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Kickstarting Cosmic Fantasy: The Chronicles of Future Earth RPG

Kickstarting Cosmic Fantasy: The Chronicles of Future Earth RPG

The Chronicles of Future Earth

In the last centuries of the Fifth Cycliad, a great malaise began to descend on the lands of humankind. The civilizations of the Earth, which for aeons had seemed on the verge of slumber, now finally began to rot from within. From the edges of the world, the ever-present enemies drew close, their hungry claws poised to tear apart the delicate flesh of a fruit a hundred millennia in the ripening. And all around, a cry arose for Heroes, to stand against the dying of the light, and save the world from the sins of its past.

Are you a fan of Clark Ashton Smith’s Zothique? Of Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun? M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City? Do you yearn for a roleplaying game that exudes the vibe of Bruce Pennington’s gorgeous artwork? Then look no further — The Chronicles of Future Earth is here.

On Friday 28 September, Mindjammer Press launched its new Kickstarter for The Chronicles of Future Earth — Cosmic Fantasy Roleplaying in the Post-Historical Age. I’m Sarah Newton, the author of the game, which in some ways is the fantasy counterpart to my transhuman science-fiction roleplaying game Mindjammer. We funded the project in a little under 9 hours, and have been unlocking stretch goals since; as of this moment (Friday 5 October), we’ve raised just under £20,000 (appx $27,000), and have unlocked a Player Character Folio and GM adventure to add to the “Chronicler Pack” which forms the core of our offering: a gorgeous full-colour hardback rulebook, a GM screen, dice, tokens, and an A2 map of the “Springtide Civilization” — the world of the earth of the far, far future where the game takes place.

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Modular: The Capharnaum RPG: A Kickstarter Combining the Campbellian Hero Path, Arabian Nights Multiculturalism, and Compelling Worldbuilding

Modular: The Capharnaum RPG: A Kickstarter Combining the Campbellian Hero Path, Arabian Nights Multiculturalism, and Compelling Worldbuilding

Capharnaum RPG

Two years after running our very successful Kickstarter for the transhumanist SF RPG Mindjammer, Mindjammer Press is back with a new project — the English-language version of a fascinating French-language RPG “Capharnaum – The Tales of the Dragon-Marked.” As a soundbite it’s billed as “a fantastic Arabian Nights RPG of deserts, dragons, and crusaders” — but it’s so much more than that. I first came across Capharnaum and its gorgeous artwork in the Paris Games Fair in 2009, and even then I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been brought to the English-speaking gamer. Now, with Capharnaum‘s second edition, the case is even more compelling.

The brains behind Capharnaum — The Tales of the Dragon-Marked are two experienced French game designers, Raphaël Bardas and François Cedelle. They’re joined by a large and extremely active gaming community based in Montpellier, the ancient town on the Mediterranean coast, but active throughout France, bringing together enthusiasts of ancient world Mediterranean and Arabian Nights-style gaming. In the aftermath of 9/11, Raphaël and François wanted to create a setting which refracted the cultural conflicts of our time in a historical-fantasy context, but which equally provided a gameplay which transcended those conflicts and offered a route to coexistence and appreciation of our diversity.

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Kickstarting the Mindjammer Universe: A Far Future Transhuman Utopia?

Kickstarting the Mindjammer Universe: A Far Future Transhuman Utopia?

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Yesterday Mindjammer Press launched a Kickstarter for my far future transhuman science-fiction roleplaying game and fiction setting Mindjammer, to fund a series of RPG supplements and fiction for the game, including sourcebooks, adventures, and even a version for the Traveller rules. It made its initial funding goal this morning in a little less than 24 hours, and John very kindly invited me to Black Gate to speak about the Kickstarter and the Mindjammer setting.

You may know something about Mindjammer already — John O’Neill and Howard Andrew Jones have both written about it before, and I’ve blogged about it here too. It’s set in Earth’s far, far future — approximately 17,000AD — during the Expansionary Era, when a formerly stagnant civilization on Old Earth has reinvented itself as a “New Commonality of Humankind” following the discovery of “planing” — faster-than-light travel. Now, two centuries on, the Commonality is journeying to the stars, rediscovering lost colonies settled from Old Earth by slower-than-light generation and stasis ships millennia before. Cultural conflict is everywhere, between this vibrant, optimistic, yet overwhelmingly strong interstellar civilization, and the disunited, often highly divergent lost colony cultures which are facing “integration” at the Commonality’s hands.

The Commonality considers itself the brightest and greatest civilization of humankind. The Mindscape, a vast interstellar shared consciousness and data storage medium to which all Commonality citizens are linked by neural implant, gifts its citizens with technological telepathy and the awesome powers of technopsi. It also lets them upload their memories, and download the memories of other people — even dead people. Artificial life forms with synthetic personalities based on the memory engrams of dead heroes abound: even the starships are sentient beings, the eponymous “Mindjammers”, faster-than-light vessels which travel between the stars, updating the Mindscape and knitting transhumanity’s interstellar civilization together.

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SFFWorld Announces Kickstarter for Ecotones Ecological SF Anthology

SFFWorld Announces Kickstarter for Ecotones Ecological SF Anthology

ecotoneslrgThe folks over at SFFWorld are working on their latest in a series of themed “pro-am” anthologies. These anthologies bring together big names, rising stars, and relative unknowns around a common theme. This year’s book, Ecotones, is taking a speculative look at ecological issues with stories by Lauren Beukes, Tobias S. Buckell, and Ken Liu. It will come out in December 2015. Other authors include Matthew Hughes, Stephen Palmer, Daniel Ausema, Victor Espinosa, Andrew Leon Hudson (also the editor), Kurt Hunt, Christina Klarenbeek, Jonathan Laidlow, Igor Ljubuncic, P. J. Richards, and Rebecca Schwarz.

(Full disclosure: Contributor/editor Andrew Leon Hudson is a friend of mine here in Madrid. He’s also my most obnoxious beta reader, so he’s serious about clean prose.)

You can check the project’s teaser page to learn more about the stories, which appear to span the realm of speculative fiction from space opera to urban fantasy.

SFFWorld is trying to raise £1,000 to cover costs and pay the authors via a Kickstarter campaign. As inducements they’re offering the anthology, plus bundles including their three previous anthologies and other goodies. Rewards start at the £3 mark, which is cheap for a Kickstarter. While the authors have already been offered a nominal fee, the Kickstarter is pushing for additional  £2,500 and £5,000 goals in order to pay them semi-pro or pro rates.

The Kickstarter is on for the entire month of November.

Click here to help the Kickstarter. Check the anthology’s blog for more information and updates.


Sean McLachlan is the author of the historical fantasy novel A Fine Likeness, set in Civil War Missouri, and several other titles, including his action series set in World War One, Trench Raiders. His historical fantasy novella The Quintessence of Absence, was published by Black Gate. Find out more about him on his blog and Amazon author’s page.

Kickstarter Alert: Vault Wars Card Game

Kickstarter Alert: Vault Wars Card Game

VaultWarsFloodgate Games has a successful track record of Kickstarter projects, starting with their fun time-travel technology-creation game Legacy: Gears of Time. After Legacy and its expansion, Floodgate Games created Epic Resort (Amazon), an unorthodox game set within a traditional fantasy world. In Epic Resort, you run a resort vacation spot where adventurers spend their time to recuperate and heal between adventures. You accumulate gold and hire workers, and then win with victory points gained by building attractions at your resort and having heroes heal up to full health. The twist of the game is that occasionally monsters attack your resort, and the heroes must stop them, which can result in new injuries or even death.

Something of a thematic (and artistic) sequel to Epic Resort, Floodgate Games’ new Kickstarter Vault Wars  asks what happens when heroes die and their vaults of equipment go up for auction, so that other heroes can gain the benefits of a fallen heroes’ previous efforts. You can find out more about the game and its related stretch goals on Kickstarter, but one of the best ways to get a feel for the game (if you have about a half hour) is by watching this video of a walkthrough play of the game. It features a lot of strategic choices and, as it mimics an auction, is built around the idea of bidding and bluffing. One of the stretch goals that’s coming up is a Worker Expansion, which allows players to hire workers that give special one-time bonuses within the game.

The Kickstarter project has passed its funding goal of $10,000, and the opportunity to back the project ends on March 27. The game is slated for delivery in August 2015. Kickstarting price for the basic game is $20, while $45 will get you a deluxe edition with metal coins. Higher cost tiers include copies of Epic Resort and Legacy: Gears of Time, for those who are interested in those games as well.

Mashed Up

Mashed Up

FireflyAs might be expected from the guy who wrote Sword Noir: a Role-Playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery and is now Kickstarting Nefertiti Overdrive: Ancient Egyptian Wuxia, I love a good mash-up. I use the term mash-up to refer to a creative work that blends two or more apparently dissimilar genres. The mash-up most genre fans would know would be Firefly, mashing-up space opera and westerns.

Brotherhood of the WolfNow space opera and western are not terribly dissimilar, but Firefly included many of the trappings as well as the tropes of the western. The characters carried six-shooters and lever action rifles, they had costumes that appeared quite close of 19th century American frontier clothing, and pseudo-frontier language dotted their speech – along with Mandarin. While I often hear Firefly referred to as sci-fi with some western aspects, I think it is more fitting to call it a western in space.

That’s kind of splitting hairs.

Firefly melded two genres, but there is a wonderful French movie that mixes at least four – period drama, martial arts, horror, and romance. The Brotherhood of the Wolf is one of my favourite movies and an inexhaustible source of inspiration. It might not be the finest movie of its age, but it was my favorite movie of 2002.

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Victory for Centurion

Victory for Centurion

And so, my first Kickstarter adventure comes to a close.

I have received the information on the cost of shipping, and while that actually isn’t completely done (we still have a backer in Europe whom we seem unable to connect, even with a third package sent), the extra cost of that – I am praying – will be under $75, all told.

In the end, I consider the Centurion: Legionaries of Rome Kickstarter an incredible success. Not only did we fund, we hit the first stretch goal. We have delivered all backer rewards (save the one errant European package) and have even put a few copies into distribution, so you might see it at your local gaming store.

Here are a few things I learned:

Everything is going to cost more than what you expect. Even when you get a quote, expect it to increase as unforeseen circumstances arise. Shipping is the biggest danger. We received our funds in April and shipped in November and December. Shipping costs increased in that period, though not dramatically so.

You need to get the word out. The only way people are going to back your Kickstarter is if they know about your Kickstarter. You need to beat the drum pretty much constantly. If you are concerned that your constant harping about your Kickstarter will annoy those who follow you in social media, make sure your posts are leavened with other posts of similar subject matter as your Kickstarter. For Centurion, I made lots of posts pointing to Roman history articles, movies, and books. I even had a hashtag, MyCenturionMovie, in which I altered movie quotes to make them suitably Roman (like: “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – the most famous of which is never get involved in a land war in Parthia” or “And you know what they call a gladius in Gaul?” “They don’t call it a gladius?” “No man, they got Gallic.”)

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The Kick That Did Not Start

The Kick That Did Not Start

Not all Kickstarters will fund. Farewell, Something Lovely didn’t.

That was unfortunate, but it was not a complete loss. Some of the backers hadn’t backed Centurion: Legionaries of Rome, my successful Kickstarter, so I had increased my network. I also learned some lessons which helped me prepare for my ongoing Kickstarter for Nefertiti Overdrive: Ancient Egytian Wuxia. Since I’m a generous guy, let me share my lessons learned with you.

1) Expect failure and you can expect failure.

I went into Farewell, Something Lovely with a strong suspicion that I would fail. I’m not saying that I created my own failure… actually, I am saying that, but not that I gave up on the Kickstarter.

I kept pushing until the end. I wonder, though, if that expectation of failure curtailed my efforts in some way. Perhaps I could have done more if I believed the Kickstarter would succeed.

It’s similar to an explanation of backer psychology I heard: backers will only pledge to a Kickstarter they expect to fund. Just as a backer will create a failure by expecting a Kickstarter to fail, I have a feeling that if you go in with your parachute on, maybe you’ll bail out of the plane before absolutely necessary. Maybe if I had put more effort into the Kickstarter, I could have saved it.

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Starting to Kick Farewell, Something Lovely

Starting to Kick Farewell, Something Lovely

Last night I started a new Kickstarter campaign. For those of you who just asked “what’s a Kickstarter?” you can learn more here. Basically, it is a site that links together people interested in investing in projects with those who require funding. These are generally smaller projects, sometimes creative, sometimes technological. Explore the site. There’s lots to see.

This is my second Kickstarter. I’ve mentioned my Kickstarter for Centurion: Legionaries of Rome, a role-playing game, here. I’ll have more to say about that once I get the final tally for shipping costs.

The new Kickstarter is a short fiction collection called Farewell, Something Lovely. I’ve subtitled it “Tales of Sword Noir,” working yet again the title of a sub- sub-genre in which I like to write. To me, sword noir is basically a mash-up of sword & sorcery and hardboiled crime fiction, falling more heavily on the sword & sorcery side. One of the stories re-printed in Farewell, Something Lovely first appeared in Black Gate 15.

Kickstarter offers a great opportunities for freelance creatives, including fiction authors. There are actually better paying markets for short fiction than there are for role-playing games, however there are less of them. E-books have certainly created opportunities for the “insurgent creative” – a term coined by Gareth-Michael Skarka – however Kickstarter offers an even better opportunity, at least in my mind.

Kickstarter provides two factors up-front that e-books or other self-publishing routes do not: market testing and funding.

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Steampunk vs. Aliens – 5 Questions with Joshua Palmatier

Steampunk vs. Aliens – 5 Questions with Joshua Palmatier

Zombies Need Brains, the new small press started by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, has officially launched its first title via Kickstarter, a new anthology called Steampunk vs. Aliens. I sat down for a virtual chat with Joshua about the new project and the new press.

The project is running now on Kickstarter, and it’s been going great. As of this writing, it sits only a bit over $600 from its funding goal, with over two weeks left. Full disclosure, I’m involved with the project, but I’m also very excited about seeing this reach the market and finding fans of Steampunk and old-school science fiction. There are a ton of great rewards for the Kickstarter and lots of great stretch goals ahead.

Find out more by visiting the Kickstarter page for Steampunk vs. Aliens.

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