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See You, Space Cowboy

If you haven’t yet been made aware of a little tabletop game publishing company called Shades of Vengeance, now is an excellent time to start. Shades of Vengeance is a company that a) produces the Era series of roleplaying games and b) helps people create a fully realized, fully produced vision of their cool ideas for role playing games through their Imagine RPG program. Their speciality is making games that escape from standard tabletop RPG lines, and change how games are played. About four years ago they launched the Era series with the very popular Era: Consortium, whose goal was to create a single universe and rule set for playing any and every sci-fi subgenre within the same game, over the course of 500 years of history. Next came Era: Lyres, in which players play, essentially, con artists who must convince townsfolk and nobles that they have actually accomplished noble and life threatening daring-do and should be payed for it in spite of never having done anything more dangerous than running away from angry villagers after they fail to do so. Then there’s Era: Silence, another fantasy game in which all PCs have been magically bound by a silencing spell, and the players cannot speak in character.

If these sound interesting to you, check them out over on the Shades of Vengeance website.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!!

The latest game Shades of Vengeance is producing is called Era: Balam, which is on Kickstarter right now until the 24th of September 2017. I got a chance to talk with Ed, creator of the Era-system and head of Shades of Vengeance, about this new game.

Rowan: Alright, so let’s start with the broadest and probably most obvious question- What can you tell us about Era: Balam?

Ed: That’s… a very broad question.

Rowan: *chuckling* Yes.

Ed: So, Era: Balam is actually the seventh game that I’ve created, or at least the seventh game that I’ve released that’s a tabletop roleplaying game under the Era: D10 rule set. Now Era: Balam is also exceptional in that sense, because I’m also creating it in Fate and in Savage Worlds, the primary reason being because, I think it’s a great game. I have a Savage Worlds license, and Fate obviously is an OGL, and I just think that it would be nice to get more people, uh, to have the chance to play this game because I think that it’s somewhat unique in what it offers. What it focuses on is being the pilot of a space fighter- pretty much as simple as that- and the setting is obviously a little more layered and LARGE, but, you know, some of the questions I’ve been asked are things like, “Are you looking at ground combat?” and that kind of stuff, and the simple answer is, “No.” Now, the reason is that I did a sci-fi roleplaying game called Era: The Consortium, which was the first game I created, and it was designed to specifically provide a framework of 500 years of history which encompassed every possible subgenre of scifi that people might want to play, and as a result, pretty much everything you might want to do- cyberpunk, or, I don’t know, Star Trek-esque exploration or colonization of a new world, or sort of Star Wars-esque being the Rebellion against the giant, evil Empire- all of that stuff was covered within those 500 years of history. So, you know, kind of the standard running-around, even the large-scale spaceship combat was quite well covered, but one assumption that Era: The Consortium made was that you wouldn’t very often end up in large dogfights, fighter to fighter. You’re more likely to be flying large starships, and fighters EXIST, but they’re more… squishy than you might want them to be if you’ve actually got a player inside them.

So, this game was specifically to fill that gap, you know, rules-wise, within my Era system, but also I wanted to focus on the duality of the pilot and the ship, which is sort of less easy to do if there’s a crew of 100 on your ship. But if it’s one pilot and the ship that [they’re] in you can have, you know… “One is not complete without the other”. You know, it’s Luke Skywalker without his X-Wing- he’s not gonna be flying around in space [on his own], and really, that was the kind of feel I wanted to go for. It was very much inspired by stuff that I’ve enjoyed playing, computer games in particular. Freelancer was a massive influence- love the game. So was Elite: Dangerous- also great- and also, sort of visually, the original Homeworld game. That’s kind of how I imagine the sort of dog fights going on, you know, where you have the large group of fighters fighting the large group of fighters. Homeworld: Cataclysm as well. I wanted just to capture what it would feel like to be a pilot… in space. As a group. You know, you don’t all travel on one ship, you each have your own fighter, so you’re all flying around as a squadron, and really it’s very much like being a party in D&D. It’s not actually that different in terms of the way mechanics work. You still move, you still attack things, your weapons have ranges, and so on and so forth, but obviously you have that feel of all of the physical stats are stats for your ship, and all of the mental stats are stats for you. So, when you’re trying to sort of scan the area and see if you can find something, you’re using your ships scanners which may give you a bonus, but you’re having to interpret the data, so you’re using YOUR intelligence to do that, and that, really, that sort of combination of “you can upgrade your ship, and you can improve yourself, and only together are you one character” was something that I wanted to explore with this game.

So, when Kickstarter started talking about the Projects of Earth initiative- you will have noticed, I’m sure, that in the title it’s called Era: Balam, a Project of Earth. So the idea of the Projects of Earth was that the Voyager probes were supposed to be an inspiration and it was supposed to be all, you know, “humanity is brilliant” and “what has humanity achieved today?”, “What would you put on a voyager probe now?” and so on was the way they presented it, but I then attended a workshop that they did, um, uh, virtually, you know, a uh, livecast it was, and I was able to ask some questions, and really it turns out it was ANYTHING that was inspired by the Voyager probes. So THIS idea, was sort of a “what if”… “What if a probe went to an alien space, uh, like an alien star system, tried to land on the home planet, made a mistake, crashed on their power plant, and basically rendered their planet uninhabitable?”

Rowan: *cringing* Mmm. Okay.
[EDIT: It was at this point that I should have pointed out they never should have trusted Jar Jar Binks to design the landing protocols, but I did not. Alas, I am too late]

We reeeeaaally shouldn't have elected him president.

We reeeeaaally shouldn’t have elected him president.

Ed: It’s just sort of like a giant “Oops” for the probe, and the idea sort of was that the aliens form a, like, an evil Battlestar Galactica sort of a convoy, and they head towards Earth for revenge.

Rowan: Okay. Uh, quick follow up question in there?

Ed: Yeah?

Rowan: On a scale from Vulcans to Reavers, what kinds of aliens are these?

Ed: Um, that’s a very good question, because you’re never going to -see- them-

Rowan: Oh.

Ed: -because you’re not in personal combat, right? You’re doing, um… however I am going to answer your question, don’t worry. In terms of physical scariness, I imagine them to be a lot like Species 8472. From Voyager? The group who [p0wned] the Borg.

Rowan: Oh lovely.

Ed: Just in terms of physical scariness. They’re aren’t quite Reaver-level, you know, they aren’t quite that grotesque and horrible, but they’re certainly not… they’re unsettling to look at. The probably have tentacles.

Rowan: Okay.

Ed: They probably do.

Rowan: HOW MANY TENTACLES?

Ed: Uh, uh, they have… NINE. I TOTALLY didn’t just make that up.

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST, FOLKS [Writer's rendition only- not cannon]

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST, FOLKS
[Writer’s rendition only- not cannon]

*we share a chuckle*

So I mean, their ships, not in terms of power, but in terms of sort of the way that they’re designed and built, did actually take some cues off of Species 8472 as well- they’re bioships- and maybe a little bit from… oh, what is it from? I actually can’t remember what it’s from, it was an insectoid race… Oh I know, it was Lex! Lex had the insectoid fighters which pursued everything, and I kind of took a little bit of a steer off them for shape, but you know, inspiration came from a lot of different places. Freelancer as well, actually, shape for ships, cause there’s a ship that’s… somewhat similar.

So, you know, I’m a scifi guy, I love my scifi, and it’s been a very long time since I’ve produced a… genuine SPACE scifi. I’ve done some post-apocalyptic stuff, and I’m doing some parallel universe stuff now with Era: The Chosen, and I’m doing Superpowers, which are mostly explained in a scifi kind of way, but I haven’t done a spcace-based scifi game in a VERY long time now. I mean, Era: The Consortium came out four years ago, so… for the first time, it came out four years ago, so, yeah, I haven’t done anything since then apart from expansions for Era: The Consortium, so this was kind of my opportunity to do something new within that genre, and that was really THE THING that I wanted to do.

So the aliens ran into humans in a star system between theirs and Earth, which presumably is from a human colony ship. In my universe there are human colony ships that run around, and in Era: The Consortium, you know, very clearly it starts from a human colony ship. Era: Survival I’ve announced previously has a colony ship if you look close enough in the rulebook. It’s hinted at… quite strongly. Era: The Chosen… might have a colony ship? If you look carefully you might figure out where I’m coming from. All of these games are linked, in their own way, and, you know, that’s one of the things that I wanted to maintain, so Era: Balam is sort of the last big colony left. It’s actually situated inside a volcano for protection, because when the aliens first arrived in the system they literally bombarded the largest human colony in the system to nothing. Moved onto the next planet, bombarded the next colony, you everything that they could find, they destroyed. Balam is now the key to the human’s victory, so everyone’s sort of went to this, originally this science station that was hidden inside a volcano and it sort of grew into a city.

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If the aliens were to destory Balam, then probably humanity would be okay for a bit longer, but what the aliens are actually aiming to do is TAKE Balam, and take the location of Earth, so that they don’t have to sort of trace back the course [of the probe], which is a bit unreliable. They just want to head back to Earth, and that information is only stored in the computers at Balam, so it is vital. Now there are other human colonies, and they vary in attitude and friendliness to anyone who happens to be flying around. For example, there’s a mining colony which is perfectly friendly, and then on the opposite side of the same planet there’s another mining colony mining the same stuff, which was originally designed to be automated but when the machine broke down they decided to start sending prisoners there, so, you know, you can land there, and they probably won’t kill you because if the aliens turn up they’d rather have pilots in the sky, but they MIGHT steal everything that isn’t nailed down in your ship. And then there are, if you know Stargate: Atlantis at all, I was inspired a little bit by that. The explanation in that for Atlantis being underwater was that it dissipated some of the blasts from orbit, and in the same way there’s a colony on one of the planets that is under a large body of water, and is under pretty much constant attack. In order to land in either of those places, and several others as well, you have to have special access codes, which is a piece of equipment that you can salvage or get.

So, there are places you can go easily, there are places you can go less easily, and really this game is about exploring. The war has been going on for over a year now, so salvaging dead fighters is definitely a thing. You can go out, you can salvage stuff, you can salvage alien weapons and incorporate them into your fighter, so there’s a lot of space for putting in new equipment and so on. And on your fighter you have five… I’d almost call them class choices, except that…

*Ed realizes he has been talking uninterrupted for a while now*

Ed: … yeah, any time you like.

Rowan: *chuckles*

Ed: So there’s a thing called a module which you can plug into your fighter, and you can have sort of a bank of short range weapons that will just pulverize anything if you get close enough, or you can have a long range siege cannon that fires five times as far as any other weapon.

Rowan: Any EMP weapons?

Ed: There are EMP mines, yes! So there’s a mine-layer module as well that is ALSO a minesweeper so that you don’t run into mines by mistake… because that would be unfortunate. Then there’s a scout module that, a little like the Normandy in Mass Effect, let’s you turn invisible as long as you don’t attack. [However] heat builds up, so you can only do it for a limitted amount of time. And then finally there’s the salvage module which let’s you launch sort of little salvage drones that can either salvage wreckage, you know, give you a bonus for that, or they can repair ships- yourself or anyone else- and they can also do damage to enemy ships, but they’re also very weak, so if they’re targetted, they’re dead. So you kind of have to be a bit careful with them, but they can also be really useful in combat.

So, you know, those five things you actually get a choice at the start, and then if you want to change it you can change it if you salvage a module of another kind, or even swap within your party, if you like. It gives you a lot of different varieties of play styles, and it gives you the opportunity to change right up until the point… right up until any point, to bo honest, there’s no point at which you can’t really change the way you want to play, if you want to.

But yeah, it’s still a lot like running around as a party in D&D, you’re just all in fighters. You still have the people who are sitting back, being rangers, and you have the people who are running in, charging, you know, pulverizing whatever they get close enough to and taking the risk of taking a lot of damage, and you have the people who are repairing the people who get damaged, and so on and so on and so on, so it’s you, you know… a fairly traditional RPG wrapped up in this… slightly interesting and different approach to it.

Rowan: Mm, I would say more than “slightly” interesting. Don’t be too modest.

Ed: Oh! Well, thank you. I can’t say that because I created it.

Rowan: Fair enough.

Ed: So yeah. Um… that’s kinda the basics, I guess?

Rowan: Would you mind laying out briefly how the Era-system works, for stats, skills, and attributes/Quirks?

Ed: I should say up front, and you probably want to put a link to it, there is actually a video that I’vve done specifically for Era: Balam that shows combat and so on. Character creation, and combat. There are two videos.

[Those videos now included, but a text-form explanation follows the jump]

 

Ed: The way it works is… So what happens is you have attributes and you have skills. When you create your character you assign a certain number of points to each attribute; there are eight attributes and there are eighteen skills, so you assign points to each. It is point-buy, you get to take your pick, and then when you want to make a roll, it is the Most Appropriate Attribute with the Most Appropriate Skill, at the GMs discretion. So, for example, if I’m firing a gun, the mounted guns on my ship- every ship has forward guns- so, I’m firing my mounted guns at you, it’s kind of a standard situation, the GM might decide that that is Wits/Gunnery. But let’s say I’m trying to hop around the outskirts of a planet to come around and take you by surprise; then it might be Dexterity/Gunnery. Or if I’m trying to calculate a shot right at the limit of the range, or even a couple of distance units beyond the limit of the range but the GM decides to allow it, then it might be Intelligence/Gunnery.

All in all, Era: D10 is a Success Counting Dice Pool system, where you roll Attribute + Skill. The threshold [for success] varies based on difficulty of the action you’re attempting, and the number of successes you get defines how successful you were. So if you roll five dice with a 7 threshhold, and get 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, then you have two successes (two dice met or exceeded the threshhold), and you get sort of a minor… minor success. The more dice you roll, the higher your chances of getting more successes, and if you roll more 1s than successes, then you Fumble. Now there are three levels of fumbling; there’s Minor Fumble, which is, your gun jams, you fall over, your engines stall, that sort of thing. Then there is Moderate, which is, your engines break, your weapons need a full on repair before they fire, that kind of thing, and then there is Major, which is, um, like, life threatening consequences. You have a hull breach- all of your cargo has been sucked out into space, AND you have a hull breach, so you lose everything, AND you’re about to die. That kind of stuff. So what it gives, in mathematical terms, is a normal distribution, rather than a straight-line distribution. So, the more dice you have the more likely you are to succeed, and the fewer dice you have the more likely you are to fumble.

So there’s no actual tie between, uh, to use sort of the classic which appears in other games but not this one, there’s no Strength pool. It’s not always Strength pool. It might be Intelligence pool, or Dexterity pool, and the same applies to every single skill in there, and what I did in… not in this book, because this is a shorter book, and that’s probably gonna be another one of your questions, “what’s in the book, how big is it?” So, not in this book but in other books, I’ve actually written out a list of why you would use, um… I don’t know, Charisma/Gunnery, right? I mean, there are reasons, there are things you can come up with. Or you know, Luck/Drive. There are reasons, and I have actually written them out both in the Definitive Edition Consortium rule book and in the Era: Survival Core Rulebook. There is a full list of why you would use any given combination.

Rowan: For reference, what would a Crazy Ivan require?

Ed: A Crazy Ivan would probably be, now let me think… and I am actually gonna cheat and pull up the Era: Balam character sheet, because Era: Balam has unique skills compared to every other game because it’s entirely based inside the starship.

Okay, let’s see this thing. I reckon, it would be… is it in space? Or in gravity, because that would be two different things.

Rowan: Um, the one that’s done in the show is inside of atmosphere, so, in gravity.

Ed: In that case, I would call a Crazy Ivan, I would probably say it’s Intelligence/Engineering.

Rowan: Okay, and if it were in-

Ed: Maybe, maybe Wits… eeeeh, Dex/Engineering. Eh, yeah!

*we both laugh a bit*

Ed: So yeah, Dex/Engineering is probably where I would settle on that. But if it was in space, then there is actually a zero-G skill which I would say probably applies in that case, since you’re trying to do a complicated maneuver in zero gravity. Zero-G is really intended for when you leave the spaceship, like if you have to go out in your spacesuit and salvage stuff or whatever, you might need your Zero-G skill to avoid going spinning off into space. But, in that case, I would call it Zero-G.

Rowan: One of the unique things about your system is that the character you play and the Paladin ship that you pilot have one shared set of ability scores. May I ask what prompted this design choice?

Ed: The reason I decided to do that is I actually initially started with the idea that you would have two character sheets, one for the ship and one for the pilot. I thought a lot about that and I thought that it didn’t seem… the right way to handle it, because while the ship -could- have AI, and therefor, arguably, intelligence, and while the ship may be able to present the data from the scanners in a useable way, [or what have you], it just didn’t seem quite right. And then when you get to the pilot, [their physical traits] are totally irrelevant. Their strength doesn’t matter. Their stamina… frankly if they’re hit by a weapon in this game they’re already dead. [Ship-to-ship weapons fire] isn’t something you’re going to survive just by having lots of health. Their dexterity, using the controls, okay… maybe there’s an argument for that, but I would argue that the actual ability of the ship to respond is more important. You can be as brilliant as you like with the controls, but if the ship physically can’t do what you want it to do, it doesn’t help you. And actually Firefly is something that came to mind a few times while I was creating this. I would say that a Firefly has decent Dexterity, but equally, Wash’s piloting ability is more about the Wits, and the reactions, and the sureness of touch than the actual physical dexterity of the individual. Like, if you asked him to dodge bullets… he’s not gonna be able to. And, you know, all games use some kind of approximation to make sure that they’re playable, so you could split up the two and say that the Dexterity of the pilot matters, but the more I thought about it the more it seemed to make sense that, together, they were a whole thing, and then gradually that led closer and closer to this sort of idea which is something that I’ve really never done before. I’m always trying to do something that I’ve not done, that I’ve not seen before, and I’ve not seen this… kind of approach to fighters.

Rowan: I don’t think I have either. It feels a lot more like “a man and his horse” kind of frontier adventure.

Ed: I can definitely understand what you’re saying and I can kind of see that, that being kind of a skin done for this, and still working quite nicely. And that was nothing, because as I said, Firefly was a bit of an influence, and at the end of the day Firefly is sort of a, is really a cowboy flick. It’s just kind of dressed up with spaceships. And yeah, you get at that feeling that, you know, you could be The Man With No Name, flying around in your ship, saving colonies from the horrible invading alien forces. You could play that.

Rowan: Or you could be a pirate!

Ed: Or you could be a pirate. Yep. You can do a lot of different things, and it’s some… things that I create that are A Fun Game, and there are things that I create that I consider Art, as far as art goes in game creation, if you get where I’m coming from, and this aspect of this game is art. In the same way I created a game a little while ago which was a high fantasy game called Era: Silence where you have to play the game and work together without speaking in character. [Your character is] not able to speak, you are silenced magically. That provides a totally different playing experience to what most people would usually see. It’s a brilliant, fun game, and I created it because I wanted to create something that people haven’t done, or don’t do.

Rowan: Alright, down to the min-maxer’s meat and potatoes. What kinds of weapons, engines, and mods will pilots be able to kit out their personal Paladin’s with?

Ed: It’s worth mentioning that you start with, um, so there are four pages of equipment, and when you begin you can only choose from the first two pages of equipment. The really powerful stuff and the really cool stuff is on the second two pages, and you have to go out and salvage those. So at the start you get to choose three pieces of equipment that you want to have, and that might be stuff like… you can get a dual engine mount, and an extra engine. That would be two different things, but it would increase your speed by a significant amount. You’d be able to move faster than anyone else… you could get a tail gun-mount and get an extra, extra gun so that you can fire while you’re running away, because mostly you can’t; all the weapons are on the front of your fighter. You can add that kind of stuff, but all the really cool stuff, like the EMP mines, the plasma cannon- a close range weapon, so it’s not quite as powerful as the siege cannon but it’s still very powerful- stuff like that is all on the second set of pages, so you have to go out, go and salvage. You can trade for things, and everything in Era: Balam has a Trade Value, from about 1 to 7, and you can trade your equipment if you want to. You start out carrying a space suit and an engineering kit and if you really want to you can trade those things away. You’ll just… regret it when you have a hull breach.

So if you really want to min-max and you really want to take the risk, you can do that. There’s a lot of play in there for people who want to find some way of min-maxing, although I should warn those people min-maxing in this system can be a bit of a double-edged sword, because, as I said… You want to do a Crazy Ivan, I have about three choices. And if I’m the GM and you’ve min-maxed and I’m pissed off…

Rowan: *chuckles* Right.

Ed: I could very easily make the choice that means you don’t get very many dice. That’s really what this system was designed for in the first place, because I play with mathematicians and computer scientists as my group, so… yeah, min-maxing was something that happened.

Rowan: Alright, last question, and this is actually about the company publishing/producing your game, Shades of Vengeance. I’d actually love to do a more thorough interview on the subject some time, but for now, I’d just like to say, I think it’s really cool to see a company that is willing to work WITH content creators to get interesting ideas fully realized without taking creative control away. May I ask, what motivated you to create such a company?

Ed: Yeah, um, so you’re really referring to the Imagine RPG part of Shades of Vengeance, so just, a little explaination there. Shades of Vengeance is the company that creates my games.

Rowan: Okay.

Ed: I’m the only creator at the moment at Shades of Vengeance. I’m working alongside a few people; I’ve worked with one person before on Era: Survival, he did a bit of creative contribution. Now he’s doing a full-on game with me, like as co-creator, but for the most part Shades of Vengeance produces MY games.

Now, when I first finished Era: The Consortium, I went to a convention in Canada, Anime North- and if you live anywhere in the Toronto area, I cannot reccomend that convention enough, it’s fantastic. It was great fun- and I had asked to do a panel at Anime North and I was told “yes”, but I was given a condition that I had to do another panel as well because they don’t do solo panels, and someone wanted to do a panel about “Creating Your Game”. You know, creating a game, whether going to publishers, or- no, in fact, “going to publishers” really was what he wanted to talk about, and being a game creator. And so I get to this panel, and I went with John, who is sort of my co-writer on Era: The Consortium, he’s the head of the comics part of business, so he’s the guy behind all of the Consortium comics like Counting Down From One, Last Stand of Stiletto Unit, and the Empowered comics. We’ve actually got one coming out shortly called Violet, but he also wrote the Penumbra comic and he editted the Lacuna comic, which I wrote.

John and I went to this panel, and we sat down with this guy, and this guy… the most broken down person you’ve ever seen. Right? I’m not kidding, he was a success, he had TWO games that he had sold to publishers and had been published. So, I mean, in any REAL terms, that is a successful game creator. And everyone who came to this panel wanted to know about, you know, “I have a game idea, how do I make it into a game?” Right? “How do I make it happen?” And when someone finally asked him that question, his response was pretty much, “Don’t. Don’t do that to yourself, it’s not worth it, they’ll take your baby away, and when it comes back you won’t even recognize it.” And John and I just exchanged one glance, I leaned into the microphone and I said, “Or, alternatively, if you want that, come talk to us, because we’ll help.”

And that’s where that started, because being a game creator might not make you a lot of money, right, and in reality, most of the people who create games don’t do it for the money… because it doesn’t really make any. They do what they do because they love creating, they want to build something that people will play and enjoy… right? And if you’re willing to put the time and effort in, to make something that you would enjoy, and you would play with your family or your friends or whoever, why should a publisher then take it away and change it just so it can be more of a commercial success for them, while destroying your dream? I feel that is wrong. I get that people who want the money, who just want the paycheck for creating the game, that is where the traditional publishers come in, and I won’t lie, anyone who asks me about the Imagine RPG stuff, the stuff that we do to help other people… I will never lie, I will always be totally upfront and say, “Look, you probably will not make a lot of money off your very first game.” That’s the reality. What I will do is help you do the most you can, and also I will help you get it into as many peoples’ hands as possible, because that’s why you’re doing it, if you’re talking to me.

And really, that’s what it’s about for me. It’s about helping people get the games out there that, whether I would play them or not, they’re exactly the kind of games that I am trying to create; they’re games that I want to play with my friends. And the same is true of the other people who come and work with me. They want to play them with their friends, they’re sure there’ll be other people out there who want to play them because they and their friends enjoy them, so…

Rowan: Yeah.

Ed: And getting them to a point where they have nice production values, and some good artwork from some reliable artists. When I first produced Era: The Consortium I wasted a lot of money on people who were looking to screw me over. Just, in the most direct possible way. They would take a deposit, produce some half-hearted attempt at what they promised that was NOTHING like what was in their portfolio and then go “yeah yeah, well, now you have to pay me OR I’m gonna spread the word, you know, do everything in my power to make sure no one ever works with you.” People like that took me for a lot of money before I figured out how to fix that, and I don’t want to think that games will die because there are people out there who are assholes. So you know, and on top of that, EVERYONE WINS, because the artists that I work with regularly? I can’t endlessly supply them with artwork that’s enough for a full-time job, as I’m sure you can imagine. This gives them another opportunity to get work; they’re good artists, so the creators will be happy with their work; it takes a little bit of the neccessity for me to provide masses and masses of work away; it lets the artists charge a little less to people who come through me because they know they’re getting a volume, and really it’s just a nice situation all around for the artists, for the writers… and I’ve met some fantastic people while I’ve been working on all of these projects. I started work about six years ago- well six and half years ago, really- and I’ve met some fantastic people during that time. Aaaand I’ve met some terrible people. And I’ve met some people who didn’t care, and I’ve met some people who… well, there was one artist who did all of the artwork for Era: Lyres, Sophia? She has worked with me since my very first project, and she has worked on every single project in one capacity or another. She’s a brilliant artist.

So basically, if someone had been out there, doing what I’m doing, to help me out when I first started, I would have been incredibly happy. Someone out there who would help people get their idea to become a reality. I had the money and I was willing to spend it, you know, and I didn’t want my idea taken away by a publisher. So yeah, that, THAT’s why, and I’ve not regretted any of it for a moment. I’ll be honest, I don’t get payed a lot. For those projects, I don’t get payed much. Usually make a fair loss, but it’s only on my time. So, the artists get payed, the writers get payed, I do not get payed. I usually do writing, I usually do editting. I often do proofreading, I do layout design, I have even done the layout itself on some occasions, nd I only get payed for that from the Kickstarter profits. So the way the money works, which is an obvious question to ask, is the creator pays all of those freelancers that I just talked about, we talk about the artwork that they need… my advice comes, not free, but with deferred cost. I will help them set up and run a Kickstarter, I will help them print and fulfill for that Kickstarter, and then the first chunk of profit from the Kickstarter goes to me to repay me for my services. The remainder of the profiit usually gets split at a percentage that seems fair, so it might be 25/75 in favor of them, it might be 50/50. We’ll talk about it based on how much I had to do after they came to me, how much actual game development there was to do.

I’ve actually licensed the Era: D10 system if people want to work with it. I’m actually working with someone right now who IS doing an Era: D10 game. The other thing about that actually is I work with people at their own pace. So we work at the speed they want to work. I’m not gonna push them to get it done ahead of when they’re ready, and, you know, it’s up to them to keep up the motivation to make sure that happens. I will offer support and follow up and make sure they don’t forget the project or whatever, but um… I’ve currently got six on the way, six people I’m working with to create a game, all in various stages, and we’re just working through it at their pace.

Rowan: I look forward to seeing what those projects turn into.

Ed: Mm. There’s at least one which I’m really excited about. Did a playtest for it not too long ago, and I’m pretty excited about how it’s gonna turn out.

Rowan: Well, when that one is on it’s Kickstarter, please invite us back to do another interview!

Ed: I will do, I will do.

Era: Balam – a Project of Earth is on Kickstarter until September 24th.

[ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/shadesofvengeance/jump-in-your-starfighter-for-era-balam-a-project-o/description ]

 

Rowan Hansen
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