Monday, December 30, 2013

State of Rite Publishing 2013

State of Rite Publishing 2013

Illustration by Dennis Darmody

Best Year Ever!

This is the third year in a row I have gotten to make this statement, and I have no idea how we will top it next year.

I will give you a quick rundown of some of the highlights:

  • We finished up the Faces of the Tarnished Souk Npc series (PFRPG) and started work on a compilation of all 30 of these complex NPCs.  
  • Jonathan Roberts (who won an ENnie this year for best cartography and had me accept it for him) started his Fantastic Maps Iconic series moving away from battle maps to overland maps you could use in your campaign with customizable icons.
  • We released Heroes of the Jade Oath (PFRPG) as a full-color hardback to both critical and commercial success; this project had been in the works for over 3 years and was my #1 focus for the first part of 2013.
  • We launched a new series called 20 Foes by PFRPG stat-block master Justin Sluder accompanied by newcomer Elaine Betts with a focus on high quality art as exemplified by its first release 20 Variant Foes: Red Dragons    
  • We released The Secrets of Adventuring (PFRPG) our largest page count print product to date, and it has received extremely high reviews and critical praise even as a compilation of a number of small PDFs.
  • We had a surprising best seller with In the Company of Fey (PFRPG) by Wendall Roy, standing out from all the other playable monster class PDFS we created, finding financial success on both DrivethruRpg/RpgNow but on as well.
  • We started selling our Pathfinder compatible products through Herolab, it has been extremely successful, and after a few kinks on the business side at the start, I am really looking forward to continuing this trend.
  • We were part of a Bundle of Holding for the very first time, and I must say I was well pleased by the results, and look forward to doing this again.
  • We participated in a very successful steam-like deep discount sale via DrivethruRpg on our book 1001 Spells; in addition, have begun a higher focus on making print products available via DrivethruRpg’s partnership with the printer Lightning Source.   
  • We completed another full year of our Pathways e-zine (make it our third year for pathways!). With original cover art by a new and different artist each month, as well as moving that product from being Free to a “pay what you want” model with the help of DrivethruRpg, along with Herolab and Realmsworks becoming our official advertising sponsors of the e-zine.
  • We finished the first 4 issues of Adventure Quarterly and then launched a Kickstarter for the next 4 issues so that we could do all original artwork and hand drawn cartography, I am really looking forward to issue #5 next Quarter.  
  • We released our first stand-alone game using the FATE system The Demolished Ones by Brian Engard, it is an amazing Victorian, noir, steampunk, lovecraftian horror, murder mystery, quest for identify, roleplaying adventure game
  • We forged a new print/distribution partnership with my friend Angus Abramson and his new company Chronicle City and got to enjoy Gen Con selling The Demolished Ones (FATE) in the Chronicle City booth.
  • We had an amazing Kickstarter and retail release of our second stand-alone game, Lords of Gossamer & Shadow (Diceless Role-Playing). We went way over goal, and we released it to both backers and to retail on time, so this made me immensely proud, as I believe it is the best thing Rite Publishing has ever done.

And those are just some of the highlights and do not even cover them all, however with any high there are also lows and I will point out a few of these here.

  • The Martial Arts Guidebook: I will never do IndieGoGo again for a Crowdfunding project it was an experiment and it failed. We lost focus a lot on this one and that is my fault as I was off focusing on older projects like Heroes of the Jade Oath, The Demolished Ones, and Lords of Gossamer & Shadow. This has become the focus of my administrative duties. I am happy to say that authors and developers finalized the manuscript just this month and it is now in editing; with that manuscript done, I a requiring that the project move more quickly now.
  • Questhaven Campaign Setting: my pet project saw only one major update this year, this is something that has to change, and so it has become the focus of my writing. This meant sacrificing writing for the 101 Series, Lords of Gossamer & Shadow, Adventure Quarterly, and a host of other projects, as well as my goal to release a new product every week, and a new print product a month, but I need the framework done so that I can bring in freelancers to work on specific sections.
  • Dissolving our print/distribution partnership with Cubicle 7: I really like the folks, who work there, but from a business standpoint, it was a bad relationship, and it took us both a while to admit it. They have their focus on The One Ring Rpg, Doctor Who and the host of other games they do, and no longer have a need for partnerships. Because of the needs those other projects have they don’t have the ability to maintain the kind of business relationships I was used to with them, and to be honest what a partnership like that requires. Ultimately, this is my fault I should have acted sooner.  
  • I pitched a licensed miniatures skirmisher game to potential licencor and after some initial excitement on their part, the potential licencor went silent on us, maybe we were competing with their own plans for a similar game, but I really felt this was a major missed opportunity. Nevertheless, be on the lookout for what we do with this idea next year :0

Personal Highs

  • The University of Northern Texas had me give a guest lecture for their geek week, and I got the opportunity to talk about Kickstarter.
  • Another RPG company asked me to write a forward to their book. (And of course, I said yes!)
  • DrivethruRpg removed Rite Publishing from the small-press list (wait when did folks start considering me a big boy, I don’t want to grow up?!)

Final Thoughts:

It has been a glorious year, I have gotten to work with a massive number of amazing and talented people, and have enjoyed both commercial and critical success. I have also found happiness in my personal and professional life this year, when I look back, I immediately start looking forward not just to what we are releasing next week, next month, next quarter or even next year but what Rite Publishing is going to be doing over the next 5 years especially with our stand-alone games.   

All I can really say is thank you to our customers, fans, and all our staff. It really has been the Best Year Ever!

Steven D. Russell
Proud owner of Rite Publishing

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Secrets of the Divine Preview Part 2: Divine Orders.

Illustration by Ian Greenleee

This is a sneak preview of excerpts taken from "The Secrets of the Divine: Pantheon, Love, Sky, & Wright" coming out this month from Rite Publishing, this covers the flavor of various archetypes Steven D. Russell is introudcting in this supplement to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. 

Divine Vessels

I have found in my experience that Divine Vessels are an unusual occurrence in most lands they are somewhat more common in Questhaven and its surrounding Protectorate. From the divine servant Hadroniel the Majestic, Doorwarden of the Second Gate, which could not enter the earthly realm in its true form or when the elder titan Oreithyia, Prophetess of Tragedy sought to cheat death after having foreseen her own eminent doom. It was at times like these that one of Our Sovereigns of Heaven choses a wayward follower like Coel the Carter to serve as the instrument of its will and made him a divine vessel for Hadroniel, lucky Anwyl o’ the Antegate stumbled upon a fortunate opportunity to oblige Oreithyia. Yet there are even more examples, the Chardab’s Cart, now a sacred relic, judged the mere mortal Ren Dyrfanson worthy of “the gift” of becoming a divine vessel though I know not which spirit inhabits it, and once the Sisterhood of Rose Wheel powerful conjurers who bound Sahrewathe the Bounteous Immortal to the poor undeserving wretch Lynwen Quayle.
Divine Vessels are usually simple folk who can now summon the power of a mighty avatar of near deific might. This avatar does not come to the vessel's side, however; it takes over the vessel's body, transforming the mortal into an obvious being of power to smite its patron’s foes. The sight of the unleashed avatar is a either beautiful or terrifying, but few would suspect that such power erupts from so humble a servant.
Some mortals such as my friend Coel the Carter, see this as divine favor forming a deep bond of friendship with their alter ego, while others such as Lynwen Quayle see it as a divine penance for their transgressions, despising the possession and violation of their body.

Qwilion’s Note: Owain Northway has left one important point out of his comments on the nature of the Divine Vessels, but I would be remiss if I did not mention that Divine Vessels are not limited to divine beings, and then any outsider or extraplanar creature could fill a mortal shell. I have more than a few examples but the most prominent was Angra the Inhibitive Immortal who inhabited Captain Madern Barrett of the Stygian Myrmidons.

Hedge Knight (Cavalier Archetype)

In my opinion, these are the only true knights of the realm. Hedge knights live often live on the edges of civilization, and have given up most of their worldly wealth, they sleep outdoors, and often cannot even afford a mount, as what they do have they invest in their armor and shield.
Questhaven legends say the calling of the hedge knights was born o of knights sleeping under the ancient hedges that grow along the Oneiric River, who find themselves transported to the strange world of dreams. And they performed some of the most renowned and strange quests in our great stories. Due to this unlike in other realms Hedge Knights in the Protectorate have a high standing, and it is considered the highest blasphemy to slay a knight sleeping under a hedge, and only the followers of Their Vicious Brother of Destruction will violate this custom, robbing him and leaving him bound and gagged is another matter altogether.   
Hedge knights tend to live on the outskirts of urban areas searching for a patron to serve, many though take up the life of a knight errant, attending tournaments to make money and display their prowess, hoping that by making a name for themselves they will secure a patron. Many Hedge Knights though sadly are often forced by circumstances to resort to banditry, piracy, and mercenary work.

Order of the Nightingale

The Order of the Nightingale are the fairest of all the cavalier orders found within the Protectorate and in my opinion are the Protectorate’s greatest defenders of love, for they dedicate themselves single individual whom the love, be it a passionate marriage to a beggar’s son or a forbidden and platonic love with the king’s wife. These cavaliers believe in love and romance, and are willing to lay down their lives to protect someone to whom they are devoted. 
I have always found them attired as shining knights, in the finest cloth, while wearing garland wreathes of roses and lilacs, and bearing the heraldry of their order a black panther somewhere (though many have individual stylized representations). My friend Fair Dame Telyn Locke like many members of the order composes poetry, plays the lyre and harp, sings while she travels about the land, laughs loudly, and delights in the company of all good people but primarily the company of the one she loves. Her personal symbol is a rampart panther in front of a portcullis. If she rides, she covers her mount with gaily chiming bells, though many members of the order are hedge knights rather than mounted cavaliers.
The order’s purpose is to seek out and defend your love when it is in peril, or lost, and defend it to the death, to make sure that love prevails. Fair Dame Telyn loves one born to the bloodline of the hated Cynmark Dynasty, and has taken a vow of celibacy till all the evil of that was done it its name is atoned for. Fair Sir Riogoned Gwyrson, serves as the bodyguard to the Most Favored of Our Fairest Lady of Love and Song, who unfortunately for him is betrothed in an arranged marriage to a member of House Larkchild. While many are tragic figures others find true love and happiness and quest about with those they have fallen in love with; for as Fair Dame Telyn says “we represent both the best and worst of love, for love can exalt you unto Heaven, or guide you down the path to Damnation.”
From what I have been able to determine, members of the order follow the calling of their heart, and either another member of the order, a member of the clergy, or some manifestation of Our Jewel in Heaven leads them to a mentor, and sees their initiation into the order.
This solitary order has no true organization, and it is rare to find more than one aesthete with any other except when one is serving as a mentor to the other. The members of the order report to no one in the church hierarchy, though I believe the silent sect guides them from time to time.

Silent Sect of the Watchful Unicorn

The Silent Sect of the Watchful Unicorn, the avowed foes of Damnation and all the machinations that flow from there, is the oldest secret society in existence, and it was with great difficulty that I uncovered some if not all of their clandestine activities. I have no substantive proof but enough corroboration from various sources that I will put down the information here and let you decide.
Many members of the sect are fair ones and hedge knights of the Order of the Nightingale, along with many other occupations, but the primary members of the organization are apparently bards. They have no known symbol of office that I could uncover, I only learned of the name of the order when I learned of one of the pass phrases they use, this however I will not print here.
Understand if you meet someone who claims to be from the Silent Sect of the Watchful Unicorn  they are either lying and most likely serve the forces of Damnation or you are about to be recruited to join the order. Most often though you will encounter them and never know they belong to the sect, as they maneuver behind the scenes, moving forces such as adventurers like yourself into positions where you will oppose the forces of Damnation or the Dwellers in the Darkness. 
One of the things I have learned is that the sect knows the secret to tapping into the perfect music of the spheres of all existence. While Damnation and the Dwellers in the Darkness despise beauty and purity, the Silent Sect of the Watchful Unicorn gains power from them, I have listed some of these secrets below.

Hawks of Vengeance

The Hawks of Vengeance are the foremost order of inquisitors serving Our Father of Star and Sky. Moreover, they are nothing but stone-cold killers, just like their namesakes trained to naught but to hunt and maul. Believe me when I say they were not formed to look inward at the church like other inquisitors you are used to encountering, but to put fear into the hearts of the forces of darkness, and if such forces can know fear the hawks do their duty well.  Their style of fighting is fierce and bloody; they bring the vengeance judged from on high to the enemy, up close and personal. They believe one cannot reason with evil and that some creatures will find salvation only in death. Therefore, these high-minded butchers met out brutality and bloody vengeance against the enemies of the church and all the forces of the light. But be warned they do not care about the means of enacting their revenge, only the ends. To these ends, the hawks have become wild, passionate warriors, and when they come upon the forces of malevolence, they abandon any sense of “honor” or “mercy” and instead seek to ravage their foes completely. Yet they also seek to spread fear to those who would stray for the path of the righteous and will often maim their foes (as well as to burden their foes, with caring for their injured). They often horrify paladins and their religious brethren the eagles of freedom, and myself included.

Windrider (Dragon Rider Archetype)

Windrider’s are a unique gift from Our Father of Sky and Star, my opinion is that because dragons are so scarce in the lands of Questhaven (only 3 dragons are known to still be alive), Our Great Eagle felt a need for a different kind of aerial champion. And so after talking to the giant harpy eagle and windsteed, “Perch” , I have learned that she was struck by lightning our of a clear blue sky,  a fork of it struck her windrider (it arched through the ceiling of the prison he was held in underground), yet neither were harmed though the thunder did deafen them for at time. She says that during this time they both felt a continued calling toward her windrider.  My study of the bond has revealed that its power is drawn from the windrider, the windsteed, and the divine.
 Mostly windrider’s serve Our Welkin Patrician simply by flying and demonstrating their skills to those below, spreading the majesty of Our Sovereign of the Wind for all to see, though some choose to patrol a particular area, and more than a few enforce the aerial routes one is allowed to use to enter Questhaven.
While windriders personalities vary I have discovered that windrider’s do tend to fall into four groups though they rarely if ever form factions as the organization is too informal. The first are called North Winds, they are aggressive individuals who always confront things head on, with a relenting persistence. South Winds they are devious and cunning, and always seem to be working an angle they prefer trickery rather than persistence. West Winds are constantly on the move preferring to leave if forced into any type of confrontation or challenge, simply moving on to the next place. West Wind are the most likely to take on passengers and if they support violence at all, it is as cold blooded revenge, preferring to snipe at foes from afar. East Winds are defenders of the sky, gifted at both verbal and aerial sparing, aerial acrobats of the best sort.  Note if the rider does not display one of these personality traits then be assured his windsteed will for Our Father of Sky and Star seem only to care that one of the pair worship him.
It is rare for a windrider not to be a member of the Questor’s Society, and the order itself is considered to be a company within the adventurer’s guild. This is mostly done as a practical matter based on the society’s love of the church, the majesty and high esteem the windrider’s hold, and the simple fact that they are the greatest cavalry in the known world.

Relic Seekers

This errant and fanatical order of Our Master of Forges seeks to recover grand works that have been lost or hoarded away. They believe no one should hold the glorious work of artisans, that we should all let others behold these grand works where they will be safe. They see it as a great sin against both their fellow mortals and against Our Grand Wright in Heaven to miserly hide away the masterpieces that belong to the world. The Relic Seekers have hired me and other members of the Questor’s Society for expeditions to cleanse long-lost cities, recover corrupted temples, and retrieve lost works of beauty and powerful artifacts. They have a deep hatred for most dragons and the Fell Repositories of the Immortal Emperor Cynmark, as well as a number of those entombed in the Plains of Solace.
I once inquired of my fellow Questor Rhinfrew, what it takes to become a relic seeker, and he told me it requires a unique calling from Our Sovereign of Crucibles, and a special apprenticeship, which teaches them about the mystical secrets and history, of the world’s greatest of artifacts. Rhinfew and his fellows claim no special titles, but when I asked him what he does in the Guildhall of the Heavenly Bull, he simple said he was a relic seeker.
Due to the nature of their mission relic seekers are closely associated with the criminal underworld as they seek to recover objects from the blackmarket or from the thieves themselves. Rhinfew and Booglefool the Knave of Cogs are quite a famous pairing of a relic seeker and a rogue, with the two tracking down and retrieving valuable relics. Relic seekers will seldom if ever travel who are willfully destructive or have no respect for beauty. I know not what it says of Rhinfew’s association with me.
Rhinfew said he and is fellows, are most likely to be found adventuring, and are not closely tied to the guildhall. Instead he pursued a endless crusade for the reclamation of lost wonders. Some of his fellow relic seekers dedicate their entire lives to cleansing the ancient and magnificent dwarven hold known as Mithril Deep, lost to Those Who Dwell in Darkness centuries before, or relentlessly pursuing a single artifact, such as the The Ioun Golem, until they are old and frail. While the relic seekers follow the doctrine of the guildhall, they must also preserve the sanctity of the great wonders. A relic seeker would never allow a masterpiece to fall into the hands of one who would hoard it away, and will fight to the death to prevent it. If it should happen, the relic seeker must atone and seek to recover the item for the rest of his days. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Secrets of the Divine Preview: Artisan of Hallowed Vessels (Rogue Archetype)

Illustration by Ian Greenlee

This is a sneak preview of "The Secrets of the Divine: Pantheon, Love, Sky & Wright" coming out this month from Rite Publishing

Artisan of Hallowed Vessels

Just as clerics can use divine power granted them by the Our Grand Wright of Heaven, and paladins and inquisitors can forge their divine gift into martial prowess, the artificer of hallowed vessels receives gifts from Our Clever-Handed Craftsman of Innovation to pour into the items she craft. Though, like an oracle, deities bestow these gifts rather than being a result of any particular profusion of faith, unlike the oracle, the artisan forsakes learning the use of spells and instead learns to channel her sacred talent into a permeable and permanent form of magic.
The artisan of hallowed vessels is able to enchant items with divine power, and call upon her divine gift to exceed the limits of other less divinely inspired master craftsmen. Artisans of the hallowed vessels are known throughout the protectorate as the greatest magical craftsmen, and are highly sought after by the Honorable Order of Theugirc Master Craftsmen. If a project within the Guildhall of the Heavenly Bull is taking place, one can be assured that an artisan of hallowed vessels is amongst the leaders of the discussion.

Artisan of Hallowed Vessels (Rogue Archetype)

Skills: An Artisan of Hallowed Vessels gains Knowledge (arcana) (Int) and Knowledge (Religion) as class skills, these replace the rogue class skills of Knowledge (dungeoneering) (Int) and Knowledge (local) (Int).

Gift for Artifice (Su): The artisan is a master craftsman and artist when it comes to crafting items, especially magical items. For the purpose of creating and forging magical items the artisan is considered a spellcaster with a caster level equal to her artisan of hallowed vessels class level. Spellcraft is also considered a class skill. The artisan can ignore nearly all item creation prerequisites in their descriptions. The DC to create a magic item increases by 5 for each prerequisite the artisan does not meet (just as it does for normal magic item creation). The only exception to this is the requisite item creation feat and the caster level, which are mandatory. In addition, unlike normal spellcasters, an artisan of hallowed vessels can create potions, spell-trigger, or spell-completion magic items without meeting its prerequisites (the DC still increases by 5 for each prerequisites the artisan does not meet). The items artisans create are divine even if the spell emulated by the item is normally arcane. An artisan of hallowed vessels adds 1/2 her class level to spellcraft checks made to create magic items and to use magic device checks. This replaces the trapfinding class feature.

Bonus Feat (Ex): The artisan of hallowed vessels may substitute +1d6 sneak attack damage for a bonus item creation feat. She can apply metamagic feats to item she creates, though he still must meet the caster level requirements for the spell modified by the metamagic feat.

Divine Gift (Su): At 3rd level an artisan receives a pool of points she can spend instead of gold pieces when crafting a magic item, as she can now use mundane and inexpensive items in such an incredible way that they gain the value required. Each time the artificer gains a new level after that, she receives a new divine gift; leftover points from the previous level do not carry over. If the points are not spent, they are lost. An artisan can also use her divine gift to supplement the GP cost of the item she is making, taking a portion of the cost from her divine gift and a portion from her own wealth.
·        From 3rd  through 5th level the amount of points granted is equal to 250 x the artisan’s class level.
·        From 6th through 10th level the amount of points granted is equal to 500 x the artisan’s class level.
·        From 11th through 15th level the amount of points granted is equal to 1,250 x the artisan’s class level.
·        From 16th through 20th level the amount of points granted is equal to 3,125 x the artisan’s class level.
This ability replaces the trapsense, improved uncanny dodge and uncanny dodge class feature.

Skill Mastery (Ex): If an artisan of hallowed vessels takes Skill Mastery as an advanced rogue talent she must select Spellcraft or Use Magic Device as one of her skills. This class feature circumvents the normal rule that a character may not take 10 on a Use Magic Device check.

Sneak Preview of Artificer Rogue Talents

These are a sample of 2 of 14 the rogue talents available to the artisan of hallowed vessels.

Salvage Vessel (Ex): An artisan is capable of breaking down any existing magical item (non-artifact) into a magical crystal which is a small quarter foot sized crystal cube that gives off a very faint light (this permanently ruins the item). These crystals weigh one pound and contains the essence (1/2 the gold piece value) of the item that is rendered down for parts. If the crystal leaves the artisan's possession, it becomes nothing more than a glass shard. An artisan may choose to use any of the crystals in her possession in any way, and their bonuses stack together when she is crafting. After tapping a crystal for its stored magic it dissipates and the crystal is consumed.  A rogue must have the divine gift class feature to select this talent.

Quicken Craft (Ex): The artisan may choose this talent to increases the daily rate at which she creates magical items by a factor (i.e. the first time this is selected the factor is x2 so you create 2000 gold pieces worth a day). Normally you create items at the rate of 1000 gp per day. This rogue talent can be taken several times, and stacks with itself. Each time it is chosen, add another real factor (i.e. x2 becomes x3: 3,000 gold per day) to the value of a single magical item that the character can create per day. A rogue must have the gift for artifice class feature to select this talent.