In Our Dreams Awake – Reflections on the Kickstarter

Pretend this says “Funded on Kickstarter!”

In case you missed it, I’m about a month past the end of the Kickstarter I ran for Egg and my comic, In Our Dreams Awake Issue #1. I have a ton of thoughts on the Kickstarter itself and just the whole month.

So this is the 5th Kickstarter I’ve had some level of participation in. I helped out on both the Route 3 and The Fox Chronicles campaigns. I was an active participant on the Crossing Issue #1 campaign, and then I completely ran The Gilded Age one.

On each of these, I’ve learned some things, made some mistakes, learned some other things, and made other mistakes. But you would think that after these previous experiences, I might not make as many decisions that end up causing me some level of heartache, but clearly, the only way I really learn is through banging my head against the wall.

So during the early part of the campaign, I jotted down some of my thoughts. The words that follow are in the moment, edited only for clarity, but they help to show a bit of what my thought process was going through and how easy it is to let the bad thoughts take over.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

***

This first note comes either late on Day 3 (Friday) or early on Day 4.

Day one was decent, but I had a couple of numbers in my head for where I’d like to be at the various milestones of the project.

$300-350 after day 1.

$600 after day 3.

$1000 after a week.

But the first day was $211, the second day was a huge drop and by the time Friday rolled around I was really concerned about the project and rethinking my idea of where to set the goal.

You see, the goal was set in mind to help recoup the art costs, but it actually wouldn’t pay for them 100%. I was fine with that, I’m willing to put “skin” in the game (I think from my calcs that somewhere around $2400 would actually be the break-even point).

I’d done the hustle, reached out to the websites, gotten some articles, and sent a notice to my mailing list (though it might be a bit colder than I’d like). I sent updates to the Gilded Age backers, to our bakers on the Love’s Labour’s Liabilities and Love’s Labour’s Liberated Roleplaying zines (even though it doesn’t directly coincide, it is still something).

With these things I kept thinking can I get 10% of those people to contribute:

185 in the mailing list = 19 people

12x in Gilded Age = 13 people

The Zines = I’m not sure who might come over from the roleplaying side, but it shouldn’t be Zero.

22 people clicked the Kickstarter notifications button = 2 people

I mean, even accounting for some overlaps there, 20 backers early wouldn’t be the craziest thing. And after 2 days we sat at 13 people.

***

As you can see, it was tough going there early on, and it really made me question a lot of things about what I did or didn’t do. And I recognized some of the things (which I’ll likely get into in a future post).

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

***

Now flash forward two weeks. In the meantime, things had been slowly (and I mean slowly) proceeding where we’d have one decent day and then nothing for a couple of days. The swings were beginning to get to me.

Overall we hit the $1000 (50%) mark by the second weekend, which was certainly nice, but it has fallen off a cliff this last week, and I have no idea how to turn it around. At this point we’ve been sitting on $1149 for a couple of days, and we’re 8-9 days left before this thing ends.

I did look to see that approximately 65 people signed up to be reminded and I think 11 of them have actually already contributed, so that’s nice. But I thought the Kickstarter person who talked came on the Comixlaunch podcast mentioned something like an 80% conversion rate on those people (maybe I’m remembering it wrong). So that would be 41 more people to potentially help push us along. If all of them go for the $10 level (plus shipping) then I’d be sitting at $1750ish and we can push it over the last little bit. But if the majority of them are more digital then what, we get to half of that and make it over $1500?

***

And this last one was a few days later. As you can see, I’m still focused on having made the goal too high.

I should have set the goal at $1500.

Stupid.

I mean, I’d still be frustrated at how it is going, but I wouldn’t be worried it wouldn’t fund. Good lord!

The other thing on my mind is that those people get the reminder and see we’re too far away and they opt to not bother anyway, which is the worst-case scenario here.

It feels like I’m missing some avenue to get the word out to ensure this thing happens. But I’m not sure what that is.

Then, on top of everything else, what’s the plan for issues 2-4? I can’t (and shouldn’t) count on only friends and family to support the comic. I need to figure out how to get more eyeballs on the comic. This thing needs to grow. This thing needs to build on itself so that at some point it becomes a bit of a break-even situation financially.

Everything takes so long, and I’m sure that has hurt my path here. If I had the ability to push this comic immediately (within 6 months) of Gilded Age, that would have probably made a big difference.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

***

When you are in the dead zone and the goal looks like it is out of reach, you begin to focus on all the bad that is happening. It’s real easy to lose sight of why you’re putting your work out there. How excited you should be that people are supporting you in any way.

And don’t get me wrong, I was over the moon anytime I saw someone new had backed the project. That was always a pick-me-up. I said it many times during each of the other Kickstarters that this thing is like having another job (at the very least a part-time one). This means by the end of 30 days, you’re burned out on everything.

***

I was on vacation when the project was finally funded. And even though I was doing my best to relax prior to that moment, it was a huge lift of both stress and my spirits. Sadly, I didn’t jot down my exact thoughts, but if I could go ahead and share them now they would have been a lot of internal screaming and yelling, some nice positive four-letter words, and just a sense of accomplishment. I love comics so much, that to be able to do them, even in a small way, is such a blessing.

For all of you who joined me on my journey and supported the dream, thank you.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

In Our Dreams Awake – The Posts

Check out John McGuire’s new Fantasy/Cyberpunk/Dreampunk Comic!

 

Throughout this Kickstarter campaign I’ve written a few posts on In Our Dreams Awake, so this post will put them into a more comprehensive guide so that you don’t have to go stumbling through the Tessera archives in order to locate things.

 

Kickstart the Comic – In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

A breakdown of the actual Kickstarter campaign laying out the pitch and story as well as looking at the reward options. I normally try to be as unbiased when doing the Kickstart the Comic posts on other books, but that might be a little difficult when talking about your own work.

 

Behind the Comic: In Our Dreams Awake

This is a peek at the history of the comic book. How things began all those years ago with a series of emails between Egg Embry and myself. It has been a long journey to get to the point where the comic is nearing a real release.

 

Behind the Comic: – Anatomy of a Panel – In Our Dreams Awake #1

A breakdown of a pair of panels from my portion of In Our Dreams Awake. Consider it a behind-the-scenes or director’s commentary on some of the thought processes when looking at a comic page from the point of view of the writer. And then see how the artist takes that and makes it 1 million times better!

 

I tried to put the spotlight on a couple of my collaborators on this comic book through a pair of interviews to try and get into their minds a little bit about their process and history.

Behind the Artist – Interview with Rolands Kalnins

 

Behind the Artist – Interview with Alex Lugo

 

The interview with Sean Hill, who did a variant cover for In Our Dreams Awake, is from a couple of years ago, but has some nice insight.

Behind the Artist – Interview with Sean Hill, Part 1

 

Behind the Artist – Interview with Sean Hill, Part 2

***

Please check out the current Kickstarter for In Our Dreams Awake!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Behind the Comic: – Anatomy of a Panel – In Our Dreams Awake #1

 

We have about a week left to go on the In Our Dreams Awake #1 Kickstarter, so be sure to check it out!

***

Taken as a whole, a comic book represents the input of multiple people, multiple perspectives, and multiple skill sets before the final product is created. I’ve said many times in the past that one of the reasons I love the format is exactly for that reason. You get to feed off of the creatives who you work with. And what begins as one thing can become something completely different in execution (and making the overall comic that much better).

 

In Our Dreams Awake #1 – Page 7, Panels 7 & 8

The Team

Pencils – Edgar Salazar

Inks – Genaro Olavarrieta

Letters – Egg Embry

Writer – John McGuire

 

Concept

This pair of panels represent the end of a larger conversation within the issue. So much of this world that Jason Byron lives (dreams?) in is dictated by the mages who control everything. They ensure the chaos technology threatens to bring to the people can never exist again. They are Order.

And to go against that would mean going against everything they stand for… and that way lies madness.

So what do we see? We see that Edgar made a choice to not allow for any other colors within these two panels, but instead presented them as a pair of black and white moments. Two men, representing opposite beliefs about their world, are separated by the small table.

 

The Script

Page 7 Panel 7

Annoyed by Peter’s accusation, Jason pushes himself away from the table as if to get up.

Jason – I know all of this, Peter.

Peter – So ask me your question again.

 

Page 7 Panel 8

Same shot as Panel 7 (Jason is still sitting). Jason pauses. No words are needed.

 

Breakdown

As you can see from the script, I actually made a slight mistake between the two panels. In Panel 7, Jason is frustrated/annoyed and pushes himself away from the table. Edgar followed that showing him standing up. His body language is very tense. However, when we come to Panel 8, I note that “Jason is still sitting”…

No, John, he is not.

But Edgar went with it, and I think it actually works in this visual context because of the artist’s choice to make these mirror images of each other (in regards to the black and white). Where Jason was angry in the previous moment, he has sat back down. But instead of either of them furthering the conversation, the darkness envelops them instead pointing two the very ideas that they stand for can not exist alongside one another.

It even mocks the prompt from Peter in Panel 7: “So ask me your question again.” Panel 8 answers that prompt with silence. There is no need to push the issue any longer.

There are no shades of gray here in this place.

***

But perhaps there is another world for Jason to find peace? One he can visit while he dreams?

***

Please check out the current Kickstarter for In Our Dreams Awake!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Comic – In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

As I talked about last week, In Our Dreams Awake has had a long journey to get from the kernel of an idea all the way to this next milestone: A Kickstarter Launch today!

This is one of those stories that examines that fundamental idea I think everyone deals with, which is wondering if their life is enough or if there might be another one we could live if only the circumstances were a little different.

We are raising funds to get the first issue of In Our Dreams Awake printed and out to readers.

***

In Our Dreams Awake #1: A Cyberpunk/Fantasy Adventure

John McGuire – Writer/Creator

Egg Embry – Writer/Creator

Edgar Salazar – Artist

Rolands Kalninš – Artist, Colorist, Letterer

Genaro Olavarrieta – Inker

Alexander Lugo – Letterer

Sean Hill – Variant Cover Artist

The Kickstarter campaign ends on Wednesday, April 27, 2022.

***

The Pitch:

In Our Dreams Awake is the story of what happens when both of those worlds begin to spin out of control. What happens when Jason no longer knows which world is the dream and which one is reality?

 

The Story:

Jason Byron dreams of two lives. In one fantasy, magi reactionaries won, technology is banned, and Jason is a portrait painter hiding a contraband telescope. In the other world, he leads a cyberpunk gang amid a future of flooded cities and gilled aliens. When he closes his eyes in one world, he awakes in the next. Jason’s only desire is to wake up in the arms of his true love, Laura… Uh, or is it Fem’a Lin?… If only he knew which one was real?!

Cyberpunk Variant – Art by Rolands Kalninš

John’s Thoughts:

I’m obsessed with the idea of What If when it comes to how people live their lives. Those little moments then spiral out to set the course of our lives. How easy it is to focus on the things we don’t have rather than embrace all the gifts we do have. It’s very easy to lose sight of what is important when you always are lamenting the things you don’t possess.

It’s human nature to evaluate and then reevaluate and then wonder about the path not taken.

With In Our Dreams Awake, Egg and I are giving this concept a bit of a twist. Instead of trying to figure out how Jason Byron’s life might have gone wrong, he instead sees a world nearly the opposite of the current life he lives. And that would be fine, we could all use a little bit of fantasy in our lives (or cyberpunk as the case may be), but what happens when those two realities begin to bleed into one another. How would you determine which was the real world and which was the dream world?

And how would you know which one was worth fighting for… or dying for?

The Rewards:

The Kickstarter is for the first issue in what we hope will be a four-issue series. We have the options of either the pdf ($5) or print version ($10) to send to you. We also have two different variant covers, one by Rolands Kalninš and the other by Sean Hill ($15).

And if being drawn into the Cyberpunk world as a potential member of Jason’s gang interests you, we have that for $200.

We also have a number of Add-Ons ranging from a copy of The Gilded Age Graphic novel to the Dreamr by the Apocolypse RPG Zine ($10-$20 each).

Mirror Variant – Art by Sean Hill

The Verdict:

As a co-creator of this little project, I’m so excited for it to become a reality. As my post last week talked about, it has been a long (looooong) road to get here, but we only have a little more to go before this story can see the true light of day and get into the hands of all you potential readers.

The other key piece is that the first issue is completely done. Finished. This isn’t going to be a Kickstarter that lingers on and on. In fact, my hope is that we fund quickly, and I can get the second issue into production while this Kickstarter is actually going on, so that the wait between issues isn’t so long.

***

I’d like to thank you in advance for checking the project out. And be sure to check back in on the project throughout the month as I’ll be posting various interviews with my fellow creators.

And be sure to check out the Kickstarter here!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Behind the Comic: In Our Dreams Awake

 

I don’t have the email anymore where I first pitched Egg the basic idea behind In Our Dreams Awake. I basically remember that I had hit upon this idea of someone having to live two different lives, one when they slept and one when they were awake. I know that it happened around the Winter of 2004-2005 in one of many of our daily emails back and forth to each other. Those emails served as both catch-up on the day/week and also a dumping ground for us to share potential writing ideas.

You see, the goal with Egg and I always was to find a way to write comic books. During college, there were many, many, many weekends the two of us would journey from one comic shop to another looking for back issues. And during those trips, we’d talk story ideas. They ranged from some take on whatever Marvel or DC or Image might be doing at the time all the way to our own comic ideas featuring our own characters. But this was in the days before something like Kickstarter existed, back in the days when we were going to have to find a way to do things on the “cheap”.

Egg’s always been good about looking at potential story ideas and breaking them down into a format that might be a little different. And In Our Dreams Awake sent his mind going.

I know/remember a few things about this time:

Egg found the title from a quote by Thoreau.

Egg pitched the idea of the two of us writing portions of the story. One of us would take one dream and the other would write the other.

Egg found both the artists to do what would become a 4 issue mini-series: Edgar Salazar (pencils) and Genaro Olavarrieta (inks) for my “fantasy world” dream and an artist for “futuristic world”.

So we started on the scripts for issue 1. And then the pages started rolling in… this was working… we were going to have a comic book!

We quickly got scripts going for all 4 of the issues, as Edgar and Genaro were rocketing through their work. I learned how to color on the computer (which is a story for another time). Egg’s artist was turning in good stuff. The tone felt great… all we needed to do was find a home for the comic.

We approached Image, I think we sent it off to a couple of other places, but nothing ever came of it. I was working with the Terminus Media guys at the time and had learned enough to know how to get the book printed, but we realized we probably needed to have a complete book before going down that path.

And then Egg’s artist fell off the face of the Earth.

He’d done around 20ish pages out of the 48 or so we’d need to finish things up. But we couldn’t find him. He didn’t return email. I think Myspace was a bust (remember Myspace?). Months went by, which became a year, which became two years. Edgar and Genaro finished their pages and moved on, but we felt hamstrung by this artist. It was weird that one of the original reasons for doing the comic with two artists was so that it would half the load. We thought there was a chance that if an artist disappeared (or ghosted us) that it would be relatively early in the process. Maybe they’ve done 1-5 pages and then make like a wizard, but he’d done enough for 2 issues.

We scrambled. Egg came up with an idea to split his dream in two with the already finished pages and then get a new artist (potentially himself) to do the last 24 pages. We toyed with some other thoughts, but time went on, and like so many things…

In Our Dreams Awake passed into legend…

It nagged at me. Tugged at the back of my mind. Every year I’d look through my files and see the pages and think about what could have been. I wrote the Gilded Age and The Dark That Follows and still, it was there. Egg moved on to RPGs and writing for so many websites that I can’t even keep up with his output these days.

When we were first working on the comic, Egg found the Thoreau quote and it fit perfectly. But randomly during that same Christmas, my mom got me post-its with quotes on them. And while they didn’t have the In Our Dreams Awake quote, they did feature one from Poe that seemed made for our comic:

Things had lined up perfectly until they didn’t.

Then March 2020 happened and the world changed. We had time on our hands. And In Our Dreams popped up in my dreams again. So I reached out to Egg. Told him I wanted to make a go of it. That we knew so much more than we had nearly 2 decades earlier. The biggest obstacle was always having product, but in this case, we had 1/2 the story already done. There was only one hurdle to go: we needed to reach out to Egg’s artist and see if we could use those pages or if we were going to start over.

And after many weeks, we decided to go with someone new.

The thing was, I’m a part of a couple of Facebook Groups where artists post their work looking for their next gigs, so I’d been saving posts of anyone who caught my eye. So when we decided to move on, I shared all the potentials with Egg, and very quickly we identified Rolands Kalniņš as the person who could bring the sci-fi/cyberpunk dream to life. And Rolands has done that and more. And all of a sudden we had issue 1 ready to go.

All of sudden… after 17 years…

The Kickstarter launches one week from now, but we’d love it if you’d sign up for the Notification Page just so that Kickstarter will send you an email when the project goes live. You can find that page here.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

In Our Dreams Awake – Kickstarter Prelaunch

Jason Byron dreams of two lives. In one fantasy, magi reactionaries won, technology is banned, and Jason is a portrait painter hiding a contraband telescope. In the other world, he leads a cyberpunk gang amid a future of flooded cities and gilled aliens. When he closes his eyes in one world, he awakes in the next. Jason’s only desire is to wake up in the arms of his true love, Laura… Uh, or is it Fem’a Lin?… If only he knew which one was real?!

In a society ruled by mages, Jason Byron is a master artist trying to provide for his family. He has a secret heirloom, a telescope. With it he can see the stars, but can he see the trouble his illegal piece of technology will bring to his family?

In drowning London, Jason Byron deals in chum, the hottest drug among aliens. He and his true love are trying to escape their world. Can they keep the peace long enough to get away before the world is pulled beneath the waves?

In Our Dreams Awake is the story of what happens when both of those worlds begin to spin out of control. What happens when Jason no longer knows which world is the dream and which one is reality?

***

In Our Dreams Awake comes from co-creators John McGuire and Egg Embry. The first issue of this mini-series features two dreams, the first illustrated by Edgar Salazar and the second by Rolands Kalniņš. Both artists provide covers in addition to Sean Hill’s variant cover. Written for fans of love stories, dreampunk, steampunk, and cyberpunk, this comic offers an engaging mystery with amazing artwork. This story is about love and loss and asking the big questions: Who am I? Where do I belong? Who do I love?

***

We are launching the Kickstarter on March 30, 2022; however, you can make sure that you get notified when it launches by signing up at the Pre-launch Page!

***

Over the next month and a half, I’ll have preview pages, origin stories, interviews with the creative team, and probably some stuff I’m not remembering right now. I hope you’re ready to join me on another comic book adventure!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Dreaming

Hoarding…

I’ve mentioned in the blog before that I’m a bit of a pack rat. At heart, I’m a collector. Which my wife can attest to with the comic book collection taking up multiple closets in our house. But it isn’t just physical objects, it’s digital ones as well. I have abandoned short stories cluttering up one of my drives because I know…

I KNOW!

That I may end up using some piece of the story in another project down the road. This mostly means that those projects from back in the day may only need just a little bit of love and maybe they can come back to life.

Which brings me to my next comic…

A couple of years ago I finished up the first four issues of the Gilded Age comic book, and while I am chomping at the bit to get back to writing that project, there was another one that actually existed many years before Gilded Age was ever a thought in my brain. It is something that is both a fantasy and sci-fi comic book. However, for many, many reasons (which I’m likely to touch on in the coming weeks), it was also the project that I couldn’t just let die somewhere on a hard drive.

It’s a project that has been around for some time, and after talking to the co-writer (this site’s own Egg Embry!), we have decided now would be the perfect time to finish it up.

So for now I thought I’d give you a peek at one of the covers (yes, plural) from Edgar Salazar (of Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and many others fame).

I’m excited for this project to finally get out into the world!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Love’s Labour’s Liabilities – Postscript

So we are about a week past the end date of our submission for Kickstarter’s ZineQuest 3. How did it end up?

 

I think Stress was the watchword on this project with most decisions that we made focusing on how to limit the amount of stress we would have in running the Kickstarter, hitting our goals, and fulfilling the Kickstarter. So you’re going to see that word a lot in the recap below.

As I noted in my Kickstart the Game post, we reached our goal in about 5 hours which made it a lot less stressful (see, there’s that word!) than our first attempt at doing a Zine back during ZineQuest 1. During that campaign, we funded in the last hour or so which meant that for the entire duration of the Kickstarter we were constantly checking and double-checking the webpage. Now, this is a normal part of a Kickstarter… or at least for me it is, but it can’t be both distracting and at times deflating. You get the little highs when you check and the number goes up, but it is almost worse when the number just sits there, mocking you.

In comparison, Loves’ Labour’s Liberated’s (LLL1) goal was set at $1000 and Love’s Labour’s Liabilities’ (LLL2) goal was set at $400.

Why the difference in goals? Well first was the hope that we might fund earlier in the process and not get down to the last few minutes not knowing whether it was going to fund or not. The second was that we knew more about the process. Going into LLL1, between the 3 of us, only I had run a Kickstarter before and that was for the Gilded Age Graphic Novel. This was an RPG-related item that we were still figuring out. And we wanted to set what we thought was an achievable goal… technically we weren’t wrong. But with LLL2, we had learned what to do and what not to do.

Finally, there was the biggest reason for only having a $400 goal. We gave away LLL2 (pdfs) to all the LLL1 backers for free. Why did we do that? Well, we were late on delivering LLL1.

Really, really, really (add about 100 more “really”s and you start to get the point) late. We all dropped the ball on that and really there was no excuse for it.

This giveaway was an additional attempt to make up for all those delays. However, this created a different sort of problem: If you give away the zine to your previous backers then you are going to have to pretty much find all new backers for the new Kickstarter. Normally, when you do sequels to previous Kickstarters, you are counting on some percentage of backers to follow you to the next project. During LLL1 we had 81 backers. Doing things this way meant we were kind of starting from scratch with this one.

I should note that about a dozen backers for LLL2 had also backed LLL1, so it didn’t completely eliminate some repeat customers.

Of course, we didn’t know what to expect, so the $400 with a potential for some stretch goals made a ton of sense. And again, funding so quickly really let us focus on getting the word out rather than worrying so much on the $$.

This brings us to the single biggest difference between LLL1 and LLL2, we had completely finished LLL2 before the campaign went live. Obviously, we needed to have it done to deliver to LLL1 backers, but it was a conscious decision by all of us that we needed to get out in front of this so that there would be no question in anyone’s mind whether they’d have to wait a year or more to receive what they’d paid for. In fact, as we look to the future, I believe this is the best way to do any additional Kickstarters we run.

When LLL2 was all done, we actually eclipsed LLL1 in both total backers and total dollars:

LLL1 – 81 Backers for $1018

LLL2 – 86 Backers for $1134

This amount allowed us to unlock 3 stretch goals which were Bonus Art X-Cards for use at your gaming tables.

We delivered the updated LLL2 pdf immediately upon the campaign ending, and are now in the process of getting the dedications put into the pdf before it gets sent out to the printers. After that, the three of us will get together and pack up the zines and stretch goals to send out to the backers (which looks like it will happen the first weekend in March). All of this means that potentially everyone will get their Zines within about 5-6 weeks of the campaign ending.

***

Now what?

We’ve started talking about what a LLL3 might look like. I know Egg is looking to do another non-5e Zine at some point down the road on his own. And recently I’ve become enamored with the idea of maybe branching out from a 5e zine and looking at some of the other systems. Not sure exactly when any of those will be done, but I’m looking forward to working on them!

For all of you who backed either Kickstarter, I just want to thank you again for placing your faith and your hard-earned dollars behind these projects. The ability to do this is really the fulfillment of some dreams that we’ve all had since we first discovered roleplaying games.

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

Kickstart the Game – Love’s Labour’s Liabilities

Check out Leland Beauchamp’s, Egg Embry’s, and John McGuire’s 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Zine!

We live, we love, and sometimes we lose. All are part of life, and yet the last part is the thing that will not only knock us to the ground but put so much weight on our chest that we may never find a way to get back up again.

***

So I am a part of a new Kickstarter…

And for the first time, it is a sequel to something I’ve already contributed to:

Love’s Labour’s Liabilities.

You can check it out here.

***

We launched on Monday around 11 AM and by the time I’d gotten back from a doctor’s appointment at 2:30 PM, we had funded! It was a modest goal this time of $400, but there is definitely a huge sigh of relief when you hit your goal. It makes it so that you can actually enjoy the ride a little bit more. We’ve now begun to focus on Stretch Goals which will be a bonus X-Card for use at your table.

This year marks the 3rd annual (I’m assuming) Kickstarter Zine Quest for the month of February. What’s Zinequest you might ask? Well, if you cast your mind back to the 60s or 70s or 80s when you would go into a record shop or comic shop or gaming store and had those pamphlet looking things sitting there that were put together by hand… that’s basically what a Zine is. Yes, today we have programs that allow it to be done a bit easier, but the goal is the same. These are ideas that have been percolating since our successful Kickstarter of Love’s Labour’s Liberated during Zine Quest 1, and that Do-it-Yourself attitude has gotten to us again.

But we learned from the last Kickstarter. This time the whole thing is completely done and ready to go. So the only thing you will have to wait on is the actual printings, but the day after the campaign ends, you’ll have your pdf!

***

This time we are focusing on more of a darker part of the love relationships… the loss part… the obsession part…

It seems like when I’m thinking of ideas for the backstories for any characters I play, I drift toward those who might have a little bit of darkness in them. Perhaps there was an unrequited love, perhaps there was something more devious at hand. That’s what we’ve tried to provide for players in this Zine. A Broken Hearted Monk. An elemental force of nature obsessed with it’s Warlock. New spells, magic items, and much more. All options for bringing even more depth to your 5th Edition games.

***

Like I said on the first Zine Quest we did, you never know who is going to potentially read your work. My hope is that everyone who gets it and reads it is able to use at least one thing from it in their home games.

I hope you take the opportunity to check out the Kickstarter!

***

John McGuire is the writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

New Release – Tales from Vigilante City

Anthologies are a great smorgasbord of being able to get a wide breadth of stories that you might not have normally been exposed to. In addition, there may be an author or two whose story grabs the reader in a way that they want to seek other writings from them. For me, I just like a good short story. Something that can be consumed entirely in one sitting. Something that can ask a question or look at an event in a different way than a novel ever could. With novels, you have time. The writer can spin four or five different storylines and double that many characters over the course of three hundred pages. Short stories aren’t allowed those luxuries. You have to really focus in and cut through the noise.

I’m honored that my short story, “Anonymous”, has found a home in the Tales from Vigilante City Short Fiction Collection (which you can find here).

Vigilante City is the main city of the “gritty, street-level, superhero game set in the near future”, Survive This!! Vigilante City from Bloat Games. If it wasn’t apparent by the name, this is more on your Batman style of crime-fighter and less of the Green Lantern types (although the game allows you to tailor it to whatever style you want).

For my short story, I knew I wanted to submit something, but I didn’t have anything in the hopper that really fit into this genre. Weird that as much as I love comics, I tend not to write them in a prose format. And I was stumped with what to write. Was there a hero doing… something? Could I maybe write about a speedster? I love the Flash, but even that didn’t go anywhere.

Sometimes, though, you just need to let your subconscious mind work things out for you.

I’m not exactly sure why I started thinking less about the hero and more about the villains… but I do remember that I effectively wrote the story in the twenty-minute commute I had, literally speaking it out to an empty car in the hopes that I wouldn’t forget my idea before I could write it down. I wrote the first draft that night and finished it up only a couple of days later.

This is what I came up with: what if I wrote about a henchman instead of the big bad villain. What if this henchman has been doing this gig for long enough that he’s finally got that “one big score”? How would his story end?

Image by Allen_Henderson from Pixabay

***

“Anonymous” by John McGuire

“In Vigilante City, there are opportunities to be found whether you are on the right side of the law or the wrong side. However, the glitz and glamour of being the villain captured on the evening news isn’t all it is cracked up to be. And for one anonymous henchman, he has a plan to get his last score.”

***

In addition, I’m joined by some talented writers in the collection:

“I’m Not a Superhero” by Clare L. Deming

“BANG-BANG” by Egg Embry (hey, he writes for Tessera too!)

“The Icy Death of Dr. Furious” by Christopher Robin Negelein

“Marshwalk” by ‘Aerzyk’ Thomas Parent

“Midnight Ace and The Atomic Engine” by James M. Spahn

***

I just want to thank the guys and gals over at Bloat Games again. It’s very cool to get to play a bit in this kind of world! And remember, you can purchase it here!

***

John McGuire is writer of the sci-fi novel: The Echo Effect.

He is also the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Click here to join John’s mailing list and receive preview chapters of upcoming novels, behind the scenes looks at new comics, and free short stories.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow Empire, Tales from Vigilante City, Beyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Kickstart the Game – Love’s Labour’s Liberated

Check out Leland Beauchamp’s, Egg Embry’s, and John McGuire’s 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Zine!

You just never know how something is going to be received. How something may or may not connect with someone else. Or even whether or not the right people will see the thing that you’ve created.

The first part of it is in the creation… the idea. Then you have to do the work and get it out there. And then you have to try and spread the word as best (or better) you can.

And then, when it is all said and done, you just don’t know what’s going to happen.

***

So I am a part of a new Kickstarter:

Love’s Labour’s Liberated.

You can check it out here.

We launched this past Friday and through the weekend were a quarter of the way to our goal.

Launching a Kickstarter means that I get to relive that month of periodically checking to see if anyone else had pledged anything in the last five minutes since the last time I checked the page. 🙂

This project is apart of Kickstarter’s ZineQuest that they are promoting. Basically, they are harkening back to a time where you ordered newsletters from the backs of magazines in an effort to connect with other people, get news that no one else would know, or maybe even new games that someone had created in their basement. You were in a little community.

Of course, in today’s internet world, pretty much any information you’d ever want is right at your fingertips. Do you want to know how to cook a particular dish? No going to the cookbook, just go to Youtube and watch someone walk you through it. Need to know who else was with the Spartans when they held the Hot Gates against Xerses? Just a click away.

This Kickstarter is much more do it yourself. It’s black and white. Approximately 36 pages. And it will be focused on something Egg Embry, Leland Beauchamp, and myself are all interested in: roleplaying the things that happen in between you blowing up things with your fireball spells.

***

Throughout the various roleplaying games that I’ve taken part of, the moments that stick out the most are when the characters really come to life. Normally that isn’t because they killed a bunch of goblins. No, it was because they connected to something within the story. They connected to the characters the Game Master had created in order to try to ground the players to the world. At the core of it all is this connection to Love.

It could be as simple as saving your lost love from the clutches of the evil wizard. Or seeing the loss of a character and wanting to make things better. It’s not about saving the world but instead becomes saving someone’s heart.

***

Image by Rick Hershey. Modified by Egg Embry.

And then there is Chivalry. I like the idea of someone who stands for something bigger than themselves. They have an honor they hold up to show others. It isn’t easy in the games either. A good Game Master is going to put you to the test to see whether you break some truth you claim to have.

The knights of the story books. The ones who go on quests for king and country. Who do their best to make the world around them a little bit better by defending those who can’t defend themselves.

***

Leland had a character in one of our campaigns in college that was maddening in how he played her. Aurora was an Enchantress who almost never cast any spells. She never needed to. He’d have them prepared, just in case, but time and time again situations would come up and he’d find a way around using his powers. After a while I think it became a little mini-game of his to see if he could get through a session without casting magic.

That’s the type of wizard I want to play, someone who is looking at all the angles and making sure they have exhausted every other option before falling back on their abilities.

That’s the type of wizard we want to introduce in the Zine.

***

You never know who is going to potentially read your work. But you hope that someone might read through our Zine and get a little idea here or there to introduce into their own games. Maybe they see a potential angle they never really explored before.

I hope you take the opportunity to check out the Kickstarter.

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

10 Things I Miss Most About Role-Playing

It’s no secret.

I can pretend to be a sports-loving, cave-dwelling, meat-eater.

But it wasn’t always so.

Once, long ago, I dwelled in the lands of swords & sorcery. At the tender age of eleven, my uncle passed along a set of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books, and I was hooked.

Every dorky image you’ve seen of role-players on the internet…they were me. Every nerd stereotype, I conquered.

And no, I don’t care. I loved every second of my dice-rolling origin story.

Here’s the ten things I miss most about role-playing back in the day:

* * *

The Clatter of Dice on the Table

As a little kid, I thought dice were six-sided and used only by gamblers in the seediest corners of Vegas. Who knew they came in such a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and colors? My favorite set was sparkly green. And damn, that twenty-sided die rolled more 20’s than should’ve been legal. As a game master, I crushed many players’ dreams with my dice. Just ask Egg Embry, king of role-playing wanna-lancers.

*

Role-Playing for Days Without Stopping

When we played, we played. No tiny two-hour sessions for us. My little group of four would sometimes convene on a Saturday afternoon, head down to the basement, and emerge late Sunday night. No, we didn’t have girlfriends. Yes, we had more fun than everyone else on the planet. Sometimes, if my entire crew wasn’t available, I’d run a session with two guys, then head over to the third player’s house and game until the wee hours.

Pure. RPG. Heaven.

*

Creating Art for the Game

Some D&D players show up with the simple goal of advancing their character and hoarding treasure. Not our group. We created worlds, and we lived inside them. To aid the process, some of us created art to support our fantastical visions. Hell, I bought a giant art book and populated it entirely with drawings, sketches, and hand-painted maps. Did we take it too far? Nah. Instead of watching movies, we directed our own stories inside our minds.

The Underhollows – A painted scene from our campaign.

*

Eating Pizza & Drinking Mountain Dew

If I ate today like I ate back then, I’d be 300 lbs. Fortunately, the body of a fourteen-year old is resilient. We chugged gallons of carbonated sugar water and ate boxes upon boxes of Little Caesar’s pizza.

…and we didn’t gain a damn pound.

More importantly, the caffeine we imbibed fueled our bodies better than a thousand Haste potions. If we’d have had an IV, we could’ve stayed awake for weeks at a time, rolling dice and avoiding life beyond our basement.

*

Painting Miniatures

Nowadays, my young son plays with the remnants of what was once a mighty lead-pewter army. He doesn’t know about the hundreds of hours involved in painting and perfecting thousands of his tiny miniature monsters. He doesn’t really care.

Honestly, we didn’t really need the miniatures to play our style of game. Most of the fun lived in the actual painting. It’s not like video games, in which everything is programmed for you. When you take the time to add color and life to your very own miniature character, it becomes something sacred.

And ‘effing badass.

*

Creating New Worlds

The guys (and gals) who participated in my campaign won’t ever know the work I put in behind the scenes. I didn’t just design simple treasure hauls. I invented a universe, and I loved every minute of it.

I probably should’ve been studying for school.

Nah.

In folders ancient and dusty, I have hundreds of maps, sketches, character drawings, stories, and massive overarching plot outlines. I planned our game sessions well in advance, carefully constructing multiple scenarios to accommodate whatever crazy choices the players might make.

Some of those sketches and outlines, I turned into fantasy novels later in life. Others remain in hiding, likely never to see daylight again.

Sniffle…

*

Drawing Dungeon Maps

Along with world-creation came the fun (though often tedious) job of mapping out dungeons.

Take a left turn, fall into a pit of spikes.

Go straight, fight a pack of bloodthirsty Necrophages.

Head down the stairs, prepare to meet your doom.

Armed with reams of graph paper and a knack for being cruel to my players, I designed dozens of dungeons. Some were simple. Others were bottomless. Several were never traversed, and still lie hidden, chock full of gold (and death.)

Think this is complex? You ain’t seen nuthin’, rookie.

*

Seeing the Joy on Players’ Faces

For as insidious as I tried to be, I genuinely wanted my fellow gamers to succeed. After all, I’d laid the trappings of an epic world, and if the players’ characters died, they’d never have the chance to explore it.

They’ll never know it, but I loved it when they outsmarted me.

And when they reached the end of a plotline, it felt like we finished one movie in a thrilling series.

Only…instead of having to wait a year for the next installment to arrive, we simply kept playing.

It’s like leveling up in a video game, only a million times more euphoric.

*

Creating New Characters

In our deep, dark basement (or my dad’s musty living room) I sometimes wonder how many new characters we made. For us, making a new character wasn’t just writing statistics down on a sheet of paper; it was more about inventing a new persona. If the idea behind role-playing is to escape our mundane reality for a while, then there’s no greater method than to step into the mind of someone else.

Elves. Dwarves. Cantankerous old wizards. Midget lizard-folk clerics. Whatever floats your boat.

We played ’em all. Some died. Some lived. Some went down in infamy.

But all will be remembered.

*

Storytelling

Ultimately, gaming (at least the way we did it) isn’t about rolling dice, collecting treasure, or slaughtering goblins. It’s about creating a living world, not unlike a book, into which one can wander for days on end.

For the players, it’s all about exploration. Discovery. Advancement.

For me, it’s about telling a story. And not just a lonely, beginning-to-end tale, but a flexible, ever-changing universe.

Like the butterfly effect, one motion by one player can change everything.

Sigh…

I only wish we could’ve finished the story. We stopped well before arriving at the end. It’s probably my fault for being long-winded.

Oh well.

If reincarnation exists, I’m coming back as a fourteen-year old dungeon master.

With a shitload of Mountain Dew.

*

If you like role-playing inspired stories, go here.

If you like cheesy RPG art, try this.

J Edward Neill