Thursday, October 25, 2012

[Q&A] Jeff Talanian (Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea)

[19:06] <+JeffTalanian> Hi, my name is Jeff Talanian, and I'm the author of a brand new pen-and-paper RPG called Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, a role-playing game of swords, sorcery, and weird fantasy, rooted in the traditions of Gary Gygax, yet more focused on the fantastic fication of authors such as Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, and C.A. Smith. (done)
[19:06] <+brehaut> Can you provide a link for that?
[19:07] <~Dan> Good point, brehaut! :)
[19:07] <+JeffTalanian> (Link:
[19:07] <+JeffTalanian> and the FB page: (Link:
[19:08] <+JeffTalanian> (done)
[19:08] <~Dan> Jeff, what lead you to choose AD&D 1e as the basis for your system?
[19:09] <+JeffTalanian> I didn't choose AD&D 1e as the basis; rather I used the SRD and the OGL in a manner that utilizes more traditional mechanics that I and my fellow players most enjoy. (done)
[19:10] <~Dan> Hmm. Well, let's look at one specific, then: why did you decide against including skills/NWPs?
[19:12] <+JeffTalanian> I wanted to embrace a method of game play that focuses on level advancement and not so much on the granular nature of character building skill systems. I have tried NWP systems in the past, and found them ungratifying; IMO they tend to limit what is possible more than they define what the character is capable of performing. (done)
[19:14] <~Dan> So one thing I wasn't clear about: In AS&SH, how would you handle something like... I dunno... someone successfully performing a dance?
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[19:15] <~Dan> (Welcome, Guest30971! You can set your nick with the /nick command.)
[19:16] <+JeffTalanian> This is an ambiguous sort of thing that is not necessarily covered by the rules. I can tell you how I would handle it: If the player says his character is dancing at a bar to impress some ladies, I would ask what his charisma maybe call for a reaction roll. If the dance was forced by a demon who will render something terrible if the dance is not to its liking
[19:17] <~Dan> (cut off at "not to its liking")
[19:17] <+JeffTalanian> , I would use a d6 task resolution check, looking closely at the PC's dex and cha. (done)
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[19:18] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, Patrick!)
[19:18] <~Dan> (Q&A re: AS&SH in progress!)
[19:18] <~Dan> Jeff: Fair enough.
[19:19] <+xyphoid_> i'm a bit confused - is it a 3.x SRD derivative, or a from-scratch game based on 1e you've put under the OGL
[19:19] <+JeffTalanian> The rules for d6 task resolution are on pg 199 of the Players' Manual (done)
[19:20] <~Dan> Not too long ago, we had a Q&A regarding Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Are you familiar with it? I ask because it seems that both LotFP and AS&SH start with the same general idea -- weird fantasy -- and go in radically different directions. I'd like to hear your thoughts on the subject.
[19:21] <+JeffTalanian> The game is more similar to OSRIC or Swords & Wizardry, with a strong focus on the campaign setting of Hyperborea, a S&S setting that not just provides flavor, but in part informs the rules and other set pieces. (done)
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[19:21] <~Dan> (Welcome, mabon5127!)
[19:22] <+JeffTalanian> Dan, I'm afraid I must claim ignorance. At a small Con in Connecticut, I took a brief look at Joe the Lawyers LotFP, but other than that, I am ignorant of what it does. I understand that it embraces a more Mentzer mechanical base with greater horror aspects. (done)
[19:23] <~Dan> Well, let me tell you what stands out most to me about it, and what seems to show how your design philosophies differ:
[19:23] <~Dan> You have an extensive bestiary.
[19:24] <~Dan> LotFP has no monsters listed at all, the author's philosophy being that weird fantasy monsters should all be unique.
[19:25] <+JeffTalanian> Ah, then there must be some kind of mechanism that allows the novice referee to create his/her own critters?
[19:25] <~Dan> I haven't gotten to that bit yet, but I'm told it's fairly basic.
[19:25] <~Dan> For the record, I prefer your approach, but I'm a sucker for bestiaries. :)
[19:26] <+xyphoid_> How much of your game is OGC?
[19:26] <+JeffTalanian> One of the things I tried to accomplish with this bestiary is a "Hyperborean" feel. Allow me to explain:
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[19:28] <+JeffTalanian> Although there are monsters of HPL and, say, CAS inspiration, there are many of the usual suspects that have been around since 1974. These "classics" are presented as viewed through the Hyperborean filter, allowing for a particular feel that invokes the pulps.
[19:28] <+JeffTalanian> (done)
[19:29] <~Dan> (Did you see Xyphoid's question, Jeff?)
[19:30] <+JeffTalanian> xyphoid, stat blocks are OGC, as well as weapon statistics, and other materials directly derived from the SRD. (done)
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[19:30] <+xyphoid_> which SRD? I'm just trying to place this in the family tree heh
[19:33] <+JeffTalanian> I don't understand, xyphoid. (done)
[19:33] <+xyphoid_> well, 'the SRD' generally means the d20 SRD - but i got the impression that this wasn't a d20 game really, it was much more based on 1e-era rules
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[19:35] <+JeffTalanian> I really have nothing interesting to say about OGLs, OGCs, or SRDs, I'm afraid. No offense, xyphoid. :) (done)
[19:36] <~Dan> (Howdy, CRKreuger!)
[19:36] <+CRKrueger> Howdy
[19:36] <+JeffTalanian> Hi CRKrueger
[19:37] <~Dan> Jeff: You've touched on this a bit, but what makes AS&SH stand out from other fantasy settings? What makes it "weird fantasy"?
[19:41] <+JeffTalanian> There are no high fantasy races, such as elves, hobbits and things of that nature. The campaign includes several races of men, as well as elements from pulp fiction tales, such as those crafted by HPL. In the setting we have elder things, the great race, night-gaunts and other horrors that help emphasize the weird fantasy elements. The history of the realm...
[19:42] <+JeffTalanian> the way in which the monsters are presented, the festivals, the deities, and so forth are presented in a manner that evokes the pulps (or so I hope!). (done)
[19:42] <+CRKrueger> Jeff, can you explain the creation of the world of Hyperboria, like, how it got that way?
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[19:43] <~Dan> (Welcome, NVFS!)
[19:44] <+mabon5127> The spell descriptions and many of the magic items have a weird fantasy bent as well.  Imho.
[19:44] <+JeffTalanian> CRK, the realm is a flat plane, hexagonally shaped with a great obelisk at each point. The history of the realm (as seen through the eyes of me of learning) tells of a time when Hyperborea was mantled in ice by the Ashen Worm; when the ice thawed, the realm was far flung, Old Earth was no more, and the scarlet sun was enormous and bloated...
[19:45] <+JeffTalanian> ... The how and why of this is left to the devices of the individual referees to determine; alluded to in the setting material, but never precisely defined. (done)
[19:46] <+CRKrueger> So this is intended to be somehow a possible Future Earth?
[19:47] <~Dan> How do you blend the "fantasy classics" like frost giants and demons with HPL's creatures? Same question regarding "fantasy" deities and Mythos deities.
[19:47] <+JeffTalanian> CRK -- Indeed, a sort of "Dying Earth" as it were, yet just the mystical continent excised from the rest of the old planet. (done)
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[19:47] <~Dan> (Assuming the answer isn't just that "they all exist", I mean.)
[19:48] <~Dan> (Welcome, Guest26344! You can set your nick with the /nick command.)
[19:48] <+CRKrueger> There are direct pulls from both HPL and CAS, is there any content directly from Howard?
[19:50] <+JeffTalanian> Hyperborea is a melting pot of races that crossed the mystical "boreas" (moving _beyond the north wind_), and these cultures, such as the Vikings brought their belief systems with them. The intent here is not merely another "mythos" game, but rather something that pulls from a variety of mythological and pulp fiction inspirations.
[19:52] <~Dan> Well, let me put it another way: In AS&SH, are, say, fantasy gods different from Mythos gods? Or are they all just gods?
[19:52] <+JeffTalanian> REH is a very important influence, in particular the Kimmerian race, the conception of the Hyperborean race, the deities of Krimmr and Ymir, and more. Yes, this is pastiche, but I say that lovingly, as the term is often used to disparage. (done)
[19:54] <+JeffTalanian> There is no set pantheon of deities; Xathoqqua (Tsathoggua) is the primary deity of worship throughout the realm, and his orthodoxy is quite prevalent. A deity such as Apollo is worshipped by cults, as well as Artemis; both of these drawing from the Greek mythological conception of Hyperborea, where in the land of endless sunchine, Apollo was known to visit.
[19:55] <+JeffTalanian> (done)
[19:55] <~Dan> So there is no "this is a Mythos deity, this is a 'normal' deity"?
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[19:56] <~Dan> Ah, and here is a swords n' sorcery fan! Howdy, Wondy!
[19:56] <+JeffTalanian> Dan -- no, they are all presented together in Vol. VI of the work, which is the Hyperborea Gazetteer. (done)
[19:56] <~Dan> Gotcha.
[19:56] <+WonderRat> Howdy, Dan.
[19:57] <~Dan> Talking Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.
[19:58] <+CRKrueger> Mechanicswise, is there anything that sticks out as different from the other "D&Dlikes"?
[20:01] <+JeffTalanian> Attributes modifiers are presented on a more shallow curve, there are many subclasses from which to choose, thief abilities are resolved using a d12, there is a task resolution system for things not covered by the rules, the cleric can use swords and is not able to cast every spell (he must select spells like a magician, but he gains more per level gain)...
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[20:02] <+JeffTalanian> healing is by HD type per day (fighter rolls a d10), which obviates the need for cleric-as-combat medic, a new combat system that uses two phases per 10-second round . . . really there is something different from other games on nearly every page, yet it is familiar in scope. (done)
[20:03] <~Dan> And damage-reducing armor, I believe?
[20:03] <+JeffTalanian> Yes. :)
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[20:03] <~Dan> (Howdy, Skimble!)
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[20:04] <~Dan> Let's talk technology for a moment.
[20:04] <+Patrick> Jeff, some of the art shows laser pistols and default, how common is technology?
[20:04] <~Dan> One thing that stands out to me is that there are knights packing friggin' ray guns.
[20:04] * ~Dan high-fives Patrick!
[20:04] <~Dan> :D
[20:04] <+Patrick> LOL nice!
[20:05] <+Gyr|Laptop> (That doesn't sound very chivalrous.)
[20:05] <+JeffTalanian> Our "Advanced Combat" chapter is an interesting addition, with rules for arrow setting, disarming, saddle fire, parry and blocking, and many other options. (done)
[20:06] <+JeffTalanian> knights are not romanticized, but paladins are; hence, the precepts of chivalry are an "option" for our cataphract class, but not a requirement. (done)
[20:07] <+JeffTalanian> In that picture you refer to, Dan, Ian Baggley (the illustrator) was really itching to do something that both exhibited S&S classic combat with a generous dose of gonzo weird science, as such weapons (known as Atlantean artifacts) are in the magic section. (done)
[20:08] <~Dan> Does technology skip straight from Medieval to super-tech, or is there anything in between? Are there modern firearms in the mix, for example?
[20:10] <+JeffTalanian> More the former, Dan, not so much the latter. So, there are magic swords and radium pistols, but not really any 22 caliber rifles; that is not to say I am opposed to such, because in my home campaign, some of these have been found, too (some rifles, but ammo will run out). (done)
[20:10] <~Dan> What is rarer: high-tech goodies or enhanted goodies?
[20:11] <~Dan> enchanted, rather
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[20:12] <+JeffTalanian> high-tech is rarer (done)
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[20:13] <~Dan> (Welcome, Guest26344! You can set your nick with the /nick command.)
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[20:13] <~Dan> Is any of it being currently manufactured, or is it all artifacts?
[20:14] <~Dan> Are the Mi-Go able to create new disintegrators, for example?
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[20:16] <+JeffTalanian> As the rules suggest at the end of volume V in the Referee's Manual, human manufacture is no longer, a lost science as it were following mankind's near extinction when struck the Green Death. So, your example of mi-go creating devices of destruction is certainly true, but for men, these are the lost sciences of bygone ages. (done)
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[20:18] <~Dan> (Howdy, Guest14625, AndroUser2!)
[20:18] <+Guest14625> howdy
[20:18] <~Dan> (Guest14625, you can set your nick with the /nick command.)
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[20:19] <~Dan> Speaking of which, how the heck can folks with swords and bows fight something that's packing a disintegrator?
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[20:20] <+CRKphone> Very carefully Dan
[20:20] <~Dan> Heh
[20:20] <+JeffTalanian> No less deadly than, say, a sphere of annihilation, eh? :) (done)
[20:21] <~Dan> Fair enough. :)
[20:21] <+JeffTalanian> Is that you, Ian?
[20:21] <+baggley> yes.
[20:21] <+baggley> keep talking. ; )
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[20:21] <~Dan> wb, Wondy!
[20:22] <+CRKphone> Is the magic "spell slot Vancian"?
[20:23] <+JeffTalanian> Dan, and also, I think such powers well equate with disintegration magic devices and spells, undead level draining, and so forth.
[20:24] <+baggley> Jeff, do you have any plans to expand on the chaos monk and their Kuthulhu cult? Perhaps in a module?
[20:24] <+JeffTalanian> Yes, Vancian. I have tried spell point systems in the past, and found them to be very unsatisfactory in game use, and for suspension of disbelief, but tastes vary, YMMV, and so forth . . . (done)
[20:26] <+JeffTalanian> In my home campaign there is a small island on which thrives this cult, and they have played an important part in campaign development, particularly for one of my players' characters; as far as expanding on this, it is certainly a possibility. I had fun when we originally explored this theme in Fight On! magazine. (done)
[20:27] <+mabon5127> How do see future support for ASSH?  Whats coming out next?
[20:29] <+JeffTalanian> There are a few things on the plate, but these are all in early stages of development. The closest thing to a finished manuscript is the adventure _Ghost Ship of the Desert Dunes_, which I've play-tested a few times now. An important development that editor David Prata suggests is an introductory module with referee advice; something that includes a town...
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[20:31] <~Dan> (Welcome, Butcher!)
[20:31] <+JeffTalanian> an adventure. Another development is the City-State of Khromarium, and then there is my own mega-dungeon I've been tinkering with off and on for a few years now. I don't know which will be the next finished product, I'm afraid. (done)
[20:31] <+mabon5127> Anything out currently?
[20:32] <+JeffTalanian> AND adventure ... (what I meant to say) (done)
[20:32] <+TheButcher> (sup. glad to see I didn't miss the AS&SH Q&A)
[20:32] <~Dan> (Well, the last 30 minutes of it, anywa. ;) )
[20:32] <~Dan> (If you have any questions, fire away!)
[20:33] <~Dan> Jeff: It's my understanding that box sets are pretty expensive to produce. Was that a big financial risk for you?
[20:35] <+JeffTalanian> mabon -- the only stuff that is out presently is the AS&SH game, and the two adventures, Charnel Crypt of the Sightless Serpent, and Taken From Dunwich; also there is the Rats in the Walls adventure found in Knockspell magazine.
[20:36] <+JeffTalanian> Dan, it was. But thankfully the Kickstarter campaign was a success, and "kickstarted" funding for the initial print run. (done)
[20:37] <~Dan> Oh, I didn't consider that! Belated congrats on that point, then.
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[20:38] <~Dan> (Welcome, Iazarus!)
[20:38] <+lazarus> (hullo.  Anything up at the moment?)
[20:39] <~Dan> So a question from left field, perhaps... If someone were enamoured of your setting but not too keen on the system, what other system(s) would you recommend for AS&SH?
[20:39] <+JeffTalanian> Thanks Dan. I was very fortunate to have a great group of gamers pledge their hard-earned money on the AS&SH game.
[20:39] <+JeffTalanian> OSRIC (done)
[20:39] <~Dan> (Iazarus: Q&A with the author of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea)
[20:40] <~Dan> Nothing non-D&D-ish?
[20:42] <~Dan> I was thinking that BRP/RuneQuest might be a good fit, for example.
[20:43] <+JeffTalanian> I'm not sure, Dan. BRP may be excellent for it. If anyone tries to, I'd love to hear how things went! :)
[20:43] <+Patrick> Jeff, since the Lovecraft mythos are involved, is magic dangerous?  Are there any penalties to sanity, ala Call of Cthulhu?
[20:46] <+JeffTalanian> Patrick, those are the conceits of the CoC game, to be sure; the AS&SH game does have several instances where one might go mad, and there is an extensive table for it in Vol III of the Players' Manual, but it is nothing like Chaosium's creations. (done)
[20:46] <+baggley> Jeff, what did you learn from working with Gary that helped you with AS&S?
[20:50] <+JeffTalanian> Gary pushed me to a higher level of writing work ethic that I had never achieved before I had worked with him; mostly this was me feeling an internal pressure to impress my boyhood idol. He was also a great outline guy -- able to put together the whole of a massive project in a dozen or so pages, and I gleaned much from his methods. He was a great inspiration
[20:50] <+JeffTalanian> (done)
[20:50] <~Dan> Gygax?
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[20:50] <+baggley> yes
[20:50] <+JeffTalanian> Yes.
[20:50] <~Dan> Wow... What did you work with him on?
[20:51] <+JeffTalanian> I authored several Castle Zagyg works; I was also his co-author for the main adventure itself. (done)
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[20:51] <~Dan> Impressive! I did not know that.
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[20:52] <+JeffTalanian> Thanks, Dan.
[20:52] <~Dan> (Howdy, Squide!)
[20:52] <&Le_Squide> (Hey! Q&A still going on?)
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[20:52] <~Dan> We have a little under 10 minutes left in the regular Q&A, although you're definitely welcome to hang out as long as you're able, Jeff. Is there anything we haven't covered yet that you'd like to mention?
[20:53] <+JeffTalanian> Yes, and I want to point out that Ian Baggle, the illustrator for AS&SH is with us, so if anyone has a question for my partner in crime, feel free! ;)
[20:53] <&Le_Squide> (Is it ok if I slip in a quick AS&S general question?)
[20:53] <+JeffTalanian> Absolutely -- shoot.
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[20:54] <&Le_Squide> I do a lot of hexcrawly and sandboxy stuff; is there anything in AS&SH that is particularly easy to drag and drop in an existing sandbox, or any bits you'd particularly recommend for that sort of play?
[20:54] <~Dan> Oh, welcome to #rpgnet, Ian! Your illustrations are fantastic.
[20:54] <~Dan> (Literally and figuratively.)
[20:55] <+baggley> Thanks very much, Dan!
[20:55] <+baggley> I did my best so I have no excuses.
[20:56] <+JeffTalanian> One of the methods by which one can use the entire Hyperborea milieu is to simply use it as an arctic continent behind a mystical "North Wind"; hence, the entire campaign, to my way of thinking, is a portable entity. Furthermore, I feel the adventures thus far published can be used with other systems/settings. (done)
[20:56] <~Dan> Of all the fantasy monsters, I notice that you don't include dragons. What was your thinking behind that?
[20:58] <&Le_Squide> Hrm. I do have an undetailed Northern Frontier to use...
[20:58] <+JeffTalanian> This was design choice, another example of separating AS&SH from high fantasy counterparts, but this is not to say dragons are not somewhat present: There are wyverns and fire-breathing giant lizards. :) (done)
[20:59] <~Dan> There are? Cool! Must have missed that...
[20:59] <+Silverlion> Probably the Draco Lizard?
[20:59] <~Dan> Oh, howdy, Sil! Didn't realize you were here.
[20:59] <+Silverlion> I just asked someone to sell me on the game recently, so there is a long thread on it, but I was late getting on ;(
[21:00] <+JeffTalanian> Nope, actually the komodo dragon; the draco does fly (sort of; rather, it glides).
[21:00] <~Dan> Did you say that you could stick around for a bit, Jeff?
[21:00] <+mabon5127> Pyrohydra!
[21:01] <+Patrick> Jeff, are there copies of the box set left in stock?  Just want to make sure it wasnt available to kickstarters only
[21:01] <+JeffTalanian> Indeed, mabon. :)
[21:02] <+JeffTalanian> Patrick, it is available now at our online store: (Link:
[21:02] <+Patrick> Great news!
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[21:03] <~Dan> Speaking of giant lizards... Why pterodactyls, but no other dinos?
[21:03] <+Patrick> It was the Cthulhu monks that sold it, BTW :D
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[21:04] <+JeffTalanian> I just finished mailing all the pre-orders about a week ago and am just getting into the shipping of general sales orders, so right now I'm looking at a 3-4 week lag between order and fulfillment.
[21:04] <+JeffTalanian> Well, I guess I owe Ian Baggley a drink for that fine illustration! :)
[21:05] <~Dan> (brb)
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[21:06] <+baggley> The idea of the chaos monks of Kuthulu really captured my imagination. Jeff and I both collaborated on the design a bit.
[21:06] <+JeffTalanian> The "natural" beasts are mostly Pleistocene era as portrayed by CAS in his Hyperborea tales; however, pterodactyls have managed to survive, and who knows what else in the fabled (and often alluded to in the texts) Underborea. :)
[21:06] <+baggley> And thank you Patrick and Jeff.
[21:07] <+JeffTalanian> Indeed. Ian is more than "just an artist"; he's also a creative collaborator who got me to think outside the box more times than I can remember.
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[21:08] <+JeffTalanian> Well, any final questions, fellows?
[21:08] <&Le_Memnon> I might be missing it; does a .pdf copy come with purchase of the box set?
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[21:10] <+JeffTalanian> I want to mention that I will be running adventures at (Link: from Nov 2-4 (Vermont), and also at (Link: from Nov 9-11 (New Hampshire).
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[21:10] <~Dan> Back, sorry.
[21:11] <+JeffTalanian> The game does not come with a free pdf, but the pdf is a very reasonable $10 at RPGNow.
[21:11] <~Dan> If there are no further questions, I'd just like to thank Jeff for stopping by today to talk to us about his game!
[21:11] <~Dan> And Ian as well!
[21:11] <+Patrick> Thank you, Jeff Ian and Dan!
[21:12] <+JeffTalanian> Thank you for having me. Feel free to stop by at (Link: for any further questions.
[21:12] <~Dan> Also, please know that you're always welcome to stop by whenever you like. :)
[21:12] <+baggley> Thank you, Dan, for hosting and for everyone who stopped by. All the kind words and support means a lot. Thank you all very much.
[21:12] <+JeffTalanian> Sounds great, Dan. Take care, fellows. Cheers!
[21:13] <~Dan> That goes for those of you who stopped by for the Q&A as well.
[21:13] <~Dan> Bye, Jeff!
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