Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Blood, Pain, and Power: Stygian Necromancy

In the history of the practice of magic there have often been those who bent their powers to evil.  Many a wizard has delved into the necromantic arts to garner power over death and the undead.  Their crimes mar the centuries in blood, suffering, and tragedy. The sum of their sins pales in comparison, to the horrors perpetrated by the Necromancer.

The Necromancer was a master of the darkest arts of magic.  By dint of power he possessed, he attracted followers of the most fearsome sort.  Among his followers the most powerful, and feared, were the Acolytes of Death.  These thirteen magicians were masters of the arts of necromancy and murder. They lent their power to the Necromancer's darkest and most secret rituals.  Through these rituals the Necromancer bought secrets of the arts of death and magic with the blood of his victims.  Those fell secrets, dreadful arts of the magic of death and souls, elevated the Necromancer and his Acolytes to new heights of power.

The Necromancer would go on to assemble a blasphemous tome of the darkest arts, which he used to instruct his followers.  This book, "Whispers of Persephone", contains secrets of the dark arts that had never before been known to mortals.

Among the secrets possessed by these practitioners of the darkest arts were the secrets of ritual sacrifice.  Through blood and pain, these magicians were able to enhance their power and become even more dreadful. Their path to power, paved in the suffering of their victims, drove them to commit unspeakable acts.

Curses upon those who seek the power of this tradition, and woe be unto those who fall victim to its adherents!


Whispers of Persephone is a rpg source book and spellbook detailing the arcane tradition of Stygian Necromancy.  Illustrated by the remarkable Christian Martinez to be dark and beautiful, this book is a great resource for your campaign and looks great in your collection.  Whether used by players or against player characters, Whispers of Persephone is book for any campaign that wants their dark arts to be DARK again!

Coming to KickStarter Summer of 2018!

Thank you for joining me on my continuing adventure into writing and self-publishing.  I do hope you find these entries useful for reference and of aid to you in your own endeavors.

*If you have questions please comment below.

Copyright Notice:  Whispers of Persephone is copyright 2018 by W.S. Quinton
This blog entry is made as an introduction to the subject matter of that book, and no rights to the copyright of Whispers of Persephone are conveyed, implied, or otherwise transferred or commuted to any other person or entity.

Written for mature audiences and released under the Open Game License (as detailed in SRD5.1)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Tarot Adventures continue

Today's entry isn't about the Kickstarter, its about something far more important, the story!

Good evening everyone.  As you know, I've had my crowdfunding campaign for the second book in the Tarot Adventures.  The second in a series I've planned as twenty-two books in length. It is, perhaps, needless to say that this is an ambitious project.  But in all things involving writing for fantasy the story is what is important.

So today I want to touch on the story going on in the Tarot Adventures a bit, beyond what is published on the pages dedicated to those individual books.

Tarot Adventures, Book One: The Draw of Glenfallow ~

When I wrote the first draft for this adventure I was focused on writing something that was setting neutral and easily portable into most fantasy campaigns.  When I write I like to give NPCs more than just stats.  I like to make them characters with a role to play in the story that is unfolding.  So to was the case with TDoG, Pieron had a key role in the story beyond being just the story hook.  I had written in example dialogue and provided background information for the game masters to use.  Players became invested, to varying degrees certainly, in Pieron. This became obvious as I was going over the feedback from the play testers.  {For more details see previous entries}

With the Tarot Adventures being created as a series, I came up with a number of adventure ideas to mold into a cohesive narrative.  So that is where we are today.  The Draw of Glenfallow has been well received by a number of people (see comments on the KickStarter page for Comet over Echo Rock for examples) who are now looking forward to what comes next.  So what comes next?

Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock ~

Comet over Echo Rock pits the players against monsters whom Pieron wants dealt with.  They have an opportunity to further ingratiate themselves with the new lord, become more well known as heroes, and can begin to garner wealth and political clout.  Monsters in a silver mine have a very real and negative impact on a newly seated lord's wealth and credibility, so they have to go!

What about after CoER?  Well, Death comes to Glenfallow is the working title I'm using.  That book is being designed for characters of 3rd to 5th level, which is a level range that has a lot of possibilities to it.  Story hooks are planned for the side quest I've written (which I hope to put into Comet over Echo Rock if we can reach our last stretch goal). Look for a grim adventure that tests the player character's mettle and the player's ingenuity.  I think its going to be one of those adventures people play through and remember with a sense of triumph.

I hope you'll look at the KickStarter and/or Indiegogo campaigns for Comet over Echo Rock and get your copy by supporting the project.  Please do share the link to help it reach as many gaming tables as possible.  I hope that one day I'll find people talking about their shared experience of playing through the Tarot Adventures and how they overcame the adventures.  I'm writing adventures and material that I want people to enjoy, to remember, and come back to.

Thanks for joining me on my adventure into writing and self-publishing.  Remember I welcome your questions and comments so please do post them below.  I hope that if you are wanting to write and publish your own material that this blog provides you with some useful insights along the way.

Thank you all and I hope to see you next time!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

50 Exotic Weapons from around the world in one book

Art by: Zachary Viola
From: The Steel Road
(c) 2017

Throughout history humanity has invented a wide array of weaponry.  Different cultures took different approaches to the development of their weapons due to resource availability, cultural values, and the necessity of overcoming their enemies.  While many weapons share particular features, such as blades, hard blunt ends, or pointy things that go in the other person; the diversity of weapons is quite impressive.

Role playing games have largely embraced European weapons.  On occasion you will see games that focus on unique fictional cultures with their own fantastic weapons.  You will also note a number of games that focus on China and Japan and draw heavily upon traditional and well known weaponry of those cultures. 

I am now announcing that I will be releasing an exotic weapon sourcebook this year. With art very near completion, I will be launching a KickStarter campaign once fulfillment for Comet over Echo Rock is complete, to fund production costs for this title.   The Steel Road contains details on weapons from far flung areas of the world.  The book is created in a sketchbook style, contains game mechanic information for each weapon, contains all original art by Zachary Viola (he's put in hundreds of hours illustrating this book), and details fifty exotic weapons from around the world and examples of an enchanted version of each. 

The Steel Road follows the journey of a fictional weapons merchant and chronicles the strange weapons he has encountered in far off lands. This provides a bit of a back story for your enjoyment as you journey around the world.

Great things about this book: It has a lot of resources for you to draw from as a player or as a game master; the art is outstanding (I'll be teasing out more of it in coming weeks); you can get it as a backer reward through the KickStarter campaign (and get it cheaper that way too);  you won't be waiting on it as its almost done now and should be completely done by the time the KickStarter campaign concludes; and it will be available in PDF and will be available for print on demand (available in both soft cover and hard cover options).


Short post today, but if you have any comments or questions please leave them below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Please do take a look at the Comet over Echo Rock Kickstarter campaign, pledge and share it around.  You'll support is greatly appreciated!

As always, thank you for joining me on my great adventure into writing and self-publishing.  I hope to see you next time.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Writing for the Dark Arts: Whispers of Persephone

As I worked on the design for Whispers of Persephone I found myself wandering down dark paths of thought.

What would motivate people to practice necromancy?  What reasons would they cling to in order to justify horrific acts?  What prize are they seeking at the expense of their humanity or even to jeopardize their immortal soul?  These questions circulated in my mind as I sought to put together a book that did justice to the dark arts of fantasy and myth.

For role-players it can be fun to be the bad guy, to practice arts few dare to embrace, and to do cool but icky things.  It makes your character stand out, affects the game experience, and can take your campaign into dark, strange, and wondrous territory.  Does your character practice the darkest arts because of an obsession or fear of death and dying?  Is the lure of power and having people fear your character what brought the interest in the necromantic arts to the fore?  Find your motivation, and it will help you to role-play your actions.

Lets start this discussion with one of the main premises of the book: Necromancy is a dark art of magic.

In many historic views on necromancy, the magics practiced were usually aimed at contacting and communicating with the dead.  This was seen as a means of garnering secrets, obtaining knowledge, and foretelling the future.  In my experience it has been very rare for magician characters to practice necromancy in this manner.  I have added elements to the practice of Stygian Necromancy to allow for such.

Legends, literature, and movies have brought dark stories of horrific practices of the necromantic arts to our awareness.  Rituals and spells of necromancy should possess those horrific traits associated with the darkest of arts.  Whether you are animating the dead as servants, or sacrificing the innocent to gain forbidden knowledge, the practices of necromancy should be reprehensible. 

I felt that if I wanted to produce a book about necromancy, that people would want to use, and that wouldn't just be disgusting flavor text, I would have to balance these aspects into carefully crafted concept.  I had to re-create the mystique, the horrific intent, and dreaded powers of the necromancer.  It has been a challenge to say the least.


The craft, rituals, and spells of Necromancy:

Many of the existing, open game license spells for necromancy are definitely evil.  Bringing new game play features requires creating things that aren't covered in the existing rules, or making existing effects thematically appropriate to the practice of necromancy.  By way of example, using necromancy to gleam knowledge skirts closely upon many divination practices. Summoning the ghosts of the long dead appears to borrow heavily from conjuration and summoning.  Transformation into the form of a person who is now dead would seemingly be the province of alteration and transformation magics.  Therefore it is the underlying method of the magic that must determine its nature.  So when using necromancy to garner knowledge, you may be pouring the memory from the mind of a dying victim.  When you summon a ghost you may use trappings of consequence to that shade and make offerings of blood.  For tranformations into the form of another person, you may utilize the blood of that person in the spell of transformation.

Along with the thematic elements of effects one should be mindful of the game balance.  Necromancers should NOT be as well versed in all applications of magic just because you can formulate trappings for their processes.  The level of difficulty for practices of necromancy should be varied based upon the difficulty of the action relative to its place in the overall game mechanic.  A spell that makes a skull explode as a form of necromantic bomb, should not be as effective as fireball and should not be of the same level.  Finding a balance in design is critical as it is the goal for people to actually play the necromancers from Whispers of Persephone.   Crafting rituals and spells that make sense, that don't break game play, and that have the eerie and evil components make these dark arts DARK and playable.


Stygian Necromancy

Did you ever want to play a specialist wizard and get more out of it than paying a little less to copy spells into your spell book?  I know I have.

Stygian Necromancy is designed to be playable, potent, darkly evil, and of use both as a playable pursuit of magic and as a practice in use by npcs (game masters I hope you love these bad guys!)

Blood rites, summoning of the dead, mind searing incantations, and spells of the foulest sorts are incorporated into this form of magic specialization.  Stygian Necromancy forces characters to perform evil acts as they ascend to power.  It presents reasons for having minions, for raising the dead, for blood sacrifices, and for the evil which men do in the pursuit of power.

The trappings of the arcane arts are an important part of the narrative.  A wizard's wand or staff is iconic.  So too must those trappings of the necromancer be so.  Its time to put the magic back into magical items, and for necromantic paraphernalia those items must be interesting and do icky things.  Look for the sacrificial daggers of the necromancers to be a feature readily associated with the practitioners of Stygian Necromancy.  Canopic jars, bottles of blood, and pieces of the anatomy of their victims can find interesting uses at the hands of these characters.

I'll be releasing little tidbits about this project over the next few months.  Look for the KickStarter campaign announcement to be made on the Whispers of Persephone page.  I will also be providing glimpses into the art going into this book on that page once it becomes available. 

So gather your minions, and summon your allies, for darkness is rising with the restless dead.  Necromancers, claim your power.

Thank you for joining me on my adventure into writing and self-publishing.  I hope you'll join me next time as the journey continues.

*If you have questions please comment below.

Copyright Notice:  Whispers of Persephone is copyright 2018 by W.S. Quinton
This blog entry is made as an introduction to the subject matter of that book, and no rights to the copyright of Whispers of Persephone are conveyed, implied, or otherwise transferred or commuted to any other person or entity.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Third level Publisher: I think I just leveled up!

Cover Art by: Brian Lee
Lettering by: James Lee

I'm really very happy about how this KickStarter campaign has been progressing.  So far, nearly half of all the backers who supported The Draw of Glenfallow have already come out and pushed this campaign past its funding goal and very near to the first stretch goal.  {Thank you all for coming out early and making this campaign so very exciting!}

This blog is really about sharing my experiences in writing and publishing (that last part is a lot more complicated than I originally thought).   Those of you who are just now reading this blog for the first time are encouraged to go back and read my posts on who you're writing for and growing your audience as we're about to go into some of that.

Here's what I'm thinking, today January 20th, 2018 as I look at my KickStarter campaign that has been going on just a little over seven days.  As I look back to my first Kickstarter launch where I launched Tale of the Wizard's Eye, I didn't know if people would be interested.  I knew I had created an interesting adventure and that I had some really great art (thanks team!) but I wasn't certain how it would be received.  It took weeks to reach the funding goal.  When I launched the KickStarter campaign for Tarot Adventures, Book One: The Draw of Glenfallow  I saw an amazing turn out from those backers who had enjoyed ToTWE, and The Draw of Glenfallow funded fully in just a few days.  It went on to fund at more than 400% of goal and I could not be happier at the response I've received from those backers.  Throughout those campaigns I really tried to encourage questions and feedback from the backers. I want to create the best books I can, and knowing what people want to see is incredibly important.  I received some feedback that was surprising and very helpful (for example, I hadn't seriously contemplated adding in pre-generated characters but it turned out to be something that several people were wanting.).  So I am writing for and toward my audience as I continue the development of the Tarot Adventures, because I'm creating it for those backers who make it possible.

This goes back to my earlier statements about building and respecting your audience.  Your audience is NOT your personal money machine.  They are the people who are making it possible for you to create something and bring it to the world.  If you should make some money, that is great, I'm very happy for you and I hope you do make some money.  We all need to eat, after all 😉.  That said, be reasonable and fair to your backers.  Personally, I have a very narrow margin on my KickStarter campaigns.  I read somewhere that you should aim to make 30% in profitable revenue from your crowdfunding campaigns.  I have not been doing that.  Part of that is in my print costs and shipping costs.  I own that, and I'm not complaining, I just don't feel justified in jacking up costs for backers so I can line my own pockets.  My books are getting made, my artists are getting paid, and I'll make revenue on future sales I'm sure (once I become better are marketing those titles I'm sure).  So if you want to follow the model of making a profit on your crowdfunding, make certain to find a way to cut your print and shipping costs, but make certain your quality doesn't suffer.  Therein lies the trick.

What I want to point out to you is that Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock had the same goal as TotWE and TDoG, and funded fully in just under four hours!  Yes the banner on the image above gives that away.  I was beyond thrilled when I saw that happen.  Almost all of the backers those first four hours were backers from TDoG.  I have to tell you, it felt amazing to see that kind of support.  I've been very fortunate in that I've had backers come back and support my titles because they have enjoyed what I've created in the past.  There is a certain amount of pressure to perform that is starting to grow on me, but I can handle that.  I want to continue to earn the support of my audience.   I like knowing that people are using my books in their games, and they are having fun, and that in some small way I've helped bring them a bit of joy and contributed to the memories they build together.  I think that is the real joy of writing whether you are a novelist, a comic book creator, a game designer, or a blogger, or what ever; there is a joy to be had from knowing that your words have an impact on people.

The Echo Rock Silver Mine by: Christian Martinez

The other thing I've noticed is the presence of my readers on this blog.  You've stuck by me here through shameless self-promotion.  You've been here reading when I've shared my mistakes.  You've been here when I've done things that weren't stupid and shared in my experiences as I've worked and struggled to grow Sinopa Publishing LLC.  Thank you for coming along on this adventure!

As it stands I feel like more people are finding my work, and joining the audience I'm writing for.  Each and every one of those people is important, not just for the money they spend, but for the experience they share with others.  My thought is that for each game master who buys my adventures, there are two or more people who are playing through those adventures.  So while one hundred and twenty-one backers made TDoG a reality, I am convinced that at least two hundred and fifty players explored Glenfallow Keep.  I can't put a price on that, and I hope you wouldn't either.

So I encourage you to create, and to do your best work each and every time.  Write because you enjoy it, design because its fun, and publish so that hundreds of people can explore your vision.  There is a lot to be said for bringing adventure to so many, and for playing that small role in helping friends build happy memories of their time playing together.

I hope you'll also help to support my work and spread the word to others.  So please do take a look at the KickStarter campaign for Comet over Echo Rock, support it if you can, and please do share the link with others.  Each share on social media gives others the chance to join in this shared experience, and I appreciate every player you may help bring to Glenfallow to explore the Tarot Adventures.

In coming entries I'll be speaking about other projects coming from people who I'm acquainted with.  I have friends who are producing a card game, and I've been fortunate enough to get to the know the folks at Darkslinger comics who are producing an amazing title called Ghost AssassinI'll be writing a review of it as I get glimpses into that.  That review will be in my book review blog.

Thank you all for joining me on my adventure into writing and publishing.  I hope to see you next time!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

How to find artists, and biographies of artists I've found to be reliable.

I've been writing, and working to publish material for a little under one year (as of this writing).

I have had to research many things.  I've had to learn about promotion, software, social media, and marketing (I admit, I still have much to learn). 

One thing I haven't had trouble with is finding talented, professional artists. Let me be clear on that and state that I have had a wonderful experience with those artists who have agreed to work with me.  You can read previous entries on this blog to see more about my views on how to treat artists.

I don't get a lot of comments on my blog.  I get a good deal of messages about my blog though.  I get them through my social media channels and by email.  I suppose people don't feel comfortable asking "Hey, can you tell me where you found an artist that can XYZ?"  But it's really no big deal to find talented people with a good work ethic and to retain them.  It really comes down to two points:  be a decent human being (as a client) to your freelancers and pay them fairly. 

So, how do you find talented professionals?

Once you find art that speaks to you for your needs, identify the artist.  I would recommend checking to make certain that work is in fact, originally done by that artist and not an instance of someone violating copyright.  Find the artist, identify that person's contact points (online galleries usually have a contact point built onto them) and reach out to them for their rates. 

Once that artist replies, review those rates and make certain that the artist is within your budget.  If not, then tell that artist that you will keep their information handy, but that you can't afford them just yet but you would like to work with them in the future when finances allow.  Don't lie, don't try to gloss over things, just be honest.   If you can afford the artist, then hire them and you're off to the races.  It's really pretty simple.

But what if you can't find an artist, or you're concerned about their capabilities or reliability?  Well, you can always ask around to other writers and publishers.  It has been my experience that such communication is an excellent way to find remarkable talent.  Be professional in all such communications.  Don't try to casually poach someone's talent.  Just be upfront and honest in your inquiry.  Not all writers and publishers will agree to share such information, but most of the folks I speak to have no problem in helping their freelance artists find more work.

It is important to note, that it is in your best interests if the artists you work with have steady work.  After all, you want "your" artists to be able to focus on being artists.  Its a bit more difficult to get your commissions done when an artist has to juggle their art production around a day job.  If you can, help promote them. If you can, help people find them for commissions. Eventually "your" artists can focus on doing art as their main career.  This directly benefits you and if you don't understand how, message me and we'll discuss it.  (Seriously, no shame in that, message me and we'll go over it).

Another option:  Look into artists who are studying at accredited art institutes/colleges

Most of the artists I have utilized to date have studied and graduated from the Kubert School.  I can find no fault with these individuals.  That is not to say they are perfect human beings, but they are damn fine artists, and serious professionals, one and all (again, in my experience). 

Look into local art schools, check out their resources for student employment opportunities and for alumni listings. The Kubert School is also very active on social media, so you can find out information about that institution very readily. Use these resources for what they are intended for:  to enhance the employment opportunity of these students and graduates.  This makes for a vast pool of potential candidates for you to pull art from.  As above, be professional, be honest, and pay fairly.  If you don't, people won't want to work for you.  You have been advised.

Some of you will want more immediate access to talent.  To that end, I am once again going to point out that I maintain a list of biography pages for those artists whom I work with. I'll post that data below but I have this to say: These are professionals, they do NOT work for "exposure", they are reliable, and worth their rates.  Please do not waste their time with low ball offers and b.s. .

Thank you.

Links in the names will take you to the artist biography page I've built.  Links on those pages will take you to their individual online resources.  I have added comments for those artists who have already produced art for me.  A couple of artists on this list are in the middle of commission work for me and have proven their capability enough for me to be comfortable with publishing their biography pages.

 Lotus Blair 

 Nick Caponi

Kelsy Cowan

Rebecca Elisbet Coulthart

Fraggle (She's special)

Brian Lee (The Full Bleed Artist)

James Lee

Christian Martinez

Jake Ochoa

Phoenix O'Faery

Anthony Ojeda

Alexia Veldhuisen (samurai genius)

Zac Viola

Samantha Vogelsang

So that is my list.  If you need quality art, these are amazing professionals. 

I hope you will take from this entry what is intended.  Treat your artists well and it will benefit you in the long run.

Thanks again for joining me on my adventure into writing and self-publishing.

I hope to see you next time.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome (really, I mean that).

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock Crowdfunding video

I'm launching the crowdfunding campaign on January 13th.

Tarot Adventures, Book Two: Comet over Echo Rock is a dark, gritty adventure for characters of 2nd through 4th level.

Contains all original art and builds on the story from The Draw of Glenfallow (but its not necessary to have played through that module in order to enjoy Comet over Echo Rock).

I will be providing links to the campaign on launch day.  I'll also be doing a live stream at 8pm EST via KickStarter live, where myself and several artists will be taking questions, talking about the Tarot Adventures, and having a fun time with the community.  So check that out and join in.  It will be fun.

Interested in the Tarot Adventures, but want a reminder?  Follow me on KickStarter (W.S. Quinton) or follow me here, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  I'll be posting about this through the week.

Thanks for joining me on this grand adventure into writing and publishing.
I hope you'll join me next time as well.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Respect your audience

Today I had a first time experience.

I received an e-mail from one of my KickStarter backers asking me to remove him from the email list I had built.  I did so immediately.

Now, some of you may wonder what is so weird about that.  Well, I built my list from asking questions in backer surveys, and asking people if I could add them to my email list for future notifications (my language was more precises in its word choice, but stick with me).

So I received the email back, as a reply to a seasonal greeting that I had attached information on coming projects to.  Personally, I have often received email from places I once wanted to be kept in touch with (web comics, podcasts, etc.)  Then after a while I would stop looking forward to such communication, and I would remove myself from their site or request that I be removed.  Usually it took a while to get off those lists.

I realized tonight, that it shouldn't have taken any time at all for me to be removed from those sites.  I also realized that I had acted in good faith with this backer.  I felt good about that.

While I hope that person will continue to support my efforts, he or she will not be receiving emails from me.  I respect that person's wishes.

The point I'm trying to make is this:

Often people are told that the key to directly marketing your products and talents, is to be able to reach to people directly.  Email lists are a valuable commodity then, as they represent people who have interacted with you before (hopefully have a positive experience).

The problem with that viewpoint is that it casts those people you are communicating with in the role of a commodity.  They are valuable to your bottom line.  That is a point I have to take a stand against. While whatever money you are making is probably important, the peace of mind of your audience is more so.  Always respect your audience. Even, and perhaps specifically, when a member of that audience doesn't want to be there anymore.

Don't try to hold on to people like they are treasure. Instead, treasure the people you hold onto, and be gracious to those who leave.

Now this isn't like a bad break up story.  No drama or anything like that.

In my emails to people, I include a message that basically says "hey, I put this list together from people who authorized me to do so. If I've made a mistake or you want me to take you off the list, just email to me and say so".  Its easy on all parties.

Now my audience isn't large, so yes I'll miss that one person.  But I'm glad that I stuck to my business ethic.  I'm proud of myself for doing the right thing.

I hope that in your dealings, you'll do the same.

Thank you for joining me once again on this fantastic journey into self-publishing.

I hope you'll join me next time as well.

Frankenstien Faktoria, by Angus Abranson

Good morning everyone!

If you haven't seen it yet, Angus has launched a project of his own on KickStarter!

Many of you know of Angus from his fantastic articles on En-World and his contributions on various social media channels about crowdfunded rpg projects.

The project looks really cool, with great art examples attached and all the details you want to know about a new rpg project. 

Lets all take a moment out of each of these next few days, and give this project some love and attention by sharing the link out to other, supporting this project, and showing our appreciation for a member of the community who has helped so many of us in our efforts to get our own projects off the ground.

Thank you Angus, for all you do!!!

Link to the campaign is below.  I hope you will all take a moment to use it and help get the word out.

Thanks everyone