Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

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Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Big Mac »

Over in the Orc's Revenge forum, I posted a link to the Secrets of TSR video on YouTube. The video is of a panel at PaizoCon 2012, that included Jeff Grubb, Pierce Watters, Rob Lazzaretti, Dave Gross, Wolfgang Baur and Stan! It lasts for about an hour.

One interesting thing about the talk of TSR was that Al-Qadim was designed to have a limited lifetime. And it would seem that this short-term life plan helped make the setting more financially successful than the, better selling, Dark Sun line.

Jeff Grubb said he designed Al-Qadim as a follow-up to Oriental Adventures and came up with the idea of a story that wound up before sales dropped off. Al-Qadim had a 2 year plan, with an option for year 3 and a second option for year 4.

He said that he had big reservations about going to year 4, and was especially concerned about the gold colour used on maps, because it cost extra and fans would notice if a later year dropped it.

Go have a look at the video. It is really interesting.

But when you have watched it, I'd love to hear your thoughts on how well you think the limited lifetime plan went?

Have you ever noticed a natural end point at the end of the year 2 products?

Do you think that year 3 integrates well with the first two years?

Most importantly, did the end of year 3 leave Al-Qadim on a high point (or did it start to fade away)?

Would you have stumped up for another (4th) year of products?

Do you think that it would be possible to repeat this (and have Al-Qadim come back for a limited run again)? Would you have liked to have seen a 3e or 4e version of Al-Qadim?
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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by agathokles »

I think the idea is that any given setting-type line, like a game edition, has a long-tail sales/interest behaviour: it generally starts strong, with products that appeal to a wider public. Then, "core" fans will generally want more detail, and are therefore interested in numerous, focused products, which, however, will be increasingly less interesting for the more general public, up to a point where the returns are too low to support the campaign. On one hand, the Al Qadim style limited timeline helps creating lines that bring revenues. On the other hand, "core" fans will grow disappointed for the lack of support for their favourite edition/setting.

You'll note that this model has been repeated in 4e for Dark Sun and Eberron, and was originally planned for Forgotten Realms as well -- except that Forgotten Realms enjoys a wider popularity, and this model doesn't work with it.

In perspective, it is definitely possible to see a new version of Al Qadim (and Oriental Adventure) with a similar organization, but at this point in 5e.

As for year 2 vs year 3, here are the releases by year (from Wikipedia):
  1. Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures, Monstrous Compendium: Al-Qadim Appendix, Al-Qadim: Land of Fate, Golden Voyages
  2. City of Delights, Assassin Mountain, A Dozen and One Adventures, Secrets of the Lamp
  3. The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook, Ruined Kingdoms Campaign, Cities of Bone, Corsairs of the Great Sea, Caravans
Obviously, the first year is much stronger, with the rule book, setting box, MCA, and an adventure collection. Year two provides a more detailed sub-setting, and three thematic adventure books.
Year three gives us the Sha'ir's handbook, with a plethora of Wizard specialties (here we start to see the hyper-specialization -- whereas Sha'irs, Sorcerers and Elementalists in the core book provide a wide variety of material within the basic frame of the game, here with Jackals, Astrologers, Mechanicians, Ghul Lords, etc., we break into a realm of flavorful but less well thought out sub-classes), two somewhat less impressive (but still good) campaign adventures that focus on more distant lands (ruined kingdoms and cities of bones), but also two very good adventures (caravans and corsairs). Except for Caravans, the common thread is that "side" areas (the Great Sea, Nog, etc.) are explored.

IMO, the line could have held a fourth year, but hardly at the same rate -- sure, other lands such as Harab and Bariya in the eastern Crowded Sea, or the Barbarian lands in the north, or the lands of the Yak-men or the Sea of Foreigners could have been explored, but in the core of Zakhara, only the Cities of the Pantheon were really left out.
That could have yielded a boxed set similar to Assassin Mountain, but focused on the Farisan kit and the priests. Another set could have explored the Mercenary Barbarians and their homelands in the north, plus the City of Free Men and the lands of the Yak-men. Finally a further campaign adventure like "Caravans" could have been produced.

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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Oqlanth »

I remembered this 'limited period' thing. Probably from an old Dragon magazine article...may be from Walfgang Baur's website, not sure.

-note: by the way I didn't watch Jeff Grubb's interview which you posted yet-

But in same article I remembered they planned for 2 years but they expanded it one or two more years because of the 'interest' at setting!

by the way in one of the paizo's dragon magazine which focuses on old TSR settings (Dragon magazine #315 page 78) in sidebar Jeff Grubb tells story of creating Al Qadim setting and Al Qadim's 'struggle' with Dark Sun.

Interesting (and good) part of the setting is each author focused on their area od interest. For example Steve Kurtz focused on 'Dark Arabia' (Cities of Bone and Ruined Kingdoms, Ghul Lord kit in CSH and of course CNHB...but ironicaly 'Scimitars against Darj article at Dragon magazine was written by Wolfgang Baur :D )

There is also Complete Necromancer's Handbook which is officaly a 'generic' AD&D product but in reality it is much like 'Complete Ghul's Handbook' with Al Qadim regional sources within.

Limited plan is not real problem. The real problem is within TSR. Some of the most creative authors in TSR (Wolfgang Baur) or frelancer (Steve Kurtz, Nicky Rea) are great fans and supporters of the setting. along with hardcore fans in gaming communities (check fan created Al Qadim adventures in Dungeon magazine o Dragon magazine articles).

So it is expected to see setting alive and well support. But TSR got problems, management problems, economical problems, 'vision' problems. And it effected Al Qadim. Even under all of these conditions 'Reunion' happened! It was very surprising...
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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Big Mac »

agathokles wrote:I think the idea is that any given setting-type line, like a game edition, has a long-tail sales/interest behaviour: it generally starts strong, with products that appeal to a wider public. Then, "core" fans will generally want more detail, and are therefore interested in numerous, focused products, which, however, will be increasingly less interesting for the more general public, up to a point where the returns are too low to support the campaign. On one hand, the Al Qadim style limited timeline helps creating lines that bring revenues. On the other hand, "core" fans will grow disappointed for the lack of support for their favourite edition/setting.

You'll note that this model has been repeated in 4e for Dark Sun and Eberron, and was originally planned for Forgotten Realms as well -- except that Forgotten Realms enjoys a wider popularity, and this model doesn't work with it.

In perspective, it is definitely possible to see a new version of Al Qadim (and Oriental Adventure) with a similar organization, but at this point in 5e.
That does seem to be what Jeff Grubb was getting at. It is ironic, in a way, that Al-Qadim didn't come back for 4e, but it's "rival" (Dark Sun) used Al-Qadim's economic tactics to come back. I'm glad that one of the classic 2e settings came back. To be honest, I was hoping to see more of them. I thought there was a "one setting per year" thing going on. Still, its not over until its over and we could still see some sort of 4e Al-Qadim product in the lead up to 5e (even if it is a DDI thing).

I'd love to see the numbers from the Mystara sub-settings, as well as the numbers from the Forgotten Realms sub-settings. In a way both product lines were attempting very similar things. Taken as a sub-setting, Al-Qadim has got to compare to something like Hollow World, and bring in some customers from the primary setting.

One thing I would say, about all this, is that I've seen people saying that campaign settings are the cause of these problems, and yet the game designers seem happy to pump out generic products until they come out of my ears. One of the things that really made me give up playing AD&D (during the 2e Era) was the ever increasing line of Complete Books. I love some of them now, but at the time I felt like it was just a plot to get my cash out of my pocket with a crowbar. I would love to see the numbers for those vs the numbers for some of the settings.
agathokles wrote:As for year 2 vs year 3, here are the releases by year (from Wikipedia):
  1. Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures, Monstrous Compendium: Al-Qadim Appendix, Al-Qadim: Land of Fate, Golden Voyages
  2. City of Delights, Assassin Mountain, A Dozen and One Adventures, Secrets of the Lamp
  3. The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook, Ruined Kingdoms Campaign, Cities of Bone, Corsairs of the Great Sea, Caravans
Obviously, the first year is much stronger, with the rule book, setting box, MCA, and an adventure collection. Year two provides a more detailed sub-setting, and three thematic adventure books.
Year three gives us the Sha'ir's handbook, with a plethora of Wizard specialties (here we start to see the hyper-specialization -- whereas Sha'irs, Sorcerers and Elementalists in the core book provide a wide variety of material within the basic frame of the game, here with Jackals, Astrologers, Mechanicians, Ghul Lords, etc., we break into a realm of flavorful but less well thought out sub-classes), two somewhat less impressive (but still good) campaign adventures that focus on more distant lands (ruined kingdoms and cities of bones), but also two very good adventures (caravans and corsairs). Except for Caravans, the common thread is that "side" areas (the Great Sea, Nog, etc.) are explored.
Thanks for this. It is a brilliant overview. I'm still getting into Al-Qadim and this section of this post really helps with working out what products are most "important".

One thing that is interesting is that both the Al-Qadim freebie downloads, that WotC gave away come from year three. It seems like they are among the "less important" section of the product line. I wonder if the rest of the old downloads were also the "expendable" products of other settings. :?
agathokles wrote:IMO, the line could have held a fourth year, but hardly at the same rate -- sure, other lands such as Harab and Bariya in the eastern Crowded Sea, or the Barbarian lands in the north, or the lands of the Yak-men or the Sea of Foreigners could have been explored, but in the core of Zakhara, only the Cities of the Pantheon were really left out.
That could have yielded a boxed set similar to Assassin Mountain, but focused on the Farisan kit and the priests. Another set could have explored the Mercenary Barbarians and their homelands in the north, plus the City of Free Men and the lands of the Yak-men. Finally a further campaign adventure like "Caravans" could have been produced.
Jeff Grubb mentioned the Yak-men, himself. I'd love to know what else was on the list. I might actually ask him if he still has the list.

One thing I don't see (unless I've missed it in my ignorance) is a Zakharan underdark. These days everything has to come with an underdark. I'd love to have seen an underdark for Al-Qadim, Kara-Tur and Maztica. (At a push I'd have settled for a product similar to Dragonlance's Otherlands book - with all three mixed into a single book.)
Oqlanth wrote:I remembered this 'limited period' thing. Probably from an old Dragon magazine article...may be from Walfgang Baur's website, not sure.

-note: by the way I didn't watch Jeff Grubb's interview which you posted yet-

But in same article I remembered they planned for 2 years but they expanded it one or two more years because of the 'interest' at setting!
The video is well worth the time it takes to watch it.

I've heard that a similar thing happened with Spelljammer and that the original plan was just to make the AD&D Adventures in Space boxed set. I think that more was tacked on afterwards because things went well. I love Spelljammer, but it is a bit disorganised. I think that a 2 year plan for Al-Qadim would have ensured that if it ended there, it would be a self-contained product line.
Oqlanth wrote:by the way in one of the paizo's dragon magazine which focuses on old TSR settings (Dragon magazine #315 page 78) in sidebar Jeff Grubb tells story of creating Al Qadim setting and Al Qadim's 'struggle' with Dark Sun.
Back when Dark Sun came out, I was much more excited about it. I think I barely noticed Al-Qadim at the time. But after buying the Dark Sun boxed set I was pretty disappointed that it was designed to be incompatible with the transitive settings like Spelljammer, Planescape and Ravenloft.

Al-Qadim, on the other hand, gives you a new campaign, while still working for any GM that wants to do a crossover campaign. And being located on the planet Toril means that you can also take a standard Forgotten Realms campaign and migrate it to Al-Qadim.

The two work well, on their own. But of the two, I'd argue that Al-Qadim is much greater value for money for anyone that likes to mix up their campaigns. If that had been brought to my attention at the time, I think I'd have chosen to go with Al-Qadim instead of Dark Sun.
Oqlanth wrote:There is also Complete Necromancer's Handbook which is officaly a 'generic' AD&D product but in reality it is much like 'Complete Ghul's Handbook' with Al Qadim regional sources within.
I've seen Spelljammer references sneaked into both generic products and products for other campaign setttings (including Al-Qadim) before. I guess the Sahu stuff was in there because it could be handwaved as generic. I've not familiar enough with DMGR7 The Complete Book of Necromancers to be able to tell what percentage of the book is connected to Al-Qadim.
Oqlanth wrote:Limited plan is not real problem. The real problem is within TSR. Some of the most creative authors in TSR (Wolfgang Baur) or frelancer (Steve Kurtz, Nicky Rea) are great fans and supporters of the setting. along with hardcore fans in gaming communities (check fan created Al Qadim adventures in Dungeon magazine o Dragon magazine articles).
I think it is much more economical to put content for a retired setting into Dragon or Dungeon than it is to bring them back into production. That is something the magazines do really well. And I think that the popularity of those sort of articles can be used to make a case for something bigger.

I think that another Al-Qadim product was sneaked out as a RPGA product. I'm not sure how much later that was done.
Oqlanth wrote:So it is expected to see setting alive and well support. But TSR got problems, management problems, economical problems, 'vision' problems. And it effected Al Qadim. Even under all of these conditions 'Reunion' happened! It was very surprising...
When you have seen the video you will realise that some of the economic problems were down to the designers being given inaccurate (or even misleading) information and inadvertently creating products that were not bringing in the cash they were costing. It didn't help that the printing company got their claws into TSR and tried to push them over the edge, so that they could buy them out. But in that context the attention to costs that was shown when Al-Qadim was designed was impressive.

We all buy (or don't buy) campaign settings based on how good the worlds are. And we want our own value for money. But if products run a company into the ground, the source dries up and nobody wins.

I do think that the non-RPG products (like the overstocking of Dragon Dice or the poor reception of Rose Estas novels) did damage to TSR too, so I don't think it is fair to point the finger at campaign settings. But I wonder if the Al-Qadim plan could have been repeated for 3e (or even 4e). WotC seems to go for full colour hardbacks, which obviously cost more money to produce than TSR's two colour books. Maybe something like Al-Qadim could be brought back as a Print on Demand (and PDF) campaign setting. :?
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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by BlackBat242 »

Big Mac wrote:One thing I don't see (unless I've missed it in my ignorance) is a Zakharan underdark. These days everything has to come with an underdark. I'd love to have seen an underdark for Al-Qadim, Kara-Tur and Maztica. (At a push I'd have settled for a product similar to Dragonlance's Otherlands book - with all three mixed into a single book.)
I'm rather glad there ISN'T an Al Qadim Underdark.

The Arabian myths, legends, and so on that form the basis for the setting itself don't have any such thing, so adding one would be like grafting "real" demons & vampires into a "Sherlock Holmes" late-Victorian/early Edwardian England setting... it would be a jarring and totally misfit addition.

The focus should rather be on the whole spirit world of Jinn, and so on... such supernatural beings should be the kind of mid-high-level threat that hordes of drow & mind flayers are in other settings.


There is absolutely no rational reason to force all settings to have the same elements... that destroys their uniqueness, and makes them all just varying flavors of the same meta-setting.
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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by agathokles »

I agree with BlackBat, there's no need of an underdark in Al Qadim, since the underdark has a widely different tone and scope.

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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Big Mac »

They may not have a drow-invested underdark, like Faerun, but there are underground environments in Arabian folklaw.

Ali-Baba (and the 40 thieves) is a story based around a magically sealed cave.

The story of Aladdin features a booby-trapped magical cave.

People of the Cave (Ashabu Al-Kahf) is not in Arabian Adventures, but is mentioned in the Quran.

There is a story of a dragon called Zahhāk who is imprisoned in a cave underneath Mount Damāvand,

And there is also a (real-life) place that has the name Majlis al Jinn (which means meeting place of the jinn).

I think that maybe caves and other underground locations could work with Al-Qadim. I think you could possibly have a different type of dungeoneering, where genies live underground and many caves are naturally magical.
Last edited by Big Mac on Fri Jan 25, 2013 1:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Havard »

agathokles wrote:As for year 2 vs year 3, here are the releases by year (from Wikipedia):
  1. Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures, Monstrous Compendium: Al-Qadim Appendix, Al-Qadim: Land of Fate, Golden Voyages
  2. City of Delights, Assassin Mountain, A Dozen and One Adventures, Secrets of the Lamp
  3. The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook, Ruined Kingdoms Campaign, Cities of Bone, Corsairs of the Great Sea, Caravans
Seems to me like it could have made more sense to make the later products more generic so that they could be used in other Desert Realms as well, such as Dark Sun, or Mystara's Ylaruam/Great Waste etc.

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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by agathokles »

I disagree, for two reasons. First, Al Qadim's adventures are already fairly generic as far as "Arabian Adventures" go -- indeed, it is pretty easy to port them to Mystara (not to Dark Sun: while the two share the environment to some extent, the focus of Al Qadim is arabic culture and myth, not the desert per se, and certain Al Qadim products are not even set in deserts -- e.g., Corsairs of the Great Sea and Golden Voyages). Second, generic products don't necessarily sell better than setting oriented products.

Back to the Underdark concept, there's nothing that prevents Al Qadim from having caves (indeed, there are caves here and there), but an Underdark is something more than simply any cave or dungeon -- by definition, it is a large-scale subterranean environment.

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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

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agathokles wrote:I disagree, for two reasons. First, Al Qadim's adventures are already fairly generic as far as "Arabian Adventures" go -- indeed, it is pretty easy to port them to Mystara (not to Dark Sun: while the two share the environment to some extent, the focus of Al Qadim is arabic culture and myth, not the desert per se, and certain Al Qadim products are not even set in deserts -- e.g., Corsairs of the Great Sea and Golden Voyages).
Jeff Grubb did say (on the Secrets of TSR panel) that the original remit was to make a follow up to Oriental Adventures. So the Arabian theme is all important.

I know that some people don't like the Al-Qadim/Faerun link (and would have preferred Al-Qadim to be unconnected to Forgotten Realms). I've recently wondered more and more if this was designers of the 2nd Edition Era trying to recreate the way that Classic D&D put a lot of different things into Mystara. But to return to Havard's idea of raiding Al-Qadim for other settings, I think that would be something better suited to Dragon and Dungeon articles. They didn't have Web Enhancements back then, but an article showing how to reboot Al-Qadim products to build Ylaruam or the Great Waste could have been a way to get secondary sales of the Al-Qadim products.

It is kind of a shame that we didn't get an Arabian Adventures for 3rd Edition (along with an Arabian SRD). Getting the Arabian Adventures core values (and not the Al-Qadim campaign setting itself) into Open Game Content could have been a much better way to encourage the use of Al-Qadim products alongside products for other campaign settings.
agathokles wrote:Second, generic products don't necessarily sell better than setting oriented products.
If The Piazza had a like button or a reputation system, I'd be hitting the button on this.
agathokles wrote:Back to the Underdark concept, there's nothing that prevents Al Qadim from having caves (indeed, there are caves here and there), but an Underdark is something more than simply any cave or dungeon -- by definition, it is a large-scale subterranean environment.
Well, it turns out I was way off the mark anyway. Year four was going to be products that expanded the Al-Qadim area. I bugged Jeff Grubb himself with a question (and it wasn't even a question about Spelljammer):
Jeff Grubb on Facebook wrote:I don't remember the full roster, but each of the projects was supposed to expand out the maps from the main set. The Terror of the Yak-Men was going to handle the upper left of the map, but I don't remember the rest at this point.
It was great of Jeff to answer. I'm not sure what the logical areas are, but maybe someone here can guess.

Oqlanth looks like he shaping up as a possible "Michael Knight of Al-Qadim". Maybe he could help with a fanon version of Terror of the Yak-Men. :)
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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by agathokles »

Yes, if you look at the main set map, it's pretty easy to see which areas were developed and which were not -- in my previous post, I mentioned the Yak-men lands (and the upper left corner of the map) as well as the Cities of the Pantheon as the main undeveloped areas (plus a number of islands between the Sea of Foreigners and the Crowded Sea).

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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Jorkens »

Caves in Zakhara work well, but no traditional Underdark in my opinion. It might exist, but it should then be something that is almost completely unknown in the world above as the Dao have blocked every known entrance on the behest of earlier rulers, maybe because they were used by the Geomancers.

Al Qadim is to me as near to a perfect campaign line as TSR ever published (Reunion being a clear exception from this quality) and the publishing limit was one of the main reasons. It made it easy to both make the various products very specific and the plots and adventures very open. And as much as I love the setting I am glad that it hasn't been reworked in any way as that would most likely push the timeline forward.

But one thing always irritated me to death; if you produce box sets with a lot of handouts you should spend the money on putting a cover on the various books too.

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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Big Mac »

agathokles wrote:Yes, if you look at the main set map, it's pretty easy to see which areas were developed and which were not -- in my previous post, I mentioned the Yak-men lands (and the upper left corner of the map) as well as the Cities of the Pantheon as the main undeveloped areas (plus a number of islands between the Sea of Foreigners and the Crowded Sea).
I wonder if anyone has ever done fanon versions of those areas. :?
Jorkens wrote:Caves in Zakhara work well, but no traditional Underdark in my opinion. It might exist, but it should then be something that is almost completely unknown in the world above as the Dao have blocked every known entrance on the behest of earlier rulers, maybe because they were used by the Geomancers.
Well, we do know from the Maztica Campaign Setting, that the Underdark between Faerun and Maztica was destroyed during a war between the drow and the dwarves. I'm not sure how big the devastation caused by the drow was, but perhaps it might have caused problems in the Underdark of Al-Qadim. There are a lot of islands there, and if explosions allowed sea water to get in, a large part of the Zakharan Underdark could actually get flooded.
Jorkens wrote:Al Qadim is to me as near to a perfect campaign line as TSR ever published (Reunion being a clear exception from this quality) and the publishing limit was one of the main reasons. It made it easy to both make the various products very specific and the plots and adventures very open. And as much as I love the setting I am glad that it hasn't been reworked in any way as that would most likely push the timeline forward.
If there was a 4e version of Al-Qadim, I think it might copy Dark Sun and be fairly close to the original. But I think they would do something that was more limited than the original, rather than an expanded Al-Qadim. And if they are not going to do more of the same sort of stuff we had in the begining, why bother?
Jorkens wrote:But one thing always irritated me to death; if you produce box sets with a lot of handouts you should spend the money on putting a cover on the various books too.
I'd say similar things about some of the other boxed sets, where they used recycled artwork on the books inside. The Legend of Spelljammer had the same artwork, but cut up into sections, and that always bugged me.

I think I'd take new black and white sketch art over no art.
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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Jorkens »

Big Mac wrote:
Jorkens wrote:Caves in Zakhara work well, but no traditional Underdark in my opinion. It might exist, but it should then be something that is almost completely unknown in the world above as the Dao have blocked every known entrance on the behest of earlier rulers, maybe because they were used by the Geomancers.
Well, we do know from the Maztica Campaign Setting, that the Underdark between Faerun and Maztica was destroyed during a war between the drow and the dwarves. I'm not sure how big the devastation caused by the drow was, but perhaps it might have caused problems in the Underdark of Al-Qadim. There are a lot of islands there, and if explosions allowed sea water to get in, a large part of the Zakharan Underdark could actually get flooded.
Jorkens wrote:Al Qadim is to me as near to a perfect campaign line as TSR ever published (Reunion being a clear exception from this quality) and the publishing limit was one of the main reasons. It made it easy to both make the various products very specific and the plots and adventures very open. And as much as I love the setting I am glad that it hasn't been reworked in any way as that would most likely push the timeline forward.
If there was a 4e version of Al-Qadim, I think it might copy Dark Sun and be fairly close to the original. But I think they would do something that was more limited than the original, rather than an expanded Al-Qadim. And if they are not going to do more of the same sort of stuff we had in the begining, why bother?
Jorkens wrote:But one thing always irritated me to death; if you produce box sets with a lot of handouts you should spend the money on putting a cover on the various books too.
I'd say similar things about some of the other boxed sets, where they used recycled artwork on the books inside. The Legend of Spelljammer had the same artwork, but cut up into sections, and that always bugged me.

I think I'd take new black and white sketch art over no art.
Recycled artwork is one thing, but no covers on the books annoys me for the simple reason that it makes the books less durable. Its the same thing with Avalon Hill's 3ed. Runequest.

As for Zakharan Underdark; I actually like the idea of it being partially flooded; I can see there being an Underdark that was the opposite of the one in the North; a teeming jungle of mushrooms, fungus and lichens that contained innumerable strange monsters that were locked in here millennia ago. That's the way I have run the Underdark of Faerun anyway.

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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Big Mac »

I'd agree with you totally on the lack of covers. The PHBR and CGR series managed to have covers that didn't have art. They could have done something plain like that.

I've seen Havard making some mock covers for vapourware products. I wonder if anyone has ever designed substitue covers for use with these coverless books.

A flooded underdark could be interesting, as you could have underground canals where corsairs charge tolls for travel. You could even have totally submerged areas, where aquatic races are dominant.
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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

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The lush and flooded Underdark would also lead to all sorts of legends about a blessed land among the desert dwellers and might even be one of the reasons that the land is low on water in the first place. The more I think of it the better I like the idea; it would also be a good source of Unenlightened monsters that could spread both havoc and distrust in the land above through raiding.

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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

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Jorkens wrote:The lush and flooded Underdark would also lead to all sorts of legends about a blessed land among the desert dwellers and might even be one of the reasons that the land is low on water in the first place. The more I think of it the better I like the idea; it would also be a good source of Unenlightened monsters that could spread both havoc and distrust in the land above through raiding.
I wonder if blue holes could be made to fit into Zakhara's caves and some of the regions of seas between the islands. Something like blue holes could give you routes into the underdark that were inaccessible to most NPCs.
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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by BlackBat242 »

Sigh...

After seeing Havard's FB post on the Japanese island I ended up Googling lots more images... and eventually ended up downloading pics & maps for Dahab Blue Hole Egypt, Dean's Blue Hole Long Island Bahamas, and Great Blue Hole Ambergris Caye Belize.


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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by True_Atlantean »

Thanks for posting the video, Big Mac. It was great to watch and filled in the gaps of a few other stories I had heard too.

The 'limited lifetime plan' is one that I think is undervalued by the current consumer mindset. White Wolf adopted this for new World of Darkness, to provide an outlet for smaller game lines to emerge, but with the up-front understanding that it would be a limited run. Some, like Changeling: the Lost received about ten books, whilst others, like Geist, received only two. However, it means that there is a focus on quality from the outset and you tend to get much tighter development.

However, in a world where everything needs several sequels, at least one prequel, three Director's Cut Versions and a remake, it must be hard to sell this idea commercially. For a setting like Al-Qadim, though, it works.
agathokles wrote: As for year 2 vs year 3, here are the releases by year (from Wikipedia):
  1. Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures, Monstrous Compendium: Al-Qadim Appendix, Al-Qadim: Land of Fate, Golden Voyages
  2. City of Delights, Assassin Mountain, A Dozen and One Adventures, Secrets of the Lamp
  3. The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook, Ruined Kingdoms Campaign, Cities of Bone, Corsairs of the Great Sea, Caravans
I found this really interesting in terms of the number of products (I thought there were more). For me, the best products were in the last year, so it is a nice note to leave the setting on. Caravans and Ruined Kingdoms were awesome and I liked the slim-line boxed set format. A lot of people have been complaining about the quality and size of the boxed sets for 4e (they are apparently at least 50% air), but I've yet to read any reference to simply making the box smaller and more durable (seems like common sense to me). The main one on the list I'd like to read is Assassin Mountain, as I always felt that the Assassin as presented in Al-Qadim was not presented very at all.
Havard wrote:Seems to me like it could have made more sense to make the later products more generic so that they could be used in other Desert Realms as well, such as Dark Sun, or Mystara's Ylaruam/Great Waste etc. Havard
I've used it the other way around, actually. The GAZ for Ylaruam does have a number of sections (the stories and sayings section in particular) that have the right flavour.
Jorkens wrote:The lush and flooded Underdark would also lead to all sorts of legends about a blessed land among the desert dwellers and might even be one of the reasons that the land is low on water in the first place. The more I think of it the better I like the idea; it would also be a good source of Unenlightened monsters that could spread both havoc and distrust in the land above through raiding.
I like the idea of the Underdark being perceived as a place of plenty; a location that you might actually seek out willingly. There is the story of the hashishin induction whereby the initiates are drugged and taken to a lush garden for one night. The next day, when they come down from the high, they are told that they glimpsed heaven and that going back is predicated on service. I can see one of these types of caves used by the Assassins in Al-Qadim for exactly the same purposes.
Maps to Underdark entrances could also be great plot hooks, and even give the PCs reason to travel with the caravans of the High Desert. It would make for a nice backdrop for at least one adventure.
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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Nate Christen »

True_Atlantean wrote:The 'limited lifetime plan' is one that I think is undervalued by the current consumer mindset...
This is an interesting point; I know it's something with which I struggle. On one hand, I have the existing Al-Qadim material, and that's plenty for running a number of campaigns. On the other, to me a setting feels more vibrant and alive if it's currently in print.

I can see the argument for a shorter run and higher quality too, though. Although I like some of the AQ products better than others, there are none that strike me as shoddily done.

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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Big Mac »

True_Atlantean wrote:Thanks for posting the video, Big Mac. It was great to watch and filled in the gaps of a few other stories I had heard too.

The 'limited lifetime plan' is one that I think is undervalued by the current consumer mindset. White Wolf adopted this for new World of Darkness, to provide an outlet for smaller game lines to emerge, but with the up-front understanding that it would be a limited run. Some, like Changeling: the Lost received about ten books, whilst others, like Geist, received only two. However, it means that there is a focus on quality from the outset and you tend to get much tighter development.

However, in a world where everything needs several sequels, at least one prequel, three Director's Cut Versions and a remake, it must be hard to sell this idea commercially. For a setting like Al-Qadim, though, it works.
I suppose the "bottom line" that games designers are working with is that they need game stores to stock products and that means they need to convince distributors to push the products onto game stores. Without getting the chain to take something on, it is never going to get in front of the customers. And when Al-Qadim came out there wasn't the online retail choice that people have today, so they had no way to market directly to the punters.

I guess that if something like Al-Qadim is too small the marketing cost per product would rise, but if you can combine several products into a product line you can promote the entire line with the same advertising campaign and split the marketing costs.

As for "remakes", I would have liked to have seen Al-Qadim remade as a Zakhara sourcebook for WotC's 3e Forgotten Realms product line. That would have opened the setting to 3e fans and hopefully allowed for a few new details to be added.
True_Atlantean wrote:
agathokles wrote:As for year 2 vs year 3, here are the releases by year (from Wikipedia):
  1. Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures, Monstrous Compendium: Al-Qadim Appendix, Al-Qadim: Land of Fate, Golden Voyages
  2. City of Delights, Assassin Mountain, A Dozen and One Adventures, Secrets of the Lamp
  3. The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook, Ruined Kingdoms Campaign, Cities of Bone, Corsairs of the Great Sea, Caravans
I found this really interesting in terms of the number of products (I thought there were more). For me, the best products were in the last year, so it is a nice note to leave the setting on. Caravans and Ruined Kingdoms were awesome and I liked the slim-line boxed set format. A lot of people have been complaining about the quality and size of the boxed sets for 4e (they are apparently at least 50% air), but I've yet to read any reference to simply making the box smaller and more durable (seems like common sense to me). The main one on the list I'd like to read is Assassin Mountain, as I always felt that the Assassin as presented in Al-Qadim was not presented very at all.
I don't like boxed sets full of air. Some of the ones I bought during the 2e era were not exactly packed out, either. I don't really have the room to store half empty boxes. And half empty boxes make me feel like I'm being tricked into thinking something has more stuff than it does. That makes me feel like someone is trying to rip me off. I'm quite glad that my 3e collection is mostly hardbacks.

Perhaps you should start a thread for us to discuss Assassin Mountain. ;)
True_Atlantean wrote:
Havard wrote:Seems to me like it could have made more sense to make the later products more generic so that they could be used in other Desert Realms as well, such as Dark Sun, or Mystara's Ylaruam/Great Waste etc. Havard
I've used it the other way around, actually. The GAZ for Ylaruam does have a number of sections (the stories and sayings section in particular) that have the right flavour.
Your advise in my Raiding Ylaruam (in Mystara) for Al-Qadim thread would be much appreciated. :)
True_Atlantean wrote:
Jorkens wrote:The lush and flooded Underdark would also lead to all sorts of legends about a blessed land among the desert dwellers and might even be one of the reasons that the land is low on water in the first place. The more I think of it the better I like the idea; it would also be a good source of Unenlightened monsters that could spread both havoc and distrust in the land above through raiding.
I like the idea of the Underdark being perceived as a place of plenty; a location that you might actually seek out willingly. There is the story of the hashishin induction whereby the initiates are drugged and taken to a lush garden for one night. The next day, when they come down from the high, they are told that they glimpsed heaven and that going back is predicated on service. I can see one of these types of caves used by the Assassins in Al-Qadim for exactly the same purposes.
Maps to Underdark entrances could also be great plot hooks, and even give the PCs reason to travel with the caravans of the High Desert. It would make for a nice backdrop for at least one adventure.
I think that one of the problems with the Underdark is that it is presented as a single environment. On the surface of a campaign setting, there are a ton of different things going on. I think there should be as much variety under the ground too.

Thinking of the water thing again, I just remembered Dune, where they live in the desert and horde water in hidden underground caves. Maybe assassins with underground caves could "render" the water from some of the people they murder and use it to help build up an underground oasis. I wonder if it might be possible for monsters like mimics or oozes to take advantage of the lack of water in a setting like Al-Qadim. An aqutic ooze could make underground lakes fun. :twisted:
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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Jorkens »

Sorry for not answering the specific points Big Mac, but that much editing would make my head hurt.

I quite honestly I don't think 3ed. would be a good idea for Zakhara. It is the one setting that should be left alone except as maybe an available reprint. Of all the settings it is the one that best incorporates the various elements of 2nd. ed. and the rigidity of Ad&d actually fits in my opinion. The 3ed. with its variations, changing classes and powers would give it a very different feel which would work even less than it did (in my opinion)with the Realms. Still I had the impression that the 3ed. Dragonlance books worked so I could be wrong; it has happened a couple of times.

As for the assassins harvesting water; I don't like that idea, it seems out of place with both the culture and feel of Zakhara. But it could be that some small ghoul-manipulated barbarian cult could have been deluded into believing that such sacrifices where necessary. Caravans and nomads would be raided and people kidnapped by the cult to keep their oasis alive, with the ghouls in reality controlling the water source (from the Underdark or maybe a decanter of endless water of some sorts)and manipulating its flow according to how many victims were brought forth and "drained".

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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Big Mac »

Jorkens wrote:Sorry for not answering the specific points Big Mac, but that much editing would make my head hurt.
LMAO! :lol:

No problem, my friend. :)
Jorkens wrote:I quite honestly I don't think 3ed. would be a good idea for Zakhara. It is the one setting that should be left alone except as maybe an available reprint. Of all the settings it is the one that best incorporates the various elements of 2nd. ed. and the rigidity of Ad&d actually fits in my opinion. The 3ed. with its variations, changing classes and powers would give it a very different feel which would work even less than it did (in my opinion)with the Realms. Still I had the impression that the 3ed. Dragonlance books worked so I could be wrong; it has happened a couple of times.
I tend to look at these things differently. I don't look as a conversion as some sort of statement that Al-Qadim would be "better" under 3rd Edition rules. That sort of thing is subjective. If people like the original Al-Qadim, they should play with 2nd Edition rules.

My take on it is that conversions open up older settings to fans of newer rules. In other words, I look on it as 3rd Edition is better with Al-Qadim than it is without Al-Qadim. From that point of view, it does not matter if the 3e conversion doesn't match up everything in the same way as the 2e original, so long as people do the conversion in the spirit of the original and go for the feel of Al-Qadim, rather than try to beef things up.
Jorkens wrote:As for the assassins harvesting water; I don't like that idea, it seems out of place with both the culture and feel of Zakhara. But it could be that some small ghoul-manipulated barbarian cult could have been deluded into believing that such sacrifices where necessary. Caravans and nomads would be raided and people kidnapped by the cult to keep their oasis alive, with the ghouls in reality controlling the water source (from the Underdark or maybe a decanter of endless water of some sorts)and manipulating its flow according to how many victims were brought forth and "drained".
Sure. It was only an idea anyway. I'm still learning about Al-Qadim, to be honest. I've got more AQ-fu to study.

But I do quite like your idea.
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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Jorkens »

Sorry if I came of as negative Mac; its my natural tone and sometime I forget that I sound like the definition of a grumbling grognard. The generally positive tone of the Piazza makes me sound even worse than usual it seems.

To explain the edition point. I think the feel of Al Qadim was more heavily tied to the specific rulesset than the other TSR settings at the time and another edition or set of rules would change the setting quite a bit (and with that the spirit and specificness it had) unless it was handled very, very carefully. And that might lead to one not using the 3ed. potential to its fullest, making a whole new setting a better alternative. But then I should say that I am not all that in favour of updating settings in the first place (I think the rules have a lot to say for how the setting is formed and how it feels and large changes will turn it into something else), so I am biased. And there is always fan conversions which I would think would be a safer rout to go.

I do see your point about presenting the setting to newer fans, but as I really, really disliked the 3ed. FR product line (except for one book I liked and used and one book I really liked as a product but would never use)I find it hard to be positive about the idea of a 3ed. Zakhara book. On the other hand of course a lot of people enjoined them so what do I know?

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Re: Jeff Grubb's 'limited lifetime' plan for Al-Qadim

Post by Nate Christen »

agathokles wrote:As for year 2 vs year 3, here are the releases by year (from Wikipedia):
  1. Al-Qadim: Arabian Adventures, Monstrous Compendium: Al-Qadim Appendix, Al-Qadim: Land of Fate, Golden Voyages
  2. City of Delights, Assassin Mountain, A Dozen and One Adventures, Secrets of the Lamp
  3. The Complete Sha'ir's Handbook, Ruined Kingdoms Campaign, Cities of Bone, Corsairs of the Great Sea, Caravans
I've been thinking about this and it seems to make sense that things were plotted to last two years. A Dozen and One Adventures seems to provide the start, middle and end of a story arc, focusing on a growing conflict with the Brotherhood of the True Flame, while Golden Voyages, Assassin Mountain and Secrets of the Lamp being easy to drop in between the scenarios of ADaOA. The adventures from the third year could also be added to that storyline, or perhaps used to create their own.

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