You're listening to The Lost Bay Podcast, a show about, and within the tabletop RPG game designers and artists, I'm Iko. this is the second episode of a three part mini series on the RPG zines. The first one was an interview with Leo from L.F. OSR, maker and publisher of limited additions of bespoke, handcrafted RPG zines.
And this one is about community copies. Community copies are free copies of RPG games or adventurs people can download from the internet for free. It's a for designers and publishers to support members of the community who can't afford for whatever reason to buy a game.
In this episode, we are going to take a closer look at what some people in the community start to call IRL community copies. As in real life, community copies. These are physical copies of zines distributed for free in various places, mainly in little free libraries. You know, these boxes one can find sometimes by the side of the road where people drop books and sometimes even.
In this episode, we are going to spend some time with three indie game designers and accompany them while they print, prepare and distribute some in real life, community copies.
This is the sound of the Shakoree, Sapporee, and Eno lands. Those lands are just outside the town of Gibsonville in North Carolina USA. When I received by email, this audio recording, I listend to it in loop. I don't know why, there's something in this soun, maybe the birds in the distance, I thought I want to see that place.
I have a Sharpie in my hand, the sun is on my back. I am sitting at my front porch on a little picnic table and in front of me is my assembly station for putting together the community copies I'm dropping off today. this is Sean Patrick Kane designer of long-haul 1983, a beautiful solo journaling RPG in which you play as a long-haul truck driver, trying to make their way home in a dying world. I would love to write a handwritten note in those things, but, there are very specific rules, and if you are providing a book to an incarcerated person, you cannot have any hint of handwriting. For the other community copies that are going to supply centers and the local little libraries, I'm putting together a little package: in a very generic Ziploc bag goes a copy of the book, a player sheet that's printed out, four dice so that people have exactly what they need to play the game. And then inside the front cover, I'm just putting a little adhesive, shipping label and handwriting, a note that basically says: " Hi! I'm Sean, I'm from the area, this book is a game, it invites you to tell a cool, original, exciting story. Read it, play it, share it, cherish it, pass it on, just make sure it doesn't sit in a closet, looking, you know, lonely for the rest of its life."
And then I put my name in my contact information so that people understand that this is a local game from a local person. thinking ahead to the day, I know that, you know, dropping stuff off silently, and walking away is rarely the magical thing we imagined, but right now, thinking about, you know, someone unzipping the plastic bag and grabbing the dice and reading the notes, it's really exciting. And I'm really glad that we were able to do this. So yeah, I'm looking forward to the rest of the day.
I'm sitting next to a very adorable painted filing cabinet on the side of a road. It is labeled "Free Finds", and it's a place where people from town can pick up and drop off some basic supplies in the top drawer is food. We see pasta, beans, canned goods, ramen. The next filing cabinet is a supplies and then the bottom two are labeled books. inside you see some old history text books, some religious books, some, you know, dime store romance fiction. There's some great VHS tapes in here: Dragonheart, Legends of the fall, Color of night, starring Bruce Willis. So I'm just going to plot my package right here. Hopefully somebody interested we'll find it, pick it up, use it, play it, pass it on and, you know, give it to the next person.
Sean is going to the public library of Gibson to drop some books. And we met again with him as soon as he gets out.
The drop-off went super smooth. I had a pair of books ready for the library. The librarian that I spoke to was brand new, and a little bit confused when I started giving the spiel of how this book is actually a game, and so it goes in the game section, I have a bag of dice if you want those to go with the game and let me know. I may have been a bit overenthusiastic, but the librarian was super appreciative and really interested and very grateful for, the copies of the book.
I drove into the city where I parked in front of the town Commons, which normally is home for a very fancy and bougie weekend farmer's market. I'm actually looking at some beautiful and discarded red tomatoes standing right next to me, as I record this.
You might hear some people setting up tables and unpacking boxes in the background, that's because today the Commons is home to what we call the really, really free market, which is () () organized by anarchists and other community members. There is no exchanging selling or any kind of currency here. The idea is that people can bring what they don't need and take what they do with the central principle that everyone deserves food, shelter, entertainment in the community.
I'm here more specifically because there are members of the local prison books collective here who take requests and ship books directly to incarcerated individuals. Apparently one of the books that are often requested and that the collective has a really hard time filling are role-playing games and storytelling games and other interactive fiction.
So I'm here to drop off every last book in my box that I have, and to get some details and logistics so that I can go home and share it with other game designers and small presses, so that next month I can bring more books here and other people can maybe even start shipping directly to the prison books collective to get some of their amazing work to people who would really appreciate it.
I'm at my table right now, looking at my laptop screen, and on the screen is a spreadsheet full of names and email addresses and mailing addresses. These are the first requests for physical community copies that came from a Google form that I shared on social media a few days ago. (Where Sean has just done the drops of books) There are people from all over the United States. Most of them have said that they're individuals who just want to read or play the game. There is someone who's connected to a library and wants to offer it as an opportunity for like the community members. There is another person who is in a college, who is starting a gaming group that is built around not being a Dungeons and Dragons playing group. And they said they wanted a copy to kind of have something physical on hand to show people that, you know, another world is possible, and there are lots of styles and genres and forms of games outside of D&D.
We like to think a lot about access and accessibility in our scene. We talk a lot about eliminating and subverting gatekeeping. We talk about welcoming new people and opening up our indie community. And I think we know that having a book in your hand, matters. It's not the only way of enjoying a game. It's not the only way of reading. It's not the only way of consuming or studying or anything else, but I think we've all had those experiences of having something in our hands and the connection that can sometimes be made only through that.
Right now, as a first attempt in kind of getting free books out into the world, I feel really accomplished with my errands today and I'm really excited about thinking about what comes next. That was Sean Patrick Kane talking to us from the and .
We are now in new England USA in an ancient and beautiful, forest.
Noon, middle, October. it's pretty chilly out.
And this is Yochai Gal, designer of the forest fantasy RPG Caitn.
Just started to really move into fall. The trees have all changed colors and there's a definite sense of foreboding that accompanies this time of year. I love it personally. I think the experience of being outside is, only expanded through changes in the weather, I grew up in a place that didn't have massive changes like we do here in New England. So, I look forward to the coming of winter and damn it's going to get cold.
Yochai recorded these audio segments in autumn, but if I try to picture his house, I imagine it covered with snow, like a small cabin in the middle of an enchanted forest, because I know that Yochai lives close to the forest. He shared recently a picture taken from the window of his office. Old trees covered with snow and the little brown Fox taking a walk in the garden.
I'm sitting in my office. I have a small desk in the corner. It's wood and probably two feet across, There is a stack of Cairn, character sheets really nice quality ones I have printed that this local worker own print shop in town. I put those usually two inside a copy of, every Cairn that I give away. Behind me is a box of about 125 copies of Cairn neatly stacked.
The stack of documents to my left are mostly adventures that I've self printed here on my HP color laser jet, which by the way, does not do edge to edge printing. Kind of sucks because I have to cut everything, big mistake on my part. I have in my hands here, Barrow of the elf king, which is, I think for the Vanilla Game, maybe anyways, it's, from, Highland Paranormal Society.
I have, this, uh, The Rot King Sanctum, the original, Boven print on cardstock color looks fantastic honestly. You can now get that in his own system DURF as well. Oh, and I have Lair of the gobbler, same guy, very nice print. I have this,Caers and Crannogs issue one, print on cardstock in color as well. It's from, Matt, uh, Morris, who also does a bunch of awesome stuff for Mausritter the, Bernpyle zines and adventures, really productive. Oh, and I have a little pocket mod of, Perplexing Ruins: Tomb. I've got another stack here of really unique, like there are no other copies of these, in the world. These are Maze Rats,printed from Mixam, really high quality stock made into a booklet. This is, from, my friend Ray Otus who got permission to print a bunch for himself. He did the cover and back. It's kind of a crazy looking rat, holding a wand in its hands, and there's a arrow stabbing it in the tail and it has the words Maze Rats written into its chest. It's pretty crazy cover. There are 50 of these, I think, in the world and he sent me a stack so I could disseminate them as I saw fit. And people who get them for free around here, we'll never know how lucky they are. These are all the kinds of things that I like to distribute with Cairn. It's about 3:45 PM. It's really cold. which is actually kind of nice. It means more time indoors, more time, playing games and that stuff. I'm walking to my car with a little stack of zines with dice. You can hear them. It's very exciting. Usually I drive to the various locations where I drop these off. There's a lot of them actually, I have like at this point, I think I have 25, maybe different, Little Librairies near my kid's daycare, there's at least like five or six in just one area. And then, it's kinda close to the high school, so I imagine a lot of people, lot of kids and teenagers are walking home and might poke inside these little libraries and maybe see something, something cool one day.
Getting in my car. Now. I'm not going to record and drive because Iko said it's dangerous.
So I just parked my car, in this weird little village, I guess you'd call it. I think the street is called Musante street, Musante and Ford crossing, according to this. There is no one around, but I do see a little free library. So getting out of my car, this will be the first time I've actually been to this one.
Musante and Ford crossing. I Googled that. I went on Goole maps. I wanted to see the little free library, but I couldn't find it. The Google streetview was recorded in 2013, and the little free library wasn't there yet I guess.
What I saw was really nice though. And so exotic, you know, for me, I'm a Mediterranean dude living in Paris. Musante and Ford Crossing in Massachussets, lokked so different from what I know.
I could see that a lot of trees had already put out yellow and brown leaves announcing the coming of autumn. I can only imagine the explosion of colors those threes will offer, during the fall season. I daydreamed a bit, trying to picture the people who are going to find and pick the zines that Yochai was was about to drop.
Cute little area, not a lot of fences. And there's a bunch of books here. Oh, a Man called Ove. Books on improving your pasta, that was Sophie's choice. Nothing else, like what I'm leaving there, but that's okay. I hope people around here are excited by it or maybe they'll just throw it out who knows would be a waste And that's it. There's no one around, unfortunately. So nobody to ask or anything.
Can mark that one off the list, I guess.
There must be a sense of mystery in not knowing what happens to the books you drop, what do they become? Who picks them? It's like a dialogue, but you never meet the person, your talking to. But still, tey are there, you are talking to them.
I'm walking back from one of the little free libraries around the corner from my house. I try to actually avoid that one, because I do it so frequently that, I'm sure whoever's walking by there has seen the same game or the same little booklet with dice a bunch of times by now. And so I try to go further out with my each visit. I don't always put Maze Rats or Knave or Cairn. Sometimes I just put an adventure or, other people's stuff that they've sent me. And I guess the hope there is that you'll see the same people, a couple of different times who now will come back excited, looking for more.
You know, one time they'll find a copy. of Knave and another time they might find an adventure for a different system, maybe spread their wings a bit.
I think the reason that I do this is because I try to imagine myself when I was just getting into the hobby. I started with role-playing games in the late nineties. Like many people who are probably listening to this, I was a, I wasn't a loner. I really liked people. They just didn't like. There's many reasons for that, but, for whatever reason, I, I was alone most of the time and I actually found a copy of, Palladium Fantasy. I I got this book at like a used book sale or something. I didn't know what it was. And I kind of just played by myself and I loved the idea that you could be like a Changeling or a Wolfkin, or all these different you know, made up races. And I really felt inspired by that. I had, scratched an itch that I didn't even know I had had.
So when I think about a teenager or young adult or an old person, whoever, you know, randomly poking their heads into one of these Little Library boxesand see a little dice bag sticking out, I can just imagine what that would feel like that curiosity.
I think what I'm looking for is that sense of discovery that I had finding Palladium so many years ago, and the wonder that that left me with. I'm hoping that that is sparked and people who find the booklets themselves today, and I can tell that when I go back to restock, these they're gone, people are taking them, so, hopefully it's not just some parent throwing them out, If even one person discover something new, I mean, it's worth it to me.
God, it's beautiful here.
We are going back to North Carolina now, where we'll be meeting with Caverns of Heresy hand his two and a half year old son, Weston. Caverns of Heresy is the designer of the game Rogueland, rules-light game with cool exploration procedures.
Recently, four years ago, me and my wife bought a house in a neighborhood that has a lot of the little free library boxes throughout our walking trails.
One day we were out for a walk and I checked out one of the boxes and I saw a collection of like 1960s, staple bound, Delta Airlines, cookbooks that they gave out to their passengers that were flying various routes. There was one related to the Caribbean, there was a new England, cookbook. There was Acadian or New Orleans cookbooks, something like that. I ended up giving those to my dad, he has a nice little cookbook collection and, they thought those were pretty cool, so I gave those to him.
And from there is when I really started just thinking about putting an entire package together with dice and a notebook and pencil and everything. I started treating it as a, you know, if I were a kid walking to school and I came across one of these, you know, how would I feel about getting this totally random, unknown game book and different pamphlets with adventures and a little notebook and everything.
As a kid, I would, absolutely love finding that. so that really set off the entire thing.
We have, I don't know, maybe five or six free library boxes throughout our neighborhood walking trails and a ton of kids, a ton of kids and adults that are actually in the adventure gaming and D&D and other,role-playing games. We have a little group here in the neighborhood that, gets together, during the summers and just hangs out in the driveway and play some games and whatever, So first I typically always include just a cheap mechanical pencil in each packet, the packets that I typically use here are just the reused zine, packages that come whenever I buy, zines and little booklets and stuff from online.
I typically include a small notebook, a blank notebook. I have a polyhedral set of dice, so D4 up to D20, that I typically include I also include two little, sheets of paper that explain what the dice are. I've encountered a lot of people that don't actually even know what polyhedral dice are and,represent. So I have this little picture graph that shows what they are and what they do.
All right. So me and my two and a half year old son Weston, are packed up in the stroller. I have all the book packs with me and we're headed out. So we are here at the first box and I have the first packet here. I'm just going to go ahead and tuck it up. Make sure the dice is shown, just tuck it up in there. And I think that's it. This one's pretty full actually. I don't know. There's probably a good 30, 30 or 40 books here.
Oh, sweet. So this one has a, oh wow. It has a full set of the six, choose your own adventure books. That's pretty cool. I think I'm gonna, I think I'm going to actually take this and see what I can do.
Head off to the next one here.
Lock it up. That's it.
Hey, Weston, whenever you're older, are you going to play games with dad?
No, I'm two!
I know you're two, but whenever you're older, are you gonna want to play games with dad?
Yeah All All right. Let's head home.
You've been listening to The Lost Bay Podcast, a show about indie tabletop role-playing games, and the people who make them. This episode has been recorded by Sean Patrick Cain, Yochai Gal and Caverns of Heresy. Additional sounds are from freesound.org
It's produced by me, Iko. Development and editing supervision by Laura Elle. And music is Done with Fish by Light Off.
On the webpage of this episode you'll find contact info of all the guests. At thelostbaystudio.com. And a link to a tutorial on how to make community copies on itch.io
I you enjoyed this episode you can subscribe to the show directly in the application where you are listening to it, right now. The show exists thanks to support of its patrons, if you want to become a ptron yourself head to patreon.com/thelostbay
Thanks a lot for listening. Stay well.