pull fish out of it.