First Look: The Frontier by One Dwarf Army

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imageDo you like science fiction? Guns? Action? Games like Borderlands or Destiny? The d20 System? Then The Frontier may be for you. The Frontier by One Dwarf Army is a no-frills 90-paged pen & paper roleplaying game core book inspired by the aforementioned computer games and based on a simplified d20 System which should also appeal to old-school fans. Disclaimer: This first look is based on a complementary copy provided by the author. Thanks again, George.

The Frontier is definitely not a very beautiful book. It lacks artwork and has a very simple design. But what it lacks in frills it makes up in sheer badassery. The setting is the far-away world of Prometheus, a planet mostly covered in land and rife with opportunities and people to shoot.

imageThe system has a mixed OSR/d20 System heritage and is very easy to pick up and play if you know anything remotely D&D-related. The classes offered are The Commando, The Shadow, The Wirehead, and The Telepath. The Commando is more or less your standard soldier, while the Shadow is a more roguish type. The Wirehead uses various programs that can even affect their enviroment, while the Telepath has a slew of psychic abilities. Most abilities are combat-based, which is not surprising given the material which inspired The Frontier. I’ve included one of the Wirehead’s programs to the right as an example.

imageThe Gear chapter is definitely where The Frontier shines. There are various kinds of armor, from simple Common Armor to more special suits of armor, like the Asclepius armor, which can heal its user, or the Behemoth, which also protects against various kinds of enviromental damage. The weapon list is not any less impressive. You get stats for everything from a knive to a bazooka. There are of course also special weapons like the Alchemist, which is a shotgun which also causes Acid damage. Fun stuff!

The book also has an extensive section on Enemies which include bandits, mechs, mercenaries and exotic beasts common to Prometheus. The book concludes with an introductionary adventure. Unfortunately there’s no index, but the Table of Contents are fully bookmarked.

Overall The Frontier is an enjoyable read and I am sure its fun to play. The setting is nothing special, but should work great as a backdrop for a short campaign. The game doesn’t look much because of the lack of artwork and simple design, but it rules are solid, and you can easily see that it was a work of love. If you can look beyond the presentation you’re getting a fun little game that should be right up your alley if you enjoy games like the Borderlands series.

The Frontier is avaliabe digitally on RPGNow for the low price of $4.99.

#RPGaDay2017 Day 14: No end in sight

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Monday is here! At least you have new #RPGaDay2017 content to enjoy. Today’s topic is about a topic near and dear to my heart. Long campaigns!

August 14: Which RPG do you prefer for open-ended campaign play?

I love long campaigns. They are my bread and butter. My typical campaign lasts an average of two years. Not only that, my homebrewed campaign (about which I’ve written in the blog before) was created in 1987, 30 years ago! The current version, after I rebooted the timeline and continuity, in 1993, has been going for 24 years. So that’s the point of reference I’m coming from when I talk about a long running open ended campaign. What RPG have I used for all those games? Continue reading #RPGaDay2017 Day 14: No end in sight

Crowdfunding

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Since their launch, platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo helped to fund projects which would never have seen the light of day otherwise. Especially in the video game industry noone was willing to take any risks anymore and for example old-school computer RPGs had trouble to find publishers. The pen & paper had a similar issue. Only a few publishers are large enough to fund big (at least for the RPG industry) print runs, and some of them just couldn’t take any risks anymore. Over the years the target audience might even have grown smaller while the competition increased.

Kickstarter (and other crowdfunding platforms) changed this. If there’re are enough people interested in backing a project, even niche games can be produced. For a while it was a win-win situation. But as things are, this eventually changed.

Kickstarters are not preorders
This simple truth is often forgotten by both customers and publishers. As a customer you always have to remind yourself that there’s always the risk that the project will fail (even after being funded) and you might not even get your money back. There are more than enough failed crowdfunding projects that went awry.
On the other hand, some publishers treat Kickstarter like a preorder platform. This may even lead to people being more hesitant to support smaller, more risky projects. A lot of great roleplaying games might not have seen the light of day, because of another KS by a publisher who could easily prefinance their own projects.

Kickstarters are stress
I’ve talked to publishers who have run Kickstarters and who have also financed their products the regular way. All of them told me that the Kickstarters are way more stress. Instead of actually finishing the actual product, you have to keep your backers happy with regular updates, you have to worry about stretch goals, extras you promised, and especially the funding period must feel like hell on Earth, especially when it’s unsure if the project will fund at all. And even if the whole project runs smoothly, there may be more stress afterwards. There’s a much stronger feeling of entitlement when people back a project. Since they helped fund it, they feel more attached but also as if they have more say into where the voyage goes. Since noone can please each and every backer, some people will always feel let down.

No one takes a risk anymore
I actually praised this at a good thing, but it also has a dark side. Kickstarters are a relatively easy way to check if a project garners enough interest in the gaming community. But there are much more things that can spell doom for a KS than just the product’s quality and people’s interest in it. Timing is also important. Run your campaign while Monte Cook runs one of his and you’re target audience may already have overspent their monthly KS budget.
Running a KS is usually less risk for the publisher, but it’s also often the easy way out. Risk-taking is a part of entrepreneurship, and sometimes it’s necessary. But sometimes I get the impression that crowdfunding is seen as the perfect alternative. But this also means that some great products might never see the light of day because of a Kickstarter. Sometimes the customer doesn’t actually know what he wants.

I often have the impression that it has become a standard to fund new roleplaying games on Kickstarter or its competing crowdfunding platforms. Unfortunately this is not always a good thing. I understand that in this day and age it has become harder to stay afloat if you’re a small press publisher, but a KS that went wrong may as easily spell doom for a publisher as well.

What are your thoughts on crowdfunding? Love it, hate it? Or do you share my ambivalent feelings? Please share your comments below!

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