It was announced today, Owlbear Omelette was nominated for the Freeplay Game Awards in the non-digital category!
I am shell-shocked and egg-cited that my small-fry game sits in such esteemed company!
The awards are announced at the Freeplay Ceremony on the 29th of February. I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it there, and I can’t imagine winning when I know a lot of the games in the same category are amazing pieces of design, writing, production, and art, but even to be nominated is a huge honour!
Want to know more about Owlbear Omelette? This short video won’t help, but I had fun making it, and that’s the main thing!
Ganymede Outriders is ready for ZineQuest/ZiMo! As always I ordered some test prints of the game to see how everything came together. You can see a flip through of Ganymede Outriders and a short run through of the rules and setting in the video below!
If the last post was looking back at the worn path of 2023, this one is about looking forward into 2024. What has Caradoc Games got planned for this year, and what are some things I’d like to work on outside of that?
Ganymede Outriders is a big game in a little package. The game uses a custom designed system built for thematic and quick play; putting the emphasis on fun and high action. Ganymede Outriders includes a full RPG system, and is ideal for both one-shots and campaign play. It is designed to be played with 2 to 5 players and a GM.
Ganymede Outriders will be published as a 40 page A6 zine – another pocket sized book because I like the format, and it keeps the shipping cheap for overseas buyers.
I’ve been working on a bunch of support material for this one, including an SRD, an example of play, and an adventure. It will be available for people to hack, remake, or create for under the Caradoc Games license. Which means you can make stuff using the system, or for the game setting, for free or for sale, without Caradoc Games expecting a tithe.
Everything for Ganymede Outriders is done and ready to roll, and I am super excited for this to launch. I think the setting is fun, and the rules lean into it – something I love doing with all my games!
Ganymede Outriders will be the first game I launch in 2024, but it won’t be the last.
With Every Fibre
Coming in second is With Every Fibre, which will probably be launched somewhere on crowdfunding a month or so after Ganymede Outriders, or the middle of the year at the latest.
With Every Fibre is a fantasy dungeon crawl. The system is designed to OSR-like, but uses D10s for skill tests, and a range of other polyhedrals for weapon damage, spells, and the like. Here’s the pitch:
With Every Fibre is a rules-light fantasy adventure game. Between the covers you’ll find the rules of play, spells to cast, weapon traits you can unlock for special powers, adversaries to face down, tables to roll on and more.
With Every Fibre includes a full RPG system, and is ideal for both one-shots and campaign play. It is designed to be played with 2 to 5 players and a GM.
With Every Fibre will be published as a 48 page A6 zine. I’m really proud of this one. First of all I think the game system is fun, and contains some interesting ideas. Mostly though because all the art and maps for With Every Fibre and the adventure were done by own hand!
Like Ganymede Outriders, everything for With Every Fibre is already done – the rules are written, the art is complete, the layout is finished… So basically, it’s ready for launch!
The third release for 2024 is likely to be a game I have been working on for a while called Heralds… A game where setting building and map creation are a strong part of the game – but I haven’t decided whether this will be a setting book, or whether it will come with a game system as well. Knowing me, I’ll probably end up designing a game system for it, but who knows!
This one is planned to come out late in 2024, I don’t know the page count, and while it’s partly written, I need to go back and rework stuff I put down to paper from a couple of years ago… it’s very much fluid at the moment.
Of course, if Ganymede Outriders or With Every Fibre do particularly well, this third release for the year might be something expanding those systems, and Heralds might be bumped back to 2025. Speaking of which, at some point, probably in 2025, I want to revisit Corsairs and Rascals.
One of the things I have been considering is starting a short review series – one where each episode is less than twenty minutes, and focuses on a single table top role playing game. One of the reasons I thought about doing this is because there are so many indie games that struggle for reviews, I thought it would be nice to do something to fill that gap. Yeah – it would probably keep a fairly positive focus, but that’s mainly because I’m motivated to talk about the things I like. I’ve done podcasting before, and I’m not sure I have the energy to make this a multi-person affair, so it would probably just be me talking into a microphone. Sure it could be TikTok or YouTube or whatever, but I’m not really interested in creating video content, and I almost never watch these forms of game media myself, stick to what you know right?
Three games and support material is a pretty reasonable release schedule for 2024, but there are other things I am working on, including a novel manuscript, creating more art for my projects, and other things both personal and professional. We’ll see how it goes.
I’ve written about my gaming goals for 2024, and in the great tradition of the new year haze, I want to continue in that vein of thinking. But first, we need to look back.
2023 was a relatively quiet year for Caradoc Games, at least in terms of releases. Prisoners of the Elf King launched as a Kickstarter in February of last year, and only just scraped over the line thanks to the generosity of a friend. I was a little disappointed in how Prisoners of the Elf King fared on Kickstarter. I think it’s a fun game, and more than that, I think it’s a fun read. It’s done reasonably well post Kickstarter though – so there is a silver lining! With the post Kickstarter sales the game managed to cover it’s costs and make a little bit of money. By which I mean I paid the artist and made that money back, and managed to keep some change for myself as well, and if not enough to pay me for the design time, writing, and layout, is better than it not covering costs!
For anyone interested, Prisoners of the Elf King a game that pokes fun at some of the classic tropes in fantasy fiction, and in particular the Hobbit (who would have guessed from the name). If you want to know more, you can pick up a below, or from Indie Press Revolution, or from Exalted Funeral.
It could be the format – A6 might not be as popular as A5, or something with a hard cover. To be honest, I don’t think this is the main issue, it just failed to capture much attention on Kickstarter. It could be that it was because it was marketed as a one-shot game – it is an adventure and all the rules required to play that adventure. I think it’s a fun idea, but maybe it’s not a commercial idea. This concept (story arc and bespoke rules set) may be something I come back to, but for now I’m going to focus on making game systems and settings that are not built around one plot concept, however funny I think that concept might be (and trust me, it’s funny). The next few games from me will keep the format, but will be fully fledged RPGs.
Sales of my other games also slowed down in 2023, though I did send off my last copies of Corsairs and Rascals to Indie Press Revolution. Corsairs has sold about 600 copies, and Rascals about 500. I could order another reprint of both, but sales have slowed, and to be honest, both of these are games I’d like to revisit.
At one point I’d love to do a bigger version of Corsairs, with the supplements rolled in with the core rules, maybe even a hard cover if that was possible. We’ll see.
Rascals is a game I am really proud of. I think the playing card system is solid, and I like it a lot. Again it’s a game I’d like to revisit, maybe as a second edition, maybe using the same core system in a different setting.
For now, both these games are almost sold out. The last copies available can still be purchased from Indie Press Revolution (Corsairs, and Rascals) and Exalted Funeral (Corsairs, and Rascals).
Why the slow down? I honestly don’t know. It could be related to the economy, but it’s most likely related to two factors:
1) I wasn’t very active in promoting my games in 2023. A fact that is almost directly related to
2) A main source of traffic for me in the last was through Twitter, which fell of a cliff in 2023. Post engagement is really low, directed traffic is really low to non-existent… Twitter was the main platform I used for putting out news and promotional material related to my games, and it was killed in a brutal if not amusingly ironic fit of capitalistic hubris.
Last year, when it came to considering how I’d promote my games, or whether I should post something, I just felt very disengaged and lacking in motivation. I tried all the things everyone else in the TTRPG industry tried: Hive, Mastodon, Tribel, Threads… the only one I have come to kind of enjoy is BlueSky, aka Twitter with the serial numbers filed off, and you can find me on that site here.
All of that, combined with changes to MailChimp – which I use for my mailing list – made it feel very difficult to get any sort of engagement. I think for 2024 I am going to focus on three things: BlueSky, my mailing list, and this blog.
A bit of a quiet year for Caradoc Games, and a part of this was the fact I changed jobs, and a part of this was that I felt a little disengaged from the whole thing. Prisoners of the Elf King was the only game I released last year, but I did put a lot of work into the design and development of some other games that will be coming in 2024. More on that in the next post…
2024 is nigh. In my last post I wrote about the games I played in 2023, for this coming year I’d like to set a challenge for myself: to play some of my unplayed role playing games.
I like reading RPGs. I like reading new settings, new rules, seeing how different games try and capture different themes and ideas, and seeing how different companies lay out their games. A side effect of this means I have a bunch of games on my shelf that I have never played.
Getting new RPGs to the table is, for me at least, a little more challenging than knocking out a few of my unplayed board games. RPG rules books are typically bigger and more involved, and playing a game is usually much more of a commitment. Add to this the fact that I also design and self-publish my own RPGs, and that somewhere in the gaming schedule I like to fit in as much playtesting as possible, means that getting new games to the table can be a challenge.
Nearly two years ago my game groups decided to start rotating games and GMs – we play through an adventure or campaign, then switch games and GMs. It’s been a great way to play through a variety of games, which suits me as I tend to be a bit of a game magpie – I like to play a game for a bit, and then try something new.
So what games are we talking about? Well I have a lot of unplayed games on my shelf, and this list does not include all of them. This is a list of the games I would most like to get to the table (in no particular order)…
Mutant Year Zero: GenLab Alpha
Star Wars (the West End Games version)
Blades in the Dark
Into the Odd
Fate Accelerated: Masters of Umdaar
15 is too many games for me to GM over the course of 2024; I have a number of games I will be releasing next year, and need some playtest time for those, and our group rotates GMs. So I’m going to set my sights on a more realistic number: I want to knock 6 games off this list by the end of the year.
In addition I want to sort through and work out how I would like to play through these games. Will it be running…
An adventure of 3-5 sessions?
A mini-campaign of 5-10 sessions?
A longer campaign of 10-20 sessions?
When it comes down to it, I would like to do all three of these options, but not equally. I think we might be able to manage one longer campaign, a couple of mini-campaigns, and a couple more adventures.
At the moment I am playing in a game of Mothership and GMing a game of the Expanse. It is probable that the Expanse is going to end up being the longer campaign, presuming the players want to continue playing. We’re playing through the published campaign: Abzu’s Bounty. Several sessions in and we haven’t finished the first adventure of that campaign, so I am guessing it’s going to take a while. It has taken some set-up though, so who knows – maybe the later adventures won’t take as many sessions to play through.
My upcoming game With Every Fibre is probably going to take up at least a mini-campaign of playtest time, but there’s a chance I’ll be setting up a dedicated playtest group and we may be able to get that one done without impacting the scheduling of the other game groups I am part of.
Some of these games have specific requirements. GenLab Alpha comes with a campaign to run through, and I feel like getting the best out of it means running that campaign. All my groups play online, and that means finding a way to run them in an online format, whether through a VTT, over Discord, or through some combination of other online platforms. For games like Mausritter, with it’s little mini-game of storing equipment, that might present a challenge. For other games there are already character sheets and rolling macros built into some VTTs, which makes them more accessible for my groups.
I think setting the goal at 6 games is a reasonable target, if we get more played, even better, if not, well, 6 games is a reasonable benchmark, and I’ll be happy if I can tick that off by the end of 2024. There’s a reasonable chance that some of the other people in my game group might GM one or two of these games, and if that happens, you can be certain I’ll be counting it!
So that’s it – my goal for 2024: knock 6 games off my unplayed list.
It’s been a long minute since my last blog post, and since one of my goals heading into the new year is to post more here, what better way to start than with the traditional spree of end of year posts! This one is all about the RPGs I’ve played during 2023.
I’m leaving playtests and sessions of my own games off the list – this one is purely games made by other companies and people. I play in two groups, sometimes as a player, sometimes as the GM. I am a bit of a magpie when it comes to RPGs, I like to read them, I like to play them, I like new systems and settings, new ideas and ways of doing things. A few years ago one of the groups I play in talked about running mini-campaigns – 5-10 sessions of one game, and then rotating games and GMs. Perfect! Surprisingly, this year I ended up playing in and running a few lengthy campaigns. Two are done (for now at least), while one is still on-going.
Phanta, by KeganExe, was one of the longest running campaigns I played in this year. A post-apocalyptic game with light rules and an engaging setting. I really enjoyed the rules set for Phanta, it’s simple and it works: roll 2D6 (3 if you are skilled), add two dice together, and check what you got. This is one of those systems where you can fail, succeed with a cost, succeed, or succeed with a bonus. I like those sorts of systems a lot, and Phanta does it well. What I particularly enjoyed about this game was the intimacy of the setting. You are part of a small community, in a world that feels large, dangerous, and both familiar and unknown.
The sense of community and intimacy in our campaign of Phanta was in equal parts due to the game system doing its job, then getting out of the way and allowing the story to happen. To the campaign we played, Lonely Souls, having been written to bring the relationships the characters develop within the communities in the game to vivid life. And to the fact that the campaign was GMed by it’s author Megs, who did a wonderful job of bringing her vision of the world of Phanta to life.
All told I like Phanta, and I think anyone running the game should do themselves a huge service by picking up Lonely Souls – it’s a great campaign!
Alien, by Free League, is almost the polar opposite of Phanta. It’s a big game, by a big company (in the TTRPG world at least), set in a famous and well established IP. We didn’t play too many games of Alien, so my opinions are limited. It’s a system I would probably like to come back to. One of the over-riding things I remember about this game was that it felt dangerous and difficult. Characters often struggle, and the dangers of fear, panic, and failure are ever present and pervasive threats. These are elements that sit perfectly within the context of the setting, and I think the game does an admirable job of bringing the world and tone of the Alien franchise to life.
All the game groups I play with play online, and for Alien we tried a new VTT: Foundry. Learning a new game, through a detailed VTT like Foundry was almost too much, and I felt that engaging with the OS was often pulling me out of the experience of the game itself. This is no negative comment on our excellent Alien GM, who managed to express the horror and palpable danger of the setting well, but just part and parcel of learning something new. A massive hats off to our GM for this – well done navigating a detailed VTT with a new game Will! I think revisiting Alien with or without Foundry would be interesting. On the whole I enjoyed the game, but I’m not sure I’d like to play a long term campaign using the system.
I’m not a huge fan of horror if I’m being honest; zombies, vampires, cosmic horror, I don’t usually find these sort of settings particularly interesting. I’m more than happy that other people love them of course, they’re just not my cup of tea. Imagine my surprise when I found myself actually enjoying Vampire, I mean, my character (an erstwhile musician called Note) still tries to be the good guy, and only reluctantly engages in the darker elements of Vampire-hood (it’s the reluctance that counts right?). But no. I actually enjoyed this game. Vampire has been around for many years, and 5th edition is, I’ve found, a lot of fun. Roll a pool of D10s and count the successes, hunger swaps skill dice for hunger dice, and too many 10s on those is never a good thing. The system is tried and true, and it works well.
With all of that said, a huge part of my enjoyment of Vampire stems from our GM – who has created a whole ‘current era’ Vampire setting in Melbourne, with all the factions and power players vying for position and prestige. This has been our second venture into Vampiric Melbourne, and it was a lot of fun. Vampire was also the second of our longer running campaigns for 2023. Normally I like to swap games and characters, try new and different things, but I know that when we revisit the Baron of St Kilda, I’ll be happy to be playing Note again. Hats off Rino, hats off… When we return Note’s Keytar will be ready.
‘Die alone in space’ seems to be the refrain that guides Mothership. I’ve already established I’m not a huge fan of horror, but this game is well thought out. I prefer systems where the characters feel more capable, but I appreciate the design decisions that have gone into Mothership – and what I like more than capable characters, are games that pick a lane and lean into it. Mothership does this in spades – it’s a game that knows what it wants to be, and the game system is thoughtfully geared toward enabling that sort of play. I like that a lot.
Mothership is a percentile based system, and the game is engineered so that you have a reasonable chance of success at those things your character is trained in, but fairly low chance of success at everything else – it fits the vibe of the game very well. The current game of Mothership I’m playing in is my second foray into the system, and I am enjoying it. Here’s to unlikely but hopelessly optimistic goal of surviving a few more sessions!
I love the setting of The Expanse, a gritty sci-fi world of warring factions in our own solar system. It’s great! This is the game I am currently GMing, and I’m enjoying it quite a lot. Roll 3D6 – one of them is a ‘Stunt’ die – if the total plus your ability is equal to or higher than the difficulty you succeed. If any are doubles and you succeed, you get stunt points equal to the number on the stunt die to spend on extra cools things.
The system works well, though I find it a curious mix of light and heavy. Light in that there are areas that the system chooses to deal with without going into a lot of detail (weapons and equipment for example), and heavy in that there are areas where the system chooses to add detail (operating in different gravities, stunts, investigations, and relationships for example). It’s a curious mix because it feels like a light system, but one where the designers have chosen to dig a bit deeper on the areas they feel accentuate the setting.
On the whole I am enjoying the Expanse. I like the stunt system, but there are a lot of stunts to choose from when you do get stunt points, and they can often feel quite situation specific. I’m not sure whether I would prefer a lighter approach to stunts – something like the way advantage works in Fantasy Flights Star Wars series of games – but it is a neat system. I imagine with more play the players will get to know the stunts available, and particularly the ones they like to use, and that might make the system feel a bit smoother.
One thing I’ve come up against with the Expanse is that the setting – one in which the characters can spend quite a bit of time on board space ships – can feel a little rail-roady. Unless the ship is operated by the characters, they are bound wherever the ship is headed, and they can’t really get off if they don’t like it. It’s thematic, for sure, and it is probably an issue that rises from the way I have run the games so far and the adventures we have played; something worth considering. Still, it’s been good fun!
I wrote above that all the games I’ve played this year have been online. We’ve used Roll20, Foundry, Google Docs, and voice chat over Discord with real dice rolled on our own respective tables. I’ve enjoyed trying some different platforms this year, but my key take-away has been that whatever platform we use, I tend to prefer something light – some art or a map to set the scene, but eschewing too many tokens and too much tracking – it starts to feel a little like a video game at that point, and not my thing. This probably reflects the sort of game systems I tend to like as well…
Aside from some one-shots and sessions/mini-campaigns of games I have written or are developing, these are the games I have played in and run in 2023. Some big rule books and detailed settings, and some smaller games with lighter systems and more tightly focused settings. It’s been a good year: a mix of shorter mini-campaigns of 5-10 sessions, and longer 20+ session campaigns. There aren’t any games I would say that I would rather not have played. Moving into 2024 I’ll be continuing to run The Expanse, and continuing to play Mothership. What else awaits in the new year, well, only time will tell!
I’ve been working on Ganymede Outriders for a while. The rules have been through many iterations, but none so dramatic and ironically circular as the changes implemented due to playtesting.
Playtesting is a vital component of game design. Of course it’s handy to see how the math behind the mechanical design holds up, and how all the cogs you carefully fit together actually turn when people are trying to do things with your system – these things are important. Perhaps more importantly it helps give you, the designer, a gauge on the feel of the game. It’s one thing to design a system that works, it’s another to see whether the experience of the players sits close to what you intended.
Ganymede Outriders was designed to be a high action game, a game where players feel like their characters are capable of success, and capable of beating the odds. It was designed as a game where the resolution of a test was quick, and the players had systems to mitigate bad luck, and take agency in the telling of the story. Playtests revealed that it did all of that, but not brilliantly. One of the players was beset by bad luck, and I mean a run of really bad luck over multiple sessions. The systems I had created to help lift a character out of that situation just weren’t pulling their weight, and the systems I had created to add complications and consequences were compounding it.
Now, sometimes bad luck is just that. A system shouldn’t be designed around outliers necessarily, and any game system that uses randomisers can feel like it’s blocking you if you happen to be consistently unlucky. But what the playtests showed, and what was half hidden behind the averages, was that there were a number of cogs that just weren’t fitting well together. The system designed to lift a character out of a bad fix wasn’t effective enough, whereas the system designed to implement consequences on the characters was quite effective.
These outcomes were the result of system creep – the addition and slight modification of the game rules over time, to add in this, insert that cool concept, and adjust the other thing. The math stacked up – on average – but if you happened to get behind it could become a vicious cycle.
Ironically the changes required to fix these issues pushed the game closer to the original rules, and as is so often the case, good changes came from pulling things out rather than adding things in.
In Ganymede Outriders players can spend their character’s Stress (a resource) to roll extra dice – why did I think that stipulating that this choice had to be made before the dice were rolled was a good idea? Well, I thought it added a fun push your luck element. The real result was that a player might try and push their luck, and just roll badly, lose Stress, which can lead to negative consequences, and things would only get worse from there. Not a fun element after all – and one that forced players to make a choice based on limited information. Removing that stipulation – that you have to decide before you roll the dice – was a small and simple change, but one that fed the push your luck feel rather than limited it. A player can roll, get close to a success, and decide to push their luck based on known information, rather than just gamble that they’ll need the extra dice. A small change, but one that had a profound effect on the feel of the game. Players were much more willing to spend their Stress to gain those extra dice because they could see that they were only a small step away from the outcome they wanted. The cogs I had hoped would work well but felt like they were grinding were suddenly spinning together smoothly.
It’s just one small example picked from many possible examples, one example of a rule that might have been easy to overlook, but which was having a negative impact on the very system it was designed to compliment. The adjustment – a simple enough change – is easy to write off as inconsequential on paper, but in fact has a significant impact on how the system feels in play.
Playtesting is important.
Ganymede Outriders is, I think, a pretty fun game system, and a pretty fun setting. When it releases it will be a small pocket-sized book jam-packed with game. When it’s released it will come with digital files that include a rules overview of the system, and a playthrough example. The rules themselves – the Drift System – and the setting of course – will all be available under the Caradoc Games Third Party License – so if you’re a creative and want to create adventures, new settings, or whole new games using the Drift System – you absolutely can, and you don’t have to pay a tithe to do so.
2022 was an interesting year, for myself personally it has meant some significant change, for Caradoc Games it’s been a year of overcoming complications and trying out some new things.
Looking back over 2022 from a ‘games and writing perspective’, I have achieved a number of things this year. I finalised, printed, and fulfilled Foundlings. I ran a Kickstarter for Owlbear Omelette. I designed and wrote Prisoners of the Elf King. And I have almost fully developed the next game, slated for the second quarter of 2023: Ganymede Outriders.
It sounds like a lot, and I suppose it is, but I also felt like I did a lot more than I actually did. On reflection, the key reason I didn’t get as much ‘game related’ stuff done as I had planned or thought I might was because of how busy my own life was outside of Caradoc Games. In 2022 I worked full time as a teacher, I also worked some 20 hours a week coaching gymnastics, and then worked on Caradoc Games related stuff outside of that. I have three very active kids, and family life is important. If I got less done on games than I had intended I think I can give myself a break – this year was busy!
One other significant change that happened this year was that I stepped away from the classroom after nearly 20 years as a teacher, and took over the management of a gymnastics center. All of this happened at the same time the little country town I call home flooded. The gym was forced to move locations and the weeks from the floods to the recovery were massive. While this chaotic start to a new career was interesting, to say the least, I really am hoping for a more stable year to come. I loved coaching throughout 2022, and am looking forward to what the new year brings.
So back to game related stuff. The year started with Foundlings, and it was a rocky start. Originally I had intended to fulfill Foundlings through my own webstore, but an error I couldn’t work out in the coupon system was taking time to resolve. In the end I opted to run a pledge manager through Gamefound, which was… interesting. While it took more time than I had planned for, I am thrilled to say that Foundlings was successfully fulfilled, if a little late. This game seems to have done well post-kickstarter, and I ended up having to order a second printing not long after the first. I hope it continues to do well, I really like this little game, and I think it uses some really fun rules. If you’re after a post-apocalyptic fantasy game, with strong environmental themes and a focus on the slow degradation any post-apocalypse brings – this game might just be for you!
The second quarter was spent getting my game Freedom or Toaster finished and laid out for the Tiny Tome – a Kickstarter run by Long Tail Games. I really like this little micro-rpg of mine, and was thrilled it got a chance to be a part of such an awesome anthology of games. As a one-shot I think Freedom or Toaster works great – it has simple resolution mechanics, a fun and funny theme (human-like robots trying to escape a busy mall to live their best lives, while human robot police hunt them down). It also has one of the best rules I have added to a game (imo): every time a robot speaks they have a noise they have to include in their speech – maybe it’s ‘beep’, maybe it’s ‘woo!’ – every time I have played Freedom or Toaster this element has been a lot of fun.
Around the same time I started work on Ganymede Outriders, a game I originally hoped I would release as a perfect bound book of something like 100 A5 pages. But…
When fulfilling Foundlings I had a number of messages from backers complaining about the high cost of shipping. Believe me, I get it. As an Aussie, shipping is a nightmare. Having the cost of shipping be about the same as the game itself – for a game which is a staple bound booklet no-less… yeah. For Foundlings I actually charged less than what it cost me to put those games in the post, and at $14 for shipping per copy – no, it was not cheap. I looking at working with a shipping partner, I looked at localised printing, and while these offered some solutions, the cost in currency conversion between AUD and USD meant that any savings I could pass on were negligible or non-existent.
My plans to make bigger books with Ganymede Outriders and Heralds was only going to mean bigger shipping costs, but what if I went smaller instead? What if I could send something in a DL envelope? That would cost about $4 AUD for international shipping.
The plan for Owlbear Omelette was hatched.
Owlbear Omelette was a game I had originally released in 2019. I chose to revamp the game for this little experiment, and converted it into a 36 page staple bound A6 booklet. I reworked the rules, added some fun new options, redesigned and added a bunch of random tables for generating a dungeon or palace, and let it loose on Kickstarter. It didn’t explode, in fact, it barely scrapped over the line, but it funded. It funded and it let me trial how much cheaper and easier it could be to send stuff via DL. Owlbear Omelette wasn’t even on my radar for a re-release at the start of the year, but here we are: a successful Kickstarter fulfilled, and copies already available in retail at places like Indie Press Revolution, and soon to be at Exalted Funeral.
The experiment was a success, and this led me to work on my next game. It wasn’t that I abandoned Ganymede Outriders – that one was still percolating in the background, but I wanted to make something that was spiritually like Owlbear Omelette, something that was hopefully amusing to read and play, and that poked a bit of fun at itself and it’s genre. Prisoners of the Elf King was born.
In Prisoners of the Elf King you play as Dwarves, captured by the eponymous Elf King, and released from your cells by your burglar. Rather than climbing into barrels and getting dashed to pieces in a river, you have collectively decided to find your own way out.
Like Owlbear Omelette, this game is both the adventure and the rules system, with the rules specifically designed to engage with the themes. In Prisoners of the Elf King Dwarves can ‘Dig Deep’ to score extra successes, but if they do it to much they can release their bane. The characters all have passions – which play off the characteristics of the Dwarves in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, and if they are fulfilled the player can advance their characters. The party also has a sheet with three tracks – Fly You Fools measures how close the Dwarves are to escape. Diplomatic Incident is rolled after the game, and can mean the antics of the Dwarves lead to a massive war (Battle of the Five Armies style), and Drums in the Deep is the track that gets filled up if the Dwarves dig too deep too often.
I think the system is fun, and I got a lot of pleasure out of designing a set of rules that play with the material that inspired it. Like Owlbear Omelette this is a strongly focused game – it sets out to tell a story, and has all the rules you need to play that story. I’m thinking of calling this little line of games ‘Episodes’ – because that’s very much what it feels like. They are a different design experience to something like Corsairs, Rascals, Foundlings, or Ganymede Outriders – all of which are game systems and settings.
Prisoners of the Elf King will be hitting Kickstarter in February this year, as a part of the ZineQuest and ZiMo promotions.
Of course, with the rules for Prisoners of the Elf King done and dusted, I turned back to Ganymede Outriders. This is a game and setting, includes vehicle rules, and a travel system. I am going to try and squeeze all of that into an A6 book. Will it work? We shall see…
Toward the end of last year Thunderworks Games ran a Kickstarter for their Roll Player Adventures game. This was hugely exciting for me, as a part of this Kickstarter included the Tales of Ulos graphic novel. I wrote one of the comics in this novel: Blackjacked Buccaneers, and it was one of the most enjoyable pieces of freelance writing I have ever undertaken. You can read some thoughts about it all here. I was very pleased to see Roll Player Adventures do so well, not least for the selfish reason that I get to see a comic book I wrote go to print. And who knows, maybe we’ll see more of Kaemon and Pitlin in the future…
Well, that about wraps up the year that was. 2022 was a busy year, but I am pleased with everything I got done. It wasn’t the biggest year for Caradoc Games in terms of money made, and one of the reasons for this is because I had made the decision to move away from freelance work to focus on my own games (Blackjacked Buccaneers was the exception – I mean who could say no to writing a comic!).
The Owlbear Omelette Kickstarter raised about $1600 AUD, of that about $100 was profit, but I also sold copies into distribution, and that, for me at least, has been where my games have made the most. Online sales through my website were almost non-existent, sales on itch.io came to about $40, and DriveThruRPG sales totaled about $140 (after DTRPG took their 30% cut). Royalties from Long Tail, and sales through distribution (both Indie Press Revolution and Exalted Funeral) came to a bit over $3000. None of this includes royalties for the comic book – I expect those will start next year some time. Not a huge amount to show for the work it has taken, but all building. I now have four games in print, the experiment with cheaper shipping options was a success and has created the model for Caradoc Games moving forward, and I have two games ready for 2023. With a back catalog starting to make some money, and at least two games lined up for release next year, I hope the building I have put into this year will start to grow in 2023.
I have rambled long enough, I’ll write about my plans for 2023 in another post.
So, you’ve managed to escape the dungeons of the Elf King… But what next? While your burglar helped you slip your cages, the next steps they proposed could be generously described as ‘sketchy’, at best. So, while the burglar heads off to prepare, you and your fellow dwarves are going to find your own way out!
Yes! You’ll all be damned if you let some button-less burglar drown you in barrels, there has to be a fitter way out of this foresty fastness!
Prisoners of the Elf King is a madcap escape from the palace of the Elf King… can you and your fellow dwarves get away?
Rules for Digging Deep, for when a dwarf needs to push for extra successes (but be wary of digging too deep)!
Rules for Fortune and Misfortune, Hurts, and Helping.
Rules for Dwarf Creation
A table of secret Dwarvish Passions
Party rules, including three tracks that can affect all the characters: Fly You Fools, Diplomatic Incident, and Drums in the Deep.
Fly You Fools measures how close the Dwarves are to escape.
Diplomatic Incident: Do your antics lead to a massive war some months after your escape, and do you survive it?
Drums in the Deep: Did the Dwarves Dig too Deeply and release their bane?
A table of magic items.
A table of Elvish curses.
A selection of NPCs to face down.
8 tables for randomly generating an Elf King’s Palace, and the sorts of encounters a Dwarf might stumble across while escaping.
Prisoners of the Elf King is the next game coming from Caradoc Games. Like Owlbear Omelette, Prisoners of the Elf King is an adventure and a unique game system all wrapped up in one A6 zine. Designed for 1 Dwarf Master (DM), and between 1 and 4 other Dwarves, Prisoners of the Elf King is ideal for a one-shot, a mini-campaign of 2-4 sessions, or for convention play.
Prisoners of the Elf King will be going live on Kickstarter in February, just in time for ZineQuest and ZiMo! And if you’re curious about what either of these things are, or are keen to create your own game, then check out my Zine Resources page here.
Owlbear Omelette, our first A6 sized pocket-book style game, funded successfully on Kickstarter, has been printed and fulfilled, and is available now from the Caradoc Games webstore. Very soon, you’ll also be able to find it at Indie Press Revolution and Exalted Funeral as well! While it didn’t reach astronomical levels of funding, it funded enough.
A while ago I wrote about Owlbear Omelette as an experiment. I like making zines, and I have loved making games like Corsairs, Rascals, and Foundlings. But the increasing cost of shipping has become a problem. My last A5 zine, Foundlings, costs as much in shipping as it does for the game. This isn’t me price gouging on shipping, it’s literally what it costs. For me to post a bubble mailer just big enough for a game like Foundlings to the US costs me nearly $14 AUD. Paying as much in shipping as for a game is something people in Australia are accustomed to, but it also means we (well I certainly am) are more picky about what games we choose to buy and when. I got some kickback from some Foundlings backers about the cost of shipping, and while I completely sympathize, I charged less than what it actually cost. Owlbear Omelette was an experiment in how I could do better by my international customers, could I make a game I was happy with, and make sure it was sized in such a way as to drastically reduce the cost of shipping it?
Moving to A6 has meant I was able to keep shipping costs to a minimum, and while this format has presented some limitations and challenges, it has also provided opportunities. Owlbear Omelette was a proof of concept – I wanted to see what I could do with an A6 format, something that I could comfortably get away with sending in a DL envelope. How much game could fit into 36 A6 pages? How much did I need to sacrifice from the sort of games I have enjoyed making (like Corsairs, Rascals, and Foundlings)? How much would shipping actually end up costing?
Shipping from Australia to the US costs me about $4 AUD, a full $10 cheaper than an A5 booklet. Yes, there are sacrifices in terms of how much detail I can cram into the space available, but I feel that Owlbear Omelette is a lot of game content in a small package, and it doesn’t cost too much to put in the post. I am happy with the results so far, and it will mean (for a little while at least), that you’ll be seeing more A6 formatted games coming from Caradoc Games.
While all my other games have been a full RPG, albeit in an A5 zine style booklet, Owlbear Omelette took a slightly different approach. It hyper-focused on a story, and everything was designed to lean into that story. It was, in essence, an adventure and a rules system bundled together – with the rules designed to make the most of the story. I wasn’t sure whether it would fund, I wasn’t sure if it would work, and I especially wasn’t sure if it would end up being cheaper for backers in terms of production and shipping. I am happy to say it succeeded on all the metrics I had hoped it would. Sure it didn’t over fund to a great extent, but it funded enough. Enough means I didn’t lose money. Enough is hopefully a good start to building an audience for this sort of game from Caradoc Games.
Owlbear Omelette is out in the world, available from the Caradoc Games store, and soon to be available from indie RPG powerhouses: Indie Press Revolution and Exalted Funeral. Hopefully those who pick it up will have a laugh, and if they play it, I hope they have a blast. Lastly I hope that Owlbear Omelette has done it’s job – proving a proof of concept, and will be the first of many little games from Caradoc Games, where the cost of shipping isn’t going to sour the deal.
In Prisoners of the Elf King you play a group of dwarves who have just managed to break free of the cells you were unfairly placed in under the orders of the Elf King. While your burglar helped you slip your cages, the next steps they proposed could be generously described as ‘sketchy’, at best. So, while the burglar heads off to prepare, you and your fellow dwarves are going to find your own way out!
Yes! You’ll all be damned if you let some button-less burglar drown you in barrels, there has to be a fitter way out of this foresty fastness!
Prisoners of the Elf King, like Owlbear Omelette, is a self contained adventure and rules system. The rules have been especially designed to play on the story and themes of the game. You are Dwarves, and naturally, when needed, you can dig deep to get the successes you might desire. But be wary of digging too deep! There are a bunch of fun rules in this game, some for the individual Dwarves to have fun with, some that impact the entire group. I am proud of this little game, and can’t wait to share more about it!
Prisoners of the Elf King is fully written and laid out, I’m waiting only on the art. With Christmas around the corner, I think any attempt to launch this game will be better held for next year. So… Prisoners of the Elf King will be coming to Kickstarter in February next year, just in time for the 2023 ZineQuest promotion.