Thursday, June 6, 2013

[Q&A] Paolo Guccione (BRP Mecha, et al)

<+Paolo> okay, my name is Paolo Guccione but you may have met me online as RosenMcStern
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<+Paolo> or as Alephtar Games, maybe
<+Paolo> I have been gaming since 1987, more or less - I used to play boardgames, and RuneQuest and The Fantasy Trip mainly, back in the days
<+Paolo> I wrote my first supplement in 1997 for "Tradetalk", the German RQ/Glorantha magazine in English
<+Paolo> that was simply a setting article included in the zine
<+Paolo> since 2007 I have been writing and publishing my own game supplements under the label "Alephtar Games"
<+Paolo> and since 2009 I have been publishing other people's works, too
<+Paolo> we do mainly d100, but not exclusively
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<~Dan> Oh dear.
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<+Murazor> Alright
<~Dan> (wb, Paolo!)
<+GenoFoxx> wb
<+Murazor> I've played a complete match of DOTA 2
<+Paolo> Sorry, I had a connection ka-boom problem
<~Dan> No problem!
<~Dan> (Murazor: Q&A in progress. :) )
<+Paolo> so let us resume
<+Murazor> Ah, sorry
<+Paolo> the first book succeeded, and I wanted to do more
* +egyptian blows the lunch whistle!
<+Paolo> in 2009 I proposed to Pete Nash, now of The Design Mechanism, to publish his Basic Roleplaying manuscript with us
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<+Paolo> as it seemed that waiting for Chaosium to be ready to do it would delay it too much
<+Paolo> and...
<+Paolo> ...well, the book won a Silver Ennie for best setting book in 2010, and was even nominated for "Best product"
<+Paolo> So I can assume this was a success, too
<+Paolo> at that point we appeared as the "specialists for d100 historical" on the roleplaying scene
<+Paolo> which, I presume, we still are, with around five titles available
<+Paolo> one of which written, again, by me: "Crusaders of the Amber Coast"
<+Paolo> which is about the Baltic Crusades
<~Dan> (brb - please continue)
<+Paolo> on the way, we managed to add other genres to our portfolio
<+Paolo> Wuxia with Dragon Lines (by Charles Green)
<+Paolo> Urban Fantasy with Nameless Streets (by Charles Green again, this time for HeroQuest and not for d100)
<+Paolo> and Japanese/manga techno-fantasy with Aegis, which uses its own system
<+Paolo> I am particularly proud of the latter, as it is really innovative, even more than HeroQuest, and very fun
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<+Paolo> and it is its author's first work
<+Paolo> last among our titles is BRP Mecha, again an anime-inspired game
<+Paolo> it began as a "let us see what else we could do for Basic Roleplaying that has not been done yet"
<+Paolo> but it soon turned into an exploration of what makes a giant robo anime different from Battletech
<+Paolo> and the difference is often quite remarkable
<+Paolo> So, here we are
<+Paolo> I just have to mention all the people who have worked with me to produce these games and supplements that readers - apparently - have come to love
<+Paolo> which would be Pete Nash, Charles Green, Simon Phipp, Gianni Vacca and Alberto Tronchi for writing
<+Paolo> and Dario Corallo and Mirko Pellicioni for layout
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<+GenoFoxx> (greetings Seraioli)
<+Paolo> that's all, shields up for the first volley of questions!
<~Dan> Thanks, Paolo!
<~Dan> Would anyone like to start us off?
<+GenoFoxx> What are your anime influences?
<+Paolo> Good question!
<+GenoFoxx> (sorry, mecha anime influences to be more specific)
<+Paolo> Go Nagai, Leiji Matsumoto and Yoshiyuki Tomino
<+Paolo> with one slight scent of the late Shingo Araki
<+Paolo> (matsumoto NOT for mecha)
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<+Sciencegar> What made you decide to use BRP as a basis rather than creating your own system from scratch?
<+GenoFoxx> (Well there is Yamato but it's a spaceship not a true big stompy robot)
<+Paolo> Two good considerations:
<+Paolo> first of all, I was already looking for a BRP supplement when I started to work
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<+Paolo> secondly, the BRP system has several characteristics that lend them well to the PHYSICAL representation of Mecha
<+Paolo> so I concluded that the best way to make what I wanted was to add some "storytelling" rules to BRP
<+Paolo> rather than reinventing the wheel about armour and hit points and such
<+Paolo> which was a good choice
<+Paolo> otherwise I migjht have produced a clone of the many good "lightweight" Mecha games that are now around
<+Paolo> like Chris Perrin's "Mecha"
<+Sciencegar> I see. So it was easier to add elements to replicate the non-physical mecha elements, than to start from scratch.
<+Paolo> GenoFoxx - Matsumoto also authored "Danguard Ace" which is a Mecha anime
<+GenoFoxx> :O
<+Paolo> Sciencegar - exactly
<~Dan> (And one of the Shogun Warriors!)
<+Paolo> actually I modified some of the physical elements, too, but you always have the option of using "standard" BRP rules if you prefer
<+GenoFoxx> Why not use a point buy system?
<+Paolo> again, for two reasons
<+Paolo> the first one is historical, point buy is not in the d100 tradition
<+Paolo> the second one is that the game aims at letting you play the mecha in the anime, exactly those ones
<+Paolo> and using a point buy system would hamper you in recreating exactly those mecha
<+Paolo> I mean, Grendizer outmatches Mazinger by far, and Maxinger outmatches Venus
<+GenoFoxx> So BRP Mecha is more recreation than original designs?
<+Paolo> yet they fight together and it may be fun to play them even if they are unbalanced
<+Paolo> yes. it is recreation
<+Paolo> you can use the building blocks to make your own mecha of course
<~Dan> Does the game include kaiju for the giant robots to fight?
<+Paolo> yes, there are several examples of kaiju and semi-organic mecha
<+Paolo> but someone has already hinted at the fact that you do not need many kaiju once you can loot the "creatures" section of Call of Cthulhu
<+GenoFoxx> How do you balance the genre's? there are some mecha that strandle the line between both super and real robot (like the later UC Gundams and other timeline ones like the 00 Gundam)
<+Paolo> I think there are several elements that can clearly distinguish a Super Robot series from a Real Robot one
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<+Paolo> mass production is one of them. Gundam 00 mechas look like Super Robots, but they usually fight against mass-produced stuff
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<+Paolo> yet there are several series that cannot be classified easily
<+Paolo> and in fact they need not be classified
<+Paolo> the rules in the game are made to be mixed, too, not just to be used "in one genre only"
<+Paolo> what I checked in playtest is that the set of rules labeled "super robots" produced a Go Nagai style result
<+GenoFoxx> ah
<+Paolo> and the other sets of rules produce Code Geass or Macross, more or less
<+Paolo> it is up to you to discover what happens when experimenting :)
<+GenoFoxx> my ideal is Gundam
<+Paolo> UC gundam?
<+GenoFoxx> or OO
<+Paolo> both rock
<+GenoFoxx> Seed was just another retelling of first gundam
<+GenoFoxx> So we don't have to worry about the heavy math of say 'Mekton' then?
<+GenoFoxx> (not that I found it too heavy but I'm an exception I guess)
<+Paolo> No. I have done my absolute best to provide a no-math or low-math alternative to all numbercrunching rules in BRP
<+Paolo> by encouraging, among others, the use of props instead of writing down numbers
<+Paolo> paper cllips to keep track visually of initiative on your sheet, or of spent power points
<+Paolo> and tokens to keep track of how far you moved in non-numeric format
<+Paolo> you still have to do some calculations, but this is inevitable in a game dating back to the days of tactical wargames
<+Paolo> the most important addition was zone-based tactical maps
<+Paolo> it helps players abstract their thinking
<+GenoFoxx> Do you make allowances for differing technology levels?
<+Paolo> and decreses numeric factors that are used in the calculations
<+Paolo> it is not part of the Mecha tradition
<+Paolo> tech level, I mean
<+Paolo> it might become important when it comes to ECM jamming or firig "throgh" shields
<+Paolo> but both these elements are hardly present in anime
<+GenoFoxx> well there is for the different Macross and UC Gundam series
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<+vytzka> is there allowance for different special effects for damage types and the like? something like keywords? for instance, anti beam coating or phase shift armor
<+vytzka> or is that too detailed for your concept
<+GenoFoxx> but those could be explained as 'flavor' I guess
<+vytzka> well, Mekton has different pricing by weapon type, for instance
<+vytzka> so beam is a "thing"
<+Paolo> armours have a different efficiency against different types of weapons
<+vytzka> rockin'
<+Paolo> so an energy weapon is always more dangerous than a bullet, for insttance
<+Paolo> unless you are totallly unarmoured
<+vytzka> so no ABC? :(
<+Paolo> ABC = atomic biological chemical ?
<+vytzka> anti beam coating
<+GenoFoxx> anti-beam coating
<+vytzka> :)
<+GenoFoxx> jynx
<+vytzka> but okay, there are some options about that I guess
<+GenoFoxx> are there allowances for mini-mecha/remotes?
<+vytzka> Seraphim!
<+Paolo> ah. You can introduce an armour that is more effective against beam weapons if you wish. It  is not among the standard described, but the game explainse the basic ideas, it is up to you to develop the concepts
<+vytzka> ah, thanks
<+Paolo> mini-mecha/remotes: there are rules for involving support vehicles in battles, but if you mean "drones" no, I suppose not
<+GenoFoxx> aw :(
<~Dan> Is there an assumed setting?
<+Paolo> no, just a short description of a setting that "incidentally" resembles Macross 7 / Frontier, and one scenario for it
<+Paolo> but it is up to you to develop it if you want to use it in a campaign
<+GenoFoxx> Don't forget the Kaiju based one
<+Paolo> even the scenario has plenty of unanswered questions, so if you play it and want to go on you will be forced to make up your own details pretty soon
<+vytzka> is there some sort of mook mecha mechanic
<~Dan> To what extent do you address what PCs can do when they aren't piloting mechs?
<+vytzka> if I just want to shoot 20 GINNs with my Freedom
<+Paolo> the second scenario is just an excuse to stage a big super robot battle
<+Paolo> vytzka - mook mecha rules are not included
<+Paolo> but the basic rules combination in the super robot genre assumes that PCs use Fate Points, while generic opponents do not
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<+vytzka> is it at least feasible to track 20 enemy robots, if all you care about their state is "exploded? y/n"
<+GenoFoxx> (*srnk*)
<+Paolo> No, it is not in the spirit of the rules
<+vytzka> fair enough
<+vytzka> thanks
<+Paolo> Dan - out-of-mecha action is quite important, especially in the Real Robot genre variant
<+Paolo> it is what determines your Fate score, which is used during action scenes to counter "bad luck" or to perform exceptionally well
<+vytzka> oh so you accumulate Fate points by roleplaying and then use them in combat?
<+vytzka> interesting
<+Paolo> exactly
<+vytzka> and a good incentive to have talk/drama/shower scenes
<+vytzka> what about combiners?
<+Paolo> like some other mecha games, which on the other hand are rules-light, so maybe less attractive to fans of Mekton or Battletech
<+GenoFoxx> slightly off topic but your opinions on the 3 new mecha anime for the Spring season
<+vytzka> can it do Getter Robo armageddon?
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<+vytzka> Paolo, I dunno, Mekton Zero is adding more character focused stuff too :)
<+Paolo> It can do combiners. I tested it with Getter Robot G, and combiners are handled properly
<+vytzka> sweet
<+GenoFoxx> Cool
<+vytzka> how about combination attacks
<+vytzka> Love Love Tenkyouken?
<+Paolo> vytzka - the fact that everyone had the same idea shows it is a good idea ;)
<+vytzka> :)
<+Paolo> besides, Mekton Zero is kickstarting, BRP Mecha is shipping :)
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<+vytzka> well I've never actually thought about it this way but it makes ton of sense
<+vytzka> noncombat / buildup -> combat / release
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<+vytzka> it follows mecha plots beautifully
<+vytzka> I'll shut up now
<~Dan> (sorry, guys -- work intrudes. brb)
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<+GenoFoxx> (Nooooo, I've lost my wingmen)
<+vytzka> so, combination attacks
<+Paolo> exactly, vytzka, and this is why each designer came up with something similar
<+Paolo> combo attacks - what do you mean?
<+vytzka> having a special attack that you need multiple robots/pilots to execute
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<+Ithaeur> Hello!
<+vytzka> (hey)
<+Paolo> no, this is not covered by the rules
<+GenoFoxx> (howdy Ithaeur)
<+Paolo> you have to make your own variant
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<+vytzka> that's cool
<+vytzka> so it can do real robots and it can do super robots
<+vytzka> is it possible to mix the two, Super Robot Wars style, so that both are useful?
<+GenoFoxx> (love love tenkyouken....heh just got that)
<+vytzka> sorry that we're asking for so many things :D but we're excited about this
<+Paolo> you can mix physical elements of the two genres
<+Paolo> but what really makes the difference between genres is how the storymaking rules work
<+Paolo> and I Doubt you can mix the two approaches in the same campaign
<+Paolo> a super robot gets a helluva lot more Fate Points than a real robot in battle
<+Paolo> and THAT would be unbalanced
<+GenoFoxx> I think what I want is the Super robot effects in a real robot battle especially vs mooks
<+vytzka> you ever played Super robot wars, Paolo?
<+Sciencegar> Does the game handle power armored heroes like Iron Man or Tekkaman? And would they be able to keep up with people in bigger mechs, or would their damage be too small because of their small size?
<+Paolo> ok three Q to answer please gimme a break until I answer
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<+Paolo> GeneFoxx - this kind of effect is obtained by giving the hero mechas a lot of Fate Points
<+GenoFoxx> (question pause)
<+vytzka> (sorry sorry)
<+Paolo> you can simply give away Fate liberally, and there you go
<+GenoFoxx> ok
<+Paolo> this is not recommended in the rules, but this does not mean you should not do it in your game if it suits your taste!
<+Paolo> vytzka - I have never played it but I know the game
<+Paolo> BRP Mecha is not designed to recreate that kind of experience
<+GenoFoxx> (Just watch the anime...the OAV, and the two series :D)
<+Paolo> (that is, you have to find your rule balance to recreate it, as I have not done it for you)
<+Paolo> ScienceGar - the game does not handle human-sized vs. mecha-sized well
<+Paolo> it is not designed to do so
<+Paolo> it happens very seldom in anime
<+Paolo> so I chose not to support it
<+vytzka> is there a single scale of mecha, then
<+Paolo> no, three different scales and you can add more
<+Paolo> I have tested it with Code Geass knightmare (6m, Size 1)
<+Paolo> Macross Valkyrie (12m, SIze 2)
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<+Paolo> and Gundams (18m, Size 3)
<+Paolo> and most superobots are bigger
<+Paolo> plus some guys in real robot series are really really big (Big Zam anyone?)
<+GenoFoxx> the various Gurrens......all the way to Galactic :D
<+Sharpe> I love the whole mecha genre. <3
<+Paolo> I think the game can handle up to SIZE 6 and still work
<+Sharpe> My love started with Tranzor Z.
<+Sharpe> "Mazinger"
<+GenoFoxx> (Mazinger Z for us snobs)
<+vytzka> GenoFoxx, Getter Robo Emperor
<+Paolo> okay, more questions if you have some
<~Dan> How do these sizes correspond to the Size attribute?
<+Paolo> they do not
<+Paolo> each Mecha has a SIZ like in RuneQuest or Call of Cthulhu
<+Paolo> usualy between, say, 70 and 110
<+Paolo> and then you assign it a rough siz class according to its height
<~Dan> Ah, I see.
<+Paolo> you only use SIZ class when calculating armour for a given mecha, and when checking if a mecha can knock down another one
<+Paolo> obviously a Zentraedy pod (18m, SIZ 3) is seldom knocked down by a Valkyrie (12m, SIZ 2)
<+Paolo> I meant siz class in the above example
<~Dan> Sorry if this has already been covered, but you've mentioned Macross as an inspiration... I'm assuming you cover transforming robots?
<+Paolo> absolutely, transforming and combining
<+Paolo> there is a section in the mecha sheet labeled "configurations" where you note all the forms your mecha can take
<~Dan> Excellent!
<+Paolo> Kootetsu Jeeg has some 10 of them
<+Sharpe> (Awesome, because my fave is the first VF-1 Valkyrie)
<+Paolo> That would have 3 configs
<~Dan> Quick note, Paolo: We have about 25 minutes left in "regular" Q&A time, although you're welcome to hang out and answer questions as long as you like... That said, would you like to continue discussing Mecha BRP, or would you like to open the floor to questions about your other products as well?
<+Paolo> absolutely, if you want to discuss other subjects let's do it
<~Dan> You mentioned an anime game that has its own system?
<+Paolo> Aegis - it is a Final Fantasy emulator
<~Dan> What's the core system there?
<+Paolo> Quite simple and almost diceless
<+Paolo> you roll dice to gain action/reaction tokens
<+Paolo> you spend actions to do something or attack someone, you spend reactions to counter something bad that the GM is trying to do to you
<+Paolo> whoever uses more point wins
<~Dan> Interesting... So a combination of a dice system and a resource system.
<+Paolo> yes
<+Paolo> characters are handled in the form of "playbooks" that has become so popular in Apocalypse World and Dungeon World
<~Dan> What do you roll against to get the tokens, and what do you do with those left over from a roll?
<+Paolo> you roll d6s equal to your attribute (combat/noncombat) and state if you are going for actions or reactions. 3,4,5,6 and you get what you wanted, 1,2 and you get the other kind of token
<+Paolo> all unused tokens are left for other conflicts until everyone is out of tokens
<~Dan> Ah, I see.
<+Paolo> so the game goal is to have the GM run out of tokens earlier than you
<~Dan> So if you end up with a ton of tokens, you can make a lot of actions or go for broke on just a few?
<+Paolo> yes
<~Dan> Cool.
<+Paolo> works incredibly well, and handles both investigation and tactics correctly
* ~Dan nods
<+Paolo> while most indie games fail to give you a good combat experience
<~Dan> These probably warrant their own Q&As, but can you give us a quick overview of your wuxia and Medieval England fantasy games?
<+Paolo> Dragon Lines is our game of "unplausible" China, whereas The Celestial Empire is its "historical fantasy" equivalent
<+Paolo> this year, we plan to repackage Dragon Lines for the Savage Worlds system
<+Paolo> it would work fairly well, and SW has not that much stuff for martial arts
<~Dan> So Dragon Lines is the one with lightning-flinging kung fu masters?
<+Paolo> yes
<~Dan> What (if any) existing BRP powers system did you use as the basis for insane kung fu powers?
<+Paolo> ALL
<~Dan> Really? Wow. O.o
<~Dan> Mutations, psychic powers, superpowers, etc.?
<+Paolo> I cannot remember about mutations, but we picked from almost all chapters
<+Paolo> Charles loves to push the big gold book to its limits
<~Dan> Heh. That's awesome. :)
<+Paolo> his other BRP supplement is Shattered Hopes, where all power systems are present, too
<~Dan> Oh, yes! I'm reviewing that one.
<~Dan> What can you tell us about Merrie England?
<+Paolo> It started as a "let us try" by Simon Phipp, too
<+Paolo> and now is among the most beloved BRP books
<+Paolo> it includes a lot of details about medieval life
<+Paolo> and so much demonology that I had to ask Simon to remove half of the demon chapters
<+GenoFoxx> (home time, laters)
<+GenoFoxx> (Paolo thanks for putting up with me)
<+Paolo> otherwise, prudish parents would use it as "unconfutable evidence that RPGs are of a satanic nature"
<~Dan> (Thanks for the assist, GenoFoxx!)
<+Paolo> good bye GeneFoxx
<+Agamemnon2> Sad that that's still a concern :-)
<~Dan> What magic system(s) does it use?
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<+Paolo> BRP magic, Psychic abilities for fairy magic
<+vytzka> night folks
<~Dan> Huh. Interesting choice. Do you create new psychic abilities for the latter?
<~Dan> (Bye, vytzka!)
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<+Paolo> and a Christian Magic system that is used only in alephtar books, developed from ideas by Simon Phipp, Pete Nash and me
<+Paolo> no, new psy
<+Paolo> no new psy
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<~Dan> Really? So fairies can't create illusions?
<+Paolo> they can. It's just that PC fairies cannot
<~Dan> Ah, I see.
<~Dan> (brb)
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<~Dan-brb> While I'm away for a sec: What rules tweaks did you add to Merrie England?
<+Paolo> So folks, your last chance to blast me with questions while the moderator is away
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<~Dan-brb> (back)
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<~Dan> Anything on the rules tweaks? :)
<+Sciencegar> Do you feel that the RPG Industry should be focusing more on PDFs or Physical books, or do you think it still has room for both?
<+Paolo> There will be room for books for many more years, but our goal now is to move towards a prevalence of PDF or PDF oriented products
<+Paolo> BRP Mecha will probably be our last product in Letter format
<+Sciencegar> I'm personally a nut for physical books, and since I read PDFs on a laptop, I find it very uncomfortable. It might just be that I don't use a Kindle or whatever, but right now, I'm looking at all the stuff that only gets PDF releases and feel conflicted about it.
<+Sciencegar> I do want to support more independent publishers, but I worry that they'd go to waste, unread on my laptop
<+technoshaman> paolo who are you? i missed it :)
<+Paolo> the next ones will be digest-sized to facilitate reading the PDF version on small devices
<+technoshaman> i was afk
<~Dan> tech: Read the topic line. :)
<+technoshaman> ohh duh!!
<~Dan> Paolo: Can you hang out with us a bit longer, or do you need to head out?
<+Paolo> Aegis IS readable on iPhones. I had one customer stating on a public forum "I read it on the beach on my smartphone"
<+technoshaman> i see you on the BRP forums couple of times
<+Paolo> some more minutes. I love this subject of PDF vs books and would like to discuss it a bit more if it is appreciated
<~Dan> Certainly.
<~Dan> (And I'll brb again)
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<+Sciencegar> I dunno. I'm fully able to see that I might be unusual in this regard.
<+Paolo> not quite. Most RPG fans still love to have their printed copies
<+Sciencegar> That I'm thinking too much in terms of how 'oldfashioned' reading works, and not how to do it on devices
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<+Paolo> the point I make is that those who do not love RPGs (yet) already prefer reading on devices, especiallly the younger, and if we want to get more new blood we must go digital
<+Sciencegar> Ah, thats a very good point
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<+Paolo> while not abandoning the dead tree version for the old schoolers
<+Paolo> but print on demand will always be there for those who need to have a book on their bedside table
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* +Seraioli barfs
<+Seraioli> I hate reading on devices, but that's just me
<+Seraioli> I know a ton of people love their ereaders and their ipads and their kindles but it's so not for me ;~~~;
<+Paolo> I am pretty sure the disappearance of paper will not happen for at least fifty years
<+Paolo> but the prevalence of digital editions... well, is already here
<+technoshaman> is this an official Q&A?
<~Dan> tech: yes.
<+technoshaman> ok
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<+Seraioli> (Oh, damn, I thought it ended at 1. Sorry!)
<~Dan> (Technically, yes, but Paolo's just hanging out with us now discussing PDFs.)
<+technoshaman> ohh ok
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<+technoshaman> OMG! Diney's Phineas and Ferb team up with Marvel's spider-man, Hulk, Thor and Iron-man
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<+Paolo> Okay folks, it was great being with you to discuss all this. Thank you for the interest in our works, and have a good day/evening/night, depending on your timezone.
<+Paolo> See you all on and

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