Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New S&W Publisher To Audience: Your Work Sucks

EDIT: So, it looks like Bill Webb showed up in the comments at Chgowiz's blog and attempted to set things straight/explain/what-have-you. Thanks to him for taking the time to do so. I'll let you read it as well, to see where he's coming from. I imagine this isn't the last we've heard of Frog God or this new edition. -ZH

A hat tip to Chgowiz and Bite The Bulette on this one.

So, Swords & Wizardry gets a new edition, by the folks at Frog God Games. All well and good. Swords & Wizardry, at least for me, is one of the most enjoyable products to surface from the resurgence of interest in classic-style RPGs, simulacra, and retro-clone rules.

So what do the new Frog God folks (and spinoff of Necromancer Games) give us, by way of an introduction to their company?

“We are not the guys who are going to offer bargain basement junk for a quick buck. We won't sell you hand drawn maps and clip art laid out by amateurs and posted up on Lulu.com as a cheap book that you look at and discard”.

Eh? So you want to slag on pretty much half of the 400 people interested in your product? Because, by trashing those “amateurs”, that’s what you did. It reads as a hit against every fan magazine, every bare-bones supplement, and every weekend and late night spent creating something to celebrate and contribute to play in our hobby.

The Do It Yourself (DIY) ethic is a core part of not just this corner of the hobby, it’s been a boon to those of us who wanted to create something for the games we loved, but weren’t quite sure how. We saw our peers do it, and said, “hey, maybe I can take a crack at something like that, too!” Many products—good products, that I have used the hell out of for gaming—were from lulu.com, and I can spot more than a few hand-drawn maps and bits of clip art.

High production values are fine. Creating something from the heart to share at cost (or even at a loss), is a much more personal, engaging, and earnest transaction, to my mind.

Hey, it’s the internet. We all say dumb stuff. I get about one to two angry emails a week because I am a) an insensitive turd, apparently, and b) write something much more offensive than it sounded in my head, and I’m no James Raggi or RPG Pundit. So I know how these things can come out. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to call you on it.

I’ve got nothing but good wishes and respect for Matt Finch and Swords & Wizardry. I just hope Frog God doesn’t forget how that product started, and the manner in which we as a community choose to support it. Yes, you can have a high-value neo-classical gaming product that’s a work of love (LotFP's Boxed Set, anyone?). But you don’t have to piss on anyone to do it.

29 comments:

OlmanFeelyus said...

Yikes! I suspect (and hope) that this is most likely a case of someone struggling with their marketing copy and making a poor choice of words without really thinking about the impact of those words. It sounds like a good move for Mythmere, but I really do hope this language doesn't betray the kind of self-loathing you tend to see from people who are one step away from the thing they claim to be so against.

Zachary The First said...

@Olman: My hope as well. I just hope it isn't a case of "Ok, kids, let the PROS show you how it should be done".

Loquacious said...

That sort of comment cheeses me off entirely. One of the very best minds I know in RPGs today is currently working on a DIY deal to be printed at Lulu. Makes me want to buy his stuff MORE now...

SpiralBound said...

Before the community descends too far into nerd rage, let's step back a bit and rather than carving them into little pieces over some admmittedly poor word choices, let's see what they actually intended to say. To me, it looks as if they are enthusiastic about publishing S&W, furthermore they are up front about committing early on towards high quality material. This is great! Instead of tearing them a new one over their sloppy PR, what if the S&W fans were to encourage them by stating what THEY would consider high publication standards? If they're willing to make such a committment right out of the gaate, then the community can take this as an invitation to hold them accountable to their newly adopted standard...

Dane of War said...

Man, and I thought I was a dick.

ChicagoWiz said...

@Spiralbound - of course they're enthusiastic - they got a piece of the new fad - the "OSR"! With cheerleaders aplenty who will ignore history (TSR's rush over the DIY/fans) and cold business decisions, they have nothing to worry about.

A lot of people put sweat, time and effort/energy into S&W. This just smells bad right now. Time will tell if Frog Gods is the right choice or if we're watching a shark jump.

Matt said...

I stand proudly behind my hand drawn maps and clip art (or at least public domain art)-filled books on Lulu.com and hope that people don't discard them after using them.

Setting a high standard is great. Promising great production values is great. Neither thing necessitates belittling people. I'm not enraged (nor a nerd), but it was a crappy thing to write and quite insulting.

morrisonmp said...

And let's also not forget that many would-be publishers and writers might be cranking out good work, but don't have the budget/means for high-quality production values.

Doesn't make the content any less worthwhile just because someone can't afford to hire Jeff Easly to do their art for them...

This may have been poor word choice -- maybe -- but you know, I'm a technical communicator and rhetorician and if you want to be a professional -- hire someone to write your copy who is capable of doing a basic audience analysis first.

Randall said...

I think Frog God Games just lost any support from me. This is an example of why I strongly prefer the supporting the hobby to the supporting the industry. Swords and Wizardry doesn't really need people with such an obvious "leave everything to the pros" attitude. All I have to say is "Bah. Humbug."

Anonymous said...

You've got to be kidding. Another outrage in the old school blogosphere already? You know what, Frog God is right... there is "junk" out there. Not everything DIY is gold. They were saying what their products would not be, not accusing ALL of the stuff on Lulu (or wherever) of being garbage. Good grief!

And if Frog God brings half the quality of Necromancer Games to their S&W stuff, we are in for a treat. They make good modules, and they are really in the old school D&D spirit, without being rehashes of stuff Gary wrote.

I read that same press release last night, and I didn't find it offensive, not even a little bit. Please, can we just lighten up a little and take the comment in the best possible way rather than in the worst? For a change?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I might as well add, Frank Mentzer literally came out and said, at Dragonsfoot, that all the OSR people were just playing around, and he and his (promised) new company were going to come out and show everyone how the big boys did it. Since, you know, we all want and need another TSR from the guys who used to work there. Totally missing the energy and spirit of the OSR stuff, but planning to capitalize on it just the same. He was far more offensive that the little Frog God comment. Also not Rob Kuntz's recent railing against the OSR with Tim Kask called in to back him up. But I'm guessing most complaining about this gave those guys a pass? Hopefully not!

Callin said...

Maybe their target is not who you think it is. Maybe their target audience are people who are driven away from the OSR by poor production values, but are still interested in the concept.
Is there enough to keep their company afloat? Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

The S&W forums now have a thread addressing this, and yes, the comment was not what some of you are making it out to be.

It was addressing concerns for the Pathfinder crowd, for whom maps are much more important as an aid to miniatures battles.

Will ChicagoWiz take down his blog again now that he has been proven wrong after stirring up trouble? Hmm...

Jeff Rients said...

A) I hope Frog Gods new delve in S&W succeeds like all get out. I wish they had been smart enough to hop on board back when they were dicking around with trying to make the GSL work, but now that they're here I hope everything works out for them. S&W is a great iteration of D&D and deserves better distro.

B) I intend to continue to make bargain basement junk with hand drawn maps and clip art laid out by amateurs and posted up on Lulu.com as a cheap book. Because that's what I like to do. What's a business for them is a hobby for me and I'm cool with that.

C) If the Frog God guys think ANYBODY is in the OSR to make a "quick buck" then they need to stop pussy-footing around and name some damn names. The number of people actually making money off of this madness is very small and I feel pretty confident that those folks are earning their sales.

Zachary The First said...

@Jeff: I was wondering this as well. Who is trying ti make a quick buck, exactly?

ChicagoWiz said...

That explanation was about as bland and convincing as a Congressional hearing.

Will anonymous man-up and stop hiding? Hmm.

Frank Mentzer said...

Heya CWiz. I trust that the Frogs (no relation to "Crunchy Frog") will be more careful in the future. Anyone can have an 'oops'; give 'em a break.

I think the last decade shows the heartfelt quality of products from 'amateurs'. I admire 'em and I like small shops too.

oh, btw: Anon: "Frank Mentzer literally came out and said..."

Didn't say that at all; you offer no quote and hide behind Anon here. ::shrug:: Why pick on me, anyway? If you hate old guys, fine; leave the OSR guys alone.

FASERIP said...

With all the dust-ups and kerfuffles the OSR generates, I'm surprised Mythmere Games hasn't received a little more attention, particularly this little rule in their fora:

All your post are belong to us.

Now's that the good old-fashioned, DIY attitude you'd expect from a lawyer.

John Reyst said...

I happen to know one of the guys at Frog God and I can assure you they (or at least he) mean(s) well. The choice of words I believe was put up in regards to their other products, not the OSR-type products. Yes, it was a poor choice of words given their new customer base but given that I know one of them and know he's a solid guy who means well I think people should just lighten up and wait and see what happens before freaking out.

Zachary The First said...

@John: I've added a note to my original post. I'm really happy Bill stepped forward and answered some questions here.

Thanks for the comments!

Steven D. Russell said...

"If the Frog God guys think ANYBODY is in the OSR to make a "quick buck" then they need to stop pussy-footing around and name some damn names. "

Outlaw press?

Anonymous said...

@Frank Mentzer:

"Anon" here. No hiding, just not even useful to say my name... I have no blog, no web presence of any kind. I'm nobody in these circles but a lowly reader who weathers these kinds of blogosphere-wide outrages every month or two.

I guess you don't remember the little tempest in a teapot back when word got out about your game company plans at DF (don't think they discussed it there out of respect for you), and some were offended that you seemed to be implying something akin to "Taking over the reigns" on the whole OSR thing from the folks who started it grass root style, similar to what was perceived to be happening here. I didn't imagine it, it may even be there on various forums still.

I wasn't so much trying to pick on you, just giving another example of stirring the sh*t like ChicagoWiz and others seem to want to do here, utterly railing on Frog God and trying to get the followers to join the crusade.

Causing a ruckus over things said (or misunderstood) is easy, but doesn't mean it has weight or should be cause for more strife in this small community of (mostly) like-minded folks. Notice how fast people are willing (eager?) to jump online and make blog posts decrying the statements made, before the facts are even clear!

I have no beef with you personally, I think you're a creative guy and designer. It was just an example from the past I remembered, and wondered why Frog God is getting hammered when others have (most certainly unintentionally) made people feel insulted before for stating things that may have been taken out of context, but seem to get a pass. Why is Frog God different, because people aren't clear who's behind it or feel he has no TSR days old school cred?

Just trying to make a point, but as with so many things online, sometimes the meaning gets lost (see how that ties into the topic?)

I for one was actually interested when you had said you were creating a new company by the way. Hopefully those plans are still viable.

da Trux said...

it didn't really strike me as a "slap in the face" to anyone. I'm sure some people have/will take it as such. Personally, I would never pay money for the kind of stuff they mention; and I would never expect any one to pay money for the graph paper and hand-drawn crap I make.

I really need to try this Swords and Wizardry though. You've built it up so much, I'm dying to play. Unfortunately, it won't happen anytime soon.

Akrasia said...

The thing is, the comment in question was not made towards the 'DIY crowd supporting S&W'!

FGG has been around for a few months producing d20 material for 3e/Pathfinder. The comment above has to do with that material, viz., the loads of d20 rubbish floating around.

People started freaking out like spoiled children without even taking the time to understand the context of the original comment.

And it was sad the way that they were not willing to give either Matt Finch or Bill Webb the benefit of the doubt.

Anonymous said...

Naw; FGG to FGG "my ad copy sucks" Certainly no insults intended. Heck we are a 8 man (well 7 and one woman) indie company w/ long resumes. I wanted to do this because I play S&W and I liked Matt--it just makes sense to us.

Take a look at my site blog for clarity--also; I understand I will be doing some Q&A here. Hopefully a year from now you you can all tease me about my jerky prose.

Man internet blogs can get rowdy:)

Bill

ps--now if I could just remember my password:)

Anonymous said...

ps--I am not the other Anonymous/...first post here

Zachary The First said...

Actually, I hope to do a Q&A here with Bill and FGG. It can maybe shed the light on any remaining questions, and tell us a little bit more about what they're doing.

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anarchist said...

Whether they're right or wrong to do so, every time someone says their RPG products are good 'as opposed to some of the crappy products out there' it never goes well.