The Spark Kickstarter is complete!

The first part of the Kickstarter campaign has closed. In some ways, this was the most exciting part of the process, seeing tangible support for my “little” game. It’s also been a little tiring, as if I was attending a very subdued month-long game convention. Overall, it’s been a blast thanks to all of the backers.

Now to business. We raised a total of $11,668, which means that I will be producing a number of things for all 475 of you.

  • PDF’s of the final version of the Game, both in “display” and “print” formats.
  • Epub and Mobi versions
  • Physical printed copies of the game, delivered to backers and chosen libraries/schools. d. Halfling Burrow Dice Bags
  • Human Keep Die Bags
  • Dragon’s Hoard Dice Bags
  • Extra payments for my editors and artists (Partially complete)
  • New cover art
  • A Quickstart Bundle for each of the three settings
  • The Digital Campfire MP3
  • A Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (CC BY)
  • An expanded, revised and potentially art-filled version of the “Spark in Fate Core” article of collaborative World Building.

That is a lot of stuff and I want to deliver as quickly as I can possibly manage without allowing the quality to suffer. It will apparently take about 2 weeks before all of the payments clear and before I am able to send the surveys out. At the end of the month, I will begin sending out the surveys to collect information, and I plan to prepare the final revision to the text so I can start the layout process at the beginning of May.

Exciting times!

Spark RPG – The Kickstarter

I am very happy to announce that I have launched the kickstarter for the Spark RPG right over here.

It’s been more than a few years of work, and it’s taught me an incredible amount. The game evolved drastically over the years, and the hundreds of hours of playtesting really helped refine the game into what it is today. This process has taught me how to kill my darlings and accept constructive criticism, which I know will help me over the years to come. The game is finally ready, and as close to perfect as I can manage.

If you back the kickstarter at any amount, you will get full access to the nearly final version of the text. It needs some layout, additional art and extra content from the kickstarter backers, but it’s otherwise complete.

Now I just wait, and hope that enough of you fine ladies and gentlemen are willing to support me during this campaign.

Thank you very much.


The Status of Spark

I wanted to provide a bit of a status report for the Spark RPG project. I know that I have been relatively quiet on here, and thought that you might appreciate an update.

The Open Beta that I launched in 2012 taught me a great deal. Playtesting did an excellent job at pointing out what portions of the text required major overhauls though I feel badly for the players who suffered through the earlier iterations. The reworked collaboration and conflict mechanics are finally producing the game play experience I desire.

This fall, I observed a 4 session blind playtest from a local group, led by one of my assistant editors (Mark Richardson). This test showed me that the game did too good of a job encouraging conflict, without encouraging cooperation between characters. I reworked the relatively negative “baggage” questions into more positive ties between characters. It also highlighted the danger of vocal players drowning out the quieter ones during the collaborative process, so I added more guidance to counter that fact.

After that point, I sent the text to my editor (David Hill) for the revision first pass.  He did a masterful job, as expected, in pointing out problems with the text. I’m particularly thankful that he identified a piece of the text that was disrespectful of mental illness. I reworked that section to be far more inclusive because of his help, and the game will be better for it.  Beyond that, he showed me the places that required elaboration and example text.

Over the holidays, I threw myself into the task of incorporating all of the revisions and writing some additional setting content. This current version of the text comes to 32K words in length, including all three settings. I have it back in David’s hands so that he can do another editing pass for me.

I am presently working on organizing my kickstarter campaign, tentatively scheduled for March of 2013. With luck, I will be able to make at least my minimum goal and publish the thing.

Spark RPG at Metatopia 2012

I have just returned from Metatopia 2012, the amazing convention run by Double Exposure over in New Jersey each November. This was my first experience at Metatopia, but it has absolutely stolen my heart. Not only was Vinny amazing as usual in organizing the event despite the minor inconvenience of a Hurricane, we even managed to get the critical mass of game designers necessary to have 2 parallel game design seminar tracks going and a vast number of playtest sessions.

Critical mass is absolutely the correct description of Metatopia. The brain trust in those rooms was phenomenal, and it’s evident when listening to the recordings (say, GM’less play) that the discussions were at a high level of sophistication.

Whereas I have found many GenCon panels are by necessity, collage, or undergraduate level in complexity, I found Metatopia panels were closer to Masters or Doctorate level. Perhaps less useful for the budding designer, but absolutely priceless to those of us with a enough of a foundation to participate. Pity there wasn’t enough time to participate in all of it, or spend some time gaming with more of these fine ladies and gentlemen.

On the topic of panels, I recorded a large number of these and have coordinated with others (including Fred Hicks and Jason Morningstar) to get more coverage. I will be starting up a podcast feed shortly, specifically for the purpose of distributing RPG Game Design seminar recordings. My current working title on that is “The RPG Design Panelcast”, and I expect to have at least one episode drop within a week or two. You should be able to find them here on my site, or on Itunes.

The underlying reason why I was attending Metatopia was to determine if Spark is ready to go forward. The first of the playtest sessions was full of experienced Jeepform and Nordic Larp pros who tested the hardcore version of the game, diving into play while dealing with highly-sensitive subjects and beliefs that were personally meaningful to the players. The feedback was that the mechanics of the game pulled out of immersion enough that there was little *Bleed*. The described the game as being an interesting intellectual exercise, but not one that is inherently transmitting emotion to the player. This feedback gave me an incredible amount of comfort, as it meant that my game was less emotionally risky to any potential players, and that it encourages the kind of philosophical introspection I was looking for.

The second playtest was originally intended to be targeting experienced Burning Wheel players, but strangely enough, I didn’t get a large group of those fans. Instead, I got a lovely playtest session with two masters of the system: Jeff and Emily. These two were kind enough to playtest Spark _twice_ at Dreamation, then joined me once more for my Metatopia test. With their assistance, I tested how a 2-player game worked and cleaned up the Influence economy. They even helped me test out a proposed change to my scene framing rules, which I wound up rejecting due to their excellent feedback.

The fundamental thing that came out of both sessions was a sense of confidence. This was one of the first times that I tested the game and the experience of play felt natural. I feel that I am ready to finalize the text, to get a final editing pass done, and to start planning for my kickstarter.

Thank you all.