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Interview with the designers of Bluebeard's Bride

Jonas (he/him)
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Last year Strix did an interview with me on a broad range of topics (you can find it here), and we also touched upon Bluebeard’s Bride. This time, I’m delighted to talk with all three designers of this game of feminine horror. Please welcome with me Sarah Richardson, Marissa Kelly, and Whitney “Strix” Beltrán!


Jonas: Would you please introduce yourselves to those of us who don’t know you? Who are you, what do you do?

Strix: I’m Strix Beltran. I’m a narrative designer and writer for video and analogue games. I’m a gaming academic, a diversity and inclusion consultant, a Twitch host who explores indie game content, and I also work in tech startup full time. I don’t sleep.

MK: I am Marissa Kelly, the first of my name, the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, and co-owner of Magpie Games.

Sarah: I’m Sarah Richardson. I am a game designer, layout artist, illustrator, and employee of Magpie Games. Sometimes you’ll find me under the name Doombringer. I bring my clan much honor.

Jonas: Just in case we want to refer to one of us in the third person, what are our preferred pronouns? For me it’s he/his/him.

MK: Traditional lady gender vocab for me.

Sarah: I’m also she/hers/her.

Strix: Same here.

Jonas: How did you get into gaming, and how did you get into game design?

MK: My father used to run his own hacks of Traveler and D&D for me growing up. So I got hooked early. Storytelling is one hell of a drug and it stayed in my life through adulthood. Eventually I spread my beautiful design wings and founded Magpie Games in 2011 with my partner, Mark Diaz Truman. I dabbled in design with our first few projects and freelanced here or there, but my first full game was Epyllion a dragon epic.

Strix: I was playing with the NES before I could walk. I got into role-playing games as a pre-teen. Started running game organizations in my early 20s. Started designing a few years ago. Into elves and Vulcans and basically anything that’s not mundane. I got it all from my mom.

Sarah: I started out playing AD&D with my uncles, and went to my first game convention dressed as a hacker from Shadowrun. I’ve played a variety of games over the years, and began working in the rpg industry as an illustrator and layout artist in 2013. I made a few small hacks, but my first real foray into game design started with Bluebeard’s Bride. Currently I’m working on a new game called Velvet Glove, about teenage girl gangs in 1970s America.

Jonas: Some of you have already published other games that are “powered by the apocalypse”. D. Vincent Baker’s game Apocalypse World has excited many and led to an impressive number of new games that use its basic framework. What does AW and the PBTA “design tradition” mean to you?

Strix: AW’s rules structure is hackable and accessible. The accessibility is especially important to me. It also fits with what we want to do with Bluebeard’s Bride. Out of the three of us, I’m probably the least tied to design traditions as a whole.

MK: It is a way of thinking about games that I find particularly stimulating. I like the challenge of fitting all the design cogs together, starting it up and seeing if it runs. Overall, I am proud to be a part of a movement of players and designers who are as excited about it as I am.

Sarah: There have been some amazing games using PbtA, like Monsterhearts, that show off how strong that basic framework is. I really like seeing how the MC and players parts work together in an unique way to generate a story. Apocalypse World was one of the very first story games I ever played, and it made a really strong impression. It’s also great for horror, which is why we used it for Bluebeard’s Bride.


Jonas: Where do you see Bluebeard’s Bride in the PBTA tradition? What inspirations did you use, what adaptations did you make?

MK: We pushed the bounds of PBTA a bit, but once folks get a taste, I hope it inspires others to drink the PBTA Kool-Aid.

Sarah: I played Murderous Ghosts before starting work on Bluebeard, and the way it facilitated horror at the table really took my breath away. Bluebeard is a little different, though, in that it’s a pretty specific thing, this specific story that gives a specific structure to what you’re doing.

Strix: I hope Bluebeard demonstrates that you can design with PBTA’s structure, but that you can still wholly make it your own.

Jonas: Bluebeard’s Bride is based on a fairy tale: A woman is married to Bluebeard, and he introduces her to his home, showing her everything, but pointing to a particular door and telling her never to go in there. When he’s gone, she discovers the corpses of his previous wives in that room. Bluebeard returns and becomes violent… Does your game retell that story? Does it follow some narrative script?

Strix: There is definitely a narrative arc. Most of the time it doesn’t end well for the Bride, and that’s the point! This game is not about beating Bluebeard, it’s about the feminine experience of horror, the struggle for agency in the face of terrible things. Who are you? What do you become? What do you sacrifice in order to survive? Can you survive? It’s thrilling and deeply terrifying.

MK: Bluebeard’s Bride allows you to tell your own version of the dark fairy tale. It makes the tale into a sort of haunted house game where you travel from room to room, gathering evidence to prove your husband’s intentions - either malicious or innocent.

The game explores a lot of very mature content including violence against women, but we give guidance to help you and your players explore messy themes in a safe way while keeping the tension high.

Sarah: It’s not just for fairy tale or horror fans, although they may be particularly pleased with some parts of the game. I’ve played the game with a pretty wide range of people. It’s not for kids, though.


Jonas: You mention that players explore the rooms of Bluebeard’s house, which makes it sound a bit like a dungeon crawl. But if I put it that way it is probably wildly misleading, right? Can you please speak a bit more about the content of the game?

Strix: I would say this is very different! A dungeon crawl assumes that you can solve your problems with violence. You can’t. The house and the rooms in it hold a lot of symbolism, not the least of which is that it reflects the Bride’s own mind. It’s really about facing the darkness within yourself. What could be lurking there? The rooms create a container for that.

MK: It’s a lot like a haunted house game with underlying feminine motifs. The themes of the horrors in the house call upon struggles that women face. This is a fun way to explore mature feminine horror for folks of all genders.

Sarah: I love dungeon crawls, so I know what you mean. This is different, however, as you’re not looking for treasure, and fighting isn’t an optimal choice. You have a purpose in going from room to room—investigating what happened to Bluebeard’s other wives, and what role he had in that, but there isn’t a map, or pre-set rooms that you go through.

Quote:
Let the players scare themselves.
Let them define what is scary,
and then draw it out of them.

Jonas: The roles that players take on are not separate characters, but aspects of the Bride’s mind. Can you talk about that a bit? I imagine the “intrapersonal relationships” might help creating a sense of community (or rather, identity?) despite differing voices, which seems intriguing. What experience does your design aim for?

MK: Horror that explores a lack of agency often revolves around one character and their experiences. The story of Bluebeard has only one Bride at a time and we wanted to be faithful to that narrative. When you have a whole party it is easy to fall into a groove where everyone works together to overcome obstacles, but we wanted the conflicts to be internal rather than external.

Sarah: Exactly. We wanted to mimic the internal struggles everyone has when faced with a difficult decision—the part of you that is a little bad, the part that tries to be rational, and so on. Assigning archetypes to each player gives them a character to play, with their own motivations and desires, but they’re also tied into the whole, forming a well-rounded person.

Strix: Yes, certainly we wanted to evoke internal conflict. What person doesn’t struggle with themselves? But also, thinking about the makeup of the Bride archetypally is really useful for telling a fairy tale narrative. It helps give the players a foundation to work with.

Jonas: Can you tell us a bit more about the safety measures you provide? I’d imagine that playing with folks I know and trust would be an important element for me, so I’m curious what sort of mechanics you employ to help players feel safe when letting their guard down and the horror in...

MK: Bluebeard’s Bride pushes a lot of boundaries and explores many taboos, but the book goes over some methods for helping you manage the experience. One tool mentioned is the X Card, developed by John Stavropoulos. It is one way to make sure that content that will ruin your fun at the table is avoided.

Sarah: Playing with people you know and trust is great, and definitely makes for a fantastic Bluebeard’s Bride game. However, I’ve run it at conventions for groups of strangers, and getting scared together is pretty fun.

Strix: I’ve run it for strangers at conventions too, and it’s gone extremely well. Aside from the resources mentioned, we absolutely believe that there should always be full transparency around this game. People should know what they’re in for before they sit down at the table.



Jonas: Do you have more advice for getting the most out of game of Bluebeard’s Bride, for GMs and players?

MK: Doing some fun homework might be in order before play. Watching some horror movies that have a feminine tint to them is alway a fun way to get those creative juices flowing. During the game I like to get everyone in the mood by dimming the lights and playing a creepy soundtrack, like John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.

Strix: For GMs: Let the players scare themselves. Let them define what is scary, and then draw it out of them. Use long, pregnant silences. Let them sit in that silence. Turn up the heat gradually. Give them breaks and time to recover. For players: Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. That’s when you’ll have the most fun. Embrace the inevitability of the outcome and focus on occupying the experiences as they come to you.

Sarah: I’d stress clear communication, and making sure everyone at the table is in the mood for a horror game. There’s advice on generating rooms and such in the book, but mainly I’d tell GMs to remember that what scares them, will probably scare their players.

Jonas: How are your own experiences in the RPG community shaped by your race and gender?

MK: My outlook and ideas are clearly shaped by who I am and what traditions I come from, but when faced with adversity, I keep my nose to the grindstone and work harder to get what I want.

Strix: Until only a handful of years ago, my minority identity as a Hispanic woman made me very much an outsider. It’s been hard to claim space in the gaming world. To be listened to, taken seriously, or even welcomed at all. Parts of the community are amazing, other parts are abjectly terrible. I’ve learned to curate my circles and avoid unwelcoming spaces and that’s helped, but there’s still a lot of work to do.

Sarah: I’ve had both good and bad experiences. I can say I wouldn’t have gone to the Hacking as Women workshop if it hadn’t been only for women, but obviously I’m glad I did.

Jonas: That Hacking as Women workshop you mention was the starting point for Bluebeard’s Bride - it was at GenCon 2014, I think? How has it developed since? Are there any major changes (or design twists, setbacks, cutting of significant material) that you feel are memorable?

Strix: I think we found the heart of the game during that game jam. Everyone in the room felt it, not just us. Our job was to keep that heart beating throughout all our various design iterations, to keep that magic thread of what makes this game special alive. I believe we managed to do that. We were lucky and had to sacrifice very little, all told. Mostly we kept open and flexible, which helped us move on from ideas that weren’t working well enough to satisfy us.

MK: Yep! I was Strix and Sarah’s coach for the 2014 “Hacking as Women” workshop. Since then the game has transformed many times. Because design is kind of like an elegant monstertruck show, we had to wreck a few cars to get here. The most memorable jump was making some of our basic moves diceless. It took some convincing (of myself included), but I think it mimics a tradition of ghost stories that I hold dear.

Sarah: The game still has some of the core concepts we came up with at the workshop, but they’ve been refined over and over again. We did end up cutting one playbook, the Oracle, and integrating it into another, the Witch. We ended up with a stronger, better set of playbooks from that cut.

Strix: I mourn the loss of the Oracle!

Jonas: Looking back beyond GenCon 2014, are there any major influences, personal experiences or creative sparks that led to Bluebeard’s Bride? Can you tell something like a prehistory of this game?

MK: Making a horror game is a dream come true! Now I can freak people out through my art instead of pulling off freaky stunts that risk jail time in order to get a scare.

Strix: I studied mythology in graduate school, which included fairy tales, so I have a deep background in the material. Chelsea, one of my friends at school was a diehard Bluebeard fan, and managed to always keep the fairy tale lurking in the back of my mind. That’s the reason why I put this particular fairy tale forward as a game design idea at the game jam. Without Chelsea’s influence, we might have gone somewhere entirely different! I also wanted to make a game that spoke to experiences that belonged to me as a woman, that were authentic. That drove a lot of my design principles. I think this game has been crouching inside of us, waiting to spring forth for a long time.

Sarah: I’ve always been a big fairy tale and horror fan, so it’s hard to point to any one specific thing. I do feel like my time spent reading feminist analysis of fairy tales and watching horror movies has paid off, though. Some of my favorite media did support some of what I brought to the game, like Angela Carter’s short stories and poetry, books like the Handmaid’s Tale and Fitcher’s Bride, and movies like The Company of Wolves and The Orphanage.

Quote:
I’ve run it at conventions for
groups of strangers, and getting
scared together is pretty fun.

Jonas: Bluebeard’s Bride is on Kickstarter right now. Within a very short time crowdfunding has practically become an accepted standard for publishing role-playing games. I believe you all have some experience both as backers and as creators. What are your thoughts on this?

MK: Kickstarter has been amazing for our industry. It allows creators and small companies to grow and deliver content in a way that was more-or-less impossible without huge cash upfront. I try to keep it fresh with every kickstarter I am a part of and Bluebeard’s Bride has some great new content to appeal to those who like to indulge their darker side.

Sarah: It’s great in how it allows more creators to reach their audience. I know I have backed some projects that wouldn’t have been available through normal publishing channels, from horror anthologies to games to art.

Strix: I’ve been on both sides of the Kickstarter coin many times now. It’s an integral platform for our industry. It gives indies the leverage they need to make their art. I think it’s great. Kickstarter combined with Print on Demand third party sites have made creating RPGs tremendously more accessible.

Jonas: Can you please tell us a bit more about the kickstarter? What is your favorite reward tier and why?

MK: My favorite has got to be the $150 limited edition level, the Wine Cellar. I am a sucker for swag and deluxe books and that level has it all.

Sarah: I really like the $100 level, the bedroom. Not only do you get both of the main books, dice, tokens, and the Deck of Objects, but you also get PDFs of the books and any stretch goals. I love having pretty physical books, but I also like having the PDFs to refer to.

Strix: I agree with Marissa. The Wine Cellar is my favorite. A beautiful limited edition book, a ring to use for the game.

Jonas: Some of you have also worked as artists. Are you doing illustrations or art direction for Bluebeard’s Bride, too?

MK: If I contribute any art it will pale in comparison to our other artists: Kring, Rebecca Yanovskaya, and Juan Ochoa. As art director, they are my beloved angels of horror.

Sarah: Not this time, although I’m doing the layout for the core book. I’m incredibly excited to have such lovely illustrations to work with, though!

Strix: Don’t look at me. I stick to the narrative stuff. But I love our artists. I literally cried when I saw the first pieces come in from Rebecca. Everything is gorgeous.

Quote:
Storytelling is one hell of a drug.

Jonas: Thanks for the interview! Is there anything you’d like to add?

Strix: I am extremely proud of Bluebeard’s Bride, proud to put my name on it. It’s been a labor of love undertaken with these two other amazing women over the last two years, and it’s all be worth it. As we wrap this project up we’re all starting to ponder what our next projects will be. I’m already working on something that I hope turns out to be as fun to design as Bluebeard. You can keep up with me on Twitter @The_Strix, or my site StrixWerks.com

Sarah: I can’t think of anything. Thanks for talking to us!


If you want to look closer, here are some links:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1921129910/bluebeards-b...
https://twitter.com/BluebeardsBride
http://www.magpiegames.com/bluebeards-bride/
https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/11286569144352749487... (G+ community for Bluebeard's Bride)

Artwork by Rebecca Yanovskaya
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Crowdfunding Report (Dec 11): codenames, oblivion, Arkham, Airdhe, and RPGs by candlelight

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Overall, it's been a quiet couple of weeks in the Kickstarter world...apparently everybody's focused on the holidays! But there are still several projects worthy of your attention. Here are some that struck me as interesting:

The big news is clearly the launch of Deluxe Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Edition, the latest project from Onyx Path Publishing. Wraith: The Oblivion is the next World of Darkness (cWoD Modern) game to get a reissue, and it looks very much like all the other campaigns to me. It only took hours to hit its $50k goal and is now at $160k with about three weeks to go. They're aiming for July delivery.

Troll Lord Games is putting together a campaign for their new fantasy world, Airdhe. It sounds like they'd like this to be a system-neutral setting, but I can't tell from the text how much their game (Castles & Crusades) features in the books. There are a couple of funny things about the Kickstarter. First, the books are ready for the printers (which is great), but apparently they've already had a separate pre-order. Second, "Aihrde is the most complete campaign setting on the market today," which amuses me because it is (at best) only true in a very specific sense of the word "complete," and I have no idea what that sense is. The campaign funded easily (with a modest $4k) goal and is now near $15k. But the real goal looks to be $25k, where one of the books gets the full-color treatment.

The Arkham Gazette is a periodical focused on exploring "Lovecraft Country." They've released a few issues in the past but have now acquired a license from Chaosium, so they're aiming to take the next issue to the next level with a Kickstarter campaign. This issue focuses on witches and witchcraft. They're aiming for a January release, and they've nearly doubled their $1500 goal. Obviously, this is the creators' first crowdfunding project, but they've put together a few issues already.

Ah, digital tools! Codename: Morningstar is a new campaign that already has a troubled history. Originally built as the digital toolset for Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition), the creators (Trapdoor Technologies, a small tech firm) parted ways with Wizards of the Coast last month. The reasons are unclear: the D&D 5E tools were in public testing mode, and the iOS version (which was far ahead of the others) was supposedly on the verge of submission to Apple's App Store. The best guess is that they parted ways because of pricing and ambition: it looks like Trapdoor is aspiring for a much more complete set of tools driven by in-app purchases (including user-made ones). They've now moved the project to Kickstarter and switched rules (at least for the initial release) to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (1st Edition). The campaign is far short of its $425k goal (having collected only $33k so far). But if you have enough faith to pledge anyway, the delivery goal is April. Though I can't imagine that's for the complete product.

Ten Candles: A Tragic Horror Storytelling Game is unique, so far as I know, in the RPG sphere for making the room's lighting part of the game! It is, as the name implies, meant to be played with the light of ten candles. It has a GM but looks to put a lot of the narration in the hands of the players. The game has passed its $5k funding goal with four weeks to go. It's written but awaits editing/art/layout/printing (a good place to be, since this is the creator's first project). Delivery is expected in October 2015.

Please note that this will be our last Crowdfunding Report of the year, as we'll all be taking the week between Christmas and New Year's off. (There will be several other columns before the holidays hit, but no more of these.)

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Thu Dec 11, 2014 2:53 pm
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Crowdfunding Report (Nov 27): Nyarlathotep, Numenera, mini-games, and lots more

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Kickstarter trundles along even as we enter the holiday season. What projects are you thankful for this year?

The Masks of Nyarlathothep Props Reimagined project aims to produce a set of at lest 45 specially designed, realistic handouts for the the seminal campaign. Handouts being central to any Cthulhu campaign, this project has really taken off: it's now above $35,000, far above its $5k goal. Amusingly, the project page points out that the design is all done and, "The only foreseeable problems would be due to high demand. However, in the event that the workload overwhelms my production capabilities, I will simply bring on an assistant." Let's hope he finds one! Delivery is expected in January.

Sorcerers of Ur-Turuk is a new sword-and-sorecery RPG inspired by Persian mythology and featuring troupe play. The writer, Graham Bottley, has run two successful campaigns already and even stuck mostly to schedule. The campaign has passed its £2,000 goal and is in stretch goal territory with over a week to go. It's slated for a February release; the manuscript is mostly finished. (Thanks to RPGG user Bifford for the tip!)

The Protocol Game Series Two is a project by jim pinto to fund "a series of fast roleplaying games designed to get to the heart of drama and fun for any experience level." The first series has already been released after a successful Kickstarter (for example, Protocol Game Series 06: Chebyshev Function). All the new games in this project use the same underlying system (the Protocol, of course!) and the concepts for the new games are available on the page. This is Pinto's tenth campaign, and I believe all the others have been delivered successfully. You can buy one game or all of them in the campaign. The project has nearly quadrupled its $1000 goal with almost three weeks to go. Delivery is expected in June.

Metal coin props really seem to be A Thing for RPG gamers! The Epic Metal Coins Kickstarter is the latest example. The campaign aims to fund 60 metal coins (square and crescent) for release in June. The project looks pretty professional and straightforward: it's the second from this group but the first to require shipping (the first funded the fonts used on the coins). The campaign has passed its $3200 goal with almost a month to go.

Shotguns & Sorcery aims to bring Matt Forbeck novels to the RPG world. Forbeck is the lead designer, if I'm understanding the page correctly, and Robert J. Schwalb is also onboard. They are using the Cypher System (from Numenera). The campaign has just passed its $25k goal with 35 days to go. Delivery is expected in December (it doesn't look like the writing is anywhere near done), but they also mention a limited release at Gen Con.

Silent Legions is the latest project from Kevin Crawford, who's run several very professional Kickstarters in the past. It's a "sandbox horror" game, where the investigators aren't following an intricate plot arc but exploring clues in a large region. It has nearly tripled its $3500 goal with three weeks to go. Delivery is expected in April, but backers get immediate access to the beta pdf.

Monte Cook Games has had huge Kickstarters each of the last two years. Their new project is slightly more modest: a Boxed Set Edition of the award-winning Numenera game. The boxed set is based on the Italian edition of the game and will contain the core rules (split into a few books) plus some extras. They're also calling this "exclusive" which I guess means it won't be available for sale after the campaign ends. MCG has already delivered successfully on two huge campaigns, and they're aiming for an April release for this one. The campaign is closing in on $70k (after a $15k goal) with about two weeks to go.

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Thu Nov 27, 2014 3:00 pm
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Crowdfunding Report (Nov 14): Dracula, honor, playing dirty, legacies, and webcomics, oh my!

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For some reason it's been Fantasy Heartbreaker Week! at Kickstarter the last few days. If you're into that sort of thing, be sure to check out Steve Dubya's Kickstarter geeklist for details!

The Dracula Dossier is a new campaign for Night's Black Agents. The conceit is that British intelligence attempted to recruit Dracula as an operative several times...and Bram Stoker's novel is secretly the account of the first time. The reward gives you both the "adventure"/campaign frame and Dracula Unredacted, a version of the novel with annotations by several generations of intelligence agents. Pelgrane Press has been involved in a few Kickstarters, all of which delivered successfully though not necessarily on time, or without issues. Delivery is expected in August, and (of course) the campaign has far surpassed its goal with almost three weeks left.

The Vow of Honor RPG looks to fund a fantasy game in which the focus is on difficult moral decisions. The PCs are "warrior judges" sworn to uphold , um, honor, bringing their authority through the land. This is the creator's second attempt at crowdfunding (the first was not successful, but the RPG was still released). Nevertheless, the campaign looks very professionally put together. With more than three weeks to go, the campaign is about $700 short of its $2500 goal. Delivery is expected in May (with the text already written0.

John Wick is back on Kickstarter raising funds for Play Dirty 2: Even Dirtier. Obviously, that would be a followup to his book of GM advice, Play Dirty. "PD2 presents even more nasty, underhanded and deceitful tricks to get your players emotionally involved in your characters and your world. John pulls no punches, using everything from new technologies and old conman tricks to give you all the tools you need to get your players to care." Wick has five crowdfunded projects under his belt already, all of which have delivered, I believe. The campaign has almost hit $10k (after a $2k goal) with almost three weeks to go. Delivery is expected in December (obviously the book is already written).

The Underground: A Sam and Fuzzy RPG wants to turn said webcomic into a full game for your enjoyment. I don't know the faintest thing about the comic, but apparently lots of people do - as the campaign is pretty close to its $17k goal with four weeks to go. They are promising April delivery, with the game already written. The company behind it has funded a boardgame before, which looks to be a little late but otherwise on track.

Legacy: Life Among the Ruins is an Powered by the Apocalypse game about, well, the world after the apocalypse! It sounds quite different from its predecessor, though, with playbooks for both characters and organizations, and a different approach to world creation. This is the creator's first Kickstarter, but the game has been in open beta for a year, and the campaign looks pretty clean. It is almost halfway to its £3,000 goal with three weeks to go.

If you're into handouts for your fantasy game, you can check out Fantasy Font Forge: Dwarvish Runes. It provides ten scripts, with options to purchase for personal or commercial use. The campaign is still short of its $500 goal, with about a week to go. Delivery is promised in December (it looks like the fonts are already made).

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Fri Nov 14, 2014 2:43 pm
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Crowdfunding Report (Oct 31): paranoia, witches, puppets, and the taxman...it's Halloween!

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No, Death & Taxes isn't a role-playing game about the inevitable tragedies of life. It's the latest OSR boxed set (adventure, minis, maps) from the folks at Lesser Gnome, who had a very similar and successful Kickstarter last year. The campaign has funded with almost three weeks to go, and stretch goals include versions in alternate rule sets. Delivery is expected to begin in June.

Puppetland was one of the first "indie" RPGs, appearing in 1995. It uses a diceless system to tell stories about puppets trapped in a land of evil. Now it's getting a relaunch (by the original author, John Tynes) thanks to crowdfunding. The campaign has just passed its $10k goal, and delivery is expected in April.

I'm not sure how much this really has to do with RPGs, but I have to mention it anyway! The Bricks of the Mouse Guard project will send you a set of mouse heads and accessories for your Lego or other brick-building system of choice. It's licensed with David E. Petersen though not with Lego (which is evidently not necessary). The campaign has funded with more than three weeks to go. Delivery is aimed for May.

Paranoia is making a comeback! Mongoose Publishing, who've published the game's last couple of iterations, has launched a Kickstarter campaign for a brand new version of the game, beginning with a boxed set. They've enlisted James Wallis, Grant Howitt, and Paul Dean for the design, which appears to depart significantly from past versions (at least in terms of mechanics), using cards and dice to fuel fast play. The campaign smashed through its £30,000 goal and is kicking through stretch goals now.

This is Mongoose's first RPG Kickstarter; their first (minis) Kickstarter was wildly successful (at least in terms of funding, I've no idea about the game) and is still delivering rewards two years after its conclusion. Wallis has also had substantial problems in delivering his only Kickstarter (Alas Vegas). Let's hope experience and working together solves some of those problems. Delivery is expected in June.

DungeonMorphs 2 is a campaign to fund some new dice: with pieces of cities and villages on each side, they let you generate a quick city map as needed. It's also available as a set of cards. The creator has previously Kickstarted an analogous set for dungeons and caverns (as shown in the pic). The campaign is almost halfway to its $10k goal (with 25 days to go) and expects to deliver in May.

Finally, given the season, you probably have a certain idea about what the new Night Witches RPG might be. Well, you'd be completely wrong - Night Witches is a GM-less game based on the Powered by the Apocalypse that follows a group of Soviet female bomber pilots during World War II, including both their dangerous missions and their dangerous lives on the ground. It comes from Bully Pulpit Games, who've previously run a successful Kickstarter (backers also get a very professional-looking not-quite-final-draft immediately). The campaign has a couple of weeks to go but has already crushed its $5k goal.

Meanwhile, the Dracula Dossier Kickstarter (a campaign for Night's Black Agents) was supposed to start on October 17th but hasn't shown up yet...it would be a real shame if that project missed Halloween!

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Fri Oct 31, 2014 2:38 pm
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Crowdfunding Report (Oct 16): creating worlds, saving worlds, and kobolds, vampires, and demons

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The Demon Hunters RPG is actually a new game from Dead Gentlemen Productions, the creators of The Gamers and other gaming films. It's "[a]n irreverent RPG where you and your misfit crew of Demon Hunters must save the world from the forces of Evil. Yeah, we're screwed...." The campaign only has about 12 hours to go - get in now if you're interested! They've passed their $30k goal, and delivery is expected in July. (Thanks to our reader Stefan for the tip!)

Worldspinner is a new piece of world-creation software. The basic idea is that you give it some parameters, and it creates a map. It can then evolve that map using a set of algorithms representing history, or you can personally develop things. The software will eventually use a subscription model. The campaign has tripled its $10k goal and is marching through stretch goals (in which fantasy authors create more focused content). Delivery is apparently expected in January.

Third Eye Games has launched a campaign to fund publication of the second edition of their Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. game, in which you play secret agents protecting the earth from aliens and much more. The upgrade looks to be almost entirely in the rules, which will use a more streamlined version of the Dynamic Gaming System. If you want to sample it, the first edition rulebook is now pay-what-you-want on DTRPG. The campaign is about 2/3 funded with three weeks to go. Print delivery is expected in February.

The Ruined Empire is an anime-inspired campaign setting presented as a system-neutral sourcebook. Originally created for the very successful Tenra Bansho Zero campaign, development ran into trouble, and the rights have passed back to the original author, Anna Kreider. She's now crowdfunding the book in order to turn it from draft text into a professional release. The campaign is about halfway to its $5720 CAD goal, with delivery expected in February.

No Country For Old Kobolds can't be described any better than the tagline: "Play generations of kobolds defending their village from hordes of low level murder hobo adventurers in this Dungeon World hack!" It's not just a game to turn the usual adventurer story on its head, though - it also has some interesting innovations: a character representing the village (the only one who advances!), the potential to play multiple generations of kobolds, and collaborative world creation. The campaign is closing in on doubling its $3500 goal with three weeks to go. Delivery is expected in April.

And last, but far from least, Onyx Path Publishing is back with their next blockbuster. The latest campaign will fund a deluxe V20 version of Vampire: The Dark Ages. The campaign is nearing $150k (following a $40k goal), with delivery expected in July.

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Thu Oct 16, 2014 2:25 pm
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Crowdfunding Report (Oct 3): Chill is back, Savage Worlds goes space opera, delusions of adequacy, five moons, and what's a gooble?

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The Last Parsec is the latest project from Pinnacle Entertainment Group (creators of Savage Worlds, which The Last Parsec uses). This is a sci-fi setting of "exploration and adventure" that requires both the core book of the game and the Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion. The campaign will fund several books, which support separate parts of the setting and all contain plot point campaigns. The campaign is past $40k now (after a modest $8k goal), with delivery expected in May.

The Chill RPG is making a comeback! The campaign looks to fund a third edition of the 80s/90s horror game, written by veteran game designer Matthew McFarland. It will use a percentile system, which backers will get a look at with the playtest draft of the game's Quickstart. The campaign is closing in on halfway to its $25k goal, with delivery expected in August.

Goobles & Goblins is a rules-light fantasy RPG meant to be played with kids (though the book itself is aimed at the adults running the game). It looks like it has a humorous approach (both to the game and the Kickstarter). The campaign has surpassed its $1000 goal with a couple of weeks to go. Physical rewards are expected in March.

The Five Moons RPG is a new fantasy game from veteran designer Sean K. Reynolds. It's very much in the tradition of D&D and Pathfinder, but it offers Reynolds' solution to many of the complaints about the game. ("Do you spend more time creating a character than actually playing that character? Does the minmaxer in your group hog the spotlight instead of being a team player?" it says.) The campaign is nearing $20k, not quite at its $25k goal, with delivery expected in August 2015. The campaign will run until October 28.

The Adequate Commoner is a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (1st Edition) supplement that describes itself as the "optimization guide to commoners" - that is, the commoner NPC class. The idea is to make the game more challenging by making the PCs regular people: "The point of the commoner play style is: everything about your character matters." (So I guess it's trying to bring some old-school sensibilities to Pathfinder play?) The campaign has passed its $2500 goal, with delivery expected in April.

Finally, Pelgrane Press has announced that their Kickstarter for The Dracula Dossier (and the accompanying Dracula Unredacted text, which purports to be the true story from Stoker) campaign for Night's Black Agents will launch in two weeks, on October 17. You can also check out a draft of the intro and table of contents here.

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Fri Oct 3, 2014 2:31 pm
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Crowdfunding Report (Sep 18): Glorantha, Feng Shui 2, new fantasy settings, and more

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After a pretty mellow summer in the Kickstarter world, things have exploded in the last couple of weeks, with several high-profile projects starting their campaigns. Here's the lowdown...

The 13th Age in Glorantha project went live about two weeks ago and is now far above its $39,500 goal and plowing through stretch goals. The idea is just what it sounds: rules to set your 13th Age game in the famed Glorantha setting. It sounds like they are offering new mechanics to appeal to 13th Age fans that could be portable elsewhere, and a new way to look at Glorantha. Delivery is expected in July.

De Horrore Cosmico aims to produce six scenarios for the Cthulhu Invictus, including one by our very own Chad Bowser (RPGG username cjbowser). They cover the gamut from urban investigation to exploration of the wilds. The campaign has just passed its first stretch goal (the initial goal was $15k), with delivery expected in April.

Slumbering Ursine Dunes is a "pointcrawl" (that's like a hex crawl, but without centering on hexes) adventure/mini-setting for the Labyrinth Lord retroclone (and hence more or less for your choice of OSR games). It looks like it's doing some interesting things with the mechanics and adventure structure. The campaign has now passed $2k following a $1,500 initial goal. Delivery is expected in December, and backers get access to the complete draft.

Karthun is a fantasy setting from Brian Patterson's d20monkey comics. They've now funded a system-neutral setting book (at $15k) and are aiming for the first stretch goal, which will include mechanics for a number of game systems. Delivery is expected in September 2015.

The Southlands project aims to expand Kobold Press' Midgard setting with a pulp version of Arabian Nights and Egypt. It offers options for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (1st Edition). The campaign has doubled its $16k initial goal, with delivery expected in July.

It wouldn't be a crowdfunding update without something powered by the Powered by the Apocalypse, would it? So I present Last One Standing, a hack of that system into a board game-ish RPG about "a dystopian future where young adults are forced to fight to the death, inspired by a few popular stories you've probably heard of." It's about 1/3 of the way to its $3k goal, with delivery expected in March. But you can already download the free version of the game.

Feng Shui 2 kicked off last night and is now approaching $50k (far above their $8k "goal"). This will fund the production of the second edition of Feng Shui, which has been in playtest for about a year. Delivery isn't promised until August, but backers get access to the draft rules. (Thanks to a whole mess of people for the tip!)

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Thu Sep 18, 2014 2:27 pm
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Crowdfunding Report (Sep 6): will the apocalypse ever end?

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The weeks since Gen Con have seen lots of new mid-level projects, but we're still awaiting the heavy hitters (which should change in about, well, a day with the launch of 13th Age in Glorantha). Meanwhile, there's a flood of Powered by the Apocalypse games hitting the virtual this-isn't-a-preorder shelves (and I haven't even listed them all here!) plus lots more that merits attention.

Girls On Games: A Look at the Fairer Side of the Industry is a collection of essays by women involved in the tabletop game industry about their experiences and offering tips for those looking to get into the field. While the majority of authors are involved in the board game side of the industry, several (especially those added through stretch goals) work with RPGs. The project has quadrupled its $2500 goal with about three weeks left in the campaign. Delivery is expected in March. (Thanks to RPG Geek member - and FFG developer - lindevi for the tip!)

RPGG member mkai has launched a campaign for his new game Conclave: A Game of Decisions. It's a no-prep GM-less game that aims to simulate decision-making within a community - but it's also "semi-competitive." The campaign is almost halfway toward its $500 goal, with delivery expected in December.

Traveller Liftoff starter set for Traveller (Mongoose), both in English and German. As mentioned on our IndieGoGo geeklist, the goal seems rather steep.

The World Wide Wrestling RPG uses the Powered by the Apocalypse to enable you to "create iconic wrestlers, play out exciting matches in the ring and go behind the scenes, all in this RPG of narrative wrestling action." The game has been in development for a couple of years by well-known indie designer Nathan D. Paoletta. The campaign is closing in on $8k (well over its $3500 goal) with 9 days to go. Delivery is expected in April.

Goblin Quest is Grant Howitt's comedic game of violence and incompetence where you play the horrible little creatures. "It's like the first level of Dungeons & Dragons crossed with Paranoia." The campaign has passed £10,000 (five times its original goal) with about a week to go. Delivery is expected in February.

Amazing Adventures is a pulp game using the SIEGE engine behind the popular Castles & Crusades system. An updated version of Amazing Adventures: A Siege Engine Game for the Pulp Era, this campaign is also looking to fund a pair of companion books as well. It's passed $10k (after a $7k goal) with more than three weeks to go. Delivery is expected in November.

The Pariah, Missouri project is primarily looking to fund a graphic novels about the titular setting but also includes an RPG sourcebook for the setting (including options for several different game systems). The campaign has surpassed its $6k goal with about 2 weeks to go. Delivery is expected in October, at least for the main goals.

Spirit of 77 is another Powered by the Apocalypse game, this one "set in an alternate 1970's [sic] that combines over-the-top action, kung-fu films, glam music and classic sci-fi." There's already a free demo available and lots of art; the full game is slated for release in May. The campaign has more than troubled its cutesy $7,777 goal.

The apocalypse isn't done yet! The Sprawl is another game that's been in development for a while, also powered by the Powered by the Apocalypse. This one takes on the cyberpunk genre. It's nearly tripled its NZD$2500 goal. Delivery is executed in February.

Kronocalypse is a time-travel campaign and setting for Savage Worlds. It looks like you can play just about any character and join up to save the world of Kron. The campaign is about 3/4 funded with just under 4 weeks to go. Delivery is expected in July.

Thanks to RPGG Newscaster Jonas for contributions to this article

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Sat Sep 6, 2014 2:55 pm
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Pre Gen Con News Roundup (Aug 12): farewell to WFRP3, plus crowdfunding, previews, and more

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Before we are all buried in the deluge of news from the biggest RPG con on the planet, I thought it would be a good idea to catch up on everything else. So here's what's happened recently, in all of our usual categories!

News Bits

We've mentioned before that The Great Kingdom was a new documentary about D&D's formative years that successfully met its crowdfunding goals recently (I'd give you a link, but it's been removed by Kickstarter). However, as its creators were former producers of the other D&D documentary, this led to a lawsuit and lots of friction in the community. That lawsuit led to an injunction against The Great Kingdom's continued production, on the grounds that it's producers were also associated with the original film and so had a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that original movie's success. The original movie's response is here. If you are so inclined, you can find the full ruling here. I guess it's amusing to see the friction between D&D's creators balloon into actual lawsuits forty years on! In slightly better news, the documentary's post does imply there's yet another D&D film on the horizon that will be announced shortly. (Thanks to RPGG user dysjunct for the tip!)

It looks like there may be a second Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (1st Edition) video game on the way (other than the crowd funded MMO, which is closely connected to Paizo). The guys at the Know Direction podcast captured a Facebook post by Adam Daigle (developer at Paizo Publishing) that indicates video game heavyweight Obsidian Entertainment has a Pathfinder game in the works. See the photo here.

It's been pretty obvious we were headed this way for a long time, but Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (3rd Edition) is now officially a "dead" game. In this post, Fantasy Flight Games announce that they are no longer offering any official support for the game, after only five years of publication. It's not clear if this is a licensing issue or simply a commercial decision, or why they've announced right now. The post emphasizes that the game is fully playable as is and will remain so forever...but I do wonder how the availability (or lack thereof) of the custom dice will affect the accessibility of the game to new players. Discuss your thoughts (or express your lamentations) here.

Crowdfunding Report

James Edward Raggi, IV, publisher (and designer) Lamentations of the Flame Princess, likes to push boundaries. Usually that bugs me, but he's done some really interesting experimentation with crowdfunding (previously, he's successfully funded a Free RPG Day giveaway, and failed to fund an ambitious series of adventures). Now, No Salvation For Witches is even more intriguing. It aims to fund a 64-page hardcover adventure by noted OSR designer Rafael Chandler that is entirely pay-what-you-want - even for the physical product! (Though this excludes shipping.) I think it's worth quoting this in full:
Quote:
In 2013, LotFP began trying out the model for physical books at convention appearances. Sales figures skyrocketed, usually earning less money per item sold but selling many more items in the process, and earning larger total profits as a result.

So LotFP is bringing the Pay What You Want model for physical product to the internet and crowdfunding. We are risking one of our major releases of 2014 for the sake of an experiment in trust.

Because the Pay What You Want model is one based entirely on trust.

And we trust you.
The project is currently over 80% of its goal, with about two weeks to go. Delivery is expected in October. Oh, and this one's definitely rated R. (Thanks to RPGG user Bearpaw for the tip, and discuss with RPGG not-quite-user fan bob here.)

Fans of Magnamund (and the Lone Wolf series rejoice)! Cubicle 7 Entertainment has now launched their campaign for the new Lone Wolf Adventure Game. "Our goal is to produce a game accessible to new and younger gamers – the perfect first roleplaying game – that grows and develops with the players’ abilities to give the depth of game play appealing to more experienced gamers." That sounds generic, but the IP is certainly well-suited to it. The project has nearly doubled its £15,000 goal with more than a month to go, with delivery expected in May 2015.

Upcoming Releases

There's a new preview for Dark Heresy (2nd Edition) up, which delves into creating Hive Desoleum. Which sounds unpleasant.

There are a couple of previews of the forthcoming Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition) Monster Manual (D&D 5e) up now: the tarrasque and the sphinx. The book will arrive in about six weeks; it looks like each monster will get at least a two-page spread.

What happens when a hot new modernist-D&D hybrid RPG (13th Age) meets one of the iconic fantasy settings (Glorantha)? Well, we're all about to find out: 13th Age in Glorantha will shortly start its Kickstarter campaign, and it has the lead designers of both the game and setting onboard. (Thanks to RPGG user Pendraig for the tip!)

The final Pathfinder preview for the Advanced Class Guide before its Gen Con release is the hunter, a combo of the druid and ranger. Meet the corresponding iconic here.

The Strange, from Monte Cook Games, is also getting a general release at Gen Con. See the latest preview to get a feel for how to GM the game.

For all of you World of Darkness fans, here is a pre-Gen Con update on Vampire: The Requiem, here is the inspiration for Mage: The Awakening, here is an update for Demon: The Descent, and here is more on the V20 edition of Vampire: The Dark Ages. Finally, here is the latest overview.

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Wed Aug 13, 2014 2:13 pm
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