Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Saga of the Goblin Horde: ENnies voting has started!

I've published a lot of content for Saga of the Goblin Horde, but I couldn't have done it without the support and encouragement of the community. I hope I can count on your support once more in the 2018 ENNie Awards, as Saga of the Goblin Horde has been nominated for "Best Free Game", and there is some stiff competition!

Please don't forget the other Savage Worlds products that are up for nomination, either: The Seven Worlds Campaign Book (Best Adventure), Up to Four Players (Best Website), and Holy Crap: The Great Sects Change Operation (Best Supplement and Best Writing).

You can vote here: ENnies 2018 Election

To celebrate the nomination, I've also decided to release some bonus material for the setting, starting with the Goblin Princess archetype, which you can download here.

Enjoy, and thank you for your support!

Friday, 6 July 2018

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Nominated for an ENnie Award!

At the beginning of May, I saw a message about the final submission date for the 2018 ENnies, and in a spur-of-the-moment decision, I submitted Blood & Bile and Saga of the Goblin Horde. I nearly didn't bother, as I'm still very new to self-publishing, and there's a lot of fierce competition from other high-quality products -- but I figured I had nothing to lose, so I went for it.

This year there were 514 submissions from 251 publishers and creators, more submissions than any previous ENnie. So it came as a big surprise (and a great honour) to discover that Saga of the Goblin Horde has been nominated for "Best Free Game", alongside four other excellent products: Esper Genesis, High Plains Samurai: Legends, Modos 2 and Forthright!

The voting opens on 11th July and ends on 21st July, and the winners will be announced at GenCon on 3rd August.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Commission artwork: Describing what you want

Jiaxingseng recently wrote a blog post about his art development process, and included the description he gave to the artist. It's an interesting read, and somewhat different to the way I handled my goblin princess commission from Rick Hershey, so I thought I'd post my own description for comparison purposes:
The basic concept is a fairly classic swirling-dress Cinderella:
However she's a goblin instead of a human, and her slippers have pointed steel toecaps (this is important because one of the adventures is a spin on the classic Cinderella story; instead of leaving her slipper at the ball, she leaves it embedded in someone's head during a brawl).
She should have a golden ball in one hand, like that in the classic "Frog Prince" story:
In her other hand, she should have some sort of oversized vicious-looking blade. My initial thought was something that looks similar to the "chopper" from your Assorted Items Vol 1 art pack, which would be resting across her shoulder a bit like this: Siegfried_02.jpg
Her skin color should be roughly a similar sort of green to the goblins on my archetypes cover.
Eye color should be yellowish (yellow-green or yellow-orange is also fine, but not red, as I'm intentionally trying to distance my setting from the Pathfinder goblins, who are usually illustrated with red eyes).
My preferred dimensions would be roughly 5.5 to 6 inches high, and 4.5 to 5 inches wide. That's ideal for a full sized internal illustration, while a slightly reduced version will still be wide enough to look good on the cover.
Other accessories and embellishments would be at your discretion, the important thing is that she should look like a extremely dangerous goblin version of a fairy tale princess*, and have the steel toecaps and golden ball for the adventure tie-ins. I could envision her having a light blue dress splattered with blood, perhaps with a spiked collar and bracers, but I'll leave that up to you to decide, depending on what you think looks best.
* She isn't really a princess in the traditional sense though, she's a chieftain's daughter, so please don't add a crown.
Rick then provided me with a rough sketch to make sure he'd covered the basics:

I replied with some further detail:
The sketch looks great, the only thing I would ask is that the sword be made longer (perhaps increase the blade length by 50%). The pitch for the first adventure is as follows:
The Princess and the Peabrain: What happens when a foolish ogre kidnaps a goblin princess from her tower, only to discover that she'd been locked in to protect others, rather than for her own safety?
I envision it as a sword she took from the ogre, so it would be far bigger than a typical goblin weapon - probably a similar length to a human sword, but much wider (just like in your sketch). The princess is monstrously (supernaturally) strong for a goblin, but still a fairly normal goblin height and build, so the sword would look particularly big in her hands.
The goblin scout in your goblin mega-pack has a distinctly female face and posture, despite being very obviously a goblin. If possible I'd like to capture a similar sort of quality, so she appears almost dainty, further emphasizing the massive sword.
And then just two days later, Rick sent me the finished illustration:

Chronicles of the Goblin Princess is still planned, but it was unavoidably delayed (I had to postpone it until I've published my Swift d12 system). I've already used the artwork in my Countdown Deck though!

Monday, 25 June 2018

Jumping the Bearsharktopus: One Sheet

A Redfang scout recently discovered a huge mound of bear excrement deep within Shadowglade Forest. For reasons that are probably best not discussed, the scout decided to thoroughly examine the dung, and found it contained the bones of several sea goblins, as well as a fishing net and even a small anchor! Has the legendary Bearsharktopus finally woken up again, after decades of hibernation? And more importantly, what does the great beast taste like? Chief Bignose wants to know!

Last week I released the Saga of the Goblin Horde Countdown Deck, and I thought it might be nice to write up some examples of how to use the saga symbols on the cards. But I always find it difficult to write hypothetical "actual play" scenarios, so I decided to turn them into a proper One Sheet adventure instead.

If you want to follow the progress of Saga of the Goblin Horde, please don’t forget to sign up to the official Facebook group!

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Countdown Deck

The Saga of the Goblin Horde Countdown Deck has been released! It is available on DriveThruRPG as both a free Virtual Tabletop asset and a printed deck.

As well as being a thematic Action Deck, the cards offer three additional features:

1. There are four jokers, and each has a suit. This makes the game even more crazy, and also makes it quicker and easier to resolve situations where multiple people draw a joker (you can use the suit instead of having to make an opposed Agility roll to determine who goes first). It's also handy for situational rules like Interludes, which reference card suits but don't actually define what a joker does, or the Kickball rules in SotGH, which were designed with the Mutation Deck in mind, and therefore take into account the possibility of jokers with suits.

2. Each card has a prominent "countdown number" at the top. You can use these to determine turn order as normal, from highest to lowest, without having to reference both a rank and a suit. The idea for this was based on observing how many people get confused over which suits act first when the ranks are a tie (even many experienced players will sometimes pause for a moment to work out whether hearts or diamonds go first).

3. Each card has a "saga symbol" at the bottom. These symbols are improvisational prompts; an "elephant" symbol could represent any sort of herd creature, or just something big, or it could be interpreted as strength, stamina, wisdom, memory, loyalty, etc. Likewise the "torch" symbol might represent fire, knowledge, destruction, heat, light, exploration, and so on.

The symbols can be used for all sorts of things - they can be used instead of (or in addition to) the suit for Interludes, or as inspiration for downtime activities, or to add additional flavor to the adventure generator (draw one card for each of the five scenes), or for fleshing out complications during a chase or dramatic task, and so on.

Saga Symbols

Here are a few quick examples of "boastful tales" based on drawing three cards, the highlighted words correspond to the saga symbols at the bottom of the cards (note that the specific order doesn't matter, the idea is just to take three symbols and turn them into a story):

One day you were fishing along the shore of Windpoint Island, and lost track of time. A storm was coming in, so you set off along the causeway. But before you could reach Axehead Cove, a massive sea monster rose up from the ocean, and attempted to devour you. Fortunately you managed to cast your fishing line at it, lodge your hook in its lip, and then surf back to shore!

Long ago, you took a fancy to a lovely maiden from the Stonefist tribe, after witnessing the vicious beating she dished out during a friendly game of Kickball. You headed into the Longtooth Mountains to woo her, but her brothers learned of your plan, and you had to fight them all single-handedly!

A mushroom farmer once gave you a swig from his hipflask, and the hallucinations drove you crazy! You sprinted deep into Twilight Wood, fleeing predators that only you could see, and ended up climbing to the very top of the tallest tree in the forest. When you finally regained your wits, it took you several hours to get back down to the ground!

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Back to the Roots: One Sheet

Last month GGstudio invited me to Modena Play, for my first ever gaming convention, and I was asked to run a couple of Saga of the Goblin Horde games!

I wanted to run a new adventure, but didn’t have time to create something from scratch, so I combined my favorite elements from three different adventures—the ornithopter run scene from Can of Wyrms, the war horseradishes from Root of the Problem, and the ambush cards from Dungeon Squat (the first Plot Point Episode in the setting book).

I was able to run the adventure for Giuseppe Rotondo, James Horton and Riccardo Giannico at the convention, and it was well received, so with some effort (and a few adjustments) I’ve just about managed to squeeze it into a new One Sheet!

Get it here: Back to the Roots

As always, if you’re interested in following the progress of Saga of the Goblin Horde, don’t forget to sign up to the official Facebook group!

From left to right: Giuseppe, Riccardo, myself, and James.

James even drew a doodle of the adventure!

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Saga of the Goblin Horde: Configurable Map

Every so often, someone will contact me asking where abouts on the Saga of the Goblin Horde map a particular adventure takes place. Although I did work out approximate routes when writing the adventures, I didn't bother recording the information, so I usually end up sketching a rough route on a map every time someone asks.

Well, I finally decided to mark up the official routes, using PDF layers so the user can enable whichever adventure they're currently running. I also added the place names and territory labels (adjusted slightly so that they no longer overlap), along with the title and compass, hex grix, and territory fog. The result is a high resolution map that can be fully configured simply by toggling different layers.

Download it here: Configurable Map

Here are a few examples of how the map can be configured in Acrobat Reader, by selecting the "layers" tab on the left side of the screen, and choosing which layers you wish to display:

Displaying the route for Bone of Contention.

You can also display multiple routes at once if you wish.

Tribal territory.labels can replace or be combined with place names.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Modena Play: My First Gaming Convention!

Gio Dal Farra (owner of GGstudio) invited me to Modena Play this year. It took place on April 6th, 7th and 8th, and was the first gaming convention I'd ever been to! I didn't quite know what to expect, but I had a fantastic time—I met a lot of really nice people, ate some delicious Italian food, and even had the opportunity to run a few games of Saga of the Goblin Horde.

On Friday morning Alessandro Aimonetto collected me at the entrance, gave me my pass, bought me coffee and a sandwich, and provided a quick tour. After that, I had the opportunity to explore the convention at my own pace. Most of the stalls were promoting board games; I did see a couple of others that had tabletop RPGs, but GGstudio had the largest and most diverse offering.

The language barrier proved to be my biggest challenge. Although many people understood English, almost all of the games were published and played in Italian. Fortunately I was able to make a note of the games that caught my interest, and I've found that many of them are also available in English :) I also had some great conversions with several other game designers, had the opportunity to look at their work, and gained some valuable insight into the industry.

On Saturday I met Giuseppe Rotondo, James Horton and Riccardo Giannico, and ran a new Saga of the Goblin Horde adventure for them (it's called "Back to the Roots", and I will release it in the very near future). I also used the Mutation Deck I designed for Just Insert Imagination :) Giuseppe later introduced me to several other game designer friends of his, we looked at some of the things other people were working on, and we talked about Gold & Glory and Blood & Bile.

I had another short visit to the con on Sunday morning, then left at 11:30am to catch my flight, which proved to be an entire adventure in its own right!

Anyway, here are some of the highlights. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Savage Worlds

There were loads of translated Savage Worlds books (particularly for Deadlands), as well as some original Italian settings. I discussed the translation process with some of the GGstudio guys, and they raised some interesting points I hadn't really considered—for example, it wasn't enough just to translate the text of East Texas University, they also added a small section describing how the American school system works, as it's very different to the education system in Italy.

Gold & Glory

What can I say about Gold & Glory that I haven't said already? This is the ultimate toolkit for dungeon crawling in Savage Worlds, and impressed me so much that I offered to write a SotGH crossover adventure for it. GGstudio then translated my adventure to Italian, and offered it as a fold-out freebie at the con, but I don't know if they plan to release it in English as well. However I'm thinking of writing another one anyway, this time from the goblin perspective!


One of the games that really caught my attention was Fleshscape, by Emanuele Galletto. It's a minimalist RPG with a very unusual setting (a sort of Lovecraftian post-apocalyptic world covered in flesh, bone and sinew, with rivers of blood and puss, where the PCs are primitive hunters fighting for survive). Emanuele does all his own artwork, and admitted that one of the reasons he chose the theme is that he's not very good at drawing buildings! The concept is really awesome though, and the PDF is available for free on DriveThruRPG, so I'd definitely recommend checking it out.

Interestingly, the Italian version of Fleshscape has been condensed down to three pages, and printed inside a custom GM screen. That means you don't buy a book, you buy a GM screen, and it contains everything you need to play! I really love that idea, and could easily see it working for other minimalist RPGs as well (in fact GGstudio also offer a game called Golconda in the same format, although I didn't have the opportunity to speak to the author, and I don't think it's available in English).

Kata Kumbas

Umberto Pignatelli is a relentless writing machine, and he produces a lot of high quality stuff. But I was particularly intrigued by his Kata Kumbas solo adventure books. These initially appeared to be pretty similar to the old "Choose Your Own Adventure books" I read when I was younger, however they're actually a lot more intricate, with lots of little secrets, clues and minigames hidden within the artwork and maps. I really appreciate clever design mechanics like that, and would love to see more of them.


This is a new game that was being demonstrated quite extensively at the con. Cabal appears to be a sort of modern-day investigative horror/occult RPG, with a bit of a CoC/WoD vibe, and some evocative B&W artwork. I had a nice chat with the designers and they told me GGstudio are going to be translating it to English and converting it to Savage Worlds, so that'll definitely be one to look out for in the future!

Other Stuff

Of course there were loads of other interesting things as well. GGstudio had printed cloth maps for some of their settings, which is an awesome idea, and something I'd like to look into for Saga of the Goblin Horde. There were some other really nice looking games like Be-Movie, Golconda and Symbaroum, as well as Skeletons (a story game which I've read reviews about, and which I find a very intriguing concept).

I had the chance to flick through Nemezis, a setting I'd only heard of previously by name, and now I really want to play it (just based on the artwork alone)! I also saw a bunch of other products that caught my attention, such as Ultima Forsan, Night Witches, and Fiasco. I really need to start playing more games!


Overall it was an awesome and very memorable experience, and I feel very fortunate to have been invited. I made a lot of new friends, spoke to several of my fans, networked with many talented game designers, and gained a lot of insight into the RPG industry. So I'd like to say a big "thank you" to Gio and the rest of the GGstudio crew, and I look forward to seeing you again in the future!

The only thing I didn't enjoy was the trip home...

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Blood & Bile: Behind the Design

A couple of weeks ago I released my first PWYW product on DriveThruRPG, a minimalist RPG called Blood & Bile. I've had a few private conversions about the underlying mechanics since then, so I thought it might be worth writing a short blog post on the subject.

System Overview

Each player has five d6s, color-coded to indicate which trait they represent (blue for brawn, green for guile, red for reflexes). The PCs are vampires, so the overall dice pool also indicates how much blood they have remaining.

When you make a trait check, you choose and roll 1-3 of your dice; if the highest die equals or exceeds the difficulty, you succeed. Any dice that color-match the trait can be rerolled once each, and if you invoke an appropriate "asset" you add a +1 bonus to one die.

If you fail a "dangerous" trait check, such as combat, discard the lowest rolling die (representing your body burning blood to regenerate injuries). Furthermore, if you roll a double you also discard one of the dice (representing burning blood for supernatural effort), while on a triple you discard two dice. Discarded dice can be recovered through feeding.

Crunching the Numbers

A character's chance of success depends on the difficulty of the trait check, and the number of dice they roll, as follows:

Although you can only roll a maximum of three dice for a trait check, you are allowed to reroll dice that match the trait, which means those dice each count as two for the purposes of calculating the chance of success. For example, if you roll two red dice and one blue die for a reflexes check, that would be the equivalent of rolling five dice, because the two red dice could be rerolled on a failure.

This means that (for example) rolling one red die for a reflexes check has the same chance of success as rolling two green or blue dice. However the red die has the advantage of not being able to roll a double on its own, while the blue or green dice would have the possibility of achieving two success when making an extended challenge.

Doubles and Triples

There's normally a 16.67% chance of rolling a double with two dice, while rolling three dice has a 41.67% chance of a double and a 2.78% chance of a triple. This might seem very high, however the risk is greatly reduced when rolling dice that match the trait check. For example if you roll two dice for a reflexes check, and one of those dice is red, there's only a 2.78% chance of rolling a double—and if both dice are red, there's only a 0.46% chance of rolling a double.

Although characters don't gain additional dice as they advance, they do earn assets. By invoking an asset to add +1 to one die, you can reduce the chance of rolling a double on two dice (or a triple on three dice) to 0%, and significantly reduce the chance of rolling a double with three dice—particularly if some of the dice also match the trait.


Assets are a simple mechanic that can represent skills, knowledge, equipment, allies, supernatural abilities, etc. It's best not to choose something too narrowly focused or overly specialized, otherwise it can be difficult to incorporate the asset into the story.

An asset can be invoked to add a +1 bonus to one die, which is the equivalent of lowering the difficulty by 1 (at least for the standard trait checks; extended trait checks track multiple successes). This bonus can also be used to break a double, or turn a triple into a double, which makes "supernatural effort" a far less risky prospect, as mentioned earlier.

Although they can only be invoked once per session each, your assets are always invoked after rolling, which means you only use them in situations where they make a difference. An asset never needs to be "wasted" on a roll where it has no impact on the outcome.


The game mechanics in Blood & Bile are obviously (intentionally) fairly simple, but I still wanted players to be able to make tactical decisions when rolling the dice, and I think I succeeded in that aim. I initially had doubts about the "asset" rules, but they've grown on me—they are mechanically extremely simple, but they provide the player with some useful options, tie in nicely with the narrative focus of the game, and can cover a wide range of different character abilities.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

PWYW: My thoughts after the first week

I've been offering free products through DriveThruRPG for a few months now, but last week I released my first PWYW (Pay What You Want) product, Blood & Bile. In practice this was a very small step (I just had to activate the PWYW option, and enter a suggested price), but it felt like a major personal milestone for me as an indie publisher.

I'm pleased with the way Blood & Bile turned out, but it's a very different style of game to Saga of the Goblin Horde, and incorporates some experimental ideas I wanted to try (such as not requiring any GM preparation, or character sheets for the players) - so I didn't want people buying it blindly based on my earlier work, and then feeling misled afterwards. I was also curious about the PWYW model, and figured this would be a good way to test the waters.

It has been pointed out that PWYW is a marketing strategy rather than a sales strategy, and there have been some interesting discussions (as well as this excellent article) about the pros and cons. My work is well known within the Savage Worlds community, but now I'm trying to establish myself in the wider RPG community, so building up an audience is currently my main priority.

Blood & Bile was released on 14th March. I already had 2696 unique customers on DriveThruRPG thanks to Saga of the Goblin Horde, and 2222 of them accepted email from publishers, so I sent out a short message telling them about my latest product. While that didn't spark quite as much interest as I'd hoped, I did get a reasonable number of downloads in the first couple of days, after which it slowed down to a trickle:

14th March: 70 downloads (including 9 sales totaling $11.20)
15th March: 114 downloads (including 15 sales totaling $33.56)
16th March: 38 downloads (including 5 sales totaling $11.79)
17th March: 20 downloads (including 4 sales totaling $8.00)
18th March: 15 downloads (no sales)
19th March: 19 downloads (including 3 sales totaling $7.00)
20th March: 9 downloads (no sales)
21st March: 4 downloads (including 2 sales totaling $1.01)

That's a total of 289 downloads, of which 38 (13.1%) were sales. The total sales were $72.56, which is an average of $1.89 per paying customer. Nearly half (18 people) paid the recommended $1, the lowest amount was $0.01, and the highest was $5 (paid by 6 different people).

It's the total number of (non-free) sales that determine rankings and medals, rather than the amount of money paid, so even a 1-cent sale is useful. At one point I managed to reach rank 8 in the Hottest Small Press, but there's a lot of competition on there, and I soon dropped back down again.

Ratings and reviews seem to be harder to come by. I had expected people would be more willing to click on a rating than pay money, but that doesn't seem to be the case. So far I've had two reviews, hopefully there will be more once people have had the chance to try out the game.

DriveThruRPG keep 30% of the sales, which leaves me with a little over $50 that I can put towards future products. I'm not yet sure how I'll use that, if there's interest I may release another minimalist RPG using the same system, otherwise I'll probably put it towards Swift d12.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Blood & Bile: My first PWYW product

I'm a fan of both vampire movies and zombie movies, and have occasionally pondered how well a vampire would fare during a zombie apocalypse. So when the guys on the Wild Die Podcast held a One Sheet Setting contest, I decided to submit an entry called "Blood & Brains"!

Of course One Sheet Settings involve quite a bit of work, so to encourage participation, the contest entries were only supposed to give a short overview. But I'd already started writing up my notes by that point, and I had some fairly concrete ideas about how I wanted the setting to look and work, so I ended up submitting a different setting outline (Circus Cult) instead.

But then I got back to working on my vampire/zombie setting, which I'd renamed to "Blood & Bile" after discovering there were already several RPG products called "Blood and Brains" (my second choice, "Flesh & Blood", was taken as well).

As Blood & Bile took shape, I started to feel it would be good enough to turn into a small commercial product, a bit like Just Insert Imagination's awesome plug-and-play settings (such as Fuhgeddaboudit, Punted in the Bonce, etc). But of course that would require changing to a different roleplaying system.

Fortunately I'd recently been pondering alternative applications for the color-coded dice system I'd used in The Goblin Warrens, and this seemed a perfect fit. The mechanics were lightweight and straightforward, intuitive but also tactical, and they would allow me to offer Blood & Brains as a fully self-contained product.

Of course I needed to expand the system slightly, to incorporate unique abilities, character advancement, and so on. I also wanted to playtest the rules before releasing them, but I've finally finished, and here it is!

Download it here: Blood & Bile

It's pretty different to Saga of the Goblin Horde, as I wanted to try out a few new ideas (in particular, while Saga of the Goblin Horde has fairly linear adventures, I wanted Blood & Bile to be a sandbox with no fixed adventure at all). However I'm pleased with the way it's turned out, and I hope others will enjoy it too.

Playing with Savage Worlds

Running Blood & Bile with Savage Worlds is actually pretty straightforward. You could use the vampire race from the Horror Companion, or use Savage Undead to design your own (it doesn't need to be balanced, either, as the PCs are all vampires). There are zombie stats in Savage Worlds Deluxe, but I'd recommend using the Horror Companion if you want to make them more interesting.

The oracle tables would work the same as usual, meaning you could play Savage Worlds without a GM if you wanted to. Assets would be replaced with regular advancement.

Dark Gift

Instead of a "Dark Gift", every PC begins with Arcane Background (Vampirism), which works as follows:

Arcane Background (Vampirism)
Power Points: 10
Arcane Skill: Spirit
Starting Powers: 1
Backlash: None

Available powers: armor*, beast friend, boost/lower trait*, burrow, deflection*, disguise*, fear, fly*, greater healing*, healing*, intangibility*, invisibility, mind reading, puppet, quickness*, shape change (bat or wolf), speed*, wall walker*, warrior's gift*. Those marked with a * have their range reduced to "Self".

The "Power Points" also represent blood; the vampire only regains Power Points by feeding on a human (the same as in Savage Undead), but must also expend a Power Point to wake up each evening.


The "Curse" would simply be handled through Hindrances. Here are two new Hindrances I'd originally planned to include in the One Sheet Setting:

Carrier (Minor)
Although vampires are immune to the zombie virus, a few of them can become carriers. Any human this character feeds upon directly will become infected, as if they'd been bitten by a zombie.

Marked (Minor or Major)
A zombie took a bite out of this character, and for some unknown reason the wound refuses to heal properly. Any humans who see the bite mark will probably assume the vampire is an infected human, and react with fear or violence. As a Minor Hindrance the mark can be covered with clothing, although paranoid humans may insist on a careful examination. As a Major Hindrance the mark is on an obvious location, such as the hand or neck.

Movie Crossovers

Blood & Bile provides guidelines for defining your own mythology, and one of the suggestions it makes is to combine your favorite vampire movie with your favorite zombie flick. I created a poll on the Savage Worlds Facebook group to ask which movie combos people found appealing, so here are some suggestions based on the top three results.

80s Horror Comedy

Imagine "The Lost Boys" meets "The Return of the Living Dead". The game takes place shortly after The Return of the Living Dead ends, when acid rain from a nuclear exposion spreads the zombie infection far and wide. The PCs are a gang of young vampires, who sleep all day and party all night - until one night the zombies decide to crash the party!

Month of Horror

Imagine "30 Days of Night" meets "28 Days Later". The PCs are vicious vampires, being transported in the hold of a ship. Then one evening they wake up to discover the ship has run aground and been abandoned by the crew. As they leave the ship in search of blood, they find the tables have turned, and they come under attack by hordes of rage-fuelled humans carrying an infection of their own!


Imagine "What We Do in the Shadows" meets "Shaun of the Dead". A group of vampires live together in the basement of the Winchester pub, where they try their best to adapt to modern life. Then one day a zombie outbreak occurs, and when the vampires wake up in the evening, they discover a ragrag crew of survivors have gathered in the pub, while zombies bang on the doors and windows outside!

Other Fiction

When I was googling around to make sure nobody else used the same name, I came across a rather cool story about a vampire experiencing the zombie apocalypse; it's worth a read if you're thinking of running Blood & Bile.

Then when I posted for feedback on the setting, I also received several more suggestions. Darren Miller recommended Double Dead by Chuck Wendig (which I've since read, and enjoyed very much), while Bill Ogden pointed me to the Last Blood web comic (also a good read).

Someone also pointed me to the Vampires vs Zombies Deadliest Warrior episode, which I found quite entertaining (although the Blood & Bile vampires cannot be infected, so you should ignore the ending):

Blood & Bile doesn't define the mythology or physiology of the undead, instead it leaves it up to the reader to decide for themselves, and this makes it very easy to draw on many different sources of inspiration for your games!

Friday, 9 March 2018

Creating a print-ready PDF

In December I provided step-for-step guidelines for printing Saga of the Goblin Horde through Lulu. In this post, I'll show how to prepare your own print-ready PDFs using Scribus. If you're using InDesign or some other desktop publishing software then you'll have to find the equivalent options, and if you're printing through DriveThruRPG you'll have to do further investigation for handling colors, but this should at least get you started.


For Lulu and DriveThruRPG (and I presume other print-on-demand services) you have to upload covers as separate image files - either one for the front cover and another for the back cover, or a single image for a wraparound cover. You'll have to prepare these images separately, they will need bleed areas, and there may be a maximum file size (for Lulu it's 10 MB). The specifications (and usually image templates) should be provided by the printing company, and will depend on the size of your book, and the type of cover.

The covers should also be removed from the PDF, otherwise they'll be printed again inside the book. But make sure this doesn't change the page numbers, otherwise it may cause confusion when people discuss your book online, and reference certain pages. The approach I used was to replace the cover with a title page for the print-ready PDF; a title page didn't seem necessary for a normal PDF, but it's common in a printed book, and it meant I didn't need to fiddle around with page numbers.

Transparency and Resolution

It seems that print-on-demand cannot print transparent images. If you really need a transparent image (such as the watermarks I use in Saga of the Goblin Horde) you'll need to create a custom background image for it. But the final PDF will need to be flattened, and I found the quickest and easiest way to do this was to set the Compatibility to PDF 1.3 (which doesn't support transparency).

You should also make sure the resolution is correct. For screen use I always set the DPI to 150 (it keeps the file size down without visibility reducing the quality on the screen), but a print-ready PDF it should be set to 300 DPI instead.


When a PDF is printed, the pages are not trimmed with 100% accuracy, so it's important to add a bleed area - that means any background and illustrations that normally touch the edge of the page should extend beyond it for a short distance. Lulu requires a bleed area of 0.125" on each side, but other printing companies may be different.

To set up the bleed area in Scribus, press "File" then "Document Setup", and on the "Document" tab you can set your bleeds (note that these are larger than 0.125" in the screenshot below, I'll explain why later):

When you press the "Save as PDF" button, on the "Pre-Press" tab you must also make sure the "Use Document Bleeds" checkbox is checked.


Print-on-demand uses CMYK, and you'll also need to factor in things like ink coverage, solid blacks, overprint, etc. However this isn't something I've worked with yet, because Lulu prefer you to upload RGB files, so they can convert it themselves. This obviously makes the process much easier if you're using Lulu!

However if you want to generate a CMYK (or grayscale) PDF, you'll need to use the "Color" tab when you "Save as PDF". Make sure you also check the "Convert Spot Colors to Process Colors" checkbox as well, as you won't be using spot colors for print-on-demand.


Saga of the Goblin Horde is US Letter size (8.5x11"), but for printing on Lulu I needed 0.125" bleed on each side, meaning the PDF had to be 8.75x11.25". However when I printed the book I found the text was a little too close to the gutter (the part of the page that connects to the spine), so I increased the page size to 9x11.57" (retaining the same proportions) and then reduced the PDF back down to 8.75x11.25" using a tool called jPDF Tweak. This shrank everything on the page, giving the final print-ready PDF slightly wider margins on all sides.

Note how the page on the right has slightly larger margins.

Open jPDF Tweak. On the "Input" tab, press "Select", choose the PDF you wish to work on (it may take a while to load). You can then press the "Page Size" tab, check the "Scale Pages" checkbox, and set the desired page size (you'll have to convert from inches to points). Then go to "Output" and press "Run".

Once you've generated your new PDF, make sure you open it and scroll through it (on one occasion it corrupted my file, and there was an error when I tried to view the last page). You should also right click on the open file and select "Document Properties", to make sure the dimensions are correct.

The final PDF should now be ready for printing, but make sure you print a sample copy for yourself (so you can check the physical product) before releasing it into the wild. Good luck!