Corsairs – Set to Sail

14 Days. That was the length of the Corsairs Kickstarter Campaign for the ZineQuest. Before launch I had my worries, I had my doubts, I had a cynical and self-deprecating voice in the back of my mind telling me Corsairs would fail. It didn’t.

236 Backers raised over $4000 AUD to help make Corsairs a reality. We hit a funding level of 274% and unlocked three stretch goals. We unlocked a better quality zine, improved art from Felicity Haworth, and two further PDF zines that will expand the Corsairs rules and setting.

I’m not sure how I feel. On one hand I am stunned, shocked, thrilled and excited, and on the other I am daunted by the challenge that lies ahead, and the worry that I can still muck it up. Replacing the concern that no-one would be interested and that the Kickstarter would languish unnoticed and forgotten is the concern that people who get the zine will be largely unimpressed. Such is the journey of anybody who creates content in the hope that others will like it I suppose! I cannot sit in a puddle of idle self-doubt, I have 236 people to thank and a successful Kickstarter campaign to celebrate! So onward!

An early test print.

Over the course of the Kickstarter campaign I wrote 23 updates counting something like 13,000 words all told, I did one interview, tweeted a lot, and gave shout outs in my updates to 23 other Kickstarter ZineQuest campaigns. I got a lot of feedback, a huge amount of support, and was stunned when the campaign funded on the second day, and hit 274% of the funding level by the time it wound to a close.

It’s been a roller coaster. I have learned a lot, and I recognise that I have much yet to do and learn. I am looking forward to the chance to officially commission Felicity to complete the artwork for Corsairs, and excited to see how it will all come together including her wonderful artwork. I have two source-zines to write: Smoke and Oakum, which will expand the rules for sky ships and sailing, and Speed, Strength, and Wits, which will expand the rules for characters. Through both I hope to also expand the setting and lore of the Molten Sea and the famed Floating Islands, as well as layering in as many adventure seeds as I can. All in good time! For now I have some freelance work to complete while I wait for Kickstarter to process the campaign. Once this is done I will be taking time out to finish Corsairs, and make the rules book and the source-zines that follow it as wonderful, and full of value for my backers as I can.

Playtesting was a lot of fun!

All in all Corsairs has me wondering about the viability of running a small zine campaign again later in the year. Yes it would be outside of the ZineQuest promotion, and that I have no doubt would significantly impact visibility, but I had a great time running the Corsairs kickstarter campaign… I got to interact with a wide range of wonderful and supportive people from gamers to designers and fellow zine-questers, and generally had a lot of fun. Then again, maybe I should instead focus my attention on my larger fantasy RPG: Ashmerl… Decisions… we shall see!

Corsairs – Characters

Corsairs will be coming to Kickstarter as a part of the ZineQuest in a few days time. In the lead up I wanted to show a few of the details, and today that means talking about characters!

You can tell a lot about a role playing game from the character sheet, and this is the character sheet for Corsairs:

Characters are built around their statistics: Finesse, Might, and Wits. This dictates the base number of D6 rolled when a character is attempting a task. Each statistic has three linked skills, and these will provide bonus dice a character may roll, and can be improved with experience.

Characters also have Luck points, and these may be used to modify dice, or to add some narrative element or device to the game that aids the character in their hour of need!

As the pirates close in on poor old Edward Evans he stumbles across a small gully, Evan’s player spends a luck point and states that in the gully are some picketed horses… just in the nick of time!

Characters will also have positive and negative relationships with the other characters in the group. In our playtests Del Fuego had a negative relationship with Scarred Pete because Pete’s Monkey nearly pulled out Del Fuego’s infamous moustache.

Relationships provide a benefit or impose a negative effect when the characters are working together and helping each other out.

Characters have gear! Each character will also begin the game with one special item. Scarred Pete had his monkey, Del Fuego had his moustache. Special items provide a bonus to one skill.

At the bottom of each character sheet has a Damage chart, which is where a player tracks how injured a character is. Injuries can mean negative effects for the characters, like the Cursed condition. The Damage chart also shows how difficult the injuries are to heal…

Lastly, most characters will have a role on ship, this will mean certain jobs they are in charge of when a ship is getting ready, plotting a course, sailing, or locked broadside to broadside with an enemy!

Corsairs will launch on February 2nd! Check out the pre-launch page here, and click to get notified when it launches!

Corsairs – Coming Soon to Kickstarter!

The Corsairs Kickstarter preview is up! Check it out here!

Corsairs will go live for Kickstarter’s ZineQuest on February 2nd.


Corsairs is a 32 page RPG zine of sky ships, floating islands, and high adventure! All the expected rules are there: actions, combat, giving a foe a damned good tongue lashing, Corsairs even includes rules for sky-ships and broadsides!

Corsairs does not include a GM chapter, or the usual ‘What is an RPG’ section, but it is choc full of rules, Scoundrels, and background. It also includes a Summary page, a character sheet, and a ship sheet.

Again, you can check it out here!

Zine Quest – Starting Line In Sight…

For the briefest of moments I was going to title this: Finish line in sight… but then I came to my senses. The starting line is in sight, and the kickstarter page for Corsairs is almost ready to be submitted for approval. I need to make some small final adjustments, run over the maths again for the millionth time, and hit submit… it is close!

The bleed has been adjusted (I made an error with the cover that has been fixed), and the finished book will use a light blue cover stock.

A part of all the organisation and planning that has gone into this is sorting out the costs of shipping. Shipping from Australia is expensive, and maybe, just maybe, the currency conversion rates for the weak Australian dollar in comparison to the US dollar, the Euro, or the Pound, will make a difference, but the fact remains: shipping from Australia is expensive. Working out exactly what those incidental costs will be is important. The cost of printing the zine is A, the cost of art, writing, and all those other creative parts B, the cost of shipping is C, and the cost of the shipping materials is D.

The cover is 250gsm stock, while the interior pages are 100gsm. The zine is saddle stitched, and printed in black and white. Again, the printed book will have a light blue cover.

A+B+C+D is what the zine costs me, to send to you, the backer. I have quotes for A, a cost for B, and know what D will be. The cost of C, shipping, is dependent on weight. The weight of the zine, the weight of the packaging, and the added weight of shipping labels and so forth.

To aid in this process, and to make sure everything is ready to roll as it should be, I have had a test book printed. This proof helps me for a number of reasons, one: I can test the actual finished weight of the zine. Two, I can make any adjustments required (already I can see that aspects of the character sheet are too close to the gutter and need to be adjusted), and so on. Plus, it is super nice to hold a physical copy of the zine, and to see what it will look like.

It should be noted that the print proof is not using blue stock for the cover (as the finished zine will), but all the paper weights are correct and accurate, and will give me the information I need to move forward with shipping estimates. I must say that I am rather happy with the finished product. A neat, nice looking little booklet that contains all the rules required to go a-plundering the ships and shipping lanes of the Alderil Empire in a sky ship are present and correct! Very nice!

A sneak peek at the contents – all the rules and background included. Rules for characters and actions, rules for creating characters, rules for ships and ship to ship combat, rules and lists of equipment, scoundrels, a quick reference, and the obligatory character and ship sheets!
Also, my playtesters complained that I didn’t mention all the arson they undertook in the dedication, and to be fair to them, there was a lot of it.

Zine Quest – Shipping from Down Under

I went to a local post office. I figured it was better to speak to someone with expertise rather than noodle around on the Australia Post website for hours to find the same information.

“If I was interested in sending an A5 booklet. This size (I had two samples). What would the cost be to post domestically? Internationally? To the US? The UK? Europe? China? etc…

Before too long the scales held the samples (both), and a price was forthcoming.

“How much?”

Shipping from Australia is expensive. Hell, shipping to Australia is expensive, in the instances when I have purchased games from overseas the shipping has often cost more than the game.

Shipping domestically is fairly well priced, a little over a dollar for something like an A5 Zine, plus the cost of the envelope it is put in.

Shipping internationally, wow.

A5 booklets can be sent as letters in the appropriate packaging, packaging from Australia Post can cost anywhere between $50 for 100 envelopes, through to $90, depending on the quality. In other places, like Office Works or similar stores that specialise in stationary and office supplies, you can find cheaper alternatives.

Postage costs, in the case a zine being sent as a letter, are based on weight. If the total weight (the weight of the booklet and the envelope together) is less than 50g, then the cost to send to most places internationally is $3.20. Between 50g and 125g, and the price jumps to $8.30. If it’s between 125g and 225g, the prices jumps again to $13.50, and beyond that and you’re probably not sending a zine.

So I’m waiting for the printer to get back to me with options and projected weights, and the choice here lies somewhere between getting as low a weight as possible and maintaining a level of quality.

The postage costs are high, which makes them difficult to roll into a backing level in the case of the Zine Quest. If my zine ends up weighing over 50g (envelope included), which is likely, it will mean adding or absorbing $8.30 on top of the cost of printing, and on top of any additional margin for losses, profits, and so on).

What does this mean for the Corsairs Kickstarter? Well, if the weight is over 50g, which is likely, it means that I will likely charge for shipping on top of the cost of the Zine – backing levels will be set at x, shipping at y, and backers who want a physical copy will be required to pay x+y.

If, in the unlikely scenario, that the weight is beneath 50g, then I may be able to increase the cost of the backing level for the physical Zine slightly, and absorb some of the shipping costs. Is the prospect of ‘free shipping’ worth it? What will it bring to the campaign? These are questions I need to ask myself.

On the upside the Australia dollar is fairly weak compared to most major currencies, so my $8.30 (well, $8.30 plus the cost of the envelope) for shipping translates to about $5.70 USD, €5.15 EUR, ₤4.5 GPB, $7.5 CAD, or ¥39.5 CNY. Perhaps that makes it more palatable, perhaps it doesn’t…

All food for thought!

Zine Quest – Moving Forward

Tentative cover…

As Zine Quest approaches with the unstoppable momentum of… a… a thing with unstoppable momentum, preparations are well underway. The rules are fairly well finalised, and playtesting continues apace. Layout is almost complete, though I have a few more pieces of art to finish. I have finished the cover, and have investigated shipping costs. I still need to confirm with the publisher, and finalise the weight of the zine, which will give me the final shipping costs, but everything is moving, and generally speaking, it’s moving forward.

Prior to Zine Quest, everything has since been modified to accommodate the KS rules for colour.

It has been a lot of fun running through playtests, we’re currently in the process of testing a mini-campaign that will be available as a stretch goal, should Corsairs make it that far. There has been much chaos, many fires, and even a riot or two in the ports of the floating island of Teboa. All good fun!

Playtesting with the old character and ship sheets, but with the new rules.

Over the course of playtesting, we have changed a bunch of the smaller rules, streamlined some others, and heavily modified stats throughout. Playtesting is such a valuable process. I was thrilled the core mechanisms held together and work well, but playtesting has helped everything else. The book has been significantly restructured as a result of feedback, as well as a result of flipping through to find things during play. If I had my time over, I wouldn’t draft the zine in a layout program like Affinity – I would write it in word, and transfer it to Affinity, but it has been a hell of a learning process, and I feel much more comfortable dealing with Affinity had I done it the other way around.

The manor house, storage sheds and stables are all on fire… it was meant to be such a simple mission!

At the moment I am working through a list of updates, creating the Kickstarter page, and working on ideas for Stretch Goals. When I get the final weights from the printer, I will be in a better place to set the funding goal, backing levels, and make the choice about whether to roll shipping into the price, or to charge for it separately. Being in Australia has some serious implications for shipping, and everything comes back to weight, but I’ll write more about this another day.

With everything coming together, albeit slowly, I am hoping that Corsairs will be launched as a part of the Zine Quest in the first or second week of February! Keep your patchless eye open for it!