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Author Topic: [Avalanche] - Finally, a teaser  (Read 3926 times)
pells
Member

Posts: 192


« on: April 20, 2006, 06:33:36 AM »

I had to give a lot of thougths into this. I've been presenting my project for quite a while now, and finally, I've got something to show. But, I do not want to present this teaser for the sake of showing it. I'm presenting it because I have specific questions to ask.
But, first things first.

The teaser in itself. Here it is : AvalancheTeaser_S1F0.pdf

A little history
This is a publishing thread. This is not about my desing, how I do things or how Avalanche should be played. Given the numbers of project presented on this site, maybe this is your first encounter with Avalanche. Just a reminder : I intend to publish content (selling/plot), using modular writing. My specific implementation is about a multi plots, calendar based (instead of chapters) campaign.
One of my main idea is to present setting/plot in a very different way. As of today, most settings are sold alone, plots are sold alone and books, refering to the setting, are sold alone. Avalanche is a single product including those three aspects : the novel, the setting and the plots. For more about this, see [Avalanche] - Redefining publishing of content
So, here's a little history, before you ask any questions not related to this thread :
Theory : About writing for RPG
Publishing : [Avalanche] - selling content... looking for sytems
Design :
A plea for content
[Avalanche] - Should prewritten scenarios be about the PCs ?
[Avalanche] How design influences many aspects... and some questions
Actual Play :
[Avalanche] part I - with unprepared players
[Avalanche] - with prepared players
[Avalanche] - encouraging SIM/NAR, my problems
[Avalanche] - two problems
If you ever feel the need to discuss one or more aspects outside publishing, I've started this thread to explain the last concepts I needed to present and open it for Q&A related to this teaser.

Publishing
This teaser is in pdf, but this is not how I intend to sell my product. I wish to sale it thru html membership. But, to do so, I believe I need to come up with a value added service. This topic is not the purpose of this thread, but I shall explain it later, in another one. That said, as you can see I could sale it as a pdf, or even print it. One last point, on my site, I intend to provide a free story (about 10% of my work) over the first part. But this free story won't be this teaser, for the reasons I give below.

About this teaser
What I'm presenting here is really a teaser and serves this purpose. The idea is to provide, finally, a real and complete excerpt from my work. This teaser has some advantages and some disavantages. You'll be able to get a general feeling about the final product, see how it would look. You'll be able to see the calendar based design, the modular writing implementation and an almost complete story (i.e. with a beginning and an end). Also, this teaser has the advantage of showing my work, but without revealing too much of it, as opposed to the free story I'll offer on my site. This teaser presents a sub plot of a major plot, but the events related to this story are really apart from the main web of events, where most of the things occur.
On the other hand, you won't be able to see the multi plot aspect of my project. But maybe you can get a glimpse of it. Where does Dramnard come from ? What happened in the first four weeks ? What happened exactly with the black orcs ? Where did the other groups leaving the northen capital went ? All those answers are presented in the complete product.
Another thing that worries me, is the playability of this teaser. You might come to ask me "What am I supposed to do with this ?". But I guess that's the problem with showing something without the intend to reveal too much.
So, keep in mind that althougth this teaser is 25 pages long, the first part of Avalanche (essence and Spring) is about 400 pages long.
Finally, don't be surprised, there's no mechanics, no character sheets. They'll be on the website (and they could have been put into the pdf, they are just not done yet), but this is not my main trade.

Some questions
Now, the reasons I posted this teaser. The question is not "can I sell this or not ?". I'll try to sell it. My questions are more about how to meet my market and the right use of this teaser, as I wish to get the most out of it. Keep in mind that I don't post, yet, anywhere else outside The Forge. My goal is to offer this as a first point for discussion.
So, here they are :
Does this teaser helps you understand what I'm doing ?
Does this teaser serves his purpose ? Meaning, does it tease you, would you like to see more of this ? Is it attractive ?
If I want to present my product elsewhere (i.e. outside the forge), is this teaser a good idea as a first approach to show my product ?
Is this teaser speaking for itself ? Or how much of my theory/design should I add in it ?
Should I add a map (which I have) ? Characters sheets ?
Is it obvious it is intented for the rpg ?
Since I'm selling content, does a teaser seems like a good idea to bring newcomers ? Is it a good strategy ?

Do you think, or sense, it has a storyboard aspect ?
Do you think I can pretend to market to those who play things like living campaigns and clearly separate my product from the the typical scenarios ?
Do you think this kind of product would be attractive to non players ?
Is it more fun to read than a typical scenario ?
Do you see clearly that, althougth I could translate this into a novel, this is not a novel ?
Do you think I can easily use this to make derivative products, such as CCG ?

Seeing this, would you be interested in seeing more setting/plots presented that way ?
Do you know any other product that looks like this ?

Last note : My agenda
It is considered that each and everyone of us, here at the forge, have is own agenda. Mine is to sell this as an alternative to prewritten scenarios, things like living campaigns, or people who read dungeon magazine. I believe my product is somehow mainstream. So, I'm not here to convince you, nor sell anything. I'm here to learn. Learn how to build the best possible teaser, what should be in it, how do get the best out of it. This is important. My main market is not here, at the forge. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
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pells
Member

Posts: 192


« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2006, 01:59:04 AM »

I've changed it a little. I believe it is more complete and looks at what I'm targeting.
Here it is : AvalancheTeaser_S1F1.pdf

I've added a map of the region, a little introduction to the project and main concepts, some texts at the end. I've also changed the corpyright notice, allowing copy and distribution (but not modification) of this teaser. Seems like making sense...

Do I need something else in it ?
Is the layout alright ?
Does it look professional enough ?
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Luke
Member

Posts: 1359

Conventions Forum Moderator, First Thoughts Pest


WWW
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2006, 06:18:30 AM »

Hi Pells,

I'd like to give you some feedback on the layout. You're almost there. Here are my suggestions.
  • Drop the rules on the left hand pages. They are too tight to the text and don't add to readability.
  • You might try cropping a detail out of a picture in each chapter -- an eye, a claw, a sword -- and putting it in the upper left hand corner of the white space in a circular image box. It will act as a visual identifier within the text.
  • Find a distressed title font that you like and use that for your chapter/section titles, not TNR Bold.
  • Set your body copy to 9 pt size over 12 pt leading -- not one point smaller in either department.
  • Set the red titles to 12 pt over 12 pt.

-Luke
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Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 2591


WWW
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2006, 09:50:22 AM »

Wow, it's looking good. I've been following your discourses here on and off, but didn't quite understand the quality you're shooting for in the project. I'll be sure to follow this more closely in the future, if only for the obvious quality of the art. This is especially intriguing because I'm myself designing a game that uses similar solutions (the modular world/campaign design, to wit).

Anyway, answers to your questions:
Does this teaser helps you understand what I'm doing ?

No, it doesn't (except, as I note above, it tells me that you're working with two more magnitudes of talent than I imagined). What you need is to start with a general discourse on the kind of gaming you're making this for: explain from the beginning, perhaps contrast and compare with other possibilities you're setting aside in favor of this, put in a little description of a play session. That kind of thing. Currently it's looking interesting, but my imagination fails to connect the pretty pictures and easy-to-use modular world design into a roleplaying (or some other playing?) resource.

You might think that you're not designing a game, but you'd be wrong. I seem to remember that this has been discussed before, so I'm probably repeating something when I say that adventure material, campaign material, setting material, whatever it is that you're doing here, necessarily implicates many, many things about the gaming context it's used in. You might have several such contexts in your mind, but that's only more reason to lay it out for the reader at the beginning of the teaser. You don't need rules (your plans in that regard have been discussed thoroughly, I remember), but you do need context.

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Does this teaser serves his purpose ? Meaning, does it tease you, would you like to see more of this ? Is it attractive ?

Oh, yes. But there's one problem: the modern world has inoculated me against simple teasing, I need to see the beef (the beef being the straightforward explanation I request above) to believe that there's anything there to begin with. When a movie or a web comic or whatever goes all postmodern and starts "teasing" and dropping relevant parts from it's presentation, my reaction is to assume that it's done because those parts have not been created to begin with, we're just running on assumption and letting the audience fill the gaps.

In other words: yes, it does work as a teaser, but I'm not sure a tease is what you need when you could have a preview. Or at least I'm not a very teasable person, personally speaking, so you could perhaps get an audience that I'm not a part of and that goes all "oh my, that teases me so I'll just have to buy it to see if there's a beef in there."

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If I want to present my product elsewhere (i.e. outside the forge), is this teaser a good idea as a first approach to show my product ?

I believe that you'd get a wider and more unrestrained explosion of joy and eagerness if you stopped thinking of a teaser and started thinking in terms of a preview. That is, give us something that's immediately usable to begin with, or at least something that lays out clearly the kind of gaming we can do with the material you represent.

The amount of material, on the other hand, is finely cauged. No need to ad more of your setting/campaign/adventure stuff, as long as you tell us how to use what you do give here.

To clarify: I'm commenting from a scenario where you pop to RPGnet, say, and start throwing this pdf around. I imagine that you'd get the exact same questions I posit above, and lots of confusion to boot. You might as well save yourself that part and just start raking in fans by including the answers to those confused questions in the document to begin with.

A teaser, on the other hand, is an interesting idea. The problem is that the appropriate place for it is not a separate pdf you ask people to download and check out. A teaser, whether in the form of a movie trailer or a chapter or two of a novel at the end of a book, is always an advertisement in it's heart: it's not something you distribute separately, you have to include it with a real product of it's own. The people who download and watch movie trailers are a rare minority compared to those of us who enjoy them at the theater. The point: if you want to craft a genuine teaser, start seriously thinking about the context you want to distribute it in. Like, ask somebody publishing a game that could use the material to include a 4-5 page teaser of your stuff at the end. That's the kind of context where it's appropriate to just throw out your art and prose and give a link, leaving the reader wondering what the heck that was about.

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Is this teaser speaking for itself ? Or how much of my theory/design should I add in it ?

Lots. But don't think of it as theory, but as simply delivering your vision of what your brand of roleplaying is like. Think of it this way: you will never sell anything unless the potential customer decides to subscribe to the vision you're marketing. And to market that vision, it's much more efficient to lay out the facts and be genuine. Anybody who'd buy your stuff based on this pdf would be doing that on speculation, hoping that what you're ultimately offering will, indeed, be completely thought out and offer a rational, finished gaming experience. That's quite a leap of faith, when you could be giving the lecture about your vision right up front. After all, you're selling content! Nobody's going to bypass buying this because you explain how to use it too well! "Hmm, well, I like what he's saying, and I think I'll be stealing it for myself... but, wait a minute, I can't, because his theory of roleplaying doesn't work without his hundreds of pages of setting material!"

In other words: if your business is to sell content, then you should push the context for that content agressively from step one.

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Should I add a map (which I have) ? Characters sheets ?

Nope, no need for a map or character sheets, unless you're planning to make this a stand-alone adventure or something like that.

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Is it obvious it is intented for the rpg ?

Not particularly, no. I'm reminded of a series of teenager scifi books from the '70s, which had similarly regimented setting layouts and lots of illustrations. However, that series was from a time before roleplaying, and you were just supposed to enjoy the author delivering this intriguing and multifaceted world, not play in it. The point being, this could conseivably be something like that, or a CCG setting sourcebook, say.

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Since I'm selling content, does a teaser seems like a good idea to bring newcomers ? Is it a good strategy ?

Well, I discussed this above. The crucial point is, what you mean by "newcomers"? Roleplayers who have not heard of it? In that case, I recommend going for the preview I outline above, with the intent of giving all the relevant data they need as fast as possible. Complete newbies? Not good for that, either, because they wouldn't know how to use it, and would confuse it for a tv series or CCG setting sourcebook. In both cases, you need context.

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Do you think, or sense, it has a storyboard aspect ?

Apparently not, because I don't understand your angle. A "storyboard" to me means something a movie crew or comics team uses to plot out a story. Well, yeah, I can see how the stuff could be used for that. But then we're so far out of roleplaying land that I literally have not the vaguest idea of how to connect the storyboard into a concrete roleplaying session, especially if it's supposed to be general enough to be used with almost any rules system.

Quote
Do you think I can pretend to market to those who play things like living campaigns and clearly separate my product from the the typical scenarios ?

Yes, your stuff is quite different, I'd hazard. Marketing to living campaign -crowd is another thing altogether, though, because pretty much the only connecting factor in that audience is that they've all invested in the living campaign in question in terms of character advancement and social rewards. That doesn't seem a very synergic proposition, unless you can sell your stuff as something to be added into the campaign, which I can't see happening easily.

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Do you think this kind of product would be attractive to non players ?

Oh, yes. I'm writing that game myself. But note, I'm writing a game, with the rules to open the material for even a newbie. So that's a different deal from what you're doing.

However: if you mean attractive to non-players as something other than rpg material, only the sky's the limit. Just recontextualize your stuff correctly, and it could very well make for a bitching product. Like the scifi books I mentioned above, which were sold, I imagine, on the strengths of their ample illustrations and the mystique of reading a book that portrays a scifi world as completely real (like, the author introduction proclaimed that the author was a start ship captain and all, the books never broke the "fourth wall", and this was in the '70s). I don't think that kind of stuff would fly nowaday just like that (seems kinda tame from modern rpging perspective), but that doesn't mean you couldn't offer it as something else: for instance, hire (that is, company with) a couple of web comic authors to write comics set in the setting, and you have a very strong synergy between the prose backgrounds and the comics, if done correctly.

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Is it more fun to read than a typical scenario ?

Frankly, not really. Kinda dull, because there's no impetus towards play. This kind of material is rather bad at suggesting what it should be used for, so when reading it, you don't get the GM-head you get when reading a typical adventure and you realize that "hey, I want to run this for my players".

I don't think this is a problem, assuming that you do have some idea about how to contextualize the material so that it points towards play. Your goal should be to get the reader to look at a random page and almost every time say "hey, I know what this page implies for my game! How interesting!" Just put that contextual explanation in there, and it should be much more interesting to read the stuff when the reader can see how this or that detail connects to actual play.

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Do you see clearly that, althougth I could translate this into a novel, this is not a novel ?

Yes, quite. I'm familiar with this kind of modular, multilinear material. If you get this off the ground and it fulfills it's promise, and I get my game off the ground, I'm going to quite seriously suggest some interesting cooperation. But that's a story for next year at the soonest, and rather unlikely, considering the completion percentages in the business ;)

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Do you think I can easily use this to make derivative products, such as CCG ?

It practically screams for derivative products. I already mentioned CCGs and comics above. But don't get carried away, you need to launch whatever you're going to launch with deliberation.

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Seeing this, would you be interested in seeing more setting/plots presented that way ?

No. Not before you prove us that there's a way for the reader to relate to the material in a fruitful manner. As it stands, more material would only lessen my interest. You have to understand, when I read, say, that description of Ariadne BaneHeart, what I'm seeing is:
1) "Wow, she looks cool. I wonder what she's about?"
2) "Eh, I can only just read through the description. Dull. The timeline is kinda interesting. I wonder how I'm supposed to use that?"
3) "Really, it's a pretty complete description of a character. I appreciate the motivation part. Would be easier to use if it were bullet-pointed, though. Nah, not much use to me."
What causes that lukewarm considered reaction, when I'm so interested at 1)? It happens at 2), when I realize that I'm reading about somebody's character, but have no tools for contextualizing her as something I should be motivated about myself. Am I reading about a character I'm supposed to play? An NPC my character will meet? An enemy? A friend? No context at all.

I find the task I'm putting upon you here non-trivial. The question is, in what manner are we supposed to use this stuff?

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Do you know any other product that looks like this ?

Yeah, my own game has similar qualities, although I'm leaving that plot stuff out almost altogether, preferring to let the players create their own. I'm currently doing it in Finnish, but if you want to compare notes in, say, a month or two, I'll probably have a testable English version available as well.

Apart from that, there's a bunch of stuff that has similar qualities, but I don't think you have to seriously fear competition. If you want, check out the several wiki world building projects in the 'net; some of those, especially the ones originating in non-tabletop rpg context, include setting and event material in a similar manner, I seem to remember.

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Do I need something else in it ?

I've discussed this above at length. But putting aside the context thing: Consider what it's to be used for. If it's really just a teaser, with no functionality, then it has quite enough material.

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Is the layout alright ?

Listen to Luke, I agree with him. Also, increase the white space between columns; double the current one, perhaps. Add a frame of some kind for the illustrations, too (something light, I'd say).

This isn't strictly a layout matter, but I include it anyway: bullet-point your material, by which I mean these captioned paragraphs on character and creature pages about motivations, resources and stuff, as well as other material in the plot parts and so on. I find it annoying to read complete sentences with plenty of adjectives like "Dramnard is the legitimate heir to Gordof on the throne of Murdighar and he takes great pride in belonging to the dwarven folk." when you could just have
- heir of Gordor on the throne of Murdighar
- prideful of his heritage.
Note that this depends greatly on the context of usage you're thinking of for your material. But if this is to be used in the midst of a game, bullet-pointing works much, much better to penetrate the relevant bits. Also, some rules systems are constructed to support bullet-pointed material very, very easily. In Heroquest or TSOY, TROS, Sorcerer or the Pool, for example, nothing is easier than going through a character description in bullet-point and converting the character into the system on the fly. That's much more difficult with prose.

I realize that the above is a pretty big recommendation. But consider it. I feel that the text would even be more interesting to read when I wouldn't have to parse prose to see what the most important things about this given setting aspect are. Perhaps make them alternatives in the web-page?

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Does it look professional enough ?

Look carefully at the distances between captions, chapters and illustrations. There's some weirdness there: for instance, the plot-line seems weird, because there's no space between a timeline caption (April week 1 and so on) and the preceding AND following picture and text.

By the same token, the plot-line would probably seem nicer if you made sure that all the textual descriptions were smaller than the accompanying picture, so the text wouldn't flow down. Mostly they are like this, but it should be easy to fiddle the text a bit to get it to fit.

You need a tad stronger lines, I think. Luke's right about removing the lines on the component pages, but the lines in the timeline captions, and the fact that illustrations have no frames at all, make for a bit too weak impression. More white space, stronger lines, stronger frames, and it'll give off a much more robust impression.

To look professional enough you need to to add a nice front page, with an illustration. You can put the attribution information on the same page if you want, but basicly you need something that transmits the style and intent of the document right when it's opened. Also, if you're really going to make this a teaser, without contextual explanation, you need to include two or three "pacing pages" with just a slogan, say, and some explaining text about how this is a teaser for a gaming tool coming out then and then and including so and so. One like this after the introduction page, say, another before the plot-line, and one at the end, for example. This way you draw a connection to movie teasers, and give yourself some place to put advert-like information about the game.


Anyway, those are my answers. I hope they're helpful.
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pells
Member

Posts: 192


« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2006, 02:10:51 AM »

Luke, Eero, thank you very much. This really helps !!! Here's the new version : AvalancheTeaser_S1F2.pdf
I think this looks much better !!!

Layout
Luke, about your suggestions. I've taken all of them into account. I believe it helps for reading it. Not quite sure the identifier is what you had in mind. I used pretty obvious details... I've changed the font for the title of elements. Then again, I'm not quite sure this is the best one...
Your suggestion about the 'history' part changed a lot of things in the layout and I had to add spaces between each segment. I think it looks better that way.

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Look carefully at the distances between captions, chapters and illustrations. There's some weirdness there: for instance, the plot-line seems weird, because there's no space between a timeline caption (April week 1 and so on) and the preceding AND following picture and text.
Done. This was a very good idea.

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To look professional enough you need to to add a nice front page, with an illustration. You can put the attribution information on the same page if you want, but basicly you need something that transmits the style and intent of the document right when it's opened.
Honestly, I do have a little problem here. Do I want to order an illustration just for the sake of the front page of this teaser (I won't reuse it after that) ? Not sure... I've got an idea, you tell me if this would work. I could use an existing illustration, let's say Adriane, full page, with, let's say, two or three smaller illustration (b&w, existence), on top of it. I believe that would show the mouvement there is in what I'm doing. Well, of course, you would find the illustrations later into the teaser...

I'm still unhappy with the introduction page, but I don't see what to do with it. Well, then again, it might all right after all...

Other matters
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Wow, it's looking good. I've been following your discourses here on and off, but didn't quite understand the quality you're shooting for in the project.
Well, that's exactly the purpose of this teaser. To finally show something !!!
Just to say it, I'm working with two other illustrators. Here's a sketch, to give you an idea : IcePalaceSketch.jpg. Style is different, but quality is there.

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Nope, no need for a map or character sheets, unless you're planning to make this a stand-alone adventure or something like that.
I've decided to add a map, I'll tell you why. First, I find it looks good. But, mainly, this shows that this teaser is only a little part of Avalanche and that the crest of the world is really apart from the rest.

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In other words: yes, it does work as a teaser, but I'm not sure a tease is what you need when you could have a preview.
You are right, I'll explain my situation. As you may know, Spring offers five different stories, overlapping each other. On my website, I intend to provide a full story free of charge, as a preview. I already know which one. A group of knights and adventurers go help peasants against their oppressor. Pretty straightforward. You could almost play it like a chapter based adventure. You wouldn't ask me how to use it. Some overllapping so that the reader would say 'hum, I don't have the other stories, so my players can't jump into them...That would be useful to have them'. This preview is much more heavier than this teaser : more events, more elements of essence. But, there is this problem : it is not illustrated yet. It will be done by september, by the time, I hope, I open my website. So, for the moment, I can only provide a teaser. Still, I think the teaser can serve me. I've been posting on this forum for a while now, with nothing to show and that was a real pain. The idea with this teaser is for it to be the starting point of discussion. I don't want to go in other forums empty handed.

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Like, ask somebody publishing a game that could use the material to include a 4-5 page teaser of your stuff at the end. That's the kind of context where it's appropriate to just throw out your art and prose and give a link, leaving the reader wondering what the heck that was about.
That's a great idea. I intend to start alpha testing in june/jully with people who would be interested in proposing their system for Avalanche. I'll use what you're proposing...

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In other words: if your business is to sell content, then you should push the context for that content agressively from step one.
I thougth it was, somehow, already there in the introduction part... Well maybe not enough it seems. Maybe I should add a final note on the last page.

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In both cases, you need context.
I do have a problem with the context. It is left to the players. I'll come back to that below...

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A "storyboard" to me means something a movie crew or comics team uses to plot out a story. Well, yeah, I can see how the stuff could be used for that.
You see, a storyboard is an unfinished product. The idea is that people use my product as a storyboard to plot out their own story. The actual play is the final product (it is not a movie nor a comic, althougth it could be). Maybe that's the kind of information, vision, you think should be in the teaser ?

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That doesn't seem a very synergic proposition, unless you can sell your stuff as something to be added into the campaign, which I can't see happening easily.
I don't intend to sell it like that. My idea is to provide another kind of product that could be serve, somehow, like a living campaign. I hope that what I'm doing is more attractive, allows more freedom, than your typical prewritten scenario you could find in stores. But I hear you. That might tought.

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However: if you mean attractive to non-players as something other than rpg material, only the sky's the limit.
Well, thanks for that. Just a thing on the side. I've got a lot of non gamers reading this, especially since it is illustrated. And most of the time, they get invited to our game. They are intrigued as why this was written that way.

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It practically screams for derivative products. I already mentioned CCGs and comics above. But don't get carried away, you need to launch whatever you're going to launch with deliberation.
Thanks. And I know I have to launch this before... lots of work still ahead...

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I realize that the above is a pretty big recommendation. But consider it. I feel that the text would even be more interesting to read when I wouldn't have to parse prose to see what the most important things about this given setting aspect are. Perhaps make them alternatives in the web-page?
Good idea. I don't know if you're familiar with the 'toggles' about my project ? Well, I'll use it that way. Just a button with something like 'resume' on it. One click and you get all the information straightforward. Not much more work for me there.

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What causes that lukewarm considered reaction, when I'm so interested at 1)? It happens at 2), when I realize that I'm reading about somebody's character, but have no tools for contextualizing her as something I should be motivated about myself. Am I reading about a character I'm supposed to play? An NPC my character will meet? An enemy? A friend? No context at all.

I find the task I'm putting upon you here non-trivial. The question is, in what manner are we supposed to use this stuff?
Well, now that's the big thing about my project. Maybe what I'll answer you is exactly the kind of information you would like to see in my teaser. That said, it will be on the final website. This is on the verge of design and should maybe go on another thread.
One of the main question about my product is how do you play Avalanche ? My answer to this is I don't know. I know, this is a strange answer, but I'll explain.

A couple of things first. I want to provide something that support play. I want to provide a plot that does not come in the way. Based on that, you're asking me about the context. The context is the one of your game. And I can't provide information about that. I don't know what you'll play and how you play it. Do you want to play Adriane, Athnar, a BaneHeart ? Maybe. At least you can. But you might play anything else. Maybe you'll play some strong hunters who wish to kill older dragons. Then Adriane is a foe. Maybe you're on a plot in which you'll come to meet Adriane and ask for her help. Then she'll be a friend. Maybe you'll stay all the game in the south and won't even know she exists. There is a lot of things happening in Avalanche. The south, for example, is more polittical. Maybe that's what you want to play. Maybe you want to play black orcs. You can. You can add your own subplots, you can add dungeons. Avalanche is a backbone, nothing more. You'll need to flesh it out.

One very important thing about this : at the end, you'll only use about 20 to 30% of what's written. It is impossible to use it all. But then again, it depends on what the players wants to play. I'll show an example, so back to my teaser...

As you can see, on april week 1, many people leave Raijuvak, some for the forest of the moon, some for Bedorah, some for the south and some for the crest of the world. If your players are not in Raijuvak in that week, you won't use any of this. If your players are there, they will see them leave, and maybe choose to go with some of them. If they go to Bedorah, you won't use the part about the crest of the world. Well, if they choose to go with the dragon hunters, then you'll use the teaser. But then again, how ? Will the dragon hunters allow them to ride dragonites and scout ? Will they leave with Dramnard ? Will they succeed in following Athnar ? I can't tell you. What I can tell you is that Avalanche will support your game. Or so I hope.
Now, let's suppose your players are in Raijuvak on may week three, having doubts about the shamans. They will see the dragons hunters coming and their suspicions will arise.
Once you begin to play, once your players had chosen a plot, had met some characters, had taken sides, you will prepare your game based on where they are and when. If they are in Carcandas in may week three, you'll have some events to play, and then a real context, the one of your game. And I hope that by reading the events you will say 'ho, that's cool, I want to play that !!'.

In a typical prewritten scenario, the plot is single and linear. The context is clear, you know what part the PCs will play. Not in Avalanche. This is a very different way of doing things.

Pfff... long post !!! I'd be interested in knowing if that's clear enough and how much of it should be in my teaser ? Let's not argue too much about design and report those to that tread : [Avalanche] - Last two concepts and Q&A about my teaser. And thanks a lot for your time.
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2006, 05:58:18 AM »

That ice palace is almost shamefully polished. You must be paying with blood for the talent you're utilizing.

You got what Luke's talking about with the identifier, I think. But please, do remove those thin lines that separate the white space in the corner from the text. They're unnecessary. Also, consider some other form for the identifier, I don't think a circular form works in the corner. How about a wedge (a quarter circle or so) roughly the same size?

Overall, it's looking better. I like the restrained frames on the pictures. How about the frames on "March week 4" and other plot-line captions? I think they're too thin, or you should remove them altogether. The distressed font is nice, makes it robust. However, reading on my screen, the main text type is a tad small to actually read without much concentration. You could stand to make it larger by a point. Then again, now it gives you the impression that you're supposed to overview in full spread mode, and zoom in on anything you want to read in detail. So it's not that bad.

The titles of the Essences: their positioning shifts from page to page. I suggest positioning above the left paragraph, and starting the left paragraph in the same place on all the pages.

The front page: a collage of the available art is a fine solution, especially if you combine it with some Photoshop effects, fonts and simple layout elements. Ideally you'll also put in some earth colour for background, to give the front page an impact. Don't feel restrained to a divided layout here, just put the title in the middle of the spread and illustrate the edges, for example. Use an artsy distressed or massive font for the title and include any bells and whistles that are available - essentially you'll want your front page to be graphically loaded, to support the classy impression of the contents. What you have now is standard for playtest documents we circulate here at the Forge, but for the audience you'll want to look finished, even if it's just a teaser. Heck, if you can swing it, get somebody to compose a short opening fanfare for the doc, like they did with the Exalted teaser a couple of years ago.

Introduction: this is exactly what I requested! Also, the stuff you write in your last post. I suggest increasing this to 2 spreads (map included), to give room for a little bit more coherent and comprehensive look. Put the IP stuff and contact information from the first spread on the third spread after this stuff if you want to reserve the first spread for a colorful front page only. Your goal is to, as I tried to explain, give the reader the tools to understand what he can do with the material. I'll comment in detail, because this is probably the most important part of the teaser.

The best bit, just fyi: "Avalanche is not about the players characters. It relates the events that occurs in the Lands of exile outside the PCs’ influence. There is no one waiting for your players. There is not a predefined plot ready for them. They will have to build their own story. Avalanche is not about the PCs, so that your game can really be about them." This did the best concrete, actual play theoretical game design sense about placing this material in a context.

The terminology: double the length your explanation of the fancy terminology you use. Improve the content of the explanations; explaining "Elements" as "elements that take part in the story" is less than inspired. Focus on explaining the terminology in terms of actual play: elements, for instance, could be explained as "All the different bits of story, like characters, places and items of power. Avalanche introduces each of these with an illustration and timeline on it's own page, to make them easy to find and utilize in creative combinations."

The text style: you've lapsed into some horrible jargon in places in the introduction. "The following are specificities related to the goal of this project." is not good language. Rather, try something like "Avalanche is different from the typical campaign-in-a-box, and it's certainly not just a stand-alone adventure either. Nor is it a setting, but something completely new. Here are some ways Avalanche is different from your average roleplaying sourcebook:"

Organization: start with half a page (at least) of prose, man. That's the way to make the reader feel welcome. Introduce the general concepts of what it is and how you use it. Like the stuff in your last post, or something personal about yourself and the project, or whatever. THEN segue into the bullet-points. As for those, start with the "this is Avalanche" list, not the terminology. The appropriate place for that is at the end of the introduction. Your absolute, non-negotiable goal is that after reading the introduction the reader will know exactly whether he's interested in the product or not. The actual content is only there to verify that you the author have the cojones to pull off what you promise in the introduction. Heck, put in a page of actual play description using Avalanche, if you feel that that makes it easier to get.

Content: it's much better, but you could add so much more. Like, you never tell us here what Avalanche means for actual play. Something like "Avalanche will be published as an on-going, web-based project. The first part, Spring, will be this and that. That's equal to about 50 traditional gaming sessions, and potentially years of campaign play!" You need to talk to us as customers, gamers and interested parties who want to play with this thing. That holds true for all parts of the introduction and actual content, by the way. But especially your introduction, you need to get me fired up to utilize this thing ("me" the general person).

An interjection: I should mention that I see no problem at all in your attitude of "I don't know how to use Avalanche, you tell me"! That's as fine a context as anything. But you need to put it in the teaser, and not just that, but also some examples of how you could use it. Remember: you have to prove every claim you make to get the maximal impact. So if you say that Avalanche will be useful for roleplaying, you have to tell us why. If you tell us that there's a multitude of ways to utilize it, you have to give us two or three examples. And so on.

The map: it's looking fine, but consider adding some photoshoppity blur or similar; I find that the cartographer graphics as is are a tad too clean and clash with the fantasy meme. Also, the names: either remove the names from the map, or lay them as vectors. The current solution is not acceptable in a low-res version. If you keep the names, change the color coding to something easier. Now you have three red tones in there for now reason at all.

The ending: that's good, keep that trailerish thing. But consider more color: like you should start with lots of color, you should end with that, too. A tad larger titles in earth red, for instance, and some light texture on the background, perhaps. Or a feathered picture in the right bottom corner, to imply that this stuff continues somewhere else. And don't forget to include the company advertisement information on this page: when the product will be available, where, so on.

Also, to finish: I'm sure you know this, but proofread, and let others proofread before considering this finished. The most efficient way to destroy the high-class impression is to leave in syntactical or spelling errors.
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« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2006, 09:31:36 AM »

New version : AvalancheTeaser_S1F3.pdf
I think this is getting better with each iteration.

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That ice palace is almost shamefully polished. You must be paying with blood for the talent you're utilizing.
Maybe a note on the side. I don't pay them enough. I know it, they know it, so I guess it's fine. The thing is, I work with them in a very special way (I've explained this in another thread). For example, as you can see, there is no physical description of characters. So, the illustrators have a lot of freedom. I think they have fun, like the project and feel that they really contribute to it. I guess this is the key. Well, anyway, it's a long term project. If it works well, they know I'll be able to pay more.

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You got what Luke's talking about with the identifier, I think. But please, do remove those thin lines that separate the white space in the corner from the text. They're unnecessary. Also, consider some other form for the identifier, I don't think a circular form works in the corner. How about a wedge (a quarter circle or so) roughly the same size?
It's done. It looks better that way. They don't seem to be floating around anymore.

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I like the restrained frames on the pictures. How about the frames on "March week 4" and other plot-line captions? I think they're too thin, or you should remove them altogether.
I made them stronger. Looks better.

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The distressed font is nice, makes it robust. However, reading on my screen, the main text type is a tad small to actually read without much concentration. You could stand to make it larger by a point. Then again, now it gives you the impression that you're supposed to overview in full spread mode, and zoom in on anything you want to read in detail. So it's not that bad.
Yes I know. But I have a big dilemma : if I increase the font, I might be missing some places for the text... especially for Raijuvak. And I want to keep the different years of the 'history' part apart from one another. I also notice that to read it, I need to zoom in. It doesn't seem to me like a problem. Maybe it is ? I need to print one copy to see how it goes on paper...

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The titles of the Essences: their positioning shifts from page to page. I suggest positioning above the left paragraph, and starting the left paragraph in the same place on all the pages.
Sorry for that. I should have seen. The name ends at the same place.

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The front page
I've came up with another solution. I've put another illustration that has nothing to do with this story but that looks damned good. It is in the earthy color you suggested. I've came up with a tagline that fits with the illustration. Now here's my problem : I'm using MS word, printing into pdf in two pages by sheets. So, that's hard for me to have a full front page with a single illustration. I've decided to put text besides. But maybe I should go with another illustration ? Another place, like the ice palace (the final version, of course), who's color is very different from the main page. That said, I believe it doesn't look bad that way...

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Heck, if you can swing it, get somebody to compose a short opening fanfare for the doc, like they did with the Exalted teaser a couple of years ago.
Not sure I get what you say... Something like someone who says he likes that stuff ? Might be hard to find...

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Introduction: this is exactly what I requested! Also, the stuff you write in your last post. I suggest increasing this to 2 spreads (map included), to give room for a little bit more coherent and comprehensive look. Put the IP stuff and contact information from the first spread on the third spread after this stuff if you want to reserve the first spread for a colorful front page only. Your goal is to, as I tried to explain, give the reader the tools to understand what he can do with the material. I'll comment in detail, because this is probably the most important part of the teaser.
Good comment... So, I have had some texts. I've divided it into four segments in that order : what I do, how it impacts play, how the product looks like and the 'jargon'. I've simplyfied the text, heading toward play impact, with examples. You're right, that's what I want. Now, one thing, this text is far away from the final version, or so I think. But the ideas are there. See anything missing ? Better that way, no ?
I still don't know exactly where to put the IP stuff...

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Organization: start with half a page (at least) of prose, man. That's the way to make the reader feel welcome. Introduce the general concepts of what it is and how you use it. Like the stuff in your last post, or something personal about yourself and the project, or whatever.
Maybe that's not there yet... I need to find a way to do this...

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Heck, put in a page of actual play description using Avalanche, if you feel that that makes it easier to get.
I'm thinking of it as an appendice... I'm thinking of using, more or less, this : http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18006.0 as it shows events and how I used them. But completly at the end ? Not sure...

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The map: it's looking fine, but consider adding some photoshoppity blur or similar; I find that the cartographer graphics as is are a tad too clean and clash with the fantasy meme.
Big problem with the map... I've added some blur, it's better. I want the map to show that the lands of exile are big, there is room for much things there. I've removed all the texts. I only want to locate Riajuvak and the crest of the world. That was difficult with this map, so I made a zoom and pointed those locations. Impossible to put it directly on the map, because of the color. I guess this is a so so solution...

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The ending: that's good, keep that trailerish thing. But consider more color
I could add one or two illustrations there, but I'm running out of them for the moment... I could put the black or the gray orcs... I don't have illustrations for the following part.

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Also, to finish: I'm sure you know this, but proofread, and let others proofread before considering this finished. The most efficient way to destroy the high-class impression is to leave in syntactical or spelling errors.
Yeah, I know. Some sentences are very bad (I mean those I wrote). My translator will double check all of this. I just don't want to sollicitate him until I have a final teaser.

Thanks again for your help...

Sébastien
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2006, 01:07:42 PM »

You're getting there. I might as well comment on the lastest version right away, it's not like I'm getting anything more important done tonight anyway. (I just read what I wrote earlier, and I come off as awfully bossy. Don't mind the tone, I just sound like that when I'm invested.)

I'm going to hell... this is so long I have to split it in two...

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That ice palace is almost shamefully polished. You must be paying with blood for the talent you're utilizing.
Maybe a note on the side. I don't pay them enough. I know it, they know it, so I guess it's fine. The thing is, I work with them in a very special way (I've explained this in another thread). For example, as you can see, there is no physical description of characters. So, the illustrators have a lot of freedom. I think they have fun, like the project and feel that they really contribute to it. I guess this is the key. Well, anyway, it's a long term project. If it works well, they know I'll be able to pay more.

I know what you're saying, we work on a similar basis with our translations. As long as it's a hobby with few expectations and social rewards (you DO give cookies to these people?), that's a great way to solicit some great art.

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The distressed font is nice, makes it robust. However, reading on my screen, the main text type is a tad small to actually read without much concentration. You could stand to make it larger by a point. Then again, now it gives you the impression that you're supposed to overview in full spread mode, and zoom in on anything you want to read in detail. So it's not that bad.
Yes I know. But I have a big dilemma : if I increase the font, I might be missing some places for the text... especially for Raijuvak. And I want to keep the different years of the 'history' part apart from one another. I also notice that to read it, I need to zoom in. It doesn't seem to me like a problem. Maybe it is ? I need to print one copy to see how it goes on paper...

Yeah, laying out this kind of stuff is a bitch. I've myself solved it by brutally writing to measure, cutting or writing more as necessary for the current layout format. SoI guess my solution would be to simply pick a comfortable font size and snip the text enough to get it to fit. Nothing says that you have to have the exact same text in your teaser as the finished product, after all.

But, as we're both saying, it's not that big a deal of you have to zoom in to read. I expect the majority of your audience won't be reading it in detail anyway: they'll just get blown by the art and the concept, and hurry to find out more. And those who do read it carefully might as well use the zoom. The small font size certainly gives it an impression of "there's lots of stuff here" and "man, the material is brimming over".

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The front page
I've came up with another solution. I've put another illustration that has nothing to do with this story but that looks damned good. It is in the earthy color you suggested. I've came up with a tagline that fits with the illustration. Now here's my problem : I'm using MS word, printing into pdf in two pages by sheets. So, that's hard for me to have a full front page with a single illustration. I've decided to put text besides. But maybe I should go with another illustration ? Another place, like the ice palace (the final version, of course), who's color is very different from the main page. That said, I believe it doesn't look bad that way...

It's looking much better! The illustration is very welcoming. But, I think you should take it to the next level. Your material is simply good enough and ample enough to merit a full cover. I made a rough sample of what I'm talking about: full color, non-content page at the beginning, providing a seguement into the actual business starting at the second spread. Check out http://www.arkkikivi.net/muut/avalanche.png to see what I'm talking about (it's just a knock-up, no quality control). A couple of points:
- Technical: I'm sure you can get somebody to make your cover, if you provide clear instructions on what you want. Lots of us have appropriate layout tools, myself included. It's not that big a job if you provide the materials and the idea.
- Word for spread layouts: there's no technical reason why you can't make a spread cover by turning the sheet (doubling it's size if you want) sideways in Word, and positioning your stuff on that. That's probably the easier way to lay out spreads in Word compared to positioning two sheets side-by-side. Remember that you can make the cover in a different document from the rest of the layout, and combine the pdfs later.
- Cover size: you could experiment with a differently dimensioned cover. Not all sheets need to be the same size in a pdf planned for screen reading.
- Cover color: I think that a fully non-white cover is a good idea, because it situates the teaser in the psychological space as a "product" instead of "just a file". We're used to single articles and such starting right away with a white page with a title on it and text immediately following, but products proper start with a colorful cover, which gives the reader that extra couple of seconds to situate himself. It's often the difference between whether your audience reads the piece in their browsers or saves it on their harddrive for future reference; an article (= piece without cover) is more natural to just check out and scrap, while a product (= piece with a cover) will often be preserved and perhaps circulated.
Anyway, this is just my aesthetics talking. You can well make the framed half-spread cover page work as well. I suggest that you start the actual text from the next spread, though, and include attribution and copyright information on the right side, on the account of my theory of pacing ;)

You could have two pictures on the front page, but I believe that'd work better without frames or white background. Two framed pictures side by side would look stilted, or at least you'd need innovative caption positioning to offset the effect.

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Heck, if you can swing it, get somebody to compose a short opening fanfare for the doc, like they did with the Exalted teaser a couple of years ago.
Not sure I get what you say... Something like someone who says he likes that stuff ? Might be hard to find...

No no, a musical piece. Probably something short, like five seconds, to not annoy. You can add those to pdfs as well, you know. Anyway, that was a half-joke, music doesn't work for most pdf projects (yet, at least). My point was that the teaser probably should have all the bells and whistles that are available, to make an impact.

Not that a blurb (a quotation from somebody saying how he likes it) isn't a good idea, although those aren't usually used in teasers much outside those end-of-paperback adverts you get in the book trade.

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Introduction: this is exactly what I requested! Also, the stuff you write in your last post. I suggest increasing this to 2 spreads (map included), to give room for a little bit more coherent and comprehensive look. Put the IP stuff and contact information from the first spread on the third spread after this stuff if you want to reserve the first spread for a colorful front page only. Your goal is to, as I tried to explain, give the reader the tools to understand what he can do with the material. I'll comment in detail, because this is probably the most important part of the teaser.
Good comment... So, I have had some texts. I've divided it into four segments in that order : what I do, how it impacts play, how the product looks like and the 'jargon'. I've simplyfied the text, heading toward play impact, with examples. You're right, that's what I want. Now, one thing, this text is far away from the final version, or so I think. But the ideas are there. See anything missing ? Better that way, no ?
I still don't know exactly where to put the IP stuff...

Yeah, it's finding it's contents. The introduction is improving in leaps and bounds. The text is, indeed, much more play-oriented. Some further suggestions about the introduction:
- I suggest that you should not overuse the bullet-point format. How about combining the first two lists, and lifting about 50% of their combined contents into a prose introduction before the bullet-point list (making effectively a half-page of prose and a half-page list)? Things like "Play what you want ", "This is not about the PCs" and "Mechanic", for example, would all go much better into a perfectly normal, conversational beginning chapter or three, making for a soft landing. The immediately starting bullet-points make the reader disengage right at the beginning; human beings need a strong context to parse bullet-points efficiently.
- Generally of the bullet-points: their friendliness can still be improved. Add short examples and stuff. I won't go into singular detail at this point, but here's a rough example: " Cycle: some elements are 'Cycle elements', which means that they will reappear continuously in the saga of the Avalanche. For example, the dwarven hero Dramnart will have an impact again and again in the unfolding narrative. History is a living force in the lands of Exile, repeating and reflecting itself! However, this doesn't mean that you can't touch these characters! By their very nature, cycle elements are constantly reflecting and reincarnating, reappearing in new contexts and guises. You can slay Dramnart or even play him, if that's your pleasure, and explain his other appearances as a historical archetype of the lands of Exile returning." Or something like that. The point is, always remember to discuss specifics, not stuff like "cycle is a property of some essences", which is dull, technical and uninformative.
- More about the prose introduction: you should not only comb the bullet-points for material better presented as prose, but also include more larger-scale context material: you're beginning to get pretty informative about the uses this material can be put to, but you could stand to tell us also about stuff like a) who you are? b) what experiences made you create this? c) who you imagine will make use of it? d) what kind of play Avalanche will make possible? e) what kind of use this teaser could be on it's own strengths (because, IMO you could run a session or two on it's strengths alone, now that you've explained it's usage and I've read the actual play)? f) how you hope the project will develop in the future, what are the next steps? Furthermore, you should tell about that stuff first, because it helps the reader get in the context of the bullet-points and all the stuff you introduce in the dense introduction. And, of course: introduce like a human, man! Put a welcoming greeting at the beginning! You're writing a letter to your readers, you can't just start it with a terse title and launch into a list of bullets.
- Legal, copyright and attribution: I suggest you put all of a) who did this, b) what the audience can do with this, c) legal stuff and d) where to find more information, when it's coming out, etc. (yeah, you have this at the end, too; it doesn't hurt to repeat, it's crucial info) into one section at the end of introduction. Like the "Legal Notice" you have now, except name it something like "General stuff" or whatever. The reader will instinctively recognize the "legal stuff" part, and can skip it when reading, which makes for better usability, while giving an impression of you as professional. It's also easy to find these bits of information later, if the reader decides to be interested enough to check out "who did this great stuff!" or "hold on, I want to do distribute this, let's see what the copyright says" or something like that.
- Remove the "You do not have the right to modify any part of this work without the explicit authorisation of the authors." part from the legal notices. It's not even true (you can't legally stop anybody from doing such modifications for personal use, for instance). You should avoid negatively parsed legal stuff, because that comes out as extremely hostile to the reader. It's like you're saying that you suspect him of stealing.
- Include a paragraph or two below the map about the setting material: how there's lots of it, there's many other places where people live in the world, or anything else you find fascinating about your world. Currently the map page is too detached and stark, as it's not connected to the text on the facing page... actually, you could discuss Raijuvak here as a kind of seguement into the next immediate page: "The Crest are the highest peaks of the lands of Exile, dominating the landscape for many weeks' journey to all directions. Raijuvak is one of the sparse human settlements surrounding the inhospitable peaks. The people of the city are in constant warfare with the white orcs. Here, however, we will focus on a story about the dragons living on the highest peaks of the Crest..." Something like that, but with more of an overall view on the elements surrounding your chosen teaser material.
- Connected to the above: you should fit some prose after the bullet-points, too, to soften them. The appropriate thing to say at the end of the introduction is something to sum up the above bullets, and a sentence or two about the content that'll start in the following pages. Notice that you nowhere make a summation about the material. You could well write something like "In the following pages we will take a look at the proud Dragon hunters of Raijuvak, who are faced with a challenge of a lifetime when their ancestral enemy reveals an old secret and compromises their greatest leader. Will the Hunters and Raijuvak, their chosen city, survive these times?"
- By the way, is Raijuvak really in the woods, or are the green areas working double duty as some kind of highlands? I got the impression that it's relatively high up the slopes somehow from the description.
- Considering the amount of material the introduction has to go through, I'd say that two full spreads (with a separate cover page) is what you'll need. The bullet-points as well as the prose introduction I suggest need room. Frankly, if I were writing it, I'd take three spreads, but that's because I'm a tad more verbose than strictly necessary. I like to cuddle my readers :D
- About the overall title: I think "Avalanche - a teaser" is fine and informative, but I also think that you should have an alternative subtitle, because what you have here is enough material to be considered a short adventure. It also gives the teaser more character and makes it more likely to be preserved and cherished. It also makes it more approachable for news services, and justifies spreading it around. Giving it an independent title allows you to distribute it as a "free adventure pdf" or a teaser depending on the social context, so it gives you lots of flexibility. Gamers love to get free adventures. So how about subtitling it "The Betrayal of Ariadne Baneheart" or something like that? Like, "The Avalanche teaser: Betrayal of Ariadne Baneheart". On the other hand, I find the "Part 1 – Spring / Essence and existence – The Dragons Hunters" a tad confusing: it sounds like this is a part of some series of teasers, which is fine and good, but not as good as giving it a dramatic title. So consider removing that part.

Huh, not sure if that's all the pertinent points. Have to move on or get lost in the shuffle.

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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2006, 01:08:12 PM »

Continuing from the last post...

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Organization: start with half a page (at least) of prose, man. That's the way to make the reader feel welcome. Introduce the general concepts of what it is and how you use it. Like the stuff in your last post, or something personal about yourself and the project, or whatever.
Maybe that's not there yet... I need to find a way to do this...

It's not there yet. Or rather, it's not in a consumable form. I think I can sort of rip it out of there in bits and pieces, but it needs to be said in a much more singular fashion. And it doesn't hurt to go into practicalities even more, much more. You're only starting to talk in concrete terms here.

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Heck, put in a page of actual play description using Avalanche, if you feel that that makes it easier to get.
I'm thinking of it as an appendice... I'm thinking of using, more or less, this : http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=18006.0 as it shows events and how I used them. But completly at the end ? Not sure...

That's a pretty good idea, actually. A one-spread example of play at the end, after the "ending page" could be just what the reader needs to chill out. On the other hand, make sure the document doesn't become too massive. Not that that's a big danger in pdf publication.

By the way: write more actual play, I want to discuss the current situation of the material. I find your method of calendar-based adventure structuring powerful and fascinating.

Of the play example: you have to write it in clear and to-the-point language, going straight into it. You can describe GM method, game events and rules used, but the main thing is to keep the prose flowing. A list separated by day (like you have in that thread) doesn't cut it alone, because the reader wants to see the interaction happening at the table. On the other hand, you HAVE TO impart the strength of the calendar method and other ways the material directly impacts GM planning and play, because that's what the people will buy from you. To be clear, these are some of the things I kinda see your material offering:
- calendar based scenarios
- improvising from predefined and structured material, including characters, places and plot twists
- illustrations usable as visual aids
- material to read aloud to players
- material to discuss together; riff from; change completely
- easy method of adventure preparation pre-play
I might be wrong about some of these, or I might miss some!!! It's your job to list the things you think your material gives for the play group, and write an actual play example that's one huge explosion of all those things. The text has to be such that the reader immediately sees how your material is not just endles pages of prose-wankery, and not a rules system, but genuine campaign material of a kind never seen before.

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The map: it's looking fine, but consider adding some photoshoppity blur or similar; I find that the cartographer graphics as is are a tad too clean and clash with the fantasy meme.
Big problem with the map... I've added some blur, it's better. I want the map to show that the lands of exile are big, there is room for much things there. I've removed all the texts. I only want to locate Riajuvak and the crest of the world. That was difficult with this map, so I made a zoom and pointed those locations. Impossible to put it directly on the map, because of the color. I guess this is a so so solution...

It's looking good, I'd have probably done something similar. You give the reader the important part and don't confuse him with lesser stuff.

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The ending: that's good, keep that trailerish thing. But consider more color
I could add one or two illustrations there, but I'm running out of them for the moment... I could put the black or the gray orcs... I don't have illustrations for the following part.

The end: The end (the latter page of spread 15, rather) is looking nice. I think you should add a paragraph or two of prose after the "Avalanche should be available..." title and before the website address: thank the reader for taking the time to check out the teaser, and tell of your hopes concerning the project's means and goals. You want to make personal contact and make the reader invested in your project.

A bw illustration is fine for the end, because the opposing page is bw, and especially because you'll have an appendix after that. Consider putting in an orc without backgrounds partially jumping from the corner, faded towards the corner. Or something like that.

You might also consider putting in a blank, colored spread at the very end after the appendix. The same color you'll have in the cover. This is another psychological trick to make it appear more like a product; you have a back cover! Just a thought.


A new complaint: look at the plot-line paragraphs and their accompanying illustrations. Wouldn't they look tidier if you evened the tops of the captions with the tops of the pictures? Also, "Selected moments from the hunt" is a tad long for the layout, as well as a couple of others. I think you could well stand to lose a couple of words or a complete sentence from these overlong paragraphs, the text is fluid enough to justify that. I think it's important to make the plot area look as orderly as possible, to impact the reader with the modularity and adaptability of the plot.

Also, consider centering the week titles ("May week 3" and so on), or at least moving them a bit to the right. Their left sides hug the box. Increasing the box height by a millimeter or so wouldn't be a bad idea either, if the layout allows.

***

But that's that, I think. I hope it's useful.
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Jake Richmond
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« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2006, 11:57:54 PM »

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(you DO give cookies to these people?)

We don't get cookies, unfortunatly. Or I don't anyway.

While it's true that we don't get paid enough (enough being subjective, I suppose), the pay I have recieved for this project has paid my rent and groceries since the beginning of the year. So even accounting for my stupidly cheap costs of living thats still been pretty cool. It's a lot of work, but it's been worthwhile.

As Sebastein mentioned before he dosent provide much in the way of constricting instructions. I do my best to come up with the character, creature and town designs based on the text that you see in the PDF. This was a little nerve racking at first. I've worked for a lot of publishers that tell me to go nuts and draw whatever I want, and then make me do it over because I didnt give them exactly what they wanted. But Sebastein was serious, he gave me full reign to render Avalanche as I saw fit, and never once asked me to redraw anything. It started out frustrating but turned out to be one of the best work experiences I've ever had.I've just started working on the second part of this project, and I look forward to doing more.


Jake
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pells
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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2006, 10:27:40 AM »

New version : AvalancheTeaser_S1F4
This should be the last version before the final one. I think I'm around 95-97 % done so far. A couple of sweeps of reading on the texts and correction by my translator after that. Maybe a couple of other things, I'll comment below. But first things first.

I'd really like to take the time to thanks Eero and Luke (abzu, who PMed me) for their help on this teaser. Now, I really think I've got something !!! I hope you'll say WOW !! This has nothing much to do with the first version I presented here. So, thanks again. Also, I'd like to mention Bérengère, one of the illustrator working with me (she's the one who did the ice palace). We asked her help for the front cover and it turned out she did the outstanding layout we've got. Honestly, I consider this professional work.

Eero, I'd like to comment some of your advices, but most importantly, what I have learned, because I do have the feeling I've learned a lot during the past weeks.

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SoI guess my solution would be to simply pick a comfortable font size and snip the text enough to get it to fit. Nothing says that you have to have the exact same text in your teaser as the finished product, after all
That's a good idea. I trimed the texts, but, as we changed layout, there was suddendly less space for the texts. It turned out that most of the texts are now bigger than the illustrations. That seems homogenous to me that way. Maybe I have a couple of modifications to make on some events, but I think most of it looks good that way.

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But, as we're both saying, it's not that big a deal of you have to zoom in to read. I expect the majority of your audience won't be reading it in detail anyway: they'll just get blown by the art and the concept, and hurry to find out more. And those who do read it carefully might as well use the zoom. The small font size certainly gives it an impression of "there's lots of stuff here" and "man, the material is brimming over".
That's our call for this !! People will have to zoom. And BTW, this teaser is 15K words long...

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It's looking much better! The illustration is very welcoming. But, I think you should take it to the next level. Your material is simply good enough and ample enough to merit a full cover. I made a rough sample of what I'm talking about: full color, non-content page at the beginning, providing a seguement into the actual business starting at the second spread. Check out http://www.arkkikivi.net/muut/avalanche.png to see what I'm talking about (it's just a knock-up, no quality control).
We've used your idea but with less text (I wanted my cover light, finally) and no blur. I think you'll like it. But, now, here's the thing : the cover was the starting point of everything that followed. We had the cover first. Then, it would seem obvious to apply the same quality in the interior and then do a backcover. We were getting one or two degrees of magnitude over this. That changed a lot of things. From that point on, we ceased to think of this teaser as a teaser, but really as a product in itself and we tried to apply the quality worth of a product. If I could produce something that people would pay for, then I'd have the best teaser possible to promote my game. And I think I would be able to sell this, well, maybe just 2 bucks, but I could. This is not my intend, as a teaser I need it to be free.

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Yeah, it's finding it's contents. The introduction is improving in leaps and bounds. The text is, indeed, much more play-oriented. Some further suggestions about the introduction:
Good advice here again. I've putted a half spread of introduction, presenting myself and the history of the project. I think it is warmer. I've removed all the bulletpoints, except for the jargon. It didn't seem appropriate anymore. Now, the text. I've changed it a little bit. I'm sure I could do better. I'm not sure I can though. I'm still somehow, happy with it. I'll rework it a little in the future. That said, this teaser needed an introduction. As it became a product, I want people to save this on their computer. So I need a complete introduction as it may come out from nowhere.

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By the way, is Raijuvak really in the woods, or are the green areas working double duty as some kind of highlands? I got the impression that it's relatively high up the slopes somehow from the description.
Yes, it is in the woods. The illustrations might let you think otherwise. But be asure, given the number of events that occurs in Raijuvak, Jake will have the time to fix that...

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About the overall title: I think "Avalanche - a teaser" is fine and informative, but I also think that you should have an alternative subtitle, because what you have here is enough material to be considered a short adventure.
I've chosen like a mirage, the name of an event, the turning point, according to me, in this story. Maybe it is too soft, not enough punchy. I've let essence and existence because I thougth of using something like following the dragons hunters, which means the same thing, but doesn't use my jargon.

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That's a pretty good idea, actually. A one-spread example of play at the end, after the "ending page" could be just what the reader needs to chill out. On the other hand, make sure the document doesn't become too massive. Not that that's a big danger in pdf publication.
I've put the example at the end. It seems fine to me. I've reworked it to present how the use the events and really show how to use my product. I hope it is enough that way. Then again, I guess it could be better.

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A bw illustration is fine for the end, because the opposing page is bw, and especially because you'll have an appendix after that.
I came with something that leaves you under the impression what's behind that ?

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But that's that, I think. I hope it's useful
You bet it has !!! And I hope this thread can also help others. Franckly I don't think I would have had this quality for the  teaser without the help of the forge. Now, it only leaves me on how to using it...
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Luke
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« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2006, 12:21:48 PM »

Now we're talking! Excellent job, suh! My two quibbles -- make the red type a uniform color in the text and strike the "a new kind of adventure." It's a cliche. Every frpg tries to say something like that, and it's true for nearly every frpg out there -- so it's pointless. AND it just gets in the way of that cool cover!

Rock on and good luck,
-Luke
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Selene Tan
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« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2006, 02:08:54 PM »

Just a quick comment on the map zoom thing. I would use a callout (basically just a triangular wedge shape from the small square on the large map, expanding to the size of the zoomed-in square) rather than an arrow. Right now, you use arrows both to zoom in and to label things, which seems a bit confusing.

Also, it looks nifty. Some other time I will read it in detail. :)
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2006, 12:14:49 AM »

This should be the last version before the final one. I think I'm around 95-97 % done so far. A couple of sweeps of reading on the texts and correction by my translator after that. Maybe a couple of other things, I'll comment below. But first things first.

Agreed! It's looking tight, you captured what I was writing about perfectly. The introduction is a magnitude better, and the color graphics give it esteem and weight. Just make sure to give it a thorough proofreading/editing to make the language standard English and make sure you don't forget to explain anything pertinent, and you're good to go. Some final comments:
- Make sure to give your editor a free hand with the example of play (even more so than other parts). It needs to be clarified on the structural level, but the problems frankly require good English skills to tackle. You pretty much have all the pertinent information there, so it's just a matter of presenting it well. By "free hand" I mean that you should let your editor rewrite it, if he's willing to do the work.
- You could mention somewhere that the teaser is intented to be read on screen, with some zooming. It's a somewhat unique layout solution, so some readers will probably get slightly annoyed, unless you defuse the situation by mentioning that it's intentional.
- Agreed with Luke about the "Enter a new kind of adventure" -tagline. You could consider putting something else there, though, something a bit deeper or more powerful, if anything pops to mind. Otherwise the cover and backcover are looking great, just what you should do when trying to impress the audience.

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We've used your idea but with less text (I wanted my cover light, finally) and no blur. I think you'll like it. But, now, here's the thing : the cover was the starting point of everything that followed. We had the cover first. Then, it would seem obvious to apply the same quality in the interior and then do a backcover. We were getting one or two degrees of magnitude over this. That changed a lot of things. From that point on, we ceased to think of this teaser as a teaser, but really as a product in itself and we tried to apply the quality worth of a product. If I could produce something that people would pay for, then I'd have the best teaser possible to promote my game. And I think I would be able to sell this, well, maybe just 2 bucks, but I could. This is not my intend, as a teaser I need it to be free.

Yes, it's sellable in quality, which is what I think you should be shooting for in a teaser for a big product. Considering your goals for the project, it's a drop in an ocean to give out a little bit of the overall material for free. And it only makes sense to shoot for the absolutely best quality you can achieve when this is the window you offer for the audience. This is what they base their purchase decision on.

But, that's that. I'm confident that you have one of the better teasers I've ever seen for a gaming product. Even the strangeness factor of your new campaign-building method should work in your favor, as the reader, while not necessarily understanding how to use the material, will certainly see clearly the obvious quality of the project and get interested in learning more. (Your web pages will have to include several examples of play, as well as a straight-up article about playing this way, I suppose.) I think you have nothing to worry about as regards the quality of your teaser, now. Just start planning the distribution and media strategy for your teaser! (Perhaps a new thread about that?)

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