The year that was…

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.

Early Reflections – Owlbear Omelette

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.

What’s the next A6 game from Caradoc Games?

Prisoners of the Elf King

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.

Rascals is a Finalist…

I was much thrilled and excited to receive the news that Rascals is a finalist in the Freeplay Game Awards Non-Digital Category. Winners of the awards will be announced on the 27th of June, at 7.30pm AEST, and the ceremony can be followed on the Freeplay YouTube Channel here.

To see Rascals listed alongside so many other wonderful games is a real thrill, win or lose, it is a great honour! I thoroughly recommend checking out the other finalists at the link above, they are truly wonderful games!


A short reminder: if you missed the Kickstarter, and are keen to get in on the action, you can find Rascals on the Caradoc Games Webstore here. You can also find it on DriveThruRPG and Itch.io.

For anyone interested, the TableTop Simulator DLC is a great way to play Rascals remotely, and can be found here.

Speaking of the DLC… using the card images I made for TableTop Simulator, and the wonderful art from Juan Ochoa, there is a deck of premium poker cards available print-on-demand from DriveThruRPG, and you can find them here.


Heralds

Some choose the path, some are chosen, others are called. All accept the risk; all know from scar and memory; the path is not easy. Across rock and ice, through canyons deep and valleys strange, under brutal sun and violent storm, on old paths and new, so venture the Heralds.

The cover, as it stands right now…


Heralds is a post-apocalyptic fantasy RPG, which I am hoping will hit Kickstarter later this year. I am really excited about this game, and it will mark a number of firsts for Caradoc Games. It will be a perfect bound book, and at somewhere around 100 pages, will be the largest game we have released to date. It will also be published in full-colour, with art throughout from the amazing Andie Lugtu.

Andie’s art is absolutely stunning, and I can’t wait to share some of the other pieces he has created for Heralds.


Stockists

On the Caradoc Games website, I have updated our list of stockists, and included links to their stores. If you are after a physical copy of Corsairs or Rascals, and want to buy from somewhere in the US, Canada, or the UK, check out our Stockists Page here for the links! More will be added soon!

Winging away…

Rascals is in the post and winging it’s way around the world!

After a mildly stressful beginning, the Rascals Kickstarter has been fulfilled. So what was the stressful part? Well, full of excitement, I marched into the post office with the intention of sending off Rascals. The postal worker informed me, that due to Covid, Rascals would be treated as ‘parcels’ instead of ‘letters’. A difference that would mean the cost for shipping each copy of Rascals would more than double, and that the money gathered for shipping was no where near enough to cover what I was told it was now going to cost. After recovering from the mild fit my heart decided to undertake at this news, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and legged it.

I was fairly confident I had done my due diligence, and had researched the shipping costs properly, but by the same token, Covid has had a way of changing things rapidly. Add to this that fact that being told a thing by a person who should know has a way of getting one to question one’s own reality, and I was ‘somewhat’ concerned.

After undertaking some more research, and finding that I had been correct after all, I decided the best course of action was to try my chances at a different post office. Thankfully the people there were wonderful, took everything in hand, and to cut a long story short: Rascals is in the post.

Now seems a good time to mention that in addition to Rascals you can also download the adventure module, Operation: Bramble, get a copy of the official card deck, as well as make full use of the Rascals DLC for TableTop Simulator​.

I have been thrilled to see some photos from people locally who already have their copies, it is wonderful to finally see the game in the wild!

 

State of Play

After some delays, Rascals is being prepped and packaged, ready to post… I have finished all of the ‘One-of-a-Kind’ backer level pieces, which ended up including a lot more of my drawings than I had expected (my humble apologies to everyone who is about to get more of my attempts to ‘art’ than they bargained for)!

For anyone interested, the TableTop Simulator DLC is a great way to play Rascals remotely, and can be found here.

Speaking of the DLC… using the card images I made for TableTop Simulator, and the wonderful art from Juan Ochoa, there is a deck of premium poker cards available print-on-demand from DriveThruRPG, and you can find them here.

Below is a link to survey about the future of Rascals. If you have, or are interested in Rascals I am keen to read what you would like to see next…

What’s next for Rascals?

Heralds

I’ve written about Heralds previously, it was originally the game I had intended to release for ZineQuest 3, but as I worked on it I realised it needed to be a larger game than would fit comfortably in a zine format. Heralds will be the largest game I have produced so far, and I am really excited to see it taking shape!

So what is Heralds?

Some choose the path, some are chosen, others are called. All accept the risk; all know from scar and memory; the path is not easy. Across rock and ice, through canyons deep and valleys strange, under brutal sun and violent storm, on old paths and new, so venture the Heralds.

Heralds is set in the world of Ashmerl, a world where the ebb of magic has had a profound impact. What was once a united empire has been smashed apart, the old low-ways of the World Beneath, which joined the many Enclaves of the World Above are sealed now, too dangerous to travel. Enclaves which once bustled with trade and wealth have been separated, and forced to survive alone as best they could…

The characters are Heralds of their Enclave, daring the hazardous paths over mountain paths and unknown valleys, looking to reconnect what once was whole. But as the world has changed, so too have the people.

In Heralds, the Enclave where the characters grew up is a vital living element of the game. As players make their characters, they will also build their Enclave: map and history. As a group plays, the characters will grow, change, and develop, and so too will the Enclave.

I am hoping that Heralds will hit Kickstarter a little later this year. I won’t say much more than that right now, as development and writing are still ongoing; but I will have more to share over the next couple of months. Until then, here is an early draft of the cover, with art by the supremely talented Andie Lugtu…

 

I had a few people message to ask about physical copies of my RPG of sky ships and floating islands: Corsairs. I am thrilled to say that physical copies of this zine are now back in stock on the  webstore here.

Or, if you’re US based you can get a copy from Spear Witch, here.

Or in Canada, from Monkey’s Paw Games, here.

I think I have said enough this time around, until next time…

Giles.

Rascals is available now!

It’s been a busy few weeks. The Kickstarter for Rascals finished midway through last month, and since then I have not been idle…

First, and most importantly, Rascals is available now! You can head to the shop and find the Rascals PDF, or preorder the print copy, as well as snag a copy of the adventure module Operation: Bramble.

Rascals is a science fiction role playing game of action and adventure. You play as ex-special forces, operatives, or crooks, who managed to escape their old lives… peace is a reward only briefly tasted, as something terrible is happening in the shadows that pulls you back into your old lives. Rascals uses it’s own game engine, utilising traditional playing cards and poker chips (I’m hoping to have a deck of Rascals themed cards available as a POD soon). You can check out a free DLC for playing Rascals online through TableTop Simulator here.

Operation: Bramble is an adventure module for Rascals, but could equally be used in any science fiction game. It includes a background and operational outline, as well as the backgrounds, plans, and approaches of three potential adversary groups for the player characters to tangle with. Each adversary group is flavoured differently, meaning the adventure has multiple options to suit the different sorts themes, pacing, and styles that your play group might prefer. After a game with an emphasis on fast paced and over the top action? Prefer a high-tech surgical op? Or maybe a more straight-forward military op is the order of the day… Of course, you can mix and match as desired. Operation: Bramble is a 16 page adventure module, which includes a section that can be used as a player handout, and can be downloaded for free.

Of course, as well as being available through the Caradoc Games webstore, Rascals is also available through Itch.io and DriveThruRPG.

I’ve sent the files for Rascals off to the printer, and ordered a second run of Corsairs, and both will be available as physical copies from the webstore soon.

Speaking of Corsairs, I recently went back and updated the rules file for Corsairs. As well as fixing up a few errors, and making a few minor clarifications, I went through and added a bunch of bookmarks and hyperlinks that should make navigating the book a whole lot easier. If you purchased Corsairs here, through Itch.io, or on DriveThruRPG, you should be able to find the updated files there!

Lastly, I am slowly building up a list of stockists… a number of stores around the world where you can grab copies of Corsairs (and soon, Rascals). You can find our list of stockists here, and it’s a list that I hope we will continue to grow!

Rascals is live!

Rascals is live on Kickstarter now! You can check the project page out here.

On the project page I preview some of the wonderful art created by Juan Ochoa, and you can also see my first foray into creating a project video…

I’m really thrilled with how this project has come together, the black and white interior, supported by the sublime artwork of Juan Ochoa, looks really nice (in my very biased opinion). I can’t wait to see how the project goes!

On the Cards… A Question of Design

You’ve been called back. Back to the life you thought you had escaped. A foul plot is afoot…

Rascals is an action-adventure science fiction role playing game. It was inspired by such movies as Rogue One, Bourne, The Dirty Dozen, and so on.

Rascals uses traditional playing cards as the core engine for resolving skills tests and challenges. Today I want to talk a little about how this works, and some of the design decisions I made when creating this system.

You can find the pre-launch page to Rascals here, hit Notify to follow the project…

Context

Before I delve into why I made the system this way we need to know how the system actually works.

In Rascals each player will have a hand of cards. When a player undertakes a Challenge, or Reacts to something, they will play a card from their hand into the middle of the table (called the Pot). The GM (called the House), will also play a card according to the Difficulty of the Challenge or React.

  • Easy: The House will draw two cards, will discard the higher card face up, and play the lower card face down into the pot.
  • Average: The House will draw and play a card to the pot.
  • Hard: The House will draw two cards, will discard one face up, and play the other one (note that the House can choose which to play).

Discarding a card face up in an Easy or Hard Challenge will give the player some indication of what they need to succeed. The House may choose the card to play in a Hard challenge, because many adversaries have abilities that can be activated when they play a card of a specific suit. Sure the House may play a card thinking they have a good chance of losing the Challenge, but it might mean that the Adversary gets to do something extra, or special…

Players will redraw cards on Reactions, but not for Challenges they undertake. Cards are the characters inspiration, their drive, and their focus. If they get caught in a series of Challenges – a chase, a complicated engineering problem, heated debate, or firefight, their hand will slowly dwindle. Their options will contract…

Why?

Because in the movies this game is inspired by there is always that dramatic narrative, the heroes are challenged, they are set upon, beat down, they escape and struggle, thrown from one bad situation into another, they are running out of options, out of luck…

Until…

They manage to duck into a cafe and avoid pursuit, find that vet’s clinic and patch themselves up, or lay low in a dive-hotel, giving them a chance to reset, draw breath, plan…

This is the drive behind Rascals, the second act, the false victory leading to despair up to the point where all seems lost, but…

The purpose of this system is to have the characters pushed, to stress their hand and their Hustle (that’s another post), encouraging the players to find ways their characters can break the momentum, change the scene, take control, seize the initiative.

When characters find space in a scene they can use a Second Wind to regain cards or heal some, if they escape a scene they can redraw their hand… it’s about movement and momentum. About changing the ground. It’s about the characters, beat down and hurting, relentlessly pursued, struggling as they roll from one encounter to another, and finally managing to find space, time, to catch their breath, to reform…

This momentum swing – in a narrative arc going from the second to third act and back again – is exactly what the card system in Rascals is designed to reflect. Players should start feeling powerful and in control, slowly feel the pressure mounting as the action builds, then feel the drive to force change – a change of momentum, a change in scene, an escape and reprieve…

Rascals is all about that second act, when things start going sideways for our heroes, when, in the movie theatre, we are on the edge of our seats waiting to see how they’ll escape this one… and the relief and excitement when they do, when they pause the tempo, when they manage to find a way to wrest back control.

Did I mention the prelaunch page? It’s here… go hit Notify!

mockups-design.com

Rascals, in 3, 2, 1…

Rascals is preparing for launch… Find the prelaunch page and follow along here.

Rascals is a science fiction table top role playing game of action and adventure. The game system uses traditional playing cards and poker chips, and is designed to bring the tension, twists of fortune, and calculated gambles of action adventure stories to the fore. Rascals is ideal for 2-5 players, including the GM.

You are Rascals: ex-special forces, spies, or crooks. Hard boiled types who worked together in the hottest zones during the former unpleasantness. You were some of the few who managed to get out, make a new life, but something has changed all that…

Now the old crew is together again, you Rascals who survived the bloody final years of terrible war, have been pulled back. An abominable plot is unfolding in secret… 

From high-tech cityscapes to shattered habitation domes, through the heaving corridors of stations in chaos to empty transfer stations and the broken worlds beyond… Where will your path lead, and what awaits at journey’s end?

At 36 interior pages, with a 4 page cover, Rascals is bigger than my previous game: Corsairs. Inside you will find the rules for character creation and play, as well as rules for vehicles and space ships. A part of the rules includes a system the GM (called the House) can use to generate the problem the characters face, as well as which character or characters is somehow tied to it.

In addition to the physical zine, when Rascals drops after the Kickstarter ends, I will be adding a free DLC to the Table Top Simulator Workshop, which includes cards, chips, editable character sheets, and everything you need to play the game.

A work in progress… And a big shout out to Michael Jamieson who helped put this together!

Rascals is perfect for an action-fueled campaign, follow the prelaunch page to get notified when it launches!