Saturday, June 5, 2010

ISBNs in Canada vs US - The Good, the Better and the Funny

I don't frequently do informative posts about printing in general. I've only really done two books and one PDF, so I'm not all that comfortable with talking about "my vast knowledge" because I don't really have any. What happened is that I accidentally came across someone's blog, it was a locked blog but one of the few unlocked entries that wasn't a pile of tweets was the entry on how they're putting a book together. There was a lot of things there that were pretty standard information, but I think I'd like to set the record straight on ISBNs and what you need to do with them when you're in Canada.

What I'm going to talk about, is the ISBN. What an ISBN is, for those who don't know, is an International Standard Book Number. That means with this number, your book is unique and can be found out of all the bajillion books that are printed annually with just that number. It used to have 9 digits when it started, it had 10 digits for a while but then it got itself 13 so that it can match Bookland EAN-13s. Basically we were running out of numbers so we had to change it to make them have more. It's like switching from ESNs to MEIDs in mobile technology. There's just more possible numbers when you've got 13 Hex numbers over 10 decimal ones.

You can learn a lot about where a book is by just looking at the ISBN. It's got the group identifier (language), the publisher code and the item number. The number at the end is just the check digit, so I wouldn't worry too much about it. There's a math equation that they use to figure it out, but the key thing you need to know is that it doesn't have any information in and of itself.

If you want more information on ISBNs you can check it out yourself. It is the internet. What I really want to talk about is the difference between getting an ISBN in Canada and getting an ISBN in the states. In the US you need to go through the following website,, in order to get information on them. Then when you're ready to get one you go over to their other site to get them. The good news is that it's cheaper than when I looked at it, the problem is that for 10 numbers it's still 250$. That's 25$ an ISBN. It gets cheaper the more you buy, but as an independent publisher I can't afford to plunk down 1k to get 1k ISBNs because I probably will never use them all.

Check that, I will definitely never use them all.

Now, when I first started with Researching Medicine I needed to get one and I really was disappointed with it. I mean it was a lot of money to put down at once, at the time, and I was kind of shocked. Another expense that surprised me. Then, I did a little more digging. In Canada, we've got the Library and Archives of Canada that manage all ISBNs for Canadian Publishers. They do a lot of other things too, but the key thing is that they hand out ISBNs to Canadian publishers.

The best part of that, they're 100% free. That's right. I don't have to pay a cent to get an ISBN. The only thing they want is what's called a legal deposit. That means that they want two copies of a book to be mailed to them. If you make a game, like we do here, you don't need to send anything at all. I know because I sent two copies of Suitors and they sent it back to me. Next time I'm going to send a note that they can keep them rather than send them back. ^_^

They're also really nice, personable and friendly. The first time I got an ISBN I spent about thirty minutes on the phone with one of the women who worked there and had a great conversation. She explained that sometimes they get publishers in the states that try to call them to get Canadian ISBN numbers and they play with them because we do have caller ID up here and they do have a good idea what's a Canadian area code and what isn't.

It's something that makes me rather proud to be Canadian, there are less and less of these moments as time goes by, but we understand that identification shouldn't be something that you have to pay for.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Anime North part 1 - Geasa and A Good Time

This past weekend was Anime North. Now, normally I do a lot of stuff at AN, but this year I decided that I needed to take a little bit in the way of a break. I also didn't feel like carting a whole bunch of CyberGen books up to the Toronto Congress Centre, which is up by the Airport in God's Country.

That means I got a chance to do a lot of panels and play in a couple of Geasa playtests. I'm going to talk about those first because that's what people are here to see, or something like that. It helps that the games ended up being rather awesome.

The first game we ran of Geasa, I purposefully took myself out of the game. The previous games of Geasa have included me in some shape or form, and I wanted to see how people dealt with it if I walked away at times.

The first game had 5 people and the setting ended up being rather interesting. We had a weird future setting where all the players found themselves on a corporate space station. We had a medical man who was almost magical, we had an alien, we had a bored IT person, a bodyguard that didn't look the part and an automaton. There were some really good moments in the story, where they spent a lot of time getting involved in each other stories as Non-Player-People, but their Fae didn't really get involved in the story much. That was a little problematic, but I guess it's something else that I need to stress.

There were some rule stuff that came out of that. Basically we found out that 4 is a really hard die to deal with. Players are going to try to angle things so that they're always using their best element in a situation, and that's fine. The problem is that if you try to start conflicts as a NPP you will never really get to use those 4s at all. So we decided to allow people to reroll two dice when it comes around. Basically after everyone has had a turn you can reroll dice, usually that means those fours but I didn't want to say just fours but now that I think about it you should have the option to just reroll all your dice. That way you can end up getting a lot more sixes and then have to do more with the Fae.

The other thing I think is that I need to find a way to punish Fae who sit down and hoard dice. One problem was that a player was stuck with having few dice and a Fae that wasn't very active. It's a problem that I don't quite know how to solve, or if there is even a rules way to solve it. I should probably just talk about how it sucks to be that player, and that with this much power you should be able to get people to do what you want.

Finally I'm going to make an addition to Supports at Iain's suggestion. Basically I'm going to be adding some text that says that the more powerful a Support is, the more specific it is. That way you can't sit down and keep using your level 3 support all the time. It's very specific and so should probably only happen once a game, twice if you're lucky.

The second game ended up being a Victorian London setting with a Member of the Yard, a German Paranormal Investigator, an Irish young woman traveling Europe and a London Street Urchin. I love how this game lends itself to a wide variety of settings. It's a lot like Mortal Coil

Anyway, the big thing with this game is that they ran into a problem of combat. The thing is that they tended to play standard RPGs that have a blow by blow system of resolution. When they were done playing, we had run out of time, they talked about how they had a problem with how to resolve a combat. I had walked away so they couldn't talk to me about it. This is a good thing because it added a combat section to Bidding. Basically it's not the blow, by blow that matters but the end result. Because there's no "physical" Element, the reason behind the combat is more important. Did you do it because you thought it was the right thing to do? That's Head. Did you get involved because you were overcome with emotion? That's Heart. Did you do it because you felt that it was the only way to get a better life? That's Life. Were you driven to do it to achieve a goal? That's Loins.

Once you've got the Element, you just bid dice as per normal and then continue. Easy-peasy lemon squeezy. However, that should probably be a section that covers that to help with clarity because in the end I want people to be able to read the game and be able to play it.

Bogged Down

The Devil is in the details. This is most certainly true for me. The hardest part in game design is when you get into the details, the nitty gritty bits that seem to take forever. I'm going to be finishing Geasa and then I'm going to work on Factions. I really want to get on that because I haven't touched them for a while.

After that comes M:TN.

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