Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fate Core + Awesome Sci-Fi Setting = Dawning Star


Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! Today I am joined by Justin D. Jacobson from Blue Devil Games is here to talk to us about Dawning Star: Fate of Eos.  Thank you for joining us today Justin!


My pleasure. Thanks for having me.


Let me start off by congratulating you on hitting your $10,000 goal with two weeks to go, well done!
Thank you. I was cautiously optimistic when we launched. But you never know for sure. The one thing I held onto was the passion of our existing fans. We didn’t set any records the first time around, but the fans we did have really appreciated the work we did on the setting.
Looking a bit into Dawning Star I’m disappointed that I never discovered your game setting before this!  It seems to be the kind of sci-fi I love, could you tell us about the setting?  
We put a lot of effort into maximizing the setting’s fun and utility. One of the quirks of science-fiction as a genre is that it has tons of sub-genres. Whereas fantasy is a little more homogeneous. Therefore, we focused on creating a setting that accommodate as many of those styles of play as possible.
The premise of the setting is that an object is hurtling toward Earth. We gather together to build a fleet of evacuation sleeper ships and set a course for a habitable planet in a nearby system. At the edge of our system, the fleet inadvertently interacts with a long-dormant gateway system that activates and scatters the fleet to the four corners of the galaxy. The setting follows one of those ships, the Dawning Star, which ends up in the Helios System. We find a surprisingly habitable planet and land. In the years that follow, we build a new society, encounter exotic species, and begin to uncover some shocking secrets about our new home and even ourselves.
You can download a more detailed summary from the website: http://dawningstar.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/DS-OQL-Preview.pdf
We’ve maintained our design focus. So, no matter what type of sci-fi you like, you’ll find something to support it in the setting, whether that’s hunting through ruins for powerful alien artifacts, taking the helm of a starship to visit the other planets of the system, or maintaining law and order in Dawning Star City.
With Fate coming off a huge Kickstarter it seems like a match made in heaven combining Fate with Dawning Star and putting it all up on Kickstarter.  What got you to consider Fate?  How hard has it been to adapt the Fate system to Dawning Star?  
I’ve been friends with the Evil Hat guys for some time now. I worked with them creating D&D 4e support material under the One Bad Egg umbrella, and I’ve done legal work for them for years. So, I’ve always had it in the back of my mind. I’d been looking for a way to relaunch Dawning Star for some time. Following the success of their Kickstarter, it was obvious that there was a huge fan base we could build on.
In some ways, adapting to Fate has been liberating. While I’m extremely comfortable with the d20 system, it’s very dense. Probably the best example is in creature statblocks. They just take up so much more real estate in d20 than they do in Fate. So, switching to Fate has given us a lot more room to add setting elements rather than dozens of situational modifiers.
Fate is a great fit for Dawning Star.

Wouldn’t it have been simpler just to change out the stat blocks and make it for Fate instead of D20 Modern?  What made you want to relaunch the whole system using Fate?  
No doubt that would have been easier. But it would have been incomplete and a disservice to the fans. The difference between Fate and d20 is not merely mechanical. It’s a difference in focus. Fate is much more concerned about creating great fiction at the table, whereas d20 is more about mathematical optimization. That’s not to say that one system is better than the other. To really make Fate hum, we had to rework some things to better serve that goal.
What kind of big changes to the lore can fans of the original release look forward to with this relaunch?  
For Fate of Eos, we’re advancing the timeline a few years. So the humans have more fully settled on Eos, explored more of the system, and encountered more of the system’s inhabitants, discovered more of the long-forgotten history of the system.
The relaunch also sees two big events. One of the other evacuation ships, the Evergreen, arrives, creating a strain on resources and relations, and seeing an influx of new species. How the citizens of the Dawning Star handle this new change makes for some great challenges. Additionally, the primary antagonists of the setting, the vaasi, begin their first maneuvers in an all out war of annihilation. In the original setting, the vaasi were just getting a foothold in the system. In Fate of Eos, they actually begin attacking.


I love looking at the higher tiers to see what “deluxe” items creators have in store and your “Alien Artifact” level definitely counts as “deluxe.” Can you tell us about that level and why you decided to create it?  Are you surprised to see it almost sold out as well as your $750 top tier level being completely sold out?  

Truth be told, I created the tier because I wanted to make the stuff, specifically, the tokens and the aspect cards. I thought they would be a neat addition to the table and maybe even something I could build on after the Kickstarter. I also figured there were some of our existing fans, who might be new to Fate. This would be a good way for them to jump into the system right away without having to pick up all the accessories separately.
Yes, pretty shocked someone picked up the top tier. I will say this: They got a great deal. It includes a game session run by Lee Hammock, and nobody runs a game like Lee.
One of my most common concerns with Kickstarter projects are budget breakdowns.  These show the potential backers that the creators have laid out a plan for the funds and have some thought on how they’re going to follow through with it all.  Why does your project not have a budget breakdown?  Do you think being an established company precludes the need to share one?  Where is the $10,000 planned to go?  
I figured it wasn’t necessary due to our track record of putting out the product previously and the fact that I kept things pretty simple. In fact, as I recently announced, our stretch goals are focused primarly on adding value to the existing products. From the backer’s perspective, they’re getting a great value for their pledge. As a general principle, the more pledges we get, the higher the print run we can order, which reduces our unit cost. This, in turn, allows us to add pages and color interior to the book while staying on budget. So, for their $35 pledge, a backer now gets a 320-page, full-color, hardcover book shipped directly to them, which will ultimately retail for something like $45 or $50.
The final budget will be determined by where we end up. Generally, the budget goes as follows: roughly 5% off the top for Kickstarter/credit card fees, unit cost to print the book is roughly $7-10 depending on final specs and print run, a “few thousand dollars” to pay Lee, Danilo, Sean, and RJ (and probably another editor to be named later), another thousand dollars for other supplies such as the dice and tokens, and shipping. That last bit can vary widely depending on how many international backers we end up with.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention anything for myself. To be clear, I’m running the Kickstarter to be profit-neutral. However, the full print run will produce more books than I need to fulfill pledges. Any profit I get will be on the sale of those remaining books through traditional retail channels.
How did you discover Kickstarter?

I’ve known about Kickstarter since shortly after its inception via the prolific Greg Stolze. The first project I backed was Happy Birthday, Robot, by my friend Daniel Solis, back in 2010.
A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

Anyone who backs the project--even at the $1 level--immediately gets a download link for a scene, “Freight with Peril” and some pre-generated characters. Between that and the background pdf I mentioned earlier, it’s a great way to get a feel for the setting in general and for Fate. We expect that some people will back at a low level, check out the download, and increase their pledge.
Next week is “Sneak Peek Week”. We’re going to be posting some new material each day. We haven’t finalized it yet, but it might include some new xenomorphs, tech, fiction, our customized skill list, and the updated timeline. We want to get people excited going into our final week. We’ve got some more great stretch goals planned, and I want to give us a good shot at hitting them.
What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

Social media has been a great boon to Kickstarter--particularly for tabletop RPGs that don’t have a good traditional media infrastructure. We’re active on all these platforms--particularly twitter and Google+. I keep Kicktraq open on a tab on my browser; I don’t know how useful it is, but it’s there.
Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

I won’t presume to give advice to experienced publishers. But, if you’re new to the whole thing, my one piece of advice would be to start small. Focus on a single, simple project and set a modest goal. For example, you could do a pdf-only, 96-page supplement presenting new xenomorphs for any sci-fi setting and set a goal of $750 to cover artwork. Don’t get lured into adding on to that simple plan. Once you get one under your belt, you can move on to bigger projects.
Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

This is a real labor of love for us. Lee’s not just a great designer, he loves writing this stuff. Danilo’s not just a great artist, he loves drawing this stuff. I think that passion shows through in the work. Our first time around, Helios Rising was supposed to be 208 pages. By the time we got done, it was 540 pages--the largest sci-fi setting book ever published.
And we’d love for you to check out our Kickstarter, of course.
Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!