Category Archives: Kickstarter

When Orcs Are Real

I have come up against an interesting challenge this week.

As some of you will remember I am working on a Wild West game. I like to use anything I am working on to maximum effect. To this end I am happy to throw a bit of money at things as needed. Having the right tools for the job can make all the difference and being interested in game design does not make you a brilliant artist, page setter or professional writer.

As my setting is a real historical period there is plenty of public domain art and original photography so from an art perspective the challenge is not to get great art created it is more about gathering real images that tick all the right boxes, that fit the chapter contents and so on. Then it is about having a game art style and making sure all the art fits that style regardless of its original source. This is more graphic design or even photo editing rather than ‘art’. The undoubted king of this sort of image manipulation is Photoshop.

Page layout is one of those things that can make a game look professional or amateur. Along with the layout are things like cross referencing, tables of contents, a good index and other elements that make the rulebook easy to use at the game table. In a PDF that also includes bookmarks and layers for ease of printing. Scribus is a perfectly valid page layout application but InDesign is more feature rich.

So if you are going to buy Photoshop and InDesign than you may as well have CreativeSuite. So that was my first investment in the game.

I also bought some books on using Photoshop and Indesign as the best software in the world will do you no good if you don’t know how to use it.

No I come to the real challenge. I am of an age where we used to play Cowboy’s and Indians when we were young and Western films more often than not had ‘Indians’ or ‘Red Indians’ as the default villain. When we played Boot Hill the Apache were the default bad guys. At the time we didn’t give this a second thought.

Now when it comes to writing a game in this genre Native Americans are a real people and many of them will be role players. These real people are not the cardboard cut out ‘bad guys’ of the movies but a wide range of culturally individual nations. In gaming terms Native Americans are not simply the Orcs of a different genre, they are real people and often the ‘historical events’ behind many Hollywood movies have more than one interpretation!

One of the things I have struggled with writing up this game is not the game mechanics, they are easy, it was the setting. So to solve that problem I have employed a professional writer. He has experience of writing for Pathfinder amongst other RPGs so understood the needs of an RPG rulebook.

It was much harder than I had imagined to write about the Old West. I think part of the problem was that as I am British this is not my culture and not part of my history. I kind of knew in principle what I wanted but putting it into text was leading into cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac of bad text.

On the other hand employing an American writer this is much more real and personal for them. Freelance writers are massively under paid in my opinion and I am getting three entire chapters of the book written to a professional standard for under $250.

So looking back at what I have spent on this project, excluding my own time which I would never charge for as it is my hobby and I only do it when I want to and purely for fun it is easy to see how and why many kickstarters have target values in the few thousands of Dollars, Euros or Pounds. If I could not get my art for next to nothing then my bills would certainly be mounting up.

I also really like the way the game is shaping up and cannot wait to see the finished game. I think one last challenge I want to put before this game is that of making it the subject of a kickstarter campaign of my own. I know what it has cost to create and so can put a realistic price tag on it. I have been happy to spend what I spent on the game but if I get that back then I can reinvest it in making more games. If I don’t then it is no real loss. With the money out of the equation as unimportant then a kickstarter campaign simply becomes a way of bringing the game before the eyeballs of more potential players. There is nothing better for a game designer than having people play your game. That is the real reward.

Three Kickstarter Projects Worth Your Time and Money

Especially in a niche hobby like pen & paper roleplaying games raising money for a new product is not always easy. The various crowdfunding platforms have made things much easier over the years, but many potential backers have also become more careful about which projects they want to support. Today I want to write about three projects which are definitely worth your time and money.

  1. The Expanse Roleplaying Game by Green Ronin Publishing
    If you are a fan of Sci-Fi you probably have already heard about The Expanse series of books by James S.A. Corey which also spawned a hit TV series on SyFy. Green Ronin known for Fantasy Age and Mutants & Masterminds recently picked up the license and are now raising money on Kickstarter for a The Expanse roleplaying game.

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    The game is going to use their new Modern AGE ruleset, which is a variant of the Fantasy AGE mechanics they developed for the Dragon Age Roleplaying game. The project was funded in under an hour (!) and multiple strect goals have been hit so far. If you are a fan of the TV series or the books this game is based on, you definitely should check out this Kickstarter! By the way, there’s already a quick start PDF available here.

  2. Over The Edge:  A Roleplaying Game of Weird Urban Danger by Atlas Games
    Over The Edge is a classic. It came out at a time when most games were overly complex and there were rules for everything. OTE on the other hand used a very free-form character creation with player-defined traits and rules so simple you could basically write them down on a napkin (aside from the combat rules that is). The setting was equally unique and drew inspirations from the works of William S. Burroughs. Unfortunately I never got to play the game but when I heard that they were planning a new edition, I had to support it immediately.

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    The new edition will contain an updated version of the rules (with streamlined combat mechanics) and an updated setting. The game’s setting – the fictional island of Al Amarja –also gets an overhaul. For more details on the game I recommend you check out its Kickstarter page.

  3. Esoterica Tabletop Roleplaying Game by Greg Saunders
    Greg Saunders is one of my favorite indie game developers. His games like Exilium, Summerland and now Esoterica combine the solid mechanics of the Open D6 system with unique and exciting settings with almost philosophical themes. He’s currently raising money for an urban fantasy game in which player characters strive to reach a higher plane of existence while struggling to avoid the corruption of their very souls.esoterica_original
    Esoterica hasn’t reached its goal yet, so if you think Esoterica sounds like the game for you, you should check out the Kickstarter page immediately and support it by backing. There are about five days left, so there’s no time to dawdle. In all seriousness, Greg’s track record when it comes to Kickstarters is flawless and his games are just great. Check it out!

Kickstarter: Esoterica

It seems Greg Saunders is on a roll! He just started a Kickstarter for Esoterica, his newest Open D6-based roleplaying game. The other two, Exilium and Summerland, were finished in early 2017 and 2018 respectively and were pretty successful considering Greg is not an industry titan like Monte Cook. But when it comes to quality Greg’s products are on par with the ones released by major publishers.

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So what is Esoterica all about? The Kickstarter page describes it as a tabletop roleplaying game of occult mystery and the quest for power. Characters are so-called Adepts, people who have realized that beyond the mundane world lies a greater reality hidden by the Veil. They have learned to use the powers that permeate through that Veil. But using these powers cause physical corruption. But there are artifacts called soul jars which can protect from the corruption. So all Adepts are in search of these in order to find the power to pierce the Veil and venture into the reality beyond.

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The game will be using a simplified version of Open D6, probably based upon Antipaladin’s MiniSix which Greg has used before. What really sets  Greg Saunders’ games apart from a lot of the competition is that it’s not just about killing monsters and taking their stuff. His games pose questions about life, about the human condition. Exilium was about guilt and penitence, Summerland was about past deeds which are not only a burden but may shield us from losing ourselves. Esoterica seems to be about power and how it corrupts.

The artwork alone makes me want to back this project (I actually did back it while writing this article) and I am very excited for the final product. If you’re at least remotely interested in what Esoterica is about, you should head over to the Kickstarter project page and check it out!