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Blog Carnival Wrap-up for March – Crowdfunding and Crowdsourcing RPGs

April 2, 2012 2 comments

This past month’s RPG blog carnival was on crowdfunding and crowdsourcing RPGs. I thought more people would participate on this topic as RPG projects are hugely popular on Kickstarter, but DungeonBrew was the only blog who joined us this month with an awesome article comparing and contrasting several crowdfunding sites. If you participated and I missed you please leave a comment below.

We had a great time with this topic on Skyland Games. Here is a quick rundown of our articles related to the March Blog Carnival:

We reviewed a number of awesome projects which have gone on to be fabulous success stories if you check their project pages now.

We interviewed Wolfgang Baur of Kobold Quarterly and Open Design fame, as he recently had a great kickstarter and has been doing both crowdsourcing and crowdfunding RPG projects.

We addressed how kickstarter is giving seemingly dead video game franchises new life, and finding an audience that defies conventional big corporate wisdom.

Lastly, we shared a few recent kickstarter developments including a great site that keeps track of RPG kickstarters.

Hope you guys have had a great time reading them, and hopefully we contributed to the success of some truly great projects. We’ll be reviewing the results of the projects we’ve backed, so we’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading!

RPG Kickstarter News

March 26, 2012 2 comments

Morrus over at ENworld did the RPG community a great service by starting this tumblr that provides a list of RPG-related kickstarters going on at the moment. The project organizer must apply to be added, so there shouldn’t be any kind of unrelated weird projects that slip through. That being said, there are a lot of other really cool kickstarters going on that have nothing to do with RPGs, but it’s a great filter to find projects that are gaming related.

In other news Brian Fargo, creator of the Wasteland 2 project, has started a very cool movement called Kicking It Forward. It is essentially similar to the Pay it Forward movement of about a decade ago, but instead of acts of kindness, project creators agree that if their project is funded, they will donate 5% of the projects proceeds to funding other kickstarters. This is pretty much saying, “Hey, we made this awesome thing happen, let’s see if we can make YOUR awesome thing happen.” I think it’s a very cool concept, and will help insure the continuation of the thriving community that backs these great projects.

Thats all for now. Remember, March is the RPG Blog Carnival about crowdfunding and crowdsourcing RPGs, so if you’ve got a blog, and a take on how these new developments are affecting the hobby/industry, get to writing! The month is almost up!

Wolfgang Baur Interview – Open Design’s Kickstarter Experience

March 12, 2012 2 comments

courtesy of Kobold Quarterly

SG: First off, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions about your experience both Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding RPGs! It’s a great contribution to this months RPG blog carnival!

For our readers who may not be aware, Open Design has been a collaborative RPG design company since 2006 and has published a lot of material in those years. A FAQ for those unfamiliar with the process can be found here.
There were a few things that remained unclear to me as I read the FAQs. Namely, how are Open Design projects chosen?
WB: It has changed over time. For the first few projects, I proposed 5 or 6 options and the backers picked one of those. That lasted about a year. Then I asked some freelancers to pitch things, and they came forward with great ideas that turned into some award-winning D&D and Pathfinder adventures and sourcebooks. In the last 3 years or so, I’ve asked backers to write up some pitches that they’d like to see, and wow, did they ever!
Now the current backers themselves pitch project ideas for the next project. I’m looking at about 19 different project ideas for the next Open Design project. Those pitches are all discussed and voted on by the most active Open Design supporters, and the cream almost always rises to the top.

SG: Once the project is chosen, how is the lead designer chosen?

WB: The person who proposed the idea is the lead designer for the project–if they can write a compelling pitch, chances are good they can write a compelling adventure or gamebook.
So for instance, Christina Stiles proposed the Journeys to the West project, based on ideas that had been floated in the Midgard campaign setting project.

Journeys to the West drew the biggest number of votes, and so Christina has led that project as the lead designer. The book will be released this summer. It’s a series of adventures in the style of the Voyages of Sindbad or perhaps Francis-Drake-meets-Temeraire. It’s spectacular island-hopping fun, with demon monkeys, undead islands, a leviathan, and more.

SG: While customers having input to the product as it is being produced can be exciting and engaging for the patrons, what are the challenges in designing “by committee”? Have you ever been surprised by the results?

WB: Oh, there’s no committee! Every backer can contribute to the brainstorms, and some backers do write NPCs, spells, or whole adventures. But the lead designer is always, always the benevolent dictator, or else the project gets mired down in exactly the way group projects often do.

That said, I have often, often been surprised by the results. Three examples: 1) early on, the backers voted to move ahead with an Arabian Nights project that I thought would never fly, and that I proposed on a lark, 2) Brandon Hodge showed up and single-handedly turned my rather traditional Mines of Moria adventure into something rather more ominous and devilish and secretive, and 3) when people said let’s turn Zobeck into a whole campaign setting.

SG: The Open Design system of patronage allows people not only access to the end-product, but a vote and possibly an opportunity to pitch ideas to guide the project’s direction. Did kickstarter’s pledge levels complement your system of patronage you’ve used in the past? Is one better than the other?

WB: Kickstarter made it easier, but it is remarkably similar to what Open Design started doing back in 2006. The pledge levels are identical to the system we’ve used for 6 years. The expanded offerings if the project hits a funding goal are new, and wonderful. Overall, it felt very comfortable, and clearly it worked.  

SG: Journeys to the West was Open Design’s first kickstarter. It smashed it’s initial goal, and made every stretch goal. Was the response you got for this project typical for OD publications, or did it exceed expectations? Do you think kickstarter played a role in the result?

WB: Oh, it exceeded expectations by a huge amount! Most of our prior projects were held together with a lot of spit, bubblegum, and love, but they were underfunded. A few depended on some level of volunteer effort. I think Kickstarter did help, though obviously they take a big cut for that help.

SG: Will future Open Design projects utilize kickstarter? Why/why not?

WB: That remains to be seen.

Thanks for your insights into not only the crowdfunding model, but crowdsourcing material as well! We’ll all be on the lookout for the next Open Design project!

Kickstarter Game Roundup – March

March 6, 2012 1 comment

Skyland Games has long been a supporter of game kickstarters. Hosting the RPG blog carnival this month, we figured we might present some excellent examples of current game projects. The three we’re presenting for this month represent the kind of variety and different approaches from various kickstarters you can find any given month on the site. These all seem to have some good momentum and are worthy of a moment of your time.

First up, Velociraptor! Cannibalism! This is a light-hearted, hilarious card game in which each player starts out with a velociraptor that gains characteristics of other animals as play progresses. Your ‘raptor may have the head of a wolf, and the legs of an elephant for instance. Your choices give you certain advantages, but the greater the advantage, the more cute, helpless animals you have to eat to survive. The cannibalism comes in to play when another player has an animal part that you want. You then attack that player, and if successful, take that animal part and attach it to your ‘raptor. It look like it would make for a really funny game night!

Switching gears, I present Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack. This looks like a war gaming system based around mecha made of Lego! Cool! It doesn’t necessarily have to be Lego, but the mechs they made on the kickstarter page look really cool. If I was the project manager on this, not only would I sell the kits as a backer reward (they’re already sold out) I would sell the plans for backers who want to see how these cool mechs are made. Game play is based around several colors of six-sided dice. When you make your mech you allocate different amounts of dice into different stats. Movement looks like its based on inches on the table using a tape measure. While you’ve got your bricks out making mechs, why not make some terrain! This looks like a really fun alternative to other miniatures games that can get really expensive. Not that legos are cheap, but at least you can build a lot of different mechs with them. Awesome concept!

And finally, a strategy card game that pokes a little fun at the RPG community, Edition Wars. Do you have strong opinions about which edition of the most popular fantasy RPG is the best? Battle for supreme edition supremacy in Edition Wars! Each player is a Gamemaster competing for players to assemble a complete party of six gamers. The weapons at your disposal include Snark, Blog (HEY!), and Merch. With a brand new edition of Dungeons and Dragons on the horizon, this game couldn’t have come at a better time. We all hope that the gaming community learned from past experiences, but judging from the shenanigans that ensued at the very announcement of a new edition, it’s clear that some of us haven’t. Prove you’re right once and for all, on the interwebs and now around the game table with Edition Wars!

Hope you guys enjoyed these projects. They’re all still excepting backers as of this posting and look to be a lot of fun. Contribute to someone’s independent game, and help make a cool idea into a cool game, and maybe the next great gaming company!

Kickstarter – A Backer’s Report Card

March 5, 2012 Comments off

Courtesy of Nevermet Press

I’ve been backing kickstarter projects since May of last year. In the interest of our RPG Blog Carnival topic, crowdfunding and crowdsourcing RPGs, I wanted to take an inventory of my experiences with donating to projects and share my view into the world of crowdfunding through the projects I’ve backed on kickstarter. Not all the projects I’ve backed have been RPGs, but the majority have been gaming related. There are usually some great projects in the games section, from board games, decks of cards, dice, gaming supplements, and even brand new RPG systems.

Let’s take a look at my kickstarter stats:

projects backed: 18
funded: 16
failed: 2
pending: 0
recieved: 7
waiting: 9

avg backing: $24.07

Overall, my experiences have been very positive. There are exceptions of course. I’ve seen manufacturing delays on some projects that made them take a lot longer than expected, and two others I don’t think I’ll ever even see the PDF of, let alone a physical book. Despite that, most experiences I’ve had are excellent. The project meets or exceeds the goals, the end product is usually pretty awesome, and delivered in a reasonable amount of time. The best part is a lot of the projects likely wouldn’t have had a chance through traditional channels, but because they found an audience and had a compelling pitch, cool stuff gets a chance to be made and enjoyed by people who believe in the idea.

I would recommend using kickstarter to find cool independent projects for a variety of interests, but most certainly games. It doesn’t require a huge investment, and you get to help some creative person’s dreams come true! Have you backed kickstarter games before? Have you pitched one? Let us know your experiences in the comments.

We’ve got a few more articles planned for this month, including an interview about kickstarter and Open Design with a certain Kobold-in-Chief!

Kickstart Your Game – March RPG Blog Carnival!

March 1, 2012 5 comments

Courtesy of Nevermeet Press

Welcome to the RPG blog carnival for March! This month’s theme is crowdsourcing and crowdfunding RPGs. If you have a blog and plan on participating, be sure to leave us a link in the comments so we can include it in the round-up at the end of the month. Here at Skyland Games we plan on doing several articles focusing on how crowdfunding is revolutionizing the gaming industry.

I’ve personally funded several RPG, card, and dice game projects. Most have been awesome, but we’ll talk about the pros and cons of being a funder, and a designer.

There are a lot of other crowdfunding sites out there as well like Rockethub, New Jelly, and Indiegogo; each with their own focus and feel. All of my experiences have been with kickstarter thus far, but I would be interested to hear if any other gamers have had experiences on either side of the equation on other sites.

One awesome resource for kickstarter game projects is the Game Whisperer. There is a lot of great advice and cool interviews with people who have had great success with the crowdfunding model.

I’m eager to see what you guys do with this theme! Let us know on your blog in a carnival post, or in the comments below!

PS – Thanks for making yesterday’s article our most viewed article to date! We’re on pace today to beat yesterday’s record! We’ll be happy to post any updates to the situation regarding an official apology to The Wyvern’s Tale, or any other significant updates. Thanks for your interest!

RPG Blog Carnival – Things to Love, Things to Hate about Organized Play

February 6, 2012 1 comment

Courtesy of Nevermeet Press

This month’s theme for the RPG Blog Carnival is Things to Love, Things to Hate. It seems like a fairly broad topic, as nerd devotion/rage towards RPGs knows no bounds. The host this month, Jonathan Jacobs of Nevermet Press, suggested we focus on game system or adventures that we love or hate and why.

We’re going to take a little different angle and talk about what we love/hate about organized play. This is mostly going to be about Pathfinder Society, as that has been the majority of my organized play experience. I met the other guys that make up Skyland Games through the D&D Encounters program. I’ve had a little Living Forgotten Realms play, and I know some of the other Skyland guys have extensive Living Greyhawk experience. If they want to chime in, all the better.

First let’s talk broad generalizations about organized play, and things that are pretty common occurrences regardless of system. I really enjoy meeting other players, and observing a lot of different play styles and picking up tips. One of our more popular articles about tracking initiative and speeding up combat was something I observed the guys doing at a D&D encounters game. It’s great to get to know other gamers in the community and talk about RPGs.

The flip-side of this is meeting a problem player. Problem players can manifest in many forms, but most commonly those who excessively arguing with the GM, excessive rules-lawyering, trying to find some rules loophole to make a “broken” character, selfish players that act in ways that may be “in character” but their character is a bastard to the party, hogging the spotlight, random egregiously evil acts, the list could go on and on. In a home game there are several ways to deal with problem players: taking them aside and talking to them, calling them out in game, and finally if all else fails just not telling them when your group gets together. A public game is a bit different. People may not know each other very well or may feel uncomfortable calling out somebody who is causing a problem for everybody. In extreme cases, one of our FLGS has a list of banned players who are not allowed to game in store. Its a shame when it comes to that, but can be a relief to the rest of the organized players.

Another potential pitfall is a problem GM. This tends to happen less frequently, but can happen quite a bit at larger conventions when perks are given to GMs, and they are unprepared, unfocused, or “phone it in.” This can also be a problem at regular organized events if the GM is just doing it for perks given by publishers for running organized games. This is an even more difficult situation to deal with because it maybe very difficult to approach an organizer and say, “Hey, your GM sucks,” without bruising some egos. The best alternative is to probably start your own thing, at either another game store, or playing a different system. If you’re motivated enough, get your own group going. Enthusiasm is contagious, and before you know it, you can have a big group of eager gamers coming back week after week.

I’m not a big fan of Living Forgotten Realms. I’ve played a few modules with friends and I think “hate” is probably too strong a word but there are aspects I dislike. For one, story lines that link some modules together can be several levels apart. Oh, did you like the first part of this story line on level one? Hope you can remember all these NPCs and what the crap was going on when you reach level 7 and play part two! Boo. Also, at the end of every adventure, the loot can endlessly replicate. Did the big bad guy have a Raven Cloak that lets you reroll a save once a day and give you resist 5 cold and necrotic? Super! Now everyone in the party has one! With #DnDnext LFG is a long forgotten after thought, but it never was very well supported in the WotC community pages, and the official LFR WotC pages themselves. I think I can figure out why.

I’m a bit of an evangelist for Pathfinder Society. Most of my feelings for PFS are going to fall squarely in the love category. Paizo seems to have this pretty well figured out. Modules that have multi-parts can be played in order, and have multiple level tiers. Once you’ve played that module you have access to the treasure from it, but must by it with the ample gold awarded at the end of each session. If you don’t have enough for the item you want, save up after a few more modules and by it later. The more modules you play, the larger your inventory of available gear. Experience is also brilliantly easy. Completed three modules? Level up. Want to let your friends catch up to your character so you can play the same modules? Take the slow-track advancement at your next level, and only gain a level after 6 modules. The faction missions and prestige points add some awesome roleplaying opportunities, as well as a mechanical way to express your characters growing renown in the world of Golarion. You can earn prestige points by completing faction missions, which are different for each faction on each adventure. Turn in prestige points to call in favors from your faction for magic healing, or items. It’s awesome! If there isn’t a game around you at your FLGS or bookstore, look in to starting one. Its been the best organized experience I’ve ever been a part of.

We’re all going to have things that we love and hate about organized play. In the end, it can be a great way to grow the hobby and meet some fun people. Let us know some of your best/worst organized experiences in the comments!

Blog Carnival – Heroes Living and Dead

December 2, 2011 2 comments

Courtesy of Nevermeet Press

The theme for this month’s Blog Carnival is Heroes Living & Dead. For some, it will be an opportunity to tell you all about their favorite characters from campaigns new and old, but I’d like to focus on what gives a hero depth, and makes them worth remembering.

When designing a character (or Hero) focus first on that individuals strengths. Sometimes this is literal strength in the case of a barbarian or fighter, sometimes this is strength of mind (Wizard/Psion), faith (Cleric/Druid/Shaman), or skill (Bard/Rogue/Thief). Generally your character is going to be really good at something. This strong-suit can and should be character-defining, but in order to stand out from the crowd of potential heroes, one must add details to make a character unique.

A good character is going to have a weakness as well. This can be reflected in the numbers on the character sheet (Dump Stat!) but can also be revealed through character background, and role play. A particularly unwise character may charge headlong into battle despite very grim odds. Constitution not your strong suit? Your character may be suffering from a chronic ailment that plagues him, perhaps contracted in a gambit for more power (you guys have heard of Raistlin, right?).

Ok, its too tempting. I’m going to tell you about my character after all. In our pirate campaign, my elven ranger stood his ground, guarding a fallen comrade against a small undead horde while the rest of the party made somewhat of a tactical retreat. We’re first level, so my character went unconscious twice and failed two death saving throws, but survived by the skin of his teeth. In his background his village was ransacked by orcs, and he spent his life training to stand against evil now that he is of age. So when a host of undead pirates land on his beach, he wasn’t going anywhere. The rest of the party did the wise thing in retreating, then had to come swooping in to bail me out of the fire, but it all worked out in the end, and actually added to the story. Since its my turn to DM the pirates for next session, my ranger will be sullenly nursing his wounds now that he knows the breadth of valor of his companions! It should make for some fun interplay between the characters.

So remember, when making a hero its important to think about that individuals flaws or weaknesses as well as what their more heroic qualities. In that way you’ll have a mulch-dimensional protagonist that bards (or at least players) will tell tales of for years to come!

RPG Blog Carnival – Orcs Must Die! – Tricks and Traps

November 2, 2011 1 comment

Courtesy of Nevermeet Press

This month’s RPG Blog Carnival topic is tricks and traps. I couldn’t help thinking of the game Orcs Must Die from Robot Entertainment. Orcs Must Die is essentially a tower defense game, except it combines setting up traps and defenders with shooting orcs in the face with a crossbow. In the game, you play a battlemage defending portals to the rift. At the beginning of the level, you are given a budget with which to buy and set traps. If your hero is slain, or too many baddies get through the portal you lose.

Screenshot of Orcs Must Die

This is not a review of the game (which is pretty fun, and I typically don’t really get in to tower defense games), but got me thinking about a one-shot adventure in which the party would be made up of “monster” races, and defend their dungeon home against DM-run parties of “heroes.” Its made particularly tempting if you had a Dungeons and Dragons Insider account that gives you easy access to monster races in the character builder. The thought of a party made up of a Gnoll, Hobgoblin, Kobold, Bullywug, and a Bugbear just makes me smile. They all have interesting racial powers and stat bonuses just like the regular “hero” races we all know and love. The idea would be to turn the typical dungeon delve on its head, and give the PCs the XP budget, with a short catalog of traps that they could place around the map at will. The DM would have to prepare maybe two or three “parties” of heroes of increasing levels to challenge the dungeon. For an added level of complexity, the PCs could be in charge of a squad of minions of whatever race they chose. The goal would be to defend their home from those pesky heroes and protect their treasure.

In one of the 4e campaigns I’m playing in currently, we had a side-quest in which we all played monster races and got to be the “bad guys” for a night. We sneaked in to our regular party’s hometown and helped a madman escape the prison in which our regular party put him. It was awesome for a few reasons; We all got to be some iconic monsters and try builds and roles that are different from our regular game. It also advanced the plot of our regular campaign, and allowed us an almost cinematic perspective to the other side of the story. In typical evil-party fashion, we all turned on each other at the end, but it was a great way to keep a long-running campaign fresh. At the end of it, I was left wanting more. I think a nice trap budget and a lair to defend would be just the thing. Who wants to dice up some do-gooders?

Screenshot from Orcs Must Die