2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. RPG Publishers are no exception. Being an engineer by training, I wanted to see the numbers of how this year is different than other years. With that in mind, I present to you JBE’s sales by location for June 2020 and compare the above chart with the one we did for 2019 (see right below).
In both pie charts, DriveThruRPG comes out on top and is approximately 50% of the market. Both Paizo and Amazon held on, each having about 8-9% of our sales.
That is where the similarities end. Studio 2 is not on the new chart. This is partially my fault as I have sent nothing new to distribution for a while, but from what I am hearing game stores are having a tough time of it right now. In times like these, I imagine they are stocking products that sell easier, like RPGs from Wizards and Paizo. the Open Gaming Store went down slightly, but that could simply be a one-month variance. The JBE Shop nearly tripled. While that also could be a one-month variance, I’ve noticed an uptick in sales from my own site for the year as a whole.
Then there’s Fantasy Grounds. On last year’s chart, Fantasy Grounds is that tiny unlabeled sliver. That was approximately 2% of our sales. June 2020 has them as our #2 selling location, approximately 18% of our sales. That’s an 800% increase. Even better that wasn’t our best month of sales this year.
So there is definite growth here, and when the world goes back to normal, I do expect some people to continue to play games over the internet. People are discovering they are no longer constrained by location; you do not need to look for someone to game with within an hour’s drive of you. You can now game with people in different time zones.
Whether you are creating your own setting or just adding your own flare to an existing setting, creating your own fantasy religions can be fun for both you and your players. The gods and their religions is a way to emphasize something important in your campaign. Learning more about the god of stealth is important when fighting the thieves’ guild; discovering a particular blacksmith is a follower of the deity of war equipment may tip off the players to the NPC being more than they appear.
So how can you go about making your own, without shamelessly ripping off real world religions? Before I answer that, I wholeheartedly endorce “borrowing heavily” from mythology. Some exceptional tales are there and are a classic for a reason. Pick up a book on them, read and borrow.
But if you still feel you need to create a religion from whole cloth, I have three rules for you to follow.
1) Pick a Theme and Run With It
Start with a core concept that is going to be important enough that it could draw followers. Clearly define it in 1-3 words: war, art, thieving, servants, farming, birds, a particular celestial body, and crafting are but a few examples. Now take that core concept and let your mind wander on what else is related to that theme. Servants work hard all day long for little reward. Who else does that? Employees. So this moves beyond a Noble’s servants and incorporates the baker’s lowly assistant, the dock workers, the one that cooks for to the caravan guards, and so on. So this deity is not a good of servants, but a god to the downtrodden. When the downtrodden are about to be beaten by their master’s for some minor mistake (or because the master is in the mood), they call upon their deity and the deity shows them some place to hide, perhaps even helping them to plan for such eventualities. So this deity is also a god of forethought and hiding places. Now this deity is both fun and more fleshed out than just “servants.”
2) Add in Something Unexpected … And DON’T Explain it.
Players will latch in to that oddity and think about that far longer than anything else, trying to figure out how they work together? Why does the deity of understanding, reason, and time have a groundhog as their spirit animal? Sure it makes total sense if you’ve seen the movie Groundhog Day, but if you hadn’t, how long would you try puzzling that one through. More importantly, what crazy ideas would you come up with trying to make that one work.
The most important part of this step is to limit it to one or two things. Anything more and the theme to your carefully thought out deity starts to look like a collection of random ideas rolled up together. This is definitely a less-is-more situation. Take the deity of servants from the previous step. What if we make them associated with purple flowers? Or instead its sacred animal is a particular breed of goldfish? Maybe followers should always turn their glass or bowl of water counterclockwise three times before taking their first drink for the day. Obviously, there is a perfectly logical explanation for whatever oddity is chosen, but leaving such reasons said unspoken both adds an heir of mystery and makes the world feel more lived in. Besides, it is entirely possible no one knows why such oddity is the case. It could have been lost to time over the last 1,000+ years. Maybe the deity never felt the need to explain such oddities to their followers. Heck you could make the answer explainable should someone ask, but they have to ask someone in world so they can give an in-world explanation. No matter what it is, treat it as ordinary as a Catholic priest putting a wafer into your mouth saying that it is from the body of someone that died about two thousand years ago and you should eat that dead person’s flesh.
3) Describe How Mundane Followers Interact With Their Faith
In my experience, this more than anything else is forgotten by game designers and GMs when describing religions. While the religion is focused around the deity/deities, the followers are no less important. Without followers, gods lose power. Terry Pratchett described this relationship perfectly in his book Small Gods. The great god Om said several times throughout the book, “Smite you with lightning bolts!” when he got angry at someone, yet nothing happened until he gained a single follower. Even then, he got hit with the equivalent of static electricity. When many people believed in him, he swelled with power.
Mind you, that book was really about how the people in the church of Om had no faith and simply did the ceremony without knowing the reasons why. However, a religion without some type of regular way for the followers to participate in is a religion that is going to lose followers. How many books are forgotten after their author dies? Sure some classics are remembered, like Mary Shelley’s The Modern Prometheus is well remembered, but Percy Shelly is not nearly as well remembered despite the fact he was an established author when his wife created Dr Frankenstein and his monster. Same idea.
So yes, any religion needs a consistent way for the followers to interact with their faith. All of these should interact with stuff we decided above. Prayers at select times or for certain reasons. Eating / not eating certain foods on certain days. Regular community gatherings with preferred offerings. Ceremonies to mark important events in the religion as well as the lives of the followers. Perhaps the god of servants has a ceremony marking someone’s promotion. Similarly, prayers for enough energy and strength to make it through a hard day’s work comes at dawn while prayers of protection against an angry master’s wrath can come at any time. Compare that with a god of intellect and arcane study: prayers to that deity should be before sitting down at a desk to do some heavy reading and study. That same deity probably talks about the evils of eating excessive carbs as they will make one drowsy before a long night of study by candlelight.
I hope these tips help you create compelling religions in your game. Be sure to check out all of JBE’s Pathfinder 1e, D&D 5e, 13th Age, and Traveller at the JBE Shop.
As I’ve mentioned before, working on the Book of Beasts: Magus Codex has shown me the many holes in their spell selection particularly their lack of touch spells. The magus class is built around delivering touch spells through your weapon. However, there are far too few touch spells making the close range arcana necessary.
To address this, we are working on a bunch of new touch spells for the magus with a number of other classes benefitting as well. We’ve shown off the 1st level spell frigid grasp and the 2nd level spell tarfoot. Today we’re talking the steal strength spell for 3rd level.
School necromancy; Level arcanist/sorcerer/wizard 3, bloodrager 3, magus 3, witch 3
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S
Target creature touched
Duration 1 round/level
Saving Throw Fortitude half; Spell Resistance yes
The subject takes a penalty to Strength equal to 1d4 per three caster levels (maximum 5d4). The subject’s Strength score cannot drop below 1. A successful Fortitude save reduces this penalty by half. This penalty does not stack with itself nor similar penalties such as from ray of enfeeblement. Apply the highest penalty instead. Half of the Strength penalty taken by the target from this spell is granted to you as an enhancement bonus for the duration of this spell.
I saw a meme of how if there was a magic item that gave you a bonus to prevent disease, you’d wear it all the time. Well, I don’t know of such an item so I figured now was a great time to create one.
Wear your face masks. Wash your hands. Social distance.
Play RPGs while social distancing by playing them over Fantasy Grounds with JBE’s expanding suite of expansions. See them all today at the Fantasy Grounds Store.
Face Mask of Disease Prevention
Aura divination; CL 1st
Slot face; Price 300 gp; Weight 0.5 lbs.
When this black cotton scarf is tied over the nose and mouth, the wearer receives a +1 resistance bonus to saving throws against disease.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, guidance; Cost 150 gp
Over the years, I’ve read many mythological tales and seen such items in D&D/Pathfinder. Belts of giant strength, winged boots, various magical weapon and armor properties all owe their origins to the Greek, Norse, and other tales.
Of all the items I have seen there one I have never seen: a big of wind. In The Odyssey, the bag of wind was supposed to blow the Odesseus and the crew home; instead the crew opened the bag early and they were blown to the other side of the world. While such a powerful item would be an artifact level power in Pathfinder, something of similar concept could be used to blow enemies around the battlefield. With that in mind, I present to you a bag of wind.
Bag of Wind
Aura weak evocation; CL 3rd
Slot –; Price 300 gp; Weight 1 lbs.
The size of a water skin and closed with a stone stopper, a bag of wind can be opened as a swift action after a successful bull rush attempt. The winds carry the target an additional 10 feet.
Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, gust of wind; Cost 150 gp
I’ve said before that the next in the Book of Beasts series of NPCs known as the Character Codex will cover the Magus class. The first round of edits is moving along nicely (with some unrelated delays). So today I want to share with you the first NPC in this supplement.
When I created this NPC, I couldn’t help but remember my very first D&D character—Xavier. Mind you, that character was a grey elf fighter/magic-user, back in the days when you had to keep track of your XP separately and elves had names like Swift. This NPC was made in honor of that character. The actual name this character gets will be more in line with today’s names for elves. But I hope it finds a home in our game.
Apprentice Mage CR 1/2
Elf magus 1
CN Medium humanoid (elf)
Init +3; Senses low-light vision; Perception +1
AC 17, touch 13, flat-footed 14 (+4 armor, +3 Dex)
hp 9 (1d8+1)
Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +1; +2 vs. enchantments
Speed 30 ft.
Melee rapier +3 (1d6+1/18–20)
Ranged dagger +3 (1d4+1/19–20)
Special Attacks arcane pool (+1, 3 points), spell combat
Magus Spells Prepared (CL 1st; concentration +3)
1st—magic missile, shocking grasp
0 (at will)—daze (DC 12), detect magic, ray of frost
During Combat The magus opens combat with magic missile and then engages in melee combat, enhancing attacks from the arcane pool.
Str 12, Dex 17, Con 12, Int 15, Wis 8, Cha 10
Base Atk +0; CMB +1; CMD 14
Feats Weapon Finesse
Skills Climb +3, Knowledge (arcana) +6, Knowledge (planes) +6, Perception +1, Spellcraft +6 (+8 to identify magic item properties), Use Magic Device +4; Racial Modifiers +2 Perception, +2 Spellcraft to identify magic item properties
Languages Common, Elven, Goblin, Orc
SQ elven magic
Combat Gear scroll of blur, alchemical grease APG, poison ward salve ACG, weapon blanch (silver) APG; Other Gear chain shirt, dagger (2), rapier, ioun torch APG, magus spellbook (contains all 0-level spells and all prepared spells plus 1st—chill touch, returning weapon UC, shield), 16 gp
Like so many of our fellow gaming industry professionals, fellow Americans, and fellow humans around the world, we at JBE are horrified and outraged by the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and so, so many others. We say it with you: Black Lives Matter.
We call upon our elected officials to enact meaningful reforms such as banning chokeholds, holding officers accountable for their actions, and cutting bloated budgets of police departments and transferring it to services that will help people without involving law enforcement.
To that end, Jon Brazer Enterprises is proud to take part in the Black Lives Matter Bundles at DriveThruRPG. All proceeds from these bundles go to support some very important causes such as Black Lives Matter, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the National Police Accountability Project. You can find all 6 of the Black Lives Matter Bundles as well as some awesome products created by person’s of color here. Our contribution to the bundle is the Book of Heroic Races: Advanced Elans. We chose this book because it features a strong and wise black woman on the cover that can defeat her enemies with both her weapons as well as her mind.
Recently it was pointed out that our diversity in our cover artwork is lacking. We may be decent with our representation in our interior artwork but we are by no means great. We are committing to increasing the representation of skin tones and body types in our artwork, particularly in our cover artwork.
It’s not just that black lives matter, their voices matter as well. Everyone has the potential to be a hero; those that stand up for the good of all are heroes. No matter what your heritage is, you should be able to see yourself in the games you love. Heroes should be represented in gaming artwork, and that is what we will be aiming to do. As a game designer I look up to once said, “It is not about being perfect but learning from your mistakes and being better than yesterday.”
So I started working on some more d66 lists again, and I wondered why I hadn’t done more of this during the pandemic. I took some time and thought about it and realized why I hadn’t. So instead of writing at some length as to why I had not, I thought I would make it fun and make it a d66 list by itself. I hope you enjoy this.
|d66 List||Reason for Not Writing a New d66 List|
|11||Assembling a desk char|
|12||Attacking the spiders|
|13||Baking a loaf of bread|
|14||Binge watching cooking / gardening videos|
|15||Busy eating cake|
|21||Creating Pathfinder spells|
|22||Doing some basic housework|
|23||Emotionally worn out|
|24||Enjoying awesome 80’s movies|
|25||Getting lost in Twitter|
|26||Laying awake at night, trying to sleep|
|31||Looking at my unfinished LEGO project|
|32||Making Fantasy Grounds products|
|33||Making something with scrap wood|
|34||Mowing the lawn, again|
|35||Optimizing the home office|
|36||Organizing my book collection|
|41||Overcooking the eggs|
|42||Playing a board game|
|43||Playing with my Star Wars LEGO fighters|
|44||Prepping a D&D game for the kids|
|45||Reading an RPG book I’ve wanted to read for a while|
|46||Sleeping, please don’t wake me up|
|51||Slept poorly the night before|
|53||Staring at the deer eating the victory garden|
|54||Surfing Facebook and feeling happy / sad / depressed / angry|
|55||Talking about a theoretical dog we want|
|56||Telling myself to go for a walk|
|61||Thinking about baking a pie|
|62||Watching late night comedians adapting to working from home|
|63||Watching the news about the pandemic / protests|
|64||Wiping down the groceries|
|65||Working on the victory garden|
|66||Writing Pathfinder NPCs|