Smoke and Oakum has Launched!

Smoke and Oakum is the first supplement for the Corsairs RPG; and delves into the world of Sky Ships and sailing the skies of the Molten Seas.

In it you will be able to find rules and guidelines covering:

  • The effects of fair weather or challenging winds.
  • Rules for encounters with storms, shoals, and more of the dangers that can foul a sky ship.
  • Guidelines for running a crew or factions within a crew on board a ship.
  • 6 new Conditions that can have a serious impact on a ship and it’s crew.
  • Rules for chases which expand on the recommendations in the core rules, and include bonuses and setbacks for starting a chase at a lower or higher level than the target ship.
  • A ship may gain a Reputation, or be upgraded, and there are a range of upgrade options from a Figurehead to larger cannons all of which can make a ship better, more fearsome, or more dangerous.
  • Two collections of stat blocks for enemies a Corsair Sky Ship might face off against, one titled ‘Sails Ho’, and the other ‘Here There Be Dragons’…

Sitting at 32 pages from front cover to back cover Smoke and Oakum is almost as big as the core rules.

Of course, Smoke and Oakum also includes more of Felicity Haworth’s wonderful art, and I hope you love how she has brought the world to life as much as I do!

Also included is a new and updated Ship Sheet, including room for marking a ship’s Point of Sail, details on the Crew, and other sections to accommodate the added rules in Smoke and Oakum. There is a page of Condition Cards, which may be printed and cut out to help track the conditions player characters or a ship might be suffering from at any given time. As well as a faction sheet, for play groups who want to delve into the murky waters of a conflicted crew.

Smoke and Oakum is a supplement that adds new material geared toward making your play experience as Corsairs sailing their infamous sky ships a more interesting, dramatic, and exciting experience!

You can find Corsairs on DriveThruRPG here.

You can find Corsairs on Itch.io here.

For those who love the art in Corsairs as much as I do, the artist is Felicity Haworth, and you can find her work here.

Smoke and Oakum

Smoke and Oakum is the first supplement for the Corsairs RPG, and delves into the subject of Sky Ships and sailing the skies of the Molten Seas.

Sitting at 32 pages from front cover to back cover it is almost as big as the core rules, and covers a lot of ground. In it you will be able to find rules and suggestions covering a slew of topics, from the effects of fair weather or challenging winds, to rules for encounters with storms, shoals, and more of the dangers that can foul a sky ship. There are guidelines for running a crew or factions within a crew on board a ship. 6 new Conditions that can have a serious impact on a ship and it’s crew. There are rules for chases which expand on the recommendations in the core rules, and include bonuses and setbacks for starting a chase at a lower or higher level than the target ship. A ship may gain a Reputation, or be upgraded, and there are a range of upgrade options from a Figurehead to larger cannons all of which can make a ship better, more fearsome, or more dangerous. Of course, Smoke and Oakum also includes more of Felicity Haworth’s wonderful art, and I hope you love how she has brought the world to life as much as I do!

Also included are two sets of stat blocks for enemies a Corsair Sky Ship might face off against, one titled ‘Sails Ho’, and the other ‘Here There Be Dragons’, and I’ll leave it to you to imagine what might be covered in the second!

At the back of the book is a new and updated Ship Sheet, including room for marking a ship’s Point of Sail, details on the Crew, and other sections to accommodate the added rules in the book. Lastly there is a page of Condition Cards, which may be printed and cut out to help track the conditions player characters or a ship might be suffering from at any given time. In short, Smoke and Oakum is a supplement that adds a lot of new material, all of it geared toward making your play experience as Corsairs sailing their infamous sky ships a more interesting, and nuanced experience. I am really thrilled with how Smoke and Oakum has come together, and I hope anyone who snags a copy of Smoke and Oakum will get a lot from the book!

I expect Smoke and Oakum to be available from DriveThruRPG and Itch.io within the next ten days, and I’m really excited to read what people think!

Speaking of which… if you have a copy of Corsairs consider heading to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io and giving it a rating or review, these things really help, and are very much appreciated! If you missed the Kicksarter and are interested in a physical copy of the zine, there are still some copies left from the print run, contact me at caradocgames@gmail.com for details. I am looking at a bunch of options to allow me to sell physical and digital products online at the moment, but I haven’t made any decisions on that front just yet.

Phew… So what’s next? Well, I am currently working away at Speed, Strength, and Wits, which will take a look at characters in the same way Smoke and Oakum took a look at Sky Ships and sailing. Beyond that… who knows. I am working on an adventure at the moment that I may just write up and put up for sale, and I have a half a dozen things I would have liked to include in Smoke and Oakum but just wasn’t able to fit in. If there is interest, I am keen to keep developing the Corsairs world!

Beyond Corsairs I am working on a new RPG setting and system that I was hoping to launch later this year, but which I may just hold on to in anticipation of next year’s ZineQuest (presuming Kickstarter run it again). I am really digging the theme and world I am currently developing, so we’ll see how it progresses!

Lastly, if you want to keep up with Corsairs, and everything else happening at Caradoc Games, head here to join our mailing list, or follow us on twitter @caradocp or @caradocgames

Sailing on Fair Winds…

Corsairs has been shipped. After receiving everything, my wife and I spent a couple of days packaging the games up, printing labels, and preparing, and today I took them to the post office and off they went…

Before

It was a surreal and uplifting feeling, handing them over in their stacks – this stack to Aussie addresses, this stack to the UK and Europe, this to the US… but it is done! I do not doubt there will be delays, given the pandemic sweeping the globe everything has slowed down and mail is one of those things that has been impacted, but the journey has begun!

After…

Shipping, all added together, was the most expensive part of making Corsairs. Over a quarter of the money made from the Kickstarter went toward paying for shipping costs. I would have loved to have been able to charge less, but shipping from (and to) Australia is expensive. It was one of the reasons I had both a PDF and physical option on the Kickstarter, and I was honestly surprised that far more people wanted a physical copy, than backed for the PDF only. I have to admit that I really like having a physical copy of my games and books myself, so I shouldn’t be that surprised! I really hope that when Corsairs arrives you enjoy it. That you enjoy reading it, enjoy the feel and look of it, and enjoy playing it.

If you get the chance, please consider heading over to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io and give the game a rating; ratings and reviews help immensely!

In any case, with that out of the way I am now focused fully on Smoke and Oakum. The final draft is mostly written, so things are getting close! I am hoping to have Smoke and Oakum out by the end of August, but we shall see how we go! The art is in, and it’s looking amazing. I can’t wait for you to see it!

I’ll be writing a bit more about Smoke and Oakum in the next update, until then I wish you a fair wind!

Set in Stone…

A little later today the files for Corsairs will be heading off to the printer. At this point, everything is set in stone. I am nervous, and excited. Once printing is finished we will begin the process of fulfilling the physical copies of Corsairs!

In other news, progress on the follow up zines has been slow, but ongoing. There are some fun new things for Ships and Sailing in the upcoming release Smoke and Oakum, and expanded options for characters and development that I think add some nice features in Speed, Strength, and Wits. Felicity has completed the art for Smoke and Oakum, and it is looking fantastic! I am really impressed with the work she has done to help bring life and energy to Corsairs, I’m sure you will agree.

It’s been a chaotic time, from a bush fires to a pandemic, to social upheaval. Given these very real and very important events I have felt that trying to push and market Corsairs in this time is insensitive to those issues. So Corsairs sits, at the moment, slowly ticking away. I have been pleased to see Corsairs gather a few more sales on DriveThru and Itch, and hopefully this continues with the release of Smoke and Oakum. I am considering developing and writing a mini-campaign for Corsairs to supplement the line, but that will depend on how the follow up zines progress. Beyond that, there are a few more games in development that will either see light later this year, or be more fully realised for 2021, perhaps as a part of the ZineQuest then, if it runs again.

I know I have been quiet of late, but things have been ticking along. I hope to shift back to posting more regularly soon…

Setting Sail

Corsairs has set sail! After the Kickstarter launch as a part of the ZineQuest in February, backers have finally been sent their digital copies of the Corsairs RPG! Before hitting send I was a mix of nervous and excited, immediately afterwards elated and relieved! Corsairs has been released!

Corsairs is a role playing game zine containing the full rules for character creation, and character actions, as well as for ships and sailing the skies of the Molten Seas. Scattered throughout is background information on the floating islands, and the setting of Corsairs, as well as wonderful art from Felicity Haworth. When you buy Corsairs you will also get separate files for the character sheet, the ship sheet, and two rules reference sheets.

Corsairs is available now on itch.io here.

You can also find it on DriveThruRPG here.

If you get a copy, please consider leaving a rating or review!

For the next two weeks I’ll be gathering feedback and questions on Corsairs, before I send the files off to be printed. I’m excited, and I hope anyone who gets a copy enjoys reading and playing the game half as much as I did writing and developing it!

Preparing for launch…

It won’t be long now before the backers of my Corsairs RPG Zine Kickstarter get their backer surveys, a short hop from there to the digital copies being sent out, and another short hop to the physical printing and shipping…

Things are starting to move!

For now the most exciting thing I wanted to share is the cover for Corsairs. This piece of art was created by Felicity Haworth, and I think manages to bring the setting of Corsairs to brilliant and exciting life!

Back to the jungle…

It’s been far too long since my last post. I have been busy. My day job is as a teacher, and the transition to remote learning has involved a lot of work. This has had a significant impact on everything else obviously, and has led to fewer posts here, and a couple of deadlines pushed back for freelance work. I am trying to make ground, but the going is slow. I think I have a handle on this whole remote teaching business now though, so fingers crossed I manage to find some more free time in the next few weeks!

So what have I been doing for Caradoc Games? Work on Corsairs is progressing, and I have been through and edited and reedited the core book a number of times. Progress on the follow-up source-zine Smoke and Oakum continues, though has been slower than I had hoped. I have a system for running chases written (allowing better rules for a Corsair ship to chase down and catch some juicy merchant galleon), as well as a bunch of Ship Conditions. I have started turning my notes for the Weather into actual properly written rules and guidelines, and am happy with how all of this is shaping up!

Art for Corsairs is coming along nicely! I have seen and given feedback on all the early sketches, and Felicity is working hard on turning them into their final pieces. I am looking forward to being able to share them when they are done!

In addition my co-designer Karl Lange (of Ark Angel Games) and myself have returned to Colour Jungle with gusto. Karl has made a brilliant Table Top Simulator version of the game, so we should be able to organise more testing than previously even in our isolation! It’s looking really nice. We made some adjustments to the rules that I think are very solid, and have trimmed some other pieces out that felt like they added ‘stuff (TM)’ without adding much. The game is feeling more solid now, and I think with some honing, it might be ready to take back to publishers…

My physical playtest copy… Not as pretty!

In any case, that’s the update for now! I’ll endeavor to return to more regular posting soon, until then, stay safe, and I hope you and yours are well!

Sugar Gliders

A while ago I wrote about a card game that Karl Lange of Ark Angel Games and myself were designing, it was called Colour Jungle. After plenty of testing and development, we felt that it was ready to show around, and while we got some positive feedback from various publishers (thanks to Karl for the leg work on this), it didn’t quite make the grade, and no-one picked it up.

Colour Jungle in testing…

Karl and I had an online meeting a week or so ago, and decided to take a different approach. Taking the feedback we had received from playtesters and publishers, we looked at the game again and pulled out the pieces that we felt were the strongest and most enjoyable aspects of Colour Jungle, and imagined ways we could redesign the game around those core elements.

Setting up the new spin-off – Sugar Glider Tag

Sugar Glider Tag is the working title of the result. We still have a way to go with developing this one, and who knows, this particular road may lead us to a point where we shrug, trek back, and look for a different fork in the path to explore.

Right now though work continues apace with the early development and playtesting. There are aspects of this new game that I really like, and there are aspects of the-game-it-was that I miss, but for now the only way is forward. Testing, trialing, playing, and seeing what feels like an interesting avenue to explore.

More testing, more tweaks…

It’s good fun, and I’m glad to have a design partner to work with. He keeps me honest, keeps me working at it, and two minds, as the saying goes, are better than one!

My attempt at a sugar glider, from a photo I found online.

Zine Quest – Why Kickstarter?

Previously I wrote about ‘Why ZineQuest‘, but let’s back up a bit and ask why Kickstarter?

In late 2018 I was getting the urge to scale down the freelance writing I was doing, and start working on projects of my own. This led me to start development of a large fantasy RPG: Ashmerl, and a collection of smaller RPGs. I wasn’t sure about what the the best way to sell these games was. Just whack them up online for purchase? Look at fleshing some out for self-publication? There were many potential avenues and I was undecided. Then Patreon announced it was changing it’s fee structure…

In mid 2019 I accelerated my plans, had a logo designed, set up Caradoc Games, and launched my Patreon. I did it because Patreon were changing their fee structure and getting in before that happened meant I could avoid some of those fee changes, having a uniform identity from the start would prevent messiness later on, so I did it all at once. In the months after setting up my Patreon I wrote and released four micro-RPGs, both in basic and expanded versions. The goal was this: To write basic games that people could download for free, and include links in each to my Patreon. On Patreon my patrons would have access to the expanded versions of these games. Simple: drive traffic to Patreon in the hope it would encourage people to sign up as patrons in order to get the expanded games.

It did not happen.

I might have been a relatively successful freelancer (well, busy at least), but I did not have an audience. My email list languished, the views on my site were minimal, on the upside the number of downloads were great, but the next step, getting people to Patreon… it did not happen. This could be related to the audience, it could be related to the quality of the games, it could be that I didn’t or don’t market it well, it could all manner of things. To be honest, I think a lot of games that get downloaded for free don’t end up getting played a whole lot. Read perhaps, but played? Maybe I am thinking too much about the number of games I download vs the number of games I actually manage to get to the table, but it is also a potential reason, so… Obviously this is something I need to spend some time considering. Is it worth going back and rethinking how I am doing my Patreon? Is there something I could be offering or doing that would see a change? I think there is, but that is a subject for another day.

Originally Corsairs was intended to be one of the Patreon games. It would have been a smaller game than it is now, but that was the goal when I first started to develop the idea. Then whispers starter to circulate… ZineQuest was coming back in 2020. In October/November I knew this was something I wanted to take part in, for all the reasons I wrote about in my previous post. Namely: it offered the potential for an audience I lacked, it offered the chance to try Kickstarter with as many elements tilted in my favour as possible, and it challenged me to actually do something different, and learn a whole slew of lessons in the process.

With the methods I had been trialing in the middle of 2019 broadly unsuccessful, here was an opportunity to try something different, during a promotion that I hoped would help provide me with the best opportunity to be successful.

Of course, while the timing seemed ideal to trial running a Kickstarter, crowdfunding offers other benefits. With an upfront injection of capital I would be able to do things that I could not have justified otherwise. It allowed to me to trial printing physical copies, something I would not have considered otherwise. I mean, I could have printed physical copies of course, but what would I do with a couple of hundred copies of my game sitting in a box? Hope to sell them slowly? Set up a webstore to sell them? Sell them through my site? eCommerce additions to WordPress cost money, as they do through any other platform. If it was a book to be sold through Amazon or similar, then I might need to consider getting an ISBN and barcode, which costs more money, and I would have no way of knowing (without an audience remember) whether I would sell even half a dozen copies, let alone more than 100.

Upfront capital also allowed me to commission an artist, in the case of Corsairs: Felicity Haworth. Without the upfront capital I could have commissioned an artist, potentially, but it would be a cost I wasn’t confident I could recoup. Prior to running Corsairs I spent hours and hours drawing all the artwork seen on the Kickstarter page myself. Now, I’m can put together a reasonable drawing, although I am better with a pencil than a stylus, but being able to hire someone who is far more capable than I is going to give Corsairs a quality and life I couldn’t have achieved on my own.

Of course, assuming the risk in the hope of reward is how businesses have run since Glob decided to sell amber beads through Ötzi. But Crowdfunding provides opportunities for small time businesses and indie creators to take risks on their ideas through a safer and more defined pathway. For me, creating an indie game, having a small or next-to-nonexistent audience, and wanting to create something that looked nice and could be physically handled, was going to be cost prohibitive. Kickstarter provided a vehicle through which I could mitigate the financial risks, and have a greater opportunity to grow and connect with an audience.

The process of running a Kickstarter, gaining backers, and getting funded, cuts out many of the uncertainties. I know how many physical copies I need to get printed, I have budgeted for art, I have budgeted for shipping costs. All of these things have been considered and accounted for. Running a Kickstarter has defined what my budget parameters are, and given me the exact number of zines I need to print (plus a margin for error). There may be complications along the way, and Kickstarter is by no means a perfect solution, but it is a very useful one, especially for small time creators trying to share their work with the world at large. Is it also widely used by big companies, you bet, and I can see why, but that’s a different topic.

Corsairs hit Kickstarter as a part of ZineQuest. What was going to be a small PDF-only game released on DriveThruRPG and Itch, as well as to Patreon, has grown to a 32 page Zine. Kickstarter has allowed me create something that will be printed, with high quality art from a professional artist. In the process it has also allowed me to learn about laying a document out, printing processes, commissioning an artist, fulfillment, and perhaps more important than all of the above, gain an audience of over 200 backers. I am pretty happy with this humble beginning…

Why Kickstarter? Well, if you managed to make it this far I hope the answer is clear!

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!