Ennies Nomination for a Spark in Fate Core!

I’m very happy to report that I have recieved a nomination for “A Spark in Fate Core” as Best Free Product for the 2014 Ennies Awards. It’s was a lot of fun to produce some content that would integrate wtih the Fate Core book, and to try a different style of collaborative worldbuilding. If anyone wants to get their own free copy, it’s over at DrivethruRPG over here!  I’m currently working on a very short run printing of hardcopies of the game for GenCon attendees.

In gratitude, I am also temporarily putting the Spark RPG on sale at 50% off, right over here!


Posthuman Pathways Post-Mortem

Just as I have done with the Spark RPG kickstarter, I wanted to present a financial breakdown of the Posthuman Pathways project. Unlike that previous project, this one was a bit less successful at the preliminary stages and may take a year or two to get into the black. I am very proud of the game as a design and a product, but this taught me a number of valuable lessons as a publisher!

Original Budget $3,360

Printing 1000 copies of the game: $2,500
Printing 1000 cover stickers: $500
Other freelance costs: $360

My original, minimal kickstarter request was planning on just covering print costs for the core pamphlet. I met this goal, but didn’t exceed this be a very significant amount. Unlike my previous kickstarter, all donations were made in Canadian dollars which meant that I couldn’t benefit from the currency exchange rate.

Revenue $2,525

Gross Kickstarter Total: $ 2,806
Admin Fees: $280
Net Funding Received: $ 2,525


Campaign Expenses – $ 5,351

Printing 2000 Copies. $3,219

I originally budgeted for 1000 copies, but secretly hoped that I would have enough demand in the kickstarter to justify a larger print-run where the costs decreased. When I originally planned this project, I had assumed that the economies of scale would kick in at 1000 units for pamphlets, just as they do for books. Turns out that is not the case, and things only became economically feasible at a 2000-unit offset print run. Oops!
There is normally a variance of +/- 5% on print runs of this size, and they provided me with 100 discounted copies. Note that each “copy” of the full game involves five different pieces of printed material, so they printed over ten thousand individual pamphlets in this little endeavour.
Lesson Learned: Get comprehensive quotes earlier in the design process and don’t assume all products have the same economies of scale.

Printing 2100 Stickers. $594

Before going into the campaign, I had gotten several quotes and settled on a professional-seeming company specialized in sticker production. Unfortunately, I discovered after the campaign closed that they didn’t provide physical proofs, didn’t understand how crop marks worked and demanded payment up front with no refunds. I went back to the printer who produced the pamphlets and they were able to give me the high-quality stickers that I used, at a pretty competitive price. It worked out pretty well in the end, though it was a bit of a hassle to get there.
Lesson Learned: Double check what printers offer as “proofs” when getting quotes, not at the end of the process.
Commissioning Velvet Cases from Sink or Swim Stitching: $ 378
I was originally not intending on including many of these in the campaign, but due to popular demand I included them at a stand-alone level. These reward levels brought more money (making it possible for me to meet my goal) but also increased my overall costs not insignificantly due to payments to the artisan and additional shipping costs. Good thing they are beautiful!
Lesson Learned: Consider the additional shipping costs as a more significant portion of goals using large add-ons such as this.

Other freelance costs: $360

This project included two editors, one illustrator and one graphic design professional. I was happy to compensate each of them for their work and the payments were made before launching the kickstarter campaign, out of the profits of the Spark RPG sales. It was a relief to be able to simply hire skilled professionals to help me with this, and they did amazing work.
Lesson Learned: Paying all the freelancers before launching the kickstarter campaign drastically decreases the stress levels while running the campaign; would recommend!

Shipping : $ 800

Shipping is always an issue, and this was no exception. One of the goals of this campaign was to produce something that would be as affordable as possible to ship. Between the product design and the printing, our mail prices skyrocketed which made “as affordable as possible” still rather nasty. I also had the unpleasant surprise that the final product (5 pamphlets + 1 sticker + envelope) was heavier than I had originally forecasted. I had expected that the final product would increase in weight 50% over that of my prototypes, while it turned out that it doubled the weight instead. This pushed it over a mailing price threshold and boosted the cost for international backers (outside of North America) by another $2 which was rough.
Fortunately, I worked with Magpie Games to reship most of the rewards to American backers domestically, which dropped my overall costs considerably. The cost-savings from that little maneuver pretty much negated the cost increase for the international shipping.

Stretch goal costs : $ 0

One of the reasons why I created that first stretch goal, only $250 above the base goal, was that I could do it entirely in-house. As a purely digital release with no external costs, I could add value without spending additional funding. I’m very happy about this digital supplement as well.

At the end of the day?

Despite these setbacks, I am happy to say that this kickstarter has been a success overall. While I haven’t broken even yet, I have plenty of product available for sale and it’s only a matter of time before I do so. I think that the actual product and the underlying game design are beautiful, and I’m really proud of what I have accomplished.
I have sent out just under 300 copies of the game at this point to you fine backers. Within the next few years, I am confident that I can make up most of the difference, and break into the black on this project. More importantly than that, I hope that people really enjoy this game and that you tell stories of the transformation, tranhumanism and sacrifice.
That said, your support would be very much appreciated. I depend on your enthusiastic voices to spread the word and get copies of this in people’s hands.
Play the game: Play sessions at home, at game stores and at conventions. The best way to help is to play the game and enjoy yourselves!
Leave Honest Reviews: Reviews are great, and I would love to hear your thoughts about the game. The DriveThruRPG page is a great place to talk about the game.
Send people to GenCon: I will be working at the Indie Game Developer Network (IGDN) at GenCon, running demos and selling the game. Spread the word and send people over, so I can introduce them to the game in person.
Send people to buy copies direct: With the completion of the kickstarter campaign, I have now put the game on sale and included a more reasonable shipping premium. Please feel free to send friends, colleagues, and random strangers to buy their own copies over at https://genesisoflegend.com/posthuman-pathways/buying-the-game/
Thank you for all of your help, and your support. The more people hear about Posthuman Pathways, the more likely I am to sell a few copies and produce more interesting RPGs.

Happy Gaming!

Game Chef 2014 – The Roman on the Rhine

I am very pleased to present the Roman on the Rhine, my submission to the game chef competition. This is a one-shot roleplaying game for 3-5 people to play  over a bit over an hour. This game is presented in the form of an interactive audio drama. All of the rules are present in this mp3 file, which you play in the background during the session in order to teach you the rules and manage the game.  This is a diceless and paper-less game which you can play in a car. For those hard of hearing, I also offer the text version of the rules in this post after the “Read more” line.

MP3 Download

As is typical in the game chef competition, this is more of a proof of concept and thought experiment than a fully polished piece. That said, it’s also free and I hope you find it interesting.

This game would not have been possible without the kind permissions of Wes Otis, whose RPG background loops were invaluable in producing this audio-piece. If you like any of the background music, they are all available over at DriveThruRPG.com.

1) Viking Dining Hall (Council Scenes)

2) ) Winter Background sound

3) Gladiator sounds (Transition)

4) Werewolf Forest (Senate Scenes)

5) Campfire (Also Senate Scenes)


Continue reading

Posthuman Pathways – Now on Kickstarter

Posthuman Pathways is a transhumanist roleplaying game. It focusses on the changing world and the sacrifices we make in the name of progress. It’s about the change, over a single lifetime, of our society and what it means to be human.

Explore what path the world will take. Discover how technology changes the world and alters our species. There are countless paths that humanity might take, depending on what technologies arise and which decisions we make. Every time you play this game, you walk a different path and discover a different future. This game needs no preparation, no dice and no game master. Over three or four hours, you and two friends can discover the future.

This is now up on Kickstarter. I would love your support!


Examining Icons in Design

A vital part of an engaging RPG is establishing strong connections between the characters and their setting. The stronger those connections, the more meaningful the character actions and player decisions seem to be. We have had examples of this stretching back to the earliest days of alignments, hirelings and deities in D&D. Dresden Files offers places and faces, Fiasco presents Relationships and Apocalypse World deals with Fronts. I designed Spark with Setting Beliefs, Factions, and Faces who represent those factions.
For the ease of this discussion, let’s just label these all as Icons, as exemplified in 13th Age. Before delving in deeper, check out Rob Donoghue’s excellent exploration of this subject [1][2][3] [4] [5] [6] since all of my blathering is based on his analysis.  This is also related to Chris Chin’s discussion of Keys, in the other excellent article.

There is a lot of untapped potential in terms of potential Icons and I think it would be useful to unpack the idea. When I design my own games, I have started to ask 5 questions so I can get a handle on all of these setting Icons and design appropriately.


  • What: What type of Icon created within the setting? An individual, organization, belief, relationship, event, location, item or idea?
  • Who: Among the players, who is connected to a given Icon?
  • How: How does the Icon affect the PCs, and vice versa? How do they change?
  • When: When during the course of the game do the Icons affect play?
  • Where: How does the Icon interact spatially with the world?

Let’s show how this works in practice, shall we?

Fate Core Setting Issues:

Issues and their associated setting Aspects describe the tensions and broader problems in the setting, ones which the PCs will have to deal with during play.

  • What: A distinct issue which may consist of an event, organization or idea, with an associated Aspect.
  • Who: Everyone interacts indirectly with the Issue, but there are no formal connections to individual PCs. All of the character histories, troubles and high concepts will tend to be associated with the setting Issues.
  • How: It is easier for the GM to affect PCs when the Issue is involved thanks to the associated aspect. Significant actions on the parts of PCs can change the Issues over a longer time-scale.
  • When: Issues can affect any scene.
  • Where: Issues usually extend spatially across the entire area of play. While there may be some specific places where the issue is less significant, it is always there.

Fiasco Relationships:

Beginning a game of Fiasco involves establishing relationships, needs, locations and objects that define how the various characters interact. Relationships are one subset of those elements for the purpose of this discussion.

  • What: A single broad category of relationship (Romance) with a more specific detail (Pick-up Artist and Hopeless Romantic)
  • Who: Relationships directly shape two specific characters, though they will have larger indirect effects. This defines the past history of two characters.
  • How: It establishes the power dynamic between the characters; who is high status and who is low within the relationship.
  • When: Relationships establish the backstory, but largely fade to irrelevance once play begins. Relationships affect the PCs, but the PCs actions don’t alter the relationships mechanically.
  • Where: Relationships have no fixed spatial location.

AD&D Alignments:

Alignments in AD&D are powerful things that establish not only the importance of morality in decision making, but also a decidedly egalitarian spectrum of ethical positions. All of these discussions are all drawn from 1st edition.

  • What: Nine distinct alignments which are combinations of Lawful-Neutral-Chaos and Good-Neutral-Evil.
  • Who: Every character interacts with alignments, though there are very real obligations for religious characters to behave in accordance with certain alignments. That said, there are restrictions on alignments for certain classes, which indicates that core activities are antithical to certain ethical perspectives.
  • How: Every character can speak “Alignment Languages”, as a beautiful example of the importance of Alignments within the core setting assumption. These languages act as another communication channel, so that like-minded characters can remind the others to behave in accordance with their Alignments. There are also penalties for changing one’s alignment, and the deities in the various pantheons tend to be very judgemental on this subject. Paladins who act in evil or chaotic ways can have their divine blessings revoked, while clerics can lose their divine spells.
  • When: Constantly. Particularly in high-stress situations, such as when there are high stakes, divine blessings and correct decision making is rewarded especially. The cleric trying to convert a wounded patient into reforming their behaviour? That is part of the Alignment Icon.
  • Where: Relationships are tied intimately with the various religions and kingdoms which are distributed unevenly across a D&D world. The later-day Planescape setting illustrated that perfectly.

What do you think? Would you be willing to examine something else in the comments?