Tuesday, February 4, 2014

We are but Insects to Them

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  I am joined by first time creator Adam Roeger who brings us On the Backs of Gods: A Pen and Paper RPG.  Thank you for joining us today Adam.

Thanks for having me James! I’m excited to be able to share this exciting world with people.

On the Backs of Gods is an intriguing premise for a game world, could you tell us about it?  

Sure thing. Basically it takes place in a world in which the surface is lush and beautiful, untouched by man, but filled with horrible and incredibly dangerous creatures. Mankind, (and elfkind, dwarfkind, and others) make out their livings instead on the backs of massive creatures the size of cities, known as World-Walkers. Through the use of airships and other technology, people trade with other Walkers, living in fear of the surface world and its denizens.

Where did the idea of living on the backs of giant creators come from?  

Well, it’s not an entirely new concept in and of itself, but I’m doing some different things with it. The original basis for the world as well as the name came from a rather imaginative thread on the /tg/ forum of 4chan. From there, I expanded the setting and the creatures inside of it, with inspiration from many different sources. One big source for me was the Mortal Engines series from author Phillip Reeve, about massive cities on wheels that wander around eating up smaller cities. But there was plenty of other inspiration, even for individual Walkers, as there is a little fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, and other genres mixed in to the whole setting.

Is this a symbiotic relationship or do these creators not even care about us living on them?  

A good way of thinking about the Walkers and the people living on them is the same way the humans think about the bacteria living on their skin. Sure, we’re probably aware of it on a large scale, but most of us never really worry about it too much. All the Walkers do is wander the world, nonstop. They don’t really think or talk or anything like that, they just walk. So, in that sense, most people in the world just view them as blessings, the only thing keeping them from being hunted mercilessly on the surface world.

You teased us about Talking Bears but I don’t see anything after that, what gives?  

Haha, good point! The talking bears that I mentioned are a race in the world known as Ursas. If you picture a bear standing on his hind legs, with some armor strapped to his chest and holding a sword, that’s a pretty good image of an Ursa. The Ursas believe that they originally all came from a massive Walker known as Ursanon, who went into hibernation. When the day comes that Ursanon wakes up, the Ursas will reclaim the surface world for their people. Or so they believe.

The campaign mentions a D6 based mechanics system for the game, yet at the same time says it is secondary to the setting.  Why bother making it if you’re creating the world to allow you to use another system?  Why not just make it a  FATE, Tri-Stat, D20, or GURPS system, or even system agnostic from the start?  

Yes, this was one of the major points that I debated upon making the decision to create a book. I was originally planning on just releasing On the Backs of Gods as a setting book, but I changed my mind. I figured that when I’m buying an RPG book like this, I like to see a game system to go alongside it that the writer created to fit the setting. It’s tailor-made to be run in the setting and thus, in theory, should be the most acceptable. So I decided for people that aren’t that knowledgeable about generic game systems and buy this book are given everything they need to run it. But on the flipside, if people are more comfortable running their preferred system in the setting, the game system provided doesn’t overwhelm the book.

You describe the goal of the game to be a 200 page, fully illustrated, hardcover book.  Do you have that much material already prepared?  Are you doing the illustrations as well as the writing?  

I have the majority of content about the Walkers themselves written, except for the ones that people who contribute to the Titan get to design. The rest of the content will be about the world itself, and the people and creatures inside of it. Most of the things I really need to format and get into accessible materials is the information about the game system. And I’d love to be able to do the illustrations myself, but I don’t think I’d get any contributors if I did! The main piece of art that I have so far is done by the incredible Desmond Wong. Negotiations still need to be made, but hopefully the rest of the Walkers will be done in the same style.

As a first time creator what research have you done, not only for running a Kickstarter, but for creating an RPG?  

It was definitely a daunting idea, as I was going to be competing in a niche, and highly competitive market. I mainly looked at Monte Cook’s Numenera campaign for information, as I have tremendous respect for the guy. He surpassed his goal by a vast margin, and released a very impressive book. So I looked to that for any information I could about actually going about the Kickstarter, but I also looked at many different RPGs for ideas for my own game system. The aforementioned generic systems, as well as systems like Shadowrun or the Storytelling system from White Wolf, were really good to look over and read for how other, more educated people than myself created classic RPGs.

A major thing I look for in a Kickstarter is a budget breakdown.  These basic business tools share a creator’s plan for the backers money and help alleviate potential backers fears.  Why do you not have a budget breakdown on your campaign?  What is the $8000 going to be used for?  

You are absolutely correct in that a budget breakdown should be provided, as I am often curious to know what my money is going towards when I back a project. I should definitely get on that. But, I can tell you that editing costs for a company to look over my manuscripts and format it can run about $1k-$2k. Then there’s the main artist for all the Walkers, which need to be of a certain quality and style, which is going to run about $2500. Another $1000 or so to another couple artists to fill in all the other miscellaneous art aside from the Walkers. Then the rest of the funding goes towards the actual printing of the books, which being hardcover and full-color illustrated, tend to run a bit higher than a regular book.

How did you discover Kickstarter?

I discovered Kickstarter back when Double Fine Productions really hit it big with their adventure game project. It really just amazed me that a guy could go onto a website, say who he is and what he wants to do, and he could raise enough money like that to do it. People were just waiting for an opportunity to do something like this, and so I’ve been interested in it ever since. I’ve backed several projects that really interested me, such as Project Eternity from Obsidian, as well as Torment: Tides of Numenera, which ties into that beloved setting from Monte Cook.

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?

Yes, very true. Throughout the Kickstarter’s run so far, I’ve been posting video updates that give a bunch of new information about the setting and the game system. So far I’ve posted updates about the d6 system, the Walkers themselves, as well as information about the people living on them, and how they make it through their lives. More video updates will come, with info about how technology affects the setting, as well as religion, and also about the creatures living on the surface world.

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?  

Well, other than this great interview, I’ve posted on the RPG subreddit of reddit.com, as well as other gaming message boards. I have an official On the Backs of Gods facebook page up at https://www.facebook.com/Onthebacksofgods as well as an official subreddit. And yes, I have been checking Kicktraq incessantly to see how things are going.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Definitely be prepared, about everything. People are going to come in, and their interests are going to be piqued, but they want to know everything they can about what you’ve got going on. As well they should. So know your project inside and out, so when people ask questions, you either know the answer right away, or you’re at least able to give an answer that you don’t have to go back on later. Other than that, be ready to accept any and all criticism. Nobody’s perfect, so the easier you can learn from criticism, or learn to ignore it occasionally, the better.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

If you’re interested in the setting, but unable to contribute to the setting, go ahead and listen to all the video updates I put up and other information. It’s an incredible, unique world, and I just love being able to share it with as many people as I can.

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

Thank you very much for having me here James!

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