Monday, October 28, 2013

Are you brave enough to enter ASYLUM 33D?

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! Today I am joined by Zen Davis who is here to talk about his first Kickstarter project ASYLUM 33D.  Thank you for joining us today Zen.

Hello James. How’s your day?
My name is Zen and I’m a writer attempting to self-publish his first novel, “Asylum 33D”, through Kickstarter. I recently graduated from Rutgers University with a BA in Political Science and am preparing to take the LSAT later this year. I’ve worked in the past on “EvoCreo”, a monster hunting game also funded on Kickstarter, and am helping part time with another couple of games projects slated for Kickstarter.

It’s a pleasure to meet you and your community.

We’re glad you joined us.  ASYLUM 33D is definitely something I’d normally not check out as someone who is not a fan of the genre, so thank you for reaching out to start this conversation. Could you tell us about the project?

Of course!

Asylum 33D is a horror novel that tells the legend of a twenty story underground insane asylum where thirty three inmates perished and now haunt the grounds as ghosts. Ethan is convinced by his younger brother, Corey, to visit the asylum, only to find himself attacked by an unseen entity. He wakes up on the lowest floor of the facility and must climb back up to the entrance before his batteries die, saving the others as he finds them, and dodging the insane and violent ghosts that still haunt Asylum 33D.
The story is setup like a horror version of Bruce Lee's "Game of Death", where each new floor the teenagers climb presents more terrifying and dangerous ghosts than the floor before it. The entrance to each new floor will be preceded by the history of the ghost(s) haunting that floor, and the mental illnesses' they suffered from when they were alive. The mental illnesses will then correlate back with the actions of the ghosts, and tie everything together.
The thing that really drew me to the story of “Asylum 33D” was this idea of playing with new depictions of what makes a ghost a ghost. I’m also really quite excited by the different interpretation of how illnesses like schizophrenia can manifest themselves in supernatural entities. I don’t know of anything that approached ghosts from such an angle and I became really quite enthusiastic to explore all the possibilities.
I’m curious. What about the genre holds you back you from being a fan?

Just not a fan of being scared in general, I’m perfectly fine with the normal horrors of reality. You seem to have high hopes for Asylum not only as a novel, but as a whole range of products, would you explain your plan and follow up projects?

I knew from the start that I wanted to present “Asylum 33D” as a part of a larger vision. As a creator, that was very important to me. I believe the concept of “Asylum 33D” can work as a novel, a graphic novel, or a video game. But for a backer, when an author says, ‘We’re going to have an art book, and then a graphic novel, followed by a videogame”, it makes it really easy to call bullshit. I needed a plan.
I knew I could write. But for me to have any credibility beyond that, I needed people involved in “Asylum 33D” who could prove that the concept would shine no matter what the creative light it was presented in. As an example, the clown you see above; I’m under no illusion that it’s probably responsible for 85% of all funding we’ve received thus far. And that’s no accident.
I spoke with nearly one hundred artists before deciding on Nicolas Chapuis to create the Clown Ghost. The end result isn’t just a cool monster that helps sell the novel though, but a proof of concept that makes the promise of an awesome art book, or graphic novel, much more believable. The same is true for every other stretch goal. We have a crew of top-notch talent throwing their name into the ring to bring “Asylum 33D” to life in a variety of different ways.  Nicolas, in particular, is an absolute diamond. I’m surprised he isn’t a bigger name.
The plan has always been to complete the novel first. That will be our bible going forward. Every progressive project: the art book, graphic novel, and visual novel – will not only build off the novel but build towards the videogame. A videogame is a huge endeavor requiring a lot of financial capital. However, by monetizing each step of the production cycle: the story becoming a novel, the concept art becoming a graphic and visual novel – we would be able become a self-reliant team sooner rather than later. This self-reliance will allow us to generate additional capital to invest in things like artificial intelligence, online multiplayer, and additional development time to emphasize our scares and make the best possible game we can without having to sacrifice anything.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Meeting

Today I’m doing something a bit different.  Thanks to AmyBeth and my lovely and talented wife Sharyn I have a short story challenge to share with you all.  Just over a week ago my wife posted the following image called “Shadows.”  

The Challenge?  To create a 1000 word or so short story with this image as inspiration.  Since I try to run a clean blog here you can imagine my consternation, but I think I’ve come up with a good story.  I hope you enjoy it, and do check out the other stories based on this picture by AmyBeth, Geri and Gwen!  


The city streaked by the window as the car accelerated through the sky toward the gigantic edifices to the power of magic and technology.  Never before could either technology or magic alone have built such wondrous buildings, yet they still weren’t enough for some and it was that desire to push the boundaries of magic and science that led us to this fateful meeting.  
“Slow down Brad!  Can’t have a meeting if we’re dead.”
“Well I wouldn’t have to drive this fast if you would wake up on time Toni.”  
“Yeah yeah...” I shook my head and rubbed some of the sleep from my eyes.  Brad was right of course, but was it my fault that genius needed sleep?  
“Now do you remember your lines?  She can’t have more than 40%...”  
“I know already. We’ve gone over this a hundred times.”
“Which is a hundred times too few if you ask me!” Brad swerved past a slower moving rig and punched the car into the upper traffic lanes.  His green eyes were alive with excitement and worry as he ran a hand through his shockingly red hair.  “I don’t know why the Widow won’t talk to me so we have to leave the most important business pitch of our lives to your sorely lacking abilities.”
“Oh great pep talk Brad, your faith in me is truly staggering.”
“Yeah well can you blame me?”
“Not really...”  All joking aside I truly was starting to panic.  Here I was about to talk to one of the most wealthy and powerful women in the tri-kingdom area with nothing more than a prototype and a powerpoint presentation!  I wasn’t the front man Brad was, why did she ask to talk to me of all people?  I was the nerd, the tech, the man behind the curtain.  I wasn’t supposed to be in front with the song and dance.  
The car broke from the pack as they approached an opulent looking tower.  Ancient Earth Chinese architecture was worked into living tree magic to create a mythical “castle in the clouds” look to the building complete with clouds.  The private parking area was hidden by hanging trees and guarded by lion dog golems who nodded as they landed.  The whole place screamed power and prestige.  No pressure of course.
“Okay I’ll wait here, you’ve got the PAD and MG right?”
“Right here,” I tapped the briefcase and smiled as reassuringly as I could.
“Good!” He slapped me heartily on the back and winked, “make a good impression will ya?  We need this.”  
“I know, and I will. Hands out of pockets and everything.”
“That’s all I ask.  Good luck!”

The parking lot entered into a vast well appointed waiting area or sitting room of some kind. The furniture was all of high quality complete with the obvious imperfections that manual builders put into their work to prove they weren’t magically created.  Slight variations of arm or leg length gave furniture the “character” of being built by hand in ways that magically mass produced items didn’t.  I wondered idly what the MG would do to the magically created items market, but quickly refocused my attention when someone else entered the room.  
“Right this way Mr. Marsden, the Mistress will see you now.”
He waved me into the next room and I shivered as I felt magic being used on me. While I couldn’t use magic myself I was sensitive enough to its presence to know when I was the target of a scan like this.  The door probably also had technological scanners to detect anything a magical scan might miss as I was led into the “Mistresses’” presence.  
The room itself was perfectly dark minus the small glow of light coming from the desk I was lead to.  I turned to ask the man what was going on but he had disapeared into the shadows.  For all I knew he was ten feet away, but I couldn’t see anything beyond the light. This is probably why they wanted me and not Brad, I thought. Magic is so natural to him he’d probably look straight through the darkness and I can’t. They want the darkness but why?  I’m plenty nervous as it is!
The silence was deafening but it was broken by the most sultry voice I had ever heard, “Good afternoon Mr. Marsden.  I trust you are ready to present your idea?”
“Uh...” Smooth Toni, real smooth. “Yeah, I ah... do you have a Tank I can plug my PAD into?”  
A brief laugh, one that probably teased dukes and earls at fancy parties echoed from somewhere to my right, and then, “No need for presentations dear boy.  Just show me your invention and tell me why I might care.”
“Huh? Oh, okay...” I set my briefcase down and stared briefly at the PAD wishing I could use it as I was totally off balance now.  Instead I pulled out the MG and set it on top of the briefcase. “Umm... do you have an outlet I could use?  Just a standard 110 is fine.”  
“But of course,”  the lights came up slightly and the speaker was revealed standing not five feet from me to the right.  “Right here deary.”
“Thank...” I nearly fell flat on my face as it dawned on me that woman with the sultry voice was not only so close, but almost totally naked! She smirked at me and her eyes laughed from beneath a thin veil of sorts as she walked slowly away. Tearing my eyes away from her I quickly plugged the MG into the wall and focused my attention on my invention and not the woman who had disappeared once again into the shadows.  What kind of meeting had I gotten myself into?


An hour or two later I returned to the parking lot shaken but alive.  Brad rushed over to me as soon as he noticed my return, “Toni! Are you okay man?  What happened?”
“The meeting, went well.”  
“Well?  Is she in?”
“In?” I laughed but then nodded, “Yes!  She agreed to the terms you suggested as plan B. She accepted 38%.”
“WOO!  YES!  I don’t know what magic you cast on her my man, but you did it!”
“Oh I wasn’t the one casting spells,” I looked back at the building and smiled as a hint of red swept past a window.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bringing all the Pieces to the Table with Realm Clash

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! Today I’m joined by Jesse Jordan the creator of RealmClash.  Thank you for joining us today Jesse!

Thank you for reaching out and offering to interview us!

The project describes RealmClash as a hybrid tabletop game featuring CCG aspects, miniatures, and turn-based RPG style combat.  Can you expound on that?  

Growing up, when ever my friends got together, it was pretty much inevitable that we’d end up playing one of three games; Final Fantasy: Tactics, Magic: The Gathering, or Heroclix. I don’t even know how many hours we sunk into each of those games…

With RealmClash, I wanted to design a game that had all of my favorite aspects of those games, because I wanted it to be something that I knew me and my friends would love to play. We knew right from the start that grid maps and resource management were a must, and we knew that if we wanted to really keep it open in the sense that there would always be a ton of room for customization and individuality, the CCG aspect had to stay. Really, miniatures were the cherry on top - We needed something to keep track of where the units were going, why not awesome looking miniatures?
What makes RealmClash better than a standard table top wargame or a traditional CCG?  
It’s hard to answer this without self-promoting, but I’d say what makes it better than either of those two genres is the fact that we took the best of both worlds to heart when we designed RealmClash - The deck building and resource management aspects of CCGs meets the strategic positioning and troop management of wargaming - and put them both together under the umbrella of our massive and extensive lore, and it just made a thing of beauty unlike anything you’ve ever played before, haha.

Bringing back the Pathfinder Podcast: Know Direction

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by Ryan and Perram who have come to Kickstarter to relaunch their Pathfinder Podcast “Know Direction.”  Thank you both for joining us.  

Ryan: Hi James, thanks for having us.

Let me start by congratulating you on reaching your funding goal with three weeks still to go!  Can you tell us about Know Direction and why you think you were able to reach your goal so quickly?

Ryan: I doubt we can give credit to any one reason. Obviously the loyalty of our audience plays a huge part in it. They’re the ones who were lining up at the start gate to pledge. If I had to speculate about why we have such loyal listeners, I think it is because we put every effort into releasing on a regular schedule, and being transparent when we have to postpone an episode’s release.

There were other factors, of course: we went back and forth a lot about our ask. For a long time it was $3500 so we could offer an incentive adventure on top of relaunching the site and re-equipping the podcast. Our campaign managers, The Gamerati, convinced us to instead set our initial goal at however much we need just for to replace our podcast equipment. That way we have a much for achievable goal and we get what we need to keep going, and we can look ahead to better equipment after we fund.

Could you explain the difference between D&D 3.5 and 4 that caused Pathfinder to come about?  Those “not in the know” as it were often think of D&D as just D&D, let alone what all the different versions brought about.  

Ryan: Sure, but this is the kind of question in polite conversation that I feel needs my extra bedazzled Nerd hat.
At its heart, D&D is a game of imagination, where you play a character straight out of fantasy in a world straight out of the middle ages. On your turn, you declare your actions based on the circumstances you are in. That`s true of every edition.
3rd edition took the math from the old editions and gave it a heavy dose of logic. In 1st and 2nd edition, sometimes when you rolled a d20, you wanted a high number. Sometimes, you wanted a low number. When you were trying to hit someone, you wanted a high roll, which you compared to a number for armour, but the lower your armour class, the better. In 3rd, you roll a d20 and hope to get a high number. Need to hit a goblin? Roll a d20, add your bonus for hitting. Climbing a sheer cliff? Roll a d20 and add your bonus for climbing. Higher rolls were always better. But that was the big difference. The math. How the rules worked. The philosophy was the same.
4th edition kept 3rd edition’s math, but the philosophy felt different. Whereas in earlier editions there were some things any character could do and some things only certain characters could do based on their class or other options. 4th edition shifted the balance away from the stuff that anyone could do. Your class dictated your rules much more.
All that said, there were other contributing factors to 3.5 loyalists sticking with their system. The way Wizards of the Coast (publishers of Dungeons & Dragons) marketed 4e was aggressive and negative. They spent more energy saying 3.5 sucked and D&D players can look forward to finally having fun. But I was already having fun, and their ads did not reflect my needs or perspective as a (then) current customer.
There was more. The early announcement was about how 4e would have unprecedented online support, like a virtual tabletop, character builder, and monster editor. These tools were not ready when the books launched. Some were never released. Furthermore, a subsystem was created called Skill Challenges. This took an abstract part of the game that allowed for organic roleplaying and turned it into a rigid system. A lot of players rejected Skill Challenges on principle. That was before some mathematicians crunched the numbers and found the rules for easy Skill Challenges were statistically harder to accomplish than the rules for hard Skill Challenges.

What got you guys into Podcasting in the first place?  How did you build up a following that still continues to this day?  

Ryan: A series of strange decisions. I’m bad at small talk. If a conversation doesn’t interest me, I don’t say much because I’m not interested. If it does interest me, I don’t talk much for fear of intimidating people with how interested I am. I hate talking on the phone. And yet, when I first listened to a podcast, Slice of Sci-Fi as recommended by my friend Jon, I thought “this is for me”. Around that time, 4e was announced. I found myself surprisingly loyal to the 3.5 version of D&D, and interested in expressing why.

The idea was the website would be a place to build a community for 3.5 loyalists. The podcast was the site’s main draw, but I also reviewed most of the 3.5 hardcover books. The idea was that as 3.5 books become harder to track down, 3.5 loyalists would like to know what books are worth their time.

I think our following was built on a combination of sincerity, accessibility, and consistency. We aren't putting on a show when we podcast, we’re being ourselves. We release our show on a consistent schedule, and if we can’t deliver on schedule, we inform our audience. And, from what I’m told, we’re pretty likable.

Are you guys connected to Pazio at all after all these years?

Ryan: Hm. Connected. Well, we are not the official Pathfinder podcast. Paizo does not pay us to podcast. So connected in that way, no.

That said, we have a great relationship with Paizo, and have for forever. When we first heard about Pathfinder, we invited Paizo staff on the show to talk it up. We ended up getting three Paizo staff willing to come on: fiction editor James Sutter, creative director James Jacobs, and lead designer Jason Bulmahn. Since then, the closest Paizo has come to refusing an interview request is “now’s a bad time”. Recently, Paizo hired a new marketing director, Jenny Bendel. Jenny is the best, and somehow we got in her good graces. She has made coordinating interviews a pleasure, has hooked us up with prizes for our listeners like books fresh off the press and GenCon passes. Whereas before we would always be the ones approaching Paizo about interviews, they have started approaching us. Not only do we no longer feel the need to introduce ourselves to Paizo staff at cons, we get recognized.

Speaking personally, I have done freelance work for Paizo. I’ve contributed to Ultimate Equipment, and Ultimate Campaign. I recently wrote my first published adventure, The Elven Entanglement for Pathfinder Society. Paizo has stated that they like to repay the loyalty of fans with these kinds of opportunities when they can.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Get your Wu Xia and Kung Fu action on in FATE with TianXia!

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by Jack and James from Vigilance Press who are here to talk to us about their Kickstarter Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade.  Thank you both for joining us today.  

James: Thanks for having us!
Jack:  Greetings, True Believers! (Hands Stan Lee a dollar).

That’s quite the evocative title you have there, can you tell us about Tianxia?  

James: I’ll let Jack tell you about the setting a bit, but the title I can talk about. Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade wasn’t our first choice. Originally, it was going to be simply “Tianxia,” but then we started talking about more books, and we realized we needed something that emphasized that this would be the first in a series. Expanding on the idea of a subtitle, and throwing names at each other for the various books, we settled on a three-word subtitle format that would evoke each book’s unique elements and be evocative of the setting as a whole. Blood, Silk & Jade refer to the violent, dangerous part of the Empire, Shénzhōu, the first book covers. The players will find themselves in the wild lands of Jiāngzhōu, along a major trade route where bandits and other devilish martial artists prey upon the weak. Silk and Jade reference the trade routes and other elements of the setting.

Jack: Yep.  Tianxia means “All Under Heaven” or “the whole world” if you’re less poetically inclined.  It’s based on a concept attributed to the Qin emperor who sought to unite all of China under one ruler.  If you’ve seen Hero (Li, not Hoffman) or The Emperor and the Assassin, you’ve seen this story dramatized.  James tackled what the subtitle signifies.  
As for the setting, the main focus is on the Empire of Shenzhou.  It’s very much China, but not exactly China.  We went with this approach to allow historical types to have plenty they were familiar with or even stuff they could yank out and put into a pure mythic China setting if they wanted but that wasn’t a serious barrier to new players or people who think that wu xia or kung fu films are cool and a game based around that stuff sounds great, but who don’t care about the difference between the Xin and Ming and Duck Dynasties (I honestly have no idea what Duck Dynasty is really, I’ve just heard the name.  I suspect its like Meerkat Manor but with mallards.  If the truth is less fun than that, please don’t correct me).

The main book focused on one of the nine provinces in the empire, a border land in desperate need of heroes.  Later we hope to flesh out the rest of the Empire, which does get general description in the book as well.

The game is at its heart a mashup of two genres that a lot of people figure are the same thing: wu xia and kung fu action-drama.  I’m not going to bore you with an essay here, though I talk about the distinction some in the book.  Suffice to say they’re distinct but very compatible genres and though Tianxia discusses the differences, the rules and game allow for favoring one over the other, balancing both equally, or ignoring the distinction entirely if you like.
Chinese Wuxia is a classic setting for role playing games! Did you have to do anything with the Fate system to adjust it for the setting?  

James: Fate was a great fit for Tianxia. We really wanted to use Fate Core “as is” as much as possible, to make adding Tianxia to your own game as simple as opening our book and reading the new rules section. You won’t have to re-learn a special approach to Fate for Tianxia. In fact, we don’t even reprint the Core rules, you’ll need the Fate Core book to play. What we do add is a set of additional rules that add onto the existing Fate Core System rules to create the fun and feel of martial arts. You’ll find things like the Jianghu ranking system, the Kung Fu rules, and the new Chi skill, but all these are designed to be additive to the existing game.

Jack: Yeah, there are new rules for wu xia and kung fu action specific things but generally it’s about using the existing rules in new ways.  I didn’t want to design something that took a newly released game system and immediately threw a bunch out.  If that had been required I’d have likely used a different system.  Which speaks to the flexibility and utility of Fate Core.  Also the Kung Fu system alone is a pretty big addition and getting it to work with Fate Core seamlessly was a major focus on the rules sections.  

That said I include optional rules for initiative, dynastic play, different dice resolution, tweaking how quickly stress is accumulated, include some things that give the rules a slight defensive shift to emulate the genre, and so on.  There’s a good number of optional rules, but you can always ignore them and just use the base rules in Tianxia and Fate Core with no problem.

Halloween doesn't have to be just sexy, Take Back Halloween!

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! I am joined by Suzanne Scoggins to talk to us about how we can Take Back Halloween! Thank you for joining us today Suzanne.

Thank you, James.  It’s great to talk to you.

As a husband and a father of a little girl your site and your project piqued my interested.  Would you tell us about them?  

The whole point of Take Back Halloween is to bring fun and diversity back into the holiday.  Almost all the commercial costumes for women and girls nowadays are Sexy Something or other.  There’s no variety, and no option for females to be anything but sexpots.   Imagine if all the guys’ costumes just consisted of jock straps.  It’s kind of like that for women.   

How do you make such great looking costumes with no sewing?  Do you have patterns available for those who would prefer to make it that way?  

NO SEWING!  And no patterns for sewing!  Imagine me here making the Evil Eye and the sign of death.  Sewing is an absolute deal-breaker for 99.9 percent of the population.  So none of our costumes require sewing.  Safety pinning, yes.  Occasional gluing, yes.  But no sewing.  

Personally I do know how to sew, which is why I know how garments are put together and how to fake it for a costume.  But people who visit our site don’t need to know anything about sewing.  

Occasionally we link to more advanced resources for people who can sew, as with our Grace O’Malley costume.  The only way to get an authentic  16th century Irish dress is to sew it yourself or hire someone to make it.  So we include a link to the pattern for that dress if you’re so inclined.