Whether you’re a longtime lover of traditional tabletop gaming or part of the new younger generation embracing pen-and-paper RPGs, it’s safe to say 2017 is a good time for your favorite hobby. It’s hard to imagine a time where open popularity and demand for such games was any higher.
In fact, a combination of social media, YouTube personalities and accessible crowdfunding mechanisms have created a perfect storm of opportunity that those with the right ideas, passion and attitude can ride to success – no matter where they reside and no matter how unorthodox their idea.
Driven by the combined talents of Veronica Hendro and Hayley Gordon, Australian startup Storybrewers recently launched their latest project Alas For The Awful Sea into the crowdfunding arena and emerged with over $20,000 in orders for their unconventional role playing game.
Speaking with Veronica, she says that while “there are already so many great games in those settings that I’d readily play”, the group is keen to make and play games that are a “bit different” to the usual tabletop worlds of fantasy or cyberpunk.
“We like exploring new territory,” she says.
In their words, “Alas is a story-focused tabletop roleplaying game about a ship’s crew navigating the remote British Isles. There, they face a world consumed with suspicion, sadness, and desperation. Struggles for power have deadly consequences; mysterious disappearances plague the region; and those who seem human may not all be so.”
The game, while quite a radical departure from many of the staples of pen and paper gaming, does have some roots in the Apocalypse World ruleset. Encounters in Alas are based on a stripped down version of that system.
When asked about whether more-complex systems can turn-off inexperienced players, Veronica insists that the diversity of the tabletop RPG community is one of its best things. “There are people in the hobby who love being able to play with miniatures, or delve into an intricate and complex ruleset, and others who prefer less rules and freeform storytelling systems. And everyone in between.”
“Variety is the spice of life! So, no, I don’t think that heavy systems turn people away from the hobby if they are introduced into it at their own pace.”
Veronica believes the Australian gaming community proved a major benefactor for Storybrewers, saying that “in terms of development and playtesting of our games, we owe a lot to Aussie gamers who took a chance on us and signed up to play our games at local conventions like Sydcon and Ettincon. All of the feedback we got there helped us to refine our games and continue to inspire and encourage us to keep working harder.”
“Our biggest lesson is that the more generous you are with people, the more you open yourself up to constructive criticism and other people’s opinion, the richer, more fulfilling the experience will be.” She reflects.
“Don’t be afraid to put yourselves out there. Sometimes doing so will be challenging, and sometimes you won’t live up to your own expectations, let alone others. Don’t be discouraged, the important thing is to try again, moving forward with the benefit of experience.”
She goes on to say,
“Specifically for Alas, a big thing we learnt from playtesting is the importance of setting up the tone of the game and managing player expectations from the get-go. Some of the scenarios we’ve included with Alas demand emotional investment and maturity from the players in a way that not all RPGs demand, so laying down the foundation of what is the appropriate level of seriousness for your game group before you start is important.”
Alas has been in the works since 2015 “with more concentrated efforts over 2016 and pretty much full-time this year so far.”
“We’re going to continue working on it as much as we can until the last possible moment to make sure it’s the best version of the game we can possibly release given where we are now as game designers and publishers.”
While a culmination of work stretching back into the bright-yesterday of 2015, Alas For The Awful Sea is only the beginning for the duo. Veronica says, “Our next game will be a Pride and Prejudice themed game with secret character objectives and lots of Regency-era fun.” She adds they’ll be play-testing the game at the upcoming Phenomenon convention in Canberra from the 9th to the 12th of June.