05/30/10

Permalink 07:36:48 am, Categories: Promotion, marketing : strategic, 1535 words   English (US)

BW meets Avalanche - seeking alpha testers

Cross posted at the burning forum.
Notice that I try to present our vision first, and give information on the product afterward.

Well, anyway, I'm still looking for alpha testers, even if you're not playing with BW. Just use the "contact" button on our current site and we'll get into touch.

Introducing myself
Let me begin by introducing myself and my presence on this forum (first post for me, so ...).

My name is Sébastien Pelletier and I live in Montréal, Québec, Canada. I've been living there for almost three years after being in Paris for six years. I'm a project manager as my daily job. My main hobbies are movies, reading about philosophy, French and international politic, and I'm also a big player (CCG, video games, tabletop and, of course, rpg).
I'm mostly present on The Forge and story-games.
Be warned that I'm a native french speaker.

It is while being in Paris, alone, far away from my friends, that I started to work on a rpg project, which, at first was supposed to be "little".

Introducing Avalanche
I guess you haven't heard about it, since it is not on the shelves yet, so let me introduce you to Avalanche.
Let me start with our vision :
We believe that role playing games are first and foremost a creative activity. We believe that role players, dungeon masters and players alike are very creative. This is why Avalanche is an unfinished product. We believe you can finish this story better than ourselves; that including you in the creative process can only improve Avalanche. This is not a story where you are the hero. This is a story where you are the author. We believe that you should create the very own fabric of the culture you are part of, that you shouldn’t and wouldn’t be a simple beholder of the upcoming adventures to come. We need you to finish this book.

We believe that the creative process has more value than the final product itself. This is why you will encounter different maps representing the same reality in Avalanche; even some drafts. In the course of this creative process, which must be as free for the creators as possible, multiple, even concurrent, versions of the same truth might arise. This is good. Because there is no truth, not even some author’s truth. As authors of Avalanche, your truth is as good as ours.

And maybe, this might interests you :
What is Avalanche about you might ask me? Sure, it is about a civil war, it is about hard dilemmas about the humans’ survival, it is about the abuse of nature, but this would not be my answer. Avalanche is about finding one’s place into the world. It is about questioning one’s value. Avalanche is first and foremost about one journey of self’s discovery.

What kind of product would be able to support that vision, what would be its specificity :
- Pure fluff : Avalanche is not about any systems. It might be played with any system you'd like.
- A single product : Avalanche is a setting and many modules in a single product.
- No PCs : don't look for them, they are not mentioned once.
- No details : Avalanche is high level and provide no details concerning the setting and the adventures.
- Modular approach : every bits of information fits into a "space". Forget about your typical modules.
- Multi plots : Avalanche is about many adventures, all occurring [I]at the same time[/I], over a large region.
- Calendar based : there is no chapters. There is only a big timeframe to manage the plots. And [I]time[/I] does matter.
- Non linear : Avalanche is not meant to be read from one cover to the other. You may start anywhere and follow on any pages.
- Storyboard : yeah, this looks like a storyboard; and yeah, storyboards are, by definition, unfinished product. So is Avalanche.

If you're intrigued, you may take a look at those :
The teaser of Avalanche
Map of the region
The relationship map
An example of a typical page with the provisional final layout

Avalanche and Burning Wheel
I've play tested Avalanche with d20, BW, TSOY and some kind of variations of white wolf system. It works fine with all of them, but, of course, different systems do different things, so depending on how you intend to play Avalanche, some systems are better at handling some types of games. For my AP report for BW, you can see it here.

Anyway, I really liked BW, even if I found it a little bit "rules heavy" for the players I had at hands. But, seriously, I do find Avalanche and BW do be a perfect match. And I do not think there are needs to accommodate Avalanche or BW for this fit. That's one thing I'd like to prove to Luke (yeah, that one), with whom I was in constant contact. And, by the way, Luke is one of the person who really helped me a lot on this project. And I'd like to thank him for that.

Maybe on a more general note : although Avalanche could be played with any system, I wouldn't recommend using d20. One of my goal as a publisher is to attract players of d20 with a mature product (my target audience is over 30) and introduce them to other systems, which I think would allow them to experiment more mature games, system related.

Looking out for Alpha testers
So, how am I going to prove this to Luke ? Well, by addressing his community. And maybe, I'm wrong (in which case, so be it), but let the "experts" decide.
Please also note that I intend to begin selling "beta" version of Avalanche this summer (I'm hoping late July) and I'm currently looking for testers. So, why not do both at the same time ? And I prefer to play test within a strong indie community than with d20.

So, what's the alpha version, the one I would be providing for play test?
- 120K word, describing a hundred characters, locations, organizations and magical items, and including a three months calendar of events happening in the world (that's the adventure).
- Around 350 illustrations done by great artists. A 100 is still missing.
- No informative pages. I'm writing them now and I want some feedback from the play testers to make sure I'm addressing the right thing.
- No layout and I must admit this is not the best "readable" stuff you'll come across. I'm using a word processor do produce the pdf and well, it is a bad idea.
- Three gorgeous maps (geographic, political and military) of the region.

Of course, I would be available for full support over the alpha version.

What I am expecting from alpha testers ?
- To read, at least, some parts of the book. There is no need to read it all to play.
- An AP post describing the character creation. Avalanche is quite useful doing the character burner.
- Three AP posts describing your game. I'm only asking for three sessions. After all, you're free.
- Of course, you must be using BW.

What's in it for the alpha testers ?
- A free pdf beta version of Avalanche when it is ready.
- A free pdf final version of Avalanche when it is ready.
- Credit as alpha testers on the final book.

Really, a contract?
Well, I guess this is some "overkill" and I thought a lot about this, but I think it is needed. Why?
Because I want permission to use and edit your AP reports and put them in the book. And, here at Avalanche, we take intellectual property very seriously.
Otherwise, the contract would include :
- No right to distribute.
- The AP needed to be credited.
- Those AP posts might be posted here, or at the forge, or at story games.

The contract will, in fact, also serves as a NDA, to prove that the product was distributed to you.
And to be honest, that will be hard to pursue someone on this. I might be disappointed that a alpha tester doesn't play, but what can I do?

Interested?
Be warned : Avalanche is a big book. It is a campaign. You'll have to invest some time into it. Also, Avalanche is kind of strange, it is a new kind of product.
But, on the other hand : I do think Avalanche is gorgeous and innovative. And fun.

Of course, I'd like people willing to play a campaign, having players at hand and with experience with BW. I'm not looking to distribute it to people who just want to "take a look" at it.
I'm looking for five alpha testers, hoping that all of them would be using BW.

So, if you're interested, don't hesitate, PM me (a quick note : a little introduction from your part would be well seen from my part).

As for this thread, I'd like to keep it for general questions and to talk about ideas on using BW with Avalanche and report AP post links.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, I know this is long ...

Permalink

05/23/10

Permalink 02:06:43 pm, Categories: Informative pages, 599 words   English (US)

Preface

It is common practice to "open" a rpg book with some kind of literature, describing the world from a main character's voice. Well, this may turn out to be useful and informative to the reader. So, here we go (note that this text still needs editing) :

Preface

Ethernya. This is a dark land. As far as history can tell us, as only fragments of the old time remain, all the realms were united under the authority of the Empire. A despotic power, ruled by Aldor, the one and only true god, the deity of good, truth and justice. His truth and his own interpretation of justice, of course. Not much is known about the downfall of the Empire, except maybe that it was due to Aldor’s madness. I remember being born in those times, on the cold ashes of the Empire. I remember the short peace that follows, my ascension as the god of hope, fairness and reconciliation; unwilling to take any power into my own hands. And then came the black orcs, demons expelled from the Outer World, the blood moon that oversees us, home of the undead, the wretched and the wicked. The orcs first slaughtered the dwarves, then the humans; enslaving them all, spreading like a black disease. Is there still hope in such a dark place?

Ethernya. This is a land out of time. As the humans made their last stand, united with their allies, against the upcoming demons, most of the human and black orcs’ heroes were banished in the course of the battle, to the Outer World. The exact reason is unknown to me, but I was part of the exiled. Following this, Gulmther, the black orcs’ god of chaos, began a quest to bring back his allies. But dealing with such matters is pure folly; he should have known better. Creating a breach in time and space, all the great heroes seem to move from one space to the other, from one time to the other. Gulmther’s madness might well lead us to the destruction of our world. Or, maybe to our own madness.

Ethernya. This is a land of unwritten past history. As I revisit various moments of the history of the world, the hands of Gulmther is upon me and Ethernya. Things have changed; there are not the same anymore. Black orcs appears and plot a new course for the history. To bring back the exiled, the god of chaos needs to alter the events of the past to his favour. History is not granted and it is still to be written; new chapters echoing in the future.

Ethernya. This is a land of one self discovery. I can’t explain it, but each travel in time, each new version of a chapter of the history of Ethernya comes with its burden. Glimpses of my conscience seem to emerge from time to time, but memories of my own identity, as the reincarnation of the hope bearer, has somehow dissolved. Who am I exactly? This question arises each time and the answer is never granted. Actions should define who I am and only through them can I claim the legacy of my name. But those are hard choices. Every time. Choosing reconciliation over violence, fairness over justice and hope over indifference is never easy. But I can’t fail.

Travelers, if you meet me over your voyage, let’s hope that we shall cross words instead of steel. But remember, I have chosen stakes for which I am willing to die.

Supposedly written by Theobald.
Location and time unknown.

Permalink

05/16/10

Permalink 07:57:11 am, Categories: Promotion, marketing : strategic, 746 words   English (US)

WHY

Cross posted at story games

Seeing this great video from video from TED (and you should go check it to understand the rest of the post), I bought the book Start with Why from the speaker and read it last week. A very moving and inspiring book I strongly recommend. And this reading will have a direct impact on my project.

A little history
I've been working on my project for eight years now, always having a gut feeling toward the reason it was designed that way. And then, by about four years in process I discovered the Forge and various communities of indie publishers. When presenting my product, people asked me "what I am supposed to do with this?", to which I answered "I don't know". Most of the participants told me I could not answer that way. So, I worked on a better answer, exchange with people who really helped me. I now know how to describe, in great lengths, the main difference between what I'm doing and what's common on the market. I can explain those differences, the main advantages, the type of players of might be more inclined to buy it.

This is very rational, and don't get me wrong, very useful. It took me a long time to know this and a lot of help. And that's the kind of things one needs to have in a business plan, so the process needs to be there. But, that's kind of odd : it has only been one year that I really know WHAT I am doing. I have putted so much efforts in finding it out, I thought I would really use it.

Promotion
I intend to release a first pdf version of Avalanche this summer. We're currently working on the promotion/marketing plan. We have a good idea of the part of the market we want to target. We also know, how to describe the differences between our products and our competition. This is a little bit lengthy, but it is quite understandable. Armed with those tools, we are ready to launch a product with a strong promotion strategy.

Sell WHY, not WHAT
Simon Sinek explains that people don't buy WHAT you're selling but WHY you are selling it. It is the key for innovators to build a strong fan base. He explains it in long length in his book. WHY is based on gut feeling, WHAT is rational.
We went into a lot efforts to describe our WHAT, and we were going to use it as much as we could. I mean, there are strong rational reasons to buy Avalanche instead of the typical modules. But, this doesn't really matter I think. And, to explain it takes time.
But, promoting Avalanche through the WHY "prism" makes so much sense. And it is so much easier. And, I always knew WHY I was doing this. So, we're going to change completely our promotion strategy.
I still need to think a little bit about it, especially about how to formulate it, but our WHY would look like :
"This is not a book where you are the hero, but a book where you are the author." "We need you to finish the book." "We value more the creative process than the final product."
This is our vision and this is what we should put in the back of the product; the first thing a customer should come across. They may like it or not, it doesn't matter. It is very simple and easy to get : it isn't rational.
And one of the most beautiful thing I find about this is that it all gets easier suddenly. If you come across a product stating "we need you to finish the book", it seems clear to me that I can't tell you what you'll do with it; otherwise, I would have finished the book.
For sure, someone who agrees with this vision, will come across, in the book, on our lengthy explanation on HOW we do the stuff we're doing. But this part should only reinforces our WHY. Using this filter, the WHY filter, our main differences is much more easier to "get".

Questions
Do you find Simon as aspiring as I do ? I do have the sense that the indie community did go in length explaining, with a lot of theory, the differences between story games and the others, but what about the WHY ? Finally, may I challenge you to tell me your WHY ?

Permalink

05/09/10

Permalink 09:47:09 am, Categories: About us, 345 words   English (US)

Writing and ... printing.

I started writing everyday. I don't really have a choice : the informative pages need to be done by July. Well, anyway, it's fun to be writing again. And, although it is not part of the story of Avalanche, it is very challenging to write about it. So, I was supposed to present some of the stuff I wrote this week, but hey, this will have to wait. Why ?

Because I'd like to discuss the printing of the ashcan I made. I wasn't supposed to print that file, and yet, I did it, as it looked so nice !!! Having it in one's hand is quite different from a pdf. The "book" is not perfect, but, in my opinion it just looks amazing. Looking at it this weekend, we though that maybe, just maybe, we could make some adjustments and try to sell it on the local scene. And by the way, I'd like to address something : this copy costs me around 80 bucks. If I make three copies, each copies would be at 60. For twenty five copies, it goes down to 40. How about fifty copies ?

So, what's my point ? Thru a POD, which we would like to use, each copy cost around a hundred bucks. The book is not cheap for sure. But doing batches is far cheaper. Well, of course, we would need to "handle" each order, which is clearly time consuming and not fun, but we should give this some thoughts ...

Also, on the local scene, we would like to present this as a "collectable" item ; maybe signing and numerating each copy. Anyway, wish me good luck and I'll talk to you about it in the upcoming weeks.

Otherwise, if you have some spare time, I might recommend watching this great TED talk. Very inspiring and comforting for us. Can you tell our why ?

Lastly, we've got the system, well, at least the pattern. I should post it soon enough on the Forge for discussion. There is still a lot of work to do, especially naming everything (skills, secrets), but the toughest part is done.

Permalink

05/02/10

Permalink 09:51:54 am, Categories: About us, 306 words   English (US)

Incorporation ?

A couple of things :
- You might know we had to find a new name and we will have to deposit a trademark on it and incorporate ourselves into a company. Well, that's some more money to spend and more work to do. That said, since we're late on the site, we decided at the moment to not use the new name and not incorporate ourselves at the moment. The work can wait. Anyway, the project is best known as Avalanche and since everything we have so far is under my own IP, we'll stick to "selling a book" and I will get money as an author. Simpler at the moment. We've got enough on our hands.
- I went, last week, for the company I work for, to a series of conferences, in Québec city. It was about intranet/extranet/web 2.0. They claimed to be the "elites" of the province concerning the subject. Don't get me wrong : this was interesting, but they mostly talked about the past and current situation. Not much about the future. Since we have seen our lawyer, we definitely came to dealing with some problems that don't seem to concern those guys. But I guess it will in a couple of years. It seems we are ahead of our time on this project.
- I'm building up the "alpha" version of Avalanche : no layout and no informative pages. That looks amazing !!! I wasn't supposed to get a printed copy of it, but it seems I changed my mind. Just waiting for the third map to be done.
- May, already. I need to start to writing and fast. Otherwise we will be late on schedule and I'll have no one else to blame but me. I'll keep you posted on this part very soon.

That's about it for this week.

Permalink

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