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First annual update: Today marks one year since the Great Old Ones returned to Chaosium


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FIRST ANNUAL UPDATE - 2 June 2016


Rick Meints
President, Chaosium

Today marks one year since the Great Old Ones returned to Chaosium.

I paused after writing that. The last 12 months went by so quickly, and so much has happened it is hard to take it all in. We in the new Chaosium have worked very hard to transform a company on the verge of bankruptcy into a thriving and profitable company. To that effect, we wanted to share with you some of our struggles and successes from this past year.

The first four months: firefighting, tough choices

The first four months of the new Chaosium consisted of a great deal of research to understand the full scope of all the problems Chaosium faced, and all of the proverbial fire-fighting that comes with dealing with them. We had to turn a company that was losing money every month into one that could at least meet payroll, pay enough bills to keep the lights on, and make real progress on fulfilling its Kickstarter obligations. By making a number of tough and sometimes painful choices, including closing the Hayward office and warehouse at the end of September, we succeeded in all of those goals.

The next four months: evoking the "orderium"

The next four months consisted of preparing to balance the company between being the Chaosium that everyone knows and loves and being a bit more like the "Orderium", a company that has internal processes with consistent standards. Fixing Chaosium needed to involve far more than just writing a big check to pay off debts and cover future expenses. For the Chaosium to produce ground-breaking games that amaze and delight gamers, the Orderium needed to follow schedules, stay within budgets and plan out the most efficient ways to professionally run a stable business. The debts to most authors, artists, and editors have now been paid, and we have a clear path for completing this important obligation. We also dealt with a large number of overdue bills to all manner of businesses, taxing authorities, and governmental agencies.

All along the way it took longer than we had anticipated to get the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition Kickstarter fully back on course. Instead of merely paying the printer to start the presses rolling we had to review, revise, and/or continue the creation of the books, combining them into a coherent package of products that have since been known as the core rewards: The Keeper Rulebook, Investigator Handbook, Keeper Screen Pack, Nameless Horrors, and the Petersen Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors. Our work isn’t finished yet, although we take great satisfaction in having delivered thousands of books to the 3000 backers who had been waiting since 2013.

The last four months: reconnecting and looking to the future

The last four months have been about focusing more and more on the future. With our finances in a less precarious position, it is now much more about allocating money to the product pipeline of new RPG books, fiction titles, and card games that we are creating. We are broadening our range of games with the return ofRuneQuest to the Chaosium family of RPGs. We will be relaunching our Basic Roleplaying line with a new edition of Mythic Iceland. As for card games, we’re working on a new edition of Credo and have partnered with Reiner Knizia to publishKhan of Khans.

Part of our new approach includes increasing Chaosium’s production standards to much higher levels. Take a look at the new Petersen Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors or Pulp Cthulhu and you will see these new standards in action. We have switched our main RPG titles to full color interiors on a higher standard of paper. If you compare either of those two books to a Chaosium RPG book from a year or two ago you will see a stark contrast in quality.

Another achievement we take great pride in is the rebuilding and restoration of communicating with our customers and fans. They are the life blood of the company. While we learned much along the way, our patient and appreciative audience continues to grow far beyond our expectations: 

  • Thus far, Chaosium’s fallow presence on Google+ has grown from about 500 members to over 2500. 
  • Our Twitter audience has grown by over 400% to more than 5700 followers. 
  • The reinvigorated Chaosium Facebook page has gone from 1867 likes to 7332 and rising. 
  • Our partnership with basicrolepaying.org has allowed us to participate more actively on forums relating to all of Chaosium’s games, past, present and future, especially in the increasingly active Cthulhu, Cult of Chaos, RuneQuest, and Glorantha sections. Those forums have seen over 1000 new participants join in the conversations hosted there. 
  • Adding to our corporate voice is our newly relaunched Organized Play group of GMs, the Cult of Chaos. Its ranks have swelled from around 200 to over 1300 participants. 

However, there is much left to do and say, and with all the support, suggestions and enthusiasm generated on social media we look forward to reconnecting even more with our audience.

A Company worth saving

We want to close this brief review with a word of thanks to the many many people who supported us all along the way. As we heard numerous times, it could have been far easier to just turn off the lights and call it a day, but Chaosium is a company worth saving. There is a lot of work left to do, and the kind words of encouragement and support truly helped us bring a little order into this wonderfully chaotic and iconic company. For so many things, we thank you.

And I personally can’t begin to thank all those involved in allowing me to have the job of lifetime,

Rick

 
Edited by MOB
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This is an inspiring statement from Rick

A great reflection over the past year, I like the direction its all heading in

MOB Thanks for posting it!

Edited by Mankcam
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" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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I am also interested in seeing what direction BRP core system goes with Mythic Iceland.

In some ways it may be logical to update it to be in keeping with the core skill mechanics from CoC 7E  for consistency. In other ways it may make sense for it to remain BRP Classic (BGB). However my preference would be to make the skill resolution consistent with CoC 7E.

In any case it will be a worthy title to be published with the same quality standards as the recent releases.

Despite such, focusing on two main product lines, CoC and RQ, is probably the best way tl go. I would rather have two good quality setting lines with great resources rather than try to spread those efforts broadly across too many settings.

However if BRP core/classic has a separate idenitity then it leaves a nice niche for licencees to fill in the gaps.

In any case, Chaosium sounds much more on track than it did this time last year. Some exciting days ahead

Edited by Mankcam
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" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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4 hours ago, clarence said:

Yes, I agree. Some more information on Mythic Iceland and BRP core rules would be nice. 

Given how Chaosium's design decisions and my preferences have diverged in the last year or so, this is the only thing left that Chaosium own that I have any interest in, (and given that divergence, this too may pass).

I was at UK Games Expo today and it was a sobering realisation that for the first time in my 37 years playing tabletop RPG there is nothing current or announced by Chaoisum I have any current interest in buying.

Especially poignant as they had a nice stall with some pretty product on sale.

Nick

 

Edited by NickMiddleton
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17 hours ago, Mankcam said:

I am also interested in seeing what direction BRP core system goes with Mythic Iceland.

My bet is that it will be roughly based on the new RQ, minus the Gloranthan runes, + Norse runes and other setting-specific stuff. I also guess that, consistently with their new-old vision vision it will be a standalone game. 

 

 

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I would like some consistency to some extent with all the BRP lines, including CoC 7E; well at least in the core skill resolution mechanics, which I feel is a litte better than the earlier mechanics. The changes are slight, not as much as how skill resolution differed in the MRQ SRD line, yet I think they are still an improvement.

It could easily work with the RQ2 stat block, just as long as the three values for skills don't get recorded on the hand written character sheet ( referring to a Quck Reference table is not an issue - we already do that with BRP BGB).

This way all three contemporary BRP lines will have a  consistent core skill resolution mechanic for familiarity's sake. It will be quite weird if this is not the case. Everything beyond the core sill mechanic should be modular to the setting line.

Mythic Iceland is certainly rich enough to be a stand alone setting, and given the popularity of the Vikings tv series at present, it makes it a hot property without paying royalties to someone like George R R Martin.

It makes good sense to repackage it, and I am sure it will look great with the current production standards.

Edited by Mankcam

" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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8 hours ago, NickMiddleton said:

I was at UK Games Expo today and it was a sobering realisation that for the first time in my 37 years playing tabletop RPG there is nothing current or announced by Chaoisum I have any current interest in buying.

 

Yeah I hate those situations.

Although the recent MagicWorld was not my preferred version of BRP, I still liked the mechanics over many other RPGs on the market, and I think that Ben Monroe did a great job compiling bits of the Elric/Stormbringer core books with bits of the RQ3 core book.

The same text with higher production standards could still peak interest. It probably doesn't make business sense for Chaosium to spread their efforts too broadly, however I wonder if there is now wiggle room for a licensee here?

Perhaps even Ben himself?

As the old Chinese proverb goes, "Crisis is just another word for Opportunity"

Edited by Mankcam

" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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8 hours ago, NickMiddleton said:

I was at UK Games Expo today and it was a sobering realisation that for the first time in my 37 years playing tabletop RPG there is nothing current or announced by Chaoisum I have any current interest in buying.

 

Mmh... So, I guess you were more excited in the early 2000s when Chaosium only announced Dragon Lords of Melniboné d20 and dual-statted reprints of old CoC books. 

Sorry. I couldn't resist!

More seriously. These things happen. In the heyday of the d20 era I often felt that virtually nothing of what the entire rpg iundustry was producing was of any interest to me. Given that I wasn't interested in either d20 or Forge stuff and Chaosium was producing very little.

I still remember how excited I was when WRFP2 came out around 2005. Perhaps the first game to break with the d20 mold and to reconnect to ages past. Then it was the turn of the flawed but important MRQ1. And then all sorts of things were possible again...

 

 

  

 

 

Edited by smiorgan
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9 hours ago, NickMiddleton said:

I was at UK Games Expo today and it was a sobering realisation that for the first time in my 37 years playing tabletop RPG there is nothing current or announced by Chaoisum I have any current interest in buying.

Yeah, I've felt similarly in the past year. There are times when it bothers me a little, and other times where I feel I've got a lot of Chaosium/d100 Rpg material already; do I need anymore?

1 hour ago, smiorgan said:

More seriously. These things happen.

Sure. Things change. Publishers release new editions, but you're not interested in following on that divergent branch. They focus on specific game lines that you're not interested, and leave others fallow.

But again, I have enough d100 Rpg material on my bookshelf to run campaigns for years or decades, and still not exhaust it. Do I have any dependency on Chaosium now? Perhaps the time is better spent using what I've got, developing and presenting the campaigns I want (or have wanted) to run, and cease being a consumer for now.

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2 hours ago, Mankcam said:

This way all three contemporary BRP lines will have a  consistent core skill resolution mechanic for familiarity's sake. It will be quite weird if this is not the case. Everything beyond the core sill mechanic should be modular to the setting line.

I agree with you (though not so much with the inspiration for the consistent core). It does make sense, and it would be weird if it wasn't the case.

I'm looking forward to a Design Note, or hell just a forum post where Chaosium covers this topic.

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I am surprised that I quite like the CoC 7E skill mechanic, but at the end of the day, I may have also been happy if the RQ skill resolution would have been followed instead.

I think the main thing is to have some consistency, so it makes sense now to follow CoC 7E since it is the most recent release

The core system from CoC 7E is only a few small tweaks to BRP BGB: adding an extra layer of skill success level; using a bonus/penalty dice instead of a +/- numerical modifiers; one maneuver action rule covering heaps of previous combat spot rules. More like refinements more than anything totally new. Most things simplify gameplay rather than making it more complicated. I wouldn't like to record three values of skill scores (thats not necessary), and perhaps the core Characteristics didn't need to be altered to be a % ( I don't mind it, but it is at odds with the stat blocks of earlier editions)

If CRQ4 had been released first, then it would have made sense to have CoC 7E influenced by CRQ4's mechanics instead.

I think it is strange that the two main rpg game lines seem to be developed in isolation, given that they are both rpgs under Chaosium's BRP umbrella. I like that RQ2 is being used as a foundation document, but I would think it would be logical for CRQ4's core skill mechanic to be consistent with the core skill mechanic of Chaosium's other flagship line.

If people are uncertain about changing from the old mechanics, then RQ2 is a perfectly valid option now that it is being released as RQ Classic. In fact perhaps Chaosium could release a CoC Classic as well, a slim book based upon the first or second edition, with the original text and art etc. Could be quite charming if it is a slim hardcover volume.

That way everyone could run either BRP Classic lines or BRP Contemporary lines, as per their preference. However it makes sense that the contemporary lines should have similar core skill resolution mechanics.

(I'll wrap this up here, otherwise I'm going off thread too much - it is meant to be acknowledging Rick's statement - sorry for the derail)

Edited by Mankcam
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" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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We haven't forgotten about the BRP line (wink: you guys won't let us...) and Mythic Iceland is a great first step towards a line of new/updated BRP products. We have a new BRP essentials on our list of future projects (no date assigned so no need to ask). Once again, it is not because we do not respect/appreciate/like what was done before. It has never been about that since we looked at all of the product lines a year ago, and many times since. It is cold hard economics that determine our choices. Many BRP items, including MW, didn't sell that well, regardless of how awesome/cool/neat/perfect you think it is. Spending $5000-$10,000 on a book that sells X hundred copies is not the best use of our time and resources. 

Let me conclude with this historical anecdote: Back in its heyday Chaosium had the production motto of "if it won't sell 7000 copies we won't do it". While we aren't back to those levels, we are adopting that approach with a lower production number and building from there.

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Hope that Helps,
Rick Meints - Chaosium, Inc.

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On 6/6/2016 at 3:04 PM, Rick Meints said:

It is cold hard economics that determine our choices. Many BRP items, including MW, didn't sell that well, regardless of how awesome/cool/neat/perfect you think it is. Spending $5000-$10,000 on a book that sells X hundred copies is not the best use of our time and resources. 

Let me conclude with this historical anecdote: Back in its heyday Chaosium had the production motto of "if it won't sell 7000 copies we won't do it". While we aren't back to those levels, we are adopting that approach with a lower production number and building from there.

I applaud this sensible approach! And I much prefer to have fewer, well edited and well supported games/settings than a haphazard release schedule as we had with BRP in the last years of the old Chaosium.

For instance, while I like very much Magic World's sleek BRP rules and delightful mini-seting, I hate that the game was full of typos, had minor rules inconsistencies, bland to ugly art and that it was not properly supported, It's very hard for a game presented like that to sell.

And the same goes for Chronicles of Future Earth. Nifty setting. No support.

Mythic Iceland is an exception. It is so good that it shines even in a modest presentation.  

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1 hour ago, smiorgan said:

Mythic Iceland is an exception. It is so good that it shines even in a modest presentation.

So just think how nice it's going to look when the new edition comes out with new layout, color interior art etc!

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11 hours ago, smiorgan said:

OK, you got me thinking. But, beware, I'm thinking all kinds of awesomeness! :D

 

Well, here's Old & New. The redone page layouts for the forthcoming Doors to Darkness scenarios book for Call of Cthulhu. ALL Chaosium books will have layout and art of this standard going forward...

 2016-06-09 12.59.22 (1).jpg

2016-06-09 13.01.03.jpg

Edited by MOB
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That's very cool. I mean, I'm emotionally attached to the BW layouts of Chaosium of the early 1990s - they were clean and classy, but it's right that Chaosium now embraces the level of visual quality of the rpg books of this century!

I really look forward to full-color editions of RuneQuest and Mythic Iceland.

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Wow! The new layout and production really looks great. 

Just like Smiorgan, I also have a nostalgic penchant for the old Chaosium layouts, but they are the kind of production that many rpg companies left behind a decade or more ago, and are certainly not up to par with today's standards.

The current pace is set by the evocative high quality publications that come out from companies like Games Workshop, Catalyst, Monte Cook Games, White Wolf/Onyx Path, Wizards Of The Coast, Pinnacle Entertainment, Cubicle 7, Modiphius, etc. 

I am really happy that the current production of CoC 7E has now made it to the heights of these other companies, and think it's great that Chaosium products are going to be of a similar standard.

Very impressive and definitely the way forward

Edited by Mankcam
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" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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If Chaosium is to compete on the same bookshelf with D&D, Pathfinder, and many others, we must present a quality product in all aspects. While our long-standing faithful fans may have grown to love the look of Chaosium's books from the previous 10-20 years, that look does not attract many new buyers. To thrive we need to expand our audience. Thus, while the visual appeal is vital, it will always go hand in hand with great content, which is king. Great writing is what will transform a new buyer into one of the faithful. 

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Hope that Helps,
Rick Meints - Chaosium, Inc.

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I chose the "10-20" years time frame because that lines up with the near bankruptcy cataclysm suffered by Chaosium when Mythos sales plummeted around 1997. After that the company went into a minimalist mode with their publications, with a general decline in art, layout and production values. That approach, with a few exceptions, lasted until about a year ago.

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Rick Meints - Chaosium, Inc.

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On 6/12/2016 at 0:32 PM, Rick Meints said:

I chose the "10-20" years time frame because that lines up with the near bankruptcy cataclysm suffered by Chaosium when Mythos sales plummeted around 1997. After that the company went into a minimalist mode with their publications, with a general decline in art, layout and production values. That approach, with a few exceptions, lasted until about a year ago.

<heh>  Yeah, I know.  Sorry, that was tongue VERY much in cheek.

 

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