Showing posts with label Kickstarter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kickstarter. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Episode 162: Not So Tiny Conversations About Tiny d6

It's time for Episode 162 of Geekerati and this one is a doozy, coming in at approximately 2 1/2 hours of content.
Segment 1:

The first segment of episode 162 is a 30 minute interview with Alan Bahr of Gallant Knight Games who joins us to discuss GKG's wonderful catalog of role playing games. During the interview we go into a detailed discussion of Tiny Supers, Tiny Dungeon, and GKG's other Tiny d6 role playing games. We also discuss how Alan's company runs the gamut of the indie rpg world from OSR style games like For Coin and Blood to one shot pick up and play narrative games like Beach Patrol. It was a great conversation and our experience with the Tiny Supers role playing game inspired us to write up quick statistics for The Human Torch and The Invisible Woman using the Tiny Supers rules set. You can find those characters down below and we'd love to hear your thoughts on how you would adapt the characters to the Tiny Supers system.

Segment 2:

Since we were highlighting Tiny d6 games in our main interview, we thought it would be a great opportunity to expose listeners to a delightful Kickstarter project launched to support Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition. The Micronomicon Kickstarter features new spells, new archetypes, and more importantly new "micro-settings." John D Payne and Gregory Israel stopped by to chat about this wonderful project and to share their love of the Tiny d6 system in general. It's a wonderful discussion.

John D Payne is the editor of The Micronomicon and he has a Patreon account which supports his game design efforts. The Patreon has a large number of backer supported extras that you might want to check out.

Gregory Israel's designs have been featured in the Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition rulebook and in issues of Tinyzine, an official online magazine that supports the Tiny d6 line of games. Gregory is also the author of Between Sun and Shadow, a setting for the Tiny Dungeon system.

Segments 3 and 4:

Segments 3 and 4 contained our regular Something Old and Something New segment. This week, I  highlighted the Beach Patrol game from Gallant Knight Games as the Something New and Tales from the Floating Vagabond by Lee Garvin as the Something Old. Both of these games are humorous in nature and can be used to emulate the action of 80s and 90s shows. I had intended to include a review of Extreme Vengeance by Archangel Studios as well, but that will have to wait for a future episode. Hopefully an episode where we interview Philip Reed or Tony Lee who were involved with that particular project.

Segment 5:

We were finally able to reveal one of the exciting changes to the Geekerati podcast in Episode 162 with the addition of the Dungeons and Dilemmas segment with writer and director David Nett. Nett was on the vanguard of gaming related webseries and his Gold series set a high standard, particularly its second season Night of the Zombie King. We are honored to have him as our regular game mastering expert Dungeons and Dilemmas.

Segments of this episode discussed the products and blogs below.

Products Discussed/Featured in this Episode

A Glimpse at Two Quick Tiny Supers Characters

No post should be without gaming content if we can help it, so here's this post's weekly does of gaming goodness.

While the Fantastic Four has never quite been able to translate successfully to the big screen, they are among Marvel Comics' most iconic characters. The brother and sister team of Johnny Storm and Sue Storm-Richards are particular favorites of the Geekerati crew, so we jumped at the chance to convert them to the Tiny Supers role playing game system as a way to test it out. It's a pretty good fit, but maybe your take would be a little bit different. Feel free to give us your ideas for how you would adapt these or other characters to this quick and easy to play super hero role playing game. Is Johnny a "Striker"? Is Susan Richards best defined as a "Defender"? Would you use a different mix of powers?

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Shotguns & Sorcery has Arrived and It's Been a Long Wait, but Worth It!

In December 2015, about two months after the Geekerati Radio Podcast went on hiatus, I saw an exciting new gaming project called Shotguns & Sorcery proposed on Kickstarter. The product was based on the Shotguns & Sorcery trilogy by Matt Forbeck, itself a part of Matt's 12 for '12 series of Kickstarter projects where he hoped to be able to fund and write 12 books in 12 months. Quite an ambitious project, but if anyone was going to try it Matt Forbeck was the man for the job. I backed his Brave New World, Monster Academy, Dangerous Games, and Shotguns & Sorcery trilogies when they were proposed and we interviewed Matt about the project on the old podcast (embedded at the bottom of this post).

A couple of confessions before, I get into the nitty-gritty of the Shotguns & Sorcery book. First, Matt's a friend and one of the nicest guys in the gaming industry, so I'm very happy that this project was completed. Second, my wife Jody did some illustrations for the first (and maybe the second, but I'm not sure about that) Monster Academy book and provided the art for the Storium Monster Academy page.

When I backed Shotguns & Sorcery on Kickstarter, I knew that I was supporting a friend. I also figured that there was a high probability that the product would be published. The Kickstarter presentation was very professional and had lined up a good team of experienced rpg designers including Robert Schwalb to write the product, had artists lined up, and they were using an existing game system's mechanics as a foundation. These were all things that pointed to completion in a reasonable time.

Sadly, making things is difficult and things fall behind schedule and sometimes never get completed. Such is the creative process that even with a good team, cost overruns, writers' block, or a host of other things can lead to a project not being completed. I've seen it happen with a couple of the 500 projects I've backed, and it looked like Shotguns & Sorcery was going to be one of those projects. Though it started strong, the production lost steam, updates became rarer, and I thought the project would never reach fruition. Since I backed the project (at the $100 level) to support a friend in creative work, I wrote it off as a sunk cost. A lot of backers weren't so generous and had some pretty angry things to say, things that might have contributed to the delay more than they helped keep the project going. It's one thing to check the status of a project, it's another to call into question the motives of the creators. This is especially true when the stakes are relatively small. In the end, over four years passed before the book came out.

Sometimes when a project finally comes out after a long delay, it looks like it was thrown together "just to get it out the door." That is not at all the case with Shotguns & Sorcery. Instead, this product seems to fall into the category that "you are only late once, but you are bad forever" and so it's better to be late than bad. The book has solid binding, high end printing production on the cover, and is beautiful inside. While the pages aren't printed on glossy paper, they are printed on acid free paper and the sepia tone of the book gives a nice overall look to the product.

Mechanically Shotguns & Sorcery uses Monte Cook's Cypher System, a system that will be very familiar to fans of Numenera, The Strange, or No Thank You, Evil! It's an easy system to learn, but flexible enough to cover any genre from street level espionage to superheroes without stretching the mechanics beyond utility. In order to determine if any action is successful, the player rolls a twenty-sided die and compares the result of the die to a target number based on the difficulty of the task. The difficulty can range from 0 to 10 and this number is multiplied by 3 to give a target number between 0 and 30. As you might have noticed, you cannot roll a 30 on a twenty-sided die. In order to achieve tasks that are at this "impossible" level, or to make other challenges less difficult, characters can spend points from their abilities to reduce the base difficulty. They may also have special abilities or training that lowers the difficulty, but the main game play is the same. Get a target number and roll equal to or greater than that number. Unlike D&D, the players make all rolls in combat by rolling both "to hit" and "to defend."

In order to flush out the characters, players rate the games in three categories (Might, Speed, and Intellect) and then select a Race, Type, and Focus. The Race and Type will be familiar to D&D gamers with things like Halfling, Dwarf, and Elf being available as races and Freelance (Rogue), Veteran (Fighter), and Wizard being among the Types available. Players will also add descriptors like "cunning" or "aggressive" to their characters and choose a Focus like "Commands the Dead" or "Carries a Quiver." Initial character creation is as simple as completing the following sentence, "I am a (fill in the adjective here) (fill in a noun here), and (fill in a noun here) who (fill in a verb here." More simply a character is an adjective noun, a noun who verbs. For example, I am a Hardboiled Human, a Freelance who Packs Heat."

The book includes scads, yes scads, of types and foci for characters to use. It may have been a long wait, but in this case it was a wait well worth it seeing the final product. One final comment. If you don't want to play Shotguns & Sorcery using the Cypher System, the setting was originally designed for use with D&D as a part of the campaign the resulted in the Eberron campaign. The combination of straight fantasy with the Old West works well with Cypher, but it could also work with 5e or with Savage Worlds. There is so much setting and adventure information here, that using it as the basis for a Savage Worlds game would be very possible.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

STAR EAGLES: Reflections on Kickstarter Project Expectations

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When Kickstarter launched a decade ago, on April 28th, 2009, it helped to create a new kind of business model that allowed businesses and individuals to raise capital for projects in a new way. No longer did creators have to rely on loans, credit cards, and families when attempting to fulfill their dreams of being a toy maker, an inventor, a novelist, a game designer, or a host of other dream jobs. Instead, they could market their ideas to the "crowd" in the hopes that enough people would be interested in the project that they would contribute money to the creator. People could microfund or contribute large sums and support creators in their projects.

Kickstarter is now a vital revenue stream for small and medium scale creators to launch businesses or business projects, but the supporters have evolved as the platform has evolved and not always for the best. Because of the quality and success of a number of excellent Kickstarter projects, the games of Monte Cook Games starting with Numenera or the Battletech video game come quickly to mind, some people have come to believe that all projects should be as professional as these and that backing a project is more like being a pre-ordering customer than being a dream fulfilling patron. To be fair, there are huge projects like Critical Role's recent animated series project that make the patronage component very clear, but as much as I love Cool Mini or Not their highly professional projects have muddied that water somewhat.

None of this is to say that Kickstarter is "only for the small." Indeed, the platform was designed for projects of all sizes and scopes. It was meant to be used by businesses big and small as a means to fund projects that might not otherwise be funded.

And that gets to the crux of the platform. It's for projects big and small that might not otherwise be possible. It is a project enabling platform and not a pre-order system. A perfect example of the kind of small project that Kickstarter was created to enable is the Star Eagles project by Ganesha Games

Star Eagles is a science fiction action game of futuristic space fighter combat using highly detailed 1/285 scale miniature spaceships

Ganesha Games is the kind of one man shop game company that could not have existed before the internet made international communication fast and easy, changes in global banking allowed for the instant sale of international products possible, and batch print on demand services enabled the cheap printing and shipping of rulebooks. The company is currently based out of a flat in Italy and is run by the one man game designing machine Andrea Sfiligoi. They haven't hit the big time, but they make excellent game mechanics and their designs have an excellent reputation. Andrea's Song of Blades and Heroes has inspired an entire community of spinoffs and even resulted in a couple of rule books using the basic mechanics published by Osprey Publishing, a major publisher in the wargaming community.

Andrea managed to build his successful business for years without a Kickstarter, but eventually ran a project called Star Eagles in May of 2017. My guess, I haven't asked him, is that Andrea saw that there was an opportunity to grow his small company into a medium sized company and if this is the case the Star Eagles seemed a good candidate. Star Eagles is a 1/285th scale game of tactical star ship battles that uses a version of the Song of Blades and Heroes system modified by Damon Richardson to be a perfect fit for tactical space battles. The project sought a modest budget of $16,000 with which Andrea would publish a paperback version of the rulebook, tactical movement templates, condition markers, and both resin and metal miniature space ships for use with the game. It was pretty ambitious and it's clear from the marketing material that Andrea had plans for the project should it succeed at a much higher level than initially asked. For example, you can see the proposed game box Andrea hoped to manufacture if the project managed to benefit from economies of scale.

Star Eagles Game Box Concept
Good news for backers was that the project received enough funding to be fulfilled as promised, but the bad news for backers was that it didn't succeed at a level high enough for Ganesha Games to benefit from economies of scale and transform the company from a small to a medium sized gaming company. The project received $26,688 in pledges from 330 backers, of which about 10% would have to go to Kickstarter corporation and whomever processed the payments. That left Andrea with about $24,000 to manufacture the project, but there were some additional complications. First the 330 backers were divided into 11 categories and each of the categories were promised different packages of material ranging from only the pdf of the rules to full sets of minis, templates, dice, etc. All of this from a one man shop with no ability to benefit from economies of scale. did they do?

There have been some backers who have complained, but from my perspective I think they did an exceptional job. Given that the scale of the project pretty much meant that some of the items, the resin minis, effectively had to be molded by hand, I am really impressed. I imagine the molds were based on 3D printed models based on Damon's computer designs, but the molds likely had to be hand pressed by the production company. Let me walk you through my package, which was the "Two Squadron Starter Package."

Let's start with the quality of shipping. The fulfillment company was Alternative Armies in Scotland and as you can see, the box had a bit of a rough trip.

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Rough as that box looks, it's actually one of the better looking boxes I've had shipped from the U.K. Some day I'll discuss just how brutal GamesQuest shipments have been for my merchandise. Regardless, it's not the exterior that matters, it's whether what was inside survived intact and Alternative Armies wrapped the items up securely.

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Layer upon layer of bubble wrap protected the items inside and they were a sight to behold.

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From my initial glance, it looked like everything was in the package and a later inventory showed that everything was there. While there were some small issues with the "color" of the resin casts, they were fully able to be assembled and had nice detail that will look very good when painted. Of course, "when painted" is a loaded term for miniature gamers as that might be never.

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The shot below gives a good sense of what the ships will look like when assembled.

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And a wide variety of ships were provided to allow for a good gaming experience.

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Close up, you can see some nice details and you can see how some thought went into making assembly easy for hobbyists.

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As nice as the resin figures where, it was with the metal figures that the set really showed its quality. These casts were fully complete and didn't require any assembly.

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They also featured some pretty cool designs. 

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If I did have one small complaint, it would be that the bases were of the same resin as the miniatures rather than the clear plastic shown in the initial Kickstarter. It's not a deal breaker, and these will look good painted, but they would have had more utility as clear plastic. That aside, the ability to set the dice in the bases is a nice modification.

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The cards were of good cardstock and had good illustrations of the ships and all of the statistics you need for play.

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 A real strong point was in the templates. It's likely that these were done by Litko Plastics, since Ganesha has some templates available from that supplier, and they always do good work. Many of these templates work for all Song of Blades and Heroes based games.

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The turning template is really well designed and intuitive.

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 Overall, I think that this is an excellent project from a small company. I wish they had been more successful as I would have liked to see what they could have done benefiting from economies of scale, but this is a yeoman's effort and is exactly what Kickstarter was designed to allow.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Look Back at CHAMPIONS 1st Edition.

With the recent announcement that Ron Edwards was teaming up with Hero Games to produce CHAMPIONS NOW, a game that hearkens back to the first three editions of the game, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at those older editions.

The CHAMPIONS super hero role playing game is one of the best super hero role playing games ever designed, and the game to which all super hero rpgs are compared.  CHAMPIONS wasn't the first role playing game in the super hero genre, that honor goes to the game SUPERHERO 2044 which I discussed in an earlier blog post.  CHAMPIONS even builds upon some of the ideas in SUPERHERO 2044.  CHAMPIONS used the vague point based character generation system of SUPERHERO 2044 -- combined with house rules by Wayne Shaw that were published in issue 8 of the Lords of Chaos Fanzine-- as a jumping off point for a new detailed and easy to understand point based system.  CHAMPIONS was also likely influenced by the melee combat system in SUPERHERO 2044 in the use of the 3d6 bell curve to determine "to-hit" rolls in combat.

While CHAMPIONS wasn't the first super hero rpg, it was the first that presented a coherent system that allowed a player to design the superheroes they read about in comic books.  The first edition of VILLAINS & VIGILANTES, which predates CHAMPIONS, did a good job of emulating many aspects of comic book action but the ability to model a character in character design wasn't one of them.  CHAMPIONS was released at the Origins convention in the summer of 1981, and it immediately captured the interest of Aaron Allston of Steve Jackson Games.  Allston gave CHAMPIONS a positive review in issue #43 of the Space Gamer magazine, wrote many CHAMPIONS articles for that publication, and became one of the major contributors to the early days of CHAMPIONS lore.

Reading through the first edition of the game, can have that kind of effect upon a person.  The writing is clear -- if uneven in places -- and the rules mechanics inspire a desire to play around in the sandbox provided by the rules.  George MacDonald and Steve Peterson did more than create a great role playing game when they created CHAMPIONS, they created a great character generation game as well.  Hours can be taken up just playing around with character concepts and seeing how they look in the CHAMPIONS system.

There are sites galore about CHAMPIONS and many reviews about how great the game is, and it truly is, so the remainder of the post won't be either of these.  Rather, I would like to point out some interesting tidbits about the first edition of the game.  Most of these will be critical in nature, but not all.  Before going further I will say that though CHAMPIONS is now in its 6th edition and is a very different game today in some ways, the 1st edition of the game is highly playable and well worth exploring and I'm glad that Ron Edwards has picked up that torch with CHAMPIONS NOW.

  • One of the first things that struck me reading the book was how obviously playtested the character design system was.  This is best illustrated in the section under basic characteristics.  In CHAMPIONS there are primary and secondary characteristics.  The primary characteristics include things like Strength and Dexterity.  The secondary statistics are all based on fractions of the primary statistics and represent things like the ability to resist damage.  Where the playtesting shows here is in how players may buy down all of their primary statistics, but only one of their secondary statistics.  A quick analysis of the secondary statistics demonstrates that if this were not the case a "buy strength then buy down all the secondary stats related to strength" infinite loop would occur.  
  • It's striking how few skills there are in 1st edition CHAMPIONS.  There are 14 in total, and some of them are things like Luck and Lack of Weakness.  There are no "profession" skills in 1st edition.  To be honest, I kind of like the lack of profession skills.  Professions in superhero adventures seem more flavor than something one should have to pay points for, but this is something that will change in future editions.  
  • There are a lot of powers in CHAMPIONS, but the examples are filled with phrases like "a character" or "a villain" instead of an evocative hero/villain name.  It would have been more engaging for the folks at Hero Games to create some Iconic characters that are used throughout the book as examples of each power.  The game does include 3 examples of character generation (Crusader, Ogre, and Starburst), but these characters aren't mentioned in the Powers section.  An example using Starburst in the Energy Blast power would have been nice.
  • The art inside the book is less than ideal.  Mark "the hack" Williams has been the target of some criticism for his illustrations, but his work is the best of what is offered in the 1st edition book.  It is clear why they decided to use his work in the 2nd edition of the game.  Williams art is evocative and fun -- if not perfect -- while the work Vic Dal Chele and Diana Navarro is more amateurish.
  • The game provides three examples of character generation, but the designs given are less than point efficient and one outclasses the others.  The three sample characters are built on 200 points.  Crusader can barely hurt Ogre if he decides to punch him (his punch is only 6 dice), and his Dex is bought at one point below where he would receive a rounding benefit.  Ogre has a Physical Defense of 23.  This is the amount of damage he subtracts from each physical attack that hits and it is very high.  Assuming an average of 3.5 points of damage per die, Ogre can resist an average of 6.5 dice of damage per attack.  Yes, that's an average but the most damage 6 dice could do to him would be 13.  That would be fine, except Crusader has that 6d6 punch, and Starburst...oh, Starburst.  All of Starburst's major powers are in a multipower which means that as he uses one power he can use less of the other powers in the multipower.  The most damage he can do is 8d6, but only if he isn't flying and doesn't have his forcefield up.  Not efficient at all.  One might hope that character examples demonstrate the appropriate ranges of damage and defense, these don't quite achieve that goal.
  • The combat example is good, if implausible.  Crusader and Starburst defeating Ogre?  Sure.
  • The supervillain stats at the end of the book -- there are stats for 8 villains and 2 agents -- lack any accompanying art.  The only exception is Shrinker.  
  • Speaking of artwork and iconics.  Take that cover.
  • Who are these people?!  I want to know.  The only one who is mentioned in the book is Gargoyle.  It's pretty clear which character he is, but I only know his name because of a copyright notice.  Who are the other characters?  Is that "Flare"?  The villain is named Holocaust, but that cannot be discerned from reading this rule book.  If you know, please let me know.  I'd love to see the stats for that guy punching "Holocaust" with his energy fist.
CHAMPIONS is a great game, and the first edition is a joy.  If you can, try to hunt down a copy and play some old school super hero rpg.

This is an update of a post from 2012.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Kickstarter Superbacker's Thoughts on Late Projects

I've been backing Kickstarter projects, primarily Tabletop Gaming projects, for quite some time. I've been a fan of the platform from early on and really like the idea of supporting creators by providing them the fund to work on creative projects. Some friends of mine and I even put together a small project of our own a few years ago.
I believe that helping a creator navigate the balance between keeping the wolves away from the door and making something neat is a worthwhile endeavor. We're likely to get better freelance projects if freelance creators don't have to worry about whether they will be able to eat or not. This isn't to say that I think Kickstarter funds should be used to buy meals, unless that's what the Kickstarter is about, but rather to say that money being fungible Kickstarter allows creators to spend their own money on food because backers are willing to cover some of the R&D expenses that the creator might have needed to take out of the food budget in order to make a thing.
Just because I'm a believer in the platform and concept doesn't mean that everything I've backed has come to fruition. In fact, I'd like to share with you some of the projects I funded many moons ago that are still in process and to share my thoughts regarding why I'm not in a fervor and yelling at the creators who have yet to deliver projects...if they ever will. To that end, I'm sharing projects in three categorys: Late but Likely, Late and Uncertain, and Written Off. 

I want to make clear that I am not listing any of these projects to shame anyone, far too many backers make that their life's work. Instead, I wanted to show how creative many of the ideas presented on Kickstarter are and how there are projects offered that one might never see if Kickstarter didn't exist.
Kickstarter projects I've been waiting to be completed for years, but have confidence will be finished by professionals due to personal emergencies or need to have other priorities like having a roof overhead. Most of these projects are by people I know and who have a long history of creating excellent products in the industry:

Project I'm uncertain about, though it looks like it is going to make it even after horrible tragedy:

Project I'm certain I will write off as a sunk cost and never receive because law suits and D&D seem to go hand in hand:

I've had good success overall with the projects I've backed seeing daylight. I've also never viewed Kickstarter as "pre-ordering" products. It is a means to help creative people make interesting things that they couldn't afford to make otherwise. So long as the makers are making a good faith effort, I'm fine with the risk.

Of these projects, I dumped the most investment into the documentary. It funded in 2012 and has encountered many legal conflicts. I had high hopes for the documentary and got to meet some of the crew when they hand delivered my copy of Playing at the World that was part of my pledge.

As for the other projects?

Being creative is hard. I backed these knowing that I was funding the creation of a project. I was "Kickstarting" it. This isn't "KickCompletionBond" and it's not "KickPreorder." Things like BackerKit and PledgeManager are pre-order portals that allow people to take low risk on backing and go all in only if a project finishes. Those I hold to a stricter "purchase" standard and there is a difference between backing and purchasing.

I'm happy to have supported authors and creators who have created entertaining products in the past and who have supported me in some of my creative endeavors.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Sorry Gaming Paper, But The Game I'm Most Pleased I Backed on Kickstarter Is...#RPGaDAY2015 [Day 2]

The first "patron" project I ever backed was Wolfgang Baur's first  Kobold Publishing product. There was a time that I backed every one of Baur's projects, but as he continued to publish primarily for D&D 3.x and Pathfinder at the same time that my bookshelves overflowed with material for those games I moved on to supporting other projects. I missed out on some excellent products, but I'm only going to play those games -x- times and I have more material then I will ever need.

I backed my first Kickstarter project in 2010 and in doing so began a fandom journey of directly supporting projects that I believe in before they are published. I became a non-profitsharing venture capitalist. I decided to be more than a consumer and to support the companies and creators I admire by backing their projects. Note the word I used there, backing. I didn't say "pre-order" their games because that isn't what Kickstarter really is. Yes, that is often what it ends up being for some companies, but that isn't the only thing a backer is. I'd have backed some of the projects I did solely for a T-Shirt or button that proclaimed I was a backer. That first Kickstarter project that I backed was Erik Bauer's Gaming Paper Adventures project. With it Eric left the realm of selling gaming accessories and entered the realm of game designer. Erik is one of the nicest guys in the industry and a natural salesman. I've called him a gaming huckster in the past, and I meant it in the nicest and most William Castle way. In addition to being a great salesman, Erik is a great guy. I'm proud to have supported his project. It's probably the "product" I'm most pleased to have backed, but since it's a supplement it isn't technically a game . So it isn't the game I'm most pleased I backed.

The game that I'm most pleased to have backed is Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls. There are so many reasons that I'm pleased to have backed this game. First and foremost is that Tunnels and Trolls, along with various Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf game books, was the vast majority of role playing game play that I participated in as a kid. Without those and Bard's Tale, I likely would have stopped playing games after my first session. My first experience had been with a "killer DM" and it hadn't been much fun, then I encountered a Ken St. Andre solo module and it was salve to my wound.

Don't get me wrong, Ken St. Andre is a "killer DM," his adventures don't suffer fools and they don't suffer the wise either. They are brutal, but they are never cruel and never seem unfair. When Ken kills one of your characters in a horrific fashion, you end up laughing with him at the absurdity of the situation. The worlds of Ken St. Andre, and his fellow Trolls, are imaginative to the point of psychedelia. They are a patchwork of everything wonderful in fantasy. They are Michael Moorcock meets Disney meets Harryhausen. They are creations of pure joy and excitement.

Add to Ken's literary patchwork the wonderful artwork of Liz Danforth and you have a perfect example of why role playing games caught on in the first place.

For a long time, the 5th edition had been my "go to" version of the game. There had been a 7th edition published by Fiery Dragon that updated some rules, and had a nice packaging, but it lacked a little of what made the original so magical. That little bit was the touch of Ken St. Andre's imagination and Danforth's editing and artwork. Liz Danforth edited the classic 5th edition and was brought back for the new Deluxe version of the game. It's taken a few years for this version of the game to be fully developed, but what I have experienced so far captures that early magic.

Tunnels and Trolls was the second role playing game to be published and it laid the foundation for today's OSR movement. Whenever I buy a new OSR product, I'm reminded of Tunnels & Trolls and that's a good thing. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Witcher Table Top RPG Coming from CD PROJEKT RED and R.TALSORIAN GAMES

It was recently announced on the CD Projekt Red forums that they had come to an agreement with R Talsorian Games regarding the production of a table top role playing game for The Witcher. According to the announcement:

Together with R.Talsorian Games, makers of the hit pen and paper role-playing system Cyberpunk 2020, we are pleased to announce an agreement to develop The Witcher Role-Playing Game -- the go-to tabletop Witcher experience for pen and paper RPG enthusiasts.

The Witcher Role-Playing Game will allow tabletop RPG fans to re-create an array of characters known from the Witcher universe and live out entirely new adventures set within the world of Geralt of Rivia. Powered by Fuzion, the same ruleset that made Cyberpunk 2020 gain worldwide player acclaim, The Witcher Role-Playing Game will feature a myriad of spells, rituals, and curses; favorite gear and items from the entire Witcher series including a bestiary of devilish monsters players can face during their adventures. The system will provide all the necessary tools to create and play out your own adventures and become everything from a battle-hardened monster slayer to a merchant kingpin controlling a vast network of contacts.

The Witcher Role-Playing Game is currently slated for a mid 2016 release. More information about the system, price and availability will be provided at a later point in time.
I am simultaneously excited and ambivalent about this project, due largely to the involvement of R Talsorian Games. Before I get into my reasons for ambivalence, I'd like to highlight why I'm excited about R Talsorian's involvement in this project. 

I think that R Talsorian has historically been one of the most creative and forward looking companies in the entire role playing game industry. The company was founded in 1985 and was one of the first companies to bring Anime style gameplay into the hobby with their Mekton (1985) role playing game. The game had a relatively intuitive system that allowed for ease of play and customization of individual mechs. It also introduced players to a setting inspired by the classic Mobile Suit Gundam anime. This was quickly followed by the release of  Teenagers from Outer Space (TFOS -- 1987), a role playing game that mirrored high school romance anime and featured a simple system that was good for introductory games.

The same year that TFOS was released, R Talsorian published its Cyberpunk game. While this game had some mechanics that were inspired by earlier games (the lifepath system is similar to Traveller), it had two major effects on the industry. First, it provided the market with its first "attitude" role playing game. Cyberpunk was a game written with style that evoked an attitude. This design feature would go on to influence the World of Darkness series of games, as would the rules for Cyberpsychosis which emulated the loss of humanity one feels as one acquires more cyberware and learns that "metal is better than meat." You can see echoes of this system in the Humanity trait in Vampire. R Talsorian's Cyberpunk game was a cornerstone moment in the industry and game designer Mike Pondsmith is to be praised for the inspiration.

R Talsorian's innovation didn't stop there. Their Castle Falkenstein game was one of the first Steampunk game, and still the best one. That's making quite a statement given that there are several good Steampunk games around, but it is Pondsmith's ability to infuse mood into a setting and to incorporate mechanics that fit that mood that set Castle Falkenstein apart. The company also released new editions of Mekton that were compatible with Cyberpunk, games based on Dragonball Z, Bubblegum Crisis, and Armored Trooper Votoms. There was even a short stint where R Talsorian partnered with Hero games to release a "Fuzion" powered version of Champions. The partnership seemed natural, two successful Bay Area companies working together, but ended up doing some short-term damage to the Champions brand. This is too bad, as the Fuzion version of the game is quite fun to play and easier for new gamers to pick up and play.

Man, I love this company and their products.

But...back in 2013 I backed the latest version of the Mekton role playing game. It has not yet been published and updates have become scarce from the company. I'm not worried about the project, but I do wish communication was better. And I've got no fear that anyone is running away with a Kickstarter fortune. The Mekton game raised a respectable amount of money, but no one is getting rich off of it. I also understand that a part of the reason for the lack of communication is that R Talsorian has been working with CD Projekt Red on a new Cyberpunk computer game.

But it's hard to get excited about a game when I'm still waiting for another game to come I've already paid for.

That said, I'm pretty jazzed and eagerly await the release of The Witcher table top game. Even though I still think it's a pretty silly name for a franchise.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Cthulhu Claus Holiday Card Backer Button for Our Kickstarter Project

I designed the first button to hand out to our Cthulhu Claus Holiday Card project backers. It uses a piece of art from the first series of cards. What are your thoughts?

If you want to become a backer of our project, please visit Kickstarter and join in.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

And Now is the Time on Sprockets When We Self-Promote -- Cthulhu Claus Holiday Cards Season 2

I'm very excited to announce that Twin Suns Entertainment - a company that I and a couple of friends started in 2011 - launched our second Kickstarter campaign today with Cthulhu Claus Holiday Cards Series 2.

When we launched the first series of cards in 2012, Twin Suns Entertainment had already attempted a failed Kickstarter program for a documentary about gamers that was going to be directed by our own Wes Kobernick. My wife Jody came up with the idea of doing a series of Holiday Cards based around a doodle she had done depicting Cthulhu as Santa Claus. My partners, Wes and Joel, thought it was a very good idea and so our project was researched, price quotes obtained, contracts with Jody Lindke and Kenneth Hite negotiated, and project launched. During the process, we teamed up with Game Salute as our distributor for those who wanted to purchase the cards after the Kickstarter campaign. You can still buy cards from them at this link.

Here is some sample art from the first campaign:

This image is a much cleaned up and colorized version of the illustration that inspired the first campaign.

The Cthulhu Claus sleigh ride illustration is probably my favorite illustration in the first set. I love not only the design on the "reindeer," but also the way Jody used color.

These are what the cards look like in the box of 25. There are five cards of each illustration that Jody did for the piece.

Even Cthulhu like's cookies. I really like how Jody used the image of frosting and red hots to represent a stomach wound and intestines.

And if Cthulhu can eat a cookies, why can't we. I hope that some day we'll be able to put together a Cthulhu Claus cookie cutter, but talk about an expensive proposition for the initial set up. And I thought trying to get die-cut stickers was a pain.

The new series of cards will have a slightly different look as the inspirations for the illustrations will come from multiple sources and stem from another project we are working on at present, but here is a glimpse.

I really think that Jody has knocked the ball out of the park with this illustration, but we'll see if you agree.  If you want to back our latest project, you can do so my clicking on the widget below. Please spread the word to your friends.