Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Kickstarter and Me

Get Lucky and The Gamers: Hands of Fate

As I was waiting for the last day or two of the Book of the Righteous for Fifth Edition Kickstarter to count down this week, the following article appeared in my Facebook feed: "Old-fashioned boardgames, not tech, are attracting the most money on Kickstarter." This news did not really surprise me, as my own pledges have been primarily for games, particularly RPGs. And even those that weren't games themselves have tended to be tied to them in some way.

Here is a quick review of the projects that I've backed in the four years that I've been involved in Kickstarter.

Re-Creating my Art from S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks by Jeff Dee (March 2012): Jeff Dee was one of the more prolific artists employed by TSR in the early years of the D&D game. At some point, the company lost or destroyed most of his originals, so Dee has spent much of the past few years recreating those pieces for his portfolio, as well as producing some new pieces for gods, monsters, etc., that lacked art due to time constraints when the books were published. One of his first art Kickstarters was for "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks," one of my favorite 1st edition adventures. That was the project that persuaded me to try out this whole Kickstarter thing, and I now have a signed print of my favorite Dee piece from S3 (a mind flayer) displayed above my desk.

The Gamers: Hands of Fate by Zombie Orpheus (September 2012): I am a fan of The Gamers and The Gamers: Dorkness Rising, so happily contributed to this sequel. I didn't yet own the second movie at the time, so pledged at a level that included that as a reward.

Fate Core by Fred Hicks / Evil Hat Productions (January 2013): Fate is a system that I have had little experience with, but find intriguing enough to want to explore more fully. This Kickstarter provided an updated rulebook plus a staggeringly long list of stretch goals that are still being produced. Among the ones released so far are Fate Accelerated Edition (a streamlined version of the rules), Do: Fate of the Flying Temple (a Fate Accelerated setting), and the Fate Freeport Companion (for Green Ronin's Freeport setting). A friend of mine has recently started up a Do game, and I'm greatly enjoying a chance to finally learn Fate through actual play. And the Freeport book is a welcome addition to my sizable collection for that setting (I'm a bit of a completist there, as the next item will make more clear).

Freeport: The City of Adventure for the Pathfinder RPG by Chris Pramas: Green Ronin Publishing (April 2013): I've been a fan of Freeport ever since finding the first adventure, Death in Freeport, in my FLGS. My love of this product line prompted the start of what became Tim's Errata Archive, which in turn led to me becoming an official contributor to the setting (through revising the Freeport Trilogy to v.3.5, then writing, editing, and proofreading other titles). Green Ronin's announcement about this massive update to the setting persuaded me (and my players) to convert my most recent (v.3.5) Freeport campaign to Pathfinder. We ended up making that change well ahead of the book's completion, so I have not yet used as much of this book as I would have if we had been using it from the beginning of a brand-new campaign. But it's a solid resource that will ensure that I will return to Freeport for future campaigns.

The last few physical rewards for this Kickstarter (a miniature and a bookplate) finally shipped recently, but a few electronic rewards are still in progress. The first installment of the six-part Return to Freeport adventure path is now available, and the rest will be released over the rest of 2016. Green Ronin has promised to produced a Freeport Companion for their Fantasy AGE system, but that product is still in the very early development stages and does not yet have a release date. (Blue Rose for AGE--see below--has priority at the moment.)

Get Lucky, the Kill Doctor Lucky Card Game by Cheapass Games (November 2013): I have enjoyed many Cheapass Games, including the original Kill Doctor Lucky, since I first discovered the company quite a number of years ago. James Ernest reserves the deluxe color treatment for his company's very best games, so I was pretty confident of getting a good game from this project, and was not disappointed.

Advanced Bestiary for the Pathfinder RPG by Chris Pramas: Green Ronin Publishing (December 2013): The original Advanced Bestiary, for v.3.5, is my favorite non-Freeport book from Green Ronin: its diverse collection of templates adds value to every other monster book you own. With my gaming group's shift from D&D to Pathfinder, I was eager to see this book updated to those rules. The new book has been expanded to include even more templates, some of which I've already put to very good use in my games.

Prospero's Price; A Lovecraft and Shakespeare Tale by J Kovach (March 2014): This graphic novel, which promises a Lovecraftian retelling of The Tempest, has suffered delays due to health issues and other obstacles. It's impossible to tell at this time when or if the book will be completed.

MUNCHKIN® BRICKS - Accessories for your miniature figures by Crazy Bricks (June 2014): This Kickstarter produced LEGO-compatible bricks based on Steve Jackson Games' Munchkin games. Of all the projects I've backed, this one probably delivered the most promptly.

IAmElemental Action Figures for Girls by IAmElemental (June 2014): This Kickstarter produced a series of superhero action figures designed to appeal to, and empower, young girls. My wife and I appreciated the project's reaction to the over-genderizing of children's toys, and backed it for a full set of the Series 1 toys. This past Christmas, we gave the set to our two children (a girl, 11, and boy, 10) to share, and they both seem to enjoy these toys equally. 

Iron Atlas: Digital Miniatures System for Roleplaying Games by by Lifeform Entertainment, LLC (July 2014): This is the one and only Kickstarter that I've pledged to that did not successfully fund. I was not nearly as invested in this one as most of the RPG books in this list, so was not heartbroken by its failure,

Epyllion, a Dragon Epic RPG by Marissa Kelly (May 2015): This premise of this rules-light RPG could be summarized as "My Little Pony, but with dragons." My children are obsessed with both of those things, so this Kickstarter was an easy sell for our household. The game is very close to completion: a PDF preview (with the full text but without the final editing pass or art) has just been released to backers.

Blue Rose: The AGE Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy by Nicole Lindroos of Green Ronin (July 2015): I enjoyed the original True20 Blue Rose RPG, though I never had much opportunity to play it. The setting is based on the "romantic fantasy" of writers such as Tamora Pierce and Mercedes Lackey. As such, it was controversial for its inclusion of characters of sexuality and gender minorities. Green Ronin felt that the current state of LGBT politics, as well as the release of their Fantasy AGE game, made the time right for a new edition of Blue Rose, using those new rules. I'm intrigued by Fantasy AGE, and the tropes of Blue Rose match my children's (especially my daughter's!) tastes in fantasy quite well, so I look forward to trying out the new game with them. It's scheduled for release this summer.

A Natural History of the Fantastic by Christopher Stoll (July 2015): This art book is a bestiary of classic fantasy creatures, much in the style of Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials. The author/artist gives his own unique twist on each creature, which frequently prompted me to think about how to adapt the material to use in an RPG. (I may do some of that in future columns, once the promised concept sketchbook reward is available.)

Spirit Island by GreaterThanGames (October 2015): This boardgame was created by a good friend of mine, Eric Reuss. My wife and I helped playtest an early version of the game, so we are very much looking forward to seeing and playing the final, polished version. (As an aside, I highly recommend Eric's game Fealty, published by Asmadi Games.)

The Feminomicon by Christopher Stoll (March 2016): This sequel to A Natural History of the Fantastic addresses female gods and monsters, presented in a format inspired by the fictional Necronomicon. The book is currently in production.

Book of the Righteous for Fifth Edition by Chris Pramas: Green Ronin Publishing (May 2016): The original Book of the Righteous, for D&D Third Edition, provided a highly detailed pantheon of gods, including full details on each god's mythology, religious organizations, and relationships to other priesthoods. It follows Green Ronin's modular approach toward gaming supplements, allowing GMs to drop as much or as little as they wish into their own campaigns, regardless of setting. The new book will update the mechanics to Fifth Edition, as well as expanding on the background information. I usually prefer to build my own worlds and cosmologies, so I never bought the original book, but have regretted that from time to time since. The new book will provide a wealth of new material for Fifth Edition, with new options for many classes besides just clerics. I have recently started exploring the new edition, so very much look forward to adding this to my (currently quite small) collection for it.

In conclusion, the Kickstarters that I've been most excited about involve games by people whose past work I enjoy a great deal, and who I want to see continue to make incredible stuff. I would love to have the freedom to pledge money to a wider spectrum of projects, in order to expand my horizons even further and encourage more new creators. But for now, my limited budget demands that I save it for projects that I can be confident about investing in from the beginning. So, for starters, expect to see Green Ronin continue to dominate my list of backed Kickstarters.

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