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