Stalker is out in English

edited March 2012 in Story Games
STALKER - The Scifi Ropleplaying Game @drivethrough

...but the price tag is pretty hefty.

Then again, the publisher pays royalties to Boris Strugatsky despite not being technically required to: Roadside Picnic was originally written in the Soviet Union where copyright defaulted to the state.

(I'm not affiliated with the game or publisher -- just a heads-up.)
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  • Oh yes, I've been waiting for this. Let me share my opinion on the game with the forum.

    Ville Vuorela is one of the serious rpg designers in Finland, an old-timer who was doing indie rpgs in the '90s already. Without excess rhetoric, let me just say that he's one of the few traditional designers (that is, designers of rpgs in the mainstream tradition) who works indie, and who's under clear and constant pressure from assholes like myself to up his game - we've been sparring for years in the Finnish fishbowl between all the passionate roleplayers, and I know how hard Ville's taken all the critique at times. Stalker is a spectacular work in this context, I think: the tradition ordinarily suffers from vague and two-faced writing conventions, but Ville has managed to leave all that behind and tell his game how it is. There are no lies about combat systems that won't be used, dice rolls that will be fudged or complex character-building subgames to keep players busy while the GM spins his plot. The only game text I can compare here is Dread, it's a similarly honest text that retains the '80s-'90s tradition of gamemastering while shedding the conventional lies and telling the game how it really is.

    As for how it is, in a nutshell: Stalker is an immersive simulationistic game about the society fringes that have developed around the Zones left behind by mysterious alien visitors. The player characters are "stalkers", people who explore these territories of warped natural law, usually illegally, armed with little but their ingenuity and desire to get out of their marginalized position in life. There are no kewl powers or neat factions for your character to belong to, it all strives to be very down-to-earth and life-like. The Zone is science horror and utter mystery, and the game has shed all pretense of D&D-like hack'n'slash entertainment. The way I read it, the game asserts a strong creative agenda for discovering the wonders of the zone and the ultimate fates of the player characters: does a player develop his character into a "long-timer", who cannot let go of the peculiar scene around the zones, or can the character score big, sell off some illegal alien artefacts and get out.

    The game's system is very much GM-controlled and the players have no formal narrative authority (I say this because it's the first thing people ask about new games). However, in practice the players have strong, constant input on the fictional positioning of pretty much everything due to the way the resolution system works: instead of dice the GM is obligated to run a constant numerical evaluation of the ideas and solutions that the player characters engage in during challenges, which necessitates constant revision and communication about the fictional situation. Basically, the player describes how his character is engaging a tricky situation, and the GM scores the solution in a few categories to get a final effectiveness rating. (There's also a modern hero point resource system on top of this for those moments when your character really needs to push.) I've played this, and it sounds a little awkward due to the GM funnel, but what it actually does is, it forces the entire group to pay constant attention to fictional positioning: where everything is, what is available, what is reasonable. The resulting resolution has a ring of truth to it, because the system never mandates a surprising resolution: what happens is always something that the dialogue at the table has established as the reasonable outcome. Where surprising heroic deeds have been accomplished, the players always understand afterwards why things went down the way they did. It's a calm, deep-running system that suits well for the creative goals of the game.

    I'd also like to go on record about the literary quality of the setting: so much of roleplaying game writing is neck-deep in American "cool" that an adult, restrained, grim and grey setting feels refreshing in comparison. It's similar to the style and genre positioning Call of Cthulhu has enjoyed for years as a totally straight game that contrasts horror with understated realism of society and character. Unlike CoC, though, I can get Stalker to run with my limited trad GMing skills, due to the more functional character creation and positioning system ;)
  • edited March 2012
    Of all the RPGs I've never GMed, this is the one I'm most eager to try. I've done a similar but less formal sort of GM evaluation in various systems, with each producing different levels of engagement and buy-in from the players. I'm really, really curious to see how players respond to being numerically rated -- whether there's more or less enthusiasm, acceptance, argument, and resentment than in other games I've run.

    Thanks for the link, Nikodemus, but I ain't payin' $27 for no PDF. Does anyone know where a hardcopy can be found, or a sanely-priced PDF?
  • Posted By: David BergThanks for the link, Nikodemus, but I ain't payin' $27 for no PDF. Does anyone know where a hardcopy can be found, or a sanely-priced PDF?
    Yeah, the price point on the PDF turned me off, as well. If it was for a POD item (preferably in a combo with the PDF), then I can see paying that kind of money, but not as it stands.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenUnlike CoC, though, I can get Stalker to run with my limited trad GMing skills, due to the more functional character creation and positioning system ;)
    Can you expand on this in specific terms--maybe with an example?

    I've seen people say it was hard for them to make a Cthulhu game that wasn't railroady (which actually isn't that hard, but you need to be able to improvise) and I've seen people say it was hard for them to make a Cthulhu game scary (which is fairly personal and depends on your group, too)--but what specific problems have you had with Cthulhu and how does Stalker address them? It's never seemed like an especially difficult system to me.
  • Posted By: Zak SCan you expand on this in specific terms--maybe with an example?
    Well, that was just a throw-away inside joke. There is a kernel of truth to it, but don't expect much; it's not a big and fundamental thing. Besides, it's just my own personal hang-ups. I could definitely talk about CoC in more length in a new thread, though; if the following whets and appetite in that regard, let's get to a different thread and talk CoC for real. I do think that the game is difficult, all the more so because of my long history with it.

    (It goes without saying that the following is in no way intended as Stalker sales-speech by bashing CoC. That'd be stupid. I'll just describe the parallels that came to me when writing the above, and if you want to talk more about the strengths and weaknesses of CoC we can do that somewhere else.)

    Regarding character creation and positioning, CoC has been historically difficult for our gaming culture because it basically does nothing to support character creation: it's all a giant point-buy, without even having different types of crunch to buy like most point-buy systems provide. I am older and wiser now, and understand that you're supposed to come up with a strong character concept yourself and then allot points to skills on that basis, but even then it's not structured at all. What's worse, the system doesn't ensure that the characters develop the necessary motivations and personality and fictional positioning for the game to "go". In my experience one of the most difficult things in playing CoC has been to take a set of disparate individual characters and actually get them to cohere into any sort of monster-hunting team. This is understandable, the game's color and style promises realism and a deep view on the setting; the players respond to that, I've never been in a CoC group that would've done the smart thing and pre-established the "investigator" thing as a given framework and precondition for the rest of character creation; it's always all about creating entirely innocent bystanders who presumably just happen to get swept along by the events all natural-like, without anybody having to specifically decide that their character is going to start acting like an adventurer. Anybody can see how well that'll eat up all the play time, even assuming the GM is good enough to pull it off.

    Stalker simply does the character creation step better: it directly requires you to establish your character as a "stalker" (a person who wants to or tries to or has already journeyed to the Zone), and there is enough structure for evolving your character piece by piece instead of just having to distribute 500 points between 40 different skills. The type of detail that gets established about player characters tends to be both sufficient and useful, which hasn't been the case in CoC for me. This is a simple technical thing, it's just about splitting your character creation into various steps and answering different sorts of questions about your character, so that the creative work happens effortlessly and the thing you create actually ends up having utility in the game. Once the character is actually done, the further in-play development is pretty similar between the games. Stalker relinquishes even the little subgame of "use skills to improve them", though, in favour of saying that your character will only improve if fictional positioning thus mandates: to learn a new skill, have your character learn a new skill, which is usually not feasible within the time-frame of a rpg adventure.

    Of course, the two games are entirely different regarding their topic and milieu, so I wouldn't want to take the comparison any further. Still, I could imagine playing CoC with the Stalker rules-set, it should work pretty much out of the box. Stalker is an action-focused game (in the sense of characters interacting with their environment), so there would be a lot of minutiae about how exactly do you go about finding this piece of information from the library, or how exactly do you convince this guy about things. It would be slower than CoC can be, but no slower than the way we always used to play CoC, and at least the time would be spent in atmospheric and interesting ways.

    Incidentally, if it sounds like Stalker does the exact same things Delta Green or Trail of Cthulhu does in comparison to classical CoC, then you're probably right. The set-up has always been a great weakness of Cthulhu in my opinion, it's a strange combination of D&D-like monster-hunting assumptions and total agnosticism regarding what the game is about - the character creation system and the entire preplay procedure is really nothing of the sort, the game just gives you a system of modeling characters and leaves you to figure out for yourself what sorts of characters you might wish to model. I understand that ours was not the only corner of the world where Cthulhu was encountered first (as in, before D&D), with no presumption of monster-hunting commando teams. The result has apparently been similarly confused for some other people, too.
  • Roadside Picnic is a great, sometimes disturbing, ultimately wonderful book. It provides a great setting and situation for a game.

    What sort of support does it provide the GM with for designing expeditions into the Zone? Is the GM encouraged to create a persistent environment?

    What's it like dealing with the Stalker bureaucracy (or not)?
  • The game definitely encourages a persistent campaign environment. The book details the "French zone" in quite a bit of detail as a starting point, and the general assumption is that over several trips to the zone the player characters gain experience in recognizing the dangers and geography of the place. The GM is supposed to prep challenges, difficulties and wonders involved in this with a sort of "bandolier" technique: you develop some shit and then throw it down as pacing and consistency indicates. The type of content you need to prep for the Zone isn't usually very geography-dependent, so this works well. The game text is clear on what it expects of the GM: there aren't a lot of mechanical tools for prep, but the basic tasks and responsibilities are clear, so it's a game that suits for load-carrying GMs.

    (To give an idea of the traditional, deep-delving setting stance of the game, here's a Finnish-language Google map that shows the placement of the Zones on Earth and makes some notes about some of them.)

    As I mention above, the default Zone for the campaign is the French zone, which is somewhat different from the Zone described in Roadside Picnic. There is an internationally funded overwatch organization that is supposed to regulate and prevent civilian entry to the Zone, but in practice the system is full of holes, not the least because the Zone happened to bisect the city of Toulouse on arrival, immediately creating a disenfranchised, zone-contaminated slum right on the urban edge. Stalkers are depicted as an insular, international subculture, the members of which travel from Zone to Zone as necessary and dodge or cooperate with local governments as opportunity demands.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenWhat's worse, the system doesn't ensure that the characters develop the necessary motivations and personality and fictional positioning for the game to "go". In my experience one of the most difficult things in playing CoC has been to take a set of disparate individual characters and actually get them to cohere into any sort of monster-hunting team...the smart thing and pre-established the "investigator" thing as a given framework and precondition for the rest of character creation; it's always all about creating entirely innocent bystanders who presumably just happen to get swept along by the events all natural-like, without anybody having to specifically decide that their character is going to start acting like an adventurer. Anybody can see how well that'll eat up all the play time, even assuming the GM is good enough to pull it off.
    Wait, what?

    It's a horror game: You're there drinking your tea, being a non-monster-hunter then suddenly FUCK! MONSTER! DEAL. NOW!!

    While a proactive investigator is a possible way to roll, the clueless rube is part of the very set-up of the game. Because: horror. Most horror movies presuppose a nonprofessional nonmonster hunter who has to deal with the supernatural because otherwise they or the world are doomed otherwise. The Lovecraft source material very much included.

    I don't understand how introducing nonmonster hunters ot monsters could foul up the game--that is the game.

    ...and how you do that without railroading:
    http://www.dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/2012/02/hunterhunted.html

    Maybe all this goes in your Call of Cthulhu thread, but since I'm not really sure xactly what the problem you have running CoC is, I don't know how I'd frame the OP in such a thread. So if you want to start it, go ahead.
  • edited March 2012
    Zak, I think the key words there are "cohere" and "team". Lovecraft provides no help, as all his protagonists go solo.
  • Eero, any leads on English Stalker hardcopy?
  • Posted By: David BergZak, I think the key words there are "cohere" and "team". Lovecraft provides no help, as all his protagonists go solo.
    Sticking together provides the best chance of survival.
  • Posted By: Zak S
    Maybe all this goes in your Call of Cthulhu thread, but since I'm not really sure xactly what the problem you have running CoC is, I don't know how I'd frame the OP in such a thread. So if you want to start it, go ahead.
    Yeah, let's get out of this thread and into a fresh one. I don't know that it's so much about me having problems with CoC as me recognizing that it's not much of a game text when compared to games with actual structure. Now that I'm grown and wise I do of course have a better chance at playing it successfully.
  • Posted By: David BergEero, any leads on English Stalker hardcopy?
    Ville says in his blog that he's submitted the files to the POD printer associated with Drivethrough. Apparently there'll be POD availability if his pages are technically good. (Ville does his layout on a somewhat dated system, no idea if the printer can handle it.)

    Looking at the pdf price, the book will surely be pretty expensive as well if and when it materializes. Perhaps Ville'll reduce the price point later on. He hasn't been on the international market since the '90s, so I can imagine how all this stuff with pdf sales and POD and such is pretty new to him. I'm just happy that he finally got the book translated, I'm not going to worry about Ville's marketing strategy for a while ;)
  • That sounds great, Eero. Thanks for the extra details.

    To clarify one thing: When you say "It's a game that suits for load-carrying GMs", do you mean (a) it's quite light prep, so GMs who have busy lives will find it easy to prep for a game, or (b) that it suits GMs who like to do lots of prep because the game expects you to do that?

    There is a bell going off in my brain that this might be worth spending $30 on.
  • I'll go with option b) here. I'd say that GMing this game relies on being compelled by the relatively ordinary idea of setting your game in the slums of post-apocalyptic Toulouse (the rest of the world is just fine, but Toulouse didn't fare well after the Visitation), from whence a dangerous expedition into the unknown coheres and commences. Then you need to prepare your own personal vision of what is to be found on the Zone. The book certainly includes a lot of examples and suggestions, but ultimately you'll need to perhaps get out a topographical map, or write a series of encounters, or otherwise do your own legwork on what to show to the players. Improvisation is of course a possibility, but that's load-bearing of sorts as well; either way, the GM needs to bring his A-game to a traditional game like this. One might well say that the game here is just a venue for the GM to transmit his own fevered science horror vision to the players. The players control the pacing, but the GM preps the content.
  • Does it explain what a rattling napkin or a lobster eye is?
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenApparently there'll be POD availability if his pages are technically good.
    Gotcha. Thanks. Fingers crossed...

    The Burger Games lists free FLOW supplements but provides no links.
    STALKER: JAPAN (English)
    FLOW/Dice Conversion
    CYBERFLOW
    Do you have any idea where to find these, and if English versions exist of the latter two?
  • Posted By: KripplerDoes it explain what a rattling napkin or a lobster eye is?
    It does! There's a bunch of examples of these types of anomaly, and some discussion of how to create more.
    Posted By: David BergThe Burger Games lists free FLOW supplements but provides no links.
    Here are some links. I don't remember off-hand where "Cyberflow" might be, or even what it is. Perhaps Ville wrote up a rules variant for cyberpunk gaming at some point?
  • Is there a particular reason Toulouse is used for the default setting? I can understand adding the international element, but France seems like a odd choice.
  • Thanks, Eero. That link to FLOW With Dice is the most detailed FLOW description I've yet seen.
  • Posted By: JohnstoneIs there a particular reason Toulouse is used for the default setting? I can understand adding the international element, but France seems like a odd choice.
    I don't remember hearing any special reason, aside from doing a Zone different from the one in the novel. The book has I think one paragraph's worth of text about the other Zones each, so they're a blank slate for anybody wanting to set a campaign in e.g. the American Zone.

    Also, curiousity: why is France an odd choice? Could be our respective geographies, but from here in Finland it doesn't seem that odd (and almost any choice at all would be international). To the contrary, if I had to guess, I'd say that Ville chose it specifically because it's a familiar culture and a civilized country, which helps contrast the Zone with the ordinary European landscape. If he'd focused on say the Japanese Zone, then the game would be "that game set in Japan with Stalker stuff in it" from the viewpoints of many Finnish gamers. You'd spend as much time roleplaying the Japanese society as you'd spend on Zone-related matters.

    I should note that I haven't seen the English-language text of the game, I'm just talking on the basis of the Finnish edition. There is technically a slim possibility that Ville's moved the setting into Mogadishu in the English edition without telling anybody ;)
  • edited March 2012
    Hmm, yeah for a European audience I guess France doesn't seem that strange (not that I know anything about what Finns think of France). For an anglophone audience I would expect it to be just like the Japan setting scenario though, where it's "that game set in France with Stalker stuff in it." For an English-language Stalker game I suppose I would have expected an American location, or if it's a European location, probably London. But I would also expect Russia or even Berlin to catch the attention of anglos more than France. Just my impression, though, maybe it's a smart move!
  • As someone living just 35km north-est of Toulouse I should probably check this :)
    Also, because, I've always wanted to run a post apocalyptic game in a once familiar setting
    Your post has made me curious. Thanks Eero !
  • An American setting piece in the vein of that Japan series of posts Ville did might be in order, actually. I seem to remember that the American Zone is established as being in Canada. Maybe I should ask Ville what he knows about the American Zone - people might want to set the game thence instead of France, it seems.
  • European zone is set in Toulouse because all the zones are at the Pilman radiant. I don't know if I remember it right but I think some friend of Ville calculated where that radiant would be if one zone would be in the same place as in novel.
  • Stalker looks really interesting. The description of the items in the sample PDF made me grin. They are all kernels of classic SF.

    The font choice is unfortunate, but I can deal.
    The price is also reasonable. $27 is not a lot to pay for a piece of art that can be used across hundreds of hours of enjoyment.

    -L
  • Posted By: SopeEuropean zone is set in Toulouse because all the zones are at the Pilman radiant. I don't know if I remember it right but I think some friend of Ville calculated where that radiant would be if one zone would be in the same place as in novel.
    The book takes place around the zone in Canada and since it took some time to figure out the radiant I bet it wasn't perfectly latitudal.
  • fwiw, the description of the japanese stuff in the preview made me think of Kiyoshi Kurosawa movies which made me all sorts of excited about copying his films shamelessly for descriptions of the otherworldly.
  • Antoine > had you any chance to read it.
    As living in Toulouse, I am very (surprised and) curious too.
  • edited March 2012
    Also, there's a ready made theme song, Goodbye Toulouse and Nostradamus made several predictions about the city.
  • I've already thought of a few hacks for it:

    1. Using it in a high-fantasy setting where all the magic is suddenly gone, and there are strange Zones of pure madness where people hope the answers could be uncovered.

    2. Using it with Al-Amarja as a popular destination where stalkers go to sell their stuff to the highest bidder, turning the odd little island into a quasi-Zone of it's own.

    3. Using it to play games of Cosmic Horror, where it seems reality itself is turning against the hapless protagonists.

    Maybe I'll even get to play them one of these days.
  • Hi Jérôme,

    I didn't buy it yet. In fact, I hope there will be a hardcopy option soon because I have no easy way to read a book in pdf or use it at the table.
    I'll let you know.
  • I'm wondering how easily this system would accommodate the far future setting of M. John Harrison's novels Light and Nova Swing, especially investigation of the Kefahuchi Tract and event sites (and smuggling or safely disposing of artifacts from them). Since Roadside Picnic was an influence on the setting, it seems like a potentially good fit.
  • The system is methodologically powerful and mechanically simple - it'd be a half hour's work to adapt it to a different setting. The game's going to be mission-focused and party-based still, and it'll have that emphasis on detailed problem-solving and a relatively calm pace. These parameters fit many settings, of course; I've had fun using the system for a colonial adventure along the lines of Heart of Darkness.
  • Eero, a question if you don't mind. In all honesty, which do you think is better between this game and Malcolm Craig's Hot War?
  • That's an interesting question. Between these two... it's a toss-up between different styles, of course; one strives for lean drama, while the other strolls along unhurried-like and stops to smell the flowers. The setting differences are so subjective that I won't pick between them - Hot War has a more aggressive setting than Stalker, but it's not like you can't frame things the players can't ignore in either. System-wise I probably personally prefer Stalker right this moment, insofar as "which I would rather play" goes, but this probably has a lot to do with the uniqueness of Stalker's system, how challenging it seems to me to play something out of my usual comfort zone like that. Hot War would be Drama Like Usual in comparison.
  • I like Hot war's setting but the book only scrapes the surface. Stalker digs deep in (at least a lot deeper than Hot war).

    Hot war gives gm examples of the setting and assumes that you make something similar. Stalker gives examples and tools and assumes that you expand the setting with those tools.
  • Argh, I'm curious about the system, but I'm not that interested in the setting. What should I do?
  • The system is simple, and you can find a detailed explanation at Burger's blog if you dig a little bit. No reason to get the book simply for that. The GMing advice, of course, is another thing.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenThe system is simple, and you can find a detailed explanation at Burger's blog if you dig a little bit. No reason to get the book simply for that. The GMing advice, of course, is another thing.
    Ok, off to hunt the system. Is the GMing advice crucial?
  • Not crucial, I'd say. It depends on your gaming background, obviously. It's a sort of system that can be used in some different ways, too, so the GMing advice might be useful in nailing down the entire vision, instead of just having some mechanical bits in your hands. Basically best to read the system basics, you'll know yourself if you need more material or if you're off to the races with what you get.

    I don't quite remember when Burger wrote about it in length in his blog, I think it might have been something like -06 or so. It was in the context of some Ropecon game design competition he participated in, perhaps? He could probably help you better on this himself. Do let us know if you find anything.
  • Howdy!

    I am the author of Stalker RPG. I am, of course, scouring the web for game reviews and discussion threads such as this and have been lurking here for quite a while. Somebody was asking for details on handling combat in FLOW. Here are some designer notes from when I was still planning it: http://www.burgergames.com/notes/fall05.htm#071105

    The price point for Stalker RPG pdf is 19.90 euros. Being a big fan of dead tree, what I would really like to have available is the pdf/print-on-demand combo but so far the pod printing service at drivethrurpg.com has been rather disappointing. I am especially peeved at the inability to select a paper quality above "translucent". However, I expect the printing issue to be resolved *somehow* in the near future.

    The official news channel for all things concerning the Stalker RPG is the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/StalkerRPG but I will continue to lurk here as well.

    -Ville
  • Could you Lulu? They print in different countries making it cheaper for us Europeans.
  • I would like to sell both versions from the same source if possible (makes it easier to offer them as a bundle) but if the drivethrurpg.com PoD is ultimately a no-go, Lulu is certainly a viable alternative.
  • Lulu can sell pdfs, too, I think. So it could be an alternative sales-channel, if nothing else.
  • Confirmed. Lulu sells pdfs and PoD.
  • Posted By: BurgeriHowdy!

    I am the author of Stalker RPG. I am, of course, scouring the web for game reviews and discussion threads such as this and have been lurking here for quite a while. Somebody was asking for details on handling combat in FLOW. Here are some designer notes from when I was still planning it:http://www.burgergames.com/notes/fall05.htm#071105

    The price point for Stalker RPG pdf is 19.90 euros. Being a big fan of dead tree, what I would really like to have available is the pdf/print-on-demand combo but so far the pod printing service at drivethrurpg.com has been rather disappointing. I am especially peeved at the inability to select a paper quality above "translucent". However, I expect the printing issue to be resolved *somehow* in the near future.

    The official news channel for all things concerning the Stalker RPG is the Facebook page athttp://www.facebook.com/StalkerRPGbut I will continue to lurk here as well.

    -Ville
    Hello Burgeri!

    I have an odd question for you. While I enjoy the hell out of STALKER, and particularly like the FLOW system, I was wondering: How well do you think it would handle something like a high-powered fantasy game, like Exalted or Anima Beyond Fantasy (those level of high-powered characters, not the settings of those games)? I ask because it's occurred to me over the years that those games could do away with a lot of the crunch in their systems, if they had a good diceless system in place.

    Obviously the scale would have to be adjusted. But how would you, the designer of the system, adjust it? And how would you keep the system you have in place for statistics (because I like how your system does attributes)?
  • Ah, an interesting question. One I've been thinking about a lot, actually, albeit with different games.

    If, (and that could be a big if) the players and the gamemaster have a common vision on how the genre reality in a high-powered game works, FLOW should fit the bill. The Idea/Roleplaying ratings are easier to give in Stalker since the game reality and genre is rooted to our reality and we all share an idea of how that works (or should, at least). This might not be so easy to do in a game/genre approaching superheroic power levels. Then again, I might be underestimating your players.

    If that is resolved, I don't see any issues in the game mechanics why it should not work. The one thing FLOW does poorly compared to many other systems is power accumulation, so if levelling is a strong theme in the game/genre, some fundamentals would have to be rethought. On the other hand, FLOW would fit something like the Game of Thrones like a glove.
  • Any indications on what the POD price is likely to be? I'd much prefer dead tree to pdf, but I suspect the shipping to New Zealand will be a killer...
  • Still waiting for a second proof copy from drivethrurpg.com. I have issues with their paper quality. The pricing will depend on whether or not I can sell the pdf + pod version from the same source (proof copy from Lulu was excellent but I'd really, really like to sell the whole deal through drivethru).
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