The What and Why of Crowdfunding A Roleplaying Game

Crowdfunding is new in the grand scheme of things, and completely new to many of my family/friends. I’m going to do my best to explain it, and why spreading the word to anyone you know who likes roleplaying games (RPGs) can be a huge help in our Zorro campaign.

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game is crowdfunded on Kickstarter (we get the money we need to make the game from people who want to see it made) AND funded (we have the minimum amount of money we need to publish the book). This is great! People love both Zorro and RPGs!

However, we have quite a few additional things we’d like to add to our game book if we had a little more money for economies of scale (printing books is considerably cheaper the more copies you make and we are making a gorgeous full-color hardbound 200-page book).

These crowdfunding campaigns fail or succeed based on the interest of a few people who want to see them made. Right now we have about 500 people backing for an eBook or hardcover copy. Every additional person who backs puts us that much closer to our stretch goals.

So, what would help?
Spreading the word to anyone you know who likes RPGs.
Being patient with my continuing crowdfunding posts for a few more days until we are done with the Zorro Kickstarter campaign.

For those playing the home game, here is a nice link you can share!

It’s Alive! Zorro Kickstarter

Zorro: The Roleplaying Game Kickstarter
A swashbuckling and heroic roleplaying game using the
brand new West End Games D6 2nd Edition system!

I’ve been working with Alan Bahr and Gallant Knight Games on getting Zorro to Kickstarter for nearly a year. It’s there now. Thought I’d post here just in case anyone missed all my crazy blasting of every social media platform known to people on the planet earth.

In short:
I AM EXTREMELY EXCITED.
WE ARE FUNDED.
HAPPY DANCE.
EXCLAMATION POINTS.

Zorro funded on the first day, and we have TONS of awesome stretch goals lined up. If you know anyone who likes tabletop RPGs or Zorro, I’ll love you forever if you tell them about it. Who am I kidding? I’ll love you forever anyway. You’re wonderful people.

Here it is on Kickstarter.

Kickstarter – Zorro: The Roleplaying Game

Here’s the blog post I wrote about it, in case you missed it. Blogged – Zorro: the Roleplaying Game

Zorro: the Roleplaying Game

Hi friends! More announcements rolling in. Please bear with me. This is why I’ve been so quiet recently. I’ve been working on top secret stuff!

I’m a co-producer and writer for the upcoming Zorro: the Roleplaying Game by Gallant Knight Games. Zorro Kickstarts starting this Wednesday at 10AM Mountain. Expect my social media feeds to be full of Zorro news for a while. I APOLOGIZE FOR NOTHING. Bringing this spectacular game to life during the 100th anniversary of Zorro is a once-in-a-lifetime gig, and I’m gonna be talking about it. A lot.

Truth is, when Alan Bahr told me he was getting the rights to make a Zorro RPG, I was ecstatic for him and GKG, and I knew I had to work on the project. Zorro was the first true North American vigilante hero and one I’ve loved since I was a kid playing with stick swords in rural Oregon. My dad always loved old shows and movies of daring do, and we watched the greats together whenever we could tune in on our old console TV. It’s one of my favorite memories of him.

It’s a delight and an honor to be a part of bringing a complete Zorro RPG to the tabletop for the first time ever! I’m over the moon to be working with Gallant Knight Games and the fantastic team lined up for Zorro. I’m excited to up my participation in the game industry and learn from the experienced folks I’m getting to work with!

The Kickstarter is live now! Check it out!

Adept Icarus Launch

It’s been a spell. I’m not ignoring you, loyal readers. I’ve been busy working on something I think many of you will enjoy.

I launched an indie tabletop game company!

You can read more about the company and such at https://adepticarus.com and the press release of the launch is HERE.

For those who may be wondering what this means for liamwrites.com, I’ll lay it out plain and simple.

  1. I’m still going to post here. This is a place where I talk in my own voice and keep it pretty informal. You won’t see duplicate press releases from Adept Icarus.
  2. I won’t be writing “reviews” per se of products that compete directly with Adept Icarus. I’ll probably still gush about stuff I love. You can’t stop the love!
  3. I think that’s it? Please check out Adept Icarus, and watch for new game announcements in the coming months. We have quite a few things in development!

-Will

RPG Review – WEG Star Wars 30th Anniversary Edition

WILL RAMBLES

Here’s a fun one. Star Wars The Roleplaying Game by West End Games was one of the first non-TSR games I played. It was so long ago, and I was so young and broke, I never even owned a copy.

Some very fortuitous circumstance came about to make this project a reality. West End Games was purchased by Nocturnal Media, but they no longer held the license to produce RPGs based on the Star Wars intellectual property. Fantasy Flight Games is the current license holder (after a stop at Wizards of the Coast). At any rate, Nocturnal, FFG, and LucasFilm all collaborated to bring this 30th Anniversary Edition to light. The core book has a lovely posthumous dedication to Stewart Weick as it would not have been made without his efforts.

As a fan of both the game itself and of anything Nocturnal Media was involved in, SW:tRPG30AE was a no-brainer purchase for me.

SWTRPG_30th_2

THE REVIEW

Today I’m reviewing Star Wars The Roleplaying Game 30th Anniversary Edition by West End Games. This is a reissue of the classic RPG in a slipcase with the quintessential Star Wars Sourcebook. The review will cover the entire product as a whole.

1.) Size and Production Quality 

Sitting on my desk next to Star Wars Edge of the Empire, a modern game I’ll likely never review because I don’t love the dice system, SW:tRPG30AE is similar in size and weight. However, in terms of pages, SWEotE is 400 pages and change, while both 30th Anniversary Edition books combine for just under 300 pages. This isn’t to say the reissue isn’t packed with content, the font is smaller, and in the style of most older games, there isn’t a ton of graphic design taking up space.

Where I’m just a bit disappointed is with the paper. I’d hoped Fantasy Flight would have sprung for nice smooth semi-gloss pages, but instead, we get the same type of paper the original game was printed on: flat white paper slightly rough to the touch. Yes, the same twelve full-color glossy pages are sprinkled throughout the core book that were in the original. The Sourcebook has none, although it’s pages are the same iconic black+blue of the original.

That said, for the price, you’re getting two hardbound books in a gorgeous slipcase. I’m not that upset.

I recommend picking it up at your friendly local game store. Retail price is $59.95 (or a few bucks less on Amazon).

8/10


2.) Art

By modern standards, the art is still decent. It was fantastic for its time. I love those twelve glossy full-color pages so much. Everything else is black and white, and high quality. There’s also quite a lot by the standards of the time. As I flipped through SWEotE, a game with the gorgeous art Fantasy Flight is known for, I didn’t see a significant amount more than these books have.

7/10


3.) Content and Rules

Here’s a neat thing about SWtRPG30AE if you don’t already have a copy, it’s entirely rooted in the original trilogy. If episodes IV-VI are your jam, this is magnificent news. The Sourcebook is jam-packed with details about ships and other vehicles, locations, creatures, enemies, and info about your favorite characters.

And THEN, there are the rules. WEG D6 system was developed for the original Ghostbusters RPG and adapted for Star Wars. These rules hit a note I love and something you’ll see me talk about when discussing TinyD6 games. They are simple, not stupid. The rules have been remarked by some as having a bit of a scaling problem at higher levels, making it difficult for GMs to challenge their players. I can see that being partly true, but a good GM should be able to deal with it. Hopefully with WEG D6 2e is released, it will deal with those issues because I love this system and would love to see more games developed with it.

8/10

4.) Game Master Section

The book is laid out a bit funny. The “Gamemaster Section” is really just the game rules with GM tips and some fairly prescriptive guidance sprinkled throughout. The “Adventure Section” has some additional thoughts on running and creating adventures. Overall, meh.

5/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There is an iconic, four-episode adventure included in the book. It’s pretty good, and I’d run it as an intro to the game if you have four sessions or an all-day affair. Also, there are ten “adventure starters” that show some of the variances of the Star Wars universe. Most of these would make fine one-shots or additions to an ongoing campaign.

On the toolkit side of things, the SWRPG Sourcebook has all kinds of good stuff you can use to put together a long-running campaign.

8/10


Total Score: 36/50

If I were adding points for nostalgia, Star Wars The Roleplaying Game would get an extra five at least. It’s a solid game.

You made it to the end! Have a fun pic of Harry, Carrie, and Mark with some stormtroopers as a reward.

harrycarriemark


A Final Note About My Reviews

RPG reviews are among the highest viewed articles I write, and I’m glad people seem to like ’em. I stick to games I enjoy, have played, and usually have run at least once. I avoid reviewing RPGs I’d score low because frankly, I can’t care enough about a game I don’t dig to write a full review of it. Life is too short.

I don’t accept review copies, but for full disclosure, I do use affiliate marketing tags on my links to DriveThruRpg and Amazon. Thanks for reading. See you again soon for another review!

Con Report: FyreCon 2018

This was my first year attending FyreCon and the second year of this new convention overall. After LTUE in February, I was looking for other writing conventions where I could potentially make a splash as a presenter, and a couple of friends pointed me to FyreCon.

So, here is Drew Gerken with the participants from our Lean Worldbuilding Workshop. This was the final hour of the final day (and also my 7th hour in front of folks talking about gaming and writing in some capacity).

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FyreCon was a fun, if modestly-attended, event. I’m considering attending again next year. But first–

The Bad

The trouble with tacking on gaming at a writing con: it feels like gaming has been tacked on to a writing con.

Yes, there is a ton of overlap.

Yes, FyreCon is focused on genres like sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writing and these are very common in gaming.

It doesn’t mean the majority of attendees are there to talk/learn about writing for games and game design in general.

Also, most of the game sessions were in random rooms in a separate building from registration and the dealer hall. I felt like they might have garnered better attendance if it weren’t a hike/scavenger hunt to get to them.

Finally, Layton is a long drive for me personally. I had to sport for a hotel.

The Ugly

Similar to LTUE earlier this year, The game track needed a boost. Unlike LTUE, there were quite a few excellent panels and workshops lined up, just not enough folks there to attend. Marvelous game designers and writers like Shawn Carman, Alan Bahr, Charles Gannon, and more came to talk, and I frequently saw audiences ranging from 2-5 attendees. Great for those 2-5 people! It’s worth debating if the time special guests spent was a waste.

The Good

Fyecon-logo-purple-no-tag-01

There are a lot of things to like about FyreCon.

The facilities are roomy and well laid out. They were also convenient except for the sessions in the far building. The dealer hall was quite spacious. Common areas were pretty nice with lots of seating.

The sessions I attended were informative and worth going to. I particularly enjoyed Chuck, Shawn, and Alan and the information they provided and the good conversations we had. It almost felt like I had them all to myself at times.

I enormously enjoyed the ability to participate as a moderator, a panelist, and a presenter. The Lean Worldbuilding Workshop Drew and I ran was not only a complete blast to run, but it was also well attended, and everyone enjoyed it. We had such a great time, we’ve submitted a proposal to rerun it at LTUE in 2019, and we may or may not be in the early stages of developing a game around the concept.

Before and during FyreCon, I had some opportunity to converse with one of the excellent organizers, DawnRay Ammon. Her willingness to hear my thoughts and share thoughts with me about how the organizers are considering improvements for the game track next year impressed me.

I suspect that next year will be even better for FyreCon as this is a convention just getting started (remember, it’s only in its second year). Thanks so much for having me!

The real thing I always love about these events is the people. I hung out and talked and played games with many good friends and brand-new ones. We’ll go alphabetically: Alan, Chuck, Drew, JC, Larry, Michael, Natasha, Patrick, Rock, Shawn, Steve, and the people I inevitably forgot (dumb brain), you made this con for me. Thank you!

Moment of the Con

For after-hours gaming at Alan’s house, he ran the original Tomb of Horrors D&D module. I’ve seldom had such a blast or laughed so hard. Shawn Carman manufactured a background for his monk that had folks blushing and howling with laughter simultaneously. We also saw the advent of the great and mighty professional henchman Bronar who in many ways stole the show. Patrick Tracy’s creation spawned an entire series of flash fiction bits you can find here.

For my character’s part, the erstwhile fighter had something in the neighborhood of 4 wisdom (them’s the rolls). He eventually ended up involuntarily teleported to the opening of the tomb naked and penniless without a sword in his hand.

Oops.

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All in all, I had a great time, maybe helped some budding writers, and met some people I hope to see again. See you next year, FyreCon?

Running One-Shot or Demo RPG Games

I’ve run my share of demo RPG games for old-school games like King Arthur Pendragon and Stormbringer as well as newer systems including multiple TinyD6 games and The One Ring.

For a time, I was part of a group that held one-off sessions for a different game every month. The glory days.

While I enjoy campaign play as much as the next person, there’s always something that draws me to cracking open a new game, rolling up characters, and taking a new set of rules or setting out for a spin.

Not every player likes one-shot sessions, which surprised me at first, but I guess some folks want to get into a character and see them progress either as a person or just “level up”.

For me, sometimes a one-shot is just the thing.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about running successful one-off RPG sessions (and I think you’ll find a lot of it holds true for campaigns as well).

Nothing universe-shattering, but I hope these thoughts aid your games or even help you bring new players to one of your favorites!

Set Expectations

Make sure your players know what to expect. Failing to set proper expectations can result in anything from disappointment to outright disaster.

Find out player time constraints if not prearranged, and consider your planned content. Make sure you’ll have enough time to hit the major plot points.

If the content could be offensive to folks, provide a warning. Also, word to the wise, avoid scary or messy props. You don’t want to get punched or puked on.

At least, I think you don’t?

If you don’t want folks checking their phones in the middle of the game, make sure they have that guidance. If you are planning regular stretching, snack, and bathroom breaks, let the players know so they can wait for the foreordained moment.

Above all, set the appropriate social contract. Personal attacks are NEVER ok. Are there any other lines in the sand you need to draw? If you’ve never used the x-card, it can be appropriate when you’re running games at cons or for any group you don’t know. Use your best judgment.

Do What Your Players Want

If everyone enjoys character creation, don’t set them up with pregens. If you aren’t sure how they feel, ask! This may not make sense for games with involved setup, but talk about it.

Talk with players about what kind of game they want to play. Sometimes the group just wants to focus on comic relief and tell jokes, and other times they may be in the mood for a serious or darker game. Try to oblige as possible within constraints of the rules and setting, and if that isn’t possible, maybe you’re playing the wrong game for the group.

Don’t Do What Your Players’ Characters Want

It’s human nature to struggle. Make sure to seed conflict and difficulty into the session. If a risk of character death doesn’t exist in a one-shot, you may be doing it wrong.

I’m not saying TPKs and broad use of GM fiat are necessary. Just don’t make things too easy. That way lies boredom, one of a gamemaster’s worst enemies.

Minimize Up-Front Explanation

When you’re going to run a multi-session campaign, it may be ok to do something of an info dump during the initial sessions. For a one-time game, you’ll have to keep this to a bare minimum.

Instead, keep your session tight and introduce rules and setting as much as possible through the course of the game. Does this mean you don’t tell the players about the Camarilla if you’re playing Vampire the Masquerade or about Uther’s more arbitrary/mistrustful tendencies in Pendragon?

Maybe. If it’s central to the adventure, find a way to work it into a conversation with an NPC so the game can get going.

Don’t skip telling folks what type of dice they need. I’m just saying that if you’re playing a Fantasy Flight RPG with all those custom dice, you may just want to guide them through the roll resolutions and gloss over the 17 pages of dice rules (or don’t play a game with 17 pages of dice rules).

Another helpful option for more complex games is to download or create rules cheat sheets for players. Give them something to refer to while they are planning action. While they are great for many folks, I don’t always love cheat sheets. Some players can get too focused on the tool and miss what’s going on in the game.

Me. I do this. Ugh, I’m the worst.

Anyway, know thy players.

Keep The Story Tight

Most games either have a couple strong themes or they are more generic and can work for a variety of scenarios. In either case, stick to a strong idea even if you have to develop it yourself.

When playing Planet Mercenary, it’s mayhem and next-grunt-up comedic violence. When it’s Pendragon, you’re talking chivalry and romance. For a game like Tiny Frontiers: Revised, pick a micro setting and run with one of the adventure prompts or develop something fun on your own. Same for Savage Worlds, select a setting you like that’s thematic and shows off the rules.

Nothing will kill a one-shot faster than giving too many options to inexperienced players. Sandbox games can work great, as long as you have veteran players and they understand the setting.

An alternative, if your game supports it, is to involve the characters in some quick worldbuilding and plotline creation. Tough to do in limited time, but I’ve seen it work. There are toolkits to support this approach if your game doesn’t do it out of the box. I even have one I’m thinking about developing.

Sample The Game

Some micro RPGs and minimalist systems lend themselves to covering everything in the one-shot format.

When talking about a 400+ page core book (see Pathfinder, Shadowrun, Zweihander, Mage, and countless others), you won’t show everything. Still, if the game contains combat, make sure there is an encounter so players can see how fighting works. If there is sneaking, make sure they have cause to sneak. Basic mechanics are a must, as is direct use of primary abilities.

When the title has special or unique mechanics, make sure they take center stage. The One Ring’s hope and shadow and travel rules are good examples.

If the central concept of the game involves characters taking control of the narrative at times, make sure they do that. Horror/madness aspects, etc. should all be built in if relevant.

Pacing

There are entire series of articles, dialogs, and diatribes about pacing in RPGs as a whole.

If you’d like more detail, I recommend reading what Justin Alexander has to say on pacing for starters. I’m not going to attempt to duplicate that knowledge here, but I will say this: pacing is vital in one-offs. I’ve outlined a few of the component elements above, but I’ll to boil it down to what makes the most sense to me in a one-off session.

Don’t let your players get bored.

If everyone loves the role-play elements, they might have a great time discussing reactions to a philosophical quandary you’ve placed before them for some time.

If your players are action-oriented, make sure to keep the action flowing.

When you inevitably have a mix of role-play and “roll-play”, then you’ll have to use more tools from your GM toolbox to keep things moving along.

The key is to keep an eye on the group and minimize time where people seem disengaged.

Have Fun

This shouldn’t be the last point, but somehow it is.

Don’t forget, if you’re having fun, odds are the players will be too. If it’s clear to them that you aren’t enjoying yourself, that mood can rub off on the whole group.

A little Leadership 101 for you: a leader (this means you, gamemaster) tends to influence those around her/him like Patrick Stewart in a room of Trekkies. He can’t help it, but you can bet he’s aware. You can bet Sir Pat knows that if “Captain Picard” loses his cool on a group of fans, it will result in a negative experience for all involved.

Make sure to use your GM influence with proper intent. Be aware of your own feelings and use them to the advantage of the game. Keep them in check otherwise.

A great storyteller having fun will always attract players. I learned this watching my friends Alan B. and Mike S. pack their living rooms with diverse players repeatedly through the years.

——-

Thank you: Ben, Michael, Brett, Alan, Tyler, and the others who saw this article at varying stages of completion and helped me mold it into something I hope was worth your time. Your contributions were amazing, and any remaining silliness is just an artifact of my weird and possibly disturbed psyche.

Please share your stories of running one-shots with me in the comments or on Twitter. I’d love to see your ideas on running the format or just some fun stories from your one-off games.