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!
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.
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…
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…
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.
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.
Kickstarter has officially announced Zine Quest (you can find the link to the KS announcement on my Zine Quest page here, along with a bunch of links and articles I hope anyone thinking of undertaking Zine Quest will find useful).
My project this year is Rascals. In Rascals you play ex-special forces, intelligence operatives, or crooks who operated as a team during the final years of the civil war that wrought havoc on the Network of Star Systems now administered by the New Government.
You thought you had left that life behind, when the peace accords of Luyten B were signed and the ink had dried. but something has happened to pull you back in…
In Rascals your character will be one of four archetypes: The Brains, The Face, The Muscle, or The Stick, each tied to a suit of cards. Characters have archetype powers and tricks they can use to manipulate the outcomes of the challenges they face.
Game play is built around cards, with the players sharing a deck, and the GM having a deck of their own. Poker chips are also used to measure character health and energy (called Hustle), ammo that can be spent for extra hits, as well as power and damage to vehicles and ships.
Rascals will be a 40 page zine, including rules for character creation, creation of the problem the characters face, rules for actions, combat, space ships and vehicles. A lot is packed into a small zine!
I’ll be writing more about the rules and the setting in upcoming posts, as well as dropping the link to the prelaunch page for the Kickstarter… until then, strap in and get ready for a wild ride!
I was unsure what to do for the 2021 Zine Quest, and I wrote last time how my fantasy RPG, Heralds, was approaching a point where the project was too big to fit comfortably into the Zine Quest format. I could have cut it back, but I like the systems, and I felt it would lose too much if it was cut shorter. I bit the bullet and did what any self-respecting Zine Questee would do, I decided to write a different game.
In fairness I had the core of the system already written up, so I wasn’t coming at it from nothing. I knew the genres and themes I wanted to hit, they were baked into the system I had dusted off. So what did I do?
First, I made a few more notes, and left it at that for a week.
In that week I did three things before really delving into the system, setting, and writing. I worked on finding an artist whose style matched my feel for the setting and game, I looked for fonts that would work in a similar vein, and I started developing the layout and look of the zine.
Normally I tend to get writing first, so this was a departure from the established routine for me. Why did I go this route? To be honest, it was the fact that while I had a feel for the game in terms of what I wanted out of the mechanisms and setting, the setting itself was nebulous, it was feelings and emotion, a pace and rhythm, a soundtrack with no lyrics. I felt that getting a good grip on the visuals of the game would help me ground the the rules and setting, provide inspiration and limitation in equal and needed quantities. I’m glad I did.
I found an artist I am really excited to be working with, I won’t say too much just yet (not until there is something to show alongside), but I will say that I think his work is going to make Rascals look absolutely brilliant.
I started working on the layout. With Corsairs the game was originally envisaged to be more of a old-time worn look, faded leather and the like. With Rascals I wanted to make something stridently black and white, something that would fit within the two-tone rules for Zine Quest, and really sit comfortably within that space. I am really happy with how Rascals is looking at the moment, and I think once the art is dropped in, it will really look amazing.
Lastly I looked at fonts… and well. That’s a whole thing. Finding fonts that fit the style you want, but making sure that they are free for commercial use (or that you can get hold of a license for them), is not as easy as it could be. A lot of the fonts that come with Word or whatever program you happen to use might be free for personal use, but not for commercial use. I looked through a whole slew of fonts before settling on two I really liked. One will be used for all the headings, and the other for the body text. The 3D and gradient overlay effects for the title and contents pages were all done in Affinity, and fit the theme and game perfectly in my opinion.
So, a little update on where I am at in the lead up to Zine Quest 2021. I will be back with more on the subject, and back with some reflections on the year past (and hopes for the year ahead) in another post.
Where-ever you are, I hope you and yours had a lovely Christmas/Holiday period (if you celebrate such things), and a smashing new year (again…).
I’m in a bind. With Zine Quest 3 unofficially officially announced through a number of email responses from Kickstarter posted on Twitter I find myself in the middle of writing and laying out my next project: Heralds.
Heralds is a fantasy role playing game, and it emphasizes home and exploration. A big part of the game is the collective creation of the Enclave (settlement) the characters belong to. This process includes some map making, some populating the Enclave with people, and some generation for the Enclaves network of nearby settlements. Characters are created through a light life-path system, and the creation of the Enclave and the characters happens at the same time. These systems work together to create varied characters, who are uniquely tied to their home, in short, it gives the characters a context. In my various play tests of this system there have always been multiple hooks generated through the creation process, meaning that the first game, games, or even campaign is seeded in the characters and the setting the play group collectively builds. I like how it all works.
I’m in a bind though…
I like how it all works, but the game is going to be bigger than Corsairs, my RPG for the 2020 Zine Quest. Where Corsairs sat at 36 pages front to back cover, I estimate that Heralds will sit closer to 60, and could easily be longer. Yes, it still works as a Zine, and it could work for Zine Quest. However, at that page count it will push the cost of shipping internationally from $8.30 AUD to $13.50. This is not an insignificant jump, and will likely mean that the cost of shipping will be greater than the cost of the game itself (something we who live in Australia are all too familiar with).
Is this too high? I’ll admit that I thought the cost of shipping would push people to opt for the PDF only Backer Level for Corsairs, and you can read here how my expectations on that front were wrong. But is it too much? Am I better off creating a smaller game (I have a few nearly written), and running that game for Zine Quest instead, saving Heralds for a Kickstarter later in 2021, where it wouldn’t be released as a part of the Zine Quest, and would therefore have a little more flexibility in how it could be put together (perfect binding anyone?).
What to do, what to do… I just don’t know where I will go with it right now. Part of me wants to push on with Heralds because I am loving it right now, and part of me wants to take a step back and tell myself to hold off and make it a bigger and better beast that can be released on it’s own two feet later in 2021.
I am at a loss, and yet a decision needs to be made sooner than later so I can focus my attention on getting the Zine Quest project (whatever it is) Zine Quest ready… Hmm…
Caradoc Games now has a webstore! For those following the blog there has been quite a lot happening in the background… we shifted hosting, rebuilt parts of the website, and added a shop! It’s taken a long time to get it all sorted out, but everything is up now, and ready to roll!
Over at the shop you can find all of our games for sale, including physical copies of the Corsairs Zine, and everything else we have produced. Some, like our micro-RPGs are set to ‘pay what you want’, so if you’re after an evening of silly fun, they are well worth checking out (yes, I am biased 😉 ).
To celebrate the opening of the shop we have a sale running from Black Friday to Cyber Monday with a reduced price on everything Corsairs!
Earlier in this series of articles about running a Kickstarter (links to all of which can be found here), I wrote a post called Levels and Goals in which I talked about setting the backer levels, the prices for the backer levels, and the funding goal for the Kickstarter. The relevant part is that I had decided that the physical zine would cost $15 AUD, and the digital only zine would cost $10 AUD. In the linked article I delve into why I made these choices, and for the digital zine that level seemed on par with what a lot of other ZineQuesters were charging for their digital zines (Australian Dollars translates well into US Dollars, with a $10 AUD level costing about $6.70 USD when the Kickstarter launched).
All of this has implications…
I don’t mean implications for the Kickstarter, though obviously pricing is important, and I’ve lost track of the number of times I have written hand-wringing articles about the added costs of shipping. No, I mean implications beyond the Kickstarter.
Corsairs funded (yay!), the physical rewards have been sent, and of the two digital supplements that were unlocked as stretch goals one has been fulfilled, and the other will be fulfilled in the next few weeks. But, what about after the Kickstarter? What would I do after the dust had settled and the Kickstarter has been fulfilled? Is that sweet goodnight for Corsairs?
Obviously not. I had always planned to have Corsairs available to buy digitally through both Itch.io and DriveThruRPG. What I had not considered was the implications of setting my backer levels, and what that might mean in the months that followed…
At the moment Corsairs is available on both Itch.io and DriveThruRPG for $7.99 USD. Why this price? Why not cheaper? I mean, it would be nice to have Corsairs sitting at say $4.99, and appearing in the ‘Popular Under $5’ lists on DriveThru. It’s certainly a more appealing price, and likely to lead to more sales. So… why?
Well, the reason comes back to implications… The backers of Corsairs spent good money supporting my Kickstarter, and without them it wouldn’t be a success, and certainly wouldn’t be available as it is. For the digital only copy backers paid their $10 AUD. How would they feel, having supported me, to turn around and see the game on sale for cheaper? Is it a betrayal of sorts? Would I be disrespecting them? Playing them for fools? Would I be undermining any future Kickstarters I run through such disregard?
All these were thoughts that swirled through my head when it came to putting Corsairs up for sale as a digital product. While the backer prices I set were a reasonable choice for the sake of the Kickstarter, they had implications and set (in my head at least) boundaries on what I could or should charge after the Kickstarter… How could I place Corsairs up for sale for less than what my backers paid? In the end I didn’t. I have no doubt that a number of purchases have been passed over because of the cost, and that more sales would have been achieved at a lower price point, but still…
I am pretty confident that many backers wouldn’t mind seeing Corsairs online for a little less than what they paid, after all they got two extra digital zines as Stretch goals, and yet… I also think there would be some who would feel they had been unfairly treated, and that is valid.
So what does this rambling thought train of a post imply? For me at least it means that next time I will think carefully about the future implications of pricing for backer levels, and what that might mean carried forward past the Kickstarter phase. I need to ask myself where will this game be available in six months time, and what sort of price do I want to be selling it for. And lastly, I need to parse those thoughts and bring them into the decision making process when defining backer levels.
This post might be very ‘Australia’ orientated, but I am going to make some obvious observations about timing, tax, and the ZineQuest Kickstarter I ran in February this year. In Australia the financial year runs from July one year to June the next. ZineQuest ran in February. My Kickstarter project for ZineQuest launched on the 1st of February, and ended on February the 16th, funding successfully. Kickstarter takes time to gather rewards, chase backers who declined or didn’t pay, and generally process things, and in the end the money raised by the Kickstarter landed in my account on the 2nd of March, about two weeks after the project had ended. It should also be noted here that the amount pledged and the amount received by the project creator are not the same thing. Kickstarter takes it’s 5% fee, and there are additional processing fees which typically round the amount up to around 10%, and then there are dropped backers and refunded backers. Dropped backers are those who pledged an amount of money, and then who, for whatever reason, didn’t pay.
To give a quick and dirty break down using my Kickstarter as the example:
Corsairs funded on February the 16th, with 236 Backers pledging $4116 AUD.
Dropped Backers amounted to -$76, leaving the amount gathered by Kickstarter at $4040 (an ominous number 😀 )
Kickstarter fees amounted to about $202 and processing fees of a further $167.
Meaning that, after all else, Corsairs resulted in a deposit into my account from Kickstarter for roughly $3671 (yes, I am sanding off the cents throughout).
INSERT OBLIGATORY PLUG:
If you don’t have a copy of Corsairs you can fix that by heading to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io. If you missed the Kickstarter and are interested in a physical copy of the zine, there are still some physical copies left, contact me at email@example.com for details.
Out of this I obviously had to pay for everything, from art to printing and shipping. Shipping was the largest expense by far, and cost a little over $1100 on its own. Aaaaannnndddd this is the thing that I think I am going to try and remember for the next time…
With the money hitting my account at the start of March, and the end of the financial year sitting at the end of June, the money raised by the Kickstarter was going to sit in the 2019/2020 taxable year. Between art, printing delays, and Covid, I ended up having Corsairs printed and shipped to me at the start of August, and then shipped out to my backers in the middle of August. Meaning the printing and shipping costs of more than $1600 would be counted as an expense in the 2020/2021 financial year.
Why is this relevant? It’s about the taxable income for any given financial year, in an ideal scenario I would have had the game printed and shipped before the end of the 2019/2020 financial year in June 2020 in order that the costs of printing and shipping would count against the income from the Kickstarter as an expense, and reduce the taxable income of my business.
Now, I fully understand we are talking small amounts of money here compared to almost every other kickstarter or business. But timing, as best as is possible, the expenses element of a Kickstarter so that the income does not look artificially inflated to the tax office is really worth planning for.
Yes, I had an income from the Kickstarter of over $3600, but that didn’t account for multiple expenses (art, printing, shipping labels, envelopes, shipping, and everything else). The tax office don’t care what expenses are upcoming though, that’s for the next financial year, all that matters is what happens between the start of July 2019 and the end of June 2020. Now, perhaps there is an advantage to the fact that my business has already racked up a bunch of expenses for the 2020/2021 financial year, and that may be useful when it comes to the (fingers crossed) ZineQuest in 2021 and lodging my tax return for the 2020/2021 financial year, but thinking about the timing of income and expenses is something I am much more aware of now than I was back in January of this year. This might be especially true if you are running a Kickstarter or making money from your creative work in addition to a day job, and your income is already close to a tax threshold.
Dull talk, and perhaps very Aussie-centric, but some further thoughts following my experiences this year with the ZineQuest.
Corsairs launched on Kickstarter on the 1st of February, 2020. It was a ZineQuest project that would run for 14 days. I had the game written, I had made a bunch of art myself, engaged a professional artist in the event we crossed that stretch goal, and had put a lot of planning and thought into how the project would run. What I had not put a huge amount of thought into was how I was going to market Corsairs… how I was going to get word out there… how I was going to get prospective backers to see it. Some context…
Before the Kickstarter launched I had a mailing list that was in an infancy, with fewer than a dozen subscribers. I had a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and posted very occasionally on indieRPG forums on Reddit. I’m not sure now of the exact metrics, but I had a Facebook page for my company with almost zero likes on Facebook, but I was a member of, maybe two, Facebook groups of relevance. I think I had somewhere around 650 or so followers on Twitter. I did not have a presence on Instagram, or any other social media service. Twitter and Facebook, those were the two largest social media presences I could use to spread the word when my project went live.
Of course, in addition to whatever audience I could generate on my own, being a part of ZineQuest, and tagging posts about Corsairs appropriately, meant that there was a ready audience that could be tapped into; people who were knowledgeable about the ZineQuest, and keen to see and support zines connected to it. Many of these were also creators of their own ZineQuest projects.
What did I do when Corsairs launched? I posted everywhere I could think of… I posted on Twitter, on Facebook, on my company page on Facebook, I dashed off a company email, I blogged about it, I tagged everything with #ZineQuest, and I launched my project the second ZineQuest went live. I launched my project the second February rolled around (and that would mean half a day ahead of the US given my location) in the hope that being early in, would mean that there would be fewer zines up, meaning Corsairs would be jostling with fewer projects for notice. I was hesitant to post too often to Twitter, as I didn’t want to pester my followers, but with hindsight I think that next time I would post more.
I had also been writing a series of blog articles journaling my progress and planning with the Kickstarter, with two key reasons in mind:
I wanted to provide a series of articles (and this one is part of that series) that would, I hoped, be useful and interesting to creators looking to do ZineQuest for the first time.
I wanted to produce useful content. Useful content being something that others can use, and that also serves to get my project out there. I hoped that not only would I achieve the first point, but that people reading my content for tips or to follow along might also consider backing the project or supporting Caradoc Games. Content might get shared by those keen to see you do well, useful content might be shared by those keen to see you do well, and who found the content interesting or useful, or thought it might be useful to others.
Corsairs launched on the 1st of February, 2020. By the end of the first day it was over 50% funded, and passed the funding goal early on the third day. It wasn’t a ‘Funded in 3 seconds’ Kickstarter, but it funded pretty quickly, and more quickly than I expected. It had a relatively high Funding Goal compared to some ZineQuest projects, but not excessively so.
I posted updates to the Kickstarter page. I shared them on Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else I could think of… Then around day 6 the project slowed right down, and the flow of backers dried up. I had posted lots of places, I had said: ‘Hey! Check this out!’, and I had said it in as many places as I could think of. I was running out of places to say things, and the influx of backers slowed to a trickle. I had hit my bubble…
INSERT OBLIGATORY PLUG:
If you don’t have a copy of Corsairs you can fix that by heading to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io. If you missed the Kickstarter and are interested in a physical copy of the zine, there are still some physical copies left, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
I remember clearly sitting at my computer and thinking to myself that I had yelled about my project everywhere I could think of… that the people who follow me who might back this project have either already done so, or are not going to… What now? I thought to myself in that moment. What now?
I felt that yelling again about the project was going to achieve nothing, the people I was going to reach through the avenues I had used had already been reached. I had filled my bubble with the announcement, and all who had ears to listen had heard it… had backed it or hadn’t. I had hit the limit of my social media reach, I had hit my bubble, and no amount of yelling was going to reach more people. It was a surreal feeling, a tangible sense of the intangible networks we surround ourselves with. Social media feels like it is a cavernously vast space that our voices can echo through endlessly. To feel edges, a boundary, was strange… What now?
One of the things I loved most about the ZineQuest experience as a whole was the opportunity to interact with other creators. It felt like a very communal experience, with the vast majority of the people I was lucky enough to engage with overwhelmingly supportive of each other and each others work. From the start I had decided that I would take an active role in that communal spirit, it was laden with an energy and hope for success. Amplifying other voices, the work of other creators poses an interesting problem, I wondered to myself how many people who would potentially back my own project would I lose if I started sharing links to other zines… From the beginning, when I decided to take an active role I decided that I would place my hope in the old maxim that the rising tide floats all boats. In the last paragraph, I wrote of the moment I sat wondering, in the small hours one evening about 6 days into my Kickstarter, what now? Well part of that answer happened naturally out of my choice to try and like and share other projects. As I liked and shared other projects I found, unexpectedly, that other creators liked and shared mine in return. It wasn’t something I had planned, it wasn’t something I asked for or expected, but slowly the trickle of backers grew.
I think a project is also like a rolling stone, a project gaining backers is like a rock gaining momentum, and engaging those backers and being active on social media were, I think, the key things that kept my project rolling.
Had I been organised I could have gone on podcasts, tried to use Facebook advertising, had social media goals linked to the project, or any number of other options. But I didn’t really consider the fact that I exist within a bubble, and what I could do to market the project outside of that bubble. I wasn’t prepared for it, will I be next time?
I think a few things I have learned from Corsairs are that I don’t need to write so many updates, and that equal to that, it is ok to share an update more than once on social media. Next time I think I’ll aim for fewer updates, and more active use of social media to share and share again the project. If I share on Monday morning my time, that might mean it’s hitting American followers just before midnight Sunday… By the time they wake and check their social media, that post is long gone. It’s ok to share things multiple times, and its’s ok to share and amplify the voices of other creators.
Corsairs taught me a lot, it also grew my social media following, increased my email list, and grew the audience that I had. I think, in reflection, that this is one of the more powerful things a running a Kickstarter, especially if you are a small time creator, has to offer. It can increase the list of those who follow you, allow you to reach more people in subsequent attempts, it doesn’t burst the bubble, but it does help it grow.