13th Doctor Who: Roleplaying Game

“Jodie Whittaker is a woman and the 13th Doctor.” The most controversial event of July 16th, 2017. It split the inter-webs into two opposed camps:

  1. Greatest actor of her generation
  2. The “D” in “Doctor” stands for “Dicks”

Jodie Whitaker composed as Doctor Who from Metro.co.uk

I chose the Greatest Actress camp before turning my mind to what possibilities a female Doctor will create for Doctor Who: RPG? Will this be doom or opportunity for Cubicle 7‘s game series? Before I get into the peaks and valleys of my speculations, let me offer some background.

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BACKGROUND

Example Page from Sword & Wizardry

Tabletop role-playing games are synonymous with sword and sorcery. With so many fantasy systems to choose from, companies look for ways to make theirs stand out. Frog God Games came up with an elegant way to ensure that the 3rd printing of their retro-clone, Swords and Wizardry, had the broadest appeal possible. They hired Stacy Dellorfano (of ConTessa fame) to lead an all-female design staff for the newest printing of their ENnie Awardwinning game. What inspired this? Frog God Games shared this on their Kickstarter:

…we were talking with designer Stacy Dellorfano about the fact that many OSR games have a physical appearance and presentation that really targets the 40 year old guys who’ve been gaming since forever, and doesn’t have nearly as much appeal to younger or female gamers of the generations following that first wave of players from the 1980s. In point of fact, old-school games, with their light-rules aspect and emphasis on a game master’s “common sense” interpretation of situations, are actually a really good tool for anyone who feels like rules-lawyers may be spoiling the game by trying to be over-authoritative or even overbearing with a GM. But if the appearance and presentation make the game look like it’s purely a throwback and not a modern tool for good gaming, then there’s a real obstacle to the game’s push into the mainstream gaming community.

As a result of this analysis, we engaged Stacy as a designer to produce an edition that’s no less appealing to older male gamers, while being MORE appealing to younger and to female gamers. Stacy put together a team, all women, to address this dual objective. We think her team has done an awesome job, and when you see the design results, we think you’ll agree.

This project came out of a discussion largely about how to get more women interested in OSR games, and evolved into a request to create a product that would appeal to all genders and challenge the idea of what an OSR game should look like. For many of the women who illustrated the book, this is their first foray into freelancing in the tabletop RPG industry. By participating in this project, we’re raising their visibility and adding more female voices to the industry.

What this is not is an “RPG for women”. This is Swords & Wizardry the same as it’s been for the last two printings, just with new artwork and layout for the new printing.

Yet the naysayers say to me – “But Egg, can women – WOMEN?! – design the look of a REAL retro-clone?”

Absolutely, Mr. Naysayer! Stacy and crew produced an iconic S&W 3e! Every page looks phenomenal and the book flows! This printing is beautiful. 1,213 backers on Kickstarter agree.

“But Egg, that’s the drawings! What about the… the writings? What about the WRITINGS, Egg?!”

Since S&W kept the existing writing with upgraded art, let’s look at a different project, Atlas Animalia by Metal Weave Games. This book covers the biology, game hooks, and more for monsters designed for 5e, Pathfinder, FATE, and more, including OSRs. This is a book of terrifying beasts to slaughter, or be slaughtered by, for your RPG of choice and there are no men listed as writers or editors. The project looks first rate (as the image below shows). I was excited about this campaign (I covered it here) and I was not alone, 798 backers pledged their money on Kickstarter.

Atlas Animalia example page – LAND SHARK!

“Um, well… but Egg, how do those numbers compare to games designed by mixed gender or ALL-MALE creative teams? Egg, I bet if we whip’em out and compare, the number of S&W 3e or Atlas Animalia backers on Kickstarter will be WAY smaller!”

Ok, let’s compare the number of backers for some retro-clones, monster manuals, and remakes on Kickstarter. I’ve picked out a few games that are close in nature to S&W 3e:

Based on this limited sampling (it’s not even close to exhaustive), S&W 3e had two to six times as many backers as the other OSRs in this list. S&W 3e had more backers than some new editions of older games/settings (Alternity and Scarred Lands) while not as many as others (Torg: Eternity and Scion).

While looking for RPG products that are, more or less, apples-to-apples comparisons with Atlas Animalia was more difficult. Still, there were a few:

Atlas Animalia fell into the middle of the range for these campaigns. If these lists (OSRs and monster manuals) were blended, Atlas would be on the upper half of the combined listing.

While this is a drop in the ocean of market research, I’d still hypothesize that RPGs created and written by women do well in the gaming market.

Do you think Frog God Games and Metal Weave Games made the right choice for their respective products?

END BACKGROUND

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Jodie Whittaker is the 13th Doctor and Cubicle 7 makes Doctor Who: Roleplaying Game. When it comes time to produce the Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space: The Thirteenth Doctor Sourcebook (2017-20??), should Cubicle 7 put a female lead designer/female writing staff in place to handle this project?

Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space:
The Thirteenth Doctor Sourcebook (2017-20??)
The first female doctor by [INSERT ROCKING FEMALE RPG CREATOR]

Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who from DoctorWhoTV.co.uk

This is the opportunity to hire a heavily female (or completely female) staff to deliver this sourcebook. Frog God Games and Metal Weave Games had successes with female crews developing their products. There’s no reason to believe that a female Cubicle 7 team would not produce yet another AAA Doctor Who product. The serendipity-by-design of this would be the way to market it.

That said, while they’ll likely update the core rulebook to include the 13th Doctor in the near-term, Cubicle 7 releases their Doctor Who sourcebooks after the current Doctor passes the torch. We’re years away from the release of their 13th Doctor sourcebook. This debate has time for nuance.

This article is not a condemnation of Cubicle 7. It’s the opposite. I’m a fan of C7. For Gen Con 50, I won the dream “date” to attend the ENnie Awards with them. I’m excited about meeting them at the show (and I hope they win some ENnies – Don’t forget to vote!)

As a company, they’re doing a rocking job with the Doctor Who RPG. As such, when I composed this article I hated to suggest that they mess with a winning formula. If they keep with their current creative teams, I know they will deliver an excellent product.

C7 has not announced their plans related to the 13th Doctor sourcebook and they should not until Jodie is ready to pass on the role. With the lead time that Cubicle 7 has on this, a company as competent as they are will gather together the perfect team to knock this out of the park! With their track record, I am confident they’ll make the best decision for their fans.

 

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SWORDS & WIZARDRY 3RD EDITION CHALLENGE!

Am I telling the truth about Swords & Wizardry 3rd Edition? Does it really look amazing? Can women design the look of a retro-clone? Why, yes they can, but you say you need proof, naysayer? The proof is in the product and the product is a single dollar in PDF format. Over at Frog God Games’ website, you can pick up the PDF for a buck and find out for yourself.

NOTE – When you’re doing the dropdown, it’ll say “-$33.99”. It’s confusing but you’ll see it’s one dollar at check out.

Frog God Games’ Swords and Wizardry 3rd Edition PDF

 

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Does S&W 3e and Atlas Animalia sound good to you but you wish there were a female-created board game? How about SPARKED: The hilarious and inspiring board game for women? A board game created entirely by women. 758 backers on Kickstarter.

 

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I’d like to thank every woman that ever gamed or created games or created art for games or thought kindly toward a gamer. You have made this world a better place. Thank you for all you’ve done for me. I cannot say that loud enough.

Sincerely,

Egg Embry

 

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Vanity Press: What Kickstarter RPG Rewards Are Available? – Alternity 2017 and Green Ronin Publishing Talent Search

Ready to design a planet? Seriously, a planet. Your business card could read, “[INSERT NAME], Planetary Architect and Wanna-lancer”. If that, or trying out for Green Ronin Publishing’s female-centric RPG talent hunt, appeals to you, read on.

Alternity from Sasquatch Game Studio

Alternity 2017 – A Science Fiction Roleplaying Game by Sasquatch Game Studio LLC
Kickstarter campaign ends on Thursday, May 4 2017 11:59 PM EDT.

“A modular Science Fiction Tabletop Roleplaying game limited only by your imagination. Choose your future!

Alternity is back—and it’s better than ever!

Strange new worlds and deadly aliens? Mercenaries for hire? Post-apocalyptic survival? Explore your favorite visions of sci-fi adventure in the new Alternity Science Fiction Roleplaying Game from Sasquatch Game Studio.

Many Worlds, One Game: The Alternity Core Rulebook includes a wealth of campaign-building guidance and a modular rules design so that you can model your favorite SF setting or create your own. We’re also launching with one “pre-built” setting, our Protostar universe . . . but we’ve got plans for more worlds if you want ’em! We plan to unlock at least one more setting through our stretch goals for the project.

Alternity Rule Books

What’s your future?

In 1997, Bill Slavicsek and Richard Baker created the original Alternity game—a powerful tabletop RPG engine for science fiction adventure across a wide range of genres. Now, twenty years later, Sasquatch Game Studio is creating a new sci-fi RPG inspired by the original game. We’re rebuilding the game mechanics to take advantage of 20 years of advancement in the art of game design. We’re marrying bold new ideas and exciting new subgenres to the original scope and vision of the Alternity game. And we’re bringing it all together in a convenient, full-color, handsomely illustrated Core Rulebook with supporting adventures and sourcebooks.

But don’t wait for the Kickstarter to finish! A Beta Test release of the Alternity game is currently available as a free download on DriveThruRPG! The Beta release includes an overview of the rules, an introductory scenario, and a sample adventure. We’ll be collecting feedback from testers and backers throughout the coming weeks to make Alternity awesome!

Want to see more about the development process? Visit our website at: http://www.sasquatchgamestudio.com/Alternity and check out our Alternity Design Blogs!

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Alternity or Primeval Thule? Alternity is going to look amazing!

Sasquatch Game Studio is the design team behind the Primeval Thule Campaign Setting and the Princes of the Apocalypse campaign adventure for 5e. Our Alternity team includes the creators of the original game published by TSR. You can learn more about us and our products at www.sasquatchgamestudio.com.”

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Egg’s Thoughts:

Sasquatch Game Studio, the designers behind Primeval Thule Campaign Setting, produced the first vanity press purchase I participated in. That setting – best described as Conan meets Cthulhu – stands tall among the 5e products I’ve bought along the way. The quality of their production (writing, direction, and art) is second to none.

Using Primeval Thule as a guide post, I think Alternity will be one of the best sci-fi products available. Being a new, wholly original iteration of the original TSR game, Alternity will provide both a retro-fix and break new ground.

As an added bonus, they have a vanity press pledge level that allows you to name and design a planet for their Protostar Mission Guide, the first campaign setting for Alternity. Ever had a whole sci-fi planet you wanted to design? Here’s your chance to do that and work with some of the top talent in the RPG industry. Based on my experience, I cannot recommend this enough.

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Green Ronin Publishing’s Talent Search Submissions are open!

“This is just one part of Green Ronin’s larger and ongoing diversity initiative. In this specific case, we’re interested in hearing from women-identified and non-binary individuals with a passion for dark fantasy. What we’d like to see are writing samples that illustrate a grasp of the elements typically involved in RPGs: rules design, world-building/setting write-ups, character profiles, and fiction vignettes, as well as writing that aims to hybridize these elements. Familiarity with the Lost Citadel property is not a requirement at this stage.

We will be accepting your submissions from today until May 15th and the winner will be announced to the public as part of our Lost Citadel Kickstarter on June 6th.

  • Submissions should be no longer than 3,000 total words.
  • Submissions should be sent with an introductory email that includes your name and contact information; during the evaluation stage we will be stripping the submissions of identifying information and assigning each a code number as part of a blind reading so they can be judged without regard to name, existing reputation (or lack thereof), or anything other than the quality of the work.
  • Submissions should be saved as a document file and sent as an email attachment to lostcitadelrpg@greenronin.com. Don’t worry about heavy formatting, tone-appropriate font choices, or other stylistic flourishes.

While the setting is dark fantasy and its core expression will be in 5E, you are NOT required to adhere to those specifics in your submissions. We welcome submissions featuring mechanics from any edition, or those for our in-house system (AGE), or even those featuring other popular systems you feel might be dark fantasy-appropriate.

Green Ronin Publishing – Lost Citadel

Keep in mind that this is not a math test disguised as a talent search. While submitting a well constructed Pathfinder stat block may be acceptable, it doesn’t go very far toward showcasing one’s talent and/or ability as a writer, only one’s ability to do math. Remember, the idea is to make a strong impression with your writing.

By submitting your work for evaluation, you represent that you are the sole author of the material being submitted, agree that Green Ronin and its agents have the right to read your submissions for the purposes of this search, and acknowledge that Green Ronin is under no obligation to use, buy, license, or adapt your talent search submission for any other use.”

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Egg’s Manplanation:

Green Ronin Publishing is a Top Five RPG publisher. To be picked by them during this talent search would be a career jumpstart. Add to that, they’re targeting the expansion of the RPG industry by getting more women behind the keyboard. If you meet the above criteria and want to test out the freelance RPG waters, this is the talent hunt for you.

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Why Kickstarter RPG Vanity Press Rewards? Why Not Self-Publish?

Why am I dead set on buying role-playing game writing credits via Kickstarter? Why build a resume through paying to work for other creators? Why not, you know, self-publish my own RPG content? There are a number of options to sell third-party RPG publications: OpenGamingStore.com, DMsGuild.com, RPGNow.com, DriveThruRPG.com, Kickstarter.com (of course) and more. So why not be my own boss and dive in?

open-gaming-store-logo

I’ve touched on my major obstacle to doing more, time. I lack it so it makes more sense, for now, to do small parts of larger, collaborative projects.

Another major concern I have is being seen. I want what I write to be read. Would I develop a following out of the stone blue?

Then there’s the one my creditors care about the most – Profitability. Would I make more publishing than I hope to make as a freelancer?

Some of the answers to those questions appear in One Year on DM’s Guild, an entry by Jacob Driscoll on his blog The Wonder Waffles. In the article, he discusses his RPG sales in 2016 on the DMsGuild.com. Well worth a full read.

drivethrurpg-logo

Without reprinting all of Jacob’s research, here are the *edited* parts of his article that are pertinent to what I do (see his article for a fuller picture):

Productivity (Supply)

  • I’ve made a total of 16 Products […] Prices ranged from Pay What You Want (potentially free!) to $5.
  • These products have had about 340 Total Sales, in all, or a raw average of about 21 sales per product.

Profitability (Demand)

  • I’ve made about $250 profit for myself in royalties …
  • That profit works out for me to about $2.06 per page, or, hourly, $0.50/hour. Or, by word, about three-tenths of a cent per word.
  • On a per-product basis, I’m looking at an average of $16.19 profit per product. That breaks down to about $0.70 per unit …”

From the perspective of my vanity press experiment, there are some worthwhile pieces of information to be assumed from this. After buying two of Jacob’s products – People of the Eternal: Races of the Astral Plane and Hereos of the Eternal: Classes of the Astral Plane – and some Googling, Jacob has more experience in freelance RPG creation than I do. Because of his position ahead of me, his results are worth referencing as a roadmap for the road not taken.

rpgnow-logo

For this comparison, the most important difference between Jacob’s path and mine is our methods. I’m hoping to buy writing assignments, do a solid job and move from being a wanna-lancer that pays to write to a freelancer that gets paid to write. Jacob is jumping right into production and profit and contacting RPG fandom without working for a third-party publisher.

That deserves emphasis. He’s making money while I’m spending it. Jacob’s generated profits ($250) equal to what I spent on my first RPG Kickstarter vanity press reward ($250). He’s WAY smarter than me.

That said, I’m experimenting and that’s worth something. Testing a hypothesis has value… right? Right? I mean, what’s, ah, what’s money?

I mean, other than everything… hmm… uh, <sniffle>… back to topic…

kickstarter-logoJacob points out that, to-date, his per word pay rate (the normal measure for a RPG freelance writer) is $.003 (3/10ths of a cent) per word. While I have not jumped to paid writing gigs, many RPG publishers advertise freelancer rates of $.01 and $.02 per word and $.03 per word and $.05 per word, between three and sixteen times higher than Jacob’s current take. That said, I believe (and clearly Jacob does as well since this is the direction he’s moving) that he will grow a fanbase over the years and in the long game see more money.

In measuring his first year’s accomplishments, Jacob notes his total units sold in 2016 are 340. While that does not represent 340 individual fans, he’s been seen by a number of fans. In the article, he talks about the pricing methods he’s using to attract customers and get a greater amount of sampling. I am lockstep with him on the need for fans to see your work. It’s part of why I chose to buy onto Kickstarter projects. Because they funded, I know they were successful and that any work I do will get eyes on it. As an example, my short (few hundred words) location seed in Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e was seen by at least 850 RPG fans. No one bought it because of what I wrote they bought it for the genius of what Sasquatch Games created. In that amazing campaign setting, the fans got to see what I added and, I hope, will look favorably on trying my future freelancer work because of it.

If Jacob is bringing in a check and building a fanbase and establishing himself, why don’t I? Why am I not going Jacob’s route?

dmsguild-logo

It’s still time. He’s putting in an estimated 10 hours a week. I have difficulty being certain I’ll have that week after week. But also there’s the exposure. I believe that saying I worked on X projects is more likely to turn heads and generate interest in future works. Then there’s the money. In the near-term, freelancer work has the potential to pay more. In the end, there’s my experiment. I think that there is value in a story. Saying you bought your way into your job, well, that’s a story worth telling.

Thanks to Jacob Driscoll for writing his article and John McGuire for pointing it out to me.

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at DriveThruRPG.com
  • Ember Design Studios’ Yrisa’s Nightmare for 5e and Pathfinder available at DriveThurRPG.com
  • Ember Design Studios’ Rats in the Street for 5e and Pathfinder available at DriveThurRPG.com

Kickstarter RPG Reward Level: Vanity Press – Primeval Thule

“Can I buy enough RPG writing credits to springboard from vanity press to a paid freelancer?”

Since my first game of D&D with J Edward Neill, I’ve seen tabletop role-playing games as an opportunity to tell stories professionally.

Jeremy Neill. Honest.

J Edward Neill was my first DM. Honest.

However, it’s not a profession that I pursued. I plead “responsibilities” – day job of nearing two decades, kids, over a decade into my mortgage, excessive comic book and TV consumption, you know the chorus to this song. I have not made time to create, to move from wanna-lancer to freelancer.

In 2015, that changed.

Certain projects on Kickstarter let you purchase the opportunity to submit content to their publication. The barebones of the idea looks like:

  • A publisher pitches a product on Kickstarter.com selling rewards to crowdfund it
  • I pick the reward that lets me write for their product
  • I pay, I write, they edit, they print, I rejoice

The writing is nothing too intensive, nothing that eats time. An adventure hook, a NPC, a location seed, a monster, or a magic item, just a few hundred words – my words, my name in the credits. This is my journey to freelancer and it starts with selecting the Kickstarter Reward Level: Vanity Press.

 

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Primeval Thule 5e by Sasquatch Game Studio

Primeval Thule is a Conan versus Cthulhu inspired campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. Created by Richard Baker, David Noonan, and Stephen Schubert of Sasquatch Game Studio, they have written for D&D 3e, 4e, and – their most relevant product to this Kickstarter – Princes of the Apocalypse for 5e.

Interested in a free sample of Primeval Thule? Try Primeval Thule Traveler’s Guide to get a taste of their world.

For most gamers, the high-concept description, creator’s bibliographies, and setting sample decided their level of interest in backing this Kickstarter. For me, it was the $250 Dungeoneer Reward:

PrimevalThule5eCover

The cover to Primeval Thule for 5e

  • Hardcover and PDF versions of the Primeval Thule 5e Campaign Setting – $49.95 / $19.95
  • A large pullout map and PDF of the Thule continental map – Cost bundled with the book
  • A GM’s screen – $25
  • A large pullout map of the city, Quodeth – Cost bundled with the GM screen
  • Six player reference cards and PDFs – Cost bundled with the GM screen
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e GM Companion – $7.95
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e Players Companion – $7.95
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e Red Chains adventure – $2.95
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e Watchers of Meng adventure – $2.95
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e Secrets of the Moon Door adventure – $2.95
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e Night of the Yellow Moon adventure – $3.99
  • A PDF of Primeval Thule 5e The Lost Tower of Viondor adventure – $3.99
  • Total MSRP – $127.63

All great offerings but the sentences that opened lil’ Egg Embry’s wallet were:

  • “[Y]ou’ll be invited to name a dungeon, ruin, or adventure locale and provide a brief background or description which will serve as the basis for our development of that site. (The copyright to the name and description you provide will be held by Sasquatch Game Studio, LLC. We reserve the right to reject and/or applaud inappropriate, vulgar, or unsuitable suggestions.)”
  • Vanity press upcharge – $122.37
PrimevalThule5ePg126

This image from Primeval Thule page 126 pops for me!

Their reward – pay-to-play or, for my situation in the era of credit cards, swipe-to-write – fit my time budget and my love of D&D. Combined with Thule’s barbarian-nightmare setting, their first-rate production values, and, top of my Christmas wish list, my words and name in print, I saw a path to freelancing with Primevel Thule as the first step.

 

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The Mammoth Graveyard.

There is a valley where mammoths go to die. Centuries of their ivory wealth litters the ground in testament to its consecrated importance. Overlooking those graves is a primordial, decaying fortress built onto a godly-proportioned mammoth’s skull and ribs. The ruins whisper of lost treasures, violence, a dead god, and a plea to escape. But no one does…

 

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Sasquatch edited my submission, elevating it to Robert E. Howard-lite, and printed it as a sidebar within their 5e edition of Primeval Thule Campaign Setting. The process was effortless – pay, write then submit while professionals handle the editing. The books have been delivered, read, and greatly enjoyed. Vanity press RPG writer’s credit number one complete! On to number two…

PrimevalThule5ePg228

Thulean Cyclops from page 228

 

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Kickstarter information:

Primeval Thule: 5e Campaign Setting by Sasquatch Game Studio LLC
Raised: $52,811 starting July 16th, 2015

Primeval Thule: Pathfinder, 13th Age, and 4e Campaign Settings by Sasquatch Game Studio LLC
Raised: $75,232 starting July 2nd, 2013

 

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Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

 

  • Sasquatch Game Studio’s Primeval Thule for 5e (2015) available at DriveThruRPG.com