All posts by Peter R.

I have been blogging about Rolemaster for the past few years. When I am not blogging I run the Rolemaster Fanzine and create adventure seeds and generic game supplements under the heading of PPM Games. You can check them out on RPGnow. My pet project is my d6 game 3Deep, now in its second edition.

Is Kickstarter a double edge sword?

A couple of weeks ago, as a consequence of the g+ exodus, I got into a conversation with another indie game developer.

The gist of the conversation was that this person was just starting out with their very first game, not quite at the play test stage. It was immediately obvious that they envisioned making tens of thousands of dollars and giving up their day job.

I know that it is possible to create a successful game but I do not know anyone who has successfully made a living at it. It seems to be generally accepted that indie produced ‘paid for’ games generally sell around 100-200 copies each.

There are always exceptions but that is the generally accepted figure. So if you are making $10 a copy then you stand to take $1000-$2000 from your game. As a game designer then that has big implications. If a full page piece of art can cost $500 then two such pieces could wipe out everything you will ever earn. In effect if you work for the artist not the artist working for you.

I told the person I was talking to that one thing I wish I had done was start the social media accounts for Devil’s Staircase last October when I first had the idea rather than three weeks ago when I suddenly wanted public play testers. I could have trickle fed nuggets from the games development over the year and build a bit of a following. When I then wanted playtesters I would have had anywhere from a few tens to possibly a couple of thousand people to reach out to.

It is my intention to crowd fund Devil’s Staircase and it would have been equally useful to have an audience to put the word out to when that starts next year.

So I have been looking at crowd funding and I had rejected Kickstarter in preference to indiegogo. The amount of money I have invested in Devil’s staircase is so small that it would have looked petty to kickstart for just $500. It also seems really important in the long run to have a successful kickstarters behind you as your track record. It is possible that the door is closing on the kickstarter method of games funding for the indie developer. I suspect that in 3 years time rpgs funded that way will come from a small cohort of companies with a track record of funding and delivering games.

The deciding factor for me to go for indiegogo, over kickstarter, was the funding model. With KS you have to reach your target to get any funding at all. If you miss it by a single cent then you get nothing. This encourages people to add ever more enticing stretch goals to try and make that initial target.

Indiegogo has a different option and that is variable funding. With variable funding if you get what is pledges regardless of the amount and your target.

The two options suit different people. If you absolutely have to have $1000 to actually create even one of your products, say a card based game and you have to have the cards, then getting $800 means you cannot fulfil your pledges. This is bad. On the other hand if you are fulfilling via drivethru and the game is PDF and POD then the same $800 will still buy in freelance writers and art.

I have already paid for the writing so I can guarantee that the game content is there, I have licenced an entire gallery of images for my game and turning those images in usable game art is a matter of applying exactly the same photoshop filters to every image to give them a consistent look and feel. So I have my art. Given that I have the rules, the book text and the art it doesn’t really matter if I get $1, $10 or $1000, I know that I can give my backers their game.

When you do crowd fund you do not get all the money pledged. The platform takes a straight 5% and the payment card transaction charges up to 3%. It is also taxable income so that could be another 20% or more.

John Wick Presents raised $1.3Million for 7th Sea 2nd Edition. If you did that as an individual in the UK you would have to pay just over half a million dollars in income tax immediately!

I am sure you have seen the news that John Wick Presents has just laid off all their staff and is winding down its production rate?

I suspect part of the problem is that if you have been paid today for the work you need to do for the next three years or longer then you are going to have to manage that cash fund every carefully. You cannot go back and ask for more if any unsuspected snags suddenly come up.

The other problem with the kickstart and stretch goal model is that if everyone who has funded you has already bought your game and all the future books as well, where are your future sales going to come from? You have basically emptied the barrel before you start.

With indiegogo it seems like a lower pressure environment. The platform still puts you under a little bit of pressure to make your targets big and raise more money but they are on commission so the more you raise the more they earn. That pressure is far greater on KS where you have to succeed for KS to make any money.

I have a little bit of a personal challenge and that is to earn about $250,000 from games. That is the price of a small farm or small holding where I can live and have a few more (ten or so) horses. Nothing is really dependent on the success or failure of that goal, it would simply be nice to think that a) I ‘bought the farm’ but in a good way and b) I could point at something and say that is what RPGs bought me. As long as I live until I am 180 years old, I am right on track.

I am very much into low stress and just for fun game creation. Kickstarter is most definitely not the tool of choice for that style of game design!

Adventurers! Event Zero

I have been given a copies of Adventurers! the game and Adventurers! Event Zero, the Supers setting for Adventurers!

I think this is a great game and setting combo. The feel I have from the setting booklet is like the Heroes TV series. We have an event that has created these heroes but the whole thing is shrouded in conspiracy.

So what do you get?

Adventurers!

Adventurers! Revised Edition is a mini RPG. It claims to be an RPG in two pages but the reality is that the players guide is two pages, the GMs guide is 2 pages and there there is a bit more for the bestiary and stuff like list of gear that characters can buy or use. Toss in some character sheets and top and tail it with a cover and you have 12 pages of rules.

Adventurers! feels like a framework and not a bolted down game. As such you can do a lot with it. The simpler the framework and the less rules there are then the less chance that a rule will stop you doing something. The core Adventurers! booklet hints as settings and styles of play but it is basically generic.

Characters have 3 main attributes and some secondary attributes that are either derived from the core ones or based upon other skills or equipment. The core attributes are on a -1 to 6 scale and for PCs you get 6 points to spend over the three attributes. You get a couple of skills, one at a basic level and the second at a more advanced level. The skills list is not vast in this core book.  You finally have a character concept made up of two words definition and an archetype, or to quote the rules…

The Concept identifies what a hero is and what he does. It is made up of two parts, a Definition (e.g. Unlucky) and an Archetype (e.g. Detective), such as Dashing Swordsman, Mysterious Mage, or Cop Who Protects Innocents. You have Advantage on knowledge rolls linked to your Archetype. The GM rewards you with Her points when you role-play your Definition (e.g. if you are a Courageous
Swordsman and you behave in a courageous way).

The main mechanic is roll 2d6 and add your stat and or skill. A roll of 7+ succeeds. Opposed rolls are you roll yours, they roll theirs and the winner succeeds. Roll double 1 and you critically fail, roll double 6 and you critically succeed.

You should get an idea for how simple this game it.

The complexity, if you can call it that comes from the other half of the equation, the setting book.

Event Zero

Event Zero is a supers setting for Adventurers. So in addition to the core rules EZ adds a really cool campaign setting. I have read a few Gramel mini settings and this is by far the best to date. After the setting you get NPC character and organisation descriptions, plot hooks and setting specific gear lists. Gear includes actual items but also customisations so you can make stuff bullet proof or resistant, all the stuff you would expect from a super heroes costume. You also get add on rules for super powers, heroes working as teams, super hero bases.

It is easy to pack a lot on when every game mechanic is small so in this 44 page book you are getting the added rules for supers, the campaign setting, adventure hooks but the setting specific ‘monsters’ and foes from Super Animals to SWAT teams and Super Villains.

To counter the super villains you get 6 super heroes with fully worked up character sheets which are ready to play.

The final part of this booklet is the Adventure. Each Gramel mini setting as a full adventure. This one runs to 8 pages and is described in a series of set scenes. These can appear somewhat linear, some more than others. The antidote to that is to include a lot of conditional options. The characters do not have to do everything in the right way and at the right time to make it through. The conditional options give them enough leeway to do their own thing. This is less of a problem with the EZ adventure as there is a villain with a plan and that plan will progress if the characters do not step in so it would reach its natural conclusion anyway. As such I think the linear format actually works well here, if anything it feels quite cinematic.

Conclusions

I am quite curious about the Adventurers! game and would like to try it. I haven’t yet so I cannot tell you how it plays in practice.

The game itself was a successful Kickstarter raising over €5000. The production values are very high and it contains some of the best art I have seen in such a rules light game. I think that is a vote in the games favour.

The setting books I love. I am running a game this weekend and I am planning on using one of their settings and adventures for my weekend’s entertainment.

The settings books cost about $6 each and they are well worth it. The two page edition of the rules is free and the kickstarter revised edition, the one I reviewed here is only $4.99. If you ever find yourself in need of a quick setting or an adventure then I would seriously recommend you take a look at one of Gramel’s books.

Raising Azazel Fudge Character Creation

Character Creation Basics

I will confess that creating this NagaDemon game has meant I have read the Fudge 1995 rules in detail for the first time. Up until now I have been working off of other peoples derived games and their customisations and interpretations.

So I am now writing up my character creation rules and I am having three primary attributes. These are Mind, Body and Spirit. I was looking at that list for ages and I could not work out what was odd about it until I realised that RPGs seem to prioritise Strength over everything else. I can remember D&D being Str, Int, Wis. Rolemaster has stats in two groups of 5. The first are the development point stats and they start with Con and the second group starts with Str.

I think that Mind, Body, Spirit feels more natural when you say it than Body, Mind, Spirit.

I am giving players 11 points to spend on the three attributes assuming they all start at -3[Terrible]. So a character should end up with one Fair and two Good attributes if they spend their points broadly.

A fourth attribute I am stealing from Ghost Ops and that is Boosts, basically Fudge Points. I think Boosts sounds more dynamic and less fuzzy than Fudge Points. Everyone will get 4 Boost Points at the start of play.

For the skill selection I have stripped out the supernormal skills such as spell casting as I don’t want the starting PCs to have access to magic. This left me with 19 categories and about 150 specific skills.

I am happy with that scope and I am giving players 30 points to spend. The default skill level will be -1[Poor]. No skill can be above Superb.

I am also going to use skill specialisations. So Combat would be a skill category, Swords would be a skill, Rapier would be a specialisation. Each character will get 10 points to be spent on specialisations with no more than 2 points spent on any specialisation.

At the moment I have not included gifts and faults. As I don’t have long to get the game up and running, leaving these out make for a simpler system.

For the GM

I have detailed nine broad character concepts with the character’s reason for becoming involved in the conspiracy. This information is for the GM only. They[the GM] should work this into the character’s back story. These concepts are things like The Journalist, The Law Enforcer, The Cult Survivor, The Hacker, The Curate, The Scientist, The Conspirator, The Investigator and The Mystic.

What I am aiming for is a sort of hidden agenda where without giving the main conspiracy away immediately, it is intrinsically linked to the character.

Artworks

I do have a habit of procrastinating. I think of it as giving myself time to mull over ideas. One nice way to procrastinate is playing with the art to decorate this game. I am thinking along the lines of building it up like a graphic novel. Here is the first panel.

So so far this is all pretty run of the mill except maybe for the GM only element of character creation and the GM having a hidden agenda to weave the conspiracy into the characters’ back stories.

If you want to follow the creation process then I am trying to post more frequent updates to twitter, if you are into that.